Shards of Alarius
It was late at night and the waters near the docks were still. Earlier, the water-carriage of his highness, King Yrero’thu III and his guard had left the dark waters behind, making their way down Kelp Street in the Salt district, a place known for its deep connection to the civilization that resided below the waves.There was much excitement as the royal procession made its way further into the ancient city of Grimhaulde to attend the yearly trade conference between the factions. Many of the merfolk and half-breeds that lived in that district were happy to see their beloved king, especially because this was the first time his young daughter would be attending with him. The other races of the city were glad to be getting the trade that would come from this years meeting. As the sun set, Confetti filled the air as the crown of the royal cart broke the water. Shipping was halted and salt was thrown for good fortune at the slow moving caravan.
As the parade moved into the city, the crowds dispersed, leaving behind a stillness broken only by the brushing of a lone worker, working tirelessly to clean up the mess. What rotten luck, he thought, to have drawn the short straw and gotten stuck with this fate. His mates would undoubtedly be drinking and whoring tonight, as the king’s visit was practically a city-wide holiday. He grumbled to himself, unable to notice the shadow slinking slowly behind him out of the water. What rotten luck, he mumbled as the shadow suddenly set upon him, leaving behind a pile of gore that would, undoubtedly, have to be cleaned up by one of his mates. The shadow continued down Kelp street.
“Because the people love me, Frasius!” The king responded impatiently to his captain of the guard.
“They can’t even see you in this carriage, sir, we-
“That’s only because you insisted on these steel plates, Frasius. They really are a ghastly sight.”
“SIR, we shouldn’t be taking this route. It’s dangerous, the streets are too busy. We can be attacked.” The captain implored, his complaints swiftly set aside with a wave of the king’s hand.
“Who would attack me? My enemies? Hollypoddle! All my enemies are deep in the water, too pissy to come up and even have a biscuit with our neighbors on the surface. We are perfectly safe up here, if a bit dry. That reminds me, how are you liking your first time on the surface, my princess?”
The young girl looked up from her doll for the first time since her father and the captain started talking. She was nervous. This was her first time encountering air and dry land. She wasn’t used to feeling her full weight on the ground, on the sheer lack of buoyancy. It was a shocking experience for one who had lived a sheltered life for the past 9 years. Her mother, of course, was hesitant in letting her only child travel to the surface, but her father insisted. She would have to rule one day, wouldn’t she? It was better to start her learning early rather than regret her lack of experience later.
She herself was completely ignorant on the subject, having spent her entire life amidst the gardens and play areas of the palace back underwater. She had previously felt ambivalence towards the surface, feeling like it would just mix in with the usual monotonous activities of the palace life. When the water drained from the cabin, however, she began to feel excitement. So she answered, “It is rather boring in this cabin. I want to see what the surface looks like.”
The king chortled, “Well we could, but mean old Frasius insists on this steel cage.”
“Sir, I’m simply trying to keep you and the princess safe.”
The princess spoke up, “We don’t need those to keep us safe, all we need is you, and all you need is your special sword.”
The captain found himself smiling now. Ah yes, he thought, his sword. It truly was an admirable thing. Centuries old and forged of silver, it was truly an intimidating blade. When he had first shown it to the young girl, he promised it would protect her life. He chuckled.
“Of course I’ll protect you. I’m just trying to be cautious, you never kn-” He was cut off as the carriage came to a sudden stop.
“What the hells?!” The captain banged on the wall between the cabin and the driver. “What’s the hold up?!”
“Your highness, stay down.” Frasius said as he drew his sword.
“It’s probably nothing, don’t get so worked up.”
“Sir, it’s my duty. I must be sure. I have to treat every threat as-” he was cut off as an arm reached through the wall and grabbed his head. Before the royalty could even blink, Captain Frasius was pulled out of the carriage, leaving a steel hole gap behind. His sword clinked uselessly against the cobblestone road as his skull was cracked and his esophagus crushed. The creature, tall and hideous, ate what oozed out of the merman’s head.
The king acted quickly. He picked up his daughter and jumped out of the gap in the wall, trying to escape the scene. He didn’t make it far before a forceful hand lifted him into the air, causing him to drop his daughter. She watched in horror as the beast began to tear apart her father. Behind the creature, the man sworn to protect her lay in a pool of his own blood. There was only one thing that could protect her now. She stood up and bolted.
Water goes. I leave. Breathe. Thin. Hunger. Prey go. I follow. Listen. Prey move. I attack. I eat.
A small man. He tastes angry. Not my quarry. I look around. Trail leads that way. Sign says “Kelpst.” Don’t understand. Don’t care. I go forward.
I stay in darkness, my eyes open for prey. Crowd is in way. I slip down alley. Not ready yet. Not full enough. See drunks. They shout, sing, dance. Vulnerable targets. I pounce on them.
What rotten luck for them, I do think. That meal has got me feelin’ pretty good. I look at the piles behind me. Sloppy drunks. Their thoughts were half dead. ‘ardly a meal. I, of course, was hunting a true meal. A mind filled with such delicious thoughts, makes these ones look right paltry. ’e’d ‘ave guards though. Tin soldiers with steel swords. Gotta’ prepare for the fight. As luck would have it though, there was quite a smorgasbord ’tween me and ’em. I go in through the windows.
That parade is moving quite slowly. I didn’t even pass through a dozen buildings before I was able to catch up. Maybe the king wasn’t so smart to be leaving himself so vulnerable that someone could attack so easily. I wonder if this hunt is even worth it after all. No. A king’s secrets would keep me nourished for years. It wouldn’t be like the groups I just consumed. All weak, especially the young ones. No, this prey would improve more than my body, it would improve my being. I would be closer to the Great Ones.
I look out the window. A carriage surrounded by guards. 10 of them. They are distracted by the crowds. I smile. A King’s feast. I jump into the pit.
My claws rip through the crowd. They don’t even comprehend what’s happening. Those that try to go mad in their effort. I am a walking terror, a true nightmare given form. This is all that they can comprehend. The soldiers die, pried from their suits like crabs.
I look towards the carriage. They’re trying to warn the driver. In one leap, I slash four, no, threE-
Pain. Claw. Dismember. Consume.
That one managed to nick me. His blood began to fill my wound, his flesh became my own. I opened the driver’s door and pulled him out. After I knew what he knew, I stopped the car and prepared for my meal. The last guard stood speechless. Apparently, watching a horrid monster kill five dozen people in the time it takes to toast a sandwich makes you lose your sense of presence. I lift him into the air and look deep into his dumbfounded eyes. How unappetizing. A quick flex of my arm, and he looks like a terribly made sculpture embedded into the side of a building.
I examine the carriage. I feel…three lifeforms inside of it. I hear a loud bang from inside and the shuffling of metal against metal. Someone inside is drawing a sword. I reach through the steel. His body goes limp as I pull him through the steel plate, his sword falling uselessly to the ground. I can assure you, it would have been no help. One final appetizer. Then the main course. I’m here for the king, and that man wasn’t him, so he must be one of the others. I look into the carriage.
Is he running? I turn to look. Yes. That’s him, running, or rather, flopping down the street. Cowardly for a king. And what’s that in his arms. No matter. I’m upon him in no time. I give him a little squeeze and he drops whatever he’s holding. A child? Of no consequence. She will either run in fear or stay and be eaten. I don’t care either way. The main course is right here. I dig in.
This. This is indeed what I sought. The knowledge…so delicious…so powerful. I could understand so much now. I could feel so much. The thoughts of those I have consumed so lucid, so visible. The thoughts of those I was yet to eat, panicked and afraid. I enjoy my new found powers. I feel something. Anger? That’s unexpected. I hear a metal clank behind me.
It is the child. She has lifted the captain’s sword. Well, lifted is a bit generous. She can barely stand, let alone hold the sword. She wants to kill me with it. It’s humorous. I play along.
“So, you wish to get your vengeance on me?”
She is shocked by my voice. Her surprise quickly turns back to anger. Something nags at the back of my mind. I can’t tell what it is, but I ignore it, focusing on the amusing creature before me.
“Tell you what.” I rush beside her. “I’ll give you one free shot.”
She is so weak. She begins to strain to swing the sword. It begins to move. I quietly chuckle. How much damage can this welpling do?
PAIN! PAIN! PAIN!
WHAT PAIN?! BURNING! ATTACK PAIN! LOSE PAIN!
PAIN STAY?! PAIN LEAVE! PAIN LEAVE! STOP BLOOD! RUN! ARRGHGHGH!
Private Jensen, only a year on the city guard, braced himself against wall, vomiting onto the floor. Other guards, sympathetic, tried to sort through the pile of viscera and bodies that surrounded the King’s carriage. Captain Uldmore stared hard-eyed at the scene. This was almost too much for even him, but he tried not to let that fact get to the rest of the men. It would be poor for morale, and the gods knew they needed morale right now.
A political massacre. That’s what the heralds would be shouting. A king and his assembly, murdered in the city’s own walls by gods know what. This was going to be messy, and not just the cleanup. This might even turn to war.
One of his underlings interrupted his thoughts, beckoning him towards a bloody heap. He doesn’t look forward to what he’s about to-
“Nine hells!” Uldmore looked down upon the small figure, covered in blood. It looked like a merchild, but….damaged. Not just physically either, though she was definitely injured. It looks as if the child was stained, a purple scar running down the length of her face and body, her entire left arm tainted violet. In her right arm she clutched a broken sword hilt. He recognized this child…from a file report. This was the king’s daughter. And she was breathing! He lifted her gingerly off the ground, being careful not cause any more damage.
“Let’s get you fixed up, little one.”
Through the child’s mind danced visions of creatures she couldn’t comprehend in lands that shouldn’t be able to exist. An assembly of figures stared at her, attacking her with their thoughts. They expressed anger, disappointment. She could feel others alongside her, dozens. Her father was among them. She reached out desperately to him, to no avail. They began to fall, fall, fall, into a darkness that seemed infinite. Suddenly their were millions, shouting in a horrid cacophony. All words were different, but they still gave the same message.
The voices left. There was nothing. She was alone.