Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

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The Shattered Head

May 6, 2010

A short story written for a writing competition in an MMO. The original setting is copyright Iron Realms Entertainment, but for this version I’ve removed or changed all specific names and places.

—————————

I found myself restless one cold morning, and my normal patrol of the forest boundaries turned into a hike, heading northwards through the mountains and across the plains. I walked for many hours, my thoughts wandering even further afield than my feet.

I eventually stopped as the sun touched the horizon, steeping in the tranquility of the moment. Besides the crickets chirping in the scrub, the only sound was my own breathing – and after a while, even that seemed a distraction. To lose myself truly in the setting sun, I held my breath.

“… d… t… lo… l… sl….”

I began breathing again, my concentration disrupted, and in so doing drowned out the faint and muffled sound. I cast around myself to try and find it again, holding my breath until my lungs burned, and my ears strained with the effort. It grew louder as I grew closer, until I was sure the sound was a voice. It seemed to be coming from directly beneath me, so I set about digging through the loosely bound grass and dirt.

As I pried a large rock out of the way, the voice went immediately from indistinct to booming, and I fell backwards in surprise. The rock was the head of a golem. It was filthy with the scrubland sod and cracked from temple to jaw. Its eyes were dull and lifeless, and did not acknowledge my presence at all. But for all that, its words were clear, and its voice was haughty and scornful.

I have transcribed here the words it spoke.

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

I do not know how long I have lain asleep, and nor do I care.

I do not know if the restless tormented state I have inhabited could be called sleep, but that is irrelevant.

I know that I have awoken.

I have awoken to find that those who opposed me flourish. My former comrades, my brothers-in-arms have grown fat and weak, lying languorous in the fruits of my labour. Our old enemies stand fit to topple the world, just as I foresaw, so many centuries ago. But now I have awoken.

My warnings fell on deaf ears, and the weapons with which I armed my brothers were allowed to grow blunt and atrophied, but now I have awoken.

The so-called ‘scholars’ which were once my kin are not worth the bitter spittle I feel rising at their memory.  By their simple inactivity, they have betrayed all that we ever stood for, and they shall find no shelter from me now.

I will crack the foundations of the towers of the world, and the hardest of stones will be naught but dust before the vital fecundity of my ever-encroaching forces.

I was ever the strongest of our kind, and now my wrath has swollen great beyond measure.

The forests shake with anticipation, and the cities of men would do well to quake in fear.

Athnol has returned.

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

I’m not ashamed to admit I staggered back as I realized what the thing was saying. The bile rose in my gullet as I realized that this stretch of land on which I had stood in such tranquility had been the site of the greatest and most horrific scene of unrestrained slaughter and carnage that I have ever seen – perhaps that the realms had ever seen.

It had been here that the mad druid Athnol had made his final stand against the unified armies of the world. Soldiers by the score had strewn the bloodied scrub, bodies broken and splintered by the stone arms of his golems and the crushing boughs of the towering treants. By the time Athnol himself finally fell, the streets of the Underworld were surely thronged.

And the slaughter had not ended there. The fragile alliance between the arrayed armies was held together only by their common enemy and as he fell, so the armies fell upon each other. Should I live to a thousand, I shall never see such bloodshed. I pray that I shall not.

The cracks the schemes of Athnol had forced into the gates and fortifications of the cities of the realm had been repaired, though it had taken some decades. Even being reminded of his life drained the warmth from me. And all this time, this shattered head had been blindly repeating these words, even as the worms crawled through its cracked and broken eyes…

“I do not know how long I have la-“

I cried out convulsively as the ruined stone face began its hateful litany over again, and before I knew it I was on my knees, pounding the already weakened head against the stony ground. I dashed my fingers open on its edges, and my blood fell on the soil as the voice finally faltered and died – but a few more drops could make no difference on this blood-glutted ground. My expression as stony as that of the now dead golem, I ground the last few fragments of rock to mere dust.

Collecting my breath, I glanced up at the three moons in a cloudless sky, and began to silently stalk southwards.


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Ritual of Water

May 7, 2009

A slight departure already from the established pattern – I start off talking about engineering marvels, and before I’ve even drawn breath, I derail myself into fantasy fiction. Ah, well, you may just have to deal with it. I do this sort of thing all the time.

This story is one I wrote as an entry for a writing contest in an MMORPG a short while ago. Although for the most part it avoids mentioning anything TOO specific to the setting, in the hope that someone who hasn’t played the game would still be able to understand it, I should point out that the few names and places that are mentioned are copyrighted property of Iron Realms Entertainment.

* * * *

The Ritual of Water
The only sound was the crackling of logs in the fire, and the wind fluttering in the eaves of our private library. This was a calm moment, seeming worlds apart from the madness of the last few days, and the carnage we knew must surely be coming. The two of us had been tasked by the priests of Eleuni with the creation of a set of rituals of great importance – to restore power to its rightful custodians, and keep the fearful amount of knowledge and strength invested there from falling into the hands of our demonic foes. We had already written the ritual for the Zephyr, and performed it in the airy halls of Eleuni, to great success, and now we had been personally sought out to construct a similar ritual for the Undine. The going was slow, but in the calm air of our library, the time seemed to stretch out forever.
The pile of tomes and scrolls scattered around us was growing large with every passing hour, both hastily scrawled notes and ancient tomes, gathered from libraries across the land and the halls of Eleuni itself.
“A purification rite to begin with… to cleanse the priestess and prepare for the ritual itself.”
“Well, we’ll be conducting the ritual in the water quadrant, so the room will be flooded. A ritual bathing would seem appropriate, don’t you think?”
The scratching of quills joined the crackling of the fire, as we both bowed our heads to work.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The screeching and cackling of demons almost drowned out the churning waters, as our attackers rallied for a second assault. We had lost many good fighters already, and the ritual had barely begun, some to the swirling vortex, and others to blade and fire. The priestess stood at the centre of the foaming waters, serenely rinsing herself from the specially prepared chalice, but over her soft chanting I could hear the bellicose warcries of the demonic horde, growing ever closer. I tightened my grip on my shield, as those around me dug in, ready to defend the priestess with their lives.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The fire spat and crackled, a fresh log on the smouldering embers beginning to char and catch light. The armchairs creaked with the sound of old leather as we shifted position restlessly, the book piles around us growing ever higher.
“It was at about this point in the last ritual that we had the Zephyr lend his blessing. We could have the Undine deliver something similar here.”
“That would certainly fit… let’s see. As the body and soul of the waters…”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“… I bear witness to this ritual, and offer my blessings to you, Chosen of the Waters.”
A sickly tincture of blood stained the turbulent waters around us, as the clamour of battle almost drowned out the calm voice of the Undine. A twisted, malicious axe rebounded loudly off my shield, as its counterpart sank deep into my leg. With a howl of pain, I spat a word of the divine tongue, sending my assailant flying backwards in a spray of water.
“You who have braved the fury of the maelstrom, and entered this pool of tranquility…”
A hail of arrows made us dive for cover, as a pack of Diavlous warhounds bounded through the waters. Incensed by the smell of blood and baying with the thrill of the hunt, they fell upon us.
“… Stand forth…”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“… and make your plea for knowledge.” We both nodded in quiet satisfaction, bending once more to record the words in our scrolls.
The hour grew late, and the fire was once more settling to glowing embers. It was hard to stifle a yawn in the comfortable warmth, but we new we must press on. We paced back and forth, stretching our legs and attempting to reinvigorate ourselves.
“We’ve got the sanctification, the purification, the tracing of the circle, we’ve covered the presentation, the introduction of the Undine and the blessing. What else do we need?”
“The plea itself, I suppose. Bringing the ritual to a close. We could base it on the plea from the Zephyr ritual, as we know it’s a formula that works. And… that’s it. When that is done, we will know whether or not we were successful.”
Papers rustled as the records of the prior ritual were consulted. The previous ritual had gone so smoothly, it seemed natural to follow the format. We each breathed a sigh of relief, our long night of work finally completed. Gods willing, the ritual would pass with the peaceful composure of the Undine herself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The waters around the slender body of the Undine frothed violently, as she poured herself forwards, forcing her waters down the open mouth of an encroaching demonic summoner. His vile curses died on his tongue, as he bubbled and fell to his knees, clutching at his throat. Without hesitation, I flung my axe across the surface of the water, striking the silenced attacker with lethal force. Around us, the battle was finally starting to turn. The ritual was nearly complete, and the attackers had been driven back. All was not over, though… our numbers had been depleted, our dead littering the tempestuous waters as freely as those of our foes. Behind us, the priestess made their final plea to the elements, and our hearts soared. But it was far from over, and ahead of us our opponents were rallying for one last strike.
One by one, down the line, shimmering shields surrounded each of us as we dug in and prepared for the attack. We were bloodied and battered, but there was no hope of retreat. If our line broke and the encroaching hordes breached the ritual circle, all was lost for the priestess of Eleuni.
With an unearthly screeching howl, the demonic horde charged towards us, throwing up a spray around them as they entered the waist-deep waters. As steel clashed on steel, the priestess behind us began to shout, raising her voice so that her plea might be heard. We fought tooth and nail, spurred on by desperation. The end was within sight, but we were failing fast. A crushing blow brought me to my knees, as the man beside me fell screaming to the water, reduced to a withered husk by the necromancer’s touch. I looked upwards as the executioner’s axe began its final arc – it seemed so slow, almost graceful…
“Your plea is heard, your request granted. Stand forth, Priestess of Water.”
The waters rocketed upwards with a deafening sound, forming an enormous, ferocious cyclone. The man before me was ripped away with a scream of frustration, but where the water touched my skin it was but a gentle caress, cleaning and closing my wounds with its cool touch. When the waters settled, crystal clear and flat as a millpond, we were alone. We who had survived, we were alone, scattered loosely about the priestess, who glowed serenely with her new power.
It was over. And praise be to the Gods, we had succeeded.

The Ritual of Water

The only sound was the crackling of logs in the fire, and the wind fluttering in the eaves of our private library. This was a calm moment, seeming worlds apart from the madness of the last few days, and the carnage we knew must surely be coming. The two of us had been tasked by the priests of Eleuni with the creation of a set of rituals of great importance – to restore power to its rightful custodians, and keep the fearful amount of knowledge and strength invested there from falling into the hands of our demonic foes. We had already written the ritual for the Zephyr, and performed it in the airy halls of Eleuni, to great success, and now we had been personally sought out to construct a similar ritual for the Undine. The going was slow, but in the calm air of our library, the time seemed to stretch out forever.

The pile of tomes and scrolls scattered around us was growing large with every passing hour, both hastily scrawled notes and ancient tomes, gathered from libraries across the land and the halls of Eleuni itself.

“A purification rite to begin with… to cleanse the priestess and prepare for the ritual itself.”

“Well, we’ll be conducting the ritual in the water quadrant, so the room will be flooded. A ritual bathing would seem appropriate, don’t you think?”

The scratching of quills joined the crackling of the fire, as we both bowed our heads to work.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The screeching and cackling of demons almost drowned out the churning waters, as our attackers rallied for a second assault. We had lost many good fighters already, and the ritual had barely begun, some to the swirling vortex, and others to blade and fire. The priestess stood at the centre of the foaming waters, serenely rinsing herself from the specially prepared chalice, but over her soft chanting I could hear the bellicose warcries of the demonic horde, growing ever closer. I tightened my grip on my shield, as those around me dug in, ready to defend the priestess with their lives.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The fire spat and crackled, a fresh log on the smouldering embers beginning to char and catch light. The armchairs creaked with the sound of old leather as we shifted position restlessly, the book piles around us growing ever higher.

“It was at about this point in the last ritual that we had the Zephyr lend his blessing. We could have the Undine deliver something similar here.”

“That would certainly fit… let’s see. As the body and soul of the waters…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“… I bear witness to this ritual, and offer my blessings to you, Chosen of the Waters.”

A sickly tincture of blood stained the turbulent waters around us, as the clamour of battle almost drowned out the calm voice of the Undine. A twisted, malicious axe rebounded loudly off my shield, as its counterpart sank deep into my leg. With a howl of pain, I spat a word of the divine tongue, sending my assailant flying backwards in a spray of water.

“You who have braved the fury of the maelstrom, and entered this pool of tranquility…”

A hail of arrows made us dive for cover, as a pack of Diavlous warhounds bounded through the waters. Incensed by the smell of blood and baying with the thrill of the hunt, they fell upon us.

“… Stand forth…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“… and make your plea for knowledge.” We both nodded in quiet satisfaction, bending once more to record the words in our scrolls.

The hour grew late, and the fire was once more settling to glowing embers. It was hard to stifle a yawn in the comfortable warmth, but we new we must press on. We paced back and forth, stretching our legs and attempting to reinvigorate ourselves.

“We’ve got the sanctification, the purification, the tracing of the circle, we’ve covered the presentation, the introduction of the Undine and the blessing. What else do we need?”

“The plea itself, I suppose. Bringing the ritual to a close. We could base it on the plea from the Zephyr ritual, as we know it’s a formula that works. And… that’s it. When that is done, we will know whether or not we were successful.”

Papers rustled as the records of the prior ritual were consulted. The previous ritual had gone so smoothly, it seemed natural to follow the format. We each breathed a sigh of relief, our long night of work finally completed. Gods willing, the ritual would pass with the peaceful composure of the Undine herself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The waters around the slender body of the Undine frothed violently, as she poured herself forwards, forcing her waters down the open mouth of an encroaching demonic summoner. His vile curses died on his tongue, as he bubbled and fell to his knees, clutching at his throat. Without hesitation, I flung my axe across the surface of the water, striking the silenced attacker with lethal force. Around us, the battle was finally starting to turn. The ritual was nearly complete, and the attackers had been driven back. All was not over, though… our numbers had been depleted, our dead littering the tempestuous waters as freely as those of our foes. Behind us, the priestess made their final plea to the elements, and our hearts soared. But it was far from over, and ahead of us our opponents were rallying for one last strike.

One by one, down the line, shimmering shields surrounded each of us as we dug in and prepared for the attack. We were bloodied and battered, but there was no hope of retreat. If our line broke and the encroaching hordes breached the ritual circle, all was lost for the priestess of Eleuni.

With an unearthly screeching howl, the demonic horde charged towards us, throwing up a spray around them as they entered the waist-deep waters. As steel clashed on steel, the priestess behind us began to shout, raising her voice so that her plea might be heard. We fought tooth and nail, spurred on by desperation. The end was within sight, but we were failing fast. A crushing blow brought me to my knees, as the man beside me fell screaming to the water, reduced to a withered husk by the necromancer’s touch. I looked upwards as the executioner’s axe began its final arc – it seemed so slow, almost graceful…

“Your plea is heard, your request granted. Stand forth, Priestess of Water.”

The waters rocketed upwards with a deafening sound, forming an enormous, ferocious cyclone. The man before me was ripped away with a scream of frustration, but where the water touched my skin it was but a gentle caress, cleaning and closing my wounds with its cool touch. When the waters settled, crystal clear and flat as a millpond, we were alone. We who had survived, we were alone, scattered loosely about the priestess, who glowed serenely with her new power.

It was over. And praise be to the Gods, we had succeeded.