Commander Ravier Black Prior Skin

When Mount Ignis erupted, fire and molten rock burned everything in its path. That day, Ravier suffered a wound that she was quick to hide behind a mask. Some believe that she was brutally disfigured. Others say that she had only but a small scar, and that her pride was the only thing truly wounded that day. But the real truth is far more sinister. Ravier put on a mask not to hide herself, but to reveal who she really was: walking death. Immutable, unreadable, and unstoppable. Thanks to her merciless nature and her particularly cruel antics, Ravier caught Vortiger’s attention, and he promoted her. As his second-in-command, Commander Ravier lead the Black Priors to many victories, and she left such a trail of disembodied victims and horror stories that she came to be known by another name: the Lady Misery.

After rumors of a powerful artifact hidden in Arabia reached Vortiger, he sent Commander Ravier to the distant kingdom, once out of reach and now finally open to them thanks to the opening of new travel routes. Posing as an emissary, Ravier met with the Sultana and effortlessly read the monarch’s dreams and aspirations. Through deception, Ravier gained her favor, and obtained access to the Celestial Sphere, a relic capable of foretelling the future. After she witnessed what future awaited Heathmoor, Ravier destroyed the relic and slayed the Sultana. For only she could hold the secrets of the future. Only she could know what would come next. And its name was misery.

The Might of Misery

Part I.

The stars shone faintly in the twilight. The last few remaining rays of sunlight dissipated with each passing second, bathing the sky in a peach display that was growing increasingly darker – and redder. The moon however, was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it knew of the bloodletting that was unfolding, and it rightfully wanted to avoid catching even the slightest glimpse of it.

The battle raged in a field of black dirt, peppered with razor-sharp rocks and dead trees that had long ago seen their last hopeful bloom. A hot mist hung low in the air, an incessant swirl governed by the strong wind. Is seemed to moved against the favor of the black-clad Knights who swung almost blindly at their enemies in the Chimera Alliance. Blades rapped against their hard shields as they closed ranks, forming a tight union in the hopes of staving off the attack. They were outnumbered, but they would not retreat. For they were Black Prior, and pride was their spur. There would be no begging. No surrender. They would fight to the last.

The darkness of night settled in as the Black Priors found themselves pushed back against a wall of rocks, much too high to scale or climb. This was it. This was to be their end. But as the soldiers of Chimera moved in for their final assault, something else happened. A loud shriek tore through the night, and they all turned on their heels. The sound had come from a horse, carrying a single rider charging right towards them, a torch in hand. The flame was muted by the mist. Its glow was reflected in the rider’s glossy face mask, highlighting a crown of thorns atop their head and eyeholes that were nothing but pure chasms of blackness.

Some of the Chimera soldiers appeared nervous. Others even moved to break formation out of fright, stumbling over one another. The rider had a reputation, and it seemed they knew exactly who was coming for them: Commander Ravier. Vortiger’s right-hand woman. But to those on the battlefield, she was known by another name. Lady Misery.

Before she reached her opponents, Ravier threw them a large pouch spilling liquid all around it as it spun in the air, splattering several of the Chimera warriors. One of them was unfortunate to catch the pouch, and it was only when it was in his hands that he realized what the liquid was: oil. By then, it was already too late. Ravier had already thrown the torch. Suddenly, a blaze lit up the nascent night and screams drowned out the world. Burning soldiers ran helplessly, crashing into one another and spreading the fire further. The Commander drew her sword and, shield in her other hand, she leaped off her horse. The cornered Black Priors again joined the fight, taking the Chimera warriors closest to them by surprise.

The battle didn’t last long after that.

Ravier slew all who stood against her, whether they were able-bodied or running and screaming, covered in flames -- and her brethren took care of the rest. Before long, Lady Misery and the Black Priors stood amidst scores of dead bodies. Small fires burned all around them, lighting their black armors like they occupied the very depths of the underworld. They had been much too close to defeat but, thankfully, the Commander had arrived just in time. Over the past few years, she had come to grow frustrated. Battles, there were many. But victories, far too few. If only she could turn the tide of the war as easily as she had turned the tide of this fight.

“Vortiger has summoned us,” was all she had told them. It was rare for Black Priors to get an audience with their righteous leader. Few even saw him nowadays – which meant that whatever he had to say was of the highest importance. Only Ravier got to walk into his tent. The others stood outside and waited alongside their horses, looking up at the tall cliff that stretched up into the night.

She wasn’t in there long. She walked out, her metal face indecipherable as ever. She climbed atop her horse, and told her followers all they required to know.

“We ride East.”

“To where?” one Black Prior asked.

“A land called Arabia,” she said. Behind her cold, expressionless mask, she smiled.

Part II.

Gaining access to the library had not been easy. After a long journey across the desert, Commander Ravier and a handful of her most trusted Black Priors had reached the impressive gates of the kingdom of Arabia. Ravier didn’t know what she expected to find Eastward, but a thriving people seemingly free from the grips of war came as a surprise. On her throne, the Sultana held herself as all proud leaders would. But there was something different about her. Her smile was genuine. She exuded warmth. She seemed… good. That irritated Ravier to no end, but it also meant she knew exactly how to manipulate her target. There was no place for Lady Misery here, only Ravier. The banquet was where she had gotten to work. With great promises of friendship, riches, and powerful alliances, Ravier slithered and succeeded in convincing the Sultana to give her access to Arabia’s most prized artifact. The Sultana’s closest consorts attempted to intervene, offering their best efforts to convince the Sultana otherwise. But Ravier had sunken her claws into the Sultana, and fed off of her pride.

The night was growing late, but Ravier insisted her visit not be delayed. She didn’t want to have to stay in this abhorrent kingdom a moment longer than she needed. The entire place reeked of peace and a sickening sense of contentment. A torch in her hand, she walked up the winding staircase, followed closely by her soldiers. While they were allowed to move freely throughout the library, Ravier could tell that they were being closely watched. The Sultana may have trusted her, but the numerous pairs of eyes hiding in the darkest corners of the library clearly didn’t. “Good,” Ravier thought. Perhaps this place had some fight in it after all.

As she finally reached the library, Ravier couldn’t help but be impressed by its contents. The structure was round in design, with marble-white walls stretching far, wide, and immeasurably tall. These walls were all covered with large bookcases filled with leather-bound volumes of all colors, yarn-tied collections of rolled parchments and columns of loose manuscripts. The main hall was also filled with dozens more bookcases arranged in concentric circles, each with not a single centimeter of shelf-space wasted. Above, the ceiling was covered in what appeared to be a detailed map of constellations and in its center, a small round opening allowed moon and starlight to shine through, a beam that reached down in a perfect vertical line to the very center of the library – and the Celestial Sphere. The reason she had come such a long way. Vortiger’s prize.

The spherical astrolabe was held on top of a small pedestal and it was surrounded by thin rings of gold that resembled cogs. As she neared it, Ravier began to hear strange overlapping whispers. Distant, almost held back at the edge of the known and unknown. The closer she got to the relic, the louder the indecipherable voices became. It was almost like a song, the call of destiny. A hymn to godhood. She reached out a hand through the rings of gold, and touched the glass sphere. She couldn’t explain how or why, but a force appeared to pull at her fingertips and, instinctively, she knew what she had to do. With a few specific twists, the sphere unlocked and, inside it, a bright light glowed like the heart of the sun.

Ravier was instantly hit with a wave of images unfurling before her eyes – a sequence of events she knew. Details of what had been – the past – which flowed into visions of the present. Then came a flood of what had not yet been. Heathmoor’s future. Distant, but well within reach. Pain. So much pain. And misery. More than she could ever hope for. It was all there. A map to supremacy. And it was hers.

Sweat trickled down behind her mask as the intensity of the light finally vanished. Head held down, Ravier caught her breath as she made sense of the sudden rush of knowledge granted to her by the sphere. If she was to exploit it all, no one else could know what she did. The risk was too great. For a moment, all was quiet. The next, her sword was already in her hand. She sliced right through the relic, smashing it and the golden rings to pieces. Ravier heard screams coming from the shadows, and the sound of rushing footsteps.

The other Black Priors closed ranks around Ravier as they prepared for battle.

“Burn it,” she ordered. “Burn it all down.”

Part III.

Ravier’s mind was clear. She knew where she was headed, what she had to do. Events were already in motion, and she was the linchpin. The destruction of the library hadn’t been foreseen, but it was the only logical conclusion. What she knew, she couldn’t risk anyone else learning. This knowledge was much too precious, much too dangerous to be entrusted to anyone else. Fate was fickle, and the fall of the lightest flower petal could change its course. Ravier didn’t care much for flora. But she would ensure the flower would grow – as long as it was rooted in a field drenched with the blood of the underserving.

She and her company rode back to Heathmoor with haste, taking only minimal breaks. They had been fortunate: only two of her Black Priors had been lost during their escape from the desert kingdom. For days afterwards, they could see the pillar of smoke in the sky behind them. It served as a testament to their might, one that announced to all the reach of Horkos beyond the boundaries of Heathmoor. The smoke grew ever paler and thinner the further they traveled, until it faded from sight.

Finally, the desert subsided, giving way to fields of grass, green forests, and flowing rivers. Plains turned rocky and eventually, they stretched over the horizon, etching mountains in the sky ahead. A view that was familiar to them. They were home. Ravier would never admit it out loud but she was, dare she use the word, happy, to have returned. The desert was a void, a blank slate empty of life – and conflict. Here, in the lush diversity of Heathmoor, she could already feel the cold promise of death. It all felt right.

When they reached the edge of a ravine, Ravier halted to a stop. She observed her surroundings, before taking note of the clear sky. The sun was shining brightly, just past mid-day. Its rays would have been heavy and warm, but not a single one of them touched her skin. She much preferred the darkness of her armor. She always did. Ever so discreetly, she wrapped her hand around the handle of her blade, and with a slight nod of the head, her Black Priors knew to get ready. Then, with a slight tap of the heel against her horse’s side, they advanced as one at a slight trot.

Ravier’s sword was already held high when the first Medjay jumped. She caught him in the air, stabbing him right through the chest. He was dead when he fell to the ground. Then came the others, jumping down from both sides of the ravine. It was an ambush, by warriors bearing the markings of Chimera. A mission of blood, to avenge those that had burned at the hand of Lady Misery. But the Lady could not be taken by surprise – much to the contrary. This attack, she knew it was coming, and she used the knowledge to her advantage. To her, this was a test, making sure what the Celestial Sphere had shown her was real; and making it clear, beyond a doubt, that she could bend fate to her side.

The battle didn’t last long. With foreknowledge of the attack, the Chimera warriors had lost their element of surprise, and the Black Priors struck with speed and ferocity. Limbs were severed, and bright red blood spilled all over the ravine’s pale ground. All around her, Ravier watched with delight as they gained the upper hand with ease. After the near defeat her Black Priors had experienced before she had come to their rescue during that moonless night, it was all too captivating to see the power of the Celestial Sphere on display. The power of victory. Vortiger would be pleased. Yes, he would. She would tell him all that she had seen. She would explain to him what they had to do next. The relics – it all started with the relics. But that was a story for tomorrow.

On the battlefield, Ravier made certain to find their enemies’ commander, a Warden that didn’t prove much of a challenge. She defeated him quickly, but insisted he be kept alive. She had him stripped of his armor and tied against a flat angled rock, burning to the touch against the blazing sun. He screamed as his naked skin hissed and boiled, begging to be cut loose.

She left him there, not knowing whether he would live or die. The sphere hadn’t shown her everything, after all. Just a path. And the mystery? Well, that was part of the fun.

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