The Eye of Midranda
Pristontale: The Eye of Midranda
Chapter C - The Shadow Approaches
Silence surrounded him and he grabbed the painful dumb on his head, as Daemon slowly began to wake up. He rubbed his head, but it only hurt even more, so he clenched his teeth and fists to counter a sting of pain. Finally he opened his eyes again, but his sight was blurry and there was only darkness to see. Some meters away shone a weak light and when Daemon's sight slowly returned, he noticed he was sitting in a small room, made of cold, stone material. Some high in the wall, against the ceiling, was small window blocked with bars, allowing a single beam of light coming through. The walls were further covered with great iron pegs and bloodstains that gave Daemon the shivers. He noticed a large, heavy door on the other side, that took up the height of the wall. Next to that he was cold and started rubbing his arms, while he tried to recall what happened. But the enormous dumb on his head made him remember and thought of Farrah made him tighten his muscles. Only then he started wondering where he was, who those men were, but most of all, how to get out.
On that very same moment a banging sounded just outside and the great door began to move upon, with a cracking sound that echoed through the his small prison. Daemon froze and remained where he was, trying to control his breath and fear, as the door had opened and a huge man with broad shoulders stepped in. He was carrying a tray with a bread on top and a glass of water. Deamon watched him as he lay down his items on the floor without saying a word, without looking up at him, and how he left again, banging and locking the door behind him. Daemon took a moment to recover from his shock and then stared at his food and drink on the floor. Deciding he would never touch those, he pulled a disgusted face and heaved a sigh.
"You're not going to eat that?"
Daemon immediately turned around in shock, raising his fists up to his chest, his heart pounding like crazy. The last words of the voice died away in the echo, as a tall figure moved through the shadow, in the corner of the cold prison. Daemon stepped back as it came closer, into the light which revealed a tall man with long, blonde hair. Daemon gasped and lowered his fists, for he knew the man was a mage, though his eyes were weary and his clothing poor. When he came even closer, Daemon stepped back and raised his fists again.
"Don't be afraid," said the mage and in spite of his looks, his voice still sounded clear. "I'm not here to hurt you."
"Oh..." said Daemon, but still remained his position, as he did not trust someone who had just appeared from nowhere. "Who are you?" he demanded to know.
"My name is Lenaen," said he and smiled weakly. "And you are?"
Daemon considered for a moment whether he should tell his name or not, but after a while he decided he should. After all, they seemed to be both prisoners.
"Daemon," he said shortly.
"You can relax," shrugged Lenaen and heaved a sigh, as he sat back down on the ground. "What are you in for?"
Daemon lowered his fists and tried to feel more at ease. "I'm not sure," he stammered, but managed to restrain his voice. "We were having a festival at home, but suddenly these men came and started destroying everything! I managed to hide my little sister in the attic, but when I went looking for my parents... I was knocked out..."
"I see," muttered Lenaen and frowned. "Horrible monsters..."
"And what about you?" asked Daemon, as he sighed and sat down beside the mage, without looking at him.
Lenaen shrugged. "I was captured for protecting my people."
"What?" Daemon now looked at the mage. "Who are your people?"
"Hellphoenix," said Lenaen and his voice turned dreamy, in a proud way. "My family and friends, they are. We were ambushed on our way to the Oasis, our main base. Me and Beam fought with their leader, Hamja, but when I hurt him I was taken."
"And your people didn't try to save you?" Daemon frowned.
"Of course they did!" laughed Lenaen and shook his head. "But these monsters can vanish and rematerialise anywhere they wish. And that is how they brought me here."
Daemon swallowed and looked around their prison, at the shadows and the small beam of light. Being captured for saving your own people sounded terrible, but then he realised he had saved his sister too. Was that the reason he was caught? He looked back at Lenaen, whom he began to admire. The mage was broken, but only on the outside. Somehow a light seemed to shine in the darkness, just like in this prison itself. Daemon thought deeply for a moment and again thoughts came up which he never had before. Hope would be their light, but these men were their darkness.
"Who are they?" asked Daemon darkly, as a shiver ran over his spine.
Lenaen's smile died away and his expression turned dark as well, as Daemon noticed his own muscles were tensing.
"They call themselves the Disciples," the mage said quietly. "They believe the land belongs to them."
"But why?" Daemon wanted to slap his own face for asking so many questions.
Lenaen took a moment and then raised his shoulders. "Priston is getting worse and worse, so people nowadays try to grab the power." He sighed. "For those with power survive. But don't worry, once we get out of here we will show them. Beam's probably on his way now."
"You mentioned that name before," said Daemon. "Who is he?"
"My best friend," said Lenaen and that pride in his voice returned. "The leader of our people. He will come and save us, I'm sure of it."
"Us?" shrugged Daemon in surprise. "Me too?"
"Of course!" Lenaen laughed again. "We are both prisoners here, both enemies of these Disciples. And that makes us allies, doesn't it?"
"I guess." A broad smile appeared on Daemon's face, but then faded again. He began to feel homesick and became more worried about Farrah and his parents. Of course, the first step to take would be escaping from their dungeon, and if this Beam could make that happen, Daemon would surely let him.
Mage Ray watched the sky expressionless, while his hood covered his face by half. Tyrank stood thinking with his arms folded, as everyone waited for his reply. They had discussed the past events, which had happened all to shortly after the other. Yiro's escape, the disappearance of the skeleton and Melocrie's capture all remained individual problems and mysteries. They had asked themselves too many times how Yiro possibly could have escaped and why he needed Melocrie's statue. Eventually Tyrank heaved a sigh and lowered his arms, watching his friends one by one.
"I don't know," he said and shook his head. "I truly, honestly, have no idea."
This seemed to be a huge disappointment, as even Ray looked sideways at them. Urani and Dylane glanced nervously at each other and Kayleigh sighed with a trembling tone.
"There must be some reason, Tyrank," said Leroy, as he thought deeply himself. "What about that skeleton? You don't think that has any link to Yiro's escape?"
"It seems obvious," said Tyrank, frowning. "But we can't jump to conclusions without hard evidence. That would be too risky."
"Isn't there a party patrolling the Cursed Land?" wondered Dylane. "Maybe they could investigate the region around the Ancient Dungeon."
"They could," said Urani. "Maybe they already are."
"If that is so, we will hear it from Fylla," sighed Leroy. "Who should be back any moment now, anyway."
"How long has she been given to seek out the news?" Kayleigh asked Tyrank.
"Four days," said Tyrank and rubbed his chin. "Which give her one more. She should return by noon tomorrow."
"I guess we will have to wait until then," said Dylane, slightly irritated, and sat down on the bench they were standing next to. "Hope we won't snap."
The enviroment of Pillai was beautiful, as always, but again its peace couldn't reach him. Dylane's thoughts wandered off to Melocrie and he could feel nothing but guilt; the fault of letting her slip through his fingers.
"Wait a second," said Urani suddenly. "What about Cage and Debhora? They should have some information when they return."
"That's true," agreed Leroy. "At least we can make our first steps then."
"We don't know if we can," said Tyrank more clearly. "Do not place all of your hopes into everything we will hear. All has been a mystery up until now and it will remain so." He sighed and sat down next to Dylane, looking up at his friends with a deep rinkle in his forehead. "Yiro's not the only one we must worry about."
"Oh, right," Kayleigh remembered and tried not to shiver. "Those radicals in the east. You really think they are that serious?"
"I don't know," said Tyrank again, a little pushy, and raised his shoulders.
Kayleigh understood that no more questions could be asked and decided to remain silence. Urani, however, was not giving up.
"There must be something we can do now," he said to Tyrank. "Anything at all."
"There is," said Ray suddenly and all faced turned to him. The old mage had a habit of breaking a tension or silence in his own sudden way, and somehow always managed to get full attention. "There still are ruins of old peoples that need to be investigated. Never know what to find there."
"How come you've never mentioned this before?" wondered Tyrank, as he stood up.
"There never was need," said Ray simply and smiled. "Only need drives the good deed. Go to the Forest of Spirits and find the temple which has sank half into the ground. You may find some information there. Meanwhile, I will embrace any other words reaching my ear and keep them safe for you."
Tyrank considered this for a moment and looked up at the others, who were thinking about it as well. After a while, Dylane sighed and stood up, picking out his words carefully.
"I would very much like you to send Fylla to us when she arrives," he said eventually. "Is that possible?"
Ray nodded and smiled again. "Of course it is," he said. "I will have to copy her message, though, in case she might lose it. Also to pass on the information to the elders in Ricarten."
"Of course," nodded Dylane and looked at his friends for a second. When he turned back to the mage, he reached out his hand and Ray shook it tightly.
"We will go," said Urani, nodding at Leroy and Kayleigh. "We still have room for some more mysteries."
A thick mist hang low above the land covered in soil and the deadly wastes of the desert lay stretching out before them. Behind them stood the a dark kind of temple, which a giant axe in the ground, separated from its master. No one knew to whom it belonged or how long it had been there, and over the years people had stopped wondering, On top of the hill at the end of the path stood a small group of men, dressed in black robes and dark blue war stripes running over their faces. One of them seemed to be in charge, as his robes were decorated with golden edges and stitches. He gazed out over the sand, lifted up into the sky by the wind, as the sun began to sink lower into the sky. After a while he turned to his men and gave his sigh for action.
Immediately, the men began to march forward, past their leader and vanished slowly into the mist. The leading Disciple remained where he was and stared after them. Only when their images had faded, he turned to the east and whistled on his fingers. After only a few seconds an other man appeared from the mist and joined his leader's side, pulling the black mask off his face.
"Sir?" he said in a low voice, scanning the area from the corner of his eyes.
"Have your men found anything, Hamja?" the leader asked straight.
"Only little, sir," answered Hamja and glanced over his shoulder. "Those filths aren't far away. They have come for the mage and have not planned to leave without him."
The leading Disciple shrugged. "We will see about that. Hold them off as long as you can."
"Obey me," said the leader threatening. "We are too outnumbered here and now, they could overcome us. Just lay low for now."
Hamja bowed humbly. "Yes, my Lord," he said and disappeared again through the mist in the east.
The Disciple on top of the hill gazed toward the wasteland in front of him one more time, before turning back, passing the axe in the ground and disappeared in the darkness of the temple.
Navisko had been rather peaceful ever since it had been rid of the Koltan's reign and travellers now had free passage through the desert once more. As soon as Cage and Debhora arrived through the Warpgate they were friendly greeted and they were surprised by the sight. There was music going on and people were laughing, something you didn't see everyday in the middle of the desert. People from different clans and guilds sat around drinking and talking to each other, while women danced around with their husbands, singing songs to their children. Debhora laughed when she saw it and was happy to see children living their days.
"Navisko sure has changed," said Cage, while they walked through the crowd in search of the Lunans. "I can barely recognise it."
"I know," laughed Debhora as she looked around. "Oh look, there's Fron and Keira!"
Cage and Debhora waved at them as they passed by, for they had not forgotten what Fron and Keira had done for them.
Footsteps came closer to them through the crowd, speeding its pace. Debhora turned in shock when Cage suddenly screamed out, but then her fear turned into laughter. It was Roldin, who had embraced Cage from behind all too sudden. The men laughed at each other and Cage hugged his friend tightly, knocking him on the arm.
"You old dog!" laughed Roldin and knocked him back. "How are you doing?"
Cage took a moment, but then laughed back. "I'm alright," he shrugged. "Look at you! When's the last time I've seen you so energetic?"
"Tell me about it," said Debhora and tried to hold back too much of her laughter. "You're nearly bouncing on the spot here."
"Of course I am!" said Roldin and waved his arms to the city. "I mean, look at this place! It's been so long since I have seen my people laugh. We finally have found our peace, the peace which they have deserved."
"Err.." Cage looked sideways at Debhora, whose smile had faded too. "Roldin..." he said, but the Lunan's joy made it so much harder to tell the bad news. "Don't place your hopes too much on this peace."
"What?" Roldin turned to them and his smile faded as well. "Don't tell me something has happened. Is that why you are here?"
"I'm sorry, friend," said Cage and rubbed his arm.
Debhora had looked away and didn't know what to say, even when Roldin examined them both.
"Alright..." he said eventually and glanced around to be sure they were not overheard. "Then tell me what has happened."
The news of Yiro and his escape seemed more than Roldin could take on his cheerful day and suddenly Navisko seemed to have returned to its gloomy shape. The Lunans' laughter only pained Roldin, as he sat on the stairway to the Bellatra, staring down on them. Cage and Debhora stood beside him, gazing down at the feasting city below.
"Let them have their happiness..." said Roldin quietly after a while. "As long as they can."
"Should I not have told you?" asked Cage carefully, but dared not to look at the Lunan.
Roldin shook his head slowly. "No..." he said and sighed. "Of course you should have told me. But I..." But then he stopped and shrugged, deciding to use other words. "It's hard to believe and yet it's true, and that's what pains me the most."
"This is not the last bad news we will hear," warned Debhora. "Mark my words: Yiro's up to no good and he plans to scare us."
"Yiro doesn't scare me," said Roldin with a grunt and took a large gulp from the mug he was holding. "Neither does death."
"What?" Cage looked down on him. "What do you mean by that?"
Again Roldin shook his head and stood up. "Nothing, my friend," he said and gazed thoughtfully at his people. "I would hate to bring them down again and to drag them along in the returning shadow."
"They have a choice," said Debhora comforting. "And so do you."
"No," said Roldin and heaved another sigh. "I don't have a choice. Priston is ours and when the battle comes, I tend to fight in it. I will die before I see our lands slipping into darkness."
"But what should we do?" said Debhora gloomily and tried not to sob.
"The only thing we can do," said Roldin and smashed his mug to the floor, after taking the last gulp. "Fight for what is ours."
"Roldin," said Cage suddenly, when he remembered something. "What do you know of the radicals, east of this city?"
"They haven't crossed through, as far as I know," answered the Lunan. "And for all I care, they may stay there. They're just youth trying to upset the people."
"Are you sure we should underestimate them?" frowned Debhora. "You really want to make the same mistake again?"
But those seemed to be the wrong words to say. Roldin had turned angrily and pointed at the Atlanta with a tight finger. "I have never underestimated the Koltans!" he said through clenched teeth. "Do not dare thinking I am just some boy who would sit by the sideline, watching his people being murdered. I did what I could for them, so do not dare thinking me weak!"
Debhora was more insulted than startled and pushed Roldin's finger away. "Do not point at me with a lack of respect, Lunan," she said calmly, though fiercely. "I would never think you weak and you know it. You were not the only one to have suffered under his terror, you know."
"I know," answered Roldin and it was the last he said. He turned away from his friends and descended down the stairs, without looking back.
Debhora watched him disappear into the crowd, while her heart pounded, but tried to feel no regret of her words.
"He's hurt," said Cage carefully after a long while of silence. "You sure it wasn't too harsh?"
"He's been through a lot," Debhora said quietly, but still stared down at the people below. "I am aware of that. But he must understand this - If he does not rid himself from the fear of Yiro, darkness will overcome him. It will swallow his entire people and eventually the world. I know what the Koltans have done to him and that there is no escape from it. But the same curse has been cast over one of our own friends and he should not be so selfish to think he is the only scarred one."
"What?" said Cage and frowned. "What are you talking about?"
But Debhora did not answer and just stood staring at the sky, before descending the stairs as well. Cage looked after her and suddenly a strange fear swelled up inside. He wondered what her words had meant, but yet he had no desire of finding out.
Suddenly the joy of Navisko didn't mean anything anymore and Roldin watched his people while something sharp seemed to stab his heart. He would drag them down into shadow once more, for he knew his people were with him, no matter where he would go. Then should he tell them at all? The Lunans would do anything to free Priston from any terror and this did make Roldin feel rather proud. He feared for them though - he feared for the entire world. Yet he made himself ready to join Cage and Debhora for a trip through the Warpgate, to see his other friends in Pillai. Once they would get there, there was no knowing of what else could happen. And the sight of a familiar kestrel flying overhead didn't exactly comfort him, for there was no knowing what kind of news she would bring. What hope there was would surely slip away from his hands, while his spine still hurt and his head ached. A curse going deep is hard to dig up and maybe the only way to stop it, would be to go down with it. Roldin didn't know what more events would lie on their path, but one thing was for sure - if he was going down, he would take Yiro with him.
Then dusk approached as the feasting had ended and it was time to leave the city as soon as possible.
A red sunset appeared over the lands, as the flapping of her wings would not be heard from the ground. Below her as she flew on, Fylla stared down at the many monsters, searching for hopeful food in the midst of the sand. Then the white blanket on the earth turned grayer and the sky was covered in a foul mist. Fylla raised higher up toward the clean air, though the pressure there was almost more then she could take. About five fresh scrolls were attached to her paw and she could not fail to deliver them.
Far below the mist, spawn appeared from the depths of the sand, with eyes as purple as the sky. They growled and clawed at each other, while the Cursed Land sank more into the shadow of the night. An ancient prison, half ruined, lay nearby, where numbers of warriors fought for their lives between the clashing of swords. They slaughtered one monster after the other, but the spawning didn't seem to end at all. When they looked up at the sky and found it far too dark, they decided to leave their slaughtering, and to flee for Ruinen to spend the night. As soon as they passed a strange shape in the ground, they had not the courage to look at it, for it gave them the shivers. Once there had lain a wasted skeleton, which should have belonged to a dragon shaped creature. But now it was gone and no one knew where to. It wasn't all that pretty to find out, so the warriors only focused their minds on what was their business. But what if that skeleton was in fact their business?
He would know, the man hovering high in the sky, hidden in the thick mist of the evening. When Fylla felt him, she startled and quickly dove to fly below the mist, afraid to look up as she passed him. For the man laughed at the sight of her, a laughter that had never left the kestrel's mind ever since that fateful day. That man was the cause of their trouble and now he his wings to patrol all over Priston with.
When she thought she had moved far enough, Fylla carefully looked back, but she could see nothing through the fog. She wasn't sure if that had been him at all, but her feelings had never been wrong before. Suddenly, another feeling took over, a new one, a strange one. Fylla stopped dead in the air and gazed back as she hovered. A scream sounded below and the kestrel immediately turned back to her course again, afraid to know what caused it. Once who would have reached Pillai to deliver her messages, she would fly back again to pick up the new ones. For there would be - lots of new messages.
A wind swayed across the sand into the east, where a strange man stood upon a hilltop once more. The axe in the ground behind his back said no meaning words to him, for only events in the north seemed to matter. His expression was tight, while his cape moved up and down in the wind and turned gold by the beams of the sun. His heart knew no fear, no exhaustion, for there was no room for it. He was not to worry about such things, for they were followers, disciples of a much greater force. Their master was watching over them from all directions, and his only worry was to those who would appose him. Not only were fellowships bonding in the west, but now also a different group had come forward again, for their leader had returned. The three groups would fight for the reign of Priston, but only one could be the winner.
The Disciple sighed and wiped away a few locks of hair from his face. His worry went to one person, somewhere out beyond his reach. Who or where he was remained a mystery, a riddle, an enigma. The many prophecy's had told him about one and the same person, who could mean the downfall for all of them. A keyhole and a key were all that was needed to lock back their greatest threat. But this same person would lock his own people along with it.
One person in all of Priston was getting closer to his goal. The one hero of the world - Midrandos is what he's called.
Somewhere out there, far away or maybe even close, the Disciple did not know. All he knew was that he should find him, capture him and vaporise him, before another dusk would fall.
Little did he know a Pikeman was approaching from the other side, the one his men did not watch. A sudden noise made the Disciple turn and all he saw was a figure slipping away from behind the rocks and out of sight again.
Elfje's Pristontale Fanfiction
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