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Fantasy The Blood Countess (Closed)

Sub Genres
  1. Magical

Melpomene

Writer of Tragedy|Art by ROYTHEART|
Supporter
The rioting winter winds rattled the cage of branches that surrounded the hamlet.

As the last light fell a chill set in. The skies were stained red and orange, bleeding into the pale grey overcast. They were on the precipice of winter, tipping just from those soft days of autumn into the harsh dread of frozen winds. Leaves browned beneath trampling feet, browned and rotten in the soft soil.

The soft brushing of bared branches against one another mixed with the laughter of children as they ran, chasing a ball before stopping short at the edge of the woods. There they turned, anxious and unwilling to see what lay awaiting in the unknown shadows that shifted with every twist of the wind.

Pressing hard against the sting of cold, Gisella rode upon the pack of her horse. It was skinny, bordering on death. Tired and coming to a halt the moment they reached the edge of town. There were no hopes forcing it further, the feel of horse sweat beneath her hands and the labored breathing of her darling Annabell forced Gisella from the top and into the mud. It reached up sticking to her boots, yanking at her legs as though to trap her in the soft earth.

They had ridden for hours to reach the hamlet. Gisella was tired. Alone, she pulled through the stitches of society. Floating as though a feather caught in the breeze, she was trapped in the power of the current. As though fate had plucked her body from within and flicked it.

Rubbing at her nose which had begun to run the moment the air turned frigid she straightened her braid. A kerchief was tied loosely about her head. Swatched in the thick colorful skirts of the Singer nomads, she did not hide her identity. Instead, she displayed it proudly, trudging with much effort through the mud towards the center of the village.

Others turned, eyes grabbing hard on her for a long moment. Suspicion often touched the hearts of strangers. Between her foreign looks and the whispers of the black secrets shared between the mouths of Singers there came an inherent distrust.

Gisella had learned to ignore it.

They did not know any better. It was a natural reaction of ignorance - to be frightened.

She struggled to pull her items together, juggling her bags until finally settling in on herself, drifting towards the center.

She was in search of a man.

With the rise of disappearances by the forbidden castle, she had few options.

And this may have been her last one.
 

Owl Knight

Don't let it ruffle your feathers, my liege.
Evrard's boots sunk deep in the fetid mud, loose and wet as a foul stew. The late summer rains had settled in the low places between the trees, turning the brown earth into a nearly impassable morass. While his way forward was made difficult by the sucking force of the mud as it attempted to draw him in with each step, it also preserved the halting course of his quarry.

The wolf like tracks stumbled forward through the gloom and the wet, and dark blood splattered the ground, barely visible by the light of the sputtering torch he clutched in one gauntleted hand. It was hobbled, he could tell from its uneven gait, but even a wounded beast could claw and bite. The hunter's keen grey eyes probed at every shadow and behind every tree along the mud-stained road. The moon had hidden itself away behind a thick blanket of clouds and it made the torchlight his only means of tracking his prey.

The woods surrounding the path opened up and the hunter found himself facing a low wall of uneven stone, held together by crumbling mortar. An iron gate hung conspicuously ajar, offering entry to the boneyard, the old headstones standing at obscure angles like broken teeth in rotting gums. The blood trail led directly through the gate.

Evrard's grip tightened, both on the torch he held aloft in his left hand, and on the weapon he held at his side, a long straight square rod of beaten iron, flat at one end and ground to an ugly point at the other. It was a crude and ancient device, suited to one single purpose. When the brotherhood had thrived, they affectionately referred to the tool as The Coffin Nail.

He could hear it now, the wheezing breaths of something not quite human and not quite beast. He was drawing near. He could feel the blood pounding in his ears and his teeth ached as his jaw clenched in a potent mix of determination and repressed fear. He was drawing in now, closer and closer to his prey.

The blood trail curved to the right, around a bend in the path that foot traffic had carved between the graves and as he turned, his torchlight fell on his target.

It was huddled at the foot of one of the tombstones, a black and beastlike shape, hunched and trembling. It's breath came in a grotesque mix of seething growls, wheezes and grunts.

It heard him approach and its head snapped up, gazing back over its shoulder. Though the eyes themselves were black and hollow as a pool in a deep cave, the face itself was paradoxically human, a drawn and gaunt visage, but human nonetheless. All else was a trembling mass of matted black fur, long bent limbs and claws.

"Leave me alone!" It squealed, choking on the words around a mouthful of lupin teeth that glistened with saliva in the torchlight. "Thou agent of perdition, what cursed instrument do you bear?"

Evrard could see the end of the crossbow bolt where it had entered the beast, just under and behind the left arm, neatly puncturing the space between two heaving ribs. The man-thing tenderly kept its arm raised away from the debilitating injury. The tip had been oiled with wild hemlock and no doubt the blessed agent was working its way through the creature's unholy system, restricting the unholy rhythm that constituted it's breathing. Of course an undead like this one, born of an ancient curse, would not be slain by mere oils, or even impalement, though, he acknowledged with some relish, it would suffer greatly before the end.

This wolfish thing had been a man once, a man who laid once to often with a conjuring witch. The witch's head was in a bag , nailed to the back of Evrard's cart. This thing's disposal was simply cleanup.

A curse was a difficult thing to break and cursed undead almost impossible to kill with mortal weapons. But all cursed beasts knew one great and petrifying fear, the rays of the dawning sun. Given time, this thing would burrow back down into its grave and nestle in a coffin to await the next nightfall. He would see to it no such escape would be possible.

The coffin nail felt heavy in his grip, almost as if imbued with some kind of dread weight by unseen magics. He had honed the tip to a vicious point, seated on the read footboard of his cart.

One heave of his musclebound arms put the tip through the vile flesh and he felt a crunch as it pierced stone and earth, boring a hole through the gravemarker and pinning the cursed beast in place like an insect in a display.

It howled and writhed. Smoke rose from the bubbling wound where the coffin nail penetrated the creature and, try as it might to pry the dreadful implement loose it could not, but only howled all the more as the iron burned its grasping claws.

Evrard sat on one of the low headstones to watch. The first fingers of dawn had begun to creep into the sky far to the east of the forest.

"Please!" the pitiful wretch wailed. "Please release me, though hateful bastard!" the archaic speech seemed all the more vile burbling up through those sallow lips and fangs. Evrard said nothing, but watched the beast squirm with bright unblinking eyes.

"I'll find thy woman," the thing spat. "I'll find her in the night, I'll defile her bed, I'll ravage her purity, I'll feast on her FLESHAAAAAAAAHHHHHH-" the thing howled with renewed agony and Evrard lunged forward, gripping the nail and driving it still deeper with a vicious thrust.

The hunter did not speak, but there was a malice behind his eyes, bright and terrible, and, perhaps a hint of pleasure.

He seated himself again and watched with that same unblinking gaze as the thing struggled, moaned, wailed and snarled. Curses followed pleas, epithets followed bargains, but the hunter remained still as the gravestones that surrounded them.

Orange flame bloomed in the eastern sky and the Beast thing's burbling changed to ragged shrieks of rage and pungent fear.

"I'LL KILL THEE!" it shrieked. "I'LL KILL THEE, I'LL KILL THEE! AAAAAAAAAHHHHGGG!"

As the sunlight broke over the boneyard, a hissing sound rose from the Beast as its very flesh boiled. The coarse black hair that covered its body dissolved into smoke, baring its half human frame, which mottled and darkened under the impassive light of dawn.

It shook, writhed, shriveled and burned, until all that was left was a pile of white ash and an echo of its death cry fading on the morning air.

❀ ❀ ❀
By midday, the witch's head and a bagful of ashes had been thrown at the feet of the local steward and, newly minted with local coin, the hunter found himself at a corner table in the local inn, mud flaking from his great boots and the train of his long leather coat, to the chagrin of the keeper's sour faced wife.

Two coins paid for bread an meat, another for the tall wooden tankard of local brew that washed it down. A forth would secure his bed for the evening and, before the next sunrise he would be on his way. Though his work was a service to these ditch water burgs, he knew better than to expect a hospitable stay. These small folk wanted their problems sorted and forgotten, and if he stayed, they'd soon be turning their suspicious eyes upon him. Better to be gone and leave them to their drudgery.
 
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Melpomene

Writer of Tragedy|Art by ROYTHEART|
Supporter
The soft touch of winter's dying light slid quietly over Giselle's cheeks as she trudged through the heavy mud. Hair damp from sweat and eyes frosty with tears brought on by frigid cold she could only lift her colorful skirts and push on. There was nothing to see other than the cautious looks of others as they caught sight of her, as though an omen had come pulling through their land and they were helpless to stop it. As though she was anything more than a small girl who could barely hold herself up in her own shoes, drowning in her own starvation as she huffed. Cheeks rosy and eyes flickering from one face to the other she seemed a sight for poor eyes.

A young woman whose hair caught the last light, shining golden in the sun's raise as she bit her lip. Dirtied cheeks and mind drifting as she witnessed the young stranger. The second one to stumble into their town. But the one they were least worried about. Her father had already left, gone in to begin drinking. Alone and worried, a tug within the root of her chest pulled and she timidly stepped forward. A single tanned hand, calloused and worked lifted to beckon Giselle forward.

As though possessed, Giselle's disposition changed. Perked and energetic she leapt through the mud. Her skirts floated lightly around her hips as she grinned.

"Why hello," she said as she dipped herself into a clumsy curtsy. Stumbling she came up soon. Carriage erect and eyes alight she stood a head shorter than the kind woman but stood all the same. "And you are?"

For a moment the woman only blinked. As though sluggish she witnessed the way the stranger moved. And then her head dipped into a nod. "Verity." Then she shifted, as though not knowing what to say. It was a sharp realizing. She could not offer this stranger a place to stay, her father would not allow that. Nor could she give her food or shelter. All she could do was speak.

But speak was all Giselle wished.

"Did a strange man come through this town? A hunter of sorts? To take care of... your... uh... Problem?"

She blinked and then pulled back after that. A singer connected to the hunter...

She took a step back again, hands raised as though to protect herself. Despite her fears, her head dipped into a nod. Eyes blinking she let her eyes shift from one place to the next.

Giselle pressed her hands together. "Good, good... Where? I need to find him. To talk."

Verity shifted, mouth pressed into a line. And then her eyes shifted to the Inn. "Try there."

And that was all Giselle needed.

She shoved into the Inn with trouble, stumbling through the door and smoothing her Singer skirts down as well as her hair. The few patrons turned to watch her. They eyed her warily. But soon began to turn back to their drinks. The owner's lips were thin, as though upset that now he had to feed both the hunter and singer under his roof and his luck was the worst of which to ever come.

Then she bent her neck and shifted her eyes about... watching... searching... until...

That man looked quite brooding and strong. And former knights probably would have much to brood about. And she imagined they would be quite strong to be hunters. So, with great effort, she yet again picked up her skirts and marched up to him with no fear. Coming to stand by him in his corner and dipping into another, more graceful, curtsy.

"How do you do?" she said first and then pulled up with her chin held high. "I've come to recruit you, Sir."
 

Owl Knight

Don't let it ruffle your feathers, my liege.
His very bones seemed to ache as he settled into the booth in the corner. He hated sitting with his back towards doors, always preferring to see who came and went. The remnants of the brotherhood were a welcome sight when there was a grumpkin or boggart in need of a good thrashing, but their lingering presence was wont to draw ire from the superstitious smallfolk.

A pewter tankard landed with a thunk before him and a heavy wooden pitcher followed. The ample barmaid peered at him from beneath red curls, her eyes dark with that same knowing suspicion he had experienced many times before. He was used to it by now, the feeling of that stare was an unwelcome but reliable companion. He met her gaze, his face hard, daring her to look away. It did not take her long.

The ale was bitter and yeasty, thick with foam and dark. He drained the first tankard at a single parched pull feeling the fire fill his gut and the warm bouquet of the alcohol flood his ravaged senses. He was bone weary, chilled to the core despite the greatcoat he wore. Three nights in the winter mud of the forest and boneyard, waiting for the ghoul to make itself known had taken their toll. He sometimes wondered if he himself were as dead as the unholy things he put back in the ground or on the pyre.

Bread and meat were deposited with the same degree of ceremony as the ale, this time without the dire staring contest. He tore at the salted pork without much in the way of appetite. He was tired, and though his stomach howled, he wanted the numbing effect of the ale and the sweet release of sleep.

He poured out a second tankard and took a pull. In the cloudy surface he could just make out the craggy surface of his face, reflected up at him. The cold eyes, hollowed by three nights of lonely watch in the dark woods, the scars of battle that crisscrossed the even deeper scars of time, making his face a patchwork of faint lines. He found himself trapped in the eyes that stared back at him from the ale. Old eyes. Eyes that were so very tired.

"How do you do? I've come to recruit you, Sir."

He looked up to see her curtseying before his table. The ale and weariness had dulled his senses somewhat, but she had also made little fuss about her approach. How long, he wondered, had he been staring into his cup?

He leaned back, taking her in. The was a skinny starveling of a thing, her pale cheeks and dark eyes curtained by equally dark hair. Her skirts were colorful, but travel stained with the winter mud. He knew the colorful pattern. It reminded him of a troup of nomads he had encountered some years ago; from Heruheim if he recalled. She was young, very young, hardly more than a child. Though her attire was poor she seemed to brim with the hopeful confidence reserved only for the young.

He downed his second ale and grumbled as it settled in his stomach.

"You don't look like you can afford me, girl."
 

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