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Author Topic: Where Black Roses Bloom  (Read 410 times)

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Offline ThornebloodTopic starter

Where Black Roses Bloom
« on: September 08, 2013, 05:02:06 PM »

Cabrion’s Garden
Kingdom of the Damned

“I often find that I cannot forget the beauty you have forged in this place.” Elraesa whispered, her voice like elegant silk caressing his skin.

The demon’s amber-lit eyes widened at the admission, his smile forming quickly and foolishly, leaving the woman before him grinning as she spun away and continued along the garden’s winding path. Cabrion gave a soft shake of his head, a quiet refusal of the compliment she had offered for he found the vision before him, an angel in service to the Spirit of Passions, to be the far more beautiful sight.

“Forged?” he said with a growling chuckle “How would one hammer a flower?”

“In this land it would take the strength of a hammer to bring forth such flowers. A strength I see in your heart.” She whispered, walking away slowly.

The lingering scent of the Stygian Orchids, rare night-purple flowers whose scents brought visions of the dead to mortals, mingled with her own intriguing fragrance to begin gently tugging him along in her wake like a faithful pet.

As his long legs carried him down the path behind her Cabrion had one more opportunity to admire the Angeli’s form, her grace, her heavenly soul.  She held a beauty beyond that expected of Passions Angels, her soft skin as white and radiant as the moon, her eyes devoid of pupil and filled with a rich emerald light that poured from the corners like streams of enchanted tears. Hair spun from the darkness spilled down her back, between the intricate tattoos of wings that graced her bared skin, like all Passions Angels she wore sheer robes cut low in the front and lower in the back, allowing any who wished to view the exquisite work of ink and divine magic.

“Will you sow them amongst the mortals?” Elraesa whispered, drawing his focus from her tattoo and up until he met her emerald gaze, all the while the soft smile on her lips were begging to be kissed, and taunting him at the same time. It seems she asked the question more then once.

“No, that would break the treaty.” Cabrion answered hesitantly.

Elraesa merely snorted “The treaty” before turning and continuing in her slow walk through his garden, eyes drinking in the beauty that she had in small part helped inspire.

“Not pleased by your service?” he offered teasingly, pushing back his growing doubts.

“What if I were to tell you that soon the treaty would mean nothing?” Elraesa said teasingly, the flower petals rolling slowly over her lips as they curled in a knowing smile. “Would you not wish to see your creations blessing the nights across all of Shaethe?

“No, I would not” Cabrion answered honestly, his eyes narrowing as he began to wonder what the angel before him now had truly seen in him when they had first met. “Is that your reason for agreeing to meet me here? To test my will?”

“I am drawn to those whose passion calls to me, as you well know.” Elraesa repilied tersely, eyes blazing jade fire.

“Tell me what you see.” Cabrion whispered.

“What I see?” Elraesa asked, her head tilting in a curious gesture.

“In me, when you look at my demon form.” Cabrion said softly, the growl inherent to his nature growing more defined with each word.

“Ah, your cursed skin?” the angel could not help but tease.

“Yes.” Cabrion growled harshly, no longer hiding his heritage, his amber eyes burning.

Like all demons, all traitors, Cabrion had been branded for his actions in the Fall. Skin that had once been much like her own was now coated in thick, though admittedly soft, black fur. His face, once handsome by all accounts, was now more animal then man while his eyes held only a glimmer of his former angelic nature and intelligence. Fangs, claws, he even had a tail hidden beneath the dark black robes embroidered with crimson thorn vines that he always wore.

And he was one of the lucky one’s.

“A wolf” she said finally “I would say you look like a wolf.”

Cabrion could only chuckle “So I am, at best, a beast. Mighty Cabrion, once Knight Commander in the Angeli Order is now but another dog.”

Elraesa shook her head sadly, staring at the orchid he had given her as she spoke in that soft silken voice “Five hundred years is a long time to hold on to such anger. The Queen’s final curse bid your bodies only to be a true reflection of your souls.”

“Has it truly been that long?” he whispered, ignoring the truth and clinging to his anger.

“Any word from the King?” Elraesa teased, a half smile on her lips.

“Nothing.  What of the Queen?” Cabrion asked quietly, staring deep into the emerald pools of her eyes.

“She waits in silence and dreams, as always.” Elraesa answered without hesitation.

“Then I am still damned.” He growled, looking away towards the well-ordered flowers beds and blossoming fruit trees.

“Only if you still wish to be..” her voice growing fainter as the passion within began to dim beneath his animal instincts, forcing his burning gaze back to the woman who had been his only companion for so very long. “Even the humans have found a way to salvation in these dark and lonely times.”

A soft buzz drew his gaze from her precious beauty to the orchids he had created, a sigh parting his lips as the vicious insect clinging to it began to drink its nectar. “And here I had hoped for butterflies, perhaps even a few bees.”

The Creteos may have once been a dragonfly; the long tapered form and iridescent wings would certainly fit, but like so many thing, like his flowers, like himself, the insect wasn’t what it used to be.

For one, he was fairly certain a dragonfly never burrowed into mortal flesh to lay eggs, which hatched, and were nourished, within the chambers of the heart.

“Heart Breakers.” The Angeli whispered. “How fitting.”

Cabrion didn’t need to watch her form shift into mist before blowing away on a warm wind to know that she was gone, that his passion had fled in the face of his anger and self-loathing.

Alone in the ever-night of his gardens, a darkness that held much of the land called the Kingdom of the Damned forever in its thrall, Cabrion lifted his head towards the sky and howled out his pain to a moon that would not shine.


Chapter One

The Woods and Hills of Damaran
Provinces of Heaven

"It was her smile, that sweet and tempting grin that blossomed upon her face whenever there was mischief to be had." Aros thought, his legs aching as he tried to mimic the endless grace his companion possessed, her long legs and lithe form as swift as a dark jungle cat.

He figured that had to be the reason he was chasing her up a steep hill, despite the seemingly boundless energy she possessed, in this exhausting run across the damp and rough countryside. Knowing he couldn't keep up with her, he never could catch Saerina, Aros instead took a much needed break after reaching the top of the winding trail and let his tired legs rest while he drifted between the towering pines. The thin lines of trees gave way soon to the sheer edges of the hill and its overlook of the valley below. There, in a clearing surrounded by tended farmlands, lay the small town of Damaran, the only place had ever known. There lived his friends, his neighbors, and his family.

"Funny how a smile can cause so much pain." He whispered to the flowing winds as memories of his father's punishments came to mind, the old man's voice whispering soft wisdoms after the suffering, wisdoms that had apparently yet to sink in.

"A woman's smile can lead a man straight to hell, grinning like a fool the whole journey." His father had last offered after a rough punishment.

A punishment that Aros knew, in retrospect, was well deserved. He and Saerina had, after all, snitched a few of Jylan's horses and ridden in the most dangerous way possible down the narrow road leading through Damaran; that method of riding being the soft placement of the right foot on the saddle, the gentle pressure of the left foot on the rear and, most importantly, maintaining a tight grip of the leather reins.

He had managed the feat for a minute, at best. Saerina had done it for five.

So, Aros decided, his dad had probably been justified in punching him despite that the blow left him seeing little lights dancing beyond the black fog that quickly swallowed his world.

As his dad had said. "Thats parenting."

The thought brought a smile to Aros's lips as the wind kicked up and pulled strands of his dark hair from the leather thong binding it behind his neck. Another memory followed, this one later when he regained consciousness. He had asked his dad what to do when a woman's smile is so powerful that it can lead you in such a way.

His dad had just sighed, went to the cupboard and pulled down a corked bottle of his favorite Black Oak Whiskey with two glasses. These he set on the table, and after bidding his son to sit and pouring him drink offered the only wisdom he could on the matter.

"Make sure you marry her and start drinking, cause that girl is gonna send you to your grave with a smile." His dad had said before bidding him a toast and downing his glass.

Aros sat in silence a few moments longer, sapphire eyes tracing the flight of hawks in hunt or studying the indecipherable language of the curling smoke slipping from the hearths of many houses. The soft brushing of leaves drew him from his thoughts, his smile growing bolder as Saerina slipped towards him with all the stealth she possessed.

"Ghost" he whispered, the usual signal that she had been spotted. Her sigh, though as soft as the brushing of leaves moment before, was enough to let him know he had won the game once more.

"Giving up our chase so soon?" Saerina asked playfully as she came to stand beside him and look out over the valley. His gaze, naturally, drew from the view beyond to the view before him and as ever he found the sight of her far more pleasing. Her dark brown skin gleamed gently, and he knew from her countless innocent gestures that the soft caress of Saerina's skin and its lingering scent were as intoxicating to recall as they were to experience. The gleam in her emerald eyes was akin to his own, though far more playful and wild then the sharp blue of Aros's eyes, and often framed by the untamed bounty of her raven's black hair.

"I haven't quit on you yet" he responded, a smirk on his lips as he found her eyes leaving the valley view to meet his own.

"No you haven't" she said with a smirk.

"So, are you going to tell me what this "little run" as you put it, is really all about?" Aros said, hoping the serious light in his eyes would for once draw an easy answer from his mischievous companion.

"I need my offering." Saerina said with a little laugh, as if it were obvious to anyone "Tomorrow is Judgment Day after all."

"You’re going to be judged?" Aros asked, though he deeply desired to start screaming.

"Yes." She said, more gently, offering him a rare apologetic look before spinning away and heading back towards the tree line.

"Wait" he growled, turning and running to catch up with her "Where you planning on telling me?" he grumbled when finally moving alongside her.

"I just did" she said, offering faint smile, her eyes slowly sweeping the forest floor, then the trees and hills.

"I meant before now, you couldn't have told me sooner then this?" he said, hoping his desire to scream would slip away soon.

"I…i knew what you would say." she whispered, stopping and turning to meet his eyes. "Come with me Aros, come to the Judgment."

"No!" Now Aros was yelling. "You know i can't go through that, i won't!"

"Aros, please." Saerina said gently "I know you can, if you wanted to, they would be lucky to have you."

"No Saerina!" he yelled, his fists clenching rhythmically as his heart hammered "I can't"

"Your Mother chose to be judged." she whispered, almost defensively, though the pain in her eyes spoke of how much it hurt for her to bring that up.

"That’s not fair!" Aros yelled louder, then pausing and fighting to breathe he let his anger drown in the pain of the memories she had evoked "You know how hard that was on my dad, how hard it was on me."

"Yes, but you were only a child then. You know what it means to be judged now." Saerina said confidently "You would make an excellent Voice, you’re certainly smart enough. You could even be a Hand!!" she finished with excitement.

"I don't want to be a Hand, or a Voice, or any other tool of the Angeli." Aros said bitterly, turning his back on Saerina and staring at the valley through the tree line "I don't want to die for their war."

"They protected us from the Baelful, gave us shelter in their lands. Don’t we owe them something for our freedom, for our lives?" Saerina asked.

She didn't wait for the answer, quickly turning her back to him and resuming the search.

Finally, Aros sighed and whispered, "What kind of offering do you need to take?"

Saerina paused in her search, hiding her smile as she answered just as softly "I don't know exactly, i am supposed to trust my instinct. I am supposed to have faith i made the right choice."

Aros shook his head and muttered "Typical angels."

"If i am to be a Hand, then you are going to have to learn to accept the Angels. I will be in their service, after all, and might not take kindly to you talking in such a tone." Saerina said, her voice harder and more intimidating then Aros had ever heard. So strange was that tone of voice coming from her lips that Aros turned, needing to see her eyes, and found once more the pure humor burning in them.

Humor gained at his expense.

"I will have to spank you if you do." Saerina finished with a wink, biting her lower lip for a moment before she spun away in a veil of dark tresses and ran off towards the higher trails, her laughter like the joyous singing of birds.

The thought was enough reason for Aros to hang back a moment and calm himself down once more.

Then the chase was on.


He found Saerina further up the trail than he expected, crouching against some rocks and staring intently at the mouth of a cave. His quiet steps carried him across the dirt and stone so effortlessly that Saerina jumped and let out a cute little squeal when he whispered “Ghost” in her ear.

“Don’t do that!” she growled, slapping him playfully before turning her attention back to the cave.

“Don’t even think about it” he countered, knowing Saerina would drag him into every cave she could find if it meant getting her offering. Panicking as that smile spread across her face, Aros searched the surrounding area for something, anything that would distract Saerina and suit as an offering.

Then he noticed the small group of wild rose bushes.

“How about those?” Aros asked, nudging her with his elbow and motioning to the bushes that just happened to lay in the opposite direction of the cave. Walking to the bush and plucking a few of the budding flowers he came back to Saerina, certain that he was blushing as he held out the bouquet.

She shook her head.

“No, those are not very suiting of a Hand now are they?” Saerina asked

“Then how about simply as a gift?” Aros growled, hoping to regain his dignity.

“A gift?” Saerina said curiously, then her eyes widened as she stammered “Oh yes a gift! Of course, thank you Aros.”

Taking the flowers and stroking their petals she whispered softly “They are very beautiful. I’ve never seen black roses before.”

“They suit you.” Aros said honestly.

“Oh?” she said with a grin.

“Mmmm beautiful, deadly, and impossible to touch without getting hurt.” He said softly, leaving himself wondering if that was a compliment or insult.

Either way Saerina seemed not to notice, nor said anything if she did, instead she quietly stroked the soft petals of the flowers and came to her feet. Each step was slow, tentative, and in moments she was standing before Aros with his heart hammering so loud he was certain Saerina could hear it.

Again she said nothing, merely smiled and then placed a soft kiss on his lips. He didn’t need to be told to wrap his arms around her and pull that dark temptation closer. Didn’t pause in that kiss or steal its growing passion when the thorns from the roses pricked into his hands and let thin streams of blood spill over his skin.

Offline ThornebloodTopic starter

Re: Where Black Roses Bloom
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2013, 11:39:58 PM »
Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
The sunrise was a glorious thing.

Aros just wished he could have shared it with Saerina.

He had awoken shortly before the dawn to a chill wind, an empty sensation beside him, and a single black rose. Thinking, hoping perhaps, that she had merely gone out before the dawn to find her offering he had waited until the sun began to warm the world around him and glare bright in his early morning eyes. A part of him still wanted to run through the dying pre-dawn mists with reckless abandon, singing a song of love like the fluttering birds. A part of him wanted to rage and roar at his lover’s silent betrayal, her midnight rejection.

The prick of a black rose thorn reminded him of such folly, and the pleasures associated with that pain faded slightly, enough to let him wonder for the first time if his mother, and his lover, had made the right choices. Or, perhaps more frightening, had he made a wrong choice in not accepting Saerina’s offering, had he failed somehow in not embracing the idea simply because it had slipped from her perfect lips??

His slow walk back to town gave him time to think, and though he wanted to focus on Saerina his mind kept drawing him back to his mother and her smile. He could almost recall the joy of his mother’s presence before those feelings began to pale against the dim memories of the long days afterward.

Each morning, mornings much like the one through which he now wandered, he had woken up with the single hope of her return. Every morning the disappointment and the pain settled in again. Aros had grown numb to that pain, or kept telling himself that at least, and as he grew older the boy found many mornings would pass without a single thought of her passing through his mind, or stinging his heart.

In the fields, at his father’s side in the shop, doing whatever he could to make things a little easier for them both, Aros had toiled harder then he thought possible. Years melted away, he found friends and neighbors, learned the ways of a sword and a horse. One night beneath a blessed moon Aros had even earned his first kiss after killing a wild pig that had been chasing some smaller children through the woods.
His life had been pleasant, safe.

Only now he was reminded once more of the cost of that safety, the price of his own cherished memories and secret pains. His mother had walked into that temple and never returned not because that was the way of judgment, or because she had found a greater purpose as a Hand or Voice. His mother had heard the same tales that Saerina had heard, she had sat around the same protective fires and listened to elders speak of days before such peace. Days after the Fall, when the world of men spiraled into chaos and savagery, when the prayers of the dying and the laughter of the damned brought forth the Angeli and the Bael.

Deep down, whether Aros came to realize that what his mother had sacrificed she had given out of love.

Perhaps love was the answer.

Clutching the black rose tighter, and feeling his heart soar, Aros began running hard towards down, and the temple.

Judgment Day had come.


Dawn’s early light found Saerina at the edge of her family farm, the bright glow of candles signaling the start of another day. Waiting carefully in the shadows, knowing her father’s morning routine perfectly, the young girl waited until he went out to check the animals in the barn before making her final rush to the door.

Getting inside silently was easy, and her graceful steps carried Saerina not towards her room where she should have been found at such an hour. Instead, clutching her roses close, Saerina forced her long legs to carry her to the edge of her mother’s cooking table before laying the flowers gently on its surface.

“Good morning dear” her mother, Eryiana, said in her gentle sing-song manner before the woman’s soft blue eyes fell upon the black roses.

“Oh my aren’t those lovely. A gift from a special friend perhaps?” Her mother teased, throwing a not so subtle wink Saerina’s way.

“Yes, from Aros” she whispered, fighting the blush as the mere mention of his name brought the subtle scent of his skin wafting up from her own.  Saerina lifted her guilty eyes to her mother, only to find the woman focusing on the pile of potatoes, peppers and onions she was rhythmically slicing into smaller and smaller pieces for their morning meal.

“Oh, such a good boy. So like his mother.” Eryiana whispered, shaking her head sadly as she gathered up the potatoes she had been slicing and put them into a smooth stone bowl before moving on to the next.

The comparison caught her daughter off guard, forcing Saerina to stare long and hard at Eryiana as she worked, humming a soft tune to keep the rhythm of her cooking. It took only a second for Saerina to find the youthful beauty Eryiana had once possessed, still possessed, beauty so akin to her own. Though her mother’s eyes were a softer blue, and gentled by the joys and pain of her experiences, Saerina had no doubt in her mind that in days past the woman now happily cutting vegetables was as wild as her daughter ever was. Perhaps even a little more so.

“I forget at times that you and his mom were so close.” Saerina said in that same gentle voice, another stone of regret weighing on the young girls burdened heart.

Unable to resist it any longer, needing her mother to know the truth, Saerina blurted out the things she needed her mother to hear before leaving.

“I love you so much mom, and dad, and this house. I am so grateful, so very grateful to both of you but…but” Saerina said, her voice rising in pitch as the words came faster and faster. Eryiana frowned as she began speaking, cupping the peppers in her gentle hands and adding them to the bowl before moving on to the onions.

“But today you will be Judged” Eryiana said softly, a touch of regret evident in her voice, face cast down to veil the woman’s beauty behind a black and silver veil. Her pace doubled.

“Yes. Today I will be Judged. I have to do this mom, for you, for me, for..” she let the last part go unsaid. Saerina couldn’t talk about him yet, not when she could still smell him on her skin.  Shaking her head gently Eryiana added the last of the vegetables to the bowl before taking it towards the skin.

“Saerina…i….” her mom began before the door opened.

“Hello girls.” Her father, Niralin said cheerfully, giving his daughter a wink before slipping up behind his wife and curling his arms about her.

The thin shirt he wore did little protect him form the morning chill, but like Saerina he had never found such sensations unpleasant. She had his strong heart, she knew, and his eyes, his warm humor and his fearlessness. Yes, her proud father would be walking beside Saerina all the long days of her life. That much she could still hold onto; had to hold onto.

Saerina wasn’t sure how Eryiana did it, and at times she was certain it was only the calming presence of her father, but her mom managed to smile and hold the girl’s secret a little longer.

“Good morning my love” Eryiana whispered, still gazing into the stone bowl with its vegetables. “Go get cleaned up and ill get breakfast started.”

“Mmmm sounds good.” Her father said softly, offering his wife a slow kiss before staring at the onion and offering Eryiana his often goofy smile “Want man smash onion for making woman cry?”

Eryiana, and Saerina, couldn’t help but grin at the dumb old joke before yelling “GO” at him in unison. An order few men would be foolish enough to resist. He was gone in moments.

“He is going to miss you fiercely you know, he may even chase you down. Judged or not.” Eryiana promised when her gaze met Saerina’s once more.

“I know, and I will you both just as fiercely, but I feel I have to do this.” Saerina said gently, biting her lower lip before forcing a bit more courage into her heart “Before I go, I need something from you.”

Eryiana let slip a gentle sigh for innocence gone by and the young girl she ahd lost before nodding “What do you need Saerina?”

Staring at the flowers, Saerina couldn’t help but smile. “I want you to help me make one of the recipes Grandma used to brew.”

“Red Rose’s Lament?” Eryiana asked skeptically, eyeing the flowers.

“Black Rose Wine” Saerina whispered, the smirk on her lips making Eryiana laugh and shake her head

“Only you girl, would bring a potent aphrodisiac meant for spiritual healing to a Judgment.” Her mother said with a breathless whisper as her laughter died.

Saerina just shrugged as her mom continued shaking her head, muttering, “Foolish angels don’t know what they are in for I tell you.”

“Alright, alright. Let me finish breakfast and get your Father working on his day then we will make your wine.” Eryiana consented.

“Let me help” Saerina offered, and so rare was that offering that her mother could not help but step aside and draw her daughter close.

As much laughter as tears ended up in the eggs, vegetables and bacon they served to her father. Who, though confused by their emotional state, accepted it all as one of the peculiarities of woman and ate his breakfast happily.

They let him have his meal before Saerina broke his heart.

Offline ThornebloodTopic starter

Re: Where Black Roses Bloom
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2013, 01:55:41 AM »
Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
Beyond the edges of town, along a slowly winding road that led into the well-tended gardens of the Temple, lay the Eyes of Jael. The temple, though built with graceful curving lines and layered with intricate and beautiful carvings, had an ominous presence that caused many pilgrims to question their motives and their faith in approaching such a hallowed place. For nearly a century the temple had stood as a symbol of protection and peace. It was a living sanctuary for all those seeking refuge from the horrors of the mortal world after the Fall, a place of solitude where the wounded could mend body and soul.

It was also, for some, the gateway to damnation.

Or so the stories said, none who had sought Judgment returned from their calling and many noble sacrifices of kin and kind had become but distant and distorted tales of the world beyond the safety of Heaven.

While Aros could believe, in some ways, that a few who came to this place might be seeking their own doom he also knew that the beauty of the grounds was meant to reflect the true path that those who sought Judgment followed. In every blossoming Angel’s Kiss he saw the rich and glorious power of the Sun Goddess Jael, the subtle beauty of the flower’s tear-shaped, iridescent petals sparkling in the summer breeze had moved more then one poet and dreamer to tears.

The trailing fronds of a Heaven’s Willow danced along the cobbled path that stood as boundary between the people’s land and the holy ground of the temple. Here, kneeling beyond low brick walls and glimpsed through black iron trellises worked the many monks of the temple. Devout priests who spent their lives in religious study, vocal training and meditation to help connect with their deity, who has ever been a goddess of wisdom. In time, and with faith, the monks could create life from anything and everything they desired.

Such is the power of the sun, and such is the power of her chosen.

“The Voices of Jael” he said gently, whispering it like a promise, or a threat.

His rose, he thought sadly while studying its pure black petals, might not have been the best choice. With a shrug he started along the winding cobbled path, letting the tranquil scents and sounds of the gardens calm his mind and ease his spirit. At its end stood the Temple proper. Its ornately carved Brightwood doors an artistic accomplishment envied by many of the surrounding provinces for its exquisite depiction of the final battle between Jael and Saed.

As he stared at the door, eyes tracing the subtle curves and intricate details, his mind teased him for his cowardice in not simply knocking or even boldly entering the ancient temple. A spark of something he couldn’t call gold caught his eye, then another, the light pouring in streams across the wooden door before gathering in the goddess Jael’s eyes.

Unable to look away, he stared straight into the golden light as it washed over him in a wave of warmth and peace.

He wasn’t sure when he closed his eyes, or if the glow had simply blinded him, but the next moment he was aware of a pure and unending darkness swirling all around him.

“What?” he whispered, half in surprise and half in fear. Had he been damned? His mind began to chatter, listing all his various sins in slow and meticulous order.

“Well wake up boy!” the voice growled “And you will find out What?!”

Shaking his head and forcing his aching eyes to slowly open, Aros peered up at the bearded face of a man he had never met. A man, his mind quickly corrected, with two great wings arching up from his back.

“Welcome to the Hand’s boy!” The gruff man roared before offering a thick, calloused hand. Aros let the man pull him roughly to his feet, coughing as the man then gave his back a few hard slaps while laughing heartily.

“The wave makes everyone dizzy, so it ain’t uncommon to be meeting our new recruits on their backsides!” the man laughed hard, perhaps harder then he needed to, slapping the heavy dust from Aros’s back until the mortal pulled away.

“The Hand?” he whispered in surprise, his head picking up immediately as eyes widened and quickly searched for Saerina.

“Where you from boy?” the man asked, seeing his interest change.

“Damaran.” Aros whispered automatically, eyes searching the growing group of people that were even now ‘arriving’ with Cloud Portal spells from every place of judgment in the Provinces of Heaven.

“Never heard of it.” The man said with a shrug, scratching his beard “But there be lots of human communities out there, more every year. My name’s Blok.”

“Blok?” Aros mouthed before turning his attention back to the Angeli who grinned at him through his beard and finished “Well, my nickname anyway. Full name is a bit of a mouthful for the fresh meat.”

Aros simply tilted his head in confusion “So, Blok?”

Blok shrugged before pointing at his forehead “I break em with this.”

“Oh” Aros said as more then one thing about Blok began to make sense.

The man smiled, then bent over and picked up the black rose before handing it to Aros. The Angeli’s beard, sadly, didn’t hide his knowing smile very well.

“Farewell gift from your girl?” the Angel said

“Sort of” Aros replied, feeling a bit embarrassed as he whispered “My offering actually.”

The Angeli’s eyes widened, his smile fading a bit as he gave Aros a more serious look “And it got you here?”

“Yes?” Aros said tentatively.

“Huh. Ya know I don’t think I have ever heard of a Hand with a flower as an offering.” Blok decided after a few moments of thought. “Wonder what ol’ steel will think of this.”

Aros didn’t like the sound of that. “Old steel?”

Blok nodded “Headmaster here, oversees a lot of the training.”

“Great.” Aros whispered, picturing a winged and divinely powered version of his father. His dad had thought the offering a joke too.  Whatever pain crossed his features seemed to draw Blok’s attention for a few quiet moments, then with a soft pat on the shoulder the Angeli slipped off into the crowd.

Aros managed a half-hearted nod to whatever consolation the angel offered, the rose barely clinging to his fingers as he followed sullenly a few moments later.

He tried to avoid running into people, some of whom were clutching offerings that made Aros want to keep a wide berth for fear of being burned, poisoned or frozen for ages. Others held things ever more esoteric, but all of obvious design. Death, it seemed, was of prime importance to the Hand, for all the offerings that Aros saw could dispense it freely.

“Good thinking boyo” he whispered to himself, hearing his father’s voice echoing in his head “Gone and made yourself the fool, and it ain’t even worth smiling over cause she ain’t here.”

A line was forming ahead of him, nervous recruits stepping forward in quiet order. Aros joined them, unsure of what else to do expect push things ahead and hope he didn’t end up the mockery of the camp. For a camp, he was beginning to realize, is exactly what it was. He could see no buildings save a narrow but strongly built tower of some sort. Certainly too small to house the fifty plus humans and Angeli he could see mingling on the grounds. Quietly surveying the field of tents spread out around the tower, letting the rhythm of the line carry him towards its end, Aros was trying to keep his eyes open for her when a large fire directly before him began to capture his interest.

“Were burning them?” he whispered to himself, catching the attention of the person in front of him.

The young woman turned, narrowed her eyes and openly scoffed “Fire is the element of Jael, how else would we give her our offerings?”

Aros bit his lip and avoided her gaze. He had never been active with his communities’ church. The priests, though likable enough, seemed so distant from the pains and realities of his life that he had never felt any way of connecting with them, or their goddess. Though he wanted to blame his mother’s decision to leave, he knew deep down that his father had a lot to do with it. Openly mocking the Angeli and their ‘sleeping queen’ in his home, often in the presence of Aros, had left the boy with a heavy distrust for the Angels who made themselves seem so perfect and powerful.

The woman before him took a few steps ahead, the voice of a striking Angeli female standing just to the side of the flames pulling Aros from his thoughts as she gave her instruction to the recruits.

“Throw your offerings into the pyre and then move on to your field tests!” the Angeli yelled sternly.

One recruit, Aros noticed with amusement, had chosen to offer a suit of armor. The clanking of metal, the grunting of the recruit were all just noise and fury that drew the eye to the man stripping down to his breeches and angrily thrusting his armor into the great pyre.

Aros tossed his rose and moved on.

More people passed behind him, the group gathered and filled until the last offering had been made. Then, the Angeli female who had been ordering the recruits at the pyre, walked before the gathering and waited as her mere presence and tight amber eyes silenced the crowd. Twilight gripped the landscape around them, the Burning Line that lay many miles away blazing as the night came on, the source of endless light casting weird shadows towards the camp.

“My name is Captain Arenta. I hold the honor of being a Hand of Jael, and the joy of beating some of you into a shape fit to serve our almighty goddess.” The proud Angeli spoke, her voice amplified by divine will so that all felt her presence.

Not that many of the male recruits were having a hard time paying attention to her. Even a few of the women, Aros glimpsed, were grinning in a strange way as they watched the captain. Beauty, Aros was beginning to notice, seemed to be a common trait amongst the Angeli. He had expected it, sort of, but the sheer perfection of the Captain’s form was still distracting.

The Angeli had skin the color of hazelnuts and eyes like almonds, her dark black hair dancing in the aura of her divine power.  Her armor, woven lines of golden chain, was cut to fit the warrior perfectly, to move with her body and protect her most vital areas. Like the other armored Angeli he saw moving slowly about the camp, eyeing recruits or performing their other duties, the Captain’s armor was also designed to accommodate the glorious light chocolate wings that flowed up above her shoulders.

“At dawn the field tests begin” Captain Arenta’s voice called, drawing Aros from his thoughts and bringing more then one males attention back from fantasy “you will be provided a padded weapon that best suits your skills and previous experiences. After that you will be divided into two teams that will face off in mock combat, those left standing will be considered the victors.”

Aros could feel the tension growing among the crowd as the recruits began murmuring amongst themselves. The Captain, familiar with the routine, kept on speaking above the increasing noise.

“The purpose of this test is merely assess your current abilities and skills, neither victor nor loser will receive any special treatment from this test.” The Angeli finished.

Aros doubted that, so did most of the people he saw around him. Oh, he believed that they wouldn’t kick out the losers, but his eyes swept over the crowd like many others wondering just who would fall and who wouldn’t and what would come of that.

A moment passed as the Captain spoke quietly with another Angeli in armor, then with a nod turned her attention back to the crowd and smiled a grim smile.

“Those to my left, go with Master Claes. Those on my right, follow me.” She called out, then began moving off to the right amidst a swell of humans murmuring and chatting excitedly.

Aros followed her quietly, still considering the competition. Only now it was those still in his team that he was sizing up, and cutting off. It startled him to realize it, even scared him a little that he was willingly taking down people on his team out of an imagined need for victory.

Trying to push back his hesitation, and his fear, he settled into another line as the recruits filed forward and chose a padded training weapon for the coming battle. When his turn came, Aros selected a thin, slightly curved sword reminiscent of the blade his father had trained him with. As with many of the human communities that had found shelter in the Provinces of Heaven after the Fall, the people were largely responsible for the safety of their own homes against the rare rogue demons that managed to cross into their territory.

And like most, Aros had slain a few of the weaker demons. Twisted creatures that might have once been squirrels, rabbits or deer. He had taken no real pleasure in it, but his father had insisted. As the years passed and the few threats that did arise were quelled, he found his presence based more on Saerina’s involvement in the local guard then his own.

He had never known combat, not like this.

The human recruits seemed tentative and ill at ease even with weapons they had held most of their lives. The few Angeli on their side, however, showed no fear and had quickly separated themselves into a smaller group that was locked in heated conversation.

Three of the angels separated from their brethren and returned, leaving Aros less curious about what had transpired then he was secure in the added backup. Like all of their kind, the Angeli possessed innate divine powers, a talent they called magic. As the other, larger group of angels tightened their ranks and began to set some sort of plan it occurred to Aros that it might help to have one as well.

A few of the other humans had similar ideas, but Aros approached the rogue Angeli first and said openly “Think they split the angels evenly?”

A moment of silence passed as the group exchanged looks, then their apparent leader nodded “We know they have, the only question left to us is how will they distribute their own angels amongst the rest of their forces, if they do at all?

Aros thought for a few minutes then shrugged as he motioned to the distant group of angels “Like that?”

The leader nodded her agreement, and then offered a slender golden hand “Pherysa Lintil of the Northern City, and my brothers Hofaen and Burindel.”

Aros shook it, feeling the tempered strength the angel was holding back just to keep from crushing his bones. “Aros Kai, Damaran.”

“That’s near South City correct? The City of Sceptres?” the younger Hofaen asked.

“Yes, South City.” Aros said in a whisper, watching the angel with a quiet and distant look in his eyes.

The Angeli brothers exchanged looks before Hofaen offered, though hesitantly “If I have offended..”

Aros snapped back, shook his head, and then gave the angels a smile “Have you ever been to South City?”

As one they shook their heads.

“I went once, my dad took me after my mom….” Aros trailed off for a moment, gave a slight cough to cover the pause then continued “I saw these kids playing this game while I was there….”

“A game?” Pherysa asked, but Aros had already turned and was studying the landscape the Angeli had laid out for their training grounds.

Beyond the entrance where Aros could still glimpse the fires burning their offerings, the camp had split around what he was beginning to see was a circular arena with them based one side and their opponents on the other. Between them the angels had used their divine power to reshape the earth, creating great mounds of rock and sand, as well as a virtual forest of tree like stones.

“I think the human is scared.” One of the brother’s whispered, but Aros didn’t turn, he didn’t have to. The next voice he heard was Pherysa.

“No, the human has a plan.” The angel whispered confidently to her brothers.

Offline ThornebloodTopic starter

Re: Where Black Roses Bloom
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2013, 01:56:34 AM »
Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
Saerina watched the dawn rise with a cold indifference, fingers impatiently tapping the stone windowsill as her nerves rattled and her mind raced.

When the first sounds of the maids making their morning rounds (Finally!) reached her ears Saerina rushed to the door and threw it open before sprinting down the hallway.

A quick shift of her feet, a slight alteration in her balance, and she rolled past the startled maid without once touching the stack of linens the woman was carrying, and as such felt no responsibility for the maid’s distressed cry as the clean sheets fell.

Gotta be faster then that on the field of battle lady, Saerina thought smugly as she planted one hand on the second floor banister and leaped out. It occurred to her only after a neat landing, a funny little roll that drained some of the shock and let her head spinning sweetly, that had anyone witnessed the dangerous leap she would have likely been punished. She found the mere notion of punishment in this place amusing until, with a quiet sort of dread she realized they were less likely to flog her or beat her like they would in the Hand.

As a Voice, even a novice, she might have to clean the one of the great organs or polish the temple floor. Again. Maybe even translate scrolls like so many of the other novices were already doing. All those squiggly lines brightened only by candlelight made her eyes hurt.

Cringing, moving as quietly now as she could possibly manage, Saerina once more began her slow tour of the place Judgment had decreed her new home.

It had taken less then a minute after Saerina had awoken on the warm earth for her to realize that Judgment hadn’t brought her to where she wished to go. The young priest whose job it had then been to greet her and help overcome the initial disorientation was the first of many whom she had begun to explain her situation to. And really he was the only one she still felt bad about hurting.

She had started so calmly, had pointed out that most of her life had been dedicated to that one bright moment before she awoke at one of the Hand’s many training camps. The young priest had understood, as had every other priest she had talked to afterwards, but his own experience in dealing with someone like her was limited.

Patience had frayed, words had been exchanged, and she might have tried to punch him, and was surprised when he didn’t swing back but held his anger in check. Still she had not been sorry for her actions.

Kicking him in the shins and walking away, that she was sorry for.

Of course she hadn’t really listened when she had been told, for the fifth time, that Judgment didn’t work that way.  Every priest afterwards had been the same, offered the same answers and were ultimately swayed by her simple logic.

Judgment might not work that way, she had said, but what if the Judgment was wrong?

They had seemed appalled by the thought. Hadn’t liked the country girl asking them such pointed questions. In the end they had passed her off to the next priest that would foolishly take her until finally it was decided she would need to wait and speak with the Mistress of the temple after she returned in two days.

That had been four days ago and Saerina had yet to receive word of the planned meeting.

It wasn’t hard to find the woman’s room either. Saerina just kept searching until she spotted the nicest door. The two Angeli guards outside just helped to clarify things, presented a nice little obstacle for her to overcome.

They seemed like typical guards in that they were large, attentive and likely not to be impressed by the young human girl flashing them her breasts, which might have worked on younger human guards, to distract them long enough for her to slip inside.

Nor, she thought, would it be smart to simply bum rush the pair, at least not without a weapon.

The fact that even the guards here didn’t carry weapons reinforced her need to get a transfer, and gave her an idea.

“Mistress!” she yelled. She was a voice now after all. “I need to speak with you at once on a matter most urgent, Mistress awaken! MISTRESS!”

The guards, startled by the human girl’s outburst, stood and stared at Saerina for a long moment before exchanging uncertain glances.

Physical and magical assaults they were trained for, screaming teenage girls they were not.

“Boys” she groaned before giving a shrug, seeing the doors part slowly.

“Mistress!” one of the guards replied in surprise, dropping to his knee as his companion did and stuttering out an apology “Please forgive us, we had no idea this girl would begin yelling at such an hour.” He finished, shooting her a dangerous glare.

“Yes, it is no concern gentlemen. Please rise and continue your duties.” The tall woman whispered, her soothing voice like a gentle song that chased the anger from the guard’s eyes. “After seeing the lady inside.”

“Damn.” Saerina muttered, realizing too late the Mistress of these old priests would likely be even stricter then her minions.

Sucking up her courage she marched past the guards, gave a mischievous little grin to both and shrugged apologetically before the doors swept closed of their own accord.

“You wished to see me?” the Mistresses voice beckoned, forcing Saerina to turn and meet her fate.

“Yes” she said softly, biting her lip as her eyes swept over the beautiful woman before her. “I don’t belong here.”

“I see” the Mistress said softly.

Saerina tried to explain, and to her credit the Mistress listened intently and did not disrupt her once until she had finished.

When finally the Mistress spoke, her words offered Saerina little comfort “There is no mistake in Judgment.”

Saerina started to protest but the woman raised a slender, radiant hand and continued, “It is often hard to let go of the past, and the future, we thought lay before us. Instead of clinging to what you believed to be your fate, why not explore the one presented to you. You may more then you ever dreamed within these quiet walls.”

A flicker of sadness crossed the Mistresses face, settled somewhere deep in her eyes. Saerina tried to hold her tongue as long as she could, but the words slipped out.

“I’m not some weak little priestess.”

The fury in the woman’s cool eyes scared Saerina, the sudden punch of power that knocked her breathless and sent her tumbling across the chamber before slamming into the wall scared her even more.

“You think me weak child!” the Mistress roared, the doors to the chambers shaking as the guards tried to break the seal forged by her power and failed.

The woman’s eyes did not relent, nor did her power ease.

“I am the storm of the sun! The fires of creation bound in living flesh!”

Saerina lifted slowly against the wall, rising one foot, two, three, five. With every step the Mistress took towards the girl the pressure increased until it felt as if every bone in Saerina’s body would snap and grind to powder. She wanted to scream, to beg, but the pressure would not let her draw a breath, not let her even move.

“I am Mistress of the Clear Temple, one of five who can drive the unholy pestilence from your brittle world.” She screamed, finally stopping a few from Saerina.

When she spoke again, her voice was the softest of whispers, the gentlest of songs carried on the wind. “I am Shirinan Kai, and my heart is the heart of Jael, my will born of her dreams.”

The power snapped away, leaving Saerina to fall to the floor with a grunt. She didn’t feel the pain, or the bruises that would be there in the morning.

“Now what do you have to say for yourself child?” Mistress Kai’s eyes promised suffering for one mistaken answer.

Saerina whispered, unable to believe the words she spoke as they fell from her lips “Your Aros’s mother.”

The guards burst in then to find Saerina staring at the woman before her in surprise as Shirinan Kai fell to her knees, crying uncontrollably.
               Smiles for Miles

Aros couldn’t stop smiling.

A small part of him had always wondered what it felt like to fly, and though the rational part of his brain knew that it was not his wings carrying them low over the rushing earth, Aros still could not dismiss the joy and delight he felt by touching the sky.

He had talked the three into following his lead, and then had even managed to convince a few of the other humans groups to give them some cover. It had been easier then Aros expected it to be, and moments after the start of the field tests was sounded he was pressed back against Pherysa’s chest as the angel lifted them into the air on powerful wings, her brothers in a tight formation behind them

The goal was simple, much like the game that Aros had once seen as a boy they were going to fling themselves far afield then circle around behind the other team much like the toy the children had been using on that distant day.

The younger brothers had been less enthusiastic, but their older sister had quickly seen the potential and led them along.

The quick flight around the far edge of the mountains took less time then Aros had thought it would, but enough had passed to let the group witness the other teams concentrated charge. The humans, owing to their wild frenzy of fear and adrenaline, had formed a powerful wedge that was rushing towards the opposing team with all speed. Behind them, discharging powerful spells the shook the earth and swept powerful gales across the fields, the angels came like the shaft of an arrow adding power to the humans assault.

Not one of them thought to look back.

As they drifted closer to the ground and Pherysa back winged to slow her descent, Aros heard the angel whisper “This might hurt” before she casually let go of her cargo.

Pherysa was right it hurt like hell.

The brothers landed perfectly, working in concert as they had all their lives and with the precision that Aros knew took decades to master even as novices.

The youngest brother, Hofaen, drove his first hard into the earth then flattened his palm and brought it up slowly, causing the rock and dirt between the two teams to shake violently. As humans and angels from both sides were thrown to their feet, a great wall of solid earth shot up between them, separating the two teams for their protection before Burindel swept in behind his brother and unleashed his own magic.

Wind hammered against the entire opposing team, sending most of the humans and angels slamming back against the wall before crumpling to the shaking ground.

Aros made it to his feet as the last members of the other team finally stood ready to face surprise attack.

Four humans and three angels still stood to face them.

The brothers, and Aros, rushed them without hesitation.

Hofaen, whose magic was tied to the earth and whose fists and body were harder then stone, needed no weapons besides those birth had blessed him with. Even his light punches, which Aros knew he was holding back on, cracked the bones and weapons of the two humans who foolishly rushed him. They fell as quickly as their weapons, and in one case a leg, shattered.

Burindel took on a pair of angels without thought, and even with his training was hard pressed to take down the pair on his own. Hofaen was making his way to aide his brother, but it would take time to get there.

Time neither Aros nor Pherysa had to spare.

The last angel and the two humans had them surrounded, with the angels magic forming a swirling circle of fire at their backs that rose towards the clouds and walled them in with their enemies on all sides.

“Nice trick” Pherysa muttered with a growing smile before she muttered to Aros “Can you hold the other two?”

Parrying the thrust of one inept swordsman, then spinning around his axe wielding partners strong but wild chop, Aros finished his dodge with a low backward sweep of his wooden sword that cut the legs out from the other sword fighter.

Pherysa just nodded then leapt directly upwards, climbing on hard pumping wings towards the eye of the firestorm, her entire form beginning to shimmer and flow. As she reached the zenith of her flight, Pherysa then exploded in a flash of lightning and storm clouds, the entire thunderhead spilling out above them like dark ink. Thunder rumbled above them, shaking him to the core as a torrential rain began to fall and quell the circle of flames.

The display also distracted the axe wielder long enough for Aros to cut his legs out from under him as well before trying to turn and block the rush he knew was coming.

He didn’t make it, nor could he stop the six inch steel blade that drove through one side of his right forearm and out the other. Screaming, the dark angel gripping the blade wearing a cruel smile as he pushed Aros to the earth and reached down to choke the human with his other hand.

“I will not be bested by a mortal child!” the dark angel roared in his face, wide ruby eyes flashing with inner rage, his fingers closing around Aros’s throat as a burst of agony erupted along his arm.

Aros couldn’t argue, partly because he couldn’t breathe, partly because he soon passed out; but mostly because in those final moments before darkness took him he realized that he couldn’t save his own life.

That delightful thought followed him down into the darkness and sank like a stone in the river of his pain.

Cabrion’s Garden

He sat cross legged on the small island he had forged those decades ago, when the Fall had claimed so many of his brethren and washed many more away in a wave of dark curses and twisted spells as the King’s own dark heart turned back on his followers, as the dying prayers of the Sun Goddess forced the reflection of their own hearts born on their skin. The agony of that moment of transformation, that reshaping of angelic flesh and spirit had not been forgotten, but Cabrion had dismissed much of the ancient anger, the betrayal, and in his way found a sense of peace he had never thought a Baelful soul, a demon such as he, could ever truly know.

Meditating among the crimson flowers, walking through the eldritch trees, sleeping amongst the starfyre bushes with their spark berries, each one nurtured to know only the darkness and drink only the starlight and storms of their world, time had passed in peace.

Well, relative peace. He still lived in Hell, and the Kingdom of the Damned was not a kind place.

The Great Barrier Desert, the unholy sands of light, kept the demons from haunting the rest of existence, from tearing down the walls of heaven and leveling everything the Goddess Jael had ever forged into existence. With nothing but suffering beyond their lands and with no King to unite them, the Baelful souls who had long ago betrayed kin and creation for their beliefs knew only civil war and torment. Hunting in the night shrouded forests and hiding amongst the storm haunted hills, killing each other over meat and metal and sex, they were but a dim shadow of the glorious army that once brought its Master to the Gates of Heaven.

They had failed, their lord had fallen, and they were as much prisoners of this world as the humans seeking shelter in the Provinces of Heaven were slaves.

Or so the Baelful believed, Cabrion wasn’t as sure.

Things were never clear in the dark, or in the light, and so after the Fall he had strived to walk a different path. To find a middle ground and cling to nothing but his principles, his code of honor or as such honor as a demon might still possess.

The soft steps of the woman drew his mind from such meditations, from the seeking of answers that seemed to first need more questions. Eyes like a circle of gold stared hard at the creature, a demon whose flesh had become as blue as cobalt, her eyes as grey as steel. Scales glittered in intricate patterns over her bare flesh, her ample bosom and bare sex as much an invitation as a threat.

It was common knowledge in the Kingdom’s wild landscape that the blue skinned woman, the Cold Souls, were frozen to the core. So frigid were their hearts that any touch from another that they chose not to accept caused the foolish hand to freeze, along with the fool it was attached to.

It was said they ate the frozen shards of their victims with berries.

Polite, he noticed, as the female stopped at the edge of his territory, the rough stonewall of his garden and waited for him to approach.

Her deep bow was returned before he spoke, meeting her cold steel eyes with a firm gaze “Thank you for not entering my space.” He said, his voice a growled whisper.

“I was bid to wait, or suffer the consequences.” She replied, though her tone stated clearly she doubted any consequence the old wolf could offer would a threat.

“You have a message for me?” he hoped, for any other reason the female had been sent to him disturbed Cabrion deeply.

“Yes. You are bid to put away your seeds and shovels and join us in the war.” The female said flatly.

Cabrion smirked despite the deep growl rumbling in his chest. “I see, and this message is from the King?”

The female stammered, “Yes” but it was enough of a slip for him to know the truth.

“Through his “Voice”  I presume?” he whispered wretchedly.

“The Dark Lady has commanded..” the blue female began, then instantly stopped when she met his eyes.

The burned silver circles staring into her eyes, staring into her soul, unnerved the messenger more then anything she had witnessed across the breadth of hell.

“The Dark Lady is a slut, and I bid you tell her so.” Cabrion said in a low growl. “I will raise my blade when the King commands I do so, anyone else who tries can go to hell“ He smirked, slowly, sweetly really If not for the fangs.

One fast thrust of his palm, his clawed fingers bent tight against the pads of his fingers, drove enough of his divine will before him to send the messenger flying back into the dirt. He also broke her nose, he noticed with snort as the woman began to squeal.

The sound didn’t disturb him as he returned to his meditation.

Offline ThornebloodTopic starter

Re: Where Black Roses Bloom
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2013, 06:50:12 PM »
Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
Pain beat like a drum in the darkness, pulling him back to the aching world he vaguely remembered as his own. As his eyes adjusted, he found the bright eyes of Pherysa leaning over him, a curious glimmer in her gaze as she spoke in a hushed tone “Welcome back.”

“Mmmm” he groaned, “bright light and pain, oh joy.”

“Cheer up, it’s a sexy scar.” The Angeli woman offered, a faint blush staining her cheeks before she stood and looked towards the source of that damned light. “Sunset. You slept most of the day.”

“Oh?” he asked quietly, busy inspecting the wound, wincing as he touched the tender zig-zagging scar and muttered “damn angels couldn’t even heal me right.”

Pherysa smiled and leaned down close, so close he felt the warm heat of the angels skin, drew in the sweet scent of her body.

His heart froze as she whispered, “I healed you”, lightning flashing in her steel gaze.

“Thanks” he whispered, certain of only one thing. He was blushing, brightly.

Shaking her head, Sunfire hair dancing around her shoulders, she brushed a soft kiss over his cheek before whispering, in a deeper and huskier tone “Next time, just give me some flowers.”

The sound of voices, raised and angry voices, drew closer to the tent, breaking the spell between them as Pherysa rose, let her Sunfire locks hide her own blush before slipping out of the tent.

The look Captain Arenta gave him, moments before she turned that gaze back to the retreating form of Pherysa, was not wholly unkind. She even managed a hidden smile before the angry voice behind the woman drew her back to her duties.

“I understand your concerns but the matter is closed. He will be dealt with appropriately, as would any serving our goddess in these times of war.” She said coolly before moving into the tent alone.

“Good afternoon, Aros is it not?” The Captain said politely, taking his quiet nod for his answer. “Are you feeling better?”

“Yes” he managed; croaking a bit and hoping his blush had diminished.

“Good. That will make matters easier for everyone.” She said with that same polite and formal tone.

“You are throwing me out.” He whispered, feeling a bit rejected as the cynical voice in his head chided him for his failure.

“What, Heavens no! If you forgive the saying.” The captain said with a smile “We would be fools indeed!”

The voice in his head got very small, found a corner and started gnawing at the baseboards.

“I’m sorry?”

“You did quite well in your field tests, very well for a human.” She said, blushing quickly before coughing to hide her error in formality “Sorry, mortal.”

“It’s alright, I am aware of what I am.” He said, smiling a little himself.

Captain Arenta nodded, shifted uncomfortably, then sighed and looked Aros straight in the eye. “His name was Fytus, and he’s gone.”

“Fytus?” Aros whispered.

“The angel who stabbed you, used a wicked little bit of divine will to blow the skin around the wound too…bastard.” The Captain said, shaking her head angrily.

“Do you know why?” Aros asked, vengeance like a sweet song in his heart.

The Captain kept her eyes averted, opened her mouth a bit then sighed and finally met his eyes when she lied to him “No. He just flew off after Pherysa reformed and her brothers tackled him.”

Aros nodded, grumpy but pleased to know the angel had gotten some of what was due.

“Which brings us back to you Aros. Do you wish to continue your training? I assure you this is not an offer we would normally make, but we felt it wise to at least ask after such an experience.” Her voice was soft, sincere.

“What?” Aros asked in confusion “I just got stabbed. I mean it hurt, and I want some of the angel’s blood, but why would I want to leave over that?”

The Captain’s silence said it, but Aros had to hear her speak the words before he would believe.

“Pherysa didn’t tell you.” A sigh, a slow and deep breath “You nearly died Aros. The spell that Fytus used blew a big hole in your forearm nearly severed your limb. If she had not saved you with her healing magic you would have bled to death in minutes.”

He felt like he had been sucker punched, by a donkey, a really big fucking donkey.

“So, I ask again. Do you wish to leave?” her voice, the captain who for a few moments Aros thought he would follow into battle, seemed so far away.

She seemed honest, nice, at least as much as someone in her position could be. It wasn’t hard for Aros, in that shocked state, to picture the woman in another life. Making the bread in the morning, hammering hot steel in the forge, raising her children.

Making love.

He had never thought of the Angeli as people before, or even as more then grim faced soldiers in bright armor or veiled beneath robes. The small world of his hometown might have had room for such discoveries, but not when his world had consisted of Saerina and his Father.

“Aros?” she asked, eyes scanning him more urgently.

He saw her dying, pain etched in her face as dreams died and the future closed in around her.

“I’ll stay.”

No reason to choose another path now, he though, not when Fate has chosen for me.

The captain nodded, her smile brighter, more assured. “We have been practicing for most of the day, but its truly the simplest lessons we have to teach. They are only made longer by the size of our recruited classes.”

Aros nodded. “So where do I begin?”

Captain Arenta grinned, stood straight and met his eyes firmly “Stand up and I’ll show you.”
Damned Angels

She was right; Aros discovered quickly, it really was easy to learn. The Angeli had a group of simple stances and formations they practiced and called out for simplicity on the battlefield. Most of it had to do with standing straight, looking intimidating (whatever that meant to angels who regularly fought demons), and understanding the basic commands the higher-ranking soldiers would be barking out.

When they were finished she gave a nod, swept her eyes over him once more then nodded towards the tent’s entrance “Go on, take your place with the others. We will start now that you are with us and ready to move on.”

He slipped out quietly, Captain Arenta a few steps behind.

As he slipped in amongst the angels and humans, a few glowering at him while nursing bruised ribs and legs, others clapping him on the back in welcoming fashion after leading them to victory.

Behind him he heard Captain Arenta begin to yell.

“Prime positions!”

Aros came to attention, his eyes locked on the distant haze as it obscured the sun’s light and distorted the world before him. The Angeli and Humans Masters, seasoned veterans of countless battles, moved slowly along the line in their study of the recruits. Occasionally one would bark an order, or wordlessly shift and correct a student’s stance, always keeping their eyes on the man before them until they were satisfied.

When his turn came the instructors said little, making him square his shoulders and widen his feet before moving on down the line. When it was done most of the group moved to the side, taking their own positions behind the largest Angeli that Aros had ever seen. Nearly seven feet tall and thickly muscled the Angeli that was staring hard at them with glowing silver eyes had enough physical presence to be naturally intimidating. Perhaps even more impressive though was the lack of Bright Armor traditionally worn by many of the Angeli Field Commanders. Instead the angel’s blue skin had been tattooed with intricate silver glyphs, each a sacred hymn blessed by the Voices of Jael to grant him greater power and defense in battle, each rumored to burn like the sun as it was applied not to the skin, but to the soul.

“My name is Archon Castiel, and I have been killing demons for over one hundred years. I have watched men and women become champions here, I have seen them turned into Hands devoted to the will of our God. In my time I have shaped the heroes who have kept your lands free, I have held those same hands as they neared death. “ Castiel said slowly, openly, his pride evident as well as his pain.

“Perhaps I have even held the hand of one you loved. “ he said, then finished in a much softer voice “And if the need arises, I promise to hold your hand as well.”

The recruits stared at him, some with open admiration, others with open fear. Yet they all gave him their attention and their respect. Even Aros.

“Two miles behind me” he said, his deep voice rolling easily over the gathered recruits “lies the place you all know as the Burning Line, a mile beyond that lies the killing fields. That is where we go to fight and to die.”

His eyes swept over the recruits, holding each one’s gaze as he continued “If you wish for death, then you are welcome to start your march now and know that I grant you my blessings in your quest.”

He let the offer remain open, waiting in silence to see if any would accept.

“Three miles behind you lies the White Lord’s Road, if any of you were paying attention on your journey here then you know it will take you home.” The Archon said heavily, once more meeting each recruits eyes.

“If you are going to run, whether it be in the night or on the field of battle, then retreat now and do so without dishonor. I would rather see you walk away like a man then have you slink out like a dog in the field or a thief in the night.”

He waited again, and quietly two turned to begin their journey back to the White Lord’s Road, none thought lesser of them for it but neither did they watch the pair depart.

“Very well.” Castiel said after a few moments more “Captain Arenta will separate you into your teams and assign the Master you will be training with. I wish you all good luck, especially those who are assigned to train under me.”

With that disturbing thought fresh in the recruits minds, the Angeli and Human masters moved away in a small group, quietly discussing their impressions of the future warriors. All save for Archon Castiel.

The black angel remained, his silver eyes staring at the recruits, each of them one by one, as they slowly made their way to the Captain and then into their teams. When the Angeli’s eyes met Aros’s they paused, which did not surprise Aros. His surprise came when the Castiel moved closer and spoke in a softer, more conversational tone.

“You are the one who offered the Black Rose?” he asked, that deep voice smoother, more compelling. Aros immediately understood that the Angeli was using some of the powers of persuasion all his kind naturally possessed.

“Yes Archon.” Aros answered honestly, having little reason to lie about what he figured all the Masters knew.

“A curious offering for one aspiring to be a Hand.” Castiel said, “What led you to make such a choice?”

Aros simply shrugged, not wanting to admit the truth “It felt right. I was told it was the faith that was important, not the offering. Is that wrong, many have seem surprised by my choice.”

“You did not aspire to be a Hand? You seem well trained to begin such study.” The Archon stated, obviously having watched the course of their field tests.

“No, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be judged.” Aros answered honestly, letting the compliment slip past his normal defenses and settle on him for what it was.

“Then you do not know the purpose of the offering for a Hand of God?” Castiel asked, a half smirk resting on his lips, those silver eyes obviously amused.

“No, what is its purpose?” Aros asked, dreading the answer.

“Your offering becomes your weapon, the blade you will use to ensure the will of God is carried out.” The Archon said with a smile. “And intrigued I am to see what becomes of your offering on that blessed day.”

Aros couldn’t tell if he was being mocked, or if the man was genuinely amused and interested to see what would happen. Either way the Archon moved off with a small shake of his head, his arms clasping behind his back as he moved past Captain Arenta and whispered a few things.

Aros needed only to watch the Archon give a soft nod to the Captain’s question before wandering away to know that he had just been assigned his new Master.

“Damned Angels.” He whispered.

Offline ThornebloodTopic starter

Re: Where Black Roses Bloom
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2013, 06:51:08 PM »
Spoiler: Click to Show/Hide
It took little less then an hour before the rest of the groups were sorted and escorted to the private training grounds that would be their homes, and possibly their graves. Aros waited behind, quietly watching Archon Castiel finishing his business as the other students that would be training with Aros waited nervously on either side of him.

“What’s your name?” another young man, Halion by name, said as softly as his gruff voice could manage. Which, to Aros, still sounded like a Great Bear trying to whisper.

“Aros Kai.” He truly whispered, his eyes locked on the master who would train him as a hundred thoughts whipped through his mind.

“What about you?” Halion whispered, or tried to, this time eliciting a stare from Master Castiel as the young man leaned forward to look at the Angeli woman standing on Aros’s left side.

She growled one word “Quiet”.

“Yes, do be silent now children.” The last member of their group said, though the dark haired man seemed but a few years older then the rest of them.

“I’m over one hundred years old.” The Angeli woman growled.

“Which is little more then a child to the Angeli.” The dark one retorted.

“WHICH MAKES ALL OF YOU LITTLE MORE THEN SAPLINGS COMPARED TO ME!” Master Castiel yelled, storming to the front of the group and commanding their attention.

“Now, Children.” He emphasized the word as he stared down the arguing pair, then Aros and Halion for good measure. “the next three months of your life will be torment. After that, it will be hell.”

Seeing he had their attention, Master Castiel nodded once then began to slowly pace before the group “Good. At least you don’t want to die. Yet.”

With a slow wave of his dark hand, and a touch of magic most divine, four ornate chests appeared at the feet of each member of the group.

“These are your offerings, as well as most of the ritual components required to create and sustain your first blades.” The Master offered cryptically, causing each of the recruits to stare first at the box, then at their instructor. “Your first tasks as we begin your training will be to complete the ritual and master the weapon you have forged before being accepted as true Hands. “

“And where will we find the rest of the component for the ritual?” The older male asked.

“Out there Galiyn.” Castiel waved his arm behind him dramatically.

“Out there?” They seemed to ask, quietly, at once.

“You will earn the rest of the components as we march to the burning line.” Castiel’s eyes promised it, but Aros could see the shock on the other’s faces as it settled on them.

The Burning Line, The Gates of Hell.

Breaking Earth

He never quite understood why the sound of the trowel slipping into the earth reminded him so keenly of the breaking of bones.

Once Cabrion had attributed it to his new form, to his animal instincts. In truth many things had changed within the angel, more then without, more then he really understood. He constantly felt a pull, a need to run, to hunt, to howl and ravage and feast upon the carnage left by his passage. What startled him now was the peace that lay over that pull, the certain of it. Now the steady beat of his heart set his daily rhythms and not the measured tempo of war drums, the mourning songs of the wind as it was once more hunted by the storm became his lullaby where once he could only know peace as the tormented and dying screamed

In short, he had found serenity.

It was a shame, then, that he felt it undeserved; She mused, her luminous green eyes watching him intently as Cabrion shifted a few of the special flowers he had so lovingly grown into pots fit for travelling. These he settled into a small chest, one light of weight and forged of celestial steel, the sacred metal of the Angeli. It took but a whisper of his divine will to place that crafted box in a secure place amongst the heavens, a quiet nook that none might ever find.

“Have you decided to sow your flowers amongst the living world?” Elraesa asked, unsurprised that Cabrion remained unsurprised.

“I wondered when you would finally speak to me, I thought perhaps you too had grown tired of my ‘attitude’” Cabrion said quietly, brushing the dirt from his hands before he rose to his full height.

The lithe, towering black wolf-form before her did not inspire fear, quite the opposite. Her eyes, endless pools of jade, would have spoken so much had Cabrion sought to read them.

“The Lady of the House?” the angel’s distaste was evident.

“His Lord’s voice and proxy in all things until his return.” Cabrion replied bitterly.

“I see” her voice was ice and fire. Cabrion could hear the suffering her passionate mind was already planning for the voice.

“Leave it be.” The wolf growled.

“You would command me?” Elraesa said quickly, but her lips hinted at a smile.

“I have, likely, done little to help the situation.” He answered, trying not to smile at her implications.

“Oh?” The angel’s interest piqued.

“I might have broken the first messenger’s nose. Accidentally, of course.”

“And the second?” She said slowly, watching the wolf-form for any, and every, clue.

He cast his gaze to the flowers beds before turning away and moving towards the small island in his garden.

“So you are running?”

Her question didn’t stop him, his steps light and sure as he crossed the small bridge over its dark water and knelt on the soft grass.

“I will only draw more blood if I stay, and I have spilt enough for this lifetime.” His voice was so soft, so human.

Closing his amber gaze, that black paw-hand waving over the tended grass, Cabrion called to the other part of his soul, called to the weapon that had once proclaimed him the leader of the Hand.

Jael’s Tears rose from the shaking, crumbling earth in a blaze of crimson light, rising up as he did until it floated inches before his waiting hand.

A hand that slowly fell limp to his side.

He turned, no word spoken, Elraesa alone a silent witness to the sentinel left in the garden’s care.

She pitied any who walked on his grass.


The sweat on your back

Sweat ran in bright lines down their skin, soaking their hair, dripping down to the earth before being swallowed by the dry and hungry sands. Every step showed their effort, their pain, and their struggle. Their muscles were quivering; they had all stripped away their shirts in the sweltering heat, and save for a scrap of sparkling chainmail for the female’s modesty, they had marched for miles with their chests strapped across bare backs as the sun beat down on them more painfully then any whip. Not one had the strength to march another mile, not yet anyway. It was a delicate balancing act, a road as dangerous as it was rewarding.

It wasn’t nearly enough.

The ‘cool’ shadows offered by a large gathering of rocks was their first break in hours, and as Castiel stood quietly in the unrelenting sun he let his assessment of their state determine the course he needed to follow.

“They will torture you for centuries.” He said finally, drawing the blank and uncertain stares of his recruits. “It will not end, it will not stop. No one will save you, and in time when even your soul is a black pit of suffering they will tear open a hole inside you and let the demons in.”

They understood what he was talking about; no doubt lay in any of the eyes staring at him now.

“You know the way back if you want to quit and spare yourselves any more suffering.” Castiel offered their silent eyes, waiting, watching each for some sign of new life.

Aros spoke first, quietly, but with a tone that made Castiel want to punch him, or hug him.

“How do we finish our blades?” His question hung in the air between them, the others casting doubtful glances at their chests as Castiel held Aros’s gaze, reading his eyes.

“Your chests are filled with a number of components for the ritual, including the condensed essence of the four primal elements that make up all creation.” Castiel began. “Earth, Wind, Fire and Water.”

When they nodded their understanding he continued.

“These components are among the most common elements used in our magic, which is why they have been provided for your use in the ritual. However the fifth element required to forge your blades and begin to tap into their power is not one that can be so easily found.”

“What element is it?” Larias asked once the silence had stretched too long.

Castiel merely shrugged “Unknown.”

He saw the frustration build in their eyes before he finally spoke again “The final element required is unique to each of you, it is a part of you, a piece of your soul that you must find.”

“Here, in the emptiness between heaven and hell?” The angeli asked, her voice touched with anger.

“No, as I said the element required is within you and must be drawn out, we have merely given you a secluded place to dig within yourself to find this element as well as vessel in this world to contain that essence.”

“Our offerings” Aros said, understanding apparent in his eyes.

“Yes, they have been enchanted to serve this function.”

“Like a child’s halo.” Paeryl whispered softly, to which Castiel nodded.

“A child’s halo?” Larias asked.

“When Angeli children reach 2 years of age they receive their first and only mandatory hair cut. The child’s hair is gathered by their parents and used as part of a ritual that combines the parent’s magical power, devotion and love for the child into a long term shield that serves to protect them from all harm until they reach maturity.” Castiel offered the eldest human.

“Not all harm” Paeryl whispered.

All eyes were on her for a moment while her gaze stared off into the desert sands.

“No, not all harm” Castiel conceded, quietly slipping away the statement for future vengeance should his suspicions be proven true.

“I don’t understand” Halion said with a grunt as he pushed himself to his feet and tightened the straps around his chest. “But I know we need to start moving before we succumb.”

Aros seemed to agree, as did Paeryl, both standing readily and adjusting the straps bearing their burdens before letting there gaze fall on Larias.

He sat slumped in the shade, sweat trailing down his face and chest, soaking his dark brown hair to a near black. He watched them closely, studying his fellow recruits then their leader before he began shaking his head and pushing himself to his feet “Your all going to be the death of me aren’t you?”

The attempt at levity was as weak as his voice, as tired as they all felt, but they offered what smiles they could as he adjusted his straps and then nodded to Castiel. “Lead on Captain.”

Castiel read everything they were trying to hide in their eyes. He could see the exhaustion, the pain, the fear. Not one of them thought they were strong enough, good enough, or even remotely prepared for what lay ahead of them.

It still wasn’t enough, but as Castiel marched them into the desert he allowed himself a few brief moments of hope that soon it might be.