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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,705
New Zealand
Naestra and Arahan, the Twilight Twins, are sent to the Gryphon Wood to head off an undead threat. But Drycha, Briarmaiden of Woe, rules here, and the Twins cannot let her know of their presence.

Bitter Spirits - One - Wild Animals

"Why can't we just use the Worldroots?" Arahan complained for the 10th time. "We'd be there already. Would have been there last week."
Naestra slowly consumed the remaining deer meat in her mouth, then looked up at Moorslieb "Drycha would skin us." This was the tenth time she had said this.
"She can't kill us for real," Arahan argued, sitting back against Ceithyn-Har's chest, his head rest on hers. It was late, and she got a bad feeling with evil moon in the sky. But she was unhappy.
Naestra tossed another chunk of meat to Gwyndalor, her eagle. He caught it in his beak, and offered some to Ceithyn-Har when the dragon politely inquired. "She could skin us both at once. You know that would kill us."
"I'm not afraid of an angry tree." Arahan touched her sword. "She should be afraid of us." She stared at her twin through the flickering campfire between them.
"Us, against a whole forest? I love you, Arahan, but you're the definition of reckless."
"I love you, Naestra, but you're the definition of caution."
"If you can't accept my tacticla reasoning, think of it politically. We can't just blunder into someone else's forest."
"Even if they hate us already?"
Gwyndalor screeched.
Ceithyn-Har hissed.
"You mustn't take that tone with my sister," Naestra scolded.
Gwyndalor lowered his head.
Arahan snorted. "Well, I'm off to patrol. Kurnous knows when some human will arrive and spoil things."
"You'd spoil things."
Arahan got to her feet and dusted herself off. "More fun that way. Come on, Ceithyn-Har. Let's see if there's any humans to hunt."
"Warning shot first!"
Arahan stalked away without answering.

Patrol was usually not very rewarding. But at least it got Arahan out of yet another unwinnable conversation with her twin. Kurnous knew she loved Naestra, but her sister was so unreasonable sometimes. Without the Worldroots, they wee reduced to flying all the way from AThel Loren to the edges of Gryphon Wood. So far, they'd made it to the southern part of Stirland, when night fell and it was time to make camp. It would have been far better to imply go there directly. But Ariel said they couldn't risk discovery, so they ahd to take the stealthier route. Ceithyn-Har notwithstanding.
At least Arahan had gotten to choose the camp location. A hill atop which they could observe far even when not flying, with a forest not too far away to ease her forest dwelling instincts.
A horn pierced the silence of the night. Arahan frowned. It wasn't an Asrai horn, and after a second she determined it wasn't Asur or Druchii either. It blew again, and Ceithyn-Har stopped, sniffing the air.
Arahan had her bow in ehr hands before she thought to do it, now recognising a Beastman horn. Beastmen! The Cloven Ones were sworn enemies of the Asrai. Her blood burned simply knowing they were there.
But why? They hated civilisation, even the nature-based kind the Asrai practiced, and this was nowhere near ahuman settlement. She dropped and pressed ehr ear to the ground. Vibrations. Pounding hooves. But moving away. She grit her teeth. They would not escape ehr now.
A small voice urged her to wake Naestra. That was rather the point of patrol. But after her argument, she wasn't in the mood.
"Come, Ceithyn-Har. Let us see these Beastmen for ourselves."
The dragon roared in agreement.
Arahan laughed. "Well, you were never going to eb able to sneak up on them, anyway." She began running. "Into the forest, now!"

With her dragon bounding beside her, the forest calling her to battle ahead, Arahan's heart was up. Battle soothed ehr like nothing else. Battle was what she lived for. Guardians of the forest - well, yes, but by battle.
The horn sounded again, further away. Arahan pikced up pace. What were the Cloven Ones so excited about? Perhaps a human convoy in the forest. Ripe pickings for a good ambush.
Arahan ran through the trees, Ceithyn-Har weavin gthrough them beside her, until they came upon a battle scene, or at least, what would have been a battle scene if the humans stood a chance. Things that looked like men what really weren't danced among the wreckage. Several humans lay dead, not all their parts accounted for.
In the centre, a carriage was broken. The largest Beastman pounded on the walls. A massive beast with a goat head, he growled and roared and screamed as the others danced about.
Arahan nocked an arrow, loosed. Nocked, loose. Thrice, before drawin gher sword and charging in.
Ceithyn-Har roared again, and grabbed a Beastmen apparently too frenzied to notice a dragon 'sneaking' up on him. He squeezed the beast to a pulp, then devoured the remains.
Arahan leaped onto the back of another Beastman, ramming ehr sword through his spine, then jumped off. Now a pair of the smaller ones faced her uncertainly, waving spears at her.
"Am I interrupting something? Terribly sorry," she said as she first chopped the spear ends off then chopped their heads off.
Ceithyn-Har smashed through a line of gors, and stood on a final one.
The largest gors - the Bestigors, - turned from their revelry and hefted their axes against Arahan.
For a second she wished Naestra were here, to share in this glorious moment.
Then the goat-head surprised ehr by speaking something resembling Reikspiel.
"Uncloven One. Die."
"Why did you both training your tongue?" Arahan asked, bracing.
The goat-head roared. "Clovens! Kill!"
The bestigors charged, and Ceithyn-Har breathed the noxious toxins Forest Dragons had replaced their fire breath with.
The ebstigors slowed, confused. Except the goat-head, who spat but continued.
Arahan met his axes, and danced. Parrry, cut, thrust. Jump. Dive. A flurry of moves the bestigor could barely keep up with.
Then a soft voice cut across the melee.
"How chivalrous of you."
Arahan glanced behind the goat-head to see a human woman had somehow extricated herself from the ruins of her carriage, wielding a sword. She grinned at Arahan. "I do appreciate assistance for a lady on such a night."
The goat-headed bestigor roared again, swinging for Arahan's head with his axe. Arahan dropped, and dived into him, slamming her head into his chest. He tumbled over, and flailed for a moment. In that moment, Arahan jumped up, brought her sword into a killing position, and ran the blade through his chest. The body went limp.
She looked up to see the other bestigors clutching themselves and collapsing, while the human woman kept her eyes on Arahan.
Ceithyn-Har looked at the bestigors with disappointment, prodding them in hopes of a reaction.
"Kurnous, Naestra's the diplomat," she muttered.
"Naestra, as in Naestra and - oh!" The woman curtsied. "Allow me to introduce myself. Catalina of Marienburg. I know this is on the other side of the Empire from there, but..."
Arahan recognised the Estalian accent. "Yes?"
"I have buisness interests here." She sheathed her sword. "I must thank you. I must say I owe you my life."
Arahan squirmed. She almost wished she'd been too late. She hated diplomacy. "I accept your gratitude. You cannot travel far without protection here. Shall I bring you to our camp?"
"You are camped nearby? Good." Catalina's eyes flashed. "I have always wanted to meet the immortal twins."
Ceithyn-Har beat his wings.
"And you and Gwyndalor, of course. How dashing of you, Ceithyn-Har."
Arahan felt her cheeks burn.
 
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,705
New Zealand
Bitter Spirits - Two - The Test

Naestra woke without needing a prod from Arahan. Which was just as well, as her sister was nowhere to be seen. A cursory search of the edge of the camp yielded nothing. She bit her lip.
"I wasn't even being that 'pacifist' tonight anyway" she said to Gwyndalor.
Her eagle squawked, and shook his head.
"That's just your opinion," Naestra grumbled. "Ceithyn-Har's gone, too. Kurnous, why did you give me such a sister?" She took a deep breath and exhaled. Then gasped. "Poor Arahan! Out all on her own! Isha knows what she could - oh!" She clutched herself, a thrill of battle running through her. "Of course. Something appeared and she just had to go fight. Without telling me. Now where -"
Gwyndalor pointed with a wing, and Naestra strained her eyes in that direction to see Arahan and Ceithin-Har approaching. Arahan had her sword around the neck of a human woman, who seemed perfectly unconcerned about the inconvenience.
"Dark hair? Eagle? You must be Naestra!"
Naestra nodded slowly. "Yes. Sister, who is this?" It was a bad place to be at night for an ordinary human.
"Catalina, from Maiienburg. Originally Estalian." Arahan kicked her. "I didn't say you could stop."
Catalina flashed a brillaint smile at Naestra, blue eyes gleaming.
"Your sister so kindly rescued me from a Beastman attack. Too late for my men, of course, but I am grateful at least they could not eb despoiled. For now," she added darkly. "Please let me bury them."
"Beastmen?" Naestra asked. "Of course we must pay our respects to your men."
Ceithyn-Har scratched deep gouges in the ground.
"Your graves," Arahan said dismissively. "But first. Who are you? What were you doing here, this late?"
"Leave her alone, sister," Naestra said. "She was attacked. She must be shaken."
Gwyndalor squawked sympathetically.
"Yes, I almost died. Before Arahan here and her dragon heroically saved me."
"Answer me!" Arahan insisted.
"Do answer, before she starts asking for real."
"As I said, I am Catalina. I was on a busines trip in eastern Stirland. Dangerous business my colleagues shouldn't know about."
"What kind of business?" Arahan asked.
"Business that would bore elves. I had just started on the way home - once we have seen to my men, please escort me to the next village along the road, I can make my way from there - when these mutant abominations happened upon me."
To be attacked by Beastmen was an awful fate. Those who survived the battle would be...Naestra preferred not to dwell.
"You poor thing. Of course we must help. Mustn't we, Arahan?"
"I don't see any must about it. We have our mission. We can't go stopping for every little human. And she seemed unnaturally excited to met me. As in me and you. She knows about us."
"I'm sure lots of people do. We're not exactly secret."
Arahan gnashed her teeth. "I'd kill you for being naive if I thought it would last."
"So you agre? At leaast let her stay the night with us, to protect her."
Arahan groaned.
Ceithyn-Har stamped a foot.
Gwyndalor ruffled his feathers non-committally.

Naestra sat beside Catalina, while Arahan 'took watch', by which she meant glared in the opposite direction.
"Are you always like this with each other?" Catalina asked.
Naestra shrugged. "Twins. What do you expect?"
Catalina laughed. "I wish I could say the same about my sister. I haven't seen her in years." Her voiced tinged with worry. "I hope she's alright."
"If she's half as skilled as Arahan says you are, she'll be perfectly fine." Naestra leaned back against Gwyndalor. "Now, you should go to sleep. We'll keep our eyes open for you."
"For us, anyway," Arahan said.


"Sister, wake up!"
Naestra sat up as Arahan's shout broke ehr from a sweet dream about her and Arahan sneaking into their mother Ariel's store of Oak of Ages berries. She grabbed her weapons and jumped to her feet, to find Arahan, Catalina, Gwyndalor and Ceithyn-Har already facing off against a surrounding horde of skeetons cluthing rusty weapons and clad in rusted armour. Blue lights flickered in their empty eye sockets,
"Where did they come from?!" Naestra asked.
Arahan nocked an arrow and loosed. It pierced three skeletons, shields and all. "Isha and Kurnous know! Help me kill them."
"They're already dead," Catalina pointed out, gripping her sword. She looked excited rather than scared.
"I didn't ask you!" Arahan snapped.
Naestra jumped in beside her sister. "Alright."
Ceithyn-Har reared up and opened his mouth wide. A stream of toxin poured out, bathing the skeletons in it. Some just melted. Others lost parts. The rest continued.
"There must be a necromancer or vampire somewhere," Naestra said, cutting her way through a skeleton's guard.
Gwyndalor crushed another in his beak.
"I suppose. But I don't ant this to end right now. We're fighting together," Arahan said. "As we always should," she added apologetically.
"That's actually sweet of you," Naestra replied, decapitating a skelton, and the one beside it. She turned to see Catalina cut her way through a good number.
Ceithyn-Haw swiped with a foreleg, and half a dozen broke.
The battle continued for some time more, Naestra and Arahan fighting back to back, a welcome return to normal. Arahan was unhealthily bloodthirsty, but she was Naestra's twin, and fighting beside her was right on a fundamental level. The dragon and the eagle worked together, too, gaining the air and now performing diving attacks. It was asight to see.
Catalina contributed, her blade flashing and skeletons dying around her.
Finally, the last skeleton fell, and Naestra and Arahan rested against one another.
"Are you ready to go to Gryphon Wood now?" Arahan asked.
"Yes. Maybe I shouldn't worry so much about Drycha."
Arahan punched her. "It's your job to worry. Just let me enjoy what I do best, alright?"
Naestra smiled. "Alright."
"That was fascinating," Catalina breathed. "Your teamwork. The way you compliment each other..."
"Twins," Arahan said.
Gwyndalor squawked.
"I forgot! What about the necromancer?" Naestra asked.
Arahan shrugged.

--

Madeleine smiled as her protege punched the wall.
"Why didn't you let me send the Beastmen after them? They're far more powerful."
Madeleine rose from the chair she had been sitting on and crossed the short distance to the inn bedroom wall. "I didn't want you to kill them."
Emilia turned slowly, taking deep breaths, until finally she calmed, and the Winds of magic no longer blew like a tempest around her. "Then why?"
"I needed a test. One you passed easily. As did they. I was worried when they fought. But I managed to bring them back together."
Emilia bowed. "Yes. May I have a drink of water? Necromancy always makes me thirsty."
Madeleine ran a hand through russet hair. "You may. Actually, have yourself a proper meal." She leaned in, brushing her lips past Emilia's neck. "I need a drink, too."
 
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,705
New Zealand
Bitter Spirits - Three - Sisters Reunited

Arahan refused to let Catalina travel by dragon or eagle - they were ehrs and Naestra;s, respectively, and not to be loaned out to mere humans, especially ones with stories she didn't quite believe. Which, unfortunately, meant having to walk the distance to the next village. The quiet of the day was frequently broken by Naestra and Catalina's conversation, which Arahan soon decided told her almost nothing about Catalina beyond that she was absolutely thrilled to meet the Twilight Twins. It didn't help she preferred Naestra. Not that Arahan cared. Really. She wasn't in a popularity contest with her sister, at all.
She grew wary for a different reason as dusk neared, the village in sight. She didn't know if the necromancer or vampire who had attacked them last night was still around, and what they might do this time. And, this was all taking valuable time away from goin gto Gryphon Wood and stopping the real danger. At least after tonight Catalina assured them she would eb able to make ehr own way.
Their arrival caused a stir, courtesy of Gwyndalor and Ceithyn-Har. It wasn't every day humans saw a dragon and a great eagle. Naestra lapped up the attention, while Arahan kept a wary eye out.
"I have a room booked," Catalina said, pointing to the largest building around. "I'm sure I could get you two one for yourselves, too."
"Thank you," Naestra replied.
Arahan pointed at Gwyndalor and Ceithyn-Har. "What about them?"
"They'll be alright," Naestra said. "Ceithyn-Har is a dragon, after all."
Arahan's shoulders itched. "I just don't like this, sister."
Naestra smiled. "You never like it."

The twins walked up the stairs, bade goodnight to Catalina, and went to their room. Naestra climbed into bed immediately, while Arahan stood at the doorway, watching.
"Thanks."
"What?"
"Thanks for taking watch." Naestra sat up and rubbed her eyes. "Maybe I am being naive, but that's why you're here. I'll relieve you soon."
"Just as well I take it seriously." Arahan nodded. "Of course that's why I'm here."
"I hope Catalina will be alright."
"Ugh. She isn't our mission. I want to know if that necromancer or vampire is hunting us."
"That too. Is it connected to what will come to Gryphon Wood?" Naestra wondered.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. It occurred to me that they didn't use the Beastman corpses. Even though new corpses are easiest to raise."
"Good question," Naestra agreed.
Arahan stabbed ehr sword into the wall. "Hopefully whoever it is comes in here, so I can beat the answers out of them."
Naestra groaned. "You're so violent."
"You're so...not violent."
"Just keep an eye on the door, will you?"
Arahan heard a scurrying of feet, and saw a rat clearly past its prime slinking in the corner. She stood on it.

--

Madeleine watched as the Twilight Twins and Catalina walked up the stairs to their rooms. She was seated in the darkest part of the inn, so Catalina wouldn't recognise her. Because that would make things difficult indeed.
At least she was well fed. Emilia's blood coursed through her, even as her protege now sat beside her, rubbing her neck in what would now be dull pain. She almost didn't ant to advanced ehr training, because to make her one of her own kind would lessen the practicality of feeding on her, and she didn't want to pass up a good, and willing, meal.
"They've gone to their rooms," Emilia said, the question left unsaid.
Madeleine put a finger to her own lips. "Not yet, my apprentice. Catalina can't know I'm here. And she can't know you're here."
Emilia raised an eyebrow.
"Don't be liek that," Madeleine snapped.
"Alright. What if they share a room?"
"Unlikely. Arahan doesn't trust her."
"She brought her to their camp."
"Wanting to confer with Naestra, I suppose. And she's not completely heartless. Just...had different priorities."

A little while later, Madeleine tapped Emilia on the shoulder. "It's time."
Emilia grinned, and bared her fangs.
 

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