The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 6
Chapter 6

My vision swam with creatures of terrifying degrees. Osus, Havec, fallen angels, ghosts, hungry vampires and giant wolves chased me in my sleep. I had not a moment of rest. Every time I thought I was in grasp of waking up, another creature would be waiting behind a corner and sleep would chain me to torture me.
When I finally woke up, I was drenched in cold sweat, and dull sunlight was shining through the gap in the curtains. I looked around in terror, but Niklaus was nowhere in sight.
"Niklaus?" I whispered, my voice trembling.
I started trembling when there was no reply. I grabbed Tio from the bedside cabinet, wincing at the burning in my arm, just as a large shadow passed over the windows. I backed away and fell hard on the cold floor. I grunted in pain before sliding back until I was against the wall. I flicked Tio's levers so that the blades shot out and unsheathed them, holding them up in front of me.
"Victoria -"
"Sister -"
"Insolent pest ..."
"Weakling -"
"Help us -"
The voices echoed painfully inside my head, and I resisted the urge to clutch my ears as after-images of ghosts floated toward me, rotten hands reaching out. I whimpered as the headless man from my dream floated in through the gap in the window, grinning wickedly.
A ghost floating over the candlestick on my bedside cabinet, knocking it over so that it landed on the bed, setting it to flames. Panic gripped at my insides. I glanced over my shoulder to where the door was, but it was blocked by a shadowy creature reaching out with long, clawed fingers. It had empty eye sockets and something like withered organza covered its nose and mouth - that is, if it had any - and leathery wings stretched out to either side of it.
They were too near me. The heat from the fiery inferno spreading through the room was making me dizzy, and I coughed several times. I tried focusing Ceilos in my legs but it failed me and I was left numb. I sliced Tio blindly through the air, my grip failing and the sword falling several feet from me while the clawed fingers of the shadowy being gripped at my forearms painfully.
"Niklaus!" I screamed, shutting my eyes.
Barely a second later I was swooped into strong arms and after a dizzying ride was put on a cold floor. I opened my eyes to see that I was in the corridor outside my bedroom. Several maids were already busy dealing with the fire.
"What has happened?" he asked.
"I can't do this anymore," I sobbed, "They're everywhere. They won't leave me alone."
"If you can tell me who is tormenting you, I can protect you," he said softly.
"D-dead people," I said, clutching tighter onto him at the memory.
He effortlessly loosened my grip on his shoulders, ignoring the marks my nails left, and looked at me seriously, "Are you seeing ghosts, Victoria?"
"I'm not crazy," I whimpered, shaking my head. I held my forearms out to him, where the finger- and claw marks of the shadowy creature had left bruises. He frowned in confusion.
"What do the ghosts look like?" he asked softly.
"I can't r-remember all of them," I said, "Th-there was a man with a monocle and a missing eye and another man without a head who always grins at me."
He stared at me blankly, plainly not knowing what to say. I knew he did not believe me, but I needed his protection. I did not care if people thought I was a lunatic.
"Just make them go away," I pleaded.
"Gabriel can purge places of evil, can he not?" he asked softly.
"I can't stabilise my Ceilos."
After a few more coughs, I felt a pain in the back of my neck and everything turned black.

More red eyes, sharp teeth, rotting clawed hands and shadowy passageways filled my vision. I was in a forest path leading to darkness. Behind me was nothing but ghostly figures swirling around, but as I walked, they followed me. I broke into a run, the path never reaching an end.
I was chasing nothing, running from everything.
"My lady?"
A sideways glance revealed Claude and Sebastian, grinning at me with sharp teeth and glowing red eyes, their heads cocked slightly to the left. To my other side were bats and spiders and wolves, chasing me, growling at me, glaring at me with glowing eyes.
"My lady?"
The words echoed in my head, and the forest path finally reached an end. Niklaus was blocking my way, his arms held out. Without complaint, I ran into them.

I woke up with a gasp just as Niklaus held me tightly to him. We were on my bed again. I pulled away sharply from him as a sharp pain erupted in my chest and a wave of nausea followed.
"Victoria?" he said, concerned. My vision warped and for a moment I wondered if I was in a hallucination, "Victoria, are you all right?"
I yelled with surprise as I was suddenly pulled into a pitch black world. There was nothing and no one around me. But only for a moment.
Suddenly I was flying through empty space at a speed I did not even recognize, and other objects and people were flying past me. People were flying in the same direction as me, while the strangest of objects and animals were flying in the opposite direction, miraculously not colliding with me, and they were all dead serious, but not panicked. I could have sworn I saw my father for half a second, but my surprise was replaced by fear as I saw the end of the massive tunnel I was flying in. It ended in nothing but black.
What the hell is going on? I asked myself.
My surroundings swirled so much I thought I might be about to throw up just as I fell into the black unknown.
GREETINGS, LASS.
I looked up sharply at the familiar, booming voice and saw none other than Gabriel standing beside me, his foot bigger than me. I suddenly remembered that he had told me that he was able to reverse Summon me should the need arise.
"Gabriel, you couldn't have Summoned me at a worse time," I told him solemnly, throwing my head back to look at him. I did not want to look at my surroundings. I did not want to know where I was.
COME, COME, LASS, WE DO NOT HAVE TIME TO TALK NOW. HELP IS COMING, BUT IN THE MEANTIME, I NEED YOUR AID, he said, GET ON.
He let his scythe fall to the ground beside me, and I fell to the ground to dodge the massive boulders of ground it had caused to scatter. Not sparing much thought, I focused Ceilos in my legs - nearly jumping from joy when it actually worked - and ran up the chain of the scythe, grabbing hold of the metal on his strange gloves and, focusing more Ceilos in my arms, I threw myself upwards so that I landed safely on his shoulder, and held onto the metal attached to his sash.
One of your swords ought to be there somewhere, he told me with his mind, You forgot it with me last time.
Sure enough, the long, silver hilt of my normal dual-bladed sword could be seen, half hidden in the leather. I grabbed at it and twirled it fancily between my fingers. The levers flicked a little more difficult than Tio's, and the shimmering blades shot out.
"So, who was foolish enough to cross blades with you?" I asked.
THIS RUNT HAS THE NERVE TO SAY THAT HE WILL OVERTHROW THE GIANTS AND TAKE OUR PLACE, Gabriel growled, his booming voice setting my stomach lurching, THIS CREATURE IS TROUBLE, AND WHEN I SAW HIS RIDER, I IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT OF YOU.
I Changed and looked out across the strange grounds. We were standing on coal black stone, and volcano-like hills were visible all around us, standing just as tall as Gabriel, but there was no sign of lava. When I looked closely, the sky itself looked like swirling, menacing lava. There were a few long, thin, coal black clouds hovering in the sky.
Gabriel and I were alone in this cursed land, along with a massive, two-tailed wolf in the distance. My stomach lurched. It had glowing yellow eyes and I was sure that, if I stood beside it, its smallest tooth would be bigger than me. Saliva was dripping disgustingly from its bared teeth while its legs were separated in a stance that made it look as though it was ready to jump at us any moment.
I nearly fell from Gabriel's shoulder as I looked even more closely. My wolf sight allowed me to see the rider properly. My own brilliant green eyes were staring intently back at me. My own tanned skin was glistening in the red light of the strange sky. Broad shoulders gave way to a thin waist, all covered in leather clothing underneath the black cloak decorated with skulls, while shoulder-length, dark brown hair lined the strong, square jaw of my worst fear.
"It has been a long time, Victoria," Father said.
"F-Father," I stammered. Despite my transformation, the fear and hatred that was building up inside me was nearly unbearable.
"Have you grown stronger, Victoria?" he asked, his deep voice echoing over the grounds and painfully inside my head.
"Yes," I said, sounding a lot more confident than I felt, "I passed a test you couldn't, Father. Gabriel is at my command."
Don't take that too seriously, I told Gabriel in my mind, and he just smirked.
"Yes, my pride got in the way. I was young," he said softly.
"Come, Mordax, let us kill them," the wolf said menacingly, lifting and crashing its paw into the coal black ground, making boulders scatter.
"You see, I do not need Summonings that have been weakened by time and the pitiful pleas of their previous masters," Father said thoughtfully, and the wolf took a few steps toward us, so that I could clearly see his face, "Why use second-hand, worn with age animals, if I can make my own?"
"What do you mean? I asked, not really interested. I agreed with the wolf. We should just start this fight. I needed to kill Father. I had the chance now, the chance I had been waiting for, for nearly three years.
"I make my own Summonings," he repeated simply, "I am on the verge of creating a drug that will grant my soldiers near immortality. Niklaus will see his end when that drug is ready."
"You're doing the Shadows' dirty work?" I asked, my wolf ears twitching irritably.
"I am doing what is needed to make you suffer," he replied, "You are no daughter of mine. You disgrace my name with your weakness. I gave you advice before we parted. I told you that making bonds will only leave you weak."
"My bonds have ensured my security," I growled, "My bond with Lunarian secured my safety from the villagers' wrath, and my bond with Niklaus ensures me the respect I deserve."
"And yet, neither of those bonds can give you real power," he said, "Tut, tut - Lunarian played right into the hands of Lady Winter. His love for you caused the whole Village to fall into ruin."
"How do you know about all that?" I growled, and I felt my fingers and eyes both twitch with anger.
"All Niklaus sees in you is Victoria Narlith, his late wife," he continued, and I felt as though a hole had been punched through my chest at the comment, and it erupted with hateful anger. "In all the years we trained together, he could never stop going on about her."
"Gabriel," I growled angrily before Father could continue speaking.
The angel took a dangerous step forward just as I grabbed onto a lock of his white hair, swinging his scythe around dangerously. To my surprise, the wolf caught the scythes' blade in its tails and swung it around so that Gabriel had to take flight if he did not want the weapon wrenched from his grip.
"He's strong," I said with wide eyes.
NOTHING YOU AND I CANNOT HANDLE, LASS, Gabriel boomed, diving back down to the wolf. He swung his scythe again, but the wolf dodged it by jumping backward and massive boulders of coal black ground was sent flying through the air as the scythe collided with it.
"Niklaus seems to be your weakness, Victoria," Mordax taunted, "Do you love him?"
"I love no one, but myself," I growled, stabbing one of the sword's blades into the opening between the metal on Gabriel's sash for extra support.
"Yes, I heard Manson tampered with your Mark," he said, chuckling evilly, "You know it was on our leader's order, don't you?"
I was about to disagree when I remembered that Manson was Niklaus's spy. I made a mental note to just shut up about it.
"The Shadows wish to recruit you, Victoria," he continued.
"And why is that?" I asked irritably.
"They believe you have more potential than me," he said, "Ha! Is that true, Victoria? Are you stronger than me?"
"I may not be now," I said, "But I will be one day. Niklaus will train me, harder than he trained you, and then your blood will drip from my blade within the week."
"Oh? You truly believe you hold the potential to kill me? Do you have the heart to murder your own father?"
"I loved you, Father," I said, "Despite the fact that you sometimes whipped me for no reason at all, I respected you more than I respected Mother. You were my role model. I even respected you when I saw you hovering over the corpses of our family. I lost my respect when you called me a whore, and said I was good for nothing."
"So you are not truly avenging your mother or brothers or cousins?" he asked.
"No," I said. I had only realised it now. I had not been chasing after revenge because of my family, "I'm avenging my pride, most of which you crushed that night."
"That is not what anyone else thinks. The rumours flying around -" he chuckled "- they say you are prouder than any of the High Kings. You hold your head high and use your reputation to get what you want. I know that you exterminated everyone in two different villages. I know a lot more about you than you think, Victoria. I walk in the villages wearing a disguise, and I hear the rumours."
"And you still think I am weak?"
"Let me test you properly," he smirk, "Heed, Trigger."
Gabriel stood still in confusion as the wolf named Trigger jumped back in retreat, but he still swung his tail menacingly as he growled at us. Mordax jumped from his head and landed lightly on the balls of his feet beside the creature. Knowing he wanted a fair fight, I pulled the sword's blade from his sash and jumped from Gabriel's shoulder. I focused Ceilos in my feet, also landing lightly. Before I could finish blinking he was standing but a few feet from me, and I cringed back before I could help myself. The weight of his stare was still as bad as ever, and in his eyes I saw nothing but my crushed pride when I was lying on the floor of my old house, begging him not to kill me.
Mordax continued staring at me, boring his gaze into mine, and my every cell screamed at me to look away, but I refused. I glared back at him with all the strength I could muster.
"Will you deactivate your Change or shall I activate mine?" he asked softly, menacingly.
"Do whatever the hell you want," I snapped, "I won't hold back.
An evil grin spread across his face and, with a flash of maroon, black wolf's ears and a tail appeared, looking exactly like mine. I held the dual-bladed sword up just in time to block an attack from him, with a sword I had not even noticed until then. His face turned expressionless as he aimed slice after slice at my neck, and I barely blocked any of them in time. I had a feeling he was holding back.
"You have become stronger," he said, as though he did not believe me earlier, "But you are still so weak."
Suddenly I was pressed painfully against Gabriel's metal shoe, the edges digging into the flesh on my back. Gabriel shifted his foot ever so slightly to move away, but then Mordax just pushed me even tighter to the metal, and I let out a yell of pain.
"Don't move!" I screamed at Gabriel, and he froze in place.
"Why are you so weak, Victoria?" Mordax said, wrapping his fingers around my neck. He leaned closer and fear gripped at my insides, and he whispered in my ear, "You are weak because you lack hatred."
Were we still this far apart concerning strength? Was I still this weak? I did not have much time to spare a thought about it, as I was pulled into a black abyss once more. I ended up in a world of pure black and white. I was standing on what looked like water, chains that bound my ankles disappearing underneath it, and more chains holding my wrists above my head disappearing into the black sky. The colours were reversed. My black clothing was pure white, my skin a light grey, and it was the same with Mordax, who was standing in front of me, holding his sword in one hand.

I gasped as my mother suddenly appeared out of thin air, beautiful and flawless like she had been before her death. She was staring at my father with warm, loving eyes, smiling softly at him. Mordax sliced at her neck so that she fell to the floor, lifeless, and I let out a yell as I felt a sharp pain in my chest, as though he had stabbed me, as white blood poured mercilessly from the wound on her neck.
Suddenly Alexudo appeared on my other side, his face contorted into a silent growl. He tried slicing at Mordax, but black flames of Ceilos covered his hand and sharpened, and he pushed it into Alexudo's chest, pulling out his heart as he, too, fell to the watery floor, lifeless. I let out a scream of pain, feeling as though it was my heart that had been ripped out, and my head was throbbing painfully.
Miraxio suddenly appeared a few feet before Mordax, his back to me, and took out two handfuls of throwing stars, throwing them at our father. Mordax sliced at the stars so that they twirled in midair and struck the little boy instead, who followed the two before him in falling to the watery floor with glassy eyes.
More pain erupted in my chest and stomach and I felt like vomiting. My head was throbbing painfully. The kind of longing I had not felt in too long filled my mind as my two cousins appeared, hand in hand, facing me, smiling warmly.
Nina's expression turned to shock and froze like that as her head was sliced off by a spear Mordax had summoned from nowhere, and was sent into the air.
"NO!" I screamed, pain erupting in my chest and head. I felt like I was about to die from sheer pain.
Mordax positioned the head of the spear smartly so that her head stuck on it, white blood spurting everywhere, and he planted it in the watery floor so that it stayed like that. He did the same with Mona's head before she could try to run away, only this time it landed upside down on the head of the other spear.
"Stop it!" I pleaded with Mordax, black tears falling into the watery floor underneath me, "Please, stop it!"
Ignoring me, he sliced Nina's skin open at her neck, and pulled it roughly. He proceeded like this, pulling each piece of skin from her lifeless body, until it was all lying in a pile beside her. He stuck his hand into her stomach and pulled out her intestines, throwing the skin into the air and jumping up himself and entangling the skin with the guts before letting it fall to the strange floor again. By this time my screams were becoming hoarse.
He grabbed Mona's body and threw it into the air, and I remembered this part all too well. He cut her to pieces smartly so that her body parts fell to the watery floor to spell one word: weak.
I swallowed my screams, realising it was not going to help. Mordax did not care about my pleas: he did not care about me, his only remaining family member. My frantic crying turned to sobs as I stared at Mordax, his gaze boring into mine once more.
He slowly walked toward me, stepping on Mona's sliced up body parts in the process but not caring, until he was but two feet from me.
"Why do you do this to me?" I whimpered, "Why didn't you just kill me along with everyone else?"
He did not reply. He simply pulled back his sword and, as my eyes widened in understanding, plunged the sword into the centre of my stomach. I screamed out in pain and coughed blood, making the pain even worse.
"I can torture you here as much as I want," he said, "And you won't die."
He pulled the sword roughly from my stomach, making me scream again. I blinked several times, trying to rid myself of the tears, to see that hundreds more images of me appeared all around me, all wearing the same expression: utter terror and pain, black tears streaming down my face, and in front of each of my images was an image of an expressionless Mordax.
I shook my head with wide eyes as he pulled the sword back again, and thrust it through my thigh, through the bone, until it stuck out on the other side. I screamed with a force that hurt even my own ears, but I barely noticed it over the pain my leg and stomach.
"No!" I screamed as Mordax pulled the sword back out and pulled it back.
Several minutes, hours, or days later, I was covered in pure white blood, helpless, not even screaming anymore. I was struggling for breath, as each rise and fall of my chest caused the wounds on my torso to stretch and rip more.

I saw bright sunlight, Gabriel's large wings above me, two wildly waving tails in the distance and the gleam of my sword. Several Giants appeared. I welcomed my drowsiness.

* * *

Lunarian.
"Are you coming, sire?"
I looked up sharply from where I had been reading to see Demetri standing at the doorway, his face devoid of any emotion, but his eyes filled with overwhelming sadness. I had found out only yesterday that Dante did not make it through his surgery, and was still wondering why he did not just go back to his home. Looking at the present time, I had no idea what he was talking about.
"Where to?" I asked.
"The opening ceremony," he replied simply, "The one you had me organise now that the village' repairs are complete."
I had appointed Demetri my personal advisor and assistant. He needed the promotion to pay for a proper funeral for both Dante and Rynth. I had difficulty finding teachers to replace him, Saltatrix and Garoroc, but with his help I managed to find a few. Only after a few moments' thought did I remember what he was talking about. The village had been in complete ruin after Niklaus's visit, and the villagers worked hard to restore it to its former glory. To pay them for their hard work, I told Demetri to organise a ceremony where there would be free food and drink and all manners of relaxation.
"Go without me," I told him, "I'm busy."
"Very well," he said simply, exiting and closing the door behind him.
Everyone was going through a terrible time. Half of the village had been wiped out. We took the chance to expand the village after seeing the broken down walls and established another graveyard, among other things. There was barely enough space for all the bodies, so several families were forced to have their loved ones cremated instead.
I had Lucian creamted, and then stomped angrily on his ashes before feeding it to Nillian Newton's Neko.
I hated him.
He was always the shining star in the family, the one who everyone admired. He had the ability, since birth, to force a blush, tears and even the kind of smile you could find only on the face of someone who had endured the worst of tortures. He used his abilities on Victoria to torture me, and when he saw that she was not going to fall for him, he insulted her and cursed her and told her she was useless. If he had not died in the battle, I would have killed him afterwards.
I had not seen a smile on anyone's face since the battle. It had been weeks, and the only signs of happiness were on the faces of children too young to understand that they were never going to see their parents again.
The other countries helped to establish an orphanage with proper care and necessities, but it did not help the older children smile.
Not a day passed that I did not think about Victoria, and somehow thought that it was my fault. I supposed I had been the closest to Mordax apart from his family, yet I never questioned him when he started becoming more violent than normal. Perhaps I had had the power to help him with whatever problem caused him to kill his family, but I never even tried.
I growled angrily, my lion roar escaping along with my voice, and threw my desk against the wall. I was a pathetic human being, not worthy of the title as High King. I could not protect any villagers when they needed me most. Instead I hid in the protection of Lady Winter while half my village was being wiped out.
On top of it all, Victoria's change had been completed. She felt nothing anymore. I received the reports from Siandus, and I heard the stories of Victoria killing people left and right, not caring. What did it matter if my spy, my most trusted servant, believed that she would come to me for refuge if it was only for protection, not love? In any case, why had she not come yet? It had been days. I barely slept, and when I managed to drift off I was woken by the simplest of sounds, always things that related to her: when the wind tickled my hair and reminded me of her touch, when snowstorms rattled the windows like the time when she had been sick because of the medication Demetri had given her, and even imaginary things, like her voice echoing in my head.
Victoria, I thought, come back.

 

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