His first words to us were “flowers can bloom in a dark room.” I don’t know if I believe him. My kin and I have been prisoners here for as long as we can remember. I’m more acquainted with the stone halls and iron bars of our mountain cage than the morning sky or midnight breeze.
But as we evade our captors in the darkened hallways. As he deflects blades and sunders armor for our sake, his friend silences enemies the last shadow before the abyss, the withered flower that which is my hope pulses to life. I breathe anew with each clash of steel, each breathless groan from daemon-worshiping dwarves, and each step from our luxurious cages.
He calls out to me. I can’t make out the words over the fire bolts whizzing past, or the explosions shaking the corner I cling to. I can see him in great detail; his dark elven skin, knotted hair, the singed cloth covering his chain shirt, his warhammer ablaze with magic, the soot on his calm grinning face. I watch him focus on his left hand as air gathers and brilliant smoke bursts into a raging fire; in an instant refining its chaotic power into a polished orange sphere. My ears begin to work again as I hear him whisper inaudible words, the marble-sized sun floats blissfully from his palm; soaring around the corner and out of sight.
A bright light engulfs the other hallway and swiftly approaches ours. He takes hold of me; drawing me closer to the wall and holding me down firmly. Into that sliver of blinding silence comes a shattering explosion that shakes the very stones that blocks out the sun.
In the aftermath of the explosion, a figure flashes by. His friend leaps from the deepened shadows, the sheen of his blade to be the last reflection in his enemies’ eyes. We walk past the shattered remains of a barricade unbroken for generations, past the burned bodies scattered back in a wave, then finally past the slaughtered, their lifeblood flowing like rivers and pooling like lakes. I hear his friend say quietly “I’ll scout ahead,” in a twinkling of an eye from a figure to an empty space.
I see the smoke in the air and long to see the morning fog of the valley, the dew on our cucumber fields. The crackling arrows hitting his conjured shield only spark my mind with the crisp bites I once took of our farm’s daily harvest.
His patterned, arcane shell protects us reminds me of our mage training ground. The stone henges, once marked and singed by our young wizards and druids, now lie shattered by the callous, corrupted magic of those who oppress us. The hail of arrows steadily lessens until, out of the dominating stillness, the haze carries with it a familiar voice, “The way is made clear.”
We race through dimly lit halls and guarded stairways. I know these tunnels lead to the gate at the mountain fortress’ peak; from which we can descend from its corrupted embrace. Warm light pierces through the door ahead, the stones no longer lit by fire or arcane lamps. Was I dreaming or did I just witness the sun’s embrace? My heart sinks as we breach the light. What welcomes us isn’t the morning sun, but rather the glowing web of necromantic bonds crackling between scores of dwarves and daemon spawn.
Atop his throne mounted on the backs of slaves, the Runelord’s weapon shines as a beacon of despair for us, and as a rallying torch for his legion. He thrusts forward his hammer teeming with malignant power, his cackle echoing through the soulless mountain fortress.
The dark lord’s life was snuffed unceremoniously. Our liberator Ibraheam took a single step, flashing through the fey mists and appearing atop the throne with a whirlwind swing of his fiery warhammer. The Runelord’s arrogance and countless hordes were no defense when steel and bone meet face to face as Ibraheam’s weapon smashed through flesh, bone, and sinew; where his steel only found rest at the iron backrest of the throne.
Grey matter painted the tainted throne contrasting trophy skulls and unholy runic symbols, hell erupts. The daemon spawn loosed from their dark master turn and ravage anything within reach; all blind fury and pure carnage. The final hall of our prison fills with a fine red mist, almost like our valley’s hidden springs at sunset. The dark lord’s body lay motionless slumped over at the throne’s armrest his hand still gripping his cursed weapon.
We make our escape then, dodging and dashing towards the gate. Ibraheam and his friend Varis carve a path for us as we descend from the Iron Caged Peaks. No longer will I need to dream of pale moonlight and summer songs. The last step I take leaving that accursed place is the first step in restoring my people’s lost way of life.
“For a flower to bloom in a dark room, it must seek the light.”
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