|Series||Crossfire by Pixichi|
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The Journey to Wraithmarsh was not one that either Connie nor Reaver had ever wanted to make again. Connie could only feel for the rogue as he, Lance, and herself entered the foreboding wasteland of Oakvale. Reaver scanned the scenery, taking it all in. If he hadn't come with her when Connie had slayed the banshee, it would have been his first trip back to Wraithmarsh since the tragic day hundreds of years eariler-when the dreaded marsh had been birthed into existence by his mistake. It was as frightening and eerie as it had seemed back then, as if frozen in time. Connie kept on track down the path to the Shadow Court, she hadn't really paid the swamp all that much heed, however dismal and creepy it was. Her mind was focused elsewhere. Connie knew that this would be the hardest thing she would ever have to do, it would be a grueling battle, and one that no mortal had ever attempted before. For the first time since becoming a hero 10 years ago, she was having serious doubts about whether she would live through battle. Connie was an amazing warrior, although her sweet looks and innocent disposition rarely revealed so outside of combat. She had defeated the crucible in record time, and was among one of the first female winners in Albion history. She had survived ten grueling years in the Tattered Spire, and she had avenged the wrongful death of the sister that she loved so much. But all of those great deeds held little ground to the quest that she was undertaking now. Connie was about to go up against an enemy as ancient as the Old Kingdom: The King of Shadows. One needed only look around at the dilapidated and cold ruins of Oakvale to understand how formidable this abomination was, and Connie was well aware that her chances of survival were slim indeed. It was then for the first time that she realized just how old Reaver really was. The farms and houses had been gone for over 200 years, and yet, he had memories of them. From the well, the ghostly chapel in the distance, and the creepily undisturbed sign that still, in fresh paint read "Oakvale." This was once his hometown, and he alone was responsible for it's demise. Connie could only imagine the guilt he felt. As they waded through the marshes back towards the Shadow Court, Reaver never made a sound. Even his footsteps where silent as he stared and took it all in. Connie looked over her shoulder, on the ever-present alert of banshees, hollow men and balverines. Reaver's expression caught her eye as the dark foreboding walls of the Shadow Court came into view. His eyes were colorless, and he stood completely still and he gazed beyond Connie at the twisted castle.
"Reaver. Are you alright?" Connie touched his arm, snapping him out of his mental fixation.
"Yes. Everything is fine. Lets just get this over with." He replied, his tone distant.
"Do you have it?" Connie asked, eyeing Reaver's leather satchel. He nodded grimly.
"Yes." He withdrew his Dark Seal, and his fingers bled from the cuts it inflicted. He walked up to the giant doors of the court, and placed it against the cold rock face. With a loud clank and a deep rumble, the doors to the Shadow Court eased open. Connie headed in first, followed by Lance. Reaver took one last look out over the land of death, and his eyes caught the small empty house on the left. His house. Try as he might, Reaver couldn't advert his eyes from the lone cottage on the outskirts of the Drowned Farm. Without warning, a figure appeared in the doorway. The ghostly form walked slowly over to Reaver and smiled.
"Victor, please come home. We've missed you so much." Reaver felt his blood freeze at the voice he heard. His wife stood before him as if she were still alive. He could make out every feature, from her blonde wavy hair, to her quaint blue dress. She looked into him with seemingly vivid yet dead eyes.
"Victor? Why did you leave me all alone...please my darling, come home to me. I've just made your favorite dessert, and theres a kettle boiling over the fire." Reaver struggled to turn away.
"Your not real. Its just an illusion conjured up by this accursed place." He reasoned. The ghostly woman shook her head.
"Oh you know that I'm real. I've always been real to you. Even after you saw me killed, you've never let go of that notion have you Victor?"
"Your dead. I'm not going to torture myself like this anymore. Connie is here, she can set me free." He replied.
"That girl? Do you even love her-the way you loved me? You might as well give up now Victor. She'll die in there, and you'll just be left all alone again." The ghost continued to speak.
"No, she knows what she's doing. She's a hero."
"Not even a hero can defeat the King of Shadows, you know that as well as anyone." Reaver subconsciously reached down and touched his chest. He did know, and he had the scar to prove it. "Anyway, even if that hero girl survives by running away before she engages him, she'll die of old age before you know it. Either way, your doomed to an eternity of woe." The ghost held out her bluish hand.
"Cammilia..." Reaver looked deeply into the entities lifeless eyes.
"Take my hand Victor, give in to my King, join me in the dark embrace of death." Reaver looked into her eyes, they were so peaceful, so beautiful. Oh, how he longed to hold her again! He knew that she was right, somehow, deep inside, he knew that Connie could never defeat the Shadow Court. He took one step and then another, until he was but a foot away from his dearly departed sweetheart. He slowly extended his hand to hers...
"Reaver!" Connie's voice broke the hypnotic gaze of the ghost. Reaver turned around and the ghost roared. The visage of Cammilia transformed into a shadow beast, its long shaggy black fur and glowing red eyes startled Connie, but only momentarily. She rushed in front of Reaver and thrust her sword into the creature. Waves of black energy twisted through the air in place of blood. Finally, the shadow dissipated into smoke. Connie helped the pirate to his feet and he dusted himself off.
"I was wondering why you weren't behind me. Good thing I backtracked to find you." Connie spoke, a bit out of breath from the intense fight. Reaver stared at the ground before him, where the shadow had been.
"He's trying to trick me."
"Who is?" Connie asked.
"The King of Shadows. That shadow beast you just killed, it was in the form of her..." Connie looked at him.
"You mean, your dead wife?" Reaver nodded.
"She told me that you could never defeat the Shadow Court, and that I would always be alone in this world."
"Reaver, that wasn't Cammilia. She loved you, she would never say such things. That monster was just trying to get you to give up. Your really vulnerable when you come out here. The shadows have power over you. That's why I need to get this done with quickly, before they have another chance to try and kill you." Connie explained. Reaver looked once more at the old house in the distance and then took a step down the stairs that led deep into the court.
"I'm ready to do this Connie. Lets go." The two heros entered and stepped carefully around the various spikes and traps in the court. Finally, they reached the posts of the three judges. Reaver held up the Dark Seal and they appeared. The ghostly black judges with the red eyes.
"Welcome mortals! What brings the Hero of Skill back to us so soon?" The ghostly demons asked. Reaver cleared his throat. He gathered all of his courage and began to speak.
"I have come to end our deal. I refuse to offer any more sacrifices. I am here to break my curse!" The judges laughed wickedly.
"You cannot...There is no way to end what you have started...nor forgivness for what you have done...You are giving us your soul for nothing!" The lead judge mocked and the door behind Connie, Reaver, and Lance swung shut with a thud. The demons came towards Reaver, claws extended, and red eyes blazing. Connie jumped between them and the doomed man. The charming scoundrel that she loved so much. She withdrew her silver blade and stood firm as the judges closed in on her.
"Connie! No!" His cry was drowned out as the judges gave a bloodcurdling screech. Connie was swept off her feet in a wave of dark energy. Reaver grabbed frantically for her as she tumbled into the depths of the deep well, but deep inside, he knew that even the great Hero of Skill was unable to stop what was to come. He had tried before. Hundreds of years ago he had tried to stop what his selfish wish had caused. He had thrown himself into the shadowy monsters as they grabbed away his dear wife. But it was all in vain, his arrows flew right through them as they slaughtered the woman he had loved with all of his heart. And now, he watched as Connie bravely stood between him and the denziens of shadow, the ones who had cost him everything. Connie felt herself falling, felt the cold grip of the judges as they plummeted her down. Deeper into the court they plunged her, until she could feel the evil presence all around her. Then, an excruciating pain blew up in her head. The demons ripped her body completely asunder and began to harvest her soul. Connie lay impaled upon the great black spikes, writhing in agony, feeling as if the pain itself was going to kill her. Then, Connie felt a welcoming coldness envelop her body as the last of her soul was harvested. Her blue eyes began to grow hazy, and her breathing grew shallow.
Its finished. Connie thought, and as she did so, the lead judge looked at the contents of her soul. It was glistening white, a perfect, flawless woman had somehow found her way into the depths of hell. Without warning, the demons stopped their attack. The next sound Connie heard was that of the judges being repressed back into the earth. The netherworldly screams and screeches pierced her eardrums. She had been successful. The judges had thought that Reaver had brought Connie as an unwilling participant to end his curse selfishly. But by bravely defending him, sacrificing herself for him, Connie had broken the contract as the judges had accidentally taken a free will victim. A fatal mistake. Reaver's curse was broken. He was free.
"Just stay alive Connie, just a bit more..." She whispered raspily to herself. Then, she was rising. Light was filtering down upon her butchered body, and as her pain began to fade, and her body began to mend, Connie knew that her sacrifice had not been in vain. She felt as her weakened body floated back up to where Reaver and Lance were. Reaver fell to his knees before Connie as she came to rest on the stoney floor before him. He pulled her up into his arms and held her dying body shakily, as Lance licked her face.
"Connie! What did you do?! I told you not to...I told you that I wanted to spend the last four years with you...Why?!" He screamed in agony. Connie summoned all of her strength and she shakily reached up and I kissed his cheek. Reaver flinched as the kissmark burned his flesh, and left behind a small heart, a symbol of Connie's selfless choice, a mark of true love that would remain with him for the rest of his days. He looked into the eyes of his maiden, his perfect, angelic, maiden. Tears streamed down his cheeks and mixed with Connie's as they splattered against her face. Reaver carefully blotted them away from her pale cheeks.
"Connie...Please don't die." Reaver begged her. Connie smiled.
"This is not the end. I will see you again. You can be sure of it." Then, the world around the young heroine went black.
Connie awoke to the sight of two faces. Lance pounced upon her, smothering her face with kisses.
"Hey boy..." Connie greeted softly. She looked back up at Reaver who was smiling at her, teary eyed. Connie reached out and touched his hand.
"How does it feel to be a free man?" She asked.
"It feels like I have a second chance to be happy." He replied.
"Everyone deserves a second chance. Even a Pirate King."
"Connie. What you did back there. I don't quite know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything. I can tell how you feel." Connie replied, the aura of sadness that had always surrounded the pirate for as long as she could recall was gone. In its place, was happiness, and contentment. Reaver knelt down and leaned into Connie's face. Then, he gave her a long passionate kiss. Connie looked into his green eyes, which were glowing with fresh-faced youth and passion.
"Thank you, Connie. For setting me free." Connie let her eyelids close as she exhaled a deep breath.
"Your welcome." Reaver climbed up onto his bed, and wrapped his long arms around her. He could feel her body relax at his touch. He touched the place where she had kissed him and smiled.
"You really are a remarkable woman Connie." He glanced at her again. Connie was fast asleep. When she woke up, Connie felt much better. Reaver was sitting beside her, in an armchair. Connie raised her head, and caught his attention.
"Good morning." She greeted him.
"Good morning my dear." He handed her a health potion from the nightstand beside the bed. Connie graciously took it and brought the flask to her lips.
"I had to force feed it to you a while. Those shadows took a lot out of you. Its good to see you back to your strong, fiery self love." Connie sat up in bed.
"How long was I out?" She asked, rubbing her head.
"You where out for a few days. How are you feeling?" He asked.
"Much better. I think that I might actually be able to get up even."
"Better enough to get dressed to the nines?" Reaver grinned. Connie looked at him, confused.
"What are you talking about?" She asked.
"Connie. I want to have a party tonight. Not like the other parties, this one will be very special. Its a party for you."
"A party for me? What for? Its not my birthday or anything." She replied. Reaver chuckled warmly.
"Oh Connie, your so very lovely when your modest like that! But I have made up my mind and I insist. Now, dear do you feel up for it, or shall I postpone a bit longer?"
"I feel a lot better now, so you could go ahead and throw it tonight." Reaver beamed.
"Marvelous! I shall begin the preparations immediately. You shall be radiant in the special new gown that I have for you my love." He purred. Reaver stood and exited the room. Connie could hear him snap his fingers twice. She could make out the form of Mr. Dowells, the guard that had thrown her out the night that she had stormed in on Reaver's birthday party.
"What is it Reaver?" The behemoth asked.
"Mr. Dowells, please inform Jenika that I need Madam Connie's new gown laundered and pressed in time for tonight, and make sure that she has sent out all of the invitations by 2 o clock this afternoon." Mr. Dowells nodded and left. Reaver turned and re-entered the bedchambers. He waltzed over to Connie and put his his hand up under her chin, stroking her cheek lovingly.
"You are going to absolutely LOVE tonight's festivities..." He remarked.
"Gee Reaver, I don't know what to say." She blushed. Reaver smiled as he turned the knob to exit the room.
"Oh, hopefully by tonight you'll have your answer..." He murmured cunningly under his breath. Connie spent the rest of the morning trying to figure out how to wear her hair, and what the party was all about.
"Should I wear it up in a formal bun? Or should I just wear it free and flowing?" She asked Lance. Lance just cocked his head and huffed, content upon the bed. Connie looked herself over in the full-length mirror and sighed.
"I know that he means well, and I know that he's had a change of heart, but do you really think he's going to be happy this way, Lance? I mean, Reaver is so used to wild orgies and scantily clad women. He's been having them for over 200 years, and now that he's mortal, I just don't think he will be satisfied with that...I mean, with me..." Connie sat down hard on the bed and pondered her plight. She was so absorbed in her quandary, that the sound of a few quick raps on the door startled her.
"Come in!" She called out. A short black haired girl, looking only about 15 came into the room. She held in her arms, an exquisite gold silk gown with red velvet swirls and tiny diamonds on it. It was the very same dress that Connie's friend Courtney had borrowed for her before. The girl handed the gown to Connie and then stepped back and curtsied.
"Your ball gown for this evening m'lady." The girl spoke through her curtsey. Connie motioned for her to stand.
"Oh, that's not really necessary, I don't want you to feel like you have to curtsey to me, I mean its not like I'm royalty or anything." She comforted her. The girl looked up confused, still curtseying.
"Oh, but you are very favored among Master Reaver, and he always instructs us to curtsey before his favored women." Connie looked at the young teen surprised.
"Well, lets just say, I'm not like the other women, and you can treat me as just another person, ok? No need to worry." The girl smiled and giggled a bit.
"You sure are nice to be with Master Reaver. But it makes a nice change I guess." She shook her head and left the room. Connie shrugged as she closed the door. She dressed quickly and then headed downstairs to the party. As Connie walked into the living room, she saw that the only people there were the servants, maids, and Mr. Dowells. The party hadn't begun yet, and Reaver was nowhere in sight. The servants didn't notice her come down, and being both friendly and bored, Connie decided to walk over to them. But just as I was about to approach them, she happened to hear what they were all talking about. Mr. Dowells' voice spoke up first.
"I dunno. Some other hero, is what I heard."
"Where did she come from? I've never seen her around before." Asked one of the maids. Connie quickly hid behind a dresser. She was shocked by what she was hearing. The maids and servants where all gossiping about her. The younger maid who had dropped off Connie's dress spoke up with a snicker.
"I just delivered her gown to her room, and she told me to not curtsey and to treat her like any other person. She even went to the lengths to say that she wasn't like any of Reaver's other floozies." The servants all jeered.
"Oh, and I suppose she thinks that she's better huh? Like she's gonna be the one to change Reaver and make him a good husband? Tch, been there before..." The other maid butted in.
What does he see in her? If you ask me, this Connie tart isn't exactly his type."
"Yeah, I mean what is with Reaver anyway?" He's been acting strange lately." The older male servent is the last to speak.
"Well, I think that ol' Reaver's goin' a bit loopy in the head. I mean, this mornin' when I gave him breakfast, he was all like, "Thank you Mr. Geoff, for all yer years of service" or some crap like that. I mean, god, the guys really startin ta loose his edge."
"Do you think that now would be a good time to go along with the plan then?"
"I'm all for it. Its only a matter of time before one of us maids gets blasted in the head again. I say, shoot him and see how he likes it!"
"I'm all for that!" Mr. Dowells added with a chuckle. Connie gasped at the conversation. Reaver's servants had respected him out of fear. Now that he was changing, they where starting to question their loyalty to him. That could not end well. A chill ran down her spine. What if they decide to mutiny? They probably have harbored grudges of his unfair treatment towards them for some time, what if they decide to kill him? She thought with a gasp. Reaver was no longer immortal, and even though he was a hero, he could die just as easily as her or any other hero now. He no longer possessed the Shadow Courts protection. Connie raced away from the scene and into Reaver's study, hoping to find him and warn him. But he was no where to be found.