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~The Ploy~


The room remains silent as the prince, with his confident grin, and Arwyn, still holding Illy, stare at each other.  The tension between them is thick as molasses.  The majority of patron’s have already left, discreetly, though a few brave souls still linger in the recesses of the walls.  Hoping they will have a good vantage point to watch without becoming involved in the test of wills.

Adway raises his arm high above his head and Arwyn flexes, inching his hands closer to the hilts of his swords.  With an evil gleam in his eye and a smirk, the prince snaps his fingers.  The sound explodes in the silence of the hall.  Immediately the hall’s doors burst open and the silent room is suddenly filled with the boisterous clash of armor on chainmail and metal boots pounding the stone floor.

Arwyn swiftly pulls Illy behind him and unsheathes his swords without missing a single movement from the encroaching guards as they encircle them both.  Arwyn’s eyes smoke and spark slightly with each movement as he scans the room taking in the threats around him.  He grunts in frustration as he counts the soldiers that have now finished entering the room.  50 strong, he adjusts his grip and slowly turns in a circle, Illy constantly at his back. Keeping his swords upright, flat side parallel to his body, he continues to scan the room.  The reflection in his blade allows him to watch his back as well as his front.

“You know,” Adway speaks as he makes his way through the guards, “they say that a single Abitanti Ombra is worth 50 of your most veteran soldiers.” The soldiers move out of his way in unison and he stands in front of Arwyn hands behind his back, evil smirk on his face.

“I would like to test that legend,” he finishes as he reaches out in front of him with his fingers ready to signal his guards to attack.  Arwyn flexes his grip and slips his stance a bit wider for more leverage.  The prince and Arwyn return to their battle of wills as they both refuse to lose ground.

The prince backs down first.

“I’m being incredibly rude to my guests though,” he says as he drops his arm and the soldiers relax.  Adway returns to his seat and the guards flank him, keeping their cage around Illy and Arwyn as tight as possible.  Arwyn remains weary but relaxes his grip slightly.

“How about you come back and finish the banquet with me?” Adway motions to their seats.

“We’ll stay right here,” Arwyn counters, “better odds.”

“Suit yourself,” Adway dismisses with a wave of his hand.  “Your meal has gotten cold anyway.”  He reaches over and runs a finger done the dismembered torso, lingering on the ample exposed breasts.  He casually flicks the nipple before licking his finger clean.

“It’s a pity really, she was a lovely girl,” he sympathizes with his finger in his mouth. “She was a childhood friend, I’ve known her my whole life it seems.  Daughter of one of my father’s barons.” Prince Lekon eye’s fog in reminisce.  Illy looks at the pile of dead flesh and immediately feels the pain of loss for the young girl’s life.  Arwyn’s eyes flare into a blaze, his anger for the admitted injustice almost more than he can control.

“A shame I only had her once.  Apparently, her father had started to get a little forward with his affection toward her and her sisters.  She wanted me to do something to save them.” He stops staring at the ceiling and turns a steely cold gaze at Arwyn.  His emotionless expression causes his eyes to appear blacker than before.

“So that’s exactly what I did.  Her father won’t ever touch her again.  Don’t you agree Arwyn?” Illy recoils at the use of Arwyn’s name.  Not even the elders in the village use it without some form of honorific in front.

“I question the way you were raised.”

Adway laughs loudly with a slight insanity.

“My father was a good man, cared for us all equally,” he starts, pinching the bridge of his nose as if the memory gives him a headache.

“It was exhausting playing the good child in front of him.  Best thing that ever happened to me was when the old man secluded himself.  I had free run of the castle.  I can still hear the screams I was able to induce.” He smiles to himself, lost in thought.

“But you would have no idea what I’m talking about would you?” Adway glance sideways at Arwyn, gauging his reaction.

“He who killed his own parents.” Arwyn has known he was the cause of his parents death for years.  He’s accepted it and moved on.  He shows no reaction to the provocation.  Lekon sighs his defeat.

“At least one of you was willing to accept my gifts,” he exclaims, switching targets. “Tell me, Illy, was my gift pleasing?  That little girl’s soul was especially pure, I made sure of it.” Illy bolsters her courage and steps out from behind Arwyn.  Adway has a hopeful smile on his lips.

“I may have lost myself to the hunger, but that kind of gift will never be pleasing to me or my respected people.” Lekon’s smile falls away as he growls his frustration.

“You and your morality are infuriating.” He angrily runs a hand through his hair.  His face, twisted in anger and frustration, makes him look a fair bit older than the 16 years he’s supposed to be.  Arwyn leans into Illy as he keeps his voice low.

“I don’t think we’re getting out of here without a fight.” Illy looks around and nods her head in agreement.  Lekon notices them whispering and turns to face them with a curious grin.

“Planning your escape?” Illy and Arwyn stop what they’re doing and look at him.  His grin grows into amusement.

“By all means, try.  I wonder if you can get past my army with just the two of you,” he voices curiously. “It’ll be a good example of what I’ll be getting when I force your village to follow me.” He thinks for a minute before his eyes light up.

“That’s a great idea!  Let’s see how long you can last,” he raises his hand into the air. “Try not to die.  I still have use of you.” Snapping his fingers causes the soldiers to slowly advance on the duo.

“Looks like you’ll get your fill tonight, Illy,” Arwyn tells her as he leans down to kiss her fiercely.  Illy smiles into his lips, a sinister looking grin of satisfaction, before flipping her hood over her head covering her face.

Te amo, alter dimidium animae meae,” She whispers and steps into Arwyn’s shadow.  Her cloak grows black and her entire being seems to shift into the shade.  Wisps of darkness break her edges and her form weakens.  The solidity of her body vanishes and all that remains is a swirling shadow.  Her head comes up, startling the soldiers closest to her, only her eyes glow in the umbrage of her body.  A broken, torn smile – glowing white hot as if revealing the light trapped inside the darkness – shreds the black, forming a twisted resemblance of a face just before she melts into obscurity, completely disappearing.

This is Illy’s true form, one she must will herself to become.

The soldier closest to Arwyn stops moving as a chill shivers down his spine.  The hairs on the back of his neck rise in warning as his shadow solidifies behind him.  The red-eyed Illy grabs his head and whips it back so he’s looking at the ceiling, then climbs him like a tree to perch herself on his shoulders.  With the craving fully in control now, Illy is more shade than being.  Her body nothing more than a whispering midnight cloak billowing in an invisible wind.  Her long fingers clasp the young soldier’s head in her death lock as she stares into his wide terrified eyes.  He tries to scream but his voice freezes in his throat, only his mouth works with no sound.

The remaining soldiers are paralyzed by the display in front of them.  The terror etched into their comrade’s face making them unable to move any closer.  Illy’s cracked and ripped smiles breaks the shade shining a bright white light on his countenance.  She regards him a moment, tilting her head from side to side as if curious about him.

Her glowing red eyes quickly change to bright white as she looks around her quickly and she lets out a frustrated growl.  Her smile drops as she viciously pulls open his mouth and slides her hand down his throat.

No time to savor the meal.

The soldier’s eyes roll to the back of his head and his body twitches and jerks as she searches his insides for what she wants.  Something pops and rips from inside the soldier as Illy grins in satisfaction.  She pulls her hand out of this mouth holding a ball of glowing white gel, dripping profusely through her fingers.  She smiles hungrily as she looks at the object before greedily devouring it.

The soldier drops to his knees, collapsing backward at an awkward angle, as Illy swallows the last of his soul and dismounts.  The soldier’s demise takes only a matter of seconds, but to those witnessing the event it seemed like an eternity.  She slowly stands up and looks at the remaining soldiers still paralyzed with terror.  Glowing orbs float in the shade of her once beautiful face, now an indistinct shadow, piercing in their stare.

The whole ordeal took mere moments, barely a heartbeat.

“So hungry,” she groans from deep in her chest, a terrifying whisper barely human in its sound. “More.  Give me more.” With a swift twirl of her mantle, she vanishes into smoke only to reappear in front of another soldier nearby.  The soldier backs away quickly, shaking his head in fear.

“No, stay away…  No!” Illy clasps his head to once again feed her need.  He struggles against her grip, but her grasp is more than he can handle.  Despite being mostly specter, Illy has gained the strength of a desperate starving animal.

“Fools,” Lekon shouts over the screams, “shut your eyes.” All the soldiers hesitate before doing what he says.  Illy’s target is the first to shut his eyes and she growls her annoyance.  A soothing call enters his mind.

Give me what I want.

He shakes his head, but the sound is mesmerizing.  The voice continues, each time more hypnotic than the last.  Soon the young man’s brain is dizzy and his eyes open slowly.

Two people dead in only a few moments.

Illy captures her next victim before the rest of the soldiers start growing brave.  As Illy starts feasting on another soul, the guard closest to her advances cautiously – trying to take advantage of her distraction.  He doesn’t get more than a few steps before Arwyn grabs him from behind, whips him around and sinks his now jagged teeth into the soft contours of his neck.  Arwyn savors the young soldier’s screams of pain and surprise as the sensation of the thick metallic substance washes down his gullet.  The memories of the young man, though unpleasant, are not horrendous.  He almost feels guilty for killing the innocent boy.  His teeth shred a chunk of the boy’s throat as he pulls away, sucking the white essence from the gagging body.

“I cannot have you disturbing the priestess as she feeds, puellus,” he announces as he wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand.  Arwyn slides the twin blades from his back once again and the sound of it snaps the remaining soldiers from their paralysis.

He side-steps one blade and swipes across his attackers chest.  Spinning around, he blocks a downward swipe with his second sword with a shower of sparks.  He stabs the wielder with his spare sword; easily slicing through metal and flesh.  Swinging his arm to the side, he drags his sword through the torso of his stab victim, ripping through muscle and bone to free his weapon from its bloody sheathe.  Another side-swipe with his free weapon removes the head of a would-be attacker.  Seconds are all it takes.

Like a bladed whirlwind, Arwyn stands in the eye of the storm of blood, viscera, and appendages.  Arwyn pauses briefly as the soldiers stop their onslaught.  Crimson liquid drips from his hair and trails along the markings on his body, most of it his enemies but he hasn’t completely escaped injury.  His back and arms display large deep cuts all bleeding profusely.  The markings soak and devour the loose nectar of life as it slowly flows across his contours.  Never losing eye contact with his enemies, Arwyn kneels in the blood at his feet and places his hands, swords in all, in the sanguine fluid.  The life blood swirls and spins around his arms.  As if taking on a life of its own, it flows up and around Arwyn’s arms.  Its trek completely coats him in even more gore than before.

His markings drink their fill as his wounds rapidly heal and seal with hardly a scar.  Though devouring flesh is the fastest and most reliable way to heal his wounds, absorbing blood is a simple and safe method when in battle with multiple opponents.  Soaking the blood splatter off his body is a lot safer than kneeling in it like he is now, but he wants to show off a little bit.  Create a bit of doubt and fear in the soldiers causing them to hesitate in battle.

Arwyn’s crazed smile cracks his cheeks, causing them to rip into a jagged line – his mouth now open even wider than before revealing his jagged back teeth.  The fire in his eyes licks angrily at his lids as smoke billows from the flames.  The soldiers stop in shock.  The grotesque figure in front of them stands up straight and rolls his head, loosening his muscles.  The young men with swords take a step or two back as the full weight of what they’re fighting hits them.  This is a monster, plain and simple.  It used to look human, but that was only a visage – a mask.

He is a creature of murder and mayhem.

Arwyn roars with a power that shakes the rafters.

Some slowly retreat to the back while others try to control their shivering.  Arwyn slicks his tongue from ear to ear, his eyes hungry.  Taking one step toward the shivering squad, Arwyn disappears into a spinning and sliding blur, reappearing behind them.  Taking a second to access their damage the squad slowly starts falling apart.  Some of them have their arms fall off before splitting at the waist.  Other’s heads fall to the floor followed by their bodies.  Arwyn catches his breath before locking eyes with his next group of targets.

The small squad of youngsters drop their weapons in fear and run from the room.  Illy grabs one and drags him back, kicking and screaming, enveloped in her shadow.  His protests slowly die away as she drinks.

A lifeless corpse lays on the ground as Illy moves on.

Despite the massacre in front of him, Prince Lekon sits silently in his chair smiling gleefully to himself.  Arwyn sinks his jaws into the shoulder of a screaming victim as he notices the odd display by the prince.  He hasn’t moved nor has he attempted to summon more soldiers to replace the fallen.  He seems more content in watching.

In fact, he seems pleased at the sight of all the carnage.

Arwyn saps the final soldier’s soul and callously drops the body to the floor then sheathes his swords.  Illy appears behind him with her features still incorporeal.  He reaches out to her and silently covers her eyes until her form and craving become stable.  Her cloak returning to the cloth it once was, her milky beauty appearing from the darkness.

Gone is the specter leaving only the girl.

“Did you eat your fill, Illy?” Illy looks dazed, her eyes clouded over.  Using him as support, Illy grips Arwyn’s arm as she tries to remain standing.  Arwyn uses his thumb to gently wipe away a string of essence trailing down her chin.  Illy offers him a weak smile in appreciation.

“Never,” she whispers.  Arwyn caresses her cheek before turning to face their attempted kidnapper.  Adway starts clapping loudly without moving from his chair.  Two single guards remain at his side just as they have throughout the entire fight.  Arwyn walks up to the still clapping prince though he keeps a respectable distance.

“Wonderful!” Lekon exclaims. “Those rumors do not do you justice at all.  You could easily kill another 50 of my men.”

“I’m to assume that, since you didn’t call any more soldiers, we are free to go now?” Lekon continues to smile, though there is no emotion in his eyes.  Illy slowly regains her composure and rights herself.

“Why would you assume that?” He cocks one of his eyebrows in amusement.  Before anyone can react, Arwyn pulls one of his blades from his back and throws it at the prince.  The sword punctures the chair next to his head.  The prince’s ear falls to the ground with a wet smack.  The soldiers make a move to help their charge, but Arwyn stops them with a quick flick of his hand to his back.  They immediately stop moving.  Screaming as Arwyn walks up, bypassing the guards, Lekon leaps from his chair and falls to the ground holding his bleeding ear.  Arwyn casually pulls the sword from the chair.

Murder and tears in his eyes, Lekon looks at the chief standing triumphantly over him.  Arwyn knows that attacking the prince is not the best idea, but the young man needs a reminder who is the better.  Being respectful to a ruler is no longer valid, from now on fear of retribution from his clan is all that Arwyn wants to convey.

Lekon tries to gain control of his pain by taking slow shallow breathes.  Kneeling in front of him, Arwyn points his sword tip at the prince’s heart.

“Listen closely young prince, I’m walking out of here with my wife.  You are going to let us without complaint,” Arwyn commands.  Lekon spits in his face.

“I will watch your village burn and your people in chains!” he shouts.  Arwyn slams his sword tip into the ground right between Lekon’s legs, close enough to split his pants.

“You come anywhere near my village and you will wish for death,” he says with a slight smile, “human is always better when still warm.” He stands up and sheathes his blade again.  Turning his back to the prince, Arwyn walks toward the door taking Illy’s hand as he walks past.

“Mark my words Arwyn of the Abitanti Ombra,” Lekon shouts after them.  Arwyn pauses and turns slightly to look at the prince.

“There will be repercussions for the insults you have given me today.”

“I highly doubt that, Lekon.” He turns and leaves.



It takes the two of them significantly less time to get out of the castle and back to their room.  Arwyn starts packing all their things into their saddlebags.  Illy remains by the door looking apprehensive.

“Are you sure that was a good idea?” she asks, “threatening the prince like that.” Arwyn stops and faces her.

“No, I’m sure it was wrong,” he answers then goes back to packing.  Illy looks flabbergasted.

“What do you mean you’re sure it was wrong?” she demands. “Why did you do it then?”

Arwyn refuses to look at her.  Ashamed, Arwyn looks at the saddlebags in his hands, now fully packed.

“I’m not entirely sure.  I told myself that I needed to show him that we’re not people to be threatened, but the reason sounded better at the time than it does now.” Arwyn shakes his head at the memory, trying to forget his mistake.  Illy walks up to him and gently guides his head to look at her.  The shame and embarrassment prevalent in his eyes.

“I lost myself in my anger,” he tells her softly, “I guess I have a lot to still learn about being chief.”  Raising on her tip-toes, Illy pulls his lips to hers.  Arwyn wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her closer.  Illy moans in the back of her throat at the contact, but breaks the embrace with a push on his chest.

“I have no doubt that you will be a great chief,” she proclaims.  Arwyn smiles slightly at her.

“Your faith in me is amazing.” Illy wraps her arms around and places her head on his chest, smiling.  Suddenly his heartbeat, which she had been listening to, slows and Arwyn starts to wobble on his feet.  Illy catches him as he slowly falls to the ground and tries to support his weight.  His breathing grows shallow as he rests on his knees.

“Arwyn?!” Illy shouts and his eyes open lazily.  They glow slightly with an essence not his own and Illy immediately knows what’s happening.

“You swallowed their animabus?!” Arwyn can only nod weakly in response.

“You should have told me before it got this bad.  The nausea must have been terrible when you were threatening the prince.”  Illy gently lowers Arwyn to his back, cradling his head in her arms.

“Now, let me remove the poison for you,” she tells him with a reassuring grin.

Arwyn nods his head.  Illy closes her eyes and kisses him softly at first, working his lips into following her lead.  Poison causing him to be weak, Arwyn can only lie there.  Her lips gradually open wider as she deepens the kiss more, her tongue slowly growing braver.  Their tongues connect tentatively and Arwyn comes alive a little.  He reaches up, with a sickly slow speed, and grabs the back of Illy’s head holding her in place as he shoves his tongue into her mouth.  Both salivate in desire, the wet slapping of their lips and tongues clouding their judgment.  They duel for dominance of each other’s mouth, almost completely forgetting the original goal.

Illy pulls away, tongue still extended, a string of nectar bridging the gap between the two of them.  Her desire mixes with her saliva and combines with his desire as it flows down his throat.  She moans when she opens her eyes to see the essence glowing in his mouth, brought forth by her saliva.  Arwyn closes his eyes.

Illy attacks him.

Smashing her mouth into his, Illy starts sucking the souls from his body, coaxing it further and further into her.  The essence poisoning him slowly starts to raise in response.  Illy groans from deep in her chest as the first piece of quintessence connects with her tongue.  She desperately inhales the animus, the need and hunger slowly building in her gut.  She fights to remain in control of both as she feeds on the stored souls.

Arwyn gradually regains his strength as the essence is drawn from his body.  He weakly opens his eyes and looks at the creature attacking his mouth.  Illy pulls away and licks her lips of the last of the spirit.  Wiping the back of her hand across her mouth, she gasps heavily for breath.  Gingerly, Arwyn sits up—also gasping for breath—and gently rubs Illy’s head affectionately with a grin.

“Thank you.” Illy nods.

“Just don’t let it get that bad again.  I won’t always be around you like this.” Illy stands up, followed by Arwyn.  They briefly brush dust from their clothes, grab their bags and leave the town without a second glance behind them.



Prince Lekon watches the two horses in the distance from the top of his keep.  He lightly taps the sill in thought as Gradius steps from the shadows.

“Was all that necessary, My Lord?” Gradius asks with a slight bow in reverence.  Lekon turns away from the window throwing his royal mantle behind him.

“Unfortunately, yes.  They are too well hidden.” He plays with his new ear in remembrance of the injury.

“The ploy just seems to have been too elaborate for our original purpose,” Gradius explains.  Lekon crosses his arms in annoyance.

“As long a Jorogumo has fulfilled her obligations, then it was all worth it.”

“It pains me that you doubt, My Lord,” a female voice hisses from above them.  Something black and red shifts from one rafter to another avoiding the light so only fleeting glances can be made.

“Even as we speak one of my precious young is with them,” her voice slithers from the shade.  Skittering from one rafter to another, the large being remains in hiding.

“Good.  Don’t disappoint me,” Lekon warns as he makes his way to leave.  From above the door, the torso of a young woman crawls from the shadows, clinging to the rafter.  She’s beautiful and nude, her eyes a color emerald and her hair like coal.  Her lower half is obscured by shadows and the rafters, but the presence of something large and sinister remains.

“Master, you promised me.” She eyes a corner of the room where giant web-like sacks hang, one swings slowly as if the contents had shifted.  Prince Lekon looks back at the floating torso and grins.

“Of course, my sweet, I will have your supper delivered presently,” he tells her, reaching up and gently caressing her cheek.  Jorogumo relishes the contact before giggling as she retreats back into the shadows again.

“Let’s go, Gradius,” he says as he throws the door open, “we have an army to prepare and a village to raze.”

Submitted: March 23, 2018

© Copyright 2023 Casey Ford. All rights reserved.


Add Your Comments:



I loved your story! Nice job!

Thu, March 29th, 2018 6:24pm


Thanks... I'm glad you liked it. I have a lot of great ideas I'm going to play with I hope they all work.

Thu, March 29th, 2018 4:25pm


Coming along nicely, Casey. It certainly never bodes well to let anger rule your tongue when dealing with powerful enemies.

Sat, April 7th, 2018 8:35pm

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