- September 19, 2021
The Incarnations: The Incarnal War (Chapter 2)
Love & Dread
“Hate! Stop it! Please!” Lady Love begs as she clings to Lady Hate.
Without a second thought, as if on a violent reflex, Lady Hate backhands Lady Love to the ground. Her hair spiraling all over her face as she tumbles down.
As she looks up at the monster who leads the horde into her home, strands of hair flow over her eyes to cover the bruise she now has. This does little to hide the fear in her eyes.
“Do not think to touch me again, or I’ll take more of your precious servants from you.” The Lady Hate holds much venom in her words.
Lady Hate holds the favored servant, Liefde, by the hair. She pulls on the poor servant’s hair, making the servant scream in pain, which gives rise to a devilish smile upon the torturer’s lips.
Lady Hate is very much Lady Love’s opposite. Lady Love shines bright, light emits from her. She brightens the world and the hearts of all in her presence. But Lady Hate, clouds of anger and power flow freely from her. Even in their appearances, they clash. Where Lady Love’s skin is a welcoming cream, Lady Hate is pale, white, almost grotesque. Her hair black and looming, flowing even. The ends of her hair flow and move like a predator, waiting to lunge out after its prey.
Their attire clearly displays the difference in ability. Lady Love is dressed for picking flowers, and Lady Hate for murder, dressed in armor.
There is one unnerving similarity, one that should bother any who notice. Lady Love and Lady Hate share the same face.
I notice now that Lady Hate seems almost unprepared. Her attire is not totally for war, lacking the usual plates on her arms and legs. Her attire seems thrown together for battle, almost last minute.
Lady Love tries to stand, to save her most loyal servant, her oldest servant, her closest friend, but Love is powerless. Love is no fighter, no combatant. She climbs to her knees and tries to use her dining room chair to lift herself up, still in shock from being struck.
They are all in her dining hall at her long-reaching table, where she and her servants were simply eating dinner. Simply eating, being the family they are. They were entirely unprepared for Lady Hate when she stormed in leading a horde of beastly warriors.
From the beginning, it was clear that Lady Hate did not come to plainly kill Lady Love. She came to make her suffer. She has been violently executing Love’s beloved servants, all the while forcing Love to watch.
Lady Love’s castle has grown dark, its bright colors dissipate with the blood spilled over its floors, the innocence taken in its rooms, and the screams of pain that ring through the halls. The castle now looms dark and filled with hate.
“I will kill them, Love,” Lady Hate promises, “I will kill them all, and I will make you feel as I do. You will feel what I do.” Then Lady Hate raises her mighty axe, the Spite, high over her head to chop down Liefde.
Then comes a crash.
A truly dark spectre falls through the roof. Lady Love does not yet see his face, only the long, sweeping trench coat he wears over his dark tunic. Every part of his apparel, from his trousers and his hood, is an enveloping void. Dark smoke radiates from him, physical shadows stab forth from his being. His hand touches the ground, where his fingers reveal his skin, white as snow.
Lady Love does not yet see his eyes, the eyes that see through the souls of all and make them feel Dread.
In his right hand, he holds the Terror, ready to wreak havoc.
All in the room are frozen and silent. Lady Hate speaks to him first. “Lord Dread, why are you-?”
She does not get the chance to finish, for in a flash his black knights fall from the ceiling as he did, attacking and quickly killing her horde.
At that same moment, his legions storm the castle to surprise and demolish the Horde of Hate.
Lord Dread dashes to Lady Hate and Liefde, severs Hate’s hold on the servant of love along with her arm.
Before Lady Hate’s arm can even fall to the ground, Lord Dread strikes Lady Hate with a strike of his palm, sending her forth through the walls of the castle. Lady Hate does not remain in the Love’s halls, she is sent out to the burning lands of Justice, where she lands and forms a crater.
Lord Dread does not move to care for Liefde, but moves to the Incarnation he knows to be Lady Love. He moves to her side and offers her his hand. He asks her in his forever monotone voice, “I was not too late, was I?”
Lady Love takes his hand, and looks up, she looks into his eyes. His truly, completely black eyes, covered by the shadow cast by his hood. She becomes lost in them, lost in the eyes that bring fear and terror to all. The ghostly white pupils that haunt all who are ever cursed to look into them. Lady Love looks into those eyes and, and…
She looks into his eyes, as she allows him to help her stand. She smiles at him, she smiles. Why is she not overcome with fear? Why does she not cower in his presence? Is she not afraid?
“No, my courageous Lord, I am physically alright. You are Lord Dread?” she asks for clarification. How could she not know? He fits the fearsome descriptions she was given, it should be undeniably clear.
Lord Dread answers plainly to her question. “Yes, and I know you are Lady Love. Life sent me to rescue you.” He then makes to pull his hand back from her grasp, but she does not let go. The Lord’s head tilts slightly to show confusion.
Oh dear, the Lady now does the unthinkable.
Lady Love brings her free hand to his cheek. She should know not to touch him! Is she suicidal? His Majesty was right to think that she would get herself killed.
Then the Lord gently, but firmly takes her hand from his cheek, and clasps them together. The Lady thanks him with words, “Thank you my Lord. Thank you for saving me and my family.” Then she kisses his cheek.
All in the room, the dark knights, and the servants of love stand frozen, shocked by the Lady’s audacity and stupidity. Only one other had ever dared before to touch the Lord in such a way, and she swiftly found herself near Death’s door. None who cling to life dare make that mistake.
This is the end for her. I look away as I wait for him to lash out as he has at others, but I don’t hear it. I open one eye nervously, and still see her alive. Lord Dread does not kill her. I have never been surprised by him before now, he has mercy, and I don’t know why.
Lord Dread goes above and beyond my orders even. He looks down into her eyes, not with the hate, the malice, or the I know of him, but something else. Something impossible… something soft.
He offers to her, asylum. He says, “You and your people are now under my protection. You all will stay in my camps, where you will be safe and provided for until it is possible for you to come back home.” Then he releases her hands.
Lady Love smile grows wider, and she clasps her hands together under her chin as she looks up at him. “Thank you, thank you so my gracious Lord! I-”
Before she can finish there are violent rumblings outside the castle, rumblings so powerful the ground shakes. Suddenly out of fear, the Lady clings to the Lord, and there is an audible gasp, but again the Lord surprises me. He wraps his arm around her with his left, and holds her close.
He, he actually thinks to protect her.
The Lord promises the Lady, “I must go, but I will return. A simple strike could not have defeated Lady Hate. I must face her, and when I am done I will return to bring you to safety, I promise.”
Lord Dread releases her to face his opponent, but Lady Love grasps hold and tugs on his arm. He whips his head around shocked, because no one had dared before to touch him in this way. Once again, the Lord should be killing her, but then the Lord looks into her eyes. The Lady is full of worry and fear, fear for him, not of him.
She tells him, “Please come back to me.”
The Lord looks at her, not with anger, but befuddlement. No one had ever shown him such tenderness or care before, never.
He tries to ask, “Why do you-?” but another shake interrupts him. He promises, “I will keep you safe, Lady Love, It is now my sworn duty.” He tries to take his arm, but she does not let go, and again her servants gasp. The Knights of Dread wonder how their Lord has not yet striked Lady Love down.
Then the Lord dashes in a puff of dark shadows to stand against Lady Love. His face comes close to hers, and he means to intimidate her. That is not what happens. The Lady does not take this approach as the threat the Lord means it to be. She lays her palms flat against his chest as she looks up at him, her face so close to his, and whispers, “Don’t die, please.”
Lord Dread recoils back, having meant to scare the Lady, and now she seems to only care for his safety. He looks as if a monster finally being shown an act of kindness, and being scared by it. He doesn’t know what to do.
But the Lord is a warrior, and a battle calls for him. He shakes his head, and recomposes himself. He promises the Lady, “I won’t.” For that promise, the Lady places her hands over her heart, and nods her head with a gentle smile.
Then the Lord dissipates, to meet the threat outside the castle.
When Lord Dread materializes outside the castle, he does so as the size of a man. What’s important about this, is that Lady Hate is now looking down upon him as she has grown to a size higher than mountains. She sits on one nearby, her chin in her hand.
In this massive form that is essentially her normal form immaculately increased, she questions him, “Is there a reason, dear Dread, that you have gotten between me and my dreams?”
Lady Hate holds power that are very much the same to Lord Dread’s. They are physically equal in every way. Their capacity for power equally limitless, their control over their forms equally boundless, both equal in their physical tolerance against attack by Incarnal power. The difference being in their own wills, fight style, and mental tolerance for pain and other trickery. This is a fearsome match up indeed.
Lord Dread swiftly expands to match her size, the Terror increasing with him to match the Spite.
The Lord answers the dark Lady, “I was commanded to save Lady Love by Life himself, and now I have sworn to protect her and her kin. I cannot let you harm her without dying first.”
“So it is only honor that pits you against me?” Lady Hate surmises, seemingly seeing something in the Lord that I do not.
The Lord looks back at the castle with uncharacteristic secrecy, and then turns back to the dark Lady. He admits, strangely, and profoundly, “At first it was honor. Yet somehow, within minutes, with simple gestures, she has been kind to me. In this way I can’t understand. I threatened her when she touched me too much, not with words but it was blatantly apparent to everyone else that I was threatening her, yet, she still cared for me. She asked me not to die. I must learn why.”
The Lady gazes at the Lord with curiosity, and then a smile starts to creep on her face. Then giggles start to form from her mouth, and then she begins to laugh. As she does so she stands up with her axe in hand.
“Oh Dread! This is simply hilarious! Someone’s nice to you once in your mainly miserable existence, and you just can’t handle it. You’re like a beaten pet who’s been adopted by a new owner.” Now with more venom, and a more demeaning tone, Lady Hate continues speaking as she readies to fight. Lord Dread does the same. “You’re her slave now, her servant, you weak minded man.”
Lord Dread demands to know with great anger. “Are you going to whine like a child all day, or are you going to fight?”
The Lady smiles quite devilishly. “Dread, if you wanted to fight, you should have just asked.”
There is something I must make clear before I watch this battle. I must remind myself that these are no mere mortals, no mere Incarnations even. This is not a battle of strategy, of attrition, simply bombastic luck. I must not expect normal laws and rules to apply.
When Lady Hate twirls the Spite, and brings it down upon Lord Dread’s head, he has only nanoseconds to raise up the Terror to block. Remember, nanoseconds. Their size and volume means nothing. It controls nothing. Nothing binds them.
Lord Dread holds strong, and whips his blade outward to the right with blinding speed, causing her to stumble. At the same time the force of the swing pushes past her, and severs the peaks of Justice’s mountains.
Then at an even greater speed the Lord slashes across the Lady’s midsection, and black clouds flow out, then he slashes an ‘X’ in her chest. To finish her, he twirls the Terror to bring it down on her head.
Before it even makes contact, her body dissipates into black clouds. The clouds whirl around the Lord to become a tornado faster than a man can blink.
“You didn’t think it would be so easy to defeat me, did you?” the Lord hears from the winds around him.
“Nothing ever is,” the Lord admits.
Then without warning the Spite cuts into the tornado, wind swirling madly on it’s blade.
It hits Dread in the chest and explodes on contact. He flies backwards in a flight similar to the Lady’s not minutes before. The difference being the body mass that crushes another mountain and rakes the ground for miles.
As soon as the Lord’s body comes to a stop, he materializes into a dark smoke as the Lady slams her axe through the gaseous form. The Lord materializes over her blade, and much larger than before, enough that he can immediately enclose the Lady’s head in his left hand. He lifts her up, and sticks the Terror through her.
Upon receiving this wound, Lady Hate screams into his hand, not out of pain, but to release a flood of black clouds that electrocute every part of Lord Dread’s hand.
His face becomes that of rage over the pain, he does not yank out his sword in time to do anything about the Lady’s attack. She releases the same clouds from her hand directly upon the Lord’s face, and he howls in turn.
The Lord releases the Lady from his grip and grasps his sword with two hands swiftly. He swings towards her head, but she already has already brought up her axe to block. Their iron grips both seem to tremble as their weapons shake. As the clouds dissipate around the Lady’s face, it slowly reveals the most sadistic of smiles.
In the blink of an eye the Lady’s eyes are enveloped with a dark stream of power. Moving like lightning, power blasts from her eyes and electrocutes Lord Dread’s chest.
The Lord’s hold against her breaks and she proceeds to slice him several times with her axe. Each time she lines the blade with her power. Each blow against him is that of world ending explosions. He does not travel far, after each time she hits him, Lady Hate de-materializes and re-materializes to another spot beside him. With a speed not visible to time, she hits him again, changing his trajectory constantly. She eventually strikes his sword hand and sends the Terror flying away.
She laughs as she beats down on him.
Then Lord Dread shrinks. He shrinks and Lady Hate hits smoke. He shrinks, and evades away by becoming too small for her to strike. Not to the size of mortals, but he shrinks to the size of atoms.
The Lady shrinks after him. She follows him to the world of atoms and molecules. She ignores the enlarging landscapes as they become so large and foreign that they can no longer be distinguished. She shrinks to see the space between surfaces as if a cloth of fabric, and then that matter too becomes so grand and unknown. The space around her becomes black where light is unseen.
She begins making out the small atoms and the chaotic changes spawning from them. She shrinks so small that she can stand on the atom’s nucleus, the world surrounding her with a storm cloud, with lightning flashing any and all colors of the rainbow as light dissipates into its many spectrums. Electrons, they move around the nucleus, and if she isn’t too careful one might slam into her.
Lady Hate plants her feet on the nucleus and brings her left hand to the side of her mouth. She calls out to Lord Dread, “Where are you hiding? That is the strategy of cowards and mortals!”
“Who said I am hiding?” When the Lady hears the Lord’s voice she spins around in time for his fist to connect across her cheek.
The force knocks her off the nucleus. The force would have launched her far and away to another atom, but the electrons move so quickly that one slams into her before she can even pass its orbit. It crushes her abdomen, and electrocutes her with volts no other being has experienced before. Her screams of pain are indescribable.
The Lord mocks her as electrons continue to barrel into her, electrocuting her one after the other, nanoseconds apart. “I would tell you that what you’re feeling now is how I felt moments ago, but I am sure that what you’re feeling is much, much worse.”
That taunt undoes whatever remains of Lady Hate’s psyche. She snaps, and releases massive amounts of her power. She splits the atom, and causes the electrons, neutrons, and protons to move out of control.
Lord Dread raises his hands to protect his face from her radiating energy, his trench coat flowing backwards from the force. As she begins to yell and scream in anger with energy pulsating from her, the Lord sees what she has done.
He looks away from her to see neutrons heading towards other neutrons, and his eyes go wide.
She is about to trigger an atomic explosion.
The Lord expands faster than any Incarnation has before. He expands and expands, past the molecules and the atoms, past the space between matter, past the land and insects, past the buildings and mountains, past the atmosphere and planets, to the size of young stars. The nuclear explosion now threatens him no more.
He considers if the explosion is enough to defeat the Dark Lady, but that would be asking too much.
Black clouds come forth as fast as his smoke did, in the form of a fist that punches him into a planet the size of Jupiter. Jupiter is the size of his back.
Lord Dread quickly grabs another planet in the solar system and slams it against Lady Hate, as if it is a stone he is cracking against her face. Only enraged further, she swings forth the Spite, and the Lord fights with his fists and the planets around them.
While the battle raged between the darkest of the Incarnations, another Lady waits nervously in her castle. Lady Love tends to her servant Liefde at their dining table as they try not to grow hysterical over the earth-shattering explosions heard from above and below.
They try to maintain their sanity as Lord Dread’s black knights guard them and find any survivors from of Lady Hate’s horde.
Then quietly, one by one, with a swift and sure blade, the black knights are cut down by fewer skilled swordsmen. The black knights guarding Lady Love don’t even have the time to realize that their numbers are falling as an Incarnation carves a path directly to Lady Love.
A black knight hears running coming from outside the dining hall, and walks to see. When he opens the door, a blade beheads him as he blinks.
The knight falls backwards as the doors open and the bright Lady screams. The doors open to reveal yet another would-be rescuer of Love.
Her armor is that of knight, complete with plating and chainmail over her chest, and it shines a light into the eyes of Dread.
The steel padding to protect the arms and legs but not the joints allow her to cut down her incoming attackers with ease and finesse. Her teal colored hair hangs in a single bun on the back of her head, a single strand standing up and over her right eye, one allowance in her way, one visual handicap.
It is a silver pupil to match her ashen skin tone, and the simple cloth between the steel and chainmail.
Due to a lack of a helmet, the teal double lines that lie under her eyes and over her cheeks are her trademark markings, at least when they’re not covered in the ash of Dread’s servants.
She stands in the dining room as her platoon of elite swordsmen storm the room, her long-sword, Excalibur, bloody and in hand.
Lady Love gasps, “Madam Honor, what are you doing here?”
Madam Honor’s soldiers then begin to dispatch the few remaining black knights who cannot hold a candle to their skill. They are the servants of the greatest swordsman in all Creation, and while their numbers are not plentiful, they fight with the worth of several dozen black knights.
Lady Love looks away before the Madam can answer her question, because she must gasp over the violence occurring around her.
The Madam moves quickly to the Lady’s side as the Lady kneels beside her servant. The Madam places a hand on the Lady’s shoulder to say, “I’m am here to protect you, and take you away.”
The Lady looks upon her confused. “But the Lord Dread has already saved me, he’s fighting off Lady Hate! You should be helping him, not killing his men!”
The Madam sighs, having expected such a reaction from the Lady. The Madam knows how the innocent do not understand the logic of war. How the enemy of one’s enemy is usually in reality, just another enemy.
Madam Honor pulls the Lady to her feet and informs her, “The Lord Dread is my enemy. I cannot and will not help him. I am here for you, and only you.”
“But my people!” the Lady exclaims.
This part does deeply sadden the Madam. She wishes with all of her heart that she could evacuate and protect the innocent servants of Love. They have done nothing wrong, they do not deserve such a violent fate, but Madam Honor does not have the power. She closes her eyes and mutters, “I’m sorry.”
Then the Madam roughly grasps Lady Love’s arm and starts dragging her away, ignoring the Lady’s pleas for another way.
Then the Madam is called to stop by one of her own.
Madam Honor looks up alerted and alarmed towards her knight at the window, looking outside the castle.
Her loyal knight, named Honneur, reveals to her, “We cannot go out the way we came, my Madam.” He is covered in armor, but unlike his Madam, and much like his brethren, he wears a helmet to cover his face.
With grave apprehension, the Madam asks, “What has happened?”
“Thousands of black knights now surround the castle. They are pooling in, and we are only twenty-five,” the knight of honor explains.
Suddenly, the Madam feels several pricks of her heart. Several pricks at her soul and being, several pricks of loss. She announces, “Now we are twenty. Our brothers at the gates have already been overrun.”
Lady Love turns to the Madam, and begs her, “Surrender, or run away, you cannot take me. I am already Dread’s to protect!” The Lady’s phrasing, she must not understand how she sounds.
“Impossible, I gave my solemn oath to Death herself that I would bring you to her side, or die trying. If I must, I will make my stand here.” Madam Honor is not a particularly powerful Incarnation. She does not have many servants, she does not have much land, her home is not particularly large, and all because she does not have the power to maintain those things. What the Madam has is a code, her bound word, that has molded a skillset stronger than any of the rest. Even though she fights against me, I have nothing but respect for her. It saddens me greatly that she now finds herself in this unwinnable situation. She will not desecrate her honor.
Then another servant offers something unspeakable to her. Another knight of honor, tells her Madam, “Escape with the Lady. We will all stay and hold off the black knights as long as we can.”
Madam Honor gazes upon her follower flabbergasted. The Madam cannot even ponder the idea of abandoning her servants, her family, her only companions. “No. That is absolutely out of the question, Eer.”
The servant, Eer, explains in an emotional exclamation, “It is the only way! You must bring back the Lady, you are honorbound.”
“I will not abandon you! That is final!” the Madam practically screams at her subordinate. Then like a stubborn child, she turns towards the doorway with her sword ready, waiting for an enemy that will take time to arrive.
As she stands there, weapon ready, Honneur moves behind his Madam. He wraps his arms around her, embracing her from behind. He whispers into her ear softly, “My Madam, we live by you, to stand and fight for you, and to die for you. We live to uphold what you stand for, but most importantly, to make sure you do not die. Leave us, you owe us nothing. You honor us by giving us the chance to die for you, but you must honor yourself and keep your word. Take Lady Love out the window, and bring her to Death.”
Madam Honor’s battle ready stance grows loose, and she slouches against her servant. She turns to face him, realizing he has removed his helmet. She places her hand against his bearded cheek, his hair and eyes matching hers as servants do their Incarnations. The Madam tells him, “You would all leave me alone.”
Honneur assures her, “An Incarnation is only alone because she chooses to be. You can easily replace me.”
The Madam frowns as she shakes her head. She bites her lip, not knowing how to tell him how wrong he is. He does not let her, he kisses her, one last time.
When he stops she slumps her head against his chest. Honneur tells her, “You must go.” They can hear the footsteps of the black knights approaching.
Madam Honor steps back from her servant, and mumbles simply, “I understand.” With a heavy heart she walks around her servant to Lady Love.
Lady Love offers one more time, “Leave, all of you-”
The Madam interrupts as she takes the Lady into her arms. With two words, “Enough talk,” the Madam silences the Lady.
Liefde calls to her Lady, “Please be safe!” She reaches her hand out from her chair as the Lady reaches back for her.
The Madam quickly moves to the window now open for her. She turns back as her knights unsheathe their swords and prepare. She looks back to Honneur, smiling at her.
Then he too takes out his sword, and holds it high. He chants, “For Honor!”
Then the others chant the same.
Madam Honor does her best to hold in her emotions, and turns her head solemnly. As her warriors chant, she finds she can’t take it anymore and jumps out, now sliding down the cliff with the Lady in her arms.
The army has cleared out from under the castle as they are all inside.
As Madam Honor and Lady Love scale the side of the castle the rocks below, Madam Honor feels pricks against her heart all the way down.
As the Madam makes to escape, the battle between Lord Dread and Lady Hate still wages.
At this moment Lady Hate swings the Spite over her head. The blade alone large enough to shatter Earth into millions of pieces, sinks itself into Lord Dread’s hands as he attempts to protect himself.
He groans in pain as the axe sinks into his palms, and grunts as he leans backwards, closer to the star, equal in size to the Lord’s chest and greater in its temperature.
The battle is not going his way. Despite his superior strategy, despite his superior skill, the moment Lady Hate disarmed him and forced him to retreat he began losing this fight. He cannot spend the willpower to both summon the Terror to him and manipulate its size without it being in his hand. He must again retreat, but this time to his blade where it lay near Lady Love’s castle.
Lady Hate exerts more force behind her axe, driving the Lord closer to the sun as it burns his back, burns through his coat to his skin. His skin will change color, and it will not be pleasant.
Lady Hate grits through her teeth, demanding to know, “Why. Won’t. You. Die….?” Then she pushes him closer to the sun.
The Lord looks between her and the sun, weighing his options and what he can must do. He may need to endure massive amounts of pain if he wants to live. The simple question remains, does he have a reason to live.
The Lord then turns his eyes back to the Lady to answer her question. “I need a question answered.” Then flies backwards through the sun, letting it burn hole in his chest as he flies through and around it. The Lady’s axe follows through and ends up cutting the star in half.
She is assuredly shocked by her opponent’s strategy, almost as much by the exploding sun in her face.
He goes back to a still-rather large form to retrieve his sword, and she begins following behind, her skin burning like the hatred in her heart.
The Lord falls down from the sky, still the size of mountains, but as a giant with a burning hole in his chest. His wound gravely weighs him down as he falls like a shooting star. He holds his hand out and uses the will he has left to summon the Terror back to him, but as he does so he takes notice of a very important theft.
As he falls, he sees the smaller forms of the Lady Love, not in her castle, but now trailing behind another as they run down the paths away from it. Lord Dread recognizes the other with her to be Madam Honor, and he remembers my warning to him about her in the letter I sent him. Even though the Madam has had a head start, she has barely made it away. He can catch up to her with ease later.
As the Lord falls, the Madam and Lady Love see him and his giant form. The Lady screams and yells as he crashes to the ground near them. His head, not to far from Lady Love’s castle, causes dust to flow in a storm and encompass those around him.
Then they see Lady Hate, screaming as she falls downward with the Spite raised over her head, her speed blowing away the dirt and dust as she replaces it with fire.
Her axe is ready to sink itself into her opponent’s skull.
But in the nick of time the Terror flies into its Lord’s hand, and Lord Dread clambers back to his feet to block the blow. Lady Hate’s power is still immense, and the Lord falls to his knee as he holds his blade in a block over his head.
Lady Love, being pulled along by Madam Honor, sees this, her protector, her Lord who saved her, now in peril. She immediately pulls away from the Madam, who stumbles when the Lady shows surprising strength. The Lady screams in terror as the Lord is seemingly falling to her tormentor’s might.
The Madam tries to grasp hold of Lady Love’s arm again, but in a sign showcasing her superior amount of power, the Lady shrugs her off, subtly wounding the Madam’s pride.
The Lady yells to the Lord to get up, to win, then to runaway, but soon she realizes that words do not touch the titans before her. That yelling and carrying on and on is not going to help the Lord against the dark Lady.
Lady Love does something she has never before, and starts by holding her hands over her heart. She calls upon her own strength, her vast amounts of power that all Incarnations have assumed to be in her possession, but have never encountered before.
She summons it all, and forms it into a bright ball of light in her hands. Not like a star, this light doesn’t burn, doesn’t even give off heat, only power, energy, love.
In a stream, she shoots it not at Lady Hate, maintaining her complete lack of affiliation for violence, and sends it to Lord Dread. Her power hits him, and he gasps, never knowing a sensation as the one he feels now.
Power not his own, flows through him. Not replacing his own, but adding to it, layering over it. He feels a power he never knew existed before, a power he has never seen in any other being in all creation. He feels the pressure of Lady Hate’s axe weigh less and less against him, the force weighing him down no longer keeps him on his knees. Not because his enemy has let up, but because he has more potent power than ever before.
The Lord looks to his right, and sees the Lady who is giving him power, the Lady who has not betrayed him, but is saving his life. He looks at her, and in her eyes, he thinks he already has the answer to his question.
Now is no longer the time for such thoughts. As the power of Love molds itself with Dread, the edges and etchings of the Lord’s attire glow with the same light that is streaming from Lady Love.
The Lord begins to stand back up, and Lady Hate can do nothing but try to force him back down fruitlessly. As he stands, he stands tall and looks over the Dark Lady who looks up at him with fear and confusion. Her face not one of only fear, but also defeat.
As the Lord removes his left hand from the Terror, he signals to all that he no longer needs to use all of his strength. He whips his blade to the right, as he did when the battle first began, and disarms her this time. Without a moment’s hesitation he puts the tip of his blade to her throat.
Lord Dread presses it forward against her neck and Lady Hate backs away. Then in swift and blind fury, he brings the Terror over his head, and brings it down upon Lady Hate.
Like a true coward she dissipates into black clouds. She does not rematerialize to fight, she is not trying another strategy, she dissipates and she disappears as the Lord slashes madly at the dark clouds. As the clouds disappear, it becomes clear that she has evaded back to her homeland, far away from the burned landscapes of Justice.
With this enemy gone, the Lord is angry, and he feels cheated out of victory. He quickly remembers who he is fighting for, and turns his eyes to Lady Love, and Madam Honor.
Madam Honor looks up at the titan looking down upon her, with his black eyes gazing into her soul, knowing the fear and loss that consumes her. Foolishly, mindlessly, she runs up to Lady Love, and grabs her arm. She tries to drag the Lady away, but as she turns around further on destroyed turf, the black smoke of fear flows around them both, and materializes into the warrior that now faces her.
Now in his normal form to match the height of the Incarnations before him, Lord Dread stands with the Terror in hand. He stands with his chest burned, and his hands openly injured. Despite this, he stands tall and his left hand extends out. He speaks to the Lady, “I have come back for you.”
Lady Love brings her hands to her mouth as she surveys the many wounds that clearly mar his pale skin.
She gasps, “You have suffered for me. I am so sorry.” As she speaks the Lady makes to walk to her protector. “I must care-” She is interrupted by Excalibur, which Madam Honor raises to block her way.
Madam Honor tells both the Lady and the Lord of their predicament. “I gave my word to Death that I would bring Lady Love to her, or die trying. I have sacrificed everyone that I care for, all of my knights and friends so that I would not fail and sour my honor.”
Lord Dread looks upon the Madam with respect and understanding. He holds honor in high regard, both his own and the mere concept.
He replies plainly, “I understand. You cannot simply surrender, and I will not disrespect you by asking for that. You must fight for Lady Love as I do.”
Then Madam Honor readies herself in a stance fit for battle, her long sword’s point facing him. “Yes, I must fight. Even if it kills me. At least then my knights died for my honor, if not for my victory.”
Lady Love looks between the two warriors, unsure of what she should do. She finds this fight meaningless, yet it is over her. That makes her responsible if one of them were to die. She cannot allow that.
What power does she hold over them though? None.
Madam Honor makes a mad run towards Lord Dread, who stands simply waiting. Her sword ready to lunge out and spear him as soon as she is close enough.
As she runs, he does not move, he does waver, nor quiver. Not out of fear or pain, but because she is no threat.
When the Madam stabs her sword forward, the Lord does not move until the blade is inches from his chest. The nanosecond before Excalibur touches him, he moves with speed she cannot hope to match. He moves besides the Madam to her right, without the blade even touching him.
As he now stands besides her, he takes his sword hand, and doesn’t cut her down as he easily could. More insultingly, he backhands the side of her head, and sends her skipping like a stone over the ground.
Madam Honor tumbles over the land, her armor and bones being rattled and crushed with every impact in the dirt. Eventually, she connects with the ground one last time to eat it’s soil and slide across the burned land for a few more feet.
The Madam is not exceedingly powerful but she has a large amount of her own power, and taps into it to find the strength to stand. She climbs to her feet, and senses the Lord coming after her as smoke.
She spins with her sword over her head to block his sly attack, showcasing spectacular form. Then, with a lower half of smoke, he moves behind her and tries to bring his sword down on her head again, but she blocks expertly.
The Madam does not take long to realize that he is toying with her, he could have beheaded her with his greater speed ages ago. But he keeps trying to find a hole in her stance, a misstep in her form, a trick to unbalance her as he keeps attacking her from all directions.
“What game is this?!” Madam Honor demands to know.
The Lord stops and hovers over her with his legs as shadow. He answers honestly, “I wanted to see if it was true, and it is. Your form, your skill with a sword is truly unmatched. If I were not of greater physique, you would have killed me without fail. My skill does not equal yours. If only the world had more honor to fuel you.”
“So you found means to compliment me before you kill me?”
“Yes, essentially.” The Lord’s admittance is cold, and in another situation that was less graphic and violent it might seem humorous. “One does not get the chance to fight such a warrior every day.”
The Madam scowls and grits her teeth. She is not only insulted, but rageful at the fact he floats over her head patronizing her as he deems her nowhere near his equal. He dishonors her.
The Madam screams to him, “Stop playing games and finish this!”
The Lord looks down upon her blankly, not responding to her rage nor her aggravation. He simply answers, “Alright.”
As she is still staring up at him, it happens. In a flash, in less than a second, she is cut down. Lord Dread swung his blade down with both hands, slicing her shoulder and across her chest in one downward swing.
One moment he was floating, and now he is planted below her as his sword has hit the dirt after destroying her.
Madam Honor barely felt it. She stares absentmindedly forward. Time begins to slow as all of her strength leaves her as her blood does.
Being so less powerful, the Madam actually bleeds. In the time it takes for her to fall to her knees and drop her sword, she sees all of their faces. All the knights who stood by her. Her family, her friends, those who died for her, and who she now wants to be with. She thinks of Honneur, as he sat besides her at their round table, and Eer, the Madam’s rival, who took every chance to challenge her so she could become better.
She thinks of who will meet her when she reaches Death’s Paradise. Maybe she won’t meet them, maybe she’ll be cast out for being the knight who abandoned all she cared for. She’ll have to wait and see.
With a thud of her knees and clang of her sword, Madam Honor kneels, and waits for the final blow. Lord Dread raises his blade as he stands tall. He moves the blade behind her neck, and asks her, “Do you wish for the warrior’s death?”
“Yes,” she answers quietly.
The Lord then raises the Terror over his head with both hands, and blocks out the star that shines over the land. He stands a shadow over the Madam’s face, prompting her to close her eyes, and then he swings.
“No!” another screams, and the Terror stops right before severing the Madam’s head. The Madam’s eyes open in time to see the strangest sight that she and I have ever seen.
Lady Love has brought herself to them as a shooting star, to tackle the back of Lord Dread, and wrap her arms around his torso. The speed of which she flew brings about a great blow of the wind against his coat.
As he shakes, the Lady cements her doom, and buries her head in his tattered coat, begging him, “Please, please spare her.” One can easily hear her sniffle and sob, clearly distressed by the possible death before her.
Madam Honor is touched, knowing the Lady well enough to realize that it is her nature to love and care for all. She does not blame her for interrupting her death, but she knows that the Lady’s attempts are pointless. Lord Dread does not give in to the begging of sad Ladies.
In a last ditch effort to save the Lady from the Lord’s now rising wrath, the Madam assures the Lady, “This is what I want, I’m ready, it’s time I die. Do not fret over me.”
Like a child, the Lady takes her head from the still frozen Lord, and faces her to spout, “No!” She shakes her head irrationally. She goes on and shouts, “This fight is pointless! Stupid!” She turns to the Lord whom she still embraces. “Please my Lord, spare her! I will go with you! Tend to your wounds! I’ll obey you! Please, please, show her mercy.”
The Madam looks upon the Lady fondly, though still thinking her a fool. The Madam shakes her head and begins to chide, “Lady Love, none of that matters. The Lord must kill-”
The Madam stops speaking, as she is shocked, as am I. She feels the shadow of his blade move off of her.
Lord Dread moves his sword away from her neck, and twirls it towards his head to face the ground at his side. He does the unthinkable, and turns to face Lady Love. He removes her hand from his left side gently, not with malice, or rage, but gentleness.
He tells her, “Madam Honor, can live, this once.” He stares into Lady Love’s eyes as she stares back. He… he is actually giving her what she wants.
Madam Honor looks upon them both in horror. She mutters, “What?”
The Lord turns back to her, “You may live. Go back to your land, and stay there until the war is over. You have another chance at life.”
The Madam screams in rage, scaring the Lady and causing her to jump slightly. The Lord does not twitch, as he turns his body to wrap his free hand around the Lady’s waist. “I am supposed to die here! I need to!”
The Lord ignores her incessant screaming, “Go home, and if I see you on any battlefield again, I will cut you down without hesitation or mercy.”
“Kill me now!” the Madam demands as she falls over onto her hands. “This, this destroys my honor. Destroys my word. I said, I said…” The Madam begins hyperventilating as she is on her hands and knees. “I swore that I would bring the Lady to Death, or die trying. I can’t live. I can’t live without them, without victory.” Madam Honor crumbles in the dirt muttering, mainly because her strength to stand has left her, and soon begins to cry and breath heavily into the dirt. She has brought dishonor upon herself, and all of those who died for her, by living.
Lord Dread displays his coldness and turns his back to the Madam, prompting the Lady away. The Lady points behind them to help, but the Lord interrupts to speak on something else entirely. “Lady Love, as I said before you and your people are under my protection. You will all live in my camps until your home can be rebuilt.”
The Lady hears this but tries to say, “Yes, but my Lord-”
The Lord ignores her words and interrupts, “That does not make you or your people my slaves. You do not need to obey me. I would never order you to do anything regardless.”
“Thank you, my Lord,” the Lady thanks, but again tries to say, “but shouldn’t we-”
The Lord interrupts again. “I only wish that once we gather everyone to recuperate safely, you would gift me an answer to a question.”
“My Lord!” Lady Love yells out. Prompting the Lord to stop dead in his tracks, and turn to face her… not with a sword, but… concern. I don’t understand anything about him anymore.
The Lady, without fear after raising her voice to Lord Dread, points to Madam Honor and asks, “Shouldn’t we help her? We shouldn’t leave her.”
The Lord looks at back at the Madam one last time, and surmounts, “We cannot help her, nor do we owe it to her. She walks alone now.” Then he turns his back, and takes the Lady into his arms. “She must find her honor again, on her own.” Then the Lord and Lady fly away back to the castle.
Madam Honor waits in the dirt behind them.
The Lord and Lady fly back to the castle where the Lady quickly seeks out her beloved servant, Liefde, who was spared all attention in the fight between the Knights of Honor and the Knights of Dread.
Swiftly, the Knights of Dread help and evacuate all of the servants of Love who survived the attack by Lady Hate. They are all gathered, and joined together to march back to the large fort that the Knights of Dread had commissioned in the previous battle against Lady Justice.
As they march, they all couldn’t help but gander and gasp by Lady Love’s ability to talk and touch Lord Dread without fear of slaughter. Every day they all wonder why she has a right that no other has in all of Creation.
The fort is not extravagant or particularly methodical. The fort is many square miles of tents to house the Knights of Dread as they talk amongst each other and recuperate.
Once everyone is situated, Lady Love orders all of her people to begin caring for the wounds of all the Knights of Dread, claiming that their saviors deserved a reward. The Lord is surprised, he did not ask for this, but says nothing.
Once the calm has finally set, the Lord seeks the Lady out as she cares for his knights personally. Her powers of love healing many wounds.
The Lord finds the Lady under a large and open tent where she and several servants dirty their hands to willingly care for many Knights of Dread. The Lord walks among and between the beds lined with his men, never having seen such a sight before. Before the Lady, if one was injured, they fought through the pain. Now they wait in beds hoping to feel the touch of love upon them.
Lord Dread catches sight of Lady Love quite quickly, seeing her in an outfit I don’t recognize on her. She openly and brazenly plays the part of a nurse. Her vibrant hair tied into a bun while also covered by a white cap, a blouse and trousers to move between everyone, with arms revealed by rolled-up sleeves.
The Lady sees him before he can speak to her. She walks to meet him, and they find themselves standing face to face as the Lady wipes her hands clean. The Lord is awkward, unsure of what to say as the Lady smiles and tilts her head curiously.
The Lord asks, “I would wish to speak, I have my question that I asked to know earlier.”
The Lady’s smile never falters until it does. The Lord becomes tense, fearing that he may have overstepped.
She exclaims innocently, “My Lord, I forgot to tend to your wounds. Please, come with me!” Then she takes hold of his arm. “We can talk while I take care of you. I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer, especially after your fight with Lady Hate.”
As the Lady drags the Lord, he looks as befuddled as the servants staring around them. She takes him to the back, where a private compartment lies separate from the others.
The tent has an open wall to reveal the sunset in the skyline. The tent is on a hill, allowing the two Incarnations to look over the other tents in the fort.
There is a stretcher where the Lady tells the Lord to sit, but stops him in realization. She gestures over his clothes, and tells him, “Strip.”
“Strip?” the Lord asks unsure of what he just heard.
“Yes, strip. I can’t do anything about your wounds from under that huge trench coat and hood,” the Lady explains. A true statement.
The Lord realizes this, but still finds himself uncomfortable. He states, “That would reveal my face.”
The Lady scrunches her nose and smiles in silly confusion. She points out, “I can already see your face.”
“No, that is not what I mean,” the Lord clarifies. He points to his eyes, and explains, “The hood, it covers my eyes so they’re always in darkness. My face around my eyes… it isn’t… it isn’t becoming.”
After a moment of silence, abashedly and brazenly the Lady states, “I don’t give a shit.” The Lord actually twitches greatly, surprised by the Lady’s foul language. Lady Love smiles as profoundly as before, “I don’t care how it looks, I’ll love your face all the same.”
Lord Dread’s mouth opens a little in shock, wondering how she could say that. Now I’m beginning to understand these two.
He questions her, “How can you say that? Why do you care?”
Now the Lady’s smile drops again for a look of confusion. “What do you mean?”
“When I was trying to leave to face Lady Hate, you kept stopping me. Kept trying to make me promise that I’ll come back, that I won’t die. Even now you care about my… my feelings.” He says the word as if it were a ridiculous concept. “Why do you care for me?”
Lady Love looks him up and down with great concern, seemingly coming to the realization that the Lord has never known care before. “My Lord, you speak as if no one has treated you in such a way.”
“Well, asides from my servants who are dependent on my existence… no, no one cares for me. I am Dread, I am fear, why would anyone care for that?” The Lord speaks, not with pain but more so denial, as if caged.
The Lady reaches her hands out to grasp his face in her hands. He steps back slightly, but she grasps hold of him and pulls him to her. She holds his face closer to hers so she can speak softly.
She tells him, “I love you, that’s how I care for you. I am Love, so I care for all, even the Lady Hate who despises me. I love even her. That is how I care about what happens to you.”
Lord Dread stares at her, the face of realization upon him. He finally learns of a thing he never had before.
Love. He understands her now.
Then Lady Love takes the moment to pull down his hood, and reveal the upper half of his face. It’s rather repulsive in how revealing it is, not of him, but of the one gazing into him.
Yet, the Lady mutters, “As I thought. Your eyes are beautiful. With one glance I am lost.”
The Lord hears this and knows now, that she is the only thing that contains what he has always wanted.
Now he also knows, he must do whatever it takes to protect her. He is forever hers, just Lady Hate foretold. Then Lady Love smiles more comically, and restates, “Now strip.”