|The Twin Blades: Blades of Shadows
Author: TheFreelancerSeal PM
Book 1 of The Twin Blades Saga: As the scars of war begin to heal in Tellius, events are put in motion that will threaten the peace so many risked their lives for and unearth a discovery that might doom the entire continent. Post RDRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 8 - Words: 76,599 - Reviews: 32 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 02-11-13 - Published: 07-22-11 - id: 7206215
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I bet a lot of you were wondering when you would see this little piece resurface. Hope you didn't give up hope on it. I've been working away at it for a long time, and a lot of times, I couldn't make up my mind on what changes to make. Originally, I was going to rewrite every chapter and then post them, but I couldn't wait for that. Hopefully, what I've done has only made the story better for all of you and for the new readers I have as well. You've been the best readers I could ask for. And so, I give you the newly re-launched story of The Twin Blades.
P.S. Decided to trim some paragraphs. The word count is higher now, but pay it no mind.
Chapter I: Changing Winds
The winter's night was young, quite young, for the roads of Nevassa, the capital city of the Kingdom of Daein. It was only a mark after sundown, and despite the youthful age of the evening, the streets were silent and still. Nearly every earthen path stood idle with only the billowing heaps of snow for fleeting companionship. Every so often, a sudden gust would snatch up the piles of white and carry them about. A few men, those soldiers and guardsmen now relieved of their duties, did walk the streets, only to find a place to share the night with their fellows. These men, who had earlier received their wage, were for whom the night was young. Each one quickly sought out their comrades in whatever pub they could find. In each tavern, the air about was as loud and boisterous as the streets were quiet and tranquil.
Every pub was equal this night as the sounds of shouts, laughs, and indiscernible words rendered even a thought deafened against the growing din. Men filled each table, casting dice as they sat in untamed merriment. The small cubes often fell to the floor, though the prevalent discord quickly consumed the equally small sounds. Most of all, streams of liquor fell without cease, save to purchase more. The innkeepers, however, paid no mind to the disarray around them, for they had seen such chaos many times. This was indeed an ordinary night for the pubs of Daein. Yet, despite the normality of this night, not all who witnessed such displays readily received them.
In one pub, a solitary man sat in a lonely corner. He welcomed no man to join him, and he often cast ill looks towards the revelers among him even if he was not seen. He was a broad man, yet he did not appear as one who would indulge excessively in food. Instead, many considered him as one molded for deeds of strength, for he was a common sight. His red hair ran wildly across the top of his head, and he showed no care for it. His locks gave themselves to the dirt of the roads and fields, and many considered them far longer for a man. An equally-red beard lightly covered his chin, and he appeared all the more filthy due to it. His clothing was ragged and worn, yet no effort was made to put as much as a patch to it. Many thought he wore little more than a mere undergarment, such as the sort worn by knights under their heavy coats of iron. The only other garment he wore was a threadbare coat of brown that appeared as though it belonged in a heap of refuse. Often, he idly walked the streets if he were not in any of the pubs.
Not a single person knew even his name, for none thought to entertain him. In the eyes of many a man, this figure was little more than a common vagabond who traveled along with the winds. Yet, he was somehow different. A belt surrounded his waist, and a sword and scabbard dangled from it. A chain also swung from his neck with a single piece of plain gold, larger than a mere coin, at the end of it. Still, not a man paid him any mind, save what they would for other such common things. All of Nevassa was quite accustomed to his presence; the stranger would hire himself to whomever would take his service upon them.
He showed no care for the sort of labor he took; he even took the work of women on many a time. And each person who welcomed him was quick to relieve themselves of him, for the man showed no esteem, no respect to his masters. Every coin he earned, most thought he spent it on liquor by the bottle, and often were they right.
The strange fellow lifted his stein to his lips and found no drop to meet them. Turning his head, he noticed the bottle he had purchased was likewise dry. Leaving the bottle where it rested, he took the mug and rose, almost knocking over his chair as he did. He looked about and gave the wooden seat a hard shove, sending it to the floor with a loud thud. A few heads turned towards him, but each quickly returned to their business at hand. The figure staggered towards the bar, and upon seeing his host engaged in some other chore, he slammed his metal cup upon the counter. He did this twice before the innkeeper turned. As they looked upon each other, the master of the inn scowled at the sight of his patron.
"You," the barkeep stated indignantly. Despite his disdain for him, the keeper treated his unwelcomed visitor as any other customer, though he made no effort to hide his sentiments. "Whatever do you want?"
"What any man here wants," the stranger answered clearly. It was a surprising feat to many that he could speak and yet shamble about like an ordinary drunkard, but even that accomplishment soon grew common, especially to those who hosted the unknown man. "I want you to serve me another bottle." The innkeeper looked at his caller and peered behind him to glimpse the empty bottle on the table.
"You have had well over two pints as it is. I would say you've drank enough for a night and likely the next one. Would you not care for some food?"
"Did I order food? I came for drink."
"I am not about to serve you drink," the keeper said firmly. "You have had enough."
"Does it matter? You are to serve those who come, and I've asked you to serve me more. What should it matter what it is I ask for?"
"It matters to me. I've seen what company men are with such an amount of liquor in them, and you are hardly good company even when you are sober. I say you've had enough." The stranger only gave a flaming sneer in reply.
"I said I wanted more, and more I will have."
"I said you've had enough."
"I do not care what you say; I want more."
"You have had enough, and I will not say it again. If you do someone harm tonight in your state, I will share the blame. Now, either go back to your table or be gone, and I don't care which you choose. Besides, I've learned to count a man's wages. You have not even a coin left to spend." The man again glared at his host. He reached up with his hand to lightly scratch at the small ornament around his neck before removing it. He placed it on the bar and pointed at it with one dirt-covered finger.
"That should easily buy another bottle." The barkeeper picked up the medallion and examined it with all care. As he looked over the surface, his face took on a look of surprise and let out a gasp.
"Do you know what this is?" asked he.
"I believe it is gold," the man replied sharply. In answer, the innkeeper turned the pendent over and pointed to the design upon its face. Three flowers crafted of silver were etched into the golden surface, one of the blossoms in full bloom and the other two only buds on each side of it. Spread out on each side of the flowers were two feathers also of silver. A circle of gold formed an edge around the emblem.
"This is a knight's crest, and not only that, it's the crest of Crimea. How did a man like you come to own this? Were you a knight?"
"Perhaps I was, or perhaps I stole it. Either way, it makes little difference. I am paying you with it, and now I would like you to put a bottle in front of me." At first, the eyes of his host widened in a mix of shock and horror at the ease in which the man gave such a statement, but when he looked again upon the gold, he quickly snatched it and left. Hardly a moment passed when he returned with another bottle filled with a liquid of deep copper.
"Tell me, what's your name?" the innkeeper asked in a rather suspicious tone. "I have never had a knight in my inn before, and I would like to know what I should call him."
"Why should you care to know my name?"
"I gave you a bottle; the least you can give me is your name." The man said nothing, though he shot the innkeeper a scowl in very much the same style as he had earlier received. At length, he spoke, however.
"I paid for that, and I could have just as easily taken it from you, but I suppose I could indulge you. My name is Otis."
"And tell me, 'sir' Otis, why are you not in Crimea now? What could bring such a knight to Daein?"
"You think of me as a knight then?"
"So you did steal that crest?"
"Did I say I stole it? I hardly think I did. I said I may have stolen it." Otis uncorked his bottle and filled his stein.
"You are a curious fellow, 'sir' Otis. I hardly think you were a knight, but I am sure you have quite the tale to tell about yourself and your love of the drink. Why I have heard your queen rewards her men well, and yet here you are with no armor and taking manual labor for yourself. So, perhaps you could tell it to me. What is your story?"
"If I did steal that crest, I would be far more wary than you are at present. I may be more dangerous than you think."
"I wouldn't call you dangerous."
"What would you call me then?"
"That all depends. Tell me your story, sir, and then I'll tell you what kind of man I think you are. I haven't heard a good story for some time now."
"And what story would you care to hear?" Otis asked rather lightly. In his voice, the barkeep heard a slight trace of ill mischievousness, and the man furrowed his brow at such a reply.
"I would rather not hear it if you only intend to toy with me. I am not the sort of man who plays games such as this." Otis only gave a small laugh at such an irritable answer, and he took a great gulp from the bottle.
"Oh, I will tell you my tale, although I'm sure you've heard many like it before. I am a man followed by ill fortune," he began, although his voice dripped heavily with insincerity. "I had a sister once who saw fit to cause me all sorts of trouble, and my father seemed to favor her more. One day, they both decided to rise up against me. My sister was a fighter too, and she ends up beating some poor man within an inch of his life. Well, I watched her do it, but somehow they manage to put the blame on me. And so I rot in jail for ten years. Now, I come to waste whatever is left of my life with the bottle. Does that satisfy you?" The innkeeper shook his head and gave an unfriendly snort.
"I said I am not the sort of man who plays games. I've heard men tell me many stories that do not sound close to the truth, and some were worse than others, but even a fool could spot the lie in that one."
"Then perhaps this tale will do. I was a knight once, as you guessed. I served the royal family before falling under the ranks of man greater than I. He was a foul man, my lord, and even such a title does not do him justice. My lord was easily mad and quick to inflict all means of pain that he could upon me and my fellow soldiers. But, even as mad as he was, he was not altogether absent in his head. He knew much, and while I served him, he taught me well, both in the ways of the sword and in the ways of life. He was a man who had neither want nor need of anything; all a man could ever desire was his, except for one thing. One day, my lord came to me and told me that he would reward us well for our service if we do for him one last thing. But he betrayed me and many others. It did not happen all at once, but my men and I ran for our lives because we had no queen and no country. And so here I am, the victim of betrayal after betrayal."
As Otis finished his account, the barkeep stared at him intently. He spoke not, and he looked as though he were weighing the tale in his thoughts. At length, the barkeeper's shoulders began to quiver as a hearty laugh escaped his mouth.
"That has to be the worst story I have ever heard, and like you said, I've heard plenty of them." At once, the face of Otis darkened.
"Did you not hear me, man?" he shouted. The outburst caused several of the other patrons to glance towards the bar, some with looks of wonder at the spectacle before their eyes. As time passed, the other men quickly returned to their drinks as they had before.
"Everyone from here to Queen Micaiah's halls could here you that time. You asked me what I thought of you, and I'll tell you that. The way I see it, you are nothing but a dirty beggar who enjoys your ale a little too much, and nothing more. Now," he added with a point towards the empty table, "be on your way. I've served you, and I see no reason to indulge you any further." Otis gave a quick nod.
"Indeed," said he before taking his filled cup and throwing the drink into the face of his host. The man could only stare in utter surprise at the minor attack, and when he found his voice, he was greatly offended.
"What did you do that for?"
"As I said," Otis answered quickly before snatching up both stein and bottle, "My former commanding officer taught me much, and I doubt you would understand it yet." With that, Otis said not another word and returned to his table. As he left, the barkeep shouted after him.
"If you didn't rot in jail before, you will be lucky if you don't end up in one before sundown tomorrow. You will be lucky if I don't have the soldiers after you." Otis however ignored the threat and did nothing else, save sit down and down the bottle, laughing quietly to himself about the earlier encounter.
"What a fool he was," the strange man uttered. "Although, all of them could deserve such a name. One day, I will make them all see that, even if I have to see them die to do it."
The night was quiet around Crimea's royal palace. There was no sound to hear inside its walls except for the light crackling of torches hanging along the halls. The outer garden and courtyard were just as noiseless. Not even the crickets chirped, for their season had come and gone. No wind carried even a flake of snow for the air was quite mild for the second month of winter, and snow had not yet fallen. All about the castle was utter stillness. And it was how Lucia wished it. Alone on the single balcony where her future queen once stood to greet her people, the swordswoman stood in deep consideration, though she felt wearied by her many thoughts which seemed to continue against her will. Night after night, she felt driven by them to walk alone when she was certain not a single person would see her.
Lucia did not find this strange, for her legs had compelled her to such walks even as she marched from Begnion in the company of her queen. It mattered not whether they stayed in tents or the rooms of an inn; the lady had gone into the night with the same thoughts that remained with her now. Lucia took her eyes off the full moon overhead and leaned over the railing, resting her head on her arms. She thought briefly of her disappointment at her return to her homeland. She had hoped that perhaps the comforts of the familiar would bring her ease. She had blamed her restless steps on the foreign soils which she had treaded upon, yet even her own quarters and bed did little to soothe her.
Once again, her nightly steps carried her into the open spaces, for she felt less ill at ease than she did in the pitch black halls and pathways inside the castle. As she surveyed the garden below her, she found her eyes growing heavier in protest over their constant state of activity. The silvery gleam of the moon lingered upon her eyes, and they blinked in an earnest plea for rest. To the lady, nothing would give her greater pleasure than to oblige her eyes in sleep, yet Lucia knew all too well that sleep would not come to her this night. It had not for any other, and she expected nothing less than to again have rest escape her.
Straightening herself, Lucia took again to staring at the sky above. She never knew how much she had enjoyed the silence of the night. Even on her many walks of previous nights, she had not thought of such serene quiet. She looked at the grasses below and pondered lying herself down upon them if only to bring some pleasant disruption to these tiresome routines each night brought to her. The garden, browned and stiffened as it was, would surely bring some welcomed change than the idle standing upon the terrace. If such an act offered her no rest, she knew she could easily slip through the front gates and roam the sleepy streets of Melior if she should choose to do so.
Her thoughts would at least have a new path to walk upon, and idea of a lengthened walk sounded preferable than a night indistinguishable from all the others. But then Lucia turned her gaze downward upon her bare feet and counted such a walk as the mere remains of the foolishness of her girlhood. If not for the fact that the whole of the castle was abed, the lady knew she would not have stepped outside her quarters save that she was properly clothed and shod. The watchmen about the city would likely see her and question her as to her appearance. Still, she thought fondly of the days of such abandon and counted them as better than the days at present.
Aside from her improper attire, Lucia already realized that suspicion had already draped its arm around the palace concerning her. Lucia was certain all in the household took notice of her weariness. Though she made every effort to convince all those who spoke to her that she was in good health, she knew that each of them, the servants, the palace guard, her agents, and even Queen Elincia, believed her not. While Lucia counted herself as skillful in the art of deception, the milk-sister of the queen knew only her enemies numbered the limits of such a talent. Those whom she called friends saw every betrayal in her face, her eyes, and her very posture.
Often they had asked the same questions concerning her welfare, and just as often, Lucia found herself altogether maddened by each occurrence. She had also asked that same question, yet the Lady of Delbray knew she needed not to do so, for the answer was as clear as the flowing streams a short walk from the city. She thought constantly of the rebellion of this last summer, when she had carelessly fallen into the hands of the traitor Ludveck. In sleep, those thoughts begat images she wished not to remember, but remember she did.
Lucia stifled a yawn and shook her head, numbed from the many nights spent in such grim reflection upon the same matter. She was weary of the endless days that saw her agents bringing her the latest bit of news, most of it rumors and idle talk of the Crimean Civil War, as the citizens came to call the uprising. She was equally weary of the sleepless nights. In body and mind, Lucia was quite exhausted, and of all nights, she wished a better lot had cast itself upon her. Her queen had called for the annual council of nobles, and earlier that day, each had arrived. Lucia made it a point of not attending the arrival. She wished not to greet them and left under the premise of a headache. In particular, she did not wish to see her brother, Geoffrey, whom Elincia had summoned home from a skirmish in the east. Of all the people she knew, her own flesh and blood knew not of her troubles, and she wished to keep it so.
"How can he find it easy to sleep?" Lucia whispered to the air, fighting back another yawn. She often wondered how the same nightmares that plagued her did not, to her knowledge, slip into the dreams of her younger sibling. "How does Elincia sleep at night?" She wished not that such would happen to either one of them, but she did think it unfair that she alone should have to suffer so. Lucia quickly chastised herself for such an idea. She had taken an oath of fealty to Elincia, and such a selfish thought could not take root within her. It was her duty to watch over her queen and take the blows meant for her milk-sister upon her own shoulders. She knew she must suffer for her queen and country's sake. She dared not to think of such things as unfair, and yet, it was quite easy to do so. Yes, Lucia found it quite easy to be weak after years of strength.
While she had previously found the still air pleasing, Lucia now wished for some sound to break the silence. She hoped for some sound to listen to other than the voices belonging to her shadows; voices she had tried in vain to still. But no sound met her ears, and the silence now hung heavily in the air. To Lucia, the stillness felt as a mere calm before the arrival of the storms, and she wanted those storms to simply pass sooner rather than later. Just then, a sudden, chilling gust of wind came from out of the north. Lucia hugged herself against the wind. Her nightclothes provided only a scant covering against the chill.
She knew what would soon accompany this bitter gust. The snows would come to Crimea, and they would come soon. Lucia ran her hands over the flesh of her arms, and turned to go inside, unable to bear the chill any longer. She walked slowly back through the dark halls of the palace, barely lit save for the soft light of the torches. Truly, it seemed quieter to the lady inside than it had on the balcony. Lucia heard only each breath she took, though she thought she could hear every beat of her heart and even the soft padding of each footstep.
She wandered down every hall, trying to collect her thoughts as she idly walked, trusting in her memory of this house to guide her. Once, she found herself walking past her milk-sister's chambers. Lucia stopped for a moment and stared at the twin doors that led into Elincia's room. She could not tell, but she supposed the lamps still burned inside her queen's chamber. Lucia wondered what matters occupied the thoughts of her ruler; whether she was asleep or laboring into the night on some case her subjects brought to her court, as Lucia knew she often did. She wondered if Elincia would be glad of her company should she enter.
The swordswoman wondered if she should lay her own troubles upon her queen. She had pondered it before, but each time, the lady decided it would not be right for her to bring such a small case before the queen. She knew that the concerns of a nation far outweighed her own cares. Once again, Lucia could not bring herself to enter, and so with a heavy sigh, she continued to walk. This time, Lucia strode with purpose in her steps, for she knew where she would go now.
Lucia kept on walking until she came to the door to the library. Slowly, she pushed open the heavy door, biting her lip at each creak of the wood. Even in the dark, the swordswoman could tell how vast the chamber of knowledge was. This royal archive held all manner of subjects, such as the history of Crimea and records detailing the lineage of the royal family, which stretched into numerous volumes for every relative. It also contained numerous works of magic and other arts of learning brought from Begnion itself when Caradock, Crimea's founder, left his motherland. It was these tomes that attracted like bees to the flowers both those who studied and dabbled in the secret arts and those who intended to one day take the name of physician. Lucia had spent many a night in this place, hoping to better understand her dreams. She had searched among the volumes of the body, and she had searched in vain. Now, she sought the council of a different sort.
As she stepped inside, Lucia let out a hushed cry of surprise at the sight of candles burning upon the table. She was certain that no one else lingered awake, and the small flames already flickering before her eyes were certainly unexpected. Lucia thought of returning to her quarters, but the knowledge that she craved hung like a ripened, sweet berry, within her reach. And so she took a candle, and began to roam the aisles of shelves. She knew well the patterns in which the many shelves sat, and so she soon found the books she sought. Lifting the small light, Lucia's eyes searched row upon row of the numerous tomes. When at last she found such a book, Lucia smiled and, after noting its place, she returned to the table.
Lucia quickly opened the book and began eagerly scanning the pages. It was difficult at first to read in the dim light, though her eyes soon adjusted. She cared not for the practice of magic, for she was not a magician. Still, if there was anything that the fruit of those who were could offer, she would readily accept it. The woman shook her head as the words ran together on the page, no doubt a trick a pair of weary eyes played on her. It was not only her eyes that cheated her, but her mind as well, putting minute things at the front of her thoughts. She considered the dimness of the candles, the darkness beyond her small lights, and the pace of her breathing. Even the persistent chill of the floor distracted her from the words before her eyes, though she soon grew accustomed to the unwanted company it brought her. Lucia was so lost in these small details that she did not hear the sounds of footsteps coming from behind her. She did, however, hear a youthful voice coming beside her.
"My lady?" it asked. "What are you doing here at this hour?"
Lucia gave a short yelp and quickly turned her head to see who it was that spoke to her. "Lord Percival," the woman stated when she saw the young face and hazel eyes staring back at her.
Indeed it was Percival, the newly installed Duke of Felirae. Though he was counted as the son of Ludveck, the former duke, the lad bore little resemblance to his predecessor, for he was only a cousin of his. Percival was a youth of thin stature. His hair was a lighter color as well. It looked as though someone had mingled milk into the hair of his forerunner. His eyes were likewise lighter and a size bigger.
The two had become friends and, at the duke's request, Lucia had agreed to take him as an apprentice in the ways of the sword. The two stared at each other for only a brief time, unsure of what they should say or if they should speak at all.
"Did I wake you?" Lucia asked in a discomforted voice. She knew she had not passed his chambers, and she was certain her light steps would not have stirred him, yet she knew nothing else to say.
"I was awake already," Percival replied flatly. "I thought I'd do a little reading, but I see I'm not the only one. I am glad for the company, though, and I hope you don't mind if I sit with you. " Lucia quickly slid her feet further under the table. She now wished she had shod herself and brought a wrap to cover her shoulders. The young lord had entered fully dressed, and Lucia felt exposed in the company of one of her peers, even in the presence of a friend. She also instinctively hid her sword arm and the mark, the lasting symbol of her captivity, she bore on it. "If I'm bothering you, I can leave," Percival added, noting what he believed was apprehension in her face. Lucia only shook her head.
"You're no bother," she said. Though she was fond of the young nobleman, she was displeased that he chose to take a seat near her, at her left hand. Percival disappeared into the darkness only to return moments later with three large books and began to read. As much as she desired the solitude robbed of her, Lucia was not at all surprised that the duke had come here. She had heard that he did not even sleep well in his own house. Rumors abounded and thrived that he slept with a knife under his pillow and Cybele, his faithful rapier, at his side. Indeed, the long blade hung from his waist even now. Percival had confided in only a few, Lucia being one of them, that he suspected many a plot against him. The other was the queen herself, who provided much support for the lad.
Lucia did her best to continue reading, hoping that the words would not be seen by her companion. She could not help but glance up from time to time to see Percival's face contort into a look of both displeasure and even illness. "What are you reading about?" Lucia asked, hoping to sound as herself.
"Anatomy," said Percival rather sickly. "I can't even understand how physicians can learn their own practice." Lucia only nodded. In his efforts to repent for the treachery now upon his shoulders, Percival took up many an honorable calling, yet he was a master of none of them. He had neither the heart of a physician nor the strength of a laborer or a warrior. The only thing within his reach was to take up the life of the clergy, and he had not the desire or even the ability to do so. Yet, even these things could not redeem him in the eyes of the queen's court.
Lucia returned again to her reading, and for a time she was able to do so. Percival only asked her once what was in the book. Lucia quickly answered a book of poetry, a lie she hoped he would not realize. She hated the idea of lying to him as much as she hated poetry, yet the truth was something she did not wish to speak of. The swordswoman was glad that the duke had only just arrived today, for he accepted her answer, something those in the palace would not likely have done.
Lucia continued her reading until she became aware that Percival was looking at her. She glanced up to see him doing just that. To look at him, any other would guess he was merely absorbed in his studies, but Lucia could see his gaze falling away from the pages and onto her. She knew not why he watched her. Perhaps, he looked at her face for some purpose, though she knew not what it was. She noticed a slight smile appear on his face, a smile which he tried to hide with his hand. She doubted he had seen her mark. He would have no doubt given her a look of pity or remorse. Why did he smile when he looked at her? Was it that he looked at her with desire as his cousin had?
It was highly unlikely; she knew Percival was not that sort of man. Still, whatever his cause, Lucia grew more and more uneasy under his gaze. Lucia kept her eyes down on the page she read, but still the feelings would not abate, feelings she did not know how to describe, except as a growing apprehension to her friend's presence. She would have gladly spent time with the young noble, but now was not the time she wished to do so. At length, Lucia loudly slammed the book shut and sharply rose.
"I have to go," she declared, grabbing the tome. Percival looked up at her and similarly rose, looking quite unsettled.
"No," he said quickly. "I'm sorry, please forgive me. I didn't mean to stare."
"Why did you stare anyway?" The duke stood in shock at her question, thought upon his face, Lucia could see the realization that even he knew not, yet he searched for an answer.
"Can I not admire my instructor?" he asked, his tone uncertain of the words he had spoken. "You are the only person who treats me as an equal. It's hard not to admire that."
"Was that a look admiration you gave me?"
"I did not even know I was staring at you, Lucia. But in any event, please forgive the offense. I don't wish you to leave angry with me."
"I am not angry with you, but I must still go."
"Then you are angry with me. Surely there is no other reason why you would want to leave. You have always asked the truth of me, now tell me to my face. Are you leaving because of me?"
"It's not because of you, Percival," Lucia answered. In part, it was the truth. "But I can't tell you why, at least not yet." She started down the row of shelves the tome belonged in, only for Percival to speak up.
"I thought that was a book of poetry." Lucia stopped where she stood. She was about to be caught in her own lie. She quickly turned and headed down a row she knew contained such works. She hoped that her friend would not press the matter further; he was not at all foolish. She found a place for the tome she carried, making sure to note its location. She then left the library as quickly as she could manage, leaving Percival standing in surprise at her abrupt change.
Back down the halls, Lucia walked briskly, hoping to get away from the library. She was certain Percival was sitting at the table, holding himself at fault. While he was at fault for staring at her, the fault was hers for leaving so quickly. Before she left, she'd glanced up at him, and she was certain she saw Ludveck staring back at her in place of her friend. She'd seen the former noble's face as clear as her reflection in water, and the sight frightened her. She knew of no other place to go, so Lucia decided she would go back to her room, even though she knew there would be no comfort or rest for her there. Still, she needed sleep; that much she knew for certain. And so she walked, breathing deeply as she did, hoping it would still her heart.
She stopped in the middle of a hall. She didn't know why. Her eyes were drawn to a torch hanging on the wall. Her eyes grew heavier as she stared at the light, as they had when she read by candlelight. At once, Lucia's eyes widened in astonishment. She saw another face staring back at her in the flames. It was the face of a man she knew and a face she wished not to know or recall, yet one she had not shown fear to. Just then, the face began to change into one she both knew and loved, yet its expression did not. It looked on still with ill-intent.
Lucia tore herself away from the fiery phantom and ran. She ran as fast as she could even after she realized no one pursued. She ran and ran. In her haste, her feet entwined with each other and she fell forward. Her hands and arms took the brunt of the fall as they instinctively sprang up. Lucia lay curled up in the hall like a frightened child listening to a raging storm. Her arms stung from the fall. Her feet, unused to running bare on stone, felt sore from her flight. Her heart threatened to throw itself from her chest from fear alone. A tear ran down Lucia's cheek, and she continued to lay there sobbing, not from pain, but fright.
"Get a hold of yourself, Lucia," she whispered, her voice mingling with a sob in her throat. "You're acting like you're insane." She wiped her face with her arms and slowly rose from where she lay. The weary woman walked the rest of the way back to her quarters. She strode to her bed and crawled tiredly into it. Lucia closed her eyes and spoke to herself, hoping to give some assurance that whatever she saw or felt was only in her mind. She hoped that doing so would block out the images that haunted her.
The pub was by now nearly empty. All of the soldiers returned to their homes, most now poorer than when they had arrived. Each man left with a moan and look of woe on wasting their pay in such a manner. Only Otis remained at his table. His money was likewise spent, but he did not leave. He'd watched them all leave, one by one. Each of them passed him without as much as a glance. He rather liked it this way. In silence, he could think, although he could not think much at present. His head swam in liquor, and he was by now feeling the effects of it. Otis moaned and held a hand to his brow. He looked over to see the barkeep eying him keenly as he went about his work.
The man of Crimea was sure he was not the only man the barkeep watched. A few other men lingered about, having slipped in earlier and blended in among the other patrons. Most of these men were agents to thieves and assassins, hoping to find a ripe target for their employers. A few were no doubt the rogues themselves, plotting their next deed. Otis preferred these wayward rascals to the company of soldiers. He enjoyed their unwillingness to speak loudly or even speak at all. Two such men sat a stone's throw behind him, although he could hear their every word.
"So, Rasadon, are you in or out?" one asked, trying to keep his voice down.
"I don't know, Uben," the other replied. "It sounds too risky."
Otis wished to himself that they would leave. After consuming six bottles of the house's stout brew, he could no longer tolerate the noise.
"No riskier than our other jobs," the one called Uben said.
"Actually, there's a bigger risk," answered Rasadon. "We're only thieves; we get locked up for stealing. We could hang for this." Uben only laughed in reply before he gave an answer.
"You heard what Parzal said, 'Better to die a loyal Daein than bow to a false queen.'"
Otis gave a slight smile. He did not know this fellow Parzal, but he was sure he liked him already. It came as no surprise to the man that there were those plotting against Micaiah, the new Queen of Daein. Otis was there when the crown was set upon her silver head and she was presented to the cheering crowd. Otis saw her do in a matter of weeks what other rulers took months or even their very lifetimes to accomplish. And then once her rule was firmly established, Micaiah had done what some considered unthinkable. She revealed herself to be a Branded. Otis was there as well as the crowd fell silent in utter shock at her words. If not for one child applauding and stirring much of the crowd to do the same, he was sure the reign and life of the Silver-Haired Maiden would have ended swiftly.
"What makes you think he'll even let us in on it?" Rasadon asked. "It's not like he needs us. If his dagger can kill with the slightest cut, why would he even want to associate with us?"
Otis stiffened at those words. He wondered if he had heard them right or his ears toyed with him under the influence of the brew. He continued to listen.
"Someone's got to get him inside the keep," Uben said. "Besides, after Micaiah's dead, they'll be plenty of jobs available to real humans like us. Parzal wouldn't forget his friends so easily. We're almost like family to him."
"Only because he broke us out of prison for the fifth time," Rasadon answered.
"Anyway, why don't we go talk to him?" suggested Uben.
"I don't think so," Rasadon stated plainly.
"Come on," pleaded his partner. "Parzal may be a dirty criminal, but like I said, he's almost like family to us."
"'Oh, I'm sure,'" Rasadon mocked, "'I'm Parzal, the greatest assassin on Tellius. I stole some magic dagger from Begnion, and I'm going to include two nobodies in my biggest job ever.' And like I said, if his dagger can kill instantly, he doesn't need us. He could just cut his way through the guards, Lord Sothe, and right to Micaiah."
Otis let out a slow breath, and his smile broadened. He heard all he needed to hear. He had not imagined those words before. Otis hunched over and waited. He hoped he did not appear conspicuous. He did not wish to cause alarm to the pair of rogues, at least not before he learned where this Parzal was. The Crimean was hardly worried if they didn't speak of it. He knew well a number of ways to force men to loosen their tongues. He was quite sure he would have little difficulty with a pair of rascals.
"For one thing you've got your facts wrong," Uben said. "Parzal didn't steal anything. All right, maybe he stole this, but he didn't get it from Begnion."
"That's where he says he got it from."
"Then he's lying. Parzal wouldn't say where he got anything from."
Otis scowled as the two began a lengthy argument on the subject. Back and forth the pair went, each providing little to the argument, other than a quick utterance of 'he said this' or 'he's a liar.' On and on the pointless debate ran. Otis continued sitting there listening to the quarrel with disdain for the two squabbling bandits. He was not at all interested in their claims to the truth of another man's account. He cared only for learning where he could find the man they spoke of. As the two continued, Otis considered simply beating the truth out of them here and now. At length, Uben spoke again, "All right, fine. You say he stole it from Begnion then, he stole it from Begnion. But should I go tell him we're in?"
"I guess we're in," Rasadon answered.
"Good," Uben beamed. "Let's go." The sound of wood rubbing against wood met Otis's ears. He quickly rose and turned around just as the two bandits, one an average sized man with dark brown hair and protruding teeth, and the other a more muscular man with stone-blue hair, were getting up. Otis walked quickly over to them.
"Get lost," the brown-haired rogue ordered roughly. Otis did not know which of the two it was, but he cared not. He did not move from where he stood. "Are you deaf?" the bandit asked. "I said move it." Otis did not answer. He roughly grabbed the man by his shirt and with one hand lifted him into the air, garnering frightened looks from those in the pub. It was not at all difficult, for this thief was quite light. Otis walked over to a wall and rammed his captive into it.
"Where is Parzal?" Otis demanded. "Answer me!" The Crimean felt his blood already beginning to boil in his veins, as though some deep-seeded rage was now free to flow unhindered. The thief only looked on fearfully, struggling with great urgency for freedom, wildly kicking his legs. He spoke with a stammer and babbled on inanely, his mind blinded by a sudden haze. Otis pulled him back only a few inches before again ramming him hard into the wall behind. "If you want to live to see the sun rise, you'll tell me," said Otis angrily.
"Don't tell him anything," the other man ordered. Otis pressed against his captive, putting the full force of his bulk on the thief's smaller frame. The man wailed and gasped as he heard the sound of a bone or two crack. Otis only continued to push.
"If you don't tell me," he began. "The next time, I'll ram us both into the wall as hard as I can. I doubt you know much, but think about what that would do to you if I did. Now tell me. Where is Parzal?" The thief bawled and conceded.
"He's in Palmeni Temple. He's been hiding there since the war," he said quietly to Otis. "Please don't hurt me."
"Pitiful," Otis commented. The knight turned around and threw the man into the table, and both fell to the floor with a loud thud. The other man rushed in front of Otis with his knife at the ready.
"You want trouble?" the thief mockingly asked. "You got it!"
Otis's mouth spread into a wide grin. "I've not fought for a long time," he stated.
"Well, you got one now," the rascal replied sharply. With that, he lunged at Otis. Holding his knife, tip down at the floor, he brought his arm back and struck. Otis seized his opponent by the wrist. Though the thief was quite brawny, he lacked the skill of a fighter. His attempt was crude, except perhaps by the low standards of a scoundrel such as he. Still, he fought Otis's grip, hoping to at least cut him. With all his might behind it, Otis gave a quick shove and sent the man backwards, and he tripped over his partner, still dazed and sprawled out on the floor, and landed with a thump. With a loud yell, Otis drew his sword. He knew not why he did. Perhaps it was the drink, although his tolerance for it was quite high. Perhaps it was the thrill of battle that spurred him on.
"Which of you is next?" shouted Otis to all the occupants. The sound of glass shattering answered his challenge. Otis stiffened from the blow, his sword clattered to the floor, and a howl of pain left his mouth. Shards of glass littered the floor behind him, and the barkeep stood there with a broken bottle.
"Get him!" the barkeep shouted. The few men still in the pub leaped from their places and rushed at Otis, striking him with their fists. Unarmed and unprepared, Otis was quickly beaten down. A number of men grabbed him and roughly dragged him towards the door. One of them began to count, and upon the count of three, the group pushed him out. Otis tripped over his own two feet and landed face-down in the road. The group behind him let out a few cheers at his expulsion. One man broke through the gathered crowd to throw the sword out as well, and it landed with its tip in the ground a short distance to the man's right.
"Don't ever come back here," the barkeep ordered harshly. "If I ever catch you in here again, I'll have the guards after you." The men gathered in the doorway looked upon the fallen man for a time before they put him to their backs and gave not another thought for him.
Otis only lay there without a word. He bore a few bruises, and a small amount of blood trickled down his nose and brow from a few harder blows. But surely the worst fount came from the back of his head. He placed one hand on the place where the bottle had struck and felt the warmth of blood. He looked at the stain of red upon his hand and did a surprising thing. Otis laughed. He laughed and laughed as he lay there. At length, he stood and walked away, hoping to find something to nurse his wound with. As he walked, a chilling gale blew hard, and he shivered slightly. Otis only spread his arms and invited the wind into him.
"The winds are changing," he said gaily. "And by Ashera, they are changing in my favor." And with that, Otis retrieved his sword and started on his way.
Lucia stood on a stool upon the scaffold. The men standing by her side waited only for the order to pull the stool out from under her and let the cruel grip of the noose end her life. The woman about to die took the time to look as far as she could over the crowd gathering around to watch. Most shouted at the soldiers around, calling them murderers and traitors, yet there were some who shook their fists at Lucia and shouted all manner of vulgar names at her, for they now showed their support of the rebels. She looked at one man standing with his back to her. It was his order that would have her hanged, and he soon gave it. As Lucia felt the rope bite into the flesh of her neck and tighten around her throat, she saw her executioner turn slowly around. Her lungs burned for air, and the world was growing dark. Her killer was by now facing her. The world was fading all too fast, but she could still see the face of he who would end her life. The face was hard, pitiless, and even excited to see her die, but it was not the face she expected to see.
Lucia let out a cry, and she sat up in a cold sweat. She could feel her heart pounding violently inside her chest, and each breath she took was a panicked gasp. Try as she might to stop herself, Lucia trembled from the dream she had woken from. She ran a hand through her hair. It was still long. She felt her neck and felt no rope around it. Though she knew this, it was only an effort to reassure her racing thoughts. She was glad that she had woken when she did and relieved that she would not have to see the other things she'd seen. She was frightened now, but oh how she dreamed of worse things. How she wished she could have read that tome in peace. Had she, she might have understood these horrid dreams better. She now did not wish to sleep but knew she must try.
Lucia climbed out of bed, glad as the naked floor of her chamber met her soles and chased away the last remains of sleep that still clung to her. She took the only lit candle resting on a small table and used it to light the other candles in the stands about the room. She returned her candle to its original place and sat down on the bed.
"Why is this happening to me?" the woman asked herself with all distress. "Why now?" All of the things she had seen each night had long since passed. Why now did these things haunt her anew? Why was it that her mind brought back the rebellion when she'd taken part in wars? Why did her mind stamp other faces, faces of those she knew, trusted, and even loved, over those of her enemies?
Lucia had heard of former soldiers who could no longer bear the memories of their battles. Many of them suffered in ways she was suffering. They would dream often of the worst of the battles. They would again and again relive each terrible day when blood of ally and enemy alike flowed as wine from a bottle or water from a rushing stream. They said they heard each scream of pain that rose in a maddening chorus. They would see faces of friend and foe alike as death took them all equally and sometimes unjustly. The worst of it came when they could no longer keep their dreams in the night. Yes, Lucia had heard of the "soldier's sickness" as it was known. But she was young still, and most of such cases were from those who were either much older or had seen far too much far too soon. And neither case seemed right to her.
"Why?" Lucia asked again, now quite despondent. "Why?"
Lucia sat there in grim silence, trying to make sense of her nightmares. She sat pondering any idea, no matter what it was. She had even considered that she was altogether mad. Lucia doubted that, but it would have at least given some answer. She sat deep in thought until weariness again washed over her, yet she desired not to sleep, at least not as she was.
A moment of remembrance flowed over the weary woman. Earlier that day, she'd watched her brother return from afar, and he'd returned with Makalov bound behind his horse, no doubt to have him chastised upon their return. Despite her best efforts, she'd not managed to avoid both of them entirely. Geoffrey had seen her and called to her, and she was sure he suspected something was not right with her. She'd also had the misfortune of encountering the pink-haired man as well. He, too, noticed that she was not herself, and would not leave her be. Lucia, at length, had admitted she could not sleep, but that was all. He'd given her a bottle of some kind, saying it helped him sleep. She refused it at first, but accepted it with a great deal of reluctance.
Lucia knelt on the floor and reached under her bed. She'd quickly hid it to avoid any shame among the other nobles. She intended to dispose of the bottle somehow, yet she'd not done so. Her eyes seemed to light as her fingertips brushed up against the cool glass. Her fingers tightened around the bottle, and she pulled it out. Again, she sat on the bed only to stare at the object she held. She turned her hand to watch the drink inside sway and stir behind the glass, and all the while listening to voices in her head. Lucia spoke only in her thoughts. On one hand, she did not approve of this. She'd seen how it dulled the person who drank it. One only needed to look at Makalov to know that. On the other hand, she'd not turned it aside in all cases. It did ease the pain of injury, she knew that. Perhaps, it would ease this as well.
"I can't keep this up," Lucia said to the air. "They all notice. Elincia's worried about me, I can tell. I'll end up driving her to illness if I don't improve."
The world seemed to slow as Lucia brought her other hand up to pull the cork from the bottle. To her, it was almost as if she were in a dream. She attributed that to her exhaustion. Lucia cast the cork aside, and it landed somewhere on the floor, where she did not care. She held the bottle under her nose and breathed the strong scent. Already, Lucia felt strange. She shook her head slightly. She heard herself plead in protest. But Lucia felt far too weak to consider those objections. In secret, she had stolen away to physicians, swearing them to secrecy before asking them for aid. She tried numerous potions of theirs and none had helped her. And so Lucia drank the contents of the bottle she. She drank it quickly, as quickly as she could. It was stronger than the wine she was accustomed to. She fought every urge to spit it out as it coursed down her throat.
Lucia pulled the bottle away as she took the last mouthful. She surprised herself as she did it, and she coughed up what was in her mouth at the time. The foul stream fell upon her nightdress, wetting it and branding its harsh scent into the cloth. A fit of coughing siezed her for some time, and she already felt sick.
"How can he drink this?" she wondered aloud as the fit subsided. Lucia grabbed her stomach and dropped down into her bed. She pushed her way up so that her head rested on her pillow. Despite the sickness growing in her belly and the strong smell of liquor in her nose, Lucia had to admit, that for the time being, her mind lingered not on her dreams. Instead, she considered finding Makalov and giving him cause to feel far more ill than she did at present. She continued to lie there, gleefully thinking of the poorly face of the slothful fool, until exhausion overtook her, and she could withstand it no longer.
Dawn was just breaking as Otis reached Palmeni Temple. He'd taken time to clean and bandage his wound before setting off. Even without the slight delay, it would have made little difference; the shrine was a good distance on foot. For as long as any man or woman in Daein could remember, this had been a sacred place. It had remained so until Begnion seized the country just after the Mad King's War. During those dark days, the temple had decayed into a den of villainy with thieves lurking about its once hallowed halls. Finally, it was deserted. Even now, with a new queen, no effort was made to restore the temple.
Otis felt strangely uneasy as he wandered. It felt as if some ghostly presence still lingered among the dusty rooms, broken stone, and silky cobwebs running here and there. There were tales that the souls of Palmeni's priests and priestesses dwelt here still. During the occupation, the army of Begnion took many of the Daein clergy and executed them for whatever crime they chose to charge them with. Otis heard many a story of them but paid none of them any mind. He held no regard for tales of the dead, counting them all as nonsense.
"It's all the liquor," said Otis, trying to account for the eerie feeling still hanging about. He saw a few lamps lit, telling him someone must live here, and he had no doubt it was this Parzal.
Otis continued to roam aimlessly among the halls. His eyes intently searched each room he came to, though there was little to search in many of the sparsely-furnished quarters of the former shrine. There was no sign of either Parzal or the dagger which he had heard of. The knight did find the pious life chosen by those who had lived here altogether foolish. As he walked, he recalled his lifelong distaste for those who both spoke of the goddess and those who believed their talk, which Otis would promptly dismiss as idle chatter. Otis soon began to feel aware that he was not alone. He would often turn to look behind him but often saw only the shadows beyond the meager lamplight. Thought he could see no one, Otis did bring his hand nearer to his sword if the need should arise. He continued on with the hunt but slower this time.
When Otis came again to the door of the temple, he was quite displeased with his futile search. The knight was certain he'd walked the length of the shrine, and he had seen no one. Yet, he continued. Otis looked ahead at a flight of stairs and the wide area beyond them just visible in the light. Though he had already searched this main chamber, Otis decided he would repeat the deed once more, and so he climbed the steps and walked straight ahead. This was a vast room, though what its purpose once was, Otis could not guess. Ahead of him was a brown altar which was little more than a slab of brown stone with golden edges and a slight pit carved into its top.
As he came to the altar, Otis ran his hand into the hollow place for this was likely where such a weapon as this famed dagger would be hidden. The knight's hand only returned blackened from the long-dead coals once used to burn incense; he guessed this from the golden censers hanging overhead. The room was still, far too still for the tastes of Otis. He again became aware that someone else was with him. In the silence, Otis was sure he could hear the sound of a blade being slowly drawn. At once, the knight turned around to face the man standing in front of him.
The man was of average build and height. The figure's red shirt was clearly tattered with holes visible in the elbows of the garment, and his black pants were patched in several places. In one hand, the man clutched a long knife and held its tip towards the floor. The face was that of an ordinary man, but Otis knew this was the man he sought. In his eyes, the knight could see the trait he knew was commonplace among those who took lives for hire: a clear resolution to kill. More than that, there was a hint of greed in his steel eyes.
"What are you doing here?" the man asked rather irately. Otis merely ignored the question.
"Are you Parzal?" the knight asked quite friendlily.
"Maybe, that's none of your business. Now, scram before I cut your insides out!" Otis nodded with satisfaction.
"I know who you are. I ran into a couple of friends of yours in Nevassa: one man with brown hair, the other with dull-blue hair. Do they sound familiar?" The man let out a groan and rolled his eyes.
"Yes, they do, and if those two are Uben and Rasadon, they ain't my friends.
"I didn't think they were," said Otis. "You won't be seeing them anymore. I've taken care of them." Otis saw a grateful smile spread across the other man's face at the news. Otis himself was smiling on the inside as well; he dared not let it show for his smile was of a different sort.
"Then you've made a friend with me, and you're right. I am Parzal," the assassin replied. "I welcome you to my home. You have a name?"
"I do indeed. It's Otis." The knight never took his eyes off the blade still in Parzal's hand. As the man neared, Otis noted a sheath tucked into his belt and nodded slightly.
"So, Otis, what brings you all the way out here?"
"Your dagger," the knight answered. His voice was now far more threatening and Parzal took a step back as Otis's pleasant face took on an ominous look of menace.
"What?" the assassin asked.
"I've heard you have a dagger unlike any other. I wish to see it." With his free hand, Parzal reached for the weapon in his belt and pulled out what appeared to be a black blade. Quickly, the assassin returned the dagger to its sheath. "There, you've seen it. Now, you're starting to wear out your welcome, so just get out."
"You must be more stupid than you look," Otis replied with a slight laugh. "Give it to me."
"I stole it first so it's mine," Parzal declared firmly.
"Give it to me," Otis said again, this time louder.
"No," the assassin answered defiantly. Otis did not answer back at first. The knight instead drew his sword.
"I can do this one of two ways," he said calmly. "You can either set the dagger on the floor and you get to stay in one piece. Or I can do it my way and cut you straight in half and take it. It's your choice." Parzal said nothing. He instead bent his knees slightly as if he were an animal tensing its muscles before a kill; a combat stance. Otis likewise readied his own sword. The knight quickly observed everything he could manage about the way the hired murderer stood and acted in one instance.
Parzal ran towards Otis and brought his arm back for a strike. The knight quickly moved his head slightly out of the path of the blade and seized Parzal by the wrist. Otis gave a quick shove and sent the assassin stumbling backwards, though his opponent kept his feet. Quite provoked, Parzal struck again, but Otis brought his sword up and pushed him away a second time. The assassin then gave his blade a quick toss and held it as a sword. Twice, he swiped at Otis, and twice the knight evaded. At length, Parzal shouted out and lunged fiercely forward. Otis sidestepped and brought the flat of his sword down on his opponent's arm with as much effort as he could muster. At the same time, with his free hand, the knight delivered a hard blow into the man's side. The blade Parzal held clattered to the floor and the strike unsteadied him for just a moment, but it was the only moment Otis needed. He turned quickly back to face Parzal and placed one foot on top of the fallen knife, while he brought the tip of his sword under the assassin's chin.
"You fight well enough for people of your sort, Parzal," Otis declared. "But that falls short against a real soldier. Now, give me the dagger, or I'll cut your throat."
"Fine, take it," he spat. The rogue slowly reached for the blade, but Otis hastily brought his sword closer to the man's throat.
"I'll take it. You put your hands up." The man fearfully obeyed and Otis reached down with his left hand and carefully pulled the dagger from its sheath. "Don't be so afraid," he said in an assuring voice and putting his sword away. "I only want to test it to see if what I've heard of it is true."
"It is," Parzal said, sounding quite unnerved. He continued to hold both hands in the air. "It can bring down the biggest man with the smallest cut. But I have nothing to test it on." Otis's mouth spread into a wicked grin, and he cast an equally wicked look upon the man in front of him.
"I do," he declared maliciously. Before Parzal could do anything, Otis pressed the tip of the dagger into the man's palm until blood was drawn. The assassin did not even have a chance to gasp; his eyes glazed over and he fell to the floor, dead. Otis looked down at the assassin's body. "It takes more than a blade to make an assassin. You should have known better than to trust someone so readily." Otis bent down and patted the dead man's cheek. "Sadly, many men learn that lesson too late. I would say live and learn, but that doesn't do you much good," he remarked in poor humor. Otis took the sheath of the dagger before he rose and walked away. "Farewell, Parzal," he called back, not bothering to turn around. "I doubt you'll mind if I take your weapon now."
As he stepped into the dawn of a new day, Otis could not help but smile. He paused to better inspect his prize in the light. Otis marveled at the dagger for he'd never seen a weapon like it in his days. The blade appeared as though it was forged of glass or crystal rather than iron or steel, though the handle was indeed made of metal. By some strange craft perhaps, yet of little concern to the knight, the weapon, from tip to handle, was shaded black as a starless night sky. Etched into the blade was a small emblem that resembled a reaper's scythe, except the shaft appeared as a serpent with the curved blade of a sickle at the end of the tail.
Otis knew this symbol well, for it was said to be the Dark Angel's tool used when she came to reap the souls of those whose days had ended. Otis had heard it said that the mere sight of her dreaded arm caused men to fall dead to the ground. He wondered if that tale held any truth within it, for the dagger seemed to emanate some cold force that stole away even the breath from the knight's mouth. Otis found himself quite drawn to that chill as well. He took one last look at the dagger before sheathing it and walking away from the temple. Otis kept his smile as he went. He had long held a plan twisted together within his mind, but this dagger would surely give him the means to achieve it.
A/N: I wrote all of that and then wrote some more on the begining. Boy, did I have a hard time deciding how to do things, but I hope it wasn't too bad of a read. I couldn't have done this alone, so I'd like to give a shout-out to HaveAHeart0301. I couldn't get along without you. You've been the best beta reader I could ask for. I also owe you thanks for naming Cybele, Percival's sword.
I'd also like to give another big shout-out to another friend, DM as I know him, for all the support and volunteer advice. If it wasn't for you two, I doubt this rewrite would have worked. And finally, I'd like to thank all of you readers out there. You're the ones that make this story worth the time.
BTW: Updates will probably come slowly with this one, as you can see from the length. Plus, juggling another fan fic, other ideas that pop in, and RL don't help. But I'll try and get them to you sooner rather than later.