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Picking Flowers

StoriesbyJurixe Feb 26th, 2014 108 Never
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  1. The sun was shining, light glinting off his armour as he cantered through the bright streets of the city on his noble steed, its hooves drumming a steady rhythm on the stones. His yellow-eyed gaze swept over the alleys and sidestreets on either side, missing nothing even as they flashed past him.
  2.  
  3. Glancing down, he saw her slight figure running next to him, somehow fleet-footed enough to keep pace with him even though he was astride a swift beast and she on foot. He shook his head in fond amusement as he noted the look of sharp concentration on her features, focused on her destination ahead as she took long, loping strides, every step of hers only a brief touch upon the ground as she flew forward.
  4.  
  5. Feeling his gaze, she turned and looked inquisitively up at him as she ran, arching a dark eyebrow; he composed himself immediately, rearranging his expression into what he hoped was his usual stoic mask, and shook his head briefly at her as he turned back to stare straight ahead. The street they were in led to a small, deserted marketplace, the various stalls and shops all shut and neatly tidied; a multitude of other winding roads branched out from here, and so he pulled on the reins, bringing his mount to a halt in the centre of the square with a loud clatter of hooves and a few laboured snorts.
  6.  
  7. She slowed her pace as she came to a stop next to him, not even the least bit breathless as she glanced around at the silent shops. "The city seems devoid of life, as it always is of late," she sighed. "I had hoped to find more flowers."
  8.  
  9. He chuckled softly, the sound echoing in the empty square as he followed her gaze. "Are you not bored of them yet? I present so many to you each month."
  10.  
  11. Her lips curved upwards as she tilted her head to glance up at him. "How can one be bored of flowers? They look so pretty by themselves, but when arranged in entire bouquets, there can be no better decoration."
  12.  
  13. "I will have to agree to disagree with you on their aesthetic qualities, but I enjoy picking them for you, still," he said, a faint smile on his lips. It wasn't even a lie - there were fewer activities more enjoyable than flower-picking, for him; both during the act itself and after the fact, when he would surprise her with them.
  14.  
  15. "Are they always this difficult to harvest?" she asked, her lips pursed in something almost resembling a pout as she peered around. "You are more skilled than I give you credit for, if so."
  16.  
  17. His eyes gleamed with humour as he laughed softly. "More credit on my account can surely only be a good thing. I suppose there is a certain skill involved in finding the flowers, and not just the reaping; but never fear. We are bound to find a few at some point."
  18.  
  19. She was nodding at his words, before something apparently caught her eye as she whipped her head around, her ponytail snaking through the air to curl around her neck. She squinted slightly as she shielded her gaze from the sun with a gloved hand, evidently trying to identify something in the distance. "Is that- there!" she said in sudden excitement, pointing eagerly. "I think I see two."
  20.  
  21. He couldn't help but give another low chuckle at her enthusiasm, turning to follow her gaze. "So there are," he murmured, eyes fixed on the two shapes in the distance. "Very well, then. Which would you like? The steel flower, or the magic flower?"
  22.  
  23. She looked thoughtful for a moment, chewing on her lower lip briefly before flicking her gaze up to his. "Must I choose?" she asked, her tone coquettish. "I find it so difficult to decide, as they are both so appealing..."
  24.  
  25. He heaved a mock sigh, poorly concealed amusement in his gaze. "So indecisive. Very well, they will both be yours. Would you care to assist me?"
  26.  
  27. The smile that curved her lips, this time, bared a gleaming fang. "I would find no greater pleasure."
  28.  
  29. Lord, but she was beautiful when she smiled like that.
  30.  
  31. He said nothing, though, merely ducking his head in a quick nod to hide a smile of his own as he leaned over, undoing one flap of his steed's saddlebags. "The steel flower first?" he asked, rummaging around to retrieve his necessary equipment. "I believe that one is a little more difficult to pluck."
  32.  
  33. She nodded agreeably. "I am ready when you are."
  34.  
  35. He drew a long, thin object from the saddlebag that resembled a conventional spear, but was composed of no steel or wood - only a shimmering, magical substance that seemed to glow with an unearthly light. "Hmm," he mused, turning the object over in his hand. "I am running low - I will have to replenish these later. Ready?"
  36.  
  37. He hefted the spear to eye level at her answering nod, narrowing his eyes and taking careful aim. A heartbeat passed, then another - and he flung it forwards with all his strength, the weapon whistling ominously as it soared straight towards its unsuspecting target. A cry of agony echoed in the distance soon after, the shaft of the weapon sticking straight out from where it had impaled the victim deep in his gut - his suit of gleaming fullplate armour completely useless against the deadly soulspear.
  38.  
  39. In a flash, he had his bow drawn from his baldric, nocking a red-fletched arrow to the bowstring - but she had already fired one from her own, the missile zipping through the air to bury itself into the throat of the prone, writhing paladin, his features contorting in pained horror as the poison-laced tip sank into his flesh.
  40.  
  41. Not to be outdone, he aimed and took his own shot, his well-placed arrow striking the hapless man in the shoulder; but it was ultimately still her final shot that took the man's life, hitting her target dead between the eyes before he slumped over upon the street, his tormented screams trailing off into eerie silence.
  42.  
  43. He lowered his bow, giving her a mock-exasperated sigh. "You always manage to get the last shot, somehow."
  44.  
  45. She chuckled softly, long fingers reaching behind her to draw another arrow from her dragonskin quiver. "Well, I am a Naga. It is what we do." She furrowed her brow, squinting into the distance. "My other promised flower seems to be escaping."
  46.  
  47. "Oh, not for long," he promised, slipping his bow back into his baldric and drawing a gleaming sword from a scabbard that hung from his side. Without another word, he nudged the sides of his mount with his spurs, and the well-trained steed leapt forward, dark hooves clattering upon the sandstone as rider and beast charged as one towards their fleeing target.
  48.  
  49. Five yards- two yards- three feet - then they were within striking distance, and swiftly he slashed downwards at his victim - the robed mage screamed and stumbled as steel cleaved through flesh, his sword brutally carving a jagged line of red straight across her side, crimson blood spattering across the golden streets from the force of his blow.
  50.  
  51. Holding her side, blood dripping copiously from the gaping wound and through her fingers, still she tried to continue moving - but found one of her legs suddenly shrivelled into a mass of useless flesh under her, unable to support her weight. Perhaps she could have slowly hobbled her way forward, but just as he swung his mount to circle around her, an arrow whizzed through the air and struck her deep in the other leg, causing her to crumple to the floor.
  52.  
  53. He drew his second sword from its sheath and leapt nimbly off his steed, landing with a crash right in front of her - she reached for a vial from her belt, but he crossed his swords together and swung them both downwards in a forceful, sweeping motion - she shrieked again in agony as he nearly sliced her arms off, blood and gore weeping copiously from the deep gashes.
  54.  
  55. Legs useless, arms non-functional - she was essentially dead now. He sheathed his swords, bloodied steel and all, as he took two steps towards her and stopped. He always savoured this moment, he thought, looking down at the mangled body - those last few seconds when your victim awaited imminent death. Their reactions always amused him - some spat defiance, some swore revenge, some begged and cried, some offered reward and renown.
  56.  
  57. All amusing, but in the end, none comparable to the sweet satisfaction of watching the life drain out of a body; seeing the vitality in a person's eyes flicker and die; hearing them draw their last, rattling breath - a futile grab at salvation - and fall still, never to move again.
  58.  
  59. This one was the pleading sort - of course she was. "Please, sir...h-have...mercy...we did...-nothing-...to y-...you," she begged, every syllable a laboured gasp as she looked up at him beseechingly, her face a mask of unspeakable agony. "Please..."
  60.  
  61. He looked down at the woman with disgust, thinking of the dark-haired Mhun just a few paces away. She would sooner cut off her own limbs before she would be seen grovelling like this. "-Mercy?-" he said, his deep voice heavy with derision and scorn. "There is no mercy for the weak - only torment, oppression, and death."
  62.  
  63. With that, he wreathed his right hand in crackling black energy, a chill wind swirling about the area as death hastened its approach. Her dying screams were music to his ears as he knelt and ran his stiffened hand slowly down her chest, the killing magic splitting it open in gruesome fashion, her bloody innards glistening in the unforgiving sunlight. Every inch drew a progressively desperate wail from her chewed lips, she begging him again through her tears - but not for mercy now, oh no, they were long past that point. Now she pleaded for the glorious oblivion of death, for him to kill her now, to end her life, just as long as he did it quickly and spared her the pain - but of course he wasn't going to grant her salvation that easily. And waste all this glorious suffering?
  64.  
  65. He reached into her chest, methodically ripping apart each and every organ inside her with gruesome, squelching noises, blood streaming profusely down his hands and wrists and staining everything red - his armour, the sandstone, the walls, hanging thick and coppery in the air - everything around him was drowning in it. He couldn't hear anything but her hoarse screams as they reverberated in the street, and surely they must have alerted someone somewhere by now - but the red haze of bloodlust had taken over him and he frankly didn't care, enjoying every second of her torment as she writhed uncontrollably on the ground.
  66.  
  67. Finally, regretfully deciding that she looked too close to death to risk further evisceration, he plunged his bloody hand into her broken torso one last time. Finding the hard bone of her sternum, he ripped it clean out of her chest, spattering blood and tissue everywhere - and drove it straight through her already splayed-out body in one smooth motion, impaling her savagely upon the ground with a diabolical laugh.
  68.  
  69. She choked and twitched - just once - and fell still, her screams finally silenced as the light faded from her eyes, blank and staring in grateful death. He drew a piece of crumpled parchment from his pocket, reaching down casually to catch the droplet of blood that trickled from her open mouth upon his forefinger.
  70.  
  71. [ This is the end of all those who would trifle with- ]
  72.  
  73. He signed his name upon it with a flourish, then straightened to stab the paper onto the bone and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
  74.  
  75. "Well, I think that flower unsuitable to harvest, now, given its present condition."
  76.  
  77. He turned in surprise, looking slightly embarrassed as he noticed her diminutive figure next to him. "I am sorry. I, ah...became carried away."
  78.  
  79. She shook her dark head slightly, eyes flickering with a familiar expression - pleasure? - as she surveyed the crimson-splattered scene in front of her. "Oh no, no need to apologise. It has been so long since I have seen a vivisection, and they are such works of art - I like your arrangement."
  80.  
  81. He chuckled, then, glancing at the head that dangled by the hair from her hand. "That is a particularly ugly flower you chose to pluck."
  82.  
  83. She furrowed her brow up at him, wrinkling her nose in a comical gesture. "It is a lovely flower not because of its appearance - for surely there can be none less visually appealing than a Targossan face - but because of the reaping. I think you can agree with me that our harvesting runs are most enjoyable, no?" Turning, she tucked the bloody paladin's head into her pack, completely ignoring the still-fresh fluid that dripped from its severed neck.
  84.  
  85. Shaking his head with a laugh, he impulsively gathered her into his arms, bloodstained armour and all as he pulled her to him. "I cannot disagree with that - and the company has certainly made this expedition all the more memorable. I hope you enjoy your Logosmas gift."
  86.  
  87. She smiled at that, merriment dancing in her eyes as she met his gaze, her gloved hands braced on his chest. "Another for my collec-" She broke off abruptly as shouts of anger and alarm echoed through the street, a number of armoured figures in the distance brandishing weapons and charging towards them. Turning her head, she spared them a brief, calculating glance, before looking back up at him. "Somehow, I think that is a flower too many for even us to harvest."
  88.  
  89. He eyed the angry soldiers for a moment, before regretfully agreeing with her assessment. "Shall we return, then?"
  90.  
  91. She nodded, and he reluctantly let her go as he whistled - a sharp, piercing note that hung quavering in the air. At the signal, his quietly waiting steed burst into action, breaking into a speedy canter towards them - he gripped her small hand in his, watching for the right moment - an arrow whizzed towards them, ricocheting off the brick wall just inches from his head with a hard 'thk' - then just as his ride approached, he grabbed the reins and expertly vaulted up, quickly leaning down to pull her up onto the steed in front of him, a javelin clattering onto the floor where she had been seconds later - a touch of his heels again and the mount spread its large, feathered wings, soaring almost instantly into the air and away from the enemy's reach - and they were clear.
  92.  
  93. She laughed in delight, the sound high and clear as he steered the beast westwards, and he leaned forward to look at her with a smile, his arms securely around her. She was covered in all manner of bloodstains from his embrace, a smear of red staining her pale cheek as she turned her head to meet his gaze; dark hair tousled from the wind, bright eyes glittering with excitement and the sinister echo of bloodlust.
  94.  
  95. Oh, but how he loved picking flowers for her.
  96.  
  97. Unable to help himself, he kissed her, tasting blood on her lips; and she smiled.
  98.  
  99. "Merry Logosmas, my strength."
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