Long Live the Queen [OPEN]Started by Nikolai Dachov at Nov 26, 2019 7:22 pm
Dophn 17, 1201 AB
The warm, humid breeze against his face was a reprieve from the cold, dead winds that constantly stirred up dust and ash in the Blightlands. He coudln't feel its warmth, but the necromancer was still glad to be out of that Oma-forsaken wasteland and back somewhere more civilized--with Victoire and Larewen in tow. The other two weren't with him, not now. Two of the Queen's guards had hauled the forgetful elf off to a cell, and Victoire...well, he didn't know where Victoire was right that moment.
"Your previous apprentice has run away," the beatiful creature in front of him was saying. "A pity, really. He showed a lot of promise. But we will find you another." Queen Aleida waved one green-scaled hand dismissively. "You three have done well to bring this vampire to me. We will get some use out of her." The vampire queen's eyes glittered with malicious pleasure. "And when we do find out who she is and where she is from, you will all be rewarded for all your hard work."
"I'm glad to hear it, my queen," Niko said. "I'm pleased that our foray into the wastelands wasn't a waste of your resources."
"You are never a waste of my resources, Nikolai." She wrapped a lock of sea green hair around two of her fingers. "Which is why I have another task for you."
"So soon?" the necromancer didn't hide his surprise. "We've been here less than an hour..." He didn't dare admit that he was hoping for a moment of reprieve, perhaps of rest, some downtime to gather his thoughts, learn the fate of his last apprentice and perhaps select another. It would buy him time to determine how best to make Larewen crack--and to determine just what those symbols the three of them had found carved into the tavern floor meant. It was an old, crude blood rite--he knew that much, but lingered of a deep and primal power greater of his own. Maybe even greater than that of the Queen, though he dared not think so in her presence.
"You need not leave Veren'dun for it," Queen Aleida said. "I will be doing that. I have...something important to do, and am leaving you interim leader in my absence. Do not fail me."
"Me?" Nikolai couldn't help but sputter. "Not one of your vampires?"
"My vampires are pawns. Their loyalty is ensured through magic alone, for the most part. No, I need someone whose faith is actual...I need you."
"I'm here to serve, my queen," Nikolai said. "But I dare not leave the ah...management of our latest acquisition to anyone else."
"Then make good use of the Council and your time," the Queen said. "I leave in three days. Take what time you need before then."
Nikolai wasn't sure how he felt when he departed the queen's chambers in search of his accomplices--Victoire and Gannifer.
The gentle whisper of pages turning was the only sound disrupting the silence in the Spire's library. That, and the crackle of flames. A figure sat neatly in an armchair, a candle lit beside her and casting its yellowed glow upon the pages of a thick tome that spread across her lap. She was concious, but she did not appear well. Victoire's eyes were weighed heavily with fatigue, her alabaster flesh graying as the curse sought further hold in seemingly frail body. Her extremeties were blackened, and in some places sinew and bone showed where pale skin once had been. Those familiar, vibrant tresses whitened with the curse that had hold of her body.
At first glance, it appeared the woman was sleeping. It was the most that she could do: rest. The various necromancers of the Spire had already tried their best to unravel the disease that crawled through Victoire's being, but with little success beyond the woman waking.
She slowly turned another page, and upon closer inspection the tome would reveal the material she was trying to research. Much of the words did not stick beyond the fog that had gathered in her brain, but she read them over and over nonetheless. It was a tome of advanced curses, and she was seeking one that slowly rendered its victim undead.
A sigh left her lips, rattling as if it took strenous effort even to make only that sound. Her head tilted upward slightly, fading blue eyes focusing upward on the ceiling for a long moment. She blinked slowly, and her chest heaved as she tried to bite back the whimper that longed to free itself from her throat. Finally, she decided what she wanted to do and slowly, Victoire rose to her feet.
Shuffling toward the exit, her fingers curled around the ornate entrance's handle and she used her body, rather than her arm, to tug it open. The hallway was far chillier than she anticipated, but since when did cold actually bother her? It felt as if her bones were trying to deteriorate beneath the cover of her flesh. Sucking air inward, she began to make her way toward the stairs, where she slumped down alongside the wall, one hand loosely clinging to the railing.
Niko could almost feel the headache building behind his eyes. It had to be his imagining. As far as he knew, undead creatures didn't really feel physical pain. He had been looking forward to devoting his time to helping Gannifer fix Victoire--or torturing the truth out of Larewen--but now the Queen left Veren'dun in his lap. Him, a farmer's son from outside Kalisz. He never wanted to rule anything, except perhaps his own fate.
The necromancer descended the Spire's main staircase. The Queen's chambers were at the top, and the more utilitarian quarters and places of work were towards the center. The Pit--and the thralls and slaves that occupied it, was at the bottom, half-drowned at high tide.
That was where he'd imprisoned Larewen. He didn't believe for a moment that she didn't know what was wrong with Victoire or how to undo it. If her memory loss wasn't an act, it must be some spell to undo. There would be a way to break her--shatter her, and he would find it.
Because Victoire was his responsibility.
He could've left her in Veren'dun and had not. Queen Aleida had put him in charge--and he'd brought back his companion damaged. Larewen's presence was enough not to earn her ire, but he was disappointed in himself. The amnesiac was less of a gain with Victoire damaged.
The infirmary was mostly deserted. A couple of slave girls were shackled to beds. One was bleeding from an injury on her arm, and the other just lay silently. No Victoire. He questioned the physician, but she hadn't been there since the necromancers were looking at her earlier.
He checked her quarters. No Victoire.
Where else could she have gone? He didn't think she'd left the Spire. Had Gannifer led her off, perhaps, to speak to another dedicate of Oma? Nikolai didn't know, and so he kept looking.
Probably an hour later he found her, leaning against the railing. "Victoire." She looked so...different, now. It unsettled him. Her vibrant purple hair was white as bone, her demeanor...different. His blue eyes raked her, settling on her face. "Come you. Back to your room. We need to talk."
Victoire had all but forgotten Larewen by this point. She remembered the woman as being the one that inflicted this curse on her, but much of their communication, as little as it was, was forgotten. She'd lost count of how many flights of stairs she'd traversed in her wanderings, and was slumped over ready to simply forget when Nikolai found her. Her eyes closed briefly and when she spoke, her chest rattled as if bones and sinew were loosening.
"Nikolai?" she asked, as if she wasn't sure he was actually there. Slowly, she moved to pull herself to her feet, gripping the railing tightly as if her life--or unlife-- depended on it. "I don't know which way it is. I went to the library after I left the infirmary, to see what I could find, and then I was going somewhere but I don't remember where."
Her room would probably be the best place for her, but when those blue eyes fixed on the lich, it was as if she weren't entirely there--not that she ever was. Victoire was an odd one on her best days, delighting too much in things that were gory and not enough in things that were considered lovely by most. Her eyes seemed dull, and a frown weighed her lips downward.
She stepped back to the top of the stairs, to the landing before they continued upward, and swept her stare back and forth, perplexed. "What did the Queen say?"
If anything, Victoire was not in the state to learn of their Queen's sabbatical. At least, not right here, right now. She lifted her graying hands slightly and held them out for Nikolai to see.
"My body is... decaying. I feel it, and it's awful. It's eating away at me, and I can't find anything. The necromancers can't find anything either. What if there's no way to undo it?" Panick crept into her words, even as she shuffled alongside him in the direction she believed her room to be. Nikolai's guidance would be appreciated, with a murmured breath. "I don't want to be some useless ghoul, Nikolai."
Nikolai frowned as he studied Victoire's hands. "But that's not possible. You're a vampire, and vampires don't decay. Wouldn't your natural regenerative abilities fight that off? None of the necromancers told you anything?" He frowned. I will ask my own apprentice, when he returns from his task. The Queen thought he disappeared, but I've fixed that and spared him her wrath. It was a good thing, too, because Queen Aleida had been fond of Balian, and Nikolai didn't want to see his apprentice get eaten.
"Here, go to your room. You don't need to be expending more energy There is a way to undo it, and we will find it. If need be we will put the curse back where it belongs...in Larewen." The necromancer would like that, to see the captured vampire suffer like Victoire was suffering, maybe more. No, definitely more.
Balian listened quietly from a safe distance, considering whether to approach Victoire and Nikolai. He watches as well, eventually knocking on the nearest wall to announce his presence. He straightens his posture when regarded, bowing politely to both parties.
"Many apologies for my absence," Balian says to Nikolai. "I was set upon a task, and I have finally accomplished the desired result. As such, I have returned." Balian extends his hand to Victoire as if to shake her hand, but he changes his mind when he sees the state of her hands and arms. Curious by nature, he gazes thoughtfully at those graying hands, eyes roaming over each finger.
"Curse." He says plainly. "I may have overheard bits and pieces prior to announcing my presence. I pondered whether to disturb either of you." Balian smiles weakly to Victoire, having never met her before, and he gazes deeply into those dull eyes of hers with the lively sea-green of his own.
"Forgive me, m'lady. I am Balian Nightcrest. I am Nikolai's apprentice. If I can assist in any way, I will be glad to help. I'm sorry that you're suffering." His tone is calm, even, and polite, and he speaks like someone who has had a multitude of schooling and tutoring. Even his voice sounds intelligent, soothing yet upbeat in a stark contrast that works for him. After a few moments of silence, he looks at Nikolai. "How may I be of assistance, m'lord?"
Victoire responded with a gentle shake of her head, a soft frown weighing her lips. She leaned against the wall, and appeared every bit as delicate as she often looked.
"They've tried so many things, Nikolai," she said quietly. "Whoever she is... for it not to have affected her this way... She must be powerful. She must have done something because it doesn't spread by touch alone." Her gaze narrowed slightly, thinking of something that crossed Nikolai's mind back in Mournstead. Oma's Chosen. That thought terrified her.
Victoire looked past Nikolai just as Balian made his presence known and her eyes widened slightly. The woman had been startled. Those pale blue eyes of her fixed on Balian's, almost as if she were mesmerized by the oceanic turn of their color. Lovely things they were and her hand lifted toward him as if she had half a mind to swipe them from their sockets at that precise moment. The gesture was made mostly in jest as a faint attempt at a smile took hold of her lips.
"We need something... strong enough to weave the threads of the curse. Precise enough to reroute it. It's familiar enough that I was able to find out this: the curse can be put into a vessel. Like a piece of jewelry. Or her heart." There was sudden bitterness in her voice. "It beats with magic not her own, but more powerful than it. It would be a perfect host."
Nikolai turned his head at the sudden appearance of Balian and watches his apprentice approach, his blue eyes studying the other's face. "Don't touch her. She's probably contagious. Also, good evening." Usually the lich was not so abrupt, but his discussion with the Queen put hsi nerves on edge.
"She's a vampire. An old vampire, not of the Queen's bloodline," Nikolai replied. "Which leaves us to speculate--is this the power manifest of another? The Archers don't practice necromancy that way. Which leaves---Thorne, the Starsingers..." Nikolai trailed off, trying to recall the others. Thorne was based in Caelcicarn, the city of elves. Larewen was an elf, so perhaps she was from there. And the Starsingers were rare and elusive. They were an old bloodline, but hard to trace and harder to seek out. They might know something of necromancy, though... The necromancer silently weighed his options and looked between Victoire and his apprentice. "We will find something strong enough, and we will put that curse back into that wretched creature where it belongs."
Balian listens quietly as Victoire and Nikolai speak, finding the former's glance at him to be somewhat unsettling. He could hold his own in a fight, but he hoped he didn't have to. He internally considered her look to be predatory, but he wouldn't comment on it. Balian feared nothing, anymore. A life of hardships had given him that.
He did, in that moment, decide he didn't like Victoire very much. Anything that viewed him as prey he didn't like very much. Coming to Veren'dun had gone against his very nature in that regard. He came to learn, and he was, but he was still aware that he was living and breathing and there were those amongst the House that would not mind making a meal of him. At this point, it annoyed him more than scared him.
"I won't touch her," he finally said to Nikolai in response. "And good evening to you too, Lord Nikolai. I apologize my abrupt arrival. I went seeking you to let you know of my return. If you have no orders for me, I will return to my studies at once." His sea green eyes sweep the area, Victoire, and Nikolai, and he awaits further instructions in case he is set on a task by his master.
"House Archer does not deal with necromancy, but a random skillset. House Thorne is a bit trickier," he adds as a half thought. "They require the use of parchment to work their magic, and there are different variations of what each vampire can do that appears to be entirely luck of the draw. They do not deal in necromancy, but do have a strong battle magic that rarely gets used. If you'd like, I can look into their other fields of study or try to get my hands on one. For the purpose of studying, of course..."
Balian's voice trailed off as he folds his arms across his chest, his cold porcelain face mired in deep thoughtfulness before he studies his master. "Only say the word. I have been attempting teleportation in my recent studies. If I charted a path, it would serve as good practice to travel to Caelcicarn City and back. I understand if matters are more pressing here. I will defer to your judgement, m'lord."
"Oh no.. I couldn't do that.. It'd be against the rules."
"Ohoho! There you are, Miss!" Called Gannifar in a husky, sincerely delighted voice as he approached from far behind the group. The rakali-lycan sped up his jumpy gait, his clawed feet clicking and skritching against the floor. In his gloved claws was one of his "famous" blood cocktail jars, and slung across his chest beneath his long, dark red coat was a bag of things.
"It is good to see you still have some energy." He beamed at her as warmly as a massive water rat could, "Would you like a drink? Please, have a seat if you will." His tone was gentle and insistent, pleading even, especially with his hunched posture.
He motioned to the floor, having no chair on his person and hurriedly unscrewed the cap of the jar. If she took it, he would observe her carefully and clasp his hands together while she finished. Either way, Gannifar would eventually lift his head to the two other men already present in room with a start and a sudden flash of recognition.
"Oh! Mr. Dachov? I did not see you come over just now." The shifter offered him a stuttered bow of his furry head, his little ears drooping back. He offered the same to Balian, showing his surprise at the return of the apprentice, "Mr. Nightcrest. Welcome back."
Turning back to Nikolai, he shyly rubbed the top of his protected paws. Despite the sorrow in his eyes, his voice came forth as chipper as it was before, "I must ask our guest some questions, perhaps run some tests on her, to best assist Ms. Sinclair. The source of this... fascinating breed of magic must be specific to her."