Monday, April 8, 2019

The Shalafae Archives - The Sword remembers

LONG one here, but has always been one of my favorite. This is set in the current time for Morri, and this event kicks off a conflict that hasn't been resolved yet.

***

She hit the ground running, wings folding behind her as she called out. "Where is he?" Storming past the confused clerics, she threw the doorflaps of the medic tent wide open. Blood and medicine assaulted her senses as she took no pause in her stride, heading straight towards the surgery room.

"Lady Morrigana," one of the clerics said, quickly falling in stride beside her. "He's being worked on right now, you shouldn't-"

She cut him off with a look, stopping just outside the heavy curtains. She could smell ancient blood, a scent thicker than the rest, and tears immediately sprang to her eyes. "I shouldn't what? Be by my father's side when he needs me?" The cleric blushed, lowering his eyes, and held the curtain aside for her.
It took the hybrid a moment to approach the table. Surgeons and healers were working over her father's prone body, their hands pulling off his rent armor, cleaning the blood and ichor from his pale skin, probing at the gaping wound through one shoulder and down onto his narrow chest.

It was a familiar touch in the small of her back that moved her forward. Not glancing over her shoulder, she could smell her aunt's aura, feel the woman's concern. The cleric tied the curtain closed behind them, staying in the main tent with the other patients.

"How did it happen?" Morrigana asked quietly, hugging herself tight. Her swords crooned to her, responding to their mistress's distress. Tears ran openly down her silver face, and one of the healer novitiates handed her a soft towel.

Kyra pulled her beloved niece towards one corner of the room, keeping sight of Lord Shalafae's strained face. "He was fighting the Chaoslings. His main army had been split by a charge of the creatures, and he went out to rally his fighters. He was fighting magnificently, like he used to, and it was so beautiful to watch. It reminded me of the old days..." Kyra choked back a sob, turning from her brother.

After a strained moment, she continued. "While I was summoning a counter assault, something happened. It felt like the whole planet shifted, and Ulrin was suddenly alone, completely cut off. By the time I got there, the Chaos beasts were trying to pull him down. He fought to the end, only collapsing once I cut him free."

Ulrin...the name he went by when he and Kyra were growing up. When I'm as old as he, how many names will I have used? Morrigana's thoughts were disjointed, and she felt her talons digging into the palm of her hand.

One of the surgeons approached the women. "Miladies. We've done as much as we can. His whole system is hard for us to work with. Nearly impossible, actually. But we've cleansed the poison from his veins, and it seems like his body is attempting to regenerate itself. But he's very weak, and his mind won't respond to any of us. He's behind some self-imposed wall and won't come forth." The man bowed once, then stepped away. He left a trail of fear, but which of the Shalafaes he feared more was an impossible guess.

Morrigana strode forward, brushing aside the healers lingering near her father. Hesitantly, she touched his face, biting the inside of her lip, her left hand reaching for one of his limp hands. "Father," she crooned lowly. Kyra touched her shoulder, and the hybrid fell to her knees, sobbing brokenly. Her aunt hugged Morrigana's head, and the younger woman let her grief out, clinging to her father.

Damn it, no. You can't die on me. I won't let this happen to you. You can't just abandon me.

Morrigana tasted blood, and stood up, sob cut off mid-sound. She quickly tore the lacings on her left gauntlet, throwing the mangled leather to the ground. Growling, she bit hard into her wrist, gouging the flesh open. Dark blood spilled freely across her skin and down to Shalafae's flesh. She pressed her wrist to his mouth, willing him to drink.

Please, Father, take this. Take me. Take all you need to make yourself better. Take my life if it will bring yours back. She felt him suck softly, and she cried out, lifting his head from the table.

"We need more blood," Kyra told one of the healers, taking her brother's hand. "Still the vampire, even after all the aeons, darling brother?"

"He's got to get better," Morrigana hissed. She looked up, meeting her aunt's dark blue gaze. "Hasn't he?"

"Well, until he gets better, Lady Shalafae, I believe we will need you out on the battle front."

Morrigana looked over her shoulder, the speaker's voice vaguely familiar. Neatly trimmed blond hair and a suit of ornamental blue and white armor framed a sculpted face. "Remington," she whispered, recognizing one of her father's Lawful contacts. "What do you mean?"

"For the moment, my mages have formed a barrier that will prevent the further encroachment of the Chaoslings. But they are simply stacking up at that point. They will overwhelm us, and there's no telling when. Only the daughter of that man has the strength to fight them off."

Morrigana turned, keeping her wrist to her father's mouth. "I can't do it. My blades don't claim their lives. It takes me entirely too long to kill them. They'll do to me what they did to him." She swayed momentarily, feeling her energy pulled into her father.

Remington smiled softly. "But his swords can do it."

Kyra hissed as Morrigana touched the scar on her chest. How many millenia had passed since she'd last held her father's sword, since she'd nearly died on the matching blade? Her heart pounding, the woman felt her face drain.

"You can't expect her to wield Stormbringer, can you? It will take her soul if she lifts it." Kyra's voice was steady and low, a clear sign of her anger.

"Saint Kyra, surely even you understand the situation. Lord Shalafae did not craft the lady's swords out of the same metal that his were made from. His blades were crafted long before his own birth, and their secret had been lost. Meaning they could not be replicated." Remington took a step closer, reaching for Morrigana. "You won't have any strength left if you don't stop that soon."

The hybrid pried her wrist from Ulrin's mouth, feeling the wound close almost instantly. She glared at Remington, knowing the Lord of Law had once ordered her destruction because of the danger she represented when not under control. Dragons were not allowed to be Chaos Lords, but her father's word was final on the subject. "You think if I go out there and fight with Stormbringer and Mournblade that I can fight off the hordes of Chaoslings waiting to devour all our hearts?"

Remington nodded his head once. "Of course, Lady Shalafae. Everyone knows that you are a magnificent sword fighter, second only to your father. I think you could even beat my legions of gunmen."

"Praise will get you nothing," she whispered. Her eyes searched the room, and she quickly found the two black Chaos swords. "Balance help us all if I lose control," she muttered, unbuckling her sword belt. Her two swords crooned in misery as she set them down. Calm flooded her veins as she reached for her father's weapons, buckling Stormbringer on before she changed her mind.

***

It was a short flight out to the barrier and the waiting Chaoslings, but it weighed heavily on the hybrid's soul.

Stormbringer tried to take my soul, and Mournblade tried for my life. These two swords have tasted my being, and they won't stop until they get more of it. I've felt them hunger for me, biding their time to get me alone again, to get me away from Father's protection. I have no idea the pain it has caused him to live with these two parasites for his lifetime. And I don't want to find out.

She settled to the ground, shifting the sword belt. The black sword was humming behind her eyes, its metal painful to look upon. Morrigana heard gun fighters preparing their Law weapons behind her, and she was glad to have some support. She knew her cadre of assassins would come for her once they finished their mission.

Taking a deep breath, time paused, waiting for her to move. Closing her eyes, Morrigana rested her hands on the smooth hilt, worrying about her father's life. Will you ever forgive me if this damned blade take me? Will you forgive yourself?

She drew Stormbringer, and fire lanced up her arms. The sword screamed loudly, voicing its lust for battle. Morrigana shrieked a draconic battle cry, rushing forward as the barrier began to come down.

The first of the Chaoslings ran forward, slavering for her blood. She took three of them with one strike, Stormbringer giving her their life essence. The intensity of it surprised her, and she briefly wondered if it was because she was fighting Chaos, or if this sword was always so wild when feeding her father. And then there was no time left for thinking as she swung the blade again.

She danced with the sword, it leading her sometimes, then her leading it. They carved a whirling path of death, moving through the swarm to avoid being bogged down by bodies and slashing talons. She growled and kicked, trying to fight as if she still wielded her own swords. But Stormbringer was not like DragonTears and DragonSoul; it wanted to be in control, and it refused to bow to her.

Morrigana felt small wounds stinging, and ignored them. She fought for her father, for her family, for the lives of the warriors claimed by these hellish beasts. The hybrid ignored the gunshots behind her, concentrating only on fighting those creatures that stood before her.

Reaching a small hill, finding herself in a lull of fighting, Morrigana looked around herself. She saw Chaoslings stopping to take bites from their fallen comrades, mutating even as they approached her. She grinned ferally, body surging with an over-abundance of energy, Stormbringer singing happily for more lives.

"Blood and souls!" she screamed as another wave of Chaoslings charged forward. The blade moved faster, as she finally felt comfortable with it. They danced in time then, working together, and beasts shrieked in pain and terror as the Chaos blade took their lives. "Blood and souls for my Lord Shalafae!"

Time passed in a blur of shouted battle cries and laughter. The hybrid could taste her own blood, and could taste the ichor of the slain. It drove her forward, encouraging her to slay more, to trample over their fallen bodies with her high heeled boots. She taunted her enemies, ignoring her wounds, thinking only of the next kill.

The tide of attackers slowed, and soon stopped. Disappointed, holding the sated sword, Morrigana looked around her. The field was covered in the remains of her enemies, most of them missing limbs and heads where Stormbringer had sliced through them. Breathing deep of the putrid scent of their corpses, she sighed contentedly.

A step sounded behind her, and the assassin and the sword moved as one, whirling with killing force. Twin short swords flashed in the afternoon sunlight, stopping the blade from slicing through armor and golden skin. "Gana-tii, what the hell was that?"

She stopped, fighting the sword back from her beloved friend. "El, I have no idea..." Morrigana ground her teeth, forcing the blade to the ground, driving the point into blood soaked mud. "I can't...it won't let me..."

He stepped back, moving out of reach of the bastard sword. "Gana-tii, what the hell are you saying?"

Morrigana looked down at the blade, looked at her pale hand gripping the hilt, and she bit back a scream. Instead of her normal silver and black color, she was white with pale milk colored markings. Wild eyed, she looked at her armor. It wasn't hers, instead looking more like some of her father's armor. She stared at Elthanael, hoping the elf could help her.

"Get Kyra," she begged. "Get Remington. Get anyone, someone who knows what's going on."

Elthanael's frown deepened. "I can't understand you. Morrigana...speak in a tongue I know."

She tried to drop the sword, tried to step away from it. But she heard it chuckle wickedly, felt its fire running through her veins and knew it had a hold of her. She forced herself to speak in Low Sidhehan, all too aware now of the words she'd spoken before. "Get me my aunt Kyra." Those words said, she started walking forward, realizing her wings were gone. El bowed once, then used his elven magic to take himself back to the camp.

She had moved beyond the slaughter scene, the gunmen warily avoiding her. Her thoughts were tumbling through her head, and she couldn't make sense of any of them. All she could think was that her father had been born an albino.

Kyra appeared before her in a wink, stepping out of the aether as normal. Morrigana sobbed upon seeing her aunt, rushing into her arms. "Kyra, I can't let go of the sword. It won't let me go. It's trying to take me."

Kyra held her niece close, stroking her long hair. "My darling...oh darling, darling Morrigana...What happened out there?"

She held Kyra tight, shaking, her body aching with strain and trembling with the excess energy. Stormbringer growled, aware of Kyra's presence, wanting her life but recognizing it as family. Father has trained it well.

"I was fighting, and I kept fighting, and I just felt so incredible, and it was more than I ever felt from my swords. And then I finished, and El couldn't understand me, and I looked like this."

"Shhhh," Kyra whispered. "Come with me back to the tent. We'll figure out how to stop this, how to give your sword back to your father." The woman whispered a word, and Morrigana found herself back in the cleric tent. Blood scent stirred her, and she looked around. She could smell her father, taste his presence, and she crooned.

And then she swore. "Remington, I will have your balls as earrings." She lunged forward, wanting to impale the blond Lord of Law on Stormbringer's thirsty metal. Arms locked around her waist, hands grabbed her wrists, and she realized her assassin coterie were holding her back. She growled, trying to break free, and they threw her to the ground.

"You did this, Remington. You should die for doing this to me." Screaming, she tried to fight her way back to her feet.

"What is wrong with Lady Shalafae?" Remington asked calmly, addressing Kyra. He was sitting next to Shalafae's head, watching as a healer dripped fresh blood into the warlord's mouth.

"It looks like the sword has tried to reshape her, tried to make her use her power to become like Ulrin," Kyra provided.

"Become like...What do you mean the sword was reshaping her?" Elthanael's voice was concerned, sounding right beside her. He kept his arms tight around her, and she could feel his short swords poking into her back.

Remington nodded once, his face smug. Morrigana bit back the retort trying to free itself, and began to relax in the arms of her people. "It's well known the black swords have loved Lord Shalafae since he first picked them. Some stories say they pined for him when they were created, long before his birth. In the absence of the lord, they would try to take the next best thing. They recognized his blood in the Lady Shalafae, and Stormbringer wanted that blood to come out."

"You knew that when you sent her out, didn't you?" Krya was reaching for the small knife on her belt. "You were well aware that Morrigana is very susceptible to that kind of power."

"Are you asking if I knew the pure Chaos harnessed in that sword would do its best to warp the essence of this woman?" Remington shook his head. "No. I thought it might try to claim her as its own and make her into a pure killing machine, and that we might have to put her down...but I never expected this. I never expected it to make her into Lord Shalafae." He rose, took two step forwards, then went to one knee before her. "You have my sincerest apologies, Lady Shalafae."

"Your apologies don't get this sword off my hand, and they don't change me back." She growled, grinding her teeth. "They don't help me stop from wanting to kill you all."

The room chilled then, and Morrigana felt a stirring in her soul. She looked past Kyra, past Remington, and saw a familiar figure sitting up, his skin stained with blood. She cried out his name, stirring in the arms of those holding her, and felt tears leave her eyes.

His dark eyes found her, and she felt him pull on her. The other assassins let her go, and she rose, brushing past Kyra. She paused before Remington, his head still bowed. Her white hand clenched around the hilt, and Stormbringer cried for the man's heart.

"Daughter," Shalafae whispered. She looked up, and was lost in his gaze. Stumbling forward, dragging the sword behind her, Morrigana collapsed into his arms.

"Father," she cried, and then she could say no more. He was stroking her, and she felt soothing waves of his energy pass across her skin. He whispered her name, telling her how much he loved her. She relaxed, feeling at home in his arms. Stormbringer murmured angrily, and then its fire was gone. She swiftly let the hilt go, wrapping her arms around his chest.

"My child, I am sorry that you went through this. I will never let this happen to you again." He tipped her head up, smiling at her. She closed her eyes, kissing him deeply as their mouths met. Sighing contentedly, she allowed herself to be his little girl in that moment.

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