The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.
When Dantena van Torquaz, immortal wraith bound to this land, awoke from his latest death, he actually felt like whining. Covered in melted and grilled flesh, it reeked of death. Seasoned as the disgraced, but still legendary soldier, lord Torquaz knew how to recognize human carrion.
Why on Earth am I still alive?
It wasn’t a cave and neither was it a nest. He had been brought into a hut made of bones. And lord Torquaz remembered what scavenging monster haunted Brienne’s fairy tales and the Thyrian princedom.
The Werestag of Rubaron had always ranked the darkest tales hailing from the smallfok. This villainous devourer haunted battlefields and harvested the dying, devouring their living flesh until death. Devourer of codexes, Dantena van Torquaz knew he had been looted by a female deatheater who was feeding her pops. In this world, Monsters weren’t folkloric fiends but real creatures.
Often a children’s tale contains historical truths, said Lucius nar Amonaga, the famed Illyran philosopher.
Screams echoed from his upper left, confirming that the deatheater ate the living. Why am I even scared? Torquaz thought before acknowledging the necessity of death for courage to grow. Sadly, his immortality had denied him the choice of bravery. He genuinely struggled to actually care of things.
Interestingly, lord Torquaz wondered if being digested in the Werestag would affect his inability to die. When this questioning occurred, Dantena van Torquaz felt the Thrill.
Inhaling vial from his magical heart, Dantena enhanced his arms with alteration tricks before opposing his dragonglass gauntlets. After getting free of his prison of flesh, Dantena gathered heat between his palms thus bursting into flames. However, magical fire couldn’t last long and it died right after piercing the house of bones, emerging out there, under a red sun.
Bad omens, Torquaz mocked the heat which grilled his flayed skin. His white and greasy hair snapped as a powerful blast of wind could be felt over miles.
Images came again, these of the dragon who had changed his conception of reality. Draccus, who descended from ancient wyverns, populated secluded peaks and high mountains. Some water dragonnets haunted numerous Southern swamps, poisonous but relatively passive in comparison with murlocs or wolfgans. Until last morning no dragon ever existed for the black swordsman known as Dantena van Torquaz.
Anyhow, this insane shock and shattering of his own foundations didn’t affect Dantena’s quest. This dragon made his hunt for the Kingslayer far more interesting…
For lord Torquaz had a regicide to catch.
Hopefully, Werestags were far below a civilized human’s intelligence. Therefore, Dantena could climb up the bloody trench in relative ease, now exposed to a disaster of a graveyard. Bones and organs were scattered, bodies covered mostly in armour. Glancing at their remnants, Dantena deemed them former sellswords of the Free Companies, outlawed and unlicensed armies rooming these mountains. For their lives dwelled with avenging their tragedies with the death of innocents, the Werestag of Rubaron punished their living flesh with his voracious hunger.
Once an imperial legionnaire under general Melagrius, Dantena could read the corpses’ tales and see the ghostly muses of war singing for the fallen. Cursing at ignorance for it had led so many fools to war, lord Torquaz vowed, as he used to, protect the weak and serve the just. I choose what is just, Dantena added, also aware that this, belief led his mentor Melagrius’ Sixtenth Legion to utter defeat during the Year of the Four Emperors in 1469. Today still, the Keshian Wars haunt me. All of the Eastern half of the Known World had suffered from the Emperor’s Daughter’s Daughter.
Where are you, Elena, Daughter of a Slave who became an Emperor? How is it, beyond life? Is it bright and shiny, or fiery and freezing?
Once, Emperor Thorgrim the Uneasy had been named Thorgrim, a bastard from illyrian second kin gifted with northern blood. Sold in slavery for an offense given to his brother, Rianorix Oursifer, Holy Illyran Emperor and a 17th years old lad, Thorgrim served in the Northern Battlefront in Ashenguard before taking the arms alongside King Arathor XII of Ashtown, asserting the Northern Kingdoms’ place in the Civilized World. Soon afterwards, facts state that Thorgrim rose as a feudal warlord in Eastern Temeros before securing an alliance with the Brotherhood of Silence, one of the twelve Orders of Magic, an holy black mass which led decades later to the Novingard Terror. Later, Thorgrim conquered his throne from the 22nd years old Rianorix, deposing him and sending him to the Black Tower of Aldoradel where the fallen emperor died of starvation, despite evidence of sexual violence. Thorgrim invited to the Imperial court members of the Brotherhood of Silence and of the Lodge of Sorceresses. Only then did begin his slow fall from divine grace, when the Schism began in Temeros and King Otto took control of the Prime Order monasteries in Temerian territory. Then in 1455 came the Slaying of Kings… And many other darknesses came before ended the Era of Crusades and began the Era of Heretics.
Daydreaming had been a historical harbinger of disaster so lord Torquaz adopted a light-footed stance, ready to kneel or run. Rocky, this field was troublesome to infiltrate or silently escape despite the winds’ help. Also, carrion attracted lesser monsters than the Werestag but monsters nonetheless.
Yulraks were bideps with extreme leg power and dexterity but powerless attacks against plate. These monsters would still manage to injure Dantena, and injuries could last forever. Already a monster himself, lord Torquaz couldn’t imagine bearing everlasting scars. Flayed was enough…
Barking, the reptilian Yulraks he had expected jumped over a pile of corpses, facing an immobile Dantena. They are blind and can’t understand their smell, lord Torquaz remembered his lectures. They recognize movement with their earing. Devouring corpses, the Yulraks were only attracted by deadmen, only killing humans if they felt threatened. Knowing how pointless killing them was, Dantena smiled and pulled mithril from his magical heart, taking over the Yulraks’ creative mind.
Dantena casted an illusion and the three monsters became servile pets.
For how long?
Lacking the materials which enabled controlling the Yulraks, lord Torquaz scattered his concentration in three directions. Driven in different runs, the Yulraks separated, screaming an odd complaint. Like abused puppies, lord Torquaz acknowledged.
I must refrain my use of magic. We never know when my body will collapse…
After the passing of the wind, a disturbing silence thwarted Dantena’s concentration as the screams had stopped echoing in the valley.
Briefly focusing on his surroundings, Dantena’s alert focus allowed him to locate the presence of foolish survivors. Muffled sounds of the agonising whispered their begging to Dantena, who himself was trapped in a loop of confusion. Every rational told him to evade this graveyard which buried dying soldiers. Most of these soldiers had been wretched men. However, Dantena’s recent experiences conflicted him more even, as part of his creed meant serving the just. It implied also serving Justice. And no man was above justice, Ithildir Merethil had written in his Tome of Five Runes.
Rushing towards the whispers, Dantena ignored the second blast of wind, before his Amulet cast a weight in his guts. The Werestag is close, Dantena realised.
Bound and gagged in guts, it was a woman who Dantena found. Disgusted, the former Lord Watcher himself forced his burnt and gauntlet hands upon the flesh. Turing it apart, he acknowledged that the wench was fair of face and body. However, a question dazzled the deserting officer of the Night Watch: What was she doing on a battlefield? Of course, she might have been an unlikely prize of the free companies that crossed the Thyrian Mounts. It made so much sense that the retired investigator of His Imperial Majesty wondered of the odds of their meeting.
Obviously shivering, she fell in his arms, crying in an appropriate despair, for deatheaters were known in educated scholars as the antithesis of human life itself. She didn’t deserve such a fate…
“Thank you, Ser…,” she managed to say. “What would I have done without you…”
Awkwardly enough, Dantena acknowledged that embracing her like a doll reminded him of forgotten pleasures. He had missed brothels, since the last he had frequented had been from the Western Marches of the Empire. Leaving the Imperial Order undetected, hard for a flayed swordsman, had been his priority and Dantena van Torquaz, both the golden egg and the disgraced traitor, were known as lover of women. Since he had been crippled for so long, Dantena had lowered himself to pay the price of gold rather than the burden of charms, and therefore he had never felt like a lover ever since his prime. That peasant girl had been the first who willingly chose to embrace him, the flayed man. How could I ever feel so entitled to love? How could I ever have been so superficial?
Suddenly again, the blasts of wind roared above them. Alert, Dantena glanced at the horizon and saw it again. It had not been a dream. The dragon was flying right torwards the coast, where he was headed. Why does he have to bring fire and death to Hearthstone? Indeed, the carefree town was the safest port towards Temeros in miles. And in Temeros, Dantena answers awaited.
Looking down at his precious encounter, Dantena van Torquaz considered reason like he had been taught at the University. Hunted down by a deatheater and with a dragon from the stories lurking in the province, Dantena acknowledged her as a burden. However, his immortality had removed from him the fear of death, a primal and necessary component of a man’s life. Every curse could hide a benediction.
If I cannot die, she will live.
And the flayed man known as Dantena van Torquaz covered that unknown girl who had been sequestered in human flesh with his own burnt cape, ready to flee from the Werestag of Rubaron.
After all, Dantena van Torquaz had a kingslayer to catch.