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  1. #16
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    Inside herbalists Ryan's shed the pinkish dust had settled on everything. On things that Ryan prefered people should not know about. And for their own good. Things that some people used for evil, but Ryan chose to use them for his own designs.

    Just as the fine dust appeared to settled it seemed as if a breeze had kicked the dust up. Then the fine residue danced into a shape that seemed to possess it's own sentience. For indeed it did. The fine particales twirled into a small hazy funnel shape, then moved across the shed where it stopped in front of bolted door. There the pink haze blew through the small crevice between the door and the jam.

    At that moment had anyone had been in that shed, they may have sworn they heard whispers. Whispers that hinted at the darkest desires.

    From behind the door sounds like the weeping of damned souls began to cresendo. The sound became louder, then the locked door shook violently upon its hinges.

    What had that daring fool Ryan hid in his secretive shed? What good did he think he could have done with this?

    The door exploded outward into pieces. A dark red fog hissed forth. There was something in the center of the billowing mist. It was massive, but undefineable, as it shambled out into shed. There it peered out of the shed and saw Ryan dashing away from the herbalshop.

    The dark abomination then released itself from shed and disappeared into the darkening woods.

    The ailing Patriarch moaned in his sleep, then his eyes fluttered open. With the first lucidity in his eyes in days he croaked, "No it cannot be happening, I haven'the strength anymore."

    Gnash bolted upright from his bed with a look of abject madness in his bloodshot eyes. "No it was only a dream. Please let be just a dream. What can I do? I'm just an Imp"

    [This message has been edited by enazwo (edited August 27, 2001).]

  2. #17
    Senior Member Giarc's Avatar
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    She was poised on her quartz throne like a diamond: all flashing eyes and glittering smiles as the envoy of the silent lands entered. Dismissing the hovering swarm of maids with imperious disregard, Isen, Queen of the Imps and most beautiful of them all, rose to her feet and actually simpered at the man to the amazement and chagrin of the departing maids.

    The tall arrival bowed deeply, his expression serene and masking the roiling depths of hatred and contempt that seethed within.

    For seventeen turns of the moon he had endured the Imps and their irritating falsetto voices. Even their laughter gave him blinding headaches. It rankled that he, the most powerful of his order, had to endure endless hours of tedium while his weaker brethren were gloriously infiltrating the kingdom. How the bloodmagic must sing in their veins! He would have killed to be closer to the sacred Bloodwood, sowing dissent and plague amongst their ancient enemies.

    Theirs was the more dangerous mission, since the Order was forbidden from the greater kingdom. Forbidden everywhere except this remote refuge of fools. Here, where the Order's foes believed that the dark magic of the Bloodwood could not reach. Thus it had been Chokan, greatest mage of their number who had been sent where the magic was faintest. Where only he could do what was necessary.

    If the King or the Patriarch knew just how far the bloodwood influence now extended they would never have allowed the exiled Order anywhere near their borders. The bloodwood had extended it's invisible network of bloodroots over the centuries, feeding from the blood of the slain throughout the kingdom and drawing power from it. Now it could even be felt, if distantly, in the land of the imps where once it could not be felt at all.

    Even so, it hadn't been easy gaining the trust of these foolish folk. How the ancient order of bloodmages had ever been crippled by one of these ridiculous beings was beyond Chokan's comprehension. In fact, he was certain the story was a myth and nothing more. After all, it was never mentioned exactly how the Imps had undone all that their order had achieved.

    The envoy straightened and smiled ferally at the Queen. She was nearly completely under his sway now, although it was taking almost his entire strength to hold her there despite the failing protection of the Patriarch.

    "Your majesty..." he began with guarded tones before pausing theatrically and murmuring more personally, "...Isen. You are more beautiful than I believe this mortal soul can withstand. I came as soon as your maid summoned me" he paused and added rakishly, "As if I could do otherwise".

    Isen blushed and came close to forgetting why she had summoned the man. Raich had kept on at her to get rid of him but he was clearly harmless. Why, he was always ready to lend her his advice or counsel whenever she asked. Raich could be such a grumpy old bore, so it was perfectly understandable that she'd rely more on this dashing envoy who was so clever and knowledgable. Her dreamy smile faltered suddenly as she recalled. "Diviner Raich!" she squeaked out in dismay. Regaining control of her voice the tone dropped to a more typical soprano. "Oh Chakon! Diviner Raich and one of his apprentices are dead! Someone switched packages while my parlour maid's back was turned and it seems that it blew up and killed them!" She explained hurriedly before she forgot it again, like she did so often these days.

    Sometimes, when Chakon had not visited for a day or two, she almost thought it strange how much she trusted this envoy of a race that had enslaved them all. But as quickly she dismissed the nagging doubt, that was generations ago and the power of the Bloodwood could no longer corrupt their people where they were. In her most private moments she sometimes daydreamed of the two of them together, away from the eyes of the world for just one night. How wonderful that would be. At first the fantasies were just that, but more often of late she had begun to question the value of her crown if she could not even choose a lover without the condemnation of her subjects! Perhaps it was time to use her power and evil take those who questioned her decisions!

    Chokan feigned sorrow, "A tragedy m'Lady, if you wish I would be pleased to investigate the matter and discover the assasins responsible"

    Relief washed over Isen at his words, she had been planning to ask Gnash since he was closest to Raich but he had been acting strangely of late. Yes, this was a much better idea.

    "Oh would you?" she exclaimed, "That would be wonderful. And perhaps..." she hesitated, some inner voice giving her a moments pause.

    "Perhaps...?" the envoy repeated queryingly.

    The Queen pushed down her doubts and firmed her resolve. Raich would agree now, and even if he didn't, he was dead. "And perhaps this evening, if you're not too busy, you might like to dine with me and discuss the investigation. In my private rooms, since we don't want other ears to hear the details" Isen added with a definite reddening of her cheeks.

    "Of course, whatever my Lady desires" Chokan answered smoothly, taking her hand and bending to kiss it. "I will also see to it that your guard is increased. In fact, I will detail some of my own men to the task. Your safety could also be in jeopardy" he cautioned.

    She nodded and smiled, butterflies dancing in her stomach with excitement.

    The envoy bowed once more and departed, a feral smile lit on his face. Perhaps this mission would have some compensation after all. He would have to find his pet imp. He now had a new mission for him. An imaginary assasin needed to be found and executed to bring justice for poor, old Raich. Chokan chuckled suddenly as he thought of the perfect target. It would be a good day, his mission triumphant, the Queen a biddable bedmate, and silencing the mirth of that idiot imp Gnash before it ever returned.



    [This message has been edited by Giarc (edited August 29, 2001).]

  3. #18
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    Talli knelt down beside her grandfather, touching his tangled, sweaty hair with gentle, loving strokes.
    "be calm, grand-pappa, I have something that will ease your pain."
    she got up and went to the package, her fingers touched the bright laces.

    Suddenly, the patriarch sat upright in his bed, his eyes wearing a look of dread. Talli watched him in horror as he opened his mouth to speak. she knew those are going to be his last words.
    "Tamra, he is here, the usurper has arrived...hide your children, lock your doors, Tamra, we should have known better..."
    He looked at Talli, his face contorted in pain, and collapsed back on his pillow.

    Talli stood up, the package still beyond her.
    "grand-pappa?"
    she inched closer to the bed.
    "grand-pappa? grand-pappa?"
    He just lay there, his eyes wide open.
    she sat on the bed, holding his hand, sobbing quietly.




    [This message has been edited by lior (edited August 29, 2001).]

  4. #19
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    From the recesses of the darkening wood the shapeless abomination watch the imp that had been standing gaurd on the herbalist's shed.

    The wavering, blood red, mist shifted in shades of pink to bruised red.

    There was a glint of hard sanguinary color in center of the billowing cloud.There was simplistic motives inside that steely glint, the source of its thought.

    The evil blood mist recalled it's simple pleasure of caressing the imp as it departed from the shed.

    The imp had glanced over his shoulder, when the abomination passed through him. The imp couldn't make out anything other then a quickly departing mist.

    The nebulous abomination felt pleasure watching the imp double over in agony, then totter over on it's pitiable side. The cloudy mass pulsated a nearly black shade of red.

    The imp then convulsed, as its face cramped in a rictus of exquisite agony.

    The cumulous bloody shape, then, seem to become more solid, with more shape. But it was still unholy, and undefinealbe.

    There was a commotion as the herbalist, and crowd, came charging back to the shed with fire brands and buckedts of water.

    Ryan cried out as he saw the dying imp before him. He dug into his pouch, and pulled out a root. The Ryan began to chew on it quickly softening the root then swiftly forced into the imps mouth.

    Ryan stood up and face the black impenatratable woods and yelled, "You don't think I knew what I had in there? Beware you have angered the Ryan the herbalist and I will come for you and your master."

    Ryan turned to the crowd and barked, "There's no need to burn the shed now. The ancient horror has become something more. And what ever it is it is gone. Who could've known what was in the shed? Who?"

    Unseen from the dark woods, the bloody shapeless mass retreated. It felt a need to touch people but more importantly it wanted to touch an imp that was laughing. The branches of the tress rustled as if they had been caressed with an evil wind. That was only indication the abomination departed.

    ***********************


    Chokun glanced down upon the imp with the broken arm and asked, "You saw to it that Talli received the package?"

    The imp cautiously answered, "Yes master I watched with my own eyes as Talli received the package. Talli looked at me oddly. She did not know who I was."

    With his arms folded Chokun snapped, "That is not your concern. But I'm barely able to resist rejoicing. There are only several more obstacles before me and I will soon accomplish on my own what the whole Order has been unable to."

    Chokun looked fondly upon his mirthless imp. It was so advantages to have an imp that did not laugh. Imp laughter not only did he hate, he knew it was the potential source of his undoing. Fortuneatly the one imp with limitless mirth that knew no bounds had fallen into a mood. Yes, soon, Gnash would be gone.

    Soon Talli and her old dodderer grandfather would be out of his way. Ah for now I shall pay that imp Queen a visit. I have such an appetite.

    Talli sobbing, into her grandfathers silent form, opened her eyes and caught a glimpse of the package the broken armed imp had delivered. The string was unusal. She'd never seen that style of string before. A chill crept across her spine when she realized that her grandfather had sat up and babbled of evil when she offered to use the contents of the package. Talli became suspicious remembering that she had never seen that broken armed imp before either.

    *************************

    Linala, the parlor maid, was hysterical as she clenched and unclenched her hands in her lap. She did not want to be directly responsible for anyones death. She had been deceived about the packages. Oh indeed she knew that they were going to cause trouble but not death so soon. She prattled out loud, "I must go to Gnash and warn him. He must have some feeling of whats happening. He should by now. Maybe Gnash can help me. Yes if Gnash could only laugh for me, I would feel better. I must do something to right my wrongs." Linala had been so distraght during her ramblings that she did not hear that someone had entered her room. She heard a sound then turned towards the door. Her face changed to look of shock she started babble, "How long have you been there? I was going to tell you but I'm confused. I....................

    [This message has been edited by enazwo (edited August 31, 2001).]

  5. #20
    Registered User An8el's Avatar
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    Chokan had already returned. "I'm the one asking the questions around here. I already know who is responsible for these abominations. You needn't concern yourself, I'm in charge now. Confine yourself to the royal wing until I return for the rest of the story you have to tell me. Now, go and tell Your Highness that I'm here for my private audience."

    Linala was angry and overwhelmed. She grabbed her skirts and rose to do Chokan's bidding. Later she would make sure she didn't run into Chokan again.

    ***

    Gnash was still asleep, or trying to sleep. It was the first time in a long while that he had missed three meals in a row, although the last meal was still there on a table by his bedside. He hoped that he was still exhausted from his attempt to turn back the clock to save his teacher Raight and friend Neffer. The bed and pillow felt so comforting. He still felt angry and frustrated at his ineffectiveness, despite Raight's assurance that even his novice practices would help, if attempted at the critical Time. Gnash couldn't keep himself from seeing the two the moment before the bomb went off, reliving the explosion over and over again.

    If there was any result, it seemed to be the dreams that were so upsetting. While Gnash lay there nodding in and out of dreaming, he could feel an intense whirl of fate swirling all around the events of the castle. He tried to remember some of what Raight had predicted; how Gnash would have to be the new Diviner now. He didn't want to get out of bed and face anything new. He just wanted to be the imp he was. But that ineffective wish had been going for sometime now, to no use. Gnash would tell himself that he was just going to have to face that there was no going back. Then he would start to cry again.

    "Oh, very good, what you tried. It did buy me some time," said a disembodied voice that sounded familiar. "I got to think about a few more things I forgot to plan. It was disorienting to die suddenly, despite what I could forsee."

    Gnash assumes that this is just another painful dream, as he has had quite a few nightmares in the last few hours.

    "There are some things that I want you to do. You must get up and go see Queen Isen and give her the copy of my will, before anyone else is appointed to my post as Diviner. Oh, and Neffer says she is not sad and hopes you don't blame yourself for not telling her."

    Gnash sobs again, thinking of Neffer. It's then that Gnash realizes that the voice was Diviner Raight's.

    Almost immediately Gnash is angry at himself for being such a forgetful imp. Raight had mentioned that he would talk to Gnash after the blast. Gnash had assummed that Raight would survive to do that talking.
    Gnash dragged himself out of bed, feet hitting the stone floor and toes curling up from the cold, threw on some clothes and coat and gobbled a piece of bread, stuffing the rest of the loaf into his pockets. He paused to open a chest at the foot of his bed where Raight had demanded the will be kept only a few weeks before. Then Gnash snuck out toward the royal end of the castle before anyone noticed he has gone.

  6. #21
    Keeping The Equilibrium Erebus's Avatar
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    Something inside Gnash told him that he should quicken his pace if was to reach the Queen in time. The Diviner's will clutched firmly in his hand, he sped across the courtyard towards her chamber, not noticing one of the laundry imps also dashing across the cobblestones from his left.

    The two collided with a sickening crunch of bones, and Gnash fell to the ground, twisting his ankle. "Sorry, I didn't see you...Gnash, is that you?" the other imp asked him. "Where are you going?"

    "No time to explain now," Gnash replied, quickly lifting himself from the cobblestones.

    The laundry imp shrugged, watching Gnash hobbling away. "Oh, suit yourself then. Hey, Gnash...what do you call a hobbling imp?"

    "Huh?"

    "It's a joke, Gnash; what do you call a hobbling imp?"

    "I have no idea, but I just know you're going tell me!" Gnash shouted back.

    "A Limp, Gnash!" he said, proud of his joke.

    Gnash stopped his legs, somewhat painfully, then turned around to face his friend. He stared at him for a few seconds and then burst into fits of laughter, surprising the laundry imp.

    "Are you laughing, Gnash?"

    "Well yes, it seems that I am," Gnash said, suddenly feeling better than he had in months. Perhaps everything will turn out all right after all, he thought. "Oh, but I wouldn't be giving up my job in the laundry just yet," he said, then sped off again, still limping a little, towards the royal chamber.

    End of Part 2



    [This message has been edited by erebus (edited August 31, 2001).]

  7. #22
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    Part 3

    Talli, the only granddaughter of the imp patriarch, which lost her parents in the crimson plague when she was only two months old, and was saved by her loving grabdparents, watched her grand-pappa's body lying on the bed, splayed across it like a used up rag doll.

    on the table beside her was the peculiar package. her head told her to leave it be,
    but her heart said that this could be a new and wonderful medicine. the herbalist was a good man, he wouldn't send something that will hurt the patriarch, will he?
    And what about this strange looking delivery boy, her head screamed, barging in, uninvited.
    Well, answered her heart, maybe there's nothing misterious about it after all, maybe he is what he is, a new delivery boy, and maybe he broke his hand in the explosion which occured earlier, or so she heard.
    You see? said her heart, there's nothing wrong with it.
    Don't listen to him, said her head, he's not being sensical, get your hand off the strings, girl!

    What was that? her head swiveled again towards the bed, she could have sworn she heard something.
    Was it her Grand-pappa? is he still alive?
    but he looked so dead and wasted, so sick and tired... but maybe? just maybe? she loved him so much... why did it have to happen now? who will take care of her, she was so young ang lonley...

    No...she had to try. her heart was declared the winner, and her head retreated silently into a dark corner.
    she opened the strings, took off the brown, rough lid.
    a puff of pink mist crawled out of the box.

    Told you so! shouted her head from it's now too distant hiding place.
    "this is an evil, dirty trick!", she thought in panic, and ran to the door.

    And then everything went black.

    [This message has been edited by lior (edited August 31, 2001).]

  8. #23
    Senior Member Giarc's Avatar
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    Isen looked at the out-of-breath parlour maid with a frown. She tried recalling the girl's name but the effort was like trying to catch a slick-fish with two fingers.

    "Do you always dash around like a Svartbug in a jar?" she queried sternly.

    Linala shook her head mutely, embarassed and distraught simultaneously. She couldn't imagine why the Queen would want a private audience with that snaky Envoy of the Order. But it was her own failure to talk to Diviner Raight, or even to Gnash that had her doubting her own abilities. Now she couldn't even leave the royal wing without getting into trouble with that Chokan! She could only hope that Gnash would turn up. Otherwise she would have to risk disobeying the envoy.

    "Well?" demanded Isen, "Was there a purpose to your arrival or was it just that the air here is more conducive to stuffing clouds with daydreams?" Really, the girl was starting to irritate her more and more.

    "I uh, that is, Chokan..." Linala managed to stammer out.

    It was like the sun had just risen. "Chokan? Yes?" the Queen prompted, suddenly smiling and anxious.

    "He sent me to say he was ready for your audience. He's in your private rooms" She added with concern.

    The Queen smiled and rose to her feet, "He's a litle early but that's all to the good." she murmured, almost forgetting the parlour maid's presence. "I'd best make haste." She turned in mid stride as she recalled Linala. "We, ah, have to discuss his investigation into the Diviner's death" she explained awkwardly.

    Linala looked unsure of the explanation but just nodded.

    The Queen frowned again and darted off to her rooms. Really, a parlour maid shouldn't act so disapprovingly toward her Queen. Still, the momentary cloud scudded past the sun of her excitement as she passed by the guards to her quarters.

    Saluting respectfully, the guards stood by and watched her enter the room where the envoy had gone. The Imperial Imp guards refrained from joking around as they might ordinarily have done. The sinister addition of some of the envoys own guards to their number had dampened any latent humor. Worse yet, there were rumors of assasins in the palace and it was said that good old Gnash was a suspect wanted for questioning. It really was enough to drive an Imp to worry.

    Igneld the guard turned as his Queen paused long enough to give her instructions. "This meeting is very important and we are not to be disturbed under any circumstance. Is that clear?" Isen instructed, one hand on the door handle.

    Igneld nodded and did his best to straighten up and look imposing. "Yes your majesty" he answered. He blushed, certain that the Order guards were laughing inwardly at his falsetto voice. It must be nice to have a deep voice to intimidate your fellows with.

    Isen noticed the blush and blushed as well, misunderstanding the source. "And keep your mind on the job, guard!" she warned before fleeing into the room and shutting the door with a bang.

    Igneld turned to the others and shrugged at the strange outburst. Just then, the figure of Gnash appeared at the end of the corridore, hobbling rapidly towards them. If it had been up to Igneld he'd have let Gnash alone, but with the envoy's guards at hand he really had no choice. He was in the process of giving orders to two of his men to grab Gnash when he arrived, when another imp, one of the parlous maids he thought, appeared beside Gnash and dragged him off into a side passage. Immediately, two of the envoy's guards ran down the hall, shouting for them to stop.

    Secretly relieved, Igneld hoped the two imps knew the palace better than the envoy's men.
    The remaining guards placed by Chokan looked smugly amused for some reason. Igneld shivered inwardly. He really did not want to know the reason for that look. No he did not.

  9. #24
    Gnash fought against his captor, but it was too powerful, and he was literally dragged down the dark hall. Pain shot through his aching ankle, and he nearly screamed when his captor suddenly turned and threw him into an alcove. The jarring impact of the stone wall stunned him, and before he could regain his balance he felt his captor's body press him against the wall, forcing the breath out yet again, while a firm hand clasped over his mouth. In the darkness he could not make out any features, but he knew this was an imp. Despite the rough treatment, he relaxed: no imp would hurt him.

    The clanking sound of armor signalled the approach of the guards, they were walking, unable to see in the dark and apparently unwilling to risk crashing into the pursued. Voices penetrated the darkness.

    "What has he got us off doing now?" asked a deep voice.

    "Now he has us chasing imps. Like we're gonna find an imp in this place? Little runts know it like the back of their hairy hands, always scurrying about, getting underfoot. Me with that girl that time, and one of them pops out ruinin the mood." said a second voice with a Far Province accent. No longer up the hall, the voices were now right in front of Gnash.

    The guards were at the alcove. "Come on!" The first voice boomed, and Gnash knew they were caught.

    "We better hurry," the first voice continued, "they're already out of sight. If we fail him again...."

    "I'm coming...race you to the pub."

    "Very funny. I'll pub you if we don't..."

    To Gnash's relief the voices receeded into the distance. The body pressed against his slowly pulled away, and for an instant he had a thought of something familiar, something sad. The hand was released from his mouth. He gasped for breath while he turned towards his onetime captor, now savior. It was an imp, and one strong even for an imp, but his eyes couldn't make out any features.

    A flame sputtered, throwing light onto the alcove. The aches and pains and fear of his ordeal were lost in the tears as the light shown on the face.

    "Ne..." he cried, and the hand was over his mouth before he could utter the next syllable. Then it was gone again. "Neffer," he whispered, "is it really you?" He grabbed her and hugged her, and at that moment knew he loved her, had always loved her, would always love her.


    [This message has been edited by sanclemente99 (edited August 31, 2001).]

  10. #25
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    Throbbing with festering cravings, the bloody haze drifted through the woods. It's simplistic thoughts had become more aware from the eurphoria of watching the agony of the imp it infected.

    Wavering into a hungry red mass the abomination blew through the dark woods and soon came upon a cottage.

    There was family of imps preparing for their evening repast.

    A abrupt thrum of hunger rippled across the bloody cloud's thoughts.

    Answering its own craving, the foul nebulous atrocity descended upon the imp family.

    Passing through the mother. Yes that was good. Caressing the father, oh indeed delicous, and savoring the child, mmm yes. If the abomination had lips it would've licked and smacked them in twisted relish.

    Watching as the wretched family of imps went through the ghastly throes of death the abomination flickered between diseased red and wounded purple. The feeling of euphoria swelled, and pulsated through the misty monster's mind.

    A transformation was occuring. The cloudy horror took on more shape and solidity. It almost looked like a large powerful man. Yet it still shifted between solidity and a shapeless form.

    However it was remembering. Yes it once had a name. He had once been somebody. He had been someone important, someone to be feared. Yes I was Araedael, it thought. I was the greatest Dark Magi. Yes I had once called upon the ancient horror to destroy my enemies. But I was stopped. By who? What have I become now?

    The powerful shape raised it's massive arms and clenched his taloned hands. He could feel pussiant stength surging through him. He thought I must touch more imps. I must caress a laughing imp.

    Araedael asked itself. "why am I motivated to find and consume a laughing imp? Do I, do some one elses bidding? If I serve a master, he will soon die."


    ******************

    Ryan was pacing back and forth and raging warninngs, "What I think has happened is likely far more dangerous and evil than just the ancient horror. Everyone must be warned. Hide the children. Everyone must stay ready and preparted to run. GO! warn everyone death is amongst us and it is hungry. GO!"

    The crowd of imps and people scattered with all the fear in their hearts and death at their heels.

    Ryan stormed into his shed and glared into the closet with the shattered door. "Damn!" he roared punching the wall in frustrated fury.

    Ryan knew what was missing. It was the mummified heart of Dark Magi Araedael. The twisted wizard who had called upon the ancient horror all those years ago.

    The ancient horror, a virulent disease, that nearly killed a great portion of the known world. And Araedael had raised it and used it for his own avarice and ambitions.

    Slaying Araelael, back then, had an enormous personal cost. Yet it had to be done. Ryan had barely succeeded destroying the Dark Magi.

    As, what Ryan had thought was a saftey precaution he kept Araedael's mummified heart so it would not fall into the wrong hands and be used for evil.

    The Dark Magi's heart would not consume in fire and so Ryan had stored it for safe keeping.

    Now someone had devised a means to raise him. And now the ancient horror and Araedael have become one. Something more twisted and potent then he could imagine.

    Ryan for the first time in his adult life felt fear.



    [This message has been edited by enazwo (edited August 31, 2001).]

    [This message has been edited by enazwo (edited August 31, 2001).]

    [This message has been edited by enazwo (edited September 01, 2001).]

  11. #26
    Registered User Duarh's Avatar
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    ***INTERLUDE***

    Far, far above, in orbit around the planet. . .

    Mthron was afraid.

    Nervously, he paced the length of the bridge of the Royal Flagship Methonia, glancing once in a while at the main screen taking up one wall of the great hall.

    They had found the planet of the Chosen Ones.

    Mthron bit his lip, nervous eyes flitting to and forth. Dammit, why did it have to happen to me? he asked himself silently. For aeons, the Royal Family has been looking for the Imps of Leadership, and I am the one to find them.

    He heard the hiss of the great doors entering. The Admiral was here.

    Mthron stopped, squared his shoulders, and faced the approaching man. Admiral Ywen was a tall, fair-skinned man with enthralling blue eyes that could turn a man into cinder within seconds. Everyone on the bridge had stiffened at their workposts at the man's appearance.

    "Admiral," Mthron saluted and said respectfully as the man came close.

    "Mthron," said the Admiral with a nod. "Are the preparations ready?"

    "Yes, sir," Mthron said. "Our agents are ready for action."

    The Admiral nodded, an absent-minded look in his eyes. He turned to the main screen, and to the green planet below them. "Begin operations at once," he said.

    "Yes, sir," came the acknowledgement as Mthron gave the appropriate orders. "Then. . .it will come to pass, sir?" he dared to ask.

    The Admiral did not take his eyes of the screen. "Yes, Mthron, it will," he said. "Soon, the Kingdom of Furonia will be saved. Lordship and dominion shall be delivered upon the Imps of Leadership, and we shall sail into a brighter future. . ."

    A comforting thought, that, Mthron pondered as he resigned himself for a wait of months. I wonder if they'll let me have a piece of the cake. . .

    ***END OF INTERLUDE***

    [This message has been edited by Duarh (edited September 01, 2001).]

  12. #27
    His eyes cleared and Herbalist Ryan gripped the edge of the table and pulled himself to his feet. His head throbbed and it took his eyes several moments to focus.

    Lying on the table was the rest of the Dreamroot.

    "What could have happened?" he thought to himself. His eyes clouded over and the he held his hands up to his face, he couldn't see them. When his vision cleared, he saw that his left glove had worn through in one spot. He'd had been meaning to replace them, but there was never enough time.

    "Stupid! I must have touched the root," he thought. "How old Diviner Trod would scold me for making the most novice mistake of all." Shaking his head, he felt the influence of the root build, and was again in a world of "admirals" and "spaceships" and....

    The knocking on the door broke the flashback, and he was once again aware of himself. The flashbacks would fade, he knew, once the root was destroyed. Carefully picking it up with his good glove, he tossed the root into the fire. With a flash it was gone, and with it the power over him.

    "If only I could make some sense out of the dream," he thought. Though sometimes bizarre, such dreams often held a prophecy. The trick was to determine what the prophecy was.

    Ryan sat down heavily in the chair. He tried to relate the dream to his current situation. There must be some connection. An evil force, he thought. "No!" He sat bold upright in his chair, his eyes bright and his face suddenly alive with fear. He *knew*.

    The knock was now a pounding, and door was starting to give way. Before it burst the hinges he composed himself as best he could. He *knew*.

    "Uh...please come in," he said.


    [This message has been edited by sanclemente99 (edited September 02, 2001).]

  13. #28
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    The mist was obscuring the sun, casting unnatural darkness in the patriarch's room.
    Talli cringed in the corner, by the door, paralyzed with fear. she heard about sorcery, but never seen it with her own eyes.
    but the mist was not intrested in her. it had a job to do, and it will do it. it hovered by the bedside, and started enveloping the poor patriarch's body, not knowing that the soul it seeks has left already.
    It will soon find out. talli recognized her opportunity, opened the door, gave a last sorrowful look at her grandpa, and ran out to the corridor, screaming and crying.

    Its prey wasn't there, and now... and now the other target is running away. it won't let that happen. it went through the door and out to the corridor, after Talli.
    She ran like she never ran in her short life, never looking back, never stopping for a second. she only has to go two floors down, and then she will run to Ryan, he will no what to do!

    as she turned the corner, the mist came out of the wall and up the spiral staircase, and fast. she retreated back. she had two options, run back to the room, or the window behind her. she dared to move her eyes from the wraith and look outside. it was dusk, and a strange pink glow hovered above the woods. she could see the palace in the distance.
    she turned back, it was on her.
    she recoiled instinctively from the foul smelling cloud.
    there was nothing behind her, Talli fell to the ground.
    *******************************************

    Chokan knelt and kissed the queen's small, delicate hand.
    "My queen," he said with a forced smile, "it is a pleasure to be in your honorable company once again."
    "come come, chokan" said Isen with fluttering irises, "your'e too kind."
    When the pleasentries were over, chokan rose to his feet.
    it was a large, well lit hall, with six giant chandeliers, not a spot in the room was dark. Isen sat on her ruby covered throne, wearing nothing but a flimsy scarlet robe and an emerald tinged golden crown. her lovely, miniature face were white as marble, her big eyes blazed in dark green, and her tiny, pointy ears resembled upturned lady's daggers.
    "your majesty, a potent sorcery was released in the courtyard." said Chokan.
    "I know. it has vanquished the grattely clan in the forest". she said solemnly.
    "I know who did this, and I can rid the realm of it, do I have your confidence?"
    she hesitated for a second. she liked him alright, but this was all too easy, maybe if...
    "It will destroy every living thing in the kingdom in a matter of hours, your majesty."
    "but..." she started, but never finished.
    Chokan moved in now, without mercy, to vaporize the remains of her doubt.
    "This morning, my queen, it has killed your trusted diviner, which is supposed to be a powerful wizard, and another imp, in..."
    "That's where your'e wrong, usurper."
    Chokan whirled on the spot, to find Neffer standing behind him. how did she get in without a sound?
    "It can't be, your'e dead!" he screamed in disbelief.
    "you of all people should know that messing with sorcery brings about unexpected results." she turned to the queen.
    "Your majesty, it was Chokan who..."
    "shut up!" cried Chokan madly, from his robe he produced a small bag, and in an instant his hand shot out of it bearing a blue powder, he threw it at Neffer, the icesalt which was supposed to freeze her crashed against a shining golden barrier sprouting from Neffer's outstreched hands.
    "How did you do that?" Choken murmured, half to himself, "you're not a diviner".
    "I was". said Neffer, inching closer now to Choken, he retreated back.
    "you are a dispicable creature, you and your order."
    "I will kill you, little imp, and I'll do it with my bare hands!" he charged her.
    "little Gnash." said isen suddenly. Chokan turned to see the little imp entering the room. the door was open, the guards were nowhere in sight. Neffer kept her gaze on Chokan.
    Gnash went inside, step by step.
    "Don't come any closer, Gnash" said Neffer.
    "you killed my friend." said Gnash to Chokan.
    "don't do it, Gnash, He's mine, you will endanger your sight." said neffer.
    "I don't care... say, chokan, do you know what they call a hobbling imp?"
    "What?"
    "A limp" said Gnash and at that moment his dagger went through Chokan's thigh.
    "Gnash, No!" screamed Neffer.




    [This message has been edited by lior (edited September 02, 2001).]

  14. #29
    Guardian of sffworld
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    Linala slowly opened the door, herbalist Ryan sat in a large chair seemingly inattentive to her intrusion. “I, . . . um, . . . I didn’t know who to turn to.” He didn’t move, in fact he didn’t appear to have heard her at all.

    “I’m worried about Gnash. I fear for his life. And I’ve so messed everything up,” she began to babble desperately.

    Herbalist Ryan slowly turned to her and focused narrowing eyes on her, “Why do you fear for Gnash’s life?”

    Linala lowered her eyes and began shifting her weight nervously. She didn’t answer.

    “WOMAN!!” he barked then gathered his fear and spoke firmly, “What have you done?”

    “I didn’t know anyone would get killed. I swear I didn’t. I thought I could keep him from hurting anyone, but then, everything just got out of control,” she confessed softly.

    “Who are you talking about?” he inquired quietly.

    “He’s a blo . . .,” she trailed of as a woman’s scream followed by a sickening crash interrupted her.

    Herbalist Ryan jumped up and dashed out the door, Linala following on his heels. A cursory glance around and they both ran toward the gathering crowd. The onlookers quickly stepped out of the healer’s way. When he broke into the center of the crowd, he paused only a moment in shock. The future Matriarch, Talli, lay motionless on the ground.

    Her left leg was bend at an impossible angle, but her leg was of little concern. Ryan immediately knelt down and carefully listened to her chest. Satisfied with her breathing and heartbeat, he quickly gathered a few of the onlookers and prepared to move the girl. The shed was the closed option.

    He cleared an area, then motioned for Talli to be laid down. Immediately he began rushing around the room gathering herbs and powders, then poured the ingredients into a mortar. One of the onlookers was chosen to combine the ingredients. Everyone else was told to leave. When he was assured they were alone, he again he began gathering ingredients.

    He inspected the first mixture and content with the fine powder he exchanged mortars. He added a few drops of liquid then with a few final stokes, the paste was ready. Gently he smoothed the warm paste onto the girls chest. Immediately she began breathing easier.

    Now on to her leg. He gathered the second potion and again added a few drops of liquid. He let the paste set for a few moments while he straightened her leg, being careful the ends met up properly. Satisfied he smoothed the paste over the break. His helper was thanked then told to go home.

    Finally Herbalist Ryan relaxed. She would survive.
    ************************
    Linala stood outside the shed, wringing her hands uncertainly. She was afraid to go back to her room. Would Chokan be waiting for her? But she was uncertain about Ryan’s aid. She took a few steps away only to turn around. Several times she had gone to the door intending to knock, only to back out at the last minute.
    ************************
    The mist hovered above the shed. As the crowd had thinned, it lowered itself closer to its victim. But she was still not alone and for some reason the man frightened it. Then it saw the lone women outside the shed.

    [This message has been edited by KATS (edited September 03, 2001).]

  15. #30
    Senior Member Giarc's Avatar
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    "Guards!" bellowed Chokan as he casually backhanded the small form of Gnash across the throne room. Gnash reeled backwards into, and through, Neffer. Chokan sneered, she was a ghost it seemed. Nothing more.

    Bloodmages had ways of feeding off the emotional energy of wraiths and he smiled ferally. The wound in his leg was painful but nothing debilitating. In fact, the blood empowered him as it left his body and ran down his leg to the floor.

    Seizing his power he struggled against the will of Neffer but some other power unexpectedly reinforced her. For a moment the envoy feared that the patriarch lived and redoubled his efforts.

    When the resistance suddenly crumbled to nothing, relief and pride surged through his veins as the wraith dematerialised with a faint howl of despair and a final warning to the rising figure of Gnash "Ruuunnnn...."

    Staring aghast, Gnash's eyes turned with fear and hatred on Chokan but he obeyed Neffer's last command. If Neffer couldn't prevail with Talli's spirit reinforcing her then what could a lone imp do?

    Turning tail he bagan to run, hating himself even as the envoy's mocking laughter dogged his retreat. The guards were beginning to stir from their paralysis now that Neffer was gone. Too late to grab him as he half-sprinted, half-hobbled out the door, they belatedly began to give chase. Behind them all, the great door closed once more and Chokan turned to the Queen.

    "Sorcery and assasins will not harm you while I am near" he reassured her.

    Isen smiled and drew close to him. "Enough, it has been so long..." she murmured, troubled and relieved that they were finally alone. Chokan chuckled and pulled her into the small antechamber behind the throne.

    "Clearly your people are fools to leave such a flower unplucked for any length of time" he added, still cautious to reinforce his hold on her mind with action and word.

    Isen pulled him down onto the low bench eagerly and laughed softly. Raich would be appalled but what harm would it do? It had been so long!

    -----------------------------------------


    Ryan watched the supine form of Talli for a moment with some relief. Her spirit had finally been hauled back from wherever it had been but only with a great deal of effort. Hovering between life and death, she should have been eager to return to her body but is was as if she was fighting him every step of the way. Despite the broken leg he'd mended earlier, she was moving fitfully in her drug-induced sleep. Somehow Ryan feared that he had done something terribly wrong. The way she had sat up and screamed, calling for Neffer to come back had given him shivers. Neffer was dead as far as he knew, killed in that blast that had also killed Raich. Even so, he worried as Talli sobbed in her sleep.

    His concern was suddenly interrupted by a scream from outside. Hastening to the door, he opened it to find the terrified Linala pointing in wordless fear. He had posted her outside earlier to prevent intruders when they had brought Talli into the shed.

    Glancing up, his heart sank. Linala was right to be terrified. The blood mist had nearly reached them, drifting down from the sky like a cloud of evil.

    "Foul pestilential toe rot!" he swore as he sprang into action. Grabbing Linala around the waist, he darted towards the nearby palace hoping to draw the foul being away from the defenseless Talli. He managed to elude the brush of cold from a wisp of the cloud and raced to the scant protection of the palace walls. Mingled relief and dread surged as he saw it follow. Talli was safe for now, but they were not. The walls curved in and the mist was blocking their exit.

    "Can you kill it?" whimpered Linala.

    Ryan shook his head bitterly. "If it didn't have the heart of an ancient bloodmage to focus it we could bannish it by killing the bloodmage that summoned it. But I don't see the mage around here and it would paralyse either of us before we got far enough in to take the heart." he admitted.

    Linala cringed back as the mist advanced. They back up against the stone wall fearfully. A small door was there but locked from the inside. Their frantic banging got no response from within. Ryan swallowed. "Linala, when I say, run to our right as fast as you can."

    She turned to Ryan with worry, "What about you?"

    He shrugged and smiled bravely. "Don't worry, I'll think of something." He only hoped it would focus on him long enough for Linala to get away. "Warn the Queen, and see if you can get Talli away from it too, but you'll need to get help because..." he broke off, it was drawing too close for further instruction. "Now, run Linala! Run!"

    She obeyed, sprinting as fast as she could and just evaded the tendrils that sought to block her path. Ryan's sacrifice wouldn't give her much of a lead and she intended to make it count.

    Ryan swallowed dryly, there was no way out as he backed up against the wooden door. The red mist swirled and roiled. There was a sudden pounding in his head. The circle of blue sky above him shaded purple then red as the mist surged forward to engulf him.

    -------------------------------------------

    Gnash ran as hard as he could but the guards were closing fast. The humans had been left behind but the imp guards knew the palace as well as he did, and they weren't hampered by a sore leg.

    In desperation Gnash ducked under the stairs and made for the kitchens. The main entrance was too far and he needed to escape, or to at least warn the healmaker. With Raich gone he was the only one who might save them from the magic of the bloodmage. The blood seemed to pound in his ears as he charged helter-skelter through the kitchen. Noone was there to be surprised by the frantic imp, since the midday meal had already been cleaned up and tonights dinner wouldn't be started for another hour.

    With the guards only a few yards behind, he raced to the outside door, threw the bolt open and crashed into the door with his shoulder. Something blocked the door for a split second, before it swung open on its own. Gnash recoiled and fell back from the impact, falling back at the feet of the following guards. Unbelievably, the open door revealed a dense red fog pressing against the palace wall. Dimly he heard someone scream. Then, as one of the guards clubbed him on the back of the head, he thought he heard a shout of triumph before oblivion claimed him.

    -------------------------------------------

    Ryan was propelled forward by someone charging recklessly into the door behind him. Stumbling foward involuntarily, he screamed as terror entered his mind and paralysed his will. Something unseen in the depths of the mist hit him in the face before he fell headlong forward. Bright daylight suddenly reappeared. Quickly he jumped to his feet as he realised he had been pushed right through the fog before it could kill him. Adrenaline surged in his veins. He could escape! As he rose, he spotted something dark red, almost black, glistening on the ground before him. It was the ghastly heart of the dead bloodmage. Running before the mist could react, Ryan picked up the heart and fled. If he could keep ahead of the mist then it would be vulnerable. If only he could find the bloodmage and kill him now! He slowed to a jog and headed down the western road. If nothing else, he could draw it away from his people.

    Behind him, the red mist thinned and followed almost reluctantly, the vapors boiling and churning. It could only move slowly and wait for the imp to tire. Then it would reclaim the heart and savor the imps death. Then it could return and feast on the hapless imps and the patriarchs grandaughter as well.

    -----------------------------------------

    Gnash sat up groggily as the guard poked him in the ribs again. As his vision cleared he realised he was in the throne room again. Disbelief warred with fear as he saw the envoy sitting on Isen's throne, bold as a brass tack! Looking around he saw the palace guards lining the walls with expressions kept carefully neutral but fear in their eyes.

    Chokan smiled evilly and snarled. "My dear Gnash, glad to have you with us again. It is time and past time for you to answer for your crimes!"

    "If it were merely your unprovoked assault on my person I would let the matter pass, but your vile assasination of the Diviner and his assistant, not to mention plotting to slay your own Queen demands your death!"

    Gnash struggled with his bonds, "I did no such thing!" he squawked angrily. "It was you! You are a bloodmage and here to destroy us all! Neffer's ghost told me everything before you destroyed her!"

    The imps guarding the room shifted nervously. Imps didn't lie to other imps. Good old Gnash must be delusional. More than one guard glanced towards the open door wishing to be anyplace but here.

    Chokan shrugged. "I expected such vile slander from a traitor. Bring in the witness!" he commanded loudly.

    A small imp with a badly swollen arm entered, glancing around sorrowfully and with obvious trepidation.

    Chokan pointed at him and demanded, "You witnessed Gnash switching the packages, did you not?"

    Miserably the creature nodded. "Yes, Gnash killed the Diviner and Neffer" he said tonelessly, hoping against hope that they would realise his lie.

    Gnash was confused but could only protest awkwardly. "He's lying!" but the guards only evaded his pleading gaze.

    Chokan gestured to someone behind him and Queen Isen stepped past the unhappy Gnash to stand at Chokan's side.

    "I knew something was troubling you Gnash" the Queen queried. Again, her tone was almost distant but none would gainsay the Queen. "Your deception staggers me Gnash. Why? Why have you betrayed us all?"

    While Gnash silently pleaded for advice from the dead spirit of Raich, Chokan smiled. He had won. The bloodmist should have slain the healmaker and Talli by now, and the once mirthful apprentice diviner, Gnash, was helpless before him. Satisfaction oozed from every pore as he put his arm comfortably around Isen's waist. Their encounter had been truly enjoyable and he was already eager to dispense with this technicality and sample more of her delights.

    Gnash was about to plead with Isen when he saw the envoy's arm circle Isen's waist possesively. When the Queen didn't resist and actually sidled closer to the bloodmage his heart sank even lower. The bloodmage already controlled the Queen it seemed. There would be no convincing her.

    As hope left him he relaxed as he had not in weeks. The way the mage and the Queen were standing it almost suggested a greater intimacy. If he didn't know better he'd swear that...the thought was too preposterous.

    Gnash chuckled.

    Chokan frowned instantly. Why had the creature made that hideous cackle? Surely it could see it was about to die?

    Gnash's chuckle grew to a definite guffaw.

    Chokan withdrew his arm from around the Queen and clenched his fists. "What? What are you laughing about traitor?" he shouted.

    Gnash, managed to stop snickering long enough to gasp out "Surely not! With all your powers you still didn't seduce our Queen did you?"

    Isen blushed and refused to look any at any imp in the room, Diviner Raich had assured her that no one else knew!

    Chokan looked baffled, "And what of it? What if I have you miserable little worm!"

    Gnash tried to suppress a howl but it only emerged as a strangled giggle. "Perhaps, you should see her without her glamours?" he asked merrily and immediately sang the truthsee incantation that Raich had taught him only a few weeks ago.

    Chokan recoiled in horror. The Queen at his side was a shrunken old hag that must have been alive when his ancestors had fled the kingdom! Large, protuberescent boils erupted from her skin and thick, black hairs sprouted from several on her face. Lank grey hair meandered down her scalp like syrup down the side of a flask, and her watery eyes were filmy white with cataracts.

    The bloodmage stepped back and fought against the urge to throw up. He had just seduced that!?

    Isen pouted and blushed with embarassment, her cheeks turning splotchy and mottling with humiliation. Her toothless mouth sagged and spittle flecked the corners of her thin lips as she began to berate the laughing Gnash. "You rotten little imp! How dare you reveal a woman's age in public!" she accused with what little dignity she could muster before fleeing headlong out the door.

    Gnash couldn't withstand it any more. "The look on your face...!" he howled breathlessly as laughter boiled up from within. The imps around the wall were shellshocked as the secret of the Queen's eternal youth was revealed. Then they began to snicker along with Gnash. Snickers turned into belly laughs. Gnash always was a good one to find a joke! In seconds Chokan was surrounded by insanely laughing imps.

    Chokan dropped to his knees and vomitted, the song of bloodmagic in his veins had been shattered by the relentless laughter of the imps. How could this have happened? He tried to claw his way to the door to escape but the spells artificially lengthening his life were sequentially shattering and decades of time fell on his body, devouring his life in moments. But the imps were too busy laughing to notice his demise, and when the laughter finally stopped they were only mildly curious as to where he had gone and what the sprinkling of ash on the floor was.

    -----------------------------------------
    Epilogue

    Ryan returned to the palace as soon as the mist dissipated unexpectedly on the western road. He tried to see the Queen but she was locked up in one of her rooms and refused to allow anyone but Linala in to see her. When he entered the throne room he quickly scolded the guards into releasing Gnash from his bonds. The guards tried to give some nonsensical tale about Gnash killing the Diviner. Really, what imp could believe such a thing of such another? Besides, an imp with a badly broken arm confessed all now that he had been freed of his bond with the dead Chokan.

    Sometimes Ryan wondered why he bothered. If the daft little imp had just come to get his arm set he'd have noticed the bond and broken it there and then.

    Talli was fully recovered and had been whisked away by her escort with the body of the visiting patriarch. In all, it had been a very vexing time for the healmaker. He would have been happier if he knew exactly what had happened to the bloodmage but he gave up trying to find out because none of the witnesses could explain without breaking into gales of laughter.

    Gnash and the guards had clearly had too much nectar wine at breakfast, Ryan sighed as he straighted up his shed. He just wished that the other imps would take things seriously for once!

    An End


    [This message has been edited by Giarc (edited September 05, 2001).]

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