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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

BlackBishop

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hahah yeah, thinks are definitely getting nasty and freaky (not the good kind) as Soul Reaver is soon to be revealed. Thanks so much for the comment, Ivir.
 

BlackBishop

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DONNOR


crakehall29.jpg


The lord of Saltcliffe pressed Saltclaw to his lips, the smooth whalebone heirloom rang its dreadful note throughout the gloomy cavern.

Aaaaaaaa-RooooooooooAah!

His men rallied around him, swords drawn. Donnor's eyes peered through the dim light. This was the home of Soul Reaver, he could feel it, and he knew that the ancient blade would not be unprotected, not to mention whoever else might have come for the sword. Someone or something killed that man outside the cave, beat him to a bloody pulp so that not even his face could be recognized. Manfryd's great whiskers twitched when they had came upon the body. His drunkard captain's white whiskers only twitched when he hungered for a wench or when, in the rare occasions, he was afraid.

"What sort of beast did this?" twitched the silver whiskers, his hand tight against the handle of his sword.

Donnor stepped over the body and let his eyes adjust to the darkness within the cave opening on the cliff wall. The dark seemed to me calling to him, pulling him inside. "Whatever did in this man, lies within, as does our prize. Steel your hearts men, for death and glory lay ahead."

Now Donnor and his men stand in a dark, dank cavern, dominating the space was a great weirwood tree, black and dead. Aside from spiders, scorpions and black winged moths that inhabited the cave, no other living thing could be seen.

"Spread out! Search the area!" Commanded Donnor. The soldiers of Saltcliffe fanned out across the dark cavern, torches and blades in their hand. Donnor took long strides to the great tree, Manfryd at his side. Donnor stretched out his hand, letting his fingertips run along the face of the tree. The face was twisted and wrong, its mouth sneering and hook nose like a dagger in the dark. It seemed to Donnor that this tree might have once been beautiful as was this whole cavern. He imagined the tree, white and shining with the light of the sun that stole into the cavern, flowers blooming beside the blue stream that was now a putrid black. Sickly moths replaced by colorful butterflies. Donnor sighed as his fingers felt the face of the tree.

Doom-doom!

Donnor pulled his hand from the tree with a start.

"My lord?" Questioned Manfryd's whiskers at his side.

"The blade lies within the tree. Cut it open."

Panicked cries rose up from the far side of the cavern. Donnor looked past the tree to find one of his men, anxiously waving his torch along the ground. A dark mass had taken shape before the swordsmen, a black hulking mass that rose up from the ground, a sickening sound of wet hisses emitted from the creature. Donnor's heart froze as he realized that the black beast was hundreds of spiders and scorpions coming together and forming a single being, a giant made up of thousands of the black inhabitants of the cavern. The beast now towered over the man, he turned to run, but was swallowed up in the black form, his haunting screams suddenly silenced as he disappeared within the black mass.

The loud buzz rang inside the cavern, a sound so loud that all the Ironborn, fearless men all, reavers of the sea, clenched their hands over their ears in pain and in vain attempt to drown out the sound of the black moths that now flew in a frenzy over their heads. One man, on his knees, crying for the loud moths to silence their dreadful song didn't see the monster of spiders and scorpions draw upon him. In an instant he was gone, replaced by the black hulking mass that approached the rest of the paralyzed Ironmen.

Blood oozed from Donnor's ears as he raised Saltclaw to his lips once more, and let the note of his forefathers ring out in the cavern of death. The song drowned out the moths and his men found their courage. Manfryd and Donnor stood up on a high rock, overlooking the dark. Manfryd's sword cut into the air. "Rally to me, Men of salt and Iron! Blessed men of salt and battle, rally to me and our lord!" The Ironborn formed rank and file around the rock, bringing up defensive positions as the towering beast slowly approached them.

The song of Saltcliffe soon gave way to the frenzied call of the moths once again. The air of the cavern above their heads was now black with the winged critters. They formed a thick cloud and swooped down on the heads of the ironborn. Men screamed as the black moths filled their mouths and thousands of their screeching mandibles bit into their flesh. Horror filled their hearts as they watched one man be lifted into the air and slowly be ripped apart by the black cloud to the lament of his tortured screams. Consumed with terror, several men bolted for the cavern door, only to make easy targets for the black monster that stalked the cavern. Their deaths were loud and echoed along the walls of the cavern.

Donnor scanned the room, looking for an exit or a strategy as his men died around him. "The tree! Men, make for the tree!" As men were picked off one by one, consumed by the cloud and the monster, they formed a circle around the weirwood. Donnor and Manfryd, hacked into the face of the tree, desperately opening up the face as splinters of wood flew from the hacked trunk. Donnor and his captain ignored the screams of the dying around them as they slowly revealed a blade buried in the weirwood.

All his men dead, Donnor reached for the sword, only to stop short, feeling the presence of the thousands of arachnids that made up the body of the monster just behind him. He spun around on his heels, his axe held tight in his hands.

"For Saltcliffe!" Called Manfryd as he leaped between the monster and Donnor, he waved a torch at the beast. The monster screamed horribly as the flames of the torch licked up at its ever moving flesh. Manfryd let his blade sink into the monster, only to have it swallow the sword, and move relentlessly toward him. The captain stabbed and slashed with his torch, but the monster only opened up its body to avoid the hot fire, enveloping the captain and swallowing him whole.

Donnor used the distraction to pull the sword from the tree with a great grunt. He marveled at the beauty of the valryian sword as his captain died behind him. The long blade shone with the shimmer of moonlight, folds of steel rippled along the sword. The hilt curved upwards in two sharp daggers, above a black smooth handle that swirled downward to the pummel, fashioned in the shape of a skull. Two jet black eyes, obsidian jewels looked up at Donnor from the pummel. Soul Reaver is finally mine!

"Nooooooo!" Screamed a voice that charged into him, a heavy shoulder knocking him in the chest, taking the wind from him as he fell to the floor. Yet the sword stayed in his hand, like it was now a part of him. Donnor looked up dazed and distant. A man stood over him, chains clinking around his neck as he stabbed downward with a sword. "The sword is mine!" The blade sunk into Donnor's belly. "It shall carry on the Falwell name! For my wife, for my unborn son!" The stranger's sword plunged into his belly once again.

Donnor felt a sinking feeling, felt life leave him even as Soul Reaver knocked the stranger off him with its skull pummel. He stood up. His body seemed strong and unhindered by the stabs to his stomach. His mind, however was far away. It seemed like Donnor was dreaming. The man looked up in horror as Donnor stood over him. "Gods...! Your eyes!" Soul Reaver sliced into his body, spilling his life's blood to the sound of a horrible scream, and a vast void of light that seemed to be swallowed up by the sword.

"The first of many of the ancient order is now mine!" Said a voice that resonated with a scratchy deep sound, a voice that seemed to far away and yet deep within Donnor. Soul Reaver now turned on the black monster. The beast sank away under the horrible scream of the sword, revealing a child. Donnor, now far away and his vision now darkened perceived that it wasn't a child at all, but someone very very old.

"You have failed in your task. And your soul will now be mine!" said the scratchy voice.

"That may be," said the small man. "But you will fall. Men will rise up and defeat you, as they did before."

"Men?!" Laughed the voice. "Men whose hearts are so easily corrupted! They will kneel to my greatness. I will swallow them all up, and cast them in shadow, destroy their lands, and they will all drown in darkness. Valryia could not destroy me, and they are now no more! So to will it be in the land of the West."

The small man only closed his eyes as the blade took him. Donnor screamed and was no more.
 

BlackBishop

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SPOILERS
just want to make readers aware of a change I made in a previous chapter before I post the next part of this story. After the ironborn made landfall on the shores of Crake's Hall and established a beachhead, Lady Ynys tried to convince Lord Donnor to abandon his search for Soul Reaver and finish the siege of Crake's Hall in all urgency, Donnor agreed than went on to carry out his search anyway. I decided to change that and have Ynys try to persuade him to lift his siege of Crake's Hall and set sail for Lannisport right away. The reason being that it doesn't make sense to invade Crakehall if the search for the sword was going to be abandoned.

The next chapter, from Ynys' perspective should be up soon. Things are coming to a head. Donnor has claimed the Soul Reaver, realising too late, that the sword is infused with dark valryian magic and possesses the wielder with a dark spirit. Melwyn, driven mad by the lure of the sword now lies dead. Theodore is trapped within Crake's Hall and facing a hopeless siege and Sumner has escaped his Ironborn captors as Sour Reaver awoke. Dangerous times in Crakehall. Luckily for Ynys, she has been ordered to the safety of Saltcliffe...
 
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BlackBishop

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YNYS





The cool ocean breeze blew through Ynys' dark hair, bringing with it the scent of salt. The Lady of Saltcliffe stood at the aft of the Blessed in Blood. The Sunset sea was before her. The waters shining under the fading evening sun with a pale grey, the colour of her beloved's eyes. She pulled her elegant seal skin cloak tightly around her neck to ward off the cool air. With a deep breath, Ynys turned and strode toward the bow of the ship. She now had the confident walk of an Iron Lady. Her Ladies in waiting followed a few paces behind her, and armed reavers gave way as she approached with reverent bows. Ynys of Saltcliffe had come a long way from the mud orphanage of the Reach.

Before the ship was the sandy shores of Crakehall. Ynys walked off the plank and let her feet sink into the sand. Donnor would be cross with her for defying his orders, she knew, but she didn't care. After all, he didn't tell her directly to return to Saltcliffe, he left that to Sigrin. And Donnor's courtier was easily dissuaded from his task. As mad as Donnor may be, it pales in comparison to her anger for his lies. Donnor had told her he would abandon this siege, forsake that valryian blade and begin his assault on Lannisport. Her lord husband had done none of those things.

As she walked along the beach, between the rows of tents and cook fires she learned that Lord Donnor had finally returned. After nearly a week their leader had come back alone, and it was said to be in a queer mood. She even overheard one man say that his eyes were black as night, and he would not say a word. Ynys dismissed her entourage of waiting ladies and made for the Lord's tent with earnest. Her hands clutched the walrus fur lining of her cloak as she jogged toward the tent. His men must have been slain, even his loyal captain Manfryd. My poor Donnor!

She found his tent to be unguarded except for Sigrin, who tightly gripped Ynys' shoulders when she approached. His eyes were wild and mad as he shook her. "Do not go in there, My Lady!"

Ynys tried to twist away from his grip, but he was too strong. Who was this man to put his hands on the Lady of Saltcliffe? She was no mere saltwife any longer, nor was she a timid orphan and this was an offense that she could not suffer. She sent her knee into Sigrin's groin. The courtier slumped over with a groan and fell forward to the ground. Without a word, Ynys slipped past him and went inside the tent.

Darkness filled the pavilion. Ynys felt her way inside, finding a brazier. She struck a flint and let the ambers fill the Lord's pavilion with a dim light. Donnor stood at the far side, his back to her. She became acutely aware of an emotion that she had not felt since the night she almost killed this man; fear. She had planned to set her tongue to thrash Donnor for his lies, but thought better of it. Instead, the timid orphan came forward, the little girl she once was.

"I am sorry, my love for disobeying you. Don't blame Sigrin, it is my fault. Are you okay? Tell me what happened out there."

Donnor remained silent. Still as a statue.

"Donnor? My love? Answer me."

The fear that was at the back of Ynys' mind began to spike as she realized that something was very wrong. Her eyes looked at her husband searchingly. His face was hidden from her, his shoulders slumped and a sword hung at his hip. The flames in the brazier licked up at the air, sending the shadows into retreat. A shining skull seemed to smile at her from the hilt of the sword. With a start, she saw that Donnor was now facing her, though she did not see him turn around. Had he been facing me this whole time?

Suddenly a stench of foul odour hit her like a wave, invading her nostrils, setting her mouth to gag. She put her hands to her face and stepped backward toward the flap door of the tent. A voice spoke through the air, it was coming from Donnor, though it wasn't him. It was a raspy, hard voice, and it spoke in a foreign language she could not recognize. She took another step toward the door. With blinding speed, the man that wasn't Donnor was upon her. His lips curled up in a smile. Hot putrid breath exhaled onto her skin, she sobbed and pleaded.

"Donnor? Donnor? Where are you?"

"Donnor is gone." Said the voice, cutting through her like a knife. "He is mine. The first of many." His tongue, fat and grey like a grave worm reached to her cheek, tasting her warm flesh. His eyes, black as death, stared down at her as his hands held her body. In an instant the light of the brazier went out. As evening turned to night, her screams filled the camp as shadowy figures emerged from the waters out onto the shore. That night many screams joined hers.
 
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BlackBishop

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SUMNER




The lord heir of Crakehall awoke to an eerie silence. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he sat up from the lumpy ground. No morning sun shone through the trees onto the forest floor, and no morning birds sang to herald the coming of the new day. The sky was a dismal grey and the forest was strangely quiet. Sumner stood up and stretched his aching muscles. He missed his soft bed.

Some of his party had already stirred from their slumber, and now walked about, gathering firewood and foraging for food. They numbered less than fifty, and yet were three times that number when they escaped the Ironborn. Most of the villagers had left in search of their families, as did some of the soldiers. Sumner approached a cook fire, ignoring the uneasy glances shot his way by several men. He couldn't blame them for being nervous around him. After the events of several nights ago, he was sure most thought him mad, and probably why so many abandoned him.

The night of their escape, as they trekked through the dark forest, the sound of a war horn ripped through the air. It was the same horn that heralded the invasion of the Ironborn. Panic swept through the freed prisoners as the chilling thought of Ironborn pursuers ran through their minds. While most fled from the source of the horn, Sumner ran toward it. Tyrus, the grizzled sergeant held him back, along with Allan and Smiley.

"Let me go!" Sumner had wailed as the three men struggled to keep him from running headlong toward the awful note.

"No milord!" Tyrus had hollered as he gripped Sumner in a headlock and dragged him to the ground. "Only death that way, we must be off."

"The sword! I must have it! Its the only thing that can save my family!" To Sumner's shame, he had bit and kicked these men who were only trying to help him. As quick as this bout of madness came on, it left. Held down on the forest floor by three of his comrades, Sumner realized that the sword, Soul Reaver had been claimed. Sumner and Tyrus then agreed to make for Falwell, where they could get horses and head for Casterly Rock, and appeal to the Lannisters for aid.

A gust of cold morning wind chilled Sumner as he knelt down before the fire, taking a cup of boiling water to warm his belly after the cold night. Across the fire sat Tyrus, his withered face staring hard at Sumner. "Have a seat, milord." The sergeant-at-arms motioned to a stump beside him. Sumner sat beside him and took a slow sip of hot water.

"I knew your namesake," said the sergeant, matter-of-factly.

"You did?"

Tyrus grunted an affirmation, taking an iron knife out of its dirk, running his thumb lightly up the blade. "It was the year of the false spring. The snows had melted and an abundant crop was gifted to us by the Seven. To celebrate, Lord Sumner held a fair at the castle. Lords, ladies and peasants alike, flocked to Crake's Hall to celebrate the coming of the summer.

"Being a skilled hunter myself, the one event that caught my eye was the archery contest. As the son of a tanner, I was not allowed to shoot a bow among men of noble birth, and had to watch from among the peasantry. I remember Ser Raynard Yew was favoured to win the contest. He walked out onto the range, followed by a flowing red and white cloak, the colour of his house. In his hands he held a bow of light yew. It shone in the sun so that we all thought it to be cut from gold. He held the bow with the cocky arrogance of lad stuck with it at birth, along with a silver spoon. He out shot all other competitors, including Lord Roland and one of the offshoot Lannisters who had been in attendance, though on the final round, he had missed the bulls eye.

"I remember this madness that came over me. I walked out onto the range, my hunting bow tight in my hand, and I shot and hit every bulls eye on each target. Oh how the crowd roared. Ser Raynard, shamed at being beat by a peasant, called for my imprisonment, Lord Roland named me a poacher and called for my hands. Do you know what your great grandfather did?" Tyrus smiled and slipped the dagger back in its sheath. "Lord Sumner gave me the winner's purse and gave me a command in his army."

The two sat quietly for a long while. Finally Tyrus spoke again. "Madness comes for us all, milord, but I suspect the kind that possessed me in the false spring is quite different from the fit of yours the other day. What is this sword that you seek?"

"It's not just any sword. Its a valyrian sword."

"Soul Reaver," said Tyrus flatly.

Sumner looked up from his cup, looking at the grinning sergeant.

"Hah! Are you surprised I know the sword? Well don't be. Many a tale of the Black Witch and her cursed sword is told in the shadow of her forest. She haunts this place, you know, or 'tis said. I tell you, milord, you are blessed not to of found this sword. Believe me."

Sumner did believe Tyrus. Ever since the night they heard the horn, Sumner had had the soundest sleeps in months, even with being far from his bed. The nightmares had stopped and he no longer felt this intense pull to find the sword. Maybe the blade is cursed, or maybe it wields awesome power that is now in the hands of the Ironborn. Either way, his family is caught up in a siege and need relief. He must hurry to Falwell.

The silence of the forest weighed heavily on Sumner's shoulders. He shuddered and was left with a sudden desire to put the forest behind him. "Pull up camp, Sergeant. I want to be at Falwell Castle by first light, tomorrow."

Tyrus rose to his feet. "Do you think we will find help in Falwell, milord?"

"Of course. The Falwells have always been loyal to my family."

Tyrus frowned, "Sure Joffrey, maybe, but what of his bastard brother? A cruel man from the tales I hear."

Sumner, now on his feet, ran his fingers through his beard. "He will help. He has to."

"If you say so, milord." Tyrus walked away to give Sumners orders to the party, but he caught the sergeant muttering under his breath, "From the pan, into the fire."


* * * * *
 
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