Fan Fiction

16 September 2005, 8:08 PM

Chapter I by Alex Smith (Psyched) []

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The tall man came to a halt and lowered his head respectfully. Lord Darunn regarded him with a smile. Precisely what he had anticipated from the South. Such a perfect specimen; tall, dark, and menacing. Carefully he stepped down from his candle-lit throne and strolled towards the man, squinting in the dim light. He dwarfed Darunn by a good three feet; and at almost 6 feet himself, he was not used to having to look up at people, or as the case may be, creatures. Though he knew well that the man could never harm, nor indeed, lay a finger on his person, there was still something, a fearsome aura, about him which instilled a degree of terror into everyone, including the battle-hardened guards which had escorted him up the tower; Darunn made sure not to venture too close in his examination. Moonlight gave his hood an eerie glow.

With a sudden and unexpected movement, the inanimate figure's hand shot out and it's head tilted back to it's regular position, stopping right next to the shocked Lord's own. Taken aback, Darunn was apprehensive in snatching the piece of paper from the long, outstretched hand. It was slightly weathered but otherwise remained in good condition. Written on it in a script he knew very well; so well, in fact, that it made him smile again, was "To Lord Darunn". Today was indeed a happy day. He unfolded it hastily and excitedly, snapping his fingers to summon a servant and a candle.

Tuesday, February 17th, Crayzhul

Dear Riemus,
It's been a long time. But sadly, this is no time for joyful exchanges of goodwill. I am writing to you in what will without doubt soon become your moment of need; and Gods help me, will probably be mine too.

We have been pursuing the beast for at least three weeks now, all the way from Erithal in the far South, and I am tiring. Where it came from I do not know, nor have I or any of men gazed upon it clearly for any sustained period of time. But I can, and feel I must, report that it has left nothing but destruction in it's wake. In this short time - as long as it now seems - I have witnessed some truly disgusting things. Whole villages - sometimes even small towns - completely razed to the ground, residents mangled, their intestines removed from their bodies and left on the scorched earth in pools of fresh blood. I have seen men strung up by their entrails, hanging down from flaming trees.

However, how this lone creature makes it's kills and indeed how it destroys entire villages still remains a mystery to all of us; it would appear that the wounds are inflicted by a blade, but the flesh is clearly burned. And I know for a fact that this beast carries no weapon from the silhouette I saw on the night it all began. Odder, still, that the villages we visited had no active sources of fire at the time of attack, as all instances were during the daytime - and all settlements were quite clearly torched.

What is transpiring is beyond any of us; I'm curious as to what you and your scholars can make of it. Our only hope is to catch the beast or destroy him, soon. Last night I heard his monstrous cry again, and that filled me with the optimism that we are getting closer with every passing day. Food is scarce on this hellish hunt and the sooner we can deal with the issue, the better. Not a man here disagrees.

But Riemus, along our path we came across the thing which troubles me most. In the Sayhernwood we overheard a group of brigands; before slaying them, naturally. Their discussion was focused on a large cult, who, from what I understood, often delve in the black arts - and who are marauding their way across the East - in your direction. Of yet, it is unclear to me whether the two occurrences are related, but I am sure a combination of your scholars' knowledge and time will lift the veil. My advice is simple; prepare well, or flee. From what I picked up, I believe the latter is the only sane option.

As for this letter, I hope it reaches you soon, and I daresay, in time. I met with a group of traders and the Lariuth which I am entrusting with this letter; you are wise in your choice of allies, friend. I hope to write to and hear from you again soon; until that time, be safe, and I sincerely hope that Lady Luck views upon us both with kind eyes. I am positive we will need it in the near future.

Good luck, your faithful friend,

Lord Darunn read his friend's name with a sinking feeling. Despite the presence of the powerful and usually re-assuring Lariuth, as well as the numerous servants and their bright candles, he suddenly felt so alone. As much as it hurt him, he had to accept that the events Aryen had charted were very real. They were great friends, and there was simply no chance that the writing was not his.

The Lord, usually so strong and confident, was quite silent and worried. Panic set in and he realised that he hadn't a clue what to do. For a moment he tried to console himself with the knowledge of the great castle of Gavdor that lay due East. Surely the cult would have to go through that first; but he knew his friend was no fool and would've considered it. So, Gavdor would fall. That was something he'd never expected to be hearing in his lifetime; and certainly not from himself. And then his own citadel, Avrida, home to so many good & hard-working citizens - moreover, his own place of residence, would join it. From there - he did not know. Perhaps the cult would descend upon the loosely organised South, or the much-troubled Northern empires. But that did not matter to him. All that concerned Riemus Darunn at present was his own well-being.

He quickly folded the letter again and shoved it down his belt. It would not stand out too much against his bold, bright red robes. A good thing then. His momentary lapse of competence over, he felt himself again; if still a little shaken by Aryen's ominous news. He strode across the room, over to his garrison's commander, Daelmus, a man slightly taller than himself, who had perched himself next to the grand entrance to the large throne hall. Daelmus had clearly taken an interest in the Lariuth.

"Commander - I fear the worst. It appears that Gavdor has fallen - or is about to fall in the very near future. And we're next. Rally the garrison, get guards set up, and summon Pecole to me. Tell him to gather a small scout party - I intend to dispatch him across the Great Lake to Gavdor immediately, and that he is to report for a briefing on the double."

"Very well, Lord. If I may enquire; what exactly is transpiring here?"

"Something that may well be beyond any of us. Prepare the men, and please make haste."


He trod off through the great door and down the airy corridor. There was always something about Daelmus that Darunn did not quite understand - he always seemed so calm, never ate publicly, and seemed able to find his way in the dark - without a candle. He had always put it down to highly-developed senses from his days as a hunter in the Sayhernwood. But not until this moment had he ever considered there was something to fear from it. Again, he forced himself to shrug it off as superstition. Something about receiving a letter in the middle of the night - even though he had expected it's deliverer - upset his judgment. He was barely tired, which further troubled him.

And those stupid servants - standing there like statues! Darunn felt his heart beat faster and wiped his hand across his forehead - he was sweating. He began to pace and pace, all the while his servants remained still and regarded him oddly, until the great door swung open again and the wizened face of Avrida's mage, Pecole, calmed him ever so slightly. He began to query about his task - he always spoke so calmly and softly. It was almost hypnotic. Before he could end his sentence, however, Darunn shoved the paper in front of his face. Slowly and carefully, the mage took it.

Presently he reached the end of the letter, folded it up and handed it back. Steadily his eyes moved to meet Darunn's. It was clear that, through the calm exterior, he was deeply disturbed by what he had just read.

"This does not make for pleasant reading, Riemus. I can understand your decision to position the garrison, but, I must question your judgment on sending me Easy. When you cult moves on this fortress you, and every man, woman and child here, will need me."

"Servants, guards; you may leave," he boomed, and waited until he and the mage were, save the utterly still Lariath in the centre of the hall, in complete privacy. The candles had been laid down by their holders and so while the light remained it became more difficult to distinguish facial features. "I do not intend to remain here should our observers report hostiles approaching. To tell the truth, I have suspected that my life is in danger for a while now, but I expected a rebellion amongst the peasant community; hence my summoning of the Lariath. I have no doubt that you worked this out already."

He paused; Pecole nodded.

"I shall take the underground passages and come out the other side of the Ochewood, from there I will make my way to Muirthemne. I know that Emperor Alric must be warned but I shall not set out on false allusions. I know well that I will be letting down my entire stronghold - but I am scared. You know as well as I do that, although if I succeed my deeds will be viewed upon as heroic and sacrificial, I am doing this for myself more. I am no coward, but this is more troubling than anything I have ever encountered. With luck, maybe this great place will be preserved.

"But I doubt that. Pecole, I am sending you because I trust you. I know that you will look after yourself and all those with whom you travel. Find your way to Gavdor. Discover it's fate. If it remains, warn them and return to me with your news. If not, I recommend that you flee North. Aryen and his men are likely the only others with knowledge thus, and they are otherwise occupied in the South. Therefore - you will have to deliver the message to Muirthemne yourself."

The mage sighed. He knew these tactics were crazy and suicidal, but even in his great wisdom; he could not bring himself to contradict his friend. Defying all logic, Darunn's plans always seemed to succeed. Perhaps it was the impulsive and aggressive side they all possessed; as opposed to his personal laid-back, more thoughtful and diplomatic approach.

Glancing around the room, he observed all the wonderful paintings that the generations of settlers had created. Such a wondrous sight, even through the now extremely dim light. Bold colours could rouse even the lowliest of souls somewhat. But he viewed them with a growing sadness inside. Looking out an opening high on the opposite wall, he glimpsed the moon. Beautiful, satisfying on any other night. But alas, this was to be no good night for anybody in the citadel. It was unbecoming of him to be so melodramatic. Yet cynically, he half-expected a cold breeze to chill his face as though to rub in the situation further; but the night was still.

With a degree of apprehension, he stretched out his hand. Darunn shook it firmly and off marched Pecole, through the door and down the corridor, igniting his hand with a short blast of magic to guide him along the way. He never turned back. It would be a long day and he intended to get the rest he knew he would need. Over his numerous years he had known loss and suffering. But the heat from his fire could not warm him up inside. He couldn't shake the feeling that he would never see his friend alive again. And his premonitions were yet to be proved wrong.

~ You have reached your journey's end ~