Sabine of the Ten Rings: The Broken Cycle, Part One

In the cold of a winter’s night in the palace of Serekson, a violet mist brought with it a dreadful omen. The shadows and clouds that hung over the moon kept the bizarre phenomenon hidden

In the cold of a winter’s night in the palace of Serekson, a violet mist brought with it a dreadful omen. The shadows and clouds that hung over the moon kept the bizarre phenomenon hidden from the eyes of the castle’s guards until it was too late. Just as the first of the sentinels got a look into the haze, he fell, coughed, and hacked violently. The wicked miasma overwhelmed the warriors atop the ramparts before they could call for any warning or assistance.

The captain of the watchers, who held on to life a little longer than his companions, got a good look at the tall beast of a man in the center of the maelstrom. His skin was pallid and tinged with yellow like a corpse, the crown upon his forehead was a circle of onyx with four pairs of ram’s horns upon it, and his eyes were an inhuman, ruby color. The captain of the guard had lost many of his fellow knights over the last decade to this creature, but he always believed he would be the one constant survivor. As he took in a stench like rotten flesh, he recognized the evil wizard for who he was.

“D-D- Dahkhal!”

The monster man raised a staff of gnarled wood with a violet jewel at its top, thrust it down into the captain’s head, and crushed his skull. With a raise of his free hand and a voice like the deepest abyss, he said, “Now, let me hear that name again.”

The vile mist slipped into the bloody hole in the captain’s head and, in a sickening, unnatural motion, he rose from the ground and fixed himself in a kneel. The now-undead warrior answered, “Yes, Lord Dahkhal.”

The warlock laughed in satisfaction as the mists swirled about and slipped into the bodies of the choked-out guard patrol. After a few seconds, all of them pushed back to their feet in jerky, unnatural motions.

Together, they chanted, “Hail Lord Dahkhal. Hail Lord Dahkhal.”

A moment thereafter the castle’s warning bells were rung. The wizard turned inward toward the battlements at the palace’s center as the royal guard drew bows, nocked arrows, and shouted, “Dahkhal has returned! Protect Princess Sabine!”

With a flick of his staff, Dahkhal vanished again into the mists as his freshly resurrected army ran at the soldiers of Serek. Brother fought against undead brother as the revolting mist continued to choke out any it came in contact with. The haze the warlock vanished into flew up toward the palace’s highest tower. As his body rematerialized, he leered upon his prize, asleep in the grand bed just before him. With a half-rotted smile of malice, Dahkhal licked his lips.

“Oh, Princess.” A slight rhythm slipped into his voice as if he sang a cursed nocturne. “I’ve missed you, little girl. It’s been much too long now, hasn’t it?” He studied her sleeping figure with his eyes, from her fiery red hair to the nightdress that hugged tightly to her legs—they were even longer and more toned than he remembered. Dahkhal looked forward to the sight of the horror in her eyes and quivers on those soft lips. “Soon, the holy power within you will belong to me. No matter how many times your beloveds slay me, I will return, and I will claim you.” From the adjoining room, Dahkhal heard a slow, steady streaming sound of some kind. “Sounds like your husband’s on the chamber pot. I hope you told him how dear he is to you because I will have my revenge on him as well.”

Dahkhal wanted to see her overcome with terror, just as he always had before. The warlock began this routine years ago when she was just a little girl. Her rescuer then had just been a child as well, and the shame that came with that defeat had never left Dahkhal completely. But soon after his death came a fast revival. The curse placed on the Serek royal family in times out of mind ensured Dahkhal would never remain dead for long. And, no matter how many resurrections it took, the sacred power within her soul and the kingdom itself would one day be his.

Dahkhal grabbed her by an almost bare shoulder. “Now, little girl, show me how you have missed me!” He turned her over, opened his jaws, and ran his tongue along her cheek. Surely tears would be flowing, and he wanted a taste of that sweet misery.

That was funny, he thought. He couldn’t remember her tasting so rough and… hairy?

The warlock blinked in momentary confusion before he looked down at his prize. The creature that laid upon the bed wore a thick brown beard around his mouth, the ruby hairs at the back of his head seemed only loosely attached, the man’s eyes bulged and his face was left in a perpetual state of horror.

The beast gasped and jumped up. Wasn’t that the last of the heroes who had come to rescue her? What was he doing in the bed in what appeared to be Sabine’s dress, Sabine’s hair, and suffering from asphyxiation?

“Hey, dickhole!”

Dahkhal’s jaw went slack as he looked up. In a single second, he absorbed the image of a young woman garbed in an oversized sleeping tunic. She must have been the one he’d heard at the chamber pot. In her hands were a nocked arrow and a bow, upon her head was hair shorn short, but unquestionably the same ruby red as on the man’s body. And he had heard Sabine’s voice enough over the years to recognize it. Within the second of recognition, her arrow glowed in glorious, celestial light.

The dark one screamed, “NO!” just before the holy weapon soared through one of his eyes, he collapsed back onto the bed and screamed in agony.

To be Continued…

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