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  1. #1
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    Fanfic Contest: danae (Undying Bond)

    I. A Legend Falls
    Joresal’s feet caught on his own robes causing him to stumble along the corridor momentarily as he tried to catch his balance. Steadying himself, he squinted at his surroundings to get an idea of what lay ahead. Either his eyes had finally failed him in his old age or there was only empty space before him.

    “No!” he thought. “There has to be another way.” He scrambled forward slowly inching through the pitch black darkness before him. It wasn’t long before he heard the hiss and crackle of fire nearing him as well as the smell of burning tar mixed with flesh. Panicking even further, Joresal struggled to move his legs but noticed that they had sunk into the floor trapping him.

    He heard a muffled groan behind him and turned slightly to get a glimpse. His heart constricted in terror as he saw a flaming abomination of a creature a few feet away. The creature was ablaze and the source of the moans that filled the corridor appeared to be coming from the skulls that adorned its body in various parts. It dragged a flaming sword behind it as it shambled closer to Joresal.

    Unable to tear his eyes away from what seemed like his impending doom, Joresal raised his right hand to bat away the monster’s arm that was stretching towards him. One of the skulls opened its mouth and screamed…

    “Master Saber!”

    Joresal woke with a start and nearly fell off the chair he had fallen asleep on. He shook his head trying to gather his senses and realized that he was actually in the study of the family keep. The room was large but it was difficult to tell with the stacks of books, scrolls and devices that littered the floor. A pounding on the study door startled Joresal once again and he scowled at the door as if it were at fault.

    “Master Saber!” called a young man’s voice again from behind the door. Joresal stood up slowly feeling the knots in his legs complain from his night’s slumber. He cursed his legs as he shambled and weaved his way to the door. Given the number of times he had fallen asleep on that chair, you’d think his legs would be used to that sleeping position already.

    “If you’re trying to break the door down young Kendrick, you’re going about it all wrong,” he reprimanded as he approached. “Otherwise, show a bit of patience until I open the door.” When he finally opened the door, Joresal noticed the beads of sweat on Kendrick’s brow, a sign that he must have rushed up the long flight of stairs of the tower. He was shifting from one foot to the other visibly trying to keep from blurting out whatever information he had and yet at the same time looked uncomfortable to be there.

    “General Arthyle is dead Master Saber,” Kendrick burst out unable to contain himself any longer. Embarrassed, he steadied himself and continued on. “Initial reports stated that it was an assassin’s work when they were camped in the Gaderi deserts.”

    Stunned by the news, Joresal stood in silence oblivious of the young man before him now fidgeting with the awkward silence. Kendrick cleared his throat which brought back Joresal’s focus. “And my son?” he asked.

    “Nothing was said Master,” Kendrick responded. “The messenger delivered news only on General Arthyle before getting back on his mount to continue on. He did say that the army was still relatively intact.”

    That fact did not ease Joresal’s mind for his son because he was aware of what Arthyle had planned. Arthyle was a great tactician and would weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each and every action. However, when an opportunity arose where the success of a plan could greatly tip the favour to his side, he would willingly take that risk or in this case, others loyal to him, like Joresal’s son, would put themselves on the line.

    Noticing Kendrick still standing before him, Joresal waved him away. “Go and attend your duties. I’ll need to inform the Mages Council if they’re still unaware of the news.” Kendrick looked uncertain about leaving the old man to himself but quickly changed his mind when a scowl formed in his Master’s face. He bowed hastily and started down the stairs in a pace reserved for the young.

    Alone again, Joresal closed the door to the study and looked at his experiments on the other side of the room. His bones ached at the thought of what he would need to accomplish if he was to see his son alive once again.

    II. Guardian’s Oath
    Arthyle was once Joresal’s student and eventually became a good friend as the years passed. They had had many philosophical and theoretical discussions which had opened his eyes to new insights and a deeper understanding in various disciplines. However, in the last couple of months, more often than not, they ended up on opposite sides of an argument. The last one happened three months ago as Arthyle was preparing to embark on a major offensive against the Gaderi.
    ***
    “If you’re thinking of trying to persuade me to reconsider once again, I suggest you turn around already,” Arthyle said. “I’ve made up my mind and you of all people should know how futile it would be to argue with me at this point.”

    “No. I knew I lost that battle a while back,” he admitted. “You’re as stubborn as a mule and I’ve no wish to butt heads with you once again.” He stood quietly watching Arthyle go about packing his maps and gear in a well-organized manner.

    “I’ve instead come to give you another option for your plan,” he continued. “Remember the research I’ve been working on with portals? I believe I’ve found evidence of the ability to create portals that are not limited to a short period.”

    Arthyle stopped what he was doing and looked sceptically at Joresal. “Have you validated this with the Mages Council?” he asked.

    Joresal waved in annoyance at him, scowling at the thought of the Council. “Bah! Those involved in the Council only concern themselves with the politics of the realm rather than achieving anything of note.” He moved closer to Arthyle and eased himself onto a chair.

    “In the old texts that I consulted, it spoke of instances where a magician would cast a portal that could sustain itself without any duration limit,” he said becoming more animated as he spoke. “Imagine the possibilities of such a thing! Your supply logistics will not be such a headache as it is now. Your enemies will never be able to anticipate where you’ll strike from. Reinforcements can enter a battle without having to march for days and your wounded can be carried back to healers who have all the equipment they need.”

    As Joresal described the different possibilities, Arthyle himself got lost thinking of the many ways he could use this to his advantage. After a while, he shook his head out of his reverie. “We can go on about the various uses but the let’s bring this back to reality. Have you been able to do what you have described?” he questioned.

    Stopping mid-sentence, Joresal looked indignantly at him. “Of course not! I’ve only uncovered this information about a week ago. I’ll still need to retrieve other texts to do a full research on this. Something this ground-breaking takes a bit of time.”

    Arthyle shrugged and continued with his packing. “Time is not something I have to spare at the moment. I’m pushing through with my plan to split the army so that one will go through the northern mountains of Lyth to ambush the Gaderi at the right time. If I don’t leave immediately, I’ll miss my chance as I’m not sure how much longer the ice bridge will hold as the season passes.” He stopped and looked directly at the old man. “Your son has volunteered to be part of that ambush group.”

    Joresal controlled his initial reaction to curse the boy. If his mother was still alive, she might have a chance of persuading him to stay but even that was a slim chance. Arthyle was a charismatic leader and he inspired loyalty like only few can. “I’m sure when he heard ambush, that silly boy was probably the first to jump at the opportunity,” he grumbled. “But can’t you see that with a permanent portal, you don’t even need to rely on the ice bridge. You can just create an ambush at any time that you want!”

    Arthyle moved aside some boxes on the table so that he could sit in front his former teacher. He put a calming hand on his shoulder to reassure him from the worries that were sure to surface. “Your son is more than capable of handling himself,” he said with assurance. “He will also be with the most elite of my men so you know that there will be others he can depend on.”

    “He’s all that I have left Arthyle,” Joresal sighed.

    “He’s your son Joresal but to me he’s like a little brother. As long as I have breath in my body, I promise I’ll bring him back to you alive.”

  2. #2
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    III. Dark Revelations
    News of Arthyle’s death spread throughout the kingdom. Reactions varied from diplomats pushing for peace treaties to warmongers who wanted to expand the war even further. In the end, the discipline that Arthyle instilled in his troops and the leadership of the other generals allowed them to still win the war. However, the plan that he had put in motion was something that he did not share with the other generals and because of that, the ice bridge had melted before anything could be done, trapping those men in the frigid mountains of Lyth. They were written off for dead and their families mourned them as such.

    Joresal, though, did not give up hope quite so quickly. Once he found out that Arthyle was gone, he focused on nothing else except his research. He spent sleepless nights experimenting on variations to the portal spell to the point where half of the study was scorched due to a portal that unexpectedly exploded and the other half appeared to be a sea of books and scrolls. With the lack of sleep and minimal food intake, Joresal became gaunt and dishevelled giving the impression to those around him that he was more undead than alive.

    However, even with his appearance as such, Joresal was still highly active in his research and it was in one of the tomes of knowledge taken from an ancient crypt that he finally found the key that could possibly allow him to open a portal that could take him to his son without it closing behind him. Drawing the necessary diagrams and chanting a series of incantations, he saw a glimmer of lights form before him in the usual oval shape. As he continued on with the spell, the lights congealed to form a silvery surface that slowly expanded to mirror the shape and size of the door to his study. With the final word of the spell, the portal turned black and appeared solid at first until Joresal broke the surface with a light touch of his hand.

    Hardly containing his excitement, he slowly stepped through the portal and immediately felt himself being pulled through as if sucked through a vacuum. He collapsed on the ground reeling and on the verge of vomiting even though his stomach held nothing that could be expelled. When the sensation of falling lessened, he opened his eyes and looked about his surroundings.

    He found himself in a barren field with a sky filled with stars that he did not recognize. The air was chilly but not enough to make him believe that he was in the mountains of Lyth. He did not pay much attention to this detail because his main concern at this point was the stability of the portal. He turned around to examine it and found no evidence of tearing in its surface that would signal its eventual disintegration.

    Engrossed in his inspection, Joresal failed to notice a sudden change in temperature and was taken by surprise when a burning hand grabbed his shoulder and casually tossed him away from the portal. The air was knocked out of his lungs and he felt the burning impression of the hand on his shoulder throb as he lay on the ground. As he was slowly recovering, he saw before him the same burning abomination that he had dreamt of previously. Next to it was a cowled woman with a staff in her hand directing the burning creature to enter the portal.

    As the creature was stepping through, Joresal wasted no time in saying the words to unravel the fabric of the portal. At first it appeared as if nothing had happened but in the following instant, the portal converged in on itself slicing the creature in half. The cowled figure remained surprised only for a short while before she turned her attention to the old man. She snarled at him and pointed her staff towards him while saying words that were unintelligible to him.

    Exhausted, Joresal made a feeble attempt to raise some sort of magical defence but before he could start, the cowled woman finished her spell and tendrils of white energy shot out from her left hand and enveloped his entire body. The pain of his burned shoulder was forgotten as it was replaced by a more excruciating pain coursing through his entire being. It wasn’t long before he ended up passing out from the pain.

    IV. Consuming Fear
    Joresal steeled his mind for another telepathic assault. It actually wasn’t so much telepathy but more like someone rummaging through his brain. Sitting next to a smoky orb, the cowled woman sent tendrils of energy from her hand to his head and as soon as they touched him, it sent a spasm of fiery pain throughout this body. Other tendrils of energy snaked down to the orb as if absorbed by the device. As the pain in his body subsided to a dull ache, the more painful experience began in his mind.

    Scrying through the orb, she shifted through his memories and thoughts like they were physical things. He found he could obscure her search by bringing up repetitive images or thoughts to the front of his mind but all that did was somewhat delay her. Eventually she would get bits and pieces of information that would hold her attention longer than others.

    He knew as well what it was that she was searching for. Whenever, she saw something concerning his research on the portals, she would focus on that and pick deeper and deeper into it until she would suddenly stop and note things down in a journal next to the orb. This time was no different, she latched on to an image of him creating the diagrams on the floor and stripped all other thoughts and random images away from it. Each probe to his mind was like a knife stab through his eye and it took all the concentration he could muster to blot out the image from his mind.

    The cowled woman growled in frustration and cursed at Joresal. However, rather than resume her scrying, she instead started scribbling furiously into her journal various notes and parts of the diagram that she glimpsed. The woman was no doubt a scholar even if the by-product of her research was torture. This frightened Joresal even more because with the knowledge that he held, there was no telling what they would be able to accomplish if they were to extract it all from him. The real fear that consumed him, though, was that after each of the probes that she had done, he felt his mind becoming more and more disjointed and confused. It would only be a matter of time before he could no longer actively resist her attempts and all the knowledge that he held would become freely accessible to her.

    Suddenly, another woman opened the door and spoke to the cowled woman briefly. She nodded to the woman at the door and released the tendrils of energy from Joresal and the orb. She gathered her journal and followed the other woman out, closing and bolting the door from the outside. Freed from the tendrils, Joresal’s muscles relaxed and he collapsed to the floor in pain.

    He could no longer remember how long this had been going on for. He remembered closing the portal and regaining consciousness in this very same room. How long ago that was, he was no longer entirely sure. One thing he was sure of, though, was that he wouldn’t last much longer before his mind was totally gone.

    Escape was not a possibility given his weakened state but he could at least prevent them from extracting the information that might allow them to create a portal back to his home. He did not wish anyone else to be subjected to the torture he was going through and given the cruelty he had witnessed from his captors, he was certain that there would be wholesale slaughter and destruction should they succeed in their plans.

    He gathered his thoughts and focused his mind for possibly the last time. Casting a transference spell, he was able to pull the scrying orb towards the wall behind him with enough force to smash it to several pieces. Grabbing one of the larger pieces, he took the sharp edge and pressed it to his throat. “Dirk, my son, forgive me for failing you,” he sobbed as he slashed the broken glass across his throat.

    As Joresal felt his life energy slipping, he could faintly see people moving about in the room. He was feeling at peace thinking that his pain was at its end when suddenly he felt tendrils of energy envelop his mind once again. His vision cleared and he saw the cowled woman with her hand on his head. She was smirking as she opened her mind to him. In it he saw the vision she was projecting to him and it terrified him.

    She let go of his head and leaned close to Joresal. His vision clouded once again and before the final wisp of life left his body, he heard a whisper. “There’s no escape for you old man. You may have left this life but you’ve seen what we can do. Alive or undead, I will get what I want from you.”

  3. #3
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    Epilogue
    Gravebone stood before the Man of Shadows receiving instructions on their upcoming assault on Lyth. The name stirred something in him but he dismissed it without much notice. He shifted his skeletal frame and his mind wandered again to the name.

    “You seem to be distracted more than usual,” the Man of Shadows remarked. “I’ve learned a lot about your past and I know that you played a key part in the creation of the shadow gates. I also am aware of your ties to this world.”

    Gravebone listened intently to his master to see if he would be able to gather a bit more information from a past that no longer lived in his mind. However, the Man of Shadows said nothing more about it but instead opened a case and lifted up a sword. He took a few practice swings and presented it to him.

    “I thought it fitting to give you this sword as you lead our army in this battle. It’s a match for you in more ways than you know. It’s made of strengthened bone and it falls in a class of swords called sabres. I call the sword a bone sabre.”

    A fleeting image of a boy flashed in his mind but it did not stay long. He tried to recall the image again but failed. His annoyance at his failing must have showed because the Man of Shadows seemed to be taking pleasure in it. At that moment, a hatred for the man before him surfaced that he was not even aware existed.

    The Man of Shadows stared intently at Gravebone, obviously reading his emotions quite clearly. “Remember that I made you what you are now,” he threatened. “The powers granted to you can be taken away as easily as it was given. You’re dismissed.”

    As Gravebone turned to go, his master asked him a final question. “You know, it’s ironic that the crystals granted you the power of bringing the dead back to life. Tell me, do you think it would work on someone who’s been dead for over a thousand years?”

    Laughing, the Man of Shadows left him standing there unable to comprehend the conflicting emotions within him. He did not know why these feelings were bubbling inside him but he was determined to find out. Even if he had to raise every single being back from the grave, someone would give him the information he wanted. When that day comes, it will be the day of the undying.

  4. #4
    DP Visionary Mongoosey's Avatar
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    Beautifully written! A fantastic piece of work by a skilled writer.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Veles's Avatar
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    Truly interesting format to tell a story. And that twist at the end. Amazing!

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  6. #6
    Senior Member Jo3yb0i's Avatar
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    Wow I particularly love the ending. It's gives me something to think about
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  7. #7
    DP Visionary Preybird's Avatar
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    Good stuff! Strangely enough I'd always considered Gravebones history to be very similar!
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  8. #8
    Senior Member XanteseZerylliom's Avatar
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    Wow. This is great work! An interesting take on GB's history. Plenty of references in there, too.
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  9. #9
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    Very well written! Plot and flow is amazing. It would have stirred my mind more though if the settings/scenes had more color like, what does the mountain of Lyth look like and what type of creature tried to enter the portal. But this is just me.

    On the flipside though, this can create a myriad of scenes and endless possibilities as to how each reader envisage the settings. It caters to a wide range of imaginations - from plain to insane.

    A very good read!

  10. #10
    Senior Member maru's Avatar
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    nice read!

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