Leena’s realm was still and quite. Its artificial peace seemed to draw me away from reality. The green grass composing the island seemed more vibrant and alive. The waters surrounding her personal island were clearer and sparkled more it seemed than water in the real world. I suppose this was because the real world was so dark at this moment, so distant, and bleak. Or maybe, since Leena’s realm was a reflection of her desires and dreams, her world was more alive because this was what she wanted our world to look like. Whatever the reason, her astral realm clouded my desires to ever return to the destruction that was upon Regnum at this time.
Then I saw the chest; it seemed out of place in this paradise. Its sides were worn and weathered. It was made of wood, but covered with stretched geckomander hide. Tanned into the leather were subtle sigils, that I had not noticed before. The metal hinges, latch, and corner-pieces were constructed of a silver-alloy. They were of a gothic-dwarven design, inorganic and harsh reflective of the parent world of its craftsman.
The last I had opened the box, I was in the grand study aboard the Chaaya’s Quest. As I remember, it was filled with scrolls, some protected in bamboo cylinders; each were very old. It smelled of a sweet, yet bitter aroma, similar to fresh cut pine, mingled with dust. Its previous owners, a clan of chthonic dwarves, instructed us in two things regarding the chest. First, it contained all they knew regarding the soul-heisted sword once known as Blacksword. And second, it could not be taken to Baalgor Island, for if it did, it would violently exploded.
It was for this last reason that I was interested in the chest. My world was under attack. This chest could drive back this attack—-violent as necessary.
“Leena, once I have the chest ready you’ll need to open a portal on to one of those big black-sailed ships.” I said as I allowed the thin cords to magically unravel from around my arms. Masters Khinsed and Rhavamanthys both said I had a knack for Rope Magic. Like snakes, these rope bodies slithered down my arms, and over to the heavy chest. Their tips began to unravel, working their way beneath the leather base like thousands of fiberous fingers. Then with the whisper of a magical command, the fibers came back together in four strongly weaved cords. The snaking bodies wrapped around the frame of the box, holding it tightly.
“Tadje, do you really think this will work?” Leena asked readying herself to open her portal.
The ropes then grabbed ahold of two crystal pillars where Leena would open the portal. The ropes formed a slingshot-like device, ready to throw the chest once the portal was opened. As my fists tighted, so did all the cords. A surge of potential energy passed through all the ropes. Visual tension could be seen as the ropes snapped with power.
“It has to work, Leena. There’s no other way.” Sweat beaded up on my brow despite the perfect temperature kept in Leena’s realm. I could feel the tension building up in my own body, too. “It’s ready, m’Lady.”
With that signal, Leena stretched forth her hands with fingers clawing the air. She pulled her hands apart, and as she did so the air ripped open in a course purple light. A sour smell of ozone poured out of the air. From the violet light a window opened. The window peeled back until a rectangular opening measuring about ten feet high and ten feet wide. It stood erect between the two pillars.
I was just about to command the ropes to fling the box into the real world, when, “WAIT!” Leena shouted to me.
“Its Chen!” She exclaimed.
My muscles contorted from holding all the pressure; but my stomach twisted more violently. I had nearly sent our secret-filled friend to oblivion. We had just learned that Dr. Kwatltal was not a yin-lord, but instead a mighty Chiang-ku dragon. He had been parading around in the guise of a lowly yin-lord this whole. I am not sure why he did not trust us with this secret until now, but at the moment he was aboard one of the black-sailed ships fighting a handful of Baal-rogs laying quick vengence into them. His elongated body had one wrapped in his coils, while a second and third were being attacked by all six clawed-hands.
Chen had to move, or else he would be obliterated. Leena called from the portal.
“Doctor! Quick, through here!”
The Doctor wheeled around to see us standing just a stone’s throw through the hovering window. He recognized Leena’s realm immediately. He understood Leena’s call instantly. He tossed the coiled Baal-rog causing it to barrel-row towards Chen’s other two assailants. The three Baal-rogs toppled over to the blackened deck of the ship like a triad of Dwarven bowling pins. Chen leapt into the portal with the surprising agility of a cat, rather than the gainliness of a beached whale one would assume from his long body.
As his tail pass through the portal, Leena and I both saw it; I would have described it as something wonderous and beautiful, if not for the sinking feeling in my stomach that warned me of its emminent doom. We saw the clouded sky light up with exuberant amounts of color and brilliance. Then from this irridescent blanket of clouds something pierced through with a white fire brighter than the Regnum sun. Its candescence was so bright that it seemed to steal all the color in the world that I could see through the portal window.
All became a drab white and gray, as the star-like object torpedoed to the earth with tremendous haste. It took three beats of my heart for it to descend to the waters beneath. When it hit, I felt my heart skip a beat. Even though it was distant, before I saw the explosion that errupted from its impact, I could feel its incredible pull like a magnetic force.
Then it errupted; or better said, HE errupted. As I later learned from the Ursen Shamans of whom commune with the Mother of this world, Mimir was this falling star. He had given both soul and body to be wielded as a weapon in Uwa’s hands. As his soul united with Hers, sky merged with earth, and all was silent for a brief moment as Regnum stood still. Then came a purging wall of heat and fury. From the portal’s mouth, Leena’s realm began to bubble and peel away!
“Leena! The portal!” I cried to the Grey Lady.
My cry shook her from her stupor as she looked upon the brilliance qickly approaching like 10,000 converging ley-line storms. She blinked to wetten her dried eyes, scorched by the very heat. Then, with a wave of her hands the portal closed as quickly as the beat of the wing of a Tristinean humming bird. But, it was not soon enough!
A force so strong pierced through just as the portal was the size of a pin hole. It blew us back, knocking out my wind as I landed on the grassy ground. I struggled to regain my breath. Then breathing deeply, I lay there in the stillness. All was quiet again.
Yet, if we could listen at that very moment upon Regnum, we would have witnessed the sound of ten’s of thousands of victims screaming in a wave with their last breath as the heat consumed their corporal frames. If that pin hole were to have remained open, it would have be just large enough to push through the stench of death from the quickly desicating bodies as they turned sublimely to ash. The sweet roasting smells of the oaken sky-vessles with black sails would not have been aromatic enough to quell the acrid smell exploding from that pin hole. No, the putrifying sizzles and popping of tendons would also have caused our frames to shake with madness, frightening us to the bone. But alas, we were safe. Leena’s quick reposte had saved us from a most awful demise.
We feared opening the portal again, not so afraid of the destruction that could enter in, but more a fear of the destruction that we would find. Yet, we had to return. We could not just stay and hide. It was a thing of honor. Leena resolute as she had been during the Fall of Badenfel stood afront the pillars and parted the air once more. We all held our breath.
We were surprisingly greeted with a blast of cooling mist. From several hundred feet above the earth our portal gave quite a vista. The black-sailed ship was no more. A light fog was rising up from the sea, but disipating quickly. Huge undulating waves spread from an epicenter down in the sea below. Drodd’s army had been carried to and fro, most were destroyed.
A large portion of the surviving ships had been thrown like toys to the northern coast of Baalgor Island. They now lay in a wreckage near Nothton. With the aid of a farseer tube, I could see that the survivng horde were disembarking upon Northton with a course to lay siege upon the Golden Tower.
“Leena, we must stay with the plan. Can you open a portal upon that ship, near their center?” I gave her the farseer tube to see the target.
“I think so.” She said a bit shaken still.
She then closed the current portal. As I readied the chest one more time, Leena opened her portal about ten feet above the deck of that ship. She caused the portal to open horizontally so that whatever came out would drop down upon the deck. Once open, I contorted my muscles pushing power into my magic cords snapping them into motion. The ropes holding fast the the edges of the chest, threw the awkward object through the window. Once clear of the portal, Leena clapped her outstretch hands collapsing the portal just as the chest began to surge with cracks of light, and the sigils were glowing red hot.
Leena opened the portal just outside the Golden Tower facing north. Even without a farseer tube the flames and smoke rising from the ships could be seen. Satisfied with our victory over the black sailed ships, we turned our focus towards Drodd.
“I feel like Drodd is my destiny.” Chen boasted. “I have a wiley urge that the Dragon Gods have called me forth to destroy him.”
“I do not doubt your enthusiasm and zeal, my friend,” I said, still somewhat unsure of our friendship and his temperment, as all of this seemed quite uncharacteristic of the Doctor. “But I fear, all that means nothing if we are unable to find Drodd.”
“Tadje is right, Master Chen,” Leena added. “We are not even sure if Drodd ever was among these legions.”
“No, he is here!” Demanded Chen. “I can feel it. Kym-Nak-Mar would not place me here at this time, if Drodd were not here. I am telling you. It is my destiny to place these hands around his throat.”
“Is that why you were prancing around so carelessly on the demon ships?” I asked somewhat distainfully.
“I was looking for Drodd!” Chen defended his actions.
“You almost got yourself killed!” I began to get heated.
“More than YOU would ever do, Taj!” He said my name with a haughtiness, like a noble speaking to a surf. “Unlike you, I was created in the image of Kym-Nak-Mar, born from greatness, destined for greatness. I see more clearly now. I shall pass through thoses Arches clothed in glory and light. I am done sitting back, while mortals do nothing to stop this great evil…”
“Nothing!” I cut him off. “If it weren’t for Leena and I, you’d be a fried kabob right now! You and all your secrets would be lost for all eternity.”
“I would have just teleported to safety…”
I was about to take Niveos and shove it where it would feel the least comfortable for the Doctor, giving him a chilly prostate examine.
“STOP THIS YOU TWO!” Leena stepped between us just before I did something I would regret. She spoke with a voice like an ancient demi-god, possibly aided by Savina, or maybe an ability from her changeling heritage. Both Chen and I were constrained to speak or move as we were somewhat struck with a feeling of awe or fear.
“This is NOT the time for arguments and bickering! The two of you are behaving like children.”
“But he started…” Chen and I spoke in unison, but were both silence in unison as well.
“ENOUGH!” Leena threatened. “Do you hear yourselves? But he started it? What matters is that our home, our families, our lives are in jeopardy right now by a manical madman who cares very little, as I do, WHO STARTED THIS ARGUMENT!”
I had never see Lady Leena this angry before. It was eye now blinking my dry eyes from the scorch of her wrath. I wished at that moment that I had my own astral realm to retreat to. I noticed that the perfect sunny day in her realm had suddenly become overcast with gray angry clouds. Remembering that I was a guest in her omnipotent realm by her request, I quickly switched tactics.
“Leena you’re right. Chen, I am sorry. I was out of line. Please forgive me.”
‘’It is I that should apologize, Master Tadje. Ever since Fikir Tayfa I have not felt right. I do not know why, but lately I have been given to much rage. I felt that this rage would be cured if I were to confront Drodd. My fight with the Baal-rogs was testament to this treatment.’’
“Good, boys. Now—how do we find Drodd.” Leena asked, more at ease.
“As funny as this may sound,” proposed Chen, “if we were to send a pidgeon to ‘Drodd on Baalgor Island’, it would fly to his destination.”
“Right!” I interjected. “I could tie a magic tracking string to it, too. This way I could know exactly where it went, and where it delivered its message. But what message do we send? We need to still perserve the element of surprise.”
“We send, ‘All is lost! Troops are falling back!’” Chen answered.
“Brilliant, my friend!” I praised. “Not only do we keep the surprise, but we put him off guard.”
“Now see? Was that too hard?” Leena chided motherly-like. “Hugs?”
“How ’bout I cast the Pidgeon spell instead?” Chen jested.
“When its ready place this in its beak.” I handed a string I pulled from my pocket. It looked like an ordinary string. But, it had been imbued with powerful magic that was strong enough to permeate even through interdimensions. “Rhavamanthys help me in designing this spell. It should do the trick.”
“You know Rhavamanthys?” Chen blurted. Leena looked somewhat puzzled by this question as she was unaware of Chen’s and my conversation aboard the Chaaya’s Quest above the broken crystal bridges of Rash’ha Kerastal. Chen quickly corrected himself.
“Er, you know Rhavamanthys had some curious items that could have help us at this time. One he called a ‘Boom-Cannon’. He said he won it off of a silver-clad knight in another world. He said it could fire a blast so powerful it could level a small mountain.”
“Uh, yeah,” I played along, “that could really help us take down Drodd.”
Feeling a bit uneasy fro Leena’s gaze, Chen took the string and placed it into the beak of the magic pidgeon he had just created. The pidgeon circled up around the Golden Tower then descended somewhere near the Great Dome, the entrance to the citadel housing the Obelisk. It didn’t take a magic string to know where Drodd was. We ran back through Leena’s portal so she could reroute us inside.
Just before Leena opened the next portal, I threw her one of the talismans I had created near the nexus of the Rishi’s Well outside of Galilee.
“This will turn you invisible…I think. I might have mixed them up. I do have fourty-seven of them.” I take one myself.
Leena accepts my gift, then turns to the crystal pillars again to open the portal to take us to the Hall of the Justicar. Once again she rips open the air creating a window-door into the real world. Leena and I both slip through the portal.
To our astonishment we are met in the middle of a battle. Ayden Hammerdon was dueling Gazhur Drodd. But, when we had entered the scene we witness Drodd pierce Ayden’s mystic shield touching the tip of his heinous blade to Ayden’s flesh just as Ayden caused Drodd’s right eye to explode in its very socket. From Ayden’s chest we witnessed an ethereal blue wisp be pulled forth and absorbed into Drodd’s blade! I had witnessed this same event upon the death of Rem the Arudanni archer. Ayden had lost his soul!
I stood agape, as if all was lost. Then from nowhere Graegga the dwarfess darted out of the shadows hitting Drodd square in the back. Her hit produced enough force to send Drodd reeling forward over Ayden’s now limp body. Drodd sent off balance landed on the side of the Obelisk.
Now was my time to act. Knowing time was limited and that Drodd had to remain in contact with the Obelisk long enough for the Justicar to perform the ritual, thus sending Drodd’s soul inside the runic monument, I commanded my enchanted ropes to fly across the great hall. They did so as quick as I could move my own hands. Then with another command they wrapped around the black pyramid capped obelisk binding Drodd in a checkmate. For assured measures I cast a spell to harden the ropes to something stronger than steel.
Voice all round me from different people all yelled, “NOW Justicar!” The Daedal Justicar dove at the Obelisk placing his right hand at the base. He shout the words:
‘’ Hama tērā saba kṣamā hāthō mē isa ātmā, Ghazur Drodd, sarāhanā karatā hū. Usakī ātmā tērā ām̐khō kē pakṣa mē pāyā gayā hai ki jaba taka vaha raha sakatī hai.’’ (being loosely interpretted: _ We commend this soul, Ghazur Drodd, into thy all forgiving hands. May he remain until his soul has found favor in thine eyes._)
The runes engraved on the monument suddenly glowed a course white. Light also suddenly burst from Drodd’s left eye, then from his mouth, the ears. Soon Drodd’s entire body was emitting a course white light. The figure of his body then slow became absorbed into the onyx stone.
His last words before being consumed entirely into the Obelisk were: “You fools! Do you think this will destroy me? Noooooooo!” Then he was gone. The cords binding him fell to the base of the monument. The great hall was silent. We had won. Drodd was no more.
Then the realization of Ayden’s sacrifice hit us. It hit me hard, sort of like Rhavamanthys’ Boom-Cannon. While everyone ran to his lifeless body, Chen being one of them to see if he could do his special light thing he jad done to Bumi once upon a time, I on the other hand just stood there looking in disbelief from across the room. Swirls of emotion filled my head. We had won, so why did I not feel victorious? If I hadn’t feuded with Chen, we might have arrived sooner to save Ayden.
It was in that moment of self-pity that Chen came over to me, he was back to his yin-lord form.
“Taj, I know what you are think.” Chen said softly. “But it wasn’t your fault. This was Drodd. And we got him. We got him.”
I tried to hold on to my anger, but I couldn’t. The tears suddenly came. I couldn’t believe I was actually crying. I suddenly couldn’t breath right either. And to top it off, I couldn’t even speak to tell Chen that I am way to manly to cry. Chen took my head awkwardly in a hug against his shoulder.
“Its okay bruh, its okay.” Chen reassured again. I shuddered uncontrollably.
After an awkward minute or so, I finally gained control of my crying. I straightened myself. And not looking Chen in the eye, I indirectly thanked him, then wiped my wet nose on my sleeve.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Chen broke the awkward silence. “Before this battle Ayden had given this to me. I find it fitting to forward this gift to you.” He took from a satchel a large unsymmetrical globe of a fiery red and orange. The colors seemed to swirl inside the globe as if they were alive. In fact, as Chen held it out to me, the colors began swirling in a pulsing fashion synchronious with my own heart beat. I recognized the stone immediately as the gift given to Ayden by Drakkos the Ambassador and Primarch of Yin-Drakkos. But I was naïve as to what it was.
“What is it?” I asked in amazment.
“This is a fire opal.” Chen replied non-chalantly.
“What does it do?” I asked intrepidly.
“Have you ever had the desire to be something greater?”
“Is this a joke? Of course! I have always felt that I could never reach my full potential. I know this is stupid but I have always feared that my life would end before I could learn all that I was meant to learn. My father Khinsed suffered from this same wiley desire. He entered dark paths to attain longer life, for which he now is tryi g to atone for. I promised myself I would not repeat those same mistakes. So yes, I have wanted to become something greater. Is this what this is? Does it grant me greater power as a wizard?”
“Yes and no. I feel that your questions would best be answered by the gifter of the gift.”
“Yes, didn’t he promise a dinner appointment once we had left Baalgor?”
“How do you remember that? I thought you forgot everything?”
“Well, let’s just say that things are starting to come back. So how does that dinner sound to you?”