Foreword: Yay. Another tale of Bloodbane's past, when he was still mean and nasty (or at least, meaner and nastier) - the story of Selenae the Harpy Queen (or, at least, how she came to be that way). Oddly enough, this is one of the events of Black's past that he doesn't really want Shade and Meccha to find out about. Enjoy my twistedness.
She huddled deeper into the corner of the dank cell, deeper into herself and away from this ugly place.
Her shoulder length blond hair, normally beautifully kept in a different, but perfect, style every day hung limp and lifeless, dampened by sweat and the humid air of the hot swamp that permeated into the crumbling building where she was held.
Except for a pale line outlining the door frame, she was in darkness to match despair. The windows were bricked up, but even if they weren't she would not have wished to gaze out upon the view: The fallen city of Uth Nagor at the heart of the infamous Evermoors - a fell land of swamps, moors and marshes shunned by the rest of the continent of Caevalonia - was not a place she wanted to look at. Not like the verdant, healthy, picturesque land she called home.
Or, at least, had called home.
Now it belonged to the dread wyrm Syrax Bloodbane. Originally one of the Seven, a group of dragons who had once brought the civilisations of Caevalonia to their knees as revenge for the decimation of their species, he had risen like some horrific phoenix from the decay and claimed the entire continent as his own.
Princess Selenae closed her eyes and rested her head against the cool stone of the cell wall, now heedless of whether she would get dirt on her perfect face through such an action.
All was lost. Bloodbane's forces, although unruly, were ruthless and efficient. Ratikin (a race of rat men) spies had found the weaknesses of her castle and then his troops, mainly composed of lizardmen and hssaar snake-men, had attacked.
Her family, or what little there had been of it, was dead. But Selenae shed no tears for them: her mother had died long ago soon after she was born, and her father, the King, had ever been a distant man to her, a figure she sometimes saw at the banquets he gave after grand hunting trips. Then, in his old age, he was feeble and not fit to rule, so Princess Selenae stood in his stead, Queen by all but title.
Even with her current state of affairs, she felt no guilt in her contempt for the dead man. In her opinion he had been a poor, weak ruler who had done little to deal with the troubles faced by her country.
Those problems were the dragons that had plagued the forests and mountains in the east. The King had said they did little harm if left alone, but Selenae believed her land would never be perfect until the threat of the beasts was eliminated. As soon as she had decided the King could no longer rule, she had stepped in and personally overseen the successful campaign to destroy the monsters.
She had taken the initiative just in time. For two dragons had had clutches of eggs. All were destroyed.
But the safety of her kingdom was not secured for this action had incurred the wrath of Bloodbane and his terrible retribution, and now she found herself here, in this dank place, waiting for sentence.
Voices outside, then the door opened. The Princess raised her head, blinking as light streamed in.
"Come," the cloaked reptilian figure in the doorway, flanked by a lizardman on each side, spoke. With what dignity she had left, Selenae followed, the guards behind her. From what she could see, this creature was not saurian in origin like the two guards. His features were more intelligent and his scales were blue-grey, not green. Judging by his face he was a dakron - a humanoid hybrid race descended from dragons. This was most likely the mage, Spur - one of Bloodbane's few trusted advisors.
She was walked outside for a short while, and then led into a small cave entrance. Then down through labyrinthine passages and tunnels until they reached a huge underground grotto of indescribable proportions, the far end lost in darkness. Her lungs burned slightly at the acrid acid fumes in the air.
Something immense moved in the darkness. The ground trembled as it shifted and the air was filled with the sound of bone scales grating against each other as the creature moved. From the darkness loomed the darker form of the vast black dragon. His ebony scales and boney plates covering his beck and belly along his length of almost 575 foot glimmered in the dim light, highlighted by the occasional gem or gold coin embedded from where he had lain on his hoard.
Drawing back transparent inner eyelids the chamber was suddenly filled by the balefire glow of his eyes. Her breath came short as she was felt drawn into that gaze. Burning yet colder than ice.
"You murdered my kin," the monster's voice rumbled through the cavern, she could feel the vibrations of its deeper resonances vibrate in her chest.
"Your race is evil! The fewer of your kind, the better! You are a pox on our lands!" Selenae knew she would not leave this place alive, and was going to say exactly what she thought whilst she could.
"Your lands? Caevalonia was ours before your ancestors had even left the trees. Your crime is unforgivable, more so for you destroyed two broods," Bloodbane snarled down at the tiny human. He was speaking straight to the point for he did not consider this wretch - who had destroyed even her own family to rule her kingdom - worthy of his time. He watched her flinch as his deafening rebuff caused the cave to shake, tiny stones dropped from the distant ceiling accompanied by a shower of dust. The dragon's land was in tune with his own soul, and his anger had an affect on all around him. This woman had destroyed two broods of unhatched eggs and for that she would pay dearly. Still holding her gaze, Syrax Bloodbane focused his concentration, reading her very soul and finding neither sorrow nor remorse for what she had done.
Selenae stood firm under the scrutiny, not knowing what to expect but too proud to show so weak or common an emotion as fear. She was of noble blood, and would not lower herself to the standards of some commoner for the sake of a wyrm, albeit one as huge as Bloodbane. However, she could not help but flinch when his eyes suddenly flared and he dipped his head in a fluid motion, bringing himself almost down to her height.
"I see you expect to die, to be remembered by your people as the beautiful, brave princess who stood so boldly against the terrible dragons." She narrowed her eyes, but showed no other sign of reaction to the cruel sarcasm and mockery in the beast's voice, "Don't expect to be granted that."
"Then what will you do? Torture me? Imprison me for the rest of my life?"
Bloodbane laughed. A horrible sound that, if she truly was to live, she knew would haunt her nightmares.
"No. You are to be set free. You will never die or grow old. You will return to your beautiful kingdom and your beloved throne in Telia to rule your people as you see fit once more."
Now Selenae was uncertain. She wasn't to be punished at all? What was happening? She knew the dragon wouldn't free her so what game was he playing? Surely this was just a twisted joke of his, "Why do you lie?" she asked in anger, not knowing what else to say.
"I speak the truth, child," there was horrid amusement in his eyes, "A toast to the Queen of Telia! You have the potion ready, Spur?"
The dakron stepped forward, long, fine fingers producing an exquisite platinum chalice from within the folds of his royal blue cloak and robes.
So they were going to poison her! Or perhaps the potion would allow them to take control of her mind to rule her land through her, but why do that when Bloodbane already ruled all of Caevalonia?
"It just requires the final ingredient..." Spur smiled nastily, revealing his sharp, perfectly white teeth. He drew a short knife and Bloodbane lowered his head to within reach. The dakron reached up and slid the blade through the taught leathery skin of the dragon's face, drawing a single drop of thick, dark, ichorous blood and catching it in the chalice.
Not speaking he held it out. With as superior a look into the dragon-man's emerald green eyes as she could manage, Selenae took it from him, not wanting to admit her own fear she concentrated instead on her anger, "Why do you toy with me? This is no honorable way to behave to jest about my freedom!"
Bloodbane narrowed his eyes. This arrogant, spoilt human was as tiresome as the rest, "I did not lie. The cup will give you eternal life. Drink!"
The last word was almost shouted and Selenae saw from the corner of her vision two guards stepping forward. If she did not drink she realised they would force her. Refusing to be denied her dignity in such a way she put the chalice to trembling lips and swiftly swallowed the drink down. It was oozing and thick and the blood had made it warm. She handed the chalice back to Spur and lowered her head, suddenly feeling nauseous as she thought of what she had just drank and not knowing what would happen now.
A sudden, piercing pain in her gut made her cry out involuntarily. It eased for a second and then returned, tenfold worse than before. Unable to help herself she fell to her knees, vomiting violently and continuing to wretch even after there was nothing left in her stomach. She tried to speak, but instead of a word came a scream as the pain returned again, this time seeming to encompass her entire body. She curled into a foetal ball, feeling as though her skin was afire. Through the blinding pain she did not even notice as something tore out from each of her shoulders. Her hands and feet altered to claws, their fine skin becoming ridged and almost scaled. Delicate fingers and beautifully manicured nails twisted into hooked claws that she scratched herself with without even realising it. Feathers tore through her skin as her world of pain faded into the bliss of unconciousness. As she drifted away she dimly heard the dragon's spiteful laughter and finally his callous comment, "Long live the Queen..."
The sound of a bird singing awakened her. The red-gold dawn light of Tymaera's twin suns, Derim the small red star and Mired, the great gold star streamed through the drapes and lace curtains into her huge bed chamber.
Selenae moved to shield her eyes against the light but then suddenly started, remembrance flooding back causing her to shake where she lay in the silken sheets of her extravagant four-poster bed. But how could she be here? Was it a trick? No... she closed her eyes and turned her head towards the sunlight. Everything was as it should be. She must have been having a nightmare. Yes, that was it.
She listened to the birdsong a moment later and then reached for the bell to summon the handmaids, who waited on her evey whim night and day, to dress her. It was then that she saw her arm.
"No!" she gasped, staring in horror at the hideous, feathered appendage reaching for the bell with its twisted avian claw for a hand, "Oh gods, no!" she turned to the mirror, and nearly fainted at the sight that greeted her. She recognised herself but instead of the beautiful, perfect princess she saw a twisted, feathered monstrosity. She stared in silent, horrified awe at herself. No longer human, she realised what creature the potion she had drank had turned her part way into, but far not enough so that she could not be recognised as the person she once was. She was half-harpy. Her voice too had changed. No more was it sweet, soft and melodic - often complimented as being more beautiful than an elf's! - now it was a harsh, hoarse sound that grated in her throat.
Selenae fell to her knees, hands covering her face as her shoulders shook with her uncontrolled sobbing. After a few minutes she forced herself into silence. If one of the servants was to hear then surely they would come in and see her like this. Selenae knew she would rather die than be seen by anyone, her pride was too great.
In a sudden, rash action she reached under her pillows to find the knife she always kept there (royalty should never simply depend on guards) and, rather than live as a hideous monster, she plunged the knife into her heart without a second thought. A scream of pain ripped from her throat, sounding partly like the cry of a bird of prey.
A few minutes later she regained consciousness, "Why aren't I dead?" she whispered in shock and desperation. There was blood all around. Slowly, she reached and took hold of the knife, gritted her teeth, and pulled it free. The wound healed almost instantly! She had steeled herself and managed to remain conscious throughout the pain caused. Then she remembered, "Eternal Life" Bloodbane had said... So this was her punishment. To be trapped like this forever.
Selenae felt herself sliding into despair. Then a nagging feeling caught her. Where were her servants? They should have come running at her scream. Feeling her head swimming she already knew with unwanted certainty where the answer lay. Slowly she got up and walked over to the window and with trembling hands pulled back the drapes, stepping out onto the balcony...
All around was destruction. The capital city of Telia, (which shared the same name as the country it ruled) had been razed to the ground. Some of the buildings still smoked but there was no sign of life. There was nothing. The once rich, fertile orchards and fields beyond were blackened and charred. All of it destroyed.
Selenae stared around, open-mouthed, her mind unable to cope. Everything was gone. She was Queen of nothing. She lowered her head, shoulders shaking once more. But this time the sound she made was not sobbing... She threw back her head, laughter ringing off the ancient stones of her castle, the only building left standing. The disturbing sound echoed out across the ruined city and disturbed creatures into the air that had been picking at the carcasses of the slaughtered inhabitants.
The dark, avian shapes took to the air and circled above the keep. Their own harsh cries mingling with Selenae's. She realised that she recognised the calls as a language. A word. Sister. She looked up at the harpies above her, spread her own wings and launched off the balcony, joining them in their chorus delighting in the destruction.
All characters, places and anything else portrayed in this story is copyright 2004 to the author, Isabelle Davis (Drakhenliche), and may not be used without express permission. Meccha/Soul (c) Elsa Lai 2004
Comments, questions, whatever, can be addressed to me at the www.NecroDragonArt.com forum.