The Box (Part II)

The flames sucked greedily on the end of the torch, quickly consuming what precious little fuel available to them.  As the companions prepared for the battle that lay ahead, the flames crackled and sizzled, one element symbolically overpowering the other.
 
Elladuer sat upon a large stone, his sword laying across his legs.  In one hand he held a small bottle, inside of which is a glowing light blue substance.  Reverently, he removed the stopper and tipped a little of the liquid onto the small cloth in his other hand.  Softly, as to not disturb the spell casting of the sorcerer, he begins to apply the glowing substance to the blade of his longsword.  
 
“What is that you’re putting on there,” Joeshan asks curiously.  Unbeknownst to the warrior, his halfling companion had been raptly watching his every action.
 
“It’s an oil that has been harvested from a frozen merman.  It’s said that the oil is so cold that it will inflict twice as much pain to creatures born of fire.” 
 
He looks thoughtfully at the blade, which has now taken on the hue from the oil.
 
“Elladuer?”
 
“Yes my friend?”
 
“I’m more than content with the promise of riches that we’ll gain in the spoils, the gods know that I shall never want again, but I have to know something…”
 
There was a pregnant pause while Joeshan looked to the hourglass, and during this time more oil was massaged into the blade of the longsword.  At the edge of the makeshift camp, Oramiir chanted softly, his fingers tracing glowing sigils into the air.
 
“Why is this box so important to your King’s campaign?  Isn’t it supposed to be an evil artifact?”
 
As Elladuer wrestled with the answer to his question, Oramiir’s voice rose to uncomfortably loud levels.  His hands deftly created a small squadron of glowing sigils, all of which hovered in the air between the companions.  Their attention raptly enthralled for the moment, they watched as he grabbed onto each arcane writing and flung them to various positions around the camp.  They watched in wonder, frozen by the spectacle before them, as the sorcerer then drew a small blade from his belt and, before either of them could protest, sliced a large groove into his palm.  The sigils flared with power as he flung droplets of his blood in their direction, shouting a command to each.  With each shout, the sigil would glow blindingly for several seconds before vanishing.  
 
At the end of his ritual, a crimson dome appears around them, momentarily obstructing the view of anything outside of their small camp, and then vanishes.
 
“That should help protect us, as long as you stay within the boundaries of the spell,” Oramiir quietly iterated.  “It should last the entire battle, so mind where you are.  I’ve centered the spell on all three of us…”
 
“You mean, we each have this protection,” Joeshan asked timidly.
 
“Yes, it’s weaker individually, so mind where you are.  When we are together, the wyrm’s magic should only have minor affects on us.”
 
As the sorcerer began putting his components and spellbook away, Elladuer also finished his preparations.
 
“You wanted to know about the box, little one?”  
 
The question forgotten, Joeshan found himself startled when Oramiir spoke.
 
“Y-yes, I guess I do.  I mean, I’ve always heard about the box.  The stories were told countless times to my brothers and I as we were growing up and it just doesn’t seem like it could be real.”
 
Oramiir looked thoughtfully at the hourglass, now just a little over half full…or half empty, depending on how one was looking at it.  In this case, and with what lay ahead, the latter seemed to be more appropriate, he surmised.
 
“Several hundred years ago the plains beyond the Northern Pass ran red with the blood of the innocent.  It was a dark time; a time when the gods had abandoned their peoples.  For every creature of good, there were six of ‘his’.”
 
“You mean…?”
 
“Yes, the Lich Necrodemus.”  At the mention of the foul name, Elladuer quickly makes a gesture to ward against evil and utters a soft prayer, while at the same time, a shiver travels down Joeshan’s spine.
 
“It was a time when hope was something one dreamed about and faith had to be created, rather than maintained.  There were few heroes left during that time and it was their studious dedication that brought an army against him.  However, it was at a price.  Of the thousands whom stood in battle, only dozens walked away.”
 
“That’s horrible…  Why so few?  How could there be so much devastation?”
 
This time it was Elladuer who answered the question.
 
“What too few know these days, is that the Lich had ascended into godhood.  In the absence of the other gods, whom some say he had slain, he took claim of their pantheon and their immortality.  By the time the war had begun, there was only one way to defeat him.  Two brave heroes, a Dwarf and a Drow warrior, stood before him with a secret of their own.  You see…they had faced him in the three wars that proceeded this final apocalyptic one.  They knew his secrets.  They had already felt the sting of his magic and they held the key to defeating him.”
 
“But how to kill a god,” Oramiir mused as a light smile curved the sides of his mouth upward.
 
“Ah, but that’s another story as well.  The Drow had become a collector of sorts.  Over the course of his journeys, it is said that some of the old gods had spoken to him and given him a most holy duty.  Whether or not that is true is not for any of us to say, but what IS certain is that he, with the aid of some of the most powerful wizards of that time, created a magical building to house the things that he collected.  A museum, if you will.  In it were some of the most evil devices, the most powerful magical items and the most powerful of artifacts, all locked away inside of this safehouse which existed in several planes at once.”
 
“But how does that explain…”
 
Oramiir chuckled softly, sadly, and when Elladuer didn’t answer, he offered the final conclusion.
 
“The only way to kill a god is to remove from it its immortality.  To do that…”
 
“To do that, you have to destroy a very powerful artifact of opposite alignment to the god in question,” Elladuer concluded.
 
“I know not which one it would have been, but history tells us of what was left from the resulting explosion.  While the heroes and the Lich had survived the blast, those others who were closest to it were either wiped from existence or horribly changed forever into something unlike anything anyone has ever seen.”
 
“And the box?  Where does that come in?”
 
Elladuer sighs softly as he slides his sword into its scabbard.
 
“From the battle that ensued between the two remaining forces.  Both sides traded blows, each more devastating then the last, and they remained locked in battle for days.  Several of the heroes fell, but so too did the generals of the Lich God.  In the end, only a handful of heroes remained and it was only by destroying the fetter of the Lich that they were able to win.  Their enemy turned instantly to dust, collapsing into a pile at their feet with only the skull remaining.  In the skull, one eyeball somehow remained intact and impossibly alive, turning madly about as if searching for a path of escape.”
 
Joeshan gasped in horror and trembled at the thought, looking over to the sorcerer for confirmation.  The latter only nodded as he finished wrapping his hand with a bandage.
 
“You mean it was still alive?!”
 
“Yes, and no.  His soul had forever been released from our plane, that much is true.  However, enough of his essence and malignant force remained in that one eye to effectively and forever corrupt those who touched it, as well as give the bearer the powers of the eye’s former master.  Much deliberation would come of what to do with this eye; the Dwarf wanted to crush it beneath his boot but the Drow insisted that the eye go into his Museum for safekeeping.  They argued for months over what to do with it until finally the Dwarf had had enough and forever parted ways with his friend.”

Oramiir softly cleared his throat, signalling their attention as Elladuer paused.
 
“We must prepare now, the sands have nearly drained.  When they all reach the bottom, the final spell will be in place!”
 
The companions nodded and each began gathering their belongings together.
 
“So then, what did the Drow do?”
 
“History hides most of what happens next, only that it was nearly a century later before the he would again be seen.  It is written that a shrouded figure would appear before a small group of dwarven craftsmen, asking for an impossible task.  He had wanted a box that could be seen into, but not ‘out of’, and it was only to be big enough to contain a small rock.  Naturally, the dwarves thought he was mad and were quick to turn him away, but it was the offer that he made which quickly changed their minds.  Mad or not, when he laid before them a magical pouch containing a dragon’s treasure, they took to their work very seriously.”
 
“Wait…  Are you saying…”
 
“Yes Joeshan, we have come here today because this is the resting place of the eye of the Lich God, Necrodemus, and Malifgorranaka the Great Flame is its eternal guardian.”
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