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  1. #1
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    Fanfic Contest: aNIMaL

    She was in such trouble.

    The girl ran through the streets of Peut, dodging and weaving through crowds to reach her destination. People all around her cast disapproving glances as she passed by, shocked to see a young woman running with no sense of etiquette whatsoever.

    To the hells with decorum, she really didn’t care how she looked to anyone right now. She’d slept in again, until almost midday. Madame Kestra would be so angry with her. She could hear the bitter old woman’s reprimand now: “A lady is never tardy.” Who was that hag to decide whether or not she was a lady? It wasn’t as if Kestra could brand her unworthy of the title; her looks alone could secure that. None of the other girls even compared to her—she was absolutely beautiful. As far as Kestra was concerned, though, that didn’t make up for her tactless demeanor and short temper.

    An overturned cart of fish blocked the path about twenty feet ahead of her. Several men were gathered around the shattered boards, yelling at each other. She cursed under her breath and ducked into an alley. The alcove was tightly packed with crates of equipment, allowing her access to the rooftops: quickest form of travel in her opinion, and the most fun, too. The rush of leaping from one building to another, the wind caressing her face, the sheer exciting and dangerous possibility of falling to the ground below...

    That was another thing about her Kestra would disapprove of. “Such foolish activities are for small boys, not proper women.” She hated Kestra.

    She probably wouldn’t even be in this predicament had she not spend the entire night in the cove with her other teacher, her real teacher, practicing the forbidden arts. But there was no way in the world she would give it up. The dark magic gave her a feeling of power, of supremacy over beings who couldn’t manipulate energy by simply thinking. Although the old wizard had never given her a name to call him by, he had told her several times that she showed great potential. More than he knew, actually. Once or twice, he’d shown up for their late-night sessions drunk enough for her to penetrate his thoughts...and see his fear.

    Fear of her unrivaled control over fire.

    She vaulted over the local bakery’s sign, braced herself, and landed crouched on a balcony seven feet below. Her eyes flicked up. The Academy was just a few dozen yards ahead. Almost there. Maybe Kestra wouldn’t hound her about being late this time.

    Her legs were pumping before she even finished that thought. Had to get there before lecture was over. Schooling in Vozit was a privilege, it wasn’t mandatory like it was in Lyth. She rushed through the giant double-door entrance, passed several empty classrooms. She almost collided with a boys’ instructor, some barrel-bellied old man with a trailing white beard. She fought to suppress a laugh as he fumbled to keep his spectacles from falling. No time to apologize, she knew. He wouldn’t have remembered her face, anyway, so he probably wouldn’t bother reporting her.

    So close. She tore into the last hallway on her route. It was the...second room on the left? She couldn’t quite remember. Yes, definitely the second. It was the only lighted room in the corridor. She slowed her pace, took a moment to compose herself and fix her appearance for the judgmental views of those within. One last deep breath. She started to walk into the room.

    No sooner than she stepped over the threshold, Delilah’s haughty voice drifted down to hit her in the face. “Oh look, it’s the spell seeker.” Scornful laughter followed the insult, causing the girl’s face to instantly turn a bright ruby color.

    Delilah, the whore. The girl who sold her body to flesh-greedy men on a nightly basis. Very few people knew of it; Delilah was meticulous in making sure word of her nightly activities didn’t spread throughout the Academy.

    Delilah was always making fun of her. It had all started when they were small children one day when Delilah had caught her hiding on the docks late one night, waving her arms as if she were casting magic. It wasn’t as if she couldn’t dream back then, but Delilah simply wouldn’t let her. The mean girl and her friends had instantly branded her with the cruel nickname of Spellseeker, chanting the name whenever she entered their sight. The juvenile cruelty hadn’t even stopped when they’d entered their teen years; at some point they added mocking hand gestures to the teasing, throwing bits of trash at her as if they were fireballs.

    “Raikka.”

    She turned around at the sound of someone calling her name. She didn’t even have to look to see who it was; there was no mistaking that low, raspy voice.

    Sure enough, there stood Kestra, indifferent as ever. Despite her age and her undoubtedly brittle bones, the old woman towered over Raikka, having to look down her nose to see the girl. Raikka just knew that Kestra enjoyed looking at her that way. She wished she could telekinetically send the old fish flying through the building’s stone wall, but that would expose her powers. It wouldn’t do her any good to have the entire city knowing of this girl with “abilities.” Who knew; the Hand themselves could whisk her away to Layar and put her on the front lines against the terrifying beasts and living dead of the Shadow armies.

    “Late again, I see,” Kestra sighed, “You are a troubled child.”

    “I am not a child, I’m eighteen.”

    Kestra narrowed her eyes. “Do not argue with me, girl.”

    “Madame Kestra, I can explain—”

    “Enough,” The old woman flatly overrode Raikka’s defense, and sliced the air with her hand to emphasize. “We will discuss your problems after class. Now, sit.”

    Raikka’s shoulders fell. There was just no arguing with someone as stubborn and narrow-minded as Kestra. Anything she said bounced off the wall of arrogance. She shuffled across the room toward her spot in the back. Stifled giggles followed her down the aisle of benches. She started to slump into the seat, but knew that Kestra would chastise her even more for “unwomanly behavior.” She forced herself to calmly lower herself down.

    This is going to be a long day, she thought, putting her face in her hand as Kestra droned on about some long-dead kingdom.

    ******

    Raikka stalked the dark alleys of Peut’s harbor, fighting a losing battle against the night chill. The sleeveless dress she chose for class that day was useless in this storm. The thin cloak she’d stolen from just outside the academy didn’t do much better. She knew she should just go home to the inn, but the need to be with her tutor was too great. She didn’t care if David got angry with her. She never cared. The widower innkeeper wasn’t going to punish her; she was the closest thing he had to a daughter. She, however, was somewhat less compassionate than him. Having lost her parents before she was old enough to remember them, she saw no value in becoming too attached to others. Relationships were trivial compared to what she could accomplish from learning.

    She lifted her face to the freezing wind, searching for an open door. The old conjuror could wait for her until this storm weakened. Her toes were cold. Even her toes. Wait...there was a tavern, just on the other side of the next street. She couldn’t quite see the sign from here...what did it say? A few moments of walking brought her in front of the pub. It was called...

    The Magic Monkey. How fitting.

    She let out a short bark of laughter, the exhalation crystallizing in the cold air, then stepped inside. The glorious warmth welcomed her in. She tossed back her hood and took a second to catch her breath. Fortunately, there was an empty table in a back corner. Nice and dark.
    Not long after she sat, a bronzed man strode into her corner. He frowned at the sight of her exposed shoulders, then looked up at her face and smiled. “What can I get for you, young lady?” His thick accent sounded strange to Raikka’s ears. Was that Ellos?

    She blew out a breath and rubbed her bare arms. The unforgiving weather was doing a number on her. Raikka cleared her throat. “Anything hot.”

    The old man smiled and chuckled through his thick black beard, then leaned down and put a hand on Raikka’s wrist. The hand was so warm, she didn’t bother pulling away. “Cider, then,” he said. “No charge for you, young miss.”

    Raikka returned the smile and looked into his eyes. The eyes were bright and ageless, sparkling with curiosity. He must have had countless stories from many travels. She wouldn’t mind hearing a few from this kind soul.

    “Thank you,” she said.

    “Of course,” he scratched at his chin. “You look like a student from the Academy, yes?” She nodded. “Then you must know about my country’s religious ways. It would be unthinkable to not help those who need it.” He winked, exposing a nasty scar along his eyelid.

    The man rapped the table with his knuckles and disappeared behind the bar to fetch Raikka’s drink.

    Movement in her peripheral vision made Raikka turn. Someone was coming down the stairs behind where she was seated, laughing as they stumbled. She saw long blonde hair cascading over a wine-stained dress.

    Oh, no.

    It was that wretched whore Delilah. Probably had just finished with a “customer” of hers, and was already spending her nightly earnings getting as drunk as possible. The goblet in her hand splashing everywhere was testimony to that. Raikka turned and threw the cloak back on, praying that she wouldn’t be noticed.

    Raikka?”

    Damn it.

    She tried to hurry out of the pub, but the other girl’s body slipped into the bench next to her, shoving her thin form into the wall. An arm found its way over her neck to rest on her shoulder. The stench of the wine filled her nose.

  2. #2
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    Delilah’s smiling face leaned into hers. “What do you think you’re doing here, Spellseeker?” she jeered. “This place isn’t for you.”

    Raikka’s jaw clenched. “Neither is it for you. You should spend the night with your own kind; go find a stable.”

    Someone behind them snickered. It was the man who had accompanied Delilah upstairs.
    Delilah laughed in Raikka’s face. “Don’t get smart with me, Spellseeker. Don’t you get smart with me!” She was a mess. Raikka had to get out of here before things got worse.
    She pulled her legs up and rested them on the bench. Delilah coughed, then took a sip from the emptying glass. “What are you doing?”

    Raikka looked at her with disgust. “I’m getting away from you,” she said, and prepared to jump over the table.

    Delilah made a slight grunting sound and reached out at Raikka. She grabbed onto her dress just as Raikka pushed off.

    The ripping sound seemed loud enough to fill the entire room.

    Delilah burst into hysterical laughter. Raikka was overcome with both embarrassment and raw fury. “How dare you!” she screamed.

    Delilah ignored her accusation and continued laughing, spilling even more of her wine.

    Raikka started toward her, but stopped as a man on the other side of the room cried out. She wheeled around to see who had yelled.

    Everyone in the bar was staring at her. It was silent for a minute, then the wave of whistles and catcalls started. Only then did she feel the draft on her shoulder. She looked down.

    The left side of her dress was torn from the shoulder to her hip. Worse, the rip extended across her abdomen, exposing her pale, thin midsection to the hungry eyes staring at her. Her cheeks flashed with heat. They could see her. They could see her chest, at least the left side of it. Her hands flew in front of her, blocking their sight. A round of boos rose from the small crowd.

    Raikka sprinted for the doorway, fled from the tavern. She was utterly humiliated. All because of Delilah, as always. She couldn’t take this torment anymore. The worst part was that she couldn’t do anything about it. Well, not what she wanted to do. What she wished she could do to Delilah would result in Raikka’s imprisonment or hanging.

    The cold finally got to her. Her entire body started shaking. Where was she going to go now?

    A faint sound behind her made her turn. Apparently, things were still capable of getting worse.
    Delilah was staggering after her, laughing the whole way, occasionally taking a swig from a fresh bottle of wine. She just wouldn’t leave Raikka alone.

    Raikka pulled the shredded side of her dress up and tied the straps together. She finished before her pursuer could reach her, and ran in the opposite direction.

    She managed to reach the harbor before collapsing from exhaustion. Delilah’s smug laughter reached her before long. The stronger girl bent over her knees, holding her bottle by the neck like a sword.

    “You can’t hide from me, Spellseeker.” she gasped between breaths. “I know this city like I know the rings on my fingers.”

    Something in Raikka’s mind snapped. She refused to be abused by this bitch anymore. There was no second thought. She felt the power rising within her. There was no holding it back at this magnitude; she had to release it. Her hands shot up of their own accord and let loose a swell of lightning at the girl who’d tortured her for years.

    The lightning coursed through Delilah’s body, turning her skin into the burnt husk of a boar left on a spit for far too long. It slowly lifted her from the sand and stopped to hold her several hands’ width in the air. The smell of burnt flesh hit Raikka in the face, carried on the wind that drove around her like a thousand damned spirits on the haunt. Delilah screamed with agony. “Please!” she cried through blistered lips, no longer the shapely face that had once brought men to their knees. “Please, stop doing this to me!”

    Raikka’s snarl turned into a grin of madness. Of course, she would release her. The electricity flowing from her fingers faltered for a moment as she shifted her arms, crossed them in front of her chest.

    She never said she would let her go alive. The current that stung at Delilah reformed itself into a sphere of energy, ready to execute its master’s sadistic bidding. Her eyes locked on Raikka’s, her lower lip trembling in a soundless whimpering plea. Raikka thrust her arms to either side. The girl under Raikka’s power let out one last scream, then disappeared in a blossom of blood and azure fire.

    Silence. It rung in her ears, loud as the welcome toll of a mooring ship’s bells. Raikka stood in shock, shivering from the clinging wind. Being drenched in the steaming blood from Delilah’s burst body had provided a short relief from the cold, but the liquid was cooling quickly in the icy gust.

    What have I done?

    She...she’d killed Delilah. She had finally given that evil whore what she deserved, but there was no satisfaction, only horrified guilt. What would she do? She couldn’t run now; no matter where she went, the city guard would find her, or worse, agents of The Hand.

    Her heart was pounding. Were they coming for her already? Had someone seen her kill the other girl? Her head whipped from side to side. She wanted to run, but her legs just refused to work.
    The wind shifted momentarily. The tiny hairs on the back of Raikka’s neck rose, that primal fear ingrained into her picking up on some unknown danger. An odd sound tickled her ears, something much like...

    No. There couldn’t have been someone else in the city, could there? Or was her tutor sneaking up on her for some new self-defense lesson? She knew that sound. The hum that was produced when her tutor demonstrated how to create a...

    A portal.

    A faint flash reflected from the hull of the ship docked in front of her. She spun around, then fell to the pier, startled at the sight of someone standing right in front of her, just ahead of a swirling blue gateway. The cloaked figure raised one arm out to the side. The hand’s fingers closed, and the wormhole vanished.

    The figure stepped forward, reaching up to pull its hood back. The rough cloth fell, revealing a stunning woman whose pale gray skin seemed to glow. Her cold blue eyes radiated an ancient and sadistic power.

    “An elf?”

    The woman’s tongue clicked in disgust, flicking out like a snake’s. “I prefer the term ‘foreigner.’” Her words dripped with seduction and authority at the same time, demanding that Raikka follow any command this person gave.

    “You,” Raikka whispered, “you’re one of them. You’re with the Shadows.”

    The woman smiled. She stepped toward Raikka. Raikka scrambled backward, unsure of what this dangerous woman would do to her.

    The smile widened. “I will do you no harm, little one.”

    That voice...so beautiful... But could she be trusted?

    “What do you want with me?”

    The woman reached up and stroked Raikka’s hair. Raikka stood unflinching, leaning into the touch like a cat rubbing against its master. Everything snapped into perspective at the touch; Raikka could see the truth. She never truly had a place among the people of this world. She was an outsider, an alien being that the citizens of her “home” both feared and resented. This woman, this fellow mage would protect her. She need only pledge herself to this new master.
    “What about my teacher?” She couldn’t just leave the old man; there may have been something important that he hadn’t taught her yet.

    The elven woman continued to stroke Raikka. “You need not concern yourself with him.” She ran a razor-nailed finger over Raikka’s flawless face. “There is nothing more that he can tell. He pales in comparison to my power.”

    Raikka didn’t doubt it. She suddenly realized that it was true: whatever secrets he might have kept from her, being under this woman’s tutelage would be of far more [?] to her.

    A thought came into her mind.

    “May I ask your name, Mistress?”

    The woman smiled once more. “Names are of little importance to me. If it truly concerns you though, my child...”

    “You may call me Majiya.”

  3. #3
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    *****

    Raikka stood atop the massive carcass of an earth golem. From this position, it was relatively easy to pick out weak spots in the human army’s last remaining legion. Her force of gargoyles normally had no trouble tearing the humans apart, but their new tactic of forming a tight circle and waving pikes and spears at anything that flew near...that would complicate things. Now her task was finding areas of the circle that could be penetrated—spots where soldiers were resting, breaking to eat, or grew lazy with their grip on spears.

    It wouldn’t be possible to do that, however, if she continued to dwell on events that no longer served her any purpose.

    She couldn’t help it. At least once a day, she regretted her decision to not turn all her peers’ internal viscera to ash, but that was the price she paid for freedom.

    It was all behind her now. The Seril woman had taken her in; claimed Raikka as one of her own. In a twisted way, she was like her only family—they shared the same barbaric love of chaos. Raikka couldn’t help but think of this Majiya as the mother she never truly had. Any time that Raikka was in the sorceress’ presence, she could almost feel her ears elongating, growing sharper every day.

    “Mistress.” The familiar rough voice came from her right side.

    Raikka turned to acknowledge Khorbas. Any other person would jump at the sight of the warrior’s skull-faced helmet, but Raikka stared directly into his burning eyes. The knight’s ghastly appearance had no effect on her. After all, it would be rude not to look at her second-in-command when he spoke.

    “Aren’t you cold?” he continued. How amusing. He was trying to sound concerned for her well-being. The undead warriors of Scheuth were naturally incapable of emotion, but Khorbas was making an attempt to mimic empathy for Raikka’s sake.

    She blinked, continued to stare nonchalantly until he was forced to look away out of respect. The undead were nothing if not deferent to their masters.

    “The fire within provides,” she murmured.

    It did indeed. Fire, her one and only friend from this world. The cruel element provided all that she would ever need: food, warmth, entertainment; setting a single being ablaze provided her with hours of amusement. It wasn’t always about killing, though. The right creature set on fire was temporarily empowered, utilizing the flames as their own weapon.

    Their own weapon...

    Raikka bared her teeth and growled, furious at herself for not thinking of it sooner. How could she be so stupid? Of course! Some beings were actually strengthened when set ablaze. Beings like Khorbas and her gargoyle militia. The trick was hitting them with just the right amount of power.

    Raikka turned to Khorbas. “Order a fall-back. We’re going to use a new strategy.” The shadow knight spurred his hellsteed toward the battlefield without question, immediately relaying his master’s orders.

    It wasn’t long before the legion of beasts returned. Raikka had sorted out the plan by the time they had arrived. She ordered them to stand in a wide circle, linking forelegs. Not one argued against her command. They knew not to question their commander who could reduce them to a pile of bones with little effort.

    Raikka took her place in the center of the circle. Khorbas stood by her side, awaiting further orders. She reached deep within herself, calling upon the inferno within. Her limbs grew cold with the power; her eyes began to glow an enraged ruby.

    Without a word, she raised one outstretched hand to the sky and summoned a tongue of flame. The flare danced for a moment, then set off a wave of energy that spread out like a ripple from a stone dropped in a pool of water. The blast passed over the bestial soldiers without so much as singeing them.

    A few seconds passed, then something happened.

    The gargoyles’ front claws simultaneously burst into flames. Most jumped back in shock. Khorbas drew his sword, expecting what would happen to him. His prediction was correct; the blade came to life with fire. The undead warrior raised it over his head and let loose a battle cry. The invigorated monsters raised their heads and joined the brutal yell.

    Raikka smiled at the sound that made the nearby fighters cower in their armor.

    The humans didn’t stand a chance against her burning army.

  4. #4
    DP Visionary Mongoosey's Avatar
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    Great story telling! Well done.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Jo3yb0i's Avatar
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    I enjoyed this one. I felt it was somehow similar to how belladonna became with the shadows. Well done. =]
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  6. #6
    DP Visionary Preybird's Avatar
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    awesome story.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Veles's Avatar
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    Great lore take on Raikka and her ability. Very smart.

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  8. #8
    Senior Member aNIMaL's Avatar
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    NOTE: Just so you know, the [?] near the end of the second post was supposed to be the word value, but I forgot to edit in there before submitting.
    Last edited by aNIMaL; 12-08-2013 at 02:29 AM.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member XanteseZerylliom's Avatar
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    Very nice work! Raikka seems to transform so much during this story. Nice descriptions, too!
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  10. #10
    DP Visionary Shadow Mann's Avatar
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    Nicely done...enjoyed reading this.
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