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TRV-17

Slywyn Jun 17th, 2019 61 Never
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  1. Emmelia left Millie in a hollow in a fallen tree to decipher more of the journal while she went back to make sure they hadn't been followed, or if they had that whoever was following them didn't have their trail. She did spot a column of dust some distance away as some of the men from the garrison attempted to find them, but nothing anywhere near them. Her vision to allow her to see heartbeats didn't spy anyone nearby either, allowing her to feel somewhat confident that they'd managed to get away across the plains between the city and the forest they were now in.
  2.  
  3. The vampire crept back to Millie, slipping up on her to settle down after announcing herself so she wouldn't jump or try to run off. "Are you okay, Millie?" Emmelia tilted her head to watch the Priestess, she didn't know if the woman had ever been in a situation like that before.
  4.  
  5. Millie looked up, though didn't speak right away. Emmelia could see her hand shaking lightly, but she didn't seem to be too out of sorts, she'd at least managed to do more work on the journal. "I'll be okay, I think. I've never seen someone die up close like that before. The others, at the ruins, they were already dead when I got there when I followed you, but those men..."
  6.  
  7. Emmelia reached out, giving the Priestess' hand a soft squeeze. "Try not to think about it."
  8.  
  9. "How do you deal with it?" She set the journal aside and put her hands in her lap, wringing them against one another.
  10.  
  11. The vampire pursed her lips, moving to sit a little closer to the Priestess, reaching over to help still her hands. She remembered this feeling, the first time she'd seen someone die up close, though that had been at her hand. "The first time I fed on someone, I was so hungry. I had been trying to put off the cravings, I did not even really know what they were at first. I had killed a deer in the woods, poached, and I was cooking the meat, but I could not stop staring at the blood that was coming out of it as it hung on a branch. I drank some, it just made the hunger worse. I knew what it was now, it was all I could think about."
  12.  
  13. Millie turned her head to listen, frowning slightly at the story, but she didn't interrupt.
  14.  
  15. "I found someone working in their fields, all by themselves." Emmelia looked down at the ground, shifting her foot through the undergrowth. "I tackled them to the ground. I had meant to ask, to apologize for what I was going to do, to do... anything but what I did."
  16.  
  17. The Priestess turned her head away at that. "What happened?", came the hesitant question.
  18.  
  19. "I drained them dry. Afterward, I could only stare at what I had done. The guilt, the pain, the shame. I knew what I was, what I had become. That first farmer, they haunted me for many years afterward. Even when I thought I had given myself over to the monster in me entirely, that face always came back to me. Scared. Confused. In pain." Emmelia pursed her lips. "You learn to live with it. I am not sure that there is really a way to 'deal' with it. The faces will always be there."
  20.  
  21. Millie gave a sad sort of chuckle. "I am not sure that this will help me very much."
  22.  
  23. Emmelia hesitated before she continued. "I suppose what I am saying is that you must move past it to do what is necessary. You cannot dwell on these things or they will consume you." She laughed sadly as she stared at the ground. "Trust me, Milefek. Put it out of your mind. It will get easier to do over time."
  24.  
  25. Millie looked over toward Emmelia at this last bit of advice, then slowly nodded her head and picked up her journal again. "I think I might have found more information on where their base is."
  26.  
  27. Emmelia leaned over, peering down at the translated part of the journal. "You did? Where?"
  28.  
  29. "Here." She pointed to a passage in the journal, somewhere near the beginning. "He mentions that some of the other recruits are being sent somewhere he's never heard of before. He wrote down the name, but I think that the name's under the same spell that we spoke about before, that keeps anyone from remembering it."
  30.  
  31. "Interesting. Did he provide directions?" Emmelia scanned over the page to see if she could spot anything before Millie continued.
  32.  
  33. The Priestess nodded. "He did, actually. It seems as if he was going to be sent there before-" She frowned.
  34.  
  35. Emmelia looked over. "What? What is it?"
  36.  
  37. "It's not far from here at all. Actually... we ran further north and east." She adjusted her map and traced the directions along where they ran, muttering under her breath. "We cross the river here and... there." She pointed to the map. "This old fort. This must be where their base is, or at the very least it's the closest thing that matches his description of where he was going." She pursed her lips, then slowly shook her head. "I don't think we can go there."
  38.  
  39. "Well, why not?" Emmelia glanced to the side with a frown at Millie. "We have to follow the leads. I want not to be hunted by fanatics."
  40.  
  41. "Because it's inside of Enemy territory." She shifted the map back so that Emmelia could see. "We could possibly be there this evening, but it's across the border." She looked up as Emmelia began to walk toward their horses. "Where are you going?"
  42.  
  43. "I am going to follow the lead, as we were told to do, as we were ordered to do." The vampire looked back toward Millie. "I am tired of being hunted. We find their base, we end this problem for good." Millie began to protest but Emmelia cut her off. "I do not care where it is, I am going." She pulled herself up onto her horse and patted the beast's neck. "You follow me or you go back to the castle. This is not your fight."
  44.  
  45. Millie stood up, clutching her map and the journal, and for a moment it really looked as if she might decide to leave. Then she shook her head and let out an exasperated sigh. "I have to come. I don't feel like I have fulfilled my purpose yet." She began to fold her map and put the journal away in her bag. "I have to be meant for something more than being a translator."
  46. She joined Emmelia by the horses and looked up to the sky; midday had come and gone while they were hiding out in the woodlands. "If we travel directly north from here, toward the river, then cross, the fort is just beyond that." Millie gestured out across the countryside with her hand.
  47.  
  48. "Very good then. And you said we can likely get there by tonight?" Emmelia began to move her horse off through the woodlands, eager to be on their way.
  49.  
  50. Millie nodded as she followed behind. "If we push the horses and don't have trouble crossing the river, we can get there tonight, yes."
  51.  
  52. Emmelia pursed her lips as she led her horse out onto the plains. "Good. I want this to be done with."
  53.  
  54. ----------
  55.  
  56. True to Millie's estimation, night had long-fallen by the time the two of them made it across the river and to the outskirts of the fort's ruin. They had made a small camp, allowing Millie some time to rest as Emmelia cooked something for her to eat, then tied up their horses so that they could approach the ruins in silence. It was clear that they were still inhabited, considering the fact that Emmelia could see guards standing at various places and there appeared to be workmen entering and exiting the ruins themselves.
  57.  
  58. "I think it best if you stay here." Emmelia turned to Millie, her voice barely above a whisper. "It would be too dangerous for you to follow me inside."
  59.  
  60. "You may need my help there. I'll follow behind, but out of the way." Millie nodded quickly once she was done speaking, but Emmelia could tell that the woman was frightened, judging by her wide eyes and slight tremor to her hands.
  61.  
  62. "Fine. Stay behind, only follow me when it is safe." Emmelia reached across her back and withdrew her bow, readying her quiver down by her side as she drew and nocked an arrow.
  63.  
  64. Millie nodded once more before she faded back into the underbrush, giving Emmelia room to work.
  65.  
  66. The vampire strode forward, already letting her eyes shift to red, allowing her to see the heartbeats of the men on guard. This wasn't a military camp, there were no towers, no walls. It almost appeared like an excavation, much like the ruins she'd examined before. She was starting to think that this might not be the Hunter's base they were meant to be finding at all, but it was the only lead that they had to begin with.
  67.  
  68. Emmelia crept forward, crouching down as she got closer until she was within range of one of the guards. As far as she could currently see, there were five men standing outside, not counting those moving in and out of the ruins themselves. A small hut had been constructed for the workmen, which Emmelia began to creep toward first. It would give her shelter from sight, and as far as her vision told her, even though it was in the middle of the night, it was empty.
  69.  
  70. A quick approach to the building itself and a glance inside told her what she needed to know, no one was inside, and it really did just look like a barracks or somewhere for the men to sleep and eat. It was a large, open space, walls lined with bunks and a large cookspace in the middle. Emmelia pursed her lips, then slipped inside through one of the windows, using the building itself as cover as she crept forward to get closer to the guards.
  71.  
  72. An ear flickered as she heard two of the men talking, and the vampire leaned closer to the wall to listen in.
  73.  
  74. "Why are we still here?", came the first voice. "They dug the orb out, we converted all them Hunters, we're just digging in the dark down there."
  75.  
  76. Emmelia drew further down as she hunched against the wall. Converted the hunters? She had no idea what that meant, maybe there would be further clues inside. She perked up again as a second voice spoke.
  77.  
  78. The man sounded like he was in the middle of eating, her vision told her there was one standing and one sitting. "You keep complaining about that and the Captain will have your head."
  79.  
  80. The first man continued, his voice was even quieter. "I just don't see the point. They say He's coming, you know, to check up on things. Using that thing they found down there."
  81.  
  82. The second man lunged for the first, grabbing him by some part of his clothing judging by the sound. Emmelia could watch their shifting shapes move back and forth through the wall and she could hear whatever he was eating out of clatter to the ground. "You shut up about that. We're not even supposed to know that exists, someone hears you talking about that it'll be both our heads." He shoved the first man away with a grunt. "Made me ruin my dinner."
  83.  
  84. The first man hissed and as he began to walk away, Emmelia peeked over the windowsill to see a Darquelian sitting back down at the fire while the Felinin walked away, his tail cut just below halfway and swaying angrily. She frowned as she thought about what they'd been talking about, she didn't understand any of it but imagined that it had to be important.
  85.  
  86. Emmelia dipped back down below the windowsill and out of sight as she decided on how best to deal with the problem of the men guarding the little camp. The one Felinin off by himself wouldn't be too difficult, the Darquelian at the fire could be the problem. As far as she could tell, the other three were standing off by themselves, one out of normal sight behind some kind of pillar, but the other two she could see from her vantage point in the hut.
  87.  
  88. Deciding on a course of action, Emmelia drew her bow back and leaned out of the side of the house she'd come in on, taking aim at the furthest man. She squinted as she judged the distance, then let her arrow fly after a small adjustment. Her ear flicked as she heard the satisfying 'thock' of the arrow striking true and she ducked back into the little hut. The noise drew at least some attention from some of the other guards, she imagined the two closest to the one she'd just taken out were moving to investigate, her vision told her that the other two didn't realize anything was happening yet.
  89.  
  90. Emmelia stowed her bow and slipped out of the window, scurrying through the underbrush and grass toward the nearer of the two far guards left alive. She drew her twin daggers as she stalked closer to him, waiting for a good moment to strike. He stepped behind a bit of half-collapsed stonework, out of the view of the other guards, and she took that as her moment to strike. She slipped up behind him, he wasn't even wearing armor, and her dagger sliced through his clothing like it wasn't there. She could hardly hear the whisper that left his lips as her dagger sank within him and she bore him to the ground as quietly as she could manage as his legs gave out.
  91.  
  92. The third watchman seemed to know something was wrong by the time he began looking for the first, he had pulled his weapon in preparation. That hardly helped him as Emmelia drew her bow and removed him as a threat from a distance, the gurgle as the arrow lodged in his throat and sent him to his back drowned out by the ambient noises of the night. She quickly stalked back to the fire and the hut, checking to see if the other two had any idea of what was happening.
  93.  
  94. The man at the fire seemed to be at least somewhat aware that something was wrong, but she imagined he was still questioning what that might be when she snuck up on him. A hand over his face and a dagger to his throat as she drug him away from the fire were enough to silence him, he kicked the dish he'd dropped earlier as he went, sending up a clatter that got the Felinin's attention.
  95.  
  96. Emmelia wiped her dagger on the reptilian's shirt as she stalked forward out of the house, the Felinin standing by the fire to look for his friend. "Rruhk? Where'd you go?" The Felinin drew his blade and Emmelia couldn't help herself as she slipped into range, knowing the rest of the guards were either dead or dying.
  97.  
  98. Her hand wrapped around his muzzle and her dagger slipped to his throat as she slipped up behind him, breathing out a quiet little 'boo' into his ear. She felt him struggle and squirm but the dagger biting at his throat got him quiet enough in seconds. She drew the dagger in a little tighter against his throat as she whispered to him again. "Shout and you die."
  99.  
  100. Emmelia's hand went to his sword belt, unclasping it to drop to the ground, then she plucked his sword from his hands. She drug him back into the hut where she'd taken his friend, the sight of which drew a quick struggle from him that she silenced with her dagger pressed more-firmly to his throat.
  101.  
  102. "You killed Rruhk!", he hissed at her as he drug his feet and tried to kick up as much noise as he could.
  103.  
  104. This drew another dark chuckle from the vampire, her eyes burning red in the dark of the hut. "And you will be next if you do not silence your struggling." Emmelia made sure he was hidden from sight, then made her way around to his front, drawing a gasp from him when he spotted her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
  105.  
  106. While seeing that a vampire had ahold of him seemed to be enough to get him to stop struggling and start talking, the dagger at his throat certainly didn't hurt. "I don't know! We just guard the place!" He made a strangled noise and pushed himself back into the woodwork as she pressed the dagger closer, just tight enough on his throat to draw blood under his fur. "Some artifact! I promise I don't know what it is!"
  107.  
  108. "Tell me anything you know about it. I do not care how insignificant you think it is." The vampire growled, leaning in closer to the frightened Felinin.
  109.  
  110. "It was buried in the ground! We just dug it up! It was some... bowl, that's all I know I promise!" He lifted his hands above his head. "Please, I don't know anything else!"
  111.  
  112. Emmelia considered this for a few moments. "Fine, I believe you." She withdrew the dagger from his neck, but before he could react much more than relaxing his arms, she lunged in, burying her fangs into his neck. The scream was silenced almost immediately as she tore at him, drinking his blood down, splattering some of it across her fur. She hadn't been able to take anything from any of the others and sneaking around always made her hungry.
  113.  
  114. The scream and then silence seemed to be the signal that Millie was waiting for to join Emmelia in the camp. She drew her lips together and turned away from the sight of the Felinin as Emmelia wiped her face with his shirt. "I guess he was the last one?"
  115.  
  116. "That he was." Emmelia nodded, standing up once she was finished, then slowly wiped her hands on her armor. "He said that they dug up some kind of artifact within the ruins. Said it was a bowl. They mentioned that 'He' was coming soon but I have no idea who that is."
  117.  
  118. Millie shook her head. "I don't know either. We should try to finish here and leave before whoever it is arrives."
  119.  
  120. Emmelia nodded, then looked around the room slowly. "Five guards, ten beds, if they are not sleeping in shifts then there are five workmen."
  121.  
  122. The Priestess reached out and took hold of Emmelia's arm, pulling her attention back. "At least try to let them run first? They won't be able to get anywhere helpful to them before we're done here."
  123.  
  124. The vampire looked down at the hand on her arm, then slowly nodded. "Fine. There is probably a headman, if we convince him to leave, the others will likely follow."
  125.  
  126. Millie seemed satisfied with this, releasing Emmelia's arm. "I'll follow you down and try to find somewhere to hide."
  127.  
  128. "Good enough, I will tell you when we are getting close enough to them that you should find somewhere." Emmelia started off down toward the ruin, expecting Millie to follow.
  129.  
  130. The entrance was easy enough to find, just a large stone staircase down into the dark, lined with lanterns here and there to provide light. It seemed they'd been here long enough to set up a more-permanent lighting solution, at least. Emmelia took the lead, stepping down into the ruin, her daggers pulled free in case they happened to meet anyone coming up the stairs.
  131.  
  132. The further down that the two of them ventured, the more the fur on the back of her neck began to stand on end. She had seen workmen coming and going from within the ruins, where had they all gone? She thought perhaps one of them would have heard the scream or would have come back up from the depths by now, as they had been appearing somewhat regularly, but they were nowhere to be seen. Feeling her hackles continuing to rise, Emmelia continued down into the stone... fortress? She looked around herself, then glanced back to Millie. "What was this place?"
  133.  
  134. Millie whispered back as she followed behind as quietly as she could. "It was supposed to have been a fort, but this looks more like a vault or a depository of some kind." She stopped near an outcropping of stone near the next landing of the stairs, peering into a small offshoot room. "There's some writing in here. I'll stay here and see if I can read it, you go on."
  135.  
  136. Emmelia frowned slightly, then nodded her head as she continued forward. She thought she'd have run into some more rooms by now, but every few steps down the hallway there was a small offshoot room. She'd peeked into some of them, they looked like most of them had contained something at some point, some looked like they'd been built to hold scrolls or books, some had ancient stone or wooden chests within that had been emptied, others still looked as if they'd been armories in times past, racks for weapons and armor along the walls. She supposed Millie would be safe enough in one of those little vaults, it wasn't as if there was anyone left upstairs to come down and find her, anyone else would have to come past the vampire.
  137.  
  138. The deeper into the vaults that Emmelia descended, the more uneasy she felt. Something ahead of her just felt wrong in ways that she didn't understand like it was pushing her back to keep her from continuing along her path. She rounded a corner and the vampire's ears perked, she could hear someone talking from ahead within the dusty ruin.
  139.  
  140. Emmelia crept up to the next corner and pressed her back against it, peeling her hood back over her ears so that she could extend her head just far enough around the corner to expose an ear to listen in. The voice she could hear speaking was measured and calm, almost refined. It sounded like a human, missing the distinctive hissing accents of the Darquelians or the purred 'r's of the Felinin. She dared to peek an eye past the corner, trying to get a good glimpse of who it was as he continued.
  141.  
  142. "- Hunters at the garrison have been discovered, meaning their uses to us are at an end." The man speaking was tall, but Emmelia supposed he was just short of her own height, standing on some kind of dias or platform at the end of the room. He looked fairly 'normal' for a human to her reckoning, dark hair, beard, but he carried himself like Bernullion did, over everyone else in the room. His fine clothes and the cane he held at his side to support a leg that didn't look quite right helped add to the regal image of him.
  143.  
  144. Now that she'd seen who was speaking, Emmelia returned to just listening, deciding not to risk herself by watching further. There was another voice she couldn't quite make out, but she imagined had to be the head of whatever dig had been going on here, before the first one returned. "Yes, your work with the artifact has been most excellent. However, we need further progress in opening the final chamber." He paused for a moment, likely to let whoever he was speaking to respond before he continued. "We do not know what it contains, it could be the final piece."
  145.  
  146. Emmelia heard him go silent, then her ears twitched. This didn't seem like the normal sort of pause someone would take in the middle of a conversation and she couldn't hear anything from the other voice. A wave seemed to pass over her, like a shift in pressure in the air, the dust around her feet kicked up into small clouds, and then she heard the voice again. "It seems we have a guest."
  147.  
  148. Emmelia frowned, she felt as if she'd just been discovered, and she wasn't about to stand here and wait for them to come to her. The vampire stepped out, daggers clutched in her hands, if she was going to have to fight, she was going to face it, not be surprised by it.
  149.  
  150. The man she'd seen let out a hearty laugh upon seeing her and Emmelia could more clearly see what was going on in the main chamber. It looked like they'd broken into some sort of massive cathedral, the man standing on a large stonework in the center. It looked almost like a water droplet, curves carved in circles out from the stone, more of it curling over his head, leaving enough space for him to stand within the stone arms but not much more. He shifted his stance to face her, tapping his cane on the floor next to him. "Our vampiric friend. You're ahead of schedule."
  151.  
  152. Emmelia frowned all the more at this, stepping forward down off of the stairs to the better footing of the flat ground before her. "What schedule?"
  153.  
  154. The man before her just sneered in her direction. "We knew you'd find us eventually, the Hunters were supposed to slow you down but it seems they were even less effective than I thought." He stepped out of the teardrop toward her, among the men gathered at his feet. There were more of them than Emmelia expected, eight or nine in total, but she supposed that could be explained by sharing beds if they worked different shifts. "You have no idea who I am, do you?", he finally asked, based on her confused expression.
  155.  
  156. "You sent the Hunters after me?" The feline growled in annoyance, how did he even know where she was going to be to send them? "Of course I have no idea who you are, I have never seen you before."
  157.  
  158. The man just chuckled at this, slowly shaking his head as he gestured out across the workers before him. In his other hand he held some sort of glowing crystal object, it seemed to fit over his hand, almost like a knuckle duster or some other fingerless glove, but it glowed as it moved over the men. Emmelia's eyes went wide as she watched what happened to them, one by one a sickly green light formed around their head, glowing tendrils of magic connecting them to the object in his hand. The men began to stand, one at a time, before turning toward her, their eyes glowing with that same green light. "You will know my name in time. Destroying that spell will be one of the first things I do. Until then, you need only know me as your enemy." He stepped back over the rings into the arms of the stonework, tapping his cane onto the ground.
  159.  
  160. The stone around him began to hum with otherworldly energy that Emmelia could feel in her bones, a deep, groaning rumble from somewhere beneath her feet. "Our timetable moved up, gentlemen. You're no longer needed." The hand holding the strange object flung forward, and as one the men began to stumble in her direction. Emmelia had to shield her eyes with a hand as whoever the man had been vanished in a flash of brilliantly bright blue light and a rumble that shook the ruins around them, alongside a loud 'bang' like lightning had just struck at her feet.
  161.  
  162. Emmelia stumbled back, losing her footing for a moment as she stepped on one of the rings in the room. That moment of struggling to keep her feet was enough to let the men surround her, but not enough for them to do any meaningful harm. Emmelia struck out with her daggers as much as she could, slicing into the men one by one, drawing gouts and splatters of crimson across her armor. Almost as one, then men fell back, though this time they did so as the glow upon them sputtered out.
  163.  
  164. Confused, Emmelia stepped back again as the men began to scream, some clutching at sliced flesh, others just from the pain. She turned her head back up toward the stairs. "Milefek!" She took a guarded stance, but whatever had happened to the men between the light overtaking them and her blades slicing into them seemed to have largely disabled them.
  165.  
  166. The Priestess came rushing down the stairs, gasping for breath. "You won't believe what this place is!" She rushed to the workers, assuming what she needed to do without Emmelia having to tell her.
  167.  
  168. Emmelia watched over them, her blades drawn, but the men seemed docile now that whatever effect was upon them had been broken. "Some sort of teleportation chamber?"
  169.  
  170. Millie gasped and glanced back to her. "So that's what the noise was?" Her hands glowed with light as she healed the men before her. "What happened to them? Who was it?"
  171.  
  172. "I have no idea. He said that he was my enemy, that we were ahead of schedule. They were looking for some kind of artifact. He used something on these men, their heads glowed and they attacked me. When I hit them, they fell back and the light went away." Emmelia shook her head at the sheer strangeness of it all. "They discovered something here and they said there is another chamber, but it appears they did not get it open." She nudged one of the men with her boot. "Maybe one of them will know."
  173.  
  174. Millie nodded her head as she continued healing the men. They all looked emaciated like they hadn't been eating properly in weeks, and Emmelia was amazed even with whatever effect had taken hold of them that they'd managed to get up to attack her at all.
  175.  
  176. "Which one of you is in charge of the others?", the vampire asked as she looked from man to man. She was hoping one of them would look to be in better shape than another, but to her, they all looked the same. Hardly worth the effort it would have taken to bite them.
  177.  
  178. One of the men shakily raised his hand. "I am." Emmelia crouched down over him, one of the ones she'd hardly grazed with her blades, better off at least in that regard than the others.
  179.  
  180. "What's your name? Why are you here?" Millie asked a bit more kindly as she finished tending to the men, looking up to Emmelia with a sad expression once she was done, lowering her voice. "If they don't get some kind of help soon they'll be beyond my magic."
  181.  
  182. "We do not have that kind of time." Emmelia pursed her lips as she looked down upon them.
  183.  
  184. The one who'd spoken up before seemed finally ready to speak, settling back onto his knees. "I'm Nornth." Even his voice was weak, quiet, far too tired and worn out. "We were taken here to dig this place out. Everything you see we did." He gestured with one of his stick-like arms to the chamber around him. "It was all full of earth."
  185.  
  186. "How did you do this? How long have you been here?" Emmelia was amazed that this small of a crew could have managed anything on this level.
  187.  
  188. "Weeks. I don't know. They used that... thing on us. It made us work. They hired us and then when we were too slow they started using it on us." He let out a slow, tired sigh. "It gets in your head, it makes you do what they want." He started to slump over.
  189.  
  190. Emmelia reached out, placing her hand on his shoulder. "What is it?" She gave him a little shake, holding out her other hand toward Millie as the Priestess moved to stop her. "What is it called?"
  191.  
  192. The man just slowly shook his head as he keeled over onto his front. Emmelia looked at the others, some of them had already stopped moving, her fur on the back of her neck started to stand up straight in alarm. "They called it... the Dragonstone..." The leader of the men breathed out one final time before he collapsed.
  193.  
  194. Millie took in a sharp intake of breath and put her hand over her mouth. "These poor men.", she whispered.
  195.  
  196. Emmelia pursed her lips as she pushed herself to her feet. All of them had died, she had no idea if it was their treatment, the artifact that had been used on them, this place, or anything. She looked down to Millie and reached for her, starting to slowly pull the Priestess to her feet. "There is nothing more we can do for them."
  197.  
  198. Millie shook her head, tears in her eyes, and she leaned over against Emmelia as she began to properly cry.
  199.  
  200. Slightly confused and unsure of what to do, the vampire gently patted her companion on the back. The sad state of the men who'd collapsed at her feet drew up something inside of even her long-dead heart, so she supposed she could understand what the Priestess was feeling. "We need to learn what we can."
  201.  
  202. "I know. Let me..." Millie trailed off slowly. "Let me at least say some prayers for them. Please." She lifted a hand to wipe at her eyes.
  203.  
  204. Emmelia nodded, then began to move off toward the strange dias the man had been standing in before he disappeared. As Millie began to whisper quiet prayers for the dead workers, she leaned in closer, trying to learn anything at all from it. She couldn't see any kind of tool marks, if anything it almost looked... grown. The stone looked natural, there weren't any joints or seams or sections where bricks had been joined and fitted together. The room itself around it had plenty of signs, but whatever this thing was didn't.
  205.  
  206. She reached out and touched a finger to the stone, hissing once she realized it was horrendously hot, drawing back her digit and half-expecting it to have caught fire. The entire thing radiated that same sort of energy she'd felt when it had activated and the man had disappeared. Unable to really learn anything from the structure, she started looking through other parts of the room.
  207.  
  208. Eventually, Emmelia came upon what she supposed must have been the other chamber that the men were trying to enter, there were tool marks across the door, gouges, and chips from picks and axes. What told her they had been mostly unsuccessful, however, was the pile of three bodies she found at the base of it. Where it looked like the door might open, there was a small stone receptacle in the shape of a hand. One of the dead men at the door even still had his hand trapped within it, though as Emmelia leaned in closer, she noticed something interesting. The man's hand had an odd four-pronged hole punched in it, it almost looked like a compass or something like that, a circle with four indicators for north, south, east and west. Emmelia pursed her lips, having no idea what to make of it, but a further examination of the door revealed a small stone tablet set into the wall to it's left, with some kind of writing on it that she didn't understand.
  209.  
  210. "Millie? Millie, you should come to have a look at this." Emmelia called from her position near the door. She pulled the man's hand out of the door's frame, holding her own out toward it. It looked like it'd fit, but another look at the other two bodies showed similar holes punched into their hands as well.
  211.  
  212. The Priestess came running over, letting out another gasp at the sight of the bodies near the door. "Oh no!"
  213.  
  214. "That is not what I need you to look at right now." Emmelia took Millie gently by the hand, turning her away from the dead men gathered at the door, then turned her attention to the plate.
  215.  
  216. "Oh!" She let out another little gasp, then wiped slowly at her eyes. "This is the same writing from the hallway."
  217.  
  218. "What is it? I cannot read it." Emmelia puzzled over the writing, it was odd, like scratch or claw marks but arranged in ways that obviously meant words.
  219.  
  220. "It's old draconic," Millie answered, then pulled out the journal from her bag and turned to one of the unused pages so she could write.
  221.  
  222. "D-" Emmelia blinked several times. "You can read draconic?"
  223.  
  224. "Of course I can. Most of the old scriptures are written in it. Any of my order could." She quickly began to scribble down a translation for Emmelia to read, then tore off the small sheet to hand it to the vampire.
  225.  
  226. Emmelia glanced down as she started to pull the bodies away from the door and arrange them much like she imagined she'd done the others, hands over their chests. "What do you make of the hole in their hands?"
  227.  
  228. Millie frowned with distaste as she lifted one of the hands to look at. Curiously, despite one of the men seeming to have been dead longer than the others, given that he still had some meat and fat on his bones, none of them seemed to have decayed at all. "I have no idea. It looks like compass points."
  229.  
  230. "That is what I thought too." She looked down at the writing on the page. "The Bloodless Lock will not open to one of the flesh. Those who attempt it and remain among the living shall join the Dead." Emmelia frowned once she'd finished reading it aloud. "What does that mean?"
  231.  
  232. Millie looked up from where she'd been saying prayers over the dead men. "If I had any idea I would have told you."
  233.  
  234. Emmelia pursed her lips, looking at the message again, then to the door. "You know I am dead and do not have any blood." She looked over toward Millie and raised a brow. "Perhaps it will open for me?"
  235.  
  236. The Priestess paused once again, glancing between Emmelia and the door. "You aren't serious, are you?"
  237.  
  238. "Who knows." She shrugged her shoulders as she moved toward the door, looking down at the mechanism in the center of it. Her outstretched hand looked like it'd fit in the grooves just fine, but she supposed that the men might have thought the same thing. Considering for a few moments, she then began to remove her glove. "The only thing for it is to try."
  239.  
  240. Millie finished her prayers and stood up, moving behind Emmelia with a very disapproving expression. "If you die then we're all lost, you know that right?" She asked as she looked up to the vampire, then back to the lock.
  241.  
  242. Emmelia chuckled. "I am already dead, if we lose when I die, that happened a very long time ago."
  243.  
  244. She reached out, placing her hand into the lock like it seemed she was supposed to. At first, nothing happened, and she wondered if perhaps the door wouldn't recognize her at all. Then she felt a slight rumble from within the door and she started to withdraw her hand, but before she could a metallic spear shot out from the door, almost a foot long, piercing straight through her hand with a crunch of bone.
  245.  
  246. Emmelia loosed a scream and sank to her knees, she'd been expecting to have her hand attacked, judging by the condition of the men's hands she'd seen but this felt far worse than she ever could have imagined. The metallic spear split into four points and curled down over her hand, piercing down into the sides, the top between her ring and middle fingers, and down into her wrist, then began to glow.
  247.  
  248. A thunderous power shot up through her arm, electrifying her limb enough to make her fur smoke. Her head fell back as she howled in pain, then there was some kind of click from within the door and the spear folded itself back up again. Emmelia hissed as all at once it withdrew from her hand and she yanked it back out of the hole, looking at the damage it'd done. She held it out toward Millie, who looked like she was going to be sick- it looked just like the hole in the men's hands.
  249.  
  250. Emmelia hissed under her breath as the pain started to subside, her hand quickly healing itself. "Well, I did not die...", she muttered as she trailed off.
  251.  
  252. She quickly stepped back, pressing Millie further away from it, as the door shifted with a loud lurch, glowing red lines shooting up through the stonework before quickly fading back down to look like normal stone. The door cracked open like shattering stone, pieces beginning to float away into the air, and Emmelia pushed Millie further out of the way as she stepped back even further.
  253.  
  254. The Priestess behind her gasped, staring at the door as it opened itself, the shattered stone reassembling into two pillars on either side of the door. "I've never seen one of these before!"
  255.  
  256. Emmelia glanced back at her as she stepped through, the room beyond completely dark save for whatever light spilled through the opening. "What is it?" She drew one of her daggers just in case something came rushing out of the dark at her, her curiosity spurring her onward.
  257.  
  258. "These are ancient draconic doors. From when the dragons were the only sentient race." Millie stepped forward, running her fingers over the stone. "This door is older than any kingdom we know of." She sounded in awe of the place, judging by the voice, at Emmelia's guess.
  259.  
  260. "So now dragons are involved in all of this? Absolutely wonderful. Do you have a torch or something? This room is so dark even I cannot see into it." Emmelia stepped back to the door itself, waiting to see if Millie could pass anything through.
  261.  
  262. "Oh! Yes, here." Millie quickly struck a spark on a small candle in a holster she carried in her bag, Emmelia had seen her using it to work on the journal at night.
  263.  
  264. "Thank you." Her damaged hand was slowly healing, far more slowly than she would have expected it to, so holding the candle was slightly awkward, but Emmelia got her fingers through the handle and held it aloft. The room was almost completely empty save for a plinth in the middle of the room with something resting on it. "Millie?"
  265.  
  266. The Priestess stepped forward, placing one hand on Emmelia's shoulder as she pressed up against her back. "I have no idea."
  267.  
  268. Emmelia carefully crept closer, sweeping the candle low to make sure she wasn't going to step on anything. She'd read books of adventures, she knew that dungeons and other dark, forgotten places were supposed to have traps, but as far as she could tell there was nothing here, just smooth stone floors. She pursed her lips as she moved closer to the plinth and realized what was resting under a cloth. "They-"
  269.  
  270. "Look like daggers, yes." Millie interrupted as she stepped in closer and peered down at the writing in the stone above the cloth-covered weapons. She gestured for Emmelia to hold the light closer, then took a moment to read. "Twinned Blades."
  271.  
  272. Emmelia frowned as she looked toward the Priestess. "Twinned Blades. Nothing else?"
  273.  
  274. Millie shook her head. "Not here. Maybe under the cloth?" She reached out a hand to poke at it, but Emmelia quickly slapped her hand away.
  275.  
  276. "Let me. I can regrow a hand, you cannot." She reached out and plucked at the ancient cloth, covered in a layer of dust, and she almost wasn't sure if she was grabbing dust or a piece of fabric. It crumbled away in her fingers, and when she tugged on it, the entire thing seemed to explode in a puff of dust.
  277.  
  278. Millie coughed and stepped away as Emmelia waved a hand through the air, trying to clear the air around them. She leaned back through and let out a quiet little whistle as she looked at them. The blades themselves looked as if they had just been forged yesterday, metal gleaming. The handles were inlaid in a dark black stone that shimmered in the light of the candle, the stone surrounded by wood that still looked as if it had just been polished with oil. The blades themselves were long and straight, the points wickedly sharp, but the middle of the blade had an odd well in it like a groove had been cut out of the metal. They were definitely 'twins', Emmelia could not see a single difference between them, except- She pointed at the handle of both of them. "Look. There is a word here, on both."
  279.  
  280. The Priestess leaned in close with a soft mumble. "Uh... They're names." She let out a quiet giggle.
  281.  
  282. Emmelia frowned. "What is so funny? What are their names?"
  283.  
  284. She shook her head slowly with another laugh. "It's almost like they were made for you. The names are 'Vol Nusgri', The Hunger, and 'Vol Puznev', The Thirst."
  285.  
  286. Emmelia pursed her lips as she looked down at the things. "That is a bit on the nose, I guess." She reached down to pick them up, then it was Millie's turn to slap her hand away.
  287.  
  288. "Wait, there's writing beneath them." She leaned in closer, taking the candle from Emmelia's still-injured hand with a hiss of annoyance from the vampire as she leaned in. "Blades of the Dead King, reforged in the dragonfires of the First Smith. Their hunger knows no end, their thirst shall not be quenched." She stood up straight once she finished, her face starting to fall. "I know what these are."
  289.  
  290. Emmelia looked over toward her. "You do? Well, what are they then?"
  291.  
  292. Millie put her hand to her face, covering her mouth as she looked down at them. "We thought they didn't actually exist. These are artifacts from the First of the Dead." She glanced back toward the door and then started to step toward it. "We shouldn't be here, we need to leave."
  293.  
  294. Emmelia reached out, taking the woman's arm with her hand to hold her in place. "Who is that? Why is this so bad?" She drew her lips down as she watched Millie's expression change to be slightly more panicked. "Millie. Why is this so bad?"
  295.  
  296. She shook her head slowly, looking up to the vampire. "Emmelia, the 'First of the Dead' was the first vampire. The reason you exist."
  297.  
  298. "What." Emmelia's eyes went wide as she blurted out the word. "Who?"
  299.  
  300. Millie shook her head and pulled her arm away from the vampire, starting to move toward the door. "I can't be here anymore! If you pick them up, don't come upstairs until you know it's safe!" The Priestess quickly retreated out of the room, leaving Emmelia alone with the weapons and her candle.
  301.  
  302. She glanced down at them, unsure of how two daggers could be so bad that it would send her friend into a fit and running off up the stairs. She reached out to take them and for a moment she could have sworn she'd heard a soft hiss as her hand clutched at the first handle. Her ears swiveled as she looked around the room, swaying the candlelight back and forth. She couldn't see any heartbeats, she couldn't hear any other sounds, but her fur was beginning to stand up on the back of her neck again.
  303.  
  304. Emmelia quickly grabbed the second dagger and began to retreat out of the room, the growing sense of something 'wrong' propelling her out of the door as quickly as she could carry herself. She barely made it out of the door, having to whip her tail around her legs, when the pillars deconstructed themselves and slammed the door back shut again.
  305.  
  306. She turned, staring up at the once-more sealed door and the hand-shaped lock, her eyes tracing the thing. "Officially creeped out."
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