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The Story


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The Story - Chapter Two
In the wake of his master's death, Adept Ralph had been thrust into several new roles that brought with them their own pitfalls and problems. He was now the chief Battlemage in Rai'alor and the designated spokesperson for the wizards of Rivellon -- he was also slowly going out of his mind. He had played his allotted part in the battle against the Damned; it was he who had shot the yew arrow through the eye of that accursed magus, Ulthring and then ended the bastard's foul life with his own sword... and that had proven to be his undoing. As his soul had called to him in triumph he had felt his psyche slammed by a powerful and dominant mental attack, undermined almost. Ralph was gifted certainly and accountably one of the most accomplished Battlemages in the land, which required great mental reserves and physical hand to eye coordination. The sword whispered to him in dark laments and he could feel the pressure against his mental defences, probing them, crushing them -- crumbling them like a flaking old stone wall assaulted by years of wind and rain.

He had taken it out of foolish impulse and a need to sate the burning desire of revenge, when he saw his master sacrifice his life to save them all, a flame ignited deep within his breast and he had driven the sword deep into the throat of the wizard - hatred burning in his eyes. And as he felt the release from this deed, joy was turned to black terror as the sword's foul presence reached out and tried to take control of him. And from that moment on Ralph had been effectively struck in twain by this dark power; he was the grim young man who was the last survivor of that terrible battle... he was also the dark entity that tried to oust his soul, to own him, to possess him completely. As long as he remained in contact with that sword he could feel the other presence growing in power and strength, at first it had offered him a subtle deal -- a merger between both their bodies... unimaginable power at his fingertips. The Adept had refused and this angered the sword's spirit greatly, now it was bent to the task of annihilating Ralph utterly and completely. The Adept knew that such a bargain was impossible to make with demons or their ilk; they would simply enslave your soul while they used your body for their own terrible ends. While he was not bound to keep the sword, by compulsion or spell -- he knew that a lesser mind would be broken instantly and the force inside the Sword of Lies would be free once more, with a living a mortal body to control. He could not take that chance, so he kept the weapon with him where ere he went, so that he could keep a closer eye on it.

He tried to force his eyes to remain open, weary and haggard, he rubbed his forehead -- he had not slept for three whole days now, constantly he battled the fragmented soul of the Chaos Lord and it was driving him mad. Those around him had noticed the change in the Adept, they knew something was going wrong but it had remained largely unsaid since the army's triumphant return to Rivertown. He was a Battlemage (A dark and grim calling) and also he had witnessed the fall of his master before his very eyes... they knew this would leave some scars for a long time. They realised that he would be prone to dark moods and taciturn behaviour, but his servants noticed that he was not sleeping nor was he eating as much as he should -- each meal that came around, he ate less and less. He was also growing pale of skin and visibly thinning -- almost like a living skeleton they thought. They sent a petition to the newly crowned ruler of Rivellon's human lands, Duke Morreck Ferol, asking that he might come see the young Adept. The Duke, thinking light of this particular request took a day to find the time to visit, it was this slight delay that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

As the Duke entered he beheld his friend, sitting crosslegged upon the floor of his chamber in Stormfist Castle... a position that he had been in now for nearly one day and a night. Ralph held in his hands a drawn sword, and although his posture was non-threatening... the other man was repulsed and reviled by the blade. The so-called Sword of Lies might have killed its evil master but it had also done wretched things in the hands of Ulthring before Ralph had slain him. Morreck had known his friend since they were but small boys, learning the arts of magic together. But as the man he held in his eyes before him slowly turned his head to face him, a cold shiver shot down his spine, for before him was a thin, pale and almost prematurely aged youth with madness in his eyes. Deep in those eyes something struggled to comprehend but was lost behind the glaze of a crazed stare -- like the eyes of a maddened dog.

Still the Duke lowered his voice and spoke respectfully to the seated wizard, as respectfully as one addresses two of the leaders of the seven greater races of Rivellon. He received no reply, so he half-in-anger and half-in-frustration called Ralph by his old childhood nickname of ‘Blunderfoot' -- this sparked something from the other man and a weak smile came to his lips.

"I don't have much time." He said in a voice that was hoarse with pain and struggle. "Lord Chaos, he was not... " He coughed a little. "Fully banished... He left part of his soul in... in." His eyes went to the dark blade held there. "He left part of his soul in Ulthring's sword, and now that self same blade... tries to steal my body... if it succeeds then Chaos will walk the lands again." He looked at his old friend and sighed heavily, before he clenched his jaw in pain. "Take me to the secret place that your father said that we were to never go again, Bucktooth, please... as quick as I may be old friend... I cannot hold on much longer."

Morreck blinked a little, mostly in surprise but the agonised tone in Ralph's voice urged him into action and he nodded swiftly. He did not call for his servant's aid; he moved to the Adept's side and helped him to his feet sadly. Then he took a look around the room and helped his friend into the corridor... now followed by a few bewildered servants and bodyguards the pair made their way quickly through the cold stone of the castle. Heading to a small spiral staircase and down into the very bowels and the torchlit darkness beyond, the Sword of Lies scraping the flagstones all the way there, held by Ralph's limp arm -- dragging sparks from the stone. At what must have been the deepest level of the castle's dungeon the stairs ended in one of the round storage rooms used to keep meats and wine cold during the sweltering summer months. Now it was empty of course, and heedless of his watching entourage and liegemen the Duke stepped forwards, placing his hands on the cool stone he felt for the slightly curved brick that his fingers knew so well.

The wall slid back with a slow grinding of stone, and dust fell from the mechanism as a new passage opened up, bringing with it a slight brush of wind as the air pressure changed. As old torches ignited as they passed within, the light caught off the many treasures arrayed within -- casting a golden and flickering glow across the faces of the those that trod these secret paths. The torches burned in response to some ancient spell or enchantment placed a long time ago. Servants and bodyguards alike knew better than to touch the treasures within not just because they were convinced they would be protected but also because they were loyal to the land and their protectors. They came to the heart of the underground complex and beheld there the chamber that had won both the Duke and his childhood friend their first hide tanning and a ringing scolding of the ears. They beheld the face that had intrigued them so many years ago; the horrible almost living face was part of the magical door that now stood before them. The whole chamber was a ghastly homage to the minds of the original creators. It was as though some twisted and tormented creature was walled into the very stone. Morreck beheld this place with a kind of fascinated, sick revulsion -- but here was hope for them all. The door was made in ancient times, leading into the magical chamber -- they said it was constructed to withstand an army of Trolls or worse... once the portal was locked there would be no escape.

Now that self same thing stared at them all with accusing eyes, bones sprouted from the sides of the wall and into the arch that formed the door. Around the left and the right side of the face, curved white formed a sickening kind of crest -- as one bone pierced the top of the head, and two more curved around and forwards over the eyebrows (One eyebrow bisected by an angry scar, running from the forehead down to the beginning of the nose.) The whole thing seemed to pulse as if alive, red viscera filling the back wall of the arch, where the visitors could see the mouth agape and leading into the chamber beyond, it would be like walking down the throat of a demon of Chaos.

Morreck's father, Duke Dylan Ferol had beaten both boys soundly when he had found them playing in the lower catacombs close to where the chamber was, both children were standing and staring at the face and mouth -- rapt in their attentions. He had gone into a protective, but angry rage at their actions and had told both boys that they were lucky as the devil, for the room was not meant to be a play-room nor was it any kind of place to be. For the door to that chamber once closed would lock automatically and the walls were such, that no one would hear their screams to be let out. The door was strong enough they would not have been able to batter it down or to break it.

They would have starved to death he counseled, eyes full of pain and anger... those eyes mirrored in Morreck's own now as he saw Ralph push away from his arm and stride weakly towards and into the chamber, the mouth still invitingly open as it had been all those years ago. His friend gestured him back with the point of that evilly glimmering sword, the blade seemed to be growing in presence and power as time leaked on.

"Goodbye Bucktooth." Ralph said through tear and pain filled eyes. "The beast in the sword almost has me, I can feel his mind pulling my own down into that blade." His eyes began to glaze. "You will know... you... will... know what to... do." At this moment he was dead in all but body, and his head fell forwards onto his chest.

Before Morreck could move, the Adept's head raised once more and a voice rolled forth like a hissing swamp, bubbling in chaotic chords.

"I... am... free!" As the last word was spoken the Duke beheld his friends eyes once more open, and his heart went cold in his breast, for those eyes were now devoid of life and shone like black spaces between the stars. He knew that voice, he had heard it before and the fear of what was to happen caused him to jolt into action... with the memories of that evil cadence rattling in his ears from the battle scarcely a week before -- he spoke a single word, one he had been entrusted with as a young man -- by his father. Closing his eyes against the howl and bellow of inhuman madness that broke from within as the mouth slammed shut with a wicked crack, Ralph's friend could hear the frenzied sounds of the Chaos Lord's blade as it struck futile strokes against the inner walls of the chamber.

The castle shook as a terrible roar erupted from the chamber, rattling the fixtures and causing dust to fall from the ceiling above their heads.

Morreck smiled a grim smile and walked angrily away. "Squeal all ye like demon king, hellspawn... ye'll not live long with that body... it can't live on only air." He laughed a sardonic and grief-stricken laugh. "And after that, ye can lurk in that damned blade as long as ye like! Till the stars fall and the land breaks asunder!"

As he paced away from the door, lost in his own thoughts, the Duke offered one last statement to the air.

"Farewell... " He turned to look at the door. "Blunderfoot... I might have known it would be you who saved the world singlehandedly, before you were done... Farewell old friend, we owe you more than we can ever say in simple words." A tear slipped down his face and he wiped it away with a dusty finger. And with that last act, he led his servants and bodyguards away from that chamber, which held the power of a god imprisoned behind that twisted portal, for eternity.