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Tales of Lockmora; Chapter I
I remember the days when we were all together – in peace, in love, and without reason for bloodshed or tears. It is out of remembrance of that time that I write, having been born into a time quite unlike it, quite dark, quite cruel, and horribly immoral.
Lockmora – the name burns my tongue, memories of blasphemous times and greedy men all stowed away upon that mountain. We worked for them, us Harklians – though there were few of us left. We were the inhuman, the specialized, with powers and strengths that not even the Lockmorians could obtain. They were selfish in their ways, though, and outnumbered us and the other pre existing species by the thousands. A great party of Exodus left to lands of civilization at the end of the wars, not by choice – but forced out by cruel hands, though only the Angorians survived the journey to a place legendary; a paradise.
We were all naïve back then, working as dogs and slaves – but redemption was still ours to be had! All has been told over and over again; the tales of Lockmora.
The two full, blue moons shined brightly over the city of Lockmora, leaving it in a pale twilight that lasted throughout the night. The moons were very large; at least they looked large to the inhabitants of Lockmora, whose city was build up on a high, hand-carved mountain. It was a very protected city – placed so far up into the sky to hopefully dissuade outsiders from trying to enter, and surrounded with stone walls to keep the unwanted out. Many lived in the city, as it was vast and beautiful – the peak of architecture and home to the most brilliant of minds. However, the unwanted somehow always found their way in.
Being a very proud and cowardly race, the Lockmorians took their own precautions to set up guards around the city. There was no such thing as a Lockmorian night guard, for they could do little against the supernatural forces that would often invade. No, the society members had long ago signed a pact with the Harklians – the tan-skinned beings who watched over Lockmora and protected it from all opposing forces. There were many opposing forces for the Harklians to handle, as well, due to the fact that wars long ago had segregated the races.
Lockmorian nights, however, with the two broad moons of Lune and Terr leaving the city in sleep… are far from peaceful.
“Quick – send a message to the north squad and tell them to hurry over to the east. We have an unknown intruder that needs to be identified.” A Harklian man whispered to one of his comrades, who nodded and took off running in the opposite direction. The others pressed themselves against a stone wall of a nearby building, pulling out their scopes to spy on the intruder.
It was hunched over on one of the stone streets – the entire city of Lockmora was a stone masterpiece – and it appeared to be digging through a barrel. Many of the lesser powered exiled creatures – demons and the like – would find their way into the city for food, and they were easily exterminated. This one, however, had taken a team of four men to track, as it had seemed to disappear each time they came upon it. They knew they couldn’t just let it prowl the city, so the east squad sent for the north – the most prestige of their kind; legendary warriors that protected Lockmora.
After only a few moments of waiting, the men all started as a figure dropped down beside them. Two more figures dropped beside it, all wearing the customary Harklian gear – fireproof cloaks, leather vests, and thick pants atop good boots. The first one pulled back their hood, revealing long, white hair pulled back in a tight braid. Her eyes were a brilliant green that glowed slightly in the dark, as all Harklian irises did, and a white jewel shimmered on her forehead. The eyes of the woman turned to the men who had started, narrowing her gaze.
“Quiet. If you alert our prey of our presence, how can you expect us to complete our task?” She questioned quietly, the two figures that had accompanied her pulling off their hoods as well. They were men of the same height, though that was the only thing similar about their varied appearances.
“My deepest apologies, Viper,” Said the man, coming forward from the wall, addressing her by her code name. Code names were customary for the Harklians, as no Lockmorian was to see them as anything more than a worker. “It keeps escaping our grasp. Each time we come near it, it disappears from our view.”
“You’ve been blessed with the skill of night vision, is that right, Lion?” Questioned Viper. The man – old, but noticeably strong, straightened his back and nodded once. “Good, then you will accompany me down there. It isn’t overly dark but, you can see him much better than I can.”
Without waiting for a response from the man, Viper headed towards the intruder – her footsteps completely silenced, as she did not wear the usual Harklian footgear that weighed so heavily on the feet. Viper had deadly speed and precision, which needed the use of her nimble feet, and so she wore lighter slippers, leaving not a sound in her wake as she slinked against the walls towards the barrels.
The man behind her rubbed his fingers together as they walked, curious to see what they would find. His altered eyes stayed on the figure, noting its elongated legs and its animal-like arms. It had pointed ears that tilted away from a large head and it’s skin was very dark; a Howler. Lion followed Viper as she neared the Howler, mimicking her movements as she crouched low, watching the beast tear apart a barrel in its search for food. It was grunting and breathing hard, so Viper came into clear view before pulling her whip from her belt and wrapping it around her hands. She turned to Lion, who was still pressed against a wall.
“Tell me when his head is clear of the barrel.”
Lion nodded at Viper, looking back at the Howler – completely absorbed in its task at hand. Howlers were a lot like dogs – a rare breed that only royalty had access to – and they were from dogs, technically, but the demon form of them. Their large heads and even larger teeth made them a ferocious beast, made even more frightening by their red-glowing eyes. With their large hind legs, they could jump higher than most trees, and were often finding their way into Lockmora – hunting for food. Viper looked over at Lion, waiting a few moments until he gave a slight nod before shooting forward.
Using her whip, Viper came up behind the Howler, wrapping it around his neck and pulling him back against her. Taken by surprise, he attempted to howl – a sound that would have been loud enough to wake up every nearby citizen, but the whip around his neck had kept him from making too much of a noise. He thrashed against Viper, who held him tightly in her choking embrace – waiting for him to collapse due to lack of oxygen.
This Howler had some fight in him, though, and Viper had to wrap her legs around him in order to keep him close to her. After a moment, the Howler stopped fighting, thought it was still breathing. Viper waited, wondering why it had stopped fighting her. Then she felt it – the Howler’s body was shaking, no – melting in her very arms. She pushed him away, watching as his body shook and shivered into something completely different – a small bird!
“A morpher!” Called Viper, jumping to her feet. Turning to where she had left the other men – higher up the road on an elevated platform, Viper waved to one of the men that had come with her. With a nod, he crouched low before jumping – sending himself flying through the air towards the bird. It shrieked, frantically trying to turn its direction before the man could reach it.
He soared faster than the bird, though, and grabbed it roughly – throwing it towards the crowd. Viper followed them, sprinting quickly towards where she watched the bird falling – morphing again, it looked like. This time it thudded against the ground as a snake, coiling itself up as it readied to attack the next person that neared it. Viper reached the snake at the same moment that her comrade landed a few feet from it, both staring at it, curious as to where to take it from there. Giving the man a look, Viper watched him near the snake, his arm outstretched and a knife in his hand.
The snake followed her gaze, turning to hiss at the man and raise itself up into a striking position. Stopping a few feet from the snake, the man smiled. It flicked its tongue out at him in confusion, turning to look at Viper, who had prepared a dart in the time that the snake had been preoccupied. She placed it in her shooter and spit it towards the snake. The dart pierced the snake’s neck, causing it to shudder. It hissed loudly once more before falling to the ground, Viper’s toxin working quickly to subdue the morpher.
Changing shape once more as it slipped into unconsciousness, Viper watched as it turned into a furry animal with multiple tails. The man brandished his knife once more, stepping closer to the morpher.
“No, Roo.” Viper shot a hand out and halted Roo’s blade, looking down at the morpher. “They will want this in the laboratory. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a morpher in this region before.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in my life.” Roo said, running a hand through his tan hair. Viper knelt down, picking up the morpher and cradling it in her arms. She stared down at it, her mind reeling – how on earth did a morpher get in Lockmora? And why? Its presence made little sense to her, though she had hardly any time to sort it out before the other men arrived at the scene.
“That was over a lot faster than I thought it would be.” Lion said, clearly impressed.
“Had I not used one of my darts I have a feeling he would have kept us going all night.”
“Look at his fur… it’s the same white as your hair, Viper. And look at that – three tails. I didn’t know morphers had three tails.”
“It’s almost dawn,” Remarked Viper, noting how the twilight was beginning to fade. “I will take the morpher to the laboratory and document its capture. You gentlemen do one last round and treat yourselves to some breakfast before bed.”
“Aye, Captain.” Roo and the others saluted Viper as she turned and walked away from them, still cradling the little morpher in her arms.
“It’s been a while since I saw Viper in action,” Commented Lion, watching her turn a corner and head towards the limestone arches of the castle. “Has anyone ever defeated her in combat?”
“If they had,” Began Roo, nudging his partner beside him – a man with green hair and green eyes. “I’m sure they never lived to talk about it.”
The men shared a laugh, clapping one another on the back before parting ways to do their last rounds for the night. Viper had entered the castle walls, and had taken a hard turn right as she headed for the laboratory. She went over the night’s progression in her mind, thinking over every minute detail. It occurred to her that this was the first intruder Lockmora had seen in a few weeks – which was very odd, as there was almost always some creature trying to sniff its way in. Viper didn’t trust it, but then again, she didn’t trust anything other than her two brothers in arms.
“Ah, Captain, how may I be of service to you?” Asked a Harklian doctor, one that Viper was particularly fond of, as she had known him since she was just a girl. His hair had whitened with age and he looked upon her warmly as she entered the room, holding out her prize.
“A morpher, Dr. Shrush.”
“You don’t say?” Dr. Shrush hurried forward, taking the small animal from Viper’s hands. He looked down at it, clicking its tongue as he removed the dart from the morpher’s neck. A small trickle of bleed fell from the wound, but there seemed to be no major damage done. “Did you have to work hard to keep your men from destroying this creature?”
“Not overly hard – it was a simple battle, and when Roo had gone to cut him apart, I stopped him. I was surprised to see a morpher here.” Admitted Viper, going to stand on the other side of Shrush as he laid the morpher down on his observation table. Pushing up his glasses slightly, he poked and prodded at the small animal – checking for internal damage, no doubt.
“You’ve been working too hard.” Shrush pointed out, his eyes still on his work. Viper frowned at the doctor.
“I have to do my job.”
“Yes, but I think you do too much of it, my dear.” Shrush removed his glasses, turning to Viper and pushing her cloak back from her shoulders. Her bare arms were revealed, showing laced markings up and down her arm that were of a silvery sheen. It made her look almost majestic. “Eliandra… look at how intricately your markings have grown. You’ve done a lot of killing.”
“Would you rather have me die instead, Shrush?” Questioned Viper, shrugging her cloak back over her shoulders as she raised an eyebrow towards the doctor. He gave her a small smile, patting her shoulder affectionately before turning from her and walking over to one of his medicine cabinets.
“Do an old man a favor, Eliandra, and drink this serum. It will have you waking up completely rested, and I think you need a good day’s sleep.”
Plucking a vial from the cabinet, Shrush turned and tossed it to Viper, who caught it with one hand – her eyes still on the doctor. He was the only one that called her by her birth name – Eliandra, all the other warriors staying strictly to the code names they had been given when they joined their ranks. It was unfair of him to use her name, because it always broke her will – making her feel more like a person and less like the object that she was to the Lockmorians. Rubbing the vial between her fingers, Viper offered Shrush a small smile before slipping it into her pocket.
“I think I’ll do just that.” Agreed Viper, noting the look of achievement on Shrush’s face, much to her own chagrin. “Can I ask you something, Shrush?”
“Ask away, my dear.” Shrush went about the room, finding a blanket and a small basket along the way, listening to what Viper had to say.
“Have you noticed that the attacks on Lockmora have gotten significantly less frequent over the past few weeks?”
“I’ve had less victims in my practice, yes.” Nodded Shrush, moving over to the morpher and setting down his supplies. Viper helped him by picking up the morpher as Shrush went to setting up a small bed for the animal. She placed him inside of it, watching it shiver slightly as Shrush pulled a blanket over it. “And I have heard the king talking about how happy he is that peace seems to finally be dawning on Lockmora – but you aren’t happy with that assumption, are you?”
“Well, I like helping you patch up our warriors,” Said Viper, alluding to how she was Shrush’s assistant from time to time. “And if all we’re doing is walking the patrol at night, then we aren’t doing our jobs.”
“If there is nothing to be done –”
“If there is nothing to be done then we must not be needed! I hate feeling as though they could find no more use for us and blast us from existence simply because we have no value for them anymore.”
“Hush, Eliandra – don’t say such blasphemous things.” Shrush held up a hand, opposing her protests with a stern look of his own. Viper was silenced, crossing her arms angrily as she looked away from Shrush. “You need some sleep. Go to your chambers and stop this foolish nonsense.”
“I’m a lot of things, Shrush, but I’m not a fool,” Viper said, making her way to the door. She paused beside it, half inside the laboratory and half out of it. “But, then again, if anyone can get past something that’s thrown at them – it’s me.”
“That it is, Eliandra.” Shrush nodded, looking down at the morpher. “That it is.”