Voidhawk redemption, p.2

Voidhawk - Redemption, page 2


Voidhawk - Redemption

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  She glanced up, suddenly cold. What she saw chilled her bones even further. The very tears that ran down her cheeks crystallized as her breath frosted the morning air before her. A winged shape was descending from the skies, drifting almost lazily down on the giant bat-like wings until it landed in the alley in front of her with its back to her. The wings folded around the demon, cloaking it for a moment.

  Bethany sobbed, then turned and tried to run to the carriage. Perhaps she could climb through, over, or under it, she reasoned. She stopped when she saw the lifeless body of Jiselle laying across the floor. A jagged wound stretched from her chin to her hip, opening her up to all the world. Bethany smelled the gruesome remains of her cousin and found herself turning and retching.

  “A Princess should know how important it is to make an entrance.”

  Bethany gasped, turning slightly to look up just as a black clawed hand grabbed her by the throat and lifted her up from where she knelt. She stared down, her throat constricted, and saw Volera staring hungrily at her. The demoness stared at her, then shook her head in disgust. “Worms, all of you,” she spat.

  Bethany crashed to the ground, released by the Fury. She scrambled back up quickly, pressing her back to the shattered wheel of the carriage. She ignored the pain in her shoulder, convinced that if she had any chance at all it would be one chance and one chance only.

  “You’re going to die, Princess,” Volera sneered at her. “But are you going to go out in style?”

  “Wuh…what?” Bethany gasped, not understanding.

  “I’m going to kill you,” Volera said casually. She rolled her right wrist, the movement somehow causing a sadistic looking whip to appear in her hand. Three lashes extended out of it, each trailing to the ground and tipped with barbs.

  “Why?” The Princess asked, tears threatening to blur her vision. “I’ve done no wrong to anyone!”

  Volera shrugged. “Is it enough to do no harm?” She pontificated. “Perhaps you’ve not done any right either?”

  Bethany’s nostrils flared in fear. In spite of the cold she could smell the demon. The scents confused her, making her almost forget her deadly peril. Something spicy and warm was mixed in with an earthy muskiness. Was it the smell of a freshly tended garden?

  Volera snapped her whip, stealing the breath from Bethany and, a moment later, making her scream in agony. She looked down and saw her dresses were parted across her chest and stomach. As she watched red blossomed out to soak into the expensive fabrics. She held her arm across her as best she could and stared, wide eyed and breathing frantically.

  “Scream Princess, no one can hear you,” Volera taunted with a malevolent grin. “How do you want die? Begging for relief?”

  “Why?” She whimpered again, then felt a sudden warmth fight off the chill that was setting into her bones. She gasped, adding humiliation to the pain and terror; Bethany’s bladder had just released.

  Volera shrugged again and raised her whip. “Ask the Prince next time you see him.”

  The princess turned even as the whip crashed into her arm and side. She screamed again and fell, then scrambled to crawl under the broken carriage to safety. It seemed as though she could see sunlight falling upon the ground outside of the alley. All she had to do was make it to the other side…

  The whip curled around her calf, digging into her flesh in three separate lines. She whimpered and struggled, fighting to pull herself forward. Her fingers dug into the ground, the nails cracking with her effort. In spite of her frenzy she was effortlessly wrenched back, hauled by the Fury and thrown through the air to crash into the wall at the end of the alley.

  Stunned and broken, Bethany stared at the demon as she approached. The demon rolled her wrist again and the whip disappeared. She walked up to her and knelt down, her wings spreading wide to cover them almost as if in an unholy blanket.

  “You shouldn’t have run,” Volera said with a shake of her head. “I admire strength; I could have made this so much better for you.”

  “Please,” Bethany whispered, tears running down her face even as they froze before they hit the ground. “I want to live!”

  Volera laughed. “You have to die, Princess. I get to choose the means, but the ends are sealed in a contract of blood.”

  Bethany hiccupped, feeling an agony deep within her chest from damage she knew she had taken. Even if the demon did let her live, she knew she would not survive to make it to a healer. “I’m sorry… please… please don’t make it hurt! I don’t want this… I never wanted…”

  Volera shook her head and, had she been able to, she would have rolled her eyes. “Be silent, mortal! So weak, so pathetic… I don’t fault him for wanting you dead!”

  Bethany gasped as Volera’s clawed hand plunged into her stomach. She reached up, wondering how the demon’s arm could burn so hot within her when there was so much cold around her. She struggled to breathe, but found even the shortest of gasps was beyond her. The pressure was around her heart then, heat that made her own feel cool by comparison. She stared at the demon, tears falling while her lips struggled to beg for relief. With a final tug and a snap Bethany’s head fell forward on her chest.

  Volera pulled the cooling organ from the dead Princess and stared at it. She brought it up to her nose and sniffed, then scowled. “Her soul is hardly more than a snack,” she muttered, then squashed the once powerful organ in her first. It burst into flames in her hand, consuming itself entirely within seconds.

  * * * *

  Sinjin sat up in bed, eyes wide open. He stared around, not understanding why so many people where in his bedchambers. At his sudden movement his mother, Queen Corina, cried out and many of the others gasped. Throwing diplomacy to the side, Corina rushed to him and threw herself on him, hugging him tightly to her.

  “Mother… My Lady…,” Sinjin stammered, wondering what was going on. The last he knew he had been planning on finally putting the pieces together for his plot to… He stiffened. Volera. The Fury. Had she…

  “Oh thanks be to the Gods,” Corina cried, hugging him. “Sinjin, something horrible has happened! Just horrible!”

  Sinjin looked around, feigning confusion that was less of a lie than he intended it to be. “What are you talking about? What’s happened?”

  “My Lady, please, let us attend to your son first. Such news might be too much for him to bear so soon after the fever.”

  Corina nodded, sniffing back tears of relief. “Of course… you’re right, please, see that he is well.”

  The royal chirurgeon moved in and laid his hand against Sinjin’s forehead. He frowned a little, then asked the Prince to hold his fingers and squeeze them. Sinjin took the man’s fingers in his hand and did a double take. Was that even his arm? He had been scrawny before, the result of nerves and a life spent devoting more time to books and brooding than to exercise. Rather than defined, he was best described as skin and bones. Now Sinjin saw his forearm and was shocked to see the defined musculature of it.

  He squeezed slowly, marveling at how his grip even felt different. The healer gasped after a moment and had the Prince relent. He rubbed his fingers and nodded. “He feels a bit warm yet, but his strength is better than ever. Finally take up training with a sword, my Lord?”

  Sinjin nodded, unable to explain his strength. “I feel well,” he added, shrugging. “Hungry, but well. Now tell me, what is this news and why is half the realm gathered in my bedroom?”

  Queen Corina sat down on the bed beside him and took his hand. She stroked the back of it and took a deep and shuddering breath. “Princess Bethany… she’s… she’s been killed.”

  Sinjin jerked as if he had been pinched. “Killed?” He whispered.

  “Traitors or something,” another man said. Sinjin turned to stare at the Marshall of Preschon’s army. “We’re not who sent them, but we’ll find them.”

  “What happened?” Sinjin asked, not needing to fake his surprise.

  “Her carriage was assailed. The guards and dr
iver slain, then the Princess and Lady Jiselle,” he reported, the words clearly left his throat only with some trouble.

  “There’s more,” his mother said in a soft voice. “Phillip…”

  Sinjin stared at her, waiting patiently for her to regain her composure. He turned to look at Gerald, the Marshall, when it was clear she could not speak. The Marshall’s face was screwed tightly together as well, though Sinjin noticed a nervous tic in the muscle near his ear.

  “Hunting accident,” Gerald forced out. “Mauled by wild animals. Wolves, we think.”

  “My brother and sister… both?” Sinjin asked, turned to stare at his mother. She nodded and burst into tears, then threw her arms around him.

  “And you lay sick with a fever for three days!” She said between gasps. “No one could rouse you, we thought you might be poisoned or target of a magical flux.”

  Sinjin grunted. A magical flux, eh? He tasted again the burning vitriol that had been Volera’s blood. Two of his elder siblings were dead and he was… changed. “Has there been a funeral yet?” He asked.

  “We’re waiting for the King to return,” Corina said weakly.

  Sinjin nodded and gathered his mother into a hug. He reveled in both what he saw of himself and in how strong he felt. With it came a rumbling from his belly that reinforced the growing pangs of hunger he felt.

  “My Lady, the Prince must eat to regain his strength. It has been three days,” the healer spoke up, moving in to Sinjin’s aid. The Prince smiled at him and let his mother go from his embrace.

  “Yes, fey news or not, the Kingdom must go on,” she said, trying to compose herself. A few servants moved in with laced cloths to help her collect herself. “Please, Sinjin, join us as soon as you are able for a late supper.”

  The Prince nodded, smiling reassuringly at her. She left first, taking a small army of followers and servants with her, then the healer and the remaining guards filed out. Finally Sinjin was alone in his spacious room. He threw back his sheets and stared down at himself, impressed anew at the definition he found in his legs, stomach, and chest. He dressed slowly, pausing to admire his new body in the mirror. He had lied about training with a sword but he wondered if he should not try it. His new body looked like it could swing a weapon with ease.

  “You look well, Master.”

  Sinjin spun around, surprised at the sudden voice. Volera reclined on his bed, wings tucked behind her and her tail tracing suggestive patterns on the bed. “Do you find your new body sufficient?”

  Sinjin looked down at himself. He had donned breeches but nothing else. He looked back up, smiling. “I do. I feel strong.”

  She smiled and licked her lips. “You look strong, care to test your strength on me?”

  Sinjin watched as she rolled onto her back on the bed, legs spread suggestively. He grinned and shook his head, “I don’t think you made me that strong.”

  She ran her fingers up the alien fabric of her cuirass and pouted. “I gave you a kiss of fury blood, no mere mortal is your equal.”

  “You’re no mere mortal,” he said, those his eyes lingered on her supine form greedily.

  She smiled and sat up. “When I finally do take you, I plan to enjoy it.”

  Sinjin’s grin faded a little. She made no threatening move, save for her words. His mouth suddenly dry, he cast about for a distraction. “My Sister… and brother, that was you?”

  She nodded and scowled. “Cowards, the both of them. She begged me to let her die and he gave himself to me with no thought of anything but conquest.”

  “Gave himself to you?” Sinjin regretted the question even as he asked it.

  “I seduced him and tore his soul from his body while he rutted mindlessly away at me. When finally he realized what was happening he did not fight; he could think of nothing but his own release even though it meant his doom,” she reported.

  Sinjin frowned, then shook his head. It sounded like Phillip, he had always been the lady’s man. Bethany begging for death, that bothered him. He knew he had to put it behind him, but still it left an hollow feeling in his gut. She had never done any wrong to him, not like his brothers and their constant condescension. “What of Edwin?” He asked, thinking of his eldest brother that accompanied his father.

  Volera stood up and walked over to him, turning him around to face the mirror again while she gently ran her black fingernails along the skin of his arms and chest. She leaned close to him and whispered in his ear, sending chills of excitement through him. “Poor Edwin fell off his horse just last night. They were returning home when something spooked the stallion. Broke his neck, he did.”

  “So that’s it then? They’re gone? The way is open for me?” Sinjin asked her, staring at her in the mirror.

  Her tongue, impossibly long and sinuous, licked at his ear and sent a shudder through him. She grinned wickedly and stepped away. “Our contract is ended,” she said.

  He spun around and stared at her, surprised. It was ended, he realized. Still, if she had done so much in such a short time, there must be more she could do for him. He grinned slowly. “Yes… yes I suppose it is. This time.”

  She raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow.

  Sinjin laughed. “You are a useful servant, Volera. I suspect I shall call upon you again… and soon.”

  “Have you come to your senses?” She asked, licking her lips and staring at him hungrily. “Do you wish to play with me now?”

  He laughed again. “You’d like that far too much, I think. No, I have better uses for your talents, I think.”

  A cloud briefly passed across her face, but she adopted a sly expression instead. “My Princeling is impatient, isn’t he? The way to the throne is clear, but it might be years still before it’s open.”

  Sinjin’s eyes widened. “No!” He spat out too quickly.

  She laughed mockingly at him. “I’ll be waiting, Princeling.”

  Sinjin watched as she faded away slowly before his eyes. With a puff of black smoke that smelled of fire and sulfur, she disappeared completely.

  Chapter 2

  He stared up at the sky, noticing the way the wispy clouds obscured but did not hide the stars above. He wondered, for a long moment, what he was doing staring at the void and not out there sailing amongst it. A grunt and a scream from nearby reminded him of the present.

  The warrior sat up, dirt falling from his dented and torn shirt of mail. He was sitting in a furrow dug into the ground by a massive stone hurled from a trebuchet. He shook his head and rose, flexing his arm and shoulder as he did so to restore feeling to them. He’d been clipped by the rock and knocked from his feet. Others had not fared so well.

  Then again, they didn’t possess the large man’s unique talents. Earned as a reward for service to a race of ancient and powerful beings, the warrior was something special. Something that took more than an army of siege engines to kill. He bent over and grabbed his sword, also a gift from the Elders, and climbed out of the small crater.

  Just in time, the men on foot were fast approaching. The rain of arrows came to a halt, giving the army of King Peter a brief respite before the opposing forces crashed into them. The warrior fought with the strength of a dozen men and the vitality of a hundred. He seemed unstoppable. Only after swinging his massive two handed sword for what felt an eternity did he pause to realize he was completely surrounded by soldiers that bore the livery of their enemy, the Kingdom of Faramyr. They gave him room, none too anxious to feel the weight of his sword upon their brow.

  The warrior breathed heavily, taking the moment to try and catch his breath. He managed it easily, slowing his breathing within a few breaths as his body recovered from the exertions. He stared at them, brandishing his sword and making his foes shrink back defensively. Behind them he heard a commotion as someone pushed through the ranks. They men circling him parted, allowing a soldier dressed in the fine plate of a high station to come before him.

  “You are surrounded, warrior,” he said, his voice strong a
nd powerful. “Throw down your arms and you may live.”

  The warrior spat on the ground, then grinned at him. “Come and get them,” he challenged.

  There was a frenzy of chatter from the soldiers, surprised at his belligerence. “Your forces have retreated, you have been abandoned! I admire your bravery, but do not cause your blood to be spilt in vain. You are a valiant man, I could use you.”

  “Who’re you?” The warrior asked, daring a glance around in hopes of being able to see if what the man said was true. The noise of battle had died down some, he had to admit.

  “General Pilan,” he answered, offering the warrior the honor of a nod. “I heard of your valor and demanded to see it firsthand.”

  “Looks like you get your wish,” The warrior said, raising his sword in front of him.

  General Pilan stared at him and shook his head. “Such a waste. Kill him!”

  None of the soldiers moved. They looked to one another but came not a single step closer to him. The near giant of a man laughed and spat again, this time on the General’s boots. “Looks like you need to be doing it yourself!”

  Pilan scowled at him. “So be it,” he said, lowering his helm and drawing the sword at his side. He raised his shield and approached, lunging at his opponent with the skill of a veteran. The abandoned warrior smashed the blade aside, making Pilan grunt in surprise at the man’s strength. The massive blade was back in position before the General’s, another impossible task given its size and weight.

  Pilan launched several feints, each designed to draw his opponent out of position. The warrior ignored them all and instead waded forward after one such attack and swung his sword towards the General’s head. Pilan ducked under the blow and lunged forward, spearing his blade up into the warrior’s stomach. The blade sank in deeply, having found a rent in the chain shirt he wore. The warrior reached down with one hand and grabbed the cross guard of the sword before twisting his body away. The sword ripped free from of Pilan’s grasp, which drained the victorious grin from the general’s face.

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