Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next chapter in this thrilling story by Ariella, entitled
Background music by Smartsound.
Chapter Three – Betrayal
After several months of being down in the pits, Ariella is finally summoned to her grandmother’s chambers.
As Ariella approaches the chamber, the guards open the doors for her to enter. She looks around the room to find it is crowded, she quickly calculates about twenty others were there. Among them is Temarin. Ariella takes a deep breath and begins to approach her grandmother. As she walks past Temarin she decides to pretend he is not there, but suddenly stops. Something was not right, something was different with him. It was not like Temarin to not watch her every move or to not try and humiliate her in some way.
Slowly she turns to face him.
At first, Temarin did not notice Ariella watching him but it was too late by the time he did, Ariella had already noticed what had his attention; -the tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty standing in the back of the chamber, who was also was gazing upon Temarin. Ariella instantly knew by the way they looked at each other, they were lovers.
Ariella did not love her mate, nor did she care to, but seeing him look upon another shot a streak of jealousy through her.
Ariella and Temarin each came from nobility and therefore their elders matched them together at birth, a bond which could not be broken except by death. When they were younger, they spent many hours together training; for the most part they got along well and were evenly matched in skills, but one day while their elders were watching them train, Ariella got the best of Temarin and won the match. Temarin was utterly humiliated and from that moment on he was determined to make Ariella pay for his humiliation. Never again were they friends, they became rivals, everything was a battle. He wanted dominance and control over her and he would do anything to get it.
Ariella began to despise him and eventually hated him and wanted nothing more to do with him, but their marriage could not be broken, except with the death of the other and they were forbidden by their elders to kill each other.
However, they never said anything about killing their mate’s lover…..
Before Temarin could say or do anything, Ariella collected herself and approached her grandmother and bowed down.
Zes’Aleanana watches Ariella from the time she walks in the chamber room until the time she bows before her. She does not acknowledge Ariella but decides to circle the room, like a vulture circling its prey before devouring its carcasses.
Inside the chamber, silently servants hurry to and fro, trying to anticipate Zes’Aleanana’s every need before they are punished for not seeing to her quickly enough. Zes’Aleanana crosses the room and stands before the still bowing Ariella, but before she can say anything there is a deafening clatter of heavy footsteps out in the hall, followed by the sound of chaos and a thud as the door is flung open.
A human priest swirls into the room with all the heat and destruction of a firestorm. With him comes the stench of blood and sweat. His face is white with fury, making him look unnatural. Close on his heels are Adinagh, the male elder and Malkiira, the youngest of the female elders, followed by a dozen Orc. Before anyone knew what was happening the entire room is engulfed by his force.
What is this!, Zes’Aleanana demanded, stepping in front of Ariella, giving her just enough time to roll out of the way and out of sight. Without word or warning, Adinagh walks up to Zes’Aleanana and hauls back and strikes her with such force Zes’Aleanana’s neck snaps back with an audible crack. As her grandmother’s body falls to the ground, Ariella squeezes through a hidden door in the back of the room into a moonlit hall.
Ariella moved swiftly down the corridor trying to steady her breathing and keeping her mind clear and not on her grandmother or on all the questions going through her mind at this moment. There will be time enough for that later, she tells herself. She needs to get to her rooms and fast. But how many twist and turns did she take, who else knows of these hidden passages?
Finally, she reaches the south wing of the city; she pauses, putting her ear to the wall, listening for any movement, nothing. She gently opens the hidden passage to her room and silently slips in. It is empty. Quickening her pace, she changes into her leather armor and traveling cloak. She arms herself with all her daggers and slings her bow across her back then quietly she slips back into the hidden corridor.
Caution prevails and she decides to double back through the corridor and use the lower center square to approach the outer city. She pauses for a moment at the foot of the winding steps. As she looks out into the center of the city, to her horror, groups of orc are attacking children, tearing their slender bodies apart between themselves. Human priests and soldiers are posted all around, while some are rounding up the slaves into a corner. The dead of the weak are scattered around. A fire is engulfing the far side of the city.
Shouts from above pull Ariella’s attention, it is Vierithra, the second oldest female elder, “The tunnel! They’ve been let in through the tunnel!” For a moment, Ariella just stood there, blinking. Then more shouting and fighting. The clash of metal on metal, the static of magic stifling the air making it hard to breathe. An arrow zinged past Ariella, finding its home in Vierithra. It was a slaughterhouse. They had the element of surprise. But wait, the more she looked, it was not only the priest and the orc fighting the drow, it was Drow on Drow. Her own people, butchering her own people. Gritting her teeth, she turned back up the winding stairs, back towards her grandmother’s chambers.
By the time she made it back to her grandmother’s room her blood was boiling, roaring so loudly in her ears she could barely hear. She kept replaying the scene from the center city in her head. Drow betraying Drow for the sake of Humans. They were armed with magic and iron, they did not differentiate between young and old, male and female, as they hacked and slaughtered. There was blood everywhere. Ariella knew death, she was born into it, trained from a young age in it, and was- is an assassin, had been the hand of death to deliver many death blows, but there was always a reason, none were innocent. Not this, this made her stomach shift. She could not understand the endless butchering of so many innocents “Still your breathing, focus” she tells herself, and then she pulls her daggers into her hands and steps in.
The chamber was empty except for where Zes’Aleanana’s body lay crumpled on the floor. Upon looking at her grandmother, Ariella was not expecting the ping to her chest. Catching her breath, she swiftly dismisses it and makes a quick search of the room hoping to find anything that would explain what was happening down in the city.
Ariella kneels besides her grandmother, knowing this would be the last time she would look upon her. “If only she had taught me how to watch innocents die, as well as she taught me how to kill…” Ariella seethes.
Calming herself, Ariella leaves the room in search of answers.
Someone moved heavily and quickly behind her, not bothering to silence their steps. Quickly, Ariella ducked behind a crevice then slowly and silently crouched for the attack. Unexpectedly, the footsteps moved past her; as they did, she partially caught the image of the owner. It was Malkiira, the youngest of the elders. Ariella remembered she was with the human priest and Adinagh as they entered her grandmother’s chamber. With all the grace Ariella could summon, she stood and moved stealthily down the passage, towards Malkiira, who had paused.
Ariella knew this was not going to be an easy task. As she expected, Malkirra lunched herself at Ariella, going straight for the kill, but Ariella whirled away as Malkiira struck nothing but air, and Ariella slammed the butt of her dagger into Malkiira’s spine. Malkiira staggered, but kept upright, turning on one foot as she charged after Ariella again. Ariella took the blow this time, angling herself so she took the hit. Ariella’s daggers were up and she jumped toward Malkiira, letting the force of her body slam into the upper part of Malkiira’s body aiming her daggers straight for her face. Malkiira sidestepped and swirled, but stumbled, Ariella’s fist was waiting, as it met Malkiira’s nose, she savored the rush of pain through her hand and the crunch of Malkiira’s bones beneath her knuckles. Ariella leapt back before Malkiira had a chance to strike back with her blades. Blood gleamed as it trickled from her nose, Ariella shoved Malkiira, but Malkiira regained her footing. Malkiira wiped at her bloody nose, eyes gleaming as she panted. Malkiira’s face became feral, and she charged again, aiming a blade towards Ariella’s heart but it was too fast and too wild for Malkirra to stop. Ariella dropped into a crouch as Malkirra’s blade sailed over Ariella’s head. Ariella lashed out at Malkiira’s legs. Malkiira did not even have time to cry out as Ariella swept her feet out from under her, nor did she have time to raise her weapon before Ariella crouched over her chest, and drove her dagger through Malkiira’s throat.
Ariella rolled off Malkiira onto the stone floor trying to catch her breath. She notices shadows flickering across the wall – “get up” she tells herself. As she rises, she grabs her dagger from Malkiira’s throat and doesn’t bother to clean it off then drags the body into a dark corner out of sight. Quickly, she scales the rough wall concealing her body against the roof rafters. As the two priests pass under her, she hears one of them say “Adinagh is no fool, we need to keep him thinking he is in charge, he will keep the other Drow, who have survived tonight’s raid, under control. If not they will all perish like the rest that tried to go against us here tonight”, as he let out a maniacal laugh.
Ariella stayed hidden up in the rafters for what seemed like an eternity, taking in all that had happened. When all was quiet she went back down into the city. The fighting finally stopped. Smoke filled the air as the city was miserably quiet. From the looks of things the priests had taken control of the whole city. A few Orcs were picking through what was left of the dead that were scattered around. Guards were posted around the outer wall.
Ariella gradually made her way towards Adinagh’s chambers.
Just inside his room a slave stood nearby, Adinagh was hunched over a desk looking over some papers. As the torch light fell on his face, the flame gleamed in his eyes.
“I can see from your eyes you are a wise old man.” Startled, Adinagh heaved himself into an upright position. “Take heed of what I’m about to tell you.” Ariella snided. “You are nothing. You are Elder no more here.” Adinagh growled as he stomped forward towards her. “I am Elder until someone throws me down, girl. Do you think you can do that?” “I will not have to; the priests will do it for me”. Ariella laughed, “They are the rulers here, not you.”
He reached out and took a fistful of Ariella’s hair, pulling her head back before she could do anything. “They will never rule here, I hired them to take control of the city, I killed Zes’Aleanana. I am Elder now”
Rapidly, he tightened his grip and looked down upon Ariella. Ariella’s eyes widen dark with pain and sudden fear. Adinagh billowed, “I will mate you!” She gasped. “You cannot. I am your son’s mate until death.” “I shall mate you”, Adinagh said again, “and breed on you an heir who will make me High Elder.” He bent over her to roughly take a kiss. Ariella twisted in his grip; her hand flashed between them. He let out a yowl giving her just enough time to leap back with daggers in her hand. Adinagh’s face was ripped from ear to chin, she had narrowly missed killing him. She ducked under his arm, rolling out to the left bringing her dagger across it. A precision attack, but it missed the artery she was aiming for. Adinagh yelled for the guards and swung toward her. His face bulging as his eyes gleamed. He wheeled around and struck her down to the ground with a single blow of his fist. To Ariella’s amazement, she was not broken. Rising up again, daggers still in her grasp, she immediately rolled into a defensive stance just out of his reach. As he rounded on her again, she moved towards the open window. Ariella stated flatly “I will never be your mate” as she shoved herself out the window and down towards the cliffs.
Stepping out onto the cliff would be the hardest step she would ever take. She would be leaving the only life she knew; leaving would mark her as a coward and a traitor. There would be no punishment, only death.
Whispering to herself, “Forgive me grandmother” She turned, and pulled her hood over her head.
No sooner than she reached the edge of the cliffs, a sudden sharp streak of deafening light lit up the night sky. She could feel the static in the air. Turning back towards the jagged rocks Ariella could see dark clouds billowing up their serrated tops. This was no ordinary storm; dark magic was in the air. She knew she needed to put distance between her and these mountains.
Ariella exploded into a run.