Gamer/Fiction writer geekery alert: if you aren’t interested in reading something that I hashed hastily together without the help of an editor, then you have been warned and have no one to blame but yourself. If you’re down with that, proceed.
The forbidding jagged and snow swept landscape far below lay swathed in the velvet of pre-dawn. The spires of the great fortress pierced the sky, and its foundations refused to be rooted in mere earth. From atop one of the highest towers, a tall man wrapped and muffled against the bitter chill watched the mountains receding ever further into the distance. His face was chiseled and strong, one that had known years of hardship, joys, discipline and sorrows.
He had no eyes for the sea to the south, just visible from this height and drawing nearer constantly. No, the cruel north held his gaze with a fierce determination. The man stood rooted to the spot as if frozen solid, one gloved hand resting on a stone merlon. His breath wafted icily from him, all that there was to distinguish him from a frost-rimed statue.
Far to the north, a seemingly tiny speck detached itself from the gloom of the mountains and silhouetted against the lightening sky, wings spread wide. The shape grew larger and glinted redly on a stray dawning beam.
“It is done,” the man breathed hoarsely into the harsh air, just above a whisper.
“What is done, lover?” A lilting female voice was heard as its tall yet slight owner emerged from a doorway. Like the man, she was heavily bundled against the cold. Her pale arrow-shaped face was marred slightly by even paler scars, and a few stray locks of vivid red hair wafted in front of her large slanted eyes. One of her hands was gloved against the cold, and the other was a bejeweled gauntlet. She paced up to his side and nestled against him as a mighty-thewed arm wrapped about her shoulders.
He glanced to her and tightened his jaw, working its muscles for a few moments before he turned his eyes northward once more towards the approaching flyer and the wastes beyond. At last he spoke, “The Great Dragon is gone, and has left his Brethren in my care.”
The night was dark and chill, and the smoldering coals in the broad hearth were but little help tonight. There seemed little point in stoking them back to life, however. Not far from the hearth, three little ones slept huddled together in luxuriant warm furs. A young woman’s slender hand descended and stroked the golden locks of the boy child in an absent yet protective and gentle manner.
She was no common beauty, this woman: hers was a noble elfish beauty that men had killed and died for. She wore the white of mourning, and her long honey-gold hair showered loose down her shapely back. Her deep blue-violet almond shaped eyes looked down on the upturned cherubic faces of the slumbering twins, reflecting the weak flicker of the coals. They did not understand yet, but she did. Tears glittered down her perfect cheeks.
“He is gone from me,” she sobbed and buried her face in her hands.
The hall of arms was nearly silent. At this hour shortly after breakfast, nearly every warrior not on other duties would be drilling in the fields and courtyards far below. A tall, statuesque elf woman garbed in simple yet elegantly cut blue robes was the only occupant. With remarkable ease she wielded a great two-handed sword nearly as long as her rangy body was tall. She twirled the massive weapon, performing a lightning series of counters and strikes, advances and retreats. It was an intricate dance of death that she performed, one that she knew well, and one that allowed her to reach a deep meditative state of oneness with the blade in her hands. A state far removed from the world in which she dwelt and its perplexities.
It was a state that was not to last. Cloven hooves could be heard clopping on the flagstones to her rear and she twirled about in a graceful gesture that ended with her blade resting point-down. As her long, twisted blond braid settled against her back again, she realized that the sound came from a different set of hooves than her mind had irrationally supposed.
Rather than that oh so familiar towering goatish hulk, these hooves belonged to a somewhat shorter red furred beast-woman. Muscular yet lithe, the newcomer’s facial features most resembled some sort of wicked-fanged canine with a long auburn mane and twisting horns. Her most arresting feature, however, were her eyes: they were white throughout, having no readily discernible pupil or iris. In contrast to her bestial and savage physical form, her attire was a dress that one might expect to see on the streets of the great city of Marienberg.
The beast-woman spoke, her voice husky and deep for a woman, coming from a throat more suited for snarling than friendly conversation, “Astarielle, where is my brother?” She was clearly in a short temper, even more so than was usual for her.
“Good morning to you as well, Rahann,” responded Astarielle, slightly nettled by the Khornegor’s abruptness. “I am sorry, but my husband is not here.”
“I can see that,” Rahann responded shortly, “So I gather that none has seen him today. Have not even his wives? I must see him.”
Reminding herself that her husband dearly loved his fiery sister, Astarielle answered diplomatically, “Rahann, I see that I must advise you that he has left Schloß Drache on a secret mission. The gods alone know when or if he shall return.”
Rahann’s ears went back and her teeth reflexively half-bared before she spoke again, “Why did not my brother bid me farewell, and where has he gone?” She took another step towards Astarielle, and the elf could tell that it was time to defuse The Mankiller’s deadly temper.
“He did what he did out of love; he knew that you would have insisted on accompanying him thither. He needs you far more here than there,” Astarielle spoke calmly and soothingly, well accustomed to calming frayed tempers and wounded souls. It seemed to work, as Rahann’s annoyance seemed to deflate a bit; her ears came about halfway back up and the snarl faded.
“That was what I wanted to see him about… I can bear this soft mother’s life no more. I miss the smell of blood. I wish to take up arms again.”