Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 48)

“Distractions can only do so much before they get you killed.”

Daffodan Stalwart, the Drunken Knight, 135 A.C.A.


The sound of her axe against the marble floor was almost as sickening as the death left behind in her wake. Bodies of Amidala’s acolytes littered the floor behind her as she made her way. 

Then she stopped, the presence in her head willing her to.

The bodies will give you away you know.

She turned and smirked at her work, before raising her blinding axe over her head. The axehead that was once invisible shined bright, and struck the ground. In a beam, it washed over the floor, turning blood and flesh into ash. Then the beam made its way back towards her feet, turning the ash to nothing.

There, now it’s no problem, Astrid assured Lapis.


She had been wandering since she got in the castle on her own. She didn’t need Malum’s help before, so why act differently now? It’s not like his ticket came with directions on how to find Amidala’s room.

Instead, she followed the trail of acolytes, denoted by the colors of the Black Legion. 

It feels safe to assume that the more I find, the closer I am to my destination. 

Yeah, I don’t know if that thought process tracks.

I’m finding more acolytes, aren’t I?

Yet, but not her private study.

I’ll find it.

Yeah, maybe, but not by killing everyone.

It’s fine, no one knows their names.

Their mothers surely did.

Who gives a shit?

Astrid lets Kan Bujian’s blade rest against the ground, and slowly scratch a line in the marble. Marble’s so tacky, why would you make a floor out of it?

To remind everyone that you’re the only one who can afford it.

Eh.” Astrid nodded in agreement as she rounded a corner. Upon doing so, a rather vile smile made itself known. Two guards stood before a door or were until they stepped away to inspect the sound. 

They were but a few yards away when they saw her. “Halt!” they said as they pointed their spears.

Astrid rested the rod of the axe on her shoulders and her other hand on her hip. “Why, do you want to be my friend?”

“Lay down the rod!” one ordered her.

“I thought the saying was, ‘Spare the rod,’” she said before she dashed at them. 

She spooked them, and if it wasn’t obvious they didn’t stand a chance, their moment of hesitation was the nail in the coffin. 

One readied his spear, but when Astrid swung her axe to deflect, he failed to react. In his eyes, it was just a rod, with no metal blade on its end. 


Astrid’s rod passed in front of the spear, and the point of his spear was seemingly shattered by nothing.

Astrid twirled the axe and swung it back towards the soldier again. Again, the first saw no blade and didn’t dodge far enough.


He couldn’t understand why his guts were spilling out of his body. He fell back as he tried to hold them, wondering why they were spilling out.

The second, the true target of Astrid’s swing, raised his staff to block. It was the right move. He couldn’t see the blade, but he had to assume something was there. How was he supposed to know the mixture of heat and steel would cut through the spear’s metal shaft?


The axe’s head sank into his stomach, and before he could scream, Astrid made sure it erupted in fire. It filled him up from the inside, emptying his lungs of air and his vocal cords of sound.

Astrid let the fire die out before she wrenched the axehead from his stomach. 

*Tsk*tsk*,” she went with a wag of her finger. “You could have joined me in the light of the sun.”

Are you trying to creep me out?’ Lapis asked as she raised her Kan Bujian and covered her tracks. 

She left a few burn marks on the ground where she had to get the blood, but one would hope the warlock was getting drunk. That way she’d ignore the signs.

“Possibly,” Astrid answered him out loud, “to creep out a god, that’s an achievement I’ll gloat about eventually… when people will believe me.”

Lapis sighed as she quickly made her way through the door. The room was nothing special. A large guest room in a castle, fit for a special guest such as the warlock of Raydorn.

There was a large bed with… handcuffs and something rather phallic that Astrid didn’t notice. She looked closer toward the desks, finding an array of notebooks full of what can be assumed to be Amidala’s scribbles.

As she picked on up, Lapis had to ask, ‘So, what’s the plan from here?’ 

In this room, alone with her thoughts, Astrid spoke out loud. “Do some light reading, see if Amidala has anything interesting written in her journals.” 

‘She’s not going to have anything written down about you or your family.’ 

Astrid’s eyes paused in their scan of the novel. Rather than contemplate words, she contemplates what it would look like if Lapis had a body.

Those are very rude things to imagine doing to someone.

“Good thing your not someone.”

I apologize, I only wanted to set expectations.

Astrid let a long sigh as she rolled her eyes. ‘Setting expectations’ was something you do in preparation and to yourself. Don’t let anyone else fool you, when someone tries to set expectations for you, it’s to control your reaction.

I know,” Astrid growled to herself, as her eyes tried to concentrate on the words written in a language she could barely read.

“I know better than anyone else that we were a footnote in her life, we don’t keep her up at night. That’s not what’s important. 

“She keeps me up at night. For intruding on my sacred sleepy time, I will have her head.”

Not for betraying you and likely destroying the Black Legion?’ 

“Would you believe me if I said this is more important?” 

Lapis didn’t hesitate for a moment. ‘No, no, I wouldn’t. You’re not selfish, nor a monster, that’s Malum.’ 

Astrid found it in her to smirk again.

Aww, thank you, and Malum’s a dick, a really big dickhead, but not a monster, you just haven’t gotten the chance to know him.” 

I’m in your head, I know everything about him that you know.’ 


Astrid closed the first book with a snap of her hands. “Huh… I guess you don’t pay attention all that well then.”

Jack wouldn’t have noticed the way the light bounced off his sister’s skin or the shining spectacle of gems around her neck for… obvious reasons.

Anyone else would have noted how it made the sweat trickling down her head shine, or how the lone out-of-place lock of hair cast a shadow over her eye. Anyone else would have noticed the bags under her eyes and the smell of wine so overwhelming that it was slowly becoming a rather foul stench. But why would Jack notice his reflection?

“Sit a moment, would you, your hands– your fingers are…”

Diana tilted her head she looked closer at her little brother’s hands. “That is your blood, right?”

Jack looked down at his hands, at the bloody fingertips, opened after hours of climbing rock. His gloves didn’t do much to protect him, the pair of them already in tatters. 

“I haven’t killed anyone today, so it has to be mine.”

“Come sit, I have water to pour on it.”

“You drink something other than wine?” Diana’s smirk didn’t match her eyes, and it only worked to make her look as ragged as her brother.

“Yeah,” she said as he sat down, “I also drink vodka.”

Jack chuckled.

She proceeded to pour water on his hands and gently dab them with a cloth, but even without the adrenaline, he could stand the way it stung. She scrubbed the drying blood off harder, never glancing up as she did it.

Here they were, a lord and lady of Starshield, the richest and fairest in all the lands, run ragged, sitting in the tower of a would-be rival. By all accounts, they were surrounded by enemies and pigs who wanted to see them dead or eaten alive, but then maybe that’s why they were in the tower. 

Father’s words, ‘never let them see you sweat…’ or at least words he took credit for.

Jack looked over at the fireplace that had a slight ember, but nothing too large. It was only daytime, and it wasn’t so cold.

Or maybe I’m just exhausted. Could be both.

“Is this going to be your thing now?” Jack asked Diana as she finally finished cleaning up his hands.

“Greeting me by the fireplace while drinking wine?” 

She looked up at him with the familiar look all elder sisters know. Despite looking up at his taller frame, she was still looking down at him, able to shake her head without moving an inch.

Then she leaned back against the windowsill again and began to gaze into the flame that fought to stay alive, to never go out. 

“Maybe,” she said, “I like fire, I like sitting, and I like wine, why not enjoy all three at once?” 

“You’re wasting my time.” 

Then it was Diana’s turn to chuckle and shrug her shoulders at him.

“What is this… time you’re complaining about?” 

Jack arched his brow. “Your wine-drunk, aren’t you?” 

She rolled her eyes in turn. “Hardly, but even a sip of ambrosia would make anyone philosophical.”

Her smirk grew into a smile as his neutral line began to descend. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if it’s worse to be surprised with an annoyance or to know it’s coming. Please kill me now.

Well, he had an answer. 

“Think about it, my dear darling little brother…” the Lady of House Starshield began, reaching out an outstretched arm out the window towards the sky, her other hand on her heart.

“We know time must happen, we age and we can’t go back to the way things were. At the same time, a second is entirely arbitrary, completely made-up. How can I waste something that’s both real and not real?” 

Jack slowly lifted his hand to his face in the slowest facepalm he could muster. “It’s just the measurement that’s not real, it’s not that complicated…” 

Don’t let her waste your time. Before, she tried to strong-arm you, wrangle you into coming home. Now she’ll act like it’s the good ole days, act like she needs you, make you feel guilty for leaving her all alone in that big ole mansion.

“Just… tell me if you know anything about Kion.”

Jack leaned forward, dumping his face in his hands, peaking through his fingers as sheer exhaustion beat down his body.

“Please, I… I will beg you if you know anything.” 

I just can’t muster the energy to fight her anymore.

Diana looked into her brother’s eyes and went to stroke his cheek. “You must think I despise you.” 

“My lifestyle at least.” 

Diana’s finger stopped right behind his ear, letting her maneuver his neck, and control his head, but as always, nothing controlled his eyes, her would-be entry into his mind.

“How disappointing…” she said, before letting him go, and giving him another shrug. “I’m sorry, I have nothing to tell you other than that I adore you. I can tell you that your search for Kion will destroy you, including all that you and your friends are building, far faster than House Starshield ever could, but you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Is that all?”

Diana leaned back against the windowsill, her voice growing rather low and hush in tone.

“I had something else I wanted, your help, but… it seems inappropriate now. You’re not the man to help me anymore.” 

How did we get so tired of life?

Jack stood up, but as he turned to leave, his sister’s hand snatched onto his.


This time when she looked up at him, she looked up to him.

“Letting Kion go would be the best for you, Jack, but from what I know of Amidala… killing him would be the best for him.” 

Jack’s strength returned to him in a flash, as he pulled his hand back from her, like she had poison on her nails. “Why would you say that?” 

“Because you’ll never get him back, and if he loves you half as much as you love him, that’s surely killing him inside.” 

Is… is he being controlled as I thought, is it painful? I never imagined that it would be… painful.

But how could losing your own will not be painful?

Jack covered his eyes again as if not being able to see would allow him to hide. There was no hiding from what truly followed him everywhere he went. The things people kept saying, the words his dreams would make him listen to, there was no escape. It was only a matter of time before you could no longer deny it.

But that was not this day. This day, he walked out on his sister, and out the door. Then, the moment he was at the top of the staircase, ready to go down, he heard the magical melody that undoubtedly came from a lute.

Finally, a toon worth listening to.

She was right there, my target was literally coming to me, and what did I do?

I fucking froze.

As she drank the last bit of her alcohol, chasing a buzz that wasn’t coming, Andelyn Stella did what she did best and shit on herself.

I was so busy fucking around, I just about blew up this entire mission? And who the fuck was the dude in the purple smock?

She made her escape during Malum’s distraction, and found a new way back into the atrium. While there was no rule restricting guests from wandering the halls, the looks she was receiving told her otherwise.

It could be because I’m a woman in men’s clothes… or that I’m trying to go get belligerently drunk. Why aren’t I succeeding?

Andy checked how much alcohol she had left as she wandered into a rather quiet atrium. As she did, she began to hear the quiet musings of a bard’s lute and nodded along as her thoughts continued on their own. 

Hennrick’s not half bad, but still, I’m finished with this bottle of hard liquor and I’m not feeling anything. I’m not even numb, I’m just… painfully sober. Did it finally happen? Did my body become immune to alcohol?

She slumped over, somehow finding herself in a seat she took no note of before sitting in it.

Oh god, what is happening to me? Has the years of booze and hookers finally doomed me to a life where I can’t enjoy either? 

The melody seemed to change, speeding up and sounding more urgent.

Oh god, what will I do? I’m in my twenties, I’m not built to survive without alcohol or hookers, let alone both! 

The sharp whistle of the lute grew deep, and beep like a drum with the long whammy twang of a string instrument. It was a sound that shouldn’t exist, but to Andy, it meant nothing. All there was, was the sound of her own degrading voice filling her head.

There’s nothing else now. Of everything that’s happened to me, from having my Iligsia stripped from me, from being abandoned by my family, to losing my friends and home… being immune to the sweet release of alcohol and the love of hookers may be the one thing I can’t overcome.

Grow up, Andelyn.’

Andelyn’s head shot up from where she was laying in the chair. “Mom?” was the first thing she called.

And then came the pressure on her head.

Oh, it’s you again.

It’s always you.

That familiar pressure she had forgotten about was never too far. It just hadn’t wanted to drive her to the point of insane recently.

Today, it was rectifying that, or so she thought.

The pressure — rather than lay on her brain — placed itself upon her eyes, and forced her to open them, and really see.

What the fuck?

She could still hear the melody but it had become little more than background music. The music could overcome the stunning sight of everyone on the ground asleep. This wasn’t like a violent slaughter, but a quiet peaceful lull, with people cuddling up next to others they would never have touched before. 

“What’s going…?” Andy began to ask as the pressure on her eyes moved to her ears, amplifying her ability to hear. 

The music.

The pressure… the light, seemed to chime in her head in confirmation. 

And you’re protecting me from it?

There was a soft hum around her head that felt more like a massage than pressure. It was a rather soothing way for the light to answer her.

Well, this almost makes up for taking away my buzz. If this presence in her head had eyes, they’d roll. Andy stood up and looked around at all the bodies around her, trying to see if there were any she recognized, but as far as she could tell, none of her teammates remained, and neither did the warlock. 

I couldn’t be so lucky to catch her asleep… or Malum could have taken his mask off in his sleep. 

As the situation was making itself a little more clear, Andy scratched the back of her head and let out a little growl.

“Whelp, fuck me sideways, this is going to be a day. Here I was enjoying offending people’s sensibilities.

“Now, I gotta fix it so we can live to die another day.”

The presence let out a burst of delight. Calm down, that tickles, and when the brain tickles, it hurts.

There was a rubbing pressure on her brain that felt like an apology. It was a simple thing to then follow the sound of the music. The melody sounded like any song a bard played from their lute.

The presence seemed to be holding a film over her ears so it wasn’t keeping her from thinking straight, just like it did the alcohol in her body from taking over her brain. What certainly didn’t help was the mazelike structure of this palace.

The way the halls twisted and turned made it clear the building was made over decades by multiple architects, who each made one floor with a different layout from the next.

“Where the fuck am I going?” Andy complained as the presence in her head try to fill her with positive feelings, urging her on. “Do you know how annoying it is when someone is trying to force a depressed person to be positive? I’ll get the job done, just let me be a nihilistic bitch as I get there.”

The presence mellowed like a dog letting its ear flop down.

Don’t do that, that’s weird.


Did you just… stick your tongue out at me in my head?

The presence’s glee took a sinister turn.

Andy groaned at the two different ways she was being tortured until she finally found the staircase. She shook her fists as if it were some big achievement and started running towards it. As she raced up the stairs, she nearly missed the sound of footsteps above her, but the presence of the light gave her some help by amplifying her ability to hear.

Thud. Thud. Um, should someone else be awake?

Andy unsheathed the sword that was originally for show and held it at the ready as she slowly made her way up. Her footsteps weren’t particularly quiet. She waited for the attack to come from above, but as she stepped foot on the next door, the footsteps that were coming down to meet her never quickened nor slowed.

And the man who came down paid her no mind.

“Jack?” she called to him, but it took only a glance at his hazy eyes to see that he wasn’t there. His Iligsia for the Wind did not protect him from the methodical control of this melody. 

But why is he still moving?

Andy went to push him, and Jack stumbled a bit but didn’t even look in her presence. He just kept walking on. 

Maybe a little pain?

Andy followed close behind him, and then gave him a little poke of her sword… right on his cheek… just enough to draw blood… but it didn’t work. He kept walking as if nothing happened. 

“I guess we can follow you at least.”

Then they came upon the bodies Malum left in his wake, bodies Jack didn’t register, but Andy did. She tried to be quick about it. She dashed to the closest body and checked it over for wounds. She had seen this before, and she’s cleaned up the aftermath, but there was a chance it wasn’t what she thought.

When she found bodies with only one wound on them, small cuts that had slowly relieved these men of their blood, it couldn’t be denied.


Is the music making him do this?

Andy checked on Jack’s progress, still moving within shot, so she looked over the dead soldier again. This time she took notice of the colors the soldier wore, and the rest as well. Jack’s words back in the tavern rang through her head, but they sounded more like a gong when she found the insignia of House Thorn.

Not that I didn’t believe him when he told me… but it’s still… 


Andy noticed that Jack was about to turn a corner so she raced after him, hopping over the dead bodies when she had to. There weren’t more than she could count on her fingers, but with the way they lay strewn across the floor, with their blood and guts all over the place, it felt like Malum had killed more.

Still, she had to follow Jack, and the longer she did, the more bodies they found. Most weren’t dead, but more like those in the atrium, blissfully asleep. Well, most were blissful. Whoever did this is going to get fucked up. Everyone else looks like they’re having a good time, but I was made to feel like shit? That’s not fair, can’t abide by that.

The presence in her head murmured in what felt like a disappointment.

Fuck off.

The worse thing for Andy as she followed Jack wasn’t the dead bodies though, nor the memory of her experience under the music’s spell. No, it was something far more mundane.

God, are we there yet?! How are we still walking and still nowhere?!” she groaned out loud, having given up on silence and stealth. She stared at Jack’s expressionless, unmoving face, and accused him with a jab of her finger, “You’re lost, aren’t you? You’ve gotten us lost. You’re just walking around in circles, aren’t you?”

Then he turned towards a door.

“You did that on purpose, you little bitch.”

Jack tried to open the door handle, but it was locked in place. Before Andy could say a word about it, he used the Wind to tear it off its hinges.

“Whelp, that works,” she said as she followed.

Since the presence of the light was shielding her ears and thus her mind, the music didn’t sound any louder when she entered the room. The presence did not consider increasing her ability to hear it until her eyes caught sight of the man reclining on a sofa, casually strumming his lute.

“Hennrick?” Andy asked at the sight of her chaperone.

Actually…” the bard said as he plucked a lute that was not playing the same tune that rang through the halls, “only my mother calls me Hennrick.”

As Andy watched him pluck at the lute’s strings, she felt the presence of the light flush itself behind her eyes. She wanted to blink out tears, but the presence held them open and wetted, letting her see that which should be invisible. With each pluck of the string, Andy watched small currents of the wind bounce from his fingers and swirl off the lute. It flowed and bustled in line with the music that had lulled everyone to sleep… this bard’s power over the Wind.

Oh fuck.

Her eyes raised as they met his, and his devious smirk grew more subdued.

“Go ahead,” he bated her.

Henry Lockley,” she spoke his true name, “the Bard of the Song,” Honorguard of Raydorn.

“Yes,” he said, and pointed his finger at her, “and you are Andelyn Stella, disowned daughter of House Stella, bannermen to House Starshield… and fugitive of Raydorn.”



Without warning, the glass window to her right shattered, but the Bard’s fingertips danced along the strings several times over before they made a thud.

The figure dressed in black, with a mask Andy could never forget, did not stand as a shadow. That made Andy’s arms twitch, first.

She started slowly walking towards him, trying to gesture for him to keep calm. Does he know what this guy can do? Does he think I’m under his control?

“Malum, let’s stay cool, he’s got Jack under his-”


Then came the sound of Jack’s sword being pulled from its leather sheathe. “You’ll tell me where you’re keeping Kion you, witch, or you die,” Jack said, telling Andy all she needed to know about what he saw, “it’s as simple as that.”

Even when under an illusion, he still chases after him.

When Malum unsheathed his in turn, Andy looked back and saw the colossal mistake she had made. She was between the two of them, on one side a trained killer with a poison-drenched sword, and on the other a master of the Wind Iligsia, so skilled he became a teacher who taught hundreds of others in the art of battle.


Andy and Henry both turned towards the assassin, and their eyes grew ten-fold at the sight of the wings of a hawk coming from Malum’s back.

“What the fuck?” 

Henry nearly stopped plucking his instrument. “I’m guessing you didn’t know he had those.”

“No, no I did not.”

Malum didn’t respond to them though, nor did Jack. He simply made his threat, “Normally, I wouldn’t break these out, but I’m not one to underestimate a warlock and her slave.”

Oh, oh no, he’s… he’s definitely not seeing me.

Then he shifted to a fighting stance like he was about to lunge.

“Guys, guys,” Andy began to call to them.

‘Guys, guys?’ Oh yeah, like that rousing speech is going to wake them, Andy. Think of something!

Behind Jack, readied the Wind beneath his feet to ready himself against Malum.

Think, think, Andy! Or your idiots for friends are going to fucking kill you!

The presence filled her head with static. While the dulling sense of worry was comforting, it was far from helpful. And it did nothing to stop Malum and Jack from lunging at her.

Is… is this how I die? Between these two idiots?

Then they lunged, and Andy screamed.

I fucking hate you two!

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