The Box (Part XVII)

The hobbit watched silently as the events unfolded before him. He was hidden, but only from the sorcerer.  He would be a fool to think that the great red knew not of his presence.

He blinked slowly, wearily, the eyelids over his sunken eye socket smacking wetly together, reminding him that there was very little time before this scene was finished playing out.  Even though the wyrm stalked the other with deadly focus, he shuddered when it he saw one mountainous eye mark his position.  Though its gaze only fell on him briefly, it promised of a dark eternity soon to be bestowed unto him.

He paid one more glance to the sorcerer and smiled when the other noticed for the first time that the elf’s blade was missing.  If only he could witness the expression on the other’s face, perhaps he would be satisfied for the loss that he placed upon him and Elladuer!

Joeshan shifted his weight, quickly checking the bindings that held the sword against his back, and began to make his way to the ground.  The dragon was enraged, its attention was solely on the spellcaster it was now preparing for attack, but it had made one mistake. In passing him over, it had secured its own place in the afterlife.

His bare feet padded softly across the cavern floor.  He ran across a king’s treasure, making a sound no greater than a whisper.  Not a single coin shifted beneath his gift of grace.  No treasure was disturbed.  He ran doubled over, that he may be closer to the ground.  As a ‘finder’ of things unique, he had learned that the larger folk overlooked him because of his short stature.  More difficult to see him, still, when he hugged the ground as he was now!

Occasionally, one of his deft hands would pluck a gem from the horde around him.  Some were cut while others were untouched by a jeweler’s skilled hand, and before he was halfway to his goal, he carried a king’s ransom in one pouch alone!

There were more coins in this one cavern than water in his fishing hole back home!  They were beautiful.  Gold, silver, copper and even platinum coins were heaped into careless mountains.  He could spend the next ten years filling his magical pouches and not even empty a quarter of the beast’s lair!

“By the gods…”

The sorcerer’s words startled him from his thoughts as they continued to echo through the dragon’s domain.  They were fading, and it wouldn’t be long before they were gone altogether, but they reminded him of the one thing he was here for.

It waited silently, less than a giant’s stone throw away, watching for the one who would free it from its confinement.

The Eye of Necrodemus.

There were legends around the one whom the eye once belonged to.  Many people still huddled in fear beneath the darkness of night, hidden behind spells of protection and countless traps designed to keep intruders at bay.

So many lifetimes had passed since the Lich God had been defeated, but the land also slow to recover.  In the places where no man or beast still dared to tread were the abandoned camps of his armies, still protected by the undead he had resurrected all those years ago.

The Eye was the last relic of a time when gods walked amongst men.  It was the only piece of the Lich to have survived its defeat and it possessed enough of the creature’s power to embolden one, no matter what path they walked.

His mind churned as he drew closer to the box.  It sought him, much as he did it, desperately calling for his attention.  He could feel the Eye focused on him, using every bit of its magical will to pull to where it lay.

“No,” he grumbled angrily.  “You.  Won’t.  Have.  ME!”

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The Box (Part XVI)

The words rolled off of his tongue before he was able to stop them, fleeing as quickly as they were born, only to be reflected back unto him by the stone on the opposite end of the large cavern.  Even as they bounced off of the wall behind him and returned in the direction his mouth had originally flung them, was great wyrm beginning to stir.

It was the mountain of gold within which the dragon lay, nestled beneath a weight so massive that were it any other creature, it would have been crushed.  Coins, gems and magical treasures endlessly poured away from the beast, a sight both beautiful and terrible to behold.

“…the gods…the gods…the gods…done?…done…done?”

Even over the cacophony of noise, his words continued to reach his ears.  A seed of doubt took root in his very soul as he glimpsed the first slash of red through the riches before him and he began to tremble in fear.  Even from this distance, the creature’s size was intimidating!

But more horrifying than the brief peek at its crimson scales was the sheer presence of the monster.  Here was a creature that had conquered cities.  Armies had fallen before its might and he dared to face it alone?

Two great horns began to cut their way from beneath the fortune.  They were scorched near the tips, tempered from years of bathing in the drake’s furnace.  His vision blurred, and he nearly swooned with fear as the eyes of the dragon set their calculating gaze upon him.

“THERE ARE NO GODS HERE, LITTLE MAN.  ONLY MALIFGORRANAKA.”

The last of the world’s most expensive blanket finally fell free from the wyrm as it rose to it’s full height.  Here was a beast which had survived the world’s finest warriors.  It had outsmarted the land’s most reviled villians, and now he stood before it feeling every bit as an ant would against him.  Indeed, this creature had only to raise one massive foreleg and with the tiniest flick of one claw, it could send him rocketing into oblivion.

“IT’S BEEN LONG SINCE I HAVE FEASTED UPON THE FLESH OF MAN.  TODAY I SHALL NOURISH MY OLD BODY WITH YOURS.  TONIGHT, I WILL SUCK THE MARROW FROM YOUR BONES.”

The words still held enough power that they very nearly shook him apart!  His mind screamed in protest.  His nerves were broken and he wanted nothing more to do with this foolish quest.  Before this crimson god, he had lost all will to continue.  His had forgotten all that he had come prepared with and the sword was an unfamiliar burden that pulled his hand down.

“…by the gods…”

The sword!

As if awakening from a dream, he blinked his eyes and looked down to the hand which held the…

It was gone?

“It’s gone,” he asked incredulously.  But that’s impossible!  He had only been holding it just moments ago!

“…what have I done…”

His words taunted him, reminding him of the imminent doom that was now upon him. The Great Flame yawned and stretched it’s wings as it began moving forward.  It moved from side to side, much like a cat, as it stalked him.  There was now only a few moments left for him to act.

“Damn,” he muttered softly.  Without the sword, his magic didn’t stand a chance of defeating the beast.  At best, he would only anger it even further!  And with the blood he had already spilled this day, there was only a little left to use before he became too weak to escape, should the opportunity even present itself.

“It appears I have made a grievous error,” he admitted softly.  As he began to prepare one of his most powerful spells, he watched as the dragon god closed the final dozen yards between them.  Regardless of what happened next, he knew that it would soon be over.

The Box (Part XV)

The tunnels began to widen as he drew ever closer to the lair of the beast.  The darkness fled before a soft golden glow which spread into the tunnels as if to reach for the one approaching. The breath of the dragon stank of rotten flesh and grew unbearably hot as he closed the distance between himself and its lair.

All of these things he noticed with only a passing interest.  His mind had turned within itself as he reviewed what magic he had prepared to use.  His arm shook beneath the weight of the elf’s sword and he absently shifted it from one hand to the other as he pressed on.

He knew full well the power of the creature he was about to face. After claiming his master’s tower for his own, he’d spent many hours pouring himself into the research necessary for such a confrontation.  Many books had succumbed to him their knowledge.  Through trial and error, he’d summoned different creatures from various planes of existence, including (but not limited to) demons.  It had taken many years off of his life to do so, but he’d finally coerced the answers he needed.

The ancient dragon was looked upon as a god amongst other creatures.  It had lived for many millenia, consuming man and magic alike, gaining as much knowledge as it had in power, over those beneath it.  Malifgorranaka had become a name that was not only feared by every other species, but of its own as well!

There was very little to be found in the books.  Most were stories of the creature’s deeds, of how it had leveled entire nations as it sought to placate its hunger.  They were of heroes who stood before it, giving their lives so that others might live.  Or they were of villains who sought it out for their own power, never to be heard from again.

One thing remained consistent in these stories; Malifgorranaka’s hunger.  It was written to be a beast even greater than the monster itself.  For nearly a thousand years, it decimated entire landscapes in order to quell the ache in its midsection.

But it was not just a hunger for flesh.  It was the hunger for knowledge, for power, that drove it as well.  It was said that as the creature consumed its enemies, it absorbed its knowledge as well.

It’s not known if The Great Flame retained said knowledge, only that the next time it was seen, it used whatever magic or power it had taken from its previous victim.

Oramiir again switched the blade from one hand to the other as his mind replayed the things he had learned.  The books had been easy enough, his former master had done all of the work for him.

The summonings were slightly more difficult.

He didn’t spend enough time creating the protection glyphs around the circle and as a result, it was a Pit Fiend which nearly killed him.  The cambion, a half fiend/half human, had found the weakest point of the circle and had broken it with-in seconds of the summoning.  It not for the contingency spell hidden in his former master’s cloak, which he had been wearing at the time, he would have been consumed by the creature’s magic.

The contingency, however, was a defense against other worldly creatures, and when it sent its flames against him, reacted with a spell designed to paralyze such beings.

He had tortured the creature for the entire duration of the spell, by which time he’d also prepared the banishing ritual needed to send it back to its plane.  From the foul demon he’d learned of the dragon’s weakness against elfin steel.

“STEP FORTH INTO THE LAIR OF MALIFGORRANAKA AND BEAR WITNESS TO THE END.”

The voice of the dragon thundered off of the walls, bombarding him with its fury and pulling him back to the present.  His arm faltered as the blade suddenly became too heavy for him to bear, and its tip lowered to the ground with a dull metallic clank.

The tunnel had come to an end and before him was the lair of the ancient red he had come to slay.  Whilst lost in his thoughts, it had widened until it was nearly twenty paces across, with the ceiling being nearly as high.  The edges of the wall rounded smoothly at the tunnel’s end, seamlessly becoming a part of the cavern beyond.

The lair was massive.

It spread out further than he could see and for a brief moment, he thought he had returned to the surface, albeit, at night.  The floor was littered with gold, gems and treasures, and there was not a single bit of stone visible beneath all the riches.

While the treasure was stacked into various piles around the cavern, none were so large as the mountain on the farthest end. The gold stretched along the wall, where it was piled higher even his former master’s tower!

“By the gods,” he muttered in awe.  “What have I done?”