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Scribe Enshadowed - Part 4 now posted!

Discussion in 'UO Great Lakes' started by Martyna Z'muir, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. Hello Friends,

    As some may remember, before the Stratics Forums went *poof* some months back, I had been abducted by an evil group working for the Shadowlords called the Triad of Evil. (I am still in their clutches...:sad3:)

    With that a story was posted to the boards that I said I would continue to update. Here is that story from the beginning, up to where it is nowish.. I hope to post 4th part sometime this week..

    ** :stir: WARNING: This story contains suggestive themes and disturbing imagery. There are even a few mild swear words where appropriate. Be forwarned. **

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Scribe Enshadowed
    ~ Part One: Consciousness ~​

    Chilled rough-hewn stone numbed her cheek as the stench of decayed flesh mixed with festering excrement assaulted her nose. Moaning softly she stirred, slowly at first. Finely manicured nails scraped along the side of her face sending a plume of dried blood flakes into her nostrils. A sharp, painful sneeze followed – abruptly bringing her around.

    Red-rimmed eyes took in her meager surroundings. A dark room consisting of three iron bars cells and stone walls. A typical prison, she mused dryly. Ignoring the pounding in her head and the overwhelming sense of dread, she crawled towards a stone wall and sat against it.

    She closed her eyes briefly and tried unsuccessfully to will herself into a drow healing trace. Strange, she thought, this has always come so easily. The one demand of my father I excelled at... Opening her eyes, she found the dank cell block had gone completely dark. A brazier two cells over had been doused. No, she realized, the flame is now a dusky crimson. Odd. A sudden stab of pain forced her eyes shut as she winced, resisting the urge to cry out.

    When she opened them again, she noticed a cloaked figure standing at the brazier. The figure gracefully wove a dark manus through the crimson flames, seemingly stirring the embers without the fear of burns. "Come here often?" spoke the figure, revealed to be a woman by her voice. "'Tis so dreary, and dank... with that ominous sense of death clinging to the walls. Delightful, isn't it?" Turning towards the captive, the figures eyes flashed red from the reflected light.

    "Who are you? Where am I?" she managed hoarsely, before being reduced to ragged coughing.

    The dark figure seemed to flow past the brazier, coming closer to the cell, eyes retaining the hellish light. "Worry not Reporter, for I am not the true threat here. I am but a visitor, yes, a visitor!" She said in a false cheerful tone, flowing closer. "I came to see how the puppets were treating their prey whilst their puppet master is...indisposed." The figure came to a halt outside the cell's steel door.

    "Prey? Me? I was attacked...by..by..." the elven prisoner trailed off.

    "Yes, child, prey. You have what they want. What we all want. The book..."

    Her eyes widened painfully at mention of ‘the book', sending a surge of defiance in its wake. "Go to the Abyss! The book was lost, along with much of my home. You and your fellow lackeys best learn to cope. The Council will find a way to destroy that Shadowlord *****!"

    A mirthless laugh escaped the dark woman's lips. "You underestimate me, Poppet. I am no servant of Nosfentor. She...she is a competitor, as it were...a tool, a blunt instrument to distract the virtuous." An almost thoughtful tone crept into the woman's contemptuous voice as she continued. "She has led the vaunted High Council on a merry chase, while my agenda proceeds unfettered. But be there no doubt, Poppet, I fear no shadow..." The woman lifted her arms and drew back the hood, revealing her bald ebony pate and harshly pointed ears. A cruel smile spread across her face like a cancerous lesion, "Remember me?"

    She gulped. "N..No.." she stuttered. "Can't say as we've met." She lied.

    Wagging a finger, the woman tsked. "Shame, shame Reporter. And here I thought you were the Voice of Truth on this benighted sphere!" she mocked. "What would your patrons think if they found out you knew me?"

    "Knew you? I saw you once at the Lycaeum! You could be anyone! What do you want of me anyway?" she half screamed.

    Another mirthless laugh spread the cancerous grin as the woman stepped through the bars into the cell. "As I said, my dear Reporter, I want the book! Whether I take it from you, or from the Mage... It will be mine." She came closer to the prisoner, her form flowing down to envelop the elf, bringing them eye to eye. The woman took the prisoner's face in her hand, fingernails biting into amethyst flesh. Eyes ablaze with an infernal light, the dark woman hissed, "But first, yes, I want to hear you scream. "

    ~~​

    Martyna awoke screaming, thrashing her lithe body wildly. Realizing her being was not in immediate danger, she looked around. The cell. The same damn cell she has just...dreamt...about? Was it a dream? It seemed so real...and accurate. This place looks exactly the same. Gazing towards the brazier, she breathed a sigh of relief at the bright orange glow.

    One difference she suddenly noticed was a blank-faced man standing in the cell next to hers, completely immobile. Figuring he would be of no help, she lifted her bruised body off the stone floor and tested the door. Locked. Sighing, she returned to the back wall and sat.

    Hours drifted slowly by before the sound of a wooden door scraping open broke her from her stupor. An unattractive man in red and black strode over to her cell. "Stay Walker, good boy." he growled at the insensate prisoner in the next cell, turning to her he grunted in amusement. "That's how a good pet behaves. Perhaps when you're broken we will teach you the pleasures of servitude as well..." he said lasciviously.

    Martyna's skin crawled at the man's implication. "I would sooner die, than learn your pleasures!"

    "That can be arranged," came another voice. "But not just yet, Martyna." Stepping around the other man, Harry Plotter glared at her.

    "YOU!" she shouted, lunging for the bars, vainly trying to cause him harm. "I'll see you pay for this!"

    His callous laugh matched the grin that went with it. "You, and what army? Little girl!" Both men laughed harshly now, watching Martyna's futile attempts to grasp and claw them.

    "B.A.F. will find me! They will raze this place to the ground and send you all to the Abyss!" she shouted indignantly.

    Another round of laugher overtook her captors, minutes drug by before they were composed enough to respond. "They couldn't fight off a swarm of mongbats, let alone defeat the Triad! Infighting alone keeps their ranks in chaos, they are no threat."

    Sighing quietly, Martyna stepped back from the bars. Deciding to get to the point, she calmly said, "Keeping me here is pointless, Plotter. You destroyed the book when you blew up my library. It is no threat to your witch."

    "That is Lord Plotter to you, wench." he said with a sudden sneer. "We know you wished us to think the book destroyed. And it may have worked, but your lovely High Council is so bad at...well...everything, but especially security. We know you had Minister DaKaren enchant the bookcase in your office, and that its destruction simply sent the contents elsewhere. You will tell us how to retrieve the book... Or my friend here might start his...lessons...early." The other man leered at her hungrily.

    Repressing a shudder, Martyna uncharacteristically spat in Plotter's face. "Go. To. The. Abyss." she stated in a defiant tone. Crossing her arms she stared darkly at them, using an expression she had once seen Dot Warner give to an uppity religious figure on Earth.

    Plotter wiped the spittle off his face on the sleeve of the other man. "That is going to cost you, elf!" Fumbling for a key in his pocket, he let loose with a string of amateurish expletives that nearly caused Martyna to laugh. However, his companion had less self control and again started laughing. "I will kill you both!" shouted Plotter, his face reddened with anger. "I will flay you alive and watch the ants feast on your entrails!"

    "ENOUGH!" commanded a stern new voice, another man stepped into the prison. Martyna recognized the dark robed man as Absu Maal, Nosfentor's High Priest. "Plotter, return to searching for the escapee!" he said in a severe tone. Plotter nodded once and exited swiftly. Turning to the other man, "You... Resume your...business."

    The other man nodded and unlocked the door to Walker's cell. Grabbing him by the ear, he led the catatonic man towards a wooden door next to Martyna's cell. As they passed, Martyna thought she saw a tear roll down the prisoner's cheek. The door closed behind them, and heavy footfalls could be heard going up a flight of stairs.

    "You'll have to excuse my men, Martyna. They have been under...stress." he blithely stated. A wan smile briefly pursed his lips before a cold mask of control returned. "You know what we want. You will give it to us. We can be very...persuasive." he timed the last word to coincide with a disconcerting groaning from the floor above. A wicked smirk was the last she saw of him as he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.

    Martyna leaned heavily against the back cell wall and slid down it to the floor, deflated. What am I to do? she wondered. I must protect the book, and hope that it gets to the right people soon. "What am I to do?" she mumbled aloud, before quietly weeping into her sleeve.

    "Hope," came a weary voice, unused to speaking. "You must always have hope."

    Quickly blinking back the tears, Martyna looked to her right, into the shadowed cell past the brazier. A man's face swam into focus, matted snowy hair with an equally white scraggly beard. At first she didn't recognize him, for captivity had not done him any kindness. "No..." she breathed. "It can't be..."

    "Ah, I'm afraid it is, lass. Rumors of my death and all..."

    To Be Continued.​
     
  2. Scribe Enshadowed
    ~ Part Two: Bonds ~​

    Several hours had passed since the old man revealed himself. During that time, the two prisoners filled each other in on the last eight years of experiences. Martyna did most of the talking, hitting the high points... and the lows... that the man would wish to hear. His story, however, was brief and to the point.

    "Torture and humiliation, that's about it." He sighed. "Every once in a while they'd toss me a Daily Herald, show me what havoc they'd wrought on the Kingdom. Sorry about your library..."

    Martyna sighed heavily. "It is being...was being...repaired. That fact that you are still alive gives me hope. B.A.F. will rescue us."

    Shaking his head slowly, the man spoke in a resigned tone. "Lass, if what ye have told me is truth, the Britannian Armed Forces are in dire straits. The Knights are brave and true, that is to be sure, but even their Virtue is nay enough to safeguard the entire realm and its provinces. These Shadow-followers are a shifty bunch, and I believe Nosfentor to be in league with a darker force..."

    "A darker force?" she asked incredulously, arching her left eyebrow. "The other Shadowlords?"

    "Nay, they are all cut from the same cloth," he answered cynically. "I've heard them speak of a tomb they unearthed, apparently from another shard or some such. They believe it could help them. Unfortunately, I have been unable to warn Chancellor von Bayer or the Council about the matter..."

    "No doubt our hosts would like to keep that quiet." She quipped sarcastically. "Do you know where we are?"

    "Not precisely lass, they blindfolded me the few times I've been moved. Judging by the humidity, I'd say we're in the tropics. On some nights I think I've heard the ocean, however, most nights I hear the chittering of Solen."

    "Hmm. So we could be anywhere in the southern mainland..." she said while testing the integrity of the mortar around the cell bars.

    "My point exactly," he shrugged. "Perhaps you will get lucky like the Empress, and your cell door will simply swing open one eve."

    Martyna raised her left eyebrow again. "The Empress...is she the escapee Absu mentioned?"

    "Aye, the very same. She toddled out of her cell a few nights ago, left the Triad in a right panic she did." He laughed sadly. "Can't say as I was sorry to see her go, either... It's shocking that Tokuno would want her back, what with her constant piercing screams."

    Martyna giggled quietly at the thought, before being startled by the wooden door next to her cell being kicked open. The guard from earlier strode into the room carrying Walker slumped over his shoulder. In his hands were two bowls which he unceremoniously dropped in front of the two occupied cells. Both prisoners then watched uneasily as he dumped the catatonic Walker in the corner of his cell before locking the door. "Enjoy..." he said with a nasty sneer before leaving the way he came.

    "Poor soul," lamented the old man. "I wouldn't wish his torment on anyone."

    Martyna shuddered, considering the old man's meaning. She glanced at Walker who now sat with his knees pressed against his bony chest, slowly rocking back and forth.

    Hunger gnawed at Martyna as she crawled over to the bowl dropped outside her cell. The bowl barely made it through the bars without spilling its contents, a lumpy beige porridge-like substance. Crinkling her nose at the somewhat off smell of the meager meal, she turned to look across the cellblock at the old man.

    "It's edible, and no, it is not human." He assured her. "I believe the chunks may well be Solen, as the southern jungles are infested with the black ones." He shrugged at her obvious revulsion. "It's this, or starve. I choose life, if you can call this living..." he said gesturing at the cells.

    Martyna considered his words carefully. Eat the only food available, or dump it in the already nearly overflowing waste bucket in the corner of the cell. With a small sigh of resignation, Martyna brought the bowl to her lips and took a sip. The viscous gruel reminded her of a paste she had tried on an island on Earth several years before; yet this was slightly bitter and had a strange stringy texture. She tried not to think of the intelligent race this was theoretically made from as she gulped down the rest of the bowl before dropping it on the floor.

    "Good girl," said the old man good-naturedly as he finished his gruel. "Use the resources you have to keep yourself strong. I would suggest licking the bowl clean, every bit of energy will help you resist the Triad." The man proceeded to use his grubby fingers to scrape the sides of his bowl.
    Martyna turned back to her bowl to follow suit, but found that a young female rat had already claimed the bowl as her own. The rat eventually noticed the amethyst hued elf starring quizzically at her and briefly stared back before darting behind the waste bucket to hide.

    "'Tis alright little one," Martyna cooed softly at the rat, "everyone must eat."

    The rat's pink nose poked out from behind the bucket and twitched twice. Slowly at first, the rat came out of hiding. Her beady black eyes stared at Martyna as she scurried back to the bowl. With one last twitch of her whiskers, the rat resumed licking the sides of the bowl hungrily.

    "Ach, Lass. Were I you, that rat would be roasting in the brazier already." He spoke earnestly, "Every bit of protein is valuable here..."

    "Thy counsel is wise," muttered Martyna absently. "However," she continued in a serious tone as an idea came to her, "even the lowliest of creatures can be an ally in times like these." She flashed a wry grin towards the old man. "All you must do is befriend them..."

    A gleam appeared in the old man's eye that had been long absent. "Friends in low places an' such?" He tossed a hunk of dried bread through the cell bars and over Walker's head, it landed gently in Martyna's lap. "My contribution." He said with a grin.

    Martyna broke the bread into rat-sized morsels and threw one towards the rat. The bread was noticed immediately and the rat scurried over to devour it. Within minutes, Martyna had the rat literally eating out of the palm of her hand. Within an hour, the rat sat preening herself on Martyna's knee.

    For several days, Martyna kept the rat well fed and hidden when the Triad came to drag her out of her cell for questioning. She had named the rat Lotha-abbil in Drow, a fitting name for the wee rat. Lotha-abbil quickly learned that Martyna was an excellent source of food, warmth, and compassion in the abysmal tower.

    As the weeks passed, Martyna began to weave an ancient Drow children's spell on the rat. A charm similar to Dryad's Allure, however, this gave the subject some of the caster's abilities. Soon, Lotha-abbil could say simple words and appeared to have a vastly enhanced grasp of the world around her.

    The day that the door to the cellblock failed to completely close after one of Lord Plotter's tantrums, Martyna gave her little friend a mission. "Find the High Council for me, Lotha-abbil," she whispered in the rat's ear. "See to it they know where we are, and how to save us. Do not fear them; they are your friends too."

    Lotha-abbil chittered nervously, wriggling her whiskers as she sat in Martyna's palm. "Will go." She said in a tiny voice. "Will save Martyna friend."

    Martyna set her tenderly on the stone paver outside the cell. "Go my little friend, avoid the Triad. Scamper to Compassion Grove. Go with my love, and my thanks."

    "And mine as well," said the old man.

    Lotha-abbil nodded her tiny head once and darted for the crack between the door and the wall. The prisoners listened intently for the sounds of a scuffle or clang of a weapon on stone. After an hour, they optimistically determined their rodent friend had escaped the tower.

    "Who'd have thought that a Knight would be relying on a rat for salvation?" asked the old man rhetorically as he bedded down for the night.
    "Rat? Is that the best insult you have old man?" came a new voice from the doorway.

    Both mentally coherent prisoners bolted upright instantly. "James!" they said in unison.

    "Who else would it be?" he said mockingly, striding nonchalantly into the room. "I have come in my official capacity, as it were..." James stood outside the cells, fingering the badge of office on the crimson sash across his chest. "Minister of Foreign Affairs, at your service!" he laughed tensely.

    "Lawford, back to the business of your woman. Those people are not your concern!" came the distant, annoyed voice of Harry Plotter.

    "Martyna," he said with a wink. "Woodrow," he sneered. The door slammed behind him with a thud.

    "By the Virtues," Woodrow said stunned. "What has happened to the Council?"

    "Now I'm actually afraid... That man is a menace..." Martyna said in a strained voice.

    Neither prisoner slept well that night.

    To Be Continued.​
     
  3. Scribe Enshadowed
    ~ Part Three: Pain ~​

    It had been a week since Lotha-abbil had crept unseen out of the dark tower. She had immediately made her way northwards, compelled by the knowledge Martyna had bestowed on her tiny mind. The perilous journey through dense jungle had tested her resolve. Her rodent legs were quick for short distances, but tired easily after scrambling through dense underbrush and avoiding predators.

    The coniferous forest she walked through now gave her little in the way of cover. Twice today, the brave little rat had been chased by a hungry cougar intent on making her a mid-day snack. At this rate she wondered if she would ever make it to this 'High Council' Martyna charged her with contacting.

    Snow-capped mountains rose up to touch the sky before her. North, she thought. Must save friends.

    ~~​

    "Where is the tome, Reporter?" screamed Plotter, spraying spittle into Martyna's delicate amethyst hued ear. "Tell us the location!"

    In response, Martyna turned her head and spat the mouthful of blood she had painstakingly refrained from swallowing directly into Harry's snarling face. "Go to the Abyss, you *******!"

    Once more, Martyna felt the burning sensation assault her face as Plotter repeatedly struck her. "Lying wench!" he screamed. "You care more for a moldy old book then your own life? Fool! Weaklings like you aren't fit to live!"

    "Plotter..." came a voice from behind Martyna. "Torture is performed with finesse and subtlety. Simply beating your subject will rarely give you the answers you seek." The voice came nearer. "The proper application of pain is essential, however."

    "Aye, Lord Absu." Nodded Plotter absently.

    Absu Maal came to a stop facing Martyna. "My child," he said, reaching out a crimson gloved hand to lift Martyna's chin. "You'd best tell us what we want to know, for this...this is but a mere shadow," he smiled slightly at his pun, "of what is to come."

    Martyna glared up at him, unable to move her head in his grasp. Blood trickled out the left side of her mouth, dripping off his glove and onto her already saturated shirt. Were she not bound to the bone chair, she may have tried to claw his eyes out.

    "Good, child," he said coldly. "I can see the defiance in your lovely eyes. We collect those you know, lovely eyes that is. The Mistress finds them most delectable..." A sadistic smirk spread across his face. "Return her to her cell," he released her chin. "We shall begin anew tomorrow."

    Plotter moved to untie her. "Yes Lord," was all he said. He finished untying her, yanked her to her feet, and pushed her towards the cellblock.

    Martyna stumbled into her cell, collapsing to the stone floor with the tender aid of Plotter's right boot. "Tomorrow, Lord Maal and I will teach you why it is not wise to keep things from the Triad." He left the cellblock chuckling to himself.

    Martyna slowly crawled to the back of her cell, ignoring the cold bowl of congealed gruel that had been left for her. She needed sleep, and a chance to perform a healing trance – not that it would do much good.

    "Lass," rasped Woodrow, who had also been interrogated earlier in the day. "Have hope... Your rat, remember your rat."

    Nodding feebly, she said a silent prayer before succumbing to exhaustion, her will to fight far from extinguished - she knew what was at stake.

    ~~​

    Martyna awoke to the sounds of sobbing. Picking her head up from the stone floor, she gazed into Walker's cell and saw him curled in a fetal position in the corner of his cell along their shared wall. Aching muscles protested her slow crawl towards the man, apparently sleep had not been enough to recoup her strength.

    "There, there, Walker," Martyna cooed softly, gently stroking the man's head through the bars. "We will be rescued, you'll see." Walker merely wept louder, and began trembling violently. Martyna carefully withdrew her hand, not wanting to upset the obviously deeply troubled prisoner.

    "Woodrow," she hissed, trying to remain quiet. "Woodrow, are you awake?" No response.

    "Woodrow?" She rose unsteadily to her feat, gripping the prison bars for support. She pressed her face against the bars to peer across the cellblock into the elder Knight's cell. Empty. Nervously chewing her lower lip, Martyna allowed herself to sink back to the floor. Not good, she thought. Not good at all.

    As she sat there staring at the floor in abject dejection, Walker's sobs abated as he drifted off to sleep. The sudden silence brought other sounds to Martyna's usually sensitive ears, sounds of pain. Woodrow's pain.

    Several hours passed excruciatingly slowly, anger welling up within Martyna to an un-lady-like rage. Her own discomfort forgotten, she focused on the pain being suffered upon Woodrow by the Triad. She paced the tiny cell with renewed vigor, cursing the parentage of each of Nosfentor's fanatics.

    Eventually, heavy bootfalls neared the heavy wooden door in front of the cells. With a loud bang, the nameless guard kicked the door open. His usual depraved grin was lit from beneath by a torch thrust out before him, making his unfortunate face far more repulsive. He staked over to the dimly smoldering brazier and stabbed it with the torch a few times to stoke the flames back to life. As he turned back, he wrenched the empty cell's door open – ready for its occupant's arrival.

    From the gloomy room beyond the door, two Triad members drug a slack Woodrow between them. Magus and Temptation, Martyna recognized them. And here comes Plotter. Joy.

    Plotter strode into the room purposefully, a hard look directed intently at Martyna. "As promised, Reporter," he grinned. "A lesson hard learned today by your friend here." He waved the two carrying Woodrow to a halt. "See now what we do to those who do not answer our questions." He reached a gloved hand out and lifted Woodrow's head by his gray hair.

    Blood trickled from the old Knight's closed eyes, covering his face in a sickly red sheen. A feeble moan escaped his lips, releasing yet more blood from his mouth. His eyelids fluttered briefly, revealing only darkness behind them – and yet more blood.

    "What did you monsters do to him!" screamed Martyna, her rage finally finding an outlet. "What further use could harming him bring you?"

    An evil grin played at the edges of Plotter's mouth. "Our Mistress is in the hands of those obnoxious Knights! Who better to tell us their tactics for holding her?" He released his grasp on Woodrow carelessly, letting his bloodied head fall abruptly. Reaching into a pouch tied to his belt, Plotter pulled something out. Stepping closer to Martyna's cell, he held out his closed fist. The evil grin finally spread fully across his face as he opened his hand to reveal two gory spheres – Woodrow's eyes.

    "Not quite as pretty as yours, but the Mistress should find them pleasing." He stated callously.

    Her heart pounding in her ears, Martyna's rage exploded at Plotter – she grabbed the closest thing to her and hurled it at Potter's skull. The waste bucket hit the bars and clattered to the floor noisily, its contents having soaked a startled Plotter.

    The putrid fecal sludge coated Plotter from head to toe as it dripped down his armor to pool messily at his feet. Plotter sputtered slightly, sending a disgusting spray from his mouth and nose. The startled look on his face gave way to fury as realization sank in.

    Magus and Temptation, having already dumped Woodrow in a heap in his cell, bore witness to the bucket's contents splashing their compatriot. Unsuccessfully attempting to keep looks of amusement from their faces, they snickered to each other.

    Plotter jerked his head in their direction, excrement sloshed off the brim of his hat landing near Walker's feet. He silenced them with a livid glare.

    As he turned back to his attacker, who was also trying very studiously not to laugh, he wiped a sleeve across his face soiled face. "How dare you attack me, wench!" he growled menacingly, stepping toward the cell door. "You two. Leave. Now." he directed at the still snickering duo.

    "Yeah, something stinks in here anyway..." mocked Magus with a sidelong glance at Temptation. The two darted out of Woodrow's cell, slamming the steel door behind them. They had barely managed to exit the cellblock before both broke out in laughter.

    Briefly closing his eyes in aggravation Plotter shook his head, flinging muck about the room. He opened his eyes to look at Martyna with pure hatred. "You know," he said placing the eyes back in the pouch. "We wanted you for information. Now, I'm afraid, an unfortunate accident is about to occur." Reaching into his dark robe he removed a key from a pocket within.

    Martyna backed up against the far wall afraid, pressing her bruised shoulders into the rough stone as Plotter unlocked the door. Suddenly reconsidering her predicament, she stepped forward and straightened her shoulders, standing gracefully to meet her fate with dignity. Her father would be proud.

    Plotter entered the cell, leaving the door ajar. "Nice try, wench." he hissed, stepping closer. With a sudden thrust of a grime coated hand he caught her by the throat and raised her off her feet to press her forcefully against the back wall. "Caught, while trying to escape..."

    Martyna clawed her nails into Plotter's hand and forearm fruitlessly, for his armor was too sturdy for her chipped nails. Her vision began to fade as he squeezed her throat tighter, her body beginning to feel lighter than usual.

    "ENOUGH!" barked a fearsome voice from outside the cell. "Release her this instant! Defiance of the Mistress's commands end in death!"

    Plotter eased his grip on Martyna's neck, allowing her to breathe once again. "She attacked me, Lord," he whined. "And she was trying to escape!"

    "Choose your words wisely, Plotter. For a lie told to me carries the same penalty." Absu growled. "Now release her and go!"

    Plotter narrowed his eyes at Martyna. "We will finish this later." He said through gritted teeth. His hesitation to follow orders, however, cost him dearly. In another act of defiance, Martyna viciously brought her right knee into crushing contact with Plotter's groin. His anguished yelp of pain echoed loudly in the stone chamber. He immediately dropped Martyna and lurched to the floor clutching his codpiece. A deathly silence fell over the room as Plotter tried to regain composure.

    "Wench!" he finally managed to croak. "You will pay..." He rose from the floor in a flash, a dagger seemingly materialized in his hand – aimed at Martyna's heart.

    "AN EX POR!" Absu bellowed, freezing Plotter's dagger a mere inch from Martyna's breast. Absu stepped into the cell and around the paralyzed man. Sighing deeply he reached for Martyna's hand. "You will come with me, no trickery. I must move you to another location, lest this foul," he wrinkled his nose, "fool ruin our plans by killing you... too soon."

    "No... Can't have that..." muttered Martyna as she was led away to be blindfolded and shackled.

    Within a minute she had been pushed through a gate to an unknown location. She shivered from the sudden cold. Great, now how am I supposed to be found?

    ~~​

    Back in the prison, Plotter was abruptly released from his paralysis – lunging forward to strike his dagger against the stone wall. "Don't think this over, wench." He muttered to himself. "Your up-commence will be my pleasure."

    To be continued.​
     
  4. Scribe Enshadowed
    ~ Part Four: Wounds ~​


    The small brown rat scurried up the marble steps of the large, strangely familiar-looking building. She had not been here, but her friend had. A slight wave of confusion washed over her tiny mind. Why me here?

    Friend! she remembered suddenly. Indecision tore at her, she knew she must go inside for help, but the smell of so many tall-ones scared her. She cowered in the shadows briefly, watching the tall-ones entering the structure. Urged by her memories of Martyna, Lotha-abbil chose to dart under the billowing blue fabric of the white-haired woman entering the building. Save friend, she thought bravely.

    Safely inside, the rat grew braver as she listened to the tall ones speak. She heard familiar words, words of anger, and eventually talk of Martyna. Emboldened, she ran up to the tall-one she figured was the leader.

    She was ignored at first, and then regarded as common vermin. Eventually, she concluded that biting the male she thought was in charge would draw attention.

    When they determined her intent, much attention is what she received. The leader-man brought her to his home where she was lavished with fine cheeses and soft nesting materials. These tall-ones wanted to find her friend too, this one especially.

    He showed her a large shiny black rock several times, it made her feel strange though - less somehow. In time, she was moved to a new place with more tall-ones who prodded her and mumbled a lot. The leader-man did not seem pleased by these new tall-ones, and argued with them loudly before he was pushed away.

    Friend, she thought sadly. Me need save...

    ~~​

    After a long stumbling trek down a rocky incline, Martyna sensed they were nearing a structure of some sort. When the blindfold was finally yanked from her head, she found herself standing in front of a worn plaster building partially overgrown with vines and brambles.

    A blank-faced Absu Maal stood a pace away holding the chain linked to the manacles binding Martyna's wrists behind her. "Rustic," she quipped, looking at the desolate landscape surrounding the house. "Felucca?"

    Absu merely grunted, shoving her towards the door. Turning an iron key in the rusted lock he shouldered the massive oak door open. "Inside." he ordered in a monotone voice, dragging Martyna in.

    The home's dimly lit interior was covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs, an obvious sign of neglect and disuse. Worm-eaten hardwood chairs surrounded an ancient looking yew-wood table in the center of the main room. A cobblestone fireplace dominated the far wall, its warm fire long since burnt out.

    Martyna tilted her head slightly to the right to properly see a large tarnished buckler hanging at an awkward angle above the mantle. She recognized the insignia emblazoned on the buckler's surface as belonging to the Order of the Silver Serpent.

    Quirking an eyebrow in mild puzzlement, she turned her questioning gaze toward Absu. She found him staring at a large open book resting on an ornate pedestal in an apparent place of honor. He quickly closed the tome, sending a thick cloud of dust into the air. A sudden dark anger overwhelmed the man, causing him to backhand the book to the floor - overturning the pedestal.

    The old book came to a rest near Martyna's feet. Her eyes widened when she saw the cover: a silver ankh held reverently in the talons of a mighty golden dragon. By the Virtues, she thought ironically. An original copy of the Gold Tome of the Virtues!

    "Where are we?" she demanded, looking Absu in the eyes.

    Absu pursed his lips in thought before speaking, "This is...was my family estate, before my eyes were opened to the true meaning of the Virtues, and how I may serve their paragons - the Shadowlords."

    Martyna gave a derisive snort in response. She was reprimanded with a violent jerk of the chain binding her to Absu. Once within his grasp, he held her by the jaw pulling her closer.

    "Do not think that I brought you to this place to insult my Mistress," he growled in a low tone. "And do not believe my...rescue..." he said the word distastefully, "of you from Plotter's blade was anything more than devotion to the Shadowlords. You live at my sufferance, and Nosfentor's command."

    Martyna nodded slightly, barely able to move her head in the man's grip.

    Releasing his hold on her, Absu led her down a dark hall to another locked door. He unlocked the door and roughly shoved her inside. The room had clearly belonged to a child; a small bed with a threadbare stuffed dragon stood against the back wall, and several faded cracked vellum carnival posters hung on the walls.

    "You will stay here, quietly," he said smirking. "The Feluccans might be about." He locked the door and strode back down the hallway.

    Absently, he strode over to the fireplace and straightened
    the buckler displayed there. Once he realized what he had done, he grimaced at his sentimental action and stomped out of the house to recall back to the Triad's stronghold.

    Left to her on her own for the first time in months, Martyna sighed heavily and sat on the bed. Noticing a stack of books near the foot of the bed, she picked the top one up and found that it was 'Classic Children's Tales, Volume III'. Another rare book. She thought bitterly. At least this cell is a damn sight more comfortable...

    ~~​

    Two weeks had passed since Woodrow had lost his eyes to the vindictive delight of the Triad, two weeks since Martyna's disappearance. He knew she had not been rescued, and none of the normally boastful guards were forthcoming with her whereabouts. The most he had received was from Walker's tormentor: "She got what was coming to her..."

    He had told her to have hope, to fight for survival. What had it gotten her? He slumped against the uneven stone wall, feeling the stone bite into his gaunt frame. A rattling cough replaced the inevitable sigh.

    As he drifted off into another restless sleep, he was abruptly jolted awake by the sound of the cellblock door opening. A faint scent of night-blooming orchid managed to break through the normally putrid aroma of the prison. He crawled towards the cell door, feeling the warmth of the brazier on his sightless face.

    "Woodrow?" said a concerned feminine voice. "Oh my..."

    "Sune?" he asked, surprised. "Damn it woman, run from here!"

    "Calm yourself, old man." She ribbed good-naturedly. "The Triad knows I am here." Her skirt rustled on the floor as she knelt down by the brazier, steadying herself with one of its iron legs. Leaning towards the bars she whispered, "But they know not why..."

    Woodrow nodded imperceptibly, understanding. "So you have come to gloat, eh, witch?" he said loudly. "Couldn't resist kicking a Knight while he was down?"

    Ariyana laughed slightly as she stood up. "You haven't been a Knight in years, and as Justicar you made barely a dent. The still Triad run amok across the Kingdom!

    "Bah, the B.A.F. will dispose of them someday, just wait and see!"

    A melodic, throaty laugh met his remark. "There is no more B.A.F., old man. The Yew Militia withdrew to parts unknown, and Minoc has become insular to the point of absurdity." She shrugged. "Your precious Knights are all that remains, and the strain has begun to show..."

    "They pose no threat to our dominion," said a male voice, Absu Maal. "The other Lords are coming soon, all who oppose Them will be crushed - or turned."

    Woodrow looked appropriately crestfallen, withdrawing into the shadows at the rear of his cell. "Your ***** will betray you in the end, Maal."

    "The Lords reward those in Their service, it is your kind who will meet their end." Absu growled. "It is time you left, Sune."

    Ariyana looked mildly abashed by her dismissal, and chose to ignore it. "Where is inmate Martyna?" she questioned. "Is she being held elsewhere?"

    "She's gone!" Woodrow shouted quickly before Absu could respond. "For a fortnight now, I think they've slain the poor girl..."

    Wrinkling her nose at the news, Ariyana looked Absu in the eyes. "Is this true? Is the reporter no more?"

    "Her fate is none of your concern, Sune. The Triad deals with our enemies as we wish, mercilessly." He stated, shaking a clenched fist. "Take that back to the High Council, witch, let your new Chancellor know we will be coming - for all the good it will do him. Now, leave Stonegate."

    Ariyana slapped her hands on her thighs, "Fine, Lord Maal." She sighed, turning back to Woodrow. "Take care, old man. Don't go stumbling into the brazier there, remember your training - proper balance is key!" She laughed playfully, feigning sarcasm.

    "Out." Absu said, growing irritated.

    Woodrow heard the door slam closed behind them. He puzzled over the bizarre encounter as he drifted off to sleep.

    ~~​

    Martyna had spent the last several weeks locked in the aging Maal Family Manor. Absu had returned with a supply of food and unshackled his prisoner, giving her free roam of the house. He had ensured that she could not escape by trapping the doors and windows with deadly magicks from the outside. To monitor her captivity, several dark wisps led by a sinister man with a strange black steed patrolled the barren valley that had once been a lush estate.

    Martyna spent the days reading every book she could uncover in the filthy house; eventually she simply broke down and started to clean. Using what she found around the kitchen and in several closets, she managed to get the interior to resemble what it had in its glory.

    Having noticed that the shield above the mantle had been straightened, Martyna paid special attention to making sure it was a shiny as possible. Any weapon, she mused, even psychology.

    The night that Absu returned, she sat reading in a chair by the hearth. A blazing fire cast a ruddy glow about the common room, a worn copy of The Wizard of Oz consumed her attention. The sound of the cantrips on the door disengaging barely seemed to register, or so she hoped it appeared.

    "Been busy," quipped Absu humorlessly as he strode toward her. His eyes narrowed when he saw the gleaming buckler, a symbol from his past long repressed. "Perhaps too busy..."

    Martyna chose her words carefully. "'Tis a shame to let such a fine family heirloom tarnish so, most dishonorable."

    A sneer met her remark. "Do not dare lecture me, woman!" He snarled, grabbing the book from her hands and hurling it into the fire. "Were you not a part of the Mistress' plans..."

    Martyna watched in dismay as the book crumbled to ash, his words lost on her for the moment. "You fool," she said quietly.

    The back of his gauntleted hand struck her with such rapidity and force that she literally flew sideways out of the chair as it tipped over, landing with a thud against a leg of the table. "Wench!" he snarled. "You tax my patience at every opportunity!"

    Wiping away a trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth, Martyna smiled at her captor with bloody teeth. "A girl has to have some fun," she said demurely, choosing a different tact. "Being cooped up all alone in this house, it can make a man's contact more...welcome."

    Absu's eyes widened slightly at the implication, before narrowing to mere slits. "Now you take the tone of a harlot, hardly befitting a woman of your elven upbringing and Lycaeum training."

    She shrugged in response. "The guard out there, he's the strong silent type..." She hid her revulsion. "Not my thing."

    "He would rather rip your throat out than indulge in carnal pleasures." He strode over to the window in which the face of the guard could be seen, watching them. "He is Vanguard, bred for war... For conquest. He knows nothing else, wants nothing else. They are the lieutenants in our shadow war." He drew closed the curtains, hiding the Vanguard from view.

    "Lovely," Martyna retorted to his near-fanatical speech. "But what of Absu," she said coyly, picking herself up off the floor. "What does he want?" She slinked closer to him.

    He backed towards the door, noticeably uncomfortable. "To leave." He stated simply. His exit was undignified and expedient.

    Martyna heard the cantrips on the door hastily reactivated before the sounds of a gate opening and closing reached her sensitive ears. She backed away from the door before succumbing to a fit of laughter, which in turn led to cathartic cry.

    Father would be so proud, she thought darkly.

    ~~​

    Another month had passed uneventfully since Ariyana had paid her bizarre visit to the Triad's tower, and Woodrow had been left relatively unmolested during that time. However, the brutish guard who forced himself on the ever-weakening Walker had required the retired Knight to don a clay mask to hide his ravished features. He failed to mention the garishly painted geisha-like visage the mask was adorned with before permanently fastening it on the prisoner.

    It took Woodrow another week to fathom the curious comments his captors made, his further humiliation had quickly became their favorite game.

    On a particularly humid day, the impact of Plotter's boot to the side of Woodrow's head roused him from his first sound slumber in weeks - he had been plagued with nightmares of Britannia's cities set ablaze, legions of undead plaguing the living, and three cloaked figures feeding off the carnage.

    "Up, scum!" screamed Plotter, grabbing Woodrow by neck of his threadbare tunic.

    "Aye, Lord." He breathed, rising unsteadily on arthritic legs.

    Plotter drug him from the dank cell along the long-familiar path to the ‘Inquisition Room' as the Triad euphemistically called it. Woodrow always wondered how many innocent souls had met their end here, or worse yet, been filleted on the floor above for Nosfentor's supper.

    Woodrow was roughly shoved onto the uncomfortable bone throne and quickly lashed down tight. He could hear Plotter stoke a nearby brazier, its heat quickly becoming oppressive in the humid air.

    "So, Knight," started Absu, entering the room. "Are you ready to tell more of your secrets?"

    "Harrumph," replied the masked captive.

    "Come now, our Mistress can always use another servant..."

    "Deluded tyrant," mumbled Woodrow. "Her head will adorn a pike for all to scorn."

    "You dare to speak ill of our Lady, wretched Knight..." hissed Plotter, sloshing the contents of a bucket as he set it near the chair. "You will pay for your insolence!"

    Woodrow would have rolled his eyes at the clichéd villainy, had they not been already ripped from his skull.

    Absu, having moved toward the brazier, turned an irritated gaze at his prisoner. "Such words have led to the death of far greater than you. And yet, such hatred can be channeled... Perhaps Lord Astaroth might find that appealing."

    "Harrumph," replied Woodrow again.

    "I say he's become too complacent in our care, Lord, we treat him with too much Compassion." Plotter smirked as he buried something into the brazier's coals.

    "Aye," agreed Absu. "I believe it is time for another lesson in the proper application of pain, Harry. Are you ready?"

    "As always, my Lord." Plotter stated in a gleefully depraved tone.

    "Now, Sir Woodrow," Absu derided, "We see you are coping with your blindness well, too well in fact. We just can't have that...our Lords like their playthings broken...compliant..." he shuddered involuntarily.

    "Is that what you did to Martyna? Broke her?" he asked, suddenly angry. "You cowards!"

    "That ***** deserves death!" Plotter roared, turning towards the prisoner.

    "PLOTTER!" yelled Absu, the command implicit.

    Plotter lowered his head, "My apologies, Lord." He turned back to the brazier, hatred blazed in his eyes stronger then the brazier's flame.

    "We have a special treat for you, Knight. You will be the first test of a new form of armor... A technique we...appropriated... from what was left of the machine in Ilshenar." He let that prospect settle in the Knight's mind. "I believe it will hasten the Lord's dominance of this realm."

    "Do your worst, Maal, your lackey has already renewed my hope." Said Woodrow defiantly, thankful that the fool Plotter had slipped up.

    Absu held out a gloved hand towards Plotter, "Gauntlets, now."

    "Aye, Lord Maal..." Harry dug through the coals with a long set of tongs, finally retrieving two glowing hot metal gauntlets. He gave one gauntlet to Absu, keeping the other to himself.

    The two followers of evil stood on either side of Woodrow, poised to perform a dark act of technomancy.

    "This...my Virtuous friend," Absu said softly into Woodrow's ear, "is going to hurt." The nearby Plotter snickered fiendishly.

    Before Woodrow's mind could register exactly what had happened, excruciating pain blossomed in his hands and traveled like an energy bolt along his arms. His screams deafened his tormentors, and caused the nearby foraging Solen to instinctively cower in fear. Less than a minute later he passed out from the agony and exhaustion, only his ragged breath and spasming metal-clad hands made any sound.

    "A pity," Plotter lamented, as he poured the bucket over the sizzling gauntlets. "I wanted him to stay awake for this..." The smell of burned flesh blanketed the room in a sickly pall.

    "It matters not, Plotter." Mumbled Absu, fumbling through a hidden cloak pocket to retrieve two tiny, glowing purple crystals. He held one in each hand, inspected them briefly, and then inserted their pointed end into a hole cut in the top of both gauntlets. A soft snick completed each insertion.

    Within moments, Woodrow's hands ceased convulsing as a faint whirring noise emanated from the gauntlets. Several rivets began to spin by themselves, tightening the hold they had over their new host. Rivulets of blood trickled onto the floor as the gauntlets sealed onto Woodrow's mangled hands.

    "Success?" asked a male voice from their stairwell.

    "We did not call you here," Absu said in annoyance. "Leave this matter to the true followers, Minister."

    "Each of us is true unto our own function, Lord Maal." The man bowed towards the staircase. "I believe you were looking for something..."

    "Cease your foolish prattle, Kemmler." Chided Absu. "Should you not be begging at the Chancellor's table for scraps? Leave Stonegate before you are..." Absu was cut off at the sight of a cloaked figure surmounting the top step, aided by Kemmler's hand.

    "My Mistress!" Absu and Plotter said in unison, dropping to one knee in supplication.

    "We have much work to do, my minions. My brothers seek to forge new pacts with powerful allies. Increase the Vanguard attacks at the stress points, and ready a welcome for off-world guests..."

    "Yes, my Mistress," the three men said in unison.
    Nosfentor glided over to the drooling Knight. "Excellent," she said of the gauntlets. "Bring me the Reporter tomorrow Absu, it is time we had...a talk."

    To Be Continued.​
     
  5. Scribe Enshadowed
    ~ Part Five: Untitled ~


    Coming slightly less soon :D