MEMORIES, BETRAYALS AND WICKED CURSES
The control chamber became more peaceful and quiet. The workers are mourning their friends and families that died in the war, and those dying with the poison. I explained to uncle Sneg and the others about the spell the shaman cast and transferred the souls of svartalfar into the soldiers of Velarone.
“So it was their plan all along.” Ronald sipped from a glass of wine. I’m glad he’s no longer mad about the wine cellar, “but why didn’t they push the attack further? The newly possessed Velaronian soldiers alone will be able to give them a decisive victory.”
“The newly transferred souls will take some time to be able to adjust to their new bodies,” Uncle Sneg explained, “thus giving us at least two days for preparation."
"I already asked the other rebel leaders of the nearest rebel headquarters in Velarone to give us reinforcements," a gnome says, "their army will finish their preparation and arrive in exactly two days—if they don’t encounter any difficulties—which is the same time when the souls currently possessing the Velaronian soldiers will fully awake.”
“Isn’t it better if just attack now while the soldiers are not fully possessed?” I asked.
“Have you forgotten about his army of monsters?” Ronald swirled his drink, “The soldiers might not be fully possessed now, but our soldiers aren’t in the condition to fight either.”
“How about the poisoned soldiers, haven’t the doctors found any cure yet?”
“Not yet,” Uncle Sneg sighed, “dark magic is a very tricky branch of magic, it’s very hard to understand that’s why it corrupts its wielders.”
“But what about the souls of the Velaronian soldiers, what happened to them?” Aeronwen asked with concern.
“The previous souls of the bodies should be put in to a deep sleep first in order for the possession to be successful,” uncle Sneg stroked his beard, “or else the previous souls will try to resist them, though they still might successfully dominate the hosts' body without putting the souls to sleep, but the souls will keep trying to fight the back.”
“So that’s why they had to brainwash the soldiers.” I said, “But what if they destroyed the souls so they can no longer resist their possession?”
“Not helping.” Aeronwen shoots me a sharp look.
“That won’t work, the souls can’t possess the bodies without the previous souls. If an active soul will resist the possessor, a broken one will prevent the possessor from clinging inside the host’s body. It’s like holding unto a wall of glass.” Explains uncle Sneg.
Aeronwen sighed, “well that’s a relief.”
“How do we stop them though?” Ronald swirled the contents of his wine glass.
“The spell needs an artifact to be used as a way to keep the transferred souls in this world,” uncle Sneg showed us one of his artifacts, some sort of red crystal. It looks exactly like the one the goblin shaman was holding.
“Yes, I saw the shaman holding something that looks exactly like that.” I told them.
“So we just need to destroy the crystal and the Velaronian soldiers will turn back to normal?” Ronald poured himself more wine.
“Yes, but they would still be brainwashed.” Replies uncle Sneg.
“How do we undo the brainwash then?” Gwydion finally talked for the first time in hours, “And talking about the brainwash, how did the Archdruid manage to do that? I didn’t know anything about a spell that can control all the citizens of a city, or how a single person could cast a spell that powerful.”
“He probably draw that power from Svartalfheim.” Aeronwen replied.
“If he could do that, then why do he had to take the amulet, what’s the point?” asks Gwydion.
“Probably to lure us out and track the rebel base?” Aeronwen suggested.
“Muscle memory,” I remembered Archdruid Triandal talking about how the amulet can also give you the ‘muscle memory’ of your predecessors, “Archdruid Triandal’s body cannot survive casting the spell, so he had to use the amulet to access the muscle memories of those who have used the spell before, and he probably also learned some spells that will improve the strength of his body from the amulet.”
“But I thought the amulet was corrupted?” Aeronwen asked me.
“It was, when Aemilia tried breaking the enchantments on the amulet—the enchantments that prevent other people from using it—she failed, thus corrupting the amulet,” I sighed, “then I tried to fix my amulet, the mending spell may have also—kind of accidentally erased those enchantments so Archdruid Triandal was able to use the amulet.”
“But how did he know that you fixed the amulet?” She asked.
“Remember about the attack at the palace?” Ronald gulped the wine and placed the wine glass on a table, leaving the wine glass empty, “Someone must have been watching Alvin all this time.”
“Rupnert.” I said.
“Easy there boy, he is one of the most trusted personnel here. He can’t do that.” Says Ronald.
“When he gave me the device, he said that he ‘just created it a while ago’, no one could have put a curse on the device he gave me if it was ‘just created a while ago’ unless if he purposely created the device with the curse in it, he is an expert in creating magical devices after all.” I retorted.
“That still doesn’t prove anything,” he told me, “and what could he gain from it?”
“To bring her wife back.” I realized and ran after the room Rupnert has put all the cryogenic chambers of the poisoned soldiers.
The others followed and ran after me. We have reached the room where the cryogenic pods are stored. Delsaran Oakenfinger and two other dwarves are already confronting Rupnert Woodwacker inside the room with their weapons. Darcy is lying on the floor unconscious, blood pouring out of her face.
I rushed to her side and tried to heal the wound, her breathing becomes more stable. Delsaran pointed his mace-shotgun hybrid weapon at Rupnert.
“Wait, I can bring her back!” Exclaimed Rupnert, “I can bring Fiddula back to life.”
“And tell me why I should believe you?” Delsaran scowled at him.
“Just let me show you.”
“You have to stop this now!” I told him, “that isn’t going to work.”
“Shut up lad!” He snapped at me, “Go mind your own business.”
“This doesn’t only affect you, it will affect all of us,” I explained to him as calm as I can, “you’re meddling with magic that you don’t understand.”
“No, you’re the one who doesn’t understand, you know nothing,” he glared at me, “if only you didn’t lose the amulet to the Archdruid and gave them our location, my son would still be alive!”
“You’re the one who gave them our location!” Gwydion yelled at him, I gestured for him to stop.
“Yes I did! I did it for the good of Faernwood.” The mad gnome shouted back, “They can turn this wretched world into a paradise, where no one has to suffer and face death.”
“Rupnert, we can talk about this.” Ronald slowly walks towards him.
Rupnert took a gun from a desk and pointed it at him, “Stay back! There’s no talking, you never believed in my abilities but I swear I could revive her even if no one believes me.”
Ronald raised his hands as a gesture that he is not going to harm Rupnert. The dwarves took the gnome’s actions as a sign of aggression and pointed all their guns at him, ready to fire.
He turned to the dwarves, “Do you want me to revive your cousin or not?”
Delsaran nodded and gestured for us to stop interfering. The dwarves blocked our way, we had no choice but to watch what Rupnert will do. He pulled out one of the cryogenic pods and pressed some runic buttons. The cryogenic pod stood upright and opened, very cold mist going outside the pod, showing a female dwarf inside. Tears filled Delsaran’s eyes.
“I thought she was buried?” Delsaran asked the gnome, “You dare disrespect her corpse?”
“I started digging her grave after the people left, I wouldn’t let her die that easily.” Rupnert pushed a wheeled large machine out of the nearby room, it looks like a steampunk generator. I can feel filthy magic emanating from it.
“You’re not actually going to use that, are you?” I asked him.
“Why—what is that?” Delsaran turned to me.
“The thing that will bring Fiddula back to life.” Answers Rupnert.
He inserted tubes into the female dwarf’s body. He pressed some runic buttons on the machine. I stepped forward but Delsaran placed his hands in front of me. It started to filled the tubes with dark energy, going inside the body of the dead Fiddula. The body started convulsing, even the cryogenic pod that holds it is shaking violently too.
“Rupnert stop that now!” Demands Ronald, but Rupnert ignored him
The mist from the pod is turning black. Delsaran rushed to stop the insane gnome from his madness but large spheres made of iron fell from the ceiling. They started to grow metallic limbs from their bodies and sprouted a head with tusks. Soon the room is filled with robot boars. They charged at us and impaled two of the dwarves with their enormous tusks. One of them went for me.
I sidestepped and blasted it with a bolt of pure light. The blast went through its body but the others started to target me too. I took out my hatchet to hit an incoming boar.
More spheres kept falling from the ceiling and before I know it, all of us are now fighting for our lives. Delsaran shoots a boar with his shotgun-mace and then swung it at a boar charging at him. Gwydion unsheathed his swords and started spinning around the room with his blade. Aeronwen was fighting with her short sword, I never seen her use a sword before but I can assure you that her skills in sword fighting is almost on par with her skills in archery. Ronald was gone. Then a boar suddenly fell on the ground. Ronald is in his clurichaun form again, copying Gwydion’s dual wielding skills with his knives and slicing the limbs of the metallic boars.
We have finally destroyed all of the robot boars when we heard Rupnert shout in excitement.
“Ha! I did it.” He exclaimed.
I turned and looked at the now moving body of Fiddula. She started to walk like a living being, but her eyes are solid black. She isn’t alive, her soul isn’t inside the body. She walked towards Rupnert. He smiled with pride. Then the next events were horrifying. The soulless Fiddula lifted Rupnert into the air and took his heart—I mean literally. Blood is flowing out of the gnome’s body. He just stared at his killer with shock and a pale face.
The zombie dwarf tossed the Rupnert’s body aside. The corpse of what was once the greatest inventor of the gnome race lies on the ground, filling the ground with blood. The zombie dwarf body of Fiddula turned to us, then it started convulsing and fell on the ground. Delsaran rushed towards the lifeless body of his cousin, tears filled his eyes. Ronald picked Darcy up.
“That’s what I tried to explain to you, a body without a soul can’t be possessed,” uncle Sneg entered the room, “but this is actually a bit different, her body was possessed by a very strange entity. I never seen something like that before, it acted like a beast of Svartalfheim, and insentient creatures such as beasts can’t use possession, at least from what I understand.”
He walked towards the direction of Delsaran and his cousin’s corpse, “May I take a look at her?”
Delsaran hesitated for a moment but nodded. Snegbried’s eyes turned solid black. A mysterious energy entered the room, filling my body with a very strange anxiety and giving me goosebumps. I could tell from the looks of the others that I’m not the only one feeling the extreme uneasiness in the atmosphere. Is this the power of soul magic? Then the feeling instantly vanished.
Snegbried Vludthorne laid the corpse on the floor and stands up, “I will see to it the she will get a proper burial this time.”
Delsaran nodded with a very sad expression on his face. Uncle Sneg left the room. We have also left after a few moments to bring Darcy into the clinic, leaving Delsaran crying with the corpse.
The clinic is a break from the rebel headquarters’ untidiness. It is very clean with no speck of dust visible like a hospital in the human realm. Dozens of beds line up the very large room, occupied by soldiers injured by the battle. Most of them only have minor wounds and some bruises, but the other ones who are less fortunate are covered with life-threatening wounds and deformed body parts that might affect the rest of their lives—this makes me think that being poisoned and stored in cryogenic chamber might not be a very bad idea—some of the soldiers are lying on their bed unconscious.
Ronald laid Darcy on the nearest empty bed, her wound was already closed but she could still feel some headache after waking up. A sight of a familiar face took all the negativity away. Rosemary was already up and awake. We headed toward her.
“How are you feeling?” Ronald asks her.
“Fine.” She tries to wave him off.
“Do you need something?” He asks again.
“I actually want to talk to you about something,” she turned to us, “alone.”
Ronald nodded and gestured for us to leave. We have gone outside the clinic.
“They seemed close to each other, just like Darcy and Gurstil,” I told Gwydion.
“They are,” he agreed.
“How so?” I asked him, “Are they like lovers or something? I mean she looks young but she’s a dryad, she must be twenty or thirty years old right?”
“Nothing of the sort, he saved her when her parents were killed, she was just a young girl back then—I mean she still looks young right now, I was talking about when she was just a child. He is like an older brother to her,” He explained, “They came here together when the grove where Rosemary lived was attacked by monsters.”
“What grove—I mean do you know what their grove was called?”
He shrugged, “They didn’t tell much of their past lives except their names. Why do you ask?”
“Nothing,” I still haven’t told any of them about my dreams and decided that it would be better that way.
“I remembered that I need to go somewhere, see you later.” He ran off.
“So, where do you want to go?” I turned to Aeronwen.
“Visit my family.” She replies.
I forgot about her family, they were saved by Ronald and Aeronwen, they took them here for refuge.
“Can I go with you?” I asked her, “I haven’t met them yet, Ronald already did and you met me earlier than Ronald.”
“If that will stop your whining then of course,” she smirked.
“Who’s whining?” I feigned ignorance, “I’m not whining, I’m the bravest warrior here.”
“No you’re not,” she retorts, “you nearly wet your pants when you were flirting with your girlfriend during the battle.”
“I’m wasn’t flirting with her!” I looked down with embarrassment and whispered, “Or wet my pants.”
“Sure you were, I saw you staring at her gorgeous body.” She teased and made an hourglass figure gesture using her hands, tracing a sexy body in the air.
I felt insulted, then an idea came to my mind, I leaned and flashed my eyebrows at her, “Wait, you’re not jealous, are you?”
“Yuck, no!” She pushed me away.
I laughed. We have reached a small door in front of us. Aeronwen knocked and opened the door. The room was small but tidy. I can feel some strange energy inside this room. A young elf that looks exactly like Aeronwen was lying on the bed, having a hard time breathing. The girl’s expression became happy when she saw Aeronwen. She tried to sit up but her sickness prevented to.
I was planning to take the old tome at my house to find a cure for the poison, maybe I can find a cure for her sickness there too. Aeronwen sat beside her and gestured for me to sit down.
“Did you bring more books?” The girl asked her weakly.
“Sorry, your sister was busy so she wasn’t able to,” she told her, “but don’t worry, I promise I bring you a bunch of them books next time.”
Aeronwen’s sister turned to me, “Who is he?”
“He’s a friend of mine,” Aeronwen replied.
“Hi, I’m Alvin.” I gave her a smile.
She smiled weakly, “I’m Meriel, are you two dat—”
The door creaked and swings open. An elf woman came inside holding a basket of fruits. She must be their mother. She resembles the two girls a little bit—especially their eyes—though the comparison ends there.
She has straight black hair instead of the two sisters' wavy brown hair, her elegant nose complimenting the sleek contours of her cheeks. She would make a really good model in the human world. She has a bit of sadness in her eyes, though she looks very kind and caring. She was a bit shock of our presence.
She put the basket on the small table next to her, rushed and gave Aeronwen a hug, crying with joy and relief. She noticed me afterwards and introduced herself.
“I’m Arawyn, Aeronwen's mother.”
I stood up and introduced myself, “Hi I'm Alvin, a friend of Aeronwen.”
“Of course, she told me a lot about you.”
Aeronwen shoots her with a sharp glance, looking a bit ashamed about her mother’s words. The lady smiled. Her smile actually looks a lot like Aeronwen’s.
“I want to thank you for saving us.”
I scratched my head, “Well, I wasn’t really there when they saved you.”
“Regardless, I still want to thank you for taking care of Aeronwen.” She looked over to her, “She might be a bit hardheaded at some times, but I can assure you that she is a very kind and loving person.”
Aeronwen seems both annoyed and ashamed at the remark but tries to hide her expression. She just stroke the hair of her sister.
She motioned to the basket of fruits, “You might want some, there are plenty of those.”
I shook my head, “Thanks but I’m already full.”
I looked over to Meriel lying on the bed, with a weak smile on her face, “May I ask a question? If that’s okay.”
“Sure, what do you want to know about?” Aeronwen’s mother, Arawyn asks me.
“About her um—condition,” I asked nervously, choosing the right words carefully because I might offend them with a poor choice of words, “what is it exactly? I mean don’t they have a cure for it?”
Arawyn’s expression turned sad and look to the now asleep Meriel, Aeronwen tried to comfort her. Aeronwen hesitated to answer but her mother convinced her to.
“It’s called the Astral decay, and as the name suggests, it is the withering of one’s soul.” Tears rolled down her cheeks, her voice shaking. “It is not a normal sickness, it’s actually a curse. The House of Trishorn was once one of the greatest noble houses in Faernwood, but nothing lasts forever."
"My ancestor, Eradywyn Trishorn, was a cruel and vicious ruler. He abused his subjects and oppressed many of the minor noble houses—this made him quite a collection of enemies—but none of them dared to oppose him openly, he was a very powerful noble with influence all over the kingdom, and even thinking of such things against him is punishable by horrendous torture. The members of the House Trishorn are known to be talented in manipulating and reading the minds of other people. The archdruids were also afraid of him as to let him continue what he is doing, but the people can’t stand him anymore.”
She breathed heavily, as if nervous or afraid of something, “They resorted to filthy dark magic, cursing the house of Trishorn. They ask for the help of a witch who also holds a grudge against the cruel noble, in turn they will help the witch escape the prison without the knowledge of the druids. She inflicted him with the Astral decay, slowly rotting his soul away. His body was also affected—as the body is connected to the soul—his strength started to fade and vanish. He tried to keep it secret from the other people, but the other nobles noticed this and starting to seize the opportunity to start a rebellion against him."
She stopped for a moment to control her shaking voice. "They burned him along with his castle and all his loyal followers—which is few. But the witch who cursed him wasn’t satisfied enough, she made sure his children and his supposed to be descendants are also affected by the curse. For every generation, a descendant of the house of Trishorn is born with the Astral decay. The house Trishorn bore this curse for many generations and this time it was my sister who has to suffer with it.”
“I—sorry, I didn’t know.”
“You don’t have anything to apologize for.” Her mother told me.
“Isn’t there a way to break the curse?” I asked.
“No, not that I know of at least.” Aeronwen sobbed, “but if there is, I will do anything to heal my sister.”
“I’ll help you, I think I can find a solution.”
“I don’t know yet, but I’ll try.” I promised her.