When True Night Falls: The Deathless One.
"I have no name," whispered a voice in the darkness. "If you must call me something, call me Nameless."
The True Night was about to cast its shadow across Sosaria once more.
Eris Bashere had intended to find love that night. The spoiled and naive daughter of the Village Sheriff, Eris had never known romance. Not the touch of a man nor the raucious moans of a lover. But she thought she knew, each time she turned the page of a forbidden novella or listened to the thinly veiled eroticism of a troubadours song. She thought she knew what love was and where she would find it. So that night she had escaped through the window in her best woolen dress and stockings, searching for the nearest tavern. Tonight she would meet her tall, dark and dangerous stranger, and together the two would live the life of adventure she had always dreamed.
At least, she cried in her mind, that had been the intention. She struggled against his grip, attempting to free herself of the man as he dragged her out behind the tavern and into the cold night air. Mist formed on his breath.
She had hoped to find a mysterious foreigner, she thought bitterly, perhaps a Knight that would write her a sonnet and complement her on her eyes. Instead, that man led her into the clutches of three drunken rogues in crimson garb - Stefan, Lucious, and Damion - who had some very different ideas about the meaning of love.
She had attempted to cover her bare breasts - her blouse having been torn open by Lucious, 'the Pious' he called himself - as she was flung by Stefan into the freezing mud. She looked back in horror as the man with the red sash and cudgel began to loosen his trousers, a vicious smile crossing his rounded face.
"What should I do to her first?" he laughed.
Damion, a fat and balding man in his fourties, adorned with black shadow beneath his eyes and black paint on his lips, answered first. "Punish her," he murmured as he lifted his shirt and began digging in his navel for lint. "She scratched meh. I never let no dumb tramp scratch meh! 'Sides, her momma was a dumb tramp too. Time she beh learnin' her place." Damion took his finger from his navel and sucked the lint off.
Lucious fumbled with the Ankh Pendant he wore. He called himself a religious man, pious, and all the women he had hurt in his lifetime had it coming, or so he told himself. The Will of the Patriarch.
Eris had to do something. She had to fight, lash out, something. She launched herself at Stefan, dragging her nails across his face, tearing flesh. And then her world exploded. Stefan brought his brass knuckle down on her temple. She could feel the warm blood on her cheek as she collapsed to the ground.
"No one denies me," Stefan scowled, reaching down to grasp a handful of her hair. "No one denies Ste-" He was cut short by a loud groan, and the sound of a wet sack collapsing into the mud behind him. Lucious was face down in the mud, the hilt of a dagger thrust from the back of his skull.
"Who is there?!" Damion screamed in a panic, turning.
Eris' eyes widened in horror. She watched as the fat, overgrown sadist curled his lip into a mad grin, tearing his dagger from the sheath at his hip. He turned the dagger on himself, carving a sinuous line from the top of his pelvic bone across his stomach. Blood and intenstines spilled out over his hands and onto the ground.
"Now," the passionless voice came as a hissing whisper. "Eat yourself to death." Eris wanted to wretch. She wanted to crawl into the shadows and hide. She needed to escape. But she could not move. She could not tear her eyes away. Damion reached down and grasped a handful of his intestines, pulling on it with a sick, wet tearing of sinew and soft flesh, sinking his teeth into his own live entrails, tearing a dripping hunk and swallowing before the enchantment faded and recognition returned. He collapsed. Those eyes looked to Stefan, to Eris, pleading for help.
Stefan released Eris and turned. "Who ... Who are you!?" The Cutlass in his hand trembled with uncertainty, with fear.
"I do not share my name," came the soft voice, "with those who are already dead."
Eris' tried to see this Shadow, her rescuer. The moonlight gleamed on velvety soft, black robes, its argent beams glinting off silver threads, embroidered runes around a velvet cowl. The shadow became a figure, black robes draping the tall form. For a moment the sole human apendage was a thin, skeletal hand clutching a wooden staff. He took a deliberate step forward into the light, his face remaining in shadow, but for a moment she thought she saw something.
A thin, malevolent smirk.
"You ... You bastard!" Stefan lunged for the robed figure, raising the Cutlass high.
"An Ex Por," came the whisper.
Stefan collapsed to one knee and dropped the blade in the mud. The figure raised his long, delicate fingers and pressed them against the mans forehead.
"Kal Vas Flam."
Stefan tried to scream but nothing came. The hand remained pressed against his forehead. His form shook. His flesh began to smoke. A lick of flame burst from his right ear. Then his eyes melted. The flesh began to sag and melt around his form.
Eris could look no more. She pressed herself up and retched. The contents of her stomach splattered across the ground. She shuddered as she felt a shadow cast across her form.
"Give me your hand," came the voice.
She looked over her shoulder and shuddered. She wanted to shrink back from his Dark Magus. Fear welled in her soul. But she conceded. Eris felt a strange warmth emit from him as his fingers wrapped around her hand and tugged her up.
The woman felt the blood rush to her cheeks as she wrapped her hands around herself, attempting to hide her exposed figure. The shadow stared at her for a moment, and then reached up. Eris took an unconcious step backwards.
The Magus peeled his cowl back and she saw him for the first time. He appeared to be a young man, not yet in his thirties, with high cheek bones, a square jaw, and haunting blue eyes. And yet the silver hair of an old man spilled down his shoulders, toussled and wavy. He began to peel his robe open.
She closed her eyes. What could this man want? She wanted to run. And then she felt her form enveloped in warm, velvet cloth. Eris opened her eyes. The man was now dressed in black trousers and a white shirt. The midnight robes that he had been wearing were now wrapped around her form, preserving her modesty.
"What was his name?" the mage said in a soft tone, almost a whisper. A pair of haunting azure eyes moved towards the corpse on the ground.
"Stefan," she replied. "Stefan Von Cross."
"Mm," he nodded. "I was beginning to feel insecure without a name to call my own. I think I shall keep his."
She looked to the smoking, now blackened corpse, and shuddered. "Your name, Sir?"
"I am Stefan Von Cross."
"Wh...?" She looked up. The figure was gone.