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The characters and events depicted within are based on concepts not my own and although the character names are indeed of my own making, this story is not meant for any personal profit or publication outside this forum.
 
Dirge of Destiny
Chapter 1 of 1
Expand Author's Story Note
 

He looked down on me from his red war stallion, blue eyes enchanting as he smiled. "Pardon, Madame, but where is the nearest inn?""I am afraid it is at least a half a day's ride from here," I replied, shouldering my pack, wishing I had been out for a pleasant stroll, not fresh from a hunt and looking like I'd had half of the forest on my skin, tunic, and breeches. "You are indeed a ways from any settlement, Milord."He frowned, pulling back his long, auburn hair: the thick locks had been woven into corn rows, then left to fall into ringlets at the nape of his neck, making him look all the part of some foriegn prince. Yet his warriors vestments- heavy tunic under a red-brown leather coat studded with brass, breeches, black riding boots- and the broadsword hanging from the saddle told me he was no mere courtier on a jaunt through the countryside."You are lost, perhaps?" I asked."I must be," he replied, frown deepening. "My comrades and I were supposed to meet up yesterday in Dyrnar, but I got- distracted.""Dyrnar? You are way off the path I am afraid, Milord. That is another half-day's ride- in the opposite direction."He looked back with a sigh. "Damn.""Come, you can rest at my humble abode for the night. It's getting dark and there are things here that no one wants to encounter after the sun sets."He looked down at me again as I smiled my most charming, "trust me I won't bite" smile, one eyebrow raised, and finally smiled back, bowing from his waist gracefully."Your hospitality is appreciated, Madame.""My name is Lilith," I replied, bowing in return."And you may call me Garick.""Merry meet, Garick," I smiled, inclining my head. "Follow me.""We can ride together." He held out his hand, moving his steed closer to me. I thanked him as I grasped it, putting my foot in the stirrup and swinging up behind him, adjusting my pack so I could hold on to his waist. "It's just along this path- there's a clearing ahead."He nodded and kicked his stallion into a canter. I remarked how strong, how fine his hands were- like the hands of an expert swordsman. His body was sculpted, but not hard: rather supple like a cat's, complementing the smooth skin and high cheekbones of his almost-too-beautiful face. When we reached the clearing, I smiled at the sight of my little cottage. It was a small, stone structure with a tiered garden on the hill behind it filled with herbs and flowers of all sorts in one section, my vegetables and fruit bushes in another. It was simple, but it was home. Suddenly, a shrill cry came from the sky above. Both Garick and I looked up together and I whistled, the red-tailed hawk making a dive from her height to fly over us to the perch I had made for her out of an old, dead tree outside my house. She landed as we dismounted, preening herself on a high branch. Garick looked at me questioningly, wrapping the reigns around a hitch in front of the cottage, my own black stallion- corraled safely beside the shed a few feet away- neighing a challenge to the new arrival."Windsprint," I explained, taking off my pack and reaching in to retrieve the rabbit within. "She's the reason why we have dinner tonight. She caught two, so there is plently.""I should thank her then." Garick continued to observe her in rapt fascination, a wistful smile upon his face. Then he turned his attention to the corral, my steed tossing his proud head in greeting, silver-streaked black mane flying. "And that is Maelstrom," I replied to his unasked question. "He is ill-tempered and moody, so I would not advise trying to make friends."Maestrom whickered in response and I knew he was insulted as he pounded the ground with his hoof. Garick just chuckled as he made his way to the cottage."I have some hot water on the hearth and some wildflower tea in the pantry." As we walked toward the door, I noticed a limp in his step and the stiffness in his left leg. "You're injured.""Small cut," he replied, entering the cottage and looking around, obviously surprised to see my collection of many blades and pole weapons on the wall. "I have seen many a man suffer greatly from a 'small cut,' my friend." I motioned him to my divan by the hearth. "Sit, let me look at it.""Really, it's-""I will not have you dying of infection in my house!" I protested, just then noticing the weariness in his eyes, the sweat beading on his brow.Knowing that with the glare I gave him I was not backing down, he sighed and acquiesed, sitting heavily down upon the homespun cushions. I sat on the floor in front of him and took off his boot- which looked to be sliced cleanly through on the side and caked in blood- and rolled up the leg of his breeches. The "small cut" was actually an inch-long gash: deep, incrusted with blood, the flesh red and hot around the wound and the wound itself weeping a strange white puss. "Maju?" My heart lept in my throat- these were the masked warrior-daemons that had destroyed my home and exiled me to this place. To know that this one had fought these creatures and lived to tell the tale was intriguing indeed- no one survived one of their raids. None besides me.And to know that they were this close to my territory both angered and frightened me. When they attacked, it was like waves of black and white that just would not stop crashing onto whatever they encountered. Their number was so many that no army could stand against them, their collective power so great no sage could dominate them. Thier arrows were laced with poison, so no one survived even a slight scratch, but instead died a horrible, slow death, limbs twisting into positions no human should be able to make, screaming in agony. It was better to die in battle, despite the brutality of the Maju's swarm- at least that was a quick death.The fact that this Garick had survived this long with the poison raging within him made me wonder indeed."This is bad." I rose and went to a locked wooden chest on the pantry shelf, taking the key from around my neck and unlocking it, gathering the herbs from within- the ones I knew had the ability of cleansing the poison from his body- the same herbs that saved my life two years before. "You know about the Maju?" His eyes fluttered and I could tell the poison was already advancing into his nervous system the way his leg twitched."They destroyed everything I knew," I replied, taking a cup and placing the some of the herbs into it whole, then pouring water over them to steep, I watched with marked concern as his face suddenly flushed with the rising fever. "I came here to escape the battle, the death. There are no towns here, nothing worth conquest, so I thought that it would be safe. Seems the Maju will not be satisfied until they take every inch of earth from us."I then took a clean cloth and dipped into the boiling water, kneeing before him to clean the wound as much as possible. He winced and hissed as I did so, his leg now twitching uncontrollably. I then went back to the kitchen, taking my mortar and pestle to ground the rest of the herbs into a poultice, using a bit of the water to help them thicken into a paste. "There is no escape from battle, Lilith." Garick lay back onto the pillows wearily, sweat dripping from his brow. "No matter how safe you think you are, someone will always come that wants a turn on your wheel, that wants to decimate everything you hold dear. The choice is whether you stand and fight or let them have their way with you.""Perhaps." I replied, smearing the poultice over the wound, then wrapping it with another clean cloth. "Yet after one has seen what I have seen-"Garick suddenly cried out in pain, his body contorting into a gruesome position, muscles taut with the strain. I immediately grabbed a wooden ladle and shoved it between his teeth, holding him firm until the seizure passed. "The poison fights the herbs vigorously." I began to help him shed his garments, wrapping him up in furs after I completed the task, taking the tea and holding it to his lips as he drank. "Both bind with your blood and both fight for dominance- at least that is my theory.""Your theory seems sound, Madame." Garick shuddered as he sipped the tea, taking it from me to down it in one gulp as it was awful to the taste and better to down quickly. He then lay back on the divan, shivering as the fever took its hold. "Thank you.""Don't thank me yet," I replied, taking the cup from him and setting it upon the hearth. "You still have to survive the night."I stayed by his side, wiping his fevered brow, re-applying the poultice and cleaning the wound, waking him to take more doses of the tea. When his body shook so with fever he could not stop, I lay beside him, holding him fast in my arms as he mumbled in his fitful sleep in a language I did not understand, but seemed familiar. He was indeed a fighter, this one: the Maju were not going to have thier victory so easily this time. For two days this continued- Garick barely lucid for most of the time, me going out with Windsprint to hunt and try and encourage him to eat to keep up his strength. His fever broke finally and I helped him to the metal tub to wash off the sweat and sickness- him still too weak to walk for even a short time- marvelling at his sculpted, toned body, smooth skin and the auburn hair which had fallen free of the braids during the throes of his fever. I combed them out, feeling the softness of the curls falling through my fingers like silk as he leaned back in the tub, relishing the feel of warm water on his skin. "Why do you do this?" He asked as I began to braid his hair in a single braid down his back. "Why do you risk the Maju finding out you aided their enemy if you are so weary of battle?""I also said I was weary of death," I replied, tying the braid off at the nape of his neck with a black cord, letting the curls fall down his back. "I wasn't going to let the Maju claim another for their wretched death toll."To this, Garick simply smiled, closing his eyes and taking my hand to kiss the palm gently. "See, you can never escape battle- battle comes in many forms, with many faces, and in this battle, Madame, you have your victory."The tears welled up unbidden in my eyes, realizing the gravity of his words and the gratitude with which he spoke them. "I'll help you out of the tub now- the water's getting cold and you'll get sick in this draft. I've already brought you back from the brink of death once."He chuckled as I aided him from the tub, handing him a towel and some homespun vestments I had set out for him, eyes lowered in an attempt to hide the tear flowiing down my cheek. He took my chin and raised my face up to his beautiful, smiling face, lips brushing mine gently. "Thank you."I shuddered under his touch, fearing the emotions he stirred in me that had been dormant for so long. "You better get dressed- I have dinner on the hearth and you need to regain your strength."With that I nearly ran into the den, kneeling to stir the stew pot, tears rolling down my face with the knowledge that he could not stay- that he, unlike myself, had chosen a battle that he could not possibly win.I felt his strong arms encircle my waist when he knelt behind me, resting his chin on my shoulder."I will leave as soon as I can ride." His warm breath tickled my neck as he nuzzled my hair. "My comrades have been waiting for too long.""I sent Windsprint with a message the day you came," I replied, sniffing softly. "They said they would wait for as long as it took you to regain your strength and wished you good health.""Again, thank you."He kissed my neck gently, sending shivers all through me as I let out a sobbing sigh. Pulling me back tighter to him, he stroked my hair as my tears flowed."I want-" The words caught in my throat- words that I needed to say yet felt I had no right to.Turning me to face him, he smiled, locking me in his gaze. "I'm not leaving here and simply forgetting you. You have done what few have, Lilith- that I will always remember.""How many?" I asked. "What force have you gathered?""We are five," he replied. "Few, but strong as an army I assure you.""Five against a swarm of thousands?" My lip trembled. "My gods, Garick, you are all riding to your deaths!""We have no choice." He wiped the tears away with his thimbs as he took my face in his hands, smiling gently. "If no one stands against the Maju, no matter how few or how many in number, they will overrun the earth like a pestillance. Besides, you see that I am not that easy to kill."With that, his lips met mine in the most exquisite kiss, tongue passionately toying with mine as I melted into his embrace.
The next few days were some of the most enjoyable in my life- we talked, laughed [a thing I had almost forgotten how to do], and just enjoyed each other's company, holding each other in silence as we gazed at the night sky. When he would go out in the morning to train, I would watch, marveling at his kata: he was an awesome specimine of strength with movements so fluid, strikes so graceful, it was hard to tell at times whether he fought or danced. He would end by doing a handstand, legs in perfect alignment with his body, then raise one hand to rest on his side, the other supporting his weight totally without showing signs of strain or fatigue. He could hold that position for only a minute at first, but as his strength renewed, he would stay like that for what seemed like forever, eyes closed in meditation, still as a statue. His swordsmanship was equally as impressive- the blade an extesion of his body as he twirled again with that dancer's grace, blue eyes blazing with intent and deadly rage. I was suddenly confident that the Maju had come across a force that even they could not match- Garrick did not know I could see the swirls of silver miasma swirling about him in a wave of power, making the grass billow in front of him everytime he struck his invisible foe or parried an unseen attack. If the others were like him, I had no doubt that there was a chance they'd succeed.I was outside tending the garden when he came out of the cottage in full battle dress, his multiple braids back in place, carrying his sword at his side. I rose from my weeding and wiped my hands on my apron as I walked toward him, insides shaking, but with the resignation that this day would come.He tied his sheath to the saddle, barely looking at me, and I could tell he was not for long good-byes. I went into the cottage and brought out the box of herbs, handing it to him as I hung the silver key about his neck. "Your comrades should drink this before going to battle." My voice trembled slightly, but my expression remained cool. "I have prepared each dose. It hasn't been tested, but it may make them immune at least from the Maju's arrows."He put the box in his saddlebag and kissed me passionately before swinging into the saddle, his eyes glistening."I will be with you always." He took my hand and kissed the palm, linking his fingers with mine. "Search your heart and you will find me.""Blessed Be, Garick." I kissed his hand, hanging onto him until he kicked his steed into a gallop and he slipped form my grasp.I watched him disappear into the forest, not wanting to move from the spot, engraving him into my memory forever. Suddenly, he emerged from the forest at full gallop, reining in front of me and jumping from the saddle to catch me up in his embrace, kissing me passionately. Releasing me, he fixed me with his gaze before leaping into his saddle once again, turning the stallion with a shout and galloping off once again.That night my dreams were of blood and battle, the Maju swarming Gackt and his comrades. Each fought valiently with at least six Maju to one warrior, yet I watched as each were cut down brutally in front of my eyes until only Garick was left.He moved fluidly, as if in slow motion, his blade ripping into all who dared approach him, his face a mask of rage and determination. Suddenly, a blade protruded from his back through his abdomen, blood gushing from his mouth as he turned his face to the sky and screamed in defiance, a dozen Maju stabbing him repeatedly. I woke screaming, sitting straight up and shaking, knowing this was no dream.Garick was no more.Rage welled up inside me, consuming the sorrow like a savage dragon and I rose, going to the wooden chest at the foot of my bed, kneeling down with a sigh to open it, eyes burning with angry tears. I took a length of black silk from the chest, letting the fabric pool on the ground beside me to reveal the katana underneath.I sighed, the coolness of the silver scabbard at once familiar and alien in my hands. I took the wire-wrapped hilt and unsheathed the blade halfway. Still kept sharp and oiled despite disuse, its mirrored surface refleted a woman I barely knew, the one who hid from battle instead of facing it head-on, not the warrior that had once weilded this blade with all the fury of a maelstrom. Staring at my reflection, I knew what must be done: the Maju had taken everything I held dear and they must be destroyed. No matter the cost.No matter the fiercness of the battle which lay ahead.                                *******************************
Garick's eyes flew open, sitting up quickly as he drew in a deep breath.He should be dead.Checking his vestments, he discovered them caked with blood and nearly torn to shreds. How-?"Was wondering when you'd come to.""Ah, he's always sleeping, Joku- even when he's awake."Garick looked up to see his comrades standing around him, a welcome but bewildering sight amidst the dead and dying Maju on the gory battlefield. He saw them die under the Maju's blades, not their arrows. Yet all were there- Yushi, Joku, Hiro, Jian- all chuckling at his bewildered expression. "Yeah, we're wondering too, Garick," Yushi said. "Just what was in that tonic you gave us anyway?"A smile spread across his face as he stood to join his comrades. Lilith was no fool- she had chosen to hide the after effects of the concoction she gave them, but for what reason he could not fathom."I had to be sure you were the ones."It was as if she had read his thoughts. When Garick turned around, his smile broadened as he saw Lilith transformed before him.Gone were the simple garments, the gardening apron, the free-flowing red hair.  Sitting astride Maelstrom, she wore a curaisse over a black tunic, the curaisse itself covered in individual armored scales fashioned and engraved to resemble the chest feathers of a bird, the boots which came over her black breeches also covered in the same armor. Four feathers of silver plated steel glinted in her hair, which was caught up into a chignon, pieces faling in waves about her face and neck. A cry came from above and Windsprint flew in to land upon a perch attached to the saddlehorn. Garick noted with interest that her talons were fitted with steel sheaths sharper and even more deadly than her natural ones. "Raptor Guard- Silver Squadron," Joku mused, smiling in wonder."But they were decimated at Roh," Hiro frowned, looking her over as if she were some sort of an imposter. "All but one." Garick smiled, watching her dismount, and as she approached him, he bowed reverently. "Lordess."
                               *********************************
As Lordess of the Emipre of Roh, I had a responsibility to my people, to keep them safe, to provide for their well-being. When I saw that the Maju were no match for even my mighty armies, I evacuated the city of all civilians, sending them off in the dead of winter under cover of darkeness, lead by my beloved Jared and his Vermillion Squadron. I told him not to reveal his plans on where these good people were to be sheltered, in case the Maju and their "mind washing" techniques betrayed my intentions. All the other squadrons volunteered to stay behind to keep the Maju busy while the citizens made good their escape, and though an illness had left me barely able to walk two days before, I felt I was jumping out of my skin.Clever Bekara and her herbal remedies- only after the battle did I realize just how clever.I awoke gasping for breath, in shock, buried under the bodies of my comrades. Pushing them off of me, I knew I had to get out of the city- there would be time to mourn later. Yet my instincts told me to go by Bekara's shop before leaving. Taking a cloak and mask from one of the fallen Maju, I quickly began my exodus to the market square, hoping none would stop me and see through my ruse. As I made my way through the blood-soaked streets, though, I saw that the Maju were too busy putting their prisoners to work cleaning up the carnage. These prisoners had once been my people, but since they had been "washed," I knew they were only mindless zombies under the control of the Maju horde. It was difficult seeing members of my own squadron working to pile the bodies of their bretheren onto huge bonfires, the stench of burning flesh turning my stomach, yet I had to move on.I finally reached Bekara's shop- now abandoned, nearly cleared of its wares, glass and blood everywhere- and I found her secret cache under the counter. One had to know exactly the right way to turn the screws that held the countertop together to access the compartment below, so I wasn't surprised the Maju had overlooked the box inside, upon which was a key looped onto a black cord and a note:"My dearest Lilith, my sister, I know it to be you reading this as the Maju are too stupid to realize what is hidden will always be found."I laughed in spite of myself. Bekara always had a sense of humor even in the most dire of circumstances, so I read on:"After many months of research, I have developed a mixture of herbs that will not only stave off the Maju's poison, but also seems to extend life by healing even the deepest of wounds. I have been working on this ever since I discovered Mother's diary, her prophecy that foretold of this day even though most thought it just a vestige of her madness:Black and white know evil's might
Red shall soak the fields
There be one, then five will come
The Earth will sow their shieldsWhen the dream came to me, when I was shown the five, it all came clear. Take these herbs and guard them with your life, my sister, and know we will meet again either in this life or the next."                               *************************************
"So, I left Roh never to return." Lilith smiled up at Garick, putting her hand on his cheek. "As I wandered the many cities and villages looking for my people, yet as the rumors and legends spread like wildfire from the people who recognized me, legends of the ressurected Lordess, I thought it best for my people that I stay out of sight. So, I chose a life of solitude, thinking I was protecting them, when in reality I was truly running from my own fears and failings.""You did not fail, Lilith." Garick took her hand and kissed her palm. "You indeed kept your people safe, you found me, and now you have a reason to fight on, to fear no more."Lilith smiled, lowering her eyes. "Do I truly have your sword, Garick? Will you fight by my side?""Gladly." Garick drew his sword, holding it to his chest. "You have my sword, my Lordess.""And mine" Yoshi drew his own sword, mimicking Garick's pledge."And mine." Hiro."And mine." Jian.Joku looked at her skeptically, then sighed and drew is own sword. "Yeah, mine, too. Got nothing better to do I guess- and those Maju bastards will pay for fucking up my new curaiss!"All began snickering in spite of themselves except Lilith, whose eyes filled with tears at the show of devotion. Then Garick sheathed his sword and took Lilith in his embrace. "There is one more thing you have," he said, his eyes sparkling."And what might that be, Garick?" Lilith asked coyly, wrapping her arms around him."My heart."With that, Garick captured her lips in a passionate kiss, Lilith finally feeling she was one place- even on this scarred battlefield- that she hadn't been in a long time.Home.
                           ************************************
It came to pass that six warriors defeated the Maju, upon gathering numerous forces from other lands that had the courage to join the battle for freedom from the dominance of the Maju tyrranny. It is not known how many warriors were given the herbs, only that a select few were chosen by each of the six- those known to be honorable enough to use the gift wisely.  No one ever knew who or what controlled the Maju horde, only that, when the Maju capital of Nelrok was brought down, all Maju ceased to be- as if they vanished from the face of the Earth. One might think that is the end of the story.Not quite.....PRESENT DAY: TOKYO DOMEGarick woke with a start, looking around to adjust to his surroundings."Sleeping as always, eh, Gackt?"He jumped to see Joku popping a piece of fruit in his mouth while the others snickered. They were backstage during the intermission of yet another live: they wore different clothes, had different names, different lives. Garick had adopted several hairstyles over the decades- though now he chose to go back to his braids- and all had kept in touch in one form or another, only recently coming together again as one of the most popular and talented musical acts in Japan. "Hey, guys, it's time."All looked up to see the stage manager opening the door, then leaving to fuss over some percieved crisis before the band went onstage. Garick and the band rose and grabbed their instruments- Garick his guitar, Joku his bass, Yushi his guitar, Hiro his guitar, Jian his drumsticks- and walked out the door and down the hall toward the stage. All felt the adrenaline pumping, much as it was before every battle, and now with every live.The crowd went wild as the pyrotechnics exploded and Garick came bursting up from underneath the stage, joining Yusi, Joku, and Jian as he played to the crowd, his beautiful voice filling the arena with song.Front and center of the crowd, a woman with four silver feathers in her hair danced and smiled up at the stage, Garick catching her eye and smiling down at her as he sang.And perched atop the roof of the concert venue, preening her feathers, was the progeny of the last warhawk.  

 
Chapter 1 of 1
 
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