"If I Want An Innistrad Novel, I Guess I Need to Write It Myself!"

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       From all we can tell, Wizards isn't putting out a novel for Innistrad block.


I guess that means I'll just have to write one and hope that no one screams at me!



AVACYN RESTORED



Chapter 1



           The cold rain lashed at the windows of the Spreading Branches, the wind blowing mournfully through the eaves. The horses in the stable shifted uneasily in their stalls, no happier than the patrons huddled inside the cramped roadside tavern. A dim fire sputtered fitfully in the center of the room, providing little warmth to the men gathered at the tables as they sipped their stale ale, sharing whispered stories of the horrors that lurked along the road, each one muttering curses on whatever desperate business had forced them into the storm.
 
            “’Sh gonna be a bad night,” Karst slurred as he stared at the chipped tankard in his hand as he rested his head on his arm. He tipped the mug this way and that, listening to what was left of his drink slosh this way and that, but he was too tired to lean it into his lips to take another sip.
 
            “They’re all bad nights lately,” Wilfred grunted, wondering for the tenth time in as many hours why he hadn’t cut the poor fool off already. He angrily slapped a wet rag down on the bar and began to scrub away the crumbs and spilled drinks. He knew that he wouldn’t though, not after Karst had returned from the fields one day to find a howler standing over the corpses of his wife and daughter, blood still dripping from its fangs and claws. No one knew why it had chosen to spare Karst, fleeing out the back door instead of killing him on the spot. That, at least, would have been a small mercy. Instead the farmer had been left to drink himself into oblivion.
 
            Wilfred, as well as everyone else in the room, turned and looked up as something heavy began to pound up the front steps. He unconsciously made the sign of the Heron, knowing no sane man could be out in weather so foul. He began to reach for the silvered mace he kept under the bar, wondering if the time had finally come for him to use it. The door opened with a groan, the swollen wood sticking a bit in the frame. Wilfred didn’t even realize he had been holding his breath until he let out a sigh of relief as a shadowy figure stepped into the light of a lantern.
 
            The man was clad in heavy a leather coat, muddy and torn to reveal the chainmail armor he wore beneath it. A pair of swords were belted to his waist, and his opposite hand clutched a burlap sack, still dripping blood onto the straw covered floor. He paused to scan the room for just a moment, before walking over to an empty corner table without a word. He dropped the bag on the table with little care, then draped his coat across the back of an empty chair. Next he removed the swords, laying them down so that they would be close at hand if he needed them.
 
            Wilfred walked over to the table, staring uneasily at the bag. He glanced between it and the stranger before asking, “Is that what I think it is?”
 
            As if in answer the other man reached down and opened the bag, revealing the severed head inside. It looked like a wolf’s head, but wrong. The jaw was too long and narrow, the black and grey fur too short. The forehead was too large, and the teeth too clean. Wilfred sat down heavily, unable to look away from the terrible sight. “I thought they were supposed to shift back after you killed them?”
 
            “They are,” the other man answered as he leaned back in his own chair. “Now they don’t, apparently. Or at least this one didn’t. I don’t know why. Perhaps the Cathars back in Thraben will be able to tell me why.”
 
            “How much do we owe you?” Wilfred asked, licking his lips nervously. Between the bad weather and the recent attacks, the town had been suffering. Even the remote families had been avoiding the market, no matter how badly they needed supplies. That meant that the collection they had taken up was meager at best. But if they stiffed this man, then the next time they needed something hunted there was a good chance that no one would answer their pleas.
 
            “Nothing,” the man answered, shaking his head. He reached into his shirt and pulled out a small silver necklace, depicting Avacyn’s Collar over a pair of crossed swords. It was the mark of a Church Inquisitor, and carrying one falsely was a crime punishable by death, as with any other impersonation of a church official. “The office of the Inquisition has a bounty on werewolves. That should more than cover my costs. I’ll settle for a bowl of stew and some wine if you have it, warm mead if you don’t.”
 
            “Of course,” Wilfred answered as he stared at the head a little why longer. Greed replaced fear in his eyes, and a plan began to take shape in his mind. “I’ll have my daughter come by with your food right away.”
           
            “Thank you,” the Inquisitor accepted with a nod. He watched as the innkeeper walked back through the room, briefly stopping to chat with several men along his route. To anyone else it looked like he was just checking on his patrons, and for some of them perhaps he was. More than a few, however, turned to steal a glance at the Inquisitor. He made a show of not noticing simply smiling his thanks at the young girl who brought his dinner.
 
            Will they move tonight? he wondered, Or will they wait until I leave town, and make it look like the act of bandits? Bandits, most likely. It would be easier both to set and ambush and to get rid of my body that way. Just leave it in the woods somewhere, or pretend that I was attacked by another creature. If they try for me while I sleep then it would make things much more complicated. There would be an investigation, and they would be like to lose to the head in the course of it.
 
            He frowned as he sipped his win. It was one of the unspoken hazards of being an Inquisitor, one that most people never talked about. The church had always posted bounties on the creatures that haunted the night, generally rather large ones. Claiming them wasn’t easy, however, as all too often bringing back proof was near impossible. The ash from a vampire was indistinguishable from the ash from a fire, ghouls just reverted to being corpses, and werewolves had, at least until recently, converted back to their human forms. The easiest to claim were skaabs and geists, but then they were also the most difficult to kill as well. It wasn’t unheard of then for an Inquisitor or Hunter to find themselves being attacked by the same people they had just rescued, all in the name of easy coin.
 
           The Inquisitor’s musings were interrupted as the door opened again. He was just as shocked as the others when a young woman walked in. She was dressed in an elegant, long black cloak over a surprisingly immodest evening gown complimented by elbow length gloves. Her only nod towards sensible travel clothing was a pair well worn boots. She pulled the hood back as she looked over the room, and he felt a small shiver run down his spine as her eyes met his. There was something about her, a sense of danger that made him uneasy. His hand slipped under the table to rest on the hilt of his dagger as she began to walk towards him. He would have preferred his swords, but there was no way to free them without provoking her, and would be too clumsy in his current position besides. None of his wards were reacting to her presence, so she was nether vampire nor werewolf. As she grew closer he breathed deep, but there was no smell of chemicals or rot, so not an alchemist either.
 
           “Is this seat taken?” she asked, motioning to the last empty chair at the table.
 
           “No, it is not,” he answered carefully. He could hear the raw power in her words, touching his mind with seductive pleasure. It wasn’t because of a spell, she was simply that powerful.
 
           “Would you mind if I joined you then?”
 
            “Not at all,” the Inquisitor answered as he examined her more closely, looking for some sign as to her true nature. His eyes widened as he realized her cloak and boots were perfectly clean and dry. A mage then. “It would be ungentlemanly of me to turn down the company of such a vivacious woman such as yourself. I wonder, though, why someone such as yourself would be traveling on a night such as this?”
 
           She smiled as she waved for her own dinner. “Now that is a long story…”
 
 
                                                                                                       *          *          *
 
 
            Wilfred frowned as he watched the woman talk and eat the Inquisitor. Finely dressed as she is, she must be headed for Thraben as well, he decided. This will wreck everything! It would only make sense for them to travel together, for safety at least. And if they don’t, she’ll have seen the head. If he disappears and we turn up with it later, then there will be a witness against us! Damn it all to the Ashmouth!
 
            Reaching under the bar, he pulled the mace out and dropped it on the bar top with a heavy thud. The man at the table closest looked over in surprise, but Wilfred just nodded silently. The other man just touched his hat in acknowledgement before turning to whisper to his compatriots. One by one they got up, drained their mugs, and turned towards him.
 
 
                                                                                                          *          *          *
 
 
              Four of them, the Inquisitor decided as he scraped the last of the stew from his bowl. The other patrons realized there was trouble brewing, and began to head up stairs to get out of the way. He pushed his own chair back a few inches so that he wouldn’t collide with the table when he got to his feet.
 
            “What’s wrong?” the woman asked. She frowned in concern as she turned to follow his gaze. “I take it those gentlemen aren’t acquaintances of yours?”
 
            “I’m afraid not,” he answered as the thugs reached them.
 
            The leader of the small group slammed his fists into the table. He reeked of ale and sweat, and his eyes were wide with drink. “What’s in that bag of yours?”
           
            “That would be between me and the Cathars in Thraben,” the Inquisitor answered coolly. There was still a chance that this might end without anyone getting hurt, and the last thing he wanted to do was provoke these fools.
 
            “And what if we want to make it our business?” the thug sneered, leaning in close enough the Inquisitor could see the madness in his eyes.
 
            “It isn’t, so go away.”
 
            “And I say it is, church boy!”
 
            So much for the peaceful way, the Inquisitor thought as he grabbed the bottom of the table. One good shove was all it took to send the table, sack, swords, and their bowls and mugs smashing into the group of drunks. It caught the leader full on, smashing him backwards into support beam, crushing him messily against the thick timber. That meant there were only three left.
 
            The smallest of the three roared and swung with the mug clutched in his hand. The Inquisitor could hear the woman behind him begin to chant the words to a spell as he ducked, his own fist flicking out to catch his opponent in the gut. The drunk stumbled backwards, clutching his belly as he struggled both to breathe and not to vomit at the same time. It was a lost cause, and he collapsed to his knees as he spilled his dinner all over the floor.
 
            Then it was the Inquisitor’s turn as one of the two remaining thugs smashed a chair across his back. The thin wood shattered into a cloud of splinters  as he slammed to the ground, and it would have shattered his spine if it hadn’t been for his armor and thick clothes. He rolled sideways on instinct, not even bothering to look up as a filthy boot smashed down where his head had just been. Time seemed to slow as adrenaline pumped through the Inquisitor’s veins. He snatched his knife from his belt and shoved it through the top of the boot, pinning the foot in place as its owner howled in pain. That gave the Inquisitor enough time to regain his feet, just in time for the mage to finish her spell.
 
           “No, no, stay back!” the last thug wailed as his eyes widened in terror. The others simply screamed as all three turned around and ran for the door, chased by horrors only they could see.
 
           The Inquisitor turned on her then, his eyes narrowing suspiciously as he reached for a sword that wasn’t there. The mage held up her hands. “Illusions only! Just something to frighten them off, and maybe make them think twice before they attack strangers again.”
 
          “Hmph,” he grunted, nodding in acknowledgement before going to collect his weapons. “Thank you. I apologize for not introducing myself earlier. My name is Norin, of Elgaud.”
 
           “You may call me Lily,” the mage answered with a smile. “Would by any chance be heading towards Thraben? If so, I think it might be wise if we traveled together. I hear the roads have grown dangerous, and my only other companion is my coachman. I feel we would be well protected with your blades at our side.”
 
           “I would be honored,” Norin agreed with a small bow. He set about collecting his spilled belongings as he muttered, “At the least I won’t have to worry about this sort of nonsense in Thraben.”
 
 
 
 Note: This is as much a writing exercise for myself as it is an actual attempt to create an Innistrad based novel. I don't quite have a schedule worked out on when I'll be able to get to it, so expect random updating. As for quality, I can make no promises other than to try and patch any glaringly obvious problems. As for canon, I'm working of the Savor the Flavor articles and the cards themselves, while adding my own take on less touched on characters. Comments appreciated, critiques even more, and requests will be taken, if not necessarily honored!
Bow chicka bow wow?





Kidding. :D

Thanks for the story!
Maybe they should put more effort in working with IDW and focus their story telling through comics.
All hail the triumphant return of Norin the Wary!
Embrace imagination. Lord of YMtC | Ten Rounds Contest Winner Solphos – A fan set with a 'combo matters' theme Fool's Gold – The second set of the Solphos block
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Each of its nine tails is imbued with supernatural power, and it can live for a thousand years. My Standard deck: Setting Sun
108516289 wrote:
Think of how Neo couldn't beat the robots, but they kept him around anyways to defeat Agent Smith. Sure, the robots might not like having a Neo running rampant because instead of playing their favorite 4 drop fatty robot, they have to play a bunch of one mana Matrixs to contain him, but at least Neo keeps Agent Smith from reanimating an Iona on turn two.
139359831 wrote:
Are you saying I'm trying to blame my loss on something? I don't care that I lost, I care that he's a sore loser, and a cheater, and a liar.
144902215 wrote:
CKY, are you bad at anything?
144902215 wrote:
I really enjoy imagining this from Kevin's perspective. Because in Kevin's world, Rosewater actually reads everything he types. Mark is sitting there right now, reading this, and thinking "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled. . ." Or some such. He chuckles low, then clicks on "The Best Of KEVINSET" and says "Yes, this'll do just fine. A busty lady with banding who deals direct damage to Zones!? Why this will be the star of my next set, and no one will ever believe you Kevin." Then he closes his Macbook, so his servant may move it out of the way, while another servant puts a Fetal Richard Garfield Clone lathered in Steak Sauce in front of him. Then Mark Feasts. I mean, In KevinWorld, Mark is reading the very words I'm typing as well. Heck, in KevinWorld maybe I am Mark.
99964981 wrote:
I'm beginning to think CKY may be anime in real life...
57150868 wrote:
Don't go anywhere CKY, I need to crash dramatically through your window and propose marriage and I don't want you throwing off my paradrop.
63588923 wrote:
[In response to a thread about how hard grading is] Upon reading this, I've found myself completely unable to operate in the world. I tried to decide what to eat for breakfast, and pondered the vast consequences of my choice. How do I balance my dietary needs against my desire to eat good-tasting food? Should I factor in how long it takes to prepare? Cereal is ready in moments, but bacon takes longer to cook. Then there is the impact on other industries. Do people in the cereal industry deserve to be employed more than people in the bacon industry? Which industry should I support? I don't even have the data regarding HOW MUCH the cereal industry benefits from me eating a bowl of cereal, or how much the bacon industry benefits from me eating a side of bacon. How can I compare two qualities I can't even quantify? And let's not forget the milk on the cereal. In addition to determining whether or not milk is healthy for me, how much that benefits the milk industry, and how much the people in the milk industry deserve my support, we have to factor in the fact that cows are put under brutal conditions in order to collect thier milk. Of course, the same goes for the pigs, and then they get killed. Of course, I really like bacon. So I need to come up with a scale that compares the value of cow happiness to pig happiness to my happiness. What trade-offs am I willing to make here? Does the fact that the pig gets put out of its misery count as a plus or a minus? Isn't bacon bad for me anyway? Deciding what to eat for breakfast (or any meal) is impossible. Help me!
104339228 wrote:
I must admit chinkeeyong, you have the most interesting character ideas; and you play them well.
144902215 wrote:
Anyway, you'd be surprised about Time Stop. When I first saw that card as a relatively new player I didn't see its full potential until I read the reminder text. Is it that unintuitive, though? Mine I mean. What is possibility? Is it possible for me to type these words with my tusks? No, because I don't have tusks. Although I am now tempted to go buy some - obviously not from poachers or whatever - and use them as typing apparatus. I could be the best secretary ever. "What's your words per minute sir?" "Well, only six, but I use these tusks to type them." "You're hired!" That was the interview. And is anyone else disappointed that "apparati" is not the plural form of apparatus? I just could strangle a dictionary, because "apparatuses" is a real word. I guess it sounds pretty cool. I'll call them my Apparatusks.
Yeah, I was originally going to name him Tellin, but while I was flipping through the card galleries to see what spells might be cast, I ended up clicking on a loink to Norin, and the rest just followed from there.
Has it been confirmed that there is no book? They're not just waiting maybe for the last set?
Has it been confirmed that there is no book? They're not just waiting maybe for the last set?



MaRo said they weren't making money as few people bought them, and so they're on hiatus.

Yeah; in addition to that, they made that decision right now before publishing Lily's novel from an editor's perspective; meaning we're probably better off not having read it/it in canon anyway.
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Obligatory and Preliminary Smiley Reservoir: IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/Wee.png)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/Dancing%20AIM.gif)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/rawr.gif)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/ghgh.png)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/%5D%5D.gif)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/luv.gif)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/circle.png)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/sly.png)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/turtle.gif)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/jade.png)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/proud.gif)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/wilson.gif)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/ohmy.gif)IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/pcXQL.gif)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/blushing.png)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/proud.png)

Chapter 2        



            Ludevic was all smiles as he worked around his lab, cheerfully humming Strennard’s Third Hymn to the Heron Host. He whistled a particularly cheerful note as thunder cracked overhead, shaking dust from the plaster ceiling of his lab. Alas, his musical talents did not seem to be appreciated by his audience, as the werewolf locked on his slab snarled and thrashed as it tried to tear itself free from the restraints binding it down. The lab table it was locked to banged against the floor, as the spells laid down with arcane runes made sure the prisoner remained bound.


           


            “Oh, stop that,” Ludevic scolded his prisoner, sticking his tongue out for childish good measure. “Those are pure silver locks, and those boards are reinforced with steel bands. You won’t be able to pull yourself free just by struggling, and don’t think you can just shift to escape, either. I’ve already thought of that, and the locks will simply adjust with you. I know I was supposed to be running tests on you this evening, but I’m afraid this storm has provided me a rare opportunity that I just can’t pass up.”


 


            The werewolf simply howled in frustration, lunging against the restraints again and again until it finally gave up in exhaustion. It howled again, this time with great despair as it sagged against the wood planks. Ludevic just shook his head and sighed. “Some people just do not appreciate fine music. “


 


            He resumed his mix of whistling and humming once again as he walked out of the room, closing the door to silence the beast before sauntering over to where a large egg was being held in mid air by half a dozen metal rods. Blue lightning crackled and hissed between them, dancing across intricately carved runes and markings similar to the ones on the werewolf’s restraints. They glowed bright enough that Ludevic was able to work unassisted by torches or lanterns as he took last minute measurements. “Tonight, my little egg, will by a wondrous night. With the power from this storm, you’ll finally be able to hatch! All my work and experiments will be vindicated! …Or you’ll end up as a splattered gooey mess that I’ll have to clean out of the carpet, but let’s not dwell on that particular, hmmm?”


 


            Ludevic jumped as something heavy thumped upstairs, wincing as an agonizingly shrill voice stabbed against his ears, as if a thousand cats had had their tails stepped on at the same time. “Ludevic? What pagan devilry are you up to now? I won’t have it, you hear me? I run a clean house, and I won’t stand for any more of your nonsense!”


 


            Ludevic’s shoulders sagged with despair. He had battled giant spiders in Kessig to harvest their deadly poisons, braved the ruins of Hallowhenge to collect the ectoplasm of the spirits that lurked there, and even supped at the tables of some of Stenisia’s more legendary vampires – none of which held the terror that was Mrs. Geston. The crotchety old woman had grown up near the wilds of the Ulvenwald before marrying a wealthy merchant out of Thraben. Her husband had died under mysterious circumstances, but his business rivals had been no match for the steely nerves of his wife. After all, what were a few traders and bankers when one had grown up with the Krallenhorde living on their doorstep? Now pushing the end of her first century, Mrs. Geston was half blind, totally deaf, and the nightmare of all the local children. At first Ludevic had considered her to be the perfect landlord, but the longer her harassment continued the more he seriously considered replacing the aids he had been slipping into her food with a fast acting poison.


 


            “For the last time, Mrs. Geston, I am not a pagan, I am a heathen! Ther is a difference!” Ludevic shouted back, knowing it would be useless. “I do not consort with devils, demons, or the undead, as I have told you many, many times! I know the Church doesn’t agree with my methods, but the experiments I conduct are for the betterment of all mankind!”


 


            Something splintered behind him, and Ludevic whirled around. His eyes lit up with delight as he saw the first long crack begin to work its way down the egg’s shell. He knelt down in front of it, whispering, “Please, please, please, please…”


           


            A scaly green head poked out of the egg, a pair of bone white nubs jutting backwards from its forehead. It wriggled back and forth, struggling to get more room for itself. It began to hammer away at the inside of its prison, shards of egg flying as its claws smashed their way free. It let out a surprised squeak as it toppled out of the still suspended egg, landing on the floor with a wet plop. It shook its head dazedly, before looking up at Ludevic. It tilted its head sideways as it made a cooing noise, then a long blue tongue whipped out and began to lick Ludevic’s face.


 


            “I think I shall name you Tymy,” Ludevic murmured as he began wiping the egg slime off the creature with the bottom of his shirt. The lizard beast was already beginning to grow rapidly, having gone from not much bigger than its egg to the size of a small pig in only a matter of moments. Several minutes later it was the size of a pony, as well as happily chewing on one of his work benches.


 


            “The enchantments seem to have worked,” Ludevic muttered as he began scribbling in one of his notebooks. “Growth proceeded rapidly from birth, though it has the rate has slowed somewhat from its initial pace. It does seem to be an energy intensive process, though fortunately Tymy seems to have developed several previously unknown mutations, allowing him to devour otherwise digestible materials.”


 


            He looked up as the door to his laboratory rattled under a fierce pounding. Sighing, Ludevic wiped his hands on his shirt and proceeded up the stairs, scowling at the interruption. Fortunately, Tymy seemed to have decided to take a nap, and was quietly snoring in the middle of the room, twitching every so often as a new growth spurt hit. Ludevic took a deep breath as he reached the top of the stairs, preparing himself for yet another argument with his landlady. “Mrs. Geston-“


 


            Was not there. Ludevic stared in astonishment at the white haired goddess standing in the doorway. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, from her sky blue eyes to those wonderfully way she pursed her lips as she scowled at him. He knew in that moment that he was lost, and that her every word would become his command. He was, in fact, so taken in by her that he completely failed to notice the cathar’s uniform she was wearing, nor the half dozen heavily armed cathars standing in the hall behind her.


 


            “Ludevic the Alchemist?” Thalia asked, trying not to gag at the savage smell coming off the man in front of her.


 


            “I will be anyone you ask me to be,” Ludevic swore happily.


 


            “In the name of the Church, the Lunarch, and Avacyn herself, I place you under arrest for heresy, treason, and many more crimes than I care to name,” Thalia snapped. “Take him away.”


 


            “Wait, what?” Ludevic asked, shaking his head as he snapped out of his revery. “You can’t be serious!” He turned and darted back down the stairs. “No, there must be some mistake!”


 


            “Quick, don’t let him get away!” Thalia ordered. Where she thought he was going to run to was anyone’s guess, but the order was enough to get her men to take action. They hurried down the stairs after Ludevic, who had stopped in the middle of his lab as he realized just how stupid the entire situation had become. He was just about to turn and surrender when Tymy, awakened by the commotion and now large enough to have his horns dragging against the ceiling, sat up and roared. The cathars stumbled backwards, the one closest screaming in fear. He drew his sword and swung, only for the thin blade to bounce harmlessly off Tymy’s armorlike hide.


 


            “Back, get back!” Thalia ordered as she leapt down the stairs, drawing her own sword as she landed between her men and the beast. This was supposed to be a simple arrest, she thought angrily. What sort of madman would loose a beast like this here in Thraben? Damned alchemists, always putting others at risk, and for nothing!


 


            She sang a hasty blessing, and her swords began to shimmer with a golden aura. The bright light drew Tymy’s attention, and he roared again as he swung at her with dagger sized claws. Thalia dodged, knowing she couldn’t to take that kind of blow. Even if her armor managed to keep her from getting gored, which was doubtful, the blow would still break bones and rattle her brain in her skull. She jabbed the beast in the thigh with the tip of her blade, doing little actual harm but causing it to twist around to follow her as she ducked behind it. Her free hand began to glow as she summoned more white mana for another spell.


 


            Tymy whirled, trying to follow his nimble prey, but she was just so fast. His jaws snapped closed on empty air and his tail lashed back and forth madly, smashing a support beam into splinters even as it drove the other cathars back.  The ceiling above them began to sag, dust and chunks of plaster raining down from above. The debris only added to the confusion of the battlefield, and the cathars tumbled backwards, choking on the thick cloud as it began to fill the room.


 


            “Stop, stop!” Ludevic wheezed, waving his arm in front of his face as he struggled to breath. “Leave him alone! Tymy, stop it! You must behave!”


 


            “I don’t think your monster makes for such a great pet!” Thalia snarled as leapt on to its back. Tymy stamped around, trying to shake her loose, but another growth spurt hit, shoving his head up through the ceiling and into the kitchen above. Thalia’s hand was now glowing so bright that it hurt to even look at it, and she slapped it against the monster’s scales.


 


            “What cannot be destroyed will be bound!” she screamed. Silver and gold chains spread from her hands, wrapping around Tymy’s neck in a spiral pattern. He should have easily been able to carry their weight, even as they began to spread down his arms and legs, but their weight was enhanced by the magic of the angels that proved to be too much, even for such a great beast. He toppled forwards, dragging his face through the rest of the ceiling, pulling down more of the kitchen as he landed back in the laboratory. He continued to thrash against the restraints, but the holy chains proved to be too much. Realizing he was unable to move, he let out a piteous wail that had Ludevic rushing to his aid.


 


            “There, there, Tymy,” Ludevic whispered soothingly. “It’ll be fine, don’t worry. The nice lady didn’t mean it, I swear. She just doesn’t understand yet. I can explain everything, and then it will be fine, you’ll see, shhh…”


 


            Thalia stared at him with a mix of wonder and disgust. He spoke as if he were a father tending to an injured child, not a madman with his pet monster. She motioned towards one of the other cathars as she set about cleaning her sword. “Divon, bind his hands and mouth. Lesit, you and the rest of the squad search this place. I want all his notes and journals intact if possible. Let me know what else you can find. I’m sure there’s enough evidence here for him to hang, but I want to make sure we don’t leave anything for the scavengers to find.”


 


            “Don’t worry, I’ll come quietly,” Ludevic said, still stroking Tymy’s face as the big monster wept. He still struggled a bit as they pulled him away, then held his hands out meekly as the manacles were snapped into place. He didn’t even try to resist as they fitted him with a gag to keep him from casting any spells. Last was the black hood, so that he could not see or be seen as they led him away.


 


            Which just meant he was unable to explain or warn them when Lesit cried out from the other room, “Hey, there is a man chained to this table!”

I like the way the story is going. It's a little incongruous that Thalia can use magic (I assumed she was just a really, really good swordswoman) but overall it's shaping up to be an enjoyable read.
Embrace imagination. Lord of YMtC | Ten Rounds Contest Winner Solphos – A fan set with a 'combo matters' theme Fool's Gold – The second set of the Solphos block
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Each of its nine tails is imbued with supernatural power, and it can live for a thousand years. My Standard deck: Setting Sun
108516289 wrote:
Think of how Neo couldn't beat the robots, but they kept him around anyways to defeat Agent Smith. Sure, the robots might not like having a Neo running rampant because instead of playing their favorite 4 drop fatty robot, they have to play a bunch of one mana Matrixs to contain him, but at least Neo keeps Agent Smith from reanimating an Iona on turn two.
139359831 wrote:
Are you saying I'm trying to blame my loss on something? I don't care that I lost, I care that he's a sore loser, and a cheater, and a liar.
144902215 wrote:
CKY, are you bad at anything?
144902215 wrote:
I really enjoy imagining this from Kevin's perspective. Because in Kevin's world, Rosewater actually reads everything he types. Mark is sitting there right now, reading this, and thinking "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled. . ." Or some such. He chuckles low, then clicks on "The Best Of KEVINSET" and says "Yes, this'll do just fine. A busty lady with banding who deals direct damage to Zones!? Why this will be the star of my next set, and no one will ever believe you Kevin." Then he closes his Macbook, so his servant may move it out of the way, while another servant puts a Fetal Richard Garfield Clone lathered in Steak Sauce in front of him. Then Mark Feasts. I mean, In KevinWorld, Mark is reading the very words I'm typing as well. Heck, in KevinWorld maybe I am Mark.
99964981 wrote:
I'm beginning to think CKY may be anime in real life...
57150868 wrote:
Don't go anywhere CKY, I need to crash dramatically through your window and propose marriage and I don't want you throwing off my paradrop.
63588923 wrote:
[In response to a thread about how hard grading is] Upon reading this, I've found myself completely unable to operate in the world. I tried to decide what to eat for breakfast, and pondered the vast consequences of my choice. How do I balance my dietary needs against my desire to eat good-tasting food? Should I factor in how long it takes to prepare? Cereal is ready in moments, but bacon takes longer to cook. Then there is the impact on other industries. Do people in the cereal industry deserve to be employed more than people in the bacon industry? Which industry should I support? I don't even have the data regarding HOW MUCH the cereal industry benefits from me eating a bowl of cereal, or how much the bacon industry benefits from me eating a side of bacon. How can I compare two qualities I can't even quantify? And let's not forget the milk on the cereal. In addition to determining whether or not milk is healthy for me, how much that benefits the milk industry, and how much the people in the milk industry deserve my support, we have to factor in the fact that cows are put under brutal conditions in order to collect thier milk. Of course, the same goes for the pigs, and then they get killed. Of course, I really like bacon. So I need to come up with a scale that compares the value of cow happiness to pig happiness to my happiness. What trade-offs am I willing to make here? Does the fact that the pig gets put out of its misery count as a plus or a minus? Isn't bacon bad for me anyway? Deciding what to eat for breakfast (or any meal) is impossible. Help me!
104339228 wrote:
I must admit chinkeeyong, you have the most interesting character ideas; and you play them well.
144902215 wrote:
Anyway, you'd be surprised about Time Stop. When I first saw that card as a relatively new player I didn't see its full potential until I read the reminder text. Is it that unintuitive, though? Mine I mean. What is possibility? Is it possible for me to type these words with my tusks? No, because I don't have tusks. Although I am now tempted to go buy some - obviously not from poachers or whatever - and use them as typing apparatus. I could be the best secretary ever. "What's your words per minute sir?" "Well, only six, but I use these tusks to type them." "You're hired!" That was the interview. And is anyone else disappointed that "apparati" is not the plural form of apparatus? I just could strangle a dictionary, because "apparatuses" is a real word. I guess it sounds pretty cool. I'll call them my Apparatusks.
I love how Thalia has such a white and black view of morality; she looks more evil that way. Poor Tymmy.
IMAGE(http://www.wizards.com/global/images/mtgcom_daily_mc52_picMain_en.jpg)IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/73821e61e013eadf56a8e4e2226d89a3.jpg?v=90000)
I like the way the story is going. It's a little incongruous that Thalia can use magic (I assumed she was just a really, really good swordswoman) but overall it's shaping up to be an enjoyable read.



I figure she can use some magic. Her first strike is from good swordsmanship, while her second ability indicates at least some potential for magic. It was also stated that she was the one who opened the Helvault, and that probably required at least a little magic.

In this case I based her spells off two common cards, Moment of Heroism and Bonds of Faith. I figured they would be the sort of basic level spells that would be taught to cathars with a little bit of magical talent. By comparison, if Avacyn casts Bonds of Faith the target gets sucked into the Helvault. Thalia also won't be running around casting Planeswalker class spells like Day of Judgement. She has a relatively small and simple pool of combat tricks.
You might want to take some inspiration from this article, as far as Cathar-typical-magic is concerned

Other than that, it's a nice read so keep it up!
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Obligatory and Preliminary Smiley Reservoir: IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/Wee.png)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/Dancing%20AIM.gif)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/rawr.gif)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/ghgh.png)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/%5D%5D.gif)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/luv.gif)IMAGE(http://rsescape.net/forum/Smileys/RSE%20emotes/circle.png)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/sly.png)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/turtle.gif)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/jade.png)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/proud.gif)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/wilson.gif)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/ohmy.gif)IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/pcXQL.gif)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/blushing.png)IMAGE(http://www.the-gladiatorz.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/proud.png)
Since Nicol Bolas in Test of Metal had a wicked sense of humor. I just had this funny sense of him sending Tezzeret to Innistrad instead of Tidehollow with nothing but a chuck of rock and no clothes. Then Tezzeret gets chased by Werewolves or Vampires.
You might want to take some inspiration from this article, as far as Cathar-typical-magic is concerned

Other than that, it's a nice read so keep it up!



I considered spells such as Rebuke or Smite the Monstrous, but I felt that would be a little too easy. At that point Thalia could just walk around blasting most, if not all, of the things she fights. That, and I need Tymy alive for later... ;)

          The castle had been built on the highest peak in Stensia, but even that wasn’t enough to keep it free from the shadows that haunted the land. Thick clouds lurked overhead, hiding the land in darkness deeper than night. Under no circumstances would even the weakest bit of sun be allowed to pierce their cover. The castle had been the grandest structure when it was built, a declaration of dominance than none had dared challenge. Now it was ancient and had not been cared for in a long while. The southern battlements had already crumbled into the valley below, and twisting vines were hard at work pulling down the rest. The vines were the only living thing there, as not even the ever hungry vultures dared to fly so high.


          There was a ripple in the air, then a man appeared on the tallest balcony. There was no commotion to his arrival, no flash of light or crack of displaced air. He was just simply there. He was wore a silver breast plate, with a large blood red ruby mounted in the center. Matching silver bracelets protected his wrists, complimenting the fine black leather coat he wore. His long white hair was worn long and free, his skin equally pale and colorless. Sorin Markov had returned home.


          It hadn’t been by choice. The Eldrazi had been released once more, and he only had so much time to recruit new allies and seal them away again before they finished the consuming the plane of Zendikar. The currents in the Blind Eternities were already beginning to shift and roil as the Eldrazi reduced Zendikar to oblivion. Once they had finished their feast, they would move on to another target and more would die to feed their ravenous appetite for destruction and power. If only that foolish elf hadn’t betrayed him! He could only hope that the Titans made her death long and painful before they finally devoured her as well.


          Then he had felt a stabbing ache of loss, and his powers had begun to drain out of him. Fortunately it hadn’t been enough to cripple him, but it had left him feeling weak and hungry. There was only one thing that could have done that to him – something must have happened to Avacyn, his most perfect creation. But that should have been impossible. Avacyn had been created to serve as the Archangel to an entire plane, to protect the humans who lived there from any threat, natural or otherwise. He had been careful to weave every protection he could into her being, with an entire religion channeling her power. An army of Eldrazi wouldn’t have been able to destroy her, to say nothing of the demons should have been facing. Something was wrong on Innistrad.


          Sorin closed his eyes and ignored the wind whipping around him. He tuned out his natural senses one by one, feeling for Avacyn by the traces of his own power that resided in her. He could see the web of energy that crisscross Innistrad, glowing tendrils of power that pulsed with every prayer and blessing, connecting every ward and rune. Most of that power was being pushed towards Thraben, the home of the Church he had taken great pains to build, but there at the very center of the web, the network was broken. Avacyn, Archangel and key stone to his design, was missing. He cast his senses out wider, searching Stenisa, Nephalia, even the deepest regions of the sea, but there was no sign of her. Opening his eyes once again, he murmured, “Avacyn, my Angel, my Light, where are you?”


          The stones of the castle remained silent. Bitter confusion gripped his mind as Sorin shoved past the rotting doors and into the building proper. His rage grew as he saw how his home had been left to fall into ruin. Ruined furniture had been left to decay, the expensive carpets long since stolen, but there were no broken weapons, no corpses or blast marks. His castle hadn’t fallen to invaders, it had simply been abandoned. He continued to search until he found himself at the top of the grand stair case. A chewed and tattered banner hung over it forlornly, the symbol of house Markov obliterated by the passing of the ages. Snarling with frustration, he cast his senses wider, finding the man he was looking for in a valley not to distant.


          “I am coming, Grandfather,” Sorin growled as the air shimmered around him. “You better have the answers to the questions I am looking for.”


 


*          *          *


 


          Wolves howled in the distance as Sorin materialized in front of a pair wrought iron gates easily three times the height of a man. The top of the gates had been decorated with all manner of ghastly images, depicting vampires hunting down and feasting on human prey. The artist who had worked on it had taken great care to depict the fear and pain on the humans’ faces as they were ripped limb from limb, their blood rising in exaggerated fountains for their pursuers to dance and frolic under. It was a celebration of the very barbarism that had inspired Sorin to create Avacyn in the first place and it made him want to tear the gates down with his bare hands.


          The two guards who had been loitering near the gate were startled into action by his sudden appearance, lowering their pikes to point at his chest. As if they could actually hurt me, Sorin thought with some small amusement. If they so much as tried they would be ash before they took the first lunge. A faintly sweet smell clung to both of them, like roses that had just begun to wilt. That, with their pale skin and bloodless lips, marked them as vampires, just like himself.


          “State your name and business!” the first guard ordered, waving her pike menacingly as if to reinforce her words.


          “I am here to see Edgar Markov,” Sorin answered coolly, folding his arms in front of his chest. “As to who I am, my name is not important. Stand aside and let me pass.”


          “There is no one by that name here,” the second guard sneered. He jabbed his pike towards Sorin as he added, “Now step along. Mistress Voldaren is hosting a party this evening, and she wouldn’t like riffraff such as you fouling her gates.”


          “Edgar Markov is here,” Sorin snapped, grabbing the tip of the pike. Black mana curled from his fingers to race down the shaft of the weapon towards where the other vampire held it, faster than any of them could blink. He screamed in unbearable agony as he dropped his weapon, watching in horror as his hand began to burn and melt, though there was no flame to be seen or felt. His arm collapsed into a pile of oily ash as the spell spread up his shoulder, his screams ending as his throat dissolved and collapsed into his lungs. Even then the spell continued, until all that was left of him was a faint trace blowing across the road with the next breeze.


           “Edgar is here,” Sorin repeated as he turned towards the first guard, who stepped back, pulling her pike out of his reach. “And my patience for your little power games is nonexistent. I do not care if the Lunarch himself is a guest at your mistress’s little party, as that is none of my concern. Now open the gates and let me through, or you can join your comrade and I will pull them down myself.”


           The guard swallowed in fear, then hastily turned and began working the crank to open the gates. They swung silently and with imagined majestic grace. Sorin didn’t bother to wait for them to finish, however, and just pushed his way past as soon as the gap was wide enough. The long drive was lined with old and gnarled trees, and he could hear the faint rustle and growl of large, hungry animals moving around in their shadows. That was fine by him. If they decided to attack, he would simply have to demonstrate who the more dangerous predator was.


          The mansion at the end of the drive was enormous, if not quite on the same scale as his castle. It was more of a rich man’s thing, paneled with expensive woods and decorated by fine statues. The windows were all lit up as part of the celebration, and Sorin could see the revelers dancing in the panes. The footmen at the front took one look at him and decided it would be wiser to open the doors without saying a word. Asking to see his invitation didn’t even cross their minds.


           The front hall of the mansion was almost a mirror mimic of the one in the castle, right down to the banner hanging over the grand staircase. The emblem on this one was not faded, however, the crossed halberds and eagle standing out in exquisitely rendered detail. Sorin’s nose filled with the smell of heavy perfumes and richly spiced cakes, and his stomach growled to remind him that he hadn’t eaten in quite a while. He forced his mind to concentrate on the task at hand, a reminder made easier as the mansion’s owner came literally floating down the stairs.


           Olivia Voldaren had been beautiful as a human, and undeath had been the perfect preservative. Her fire red hair hovered majestically above her shoulders, emphasized by the winged shoulders of her evening gown. She wore a heavy metal collar to emphasize the plunging neckline of her dress, which drifted behind her with ethereal grace. She smiled as she saw Sorin, and raised her glass of blood spiked wine in his honor. “Sorin, my darling blood traitor. It has been far too long since you last…graced…us with your presence. You never seem to answer any of those invitations I send you. Some had even hoped that you wouldn’t be back at all.”


           “Olivia,” Sorin acknowledged her greeting with a small bow. “I can assure you, I would have liked nothing more. Alas, I fear circumstances seemed to have forced my hand, and I find myself with business that absolutely must be attended to. Now, why is my grandfather here, and where are you keeping him?”


           “Oh, you mean poor Edgar?” Olivia asked through a feigned pout. “I’m afraid the years and your absence have not been so kind to our dear progenitor. His wits seemed to have been addled. He keeps insisting that we curb our hunts and restrict our feasts, as if there are not plenty of humans to replace the villages we pillage. Why, we only do it once or twice a week, I’m sure it can’t put that much of a strain on their population, hmmm? But anyways, he is sleeping now. Alas, the party proved too much, and he retired with a headache.”


           Sorin gritted his teeth as he forced himself not to kill her. There was no chance that the senior Markov was addle witted or had a headache. Maladies such as that never occurred amongst the undead. The only way for them to fall into ill health was to either starve them or shove a stake through their hearts. That meant Olivia was playing some game with him, just as she had when they were children. He would love to just cut her head off with it and be done, but there was too great a chance she had information he would need, requiring him to play along…at least for now.


           “Of course, dear Olivia,” he said with feigned delight, a lie that neither of them believed. Still, he held out his arm for her to join him, just as he had when they were betrothed. “Come, tell me about your entertainment for this evening.”


           “Oh, it is quite marvelous indeed!” Olivia cheerfully boasted with a clap of her hands. “We found a wild man out in the woods, can you believe it? He wears a half helm and carries the most enormous axe! The wolves with the hunting party refused to attack him, and it took more than seven men to subdue him! We’ve been having him fight in the pit for the last few nights, but nothing has survived him. Tonight he will face my swords mistress, Mercilia. He doesn’t stand a chance, of course, but it should be great fun to watch her cut him to pieces!”


           Olivia led Sorin into a spacious ballroom, where several dozen other vampires were gathered. They were all dressed in their finest gowns and suits, wearing masks to confuse their identities. It set Sorin on edge just to be near them and their pretense at civilization. They were all gathered around a large hole in the floor, and the wagers were proceeding to grow rapidly. Olivia led him to a raised dais at the edge of the pit, ensuring they had the best view of the fight. Sorin’s curiosity finally got the best of him, and he peeked over the lip to get a good look at whatever poor doomed soul they had trapped.


          He hissed in surprise at what he saw. The man in the pit was wearing a bucket style helm that hid the top half of his head, but what was more interesting were the clothes he was wearing. They were the simple leather jerkin and pants of a hunter or farmer, save for the fact that they were cut from the hide of baloth. The great beasts were tyrants of the forests, and even Sorin made sure to give them wide berth when ever he chanced to encounter them. The largest grew to be larger than a house, and their skins were almost impossible to cut. Only the bravest and strongest could wear an outfit such as that, making such outfits incredibly rare.


           Rather, it should have been impossible, as baloths didn’t exist on Innistrad.


            Planeswalker, Sorin thought, as he peered more closely at the man. That, at least, explained why he had been so hard to capture. In fact, Sorin was surprised Olivia’s men had managed it at all. Then he caught the trace of rot and decay in the man’s aura, and realized there was more going than he had suspected. Where did you pick up a curse like that?


            The other man turned and looked up, as if he could feel the weight of Sorin’s gaze. He didn’t react to it however, only grunting as a youngish seeming woman leapt into the pit with him. Sorin leaned in close to Olivia and murmured, “Care for a wager?”


           “What did you have in mind?” she asked slyly.


           “I say the man beats your woman,” Sorin proposed. “If he wins, you release him into my service. If he dies, you get my service for a year.”


           Olivia hissed in surprised delight, then her eyes narrowed as she sensed a trap. “Why would you make such an offer? What is he to you?”


           “Nothing,” Sorin answered with a shrug. “I just find my exile to be a bit lonely, is all. It can be a bit boring, being out there by myself. This wager could make my life interesting, now couldn’t it?”


           Olivia peered at him, looking for any trace of his dishonesty. Her search was in vain, however. Sorin had stared down far more cunning opponents that the self righteous vampires, and the opportunity to use him as a personal bootlicker for a year was too much of a temptation for her to pass up. She nodded, smilingly widely as she declared, “My dear Sorin, I had no idea you swung that way, but you have yourself a wager.”


           Sorin managed not to smirk as he leaned forward against the railing to watch the fight. Mercilia was a younger vampire, perhaps only a few centuries old. The sword she wielded was formed from two spiraling blades. They glowed ember red with enchantments designed tear into her victim’s minds as well as their flesh. She cradled it against her like a lover as she taunted her opponent.


           “I must say, I am impressed,” she teased, licking the flat of one blade. “You fight like no one else I’ve ever seen. Admirable, the way you defeated that scavenger beast last night. The way your muscles flexed, the way the veins pulsed!” She shivered with remembered delight before pointing her sword at him. “I knew I had to have you then. I want to smell your fear as my blade slices you open, to listen to the symphony of your screams as you beg for mercy. I can’t wait for that first delicious drop of blood as you bleed out, the way it will warm my body as it spills down my throat. Tell me, big man, what will you taste like? Honey and berries? Smoked meat cooked over the campfire? How delicious is your blood?”


           Her opponent didn’t speak in response. He merely lifted his axe from the sheathe on his back and dropped into a crouch, waiting for her attack.


           “The strong, silent type?” Mercilia pouted. “That’s not much fun. I guess I’ll just have to find out for myself, then.”


           She struck with a serpent’s speed, moving fast enough that purely mortal eyes would only have seen a crimson blur. Her sword struck out and down, meant to eviscerate her opponent with a single blow. That way she could watch him bleed out at her feet, sobbing as he desperately tried to stuff his organs back into his body. It was a favorite of the audience’s, one that even she admitted never got old.


           He was faster.


           Mericilia blinked in astonishment as her sword whipped past his shoulder as the big man twisted out of her way. He might have been bulky, but that only made his agility that more incredible. He clutched his axe in one hand as he dipped low, grabbing her ankle as he went past. She tried to kick free but his grip was like iron, and one good yank sent her slamming into the side of the pit. She hit face first, her nose and skull shattering with a sickening crunch.


           Had she been mortal, she would have been dead. As it was, Mercilia staggered to her feet, weaving drunkenly but still clutching her weapon. She raised the sword in front of her, clumsily trying to defend herself as she tried to blink the blood out of her eyes. It was as if she couldn’t focus, her brain swearing that she was looking straight ahead and down at the floor at the same time. She shook her head and felt something wet slap against her cheek.


           Oh, she thought giddily. That expla-


           Her head came off with one swipe of the axe, bouncing off the wall and rolling to a stop in the middle of the pit. The man wiped the head of his axe on her fine clothes before sheathing it once again. Once his weapon was back in place he looked upwards and glared at the gathered vampires in silent challenge, his eyes hidden by the shadows of his helm.


           And he didn’t use a single spell to do, either, Sorin thought, smiling viciously. Perfect.

I like the way the story is going. It's a little incongruous that Thalia can use magic (I assumed she was just a really, really good swordswoman) but overall it's shaping up to be an enjoyable read.

It seems clear from the defence of Thraben story that her greatest skill is as a leader, though.

Chapter 4


           


            Geralf loved his lab. There was something about the sour stench of the preservative chemicals, the agonized screams of the bound geists as they powered the steam bellows, the inhuman wails of his beloved children echoing off the stone walls as they shuffled around in their cells, all taken together it just made him so joyous.


            He took a step back as he considered his most recent creation, one that was intended to be the commander of his undead army. It was a bloated monstrosity, cut together from more than a dozen corpses. The torso had been taken from a circus strong man, his wondrous physique preserved by an unforeseen application of witchbloom poison. He had padded the skaab’s shoulders with extra muscle, a tank of poison gas, and a reinforced iron plate to protect the neck and spine. The left arm ended in a metal ring, which served as an anchor for a long barbed chain. The chain ended in a massive sickle he had custom forged for an earlier project, long since abandoned. Several shields had been bolted on to the upper arm, there to protect the spare brain that served as a backup should something happen to the primary. The right arm was the most expensive piece, having been taken from a lycanthropy infected woodsman. Geralf wasn’t even sure if the man had been dead at the time, but that hardly mattered at this point. The most important piece, however, was the head of the skaab itself – taken from none other than the local cathar himself, just the night before last. It was mounted above a steel bear trap, protected by the spikes of a wrought iron fence that had been protecting a long since abandoned cottage.


            “Oglor, fetch me the brain!” Geralf bellowed as he began to cackle with mad delight.


            “Yes, Master, right away, Master!” Oglor replied, scurrying to fetch down the brain of a psychotic mass murderer who had been hung a fortnight ago. Oglor was little more than a misshapen lump, loose skin and muscle hanging slack from badly wired bone, but he had been Geralf’s first project, a point in which he took no small amount of pleasure. He had seen other skaabs come and go, but none had ever been as important as him. He liked to think it was because he was so helpful around the lab, and in part it was. The truth of the matter, however, was that Geralf still didn’t understand how Oglor had developed sentience in the first place, and all attempts to recreate the process had failed miserably.


             Geralf hummed tunelessly to himself as he began to stitch the brain into place, carefully pouring in a bit of mana as needed. Muscles twitched and heaved as nerve endings reconnected, nearly throwing Geralf from the ladder he was working on.  He managed to catch hold of the fence before the ladder fell, and found himself straddling the monster’s neck. Geralf heaved a sigh of relief, then began to laugh giddily as he looked down at Oglor.


            “It lives, Oglor, it lives!” he crowed triumphantly. “My finest creation yet! What shall we name him?”


            “I don’t know, Master,” Oglor answered meekly, partly stung by the ‘greatest creation ever’ comment. He glared at the skaab, as if his eyes might miraculously light it on fire.


            “Well, he does seem a bit cheerful,” Geralf mused, tapping the bear trap with his knuckles. “He sort of reminds me of Gisa, really. So serious and so happy at the same time. Grim and grinning, together. That’s it! I shall name him GRIMGRIN!”


            “A good name, Master,” Oglor agreed, applauding clumsily. He bowed low to hide his scowl, nearly falling over in the process. A plan began to form in his decaying brain. We shall see who is the greatest creation yet!


            “I can’t wait to see the look on my dearest sister’s face as Grimgrin and my army march to the gates of Thraben,” Geralf sneered as he climbed down from his perch, a look of pure loathing etched across his face.  He slammed his fist into his palm as he continued to rant. “Oh, it shall be wonderful! We shall slay the inhabitants, and then rebuild them more gloriously than ever before! We shall see how well she can cheat when all of Gavony marches under my banner! My skaabs shall tear her smelly little ghouls into incoherent shreds, then dance upon their bones until they are ground to dust! And you know why, Oglor?!”


            “No, Master,” Oglor answered dutifully, though in truth he did. He had heard the story every night since his creation, sometimes more. But Master seemed to enjoy telling it, so he always answered no when asked if he knew. Perhaps that was why Master seemed to treat him as if he had a bad memory.


            “Because she cheats!” Geralf raged. He wheeled on the nearest table and heaved, delighting in the sound of glass beakers and vials shattering on the stone. He could feel the raw anger pounding in his veins and it was just delicious. “She lies! She steals! Oh, but Mother adored her so! Whenever the food was lean, Gisa would always be the one to get the choiciest bits. When Father died, it was her who got to sleep in Mother’s bed. Are we not twins? Are we not equals?  And she broke Cathar Corin!”


            “I am sorry Master!” Golor wailed on cue.


            “Oh, she will be!” Geralf roared. “I cannot wait to have dearest sister at my mercy. Just the thought of her on her knees, wailing for mercy as her castle crumbles around! Oh, I can almost hear her begging for mercy, pleading that she will do anything if only I would spare her! Anything…”


            “She will, Master, she will!” Oglor insisted, crawling over on hands and knees to kiss the hem of Geralf’s lab coat.


            “Enough of your groveling!” Geralf snapped, shoving Oglor sideways with the toe of his boot. “I have come upon a glorious plan! Quickly, fetch pen and paper! I need you to take down a letter for me!”


            “Right away, Master!” Oglor apologized, scrambling back to his feet as he raced for the study. Geralf began to cackle again, his diabolic laughter mingling with the hissing of the geists and the screaming of the skaabs, while behind Grimgrin waited patiently…



I have come to realize that I don't like having to write Geralf or Gisa, but can't really move the story forward without them. Otherwise the plot goes, "Intruge, deceit, more intrigue, some humor, more mystery, OMG ZZZOOOOMBBBIES!" So I wouldn't expect their chapters to be very long at first, at least not until Mikeaus  and Lothar becomes involved.

Chapter 5


 


 


            Norin scowled as he and Lily stepped out into the freezing rain. It had begun to ease up a bit, but not nearly enough to keep them from getting drenched. Water was pouring off the brim of his hat as if it was a Kessig waterfall, obscuring his vision on the left side of his body. He hated not being able to see clearly. Trained for constant vigilance, it left him feeling as if some monster was going to leap out from the side simply because he couldn’t see them lurking there. Norin knew such an attack was unlikely, but that didn’t keep him from constantly turning to look back over his shoulder, just in case.


            Lily, for her part, didn’t seem to mind the rain, mostly because her spells kept it at bay. She moved through the water like a boat through a river, always seeming to find solid ground where the mud clung to Norin’s boots, trying to suck them down and off his feet. The horses in the stables shied away from them as they approached, flicking their tails nervously and shifting in their stalls so that they could keep their eye on Lily. The one exception was a large roan stallion in the stall nearest the door. Unlike the others he shook his head and snorted, pawing the ground in challenge as Lily walked by.


            “Easy, Hallow, easy,” Norin soothed as he reached up to stroke the horse’s nose. The stallion took one last look at the mage before turning back his master’s hand, sniffing for any sign of an apple or bit of oats that might be waiting there. Norin chuckled as his horse’s heavy tongue licked across his palm. In the five years they had been together Hallow had never run or shied away from anything, backing his rider with crushing hooves capable of crushing even a vampire’s skull and devastating kicks that had snapped more than one werewolf’s spine. But if Hallow was brave to a fault than he was just as greedy, always looking for a small treat or snack to pilfer. Thus he was quite happy when Norin reached over and grabbed a small bag of oats from in front of a mangy looking plow horse and held it out for his steed.


            “Sorry to load you up again so soon,” Norin apologized as Hallow happily munched on the stolen snack. “It seems my stay didn’t quite go as quietly as we had hoped.”


            He began to re-saddle the horse, carefully spreading waterproofed blankets over the horse’s back before mounting the rest of the gear. The stolen oats was enough of a distraction to keep Hallow from fidgeting, so he only shot Norin an annoyed glance as the Inquisitor cinched a belly strap a bit too tightly. He whuffed his disgruntlement, earning a playful slap on the side as Norin scolded him, “Now enough of that. I don’t want to end up falling off and having to swim in the mud just because you eat too much!”


 


 


*          *          *


 


 


            Liliana snorted with amusement as she watched the Inquisitor tease his horse. In a way it reminded her of the way she and Josu used to play when they had been children, before he had ridden off to war, before he had been killed by another mage’s curse… She shook her head, banishing the unhappy memories. They belonged to a girl who had been weak and foolish, gullible enough to be used by those around her. That girl was as dead as the brother she had buried. The woman who had replaced her understood the way the world truly worked, revolving around those with power and the ambition and ability to seize more of it. It had been power that had allowed her to take revenge on the mage who had cursed her brother, dissolving the skin from his bones while he pitifully begged for mercy. It had been her lust for power that had driven her to make her bargain with Griselbrand, but it had been her own strength and ambition that had led her to acquiring the Chain Veil. Once she used it to rid herself of the demon and reclaim the portion of her soul that he held her powers would only grow again.


            Of course, this would mean she would probably have to kill Norin when the time came. Men like him never understand, she mused as she approached her carriage. They insist on hobbling themselves with such pathetic and outdated concepts as morality and honor. Even if he manages to somehow survive marching to the demon’s door with me, he’ll still betray me when he realizes I’m not the simpering woman he believes me to be. He’ll feel obligated to stop me, or some such. At least I shall make it quick…if he proves to be a decent guide, that is.


            She rapped on the door of her carriage as she commanded, “Sven, wake up! The locals turned out to be less than accommodating than I had wished. We won’t be spending the night here after all.”


            “Whuzzat?” The man who stuck his head out the window was large and disheveled looking. His clothes were streaked with mud and torn in places where they had snagged on low hanging branches. His skin was pale, but whereas Liliana’s skin was like fine porcelain, his was more faded and corpselike. His eyes were glassy and dull, sunken pits deep in his skull, as if trying to retreat from the jowls hanging listlessly from his cheeks.


            “I said, we are leaving,” Liliana repeated as she opened the door Sven had been leaning on. She stepped aside as he spilled out of the carriage to land heavily at her feet. She hiked up her skirt before he could return to his feet and used the fleshy expanse of his back as an impromptu step stool to get into the carriage.


            “But we just got here!” Sven protested as he picked up his hat and began to dust it off.


            “Well, unless you want to discuss the damages and dead bodies with the inn keeper we should get going,” Norin suggested as he walked over to assist the pudgy driver with harnessing the horses. He frowned as he gave them a good look. They seemed to be little more than a pair of nags, bony with straggled hair. If he didn’t know any better he would have sworn that they were starved near to the point of death, and Norin was forced to recoil from the whiff of their sour breath as one reached around to nip at him. They were hardly the sort of horse he would expect a lady as finely dressed as Lily to be using.


            “Dead bodies?” Sven asked worriedly, turning around to look at the carriage where his passenger waited. “Is Mistress all right?”


            “Just fine,” Norin answered approvingly. It was nice to see a servant who actually cared about the well being of the person they worked for. Well, at least when that person wasn’t a vampire. He hated having to deal with the glamoured  servants, who were almost always suicidal fanatics giving their lives to buy their lord more time. “But it won’t be too long before they realize they’ll have to silence us before I can report back to the Elders. Attacking an Inquisitor is a sure sentence of death.”


            Norin would have sworn it wasn’t possible, but Sven managed to turn even paler. “They attacked an Inquisitor?” he gasped. “Are they mad? Do they want to draw Flight Goldnight down upon their heads?”


            “Well, I doubt the response needs to be that drastic,” Norin replied as helped the other man up on to the driver’s perch. He was surprised by how cold Sven felt, but then the man had been asleep outside in the carriage during a freezing rain, so it didn’t seem that strange. Still, you would expect Lily could afford a room for her coachman as well, Norin thought as his eyes narrowed suspiciously. Which means she is probably transporting something valuable in that carriage and wants to keep it guarded. By then why bring only one man?


            Norin glanced down at his wards as he mounted Hallow, but they just sat there without any response, just as they had back in the inn. He turned as Lily poked her head out of the carriage window and asked, “Are we ready to leave yet? I wish to leave this unpleasant place far behind us as soon as possible.”


            “Aye, we’re good,” Norin answered, wheeling Hallow towards the door and urging his mount to a trot. The darkness and the rain combined for poor visibility, and he didn’t want to risk injuring his horse n the name of reckless haste. The carriage came creaking after him, the wheels half dragging/half slipping in the deep mud. Sven mumbled curses as the carriage nearly fishtailed onto the road, the metal bands on the wheels crunching over the loose gravel that had been laid down in a vain attempt to keep the way from turning into a muddy bog. It was still enough for the carriage to gain traction, however, allowing it to rattle off into the night.


 


 


*          *          *


 


            They traveled in silence for several hours, Norin keeping one hand on the hilt of his sword at all times. The rain finally began to break around midnight, though by that point both he and Sven were well and truly soaked. The carriage driver remained hunched over in his seat, maintaining a constant litany of curses that went into a remarkable amount of detail concerning the parentage, hygiene, and dietary preferences of the two nags pulling the carriage. The two horses simply ignored him and his invectives, plodding onwards mostly out of pure stubbornness.


            Norin, by contrast, was bone weary. His fight with the werewolf was little more than six hours old, with the struggle in the bar not much younger. The thick stew had helped to curb his hunger, at least, but it was still nothing compared to the comfort that even a rickety country inn bed would have provided. He wanted nothing more to do than to simply curl up and sleep, an impossibility in those haunted woods. More than one unwary traveler had found themselves dead at the hands of a geist, but what truly worried him were the wolves and bears of the forest. It looked to be a promising spring for the farmers, but winter hadn’t been too long ago and most of the prey was still wearing lean from the sparse foraging. Even one of Sven’s nags would make good eating for a pack, though Norin doubted they would settle for just the one. Not only would the better fed humans make for a more appetizing meal, they would probably be easier to take down as well. Their only chance was to find one of Avacyn’s road side shrines and make their camp there, where the wards and runes could protect them from hungry predators.


            Norin spotted what he was looking for just as dawn was beginning to break. The moon was low on the horizon, and the first few rays of sunlight were struggling to push back the shadows of the trees, but there was still enough light for him to spot the standing stones carved with Avacyn’s collar that marked a sheltered clearing. He pulled hard on the reins as Hallow came even with the stones, and Norin leaned over to brush his fingers across the runes carved above the holy symbol, half fearing they would remain dark. Instead they glowed faintly at his touch, and he sighed with relief.


            “We shall make camp here for the day,” he shouted down the road to Sven. “The wards are still active, so we should be safe here.”


            Before her coachman could speak, Lily poked her head out the window and asked, “Is that wise?”


            “Aye,” Norin answered as he trotted back to the carriage. “I don’t know how long you were on the road the night before, but the horses will need rest and food at this point, as will we. There will be shelter ahead, as well as supplies if the parish is keeping up with their tithes. It’s a defensible position, so even should the inn keeper and his friends come looking for us we will be able to hold them off. We can hold here until tomorrow morning, unless you have some pressing business I am not aware of?”


            Liliana considered the question for a moment before shaking her head. “I am looking forward to meeting with an…acquaintance of mine, but he doesn’t know I am traveling to see him. This will just delay the meeting a little longer, I suppose. And you’re right, it would be a good chance to give the horses a chance to rest.”


            Norin nodded at her explanation, though Liliana could tell he wasn’t quite satisfied with it. He turned his horse around and lead them into the small clearing, so he missed the worried look on Sven’s face as he urged the horses passed the standing stones. The runes flared briefly as they passed, the horses shuddering in discomfort.


            They pulled up in front of a low, windowless stone building with a heavy wooden door that groaned in protest as Norin heaved it open. The inside of the sanctuary was dark and dusty, with a cold fire pit laid out in the center. Oak benches were arranged around it, while the far wall was occupied by a small shrine to Avacyn. The centerpiece was a stone-carved heron, wings spread to shelter those who knelt before it, around which several unlit candles had been laid out. A wooden platform occupied the left hand corner of the building, allowing travelers a place to lay their bedrolls other than on the cold stone floor.


            “It is so…dark,” Lily remarked distastefully as she stepped through the low hanging door.


            “The roads have been empty,” Norin answered as he knelt in front of the altar and began lighting the candles, whispering a prayer of thanks with each one. “Not many travelers have used it in a while, so the lanterns were most likely removed. Which means we shouldn’t rely on the stored supplies, either.”


            “But at least the firebox is full,” Sven commented as he stepped inside bearing an armload of wood. “I checked it after bedding down the horses. We should be relatively warm this evening.”


            “Good,” Norin replied as he turned around, his rites completed. “I am looking forward to a hot meal and good night’s rest.”


            “Can you cook?” Lily inquired as Norin began to open his saddlebags to inventory his sparse supplies. He would have restocked before leaving, had their departure not been forced to be so hasty. As it was, he only had a few cold trail rations on hand, some biscuits, jerky, and some nuts and berries he had collected a few days previously.


            “Not very well,” Norin admitted. “Not that I think there is much I could have done with this in the first place.”


            Sven sighed and heaved himself up to his feet. “Then I guess I should go set some traps, hmmm?”


           


 


*          *          *


 


 


            Norin shoved himself awake, not even having realized he had gone to sleep. His shoulders sagged with relief as he realized his sword as right there where he needed it to be, then glanced around at the unfamiliar stone walls, taking a moment to remember where he was. Sven was sitting hunched over the fire as he turned a pair of rabbits to make sure that they cooked evenly, but Lily was nowhere to be found.


            “Where is your Mistress?” Norin demanded, getting to his feet.


            “She went for a walk,” Sven answered with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. “She said she was feeling claustrophobic in here, and wanted to get some fresh air. I can’t really blame her, to be honest. It feels like a tomb in here.”


            “Damn!” Norin answered as he bolted for the door. Damnable city folk, he raved mentally. There’s a reason these sanctuaries exist and are built the way they are! It isn’t safe to just go walking in the woods any time you please, mage or not. Her spells won’t keep an angry boar from ripping her belly open or a hungry wolf from tearing out her throat! Not to mention anything else that might be lurking between those trees!


            Norin paused as he reached the edge of the clearing’s boundaries, drawing his sword and examining the ground as he looked for some sign of her trail. There was an area where the grass had been crushed flat, and above it was a still green tree branch that was just about head height on the missing woman. This must be where she started from.


            He moved cautiously as he moved into the wild woods, one eye on the ground for signs of where she had been, the other keeping watch for anything that might be sneaking up on him. He listened, too, to the birds over head, paying attention to any sudden changes or silences. There was a single tense moment where the chatter stopped and Norin dropped low to the ground. Something moved by him not a stone’s throw away, and it must have been big and heavy the way he could hear it crushing the undergrowth beneath its feet. There was a shift in the wind, and Norin’s nose curled in disgust as he detected the sickly sweet scent of rotting death.


            That’s the smell of something undead, he realized. I have to find Lily before it does.


            Norin began to move more cautiously, but the unholy thing didn’t seem to have detected it. Had he been alone, Norin would have taken advantage of the situation to try and sneak up on it and destroy it before it had the chance to realize he was there. Instead he continued to follow Lily’s trail until it led him to the worst possible place imaginable – an abandoned graf, long since over taken by the woods.


            Broken and toppled headstones littered the area, shoved this way and that by the gnarled roots of the trees that had invaded the sacred resting ground. Norin could see Lily a few paces in, kneeling in front of one of the few headstones that remained intact. One hand lay in the bend of the Collar, her lips moving silently as she spoke some prayer.


            “Lily!” Norin hissed from the edge of the woods. She looked up, startled by the interruption, her eyes widening as she recognized him.


            “What are you doing here?” she asked as he crept closer.


            “Looking for you!” Norin answered impatiently. “What in the bloody blue blazes did you think you were doing, walking off like that? Why in Avacyn’s name would you venture into a place like this?”


            “I-I couldn’t stand it anymore,” Lily answered nervously. “I felt so cramped in that building, I just had to get out. I was walking through the woods when I found this old stone wall. I was curious, so I started following it, and it led me here. I realized it was an old graf, and thought I should say some prayers for those resting here, make sure they are taken by the Blessed Sleep…”


            “We need to go, now!” Norin ordered, grabbing her by the hand. It was cold and clammy, covered in mud as if had been buried in the ground. “There’s something else in these woods, something evil. We’ll be safe once we’re back in sanctuary. Now come on!”


            Lily just nodded dumbly, following behind him as he guided her back to safety.


 


 


*          *          *


 


 


            They set off again the next day, though Norin’s thoughts continued to linger on the thing he had encountered in the forest. He wondered what it was, and vowed to tell the next cathar he encountered about it. He would return as well, once he had seen Lily and Sven safe to Thraben.


            Back in the graf, black mana oozed and flowed around the headstones, leeching into the very ground itself. The roots it touched began to root and peel, causing the ancient trees to topple over into the much. The ground began to shift and roil, erupting as a long buried church forced its way back to the surface. The steeple bell was green and pitted from corrosion, and was held suspended by only a single decaying rope. Invisible hands began to pull on the cord, causing the bell to rock back and forth, ringing with a dull, hollow sound as skeletal hands began to pierce the surface, digging their bodies free of the no longer quiet graves…





I'm not actually sure what other stories Lilliana has featured prominently in, other than the webcomics and Test of Metal. Considering the events of Test of Metal as canon but open to massive amounts of interpretation, I decided to stick to the webcomics for most of her personality. The thing about Josu and her guilt in that epeisode is probably her one weakness as a character. The whole claustrophobia thing is just a red herring for dealing with Norin. I figure trying to be overly subtle with this sort of story is pointless, since most people are already familiar at least partly with her character and the events of the story line. It would sort of be like trying to hide the fate of the ship in Titanic.
I love how you wrote Liliana
IMAGE(http://www.wizards.com/global/images/mtgcom_daily_mc52_picMain_en.jpg)IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/73821e61e013eadf56a8e4e2226d89a3.jpg?v=90000)
Thanks! Liliana is actually one of the two easiest characters to write in my opinion, the other one being Garruk. It helps that they both have the simplest motivations. Garruk just wants to kill Liliana, break the curse, and be left alone, while Liliana just wants as much power as she can accumulate at whatever the cost.

Sorin is ancient and political, which causes problems since he comes with a load of baggage and ties into everything. I also haven't read the Teeth of Akoum, so I don 't know if there is some standardized personality I'm supposed to be working with, or if people would prefer him to be handled some other way entirely. Norin and Thalia have to avoid getting turned into mindless vigilantes with strict black and white moralities. They can start that way (though personally, Thalia is more black and white than Norin in terms of perspective) but they shouldn't end that way. Gisa and Geralf are pretty much just going to be walking, talking plot propellant if only because they need to share villain space with Alwin, the Skirsdag Cult, Liliana, Griselbrand, and Olivia Voldaren, all of whom are much smarter and more important than the twins. Then on top of this, I need to make sure that Agana and Ayla end up as more than female MacGuffins. (If you don't know who Agana and Ayla are, don't worry - they haven't been introduced yet. I'm also not sure which one is going to end up the more polarizing character, but I would lay my money on Agana.)

And worst of all is Ludevic. I intended for him to be a sort of absent minded mad scientist type who really doesn't understand why running around breeding giant monsters is a bad idea. Sure, he builds skaabs and breeds Tymy, but that's more for the curiosity of the thing, seeing how different structures can be integrated, etc. He doesn't build make humanoform skaabs because (in character) they're boring and (storywise) that's Geralf's terrain. But now they've released the full spoilers, and there are a couple of cards that refer to him making Scrapskin Drake and letting it loose. I've got a couple ideas how to explain it, but I'm half tempted top ignore it as well...
I too haven't read Teeth of Akaoum, and frankly I don't intend to any time soon. Sorin's personality supposedly is that of a smartass; if he picks a weakness, he won't stop bothering you about it.

The Dark Ascension block's flavor in general heavily implies that he sees the other vampires as stupid, mindless devourers; this, combined with his smartass behaviour, leads me to think he is prone to "holier than thou" attitudes. 
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That's pretty much what I'm going to be working with, at least for his interactions with the other vampires. I figure he'll at least respect Edgar and probably Garruk, while sort of shaping Agana.

Chapter 6.0


 


 


          Grand Master Lothar frowned as he looked up from the report he was reading, his concentration interrupted by the squeak of the outer door to his study being opened. When asked he always explained that he fully intended to one day see the hinges oiled properly, while secretly instructing his staff that they were never to do any such thing. He found it to be a useful alarm for when others sought to disturb him at inopportune times, such as now.  The Inquisition had recently launched several raids on the Skirsdag cult, a dangerous group of demon worshippers that had been growing bolder with each passing month. They had always posed a threat to the peace, but up until recently they had always lurked in the shadows, relying on kidnapping the homeless and country peasants as sacrifices for their bloody rituals. Now they were stepping out of their shadows, and their kidnappings becoming more brazen. People were being seized from their homes right there in the heart of Thraben, and more than a few cathars had turned up murdered, unholy symbols etched into their foreheads as if to mock those who found them.


            The raids had been less than successful, with all but one failing to turn up any cultists. The one time they did find the cultists, it had been an ambush. What supposed to have been a small flock had turned out to be far more numerous than they had anticipated. More than a dozen good men died in the fighting, but at least they took more than three times their number of blood crazed cultists with them. That was only to be expected, however. The Skirsdag cultists never surrendered, always choosing to spend their lives as violently as possible in sick worship of their masters. What truly worried him was that the group had been prepared for the attack – someone had warned the cultists that the cathars had been coming, and that could only mean one thing.


            There was a Skirsdag spy in Avacyn’s church.


            The thought made him sick to his stomach. That any man could shame the Silver Collar by falsely swearing the holy oaths expected of all who served the church was as unthinkable as a skabaren presiding over the Heron’s Feast. When I find out who it is, I swear to gut the bastard myself, he thought bitterly.


            “Sir?”


            Lothar snapped out of his bitter musings as he remembered his impending company. He looked up from his desk, and his anger softened as he recognized Thalia standing at crisp attention in front of him. If there was any proof that he had done good work in this world, it was her. As fiercely loyal as she was courageous, he would never forget the dark night when they had first met, the way she had thrown herself recklessly into the midst of a pack of howlers, drawing their attention away from the travelers they had been intent on savaging. He had thought it a brave, if stupid, sacrifice at the time, but then he hadn’t known of her skill with a sword. As he watched her carve her way through the monsters, Lothar had known then and there that Thalia would be the one to replace him as the Guardian of Thraben.


            “Ah, Thalia, I’m glad that you could stop by this evening,” he said warmly, motioning her for her to take a seat opposite him. “I wanted to congratulate you on your mission the other evening. We’d been looking for Ludevic for a while now, and the fact that you managed to bring him in with only three cathars as assistance is just impressive!”


            Thalia shook her head glumly. “But we let the howler get away.”


            Lothar frowned. “It is not your fault that Lesit was bit. You had no way of knowing that man was a werewolf, and basic human decency demanded that Lesit free him. If anything, it is just another sin on Ludevic’s head. What sort of madman brings a werewolf into the heart of the city? Never mind that monster of his. We’ve tried to kill it a dozen different ways, but it just shrugs them all off. Swords, fire, nothing works. We’ve had to renew and expand the wards holding it in place more than a dozen times over the past few days since it just kept growing. It finally stopped, even if it is nearly as large as the Cathedral at this point. We’d need an angel to put it down, but…”


            Thalia looked grim as she nodded. “They’ve all retreated into the Loft.”


            Lother’s frown deepened, and he reached over to pat the back of her hand reassuringly. “There is a reason for everything, Thalia. We might not understand the purpose of our trials, not even after they are over, but they make us who and what we are.”


            “I know,” she answered, bowing her head. “I just wish…”


            “If wishes were fishes, then there’d be no beggar’s bowls,” Lothar quoted, wishing that he could tell her the truth of why Avacyn’s magic was really failing.  Instead he reached over to the side of his desk and grabbed a stack of ancient looking leather tomes. The covers were dirty and cracked with age, the pages yellow and torn. Thalia recoiled in disgust as he placed them reverently in front of her, over come by the thick stench of rot and chemicals.


            “What in Avacyn’s name?” she demanded, pinching her nose to try and block the smell.


            Lothar laughed at her reaction, though it didn’t stop him from leaning as far back as he could. “These would be the missing six journals of Saint Traft. I have no idea how they came to be in the possession of a criminal such as Ludevic, but they were recovered from his lab. I haven’t the foggiest idea how he, of all people, managed to come into possession of them.”


            Thalia gaped in astonishment. The legendary Saint Traft was one of the most highly worshipped figures in the Church’s history. A man so blessed the Angels themselves followed his every step, he had been a fierce fighter in the war on evil, slaying more demons than any other cathar or inquisitor since then. He had also been an accomplished scribe, chronicling his investigations and battles with pain staking detail. After his death at the hands of the demon Withengar, his journals had been turned over to the church by his brother, Thoin. Even a century later they were still considered to the authority on supernatural threats, from demons to vampires, and were still used as the basic primers for those training to be cathars and inquisitors.


            It wasn’t until a year after the church had taken possession of the journals that the scribes realized six of them were missing. No one knew where they had gone. Thoin swore that he had turned them all over, which the an angel of Flight Goldnight had confirmed, but at the same time the journals had been stored inside a heavily guarded vault where all the Church’s sacred relics were kept. It would have been impossible for them to be stolen, but that nagging little fact did nothing to make them reappear.


            Traft hadn’t written his journals in chronological order, but rather had pieced them together over the years, dedicating each one to a particular topic; one detailed which spells were most effective against particular monsters, another contained recipes for various useful potions and antidotes, and so on. These tomes went on for several volumes each, all carefully indexed and cross referenced to each other. Using these references as clues, the scholars managed to piece together the contents of the missing six books and came to a horrifying realization.


            Traft hadn’t just documented how to battle the forces of evil, but had written down the instructions for creating them as well. According to his references those volumes contained details on the rituals to summon particular demons or devils, anatomical notes on skaabs and ghouls, and the means to invoke terrible curses and spells. In the wrong hands those books were guides to unleashing unspeakable horrors, and no one had any idea where on Innistrad they were.


            Thalia couldn’t help herself. Giving in to her curiosity, she picked up the top journal and carefully opened it, forcing her mind to ignore the malignant odor that was making her nose crinkle in disgust. The pages were filled with neat, if somewhat cramped, script describing macabre scenes of ritual sacrifice. She turned the pages with horrified fascination, staring at the elegant sketches that perfectly recreated summoning circles with their runes precisely drawn and carefully placed. She paused as she came to a full page sketch of a sacrificial bone dagger that according to the notes had been carved from a demon’s horn. The sketch faithfully recreated everything about the dagger, from the arcane markings down to the scenes of murder and blood letting that had been “artistically” carved into the blade. There was something about it that seemed familiar, but she didn’t quite know why…


            Shaking her head in dismay, she closed the book and returned it to the pile.  “What are you planning on doing with them?”


            “I honestly don’t know,” Lothar answered with a shrug. “A part of me strongly desires to see them burnt, if only to rid the world of their foul knowledge. On the other hand, Traft’s writings have served us all well in the past. I will probably turn them over to the scholars to see what they might learn from them.”


            Thalia shuddered at thought of what one might be able to “learn” from those books. “I think I’d rather see them burned as well.”


            “Well, we shall see,” Lothar answered as he removed the books from the desk and placed them into a drawer. “Either way, you’ve done more than can be asked of you. Go and get some rest.”


            “Of course,” Thalia answered, smiling for the first time that evening. “After all, something tells me something tomorrow will be just as busy as yesterday.”


            She left him laughing as she stepped out of the office, her mind racing as she considered everything. Something Lothar said continued to nag at her.


            Just where had Ludevic gotten those books?




First, sorry about the long delay between chapters. Work has been running me a bit more ragged than I planned. On the other hand, over time makes for a much better looking paycheck at the end of the week... Anyway, this is actually the first half of Chapter 6, with the second half picking up from Ludevic's point of view. The real question, however, is Saint Traft. I've already decided that Ludevic is related to Traft, being the great-grandson of Traft's brother Thoin. He had actually found them where Traft had hidden them a century ago. (Traft, not being a fool, had kept the books hidden lest they be stolen. Getting killed by Withengar made sure they stayed hidden.) Ludevic has actually been working off some of Traft's anatomy notes for making something like Tymy.
The real question is whether Traft should make an appearance. I semi-planned on him and perhaps an as-yet unnamed angel haunting Ludevic and serving as sort of an external conscience. Ludevic is, after all, a little absent minded and needs to be reminded every once in a while why massive animated construct stitched together from spare body parts is a bad idea. On the other hand, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe it wouldn't be a little too hokey, even if I just reduced it down to one exasperated angel.

Chapter 6.5


 


            Ludevic sagged against the cold stone of his cell, playing over the events of the last few days in his mind. Nothing had gone his way since the cathars had raided his laboratory. After his captive werewolf had savaged one of his persecutors, the other two had men had decided to take it out on him with, at least as far as he was concerned, a rather uncalled for beating. After all, if they had simply asked he would have been more than happy to have told them cutting the wanton down was a bad idea. But that was typical cathar attitude for you – hit first, and ask questions later. Ludeiv was positive the gorgeous blonde would have put a stop to it if she had known, but she had been too busy dealing with Tymy, much to his chagrin.


            “What did I ever do to deserve this?” he moaned, burying his head in his hands.


            “You never listened to me, that’s what,” came the stern reply. Ludevic snapped upright at the familiar voice, smiling as the first ray of hope came to him in a long while.


            “Teana!” Ludevic jumped to his feet in excitement. “You’ve come to get me out of here?”


            The angel standing in the opposite corner of his cell frowned at the question, but even that wasn’t enough to mar her unearthly beauty. She glowed with a divine radiance that banished even the darkest shadows from the tiny cell, which only made it more apparent how grimy Ludevic had become since the start of his imprisonment. She sighed as she answered, “You know better than that. I cannot interfere with mortal justice, only act as observer and final arbiter for your fate. You should consider yourself fortunate I can do even that much; if it were anyone else, and I was not bound by the oath I swore to your grand-uncle, then you would surely hang for the crimes you have committed.”


            Teana shook her head as she reflected on how it had come to this. She had personally been tasked by Gisella, the leader of Flight Goldnight, to watch over the legendary Saint Traft. She had been at his side for many a battle, and all but a demon’s trickery and Traft’s own honor had kept her from being at his side when he died. She had personally led the flight of angels that had avenged, protecting his body from Withengar and his minions. She had sworn then and there that she would protect his family from any and all harm so long as it did not interfere with the oaths she had sworn to Avacyn and Gisella. She had never had much difficulty in upholding that oath…at least until Ludevic had come along. She had seen much promise in him as a child, and that had led her to showing him where Traft had hidden his journals. She had expected him to learn from the journals, to follow in Traft’s footsteps. Instead Ludevic had devoted himself a darker path, trying to unlock the dark secrets those tomes held.


            “But I’m innocent!” Ludevic wailed in protest, sinking onto the bench one more. “I haven’t done anything wrong!”


            “You let a werewolf loose in Avacyn’s holy city!”


            “That wasn’t me!” Ludevic angrily denied. “What I did was put myself at risk to single handedly capture a dangerous wanton and keep him from preying on any more innocents!”


            “You conjured a beast that destroyed an old woman’s home!”


            “That was not my fault!” Ludevic snapped. “I had the entire experiment fully under control. Tymy was asleep when they arrived! It wasn’t until those morons started trying to stick him with those swords of theirs that he went on a rampage, and even then he only attacked those who attacked him first!”


            “You terrorized an entire village with your curses!”


            “Well, it was kind of funny watching them all panic, and it wasn’t like anyone got hurt by being blind for a few minutes,” Ludevic replied, trying to hide a grin. He turned more serious as he added, “And besides, it only served them right for tormenting that poor girl, just for having that birth mark. So what if it looked like a crescent moon? You would think the superstitious bastards would have taken it as some sort of holy sign from you angels.”


            “You experimented on the dead, disturbing their rest with foul magics and unholy potions!”


            Ludevic’s eyes narrowed as he glared at his guardian angel. “You know better than that, Teana. I have never experimented on human flesh or bodies. All my subjects have been animals I myself captured, and only animated long enough for me to make observations and experiment with structure and forms.”


            “What about the mauler that you let loose in Nephalia?”


            Ludevic frowned, then shrugged. “Ok, I might be a little bit guilty on that one. But there weren’t any humans involved in that one either, and at least the gangs stopped bothering that shop after it was done.” He frowned, pausing for a moment to count something on his fingers. “Granted, there might not be much of those gangs left after it got done with them…”


            Teana nodded, smiling serenely. “Good! As long as you remember all that, and don’t get too outraged with their questions, you should be fine. Now get some sleep. You will need it.”


            Ludevic frowned, looking confused. “Why? What’s tomorrow?”


            Teana’s smile vanished. “Tomorrow your trial begins.”




Incoming in 5...4...3...2...1...
This just gets better and better. Keep it up!
Embrace imagination. Lord of YMtC | Ten Rounds Contest Winner Solphos – A fan set with a 'combo matters' theme Fool's Gold – The second set of the Solphos block
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Each of its nine tails is imbued with supernatural power, and it can live for a thousand years. My Standard deck: Setting Sun
108516289 wrote:
Think of how Neo couldn't beat the robots, but they kept him around anyways to defeat Agent Smith. Sure, the robots might not like having a Neo running rampant because instead of playing their favorite 4 drop fatty robot, they have to play a bunch of one mana Matrixs to contain him, but at least Neo keeps Agent Smith from reanimating an Iona on turn two.
139359831 wrote:
Are you saying I'm trying to blame my loss on something? I don't care that I lost, I care that he's a sore loser, and a cheater, and a liar.
144902215 wrote:
CKY, are you bad at anything?
144902215 wrote:
I really enjoy imagining this from Kevin's perspective. Because in Kevin's world, Rosewater actually reads everything he types. Mark is sitting there right now, reading this, and thinking "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled. . ." Or some such. He chuckles low, then clicks on "The Best Of KEVINSET" and says "Yes, this'll do just fine. A busty lady with banding who deals direct damage to Zones!? Why this will be the star of my next set, and no one will ever believe you Kevin." Then he closes his Macbook, so his servant may move it out of the way, while another servant puts a Fetal Richard Garfield Clone lathered in Steak Sauce in front of him. Then Mark Feasts. I mean, In KevinWorld, Mark is reading the very words I'm typing as well. Heck, in KevinWorld maybe I am Mark.
99964981 wrote:
I'm beginning to think CKY may be anime in real life...
57150868 wrote:
Don't go anywhere CKY, I need to crash dramatically through your window and propose marriage and I don't want you throwing off my paradrop.
63588923 wrote:
[In response to a thread about how hard grading is] Upon reading this, I've found myself completely unable to operate in the world. I tried to decide what to eat for breakfast, and pondered the vast consequences of my choice. How do I balance my dietary needs against my desire to eat good-tasting food? Should I factor in how long it takes to prepare? Cereal is ready in moments, but bacon takes longer to cook. Then there is the impact on other industries. Do people in the cereal industry deserve to be employed more than people in the bacon industry? Which industry should I support? I don't even have the data regarding HOW MUCH the cereal industry benefits from me eating a bowl of cereal, or how much the bacon industry benefits from me eating a side of bacon. How can I compare two qualities I can't even quantify? And let's not forget the milk on the cereal. In addition to determining whether or not milk is healthy for me, how much that benefits the milk industry, and how much the people in the milk industry deserve my support, we have to factor in the fact that cows are put under brutal conditions in order to collect thier milk. Of course, the same goes for the pigs, and then they get killed. Of course, I really like bacon. So I need to come up with a scale that compares the value of cow happiness to pig happiness to my happiness. What trade-offs am I willing to make here? Does the fact that the pig gets put out of its misery count as a plus or a minus? Isn't bacon bad for me anyway? Deciding what to eat for breakfast (or any meal) is impossible. Help me!
104339228 wrote:
I must admit chinkeeyong, you have the most interesting character ideas; and you play them well.
144902215 wrote:
Anyway, you'd be surprised about Time Stop. When I first saw that card as a relatively new player I didn't see its full potential until I read the reminder text. Is it that unintuitive, though? Mine I mean. What is possibility? Is it possible for me to type these words with my tusks? No, because I don't have tusks. Although I am now tempted to go buy some - obviously not from poachers or whatever - and use them as typing apparatus. I could be the best secretary ever. "What's your words per minute sir?" "Well, only six, but I use these tusks to type them." "You're hired!" That was the interview. And is anyone else disappointed that "apparati" is not the plural form of apparatus? I just could strangle a dictionary, because "apparatuses" is a real word. I guess it sounds pretty cool. I'll call them my Apparatusks.
It does; I especially like the cliffhanger
Show
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Chapter 7


 


            Sorin allowed Olivia’s little minions to lead him to a small sitting room perched in one of the upper corners of the mansion while they cleaned up his prize. A trembling servant entered behind them, her hands shaking as she placed a crystal decanter filled with blood wine on the table by the door. Sorin scowled as he watched her move. Her hands and throat were bare exposing the puckered teeth marks on her pale skin. Her tremors weren’t caused by fear of being in the same room as a lethal predator, but by the same lack of blood that left her looking glassy eyed and moving with a slow, plodding gait. He waited until she had left the room before pouring himself a glass. He managed only a single sip before placing the glass down again, forcing himself not to gag at the overly sweet taste.


            They are children, he thought bitterly as he walked back to the window to glare at the party goers mingling in the courtyard below. Spoiled brats who have forsaken their heritage for hedonistic pleasures. They take advantage of Avacyn’s disappearance without even knowing why they suddenly have so much more freedom, nor do they understand the price they will pay when she returns. So be it. They will learn their lessons when the humans come to burn their toys and leave them staked out in the open for the sun to find. Well, at least those that survive will.


            Sorin turned as he heard the door open again, smiling as the woodsman was shoved through. They had cleaned him up from his fight, but not before chaining his hands and legs together to hobble him. Sorin smirked at the futility of the gesture, but merely motioned for the guards to depart now that their prisoner had been delivered. When the door was closed and he was sure they had their privacy, he nodded to the other man as he held up a key to the locks and said, “You can go ahead and take those off now.”


            The other man grunted as he flexed his muscles. The chains had been forged with the intent of keeping other vampires imprisoned. Now they groaned in protest as he pulled against them, the links stretching and twisting until one finally snapped, pinging off the fireplace mantle as it bounced around the room. He took a moment to twist the rest of the chain free from the manacles. He then reached down and grabbed the chains attached to his ankles. It took a little more effort before they gave up as well, but it wasn’t long before there were four broken lengths of chain littering the carpet. Finally free of his bondage, he looked up at Sorin and said, “You’re dead.”


            “Undead, actually,” Sorin acknowledged with a shallow bow. “Though I suppose that could also depend on how you choose to look at it. From my point of view I was never properly dead to begin with, so being undead merely makes me alive with a slight…dietary restriction so to speak. Is that going to be a problem?”


            “It is unnatural,” the other man countered.


            “So is being a planeswalker,” Sorin retorted as he stepped away from the window and closer to his companion. “Oh, don’t look at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I am not nearly as infantile as my so-called cousins down there. I recognize baloth hide when I see it. You’ve been to Zendikar sometime in the past, though if I were you I wouldn’t be making any plans to visit it in the near future.”


            “Is that supposed to be a threat?” the big man rumbled. He straightened his shoulders, standing to what even Sorin had to admit was an impressive height. 


            “More an observation,” Sorin answered soothingly. “Someone decided it was a good idea to unleash some reality annihilating monstrosities on the plane, and unfortunately my attempt to stop it was thwarted by a rather stupid elf.”


            “So you’re a planeswalker as well, then?” The big man reached for the bottle of wine, opened the stopper, and took a tentative sniff. His nose curled in disgust and he dropped it back on the table, not even bothering to close it again.


            “I am,” the vampire admitted. “My name is Sorin, and yours?”


            “Garruk.” It came out as a half grunt, half growl. Sorin watched with great interest as Garruk prowled around the room, examining the windows and walls. He reminded Sorin of a great hunting cat claiming its territory, marking the best way to escape and the most easily defended points.


            “And what brings you to Innistrad?” Sorin asked, circling the room opposite Garruk. The burly planeswalker took note of his host’s movements, adjusting his own pace to match Sorin’s smaller stride.


            “I’m hunting a witch,” Garruk answered, finally coming to a stop. It was, in his mind, the perfect position. He had his back to the fireplace, where a burning log or metal poker would make for a handy weapon. Opposite where he was standing was a large bay window, with a tree planted close at hand. With a running start he would be able to easily leap into its branches, sparing him the several story fall to the ground. From there it would be an easy run to the wall, though it might get more complicated if he had to stop and fight.


            “There are plenty of witches on Innistrad,” Sorin pointed out, fully aware that if Garruk decided to make a break for it that he was standing right in front of the window. Sorin stood completely at ease, assuming the stance of a cocky nobleman in over his head. The pose also made it easy to hide the fact he was grasping the hilt of the knife he wore along his spine. “Are you looking any witch in particular?”


            “Aye,” Garruk snorted. He held out his left arm and rolled the sleeve of his coat up to his elbow. From his fingers to roughly the middle of his forearm was healthy pink flesh, but from there it turned a moldering grey, thick muscle turning loose and stringy, as if someone had mixed a healthy man’s arm with that of a corpse. “I seek the one who cursed me. She wears a chain veil and answers to the name Liliana.”


            Sorin approached cautiously, examining Garruk’s arm as closely as he could without touching it. Sorin had encountered more than his fair share of curses in his travels, and didn’t want to risk being infected by any malignancy that might have been attached to the spell. Normally the spark protected against such base spells, eventually purging a planeswalker’s body, but whatever curse had been placed on Garruk seemed powerful enough to overcome even that. Sorin could see the tendrils of black mana pulsing through Garruk’s body as the curse slowly spread, and knew that as soon as they reached the man’s vital organs that his fellow planeswalker would be doomed to whatever fell fate awaited him.


            “And she is here? On Innistrad?” Sorin demanded.


            Garruk nodded. “The Veil she bears has a distinct aura to it, one that allowed me to track her passage through the Blind Eternities.”


            Sorin reeled as he tried to process what he was being told. Another planeswalker was loose in his world. One with more than quite a bit of power to her name, if what she had done to Garruk was any indication. How long had she been here? Was she somehow connected to Avacyn’s disappearance? Why? What motive did she have for interfering with his angel? Only two things came to mind. It was possible this was an attack aimed at him, but while he had lost a small amount of his power when Avacyn had vanished it was hardly enough to compromise him. He had been careful to arrange it so that she fed his powers, rather than the other way around. The second option was that this was some sort of play for Innistrad itself. Avacyn might not have been the most powerful resident of Innistrad, but she was definitely up there on the lists as well as being its most public defender. The angels would rally, of course, but without her their powers would be sorely diminished. After that there were a handful of demons that would have given even Sorin pause, but they were few in number and it was doubtful they would put up a united front, if they even bothered to resist at all. More likely they would join whoever rid them of the Archangel. That would leave Sorin as the last obstacle to conquest, but few outside the upper nobility of the vampires was even aware of him and his powers. So get rid of Avacyn, and most of a would-be conqueror’s task would already be accomplished.


            “I am going with you,” Sorin announced, much to Garruk’s surprise. “Innistrad is my domain by my own decree, and I will not stand by while some usurper comes waltzing in trying to seize power for herself. You will have your cure when together we take the witch’s head.”


            Garruk was stunned by the offer, but his days living in the forest with the pack had taught him to never let an opportunity pass by, especially one as freely offered and beneficial as that one. He nodded in thanks, holding out his hand to Sorin. “Then we have an accord. Where do we begin?”


            “We start with the man I came here to see,” Sorin answered. “Time to introduce you to my Grandfather.”


 


 


*          *          *


 


 


            “Edgar! I demand answers!” Sorin roared as he strode into the study where the guards had told him his Grandfather was ‘resting’. He was only mildly surprised when a mousey looking brown haired girl of about twenty squeaked in fear and ducked around behind the chair Edgar Markov was occupying. More disturbing was how old and frail Edgar appeared. A robust man in his late forties when he had unlocked the secret to “immortality”, Edgar now looked old and frail, as if he were a starving man lost deep in an unforgiving desert.


            “Ah, good evening, Sorin,” Edgar replied in a wry voice. He motioned for the girl hiding behind him to step out in front of him. “No need to be afraid, Agana, it’s just my grandson, back from his trips to who knows where doing who knows what.”


            Sorin glanced at the girl, then turned to stare at Edgar. “What is the meaning of this? Who is she? Why are you here and not at the family seat?”


            “Ah, so many questions!” Edgar sighed. “I suppose I could ask just as many about your hulking company lurking in the shadows over there. But let us deal with yours first, though I shall handle them in my own order, though the answer to all three is honestly the same. In all cases the answer is politics, politics which stem from you and your creation.”


            Sorin was across the room in a flash, hoisting his Grandfather from his seat with a single jerk. “You know what happened to her? Tell me!”


            “Do I?” Edgar repeated with a sneer. “Perhaps I do, if not the why. Your precious Angel is gone, Sorin. Vanished from her own Cathedral in the very heart of sun touched Thraben itself. I don’t know how, or why. The Church has been very careful about maintaining their little masquerade in her absence, and what few spies I have remaining to me know only that the answer lies with the Lunarch and the Guardian.”


            Sorin lowered put Edgar back on his feet and took a deep breath. “What does that have to do you with abandoning the family seat?”


            “It has everything to do with me losing the family seat!” Edgar snapped, slamming his fist down on the arm of his chair. Even starved as he was the blow was supernaturally powerful, and the thick wood shattered in a cloud of splinters that made the girl flinch. He whirled on Sorin, his eyes ablaze with hate and anger. “Your pretty little Angel was too good, Sorin. She made a wonderful threat against those who sought to abuse our heritage and good will, but at the same time she kept us to the shadows for too long. When she vanished, I lost all the power of that threat. All that old hatred against you surged to the surface, and Olivia used it as an excuse to seize power for herself. She and the Patricians gathered the council and had me brought here, away from my seat of power. They declared me old, dull witted, and unfit to lead. Only the fact that you are my heir kept them from simply having me executed and done away with entirely. Instead they’ve locked me in this room and left me with the girl, hoping that I will snap and sire her to slake my thirst. Meanwhile, they frolic outside, gorging themselves needlessly and otherwise acting like rabbits in heat.”


            He whirled, thrusting a jagged splinter at Sorin’s face. “They will prove you right in the end. Stenisa cannot sustain their lusts indefinitely. When the humans finally have enough, the clouds will be black with the ashes of our funeral pyres.”


            “Then for your sake pray that I can undo what has been done to her,” Sorin snarled back. He turned to leave, but before he could Edgar grabbed him by the shoulder.


            “Wait!” he demanded. “Take the girl with you. I do not know how much longer I can resist the hunger, and if I take her than there will be no fixing the harm it will cause. Olivia wants her puppet, but I trust you to keep her in her place. Do not let me down.”



Chapter 8: More Boring Villains
I have to say that I love your Edgar. Seems more believable than the Saturday Morning Cartoon Creative said he was.
IMAGE(http://www.wizards.com/global/images/mtgcom_daily_mc52_picMain_en.jpg)IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/73821e61e013eadf56a8e4e2226d89a3.jpg?v=90000)
Well, the way I see him, Edgar is evil, but smart about it. To him, Avacyn is a necessary evil foisted on him by his errant Grandson, but just because Avacyn would rather see him staked out for the dawn doesn't mean he doesn't know how to turn a bad situation to his advantage. Its public knowledge that Sorin created Avacyn (at least amongst the elder vampires) and while Sorin isn't happy with the choices Edgar has made for the two of them he's still his grandfather and an incredibly smart man. So it wasn't hard for Edgar to leak various rumors that while he might not be able to control Avacyn, he doesn't exactly have to fear her either. That allowed him to keep a lid on some of the more power mad and crazed individuals. Sort of the equivalent of launching a nuke into a knife fight. But now his nuke is gone, and everyone has suddenly realized that not only has Edgar have a little rust on his dagger, there's quite a number more of them and they've been practicing. Honestly, the only reason he isn't dead is because Oilivia, who is leading the charge on taking power, pointed out to enough people that if Edgar dies then Sorin will go genocidal on them, and they don't know the extent of his powers other than, "Made one Archangel, could always do it again." (Remember, they don't know what he did in the first place, nor do they know about 'walkers being depowered in the wake of the mending. As far as they're concerned, he's got Urza level magic at his command.)

Granted, once Edgar gets his nuke back he's going to be a bit more blunt in his dealings. After all, ripping someone's throat out is always so much more permanent - and satisfying.

On a side note, since its been bugging me, what's the rating on stories in these forums supposed to cap at? Pg-13, light R, what?
I would guess PG-13, since the magic the gathering card game is designed for people 13 and older.

Hey Everyone, if you have a few minutes I'd like to point you to two links that you might find interesting. The first is a plane of my own creation that is still in the works. I am always happy for some assistance in working on it.

The second is a link to the oldest continuously running contest in the You Make the Card forum. It is truly a contest like no other. It is faithfully run by a handful of regulars who are always kind and open to any new comers, please drop by and check it out if you're interested in making cards!

That's what I figured, but wanted to be sure. Its the difference between actually showing the wound and just implying how bad things are. (Granted, so far the only one I've had to hide was just how badly Garruk messed up the vampire, and I'm not sure how well that one was even handled...

Chapter 8


 


 


            The Starlight Chamber was located at the summit of the tallest tower in the Cathedral complex, but while it often served as a place for scholars and priests to observe the moon and stars that wasn’t how it had earned its name. Instead it was named for the thousands of candles that lit it each evening during the Lunarch’s meditations, so many that the Chamber represented a solid chunk of the Cathedral’s candle consumption. It took a team of four men more than three hours each morning to replace them, and each night the spent wax was gathered up to be reincarnated in the next day’s candles, keeping a dozen more laborers employed.


            None of which mattered to Bishop Alwin as he stood at the edge of the room, listening to Mikeus, the current Lunarch, drone on and on with repetitive litanies to his trapped master. I wonder if he realizes just how futile his faith is, Alwin mentally sneered as he waited for the last chant to end. We both saw that final blow, the burst of blood as the spear pierced her chest. Should Avacyn ever be released from her prison it will be as a dying spectacle, flopping about on the flagstones like some smelly fish choking for air on the docks as she gasps her final breath.


            Alwin shook his head to banish the image conjured in his thoughts, instead stepping forward as Mikeus rose to his feet. The Lunarch’s face was covered by a faint sheen of sweat, though it was impossible to tell if it was from the fervor of his devotions or the stifling heat of the candle flames. His heavy wool robes were fine for staving off a bitter winter chill but made for a dreadful burden in the summer heat. Alwin reached out with a small handkerchief, careful not to get too close to the sweaty priest.


            “Thank you, Alwin,” Mikeus said, accepting the cloth graciously. He dabbed at his face, clearing his brow before folding the cloth and tucking it into one of his voluminous sleeves. “Now, what news could not wait so that you had to rush and meet me here?”


            Alwin bowed his head in acknowledgement of the thanks before answering, “I fear the news from the moorlands is not improving. We are receiving more reports about an army of undead moving on the city gates. Those few villages that were not abandoned have been overrun, the victims added to the numbers that march against us. The riders have done what they can, but they have not been able to stop the attack; they refer to it as if trying to push back the tide. Instead they ride ahead, warning those hamlets and towns that are still populated to flee while they can, hoping to at least keep the horde from growing any larger.”


            “And what do you expect me to do about this?” Mikeus demanded as they began the long walk down to the base of the tower. “I have read the reports on this Grimgrin and the so-called army he leads. Nothing more than another skaab cooked up in some madman’s lab. So he’s killed a few farmers and peasants; this makes him unstoppable? Hardly. Those who refuse to face him are weak in their faith. Avacyn will not stand at their side until they are willing to stand for themselves. Those who fear the fall of Thraben commit the ultimate heresy.”


            He has gone insane, Alwin realized. He cannot admit the truth, even to himself. We both witnessed her fate, yet he still expects her to come plunging from the clouds to rescue him from his burdens.


            He did not voice his realizations, however. Instead he said, “Be that as it may, the Church must be seen to do something if we are to curb the rising flood of terror and panic that is gripping the countryside. We cannot expect the peasants to share in our wisdom.” Or your madness.


            “Find Lothar,” Mikeus snapped. “He’s the supposed ‘Guardian’ is he not? This should be for him to deal with, not me.”


            Alwin bowed low. “As you wish, your Holiness.”


 


 


*          *          *


 


 


            The torches had already been lit for the evening by the time Lothar made it to Alwin’s study. He knocked at the door, waiting only a few polite moments before easing it open. Alwin nodded as he came in, looking up from the report he was reading with a frown. “We need to talk,” both men said at the same time.


            Alwin motioned with the paper in his hand. “You first.”


            “Of course, sir,” Lothar acknowledged with a slight bow. “I am afraid that I have a grave matter to report. After extensive examination of our last raids against the Skirsdag cult, I am afraid I could only reach one conclusion. There is a spy somewhere in the church, and a rather well placed one at that. It is the only way they could have known when and where we were going to strike.”


            He shift uncomfortably as he continued, “Unfortunately, only a relatively small number of people had any awareness of the raids before they occurred. There were the captains leading the raids and their seconds, myself, of course, and some of the higher level clergy including you. That tells me that either the cult has found some method to spy on us that can break through the wards Avacyn placed on the Cathedral, or that they have infiltrated a position of leadership within the Church. Neither of those options sits very well with me.”


            “I see.” Alwin sat back in his chair, his hands clasped before him as he tapped two fingers against each other in thought. “That is very worrisome, especially since you are not the only one to bring such fears to my attention. Have you ever ”


            Alwin beckoned for Lothar to come closer as he opened a desk drawer and fished out a folded piece of paper. Lother looked curiously at the parchment as Alwin turned it around and unfolded it facing the cathar. Lothar bent down to peer closer at the arcane symbol that had been scrawled there. There was something about it, something vaguely sinister that he thought he recognized, but – no, he shook his head as it eluded him. “What is it?”


            “I don’t know,” Alwin answered with a helpless shrug. “It was brought to me by a pilgrim at yesterdays’ morning prayers. He said that there was a priest handing them out by the stairs of the Grand Concourse the day before. It made him feel uneasy, so he tracked me down to personally report it. I checked, and there weren’t any priests assigned to that area that morning.”


            Lothar’s frown deepened, but he sounded almost hopeful as he asked, “An imposter then? A cultist posing as a priest to gain access to the Cathedral?


            Alwin looked grim as he shook his head. “I don’t think so. There are too many small rituals and formalities for one to go unnoticed for long. It must be one of our own men working for the enemy on the side.”


            Lothar looked defeated at the news. He had hoped, prayed that it wouldn’t be so, but now his worst fears were being confirmed by perhaps the one man he aside from the Lunarch who would be beyond reproach. It felt as if his entire world was crumbling around him. Everything seemed grayer as he stared at Alwin, almost as if the all the colors were being slowly leeched away. “I see. I did not want to believe it was possible, but… We shall see. What news did you have for me?”


            “We are getting more reports from the outlying villages about some skaab monstrosity leading an army of the dead,” Alwin answered, pushing the reports towards Lothar. “I talked to the Lunarch about it this morning, asking what we should do. Unfortunately he seemed…preoccupied…by fears that the commoners might be turning to dark magics in this current time of need, and felt that he would be better used focusing on that. With that in mind, he wanted me to assign you the task of preparing our defenses should the riders not be able to turn the horde back in time. We don’t know much about the enemy, other than that it seems to have been created by those made siblings, Gisa and Geralf. In fact the skaab at the head seems to be Geralf’s latest masterpiece, a bastardized creature made from more than a dozen bodies. What it is capable of seems to be mostly unknown at this point. I’ve read sightings that claim it can turn invisible, breather fire, spit acid or ice, even fly. Most agree that he seems to shrug off most blows should one be unfortunate enough to encounter him up close. How much of that is fact and how much is fiction, that I cannot tell you.”


            Lothar nodded in thanks as he weakly gathered up the papers. He tried to read the one on top, but it seemed impossible to focus on it, the words running together in an inky mess. “I will see what I can do.”


            “We can ask no more of any man,” Alwin replied gratefully, trying not to smile as Lothar shuffled from the room. He quickly snatched the piece of paper that Lothar had examined from his desk and began to refold it, closing his eyes to make sure he didn’t accidentally look at the madness inducing symbol that had been drawn on it. Written in the demons’ own language, it was powerful enough to affect even an acolyte steeped in as much dark magic as himself.


            Once Alwin was sure he was safe from harm, he got up from his chair and crossed the study to the fire place. The flames seized it eagerly, quickly converting the parchment to ash. There was a brief flash of black lightning as the mark was destroyed, sending a small shiver of delight down Alwin’s spine. His plans were unfolding nicely, and soon his master would return to wreak untold havoc now that that blasted angel was around to interfere. The excitement was almost too much to bear, and he wanted to shout his secret from the rooftops.


            But then, that would be pointless. After all, who would ever believe the second in command of Innistrad’s holiest church was also Blood Lord of its most depraved cult?

I'm loving your writting here. I like how you weave card effects into the story. Can't wait for more :D

Chapter 9


 


 


            Hallow was the first to hear the screaming, his delicate equine ears twitching at the all too familiar sounds of a damsel in distress. Unlike most horses he was excited at the prospect of a good fight, leaving a startled Norin to clutch at the saddle horn as his steed broke into a thundering gallop down the country road. He was even more surprised when a young woman came stumbling out from the forest, naked save for the red cloak she had wrapped around her. Norin was forced to yank hard on Hallow’s reins to keep the horse from accidentally trampling her, and girl and horse screamed together as Hallow reared up over her, his hooves clawing at the air a few inches from her face.


            Norin barely had time to gasp, “Wha-?” before a series of howls ripped through the still forest. His sword was in his hand in an instant as he stared into the shadows of the trees. He closed his eyes as the howling continued to echo around them, trying to get a sense of their attackers’ numbers. He counted at least three distinct voices, maybe as many as five. Either way, the odds would not be in their favor.


            “Stay down,” Norin ordered as Hallow continued to dance around the girl, tossing his head and snorting as if to challenge the monsters that lurked amongst the branches. She cringed in fear, shifting nervously as she expected the horse to trample her, but Hallow was better trained than she knew and kept a safe distance back.


            Norin’s fingers tightened around the hilt of his sword as the howling ceased. He knew they were surrounded on all sides, and his ears strained for the sound of a low growl or breaking twig that might warn him when the attack was to begin. His heart hammered in his chest as he waited, and the entire forest seemed to go still with anticipation of the fight to come.


            There was a crack as a branch snapped, and Hallow and Norin whirled as one to face it. Norin had just enough time to feel a moment of frozen terror as he realized there was nothing there. His mind screamed, TRAP! as he spun back around to see a monstrous figure leap down from a nearby tree. It roared as it slashed at him with dagger sized claws, narrowly missing both man and horse as they skittered out of the way. Hallow instinctively lashed out with his hooves, but the creature rolled backwards to avoid the blow, even as two more burst from the woods to join them.


            Of course, it had to be more werewolves, Norin fumed as he tried to take stock of the situation. The beasts were all different colors, one brown as dried mud, one black as a new moon, and one a mottled mix of greys, whites and blacks. Each stood as tall as a man, awkwardly perched on backwards facing legs that forced them to stand hunched over as they circled their prey. Their eyes were wide and blood shot with madness, their yellowed teeth dripping with saliva. It all added up to one thing.


            Wantons.


            Wantons were considered to be the worst of werewolf kind by all who had to deal with them. The average howler was a cursed soul, forced to live through unnatural agony each month as the moon forced their inner beast to the surface. Most fled to the woods, hoping that distance would keep them from harming friends and neighbors, while a few brave souls known as repentents willingly turned themselves over to the church for imprisonment. There was a number, however, who did not see their lycanthropy as a curse, but as a blessing instead. They gladly embraced the madness they went through, caring not one whim whether any innocents got caught in their mindless rampage.  A few even managed to force the change before the lunar cycle was right so that they could make the carnage last longer.


            There was a moment of confusion as all the parties involved tried to sort themselves out. The wantons seemed almost as surprised to see Norin as he was afraid to see them. What had started as the chase of a helpless woman had suddenly turned into a fight that at least one of them was guaranteed not to survive, a fact that managed to get past even their rage fueled minds. For a brief second Norin hoped that it might mean the difference between them forcing the issue and choosing to retreat, but of course he wasn’t that lucky.


            It was the mottled one that attacked first, having already circled around to the back where she thought she would be able to catch them unawares. Charging on all fours, she growled as she leapt towards Hallow’s unprotected rear – only to discover exactly why the back of a horse was considered to be the most dangerous. Hallow pitched forward as he lashed out with his back hooves. Blood, spittle, and teeth went flying as the silver laced horseshoes smashed through skin and bone. The werewolf was flipped backwards by the blow, her neck breaking with an audible snap as she landed in a cloud of dust.


            The brown werewolf howled as he realized his mate as dead, a long mournful dirge that sent shivers down Norin’s spine. The black werewolf was more direct, lunging for the off balance horseman to take advantage of his precarious position. It led claws first, intending to land on Hallow’s flank to maul his rider, but it underestimated Norin’s experience. It wasn’t his first time fighting from horseback, and silvered steel bit deep into muscle as he slashed forward into the werewolf’s arms. Bright red blood spurted into the summer air, turning to mud as it splattered on the ground. The werewolf recoiled from the strike, landing painfully on all fours. It shot a look at its remaining compatriot who nodded in acknowledgement. Crouching to all fours, they began to circle their target, their tongues hanging loose as they panted with excitement.


            Hallow and Norin tried to turn with the werewolves, knowing they could allow themselves to be flanked. Hallow had no way to protect himself on the side, and it would be impossible for Norin to defend both the left and right at the same time. If they tried to dodge one that would prevent them from striking at the other, and there was no guarantee who would recover first. Worse, the girl was still huddled on the ground at their feet, forcing them to stand and defend that one spot or leave her to be savaged. Norin would rather die than leave someone to suffer that sort of fate, though the way things were going it looked like he was going to have it both ways.


            At some silent signal both werewolfs attacked, looking to bring down horse and rider. Norin faced left, thrusting his sword toward the brown wolf. It slid in easily between the monsters ribs, and there was a brief moment where human intelligence returned to beastly eyes as the person inside realized that the time had come for them to meet their reckoning. Even then those eyes were filled with hate, as if the mind behind them could leave behind one last silent curse on its killer. Norin didn’t blink; he just twisted the blade deeper as he waited for his own death to land on his back.


            I just hope Sven can handle the l- What in the Pits was THAT?!


            A white blur landed on the dying werewolf’s back, snarling as it used the corpse as an improvised springboard to launch itself at the one about to land on Norin. Claws and teeth bit deep as it landed on its target. Both beasts growled and squealed as they wrestled, each trying to get the other hand. Claws tore and jaws ripped as they struggled, but it was clear the werewolf was losing. Its opponent was just too agile, seeming to always dodge just before a killing blow could land. It darted in and out, slowly wearing down the bigger monster. Chest heaving and bleeding from dozens of different wounds, the werewolf finally collapsed to its knees, leaving its throat exposed to the final, lethal, bite.


            The white wolf whirled as the werewolf died behind it, turning to confront Norin and Hallow. It stood, hackles raised as it growled menacingly, and tried to step between them and the girl. It stopped when they refused to back off, but nor did it retreat themselves. Hallow moved to strike back, but Norin checked his mount as he stared at the wolf. He wasn’t one to believe the rumors that wolves were somehow bound to the howler’s curse, but then again he had never heard about one acting the way this one was, either. Its fur was as bright as the full moon and save for the blood soaking its coat the only blemish on the wolf was a dark patch of fur set above its eyes that looked remarkably like wing-spread Heron. The sight of such a holy symbol would anyone save the most wicked man pause.


            In the end, Norin’s action was decided for him when the girl peeked out from under her cloak and called, “Lyall!” The wolf immediately stopped growling and sat down, cocking its head as it looked over at the girl. She breathed a sigh of relief, and sat up straighter herself. “It’s ok, Lyall. They’re friends, I think. At least they saved me from the bad ones.”


            “Woof?”


            The girl smiled and nodded to the wolf before turning to Norin, but before she could say anything there was a clatter of wooden wheels on uneven ground, and they both turned to see Lily’s carriage fast approaching, a terrified Sven clutching his seat as he swore the sky blue. He managed to regain control of the nags before they accidentally ran someone over, allowing him to turn his profanity towards Norin. “By the Lunarch’s shriveled sacks man! What devil lit your breeches on fire? The way you took off like that, I expected Withengar’s own horde to be on our heels with husbandry in mind.”


            “Calm yourself, Sven!” Lily admonished as she stepped down from the carriage. “Open those eyes and use what’s left of that rotting lump you call a brain! Can’t you see this girl’s been attacked?” She reached into the carriage and pulled some clothing out of her chests before walking over to kneel before the young woman. “Don’t worry, you’re among friends now. What’s your name?”


            “A-Ayla,” the girl stammered, chest heaving as her body began to crash from a combination of post-adrenal rush and emotional overload. “By the Heron, I could have sworn they had me. Thank you for saving my life!”


            “Why were they chasing you in the first place?” Norin asked, dismounting to assist as well. That left Hallow and Lyall standing by themselves. Horse and wolf stared at each other, neither willing to admit the other’s superiority by blinking first. In the end they were both forced to blink at the same time, leaving both beasts to whuff in amusement. Lyall approached cautiously to get a better sniff, and Hallow obligingly lowered his snout to bump noses.


            “I was born with a druid’s mark,” Ayla admitted tearfully, pulling back the cloak to expose the front of her shoulder to expose a wine colored mark, about the length of a man’s finger, shaped like a crescent moon. “My village cast me out because of it. They thought it a curse, because it wasn’t complete. They said a demon’s work is done under the crescent moon. I was only a child then…”


            “Oh, you poor thing,” Liliana cooed sympathetically. Just get on with it.


            “I was lucky,” Ayla admitted with a faint smile. He’s so handsome, she thought as she looked at Norin. “I was found by one of the druids that lived as a hermit in the forest. He took me in, and raised me and Lyall as his own children. As we grew, he taught me some his art, how to talk with the animals and to tap into the forest’s own energy for my own uses. Some of the villagers would come to us for cures and medicine, or a simple spell. That was what proved our undoing.


            “About a fortnight back the village was attacked by a howlpack. They tortured and butchered the villagers, and many of them cursed me, saying it was my revenge even though it wasn’t. When the howlers heard this, they thought I might be some sort of lucky charm and came to the cabin to try and capture me. My master fought them while Lyall and I escaped, but there were too many and he wasn’t prepared… Lyall and I ran, but we didn’t get far. After they caught us, those monsters dragged him in front of us and began to eat him while he was still alive.”


            “Avacyn’s blessings,” Norin murmured, shaking his head as he tried to imagine such a horrifying sight. There was nothing in his own experiences that could possibly have compared to such a brutal scene, something he was silently grateful for. He reached out to place a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry any longer. You’re among friends now. We’re headed to Thraben, and you are more than welcome to join us. I’ll make sure you are kept safe from anything that wishes to do you harm. I swear it by blade and by wing.”


            Lily eyes raised and Sven and Ayla both gasped at the oath. It was considered the ultimate oath a soldier in the church’s service could swear, a binding that was supposedly enforced by Avacyn herself. Only a blood bond was considered to be a stronger tie, and it was never made lightly. “Why would you say such a thing?” Ayla demanded.


            Norin blushed as he tried to come up with an answer that didn’t seem too incriminating. “I- I just wanted you to know how seriously I take your well being.” 


            Liliana’s eyes narrowed as she watched the growing rapport form between the two.  This could be a problem, she realized. Two pairs of eyes are more observant than one, which makes it more likely one of them will notice if Sven or I slip up. Or she could prove too much of a distraction for him, and thus get us all into more trouble. If I am forced to use my full powers I’m too likely to draw the attention of that cursed beast master or one of Withengar’s flunkies. On the other hand, if she is that much of a distraction, she’ll also keep Norin’s attention off me. Having him double back to check on my every few minutes has played hell with my scrying. This way I might actually get some work done! Besides, if their infatuation becomes anything stronger, I can always use it against him when the time comes…

Chapter 10


 


 


          Ludevic paced back and forth across his cell, his mind racing as he tried to predict the events of his trial. Teana had grilled him relentlessly throughout the evening, taking breaks only when the guards came to check on him or when he needed to eat. Ludevic had actually been surprised by the quality of his stay. His cell might not have been quite as comfortable as some of the inns he had stayed in during his life, but at least the straw in his mattress had been bug free, and while he hadn’t been able to identify the meat in yesterday’s stew, there hadn’t been any mold on the bread either. The last few crumbs had even proven to be sufficient temptation to lure a rather unlucky rodent into his cell. A well aimed rock proved to be the poor animal’s demise, and a loose spring served sufficient to conduct a rather impromptu investigation into rat musculature. Ludevic had always wondered about rodents’ seemingly incredibly metabolisms, but had always had more urgent projects to focus on. While the back corner of his cell lacked the precise instruments of his now destroyed lab, it still proved sufficient to give him some insights for his next endeavor.      


            He froze as he heard the heavy thuds of booted feet coming down the corridor towards his cell. Not wanting to make his predicament any worse, he seized the deceased rat and stuffed it into the straw mattress, disguising the bulge it formed with a strategically placed blanket. He whipped around as he heard the footsteps get closer – then froze as he found himself face to face once more with the blonde goddess who had arrested him. Completely ignoring the other three men with her, Ludevic bowed low as he announced, “My lady, though today will prove to be my damndest day, I can face it only too gladly knowing that I started with the blessing of your presence. In these next few hours I expect to face the cold hostility born of the ignorance of men, but fear it not for I have been embraced by the warmth of your eyes. My darkest moment will hold no sway, for I have stood in the light of your beauty, and should I find myself condemned to death then all I may ask for in my last request is but a kind word from your lips.”


            Thalia stopped abruptly, her jaw dropping in surprise at his sudden declaration. Men never talked to her that way, as they were always too intimidated either by her ties to the Church or her skill with a sword. Worse, she could tell that Ludevic meant what he said. She had been lied to too many times, by too many conmen and tricksters not to recognize a deception. His blatant honesty made his compliments all the more flattering – if still wildly inappropriate considering she was the woman who had put him in that cell in the first place. She flushed with embarrassment, unsure whether to thank him or scold him.


            “What a load of bollocks!” one of the guards scoffed.


            Ludevic’s face turned scarlet with rage. “How dare you, sir! Whether you imply that my words are false or that is unbecoming of such graces, you only serve to validate your existence as an ignoramus of the utmost magnitude!”


            The guard wasn’t sure whether to be confused or insulted, so his face tried for both at once, screwing up a look that did him absolutely no favors. “What did you call me?”


            “I-“


            “ENOUGH!” Thalia shouted, drawing both the attention of both men to her before their squabbling got even further out of hand. She turned to the guard who had been arguing first. “Samyl, I will remind you that we are not to engage the prisoners in conversation when we are bringing them down to trial. Such behavior is unbecoming of a cathar. It is not for us to judge, merely to present our evidence and then execute the angel’s will when she pronounces her judgment. To do otherwise is to assume ourselves the equals of the angels, and I can tell you right now that you are not nearly as infallible.”


            Before Samyl could reply she had already shifted to focus on Ludevic, who was smirking at the guard’s discomfort. “And you should wipe that smile of your face right now. You are a prisoner of the Church of Avacyn, held for crimes far exceeding those of any normal man, whether he be wanton, skabaren, or vampire. Trying to impress me with fancy phrases will have no bearing on the outcome of your trial, nor will it sway me to some romantic notion of assisting you to escape, that we might become fated lovers out there on the moors, hiding from justice or the like. I shall leave that nonsense to the bards and their tales of daring do, if it is all the same to you. I have more practical considerations in mind, such as making sure that you no longer present a threat to anyone ever again.”


            “But I was never threat to anyone before!” Ludevic protested angrily, grabbing at the bars of his cell.


            Thalia’s hand flashed to the hilt of her sword. “The prisoner WILL be silent, and he WILL step back so that we may escort him to his hearing. Any further actions can and will result in disciplinary action. Do I make myself clear?”


            Ludevic sagged in defeat. He turned away from the bars, folding his hands meekly behind his back. “Yes, I understand.”


            “Good.” Thalia motioned for one of the guards to enter the cell with a set of manacles. Ludevic made no effort to resist as his wrists and ankles were shackled together and a black bag placed over his head to disguise his identity. It was standard procedure, both to ensure the prisoner could not escape as well as to make sure that any victim’s relatives weren’t lurking to take revenge.  Once she was sure that he was properly secured, Thalia entered the cell and prodded him in the back with a small club. “Time to go.”


 


 


*          *          *


 


 


            The Cathedral’s courts were the center of justice on Innistrad, and thus were always packed tight with plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, and criminals. Avacyn had always insisted that justice be carried out, so no matter how small a matter there was a court to hear it, whether it be something as minor a fence being built one inch too far to one side all the way up to major infractions and heresies. With that in mind, the size of one’s courtroom was usually inverse to the importance of one’s case. The Grand Bench was easily capable of holding several smaller parish church’s inside its cavernous dome. Richly decorated with elaborate stained glass windows that depicted the history of Thraben and the Church, those who sat and waited did so on thickly cushioned benches while stewards fetched food and drink to make sure that there were no delays in hearings, of which there were often a dozen or more going on at the same time. The dome itself had been painted with a gorgeous mural that depicted the three Flights of Angels. Flight Heron dominated the center of the dome, where the Sigarda, the leader of the Heron Flight, was depicted as ushering a pair of twins into the world. Moving clockwise around the dome she followed the children as they grew, protecting them at play and as adults, until finally escorting them through Death’s door and leading the new spirits back to begin the cycle again. The western arc depicted the angels of Flight Alabaster, as led by their patron Bruuna, as they cared for and nurtured the humans of Innistrad, while the eastern half depicted Flight Goldnight as they fought an endless crusade against the forces of darkness, led by none other than Gisella herself. It was a little known secret, but that mural disguised an entry to the Loft, the primary residence of many of Avacyn’s angels.


            By contrast, it had been a struggle to fit the half dozen chairs into the small stone chamber where Ludevic was being tried. There was one seat behind a small table for Azril, the High Priest serving as judge, one chair for Ludevic himself, and the remaining for Thalia and the rest of his escorts. There was only about a foot of space between the three sections, with the cathars forced to sit knee to knee in one corner. The only one who looked to be remotely comfortable with the arrangement was Teana, who needed no seat but chose to hover cross legged at the right hand side of the priest.


            Highly placed within the Inquisition, it was no mystery to Azril why he in particular had been granted this case. A powerful warrior in his youth, he still wielded an incredible amount of magical power that was now tempered by skill instead of enthusiasm. It was expected that the skabaren would try to fight his way to freedom; if he was so foolish then he would only find himself sorely outclassed. Azril glanced down his nose at the man and decided that it was unlikely that he would be getting any practice that night. Ludevic sat there, looking tired and defeated, if still defiant as Azril unrolled the scroll bearing the charges. Azril made sure his spectacles were properly seated and cleared his throat to let the others know he was about to begin.


            “We are gathered here today to stand in judgment of Ludevic of Thraben. The above named stands accused of several charges against his fellow men. These charges are heinous, foul, and should they ever become public knowledge would be likely to start a wave of panic and fear, leading to riots and the destruction of private property. In the name of keeping the peace, all who are present are instructed to keep silent on these proceedings, and to share no information with friend or lover. The defendant shall rise, and as each charge is laid out shall declare whether or not he believes himself to be innocent or guilt of these charges.”


            Ludevic rose shakily from his seat, but a subtle nod from Teana helped to restore some of his bravado. He took a deep breath, held his head high, and announced, “You may begin.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of practicing necromancy on a non-human subject.”


            “Not guilty.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of creating a skaab containing non-human parts.”


            “Not guilty.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of practicing necromancy on a human subject.”


            “Not guilty.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of creating a skaab containing the bodies of deceased men.”


            “Not guilty.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of using a skaab or skaabs to attack your fellow men.”


            “Not guilty.”


            Azril looked at the next charge and frowned at the awkward wording. “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of creating an unnatural creature, with the intent to cause destruction and harm to your fellow man.”


            “Not guilty.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of bringing a werewolf into a civilized town.”


            “Not guilty.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of unleashing a werewolf into a civilized town.”


            “Not guilty.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of stealing Church property.”


            Ludevic frowned at the unexpected charge. “Not guilty.”


            “Ludevic, you hereby stand accused of defeathering a duck in public.”


            Everyone present, including the angel, turned to the High Priest and asked, “What?!”


            “Is that even a crime?” Teana demanded angrily. “This is supposed to be a place of honor and justice, not for circus buffoonery!”


            Azril shrugged. “That’s what it says. According to the scroll, the accusation came from the Nephalian town ministers. It must be a regional thing.” He turned to Ludevic, who stood there slack jawed. “The defendant will please declare his intentions.”


            “Not guilty, I think,” Ludevic answered, shaking his head as he tried to wrap his head around the charge. “At least I don’t recall defeathering a duck in public. Does it say when I was supposed to have done it?”


            Azril frowned and consulted the scroll. “No, I’m afraid not.”


            “I’m curious, what is the punishment for defeathering a duck in public, anyway?” Teana asked, trying to peer over the priest’s shoulder to read the scroll.


            “Er, two years imprisonment according to this,” he replied, still frowning.


            “Harsh,” someone murmured amongst the cathars. Ludevic couldn’t turn around to see who spoke, but he thought it sounded female…


            Azril scooped up his gavel and banged it against the table. “We will have order, please. Silly as the charge may seem, it is a legitimate charge from all appearances. As the defendant has chosen to plead guilty to all charges, we will now be forced to examine each charge individually and ascertain guilt from there, beginning with the first. Thalia, as the highest ranked cathar present, it will be your duty to present the Church’s arguments against the accused, and to present any evidence or information you believe will be relevant to these proceedings. If you wish you may name a second, or ask to be relieved due to conflict of interest. Do you so choose?”


            “I do not,” Thalia answered, rising from her seat to stand next to Ludevic.


            “Then we shall begin,” Azril announced. “For the sake of brevity, we shall handle like charges as one. The first two charges are for necromancy of an animal, and animating skaabs using animal parts. What does the Church have to say?”


            “The accused was arrested in his laboratory, by myself and three other cathars,” Thalia explained clearly. She stared forward, refusing to make eye contact with either Ludevic or Azril. “Searches of the laboratory turned up several skeletons and amputated limbs belonging to a variety of animals. Most were in some form of preservative, though a number were connected to wires and other structures. It has been my experience that such items are normally found in the laboratories of skabaren.”


            “Does the defendant have a rebuttal?”


            “I do,” Ludevic answered with a nod, turning to face Thalia directly. “You have much experience with raiding skabaren labs?”


            “I do.”


            “And there are generally many skaabs defending them?”


            “I wouldn’t say many,” Thalia answered slowly, carefully picking out her words. She didn’t want to lie in the presence of an angel, not even accidentally. “There are generally a few, however.”


            “And did you encounter any skaabs in my lab?”
            “No.”


            “Did you find any traces of skaabs in my lab?”


            “No.”


            “Why is that, do you think?”


            “How should I know how a skabaren thinks?” Thalia countered angrily, not happy to be looking like a fool in front of Teana.


            “Well, unfortunately, neither do, I not being a skabaren,” Ludevic answered with a warm smile. He turned back to Azril and shrugged. “Mostly because it’s boring. The human body has been long been documented, as have most live stock. What’s to be gained from dragging their corpses out of the ground and having them shuffle around filling my lab with their stench?”


            Teana shook her head in dismay, but Azril seemed to honestly consider that answer as legitimate. “The next set of charges can be answered simply. Were there human remains in Ludevic’s lab?”


            “No,” Thalia answered quietly, shaking her head. “We searched it thoroughly. There were no human remains to be found.”


            “In that case, I shall strike those two charges from the list,” Azril announced. “The next charge is of creating an abomination to harm your fellow man. We do not need proof that you created the abomination, as I have seen the beast with my own eyes. We have witnesses, including Thalia, who place you at the scene of creation, and you even defended the creature. Would the defendant care to change his plea to seek the mercy of the court?”


            “No, your Holiness,” Ludevic replied, standing rigid. “I stand by my claim. Tymy is not dangerous.”


            “He destroyed an old woman’s house!” Thalia protested.


            “Only because someone decided to pick a fight with him!” Ludevic snapped. “Once I had confirmed the rate of growth was what I expected it to be, I was going to teleport Tymy to an estate my family used to own in Stenisa. The only people who would be in any danger from having him nearby would be a rather annoying vampire. What was her name?” Ludevic paused as he tapped his lips in thought. “Olivia…Voldurn? Voldren? Something like that, anyways.” 


            “You created a giant abomination against nature to use as a weapon against vampires?” Azril asked, sounding genuinely puzzled. On one hand, it seemed like a noble aspiration, but at the same time he couldn’t help but think there were so many smarter ways to go about it.


            Ludevic suddenly looked very sheepish. “Er, no. Tymy is because I, er, sort of ran out of cows.”


            Azril blinked in confusion, while Teana had to fight not to roll her eyes. “Cows?”


            “Yes,” Ludevic answered, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. “I was trying to come up with a way to increase the production rate of the average herd. I thought, ‘Well, if I can age them faster they can produce milk faster!’ and then I realized that if I could age them faster, I could maybe make them bigger as well. You know, feed an entire village off one cow, that sort of thing… The problem is, their hearts kept exploding. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the spell or their metabolism, so I decided to try it on a lizard instead. I know it worked, I just don’t know why.”


            “You were trying to make really big…cows,” Azril repeated, refusing to believe what his ears were hearing. He wasn’t the only one. The cluster of cathars was shaking their heads in disbelief, and Thalia was simply staring at Ludevic in shock. Leana, however, was struggling not to laugh at Ludevic, knowing that to do so would destroy all traces of her credibility.


            “I thought it was worth a try.”


            “I think we should move on to the next charge then,” Azril said slowly. “In regards to bringing the werewolf into the city-“


            “Oh, I didn’t bring him into the city, I paid a smuggler from Nephalia to do it for me.”


            Teana shook her head in despair as Azril ground his teeth together. “And then you let him loose in the city!”


            “I did no such thing!” Ludevic denied hotly. He pointed to Thalia. “I had him securely locked up in my laboratory! It was your cathars who didn’t want to listen when I told them not to unchain him! As if there was anything to be gained from studying him, well, ok, there was but not in his human form!”


            Azril could feel his patience quickly slipping from his grasp. “And the church property you supposedly didn’t steal?”


            “Those books were never turned over to the Church,” Ludevic answered loftily. “They were hidden close to a century ago by none other than my uncle himself.”


            “Those books belonged to Saint Traft!” Thalia snapped.


            “As I said, my uncle.”


            It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “ENOUGH!” Azril roared as everyone in the room started yelling at once. He began to hammer the table with the gavel until the stem inevitably snapped from the strain. “I have heard enough! Ludevic of Thraben, despite your protestations of innocence, you are clearly guilty of at least half these charges, and despite the lack of evidence I am inclined to believe you guilty of those as well! Yes, even including the duck! Are there any witnesses here who see to protest my verdict?” The room was silent as no one spoke up. The color drained from Ludevic’s face as he realized that all his preparation had been for naught. “Then the verdict is guilty. May the angels have mercy on your soul.”


            Everyone turned to face Teana, who lowered her legs until she was standing properly on the ground. Her face was stern, and Ludevic wondered if perhaps this had been her plan to get rid of him all along. There was silence as she spoke, the group holding its collective breath in respect to her station. She walked over to stand in front of Ludevic so that she could look him directly in the eyes. “Ludevic, your peers have spoken. You have been found guilty of the crimes against you, in deed if not in spirit. With that in mind, I can see that you do not understand your wrongs, nor deny that you would do good if you had that chance. Therefore, I can only issue one sentence.”      


            “You are hereby condemned to life in prison.”




So, I sat down on Sunday and pasted the first 9 chapters into a single document, just to see where I was on things. It came to little under 25,000 words and forty something pages. (Granted, those are 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages, when I converted it to what looked like paperback size it came out to 91 pages.) Problem is, a full length novel is supposed to be somewhere between 90,000 to 110,000 words according to most publishers I've talked to. Why is that a problem? Because I only have this planned out for 28ish chapters, maybe or maybe not including an epilogue. (Since I finally figured out the story behind Scrapskin Drake and how it fits in with my characterization of Ludevic. either that, or it ends up as a post-novel short story.) So I've used a quarter of the word count but gone through a third of the story. With that in mind, I'm going to try and push for longer chapters. Not sure what this is going to mean for updates, but then I don't exactly have a set schedule anyway.
Embrace imagination. Lord of YMtC | Ten Rounds Contest Winner Solphos – A fan set with a 'combo matters' theme Fool's Gold – The second set of the Solphos block
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Each of its nine tails is imbued with supernatural power, and it can live for a thousand years. My Standard deck: Setting Sun
108516289 wrote:
Think of how Neo couldn't beat the robots, but they kept him around anyways to defeat Agent Smith. Sure, the robots might not like having a Neo running rampant because instead of playing their favorite 4 drop fatty robot, they have to play a bunch of one mana Matrixs to contain him, but at least Neo keeps Agent Smith from reanimating an Iona on turn two.
139359831 wrote:
Are you saying I'm trying to blame my loss on something? I don't care that I lost, I care that he's a sore loser, and a cheater, and a liar.
144902215 wrote:
CKY, are you bad at anything?
144902215 wrote:
I really enjoy imagining this from Kevin's perspective. Because in Kevin's world, Rosewater actually reads everything he types. Mark is sitting there right now, reading this, and thinking "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled. . ." Or some such. He chuckles low, then clicks on "The Best Of KEVINSET" and says "Yes, this'll do just fine. A busty lady with banding who deals direct damage to Zones!? Why this will be the star of my next set, and no one will ever believe you Kevin." Then he closes his Macbook, so his servant may move it out of the way, while another servant puts a Fetal Richard Garfield Clone lathered in Steak Sauce in front of him. Then Mark Feasts. I mean, In KevinWorld, Mark is reading the very words I'm typing as well. Heck, in KevinWorld maybe I am Mark.
99964981 wrote:
I'm beginning to think CKY may be anime in real life...
57150868 wrote:
Don't go anywhere CKY, I need to crash dramatically through your window and propose marriage and I don't want you throwing off my paradrop.
63588923 wrote:
[In response to a thread about how hard grading is] Upon reading this, I've found myself completely unable to operate in the world. I tried to decide what to eat for breakfast, and pondered the vast consequences of my choice. How do I balance my dietary needs against my desire to eat good-tasting food? Should I factor in how long it takes to prepare? Cereal is ready in moments, but bacon takes longer to cook. Then there is the impact on other industries. Do people in the cereal industry deserve to be employed more than people in the bacon industry? Which industry should I support? I don't even have the data regarding HOW MUCH the cereal industry benefits from me eating a bowl of cereal, or how much the bacon industry benefits from me eating a side of bacon. How can I compare two qualities I can't even quantify? And let's not forget the milk on the cereal. In addition to determining whether or not milk is healthy for me, how much that benefits the milk industry, and how much the people in the milk industry deserve my support, we have to factor in the fact that cows are put under brutal conditions in order to collect thier milk. Of course, the same goes for the pigs, and then they get killed. Of course, I really like bacon. So I need to come up with a scale that compares the value of cow happiness to pig happiness to my happiness. What trade-offs am I willing to make here? Does the fact that the pig gets put out of its misery count as a plus or a minus? Isn't bacon bad for me anyway? Deciding what to eat for breakfast (or any meal) is impossible. Help me!
104339228 wrote:
I must admit chinkeeyong, you have the most interesting character ideas; and you play them well.
144902215 wrote:
Anyway, you'd be surprised about Time Stop. When I first saw that card as a relatively new player I didn't see its full potential until I read the reminder text. Is it that unintuitive, though? Mine I mean. What is possibility? Is it possible for me to type these words with my tusks? No, because I don't have tusks. Although I am now tempted to go buy some - obviously not from poachers or whatever - and use them as typing apparatus. I could be the best secretary ever. "What's your words per minute sir?" "Well, only six, but I use these tusks to type them." "You're hired!" That was the interview. And is anyone else disappointed that "apparati" is not the plural form of apparatus? I just could strangle a dictionary, because "apparatuses" is a real word. I guess it sounds pretty cool. I'll call them my Apparatusks.
Nephalia sure does have weird laws.
IMAGE(http://www.wizards.com/global/images/mtgcom_daily_mc52_picMain_en.jpg)IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/73821e61e013eadf56a8e4e2226d89a3.jpg?v=90000)
Everyone has weird laws. This one was actually supposed to set up a tar and feathers joke, but I decided to drop it in favor of vagueness. It might not be the only time it get referenced, though.
I absolutly adore this thread, you sir are a great athour cant wait for the next chapter. Out of all of this my favorite character is Ludivec he is just so dang likable!!!!!!!Wink
Next chapter is, unfortunately, going to be slightly delayed. This weekend involved a lot of typing in between weddings and marathons, only for my work computer to melt through its graphic card taking most of chapter 11 with it. The good news is I still have my story notes and most of the conversatiosn half memorized, but I haven't been anywhere near my laptop to do anything about it.