The Wrath of Francine Blackfire Picture

House Blackshire has existed for the better part of nine centuries, owing its allegiance to mythological, serpent-like wyverns that crossed ‘the void’ from the volcanic, ash-filled plains of Vantos into Terra. The founder of House Blackshire, the daughter of a noble Lord in Southern England, Francine Blackfire – first of her name – found a single egg hidden away in a rocky alcove in Elderberry Forest, the single largest body of woodland in the country. According to legend, it was about the size of an ostrich egg, with tough, jet-black scales dominating its outer-shell, protecting the creature inside. The old parchments yellowed by time recount the date the young, eight-year old Francine first found the egg – 968 AD.

She took it home, keeping it safely hidden until such a time arose that it began to crack. Out of the egg came a black-scaled beast, only a little thing, no larger than a duckling, but with wings as black as night, eyes like black diamonds blazing like wildfire in the most desolate of places. That evening, after a villager reported seeing a reptilian-like creature in a thatched hut breathing black fire, setting the wooden beams alight. Francine’s father; having discovered the baby wyvern in her possession – fueled by a drunken rage – held his blade aloft, preparing to slay the beast.

It was in that moment, that something truly astonishing happened. Tears streamed down the child’s stone-cold cheeks as she cradled the wyvern in her arms, holding it against her chest. The connection formed between them the second they laid eyes on each other was a connection forged for life, for they had read the pages of their souls. Veyrius, as she called him after her late grandfather, unleashed a torrent of small, hot, black flames that enveloped her father. He rolled around the straw-strewed floor of the thatched hut, screaming in agony as the flames engulfed him, roasting him alive.

She didn’t utter a single word as she watched, standing like a tyrant above his dying, squirming form. He looked like a worm trying desperately to escape the clutches of a hungry robin. Francine had always hated her father; he blamed her for the death of her mother on the day of her birth, thus, their relationship was amicable at best. Therefore, she had no problem watching him die in such grueling fashion.

Shortly after her father’s death, Francine and Veyrius fled into the heart of Elderberry Forest, and there – dark and mysterious forces consumed her.

A cult of witches feeding on the energy near a split between two dimensions in a cave found the child and her scaly companion. She was taken into their care, immersed in black magic. Through the teachings of a book they claim was ‘not of this world’, she learned how to bind her blood with that of the slick, magic-en-laced ‘purple-blood’ that ran through Veyrius’ veins. The witches were part of ‘The Order of Sishnaki’, a cult of women who believed they were of a higher calling. Francine’s initiation into their order was not a smooth process. She suffered. They would use her blood for various rituals, using her special bond with Veyrius to fuel their power. She spent twenty years in their keep, a prisoner, forced to witness the extent of their cruelty. Over time, her skin turned deathly white, her eyes fading from blue to light silver, and her hair – a once radiant, straw yellow colour – turned pale-white, as though a ghost had possessed her. Whatever remained of Francine’s previous life was stolen by the cult of witches

A noble Prince, the third son of the illegitimate heir to the English throne, King Harold II Godwineson, was hunting with his band of horsemen for wild boar on the outskirts of Elderberry Forest when he came across a horrific scene. In the middle of a grassy field, surrounded by rolling hilltops, was a large, stone monument with an altar in the center. Corpses of rotting, elderly women littered the bloodstained grass in between the towering spires of stone. Strange, ancient symbols had been carved into the foundations, a contrast between black and grey confronting the frightened horsemen.

Believing the monument to be the work of Normans, Prince Agar I Godwineson sent two riders to inform his father of their discovery immediately. However, before they could reach the summit of the nearest hill, a woman clad in thick, silver metal armor confronted them. She had piercing silver eyes, long, braided white hair that fell across her left shoulder and back, and a long sword fastened to her hip. Having never seen such a woman before, they instantly retrieved their swords to fight her. In that moment, a torrent of scorching black fire washed over them from above.

Their screams were silenced as the shadow of Veyrius’ wings drowned out the light of the sun, casting the stone monument in darkness. The symbols began to light up, illuminating the altar in the center. All of the horsemen were slain, with the sole exception of Prince Agar as he somehow managed to flee into the forest, using the cover of the thick, old conifer trees as protection from the wrath of the fire-breathing beast.

Prince Agar returned to his father’s palace, pleading with him to send out a force to find and kill the beast. King Harold agreed to his wishes, and counseled his two older sons on the matter. They were far less encouraging than their younger brother, as they were more on the side of politics than clashing swords.

Believing himself safe in the highest keep of the highest tower, Prince Agar surrounded his bedchamber with French servants. Some acted as concubines, serving his sexual desires. Should they become pregnant, their bastard children would be killed or worse – sacrificed to the Order of Sishnaki. This dark conspiracy was kept secret from his father, under penalty of death. Consumed by lust, Prince Agar kept his servant girls with him at all times, commanding the royal guard to be stationed outside.

That night, a shy, black-haired French concubine appeared in the doorway to his bedchamber. She was gorgeous, with long-flowing, silky hair as black as the oncoming wall of twilight, eyes like shimmering emeralds, a slender, generous physique ladled with fine, expensive jewelry and other garments the Prince took a strong liking to. She seduced him, spending hours constantly writhing around his bed sheets, pleasing him in any way he pleased. It was only when the Prince discovered the river of blood flowing from under the wooden, closet door did he realize all was not as it seemed.

Her features changed as she crawled backwards from his naked body, kissing down his stomach. Her jet-black hair turned to white, her eyes fading from bright green to pale grey, a smirking expression painting itself across the face of the now-revealed Francine. She held her index finger to her rosy lips, informing him to be silent. Like a ghost, she vanished, leaving a trail of her murderous deeds in her wake. The guards’ throats had been slit, and they lay slumped on the floor of the stone stairwell. All of the Prince’s French servant girls had also been murdered, piled atop one another in the closet, their bodies mutilated to add further insult to his highness.

Overwhelmed by grief, Prince Agar confined himself to the palace over the course of the winter, always his thoughts dwelling on the tall, pale-faced woman who had performed some sort of witchcraft on him. When winter made way for spring, he set off – accompanied by the King’s men – in search of Francine.

A trail of breadcrumbs in the form of ruined, burned villages guided him closer to his target. Hundreds of innocent villagers had suffered at the flames of the black beast, their scorched bodies decorating the rural farmlands they sorely depended on to make a living. Ruined village after ruined village, decimated town after decimated town, eventually the Prince came to the lonely village of Lamnock in the far north of the country, right on the border of Scotland. He had spent years following the black flames, listening to survivor’s tales of a winged-shadow drinking the light of the sun. Always he had been one step behind, a career forged by thoughts of revenge spanning well over two decades.

The rivers ran wild during the latter months of winter, making room for the warmth of spring, allowing blocks of solid ice to flow freely for the first time since the dying days of autumn. The forest of Elderthorn – a smaller, lightly wooded tributary of the great forest of Talithon – began to flower once more. Mammals that had hibernated throughout winter were already out, soaking up the early rays of pale sunshine that crested above the grassy hilltops. Meadows of blackberries were pillaged by the few remaining species of native bears that had avoided extinction at the hands of their predators – people.

Lamnock, a predominately Scottish settlement based on the edge of England’s northernmost border, was home to over two hundred villagers at the end of 1030 AD. Life was simple for the common folk. They lived in peace, cut off from the affairs of the English and their war-mongering ways. The people of Lamnock preferred to focus on rural farming, crop producing, tending to their farm animals and various other aspects of village life. They were a very closely-knit group, for most were made up of large families that had moved down from Northern Scotland some fifty years ago.

Prosperous, peaceful, particular in their life choices – the people of Lamnock were content in living in isolation, a completely independent community prospering without involving themselves in inter-country affairs and conflicts. Children ran around in between the conifer and aspen trees, enjoying the company of one another as their mothers looked on from the edge of their thatched huts. The men were out and about tending to the crop fields, making sure that winter’s fury had not destroyed their hard work from the previous season. By the looks of it, winter had been unusually kind.

Yet, with the first light of spring came a sense of unease. It was on the morning of 13th March 1030 AD, when the farm animals began acting out of distress, stretching the wooden fences that contained them. The sky was devoid of cloud cover; barely a wisp could be seen marring an otherwise azure atmosphere. A pale banner of smoke rose from the hilltops in the north, but it was no ordinary forest fire.

A bellowing roar ripped across the swaying conifer trees like a seaborne storm, the air growing unusually hot as villagers left their thatched huts and gazed skyward. A child dropped its wooden toy in horror as the enormous, black-scaled wyvern appeared from out of the light of the sun, bathing Lamnock in black fire. Explosions raced across the village as huts were quickly burned to ashes. A quick swipe of Veyrius’ tail sent ten men flying across the muddy pathway. His sharp talons ripped flesh from bone. His gleaming, dark eyes were devoid of sympathy, compassion, remorse – he knew nothing of love.

Francine cackled from above as she sat on his back, a deranged look on her fair, elegant cheeks. She basked in their suffering; it fed her power, made her stronger. “Lay waste to their lands, let them feel the wrath of black fire. Kill them all, Veyrius!”

The serpent-like wyvern acknowledged her commands, but not through her words of discord and death, they shared a bond that only magic could explain. He could feel what she wanted of him. His wings gently flapped back and forth as he hovered in mid-air, drowning Lamnock in fire, destroying the farmlands and meadows that were dotted around the village.

“We shall destroy every single village we come across, Veyrius. There is no compassion, no remorse, no mercy to be found in one bearing the name of Blackfire, for I am Francine, first of her name. All shall bow before me and despair.”


©THE SNAKE WHISPERER

Continue Reading:
Sun