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Darkness of the Queen

Imladra

'Twas the darkness that drew Imladra to that
place---the way the stars lit it with pillars of
gemstone light. That and the magic she sensed being called forth there, a
cantrip which stung
her awareness like salt upon a bleeding wound.

She sped to the place, calling upon her peerless sorcery to carry her
through the shadows of her kingdom, Saress, Empire of the Blood Moon. Here
she ruled. Here too she was goddess and the dweomer that she detected sought
to undo the hold of her enchantments. Thus, her wrath had been awakened.

This place, this source of trouble, was a grove encircled by a collonade
of pocked and crumbling quartz obelisks. At its center was a stone of huge
size, glossy black, its roots reaching, perhaps, to the core of the world,
the shadows stirring within its heart mageborn or the totem of some ancient
magic. It stood at the very fringes of her empire, just within the thrall of
her taloned hands and the fell power they commanded. Yet still, it was her
place and the great Queen Imladra would end the disturbance now.

Through a hall of shade she tread, great gibbering demons and beasts the
color of dried blood churning all around her, whimpering at her feet, begging
for the touch of her power, even if such a taste meant to be smitten and cast
down. She paid them no heed and with a glance from her burning emerald eyes,
she incinerated them, cast their souls into the very stuff of oblivion.

As she neared the grove, the sable path began to lighten and the ground
beneath her silent feet changed, became less sorcerous and misty, more firm.
She emerged, noiseless, hidden still in the deep shade cast by one of the
quartz pillars. Her eyes, though, still glinted, washing the place in jade
light, such was their intensity. The one she watched mistook the glow for
the sudden brightness of a star or comet, never ceasing the labor that would
be her doom.

It was an armored woman who stood unmoving upon the path which led through
the collonade and to the bed of honey-colored lotuses upon which the strange
stone stood. Her hair burned like copper beneath the chain metal of her
headdress. Upon her brow rested a silver disk, a talisman lit by the glow of
the Blood Moon overhead. A fluttering thought, a slight effort of will was
all it took Imladra to banish the small, weak magic it held. The Queen made
ready, one deadly spell forming like garnet mist in the palm of her hand.
Her body quivered with teh might of her summoning, her black robes rustling,
her silver-steel hair coursing. Then, another figure emerged from the trees
surrounding the circle of quartz.

Imladra paused, her eyes devouring the newcomer. She saw its wings,
feathered, outstretched, blazing with the glory of some forgotten witchery,
and the spell died upon her lips. At once her eyes burst, the light of them
like twin suns, their beryl hue blinding. The power of her gaze alone
shattered the collonade and cracked the great stone in half.

The Queen moved forward, swift as a shadow, towards this newest creature,
this woman with wings like the sky. It did not have time enough to scream
before Imladra raked her claws across its throat, severing its lovely head.

Now, the Queen's hand rested at her side, claws wet with blood or the
dapplings of the moon overhead. She looked down upon the crumpled body, her
glare burning it to cinders.

"I have sworn to slay all your kind," she whispered, the might of her
voice blasting the stone to dust, nay, mere motes, "And so I shall."

Behind her a sword whined as it was drawn from its sheath. The Queen did
not turn, but listened as a useless prayer was muttered into the night.

Now, Imladra turned to face the warrioress upon the path. "Your gods
cannot save you from me, girl. Now kneel, close your eyes and welcome fate."

The girl cast one quick glance at the seared place where her companion had
fallen, her body scorched to nothingness. Tears glimmered in her eyes as she
charged forth, sword held out before her, its edge shadowed by the blood of
the heavens above.

The Queen rose into the air, easily avoiding the woman's clumsy attack.
She outstretched her arms, leveling her deadly gaze upon the now whimpering
warrior.

"You have much courage, girl. Though death stands with its cold hand upon
your shoulder, still you would avenge your friend. Are you a Holy Paladin of
Indriss?"

The woman looked up, the color of her own eyes drained, utterly paled when
faced with Imladra's.

"I am," she answered proudly, if not a little shakily.

Imladra chortled. The air became heavy, the darkness a pall which usurped
the stars. "Indriss....that name rings like thorns in my ears. You guard
the Sapara, Those of the Wings. Cowards one and all. Know this: I shall
wipe their kind from the face of the earth. Your murder, girl, shall be the
overture to my genocide, your dying breath the chorus of my grand vengeance."

With this, Imladra pointed one long, wickedly curved claw at the trembling
form below her. The atmosphere became charged, crackling with lightnings
black and red. They coalesced above the paladin, a void of the Queen's dread
strength. With a swift motion of her hand, Imladra sent the eldritch power
down upon the girl. It whirled, fed like a pack of wolves, touching upon
every inch of the warrior's body. When this magic died, all that remained
was a dew upon the breeze which smelled faintly of scorched flesh and
scalding metal.

Again, the Queen's feet came to rest upon the earth. Her gaze tore
through the grove and a smile touched her lips at the sight of its ruin.
Exhultation coursed through her, the taste of her power a sweet, forbidden
nectar in her mouth, one that slowly spread, a sheen or film whose touch was
ecstasy, no, the death of ecstasy, and the gateway to something much more, a
secret only one such as she could withstand.

"Many years I have waited," she said aloud. At the sound of her soft,
poisonous voice, that blood red moon in the sky seemed to rise, its light
stronger, the ruby tears of its radiance storming through the firmament,
tearing it asunder with the sound of a thousand echoing wails.

Imladra turned her gaze to the west, where burnt a bothersome golden
light. "Indriss," she cooed, "Yes, my sisters. Still you linger. Do you
remember that day when I blasphemed, when I set off to find true power. Sulk
in the bowers of the wood if you want. But know that your reckoning has
come."

She threw her head back, the passion of her might arcing through the night
like wisps of black silk. The darkness swallowed her, made for her a path.
At the touch of the crystal rain which fell in the wake of her passing, those
golden lotuses slumped, withered now to blackened husks like many-winged
scarabs. The darkness of the Queen was at hand.

Avalon

Avalon Publication(June 2001)



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