Fable - Ask Tides of Blood

Kol

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The Lost Isles

Kol had never quite understood the Dark God's sense of humor. It was an odd it that remained a mystery to this day. Their ways were ever changing, their intent unknown, their desires a complete and utter enigma. They spoke over one another now, whispering arguments in his ear as The Sorcerer and his remaining warriors stood upon the side of the mountain.

A voice rang out behind him, a real one, he thought. Kol could tell from how loud it was. The Dark Gods never shouted, they always whispered. This voice called to him, screamed at him out of rage.

"WE LOST, SORCERER! LOST!"​

The screaming man was not wrong. The battle had been lost, and in a surprising fashion.

He had originally lead a hundred and fifty warriors through the tundras of the Isle. Skinwolves, Berserkers, Bloodborne and even a few Vir-Bound. Their trek had been a difficult one, and one they had not survived intact. It had been the accursed plague that had struck them half-way through the journey. Most called it simply the Frost, an aching sickness that seemed to slowly turn oneself into stoney ice from the inside out.

The affliction was brought by the Dark Gods themselves, and even Kol's magic had been useless against it.

Near enough a hundred of their number had passed, left behind within the mountains as little more than statues of ice. Now they had not the numbers to take the village below, their warriors not sufficient to fell those within the halls of Cragmoore Bay. Kol knew this, it was why they were standing upon the cliffs edge, watching the torch lights of the city below.

"The Dark Gods have abandoned you!"​

The voice shouted, and for the first time Kol turned his head. The Sorcerer did not look at the yelling man though, no, he looked at the wide chesire grin that floated in the air just to the right of him. No.

Kol thought to himself

No they are still here. Another grin suddenly peeled itself from the air as though in confirmation of his thoughts, the whispers in his head suddenly growing louder. They spoke over one another, some shouting for blood, others demanding subterfuge and stealth, still others clambering for the sacrifice of a mother carrying her child to bring calamanity to Cragmoore Bay.

Kol closed his eyes.

"YOU! YOU HAVE BROUGHT US TO RUIN YOU WILL BE THE DA-"​

Sudden silenced reigned within his skull as he heard the loud crunch and squelsh as someone slaughtered the screaming man
 
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Skad

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As the body of the man fell face first upon the cliff's edge the reason for his sudden silence was made perfectly apparent. A well-worn axe, buried with perfectly brutality into the man's spine had ended his pathetic, heretical wailing in a single blow.

“Does anybody else lack faith?” Skad asked as she placed a boot upon the body's back and wrenched her axe out like she had done countless times before.

There was no room for men like that amongst their cause.

Such rampant doubt was an ill-fated seed that could easily be spread among others, the longer the man had been allowed to talk the more his garden of uncertainty would grow. The man had become a detriment, his wavering voice had outweighed his use as a pair of hands and a weapon in which to conquer their foes and Skad was more than happy to make the decision to end his whimpering cries.

A sacrificial sceptic to appease the Dark Gods.

It was true, things had not been kind but it was foolish simplicity to expect nothing but benevolence from their deities, their dwindling numbers a stark example of the hardships to be expected within their cause.

Running a gloved thumb down the edge of her axe, the woman smeared the blood of the man down from her philtrum to her chin. A personal acknowledgement to the blood that she had shed for their Dark Gods. A way to feel closer to their tremendous blessings. A message for the others. Falter, and die.

Approaching the Sorcerer that guided their dwindling numbers, Skad looked to him with her singular eye, her face an impassive mask of nothing as if even emotion itself dared not to touch upon the woman's scarred features.

“What is our plan, Kol? What do the Dark Gods say?”
 
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Kol

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The silence was once again broken, albeit this time it was not by the yells of an angry man.

His lips thinned for a brief moment as he closed his eyes, desperately trying to quiet the whispers for even just a few seconds. They did not go away of course, not even for a second, but as he heard steps break the fresh snowfall behind him they at least grew more quiet.

Before Skad reached him Kol opened his eyes, gazing down at the village once more and keeping the chesire grins in his periphery. As the berserker came up behind him Kol noted another grin slowly appearing within the air.

This one was directly ahead of him, eyes fixed on it as Skad asked him her question.

For a brief second The Sorcerer wondered just what he should do, what his answer would be. Each of the Dark Gods wanted something different. Each of them wanted their own path. Almost never did they agree on a single road.

Yet they had before. "We take the town."

Kol said softly.

"The Dark Gods demand blood, and blood they shall have." Slowly The Sorcerer turned away from his perch and towards Skad. "But the slaughter will come quietly."

It was the only way they would win.
 
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Skad

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As the Sorcerer's gaze remained fixed upon the town below she observed him. Despite their trek plagued by misfortune, Skad did not hold any doubt about Kol. Perhaps such blind faith was foolish, after all, there had been those who questioned his blessings, accusing the man of being a deceiver that communed with nothing more than trickery and charade. Such voices had been silenced.

He had already done what many had tried and failed to do before and his very act of uniting the Nordwiir tribes that seemed instinctively ingrained to internal conflict was a clear sign of what was to come.

Blood.

“While they sleep,” Skad replied in assumption, the idea of slitting throats of the vulnerable not bothering the raider in the slightest.

They no longer held the numbers to take the town by brute force, this much the woman knew and despite the longing for battle that stained most of their souls there would be little point in throwing it all away. This was only the beginning. They had so much more to do.

The woman shifted, taking her own steps towards the cliff edge to appraise the town with her single green eye. They would need to make a plan of attack, identify those who would provide the greatest threat to their depleted forces and dispatch them first in the dead of night. Then, even if the alarm was raised it would be too late. Simple, on paper but in practice...

“We'll need to prepare,” Skad commented, stating the obvious as her back remained facing Kol, “and you need to raise morale, the men are beginning to falter.”

The fresh corpse in the snow was more than enough evidence for that.
 
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Kol

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His gaze swept towards the men, then towards the corpse. "He is not enough?"

Kol was never once for 'raising' morale. His people were not much for it, never had been. Though Skad was right. He was supposed to be changing them, making them better and forging them into something completely new.

A single tribe.

The Sorcerer's gaze slowly drifted between Skad and the other men, lips thinning for a brief moment as he looked at one of the grins in the air. They seemed to widen, taunting him, the whispers growing a bit louder.

"Blood will raise their morale." He told Skad as he stepped towards the corpse and grabbed the mans hair. A blade suddenly appeared within Kol's hand, flecks of odd black twisting from nothing and forming into a knife. "Waterskin."

Kol bid her as he pressed the tip of his curved blade into the dead man's throat.
 
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Skad

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“Enough to make them weary of me.”

And she wouldn't have had it any other way. As if the moniker of Kin-Slayer wasn't enough to keep her fellow Nordwiir on their toes, it never hurt to have a little demonstration. It put them all in their place and let them know that Skad wasn't fucking around with notions of doubt on this journey.

“The Dark Gods speak through you, and you alone. It is you they need to believe, not me.”

She obliged, stone-faced as the blood of fading life began to pour forth from the man's throat to be caught in the waterskin held below, the warmth of the crimson giving off the barest traces of steam in the frigid air that surrounded them. There was nothing unusual about this, their people held reverence in blood and sacrifice, for some of them it was all that they knew.

“Otherwise, this will all be for nothing,” the raider continued as the vital fluids spilt over the lip of the mouthpiece and onto her gloves.

She believed in Kol's blessing, fully holding faith in this new cause of unity amongst tribes that knew nothing but inner-strife but knew that it would ultimately be fruitless without greater numbers, and they had already lost so many to the Frost. They couldn't lose any more to doubt.
 
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Kol

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The Sorcerer nodded his head, frowning for a moment as Skad spoke though deciding that her words held a wisdom.

It was the will of the Dark gods that she was sent there, the will that they were all here. Kol was the one who interpreted that will, the one who could take it and mould it into something else. His fingers tightened on the man's head for a moment, and then the waterskin was full.

"It shall be done." Kol said as he grabbed the waterskin from her.

He took it with surprising delicacy, his hand wrapping around the leather neck as he closed his eyes and muttered a few words. There was an odd spark on his right arm, a brief flick of something in the air, and then a flash of light erupted just above the neck of the waterskin.

"The Dark Gods have blessed me." He confirmed, his voice growing louder. "And this is a battle we shall win!"

The Sorcerer stood. "Those who drink from this skin shall know their blessing as I have."

He looked towards his men as he stood.

"Those who drink shall know no death. Shall find no rest." Slowly he looked towards them. "Those who drink shall live within the histories."
 
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Skad

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As Kol gave his small speech of blood, the tribute and blessings, the promise Skad stood off to the side, surveying the men whose attention had been captured by the charismatic sorcerer. The woman's dead-eyed stare studied each and every face, searching for remnants of worthless doubt and fear. She would note who stepped forward first, and who stepped forward last. Separate the wheat from the chaff.

Cutting down every hesitant soul, however, was quite an unproductive habit when embarking on a new adventure such as this. One was the mark of an example made, two was the mark of a poor first example.

She could see the weariness amongst them, the weathered faces holding darkened circles beneath dull eyes as the fatigue of their travels and misfortune weighed heavy upon flesh. Loosening furs and leathers from relative famine. Taking the town could resolve so much of this, they only needed to take faith in Kol's offering from the Dark Gods.

Skad's gloved hands twisted upon the hilt of her axe, smearing blood upon the wood as she observed the group's hesitation. The first pair of boots stepped up to Kol, and another followed in that man's stead.

“Come,” Skad spoke, raising a hand to the bloodskin, her voice demanding yet not raised, an unnerving chill that left threat lurking behind her, “drink.”
 
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Kol

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The blessings of the Dark Gods were not often kind.

What some called a gift others called a curse. For Kol this had rung truer than most. Some would dub the voices in his head grand, something to aspire towards, something to wish for. Yet the never ending whispers, the lack of silence and the constant gazes that fell upon him were torture.

The Sorcerer had not slept for years, and it was doubtful that he ever would again. It was the Dark Gods themselves that kept him going, allowed him the life that he lived now. His gaze flickered towards Skad, noting she had not taken a drink.

As the last warrior in line drank from the skin, Kol motioned for Skad to return to his side.

When she turned though, the first scream would tear from the warriors lips. In an instant their skin would begin to stretch, their flesh tear and their muscles burst forth from the gashes. The men twisted and broke, chesire grins appearing above them as the Dark Gods took their forms.

"Those who do not believe cannot be forced to." He imparted the knowledge to Skad. "So they will serve in another way."

As the Dark Gods demand.
 
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Skad

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One by one, each reluctant man stepped up to drink the Dark God's crimson blessing but before the woman, herself could drink she was summoned to the sorcerer's side. Before there was time for Skad to even be offended by the denial of such promise, there was a scream that caused the grip on her axe to tighten.

It was pained. It was terrified. It was primal.

One after another until it all became a howling cacophony of terror that would no doubt slowly echo its way into the town below, inspiring fear into the hearts of those that listened.

Skad's expression flickered from alarm to curiosity before settling back into her regular callous observation. The men had erupted from their furs in what was a hideous and painful transformation, no longer resembling their former selves but instead monsters. Suddenly, instead of a handful of craven Nordwiir, they now had hulking abominations.

This would make taking the town much easier.

“At least the snivelling cunts will be useful now,” Skad replied, still watching the wicked creatures before them. Suddenly it was quite fortunate that she had not taken a drink from the waterskin. Nodding towards the town below them, the raider locked eyes with the sorcerer, her stare still hollow and cold.

“There will be no quiet slaughter now. No need to wait until they sleep.”
 
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Kol

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"No silence." Kol agreed with a nod of his head, his eyes slowly peeling away from the woman and towards the abominations that now stood before them.

He had wondered just how Skad would react.

One of the gods had whispered this particular truth in his ear, but he had been doubtful. Most would have reacted far more negatively, screamed, cursed him. Some would even have tried to stick a knife into his throat just because of what had happened.

She had accepted it.

The Dark Gods all seemed to grin at him at the same time, watching with their eyeless gazes as if their smugness could only grow larger. Kol, for some odd reason, smiled as well. Perhaps he had finally found one that was not so simple. "We go now, catch them within their feast."

A slaughter that was demanded.
 

Skad

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No further words were needed as Skad turned upon her heel to begin the short descent down into the town.

Her mind had already shifted, away from the demise of their reluctant party and towards the upcoming battle. It didn't occur to the woman that Kol's deeds could be considered monstrous in practice, if anything, to her it was a necessity. No better than what any of them deserved and at the same time turning them into something far more useful.

Why follow the Sorcerer that communed with the Dark Gods if you were to hold any shred of doubt in the first place?

Skad turned the hilt of the axe in her hands as she marched downhill, her breathing focused, thoughts turning to blood and slaughter. However as the drew closer the woman paused, bringing up the blade of her weapon to her own face and bringing it down her own cheek. As the crimson trickled down and dripped from her chin she muttered guttural words of their own tongue.

Ritual before massacre.

A drop for the Dark Gods to sup upon before a river would flow.
 
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Kol

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Kol moved quickly, quietly, his weight shifting as the abominations followed close behind.

The village, as he had expected, did not know anything was coming. They were not waiting, they did not know, it was peaceful quiet. There was something to be said about that peace, and something to be said about the fact that they were going to break it.

"The sentries first." Kol told Skad as they got closer.

His hand jerked towards the edges of the city, pointing out two further points and the watchtowers that lay there.

"I'll go for that one." He pointed. "You that one."

Then the beasts would run wild.