This one is another speculative pre Diablo 2 piece, this time a shorter vignette on the Rogue/Amazon.
The Spur and the Quiver
A mesh of red gold leaves scarcely covered Phanetta’s lithe figure as she darted from limb to limb. Though her clothing did little to deny salacious glimpses to roving eyes, it did break up her outline and the cloying oils of the perchmont leaves masked her scent as well. She paused, dangling from the stout branch of an elder oak. Was that one of the Doradae she heard snuffling and grunting in the undergrowth ahead? Though Yr’s self-loading crossbow was swifter than one of the centipede-badger demons, she knew her chances were slim against a pack.
Phanetta tightened her stomach muscles, and slowly drew herself back up into the oak’s lush foliage. By Andarael’s horns, the Doradae reeked like no other beast! Phanetta had to pinch her nose as the loathsome things passed underneath, their chelae clicking and snapping at every imagined thing in their path. When the last of them had scuttled past, she waited five more minutes and then dropped to the ground running. The Doradae were great trackers, and once they found the tree she had climbed, they would double back for her.
Her bamboo sandals pounded the thick dark soil, and she was as thankful for the mush of autumn leaves that masked her run, as she was for the speed that the winged sandals gave her. A twig snapped ahead, and by the time the heavy noise making foot lifted off the twig, Phanetta was still and silent in the middle of a large raspberry bush. She thanked the Sisters at the abbey for their training, even if she had been tossed out for dalliance before becoming a full initiate.
The horse looked riderless, but Phanetta could tell from its movements that the beast was being guided by a rider. For a moment, her opalescent eyes caught a thin flash of gold angling down from where the saddle was. Pranavore! While she stood helpless on the cave overlooking the valley, she had seen three of their kind sweep down from the grey hills toward the abbey. The Pranavore’s grisly work was finished before Phanetta was halfway down the twisting shale scattered path. They had cut her soulmates at the abbey to ribbons, and though none were dead, she could tell that they all wished to be. In their eyes, she saw pain and regret, and something else. A kind of wordless pleading, that Phanetta knew she could not disobey.
There lay Istrella, two V-notches carved into her skull above the temples, and a matching wound on the breast just above the heart. Phanetta could see the heart beating, but Istrella’s forlorn look told her that whatever she had once been had been consumed by the crimson cloaked riders and their terrible gold swords. It took 3 dozen quarrels to put all of the mortally wounded down, but when the last lay still, Phanetta knew that she would never rest until the last of the Pranavore’s was slain.
Over the past three years, she had learned that Memnoch had created the foul beings, fusing the souls of heretic priests with vampires, but Phanetta knew that despite her archery and tracking, alone she was no match for the master demon. Still there was nothing to prevent her from picking off each and every one of his minions that strayed from the nest. With that resolute thought, she plucked five of the crystal bolts from her quiver and flipped the tab on the self-winding crossbow. Each bolt was fletched with the wings of a fish that flew, If the stories were to believed. The bolts sailed through the shimmering globe shields of mages without any more hindrance than passing through a May breeze.
With Yr’s crossbow cranked back, her mind nestled back into the present. One of the silver-grey Appaloosas snorted and reared as it caught the strange oils of Phanetta’s garments. The horse’s hooves thudded down onto the ground, masking the impact of the two fishdoom bolts that sank deep into the skull of the Pranavore. His invisibility flickered as he slumped forward and then fell sideways out of the high canticled saddle. The rider behind him charged toward the brambles, but Phanetta was already gone. The Pranavore dug his spurs deep into his mount, urging the beast to turn quickly, but it was too late, as two more of the fishdoom quarrels ruptured forth from his face, protruding just below the eye socket. He too slumped and fell, and Phanetta scurried out to collect their capes and gold swords. She didn’t have time to check the rings on their hands, and with the invisibility granting capes, she clamored back into the trees, and made the best speed she could.
Pranavore’s always traveled in threes, and she had no desire to be caught unawares by their Heirarch master. Several heart-pounding minutes later, Phanetta paused in the crook of a large birch and took a long swig of rainwater from the leather flask at her hip. Then she heard the shrill laughter and the pounding hooves racing towards her, from underneath the canopy. She didn’t have time to load up another set of quarrels and so she let herself swing down directly into the rider’s path, so that her last remaining shot could not err.
Yr’s bow let out a sharp thwip and the immediate implosion of the Pranavore Heirarch’s face was quite satisfying, even if some of his cranium did spray across her face, as she landed in the saddle next to his slumping form. Her sandals gave the crimson robed demon man a good kick and he sprawled onto the ground.
Phanetta leaned over to gather his gold sword, and then drew back as the sword itself leaped out towards her! She tried to fend off the vile blade with her crossbow, but its nicks and bruises would cause her to err sooner or later. There was an invocation for silencing these terrible demon blades, but Phanetta was not a sorceress. No one had ever discovered the origin of these weapons, but many sages said they were far older than the pitiful demons who wielded them. In desperation, Phanetta drew out the other two gold blades and commanded them to attack the one threatening her.
For a moment, the three blades faced off, hovering in the air and moaning their metallic displeasure at each other. The Heirarch’s blade moaned and grumbled something in a long dead tongue and the other two blades turned and leapt for Phanetta’s vitals. It was over even before she stopped struggling.
The first thing Phanetta noticed was the color draining out of the sky and the leaves. Her blood went icy cold, and her bones trembled with the chills that she knew would never cease. The world around her hushed, and the last thing she saw was the Heirarch tearing the crimson cloak off her shoulders and lifting the gold sword high as he remounted his beast and vanished.
She had been left to live, perhaps forever, as no animal would touch her tainted form, and travelers scarcely if ever passed this way. Phanetta felt the first flakes of snow settle on her face, and was not surprised to see that they didn’t melt at all. She began to wonder about the horrors the Pranavore were inflicting even as she lay there, like a log left out by the high tide. It was then that she heard the voices- the voices of the sword. They had just begun to notice her, and every one of the thousands of them began their litany of suffering and tragedy. Phanetta cried out for someone to avenge her, but she felt the blackness envelop her and the sword hum as it absorbed and passed on her energy to its master.
Somewhere, the ruby fragments of a great shard trembled as another burst of energy surged through them, bringing them just that much closer to the day they could break free and claim dominion over everything that walked, ran or flew. Until that day, the Pranavore’s rode out in search of more power for their master.