Hayley and the Berserker King
Date: 6439 Third Dawn
Place: The Shadow’s Shade, Iris, Parthesis
Hazel sat at a small wooden table in a dimly lit room; the man sitting across from him towered above him. The men that stumbled past the two in the crowded and disreputable bar only noticed the large burly man with his bushy salt and pepper beard and a patch covering his left eye. “What happened?” asked the large man as he leaned in closer to Hazel. “Did you get it or not?” Hazel looked up, and absently rubbed his slender shoulder. When the large man didn’t get a response he quickly glanced behind him, then looked to Hazel and whispered, “Did you have to take out the king?”
“No. Nothing like that… I… I got the item.” Hazel pulled a cloth bundle out of his large coin purse and slyly uncovered a corner . The Mirror of Iris reflected the dim candlelight of the bar for only a second before Hazel wrapped it back in the cloth and slid it across the wooden table. The large man’s eye lit up as he reached out to pull it closer to him. Hazel held onto it for a moment, then took a deep breath and released his fingers from the bundle.
“Thank you.” The large man quickly shoved the cloth bundle into his pocket. “I have something for you in return. I know you like to collect stuff like this.” The man slid him an old copper chain with a tooth pendant attached to the end.
“Thanks, what is it?”
“A sinkhole charm. I lifted it from my last job and thought of you when I got it appraised. Consider it a thank you for helping me out of my...situation.”
“Thanks,” he shoved it in his bag. “When was the last time you saw any of the giants?”
“It must have been about a year ago in the summer when I saw them last. Why? Is something wrong? You completed the assignment, you are now the guild's best thief. You will be able to run for a seat come this winter. You should be celebrating; instead you look like you have just seen Mortis.”
“But you have not seen them this year. Autumn is only a couple of days away and the north should have been covered with giants by now.”
“One of the king’s builders was saying the same thing about a month ago. They cannot finish the new bridge till the giants get back. It is a bit odd...”
“I saw something horrible in the mirror--the giants were killing everyone. Destroying everything.” Hazel lowered his voice to a mere whisper, “It starts here in Iris.”
“The mirror probably just showed you your fears. The giants have never even killed a worm….”
The walls of the bar shook violently as a thunderous voice boomed. The voice not only rang throughout the city, it was harvested in each and everyone of their ears. “Foul, nasty humans of Iris, I am Verrotten. I will eradicate your entire species from Terra. Your sins run too deep. I can feel them pulsate throughout my body day and night. There is no saving you. Take these last few minutes of life to say goodbye to your kin and pray to your foolish god, because the next face you will see is that of Mortis.” The walls stopped shaking as everyone looked around. Fear smeared across their faces; blood dripped from their ears.
“Light, we need to go. The mirror does hold the true future. We need to find those ships.” Hazel got to his feet as the people pushed their way out crying for their loved ones. “Here take this.” Hazel grabbed another one of his coin purses and pulled out a wooden doorknob with runes burned into it. He shoved it into the large man’s hands. “Use this now. Kick any doorknob off and put this one in its place to open the door. Take only three people with you when you go through. When you push the door open, you will find yourself in Rani. It only works one way and it can only gate four people…that is important Mathus, only four. I have one of these for my use and will be leaving now for Rani. The mirror showed me what to do. I need to talk to King Rani before it's too late.” The large man looked down at Hazel and Light who flew around Hazel anxiously in dark maroon.
“May the shadows hide you, may no bars keep you out, and may all sound die around you,” the large man said as he pocketed the doorknob. The guild’s words hung heavy between the two men as they walked away in opposite directions.
Date: 5487 Fourth Dawn
Place: Castle Clifton, Three Kingdoms
Jen sat frozen in fear, gaping at the woman now walking past the headless guards. George pulled his dwarven made long sword out from under the bed and charged. Jayde smiled wickedly as if she were a cat playing with a mouse. With a tiny flick of her finger the bracelets she wore launched themselves at George. The three silver bands grew and twisted, each into a giant silvery serpent. George jumped to the side and rolled across the floor narrowly dodging the ropes which hissed as they passed. George bound to his feet. He shifted his head to one side, then the other, each time evading another one of the imitated serpents strikes. They maneuvered around him escaping his sword as they spread out and coiled themselves on the floor. He was surrounded. Each head swayed back and forth mimicking cobras ready to strike. George lunged towards the nearest rope, he outstretched his arms and brought the sword down hard. It made its last attempt at a hiss as it was cut in two. It clanged to the floor, a small silver bracelet once more. The other two lunged at George wrapping themselves around his arms and legs. He fell with a hard thud and sent his sword skidding across the floor.
“George!” Jen yelled.
Jayde’s head snapped toward Jen. “Oh, hello there.” She flicked her finger once more and the bed came alive. One sheet twisted into a hand, grabbing Hayley from Jen’s arms and gently setting her back into her crib. Another sheet swept Jen up, wrapping her in a cocoon. She hung upside-down from the ceiling, leaving only her face visible.
“Leave her alone!” demanded George as he struggled to get free of the silver ropes.
“I would be quiet if I were you,” Jayde said in a melodious voice.
“Leave her alone!”
“I warned you to keep your mouth shut. Since you can't do it yourself, I will do it for you,” Jayde said pleased with herself. She snapped her fingers. The broken bracelet twisted itself into a silver needle and a spool of metallic thread. They floated in front of George’s face, he watched as the needle threaded itself. It punctured his upper lip and pierced straight through his bottom lip. Within seconds his screams became muffled and his mouth was sewn shut. George thrashed around on the floor in agony still bound by the ropes. Tears of frustration rolled down Jen’s face, as she swung upside-down in her silky cocoon.
“Please, Jayde,” Jen pleaded, “stop hurting him.”
Jayde gracefully bound onto the bed and gently stroked Jen’s cheek, “don't worry. I’ve only come for one thing.”
“No,” Jen said in horror, “not our baby!”
“What would I do with the girl?” Jayde said in a high pitched laugh. “I really haven’t been here in awhile. You really think I steal babies now? Your husband attacks me with a sword. A sword! As if that could kill me.” Jayde continued, her eyes wild with excitement, “I am here for only one thing. It's so simple really. The prophecy,” Jayde said caressing Jen’s face. “I can tell you want to fight it. Don’t.” She then pressed her forefinger to Jen's forehead. Jen’s eyes rolled back until nothing but her whites could be seen. Jen gurgled as drool seeped from the sides of her mouth. Then as if in a trance, she spoke of past events, meeting Grand and Spark, the prophecy, and the calling of the guards. As Jen’s voice mimicked each person, shadowy images of what had taken place danced around on the whites of her eyes. Jayde listened to every word with intense focus. Once Jayde saw the shadow of herself flying in through the window, she pulled her finger away and turned to look at the baby. Jen made gurgling noises once more as her eyes slowly rolled back into place. Jayde walked over to the crib and stared down at the sleeping infant deep in thought. Without pause she flicked her wrist and Jen fell out of her cocoon hitting the bed head first. Jayde turned to look at Jen who was rubbing her head and stirring out of her trance. She could not find the energy to sit up, so she lay with her head on the edge of the bed, her limbs sprawled out somewhere towards the middle. “You’re a smart one,” Jayde said as she sat down on the bed beside her. “You seem to know too much for your own good.”
“Don’t hurt Hayley,” Jen said in a moan as she looked up at an unfocused Jayde.
“You still don’t understand. I am not after your child. What I want is that King—that ‘Berserker King’,” Jayde said greedily.
“You use everyone, Jayde. You may not think you want anything to do with my daughter but you will use her… you’ll make her life hell,” Jen said groggily.
“Well… We could always make an arrangement between us,” Jayde said.
Jayde scoffed. “You haven’t even heard it yet. This is what we—gift users, I mean, call a magical contract. Once agreed upon, you are not physically capable of breaking your end of the contract, and neither am I. Those Berserkers you know so much about? This is how I make them. It is called twilight potion.”
“I know,” Jen said, finally building up the strength to untangle herself from the sheets. After she freed herself, she sat up and looked straight into Jule’s charcoal black eyes. “Both parties have to take it willingly for it to be able to work. I also know you have been modifying it for hundreds of years. Tricking humans into taking it, then turning them into mindless abominations.”
“It looks like I have an admirer. I am not amused. How do you know so much about me?” Jayde said, for the first time truly looking at her. “Hmm, I know you from somewhere; you look so familiar.” Jayde’ eyes brightened, “Ah! You’re so plain looking now. You're nothing like you used to be—Jenevieve. You were never the same after your time with the thief, now were you? What happened to your powers? Did you really trade them all so you could be a normal human again, so you could get married, and have a baby. You disgust me,” Jayde said then laughed hysterically as Jen shamefully looked at her husband, still trying to break free from the rope with no luck. “You are Jenevieve! Sister, it’s been too long.” Jayde paused dramatically then put her right hand over her heart, “I’m hurt that you didn’t invite me or Josephine to the wedding. The timing, right? I was just asking her where you had scurried off to. What a shame. I was looking for you to help me improve my Berserker potion, I was never very good at alchemy. You on the other hand… you were magnificent. It's too bad that you gave up your powers... For what, him?” Jayde looked at George in disgust.
"Haven't you done enough to me already? Why can't you just leave us alone?”
“I am afraid I cannot. I must have that supposed King of Berserkers. It's going to be so easy to find him and break the prophecy now that I know he's going to fall in love with your little...baby...girl.”
“Her name is Hayley,” Jen said scowling at Jayde.
Jayde scoffed. “Who cares. But since you still think you’re so clever, and I can’t have you ruining any of my careful planning, how about we come to an agreement.” Jayde delicately pulled out a tiny vial from her dress then twisted her hand in the air as if she was going to palm the vial. The tiny vial grow instantly into a crystal goblet. “I will take all of your memories in exchange for your little girl’s safety.”
“I am glad to see that there is none of your berserker additives in the potion.” To Jen it was nothing she had not seen before, for she had invented it, but any human lucky enough to come across it would say it was a sight to behold. From all sides of the goblet it looked like the most beautiful sunset anyone had ever laid eyes on. A bright orange started at the bottom as vibrant as the setting sun. That orange faded to a yellow, then a blush pink, followed by a calming violet which melted into a midnight black. Looking at the goblet from the top the only thing that could be seen was the black, which had glowing white dots scattered across its surface. This amazing set of color combination was why the gift users call it the twilight potion.
“I will accept under these conditions; neither you nor your berserkers can ever cause Hayley Clifton physical harm,” Jen paused thinking to herself, “and you must be her friend. In exchange for this I will give you all of my memories,” Jen said this with grim determination, for she knew that once all her memories were gone she would be nothing more than an empty human shell. She also knew giving up her memories would be the only way to keep Hayley safe.
“Friend? What a strange request. ”
“Yes, her friend,” Jen said sharply. “Something I know you have never had.”
“Fine. I will be your little girl’s ‘friend’. I will bring her cookies, play dolls, braid her hair, whatever the little brat wants. It’s a deal!” Jayde finished in a hurry, then gulped down the first half of the potion, as if she thought Jen would change her mind. She handed over the rest of the liquid, still holding the orange, yellow, and pink. Jen grabbed the goblet and with one final look at her husband, emptied the remaining contents in one swallow. Jen's eyes glazed over as she fell back on the bed and passed out, the crystal goblet still in her hands. “Take care of my sister, king. She means so much to me,” Jayde laughed as she flew through the doors and back into the brisk summer night.