The sun was just passing below the tree-line as the village started making their final preparations for what was to be a week-long celebration of the Lunar New Year. And as the villagers went about their way, raising the lit lanterns and preparing the evening feast, so too were others making preparations for the night's festivities, though not of a friendly or kindly nature.
As they watched the spits of meat roasting over stoked fires, and laughing children running among the growing crowd, lit spark-sticks leaving fuzzy trails in their wake, their hunger for chaos and disorder grew, making them giddy, almost feral, at the prospect of the blood and endless torment still to come. One, who couldn’t control the impulse any longer, lunged out of her hiding spot, making for the nearest target in sight; an elderly woman walking on the northern road into the village, carrying a basket of food for the evening feast. Before she could take two steps, however, glowing, empowered chains shot out from the darkness, binding her in place. The chains’ wielder then pulled himself towards her, a vicious snarl on his ghostly, indigo face. He drew himself up close to his bound victim and - growling - snapped his teeth in anger. The woman, also the same complexion as the man, whimpered slightly, and flinched at the action. The man then snorted and said “Not yet Morgana. Soon.” He then turned his attention to the elderly woman, who was just joining a group of festive people at the village’s northern entrance; The group took the woman’s load and escorted her in. Looking up at the dimming evening sky, and catching the faint outline of the full moon, the man smiled diabolically. “Very soon.”
The western sloping hills that overlooked the village were gently wooded, which offered great vantage points to observe the valley below and the comings and goings of its inhabitants and any travelers, merchants or tradesmen that travelled on the northern and southern roads that ran the length of the valley. It was here that the Lunar Empress and Guardian stood watch, hidden in the shadows of the trees made by the setting sun behind her, waiting impatiently for word from her Emissary, whom she had sent into the village on a mission. A mission that determined the fate of the realms.
As the day’s warmth gave way to evening’s cool embrace, more and more people started to arrive from the nearby farms, adding to the merry mood of the people and making it almost a raucous in its joviality. Watching the milling crowds grow, her stoicism gave way to restlessness, which grew until all that remained was a desire to go down there and determine for herself the status of her agent. Sensing her anxiousness, her companion shifted his grip on the staff he carried and tilted his head down in her direction.
“He will signal us when the time is right, Empress. Have faith. The cherry blossom blooms in spring, not before or after.”
“I know Nasus, but evening has come, and a full moon ascends. The Ides are upon us.”
“As long as Sylas is not allowed to channel a mortal’s essence before the Full Moon’s Zenith to receive the Lunar’s Dark Blessing, the Ides of Chaos will be averted. But we must allow the Emissary the time he needs to locate and isolate the wraith and his kind, lest they wreak havoc on all those innocents in the village.”
“If he leaves this valley with the Dark Blessing, he will unleash chaos and disharmony on all the realms. I cannot just stand here, waiting around for word when -” She was cut short by a sharp, blood-curdling cry from the direction of the village. The Empress and Nasus both turned their heads in unison, their conversation forgotten, scanning the valley for the sound’s source. The giant guardian, whose senses were sharper than the Empress’s, perked his ears and sniffed the air, peering intensely at the activity in the village.
“I hear children sobbing, and smell smoke and spilt blood.”
Upon hearing this, she broke into a dead-sprint, moving faster than ever done before. She heard a steady thud to her right, and turning to see what it was, saw her companion keeping pace with her, ready to do his duty to protect her and the people from danger. She turned her attention toward her approach and shouted into the wind.
“Whatever happens, Sylas must not escape! Am I understood?”
“He will not Empress, you have my word,” the guardian replied. With that they continued on in silence, willing themselves to get there before it was too late.
The maniacal grin he had worn during the attack had been replaced with a self-satisfied one. As he watched the once merry and joy-filled market place burn, he sighed in contentment.
“It feels so, so, _soo _ good to be able to burn things. Doesn’t it feel good Morgana?” He asked the lesser wraith, who nodded with enthusiasm. She and another wraith held a prisoner in place, who struggled under their grip until he was forced down onto his knees. The villagers, unused to wraiths in this part of the lands, had tried to fight them off during the initial attack. But they had been easily overpowered, with those who had resisted receiving the worst of it. Most of the villagers had managed to escape, leaving in their wake overturned stalls and tables, strewn food everywhere and knocked over lanterns and decorations, which had started the fires. The wraiths, seeing this disorder, reveled in it, and added to the chaos by spreading the fires to the surrounding houses.
The wraith leader looked up at the sky, catching glimpses of the moon. Almost time, he thought, caught up in his own thoughts. The prisoner, seeing his guards had relaxed their grip on him, turned sharply and punched one square in the gut, while the other received a knee to the mid-section. As they both lay sprawled on the ground, he tried to make a break for it, but only got 5 steps before he was stopped by the leader, his chains binding him and keeping him from moving. The leader looked at the two wraiths in disgust. “Morgana, Caitlyn, get up, you idiots! Go and secure him. Useless!” The two wraiths hurried to comply, wishing to avoid their leader's wrath.
“Hold him down! Beat him if you have to,” the leader snarled, and the two proceeded to beat the prisoner until he lay on his side, curled up in raspy breaths. The Leader chuckled softly as he watched the prisoner force himself back to his knees, his eyes burning with fiery defiance. “You have served your Mistress well, Talon. You should be proud for trying. That is all mortals are capable of doing; Trying - and failing. I commend you,” he said, mock-clapping in jest while the wraith guards laughed hysterically.
The kneeling prisoner, seeing the wraith leader self-gratification, spit blood and saliva on the ground before he spoke. “You will never succeed Sylas. The Empress will be here any moment. Surrender now and spare yourself the beating.”
His guards snickered at this, and Sylas turned to face him, amused. “You think I’ve lost? I escaped from an inescapable prison!” he said shaking his still-shackled hands for emphasis.” I’ve been a prisoner for eons Talon; I’m not going back.” He looked up at the sky, catching glimpses of the moon hidden behind the smoke. “It’s time. Hold him steady.”
The two wraiths held the prisoner down, who had renewed his struggles upon hearing the news. Sylas walked calmly towards them, fiddling at the weapon in his hands. “You’re going to be killed by your own weapon. You don’t mind, do you? I think it's fitting for wielders of dragon-forged weaponry be killed in kind.”
Talon spit defiantly at his feet. “You shall never succeed!”
“I just have” Sylas replied calmly, and plunged the blade deep into Talon’s chest. Quickly withdrawing it, he watched as Talon spasmed momentarily before coughing up blood. His minders let him fall to his side, and stood back to allow their leader to conduct his ritual. The chains on Sylas’ wrists shot towards the dying man, pulsing dully with dark-energy as Talon’s essence was syphoned into Sylas, who vibrated with the burst of power. After a few minutes the chains stopped glowing and withdrew from Talon’s lifeless corpse. Sylas straightened, eyes bulged with the rush of power.
A sharp cry of anguish sounded nearby, but that didn’t matter; He had received the Lunar’s Dark Blessing.
A lung-bursting battle-cry was heard, followed by a bear-like roar. Sylas, brimming with dark-energy, turned to face the source and saw a Lunar Guardian and the Empress herself, staffs held aloft and glowing with power, charging into the clearing to do battle.
He looked to the two wraiths and smiled sardonically. “_Now_, let's have some fun.”