Monday, February 15, 2016
It was a cold gray gloomy day as Nadir went from field to field clearing stones, tree trunks and turning the soil in the fields around Bellshore. He was tired but the work had to be done if the people were to have any chance at a harvest next year. Beside him, villagers worked spreading seeds and bulbs in each row. He used his magic to enrich the soil and repair what tools the people had broken. After hours of work, Nadir re directed an underground stream to connect to a set of wells and he was done for the day. It had been a long day and he was glad it was over.
The city gates weren't far away and Nadir thought it was a nice day to walk and get some exercise. Spring flowers were just coming out and there was a cool breeze to ease his tired mind. Nadir walked and watched as two bees danced from flower to flower collecting pollen to take back to the hive. As he watched, two tree nymph came dancing out of the forest. They bowed to him and waved then started a beautiful dance with their green and yellow silk scarves. They jumped and darted in and out from tree to tree laughing and singing a sweet merry song. Nadir stopped and took a seat on a boulder to watch their wonderful merriment.
As he watched, the sky started to go from clear to cloudy, then suddenly that cool gentle breeze became cold and harsh. The two nymphs stopped dancing and ran for their trees. Nadir stood up and looked up into the cloudy sky. He knew this turn of the weather was to sudden to be natural. It had to be attack of some kind on him. Suddenly a bolt of lightning came hurling down and struck the boulder he had been sitting on. Nadir jumped to the side to avoid getting hit by the raining debris.
"Who attacks?" he yelled out. "Come out and show yourself!!
As Nadir watched, the wind picked up blowing furiously all around him. A swirling air funnel dropped down to land twenty feet from where he stood. As he watched it started to slow down until there was a tall thin man dressed in rags standing in front of him.
"Who are you?" Nadir asked. "What do you want?"
"I am Solaris." It said in a echoy voice. "Are you Nadir Payne?"
"Yes I am."
"I have come for the ring." It said. "My master wants it back. Give it to me."
"I don't have any rings." Nadir said as he readied himself for a fight. "Who is your master."
"I serve Bram Thorn. Master of the Nine Rings Wisdom. Where in the ring?"
"Wisdom?" Nadir laughed. "There's nothing wise about that ring. More like torment.
"Then you do know of the ring?" The winds started to pick up and blow even harder. "Where is the ring."
"In hell I hope!" Nadir turned and started to walk away. Solaris hurled a bolt of wind at him. It struck Nadir on the shoulder causing a huge bruise and spun him around. Nadir grabbed his shoulder and backed away from Solaris.
"I will ask you once again." Solaris stepped forward with lightning buzzing out from his raised fist. "Where is the masters ring?"
Nadir was in pain but he wasn't helpless. He knew spells that he thought were just as powerful as Solaris. He cast out with his hand and sent a bolt of power at Solaris. It hit him and knocked him back off his feet.
"I may not have that damned ring." Nadir said as power started to surround him. "But I'm not afraid of you!"
"Then you will die!" Solaris rose up spinning into a small tornado. Lightning flashed out striking trees and rocks all around Nadir. Nadir sent another bolt it the Air Elemental, it passed right through it. Solaris started to laugh as a bolt of fire came flying one of the sky. It hit Nadir and set his robes ablaze.
"Did I forget to tell you I am not alone?" Suddenly a great being of fire appeared and dropped down next to Solaris. "Meet Ember, now where is the ring?"
"Somewhere where you will never find it!" Nadir fired two bolts at the Elementals. One at each of the Elementals. One hit the Fire Elemental and blew him to bits. The other hit Solaris and disrupted his air flow dropping him out of the air. Nadir dowsed his burning robes and took a step toward the ragged man, planning to encase him in a force bubble when suddenly he exploded in flames. The Fire Elemental had reformed and attacked sending a torrent of heat and flames at Nadir. The Wizard screamed as his body burned while the two Elementals laughed. In minutes the flames were sucked into his lungs and the Wizard of Bellshore fell to the ground dead. Solaris got up and ran to Nadir's burning corpse.
"You fool!" he shouted at Ember. "You weren't supposed to kill him! We don't have the ring! The master will punish us for this!"
"Then we don't go back." Ember said. "We have power, we can go somewhere else far from here."
"You think he won't find us?" Solaris screamed. "If we don't go back, we will forever be hiding from every shadow and storm. Every bit of fire or rain. All the elements will be after us for the rest of our lives. We have no choice but to return."
"Then let's go and get this over with." Ember lifted off into the air. "How bad can it be?"
Solaris spread his arms and let his winds take him up into the air. He had failed Bram, his only hope now was to find the ring, or whoever had the ring. Maybe that would please the master.
From the Roann peaks, Quynn flew east with Yarden and Myor on his back. Ranjer in his raven form flew at his side. The trip was to be straight and fast since they were worried about what Bram might be up to. They passed the Willow Mire and the Fionn woods then turn toward Fay Shrea. The last time Ranjer had messaged Bly and the other's, they were in Mystwinter looking for Eldar Mystwinter and the ring he possessed. He wondered what had happened. Did they find the ring? Once they were pass the Fairy lands and in the Eleven lands, Ranjer had Quynn turn towards Mystwinter.
The forest around Mystwinter looked it had been ravaged. Trees were torn down and the ground looked like some great giant had come along and scooped a large trench out of the ground. Somehow, there had been some kind of disaster here.
"What in Rimnar's name did this?" Yarden said as he watch Elves doing their best to help the broken and damaged greenery. There were scorched and burned trees and bushes, whole fields looked as if they had been set ablaze. This had to be horrible to the forest Elves. "Could there have been a battle here?"
"My guess is Bram Thorn." Myor told him. "He was here looking for his ring."
"But Rowyn and Bly was." Now he was worried about their friends. "We have to hurry down there."
[Bly!!] Quynn sent. [Are you here? Is everything alright?]
[Yes.] She answered. [We're fine and very glad to hear from you. Where are you?]
[About to land in Mystwinter.]
[We'll meet you near the trench.] She said. [It's time we move on.]
Quynn circled then set down near the trench. Myor and Yarden climbed down and him and Ranjer shifted back to their normal forms. While they waited, looked at the ruined forest.
"This is terrible." Yarden said. "My people love nature. If this had happened to us, we would be looking for someone to punish. There would be war."
"My father's would be upset too." Quynn said. "Dreik would lose his mind. So many trees destroyed, he would have felt their pain."
"We'll figure something out." Ranjer said.
"We better." Niro said as he rode up with Hoddie behind him. Rowyn and Bly flew down out of the trees. "If we don't, this will keep happening."
"I'm glad your all safe." Quynn said. He went to Bly and hugged her. "We were worried."
"As were we." Rowen smiled. "Did you get the rings?"
"We found two." Myor held out his hand showing them the rings. He had the ring of water and light.
"That makes four rings." Hoddie said. "There's still five out there. Do we know which one's Bram found?"
"Well." Rowyn sat down with Niro. "We know he has Eldar's ring of fire and we know he has the ring he found in Yarden's cavern. That's all we know for sure."
"Then we should go check the last two members of the original group." Bly said. "Leda Redhelm and,,,"
"Manius Regulus." Niro said very grimly. "My father's betrayer."
"Do you know what happened to Manius?" Ranjer asked.
"No. I never knew him, but I did know his son Caius." Niro explained. "He was a cruel one. He took pleasure in torturing anyone he thought was from a lower family since he was related to Midoa. I didn't like him."
"Were they still in Sorrowdown when it fell?" Bly asked.
"No, I don't think so." Niro thought back. "Regulus was rewarded for his betrayal. He was promoted and sent somewhere. I'm not sure where. Sorrowdown had many outpost spread out through the empire. There were a few outside. Maybe we should go back and check the records."
"You think he as a ring, don't you?" Quynn came over to stand in front of Niro. "Or is it just revenge?"
"Oh I hate him alright." Niro said. "But yes, I think he has a ring. I think he set my family up for a fall, then ran to wait out the emperor. He knew my father would fight and probably kill Midoa. Then he could come back and claim the empire by right of ascension."
"Doesn't look like that's going to work out for him." Ranjer smiled. "You destroyed the Empire."
"No." Niro stopped him. "I destroyed Sorrowdown. The empire still stands. But I'm not done yet. I will destroy it completely with a little help from my friends."
"You want us to help you bring down the empire?" Hoddie said. He looked up at his new friend. "My people wouldn't go anywhere near Sorrowdown. They used us in the arena with no chance for freedom. I'll help."
"We'll help if we can." Ranjer said. "But Bram is our primary mission. He comes first."
"I agree." Niro stood up and shook Ranjer's hand. "'You have my word. Bram Thorn comes first, then the empire will fall."
"Let's get back to finding those Rings." Quynn said. "Rowyn, Myor, which way?"
"West to Hernborin." Myor said. "To the Dwarves."
After Quynn, Ranjer and their friends left the area of the trench, Caius stepped out from behind the trees. He had heard all that was said about his father and he knew it was all true. Manius had betrayed Niro's family. He had turned on him the moment they returned with all kinds of lies, and it worked. The Emperor declared Vibius and his family enemies of the state and confiscated all their holdings. Niro was sent into the gladiator camps and his mother Helen was hanged. All the while, Manius Regulus took his family and his reward and moved on to Parandor Keep where he was put into the post of Governor.
Now Caius had heard Niro take an oath of vengeance. That meant he and his friend would be coming for him and his father. Well let them come. Caius rubbed the ring on his finger. He would have something waiting for them.
As Quynn and the other's gathered their stock and readied themselves for the trip to Hernborin, Bram Thorn was busy sending out his Elementals to many of the different kingdoms of Taggitia to demand any and all magical rings be turned over to him. To emphasize his point, he ordered his minions to destroy the cities temples to their patron gods.
In Snaea Clana, a Faerie kingdom. Bram's Thunder Elemental attacked the temple of Alee, shattering the walls and bringing down the marble pillars. With it's mighty scream it devastated the temple and sank it into the ground. Above their heads, the skies bumbled in protest. The Gods had heard and saw the carnage.
In far off Oselela. A land of Humans. A being of light flashed down into the halls of King Lyniodis. He ordered the king to relinquish all magical rings in his possession. The King ordered his men to attack and in a flash, they were all dead. Stricken down by flashes of lightning. King Lyniodis threw down every ring he owned and begged for mercy. The Elemental laughed and sent a bolt at the king frying him where he stood. With the king dead, the Elemental went on to attack the Temple of Alea the Goddess on the moon. Lightning streaked down to rain on the temple shattering the roof and caving the whole structure in. As Alea looked down on what was left of her temple, a tear ran down her face. She knew this was the work of only one mad man. Bram Thorn. He had taken her daughter and disobeyed her mate. His madness had to end, he was to dangerous to be allowed to continue. Fortunately, she already had things in the works to bring him down.
Everything was quiet as they made their way from Mystwinter west through Aloevan and down to Hernborin. While they traveled, Yarden told Niro and Hoddie about what had happened in Bellshore and the Roann Peaks. He told them about Gnark and what he had told them about the origin of his ring. Both Hoddie and Niro wondered if the was a dead mystics soul trapped in their rings. Neither had ever heard anything from their rings. So far they had been strangely quiet.
Above their heads, Rowyn rode quietly along on Quynn's back. She had gotten a lot of rest back in Mystwinter and was ready for whatever was over the next border. Bly flew down to land on Rowyn's shoulder and sat down.
"You seem quiet." She said. "Is anything wrong?"
"I'm not sure." Rowyn said. "Something feels wrong. Like we're heading into danger or something. I can't describe the feeling."
[Myor.] Bly sent out. [Are you feeling anything?]
[No,] He sent to all of them. [Just a little anxious. Everything feels....]
Then suddenly there was a powerful cry in Rowyn and Myor's mind, like a thousand minds crying out in pain. Myor started to shift back to his Human form and fall out of the sky. Ranjer dived down and did something they all thought was impossible. He shifted to a handsome bronze Dragon and caught Myor.
[RANJER!!] Quynn called out. [How can this be?]
[What?"] He said as he landed and released Myor and shifted back to his normal form. [I caught him, that's all.]
As Quynn landed, Niro and Hoddie rode up on Akhrua with Yarden at their side. They jumped down off the horse.
"Did I just see a Dragon?" Niro asked.
"Of course you did." Ranjer said annoyed. "Quynn's been flying over head all day."
"No." Yarden said as he came closer to them. "We saw a bronze Dragon, Quynn is silver and black. It wasn't Quynn."
"It was Ranjer." Quynn said. "I don't know how, but he shifted into a Dragon. He was the Bronze Dragon!"
"It's not possible." Ranjer laughed. "You're all seeing things. I'm no Dragon."
"Then how did you save Myor?" Quynn asked his cousin. "Your Raven form can't carry someone so heavy, How did you catch him and land safely? That is impossible for a Raven."
"The real question is what made Myor fall?" Niro asked as he went to check on Princess Rowyn. She was sitting on the side next to Myor as Bly tended to her. "Are you alright? What happened?"
"There was pain." She said in a faint voice, "So much pain. He's hurting people looking for his rings. He tears down the god's temples and desecrates the land. He must be stopped."
"We'll stop him." Hoddie assured her. "All of us and our next stop is Hernborim. We should get moving before he beats us there."
With Myor on Quynn's back and Rowyn taking to the air, they moved on into the Dwarven lands.
It was a long ride for Caius back to Sorrowdown. He really had no idea where to start looking for Bram so he thought he might as well start where it all had started for his father. When he reached the outer walls of the city, he saw it was in ruins. This is what Niro had done to his city. The walls were down in many places and he could still smell the smoke from the burned out buildings.
Caius tied up his horse and headed in through the gates of Sorrowdown. All the outer buildings of the city looked as if they had been torn down by hand. He guessed it must have been the city slaves taking their revenge on the Empire. There were skeletal remains scattered all through the area. Dead guards in what was left of the city armor lay by the gates where they had been killed along with some of their attackers.
As Caius moved on, he began to see the burned out buildings. The market place and the slave auction pens had been ripped apart, and in the center of the pens he found Emperor Midoa's body hanging from the the main auction building.
The city seemed quiet but Caius could feel there was someone here watching him. He put his hand to his sword and moved on through the city. His first stop was his parents old manor. It hardly looked the same. The iron gates around the property looked like it had been ripped apart and the building was over grown with ivy that hung from the roof and climbed the walls everywhere. The front door had been knocked down and all the statuary of Midoa and his royal consort in the front yard had been smashed. Caius stepped into the manor and saw everything was in ruins. All the furniture had been destroyed and the floor was littered with leaves and broken plate ware and clothing. Further in he found there was three burned bodies laying in the broken fireplace. Caius was glad his family had left Sorrowdown months before any of this had happened.
Turning away, Caius left the manor and headed down the road that lead to the royal palace. He passed many manors and home of his neighbors and they were all in the same condition. As he neared the palace, he felt it again. Like eyes were everywhere staring down at him from above and in the shadows. From the side of buildings and deep in the ruined manors. Every now and then, he even thought he could hear whispering coming from right over his shoulder. He would turn as quickly as he could, but there was no one there.
The palace was about two miles ahead and the sun was just going down behind the mountains of the Silver Hills. With his hand still on his sword, Caius moved carefully down the road watching the shadows for any movement. He passed the last of the manors and entered the avenue where all the military officers were housed. All of these apartment building were in the worse shape. Not one building was untouched, most had been torched and burned to the ground. There were soldier, slaves and gladiators remains scattered all along the road decaying where they fell.
As Caius made his way toward the palace, he heard something growling behind him. He turned and found the biggest, ugliest dog thing come walking out from between two buildings. It was the size of a pony and cover with what looked like mud and dried dead grass. Caius took a step back as it looked at him and started to back. Loose clomps of mud fell from his side with each step it took forward toward him. Caius grabbed his sword and pulled it free of its scabbard and stood ready for the attack. With a mighty leap, the Mud dog attacked. It dived at him barking and snarling with its fore claws out stretched to attack. Caius with both hands, swung his sword and sliced it right down the center of the Mud dogs nose cutting it in two. It crashed to the ground and struggling as it tried to push itself back to its feet. Caius re sheathed his sword and turned to leave thinking the beast disabled and defeated. Then he heard something that made him turn back. There was growling again coming from behind him. Quickly he turned back. The two pieces of the Mud dog were reforming. Already the two heads had re formed and as he watched, the body expanded and the legs were growing. Caius turned and ran, he wanted to get to the palace before the two Mud dogs could get after him. As he ran, he could hear the barking getting closer. The Mud dogs were after him. Caius poured on more speed. He took a quick glance to his left. Two more Dogs came running from out off a torn down building. To his right, another one came snarling and foaming from its mouth. Caius pulled his sword and slashed at the closest Mud dog, then grabbed it and threw it back in the path of the oncoming freak dogs. The first two ran straight into the withering body and fell. The others leaped it and kept coming. Caius made it to the doors of the palace, ran in and slammed them shut behind him. He grabbed a coat rack and snapped it in two and shoved it through the handles locking the Mud dogs out. They hammered again and again into the door but it was built to withstand a siege, even their strong lunges couldn't bring it down.
With a sigh, Caius relaxed knowing he was safe and those monsters couldn't get through the door to get him. He wondered what other monsters he might find here in Sorrowdown. He was confident he was up to defeating anything he ran into.
"Maybe not everything."
Caius turned and pulled his sword when he heard the voice behind him. There stood and older man in dirty gray robes. He cast out his hand at Caius. The sword flew from his hand to slide across the marble floor and bang against the wall.
"You won't be needing that son of Midoa." Bram laughed as he walked in to meet Caius. "Tell me, what is the son of my enemy doing here? Have you come seeking your death?"
"No," Caius said. "I'm here to reclaim my empire."
"Your empire?" Bram lifted his hand and pointed at Caius. He lifted up with his arms held out suspended in the air before Bram. "The Paratus empire is dead, just like you little warrior."
"You can kill me if you want." Caius said calmly. "But without me, you won't kill your enemies and you will never get back what your looking for."
"And what am I looking for?" Bram walked out in front of Caius. He didn't trusts the emperor's blood. He knew them to be liars. "What can you offer me?"
"I know where to find the rings." Caius said. "And I could bring them to you, for a price."
"I could just kill you." Bram said as he thought about the proposition. "But you interest me. I will listen to your proposition."
"I will get your rings back for you." Caius said. "All of them. And I will lead your enemies right to you so you can destroy them."
"And what do you want for this favor?"
"My empire back." Caius looked down at Bram. "And the power to get my revenge on an old friend."
Bram thought about what Caius was asking. He could always get rid of him after he retrieved the rings. He wouldn't need him after that. Let the boy do the hard work then kill him. He is a Parantus after all, one of his enemies.
"I will give you what you ask for. "Bram said. "But if you fail me, you will pay."
Bram reached out a took a hold of Caius by his leg and started his spell.
FIRE, ICE, LAND AND SEA.
POWERS OF THE ELEMENTS
I GIVE TO THEE.
TO FIND MY RING.
AND RETURN TO ME.
NOW SWEAR YOUR SOUL.
AND GIVE IT T ME.
Then Caius started to scream as Bram filled his body with the power of the Elements. Lightning blazed as ice and fire combined to filled his body and mind. Rocks streaked up from the ground to form into armor to cover his face, legs, arm and chest. His eyes began to glow crimson red as sparks began to flick out. Smoke and steam seeped out all around him as he staggered back against the wall.
He looked down at his armor encased hands and screamed again as flames erupted from his palms.
"What have you done to me?"
"You wanted power." Bram laughed. "I gave you power. Now I have one more trick for you. This is what will happen if you fail me."
Bram flared out with his hands and increased power in Cauis. Flames and lightning started to shoot out from his body as he started to overload and burnout.
Bram dropped his hands and the power started to stabilize. Cauis fell to the floor still smoking and breathing hard.
"I can destroy you anytime I want to." Bram pointed out. "It does not matter where you are, so don't fail me. Now go find my rings."