“Drop the sword.” She hissed, through clenched teeth.
He complied quickly, not wanting to test her nerves, and then slowly he stood. She stepped back.” I’m not going to hurt you; I and my friends were looking for you. You’ve been . . . asleep, for a long time, and we need your help. If we don’t get your help then there will be trouble, for everybody.” He replied through clenched teeth of his own, trying to ignore the pain as the dagger cut into his skin.
She frowned at him.” What world is this?”
“You don’t –“He began, but pressure in the dagger stopped him and he held up his hands.” Okay- please! You’re on Netheron!”
She frowned.” What am I doing on Netheron? How did I get here? Who are you?” She demanded.
“You were put to sleep by Arlon.” Tauren replied.” You and twenty four other relics where taken from twenty four important people. King Arlon knew that one day, if you were preserved, you would somehow save this world! Now that time has come! We need you!”
She frowned,” How can I trust you?”
Tauren sighed, how was he going to prove to her she could trust him? What did he have besides his words? Suddenly a thought occurred to him, and reaching into his pocket he pulled out that long forgotten, miniscule leather pouch his grandfather had given him the night he had died.” My grandfather gave this to me moments before he died,” he said thickly.” When he died I left my home, I was lost. Fate had a plan for me though, and that plan has led me straight through my life to this moment, I believe we’re both here for a reason, and I believe that without your help, my people will be defeated and crushed under a tyrant’s rule.”
She stared at him, an odd look in her eyes, and then suddenly she sheathed her dagger and faced him.
Tauren was amazed, was that it then?
Suddenly a figure stepped around the edge of the castle, some hundred yards further along the wall, brandishing a sword.” So you found her” he said, looking the girl over.
She took a step back, raising her head haughtily.” What are you doing to do with me?”
Vajik quickly took charge.” Where are you from? Who were your parents?” He snapped quickly.” Answer quickly, we don’t have much time. I just saw something heading toward the castle from the caves at the edge of the sinkhole, I don’t know what it is, but I don’t want to find out.”
She smiled thinly.” My name is Leaenya Sternven, of Azquel, daughter of –“She hesitated oddly, her haughty air breaking for a moment.” –of Halia Kormak and Nean Sternven”
Tauren wasn’t sure he believed her, but he was impressed by his first Azquel, for sure. Vajik stared at her for a moment, suspicion obvious in his glare.” Fine,” he snapped.” We need to get to the nearest portal and get her home to her family. I do recall that the Sternvens oldest daughter did disappear during the war, made a big fuss about it, they did. Now come on!”
He spun around and headed back the way Tauren had gone, Tauren sighed and gestured for the girl, Leaenya, to follow him, then picking up his sword he followed her. They had her, now what? Bring her to this ‘portal’ and send her home. Then they’d just go back for the others.
They moved quickly, Tauren lost in thought, his hand on his sword hilt, Vajik standing tall and intimidating, and the girl pacing along, a half worried, half haughty look on her face. Tauren chucked mentally, he’d be pretty worried himself if his life had changed as much as hers had in such short time . . . no, it had. One moment he’d been a happy farm boy talking with his friends, next moment he’d been a friendless young man, running through the dark. He could only imagine the confusion she probably felt. If she felt it though, she did a marvelous job hiding it.
They reached the fallen gates, where they were joined by a relieved looking Detrick who fell in beside Tauren as they headed through the town. Leaenya barely glanced at him” So you found her?” He whispered in Tauren’s ear.
He nodded in response.” It actually went surprisingly quickly.” He whispered back.
“Where are we going now?” Detrick asked.
“To some kind of ‘Portal’ to return her to her family: the Sternvens. Then we’re back to Arluine to get the next relic.” Tauren whispered back, he sighed, once the relics where returned the kingdoms would unite again and crush that killing edge of darkness that was edging its way into the worlds. But what would happen to him?
He gazed out across the beautiful city, down to the edge of the sinkhole, wondering if Vajik had said the truth about him having seen something.How could he have, he was behind the wall,he said to himself,he just said that to get her to come.
Would fate have it that they simply paced across to the nearest portal and sent away their goods?
No, it would not. Not in the middle of a war. Not when they carried someone as the person they brought with them now. And though the four did not know it, eyes watched them. . . .
They were the eyes of an ancient; they were the eyes of a creature, so evil, so heartless, and so brutal, that over the years it had acquired a magical aura of hatred about it. It stared out at them, those four pathetic humans, wondering. . . . Should it follow its orders and kill them? One part of it told it to, but the other was reluctant.
But in a mind so perverse in its thinking, the little good that still dwelt in the most distant corners of its soul was un-ready for the challenge of stopping such a horde of darkness . . . it was crushed.
One thought dominated its mind, and would do so until it was either dead or given another order:Kill them.
Tauren saw the figure moving out of the darkness of the caves in the wall of the sinkhole long before it reached them.” Vajik” He called, pointing.
Vajik spun around and looked, the figure was that of a man, shrouded in some kind of odd, dark haze, it was coming toward them at a fast pace, but it still had a mile to go before it was near enough. He frowned,not goodTauren guessed.
“Run!” Vajik yelled, whipping out his sword.
They froze and just stared stupidly at him, amazed at the look of grim fear on his face.
He shook his head at them.” Run! That’s a Halavarde Death Chaser! An Assassin! If you care to be ripped limb from limb then you stay, if not, RUN!”
Vajik took the lead, and together they rushed across the plain, heading for the road out of the sink-hole. Tauren heard a whistling screech behind him, and glanced back, the figure threw a black swathed arm back and now slamming it forward sent a spike of roaring, black fire toward them” Vajik!” He yelled again, his heart beating faster.
Vajik threw his sword to the side, then held his arms out in front of him, closed his eyes.” Keep moving!” He yelled; there was a crack and the air about them turned to ozone, bending as though they were standing in a furnace, quivering and moving in front of Vajik, forming a glistening white wall between them and the black fire.
Tauren hesitated, and then turning rushed after Detrick and Leaenya.
He glanced back, just in time to the fire collide with the wall of light, there was an explosion that shook the ground, and though the wall of light dissolved, and Vajik was blown back twenty feet, the fire was gone.” DON’T LOOK BACK!” Vajik yelled, as he leaped up and saw that Tauren had stopped.
Tauren tried to move but he wouldn’t, he owed Vajik nothing! But he was ready to give his life for him, no - for his cause? Would he live with the thought that he had run and left Vajik to die?” NO!” He snapped at himself.” You two, keep running!” He called to Detrick and Leaenya who had stopped as well, then he drew his sword and ran back to help Vajik.
The figure looked up at him as he approached Vajik; the darkness swirled about it harder. Suddenly a staff appeared in front of it, seemingly carved out of black glass. A ghostly hand reached out and grasped the shaft, and then the figure raised it over its head and screeched again, there was another snap, and the air about it seemed to compress, and then sparkle as though filled with diamonds. There was another snap and the diamonds of sparkling light flew for Vajik, whistling through the air, leaving trails of white light behind them.
NO!Tauren yelled to himself, but Vajik had control of the situation. Tauren expected him to make a wall of the white light again, but he didn’t, instead he yelled and though the air about him shimmered, nothing visible happened . . . for a moment. Then suddenly a wall of some clear substance appeared a dozen yards in front of him, shining as though it where water.
The specks of light slammed into it, stopped dead by the odd shield, but one punched through, and whistled through the air and right into Vajik’s chest. The shield disappeared and Vajik was thrown backwards a dozen yards.
Tauren ran up to his side, dropping his sword.” You okay?” He asked, as he saw Vajik stir.
“Ouch” He held a hand to his side, it came away stained with blood, he rolled over and stood again, glaring at the figure swathed in darkness.” I’m fine, Light Darts are rather hard to block though. Good thing I was wearing armor.” He glanced curiously at Tauren.” I thought I told you to keep running?” He said, it was a question, not an order.
Tauren nodded.” Sorry, I’m not leaving you here to die! Maybe with both of us we can take it down.”
Vajik nodded.” Maybe” He said, without conviction though. Together they turned to face their opponent.
The figure was so strange . . . in an inexplicable way; Tauren got the feeling that whatever it was, it wasn’t human, in the least. The darkness about it seemed to writhe with figures. And where the face should have been there where only two small red spots of light.
As they looked at it, it held up a hand.” Surrender and my Lord will spare your lives.” It hissed in a raspy, dead voice.” If you do not, I will kill you”
Tauren glanced at Vajik, but he quickly looked away, it was obvious that the request hadn’t ever crossed his companions mind.” Get around, go for the body with your sword, I’ll keep it busy.” Vajik ordered out of the corner of his mouth.” And hurry!”
Tauren nodded, and picking up his sword began to trot to the side, never taking his eyes off of his enemy. Vajik began to advance.
If the creature had had a face, Tauren would have sworn that it smiled.” Come to your deaths my children!” It hissed, and raised its hands, staff held parallel to the ground.
But before it could do anything Vajik pulled back his arm, as though to throw something, and then snapped his arm straight with a yell. There was a crack, as loud as thunder, and suddenly a white horse flared to life next to the darkness surrounding the figure, seemingly made of pure energy, it reared and whinnied before diving forward.
Tauren didn’t waste a moment, he rushed in from the figures left, but suddenly there was another snap of power, a flash of black fire, and the horse blew to shreds with a final whinny.” Ha! That all you can do old sorcerer.” It scorned at Vajik. Tauren froze, this wasn’t going right.
The figure slammed its staff forward in a vicious thrust, and blew a torrent of black fire for Vajik. The sky seemed to darken with the power that flew, the light about Tauren dimmed, and he felt his skin tingle.Now,He yelled at himself, snapping himself awake. He charged.
He raised his sword, and leaped through the air, ready to bring every ounce of force he could muster down on the creatures head, channeling it through his sword, and hopefully into the beast. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Vajiks shield suddenly falter, and the fire hit him straight in the chest. There was a strangled cry and the Colonel disappeared under a torrent of flame.
Suddenly two eyes, like glaring searchlights, turned on Tauren, and an instant before his sword fell, there was a flash of light, an impact, and Tauren saw angry stars for a moment.
He opened his eyes, dizzy, and looked up. He quickly saw his sword lying in the dead grass to the side, just out of reach. He stretched out his arm for it, but a black armored boot suddenly fell out of the sky, surrounded by darkness, and stepped on the blade, pinning it down.
A strong arm gripped Tauren’s coat and lifted him off the ground, he found himself face to face with those two, glowing red, hate-filled eyes . . . “Good try, puny human.” The source-less voice hissed into Taurens mind, echoing through a world that was turning dark alarmingly fast.” But now you die.”
Tauren felt something go wrong, he didn’t know what it was, but something was wrong. In the recesses of his mind, something felt . . . missing. He felt something creeping in on him, something smothering his consciousness, taking over his soul, not killing him. Worse, changing him” NO!” He suddenly screamed, but it was too late, light engulfed him and he saw no more. . .
Trenwalden Forest, Central Caraca, Netheron.
Light filled Tauren’s darkness,am I dead?He wondered.
No, but you got pretty damn close,it was the red fire, burning gently next to him.
Why are you here? Who are you? Where is here?Asked Tauren, using his thoughts instead of his mouth, feeling that was all he needed to use. He looked around the whiteness, empty but for the small red flame before him, he felt refreshed, ready for anything.
So many questions!The voice chuckled;I suppose those are what I’m here for though. You will find out who I am in due time, as to where this is . . . why this is your mind Tauren.
My mind doesn’t look like this,He replied, looking at the blank whiteness about him.
Suddenly the fire solidified and turned into a figure, made of fire, clothed in fire, with long hair, and a kind, scarred face.Tauren, you are special. There is no other way to put it. This is your mind, I can assure you, but it is not the mind you are used to using. Your family had, what I shall call, a special ability. Not only could they use magic, but they could use it in ways that no one else could. This here room, if you wish to call it that, is the ideal mind, created by magic, built into you, genetically. It has everything you’ve ever remembered, everything you know, and everything you have ever thought, stored away in it, waiting to be called upon. It was the most underestimated of your family’s powers.
Tauren frowned,so this is just like a really organized magical version of my mind. Why can you access it!
The flaming man smiled,yes, in a way. I cannot access your powers. Have no fear of that. I am a special breed, if I may say so, myself. One of my many abilities is the ability to access minds. Here, I can prove you this power of yours.The figure held out a hand.
Tauren leaped back in the floorless room, for without a moment’s delay, no, upon the instant the hand reached out the room suddenly changed. He was now standing in an oval shaped room the walls of which were . . . a thousand different pictures, moving. . . . It took Tauren a moment to realize that these where his memories, his eye caught sight of the dark forest that he’d first met Detrick in, the night Incroe had died, the sight of a young, beautiful, brown haired woman looking down at him, her face lit by a smile. . . .Wow.
The fiery figures till stood next to him,it’s amazing isn’t it? You can view anything that’s happened to you, and not only that, you can use your power to feel everything in that space and time around you through the memory to that space and time. And this is but a shaving on the outside skin of what you can do, this is your virtual reality, the escape your mind wanders too when it sleeps. Here you can do anything; it’s your world, under your utter control. . . . Here, you are God.
Listen,the figure turned to Tauren, the flaming eyes burning bright,Tauren, in a few moments your friend is going to wake you. Before that I owe you an explanation: A moment before I pulled you into this version of your mind, the Death Racer attempted to steal your power. Your abilities reacted to its touch, and destroyed the creature’s presence here. But you have been badly damaged, I’ll be working to fix what I can, but be careful, you’re in a precarious position. Do not speak to your friends about your power, it will simply cause complications. And don’t try to use it, I’ll show you what you need to know tonight.
Tauren had no time to speak; he suddenly found a cold cloth was being pressed against his fore head, and the silent words ‘Goodbye Tauren, till tonight’echoing in his ears.
He opened his eyes slowly, pain arced up his side and back, and he quickly became aware to reality. . . . A moment later he blacked out.