Disclaimer: This is a work in progress and is not reflective of the final product!
“We know the abyss exists. Rituals our magi performed revealed as much. What little knowledge we have is both unverifiable and not entirely trustworthy. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of references, across multiple cultures, cannot be ignored and they fill me with dread. These writings detail a never ending darkness or an abyss if you will. It is a prison and a place where evil lies shackled and dormant. Can this gateway be opened? Fortunately, no way has been found yet and I believe doom sleeps within its hollow walls, scratching for a way out.”
Aran the Grey,
Current acting leader of the Pentacle
Chapter 1: The Number of the Beast
There was a place where mistakes were pushed away and forgotten. Dark and hidden away, off limits to everyone and everything in the multiverse, escape was impossible for prisoners and entrance was almost improbable. Light shined from an unknown source high above and lit up the dim perpetual darkness with an eerie light that hid horrors just out of sight within the perpetual fog. Occasionally, quick skitters that clacked against the hardened ground and quick flitting movements were just visible to appear as flashing shadows against the grey backdrop.
A figure was standing in full view and contrasted starkly with the rest of the scenery. Unlike the obscured dark outlines that hinted at a grim populace within this dark realm, the figure was a creature of the light. It floated unerringly down its invisible path.
The being's body was made entirely out of glowing yellow energy and wore the armor of a warrior. Its head and arms were made of crackling orbs of energy, while its body was covered by a metal chest piece that turned into a flowing warrior's kilt at its waist that dusted the ground. Its head and arms were like miniature suns that were suspended mid air and were connected by golden strands of energy. The breastplate was stamped with an insignia of a double-headed golden war hammer.
The entire realm gave it a wide birth, creatures in the fog did not impede it and the mist that pervaded the realm avoided the Spartan's presence.
Finally, after floating for many minutes, the Spartan stopped and spoke in a deep voice that echoed like it originated in a cave, “I have come for the vaedziur Kestrel.” it said purposefully.
There was a flurry of movement. Multiple claws scratched at the outlining aura around the Spartan, but stopped immediately thereafter.
A path in the mist appeared before the Spartan, leading it towards a red figure, suspended in the distance.
The Spartan floated down the given path and it arrived at its destination.
There was a creature suspended off the ground by chains of divine energy continued into the gray sky and disappeared from view. A familiar mark branded the chains; it was the same war hammer on the visitor's chest piece.
The creature hanging by the chains was almost humanoid. Its frame was squat, sinewy, and laced with long powerful muscles. The imps Red skin was scaled and dotted with patched of feathers intermittently. The creature's legs were long, likened to a frog, powerful muscled machines built for springing, and landing, they were stretched almost straight by its chains and caused the creature perpetual discomfort. Its face was large and expressive, with smooth scales that curved upwards along a horn rimmed face. Two large expressive round eyes that were as big as a man's fist, stared at its visitor intently. The creature's mouth was large and stretched from cheekbone to cheekbone with exposed long angular sadistic rotting teeth that over its lower lip. Large curling horns floated just off its head and remained in orbit perpetually, like a garish spiked crown of bone. The single wing that poked out from its back drooped from disuse, the muscles that once powered this majestic appendage were atrophied and holes dotted the membrane of the wing, making the once regal appearance sad and decrepit. On the other side of the creatures back, exactly opposite of the atrophied wing was a curious sight to behold, a bleeding stump where an appendage was missing. Jagged, claw marks raked across the stump, like rivulets, marking it as a sight of a repeated wound that was still bleeding. It was lost glory with a crown of thorns.
“Oh me oh my! A servant to visit little old me! Why are you here puppet of the golden god?” the imp spoke in a gravely malicious voice with a slight hint of insanity.
“The divine hammer decreed we seek your counsel." the Spartan responded in the same its hollow sounding voice
“You seek my counsel? After what your ilk did to us, to me? Our imprisonment has gone on too long for forgiveness!” Kestrel snarled from his chains.
The Spartan did not speak for a moment as it weighed what it was about to say, “Do you desire freedom?” it asked finally.
Kestrel struggling against the chains that bound him with a titanic effort that shook the realm itself, he roared in anger and his mouth opened, unhinged and caused his mouth to open almost vertical to reveal rows on rows of jagged teeth, “You would let the living blood tide free? Do you comprehend the torment I will bring with my brothers and sisters? Your world will be wiped clean, all traces that make it unique will be erased, and we will return it to the original fabric from which it was made! This I promise.” he howled and then collapsed back into the embrace of his chains.
“Dol'Ron has granted me his omniscient grace to free you and in return you will be given the opportunity to set your people free of their shackles.” the Spartan offered.
Kestrel smiled evilly, “Is this real? Are you offering us the chance to remove our bindings? Is this a cosmic joke?” it examined the Spartan for a brief moment and its humorless demeanor diminish. “Hmmm, what if you are telling the truth?” the vaedziur said slyly and its wide alien eyes narrowed sinisterly.
The Spartan bowed its head again, “Your vessel will be our Speaker, Diametries Malus Aequitas. He has been informed of the sacrifice he shall make and has begun preparations for the first step of the ritual to remove the gate guardian from service to free your people.” the Spartan uttered gravely.
“My, you are thorough; one would almost think that this was planned.” Kestrel cackled approval.
The Spartan raised an arm of energy and pointed in Kestrel's direction. The war hammers that were stamped on the chains that held Kestrel glowed brightly and then with a crash, they shattered, sprinkling the ashen ground with glowing particles that disappeared moments later.
Kestrel landed with catlike grace. Many millennia of imprisonment had not dulled his reactions. The vaedziur prowled towards Dol'ron's Servant and the ground burned with smoldering black fire where it stepped.
“Will I have the guidance of Dol'Ron, so that I do not die when I pass between realms?” Kestrel asked.
“You have his blessing.” the Spartan responded.
The imp carefully traced the Spartans armor with one of its wicked claws and dug one of his nails cleanly through the servant of Dol'Ron's chest plate with ease, “I can kill you now.” Kestrel said with playful sadistic pleasure.
The Spartan was stoic and unmoving.
“Send me to the city of the damned and I will perform the ritual to unbind my people.” Kestrel commanded and removed his claw.
One orb of energy from the Spartan's arm floated out and expanded into a flat plane, till it was a perfect flat circle, then it began to swirl in on itself and revealed on the other side that it was a portal suspended high in the sky of a different realm. It looked down on a healthy rolling forest that came up to a large white mountain, and a city in the distance.
Kestrel smiled with barely contained enthusiasm in his large oval eyes. He sprang towards the open portal, but stopped halfway through. Both clawed hands rested on the rims of the gateway and burned at the portal where they touched it, “The benefits that my people reap are evident, but what does your god hope to gain with the destruction of the mortal realm?” Kestrel asked with surprising insight.
The Spartan held its tongue.
“Of course, Dol'Ron cannot act directly outside its mandate. Your god can however close its eyes to injustice. And, so it seems justice is blind.” Kestrel said astutely and then he jumped through the portal. On the other side the vaedziur transformed into a large black shade, and the only evidence of Kestrel's passing was the shadow that swept over the clouds below him.
The Spartan broke contact with the portal, “Lead me to the triumvirate of the vaedziur people. We have much to discuss.” the Spartan said to the mist around him. It parted to reveal a new path and the Spartan left as the mist closed behind him.
The portal was still closing, even when the Spartan was long gone. The denizens of this plane of existence knew full well that to pass beyond it would mean certain death if they were not guarded by the will of a deity.
A new figure materialized next to the portal. It was a monk in long flowing robes that glittered like the stars of the night sky. Its hood was pulled down in such a way that nothing could be seen inside except for piercing forest green eyes.
The monk raised a robed arm and a pure white mist flowed out to form the vague outline of a body that hovered just in front of the odd monk.
The mist went down on one knee in respect and exited through the portal just like Kestrel had done.
Sunlight streamed through the trees and caused the dew to sparkle in the morning rays. Birds started chirping as the light graced their feathers and a shining rainbow lit up the forest vibrantly. A tribute to the rising twin suns of Therra; the bigger yellow one named Sol and the smaller red one Sul.
A falcon was sitting in its nest preening its white and speckled brown feathers as it prepared for the morning hunt. It looked to the sky and watched as the twin suns crested the horizon and flapped its wings experimentally. The bird of prey keened into the crisp morning air and took off towards the clouds. It flew higher and higher, till it could see the entire land.
Below was a rolling forest that stretched out into the distance. It was populated with all sorts of animals and magic beasts known as kirin. Close by was a tall majestic white stone mountain. It was situated next to a large city. This was the falcon’s main hunting grounds.
The city was enclosed on all sides by an unnaturally perfect circular wall that was made from smooth white stone. The structure was populated by three circular grooves in the ground of the city; these were connected by three smaller circles that connected to each other at the center of the city, where a large tower rose up like a monolith to a lost civilization.
Unlike the roads, walls, and the tower, the other buildings were a motley assortment of houses. They were made out of an assortment of materials and the buildings dotted the city streets compactly.
Near the western section of the city was a large open wound in the ground, it was as if a titanic force had ripped the ground open from beneath, and revealed a dark chasm below.
The falcon’s sharp eyes spotted its meal for the day and focused its attention on a small mouse that was gobbling up cheese greedily next to a potted plant on a window sill.
“As a magician gets older magic builds up in their bones and ultimately transfers to their lineage in surprising ways. The offspring of magi are gifted with subtle magic abilities. These manifest in a variety of ways, however the most common is the ability to sense emotions over great distances from powerful magic forces and to see the links between kirin and their masters. Some rare cases exhibit more than one of these abilities. This is rare though, for a child must have parentage of potent magic might. Do not envy these children. They will forever be magnets for forces beyond their ken.”
Professor at the pentacle
Chapter 2: Brand New Day
The rays of the sun burned at Kestrel’s shade form painfully. He searched the ground desperately for a temporary host. As he flew over the rolling forest countryside towards the city. His dark presence passed over the tops of the trees and flashed up and down with the height of the foliage.
Kestrel saw something that intrigued him as he flew that earned a closer look.
A huge obsidian furred creature lumbered through the woodlands on all fours. It had the shape of a man, but was nearly twice as tall and three times as bulky.
Kestrel swooped down and enveloped the giant in his shadowed form and embraced it silently as their wills melded together.
The realm of dreams was still.
The dreamer tossed in his sleep as the veil was lifted and the portents were revealed in full.
Something was coming. A righteous presence opened a wall and gave birth to an evil that raked across the unconscious mind like a rusty blade. It was a thing of crimson grasping claws and malicious intent that was headed straight for Deiyil. It was getting closer and closer.
Another personality emerged from the mists shrouded in white with piercing green eyes. This was one of mystery and veiled intent as it followed close behind its dangerous brethren.
The red clawed shade swooped away and disappeared from view.
Penndarius was thrust from sleep by a high pitched keen followed by a loud crash on his windowsill. He blinked his eyes as they adjusted to the morning light and looked over at the bird just outside, “Good morning to you too.” he grumbled.
The falcon looked over and blinked at Penndarius.
“Well? That is breakfast right?” he asked.
The bird glanced down at its meal and took off into the sky, leaving Penndarius thoroughly startled, with the beginnings of a headache.
It took Penndarius a few moments to get it together. He wiped tears of sleep from his eyes, yawned, then looked around and sniffed the sleep away. Penndarius swung his legs out of the bed, threw the covers on the ground, stretched, and stood up. The rich redwood paneled floors let out a homely creek.
The twin suns, Sol and Sul shone through the window, Penndarius scowled up at the light, “Ugh, my head.” he groaned and ran his hands through his hair.
The room was modest. There was a dresser on one side, a bed under the window that was across from the door and a desk on the remaining wall.
The dresser was made from a matching redwood paneling and it was mounted with a mirror that was large enough for Penndarius to see the top half of his body in. A razor rested on a bowl filled with water for shaving.
The razor and the mirror were not uncommon. With the evolution and understanding of magic, these kinds of implements and the materials used to make them were becoming common place, instead of rare collectibles.
Penndarius turned his head from side to side and examined the stubble that had grown over night. His jaw was relatively square with an intelligent angle to it that was coupled with a slightly facetious lilt to his smile. His skin was pale from working inside and there were laugh lines engraved into his face with a sparkle of intelligence that was well hidden. He was a bit taller than most and was average built. But, the highlight of his face was the serious and inquisitive eyes that seemed to hold insight of one well past his years.
Penndarius dipped his razor into the water basin on the desk and scooped some lather into his hand. He applied it liberally to his face and proceeded to shave. He also multitasked simultaneously by brushing his hair. A few quick swipes with both and he was almost ready.
The door flew open with a loud slam. The sudden interruption startled Penndarius and he almost cut his cheek.
“Rise and shine Penn me boy!” an older man yelled from the doorway. He was short with stout broad shoulders. His skin was browned with a deep tan from working outdoors. Deep bawdy Laugh lines formed on his face in deep creases like small craggy hills and always looked like he was two beers short of a broader smile. Around his waist was a bartender's apron over a plain white shirt and long brown britches.
“Douglas I almost slit my own throat!” Penndarius yelled in protest.
“Aye, that might have helped your mood if it carved a smile into yer mug.” Douglas said with a hearty laugh. He leaned in and examined Penndarius's face, “Ye all right lad? Ye look like ye been touched by the other side.”
“I had an avian visitor that decided to hunt for mice in my potted plants this morning.” Penndarius smiled with a tired laugh.
“Aye, they be partnerin’ with Roses now a days. They can be mighty feisty creatures me boy, never underestimate them, sneaky bastards, always lying in soil. Mark my words boy, thems be the harbingers of doom.” Douglas responded teasingly.
“The world is ending and me without any clothes yet. Is there anything else?” Penndarius asked with a facetious grin.
“Came to talk to my friend Penndarius Grey…” Douglas stopped as if he was trying to remember something.
“Greyson, we agreed not to use my full name. It reminds me of my father.” Penndarius said sternly.
“Yer pa made sure ye were well taken care of, that meant somethin' don' it?” Douglas asked honestly.
“He and I have a relationship that works with distance.” Penndarius sighed.
“Aye, I get the hint. Before I go, what ye got planned fer the day?” Douglas asked.
“You know the scar right?” Penndarius responded as he started getting clothes out of the dresser.
“Freaky place that. Always gives me the chills, like somethin’ be breathin’ under there.” Douglas said with a shiver.
“Well, there is a team investigating it and I have been trying to get in for months. They finally got back to me the other day and want a tracing of one tablet deciphered. I did it and sent it in. Apparently, my first translation was good enough that they sent me another. The training I have with ancient languages comes in handy, since none of his current team has any idea of what this thing says.” Penndarius said with self admiration as he looked at the fruits of his labors.
“That what you been working on lad?” Douglas asked. “I been wondering where you had gone.”
The scholar’s desk was a disorganized mess, spread over three tiers and into four drawers that were so full that they could not close with scattered parchments, notes, and other oddities from past and present projects.
“What is it boyo? Looks like a bunch o'gibberish to me lad, cannot make no sense o'it.” Douglas said as he looked over the scholar’s work, mainly the current ones from the tracing.
Penndarius pointed to different markings, “It appears that tablets like the one this was taken from were made to store the knowledge of an entire lost civilization. But, they left enough reference material behind for people like me to decipher some of the contents,” Penndarius circled parts of the tracing with his finger as he explained, “this references Deiyil,” he pointed at another part of the tablet, “these markings here are landmarks in what I think were also Deiyil thousands of years ago. For example, here is place we dubbed the Living Tower that they call the stone tree. Long ago it held a great amount of ritualistic significance.”
“That be some pretty 'eavy stuff lad.” Douglas remarked as he scrutinized the scholar’s work. “How do ye feel about it?”
“It was a bunch o'gibberish.” Penndarius said sarcastically.
Douglas laughed and his beard shook with mirth, “Ha ha ha ha, well played lad. I can tell today's gonna' be a good day fer ye. Have some fun with it! Speaking of fun,” he leaned over secretively, “ye gonna find yersef' a lady friend?” he leered at Penndarius in a comical lecherous way. “Yeah? Yeah? Have a little fun?”
“Get out.” Penndarius chuckled under his breath. “I have to go meet Ed and Gale.”
“Gale?” Douglas asked with a prodding grin.
“Get out.” Penndarius pushed him towards the door.
“Ye get yerself down fer breakfast. I aint gonna have ye goin out on an empty stomach.” Douglas said as he stomped out.
Penndarius laughed to himself as he closed the door. Then, he went about his business and began the last of his preparations. He grabbed his satchel off a nearby stool and carefully wrapped his notes and the tracing in linen before he stuffed them away into his bag.
As he left the room Penndarius looked down the hall and saw three dark hooded figures clad in black cloaks. They had hoods up that hid their features and each wore a silver moon and star pendants on their lapels that contrasted sinisterly with their outfits. The scholar’s keen eye caught the bulges under their cloaks and knew they were carrying weapons. He shrugged and headed towards the stairs.
One of the shady men signaled the others and they headed after the scholar, careful to not be conspicuous.
Penndarius was almost to the stairs when he heard crashing coming from within the adjacent room. Inside, there was a man struggling against an unknown horror on the floor and he was crying out in pain. The young scholar opened the door and entered.
The curtains were drawn over the windows and some light filtered in through the gloom. Dust hung in the air and the scattered particles sparked off the streaming light.
The room was setup like Penn's as well, with a dresser on one side, a bed across from the door, and a desk on the other wall.
The man kept convulsing on the ground and he rolled back and forth in agony as he fought creatures and monsters in the shadowed realm of dreams.
The stranger’s fight against his nightmare reminded Penndarius of his experience not long before. The scholar sprung forward, “Hey! Come on, wake up.” he yelled and straddled the man.
It was not easy for Penndarius to hold him down. He was far stronger than a normal man, despite his sinewy stature. The scholar could only ride it out as he tried to keep the horrors of fantasy from becoming permanent damage to the room or worse the dreamer.
“The Mortalitas assassins exist in the darkest confines of the highest societies. Our numbers are few and our clients are many. We use assassins of both genders, male and female. If you can kill efficiently, skillfully, and silently, then you have what it takes to be one of us. The structure of our organization is rigid and strict. In command of our band of brothers is the Luna Mortalitas family, my family and our bloodline is very special. It gifts us with increased speed; strength, toughness, and we even regenerate wounds at a slightly increased rate. A warning of caution, if you meet one of my ilk in combat, run away if you see our eyes cry blood, for the beast has awakened from within and it cannot be controlled.”
Dayvion Luna Mortalitas,
Current leader of the Mortalitas assassins.
Chapter 3: Nightmare
There were eerie flickering shadows that played games across the walls with morning like demented puppets from the rising dawn. The curtains of the hallway moved and shifted with a slight breeze from the morning air. Slowly, the hallway was getting brighter as the suns outside, Sol and Sul rose higher in the sky.
There were many doors that scattered the hallway, without artistic motivations and efficiently designed to fit into straight sided hallway, made from solid and sturdy oak planks.
One door stood out. It was bigger than the rest and it was made from rich redwood. On the center was a golden plated metal hammer that was stamped into the wood. Another thing that made this door special was that unlike the others, two guards watched this door. They were dressed in white washed breast plate and a white stitched, gold edged tabard underneath. To complete their uniform, each had brown leather chaps. At the center of each of their breastplates was a single copper gavel, denoting their rank. And, they were board.
The dull white stone walls seemed to close in on them and threatened to nod them off to sleep.
Their boredom distracted them from details that were important to their very survival.
The light from the windows did not make it up to the rafters in the ceiling. There were long and thick wooden planks that lined the ceiling, supporting it. Dust twinkled at the top and drifted lazily.
They were so distracted that they miss the most important detail of all; an unwanted guest.
The first guard was thinner and had scraggly teeth, “Ow much we got lef' bucko?” he said in a high pitched annoying voice.
The other one was portly and squatter than his pal, “When are the boys come to 'elp. We goin 'ta have ter' do this all morning?” he asked.
“Aye, well at least until that busy body special doohickey inside o' here decides it be time ta head on out again.” the thinner man responded as he picked his teeth with a shard of wood.
“Them boys o'er near the gates be sayin' he be some special Speaker or something like that. Saying he be one of them higher ups in the order of Dol'Ron or some such duff'.” the portlier guard said in conversation.
“Oy! I heard o' them. There be eleven voices in total, one fer each god. I done read it in a book.” the thinner man said knowledgeably.
“When you ever read a book?” the portly guard ribbed his fellow.
“I got class, unlike ya self.” the thinner guard tried to make him look important by standing up straighter.
“What yer' book be sayin' then? Out with it.” his buddy said encouragingly.
“Said there be eleven of them fer each o' them gods, includin' ol' Dol 'imself, some kind o' special wagging mouth fer' them gods. Me reading be a bit lackin' so I did not understand it all.” he said, reciting what little he knew.
“Whenever the boys decide to come, you think we are goin' ta hafter do this ever' day?” the other more portly guard said and shrugged.
“Yer joshin. Who would believe yer crock of hoosits.” the portly one pushed his buddy just a bit and knocked him over to the side.
“Oy! Don' be looking to me fer yer answers, them be the breaks. Sides, don' matter none what them thinks o' what I think. Higher ups like Chancellor Mariweather and her bodyguard Lark believes 'em. That be why 'e gets 'is own room.” the skinny guard replied. The skinny guard looked over towards his friend that had been standing beside him. He was not there any more, “You playin' a game boyo?” he looked left and then right as he looked for his friend. At first he was smiling and then he realized that something was wrong. His search started to become more feverish and his eyes opened wide in alarm. His friend had not disappeared into thin air.
The guard scanned both sides of the hallway; the air was still and silent.
A creak sounded from above the guard, he looked upwards, and squinted his eyes to try to pinpoint where the sound had come from, “Izat you boyo?” he asked into the darkness.
There was a flitting movement that darted passed the corner of his eye, just above him, “Who's there!” he said frightfully.
He strained his eyes to look to the rafters. There was something there that he could not make out, “Whose is that?” he asked aloud.
Behind the ornate door was an office with four walls lined with redwood paneling and four massive beams that supported the corners of the room. It was as if the room had been prepared quickly. Rich furniture had been brought in. The drapes were ornate with golden threading throughout its fine silk. At the center, towards the back wall was a large desk. Multiple vellums and books that were kept in place by large obsidian and gold lined book ends. Ink quills had been setup and a writing mat was at its center.
A man who was wearing grey robes that were lined with golden silk, not unlike the drapes, that had runes and carvings of the god of Dol'Ron that dotted his clothing, and was standing with his hands clasped behind his back. His hair was long and kept together by two red ribbons in a neat pony tail. His face was smooth and calculating, his eyes watched the rising sun intently.
He turned around casually, walked around his desk, and looked up towards the rafters above him, "It is rude to enter another man's room without introducing yourself." he said calmly. His voice was rich and powerful, giving off the aura that this man was used to giving orders.
A dark obscured creature that was almost twice as tall as the man with the pony tail dropped down from the rafters. It landed on all fours. Its body was bulky and powerful, lined with rippling muscles. Despite its size, the creature landed with very little sound, absorbing the fall with a silent whisper.
It bared its fangs and in the still sparse light of dawn, its features remained obscured.
The pony tailed man stared back at him impassively and brought his hand to his mouth, he coughed slightly, "Excuse me. How rude of me, before we debate the natures of violence, I would like to introduce myself as is customary before a battle. My name is Diametries Malus Aequitas the first Speaker of Dol'Ron." he said almost too politely, "and yours fair creature?"
The creature did not respond with words, instead it slashed out with its powerful and mightier claws.
"How uncivilized, creature you will be fortunate to know your killer before you die." Diametries said and sidestepped with a simple grace, his foot traced the ground subtly and he avoided the attack entirely as he put his back to the desk.
The creature responded with a brutal downward fist smash.
The attack would have killed Diametries if he had not gracefully moved out of the way. Instead, the attack piled into the desk and collapsed it down the center into a broken V.
"You attack me without provocation, how uncivilized, though you give me license to act accordingly." Diametries said in a perturbed voice.
The creature turned on him and was ready to continue its assault.
Diametries clasped both hands in prayer, with his eyes still locked squarely on the attacking shadow creature, "By Dol'Ron's might, I call on the threads of justice, bind my foe to reap his justified reward." Diametries said piously.
Long thin golden threads that were made out of energy appeared out of thin air and shot towards the creature; they wrapped around its limbs and bound it. Where the threads touched, they paralyzed the creature fully.
It struggled for a few moments and when it realized that its struggles were futile it turned its gaze back to the Speaker. It bared its fangs in a satisfied grin, "Very well done. You will be a perfect vessel." it uttered in a gravelly growl.
Diametries turned his head to the side in bemused confusion, "Creature, who are you?" he started to ask, but the large creature, collapsed to the ground.
An even darker and more malevolent mist form flowed from the hulk's unconscious body. A single red wing extended from the shades human like body. The new perversion that had entered the room burrowed into Diametries's eye with a deep red gaze.
Diametries stared back unafraid, "I was warned of your coming. Do it." the Speaker said
The creature dived towards the Speaker and the golden threads disappeared completely from sight. Diametries slumped to the ground and did not move for a few moments.
After a few breaths, Diametries stood back up. A black outline extended out from his body, a single red wing. It dissipated slowly until it was gone altogether.
"You have a penchant for theatrics I see." Diametries said in congratulations. “My otherworldly contacts say that your people make contracts and they cannot be broken, no matter the cost to you. How did you break with that creature?" he asked inquisitively as he looked down at the still broken form of the hulk that was lying on his floor.
A hiss sounded from the dark silhouette, "Normally, here it was…intended to be temporary." it hissed sadistically so that only Diametries could hear in his mind.
Diametries wagged his head pensively, "I see, and the side affects?" he asked.
"Severing the spirit bond shatters the mind." the words echoed inside his head.
"I see, and our arrangement?" the Speaker asked.
"Your soul, body, and being are mine for the taking at the end of the day, until then you may use my power and knowledge as you see fit to act outside the will of your golden god." it responded excitedly. “Oh how I wish to be real!" Kestrel laughed maniacally. “Do you agree to the binding of our beings." it asked.
"I do." Diametries said to accept the agreement.
"Perfect, you are a vessel beyond compare my lord. Today, I am yours. Do with my power as you will." Kestrel said in a mock servile way. "Let us have some fun!" it said with raucous exuberance.
"Hold your tongue creature; I do not want you to distract me today." Diametries warned.
"Yes sire." it said mockingly. "My how the pious have fallen, to ally with one of my kind. The irony is almost poetic."
"My devotion to my god is unshakable; I would sacrifice my very being for his will. If I must lie in a bed of snakes and demons to do it, so be it." Diametries vowed vehemently. "Sadly, even the all father Dol'Ron only gives me the power to act within the bounds of his domain. To fulfill my goals today, I will need…assistance."
"You have the power that I grant for one day my lord. At the end, your essence, soul, body, and mind become mine and you will cease to exist." it said in a final warning.
Diametries turned abruptly, "When I communed with a representative of Dol'Ron he told me that you would know the rest of the steps of the ritual. Is this true creature?" he asked. "The first step was translated already and there are hints that there are two after that, they must be performed in order.” he said to Kestrel.
"That knowledge to free my people was engraved into my mind." Kestrel responded without a hint of humor in his voice.
When Kestrel spoke of freedom, Diametries snorted in soft derision, "Your people got what they deserved." Diametries said. "At least you are useful for something." Diametries turned his ear slightly at something near the curtains. "How long have you been here Dayvion?" Diametries asked and his golden etched robes swished along the ground.
A man who was clad in black flowing cloth that hung loosely along his sinewy frame stepped out from behind the curtain. He was a bit shorter than Diametries, but his silent way of walking gave the impression that he was naturally stealthy. His hair was a pale grey, almost white and shoulder length. It looked as if it had been haggard for some time and it had only recently been brushed and cleaned, causing it to frame his gaunt face jaggedly. His eyes flicked quickly from left to right as he took in his surroundings. There was certain cunning to the way he smiled. His chest was adorned with a simple silver moon that gleamed in contrast to his black clothed body, "Hmm, your senses are sensitive my lord, I am surprised that you heard me.” he said, obviously impressed just a little.
"How much of that did you see and hear?" Diametries asked with a sharp dangerous look that underlined the seriousness of the question.
Dayvion casually threw up his hands and shrugged his shoulders, "Enough, the spirits that you consort with are not any of my business.” he said uncaring.
"That is very professional assassin." Diametries spoke with a businesslike tone.
"This is just business." Dayvion said and matched the Speaker's tone with ease.
"Your people understand the risks?" Diametries asked as he carefully watched the assassin for his response.
"Always." Dayvion assented, "We have been informed of our roles today."
"You are certain your brother is here?" the Speaker asked.
Dayvion cocked his head to the side confidently and his long haggard hair passed before his eyes, "Without a doubt, we baited him to the city with whispers of my presence and we have already begun the process of luring him into the open.” he said confidently. "If I know him, he will not be able to resist getting involved." Dayvion stopped and thought for a brief moment and carefully chose was he was going to say next. "My lord, I have a word of caution about my brother Soren. He has a more colorful past than most of my family and this causes him to be more susceptible to the beast that rages throughout our bloodline. If you push him, be careful how far you go." Dayvion warned ominously.
The Speaker thought about what Dayvion said before responding, "I trust you know your brother assassin. Make sure it does not get to that point.” he commanded.
Dayvion bowed in recognition.
Diametries grimaced slightly, "On another note, there are still loose ends dangling in our path. The researchers at the scar may figure out the details of the ritual if we leave them alive. How are they being cleansed?” he asked.
"My men have also begun preparations. I sent a group there to cover up anything that may lead them to you." Dayvion said with deathly seriousness.
"If you can, make sure that they do not suffer." Diametries commanded solemnly.
"Where would the fun be in that?" Dayvion asked with a doubtful smile.
Diametries looked down on the assassin threateningly, "It would be a pity if you were on my list of unfortunate accidents.” the Speaker said intensely with no room for argument.
Dayvion shrugged his shoulders and moved on, "Fine, there is one other matter; a scholar by the name of Penndarius Greyson was sent a tracing of one tablet and purportedly has translated it in full, something that no other has been able to do. He is presumably meeting with either Isaiah Helkrif or one of his assistants." Dayvion said informatively.
Diametries tapped his chin thoughtfully, "Greyson, that name sounds so familiar." Diametries asked himself, shook his head and moved on. "What action is being taken?" he inquired.
"I have men shadowing him now. When they see their chance, they will strike." Dayvion replied.
"Good." Diametries said. “I look forward to more dealings with you Dayvion."
Dayvion smiled maliciously and his eyes twinkled, "The Mortalitas assassins are yours to command my lord.” he replied with an elegant bow of his gray haired head.
"Kill Penndarius.” he ordered Dayvion.
The assassin leader bowed low, "Your wish is my command.” he replied.
Dayvion disappeared into the shades of the rising morn and Diametries turned from the window and clasped his hands behind his back.
Kestrel's outline appeared on the wall behind Diametries, "You have impressive friends my lord.” he said deviously.
After listening to the demon's words, Diametries responded, "The events have begun to turn into motion.” he said grimly. "Where will this story lead I wonder?"
Diametries turned a cold eye to the large black creature on the ground and he eyed it for a moment, "If the ritual is as you say, this creature may yet serve useful, even in its unconscious state.” he said and pulled out a small letter opener. The Speaker walked to it and quickly cut a small tuft of black hair from its unconscious body. He then pulled one of his two red hair ties from his ponytail and wrapped it together and placed it securely in one of his pockets.
A few breaths after Diametries took his souvenir he watched as the large creature changed. Bones cracked, muscles shrunk, his hair receded, and he became a human like man. He was naked and lay on the ground, breathing slowly and deeply.
Outside, a loud banging came from his door to the office, "Is everything ok sir!!! We found bodies in the hall!!!" someone yelled from the other side.
Moments later five guards burst through the door, verily clambering over one another to get in, arriving in a standing dog pile. The white guard saluted, "Sir! Are you all right?" he queried.
"I am fine. He is not. If you can see him to the cells below and keep him under observation that would be divine." Diametries said and calmly pointed towards the being on the floor.
"What happened there?" one guard asked with wide eyes as he looked at the broken desk with surprise stamped all over his face.
"He attacked me and failed." Diametries said casually. "Replace this wreckage and get out of my space.” he ordered without raising his voice as he motioned towards his shattered desk.
The white guard saluted.
The other white guards had picked up the naked man and draped him with a spare tabard that tastefully hid his nakedness and carried him out of the room.
The North West district of Deiyil was the main trade district of the city. Merchants, buyers, and sellers of all kinds flocked from the four corners of the world to hawk their wares to strangers and clients alike. The air was filled with the aroma of spices and exotic dishes.
The recent attraction was a strange and odd occurrence and those it attracted were not the normal visitor to the trade district, they were researchers and excavators.
Near the center of the trade district, a large scar had been torn into the white rock foundations of the city. A split slice that revealed a chasm that extended straight down and disappeared into blackness. It was many blocks wide, many blocks long, and revealed another layer just below the surface.
To study the area, scaffolding was set up in three tiers. On each tier of the scaffolding it had been setup to examine a level of heavy white stone tablets. A ramp extended down another level to view a similar set of tablets just below, and likewise one more time. This was the extent of the area the excavations covered thus far, but the chasm extended farther down and out of sight. The tablets were half again as tall as a man, with hieroglyphics and runes on their stone surfaces in ordered lines. Finally, at regular intervals separating the tablets were yet unexplored small tunnels.
The crowning piece stretched across the center of the chasm and took up the entire third tier. It was a thick stone platform that was also inscribed with runes and hieroglyphics in a spiral pattern extending outwards from the center. Multiple tents, tables, and implements used for archeological purposes had been setup on the stone platform that overlooked the blackness below.
One mystery that had yet to be explained was the gusts of rhythmic hot air that blew up from the fissure below them. Like clockwork, roughly every forty breaths a gust of air flew up from the chasm and though it was not violent, was enough to ruffle hair.
The biggest tent was setup towards the center of the stone platform; it was a square drab looking affair. Inside there was a desk made out of improvised materials including a wooden slab to operate as a writing area. The main area of the desk resembled Penndarius's desk, with papers stacked in precarious positions and falling over small stone tablets with notes attached to them with tree gum. His name plate at the head of the desk read "Isaiah Helkrif, Lead Excavator"
A woman that was dressed in dust colored breaches and a loose shirt ducked in through the tent and waved hello to Isaiah, she adjusted the glasses that hid her plain, inquisitive face, "Good morning sir. Were you up all night again?" she asked.
Isaiah jumped slightly, "Oh, Gale my girl you surprised me. Yes, I was going over our good friend Penndarius's work from the last tracing we sent him. He does a thorough and efficient job." Isaiah said appreciatively.
"What does this one say?" Gale asked and leaned in with interest.
"It is a description of the city and its creation.” he said reverently.
"Are you sure? This is a wonderful find! We have been searching for years for an explanation of how this city got here." Gale said and bounded over to where Isaiah was sitting.
Isaiah sighed and scratched his head in frustration, "I am afraid it is not as literal as I like. It seems that our good friends left us cryptic clues and metaphorical challenges that go beyond translation and into the world stories and riddles.” he said with a dissatisfied sigh.
"What does it say?" she asked.
"As close as our friend Penn can make it, he says that it translates as the following; and lo, we the first sons and daughters of the gods grew the stone tree in dirt of white rock that was laid on the back of a dragon.” he said.
Gale walked over and examined the notes with Isaiah, "They are probably referring to the stone foundations and the tower at the center of the city, but the back of a dragon?" she asked. "What could that mean?" she wondered.
"I have not the faintest my dear, though it is something to ponder.” he said.
"Yes indeed.” she said in response.
A large gust blew up from below them and rustled the tent back and forth, "When will that be damned wind stop!" he said in frustration. “Speaking of which, has Penndarius finished his translations of the tracing we sent him? I believe our own people managed to gather the first part of the instructions at the bottom, but the rest still eludes us." Isaiah said questioningly. “It seems our work has gotten the attention of the first Speaker and we gave him some of our preliminary finds, including the first translation of a strange series of steps from the large tablet. I included that along with the rest for reference purposes."
"Aye, Penndarius notified me yesterday and supposedly he finished his translations." Gale said excitedly.
"It seemed that lord Diametries was pleased with the news. Go meet with our young friend and bring back what he has found." Isaiah said fueling her enthusiasm.
Another person entered the tent through the flap and took up a position behind Gale.
Both turned around to view a black robed woman with a silver moon pendant on her cloaked figure above her left breast. His face was hidden by the hood of her clothing.
Isaiah put down his work and turned to the newcomer, "Visitors are not allowed in the scar, this is for authorized personnel only?" he said formally.
The dark figure bowed, "I serve the Speaker Diametries and he has bid me to deliver an announcement that is important to your expedition. Can you kindly gather your entire team?” she said with fake politeness.
"Speak of the devil, gather the others and bring them here." Isaiah said in a businesslike tone and motioned to Gale. “Can you tell me what the Speaker wants to communicate to my whole team; it would serve just as well if I relay the message.” he said disdainful of the intrusion.
"No." the woman said simply and shook her head.
When Gale left the tent she looked to her left and saw five more men garbed the same way as the woman inside and one of them had leashed a lesser kirin that pawed at the ground with its clawed, scaled feet, carving gashes in the priceless artifact below it. She grimaced in anger, but held her tone in check, knowing that if these were a Speaker's servants, they would hold no respect for a researcher like her, "What is a kirin doing here though?" she asked herself warily.
Kirin are magic creatures that roamed the lands of Therra openly. Their intelligence ranged from equal or higher to a therran too being no better than a common wild animal.
This kirin in particular appeared to be feral. It was hunched over, walked on four legs, and was almost as tall as a man at the shoulder. It had putrid yellow scales that covered its entire body and each one of its feet ended in wicked curved claws. Its face was akin to a dog and a reptile, with a square jaw that ended with wickedly curved beak. Menacing pointed eyes that glowed with an effervescently that hinted a feral intelligence as it examined the area like a hunter seeking prey, carefully marking each researcher as they passed. At the base of its head was a protruding spiraling horn that arced over its head and then two smaller horns that curved in from the sides on either side. It licked out a forked tongue occasionally like a snake, testing the air.
Gale hesitated when she saw the men and their dangerous companion; however her faith in Isaiah outweighed her fears, "Kendel, Isaiah needs the others gathered and sent to the tent.” she called to another excavator.
Her coworker went off to gather the others. As Gale looked around for others, she remembered her meeting with Penndarius and rushed to gather her things. It was almost time for their appointed meet. She rushed over to one outside desk where she had stashed her messenger pack, slid it over her shoulder and raced towards the scaffolding ramps, then up to the city proper with the excitement of a newborn.
None of the black cloaked men saw her go.
Moments later, inside the main tent, the rest of the researchers gathered, along with the dark clothed men, their female compatriot, and the reptilian kirin.
Isaiah crossed his arms and turned to the leader of the strange group, "Okay, we are all here, now what is it that requires us all to be present?" he asked in a huff.
She motioned her arm to the assembled lot, "This is everyone?" she asked tonelessly.
"Yes why?" Isaiah asked warily.
A bloodthirsty smile leapt to her face, "Good.” she said, leaped forward, and delivered a stunning punch to Isaiah's stomach.
"Why?" Isaiah asked and coughed up gout of blood.
She did not respond.
The large kirin prowled in from outside and locked its intelligent eyes onto each remaining researcher in turn, causing them all to freeze in fear, it let out a low hiss from its reptilian lips. Long fangs unsheathed from its lips eagerly.
One assassin tapped the kirin on the haunch, "Hip hip! Go get them!" he yelled and the kirin bounded towards the researchers began to ripping, tearing, slashing, and bite its way through the men and women to their unbound horror.
Three of the assassins unsheathed swords that were duplicates of the one the woman assassin was carrying and began to go to work with grimly.
Blood sprayed across the walls of the tent and painted it red.
Two of the five remaining assassins closed over the exit for the tent, while the other three and the kirin hurled themselves with precise abandon into the crowd of researchers.
Many of the victims flowed towards the entrance to the tent, but they were cut down by the two holding it with bright silver flashes that disappeared just as soon as they appeared.
"Oh gods above, save us, please!” one researcher pleaded as he was skewered by an assassin from behind.
When the first researcher reached the barred tent flap, a silver flash cut the man. His shocked expression remained frozen in time as his body hit the floor in two.
Caught among a murderous kirin and the two cloaked figures the ten remaining men and women were cut down or mauled.
When the gruesome business almost finished, Isaiah was last, holding his stomach where the sword had wounded him. A silver sword tip gracefully touched his chin and brought his chin up to meet the female assassins eyes. They were dreadfully cold, without caring and emotion, "Why?" he asked weakly.
"Just business, you will not feel a thing.” she said honestly and swiftly thrust through Isaiah's windpipe to the back of his neck with a clean stroke that severed his spine. Isaiah died instantly. She performed two quick practice strokes, imitated by the other assassins to clean their blades of the blood from their grim business and then sheathed them in unison.
The kirin handler clapped his hands together, "Hip hip, come.” he commanded and the kirin let go of the arm it had been chewing on. The assassin walked over and put the leash back on its collar without a fight from the dangerous animal.
The female assassin looked around quickly at the dead, “There is one missing.” she walked over to the desk and shifted through the papers for information. She found what she was looking for and held it towards the others, “Here, this indicates a meeting with Penndarius Greyson at an appointed place.”
One of the assassins snatched it from her hand and four of them left, along with the kirin.
Gale was making her way through the city streets when she began to feel light headed and a chill went down her spine. She stopped for near an alleyway and leaned up against the wall, "What was that?" she wondered aloud to herself.
Then she felt something descend over her, it felt like a cold breeze for a moment and then she smelled almonds. A dark aberration fell over her, "Oh by the gods!" she yelled out as she felt her essence being taken by force and then fell over into a pile of old clothing.
She grabbed her head and her eyes exploded with white.
A man from the street saw her fall and ran over to help her, though by the time he got to her the white energy that was in her eyes dissipated, "Are you all right miss?" he said with concern as he kneeled down to help her up.