Fate of Dracania - A DSO Tale

Discussion in 'General Archive' started by Jocom, Dec 29, 2017.

Dear forum reader,

if you’d like to actively participate on the forum by joining discussions or starting your own threads or topics, please log into the game first. If you do not have a game account, you will need to register for one. We look forward to your next visit! CLICK HERE
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Jocom

    Jocom Forum Apprentice

    Hey fellow heroes,

    I saw that community event a while back where contestants were to pick from a list of characters and write a story about those they chose. I wasn't able to do it at the time, but I thought it a would be a good challenge for myself as a writer to take ALL of the characters in that list and write a story about them. I thought about trying to write in the contest's word limits of 800-1200, but as I started writing it and planning what the storyline would have to be, I could tell it would be way beyond that, so I abandoned that thought. Instead I figured I would just write it and share it however long it turns out to be.

    Chapter 1

    In the days that followed Balor’s destruction at the hands of our heroes, Dracania was still not getting any closer to a time of peace. Undead still roamed the lands, subject to the remnants of andermagic left in the Upper World. Heroes of all sorts pledged themselves to the various kingdoms in an effort to clear the land of these enemies. It would be a long, laborious task. The leaders of the all the nations sent envoys to each other with supplies and soldiers to quell large pockets of undead. Prince Aldred, a survivor of the Resistance against the Dragon-brood was eager to go on the latest trip to Andrakasch.

    “You must stay here and rest, dear,” his mother said. “Let someone else go, there’s plenty of soldiers.”

    “There’s still fight left in me.”

    “Listen to your mother,” Aldred’s father, King Herold, said as he entered the room. “She’s also your queen, after all.”

    Aldred opened his mouth to respond, but a look from his father silenced him. They were in the infirmary of the castle in Kingshill, where Aldred had been brought when he’d returned to the command center from the Prison of Souls. Ruthina had been the one to convince him he needed medical attention, and now he felt fine and wanted to go help clear the land. He only lost an eye. If he lost the other one, then he would come back to Kingshill and remain there the rest of life.

    “At least let me see the heroes off,” he finally said.

    Herold traded looks with his wife, Antonia, and they both nodded their approval. Aldred bounced up right away to prove he wasn’t completely disabled and walked with his parents out the front gates. The three of them stood on the castle steps overlooking the group of about 30 men and women geared up and ready to go. Zahir, a merchant dealing in cloaks, who had his shop to one side of the stairs, was offering his wares to the fighters at discounted prices.

    “Did you send word to King Murolosh about how many fighters we’re sending?” Antonia asked.

    “I sent him word they’re coming,” Herold replied, “but not how many would answer the call.”

    The king motioned for the Chancellor to assemble the crowd, and he waited for the crowd to be silenced.

    “Thank you for answering the call to fight,” Herold said in a raised voice. “As you know, you are all traveling to Andrakasch. Our friend and ally, King Murolosh, has requested aid in dispatching the last of the evil dwarfs that have inhabited Thunder Crest and Stalgard. They continue to build machines with the intent on destroying Andrakasch. Murolosh and his soldiers are fighting hard, but need reinforcements. If anyone is second guessing their decision, he or she may remain as the others depart.”

    The fighters’ gazes remained glued to the king. No one gave any indication of wanting to stay behind. No looking around, no twitch of the head, no fidgeting of any appendages.

    “Then go," the king said, "and may Agathon bless your passage.”

    The leader of the expedition took this as a sign to move out and he barked out orders. Aldred almost stepped forward to join them out of habit. Once the group had entered the forest, the gathered people dispersed, including the royal family.

    Chapter 2

    The Dragon moved over Dracania. He was angry. His Nefertari had been killed and his Balor had been killed and his herald had been killed. He had to let the mortals know he was still in control. He would revive them and set them once more upon the surface of the Upper World. He moved toward the lands north of Fortress Teganswall where the herald had fallen. He would be revived first, so he could spread the word that the Dragon still ruled and his Nefertari and his Balor would soon return to seek their revenge. The Dragon knew soldiers would come from all over to fight the evil, so he would enchant his herald and his Nefertari and his Balor so when they were defeated, they could summon andermagic unto themselves and regain their physical form.

    * * *

    “Agathon,” Fyrgon said, “we have a problem.”

    Agathon looked up from his meditation, slightly annoyed. He responded in quiet monotone. “This priest is almost finished, can it wait a little longer?”

    Fyrgon nodded, apologizing for interrupting. While he waited, he communed with the other gods. Fjalnir was there with him, but Artaya was still imprisoned in her sanctum and Oceanus, having favored his whale form, remained in the sea. Even though the latter two could not physically be there, they were able to communicate telepathically.

    “Hath thou told Agathon?” Fjalnir asked quietly, noticing Agathon was meditating.

    “No,” Fyrgon said. ”He is communing with a priest at the moment and will be with us shortly.”

    Fyrgon and Fjalnir had come to Agathon’s temple to discuss a new event that would surely affect the mortal realm.

    “What canst we possibly do against the Dragon?” Artaya asked.

    “WE SHOULD HAVE FORESEEN HIS RETURN,” Oceanus pointed out.

    “Thou doth not have to shout, Ohsh,” Fjalnir said, wincing.

    “What is this all this about?” Agathon asked from beside Fyrgon, having finished his meditation.

    “Thank thee, thou art here,” Artaya said.

    Agathon chuckled. It was an inside joke. They heard mortals mutter “Thank Agathon” or "Thank Fyrgon" or "Thank so-and-so" many times for various reasons, so the gods had taken to using the phrase on each other in jest.

    “Your father is moving toward Fortress Teganswall,” Fyrgon said.

    “How can you t--oh.”

    “Can you feel it?

    Agathon nodded, suddenly very solemn. “I felt something while communing with the priests, but couldn’t give it all my attention until now.”

    Agathon’s brow furrowed, which from experience told Fyrgon Agathon was deep in thought. When they detected the seal between the Anderworld and the Upper World had been broken, the gods had been so concentrated on stopping Nefertari and Balor they had forgotten about the Dragon and the broken seal. Now as he moved across Dracania, they could feel the andermagic emanating from him.

    “Doth thou think it couldst have been their death what causeth him to stir?” Fjalnir asked.

    “Possibly,” Agathon said. "He also could have detected the door to the Upper World was still open."


    “Ohsh, stop shouting,” Fyrgon interjected. “We can hear you just fine.”


    “Oceanus, you are speaking to us telepathically,” Agathon said.

    “OH--I mean, oh. Sorry Ag.”

    “No worries, Ohsh. Now, what were you saying?”

    “I was wondering if perhaps the Dragon could be trying to revive their souls.”

    “‘Tis a possibility, methinks,” Artaya said. “He is a sum of our powers and then some as a result of Mortis' tinkering. Perhaps he intendeth to useth his power to maketh them immortal.”

    “They're gods," Fyrgon said. "They're already immortal."

    "But they hath been destroyed by mere humans," Fjalnir said. "Perhaps he intendeth to maketh them with the ability to regenerate if they be so destroyed again."

    “Well, if that is his plan,” Agathon said. “We can’t let that happen. Otherwise, darkness will reign over Dracania indefinitely.”

    Chapter 3

    “Welcome back, Ohsh,” Fyrgon said.

    Oceanus had reverted to his god form to join Fyrgon, Fjalnir, and Agathon in going after the Dragon.

    “I would not have been able to fight in my whale form,” Oceanus said, grinning.

    “What be thy plan, Agathon?” Fjalnir asked, as they flew over the land. “We hath not had success against the Dragon in the past, what maketh thee think we can haveth any effect on him this time?”

    “I realize you all had trouble dealing with him the past,” Agathon replied. “But the humans are combating the remnants of the anderinvasion even now. If we can buy them time to eradicate the last of the undead, we would be at an advantage. Right now, humanity is united by this common goal.”

    “Even if all the undead were sent back to Mortis, what’s to stop the Dragon from reviving Nefertari?" Oceanus asked. "She could summon andermagic and raise the dead again.”

    “Well,” said Agathon, “We’ll just have to talk to Mortis.”

    The other three looked at him. Fyrgon hadn’t thought about bringing Mortis into this at all. After they banished him to the Anderworld, they thought they could just forget about him, but once he broke out into the Parallel World, they monitored his whereabouts and doings but that was it.

    “You heard the rumors he wanted to team up with Balor, right?” Fyrgon asked.

    “What has possessed you?” Oceanus asked.

    “If we just ask him to do one thing, we can rebanish him,” Agathon said.

    “Thou knowest he wilt betray you somehow,” Fjalnir said.

    “Most likely. I’ll have to try to appeal to him. I’d rather try and have failed, than have not tried at all. We should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Maybe he has come to his senses.”

    Fyrgon shook his head, bemused. “Agathon, ever the optimist.”

    “What can I say?” said Agathon, smiling.

    The group continued on to the dragon caverns. The could detect a large amount of andermagic coming from inside. They followed the broken path to Tegan’s Ceremonial Hall where the Herald of the Anderworld once resided.

    “He’s here,” Fyrgon said. “I can feel the energy.”

    “Perhaps some water would put him out,” Oceanus said brandishing his trident.

    “Were it only so easy,” Fjalnir said.

    “Well, let’s see the damage,” Agathon said.

    They cautiously walked up to the doors to the Hall and pushed them open. Inside was the Dragon and he was using his andermagic to reassemble the Herald.

    And he was almost finished.

    “Everything you have, gents,” said Agathon, as he stretched out his hands over the floor. Vines erupted from the cracks between the stone tiles and entwined themselves around the dragons ankles and the Herald's lifeless body, anchoring them.

    Fjalnir let loose with ice missiles and ice blasts to the Dragon’s face. Fyrgon threw fireballs and other pyrotechnics. Oceanus blasted water from his trident and focused it into a jet that would have cleaved any mortal in two like a sword to parchment. The Dragon roared at them while attempting to turn to face them. They had obviously caught him unawares, but they were still not powerful enough to stop him. To the Dragon their attacks were merely annoyances, but the vines Agathon had created appeared to be holding.

    “Agathon!” Fjalnir shouted over the ruckus. “Go!”

    Fyrgon only hoped the three of them could keep the Dragon busy enough while Agathon appealed to Mortis.

    Agathon descended into the Parallel World. He very well could have appeared in Mortis’ courtroom, but he wanted to show Mortis some respect since he was Agathon’s elder. Agathon made his way through the Halls of the Dead to the Ferryman, who asked him for payment. Agathon flipped him a single gold coin and the Ferryman made ready to sail right away.

    “So my banisher comes to see me. What could he possibly want?” Mortis hissed, as Agathon entered his courtroom.

    “Your ambition almost led to the others’ demise,” Agathon said. “We couldn’t have you roaming around causing trouble.”

    “I know what I did. I don’t need you to remind me of it. Now, the reason you came.”

    Mortis’ last sentence seemed like a command and a question in one.

    “We...need your help.”

    Mortis laughed. “Help the ones who put me in the Anderworld? Why in the Parallel World would I do that?”

    “Dracania will enter an age of darkness none have ever seen if you don’t.”

    “But I’ve grown to like darkness. It suits me. I am the Lord of the Dead after all.”

    “Mortis, I’m sorry we had to do this to you, but already you’re proving us right. You’ve already managed to break into the Parallel World. It’s dangerous to have you roaming free."

    “I’m a god, Agathon!" Mortis shouted. "I should be roaming free!”

    “But not to satisfy your own ambitions!" Agathon shot back. "Not to create abominations of power beyond your control!”

    “What do you know of power?!” Mortis screamed and then became eerily calm. “Agathon, I may be the youngest of the old gods, but you are younger still. You may be powerful as the Creator, but the power of Death in this world is even more so.”

    Agathon wasn’t getting anywhere with his original plan for convincing the Lord of the Dead to help him, so he decided to try a new angle.
    “Mortis, you may like the darkness, but we don’t. We need you to dispose of Nefertari’s soul.”

    Mortis perked up. “What’s this? Agathon is wishing death upon a human?”

    “Former human...and former god.”

    “I thought that soul looked familiar when I saw it enter the river.”

    “We can’t let my father revive her.”

    “Balor was destroyed too, what about him?”

    “My brother I can take care of, but if Nefertari is revived she will no doubt use andermagic to bend the souls of the dead. The dead would become undead, and then what would you lord of?”

    “You do have a point. I imagine you need this done because the Dragon has returned and will no doubt attempt to revive her.”

    Agathon wasn’t surprised to hear Mortis mention that he knew of the Dragon’s return, but he’d been expecting some sort of bargaining chip to be thrown into play, and there it was.

    “With her alive again, she would no doubt seek revenge by raising all the dead and invading Dracania again...that would be the darkness you mentioned, yes?”

    Agathon nodded. “Yes.”

    “And once she is revived, he will most likely revive Balor too, am I correct? Are you sure you don’t want me to destroy his soul as well?"

    “I am sure. I will lock his soul away in the Anderworld where it can’t be found.”

    “Very well. I will do this for you, but in return, I would like to be allowed into the Upper World. Do you promise this?”

    “All I can promise is that I will bring it to the attention of the other gods. It has to be a unanimous decision. It’s not just my domain.”

    “You know well the others will not agree.”

    “Fine. Being that I am the one who banished you...if you do this...I will allow you into the Upper World. But, you must always return here to fulfill your duties as Lord of the Dead."


    Agathon knew Mortis would try to find some loophole eventually, but that was something he’d be able to deal with when the time came. He could always lock Mortis away again, with the other gods’ help of course, but his priority right now was to protect Dracania.

    Agathon left the same way he had come. Once out of the Halls of the Dead he ascended back into the Upper World, back into Tegan’s Ceremonial Hall where he had left the others to occupy the Dragon. He didn’t see anything at first, but then he noticed a pair of eyes coming toward him. A pair of eyes attached to a dragon head which was attached to a large, muscular form, a pair of small wings protruding from its back. The Dragon had been successful. His Herald had returned. He could only hope Mortis would actually honor his word and in time.

    Chapter 4

    Agathon retreated from Tegan’s Ceremonial Hall with haste to their celestial palace. There he found Fjalnir, Fyrgon, and Oceanus nursing wounds from the fight.

    “How didst thou fare?” Fjalnir asked, wrapping a bandage around his arm.

    “Mortis said he will destroy Nefertari’s soul,” Agathon said.

    “What deal did he force you into?” Fyrgon asked as he finished tying a bandage around his knee.

    Agathon paused, trying to find the right words, but he couldn’t, so he said it bluntly. He rather they hate him now and get over it, then later and let it fester. “I said I would allow him into the Upper World.”

    The other three gods made their disgust known.

    “Well, barnacles.” Oceanus said, shaking his head.

    Fyrgon through his arms up. “You know he’s going to cause trouble.”

    “Yes I do,” Agathon said, “but it’s on the condition that he always return to the Parallel World to fulfill his duties as Lord of the Dead.”

    “I suppose that tis something, at least,” Fjalnir said. “What be our next move?”

    * * *

    Arzlan sat in Fjalnir’s Sanctum praying. He had been in his prayer chamber for almost the whole day repeating the same prayers, but it didn’t seem like the ice god was listening. He wondered what could be wrong, what it could mean. Had he done something to displease the Almighty Fjalnir? Maybe he hadn’t done enough? He was, after all, still learning the ways of priesthood. He had stumbled on the library of the sanctum and read through books and scrolls to learn whatever he could about being high priest to an ice god. Fortunately, the priests before him had recorded much and he was learning more and more.

    He prayed to Fjalnir every day and usually felt a spiritual presence about himself, yet in recent days he had not felt that presence. He prayed anyways, hoping for a message of some kind to clue him into what was happening in the world so he could reassure any citizens should they also notice something amiss and seek answers from him.

    In the middle of his prayers he heard a door open. It was either a citizen or Canipi, his friend and a huntress. She was pleasant to have around, even when she was complaining about her father’s strict rules or how dull her life felt in the village. Usually she brought prayer requests from people of the village if they were too busy or to disabled to make the journey themselves. She also brought current world news and usually came right out with it if it was important.

    Canipi’s voice echoed through the icy halls. “Where you at, Arz?”

    He finished his prayer quickly and stood, preparing to walk out the door.

    “Arz?” her voice called out again, nearer to the room this time.

    He stepped through the door right as she passed. “Right here, Nip.”

    Canipi whipped her head around and jumped in surprise at the same time. “I hate it when you do that!”

    Arzlan smiled. “Sorry. The timing was perfect. I couldn’t resist.”

    Canipi returned his smile. “I forgive you then.” Then in a more curious tone she asked, “What were you doing in there?”

    The two fell in step walking together down the hall.

    “Praying,” he said. “But I don’t think Fjalnir heard me this time, similar to the last few times I prayed.”

    “That seems to be going around,” she said. “Quite a few villagers are saying they can’t feel any god’s presence other than Artaya.”

    “I was afraid of that.”

    His fears were coming true. Fjalnir had not responded to his prayers and the citizens had noticed no response to their own prayers. Soon some of them would come to the sanctum asking questions he didn’t have the answers to.

    “Also,” Canipi continued, “in other news, the elders want to request aid from the King of Duria. Some have seen Toltac warriors in the forest again and are afraid to leave the confines of the village. Some think the Toltac will invade and destroy the village for us providing sanctuary and services to the Durians.”

    “I know the Durians fought the Toltac for me here, but what else have they done?”

    “They defeated Nef-Artli.”

    Arzlan stopped walking. “They did? Incredible.”

    Canipi wasn’t so quick to stop so she turned to face him.

    “Yes, that would rile them up even more than they were,” Arzlan continued. “Do the elders want divine wisdom before they make a decision?”

    “They’ve pretty much already decided,” They just want protection for the travelers.”

    “I’ll do what I can.”

    They made their way to the dining room where Arzlan offered her some refreshment as he did for all the citizens that passed through Fjalnir’s Sanctum. Canipi accepted. She stayed for a while longer telling stories of the villagers and her hunting trips. They talked and laughed and had a good time in each others’ company. Arzlan did not wish her to go but knew she had to get back to the village.

    After he bid her farewell, he made his way back to the prayer chamber to attempt communion with Fjalnir again. He didn’t think it would do much good, but he would attempt anyway for the sake of the citizens.

    No sooner had he closed his eyes to recite the opening verses of the Prayer of Petition, a vision filled his mind and he felt the presence of Fjalnir once again. He wept for joy that he had not been abandoned, but joy turned to confusion and then despair as the vision continued, and then determination as the vision finished.

    He gathered the things he would need quick as he could once he recovered. He hadn’t been able to ask protection for the village or the travelers, but from the vision he understood that if he failed to fulfill his new mission, it didn’t matter how much protection was requested or granted.

    Chapter 5

    “I just worry about him, Acton,” Nantli said. “He seemed so cold in the last letter he sent. I don’t know what to do with myself.”

    Acton and Nantli were in Acton’s hut, sitting across from each other, Acton sitting in his chair and Nantli, Arzlan’s mother, sitting on a bench seat. Nantli had been a wreck of late after her son Arzlan had declared himself high priest of Fjalnir. No one had stood forward to question his motives. They all believed that if someone had been called to be a priest, that the tribe must accept it and move on. However, Nantli hadn’t been able to do so as quickly as the others.

    “He’s in Fjalnir’s hands now,” Acton said. “He does seem a bit young to be in that position, but he is an adult nonetheless.”

    “I know he is. But everytime I look at him, I see the little cub he used to be and I regret not being there for him as much as I should have been.”

    Acton and Canipi had taken to helping her with chores and inviting her, and others to his hut for small gatherings to help her deal with her grief, but the others would eventually leave until it was just the three of them sipping on melonwater, Nantli wallowing in her grief. But Canipi was not there that night, so it was just Nantli and himself. If Acton was being honest with himself, it was getting a tad annoying and tiring listening to her, but she didn’t have anyone else, so he tolerated it for her sake.

    Then there was a knock at the door.

    “Arzlan?” he said, when he opened the door.

    The young man stood there wearing a traveling cloak and holding a priest’s staff in one hand. A nearly bursting knapsack was strapped to his back.

    “Hi, Acton,” Arzlan said. “Sorry to disturb you, is C--”

    Before he could finish speaking, a furry figure streaked past Acton and latched itself onto Arzlan. Acton looked back at the sitting area and then back at Arzlan, who was now being hugged tightly by his mother. He looked very uneasy.

    “Arzlan! You’re back!” she said.

    “Just for a few moments, mother,” he said trying to push her off, “and then I have to leave again.”

    “But why?” she said, sobbing. “Acton, tell him he has to stay. For the good of the family.”

    Acton was about to speak, but Arzlan spoke first. “My god comes before my family.”

    Acton was a bit surprised to hear terseness in Arzlan’s voice, but he agreed with the boy. A Tayaz’ first priority was serving the gods. He wasn’t sure where Nantli got this idea the family was first priority. Sure, everyone was responsible for their family, but if a god determined a Tayaz’ path was directed away from their immediate family, then that Tayaz must follow it.

    “Where do you have to go, Arzlan?” Acton asked.

    “Fjalnir gave me a vision. I am to meet up with a Durian and a Myrdoschi in Kingshill. Canipi was in my vision, too.”

    Acton did not act surprised, but he was. All the trouble he went through to keep Canipi on a straight path, even though she sometimes rebelled, now seemed all worth it. Canipi had been chosen by the gods to fulfill a task.

    “I’m sorry, son, but she’s left for Kingshill. Didn’t she tell you?”

    Arzlan looked surprised. “No she didn’t. I wonder why. Guess I’m meeting her there, then.”

    Nantli had stopped sobbing and composed herself a bit. “I hope you come back soon.”

    “Honestly, mother, I don’t know where this quest will take me or how long I’ll be gone, but I will return.”

    Arzlan hugged his mother, shook hands with Acton, and left for the travel stone. Acton and Nantli watched as Arzlan activated the stone and vanished.

    * * *

    “Papa? What’s wrong?”

    Agelox sat at the kitchen table, staring into his mug of ale. His two young children sat across from him, eating their dinner. Agelox snapped out of his reverie and looked at his daughter.

    “Oh, nothing, doll. Just tired is all. It’s been quite busy down at the forge lately.”

    “But you’ve been different since the strange man came to visit,” His son said.

    He was referring to the Durian that came with news of the death of his wife, Gunilda. Agelox had been angry at the time, and angry before that time. Angry that his wife had gone off with the expedition to Lor’Tac, forgetting about her place at home with him and the kids.

    “How so?” Agelox asked, trying not sound alarmed.

    “After you talked to the strange man,” his daughter said, “you seemed more sad.”

    Agelox looked into his children's’ eyes, curiosity and and concern making them sparkle. He smiled, really hoping he didn’t have to tell them the truth of what the stranger a had told him. After staring at his plate for a minute, a thought came to him and he spoke it without realizing.

    “The stranger gave me news of your mother,” he said.

    Both children perked up. “Did mommy get hurt?” his son asked. “What was it?” his daughter asked at the same time.

    Agelox looked into their eager faces and knew he couldn’t lie to them. He then realized that the only reason he didn’t want to tell them was that he couldn’t face the news himself. Inside, he was ashamed that the last “conversation” he had with his wife was in anger. But he was a dwarf and dwarves weren’t known for sharing their innermost feelings with each other or wearing them on their sleeves.

    “Well,” he said, “yes, she did. She got very hurt. She won’t be coming back for a while until she gets better.”

    It wasn’t the truth, but it was close enough. He still couldn’t bring himself to tell them the truth even though he should have.

    They finished their dinner and the childsitter came by again to watch the children while Agelox went back to the forge to continue his services to the Durians that had come from Kingshill to help the dwarves in their campaign against the dark dwarves of Stalgard.

    The singing of his hammer and the whoosh of his bellows and the sizzling of hot metal in water were music to his ears and before long Agelox was in the zone. That place most would love to be, but allow themselves to be too distracted about things outside the moment. Customers brought him armor and weapons to repair, to melt down and form into magical nuggets called Glyphs of Power, and to downgrade without melting completely. Sometimes, customers bought new weapons to try out, but would come back and melt them down into glyphs.

    Right in the middle of repairing a chestplate, a voice from the crowd called out.

    “Agelox! Message for you!”

    The crowd parted and a messenger bearing a royal cloak approach.

    “Agelox,” he said. “I’m sorry for the intrusion, but her majesty, Queen Agrasha summons you to her court as soon as you can.”

    Agelox looked from the messenger to the growing crowd of Durians assembling around his anvil. “I’m afraid it will be quite a while before I can visit her majesty.”

    The messenger looked around at the Durians as well. “I will inform her majesty of your obligations. Thank you for your time, Agelox.”

    The messenger bowed and was gone. Agelox continued working, no longer in the zone. Now he was distracted by the queen’s summons. It would certainly be a while before he could visit her majesty.

    Chapter 6

    Agelox waited outside the doors to the royal court in Andrakasch Keep. He could barely keep his eyes open and was very tempted to fall asleep on the stone bench he occupied.

    After finishing with all the customers at his forge, he made for home to tell the childsitter of the news, and then made for the keep straightaway. When he got there, he was announced by the footman, but made to wait.

    He had been waiting a very long time.

    Finally, the doors opened and out stomped a small blue goblin sporting a black handlebar mustache and bushy black eyebrows muttering incoherently to itself. Agelox recognized this goblin as one of the Jullov family, although he couldn’t know for sure which one it was based on appearance since they all looked the same. Same blue skin, same black facial hair. The only way to know for sure would be to engage in conversation, which many folks did not like to do, and listen for when the goblin referred to itself in the third person.

    Agelox stood to enter the room, but couldn’t just yet. Following the first goblin came nine more goblins all muttering incoherently to themselves and one another. Agelox took a peek through the doors and saw Queen Agrasha with her head in one hand, massaging her forehead. He guessed whatever headache she appeared to have came from dealing with the goblins.

    The footman stepped out and gestured for Agelox to follow him. The vaulted stone ceiling impressed the dwarf very much, as well as the massive stone columns placed at even intervals along the walls leaving the center of the room wide open. A long brown and gold rug ran the length of the stone floor from the doors up to and under the thrones. Queen Agrasha sat in her designated throne watching Agelox as he approached. It seemed to take hours to reach the base of the dias.

    “Thank you, Felix,” Agrasha said to the footman.

    He bowed and retreated to the back of the room to await Agelox’s departure. Agelox bowed to the queen.

    “Thank you for coming, Agelox. I trust you have been busy outfitting those that are fighting for us. I can tell by looking at you that you need rest.”

    “You have a keen eye, your majesty. I must say, I haven’t seen you hold court before.”

    “Now that we have help in fighting the Dark Dwarves, I can afford to handle some administrative tasks for a few hours each day. Some of it involves siphoning through news reports from the expedition in Lor’Tac. One of the latest reports involves your late wife Gunilda.”

    Agelox suddenly seemed more awake. “What about her? I know she’s dead. A Durian told me.”

    “Several Durians have found her body and have taken it back to Kingshill.”

    “Why would they take it back to Kingshill? Could they not see she was a dwarf?”

    “Perhaps, perhaps not. If you would like to retrieve her body, I can have one of my best technicians watch your forge while you’re away, with any income saved for you upon your return.”

    “I would like to, yes. I just wonder if my childsitter can watch them until I get back. I don’t foresee being gone very long, but if something happened that I was away longer, I’d want to make sure they are cared for.”

    “Of course, Agelox. If your current childsitter is not available to stay for the duration of your trip, I can send nurses from the infirmary to watch the children.”

    “I don’t know what to say, your majesty.”

    “Gunilda was a friend of mine and a great scout. I would see her body returned and honored with others from the expedition who passed.”

    “Very well, your majesty. I will leave in the morning.”

    With that he bowed and was escorted from the room by the footman.

    * * *

    Canipi stood on a battlement overlooking the Kingshill town square where many Durians and Myrdoschi had organized and appeared to be preparing for a hunt. When they left, she would make for the travel stone and return to her village.

    She hadn’t known what to expect coming to the city. She was only used to the treetop environment of Yaltepetl. The massive stone walls and busy streets and lack of trees in Kingshill had overwhelmed her, but she was eventually able to make her way through to the castle.

    She and two other Tayaz had put in the village’s request to the king for aid against the Toltac, and now all they could do was wait. The king had said he would put out the call and send help when fighters answered.

    The other two Tayaz had already left for Yaltepetl through the travel stone, but she had stayed to browse the shops. She liked her gear, but wanted to either enhance it or get something better to use against the Toltac. She had visited the jeweler, the blacksmith, the essence merchant, and the artifact merchant.

    She didn’t find any equipment better than what she had, but she did add some gem and rune slots to her equipment and was able to buy several gems and runes whose magical properties would allow her to do more damage and shoot faster.

    A disturbance caught her eye and she spied one dwarf, carrying a small package, working his way through the crowd to the travel stone. He bumped into other folk, who called out exclamations in anger, but he didn’t seem to care and kept moving forward. Then she spied a familiar form moving through the throng after him. It was Arzlan. What was Arzlan doing here?

    * * *

    “Agelox! Wait! Agelox!”

    Arzlan pushed through the crowd after the dwarf, who had almost reached the travel stone.

    “Agelox! By the gods, I must speak to you before you leave!”

    The dwarf halted and turned his head toward the priest. “I must return to Andrakasch to bury my wife.”

    The large hunting party around them began surging toward the travel stone pushing the priest and the dwarf toward the outside of the town square. Soon they were alone and the dwarf began walking back to the stone.

    “What I need to tell you is much bigger than burying your wife,” Arzlan said. “It involves all of Dracania.”

    The dwarf hesitated a moment before he said, “Let me bury my wife first and then we’ll talk.”

    Agelox activated the travel stone and vanished. Arzlan wilted a little and turned to walk back up to the castle. He understood the dwarf’s need to bury his wife, but according to his vision the group he was to form would leave from Kingshill, not Andrakasch. Unless he interpreted it wrong, which he was sure he hadn’t. A motion caught his eye and up on a battlement he saw a familiar face.

    He waved to Canipi, who waved back, and made for the stairs at the back of the battlement. He came around the corner just as Canipi was coming down.

    “There you are. What are you doing in Kingshill?”

    “Remember the group that was to travel here and put in a request for aid?” Canipi asked. Arzlan nodded. “I was part of that group. I was just about to return to the village with news.”

    “I don’t understand it,” Arzlan said to the open air. “Why would Fjalnir tell me to form a group to leave from Kingshill if nobody is going to stay here?”

    “Fjalnir finally spoke to you?”

    Arzlan looked back at her. “He did,” he said, smiling. “After you left, I went to the prayer room to ask of the gods those requests you mentioned, but I received a vision. Fjalnir told me to gather you, that dwarf, Agelox, and Prince Aldred to destroy the souls of Nef-Artli and Balor and to fight the Dragon with the gods themselves. We would leave from Kingshill and travel to the Halls of the Dead in the Parallel World.”

    “I came right away to find you,” he continued, “but found the dwarf first.”

    “So, we get to save the world? Sounds like fun,” Canipi said. “And you’re sure that’s the dwarf who’s supposed to come with us?”

    Arzlan shrugged and nodded. “I thought he was, but maybe I interpreted the vision wrong.”

    “Well, if he doesn’t come back, we can always go get him.”

    Arzlan nodded in acknowledgement. “Not sure how we’re going to get to Aldred though. With that line of people waiting to see the king, we’d be here forever just to ask to see the prince, and it’s not like they’ll just let him go off galavanting on some idealistic crusade.”

    There was silence for a minute before Canipi said, “There is another way.”

    Chapter 7

    “The sewers?” Arzlan said. “We’ll have gunk in our fur for weeks.”

    “Don’t get your tail in a bunch.”

    They proceeded through the sewers, fending off rats and and slipping past the slow moving slime creatures. There were a lot of twists and turns, but before long they reached a ladder heading up to a sewer grate. The two Tayaz ascended the ladder and peeked through the holes.

    “Is this a garden?” Arzlan asked.

    A limited view showed them a brick wall covered in moss, some trees, and a blue sky.

    “Probably,” Canipi said. She twisted around to look in another direction. “There’s the castle. Maybe we can come up inside the castle.”

    “It will be dark soon, though. As much as I don’t like it down here, we could wait and sneak out this way.”

    Canipi agreed that was a good idea, so they waited.

    “What’ll we tell Prince Aldred when we find him?” Canipi asked.

    “I’ve been trying to think about that, but I got nothing so far. I don’t think hitting him with “the gods gave me a vision and your in it” speech won’t work too well, unless he believes in the gods.”

    “It’ll probably seem really strange to him for two Tayaz to show up in his bedroom seeking his help.”

    Arzlan considered this, but decided he’d worry about it when the time came. The two friends sat at the base of the latter chatting about the day while they waited for darkness to fall. Canipi showed Arzlan her new equipment and Arzlan told her about his encounter with his mom and Acton. It then came up that Canipi hadn’t told Arzlan she was going to Kingshill. Canipi didn’t have a good answer.

    “I guess I didn’t think it was a big deal because I was only going to be gone for a couple days, tops.”

    They sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Canipi asked, “Why us?”

    Arlzan looked at her, confused. “What do you mean?”

    “Why did the gods choose us to fight with them? You said it’s going to be you, me, that dwarf, and Prince Aldred. That’s a pretty random group.”

    “Honestly, I don’t know. Fjalnir told me to do something, so I’m doing it. Maybe I’ll ask him when this is over.”

    Canipi nodded in acceptance of that answer, and then cast a glance skyward. It was time. The two crept up the ladder. Arzlan lifted the cover slowly and peered into the darkness. His cat eyes made it easier to see the position of the guards and the quickest path to the back door of the castle.

    He slipped through the hole and look around as he held it open for Canipi. As soon as she was through, he let it down quietly and followed her to the bushes by the back door. This wasn’t quite the path he would have taken, but it was fairly dark and they had still been undiscovered. Canipi picked the lock and then they were inside.

    Arzlan thanked Fjalnir no one had been on the opposite of the door. His ears twitched listening for any voices or sounds suggesting the presence of guards. There were none. He motioned Canipi forward. The two Tayaz made their way through the maze of crates and barrels to wooden door at the far end of the room. They eased it open, peering into what lay beyond. It was an empty hallway, again with no guards. Arzlan quitely thanked Fjalnir again.

    They stepped gingerly into the hallway keeping close to the wall and shadows as they crept along. Canipi lead the way, halting when they reached a corner.

    “Guards,” she said in a low voice. Then after a few moments, “Ok, let’s go.”

    And she went around the corner, with Arzlan on her tail. They moved down the hallway, past where the the guards had been, and stopped at another corner. Canipi peeked around, and then motioned to move forward, but suddenly backpedaled, nearly colliding with Arzlan.

    “Huh? Is someone there?” a voice said, followed by the sound of a blade being unsheathed.

    Arzlan and Canipi crouched as low as they could in the shadows and remained dead silent.

    “I guess it was nothing,” the voice said after a few minutes, followed by the sheathing of a blade.

    The two friends looked at each other, bewildered.

    “If the guards are that incompetent,” Canipi said, “We should have no problem finding the bedroom wing.”

    Arzlan pointed to a doorway at the end of the hall opposite the guard. “Looks like stairs over there.”

    Still crouching and keeping to the shadows, the two made their way to the doorway and slipped through. They relaxed a little, but still remained on high alert as they moved up the stairs. At the top of the stairs they pressed themselves to either side of the door, each peering down a section of hallway. Canipi used hand signals to communicate to Arzlan there were six guards down her section of the hallway. Arzlan nodded and signaled there were four guards down his section. Canipi motioned for him to follow her back down the stairs.

    She stopped halfway down the stairs. “How are your guards situated?”

    “Two standing at the end of the hall facing us and two standing against our side of the wall facing two doors.”

    “Deathspit,” she said. “Two of mine are standing at the end of the hall facing down another section and the other four are guarding doors.”

    “Whichever way we go, we’ll be seen,” Arzlan said. “We might have better results if we turn ourselves in and tell them we were trying to see Aldred.”

    Canipi chuckled. “I bet we would have gotten an audience if we would have just waited in line like everyone else.”
    That probably would have been true. And as he thought about it, Arzlan decided turning themselves in would not be a good idea. While they might get an audience with the prince, it could take days for that to happen, which they did have. He also might miss out on meeting with the Myrdoschi, too.

    “We might as well go back and do just that,” Arzlan said, and voiced his reasons why to his friend.

    Canipi nodded and the two of them made their way back to the storeroom, through the garden, and back through the sewers. They came up near the fairground, where people were sure not to notice considering everyone’s attention would be on other things happening there.

    They made their way past Tamer Road and were turning onto Essence Street, when they saw Prince Aldred standing off to the side of a merchant stall with another figure. Even though it was dark outside, with their natural night vision, they could see it was him, but they could not determine the identity of the man with him. They ducked into some shadows and watched, not wanting to spook Aldred or the figure.

    Chapter 8

    The unknown figure wore a dark hooded cloak which encapsulated his entire body. His face was hidden by the hood, and he spoke in hushed tones. Prince Aldred spoke in hushed tones as well. There was an exchanging of items. Something black as void, but with a dark purple-white glow was put into Aldred’s hand and the figure took off.

    Aldred put the recently acquired item in a pouched on his belt and went the opposite way toward Meridian Boulevard, which ran southeast-northwest through Kingshill. Arzlan and Canipi followed. They eventually wound up at an inn near the front gates of the city.

    The environment of the inn seemed to be that of celebration. Fighters were pouring into the streets from an open door. The same door Aldred pushed his way through. Canipi and Arzlan hesitated. Their feline extrasensory abilities tingled. The smell of alcohol was almost overwhelming and the shouts and yells of excitement vibrated their eardrums to almost painful levels.

    Arzlan glanced at Canipi, who glanced back. Keeping their focus on ignoring their sensitivities, the forced themselves through the door as well, only losing sight of Aldred for a few seconds when they were nearly pushed back out by a small group all trying to get through at once.

    Aldred bypassed the front desk where the innkeeper sat overlooking the ruckus. The two Tayaz waited until the innkeeper had his back turned to fill mugs of ale before they strolled casually by, attempting to blend into the crowd. They couldn’t afford to be stopped by anyone for any reason.

    * * *

    Aldred sat on the bed of his innroom staring at the item he had just acquired. Essence of Oblivion. According to the spy who had given it to him, this essence would guarantee a one-shot kill against any undead. Aldred attached the essence to his sword, giving it a dark purple-white glow that didn’t seem to illuminate anything.

    He stood in front of the room’s only mirror, brandishing his sword, mentally committing himself to the task that lay ahead for him. He had left the castle without leaving word with anyone of his destination or whereabouts. He had rested long enough. He couldn’t lounge around the castle able-bodied while numerous others fought perilous enemies. Even Ruthina was still in the Resistance Command Center leading fighters to the Burning Coast.

    A knock came at his door.

    With a curious look, and slight panic, the prince sheathed his sword and answered the door. Two cat people stood before him, a male and a female. The male was dressed in robes of a priest, the female dressed in the armor of a ranger.

    “Could we come in, please?” The priest said, before Aldred could greet them or say anything else. “We have something to discuss with you.”

    Aldred was a bit taken aback, but noticed the female give the male a disapproving look.

    “Arz, give the man time to breathe. He hasn’t met us before.”

    The male retained an expectant look on his face as the female continued.

    “Prince Aldred, my name is Canipi, from Yaltepetl, and this is Arzlan, priest of Fjalnir...also from Yaltepetl. We do have something to discuss with you, and it would be best to do so out of earshot of others.”

    Aldred didn’t quite know what was happening. He hadn’t seen Tayaz in Kingshill before. Was it coincidence these two would seek him out on the eve of his journey?

    “All right...I suppose.”

    Aldred stepped aside to let them in. Canipi thanked him. The other one seemed in a daze. No sooner had he closed the door, though, then another knock came. This one sounded a bit fiercer. Aldred felt more panic rising in his chest and he hesitated. When he finally opened the door, a dwarf stood there, outfitted for battle.

    “‘Lo Prince Aldred. I’m Agelox. I saw Arzlan enter this room. I must speak with him.”
    And before Aldred could say anything, Agelox stepped through the door.

    * * *

    Haruxa organized the crates in her cart one last time before she closed down for the evening. It was nearing sunset in Andrakasch and a raiding party had just visited her shop to pick up as much essence as they could before heading out to Stalgard. The amount of essence they purchased was good for her business, but the mess they made of essence crates was not.

    She covered her cart with the large canvas tarpaulin and went into her house nearby. It was an unorthodox way to sell her products compared to the other shopkeepers in town, but she had made it work. It also saved her time in delivering essences to Jarlshofn. All she needed to do was hitch her horse to it and ride to her destination.

    She lit a candle lamp on the table, revealing a hooded figure. She jumped in surprise, grabbed the nearest object, a wooden spoon, and brandished it like a two-handed weapon, hands shaking. The figure calmly removed the hood, showing itself to be her son. Fright changed to annoyed anger.

    “What are you doing scaring your mother like that?!”

    “I couldn’t chance being seen. I have something for you.”

    He uncovered a crate on the floor beside him that emanated a dark purple white glow. Her attention was immediately drawn to it.

    “This is Essence of Oblivion. It can kill any enemy in one shot. It was meant to be given freely to help speed along the liberation of our land. There are more crates behind the house.”

    Haruxa’s look of surprise changed to one of disappointment. “You’re--”

    “I can’t. The work we’re doing will save the world, or at least aid the process. I have to get back to Janus.”

    Haruxa looked away for a minute, then looked back to find empty space in front of her and the door closing quietly.

    “Foolish boy,” she whispered, as stepped outside the backdoor to find the crates her son mentioned.

    * * *

    A befuddled Aldred, a stoic Agelox, and the two Tayaz occupied Aldred’s room at the Kingshill Inn.

    “Well,” Arzlan said, “now that we’re all here, we can get down to business.”

    Chapter 9

    The glowing blue-purple of Nefertari’s soul illuminated Mortis’ pale, hooded face.

    “Hello, traitor,” he hissed, caressing the soul.

    As he did so, he reasoned with himself that he could either destroy her soul as he had promised Agathon or he could use her as a bargaining chip. With the Dragon having revived the Herald, he would be coming for Nefertari’s soul next and thus providing another opportunity for Mortis to achieve his goal. But, he didn’t like the idea of an everlasting darkness with undead stumbling around. What would he do with his time? Play demon chess?

    “Hello, Mortis.”
    The heavy voice came from behind him. Mortis slowly turned to find the Dragon’s predatory gaze locked onto him.

    “Dragon. Here for the soul of your lost mate, no doubt.”

    Mortis faced him, drawing a black, jagged dagger from his waist belt with one hand, and holding Nefertari’s soul in his other..

    “You may have more power than me,” Mortis hissed, “but are you--”

    Before Mortis could finish the sentence, the Dragon zipped forward, charging into the god of death like a large boulder, causing both the dagger and Nefertari’s soul to fly out of his hands. The Dragon picked up the soul, a deep laugh emanating from his throat.

    “Too slow, Mortis. Now you will have to continue ruling over your dungeons knowing you could have stopped what is coming.”

    “And what is coming?” Mortis asked, now back on his feet. He looked for any opportunity he could take advantage of to regain control of the soul, though he knew any effort would be futile.

    “The dead shall rise and rise again, as darkness reigns within the land.”

    And then the Dragon was gone.

    * * *

    Back in Aldred’s innroom, Arzlan had explained to everyone the vision he received from Fjalnir, Agelox only asking a few clarification questions, and the prince still befuddled.

    “You had a vision,” Aldred said, “that we four would leave here to go fight with some other folks against the Dragon, Balor, and Nef-Artli--er, Nefertali, destroy some souls, and save the world?”

    “Not exactly,” Arzlan said. “We have to destroy the souls of Nef-Artli and Balor and then we team up with the gods to fight the Dragon.”

    “So we’re just supposed to go with you?” Aldred asked.

    Arzlan looked flabbergasted. “Well...yeah.”

    “I am with you,” Agelox said. “If the result of our inaction is as dangerous as you claim, I’d rather not sit idly by.”

    “I guess I’m with you too,” said Aldred. “I was going to help the fighters in Myrdosch, but this sounds more important. Where are we off to?”

    “Halls of the Dead,” Arzlan said. “It’ll be where we find the souls of Nef-Artli and Balor.”

    Aldred gathered his things and the group left the inn, the prince dropping some money on the front counter for his room.

    “Checking out, room 3,” he said. Aldred didn’t wait for the innkeeper to respond.

    Right as they reached the travel stone, a noise came from behind them. They all turned to see a group of blue goblins, black handlebar mustaches and all signaling for them to wait.

    “Jullov heard you are going to fight the darkness...yes...Jullov wants to come with. Jullov’s family does, too.”

    Arzlan tried to say something as more blue goblins came out from behind barrels, but Agelox cut in.

    “Objecting will do you no good, priest,” he said. “It will get you nowhere but tired.”
    “But they weren’t in the vision,” Arzlan said under his breath. Only Aldred and Canipi heard him.

    “I don’t know how much you know about the Jullovs, but--”

    “Are you going to answer us?” asked one of the goblins who was not Jullov.

    Aldred half-glared at them for a few seconds, before answering. “Yes, fine, you all can come.” Then to Arzlan, he said, “They won’t be in our way. They usually travel in a group and stay well away from anyone. Also, being to the places they’ve been, they may know something that may help us in a jam.”

    Aldred followed Agelox to the travel stone with Arzlan and Canipi close behind. He heard Arzlan say again, “But they weren’t in the vision.” To which Canipi replied, “Visions don’t show a person everything, Arz. It will be fine.”

    Aldred certainly hoped it would be. He didn’t care for the Jullovs. While what he said about them was true, that they would stay to themselves, it had been awhile since he’d seen them around, so he hoped they didn’t pull any surprises, as goblins are wont to do.

    “Where are we going?” asked one of the Jullovs.

    “You’ll find out,” Aldred said.

    Chapter 10

    The massive stone doors to the Halls of the Dead stood before the intrepid warriors daring to be opened. The Jullovs chattered amongst themselves, seemingly oblivious to anyone around them. Other citizens of Cardhun mosied by casting sideways glances at the group.

    “Anyone ever been here?” Aldred asked his companions.

    They all said no, but he wasn’t surprised. Aldred hadn’t been here himself before, but he had heard other fighters talk about it. Cardhun was also known as “The Splintered City” because it was located on the precipice of the Parallel World and there were numerous gates around the city that lead to different parts.

    “I saw this place in my vision, though,” Arzlan said. “But all I saw was us collecting the souls.”

    “Great,” Aldred said, “we’re going in blind. Everyone prepare your gear and stay alert.”

    He was about to activate the door control, but a man’s voice stopped him.

    “Aldred! I’m glad to see you!”

    It was Zahir. The elderly costume and cloak salesman ran toward them. Aldred considered going through the door anyway because of what Zahir showing up might mean, but there was only one way out of the Halls and if Kingshill guards were here to bring him back, Aldred would be cornered.

    “I can tell you aren’t used to running,” Aldred said as the man stopped in front of the group and caught his breath. “Does my father know I’m here?”

    Zahir waved the question away. “No, boy, he doesn’t. But I saw you leave Kingshill, and figured you were going out to fight. I just learned of a problem in Hiraja that needs looking into. Can you help?”

    “What’s the situation?”

    “I received a message from Basem that creatures are returning to life.”

    Everyone looked at Arzlan. “I don’t think I saw this in the vision,” he said.

    “We’re on our way to destroy Nef-Artli’s soul and fight the Dragon,” Canipi said, ”hopefully putting an end to the darkness and the creatures returning to life.”

    “If we don’t,” Agelox said, “There would be more at stake than Hiraja.”

    Zahir looked crestfallen, but understanding. “I will tell Basem I tried.”

    He turned to leave, but Aldred’s voice stopped him. “Zahir, wait. After we help the gods defeat the Dragon, we’ll be more than happy to help Basem.”

    Zahir smiled and said, “I will tell him this.” And he ambled toward his stall.

    The group turned their attention toward the stone doors, Aldred activating the mechanism to open them. What appeared to be a vertical wall of purple water radiating purple light greeted them. The group readied their weapons and stepped through, one by one. Aldred heard the Jullovs muttering something about “treasure” as he stepped through.

    On the other side, Aldred stepped out onto a wooden walkway. In the dim light, he could make out the rest of the group gathered on a wooden platform off to the right staring out at the wide swath of sand and rocks and bones.

    “Is this the Halls of the Dead?” Canipi asked.

    “No no no,” a Jullov said.

    “This is the Ocean of Bones,” said another. “We must travel across the sea, yes, to get to the Halls.”

    “No treasure here.” said a third.

    “Treasure is in the Halls,” said a fourth.

    “Jullovs know the way, yes,” said a fifth. “We show the way.”

    The Jullovs navigated the walkway as a collective group, pushing and pulling, shoving, and griping at each other when they got stuck trying to turn a corner or squeeze through smaller areas. Aldred, Canipi, Agelox, and Arzlan watched the spectacle with mild amusement. They made motions to follow the Jullovs but a voice hissed at them out of the darkness.

    “Save yourself the trip.”

    The voice sounded so ominous, even the Jullovs stopped their commotion.

    “Who’s there?” Arzlan said, his voice a bit shaky.

    A dark mist appeared in front of them, taking the form of a humanoid figure in a pitch black hooded cloak.

    “I knew Agathon would do this,” it said. “Sending you as a backup plan.”

    It took a minute for everyone to recover themselves.

    “Uh...well...I was just doing what I was shown in a vision,” Arzlan said.

    “I’m sure you were. But Agathon and the others only sent you because they don’t want me roaming free. You were used to fulfill their selfish purpose.”

    Aldred noticed Arzlan physically wilt a little and then try to play it off by rolling his shoulders.

    “C’mon guys,” Aldred said, hoisting his weapon. “We’ve got a soul to destroy.”

    “I said save yourself a trip.” the figure said, before anyone moved. “It’s no longer here. And neither is the other soul you seek. You might as well return to your world.”

    Aldred looked at Agelox who looked at Canipi who looked at Arzlan whose face was contorted with uncertainty, but he nodded anyway.
    The Jullovs didn’t need to be asked twice. No sooner had Aldred called to them, they formed a single file line and shot toward the doors, nearly knocking everyone else over.

    “What now, Arz?” Canipi asked when they were back in Cardhun. The group had gathered on a terrace overlooking the marketplace, the Jullovs huddled together a short way off, muttering incoherently.

    “I don’t know,” Arzlan said. “I’m all confused now. I have no idea what we’re supposed to do.”

    Chapter 11

    The group stood in a circle outside the doors to the Ocean of Bones. Agelox leaned against his two-handed canon, muzzle against the stone pathway. Aldred played with the hilt of his sword, admiring the purple light emanating from the scabbard. Arzlan and Canipi stared at the ground. The Jullovs remained huddled together, chattering quietly.

    “Why don’t we go investigate this situation in Hiraja?” Canipi said.

    “If Nef-Artli is behind the reanimation of the creatures there,” Arzlan said. “That means that we have failed.”

    “I wonder if those folks in the desert are bit dehydrated,” Aldred said. “Perhaps they only think creatures are coming alive again.”

    “There be only one way to find out,” Agelox said.

    * * *

    “Welcome to Hiraja!” Basem said to the newcomers. “I am Basem. I’m so pleased my cousin has found ones to aid us. Perhaps you would care for some refreshment while I tell you what is happening.”

    The group politely declined.

    “You might as well, my new friends. We are in the desert, after all.”

    At this, the group accepted. They followed Basem into his home, Basem himself directing them to a sitting room. The furniture in the place was made of reeds lashed together with a type of leather cord and a type of cloth looking like snake skin.

    “I see you are admiring the snake skin,” Basem said.

    Aldred looked up and realized Basem’s words were directed at him. “I wouldn’t say ‘admiring’, but yes. It’s...different.”

    “It’s new...and real, too. Some of the creatures we have been dealing with have been the Shadaiqans. Part of life in the desert is that we do not throw anything away if it can be used for a purpose. This purpose is to scare the snake people into leaving us alone.”

    “Has it worked?” Agelox asked.

    “Not as well as we had hoped. Instead it has seemed to bolster their offenses. They have attacked in greater numbers. Fighters from all over the land have come to our aid, but it seems of no use.”

    “Zahir mentioned that you said creatures are coming back to life?” Canipi asked.

    “Indeed. But, many of us have not seen this for ourselves. Those who have not seen do not believe those who have, and those who have can hardly believe it themselves. We used to be at the mercy of the Djinn, and since his destruction we have had a time of peace, but now with these reports coming to me, I thought it best to call for some more help to investigate”

    “We know of one possible cause of this,” Arzlan said, “...Nef-Artli.”

    “Who is this Nef-Artli?”

    Aldred explained who Nef-Artli was, or Nefertali as he knew her as, how she had been defeated once, and that the group thinks she might be behind the creatures returning to life.

    “I have not heard of that name or any such being in this desert. We have only been enemies with the Djinn, and he has been destroyed by fighters from your lands. Perhaps the Djinn received his power from this Nefertali, but I am not sure. We’ve been more concerned with the safety of Hiraja.”

    Basem recounted how after the Djinn’s destruction, the Shadaiqans and other enemies that had been plaguing them had seemed to leave them alone until within the last few days when reports were spread around town that enemies had become active again.

    “What would you like us to do first, then?” Aldred asked. “...Basem?”

    Basem didn’t respond. His eyes had widened and he fell to a submissive position on the floor, murmuring. The others weren’t sure how to respond, but looked around to where Basem had been looking. Four men had stepped in from the other room, but they were not dressed like normal men from this land...or any land.

    One wore white armor trimmed in blue and carried a staff with a large ice crystal topper.

    The second wore red armor trimmed in gold and carried a staff with an animate flame engulfing the top.

    The third wore green armor trimmed in blue and carried nothing.

    The fourth wore blue armor trimmed in silver and carried a silver trident.

    The group stood, mouths agape.

    Canipi was the first one to speak. "...The Gods?"

    Chapter 12

    Fjalnir noticed the look on his priest’s face and said, “Worry not, young priest. Thou art where thou needest to be.”

    This seemed to put the young Tayaz at ease.

    “The soul,” the priest said. “We weren’t able to destroy it.”

    “We know,” Agathon said. “That’s why we must hurry. We must go through the Deeps of Demise to find a portal to the Anderworld. But first, you will need these.”

    Agathon stretched out his hand and four sets of armor appeared before the four heroes. “This is the Armor of the Gods. Put this on and all your natural abilities will be heightened. Your speed will increase. Your mental acuity will increase. All the pieces together provide a barrier against any magic type, and each piece is invulnerable.”

    Each hero changed into a white tunic trimmed in gold with colored fleurs-de-lis. Canipi’s were green, Arzlan’s were blue, Aldred’s were gold, and Agelox’s were red. They were all given white pants, boots, gloves, and pauldrons. All but Arzlan were given a solid white chest plate to be worn over the tunic. Arzlan was given a robe that appeared more like a long coat.

    The heroes were admiring the new armor when the front door opened with a smash.

    “Hey!” a familiar voice said. “You leave Jullov and his family in Cardhun. Why you no wait for Jullov?”

    “Who are you?” Basem asked, abandoning his position on the floor. “What are you doing in my house?”

    “He’s with us, Basem,” Aldred said. Then to the gods he said, “He and his family want to fight the Dragon with us.”

    “Very well,” Agathon said, raising an eyebrow. “Another thing before we go...you all will need these. Weapons of the Gods.”

    Agathon nodded to the other gods who produced new weapons for each hero.

    Canipi received a new bow and new arrows. The bow was ornately designed and formed from a young Lor tree of Artaya’s Sanctum in Lor’Tac. The arrows were made from the same Lor wood, and had been enchanted with a variety of abilities. There were bramble arrows -- which produced a trail of bramble bushes as it traveled, net arrows -- which split into several arrows each fastened to a net used to trap enemies, explosive arrows, stun arrows, and piercing arrows. Canipi went off to the Jeweler to remove the gems she had installed on her old bow and put them in her new bow.

    Aldred received a brilliant steel sword that would never need sharpened or polished and would never rust or degrade. He pulled his Essence of Oblivion from his old sword and attached it to the new sword and the sword glowed a dark purple. Aldred set his old sword aside and slid the new one into the sheath at his belt. It fit perfectly.

    Agelox received a two-handed minigun. Instead of firing large metal rounds, it shot fireballs. It was made of Dwarven steel and had decorative battle burns. Agelox hefted it and guffawed.

    Fjalnir produced an ice crystal and set it in Arzlan’s staff. Arzlan’s eyes grew wide when he realized it looked like the same ice crystal that had been in his staff before it was needed to open Agathon’s Alliance Hall. He felt the staff gain power.

    “With thy staff,” Fjalnir said, “thou canst spew forth magical projectiles. Thou also now hath all the abilities of a Spellweaver.”

    As the ice god waved his hand around in front of Arzlan, a shimmering gold mist enveloped the priest and absorbed into his body.

    “How do you feel, Arz?” Aldred asked.

    A huge smile formed on Arzlan’s face. “I feel great! This is fantastic! Thanks, my Lord!”

    Fjalnir returned the smile and nodded to Agathon.

    “What about us?” Jullov said, bounding up to the gods. “Where is our weapons? How we supposed to fight with no--what’s this?”

    While Jullov spoke words, Agathon had conjured up a dagger and dropped it into Jullov’s hand.

    “That,” Agathon said, “is a dagger. There are nine more in your family, correct?”

    “Yes, we are ten. We--ow! Why you do that?”

    Agathon had conjured nine more daggers and dropped them on Jullov’s head. Jullov scurried outside with the daggers, muttering and grumbling incoherently. Canipi almost tripped on him walking back into the house.

    “I will not lie to you,” Agathon said, “because I can’t….but this will be the most difficult thing you have ever had to face. Prepare yourselves.”

    “We will revive you when you die,” Fyrgon said. “You mortals have always been our hope against the Dragon’s magic, but this will be the first time any mortal has risen against the Dragon himself since the days of Nefertali.”

    “And we all know how that turned out,” Oceanus said.

    Agathon asked if the four fighters were prepared to leave. Arzlan looked at Canipi who looked at Agelox who looked at Aldred and nodded.

    “We are ready, my Lord,” Aldred said.

    Then leading the group of four gods, four heroes, and ten goblins, Agathon said, “Forward to battle.”

    Chapter 13

    The group set out from Hiraja and traveled through the Great Desert, passing through Shadaiqan territory. The heroes expressed their concern for safety by tensing their muscles and being ready to draw on an enemy at any second. The gods noticed this and reassured them that their path would be unhindered.

    A formidable-looking group of the snake-warriors slithered toward them, spears jutting forward. Agathon stretched out his arm and every one of them fell like dead snakes. The group of heroes, gods, and goblins proceeded through the desert, Agathon causing every potential threat they faced to go unconscious.

    They soon reached the entrance to the Deeps of Demise. It didn’t seem as far from Hiraja as Aldred thought it might be, but when he turned to look back the way they had come, he could not see the mountains anymore. As they entered, voices filled the air. It sounded like some Shadaiqan was throwing a hissy fit.

    “Bak, how could let humansss in here?”

    “I didn’t know they were humansss, Uncle Odi. They looked exssactly like you.”

    “You’re a sssmart sssnake, Bak. Didn’t it ssseem ssstrange to even sssee multiple me’sss at a time?”

    “I thought the othersss were...othersss.”

    “If the High Council findsss out you let humansss into our training groundsss, they’ll...do you realizsse what the penalty isss for sssuch an act?”

    “I don’t sssuppossse it’sss picking ssspikefruit for the ressst of my daysss.”

    “Not even clossse. They put you in a room with all sssix Terrorsss and lock the door. Not sssomething I want to happen to my favorite nephew.”

    “Aw Odi, that’sss--”

    The group of gods and mortals had rounded a corner and come into full view of the two Shadaiqans. The one in the middle of his sentence stopped and stared, eyes as wide as they could go. The other had his back to them and turned at the other’s expression. He, too, widened his eyes and started to say something. Before he could get any words out, Agathon again reached out his hand and the two snake-people fell unconscious.

    They proceeded through the dungeon, disabling the floor spikes along the way. The heroes familiarized themselves with their new weapons, spreading out from the others so as not to injure anyone. Oceanus gave Canipi some practice arrows for her to shoot at the various stone columns. Aldred swung his sword, getting used to its weight in his hand. Agelox fired his gun at the columns Canipi shot at and then had her loose arrows into the air for him to shoot down. Arzlan was engrossed in his spellbook, memorizing important spells and practicing with Fjalnir.

    Soon they reached the 10th floor and then the opposite side where the four gods combined powers to open a portal to the Dragon’s location.

    “Are you ready?” Agathon asked the heroes.

    Aldred held his sword up in salute. “Yes, my lord.”

    Canipi did the same with her bow. “Yes, my lord.”
    Agelox hefted his gun into a comfortable position at his side and nodded. “Aye.”

    Arzlan, however, flipped through his spellbook anxiously. “I just gotta….make sure...I have the...right spells.”

    Fjalnir placed a hand on his shoulder. “You are ready.”

    Arzlan stopped flipping through the pages and looked up at the ice god. “I’ll try not to let you down, my lord.”

    Fjalnir smiled and then nodded to Agathon.

    “Jullov is ready, too. And his family. We are ready, too. Let Jullov at this Dragon.”

    The other nine goblins echoed his sentiments rather loudly until Agathon finally got them to quiet down.

    Agathon shook his head, saying, “Who in the world created goblins…,” and stepped through the portal. The rest of the group followed in no certain order.

    The room on the other side was bathed in purple light, purple crystals floating in what looked like endless starry space around a circular stone disc set above a deep pool of clear liquid. The portal had brought them onto the disc itself. Lighting arced between crystals. There were no other doors. The heroes were awestruck by the magnificence of the place. The gods seemed unimpressed.

    Arzlan took a peek over the side of the disc into the water below. “I can see the bottom.”

    “Be on your guard,” Agathon said, his eyes searching the stars for any sign of the Dragon.

    Everyone searched with him, and were soon rewarded. A dark shape blotted out some stars, growing larger by the second. It came into view, light from the crystals and electricity reflecting off the creatures scales. The creature landed on the disc in front of the group fire in his eyes and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth.

    Aldred’s grip on his sword tightened...hopefully the essence would work like the spy had said and this would be over quickly. Canipi, a tight grip on her bow, nocked an exploding arrow. Agelox set his stance and aimed. Arzlan tossed aside his spell book and gripped his icy staff with two hands. The goblins hugged each other and whimpered.

    Agathon stepped forward. “Hello...father.”

    Chapter 14

    The Dragon responded with a fire breath shot aimed directly for Agathon. Quick hand motions from him caused a wall of vines to shoot up from the floor, absorbing some of the blast. The force of the blast cause Agathon to stagger backward.

    Nobody waited for a command to charge. Aldred and the goblins charged forward, the young knight yelling, “For Duriaaaaa!” The goblins screamed random obscenities, brandishing their daggers.

    Everyone else quickly took up positions in a half-circle around the Dragon and began firing with everything they had. Fyrgon shot fireballs from his staff. Fjalnir shot various ice projectiles from his staff. Oceanus shot concentrated water jets from his trident. Agathon caused vines to sprout from the ground and wind themselves around the Dragon’s feet. Agelox popped a couple machine gun turrets and shot fireballs from his new gun, and when one turret got used up he popped another one. Canipi shot every variety of arrow she had. The stun arrows didn’t work, the brambles poison effect didn’t affect the Dragon, but the exploding arrows seemed to do okay.

    The Dragon halted his fire breath, recoiling slightly, more surprised than hurt by the attacks. He noticed Aldred and the Goblins moving toward him. The goblins were all in a group, which made it east for him to whip his tail at them and not miss.

    The Dragon’s tail came down on the Jullovs with a crash, sending them flying. The battle paused for a few moments for everyone to watch nine members of Jullov’s family soar into the starry blackness, screaming.

    Jullov, the only one to not fly off screaming, dropped his dagger and threw his hands in the air.

    “Now Jullov has to go find his family all over again!” he said.

    Everyone watched him waddle off, whimpering and muttering to himself.

    The fighting started again when Aldred took the opportunity of the momentary distraction to attack the Dragon with a powerful overhead slash of his sword.

    The essence did not work.

    “Oh spit,” Aldred said as he backpedaled.

    The Dragon turned on him and prepared a fire breath attack. Agathon rushed to the aid of the Durian knight, ready to shield him. The attack did not come as the Dragon recoiled from another onslaught of attacks from the group.

    The Dragon moved away from the attacks, breaking Agathon’s vine bindings easily. He reared up on his hind legs and beat his wings two times. The first beat sent out a shockwave that knocked everyone to the ground. The second beat sent out another shockwave that sent everyone skidding. Rumbling laughter seemed to come from everywhere as the Dragon bared his teeth.

    The heroes and the gods got to their feet, the heroes chugging health potions. They were met with a giant fireball and all four of the heroes died.

    The Dragon’s horns crackled with blue-purple lighting causing lighting strikes to appear all around the battlefield. The bolts struck dangerously fast giving each of the gods a few burns here and there as they tried to dodge.

    “Fjalnir!” Oceanus called out. “Can you build a giant ice stalactite?”

    “Of course I can,” Fjalnir called back. “Where hast thou been all these millenia?”

    “Very funny. Put it there.” Oceanus pointed to a random spot and ran toward it. By the time he got there the ice god had a very tall spire waiting for him. He gripped it and waited. One of the bolts struck the tip sending a surge of energy into Oceanus. He shot a water jet from his trident toward the Dragon, which carried that energy with it. The Dragon recoiled from the intense shock and let out a hiss. Oceanus had redirected the Dragon’s attack back at him and it burned him.

    The Dragon shot a fireball toward the water god, but Fyrgon jumped in front with a fire shield that reflected the shot back at him. Fyrgon added a fireball of his own and watched the Dragon’s head knock back as he let out a roar.

    While the other three were busy with their nemesis, Agathon went to revive the heroes.

    “We died?” Arzlan asked.

    “Yes, but there was nothing you could do to stay alive,” Agathon said.

    “What’s going on now?” Aldred asked, looking toward the fighting.

    “We’ve managed to hurt him, but in the long run he is still a god and too powerful for us.”

    “Then why are we even here?”

    “Because we have to try,” Canipi said. “Maybe we can distract him long enough to find Nef-Artli’s soul and destroy it.”
    “Along with my brother,” Agathon said.

    “Who is your brother?” Agelox asked.


    Chapter 15

    The heroes rose to their feet and readied themselves for battle.

    “I can’t believe this essence didn’t work,” Aldred said.

    “Oh I’m sure it does,” Agathon said. “But only those who are or were mortal. That essence looks to have been created with andermagic. The Dragon has such control over andermagic that he is resistant to it if its power is any less than his.”

    “Horsefud,” Aldred said. “What chance to I have against him now? I can’t walk up to him and beat him with a stick.”

    “You just need to keep him busy. Your armor will protect you some.”

    “Like it did when we died?” Agelox asked in a condescending tone.

    “The Dragon is more powerful than us, so we can’t make something that is going to be a hundred percent effective. We did give you a speed boost, so you wouldn’t be completely helpless, but even so, the Dragon may catch you eventually.”

    Now that Aldred knew he would be bug squat no matter what, he just had to focus on not becoming bug squat too soon.

    The heroes assembled and launched their attacks. Aldred raced in, watching the Dragon’s head the entire time. He heard a clanking behind him and looked back briefly. Agelox had joined him and was using an Iron Dwarf ability. Together they should be able to keep him busy enough to find the souls and destroy them.

    Agathon and Canipi stood away from the battle, Canipi firing arrow after arrow, Agathon “Where would the souls be?” Canipi asked.

    “I don’t know,” Agathon said, scanning the battlefield. Then he felt a presence beside him. He turned to see Mortis. “What are you doing here?”

    “Securing my freedom, boy,” the lord of the dead said.

    “Of course you are.”

    “You were wondering about the souls, yes?”

    Agathon didn’t answer.

    “They are no longer dead. Your mother...and your brother...have risen again.”

    If a god’s face could have paled, Agathon’s would have.

    The Dragon reared up and beat his wings twice like before, knocking everyone back. Everyone was read for it this time, so they were able to keep themselves a bit more steady and recover quickly.

    Everyone got back on their feet, brandishing their weapons. The Dragon let out a low rumble of a laugh.

    “You may have hurt me,” he said. “...but you will never defeat me.”

    Behind him, two figures glided out of the shadows. It was Balor and Nefertari.

    As Balor and Nefertari moved to the center of the battlefield, the Dragon flew off into the stars.

    “Hello Agathon,” they said in unison monotone.

    “Fire everything you have!” Agathon yelled as he cast yellow lightning toward the pair. Balor stepped in front of it and blocked it with his wing. Balor seemed to be blocking everyone’s attacks.

    Arzlan called down meteors and shot lasers from his staff, along with any ice attack he could think of and various tricks to weaken Balor’s defense.

    Agelox popped his machine gun turrets, threw grenades, and shot fireballs from his gun.

    Canipi fired exploding arrow after exploding arrow since that was the only arrow that could work.

    “You know you can summon animals to fight with you, right?” Fyrgon asked stepping up beside her.

    She looked at him, surprised. “I do now. How does it work?”

    “That bow is imbued with magic, so when you think of an animal, it will appear in front of you with a puff of green smoke and charge after the enemy.”

    “Well, thanks for telling me now.”

    “Yeah, sorry…”

    Canipi concentrated on an animal she would like to fight with. Then, with a puff of green smoke, and a soft pop, three wolves appeared in front of her and took off after Balor.

    Aldred had run up and was dueling Balor face to face, trying to get around to Nefertari, who hada now cocooned herself in a ball of andermagic.

    Fjalnir and Oceanus came up beside Agathon and Fyrgon.

    “You see what Nefertari’s doing?” Oceanus asked.

    “Yeah,” Agathon said. “I think she’s starting to raise the dead.”

    Fyrgon looked at Agathon. “Can’t let that happen.”

    Chapter 16

    “Methinks Balor be almost destroyed,” Fjalnir said. “One final full-force blast should do it, and then we can attack Nefertari.”

    “Alright then,” Agathon said, “everything you have, gents.”

    The five gods lined up and cast beams of light, fire, ice, andermagic, and water at Balor. With a roar, Balor rose into the air and fell to floor in a heap.

    “Oops, someone needs to go revive Aldred,” Oceanus said, pointing to an area near Balor’s body.

    “I got it,” Agathon said. He went out and use another spirit stone on the young knight.

    “You have fought bravely, young knight,” he said. “I am honored to have you as a follower.”

    “A pleasure to serve, my Lord,” Aldred said. “Is it over?”

    “Not yet. We still have to deal with Nefertari.”

    Suddenly, Nefertari’s cocoon emitted an energy wave that knocked Agathon and Aldred to the ground.

    “Fire on her!” Agathon yelled to the others. They complied. Energy beams, exploding arrows, and fireballs impacted the andermagic sphere while Agathon escorted Aldred back to the group.

    “None of our attacks are going through, Ag,” Fyrgon said. “The barrier is too strong. She’s probably drawing from the energy in here.”

    “There has to be a weakness,” Agathon said.

    * * *

    “They’re alive! They’re alive!” Malyssa screamed as she ran through the streets of Kingshill. “Somebody help!”

    She ran up to a master-at-arms. “You have to help! My sisters have come back to life and are coming for me!”

    The master-at-arms wrinkled his face at her and pushed her off him. “Get away from me, witch!”

    Malyssa continued running up to random people asking for help. A group of fighters she came to seemed interested.

    “What’s in it for us,” one of them said.

    “Help me kill them and I’ll give you whatever you want,” Malyssa said. “I am a witch, you know.”

    “Done. Lead the way.”

    * * *

    In Nahuatlan, Papalotl sat at the burial site of his late wife. After fighters had cleared the evil creatures from the temple, he had gone back in and re-buried Nonami’s remains. The flask that contained her soul, he poured into a small bowl at her feet. He whispered an incantation and Nonami’s soul flowed from the bottle into the ground.

    He had a flashback to times when the two of them had just gotten married in the temple and decided to explore it right after the ceremony, when they frolicked in the currents of Frog River, and when they collected dragonturtle eggs on the beaches of Stillwater Bay.

    “Have peace, my dove,” he said once he had completed the ritual.

    He stood and prepared to leave.

    But his feelings of contentment became feelings of fear when he heard a screech. He turned, and there was a shrieking fiend. Behind it, other creatures of darkness began sprouting.
    “But...I just…”

    * * *

    In the fields outside Hognis Mine in Myrdosch, Sverre collected ice crystals for use in his combat essence.

    After he collected his quota for the day, he ventures over to the grave of his brother Olaf. Olaf used to be in the essence business with Sverre, but that changed one day when Olaf had found a crop of ice crystals on the other side of the canyon.These crystals that were perfect for making combat essence.

    He became a changed man, organising a small group of men to guard the crop from their competition. Hognis Mine was a popular place for combat essence materials, but Olaf soon wouldn’t let any other merchants into the mine at all. Only Sverre.

    Sverre tried talking with Olaf about the situation, but Olaf heard none of it. A coalition of forces from other parts of Myrdosch rose up against Olaf and his mob and after a bloody battle, Olaf was killed.

    His final wish was to be buried near the canyon where he had first discovered the crystals.

    Sverre stood at the grave, looking out over the canyon. Then he heard a noise behind him. He turned to see Olaf. But it wasn’t Olaf as he remembered him. This was a more grotesque form, and he didn’t seem to recognize Sverre at all.

    “Olaf?” Sverre said, sneaking past the creature. “It’s me, Sverre. Your brother?”

    The creature growl and prepared to charge. Sverre broke into a run with his basket of crystals. On his way through the mine, he noticed other creatures--trolls and dwarves--rise from the ground.

    What is happening? he thought.

    * * *

    J’Ibal bowed in front of the altar to Oceanus in the Temple Sector of Atlantis. When he rose, a gorgon was in front of him.

    “Hello, brother,” it said. “You still pray to Oceanus? Pathetic.”

    “Better than whom you serve, J’Elaell. You are dead to me for betraying our god.”

    The gorgon lunged for J’Ibal, firing a slime ball from her mouth. J’Ibal dodged, picking up a loose rock and chucking it at his former sister.

    J’Elaell dodged it and lunged at J’Ibal again. J’Ibal picked up his spear he had brought with him, just in time to gore the gorgon with it. He pulled it out without hesitation and J’Elaell flopped to the ground.

    Then J’Ibal heard a noise. He looked around and noticed Zorlobbs lumbering toward him, jellyfish floating toward him. Something turned his attention back to the gorgon at his feet, except she wasn’t there. She was standing, as only one with a tail for legs could, right in front of the Atlantean again.

    What in Atlantis…? he thought, and slithered back toward the travel stone as fast as he could. He had to fight off Zorlobbs as he went, but J’Ibal made it to the stone and back to Atlantis unharmed.

    * * *

    Back on the battlefield, heroes and gods were having no luck bringing down the andermagic barrier, so everyone abandoned their attacks and watched.

    “What do we do now?” Arzlan asked.

    “Wait for it to come down, I guess,” Canipi said.

    “We were hoping to destroy her before it came to this,” Fyrgon said.

    “I was curious about that,” Canipi said. “Why did you need us to destroy her?”

    “Because she would use her magic to reanimate the dead and give them the ability to regenerate.”

    “The dead shall rise and rise again,” Mortis said, “as darkness reigns within the land. That’s what the Dragon told me before he walked off with Nefertari’s soul.”

    Then the andermagic barrier dropped.

    “Prepare to fire,” Agathon said.

    Nefertari looked down at Balor’s body and held out her hands over it. Andermagic flowed from her fingers over Balor like tendrils, breathing life into him again.

    Agathon gave the command to fire, and everyone complied. Beams of energy from the gods and every weapon the heroes possessed. Aldred stayed back this time, throwing bombs given to him by Agelox.

    Nefertari screeched as she died, and the heroes breathed a sigh of relief, but the gods remained on edge. And for good reason. A few moments later, andermagic flowed from the starry sky into Nefertari’s body.

    The group watched as Nefertari rose again and resumed reviving Balor.

    “Agathon,” Mortis said. “The dead have risen.”

    “We were too late,” Agathon said, shoulders wilting.

    Balor roared in triumph next to his mother, and a low rumble of laughter could be heard.

    Oceanus shook his head. “Well, barnacles.”

    The End

    Author's note: Goal was technically achieved, but I realized I only mentioned King Murolosh once in the beginning and then never mentioned him again or included him in a scene for the rest of the story. Total word count, including chapter headings--15,300 words. 44 pages in Google docs at size 11 font. Thank you for the positive feedback I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
    Conqueror21, Yogo, Eridiani and 6 others like this.
  2. EhtovK

    EhtovK Old Hand

    I'm liking it so far, although I'd like to contribute with some data if you allow me:

    The humans were created by the old gods in order to counter the power of The Dragon. If I remember correctly, the first humans fought him and managed to make him retreat to the Anderworld. The Anderworld is apparently some sort of Dracanian version of "hell", quoting: "The Anderworld is not like an undiscovered land, but rather like a dream. It can be anything thou imaginest it to be. It is the sum of the fears and hopes of every creature that has ever existed. For many, it is their final home". The Parallel World on the other hand, is some sort of distorted reality that came by because of Mortis' plots, the "real world" started to fall apart and from the materi fragments and the andermagic released apparently by Mortis, the PWs we know came to be. So, Nefertari, Balor, and The Dragon were trapped in the Anderworld, rather than the PW.

    "The Dragon" is a creation of Mortis, the youngest of the old gods. In the past, he asked all the other 4 (Artaya, Fjalnir, Fyrgon and Oceanus) for a small portion of their power (and the fools gave it to him lol), so he weaved The Dragon from it, then he realized he screwed up and created something too powerful and evil. So, he's actually their nephew, and younger than them.

    I just wanted to contribute with some of the lore data I know, in case you want it to be a bit more accurate when comparing it to the in-game lore, but regardless of that, keep it going, I really enjoy reading these kind of stories.
    Javah and Jocom like this.
  3. Jocom

    Jocom Forum Apprentice

    Awesome, @EhtovK , thanks for that. I'll incorporate that into the story.
  4. Javah

    Javah Forum Veteran

    Guys, it's really nice. This could be the worthy screenplay of the next saga in fantasy style.
    Jocom likes this.
  5. EhtovK

    EhtovK Old Hand

    Waiting for it :)

    (Yes, this is a BUMP, sorry :p)
  6. Dragonnns

    Dragonnns Count Count

    I'm loving the story Jocom! Love the new chapters. :D
    Jocom likes this.
  7. EhtovK

    EhtovK Old Hand

    Get this into the creative corner now lol
    Jocom likes this.
  8. Dragonnns

    Dragonnns Count Count

    I like the addition of the Jullovs!
    Jocom likes this.
  9. wolfie54

    wolfie54 Active Author

    Really good work Jocom. Nicely written.
    Jocom likes this.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.