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To Earn a Naga's Favour

StoriesbyJurixe Apr 4th, 2013 52 Never
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  1. Crimson-tinted gloom shrouded the sprawling island of the Northern Vashnars, an ominous precursor to the bloody battle that raged upon the broken wasteland. The screams of dying men and women rent the air, punctuated at intervals with stirring war cries and the ringing clash of metal against metal. Blazing meteor arrows whistled through the firmament, streaks of fire in the gloom, and the metallic tang of blood hung thick upon what little breeze there was.
  2.  
  3. Springing lithely over a fallen body, the tall Tsol'aa surveyed his surroundings grimly, icy blue eyes quickly searching for a target. There, upon the rocky fields - a knight clad in gleaming fullplate advanced upon a wounded Apostate, grinning maniacally as he thrust one bright rapier into her gut, her tormented screams piercing the Tsol'aa's ears as the knight cruelly twisted his blade within her flesh. White-hot rage rose up in him like a wave, and he took a few steps before breaking into a short run and leaping into the air, launching himself feetfirst at the knight and slamming him into the ground with the force of his kick.
  4.  
  5. The Tsol'aa pivoted neatly to regain his balance, eyes flashing with battle fury as he sank into the menacing stance of the Dragon, a movement so familiar it required no contemplation. Momentarily stunned from the unexpected kick, the knight attempted to push himself up, but was quickly thwarted as the Tsol'aa kicked one strong leg high and powerfully scythed downwards, the heel of his boot making a sickening 'thud' as it connected squarely with the Ashtani's head.
  6.  
  7. The knight collapsed back against the rock-strewn ground, groaning in pain. Capitalising on his momentary disorientation, the Tsol'aa scooped his body up with a grunt of effort, ignoring the man's weak attempts at a struggle, lifting him triumphantly upwards. In a sudden motion, he yanked the knight's body down harshly upon his raised knee, the knight only managing a half-choked howl of pure agony before the force of the blow snapped his spine cleanly in half, ending his life.
  8.  
  9. Allowing himself a disdainful half-smirk, the Tsol'aa straightened as he loosened his grip on the broken body, sparing it no further thought as it slumped to the ground.
  10.  
  11. One.
  12.  
  13. The wounded Apostate took a quick gulp from a vial slung upon her belt, some of her wounds beginning to close before his eyes. Managing to pull herself upright, she leant heavily on her demonic Baalzadeen as she inclined her head slightly to him. "Thank you, Viceroy."
  14.  
  15. He nodded his head to her in response, but there was little time for idle talk as he returned to scanning the horizon. His keen eyesight picked out a group of black fighters around a huge blue Dragon, the lone reptile growling furiously as it swept its tail around and knocked the group off their feet, blasting them with breath cold enough to freeze them in place.
  16.  
  17. Closing his eyes, he pressed his fingers to his temples and concentrated, seeking out the mind of the Dragon with his own. A brief, tense moment passed before he succeeded in locking his mind with that of the beast, its every thought, action and emotion becoming his own. Through its reptilian eyes he saw the defenders scurrying around his feet, valiantly but fruitlessly jabbing swords and dirks into his tough, scaly hide.
  18.  
  19. A draconic chuckle rumbled in the wyrm's throat as it gazed down condescendingly over the Mhaldorians, and rage surged in the Tsol'aa's chest again. Just as the Dragon leaned down, opening its massive jaw over a struggling defender, he concentrated and channelled a wave of telepathic energy towards it, blacking out its senses.
  20.  
  21. Caught off guard, the giant lizard swerved and missed the beleaguered Mhaldorian, growling in frustration as it shook its head, trying to recover. Sensing their target's distraction, the defenders regrouped and began properly coordinating their attacks, the brief second of breathing space making a noticeable difference in the effectiveness of their offensive efforts. Meanwhile, the Tsol'aa fought fiercely to maintain the link with the Dragon as it struggled and raged, periodically inflicting it with various crippling mental afflictions and hindering its attempts to gain purchase.
  22.  
  23. Slowly the unrelenting attacks began to take their toll on the beast, and anticipation thrummed in the Tsol'aa's veins as he felt it slip closer and closer towards the realm of Death. Finally, when he felt the Dragon sufficiently weakened, he knew it was time.
  24.  
  25. Reaching outwards, the fingers of one fist curled inwards in a crushing motion as they closed over empty air, a grimace contorting his features with the effort of his concentration as he directed it completely at the blue Dragon. Through their locked minds he felt the Dragon choke and sputter, gasping desperately for a breath as it tried again and again to draw much-needed air into its lungs.
  26.  
  27. It never came.
  28.  
  29. Another smirk tugged at his lips as slowly, slowly, the great reptile's body swayed alarmingly to the side, toppling over with a hefty 'thump' as it finally conceded the battle. A distance away, his fellow defenders turned and raised their weapons in salute to him, but already he had turned away to find another victim.
  30.  
  31. Two.
  32.  
  33. Something flashed in the corner of his eye, and the Tsol'aa spun around to see a Siren firing spells from an elemental staff towards a hideous Occultist, his flesh warped and mutated by chaotic energies to resemble nothing recognisable. At a command, his entourage converged upon the mage and began to attack her gleefully, forcing her to go on the defensive as she attempted to dislodge them from her person by the use of orb sigils.
  34.  
  35. Once again, the Tsol'aa closed his eyes and bowed his head, raising two fingers of each hand to press them against his temples. He focused on regulating his breathing, concentrating on the steady rise and fall of his chest, how it expanded and deflated with each breath he took. Slowly he withdrew from the chaos of battle into that tranquil place within himself, until nothing but a vast, empty blackness remained.
  36.  
  37. In the depths of the darkness he could feel radiant energy swirling around him, in his blood, his body, sizzling in its intensity. His brow furrowed as he concentrated harder, gathering all the stray bits of energy into one focused ball. Gradually, the ball of telepathic energy grew, and grew, and grew, until he was trembling visibly from the effort of keeping it in check, gritting his teeth with the strain.
  38.  
  39. With a huge effort, he conjured up an image of the deformed Occultist, picturing every malformed feature with as much detail as he could. Holding on, holding on...until he could control it no longer, and with a deep, piercing cry, he channelled all his gathered power into a devastating blast of mental energy at the Occultist.
  40.  
  41. Too late to run now, all the Occultist could do was throw his head back and scream in excruciating pain as the full force of the Viceroy's mental power washed over him, quickly cut off as his body caught violently on fire. The flames roared up, reaching higher and higher as they wrapped around the Occultist and encased him in a fiery tornado - then just as suddenly subsided and died, but the Occultist himself was now nowhere to be seen. Left in his place, within a burning circle upon the ground, was nothing but a pile of grey ashes.
  42.  
  43. Three.
  44.  
  45. With the absence of their master, the chaotic entities became confused and lost their hold on the mage, dropping to the ground and scuttling away into the distance. Dusting herself off with a brush of her fingers, she bowed respectfully to him, and he nodded briefly back before striding away.
  46.  
  47. Though he was slaying enemies with methodical efficiency, his allies were having considerably less success as the Ashtani forces advanced gradually upon their city. A frown creased his brow, slightly distorting the flowing crimson marks tattooed over his forehead and scalp. More drastic action would be needed.
  48.  
  49. As the Mhaldorians began to fall back towards the towering obsidian gates to regroup, he joined them, a daring plan beginning to form in his mind. He lifted his hand for silence, and instantly all conversation ceased as they turned attentively towards him.
  50.  
  51. "Return to the city," he instructed. "Leave the Ashtani to me."
  52.  
  53. His citymates glanced uneasily between themselves, shifting slightly as they gazed out towards the group of Ashtani advancing towards the city.
  54.  
  55. "But Viceroy, there are so many-" began a young Infernal.
  56.  
  57. He flicked his icy gaze towards the Infernal, who blinked and ducked his head slightly.
  58.  
  59. "Do you doubt me, Blade Aspirant?" he inquired coolly.
  60.  
  61. The Infernal shook his head quickly. "N- no, Viceroy. As you wish, of course."
  62.  
  63. A corner of his lips quirked upwards in a half-smirk. "I thought so. Now, go."
  64.  
  65. Obediently, the Mhaldorians turned as one and began to stream into the confines of the city, one or two looking back towards him as they walked past, but already his attention was focused on other matters.
  66.  
  67. Clasping his large hands before him, he centred himself and bent his head in silent prayer, lips moving soundlessly. He felt the familiar rush of kai energy swell within him, surging from his toes up through his body. The group of Ashtani approached from the south, mere feet away as they jeered and laughed at him.
  68.  
  69. "It seems we have a stray one here, my friends! Abandoned you, have they, Viceroy?" taunted a tawny Rajamala dressed in the gaudy garb of the Jester, grinning manically as he shuffled together tarot cards between decks.
  70.  
  71. He ignored them, keeping his eyes closed as he felt the energy continue to build.
  72.  
  73. Almost there...
  74.  
  75. "I think he's quite lost for words, Balen, the poor thing. Maybe we should put him out of his misery!" chittered a nearby Horkval, patting an ornately worked sheath slung by his left hip.
  76.  
  77. The Rajamala eyed the unmoving Viceroy, and smirked. "Poor little Mhaldorian. So much for that 'strength' you all talk about, hm, when they flee inside the safety of your city and leave you alone here to die? You'd be better off with us instead, but alas." He began to swing a blackjack ponderously in his right hand, preparing to attack the Tsol'aa. "Kill him, my friends!"
  78.  
  79. Just as the Ashtani thrust the heavy blackjack towards the Tsol'aa, suddenly the Viceroy's head snapped up, his eyes glowing a brilliant white. Recognising the look, the Rajamala shouted in horror but was too late to stop his momentum, and the blackjack collided firmly with the Tsol'aa's left shoulder.
  80.  
  81. Slowly, the Tsol'aa turned to face him, and the Rajamala screamed as arcs of searing white lightning crackled outwards from the Viceroy's eyes, creating an unbreakable conduit through which pure kai energy flowed. He tried to pull away, but the Tsol'aa held him captive within his gaze as the deadly energy pulsed relentlessly through his body, engulfing him entirely in a dazzling white corona. One last long, agonised shriek, and the charred husk of the Rajamala dropped to the floor, blood and skin boiling in a gruesome mess.
  82.  
  83. Four.
  84.  
  85. A split second later, the Horkval drew his bejewelled Blademaster sword from its sheath and slashed angrily at him in one fluid motion, uttering a battle cry - quickly turning into a horrified scream, abruptly silenced.
  86.  
  87. Five.
  88.  
  89. A Serpent leapt from the shadows to plunge a dirk into his back, only to have undiluted kai energy crackle up the length of her dirk and slam into her body.
  90.  
  91. Six.
  92.  
  93. With half of the Ashtani raiding party lying dead upon the ground in the space of three seconds, their few remaining citymates turned tail and fled, flashes of blazing light consuming the Occultists as they vanished upon the astral plane while the more unfortunate had to make do with their legs. As he felt the last Ashtani disappear from his telepathic range, he took a deep breath and allowed the churning power to subside, eyes returning to their normal icy colour. He winced slightly as he began to feel the effects of his wounds, pausing to take a sip from the vial of health elixir at his belt as he turned towards the city.
  94.  
  95. Suddenly, a familiar consciousness brushed against his own, a faint touch, and he whirled around quickly as a brief sense of pain flickered through the mindlink. Focusing his mind, he concentrated on forming a mind lock with the newcomer. The moment the lock was secure, he summoned a wave of telepathic energy and allowed it to carry him to his target, a hidden gateway opening before him as he drifted into view.
  96.  
  97. Struggling upon the ground in a mass of tangled ropes was a lithe female Mhun, silver eyes wide as she tried desperately to free herself. Above her loomed another cackling Occultist, mismatched eyes glittering with demented glee as he rubbed his fingers briskly upon another Tarot card, the small rectangle beginning to glow with power.
  98.  
  99. Fury stronger than anything he had experienced thus far surged white-hot in him, his glacier-like eyes narrowed dangerously. Sinking fluidly into the Scorpion stance, he dropped to the floor and swept his leg around towards the Occultist, the man giving a grunt of surprise as he tumbled to the ground. The Tsol'aa sprung to his feet, balling one hand up into a fist and throwing a hammer-like punch into the side of the man's face, knuckle striking flesh with a solid 'thud' as the Occultist's head snapped to the side from the force of the blow.
  100.  
  101. Groaning in pain, the Occultist fumbled about, dazed, but the Viceroy gave him no chance to recover as he drew himself up and rebalanced into his stance. Kicking one leg high, he threw all the force of his rage into it as he scythed it downwards viciously for the last time, connecting squarely with the victim's head.
  102.  
  103. Such was the force of the blow that the top of the Occultist's skull shattered upon impact, killing him instantly as his lifeless body slumped over, blood and gore spilling from the hole in his head and staining the ground a deep crimson.
  104.  
  105. Seven.
  106.  
  107. Breathing heavily, the Tsol'aa straightened, glancing quickly at the Mhun - but only the ropes remained strewn upon the ground, for she was gone. He felt the pulsing rage ebb slightly, and his icy gaze flicked to the shattered body at his feet. With a slight smirk, he drew a gleaming scimitar from a sleek bloodsteel scabbard slung above his hip and began to hack at the corpse's neck, bits of bone and blood flying everywhere.
  108.  
  109. Finally, the head severed, he sheathed his bloody weapon and picked the head up by its hair, dangling gruesomely in his grip as he made his way back towards the city. Slaves and soldiers alike bowed respectfully to him as he passed through the gates and ascended the winding obsidian streets, but apart from a brief nod of his head in return he ignored them, his mind's eye focused on seeking out one particular individual.
  110.  
  111. He found her, eventually, standing half-hidden in the shadows outside a dingy tavern, clearly waiting for him. She bowed to him, and he nodded to her.
  112.  
  113. "Exsusiai."
  114.  
  115. "Naga."
  116.  
  117. A pause.
  118.  
  119. "Seven slain, as promised."
  120.  
  121. A soft chuckle, low and silken.
  122.  
  123. "Yes, I saw. A devastating performance."
  124.  
  125. A slight smile tugged at his lips for the first time that day as he lifted the head, dangling it before her.
  126.  
  127. "And a keepsake to boot."
  128.  
  129. Familiar silver-grey eyes gleamed with pleasure and amusement as pale hands slipped her dark hood off her face, allowing angular porcelain features and long dark hair to come into view. The Mhun gazed at the severed head as she accepted it from him, a corner of her lips quirking upwards just enough to reveal a glimpse of ivory fang.
  130.  
  131. "My gratitude, Viceroy. I do so enjoy adding to my collection of heathen heads, particularly those who specifically attempt to kill me." She twisted slightly to sling her pack forwards, opening the flap and placing the head carefully within, ignoring the blood dripping from the still-fresh wounds.
  132.  
  133. He slipped his hands into the pockets of his black trousers, smirking faintly in amusement as he watched her. "Certainly. Now, my lady, I do believe a reward was promised for every Ashtani kill, yes?" He arched an eyebrow.
  134.  
  135. The Mhun chuckled softly again as she turned back towards him, eyelids lowering slightly to give her a vaguely devious look.
  136.  
  137. "So it was," she murmured.
  138.  
  139. His grin widened at her words, just slightly, then faltered as he blinked once and found her abruptly vanished. Frowning a little, he turned his head from side to side, icy eyes flickering back and forth as he glanced around for her to no avail.
  140.  
  141. Just as he was beginning to feel mildly annoyed, a whip came speeding into view, wrapping itself firmly around his midsection and tugging strongly. Before he had time to react, he found himself pulled into a secluded alley at the side of the tavern, the darkness almost too complete to see.
  142.  
  143. A familiar warmth pressed against him as soft lips descended upon his own, and he was lost.
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