A Rogue's Shadow

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
It was just another job they said. Simply take out the target and be on your way. But the things that followed this job, linked to it or not, were not the usual for the King of Rogues.

Submitted: November 08, 2016

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Submitted: November 08, 2016

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He sat perched above the merchant’s stall. The moon was at his back, casting a shadow on the street below. Having shifted over the gargoyle that normally stood on watch, the people below had no idea. The merchant had a crowd of people, looking at his “wondrous” goods that the guard did not allow him to sell during the day. His goods were all things lowlives and dark individuals craved; poisons, herbs, trinkets and artifacts from abroad, and some very “subtle” weapons. He could not match the other merchants during the day, so he worked at night to make ends meet. But by doing this he had angered a number of people, enough to get Carden to “take care of him.” It was a shame, he had bought hemlock from the man only nights before.

“ Alright, no point in standing around any more.” A cloud passed in front of the moon; and Carden was gone.

“ Come close my friends, the finest poisons and toxins to eliminate your next marks!” With the charisma of a salesman, but the hush of a swindler, the merchant had all types of ne'er do wells and assassins forming around his stall. Carden strolled through the crowd, those seeing him letting him through or leaving.

“ You, I’m sure your dagger is chipped or rusted, how about this fine new one I acquired from a partner in the east?” He held up the dagger flat in his palms.

“ Cute little thing aren’t you?” Carden reached the man, picking up the blade from the man’s hands. The others present began to slowly filter out.

“ Ah good sir, I remember you from the hemlock I sold you last week! Are you here for more? I have a fresh shipment, would work wonders with that dagger!”

“ You could say I’m here for that.” He grabbed the man by the throat, lifting him up with no effort as he squirmed.

“ W-what are you-?” Carden put the dagger up to the merchant’s chest, slightly pushing it into him Carden’s crimson eyes pierced the horrified eyes of his target like the dagger.

“ It’s just good business my friend.” Carden impaled the man with the dagger, his breath leaving him in a sudden gasp. Carden twisted the blade as the last of the life left him, and tossed the body behind the stall. He took what coin he had, as well as his hemlock and a few other herbs. He raised his collar before departing into the shadows.

By dawn, he had returned to his home in the slums, far from the town. He was slouched sleeping in the beaten wooden chair in the kitchen when he was awoken by the smell of food.

“ Mmmmmm, breakfast.” Carden pushed his dark hair from his face to see his wife cooking something over the firepit.

“ Ah, there’s my dashing rogue, finally joining the ranks of the living.” She turned and smiled at her husband before returning her focus to his meal.

“ And after all the work I went through to get you fresh herbs for breakfast, all I get his a smile?” Carden came up behind her, putting his hands around her waist before she turned and kissed him.

“ Better?”

“ Much.” She laughed and he spun her around. His cloak almost catching fire.

“ Easy there, you can't afford to lose this cloak.” She stepped on his cloak to smother what cinders formed. “ Take off your gear and relax honey.”

Carden listened to his wife, he removed his dark cloak and leather chest piece, exposing his toned chest, adorned with scars of the past. He kept on his dark trousers, putting the knives hidden in them on the table and placing his boots at the side of his chair. He again pushed his dark hair with his one gloved hand.

“ Where is Kali?”

“ Still sleeping, she tried to stay up and wait for you again.” Carden smiled, then heard the sound of feet pattering across the floor.

“ Daddy!” A small figure dashed from the other room and jumped into Carden’s arms, almost knocking the chair over.

“ Woah there little one!” Carden stood up and held his daughter in his arms. “ Careful now, daddy is not as young as he used to be!”

“ Sorry daddy.” Her small scarlet eye held the ignorance of a child and the white one held the apologetic sign of almost doing wrong.

“ It’s ok, I’m used to it.” He put his daughter down as his wife put his food on the table.

“ Hemlock flapjacks, your favorite.”

“ You do know how to spoil me.” Carden sat back down and dug in, cutting up the food with his knife and shoving into his face.

“ Hemlock good?”

“ Just the right amount of kick.”

“ If only others enjoyed my cooking.”

“ Your food is amazing Leila, other’s are just picky.”

“ Even you mother didn’t like it.”

“ I warned her you were a killer cook. She was a bad cook anyway, never made good food, probably bad taste.”

“ Well she only ever cooked for you, your father never ate any of it.”

“ That’s because he ate whatever his whores up in High Rises cooks him, then eats them for dessert.” There was a knock at the door. Carden and Leila looked at one another puzzled; who would be there this early?

“ Kali, go back to your room for the moment.” Leila shooed her daughter from the room.

“ Ok mommy.” Kali ran off, and Carden went to the door once Leila nodded. When he opened it; it was simply his contact Cadoc. The older knight with flowing white hair and a braided beard stood dawned in his guard attire.

“ Oh Cadoc, it's just you. You scared me there being here so early.”

“ Sorry about that Carden, but we need to talk.” Carden moved aside as his armored friend walked in, his helmet tucked beneath his arm. He sat down in Carden’s chair, putting his helmet on the table and his hands on his knees. He let out a large sigh.

“ What’s going on?” Carden asked while motioning for Leila also to leave, and she did.

“ Well, some people seem to be upset with you.”

“ That’s nothing new.”

“ I mean real people Carden. Guard Captain Volker is mad with you.”

“ What have I done to bother Volker? I haven’t done a job that targets the guard in any way.”

“ Well that merchant you killed last night for House Mendoza and House Amundsen was connected to him some how. He was not pleased this morning when he found out his body was rotting behind a stall of illegal goods.”

“ I’m shocked there was anything left after I left, half of the thieves and assassins here in the slums had to have been gathered around his stall.”

“ Well apparently he was the Captain’s contact in one of the trading guilds and in the slums. And that is the least of your problems.”

“ Oh boy what now?”

“ Your father finally realized you were the one at the top of most of the House’s pay grades. He’s increased your bounty to over 100,000 gold.”

“ Wow, very sudden jump from 1,500. Anything else?”

“ And now for the cherry on top; Lorcan has returned to Ricwood. ” A silent shock overcame Carden as an angry scowl crept onto his face.

“ Lorcan is back?” Leila rushed into the room, having been eavesdropping.

“ Leila don’t start-”

“ Carden he is our son! As his mother I can’t forget about him like he was never born!” Carden rubbed his head, Cadoc shifted in his chair, uneasy.

“ Listen Leila, you know exactly why I chased Lorcan out of here last time we saw him. He is going places even I know not to dread. He had been gone for six years!” Carden turned to face his wife, who was on the brink of tears.

“ I know that you have the ability to toss aside those whom you share blood with, but I can’t. I, am his mother, and I will find my son and have him come home so he can explain things to us! You didn’t listen to him last time you just-”

“ I listened to him plenty!” Carden dug on of his daggers into the table. “ That boy was dabbling in the dark and arcane, things even I knew were far beyond what I should do for power. The reason Dark Arts and Arcane Magic are banned in this kingdom is because the Noble Houses fear what it can do! I have one lesson that I took from my father; the Dark Arts corrupt a man, turn him into something that is not human! You haven’t seen what it does to people Leila!”

“ And that is exactly why I don’t want my son to be mixed up with it any longer!” Leila stormed out of the house, pushing aside both Carden and Cadoc.

“ Son of a whore.” Carden began donning his gear once more.

“ Daddy?” Kali peered around the corner.

“ Does she really-?” Cadoc was in shock seeing her eyes, but Carden cut him off by raising his hand.

“ Kali, stay in your room for today ok? Just until mommy or daddy comes home.”

“ Why was mommy crying daddy? Do I really have a big brother?” Kali was sniffling with tears slowly crawling out of her eyes.

“ It's a, long story. Daddy will tell you when you are older ok?” Kali nodded and Carden turned her around towards the other room.

“ Cadoc, we have some work to do.” Carden pulled the rug out from under the table, revealing a trap door.

“ Where are we going?” Carden drew a mighty silver long sword from the floor.

“ To talk with some people.”

The “Rogue of Ricwood” and the “Shield of the Houses.” Strolled through High Rise, the wealthy part of Ricwood where the nobles meandered about with little care in the world and their house flags decorated every business they owned.

“ People are looking at us Carden.” Cadoc was barely keeping up with the speedy pace of his cloaked companion. Carden looked to the sides slightly, seeing that in fact a number of the people around them were gawking.

“ Ignore it. We have business here.”

“ But with who?” Carden finally stopped in front of a store waving a House Blade banner; The Tainted Blade: Apothecary and Magic Arts.

“ With House Blade’s Apothecary, Basil Blade?” Carden moved to the door, ignoring his friend, and reached for the handle, when Cadoc quickly grabbed his hand.

“ Carden, you will cause problems within the houses if Ricwood’s biggest assassin and thief storms into one of the houses’ personal apothecary.” Carden turned to face his friend, his eyes held something that made Cadoc’s skin crawl.

“ I don’t care about the houses. This goes beyond them if I know my son.” Carden swung open the door, storming into the building. Cadoc followed, hesitantly, though with haste.

The building smelled of herbs and smoke; incenses were scattered around the store, hanging with a limpness from their clay holders. All kinds of herbs, potions and balms covered the shelves and counter, with the addition of books and other herbal items.  

“ Basil!” Carden called out, a great deal of annoyance in his voice. Cadoc tried to hush him, but Carden’s call was met with the sound of groaning and potions shattering. It was coming from the back room. Carden vaulted over the counter and through the curtain to the back room. Cadoc rushed as well, going around due to his armor weighing him down and his age. When he arrived in the back, he found Carden knelt down beside the corpse of Basil Blade, dagger drawn.

“ What happened?” Cadoc inspected the young man’s body; his long blonde and green hair was tainted with the lad’s own blood, which was oozing from his neck. His head had been cut cleanly from his neck, though it had yet to roll away. Carden closed the young man’s herb colored eyes, and the head finally fell away from the neck. Cadoc gasped as the head rolled, exposing a dark like aura in the center of the neck.

“ Cadoc, my son did this.” Carden lightly touched the dark aura, it seeped from the wound slowly, emitting like a fog.

“ How can you tell?”

“ This kind of kill is my handiwork, Lorcan knows just about all my techniques, I taught him too well. He is trying to frame me, but this dark power.”

“ Do you think he knew you would come here? That way it would seep out when you investigated?”

“ Maybe, or he wanted me to appear to now being using Dark Arts, despite how long I’ve resented them.” Carden got back on his feet, looking over the corpse of one of his few allies.

“ What now? People will notice Basil is not around, and when they find the corpse-”

“ We need to keep moving.” Carden turned with haste and made his way further into the back of the store. Cadoc followed through the storage shelves of potions, elixirs, to find Carden looking at a secret door, once concealed by an empty shelf. It looked out on one of the dark alleys of High Rise, where the scum of the slums came to broker the deals of assassination and framing with the nobles.

“ Why does Basil have this? No store should have a secret door in High Rise!” Cadoc was shocked as the two stepped out into the alley.

“ Oh the things you guardsmen don’t know. Let's go.” Carden dashed off down the alley, heading deeper into the noble sector.

“ Where are we off to now?”

“ Another contact.”

Behind the castle of Ricwood, lay the weaker of the Noble Houses, those that had been fighting for years to have manors and estates in High Rise. That was where the truly wealthy, powerful houses lived; Blade, Mendoza, Amundsen. Ricker, Kite. But the others, Fox, Davidson, Mourt, Storadi, had to do anything they could to force themselves into the seats of the other houses. The Shadowed Quarter.

“ Now what business do we have in the Shadowed Quarter?”

“ There is one thing that we can not have in the slums, the Black Market. Too many guard investigations, too little bribe money in the slums to keep the uptight guards from learning about it.” Carden looked back at Cadoc and smirkted.

“ I am not uptight!”

“ You dress in silken robes when at home and eat with the noble families when you can. Very lavish.” Cadoc frowned at Carden, who had turned back forward. The two arrived now at the far end of the Shadow Quarter, and with night falling, it truly was shadowed. And despite it being night fall, the “market” was very active. A number of people, those Carden recognized from the slums, guards, and Nobles from both quarters were at this market.

“ Why is this here? In one of the Noble Quarters of all places?” Cadoc was shocked and slightly disgusted, seeing the people whom he served and served alongside with in such a shady place.

“ There are certain, luxuries, one can’t get at a regular trader, the people here sell such things. Similar to the man who I killed the other night, but he got cocky and left the Shadowed Quarter, he went to the Evergreen residential quarter. Lots of people die there, but even more here.”

The pair made their way through the entirety of the market; guards and Nobles bypassed them as much as possible once they say them. The merchants called out to Carden, offering him new poisons and herbs for eating, but he ignored them. Other rogues and bandits glanced at Carden, one even tried to pickpocket Cadoc. The poor young lad, Cadoc swung around with sword, lobbing his head off. It landed in a basket next to one of the stalls. A hush came over the crowd, and the remaining rouges let them be. Carden smirked at Cadoc when the old knight turned and sheathed his blade.

“ Kids these days. Let’s keep going.” Cadoc pushed back Carden now, having gotten a read of their situation. Carden laughed slightly and shook his head as he followed his friend.

When they reached the end of the Black Market, they were met with a small wooden shack, rotten boards, scatter moss, cracked window, it was certainly a deserted shack as Caodc had seen one.

“ And this place is?”

“ Home of Noxaura.”

“ ‘The Nightwind Witch?’”

“ Yep.”

“ How long has she lived in Ricwood?” Carden pondered for a moment.  

“ Since before I was a child.”

“ How do you know her?”

“ She’s my adoptive mother.” Carden knocked on the door. No answer came. Carden sighed as Cadoc shifted in his armor, uneasy at the mention of Noxaura. Carden knocked again.

“ Who is it?”

“ Your little bat.” Footsteps suddenly were heard, coming to the door with great haste. The door swung open, to reveal a young woman, night black hair slung over her left shoulder in a ponytail, and a seemingly ragged ebony garb covering her body. Her silvery eyes were a great contrast to her pale skin, which contrasted her dark clothes.

“ Carden, my dear.” The young woman swung her arms around Carden’s neck, hugging him tightly. She was much shorter, so she was almost off the ground hugging his collar. Cadoc also noticed that, for a witch who was supposedly centuries old, she looked younger than Carden.

“ Hello Noxaura.” She pinched his cheek. “ Owh.”

“ You call me mother, or anything but my real name, makes me feel old.” She crossed her arms and puffed up her cheeks, very childish.

“ Seems rather paradoxical, but alright, mother.”

“ Much better. Now, what brings my son and one of the Guard Captains to my home at this hour?”

“ Lorcan has returned to Ricwood, and apparently has learned the Dark Arts.” The witch’s cheeks deflated as a look of sorrow came over her face.

“ That boy never did listen. Come in.” Noxaura entered her shack, which appeared to be pitch black. Carden followed suit with no hesitation, and soon Cadoc. The room was then lit by a light blue flame, dancing brightly on some wicks. Noxaura sat down at the simple dinning table with two chairs at it, Cadoc took the other at Carden’s gesture, and Cadren himself leaned against the opposite wall.

“ How do you know he is using the Dark Arts for sure?”

“ I found Basil Blade dead with a Necrotic Decay spell in his neck, delivered probably from a dull blade.”

“ Wait, so that wasn’t planted after his head was cut off?”

“ No, from my guess, Lorcan landed a very superficial blow with an old knife or something sharp enough, and the spell ate away at everything in the area.” Carden looked off out the cracked window, arms crossed.

“ Then why was it not more decayed?”

“ The spell can be focused to affect a certain area, if Carden is correct, Lorcan used the spell to simply decay everything straight from the wound he landed.”

“ And the mist that came out when we found it?”

“ A byproduct of the spell, nothing more.” Noxaura flipped her hair back, placing her hands on the table.

“ He had been gone for years, he probably spent some time in each of the other three kingdoms. Shadowfen and Cromerth are both known to have a number of Dark Mages, so he probably spent more time in one of those.”

“ There are many other places to learn the Dark Arts outside of the kingdoms Carden.” Noxaura gazed at Carden, who was suddenly filled with shock.

“ He couldn’t have found out about-?” There was a knock at the door. Silence overcame the room, Carden planting a hand on his dagger. He could see blood red eyes peering through the cracked window.

“ Who is it?”

“ You know who, dear sweet sister.”

“ Oh sh-” The door was launched from its hinges and all those sitting jumped to their feet. Another young woman, long braided white and black hair, an elegant marble colored robe and a dark cloak. Her bright golden eyes shone brighter than the sun. The red eyes loomed before her, an aura of shadows consumed him.

“ Drop the cloak now dear Lorcan, they know it's you.” The shadows dispersed, exposing the boy beneath. Lorcan had shaved the left side of his head, his hair hanging between his crimson eyes, the rest tied back in a tight ponytail, hanging like a gargoyle from its stone perch. He wore black cloth cloak, black gloves, dark pants, and dark boots with blade protruding from the toe. All dark, like the night, like his father. He had two scars on his face; one ran horizontally across the bridge of his nose, the other down his left eye past his jaw.

“ Lorcan.”

“ Hello, Rouge of Ricwood.” Lorcan glared at his father with daggers for eyes.

“ What are you doing with Lorcan, Adora?” Noxaura had began to form a spell in her hands, Cadoc had his hand on his blade.

“ Dear sister, I just have been spending time with my dear sweet great nephew. Teaching him the things he was denied, by his abhorrent parents.” She put her arms around Lorcan, running her hand across his cheek, tracing the scar with her index finger.

“ You taught him the Dark Arts.”

“ Well of course, I won’t deny family the right to learn. That is just wrong. Unjust.” Adora gazed over at Cadoc, smiling seductively, causing him to step back slightly.

“ How did you find Adora, Lorcan?” Carden grinded his teeth as his son’s gaze did not move from him.

“ I had heard of a powerful witch in the Untergang Swamp, and so I went to look for her. I nearly died, but she saved me. When she learned her sister had raised my father, she couldn’t turn me away. She was more a mother to me than that pitiful human-”

“ Don’t say that about your mother!” Carden threw his dagger at Lorcan’s head. It was caught by a dark hand, the tip just barely penetrating his skin. A narrow river of blood ran down his face, joining his scars.

“ Still sloppy Carden.” The hand flew around Lorcan’s head with great haste, sent flying back to its owner, finding a place in his shoulder. Carden stumbled backwards, drawing the blade once more. Noxaura blasted the pair with a powerful darkwave, knocking both out of the hut and back among the stalls, which were also torn apart by the power.

“ You need to go Carden!” Noxaura pleased with him, grabbing him by the shoulders.
“ I can’t just leave you here with Lorcan and Adora!” Carden winced when Noxaura’s hand landed on his wound.

“ You have no choice. You and Cadoc must make your way to the keep, tell the Guards about this. You need to get the help of the Court Wizard and Priest.”

“ I can’t leave you!” Carden then remembered something. “ Leila…”

“ What about her?”

“ She stormed out of the house this morning when Cadoc told us about Lorcan returning. Kali…”

“ Why didn’t you mention her earlier?”

“ I forgot she had stormed off to look for him, I was just focused, and.” Carden clenched his fists in anger, though with his weakened arm, her could barely manage a fist. Noxaura healed his wound.

“ I’ll make sure they are safe, you go, now” Noxaura turned Carden towards the back door of her hut, though he was still stunned.

“ Let’s move you fool!” Cadoc grabbed Carden by the wrist and pulled him along. Snapped back into reality, the two quickly dashed off back into the market. With the moon fully risen, it was now deserted, save for these dashing, panicked men. Soon, they were not alone. Lorcan was following, dashing along the rooftops at extreme speeds. His eyes pierced the night, he was a savage beast hunting its prey. He landed in front of them, crashing with such force it shattered the stone walkway beneath them.

“ Die!” A shadowy longsword in hand, Lorcan lunged at Carden and Cadoc. Instead of meeting his father’s flesh, the ebony blade met Cadoc’s; a shining beacon. It was the greatsword he had on his back, a blade Carden had ignored.

“ Cadoc-?”

“ Carden, go now! I’ll hold him here!” Cadoc continued to push back, Lorcan’s wide eyes not wavering.

“ Cadoc.” Carden shuk of his shock, and pressed on.

“ Bastard!” Lorcan pushed back, watching as his father dashed off, with the same speed he was using before. Cadoc was the one to attack now, the light and dark clashing under the lunar light, dancing in the spotlight.

Carden made his way back to the Guard Barracks in High Rise, quickly knocking on its door rapidly. Much to his surprise, Captain Volker was the one to open it.

“ Carden…” His deep voice echoed in Carden’s ears. He wasn’t much older than Carden, but his head was clean of hair, as was hic face. The only thing that dawned his face other than his features were three linear scars running down his right eye. His marble armor sone bright under the full moon.

“ Evening, Guard Captain Volker. May I have a word with you-?” Carden was cut off as an armored gauntlet collided with his face. He was launched back several feet, landing on his back. Carden quickly jumped to his feet to see the armored goliath charging him, blade drawn. This time he avoided the attack, dashing around the small court yard of the barracks to avoid the captain’s wrath.

“ Halt, fiend!” Volker pointed at Carden as he jumped atop one of the training dummies.

“ Volker, calm down! I’m here on business!” Carden pleaded with the captain trying to calm him.

“ I know what your business is, ‘Rouge of Ricwood’: thievery and killing!” Raising his blade once more, Volker charged.

“ Ah shit, should've seen that coming.” Carden thought to himself, waiting for Volker. As the captain swung his blade, the dummy was cleaved cleanly in two. Carden on the other hand, had soared into the air, well above Volker and landed on the flagpole in the middle of the yard. The commotion began to gather attention, and lantern lights began to appear in the windows of the barracks. Volker turned, and with two large gaits, brought his blade clean through the flagpole.

“ Shit!” Carden yelled as his perch was brought to the earth, he jumped last second and rolled to avoid damage.

“ Be still, your day has come Carden!” Volker charged again.

“ Volker listen, I apologize for killing that merchant the other night, that was business, but this is different! I came here for help!” Carden pleased with “ The Marble Titan” as he dodged his attacks. A crowd began to form.

“ What help would I ever give to a fiend such as you?”

“ A fiend that was once a friend!” Volker and Carden stopped simultaneously, the blade only inches from Carden’s face. The captain’s face remained down, shadowed in the night. The onlooking guards were confused, whispers and murmurs began to form among them.

“ The captain and the ‘Rouge of RIcwood’ friend?”

“ There is no way these two had ever gotten along.”

“ I heard that the Rouge is of noble blood, maybe their father’s knew each other?”

“ Men!” Volker’s voice echoed, with a rare shaking tone. “ Return to your quarters, I will take care of this!” Though hesitant, the guards slowly began to return into the barracks, the lights went out, and soon the courtyard was silent once more. Volker had yet to raise his head since Carden spoke up earlier.

“ Volker?” Carden said slowly and hesitantly. With one swift movement, the blade was returned to its sheath on the titan’s back and he straightened up.  

“ Carden…” Carden now looked at the captain’s face; it was tear-stained. Before Carde could speak, the captain bear hugged him. The mans’ grief combined with his strength was crushing him.

“ V-volker, your crushing-”

“ My apologies.” Volker released him, Carden caught his breath and made sure none of his ribs had snapped.

“ N-now then, l-let’s discuss business.” Carden panted, leaning forward with his hands on his knees.

“ Indeed, let’s sit down in the barracks.” Carden hobbles behind Volker as the two proceed into the guard’s barracks. The lobby of sorts acted as a common area; chairs, benches, a table. Bounty posters, complaints, and other news were posted on a board on the right wall. A counter was at the far end, leading to one of the many armories located throughout the stone and marble maze. Since Volker was by the book, even with a friend, he went behind the counter to hear Carden tell his tale.

“ So, what can I help you with today, Mr. Corvus?”

“ Haven’t heard someone call me that since I lived with my father.” Carden paused, reading himself to deliver the news, Volker was shocked to see stiffen up. “ My eldest son, Lorcan, has returned after I ran him out of town years ago for having an interest in the Arcane and Dark Arts. He has returned tonight, having mastered those dark spells under the turoriage of The Witch of Untergang Swamp, Adora.” Volker remained silent as Carden leaned on the counter, putting his head in his hands.

“ Carden…”

“ I shouldn’t have run him out of town. I could have convinced him to lose interest, I could have prevented the creation of another one of ‘them.’”

“ It is not your fault Carden.”

“ He is right Rogue.” Another voice came from the door. Carden turned, bathed in the moonlight stood Lorcan. He held two things in each hand; Cadoc’s gleaming blade and his body in one, and the other, Kali and Leila. His mother laid unconscious, his sister, holding his crimson hand.  

“ Leila! Kali! Lorcan you bastard! Why did you do this?” Enraged, Carden reached for a hidden compartment of his cloak. Lorcan smirked, his eyes beaming with crimson light.

“ My false mother was looking for me still, she had looked in the slums, High Rise, and unfortunately for her, made her way to where I was fighting this poor excuse for a knight.” He dropped Cadoc’s body, his hand stained with blood. “ My young, ignorant sister was following her, and blew her cover. I had just finished off the knight, and so when I turned, so began her plea. I humored her and listened, listened long enough for Adora to reach my sister and well,” Carden look at his daughter, the red gleam began to form in her eyes as well.

“ No.” Carden fell back into the counter.

“ You can see the rest.”

“ There are voices daddy, they are nice.” Kali smiled, she was not hypnotized, but the Darkness had entered her.

“ Lorcan, why, why Kail? She, she was-” Carden was too shook to do anything else. Tears began to form in his eyes.

“ She was so young, a perfect mold for a new Witch.” Lorcan’s sinister smile grew as he spoke. “ The Darkness has already entered her, you can see that. It is too late.”

“ Halt there fiend.” Volker came forward now, his sword drawn once more. “ Your practice of the Dark Arts is strictly forbidden. Normally, I would take you in, present you to the Consul, have the Priest do what he can. But, for the acts you have done.” Volker paused, looking at his fallen friend’s body. “ You die by my hand. Now!” Volker began to charge.

“ Humorous. This one had one of the Six Blades of Light, and still could do nothing but leave superficial wounds. You, brute, what will you-” With one swift push off, Volker was in front of Lorcan, much to his shock. Volker’s blade, engulfed in ivory flames, slashed Lorcan across his chest, from his right hip to the adjacent shoulder. The blow caused Lorcan to release his sister, Cadoc’s blade, and Leila, as the force launched him through the door into the far wall. The wall cracked behind him, falling away to nothing but a charismatic hole.

“ Fucker, I’ll kill-”

“ Kill who?” Lorcan had barely sat up by the time Volker was hulking over him. Lorcan reached for his blade, but Volker slammed his head into the ground. After the crash, Lorcan reached to pull the hand away, but was met only by another crash into the ground. The guards were stirring again, while Carden remained in the barracks with Kali. He was still overcome with what Lorcan had done to her, but he accepted it, and knew what he had to do.

“ Daddy, you seem sad, what’s wrong?” Kali, still only grazed by the Darkness, was still the innocent, young girl she was before.

“ It’s, it’s nothing, Kali.” Carden again reached for his secret compartment. “ Daddy just, is thinking about things.” Carden drew a blade from the compartment. A long sword, not his usual type of blade, its ebony blade cracked with dark sparks, lunar swirls sprawled out across the blade itself. Its guard was like that of a rapier, but its single-sided blade curved at the tip like a Western blade. His head hung low, Carden walked over first to Cadoc’s body.

Carden turned it from its side to its back; there was a gaping hole in Cadoc’s chest, the armor, once pure, was tainted with its bearer’s blood. His opal eyes gazed into eternity, still showing a bit of shock from his killing blow. Carden said a small prayer for his friend, something he had never said for another, and closed his eyes.

Kali watched confused and curious as Carden then turned to look at his wife. Leila’s fair face and hair remained untscahthed, but the gash in her chest said she was far from fine. Carden picked up her body in his arms, she was cold, but the life had not fully leaked from her yet.

“ Leila.” He whispered. She slowly, painfully, opened her eyes.

“ Carden, my love.” She winced, the loss of blood was too great, Carden knew he only had a few moments at best.

“ I’m sorry Lelia, for everything.” Carden lowered his head.

“ Do not apologize my husband.” She put her fading hand on his still warm cheeks, and he looked up. “ What has happened here tonight, is not your fault. You are not to blame.”

“ But if I had not sent Lorcan away, we could’ve talked more, I was irrational, and now, and now…” Carden trailed off, the few tears from before coming back in force.

“ Leila, my sweet, sweet Leila. I’ve dragged you so far down in life, far away from the life you had set out for you, the one you deserved, not something like this.”

“ But you gave me something the castle staff could not ever my love. True, happiness.” Her breaths were coming farther and fewer between.  

“ Mommy?” Kali had slowly been catching on, and now approached her father and mother.

“ Kali, my beautiful daughter. Come closer to mommy.” She weakly held her other hand, Kali placed hers in it, and was then on her knees at her mother’s side. “ Kali, I wish I could spend more time with you and your father. And especially your brother.”

“ Where are you going mommy?”

“ Mommy, is going to take a really long nap, sweetheart.”
“ When will you wake up?”

“ Never.”

“ Why?”

“ Mommy is too weak to wake up, ever again.”

“ Mommy no! Don’t fall asleep!” Kali grasped her mother’s limp hand, shaking it as tears rolled down her face.

“ Mommy loves you, very, very much. Never forget that, my dear.” She turned back to Carden, one last time. Her eyes, as pure as snow, locked with his, one last time. “ Carden, take care of our children, and never forget, the promise when we were kids.”

“ Never my love.”
“ I love you, so much Carden.”

“ And I love you too, Leila.” The two embraced one last time, almost looking like he sucked the last of her life out of her as she finally fell limp. Carden closed her eyes, and set her body down on the ground gently. Kali remained at her mother’s side, sobbing, snot and tears flowing endlessly.

“ Daddy…” She looked up at her father, his face shadowed by his now raised cloak.

“ Kali, listen to daddy.” He drew a piece of paper from his pocket, one he had prepared years ago, incase such a evening as this would occur. “ Follow the instructions on this paper, it will lead you to a safe place.”

“ But what are you going to do daddy?” Carden placed the parchment in his daughter’s shaking hands.

“ Daddy, has some work to do.”
“ You always have work though!” She began to hiccup.

“ I know.” He smirked. “ I know all too well, I will never stop working either. Now, go. Listen to daddy, one last time.” Kali began to go off, but turned, and hugged Carden.

“ I love you daddy.” Her tears began to stain his cloak.

“ I love you too Kali. Never forget that.” His blade hovered behind her, tremoring. As Kali released, the blade returned to his side. She dashed away, vanishing into the night. Carden rose to his feet, looking over into the courtyard. Many of the guards were yelling, rushing about to go and aid their Captain. Volker had released the now bloodied Lorcan, his eyes hidden away in streams of blood and matted hair. He was panting, with Volker standing stern, blade ready, barely having put in any effort in his previous attacks.

“ B-bastard, how is there someone this strong among a pitiful guards garrison?” Lorcan panted, his hand with a weak grasp on his sword.

“ You rely on the power that Witch gave you too much. Your martial skills seem to have diminished greatly. Shame you aren’t as strong as your father, he is far more of a challenge.”

“ You dare mock me? I’ll render you to nothing more than paste!” Lorcan gripped his blade with both hands.

“ Come at me then!” Lorcan dashed, yelling with his blade back. He swung for Volker’s head, which was easily blocked by his foe’s blade. He then swung all the way around, going lower for the torso, and the blade bounced off the armor.

“ How?!” Lorcan looked up to see Volker bringing his fist down, catching Lorcan on the jaw, slicing his skin open, exposing his teeth and jaw. Lorcan covered what was left of his right cheek, it hurt to speak.

“ The Armor of Apollo, repels the attacks of the forces of Darkness.” The white and gold armor shown with a slight golden aura that Lorcan did not notice before. He brought his hand back to his blade.

“ Captain Volker!” The guards were closing in, arms at the ready. Lorcan looked about him; it was only himself, Volker, and now Carden in the courtyard. Lorcan was shocked to see his father as stern as he was, he then noticed the blade he was holding.

“ That blade, it can’t be?!” Lorcan stood in shock, and then Volker too looked over.

“ Carden, is that-?”

“ It is.” Carden raised the blade in front of him. “ The Blade of Dark Storms.”

“ But how do you have that? And why? It is a sacred treasure of the Eastern Continent!”

“ I know some people. Now, let me discipline my son Volker.” Carden glared at his ally, who flinched slightly from the look in his eyes. Though hesitant, Volker sheathed his blade. There was more shouting, chaos in the barracks.

“ Men, what is going on in there?!”

“ Captain, there is woman in here, I think she is one of the Witches-” The guard was cut off, the barracks became engulfed in dark flames. Volker drew his sword once more, dashing into the barracks.

“ Volker!” Carden called out to him.

“ My men are in there, I can’t leave them!” Volker pushed by him and into the burning barracks. Chaos began to engulf Ricwood, lantern lights and shouting could be heard in the other parts of High Rise, and Carden could see smoke and fires starting. He turned his attention back to Lorcan, he was still standing weakly.

“ Let’s end this Lorcan.”
“ You think you can defeat me just because you have one of the Three Eastern God Blades?”

“ I don’t think.” Carden dashed, faster than Lorcan could pick up. He turned to see his father behind him, blade still extended behind him. Blood dripped from the blade, and as Lorcan turned more, his chest split into a fountain. “ I know.”

There was now a large, x-shaped gash stretching across Lorcan’s torso, the pain, the blood less, it was almost too much for him to bare. Almost. Lorcan rose still, placing his free hand on his chest. Lorcan panted heavily, he had never sustained such injuries before. He looked at his father, he stood still ready. Lorcan forced the Darkness into his palm, and soon had it seep in and fill the cracks. Carden stood stern, allowing Lorcan to complete his process. The calm of the courtyard, was only masked by the hysteria around them.

“ Ricwood, has fallen, Rogue.” Lorcan panted between pulses of shadows, them slowly sealing him and forming an aura around him. “ Your family, your friends, everything you have worked to build in this city, gone in just, one mere evening.” Lorcan glared at his father, his head fallen back as he was still too weak to hold it up.

“ You may have taken Leila from me, and Cadoc, and even the whole damn city. But I still breath Lorcan, and while I still breath, there will be no where on any of the Four Continents that you can hide.”

“ Who said I would be hiding from you?” Lorcan clenched his hand into a fist as he was fully engulfed in the shadows. “ I won’t need to hide from a dead man.” He gripped his blade, full of dark power, crimson spheres with an obsidian backing filled his sockets, the fires of Hell themselves seemed to be peaking just beneath his skin, for his glew like a furnace. The two men; the King of Rogues and the Cursed Child, charged for one final confrontation, one final clash of their blades.

He looked on from the trees; Ricwood had fallen. The bodies of those both involved and not involved in the conflict that occurred laid scattered, lifeless, to remain internally ignorant as to why they too had to die. Few escaped, most died from the floods of bandits who followed a Witch’s call, others from the fires alone, and some from the Abomination let loose by a Witch. He witnessed it all, the death of hundreds, noble and peasant, Guard and Thief. But He still lived, others did not. Why him? Why did he get to live when dozens of others, who had no comprehension of the conflict that occurred, had to die? No one knew, and He didn’t care. There was no changing it now, and his injuries were too great for him to really focus. He barely held himself up against the tree.

“ We should be going.” She called to him from the darkness of the wood. “ There is nothing left here for you. There is much to be done elsewhere.” He sighed. The first arc was over.

“ You are right. Let us be on our way.” He shoved himself off the tree, standing as firm as he could on his feet. He looked at his blade, still stained with the blood of his foe. Did he truly meet his fate in that courtyard? None could say. He wiped it clean, sheathed, and turned to Her, for they had business to tend to. A number of people were on the list, many visits; some would end with words and handshakes, others with a corpse and a pool of blood. Time to see how many more stains would mark his blade.


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