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Long Traveled Roads Part II (NSFW)

The ride to the travelers’ camp was briefer than Viatryx had expected, and she let herself be helped down from Mediea's horse without complaint.  Her mind picked over the information she had gleaned since the start of this encounter.  These were a mercenary company, and hired to protect a traveler clan--an obviously wealthy clan.  A small frown pinched her brow as the sorceress thought it over.  Times were different now, than when she had roamed the Gold Coast as a traveler's daughter.  Oft times her clan had been engaged in horse thievery, alongside legitimate mercantile.  Now she hopped along, surrounded by seasoned warriors--expecting to find a clan selling spices, precious stones, and perhaps cloth goods.

 

“There are stories, you know.  Older than your parents—older than the roads themselves,” Viatryx mused as she limped along after Darius and Mediea.  “Tales that have been sung around campfires for generations.”  Mediea walked on her injured side, occasionally supporting the sorceress if the smaller woman faltered too much.  In firelight Viatryx was wholly as pale as she had been by starlight, and her dark hair proved to be a deep roan brown.  Her amber eyes seemed to glow when the light caught them just right, but her smile seemed to ease something wary that lurked in Mediea’s heart.  Her nose was straight and aquiline and there was a faint scar that traced the right side of her cheek bone.  They passed through camp without a soul stirring to their arrival.  Viatryx looked to the left and right as fingers of unease slithered down her spine like serpents.

 

            “If stories are all that you can offer us, Silanus, we will send you off.  Atticus can provide plenty of superstitious nonsense without your assistance.” Darius grumbled irritably.  Viatryx stopped in her tracks, nearly pulling Mediea down with her.  She prepared to make a good and honest show of being affronted.  The old ways had grains of truth that were being lost to the dust of time and disbelief.

 

            “Those stories were told for a reason—Darius of clan no name.  I look around me and I see the guardians of fattened calves!  Any who travel these roads would know the value of those tales, and that they are more than mindless drivel.” Viatryx said harshly—her voice sharp as a whip crack in the still night.

 

            “Darius!  Atticus has gone.”  One of the other riders came rushing up.  “And…there’s more, if you haven’t noticed yet.  Look around.”  The rider urged, panic undeniably thick in his voice.  Viatryx and Mediea spread out slightly from one another—Mediea jumping as her foot pressed against an arm.  Just an arm.

 

            “Oh mother—“the young woman yelped.  Viatryx caught her arm in a grip that was suddenly like living iron as the younger woman tried to plunge toward the center of the camp site.  At its center where the camp’s patriarch and family should have kept their tent was an area of scorched earth.  Mist and smoke rose from the place—eerie and fluorescent in the firelight.  It had been hidden from them when they first entered the camp.  Viatryx, by allowing Darius and Mediea to lead had missed the illusion spell entirely until this moment.   

 

            “I sincerely hope that was not your mother.  Where is the rest of the body?” Viatryx asked tersely.  Her eyes were drawn to the center of the camp where magic thrummed in invisible lines of dark and light—suggesting a battle had been waged before the patriarch’s tent was destroyed.  Darius joined them amid exclamations of horror and dismay as the illusion spell continued to peel back. Viatryx raised an arm to cover her nose and mouth as the scent of charnel reached her.  

 

            “Not here.  There.”  Darius pointed to the camp’s center where a hulking, malformed and lumpy creature was rising out of the smoke and mist.  Viatryx cursed under her breath as the flesh atronach lumbered toward their position.  She looked between Mediea and Darius as their companions closed in and ducked under Darius’s arm.

 

            “Get to whatever Atticus was using for a camp site and wait for me there!  Do not split up!”  The sorceress snapped; rushing ahead.  She flung down her outer robe, and bunched her skirts in one hand as she ran—the illusion disguising her staff sloughing away like badly done varnish as she did.  When she reached the grotesque atronach, any semblance of the wounded sorceress from the roads was gone.  She drove her staff into the ground and send a crackling wave of lightning into the daedric creation.  The night came alive with ice blue lightning and purplish magic as the sorceress flung crystalized shards of dark magic at the atronach.  She darted back and forth like a petite force of nature as she hurled spells at the behemoth, and wrote runes of fiery death and eruption underneath it.

 

            The ground shook as the flesh atronach drove its foot into the packed earth, and Viatryx dropped to the rocky soil only partly by design as something flew overhead.  The whistling zing of arrows filled the air around her, and hands were suddenly helping her back to her feet.  With the arrows of four sailing overhead at the creature, Viatryx could concentrate on her more powerful magics.  Worrisome to her was the figure of Darius, and that of Mediea as they raced in to harass the monstrosity with short swords and shields.  She cast her spells with them in mind, knowing the destructive magics that fell from her fingertips could as easily fell them as the atronach.

 

            Magicka was not limitless either.  When she took a knee to regroup, the archers fired into the monster, and when she stood again they fell back.  Between these moments, Darius and Mediea rushed the monster—harrying it with their short swords.  Every cut bled twice what it should have, and every time a shield slammed into the atronach it wavered—not quite tumbling down.  Eventually between the seven of them, they felled the atronach, and Viatryx fell back into the shadows as the others rushed up to view the daedric horror.  Power had thinned the lines of her cheek bones, and stripped the illusion of humanity.  She stood back as the warriors took stock of their kill, and their losses.

 

“The story of Atticus.  One of many names for such monsters who roam the night.  Often, they sit in the wreckage of this caravan, or that and spin a tale of woe for those foolish enough to believe.  Sometimes they are not seen for a decade or three, only to emerge from the darkness to kill again as before.  Always, always there is a pattern to the deaths.  Does this sound like what has been stealing the people you were hired to protect?”  Viatryx heard herself, voice low but swelling with power as she spoke.  Mediea was the first to turn around, and she jumped back behind Darius—blue eyes wide.  Viatryx stared back at her with sunken eyes aglow with coal fire that were set in a suddenly waxy, grayish face.

 

            “The first night we were hired, a boy who had disappeared returned.  He was singing some old song, and by morning he had died.  …It is not you.  You hunt the one doing this.” Darius spoke finally, voice hoarse but certain.  Viatryx gave him a slight nod and a tight-lipped smile that seemed to just hide the barest touch of small, needle-like fangs.

 

            “Tell me, did you find anything from wherever Atticus slept, as you did not stay and wait for me?”  She asked, closing the distance between herself and those still human.  Darius and Mediea stood their ground, and Darius produced something wrapped in burlap from the satchel on his hip.

 

            “He left an idol of Clavicus Vile behind in the shattered ruins.  It could have been by design.  A trap.”  Darius offered the wrapped idol to her and Viatryx took it gingerly with a twist of her lips.

 

            “I’ve no doubt.  How long was Atticus among you?”

 

            “A week.  Perhaps more.  Long enough for many in the clan to begin going missing, and now he has gone missing too.”  Mediea shook her head as a breeze rifled the night around them and brought with it the fresh scent of slaughter.  “We may not be travelers, but I know the old tales and ways.  I know that Silanus is not your name.”

 

            “It will do for now.” Viatryx said absently as she plucked the idol from its burlap between two fingers.  She did not bother to hide the wry twist of her lips as she examined the object—allowing the weight of the power poured into it to play over her hands like sand sifting through a sieve.  The weight of it in her mind made the sorceress suspect Atticus was older than she had originally thought.

 

            “Why are you helping us?” Mediea’s voice intruded on her thoughts, and Viatryx looked up.

 

“…I’m not.  …And I am,” the sorceress narrowed her eyes, “I am an agent of the Mage’s Guild…though as you can imagine the association is kept rather distant.  I usually hunt books and artifacts. Things that I may send back through an intermediary rather than in person.  In this case, I am hunting an artifact and several young apprentices.” Her lips twisted a bit.  “It does not bode well when you start stealing young learners.”

 

            “And the road tonight?” Darius had folded his arms across his chest.  He was not looking angry enough to attempt to roast her on a spit yet, but he did not look happy either.

 

            “Would you have taken me in under other circumstances? I do apologize, but yes…it was contrived to get your attention.”  Viatryx responded gently.  She watched as Darius’s face reddened under the dark beard he wore.

 

            “I said that we were wasting time by helping you.  Had we not spared the time—“

           

“You would be as dead as the rest of these lost souls.  Do you think that you would not have been caught just as unaware?  Look you,” Viatryx gestured to the carnage around them, “see this for what it is.  He had to work fast.  You had not returned yet, and he could not wait longer for what he wanted.  And now.  Now we waste time.  Stay here and mourn the dead; resent me too, if you like.  I will find him, grind his bones to dust and scatter the ashes of his wretched heart in the Abecean Sea!”  Viatryx finished with a dramatic flair that barely hid her true purpose as she took the disgusting idol with her and stomped off through the camp site.  She did not look back as the scurry of several booted feet fell in behind her.

 

“Silanus!  Lady, wait!” It was Mediea.

 

“What?”  The sorceress asked without turning around.

 

“Daylight will be on us in a few hours.  Will you—I mean…”

 

“I will not turn to ash.  It will not be comfortable, but my hope is that it will be even more uncomfortable for Atticus.”  Viatryx said grimly, slowing her steps after a few moments.  A slender hand on her arm slowed the sorceress even more and she turned enough to see Mediea.

 

“How can you be certain it will be worse for him?”

 

“Because he is a great deal older than I.” Viatryx smiled in a manner that was not the least bit comforting, and Mediea quickly took her hand back.

 

“If we travel with you, what would you have of us?  …As an agent of the Mage’s Guild.”  Mediea was quick to remind Viatryx that she had mentioned that connection.  It earned her a brief, approving nod.

 

“Find anyone living that he might be keeping.  Free them, if possible, but on your oath that you will not follow me.  I will have quite enough on my hands without having to worry about either your deaths, or the potential that he will make thralls of you.  Are those terms clear enough?”  Viatryx demanded, clasping Mediea arm to arm.  She looked beyond her at the archers who had followed.  “Are there any of you that can’t abide that?”

 

“We’ll follow your lead.  …We need to know if anyone survived.”

*****

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