The last thing the Hero recalled was defeating a demon in Fricana and being greeted by the sight of his friends who helped him.
Then he felt himself magically drawn across dimensions to an eerie and dark cave that felt nasty. It didn’t take a Paladin’s sense evil to know that this was a very bad place to be. After a long while of exploring this weird place and avoiding unpleasant ways of dying, the hero finally made his way outside.
The outside of the cave wasn’t much more pleasant than the inside. It was cold and foggy. There was a sense of looming danger to this area. The hero got the distinct impression that he was not in Kansas anymore.
Then a young woman walked out of the shadows toward him. She welcomed him to Mordavia. She seemed surprised and almost relieved to find the hero here.
She called herself Katrina.
Before the hero could ask her, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?,” she headed back into the forest and was lost in the mists. The hero might suspect that this sweet young thing was more than she seemed, but for the moment he was confused, bemused, and a bit amused by her. He could only hope that he would get to meet her again sometime.
Out of the Darkness
Katrina was indeed surprised and relieved to see the hero alive. She hated it when a magical spell went awry. Her magic had summoned the hero to Mordavia where the hero was supposed to arrive in the Borgov castle. Instead, the power of the Dark One’s cave interfered.
The hero was either very lucky or very skilled to come out of that cave alive.
Either way, Katrina knew that the hero would be very useful to her.
For once, Ad Avis had given her good advice when he suggested that she summon his murderer here. This was not a matter of petty vengeance. This would have world-altering consequences.
And the hero seemed just gullible enough to do the job for which Katrina brought him here..
A Shadowy Past
Katrina grew up in the city of Slava in the kingdom of Vakia. She was the daughter of a Knight’s mistress. Katrina grew up on the edge of poverty, never knowing if her father would continue to support her and her mother from month to month. She hated to see fear on her mother’s face when the knight did not show up to pay her bills.
However, when the knight did visit, Katrina soon realized that her father was as charmed by Katrina as he was by her mother. Katrina learned how to wrap him around her finger with just a smile, a hug, and “I love you, Daddy.” Her father wasn’t the only one. All the older men in the neighborhood enjoyed her friendly smile and cheerful greetings. Sometimes, the old men would give her an apple to share with her mother.
For Katrina learned from her mother – You do whatever it takes to keep from being helpless and hungry.
When Katrina was thirteen, her mother became ill. The knight had not been to see them in months and there was very little money left for food. Their landlord was threatening to evict them for back rent. Katrina cared for her sick mother, but there was no money to buy her medicine. There was nothing Katrina could do to save her mother. She could only watch her mother die.
Then Katrina wiped the tears from her face. She brushed her hair and put on her mother’s best dress. She kissed her mother’s cheek, put two of her remaining coins on her mother’s eyes to pay for the ferryman, and then Katrina walked away, never to return.
You do whatever it takes…
The Wizardess of WIT
Katrina had a series of ‘boyfriends.’ These were older men who were thrilled to have a sweet young thing to flirt and cuddle with. One of these older men was a Wizard. He was surprised when Katrina showed an interest in his magic. He was even more surprised that she had a talent for magic. Soon, she learned all that he could teach her.
Katrina saw magic as a means of taking control of her own life. No longer would she be dependent upon others for food and shelter. She had the power to take charge of her life. She would never be helpless or hungry again – or so she hoped.
When she applied for the Wizard’s Institute for Technocery, the Wizard Council did their best to discourage her. They set the hardest of tests before her. They explained that Wizard magic was a man’s skill. She should go off to learn how to be a healer. Healing was woman’s magic.
(Yes, Erana had been there before, but she wasn’t quite human. Nor was Erana a seductive young woman who seemed determined to have her own way.)
Katrina did not let the old fools in the council keep her from the chance to learn more magic. She excelled in her classes. Most Wizards and TA’s were delighted to have someone lovely in their classrooms who actually listened to their lectures and learned their lessons. It was a novel experience for them.
Katrina spent her nights in the library learning about magic that the Wizards didn’t teach at WIT. There were some spells that were considered too dark, dangerous and unpredictable for sensible Wizards to ever learn. Katrina believed that magic was neither dark nor light. It was all a matter of how the magic was used.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Then came a demonic invasion of Russ caused by an unfortunate former graduate of WIT. To avoid the bad publicity towards Wizards and the institute, the Council sent graduate students to deal with the demons.
Unfortunately, these demons had the ability to possess Wizards. The situation was getting steadily worse.
Katrina offered to go and stop the demons. She had studied the old books and even older spells. She wanted a chance to prove that she was a true Wizard.
The council had a long conference about sending her. On one hand, it seemed wrong to send a woman to do a Wizard’s job. On the other hand, it would get rid of this troublemaker. There were far too many besotted Wizards at the Institute with her around. Besides, she was making the other students jealous because she was the teachers’ pet and got good grades just by blinking her eyelashes. Or so they assumed; it did not occur to most students that one could actually succeed by studying and practicing magic.
So the Council decided to send Katrina off to deal with the demons. It never occurred to them that she might succeed.
However, succeed Katrina did. Using a variation of the ‘Thermonuclear Blast’ spell (one that did not involve suicide as a major component of the spell), she destroyed the demons and the portal. She also disintegrated all of the possessed Wizards and grad students. She felt this was a fair trade-off. They knew the job was difficult when they took it.
Horrified that Katrina had accomplished what much greater Wizards could not do, and that she used ‘forbidden’ magic to do so, the Wizard Council banished her from the Institute.
Katrina was furious that WIT wouldn’t even acknowledge that she had just saved a land and WIT’s precious reputation. However, it didn’t really matter. She had learned about as much as she wanted to from the Institute. It was time to find a new, more powerful teacher.
So Katrina went off to seek the legendary Dark Master.
The Dark Master was a former Wizard at the Institute many decades before Katrina’s time. He had the reputation of being very learned and powerful. It was rumored that he had found the secret of agelessness.
Katrina thought it would be easy to become apprentice to an elderly old gentleman. She had charmed every other teacher and would do the same to him.
What she did not know was that the Dark Master was no gentleman. Nor was he alive. He had managed to conceal the fact that he was a Vampire from all of the Wizards. He had no need for an apprentice.
But he did have a need for a Vampire slave.
The Dark Master delighted in the cruelty of turning Katrina into a Vampire and forcing her to do his bidding.
Katrina hated him and hated being helpless to disobey him. She hated the fact that she had to return to her grave before dawn. She hated the fact that she was totally defenseless in the light of day. Being a Vampire sucked.
Katrina was a servant of the Dark Master for many years until, one night, she seduced a naïve young man. She easily convinced him to stake her evil Vampire master, something Katrina could not do herself. Pity that the hero perished in the process…
Katrina became the new Dark Master.
For all her magic and power, Katrina still had to fear the dawn. She feared that one day some fool would find her coffin during the day and destroy her while she was helpless.
There had to be some way to stop the day from dawning. There had to be some way to end this helplessness.
You do whatever it takes. If there are consequences – and there always are – you deal with them later.
Katrina’s story is a bit more complex than Erana’s. In the next article of this series, we’ll see the Dark Master in action.