Evening - Kheif
Those last days before the end Scein'd lingered in Sandalak, watching the pompous fools caper about their crude animal effigies even as the true powers of this world prepared to scour the land of their filth and corruption. It would have been grim satisfaction to witness their end, but she had her own plans to act upon, born of compassion and hope.
Across the south and west coasts eager hands strove to build boats and rafts as those who'd listened when she preached warnings of the end prepared to flee, taking with them family and friends, goods and chattels, all that remained of the wealth and posterity of that proud and ancient people. One day they would return, the brave free men and women who stood shoulder to shoulder against the treacherous lords of Sandalak and Ikalak, who with plough-shares and pitchforks had slain knights, and who now bore the yoke of oppression with quiet fortitude.
When that dreadful day dawned she watched the last ships depart as an eerie silence fell, the air charged with static and heavy with the metallic tang of fresh-spilled blood. In a few hours the South Island would sink beneath the waves and Scein alone would remain. Cursed. Undying. Doomed.
The peace was welcome.
"Taselak needs you," Alparslan moved his knight, threatening her queen's rook. They faced each other in one of the private booths of the Silken Glove, home to Taselak's more aesthetic pleasures.
"Taselak always needs us," she sipped her wine as she studied the board, considering attack or retreat. Retreat would be the wiser move given the threat to her central file, but that would be the obvious move.
"Yes, Taselak always needs us," he signalled and their cups were refilled by a serving girl in the Glove's famed livery, "and Taselak endures."
"Taselak Endures. Hope Endures! Honour Endures!"
Scein stretched and rolled her neck from side-to-side, steel-cord tendons thrumming as her undying flesh tasted the deathly chill of a bright Kheif morning. It seemed an aeon since she'd retreated to the sea cave lair, and yet she was unchanged.
Strapping on the black steel plate wrought for her by the cunning hands of Valenti, Lord of Smiths, she felt the familiar thrill of impending battle quicken her sinews and her breathing. And there was her sword, slumbering in its plain, battered leather scabbard.
Scein's fingers closed around the hilt and the blade leapt forth like lightning across the midnight sky.
''I am no black sheep, exiled to ignominy. I am Scein of House Dubhaine and I serve here for the highest purpose, the victory of the Just and Righteous.
My mother carried the Justice of long lost Fontan to the Zuma wastes where I was conceived amidst the horror and the blight, a blade of living flesh forged that the wicked should tremble at the terror of my countenance.
Some call me a hero, they are wrong. I am a force of nature. A scourge unrelenting. A child born to battle in a distant land, reared on the blood of the undying. I fear no creature, no weapon, of earth nor heaven and my banner is black.''