Sunday, October 25, 2015
His altar had been set up and the two of three sacrifices had been made. His third kill had been a Goblin he had found out on patrol alone. It had been a quick and easy and he was on his way back to the altar to start the ritual with his live sacrifice. He had wanted to use Kranko but there wasn't time to fetch him from the dungeon.
With the Goblin in a paralyzing hold hovering behind him, Bruego made his way back to the dark altar he had constructed. He looked up and smiled as he saw the moon was almost in the right position as he pushed his way through the jungle. As he stepped through the bushes into the clearing where the altar was, Bruego was shocked to find his altar had been destroyed. No longer was it dedicated to the dark magic he had placed on it. Someone had re made it and dedicated it back to Tyree.
"No!" He shouted. "This can not be!"
"It can and it is." Said a voice from high up in the trees. Bruego turned just as Rowyn came flying down and sent a blast at him. Sweeping his hand around, Bruego pushed the Goblin out to block her blast and then dived to the side. As he got back up on his feet, he cast a quick force shield in front of him to protect himself.
"You again!" He said raising his hands ready to fight. "You destroyed my altar! Now the horn is useless to me! For that, I will kill you and use your bones for my next weapon!"
Bruego reached back and formed a power ball and hurled it at Rowyn. She drew back and tried to lift off into the trees but got tangled in a branch and fell back right in to the path of the power ball. Rowyn looked up then raised her hands to try and form a shield but it was to late. As the power ball was about to hit her, Niro jumped out and used his elemental ring to raise a slab of soil to intercept the ball. The power ball hit the soil shield and dirt exploded and rained down on all them. With dirt in his eyes, Bruego backed away blinded for a second. Niro saw that as a chance to attack. He raised his ax and leaped at Bruego slamming it down on his power shield. Bruego screamed as the ax hit his shield and cracks started to spread out from its center. Dropping the shield, Bruego thrust out with a force blast at Niro knocking him back into the trunk of a huge tree where he fell down to his knees. As Bruego ready a spell to blast Niro, Sima came flying out of the jungle and landed on his back. Bruego screamed as Sima sank her teeth into his shoulder. Pain ripped through his body. Bruego sent a pulse of energy radiating out from his body the blasted Sima off his back. As he tried to stand up, Rowyn tried to trap him in a cage of magic.
As the cage formed around Bruego, Hoddie, Kranko and several of his Goblin warriors came barreling out of the jungle to surround them. Kranko stepped forward and saw Bruego his the cage.
"You have failed Orc." He said. "Slug is in the dungeon and I am still chief of the Bloodfangs. It is you who is prisoner now."
"You think this will hold me!" He cast out with another bolt and destroyed Rowyn's cage. "You have made a real enemy today. I am to weak to deal with you now but mark my words. I will be back and I will make you pay. I will kill you all and that is a promise!"
Surrounded by Goblins on his right and Rowyn, Niro and Sima to the right, Bruego used his last bit of magic and disappeared in a flash of light leaving the unicorn horn laying on Tyree's altar. Rowyn went over a picked up the horn and stared down at it.
"Do you see what that monster did?" She said sadly. "He killed three satyrs and at least two unicorns all for a weapon. One he thought would help him conquer Fay Shrea. How sad."
"Orc's aren't known for their compassion." Kranko said as he and Hoddie joined her and Niro.
"Neither were Goblins." Hoddie said. "But look how that's changing."
"Yes." Kranko nodded. "Our people are learning though, very slowly."
"Father." Hoddie introduced his new friends. "This is princess Rowyn Windstar of Pelorda and Niro Herkalus of Sorrowdown."
"Windstar? Herkalus?" Kranko frowned. "I know these names. Your father is King Philibar and yours is General Vibuis Herkalus. Interesting that the three of you should meet in the forest."
"You knew my father?" Niro was surprised. His father had never mentioned knowing any Goblins. But then there was a lot Niro was learning about his fathers past.
"Yes," Kranko said. "We met shortly after I took over the clan from Bog. There was a mad man threatening all of Fay Shrea and the rest of Taggitia. We had to defeat him and put him down."
"To bad he didn't stay down"
As they all looked around, and saw a blue and red spark come flying from over the trees to hover in front of Kranko.
"Bly?" He said. "Bly Sharpwing?"
"Aiya old friend." She shifted to her larger size and set herself down. "I'm afraid we're here to bring you bad news."
"We?" Kranko looked around. "Who is we?"
"I'm not alone." She explained. "Quynn and Ranjer Tyr are with me along with Myor Arynn and Yarden Pek from up north."
As Kranko looked from Bly to Rowyn and Niro, he had a strange feeling he knew what this was all about. Yes, he did know the parents of some of the young ones around him and those that follow Bly. He had been with their parent in a battle to take down a certain warlock,
"Bram Thorne." Kranko said. "This has something to do with him, doesn't it?
"Yes." Bly nodded. "Somehow, he managed to escape from the underworld and he's after us. Tomz Acros is dead and so is my father."
"What does he want?"
"He wants us dead." She said. "All of us that were there when he died. And he wants his rings."
Kranko looked at the ring on his finger It was one of Bram's elemental rings. The ring of shadow. He had taken it from Bram after he died and held on to it all these years. Now with Bram back among the living, he wondered if maybe he should give it to Hoddie as he always planned to. Maybe to can help to catch the crazy bastard.
"And why are you here?" He asked. "Are you here to warn me or do you plan to find him and put him back in his grave?"
"I plan to avenge my father's death." Her eyes started to glow red. "I'm going to send him back to the underworld and this time to stay, but I need help. You helped us defeat him once, I'm hoping you'll help us again."
"No." Kranko shook his head. "I can't, I'm far too busy here, but I have an even better idea. Take my son. He's smart, good with a knife, he'll be a valuable asset against that mad man."
"OK." She turned to Rowyn. "Your father sent me here for you too. He said you could help find him."
"I have certain talents that might help. And if my father wants me to help, I'll go with you."
"What about Niro?" Hoddie asked.
"He should go too." Kranko told them.
"Why?" Bly asked. "Who is he?"
"He's the son of our old friend General Vibius Herkalus." Kranko lifted Niro's hand. "And he wears Bram's earth ring. Your father was one of the men that killed Bram. You have a stake in this too."
"Then I agree." Bly walked to Niro and shook his hand. "Bram will be after you to."
Looking down at his hand, Kranko looked at the black stone ring on his finger. It was Bram's Shadow ring. It was time he passed it on to his son. He slid it off his finger and turned to Hoddie.
"Hodgodde, take this." He handed him the ring "It's what Bram is after. It has a power of great shadow. Go with Bly and the others and stop that crazy bastard before he turns Blood Tooth into an empty cavern of death.
"I will Father." Hoddie took the ring then dripped Kranko's hand. "I will make you proud."
"I already am proud." Kranko stepped back to talk to Bly and the others. "I'll strengthen the patrols and talk with the Eventides and Queen Nuala. All we can do is keep a watch for him. Where are you heading next?"
"I've split the team in two." She explained. "Myor took Quynn, Ranjer and Yarden and they are going after one of the lost rings. I'm taking this group to Mystwinter."
"Then you should get moving." Kranko shook hands all around. "Mystwinter is three days away. Magaan a taklaan lhuukaan."
With that said, Kranko watched as Bly led her team away. Chonk stepped over to stand beside Kranko.
"He's going to be alright." He said. "He can do this."
"I know." Kranko put his hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "He's very special."
The day was warm and it was late in the afternoon as Quynn and Myor flew side by side heading west. After Bly had left for Gaymere, Myor took the others on a search for the first of the missing elemental rings. With his eyes closed he had cast out for the location of the closest ring and felt a pull to the west. He explained that he wouldn't be able to find the exact location, but he could get them within a few miles of it then they would have to look carefully.
From Dorlanth they headed west with Myor in the lead and Yarden on his back. Quynn and Ranjer followed close behind. They passed over the plains of Tarlok where the tribal Tarlins live then over the Misty Mountains and down through Grigg forest where Myor sent word to land.
After finding a secluded clearing big enough for the two to land, they set down and set up a small camp where they could rest. It had been a long flight and both Myor and Quynn was tired.
"I can feel there's a ring very close." He said. We should rest a little while then go find it. There's a river for water just over there to the north."
"I'll get the water." Ranjer said. he collected everyone's water bottle. "I'll do a little scouting while I'm out there."
"Be careful." Quynn said as he pulled out the blankets and made himself someplace comfortable to rest.
"I can go out hunting." Yarden put down his pack. "Get a fire started and I will be back shortly with something to eat."
With the water bottles over his shoulder, Ranjer started off through the forest following the sound of the river ahead. It had been a tough day, they had flown to Dorlanth and met Jayce's mate JP. He had asked for their help with the coming threat the Minotaur. After meeting Myor and Yarden, they agreed to help. It had been a rough fight, but Yarden had been successful and defeated the monstrous beast. Now they were out with Myor after the first of the elemental rings.
From the campsite, Ranjer followed the sound of rushing water to the river. He went in and stooped down and filled each bottle one by one. As he waited for the last one to fill he looked up to see five young kids playing in the shallow water. Ranjer smiled as he watched remembering his days back in Tir Na playing in the forest and Savage Creek where he and Tof went fishing. He knew all that could be destroyed if Bram Thorne had his way. He's going to attack New Keanna, and once he does that, Tir Na will have to join the fight against him and war will again rage all over Taggitia and no one will be safe.
As he watched, something in the water caught his attention. A slight ripple in the water, and something underwater started moving towards the kids. A chill went through Ranjer as he concentrated and peered down closer at the water. There was something down there swimming towards the children. It was big, longer then twelve feet and shaped almost like an alligator but its legs and arms were longer like they were meant for walking and grabbing. Instead of paws, Ranjer could see it had webbed feet and hands. This wasn't your average alligator, this was something else. Dropping the water bottles, Ranjer dived in and swam out to try and intercept the underwater invader. As soon as he slipped beneath the surface, his body started to adapt to the water. Gills formed in his neck and his hands and feet became webbed. It seemed Queen Anemone's of Aquilona's spell to make him amphibious was going to be permanent. Like a Mer man he sped forward and tried to catch up with the monstrous intruder. But it was way to far away for him to catch it. As he swam, Ranjer watched as the thing opened its mouth and snapped it close on the first of the children. Blood ran the river red as the boy thrashed and was pulled underwater and chomped quickly down by the creature. Ranjer screamed out in his mind in rage. He tried to quicken his speed to stop it as it reached for the second child, but he was still to far away to do anything to help the girl. With a snap of its powerful jaws, the creature bite her in half then tossed her aside and kept going after the three heading for the shore.
As Ranjer struggled to reach the beast, it climbed out the water and went for the terrified children huddled together on the river's edge. Spell after spell went through his mind as he swam but he know he wouldn't be able to cast any of them until he was out of the water. By then he would be too late to save the children. All he would be able to do was avenge their deaths.
As the snarling thing reached for the kids, a bolt of energy came streaking out of the sky. Like a hammer it hit the Gator thing in its chest and knocked him back into the water. As it crawled back up on the shore, an older man dressed in white robes with white hair holding a staff with a glowing head floated down to land between the creature and the children.
"Get back Mazus Nox." He held out a shining hand as he descended to the ground. "You will not touch anymore of our children!"
"You know my name?" Snarled the Gator man. "And who may I ask are you white one?"
"I am Nadir Payne." The wizard said. "And Bellshore is my home and the people are mine. You are not welcome here."
"I see." Mazus sneered. "If you know my name, then you know you can not stop me. Your petty white magics can not stand against one as powerful as me."
"We shall see about that." Nadir raised his hand and sent a blast at Mazus. With amazing speed Mazus dived out of the path of the bolt and leaped at Nadir and spun around and tried to hit him with his tail. Holding out his staff with two hands, Nadir intercepted blow then spun his staff and slammed it down on Mazus's tail. The Gator man bellowed out in pain, and then he swung his closed fist out at the Wizard. Nadir ducked the blow. His speed for an old man surprised Ranjer, but he wasn't fast enough. Mazus turned and kicked out at the Wizard. This time the blow connected and sent him sailing back on the sandy beach. Laughing, Mazus leaped at Nadir with his claws out and ready to tear into his chest. As Nadir saw Mazus coming at him, he raised his hand. On his fourth finger there was a ring. It was a white ring. It flared to life and a great blast of white light flared out and hit Mazus. He screamed as the light tore into his body. His scales began to sizzle as the light burned through it. Then his flesh caught fire and his body was consumed by the over powering illumination.
Ranjer stood there in the river astonished as the ashes of the Gator man rained down on the Wizard. Nadir stood up and dusted himself off then turned and looked out and saw Ranjer. Before Ranjer could move or say a word, Nadir cast out with another blast of light and hit Ranjer knocking him out cold.
High in the bright sunny sky, Quynn lay in a cloud and made love to Sky his handsome Snow Phoenix love. They kissed as they rolled through the clouds and held each other close. Quynn looked deeply into Sky's blue eyes and still couldn't they had found each other. Sky kissed him again and smiled.
"You're my destiny." Sky said. "Nothing could have kept us apart for long."
"And nothing ever will." Quynn kissed his hand and squeezed it.
"Then you have to be careful Melamin." Sky said as he ran his hand along Quynns face. "Your quest is dangerous. There will be many dangers before you can come back home to me."
"I will be careful mela en coiamin."
"Then you better wake up." Sky said. "Ranjer is in trouble. He needs your help now. Wake up!"
With a final kiss on his lips, Quynn jumped up wake and looked around for Ranjer. He wasn't there. Yarden and Myor were sitting at the fire picking at the last pieces of the rabbits Yarden had caught while hunting.
Quynn threw off the blankets and hurried to the fire.
"He went for water a little while ago." Myor said. "I was just about to wake you up. He should have been back by now."
"He must have run into some kind of trouble." Yarden said as he dropped the rabbit carcass and got up. "You better try calling him."
[Ranjer?] He sent out. [Ranjer, where are you?]
There was no answer. Quynn tried again but there still was no answer.
"We have to go find him." He turned to Yarden, "Can you track him?"
"I'll find him." Yarden smiled and shifted to his Yeti form and went down and started sniffing the ground. It took a few seconds, then he found something. [We go that way.]
A bright light flared in Ranjer's face as he woke up. He opened his eyes just a bit so he could get use to the brightness of the lighting in the room. He was in a white room and it was completely round. He tried to move he reached up to shield his eyes as he looked around. His feet were chained. He could stand but he couldn't move any more than a few feet and he wasn't alone. There were two other people imprisoned in the room. He sat up.
"Where am I?"
"You're a prisoner." A grey haired bearded man chained across from him said. "In Nadir Payne, the white wizard's dungeon. Who are you stranger?"
"My name is Ranjer." Ranjer rubbed head aching head. "Wow, my head hurts. What am I doing here? Why am I chained up?"
"Nadir brought you in an hour ago." Said a woman to his left. "You must be another of his enemies."
"Me?" Ranjer tried to stand and fell back. "I don't even know him. I saw him battle that Gator thing that attacked the children by the river, but I never said a word to him."
"Well, he thinks you're an enemy." The man said. "So here you are, and you will stay here until he decides to kill you. And he will kill you. He kills all his enemies"
"I don't understand. I'm not his enemy." Ranjer climbed to his feet and stood against the wall. "And white wizards aren't evil. They don't kill. Something's wrong here."
"It's Nadir." The woman said. "He's what's wrong. Bellshore use to be such a peaceful place. Nadir was our wizard, our guardian, but many years ago, he changed and started taking control of everything. We're like his slaves now."
"It's got to be that ring." Ranjer said to himself. Then he looked up at the woman. She was an older lady dressed in raggedy peasant clothes. "You seem to know him very well. Who are you?"
"My name is Celia Payne." She said to Ranjer as shuffled around to make herself more comfortable. "Nadir is my brother. This is Jukal Floris, he was my brothers apprentice until he turned on us."
Ranjer looked at them stunned. If Nadir had one of Bram's rings, then he could have had it more than eighteen years. Maybe more. Bly said he had died twenty years ago. How long has this been going on?
"He may be a wizard." Ranjer said. "But I have magic too, and I'm not staying here."
Concentrating, Ranjer tried to shift forms. Nothing happened. Now he was beginning to get scared. Next he tried to change his body into a Vampire mist and that failed. He closed his eyes then opened them again to use his other senses to look for magic spells in the room. There were green, red, and blue power lines running all through the room in spells that would take him years to unravel. His magic was going to be useless here.
"You can relax." Jukal said. "If your trying magic, it won't work in here. Nadir has this cell wrapped in so many spells it would take someone very powerful to break them."
"How did all this start?" Ranjer asked as he sat back down, "How does a White wizard go so wrong."
"It all started years ago." Jukal said. "Bellshore was a happy place. We really had no enemies or wild things out in the forest. Nadir had clear all threats out years ago. The last problem we had was Polan Dressak's Black Armours. We even managed to void the war with that Dark Elven Queen Talsara Darkshade. Life here was good. I spent my days at Nadir's side learning spells and incantations. He taught me the ways of nature and now to use the power of the sun and Keanna. I learned how to read the stars and to commune with nature. Then one day, Nadir found something while he was out in the forest."
"What was it?" Ranjer asked though he was pretty sure he knew what it was.
"I don't know." Jukal said. "Nadir seemed pretty excited about. He locked himself away in his study with it, but he wouldn't let be see it or tell me what it was. That's when he started to change. He became suspicious of everything and thought everyone was spying on him. Little things began to annoy him, really silly things and he would explode in anger. After a few months his anger became so out of control, so unpredictable that the people of Bellshore stopped trusting him or coming to him and they came to me. When Nadir saw that, he saw me as a rival and an enemy. He thought I was trying to steal his power and his place as Bellshore's Mage. Now I have not achieved the rank of a true wizard yet so even if I wanted to, I couldn't take his place. But that didn't matter to Nadir. His anger and jealously was so great that I became a target for his wrath. "
Jukal stopped there and took a drink from a pan of dirty water. He took a deep breath, then continued with his story.
"I knew Nadir was acting strange." He said, "It was nothing new, he'd been acting strange for three or four years so far but he was my Master and I trusted him. I would have done anything for him including die for at that point. But that day he had sent me to Tobias Gara, he's a Wizard in neighboring Farcross with a message. When I came back, the second I stepped into his study to report back to him, He hit me with a spell that seared my brain and my soul so bad that it took over a year before I even knew who I was. When I woke up I, was here with no memory, no magic, no identity. I had nothing."
"This is where my story starts." Celia said. "Like Jukal, I knew something was wrong with Nadir for a long time. He stopped eating, he didn't sleep. All he did was sit in his study locked away. But I could hear him talking in there. I knew there was no one in there with him so I thought he was communicating with someone through magic. As far as I knew it could have been anyone, but I kept hearing this laugh that sent a chill right through me. By this time Nadir started looking gaunt and pale. I mean much paler then usual. He hardly ever went out and when he did, it was at night. He just seemed to me like he was getting dark. I thought maybe he had been dabbling in the dark arts. I know a bit about magic, I'm not as talented as Nadir or Jukal but I can work smalls spells and I have my magic sight. One day I looked at Nadir and I saw this dark aura beginning to spread out from him. That's when I knew I had to do something to save my brother before the darkness totally took him over."
Ranjer could see the worry and the fear in both Jukal and Celia's eyes. He could tell they both still loved Nadir no matter what he had done. He hoped he hadn't slipped to far into the influences of that ring and there was still a way to save him. But that would all depend on one thing. He he used his power to kill an innocent. If he had, there might be no way back from the darkness.
"I arranged with the blacksmith to have two horses saddles for me and Angus." Celia continued. "He's one of the more able men from Bellshore. We rode out late after midnight for Farcross where we met with Nadir's old friend Tobias, the same wizard Jukal had visited before he disappeared. I asked him, many questions and found out that he actually had not talked with Nadir since he sent Jukal to see him and he wanted to know why Nadir hadn't answered his request. I told him of my suspicions and Tobias said he would look in to it. I told him to be careful, Nadir was not the same man he had known all these years and that he had changed. When I returned home, Nadir was waiting for me. Somehow he knew where I had been and he accused me of plotting against him. He attacked me and Angus. We fought back but Nadir is so much more powerful then I am and eventually he blow right through my shields and took us captive. I haven't seen Angus since that day."
"How long ago was that?" Ranjer asked.
"That was a little over a years ago." She said sadly. "I've been here for at least a years. Jukal has been here longer. We have no idea what's happened to Bellshore or Tobias, but I'm afraid of what Nadir might had done since our capture."
From their description, Ranjer guessed that Nadir could only have had the ring for no then two or three years. That was plenty of time for his mind to be corrupted but with luck, Nadir's soul might be strong enough to keep him from doing anything to drastic. Now if only he could find a way to contact Quynn and the others. He would need their help to get out of the cell and to get that ring off Nadir's finger.
"Why all the questions Ranjer?" Jukal asked, "You're a stranger here, What does it matter to you?"
"If I want to get out of here." Ranjer said. "I have to know why I'm here and who it is that's holding me. If I have to fight Nadir, I want to know who I'm fighting. My teachers taught me to know your enemy before you fight."
"Wise words." Jukal said. "Even if they are useless."
"I wouldn't say useless." Ranjer got himself in a comfortable seated position then closed his eyes. "First we get out of this dungeon, then we worry about beating Nadir."
"And how do you plan to get out?" Celia asked him. "You can't use your magic."
"With a little help from friends." Ranjer smiled with his eyes still closed,"You'd be surprised at what you can do,"
With his eyes closed, Ranjer centered his mind on Quynn. He had tried earlier to reach him but for some reason he couldn't get through. This time he knew he had to because pretty soon Quynn would realize he was missing and come looking for him. He had to warn him about Nadir.
Ranjer fastened on his best memories of his cousin. The day he was born, hold his as a baby. He remembered the first time Quynn made the shift to his dragon form and how happy he was and the day he met Sky and saved him from Janx Develos. With those memories clear in his mind, Ranjer called out to Quynn.
[I'm here Cousin.] Came the answer. [Where are you? Are you alright?]
[I'm in a city called Bellshore.] Ranjer sent. [It can't be far from the campsite. A white wizard named Nadir Payne is holding me captive. Be careful, he has one of Bram's rings and he's not in his right mind.]
[We're on our way.]