Posted by: lordkyler | January 26, 2013

Legacy Draft/Short Story

One summer day, my brother and I were in the front yard, dinking around with boffer swords, because we are nerds.

Furthermore, because we are nerds, we decided to role-play it, and began to make something up spontaneously. The result sparked a thought and captured my intrigue, eventually germinating into the following short story or draft, and now blossoming into a full-fledged story idea. Since this is essentially a rough draft, and much has been changed, I am now putting this out there for the public to enjoy. I hope you enjoy it.

•••

Legacy

“The council has heard of your treachery, Dragus. Have you anything to say in your defense?”

The sorcerer laughed bitterly. “You know as well as I it makes no difference what I say. They have sent you here to kill me.”

There was no point in denying it. “Yes.”

“They send you here, to kill me in my own tower, my home.”

“Yes.”

“And they send only three men?” he spat. “They underestimate my power.”

“Or perhaps you have underestimated us.” He shouldn’t have boasted, he knew that, he had just lost the element of surprise, but he was tired, he was thirsty, he wasn’t thinking straight. For months they’d been chasing this cursed sorcerer, and he wanted this business over with.

“The council has awoken the old magic.” he said, hoping to turn his gaffe into intimidation. It worked. Although the sorcerer was concealed in shadow, he drew a sharp breath, then regained his composure.

“That magic cannot harm me.” he said contemptuously. “I bear the talisman of Chael.”

If this presented a problem, then the young warrior didn’t show it. He merely drew his weapon, followed shortly by his companions.

“Fools,” spat Dragus, and drew his own weapon. The torchlight flickered, then vanished. The room grew chill, and a breeze swept the curtains aside, bathing the scene in cold, pale moonlight. The warrior couldn’t help but shudder as the sorcerer revealed himself.

Black, hateful eyes, locked in a vengeful glare. Long, bony fingers. A hooked and narrow nose. Raven-black hair and beard, matted and tangled like a brier patch. Layer upon layer of dark robes, swirling in the now-howling wind, obscuring his form. And above all, the gleaming, razor-sharp longsword, jet-black yet shining, bronze serpents twisting up the handle and across the hilt, and a single black stone glittering in the pommel.

But however much he looked the part of the black sorcerer, what really chilled the bones was the sense of pure evil that emanated from him, a creeping, horrifying sensation, one that brought to mind every horrible thing you’ve ever done, every wicked thought you ever had, accompanied with a sickening nausea, a feeling like something was wrong with the world, and it was all your fault. Doubt and self-pity and fear all rolled up into one.

The three warriors steeled themselves as best they could. In the center was the young warrior, Saedri. He was sturdy and muscular, the result of hours spent practicing. It was his sacred obligation to eradicate evil, and he took that responsibility seriously. He wore no armor save for a breastplate, a gleaming golden cuirass wrought with intricate loops of sapphire. In his hand he held a sword, of similar design.

To his left was Olan, a giant of a man, balder than an egg, and so musclebound he could scarce fit through the doorway. He wielded a massive war mace in his hands, four feet of solid oak topped with a spiked steel ball the size of a man’s head, but he hefted it without difficulty. He was armored from head to toe in tough leather plates, save for his unadorned breastplate and the helmet that perched almost comically atop his mammoth head. It was a family heirloom, though, and he refused to part with it.

On Saedri’s left was the warrior Vella. She was a lithe young thing, murder with a bow or sling, and she could move her twin rapiers faster than the eye could follow. She had proved her worth many times over. She was dressed simply, in loose trousers and a simple shirt, giving her complete freedom of movement.

But however competent these warriors may have been, they were no match for the black magic of sorcery. So the old magic had been awoken.

A blue flash leapt across Saedri’s sword and armor as he reached for the old magic. The council had been reluctant to grant him this spell, but he had insisted. The sorcerer’s steady pace ground to a halt as Saedri recited the simple couplet.

“Powers that be, stay my death, ’til this evil draws last breath.”

Saedri’s sword and armor began to glow, and a circlet of ghostly blue fire leapt up around the sorcerer, marking him as the target. It was a one-way binding, inextricably linking their lives. While Dragus lived, Saedri could not die. But it was a one way binding, and Dragus was free to attack Saedri free of consequence. The sorcerer snarled. This upstart was now a nemesis, destined to chase him till their deaths, and there was no way to dispel it, nothing he could do against the old magic. It was a nuisance, at best.

He muttered an incantation of his own, and the air began to swirl and coalesce into a sphere, bursting with dark energy. With a cry he let it fly at the warrior trio. They pressed themselves against the cold stone walls of the hallway, and the sphere whipped past them, dragging tapestries in its wake. The back wall exploded as the compacted force of a hurricane impacted. Rubble and dust choked the room.

They turned back to face the sorcerer. He seemed to be shrinking into himself, collapsing into his cloak, but after a moment, his clothes began to wrap themselves around his limbs, and shaggy black hair sprouted from the fabric. His face bulged and stretched, forming a muzzle full of razor sharp black fangs. He was shifting, bending his shape into a wolf, a spectral creature of darkness and shadow and fury. His sword seemed to waver, as if underwater, then coiled and twisted like a snake, the hilt winding its way up the wolf’s leg, and forming a serpentine collar. The blade seemed to melt, coating the quickly forming but already dangerous claws.

These changes occurred in less than three seconds. Vella had an arrow waiting on the bowstring, and the other two warriors held their weapons at the ready. With a hiss the shaft leapt from the bow and sped towards the beast. Suddenly shadows seemed to leap from the wall and envelop the wolf, veiling him in darkness. The arrow flew harmlessly through the swirling mists and clattered against Dragus’s throne. Before the warriors could draw another breath, the mass of shadows flew towards the door, the vague outline of a wolf at their center. As it sped past them and vanished down the staircase, a mocking voice drifted back at them.

“Come, brave warriors. Chase me if you dare!”

Without hesitation, they did so.

•••

“He could be anywhere. This castle is like a maze.” Olan rumbled, casting a suspicious glance at his surroundings.

“If he’s here at all,” said Vella, ever the cynic.

“He’s here.” said Saedri. “I can feel it through the spell. Besides, he wants to be rid of us. Better to do it now than wait until we pop up unexpectedly.”

Olan nodded, convinced, and Vella shrugged, accepting his argument without committing to it. “Just make sure and stay together.” she said. “We can’t take him one on one.”

They all nodded their agreement, and made their way down the stairs, Saedri in front, covered by Vella’s watchful eye, and even more importantly, her arrows.

They went cautiously. They were brave, but the possibility of an ambush was too great to go charging down the stairs like a herd of cattle. Besides, who knew what vile traps lay in a sorcerers tower?

There were torches lining either side of spiral staircase, but they smoldered now, mere embers after the sorcerer’s passing, a trail of darkness.

The warriors moved quickly but silently down the stairs. Olan moved with surprising lightness in spite of his bulk. After making their way down the stairs without incident, they entered the spacious grand hall. Knights had once toasted their lord here, before Dragus arrived. The once-cheerful hall was now a dark and gloomy place, cluttered with spellbooks and vile potions. A few lanterns swung recklessly on their hooks, casting shadows that leapt across the moonlit scene. The warriors formed into a defensive circle, back to back. Watchful eyes darted back and forth, as if they expected the shadows to attack them, a fair assumption under the circumstances.

They jumped as a slight rustle emanated overhead. A dark shape like a colossal bat hung suspended from the vaulted ceiling. Dragus had shifted forms once again. Vella aimed and released on instinct, faster than thought. The enchanted arrow flashed green, trailing crackling emerald sparks as it flew straight for the demonic bat. The shape melted into darkness, but too late. The shaft punctured the wing membrane, and the dread creature let loose a piercing shriek of pain. The intricate stained glass windows shattered, raining multicolored glass across the floor. A vibrant green fire spread across the parchment-like wings, eating away the skin like an acid.

The creature screamed again, and dove towards the circle of warriors. The trio threw themselves flat against the ground, barely dodging the nightmare’s gnarled steel talons. Unable to take the stress of flight, Dragus’s wing collapsed, and the sorcerer went into a skidding crash, plowing through the detritus. A dozen diabolical experiments spilled across the floor, smoking and bubbling.

The injured sorcerer dissolved into shadow, and began to crawl through a narrow passageway, towards the kitchens, changing into yet another form. The heroes charged after him, careful to avoid the spilled potions. The hallway presented a problem however.

“It’s too narrow.” said Olan, stating the obvious. “Single file only.”

“Either of you want to go first?” Saedri asked, as the other two looked at him for instruction.

They looked at each other, then back at him.

“No,” said Vella, at the exact moment Olan said “yes.”

“Very well, Olan it is. Just be careful, he’s injured, and desperate.”

Olan nodded, and began sidling his way down the passage, too large to fit go through without turning sideways. His massive war mace led the way. Saedri and Vella followed, warily.

Their breathing seemed impossibly loud in the close quarters, and Saedri hoped Dragus couldn’t hear them coming. This corridor was intended to be used for quick runs back and forth from the kitchen to the hall, not for combat. They were only a few steps from the end of the tunnel when Saedri realized he’d made a terrible mistake.

“Olan, get back! It’s a tra-”

In the blink of an eye,the snake’e head burst into the passageway with a rasp like a thousand tiles being scraped together, opened it’s terrible mouth, and bit down on the massive warrior with fangs the size of fenceposts. The serpent was as thick around as a redwood, but moved impossibly fast, retreating before either of the remaining warriors could react.

Fury washed over Saedri, and he was too distraught to quell it and think rationally. Olan was dead, and it was his fault. He should have gone first, he was the one who couldn’t die, but he was too intent on the chase and now one of his best friends was dead. But his anger at his own shortsightedness was nothing against the rage he felt towards Dragus.

He charged forward recklessly, screaming death and murder. The enormous serpent slithered backwards hastily, tossing Olan’s crumpled form to one side. A gaping hole stretched across its side, the aftereffects of Vella’s arrow. He might be able to shapeshift, but he maintained injuries between forms.

Saedri struck, a heavy overhand blow aimed directly between the serpent’s glittering eyes. The snake’s gargantuan head snapped forward before he could complete his stroke, and Saedri was slammed against the wall. His armor kept him safe from the piercing fangs, but the force of the blow took his breath away, and his ribs gave way with a sickening crunch. Dragus pushed harder, pressing Saedri against the wall ’til he thought he would burst. He attempted to bring his sword to bear, but he was in agony, and his pitiful attempts were easily countered. The forked tongue flicked forward, tasting the air on either side of him.

“Let go of him, filth!” screamed Vella, and fired three shots in quick succession. Two skittered harmlessly off the serpent’s scales, but the third stuck, shattering a scale the size of a plate. Dragus spasmed, throwing himself against the narrow confines of the kitchen in an attempt to loosen the shaft. Spiderweb cracks spread across the walls, raining broken tile and choking dust.

The pressure on Saedri loosened slightly, but the serpent was unwilling to release his prey, even while the magic ate at his flesh. Blackness closed in around Saedri, clouding the edges of his vision. He was losing consciousness, it was impossible to breathe. His sword fell to the ground with a clang, and he scratched feebly at Dragus’s snout, trying to reach the vulnerable eyes. But it was no good, his reach was too short, and he had lost the strength to fight back.

A shockingly fast blur cut across his fading vision, twin blades dripping with green fire, cutting wildly across the serpents face in complex and bewildering patterns. The thin rapiers lacked the weight to penetrate the thick scales, but the enchanted blades burned wherever they touched the sorcerer. The snake jerked backward, but not before Vella could bury a sword in his eye.

Dragus pulled back in the blink of an eye, taking the sword with him, hissing in pain and fury as the magic did its work. He vanished down yet another corridor. Saedri fell gasping to the tiled floor, drawing a ragged breath. Every breath hurt. With a crack, his ribs snapped painfully back into place, and his bruises disappeared before his eyes. The healing hurt almost as badly as the injuries, but the old magic had done its job. His strength returned, and he picked up his sword.

“Thank you.” he said simply, rising unsteadily.

She gave a curt nod. They both knew he would have done the same for her. All three were willing to die for each other. And now one of them had. Saedri cursed as he remembered Olan’s death.

“Let’s kill this snake.” Vella said, and they charged down the hall.

The hallway sloped downward, underground. Saedri led the way this time, learning from his unforgivable folly.  There were fewer torches down here, and the embers left in the sorcerers passing were fading quickly in the damp air.

“We’ll have to use the lights.” Vella said, and Saedri grimaced.

“We’ll be completely obvious.” he said.

“Better than blind.” she answered, and he was forced to agree. Reaching into his pouch, he retrieved the small glass sphere. It was attached to a leather loop, which he hung around his neck, and Vella tied hers to her bow. They looked at each other, then down the hallway. In unison, they nodded in agreement, and plunged into the darkness.

The orb sprung into life at Saedri’s command, followed shortly by Vella’s.

[This is where it ends, rather abruptly, unfortunately. Stay tuned for updates on the evolution of this story as it occurs.]

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