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"A Dark Tower Tale" by Lady Sigrun (Dark Tower)

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Babbling Loonie
Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
A Dark Tower Tale - By Lady Sigrun - Also part of UO Stratics Fan Fiction

In the great city of Britain, they say that all things are possible. They say this -- the privileged, the wealthy who congregate at the city's western bank -- but very rarely does anything actually happen. This evening, a soft rain falls.

A mist lies heavily over the city, and there is no wind. There is little to be heard save the distant hammer falls from the northwestern smithy and the occasional "clop, clop, clop" of some traveller's horse as its master seeks ale and a warm seat by the fire.

Focus now upon the small, huddled form of the Hunter. It is heavily swathed in clothing of the deepest black. Upon its head, a well-worn hat with an improbably wide brim. Of the face beneath the hat, there is no evidence: the Hunter sits, its back to the wall of the butcher's shop.

It sits, knees drawn up against its chest for warmth, hands concealed in the voluminous sleeves of its robe. Water pours from the brim of its hat in tiny rivulets. An hour passes, and with it passes the day. All is quiet, now. The few remaining citizens have taken their leave of the streets, seeking food, warmth, comfort, companionship.

All save one. She walks, haltingly, up the street, frequently using the damp walls of the buildings for support. She may have been lovely, once, but it is difficult to detect loveliness in the sopping, bedgraggled figure that pauses, finally, almost directly in front of the Hunter, and peers, trembling, into the windows of the butcher shop. Her silver hair has been cut with a blunt blade, and hangs in strings about her face. Her body, barely clad in the remnants of a fine lady's courtly gown, has skin the color of deepest ebon. She clutches her belly tightly. She is heavy with child.

Suddenly, she sees the Hunter. She gasps, startled. The hunter wipes its lips on the back of its glove and peers up at her from beneath the brim of its hat. "Food..." says the elf, in a voice barely audible. "I can pay." Reaching into the bodice of the shredded gown, she draws forth a pendant of stunning beauty. It is fashioned from true silver and diamond, and glitters in the failing light. "Do you know... where I can sell this? I... the child... must have something to eat."

The Hunter nods quietly and rises to its feet. It beckons the elf to come with it and takes hold of her arm, gently supporting her. Together, they move slowly down the cobbled street until they come to a large, dark opening in a wall. There is a passage within, poorly illuminated with guttering torches. The Hunter speaks: "Not far now, princess." The maiden nods, grateful, and allows the Hunter to guide her into the passage. They follow it for a time, listening to the occasional "plink, plink" of dripping water, and then come to a raised platform. In the platform is a large hole with ladders protruding from it.

The elf turns to the Hunter, doubtful. "It's just down these steps, my lady," says the Hunter. Nodding, resigned, the elf begins the descent. The Hunter follows. When they reach the bottom, it is almost entirely black. Rats can be heard squealing in the distance. The elf, mortally afraid, clutches feebly at the ladder, attempting to ascend.

The Hunter draws a strange, sickle-shaped, copper blade from its belt -- and deftly parts the elven maiden from her life with a swift stroke across the neck. It pauses to lap the gushing flows of her life's blood and drinks for a long while. Then, standing, the Hunter wipes its bloodied lips upon the back of its glove and appraises the sordid little scene. It sighs, seemingly pleased with its work.

Gently taking the glittering pendant from the girl's dead fingers, it places it in a pouch deep in the folds of its clothing. Smiling, the Hunter takes its copper knife and makes a careful incision in the woman's belly and removes the child, squirming there within the confines of its bloody bag. It cackles softly to itself, cracks the squirming infant's head sharply against the stone wall, and wraps it in cloth taken from the dead woman's gown. "The idiot female did not deserve this tiny man. Much better that it did come to us." Slowly, methodically, the Hunter then slices the woman's corpse into small pieces and flings these to the rats milling in increasing numbers on the landing just below.

Satisfied, replete, the Hunter climbs the ladder and makes its way out into the street.

Look now upon the face of our Hunter. It is the face of a young woman, nineteen or twenty years of age. She is well formed, of good proportion, and save for the unnatural pallor of her skin, one might almost say she was... beautiful. But the eyes... these eyes... they look up at us from the depths of shadow beneath the brim of her large hat. And in these eyes, black, like the vastnesses of the deepest hells, there is no single shred of humanity. They are the eyes of an animal, full of nothing but purest Malice.

As the Hunter makes her way down the wet street, she is hailed by a guard. "You are about your business rather late, citizen," he says. "Please name yourself and your errand." The Hunter turns, slowly, and regards the man. She smiles prettily.

"I am but a weary traveller, seeking warmth and shelter on a dreary night, master Guard. And my name is... Sigrun."
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