1866-11-08: Unfinished Business
Unfinished Business
Summary: A specter from the past is confronted, and a vow made
Date: 11/08/1866 IA
Related: A multitude, mostly dealing with the affliction of Emilia Cassomir
Jaren  Emilia  Destrian  Lon  

Night falls on Ironhold, and the city of Iron March slumbers. The dawn will bring the departure of the Viscount Jaren Cassomir, off to be wedded to the Queen of Rivana and be crowned King. The past couple of days have been a celebration in the Viscount’s honor, and while a good many of Ironhold’s people will be nursing hangovers, the soldiers and servants and others that will be accompanying the Viscount have retired early, and relative silence and calm settled in. Almost an eerie quiet…the type that comes before a storm.

The first peal of thunder came a couple of hours after nightfall, then the wind, not overly powerful but certainly enough to rattle those edifices vulnerable to such things. The folk of Iron March well know that before long the wind will pick up, bringing with them the eerie howl that has become almost familiar to the people here.

The rain comes next. Steady and driving, soaking the ground and no doubt making for a bit of a muddy departure in the morning. It’s unseasonable for a storm like this, so late into the fall, but the weather in Ironhold has not always been…normal…in recent years, particularly where these type of storms are concerned. This driving rain extinguishes all uncovered lights within Iron March, shrouding most of the city in starless darkness, though after a few minutes….at least one window in nearly every house soon bears a single candlelight. An unspoken ritual that has sprung up, in remembrance of other nights much like this one, when the wind howled and the thunder roared and the family that ruled them was nearly brought low.

In the morning, the people of Iron March will comfort themselves with jests that the Darkness of Ironhold was protesting the victory of its’ Viscount. That it was an impotent protest that it had failed to claim their beloved Champion. Perhaps they will not be entirely wrong. The people of Ironhold have long been aware of the shadows of the deep wood and the nameless (save for one) unclean things that may lurk within. While their resilience and stubborn nature have prevented those shadows from darkening their souls, and they do not know the shape of it, there is still that awareness that for all Ironhold’s bounty and greatness…there has ever been those shadows lurking at the fringes…in the places that not even Huntresses venture without very good cause. Many small rituals are practiced to ward off those shadows, and so it seems these candles are but one more, as well as remembrance of those lost.

So of course, no one seems to be venturing out, and yet, there is a double-subversion of that common wisdom, for not only are there a few people out, but those people are presently occupying the one area of Iron March that none ever venture (at least to the knowledge of most folk here). The ruins of Ironhold castle play host this eve. A cloaked figure stands just outside a circle of iron, with a Black Blade’s tip resting on the ground and his gloved hands resting on the crossguard. Rain beads and sloughs off the oilskin cloak, clearly designed for harsh weather.

A short distance away, near the entrance to the Ruins, a similarly-cloaked and gloved Man stands sentinel, bearing a Black-Tipped Spear. Occasionally he glances towards the interior of the ruins, but he does not venture further in, instead keeping watch for those that might intervene, however unlikely that possibility may be. Tasked with preventing any from entering…any save one, should she venture to join them.

Within the circle of iron that stands at the foundations of this burned ruin….the rain outlines…something…within. Something that is not normally visible, but as the rain slicks around its’ form, reveals a too-tall, too-slender figure with too-long limbs, and a wild mane of unruly hair, somehow untouched by wetness despite the rain that outlines it. And then lightning flashes, and for but a moment, the figure is visible to all….a grey skinned mockery of a woman, with lips pulled back in a rictus snarl, and black eyes somehow ablaze with hatred, staring unrelentingly at the cloaked figure that stands before it. The Creature seems to strain towards the Man with the Black Sword, but appears as though restrained by unseen bonds…never once having any part of it breach that circle of iron.

The lightning reveals yet another present, and far different from the other two. Crouched on a stone remnant of a wall, and clad in little save a pair of roughspun leggings, the shirtless, blonde-haired and Blue Eyed Man somehow manages to nearly stay invisible in the shadows between flashes despite his state. He wears the face and body of a young man in the prime of life, and yet there is something ancient in his eyes. The wind and rain do not seem to faze him, and those bright blue eyes glitter coldly as they too train towards the center of the circle and the figure within. There is something primal held within that gaze…almost eager…hungry. The look of a wolf who sees its’ prey but knows it is not yet the time to strike. He is silent, though, merely watching.

Lightning flashes again…and with it the first shriek comes.

It is a sound that is felt as much or more than heard. It brings a chill that pierces flesh and muscle and bone and runs deeper still to the depths of consciousness, coaxing forth primal fears that Men have forgotten since the Age of Myth. Or at least it would…were it not for that iron circle. Still, it brings with it the very vivid memory of that chilling fear for all three of the figures (and perhaps one more) that now occupy these ruins, yet the man with the black sword remains unmoving even as a not-so-random gust of wind blows back his cloak for a moment. The Blue-Eyed Man doesn’t even blink.

Outside the ruins, the Man with the Black-Tipped Spear once more looks towards the ruins, but not in alarm, and pulls his cloak a little tighter around himself with one hand, shaking his head within that voluminous hood.

An echo of the shriek is batted about by the wind. A mere shadow of the shriek from the creature within the circle of iron, almost lost to the peal of thunder that came upon the tail end of the shriek. It is moments later that the other arrives, the young Woman simply nodding to the Man with the Black-Tipped Spear as he looks back out from the ruins. She wears a similar cloak to the men, though her hood has fallen back revealing hair long since drenched and blackened for it. Her dark eyes unblinking against the rain as rivulets run down her face. As she enters the ruins, her focus is upon the Creature. Nothing is said as ethereal steps carry her closer till she stops a few short paces away from the circle, to the side of the Man with the Black Blade. What fear might be had, has been tempered, her face void of expression. A glance going to the Man with the Black Blade, before her eyes turn towards the Blue Eyed Man. After a long moment passes, her eyes having drifted over the crouched form, she inclines her head briefly. A brief flicker of something in her eyes, though her face remains without expression as the Woman's head drifts turning her dark gaze upon the creature once more.

It is the Man that stands outside the circle that speaks:

“Are you finished?”

His answer is another shriek…louder than the first. Lightning flashes once more, thunder rolls, the rain drives harder, but still the Man stands unmoving. Not without fear, but not allowing it to touch him. Smaller flashes of secondary lightning keep the creature within the circle visible now, though all those watching her could see her regardless.

There is no echoing that comes with this shriek, it simply fades out as the winds of the storm carry it off. The Woman’s dark eyes stay upon the Creature, her lips tightening a moment after that shriek comes, as it is heard and felt to the very core of her being.

“All right. You’ve said your piece. Now I will say mine: I hate you.”

There’s a bitter chuckle, and the Man continues, “All three men who were fathers to me told me hatred was a waste of energy. But there is no other word to describe what I feel for you.” A brief pause, and the words continue to spill forth:

“You took near everything from me. From my family. Yet here I stand. I have protected my Queen and my Kingdom. I have played my part in rebuilding both these lands and my family. I have never been defeated when it mattered. I have never failed to overcome the challenges placed before me, though it is true I have not faced all those challenges alone.”

The young Woman gives the Man a quiet look as he chuckles and speaks those words. Nothing is said, but there is an understanding in her own eyes even as her expression remains otherwise unchanged. Her gaze again turning to the Creature when he continues on.

It is unclear if the Creature understands. But it is silent. The Man continues:

“I do not say these things to boast. I have no need nor desire to prove myself to you or anyone else. I say them so that the full weight of what I say next will rest upon you.” The Man’s emotionless face is briefly illuminated by another flash of lightning, but while there is a lack of expression, there is a light in his eyes that only reinforces the depths of his enmity. The kind of look a person sees on the face of warriors when death is about to be dealt out.

“You are unfinished business, and do not think that my departure will mean that you are forgotten. You may be eternal and I may be mortal, but you will be the one haunted now, if not by me, than by those that carry the name and blood of the family of my birth.” There is motion now, and the Man lifts the Black Blade, not brandishing it, but merely hefting it so that the Creature may yet see.

“I stand before you now, and I swear by every God that is, every God that was, and every God that may yet be…one day…whether tomorrow or a thousand lifetimes from now, you will be ended, and this blade will be the weapon that lays you low. I swear that this unholy bond that you have forced upon my sister, and through her the rest of my family, will be the beginnings of your end. I swear this knowing the blasphemies to the One Above that I have spoken, and while I beg his forgiveness I will not feel regret. You will understand that no matter how long you exist, whether imprisoned or free, no matter how far you might wander…we will hunt you. We will find you, and we will end you. And we will call upon the aid of any who might answer in that pursuit…” There is a pause then…a breath, and the last is said more quietly, “even if the One may ever be foremost in our hearts.”

If there was any question of understanding, it is answered in no more than the expression on the Creature’s face. It had opened its mouth to shriek again, but as the words are spoken, that maw closes, and black eyes widen. Not, for once, in rage…but rather for a few brief moments…there is the unmistakable glint of terror.

The Blue-Eyed Man grins. A predatory expression that holds no warmth. The Man outside the circle takes one step back, and with a flourish of habit, sheathes the Black Blade. He turns and looks to the Blue-Eyed man, nodding in acknowledgment of some agreement unspoken, at least in this locale. The Blue-Eyed man returns the gesture, then meets the gaze of the Dark-Eyed Girl a few moments more, nodding towards her as well, before he hops down behind the stony half-wall he was perched upon. For a moment, in the shadows beyond, the form of something large and furred can be glimpsed loping away from the ruins, and the people of Iron March will recall in the morning that they heard the howl of a wolf upon the wind in the midst of the storm.

The Man with the Dark Blade's words washed over the Woman much as the rain did. Her shoulders squaring just slightly under her cloak as He spoke of that unholy bond and made that pledge. The words that come more quietly at the end have her taking a half a step closer to him. Yet her eyes remain upon the Creature, watching the reaction that comes from Her. There is a tightening that comes to the corners of her eyes as they darken for a moment, a hint of tension touches her expression. Yet there is a smile that slowly forms upon her lips even as her gaze locks with the Creatures. The Woman briefly inclines her head to the Creature before she turns away from the circle. There is something unspoken in the gaze held with the Blue-Eyed man, his nod is returned before that smile slides away from her lips.

The Man with the Black Sword steps away, placing an arm around the shoulders of his sister, and moving back towards the entrance of the ruins. The Woman eases in against her brother when his arm goes around her shoulders. A look going to him before she was giving a nod to the Man with the Black-Tipped Spear. As the Man with the Black Sword pauses and exchanges a glance with the Spearman at the ruined gate, and it is the latter who speaks this time.

“Are we done, then?”

The Man with the Black Sword looks back towards the interior of the ruins, and nods.

“For now.”

The Man at the Gate nods in return, and together they begin along the path back towards the City, ignoring the shrieks that are soon to be carried on the wind once more….


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