The Blood – Torin, Part V

by disperser

What went on before:

Part I – We are introduced to Torin, a young man just coming into his own.  He feels responsible for his friend’s death.  A death brought about by advanced age, even though he had seen the same number of winters as Torin.  Torin is recognized as being of The Blood, and is taken by the men of the region’s Ruler.  Though near the maximum age for training, Ledanai is charged with teaching him about the ways of The Blood.  He learns he was indeed responsible for the death of his friend, but in the process he learns he is something more than just part of The Blood, with abilities members of The Blood do not have.  He also learns of the history of The Blood, The Spirit, and The Elders The Blood defeated those of The Spirit in a war over the use of Magic, specifically the cost of using Magic, as it drained ordinary humans of their lifeforce.

Part II – Torin learns he may be the result of a forbidden union between a Spirit and a Blood descendant.  He also learns Spirit descendants, used with care, are virtually unending sources of lifeforce, as their replenishes.  As such, they are of great value to The Blood, and assigned based on rank.  He learns the Spirits don’t know of their abilities.  He, as the forbidden “monster”, may have abilities beyond that of The Blood, such as the ability to shield his own lifeforce, and possibly that of humans, from The Blood.  He learns of the Library, the depository of ancient documents.  He also learns that upon his 15th winter, he must either Challenge or Bow to his Ruler.  Bowing includes ceding part of his power to the leader, and risk being found out as “different”.  But for now, his training continues with exposure to sword fighting.

Part III – Torin meets Aendein, one of the three persons of The Spirit in the compound.  She is charged with his initial sword training.  Herself an apprentice to Bedarin, the Weapons Master, and only a couple of winters older than Torin, she is surprised to learn he wishes to be trained without the use of Magic.  Bedarin is also surprised, but agrees to it.  In doing so he warns Torin this might not be something for general knowledge, and that it might be best to keep it quiet.  For his training, Torin is given a sword much like Aendein’s.  Torin begins his training, both in sword making and swordsmanship.  At the same time, he continues his lessons with Ledanai, and also begins clandestine visits to the Library.  There he discovers copies of ancient scrolls, and with the aid of language key, begins to read about the actual history of the war between The Blood and The Spirit.  A war triggered by The Blood killing a human child The Spirit had adopted.  He also learns the war was undecided until some of The Spirit betrayed their kind in exchange for promises of favors from The Blood.  Torin continues his Blood training, his sword training, and his research, all the while counting down to the time where he must Bow or Challenge the Ruler.  Nearly two winters have passed.

Part IVFor two winters Torin trains with Aendein, then with Bedarin, and continues his clandestine visits to the Library.  Torin also works to learn sword-making.  His research at the library had him learn about the times prior to the split between the Spirits and the Bloods.  A time when collaboration allowed for both forms of magic to be infused into objects.  Correctly guessing his own abilities might allows similar results, he works at producing a sword only he can build.  His desire goes beyond that of learning the craft.  Torin has decided to challenge the Ruler, and the sword will allow him to do battle with minimal use of Magic.  Bedarin finds him, late at night, holding the finished product.  Bedarin realizes just what Torin has accomplished, and also realizes how it could be possible.  They are interrupted by Aendein, and Bedarin sends her in an errand to get him some food.  When she leaves, Bedarin expresses his concern for Torin’s intentions toward the people subject to the Ruler.  Should he win, he would be the new Ruler.  Just as Torin attempts to explain he is not interested in ruling, the Ruler, Ledanai, and five guards burst into the armory.  The Ruler knows of Torin’s visits to the Library, and it’s apparent he is here to kill Torin

The Blood – Torin, Part V

by E. J. D’Alise (Disperser)
Copyright November, 2012

The Ruler’s words were barely spoken when Ledanai and the guard attacked.  The guard coming low, swinging his now red-hot sword at Torin’s waist.  Ledanai’s swing was a downward arc that would intersect with Torin’s head.  His own sword arched in a sweeping motion from the low position, upward, and back down to his other side, twisting and stepping forward as he did so.  His back now to the ruler, he looked at the two attackers. His sword had intersected both swords before they could finish their arc, and had sliced through them as if they were twigs . . . but the swinging arc had also separated the guard’s head from his body.  His sword had stopped just past Ledanai.  She looked at Torin, then she tried to look down at herself, but the eyes closed as her body split in two at the waist.

The room was quiet for a few heartbeats.  Torin repositioned, barely registering the noise of the two bodies hitting the ground.  He did register a drop of blood running down his forearm.  The severed tip of Ledanai’s sword had continued on its trajectory, and superficially cut Torin’s forearm before embedding into the floor.  

The other four guards grew almost a third more in size, and their swords grew longer and brighter, but they did not move.  “He’s mine!”  yelled the Ruler.  

Torin watched as the Ruler grew nearly twice his height and girth, his sword now a lance-length, and glowing blood-red.   He attacked, but Torin registered the tell-tale movement indicating the attack.  The Ruler may have been large, but the penalty of size was speed.  Torin easily avoided the lunge, and sliced through the Ruler’s wrist as it slid past, just a few hand-widths away.  Still clutching the sword, the separated hand dropped to the ground.  The motion brought Torin in range of one of the guards, and he continued his swing, diagonally slicing through the guard, his shield, and sword brought up to block Torin’s sword.  

The detached observer in his mind registered the lack of blood.  His sword burned through the flesh and bones, searing vessels shut as it passed.  

The Ruler let out a furious roar, and grew even more, nearly touching the ceiling.  His good hand grabbed a sword from the wall.  Torin noticed it was his own sword.  The moment the Ruler touched it, it grew fiery red, and literally crackled.  He must be channeling a lot of Magic . . . Aendein!!

Torin had not called upon any magic.  He now reached out . . . everyone’s lifeforces were being taxed, but more so those of the three Spirits.  One, the closest, most of all.  She was right outside the armory.  Even as he sensed Aendein’s lifeforce, he felt her slip away.  In an instant, she was no more.  He knew because he recognized the moment from when he had inadvertently drained Rodienn’s lifeforce.

“NOOO!!”  Instinct saved him from one of the guards.  The sword passed within a couple of finger widths from his chest even as he dropped and sliced the guard in two at the thighs.  Torin raged within.  “Aendein!  AENDEIN!!”  

He turned to face the Ruler and the guards.   They were staring at him, and it took a few moments to notice he was no longer looking up at them.  They were normal-sized, and their weapons, save for his old sword the Ruler still held, were decrepit iron swords.  They were now looking up at him.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he watched dispassionately as they retreated.  All the humans and the two remaining Spirits were now shielded, robbing the Bloods of their fuel for Magic.  But more than that, Torin began draining all of The Bloods of their lifeforces.  He looked at his hand.  It was no longer holding the sword, nor did it still resemble a hand.

Instead, three smooth, black, shimmering talons were in its place, and even as he looked on, talons grew from his wrist.  The talons curved to a blade-like point, and looked designed for one purpose . . . to shred flesh.  He looked at his other hand, and it was likewise . . . “I am a monster!” he thought.  And then he saw no more.

He became aware of cool cloth on his forehead.  He jumped up.  An old woman was tending to him.  Her impassive face was lined with wrinkles.  It was not a soft face, and her eyes held no emotion.

Torin looked about . . . his clothes were on a nearby chair.  His sword rested against the same chair.  He was under a blanket, naked.

“Thank you.”  The woman’s voice sounded younger than she looked.  He realized who she was.  

“Delaein . . . “ She was one of the Spirits.  Not thirty winters old, she now looked twice that.  A cold chill made him shiver as his memory returned.  “Aendein . . . “

The old woman closed her eyes, a tear rolling down her cheek.  She shook her head slightly.

“She is gone, along with many others.  We would have perished as well had you not shielded us.  Both my sister and I live.  We felt you shielding us, and only then realized our lives were being taken from us.”  

Her eyes stared at the wall as she continued.  “All these years; how could we not know!!”

“Delaein; you and your sister will recover.  You are not like other humans.  They will carry the result of being drained, but you two, you will recover.”  Torin felt the need to reassure the woman, unable to voice to the guilt he carried.  He had not saved them; he was the cause of it all.

“How . . . what . . .” Delaen’s face finally showed some emotion.  Doubt, fear, hope . . . it was difficult to tell.

“I’ll explain later.” Torin, unashamed, rose from the bed, and went to his clothes.  “What of the Bloods?” he asked as he dressed.

“You killed them all.”  Her face had regained the impassive look, but there was a tremor in her voice.

“Did I drain them?” He asked.  He did not want to be responsible for so many deaths.  Some of the Bloods had just started their training; they were still kids.

“Delaein,” he said, “answer me!”

Delaein stared at him for a few heartbeats . . . “You don’t remember.”  She did not ask.  She said it.

She rose, and went to the window.  She opened it, and pointed at something outside.  Torin went to the window as he tied his sword belt around his waist.  As he approached, the smell of something burning reached his nostrils.  What he saw, horrified him.

A pile of body parts.  Some were whole, arms and legs, but many were mangled pieces barely recognizable as belonging to a human form.  He nearly threw up as he staggered back from the window.  Sitting on the bed,he remembered his taloned hands.  

“Did I do that?”  He knew the answer even as Delaein nodded.  He noticed she already looked younger than she did. Her eyes still looked older.  He doubted they would regain yesterday’s sparkle. “Tell me.  Tell me what I did!”

Delaein hesitated before speaking.  “It might be best not knowing the details.”

“No.  I am responsible.  I need to know.”  Torin’s voice was barely audible.

He listened as Delaein recounted the rampage through the compound.  His appearance that of black liquid, his head devoid of any features, he moved with incredible speed, hunting down those of the Blood.  Some had tried outrunning him on horses, only to have both themselves and the horses cut to shreds by his talons.  Some used humans as shields, but he had forcibly separated them.  Many had hid, but he tracked them all down.  Some he tore limb from limb.  Some he skewered, some he sliced into pieces.  None escaped.  Some of the compound staff were also attacked and killed.

“Bedarin!  Where is Bedarin?”  Torin had a cold feeling at the pit of his stomach.  He already knew the answer.

“Gone.  He was with the first ones.”

Dalaein could not know.  She would assume Bedarin attempted to fight Torin, but he knew the truth.  Bedarin had traces of The Blood in him.  Likely, so did the staff he killed.  Whatever mindless monster he had turned into, he had located and killed all who bore any hint of The Blood in them.

He could not be sure if it had been the result of the rage he had felt at Aendein’s death, or because he lost all control, and that was just what the monster within him did.  That realization scared him most of all;  the thought that he might not be able to control his actions.

The legends were true, then; he was a monster.  Or rather, he had a monster within him, and Torin did not know which side of him was in control.

He sheathed his sword, and in doing so, sliced through the scabbard.  He would need to craft something that could hold the sword without touching the edges.  But for now, he needed to think.

A knock at the door had him turn, sword in hand.  Dalaein rose, and went to the door.  Two men, clearly nervous, pushed a third through the door.  The man stumbled, unable to regain his balance with his hands tied behind his back, and fell to the floor.  It was the Ruler’s advisor.  

“We caught this one trying to leave.  Disguised as an old woman, he was.”  The speaker tried to sound tough, but he could not keep the fear from his voice.  He kept looking at Torin, perhaps expecting him to transform before his very eyes.  

Dalaein, now looking more like her winters, thanked them, and assured them they could leave.  They did not argue.

Torin turned his attention to Carnad.  “You told the Ruler I was visiting the Library.”  He took a step toward the man laying on the ground.  Dalaein stepped between them.  “He was doing his job.”  Her words were soft, but her voice was steady.  “And we need information,” she continued.

Turning to the man, she knelt beside him, untied his hands, and helped him up.  He favored one leg, as if injured.  Apparently his captors had been none too gentle.

“What happens now?”  Carnad turned to Dalaein.  Torin did not think he even heard, let alone understood Delaein’s question.

Dalaein shook his arm, getting his full attention.  “What happens now?” She repeated.

“What do you mean?”  The man was struggling to regain some composure, obviously trying to both suppress his fear, and to think of a way he might survive this.

“All of the Bloods that were here are . . . gone.  What happens now?  What will The Blood do?”  Torin winced at Dalain’s words, but was eager to hear the response.

Carnad closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them, and looked directly at Torin.

“Are you going to kill me?”  He pulled himself up.  Torin absent-mindedly though it was a little late for dignity.

He walked up to the man.  Dalaein did not move from the man’s side.  She obviously did not want more bloodshed.  Truthfully, neither did Torin.  But he needed answers.  Stopping an arm’s length away, he forcefully planted his sword into solid stone floor.  Both Dalaein’s and Carnad took an involuntary step back.  Their eyes were riveted to the glowing sword.  Glowing even though Torin no longer held it.

“Your fate is not any concern of mine, but the fate of this place is.”  Torin rubbed his forehead, sighed, and resumed.  “I would rather not slice you to pieces, but I’m not opposed to it in general principle.  Answer the lady.”

Carnad swallowed.  “The Blood requires a report every moon-cycle.  Ours is due in a quarter of a cycle.  Even if we tell them nothing of the  . . . events, the Ruler usually puts a signature and seal on the report.  They will know it’s not from him.  They will investigate.  Most likely, the garrison at Sediment Bay.”  He paused, hesitated, and then asked “ . . . are you going to kill them as well?”

Torin snapped his attention back at Carnad, and the man visibly shrank.  “Torin . . . “ Dalaein plea was evident in her voice.

Willing himself to relax, Torin exhaled.  Too many deaths.  The Blood took, and took, but most had no malice in mind.  To them, it’s how things were, how they were raised.  Their place in the puzzle of life.  No different, in essence, than merchants who exacted a price for their goods.  People exchanged part of their lives to obtain what they needed, or just wanted.  

No; there was a difference.  A difference between willingly exchanging part of one’s life for a goal, and having it taken from you to satisfy someone else’s goals.

Someday he will have to do something about it.  But not now, and not here.

“Carnad, you will tell them. You will tell them everything you know.” Torin, despite trying to remain in control, was visibly shaking.  Both Carnad and Dalaein backed away from him, but he ignored the movement.  Staring straight at Carnad, he continued. “You will tell them what has happened.   These people will decide if they want The Blood back in here.  But mark my word; The Blood should think long and hard about who they decide to put back in here.  Any retribution toward these people, any abuse of Magic,” Torin grabbed the sword, and advanced toward the man who, his back to the wall, had nowhere to retreat,”and I will return.  And Carnad, do impress upon them that the next time, I will not stop.”  With those words, Torin traced the outline of Carnad’s left side on the wall, the sword leaving a sharp, dark charcoal line where it passed through the wood.

Torin turned his back on the man, and said, “Go.  Tell them those exact words.”

Carnad practically ran out of the room, limp or no limp.  The door slammed shut behind him.

Torin looked down as he spoke. “Dalaein, there is much I need to tell you about the Spirits, your ancestors, and The Blood, but the . . .”  He stopped as he saw her.  She looked much younger than her thirty winters.  He doubted she even realized it herself.  He continued.  “Ah, . . . the truth of it is they cannot ignore the fact you now know the Blood drains lifeforces, how they use it to fuel their magic.  They will kill you both; you and your sister.”

A thought suddenly occurred to Torin . . . “Did you tell anyone about The Blood draining lifeforces from humans?”

Dalaein shook her head.  “No.  We barely understand it ourselves.  I did not know we were different.  That is, before you told me.”

“Good.”, Torin kept looking at her, realizing the drain on the Spirits must be at a higher level than most humans.   Dalaein now looked not much older than Aendein, who was barely . . . had been, barely 17 winters.  A pang of guilt, remorse, and longing hit him all at once.  Aendein . . . He could not believe she was no more.  He could not bear the thought he had failed her.  So concerned had he been for his own fate, that he failed to consider the consequences, now obvious, of challenging the Ruler.

He briefly pondered the validity of the threat in the message he sent to The Blood.  How many humans and Spirits could he shield at one time?  How fast and how many of The Blood could he drain?  He knew for sure of three to four hundred humans, and about ninety Bloods.  What were the limits of his power?  How could he test those limits?  Did his power vary with his . . . transformation?  More important, was he willing to risk more lives to find out?

“No, I am not.”  He did not realize he had spoken out loud until Dalaein replied.  “You are not?”  Her question brought him back to the present.

“Sorry,” Torin replied,” just thinking out loud.  Do you have a place you can go?”  

“Every place I know of has those of The Blood living there.  From what you told me, they would know who we are, and that we are blocking them from taking our lifeforce.  For us to blend in,” continued Dalaein, “we would have to let them . . . feed on us.  I, for one, do not intend to.”

Another knock on the door.  This one softer, hesitant.  “Your sister.” Torin said before Dalaein made it to the door.

“Come in.” Dalaein motion the young girl to enter.  Torin would have guessed her to be twelve winters, or so, but he no longer trusted his frame of reference with regards to guessing ages of people of the Spirits.

Both sisters gasped upon looking at each other.  What followed was a confused conversation, and a quick trip to the small mirror in the hall.  Some hushed conversation, concerned questions, more conversation, all of it outside of Torin hearing range.

They came back into the room, and closed the door.  

“Torin, this is my sister, Serra, short for Serraein.”  The young girl bowed at the introduction.  Dalaein continued.  “We wish to travel with you.”

“What?!  No!”  Torin’s reaction was automatic, but he quickly added to it.  “Haven’t you see what I am?  What I am capable of?  I don’t even know if I can control it!”

“The people here know we are different.  It’s quite evident, now.  Torin, we have no training in survival.  Have no Magic ability, have no skills with weapons.  What would you have us do?”  Serra’s question was a valid one.  Torin mentally raised her age a number of winters.  Her question carried maturity beyond what her looks indicated.

“Parents?  Relatives?  Do you have anyone you can trust?”  His argument was weak, and Torin knew it even before Serra answered.

“Yes, there is someone, but why would we want to put them in danger?”  

Dalaein took a step forward, resting her hand on his arm.  He registered his arm bore no trace of the cut from Ledanai’s sword.  Not even a scar.  “Please, just until you can teach us to fight, teach us to survive, then we’ll part ways.”  In the end, he agreed.

They had planned on leaving right away, but once outside Torin saw first hand some of the damage he had wrecked.  Not just to structures, but humans were hurt as well.  Not intentionally, but he had hurt a few that got in his way.   

After conferring with Delaein and Serra, he began to heal those injured.  At their insistence, he drew mostly from the sister, as they laid, resting, behind closed door.  The fact they willingly offered themselves for the task made it no less distasteful.  But it was necessary.

And he wondered about the fact that he had not killed indiscriminately.  Had there been a part of him in control?  A part he now did not remember?  Or was there some other binding controlling his other self?

Four days later, Torin and the two sisters left.  A number of townspeople had already left, and none planned on staying, despite the recounting of Torin’s warning to The Blood.  Before The Blood returned, all the people would be gone.  Ghosts and dark memories would be the only things they would find.  

They left just after sunrise, the sun warming their backs.  Only a few people were there to see them off.  On horseback, with two extra horses loaded with provisions, clothes, and weapons, and with a vague idea to travel sunsetward, they set off. 

Torin had used the four days to mend what he could.  At their insistence, he drew from their lifeforces to also forge for each of the sisters a short and a long sword.  Visually similar to  the sword given to him by Badarin, they were lighter and stronger.

The end caps stones in Delaein’s and Serra’s swords had symbols of their own choosing; dragonflies for the short swords, signifying awareness of self, of purpose, and of maturity, while the stones on the longer swords bore the outline of a hummingbird, signifying tireless energy.  Delaein and Serra each wore a double scabbard, holding both swords, just as he carried his two swords.

Torin reflected on the journey ahead of them.  The edge of The Blood’s empire did not mean the edge of the world.  What lay beyond might offer new opportunities, and he was curious about the rumors from the border of the empire.   Exciting stuff, and possibilities untold, especially to them without other options.  But, even as he looked at the horizon, he knew someday he will have to do something about The Blood.  

The thought of all those lives slowly being drained weighed on his mind.  Thinking of them, all he could see was Aendein’s smiling face.  As he had done countless times since her passing, he struggled to remain calm, to suppress the dark stirring within.  He felt the ripple in his forearm subside.  He was still in control.  For now.

– The End (for now) –

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3 Responses to “The Blood – Torin, Part V”

  1. Nice ending! 🙂 I like Torin, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of his story.

    You mentioned maybe turning this into a longer book in the previous post – I really like that idea. You have a lot of really good plotting and fantasy elements in this story, and I actually feel like you could make a longer book just out of this part of the Blood series. And, like you said, a longer version would give you the room to go into more detail on your characters, backgrounds, and motivations as well.

    • I’m still deciding just how far I want to take this. The plan, for now, is to introduce other characters, each with their own semi-self-contained story.

      Hopefully the Torin portion is self-contained enough that if I keel over tomorrow people can still read it, enjoy it, and not feel overly-cheated by the lack of “more”. That will be the idea with each of the characters I introduce.

      It will be different once they start interacting, since the scope will have to change, and it will be difficult to have self-contained stories. We’ll see.

      Thanks for the feedback. It’s very much appreciated.

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