|Fic I wrote to kickstart a short arc of a roleplay I was in at the time. It's a little stilted, I guess, but it was fun to do. The ensuing chaos was also awesome. Whisper and Jarod are Tiamat's characters.|
Genoa and the Dragon
The air in the stadium was thick with the pleasant tension that came with the opening of a battle. Kender felt it clearly, and, though he was used to the anticipatory murmur, he couldn't help thinking it was a little different today -- a little more malicious. It didn't surprise him that so many people had come -- no one had challenged the Subtle Rimer in eight and a half years, and the last three people who'd attempted to had been horribly maimed or killed. Mostly killed. He looked out at the teeming stadium, suddenly realizing the source of his disturbance. The many bright eyes, fixed on the battleground below, were eagerly awaiting the bloodshed that was sure to follow.
"Bloodthirsty, aren't they?" Beside him, Whisper shifted, a slightly bitter smile on her lips.
"Yeah," he said softly, scratching the back of his neck as he turned to meet her gaze.
"It feels a little different when you're worried about one of the participants." She lifted her shoulders in an ironic shrug.
He nodded in agreement, smoothing a wrinkle out of his trousers. "Do you think she'll be okay?"
Whisper rolled her eyes and grimaced. "She wouldn't have signed up for the fight if she didn't think she could win it. She must have something up her sleeve."
Kender nodded again, and a furry, golden-brown head poked itself out of his knapsack. The cat flicked his ears and yowled, clearly unimpressed. Kender reached back to pat him absently and received and irritable swat for his troubles.
Whisper chuckled. "I'm with him -- maybe she's finally gone insane."
The ruddy-haired young man laughed weakly at her sally, and she turned an apologetic smile on him. "I can't tell what Genoa's thinking some days."
He opened his mouth to respond, but a heavy clang shuddered through the air, followed by a low gong. It was the sound of the heavy iron bar being pulled aside to admit the challenger.
Genoa was two steps onto the field before she remembered to breathe. She heard the crowd's roar distantly, mind humming with the enormity of what she was about to attempt. Her legs jittered once, and she felt a cold sweat break out over her brow.
She stopped at the challenger's boundary, clenching her fists. She could not afford to fly to pieces now -- not now. She would not come apart. If she was to take her home back, this should -- would -- be only a small stepping stone.
The clang sounded again, and she looked up, a coolness spilling into her. She watched the Rimer take its first, coiling step into the stadium, heard the crowd's roar rise into a scream, and unclenched her fists.
The Subtle Rimer gave a trilling shriek, one of its two heads craning around to see her, and she smiled.
"You know the old legend, right?"
"If this is a sad attempt to get me to go to bed with you, save yourself the trouble and go away."
"Nothing like that!"
She looked up, arching a skeptical eyebrow, and discovered a bookish young man peering at her from behind thick glasses. The eyebrow dropped. "Please. I'm busy."
"I could tell." He gave a jittery laugh, pushing the glasses up on his nose. "It's just --"
She gave him her best unimpressed stare. Back at home, it had caused sycophants and courtiers to take flight immediately, but the boy was evidently not to be deterred. And she hadn't brought her dagger with her to emphasize the point.
"It's just I saw those books you were looking at and --"
Automatically, she glanced over the small pile that had amassed during her studies. Tomes of necromancy, primarily, and the proper wards and magic circles for the art -- not to mention a small compendium of creatures. Flesh golems fascinated her, but they were a great deal of work.
"-- I thought of an old story they tell about the stadium."
"Really." She pushed a lock of her raven-black hair behind one ear and watched him patiently, still not closing her book. He plunged on.
"You see, there was a battle a long time ago.."
There were a lot of battles a long time ago.
".. not like the land disputes or the wars between the kingdoms, I mean," he corrected rapidly, as if he'd read her mind. "This one was epic." He fumbled with his glasses, pulling them off and wiping them on his robe, fixing her with an unfocused smile. "They say one of the last Great Dragons was killed here, and the stadium was built over his bones."
The book had slipped from suddenly nerveless fingers, thudding to the floor, and the boy had fled shortly thereafter, unnerved by the strangeness deep in her eyes. Was he in the stadium today? Would he see her and remember the encounter?
She doubted it.
The Rimer shrieked again, struggling to get its bulk past the gate. Its first head wove toward her, slavering with anticipation, and its jaws snapped twice. It was a beast of terrible speed, once on the field, as many had found to their dismay, but Genoa knew the trick to it. Strike first. Strike hardest. That lesson, at least, she had learned.
She drew her hands up, sketching the circle with slow precision. Everything had to be perfectly in place, or she would have no chance at all. Even if a creature should answer her call, she would be torn to shreds soon after the Rimer. Or, even worse, lose her soul in the covenant. The crowd rumbled in protest, but she ignored it. She wasn't planning to raise anything until the beast was in place.
When the last rune set, she cast it to the ground beneath her feet and saw it glow, flicker, then stay in place. The Rimer drew closer, another slithering step, having worked most of its bulk past the door. She unslung her sword and raised it to the sky, saluting, then flipped it down and plunged it into the earth before her, careful not to break the circle.
The crowd gave a collective gasp. The Rimer shrieked.
Genoa began to chant.
"I don't understand what she's saying." Kender craned his neck, frowning.
"It's in another language." Whisper was frowning, too. She had heard Genoa work her necromany before, and this was not one of the chants she remembered.
"It's the ancient tongue," remarked a new -- though not unfamiliar -- voice. "And one of the older dialects, too."
The pair turned to see Jarod, an older, brown-haired student watching the battlefield, brows knit. His arms were free of the usual heap of books and scrolls that accompanied him wherever he went. Instead, he held an old cane, gingerly, as if he'd rather not be holding it at all. Whisper gave him a long look.
"What are you doing here, Jarod?" she asked blandly. "You usually have better things to do than watch the battles -- and the last time I checked, you and Genoa were still fighting like cats and dogs."
He grinned, forgetting himself momentarily and slapping the old cane against his palm. "I was running errands for a couple of the teachers, but I came back to discover they were all out here." He gave the arena a dark look for inconveniencing him.
"What would she be trying to summon that she'd have to use a chant like that?" Kender was still bent on the action below, forehead creased with worry.
Jarod snorted contemptuously, following the younger boy's gaze. "Nothing she has the experience to control. That dialect, in particular, is only used for creatures of deeper earthly power -- and the occasional demon."
Whisper rose sharply to her feet, face etched with worry and anger at Jarod's flippant tone. "You're saying she --"
A thunderclap broke into her statement, pulling her, all unwillingly, back to the battle. The pressure of magical energy around Genoa had built to the point where it was kicking up dust in lazy swirls around her, tossing her hair once or twice as if in an errant breeze. The symbol beneath her feet remained steady, though, and victory was in her eyes as she lifted her hand skyward and performed the final incantation.
The world stopped spinning. Genoa had to struggle for breath, gasping aloud as if the air had all gone, and for one panic-striken moment, she couldn't remember her own name. She could no longer hear the roar of the crowd in the stadium, the scream of the Subtle Rimer. She opened her eyes, not realizing that she'd closed them, and saw only an expanse of velvet blackness.
But the circle still glowed beneath her feet. Relief flooded her, returning feeling to her fear-numbed limbs, but before she could orient herself to the un-place she had been taken, a pressure soaked the air around her, rocking her to her knees. An immense and ancient mind brushed past her barriers as though they were cobwebs and found her, naked and alone.
Who speaks, Daughter of Pain?
"Genoa Rivermarch." She was no longer in control, she realized with relief. It had been a fool's errand to attempt to raise an ancient dragon, powerful and wicked -- and, most importantly, dead.
Why would Genoa Rivermarch wake the sleeper, Daughter of Fear?
The circle still glowed brightly. She could see it under her hands, pressed flat against the not-ground she knelt on. She hesitated, gazing at it. Her wards were in place, not destroyed or damaged. He couldn't be past the barriers.
Why would Genoa Rivermarch wake the sleeper, Daughter of Impossibility?
She rose slowly, pushing back against the presence that pressed her down. Her knees wobbled, and she locked them, snatching at her sword to keep from falling again. Her voice was hoarse, straining against the blanket of quiet that accompanied the darkness. "You are to be my army."
At her words, the pressure in the air intensified, driving her to one knee again. His rage surrounded her, swirls of heat licking against her dry skin. She'd forgotten. It was polite to ask. Particularly with the more powerful ones. The silence held for several seconds, until it was broken by a voice booming so loud she felt it would shatter her.
So, Daughter of the Dust, you would seek to master me? A thousand thousand years could pass, and you would still be too feeble!
The wall of black broke in a sea of swirling shards, and the light and roar of the stadium flooded in again. Across from her, the Subtle Rimer screamed in triumph, lunging with its two heads. So I'll die, she thought, head drooping to her still-bent knee -- but then it was gone.
The crowd's bloodthirsty roar faded to a hush. Someone gave a choked cry.
It rose above her hundreds of feet, and the Rimer struggled in its smiling, skeletal jaws. The pounded dirt of the stadium was cracked and broken, spiderwebbing out from its heavy claws, breaking more as its wings struggled to burst through the millennia of dirt that pinned it in its grave. Genoa could not rise.
A brave attempt, Daughter of Death, but I am master here.
Distantly, she heard the crunch of flesh and bone, the end of the Rimer.
I am master here.
The darkness swallowed her again.