The Mage Rises Part 1 . Part 1 . The dungeons are dark and damp. The pungent stench of filth assaults the senses of anyone unlucky enough to be trapped in this ghastly purgatory. Rusty chains hang from the walls, filthy beds of hay line the floors, and monstrous torture devices fill the crevices of the infamous Imperial prison of Preslaff. There are very few windows here; barred up chasms in the great blackness that envelops everything, barely big enough to allow the hapless captives a glimpse of blue sky. Rats and mice scurry across the dark floor, looking for scraps of food as well as the remains of long-forgotten prisoners.
The heavy walls of the dungeon are thick and effectively block out all commotion emanating from the Imperial city. Thus, from within the bowels of the prison it is impossible to tell that the whole city burns above, that hordes of invaders now pillage the royal palace with savage screams, and that somewhere overhead a great dragon roars and soars above the clouds. Suddenly a bright beam of light tears through the darkness of the dungeon, and the contours of men walking in become apparent. Four figures silhouette themselves against the daylight outside. As they cross the threshold of a cell, the door is shut and the pitch blackness once again returns to the small room. A torch is lit, which manages to pry the gloom away from the small group; banishing it to the corners and crevices. The man who lit the torch is dressed in heavy armor, and between the plates of steel, alabaster-white skin is visible. Another man holds up a drawn sword and in a stern and icy tone utters; “This is it mage”. He is also heavily armored and pale. The two remaining figures halt their strides and turn to face the light. They are not clad in armor; in fact they are dressed in simple robes and tunics. One of the men is a senior; dressed in leather and wool, supporting his limping on a crooked walking stick. The other is young and dressed in a black robe embroidered with golden lace. He turns a sorrowful face towards his captors, locks of black hair falling sloppily all around his face. He is Kaloyan the Mage; the man whose ambitions and foolish fantasies are the root cause of the chaos outside.
Vampiri Guard (Igor): “We’re locking him up right here; like Lady Nya ordered. Tie him up Sergei.”
Other Vampiri Guard (Sergei): “Why don’t we just feast on these two, Igor? This pompous cockerel deserves a good lesson in humility!”
Igor: “Are you mad! Vlad said not to touch a hair on him! … There we are; the binds are tight.”
Sergei: “What about the old looking one? Vlad said nothing about him, did he?”
Igor: “I suppose not.”
There is a loud scream in the area outside the cell.
Sergei: “Damn it! Imperial Soldiers! Come on Igor, let’s get them! We’ll be back for you mage; you’re not going anywhere!”
The Vampiri leave the cell and bolt the door shut.
Roger: “Ser… are you all right?”
Kaloyan: “I’m fine Roger… I just can’t come to grips with Vlad’s treachery! I cannot believe how blind I have been!”
Roger: “The lust for power does make us unaware to its downfalls Ser…”
Kaloyan: “The woodland spirit… She told me this would happen… A long time ago it seems now. She said I was being used; I didn’t want to believe it. Roger, think of all the chaos I have caused! Think of how many dead lie in the streets because of me! By the Gods, I never imagined it could get so out of hand!”
Roger: “You are ambitious Ser, but you have a good heart! I have seen all the good you’re capable of! Don’t doubt yourself because of this bleedin’ demon!”
Kaloyan: “Good? What good is there Roger? I was willing to kill thousands so that I can rule this Kingdom! I told myself the killing was a necessary evil; a type of trial by fire before a glorious rebirth! I would have rebuilt this city; made its citizens heralds of an age of knowledge and wisdom that far outweighed the bloody means by which it was accomplished in the long run! I would have reshaped the world and thrust it kicking and screaming into the next great age of technology, magic and culture! Look at me now; chained up like some worthless street thug, awaiting a long drawn out death at the hands of the very demon that fooled me into freeing him! I may as well be dead Roger…”
Roger: “Ser don’t talk like that! I trust in you! I know you’ll get us out of this somehow!”
Kaloyan: “And then what Roger? We run? To where? There will be no more safe places to run! Leon will burn to the ground, demons will roam the flatlands and our little village of Pliska will be ashes within the month! … I’m afraid there’s no getting out of this one Roger…”
Roger: “I don’t believe it Ser! You’ve never been one to give up hope like this! You can’t start doing it now!”
Kaloyan “It’s not so simple Roger! The whole damned world is…” (The cell door once again opens and the two vampiri guards once again walk into the cell)
Igor: “Right, we’ve decided the old one isn’t important. So we’re gonna have a little feast. I hope you enjoy it mage!” (He laughs diabolically)
The vampiri approach Roger, removing their helmets, their fangs protruding.
Roger: “Get away! Don’t you come near me abominations! SER!! Help me!”
Kaloyan: “Don’t you dare touch him you filthy cockroaches!” (He throws himself forward and grabs Igor by the arm) “I’ll kill you!”
Igor: “Let go of me or you’ll regret it mage!”
Kaloyan: “You think you’re the only one with teeth huh?” (He sinks his teeth into Igor’s alabaster flesh with such vigor that he tears straight through the skin.)
Igor: “AAAARGHHH!!! Why, you little!”
Igor swings with his free arm wildly and the blow catches Kaloyan right in his forehead.
His head flies back and strikes the stone wall of the cell. As the world begins to spin around him, and the sounds of his surroundings become blurred, Kaloyan goes limp in his chains and falls to his knees. The vampiri crouch over him, their voices indistinguishable to the dazed mage; he opens his mouth to utter something, and his world slips into blackness.
Kaloyan feels a bright light illuminating his face. He attempts to raise his head towards it, but immediately regrets it as incredible pain shoots up his neck.
Kaloyan: “Arghh…Roger? Are…. are you all right Roger?”
Voice: “Kaloyan, take it slow. That was a nasty bump on the head you took.”
Voice: “It’s all right my boy. Take your time.”
Kaloyan opens his eyes and is blinded by vibrant white light. He looks down at his feet and sees a rocky surface below. Kaloyan’s breath is icy cold, and his skin glows with a golden hue. As his vision adjusts he looks up into a robed figure clad in all white, holding up a magnificent staff of gold, standing in front of a sublime landscape. A rocky path zooms through white clouds, winding up a steep mountain slope up the sheer cliffs of a mountain. On top of the rocky formation a magnificent temple with a golden roof reflects the sunlight. Kaloyan shifts his gaze to the figure that stands before him. A snow-white sage beard and eyebrows frame an old man’s gentle eyes which look down at Kaloyan’s hunched form. Kaloyan’s eyes widen with a sudden realization.
Kaloyan: “Master Edrin! Can this really be!? Am I dead?”
Edrin the Wise: “Oh you’re not dead my gentle Kaloyan. You cannot afford such luxuries at a time such as this. Rise and look at me my boy; we’ve got lots to discuss.”
Kaloyan: “Master Edrin… I… I don’t understand! Where are we?”
Edrin the Wise: “We are in the fields of the Void; the winding path to the afterlife, the place between life and death.”
Kaloyan: “Master Edrin, but you are dead! You have been for months! Is this just a vision? How can you transcend the realms of Erebus? Only demons can ever leave its domain!”
Edrin the Wise: “A mage who lives as long as I did finds ways to preserve his form, one way or another. I have brought you here because for the first time in your life you need help.”
Kaloyan: “Master, I... I am so sorry… All I ever wanted was to be a great mage like you! Living in your shadow was maddening to me! I... I drove myself to extremes to prove I could be even greater! I wanted to harness powers I could not control! I am so truly sorry master… I have failed in everything you taught me.”
Edrin the Wise: “Kaloyan, a true mage is not measured by the amount of power he yields, but by the difference he makes in his world, and the choices he makes when it seems that all is lost. If I have taught you anything, you will rise above your ambitions and your sense of self, and give all you can to end this threat.”
Kaloyan: “But... Master Edrin, I can’t fight this demon! He’s too strong… I am not capable enough! The powers I’ve handed him are beyond anything any force on this earth can match!”
Edrin the Wise: “Kaloyan, you are the only hope this world has. If you give up now, you would have failed me, the Kingdom, and yourself. You have a chance at making it all right; I want you to take it.”
Kaloyan: “But how do I even begin??? I’m trapped in a dungeon, the city burns, there is no one who will help me, and Vlad has an army of demons at his command! How can one man beat those kinds of odds?
Edrin the Wise: “You have a chance Kaloyan. More than you may think. But you cannot do this alone. You’ll need allies in your fight.”
Kaloyan: “What allies? The only friend I’ve got in this world is Roger; and he’s probably succumbed to some terrible fate as we speak! I have no one!”
Edrin the Wise: “You will know your allies when you see them Kaloyan. But you are right to say that no power of this earth can banish this demon. This is why I’ve summoned you here; I must tell you the following: Find the ancient Scroll of Demonology in the archives of the palace. It will answer all of your questions. Remember Kaloyan; we are judged by the actions we take when life is at its toughest! Make the right choice; make me proud my son.”
Edrin’s figure begins to fade away.
Kaloyan: “Master Edrin! Wait! I have to ask you so many things! Please! I… I need more guidance! Master!”
The white light becomes incredibly vibrant and blinds Kaloyan, who covers his eyes and once again falls into darkness.
The main gate of the throne room is flung open, causing bystanders to flee with shock.
The open door reveals a grand vista into a monumental room; statues, stained glass, mosaics and the shimmer of gold that are the cornerstones of the Emperor’s great hall. The room’s occupants are dressed in lavish garments, and stand around discussing their aristocratic affairs; the shocked expressions on their faces reveal that nobody in the room was made aware of events going on in the outer city. The armored Vampiri warriors and unsettling demonic spawn march into the room, headed by a vampire in armor who bears a blood-red cape and a golden sword. The vampire stands at the center of the room. A heavy silence falls over the previously noisy chamber.
Vlad: “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen! It appears you are not expecting us; we are the evening’s entertainment! We will be performing a crowd favorite today; “The demise of the Empire of Leon”! You all happen to have important roles in this performance; I hope you’ve read up on your parts!”
The nobles nervously look around and whisper, as they try to make sense of the invader’s presence.
Vlad: “No? It seems you haven’t. No worries; the parts are easy enough! All you have to do is die tragically! Hahahaha! Where is emperor Leopold? It seems he’s not in attendance at his own festivity?”
An Imperial Guardsmen rushes forward and points his pike at Vlad.
Imperial Guard: “That’s enough out of you! Lower your sword and tell your sidekicks to do the same!”
Vlad: “How amusing!”
Vlad raises his hand and red sparks fly out of his fingertips striking the guard in the chest. He collapses on the floor dead. The nobles gasp as one, as the severity of their situation dawns on them.
Vlad: “You see… I like making deals! I’m in love with the concept! Nothing is better than getting a poor fool to pledge his soul to you for some perishable, materialistic want. But I also believe in fair deals. In fact, I have a deal to offer all of you right now! All I want is for Emperor Leopold to step forward, out of wherever he is hiding! If he does, you all go free. If he does not, I kill each and every last one of you until only he is left standing in the room! Now… I realize it’s a big decision on his part so to expedite the process of decision making, I will have one person in this room killed for every minute that the Emperor does not step forward!”
The nobles gasp again, sheer panic in their eyes. The vampiri let out a chilling laugh which resonates throughout the chamber.
Noble: “Who do you think you are? You’re standing in front of the highest court in the land! Pack up you magic trickery and get away before you induce the wrath of all Leon noble houses on yourself.
Vlad: “Noble houses? Are these the houses you’re talking about?”
He walks over to a tinted window and throws it open. The orange glows of fires and the black smoke that rises over the city for the first time become apparent to the nobility.
The silence turns into an anguished panic; the nobles gasp, curse and retreat towards the corners of the room.
Vlad: “One minute is up! I don’t see the Emperor. Very well, come on sweetheart you first.”
He grabs a young woman by the wrist, as she cries out in panic. She tries to pull away but Vlad’s grip is unshakable. He drags her out to the center of the room and raises his sword.
Vlad: “Such a lovely creature. What a shame to let her go to waste.”
He begins to swing and the young woman cries out in anticipation. A figure darts out of the crowd, sword drawn, and intercepts Vlad’s blow inches above the maiden’s neck. The blades scrape together and sparks fly. Vlad faces the swordsman and lets go of the woman, who collapses in tears and is pulled back to safety by the crowd of nobles. The maiden’s savior is dressed in a regal garment, with long locks of chestnut brown hair and beard to match. He stands against Vlad with the pose and majesty of a god.
Vlad: “Ah… And who might you be?”
Prince Adrian: “I am Adrian, son of Leopold III and the future Emperor of Leon! I will not let you terrorize these people, demon!”
Vlad: “My, oh my! I didn’t realize I was in the presence of the Imperial heir! Such profound honor you show; saving a maiden in distress! Are you sure you’re your father’s son?”
Prince Adrian: “I will cut you and your dogs to pieces abomination! Dare not utter such insults at me!”
Vlad: “Wonderful performance prince, wonderful! I believed every word! It looks like we may put on a show yet!”
Prince Adrian: “What twisted game do you think this is!?”
Vlad: “Everything is a game Adrian! To demonstrate I’d like to invite your father to join us in playing it! You hear that Leopold? I’ve got your son now!”
Vlad grabs Prince Adrian by the shoulder with inhuman speed and twists the prince so quickly that he loses his balance and lands on the floor, his sword dropping by his side. The nobles shout out in unison for Vlad to stop, but the vampire brings his own sword up to the prince’s neck.
Vlad: “Last chance to save your son Leopold! Or does the dynasty end here?”
The nobles look back towards the far corner of the room where an old man stands in a doorway.. He is dressed in incredible clothes and trails a long regal cape.. The heavy crown that rests on his head blinds the gaze with metallic shimmer. He walks directly towards Vlad. The nobles part in front of him and bow with respect. Emperor Leopold III of Leon stands in front of Vlad the Necromancer.
Meanwhile in the wealthy districts of Preslaff, the city continues to burn. Countless bodies lie on the pavement. In the middle of this chaos a small group of Imperial guardsmen led by a man dressed in a senior officer’s uniform make a stand against a group of Orc invaders at a small bridge.
General Tervel: “Here they come again! Somebody take aim!”
Imperial Soldier: “Sir we’re out of powder and ammunition!”
Other Imperial Soldier: “Indeed; I’ve just fired my final shot! There’s no more ammunition around here!”
General Tervel: “Then prepare for hand-to-hand combat! Use the butt of the muskets; they’re reinforced with steel!”
The Orc invaders rush across the bridge, war axes raised, shouting a menacing, savage call. The Imperials meet them head on. The struggle is exhausting and frightening as the Orcs’ heavy muscular bodies beat and push against the metallic imperial armor of the defenders. Just as the force of Orcs becomes overwhelming a small group of adventurers arrive and join the struggle. After a break neck race through the city Asparuh and his party have finally reached General Tervel and his men.
Asparuh: “Hold on general! We’re here!”
General Tervel: “Sir Asparuh!? By the gods, where have you been?!”
Imperial Soldier: “Orc mage!!!”
Him: “This is ridiculous!” (He fires off a spell and Imperials and Orcs alike freeze in their place.) “I’m going to let you all go, so keep your weapons down, or I swear it the next person to raise an axe or musket will get vaporized! What sort of madness is this!? Orcs fighting men like in the times barbaric! You should all be fighting the mage and his Vampiri, not each other!”
General Tervel: “Mage? Vampiri? We’ve been fighting Orcs and goblins all day! Look around! Look how many people are dead in the ashes of your city Sir Asparuh! Surely you plan to exude merciless revenge against the horde!”
Asparuh: “General, this is a matter far more important than you can imagine! We need all of your help to reach the palace before Kaloyan the Mage manages to do something awful to the Emperor!”
Him: “Where is your warlord blood kin? What clan are you from?”
Orc berserker: “At the palace, shaman; we are from the Clan of Black Mountain; Warlord Gurack leads our force.”
Him: “Warlord Gurack? I know him well! How did they convince him to join this madness!?”
An Orc horn sounds across the river. The Orc berserkers look back in the direction of the sound, sheathe their weapons and depart.
Jason: “What’s going on?”
Him: “They’re being called off from battle. Something is happening; the Orcs are leaving! There’s the Orc horde right across! Come with me, stay close!”
Across the bridge a massive group of Orcs make their way out of the city center. They look battle-worn and tired. They carry chests of coin, paintings, statues and stolen armor; spoils of war from the Imperial palace. Leading this force is a big Orc dressed in black armor. As Asparuh’s party crosses the bridge, the Orc horde halts its movement and Warlord Gurack steps forward.
Warlord Gurack: “Step aside Imperial! We have no more bones to pick with you. The score is settled.”
Him: “Why you hot-headed good-for-nothing hyena! You don’t burn a city to the ground and then get a free pass to exit peacefully! What you’ve done here will hurt Orc reputations for cenuries; in fact you’ve opened a wound so deep it may never heal! You’ve given a madman passage into the palace at the cost of countless Orc lives! You should be lynched!”
Warlord Gurack: “Is that you “Him”? May the spirits forsake your soul! While you’ve been away hiding in the miserable crevices the Empire put you in I’ve been making plans to avenge our honor! We’ve knocked the Imperials down so hard today; they shall never again question Orc ferocity!”
Him: “And what have you gained? A few chests of gold? Some dead imperials’ possessions? What’s it all good for? Can you build a kingdom with it? You’re nothing more than plunderers!”
Asparuh: “Perhaps you should ease off a bit my friend; we don’t want to make this rather large group angry do we?”
Him: “Oh no; this is what I hate about Orcs like you Gurack! You put on the guise of a great leader but you’re nothing but a common bandit! Why have you left the fight? Sacked the palace so there’s nothing else to see here huh?”
Warlord Gurack: “Trust me if I felt we had the strength I would have gone further! I would have had the Emperor’s head but… We couldn’t go on. The goblins remained; those damned pests, but we could not! The Mage opened up a hell-gate!”
Asparuh: “No!!! Are you sure?”
Warlod Gurack: “Indeed; he has released demons on the palace and I want no part in it!”
Him: “By the gods, with demons at his command Kaloyan is unstoppable!”
Warlord Gurack: “You don’t need to worry about him, I don’t think. He’s likely lying dead somewhere.”
Him: “What? What makes you say that?”
Warlord Gurack: “Ah, you don’t know; the mage was betrayed! His horde turned on him; they now follow their “true leader” on their way to the Emperor.”
Asparuh: “True leader? What do you mean?!”
Warlord Gurack: “A demon by the name of Vlad was summoned through the gate; he’s back in command of the horde.”
Asparuh: “Vlad! Damn it! Damn it all! How many times must we kill that abomination! We must hurry! Vlad has every reason to want the emperor dead!”
Him: “And with a hell-gate at his disposal, who knows what he might summon and unleash on the world! Gurack, join us, help us take back the palace!”
Warlord Gurack: “Oh no! Far too many Orcs have died today for other people’s struggles! I’m going back to Black Mountain and starting myself a kingdom! When these demons come for us we’ll be ready! Orcs may be the last survivors of this great plague and I’ll be the one to lead them!”
Him: “Fine, then we have nothing further to discuss. Be on your way.”
As the crowd prepares to leave a disgruntled Imperial in chains jumps out from behind the ranks.
War Minister: “Sir Knight! Help me! These monsters are taking me with them!”
Warlord Gurack: “My personal trophy; I’ll make him a servant of the clan’s mead hall. He’ll live out the rest of his days in service to the Orcs. Fitting, the way I see it!”
Asparuh: “Warlord, in this great day of tragedy I think we should focus on mourning the lost and fighting for the ones that could still be saved. I implore you to release that man into my custody; he has failed in his duties and will be chewed out in a way that only our bureaucratic system may chew someone out. If you can’t find it in yourself to fight for us, then at least honor this one request..”
Warlord Gurack: “Oh, fine. Have him; he would have been an awful servant anyhow. Now, I’m taking my spoils and getting out of here.”
The Orcs leave, the war Minister is released.
War Minister: “Oh thank the Gods you convinced him Sir Knight! I don’t want to know what drudged task that savage would have condemned my life to.”
Asparuh: “You do not get the right to speak you incompetent paper-pushing oaf! Look at this mess! What have you done!? Is this how you organize the defense of a city? Why have you ignored all the warnings in my letters! If I had my way you’d be cleaning this mess yourself with a shovel and a mop!”
General Tervel: “Calm down Sir Knight! It’s a straight shot from here to the palace. We’ve found powder and shot and are ready to fight!”
Him: “Prepare for fierce fighting! Demons, goblins and Vampiri await us!”
Asparuh: “Follow me!!!”
The party rushes towards the palace.
In the gloom of the imperial dungeon Kaloyan the Mage regains consciousness. He is laid down on a bed of hay, and a bowl of water has been placed by his side. He looks around the murky cell and calls out.
Kaloyan: “Roger? Are you there Roger?”
Roger: “Indeed Ser, thank the gods you’re awake! I was worried sick about you; it looked like you were dead when you fell back.”
Kaloyan: “Where did they go Roger? They didn’t bite you did they?”
Roger: “No Ser. When you collapsed they panicked since they thought they killed you. They laid you down and got you water. They’ve been outside wondering what to do for the last few minutes.”
Kaloyan: “Roger, I have a plan! We need to escape!”
Roger: “Excellent ser! But how do you suppose we get out of here?”
Kaloyan: “I need a staff to channel my magic through! But they took away my own when they brought us down here. If we can fashion a staff out of something here I may be able to temporarily use it to channel my magic! A base is easy enough to find, but I need a focusing crystal! I doubt they keep precious stones in the dungeon thought…”
Roger: “Ser, might this work?” (He pulls out a brilliant blue crystal from his robes)
Kaloyan: “Roger! The elemental crystals form the dark elf shrine! You stole one?”
Roger: “Please don’t be angry Ser! It’s just that… well... This may sound strange but when we were in that cave I could swear that I heard old Master Edrin’s voice. He spoke to me and told me to take the crystal… told me I’d know when I’d need it…”
Kaloyan: “Brilliant Roger! Throw it over here!
Roger tosses the crystal and Kaloyan catches it. He looks around feverishly and sees a rusty iron bar on a torture machine, breaks it off and uses laces from his robe to attach the crystal to one end. Kaloyan steps back, makeshift staff in his hands. He points the staff at the chains around his wrists and utters a spell. The cuffs fall to the floor, and Kaloyan is free.
Kaloyan: “Here we go Roger!”
As Kaloyan walks over to his servant, the cell door opens and the two Vampiri guards
walk through, deep in conversation.
Sergei: “I told you already! We just say he attacked us and we had no choice!”
Igor: “Are you mad? They’ll have our heads for this! They specifically said that ‘no harm’ should come to him! Look at him now!… Oh, he’s up! … Where did you get that staff
Kaloyan: “I got a bit of help from my friends. Now die! EXURO!”
A lightning bolt hits the Vampiri who are instantly incinerated. Kaloyan rushes over to Roger and uses a spell to release him.
Roger: “Excellent Ser! That’s the fighting spirit!”
Kaloyan: “Roger you’ve been to the palace before right? Can you take me to the Imperial Archives?”
Roger: “Of course Ser; I’ve been there many a time with Master Edrin in my youth.”
Kaloyan: “Then lead the way! We have a scroll to find!”
In the Imperial Throne room Vlad the Necromancer stares into the eyes of the Emperor.
The chamber is silent.
Emperor: “Here I am you scourge! Let my son go!”
Vlad: “Emperor Leopold, in the flesh! Thirty years ago you were merely a King, and your cronies banished me to Erebus! How comical to think that now that you are emperor supreme you haven’t got even a single ally to let you know your city burns outside of these gilded halls! I have come to get my revenge. But revenge against a wretched old monarch like you cannot be rushed… No, I must enjoy every moment. Come along with me Leopold, I’d like to show you something.”
Prince Adrian: “Father, don’t give in to this monster!”
Vlad: “I think I’ll begin the long, drawn-out process of your doom with something more vivid for you to take in.”
Vlad turns around and stabs Prince Adrian through the heart. As the nobles shout the Emperor screams out and rushes over to his son, catching his limp body before it hits the floor.
Emperor: “What have you done!? Adrian! Adrian! Speak to me!”
Prince Adrian: “Father… Don’t give him the…” (He gasps and dies)
Emperor: “NOOO!!! Somebody give me a sword! Let me strike down this abomination where it stands!”
Vlad: “As pathetically comical as that would be, I have a different plan for you Leopold! Come along now, or the rest of your family will join your son.”
The Emperor rises and looks Vlad in the eyes with pure rage.
Emperor: “Just kill me now if you wish!”
Vlad: “What fun would that be? What lesson would I teach these noble swine? You and I are going to the roofs. Before you die, I want you to see your Kingdom burning. Come along now.”
The Emperor drops his arms by his side, and hangs his head in despair. Vlad places an ivory hand on his shoulder. Nya approaches him.
Vlad: “Nya, the emperor and I are headed to the rooftops of the old castle so that he may take in the view. I want you to go to the archive and find the item we discussed earlier. Take the staff with you, and follow the directions carefully.”
Nya: “I will my lord, it shall be done.”
Vlad turns to the Emperor who now sobs into his hands.
Vlad: “Now, now Leopold. Don’t you get sentimental on me now! The saddest part is yet to come!”
They both walk through a side door and begin the long ascent towards the rooftops.
Asparuh, “Him”, Loki, Prince Jason, General Tervel, and a few Imperial Guardsmen reach the entrance of the palace. Countless bodies of vampiri warriors are scattered throughout the square, with sizable wounds visible in their armors. In front of the entrance an eerie opening glows in a vibrant green color; the hell-gate. Chain lightening discharges and the formless matter of the gate boils up and down like a sea in miniature. As the party approaches, a demonic silhouette emerges from the green mist.
Asparuh: “These vampiri were shot by muskets! But I don’ see Imperial Guard anywhere… Watch out! Hell-spawn!”
Him: “Brace yourself! They shift like shadows!”
Asparuh ducks under the demonic ax the hell-spawn swings at him, and rolls the demon over his shoulder, flipping it in the air. It lands behind him and he stabs it with poise and precision.
Asparuh: “Die abomination!”
Jason: “Asparuh, there are more coming out!”
The demon Asparuh stabbed begins to fizz and bubble as if it was made of wax and the wound had been a fiery burst. The creature’s flesh disintegrates leaving only the armor and weapon behind. As Asparuh faces the gate once again, more hell-spawn emerge.
Him: “Plan, Asparuh?”
Asparuh: “Don’t let them get close! Everybody move back, but don’t run!”
Jason: “There’s no way we can take them all on!”
Loki: “Father, I think I hear…”
As the crowd of demons descends on the adventurers, a booming explosion shakes the plaza and breaks the few remaining intact windows in the vicinity. Before the adventurers can look back, a flaming projectile trailing white smoke flies by with incredible speed and strikes the demons with marksmen precision. The hell-spawn screech and disintegrate in a fiery explosion that ensues. The party ducks to escape the debris, and then looks around the square. From the mist a rank of soldiers emerges; muskets-bearing, wing-helmed, and short in stature. Asparuh rubs his eyes and calls out.
Asparuh: “Dwarves! A whole army! But how?”
A dwarf wearing a golden helmet and trailing a short red robe approaches Asparuh and the party.
Vanek: “King Vanek Irongut, and the army of Omurtag reporting to aid you in the fight Sir Knight. I trust we’re not here late!”
Asparuh: “Vanek? I don’t know what to say! I am shocked to see you! What are you doing here?”
Vanek: “Well, after you and young Prince Jason left Omurtag I had a chance to really think… You know… Errr, about mistakes made in the past and all. Then I remembered what kind of chaos Vlad caused thirty years ago, and I realized that if the mage succeeds, the whole damned Empire would fall through, leaving all kingdoms scattered and easy for these damned demons to pick off! Well, I’m not having any of that! I may hate Imperials but I’ll be damned if I don’t stop this kind of threat before it reaches the gates of my city!”
Him: “You big old softy, I knew you couldn’t stand idle while your friends were fighting a good fight!”
Vanek: “True enough; it’s been ages since I’ve taken Matilda here out for some good-ol’-fashioned fighting! What do you say Asparuh? Can you forgive an old foolish dwarf?”
Asparuh: “Indeed my friend! You’ve just given us a fighting chance! Let’s go now, Vlad needs to be stopped!”
Vanek: “Forward dwarves! Kill these abominations everywhere you see them! For the Ancestors! “
The party and the dwarves rush into the palace.
Bookshelves line the room from top to bottom. The imperial archive is renowned the world over for being the holding place for the Empire’s most treasured documents and artifacts. Heavy tomes and scrolls fill the air with the musk of leather and papyrus; a scent that has the heft and taste of millennia gone by. Kaloyan and Roger walk between the shelves, carefully examining each one for the scroll they need.
Roger: “Where do we even begin looking Ser? This place is huge! We’d need days to look through all these tomes!”
Kaloyan: “We must find it Roger! You take the east side I’ll look through the western shelves. It’s bound to be here somewhere!”
Roger: “What exactly is this scroll for Ser?”
Kaloyan: “I don’t know Roger; it should hold answers. That’s what Edrin said…”
Roger: “Ser, are you sure your vision wasn’t brought on by that nasty little bump you took to the noggin? You know I once knocked my head so hard against a crawlspace ceiling that I could have sworn I was a baron!”
Kaloyan: “Quit your rambling Roger! Focus on the search.” (Kaloyan pauses, as a man in gray robes holding a lantern approaches him)
Librarian: “What’s the meaning of this?! Who are you two? What are you doing in the archives?! You’re one of the invaders I take? Don’t you even think of stealing anything from this place!”
Kaloyan: “Well, it seems we’re in luck! Don’t worry we’re on your side. My name is Kaloyan, and I’m a mage. Calm yourself!”
Librarian: “Oh thank the gods! I’ve been hiding here ever since they stormed the palace! Whta’s the situation; is any place safe???”
Kaloyan: “Nowhere is safe right now, but you can help us drive back these demons. I need to find a scroll; do you think you can find it for me? It’s an ancient item called the ‘Scroll of Demonology’. Have you seen it?”
Librarian: “Yes… Yes, of course! It’s a permanent display item. Lots of mages co me by to take a look, it’s right this way!”
Kaloyan: “Excellent! Lead the way!!”
The librarian leads Kaloyan to a heavy table a table, on which rests a bulky scroll. Its parchment is torn and fragile, its wooden decorations faded and worn.
Roger: “What is it Ser? I don’t recognize these symbols.”
Kaloyan: “It’s an ancient pictograph tongue… derivative of Elfish runes… There must be a key here somewhere… There we go! It’s the writings of the Elven mage Elthor T’sono. He describes the advent of demons in the third ancient age. My oh my, this is fascinating!”
Roger: “How is that Ser?”
Kaloyan: “This is a brief history of events of the third age! Listen up. ‘Sunlight turns to gloom, lush fields turn to ash. A million burning eyes prowl the darkness eternal; searching, finding and devouring. Three giants herald the return of the ancients; Karvah in the realm of dreams, Ispolin in the realm of wake, and Simara in the plains eternal.’ “
Librarian: “The great crisis of the third age. Many think it is a myth or allegory. It is said that the three demons, gate keepers of Erebus, opened a gateway across to the realm of the living and demons crossed into it; roaming the world and terrorizing its people for centuries.”
Roger: “Ser, didn’t the demon you harnessed in your staff call itself Ispolin!?”
Kaloyan: “It did… No need to fear librarian; it is trapped in my staff… wherever that staff may be. Let me read on… ‘The mages of Tasher conjured mighty spells and fought the heralds one by one. Karvah; purged within the realm of dreams, Simara banished to Erebus forever, and Ispolin tricked and trapped for an eternity.’ Well it was until we came along Roger… ‘Only these three may ever open the great portal to Erebus, and only these three may allow passage in and out.’”
Roger: “By the gods!”
Kaloyan: “That’s how Vlad opened the hell-gate! Let me read on… there must be a section just on… Ispolin! There! ‘Beware; any mage that strikes a deal with its spirit eternal; Ispolin contained takes the form of a harmless abomination, but released upon the world it knows no master and would swiftly unleash its wrath. Ispolin alone allows for passage between the worlds, for as long as it is trapped it may be used to open portals to Erebus. If the soul of the mage who controls it crosses into Erebus while a gate is opened, the hell-gate will close, trapping the demon and any hell-spawn in the land of mortals forever.’”
Roger: “Is that why he needs you alive, Ser?”
Kaloyan: “So… If I were to die, Ispolin will be released, and the demons that crossed over, including Vlad, will remain here! The gate would close, but Vlad and his minions would still be here, as well as a very angry Ispolin! I suppose this may have been the sacrifice Edrin mentioned…”
Roger: “Ser, there must be another way!”
Kaloyan reads through the text with a gloomy expression on his face. He suddenly looks up with renewed vigor.
Kaloyan: “Roger listen! ‘As Ispolin is a gate keeper, its sole purpose is to keep the souls of the dead from escaping Erebus, the living from entering in, and demons from traversing across in both directions. If released onto the world, the demon will swiftly return to Erebus, bringing along any souls in its vicinity who are out of place, restoring balance to the world!’Roger don’t you see!? If I release Ispolin he will take Vlad, the Vampiri and the demons back to Erebus! Forever!”
Roger: “How can you release it Ser?”
Kaloyan: “I made a deal with it Roger; it crossed from the Tasher crystal into my staff. And here is the ancient spell that binds it! If I use this while holding the staff, while I stand near the hell-gate, the demon will be liberated!”
Librarian: “By the gods mage, look out!”
A group of vampiri warriors storm into the room, blades out. Nya leads them.
Nya: “Why am I not surprised to see you here Kaloyan? You are more resilient than we gave you credit for. It seems you’ve found the scroll for us! Now hand it over or I’ll have your head!”
Kaloyan: “Give it up Nya! I know why you didn’t kill me back at the palace entrance! If you strike me down the gate closes, and you have Ispolin to deal with! You can’t touch me!”
Nya: “Very good Kaloyan… but I don’t think you’ve read far enough into the text!”
Kaloyan: “What more is there to read about? If I die you lose your portal to Erebus; that’s all there is to it!”
Nya: “Oh Kaloyan, how remarkably foolish you are! I am here to read the scroll, which describes in great detail the steps necessary for the destruction of Ispolin! It seems the Tasher mages knew all too well what kind of power they were harnessing; I will destroy Ispolin, and once I do, the gate will stay open indefinitely, and your meaningless life will lose the little value that it holds right now! You will give me the scroll or your friend Roger will be hacked to bits in front of you!”
Kaloyan: “I have a better idea!” (He shoots a bolt of lightning at a vampiri warrior who is blasted back and falls dead on the floor.) “Roger, hide!”
Kaloyan fires on the Vampiri one at a time across the room. They drop their swords and charge him, arms out. The librarian runs for cover, as Roger ducks under a table to escape the Vampiri’s grasping arms. Torn volumes fly through the air, loose pages flutter about. As the last vampiri warrior collapses dead, Nya looks up at Kaloyan. He picks up his old staff, and prepares another lightning bolt spell.
Nya: “Kaloyan, please don’t! I had no choice! I really had no choice! Please, it’s all Vlad’s doing! I begged him to let you live but he said no! Remember what we had Kaloyan! I know you cared for me!”
Kaloyan: “There was a time when I would have moved mountains for you Nya; but that time is long gone. Your cold betrayal taught me something invaluable; that the allies who treat you like a king when you hold power, and like vermin when you lose it all are not truly allies. You will say anything to get what you want, and you are no better than Vlad! You deserve to die!”
Nya: “Kaloyan please!”
Kaloyan: “Where’s Vlad? Tell me or I swear I’ll turn you into a smoldering heap of dust!”
Nya: “He’s headed for the roofs of the old castle! He’s got the Emperor with him! Kaloyan please! You wouldn’t kill me while I stand defenseless! It’s not in your nature Kaloyan!”
Kaloyan: “No. I will not. Get out of here Nya! I never want to see you again!”
Nya backs away and runs out of the archives room.
Kaloyan: “Damn it! Come on Roger, we’re headed for the roofs!”
Roger: “What on earth for Ser?”
Kaloyan: “When I release this demon, Vlad will be the first one to taste its wrath!”
Part 2 coming up…