Heroes under Twilight
Episode 2: “Dante’s Flaming Inferno": Of Players and Slayers, Bare Skin and Beating Hearts
“All you need is love… Love makes us act like we are fools.”
- Caeldryn, Sigea, Zanne, Mikal, Fin, Morgar (young), Grimm, Heidegger, Dante.
- Disembarked the White Feather outside of the Vangeli town of Isca Dumnoniorum, nearest the Brotherhood’s war with the warforged, and Zanne and Caeldryn wound up dominated and enthusiastically working a vampire-run brothel in servitude to Dante Greco, until it all turned ugly and they fled with Fin through the town’s festive streets.
- Ultimately Dante secured them in his palatial estate north of town, restraining their magic and preparing for unseemly activities.
- Sigea, Mikal with help from Grimm and Morgar, arrived and helped free the girls from the life-draining necrotic tether suspending them.
- After much domination and Dante’s vicious Finger of Death, they finally killed Dante, Mikal finishing him off with a dose of domination channeled from Aweskarr and Pelor’s golden blood.
- Found some hearts and began trying to explore who they belonged to. One was Mikal’s. Another was Seylas d’Lyrandar’s, who was plotting to sell out most of the refugee Lyrandars to the Imperium. Another was an eladrin woman’s who was at the Brotherhood’s refugee camp in the mountains
- Despite Mikal’s uncharacteristic appeals to wisdom, Sigea jumped through a shattered mirror into a strange foreign plane filled with primordial shardsong fragments.
I hate vampires.
Lucky for me, the town we ended up in was swarming with them. Thanks to Mikal and a misunderstanding by the guards at the gate, we ended up being ushered in as “entertainment.” Which, in a den of vampires, translates to things much more sinister than a simple dance or magic show.
A creepy dhampyr dwarf split us up, taking me and Zanne to the western side of town. We didn’t want to cause a fuss, so we reluctantly allowed ourselves to be taken in different directions. Mikal was shooting fireworks a la Elrohir, so he and Sigea were told to go to the Southern side of town to find some woman who was in love with Elrohir. Finn immediately merged in with the crowd and disappeared. As usual.
Zanne and I were ushered through the bustling crowd as night fell. I drew my cloak’s hood further over my face, trying to hide within it. Being surrounded by so many dhampyr and vampires was giving me flashbacks to Krya sinking his teeth into Morgar’s neck, Krya striding towards me furiously, Krya drinking my blood. My skin was crawling. Zanne, understanding my terror, bound our wrists together with a vine to keep us from being separated.
We arrived at a heavily gated building. A crowd of people, primarily men, in raggedy clothing jeered at us as we were led by. They were not allowed inside the gate with us, but they pressed their faces against the bars and watched us being led into the building. We were taken in a side entrance and led backstage into a dressing room. There were females of nearly every race imaginable, all dressed in skimpy outfits, primping in front of mirrors. Before we could do much more, someone materialized in front of us, grasping Zanne by the shoulders.
“Well, what a pleasure to see YOU again!” purred Dante. “I must say, I never thought I’d be so lucky! How I’ve missed the lovely Zanne!”
Terror froze the blood in my veins for a split second before I hastily whispered an enchantment, disguising myself as a black haired half-elf. Just in time too, for Dante turned to me next.
“Who’s your friend?” he asked, trying to peer under my hood.
Praying that my disguise was properly in place, I lifted my hood, trying to keep my fingers from trembling. Zanne looked ready to pounce, but upon seeing my face, relaxed. My disguise must have worked.
“This is Meryl.” She lied smoothly.
“Well, Meryl,” Dante’s red eyes glimmered with lust. “Let’s see the rest of you.”
“Umm, actually, Dante,” interjected Zanne quicky, “we’re kind of a package deal. I hope that works with your establishment. And we should probably get dressed, right?”
To my relief, music started playing somewhere, and Dante with an annoyed sigh, showed us to the racks of lingerie, and left us. We tried to find the least revealing outfits we could, but surveying ourselves in the floor length mirror, I couldn’t help but wince. We looked ridiculous. No, we looked like whores. Whores with battle scars. How lovely.
Dante was back in the room, lining girls up in front of curtains that I assumed led to a stage. Zanne grabbed my hand and held it tightly as we were funneled in with all the others. Dante pulled us up in front of a curtain, than surveyed us with a wide smile.
“Now girls,” he murmured, “don’t have too much fun. I will definitely want to see you later.”
Then he grabbed Zanne’s face in his hands and kissed her full on the mouth. I expected Zanne to punch him, but I was startled to see her smile at him when he pulled away. I took a step backwards, but he was too quick for me. He grabbed my face and pulled me in for a kiss. I tried to fight him, but as soon as his cold lips touched mine, I forgot why I cared. I was suddenly kissing him back with passion. I felt giddy and the room felt very warm. Dante pulled away with a smirk, and I wondered why I’d never noticed how attractive he was. Then he opened the curtain and pushed us out onto the stage.
The bright lights blinded me for a second, but as my eyes adjusted I saw a room packed with men gazing up at us. There were mostly vampires, but nearly every race was represented. I could see the excitement I felt reflected back in everyone’s face…..except one. A halfling sat at the bar, gaping in horror at me and Zanne. He looked familiar, but at the moment I didn’t care. I looked back to the room and the music started playing. The other girls on the other stages had started to dance.
Beside me Zanne began to dance as well, and suddenly all I wanted to do was dance for this crowd. The crowd was whistling and hollering things that would have normally mortified me, but right now all I wanted was more. People were being ushered onto the stages with the girls. A large vampire appeared on our stage and grabbed Zanne and me. He kissed Zanne first, lingering, and then turned and lifted me up into the air and kissed me hard. I wrapped my legs around his waist and kissed him back, harder. The crowd was going crazy and I loved it like nothing else. He pulled out of the kiss and opened his mouth to bite my neck which I freely offered, pulling my hair out of the way and closing my eyes……when Zanne suddenly punched him, snapping his jaw in a few places. Startled, he dropped me, and as I hit the floor suddenly the incessant want and lust left me and I realized with a surge of panic that I was sitting on the stage of a brothel dressed as a whore in front of a huge crowd of vampires.
A fire suddenly blazed up by the bar and people where pushing each other to get away. Something wet began falling from the ceiling, putting out the fire. The vampires and dhamprys in the crowd were laughing and catching the liquid in their mouths. My stomach heaved as I realized it was blood. The vampire on the stage next to me growled angrily at Zanne who was in a fighting stance facing him, eyes blazing. Quickly, I ran around the vampire and grabbed Zanne’s hand, pulling her back through the curtain…………..and running straight into Dante.
“Don’t tell me you’re being naughty.” he hissed at us, grabbing each of us by the shoulder, digging in his claws.
Panicking, I teleported, bringing Zanne with me. We appeared in an alleyway outside and started running, not caring which direction as long as it was away from that dreadful place. We heard the rustle of vampire cloaks and glanced behind us in terror, but no one was following…..yet. We ran smack into a group of men, who stared at us in shock, then smiled slowly.
“No!” cried Zanne. “Rape! The vampires are trying to rape us!”
Then men paused, hesitation in their eyes, and glanced around nervously. The other people in the square looked at us curiously, but no one had even a hint of pity in their eyes. A group of guards a few feet away jeered at us.
“Whores! Go back to your job. Stop being lazy.” They laughed cruelly, mocking us.
Zanne snapped and charged the guards, punching the nearest in the face. “I am not a whore!” she yelled. The other guards started to charge her, but she grabbed the nearest halbred and charged them back, bowling them over.
Suddenly a Eladrin Captain materialized in front of me, holding a sword against my throat. “Stand down!” He ordered.
Quickly I shot a burst of fire at his sword, knocking it away from my neck. I tried to run to Zanne, but suddenly I was dangling in the air, suspended by a thin golden cord around my throat. I was gasping for air as I clung to it, trying to take some of the pressure off my throat, when a large dark presence appeared before the Captain.
“These two are mine.” It rasped menacingly. “By order of Crispin himself.”
The Captain quickly bowed his head. “Crispin?” He repeated. “I’m sorry. I did not know these two belonged to him.” He looked back at the dark shadow and narrowed his eyes. “You would do well to keep them on a leash. They were disturbing the peace.”
“Are you telling me what to do?” the shadow growled.
“No, my Lord.” The Captain responded with thinly veiled anger. “Simply giving suggestions.”
The cord suddenly disappeared and I was dropped to the ground. The dark shadow whooshed through me and a voice whispered “It’s Finn….follow me.”
Quickly Zanne and I obeyed, following the dark shadow down the street, around a few corners, and then through the door of a random house. There was a startled high pitched cry, and as our eyes adjusted we realized we were standing in a small house with just one room. There were several children asleep in little beds, and a naked man and woman occupying a bed in the corner. They both turned and clutched the sheets around themselves, staring at us in shock.
“Get out!” yelled the man. “What are you doing?”
Zanne and I tried to hush him, begging them to let us stay and hide here. We were getting nowhere when there was a knock at the door and a stern voice demanding entry. From behind us there was a “click” and we turned to see Finn holding a gun to the head of a small terrified child.
“Do not tell them we’re here.” He told the man harshly.
“Finn!” I hissed at him. “What are you doing?”
The man stared at Finn for a while, and then slowly walked to the door, opening it a crack. A stern voice demanded to know if fugitives had been seen. The man hesitated, but then told the person at the door that he hadn’t seen anyone. There was a tense silence. Quietly, I lifted up the back window behind me and glanced around. I couldn’t see anyone, so I put one foot outside, ready to run for it if necessary. But then finally the person moved on and the man shut the door wearily. I quickly hopped back into the house and quietly shut the window. Finn put his gun away and thanked the man, who simply glared. He told us that he tried to stay out of the eye of the Eladrin and Vampires to keep his family safe. We all stood awkwardly in his house, trying to avoid his furious face. The room started to glow a little brighter, and then suddenly Zanne quickly ran and closed the shades on the windows, giving me a pointed look. I grabbed my hair to see that my disguise had indeed faded. My hair was red again, and glowing lightly. After a while, we sent Finn out to scout for vampires. He’d been gone only a few seconds when suddenly the fireplace in the house went out.
Quickly Zanne bound the man and the woman with vines, hoping it would look like we had taken them hostage so they wouldn’t get in trouble. Then we stood in the darkness waiting. We didn’t have to wait long. A cold hand suddenly circled around my waist. But I was ready for him. Quickly I shot a burst of radiance back into him. His hand disappeared and he screamed as he slid backwards into the fireplace. Suddenly Zanne grabbed my arm and attempted to wrench me back towards the fireplace. A quick glance at her blank expression showed me that she had been dominated. Somehow I managed to free myself, and tried to pull her out of the house with me, but she pulled away and I stumbled out onto the street alone.
Finn was starting intently up at the roof of the house, and I looked to see a huge werewolf staring down at us. But then suddenly Mikal was next to the werewolf, wielding a silver ladle. Sigea appeared next to me, but I was looking for Zanne. She hadn’t followed me out. I ran back inside, but no one was there except for the poor family, quivering in fear. Cursing, I ran to the fireplace and tried to peek my head in. Instantly I was sucked into a portal.
I stumbled out into a dark room and instantly something cold and dark pierced through my chest and lifted me into the air. Dante stood before me, smiling delightedly. Zanne,looking furious and definitely back in her right mind, was also suspended on this same tether of life-draining darkness streaming from one end of the room to the other. Gothic vaulted ceilings lofted into shadow above, a long dining table occupying one end of the vast, pillared room, and an enormous, lavish bed sat under arched windows opposite. We hung helpless in the center, a few feet off the ground.
“Well, well.” purred Dante. “I’m so glad you could join us, Caeldryn. Now we shall have some real fun!”
I tried to shoot Dante with radiance, but suddenly my arms and legs were restrained by darkness, suspending me spread eagle in the air. I could feel the teeth of ghouls from the Shadowfell nipping at my hands and feet and tried not to panic. The darkness through my chest felt like it was tearing all the radiance and fire from my blood, the vitality from my limbs. I tried to wrench myself free, but the darkness was strong.
“Caeldryn, Caeldryn.” Sighed Dante. “How much of you must I sacrifice before you submit to me?”
“I will never submit to you.” I hissed at him through clenched teeth, but he simply laughed.
He walked over to Zanne, stroked her leg, and then started to lick it, only to find his tongue pierced by a thorn that she grew. Angrily he pulled out a whip and slashed Zanne with it, drawing nine deep red lines to dripping life across the length of her body.
As Zanne’s bright blood dripped freely to the ground, Sigea burst through the portal and attacked the vampire as he drew back for another lash. Mikal came close behind, and a shadowy man throwing radiance, followed by……… my mind went blank. It couldn’t be him. I had held his dead body in my arms. I had seen his face, gray and bloodless. It was him, but it was also not him. He was young and his eyes were full of life. Both his arms were flesh and blood. It was the Morgar from before, the Morgar I had last seen in the Imperium. Mikal and Sigea were fighting, but Morgar came and stood by me protectively, the golden light from his hammer engulfing me. As he drew near, the gnawing darkness of the tether in my blood abated somewhat, and Morgar flinched just once, refusing to wince. Was he taking my pain, again?
Dante attempted to hurl Sigea into the black rope, but Sigea cleverly teleported and switched places with Dante, and suddenly it was Dante suspended on the black tether. Furiously, Dante dominated Sigea and made him attack Mikal and the others. Seeing he was distracted, I focused my mental powers on Dante. Suddenly he turned towards me, his face blank. Quickly I commanded him to attack the rope. Obediently he slid up the rope to the wall where a mirror hung. The rope was coming out of the mirror. Dante slammed the mirror with his fist wreathed in ice, cracking it. A thousand wails and shadows hissed out of the mirrors cracks, and I felt the rope lose a little of it’s grip on me, but I still couldn’t seem to free myself.
Dante came back to himself even more furious. Clawing at his own body, he extracted himself from the dark tether, regenerating his form as he flew to attack the group on the ground with ferocity. He commanded Morgar to move away from me, but Morgar stubbornly held his ground.
“I will not warn you again, dwarf.” He hissed. Then he touched a cold finger to Morgar’s forehead. Morgar stumbled slightly and blood started oozing out of his ears, but he refused to move.
Panic filled me, roaring in my head like a storm. This situation was far too familiar. I would not see Morgar die for me a second time.
“I will kill you, Dante.” I hissed at him. “And I’m going to enjoy it.”
Dante smirked up at me. “Well of course you’re going to enjoy what’s going to happen here. We just have to get rid of all these annoying interruptions. Or, how about this, use your beguiling charms and convince them to join our.. revels.” He reached up to stroke my leg, but then suddenly turned and looked behind him, hissing. I was startled to see another person in the room with us. A dhampyr stood near Dante’s bed, rifling through a chest.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Dante growled furiously.
Fiercely, I attempted to free myself from the necro-tether again, focusing on it’s weak points, and suddenly I found myself tumbling to the floor, free. At the same time, I saw Zanne fall off the coursing thread and disappear silently into the ground. Suddenly Dante was sucked into the floor up to his waist and vines came shooting out, ensnaring him like a cocoon. Zanne came shooting up out of the earth next to him. I quickly moved to stand in front of Dante.
“Like I said,” I stated coldly. “I will never submit to you.”
I felt the radiant fire return to my blood, flowing out through my hands and I clenched it like a huge sword, swinging it around my head and through Dante’s chest. I heard him hiss in pain and black blood began to drip out of his nose. But then he smiled again and suddenly burst into a cloud of black mist, free of the vines restraining him. Lunging toward me, he grabbed my face roughly and kissed me again, forcing his forked black tongue into my mouth. I fought him, but I felt the darkness flowing into me like poison. He tried to bite me, but I managed to wrench free in time from his deadly embrace, gasping for breath.
Suddenly Mikal was there, wearing the crown. He called upon the help of Aweskarr, the Purple Dragon, to help him dominate Dante. She gladly obliged, loving the drama of Dante’s apparently complicated love life. Dante was completely dominated, and Mikal forced him to use his finger of death upon himself. Dante obediently obeyed, shooting himself with the powerful darkness and knocking himself to the ground, barely conscious.
Mikal stood over Dante’s prone body, his silver sword arm gleaming in the candlelight. “Did you know that Crispin killed me? At least he tried, but here I am! I did however make myself a promise. I promised that I would kill the entire Greco family, one by one, by stabbing them through the face.”
Dante’s face looked paler than normal as he looked up at the huge shardmind standing over him. “Crispin killed you?” He croaked. “Your body, you’re the special one…..your body is still here.”
“Oh that’s nice.” said Mikal genially. “Thanks for telling me!”
And then, with his dagger-sharp shardfist wreathed in Pelor’s golden blood, he stabbed Dante in the face with such force that the vampire’s head split open.
We stood in silence for a few seconds as Mikal casually withdrew his sword arm. The Dhampyr joined us, holding a long, thin, ornately carved wooden box. I looked at his pale face under his hood and felt shivers of fear run through me. He looked so….grim.
“Hey Grimm,” said Morgar. “What is that?”
Grimm opened the box and showed us the gruesome contents. It was filled with hearts—beating hearts. All of us grimaced at the sight, but Grimm looked almost delighted.
Zanne suddenly lurched forward. “That heart has a Lyrandar mark on it!” she cried.
Slowly I walked forward, keeping a wary eye on Grimm. I gently picked up the Lyrandar heart, feeling it beat in my hands like a fluttering bird. I closed my eyes and concentrated my magic on the heart. Suddenly my eyes shot open and I was in an office, looking down at a desk and finely dressed arms that were much larger than mine. I raised one hand and looked at it. I seemed to have complete control of this person….like a puppet. The name plate on the desk said “Seylas d’Lyrandar.” I stood him up and walked over to the door and opened it. Some Eladrin guards stood there, but they simply nodded politely to me. I walked down the hall and glanced in an elaborate mirror. The man looking back was a noble looking half-elf, with slicked back hair and a Lyrandar dragonmark glowing on his neck. I walked back to the guards. Mikal who was apparently watching what was happening through my thoughts, instructed me to speak with the guards.
“You there!” I said to the guard. “What do you think of our plan?”
The guard looked startled. “Well, my Lord, I don’t think that’s my place.”
“No, I command you to tell me.” I said sternly.
The guard looked extremely uncomfortable, but began to talk. Through him I learned that Seylas was in charge of luring the Lyrandar people back into the Imperium’s good graces, only to exterminate them all. The guard I was talking to seemed to think that the plan wasn’t going to work. In order to keep up the charade (and with Mikal’s prompting) I ordered the other guards to kill the unbelieving guard, and then walked back into the office. I rifled through the desk, looking for information. I found paper documenting amnesty being granted to pirates, such as the terrifying orc Captain Brisbane the Heartless, pirates given Imperial leave to hunt down and kill half-elves, Medani, and other Imperial dissidents. I found more wanted posters of all of us. And then I found a folder marked “Top Secret” that contained a picture of a young man wrestling restraints at the bottom of a wide, dark well as wraithy dragon wings waved and tore from his back. As Mikal was describing to the others what I was seeing, Zanne gasped. She asked me what the man’s name was, and looking through the folder, I found that his name was Miklos d’Lyrandar.
“I think that’s my brother.” Zanne whispered.
I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to control him, but I knew I had to use this man to warn to Lyrandar half-elves. I had him using a sending stone to contact the head of a Lyrandar clan. I had Seylas confess that he was part of a plot to wipe them out. I also had him say that the group Brave Vesparia had helped save him from an enchantment. I told him everything I knew and warned him to try to escape to a place in the mountains southwest of Vangelis where a group called The Brotherhood were mounting an Imperial resistance.
I lost control just as he ended the call.
Eager now, I took another heart in my hands and tried to read it. A surge of pain shot through me. I stumbled back a little, confused. I tried another heart, this one looked Eladrin. I focused in on the heart and this time was successful. This time I was a beautiful Eladrin woman who was apparently at the Brotherhood’s refugee base in the mountains, given Morgar and Grimm’s recognition of an earthsoul genasi that the eladrin lady referred to as Arcturus. I heard Morgar and Grimm hiss in anger when they recognized the woman, but she seemed to be genuinely trying to help the people there. I wondered what foul use Dante was saving her for.
I lost her fairly quickly, and felt myself drained a little more. This magic was exhausting and possibly only meant for immortal vampires. I picked up another heart, a human one, and held it in my hands. Almost immediately I saw Sigea disappearing through a shattered mirror. I looked up to see Mikal standing next to the same mirror watching Sigea’s feet go through. The rest of the group followed my gaze, quickly questioning Mikal to see what on earth Sigea was doing and where he had gone. But I was concerned with something else. Through the heart I tried to raise the hand of who I was controlling. Mikal’s hand shot up in the air, and then he looked at it confused. My mouth dropped open.
“M…Mikal!” I stuttered. “This is your heart.”
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