Monster's Ball
Thu Oct 5, 2006 06:45 (XFF:

imprint of personality. Then he noticed that all the noblemen sported short cropped brown hair, and all of the noblewomen blonde hair. At first glance, it might seem coincidence, but now that Ardan looked harder, it seemed there was more to it than that.
“My Lord” he spoke deeply, with an authoritative voice. “May I be given the honour of a demonstration of my skills?” he looked straight into the man’s eyes then, and a shiver went up him. It was like staring death in the eyes.

“What do you require?” Lord Deldren asked as he waved the performers and musicians to stillness and silence. The merely dropped their arms, and stood lifelessly awaiting the next command. Not a single one of them looked at Lord Deldren or the newcomers, no nervous glances, curious inclinations. Nothing. That kind of behaviour was too out of the ordinary not to comment on, and it seemed as though Novice Adem had noticed it also, and gave Ardan a worried glance.

“Only some of your performers throwing knives, and a volunteer.” he said, a smile that he did not feel spreading across his face. The Game of Houses. He was putting some of that to use now. Lord Deldren seemed to consider something for a moment, and then let out a bellowing laugh. He softened then, and did not seem so threatening anymore.

“Knife Throwing! I always enjoy knife throwing! I will be your volunteer Master Gaidin, Come” he rose from his Throne with a surprising speed, and moved off down onto the ballroom floor without a second glance or word to see whether Ardan was following him. A man who expected obedience. Still, Ardan followed, and turned only once for a meaningful glance at Novice Adem.
‘Do what you have to while he is distracted’ That was the message that he was trying to convey in the glance, and he thought Adem understood as he gave a sharp nod in return, and then it was back to business.

Lord Deldren waited at the base of the raised marble platform, and as Ardan began to set up the demonstration the way he wanted, all eyes turned to be on him. They seemed to burn into him, and he could feel them on all sides of him, bearing down with malice and hatred. This place was not as it seemed, and Ardan would be glad to be gone from here as soon as possible. Presenting him with a set of throwing knives, the performer moved back into place as soon as Ardan took them from him.
“Okay, my Lord. If you take your place, back against the marble platform, we shall begin.” Lord Deldren nodded and took his place as instructed. Ardan threw the first knife up in the air, praying that this would go well. He had seen the trick performed many times before, and he was good at juggling before the loss of his eye. Now though, he was unsure. He threw a first knife into the air, and caught it. Repeating the exercise twice more, barely catching it by the hilt a second time and nearly missing altogether on the third, Ardan decided it was time to get started. He threw the knife in the air again, quickly followed by another two, and began juggling the three of them, his confidence gaining with each successful catch, pass and throw. He added another two knives to the circle, and then took a glance at Deldren, who was patiently waiting the performance.
“You must stay absolutely still, motionless if you will” he said, aware of the irony of it. The only person in the whole room save the Servant man who had not remained motionless was this man. If he was a little more sure of himself or of the circumstance, he might have chuckled. But not now. Now, he felt the fluid motion of the knives passing between his hands, and in the air. The musicians took up the drum beat and low, pounding music as he juggled with the knives, a tension settling on the room that was so thick, he thought it might be possible to wade in it. As the first knife came to his right hand, he snapped his wrist and watched it sail into it’s target, an inch or so above the Lord Deldren’s shoulder. Not a great start. He closed his remaining eye, and waited for his other senses to boost themselves. There was no sound, not even of the knives sailing through the air. There was no smell to note, but his feeling of where everything should be, where it was in his mind’s eye, was perfect. He pictured the space below the first knife, and as the second knife brushed his fingers, he grabbed the hilt and a quick snap of the wrist sent it sailing through the air. He did not wait to see where it had landed before snatching the next knife out of the air and snap, sent it on it’s course. The other two came simultaneously, and opened his eyes to see just as he expected it to be. Two knives below the first, the closest less than a centimetre away from Deldren’s shoulder, and the other two, one nest to the Lord’s left ear, the other to the right, although he could see now that he had drawn blood with the last knife.

He bowed low to Lord Deldren, and made his apologies for such a sloppy finish. Deldren though, seemed unconcerned, and unaware of the slow trickling of blood down his right ear.
“Do not worry about it, for that was surely a grand display of skill. None of my performers have the nerve to throw at me, much less to do it with their eyes closed” he exclaimed with a chuckle. Ardan smiled once more, a smile that did not touch his eyes, and looked over to Adem, to see that he had closed his own eyes. Maybe as not to watch the events unfold, but, more likely, he had begun channelling. The old servant had moved out of the shadows now and across to his master. He gently dabbed his lord with a piece of white cloth, mopping up the blood, and whispered something softly into his ear.

Suddenly, all thoughts of humour and display’s of skill evaporated from the face of the Lord Deldren, and the cold hatred in his eyes had returned, and his gaze swept up to Novice Adem, anger burning bright, a stark contrast against the Ice blue of his eyes.
“I said NO CHANNELLING WAS TO COMMENCE IN THIS HALL!” he bellowed out the words, which seemed to shake the very foundations of the room. The drum beat was louder now, and it was growing louder still. Each beat struck a pain in Ardan’s ears, and it was getting stronger, yet still when Lord Deldren bellowed out his words, it rose over the ever increasing noise of the Musicians.

Ardan wasted no time in wondering what their punishment might be. He raced over to the performer that had been the sword eater and snatched the weapon from the man. It was a broadsword of some merit, and it would suffice for the time being. Pivoting, he made a dash back up to the table, taking up a protective position in front of Novice Adem. For a few heartbeats that seemed to last for an eternity, no-one moved, and everything was still.
Then the Drumbeat came back stronger than ever, and the musicians struck at their instruments with renewed frenzy. Every inch of them came alive now, and their stiffness, their lifelessness, faded in an instant. The performers were the same, and they began to gather at the foot of the table, preparing to rush Ardan with knives, daggers and fire. Behind them, Lord Deldren let out an anguished yell, of what seemed to be pain and fury, and his eyes began to glow red with hate. His arms began to shimmer and vanish, to be replaces with tendrils of grey smoke, which branched off and multiplied into many different strands, which snaked out and thickened, beginning to engulf the entire room. Ardan could do nothing but watch the scene unfold before him now, as Lord Deldren had turned completely into a swirling mist of grey, branching off into hundreds of tendrils. They snaked out and struck out as whatever they touched, the old servant being their first victim. The tendrils lanced through his body, and the servant began to twist and scream, his body wracked by foul tentacles. The same became of the dancers, none of whom tried to escape. Then things began to speed up again and the first of the performers was on Ardan. His blade rose to meet the knives that threatened him, and Ardan moved into Arc of the Moon, cleaving the broadsword through the neck of the first performer, who disintegrated into nothing as the Trollocs had done as soon as the blade crashed though bone and cartilage. Quickly Ardan swept the blade into Taer’Val and stepped in to meet the next attack. Thistledown floats on the Whirlwind saw him spin into an attack, the blade missing his shoulder by mere inches, and his opponent fell as the blade cut across his throat. It was a sloppily executed beheading technique, but it had opened his opponent’s throat and been enough to kill him. With his momentum already at peak, Ardan quickly moved into Twisting the wind, spinning and parrying relentless attacks by opponents on all sides. Trying as he could, he kept his eye out for the tendrils of death that were striking all around him. A lucky spin saved him from one tendril, which lanced into a second performer. Using the time to his advantage, Ardan dropped into Mosiev’Val, and executed Tower of the Morning, which slashed through a fire breather’s defence and cleaved him in two, and twisting the winds took him into a new space of his own, where he was now faced by three more performers, but at least he wasn’t surrounded any more. A second fire breather stepped forwards and took a swig of fluid from a canteen which fell to his waist and, in one swift motion, leaped to Ardan’s left side, his blind side, and let the flames leap from the torch. They flickered and danced towards Ardan, who barely managed to roll out of it’s path.

A terrifying shriek exploded in the hall and Ardan’s head swivelled to the source of it. The flames from the fire breather had erupted against a tendril of mist that had snaked into place where Ardan had been only a moment ago. The mist burned and sizzled, finally winking out of existence. Ardan came up in Rahien’Val and leapt at the second fire breather. Turning his blade to one side, The Courtier Taps His Fan crashed against the skull of the fire breather, who fell heavily and did not get back up. The other two attackers were blocked behind a wall of mist they did not dare step into, and tendrils of mist surrounded him now. Retrieving the canteen of fluid and the torch dropped by the fire breather, Ardan popped the lid and poured some of the fluid onto his broadsword, which ignited with an audible whoosh as torch touched steel, and the blade ignited with flame. Backed into a corner now, Ardan swiftly moved into Cat on Hot Sand, thrusting, parrying, and slashing through the mist as fast as his wrists would let him. He could not see Novice Adem, still sat perfectly still on the chair, tendrils of mist surrounding him.
“How much longer?!” Ardan shouted, but no reply came.
Time to get moving he thought to himself, and took a mouthful of the fluid, and moving into Taer’Val, spat the fluid out across the flaming blade, creating a flaming path towards Novice Adem, whose brow was beaded with the sweat only concentrated determination could bring.

Standing beside Novice Adem now, he dragged the little man to his feet and pushed him backwards towards the gateway, the bucket of water now almost full. The latch on the door was lifting as the water filled, but Ardan could see no-where the water was coming from. He knew then that it was Novice Adem’s channelling that produced the water, and yelled encouragements as Twisting The Wind held off the misty onslaught. But for every tendril, every piece of mass that was chopped down by his burning blade, more sprang up, and Ardan realised that if they were not faster, they would be overwhelmed.
“Time to go Ardan!” came the shout of Novice Adem, and without a glance to look, Ardan spun and made a sprint for the gateway, which was now shimmering open, with Novice Adem just beyond.

Stepping through the gateway, Ardan turned to see a last tendril lancing out towards him. A last throwing knife swept up in his free hand, and he launched it through the flaming blade, hoping that it would catch some of the flame. A shriek of pain followed them through the gateway as it closed, and Ardan heaved a sigh of relief as he turned to face Novice Adem.
“Good work back there” was all he could say, as he suddenly realised that the broadsword he was holding had evaporated into thin air, just as the performers had when they died.
‘Weaponless again’ he thought to himself, as he looked up to see what strange, twisted place they had entered this time.

  • Cinderella?! We SHALL go to the ball!Ardan Aethan'Tar, Thu Oct 5 06:43
    Ardan stood stock still before Novice Adem, trying his hardest to overcome his incredulity at the scene that was unfolding before him and to hide it behind an unreadable mask, such as the kind that... more
    • Monster's Ball — Ardan Aethan'Tar, Thu Oct 5 06:45
      • Completed...Ardan Aethan'Tar, Wed Oct 18 09:30
        Well, I guess I'll take the credit here :) I know it's not finished, but in some of Ardans later posts you'll find out more about the last two tests and how they were completed if that's alright :D... more
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