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 Akzimar of the Thousand Needles

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PostSubject: Akzimar of the Thousand Needles   Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:51 am

((Originally meant as a bio for the Shatterskull forums that turned into a 4-part short story. Thought I might as well post it here, too. Tried to keep it mini-epic, not taking too many liberties with the lore.))

CHAPTER ONE:

“You can't bleeding be serious!”

The camp stirred. The paladins of the Order of the Flaming Rose were not used to hearing Uriel Thriceblessed use such a tone, or such language. They huddled closer, curious what orders the messenger might have brought that would upset their commander so.

“You don't have to take my word for it”, Traban remarked dryly from atop of his horse. “I have the orders right here, directly from His Majesty.” Uriel snatches the missive from Traban's hand, tearing the seal open and going over the content frantically. He then flipped the paper over to examine the seal; it was unmistakably genuine, he would stake his life on it. And he would recognize the handwriting of Borus, the King's scribe, anywhere. His armoured fingers dug into the fine paper as he read the missive over again and again, desperately trying to find some way he could have misconstrued the orders.

“But… this can't be!” Uriel exclaimed, stumbling for the words. “Our report… These people, His subjects, desperately need our aid! The stories we have heard, the horrible deeds we have witnessed with our own eyes… and those creatures…!” “That”, Traban interrupted, “is not your problem. You have your orders. Carry them out.”

“What is it, Uriel? What are the orders?” Ralen shook his friend by the shoulder. Uriel made no response, simply staring at the missive with disbelief, and finally Relan simply snatched it from his hands. The paladins gathered around him as he read aloud from the crumpled paper: “By the order of King Terenas Menethil, all members of the Order of the Flaming Rose are to…” Relan paused, the now-familiar look of shock and disbelief sneaking across his face, “…are to leave the realm of Kezarah immediately, taking care to cause no harm or slight to its… its rightful ruler or his servants…” “’The rightful ruler’?!” young Benedict interjected, seething with anger. “His ‘servants’ are demons!

An angry murmur swept across the small group of paladins, with many decrying the evident injustice of the King's decision. Ralen attempted the calm his men down, knowing that the King's orders were absolute, and there was no use debating the matter in the field. He was also worried the noise would draw in the warlock's sentries; The Order had managed to avoid directly engaging the demons so far, and it would have been downright stupid to get dragged into a battle now that they had been explicitly ordered not to.

Forgotten in the turmoil, Uriel finally stirred from his stupor, raising his head to look into the west. It was still early, too early for the first rays of sun to have climbed over the mountains. But he knew that somewhere in the darkness lied Lordaeron, the nation of his birth he had loyally and proudly served all his life. His wife and daughter would soon rise to the new day, not knowing what would have by then transpired in this distant little domain. Slowly, Uriel's pained expression shifted to that of a grim determination. He turned to Ralen, who was still trying to calm the crowd down, and took him by the shoulder. The paladins grew silent, waiting for their commander to speak. Ralen felt his stomach sink as his eyes with Uriel's, a sense of dread and anxiety he could not name overtaking him.

Without a word, Uriel slowly and deliberately took the royal missive from Ralen's hands, holding it in the air in front of him. He then ever so slowly proceeded to tear the missive clean in two, the royal seal cleaving in half as the paladins around him watched on in bewildered horror. Uriel then turned, the pieces of the missive falling to the ground from his hands, and began to walk away from Traban, toward the village. And so heavy did the weight of his sacrifice fall upon the paladins of the Order that each sank to their knees as he passed, swearing to follow their commander to the gates of Hell and beyond.



CHAPTER TWO:

The assault had begun at the break of down. The paladins of the Order moved through the village meeting no resistance whatsoever. Akzimar's demon servants were nowhere to be seen, and the few dozen villagers still alive had barricaded themselves tightly in their homes. Ralen was unnerved over how easily they had reached the tower, but Uriel was just glad they had not had to fight their way through. Light willing, they would relieve the warlock of his head before anyone was none the wiser.

Moving as silently as heavy mail would allow, the small group entered the courtyard around the tower, still completely unopposed. Even the heavy door to the tower proper had been left ajar, causing the moods of the four paladins who had been lodging the makeshift battering ram they had fashioned out of a thick tree trunk all the way from the woods to momentarily darken.

Ralen entered first, by now expecting an ambush at every step. Seeing nothing resembling a guard, however, and finding no signs of traps of any kind, he motioned his comrades to follow. The paladins poured into the dimly-lit hallway, hushed clinks of metal faintly echoing from the stone walls. Uriel's mood was beginning to mirror that of his more skeptic companion. This was much too easy.

The hallway gave into a large, unfurnished room, the only notable feature of which was the immense painting that covered the entire back. The painting seemed to be some kind of an anatomical chart, depicting a man that had been cut in numerous thin slices so each and every part of him could be examined in detail. The paladins spread out, preparing for a possible assault from any of the numerous doors leading out.

“It's skin.”

Uriel turned to Ralen and opened his mouth to query this curious remark, but then closed it again, realizing his friend was talking about the painting, which they both now moved to examined in more detail. “Not only skin… flesh, bone… the whole of the earthly remains of one of the warlock's victims, I imagine.” Ralen removed his glove and pressed his hand against the “painting”. “It's warm, too! Almost body temperature, in fa--AAH!”

The paladins sprang to attention at Ralen's yelp, only to see their normally stoic sub-commander stumble backward and fall on his behind, with no enemy in sight. Visibly alarmed, Ralen pointed at the painting. “It's alive! That thing is alive! I could feel it move under my hand!” As if prompted by this, the eyes of the layered man sprang open, and various strands of muscles began fidgeting slightly.

The paladins cautiously drew closer, mesmerized by the bizarre display. “An undead? No, just... living flesh. Is this the warlock's magic? I have never seen a spell like this,” Uriel wondered out loud. “No, I think… I don't think that's it,” Jonas, the group's healer, interjected, running his hand along a span of intestine. “It looks like…like he was cut apart, piece by piece, and then simply… sewn back together. Every blood vessel, every nerve has been precisely connected so he could go on living even when… spread out like this.”

The eyes of the layered man seemed to focus on Uriel. The mouth kept opening slightly, revealing the stone wall behind, then closing again. “I think… it's trying to say something,” Benedict finally blurted out, breaking the heavy silence that had fallen after Jonas' diagnosis. Hesitantly, Uriel removed his helmet and moved his ear close to the creature's mouth. “Well? Can you make out anything?” Ralen demanded impatiently, the continued suspense starting to work his nerves. “It says…” Uriel began, stopping to straighten himself so he could properly see the face of the layered man. “He says, ‘kill me.’”

The paladins glanced around at each other, the unasked question hanging in the suffocatingly thick air. Jonas turned his eyes to his friend Benedict, who had always been the braver of the two. Dread crept over Benedict's face when he understood what was being asked of him, and he shook his head in small, jerky movements. Everyone jumped as the deafening silence was suddenly broken by Uriel drawing his broadsword. The others stood back as he positioned it on the layered man's throat, took a deep breath, and struck.

The sword hit the stone wall with a dull clang. Only trace amount of blood escaped from the cut it had made on the flesh, the face above it contorting in pain. Aghast, Uriel withdrew his sword and struck again, for no greater effect. Pathetic whine began to escape from the mouth of the layered man and his eyes welled up with tears. “The cuts aren't deep enough! We need to… to hit vital organs, or major blood vessels…or…” Jonas' voice faded out as Ralen struck his dagger to the flat heart, slicing it into two. The two separate pieces simply kept on beating on their own, just very slightly out of sync.

The rest of the paladins joined in, frantically stabbing and cutting across the landscape of flesh, desperately trying to silence the wailing that kept growing ever louder and more accusing. A cacophony of noise from metal striking stone filled the room. “For the mercy of Light, stand aside!” Uriel finally cried out, raising his open hand from which a bright flash of light seemed to suddenly escape. The layered man burst in flames, his cries finally dying out.

The smell of burning flesh filled the room. Benedict fell to his knees, reeling from the surreal experience, and was quickly joined by many of his compatriots. Uriel stood silently, gazing into the wall of fire. Ralen took him by the shoulder. “We need to move on.”

Forcing themselves to continue, the paladins chose the exit that seemed most likely to lead into the heart of the tower and pressed on. They had barely advanced twenty feet, however, when Ralen, again at the point, suddenly stopped on his tracks. Uriel, figuring Ralen had spotted a guard or a trap, patiently waited for his signal. None came; Ralen simply stood there, completely motionless.

Exchanging glances with the rest, Uriel cautiously crept forward, until he was close enough to lightly pat Ralen on the shoulder. It was then he saw what had halted Ralen's advance: Another room, this one much more cramped than the last. Several paintings hanging on the walls; oddly-shaped furniture on which the moonlight dully gleamed; and a statue, the pleading eyes of which were fixed on the two paladins.

Strength drained from Uriel's body.



CHAPTER THREE:

Akzimar slouched over the divan, bored. His eyes shifted lazily from one reveller to another. The skinless man, jerking wildly and erratically to the music played by the human instruments. The twins, dancing merrily in perfect synchrony, their sewn-together faces seeing only each other and nothing. The sphinx and the mother, both vying for Akzimar's attention. The warlock's eyes lingered on the contorted lump of flesh sewn just below the mother's right ribs. The baby was getting quite large; he would have to make adjustments soon. Work. Always more work.

The torso on which his feet rested flinched as Akzimar adjusted his position, motioning the crab man to approach. His servant skittered across the crowded floor on his many palms, trying not to get caught underfoot. He smiled meekly as Akzimar took the thick stack of papers from the two palms he had laboriously extended upwards.

Akzimar leafed through the stack of commissions. Two silk evening dresses for some noble or another in Stormwind, new curtain design for the queen of Lordaeron, a topaz tiara for the royal house of Alterac… nothing even remotely worthy of his skill. Tedium! Was this all that was left for him? Wasting his talent on common rags for small minds that could never appreciate a true masterpiece?

Perhaps it was time for him to take to travelling again. To go out and seek challenges, rather than wait for them to come to him. Yes, an adventure! An adventure was what he desired! The mother poured Akzimar another glass of wine, and the warlock's mind drifted into arrangements he would have to make for his journey. His servants could watch over the tower, but the rest of the villagers would have to go. Shame to waste good materials like that, but surely he could pick up more along the way.

So absorbed was Akzimar into these thoughts that he barely noticed Benedict's heavy maul smashing the door to splinters and the paladins of the Order rushing into the ballroom.

“Warlock!” Uriel growled, his mail covered in blood, pointing his broadsword at the mildly amused Akzimar. “Your reign of terror ends here!” The music ground to halt and the revellers turned to face the gatecrashers -- or the ones who had a face did, at any rate. “Oh my,” Akzimar replied, noting his majestic ballroom door now in pieces across the floor, “I do hope you didn't treat the rest of my home as roughly. Although, in all honestly, the place was due some remodelling…”

“You will not live to pursue your mad experiments any further,” Ralen shouted, stepping to Uriel's side, “By the power of Li--“ “Experiments?!” Akzimar interrupted, clumsily stumbling to his feet, his extravagant rope caught under his foot. “Why, my good sir knight, I assure you, “ he continued, gently drawing his bony fingers along the jaw line of the mother, who gazed at Akzimar affectionately, “these are all very much… finished products.

Akzimar laughed. The laughter was joyless, hurtful. The revellers joined in, filling the large room with a cacophony of shrieks and yelps. “By the Light, cut it down.” Uriel's voice, choked with anger, was barely more than a whisper. The paladins, strained to the breaking point by all the horrors they had witnessed, moved to execute this order with fervour. Ralen rushed in first, raising his sword in preparation of the first and the final blow, but he had barely taken two steps when the skinless man was already upon him, sinking a sharp knife through the joint of the paladin's armour and into his side.

Ralen recoiled, both from pain and surprise. The advance of the other paladins was likewise stymied, the revellers surrounding the group on all sides. “Stop!” Benedict shouted aghast, trying to parry the blows from the warlock's victims without harming them. “We're here to rescue you!” “Rescue them?!” Akzimar laughed. “From what could they possibly need rescuing from? I have taken away their ugly, mundane existence, and given them something glorious in return! I have perfected them, and they love me for it!”

Akzimar's laughter grew into a maniacal shriek. “By the Light, enough!” Ralen snarled. He hurled his shortsword at Akzimar, in so doing exposing himself to the vicious attacks of the revellers slashing at him with forks, knives, broken bottles. Two more cuts penetrated the seams of his armour, piercing the flesh below. But the sword found its mark as well, sinking deep into Akzimar's chest. The warlock stumbled backward from the force of the blow… but didn't fall.

Smiling, Akzimar slowly, almost casually grasped the hilt of the sword, pulling the blade out. The sword fell to the floor with a loud clang, only the faintest traces of blood covering the steel. The warlock's smile widened into a grin as he extended his hand limply forward towards Uriel. His fingered stiffened, and at that moment every shadow in the room sprang alive, rushing toward the paladins. Uriel had just enough time to turn and see Benedict's screaming face sink into the black tide as it passed him by.

The revellers scattered, trying to escape the cold, undiscriminating death. The paladins stood their ground, but this foe was undeterred by blows of the mace and the cuts of the sword. Uriel watched in growing despair as his men slipped one by one into the night that had without a warning fallen upon them. “No…” he called out, meekly, “it can't end like this. If we fall, who will stop this evil? By the Light, IT WILL NOT END LIKE THIS!”

For a moment, Uriel's entire being seemed to give way to bright, pure light that swept across the large room, penetrating all and leaving no corner for even the faintest of shadows to hide in. The demonic mass disappeared without a trace, its victims falling noisily to the ground. Benedict coughed, laboriously drawing in breath, and Jonas rushed to his friend's side.

Smile drained from Akzimar's face. He turned to make his escape but faltered, grasping the divan for support. “Here comes that wine again,” he barely had time to muse before a heavy blow from a mace smacked him painfully to the floor. Uriel planted his boot heavily on Akzimar's chest, the paladin's broadsword hanging just above the warlock's throat. “Now, now,” Akzimar mumbled, struggling to form words with a broken jaw and a mouth full of blood. “Let us not… let us not be hasty. I… am extremely wealthy, and well-connected. I am sure… I am sure there is much I could offer you.”

The paladins well enough to move gathered around the warlock, making no effort to hide their hatred and disgust. “A title, perhaps? Think of… think of the good you could do as a head of a noble house of your own.” Desperation was starting to creep into Akzimar's voice. “There is nothing in this world I want more than your death, animal,” Uriel interrupted, flatly. “I would give up my immortal soul for the pleasure to sink my blade into you. And by the Light, I may already have.”

Akzimar's face twisted in anger and he spat blood as he spoke. “I will curse you, paladin, your family, your nation, they will know nothing but death and mis--“ The warlock's words were cut off as Uriel thrust his sword down, severing off Akzimar's head and sinking deep into the marble floor below.

Uriel took a deep breath, leaning heavily on the hilt. “Jonas?” “Frida and Tomas are dead. And so are these unfortunate,” Jonas answered, nodding toward the revellers who had been unable to escape their master's dark power. “The rest of us are going to pull through, somehow,“ Ralen continued, standing up with a wince, sharp pain shooting through the wounds on his sides. “So what now?”

“First, we will make sure it is dead. Everything else comes later. We will hack it to pieces, burn the pieces, and scatter the ashes--“ Uriel was interrupted by a loud rumble that shook the room. The sound of stone cracking could be heard from all around, and pieces of rock were falling from the ceiling, along with the large crystal crown that came crashing down on the divan, shattering it in pieces. “This place is coming apart!” Ralen shouted, leaning against the shifting wall. “What?! Why?!” Uriel shouted back, struggling to keep on his feet. “What am I, an expert on warlock architecture?! Maybe it's a fail-safe in case someone managed to best him!” “And we did cut through an awful lot of walls on our way here…!” Jonas added, trying to help Benedict up.

A large stone slab came crashing down from somewhere above, taking a large chunk of the floor with it on its way down. “We need to go! Now!” Ralen shouted, staggering toward the doorway. Uriel looked around, realizing every able body would be needed to get the wounded out safely. Still, if only this much… he reached to grab the warlock's head, but a torrent of bricks came raining down, washing Akzimar's corpse down the growing chasm.

Cutting his losses, Uriel grasped Ralen by the arm and they staggered out of the remains of the ballroom. Leaving the fallen behind, the paladins hurried through the fast-unravelling tower. By the time they made it to the courtyard, little more than rubble remained of the once-imposing structure. The paladins fell to the cobblestones, gasping for breath.



EPILOGUE:

The paladins of the Order had barely regained their bearings when the 5th Platoon of the Royal Cavalry arrived. The paladins, too exhausted to protest, were taken under custody and transported to Lordaeron while the Royal Army took control of Kezarah.

An investigation was launched into the events, but no evidence to support the accusations levied against Akzimar of the Thousand Needles by the Order of the Flaming Rose was found. The statements gathered from the villagers didn't indicate Akzimar as anything but a most benevolent and just ruler who fell defending his realm from an unprovoked attack by the Order. The investigation concluded the senseless act of aggression on the part of the Order had also claimed the lives of the majority of Akzimar's subjects, whose bodies were recovered from the ruins of Akzimar's tower, all mutilated beyond recognition. They were all transported to Tirisfal Glades for proper burial.

Uriel was tried before a military tribunal on the charges of high treason and regicide, and swiftly sentenced to death by beheading. He was not allowed to plead his case. Soon after the sentence was carried out, Ralen and the rest of the members of the Order who had been in Kezarah or had failed to avoid capture after King Terenas revoked the Order's charter were sprung from the royal dungeons by parties unknown. The Order of the Flaming Rose disappeared.

Kezarah was abandoned and remained so for centuries to come, mostly due to persisting rumours of the area being haunted. Official records do not show what became of the villagers after the departure of the Royal Army, although it is commonly assumed they simply left. The realm has since been taken over by primitive non-human races.

***

In the cold hills above Kezarah, a lone, hunched figure slowly makes her way north. In her hands she cradles a small, shrivelled object wrapped in a stained silk cloth.

It is softly beating.


Last edited by Negative_Creep on Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:19 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : I'm anal.)
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PostSubject: Re: Akzimar of the Thousand Needles   Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:56 am

((WoW...you have given me mental images that will haunt my nightmares for some time! Welcome to the forums, please make yourself at home, your style rocks!))
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