The Nightmare Rider - chapter 04

 

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Chapter 4 of
 
  The Nightmare Rider

 

 

 


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Chapter 4

 
 
 

Daalumos charged into the fray with a ear-shattering shriek. It was their second night of storming battles. He burst across the battle line at full gallop while Phoebe swung her Vulcan sword cutting down all along their path. Footsoldiers on both sides had succumbed to the influences of both rage and fear. Many were blinded by their desire to kill and were attacking friend and foe alike. Some though had simply fell to the ground from the visions filling their minds of terrifying things. Four Knights wheeled their mounts around and charged toward her. They aimed their lances at the young woman astride the monstrous beast and rode at full run. Phoebe smiled coldly as they drew closer. One dropped his lance then fell off as the other three continued. At the last second she brought her sword up and the glowing lances sparked as the thin field of plasma skittered along the unearthly blade. A quick bump and the long composite shafts jumped upward and were chopped through with a slash of her blade.

In horror the Knight on the right of the formation watched the blade come around to cleave through the neck of his robotic steed then continue on through himself at the waist. More than one saw the knight topple from himself as the horse crumpled to the ground. She chased after the other two and caught them within a moment to dispatch in a similar manner. Phoebe noticed a large group of Knights had pulled back and regrouped to stand off from the battle. She deduced they were Solos. They had been hired to fight against the other army, not her. Phoebe ignored them, they would have nothing to do with her and would actively avoid engaging. She wasn't part of their contract. Daalumos continued along his track bringing them both into another cluster of attacking foot-soldiers.

Soon orders were being called out for retreat. Those that were still themselves obeyed and ran back to their own formations to withdraw. Daalumos slowed to a trot and circled around. A handful still fought among themselves. Others lay mindless in their terror. One was trying to crawl away to rejoin his comrades. A glance at him and Phoebe knew he would not last a few more minutes and plunged her sword into him, melting through the armor and body. When the last two fell to each other's swords Daalumos stopped. Phoebe looked around but fixed her gaze to the group of Solos standing at the edge. They seemed to be in discussion.

Daalumos chuckled, "they seem to be in a quandary."

"Not anymore," Phoebe remarked.

One of the Knights handed off his weapons and helmet then pulled out a black cloth, held it high and walked his mount back out onto the field. He stopped halfway towards her and waited holding his makeshift flag.

"Is he surrendering," Daalumos asked.

Phoebe shook her head, "no. He is asking for parlay. A meeting to at least talk, at most to deal. We'll grant the the request."

Daalumos walked over and stood a few feet back from the hired knight.

"Twenty-ninth Solo Regiment. Commander. Requesting parlay," The Solo stated.

Phoebe nodded, "Phoebe. The Nightmare Rider. Speak Mortal."

The Solo lowered his hand, "we do not wish to engage or be forced to defend. We are Solos and fight for profit only. We've heard stories of you and there is no price we would agree to for fighting you. May we withdraw as is since you were not in our contract?"

Phoebe considered it then asked, "if we grant your request; what becomes of you?"

"One day's wages only. There could be disputed though since the battle had not fully ensued," The Commander explained.

Phoebe understood their position. However she did have her own. Then the thought came to her.

"We will let you withdraw for in exchange for service," Phoebe said.

The Commander regarded her warily, "what do you expect?"

"The warring leaders meet here within the hour to negotiate for war. In exchange you will be allowed to withdraw," Phoebe stated.

The Commander whistled loudly then yelled back, "send me two for parlay!"

Two knights disarmed and rode out. He dispatched them with orders. Half an hour later they returned with the leaders and their captains.

"We are here Nightmare Rider. Why do you interfere in our battle," One asked.

"I have my reasons Mortal. You wish to continue your petty war," Phoebe asked.

The other leader practically spat, "I DO. Without YOUR interference!"

Phoebe noted the nod of the first leader then said, "then you will give me tributes. You. I have heard of a place young mortals go to learn war skills. What tribute is required of one to go?"

The Solo Commander replied, "eight thousand coins for the full tuition."

Phoebe nodded, "then you will share in this tribute. Also the battlefield must be consecrated unto me. Do so and have your war."

The blustering leader spouted, "and if we REFUSE?"

Phoebe smiled and gave him the vision of his home burning with all inside while he was held frozen in place, close enough to feel the heat and hear the screams.

"Very well. You will have your tributes. I will provide half. How is the field to be consecrated," the second leader asked.

Phoebe pointed, "eight swords at each corner of the field and and my art. Invoke my name at your charge."

"I will send two to learn your art then consecrate our side of the field," The first leader said.

The other leader nodded, "as will I!"

The two factions withdrew. Within the hour the two sides had returned and massed. Phoebe and Daalumos sat overlooking the field. Two large bags lay on the ground at his feet. Her name echoed from both sides and within moments the sounds of battle clashed. The two sides raged for hours unconcerned with the dull glow surrounding the field and the two watching. When the bulk of the forces pulled back and unarmed men in white tunics began removing the bodies from the field Phoebe collected the two bags and slung them over Daalumos' shoulders. They turned and rode away. Daalumos laughed as he galloped back to their place.

"I'm quite surprised with your cleverness! You've secured the tribute for the child's placement at the mortals' war school and you provided for us with longer lasting power. I'm impressed! By consecrating the field to us and invoking your name they worshiped and made sacrifice. The consecration is permanent so any future battles will also be tribute to us," Daalumos said.

"And by securing the child's tribute I secure her continued worship and possibly the lure of others to follow in her example," Phoebe said with a smile.

The Lust laughed as they entered the darkened archway, "how droll! You put much thought into that! I'm doubly impressed. I'm slowly starting to believe our union was truly meant to be! I've never been so entertained!"

Phoebe climbed off the demon's back, set the bags of coins to the side then stripped off her cloak and armor.

"To be truthful; I was rather entertained myself at how that worked out," Phoebe admitted then went to her bath.

She lazily bathed then dried herself off and went back to her throne and sat back. She could tell Daalumos was sleeping. Her own eyes drifted closed for the two remaining hours of night. The dawn broke, awaking her. She padded on bare feet to the outer room and created the Glamour of Patrick Fotens and began to dress. It was time to go to school.

 

~*~*~*~

 

It was the afternoon and Patrick had just changed into his armor for training. He was about to unplug Daemon when the stable-hand called out.

"Fotens! Training is delayed. You're wanted in the lounge," the Stable-hand informed him.

Patrick nodded, "I'll go change."

The hand shook his head, "go as is Solo. Bring your ledger too."

Patrick sighed and left. Going around in full armor wasn't exactly subtle but he managed not to create too much noise. Fiona Doucet stood outside the door of the lounge.

"Sorry to interrupt, but you have a visitor. I'll announce you," Fiona said then opened the door to lead him inside.

Patrick resisted the urge to comment. The Head of the Student Council wasn't being her usual self.

Fiona stopped several paces back from a woman seated in a winged chair and curtsied, "your Majesty. May I present Solo Patrick Fotens of the Third year class. Solo Fotens, Her Majesty; Queen Lellaa Weyden of Lurbourg. Princess Jessica's mother."

Patrick stood casually as the elegantly dressed woman regarded him very closely then looked to Fiona, "thank you Countess Doucet. You may leave us now."

"I'll be outside if you require anything Queen Weyden," Fiona said charmingly then curtsied and left.

Lellaa remarked after the door closed, "she's a vast improvement over the Council Head when I was here."

"I'm told she has made great strides to ensure the student body gains as much as they can from the curriculum," Patrick replied.

"I would like to see your ledger Solo Fotens," the Queen stated.

Patrick stepped closer and handed it to her. Lellaa Weyden went over the information then handed it back and reviewed another tablet.

The sword lying on the table beside her didn't go unnoticed by Patrick. It was the sword that until recently had been habitually worn by Jessica Weyden. He had expected a trusted Knight to come collect it, not the Queen herself. The Queen set the tablet aside and nodded.

"I've never seen a record like yours. I've encountered older Solos that would like to have such a record," The Queen said flatly.

Patrick knew these weren't direct compliments. She was stating facts. It was obvious the Queen, unlike her daughter, had much experience dealing with Solos.

"I've requested you here to discuss some business. Are you able to negotiate at this time," Lellaa asked.

Patrick nodded, "I have the time Lellaa Weyden."

Lellaa nodded then set a small bag on the low table in front of her, "You were in contest with my daughter. Though it was held under training conditions; it was of a personal nature. You were victorious in that contest. You claimed a prize of one hundred coins as per stipulation. Have you received said coinage?"

Patrick nodded, "I have."

"Did you receive single day battle wage," Lellaa asked.

Patrick shook his head, "I did not."

Lellaa's eyes narrowed, "were you contracted or verbally promised single day battle wage?"

"I was not," Patrick stated.

Lellaa shook her head, "Solo Fotens this is unacceptable. I will correct this immediately. If I may have your ledger I will add the voucher and settle your wage immediately along with the three day non-payment penalty. This should have been brought to my attention sooner."

Patrick handed over his ledger again. The Queen transferred the voucher to it after creating one in her own tablet then counted out the coins from her bag and handed them over. Patrick held the coins in his hand and frowned.

Queen Lellaa looked at him for a moment then winced, "in my quest to ensure all was above board I overlooked a critical detail. You're in your armor and no place to put your pay. I believe that does answer the question of where my daughter gets her impetuous streak."

She took the coins back from him and slipped them into a hidden pocket of her short cloak and handed him the bag instead, "please take the rest in payment for your silence of my MONUMENTAL blunder. I suddenly feel lower than a First year on her first day!"

Patrick attached the bag to a point at his hip, "I have no idea to what you refer Lellaa Weyden. Shall we continue?"

She nodded, "yes. My apology for being so EASILY distracted. I wanted to bring up the matter of possession of the Weyden heirloom sword."

Patrick nodded that she should continue.

"You had initially claimed the sword as part of your victory penalty. Yet after said victory you changed the disposition and declared the sword be sent home to return to my possession. This is adjustment to forfeiture," Lellaa stated.

Patrick shook his head, "it is within the terms. I stated the contest would cost her then specified one hundred coins and the sword she wore. I never stated what would happen to those. The disposition of the sword was mine to determine, never intending to take possession of it personally. I chose my words specifically."

Lellaa's jaw hung open at the revelation. The Solo had outsmarted EVERYONE from the beginning! She began to chuckle then laugh openly. For several moments she laughed, occasionally shaking her head in disbelief. He had also performed the Weyden family a favor, without doing them a favor because it benefited him more than them without any additional cost or expenditure. In short, good business decisions.

Finally the Queen regained some composure and said, "never before has Lurbourg, or the Weyden's for that matter, been so cleverly outmaneuvered! I feel like you've been VASTLY underpaid!"

Still smiling the Queen strode to the door and yanked it open to see Fiona outside looking stunned. The Queen wasn't so dense as to think she would not be listening in. Apparently the revelation had been quite the surprise to her as well.

"Countess Doucet. Fetch the Headmaster," the Queen ordered.

"Your Majesty," Fiona replied and turned to go.

Fiona spotted the Headmaster approaching fortunately and waved him down. He came over and entered with Fiona in tow.

"Queen Weyden; you have need of me for something," The Headmaster asked.

Lellaa was working at her tablet and nodded, "I do. Since Countess Doucet is in company, she may also bear witness."

Fiona was shocked, "if you insist your Majesty."

Lellaa smiled, "I do. Solo Fotens. After reviewing your Battle Ledger, Academic logs and meeting you personally I have determined that I wish to propose Liaison."

Only Patrick seemed unfazed by her statement.

"Upon higher placement at the end of Tournament than my daughter, I propose a Liaison with Princess Jessica Weyden for an heir to Lurbourg upon graduation. If Tournament champion, then I will want the immediate Liaison with my Princess and her graduation delayed one year," Lellaa said then handed over the tablet for him to sign.

Patrick read over the terms. The settlement was very high.

"A limited edition Cavalier model WarHorse; calibrated to personal specifications. Personally fitted armor of my colors, with shield. Complete Campaign Voyage outfitting and seventy-five thousand coins," Patrick read aloud.

The Headmaster's eyebrows shot up in surprise. Fiona Doucet almost staggered back. That kind of settlement had never been offered right out of the Academy; much less in it! Essentially it was everything a Solo needed to make their way in the world. Most worked at least three years to complete a basic complement and she was offering a full top of the line set up!

Lellaa smiled broadly, "the fine print. If the heir is a girl; I'll upgrade the WarHorse to a Paladin model!"

That was the best model. Kings and Queens rode those.

Patrick re-read then signed, "acceptable."

"Queen Lellaa this is beyond unusual," the Headmaster finally found his voice taking the tablet Patrick handed to him.

Lellaa smiled in satisfaction, "I've made proposal and its been accepted!"

He sighed, signed it then passed to Fiona, "The terms are as stated and have been accepted."

Fiona signed it then handed the tablet back to the Queen, "v-verified and witnessed."

Lellaa smiled as she took it back then send the contract to Patrick's Battle Ledger. She went over to the chair she had been sitting in. She took up the heirloom sword then a long bag. She passed the bag to Patrick on her way out.

"The non-refundable deposit Solo Fotens. I look forward to watching the Tournament. Personally," the Queen said then walked out looking extremely pleased with herself.

Patrick opened the bag to see an ornate dress-sword lacking only a personal device to be etched into the pommel.

"A sword," Fiona asked.

Patrick nodded, "in the fine print."

"Countess. I'd like to see my daughter. Would she be at the arena now," the Queen asked.

Fiona nodded as Patrick passed them by, "Yes Your Majesty. I'll escort you."

At the arena Sir Belvin greeted the Queen as an old friend and directed her to join her daughter to the Royals' Wardroom.

 

~*~*~*~

 

"I never thought you'd come yourself Mother, "Jessica said as the assistant removed her armor to store in the cupboard.

Lellaa frowned, "you thought I would send someone? After your catastrophic action? Perhaps I should speak to the Headmaster and have you repeat your first two years!"

Jessica glared at her, "NO THANK YOU MOTHER!"

"Then I suggest you develop some intelligence very quickly before you repeat such a thing," Lellaa commented.

Jessica sighed then sat down on the bench after the last piece of armor was put away and the assistant curtsied to the two and left. Jessica slipped the silk tank-top off along with the shorts then quickly showered. Her mother watched as she finished drying and slipped on her panties and bra. Had anyone else been in the room the young princess might have been uncomfortable to sit so scantily clad.

"Mother. I have something on my mind. If I ask a direct question may I please have an honest answer," Jessica asked.

Lellaa nodded, "I have never lied to you. Ask."

Jessica took a deep breath then asked, "the battle that we lost and Uncle Rom, Aunt Adinee and the cousins were taken ransom; what started it all?"

The Queen rolled her eyes, "that? All that started because your IDIOT uncle got drunk and made disgusting advances to King Daarmore's youngest sister on her engagement night at the reception. He never drank well, and when he drank he would usually chase after any woman that caught his eye. Your Aunt, bless her, has done so much to contain him but that night he was beyond any restraint. That pig accosted the young woman and was even trying to tear the dress from her. He was caught and stopped before he could get any further. When confronted about it he took a handful of coins and tossed them at the King, claiming 'more than the going rate for a whore'. By the time any of it was brought to our attention the battle was over and the ransom terms had been issued."

Jessica looked horrified, "oh by the Gods!"

Lellaa sighed, "your father quickly agreed to the ransom of your Aunt and cousins. Your Uncle he was hesitant about paying. To be honest; he almost didn't. The only reason why he finally did was to prevent ongoing animosity between the kingdoms. Your Uncle agreed, for his life; to never leave his own castle again. Why bring all this up?"

"I AM such a fool. A complete and total IDIOT," Jessica moaned into her hands.

Lellaa Weyden glared at her in comprehension, "For the Gods' sake! Has the loss of that battle been your sole reason for this incessant hatred for Solos? All this time?"

Jessica simply groaned and nodded while holding her head in her hands in self-defeat.

"Then this is REALLY going to make you feel bad. The Solos that king hired for his army; there were only five of them and they weren't even allowed to fight. The King pulled them from the charge and paid them the battle wage for coming though he didn't need them. They weren't in the battle at all," the Queen informed her.

Jessica's jaw dropped but she recovered, "But even Father said there were Solos brought in for the battle on their side."

Lellaa nodded, "yes. They were hired and were there. But they were pulled before the charge and there was only five. Why would you think otherwise?"

"Uncle," Jessica said woefully. "He told there was at least a regiment and half!"

Lellaa glared, "was he drinking when he told you that?"

Jessica nodded sadly.

Lellaa pointed her finger directly at her, "you are FORBIDDEN from visiting their castle and he will NOT be allowed to visit you! His stupidity continues to rear its head!"

"Yes Mother. I'm sorry to cause trouble," Jessica said looking at the floor.

"I'll deal with your Uncle. You will change your ways immediately," The Queen said firmly.

Jessica went over and knelt in front of her mother and took her hands, "I will Mother. I swear it! I will put the past behind and focus on the future!"

"That's the spirit my child," Lellaa Weyden smiled. "In fact I've already been doing that very thing. I have something very good lined up for you. Possibly VERY soon!"

Jessica smiled, "really? What is it Mother?"

Lellaa smiled in satisfaction, "I've negotiated a future Liaison. Your first heir will be from it. I've made the proposal with Solo Patrick Fotens! Isn't that wonderful dear?"

Jessica squeaked as she looked at her mother in horror then fainted and fell to the floor.

Fiona Doucet had been standing outside the door and leaned in when she head the heavy, falling sound.

Lellaa looked over, "not how I expected her to take the news."

Fiona came over and maneuvered Jessica onto the bench to lie down, "honestly your Majesty. When she comes to and you confirm what she thought she heard; she is either going to go hysterical or fly into a murderous rampage. Her first target is a toss up; either yourself or Solo Fotens!"

"Countess. Do I detect a bit of personal interest? Are you yourself interested," Lellaa asked slyly.

"I've flirted. He's the only one that has actually remained immune to my charms. Though the other day I may have ALMOST went too far in my teasing," Fiona admitted laughing.

Lellaa arched an eyebrow, "oh?"

Fiona blushed as she laughed, "for a moment I thought he was seriously considering pulling me back into the Solos' Wardroom and spanking me!"

Lellaa joined her laughter, "pity my days are behind me. I would pass over Jessica and Liaise for myself! I'd love to see him contest."

Fiona laughed, "oh now that would be wickedly scandalous your Majesty! Please stop BEFORE I wet myself!"

 

~*~*~*~

 

Patrick had his armor removed and got dressed. When dressed he attached the new sword to his belt and carried the Academy issued sword over to the armory and turned it in. The Armorer commented of the new that it did look rather expensive and congratulated him on acquiring it. He then went back over to the arena and stood out on the lanes and leaned against the divider rail.

Sir Belvin walked up and mirrored the Solo.

"Busy day Fotens," the Jousting Instructor asked.

Patrick nodded slightly, "more than I thought it would be."

Belvin nodded downward, "nice addition."

"Non-refundable deposit on future service," Patrick commented.

Belvin stared at the pommel and noted it remained blank, "obviously you didn't sign up with somebody. Who secured the service?"

"Lellaa Weyden," Patrick said flatly.

"Lellaa? FUTURE service? Oh no. Tell me she didn't just negotiate a Liason to Jessica with you," Belvin asked.

Patrick nodded, "If I place higher in Tournament. If I win it'll be immediately."

Belvin's jaw dropped, "She DIDN'T! Oh Gods; she DID! Does the Princess know?"

The Solo shrugged, "she wasn't there."

A young woman was rushing past.

"What's the hurry," Belvin asked her.

"I have to go to the Royals' Wardroom. Princess Weyden fainted they said," the nurse said without stopping.

"Guess that answers THAT question," Patrick remarked.

Belvin shook his head, "that girl is going to kill the both of you when she can stand up."

Patrick gave him a side glance, "not hardly."

Belvin sighed, "well you should go ahead and cut out for the day before she tries today."

"If you say so," Patrick turned and started to leave.

"Fotens," Sir Belvin called back then asked, "why'd you agree to it?"

"With the settlement she offered; I'd never get another job if I turned it down," Patrick said flatly then left.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Daalumos stepped out of the dark shadow and regarded Phoebe intently.

"Oh what IS this delight? You've found a new torment to inflict! Tell me all about it," the demon giggled excitedly.

Phoebe sat on her throne and relaxed, "its nothing. The mother of the princess that hates my alter-ego has made a proposal to produce an heir with the princess."

"And you accepted? Oh what a torment INDEED! This is torment in its purest form my Mistress," Daalumos laughed hard.

Phoebe gave a non-committal shrug, "I suppose it may be."

The Lust was beside himself with mirth, "I suppose your mother's influence has finally revealed itself. Poena would thoroughly enjoy herself with that. For added measure she would probably ensure everyone the mortal knew were aware of it!"

"She probably would," Phoebe sighed. "More than likely she would invite many to watch it happen."

Daalumos snorted and tossed his head, "that sounds much like something she would do! Are you worried about performing the servicing?"

Phoebe shook her head, "no. The Glamour will allow it. There would be no power transfer through the Glamour into the offspring. I don't think it would since it is under false pretense. She is not wanting to couple with a God or Goddess. She will only be intending to couple with a mortal. If she was doing so out of worship to a God and no Glamour then definitely yes there would be a gracing or cursing. She isn't doing so as worship so it will not happen and the offspring will be as normal as she. Not that I could get her pregnant as a Goddess. I have to use a Glamoured form. She will bear a child, but it would only inherit things from the Glamoured form and herself."

"Zeus made it happen though," Daalumos said.

Phoebe shook her head, "not really. Zeus only disguised himself as mortal men, never a woman. Each time just before he bestowed his seed he revealed himself and some mortals accepted his Divinity. For all the ones that did, ten times more denied. Otherwise the world would be overrun with his half-mortal whelps."

Daalumos chuckled, "that is true. He is one of the more lecherous Gods. I've heard some say he should have been the God of procreation instead!"

Then Daalumos begin to laugh again.

"What now," Phoebe asked.

"I just realized it. Having any kind of personal relation with you is probably her worst nightmare. To have it orchestrated by her own mother is the ultimate punishment," the Lust stamped his feet in amusement.

Phoebe took a moment then began to laugh as well. Put into words as he had; Daalumos was right. Suddenly they felt a now familiar tingling.

"Ah. The little priestess," Daalumos remarked.

Phoebe nodded, "yes. I can hear her. Its becoming much easier with her frequency. Wait. She is asking that we visit her tonight."

"Her new father has fast workers to build something to you in such short time," Daalumos commented.

"Its not finished but she is using it regardless," Phoebe said then sent her thoughts to the child. "When the moon has risen we will come."

The sun was already setting so Phoebe went to bathe and prepare. Soon enough the bound demon was moving in and out of shadows to carry Phoebe to their summons.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Sania knelt in the small unfinished structure, "I'm here Lady Phoebe. I hope you like this place."

The sound of hooves startled her and she turned around.

"So child. This is the place they are providing," Phoebe stated looking around then nodded, "when they've finished, it will do."

"Papa is being so nice. I have a new Mama too. Sir Aldo picked out a horse for me. I wanted to name it Phoebe for you but he said I should ask your horse what would be a good name," Sania informed them.

Daalumos chuckled, "that was very respectful. I offer you the name Lamudos for your steed."

Sania nodded to him, "thank you demon. I don't know your name."

"And you can not be told it Mortal. If you want to call me something then call me the same name and that will please me little priestess," Daalumos replied.

"Thank you Lamudos for the name. I asked that he be black like you. Papa and Mama brought in priests and priestesses and they told me that each God and Goddess like different things but since you come to me I shouldn't guess, just ask how you want me to worship you. They also said I need to offer you something. Mama suggested a special dress and shoes for you," Sania informed them.

Phoebe climbed off Daalumos and went inside the small shrine and looked around. Already there was an altar slightly back from the center of the unfinished room. Phoebe went outside and looked around.

"Remove your clothes child and leave them over there. Good. Now take that water and pour it completely over yourself," Phoebe instructed.

Sania did as she was told and now stood completely drenched.

Phoebe pointed, "take from that tray a chisel and hammer. I see a small knife, take that as well. Now come inside."

Phoebe had her stand at the altar and prick her finger with the knife then guided her hand to draw the art on the altar along with her name in the language of the Underworld.

Phoebe looked over the work and nodded, "good. Now use the hammer to strike the chisel on the lines of the art and my name. Every eight strikes say the words 'I consecrate this temple in the name of Phoebe of Nightmares.' You must do this until the lines are deep."

Sania did as she was instructed under their watchful eyes. She had to go over the design twice to ensure the depth was to satisfaction. Then listened carefully and nodded.

Phoebe watched as Sania climbed up onto the alter and laid down. Phoebe had to use her own teeth to open a small point on her finger then drew her art on Sania's chest then pelvis.

Sania recited, "I am Sania. Taken daughter of Malzeek. I consecrate this temple in the name of Phoebe of Nightmares. On myself her Art and name as priestess. I pledge myself in her service, Phoebe of Nightmares. I am yours."

A glow surrounded the girl, the altar, the small shrine, Daalumos and Phoebe. Phoebe leaned down and kissed her forehead, lips, above the heart then pelvis. Sania arched with that final touch and shook. A small bit of power flowed into her. It was almost more than her small body could withstand. Finally she settled back onto the altar, panting heavily as if she had run a long distance.

Phoebe turned and looked at the doorway. A woman was kneeling in it.

"You were sent by the Mortal Mistress of this place," Phoebe stated.

Fearfully the young woman nodded, "I am Mistress Sania's maid. My Lady had suggested that Mistress Sania make an offering of dress for you. I only ask to see to the size if the offering would please you; Phoebe of Nightmares."

Phoebe considered it then nodded, "very well Mortal. Attend me."

Phoebe took off her cloak and as an afterthought draped it over Sania as she still lay on the altar resting. The maid took a piece of cloth from her pocket and used it to take measurements. She then set a blank piece of paper on the ground.

"May I remove your boots and ask you to stand here so I may draw your feet for shoes," the maid asked.

Phoebe nodded, "so I am to be completely outfitted. Go about it then."

The Maid struggled but finally managed to take Phoebe's boots off then traced around her feet on the paper and measured across the tops. She then assisted putting Phoebe's boots back on.

Phoebe turned to Daalumos, "give her the slightest of touch."

The bound demon entered the shrine and stood at Sania's head then spoke in the language of demons, "when you face your enemy on the battlefield you will know anger. When your enemy's sword clashes to yours you will know rage. Ride fury to carry you to victory as you do your steed."

The Lust then pressed his mouth gently to her forehead in a rough kiss. Sania shivered then let forth a slight growl. Daalumos chuckled and stepped away.

"Please don't take her from us Lady of Nightmares," a voice asked behind them.

Phoebe turned to see the maid had returned and was accompanied with another woman regally dressed.

"You are the wife of Malzeek. You are Celia," Phoebe stated looking at the woman intently.

Celia Malzeek rushed forward and knelt in front of Phoebe, "Please my Lady. Do not take her from us. I've longed for a daughter of my own. Every prayer went unanswered until you brought her to us. Please don't take her now."

Phoebe commanded, "rise Mortal. Come inside."

Celia stood up and followed her in and knelt beside Sania.

"She merely sleeps. She has been given gifts and must rest now. It is quite the enterprise for one so small to ask for so much. It must be given over time. The child is fine I assure you. She will sleep until midday. From now on she will not suffer childish fears," Phoebe explained.

Celia nodded, "I thank you for that. Your companion. I heard mention he is a demon. He has done something as well?"

Daalumos chuckled, "I am no ordinary demon Mortal. I am a Lust. A BloodLust. I have given her a touch of rage. Only a touch. It will only serve her when she fights. As she grows, so will my gift. But I must bestow it myself. When she has become of age then I will give her the gift of an unbridled passion. Her love will have no bounds."

Celia looked at the sleeping girl then turned back, "what offering must I make to be free of my fear of losing her?"

"If I took that from you, you would not care if you did lose her. That particular fear serves us all the better than you without it! I have a much better idea. Instead of taking your fear, you will be given fury. This fury will be provoked should the child be in danger beyond her scope. This will drive you to protect her. Is that not a more appropriate gift for a mother," Phoebe asked.

Celia nodded quickly, "what offering must I make?"

Phoebe said seriously, "you must share in her faith."

Celia moved over to kneel before Phoebe, "we will claim you as our Goddess! What must I do?"

"Fetch your sword and shield," Phoebe instructed her.

The Noblewoman rushed off. She returned within minutes carrying her sword and shield. Her husband in tow with his own.

Phoebe looked at him, "you wish to share in this as well?"

Tam Malzeek held his sword forward, "I do!"

"Join your daughter in my shrine as she is," Phoebe instructed them.

The maid brought them each a bucket of water as they stripped then used them to douse themselves. The couple then entered into the shrine and knelt before the altar. They held their shields forward and raised their swords and crossed them.

"On your swords and shields do you pledge all within your power and command to the protection of this child," Phoebe asked.

They both answered, "we do."

A soft glow began to form around them.

"On your vows to each other; as man and woman, husband and wife, do you take this child for your own daughter to raise, adore and teach the ways of life until she claims that life for her own," Phoebe asked.

"We do," they answered.

Phoebe looked at them harshly, "On your honor as Knights will you grant her all she will require to achieve her vengeance against those that stole her home and family?"

Tam and Celia answered firmly, "we will!"

"To whom do you make this pledge," Phoebe asked.

They spoke clearly, "Phoebe of Nightmares. Our Goddess we pledge and make offering."

They used their swords to make small cuts on their arms and dripped the blood onto the altar.

The glow enveloped them completely as their blood dripped on the altar. Daalumos came forward and spoke again in the language of demons.

"By sword and shield and body, guard well this child you take as your own. When her danger is beyond her ability you will be consumed by a fury that will not rest until her threat is destroyed. Your love is your fury. In the name of your Goddess you have pledged," The Lust gifted them.

"Seal your oaths as you sealed your vows," Phoebe commanded.

Tam pulled Celia to him and kissed her fully on the lips. Both felt an immediate wash of rage and love. A growl escaped through their kiss and the glow faded into them.

"It is done," Phoebe stated.

Celia bowed her head, "thank you for these gifts My Goddess."

Phoebe had felt power flowing into her the whole time, it now spiked even higher. She felt as if she were heavy enough to crack the stones under her feet, yet light enough to float over the castle to her back.

"Your servant informed me you wish to make an offering of clothing," Phoebe stated.

Celia nodded, "yes My Goddess. A gown of the finest silk for your beauty and sandals to flatter your grace."

Phoebe gave her a look of approval, "This pleases me. Have it in black tinged with red. The colors of shadows and blood. I will return in five nights time. You, yourself, shall attend me. Celia of Malzeek."

Phoebe went over and took back her cloak then gently lifted up Sania and passed her sleeping form to Tam Malzeek. She then climbed onto the back of Daalumos and turned him to face them.

"Bathe her and put her to bed. In five nights I will return. I will see you on that moon-rise," Phoebe stated then entered a shadow and was gone.

Tam bowed carefully, holding their daughter as Celia curtsied.

Both replied, "yes My Goddess."

Within moments the hoof prints of flicking flames died and they gathered their things and went back inside their castle.
 
 
 
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