Battlesworn

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OATHS

Awareness came to the Battlesworn like the low hum of an approaching bee. Their bodies were stiff, their thoughts slow, and each wondered if they had died and were Awakening another thousand years later. Had the Troll-witch lied? Were they truly doomed to repeat this vicious cycle until they failed?

Bane was the first to stir, just as he had been the first to Awaken. A soft, cool sensation tickled the parts of his skin hadn't yet turned to stone. It was a pleasant feeling that reminded him of Airs' touch when her sweetness was stronger than her pride. He became aware of the sharp spike of thoughts in the minds of his companions, and knew they were nearby.

Only two, Bane thought sadly, remembering his dead friends. Would they be given back their lives, or would they remain Battlesworn? He had not thought to ask the crone and felt guilty for his inconsideration. Forgive me. Maybe Grim and Ruin would be granted eternal rest instead.

Slowly Bane rolled onto his back. A faint glow to his right made him turn his head. He squinted against the pulsing blue-white light, and felt the soothing touch of familiarity. It was then he noticed the mist curling around his limbs, brushing over his face and body. The mist was delicately and deliberately probing at his body, examining it.

The Omnistone.

Also named the Living Stone, it was an immense structure on the far edges of Mevrule, buried deep beneath the shores of the Redsalt Sea. 10,000 years ago the five races had combined their knowledge and powers to send the monstrous structure beneath the waves to better protect it from the Dreadlords' armies.

Thanks to the first crone's gift of remembrance, Bane conscience had brought him here instead of his Epitaph. It was the very core of the Omnistone. A vibrant green-blue pool rested beneath the focus of the chamber; a wall with embossed faces; each larger than a Troll's body. And each was of a different race; some that no longer existed in Mevrule.

Bane didn't need to look around to know that his companions recognized the chamber as well. His neck could no longer rotate anyways. A white light outlined one of the heads. With a quiet rumble, the face surged forward and its eyelids snapped open. The face was that of an old Human man, with oval eyes and pupils that radiated wisdom in a crystal blue glow.

Dust and bits of rock fell from the statue's lips like crumbs. Its voice was as old and tired-sounding as Bane himself felt. "Why have you come, Duty-bound?"

Another face slid forward, this of a beautiful Elfer woman. Her eyes glowed a pure golden color, and though her voice was higher-pitched, it carried the same weight of antiquity. "Your task is near completion. You should be returning to your sleep."

A third face woke further down the wall, near the pool's edge. Though it possessed the childish features of a Gnomte, it too carried the impression of being older than Mevrule itself. Its voice was mature in stark contrast to Shade's light-hearted tone. "You listened to the Norns." Anger reverbrated in his voice.

"We seek freedom!" Airs demanded. "We renounce our oaths, Omni-Ones. Release us now."

"If you don't," Bane muttered, almost incomprehensibly. "The next time the Dreadlords come, we will lead them here ourselves."

Anger flared from the light resonating from the Omni-Ones, forcing the Battlesworn to shut their eyes. Each of the statues' mouths stretched wide to screech defiance. "You would threaten us?!" they bellow indignantly as one.

"Yes," Shade quipped. "Or you can make us mortal and kill us."

"Either way we win," Bane mumbled. He thought the edges of his mouth curved in a smile. The faces stared at the three defiant Reavers as they lay dying.

"Very well," the ancient man announced, suddenly as calm as still water. "But know that the cycle will not end with you."

"And your lives will not be pleasant ones," the Elfer woman promised with a tinge of morbid satisfaction.

"But we will free you," finished the Gnomte.

When the darkness enclosed the Reavers again, warmth and peace such as they had not known in thousands of years cradled them. Just before unconsciousness took him again, Bane's last thought before his memories were erased; I am...Zeuron.

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