The Compassion Desert had always been a land of extreme contradictions. Contradictions that were of burning heat and bitter cold; of peaceful stillness and savage storms; of conquering armies and philosophical mores. Strangely, so too, was the land of Tokuno. It too, had sweltering heat, and bitter cold, peaceful stillness and savage storms. Conquering armies, and philosophical mores. But where Tokuno was a balanced land where everything had its place in a harmonic union between man and nature, the Compassion Desert was wild, unpredictable, untamed. Ancient.
Within this ancient and untamed desert, a young woman walked quietly, unnoticed, and unheard. A bitterly cold and dry desert wind blew across the sand, obscuring her light footprints. She was not dressed as those who lived in the desert, but rather as a native of Tokuno, swathed from head to foot in obscuring, faded blue garments that still bore the mark of the Blue Lotus. The night sky covered the desert like a velvet blanket, filled with large, brilliant stars and the girl paused once in her walk, looking up in admiration at them. She reached up once briefly, fooled for an instant by the clarity of the air and the seeming closeness of the stars. She delighted in their illumination, and the strange contrasting shadows caused by their reflected light on the desert sands.
Torn between two worlds
Within the Compassion Desert stands a fortress that is almost as ancient as the desert itself. It has withstood the passage of time, a succession of harsh rulers, and neglect. Once nearly destroyed by an explosion, it was repaired and restored till it appeared as it always had. As it did then, so it was now. Its dark granite walls stood silently, overlooking a quiescent graveyard. None now knew who lay in that graveyard – or perhaps they merely were not saying who it was that lay beneath the desert sands, forgotten by all save those that placed them there. Here, behind impenetrable metal doors, were contained the philosophical mores of the Compassion Desert. Here, within the walls of the Temple of Mondain.
It was to the Temple that the young woman walked. As she approached, the ornate metal doors swung silently open, and she passed beyond them into the depths of the fortress. As the doors swung shut behind her she looked around the vestibule and for a brief moment couldn’t help but compare it to the dojo she had so recently left. She pulled off her swathed hood, letting her red hair fall loosely about her shoulders and nodded to the Temple Acolyte that moved aside for her. She began to lay her hood on a nearby bench, but as she looked down at the thick Tokuno hood, she replayed in her mind the words she had so recently spoke to a man who was almost like a surrogate father to her.
“I cannot endanger my new family.” The girl said slowly, unlacing the belt she had earned as Oshiego. The Soke looked up at her slowly, very little emotion showing in his eyes.
“You will always have a place with us, should you change your mind.” He said.
She gently tossed the belt onto the carved wooden table that separated herself from the Soke. It made a soft swishing sound, and a slight clap of finality as it hit the polished surface. She stared at it for a long moment, resisting the overwhelming urge to grab it back up and voicing her desires, before finally turning around towards the wooden screen door. “Thank you, Soke.” She said over the lump in her throat. Then she quietly slid the screen open and let herself out as the Soke stared at the sash with an unreadable expression.
Her hand clenched around the hood and she thought of the Soke, and of his trust in her, a trust that had resulted in him showing her his face.
The Temple Acolyte hovered respectfully near her, and did not leave. He obviously had some message or other to relay to her and would not relay it till she gave him her full attention. The girl frowned slightly and looked at the Acolyte, her amber eyes revealing her umbrage at the interruption of her train of thought. In response, the Acolyte simply bowed and said, “The High Priest awaits you in the main chamber.” And then he quietly retreated into an antechamber to complete whatever tasks he had been doing prior to the young woman’s arrival.
She sighed. She preferred having as little contact with the High Priest as possible, but far to often it seemed that contact was unavoidable. Unavoidable, and necessary as a result of the current chain of events happening in the world. She sat down quietly on one of the long benches in the main chamber and watched as the elf who called himself Meneldur, High Priest of the Temple of Mondain, completed a minor ritual of balance. Knowing he would not approve of her current chains of thought, she quieted her mind and thought of nothing but the room she was in, and of her loyal wolf companion, Fred. But even so, the High Priest’s presence and his grandfatherly smile immediately raised her resentment.
Whether he noticed the resentment in her eyes or not, he simply kept smiling at her and without preamble stated, “Good. Let us continue where we left off yesterday.”
A Shadow Moves
Yellow iridescent eyes pierced the darkness as the large form of a wolf crept silently though the corridor and into a small chamber. Outside he could hear the wind howling against the thick rock walls of the temple. Inside, the halls and chambers that were usually warm and inviting were unusually cold this night; with a silent darkness that seemed warn against unwanted visitors. As he descended from the small chamber into the crypts he glanced briefly at the large tomb in the center, the tomb of Fredrick the second Dark Lord of the Temple, surrogate son of Mordain and General to Mordain’s army. As he stepped silently around the tomb his gaze turned to a small stone knot on the wall.
Taking one last glance around the dark crypt his form changed into that of a hooded man, his face cold and stony it would have been clear to anyone who met him that he was without emotion or remorse but not without purpose. It was purpose that drove him here this night even with the knowledge that he was marked for death by the Temple of Mondain for breaking into the very chamber he was about to break into again once he turned that knot. It was purpose that had driven him to contact Ren the Conjurer and inform him of the dangers of the Horocrux and what it could mean. His attempts to slow the High Priests intention to kill his master was the driving force for all he had done, he had known the consequences but he didn’t care he had no faith in gods or hope he never believed in such things the only thing he knew was loyalty to his master and that’s all he ever cared for.
Slowly he turned the knot clockwise several times and waited, a loud crack echoed followed by the scraping of stone as the door opened to reveal a long descending staircase that lead to the Temple’s secret vaults. Torches lit the moment the door had opened and he took out a small parchment, looking at it he followed the staircase down winding one path to another and occasionally checking the parchment for the proper direction into the vaults. After a long descent he found himself at the large steel door into the main chamber of the vaults, consulting his parchment again he muttered an incantation quietly and the door swung open. Inside the square room there was four large white marble pillars the room was lit by a strange green glow that’s source could not be identified. Along the walls were book shelves filled with dusty old books, some charred others looking new. Between the pillars were several glass cases with various items in them, some glowed eerily while others seemed to be just ordinary objects.
He looked around briefly then made his way to one of the book shelves along the northern wall. Half way down he saw it, a dusty black book slightly charred but still in good condition. The cover seemed to be made of normal black leather with silver writing on the binding. As he reached out his hand to touch the book he received a slight shock, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the parchment again and began to read it, after a few moments he stored it back into his robes muttered another incantation and tried to take the book. Just as he touched it he received another more powerful shock from the book, at the same time the blade of a silver dagger was thrust against his throat and an arm wrapped around his head. It was the trap he was waiting for; he knew this was the end. Fearun had been tracking him for days. He thought he had lost Fearun the previous night at the High Council meeting and would have had more time. Suddenly, to his surprise it wasn’t Fearuns voice at all, it was a woman’s.
“Before I kill you Daegoth, I want to know why you betrayed me to Poet.” The voice was cold but full of emotion, an emotion he had never heard in her voice before, it was full of hatred and rage. Daegoths face remained stony and cold as it always had. “I thought your brother was the only one who could exude so much hate and rage.” Daegoths voice was steady and he knew he had enraged her even further, the dagger was now slicing into his neck he could feel the warm trickle of blood running down to his collar. “I want an answer and I want it now.” Her voice was still full of rage but calm and quiet. Daegoth cracked a smile for perhaps the first time in his life. “Silrien, my master would have found out had I told him or not. But your gullibility is amusing. Perhaps next time you will check all the markings on a wolf when you befriend him.” Daegoth was enjoying the effect of his words, Silriens grip lightened as the realization that Daegoth had played her for a fool. He had taken the place of her original pet wolf “Fred” in order to get close to her, to spy on her for the very man who was responsible for her father’s death. Daegoth began to press his advantage. “Kill me if you wish but that will not save your twins. Poet is well aware of them and I’m sure he could find a use for them.” The smile that grazed Daegoths face vanished in an instant. Silriens grip on the blade began to tighten; fury had welled up inside her unlike anything she had felt before. As she tightened her grip Daegoth made his move, quick as lightning he had grabbed her wrist and wrenched it behind her back pulling his own blade from beneath his robes he swung it at Silriens neck all in one motion.
The rage was gone from Silrien instead she heard music, it welled up within her a feeling so overwhelming she didn’t understand what had happened. Daegoths blade met with the cold hard steel of her kryss. She had ducked around under his grasping arm and released his grip and pulled her kryss from its sheath just as quickly as Daegoth had when he attacked. Thrusting it in a circular motion she disarmed Daegoth and thrust the blade to the hilt into Deagoths neck. As she looked into his dark eyes he smiled one last time, the gurgling of his air passage as it flooded with his own blood was the only sound in the room. Silrien watched as he flopped to the ground, dead. Looking down at the corpse Silrien took a breath and wiped the blade on Daegoths robes. “Poet will never find my children; he will be dead long before he has the chance.”
The Break In.... (not me)
He could feel the pain of his now dead friend, even as the blade was barely piercing his skin. He knew it as it happened that his spy had been discovered. He watched through his eye as Silrien thrust her dagger through his throat. The taste of blood almost caused him to vomit as Poet jumped up from his bed. How he was discovered he may never tell but the fact remains his main source of information and one of his few close friends was now dead on the stones of the very Temple that once served him. Rinsing out his mouth Poet looked in the mirror and he saw something he had not seen in his eyes in some time. Fear began to rise in him as well. He knew if he gave into such desires what outcomes would occur if he walked down that path again. But the feelings of rage and the need for vengeance grew too quickly in him. Making his way to the next room, not needing to touch the door as he used his telekinesis to swing the door open wide causing a great crash, he reached for his armor… muttering to himself.
“I have put this off far too long.” He grit between his teeth. “Time for me to prepare this ending to the play…”
As he put on his last piece of armor, his gloves, he looked at his right ring finger. The mechanical finger he created for himself clasped coldly against his hand. A feeling of loss came over him all of a sudden. Not only for his friend, but for what he once was. He remember the nights he ruled as the Dark Lord of them Temple. Seeing such memories only fueled his desire more. Stretching out his mind he saw the Temple… only four guards and a few priests were present. Seems Silrien had already removed the body and it would seem the rest of the major members had left to allow Silrien to complete this deed on their own.
Pulling out his rune he chanted the spell to transport him to the desert. Staring at the stone walls his rage built up more. Forcing himself to step forward, he knew he must hurry for they may return any moment; he conjured a large energy vortex to fend off the natural habitants, then entered the Temple. Inside the main chamber he found the four guards near the throne of Meneldur. Poet quickly set into motion as they tried to circle him. Paralyzing the one closest to him, he jumped to the side just dodging the second guard’s halberd. The loud clang of the metal on the stone caused his ears to ring but he quickly jumped back up to his feet seeing the last two guards rushing towards him. Conjuring a fireball he blasted the one in the face killing him instantly. For the other one he caused lightning to drop from the sky electrocuting him. Glancing back thankful the first one was still paralyzed, he jumped on the back of the one still laying on the ground. Grabbing him by the top of his head and chin he quickly snapped his, before smashing his face on the stones. Before standing up he grabbed the fallen guard’s halberd, staring at the remaining one. He knew the spell would soon ware off and he would be coming at him. He walked up to him staring him directly in the eyes, raising the halberd up high he brought it down quickly decapitating the guards, then he made his way to the tomb.
Avoiding the priests who were in the library on the other side of the Temple, Poet entered the tomb of Fredrick, the Dark Lord before him and former General of Mordain’s army. Staring at the coffin he thought of how his daughter killed his friend in the Vaults. He knew of the treasures locked away down there but that was not why he came here this evening. He came for his own chamber. The one he added after he murdered Fredrick and claimed the Temple for himself.
“Ironic… isn’t it General.” Poet chuckled. “They will be upset of what I am about to do… yet it is they who put you in the position you are about to be.”
Stepping back from the coffin, Poet closed his eyes tightly and held his hands at his waist, his palms facing the ceiling. Concentrating with all his power he began to slowly raise his hands into the air, as he did his telekinetic ability began to take hold of the coffin raising it above the stones. Opening his eyes he looked at the coffin which was now eye level. The rage began to grow in him again as he concentrated with all his energy and slammed the coffin against the wall, destroying the coffin. All the tiny pieces then began to float in the air as he slammed them into the walls, creating a large cloud of dust. When the dust settled, all that was left was Poet and the remains of Fredrick which of nothing more than a skeleton covered in armor.
“I’ll be back for you in a moment.” He chuckled to himself.
Looking at the stair well that was now revealed by the removed coffin, he descended down into his chamber. He began to feel the all too familiar power surging through him as he came closer to his link to the Black Altar. Even without the Gem of souls this new ruby kept him within constant link with the power emanating from the skulls. He quickly gathered it up in a piece of cloth smiling to his self. What would have given him life, he will now use to bring about his death. Whether or not Poet succeeded in killing the elf he knew his time was up. Either the completion of his task or his death would bring about his ascension into the next plane. Walking back up the stairs he took another look at Fredrick skeleton. A grin crossed his face as he pulled a dagger and kryss out of his belt. Looking down at the remains he quickly stabbed the armor through the heart and neck, then arranged the body in the exact same manner that Daegoth had fallen to the ground. Satisfied he recalled out of the Temple to plan his next move.
Dust and Ashes
Atop the mountain the moonlight had shown brightly amidst the gathering clouds. In the gathering darkness all was quiet and though the clouds moved rapidly there was no wind. The crumbling walls of the abbey were covered in moss; rotting wood benches were strewn about the stone floor. The altar at the head of the column was broken in two though the ancient alchemic symbol still present and visible.
A lone elf, hooded and cloaked stood amongst the wreckage. His hands folded into his robe as he stood absolutely motionless. A month of preparation had lead to this point in time. Fearun had followed him endlessly tracking his movements, noting his targets contacts and whereabouts. Silrien had befriended him, and set him to his journey to this ancient abbey where he would now face the destiny of a betrayer to the Temple.
In the distance the sound of the rickety lift had began to echo to the top of the mountain. Slowly a shadowy form of a man came into view through the archway leading into the abbey’s compound. He was tall and his white hair had reflected the moonlight giving it a silver tint. A black sword was attached to his hip and seemed to emanate with magic. As he approached the clearing he stopped dead as he took notice of the hooded elf several yards ahead of him. The Elf who had stood motionless finally looked up at the new comer. As the elf’s gaze set upon the man, his eyes flashed briefly with an emerald green light.
“You!” exclaimed the man in mild surprise. The elf’s mouth twitched into a smirk briefly. “Welcome Poet.” The elf’s voice was cold. Poet stood silent for a moment but then smiled. “I should have guessed, elf.” Poet’s voice was calm and collective. He had known this time would come and now fully realized the trap that had been set before him. “Silrien has many talents, it’s a shame you did not see them.” Meneldur cracked another smile as he spoke and took a few steps forward. Poet remained silent and motionless as Meneldur stepped closer. Poet’s eyes fixed briefly on the glowing green gem set in a silver band upon Meneldur’s right hand before returning his gaze to Meneldur who was now only a few feet away.
Poet’s hand slowly shifted to the hilt of his black sword. This had not gone unnoticed. Meneldur cracked a benign smile. “Your Horocrux turned weapon.” Meneldur’s smile vanished as he spoke. Poet still said nothing but his grip upon the hilt had tightened as Meneldur continued. “Yes I was aware of your desire to enter the Temple to retrieve your Horocrux; it was I who allowed it. I knew that you had stored your attempt at a Horocrux in your chamber below the Temple. I had known that you could never hope to finish it as it was intended and knew that you would attempt some failed way to warp it into a weapon.”
Poet still said nothing his face was cold but he continued to watch Meneldur as he spoke. “As you know I have already destroyed your chamber beneath the Temple so you cannot derive any more power from it. The last of your power is dead.” Meneldur again smiled benignly as he spoke. As Meneldur finished Poet cracked his first smile. “Perhaps…” Meneldur’s smile faded quickly, clouds began to cover the sky and distant rumbling of thunder could be heard drawing nearer. Poet could feel an immense terrible energy exuding around Meneldur. Poet’s smile, however, did not fade. Taking his gaze off Meneldur Poet briefly looked up at the impending storm then around to the fallen abbey around them. “So after all this time this is the board you chose to play our game on? For months you have had your knights trailing me and this is where you have your queen lead me?” Locking his gaze back on Meneldur, his smile grew larger. “I must ask though, why this place of all the places in Sosaria?”
Meneldur again cracked a benign smile at Poet. “I thought it would be a fitting chess board for my final checkmate. There is no escape from this mountain top; there is only you and I the way it was meant to be.” Meneldur’s right hand twitched slightly. Poet’s grasp on his blade, his hands flew in front of him as a ball of fire issued from them at Meneldur enveloping him in a column of flame. Meneldur remained motionless as the flames swirled around him then suddenly doused into nothing. Meneldur’s smile faded as a bolt of energy issued from his hands knocking Poet back several feet and landing on his back.
A rainless storm had arrived over head, lightning shot across the sky as thunder rumbled all around them. Meneldur pulled down his hood to reveal his pale face. His eyes were glowing bright emerald that seems to light all around him, at the same time the Gem on his finger had begun to do the same. Poet got up quickly the smile had long since faded from his face. As Poet got back up he sent a bolt of energy at Meneldur knocking him back into the wall several yards back and cracking it. Poet now drawing his black sword made his way to the heap that was Meneldur; he had not gotten up or moved. Poet raised his sword but as he did Meneldur vanished from the ground and appeared behind Poet but Poet was ready he turned around and slashed at Meneldur cutting into his chest. Meneldur again fell back. Poet sheathed his sword and looked down at him. Poet raised his hand and Meneldur lifted from the ground Meneldur seemed limp and unconscious Poet sent another bolt of energy at the hovering Meneldur and sent him with force through the wall of a small tower near by.
“I expected more for my old master, even if you are an echo of the past.” Poet explained as he again drew out his black sword and smiled. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck Poet knocking him to the ground. The tower Meneldur had been bolted into exploded. Meneldur was standing upright. The vegetation beneath his feet seemed to burn as he walked. His eyes and the Gem of Souls glowed even more brightly as he stepped closer to Poet who was now getting up. Poet thrust his sword at Meneldur but he vanished again and appeared to Poets left where he again sent a bolt of energy knocking Poet into one of the crumbling abbey walls. Poet made to slash at Meneldur again but Meneldur vanished and appeared several feet behind Poet and sent a ball of fire hurtling toward Poet that engulfed him in flame. Poet lifted his hand and the flames were doused, his armor was smoking and his flesh burned. Meneldur sent another bolt at Poet but it was reflected back at Meneldur who in turn vanished and reappeared in the same spot as the bolt passed through where he was just standing.
Poet sent a bolt of energy of his own at Meneldur this time but it seemed to dissipate in a red aura as it hit Meneldur. Meneldur raised his right hand at Poet, “Tyarawra”. Poet fell to the ground and began to twitch, and contort as though he was in excruciating pain. Meneldur raised his hand and Poet’s body seemed to ease as the pain stopped. Meneldur again raised his hand “Tyarawra” and Poet again began to twitch in horrible pain and again Meneldur raised his hand and the pain ceased. There was now a small gap between Meneldur and Poet but Poet was now on his feet again.
Poet closed the gap between them quickly as he raised his blade and thrust it into Meneldur’s chest up to the hilt, Meneldur dropped to his knee’s as a smile grazed Poets face. Meneldur slumped over as a green flame began to envelope him. Poet withdrew the Blade and watched as Meneldur appeared to slump lifelessly to the ground. “Perhaps not….” Poet’s voice was cold as he looked upon the dieing green flames that had enveloped Meneldur’s body. Though he was not burned Meneldur’s robes and form billowed a white smoke. Another rumble of thunder overhead burst forth and lightning began to strike all around Poet knocking him in all directions, as he landed another would hit him. Strangely he did drop the blade from his hand during this attack. Meneldur was again on his feet. A wide smile had crossed his face. “Is that the weapon you thought would destroy me Poet?”
To Poet’s surprise Meneldur’s appearance had changed drastically but he was standing upright and still alive. Meneldur’s face was almost snakelike, his nose was two inclined vertical slits; his eyes were more narrow and solid black with the exception of large round emerald pupils. His skin was even paler and wax like and his hair had seemed to have been burned away leaving a skull white scalp. Poets surprised turned to shock as he stepped back. He couldn’t understand why his weapon did not work. Meneldur’s smile never faded as he watched the surprise etched on Poets face turn to shock. “You now realize the implications of this battle. Your weapon is useless. Do I detect a flicker of fear? Oh yes…it is your death, though I wouldn’t know what that’s like. I’ve never died before.” Meneldur took a step closer to Poet who was breathing hard but his grip on his sword was still firm, It was now or never Poet lifted the blade and brought it down Meneldur had raised his right arm the smile still entombed on his face as the blade severed it just below the elbow. Meneldur stepped back a few paces as Poet grabbed Meneldur’s arm in mid air.
The Gem upon the severed arm glowed ominously as Poet looked at it. His face shifted, the old obsession beginning to overtake him. His gaze never left the Gem as he examined it closely. The sound of the thunder around him seemed to die out and his desire to claim the gem overtook him. He grabbed the gem and pulled it from the finger of Meneldur’s severed arm and put it upon his own finger. As he did so he held it up continuing to examine it. He turned around and there stood Meneldur a smile still etched on his face, Poet suddenly realized what he had done, what had happened. Meneldur’s voice echoed upon the mountain top “Sangafea”. Poet shot into the air in a flash of green light and landed with a thump to the ground dead and all at once his body burst into a deep red flame. Seconds later all that was left of Poet was ash and the ring with the Gem of Souls. Meneldur bent down and took his severed arm placed it to his severed limb twisted it then flexed his fingers for a moment. He then took up the ring, placed it back on the index finger of his regenerated arm and looked down at the ashes of Poet. Sweeping his left hand a strong breeze took up the ashes and scattered them into the air as Meneldur vanished.
A fierce wind buffeted the young woman standing on a small dune in the Compassion Desert. She was swathed head to foot in loose flowing robes to protect herself from the harsh desert climate, and only her hazel eyes were visible. Those eyes were fixed on a point above the ring of mountains. Sand sprayed up and mixed with clouds of billowing dust, stinging her eyes and forcing her to blink but still she watched the distance intently.
On the mountains where she knew an ancient abbey stood, a storm had gathered. The harsh, desert wind that now blew was a direct result of the powerful storm above the abbey. There was no scent of rain in this storm, but rather the echo of thunder and blasts of powerful energy, and it was the focus of her thoughts. She watched as lightning struck the mountainside repeatedly, slowly exhausting the power of the storm as it raged against an unseen force. Tears streamed down her cheeks beneath the swath of linen scarves covering her face and head because she knew what the storm represented, but even though the watching broke her heart, still she watched. Finally with one last powerful blast of energy, the storm faded, and all that was left was the wind. It to faded, and as the last gust died down she heard a whisper that sounded like ashes being scattered on the wind.
“Alista.” The whisper breathed all around her as though caressing her cheek, and then the wind died down leaving nothing but silence.
Her head bowed as grief washed over her and she forced herself to begin walking in the direction of the abbey. It took her some time to reach the old, rickety wooden lift that led up to the mountaintop ruins, and when she finally got to the top, she stood and stared.
All that was left of the battle were scorch marks on the stones and a few scattered ashes and rose-petals. The woman ignored the scorch marks, and walked quietly over to what was left of the scattered ashes and stared down at the combination of ashes and rose- petals that lay spread out on the slabs of stone that once formed the foundation of the abbey. After a moment of silence she bent down and picked up a rose-petal that was mixed in with the ashes. Straightening up she looked out across the vista of fields spread out far below and whispered a name.
She sighed as the tears started streaming down her cheeks again, and she knelt down and reached into a satchel that hung at her side, pulling out a small glass vial. She scrapped the few ashes and rose-petals into the vial and then replaced the vial. She then stood up and spoke the words of magic that would carry her away from that place. The world vanished and for a moment, she traveled through the ether.
Again she heard the whisper of Ashes on the wind and for a split second she felt a hand on her shoulder. But then the world reasserted itself, and she stood once again in the Desert of Compassion. The wind was gone, and the desert was still silent in the aftermath of the storm. Her soft boots made quiet crunching noises in the sand as she walked towards her destination. She could see the foreboding walls of the Temple of Mondain rising before her, and she could not help but remember when her friend had asked her to join him within its walls. He had wanted her to stay with him and at the same time he wished to protect her innocence and hoped she would refuse the offer. It was to the Temple she walked now, passing by the larger than life statue of Mondain himself, and walked straight to the graveyard with its graves that were marked only by blank head stones.
She did not ask for permission for what she was about to do. She had no love for the Mondainites, and very little desire to speak to the ones who were responsible for the death of her friend.
She entered into the graveyard, and knelt down in one corner of it; then she removed the vial of ashes and rose-petals from within the satchel. She dug a small hole, and poured half of the ashes and rose-petals into it. She replaced the vial back into the satchel and smiled sadly at the tiny, unmarked grave.
“Half here, and half in Whispering Winds, to reflect the division in your heart, my dear friend.” She whispered. “I will see you soon.”
Death of Dark Fool
The sun was setting early over the mountain tops as its red rays illuminated the valley below. A small circle of gypsy wagons had formed around a central fire, the sweet smell of cooking meat filled the air and the gypsies themselves began to prepare for nightfall in Ilshenar.
Dark Fool, who had been hiding with the gypsies for many weeks, had begun to setup his bedding in one of the wagons. The dinner bell rang and he could hear the rustle of those moving closer to the fire to get their dinner. Stories and songs began to echo through the valley as time went on. But Dark Fool was not hungry; he was planning his next move. The Temple of Mondain was tracking him and though he didn’t think they would track him here he felt it best not to linger with one group for too long.
A head suddenly popped into the wagon in which he was staying. “Are you coming for dinner? You better get over there before there is nothing left.” Said an elderly voice. Dark Fool looked up to see her kind face. She was a gypsy of some years and had a grandmotherly look about her. Her hair was white and her face wrinkled. She had stunning green eyes and a crooked nose. “I’m not hungry.” Dark Fool muttered as her face vanished. And he dozed off to sleep amidst the stories, songs and smells that filled the air.
A cloud cover began to block out the stars and moonlight that had illuminated their grand night and in the distance, shadowed by the cloud cover a single hooded and cloaked figure slowly began to make his way toward the camp. His movement was almost ghost like as he glided toward the camp. Silence in the camp came almost immediately as he stepped over the threshold of the camp. Several of the gypsies stood up others began to back away or retreat into their wagons. The elderly gypsy had hidden behind a wagon.
“Are you lost stranger? Do you need aid?” The voice came from the head gypsy. He was a larger rugged man who looked like he had worked a hard but enjoyable life. His face was warm and inviting. The cloaked figure said nothing, his head down and his face shadowed in complete darkness. The gypsy began to lose his composure and stepped back from the hooded figure. “Is….is there something we can do for you?” The gypsy said again his voice now had a tone of caution in it. A moment or two passed before a shrill but clear voice echoed from behind the darkness of the cloaked figures face. “Flee.”
The gypsy was taken aback by the comment and looked curiously at the stranger for half a second before the cloud cover blacked out the entire valley. Thunder began to echo even louder and a single flash of lightning revealed the face of the cloaked figure that was now looking directly at the gypsy, his blue skin was deathlike and his red eyes began to glow as a burst of fire shot from his hands and killed the gypsy instantly. Panic and pandemonium began to take hold of the camp as some men began to make their way to attack the stranger while others tried to lead the women and children off to safety.
Dark Fool’s eyes opened instantly. The noise outside was tremendous as the screams and thunder of the fires burned. Grabbing his war hammer he knew what awaited him outside. The time had come for him to face what had been tracking him since his return. Sneaking out the back of his wagon he made his way around the edge to get a glimpse of the inner circle of the camp. The burned bodies of men, women and children lay dead. Suddenly a large ball of fire hit the wagon behind which Dark Fool was watching and sent it bursting into the air in a big ball of flame landing some distance behind Dark Fool’s position and revealing him to the attacker.
Dark Fool stood his war hammer ready in his hands. The Wagons on fire and burning corpses of the unfortunate gypsies lit the area. In the center of the destruction stood the cloaked figure, his eyes still glowing red and staring intently in Dark Fools direction. They stared for a moment at each other before the figure sent a constant bolt of fire at Dark Fool. Dropping his war hammer he raised his hands and as if shielding himself magically began to resist the intense fire being sent at him. The force at which it hit him began to make him slide backward leaving a trail in the dirt before finally being knocked down.
At the instant he fell the cloaked figure made a great leap toward Dark Fool but in the same instant Dark Fool magically summoned his war hammer to his hand and with all his might cracked the cloaked figure in the face with such force that it sent him hurtling to the ground lifeless and dead. Getting to his feet Dark Fool made his way over to the lump of flesh on the ground that had attacked him and kicked it. It made no movement.
Looking over the devastation Dark Fool began to resent his decision for hiding amongst these people. He was dumbfounded at what he saw, bodies were scattered the wagons blown apart and blazing. The guilt that he had brought about the death of these people loomed in his head. His cause for redemption had turned into the need for revenge. His fist clenched and tightened around his war hammer. As he turned around the hooded figure stood not an inch from his face. Dark Fool could feel the cold from the figures breath surrounding him like a blanket of ice. His eyes were piercing red and a strange ruby necklace glowing around the figures neck became visible. Dark Fool stumbled backwards in surprise once again dropping his war hammer.
A shrill voice issued behind the dark hood. “You…shall…have…Redemption…in…death.” Raising his hand the same shrill voice echoed “Tyarawa.” Suddenly Dark Fool felt as if all of his bones and muscles were on fire. The pain was so intense that he thought death was more preferable to this, it would end the pain. Again and again the cloaked figure used this spell sending agonizing pain through Dark Fools body until his voice was cracked from the screams of pain.
Struggling to get up every muscle in Dark Fools body seemed to be mutinying against him as he flopped back down to the ground. “I know what you are.” Dark Fool muttered in a low rasp voice. “You’re a Gurtha Fae. But….” Dark Fool paused a moment as the terrible truth of what was really going on had begun to dawn on him. “How did he do it?” Dark Fool could sense the figures smirk but he said nothing so Dark Fool continued. “He killed my own flesh and blood, and then Alista Greenwood, and now he sends you to kill me.” Dark Fool winced; the pain in his body was still overcoming his ability to move. “And he thinks that my death will bring about the end of my blood and tie up the loose ends he left behind. But my death will not be the end, new life will spring.” The dark hooded figure raised his hand. “Tyargurtha” issued from behind the black hood and a shot of green light caught Dark Fool in the chest sending him several feet into the air before he landed with a thud upon the hard ground, lifeless. In the next instant his body burst into an intense flame leaving nothing but ashes. The cloaked figured turned and disappeared as a brisk rain began to fall putting out the fires, and washing away the remaining ashes of Dark Fool…except a small green crystal.
Urgent Missive to the High Council
*The Squire rode hard from Newcastle to Compassion Grove, pushing one of the fine steeds his home was known for to it's limits. The Templar wasn't a man known to appreciate failure and his orders had been clear that this letter was to be delivered with haste to avoid bloodshed.
When the young squire had asked what the letter contained, he had cringed realizing it was none of his business and expected a tongue lashing. Instead, his commander just gave him the most peculiar look, something in his eyes betraying his troubled mind. "Ride hard lad, you hold in your hands the key to peace, and the lives of innocents."
Finally reaching his destination, the would be Knight unrolled the parchment from it's case, and carefully posted it outside the council chambers as ordered. He paused only long enough for his horse to drink it's fill from the stable trough and then turned for home to report.*
Kinsmen and Elected Members of the High Council,
I pray this finds you swiftly, for it is my deepest hope that the information this missive contains may guide Britannia along the path of truth. Accept my oath upon the virtues and the Azure One that what information I share here is complete and true to the best of my knowledge. I will be the first to tell you that the most credible source has the potential to deliver flawed information. I will also say that some of what I write is my own personal speculation based upon years of experience. This dispatch will be long, for if the entirety of its importance is to be understood, much must be shared. Let me begin with what I have learned.
I have lived a military life since my days as a squire at the castle, I ask that you forgive my anolgies to combat to share the danger we face, but it is all I have known.
Mistakes are made by all, and they may be forgiven by those with compassionate, peace-loving hearts when steps are taken by the offending party to correct them. Such was Britannia presented to the Temple of Mondain, the past mistakes of the Dark Lords and the blood they spilled eager to be forgiven by Britannia when a new Priest emerged who desired peace. Few dwell in the lands these days who remember the early days of the Temple. I remember the terror I faced when fighting some of my first battles against the forces of Mondain. I remember the bloodstained axes that claimed the lives of those I fought beside. I remember the unholy power of the High Priest known as Mordain. One reason I write this missive today, is that I desire no other must relive such nightmares.
In days long past under Grand Marshall Nero, the Knighthood numbered but a few Knights. Our small group was assigned recconaisance and quick-strike missions. It was then as a young Knight, not yet a Field Marshall, that I learned the power of a weapon, wielded wisely, more powerful then spell or blade. Information. With contacts established throughout the land, and armed with the knowledge they could provide, a small force could easily overcome one twice it's size. Information obtained could be used as blackmail, putting those who feared that knowledge being revealed firmly under a parties thumb without need for skill with a weapon. Having information another wanted made you their friend, for a short while at least. All this I learned and more.
I also learned swiftly that if one wanted to survive long, information was never given without the offering party gaining at least as much, if not more, from the exchange. Gold bought one only the least important or useful knowledge and was the asking price of the least skilled informant. The most valuable assets the informant received in return was often the information from your reaction to their report, which he or she often traded eagerly enough to another for the right price, even the source of the information he had just given you.
Perhaps the greatest asset an informant gained, was your eventual trust. Having gained trust by offering useful and valid information to you, the informant then gained the ability to influence the actions of those they provided by offering only part of the truth, or just enough to cause the purchaser of the information to head down the course they desired, for by that point a skilled informant knew their purchaser well enough to have determined how they would already respond, as if the follow-up orders came right from their own mouth.
So it is, that Britannia has been at war with a new enemy, wielding a powerful weapon, one so discreet that we welcomed the enemy with a warm embrace into our homes, never knowing the poison of the viper until it would flow freely through our blood, poisoning our thoughts.
The war began slowly, our enemy strengthening his position, testing our borders. He found who received him warmly, he found who to avoid. He looked for those who spoke freely, he gained his own contacts for information. He learned who distrusted who, should he have need to later turn them against each other. He probed at the armor of each he encountered looking for weak spots he could exploit. His knowledge grew and so capable was his disguise he walked freely among the troops, counting their numbers, learning their tactics, discovering every weakness and strength.
He walked the halls of the Castle of Redemption, He walked with confidence through compassion grove, and He sat as a guest in the Yew Armory. These places and many more he visited.
Yet when he had learned what he needed, there was still much work to be done. Another army lay across the field, and so our enemy walked among our foes as well. There he plied his trade and wielded his weapon with equal effect. There was no need for an open alliance with any he walked among, for he became eagerly welcomed by all, Britannia and the Empire. The demonstration of his skill was remarkable, for every side was certain he was *their* friend, and his time among their foes was well warranted for the information he provided.
As I write, the most terrible fact we must face, is that the viper in our home reads these words just as you do. At this very moment he is planning his response to my missive. He already knows who may dislike me, he knows what he can say to discredit my words and how to most effectively disarm the fears it will raise. He may adopt a stance of sadness that I have been so tainted by who he will say is our true enemy. He may try and reveal some secret he believes he has and use it to paint me as a traitor. I know not what path he will take, but be ready. I have never been a man to shy from a blow that must be undertaken for what is right, so I shall await his response with no parry ready but with open arms, my return blow will be with spell and not parchment and quill.
Time is of the essence, let me get to the meat of the matter. My kinsmen, the era of the Dark Lords of Mondain is not over. The newest Dark Lord has accomplished what none before could with spell or blade. He has claimed Magincia, he influences Britannia sitting on the High Council, he walks freely through Britannia without restraint. His goals grow more transparent with each move he makes, and I pray he has not poisoned the minds of those who can stop him beyond repair.
High Priest Meneldur, of the Temple of Mondain, and his disciples are enemies of Britannia, not friends.
I was present in Tokuno when he met with the Empress, it was then I first grew concerned. I had met with his Emissary and others and hesitantly welcomed the information they provided. I watched with interest the exchange between the High Priest and the leader of a foreign land. Both the Empress and Meneldur lacked knowledge of the history or expectations of the other. Ironically the man who would use information as a weapon found it lacking that day, and something caught my eye.
He grew angry with the lack of respect he believed he deserved, and with that revealed emotion I observed for the first time his true nature. The gem, a cursed and extremly powerful artifact of ancient origin and ultimate evil, worn freely upon his finger glowed with a fierce light. His tone darkened and his features swiftly changed from the "mask" he wears among others to a visage filled with hatred and malice.
I felt an ache in my chest, and reaching below my armor to rub it away I found the pain radiating from where the Dragon Knight sash rested, a personal symbol of my worship to the Azure Dragon unknown my many today.
I didn't know if the ache in my chest was a coincidence, but my eyes did not lie. The Priest recovered quickly and returned to his normal bearing. Immediatly after the meeting he sought me out, to apoligize that I had to witness such an outburst, and to repair any damage that may have been done to the relationship he believed he had established with me.
That day, Tokuno gained the anger of the High Priest of Mondain, and demonstrated to him that perhaps because of their foreign customs we find strange, they were beyond his control. If they did not fall to his influence as the others in Britannia and elsewhere had, then the threat needed to be removed. Having no need for a military presence in his conquests to date, he had no force to dispatch this foe, or did he?
So the Temple went to work, sowing the seeds of distrust slowly and without arousing suspicion. The tools were available. He knew trade was certainly a subject that had been much debated, so he could certainly use that in some manner to "prove" Tokuno was a threat. He would use the contacts and trust he had developed to use the BAF to strike at his foe.
How best to make it happen though while still letting those he influenced believe it to be their decision?
Some time ago a member of the Temple would approach me with urgent information. He would share with me that he had proof of wrongdoing by a group from Tokuno. While I at that time welcomed the information he had supplied me with, my suspicious nature had already long been aroused. It was only too obvious that by weakening the ties to Tokuno by it's allies in Britannia, or even hoping they would take action against them, he could not only isolate those in Tokuno who had earned his wrath, but also weaken Britannia of an ally and trade partner.
He then turned to gaining his army...
He had the ear of the Grand Marshall through the information he supplied him such as troop movements. I believe he underestimated his influence with Polynikes when the Marshall did not support his proposals completely at council meetings. So he continued to work with the tools at his disposal, painting Tokuno as an enemy, attempting to limit their ability to trade.
I wish to take this moment to remind the High Council that whatever services the High Priest has offered Britannia pales in comparison to many offered in the past by our friends in Tokuno. During my time as Grand Marshall, and even today, Tokuno military forces have assisted BAF troops and other military units such as my Knights in defending Britannia. The Priest fails to point out that groups from Tokuno have battled the EoA beside us, they have rescued citizens, and provided information and resources to stop the foes of Britannia.
This aid from Tokuno is not a heralded trumpet blazing charge, it comes in the form of a dismounting arrow blow from the shadows, it is a quick strike at just the right moment to an escaping drow, it is a swift but mortal strike to the opponent standing toe to toe with our soldiers that changes the tide of battle. Should members of the council never hear of this aid, then those from Tokuno who assist us daily would feel complimented rather then insulted. It is the way of many of their people, but I share it now, for I stress...the honorable people of that foreign and strange land are our friends.
I shall begin to wrap this up so it may be delivered in time.
The High Priest states that unlike Poet, he can control the Gem of Immortality. Perhaps he even believes it. The influence of the gem upon his person grows daily. Observe closely when his emotion runs high and you shall see it's glow grow. Observe him closely and you will often discover that before he makes an accusation against Tokuno or another of those he considers his foe the Gem begins to glow. Think back to past council meetings and you will see it for yourself. I believe the gem or the Priest, has grown impatient. Rather then move through an agent, or working purely from the shadows, he has begun attempting to influence Britannia in a more overt manner.
This trade proposal sets the stage for his strike. He knows that as a proud people, Tokuno will most likely object to a forcible search or seizure of their right to trade. He knows that if he puts the BAF into constant tension with people from Tokuno it is only a matter of time before some merchant takes a swing, or a soldier looses patience and pushes aside a trader. When this happens all he will have left to do is say, "See I told you!" and the picture he has tried to paint will be complete.
He will have the army of Britannia destroy his foe as surely as if he had issued the orders himself. Or so he believes anyways.
Over my many years of service to Britannia, my foes have come to learn that you do not mess with that which I care about. The list is small. I love Britannia, those who serve under my command, and the most recent, my wife. He now has struck in various manners at all three, and has earned my wrath.
The truth shall be known.
The High Priest approached my wife in private at the Royal Oaks Tavern. He offered to magically cure her of an illness magical in nature. It was an problem that by all rights he should have not known of, but he did. I traveled with my wife to the Temple of Mondain to hear his method for a cure. It involved the Gem of Souls. The offer was turned down, and I watched as the gem flared to life and the Priest promised us there was little time, and he was the only possible method for a cure. His tone grew short and this time it took him a little while longer to regain his calm composure to wish us off with hopes we returned soon.
While I began my own research for a cure, the Priest, or the gem controlling him, lost patience. Not soon after, a decree was issued by the Empire of Armageddon for the arrest of Ailieve and others. It was only far too convenient. His "contacts" gave him access to a military force to claim his prize so he could simply collect it.
I received reports that the Temple of Mondain sought to resurrect a former drow Senator known as Zarra. It is my belief that in order to accomplish this he needed my wife, to obtain all or part of the elements for the ritual, the other possibly being a citizen of Dracona who the Empire also was looking for known as Talistra.
The Priest looked for the perfect setup to accomplish his goals. Knowing a caravan from Tokuno was headed to the Royal Oaks, what better way to create distrust with Tokuno, possibly even removing their support from Newcastle, by staging the abduction that night. Fortunately a forward scout arrived while the abduction by drow was taking place and followed them. He would get word to the other forces from Tokuno, some of which went to assist and some going in search of the Royal Knights.
There at the drow stronghold, the Meneldur and a drow commander would arrive together by gate. Moving from shadow to shadow the Soke of the Blue Lotus clan moved to the roof, finding my wife Ailieve tied to an altar. There the High Priest was performing a magical ritual over her, seeking to remove the magical curse and what caused it to retrieve the element he needed. Ailieve was in a panicked state according to my reports, and he snuck behind the altar to let her know help was there. At that point the priest completed his ritual, and made to remove the then dazed Ailieve to his Temple in Felucca.
The Soke moved from his hiding place and reached for Ailieve, unfortunately, they were not alone and a hidden drow soldier moved to intercept him. The Priest performed another spell and released the chains binding Ailieve and retreated through the gate while the Soke was engaged.
The rest of the situation most know, the Blue Lotus clan standing to bar the doors to the Temple to prevent Meneldur from taking her in, followed by the arrival of my Knights. It was at this point the Priest had to think quickly.
Informing the Knights he had rescued her, he allowed them to take her home. A few fiery words in an attempt to make the forces from Tokuno as violent enemies threat almost keeping him from his valiant rescue, another accusation that they violently forced a citizen of Britannia from Tokuno, who was of course a member of the Temple and who by my information made it clear he would have the council informed and start a war would cover the rest of his tracks and put the focus on Tokuno, rather then the facts of the matter or any suspiscion upon him.
With this distrust created, noone would think to ask anyone from Tokuno who observed it all what really happened that night. Even if they did, he believed none would credit their story as truth, after all...he was a councilor.
I must go now, to lay awake while my wife sleeps. I am concerned for her safety still, as I fear the influence of the Gem of Immortality and a lingering spell to perhaps alter her memory. I fear even more what other lingering enchantments may remain from the Temple.
I pray you take my words to heart, and action is taken. I have sent a work order to the citizens of Newcastle, the forges are to be brought to life and preparations made. The drow of the Empire and their part in this attack upon my wife and intrusion into the lands of Britannia and Newcastle will not go unanswered. Newcastle prepares for war in the days ahead.
I'm confident if these words are read in their entirety and the truth is revealed, the council will recognize that the threat from the Temple did not die with Poet and that they truly are not only an Enemy of our State, but an Enemy to the people of the world.
[ToM] The Temple of Mondain resides in the Desert of Compassion in Felucca. There, they seek the veneration and rebirth of Sosaria's darkest wizard...
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- Posts: 31
- UO Shard: Great Lakes
- Character Age: 0
- Guild Affiliation: Temple of Mondain
-Veritus, Arch Priest of Mondain
"The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world; Through this I know the advantage of taking no action." ~Lao Tzu
"The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world; Through this I know the advantage of taking no action." ~Lao Tzu