Cursed in life.
Damned in death.
The only person capable of stopping a terrible prophecy is the one born to fulfill it.
For centuries, The Spirit Wall has protected the world of Cambrea from the otherworldly forces that seek to destroy it. But now the Spirit Wall begins to crumble. The forces of the undead god Vagruth move to reclaim his throne. Meanwhile, the demonic Felsworn seek to take advantage of the chaos and enact their own plans. In a world fractured by politics, greed, and apathy, fate will unite three unlikely heroes to save the Spirit Wall from destruction.
A thick grey haze blurred her vision, but Nadia could still vaguely make out the woman’s form. She was tied down to the massive stone altar, screaming the scream of a woman about to give birth to some hell spawn from the deepest pits of the lower planes. Four figures in dark red robes surrounded her, not offering assistance or assurances, but chanting some dread incantations to further add to the expectant mother’s torment.
The smell of uterine blood and incense invaded Nadia’s nostrils, leaving a foul feeling in her gut. Every ounce of her being wanted to rush over and stop the chanting. Her muscles ached to push forward and cut the creature from the woman’s womb before it had a chance to breath. But instead she remained paralyzed as the helpless woman let out one last howl of pain. Through the haze, Nadia saw a small, clawed fist burst up through the stomach, splattering blood over the dying woman and her captors.
Nadia awoke with a jolt.
She looked down at her own hands and willed them to stop shaking. She picked at non-existent dirt under her nails for a moment to distract her mind. She examined her nails and decided she needed to trim them again. They were starting to obtain the length where the discoloring would set in and they would begin to thicken. That just would not do.
She peeked out the window. On the horizon, the night sky was just beginning to give way to the deep purple colors of the coming dawn. She reached for the water pitcher next to her bed, but stopped short of actually pouring herself a drink as the sound of someone tampering with the door’s lock grabbed her attention. She sighed quietly and lay back down, pretending to sleep as she awaited the intruders.
The door opened silently. A mortal’s ears would not have even heard the assassins enter the room. But Nadia could count the number of assailants by the sound of their footsteps. Galenen’s Temple must have received a large donation to send three after her this time.
The assailants moved like ghosts toward her bed. Nadia heard their daggers unsheathe. She felt the breath of one of the assassins on her cheek.
With unnatural speed, Nadia grabbed the first assassin by the throat with her left hand and threw him head first into the wall. The force cracked both his skull and the wooden panels. She swung her right leg across her body and kicked the second assassin squarely in the chest, sending him slamming into the small dresser on the other side of the room.The third assassin, standing at the foot of the bed, aimed his small hand crossbow at her and fired. Nadia rolled off of the bed as the bolt connected with the headboard. The impact caused the tip of the bolt to explode into a sulfur cloud.
“Well, that’s a new trick,” said Nadia as she pulled her bastard sword, Doom’s Touch, out from under the bed. “It is nice to see Galenen has inspired you with some ingenuity.”
The second assassin pulled himself up and drew his short sword, an enchanted weapon that sparked with small bolts of electricity.He lunged forward, swinging in an upward motion. Nadia parried his attack with her own blade. The third assassin fired again, this time at the back of Nadia’s knee. She jumped to dodge the bolt, but the cramped quarters provided inadequate space to move. The bolt grazed the side of her leg instead, and the exploding sulfur burned her flesh.
Nadia grabbed the hilt of Doom’s Touch in both hands, and with a loud growl swung the blade around her in a single fluid motion. She caught both assassins across the chest with the move, cutting straight through their thin leather armor until blade hit bone. They both collapsed before her.
Nadia sat on the bed, waiting for the heavy footsteps in the hallway to reach the room. She looked up at the stunned guardsmen who entered, swords drawn and ready for…something. From the confused looks on their faces, she wasn’t exactly sure what they were ready for.
As they stood there for a moment with their jaws agape, Nadia began to search the bodies. She found a small coin pouch on the body of the first assassin, and without looking inside threw it to the guards. “Give that to the innkeeper,” she mumbled as she used the now bloody comforter from the bed to clean her blade. “It should cover the damages these fools caused.”
“What happened here?” asked one of the guardsmen as he tried desperately to appear in control of the situation.
“What do you think happened here?” replied Nadia as she continued searching the dead bodies.
“Now see here, miss,” began the second guardsman. “Stop rifling through the dead’s possessions and answer the question.”
Nadia stood slowly and turned to the guards. She unbuttoned the first two buttons of her nightshirt, forcing the two guardsmen to fight back the urge to smile. The potential smiles vanished, however, when Nadia pulled back the nightshirt enough to reveal the silver and dioptase Medallion of Nadru, God of the Dead. “I shall rifle through the belongings of the dead as I see fit,” she said.
The guardsmen looked at each other, silently considering what to do next. Nadia pulled a ring off of the finger of the first assassin. The ring bore the etchings of a skull and dagger, the symbol of Galenen, God of Assassins. She tossed it at the bewildered guards. One of the guards caught it, but upon realizing what it was quickly placed it on the dresser.
“These men were assassins of the Order. They failed in their duties. Now leave me be so I may say the prayers over them that Galenen will receive their souls and pass his judgment on them.”
“Our apologies, Madame…we did not…”
“Enough. Just go.” Nadia waved them off. The guardsmen turned to leave.
“Wait,” said Nadia. The guardsmen froze. “Send a message to the Crypt Keepers. When I am through, they shall need to claim the bodies.”
The guardsmen nodded and quickly exited the room, closing the door behind them.
Nadia shook her head. Even city guards and hardened soldiers were slow to question the work of Nadru’s Doom Guardians for fear of the God of the Dead somehow seeking retribution. Nadia stripped the bodies of everything but their undergarments and shoved it all into her backpack. The armor was bloodied and useless now, but perhaps she could sell it as scrap leather. The Crypt Keepers attended to her basic living needs, but she had special dietary requirements that required actual coin. The Crypt Keepers were loath to provide her with too many live pigs or goats. There were those within their order that considered the whole practice unseemly.
She removed a small dish, vial of holy water, and a pinch of ash from a rowan tree from her belt pouch. She blended the ash and water together, and then dipped the tips of her fingers into it. The concoction burned her fingers, and she grinded her teeth to suffer through the rite.
“May your journey to your final judgment be safe,” she said as she painted Nadru’s symbol on each forehead. “And may the defilements of the damned lay no hand upon your body or soul. Pass on to your reward, never to return.”
She sat on the ground among the dead, contemplating the absurdity of the whole situation as she bandaged her burnt leg. The commoners would marvel at her faith and dedication, insuring that even her own would-be assassins were not subjected to the work of the Necromancers or accosted by demons on their journey into the afterlife. But Simon would scold her again; because she knew full well that Galenen’s Temple would have paid for their resurrection as they died in the Order’s service. And the Last Rites prevented possession by demons, defilement by the Necromancers and honest resurrection.
But she needed to amuse herself somehow.
She reached into the backpack and pulled out one of the assassin’s coin purses. She opened it to see a few gold coins and a silver and ruby necklace. She left it on the chest of one of the bodies, along with a note to the Crypt Keepers to handle the burial with the funds. She packed up the rest of her belongings quickly. As she exited the room, she turned to the small table and retrieved the ring. Simon would want it back.
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