998 Year of the Flameless Hellhound. 1st Age.
Sand and more sand. Endless mounds of sand stretched out before, behind and all around the two men for countless leagues. They had not seen a single creature, or insect for two days, and they passed by the last sign of flora yesterday afternoon. It was as if all traces of life had vanished; no tracks, burrows or structures could be seen, just endless amounts of sand.
The duo has been traveling through the Glosmeir Desert for little over a fortnite, and they had just recently crossed into the Searing Wastes early this morning, a region the natives had called the western coast of Glosmeir.
The intense, unbearable heat with the occasional breeze is what gave the coast it's infamous name. Highwaymen and raiders avoided the Searing Wastes for good reasons, but the border of the Wastes were choke full of gangs, cults, and many other nefarious scumbags. Bloodshed was unavoidable when traveling across the border for every adventurer, or pilgrimer and only the strongest prevailed in the end. The way of the Wastes were cruel and unforgiving, indeed.
The shorter of the due grabbed the canteen that was tied to his black, silken sash and took a quick draught. The water came as an instant relief, and soon he found himself gulping down the rest of the refreshing liquid, he could always refill it with a simple incantation since he was a talented wizard after all. The short bald man wiped the remaining water off of his long goatee and rubbed his leathery face, streaks of grit ran down his cheeks.
"I suppose we should set up camp," said the taller cloaked man. The dark green cloak was wrapped around his tall, slender figure and pulled even tighter was the hood as it fought off the blinding sun, concealing his face entirely. "I grow tiresome of this hunt. If the map we purchased from that miner in Struburg is even remotely correct, then we should have it within our grasp by sunfall tomorrow."
The short bearded man just nodded, waved his hand over the empty canteen and murmured an incantation. The sloshing of water came from within the canteen and the short man wasted no time in taking another drought of water as he gazed at the sand dunes off in the distance. It was past high noon with no clouds in sight and the sun seemed to be taunting the two men, daring them to continue their search in the extreme, dry heat.
The short man slung the packbag from his shoulder and said: "Set up the tent and get your spell books ready. Tomorrow we will have the Eye of Salmentos K'red and then we can finally begin the next step for the summoning."
The sun had finally began its descent behind the western sand dunes and the sky was a sight to behold. Purple, pink and orange hues swirled and melted together across the sky as the tall man watched the colors fade away to the darkness of night. Stars slowly started popping up across the sky followed by a slight chilly breeze, which caused the tall man's green cloak to flutter.
The short, bald man sat on a worn bedroll by a small fire scanning through a worn spell book vigorously. Pages, stones, quills and ink bottles lay scattered around him as he threw the spell book he just finished into the sand along with the other books that didn't contain the information he needed. Not a second later another old spell book appeared into his hairy hands and he dived into the ancient tome instantly.
The spell book that just appeared into his hands was slightly smaller but more cracked and definitely more older than the other books that lay in the pile next to his bedroll. The black leather cover had small faded silver lettering on it and underneath the letters was the image of a cracked skull with fangs, the symbol for Death Magic.
Death Magic was banned all across the Empire of Vraberle, forcing all those who studied 'the Forbidden Arts' into hiding. The unlucky few who were caught practicing, or using Death Magic we're laden with stones and thrown to sink to the bottom of whatever body of water was the closest. Necromancers and witches were the main practitioners of the banned magic, so the tall man was slightly confused when his companion started flipping through the smaller book. Not once had he mentioned Death Magic, or even hinted about it so the taller man was alittle baffled by the scene unfolding before him.
"Since when have you been interested in 'the Forbidden Art?' asked the tall man, by the pitch in his voice it almost sounded like an accusation to his companion.
"For a few years, Vaaleth," The short, bearded man's shoulders bobbed with laughter. "Tonight you will learn the spell on how to capture a soul after the victim dies. You only have a brief time to get it so you have to be fast."
"Catching souls, raising the dead and summoning demons, isn't that necromancy?" Vaaleth asked as he sat down next to the fire. Since Seplecta had made her ascent into the night sky, the temperature across the desert dropped rapidly.
"No, those are three different Arts," came an irritated response. "Am I wasting my time? Have you learned anything besides filling up your own flagon, or how to make a maiden's blouse disappear? You're an embarrassment."
Vaaleth avoided his companion's scrutinizing gaze and stared at the dancing flames in the fire pit, trying to distract himself from the eyes he knew that were piercing him. To argue would result with him having a black eye, or a busted lip, the short man was no stranger to hand-to-hand combat and he has proved it several times over their journey across Vraberle.
"You know that if I'm caught studying the Arcane Arts that all your plans goes to shit. Yeah I do get distracted by the occasional wench and bottle but I am trying, N'rob." said Vaaleth without looking at his companion. "I do want to learn, and I will not mess this up."
"Look at me like a man when you speak," growled N'rob as he lunged forward and stopped, their faces just a few inches apart. "You're the fucking son of Emperor Hantiss, have some respect! Either show me what you can do, or your father is never going to hear from his only son again."
Vaaleth didn't move at all, they were but a few centimeters apart now and N'rob's sour breath assaulted his nostrils, but he didn't budge. For the first time since they had begun their journey, Vaaleth looked his shorter counterpart straight in the eyes. Fear, uncertainty and anxiety washed away to reveal a clean slate for the young man. Eagerness shone in his crystal blue eyes.
"Lets go over this new spell," Vaaleth said with sheer determination.
A couple hours later before sunrise the duo had packed up their tent and equipment and headed off towards the western dunes.
Thunder rumbled from the east, lightning soon followed and forked across the early morning sky. Menacing dark clouds materialized out of the eastern sky then came rolling in towards the west. Strong gusts of wind blew across the desert, kicking up sand clouds and started howling.
"What madness is this!?" Vaaleth shouted over the screaming wind and the whipping of their robes. He had his hands thrust forward to block the sand from stinging his eyes. "There hasn't been a cloud for days! Where did this come from?"
Lightning flashed and struck a few feet in front of N'rob, sending the short man sprawling out in the sand. Thunder cracked and another bolt of lightning came for the sky and struck the ground again in the same exact spot as before. Black clouds were now directly over the two men, the entire region of the Searing Wastes was shrouded by the menacing, swirling clouds and looked like night has returned, even though the sun had barely just risen.
"We must have triggered some magical ward!" N'rob almost had to scream over the howling winds, as he got up from the sand. "Watch your step and be on guard, boy!"
Vaaleth hated when N'rob called him 'boy', he knew it was just to grate his nerves and it worked everytime but it was hard to ignore it. After seeing twenty-two winters and being caught with countless ladies, he had thought the term 'boy' would have been forgotten, but it stuck. "Illusion spell, maybe?" he shouted after biting his tongue.
Vaaleth looked up at the black mass of clouds, expecting some foul beast to come swooping down, raining death on the two men. "Vssihir!? Might be one of their traps, or magic!" Referring to the snakelike humanoids who were known to inhabit the Searing Wastes.
"No, we would have been ambushed already. I feel a magical aura pulsing where the lightning just struck," N'rob muttered to himself, then he instantly perked up. His leathery face cracked into a smile and he shouted: "This is the place! This is where we are suppose to be! Can't you feel it?"
"No. All I feel is the damned sand stinging my face. What do we do now?" said Vaaleth as he pulled his cloak tighter against his thin body.
"Once we have the artifact within our grasp, is when it all starts to begin. This isn't even the first step in what I have planned Vaaleth! Are you ready to take your first step towards being-" Waves of nausea rolled over N'rob, dropping the smaller man to his knees.
The small crater where the lightning had struck twice began to radiate waves of intense dark energy causing the vision for both men to blur. N'rob screamed like he was in agonizing pain, both hands gripped the sides of his bald pate.
Vaaleth bent over and vomited on his sandals, the contents of his stomach squished between his toes and underneath his feet. The retching became uncontrollable and soon turned into dry heaves dropping the tall man to his knees.
Dust devils kicked up around the two men, swirling with vicious gales of stinging sand. Lightning became for frequent but it didn't strike the ground like the first two bolts, it spidered across the black sky in a display of mighty magical power. Before the duo had time to stand up and grasp their bearings the ground collapsed in a cloud of dust beneath their feet, dropping them into complete darkness. Seconds later rain began to pour down across the harsh, arid desert.
N'rob stirred, shaking the loose pebbles and sand from his leathery face. He brushed the grit from his graying goatee before he even made the attempt to try and get up. His eyes hadn't quite adjusted to the darkness that surrounded him and he could almost feel small tendrils creeping up and around his arms and legs.
The short man cautiously rose to his feet and shook his limbs free of whatever had been crawling on him, if it was anything at all. Sand slid from him as he stood up, only adding the irritation of sand getting stuck in his clothes and heavy breastplate he wore underneath his robe. The air was cold, stale and dusty, by his estimate they had to have fallen at least twenty, or thirty feet.
"Vaaleth!" N'rob called out into the impenetrable darkness. "Gimme a sign, or something, boy!"
The short man froze when he heard the sound of a rock scraping against another rock, his hand shot down to snag a wand that he had tied to his sash, but it grasped only air. Panicked, N'rob knived up left hand above his head and shouted: "Leegrot aheis!"
Light burst forth from his palm and a globe the size of a fist sprang out and illuminated the chamber. The ball of white light hovered about six feet above N'rob and it made a slight buzzing sound.
"Show yourself! I am in no mood for pleasantries!" the short man growled into the darkness.
He stood in a twenty foot wide circular chamber with only one arched door which was bolted with several locking mechanisms and it had the distinctive shimmer of some magical ward directly to his right. Sand was almost up to his calfs, which made movement very slow and tedious for the short man.
After a quick inspection of his surroundings N'rob exhaled deeply and with the flick of a finger the ball of light rose up towards the ceiling to hopefully reveal a way out of this pit. The globe of spell light started to whirl around which caused the short man to glance up and he stood there as if he had been petrified.
Hopes of leviatating out of the pit disappeared as he stared up at a mass of thick, dark clouds which roiled where the entrance to the pit should have been. Magic most certainly was at play here in this deep, dark pit and with that thought the creeping sensation of helplessness started to settle in the short man's gut. He was trapped, caught like a juicy fly stuck in the web of some hungry arachnid.
The air suddenly became dense and humid. N'rob felt his ears pop from the change of pressure in the chamber, and a full ache built up behind his eyes. After years of studying magic, he recognized the effects of the spell at work, so he snapped his fingers and there was no sound which confirmed his suspicions about the Incantation of Silence.
The ground to his left sprayed a geyser of sand noiselessly, nearly knocking the short man back down. A long clawed hand attached to a spindly wrist came forth from the geyser, followed by the other hand. Before whatever came out of the sand-geyser, N'rob worked his fingers in intricate motions and sent a mist of ice over the creature that was crawling out of the sand-geyser.
Where did that wand go? Was the thought that kept going through his head, it was distracting him from focusing on his spellcasting. All he needed just a brief respite but that wasn't going to be an option at this point in time. The sand-geyser exploded, sending rocks, sand and shards of ice in all directions, and out came the creature.
N'rob had no time to react before the long limbed, spindly creature rushed towards him and started swinging it's sharp claws with surprising agility. Shreds of robes flew about as the creature slashed at him with wild abandon. All the short man could do was cover his bald pate with his arms and let his enchanted breastplate absorb the thrashing.
With a shriek the creature hopped back, measuring up N'rob with it's beady black eyes. A long tongue hung from an open jaw, long black hair covered the face and it's long skinny arms were raised above it's head, as if in some kind of hypnotic dance. It swayed as it circled N'rob, the claws on the feet were even longer than the ones on the hand.
A mace materialized in his left hand as he stared down the ferocious, swaying monster that continued to circle him, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. One more attack like the one before would be his last fight if he slipped up, so he kept his eyes on the creature and didn't blink.
"C'mon you ugly bitch!" taunted N'rob while his mace started to curl up smoke, though he knew no sound came forth from his mouth. He brandished the weapon out in front of him, and the spiked head of the mace caught aflame. "Bonedust hasn't had the opportunity to bash in a siren's head before!"
The siren extended her birdlike neck as she readied her song, but Bonedust caught the right side of her face. Teeth, tongue and chucks of flesh splattered against the sandstone walls. The siren fell back and made a pathetic gurgling sound as her clawed hands clutched her shattered face.
That was all the time N'rob needed, he bull rushed the siren, wrapping his arms around her thin waist and threw the beast at the magically warded locked door with all his strength, plus that of the enchantment Bonedust had imbued upon him.
The siren hit the warded door and the entire chamber went white and shook like the gods were shaking the entire world with their hands. N'rob flew and bounced off the rough, circular walls and landed face first in the sand without a sound.
Where the only door use to be, there was a seven foot tall smoking hole that had replaced it and it looked like another chamber was behind the gaping hole. Nothing was left of the siren, or door, only billowing smoke, sand and crumbled sandstone littered the floor.
Battered and bruised N'rob pushed himself up and rose to his feet. Smoke and dust filled the chamber, burning his eyes and nostrils. Sputtering and unable to draw breath, the short man ran and jumped through the smoking hole into the next chamber full of pure darkness.
Before his feet touched the ground in the next room, N'rob felt his ears pop again and the sound of laughter. Not joyous laughter more like an evil cackle, and it came from above. To make matters more unnerving, he couldn't see a thing.
"Leegrot ah-"N'rob choked and felt a sharp, intense pain in his chest. Stranger still was the fact his feet hadn't touched the ground yet. He reached up towards his chest and to his horror there was a crude, metal spike protruding through his breastplate, wet with what he assumed was his own blood.
The sound of wind rushing filled his ears and he flew backwards from the dark chamber and back to the previous room which was now completely full of smoke.
"I expected more from you, N'rob Drethoma!" cackled a disembodied voice from above. "Now you are a decoration, and a messy one! Maybe your apprentice will appreciate the new decor-"
N'rob didn't hear the rest of what was said as he focused all his remaining energy on fighting against the black fog that was trying to completely shroud his vision. Bonedust slipped from his feeble grasp to the blood soaked sand, and from above came the insane laughter of the disembodied voice.
Merci pour la lecture!
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