Blackguard Foresworn

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Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

The old keep, crumbling, green moss the only color, shadows the only decoration, resounded with the chorus of a dark chant.
Foul incense flew adrift in the air, mixing with the fetid scent of an undercroft below the feet of the guests.
In the center of a red circle, a circle decorated with uncertain runes, two forms waited: a priestess sporting a tall, conical,
red hat that covered her face, and Damia, a tall brunette, scowling at the world.

"And are we ready to begin," the priestess in the hat asked loudly. "Damia has come, are we ready to induct?"

The choir of unholy chants died suddenly, and the thirteen guests that surrounded the red circle grew quiet. Some were private citizens from Blackstone itself, others were crafters, scholars, soldiers of fortune. "Do we, the Crimson Wheel, accept Dami as our potential blackguard?"

"Aye," the audience agreed.

"And is Kazra in total union with us on this matter?"

"She is," they swore.

"Then Dami, do you accept the Wheel as your guide and sustenance in the dark?"

"I do," Dami said, head bowed to the shadows that now congregated around her.

"Do you accept the unholy trinity: Self above All Else; Deceit, and Combat."

"I do, milady," she almost growled.

"Then Kazra blesses you, blackguard. Extend your tongue for the offering."

Dami closed her eyes, extending her tongue, and the priestess, one Isabel, gingerly picked a red, pickled scorpion from an earthen
jar. Placing it on the initiates' tongue, the choir began again, and the faithful hummed a chaotic, discordant chant.

"Then equip yourself blackguard and leave here an able-minded guardian of the Three Discordant truths. May winter by thy guide, and autumn your sage as you seek your destiny as a knight of Kazra, Be gone. Attend to thy duties."
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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

Walking under the starry canopy of night, Damia thought of Kazra's reality, the Crimson Wheel's focus, the seeming
meaninglessness of life itself under the stars. This was to be a night raid on the undead, the unruly dead who
defied Kazra's will. Was she watching even now? Would failure be my destiny this night?

Combat in the dark.

The first three undead stunk of vomit, but they fell under the cutting whisper of her fiery bastard sword. In the
fiery glow of the sword, she saw the meaningless light of their eyes quench. Turning, for there was more--This one
guarded by a halo of magic. "Fear not," she chanted, "let Kazra work through me." And upon that, oddness occurred.
She felt her body grow in size, taller than the charmed undead who threw its weight upon her, but in doing so, found
itself rebuffed by Damia's flaming sword.

The abomination fell to her tall might, and in its place appeared a treasure chest "Kazra is good. Bless her name."
Inside the chest, potions to heal, a large flail, a whip. Too bad the whip, the surest sign of dominance outside of
her sword that she knew, would be useless against the abominations. All the same, she wore it on her on hip
as a reminder of that which she served.

She tossed the heads of those monsters she destroyed in a heap, and in silent reverence, gave recognition to the
might of Kazra.

And in answer, a splitting of the heavens resounded in the graveyard. Lightening forked down, striking the mound
in heavy answer to the deeds. "Kazra is pleased," Damia thought the thunderous aftermath swore. Taking off her
scowling Drow helmet, she cast eyes to the heavens, and gave silent prayer to her benefactor.
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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

Slaying Undead, but could you really slay them? More like stopping the weak fire that animated them.
Wings flapping, Dami stood in meditation in Eastwood.

Something was coming, her dark sense said.

Turning, she beheld the forest; a wavering of light, something hidden. "Come out of the shadows," she commanded,
"for that is the domain of my goddess."

"Strange, that's the same domain for my goddess," the shadow said, stepping onto the forest path into weak light.

"You speak of Kazra," Damia asked, as the shadow became a blonde elven woman, longbow at her shoulder.

"The same," she bore the Crimson Wheel tattoo on her right shoulder.

"It's been a while since I talked to any of my kind," Damia confessed. "I've been in the bush for a bit."

"The same has been noted, sister of night. You may call me Vilith."

"What business, Vilith," Damia challenged. Surely a blackguard was above a mere ranger.

"You are to expand your hunting range to include the blasphemous gnolls, and the
mocking giants. You are to kill as many as you possibly can without dying."

"Do I really die? Is my soul not under the scrutiny of my oath?"

"The same," Vilith agreed, "but you come back weaker than you left. So, be victorious, but not foolhardy, O vainglorious one."

Damia stood staring at the elf, her wings fidgeting.

"If there is nothing else, I must return to our masters," said Vilith.

"Nothing more have I," Damia agreed. "Until next time, messenger."

"Dark Rangers," said Vilith, and without another word, she returned to the shadows.
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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

Damia saw the form of a woman pop onto the horizon. Closer, she saw the details: bleach white skin, black hair, tall leather boots.

"What are you? Your form speaks of woman, but your skin sings of something else," Damia proclaimed.

"A wizard. A pale mistress. You choose." The round form in the pale mistress' hand took shape as well. Skull.

"I have heard of your type," Damia said, removing her Drow helmet. "You are necromancer."

"And you be one of those dark knights I see from time to time."

"Blackguard, we call it," Damia said, guiding her steed forward. She could see now. The mound the pale mistress in red sat upon was a mildewed pile of skulls. Not all human. Some gnoll. Some orc. Some human. "And truly, thy profession knows no better introduction than thy throne of bone."

"Friends I have known. Most are enemies. Some now serve me as friends of bone."

"I understand your muse completely." Damia smiled.

"Indeed, I think you catch on quite speedily. I knew a tongue once like yours."

"On a sandwich then?"

"Not a sandwich, but a master of reports. He told all I could hear, and more than I could not." The lady in red confessed.

"Have you always hunted alone?" Damia asked.

"Not I. But you are more the like, my lady death. How long have you campaigned alone?"

"More than I care to figure," Damia laughed.

There was a moment of resolve between them. One stared into the other's eyes. And therein passed a message or two, one of attraction,
one of remorse for the dead.

"We are more alike than different," Damia said, coming out of the trance.

"Indeed, more like a couple who could not be parted by law or attraction," the lady in red laughed.

"Shall we not team then. You with your axe, and me with my sword. Could you stand such a pairing, lady red?"

"I could and I do." she said.

"Then let us hunt giants. Come with me,and let us see if we can end their seed of entropy."

"And I shall buy tonight's ale," the lady in red said stoutly.

"So be it," said Damia.
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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

----Blackguard Foresworn: The End

Damia cast a glance at the pale-mistress, Kala. The undead maiden walked a few paces behind in the Tyrant forest. They were on the path, but the reptilian calls kept sounding. At first they were deep in the woodland’s interior, but slowly, like creeping moss, the calls drew closer.

“Follow closer, pale-mistress. They are upon us.”

There was a sound of spells whizzing into being as the pale-mistres boosted her strengths. Her bone tough lines expressed muscular balance, a hardiness you couldn’t see, but couldn’t help to notice at the same time. Her mace crackled with flames, ready to bash in elongated reptile skulls. She was ready, and that’s all Damia could ask for in a partner in crime.

“Incoming,” Damia shouted, drawing her bastard sword, which vaguely glowed with dark-light unseen.
Blackguard versus simple reptile tribesmen? Ridiculous. Her goddess would never allow her death here in the maze of swamps, fens, ponds. It was the death they deserved that stalked them even now.

They came, gray scales, green scales, jade scales.
Some were warriors.
Some were chieftains.

“You,” they choked out common speech, “invade holy spaces!!!! Dies!!!!!”

Whirling backwards into the melee was the first mistake Damia made. She was festooned with
arrows from three archers unseen. So much for style. So much for dark rage. She had a flash of her death then and there. This was going to be it.

“Flame,” Kala called, siphoning raw elemental cackles from her fingertips. It combusted. The tattered leathers, dried cloth, and straps on the lizardmen ignited, but it wasn’t enough. For her troubles, a carpet of arrows pierced her. More archers had arrived from the depths of the tarns, woods, tall weeds. Her toughened bones, skin, were mired in her own blood.

“Nooooooooooooo!” she screamed, even as death, her master, overtook her.
Stretched out feet apart, dying eyes locked onto Damia’s empty ones. She was gone, gone, gone.

“Scalpz them,” a chieftain ordered, tossing a long knife to a grunt.

And the grunt made quick work of the invaders.
Back into the tarns, ponds, forests they faded.

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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

--Enter Bellatrix: Dark Shifter

The bill was in my leather bag, tattered and folded from a lifetime in the streets of Blackstone. “Change is necessary,” it advised. “Do you feel it deep down? If so, come to the labyrinth.”

I felt like it was calling just me.
Not others.
Change--deep down.

As Belatrix, I had been a monk for a few months with the barest of instructions from a traveler who had seen monks train in the forest. Punching saplings that were about to grow into trees; testing their roots with my back-spin sweeps and long-arm bone-bars upside an imaginary orc head.


Then a season in the woods as a druid trainee with one Th’riellien, druid mistress. There I learned a few spells, but my focus was always on a greater transformation, a fundamental change. I was released from training and taught to seek out another trainer, for I had gone wayward from the druid path.

And now this bill.
This letter than ignited my soul.

Outside of Blackstone, the road bent left. Straight ahead was the undead land; to the left, beetles and undead. The labyrinth awaited.

I breezed passed the first few walkers, bashing heads with my bo staff, sweeping with a low back-spin trip-sweep, smashing in contorted faces, writhing with hate. A green ichor path followed me to the grate of the labyrinth, and I said “LIE.”

The ground shook.
The grate, as it was designed magically, popped open.
With all my strength, I pushed it up and over.
Down I went.

Do you feel it deep down?
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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

The Labyrinth was dim, dusty, twisted.

"You have the bill?" A voice said from the murk, a deep voice, feminine.

"This is the one, I trust," I replied, holding it up in the dim murk, torchlight behind me illuminating it.

"She has it," a deeper voice commented from behind, a pale hand taking it from my fearful fingers.

"What do you seek?" The woman asked, a swirl of black hair, a noble bearing, contained in a gray cloak.

"Power," I said, feeling the need rush down deep in me. I could taste the blood of the mortals I'd half-eaten
as a shifter--dark shifter. The blood called.

"She has already tasted the crimson," the man said, rounding the torch. He was bold, tall, dark haired, a black cloak
lingering. His cold hand caressed my cheek, the blush retreating. "A shifter's life is covered in blood." He chuckled.

"Get off me," I dodged back into the shadows.

"Valias," the woman called, "stand aloof. You scare her."

"I am not afraid!" I could feel the bear coming on even before I thought of shifting--too late.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," the woman said, stalking back and forth in front of my nose. "A bear shape will not aid you here.
Valias is under my service. Relax!"

"Vampire," I growled, "under the service of a cleric?"

Elzabetha chuckled. "I must smell of rarest incense from the temple, and perhaps this mace names me. Oh, girl, you
assume that because I have a vampire thrall that I am evil?" She leered at me. Taunting me.

"If they catch you," I said, shifting back to human shape, taking a moment to finish the transformation, "they will burn you."

Valias hissed defensively. "She is not the one," he warned.

"She has the bill," Elzabetha said, pointing. "She knows what she wants. Besides, not many wish the Crimson Wheel's attention."

"I can bring great strengths with my talents, milady." Bellatrix begged, earnestness gleaming.

"Yes, but first," Elzabetha said, "you must prove yourself. Do you not agree?"

"I do," I said, a bit too eagerly.

"Send her for Black Orc kidneys," Valias said, his hunger radiate in his eyes.

"Ah, yes," Elzabetha glowed. "Black orc. Go, take to ship, bring me even one kidney of a high black orc."

"It shall be done, milady." I pushed it. I transformed to my greatest efforts, a whip-wielding lizardman. I trundled
up the labyrinth stairs, hearing Valias' hateful laughter all the way.
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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

"And did you indeed bring your dark priestess the Black Orc kidney, shiftling?" Valias asked, guiding the way down into the murk of the same crypt I had left not so long ago.

"I did," I said confidently, handing off the bloodied organ to Valias. I ignored his study of me. So unsavory.

"The mistress will be pleased," he said taking it. "Wait here."

And so I waited in the murk, not letting the voices of doomed souls bother me in the least. I was a dark shifter. What fear I of the insubstantial wraith?

A dark shadow within the shadows formed and Elzabetha took shape in the hallway, hands raised ceremoniously, her hands making the sign of the horns with the first two fingers stabbing upwards of either hand. "Come to me, my servant," she said softly, and before I could decide, my feet began to move. Had I been in animal form, panther for sure, I would have scampered. But here I was, and the Oath was upon me.

When I was near enough to make her face out in the murk, she smiled. Those red lips contrasted heavily with her pale face, so seductive. "Kneel, my lovely," she said just as softly. "Valias, the organ."

I kneeled as if at church, hands clasped before me as if I was about to receive a holy blessing. Elzabetha gently took the fresh organ from her wraith-assistant, holding it by two fingers. "Dark shifter," she said, addressing me, "this will become the dark pact between us. Once you bite into this vessel that represents my faith, you will be under my sway. Is that what you still wish?"

"Yes, my great lady," I said, not believing the words that left my mouth. And so it became.

"Let this dark sacrament cement us together as mistress to student. Now, open your mouth, my lovely," she commanded.

I did, like a hungry wolf before a table of plenty.

"Bite into the bloody sacrament," she ordered.

I did, chewing vigorously, my animal side beginning to rise.

"Rise, my dark hunter," she ordered, once again raising her fingers into the horned motif.

"You will change to the dark form you deem best. Go now into the world and wreck the order that is bountiful. Cause pain and suffering, and then I will call for you when the time is right."

"Yes, my lady," I said, feeling the chaos seeping into me. Valias sneered, took the kidney from our redeemer, and both waded back into the shadows of the crypt.
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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

Isabel 1

Let me just go ahead and stop this whole serial right here. This should be about me, not some cleric.
Enough said.

Where did I leave off?
Oh yeah, me.

So, the last thing I remember was a wedding, too much to drink, and then several stutter-steps at a gambling
establishment. I think I lost big because there's a lot of bad noise. And then there's this whole scene about being
taken to a ship in a harbor, money is exchanged, drinks imbibed, and I black out.

I guess that's why I don't know where I am.
Who I am, well, that's up in the air.
I'm Isabel, a would-be thief, and full-time fighter.

Stepping off the ship, I got rain. Rain. At night. Yeah, that's my welcome. The streets are lonely and dark, so I ask
the bloke waiting on the docks where a worshipper of Lia could begin amassing a few coins to rent a room. He's a weird
fellow. Yelling out, "Stop a moment and talk," or some such nonsense.

"Why, I would have you head off immediately to the graveyard. There's undead there upsetting the scene. If you put
them down, you'll be rewarded, I'm sure. Talk to the main bloke in the governmental building, you'll see."

Rain is slapping at my melon, and it hurts. That's the drink for ya.
It sets you on, and puts you off. "Never again," I muse, but I know it's all a lie.

To the graveyards, I go.
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Re: Blackguard Foresworn

Post by JenRM »

Author's Note: Isabel 2 will be posted on Discord. I'll save this space for my cleric story. Thnx.
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