Hammer 4, Year of Three Sailing Ships, 1492 DR
Discord‘s chest heaved as she tried not be heard gasping for air. She felt the cold stone against her wings as she pressed her back into the stone of the building, trying not to be seen by her pursuers. The warlock wasn’t used to running, and she could already feel her leg muscles ache. She couldn’t risk flying, not in broad daylight, they would see her.
Discord didn’t know what was after her. She didn’t know how many, or if anyone one else could even see them? But that didn’t make them any less dangerous. Wild-eyed, Discord looked around the alley opening for any sign of her pursuers passing by. She didn’t care that she looked mad. She probably was. These idiots dwell in darkness, and they can only keep their sanity because they didn’t know what awaited them.
Instead of a place to hide, Discord was met by the somewhat vacant stare of a man who had stopped pushing his cart to stare at the warlock, panting and pressed into an alley wall in broad daylight.
“Everything alright miss-,” the man begun.
“Piss off yokel!” Discord cut him off with a breathless hiss. “They’ll find me.”
The man stood, mouth agape and watched the warlock, his cart still rested in the middle of the Red Larch road.
“May as well paint a bloody sign,” Th Warlock thought.
“I can only assume that slack-jaws and vacant stares are a state in which you perpetually exist,” Discord hissed. She pulled the wane shadows around her to create a sibilant and cold tone within her voice. “And, I thought I voiced, in the parlance of the peasantry, my desire when I told you to piss off. Yet, here you stand. So, I will try anew.”
Discord slowed the countenance of her speech, annunciating every syllable with exacting clarity. “So help me, if I count to three, and you a still in front of me, I will hurly you into a shadowy hell, wherein you body will be flayed and simultaneous violated, in all your orifices, by creatures of unspeakable grotesqueness and cruelty. You will pray for death to release you. But your prayers will freeze as they leave your abused mouth, and the icy shards that your prayerful pleading formed will be thrust into your eyes repeatedly as your tormentors mock you!”
The man fled immediately, leaving behind his cart and the strong scent of fresh urine.
“Coward,” the warlock thought. “The cunt pees himself at my description, yet I am the one who has been shown this place.”
Even still, the abandoned cart will draw attention. And they were right behind her. She knew it.
“Besheaba’s black tits,” Discord swore, finishing gathering the shadows she had started collecting, and cloaking herself within.
The whispers were already waiting for her. They called to her, some pining for her like a lost lover, other’s mocking her. It was always risky to enter the shadows, one could only hide under their pursuers nose for so long.
Discord raised her hands to cover her ears and block out the whispers for a moment. Seeing her hands, her breath caught in her throat. Her skin swam like the night sky. Tiny points of light winked and shot across her form, and she stood like a celestial skycap amid a sea of deepest darkness.
“Myrkur!” Discord shrieked. “You twat! Is this some kind of joke? I shine like a bastion, how soon before she sees me?”
Panic began to over take Discord. Where was Myrkur? She was alone! She needed to get out of the shadows but what if she looked like this when she emerged. It was cold. Discord was always cold, but this cold was new. Old, and numb, like it Discord resided in cold for an eternity. And she felt sharp. He skin was cool, like steel, and unyielding to her touch. All of her curves were now sharp edges.
“I knew she would get to you Myrkur,” Discord spat at her sword. Her tears sounded metallic as they hit her sharpened cheeks. “She gets to everyone eventually.”
“FUCK YOU, MISTRESS NIGHT!” Discord shouted into the abyss. She didn’t know where the words came from. The words were not from anywhere she had been, not from her, but yet she knew what they felt like.
It would only be a short time now before she came for her. Discord was alone.
“Enough!” The voice was imperious, and she knew it somehow. She felt colder, and the sound of crumbling ice could be heard in the distance. “She cannot harm you so long as you are under my protection, yet that wanes with every moment you waste in tantrum and added panic.”
Discord knew to look upon herself again. Already her edges were dulling, and the stars were growing dimmer. Discord surrendered. She felt her whole body swaddled in something like soft leather. It covered her completely, and her nostrils were filled with the scent of oil and a hint of old blood. After a time she was freed.
The warlock hovered again over the mountain that belched forth a steady spume of smoke. The country side beneath her was the same as that from her early dream. Or maybe she had been here before? Was this was her reality, and elemental temples were her dreams?
A brilliant nova shone from inside the mountain, basking everything within a harsh, frigid, light. Discord was bare before the night sky, the lights forcing harsh shadows over her pale flesh and making the spurs upon her wings glisten. Her body mirrored the night sky, not mirrored, replicated, over a smaller area, and she couldn’t see the tips her wings for they spread so far.
Above the warlock the night sky ended abruptly. A vast sea of shadowy, grasping hands and tendrils reached for her. Mouths formed from the umbral mass, seductively calling to her, or screaming at her to comply with their requests. She began to feel the limbs embracing her vast wings, some as gentle as a lover, others as fierce as any grappler. Her wings began to slowly pulse, and then beat, and she began to rise upwards, towards the darkness and the limbs. The warlock pleaded with her wings to stop, yet they continued to pulse, with each beat the wind scattered the stars beneath her like dust motes.
“Stop it, stop it, stop it!” Discord pleaded through panicked tears. “I didn’t ask for this. I never asked for any of this! I inherited all of this a cruel, fucking joke. And those responsible left me in a desert to die. I am nothing. I have nothing!” Discord shot her head skyward where she stared directly into a swirling mass of darkness, somehow more black than the sea of limbs and appendages that writhed and undulated in anticipation at her approach. “WHY DO YOU WANT ME?”
Suddenly the nova from within the mountain flared brighter. The smoke issuing forth began to coalesce and form a barrier between discord and the mass above. Her wings stopped against the smoke barrier, and she could hear the shadows sob, shriek, and gnash in protest.
“You must be reminded of what is at stake,” The regal voice boomed from the mountain. “Know that Myrkur serves me, and therefore, so to do you. I have use for you, warlock, but it is immediate. The next thing you must do is come find me, and the others. Free us and you will have the power to not just elude Shar, but dissuade her minions from ever coming after you again.”
Discord felt panic at the mention of her name.
“This is my offer warlock,” The voice’s proposition was more command then entreaty. “Release me, and the others, and I will take your pact from my lesser. You will be mine, and I do not easily give over that which is mine. Deny. me, and I will leave you with Myrkur, and I know not how long he can keep you safe?”
Discord’s blinked back bright sunlight that set upon her suddenly. She was back in Red Larch. Once more out of the shadows. The piss-stink still lingered in the air, and the feeling peddler’s back was still in sight. She couldn’t have been gone more than a few seconds. The cart. They would see it, and they would wonder. She couldn’t go back into the shadows. Not now. She needed to find her friends.
Wrapping her wings beneath her cloak, Discord calmed her breathing and began to pick her way forward around the cart. She heard their footsteps fast approaching. Their breath. She could smell them, and taste their oil presence in her mouth. They would come around the corner any second.
Discord threw up her hood against the chill wind and fought to remain composed. Perhaps they wouldn’t notice her this time. or think her someone else. She held her breath, feeling them close on her as she unhurriedly picked her way across the street.
And then they were gone.
“I call,” A distant voice commanded from all around her. “You must come now or scorn me, and forever lose me as an ally.”
Myrkur throbbed at the words, and Discord noticed the presence of her sword had returned.
“Where in the hells were you?” Discord snarled over her shoulder in her sword’s direction. She didn’t even notice the three confused passerby’s balking at the cloaked woman talking to her sword.