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TVC II Supplemental Chapter 0: (Flashback) Fragments of the Past

Malochai

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This is a thread which I will add to from time to time, as the mood takes me, which will detail parts of Shah's/Markus' past.

Flashback I - Druchii Encounter

Shah/Markus' Age: 230​

Shah al-Hamid looked over the coast to his left as his steed - the same steed he had bought from Couronne two centuries before, it’s life magically enhanced by the rest of his coven - and sighed in contentedness. He had forgotten what it was like to ride alone, without responsibilities, and was glad that he had sent his retainers on ahead of him. ‘It’s not like I need them to protect me,’ he thought ruefully, shaking his masked face. The dim light of the full moon was reflected from the black, glassy surface of the Great Ocean. Ten miles south of him, he could faintly see the lights of Bordeleaux shining. Turning back to the north, he noted another, much smaller, cluster of lights, and turned his steed for it, urging the stallion on with a quick squeeze of his heels. “By the time day breaks over the horizon, old friend! Hyah!” A flick of the reins, and the warhorse broke into a canter capable of devouring miles easily.

---​

The cluster of lights turned out to be a coastal town, large and relatively well built for its kind. Shah nodded appreciatively as he rode through the streets until he came upon an inn. Entering, he payed for a room in which he could spend the night. When he finally did go to rest his head, the vampiric lord snarled quietly - he had been overcharged for the room. It was far too small to be comfortable, and the bed was both of such poor quality he considered resting on the floor, and too short for one of his height. He considered briefly returning to the inn’s lounge room and bring his complaints to the proprietor forcefully, but soon decided against it; far too often he brought attention to himself. According to his retainers, guards and his coven, tales of the Lion of Araby had spread quickly from small Bretonnian towns to the cities of the Empire. The few drunkards who still lingered, drowning their sorrows, had already given him odd looks. Grumbling, he settled in for the remainder of the night.

---​

Early morning, and Shah wandered the docks, looking for a likely vessel to convey him north to L’Anguille, leading Bane by his bridle. Even this early, the small wharf was packed with sailors and peasants loading wool and food onto ships, or unloading goods such as bolts of Cathayan silk, spices from Ind, or wines, dyes and oils from Araby. One of these ships, a mighty vessel called Manaan’s Pride, lay at harbour, the captain bellowing orders from the bottom of the gangplank.

“Hail, Captain!” he called from ten metres away. With an exasperated look, the merchant looked away from the unloading, turning to the tall, imposing stranger. He was a large man himself, but mostly around his waist, spilling over the top of his expensive trousers, his gut straining against his shirt. Fat, sausage-like fingers gripped a manifesto, but dropped it as soon as he saw a pouch of gold flying through the air towards him. “The purse alone is worth a quarter of what’s in there. It’s made from preyton hide, slain by my own hand, almost impossible to tear, difficult to cut.”

“And 'vhat do you 'vant in 'veturn?” was the suspicious reply, small piggy eyes narrowing. With an irritated movement, he wiped sweat from his face, despite the cold breeze blowing from the sea. “All 'ze items belong to 'uzzers - mostly' ze Sir Illiston. 'Zey are not for 'zale!” A snort echoed behind Shah’s mask, and he shook his head.

“You misunderstand, friend. All I want is transport for myself and my horse from here to L’Anguille - no doubt already on your schedule...”

“'Zat is true ... 'Zerry true ... But I must ask; 'vhy did you come here for a ship? 'Vhy not a city?”

“The prices are extortionate!” he cried in mock despair, before reaching out a hand and waiting for the merchant-captain to agree. When the fat man did extend his hand, a great smile on his wide, froglike face, he suggested a glass of wine to seal the deal. Shah was surprised his heart didn’t give out just walking up the gangplank.

---​

Two days out from the small port town of Picartes, during a night as black as any he had known, the waning moon giving off little light, Shah stood on Manaan’s Pride’s forecastle, hands clasped behind his back. The only true illumination came from oil lamps placed strategically along the rails. The two Bretoni naval vessels were almost invisible in the night. Somewhere on the main deck, Bane whickered drowsily, bringing a smile to the vampire’s otherwise stony face. The sound of the waves sloshing lazily against the ships hull and the wind’s tearing, freezing bite whistling through the sails was all there was. Sea creatures bobbed alongside the vessel, only just visible in the dark. Suddenly, a horn blasted apart the silence, ripping apart the semblance of serenity. “Raiders! Raiders to the west!”

Suddenly, the deck was alive with activity, and on the other ships the same was happening. Sailors rushed onto the water-stained wood, weapons loosed. They climbed the rigging, attempting to spot the raiders. Shah had already left the deck, striding along the corridor to the room he had payed so much gold for. There, on the too-hard bed in the too-small room, lay his Claws, the ancient weapons to match the ancient armour his father had returned from Araby with. Slipping the dextrous gloves on with practiced ease, the vampire flexed the astonishingly strong blades which formed the Claws; five thin, razor sharp blades each two feet in length and capable of working independently of each other. A feral grin overtook his features, and with long, confident strides the Lion of Araby reemerged onto the bustling deck. A sailor ran into him, calling in annoyance “Get below, fool! These aren’t ordinary pirates, they’re Druchii corsairs. You’re in the way!”

Ignoring him, Shah strode to the port railing and looked into the night. His vision, tenfold that of a humans, picked out the corsair vessel easily, gliding smoothly through the night. The Bretoni vessels were slowing, attempting to get behind and on either side of it to gain a tactical advantage. Shah hissed in irritation; they were essentially abandoning Manaan’s Pride so they could get destroy the druchii - a sound plan, bar the fact he was on the Manaan’s Pride. Suddenly, his musings were interrupted by cruel cheers in Druhir. The corsair had already drawn level, and hooks were being thrown, tying the vessels together. Seconds later, the first corsair was on the ship, a vicious-looking cutlass in one hand, a matching dagger in the other and a cloak made from the hide of a sea-dragon whipping around his shoulders. A cry that sounded as evil as his weapons looked, and he was on the sailors, laying about him so skillfully it was almost casual. More corsairs joined him, and soon the deck was a heaving battle-ground, rolling over waves as the sea made itself known. One of the dark elves made straight for Shah, a glint in his eye, and swung his weapons at the vampire. He was quick, very quick, but Shah was just as swift, his Claws intercepting the blade and twitching, sliding down the cutlass with the raw scrape of metal on metal. Blade trapped between two of the Claws blades, the elf could do nothing. He let his weapon fall from his grasp, and backed away, suddenly unsure, confusion in his eyes. Stepping closer, Markus stuck his Claws through the lightly-armoured belly of the dark elf, and drew him close. “Do not feel dishonoured by your death, at the hands of the Lion of Araby, blood of Abhorash’s blood.” With that, the life fled his eyes, and his body slipped from the blades. A feral growl ripped its way up his throat, and with the stench of blood, from both elf and human, fresh in his nostrils, he laid into every living thing around him, butchering in a glorious orgy of guts, flesh and gore. It ahd been too long since he had unleashed the Beast and let it act as it would.

---​

An hour passed, and even Shah’s endurance was flagging. The Bretoni ships had been lost behind them, their captains clearly incompetent; once they had lost speed they had been unable to regain it. Only a handful of combatants remained; with Shah tearing through both sides as a wild card, both humans and elves had suffered. Now, the vampire stood alone between the two opposing sides. The humans were truly terrified, huddled together like sheep in a corral. The elves were wary, leering at him with ugly looks marring their cool, superior, yet handsome features. Only one of them looked relatively sure of himself; Shah knew instinctively this was no mere corsair.

“What is your name, Druchii?” he asked, voice deep and measured.

“Aha, so the Beast does have a measure of civility,” was the caustic response, and the elf sidled forward slightly. “I won’t have it said I don’t. I am Rhaego of House Tagarys, of Clar Karond. I am known as the Beastlord and Pitmaster. And you ... You would make a fine beast to grace the fighting pits!”

Rhaego threw himself forwards, his two highborn blades flicking out eagerly in practiced synchronicity. Shah leaned backwards, allowing the blades to pass before him, and then stepped close, within the arc of the weapons. He lashed out, Claws flashing in the flickering light of the oil lanterns, but Rhaego had moved, spinning aside and sending both swords towards Markus’ armoured flank. Both weapons connected, but glanced from the ancient armour. Shah stumbled slightly, but recovered within seconds and lashed out. His rage was by then almost incandescent, and each blow was measured precisely and tempered with anger. Feint. Side-swipe. Block. Counter. Feint. Feint. Down-swipe. Slash. Feint. This went on for almost ten minutes, quick flurries of blows before they broke apart and launched themselves at each other again. The spectators were enraptured. Block. Block. Side-step. Sweep. Feint. Block. Block. Counter. Feint. Slash. Slash. Block. Counter! A perfect opportunity struck, and Shah grabbed it. He swept his foot out unexpectedly, sending Rhaego sprawling on the blood-slick deck. One of his swords skittered from his hand when it struck the wooden planks, but he held onto the other until Shah stepped heavily on his wrist. With a cry of agony, the druchii dreadlord let his hand open, releasing his vice-like grip. The vampire kicked the weapon away, and held his own weapons at his throat.

“The fighting pits will never have me. The blood of Abhorash is strong in my veins. Why shouldn’t I kill you now, and have done with it?”

“Because I can help you ... These humans know what you are; you could scare them into doing as you will. But you’ll need sustenance to regain your strength, and to kill these would mean running the risk of being unable to sail the ship. I have slaves; plenty of them. They’ll keep you well fed, I assure you,” - at this point, Shah let the Druchii stand, although kept him at the end of his blades - “ and I’ll even give you one of my retainers-”[/b] A cry of rage sprang from behind, and Rhaego turned around, eyebrow raised. Three Druchii, clearly not corsairs, stood, one with a horrified look on his face. A nod, and the other two turned on him, clubbing him unconscious with the butts of their repeater crossbows. “Estil, Estal, manacle Fyre and secure him to a mast were he can cause no harm.” He returned his gaze to Shah. “So. Do we have an agreement?”
 
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