Everyone starts out with the best of intentions, but it only takes one event to corrupt and twist the original purpose. Everyone has darkness inside, but some are forced to stare at the abyss. They may never fully recover. Where corruption leads to madness, one expects only chaos to follow. Sometimes love can be a powerful motivator. Other times, something as beautiful and pure as love can be corrupted by another’s ambition. Here we shall witness corruption of powerful emotions and the purest of innocence.
Part One: A King’s Downfall
She stood across the battlefield from him and his men. Her face pale as snow, her cat-like eyes focused fully on him. Something told him the snow bitch had something planned for him, but he wouldn’t allow the defiler of his lord’s mate to win.
Her once great army of Warriors and Sorceresses were no more. She now stood in the same Ivory Buckskin armor with her antler crown. She hadn’t changed that much over the thousands of years that had passed, but her army had. Her White Pine Army had died out due to the Blister Rust of her own creation.
He shook his head of the thoughts that plagued him. Why should he care what happened to her army? She was the stupid one to lead them into destruction. He was a good king. He would never lead his men into mass genocide. Who was she? She was nothing but the last White Pine, a queen without an army, a failure.
Now she faced him with what she claimed to be an army of any consequence and nowhere near a threat as the White Pine Army. She had oversized humans that were more beast than man. He knew she worked with forbidden magic and these abominations were a direct result. Her experimentations had grown over the years giving her terrifying substitutes, but her new warriors would never compete with what she had before.
With the sound of battle horns the men shifted into bears, lions, and wolves. They willingly charged toward their deaths. His heart raced and an uncontrollable lust for blood filled his thoughts. He couldn’t stop the maniacal laughter that came from his throat. She thought such weaklings would strike down Korbin Rotesholz, the king of the Redwoods? She came onto the lands of his Lord Blackoak and thought she could bring destruction with her?
His iron sword swung and cleaved man beast after man beast as they attempted to take him down He was excited to euphoric levels watching their heads and limbs become strewn across the meadow. He hadn’t felt such exhilaration since King Agamemnon’s men at Troy.
He was so blood drunk that he paid no heed to the female archers in the surrounding trees of the forest. His men were moving like a well-oiled mechanism as they cut through her pathetic forces. A sharp pain in his chest brought him back from his berserking rage.
Another sharp pain ripped through his leg but he continued to maim, disembowel, and mutilate anyone who was within a sword’s reach. Another sharp pain struck his sword arm forcing him to drop his weapon. A sensation other than pain took over his senses and he fell to his knees. His vision blurred before everything went black.
When he awoke, he found himself chained to a chair. His strong arms were secured behind him, and bolted into a stone wall that disappeared into the darkness. He slumped forward in the chair as a beam of sunlight shown down upon him. His slow, rhythmic, breathing moved his body up and down. His only fear was his massive build wouldn’t be enough to free him from his current constraints. He fought against the chains until he passed out from exhaustion.
The sun fully moved across the sky before the captured king woke with a start from the suddenly opened door. The room was filled with a bright light. He quickly sat up straight hoping to intimidate whoever was entering his prison. He hoped it would allow him to escape. The brightness of the light caused his eyes pain while trying to regain his bearing and vision. He took in his surroundings for the first time since his capture. How long had he been here? He couldn’t tell much in the darkness, but he knew he would get his answers one way or another.
His eyes fell upon the figure appearing in the doorway. He couldn’t make out a face, but he could tell it was a woman. He let out a frustrated growl pulling on his chains once more, “Where am I? Who are you to be so brave to capture a king?”
Then that cat-eyed whore stepped out of the doorway and into the light revealing her presence, “Where you are is my home, Dear Grundfrund, or is it Korbin Rotesholz now? I still can’t believe that you and Tukdra have chosen to go by the names given to you by humans. Why would you choose to continue to blend in with the rabble?”
Her words were too much. How dare she speak to him like that? She was so far beneath him. She should never entertain the idea of even speaking to him let alone hold him prisoner, “Nieva, you stupid bitch! Do you realize what Lord Blackoak will do to you when he finds you? What I will do once I break these chains?”
Nieva smiled, showing her grey gums and spiked teeth, “Oh my old friend, you haven’t changed in all this time! Don’t you worry; I have nothing to fear from Tukdra or you. I can also assure you those chains will not break, I have cast the Enchantment of Equality on them so the more you struggle, the stronger they get.”
She stood in fron of him and lifted her deer skin dress, spread her legs, and straddled his hips. She then leaned forward within an inch of his face. He shook his head as he felt her warm breath on his face, but she grabbed him by his chin forcing him to look upon her, “How about it Redwood King, want to make me your queen?”
He glared at her. He was more than disgusted at her mere suggestion of the two of them joining in any form. The circling of her hips left him nauseous, “Why would I want a woman that my lord saw fit to toss aside? You weren’t good enough for Lord Blackoak, why would I even want to touch someone as corrupted as you? You know I’m promised to the Fig Queen.”
She clicked her tongue at him and shook her head as she continued to move up and down upon his still thankfully clothed lap, “Yes, the Fig queen, a queen that disappeared into the mists of time shortly after you were lost on that ship with Odysseus." Nieva lifted her hands into the air to mimic something dissolving into nothing. "When was the last time you met with your supposed betrothed?”
His nausea gave way to disgust as she continued to ride his now responding body. He was disgusted with himself and furious with her. He growled as his large arms strained against the chains, every muscle on fire as they bulged. He focused on breaking the chains so he could break her neck. He could feel the sweat dripping from his brow as he expended every ounce of strength in his attempt to grab her and throw her off of him.
Nieva let out small seductive moans as her black pupils overtook her white eyes almost as if forming normal eyes. He choked down the vomit that rose in his gullet upon feeling her wetness soaking into his lap. He didn't want any of her filthy juices on him unless it was her blood. In the end, his efforts were for naught. He let out a frustrated yell, dropping his arms, with rapid breaths as he focused on doing the only thing he could. He glared at the abomination before him.
She just sighed and climbed off his lap, "Disappointing as always."
The disgust continued to rise in his throat. How dare she use him in such a way? He could feel the ground shaking at his feet while his anger built. His voice exploded in a booming threat, “I will get free. When I do, I will kill you!”
“Oh, now dear Grundfrund, if you keep talking like that, I won’t tell you why I have brought you here.” The winter sorceress cooed walking around the room with her gaze fixed on him.
A warning shiver ran up his spine as his heart beat sped up. What could she have planned? What else would she do to defile him in her quest for revenge? He couldn’t show her any fear or weakness. His voice sounded as normal as ever, “What possible reason could you have to bring me here, information?” He scoffed, “You can forget it after that poor excuse of a pony ride.”
He could feel the energy building in the earth around his bare feet. He always had a strong connection with the grounding energies of the earth. He could manipulate them at will. It came easier for him during the heat of battle because he would get lost in their protective energies.
He kept Nieva in his visual range, as she slowly passed around the room. She stepped over the chain behind him, messed his hair, and giggled mischievously. It was like she was frolicking through a fairy ring rather than the dark cave in which she had him contained.
She stood before him once more with a huge toothy smile looking more predatory than friendly, “You think I want information? No, my old friend, information I can get at any time I wish. What I am going to do is give you a gift. Well, technically, Tukdra has shared some of it with you already. What I plan on doing will make you a glorious warrior and an unstoppable force.”
He couldn’t think of anything she could give him, what was she really trying to get from him? Was her gift one of the cursed forbidden magic spells? Something like the Am Bàs Dubh curse that struck down Alundra and the Blister Rust that took her own kin? His eyes widened slightly, “Gift, what the hell are you talking about you crazy witch?”
The door opened quickly slamming against the wall. Five women entered the room dressed in brown hooded cloaks. They rushed in carrying a small cauldron each. They then placed their cauldrons on the five small tables that encircled him. They quickly left the room to return with four, unlit, hanging fire pots on tripods that they set up at the corners of the room. The woman bowed, then left through doorway and closed the door behind them.
He looked around the room feeling that something was terribly wrong. It felt like his connection with earth magic quickly fled. All he felt was the inky wrongness of corrupt energy feeling the room. He looked around at each of the swinging pots that hung in the corners. She color coded the pots to represent the four elements, but only black smoke rose from their fires.
He decided to make another jibe, "What's with all this rubbish? Are we having soup, or somethin'?" A forgotten pocket of memory was accessed. He remembered a time from his past. A time he was sitting around a cooking fire while Sundra complained about Alundra adding onions to the soup. Instantly he was he was back in the room chained to a chair. He was about to be consumed by an evil so strong, the permeating wrongness in the room had a small part of him afraid. He could only hope he would survive whatever she had planned.
Her eyes narrowed into horizontal slits. She breathed loudly through her nose, “We can have soup later. My charming friend, these are the instruments in which I will use to bestow my gift upon you.” She approached him again and leaned down. He looked away not wanting to see what she had underneath her low cut dress. She grabbed his chin and squeezed it with her face full of furious disgust, “I do have one request before we start, don’t pass out.”
He felt a small amount of relief when she stepped backward away from him. She stood in a small circle by the door. She began to chant with weird tongue rolls and strange birdlike clicks that reminded him of the aftermath of the Battle on the Hill.
The four fire pots ignited at once brightly lighting the room. Korbin looked around at the now illuminated walls, floor, and ceiling. He recognized line after line of ancient incantations, power circles, and other magical elements with everything leading back to the chair where he sat.
Something told him that the future where he and the Fig Queen united their Armies would disappear with this one ritual. Nieva’s chanting grew louder forming a triangle with her fingertips in front of her chest.
He wasn’t able to take another full breath before every symbol etched into the surfaces of the room exploded with pale blue electricity. The small sparks of energy crackled around him. The room smelt of ozone that reminded him of the burnt bodies at Troy.
Every fiber of his being was screaming out at him about the wrongness surrounding him. He had to get out, he had to escape. “What are you planning wench?”
He didn’t get a chance to hear her answer as a blast of pure electricity struck his body, breaking his composure. The bolts hurt as bad as the ones Alcander was known to pull down from the sky. He tried to keep from reacting, but the pain just continued to build as if he was being cooked from the inside.
In the end it was too much for him to bear any longer. He screamed out in excruciating pain, anger, and an overwhelming need to escape. The ground shook around him while he pulled with all of his force. The chains held him fast no matter how hard he tried to break them. He barely noticed her voice echo throughout the room because he was delirious with pain.
Despite all of this, he kept his eyes on the pots. He couldn’t ignore the black liquid that flowed out of the caldrons and onto the electrified engravings. When it made contact with his feet, it accelerated with great speed, as it was forcibly absorbed into his body. The pain he had experienced earlier was nothing compared to this new torture. It felt as if the sludge was aware of what it was doing to him. He could feel it wanted him to suffer while it attempted to suffocate him. It rushed down his throat and silenced his annoying wails. In that moment, he knew no more.
Nieva continued with her chanting while she watched the black venom forcefully push its way into his skin. Her smile widened as she had watched Grundfrund struggle in his chair and tears of pain falling freely from his face. His screams went silent moments before when he passed out in the chair from all of the pain. She felt pleasure strum through her body at the pain she was inflicting. She watched with bated breath as his long burgundy hair slowly turned black while the ooze took over his entire being.
She was filled with delight as his muscles strained and grew in response to the mix of electricity and black ooze that swarmed him. The man’s mass grew along with is height. She stopped chanting and the whimpers slowly stopped coming from the unconscious man. His body still slumped in his chair with his breathing fast and labored.
She walked up to him and caressed his shiny black hair. She wished she could grab onto it while he pleasured her. She wanted him as her own. He would make a wonderful jewel to her blood dipped antler crown. She clicked her tongue as she examined him, "There, was that so bad? I will leave you to appreciate this gift until tomorrow. I will come back then to see how you’re fairing."
She walked away from him even though she felt an overwhelming need to go in there and make him hers. She could make him submit to her. She could make him give her what she desired. She could show Tukdra she could take anything he owns, even his Redwood General. She laughed at the thought of hurting Tukdra, by taking away all he cherished while opening the door. The sound of it locking echoed down the long hallway. She had a sneer on her lips while looking through the peephole. She turned and laughed loudly. She slowly walked down the hall with the echoes following behind.
“You will bow to my will, Grundfrund,” Nieva’s voice promised.
“King Redwood, you must remember the oath you took when you were handed your reins of leadership over the Redwood Army. You were created to maintain and prevent another Redwood uprising. Are you upholding your oath?” A shiver ran up Korbin’s spine at the familiar voice speaking and the veiled threat of Mother. Had he fallen so far?
As if answering his unasked question a white eyed vison of one of his comrades in arms came to the forefront of his mind. His light blue eyes replaced with whiteness. It wasn’t like Nieva because they were empty of even a pupil. His long dark brown hair was pulled back by a leather throng like he’d worn it in that life. His tan face was as tortured as it was that night all those centuries ago, “Ambrosio, why? Why did you slaughter me only after killing Nara? Why did you make me watch her die first? Why did you kill us?”
Korbin grabbed the sides of his head, pulled on his unwashed oily hair, and let out a tortured scream, “No, stop! You’re dead! It happened too long ago. I can’t bring you back. I can’t change the past! Get out of my head!”
The man was replaced with a red haired woman in his vision. Her once amber circled blue-green eyes stared at him with the same white blankness. She pointed at him in accusation. The tip of her finger had an amber beam forming at the tip of it, “You turned on us Ambrosio. You broke the Redwood Treaty! Why Mother has yet to lay waste to you and your kind, I don’t know. Why did you kill us? Surely, it was more than just following his orders. You must have known the orders were wrong. Were you just that blood thirsty? You have lost yourself to madness Ambrosio! You are a doomed man!”
The woman was replaced by another man with the same white eyes that would have been a frozen deep blue. He looked just like the first man except his brown hair was cropped short. They were twin brothers in that life. It wasn’t surprising, but it did nothing to help the pain forming in Korbin’s heart, “You turned on us! We were brothers in arms for so long and you chose to slay us! We will never forgive you General. You are dead to us! We will always hunt you down and kill you at every opportunity! You will never feel welcome among us ever again!”
Korbin felt a whole new agony that compared to the physical pain he’d felt during the ritual. The pain just continued to grow. He had no idea how much time passed since his capture. He couldn’t stand up against the voices and the vision. Why did he have to suffer through those flash backs? Why did he have to remember what he’d done? The voices kept shouting, accusing him of murder, betrayal, and treachery.
His mind was filled with an unfamiliar woman. She stood before him with waist length hair the color of sunshine. Her presence filled him with warmth and oneness he couldn’t describe. Her mere presence promised to settle the turmoil churning in him since Alundra’s murder all those years ago. Her eyes were different than the others. They held glowing blue irises that flickered like a flame.
Her voice filled him with unexplained contentment, "Why did you choose to follow him, Grundfrund? You have made choices that will lead to my death. Why have you chosen to kill your soul mate? Do you not understand the results of your actions? We were meant to be. I was to stand by you. I am the mother to the Redwood king destined for the Fig Queen. You chose to walk this dark path instead. Now, he shall not exist."
Sadness bubbled up from deep within Korbin's soul. Part of him recognized the loss, but he still didn't understand. He was in agony at the strong affect she had on him. What made her so special to tether a leash around his neck? Was she meant to control him? His thoughts were interrupted once again by the voice of his captor, "Grundfrund, you will obey me! I will be kind to you. I will take away all this pain, this heartache if you'll be a good little pet and follow me. You wish to obey your mistress, right? You wish to make me happy, don’t you?"
He screamed even louder pulling tightly on his oily locks, "I will never obey you!! Never!" He tied to calm himself. It was a trick, some kind of trick the pale bitch had concocted. He brought his senses back to the room before him. He saw someone much different than his usual meek visitor. It was the face of his captor and apparently his new mistress. As if she could ever control him.
She stood in her usual buck skin dress and her pupils were already dilated in arousal. It was these visits that he loathed the most. It was in these visits that she once again put him into the role of a concubine. He hated it every time she touched him. It was like his skin would never wash away her taint.
She was once again straddling his lap. He just growled and pulled on the chains. She grabbed his chin and made him look her in the eye, “Oh my, I was surprised to find you still here. You must enjoy my attention so. I could’ve sworn I had let you go some time ago, how thoughtless of me.”
She continued to bounce upon him, as if he were a great stallion. Part of him preferred her attentions to the pain she would give him. He remembered the nights with her lightening whip as it tore rivers into his back. As if such punishments for being insolent and not listening to his mistress, would break him. However, this pleasure of her touch just did something to him. He couldn’t remember why he felt disgusted. She only had his best interests at heart.
His eyes closed as her fingers moved to his head. A fuzziness gripped him as she massaged his scalp. It felt so good. She really was a good mistress to him. Why wouldn’t he listen to her? She stopped moving and whispered in his ear ghosting over his ear, “So, has my gift been well received?”
A strong voice clouded his mind while it promised more pleasure than pain, “Just listen to your mistress and everything will be right with the world.”
He looked up at her and saw more than his mistress. She had transformed into a goddess. She did all of this for him and him alone. He looked over at her kind servant that had brought him food and drink when his mistress couldn’t be there. He shook his head in doubt. Had she kept his mistress away? He stared once more at his goddess, “When am I to be released, so I may start my mission, Mistress?”
His mistress seemed pleased with him. He needed to please his mistress. She smiled at him, “Excellent, my gift was received as I had hoped! I knew you would see things from my point of view. You just needed to relax and let your mistress care for you. When I release you, go and fulfill your mission. Once you have done so, come back to me. We will celebrate the end of a long struggle.
The voice in his head continued to whisper to him about how the servant had kept his mistress away. She prevented him from pleasing her. She had kept him locked away from his mistress. This servant, this scum, would pay for separating him from his mistress.
He waited and watched as the servant released his shackles. The clanging noise of the chains falling to the floor spurred him into action. He was quickly on his feet and had the servant in his grasp. How dare she keep his mistress from him? He looked upon his mistress for approval. He snapped the servant’s neck and dropping her limp body on the ground in a slump.
He looked down at his mistress who seemed disappointed in him. She must understand why the girl had to die. He explained, “She kept me from you, Mistress. She had to pay for her interference. I shall follow your orders. I look forward to your reward upon my return.” He went to his knee and took her milky white hand into his kissing its knuckle.
He looked up at her hoping that he had pleased her. He couldn’t read the expression on her face, but she gave a signal for him to rise. “Well, I look forward to seeing your mission successful. If I need you, I will find you, now go.” She motioned with her right hand and pointed out the main entrance.
Korbin nodded at his mistress before leaving in the direction she pointed. He held the doorknob in his hand. He didn’t know his own strength and managed to crush the latch. The door wouldn’t open, so he was forced to smash through the large, wooden, door. He looked around trying to figure out where it led him. He had to find his way back to fulfill his mistress’ mission.
He stepped outside finding himself in the middle of an ancient forest, older in origin than he could remember. How did she manage to secret away such old trees? He shook his head, how could he doubt the strength of his mistress?
From his left, he heard a growl. A large bear stood on its rear legs. The animal was the guard of the entrance he just left. He turned around to face the bear and it roared at Korbin who stood his ground. “I don’t have time for this crap you dumb animal, move!”
He struck out with his right arm. His eyes widened, as the bear flew backwards deep into the woods. He could hear the sounds of tree limbs breaking for a few moments before everything went silent. He looked down at his hands amazed at the power his mistress had given him. It really was a gift!
He turned to look upon his mistress’ castle once more and found that nothing was there. The large structure was gone and the grounds looked as if nothing ever stood in its spot. He fell to his knees in despair. Had his mistress abandoned him? Suddenly, his body was struck with the same pain he’d endured when she bestowed him with his gift. The voices came back and grew louder. He couldn’t stop them from speaking.
They all talked at once. It was so loud it gave him a headache and a ringing in the ears. "Kill Tukdra! Kill Sundra! Kill them all!" Then finally they all went quiet as the angelic voice of his mistress commanded him. He felt great joy in the knowledge he could please her once more.
“Blackoak doesn't care for you, he didn't look for you. I love you. I would never abandon you. Make him pay for his betrayal. You must kill Lord Blackoak. See what he’s done to you. Remember what he made you do, how he made you kill your family. You must kill him for making you break the Redwood Treaty and bring honor back to your clan.”
He knew his mistress spoke the truth. Once again the faces of the friends he murdered in Troy filled his mind once more. He had placed them upon the wall after murdering them. He had followed a false master. His mistress would help him right that wrong.
He shook his head and forced his body up. He turned, ran to the west with a speed he had never experience before. With an uncanny sense of direction, he knew where he was going. He felt great joy and wanted to thank his mistress for her gift. It would make taking care of the corrupted Tukdra so much easier. Who else but a corrupted being would order him to slaughter friends?
Korbin darted through the woods with his bronze muscles straining while running. The further he went, the more familiar the landscape became. The trees gave way to sprawling meadows with signs of blood and battle. He found the stone wall that marked the border of Lord Blackoak’s Kingdom. He followed the wall north and came upon two large wooden doors blocking his way.
He made it through the doors and followed the pathway up the hill toward the imposing castle. He made his way up the hill and toward another gate house. He stared at the symbol of Lord Blackoak etched into its doors. It was an oak tree in winter that almost appeared dead. Like those he was forced to murder.
He decided it was best to get in another way and leapt upon the wall before making his way up the rampart. The guards did not recognize him and came at him with swords drawn. He shook his head disappointed. He trained them better than that. They couldn't stop him from getting to Lord Blackoak and killing him. He must cut out this corrupted disease from the lands before him. He grabbed the first man, snapped his neck, took his sword, and quickly dispatched the other man before he continued forward. He fought his way to the tower stairs by stabbing bellies, ripping off arms, and kicking in faces. He stepped over the bodies of the men he had killed without concern. He only desired succeeding in the mission set before him by his mistress. He exploded into the courtyard, bloody, sweaty, and wanting more. “Alaric, come out and face me!”
He continued to make his way through the guards. He was surrounded by the sounds of moans of men and his heavy breathing. They were interrupted by the clank of metal on wood echoing through the courtyard. It was followed by the creaking of large hinges that strained under their immense weight as they opened outward.
Korbin stopped in his fighting and looked at the doors to the tower. His eyes found the man he sought stepping from the shadows and into the light.
Lord Blackoak was a tall man who wore black and gold armor. His long black hair went past his hips and contrasted with his pale skin. His emerald green eyes stood out not only in their color, but resembled two fractured gems. Korbin focused on him as Blackoak glared directly at him.
Korbin stood there with his sword still stuck in a guard, which he pulled out. He watched the man walk down from the top of the stairs. He recognized the greaves etched with small winter oaks covered in gold as they reflected in the sun. Every piece of his armor had the same carvings. Blackoak wore a long sword strapped to his hips. It moved with each step until he stood on the stones of the courtyard. He raised an eyebrow and looked upon Korbin, “Well, it seems you survived your captivity. However, I have the feeling you bear me some ill will. Is there something you would like to discuss?”
The anger exploded within Korbin when he thought about what this man made him do. He was given salvation by his mistress. He wouldn’t have needed her if the man before him, this Lord Blackoak, hadn’t ordered him to kill his family. “I bear you ill will for a good reason. You made me break the Redwood Treaty. Mother has right of conquest and she will destroy my people once more! You have turned me into a murdering monster. How dare you force me to go against my duty as the King of the Redwoods? How dare you corrupt me?”
His former lord stared at him with a cool calmness that made him appear even less human, “You have to be serious my friend. You helped me do what needed to be done. We needed to end Troy. We had things to do. My brother and his friends would’ve never allowed us to do what was needed. You were following orders and thus did not break the treaty. Why come to me with such trivial words?”
“Trivial? You think the decimation of my people at the hands of Mother trivial? She burned them before when she unleashed the sun on us! It caused so much destruction that it shrouded the earth for millions of years! She took the sun away from my people, starving those that didn’t burn to death. You believe my concerns trivial? I’m going to rip your limbs off and put your head on a pike!”
He ran toward the man who had ruined everything. He went for a killing thrust, when Alaric smacked his sword from his hand. He slammed the pommel between Korbin’s eyes, stopping him in his tracks. Korbin groaned and dropped toward the ground before blackness took him once more.