Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Blind Knights and Match Girls, 560 words

The Blind Knights are warriors in the service of the Wax King, who appear to be human but for the candles that burn blue in their empty eye sockets. The candles do not go out until the Blind Knight dies… but sometimes the Blind Knight dies because the candles go out. This is a rare circumstance, one that is more rumor than fact, for few have ever seen it and survived to tell the tale, for whatever reason.

Even more rarely, a Blind Knight survives his candles going out by fueling their flame with his own flesh. After a short time, they are burned from top to bottom, covered in a "shell" of crisped, blackened skin and subcutaneous fat. They wear midnight-black armor and hide their visages behind closed helms, but the stench of charred flesh never leaves their presence. Fire follows in their footsteps everywhere they go, with a trail of cinders and smoke at their heels. These rare few become Blackguards.

Blackguards are the most dangerous of the Wax King's minions, but also the rarest. He is loath to spend any needlessly, reserving them for the most important tasks. As the most important tasks are also the most deadly, the attrition rate is still high amongst their ranks.

Despite their heavy plate armor, they can move in near-perfect silence should they so wish, and very frequently their duties require it of them. However, their most potent power is not their silence, swords, or the word of the Wax King, but their power over shadows. When the fire burns out, all that is left is darkness. So to it is with the Blackguards, who may move through shadow as one might walk through a door. This power is not unlimited, but in the lightless depths of the Nowheres, they wax mighty.

***

The Match Girls are the Mad City's female counterparts to the Paper Boys. Outdated and anachronistic, they frequently inspire pity in the foolish and unwary. They look like little girls made out of bundles upon bundles of matches, tied together by fraying white string. Often, the actual match heads are hidden by the ends of the next bundle up, so they appear to be made out of simple wood. However, the faint smell of sulfur follows them wherever they go, just noticeable enough to be unnerving. They mostly manage to cover it up with the musty, moth-balls smell of the tattered old dresses they wear, in small-children fashions from mid-Victorian England, though not completely. They're most often found wandering the streets of the City, especially when the weather has turned cold, trying to find places to hide from the biting wind and sobbing quietly to themselves.

This act is just that. An act. They are Nightmares just as much as any other, and they seek to turn others into them. Alone, a Match Girl is little threat. But in groups, they can be deadly, and there's almost always another hiding somewhere nearby.

When they strike, Match Girls burn. They don't have to strike themselves on anything, they simply come alight and attack. Their flames are not real fire, however; they sear not flesh but the spirit, not skin but the soul. A Match Girl can burn away your memories and personality until you become like them, just another faceless urchin on the streets trying to escape the cold...

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