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    From the Depths of Tartaros

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    Digdug



    Posts : 20
    Join date : 2015-09-26

    From the Depths of Tartaros

    Post by Digdug on Thu Oct 01, 2015 2:19 am

    Thirty miles east of Crocus sat a fresh crater in a grassy valley. Smoke rose up from the crater, drifting up to the orange-lit sky along with the putrid scent of burnt flesh and fresh blood. It sounded completely quiet, the animals of the area having been frightened away by the sheer sound of the impact minutes ago.

    "I think she landed over there." A ragtag bunch of militiaman, conscripts for the nearby order of knights, marched sporadically across the serene setting in search of the crater. They clumsily held up their swords and shields as they approached their target. Their knees and arms shook like those of small boys wandering into an unknown battlefield. They wanted to go home, if their homes were even still standing after the war, but they couldn't go back. They had to make sure their target perished, to make sure she died.

    "I-is that her?" The group of would-be soldiers peaked over the edge of the crater with great caution for their own lives. Their eyes sunk when they spotted the body of a slender woman in the center of the crater. Her arms and legs were spread out and a blood puddle had formed around her, staining her torn but scandalous clothing. A great and terrible burn rested on the center of her stomach, the result of raw magic having scorched her otherwise pale flesh. Her eyes were shut tight and her mouth set to an anguishing frown as if death had knocked on her door at the least opportune moment.

    With the woman's apparent lifelessness, the men's frightened demeanor shaped right up. They laughed and giggled before several of them rolled down into the crater to retrieve the body, making jokes about the "much deserved beating" she received as they did so. One of them even cut off a lock of her hair and claimed it as a war trophy.

    As they tugged at her body, however, a great scream erupted from one of them, "She's still moving!" The men in the crater dropped her immediately and raised their swords. They trembled each time the woman's body twitched until she opened a single, exhausted eye. The physical pain she felt was immense, but it could not compare to her mental anguish.

    "Have.. have we lost?"

    The tenderness in her body prevented the woman from moving her head around, but she could make out a mass of figures with weapons through her blurred vision. She thought to rise up and protest whatever posses had come for her, but it felt hopeless at that point. The woman instead gave up her consciousness to the black abyss and closed her eye. In her deep sleep, her head wobbled to the side, and the dim skylight fell down on her neck and highlighted that most fearsome sign those men were looking for: the guild tattoo of Tartaros.

    "Were we foolish to try and fix the world?"

    Bertha Bordeaux mumbled for some time until her dark eyes jerked open to see nothing but blackness. She could not decipher if she had become blind or if her surroundings were merely blanketed in darkness. The ground she lied on felt hard and cold like rough stone and the amount of time passed posed a mystery for her. She brushed her sore hands across the ground and picked up a subtle amount of wet dust. It felt and looked like some sewer or dungeon of some kind, but the woman did not fret. She just apathetically stared up into the darkness and thought, and thought, and thought...

    "Where did we fail?"

    Their victory had appeared assured that day, however long ago it was. A bulk of Tartaros mages marched toward Crocus, led by the cunning guild master himself. Together, all those mages were like a Tartaros war machine, seeking after the destruction of their great foe, the wizard's guild Sabertooth. They bordered the target territory at approximately noon and prided themselves in the preparation to strike the heart of the opposing guild. Among that group, none walked more proudly than the second in command, Bertha Bordeaux. How foolish she was though; how foolish they all were. Fairy Tail, a guild whose mere mention could make Bertha quiver with rage, had ambushed the Tartaros forces, accompanied by Sabertooth. An immense battle ensued, one that even Bertha's memory could hardly recollect. What she could remember—what she would not dare to forget—was that damnable mage from Fairy Tail... the one who sent her flying with a great power. She could almost feel the unmatchable magic soaring through her body again. It ate away at her.

    "We weren't ready for war."

    Bertha's eyes fell open and peered into darkness. With her eyes adjusting, she could make out the stone ceiling above her. Water droplets fell from the cracks of the stones and plinked against the ground below, but there was more noise in her dark chamber. Whispers of sorts.

    "It's Bertha... Is she asleep... kick her awake..." Bertha craned her head to her right side and picked out numerous silhouettes in the darkness. Her facial expression remained unchanged in its total apathy, but when her mind placed known faces onto the bodies of the silhouettes, she grinned with a perplexing delight and forced her aching body up to face the bunch. The figures all surrounded her and covered her entire body with their gaze, awing at the burn mark and numerous bloodstains on her clothing and skin. When they reached her battered face and messy, sable hair, they all roared in a great cheer.

    "My comrades, so nice to see you all." She brushed a hand through her hair, running her fingers through long strands to rid it of any dust and dried blood. She smiled all the while, a fact that would disturb the common man given her circumstance. With an almost gleeful tone, Bertha requested, "Please, one of you, fill me in on where we are." She chuckled, "I do hope it's not Hell." After a short unison of laughter, one of them stepped forward and offered the information.

    "After the battle, the fighting force—if you can call them that—of this town went around and started collecting any of the survivors on our side. They wanna make an example of us, they say." The man speaking ran his thumb across his neck and those in the chamber only cackled more as if their executions were meant to be a joke. Clearly, none of them were afraid; they didn't think they had a reason to be. It was utterly amusing.

    "And the master? What's become of him?" The figures in the room seemed to cringe and freeze, bringing about a quick silence to the hardy laughter they enjoyed. A terrible, emotional sting erupted in Bertha's gut at their silent response. A cryptic woman, she merely maintained her smile and shook her head in disappointment. "Let's leave. I am already tired of this place."

    "They've placed an enchantment on this room. Makes it a little harder to use our magic." The man grinned. "Not that we care too much."

    "Pitiful. Bust the door down."

    Like worker bees obeying their queen, two men from the group paired up and approached the dark, iron door. Each winded his fist back in preparation and slammed against the center of the door in unison without so much as flinching. The others in the group only cheered them on as the hinges squealed through the building, but the sound of heavy metal falling to the stone floor overpowered every noise combined. Within minutes of the door-breaking, the sound of explosions and screams echoed from the building, which was apparently a castle of some kind, albeit a small one. The escapees tore through walls, subdued the guards who tried to stop them, and even took the time to desecrate a few statues. Not Bertha though; she was satisfied working from behind the group. It was, after all, difficult to keep the rowdy lot on task and in control.

    When the group stepped through the gigantic door—presumed to be the front door to the castle—a cool breeze swept past them. The drizzling rain washed away the group's dirt and blood that had accumulated on them over the past days and softened their hair. It did not, however, soften their resolve to escape. They boldly walked out of the stone structure with their heads held up like knights righteously defying their foes. In contrast, the militiamen awaiting them on the outside stood like a wobbly fortress waiting to be toppled over by the slightest touch. The lot of them lowered their swords and raised their shields; they lowered their heads and held their feet firmly on the ground. It might have been impressive were their knees not shaking.

    "These are not soldiers. They are boys playing dress-up while the men are away." Bertha gestured for her comrades' patience and stepped forward ahead of them. She walked softly in her boots and smirked at the wave of militiamen who readied themselves as if a ballista were rolling in on them rather than a lone woman. The sorceress covered with bruises stared down the armored men, and a silent tension followed.

    "Move yourselves out of our way. Do this and we will spare your town... or stand your ground," she raised her palm up at them, "and we will turn everything here into a pile of ashes." The bodies of the Tartaros mages stood soundly still while their eyes analyzed the reactions of the horrified soldiers. In that moment, there was a mutual agreement between both sides: make no sudden movements. The handful of Tartaros mages stood sternly, but the massive number of militiamen were merely frozen in their angst. The annoyance of the rain, of the world, and of time itself was forgotten by everyone present. Finally, one courageous (or completely fearful) young man in the line of soldiers dropped his shield and sword and stepped out of the way, obeying his own will to survive. A chorus of dropped armament followed the first, and the wall of men divided in two to allow the fearsome bunch passage.

    Without even acknowledging their choice, Bertha stepped past them with a satisfied expression painted on her lips. Her colleagues that followed presented a much less pleasant look upon their faces but followed their matriarch without complaint. Neither the militiamen nor the mages made eye contact as their paths crossed. The latter were too proud and the former too ashamed.

    The rain did not cease even after the group escaped the clutches of the town. It seemed to follow them deep into the woods where the leaves of the treetops barely protected them from the cold chill of the falling water. It wasn't until noon passed that they happened upon a large cave, something of a miracle for the weary lot of mages who swarmed into it for safety. Though it was dark and cold, it protected them from the elements of the outside world, a world that seemed determined to kill them. None of them bore tears though; they were far too hardened for that. They instead wore their thick, stoic faces and rested up in a huddled group. Contently, they listened to the rain beating against the roof of the cave as if it was their lullaby.

    At an unknown hour, in a corner of the cave, Bertha made small talk with one of the men in the group as she fiddled with a handheld mirror she had found. Through the darkness of the cave, she meticulously played with her hair until her poor fingers grew sore. She could almost swear it looked as if someone had cut a small bundle of her hair out.

    "You were awfully kind to our captors."

    "I saved us." Bertha did not bother to turn her gaze from the mirror as she conversed with her colleague.

    "We didn't need saving..."

    "You're so naive, overestimating our strength. Those men might have been in the same league as cannon fodder, but they completely surrounded us... some of who were too weak to even cast a spell. You should be thankful that their fear made them stupid." The man bit his lip, his pride being lashed with a verbal whip.

    "What is next? For us I mean."

    Bertha froze her hand movements to ponder and chew on that difficult question. She found it such an interesting thought that she flipped the mirror backwards and laid it on the cool ground. Her playful gaze met with the man's more serious eyes, though it was clear their thoughts were on the same line.

    "We can't resume the war. Our power is lost for now. No, instead, we carefully observe. We observe the world and the guilds, and then we wait... we wait for our opportunities." Defeat was totally absent from her tone. She sounded more alike to a general assured of her victory. She took one last nonchalant look at the man, a cocksure smile meeting his less enthusiastic gaze, before plucking her mirror from the ground and resuming her beauty work. "You should go to sleep now. Think of all of the nightmares there are to have."

    In a short span, the group rested up and nursed their wounds before returning to the bleak world. They did not return to fight, though, but to reclaim a hidden outpost of theirs. The hidden building could always be counted on to act as a safe house, even in such chaotic times. It at least helped moral, being fitted with warm beds and stocked with food for long weeks. Complete with windows, it could almost be a tourist attraction were it not the new base of operations for the remnants of Tartaros.

    Time came and time went. With just a few more days going by, Bertha sat bitterly at a desk. She read the newspaper in front of her over and over and over. "Animus Sin Defeated! Peace at Last!" it read.

    "Peace... they know nothing about what peace is." Spikes seemed to pierce Bertha's heart from every angle: her guild had lost nearly everything in a war that gained them nothing but contempt from the foolish denizens of society. Those that would have been tried as criminals in her own world were probably being awarded with gilded medals at that very moment for giving the people some fake, dull ambiance masquerading as peace. She would save them though; she would bring them change they could truly enjoy, not ugliness hidden with comforting words and pretty lies.

    Bertha called for what remained of her guild into a large chamber. Standing atop a slightly elevated platform, she ensured she hovered over them as they grouped together. Their eyes looked hungry. It wasn't food they craved, though, but something more sinister... destruction! Bertha could see it in them like a mother could see her children reeking with hunger.

    "Do not get comfortable with your surroundings. We are rested and ready. Now, I send you all out into the world. Gather our lost comrades and bring them back. Search for those hidden few with something to prove and bring them back. Bait yourself with fantasies of mayhem and bring them back, and we will nurture all of them. Act quietly and act cunningly... and when we are ready, we will tear this world asunder and pave the way for paradise."

    Adrenaline pumped through their veins, like feral beasts seeing a piece of meat before them. They were ready to be let loose on the world, even if they were only to act in the shadows. They would not fail this time. It was no longer an option for them.

    "Go, now."

    Later that day, Bertha relaxed in her own comfy chair with a grin on her face and various papers in her hand. Her unshakable attitude could give away the fact that she was patting herself on the back, still reeling from her cute, little speech. One thing did tend to ruin her mood though: she habitually stared up at the ticking clock, the only thing that could desensitize the woman. She had so little time for all the grand goals she had. The war set them back by so long, and the test of time would no doubt strike against her guild's patience.

    "Can I really do the master's will in my own lifetime?"

    She pondered on how realistic it seemed, but she didn't mind reaching for the stars. Tartaros had made it rather far once before. Why not one more time?

    There soon came a knock at the door of her makeshift study (if you could call it that), no doubt one of her guild members. After giving him permission via verbal cue through the door, one of the more timid guild members wandered in along with a series of apologies for interrupting.

    "Bertha, I must speak to you about something quite serious that was brought up by one of our own... how do we convince our scattered brethren to return to us? Will they not refuse to come back without the guild master?"

    Without so much as turning her head from its relaxed position in the chair, Bertha's eyes veered to the side and pierced through the man with a less than magical gaze. In a bit of surprise, he staggered back before her air of seriousness turned a one-eighty. Her tyrant of a frown inverted into a carefree smile and she waved him away.

    "When you find one of our own, you tell them that they are requested to come back by word of the new guild master, Bertha Bordeaux."

    The man stared without much reaction beyond a blink and reeling in from his momentary shock. He could not argue, not even think about it. He merely nodded his head forward, almost low enough to be a bow, and bid her farewell.

    "It will be as you say, guild master."

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