997 Year of the Hulking Hellhound. 1st Era
Sand and more sand. Endless mounds of sand stretched out before the duo and behind them for miles. They had not seen a single creature, or insect for two days, and the last sign of any plant life passed by yesterday afternoon. It was as if all the flora and fauna had just vanished, no tracks, burrows or structures could be seen: just endless sand.
The duo had been traveling through the Gosmeir Desert for a fortnite, and they had crossed over into the Searing Wastes two days ago, the region the natives had called the western coast of Glosmeir.
The intense heat, with only the occassional slight breeze is what gave the coast it's imfamous name. Highwaymen and raiders avoided the Searing Wastes for good reasons, but the border of the Wastes were full of gangs, cults and nefarious scumbags. Blood shed was almost guaranteed for every adventurer or pilgrim, and only the strongest survived. The way of the Wastes were cruel.
The shorter of the two men, grabbed the canteen that was attached to his black silken sash and took a quick draught. The water came as an instant relief, soon he found himself gulping down the rest of the refreshing liquid, he could always refill it with a nod since he was a talented sorcerer after all. The short bald man wiped the remaining water off his long goatee and rubbed his leathery face, streaks of grit ran down his cheeks.
"I suppose we should set up camp," said the taller cloaked man. The dark green silk cloak was wrapped around his tall, slender figure, his hood was pulled up showing only his chin. "I grow tiresome of this hunt. If the map we bought from that miner down in Strubarg is even remotely correct, then we should have it in our hands by sunfall tomorrow."
The short bearded man just nodded and continued to drink water, gazing at the sand dunes off into the distance. It was past high noon, with no clouds in sight and the sun seemed to be taunting the two men, daring them to continue their search in the extreme dry heat.
The short man slung his pack from his shoulder and said "Go find some shade to rest up and go over your spells. Tomorrow, the Eye of Salmentos K'red will be in our grasp. Now leave me be."
The sun had finally finished it's descent behind the sand dunes, and the sky was a sight to behold. Pink, orange and purple hues swirled together across the sky, the tall man watched as the darkness consumed the rest of the orange and pink. Stars slowly started popping up across the night sky, followed by a slight chilly breeze causing the tall man's green silk cloak to flutter.
The bald man sat on his worn bedroll by a small fire, and was scanning through his worn spellbook vigorously. Pages, stones, quills and ink bottles lay scattered around the him as he threw the book he finished into the sand. Instantly another book appeared into his hairy hands.
The spellbook was smaller than the one he had just threw away, but was two inches thicker than the other. The black leather cover had small faded silver writing on it with the symbol for Death Magic, a cracked skull with fangs.
Death Magic was banned across the Empire of Vraberle, sending all those who studied Death Magic to go into hiding, and those who were caught were burned alive, or were laden down with stones and thrown into the Bowwlern River. Necromancers and witches were the main practitioners of the banned magic, so the tall man was a bit surprised when his companion had made the small book appear in his hands. Never had the smaller man mentioned Death Magic, or even hinted at it so the scene before the tall man had baffled him.
"Since when have you been into the Forbidden Art?"asked the tall cloaked man, it almost sounded like an accusation by the pitch in his voice.
"Now Vaaleth," said the short bearded man. "Tonight. Tonight, you will learn how to trap a soul and use it as you will."
"Trapping souls, raising the dead and summoning demons, isn't that necromancy?" Vaaleth asked as he sat down next to the firepit. Since Seplecta had made her ascent into the night sky, the temperature across the desert dropped rapidly.
"No. Those are three different Arts," came an irritated response. "I am wasting my time. Have you learned anything besides filling up your own flagon, or how to make a maiden's blouse disappear? Embarrassment, if you must know."
Vaaleth avoided his companion's scrutinizing gaze and stared off into the fire, watching the flames dance about, trying to distract himself from the eyes that bore into him. He knew that if he would argue back that he would end up with a black eye, or busted lip. The short man could hold his own in melee combat and proved it several times over their journey.
"You know that if I'm caught studying any of the Arts, that our plan goes to shit. Yeah I get distracted by the occasional wench, or the occasional bottle but I AM trying," Vaaleth said without looking at his companion. "Just bear with me, N'rob."
"Look at me like a man, boy! You're the fucking Emperor's son!" growled N'rob as he lunged forward and stopped, their faces inches away. "Show me what you can do, or your father is gonna hear some very, sad news about his only son."
Vaaleth didn't move at all, their noses were a breadth apart, N'rob's sour breath assaulted his nostrils but he didn't budge. For the first time since their journey he looked N'rob straight in the eyes. Fear, uncertainty and anxiety washed away revealing a clean slate for the young man.
"Show me how to trap a soul, N'rob," said Vaaleth with sheer determination.
Before the sun had began it's climb the duo packed up and set off towards the western dunes.
Thunder boomed off towards the east, soon lightning forked across the early dawn sky. Black clouds appeared in the eastern sky suddenly and were rolling towards the west. The occasional breeze soon turned into strong gusts of wind, then the wind started screaming.
"What madness is this!" Vaaleth shouted as he shielded his eyes from the stinging sand. "There hasn't been a cloud all night! Where did this come from!?"
As Vaaleth finished his sentence, lightning struck just mere feet from N'rob, sending the short man sprawling out in the sand. Thunder growled menacingly and another bolt of lightning struck the same spot as before. The black clouds were now over the two and they were moving faster than any clouds that they have ever seen.
"This is some magic trap," shouted N'rob over the howling winds as he rose from the sand. "We must be near."
"Illusion spell, maybe?" Vaaleth asked as he examined the black skies as if some foul beast were to come swooping down from above raining death on them. "Vssihir nearby?" Refering to the snake like people who roamed tbe Searing Wastes.
"No, can't be them. I can feel a powerful magical aura coming from the place where the lightning had struck twice," replied N'rob almost instantly. "This is the place. It has to be! Whatever happens, boy, just know it will all be worth it in the end."
The small crater where the lightning had struck seemed to be calling N'rob, waves of energy engulfed him, dropping the short man to his knees. He felt was if he could conquer the realm, then he was dry heaving and shaking, his stomach felt as if it were being twisted up into knots. Everything became a blur, Vaaleth's figure soon became a dark smug againest fuzzy dark sand, all he could do was shake and retch.
Vaaleth ran towards N'rob, both hands encased in magical ice, ready to take on anything that came their way. As he approached his companion the ground beneath them collapsed, both men disappeared in a massive cloud of sand, then came the rain.
N'rob stirred, shaking sand and pebbles from his leathery face and graying long goatee. His eyes had trouble adjusting to the black pit they had fell in, just pure darkness assaulted him from all directions.
The short man cautiously stood up, unsure of the room, or pit, or whatever it was they had fell in. The air was cold, stale and dusty, by his estimate they had fell at least twenty to thirty feet.
"Vaaleth?" N'rob called out into the impenetrable darkness. "Gimme a sign, boy! Something!"
The sound of rock scraping rock whipped N'rob around, his hand going for the wand that was tied to his sash. His hand grabbed nothing but dust and air, so he flung his left hand forward, then pointed it towards the ceiling.
"Leegrot aheis!" Light radiated off his left hand, which was still up in the air, illuminating the room which they had fell in. "Show yourself! I am in no mood for pleasantries, and I will attack!"
The light revealed the room to be a small circular chamber, twenty feet wide, and more sand, but no signs of anything else inside the chamber. The only door, which was to N'rob's left was bolted and blocked by four feet of sand piled againest it.
N'rob looked upwards at the ceiling, hoping he could levitate out of this pit, but where a hole should've been, a thick, black cloud shaped mass roiled. Magic most certainly was at play here in this deep, dark pit.
The bolted and blocked door made a faint ringing sound and from what N'rob could see it was covered in deep gouges, as if someone or something clawed at the wall.
He was trapped, like a juicy, fat fly caught in a spider's web. N'rob pushed back the fear that was rising in his gut, relaxed his stance a bit and walked towards the door. His eyes scanned the thick wooden door frame, looking for signs of traps, or the shimmer of a spell, that would turn him into ashes if not properly disposed of.
"Folsoe wipla," N'rob said as he pointed his finger at the old, wooden door.
The air suddenly became humid and the ringing stopped, N'rob felt pressure build up to a dull ache behind his eyes. It seemed as if the entire room, including himself had been silenced.
And where was his wand? The thought had occured to N'rob when to his right the sand exploded and out came a dark form.
N'rob had no time to react, whatever it was had quicker reflexes and swung at the short man wildly. Claws raked his robes, shredding it as the dark figure slashed at N'rob. Luckily his enchanted armor held back any damage, but his robe was gone in a matter of seconds and he had not even reacted, just stood there arms covering his bald pate.
The figure darted back and shrieked, measuring up the short man. It's long tongue hung from a open jaw, long black hair covered it's face, the long skinny arms were thrown over it's head, as if were in some kind of dance. It swayed as it circled N'rob, the claws on the feet were even longer than the ones on the hands.
A mace appeared in Nrob's left hand, as he stared at the creature that was circling him, waiting for him give an opening. One more attack like the one before would be his last fight if he slipped up, so he kept his eye on it and didn't blink.
"Come on you ugly bitch!" N'rob taunted, soon after his mace started to smoke. He brandished the weapon out in front of him and the spiked metal head caught aflame. "Bonedust has never smashed a siren's head in before!"
The siren extended her neck as she readied her tune, but Bonedust caught the her right side of her face, teeth and tongue flew againest the sandy walls. The siren fell back and made a pathetic gurgling sound as she clutched her shattered face.
That was all the time N'rob needed, he bull rushed the beast, wrapped his arms around it's thin waist and threw her at the booby trapped door with all his strength, plus that of the enchanment Bonedust had imbued upon him.
The siren missile hit the trap and the door exploded, sending N'rob flying againest the circular walls. He bounced off the sandstone walls and landed in a cloud of dust and sand, his heavy plate mail keeping him glued to the sand. He couldn't wait to hear the bards over in Nermorant sing about this battle! But first he needed prove, if there was any.
Where the door use to be, stood a gaping seven foot tall smoking hole. Nothing was left of the siren, or the door, just smoke, sand and crumbled sandstone.
Staring at the smoking, gaping hole, N'rob just laid there on his stomach, happy to have survived such an encounter but slightly disappointed he didn't see a piece of the siren laying around. No one would believe he slayed a siren by himself, not even Vaaleth. If only a lock of hair, or an eyeball were left he would take it and claim it, but that trap had been so powerful it had disintegrated the monster.
He almost felt sorry for the siren......almost.
Battered and bruised, N'rob pushed himself up and rose to his feet, sand rolled off in between his clothes and armor only adding to his irritation and discomfort.
Smoke and dust filled the air, burning Nrob's eyes and nostrils. Hopefully the sand didn't swallow his wand, he thought kicking away sand as he frantically searched for his cherished weapon.
Bonedust was a conjured weapon, a mace summoned from another realm, from the third layer of Hell to be exact. He could always summon it whenever he pleased, even if he dropped it in the deepest ocean trench, the mace was bound to him, but the wand was another story. He had won it years ago in a lucky game of dexbak, if the wand broke, or became lost, that was it.
Sputtering and unable to draw anymore breath N'rob ran and jumped through the gaping hole, into another chamber of pure darkness.
As N'rob passed through the veil of smoke, he tucked in his right shoulder and used his momentum to land in a roll, Bonedust matrializing in his hand as he came up to his feet.
"Leegrot aheis." Light instantly flashed, illuminating a replica of the exact circular chamber he just came from. Twenty feet wide, and about a thirty feet high.
After a minute of scouring the chamber, N'rob was comfortable enough to put away his hellish mace, but something just seemed off. He almost expected another monster to bombard him as soon as he relaxed, but he saw, or heard nothing.
It was too quiet, almost a deathly quiet. The air he exhaled sounded like a gust of wind, it almost annoyed him. Pushing back the distraction of the silence, the short man inched backwards until he felt the cool touch of the sandstone walls.
The walls were jagged and uneven, they didn't seem natural. The gritty texture was the only thing that felt right about them. The feeling of uncertainty crept up through N'rob like a creeping vine.
There was a clicking sound coming from the wall that N'rob had his back to, before he could react, a crude metal spike protruded through the wall and impaled the short man. The spike burst forth from his chest, bits of plate mail and blood showering the sand below.
"I expected more from the likes you!" A disembodied voice cackled from above. "I had hopes for you N'rob Drethoma! Now you are just a decoration, and a messy one! Maybe your appentice will appreciate the new decor-"
N'rob, tried to fight the darkness that surrounded his vision, he grasped the pole that stuck out of his chest, trying to slide himself off the rusty, dirty spike. Pain racked his abdomen and he slumped forward, his breath came in short, wet rasps, hanging there as the last bit of life left his dark eyes.
From above came the cackle of the disembodied voice.