Chosen of Ashurha: Blood of the FallenMature

A freak storm drives Vorel and Valgar into the desert, only to discover the ruins of an ancient city.This is still a rough draft, be gentle D:

 

Lightning split the darkened sky as thunder roared its might through the evening air. At the shore, the ocean bucked and pitched like an untamed stallion, crashing against the white sand as though trying to devour the poor beach. High winds tore shutters and doors open, slamming them into walls and exposing homes to the power of the storm. Vorel stood on the balcony attached to her chambers, watching the pandemonium unfold within Ezba Khamis with detachment, her hair whipping about her face furiously. 

  “Odd. A thunderstorm of this magnitude… in the desert… I wonder if it’ll rain.” Heaving a sigh, she turned her gaze to the edge of her city and the open, arid waste beyond. Her body stiffened. With her magically enhanced vision, she believed she could see something in the distance… Swirling orbs of light, changing, shifting colors slowly, flashing all the colors known in Laodisia and some horrifying shades from beyond their world. The queen gasped and backed into her room, slamming the doors behind her. That thing… it had been present in  her dreams for weeks, always drifting closer, always glowing brighter. Vorel’s forehead began to throb, dropping her to her knees as she cried out in shock. 

  “Vorel! Are you alright?!” Within an instant, Valgar was by her side, wrapping his arms around her shoulders for comfort.

  “Yes, I’m… I’m fine… My head, Valgar, it feels as though it’ll split!” With his help she rose to her feet and returned to the glass doors leading to the balcony. “Can you see that?” Her hand shook as she pointed toward the enigmatic hovering colors off in the distance.

  “The orbs? Yes… What are they?”

  “I don’t know, but just like Sot-Amenthotep, they haunt me. Something’s happening, I can feel it, I just can’t understand it yet. I’m tired of feeling helpless while things shift into motion around me.” His strong hands caressed her arm, leading her toward the bed.

  “Then don’t. You’re always in control; You just have to put the pieces together to dominate this situation. Put your sharp wit to use, my glorious Queen.” Vorel’s slight frame reclined on the bed, resting on her elbows as she glanced into her mate’s eyes.

  “Without you, I’d be lost Valgar. You help me keep my mind about me- for this I am grateful. I wish I could show you how much you mean to me, love.” Her mate dipped his head in a nod, smiling, as he climbed atop the comfortable mattress.

  “I can think of a few ways, actually…” The queen rolled over and began to crawl over to Valgar, grinning wickedly as she let her eyes run the length of his body. As she began to climb over him, the glass doors shattered inward as though the force of a crashing wave had slammed into the building. The pressure of the wind threw the curtains and paintings of the room about haphazardly, causing chaos as the pair struggled to their feet against the might of the current. Each noticed their clothing and fur beginning to dampen in the rain finally accompanying the storm, and their sensitive noses caught a strange, nauseating, coppery scent. Vorel lifted a finger to her tongue and tasted the liquid.

  “It’s blood,” she shouted over the tumultuous storm, “it’s raining blood. We have to do something, this is… This is a powerful ritual indeed!  I‘ll be back, Valgar, wait here!” Vorel grabbed the door tightly as she opened it, trying futilely to keep the wind from tearing it off of its hinges. Thankfully it just caught the breeze and slammed against the wall, and she was free to exit the chaotic room. She ran through the halls, hollering for her assistants as she fought to keep her balance. The deep spawn gathered around her, halting her progress as they bowed obediently before her, blocking the path. 

  “My balcony door shattered,“ she panted, “I need you to find something large, something heavy to block it with. And don’t let anyone exit the palace, this storm is unnatural and highly dangerous.” They nodded their understanding and hurried off to do their mistress’ bidding. Behind her, the sound of Valgar’s unique feet drifted down the hallway towards where she stood, dripping blood onto the marble floor. 

  “Valgar, I changed my mind. Come with me.”

  “As you wish.”

  “And for the love of the Gods… please don’t eat anything this time,” she added, her lips curling into a sneer.

 

  “Where are we going, and what are you doing?” Valgar inquired, hunching his shoulders against the powerful winds as they made their way through the empty streets of town, as Vorel brought forth a small rabbit skull and began whispering a message in its ear. The spidery language of the dead bellowed across the kingdom, drowning out the roar of the thunder as the words writhed and twisted themselves into her peoples’ native tongue in the minds of all who heard the message. Stay inside your homes. Close your shutters. Do not leave your building, under any circumstances.

  “To the lights, eventually. For now… for now I need a sacrifice. For that, we need to head to the shelter.” After the death of Tsathoggua, Vorel erected a shelter for those who went mad from the beast’s psychic screams. Careful guarding and the use of telepaths have kept the citizens from asking after their family members, for they have good reason to worry- Vorel often allowed her friend Q to use the mindless husks as living material for his experiments. Whenever a body is needed, one among their number disappears and is wiped from the memories of all he had contact with. Not only did this give Q the things he needed to create his abominations, it gave Vorel the blood and willing bodies for a fair amount of her rituals.

  “Why a sacrifice?”

  “Because, my dear, we might need a quick escape, a distraction, an offering, or a second being as powerful as myself. We should always be prepared.” 

  The large stone building eventually loomed into view before them, its windows as black as the cloud-ridden sky. Near the short stairs stood two gargoyles, armed with pole arms and plate armor. Their eyes burned with yellow light amidst the gloom, creating an easy beacon for the queen and her mate to find through the low visibility conditions the storm presented. As they drew up to the stairs, the guards nodded and handed Vorel a metal key. It was shaped like a jagged ankh, and fit the strange golden lock on the asylum door perfectly. She turned the key and pushed gently, so as to not cause a disturbance. However, even monarchs can be forgetful, as the wind caught the door the moment it was free from the jamb and slammed it against the rocky wall. The sound echoed through the empty foyer, and Vorel cursed under her breath. Once she and Valgar had entered, one of the gargoyles grabbed the door and shut it tightly against the onslaught. As soon as the high winds had ceased, she went about lighting candles along the walls. The room was gloomy, its walls decorated with strange hieroglyphs warding scrying and depicting the battle of Tsathoggua, as well as the occasional splash of blood and the marks of claws dug into the stonework. There were a few couches and tables in here, more for decoration than anything, and a mirror against one wall. Apart from that, it was bare. Connecting at the left was a long hallway, also painted gold over the rocks, lit by torches and  leading to other rooms and hallways. Each person had a room of their own, even the prisoners, for she sometimes used this as a place to store those who committed vile crimes against her and her people. Screams, mutterings, and chants filtered out from the cracks in the doors as they strode down the long pathway to the cell she wanted. Inside sat a pixie woman, her dark purple hair ragged and wild, her eyes burning with hatred as soon as Vorel stepped within seeing range of the small window in the door.

  “You!” she hissed, folding her hands into claws as she leapt forward and began beating on the thick metal barrier. “I will end you, Necromancer!” Vorel was fearless as Valgar opened the door and entered the small room. Its prisoner hollered and screamed, struggling against Valgar’s strong grip as he took her by the arm.

  “Silence, Kaira, I am giving you your freedom. All you have to do is follow us while we investigate this freakish storm. I’m rather fond of it, myself, but I know there’s a strong magic at work; perhaps stronger than mine, and that worries me. Follow us closely; who knows what sort of creatures enjoy frolicking in blood at night- oh, right…” She chuckled as they led the pixie away, out of the asylum and into the night. 

 

  The streets ran a thick, sluggish crimson as the sands turned dark with the fresh blood pouring forth from the desert sky. Every step the trio took squelched and sucked at their sandals as they worked toward the glimmering globes in the distance. Once they passed the city limits, the rain ceased- oh, the wind was still just as strong, and the thunder still bellowed ferociously, but the strange sorcery that caused the rain seemed contained to Ezba Khamis. Vorel pondered the implications of this as they sat to take a rest; The mortals of the party were beginning to exhaust their strengths.

  “Rest, my love,” Vorel whispered, brushing Valgar’s face with gentle fingers, “I will keep watch over the pixie.” Nodding sluggishly, Valgar laid his cloak on the warm sand and curled up to sleep. The queen placed her hands over Kaira’s body and began to chant in her native tongue. The pixie’s black eyes began to slip out of focus as her breathing slowed, her lids weighing more as she fought to keep them raised. “Damn… you…” she muttered as she sunk under the waves of consciousness. From the satchel at her side, Vorel pulled a small pillow and rested her head next to her lover. The last vision she had before her eyes closed was of the pulsing light in the distance flashing in time to the breathing beside her.

 

  Footsteps in the sand led her to a small cave hidden within the cliff face. Glancing behind her, the Jackal woman could see the faint glow of their fire in the distance; she was a mile or two from where her companions rested. She heard the gentle rustling of a cloak and turned toward the noise- Sot-Amenthotep stood near the entrance, his robed form seeming to drain the small area of all light. Out here, the storm was reduced to a mild wind and occasional flashes behind the clouds. 

  “Look, Rashida. See. The pixie in your control must be sacrificed to the Gate. Her blood will grant him strength, nourish his fading form. The gate is weak in this world, but you… you can change that. You will change that. There is no choice in this matter.” Vorel set her shoulders and glared at the being who so readily claimed her.

  “No; I am NOT to be a pawn in some foreign god’s game. I did not fight my way through one of the hells and back to be reduced to a serving girl. Listen to me-” As she extended a finger in his direction for emphasis, she heard a loud thump. The fire left her eyes as she glanced about for the source of the noise; Her body had collapsed. Out here, she was reduced to a vulnerable spirit. 

  “I control the jinn in this area, Rashida. They hunger. Think twice before rising against me.” All of the outrage she felt drained away as she heard the voices of the spirits cackling on the wind. 

  “… Yes, master.”

  “Good. The Gate will give you an item that allows you to uncover this cavern; I know you have visited with the dragon known as Mother Hiss, your eyes have seen the ruined city the sands swallowed in which she makes her home. This place is not much different, except what is hidden beneath would drive even the ancient wyrm mad.” 

  “Why? Why tell me this?” There was a hissing noise as his form exploded in a choking black cloud of smoke. Vorel fell to her knees, coughing and gagging, fighting to breathe as she was catapulted into her false flesh once more. Very quickly, her consciousness began to slip as her lungs sucked and heaved- 

 

  “My queen, are you alright?!” Her lids flew open, her pupils dilated to the point that the entirety of her eyes seemed black instead of their usual rich gold. Above her, the storm still raged behind the worried face of her life-mate and the disappointed face of her sacrifice. 

  “Damn.” Vorel chuckled and began to push herself off the sand. 

  “What happened?”

  “You just started thrashing in your sleep. We had to restrain you until the end there; Your suit just stopped breathing. I guess that artifact does come in handy.” She nodded absentmindedly as she began dousing the fire and gathering her belongings. 

  “We need to make it to the orbs as soon as possible. It’s apparently some sort of portal; A portal that guards an item useful to me.” Shouldering her satchel, she handed a few bags to Valgar and one to Kaira.            “Hold this.” She set off at a brisk walk without another word. The sky began to shift slowly from a color akin to the flesh of her new master to a sick green as the sun battled the moon for control of the new day. This color worried the queen; if, even this far from her city, the weather was so unnatural, then a magic far surpassing her own was indeed at work. Her suspicions were confirmed when, once the dawn officially broke, the ill-hued sky was marred by clouds of inky black. 

  “By the gods, what… what ill omen does this portend?” even the pixie seemed to be panicked by the oddities. Vorel placed a finger to her lips and kept walking, hoping that it would not take an entire day to reach their destination. Pushing themselves to their very physical limits, the troupe was able to cover the remaining ground in a small handful of hours. As they approached the final dune, the air seemed to swell and pulse with a strange heat. Everywhere their eyes fell, it was as though they looked on a mirage- the scenery flickered as though it didn’t exist, and each of the trio occasionally caught glimpses of a desolate alien landscape covered with large rocks, pools of a bubbling purple liquid and creatures with horrible gaping maws lined with what appeared to be screaming faces. Vorel hissed for the other two to close their eyes as they crested the sandy hill and looked down on one of the strangest things she had ever seen. Made of hundreds of different iridescent globes of varying sizes and shifting colors, the thing before her hovered a few feet above the ground and undulated to strange ringing sounds she could hear in the back of her mind- she believed it was trying to speak with her. As silent as only the dead can be, she slunk around behind Kaira, grasping the pixie by the hair. 

  “Come with me.” Vorel half-led, half-dragged the faerie down to where the creature waited. Pulling out the artifact sword which allowed her to regenerate her wounds, she cut deep into the pixie’s weak flesh. Hot purple blood splashed against the orbs, sending tendrils of steam rising into the morning air. The light emanating from the being before her grew stronger, brighter, to the point Vorel had to close her eyes against the glare. 

  “I am the Gate. I am the Key.”

  “I am the undead, bearing your salvation.”

  “Yes… Rashida. Sot-Amenthotep’s chosen. I am grateful for your offering. I am the Key, I am the Gate, bearing the stone of Byakkath. Go to the Catacombs of Y’thmura. Go for our Master.” The world went dark, and Vorel uncovered her face. The corpse of the young faerie was gone, there was a silver-colored stone in her hand, and Valgar was on his knees with his hands clasped over his eyes. 

  “Rise, my love. It is time.” With a few muttered words, she opened a portal to the bare rock face she had seen the night before. As they drew near where the entrance should be, the stone in her palm burned her skin. She let go in surprise and watched, stunned, as the item hovered over to the cliff and exploded into tiny glowing flecks of dust. This dust coated the stone and appeared to melt through it, opening the way she had been alerted to.

  “Where exactly are we going?” Valgar asked, curiosity burning in his reptilian eyes.

  “I haven’t the foggiest.” Vorel returned with a sly grin.

 

There was ample light in the cave, provided by small transparent beetles pulsating with pure silver light and various glowing fungi and plants; this was all magnified by multiple crystal clusters sprouting from the stone walls, reflecting the luminescence and brightening the whole chamber. Vorel marveled at the sight- it was absolutely beautiful!

  “We should rest for a few, Vorel. I’m exhausted after that walk, and I’m honestly a little hungry too.”

  “Here, I’ll go through the bags and find us something to snack on. You lay down and relax.” The queen began rummaging through their assorted belongings, searching for something for her living partner to eat. After zero success she stopped-

  “…Damn the Sun.”

  “Hm?”

  “The food… Kaira had the food bag.” The queen growled in frustration and covered her face with her hand. “Lovely. It looks like your choices are spiders, spiders, and more spiders. You’re banned from vegetables.” Valgar cast his eyes toward the ground in shame.

  “Vorel… I didn’t… I didn’t want to hurt you.” He sighed and ran his hands through his white hair. “I just… I was hungry, and once I had already eaten, he just… he got into every inch of my being, my soul, and he just... He just took over. I believed everything he said, because I was born to. He had a link to me, because of my mixed blood, and-” She cut him off with a gentle kiss.

  “You had no control; I didn’t bring food for you and that was my fault. No one could have known; I could have, if I’d done my research, but it slipped my mind. I’ll be more careful in the future. Everything turned out alright, so don’t worry about it anymore. I was only teasing anyway.” She preparing a small sleeping area with blankets and pillows she had packed from the palace for just such an occasion. 

  “Let’s get some rest; who knows how large these ruins are?”

 

 

Vorel awoke from a troubled sleep to the sound of heavy breathing in her ear and a hand on the curve of her hip. She turned her head slightly, only to find herself staring into the green, reptilian eyes of her partner. Valgar’s scales glimmered in the natural glow the of the cave, the light giving his exotic countenance a beautiful silver sheen. 

  “I think we should press forward,” Valgar said, “I can’t be held responsible for what I do to you if we keep laying here.” The jackal woman grinned back at him and pulled his hand up to the curve of her neck.

  “Then I will be. We were denied our moment in the palace, and I feel the universe owes us one romantic evening.” Valgar leaned down and kissed her then, entwining his free hand in her silken hair. Their bodies wove themselves together as they became lost in their passion, embracing each other as lovers and equals. Nails dug into flesh, teeth nipped at digits, and growls of ecstasy echoed throughout the chamber. Every minute they were together was an eternity of joy and emotional nirvana, every caress was heaven, and at the height of their lust their eyes locked, gold on green, moaning as their bodies melted into one another, completely fulfilled.

  “I love you,” the reptilian half-breed whispered into Vorel’s ear as she laid against his bare chest, drinking in the scent of his sweat and listening to his racing heart.

  “I love you as well,” she said, smiling, slowly lulled to sleep by the rhythm of his breath. 

 

The queen awoke to the sound of splashing water echoing up from a tunnel to the south, pulled from her first dreamless sleep in months. She noticed Valgar was missing almost immediately and rushed toward the noise, a ball of flames flaring to life in her clenched fist. After a few yards she rounded a bend, fully prepared to battle whatever monster was attempting to drown her beautiful mate. The spell fizzled and died as she witnessed the scene before her- Valgar swimming in what appeared to be a hot spring, smiling and reveling in the comfort it provided. For a moment Vorel was embarrassed. She knew full and well that Valgar was capable of protecting himself, even more so since his genetic transformation, and her reaction was one of instinct and not intellect. Cursing herself under her breath, she motioned for him to swim back to the bank.

  “Come on in, it feels fantastic!” As if to emphasis this point, Valgar batted water in her direction with one subtly webbed hand. When the warm liquid touched her false fur, her flesh crawled with an invigorating aura. Vorel knew she was in need of a good bathing, her black fur matted with both blood, sweat and sand, and the refreshing water would allow her to push her alchemical monster to its very limits, so she slid out of her clothes and dove into the steaming water of the underground oasis. She forced her eyes open, noticing the glimmering gems lining the bottom of the pool for the first time. The light from the cave’s crystals did not reach the depths, but there was enough light from the bioluminescent fish and algae living in the depths of the spring for her to see them. The jackal swam to them, noticing the water’s heat growing more intense the closer she drew to the sunken treasure. One gem in particular seemed to glow with its own inner flame, and it was to this gem she made her way- an emerald, laying apart from the others as though none of them dared draw near. The emerald seemed to house a silver light inside its jagged edges that danced and shimmered independent of the light provided beneath the still surface of the water. Her sharp eyes spotted an engraved hieroglyph on its surface as she closed the distance- a hawk with a human head, the symbol for Ba, the word for the soul in her native tongue. She reached out for it, and once she was grasping it in her claws Vorel returned to the surface. As her head crested the water she drank in the cool air, her find pulsing in her hand. 

  “Valgar, take a look at this.” She opened her palm so he could see. The reptilian eyes widened with interest as he gazed into the dancing light, slowly losing focus and beginning to roll back in his head. Vorel quickly closed her palm and shook him by the shoulder, bringing him back to himself.

  “I- I think that’s for your eyes only,” he said sheepishly as he began to swim back to shore. 

  “Let me get cleaned off and we’ll continue on. I have a feeling we’re on the correct path now.” Vorel swam back under, combing the grime from her coat and working the knots out of her hair. She resurfaced when she felt she was sufficiently cleansed and donned her clothing once more. The pair headed back to the room they had rested in the previous evening and packed up their bedding and other various items, stopping to glance around the cave for anything that could be used as food. Vorel settled on the beetles, know that she would not be harmed if they proved to be inedible. She shot a deft hand forward and caught hold of one, bringing it to her mouth and slipping it inside. As she ruptured its exoskeleton, a sweet nectar flooded her tongue. As she swallowed, a silver path lit the ground before her. She felt the hunger of her suit melt away, nourished after just one bug. 

  “Valgar, these are amazing! Eat one, it’ll solve our food issue. They’re delicious, nourishing and apparently even magic! Look, here.” Vorel traced the path in the loose dirt floor and motioned for his attention. 

  “They grant sight of a hidden path, one I believe we are meant to follow. I’ll catch as many as I can- Perhaps I can capture enough to last us the trip back to Ezba Khamis.” Vorel did just that, catching roughly fifteen bugs in all and placing them in a pouch she wore inside her robe. Valgar, in the meantime, was gazing at the glowing runes upon the ground in amazement, reminding his queen just how little he had learned of the world back in his home village. Vorel tugged on his cloak and nodded her head in the direction of the path, beckoning him to follow as she started off down the road into the sprawling ruins she knew lurked somewhere beneath them.

Time was lost beneath the sand for the duo as they traversed the silent passages, guided only by the glowing blue runes on the ground before them. Even with her encyclopedic knowledge of the world Vorel could not read them, but she knew- perhaps from the beetles as well- that they were directions, an ancient magic laid down by a people long since forgotten. Neither of the two could tell how long they walked; days, hours, months, it didn’t matter. They felt no thirst, no hunger, no fatigue, even after Valgar normally would have collapsed. Eventually the glow faded to an emerald green, matching the stone she clutched in her palm. The heat radiating from the gem began to grow painful, but she steeled herself against the discomfort. They were close now, ruined buildings were cropping up around them slowly, first just bare foundation showing beneath the dirt and eventually growing into quarter-to-half erected buildings. Every inch of the stone dwellings that had begun to appear were covered in alien cuneiform writing, a series of lines, odd angles, and circles. Vorel’s sharp eyes danced over the writing, not comprehending the words but understanding their meaning in the back of her mind. These were prayers, wards against powerful beings that the people of the hidden city had worshipped. Their path wound them through the sloping streets of the now defunct city, past what Vorel knew to be shops, houses, government buildings, libraries… The necromancer stopped in her tracks, casting her eyes around their surroundings and whispering in the language of Death. 

  “My queen?”

  “Valgar… there are no dead here. Not a single soul. An entire city, decaying, empty, and yet there is not one mournful spirit, not one lingering entity, no one dead or alive save for us. Be on your guard.” Beside her she could hear Valgar stringing his bow. She stopped perusing the area around them and glanced down at the trail. It had ended. In her odd discovery she had not stopped to look at the building before them, but she took the time now. It was a towering behemoth made of the same black rock she had discovered beneath the sand of Turkey what seemed a lifetime ago. The same horrible carvings adorned its surface, of tentacled horrors and writhing monsters of maws and eyes, of sacrifices to other-dimensional beings and heinous accounts of torture, rape, and madness. It was a temple to some horrible god, and she knew they had to enter. Vorel steeled her nerves and began ascending the massive steps carved of the same material, feeling the same sense of ‘wrong’ that she had felt upon entry to the other places like this one. Her limbs felt heavier the further they progressed, as though they were climbing through molasses. With a deep breath she opened her mind to the temple, creating a connection to whatever malevolence dwelt within the masonry. In an instant her mind was flooded with hunger, hunger for the warm flesh crawling along the foreign material, hunger for the magic flowing through her veins, hunger for the lifeblood of her Deep Spawn companion. She fought to banish those emotions as her mind began to manipulate the mind of the living rock,  forcing it to let them pass, beating it into mental submission. Finally it retreated, speeding their progress significantly. Vorel felt triumph as they crested the final step, confident in her power to handle whatever surprises the sacrarium had planned for them. The doors towered menacingly above them, black rock laced with faded traces of red. Depressions in the stonework led to two small black bowls on pedestals on either side. Vorel strode forward and found more red colorations, cracked and dry with age.

  “An offering of blood,” she whispered, running a finger along the rim. “Valgar, lend me your knife.” He did so without hesitation, knowing she was fully capable of healing whatever damage she sustained. With a deep breath she brought the curved blade to her wrist and slashed with all her might. Her vein opened, spilling the blood of her suit into the gleaming black receptacle. When it was full she crossed to the other, reopening the wound that had already knitted itself closed. As the last drop fell into the red pool, the blood on either side shot up through the indentations, their tunnels entwining as they wound their way up the door. As they reached its peak, the door shuddered and dropped through the floor, clearing their way into the innards of the ancient structure. 

 

Vorel stepped through first, already fully healed and bring a flame to her hand with a whispered spell. The inner sanctum was pitch black save for two glowing gold orbs of light at the far end. Even with her enhanced vision, Vorel could not garner anymore information about them. The pair descended the stairs before them, into the darkness. As the reached the bottom the flame that the necromancer held spat out two tiny balls of fire that raced around the room, bringing light to braziers lining the walkway. At the far end of the path was a jewel-encrusted altar of the same black stone as the rest of the structure, caked with the blood and dirt of times long since passed. Seated behind this altar was a vaguely humanoid shape swathed in bandages, its lips moving soundlessly in what appeared to be some alien chant. Valgar placed an arrow on his taught string and began to press forward, with Vorel by his side. As they drew nearer the chanting stopped and the humanoid before them drew himself to his full height. He was eight feet tall, with unnaturally elongated limbs. The golden orbs Vorel had witnessed were his eyes, burning beneath the linen wrapped around his face. He smiled at the Faunan, revealing rows of sharp, jagged teeth. When he spoke, his voice was that of papyrus on stone.

  “Necromancer. Your arrival was foretold. I have been waiting for many eras.” Vorel held out a hand, stopping Valgar in his tracks, and continued on her own. 

  “I am at a loss, I must admit. What may I call you?” 

  “Byakkath, High Priest of Sot-Amenthotep, The Ancient Lurker Below.” His eyes dropped to her hand, still holding the emerald she had discovered before they began their descent. The silver light began to creep from between her fingers at his gaze, until her hand was encased in silver.

  “So you have come for my secret… You will not take it so easily!” His spindly fingers clenched themselves into fists and fire began flowing from his massive fists, twisting and shaping their selves into wicked looking blades. Vorel called forth the entropic energies in her control and waited for his attack. They began circling each other around the altar, magical energies pulsing with hunger, waiting for the first move. Vorel lashed out first, pushing her body beyond normal mortal power as she sped faster than a human eye could catch. The fist clutching the stone was glowing a sickly green, laced with the silver light of the soul stone, her spell meant to wither and drain the flesh. She nearly connected with his throat, but he sidestepped as though he had seen her coming. She reined in the burst of celerity, slowing herself back as she tried to calculate his ability. He had known she was coming even with her power activated, so his speed must have been equal or greater. While she calculated, never breaking a step, he streaked toward her with his fiery blades drawn. Vorel tried to dodge, but one sword connected with her shoulder. A howl of pain escaped her lips, the scent of burning fur filling her nose. She forced the pain away as she began to heal, focusing on her next spell. While the words flowed from her mouth she extended a hand. Three fire orbs flew from her empty palm, launching themselves toward the massive figure before her. Byakkath’s body contorted away from two of them, but the third exploded on his back, engulfing him in flames. He roared with his raspy voice, causing the cathedral of nightmares to shake in its foundation. Vorel saw a chance and leapt, the hand clutching her stone turning an inky black as she plunged it through the flames and into the bandages wound around his unnatural body. The emerald slipped from her grasp as her fist met sand, and she drew her hand back in shock. The mummified man whirled around, his cloth turning green, his swords flaring up in his fury. He drove her back with a flurry of attacks, shouting in a dead tongue not of the Faunan’s world. Vorel blocked, parried, and dodged to the best of her abilities, her celerity activating as a defensive reflex to his attacks. She managed a few more blasts of fire and entropy, but maintaining her speed was draining her resources. Blow after blow rained down upon her until she could protect herself no longer. Her speed dropped, she faltered in her steps, and both sword pieced her chest. Pain flared in her body and she screamed, her own sultry voice mixed with raspy voice of death, her agonizing cry dropping Valgar to his knees with his fists clamped over his ears. With the flames inside her, she could not mend her flesh. The marrow in her bones began to boil and she felt her organs blister and burst within her rib cage. Her energy was fading quickly. She knew she could resurrect herself within the hour if she died, but it would mean failure. She knew she had to prove her worth, but she couldn’t think how-

  Vorel.

  Speak the words.

  I will hear.

  She forced her eyes open, black energy erupting from the hollow pupil and engulfing the entirety of the eye. Her scream rocked the temple, a cacophonous roar of a legion of voices, forcing the word from her throat like a fountain.

  “NUK NETER-XERT. NUK KEKU. Å VOREL, HUA URS SEMEMET. SNEF ERTÄT EN HEBS BEKA.” Her roar echoed through the non-Euclidean dimensions of the chamber, black energy pouring from every orifice of her body and clouding the room in darkness. AS her cries ceased a silver beam pierced the veil of shadow, a beacon in the ink-like miasma. The blades withdrew themselves from her body and she fell to the floor, collapsing in unconsciousness. The last sound she heard was the rasping cackle of Byakkath next to her ear. 

 

Vorel regained her senses, a burning sensation flaring in her chest. She touched her flesh, and upon finding it intact she sighed in relief. Her trained eyes darted around, drinking in her surroundings and taking a mental note of everything. She was laying on pillows of black silk, in a candle-lit chamber. Valgar was sleeping beside her, his hand on his bow. There was no sign of Byakkath, but she expected he would not have gone far. There was a door resting ajar not far from where her and her mate lay resting, and she moved toward it with careful steps. Vorel leaned out, looking for any sign of the behemoth. He was back in his old position, resting in front of the altar , though silent. His eyes were glimmering like tiny emeralds. The necromancer approached on silent feet. As she grew closer, he looked up and smiled at her.

  “You awoke the soul stone, young Ashurha. No necromancer has been able to harness it yet. We are proud of you and your potential.” She bowed to him, his praise sweeter than any wine.

  “You are to receive a gift. First, I have stopped the rains sent to draw you from your land.” Vorel’s eyes widened in surprise at his admission. He was the source of their storm, of the twisted blood from the heavens? She had witnessed his power first hand, but she had never connected the two events.

  “Your true prize, however, is knowledge. The knowledge of mummification, and the knowledge of transformation. The first is self-explanatory; You can already create true undead, such as yourself. Though your kind are powerful, ours are unique. Apart from fire, we too are near indestructible. We can possess the bodies of others as long as we can feed, and we can feed to make our bodies appear whole. We have the ability to collapse into the form of vermin to escape situation and infiltrate the most impassible places. One of our greatest secrets is that of the Deital Shift. No two people worship the same deity, especially in our faith. Who is your patron, Ashurha?”

  “Anubis,” Vorel answered without faltering.

  “Mine was Thoth. Observe, Necromancer.” He drew in air, filling his chest, filling his limbs, and he began to contort. Arms became wings, legs shifted to talons, his bandage-cloaked face thinned and elongated into a beak. Before her sat a giant ibis, its eyes an emerald green, watching her reaction.

  “It is good for passing undetected in hostile territory. It will not drain your Ka, either. Along with the might of the mummy comes the ability to curse your enemies. Not that you’d need it much; Your magic is immensely powerful, and growing more with every battle, but being able to afflict your enemy in such a way would be useful in many situations. Do you accept these gifts, Chosen of Sot-Amenthotep?” Vorel nodded. Byakkath placed an elongated hand on the back of her head and drew her in, locking his lips with hers. She inhaled, breathing in his essence, devouring his soul. Images and memories assaulted her mind, flooding her with emotions she had never felt, knowledge she had never discovered, people she had never known. At last her will overpowered Byakkaths, and the turmoil in her head subsided. She took a breath and stood, making her way to where Valgar slumbered. She woke him with a gentle kiss and opened a swirling black portal to their shared palace.

  “Let’s go home."

The End

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