Fable - Ask Rebirth

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Nazara

The Shade
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The Bloody Meadow
Harlowe

"I ain' even sur' ther' enugh to bargain wif."

The words were like a sharp razor scraping over the ear, Nazara looking down at the massive Golem for a brief moment as he gestured to the dozens upon dozens of corpses that lay spread out in a field before them.

Some were monstrous. hulking forms that had been felled by spears, arrows, and the rare blade. Most, however, were human. Men and women who had been slaughtered, torn apart, and left to rot beneath the waning moon of the night. The regiment had done their brutal work, as they always did, yet their losses had been severe.

"You gun' try find knew recruits?"

The golem spoke again, Nazara looking back at him with a nod of his head. "I will."

A slight pause hung in the air, and then the stony figure seemed to shift with a nod. He was a massive thing, standing near twice as tall as any ordinary man. Nazara could still remember when he had signed. Velak, his name was. He'd been a Templar, or something of the sort, sent to wipe out the Regiment in the northern Savannah.

In their attempt they had died, and a half a dozen of their ranks had become what they had sought to kill. It was poetic justice in a way, and many of them had lived miserable lives after their contract.

"Go find the others." Nazara said as he walked forward towards the field of corpses. "I'll join you soon."

The Shade stepped forward, moving away from his companion and slowly casting his black eyes down towards those beginning to rot among the field. Searching for the few that still breathed.
 
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Harlowe

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That's a shame... I had hoped there would be stars...

Harlowe had dreamt of death so often it felt almost like a memory. That was a soldiers destiny after all, to die for ones country. That was the pledge she had made when she was only 16 years old, nearly 10 years ago now, in a crowd of others. Some of them had not made it through their first year but Harls was scrappy, at least, that was the word her commander had often chuckled. Nearly 10 years. She should have been proud. Gods, she hoped her father and mother would be proud. Proud of what? Their daughter lying in a field underneath the darkening sky with not even stars for company as she took her final breaths?

This wasn't the death she had dreamt of.

The death she had dreamt of had taken place hours ago now. The epic final stand against an impossible army. It had taken nine arrows and a lance through her gut before she had gone down. That is what her parents would be proud of if there had been anyone to witness it who wasn't now also lying beside her on the hill on which they had chosen to die.

Nobody tells you death takes longer than that...

She dragged in a ragged breath that was mostly blood and her eyelids fluttered. No, nobody told you that death was not over in seconds in that blaze of glory. Nobody told you it was lying in the mud for hours, feeling it seep through your armour and chill against your skin as you drowned in your own blood. They should... add that... to the manual... The amusing thought almost made her laugh but what came out was a hacking, wretched cough. Her eyes screwed shut in pain as the movement jarred the arrows still protruding from her body. Very slowly she let out a breath and gazed once more towards the sky.

It's a shame... I had hoped there would be stars.
 
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Nazara

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Walking through a field of corpses and finding the budding life among them was something most would find difficult.

The sight of so many hacked limbs, cut bellies, and torn throats would have been a disturbing sight to most. For Nazara it was simply another day, a practice he had taken to over years that had been lost to memory long ago. He could not remember the first time he had walked through such a field, could not recall those steps he had taken.

Slowly black eyes swept over the dead, searching, looking for the small motions of a rising chest. A curling finger. Any life that was still left to be found.

It was a difficult thing.

The Regiment were good at their job, and their battles were exceptionally brutal. Perhaps it was a method to weed out the weak, to take away those who would not make it anyway. The Shade did not know, nor did he truly care.

Trained eyes flickered back and forth as empty footfalls crushed what little life remained beneath them. Slowly his gaze swept back and forth until he spotted one. A figure laying among the dead, barely moving, but moving still.

Slowly he stepped over to her, no shadow casting over her even as blocked the sun at his back. It was as though he wasn't there at all.

Nazra squatted down besides the girl, looking down. "Life slips away so quickly, doesn't it?"

He asked, his voice calm. Even.
 
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Harlowe

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Was this Death? With black eyes that could swallow you whole in their gaze and wearing a bloodied uniform?

It seemed like a mountainous task to turn her face towards him but she did it all the same. She would always look at Death directly; she would not shirk away from her fate. Her life might have been a short one but sometimes the brightest fires gutted the earliest. Her name would live on in the history of her people as one of the Final Ten who had held back the forces of the damned to give her people a chance to escape. There would be songs sung about her in the halls and whilst her parents wept they would be proud of her. They would be honoured to call her their daughter.

Legends did not fear death.

She drew in a rasping breath to reply but as she spoke blood speckled her lips.

"I do not fear you," despite the wheeze she too sounded calm. "I have had a rendezvous with Death for many years... I just didn't know the Time of our appointment."
 
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Nazara

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How many times had he heard those words? How many times had someone told him that they were ready to embrace the end, ready to see what the Abyss held?

It seemed almost countless in his head now. The first time he had done so seemed such a distant thought, such a far away thing that he struggled to even recall it. His lips quirked in a slight smile, his eyes peering down at her.

"Why would you fear an angel of mercy?" He asked softly.

Every person was different.

Every one of them had a different desire, a different need or want. He had heard them all over the years, yet each time they sounded almost new.

"Are you so eager for death..." Nazara said. "That you would throw away your life?"
 
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Harlowe

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Yes...

But eager for the wrong reasons. She wanted the pain to end first and foremost in that moment. Even now she could feel the arrow lodged into her side scape along her ribcage with every rise and fall of her chest, she could feel the splintered wood of the lance inside of her stomach and the way her insides oozed out of the gaping wound. She was eager to join the other heroes of her people in the great Meadows where food and drink was plenty and they swapped tales of their escapades over goblets of wine. She felt it was her due, her reward, her...

But did she want to die because she thought it was better than life?

Harlowe began to cough, great hacking wet sounds that shook her whole body. The pain spiked and even now her hands moved feebly on instinct to hold her guts inside of her.

"Please, Great Balancer, do not toy with me any longer. I am ready..."
 
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Nazara

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Ahhh.

So he was death once again. It was an amusing role to play, and one that he had done quite well in during the past. He smiled slowly, his teeth half showing.

He watched as she coughed, listened to her words. Had he been that fragile once? That easy to break apart? His gaze flickered over her wounds, the arrow in her side, the gash within her stomach. The way that her hand moved as if it would somehow stave off the pain.

Nazara did not remember being this fragile. He hardly remembered anything from those days.

"Do not be so eager, child." He told her softly. "There is another path."

The man reached over, slowly grasping her hand and pulling it away from her wound. "Another life that you may lead."
 
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Harlowe

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She tried so desperately to resist the tug of his hand; even if she was willing to go with him into the Afterlife it went against the very nature of being human to let herself bleed out. For even now as she lay there so beyond repair she fought to live, to survive. She supposed it was a natural instinct of any creature and she was ashamed she still harboured it in His presence. Yet when he spoke those words... oh she was tempted. What kind of test was this?

Her hand was limp and slick with blood in his grasp as she raised her eyes with effort to his. Darkness was creeping in now at the edges of her vision and she knew, deep in some primal part of her, that the end was nearing. Finally calling upon her as though it had been dealing with the host of other damned souls that lay around her.

"What... path...?"
 
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Nazara

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His fingers wrapped around her bloody palm, softly squeezing in reassurance even as she slowly bled to death beneath his gaze.

"Life." Nazara said simply.

Most beings, no matter how stalwart, did not want to die. They were afraid of the unknown. Afraid of what could come to pass. The terror of the unknown was enough to let people say yes, though he already knew that with her it would not be so.

Some required more.

He wove the words like a minstrel. "You do not have to stop here."

Nazara told her softly.

"You could keep going." His fingers softly squeezed hers. "Feel the pride swell in your chest. Hear your legend grow. See those who you fought so savagely to protect."

He told no lies. Not a single one.
 
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Harlowe

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Blood trickled from the corner of her lips as her rendezvous with death marched closer.

His words were like sweet honey being poured into her ears to feed that primal desire to survive an go on. It spoke to her ego and her pride, to her vanity and her desire for a legacy. She had always wished in a way she would be able to attend her own funeral to hear what it was others would say about her over her grave when nobody else was listening. But was what he offered her now some trick? If she gave in and said yes would she be barred from the gates of Ylven forever?

Her hand grew weaker.

Still...

"How?" she had to know.
 
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Nazara

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"A new life." He told her, slowly leaning in. "A new path."

Nazara's words were a spun tale. "You have so much left to do, so much left to see."

It was almost as though he were painting a picture, an image of the future as he continued to weave his words around her. Her fingers weakened, but Nazara did not seem to care, did not even seem to notice. He only spoke, whispered his honeyed torments.

"All you have to do is say yes." He told her. "Glory, legacy, all of it can be yours. You can be stronger, faster."

The Shade glanced away from her for a moment, then slowly looked back down. "Don't let this be your end."
 
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Harlowe

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It's a shame... I had hoped there would be stars...

Her thoughts kept circling back to that as her eyes left the black abyss of Death's to take in the sky once more. His breath tickled her blood-caked skin like a warm summers breeze and his words were as sweet as the flowers that had once grown in this meadow, and would grow again in the future using their blood to fuel their life. All those things she would never get to see again if she let the darkness take her.

Her father, her mother... That half finished painting back in her lonely little bunk. So many threads to fight for, to live for but it was the stars she wanted to see more than anything. Just one... last...

"Yes," she breathed as her eyes finally fell shut.
 
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Nazara

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A small smile touched his lips.

Those empty black eyes stared back at her, and slowly, ever so slowly his hand withdrew from hers. A nod dipped his head, and he closed his eyes as he took a deep breath. There was something, something in the air that seemed to twist and shift.

A second passed.

Then suddenly Nazara's hand snapped forward. His fingers reached into her throat, grasping, twisting, and then ripping. The last thing she would feel was her own life ended, the last thing she would feel was her neck snap as a black tide swept forth from what she knew as death and consumed her.

It was the last thing she would see.

The last thing that would happen before her new life.
 
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Harlowe

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I have a Rendezvous with Death.

... But not today.


The next three days were an agonising experience that people belonging to the Infernal Regiment did not speak of. Each person seemed to undergo the change differently depending on what it was they transformed in to but all of them agreed on one thing; it was the worst pain they had ever and would ever know. She was thankful that her waking moments were fleeting and that the darkness of unconsciousness staked a greater claim over her. What little she did remember of her time awake was a confused jumble of thoughts, snippets of words, faces and feelings. She was sure there had been a goblin and a gorgon of some kind peering over her. She remembered screaming until someone had pressed a cloth over her mouth and nose to send her back to sleep. Deaths face, too, she remembered. A small room with no windows. A bed, slick with sweat and blood.

She dreamed and she remembered until they became one.

On the third day, Harlowe finally opened her eyes.

The room she was in was lit by soft candlelight but even that made her wince and turn her face away with a hiss that sounded far too loud to her delicate ears. She expected to feel... something. Some hint of the trauma her body had been going through for the last three days but truthfully she felt... good. Exhausted perhaps but there was no tenderness to her muscles, no ache or sharp pain that indicated broken bones. There should have been so many agonies when now there was none. Tentatively she raised a hand and ran it over her naked body. Where there should have been scars or bandages was only smooth, hard skin.

"What... happened..."
she asked herself as she tried to roll on to her side.
 
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Nazara

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It was not the man with black eyes who greeted her, not the aspect of death that had offered her a bargain that sat within the small room with two others she did not know.

Instead it was a woman, or perhaps what might have been a woman at one point. A gorgon most would have called her. Half snake, half woman. She sat with her tail coiled in the corner of the room, a book in her hand and a strange almost flesh like bow besides her.

She looked up as Harlowe awoke. "Ah, the first one."

The Gorgon mused as she slowly closed her book, making sure to mark the page as she slowly slipped it away into her coat. Her tail slowly unfurled, dragging along the ground of the small cabin as she shifted and slowly slithered over towards the waking girl.

"I had wondered what you would be." She mused. "There are always so many possibilities."

The Gorgon seemed almost pleased.
 
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Harlowe

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Harlowe had always had good reflexes and a decent amount of speed to back it up but what happened next was beyond her capabilities.

The monster that slithered towards her had her reeling. Memories came to her through the thick god that eclipsed her mind of similar beasts on the battlefield where she had died. That is what had turned the tide of the war in favour of their enemies. Orcs, goblins, gorgons, harpies, gnolls... everything straight out of the nightmarish fairytales parents had told their children when they were young to keep them from mischief. It was a natural, human, reaction to try and get herself away from the thing that came towards her. Oh, and she moved.

In a blink she was off the bed and against the wall. The speed and force she had automatically applied to the action were tenfold in her new form and she hissed as she dented the wall with her impact. Bits of brick and plaster tumbled to the floor. For a moment Harlowe stared dumbfounded at the empty bed she had been in just seconds ago.

"What's happening to me...?" she whispered, eyes wide with fright.
 
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Nazara

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The Gorgon frowned. "Do be careful."

There was a hiss to the words.

"We only have one of these right now, everyone else is being forced to sssleep outside." For a moment her frowned remained, and then she let out a long sigh. There was always a difficulty in explaining this.

Sometimes it was easier, but she could already tell that the girl would be difficult.

"It is the result of your bargain." She said, her tail curling in front of her once more. "Your new life."

Violet eyes narrowed for a moment. "I think I know what you are, Orin will be pleased."

The Gorgon mused.
 
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Harlowe

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All you have to do is say yes...

As soon as she mentioned a bargain the words drifted back to her unbidden through the mists of her mind along with the Devil's face. She had said yes to living. She had given in to her ego and her pride and her desire to see what she had done on that field become a legacy she could be proud of. Now it seemed she was about to find out the cost of one tiny, little word in a moment of weakness.

Shakily she pushed herself off from the wall causing more wall to shower down in a flurry. She was suddenly so very tired and weak, like a new born lamb trying to walk for the very first time.

"What I am?" she repeated in a tiny voice and looked down at her hands. They were hers and yet... different. Everything was different. "What... what am I?" she almost didn't dare to ask.
 
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Nazara

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"A vampire." The Gorgon declared confidently, though then quickly added. "If I had to guess."

Slowly the creature slithered just the slightest bit forward, though did not approach the girl entirely.

She knew well enough just how violently the newly changed could be. More than once they had tried to turn on her, more than once they had foolishly tried to escape the fate that they had willingly bound themselves to. She herself had been one of them.

Once.

"It's hard to tell..." She began as she slithered closer.

"But..." A hand reached out. "If you just let me..."
 
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Harlowe

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Her diagnosis was like a sentence. A sentence to eternal damnation of the soul. A sentence to an eternal life of hunger and feasting on the very people she had died to protect just days ago. Horror filled her and drained her of what little colour was left in her ashen cheeks. It couldn't be real. She hadn't... She couldn't have... She didn't-!

"No!" Harlowe cried and launched herself towards the door. It had seemed an impossible task to get to the other side of the room before the gorgon could grab at her but somehow she managed it and wrenched on the door. The thing came off in her hand but she was running on a cocktail of adrenaline, fear and horror to stop herself now. She darted from the room without a backwards glance.

Whilst she might have possessed some quick bursts of her newfound gifts, she was newly made and weak. The speed stopped and started like a broken toy causing her to careen into one wall, then another a bit further down the corridor, and another like some helpless, dazed bird. On the fifth collision she sunk to her knees, spent.

"It can't be true."
 
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Nazara

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Half a dozen creatures slowly turned their head towards Harlowe as she tumbled onto the ground.

A golem, a strange sort of draconic creature, a man who seemed to shift and move every time one looked at him, and others who were more out of place than the rest. Out of all of them only one stood, the figure that had sold her the deal.

Nazara slowly pushed himself away from the table that he had been resting at, no drink or food in front of him. The bench scraped against the wood, and slowly he stepped over towards Harlowe.

"I'm afraid she got away from me." The Gorgons voice echoed behind the girl, though the devil that Harlowe had sold her soul to simply waved a hand dismissively.

"They are quick little creatures." Nazara commented. "Orin will be pleased."

Slowly the Shade stepped in front of Harlowe, squatting down once more. "Hello, Child."
 
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Harlowe

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Crimson eyes rose to meet orbs of obsidian black and shuddered.

She wanted to throw the blame at his feet but she knew in her heart he hadn't lied to her once on that bloodied field. He had given her a path which allowed her to live to see the people she would have left behind and to hear the songs they would make about her and the Ten. It had been her own doing this mess, whatever this mess was. Vampire. The word still hung above her neck like a sharp axe. She wanted to cry, she wanted to scream and rage and hurt him. But no tears came - could they even come? - and her body was too exhausted for anger.

Harlowe pulled her knees tight against her chest and rested her forehead upon them, rocking gently.

"It's not real,"
she whispered softly to herself.
 
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Nazara

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"It is." Nazara said as he waved his hand towards the Gorgon.

For a few moments the creature seemed to linger, and then her shoulders shrugged as she turned and slithered back towards the room Harlow had left.

A few people were still watching the newly born Vampire, one even slowly stood and began to walk towards the door. Nazara paid none of them any attention of course. He had seen it all before, and would see it again in time.

"It is very real." His hands settled on his knees. "The sooner you accept it the better it will be."

Nazara said with a tilt of his head. "Your new life does not have to be a curse."

He said quietly.

"it is a gift." Another truth, at least from his point of view.
 
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Harlowe

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"A gift?!"

Harlowe's head snapped up and she snarled the words with bared teeth. To her horror she felt the tiny pricks of fangs on her lower lip and anger faded quickly to disgust. She threw her hands over her mouth as though somehow that would hide her shame. It felt like the moment for tears but they did not come and Harlowe was unsure whether that was a gift or a curse in and of itself. A pregnant pause stretched between them as they stared at one another. Each one thinking, assessing, processing.

Slowly, Harls dropped her hands back into her lap and exhaustion etched itself onto her sharply defined features.

"How is this a life worth living? Cursed to not feel the sun on my face... to feast on... on..." she couldn't bring herself to say it for the very thought made her want to throw up.
 
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Nazara

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He watched her outburst for a moment more, wondering when the last time it was that he had seen a Vampire come from the Contract.

Nazara was almost sure that it had been Orin himself, though perhaps some of the others had recruited some of the bloodsworn. He frowned for a moment, then noticed that her head had dipped back down. "You are stronger, faster."

The shade reminded her.

"Your wounds will heal faster and you will leave a legacy that most would envy." That was what he had promised, and it was what she had. "You died alone."

He told her. "With only a shadow at your side."

Nazara's words once again dropped to that odd entrancing voice.

"Now, now you rise among those who will understand you more than you could ever imagine." He whispered. "Your new life is what you choose it to be. What you will it to be."
 
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