The Sightless Eye
Published on / 1 Chapter(s) / 0 Review(s)
An Amazon and a necromancer meet in a camp full of soggy homeless Rogues. Set during Act I of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.
Author's notes: Some of these are super-short because they were meant to go with illustrations. The illustrations exist, will be posted to PD, and will be linked to appropriately. The ones with numbers on the titles are answers to challenge words from the 100 Themes challenge list.
She plunked herself down by the firepit, between the necromancer and the stranded caravan's cargo, and offered him half the bread and a bleak smile. He looked vaguely alarmed, like a dog who was expecting to be kicked rather than fed.
"Akara says it's lucky you turned up," she said. She didn't add that Akara thought he might be in cahoots with the forces of evil.
He was surrounded.
Fuzzy-minded with exhaustion, he figured he was exaggerating things. He had been given shelter here, a place by the fire and a respite from the soggy demon-infested moor. He likely didn't have anything to fear from these people. The priestess didn't seem like the sort to turn on someone she had taken in, and the Rogues followed her lead. The merchant who kept giving him the evil eye was probably not going to try anything against a fellow refugee.
All he had to do was not open his eyes the next time he heard some odd little sound of human activity. But that was easier said than done.
The Amazon still troubled him. She knew what he was, yet she had no fear. Had she never learned to shy away from dark magic? Was she brave or was she foolish? Or was she just very good at hiding her unease, putting her enemies off their guard?
Struck by a sudden unnerving thought, he lay very still and watched her for a long moment. No, she was truly asleep. The sleep of the very weary comes with deep sighing breaths that make it sound as though the sleeper is working very hard at sleeping. It wouldn't be the most obvious thing to do when faking sleep – or the most practical, as it would cover up other sounds. And besides that, she was drooling on her blanket.
Nothing separated the two of them but the dying embers of the fire. For whatever reason, she was not afraid of him. That meant he didn't have to be afraid of her, either.
He tugged the borrowed blanket more closely around his shoulders and closed his eyes, and this time they stayed that way.
Gale planted her foot on the corpse of the last little red demon and yanked the spear out of it with both hands. It came away rather noisily. After that, everything was quiet.
No, wait -- a scuff of leather, a growl that came from no normal animal, a hum in the air that she could feel more than hear...
She skirted around the boulders and approached the burnt-out house from the cover of the trees. Al-Dhih was backed up against the soot-blackened stone, leaning there with his right arm dangling uselessly and his sleeve soaked with blood. His wand was out in his left hand, and the shaman that slunk back and forth some yards away was pinned at that distance by a spell, unable or afraid to venture closer. But even she could see that the spell was fading, that he was at the end of his rope, and that the standoff wasn't going to last much longer.
Al-Dhih's eyes met hers as she padded silently out from the trees with her dagger drawn. She took one of the demon's horns from behind and jerked its head back, and slit its throat.
* * *
“Animals who wander alone,” said Gale as she wrapped a wad of moss in a bit of cloth, “are quiet when they're in trouble. They don't want anyone else to know that they're in less than perfect condition.” She pressed the pad firmly against the wound, making him flinch. “Social animals, on the other hand, cry out because someone might actually come and help them.
“You,” she said as she tied it in place with a leather strap, “might usually be a lone wolf, but you've got a pack now. Remember that the next time.”
"They're just children."
Gale looked over at him; his face remained carefully neutral, despite the note of distress she thought she'd heard.
"At their age, they'll be damned good archers. Of course, they... well, they're all that's left, since most of their older Sisters already went off to fight."
* * *
"Who're they?" asked Paige.
"More heroes," said Klaudia. "As if two more people getting killed will win back the Monastery."
Paige shook her head sadly. "They don't know what they're getting into."
Change of Heart
When Paige was a little girl, her Gran had filled her head with faerie stories where mages were always up to no good and heroes always saved the day with a sword and a prayer. Gran had some true stories about mages too, from her younger days, and it seemed she didn't trust them very much.
Even at the same time as her imagination ran away with her and gave her bad dreams, Paige had a child's gift for observing the obvious, and saw a flaw in Gran's logic. Gran trusted and was quite friendly with the tall prim lady from the Monastery, who would visit the village when someone needed healing beyond what the local hedgewitch could provide. Lady Akara was a mage, even though nobody seemed to call her that, and she wasn't evil. Paige diplomatically refrained from saying anything about it to Gran.
When she was older, Paige travelled to a neighboring town with her uncle twice a week to sell fish. This was a larger town with a market that drew people from all over, and mages turned up there sometimes – on several occasions a pack of druids stayed at the inn (and one grizzled old fellow among them would always stop to buy salmon when it was in season). Once a lady elementalist passed through. Not long after that, Paige started training with the young archers from the Monastery, and once she took the oath of the Sisterhood she even learned a bit of magic herself, of the sort that could make an arrow strike true and burn its target. Gran's stories were all but forgotten.
But in the past weeks her childhood fears had all come creeping back, as she and her Sisters were driven from their home by demons and spirits and walking cadavers. And now she was following in the footsteps of a necromancer, a figure straight out of those tales and nightmares.
* * * *
He knelt by the edge of the river and reached in amongst the reeds, and as Paige drew nearer she saw that there was a body there. As bloated as it was, it was small enough that she thought it had probably been a child.
He looked up sharply and motioned for her to stay back. She froze and watched in growing horror as he drew his dagger, carefully extended one of the corpse's hands, and began carving something into the bloodless flesh.
“What are you doing?”
He didn't respond for a moment, concentrating on his work and holding his breath against the stench. When he stood and backed away, he said, “Protecting him... so that he doesn't end up like the blacksmith.”
“You're not going to – use him, then.”
“No,” he said sharply, and as their eyes met she saw the same horror in his eyes that must have been showing in her own. Then he looked away, and stalked off upstream towards another disturbed patch of reeds.
She followed, with an arrow ready for anything that might try to interrupt him.
Gale sat down by the fire and thanked Warriv as he tipped a ladle of stew into her mug. She peered into it appreciatively as she took a sip of the broth. “Look at those lovely fat grubs.”
Klaudia cast an alarmed glance at Warriv's wagon with the ration barrels inside, and Al-Dhih paused with his spoon halfway to his mouth.
“They're not grubs, they're potato dumplings!” said Paige.
“Really?” said Gale, prodding one with her spoon. “Well, that's clever.”
Commenting is disabled for guests. Please login to post a comment.