The Story of Naga Queens
Bracada Snow Desert
by Lady Dragon
A hooded figure dressed in black robes passed through the white halls, holding in one gloved hand a wooden staff with a snakehead of green material sitting at the top of the staff. The ruby eyes of the snake glared at the columns, as if trying to burn them.
The figure was greeted at the path's end by the Loremaster, Heilasi Mech'Kipr, and warmly welcomed by her.
"Your Excellence." - The figure's voice was shrill. - "Greetings to House Mech." - He took off the cloak, and swung it round his staff to cover the snake eyes.
"Gharos. You have been expected for a long time here." - Heilasi greeted the Lich, ignoring the obvious absence of matter between the Lich's skeleton ribs and the purple undead eyes.
She proceeded with him down through many doors, oblivious to the chill coming from the walls.
This was the Temple of Nga'Scargothe, the secret building in the Tail Ridge Mountains that Heilasi hat built a long time ago as a place of quiet and peace.
A white door opened at the Loremaster's touch, and they stepped into an oval room of a startling silver colour. In the center a seven-pointed star was drawn, and it was shimmering as if taken directly from the night sky.
This was the Prayer Chamber, unopened for a very long time, because the Loremaster rarely visited Nga'Scargothe these days.
Two chairs stood by each side of the Star, with Sollivell Mech'Tor and Mierdred Deur'Mar sitting in them; both the Nagas were still as if paralyzed.
The blind Naga stirred as the door opened, and spoke with a warm, welcoming voice, somehow accurately identifying the newcomer:
"Gharos. Mother, your Excellence..."
Heilasi made a whistling sound, silencing her daughter. Then she turned to the Lich.
"My daughter has expressed a wish to see her "twin". Would that be possible to do before the Ritual?"
Not even pausing in thought, the Lich replied calmly:
"Your Excellence, I assure you - you'd rather not know." - He reached into the deep of his cloak, and took out four bottles, filled with blood. The bottles were each of a different colour, and he showed every single one to the Loremaster, explaining.
"...This one is of the Empress Nagitari; this is your blood, your Excellence; this belongs to your daughter; and this... this is her blood."
The Lich carefully avoided to say out loud Mierdred's name, and was about to place the bottles on the floor, when Heilasi asked:
"Why do you need them?"
The Lich would sigh, if such as he could sigh.
"The Empress's blood is for your daughter, such is what she'll become. Yours is for the girl, such as her destiny. Their blood is to do the Ritual itself."
"Oh..." - the Loremaster looked away, and her eyes met Mierdred's. It seemed that the young Naga Queen was watching her with amusement. Heilasi quickly looked away, ashamed of herself.
Gharos was walking round the Star, careful in not touching the drawn lines and chanting on the ancient language of the Deyja Moors.
It was the first time in the Empire that this dark language has been spoken, and the very walls seemed to shudder at the sound of it.
The words were harsh, not gentle to the listener's ears; the pronunciation resembled the tongue used by the Goblins, but much more harder. It was if someone was trying to speak through clenched teeth... without much success.
The four bottles were placed in the Star's center, and the Lich asked Heilasi to stand at one of the corners so that her presence wouldn't harm the Ritual's completion. It was a dangerous enough procedure without any interruptions from
Its art was long forgotten by the Deyjans; only the Higher Priests knew the necessary incantations - and those were kept secret at all cost, the Priests willing to give their life for the preservation of the spell.
It took Heilasi a lot of gold, as well as priceless scrolls to make the Lich come here, into the land of the archenemy... and help them! Such a thing was unheard of in the entire world, and the Loremaster sincerely prayed for it to stay that way for the longest time possible.
Meanwhile, the Lich never stopped to move, chanting in a much higher voice that seemed ready to break stone and shatter mountains only by the single force inlayed in it.
Long, thin and frail ribbons of colour started to come out from the bottles, and were all heading to their destinations with a stunning speed. One headed for Mierdred, and she closed her eyes in terror. It was best she didn't do that, for the ground began to tremble, and that small tremble quickly grew into an earthquake. In moments, she suddenly realized that it was her own body that trembled, shaking together with the ground... or was it just her eyes? She dared to risk opening one eye.
A ribbon was slowly entering her, making the body shudder, as if in pain, though none was felt.
Sollivell was in the same position, only that she could not see clearly, what was actually happening to her due to her disability. Was it for a better or worth, it was hard to tell.
A vortex started, and Mierdred closed her eyes again in panic, not wanting to see how the brightness of the surroundings gradually began to fade away.
She was conscious or better to say, semi-conscious all the way... but she never remembered that she screamed. Later, Mierdred was never certain of what happened that day. She only remembered passing in and out, wishing for the comfort of simple life she had but a week ago...
But then it was already over. Two limp bodies sat in the chairs, and the Loremaster was huddled in a corner, bewildered and clutching her head.
Amongst all the turmoil, Gharos stood quietly, almost peacefully.
He reached out, and grabbed the empty four bottles; then he bowed to Heilasi and went out through the door, which closed silently behind him.
Heilasi blinked and tried unsuccessfully to get up. She felt drained of all her energy, and remained motionless on the floor, with her grey eyes closed.
Tears fell, but the cold marble of Nga'Scargothe didn't accept this final gift from it's maker.
This was the last century of this world to live through, and Nga'Scargothe would never survive it... the beautiful works of art, the marble columns, the maze... all would perish, as it did once on an another world. Such was the wish of the Creator.
The twenty thousand strong army that the Nagas' Ambassador got from Gavin Magnus marched through the Silver Grade. The soldiers of the valleys and the marshes that never in their lives were inside the land of Snow Bracada looked half-lost in the mountains, half-dazed by their splendor and towering might.
The Great Tail Road got lost between the rocks frequently, and such an army had a hard time passing through, especially the Tatalian archers - the Lizardmen. For them, things were difficult, to say the least. They constantly sneezed, even if walking in warm leather with sheep fur; almost all of them had skin cramps, the bare blue hide of theirs unused to such a harsh cold.
Chapter 8: The Beginning
The Hall of Castle Gloaming was symmetrical till the level of being accurately precise. The Hall was decorated with delicately shaped statues of beautiful maidens, candelabras and sconces in the shape of long, slender dragons, dark red carpets lied on the floors...
And the throne... it wasn't a simple throne. The whole back of the throne was a Gargoyle's obsidian body hanging over anyone who would dare to sit on the seat of high power. The black wings of the gargoyle were widely opened in a half-circle, giving the appearance that the throne and the occupant of it were enveloped in them.
Once, Archibald Ironfist sat upon the same throne. Once... it was so long ago, when there was yet another turmoil both in Enroth and Erathia. Now, it was peaceful, and King Archibald was in Tularea, in Clanker's Laboratory, in exile... and busy with his endless half-chemical, half-magic experiments.
And about the throne in the absence of the king... Well, the throne always belonged to Kastore when the King wasn't there. Always.
How long had he desired power like this! Since he first set foot upon this land's soil, probably, and had seen the endless possibilities, advantages, and the power... it was raw power here.
Kastore sat on the Gargoyle Throne, and silently watched the raven's movements sitting on his arm.
A wise bird, the raven was as black as the man's thoughts, and neither wanted to change the way they were. Or perhaps, wouldn't and couldn't.
Time always seemed to stop in the Hall. Nothing ever changed, moved, or even made a single sound. But Kastore had to make it move.
As if by a link of telepathy, the doors opened, and a hunchbacked man entered, cowering before him.
Kastore nodded impatiently, and the man somehow managed to see it at his current position, and lifted his head.
"Green as a Goblin", people said. This one was surely Goblin, but was he green? That was one of the things not right with him - his skin colour was white, if that could be called colour at all.
"Your Majesty, we've finished the system's construction. What do you command next?"
Kastore sat upright immediately, and released the raven from his grip. The bird flapped its wings, and flew out the Hall through an open window.
"You, your people, and your slaves will be rewarded. Go, and bring Lord Huxley to me."
The hunchbacked albino bowed, carefully touching the ground with his
forehead, and scurried out the Hall's iron doors.
Only seconds later, Lord Huxley was announced to the Gargoyle Hall.
His Majesty didn't like to wait, so why keep him waiting? That seemed to be the main logic of Pit's inhabitants.
Lord Huxley bowed, in similarity to Albinog before him, and knelt, awaiting orders.
"The Havoc... how soon will it be operable?"
"Your Majesty, if that'd be your wish, it'd start right now." - Huxley blinked. His grayish head told of his true age, but his eyes seemed to be younger, the battle flicker shining anew in them from time to time.
Lord Huxley was a Black Knight, and though he was many times offered the promotion to Dread Knight, he refused it. He was one of the few living, not undead Knights, and was very much valued by Lord Kastore.
"Right now? I don't think..." - Kastore paused. - "On second thought, start it."
"Yes, your Majesty."
Kastore nodded, and Lord Huxley turned to leave, when he spoke:
"Send the bard to me. We need a second spy, after the wizard died."
Huxley bowed again, and departed from the Gargoyle Hall, leaving Kastore alone to think his dark thoughts again in peace.
"Your Highness, Nagitari asks for mercy!"
The once capital of the Naga Empire, the city of Nagitari was swept over by a fire avalanche, which engulfed the entire city in flames.
"Mercy?" - The Wraith Lord repeated incredulously. - "I was told that Nagas fight to die, no less."
The other speaker shrugged, and said:
"That's what their Citykeeper is saying."
"Bring her to me." - He commanded, and the other one vanished. A few minutes later, he returned with a Naga Queen trailing behind.
"Here she is... Citykeeper Khena Sogedro."
The man disappeared once again, leaving the Naga Queen to converse with the Wraith Lord alone.
"We ask for mercy." - Khena whispered, bowing her head before the shapeless being.
"Why?" - He asked, playing with her.
"We haven't got a single person left breathing, and who is yet capable of holding a sword. Only the young ones and helpless elders are left. We ask for mercy... my lord."
"Fine. Prepare the city and those in it to greet the army. I accept your surrender, even if I am surprised."
Khena bowed again, and crawled back to her defeated city under escort, thinking of the Loremaster. Her name was on everyone's lips, especially today.
The next step for the Wraith Lord was to attack the present capitol of the Naga Empire, Na'Aleith... or as the humans called it, "Blue Water". If that city failed the same way as Nagitari did, then the Empire was won over.
All was happening too fast and at the worst possible time - when the Empire was still without its Empress. The Loremaster was to announce the decision on the Empress only after the day after tomorrow...
Mierdred opened her eyes, without much hope in her heart, preparing for the worst and it wasn't long to wait. Darkness was everywhere and she felt herself to be as... as blind. Why, she actually was blind!
She seemed to lie in a bed, but she was fairly uncertain for that particular point now, her faith in the Creator shaken badly.
Mierdred tried to get up, and felt someone's cool hands grab her, and place her upright.
"It's all right, your Highness, you're in your quarters. The Loremaster ordered me to look after you."
"Who are you?" - Mierdred asked, downright confused.
"It's me, your Highness, Neyn Lach'Ierr. Your maid."
As she spoke those words, the things that had happened during last hectic days washed down over Mierdred. The Deadgates... her promise, the dreadful Ritual... Nga'Scargothe. Oh, what a horrible name. For a moment she thought that it was all just a bad dream, but the nightmare turned out to be a terrible reality in all the details.
"Sorry. I forgot..." - Mierdred said softly, holding the hands of the owner of the feminine voice, seemingly belonging to a Naga.
"Yes, her Excellence said that you might have lapses in the memory. By the way, you are just in time to wake up for the Ceremonial High."
"Yes?" Mierdred asked hesitantly. Helpfully the maid continued,
"That's the new name for the Empress's Choice Day. I forgot completely that your Highness doesn't know. The Loremaster announced this day two nights ago..."
"I slept two days and two nights?!" - Mierdred exclaimed.
"Yes... her Excellence said that you would be tired."
"Who is chosen, then?" - She asked, a bad feeling sweeping over her in an instant.
"Ah... the Naga Queen Mierdred Deur'Mar."
A wave of nausea ran down Mierdred's body, and she toppled on the bed, somehow evading the skillful hands of the maid which tried to catch her.
"Be careful, your Highness. Now, since she became Queen now, all crimes in her past are forgotten... of course it couldn't be otherwise as the Loremaster's choice fell on her. But... I don't think that the people will be happy, though... She is a murderer, anyway."
"Damn Nagitari follower!" - Mierdred thought in heart, but held herself from responding. - "That fox for a Loremaster didn't tell me anything about the conditions of this horrible Ritual!"
She sighed, and turned her head to where Neyn's voice came from.
"When is the ceremony to begin?"
"Well... well..." - the voice was strangely thoughtful, and the maid's hands broke away. - "Just about in an hour, perhaps. Your Highness will have plenty of time to dress up for the occasion. A special seat will be on the lower plane in the hall... a speaker will tell you all that will be happening. Me, that is."
Neyn smiled, but Mierdred couldn't see it. Yet, she felt the bitter irony of everything that have happened with her and the Empire.
Resurrectra's shape materialized in the Hall of Castle Gloaming. It was empty here, and chilly as well.
She had waited for a long time to do this, gathering her courage to the outmost. And, now, in the most important moment, no one was even in the damned Hall! Fate still had her hand over Resurrectra's tiny soul, it seemed, and was digging its nails in.
After a moment of consideration, Resurrectra sighed, and sat down upon the throne.
Immediately, the image of the whole planet appeared before her very eyes, turning slowly its sides to the Sun.
Resurrectra focused on the Erathian continent that was majestically floating by in the air, and the image grew bigger and bigger, coming closer to her filling all the vision. The lines of the continent, rivers and forests were standing out sharply, the towns and villages grew in size. She kept concentrating looking at Deyja Moors, and finally the whole of it was obediently shown to her.
"Watchtower VI..." - Resurrectra smiled. The secret entrance into the Pit, the villages above, and the sacred altars... all was
laid bare for the eyes that knew where to look.
Closing in on the Pit, Resurrectra suddenly found herself inside of it, with its natives moving forward to her.
A horrible Queen of the Dead greeted her, and shuddering, Resurrectra stepped forward with a slight bow. She needed to find Kastore, and fast.
But, as soon as she even thought the name, the person appeared before her, walking in a hall. Resurrectra followed him, trailing behind.
Suddenly, he turned, as if sensing something. After a short pause, Kastore shrugged and moved on.
Resurrectra silently ordered the throne to shut off, and it, as silent as ever, obeyed. The sight of the majestical and cold Hall welcomed her eyes once again.
She had known for a long time of the existence of this... toy in Kastore's possession, but never had quite explored its full potential. Now she was horrified at the might of the Gargoyle Throne. No secret would be safe as long as it existed... Not a single one.
Resurrectra quietly got up, and sat down in the shade of the throne's huge black wings, where she wasn't visible in the shadows. Then she patiently waited for Kastore to come back.
An hour passed. The woman never moved, being personification of the patience itself. The second hour passed without any change.
Suddenly, the doors swung open, and Kastore walked in, accompanied by Tolberti, who was arguing with the King about something.
Then Kastore snapped something at him, and Tolberti left, obviously in a bad mood.
Resurrectra didn't listen to the conversation, even if she could have from this distance. Her entire attention was focused on Kastore, who came towards the throne and to her hidden in the throne's shadows.
Yet, something stopped him on the halfway. He halted, and sniffed the air, as a dog on a trail. The intuition of the man was truly impressive.
Resurrectra decided that there was no sense in hiding anymore. She calmly stepped out of the shade, and confronted Kastore face to face. He made a move to call the guards, but Resurrectra shut the opening doors with a sparse wave of a hand, never even moving her white-haired head.
"What do you want?" - He growled at her. - "Go back to Bracada, to the side of the weaklings!"
He didn't seem to be surprised at her being here at all, Resurrectra noted. But that was not important now. Her eyes glowed as she spoke:
"Yes, it might be the side of the weaklings, but yet that is where you attack first! Are they that weak, that you need to bribe Barbarians, offer territory to undead, and build a machine for teleportations, just to make yourself look foolish in the eyes of those who know you? You should have attacked Nighon first then, the strongest side! At least that would look better - Mutare's forces are at their prime now!"
"Deyja Moors has an alliance with Nighon!" - Kastore was beginning to lose his temper, and started to advance on her, while Resurrectra stood still as stone.
"Ah, alliance I thought that we have had the same thing with you. Our mission was to find Corak, you fool, not to start a blood war!" - Her hand flashed up, conjuring a globe of the planet. - "See this? That is how it looks now! If you will continue with what you are doing, what could happen will be as deadly as the doom's day. Watch!" - And Resurrectra's globe showed a red wave coming through from the center of the planet, covering the whole of it with red-sand soil. Seconds later, rivers of lava erupted, flowing freely, destroying any cities left still standing after devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, and at the end the whole planet shuddered the last time and blew up to millions of shards.
"Lucifer Kreegan tried! Xeron tried! Archibald tried! And now you want to try? Do you? What will happen shall be Armageddon, one way or the other. Archibald was a fool, that's why he didn't succeed - his thoughts and ambitions didn't go any further than this world, the kingdom here or there. But Grahm has been awakened. And even you know what that means." - Resurrectra paused, giving Kastore time to think and reply. But he said nothing, silent in his thoughts.
She could read him like an open book. All Kastore ever desired was power. That showed itself a long time ago and was proved many times over.
"Don't you have anything to say?" - Resurrectra asked, but silence was the only reply.
She sighed, and turned to the throne. Suddenly, a hand lay on her shoulder, and his whispering voice said:
"Join me! Together we shall conquer the world, and with time even the Ancients themselves won't be able to stop us! Now it is the Time. Join me, be my Queen..."
"You are mad!" - Resurrectra shouted, turning back at him, staring him in the face. - "Don't human lives mean anything to you? Don't you have a heart to feel with?" - Tears fell from her eyes, and as Kastore lifted his hand to wipe them off, Resurrectra shimmered and disappeared forever.
"Damn it!" - He sweared, slapping his hand over the Throne's hands, in a helpless fury.
His plan hasn't succeeded. Now he had to finish this all by himself, with her or without - it didn't matter anymore. If without Resurrectra, then that only meant that she would die with the others. If with, then then she could have been his Queen. But not after this.
"Not any longer," - he swore. She denied him, and she'd pay. Her Golem didn't frighten him in the least. She thought that the Havoc was all he had. She was wrong. He had... he had the Marlegonh.
The peace, though, was temporary, as the place looked dangerous even to the most naïve and inexperienced of the soldiers.
Cries came from the tail of the army, and they were heard closer and closer, to the point where the word 'avalanche' could be made out.
Before anyone could act in an orderly fashion, the rock-and-snow rain was upon them, falling and bringing death and destruction exactly on the place where the army had camped.
Everyone yelled. Cries of men, horses alike were stilled by the snow, and it kept raining, smashing, crashing, falling, falling, and falling...
Suddenly it stopped as quick as it had begun, and all was silent in seconds. Like nothing really happened.
In the middle of the night, those who were not buried under the snow hurriedly began to dig out the unlucky ones, though without much hope.
After barely an hour, Wilen called for a stop. None could be saved after that time, she thought. She looked over that, which was still left out of her army.
She would cry, if not for her pride.
From the twenty thousand, only fifteen remained... The other five were forever buried under the heavy snow, never to see light again.
Most of the losses came for the poor Gremlins - there were only six thousand of them left. Other regimes were practically untouched by the avalanche, and that seemed strange.
The healers went to and fro among the wounded, trying to ease their pain as best they could...
Those dead, who have been dug out, were buried anew with the proper rituals beneath the very rocks that killed them...
Through all of this, the eerie light of the half-full moon kept coming down, and its face seemed to smile menacingly.
None slept the remainder of the night, and Wilen made a decision to press forward deeper in the Empire as fast as she could, despite the losses brought by the avalanche.
By dawnlight, the army continued, carrying those who could not walk on stretchers, and burying more dead along the way. A trail of rocky hills ribboned behind the army, each one of them concealing a body of some poor soldier, who did not survive this harsh march.
But the Nagas led forward relentlessly, and none dared to argue.
On the evening of that day, the army reached Silvermoon.
To Wilen's surprise, not a single Tatalian refused to follow the Road. There were no deserters, except for a few casualties from a small fever.
In the dawnlight of the second day in the Grade, the army passed half the length of the Silver Grade Mountains. Progress was slow, and Wilen was troubled.
This day crawled slowly along as well, and everyone camped for the evening tired and cold.
By midnight, only the watchmen weren't asleep and on their guard, waiting for the next shift, so others would come to replace them, and they could peacefully curl down under the warmth of the blankets.