This doesn’t particularly flow well from the first part, while they are all still being written out but I hope you enjoy it all the same.
The Venator Part 2
Before I continue my story, it should be noted that most of this information did in fact originate from the Knifed Skull, so it is quite possible that some of the details have either been lost or embellished from the many drunkards within, I may have also embellished it a little for artistic reasons…anyway, I digress…
After a short hike trudging through the snow, Laurena had reached the outside of a now derelict mine the one the locals fearfully called Dreadstone; this was the very place the Circle of Shadows had instructed her to investigate. It’s infamy arose from the local lore of the resident miners and their descendants, of whom claimed the mine had a strange resonating ambiance and any simple touch of the abnormally dark purple metamorphic rock would instil a profound sense of horror. The unnatural colouration was also said to be certainly bizarre in contrast to the normal surrounding area, as if something evil was bleeding out from deep within the mine. Standing outside, while seeking shelter underneath an outcropping, she noticed the signs of it’s apparent use were present and sunken impressions were observable where they had eating into and around the rocky maw. The lack of any need for outside guards was obvious, to even an untrained professional, as the remote location in the craggy hillside was more than enough to keep it out of the view from prying eyes. The seclusion alone would have been enough to help conceal any wrongdoing on it’s own, even without the raging blizzard that was now bearing down and blanketing out the mine from a far distance; the ominously evil looking clouds had deeply overcast the area more than usual, as if they had a mind of their own. The additional thickness of the white obscure haze was obnoxiously glittering flakes of thick heavy snow, constantly clinging on Laurena’s ferapex leather hood and outfit; a speciality of this rare hide by the way, is that it’s reacts to the surroundings by changing its colour. Her stinging eyes, her bitter felt nose and bluing sanguineous lips were harshly numbing and painful, as the only parts exposed to the coldness in the ferociously biting winds. She edged closer to the rotten mossy timber framed doors and rested on the huge rusting handle of the now derelict mine. In doing so she could hear a faint echoing hum starting to creep into her ears, just barely noticeable through the howling gales and swaying barren trees.
Laurena shook off the build up on her boots before cautiously scanning the eerily ominous entrance, she pushed down hard on the stiff metal braced door and it screeched open as if in agonising pain. The outside light rapidly bled into into the pitch black tunnel, while Laurena’s naturally all-black Umbrian eyes required no effort to see further into the darkness inside; this was also a common trait of Umbrians, as many of whom would go their entire lives having never laid said eyes on Hexterra’s only star Sol. She forced her way inside, ready to confront any impediment within, knowing full well it was imperative that the truth be known; and she was certainly not one to disappoint the Circle of Shadows for that matter either. Besides which, at this point it was now the only option now beyond freezing to death from the elements outside, even as she walked a few feet inside the mine the difference in temperature was apparent and most welcoming to her core. The humming from within had grown louder and even more distinct, the rhythm was now clear and it was obvious there were people chanting what could only be assumed to be a sinister ritual of some kind; nothing good ever comes from rituals, let alone ones held in seclusion. Laurena knew about most known rituals most of which came from her spending many hours researching the various cults using the Venators Guild’s library, when she wasn’t otherwise hunting or training. She knew it was more than likely a soul-swapping ritual, one used to drain the soul of a person and transfer it into another person or vessel but couldn’t yet tell for certain the true purpose for the poor victim. The evidence gathered already would have certainly been enough to report back the Circle, to confirm their suspicions were more than just rumours. For her safety, as an novice in her rank, she was told to leave and report back upon any confirmation of wrongdoing. Yet, as she saw no reason to pass up the opportunity, she decided to explore a little further, especially with the storm raging outside preventing any safe return. Feeling no imminent threat, Laurena crept cautiously forward to find out more, running her fingertips along the rough and slimy wall in the darkest unlit passages, guiding herself precariously with each footing and cautiously poking her head around each corner before proceeding inwards further.
It wasn’t before too long that she happened upon a pair of cloaked individuals both standing together in a dimly lit cave. They were preoccupied with a minor conversation of no significance but in still anxiously governed secret as to look busy and to avoid not being caught doing nothing of import, both were completely oblivious to Laurena’s presence, so they made poor lookouts to be sure. She crept forward, step by step with one eye on the floor and another on her company, using the shadows for cover while inching up through the narrow passage upon the two cultists. When she was just a few feet away and still unnoticed, she watched them intensely for a brief moment. When she felt the time was right she unsheathed her sword, while picked up and throwing a loose stone behind and beyond the conversing pair. In their confusion of the startling sound they both turned around to check on the noise, as they done so Laurena got up and reached around the throat of the closest cultist and with her sword dragged it between both of his ears. Without hesitation she then pushed him aside and moved into position as she thrust her still warmly dripping sword clean through the second cultist’s neck. Both had slumped down as quietly as possible and without possibly alerting any distant ears with screams or shouting. Afterwards, she casually dragged the bodies into a dark corner out of sight and out of mind; this was Venators training at it’s finest and it was executed flawlessly.
Laurena continued to traverse through the narrow winding tunnels and sparse widening caves, edging herself through the dangling dead roots through the rocks and dirt or stepping over the occasional critter that scurried in a panic out of her way. After a few minutes of walking through now dimly lit tunnels, and almost getting lost in the maze of pathways before realising her curious mistake, Laurena happened upon an natural crack in the wall. Through this opening she could see into a colossal cavern, which was properly lit with magical sconces and perma-fire torches posted all around. One beam of streaming light could be seen permeating through the ceiling and at the base of it grew a single solitary dreadwood tree, it was covered with a strange assortment of ancient inlaid runes and markings; of an old dialect that was way too obscure to anyone currently alive to read. In the middle of the spacious cavity a single secretary stone cast altar lay proud, it was covered in cracks worn from age and overgrown with aged lichen and moss, additionally baring strange glowing symbols intrinsically carved, which were too far away to be analysed. Overshadowing the altar was a gigantic statue of what looks like the God Fabricus, it was protruding with it’s own apertures and thick wound wires feeding through it and with a strange turquoise coloured energy glow pulsing like blood in a person’s bulging veins. On top of the altar laid a single young man, bound firmly still, yet conscious and unable to escape untimely planned fate. To the side of him a large metallic sphere rested precariously and more of the same cloaked cultists were surrounding them both, while chanting the ritual that was now very noticeable for soul-swapping. The young man was undoubtedly to be sacrificed to fuel the contraption. One of the cultists had his cloak woven with metallic inlaying designs and stood directly underneath the statue clearly apart from the rest, he began to speak…
“Brothers and Sisters!” he pronounced loudly. “We are here to offer this sacrifice to one of our most beloved and cherished member of the Pantheon of Deusan; the Arbiter of gods!” The cultist leader’s voice echoed throughout the cavern, while Laurena wasted no time continuing through the tunnels further, still able to overhear what was said.
“A new age is dawning…and for too long our future has been held back by a repressive regime. No more shall the wickedness of the Venators or other heretics, continue to plague Umbrianox as they unjustly rule over everyone, clouding the population’s eyes with colourful propaganda. For too long has their greed and oppression has kept the Umbrian people from progressing to an age of peace and prosperity. Continuously have they ignored the pleas of innocent citizens plight, those who bear suffering wrongfully, meanwhile using their guise of their protection under a broken wing. All to ensure their twisted religion and it’s polluted ideas, corrupt everything they touch. They willfully impede the development of a stable government, one of full morality and decency. To this will say, NO MORE!” The leader continued unabashed.
Meanwhile, Laurena had worked her way into the cavern, hiding behind a large outcropping but keeping an eye on the spectacle.
“Oh!, he of creativity and grand design; God of Invention. Fabricus. We offer you this soul to fuel our ambition and to imbue this tool of most magnificent destruction, so that we may finally rid the world of those soulless mercenaries the Venator!”
As the cultist finally finished, the statue of Fabricus lit up, brighter and radiant than before and with a soft turquoise glow surrounding the bound person on the altar. Just as the cultist almost built his strength, with the aim to plunge the dagger downward, Laurena had risen from her hidden cover and threw a knife, taken from her hip belt, towards the lead cultist. The knife cut deeply into his arm and he was forced to react, recoiling in pain and by dropping his dagger, simultaneously with both of her jagged swords now ready in each hand, Laurena ran forward and sprung off of a raised rock into the air. She landed harshly on top of two of the closest cultists with both swords squarely wedged through their chests. By now the rest had already stopped their chant and after having noticed her timely unsubtle intervention, all drew their own arms in reaction against her. The remaining cultists seized upon her and one by one they attempted to attack the young Venator. With their mindless ferocity they all one after another succeeded in failing, as she shredded through them as if they were like nothing but garden weeds. Before the last one fell, a series of loud bangs echoed through the cavern and Laurena without thinking reacted to seek cover behind the altar.
“You wretched beast!” interrupted the lead cultist. Pointing a strange handheld device towards Laurena, who was now panicking, unsure as to the strange power the cultist held.
“The Venator’s attempt once again to curb their own demise, ignorant to the thought to the continued suffering that would ensue.” His voiced echoed of genuine belief and that his actions were more than justified. “Have you any idea who you are working for you wicked little girl? One who would so readily cut down so many people who’s only goal it was, to bring peace to Umbran!”
“You’re the one attempting to kill a kid, to fuel that soul-bomb of yours!” Rebuked Laurena, who knew exactly what the metallic sphere was from her studies.
“This lost-soul forfeited his right to a life, when he took the life of another!” He countered. “Just as you have lost the right to yours, many times over, for which your suffering will be immense in this life and the next!” Upon finishing his sentence he took shots at Laurena, who was now pinned down as sparks and chips of stone flew off around her head and would feel her heart throbbing rapidly like it was trying to escape her chest. Using the opportunity the lead cultist had made his way around to expose Laurena’s vulnerable position, as she glanced up at the strange engrave device held in his hands, as she feared the end.
“You think you have won? Your order of sinners will pay the price regardless th…” As the cult spoke the young man on the altar had released himself from his bonds and had flung himself selflessly onto the cultist, both cascaded down, one on top of the other. A few more shots were heard, which pieced through the young man’s body. Before the cultist could shift him off, Laurena had seized the opportunity by running over and slicing cleanly through the cultists arm and finally head. Taking a moment Laurena turned over the draining body to check on the young man, his face was pale even for an Umbran. Horrified and sick with grief, Laurena instantly recognised who the young man as the one she had saved just two days prior.
“I’m so sorry!” She urged, examining the fatal wounds to the young man’s chest, furious with herself.
“Don’t…be” He strained, coughing up blood. “You saved my life…twice, it was…the least I could…” Before he could finish his sentence he passed away and slowly slumped back, finally being rendered motionless and cold. Laurena screamed in anger, punching the floor with her fist ignoring the physical pain. She laid the young man’s body in a more dignified position and walked over to the lead cultist, staring at him profusely with disgust, as if in attempt to curse his very soul before it finally departed. Having recognised the power she bore witness to moments earlier, she took possession of the dark metallic device scattered on the floor and a second which had been holstered and unused. Testing out the devices in anger, she shot repeatedly at the towering statue and after significant damage to its face and apertures, they stopped glowing rended the whole whole thing useless. Later, waiting by the exit for the blizzard to stop, Laurena stood restless and reflective; deeply saddened by the outcome of her actions and constantly trying to replay what went wrong and how it could have ended better. She started to ponder how Mathias and more importantly the Circle of the Hunt would evaluate her actions; their motives, as with everything else, were difficult to understand. After a few hours, she made her way back to Umbrianox, somewhat altered from her experience.
Laura Steel © 2015