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Once, when mythical creatures and demons ruled the world, the father of dark magic Oni made his home amongst the simple people. As he dwelt upon the humans he became amused at their power struggles and watched as kingdoms rose and fell. Eventually, desperate for power, a king sought him out in order to make a deal with the dark deity himself.
“Speak unto me your desire but be warn the sacrifice which ye offer will be death.” As Oni spoke those words to the king who lusted after power he heed it not and said he would give up everything to rule. And so, foolishly, he agreed to create the kingdom of Novus. Unaware that he would regret this.
As soon as he turned thirty a death mark appeared upon his hand and within that year, the King was dead. And so, for generations his ljneage was cursed with the death mark which appeared after thirty years of life; they were given one more year before death consumed them.
A thousand years later, as mother’s love would try to break this curse. Giving birth to two twins, the mother would separate them apart, sending them to different parts of the kingdom. Hiding them from the death demon.
Angered at this betrayal the demon decided to come up with the most cunning of plan.
Extending the life of the king, he allowed him to rule past the age of thirty in hopes thst the twins cursed would eventually be found and to his surprise he was right.
Upon the king’s death the twins are summon to the castle to be told of their birth right
Ignorant of this curse both accept the invitation to the castle unaware that death is stalking them.
Now, the ultimate game of hide and seek begins. As both twins bump into each other they feel a shadow stalking them.
Will they be able to outrun their family curse?
Or will they succumb to it?
I. The beginning
Alone. That was the word to describe how the feminine beauty felt as she walked the halls of the castle. Her Father had been the lord of the north and kept her hidden away in the mountains where snow often fell upon the world and blanket it and peaceful white. The chilled wind had been her friend and she grew used to shivering and wearing many bundles of clothing to cover her pale skin up. Not only had she grown up in the cold, oftentimes her father had told her to be wary of strangers who visited them disguised in cloaks of darkness. So she’d been afraid for a while but childhood fear grew into adult resentment and as she finally turned the ripe age of 20 her desire to escape her eternal confinement was enough to drive her to pray to the gods themselves.
Of course, she’d heard numerous times to be careful what one wished for. So when a letter arrived at her manor addressed to her by royalty she knew something was wrong. Especially when she watched her father’s hands tremble with trepidation. A man of nearing fifty and graying hair, she'd seen her father watching the sentence of thieves caught stealing be carried out by beheading. Never did his hands shake when witnessing such a task be done. Nor did he flinch when, as a young maiden, he fought off a man who had tried to assassinate him for a reason which could only be described as mere folly.
So as she rose from the dining table and reached gingerly for her father’s hands he could see him exhaling before he spoke to her. “Daughter, have you noticed something strange about you?” His voice came out slow and low.
Perplexed, she shook her head trying to figure out the reason as to why her father had asked her for such a reason. Nothing out of the ordinary stuck out to her. Her hair was still the color of the pale winter’s sun. Her skin matched the snow cap mountains which their little castle nestled between. Zwan was now curious as to what the letter had detailed. Looking into the eyes of her father he slowly tosses the letter on to the table as though he knew the meaning of it without even having to open it.
“I guess it's time we told you the truth then.”
An eye lifted in curiosity as she heard of her father telling her that the time was now that she learned the truth. Whatever truth her father could tell her she was sure she could handle it. Taking a seat at the table she leaned forward and waited to hear the story which her father was beginning to tell her. As he spoke more and more the color drained from her face till she sat there in her seat cold and unable to move.
Oftentimes she had felt a random breeze against her skin when no one was there among her. Whilst a child and throughout her teenage years the whispering of voices would send her whirling around. Her voice had always cried who’s there only to be greeted with the deafening noise of silence. Heartbeat pulsating into her ears she felt the need to let out a scream but nothing came out. Now, all of those instances made sense.
The kingdom of Novus had always prospered and triumphed in battles and wars. Despite the monarch always dying mysteriously over a year after thirty. Voices had started to spread rumors that the founder of the kingdom had sold his soul to the devil cursing his entire blood lineage. How else could such a kingdom prosper with the numerous deaths of young kings… Now that the king had died, Zwan had been summoned to the kingdom along with her twin whom she’d never seen or heard from before. Except the king wasn’t just the king.. The king had been her father.
Inhaling deeply she closed her eyes as she took a moment to adjust to the fact that this was indeed reality and not just a fantasy or a dream. “When do we leave for the funeral, Father?” Was all her voice could muster as she felt the weight of the world tighten around her chest.
If she thought that her own castle was dreary amidst the mountain scenery then what words could she use to describe this scene? Black masses spilled out into the courtyard and entrance ways as mourners from all over the kingdom came to pay their respects to the King who had passed leaving behind a mother who was a widow. Scanning from the castle from face to face her eyes tried to spot whoever and whomever would be the person fated to be her “Twin” and brother no less. She didn’t see a face which resembled hers nor did she feel a at home despite the fact that her father had told her that she had been born in this castle. However, she did feel a brush against her. It was as though fingers had grazed the back of her neck and her hair stood up on end.
“I’m waiting for you in my kingdom of death, darling..” A whispering voice caressed her ears as she spun upon her heel in the midst of the crowd and shouted.
“I am Zwan! You can not make me tremble or fear you!”
It was than that all eyes turned and froze as the girl stood face to face with an imposing man who had half his face obscured in shadows.
Death, Oni, Reaper. The demon held numerous names throughout the ages he dwelt amongst the mortals. Oftentimes those who approached him did so out of respect and or greed wanting him to curse them with whatever lofty goals their heart desired. He warned them that he was no genie and that there was a steepness which came with the cost and still their greed blinded them to such a reality.
So when the girl declared before him and all who had come to grieve for the king that she was not afraid of him or the curses placed upon her Death found this to be amusing. Such a tender soul she wouldn’t bare his mark till ten years hence forth from this time. So of course the fear was felt. She’d yet to face her own mortality but that would soon change.
“Such bold claims from one shielded in opulence. Would you care to wager your life on that bet? A year… I’ll give you one year to successfully elude me, travel to the edges of the earth or anywhere else you’d like to flee. I’ll even give you the power to use whatever magic you’d desire. Water, thunder, ice, lighting and fire. .. Spells to raise the dead to do your bidding... Spells to make you soar within the sky and spells to make unseen to the eye. All of these I offer to you, if it is your fate you wish to defy. But if you cannot hide successfully for a year then know this child, you shall die.”
“And what of my twin? It seems awfully unfair that this option is left up only to me.” As Zwan spoke to the hood figured he crackled and mused at the thought of having two souls to take instead of one. Speaking up the demon spoke softly.
“Let us ask him shall we? Come here, other child.”
The wanderer. What many people called Krow by. It was a name renowned throughout his side of the world. He was a bounty hunter. Taking lives where needed proved no problem for his morality. As long as there was food on the table, he would do what was needed. His “parents” had long ago forsaken him. They were leaders of a barren land. Where freezing nights and boiling days were a commodity. There wasn't much he wanted to see of the other kingdoms. He quite liked being his own boss and wasn't going to stand for anyone abusing their power on him. Eventually, he found an oasis to create lodging in.
Shortly after, he received a letter from a royal family. How did they even know he lived here? Was he being watched? If so, they must be quite skilled for Krow to not notice them. Walking out to the blonde sea in front of him, the mix of green and brown cluttering the ground, he opened the letter. Commanding him to go to Novus for his supposed father's funeral. He would go, only after he hunted his first set of parents. In a dark rage, he made for the only place he knew they would be. Their castle. This would certainly be a spectacle. Krow knew what he was about to do was unwise. Especially with the current paranoia he held after receiving the letter.
On his long journey, he began to hear a voice in his ear. As if someone was whispering into his ear, he felt a warm breath of air hit his face. Were the gods against him? He wanted to be left alone. Now all of this was happening. The timing was far from convenient. All shortly after he turned 20…it couldn't be coincidence. The voice echoed within his head.
“Ah, going to send us some work so soon? You can't win us over…Death awaits you, prince.”
Krow just ignored it. It could be dehydration. Taking a sip of his flask, he kept walking.
After a few days, he reached the castle. The guards were weary of letting him in, and only did so due to their commander's order. The king wanted to see him. Great. He had some words to exchange with the bastard. Being escorted to the palace felt off. Krow had to be sure to keep his guard up. There's no telling what would happen. They knew how dangerous he could be. He had full intention to kill those damn royals he was being escorted to. Then he'd disappear. It was his specialty. On many hunts, he had to resort to such tactics. Once the halls were cleared, he reached the throne room. The king was the first to speak.
“You must have many questions. We will explain.”
Before Krow could object, they began. So, the late king of Novus was his father. One of the line who made a deal with death. Which meant Krow was inevitably doomed as well. Also, it meant that the voice was real.
“I find it interesting you kept this from me. So, this must be the reason you always hated my being.”
As the king tried to object, a knife was lodged into the throne, next to the man's neck. Guards began to walk up. To detain Krow, no doubt. So, he ran to the stained-glass window and jumped. The sound of the shattered glass echoed throughout the room. Something Krow couldn't hear. He was already running from rooftop to rooftop. Leaving was the only option. A whole kingdom against him was less than ideal. Instead, he'd nurture his hate for that damn king and wage war when he was king. Apparently, he had a twin sister he knew not about until just now.
The hate was strong within him. Enough to make him assassinate some guards who weren't even in his way. Whatever blow he could take, he would. It took a lot of stealth and tricks to get out of the kingdom walls. Now, he had to head to Novus. See what all this fuss was about. Sure, the man was dead, but that couldn't be the only reason they were calling him there. They must want to impose a new ruler. This journey would require a camel, and then switch to a horse. Nothing a little thievery couldn't fix.
Coming up on a unsuspecting stable, he took a camel and what he needed that was in there. Some more water was good. Novus was far from this desert. It would take at least a week or so. This just contributed to his name. Hopefully there would be legends of him down the road. The nickname the commoners gave him was good, at least in his mind. He often did wander.
Quickly, he left with the camel.
Once he reached the end of the desert, he found a horse to take. Now, he was set for the journey.
The area was flooded with people in dark clothing. Suddenly, someone shouted. Zwan…Quite similar to his name. So, he walked over to see what was happening. The girl was staring down death himself. Quite bold. Could the man not just take her soul when he wanted? Interesting. Krow kept observing until he was prompted to walk up by the otherworldly being.
Good thing he was able to bathe before. Otherwise, he'd look like shit. Not the terms he wanted to meet his sister on, but it couldn't be helped.
“So, you're implying that it'll be you. In one place. At one time. I find it odd how numerous people die daily yet you have free time to torment us.”
Provoking death wouldn't end well, he was sure, but any information he could get out of the man would be helpful. Death chuckled and replied,
“Smart one, aren't we? I personally will be the one to find you, but no guarantee that I won't have servants to help find you. Of course, it won't be needed.”
“Who thought death would be so cocky? I'll take you up on that offer. Try and find me. No matter how long you've been alive, I have experiences unique to me."
“You fool. You think I haven't seen every corner of this Earth?”
“I know what I'm getting myself into. Now, what would you decide, Zwan?”
Of course, he knew her name, because she yelled it for everyone to hear. Krow would take up the offer no matter what Zwan decided. He was sure she wouldn't stand a chance without him, though. Krow was skilled at evasion, trickery, and stealth. They clearly lived different lives. Krow could see it in her disposition. She wasn't as hardened as he and was probably isolated for much of her life. The way she looked around as if everything was new and the way she carried herself showed this. Would it be better if she didn't come with? Maybe they split up, make it harder for him. After all, they've been fine without each other until now.
“Well, I'll have to give you a mark because you have made your choice. A binding contract. It will dwell on your hand. Now, Zwan, what is your choice?”
An enigma to the woman who was headstrong. Already she could sense how he thought her to be weak and a nuisance. A life in perpetual solitude had made her mind as strong as iron and her will more stubborn than a mule. Oft she crafted for an adventure such as this and with its promise standing in her hand she’d be a fool to refuse. Not only that, he was offering her a gift. A gift which was that of magic, a thing which she knew could prove useful. Stepping forward she stood beside her brother and slowly lifted her other hand which was the opposite of the one which her brother was marked on.
“With your brand, I do accept your offering. Give me the brand along with the ability of necromancy and see to it that both me and our brother will hide from you and escape with our lives.”
As Zwan responded there was a dark chuckle which emanated from the being known as death. Lifting a palm he plaved it upon her head and instantly the female felt a chill running through her body. It was as thought ice was being poured into the the very veins itself. Shivering and quaking she stood petrified waiting for this seemingly eternal moment to pass through. Releasing her from his grip the voice spoke once more in a low and insidious tone his voice rumbling and shaking the very core of the castle to its foundation.
“24 hours. I and my legions will give you twenty four hours of grace before we find you. Behold the mark on palms. You both shall be mine before the end of tomorrow's night.”
With that the being vanished leaving behind a stum audience, the princess, and the assassin.
Inhaling and exhale the princess turned to her brother and than to the mourners who watched the spectacle happen. It was as though all time stood still. No one breathed or dared move before suddenly screams filled the air and the bodies congealed into a stampede of swarming bodies. Each member of the audience were scrambling to escape the scene which the horrors took place.
Clasping her hands together the female turned to look at her brother and the casket of the king which had been left to be viewed by all to see. Time to see if deaths held up his end of the bargain. Zwan thought to herself as she walked closer to the corpse. She, herself, had no idea how this power of necromancy was suppose to work. Of course rumors of witches raising the dead weren't rare and were often spoken and talked about. However she, being a fledgling of the dark arts, was new to this. Clapping her hand she cough loudly before talking outloud.
"Okay.. dead guy… erm. Wake up!" Instantly the king shot up and Zwan jump back.
"Christ's blood!" She swore before the King stared at them with blank eyes before he spoke "What did you two do? Have you learned nothing from my folly? All I've sacrificed so that you two may live!"
Rolling her eyes, Swan snapped fingers and the king fell back over and slumped down. "I am not going to get lecture by a dead guy." Her voice spoke before she turned to her brother.
"Well, it looks like my powers work. Necromancy and assassination. Do you have any helpful targets you've killed that could give us information that can be useful?"
Krow sighed as his supposed twin took the deal as well. Would they have to stick together? What a nuisance. There's no way she would survive. She didn't seem to be as good at disappearing as he was. Her talent looked to be the opposite, actually. They will have legions of devils and demons after them. Being noticed is what Krow wants the least.
Raising his hand, he spoke in a low tone. “I take your offer and your brand, with the power of transmutation.” The brand appeared on his hand, burning his skin. The pain wasn't terrible. Krow was used to it. The number of failures it took to get to his point caused a lot of physical pain. Enough for his pain tolerance to increase. Death shortly left. After stating he would give a 24-hour grace period. Great. Krow could make it far in a day. Especially with the magic he was granted. He already tested it. The ground under him, instead of stone, was now leather. Looking to his right hand, he thought of it turning into a blade, and it did. Amazing. He turned it back shortly and looked around at the crowd. Suddenly, a voice broke the silence. She was trying her necromancy. On the King, no less. After a sentence, she shut him up. Krow didn't blame her. A dead man has no business lecturing the living. He turned the ground under him back to stone before she turned to him.
“I have hideouts all over the kingdoms. It's only a matter if you can get there in time. It will be better if we go farther than the three kingdoms, though. Can you revive a bird big enough to carry you and fly?” He could turn his arms into wings. With a bit of trial and error, he could fly to where he needed to go. That just left her. He had no attachment to her, if she got caught it'd be her fault. As of now, he wasn't going to go out of his way to save her. It would be better if she realized that soon. He wasn't completely heartless, so he wouldn't straight up tell her yet. If she became any more of a hindrance, he'd leave her in an instant. “I know a place in the Great Wood where we can gather supplies. It's normally a two-day journey on foot. If we can fly, it should be much faster.” He seemed to have a light grasp of how to activate his power. Focus on an item and picture what you want it to be.
Sighing, he looked to the late King. Was that truly his father? Krow didn't see the resemblance. He decided to touch the corpse. It shriveled up and turned into a dead deer. Interesting. Krow was thinking of a deer?? He was picturing a bird…He tried it again and succeeded. A bird the size of a human. It worked! “I fixed your problem. Maybe this man will be of some use to us now.” Hopefully she knew what he was getting at. She could revive their father, now a giant eagle, and make it fly her where they needed to go. Krow walked away from the corpse and stretched a bit. The crowd was filled with fear of the supposed heirs to their kingdom. So, he shouted, “Citizens of Novus! You must fend for yourselves about a new ruler. We have other business to attend to. More pressing matters. To save you all.” the crowd became even more frantic. Krow rolled his eyes and stomped his foot, making the ground spike up and kill a few hundred people. “Now you have a damn reason to be scared.” Turning to Zwan, he resumed, “I can fuel your power quite well, maybe staying together is smart after all.”
He offered a hand to her, “We should go. We've already wasted enough time.”
Was it the smartest thing to do in the given situation? No.
Did she had any control over her body whilst she did it? Yes.
As the s̶t̶r̶a̶n̶g̶e̶r̶, no, b̶r̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶, no, bloodthirsty fool, handed his hand out towards her she declined him all together. Instead the palm of her hand went to his face colliding with it as hard as she could to the point where she did herself more harm than he did him. Her face was flush red with anger and a seething rage boiled between her. Before anything could be done or said to her the magic of necromancy was powerful at work. There were more than just citizens of Novus that were in the crowd which now laid slaughter. Soldiers, blacksmiths, stable boys, and numerous other people who would have proved useful alive were now nothing more but food for the crows. With the black arts at her display Zwan didn’t hesitate to resurrect the fallen soldiers and use them as an undead meat shield between her and her supposed brother.
How could two people be born from the same lineage and yet differ so violently. Something dark had twisted her brother, warped him to the point where she wanted nothing to do with him. Such was the hatred that was burning within her. “You bloodthirsty fool! I would’ve gladly gone with you till you needlessly slaughter those who could’ve been useful for us. Now, look at what you've done. Added hundreds more to the death’s legion. Fill our kingdom with fear and only given aid to the very thing which we ought to be fleeing from.”
It was foolish to think that the Princess had done nothing but lived a life full of being pampered and waited on. In the midst of her lonely childhood she had devised several ways to keep herself occupied. Horseback riding and archery were one two of the main things which consumed her time. Whatever hesitation and ineptitude which she had before vanished in the wake of her anger. For once in her life, finally, she’d had the chance to break her solitude and be needed by others. Being crowned the ruling queen of Novus would’ve been the excitement that she’d had been longing for. And now she would be forever damned if it was taken from her by her idiotic brother.
“Leave by yourself. You may wish to abandon this kingdom but I will do no such thing. A diamond in the ruff is best hidden in plain sight? I shall hide among the dead who I control to do my bidding. Come for me again and I will slay you. Step foot in my kingdom of Novus and it will not be death who you will need to fear!”
As if to make good on her word, the soldiers with whom she controlled with necromancy moved to form a phalanx before her. Shields were interlock with shields and swords were drawn pointed at the male who had done the unspeakable. The woman did not know fear nor was she afraid to confront those who she held nothing but absolute contempt for. How unfortunate that Krow was now the object of her hatred and contempt.
Looking over to the form of the great eagle who was once their father, she smirked. “Keep your gift.”
She spat as she placed a hand upon the bird and watched his come to life. Letting out a loud cry the eagle soared to life and with a gust of his mighty wings, blew a gush of wind which threaten to knock many off their feet. Picking up the crown which had fallen off the body of the king she placed it atop her head and spun around eyes filled with hatred to her brother. “So.. will you chose death to slay you, or I? My foolish Krow.”
A slap slashed across his face as he was denied. The woman claimed she wouldn't abandon the kingdom. Only given aid to what he ought to be fleeing from? This woman was dumber than she looked. That was saying something.
He let her speak her mind, no matter how much it hurt his. As she resurrected the giant eagle, he manipulated the ground around him to hold him still. Her words rang throughout his head. “My foolish Krow.” That set him over the edge. It was his turn to speak. Educate her, perhaps.
“I'm the fool?! Is the legion I added to not the very same you command? The very same he can take back. I'm the fool?? Your choice was one of the worst possible! Commanding a legion that isn't even yours. Pitiful.”
Lowering the stone that held him in place, he walked closer to the phalanx and touched one of the soldier's shields. As if in reaction, it melted and began to cause the corpses to burn. Touching the soldiers in quick succession, they all imploded. Rendering them useless.
“Just as I can help your power, I can revoke it. You won't stand a chance against death. Using his own servants against him won't work. Oh? And I made these people useless to you? Without what I did you'd be defenseless. Now these people can work for you as long as you live. No breaks. No getting tired. But I'm the fool??”
He turned away from her and began to walk away. “You can rot for all I care. Your stupidity will be the end of you. You should have never turned me down, my foolish Zwan.” as he said her name it held nothing but malice. She obviously thought royalty meant something when lives were on the line. Like he wasn't royal himself? Maybe the narcissism was raised into her. He wouldn't be surprised. With each step, the ground began to raise behind him. As if it was leading him to the north mountain.
Looking back on what she said, he couldn't help but let out a laugh. “You? Slay me? Fool.” he spoke to himself for now he was far away from the kingdom of Novus he now was planning to wipe off the map. Completely. Including his sorry excuse for a sister. The ground fell behind him and kept making stairs in front of him as he reached the mountain.
As soon as he reached the top of the mountain, he ran his fingers across the ridges of rock which caused it to morph into a castle of some sorts. It wouldn't be hard for him to make Novus collapse in on itself, but he wanted to wait. He wanted what he said to sink in before her final moments. No matter how long that would be.
Krow's mind became filled with anger. All he could contemplate was how, if she wasn't dead in the next 24 hours, that'd he'd take care of it for death. She knew were he was. She could attack whenever. That's when he'd show her true ignorance.
She wouldn’t stand for this. As he touched the phalanx which she’d summon to her aid watch them spontaneously combust her anger grew. Twisting and warping around her like a venomous snake, she couldn’t think nor stand straight. Whatever words he’s spoken fell upon deaf ears as she felt the intensity of anger flare up within him. Necromancy had been her gift which Death had given her and she was a fool to stop at her. The moment her brother left her walls, she knew decided that she would no longer wait for death to come find her; she would come to him. Krow was a danger, a threat to devious, to insideious to live. He would bring about ruin and chaos and in the end all who were under her subject would be brought hollow.
Reached for a knife that had not yet disappeared she took hold of the damnable instrument and slit her wrist. Blood blanketed snowy white skin as she fell to her knees and began to draw her a pentagram with her own blood. The vermillion stained granite floors as she, with her finally breath, finished the transmutation and called upon the very creature who had once visit her before. His eyes glare rare; his voice shook the castle and his laughter echoed throughout the realm between the living and the dead.
Floating within the infinite space which left the living and the dead intertwine she stood before the nameless one, the great equalizer, the grim reaper. Cradling her within his boney hands the hooded figured stared into the eyes of the woman whom foolish called upon him with a blood summoning. His eyes narrowing as he leaned forward and asked softly why she’d done such a thing. And what it was that she wanted.
“Make me a being of neither that is neither dead or alive. Grant me the fire of ice to freeze over hellfire and slay the foolish one who’d dare thinks only of his own self and his own selfish desires.”
This.. This, this.. Was to much for death to hold. Crackling, manaicallly, diabolically, he roared his head back and slowly offered her a dagger made of ice and told her plainly. “Cut out your heart and see to it that you will dwell between both words. Your beating heart will be removed from your body and your body will not perish as long as your heart still beats. It will can be turned, pierced, set a flame, but it will not turn to dust or bone as long as your heart beats. Hide your heart well for that is the one piece of you that is mortal. And if is slain, than you will die as well.”
Eyes flew open as she awoke to the emptiness of her castle. Within her hand laid her pulsating heart which pumped and beat within her delicate hands. Rising up from her feet she summoned used her power of ice to turn sculpt a chest and within that chest she place the one part of her that remaining beating and alive. Turning upon her heel she left her castle and followed the rocks which led to where her brother had forsaken her. She’d sworn that she would slay him; slay him she would.
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