SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
Rise of the Blade
Learn more: Rise of the Blade
There was an air of confusion and haste as the d'Or family left Waterdeep the next day aboard several of their merchant ships. They spared no expense at safety, right down to the last cousin. No one was to be left behind. The family went south, their sails raised and full.
Pierce and Marque Draque watched in silence as the ship disappeared over the horizon, each feeling uneasy about this abrupt arrangement. Chev was a wanted man, but it only went as far as the city watch, as he was no threat to the Harpers.
Or at least that's what Marque Draque thought. Pierce knew the drow's thoughts as well as his own and he fidgetted on the deck. His hand constantly kept going to the hilt of Tarrasqueslayer, which he tried to ignore but knew that he was anxious to greet Chev once more in battle.
All of his senses told him the warrior was still in Waterdeep, which boded well for the d'Or family and yet Pierce still felt the family was doomed to never be seen again. He swallowed and led the way under the deck of the Harper owned ship.
Chev had watched as the d'Or family departed also. Had watched in vain. The dock had been swarmed with hired soldiers, all wanting a piece of him. Someone had passed around sketches of him and already his sword had been used several times today, fresh blood still on the blade.
Now, wandering the streets in vain he vented his frustration by shoving through the crowds of people, picking his fights against those who didn't like to be shoved. He was far from weak, even after so many years of being trapped it made no difference; he was as young and strong as ever.
Yet not alive. Not truly alive, in the true sense of the word. His soul was dead, beyond repair and he knew it. He had been tortured for what had seemed an infinity, and during that rare moment of the Time of Troubles, the fact that he couldn't move was doubled tenfold. Before, he had simply been held still without ability to move even the slightest, but the Time of Troubles, when magic had become unstable, gaps in the magic that preserved him appeared. They had stung him like pins or hot coals, and still he could not move. Could not scream.
Oh, but now! Now he could move! Every step he took was a joy to be able to move again. He felt power and certainty in his step and his arms ached to feel the vicious cuts he would dig when he found his revenge.
Revenge. The word knawed at him as he walked calmly into a livery and shoved his sword through the neck of a stablehand. Even before the boy had slumped to the ground, the reins were in Chev's hands and his foot reaching for the stirrup.
He looked around in a daze as a man screamed and shouted for the guards. With a face of stone, Chev clenched the sword in his hand and ran the man down. Out into the street he rode, bloody sword in hand while people fled from his path, shouting and screaming in alarm.
Shoving the blade in his belt, he paid them no heed as he spurred the horse mercilessly, driving it southward. He had no time for this nonsense. He could take on a hundred men quite comfidently, his strong heart telling him that a single swing or thrust would kill any one of these fools Waterdeep kept as guards.
With no doubts in his mind, he rode south out of the city towards Bravepike Manor. It was there he had defeated his enemies the last time. Massacred the whole works of them. Now the castle belonged to the d'Or family, and they were no doubt headed there. They didn't know that he had seen and heard their every secret for the last century and a half. They'd never know.
The wood split apart easily and fell into two slabs on each side of the cutting block. Pierce hefted the axe over his shoulder and moved another wood block in place. Down came the axe, his fury driving the axe downwards, driving through wood and getting stuck in the cutting block.
Marque Draque watched from the shadows of the basement. Pierce knew he was there of course. It wasn't a matter of hiding, it was a matter that the furnace with its billowing smoke and seething flames cast a light that hurt his weak eyes.
The Doctor grunted and pulled the axe out, stumbling back a step from the effort. He swore inwardly and shoved another block of wood in place. Down came the axe again, a curving angle that ended in splintering wood. Throwing the axe to the side, he picked up the smaller pieces and threw them into the furnace. He slammed the furnace door shut with his foot.
Draque pursed his lips and lit a cigar in the darkness. Placing it between his charcoal lips he breathed in the smoke and watched the tip of the cigar burn more brightly as it sought the ever precious oxygen in the air.
Pierce hacked and spat. His eyes were rimmed with red but it wasn't from the smoke of either furnace nor cigar. He threw down his leather gloves and rubbed his cheeks to get the life back into them.
Draque breathed out the smoke. His eyes wrinkled as he looked at Pierce. "You know, with all our current funds, we could get a gnomish furnace down here. I could place some magical safeguards on it of course in the event of an explosion, of course. Then we wouldn't have to worry about heating the place in the fall and winter."
The warrio shook his head. "Not worth it. I can tell you right now that the gnomes would insist on expanding this room and then later volunteering-" he said the word sarcastically. "-to set up a experiment laboratory down here."
"How about a gate to the elementally plane of fire perhaps?" Draque asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Perhaps, but then we have the chance of a elemental slipping through and burning the place down." Pierce managed a weak smile. "Besides we all remember the last time we went up against fire elementals."
Draque remembered and grinned. "You wasted all your strength fighting them and when that ogre grabbed you and threw you against the wall you were quite ready for a long nap."
Pierce also grinned, although he remembered it a slight differently. "And then you and Witter dragged me back home to that infirmary, dropping me on my head a dozen times-"
"Strange, it didn't effect your intelligence. You're still as dumb as ever!" The drow extinguished his cigar with the heel of his boot and bolted for the door with a vengeful Pierce in pursuit.
Even as he felt his hand wrap around the cloth of the mage's cloak, Pierce knew he wouldn't actually grip it. He slammed into the door with his momentum, letting out an "Oof!" He staggered back and the door opened.
Draque popped his head inside. "Nice new spell, eh? I call it Astral Jump. Lets you made a quick leap through the astral plane and come out on the other side of things. I developed it specifically to get around prismatic wall."
Ignoring his aching jaw, Pierce peered up at the drow mage. "You better cast one of those quick before I get my hands on you. You're gonna need all the walls you can-"
He stopped abruptly, knowing Draque was already gone. He smiled despite himself, knowing the threat had meant nothing. The drow would make a good bard considering his ability to cheer someone up.
Tonight, Pierce thought as he opened the door and climbed the stairs into the chill night air, was a night he needed to be cheered up. Gazing upwards into the heavens, the constellations of the gods' staring back down at him, the fighter again felt at peace.
Normally, in a city one could never see the stars that shone overhead due to the constant lights and sounds. Waterdeep was never quiet. Even in the middle of the night people walked the streets in drunken revelry. The Academy was the exception however, a powerful enchantment of Rambertz's keeping the stars shining above and the sounds of the city dulled until it was lost in the chirping of insects.
He took a step forward into the orchard and before he knew it he was wandering from one part to the next. A night not so long ago, he had felt this way. Empassioned with the seemingly mundane services he tried to uphold for the good of all people, and yet somehow at peace with the rest of the world. Stopping at a pool of water he looked down at the reflection of the stars captured in it.
He leaned over even farther and saw his weathered face and prematurely greying hair. He was getting old far too fast for his taste. He wasn't as strong as he used to be.
Running a hand through his grey temples, he stared into the basin. Chev had pushed him back easily in that test of strength and Pierce was still considered to be incredibly strong. He could have pushed back five years ago though. Could have beat Chev to a pulp.
He wasn't so sure now though. His foresight did strange things sometimes and even now, after years of learning how it worked, he still didn't have a clue sometimes.
Feeling the despair getting to him, he dunked his head in the cold water and then brought it back up. The icy cold water ran down his face and the back of his neck. A sliver of pain as he arched his back from the sudden sensation of water rolling down under his wool tunic.
Shaking his head, he ran his hands through his hair once more before looking in the basin. As the water stilled, despite drips landing in the water and causing tiny ripples, he saw a new image: He was young again. His hair was vibrant and dark brown, almost black. It was an illusion of course, a trick of the water and its ability to make wet hair look darker.
"Pierce?" It was Rambertz behind him.
"Good evening. Beautiful isn't it?"
"Not as beautiful as the sun in all of its glory," the drider responded.
The Doctor turned and flashed a knowing smile at the druid. Shaking his head, Pierce left the water basin and headed for the warmth of his room.
Vinci d'Or studied the racing horse from his seat beside the gatehouse of Bravepike Manor. He could see it coming from a half mile away, as soon as it had crested a hill and came charging down the roads straight for him. At first it had been a vague silhouette against the rising of the sun but as the man rode closer his features grew more distinct. "A messenger?" he mused aloud as the darkly cloaked man rode closer. Setting down his woodcarving of a loon, he stood to greet the traveller.
The cowl fell back off the man's face, his face haggard from travel. He slumped forward in the saddle and the horse slowed dramatically until it was barely a cant. Neither horse nor man looked well.
Vinci ran forward, fearing the man was dead from exhaustion, but it was he that ended up dead on the tip of Chev's blade.
The warrior dismounted calmly, shaking off his cloak. He had no need of such warmth today but the cloak had aided his disguise. His acting skills were still untarnished from time as he stepped over the crumpled form of Vinci.
Using the pommel of the sword he rapped on the gate. A holler came from inside but it was vague and unintelligible. "Open the door or let Ao spite thee!" Chev shouted. "Your guard is sick and in need of help!"
There was several curses and lots of banging around until finally the wooden gates were pried open and a guard looked out. Chev shoved his face in the door to block the man's view.
"Open it dammit! He's getting sicker by the second!"
The guard stepped out of sight and there was more shuffling around as he pulled the brace out from behind the gate to open it wider. When it was barely two hands wide Chev already had his left arm through the door and his right arm ready for a swing he knew so well.
It was too easy. He had done this before. He knew where everything was. What things he shouldn't do and what things he should. Yet this time it was so much more gratifying.
Revenge was sweet and as Dr. Pierce would say, stupidity rules.
Inside Chev's mind the past blurred with the present. Before long he was swinging at shadows of the mind and men at the same time. It was so perfectly clear inside his head. The memories so clear as if they had been yesterday.
He had come through the gate with vengeance in his heart. His longsword had flashed forward and severed the guard's head from his shoulders.
It was so simple. The other guards charged as one and died in pairs as Chev pulled every trick in the book and left behind a wake of dead bodies. The Bravepike warriors were met everywhere he went and killed on sight.
Chev killed them all. Guards. Servants. Bravepikes. Guests. All of them and they only seemed to keep coming. It wasn't until he reached the northwest tower overlooking the Sea of Swords that he started to encounter some difficulty. He was tiring down and he was surprised that he had even made it this far.
When he did, he was up against a group of the best warriors along the coast. Five of them. On the stairs leading up clockwise.
The first had been Clayton.
The two had locked together, with Clayton using his superior size and weight to push Chev back against the wall of the tower. The warrior held him at bay with his buckler and kicked out and pushed Clayton back against the opposite wall.
Holding him there with one braced foot, Chev had sliced at the burly man and chopped the arms off him before he could respond.
Chopping off the man's legs, Chev picked up the still dying man by the neck and used him as a fleshy shield as he charged up the stairs and met the next warrior.
Rowell. A newcomer to the Bravepikes' bodyguards. Chev shoved his living shield in the man's face and while he was distracted, gutted him with his sword from underneath. The young man slumped to the ground and groped at the blood that spilled from his belly and finally bubbled up out of his throat and out his mouth.
By now Clayton had died from loss of blood but he still made a useful shield as Chev held him above his head and continued up the stairs.
Tom Truman was waiting at the top. Here Chev stopped and gauged his opponent for he knew Truman to be both a fabulously skilled warrior.
"You'll die here Chev. You know that don't you?"
"If I do, I'll still be making the history books cuz I'm taking the rest of you with me?"
"And what about Kipriana? Your dear Kipriana? Only the old dork doesn't know that you love her. He's the only one. Do you think that saving her will win you his blessing? The old damsel in distress is given to her lowly rescuer as a bride? I don't think so."
Chev wasn't listening. He charged forward and threw Clayton's dead torso at Truman's feet. The man only sidestepped and stabbed out at Chev's neck.
Up came Chev's buckler and he blocked it and held it there as he pulled his blade slowly across Truman's swordarm.
The bodyguard backed off with only a stump of an arm left and spurted blood all over.
Chev grimaced and stabbed Truman in the left arm, severing bone. He followed up by kicking the warrior's feet out from under him.
Truman lay on the floor gasping, both arms crippled. He looked up to see Chev leaning down over his face.
"For that, I shall leave you alive Truman but it will be a horrible existence for I have crippled you for life. No magic will fix your arms. Gravebringer's magic makes sure of that." Chev straightened and gave him a mock salute with the black adamantite sword. "Have a nice crippled life."
The next warrior surprised Chev from around a corner and stabbed him in the side. Together they had grappled and fallen down the stairs headfirst. Holding his buckler above his head, Chev ignored his bruises until they came to a stop at the landing where Truman was.
Rolling forward, Chev swatted Gravebringer behind him and nicked his assailant's ear. When he finally got to his feet, he saw that he had also nicked the man's temple. Looking closer he recognized the warrior as the youngest son of the Bravepike family, Gareth.
Hoping to use him as a tool, Chev severed Gareth's head from his shoulders and carried him by his hair up the stairs to where the last warrior waited. The oldest brother Matz Bravepike and leader of the family now that their father was dead.
Gareth's bloody head clunked to the floor at Matz's feet. The Bravepike looked up in shock at Chev just in time to get a sword through his forehead.
Alone at last, Chev looked at the steel door. "Kipriana?"
"Chev?" Her voice was low and trembling.
The warrior looked at the blood covering the floor and he quickly threw the body of Matz out the window into the courtyard below. Gareth's head soon followed. Finally, he took a step back from the door and kicked.
The steel door held firmly. The door was meant to swing outwards.
For a moment Chev wondered if he had just thrown the key out the window. Angered by the possibility of a mistake, he drew gravebringer and slashed at the door's hinges repeatedly until they were useless hunks of steel dangling off the wall.
He pulled the handle and stepped to one side as the door crashed the floor. When the dust cleared, he saw her within.
Her brown hair was dirty and unkept. Her pale face was streaked with tears and her fair skin was scarred and scratched. She looked awful indeed but to the warrior's eyes she was the goddess of beauty incarnate.
They left Bravepike Manor that very night and two days later arrived in Waterdeep with Chev's cloak wrapped around her to keep her warm. The guards who met him at the gate saw a man who was so covered in brown caked blood had first thought him to be a zombie.
He almost was too. When he got to the d'Or estate at last it was with a subdued celebration. Chev was immediately separated from Kipriana and sent to clean up before appearing before old man d'Or.
When the warrior finally entered the room, his leather armour cleaned and buckler polished. His shirt was a dashing red silk with a black sash around his middle. The moment he heard the d'Ors' mage chanting, he ripped off the sash immediately and drew Gravebringer but by that time it was too late.
A grey bolt of energy struck him in the chest and spread across his body as he was turned slowly to stone. For a moment he panicked when he realized he couldn't breathe. Then his senses, for he could still see and hear, focused on old man d'Or.
"Chev. Chev. Chev," mumbled the old man and approached the solid statue. "You did a very brave and stupid thing, and now you've paid the price. What else was I supposed to do with you? You knew I had betrothed my daughter to the Orsan lad. It wouldn't have mattered if she had died in the hands of the Bravepikes. She would have still have achieved her purpose and got the Orsan's to ally themselves with us. Now all the Bravepikes are dead and I have no competition except for the Orsan family. They don't even want her now! They think that you've corrupted her and I'm inclined to agree!"
Inside the statue Chev was fighting a mental struggle. He wanted to scream out loud. He wanted, no needed, to lash out at the man before him but couldn't so much as blink at him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Kipriana crying and he wanted to soothe her and wipe the tears away.
He could do nothing though. Nothing but watch and listen.
The old man had Chev placed in the corner of his office and as the years past, the warrior watched him become more and more senile. Their money was starting to run low, the d'Or told him, and they were being forced to make alliances in order to keep their rich lifestyle.
Chev had a brief moment of joy when he learned that the old man had died late one night. He had developed an illness and a terrible cough. Finally the cough had gotten so bad that he was bleeding inside his throat. He had drowned on his own blood and Chev could only think about laughing. That joy didn't last though as he stayed where he was, eyes fixed forward, never sleeping.
Kipriana had come to him one night. There was a party down stairs and Chev could hear the musicians. She was older now and her skin was no longer pale. Standing before Chev's statue, she sipped on her drink as tears rolled down her cheeks and landed on the old red carpet. She swallowed sharply and ducked under his swordarm as she hugged him and leaned her head on his shoulder.
The repressed feelings within him built up to the point where he wanted to scream but could do nothing. He tried to order his arms to move and hug her but no such thing happened.
"I love you Chev," she whispered. She stepped back from him then and took her drink off the desk. Closing her eyes she finished it. The light in her eyes was no longer there when she opened them again. She was dead before she hit the floor.