The Box (Part XX)

From the shadows nearby, another set of eyes watched as the remains of the box crumbled through the hobbit’s fingers.  Shards of the enchanted material clattered across the melted gold at his feet, while a clear viscous liquid oozed down from where the container had once been.  Resting over the crack where his hands met was the eye of the Lich God, Necrodemus.

It was as one would expect an eye to be, a soft white orb with a long nerve trailing behind it.  There was no coloring around the pupil.  In fact, the pupil itself was narrowed very much like that of a venomous snake!

The cavern rumbled from the battle taking place on the opposite side, where the great red Wyrm and Sorcerer continued to battle the other’s wills.  Even as the eye was freed from its prison, one of the two combatants was nearing the end of its life.

The watcher gasped as the eye began to levitate from the hands of the diminutive figure before him, so surprised was he that it still possessed any magic to do so.  The nerve straightened like an arrow as the orb turned to face away from the hobbit, aiming for the empty ocular cavity.

What came next happened in a matter of seconds.  The eye slammed into the skull of the hobbit, who in turn began to scream as his very soul became forever corrupted by the power of the long dead deity.  His small head slammed backward, projecting the last display of pain and suffering he would ever feel unto the cold stone ceiling above.

Even as the little man shrieked, was he beginning to levitate slowly into the air.  His clothes began to rot away from his skin, falling away in patches that in turn fell apart like ash when they hit the stone below.  As the observer continued to watch, horrified, the pale skin of the hobbit became emaciated, withering inward until he was no longer recognizable as a male or female creature.

The sound of its screams became something inhuman, no longer reflecting anything even remotely like pain, but more akin to pure rage.  A black oily smoke formed beneath its feet, swirling lazily around the mummified hobbit until it was covered with a robe born from the darkest pits of hell.  The smoke rippled over the creature’s form, gradually smoothing into a material that to look at for too long was to become lost in its starless void.

It was then that the observer realized that the shrieking had ceased.  He looked upward, seeking the facial features of the reconstituted Lich and was shocked to see that it was staring down at him.

“Ahh,” it sighed with gusto.  “You have no idea how long I have waited for this moment.”

The Lich had been facing the battle when it began to rise from the ground so only its head was turned toward him.  The eye that was once confined to a magical prison focused on him while the other darted about madly in its socket.  To the observer, it seemed that all which was left of Joeshan was imprisoned inside.

“It’s been too long since last we met, drow.  I have been thinking about you for an eternity!”

The observer, having been identified by the evil creature before him, stepped into light reflected from the battle between man and dragon.  His features were elfin, but his skin bore the color most commonly attributed to his people.  He wore clothing from the surface, bright and vibrant forest colors that complemented the color of his eyes. A bandolier was slung from his left shoulder to his right hip, from which hung a small hand crossbow and several bolts.  Two longswords were sheathed from his waist, on a belt from which several small pouches were also fastened.  The pommel of one was encrusted with a black diamond, while the other a deep magenta.

“Indeed,” the drow answered softly.  “As have I.”  He hooked his thumbs into his belt and tilted his right knee slightly outward, striking a neutral pose as he contemplated what to do next.

 

Thus ends the story of the adventurers three.  Each came searching for The Box with motives hidden from the other, and it was their hidden agendas that brought them down.  We have reached the end of one story, but we find ourselves at the beginning of another.  

Who will prevail in the battle between dragon and man?  Who is this mysterious drow and what is his relationship with the Lich God?  And, with Joeshan seemingly imprisoned in his remaining eye, is there a chance that he will ever be rescued?  

These are all good questions, but I’m afraid that’s an entirely different story.

~ END ~

 

Advertisements

The Box (Part XIX)

Joeshan’s eye narrowed and he grinned mercilessly when the dragon countered the sorcerer’s magic.  He could only imagine the helplessness that the man was feeling and he prayed it was ten times the horror as when he had lost his other eye.  Malifgorranaka possessed about it an aura of power that he could feel even from this distance.

It terrified him beyond words.  His body shook with fear and a light perspiration had broke upon his skin.  It was as if the wrym had placed one of its mighty claws upon him, pinning him where he lay.

From across the cavern, the Great Flame had launched an attack of its own.  Its spine arched, much like that of an angry cat, and there came the sound of a large intake of breath being taken.  It was drawing upon the instinct of its race to attack with the strongest weapon in its arsenal, the fiery breath of the Red, a flame so hot that it could melt through the most stout of magical protections.

His hair lifted from his scalp as it was pulled toward the head of the dragon.  The clothing on his skin began to flap lightly against his skin, rippling as if he where enveloped by the fierce winds of the Great Northern Pass.  Worse still was the feeling that the air around him was growing thin, making it hard for him to breath.

There was no need for him to continue watching the battle unfold.  He knew enough of the stories to know what was going to happen next.  Even so, it took a tremendous amount of will for him to turn his attention back to the box.

It sat atop a small pedestal, an evil looking piece of stone decorated with countless screaming faces.  Each image depicted a different state of agony so lifelike that for a brief moment he wondered if the sculptor had used a living model for each likeness.  The box itself was just as the stories had told.

There was no lock.  Each side of the box was a transparent crystal, surrounded by thin platinum bars that locked into each adjacent side.  Behind the crystal, the interior of the box was filled with a clear viscous gel, floating inside of which and regarding him without emotion, was the Eye of Necrodemus.

Just as the intake of the dragon’s attack pulled the air away from him, the eye’s pupil drew him in.  He could feel his mind slipping, not so much moving to the side as it was being obliterated.  The longer he stared into the pupil of the artifact, the less of him there remained.  His hands clawed at the melted gold beneath him, pulling on the fused gems and treasures as if he were scaling the world’s most horizontal wall, quickly closing the distance between himself and the pedestal.

There was no fanfare.  No angelic chorus filled the air as his hand lifted on its own accord and touched the small enchanted prison.  There was only silence, because at that exact moment the dragon’s boilers were full.  As the dragon god expelled its mighty attack upon sorcerer, the shell of Joeshan mindlessly lifted the box and crushed it between his small hobbit hands.

 

The Box (Part XVIII)

His thoughts grew calm as the dragon reared itself up before him. It’s cunning eyes regarded him beneath the scaled ridges of its brow-line.  Even as the dragon was deciding how it would best enjoy the morsel before it, he was mentally summoning all of his energy for a preemptive strike.

This creature was an ancient Red and he could feel the power emanating from its core.  It was unlike anything he could have ever dreamed of, which terrified and excited him at the same time. If only he could convince it to spare him!  If only it would listen!

His hands began a subtle dance at his sides as they warmed up the spell his mouth and veins would soon unleash.

The spell was something he had created especially for this moment.  Much like the Ward vs. Red Dragon’s breath, it was something that would give him enough of an edge as to hopefully gain the upper hand.

Malifgorranaka spread its wings outward in such a way that if it were a man, he would think that it were preparing to hug him.  His entire field of vision became a sea of red as the dragon god surrounded him with its body, and the as he began the first incantations to the spell, it lowered its head before him.

His eyes widened as he was suddenly face to face with teeth that were nearly as long as he was tall.  The wyrm’s breath stank of decomposing flesh, but even when he noticed the fleshy remnants of an arm lodged between two of the ivory spears he did not falter.

“MALTH’ORN, AUK MALTH’UN!”

Even as he sliced the veins in his right arm, thus releasing the last component of the spell, was the dragon countering with magic of its own.  He watched helplessly as his five reddish-green arrows were snuffed back out of existence.

From across the cavern, another set of eyes watched as the battle between sorcerer and dragon unfolded.