Chapter V: The Queen

The Realm of Bones



     Tharyn opens up her satchel, and nods at Crow Lord, who reaches in with his left arm. At first, his fingers scratch against the rough fabric of the satchel, but then it feels like a door opens, and Crow Lord reaches into a cold expanse, which sucks him in.

     Crow Lord falls into darkness, feeling the air push against him as he falls very quickly. Crow Lord comes to a sudden stop, crashing into a large mound of something that feels like fine dust, but his nose tells him that it is ground up bone. Crow Lord uses his power to grant him night vision, granting him a view that extends for 60 feet.

     Crow Lord gets a feeling that he is being watched, however he detects no physical beings near him.

     Crow Lord observes his surroundings, and his nose was correct: the dust is ground up bone, as Crow Lord can tell as he grabs a handful of it and lets it fall from his hand. Crow Lord climb to the top of a dust-mound, trying to detect whatever presence is watching him. However, this world is full of dust, is very cold, and has no heat. Life does not exist in this realm.

     Crow Lord sits crosslegged on the ground. He begins trying to commune with nature, to feel it's energy. He explores around with his energy, keeping his ears open for signs, however this yields nothing. As Crow Lord's energy returns to him, he feels a chilling presence over the mound.

     Crow Lord crawls towards the mound, staying low and trying to find the source of the energy. As Crow Lord gazes upon the area, he sees a small pool of blood splattered in a large bowl of bone.

     Crow Lord rolls over the mound and slides down towards the blood, trying to see what is so special about it. Crow Lord waves his hand over the pool, his energy identifying it's magical properties, or lack thereof.

     "This is my blood," Crow Lord says in his mind. However, there is a slight incantation affecting it, causing it to multiply very slowly. Crow Lord looks around the empty realm, at the bones sticking out of several of the mounds, the stillness in the air around him. The very nature of this realm is stale.

     Crow Lord focuses on his ring, trying to communicate with Tharyn, however the only sound he hears is a moderately loud but very deep humming sound.

     Crow Lord's stomach rumbles, hungry and his body is lacking nutrition. Crow Lord summons a handful of berries, and begins to eat them. As he consumes the berries and spits out the seeds, Crow Lord feels a sudden decrease in the area's temperature. His attention, which was scattered all around, focuses back upon the seeds, which begin to sprout roots and grow vines, however the ashen soil lacks nutrition, and the plants die.

     Crow Lord engages back into his communion with nature, seeking a set of visions with which to communicate with the natural properties of this realm. Suddenly, Crow Lord feels a vision of darkness, of an infinite void filled with bones ground to dust and souls that have no home. Then, the souls came together, and the realm was created. The energy is very weak, trying to cling to whatever life it can find.

     Crow Lord leaves a set of messages in his mind, showing his world to the essence and trying to show it peace. Crow Lord feels his energy restore, and a warmth fills his body.

     

     Crow Lord then feels his mind ransacked, the fingers of some scourage, tearing his brain apart. Crow Lord falls to his knees, a raspy groan escaping his throan. Then, the pain is gone and Crow Lord's memories are intact once more. In his years since the amnesia began, Crow Lord never thought about his mother's face, thinking only of his father's murderer. However, the first image that comes to mind is a women with green eyes and black hair, her face smooth like ivory. Her teeth are somewhat crooked, despite her royal status, but her lips are a beautiful red.

     Crow Lord doesn't understand what or why this is happening, but he begins to feel around for the presence that had entered his mind. Crow Lord feels a slight headache in his mind, and recalling his spells seems to worsen the headache. Whatever had entered his mind, it searched through his library of spells and hurt him in the process.

     Crow Lord looks at his boots, which are now in the puddle of blood. Crow Lord tilts his head in confusion, then notices that the pool of blood is slowly rising, growing exponentially upwards. Crow Lord tries to crawl up the mound, but his hands and feet slide through the soil, causing him to slip downwards towards the blood. Crow Lord conjures a spell to mold the dust back into bone, fighting through the pain of his aching mind.

     A large spire of bone rises from the ground, with many bone branches that Crow Lord grabs onto. As Crow Lord rises above the growing lake of blood, Crow Lord is beset by a dim light, radiating from the sky. He looks up at a full moon, silver against the black sky, and cancels his darkvision spell.

     Crow Lord looks around the realm, which is growing crimson from the presence of blood in the realm. The lake keeps growing, swallowing the mounds of dust until the only thing left in the realm is Crow Lord's massive bonetree and a vast ocean of blood.

     As the ocean of blood continues to rise, climbing up the tree, Crow Lord tries to commune with nature once more, however his mind is plagued with an image where the world cracks and shatters, and then reforms.

     Crow Lord shapeshifts into a large crow, taking flight off the tree as a sudden shaking of the realm splinters it in half. As he soars through the sky, the shaking of the realm increases in power to a sudden crack, which swallows up the blood into it's endless expanse. The blood fills up the crack in the ground, carrying the mounds of bone with it.

     Crow Lord flies low to the ground, which is a dark gray color with the texture of solidified bone. The vast red scar that the fissure and the ocean had made begins to bubble, and Crow Lord feels a sudden warmth from the realm.

     As the ground cracks beneath Crow Lord's feet, he takes to the air once more, but cannot fly faster than the rising spires of bone that chase after him.

     "It's trying to kill me!" Crow Lord panics, twisting in the air and trying to gain altitude, but his caught up in a growth of branches that traps him in a prison of bone.

     Crow Lord looks between the branches, trying to keep an eye out for danger. Crow Lord hears a slight shifting noise behind him, and conjures a great flame in his hand, coming face to face with a set of red vines that covers the branches of his prison. A bulb begins to form at the back of his prison, and opens up into an odd, blood-red flower, with a palm-sized berry at it's center.

     Crow Lord walks forward to the bulb, analyzing it with his magic.

     "This berry... It's just like those berries I summoned earlier!" Crow Lord says in his mind, ripping off the bulb and biting into it. However, the liquor of blood fills his mouth. Although sweet, Crow Lord spits out the intoxicating fruit, coughing up and puking the disgusting liquid from his mouth.

     Crow Lord summons the ball of flame back into his hand, and blows the side of his cell open. Crow Lord leaps out into the air, which feels more humid compared to earlier. Crow Lord expands his arms as they turn into wings, and soars through the forest as a large crow once more. He flies upwards, escaping the forest of bone.

     He gazes across the tops of the trees, the moonlight on his back, and sees the forest stretch for miles around the red scar of the wasteland. Crow Lord flies towards it, and lands near the edge.

     As his kneels down, looking at his reflection in the blood, the bubbling of the water continues, causing the crimson waters to begin steaming.

     Crow Lord backs away from the edge of the scar, and sees movement in the water. A large head, shaped like a wolf's but furless and covered in bone, makes it's way above the surface. The wolf has four eyes, each shaped like a lightning bolt, and an orange, fiery liquid drips from it's maw. The beast opens its mouth, revealing a set of razor sharp teeth, imperfectly shaped and jagged in some parts. The rest of the wolf's body climbs out of the waters, it's body covered in red, gelatinous flesh, covering large thick bones. The same orange liquid flows through the creature's limbs.

     Crow Lord augments his hearing, trying to get a reading on the creature's heartbeat. If he can, Crow Lord can tell if the creature means him harm, or if it is anxious of his presence. However, the beast has no heartbeat, the liquid inside it's veins moving of their own will.

     The wolf howls into the sky, and turns towards Crow Lord, it's fangs glistening with a luminescent orange liquid. The beast barks three times times, trying to intimidate Crow Lord, but the man summons two flaming blades in his hands and darts left instinctively, dodging the beast as it charges forward suddenly.

     Crow Lord flies backwards, the warmth of the creature's body singeing the tips of his knuckles, his leather gloves bubbling from the heat. Crow Lord throws his flame blades at the creature, however, the blades simply burst upon the creature's skin, having no effect.

     Crow Lord grabs onto the edges of his cloak, turning his arms into makeshift wings. He flies into the sky above the creature, and conjures a tiny bit of magic into the tips of his wings, which send forward a volley of razor sharp feathers at the beast, cutting into it's bone-like exterior. The orange liquid that gives the creature life spills out from each wound, however the creature feels no pain, and instead growls at it's airborn enemy.

     Crow Lord flies in circles around his foe, keeping a watchful eye on the beast as he shifts his flight-path and lands on the branch of a bone-tree. Crow Lord uses his magic to shape a weapon out of the tree's hide, fashioning a sharp saber from it's hide.

     The hound closes it's mouth, storing a large amount of the orange liquid. The creature looks up at Crow Lord, and then begins to breath a large torrent of flame that lick up towards him. Crow Lord leaps away from the flame, and conjures his wings to carry him out of harm's way.

     Crow Lord ducks low, avoiding the flames, then flies at the hound, his new saber ready to cut deep into the beast's hide. Crow Lord flies right at the beast's mouth, which opens up, reading to chomp down upon his weak body. Crow Lord twists in the air, barely dodging the beast's razor sharp maw, and slides his saber through the creature's mouth, cutting through it's neck into it's torso. A large spray of hot, orange blood sprays upon the ground, catching Crow Lord in the ankle and burning down to the bone. Crow Lord screams out in a raspy voice, and rolls away from the beast, who it limping around as it's life-blood spills forth from it's body. Crow Lord uses his magic to heal his ankle, but only enough to reattach his ligaments, muscles, and tendons. His skin is still charred and boiled around the wound, but he'll have to worry about that later.

     The beast limps along the ground, it's front right leg slowed by it's injry. Crow Lord leaps through the air, landing on top of the beast's head, which burns his feet. Crow Lord fights through the pain and stabs down with his rapier into the hound's skull, stabbing into what he hopes is the beast's brain. The beast howls in agony for a split second, then falls to the ground, lifeless. The orange light of it's blood remains in it's body, but it's flesh blackens and flakes against the wind that carries through the valley.

     Crow Lord pulls out one of his glass vials in his sack, which surprisingly did not break like the rest of equipment, and scoops up a vial of the creature's blood. Crow Lord touches the beast's skin, which no longer burns his flesh. Crow Lord walks over to a tree, fashioning a holster for his saber, and then creates a set of twin knives to cut the beast apart with.

     Crow Lord skins the beast, trying to fashion a new pair of leather gloves and boots from the beast. He cuts open the beast's skull, the bone hard and malformed. As Crow Lord disects the creature, he notices that the beast was fashioned after the direwolves of his realm.

     Crow Lord, still injure after his fight with the creature, uses the last of his reserves of magic to heal his wounds, restoring his damaged ankle, burnt feet, and scorched nose and knuckles. Crow Lord feels very drained, and flies up onto a bone tree, and rests his eyes for a moment.

     

A Decade of Blood, Bone, and Fire



     Ten years have passed. Or, at least, that's what Crow Lord deduces. Each year was more difficult than the last, however Crow Lord had adapted to the dangers of this wasteland. Whatever energy existed in this realm, it was testing itself against him, as he had noticed after his last battle. The many corpses of bloodhawks were scattered upon the ground, their orange blood splattered across the ground in a gruesome style after a fiersome battle in the sky against an airborn Crow Lord, who cut their wings and forced them to plummet down to their deaths. Crow Lord still wields his saber, but throughout the years, his strength grew and Crow Lord began to devise heavier, more effective weapons, such as a large cross-spear fashioned after Stormdrake's swordspear.

     Every year, the beasts the Crow Lord could not vanquish would multiply, or split (as Crow Lord called it). Every year, the moon in the sky would turn blood red, and the beasts would flock towards the scar that had birthed them. The beasts would charge into the red waters and be consumed. Hours after their sacrifice, twelve beasts similar to the previous one would rise, but slightly evolved compared to the previous one. Some of them gained useless aesthetics, such as bleached skin and colored markings, similar to the tigers of his old world. Others truely evolved, becoming perfected for battle, growing stronger exoskeletons or sprouting deadlier means with which to hunt and kill. Other creatures became alien, their gelatinous flesh transparent, revealing their insides with clarity, however the creatures developed amazing magical properties, such as pyrokinesis, damage amplification, the ability to shoot lazers, you name it.

     Crow Lord had fled far from the Scar, as his first year near it was a mistake. At first, the ritual of splitting was a serene one, and Crow Lord admired the life that had been created. However, the greatly evolved beasts hunted him down in packs, chasing him for days, hunting him down to the ends of the realm.

     Crow Lord spent most of his time out in the wilds, hunting down the beasts that could prove troublesome. Over the years, Crow Lord developed his magic to hide his presence, crafting spells that allowed him to travel from tree to tree in the blink of an eye. His weapons were coated with enough blood to be permanently dyed, with mixes of red and orange on them. The weapons had developed, over time, natural properties of fire, searing through those not protected against it.

     Crow Lord's body adapted to the changes around him. His muscles had each doubled in size, granting him a barbaric form that could easily wrestle with the hounds or tear the wings off a bloodhawk. His cloak was the only item he had that had survived over the decade, and he had replaced his clothes with the hide of the beasts, the black leather protecting him against fire and hot-blood.

     He no longer wore his crow mask, which had broken a long time ago. Instead, Crow Lord molded the skull of a siren, a dome-headed beast which produced sounds by rubbing it's mane of whip-like tentacles together, around his face, which slipped over and protected it perfectly. Crow Lord took what he could from each beast, leaving nothing behind in most cases. The tentalces of the siren were used to craft leather strings and bindings, which were strong enough to hold armor plates together. The exterior skeleton of several of the beasts were used to craft a variety of armor, some light, others heavy. Crow Lord typically favored light armor, for sneaking and moving quickly during fights, but in some cases, Crow Lord would have died it had not been for the heavy bone-plates of this cruel realm.

     Crow Lord eventually found a mountain formed of bone in his journey, which he dug into to create a very secretive lair. Many of the beasts tried to follow him inside, only to fall victim to his traps, which ranged from trap doors, to falling blades. Other traps would entangle the beasts, providing an easy kill for Crow Lord.

     However, the years had grown cruel on Crow Lord, and the man now suffers from it. His dreams turned to nightmares, and despite his vendetta against Cao Cao completely removed from his mind. Crow Lord's amnesia still afflicted his mind, causing Crow Lord to forget about his family and his very name once again. Only survival remained in his thoughts, his blood hot with the desire to kill every single palebeast that stood against him.

     

Legion of Monsters



     Crow Lord stands over a table, tightening a set of jagged, scalelike armguards to his forearms. Tonight is another Bloodmoon, similar to any other. However, this year will be it's last, as Crow Lord intends to close the breach once and for all. He slaps on a breastplate, which was formed out of the split skull of a hound, which was shrunken down to size and modified to protect his chest while allowing his arms and head to move. Crow Lord secures the breastplate around his leather armor, and then tightens shinguards and bone-molded boots to his legs. His crow-feathered cloak is clasped around his armor, the cape of black fluttering behind him like a shadow. As Crow Lord grabs onto his cross-spear, he hears a clicking sound behind him.

     "Clickers!" Crow Lord rasps. Crow Lord dashes towards the door to his hideout, trying to secure it closed, however before he can reach it, a column of hard bone rises from the ground, hitting him in the chest. Crow Lord is flung backwards, readying a flame blade and shooting it at the door way, trying to hit whatever summoned the cylinder of bone into him.

     The flame blade darts through the air, then disperses against the charred flesh of a humanoid looking creature, however it has no eyes or definitive features. A fanged mouth opens up, revealing glistening razors that hunger for warm blood.

     "Great, it's flame-resistant too..." Crow Lord thinks. He rolls to the side, and flips onto his feet, sidestepping and leaps into the air, dodging a set of bone columns.

     "The creature has control over the earth?" Crow Lord thinks. As he darts along the ground, taking hits to the back, stomach, and shoulder, Crow Lord throws his spear at the creature, grazing it's hip.

     The columns of bone stop for a single second, giving Crow Lord a chance to dash forward and grab the creature by the throat. Frenzied, Crow Lord tightens his grip around it's throat, cutting off it's supply of blood to it's brain, rendering it unconscious. He grabs the sides of the Clicker by the head, then snaps its neck. A sinister clickering gurgles in it's throat, but the creature is lifeless. Crow Lord grabs onto his cross-spear, and walks out of his lair.

     Outside, about fifteen weaker clickers lie in wait for him, however they are neither flame resistant nor are they able to bend the earth. Crow Lord wreaths his cross-spear in flames, and slices through each beast as they charge at him, cutting them in half or reducing them to ashes. Crow Lord lifts up his mask, summoning and consuming a magical berry for the long journey ahead of him.

Parasites



     As Crow Lord walks across a dusty, ashen desert, the howls of the beasts around him as they detect the presence of the one who had killed so many of their kind before, despite whatever evolutions they were gifted with. They kept a fearful distance away from the man, who would kill anything in his path.

     The journey across it is not kind, as the ashen ground gives way beneath him, often tripping him. However, Crow Lord keeps going forward, clawing his way up the mounds. His stamina does not dwindle, and he will not falter.

     As Crow Lord's journey continues, he comes across an odd sight: an oasis, filled with large gelatinous trees that pulse with the light of the moon's silver radiance. Crow Lord walks along the outskirts of the oasis, curious as to what it could be. In the center of the oasis is a small pond of blood, which glistens with grace. Crow Lord conjures a great flame in his hand, ready to incinerate it.

     As the flame leaves his hand, a quick tentacle of blood swipes through the flame, extinguishing. Crow Lord leaps sideways, dodging an impaling spike of blood that rises from the ground. He looks over towards the center of the lake, and a disgusting, malformed being walks up from it. As Crow Lord throws a set of razor-sharp feathers at the creature, he notices that several more rise from the crimson pond. Crow Lord leaps into the air, wreathing himself in flames, then crashes down and burns the rising creatures, who disperse like a cup of water spilled over.

     Crow Lord takes a step towards the pond, but feels a powerful tentacle of blood wrap around his feet.

     As Crow swings down with his spear, the tentacle lifts him up in the air and slams him against a tree, breaking through it. Crow Lord feels blood fill his mouth and several of his ribs crack as he is thrown against the ground, skidding along the ashen ground.

     Crow Lord slowly enters a rage, and charges through the pain caused by the crimson pond, which has now taken on the form of a mass of tentacles that swirl about. The tentacles lift up the destroyed tree and throw it through the air at Crow Lord, who charges forward and rolls under the tree's point of impact, barely dodging it as the tree flies over him with centimeters to spare.

     Crow Lord rolls off the ground, and throws a blast of flame towards the lake, which swipes at the ball of flame to extinguish it. However, inside the ball of flame is his cross-spear, which flies through the tentacle and impales itself into the lake of gelatinous blood.

     The tentacles wither, slowly succumbing to the burning nature of the spear as the blood bubbles and scorches, turning to ash against the spear.

     Crow Lord walks towards the slowly diminishing pool of blood, and raises his palm at it. A terrible jet of flame flies from his palm, incinerating the remaining blood in the lake.

     Crow Lord doesn't trust the ground, and uses a vine whip to retrieve his cross-spear. As he walks away from the fake-oasis, Crow Lord launches behind him a large fireball, which destroys the entire oasis, leaving nothing but a crater of dust and ash in it's wake.

     Crow Lord solidifies a ash-dune, and then uses his magic to create a small room to sleep in.
     

Voices



     Crow Lord awakens from several hours of sleep, however his rest was uneasy. His wounds had healed from the day before, and the injuries on his ribs had mended.

     Crow Lord rolls out of his dune, sealing it behind him as he continues his pilgrimage towards the Scar. He ventures into a bone forest, which is full of creatures who flee before him. Many of them are smaller, however even the larger ones know to keep away from him.

     As Crow Lord walks forward, eventually coming to a large clearing, at the edge of which are several vines that seal behind him, preventing his escape. He looks behind him, at what looks like a Siren, a four legged beast that he used to create his mask.

     However, this Siren is much different, and it's tentacles vastly outnumber it's cousins. Whereas a Siren normally has about thirteen, this siren has closer to thirty.

     The Siren is more slender than it's cousins, and it's skin is paler in comparison to their normal grayish forms. Crow Lord takes a step forwards at the beast, who begins rubbing it's many tentacles and producing a nauseous sound that causes Crow Lord to lose his balance, resulting in him falling prone on the ground.

     Crow Lord tries to cover his ears, to stop the maddening and sickening sounds of the damned beast. He looks up, his head ready to burst, and the creature charges at him, turning at the last second and bashing him with it's three tails.

     Crow Lord flies back against the vines that trap him within the arena with the siren, which begins to produce a loud screeching noise, with many voices hidden within.

     "You will be eaten."

     This world will take your eyes and gnaw at your bones."

     "Be devoured."

     "Drink the blood and be consumed by it."

     "This has been ten years for you, eternity for us..."

     Crow Lord grabs onto his skull, trying to think of a spell that could save him. Crow Lord places his hands over his ears, then uses casts a spell to deafen himself. Any sound that enters his skull has no effect on him, and Crow Lord looks at the beast, the skull on his head casting an even greater intimidating effect on it.

     As a creature of sound, the siren is now at a complete disadvantage. Crow Lord charges forward, chucking his cross-spear at the beast and pulling out his saber and continuing his charge. The siren slaps away the spear, which slightly burns it's tentacle, then charges at Crow Lord.

     However, Crow Lord is faster than the beast, easily matching it's weakened strength, and easily blocks it's front paw, catching it by it's forearm with his saber. He then twists and pulls on the creature's arm with his opened hand, dislocating it from the elbow.

     With his deafened ears, Crow Lord cannot hear the beast scream as the tentacles writhe in pain, producing a horrifying note. However, the beasts within ear shot of the battle hear this sound, immediately becoming disoriented and stagger around.

     Crow Lord throws the arm out of his way and tries to slice at the creature's face, however the tentacles swing forward, battering him repeatedly into the ground. Crow Lord drops his weapon in the fight, unable to cut off the tentacles as they splinter the back of his breastplate.

     Crow Lord slams down with both fists upon the ground, causing a large tremor in the area and sending forth a single column of bone up into the creature's hollow ribs, which are smashed inwards. The beast writhes backwards in pain, it's red blood spilling upon the ground through it's shattered chest. Crow Lord dashes towards the beast, picking up his cross-spear in the process, and stabs through the creature's chest. Although no vital organs exist in that area, the beast loses control over it's back legs and tails, falling onto it's belly.

     The beast tries to crawl away from Crow Lord, who walks up its back and stabs forward with his spear, which flies through the mass of tentacles and straight through the beasts's face.

     Crow Lord rips out his spear and sheathes it onto his back, then walks over to his saber and sheathes it. He rests against a tree carefully, sliding down the trunk until his body rests gently on the ground. His back is heavily bruised, and his shoulder feels pinched, as if a shoulder blade was fractured.

     He concentrates on a healing spell several times, restoring his shoulder blade, but his body is sore and very tired from the previous two fights. Crow Lord cancels the spell that deafened him, hearing the sound of the wind passsing through the forest.

     Crow Lord shuts his eyes, taking a quick nap before his journey continues.

     

Warrior



     Crow Lord should be thankful for his restored hearing, for if he had detected the loud thuds of a giant approaching a second later, he'd probably be dead by this point.

     As he rests against the tree, he hears a sudden cracking sound and the sound of a large object travelling through the wind. Crow Lord looks up in the air, seeing past the trees as a large bone-tree hurtles through the air towards him. Crow Lord turns into a large crow and flies upwards, over the approaching missile.

     As he soars above the forest, he sees a large red giant three times the height of the largest tree sifting through the woods. The giant roars with rage at the bird-man, then picks uproots another tree and throws it at Crow Lord.

     Crow Lord dives through the air at the giant after a long flight of dodging throw trees, and slahes across the giant's flat and featureless face. Orange blood drips from his cut, and Crow Lord looks at his rear talons, which had melted from the giant's blood.

     Crow Lord tries to think of a way to kill this damned giant, whose size makes it impossble for any of his weapons or forms to deal any damage. Crow Lord looks over at the giant as he flies away, who had picked up another tree and begins charging at him with it as a makeshift club.

     Crow Lord flaps his wings harder, trying to dodge the giant's club, but is struck in the wing and sent flying through the air. In this form, he can slowly use his magic instinctively to heal his wounds, however the damage to his wing will take too long to heal.

     Crow Lord struggles against the pain to keep his wing out, but does everything he can to slow his descent. Crow Lord lands on the ground with a forceful crash, but his temporary takes all of the damage. He reverts back to his human form while his ability to transforms recharges. Crow Lord casts Pass of Trace, and silently becomes one with the shadows.

     Crow Lord places his palm against a tree, and steps into it. He looks through the tree, trying to find a good vantage point to spy on the giant to search for a weakness.

     The giant is thrashing about, ripping up trees and slamming the ground, clearing out major areas of the woods where Crow Lord jjust was. However, he had left that stretch of the woods a moment ago, and now stands behind the giant with some room to spare.

     Crow Lord looks the giant up and done, but sees no weak spots on the giant; his flesh is gelatinous and surrounds every corner of his body, like somekind of jelly-man. Crow Lord warps to a tree into front of it quickly, trying to get a good look at the giant's face.

     "Perhaps there... No? Dammit, this giant has no weaknesses!" Crow Lord thinks. The giant swings down with a closes fist, smashing the tree that Crow Lord is hiding in. At the last second, Crow Lord flies out of the tree, but the impact of the giant's attack sends him flying into another tree. As he crashes into it, Crow Lord comes up with an idea.

     Crow Lord transforms into a large crow and flies around the giant's feet. The giant slams down with it's foot, barely missing him. As Crow Lord tries to take a step back, it feels a vein lined with thorns tied around it's leg. The giant looks down, the crow flying up around it's legs, tying them together. As it tries to swing out with it's leg, the giant upsets it's own balance and foward onto the ground.

     Crow Lord lands on the giant's back, and casts a spell to bend the trees around the giant's limbs, keeping it down on the ground. The giant struggles, trying to break free from the trees, which begin to snap or unroot from the giant's strength. Crow Lord keep summoning bone trees to bend towards the giants, but the giant's strength and resistance is too great.

     Crow Lord feels his feet beginning to burn, and looks down at his feet. The bottoms of his bone-molded boots have completly disintegrated, and Crow Lord's feet are bleeding profusely.

     Crow Lord summons his wings from his cloak and flies off the giant, who is slowly breaking free from the restraints. Crow Lord looks at his feet, the flesh peeled off the bone. Crow Lord remains in the air, blood dripping form his feet profusely.

     Crow Lord diverts all of his attention to defeating the giant. With no weaknesses, the giant can only be defeated by one thing; the realm itself.

     Crow Lord waits until the giant sits up, then raises his hands up towards the moon, which is full, bright silver, and perfectly luminescent.

     Crow Lord tries to feel the moon's energy in this world, and although it is sumbstantially smaller than the moon in his original world, this moon is so much closer and the energy from it won't be disturbed as much.

     A powerful radiant blast of light pulses from the moon, onto the giant, and begins to savagely burn it alive. The giant's skin, although very tough and resilient, peels away like the peeling of a banana, revealing it's hideously malformed skeleton.

     Crow Lord, drained of all of his energy, crawls towards the remains of the giant. However, his energy fades from him, and Crow Lord cannot continue onward. He stops moving, trying to take in as much nature from energy, however his body is immediately fatigued from the previous battles and even summoning energy seems to strain his body.

     Crow Lord rests on the ground, the energy from the moon dissipating quickly. He turns his head over at the giant, who turns to dust against the wind. He smiles and lets out a weak laugh, then falls back to sleep.

Immortalized



     Crow Lord awakes to a sharp pain on the bottoms of his feet. Looking down, Crow Lord remembers clearly the wounds he sustained, which had now festered.

     He pulls out a small knife, and begins cutting off the infected flesh, removing the skin down to the bone. He grits his teeth, blood spilling from his mouth as rivers of blood flow out of his foot. After Crow Lord finishes cutting his feet, he eats a couple of druidic berries, and then uses a great deal of magic to cure the wounds on his feet, spending the entire day in prayer, meditation, and communion with the power of this realm, healing his wounds. It's very nature is kind but cold, and it feels seperate from whatever energy that invaded Crow Lord mind's many years ago.

     As his wounds close and his body feels strong again, Crow Lord props himself up with his cross-spear, and continues walking towards the Scar of the wasteland. As he walks past the giant's corpse, Crow Lord looks up at the moon, which is starting to turn a very light shade of orange.

     "Soon..." he thinks. Crow Lord quickens his pace, trying to clear through the forest before the next day passes.

     

     Crow Lord stumbles through the woods, breaking out several hours later. He gazes towards the Scar, which is lined with beasts awaiting for their yearly demise. Crow Lord charges forward, hoping to drain the red waters before it is too late. As he charges towards the Scar, the moon turns into a large sphere mixed with blue and purple hues, a shade that he has never seen before.

     "Purple? That's not right... and the beasts..." He thinks as he charges. However, as he nears his destination, he finds that the beasts have not entered the waters. Crow Lord runs up to the beasts, who are grouped up with a large gap between them, as if welcoming Crow Lord to this year's ritual. The beasts don't move, not even slightly. The blood in their veins remain still, as if time had completely stopped.

     Crow Lord proceeds with caution, eyeing each of the palebeasts that surround him. His spear is ready, held across his chest in both hands, prepared for trouble. He turns around, making sure the beasts behind him haven't moved and finds that they remain still. Even the sirens, who tentacles cause noises with the slightest contact, remain silent.

     Slowly, Crow Lord hears the sounds of a creature stepping out from the red waters behind him. He looks over his shoulder, seeing a small humanoid figure stepping out from the waters, covered in crimson.

     The creature looks to a woman, however Crow Lord knows better. Her skin is a very slight shade of orange and red. Her hair is bleached white, very much so like his. She looks at him with red eyes, severely bloodshot and a darker shade of red compared to her skin. Crow Lord picks up on the woman's features; the round chin, the long ears, and the pointy nose; This woman has taken on the appearance of Tharyn!

     The woman smiles at him, parting her white hair over her face as her lips curl open, revealing a set of sharp fangs that glisten in the purple haze of the realm. She raises her arms, which cause the dust around them to swirl around her, covering her in bone armor, much like Crow Lord's armor.

     She speaks like a regular human, her feminine voice matured and pristine. "I am the real Tharyn, and it's so good to finally meet you, Daimon. I need your help."

     

Pain Redefined



     Crow Lord readies his spear, circling her with caution. She smiles, her fangs dripping with saliva as she runs a hand along the head of a Hound.

     "You don't seem as confused as I was expecting. Cat got your tongue?"

     Crow Lord tilts his head. "Why do you look like my friend?"

     Tharyn summons a large blob of blood in her palm, which begins to coat her hand and turns purple.

     "It's simple, really. You see, when we defeated the necromancer, I took possession of his soul and the many spirits trapped in his phylactery. Normally, I had considered lichdom, however I came up with an even better plan, and one is finally coming to fruition: my transendence to a god! All I had to do was split my soul and give it the power from the sacrificed souls. Gods must have their own realm and throne, and so I went to work. However, a mistake was made, you see!" She lifts up her finger.

     Crow Lord sets the tip of his spear into the ground and draws a circle around his feet. "Let me guess: the mistake was that you're a fucking loon, right? Too much power and it all went to your head?"

     Tharyn points at Crow Lord with her right hand. "You're quite the talker! No wonder the fates removed your voice! No, the time differential between our two worlds was too vast; a second in that realm is one year trapped in this one. As such, we lost communication with eachother, and The Tharyn you knew became seperated from everything that had made her... Me. I became bored with my creations, and began to destroy and recyle the world. Tharyn could not fathom what realm existed inside her satchel as I ended the world over and over again. I lost track of time, but she would gift me items from time to time, such as bodies and corpses. Each one gave me a new idea for the next world I would create and destroy. Some worlds were created after spiders. Others gave birth to skeleton armies. Then there was the Realm of Clothes, which I do not regret destroying. And now... I've given you! I don't know how long I had been gone, but I shudder at the thought of what she has become..."

     Crow Lord begins scratching several runes around the circle. "She's actually a very nice person. She and Warsch are getting married soon."

     Tharyn bites onto her tongue accidentally, and spits out a large blob of blood. "Marriage? You cannot be serious. I must escape from this prison!"

     Crow Lord tilts his head. "If you are as godly as you say, then why don't you just escape? Planar teleportation? What reason keeps you bound to this place, and why do you need my help?"

     Tharyn sticks out her injured tongue, showing the wounds as the flesh is restored like a flame that spreads through a dry forest.

     "I am unable to escape this prison because she keeps the bag tightly sealed. Things and people can come in, but there's no way out unless she wishes it. That's where you come in: She knows that something is wrong. She is getting ready to pull you back out. I need you to take me with."

     Crow Lord finishes the runes around his circle. "Why would I take a 'god' of Tharyn's cruelty and vileness back to her? You would sow discord and wreak havoc!"

     "Well, that's the beauty of it, dear Crow. You're not taking me of your own will. I'm hijacking your body."

     Before our dear Crow Lord can react, Tharyn turns into a large blob of purple blood and flies towards him. However, Tharyn slams against a large magical barrier, which completely surrounds Crow Lord in a pale green energy.

     "YOU... SHALL NOT... PASS!" Crow Lord shouts in his head, slamming his spear into the ground at his final thought.

     All of a sudden, Daimon hears a sudden thunderous roar; A large purple crack stretches across the sky, from one horizon to the next. Crow Lord floats upwards as the Tharyn he knew recalls his presence from this cruel world. As he is lifted upwards, Crow Lord sees the large purple blob float upwards towards him, closing the gap between him and her. Crow Lord summons flames from his hands, trying to blast away the blob, but nothing can prevent whatever machinations the vile god has planned.

The Infection



     A second passes after Crow Lord is sucked into Tharyn's satchel. In the back of her mind, Tharyn knows that Crow Lord will succeed. However, she knows what truly lies within; the other half of her fractured soul. Tharyn feels the presence of blood in her satchel grow beyond comprehension in that single second, and she is amazed.

     "There's no way... but how?" Tharyn asks herself. Warsch raises his brow in curiousity at Tharyn's expression, noticing that her left eyebrow is twitching.

     "Tharyn, what is the matter?" He says as he places a hand upon her shoulder.

     Tharyn looks at the ground for a second, then back up at Warsch. "It's Crow Lord... He's already succeeded!"

     The two smile at eachother, not noticing Alethra as she walks in behind them. Tharyn whips open her satchel, and begins calling Crow Lord back. The flame sconces in the room flicker, and all of a sudden a man clad in bone armor with a large cross-spear flies out of the satchel. His left arm is bare, black, and pulsing with bright orange veins. The party hardly recognizes the man until his mask falls off, revealing an older Daimon Krough, whose face is lined with more scars than before, and his body and jawline are stronger than before. Several seconds ago, he stood shorter than Warsch, but now he stands slightly taller and much wider, with his arms thicker than Warsch's legs.

     "Kaw... Kaw!" The man screeches, backing away from the group with his hand over his wrist. Tharyn's sinister voice fills his head, gloating about her success.

     "Yes! And now... my return!" Crow Lord's grip tightens around his wrist, cutting off his blood from his hand, however nothing can stop Tharyn from oozing out between his fingers.

     Alethra, Warsch, and Tharyn all look over at Crow Lord with both confusion and horror, as a woman begins taking form from the mass of purple sludge that collects on the ground.

     Crow Lord falls backwards wounded, tired, and defeated. Tharyn rises from the ground, her bloodshot eyes and crimson irises scanning the room before peering into the normal Tharyn's eyes, which widen in shock.

     Before Warsch can react to protect Tharyn, Evil Tharyn rushes from the spot towards Tharyn, reaching out towards her with a sinister grimace on her face, her red eyes filled with hatred. As Warsch charges forward to his lover's side, Tharyn is grasped by her evil twin and the two explode in a shower of blood that covers the room.

     Alethra wipes the blood from her eyes, looking at the spot that Tharyn used to stand. Now, there lies nothing but a large puddle of blood, the same crimson liquor dripping from the ceiling.

     Warsch falls to the ground, blinded by blood. He wipes his eyes and looks around for Tharyn, but she is gone.

     "Tharyn! No!" Warsch shouts, slamming his fist upon the floor. Warsch rises from the ground towards Crow Lord, grabbing him by his cloak and slamming him against the wall.

     "What did you do!?" He says as tears begin to collect around his eyes, wiping away the blood as they travel down his cheeks.

     "Kaw.... Kaw!" screeches Crow Lord.

     All of a sudden, Warren and Selene burst into the room, both detecting a sinister presence along with the scent of blood.

     Warren sniffs the area, his vampiric senses overdriven by the scent of raw blood. "Ahhhh... the Paleblood! It's perfectly... crimson!" He says as he collects the blood off the wall with his tongue.

     Selene walks over and seperates Warsch from Crow Lord. "What is the meaning of this? What or who was that presence?"

     Alethra shakes the blood off her outfit, which is now permanently stained red. She looks over at the doorway as Spider and Eranah walk in.

     "Well, I just walked in just in time to get doused in blood, however it seems that Tharyn's evil twin burst from within Crow Lord's arm, then attacked her. The moment the two touched, BLAM. Blood everywhere."

     Eranah walks around the base of the explosion, looking closely. "There's evidence here of a dimension door. Whatever happened here, neither of them are dead. However, we have no idea where they went to."

     Warsch gasps for air, shocked at the news of Tharyn's state. "She's not dead then! Perhaps they travelled back into Tharyn's reality marble?"

     Selene rubs her fingers through the blast site. "Doubtful. A spell like this is only good for travelling WITHIN a dimension. not out of it. It could be that they travelled away just to do that, however we have no way of knowing."

     Warsch shakes his head. "We need to find a way into her reality marble! We must find that satchel!"

     Crow Lord brings Tharyn's ring of communication towards his face, trying to communicate his thoughts. However, it seems like the loss of Tharyn caused the rings to stop functioning, for the party cannot hear his thoughts. Alethra looks over at him, confused by his actions.

     "I think Daimon is trying to say something?" She says, pointing over at him.

     Selene takes a better look at Crow Lord, surprised at his new phsique and armor. She places two fingers upon his brow, learning what information he had to share.

     "By the eight... Well that certainly simplifies things!"

     Warsch turns towards Selene. "What! What is it?" He asks.

     Selene sighs, and then rubs her left hand through her hair. "We're going to need a forked twig and a well filled with holy water."

     Warsch nods his head. "We'll need Stormdrake to bless it then. As for the twig, I'll go find one."

     

Cliffhangers



      Alethra exits the estate and heads back to the boat, hoping to find a fresh change of clothes. As she ducks through an alley, hoping to avoid contact with people who might be shocked at the sight of the blood-drenched warlock, Alethra hears a sullen cry from a woman down the way.

     "Help! They're trying to hurt my children!"

     Alethra darts through the alley, trying to locate the woman. She turns her head to the left, finding a bloodied woman lying upon the ground near a doorway. Alethra runs up to the woman, turning her face-up to interrogate her. As the woman's head is tilted towards her, Alethra looks into the eyes of demon, who has demonic purple eyes and blood-red lips. Before she can dash away from the demon, the fiend smiles and speaks a few words that stops and distorts time around Alethra:

     "No Gods, No Masters."


     Warsch walks out of the city towards an open field behind the estate. He continues walking away for about a mile, his anger and worry driving him to his knees. Warsch clenches his fists and teeth, hating himself for the position he finds himself in.

     Warsch screams to the heavens: "FATHER! SHOW YOURSELF!"

     All of a sudden, a powerful beam of orange flame lands before Warsch, clearing a hole in the sky and blowing away many loose pebbles from the area. Warsch looks up at his father, the Solar Vinuriel. Although he is still not completely healed from his fight with Selene, Warsch can see the Solar's orange flesh through the cracks in his somewhat reformed armor.

     The Solar looks down upon Warsch and speaks in a solemn but haughty tone. "What do you want?"

     Warsch feels his wrath leave him temporily. He rises from his knees onto his feet, his jaw slightly open. "I need your help defeating a demigod. I can barely defeat vampires, let alone whatever it was that attacked Tharyn."

     "Qwenarius!"

     Vinuriel holds out his hand, catching a divine ray that falls from the heaven. The ray forms in his hand, shaping itself into a mighty spear, it's tip shaped like a jagged flame attached to a pole of solid silver.

     "I cannot train you; not as you are. However, I will offer you this advice: You cannot hold the Angel's Grace within yourself much longer. Tapping her power in battle will weaken you and open past wounds. You must release her and call upon her in battle, as I just did."

     Warsch is taken aback by his father's statement. "Why can you not train me? What do you mean 'as you are?'"

     Vinuriel turns his back to Warsch, and begins his ascent back to the heavens. "There's a terrible truth to you, in your past. Only when you seek the sword from your vision will you learn."

     Vinuriel flies away in a blast of light, blinding Warsch for a moment. Warsch covers his eyes, then stands back up and shouts towards the sky.

     "What have I done!?"


     Tharyn finds herself surrounded in darkness, however she feels a cold hand gripped tight around her colar bone. She tries to move her arms and legs, but finds herself tied down to a chair made of bone.Tharyn tries to cast a nightvision spell on herself, but feels her magic being blocked by something much more powerful than her.

     "There will be none of that here, you vile whore." Tharyn looks around for the source of the voice, which was much like her own, except that it is much more vile and filled with hatred.

     Tharyn's voice shakes with fear and from the shivering cold that surrounds her. "Who is there?"

     Tharyn looks around, then comes across a pair of red eyes that peer through the darkness. She focuses on the eyes, which are bat-like with slotted irises. As she focuses on the pair of eyes, more surround her in the darkness.

     All of a sudden, a great sphere of red energy lights up the area above Tharyn. Behind her stands her evil doppleganger, covered in blood and reeking of it. Surrounding her are malformed bats, hanging off the ceiling and clinging to the walls, looking at her with bloodlust. Tharyn scans around, and sees a twisted old man sitting in the arms of a stone bat.

     The old man rests his right hand on his face while his left arm hangs limp towards the statue's feet. He lifts his hand and turns towards Tharyn. "Who are you two, and how did you get this far below ground without my knowing?"

     Tharyn shakes in her seat, trying to undo the binds. All of a sudden, Tharyn is punched on the right side of her head by her kidnapper, and she loses the energy to struggle for a moment.

     Tharyn's evil twin walks forward around her, announcing her presence with authority. "My name is Tharyn Qul'Wrath, queen of the Palebloods and Goddess of bone. I have only one request, and if you agree to it, I will quench your thirst for a millenia."

     The vampire lord leans forward from his perch and snaps his fingers. As the echo fills the halls, the great red sphere above Tharyn is eliminated. "I am the lord of these shadows. No god or queen commands me." He sits back into the arms of the statue, then sighs. "But, I do smell something terrific about you. What is your request?"

     The Queen smiles. "I want you to turn this woman into a vampire."


     Stormdrake feels something kicking his snout. It tickles and he could be troubled to open his eye, maybe just a little bit.

     "No," Stormdrake thinks. "I've been much too preoccupied. These dreams of mine... they require my full attention!"

     Stormdrake's productivity has dropped stagnantly ever since he first transformed into a dragon. At first, he felt nothing but rage as his vengeace was sated, but as he closed his eyes, he saw what twisted fate awaited this city.

     At first, his dreams offered him glimpses of a great battle between his comrades and the demons princes. However, as his dreams continued, he realized that the battle was actually a great siege, as the city and the Vault had come under the territory of the demon princes.

     His current dream is too important. The tides of battle... they are shifting! An enemy flank from behind-

     Stormdrake's eyelids are lifted, and his dream scatters from his mind like a fog blown away by a swipe of his mighty wings. In front of him is Selene, whose blank face and black hair settle the tiny amount of rage that he quickly felt.

     Stormdrake moves his eye around, seeing Eranah and Crow Lord around him.

     Much to his surprise, Stormdrake speaks coherently like normal. "What do you want?"

     Everyone else is just as surprised, however Selene's face is quite stern. "We need you to bless a well so that we can spy on Tharyn."

     Stormdrake's horned brow above his open eye raises up slightly. "Spy? On Tharyn... Why would we want to do that?"

     Crow Lord flaps his arms around as he kaws, however his body proportions seem different somehow...

     Selene, still holding onto Stormdrake's eyelid, says in a very monotone voice: "She's been kidnapped by something that looked very much like her. We need to know where she went."

     Stormdrake thinks for a second, and sighs heavily, which shakes several pebbles around him. "Okay. Tomorrow."

     With unexpected eyelid strength, Stormdrake closes his eye and returns to his nap. Selene reopens it using both arms, gritting her teeth in rage.

     "YOU MAKE HOLY WATER! NOW!"


Proceed to Chapter VI: The Underdark