Merlin 3:21 “...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead”
In the aftermath of violence and bloodshed, Merlin suffers exhaustion and cannot hover and drift, thus cannot chase by such ability in matters of vengeance and magic to rescue Nickolas, given the chance to ponder the necessity of such action complete with recollection of the value to saving the life of an already immortal. The vampires come and gone with haste have abandoned many newborn bringers of death hiding within the town, they were burned from existence in the daylight or cower in the recesses of the conflicted mortars and alleys, their solitude of death and unholy birth find arrears not. The warring parties put aside their animosity and scour the shadows to bring each denizen into the light. On horseback, Sino alongside his minions leave the town, its burgeoning vengeance, and conspicuousness in obsequence among those leaving in fear.
In this purge, the chieftain finds his principal son Merk badly wounded with his forbidden bride Idyth aside him weeping. He blames his political foes and begins to call for more bloodshed, Merlin calls for more order and a strong man to volunteer and share strength thru a magical spell of healing with the boy. The chief refuses and continues an emotional tirade against his enemies, now including witches until Merlin convinces him, the city-king volunteers his own strength as Merlin calls for a glass of mead. Receiving it, he puts a coin into the liquid and has the boy and girl drink the vintage. Ana watches whilst orchestrating the rummaging of the destroyed wagon with Agnar, awhile Braden and Katyenka pilfer the nearby dead, among tribal priests. The elves have masked their mouths and noses with bandanas, for they utmost detest the smell of death at its inception. The boy heals to joyous cheers, but the chief yet still orders Merlin’s arrest, Ana despises such bigoted ungratefulness and approaches the chieftain, asking him to reconsider and rebuffed she touches him on the temple making him fall asleep from foothold in bloody mud.
Ana: “I saw no manna pass from that man for this boy’s life.”
Merlin: “Best they think this is white magic than a dark art summoning typified thru wives-tales.”
Merk: “Whatever you’ve done, thank you.”
Merlin: “Now rest and soon abscond with each other, if you are robbed give them the coin, whoever touches it, besides you both, will sleep for a week.”
Idyth: “His place may be here.”
Merlin: “It will only work until a night without a moon, take care of him.”
Nissan: “We go to tell Warren the news, thank you, wizard.”
Gullveig: “We ask to take the half boy with us.”
Merlin: “This one is barely able to walk, I’ve stopped the wound and he must now heal.”
Gullveig: “Not him, we choose that one, the half-elf.”
Merlin: “Feel free; he’s not one of mine.”
Gullveig, having pointed to Varin, approaches him, a heavy booted weathered march while redressing his mask. Stepping over bodies, Merlin and Ana approach Braden and the others.
Merlin: “We go to follow our captured friend. Will your band travel with us?”
Braden: “Sorry, but I don’t think your friend survived his capture, nor his captors.”
Merlin: “That won’t kill him.”
Katyenka: “Perhaps not, yet is road splitting like rivers, finding him can die trying.”
Braden: “We shall follow our friend and his new cousins, should we find your man, to him is ours alliance.”
Ana: “Do you even remember his face?”
Agnar: “He is hard to forget.”
Braden: “A little man who likes mean women is very hard to forget.”
Ana: “Cut you, Braden.”
Katyenka punches Braden in his already bruised ribs, and they leave as discussed. The others unseen, Merlin and Ana ride horses thru the countryside, for four weeks. To know what Merlin will see it suits to tell of foe still free Ostara the harvester of sorrow, and the poison bearing eyes of the agent provocateurs Belladonna and Jimson. §
There is a town northeast of Merlin in ruins named Per, once great tho like many empires turned debris it has many stray cats among the shattered stones, abandoned for an age it hosts of late a residually enduring people spawned of its tumultuous past and demise. It entertains a seedy lot of penury and debauchery and is home to a band of mercenaries whom call themselves Autumnus Aeternum. The siblings Nightshade track Ostara to the city of Per and track her movements, her minions of interim resurrection have a penchant for exploiting their magical rejections of death by the taste for blood, they wager and win fights to the death of any takers and drink from wounds to promote egregious animosity, and beckon to Ostara’s whims like pets. Belladonna’s surveillance of them continues her intrigue, the fighter she is watching spits foes blood, spraying it in the air to rile heathenry in brute showmanship, the red mist clouds her judgment and intents are nearing revealed at her discovery and capture by the minions, whom carry her directly to Ostara, knowing they take her to their deathly matriarch.
Ostara: “Who dies before me?”
Belladonna: “It is not I.”
The two minions holding Belladonna begin to absorb her poison into their skin where their hands grasp inelegantly, darkening their flesh directly to their veins, eyes rolling into their heads searching to see their final thoughts as they suffocate and fall making forceful violent efforts to get free of restraint and constriction. Ostara stands from her pseudo throne, pressing back the excess fabric of her weighty flowing robe invitingly and pleased to challenge.
Ostara: “Save your poison, I shall even kill death.”
Belladonna kneels as other minions hold the points of blades and spears to her from a distance frightfully. Jimson chooses to enter at his own risk to spare his sister hers, first to trespass the minions on guard.
Belladonna: “I have no quarrel.”
Ostara: “I know you’ve been spying, and accompanied, state your import.”
Belladonna: “In caution I watched, to see the glorious station, your grace.”
Ostara: “Do tell why you have come for me, child.”
Belladonna: “I have heard of your dealings, that you seek to war with Muspelheim, I share that vision.”
Ostara: “Muspelheim…you will have to tell me where you heard such a yarn; the other one, your lover, where is he?”
Belladonna: “Yes, he will come for me.”
With aforethought, deceit could tell in her wandering eyes a faking friendship, Jimson is working his way thru one minion and then the next, cubit blades of poison and shining steel cut thru flesh that does not truly bleed, and the noise of his valiant approach robust.
Ostara: “Does he share your ability?”
Belladonna: “He is much the same, your highness.”
Ostara: “Well bloody well stop him ere he kills my servants.”
The guards let her pass to the doorway, stopping her there, where she holds the frame and tilts her head to bid him calm satisfactory inbound, tho he feels and expresses confusion in approach, once in the room the guards keep constant watch on them.
Ostara: “He is handsome, it can be said. Show me boy how you can poison your way thru a fight. Retpahc, fight him.”
A shirtless fighter wipes his mouth with a rag and stands to battle, Jimson spins a silver blade in his palm and soonisc by agility of defense puts it into Retpahc’s chest, the poison flows from heart to eyes and thru the body on the floor. The minions rush to fight him, but stop immediately as Ostara raises her hand silently.
Ostara: “Coup de grace, très bien; why should I let you two live, your poison does not swiftly kill men with spears, and I have plenty of them, who now need justice?”
Belladonna tips her head back and begins to breathe the air. Her exhaling invisibly poisons causing guards to cough.
Ostara: “Enough, fie, haze be damned lest I stop you myself! Let them be less than pleasurable, they are still a difficult acquisition costly at my expense.”
Jimson: “So are we folded, or should I throw a knife to prove how far I sting.”
Ostara: “Does your blade poison far from your hand?”
Jimson: “It does.”
Ostara: “Then throw it at me and try to pierce my heart.”
Jimson looks to Belladonna, hoping for approval, which he reticently gets.
Jimson: “I could not; you must lead the siege of Muspelheim.”
Ostara: “Nonsense, boy, I could hardly do such and not stop a blade.”
With his emotional break from reluctance, in determination he spins the knife at her. She raises her hand and from it a dark blue light glows, the heavy metal disappears into the energy and Ostara holds out her plain hand tensely grasping the magic within the air, Belladonna and Jimson begin to feel immense aguish in their stomachs, pain in their hearts, and sand in their throats; they begin to cripple.
Ostara: “You will both kneel like the creatures you are! There are better ways to die and you will not have them from me!”
Ostara relinquishes her control over the siblings Nightshade, they kneel and hold the dirty stone floor with their hands, gasping for breath and praying for water.
Ostara: “…because that peaceful life you have left must now be forgotten …work for me and that will be a taste of a death from your new foes …I have a chore …it needs doing, tonight, get him beside her. The two of you are going to help me, or you will not see the sunrise. You will come with me to where the raiders drink tonight before they leave tomorrow, in a crowd you will kill when I command you to kill. Get them on their feet!”
Ostara turns from them and the minions drag Jimson beside Belladonna, who punches him in his face before putting her hands on the ground again breathless as if had run. Afterwards they follow the sorceress to a festival where the Autumnus Aeternum, a boisterous band of men that spill drinks and tip wenches in the late hours of this night, with them their leader on a wooden throne with a short backing, a large chair in any other aspect holding the leader, a very large and muscular warrior. He laughs and jests and joys at rest, if his shoulders were but a bit taller he could pass as a Jotunn, this in celebration and amusement his eyes turn to interest on Ostara strutting attractively in immodest apparel.
Morris: “Well, milady, what a nymph of pleasure you heal my saddened eyes of war.”
Ostara: “A most highly downright evening, for a greatly auspicious king, I shall give you a secret this eve of war.”
Morris: “I will be your king tonight. Come sit with me.”
Ostara: “With pleasure, but tell me king. Would you bed me like your other wives?”
Morris: “My dear, I have never bed a woman, but I will let you teach me how to please you.”
Ostara: “I think if given the chance, you would please me very likely.”
Morris: (subtle) “Wench, with one secret aired, tell me another as you spoke of eves of war, lest I pierce against your will and toss you to the horniest of my devils.”
Ostara: “A man after my own heart,” [kisses him, impassioned] “there are magical powers that I might bestow to your already amazing strength.”
Morris: “You are a witch?”
Ostara: “Verily, I could ensure that you would only die in my hands, for I have a great power to please myself.”
Morris: “An offer too good to be true usually is, my pride resists a gift of rumor, and more than a hundred men in this hall are born to kill liars. Display your powers forthwith - on that man there, he owes me gold.”
Ostara waves her hand and flicks her wrist and fingers drawn begin to twist, pointing to the future victim, Belladonna moves to murder, put to task a life less further, longing mystery, bated breath, the harrowed soul is put to death. Her fingers gracefully brush his throat and then a poison of his flesh begins to corrode quickly his blood, blackness coursing and bursting thru the veins of his eyes, of terror he screams while he dies his killer halfway across the room.
Morris: “That was impressive, but I cannot have such assassins amidst, and I asked you to show me powers of thine.”
Ostara: “In this heart I have only the power to transform. I wish to make you a sorcerer like she, a venomous warlock with immeasurable serpentine strength.”
Morris: “The better gifts are never gratuity.”
Ostara: “There are enemies of our ways, the avid aristocracy with diatribe to keep us from our freedoms; I seek refuge because we share your cause.”
Morris: “You tempt me with derivation, however the axe may fall around my head, might is right.”
Ostara: “With my gift no foe will ever lift a blade to your throat, come with me and see tomorrow differently.”
After a second kiss and a whispered secret, Morris rises to his feet holding her hand to lead the way. Ostara pulls him toward Belladonna and Jimson, who curtsy and bow respectively.
Jimson: “Greetings, king.”
Belladonna: “Hail to thee.”
Ostara: “Meet us at the southern edge of the city.”
Belladonna: “We realign by your leave, our lieges.”
The kinfolk Nightshade bow their heads and depart thru the commotion now brewing from the discovery of the poisoned and dead victim, outdoors the burdened clouds gather, blocking the moon, between the city center and its boundary the moon weeps onto and thru the clouds, they pause to face the sky and sate themselves and wash their sins.
Jimson: “If I did not know better, I would say that you enjoyed adulterating that innocent man.”
Belladonna: “You knew the task when you signed to the deed, besides he was a drunkard and a letch by the likes of this loo.”
Jimson: “I trussed myself on this to protect you, I am not the bastard father slandered.”
Belladonna: “Staying, leaving, I see your point, fie to the hellions!”
Jimson: “I abandoned him and our clan, but not the whole tribe.”
Belladonna: “No, not that, the arbiter witch thinks we’re lovers.”
Jimson: “Well don’t be offended, you don’t want to kiss your brother? Come here, kiss your brother, you can put a big wet one on me.”
Belladonna: “Stop it Jimi, fie the graces off me.”
After a sensual escapade between the witch and the warlord, a wagon approaches and the Nightshades simplify their differences coming awkwardly to attention, in the steady rain a coach to travel and shelter them from rain, less than closed, but more than uncovered.
Morris: “Is there trouble in paradise?”
Belladonna: “A mere twist of fate, the wiles of these climes his – idle – desires.”
Jimson: “Nothing we can’t handle.”
Jimson slaps Belladonna on her rump and walks to the wagon, a foot on the rung he offers his hand to aid her boarding. It rains as they proceed, Ostara’s prey in place, her predation marked with a question before she pounces.
Ostara: “Tell us, Morris, where will your army raid? Perhaps we should follow them and you can swift to their rescue with your new powers.”
Morris: “A day to the south the river port of Bælrægræd, they will board vessel to sack Simnron.”
Ostara: “The true ambition of a king, an idea without danger is barely a thought. You two, without knives, bring him to death for me.”
They reach for him giving not enough time to rise from seat as they grasp him and take twice half enough toxin the whole of death.
Ostara: “Boy, turn the horses to Bælrægræd, we need to be ahead of his soldiers by dawn. ‘Boy,’ listen to me, what is your name?”
Jimson: “I am the Nightshade Jimson.”
Ostara: “Argh, a terrible name, you will think of a battle name to protect your family, that is a proper honor.”
After an evening of awkward insinuations, at dawn Ostara, Belladonna, and Jimson are waiting on the road for the soldiers, with Morris covered and still dead in the back of the wagon. The soldiers of Autumnus Aeternum walk at decent pace in groups severally of one or two or three, the count of men approximately ninety-nine, carrying their weapons up a faintly inclined road and nearby sparse forest.
Ostara: “Jimson, drive slowly before they notice we are stopped, Bella, as we pass, I want you to empoison them so that they are dead whence we have passed.”
The wagon moves and Belladonna dreads the task, for she may be unable to cull so many and in attempt failed a lack of strength unwelcomed to survivors already set to kill, deep in emotion she fears for the state of her soul upon an act that kills and thieves life. She nestles to the wagon edge and dreams, when her eyes focus she in grace does blow a kiss to the first in line, the light fading from her eyes, the spite from the lies she tells them with whispers to bless them, as the deity Norns invisible cut them from the lines of their elders. Halfway in passing the first man begins a cough and soon more of others, and soon in the balance of death Belladonna’s eyes begin to, slowly, glow with powers of bright-darkness, fallow ashen eyes of sorrow and war. The last men of five, still alive through the raging glow, are wise to their impending demise and attack, stopped by Jimson who throws a knife into the fleeing head of the fifth, Ostara clapping her hands in surprise, as poisoned groan until death. Belladonna in a fervor plateauing in conquest and bliss, finally coming to a peace with madness subdued.
Ostara grabs her dress and pulls it aside quickly to bare her feet and jumps into the lane, she hastily moves to the wagon rear and tosses aside the tarp covering Morris, after staring at him for a stint of time she kisses him, quite passionately in a manner nearing inappropriate, only to stop and slap him as if objection.
Ostara: “Put him on the ground! In the middle of their line, then move the wagon, make quick of it!”
After Jimson drags the body from the wagon, fumbling it to the ground amid the trail of the murdered and wagon moved, Ostara begins her summoning strength in Morris by means of transferring life from the newly fallen.
Her body levitates and eyes glow, the powers and manna course around her body with the air in its flow, the sound of magic echoes across the plane. Merlin and Ana hear it in a distant tavern while waiting there for rain to break, Braden and his fellows hear it distantly weak at the edge of the valley echoing thru and along the mountains that border the Woods of Warren, as the Nightshades feel its initial blast directly. Watching her adrift and aglow, she carries the expression of consuming thoughts that serenade and adorn, her fulsome spell cut short with a face of concern, to her feet she rests.
She walks to Morris and watches him groggily wake then goes to one of the dead men, to kick the corpse and wonder what emptiness could not be fuller for the transfer of life, with streaks of white in her hair once fill of darker tresses.
Ostara: “We must hasten our makings, let’s get him on the wagon, and explain him this more later hence.”
Jimson begins to struggle lifting and the witches help him lift the lummox onto on the wagon, they depart in precipitance, moving to outpace any pursuits from behind them and negate any inquisition forthwith afore. Thru a day they ride steadily quick until the horses resist, thru the night giving discontiguous explanations as many more questions arise, but behind in the dawn where the road is rife with the slain the inquisitive eyes of an elderly woman, curious like a whiting raven, approaches the many dead soldiers in the road all in row.