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#1 Roja

Roja

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Posted 10 November 2007 - 03:31 PM

Vlasian
Written by Enly
Edited by Phildaburn and Annatira




Prologue

The port city of Melinis lay still in the dead of night. Thin sheets of rain drizzled down and everything in the city dripped glistening silver droplets. Smoke from a forest fire in Sedicolis smothered the city. As the clouds shifted, the moon Kaifhi came out and hung blood red over the city. The other smaller moon, Macuma, hung not as full near its partner. As the red light fell over the city, the drops of silvery rain were turned to what resembled drops of blood. The few plants that tried to grow in the choked dust welcomed the rare bit of water. Magic supported them when water was scarce, but it was not always enough. Nearly all the lights in the city were out. People viewed the Kaifhial eclipse and the moon’s red tinge as an omen of bloodshed and violence. Curtains were drawn and crying babies were hushed. The murky waters of the port slapped quietly at the docks as the only person who was outside in the city walked across the boardwalk.

He was a quiet figure who seemed perfectly at home in the dark night. Slowly he walked along; his damp cloak clung to him as he walked toward the nearest row of houses. He stood outside quietly for a moment then climbed the steps and knocked on the door. The lights inside the house were dark and there was no one else around outside. A small old woman cracked open the door and looked out. She saw no one on the doorstep. Puzzled, she opened the door wider. About to give up and go back to bed, she noticed the edge of a black cloak flutter around the corner at the end of the street.

She hesitated for a moment and looked back into her house. Only the sounds of breathing came from her daughter’s bedroom. Curious, the woman wrapped her cloak around her shoulders and hustled down the street. There was no sign of anyone there.

Worried now, she turned around quickly in the darkness. There wasn’t a soul on the street. She took a step back toward her house when she heard a muffled groan. The sound came from one of the houses. The woman’s instincts as a healer kicked in and she peered into the window of the house she thought the noise had come from. A lamp flickered in the back room and she could just make out a figure lying in a bed. The woman knocked on the door. No response came so she cautiously opened the door and stepped into the house. A young woman lay on the bed in the back room, her stomach swollen with pregnancy.

“Dear me, are you ok child?” the woman asked. The younger woman blinked and looked at the older.

“Help me,” she gasped. “I think my child is coming.”

“Well it most certainly is.” The old woman then bustled about the house doing everything she could to help the young woman.

Outside, the quiet darkly-clothed figure watched. Soon he heard the cry of a newly born child and smiled wickedly.

“Name him Vlasian,” the mother gasped, “after his father.”

“Calm yourself dear, you will be perfectly fine and we can name the child in due time,” the old healer stated.

The figure outside watched stoically as the young woman took one last grueling breath and collapsed onto her bed. The old woman stared shocked as she clutched the newly born babe to her chest.

“May the blood red moon curse your birth,” the figure whispered. “I will seek you again, Vlasian, when I am ready.”

The dark figure then vanished from the cold wet streets and the old woman was left alone with the babe. Melinis did not stir until hours later when the first rays of the sun broke through the smokey rain. The city would soon learn of what had happened in the night, of the death in the young woman’s house, and of the birth, which the city would come to speak of in whispers.

From that year onward and every year since, on the third day of Mortia, the shutters were closed, the curtains were pulled, and the lamps put out. For on the third day of Mortia, the god of vice had walked the streets of Melinis.



Part 1



Ten years passed and the little boy born on the third day of Mortia grew into a healthy child. He learned to read and write from the old woman who had helped deliver him. To the citizens of Port Melinis who pitied his lack of parents, he was a polite child. But his guardian, the old woman, knew otherwise.

Vlasian, for she had indeed named him that, was anything but polite in reality. He was cold hearted and cruel. He hated both the woman and her grown daughter. Vlasian didn’t like to be loved and cared for; he despised the world with a passion for not letting him have his mother and father as he wanted. At first, this hatred was born of a loving desire for real parents. But as he let it fester and listened to the evil voices that whispered in his dreams, all love was forgotten. He yelled and fought with the woman every day demanding that things be done his way; demanding that he get this, or eat that, or that a certain person leave the house. What the woman refused to give him, he stole. The woman had chosen to keep Vlasian however. Her kind healer's heart had led her to pity the boy. Even when she began to discover Vlasian's true ways she still attempted to be kind to him. She thought his actions just those of a lonely child and tried to give him a happy home.

Thievery became a talent for Vlasian from the day he took the woman’s purse when he was six. After that he discovered how easy it was to take things from people. His conscience had long since been smothered in a blanket of abhorrence and greed and he took freely whatever he wanted.

By the time he turned sixteen, Vlasian was well known in the crime circles of Melinis and even respected, despite his age. He often led a group of boys in lucrative exploits. Sometimes they were successful; sometimes the others were caught while Vlasian mysteriously vanished. The boys were always too terrified to turn Vlasian in. Rumors swept quickly through the circles of crime and many of them were true. These stories terrified many criminals and all were afraid to report Vlasian.

The woman’s daughter had died on the third of Mortia, Vlasian’s sixteenth birthday. A mysterious sickness came upon her, in truth it was poison inflicted by Vlasian. Every year from then on, some horrible event would strike the city that night. In Vlasian’s seventeenth year, a building burned down in the southern part of the city. In his eighteenth year, a trade ship at dock in the port was robbed and ransacked. On his nineteenth birthday, the mayor of the city was found dead in his bed. Few knew he had been in an argument with Vlasian a week before. Vlasian’s twentieth birthday marked the drowning of the old woman. He hadn’t lived with her since the incident with her daughter, which she had never reported as she hoped Vlasian would change his ways and because she was afraid. She was afraid of what Vlasian would do and knew that if she reported her daughter's death as Vlasian's fault more deaths would follow.

And so it was that by the age of twenty-three, Vlasian was the proverbial ruler of the Melinis criminal underground. As he had aged, he had developed skills beyond those of thievery and murder. He learned to listen for what others never heard: to go unnoticed in open areas, simple tricks of posture and clothing to make himself seem older, or shorter, or anything that suited him.

Vlasian fancied he would find himself a special present for his twenty-fifth birthday and in the early morning hours of the fourth day of Mortia, word reached Melinis of a horrible theft. An ancient gemstone, the pride and joy of Sedicolis, was missing. The gem was known as The Tear of Sedicolis for its teardrop shape and blue tinge. Few knew exactly what powers it possessed, but it was said to give the owner strange abilities. No bigger than a small pebble, the teardrop rock could make the owner fade into the shadows unseen. It could make the owner not just appear older or younger than they were, but to actually be younger or older. Deep within the reaches of the cave of merciful tears, the stone had lain guarded by Sedicolis’s best, yet somehow it had disappeared during the night on the third of Mortia.

Such wondrous talents Vlasian longed for and such things he received. The same day word reached Melinis of the missing stone, the underworld of the city beheld a blue stone teardrop hanging about their leader’s neck. By this time, there were no illusions as to Vlasian’s true nature, but no cold hard proof could ever be found to bring the man to justice and no thug would ever admit to having dealings with Vlasian. To the people of the city, his name was one to be frowned upon. To the underworld, it was one to be whispered in awe, or more likely not uttered at all.

And as Vlasian’s twenty-sixth birthday drew ever nearer, whispered speculations came of what horrible thing might happen on the third of Mortia. For the most part, each year it had been progressively worse. "What," asked the people, "could be worse than what has already befallen us?"

Vlasian knew what would happen this year, however. Rumors had reached his ears; rumors of an ancient tome. A book which told of magical things lost to the world; of artifacts so old, only the gods knew their true origins. And contained in this book, it was said, was the secret to the true nature of The Tear of Sedicolis.

Vlasian resolved he must have that book and that he would steal it. The ancient book, The Voice of Palon, was kept somewhere in the region of Palon Vertas. A compilation of the works of the region's ancient wizards, it was said to be kept in a secret library, the Library of the Ancients.

* * * * * * * *



Vlasian seated himself in the darkest corner of the tavern he could find, he was running out of time. Night was falling on the third of Mortia and he had yet to find the location of the book. For two weeks he had been trying to inquire about the location of the Library of the Ancients, but no one knew anything, to his dismay. Now, here he was with only hours until the end of his time window, he would have to pull some other stunt, but he wanted that book!

As he stared around and brooded, an odd man walked into the tavern. Vlasian couldn’t put a finger on what was odd about this man and even when he looked back on that day, he didn’t know why he picked him out. Yet this man somehow caught Vlasian’s attention and Vlasian knew this man held the answers to his questions. How he knew this puzzled him for many years until he finally resolved it had been some hint from the gods.

With a slight movement, Vlasian turned so he could better watch the man as he seated himself at the bar. In the course of half an hour, the man consumed an unhealthy amount of drinks.

Casually, Vlasian walked over to the bar and seated himself next to the man.

“Hello there, good sir. May I take a seat here?” Vlasian asked politely.

“Sure! Sure, have a seat,” the man smiled.

There was a slight pause as Vlasian ordered another drink, the bartender set it before him, but Vlasian didn’t drink.

“Fine sir, I couldn’t help but notice an esteemed individual such as yourself from the moment you entered the tavern. I thought perhaps that you might be able to help me.” Vlasian poured every ounce of flattery he knew into this words. The man believed every bit of it and sat up slightly straighter, happy with himself.

“Esteemed individual huh? Well, what did you think I could help you with?” the man asked.

“It's information I seek, mostly, and you definitely seem the type that knows many things. I’m a stranger to this region, you see, and am curious to see the sights.”

“Well, what sort of sights were you seeking?” The man gulped down another drink and ordered more.

“I’ve heard rumors of a famous library somewhere here. Oh, what was it called?” Vlasian paused and pretended to think. “Library of old? Or something like that.”

“The Library of the Ancients?” the man asked surprised.

“Oh yes! That was it! I heard it has volumes with all sorts of wonderful information.”

“Well you definitely asked the right man! I work at the library! Most folks deny it exists, but it does. I’m a guard there. I’m off for a few days now however, and am staying here at the tavern to enjoy my free time,”

“Oh, of course! Such a man like yourself, definitely a guard!”

“That’s no place for you to be going, though. The library is strictly off limits to all except a favored few.”

“Oh? Too bad, it’s a pity. I really had hoped I could at least see it.” As Vlasian feigned disappointment he motioned to the bartender and requested another drink for the man.

“You know,” the man began. “I could tell you where the library is if you’re that curious. Just to look at the outside, no way I could get you in.”

“You could?” Vlasian’s eyes danced with excitement. All he needed was the location and he could find a way in.

“Yeah, I’ve got a map of Palon Vertas. I can point it out to you.” The man pulled a wrinkled map from his pocket and smoothed it out on the bar. “I keep it with me mostly for the city map. I don’t leave the library much and tend to lose my way around town.”

Vlasian could barely contain his excitement as the man quickly pointed precisely to where the library was located on the map.

“Sir, I’m afraid I was never informed of your name,” Vlasian said sadly.

“The name’s Trillin,” the man replied with an obnoxious yawn.

“Thank you, Trillin, for all your help.”

Vlasian excused himself from the bar, telling the man he must retire and would surely investigate the library in the morning. The man nodded groggily and bade Vlasian farewell.

To all appearances, Vlasian then went upstairs to a room he was staying in and went to sleep for the evening. No one noticed the dark figure drop from his window and enter the backdoor of the tavern. Rummaging through the owner’s desk, he searched for a list of who was currently staying at the tavern.

He listened intently for sounds of any approach, but the bartender and owner did not retreat to his office behind the bar, he was otherwise occupied. Soon Vlasian found what he was looking for, a book containing records of who had stayed at the tavern and when. Flipping to the last page, he quickly read over the contents. It listed himself under an alias, a woman’s name, and a third name, Trillin Retafar, who was listed as staying in the room across from Vlasian.

Happy to have had a stroke of luck at last, Vlasian carefully returned the log to its drawer and made sure everything was as it had been when he arrived. Satisfied, Vlasian crept out the office’s back door into the night again. Climbing a tree that grew close to the tavern, he returned back through the window and into his room.

The minutes passed slowly as Vlasian waited impatiently in his room. He didn’t have to wait too long, though, for about twenty minutes after he had returned to his lodgings, he heard what he wanted. The bartender was escorting a very drunken Trillin up the stairs. Vlasian pressed his ear against his door to hear what was said in the hall.

“No, I’m fine! Fine!” Trillin's speech was slurred and slow.

“You just need a little bit of a break sir, then perhaps you can return downstairs,” the bartender said wearily.

“Nuhuh, I’m fine, just one more drink.” Vlasian heard the door across the hall squeak open then slam closed a few moments later.

The bartender’s footsteps faded away as he returned to the main room of the tavern. Several more minutes ticked by as Vlasian waited to be sure the bartender would not return. When the sounds of loud snores came from across the hall Vlasian finally decided it was safe. He had packed his things while he waited and sat by the door with his pack on his back and his assortment of knives hidden beneath his clothes.

Jumping lightly to his feet, he opened his door without a sound. Checking that no one was in the hallway, he tried the knob on the door opposite his. Thankfully it was unlocked. Slowly he pushed the door open and padded in.

Trillin snored loudly on his bed. He lay atop the sheets still fully clothed. Vlasian picked through the man’s belongings searching for anything of interest. Finding nothing, he watched the sleeping man. What else might he keep in his pocket with that map, keys to the library perhaps?

Vlasian contemplated his options as he stood there. About to come to a decision, Trillin rolled over and fell from his bed. Grunting, the man sat up quickly, blinking stupidly.

“Huh? How’d I get here? And what are you doing in my room?” he asked groggily.

Before Trillin could even move or say anything else, Vlasian attacked him. There was no fight, only a quick, silent death for Trillin. Stooping over the body, Vlasian fished into the man’s pockets and located the map, and, to his delight, a key.

Straightening, Vlasian looked at the map again. If he rode swiftly, he could reach the library before midnight, thus completing his mission in time.

Vlasian stared coldly toward the body lying at his feet.

“Thank you ever so much. I would never have been able to do it without you,” Vlasian smirked.

He held out the knife he had used between his thumb and first finger allowing it to dangle point down for a moment and then dropped it into the wood next to the man’s head. It thudded into the floor and the point embedded itself there.

Vlasian left the room through the open window and dropped lightly to the ground. Swiftly he saddled his horse that was stabled near the tavern and set off into the night.

In the years to come, the Library of the Ancients would become open to the public, for its secretive nature became unnecessary with the absence of its most prized possession. For on the third of Mortia, at the beginning of Vlasian’s twenty-sixth year, The Voice of Palon vanished from the Library of the Ancients. Its secrets, both dark and righteous, were forever lost to the world. The mission of its guardians had failed. Despite their efforts to keep the book and tear apart, they had failed. Now one man was in possession of one of the most ancient and powerful artifacts on Irilion, and he possessed the means to use it. And not just any man, the last man on Draia you would ever want to gift with such power.


Part 2


Vlasian had the Voice of Palon. The book contained many secrets of magic both good and evil. Few of these did he ever truly read, though. He had eyes only for the pages that taught him how to use The Tear of Sedicolis.

The powers of The Tear were greater than anyone had guessed. With the proper instructions, Vlasian could change his shape to any race, gender, age, and appearance at will.

If an orchan of Redmoon hired him to spy upon another orchan, Vlasian could swiftly become an orchan himself to move freely about the island. If he desired to steal the knowledge of gnomes, he could become an innocent gnomish girl.

Vlasian grew in fame rapidly. He was no longer the renowned thief and spy of Melinis, but the famed outlaw of the continent. With the ability to easily change his appearance, it no longer mattered to him what proof was left to make him guilty. No one could catch him; he could disappear into a crowd of people as himself and slip into a tavern as a drunken elf.

At first, the changes in form were slow and sometimes even painful, but as time passed, he grew more skilled. Vlasian began to change his shape for the simplest needs, and could do it in seconds, morphing from one form to another to keep the hair out of his eyes.

His abilities granted him the one thing so many longed for, eternal life. He could change his age in the blink of an eye; years had no effect on Vlasian. By the age of forty, he had been hired as a thief, spy, and assassin more times than he could count. His greed was endless; traveling the continent constantly, he stole precious artifacts from everywhere imaginable. He robbed the treasuries of kings and emperors. He defiled the tombs of ancient rulers depriving them of their glorious riches.

Legends quickly sprang up of a hidden treasure trove of Vlasian’s riches. His services were so expensive that only the richest could ever procure his talents. And every year, on the third of Mortia, some horrid event would strike an unsuspecting community.

And so it came to be that in Vlasian’s fortieth year, he found himself on the eastern edges of the region of Trassian. It was in this cold and white land that he came across an old draegoni dwelling there.

This draegoni, who went by the name of Cilist, was an angry and vengeful man. He had long held enmity toward the city of Dra Syn and his kin there. Vlasian never cared to delve into why this man so hated his own people, but Cilist was willing to pay Vlasian richly if he would help him destroy the city.

Cilist taught Vlasian what he knew of the city, its customs, its people, and its secret passages. Vlasian would need to gain the trust of the draegoni there. With their trust gained, he could open the city’s huge icy gates for Cilist’s army of Yetis and wild men from all across the south.

Vlasian entered the city as a lone draegoni from Glacmor and quickly befriended those he would need. In less than a month, Vlasian and Cilist had agreed on a date on which Vlasian would see to it that the gates of the city spilled open in the early morning.

The day came and unsuspecting draegoni in Dra Syn were awakened to the war cries of an invading force. The draegoni quickly figured out that Vlasian had betrayed them and forced him to flee deep into the city.

* * * * * * * *


Vlasian looked to his right and left, he was stuck. Through either cave entrance he knew he would run into mobs of draegoni soldiers, all of them ready to kill him. They all knew only he would be coming through the caves. No matter what he changed into, they would catch him. He had foolishly already changed in front of a group of draegoni and they had immediately identified him as the thief and spy Vlasian.

His gaze shifted upwards slowly, Cilist’s words of the city’s secrets echoed in his head. The ancient pass of Dra’sel lay hidden in that sheer rock wall. Vlasian walked slowly toward the entrance to the throne room. Above the rounded cave entrance, he could just make out some irregularities in the stone. He pulled his snow-white hood over his head and scrambled slowly up the rocky rim around the cave’s entrance. Now that he was near it, the stairway carved into the rock was unmistakable. Stairway was not the term Vlasian would have used however. He silently cursed Cilist for not giving him more information. Rather than a stairway, it looked like a ladder carved into the rock. It was a series of indentations spaced roughly like the rungs of a ladder. It looked like it would be a very dangerous climb, but it was Vlasian’s only way out.

Sheathing his knife, he laid a warmly gloved hand on an indentation higher up and slowly brought a foot up onto the bottom one. He bounced on his foot for a moment and then pulled on the rock above to make sure it was solid. Satisfied, he pulled up the other foot and began the slow and treacherous climb. With each new indentation his hand reached, he tested the rock to make sure it wouldn’t break and send him plummeting to the ground far below. As he climbed ever higher, the wind grew stronger. It ripped at his cloak and hair sending them flying in the gusts of air. Frustrated he changed his shape to that of a bald man; his hair was now out of his eyes but his cloak still fluttered free.

Before he knew it, the rock was sheeted in the glacial ice of the mountains. He was forced to remove his warm gloves in order to be able to grip the ice. At long last he saw a ledge far above him. Thankfully, he wouldn’t be forced to climb all the way in this fashion. Gaining the ledge, he carefully stood. It was a narrow ledge carved into the eternal ice of the mountains. He clutched the rock face on his left as he made his way along. The sheer drop on his right was dizzying, that was a fall he would not survive. Making his way slowly along, he watched his feet and not the path in front of him. And when a draegoni shouted at him to halt, he nearly stumbled off the ledge.

Regaining his balance, Vlasian looked ahead. Two draegonis guarded the ledge in front of him.

“You are under arrest, Vlasian, for treachery!” shouted one. “We will escort you back to the city for judgment.”

“Oh, I don’t think I’ll be coming along,” smirked Vlasian. “Your city is busy fighting a horde of bloodthirsty yetis. I would so hate to interrupt their fun.”

With those words Vlasian lashed out, kicking one of the two in the stomach. The draegoni slipped, tried to find purchase on the ice, but failed. He fell from the ledge plummeting to his death far below.

The remaining draegoni stared in horror as his friend fell. Vlasian edged closer ready to make a strike against him as well. The draegoni snapped out of his stupor and drew his sword. He lashed angrily at Vlasian, who stumbled back. As Vlasian backed away his foot met the edge of the ledge and he slipped. He cried out as his stomach collided with the icy edge. Frantically his hands dug into the ice as he slipped further down. His heart beat rapidly in terror as one hand slipped. He dug his fingers into the hard ice with the other hand trying to find anything to hold on to. A god must have smiled on him for he found a rock embedded in the ice and latched onto it. He now hung on by one hand to the ledge; the rest of him was dangling over the empty air.

Vlasian looked up at the draegoni who glared down at him.

“It’s too bad you slipped and fell to your death before you could be given a fair trial,” the draegoni laughed. He raised his foot over Vlasian’s hand. Thinking fast, Vlasian pulled a dagger from his belt and jammed it into the ice near his waist just as the draegoni’s foot fell. His hand on the rock lost its grip, yet he now held tightly to the dagger in the ice.

Vlasian gasped in pain as his arm holding onto the dagger caught the full weight of his body. His shoulder muscles screamed as he hung there dangling by one arm. The draegoni above him now smirked with a mocking satisfaction. Vlasian gasped for breath as his knuckles turned white and his shoulder continued to burn.

The draegoni above began to draw a crossbow he had slung across his back. Vlasian watched horrified as the draegoni slowly drew back a bolt and pointed it directly at Vlasian’s head.

“Farewell, murderous traitor,” the draegoni growled.

Seizing one final chance, Vlasian pulled a short throwing knife from his sleeve. In one smooth motion he drew and threw it toward the draegoni. The knife hit the draegoni squarely between the eyes and punctured his skull. His hands dropped the crossbow, which released the bolt. Vlasian felt the bolt whiz past his ear and watched as the draegoni slowly tumbled from the ledge, his already lifeless body plummeted to join his companion far below.

Now Vlasian hung there, alone, on the ice. His fingers grew sweaty despite the cold and he began to lose his grip. Using his remaining bit of strength he drew the twin to the dagger already in the ice and heaved his arm upward and dug it into the top of the ledge. He now laid stomach against the ice one hand reached high holding onto the dagger in the ledge and the other again near his waist. Letting go with his left hand he heaved up his legs and put a foot on the knife near his waist. Bringing his other foot up he balanced precariously on his toes. He pushed his legs upward and clawed with his hands bringing himself up onto the ledge. As he pushed off the dagger to get onto the ledge, he felt it fall away from the ice. Crawling to his feet, Vlasian watched his dagger fall gracefully to the ground below. Regretfully he pulled his other out of the ice and returned it to its place in his belt.

Feeling his shoulder gingerly, he judged he had probably dislocated it from the jerk as he fell. Slipping from one form to another he tried to see if he could fix it, to no avail. Every time he tried to change it just hurt worse. Finally settling on the shape of a young draegoni girl, he set off across the ledge. He would have to make it over the mountains to Glacmor. Then convince someone to help him.

It took Vlasian two days to cross the treacherous pass before he found himself weak and hungry in Glacmor. He hadn’t changed his shape from the young draegoni girl and entered a tavern stumbling with fatigue.

The draegoni there could only guess where this girl had come from and helped her. Much to their surprise when she was fully recovered in a little over three days she disappeared.

In the end, the warriors of Dra Syn defeated the horde of invading monsters and walled off their huge gates. The entrance to the city became a secret known only to the draegoni and their friends.

Vlasian returned to Cilist’s house to collect his pay. The old draegoni refused because he had not succeeded in destroying the city.

When the people of Dra Syn discovered who had worked with Vlasian to attack them, they swiftly sent troops to Cilist’s house. The found only wreckage and bloodstained walls.

Vlasian disappeared to some other part of Irilion and was not seen in the south for many years. The draegoni do not easily forget and their magical abilities sometimes led them to identify Vlasian despite his changes of form.

Irilion was large, however, and spying and thievery could be done everywhere. Vlasian was never without work, for evil always needs an emissary.


Part 3



Years flew by and Vlasian worked all across the continent. At the age of sixty, he was as quick witted and skilled as he had been in his youth. He could always resort to a form of himself in his prime. Vlasian had many close calls, however. Some of his escapes seemed too good to be true. He had not yet come to accept it, but an unseen force guided his path, protected him, slowly steered his life. A cold calculating force of evil slowly moved the pieces of its game and as Vlasian found himself in Idaloran in his sixtieth year, everything began to fall into place.

Vlasian had received word through a tangled network of informants that the empress of Idaloran was seeking a master spy. Vlasian quickly finished his work in Sedicolis and made his way west to Idaloran city.

There he contacted those he needed to and was soon given an audience with the empress’s personal intelligence master. The Idal Empire was in a secret and lethal feud of murder and trickery with the elves in Irsis.

Vlasian’s assignment was simple to understand, but far less easy to carry out. The Idal empress wanted information on a certain elvish noble. He was a very paranoid noble and rumor had it he possessed guards who were the most adept in all areas of stealth and spy work.

Vlasian gleefully accepted the challenge; positive he could succeed against all odds. That was where his folly lay. He quickly made his way south to Irsis to begin his work, for which he would be paid very richly.

Vlasian made his first error on his second day there. He had followed a pretty lady home from a tavern only to discover she was one of Irsis’s spies. And she knew what he had already been up to, spying on the elven noble. To Vlasian’s shock, rather than try and execute him, the elves offered to pay him twice what the Idal Empire had promised in order for him to play the double agent.

Blinded by greed, Vlasian accepted without hesitation: his second mistake. And his third was underestimating the skill and knowledge of the Idal empress’s other spies. He was promptly placed under arrest upon his first return to Idaloran with information. Hauled to the city's jail he spent a quiet and lonely night, brooding in anger and frustration, with the constant knowledge of an execution planned the following day.

He was not unduly worried however; he was confident he would find a way out. But when the sun rose the next day, he began to doubt. He had really messed up this time, there was no way out.

* * * * * * * *



Vlasian stared shocked at the walls of his prison as the first rays of an autumn sun began to slip into his cell. The bars in front of him still sat there defiantly. He had tried every form possible, but there was no way any could fit through the thin space between each bar. He had finally failed.

Vlasian’s thoughts were not those of regret, of wishing his crimes had not happened, that he hadn’t been so greedy. They were thoughts of blank horror that he, so perfect in his own eyes, was about to be led to his execution.

Leather boots thudded on the stone floor as a guard approached his prison. Watching with hollow vacant eyes, Vlasian saw the lock opened and the door swung outward. Jumping up, Vlasian reached for the guard’s throat, but the man was prepared and dodged to the side. Drawing his sword, the guard slashed Vlasian across the back. The blow sent Vlasian to his knees.

Vlasian was dimly aware of the world around him as he was picked up and dragged outside. Across the cobbled streets, he was brought to a grim and bloody execution block. Large crowds had gathered to watch. All of them wanted a glimpse of the legendary thief, Vlasian.

No jeer or taunt of the guards or crowd ever truly reached his ears. He heard them all, but none did he react to. His eyes clouded with a misty dullness as he was placed upon the execution block. Nothing went through his mind, so deep was his state of utter shock that he had lost all energy to fight back. How was this happening? How had he failed? Only a few days before he had been accepting another common job as a spy, now here he was, about to be executed. He, who possessed the tear of Sedicolis, his key to eternal life, was about to die. Oddly enough, the tear still hung around his neck on its silver chain. It dangled in midair from his bent neck. Vlasian’s eyes locked on it as the crowd yelled. The man to his side was raising his axe slowly and dramatically, drunk with the attention of the crowd.

That was when everything went black. At first Vlasian had thought he died, the axe had fallen, and here he was wherever he went next. Then a figure took shape.

Vlasian could do nothing but stare, was this hell? He slowly crawled from his kneeling position and peered into the darkness.

“Who are you?” croaked Vlasian to the approaching figure. His back ached fiercely as the fresh wound the guard had inflicted continued to bleed.

“I am one who has followed you for many years,” hissed the figure.

“What do you want?” Vlasian’s pulse quickened as his eyes darted around. Any unseen attacker could leap from the darkness at any moment, not to mention the mysterious figure in front of him.

“Your service,” the quiet reply came.

“Why should I serve you?” Vlasian countered.

“Because you owe me everything.”

“Huh?” Vlasian was confused and flustered and was getting dizzy as his wound continued to bleed.

“I saw to it you were born, saw to it you won The Tear of Sedicolis, guided you to The Voice of Palon, rescued you so many times when death was near. And now it is time for you to pay your debt.”

“I don’t owe you anything!” Vlasian yelled.

Only laughter followed, then another reply. “But don’t you understand Vlasian? You serve me, or you die.” The last word slipped into Vlasian’s ears venomously. A chill ran down his spine, this man terrified him.

“Not man, Vlasian, god.”

“Selain?” whispered Vlasian in horror.

“What is your decision?” the god pressed. “Serve me? Or not?” Just as Selain uttered those last two words, a hideous image grew in Vlasian’s mind. It was of him lying dead on the ground. He didn’t want to die.

“I’ll serve you,” Vlasian whispered fearfully.

“Wise choice.”

Vlasian looked around surprised as he heard the horror struck screams of a crowd. They faded, though, and the darkness grew deeper.

In the city of Idaloran, the people were as bewildered as Vlasian himself. A dark black shadow had completely obscured the famed thief and his executioner. As it cleared Vlasian was revealed gone and the executioner dead upon the ground.

Whispers rippled through the crowd as the screams subsided and they stared in horror and wonder. Where had he gone? How had he done that?

“He is a god!” someone shouted. “We have angered a god! Surely now we shall all be punished!”

The crowd dispersed quickly and everyone fled to their homes. All across the city word quickly spread of the miraculous escape of the thief. The same questions flew from person to person. Is he a god? If he isn’t, how did he get away? Has anyone ever escaped the empress’s justice before?

Vlasian had done the unfathomable; he had been the first being to ever escape the iron fist of the Idal Empire’s punishment. Had he done it himself, Vlasian would be basking in the glory of more fame. He hadn’t done it himself, however, and now he was beginning to realize what he had gotten himself into. From the moment he started listening to the dark thoughts in his mind as a child, he had been losing control. Now, sixty years later, his life was not his own. Vlasian owed everything he had, everything he was, to the cunning god who now swept him far away from Idaloran.


Part 4



Vlasian breathed in and out rapidly as the darkness began to fade and the world took shape around him. Selain had vanished and Vlasian now found himself standing in a jungle. Thick brown muck oozed beneath his boots. He could make out distant sounds of animals but nothing was near him. Prying his feet from the mud, he took a few steps in one direction, then stopped. He had absolutely no idea where he was. For all he knew, if he walked that direction he could be going deeper into the forest.

After a moment's consideration, he resolved that standing around sure wouldn't help him at all so he might as well walk and see where he ended up. He started off again in the direction he had been headed, yet before he could take more than five steps, he found himself with a spear at his throat.

“Who trespasses on the land of the Akuen?” growled the spear’s bearer. Vlasian’s mind worked rapidly trying to place the name "Akuen" to figure out where he was.

“Jallis!” Another person walked up, also carrying a spear. Both people were clad in simple leather armor and wore capes fashioned from a variety of skins. “Who is that?” demanded the second man.

“I don’t know. He doesn’t look like a Mishisan or I would have killed him already.”

“I don’t care what he looks like, no one trespasses on Akuen ground and only Akuen and Mishisan are bold enough to travel alone in Kusamura.”

Before the pair could argue more, Vlasian shifted from his own form to that of a young male elf and darted into the trees.

“Stop him!” yelled one of the men.

Vlasian leapt through the undergrowth and dodged branches; he had no idea where he was going. He was about to pause to catch his breath when he saw an old wall through the trees. He slowed and entered the clearing in which the wall stood. A strand of more elves armed with spears leapt over the walls and blocked his path. Those from the forest caught up in moments and blocked his last escape.

“Kill him,” growled one of the men who had come from the forest. They all raised their spears, but were cut short.

“Stop!” roared a voice. Instantly everyone lowered their spears. A tall man stepped from the forest. He was clad in leather as well and wore a black cloak around his shoulders. He was dark skinned like the others, but unlike the others, he had emerald green eyes.

“Master,” the one who had ordered Vlasian’s death dropped to his knees before the figure.

“Do you all intend to kill the one I have sent to help you?” questioned the green-eyed man.

“No, Selain, never,” murmured the lead elf.

“Selain?” Vlasian was taken aback.

“I have many forms, Vlasian,” hissed Selain. Selain then addressed the elf again. “Explain to Vlasian what is going on. He will provide the information you need.”

A wave of whispers swept through the forest warriors. “Vlasian? The famed Vlasian? Selain has sent us Vlasian?”

“The time is near, prepare all your warriors. Your people will be rewarded for all your service to me.” With those parting words, Selain vanished back into the forest. The lead man stood and faced Vlasian.

“Come,” he said simply. “I am the Akuen. I will show you the village.”

Keeping a wary eye on the spears and the dark eyes of the warriors, Vlasian followed this man, the Akuen, past the wall.

“I thought your people were the Akuen?” Vlasian asked. “You said this was Akuen land.”

“We are the Akuen, I am the Akuen, this village is Akuen, this land is Akuen’s,” he responded. “You were sent by the god to help us. I will tell you what you need to know and we will do what Selain asks, for the Akuen are his people.”

That was the beginning of Vlasian’s time in the village of Akuen. The man, the Akuen as he was called, guided Vlasian and taught him many things. He taught of the long feud between the Akuen and the Mishisan. He taught how the first villager, Akuen, had chosen this land for his descedents. He taught how Akuen had been Selain’s most loyal follower for years.

The village was built into the swamp and without the constant care of the people, it would have long ago sunk into the muddy land. Akuen and his children had built it many years before. In the same years that Akuen had made his village, his brother Mishisan had built one to the east. Akuen’s descendents swelled rapidly and soon burned the Mishisan village to the jungle floor, for Akuen and Mishisan, though both loyal servants of Selain, hated each other. After that, the Mishisan had lived only in tents. Years later, they had turned away from Selain. That made the Akuen hate them all the more, for the Akuen had followed Selain: they were his people. Vlasian was shocked to discover that Selain seemed to truly care for these people. They were like his children; he guided them, punished them, and provided for them. And the Akuen adored their god.

Now, however, the swamp was growing so rapidly that it consumed the Akuens' lands. Selain had promised them they could march on the Mishisan who had betrayed them and claim their lands, but the Mishisan were rapidly disappearing because of the lions that dwelt in their lands. The lions were fierce beasts and they multiplied rapidly with such a ready supply of food. These monsters made the Mishisan lands unfit for the Akuen, so Selain had promised his people a different land, the land of their blood enemies. The Akuen were elves, a reclusive tribe that had broken off from the service of Aluwen, the normal god of elves. Aluwen’s people dwelt in Aeth Aelfan to the south and Selain wanted his people to conquer them.

The people of Aeth Aelfan dwelt in villages that were virtually unprotected. The elves there were, however, fierce warriors. And as in any war, you couldn’t win without the proper information from spies. Selain had been planning this attack on Aeth Aelfan for years and the time was drawing near. Vlasian was to create a network of Akuen spies in Aeth Aelfan to feed information to their tribal leader, Akuen.

That was precisely what Vlasian did. For sixth months he and his Akuen assistants gathered information on the elves. While the Akuen village, which had nearly four hundred inhabitants, prepared for war.

And to war they went. Seven months after Vlasian’s arrival, over one hundred Akuen warriors crept into the nearest village, Lothalith, where they slaughtered many in their sleep before the alarms were raised and the battle was forced to the nearby Wyrmgoth fields. The fields were soaked with the blood of the Akuen and elves, but the Akuen were winning. They were strong warriors and powerful servants of Selain. Most of the battle was fought by the beasts they summoned.

The other villages sent warriors as well, but all were beaten back by the Akuen. Victory was at hand and a fertile land would be theirs to rule. Vlasian himself fought in the battle and slew the high priest of Aluwen. The man had sworn his daughter would take up his place and defeat Vlasian. Vlasian had sworn to murder his daughter.

As Vlasian killed the priest, the tide of the battle changed. The small war had raged for nearly a week and word had reached Aeth Aelfan’s allies. The elves of Irsis sent ships full of warriors and mages who cut down the ranks of the Akuen, driving them back into the forest.

When the Akuen were all but wiped out, an enraged Selain gathered up the less than fifty of his people and swept them away to hide them in other lands. The village of the Akuen disappeared into the swamp, except for a small part that somehow never completely sank into the watery mud. The Akuen themselves vanished for years. They became a wandering people, but they were never completely destroyed. Always did they serve Selain, led by their chief.

The city of Lothalith built itself into a fortress with huge gates separating themselves from the jungle. Before all this happened, however, while the Akuen were still being slaughtered on the Wyrmgoth fields, Vlasian tried to complete a personal mission.

* * * * * * * *



Vlasian walked silently through the darkened streets. Most of this coastal village was in the north fighting the Akuen. Yet in several houses, lamps burned. Vlasian quickly located the one he was looking for and entered.

A small humble house, it was not where you would expect the high priest of Aluwen to live.

“Hello?” a mother called. “Who is there?”

Vlasian appeared in the doorway to a bedroom, sword drawn. Unprepared, the elven woman tried to retrieve a sword from beneath the bed, but Vlasian cut her down.

A small child lay on the bed, a little girl that couldn’t have been any more than three. Vlasian stood over the child, an evil smirk upon his face.

“You must be Bridden,” he hissed. “Your father spoke so highly of you. Pity you won’t live to learn of his great deeds.” Vlasian brought up his sword, but was stopped mid-swing as a blinding light flashed through the house and a sharp hot blade smote his face.

“Away, slave of the serpent!” A glowing elvish woman had appeared in front of Vlasian, between him and the child.

“You have wreaked havoc upon my children the elves. You shall not kill this child! You have gained what no mortal should be able to possess and for that I curse you. Forever shall your life be a shadow and forever shall you serve that serpent Selain. Immortality was not meant for mortals. You shall be as the living dead, forever cursed to walk Draia without peace.” As all this was spoken, Vlasian cowered on the floor, his face burned in pain from the blow of the glowing knife Aluwen clutched. “Now leave! Away with you, foul human!” She roared in fury and Vlasian crawled feebly from the house, away from the blinding light.

A long scar would cross his face for all his days. It ran from above his left eye to his chin and never truly healed. Hooded and cloaked, the shadow that was Vlasian stalked the lands hiding his wound. No matter what shape he took, it was always there; a sign of his identity, impossible to hide: the mark of a goddess's vengeance.


Epilogue


Melinis lay quiet and dark on the third of Mortia. All lights were out and shutters closed, save for one house. A young boy, no more than seven years old, crawled out of bed to investigate why his grandfather was awake.

“Grandfather?” he questioned as he walked into the lit room. “What are you doing?”

“I’m making a painting child,” he answered gesturing to the nearly finished work spread out before him. It was very large, nearly five feet square.

The boy looked at the painting. It depicted a black horse rearing on a shadowy grey background. On the horse was a rider swathed in a black cloak, his hood was black as well and only a shadowy hole lay where a face should have been. The painting was nearly finished but for a final corner of the shadowed background.

“What is it Grandfather? Who is that?” the boy asked.

“It is the thief, Vlasian of Melinis.”

“Why are you drawing him? And why tonight when we are supposed to be abed with lamps out?”

“Because I don’t believe in superstitions. I met Vlasian once, long ago, when I was less than noble myself. I have since changed my ways, so that doesn’t matter. But he would have to be older than I if he is still alive. He won’t return to perform dreadful deeds on the third of Mortia.”

“But there are stories of bad things happening in other places on the third of Mortia! It just hasn’t happened here in a while.”

“No doubt other thieves and outlaws got the same idea as Vlasian and try to keep up a horrid tradition. As I said, Vlasian is older than me; he is in no shape to be running around committing crimes. He is history, now, and we do not fear the past. Now go back to bed.” The boy nodded and crept out of the room as his grandfather gently shooed him away.

The boy fell quickly into a deep slumber and the grandfather finished the painting. Outside the crisp clear sky twinkled with a blanket of stars as a dark figure crept into Melinis.

That morning, the people of southern Melinis awoke to the ear splitting scream of a woman. She stood outside the entrance to the mayor’s house and as people came out to investigate, they saw the source of her shock.

Hanging on the wall inside the house was the painting the grandfather had drawn. Dark and sickly even in the light streaming in the door, it was enough to shock anyone. But the faceless black clothed rider and horse were not why the woman had screamed. Below the painting lay the grandfather, splayed in a pool of blood on the floor. Even the painting and wall were splattered by the man’s blood.

And so, as the city stared horrified at the dark picture with a blood-splattered corner, a dark clothed figure rode out of Melinis’s gates. The little boy stood on the walls watching in terror as the jet black horse and rider stopped and looked back at the city. The boy let out a scream of his own as the faceless hood peered straight toward him. The horse reared, matching perfectly the pose in the picture, then slammed its feet into the dust and galloped away into the desert.

And that is why, on the third day of Mortia, every year, every curtain is drawn, every lamp is doused, and every crying babe hushed. For on the third of Mortia, many years ago, the god of vice walked the streets of Melinis. Now on the third of Mortia, every year, Vlasian, the scourge of Selain, returns to ravage the city that bore him, for Vlasian wished he had never been born. Forever was he doomed to serve Selain and live a half-life because of Aluwen’s curse upon him. He was like a shadow, only half alive, forced to never die and forced to carry the burden of his crimes. A demon of the darkness, afraid of the light, his hatred grew with every passing year. He despised all life, including his own. But forever was he to walk Draia, his eternal punishment for his unthinkable deeds.

#2 kit_gw

kit_gw

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 04:11 PM

*applauds*

Brilliantly done:) stories that are so well planned out that have such a REALISITIC feel to them. Its makes me want to avoid going to Melinis/Kusamura/Aeth Alefan LOL when I dare to venture to those lands I know I am going to be thinking of this story. LOL :( Scary almost! lol :) Very well Done Enly, I have to say.. I am turning into your biggest fan! :( HUGS! And thank you so much for sharing your talent with us all to enjoy! :pickaxe:

#3 Rasool

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 07:22 PM

same expression as i stated in reply to fine story of "port Anitora and the Dragon Ship"...
all what i can say is that you're a natural writer, congratulations. i'm waiting for more :icon13:




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