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  1. #1
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    SE Short: The Reckoning (Preybird's Official Entry!)

    Part One

    Desolation.

    Staring outward over the horizon it was easy to forget that Scheuth was once like Balor, filled with colour and life. That his people who were now nothing more than skeletons once breathed, that they wore skin and muscle over their bones. That they had lived.

    Unfortunately they had also died, and more often than not as a result of battle. For as long as its history was recorded Scheuth had been a world at war. There were so many kings and warlords scattered over its surface that there was inevitably fighting somewhere. That is until a young researcher named Thaddeus made an incredible discovery. He observed that at the moment of a Scheuthan’s death a small amount of energy was released, energy that could be used to bolster the soul of another, to anchor it to this existence. Through sacrifice he could give someone the gift of immortality. Death magic was born.

    Dakrath shook his head as he and his team moved away from the Shadow Gate toward the capital Korleath. No one could have realized the ramifications of that discovery or known just what would happen next.

    Thaddeus’ master, seeing the massive potential in this new death magic had Thaddeus gift his entire army with immortality, before setting off to conquer Scheuth in its entirety. All who opposed him were crushed by his never ending tide of immortal warriors, and the energy from those they killed was used to make more of their kind. Hundreds of thousands flocked to his banner rather than face certain death and in less than a decade Scheuth had its first Emperor.

    But it was not enough. More and more people wanted immortality, and soon there were no more dead and dying to extract the required energy from. So the death magic was adapted, livestock and even plant life becoming the fuel for conversions. Every living thing was consumed in the populace’s insatiable quest for immortality, but an eternity of peace was in sight so the people did not care, and eventually everyone had their prize. But while this utopian existence lasted for a time, eventually the true price of their ‘gift’ became apparent. Their immortality only extended to their souls and not their bodies, which aged and eventually decayed as would any mortal shell, leaving behind a skeleton held together by death magic. Only then did the people of Scheuth realize their mistake, but at that point the damage was done. Scheuth had become a dead world, turned an irreparable shade of grey by those who walked its surface. History would remember this time as the Cleansing, a term specifically chosen by the new Emperor to make the death of their world seem more palatable.

    Dakrath groaned as he replayed the events of those last centuries in his head. We were fools.

    Returning his mind to the present, Dakrath led his team into the outskirts of Korleath. Looking around someone could be forgiven for thinking that the city was abandoned; an empty monument to glories past, but it was not the case. One of the many side effects of immortality was apathy, and most Scheuthans had it in abundance. Someone who lives forever is never in a hurry to do anything, and as time stretches on the motivation fades further and further away. Many Scheuthans didn't even consider the idea of leaving their homes unless forced to. Everyone was still here; they just rarely if ever came out. .

    The city itself however was quite impressive. Korleath was built post-Cleansing as a monument to the Emperor and was significantly cleaner and more modern than most cities, despite the neglect and rot that affected everything on Scheuth. As befitting Korleath’s purpose intricate patterns and baroque styling were evident throughout the city, nowhere more so than the Imperial Palace that dominated the skyline in the distance.

    Also evident was the abundance of propaganda. The Emperor did not rely on simple military might to keep his people under control, he knew that ideas were the most dangerous weapons of all and as such ran heavy campaigns designed to promote Scheuth as a utopia. Posters adorned walls and windows with slogans like Life is Death and Immortality over Biology. Even as they moved through the city Dakrath could hear the sounds of hundreds of Scheuthans gathered together in devotion ceremonies to their Emperor, as always under the watchful eye of the Guard. Such ceremonies were mandatory, and just another method of control.

    Approaching the Imperial Palace Dakrath and his team took pause. The Palace was an impressive building, even more so than the rest of the buildings in the city. It was constructed of polished stone and simply dwarfed everything around it. The doors were plated in gold, and the gigantic domes that adorned the roof were glass to allow natural light to flow through the palace interior. Sculptures of the Emperor and of battles past surrounded the entrance, all meant to depict him as a true hero of Scheuth. Surrounding the palace was a wall constructed of the same stone as the building it protected, and it was just as well kept. Guards were stationed everywhere and all were armed and armoured for war.

    As he looked over the palace security Dakrath gripped the enchanted dagger in his bony hand, made for him by a traitorous human mage. He realised that like Thaddeus so many centuries ago, his actions today would also rewrite the history of Scheuth. This was because Dakrath was here to kill the Emperor, the man who had brought this curse upon them all, and the man who continued to rule his people with an iron fist.

    Today Dakrath would free his world.

  2. #2
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    Part Two

    Vreil looked around nervously as he moved away from the Palace. If he was caught away from his post he would be torn to shreds by his commander, but what he needed to do would finally secure him a way off of Scheuth. Vreil was so caught up in his own thoughts as he ran into the alley that he didn't see the armour plated warrior until he collided with him. Collapsing to the ground, Vreil found himself staring up at the obsidian form of a Shadow Knight.

    “You should watch where you’re going. Come with me.” The Knight said in a gravelly voice, before turning on his heels and walking further into the alley. Vreil got to his feet and fell into step behind him without a word.

    As they progressed further down into the alley Vreil could see the Knight’s companions leaning on the wall. There were two other Knights there, as well as a third who did not wear the armour of the Shadow Knights, his was more ornate and of a shinier brushed metal. This was obviously the leader of this group, and his contact.

    “Vreil?” The leader asked, his voice deep and powerful.

    Vreil found himself stumbling over his words as he replied. “Um..yes. And you’re Dakrath?”

    Dakrath simply nodded in the affirmative.

    “Um, Banebow said that you could help me?” Vreil began. “I want to go to Balor.”

    “Banebow was right, I can help you. But he wants you to help the Resistance first.” Dakrath replied.

    “Yes, he mentioned something to that extent.” Vreil nodded. “What do you need?”

    “We need to get into the Imperial Palace.” Dakrath said, walking toward Vreil.

    If Vreil’s skeletal face could convey shock he would’ve looked as though he’d seen a ghost. “Get inside? No one ever goes in or comes out. The Emperor hasn't been seen in Azot knows how long.” He looked down. “So no, I can’t get you inside.”

    “So how far can you get us?” Dakrath asked, frustration evident in his voice.

    “I stand guard on the edge of the west wing. It’s a long way from anything.” Vreil paused as he looked over them all. “I can get you inside the outer wall and to my station, but that’s it.”

    “It will suffice.” Dakrath replied. “Let’s go.”

    The four Resistance warriors began to move out of the alley together, leaving a stunned Vreil falling in behind them. “What, now?”

    “Yes, now.” Dakrath stated as they left the alley.

    “But shouldn’t you wait, make plans, something like that?” Vreil asked as he struggled to keep up with the much taller warriors.

    “The plans have already been made.” Dakrath replied without breaking stride. “Out of curiosity, how long have you been standing there?”

    “Six years, nine months, twelve days and sixteen hours.” Vreil replied absentmindedly, simply reciting the count he kept in his head at all times.

    “So I don’t see the situation changing any time soon.” Dakrath stated. “Which means now is as good a time as any. You get us as far as your station and we’ll do the rest.”

    Vreil nodded and sped up so he could walk in front of the group. He didn't lead them directly toward the palace, instead taking them through the side streets surrounding it for a few minutes before stopping.

    “There.” He pointed to a section of palace wall before leading them the team up to it.

    “It’s a wall.” One of the Shadow Knights muttered.

    “Quiet Varlack.” Dakrath snarled before turning to Vreil. “What am I looking at here?”

    Vreil pressed on one of the stones that made up the wall. It receded into the wall without a sound, and part of the wall section opened up like a door. “This is the guard’s entrance, so we don’t have to open the gate all the time.”

    Vreil led them through before pressing on another stone to close the door behind them. “Follow me.” He said before slowly heading toward the palace. Dakrath and his team followed suit. As they approached the palace even Dakrath was taken aback by the sheer size of it. Seeing it from the other side of the wall didn't do the building justice.

    “Do you know how the guards who work inside get in and out?” Dakrath asked.

    “They live in the palace. No one goes in and no one leaves.” Vreil replied.

    “Well, no secret guards entrance then. Looks like we’re going in through a window.” Varlack stated.

    “Hardly the best way, but it may be all we’ve got.” Dakrath looked at the gargantuan building. Every window he could see was at least three storeys up. “Though even getting to them may be a problem.”

    “There is a window that’s at ground level.” Vreil stated. “But it’s around the corner, where another guard patrols.”

    “Not a problem.” Varlack stated. He drew his sword and walked away from the group, then ducked around the corner. After a few moments of silence the sound of shattering bones filled the air. Poking his head back around Varlack waved the rest of the team over.

    Dakrath turned to Vreil. “You've done well. When this is over, I will ensure you get to Balor. Banebow will be happy to welcome you into the Resistance.”

    “I’ll be waiting.” Vreil said as Dakrath joined his team.

    But Vreil knew if they failed, he would be waiting a very long time.

  3. #3
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    Part Three

    Varlack got through the window with a finesse that surprised Dakrath, given his penchant for more direct action. He shattered a small corner of the window pane just large enough for him to get his gauntleted hand in and flick the latch. From there he gently opened the window and climbed inside, being careful to avoid the glass fragments and make any more undue noise. Dakrath and the rest of the team followed.

    Looking around, they realized they’d fortunately wound up in a disused part of the palace. It looked as though it was a study of some kind, bookshelves lined the walls and there was only a solitary chair in the room. Running his hand over the top of the chair Dakrath lifted a thick layer of dust off it.

    “Let’s go find our quarry.” Dakrath said. His hand twitched with excitement and he grasped the dagger ever tighter. He nodded toward the door. “Open it.”

    Varlack gently pushed the door ajar, weapon at the ready. He peeked around the corner then just swung the door wide open and nonchalantly stepped out. Curious at his behavior, Dakrath and the rest of the team walked out of the room.

    The hallway they found themselves in was enormous, with a giant pair of spiral staircases in the distance leading to other parts of the palace. The sides of the hallway were dotted with doors leading to other rooms, no doubt similar to the one they came in through. Adorning the walls were enormous paintings, many depicting Scheuth pre-Cleansing and filled with the vibrant colours that had spread across the land back then. The domes that were visible from the outside lit the hallway brilliantly. But it looked as though no one had traveled this walkway for a long time, the light coming in from above making visible the dust floating in the air.

    “Well I’m not totally surprised the entirety of the palace isn't occupied, considering the size of the place.” Dakrath commented as they began moving toward the spiral staircases. “Plus this area did only have a minimal guard presence. Still, we don’t know what we might run into in here so stay alert.”

    Stopping at the staircases Dakrath once again found himself amazed at the sheer opulence of this place. The stairs were made of polished marble and the railings were of an intricate gold plated design.

    “Want me to flip a coin?” Varlack asked.

    Dakrath ignored him as he looked over the staircases. Neither of them had seen activity in a while given the dust visible on the marble surface, but the right one would lead them closer to the center of the palace, whereas the left one followed the outskirts. Climbing the right staircase Dakrath prepared himself for what lay ahead.

    However the threats Dakrath was expecting didn't eventuate. Everywhere they went seemed as though it had been uninhabited for a long time. The entire palace looked like a museum, without any sign of activity whatsoever. Eventually the team simply stopped to take stock of the situation.

    “Is this some kind of trap?”

    “Torgath, if this were a trap surely it would've been sprung by now, don’t you think?” Varlack retorted.

    “Suppose so…” Torgath shrugged, “but this is still very odd.”

    “Indeed.” Dakrath stated, his mind wandering.

    “Did they all just pack up and leave?” Varlack asked, his question directed at no one in particular. “Where’s the Emperor?”

    Dakrath didn't answer as he looked around the room they were in. It was another study style room, but much larger than the one they gained entry through. Like everywhere else in the palace dust had settled all over, but something felt out of place. Moving away from the team Dakrath began walking toward the fireplace on the back wall. Kneeling down in front of it he suddenly realized what was amiss.

    “Dak?” Varlack called out.

    “Over here. I've found something.” Dakrath replied, and Varlack led the rest of the team over. They crowded around Dakrath as he pointed to the ground near the fireplace. “Look carefully.”

    As they watched the larger dust particles on the floor slowly moved away from the base of the fireplace. “Wind.” Dakrath said simply. “There’s another room behind here.”

    He stood up and looked at his team. “Get this fireplace moved; tear the wall down if you have to. The Emperor is expecting us, so let’s not keep him waiting.”

    With renewed vigor and purpose the four of them searched for a way to move the fireplace and get into the hidden area beyond. Brute force would not suffice, even all of them working in unison could not move make the fireplace budge. Deciding there must be a hidden panel similar to the one on the palace walls, Dakrath’s team began to search the walls and the bookshelves for anything that would reveal the hidden passage, with little success.

    Varlack was the first to lose his cool at their lack of progress, lashing out at the wall and the bookshelf with a flurry of punches. Books tumbled off the shelves as he continued to vent his rage until he was finally spent. As he stood there looking at the ground in frustration, Dakrath came up behind him and slapped him on the back. “Good job.”

    “Heh, I was expecting a slap on the back of the head.” Varlack muttered.

    “Not today. Look up.”

    Varlack looked at the shattered and splintered bookshelf, and he instantly saw why Dakrath wasn't upset. Attached to the wall was a single book, hovering there as though suspended by magic. With a soft tug the book came away and the fireplace began to move, accompanied by the harsh grinding of stone gears.

    “Hidden lever.” Dakrath explained, pointing to the metal bar that connected the book to the wall.

    “Clever.” Varlack remarked as they looked at the space where the fireplace once was. A simple wooden door lay ahead of them.

    “Get ready.” Dakrath ordered and the team took their positions on either side of the door. When they were ready with weapons drawn Dakrath kicked the door in with all his might. The door fell inwards from the force, coming clean off its hinges and revealing the brightly lit room that lay beyond. Dakrath stepped through the doorway to the gentle sound of running water. He looked in wonder at the symphony of colour in front of him, colour that Scheuth had not seen in centuries. It was impossible, but Dakrath could not deny what he was seeing.

    Scheuth still lived.

  4. #4
    Senior Member NachyoChez's Avatar
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    Part Four

    Dakrath was so stunned by the garden of life that stood in front of him he didn't notice the others step into the room. He was eventually broken out of his reverie by Varlack’s gravelly voice.

    “By Azot’s bones…..” He whispered. “Is this real?”

    Dakrath knelt down and ran his hand over the shrubs near his feet. “Yes… I think it is.”

    Standing up he and his team slowly moved through the garden, taking in every detail, every sight and smell. It was intoxicating, like the first time Dakrath had laid eyes on Balor. But these plants were not brought here from Balor; this secret garden was native to Scheuth. Looking up Dakrath could see another of the giant domes which bathed the garden in natural light and could see holes in the ceiling that allowed fresh air in, which in turn generated the gentle breeze that was pushing through the garden. After marveling at the sight of it all for a few more moments Dakrath dragged his mind back to the task at hand.

    “Time to focus people.” He ordered, snapping everyone back to their duty. “We've got an Emperor to kill.”

    Looking around Dakrath could see that the only way in or out of the garden was the door they’d come through. Assigning Torgath to guard the door he led the others in a search for their target. As they moved through the garden they realized the plant life was hindering their search somewhat; there was no end of places that a cowering monarch could hide. But they would not be deterred and with all due care they searched. Were this Balor they would have simply taken their blades to the growth, but to do that here would be to destroy the last hope for their world, and Dakrath would not stand to see even a single plant harmed.

    They all split up to speed their search and cover more ground. Despite the fact they had not attracted any attention thus far Dakrath knew their entry point would be discovered eventually, so time was still of the essence. As he slowly pushed his way through the undergrowth Dakrath caught a glimpse of white among all the green. Gently pushing apart the thick bed of leaves and undergrowth Dakrath found the Emperor. But he was no longer of this world, or any world. He had been slain, and by the layers of plant life growing over his bones it looked as though it had happened quite some time ago. Embedded in the Emperor’s spine was a dagger of the same design as Dakrath’s, a dagger designed to destroy not only the body but the soul as well. He could not be resurrected, could never be brought back.

    “I've found him.” Dakrath called out, the simplicity of his statement hiding the frenzy of activity in his mind.

    As the team rushed to meet him Dakrath’s head was spinning. Who killed the Emperor? Was it another resistance group, or was he betrayed?

    “What the..?” Varlack exclaimed as he reached Dakrath. “He’s dead!?”

    “Seems so.” Dakrath replied simply.

    “So… if he’s dead…. who’s been running Scheuth?” Varlack asked.

    That was a point that Dakrath hadn't considered. With the Emperor dead Scheuth should have been thrown into open rebellion, or at the very least a successor should've been selected. But neither had happened, instead Scheuth carried on as though everything was normal. It was as though no one knew.

    Dakrath stared at the corpse, as though hoping he’d sit up and tell them what happened. “No idea. My guess would be the killer, whoever that is.”

    “Or his boss.” Varlack added.

    “That too.”

    “Regardless, it’s going to be hard to find someone who’s had this much time to hide.” Varlack stated, pointing at the corpse. “He’s been dead a long time. How do we even know where to start looking?”

    Dakrath didn't respond immediately, but instead bent down and removed the dagger from the Emperor’s back.

    “This is our first clue.” He said as he stood up, holding the murder weapon beside his own dagger. “Look, it’s almost the same as mine. My guess is our little mage friend made this one as well. It means our killer has visited Balor, and that gives us a starting point.”

    “Well, it’s something.” Varlack said, looking around. “But I think we've overstayed our welcome. We should go before they discover us.”

    “Agreed.” Dakrath nodded. “Back to Balor people, there’s nothing left for us here.”

    Without another word Dakrath lead his team out of the secret garden. Regardless of what the answer to this was Banebow had to be informed of the situation. Today’s revelations meant everything had changed.

    Everything.

  5. #5
    DP Visionary tman507's Avatar
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    Excellent work Preybird!!! Love this so much. Also partially answers my question as to who Vreil is, he's an Undead palace guard. Great work though.
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  6. #6
    DP Visionary Demnchi's Avatar
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    This was quite the enjoyable read! Well done Preybird! Really painted the image in my mind and helped expand what I consider to be one of the more interesting worlds in Shadow Era. I wonder what deeper plot exists under this expedition we were just sent through.

    Anyways, I have to wonder if that dagger is the Dagger of Unmaking. :3
    Last edited by Demnchi; 02-27-2014 at 04:19 AM.
    Was the Leader of Acolytes of A1

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  7. #7
    DP Visionary Preybird's Avatar
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    Yay, I'm immortal now! This was such a fun thing to write, and I'm glad that I was able to do it!

    Now I want to write the sequel
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  8. #8
    DP Visionary tman507's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Demnchi
    Anyways, I have to wonder if that dagger is the Dagger of Unmaking.
    Hmmm, possibly. Didn't think of that. I personally was thinking Dagger of Fate, but maybe we'll find out in future lore
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  9. #9
    DP Visionary Demnchi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tman507 View Post
    Hmmm, possibly. Didn't think of that. I personally was thinking Dagger of Fate, but maybe we'll find out in future lore
    Dagger of Fate... hmmm I didn't think of that either. Guess we'll keep on guessing. After little thought, I think yours may make more sense. lol
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  10. #10
    DP Visionary ocnarb's Avatar
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    Nice work Preybird

    I bet Gravebone killed it ...
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