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A Naga's Revenge

StoriesbyJurixe Apr 4th, 2013 35 Never
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  1. Acquaintance.
  2.  
  3. Convert.
  4.  
  5. Soldier.
  6.  
  7. Friend.
  8.  
  9. Confidante.
  10.  
  11. Partner.
  12.  
  13. ...
  14.  
  15. -Traitor-.
  16.  
  17. High atop the Great Rock she stood, wind whipping her dark hair all around her face. It got into her eyes, but she didn't care. The night was cold, but she, clad in only a short dress and boots, couldn't feel it.
  18.  
  19. How could it compare, after all, with the ice in her heart?
  20.  
  21. His words, such cutting words, floated in her mind's eye; black ink traced in swift, sure strokes, handwriting she would have recognised anywhere, at any time. She saw them in her mind, heard them as though he had spoken them himself to her, as though he was standing right here saying the words.
  22.  
  23. "...the Truths are cleverly crafted lies..."
  24.  
  25. Lies for a liar, for how was a lie recognised if not by a liar who told lies?
  26.  
  27. "...I have been manipulated...and I have manipulated others."
  28.  
  29. Others...
  30.  
  31. Like her.
  32.  
  33. Round and round the thoughts went in her dark head, chasing each other in an endless, pointless loop, every word a tiny cut to her heart that bled just a little more, though she would never admit it to anyone.
  34.  
  35. She prided herself on knowing more than others, on seeing what other people did not, yet the saying was true - you never expected the dagger in the dark - particularly when it came from behind. She'd been so blind, so -blind-. For how long now had they been traitors? Had they always been traitors? Had everything been a lie? When she fought beside them, had they been protecting her back or had they been analysing her weaknesses, waiting for an opportunity to stab? When she had confided in them, when they had made their plans together, had they been conveyed to some waiting agent of the Light just after?
  36.  
  37. Had she -ever- been able to trust them at all?
  38.  
  39. How amusing, she reflected bitterly, how incredibly amusing that she had once defended one of them against a citymate, dismissed his allegations of him as a traitor to be ludicrous ranting borne of unreasonable jealousy and irrationality - only to find in the end that the citymate may have been right all along.
  40.  
  41. Am I really that blind?
  42.  
  43. "There is nothing I can tell you to make you believe me. You will believe what you want. You must make your own choice."
  44.  
  45. Exact words that same traitor had told her when she'd confronted him, her rage blazing through the link between their minds. Excuses. Such excuses, such -cowardice-, such pathetic attempts to avoid the acknowledgement that they had betrayed everything-
  46.  
  47. ...had betrayed her.
  48.  
  49. She had made her choice, so very long ago, and only now was she beginning to realise how -wrong- a choice that had been.
  50.  
  51. Memories flooded back, shoving their way through the protective barriers that she tried to throw up around her consciousness, invading her mind despite her best efforts. Images flashed like lightning through her head - she closed her eyes to ward them off, but that only meant less distraction, it meant she saw them as clear as day.
  52.  
  53. She remembered so much, for they had been through too much together...eavesdropping together with him in the Northern Ithmia, hurried excuses in the Eventide to a sceptical patron, the combined infiltration and raid effort in Ty Beirdd, gilt-framed paintings, feathers enveloping her on black sand, promises, broken promises-
  54.  
  55. And with the other...being scooped up through a fevered haze, melted snow trickling down her throat, last-minute defense of the Theran warp, the joint destruction effort in Hashan, finding treasure chests in Ulangi, uncountable backstab and shop theft partnerships, a silver silk handkerchief, -partners- -
  56.  
  57. "Well, well. A Naga out here, all alone?"
  58.  
  59. She whirled around, her dirk half drawn before she even realised it was in her hand, startled by the rumbling growl. Silhouetted by the light of the moon was a large red Dragon, staring down at her with amusement in his dark eyes.
  60.  
  61. Her gloved fingers clenched around the hilt of the dirk for a moment, then slowly she slid it completely back into its sheath. "What do you want, Etorak?" she said tersely.
  62.  
  63. He settled down comfortably on his haunches, and she had to resist the urge to sigh in annoyance. "It's not every day I see a Naga out. And visible. What are you doing here?"
  64.  
  65. She turned away slightly, wishing he would leave her alone. "Yes, well. I am thinking."
  66.  
  67. "About what?"
  68.  
  69. She didn't have to answer him, it really wasn't any of his business, in fact he was even an enemy and she really shouldn't be talking to him at all-
  70.  
  71. "Betrayal."
  72.  
  73. The single word escaped as a whisper from her lips, soft upon the cool night breeze but heavy with bitterness.
  74.  
  75. "Ah." He paused for a moment. "I heard about them, you know."
  76.  
  77. She didn't say anything this time, turning to stare out over the silent Savannah.
  78.  
  79. He didn't seem perturbed by her silence, though. "Joined the refugees, didn't they? Heard they up and left just like that. Freeing themselves from the shackle of Oppression, and whatnot, right?"
  80.  
  81. "Delivering themselves into weakness, into inconsequence, doomed forever to the pits of irrelevance," she countered, still with her back to him. "Vengeance will be had, and it will not be swift - for them."
  82.  
  83. He chuckled, a low, gravelly sound. "Tell yourself that, if you wish." Tipping his draconic head back, he let loose a sigh at her stubborn silence. "How many more will it take for you to lose before you finally acknowledge that what you have is not worth saving?"
  84.  
  85. She turned to face him, her gloved hand clenched around the hilt of her dirk. "As long as I have breath in my body," she whispered, "the Naga will not die."
  86.  
  87. "You don't seem to realise, Jariel, that the Naga are already dead. How many remain in your ranks now? Five? Four? Maybe even less? How long has it been that way?" He lowered his head to her level, staring at her seriously. "Why can you not see the truth?"
  88.  
  89. "Don't- just-" She whirled away from him, striding to the furthest point away from him she could go - about five feet. "I am not in the mood to be gloated at, Etorak. What do you -want-? Why are you here?"
  90.  
  91. He raised his head, sitting up straight as he stared down at her. "I've been watching you. I want to help you, Jariel. I hate seeing you wasting away in that Western cage, your efforts ignored and taken for granted time and time again. Please. You can be free."
  92.  
  93. She laughed then, the sound steeped in bitter pain. "You want to 'help' me, out of the goodness of your own heart, I suppose. You sound just like those who preach compassion and love, protect the innocents - you sound just like -them-." She fairly spat the last word at him.
  94.  
  95. Before he could respond, she'd taken a step towards him, then another, slowly advancing on him. "Don't presume to preach to me. You're just like them, just another traitor. You turned your back on Mhaldor too, you betrayed the oaths you swore in pursuit of this 'freedom'. I don't want your 'help' and I don't need any of your lies!"
  96.  
  97. She was almost up to him when he took a deep breath and blew a gust of air at her, the force knocking her over to sprawl upon the rocky ground.
  98.  
  99. He watched as she pulled herself upright, looking slightly dazed. "Calm down. I'm not here to preach to you. I just think you could do so much better, Jariel. What is the point of all this? What are you doing this all for, an absent God that brought the wrath of the world upon you and your city, and then vanished into thin air?" he asked.
  100.  
  101. Grey fire blazed in her eyes as she glared up at him. "We do not need coddling like the rest of the heathen cities. We know what we are capable of, what our mission is, what the Lord wills us to do. It would be a poor Strength we profess to have if we needed constant supervision like the rest of the undisciplined masses."
  102.  
  103. "Given the streams of soldiers flooding out from your city lately, that seems like it's a success, doesn't it?" he said dryly.
  104.  
  105. "The weak will fall as chaff beneath the yokes of Oppression and Suffering, and only the strong will survive. Unlike them - unlike -you- - I know what my oaths mean. I am not so weak as to turn tail and flee in the face of adversity, using excuses as my shield."
  106.  
  107. He rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Not so weak, perhaps, but more blind than any of us. I can see this is a lost cause." He rose to his feet, scales scraping and shifting as he moved. "When the Void comes, Jariel, remember what I said - and remember that I tried to help you."
  108.  
  109. "I do not need your help," she answered stoutly. "I will return the Naga to greatness, by myself if need be, and all the traitors shall be will be piked heads before my Spire."
  110.  
  111. He snorted in sardonic amusement, ruffling her dark hair. "Be you king or peasant, as you depart my perception you cease to exist." With a rumbling laugh, he tore a rift through the Veil of Creation and swooped through it with a flap of his massive wings, the tear sealing itself up behind him.
  112.  
  113. Beneath the radiance of the moonlight, through the haze of grief and rage, unexpectedly she smiled, recalling similar words spoken not so long ago.
  114.  
  115. "Not always true," she whispered to no one at all, "for still echoes linger beyond immediate perception. In written word or in memory, in legend and in myth."
  116.  
  117. "Thus do you remain...to me."
  118.  
  119. ==================================================================
  120.  
  121. She stood just outside the New Hope monastery, under the bright, hot sun, staring at the inhabitants within.
  122.  
  123. Everything had the ghostly, blurred tinge of a world slightly out of phase, but she had no trouble making out the details. Some nuns crossed the hall to the other side, but she ignored them, her gaze focused on the two in the centre of the room.
  124.  
  125. The other turncoat wasn't there, but he was. He didn't even bother to shroud himself now, she noted, sitting in plain sight as clear as day. And of course - her gaze flicked to his companion, a bitter, sardonic quirk curling her lips as she took her in - a beautiful Siren next to him, overly attentive - a mage, it looked like.
  126.  
  127. So quickly the traitors forgot what they had chosen to leave behind.
  128.  
  129. Unluckily for them, the reverse was not so true.
  130.  
  131. [Where is he?] The familiar voice pierced through her thoughts.
  132.  
  133. [Sitting in the main hall of the monastery, with a mage.]
  134.  
  135. [Anyone else with him?]
  136.  
  137. [No.]
  138.  
  139. [We're going.]
  140.  
  141. [What do you want me to do?]
  142.  
  143. [Snipe curare, if you can.]
  144.  
  145. [Very well.]
  146.  
  147. Never taking her eyes off him, she drew her sleek bow from her black leather baldric, the wood not making a sound as it slid free of its trappings. She reached behind herself again, feeling around for the bristle of fletching, her fingers curling lazily around one familiar arrow.
  148.  
  149. She took three steps away, watching as the massive black Dragon thundered into view upon the sandy shores of New Hope, accompanied by her entourage. She watched as they arrayed themselves around the entrance of the monastery, as he stumbled out into view, as the Dragon turned and swept his legs out from underneath him with her scaly tail.
  150.  
  151. As the Monk picked up the body and brought it down harshly over her raised knee, she drew out the arrow and bared her fangs, feeling the venom sizzle through her veins as she coated the sharp stone arrowhead with a lethal dose of curare.
  152.  
  153. Slowly, she nocked her arrow and raised her bow, drawing the string back.
  154.  
  155. They were all crowding around him, him trying desperately to struggle free; undoubtedly he was near death already, but they were blocking her shot.
  156.  
  157. He had been her friend.
  158.  
  159. Her partner.
  160.  
  161. Even more.
  162.  
  163. The Monk moved, and she glimpsed the outline of wings, a dark head - grey eyes.
  164.  
  165. And now he was a traitor.
  166.  
  167. The violet flame at her throat flared bright-
  168.  
  169. She loosed the arrow.
  170.  
  171. ==================================================================
  172.  
  173. Back in the gatehouse, bits of bone and sinew flew every which way as the black Dragon hacked at the neck of the corpse with one large claw.
  174.  
  175. The small party cheered and grinned as bone was separated from flesh, and one moved towards it-
  176.  
  177. "The head is mine."
  178.  
  179. All fell silent as the slight shadow, outlined by the wan red light, drifted into the room. Grey eyes stared up at the Dragon, utterly devoid of emotion, requesting yet not asking permission.
  180.  
  181. The Dragon stared down at the small figure for a moment, then inclined its scaly head, picking up the decapitated body.
  182.  
  183. "It is yours."
  184.  
  185. Those gathered watched as the slight Mhun bowed her dark head. The shadows seemed to flicker, some blinked once or twice, perhaps some daydreamed for a moment - but whatever it was, in the next instant, the floor was clear and she was gone.
  186.  
  187. For days afterwards she was nowhere to be found, but the head made its reappearance barely a day hence, impaled upon a sturdy pike in the middle of the winding mountain road; grey eyes blank, dark hair tousled, blood dripping slowly down the pike.
  188.  
  189. Mhaldorians shook their head in disgust or smirked in self-satisfaction as they walked past it, some even pausing to adjust the angle of the head as if to improve the aesthetic value.
  190.  
  191. So preoccupied with the grisly spectacle were they that all failed to notice the cloth rags scattered beneath the pike, haphazardly torn and soaked in blood.
  192.  
  193. All except for one small, silver piece.
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