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Night of the Hunter


Babbling Loonie
Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
Mark bowed his head in prayer.

Four men knelt in a circle around the obsidian pillar, arms drawn, weapons stabbed into the bloodstained floor. Four Paladins, Knights of Britannia. Their armor gleamed in the flickering torchlight, evanescent flames dancing across breastplates polished to mirrors. Ceremonial capes hung from their shoulders, forming a train behind each man, unblemished, as white as virgin snow. Each head was bowed in reverence, worship, offering their silent devotion to the macabre altar before them.

“Pape Satan, pape Satan aleppe,” they chanted together.

“Please,” the girl whispered, chained to the stone. She had been beautiful once, the daughter of a noble in Britain, but as she hung there, beaten, defiled, bleeding out from a stab would in her bare stomach, all earthly beauty was stolen from her, and terror took its place. Blood and bits of gore pooled on the broken stone beneath her, the faint scent of sulfur lingering in the air.

Mark raised his head, and rose, spreading his hands in supplication. The Order of the Silver Serpent had once been the King's personal army, his Praetorian guard. Formed on the slopes of the Serpents Spine during Cantabrigian's final stand against Lord Robere, the Order had become an elite fighting force, freed of the bureaucratic restraints and divided loyalties placed on other Knighthoods. But the Silver Serpent had not merely been a band of dutiful soldiers and religious fanatics. They shared their immortal lords secrets, his grand scheme to unite the realities and reshape Sosaria in their image.

They also knew the terrible price that would have to be paid for their Crusade. All those born since the Shattering would have to die, would be wiped from existence so Britannia might live. The death of millions, a madmans dream.

But with great power comes the temptation for corruption. For when the realities were reunited, and reunited they would be, Sosaria would be remade in Cantabrigian's image. Their image. Those who had stood with their lord, who had embarked upon this Crusade, those who stood at the center of the tempest when the Shrines true purpose was activated, would be spared the sacrifice wrought on their fellow Britannians. And it would be the Order who would be tasked with rebuilding the world, reshaping it, erecting new shrines and new kingdoms with themselves at its head.

But Lord British had abandoned his cause, his Virtues, content to let Britannia die a slow death, divided upon itself, vulnerable to the machinations of Chaos. He had abandoned his men, his sons. Therefore it fell to those few who remained, the Faithful, the Grandmasters of the Order, to complete their Crusade.

Even if it meant engaging in the Occult practices the Order had long fought against. Even if it meant replacing the worship of God, the Light, with the worship of Demons. Lucifer had been an Angel of Light once, and he had fallen because he refused to bow to these weak, mortal creatures. Because he had refused to submit to his fathers flawed design. So too would he fall, Mark told himself, so too would the Paladins.

Death lingered in the air. The interjection of that cancerous reality tingled along his nerves. No price was too great for Britannia. No price too great for absolute power. The pentacle beneath the girl began to glow, the faint scent of sulfur lingering in the air as the room shook and that daemonic presence filled the room. The Dark One's own touch filled the Blood Dungeon, his hot breath beginning to shoot out from the shadows, creating a tempest of hot air in the enclosed chamber. The girl screamed. The chattering of demons taunted her. The bricks beneath her began to crumble as the reality beneath her was violently torn away, forming a portal straight into the pits of Hell.

“He is here,” Mark announced with a soft, malevolent smile.

“Not so fast, tin man.”

An explosion. The sound of a cannon. A bolt punched itself through Sieg's steel helmet and buried itself in his brain. He collapsed, his mouth opening, a faint crackle as black smoke left his lips and the demon inside him died. Richter turned and attempted to free his sword, before another explosion tore through the air, sending the bolt punching into his right shoulder. Black blood poured from the wound.

Mark whipped around. He recognized the voice, it's mocking tones, it's sardonic edge. “Covenant,” he snarled, glaring. “What are you...?”

“No, no, Sweetheart,” the loud click of his laced up leather boots was audible despite the supernatural wind gusting in the room, as the figure descended the steps into the Blood Dungeon. He was tall, a lion of a man, broad shouldered and deep of chest. He appeared young, almost beautiful, despite the shock of white, almost shoulder length hair, and the unshaven stubble covering his jaw. He was no longer wearing his armor, the gear of a Knight of the Silver Serpent. No sword hung at his side, no ceremonial cloak hung from his shoulders. Instead, a leather coat was draped across them, the red sleeves concealing a pair of muscled arms, his bare chest glistening in the light. Black leather pants and fingerless gloves. A macabre sword hung from his shoulder, curved around the edge, a repeating gunpowder crossbow hanging from his right hand.

“The name's Nicholas Tarrant,” he intoned, as he lifted the crossbow up and pointed it at Mark's head. “And I'm about to send you and your boss straight back to Hell.”


Babbling Loonie
Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
“That was cliché,” Mark murmured in dull, sardonic tones.

Nicholas shrugged, the ghost of a smirk lingering on his lips. “If the shoe fits.”

The Paladin-turned-Satanist spared a single, absent glance over his shoulder, considering his options. One man was dead, the other injured. One gripped his sword and vainly attempted to find his courage. The girl dangled behind him, unconscious, a limp carcass hanging over the yawning void. The only thing tethering her to this plane, and away from the gibbering jaws of a thousand daemons were the iron shackles clutching her bare arms.

Mark's eyes returned to his opponent, and he spoke. “What do you hope to achieve, Hunter?” He stepped forward, testing his luck. Nicholas bat a lash, cocking his weapon in response.

“You think you can stop us?” Mark intoned coolly, as if lecturing a child. “Stop Hell? You one, insignificant little man? What makes you think you have a chance?” The Paladin turned. Tarrant showed no outward signs of fear, no doubt, and nor would he. He stepped to the edge of the Void Pool, where the world ended and collapsed into the boiling pools of perdition, pausing to spare a glance over his shoulder. “You must know there are hundreds of us. In the Order, in Britannia, all answering the call of the Dark. Who even now are summoning the Great Lords of Dis into this world.”

“Pal, that's what they call job assurance.”

Mark smiled. “So it is.” He paced between the Hunter and the pool. “You were once one of us, Covenant. ...Tarrant,” he corrected, looking up, tapping his lip in abstract consideration. “You know our purpose, our goals. ...Join us.”

“Now Captain Ironpants starts the whole villain speech,” Nicholas replied in dry, sarcastic tones. “Join me, and together we can rule the Empire.” He smiled. “And you call me unoriginal.”

“Our cause is just...!” Mark bit back the anger rising in his voice, calming. “Lord British abandoned us. He left without finishing the mission, without uniting the worlds as one.” Mark turned, and stepped towards Nicholas. “He let the world fall into shadow, nihilism and despair. Minax is growing stronger. Exodus is about to recreate the world in his image. Virtuebane is just biding his time. Is that Order? Is that the Virtue we swore to uphold?”

“What, so you're just going to sacrifice a few virgins, appeal to Hell, and save the day?”

“Yes,” Mark smiled, lecturing. “Because I am a good soldier, and our cause is just. Britannia needs a new King, a new master. And when all the worlds are united behind its one, true guardian, there will be peace.”

“Well, good luck with that,” Nicholas aimed the weapon. “Perhaps you can convince Lucifer while you're tonguing his backside.”

Mark smiled, and looked up as the hulking, winged shadow loomed over the Hunter, a massive sickle sword gripped in his hands. “You first.”

The demon swung, the blade cutting into his unsuspecting target.