Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
Andre shifted worriedly in his saddle, his thoughts isolated solely to his friend Valalar and what he might be enduring at that moment. Sir Lord Octavius lifted himself atop his gray horse Kaiser and turned to Andre saying. "I am privy to your concerns. Before I became Grandmaster or even a knight I rode to the Holy Mountain's summit and awaited my buddy. But alas he rests now as a man of the Gravelord's host."
Andre's concern deepened; "You speaketh of final wars, Gravelords, and Charnel Halls. What are these things? What trials now beset my fellow Valalar? What doth become of your own compatriot?"
Octavius spoke once more; "All in time. But now I shall pray to the Goddess to deliver Valalar and see him worthy to wield Her power. But now we ride to the sacred heart of Dravidia. As we go along, prepare to be washed of all impurities. I am no Wizard Andre, but prepare to be impassioned with magic to the reverent apex." Andre found himself fumbling for words praying to a deity he had only just made the acquaintance of. For Valalar's sake.
The path they rode upon was quite old but in good repair, as if time could only wear it down so far. It was made of the same masonry and gemstones of the city below and its castle, and either side of the road were homely walls alike to battlements. Purple crystals lit their pathway. As they reached the snowcap of the Holy Mountain snow fell steadily but slowly. Octavius threw his cloak about himself to keep out a cold a little below freezing. Octavius' statements of the magic of Ishabooru's countenance were an understatement. The overwhelming expanse of the Golden Unicorn was piecemeal compared to Her Grace's ensorcellment. It was a magic Andre hadn't beheld in a long, long time.
And there it was. In view acrossed a winding path sat the Temple of Ishabooru. It was glorious, an utter pandemonium of purples, pinks, silvers, blacks, magentas, and roses, thrashing like a hurricane about an opalescent quartz columned gazebo open to the clear chilled air. A herd of mountain goats grazed nearby, and a lynx watched unconcerned as her kittens wrestled. From out of the chaos sparkles and stardust erupted skyward. Like an army of pixies flying off to midheaven to birth new stars. Octavius' face grew reverent as Kaiser slowed, and Andre gazed mesmerized as a figure materialized within the chaos…
A subterranean darkness arose from the earth's bowels and hungered after Valalar. He found himself surrounded by a place where geology merged with the ruins of a sepulchral necropolis. Castles and forts from a forgotten and bygone time now stood in ruins as catacombs, like charcoal strokes against a smudged sooty canvas. Valalar waded through shin deep watery mirrors that reflected stalactites as stalagmites and vise versa.
He entered an area where the cavern roof rose heavenward, those viewing him from its heights beheld a solitary ember is a sea of dark. Valalar crossed an unguarded stone bridge that led over a foggy bottomless chasm. As he combated his vertigo he looked off many hundreds of meters into the distance where great columns arose out of the fog and went out of sight into the roofs. A choir of wind fled from the fathomlessness, and Valalar swore it called his name. Some whispers of encouragement, others wails to anathematize his existence; voices trying to drag him into the abyss.
Valalar reached the edge of the bridge and paused to bear out his dizziness. He didn't notice as the winged statues alike to those he encountered on the pathway in the living world shot him glances of warning. Jolted Valalar's senses jerked to attention at a rattling sound. But it was too late. A three headed morning star flail crashed against his burgonet. Valalar felt his inner ear anatomy impaled with pain, and the momentum of his brain smacking against his skull. With a grunt he fell to the ground and blacked out.
Above him stood a gang of five skeletons. Clad with skullcaps with low set horns, and thick studded rawhide chestpieces and pteruges. They surrounded him and paused for a moment admiring their fresh kill. But Valalar wasn't dead. With a yell Valalar darted upwards and swung his sword blindly in the direction of where to blow had struck him. His estoc was long, about one point three meters, and its blade enchanted against the enemies of the second trial. With the cracking and tearing of bone and leather Valalar severed a skeleton's skull and it fell dead opposite the sword's momentum. Valalar sneezed and coughed ash and water and began a sloppy and frenzied rendition of Arassërochir's methodology against multiple foes. He swung his sword in a twirl about himself with both hands, creating a circle of death.
One skeleton was caught unprepared as Valalar's footwork brought him facing it and a parallel upswing shattered its pelvis. Another went in for an attack and as it raised its shield to parry a broad diagonal stroke Valalar shifted into a thrust and shattered its sternum and vertebrae. Valalar's form began to falter nauseously and he vomited midswing. In his daze he dodged a skeleton's lethal target but nevertheless it stabbed him under the clavicle and severed vasculature and back muscle. Valalar collapsed in agony and dropped his estoc.
As the victorious skeletons circled both swung their swords towards Valalar's neck. Valalar; blood squirting from his shoulder and high on neurotransmitters, prostrated himself and the skeletons' swords landed against the shield strapped to his back. Valalar than knocked the feet out from under his left foe and withdrawing his bronze arming sword he leaped atop it and bludgeoned its face with his sword pommel. The remaining skeleton couldn't get an attack in before Valalar got up and equipped his spiked pavise. Both knew that time was on the skeleton's side. Valalar was bleeding profusely and needed to cauterize the wound.
The skeleton held defensively, waiting for Valalar to err in desperation. Valalar made two probing attacks but his opponent's guard had no opening. At last Valalar spat out a loud vulgarity of recklessness and jerked forward. As the skeleton drove its spear forward it looked as if it would be triumphant. But alas, Valalar had one last maneuver as he sidestepped and trapped the spear under his armpit. As the skeleton struggled to get its weapon free Valalar with a grimaced smirk severed its arm. Savagely he took his shield and punched at the cervical vertebrae with all his strength and broke the life of his last enemy.
Valalar collapsed against a stone exhausted, the stains of Fellflagger blood mixed with the fresh mixture of his own of two shades of red both with and without oxygen. A lantern of black soulfire flickered eerily nearby, darkening his surroundings in unlight. Valalar found a piece of scrap wood and set it in the lantern. He latched his jaw shut to avoid biting his tongue and began cauterizing the exit and entry wound. The pain was excruciating. Worse yet were the memories of those whose souls kept the fire alight as they drowned Valalar with clamorous visions of the valor and horror of yesteryear. Finally, feeling debilitated from his fight and concussion. Valalar brushed the remains of his enemies into the foggy abyss and crawled away into a veiled crag where his enemies might not find him. With a crushing weariness he drifted into a many hours sleep.
Valalar awoke, his head hammering with pain. The area where he'd been stabbed ached horribly, and he noticed a moderate loss in dexterity. But the only option available to him was the struggle on forward. Thus he went, and his pace slowed to a protected sluggishness as he crawled in the dungeons. Lest death befall him if he fought a new enemy with the ferocity and costliness he'd endured with the skeletons.
The stone lairs deepened in their consumption of Valalar, and the ghastly blacks and grays of ancient ruins Valalar would use as cover as he went as a cat in the city. The deeper he traveled into Ishabooru's 'Charnel Halls' the more monsters he saw. He snuck past the patrols of animated wrought iron suits of armor. Lusterless in armet helmets with pompous crescents and oversized cauldrons. Their grosse-messers and round shields hungry for butchering. Valalar sweltered as his shadow flickered by skeletons blazing in pyres of purple and white. The caves became rank with seared mildew and plasma as their unnaturally hot sorceries steeped every corner and crag.
As Valalar stumbled along oblivious to time's passing. He jumped inside his skin as a hoarse bellow trumpeted down the corridor. As the ground went seismic he saw a skeletal juggernaut stampeding towards him. He flung himself backwards and raised his shield to defend himself as a flanged mace crashed down where he stood moments before. Rocky shrapnel exploded and thudded against his shield as he thudded pratfallen. Above him snorted a beastly creature clad in poorly made armor with the skull of a styracosaurus. The monster tore its weapon from the crater and swung again at Valalar. His eyes widened and he rolled to the side as the mace again crashed down and sent rubble flying into his back.
Thinking on the fly Valalar hurried to his feet and charged his enemy. As the dinosauroid thing threw up more debris Valalar evaded the attack and somersaulted behind it and stood on the precipice of some long forgotten castle overlook. Below was eternity and fog. Valalar shouted insults at the styracosaurus. As it charged at him Valalar jumped to the side and flung his estoc into the creature's beefy femur. Valalar couldn't get a clean slice, but he bit off enough shattered bone to destabilize it. With a bony and metallic crash the creature toppled over and into forever it fell, baying vengefully as it got the privilege to see the bottom of its home.
After sneaking along for some time Valalar paused, suspicious of the sounds he heard ahead. The pathway led to an underground river. He withdrew his sword and carefully examined a pier and docked kayaks. All uncharacteristically in good order. He looked at his surroundings but it was just the cavern tunnel, the pier and the river. He considered backtracking but he hadn't seen any alternatives. He weighed his options, and looking at the cavern's ceiling, decided to take his chances. Reasoning at the lack of spots for arches, though as he departed in the kayak he kept his arming sword in his lap ready to dispatch any enemy from above or below, his scenes ever watchful.
Valalar rowed, twitching, but nothing came of his paranoia. His breath was stolen as ahead he saw for the first time in his time underground a castle, but unruined. It was unlike the others. Its stones were blacker and iridescent. The battlements were stronger, meaner, and quite jagged. Two iron crows guarded the entryway, a cedar archway alike the one Valalar entered this place in.
He parked his boat on the shore and hesitated. He was more fearful than he'd been up to this point. Something was off about the river and this castle. It was less a castle to him and more a lair. Valalar swallowed and pushed the doors open and sallied down vaulted halls.
Valalar heard a commotion that turned cacophonous as he got closer to the castle's great hall. He threw the door open and was immediately assaulted by a choking musk of sorcery and a thousand monkeying noises. He was dumbstruck as before him was a court of crow-like imps that waddled about merrily. The bassy bells of carillons rang with ritualistic invocations of doom. Kettles thudded offbeat as a host marching to war, and the air hummed and crackled with the voltage of electric lutes.
But then everything froze. All the creatures set their eyes upon Valalar. In the center of the great hall were four monsters unlike the others. They stood about eighteen inches above Valalar. Bipedal raven-things crooked and corvine, black glittering wings sprouted from their backs. Dressed as warlocks and armed with staffs of their trade. Between then was a cauldron filled to the brim with bubbly black goo. The four things wheezed and croaked but then spat something Valalar understood; "Delay our guest."
They did things too offensive to be repeated as Valalar slaughtered the imp creatures in droves. But they were successful in impeding Valalar. As he shouted vainly in the direction of the cauldron the crow-sorcerers said their incantation of summons:
By mudras we adroitly initiate the implantation,
To flare the blasphemous winds of demonic pervasion
Arise! Arise! Our nightmare liege from the cauldron black!
We summon thee by the unholy grimoires and forbidden almanacs!
Devour now all that is holy our Corvomancer King
With gleeful throes the four raven sorcerers and the few imps yet scrabbling against mortal injuries, along with every dead creature began to liquify. The streams of sludge flowed over and into the cauldron. Ooze shot upwards as an arm clawed its way out of the cauldron. Still submerged the thing tipped the cauldron over and the floor smoldered with black ooze. A debauchery wobbled to its feet, like the previous four monsters but everything worse tenfold. It let out a mix of pestilent shrieks and deep gurgling roars. Before Valalar could protect himself he felt his ears explode as blood and pus drooled out. As he came to his senses he could only feel a ringing noise all throughout his perception, along with the vibrations of his foes' screams.
Valalar saw as the Corvomancer cast a black sorcery at him. Instinctively he raised his shield but as the darkness made contact the shield disintegrated and Valalar's armed became charred and flakey, and smelled of burnt ham. He howled. The thing gave what smile it could with a beak and flickered its tongue. Valalar's pupils expanded into pits, and his heart churned chemicals through his body. The Corvomancer loved it's new plaything. It raised its warlock's staff and with a black streak of its form teleported behind the reeling Valalar and bonked him over the head with its staff.
Valalar spun around and slashed violently in the direction the attack had come. The Corvomancer teleported behind him again and dropped Valalar to his knees with a blow to his quadriceps. It gave itself a cackle of amusement.
"You profane little…" was all Valalar could say as the Corvomancer poked him hard in the guts. On and on Valalar's torment went as the demon basked in its fun.
Finally the raven-thing was stuffed on its evil and bemusement. It teleported behind Valalar as it always did and readied its witchery to end Valalar. But Valalar, on the verge of madness, rallied his last wits in a desperate attempt at survival. He thrust his estoc backwards as the Corvomancer reappeared and parried Valalar's attack with its staff. But that wasn't Valalar's target. The elf's right fist came hammering into the monster's bird-like face. Valalar grappled his enemy to the ground and began to bash its head against the rock until it's helmet broke off. Afterwards he started bludgeoning its face with punches, crispy bits of his left fist flying off as he went.
The Corvomancer gave the same dreadful shrieks it gave on its appearance. But Valalar's eardrums were already ruptured. The vibrations the sounds made rumbled through Valalar's body, and the crow was able to claw at Valalar's face. Causing flesh, blood, and fluid from the now mangled eye to drench the Corvomancer.
But Valalar was too angry to feel pain. An animalistic need to survive was overshadowed by Valalar's lustful hate. Over and over again he punched and bashed, and over and over the Corvomancer gave agonized shrieks. Valalar forced its beak open and began to pull its jaws apart. The Corvomancer struggled to clamp its mouth and grasped mindlessly for its staff. Valalar only paused when its hands pinned under the elf's knees grew black with sorcery. Valalar hacked them off with his arming sword.
The Corvomancer forearms missing and jaw dislocated began to flutter away. But Valalar, his crazed ferocity climaxing, reached for his estoc and severed a wing. With savage and murderous glee he pinned his enemy down and tore its beak apart.
Valalar collapsed to the ground. Though he couldn't hear he felt the vibrations of the Corvomacer sputtering and moaning vengeful jeriamids through a jawless mouth. Valalar lay for a long time on the floor, his sanity returning to him as he felt the Corvomancer wither and bleed out. With his sanity came a physical pain alike to his constant emotional pain. His arm, his face, his back, his entire head, and the entirety of his body where he’d been prodded with the warlock’s staff, they all burned like hellfire.
A spiked ivory key arose out of the sideways cauldron and floated over where Valalar lay, hovering beside him. Valalar wanted to curl up into a ball and perish. He hurt so much. But this thought was short lived, he’d thought it a thousand times before. Every time he did he cast the idea out, Thunderthrore would die and Valalar would die by his own hand in Old Pine next to his beloved. Then he’d fly off to midheaven and Lunalynnlë be damned nothing would keep him from his wife and son. He whispered their names to himself, the sounds he made his holy keepsake. He looked at the ivory key and grasped it. His form began turning into particles, and in a white beam his essence floated upwards and he was gone.