BNN: The Awakening - Act V, Part 2
- For the story arc, see The Awakening.
Written by the EM Team June 25, 2012 13:45 EST
Dupre's gleaming platemail was scarred and battered as he approached the walled sandstone city, great strips of it ripped away by the attacks of the vicious mechanical beasts. He'd left too many men, elves, and gargoyles dead in the final struggle to rid them of the foul beast Exodus...and despite Sacrifice being a virtue, he wondered if it hadn't taken more than its share this time. And why did it seem that those younger, faster, and stronger than he were so oft chosen while Sacrifice had merely passed him by all these years? Or maybe these others in some way had acted as a shield for him, preserving his existence by purchasing it with their own. Or perhaps his vow of Honor to defeat Minax was all that held Sacrifice at bay. He shook his head as he passed through the gates of the city of Honor, but he couldn't shake off his uncertainty. The events at the moongate had only served to reinforce his unsteadiness; He'd intended to immediately return to Felucca and his hunt for Minax, but if the moongates were corrupted in such a way, could it possibly be an infection like the gargoyles were even now still facing in Ter Mur? And if so, would it spread to the rest of Gilforn's gates, or even to those temporary ones conjured by so many mages of the realm? Give me a beast, a monster, a man who I can fight with a sword and shield, and I'll cause them to quake, he thought...but I have no recourse against an enemy I can't face. Turning these thoughts aside, he strode into the armorsmiths and handed over his large, heavy shield, to which the smith could only shake his head. It was yet another shield that had given its life to prolong his. He looked over the copy of the journal he'd found...and he wondered if he hadn't been wrong about the man who had once so often held court with his Lord.
"Yes, Heckles, you know that I must do it. I trust you to tend to the castle and keep it ready for my return."
"Then you anticipate returning, milord?"
Blackthorn was some time in answering, for he didn't know exactly how to respond to such a simple and forthright question posed by his longtime jester and companion. Finally his voice rose as he shouldered the satchel carrying moonstones, blackrock, and other reagents.
"I anticipate doing what needs to be done. I only hope that it allows me to rejoin you here, Heckles. And Heckles..."
Blackthorn tossed the jester a key, and the jester cradled it as if it were that which unlocked the gates to eternal paradise.
"Try not to empty the wine cellar in my absence."
For once, the jester had no witty reply...even as his master's back turned towards him and he watched his cloak flutter with the opening of the door and his exit, Heckles could sense how serious this must be; his master had never once trusted him with the key to the wine cellar before...
In Trinsic, despite that the rioters were still acting up and Ver Lor Reg was shattered...the mood was exuberant. The defeat of Exodus had made them all feel as if this was finally the end of a long journey through darkness; despite how he felt and what he thought, Dupre let them have their revelry and moment of glory. Tonight had been a victory, a powerful and important one...but it was not the end of their troubles by far. The peasants were still in revolt against the nobles; the gargoyles of Ver Lor Reg still displaced, now with no home; the minions of Minax and Minax herself running free wherever they may be; the gargoyles of Ter Mur stricken and swept through by the mysterious plague; and the Jukans and Meer decimated by the destruction in Ilshenar.
Dupre took his glass and drained it in a single throwback of it. He'd often been asked by people why it was he had such a fondness for the indulgence of alcohol.
Lately, his only reply was to ask how everyone else didn't indulge in it.
The dungeon's inhabitants disgusted him; their twisted mockery of magic was an affront to all mages. At the same time, it fascinated him...the power that they were able to harness.
In this case, disgust won out over fascination as a bolt of solid energy flew from the cloaked figures hands and ripped into the creature's mechanisms, followed by three powerful lightning bolts that echoed thunderously through the depths, before all was silent again. Opening his satchel, he placed another piece of blackrock in front of yet another of the strange devices. He had no idea what this particular device did, nor did he care; all he needed to know was that it seemed important, and it was gathering energy.
He was here to deny Exodus access to any of it.
Trailing behind him lay a cord, fashioned from twine and infused with sulfurous ash; he set it up and led it back to what he believed to be the main chamber, and placed the few remaining bits of blackrock in front of the largest of the devices. With a moments incantation and several gestures, he could smell the burning of reagents in his bag, and feel as the magical energy traced its way through the ash infused ropes...he even could feel as the blackrock absorbed and enhanced the energies, and he had the satisfaction of seeing the large machine rock from the initial explosion, and he quickly turned to leave...only to be suddenly disoriented by a feeling he had felt once before.
Being forcibly summoned by Exodus.
The night had gone on late and Dupre had had his fill of whatever drink he'd wanted at any bar he'd gone to; but it left him unfulfilled. It was times like these, where even in victory he felt defeated, that he sought refuge in his dedication to Honor and everything it encompassed. So long as he kept true to his Honor, he would never lose his path.
Even if it felt like he was helpless to save a Britannia that seemed bent on tearing itself apart at the seams.
"You insult me, petty warlock. You think to undermine my efforts instead of join me. Is this what you think of your virtue of Honesty?"
Blackthorn bristled at the horrendous sound of the abominations voice, and managed to respond with a smirk on his lips that he wasn't even sure it could see. "I'm afraid that you chose the wrong piece on the board if you wanted a virtuous pawn."
Laughter, haunting, cold, and without any sense of mirth, came as if from all around him. "You think you've won, do you, little one. I am more than you could ever hope to be, and your efforts may have cost me...but we will see who will cost who the most."
Blackthorns retort was lost as his jaw dropped, a moment of shock setting in when an enormous creature moved into view before him in the darkness, his neck craning back to look upon the bulk of the creature. For a moment, Blackthorn realized that perhaps there really was nothing that could be done against such a foe, and that he shouldn't even try.
But it was only for a moment.
Blackthorn quickly backpedaled, thrusting a hand into the satchels hidden pocket, and withdrawing a large, peculiar stone that he'd hoped he wouldn't have cause to use. The gleaming black sphere, something that Gilforn had boasted about being a ‘composite moonstone', began to dance in his palm as he did his best to stay out of reach of the mechanical monster and he poured forth the magical energy from his body, his mana burning through his body with the rage of a dam breaking, every second his mind telling him he'd be just fast enough to keep out of Exodus' reach.
Unfortunately, a blow that was so fast it was practically invisible slammed into him and forced reality in upon his comforting lie. He was flung across the chamber, managing to just barely keep his hand on the shimmering orb, and as he hit a wall and then the floor, his vision blurred and went red. He coughed hard, blood spilling forth from his lips, a telling sign of some internal injury...but he would not falter. He was Lord Blackthorn. This vile spawn of a creature would not defeat someone of his standing.
Exodus paced closer, expecting to see a look of despair upon the human's face...only to find a bloody lipped smile on his face. And then suddenly a portal of shimmering energy, a swirling thing of crimson and cerulean, swallowed forth Blackthorn and Exodus alike.
"A setback, my minions. Much damage was done to the apparatus meant to empower and strengthen me...and my whereabouts are unknown. But none of it has affected my ability to communicate across realms, as you can see."
Of course there was no actual response from the minions of Exodus...none that could be perceived by human senses.
"It seemed that the warlock was quite the duplicitous one...I imagine that there are many ways we can make that work for us. And like it or not...he is now a captive audience. Even if we are both trapped here, he will still be made of use..." A haunting noise filled the displaced chamber, as Exodus laughed.