|Night of the Falling Stars
Author: BlackBird'292 PM
The war with Galbatorix is over, and yet the land is still in chaos. Bandits and mercenaries roam the land, and war is raging. Fires start, and are never quenched. Read as Alagaesia plunges into its darkest time. Sequel to Shadow Rider.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 15 - Words: 28,219 - Reviews: 93 - Favs: 15 - Follows: 22 - Updated: 08-17-08 - Published: 03-16-08 - id: 4134559
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It was everywhere.
It covered the walls, splattered drops that slowly started to drip. It covered the floor, dyeing the carpets scarlet. It covered the corpses of the various warriors and servants throughout the household, smeared across their bodies and faces.
The many guardsmen were impaled on the very weapons that they once wielded, their bodies stiff on the cold, unforgiving steel. Entire shields were cracked or shattered, and almost every blade was bent or broken. Every carcass, every remaining part of what once was… were all soaked in crimson.
The very scent of it was in the air, choking out courage and replacing it with pure and absolute fear. Fear that was seen in the faces of the fallen, their features twisted with horror and pain.
"Erithe! Concentrate!" shouted a voice.
The young guardsman gritted his teeth and ran on forward faster. The numerous bodies on the ground had nearly tripped him a few times before, and if it happened now…
A scream sounded, signaling the death of another of their comrades. His captain swore and ordered them to run faster. Fersinoir, the head of the Esendan house, seemed pale but determined. All of his remaining guards surrounded him, ready to sacrifice their lives for their master if the need arose. There were five warriors in all; the captain and his remaining subordinates.
The only ones alive from a company that had previously numbered one hundred.
Erithe's breath suddenly stuck in his throat. He was near, he could feel it. That ever present shadow that trailed behind them, toying with them, laughing at them. The shadow that carried a sword longer than itself.
One of the men behind him gurgled and stumbled, a blade pierced out of his chest. Some of the guards screamed. But none of the men stopped running.
Reaching their destination at last, the captain pulled open the door and urged his men in before slamming the wooden door shut, barring the door with pieces of wood and metal. It was futile, as every one of them knew. But they still clung onto that thin thread of hope, the slight chance that they would be able to force the shadow back into the darkness where it belonged.
The captain turned around and looked into the eyes of Fersinoir. "Now is your chance, my lord. At the back of the room, there is another door leading to the stables. If you manage to—"
"I won't let my men die while I run away like a coward." Stated the young noble firmly. "Such a thing goes against the very rules of our family."
"My lord, don't let those who passed away die in vain. You need to flee!"
An amused chuckle sounded from the other side of the wooden door. "How delightfully predictable. Think up something better; I'll wait as long as you want."
A guard, with his face as white as parchment, rushed back into the group. "Captain! The door at the back! It's been blocked! I've tried everything I can, but it just won't move!"
The captain cursed under his breath. "Rens, go to the front with Nalan and Dech. Erithe! Get a bow and keep an arrow trained on the door. Don't shoot until I give the order!"
The men nodded, gathering the remaining scraps of their bravery before standing in a small formation. Crouching down, Erithe drew his bow and aimed his arrow at the only entrance, trying to ignore the cold beads of sweat that dripped down the back of his neck.
"Hmm. Trying to make your last stand?" the man outside mused. "That's better. It irritates me to no end when weaklings try to escape. So, have you readied yourselves?"
"Draw your swords! Now!" the captain screamed.
A cold gleam of metal flashed before Erithe's eyes, and he stumbled over in shock, releasing the arrow that he had been drawing back. It flew harmlessly into the ceiling, where it sank in with a dull "thump".
"Rens! Dech! Nalan!" screamed his captain.
Erithe groaned and placed a hand over his hair, shaking his head free of the dizziness and pain. Struggling to stand, he then saw the scene before him, eyes widening in horror.
The door had been cleaved apart in one single swing, its remains on the ground. The three hardened warriors who had been standing before it were now lifeless pieces of flesh, waists severed and lying face down on the floor. Blood was already flowing freely from their gaping wounds.
"My, my, my. I guess that I still came in too early after all. These poor men didn't even have the chance to draw their swords!" the figure chuckled and leaned against the wall, clearly paying no heed to the remaining people in the room.
"You… you… bastard!"
Screaming his rage and fury, the captain charged towards his opponent, his tactics and strategies forgotten in his blind anger. Stepping slightly to the side, the shadow dodged the blow easily and ended the man's life with a simple slash of a sword. The decapitated body fell to the floor noiselessly.
"What a waste. If he hadn't lost his mind like that, it would have actually been enjoyable killing him." The man nudged the head slightly with his foot, and returned his blade to its sheath on his back. "A pity."
With trembling fingers, Erithe grasped the hilt of his sword tightly, drawing it out without a sound. Even so, the killer turned around to look in his direction.
"Another one? Good. Come out, let me take a look at you." Called the voice.
Gritting his teeth, he took a deep breath and stepped out into the light. The man opposite him was still hidden in darkness, his face not able to be seen under the hood of the cloak. However, examining him for the first time, Erithe noticed in surprise that he was quite small.
"Ah. Yet another guard. How irritating." Sighing in resignation, a hand reached tiredly towards the back of his head.
Blanching, Erithe brought his sword in front of him, not a second too late. The two blades clashed with a shower of sparks, and the man withdrew his weapon in astonishment.
"So this one actually has some skills! Yet… not too much, it seems." He lazily pointed a finger at a small mark under Erithe's right eye.
Blood was trickling down the guardsman's face. Erithe shuddered, but grasped his sword even tighter. His lord was silent, as if he had already given up on this battle that they had lost long ago.
Sliding his tongue over the tip of his curved long sword, the shadow shivered in ecstasy, sampling the blood like fine wine. "Wonderful. Simply wonderful. It has been a long while since I've tasted something like this."
Erithe leaned over and whispered into Fersinoir's ear. "Listen, my lord. I… I will stall him while you escape. There still is a chance."
Fersinoir remained frozen, stiff and unmoving as a statue. Despair was written on his face, and his resolve seemed to have crumbled into dust. The fearless young noble was long lost, and in its place was an empty shell of what was once a man.
A sudden gust of wind blew in from outside, passing in through the small barred windows in the room. The breeze slowly lifted the hood of the man's cloak, catching him by surprise.
Crimson hair. Eyes the color of blood. Skin as white as bone.
But that alone wasn't what scared the guardsman.
The one wielding the curved sword, the one who had brutally massacred more than two hundred people in the entire household, the one who killed without remorse… was a mere boy.
The boy smiled crookedly. "I guess that I should end things now, then. I've wasted far too much time already."
Erithe blinked as blood spurted out of a huge gash across his torso. Falling to his knees, he stared at his fatal wound with something akin to amazement.
How? How? He clutched the wound on his chest in disbelief. The crimson continued to flow. His sword fell onto the ground with a barely noticeable sound.
He gasped for air and fixed his eyes on the one master that he had served for so long. The rest faded out into a blur of nothingness. Blood continued to seep through his fingers.
Slowly, he inched his other hand onto the hilt of his sword, and finally grasped it once again with numbing fingers. His skin felt thick, and he could barely move now. He could hardly breathe.
The shade stepped down on a struggling Fersinoir with ease, and reached for a small flask on his belt. Calmly, he started pouring the contents on the young noble. A small smirk was visible on the boy's face.
Lamp oil. Erithe thought, dazed. The next thing he saw was the boy with a torch in hand.
His hand tightened around his blade. The sword with the Esendan crest stamped proudly upon it. His vision was failing. The only things he could see was the frightened and tearful face of his lord. Mumbling, he tried to curse the shade; but his tongue did not seem to obey him.
The last thing he thought about was the fact that his master was going to be burned alive.