Shadowfield Chronicles, Part 3: Collection
“The world was once many- but now is two: the countries of Lux and Shadowfield. Magic runs deep through them both, as potent as air. When the wars started, the beings of magic were neutral. They did not care to choose a side, and they did not want to. In the end, they were forced to. A gem had been shattered- and a spell thousands of years in the making burst forth. This spell did not do what the magician who shattered the gem thought it would do. This spell did not bring Lux to its knees. Oh, no- the spell stained the lands of Shadowfield and wrought destruction upon its cities. The shadow gem stained the soil, the plants, the air. On one side of this seam, the land was nourished, bountiful. On the other side? Shadowfield has figured out how to grow its crops, how to feed its citizens. But it was not easy, in the first few years after the End War. Many died of starvation, and many more died from the constant skirmishes that resulted from low food sources. Shadowfield is by no means recovered, but it is by no means gone. And neither is the shadow gem.”
Her father said she could not take a team sponsored by the empire with her. But he did not say Leia had to do this alone. Oh no, she definitely could not get into Lux alone. She was the princess after all; her face was just as recognizable as her father’s. She needed a change of appearance- and a few troublemakers to distract a few guards. And so, here she was, two blocks from the Divide, seeking help. Her black hair hidden, braided down her back, under the hood of her cloak. The princess put on a loose-fitting shirt and a pair of drop-waist pants to hide her femininity. A sword hung in its sheath on her back while a dagger hung at her waist; anyone who saw would think she was, perhaps, a hunter. She darted into the bar of disputable reputation. Dim lights and crowded tables filled with all manner of questionable character greeted. Some glanced her way, saw her sword and dagger, and darted their eyes. Some merely went about their business. Leia moved to the counter and waited at the end, away from any guests of the establishment. When a bartender asked what she wanted, she threw down a silver, pointed to a random bottle on the middle shelf, and held up two fingers.
“Two shots of snakeskin wine. Will that be all?” The bartender asked after making her drinks and taking the coin.
Leia thought for a second, took a deep breath, then said with calculated certainty, “give me a sprig of something from the Demons’ House.”
The bartender hid the coin within the low neckline of her shirt and left without another word. Leia glanced down at her drink and sighed. She didn’t have time to wait; she needed to get into Lux by the morrow. As she was about to stand and search out her target herself, a chill ran up her spine as a figure came up behind her.
“What floor would you like to visit?”
Leia knew she could not turn around, not if she wanted to get to her target. If she turned around, the speaker would assume she was compromised. Compromised meant meeting Death. She did not wish to meet Death just yet.
“I wish to go to the first floor. I do not wish to wait- tell Dante to stop whatever in Tazen’s name he is doing- and fucking see me.”
A chuckle. “It’s been a while since you’ve been around these parts.”
Leia reached for her knife. “Don’t fuck with me. If you know who I am, then you know the position I’ve been given here. You know I can gut you without ever seeing your face.”
“I’ll allow you to turn around and follow me below.”
Leia turned around and met the owner of the voice. A woman with a muscular figure wearing a tight fit shirt whose sweetheart cut exposed the top of her ample chest and a pair of tight-fitting trousers. Belted along the waist were two short swords. On her back, the woman had a long blade.
“I want a few Inferno’s present as well.”
“This must be serious.”
“I want Silver, Iron, and Diamond,” Leia replied in a monotone voice as the woman led her to the back room. They entered a room with two others, connecting it. In one room were a set of stairs that descended to a basement. “And new clothes.”
“Oh, this is very serious. Diamond has been wanting to Sculpt. It’s been a while; not too many wishes for her service.”
As they descended into the darkness, a wicked smile crossed Leia’s lip. “I do not wish it, I need it. And when the princess of Shadowfield needs something, she gets it at any costs.”
Her words echoed around her as the noise from the bar disappeared. Leia reached to the side on instinct and felt the warmth of a stone wall beneath her palm. Down, down they went. They passed three other floors on the way to the last. The entrances to these floors were lit by sconces that cast a glow upon the number carved into a thick wooden door. Leia had entered these doors before, a long time ago, seeking her target. She knew what was behind each one. And as they passed each door, Leia heard the noises of the occupants.
Behind the door marked THREE, cries of lust and pleasure. A few of pleading. Occasionally, the sound of a whip being cracked or a deep voice saying things that would make a virgin blush.
Behind the door marked TWO, pleas of forgiveness. A few of pleading. Screams of pain. Occasionally, the sound of chains or the thud of a body being pounded to within an inch of its life.
And behind the door marked ONE? Quiet. This is the door that was better lit than the others. The light cast upon was pure white, and the door had no scratches or stains. It looked brand new. Leia’s escort stopped and gestured to the knob.
“He awaits, as does your requests.”
Leia turned to open the door as her escort left. She cracked her knuckles, stretched her neck, and took a shaky breath. It had been a while, but the joy was slowly creeping up onto the surface. She opened the door and stepped into the flames.