The crowd is confused. What happened? The king was winning, he was about to completely destroy the Fiend, to gain power and rip out Fiend’s heart. Right before them, he drunk the life-blood of the Prime Val Matriarch, the girl who is now their Queen. And he turned! The power he displayed was overwhelming, sure his form was less appealing then people imagined it would be, but it was there. Their royal leader gained such impressive power!
But now, he is low to the ground, slowly and methodically consuming corpses of his three loyal subjects. He slaughtered them without remorse. He bites the flesh, ripping it and tearing it from the bones. He cracks open the heads of what used to be guards, savoring the pinkish brain inside. He takes pleasure in licking the blood and in sucking the bones dry of marrow.
His new form clearly shows his inner madness. Whatever happened to him, it changed him irreversibly. His skin cracks in places, letting ominous dark purple blood to seep out of the wounds and cover the muddy-looking fur. His eyes are locked on the meat in front of him, hunger and bloodlust clearly visible to everyone.
People are speechless, clearly not expecting the outcome. How could their king, the man who banished the Fiend, the man who stopped the turmoil that plagued their kingdom and who expelled the bandits and slavers to fall to madness? Wasn’t he all powerful and wise? He just beat the Fiend into submission, with his own bare hands. What happened?
Even the wild Val people are all confused. The elders and the Warlord all look at the spectacle wide-eyed and terrified. This has not happened when Zern went through with his trial. His form was beautiful. It was wild, monstrous, feral, but undeniably it was beautiful! And this… this thing before them was horrendous, an abomination, a true description of Fiend.
Only six pairs of eyes look in the different direction from the rest, clearly knowing full well what would have happened. They look at a different transformation, more beautiful and truly royal.
The fiend has almost finished eating, when it stops, swinging its head around. It smells something pleasant. Something very sweet with a hint of an unknown substance, but very appealing. Looking around, it locks onto a girl, restrained to the ground, minimal clothes covering her body and blood dripping from her face. On her shoulder, there are faint bitemarks and some blood, dripping down from healed wound. The wound is mostly covered by the girls hair, beautiful brown and green strands flowing down below her shoulders. The smell can only be known from somebody from beyond, a smell of cinnamon.
The fiend is excited. Such a sweet aroma is alluring, enticing it to get some of it. The saliva starts to drip from its maw, showing the hunger it feels. It hasn’t felt anything like this in it’s short life, only some echo of a memory from its previous life can compare to it.
Abandoning the half-eaten carcass, the fiend stands up, stretches its limbs, crouches low on the ground, ready to strike and after a short delay, pounces towards the helpless girl. Its prey shows no fear, clearly distracted by something else.
In midair, the brown fiend is struck by something, sending it down into the ground, creating a sizable crater. At the edge of the crator, stands another being, similar but entirely different. In its eyes bloodlust can be seen, but not the mad, wild and unrestrained bloodlust of a beast, but a different one, more controlled, deeper, concentrated and intelligent. The new beast is cold and calculating.
When the “king” rises from the ground, it sees the challenger. Not wishing to wait, it lunges towards the opponent, hoping to tear into its flesh, only to be violently sent into the ground, face first, with a single strike. As it is dazed, the opponent puts his hand on the mane, forcefully raising it and dragging the heavy fiend with it. The newcomer raises the royal fiend high enough to make them level, face to face.
The difference can be seen clearly. One fiend is slightly larger than when it used to be human, its flesh twisted and cracked, its form ugly and vile. The muscles bulging, making it look weird, but even with those muscles, it is weak.
The one holding it is different, the form magnificent and luxurious, a true display of royalty. The short fur covering most of the body is beautiful sandy color, with golden gleam to it. The mane is magnificent shiny brown color, each hair unbound and wild, yet together all of them magnificent. A true Lion, standing two heads higher than the abomination. A beast forged in the image of the Queen that gave her blood. They match one another, having the same royal aura, same lustrous hair, same proud demeanor. This is a true royal beast, its form slimmer yet more powerful. It is my form.
Effortlessly, I pick up the foolish dirt bag and beat it. In my right hand I still hold the sword, previously used to threaten my beloved, now used to beat some pain into the ugly fucker who did the threatening. Using the pummel of the sword, I beat and beat the fiend, making a satisfying cracking sound whether it lands. The abomination won’t die any time soon, not from such measly wounds. I will have to make them worse.
I carry the dazed beast, its daze prolonged by a few direct hits to its face, towards a brazier at the end of the arena. Pushing it face first into the hot burning coals, I hold it there, until its fur sets on fire. My hairs are not even singed by the heat. I let go of the fiend, allowing it to squeal and squirm on the ground, putting out the fire.
When the fire stops, the ill-looking mane is gone almost completely, revealing scarred tissue underneath. The fiend is in pain, it looks around wildly, visibly angry at me. When it sees me it rushes towards me, seemingly fast for normal humans, but pathetically slow for me. My power now returning, the lion beast and the potion both working their magic. I don’t hesitate and swing the sword in my right hand, using one of the runes to unleash the power within. Whatever comes out can’t be compared to a weak swing of a human.
A wave of brilliant, bright light comes out and comes towards the black fiend, rushing towards me. It happened so fast, it doesn’t react until its arm and part of its foot are gone, separated from the body. The light wave is angled slightly downwards, so it carries on digging into the ground until it hits the edge of the arena. It carries on through the solid rock, but thankfully hits nobody, as arena is much lower than the seats surrounding it.
Loosing balance, the aberration falls down, its blood spraying all over. I decide to not let it bleed out and loose its power, so I take take it to the brazier once again, to burn the wounds closed. At this point I am just toying with it.
It struggles against me, trying to grab my arm. The shield from the sword is protecting me, strong enough to repel the pathetic attempts by the fiend. I feel the power within the sword and with a thought I disable the shield, letting its claws reach me. Naturally it can’t penetrate my skin. I just look at struggle and snicker at the weak monster. Is this what was supposed to fight me? Is THIS what was supposed to kill me and take my fated? It’s a fucking joke.
Just like that, I slowly torture the pathetic creature, cutting the strips of flesh off of it. The sword in incredibly sharp, easily separating the muscles and the bones, allowing me to effortlessly butcher the poor sod.
At some point, the queen and her escort of two makes her way down and towards me. The public gasps, as they see the queen enter the arena with the dangerous beasts. She walks casually, not bothered by the gore, carrying the sheath for the blade which is in my hands. She approaches me without fear, reaches out for me and doesn’t even flinch when I growl at her. She knows I must be furious at her, but she also knows I would never harm her.
“Dear, it is enough. End the poor thing already, it had suffered plenty.”
She extend the sheath towards me, prompting me to put the blade away. I swing it once, sending a spray of blood everywhere, even reaching some of the audience. From a single swing it is once more pristine, glowing radiantly. I slide it into its rightful place and turn towards the monster.
By this time, the fiend had lost its limbs and its tail, only a torso and a head remaining. I don’t want to end its suffering just yet, so I decide to make my final act as gruesome as can be. I pick it up and turn its back towards me. With a swift motion, I dig my claws into the back of its neck, reaching deep until I grasp the spine of the monster. Slowly, I slide it out, making sure it feels as much as it can. With its monstrous vitality, the fiend stayed conscious until about half way, at which point I yanked the spine, separating it and the head from the body. Then I drop the two pieces on the ground, showing how little I think of them.
Eleanor then leads me towards the middle, where she gives the sheath to Lilith and takes a dagger from Leah. She slashes her wrist and extends it to me. I am still in my beast form, so this is somewhat pointless, but I play along, kneeling low and taking the bloody wrist with my hands and putting it into my mouth. Once again I feel the fruity taste and smell. The same smell that saved me and the girls.
With that, my Rite is complete, I become the guardian of Val’Halla tribe and of Eleanor.
“Before you now is my guardian and the guardian of the Val’Halla tribe, as well as your future king!”
This statement sends preciously silent audience in shock.
“Frez, from now on you are the supreme Warlord of the Val tribes. Arrest those people and lead them into dungeons.” Eleanor waves her hands towards my father and the elders. Then she turns towards the girls beside her. “You know what to do.”
With those words, Lilith is surrounded by shadows and then she disappears, while Leah simply shimmers out of existence. It must have really been their plan all along. I use this opportunity to free the three girls who were in danger the whole time. They are happy, crying about the end of their confinement and are happy to see me.
The audience is still slightly flabbergasted, only those being led away are trying to protest and are silenced with a few whacks. Frez waited long enough for this. The guards don’t question the orders given by the queen.
With the girls free we are led to the royal balcony. The crowd now starts to murmur, talks about me and about queen’s words finally reaching everybody. A few yells and questions can be heard, nobles are mostly unhappy. Eleanor still in the arena, now alone, decides to speak.
“Today, the people of the kingdom Kernun, the citizens of the the capital city Vieldon, my subjects have witnessed a birth and death of a true fiend. Your previous king was overcome by the power that is in my blood, he turned into a mindless beast who wanted nothing more than to kill and consume. The king was gone the moment his lips touched my blood. That is where his lust for power led him.”
People whisper to one another. They are confused, but they all saw what happened. Whatever the Queen says can’t be denied, the king truly turned into a monster.
“As of the moment the rite of passage was completed, I was the Queen and until death would separate us, we were as one. Granted, that lasted only few minutes, but now I am your Queen. The royal family is dead, there is only one person who could lay claim to the throne.”
At that moment Leah appears, with a bruised and beaten woman in tow. Her hands had calluses causes by having shackles on for too long. She looks weak and malnourished.
“Before you is the previous Queen, Margaret Kernun, wife of Siegfried Kernun and aunt of Robert Kernun, your king. She could be eligible for the throne, except she was the one who killed the previous king.” Eleanor turns from the crowd, now talking loudly, and towards the frail woman. “Please, Margaret, tell us why you did it.”
The woman tried to stand strong, still remembering her days as the queen, but is unsuccessful, as she is too weak From confinement. Still, she speaks.
“I was made to do it by my nephew Robert. He had kidnapped my children and threatened me. He said that if I wouldn’t comply, he… He…”
Then the woman breaks down crying. She couldn’t say much at all. Her tears show her grief, making it obvious what happened.
“King Robert enticed his own aunt to poison her husband. He used her two children for his purpose. Then, when he took the throne temporary, until the young prince would mature, he locked up the queen in royal dungeon. Ever since than, she had been tortured, raped and beaten. That is the royal treatment she got from your king.”
The crowd now once again silent, listening to Eleanor about the acts of their king. They all knew full well that after his coronation, the prince disappeared from the castle. It was announced that he went abroad, with his family to study and to grieve for his father in peace.
“Do you know what happened to the rightful heir? Two months after the coronation, there was an execution of the twelve-year old girl, a burning at the stake for the crime of witchcraft. This claim was ridiculous, as neither witchcraft ever constituted a crime, nor was there any proof. The royal princess was burned right at the central square, in front of your eyes, screaming for her mother and begging for mercy. A royal treatment from the king.”
People look wide eyed at the Queen, realizing the truth in her words. Such event really happened, execution for something so ridiculous happened after the coronation. People joked about the stupid girl pissing off somebody from higher up. They couldn’t even imagine that a bruised and dirty-haired girl was their princess. She would be sixteen now.
“Your crown prince was charged with crime of stealing royal silverware from the kitchen in his own castle. He was sentenced to death by hanging. The execution was done improperly on purpose, making the poor boy suffer and suffocate, instead of having his neck broken granting him a swift and painless death. Before that, both siblings were imprisoned in royal dungeon and were made to do acts so horrendous, I won’t even describe them to you. Their innocence was robbed from them by the King, who killed them once he grew bored. A royal treatment from the king!”
The speech really riled people up. However unbelievable the claims by the Queen were, they all were true, as people clearly remember some of the very few executions ever to be performed on the city square. They all remember a poor boy struggling, slowly suffocating and crying. They all remember his face, face full of agony, far too much to come out of the execution. That boy was their prince and he would be twelve now.
“That same king abused his subjects, raised taxes to unbelievable rates, endorsed crime and slavery. Once he heard about my beloved, about the Fiend and about completion of the second Rite by him, the king grew jealous of the power he wanted for himself. King Robert claimed that my fiancé was a demon, vile and evil, wanting nothing more than to kill and pillage. He is up there on the balcony. Does he look evil to you?”
People turn their eyes towards me, looking at me suspiciously. I just stand there, not caring about them in the slightest. I might seem barbaric, but I am intelligent and I seem gentle enough with the girls. I also did my best to protect them while king used them to get me to bleed, not an act befitting royalty.
“Zern, I ask you, may you please reveal your face to your future subjects?”
I comply with her request, changing my form and shrinking. My human form didn’t seem to change much, I looked almost the same. I did however become much more attractive for some ungodly reason. Even Eleanor looked at me with her surprise badly hidden, not that anybody would notice.
Everybody looked at me. My skin now shone in the sunlight, as if I am made from bronze, poured into a mold. Me and Meriden spent plenty of time under the sun, and even after all the time in the dungeon, my skin stayed darker than usual. But now it had a luxurious luster to it, as if I oiled myself up, but it was even and it looked good. I could actually see myself in the small mirror, which was set up on the balcony.
I also had a set of gorgeous hair. Previously it was darker brown, like that of a grizzly bear. Now it was shiny, like in my lion form, with an aura around myself. I almost looked like I glowed, same as Eleanor did. My look showed royalty. My hair now reached down to my shoulders, it was more wavy than before, but it looked amazing. I would get jealous of myself if I didn’t have it.
My eyes also changed slightly, my irises now surrounded by a golden crown like a certain dragon’s. Yellow and golden eyes were mesmerizing, radiating power, royalty, courage… People wanted to serve me. If I didn’t have a claim for the throne now, they would willingly give it to me.
My horns were slightly bigger, and if previously they were muddy-grey, now they were dark grey, with golden lines etched into them with a seemingly random pattern, but which looked eerie and alluring. My tail also got a small brush of hair on the end, just like a real lion’s.
For once, my transformation made me look better, not worse. I can say it was a pleasant upgrade. My looks pleased me, but most importantly they pleased the girls.
Eleanor continues her speech after recovering.
“Here before you stands a real king. He helped his tribe over the years and he defended his kinsmen, he defended me and his other intended. He killed the slavers, sent by the king Robert to kidnap my people and to bring him some toys. Sadly, even though we saved those people then, they were still abused by the king in the end.”
Lilith comes forth from an archway, bringing with her my Bloodborn. Most girls seem ok. They were locked up, but Lilith protected them. I will have to make sure not to punish her too severely later on, just this little fact warrants some praise.
“These people here were abducted and taken from their homes. They were abused then and they were almost abused recently. It was my fated, Zern, who saved them back then, risking his life in the process. He killed two hundred slavers, who king Robert claimed to have been peaceful travellers. Do peaceful travellers pillage, murder and rape? And yet it was my fated who was accused of such things, when in reality he prevented them.”
People listen to Eleanor, taking in her every word. Nothing she said could be called a lie. Many knew of the circumstances surrounding my killing of the people. They also heard how king Robert declared the war on my tribe out of the blue.
“When my beloved departed to the Far East on an important mission, I did an unforgivable thing, I betrayed my beloved, claiming to have been under his influence. I took over my tribe and then I announced my engagement to king Robert. I did this to weed out anybody who would want to do harm to Zern and as extension to the Val tribe. You saw guards taking away the elders of my tribe. Those were the people who were willing to sell us off for power and money offered by king Robert. Now they are imprisoned, awaiting further judgment.”
The audience continued to listen to the confession Eleanor made. It could be considered a crime, but nobody would care to demand retribution.
“I also schemed to become your Queen. It was legitimate and yet it was not. Whether you feel if I should be in power or not, you must know few things. It was I who got rid of the abundant crime, brought forth by the king. It was I who repaired previously damaged relations with other races, brought forth by the actions of the king. It was I who stopped the unneeded war, that started only because of selfish desires of the king. It was I who reduced the taxes, which were used to fill the already full coffers of the royal treasury. I don’t know if you want me to remain the Queen…”
This barely constituted a crime, political arrangements and marriages were common as dirt, happening left and right. The legitimacy of her becoming a Queen could be questioned, but now was not the time.
“…but I tell you now, before you stands your future King, who will bring us forth towards prosperity and who will do his upmost to ensure our safety and our future as a great kingdom. It is he, who will lead us from now. All hail the new king!”
With that Eleanor knelt before me. Lilith and Leah followed her immediately. Then the trio behind me, the Bloodborn and Nrogara and even Flaer all kneeled. Seeing that, the rest of the people didn’t hesitate and kneeled, swearing their fealty and their obedience to me.
Thanks to Eleanor’s silver-tongue, to Leah and Lilith’s peerless planning and execution and to the other girls’ patience I became the king of the Human kingdom.