Sponsors, Servants and Sacrifices

Younes quirked an eyebrow as one of his shadows sought his attention. It was highly unusual that the wispy beings took initiative. In fact, he liked that they were devoid of thoughts. His natural response was to destroy the shadow and to do a thorough check of the grounds, but Younes controlled the urge. Instead he trapped the shadow and contained it.
"Waerdon!" he bellowed.
His servant, an immortal vampire that he'd bound to himself with a part of his soul, came immediately. Once more, Younes felt pleased with the extra abilities of his servant. He didn't trust the vampire beyond his sight but knew that Waerdon would not kill him. That would mean losing the thing he desired most and Younes had made certain the vampire knew. But having a strong, fast and experienced servant at his beck and call did make life a hell of a lot easier. Cloaked in shadows as Younes' domain was, Waerdon didn't even have to avoid going out during day hours, there never was any sun. Well, not unless Younes wished there to be. But that was a little secret insurance. 
"You called, my Lord." Waerdon asked with a slight bow.
The large, burly man would have looked a bit silly in the butler uniform if he didn't boast an air of severity and restraint. As usual, Waerdon looked upon Younes without fear. In his mind he would not call the shadow devilkin master. He might not be able to do anything about his freedom now, but Waerdon kept his eyes and ears open for that little slip that would turn the tables. The defences in his mind worked overtime, shielding the small part of himself that was plotting to overtake this entire domain while the rest of his conscious played at being subservient. 
"Someone took over one of the shadows. Did anyone come close to the castle?"
Younes knew for a fact no-one had, but it never hurt to double- or even triple-check. Shadows and clouds grew thicker outside the castle keep while Younes' anger grew. Cold and calculated, Younes would not allow the storm to rage, but he would strike fear in all those on his grounds. 
Waerdon looked at the quarantined shadow who was still trying to get the attention of his master. 
"Sir, maybe we should listen for clues." Waerdon suggested.
 Waerdon ignored the hostile glare and pointed to the shadow who had started to write on the container. Dark, inky letters were forming as the shadow, obviously uncomfortable, did things it was not meant to do. 

Wyrm's Eye View is seeking novo's
Accept and come to the designated place
Decline and lose the only chance 
for a legion of minions

Hardly legible and far from clear of meaning, the words seemed to pulse as if waiting for an answer. Younes looked at his shadow minion. Apparently he was putting too much trust in the wispy non-beings. They were loyal but not all that smart and clearly not powerful enough to withstand an intrusion. But to have broken his hold on the shade, and then to have given it a different mission without Younes knowing? He was impressed. 
"I will come." he said and thought: but not without precautions.

Venture to Arx Infusco
Don't forget to bring a worthy sacrifice.

"How unpleasant." Younes hissed.
Waerdon had observed he exchange and felt oddly calm. He'd been waiting for an opportunity and this might be it. Younes, reclusive paranoid bastard, had not left his castle in the last 7 decades. Travelling meant leaving the security of his home base behind and having to rely on Waerdon's assistance more. Assistance that might not be given should a good opportunity arise. 
"Shall I inquire about this Arx then, master?" the vampire asked, carefully masking his thoughts.
Younes nodded and made up a list of items to take and handed a summons to the crew of his space traveller to one of the nearby shades. It would take a while to get ready but the message had not stated they needed to arrive by a certain date. These things always arrived at the right moment anyway. 


Ulfir scooped up the brown drab that had collected in the waste pits. He'd be dirty and smelly in no time but other than that the work actually wasn't that bad. He had lots of time to think and dream and at least in the septic pits people left him to his own devices. At least today he'd be able to bring home some wages. Life in the slums usually meant a lot of hard work and barely getting by. But things could be worse, which is why most people in the slums put up with the bad conditions. At least in the slums people were protected from the ravenous beasts outside. They were sheltered from the elements and maybe most important, they were far away from the eyes of the noble families that ruled the world with an iron fist. 
More than once, Ulfir had dreamed about finding a hidden treasure or a forgotten skill that would erase all his worries. If he were to become a noble, he would do things differently. His family always told him to just get on with life, that his dreams would get him nowhere. But though he understood that chances were astronomically slim, he still checked the corners and crannies of every place he cleaned. He shuffled through the muck to make sure he didn't miss anything. After all, a visiting noble might have dropped a priceless gem down the drain. At least, Ulfir imagined it was a possibility. 
But after another fruitless search, there was no other option than to head home for the day. Ulfir didn't even bother undressing and just threw a bucket of water over himself to get the dirt and smell off. His clothes would dry soon enough as the dank, underground corridors were hot as hell. Rubbing a piece of stoned across the stains, Ulfir managed to tear his shirt even more. It would hold for a few more days, but he should start looking for a replacement soon. 

Viryes noticed Ulfir walking through the hallway. As usual, the boy had his head in the clouds. She could understand being lost in dreams and fantasy was to be preferred above reality, but it usually cut down on life expectancy. She kept her feet firmly in the present and kept her energy to keep away from dangerous situations. She'd grown up in the busy quarters of a bordello and knew what the air felt like right before tension snapped the thin cords of patience in people. If only everyone could work together, life in the slums might be more enjoyable, but she knew she was asking too much.
A spider crawled down on the wall beside her. Viryes gave it a smile and picked it up to put it on a better hiding place. Even the bugs deserved a lucky break sometimes. They might just be living their lives, but they helped catch a lot of bad insects and parasites which in turn helped the human population. Someone had told her once that spiders were the sign of a healthy home, though she had some serious doubts about whether or not the slums could be called healthy even when there were always spiders around. 
Viryes wasn't used to following a tangent of thoughts and for good reason. The one second she'd lost focus, some unfriendly people had rounded a corner. She would usually have heard them coming and would have evaded them. As matters stood, she hastily turned her back and went back from where she'd come. There were a few corners there and maybe she could use them to disappear. Viryes was very good at disappearing and it had kept her alive.
Shouts reached her ears and she knew she would have to hurry. A small spider ran in front of her and she followed it's trajectory, hoping it would be running for dark and narrow spaces. A few seconds later Viryes was cloaked in shadows, hiding while keeping as quiet as she could. She was quite certain that she would get away, but then she heard something that made her throat constrict.
"Leave the girl alone!" Ulfir cried out.
He'd been on his way home, still a bit damp from his shower when he'd heard Tonyr's gang pursue the quiet girl he sometimes saw walking down the corridors. Ulfir had never talked to her but she seemed like a nice but timid person. Maybe he'd been dreaming about knights and valour a bit too much lately, but the weak should be protected and Ulfir'd felt the need to stand up against injustice. 
"Oh, and who are you to make it happen?" Tonyr teased, turning his attention to the boy.
"Ulfir, sir." One of his lackies told him, "nothing more than a rat."
Ulfir stuck out his chest but did start to feel like he was maybe a bit in above his head. There were three of them and they appeared to be better fed and rested. He glanced around and noticed he was completely alone. Viryes had successfully escaped so at least he'd done something right. Keeping up the bravado, Ulfir took a breath and spoke.
"Time to head home."
He turned and scrambled to get away, but a strong arm caught him by the collar. Maybe fate intervened, maybe it was just dumb luck. Or maybe it was just the reality of living in the slums that made Ulfir's tired shirt rip. Ulfir for once didn't stop to think about it and ran. His legs carried him to the first corridor he saw where he ran straight into Viryes.
Stumbling, Ulfir struck out his arms. Viryes caught on to him, pulled him back upright and dragged him along as the bullies rounded the corner.
"Follow me!" she hissed quickly and hoped Ulfir was at least fit enough to keep up.
On instinct she turned corners and flew through empty hallways. Viryes didn't know why they didn't come across other people. She didn't even know if she wanted to drag others into the chase anyway. Suddenly, after more running than she'd done in the past weeks combined, they approached the tunnel heading out. Viryes stopped immediately, trying to work out how to get back. But there really wasn't anywhere they could go without risking Tonyr's men seeing them.
Ulfir took her hand again and dragged her out.
"Let's wait outside for a bit." he told Viryes, not really thinking about the way they weren't exactly prepared for the cold. 


Zoraya sheathed her sword with singular precision. There were times for flourishes and embellishments and there were times that called for efficiency. Zoraya had practiced both, having been trained in sword fighting and sword dancing for as long as she could remember. She gave a bow to her opponent and then left the training stage, swaying her hips just that tad bit more than was probably appropriate. Zoraya didn't mind using her feminine charms. Having all eyes upon her felt amazing, knowing they respected her strength and cunning felt even better. 
With great fame though, came danger. Attempts on her life had been made for the past decade when it became known that she curried her father's favour for the succession. The last years she'd had to foil assassination attempts almost weekly. Some were feeble attempts: an archer trying to catch her off guard in the yard or the time her taste-tester had ended up dead because someone had tried to poison her food. They'd been half boiled plans at best, executed too quick and without proper preparation. Zoraya had dealt with the perpetrators swiftly. At times, the attempts had been so messy to have become almost endearing. Like the time they'd sent the trained bird with the bomb. It hadn't gotten even near to her chambers but she had to give them points for innovation and skill, ala that didn't mean she had felt like lessening their punishment. 
Just as she was wondering what scheme her adversaries would try next, one of her servants brought her a message. Her mail was checked thoroughly before it was delivered but somehow this envelope was still sealed. Intrigued but not lulled into complacency, Zoraya carefully checked the envelope. 
"Open it for me, dear." she asked of the messenger and stood a good distance away, seemingly busy changing her dress.
When nothing exploded and the messenger seemed fine, she was almost disappointed. The young girl looked uncomfortable and diverted her eyes from the letter, keeping it at arm's length. 
Zoraya smirked and said: "Put the letter on the table dear and then you may leave."
After the messenger had vacated her room, Zoraya changed and returned her attention to the letter that had somehow bypassed half a dozen checks. Her long, flexible tail twitched with excitement and her narrow tongue darted in and out of her mouth, almost as if she was tasting the air. 
"Who sent you?" she asked the letter, but that was one thing it did not say. 
Scribbled, untidy letters promised her minions, if only she would agree.
"I like a good challenge." she told the letter and before her eyes the ink rearranged itself to become a place name. 
"Arx Infusco." Zoraya tasted the name. 
Her lilttle pet snake, Tox, slithered out of the pocket of her dress, wound it's way across her arm to sniff the paper and ink, clearly liking the latter better. Zoraya assumed her poisonous pet knew what he was doing. Maybe sampling the strange message would prove fortuitous in the future. 
"How about a little road trip?" she asked her pet, "It might not be too bad to leave for a bit and let everyone plot."
Tox chirped and a new line appeared.
"A sacrifice?" Zoraya mused, "Let's head for the slums then."
Nobody there would be sorely missed.


Younes observed the entrance to the slums. The crack in the rock would barely give anyone the idea that there was an entire maze below the earth. The largest city of the region was only a few miles away and probably overlapped with the subterranean dwellings of the slums but that was anyone's guess. The slums were the place where people who didn't fit into the tight structure of the world ended up. It was basically the only place they could go if they wanted to live. Over multiple decades the population had grown by natural means and immigration. It was a lawless place where everything was possible, and that included getting a slave that was to be a sacrifice. His skin tingled with all the shady deals being completed around him, the sensation something he hadn't felt in a long time since he'd been holed up in his castle for the last few decades. 
Zoraya exited her vehicle and saw a person she knew vaguely from the meetings between the different domain lords. The small reptilian humanoid and the tall devilkin with the glowing eyes stared at each other. Each contemplating whether the other was here for the same goal but neither being ready to volunteer that information. 
"Fancy seeing you here." Zoraya said, seemingly friendly enough.
Younes nodded back a greeting and kept a close eye on the new arrival and possible rival. 
"What brings you here on such a dreary day?" he probed.
"Out for a stroll." Zoraya smiled, "And you?"
"Waiting while my servant is taking care of some business."
Zoraya's eyes narrowed as she spotted just what she needed at the slums entrance. Two small humans, seemingly only children, though Zoraya knew better then to make assumptions about size and age. Smaller sacrifices would just be that much easier to contain. Younes, meanwhile, followed her gaze and realised the opportunity. Why spend money when prey just wandered into his grasp? He commanded one of his shadows to alert Waerdon of the change and to report back.
"I see we might be headed for the same place." Zoraya said, deciding to drop the characde.
Younes was taken aback, his ingrained paranoia meant that he would not show his motives so openly. But Zoraya was not like him, she was far bolder. Deciding he needed to regain control, he did the next best thing he could think of.
"I have a ship waiting. Mayhaps we can travel together."
Zoraya blinked, her slit pupils as difficult to read as Younes' glowing eyes. Accepting his proposal meant being partly dependent on the devilkin. Younes probably wanted to keep her from killing him in his sleep. The thought made her smile. She was planning no such thing unless he himself tried anything funny. But stepping into his ship was a risky move. But what was life without a little fun?
"I'll gladly accept." Zoraya agreed, "How generous of you." 
Because she would not pay to risk her life. Younes'd better know she wasn't handing away control just like that. 

Waerdon stepped out of the tunnel that led down into the earth. He didn't need to be told what to do and grabbed both escapees by the arm. They struggled but were no match for his superior vampiric strength. 
"Come along, boy and girl." he chuckled and dragged Ulfir and Viryes toward his master and his new frenemy.
He was quite excited to have 3 people joining them on the journey. Three people who could maybe be swayed to kill his master. It's not like Younes was likable. He'd probably antagonise the lady Zoraya before half a day had gone by. And Waerdon would be there to observe the events. 


The ship landed in near darkness. Arx Infusco was situated between two mountain ranges, a shadow cast over the nidus for most of the day. Younes felt instantly at home, his pleasant mood casting clouds in the sky meaning Waerdon could disembark without problems and his loyal shadows could go explore the new surroundings. Zoraya looked around and noticed quite a few places of interest. She would not be allowed to explore on her own however, but that was to be expected. 
"Is our guide outside?" Zoraya asked Waerdon.
Despite his early hopes, Zoraya and Younes had spent their days quite amicably. A lot of veiled insults and taunts had passed between them but nothing severe enough to warrant open hostility. When they'd gotten close t the Arx, they'd received further instructions about what was to happen. Waerdon disembarked and waited a few seconds for the envoy to reach him.
"Lord Agate extends his greetings and asks for the Lord and Lady to be brought to his manor."
Waerdon nodded and said: "Am I to house with my lord? Or should I keep an eye on their sacrifices?"
"You have been giving lodgings in town. The sacrifices will be held in the pens. There is no way of escape. Not until the hatching. What happens after that is anyone's guess." The envoy responded.
Waerdon arched a brow and wondered if the two sacrifices would be vindictive enough to come after his master. The likelihood was low. So he shrugged and started to oversee the unloading of the luggage. He would have it delivered to the manor and enjoy his free time while he had it. Somehow he knew he should not relax too much, Younes would be keeping an eye on him for certain.

Ulfir and Viryes were handled along with the luggage. No-one addressed them, no-one acknowledged them. They were brought into a cell with a couple of bunks that was otherwise unoccupied. Though dusty it was dry and reasonably clean. The guards left, maybe to patrol some of the numerous corridors of cells they'd passed. It took a few minutes before ulfir felt brave enough to speak:
"Where are we?" he asked.
"I don't know. No place good." Viryes replied, "Did you see that arena out there? And those spikes?"
Ulfir nodded and felt his mouth turn dry. He told himself it was the dust but he knew it was most likely fear. 
"Do you think we stand a chance at this event?"
The two of them had heard enough during their trip here and while being escorted by the guards to know that there would be monsters involved and that they would have a chance to bond. In the unlikely event that they did, they were expected to serve their captors. Somehow neither of them believed they'd ever have a chance to get away once that happened.
"Our only hope is to escape during the hatching." Viryes voiced both their thoughts, "It won't be easy. I've learned how to hide from people but I doubt these monsters would be deceived by lowering my conscious presence."
She sighed and turned to the walls, relieved to see a spider. The presence of the tiny bug soothed her. Maybe because that meant the weak could still survive here. If only they could crawl through the smallest of cracks. They'd be out of here in no time.
Resigned, Viryes added: "We'll just have to keep our eyes open and look for opportunities."
"Maybe we can get more information from the guards." Ulfir said. 
It wouldn't hurt to try and he was usually considered harmless so he might as well use that to his advantage. 



Lantessama Isle
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