Twokinds AU Chapter 1
A/N: This was originally going to be about FloraxTrace, but now I'm just fucking everything up. If we're going to go AU, might as well go all out.
I dropped into bed, the rich silk sheets enveloping me as I tried to relax my muscles. For about the past week or so, I had slowly been removing all traces of influence of the previous Grand Master, Reina. It was not an enjoyable task, but a necessary one if the Templar Order was to survive. Reina, may she finally rest in peace, had been working with dark, forbidden magyks for at least two years, and her mind had long since shattered. I could still remember the feeling of sliding my sword into her chest, could still see the darkness clear from her eyes as she slowly died.
Her final words had been a mix of apologies, instructions, and meaningless ramblings.
"Trace... I'm sorry... Tell them that I was sorry... In the tower- *cough, cough* there's a journal. Find it. I was just trying to save the Keidran." *cough*
And then she was gone, and I had taken control of the Templars. I had only meant for it to be a temporary thing, just long enough to undo some of the evils she had created, but so far no one had stepped up to take responsibility. Which meant that I was stuck with the gruesome task of seeking out the lieutenants and councilmen that had been corrupted by her in her quest for... whatever she was trying to do.
The tower that she spoke of, an unnamed obsidian fortress that emanated evil, had been sealed with dozens of spells and physical locks. Of course, if that wasn't bad enough, every once in a while the exploratory teams would come across massive stone guardians that protected important areas. We had managed to explore most of the tower, (which had been constructed during Reina's rule), but had still not found the journal.
I sighed deeply, I absolutely hated this job, and I knew it was only going to get worse as soon as things settled down and I had to wade through layers of bureaucracy and other political bullshit. I jumped as I suddenly felt a pair of hands on my shoulders, my combat instincts causing me to spin and swing my fist at whatever was near me. I made contact with a grey body and it flew to the floor as I jumped out of bed and grabbed the dagger on my nightstand. I watched as the thing rolled over to reveal a very terrified looking Keidran, and I quickly dropped the dagger and dashed over to her.
"Oh gods Kathrin, I'm so sorry, I'm so so sorry, it's just I was thinking and then I felt your hands and I didn't hear you an-"
I was interrupted by her shushing me. Now, most slave owners wouldn't have tolerated this, but Kathrin was special and I was not most slave owners.
"Trace, please calm down. I should have let you know I was there. I know how jumpy you can be after a long day."
I stubbornly refused to let her take the blame for this, but I was a bit calmer now so I only said "Kathrin, no. This was my fault, and I'm very sorry and - ohmigod you're bleeding!"
She laughed, "It's a bloody nose, Trace. Don't worry about it, I'll just go wrap it."
I shook my head then lifted her up, causing her to squeal quietly in surprise. I walked back over to the bed and gently set her down on it, reaching for the magyk within me. I muttered a short healing spell and watched as her eyes widened in surprise as the blood stopped. I got up and grabbed a clean wet cloth, then returned to her side and slowly and carefully wiped the blood from her fur.
"There we go, good as new."
She looked at me, "Thank you Trace."
I smiled at her, "Just doing what's right. Now, was there something you needed?"
She instantly nodded and I sat down on the bed to make myself more comfortable. "You looked really stressed, so I thought you might like a massage."
My smile grew, she wasn't my slave, she was my best friend. I had bought her from a merchant when I had reached the age of 16. She was only 3 at the time, and the moment I saw her I knew I had to protect her. See, I was against slavery, but there wasn't anything I could do about it, so I bought her and simply refused to use a control spell on her.
"Well, if that offer is still open, I could really use one."
She bounced happily, "Of course it is! Here, trade places."
I lay down on the bed and she crawled on top of me, massaging my sore and tired muscles. I hummed my delight, and she purred in response. We were more than slave and master, and I made sure to remember to return this oh-so-wonderful favor someday. Before very long, it became too much and I drifted asleep to the sound of Kathrin purring happily as she worked.
When I woke in the morning I instantly noticed that I felt warmer than usual, but didn't realize what the cause was until Kathrin's dark fur rubbed against me. I was surprised for a moment: she didn't sleep with me when there were other beds available, but I figured she had been tired too. Plus the bed of the Grand Master Templar was probably the most comfortable bed in the land, second only to the king's.
I smiled, then climbed out of bed, careful not to wake her. I watched her for a moment and wrote her a note, leaving it on the bedside table where my dagger laid. I pulled on a set of fresh clothes and headed down to the dining hall of the castle. When I arrived I saw that it was mostly empty so I headed to the kitchens to try and collect some food to eat on the run.
My nose was assaulted by a myriad collection of smells both delicious and overwhelming, and I entered the room with the great ovens. I headed over to one of the less active chefs and tapped him on the shoulder,
"What do you want- Oh! Gr-Grand Master Trace, sir! My ap-apologies!"
He bowed his head but I waved it off, "Come on, none of that. I intend to make my tenure as short as possible. Do you have anything I can eat as I walk?"
He hesitated, then nodded, "Right this way, my lord."
I sighed, I still wasn't used to being referred to as 'sir' by the soldiers, much less 'my lord', but at least it wouldn't last that long. He handed me an orange and two legs of chicken. I thanked him and walked out, intent on getting through the rest of the tower today. As I entered the forbidding fortress and stepped on the magykal pads that would transport me to the top, I again wondered what the purpose of this massive construction was.
When the teleport finished I stepped towards the largest and most grandiose door, a red glow indicating that it's magykal protection was still in place. I sighed, then reached for it with my mind. Usually, a thing like this would take two mages, sometimes more if they were not as powerful, but I was the Grand Master, even if it was only temporary. I wasn't going to be beaten by a door of all things.
I worked for about two hours, unmoving, removing magykal wards and working around traps designed to permanently incapacitate intruders in increasingly clever and gruesome ways. Eventually, other mages began to show up in pairs or triplets and began working on other doors, but I was too focused to pay much attention to their activities. I sat and continued working, vaguely hearing other doors being opened around me.
I worked for a bit longer, submerging myself so deeply into my trance that I saw nothing but lines of script, detailing what had been done to the door to make it so impermeable. When I finally determined that it was safe, I opened my eyes to find myself alone in the tower. I was confused until I tried to move and realized that my muscles were sore from holding my meditative position for what must have been hours.
I stood and stretched, groaning as my body tried to realign itself. When I finished, I walked up to the door, senses alert as I watched for more physical traps. Finding none upon reaching the door, I smiled. I had done it. This was the top of the tower, and without a doubt the most heavily secured room, which meant that something of great value had to reside here.
I heard the slight pitter-patter of footsteps behind me and spun to see Kathrin walking up from the pad.
"Kathrin, what are you doing here?"
"I was worried about you. You were gone when I woke up and when I went to your room to check on you about half an hour ago you weren't there."
I smiled, touched by her concern. "Thanks, but I'm fine, really. I spent all of today working on this door, and I think I finally got everything."
"Well then what are we waiting for? Let's check it out!"
I chuckled slightly at her enthusiasm. Still, I was worried. I disabled and disarmed everything I could think of, but I was only one person and was only human at that. I hesitated for a moment, then expressed my concerns.
"Well, I mean... I don't know, it might be dangerous. You could get hurt, killed, or worse. I'd feel terrible if anything happened to you. Especially if it was because of me."
She frowned for a moment, "Trace, I trust you. If anything happens, you'll protect me. We've know each other literally as long as I can remember, and I know what you're capable of."
There was no way I could possibly refuse after that, so I reluctantly acquiesced, "Alright just stay close and keep your eyes open. And for Neutral's sake be careful!"
She bounced on her toes cheerfully, and I ruefully shook my head. I walked up to the door and triggered the opening mechanism, my eyes, ears, and mind open for anything wrong. The door opened to reveal a comfortable and surprisingly normal bedroom. I'm not certain what I expected but normality wasn't it.
"Well, I guess I was expecting something more... sinister."
I nodded, that sounded about right, then replied, "I guess just start looking for anything that seems suspicious."
She nodded and started looking, while I immediately went to the bedside desk to sort through the notes she had gathered. I wasn't certain what I was looking for, not precisely, but I figured that if it was important she would leave it where she worked. I dug through drawers filled with plans, reports, and other horrifyingly boring papers that were the result of being the Grand Master Templar.
I was about to give up when I noticed a faint trace of magyk emanating from the left side of the desk. I reached for it with my mind and encountered something I hadn't seen before. It was very complicated and seemed to absorb power from the desk. Wyrds of concealment and destruction flowed through the spell and I worked to disarm them.
Not long afterwards, I felt the wards fade and I opened my eyes to see a large book, bound in burnt and blackened leather, sitting on the desk. I hesitantly reached for the clasp, then jumped when it poked me, drawing slight blood. It absorbed it into itself, then the clasp opened by itself and the book flipped open to the first page
'Being the Compendium of Mekkam, Containing Knowledge of All Things, Visible or Otherwise'
I turned the page and found a note written by the Grand Master Careth, the founder of the Templar Order. I was astonished, to say the least. The Templars were over four centuries old, and I had just found a relic that had existed since it's conception.
"Kathrin! I found it!"
She rushed to me, "Found what? How do you know?"
I turned back to the title page and let her read it, but she just looked at me curiously,
"So... what is it?"
I turned the page and she read, eyes widening as she read who it was by,
"This is more than four hundred years old!"
I nodded excitedly, "Yeah! It's amazing isn't it? The time needed to prepare this and prevent it from decaying or losing its vibrancy must have been massive!"
I flipped a few pages and saw that the ink hadn't faded at all, then I brought it over to the bed and began reading. Kathrin, not being as fast a reader as I, soon gave up and began wandering the room again, looking for anything else. After a while though, she just came and lay down next to me on the bed.
"So, why haven't I heard of this thing before?"
I shrugged uneasily, "Well, most of it is stuff I wouldn't want anybody to know, much less use. More than half is black magyk and various types of evil incantations. Almost all of it is dangerous."
She nodded, "What about the other half?"
"Drawings and diagrams of the various races, explanations of natural phenomena, maps and even a few bits of useful information about the Templars and running an organization like this."
"So basically everything a Grand Master needs to know."
"Yeah, pretty much. But look at this! This is the stuff added by Reina. It looks like she was trying to find some kind of... solution to death, but that can't be right. Most of it's focused towards the Keidran, details of experiments and tests. Keidran live, what, 20 years or so?"
Kathrin thought about it for a moment, "Yeah, 25 if they're lucky."
"Reina was trying to increase that, I guess, but why?"
"I don't know. Does it say more?"
I flipped a few pages forward but found no explanation for why she was trying to help them.
"Well, whatever the reason, we might as well put this to good use. I don't like some of these scripts, but if it will help the Keidran, there's really no reason to avoid them. Of course, I should probably find out what precisely they do first. I don't want to make things worse."
Suddenly, Kathrin rolled over and hugged me. I was surprised, but not unpleasantly so.
"Eh? What's this for?"
She smiled at me, "I think I can speak for my entire race when I say thank you."
I laughed quietly, "Oh don't thank me yet. This is still in the early stages, I'm not even certain if it will work. Plus if these calculations are accurate it will require a massive amount of energy and I don't know where that's going to come from. I really haven't done anything yet."
She rubbed against my arm comfortingly, "No, but I know you will. You're clever, Trace. You can figure it out."
I was touched by her confidence, and decided that yes, I would figure it out. Even if it was only for her sake. I was concerned about some of the incantations, mostly because of their reliance on darker magyks, but I couldn't resist a good puzzle. A source of magyk would be easy to find for one person, or even an entire village, but the entire race forever? That could be figured out later, I suppose. These problems were things I could solve, and I was determined to succeed.