Per certain requests, I am going to post up the first chapter of a story I wrote a while back for a discussion forum. I used to play a CCG called “Warlord”:http://www.warlordccg.com but later had to quit, due to lack of local interest and lack of finances to support the game. I joined a discussion forum for the game called “The Temple of Lore”:http://www.temple-of-lore.com and was eventually promoted to moderator status for a section of the board called Anything, where all topics unrelated to the game land. One popular practice there is for people to write works of Warlord-like fiction as they hit ‘milestone posts’ (e.g. 1000 posts, etc.), with the Anything section appearing as a country in the world in which the Warlord events transpire. I wrote Chapter 1 of Fury when hit 1000 posts on the Temple.
Some of the events in the story are specific to the forum, as a way to keep it relevant to and fun for the other people who spend time on the forum. Also, the character names are actually screennames for people there, as you will see. DruidOverlord is my Temple identity and is one of the main characters in the story.
Anyway, here’s chapter 1. Enjoy!
Fury – Chapter 1
The forests of Anything lay in a preternatural stillness. The sun was high in the mid-morning sky, bathing the timberlands in a sweltering heat. An unnatural tension lay over the entire area, a sense of impending tragedy. The air held a thickness to it, making it seem as if every breath drawn might be the last. There had been no rain in this region for several weeks, yet not a sound could be heard for miles. It was as if the natural residents of the forest feared drawing attention to themselves, and in so doing sealing their doom.
Suddenly the silence was split by a bloodcurdling scream of pain and anguish that was abruptly cut off. A body writhed in the middle of a clearing, crawling with dozens of varieties of insects, worms, and other creatures of the soil. Were it not for the human hand protruding from the twisted mass, it would have been impossible to determine the identity of the scavengers’ wrath.
DruidOverlord stood a few paces off from the now-silent victim, watching as the insect pestilence slowly devoured its prey, observing the way in which it crawled in and out of its mouth, nose, and ears, choking off the life of the wretch in a ritual of terror and agony. The victim was still struggling to escape its fate, though with less intensity and energy now as it began to succumb to the ruination of its body wrought by the blight called down by the druid to destroy it. A look of grim satisfaction was set on DruidOverlord’s face as he watched. Only one more death, he thought, and his revenge would be complete.
After a moment, he waved his hand and the earth beneath his victim split open, surging upward and swallowing the body before sealing itself again, leaving no sign of the death that had occurred there only moments before. Slowly, the forest around him began to come to life once again, but he paid it no notice, lost as he was in his own thoughts. Normally, he would have watched until the body had been reduced to a glistening skeleton, savoring each moment of his revenge. But instead of being sweet, his vengeance had become bitter and unsatisfying.
His two-year campaign of blood and terror had brought him to this place, a penultimate stop on a mission of vengeance. Everything that he loved and had held dear had been stripped from him in a period of 36 hours by an organization of schemers and connivers that, until then, had operated in complete obscurity. They had destroyed his home and sullied his name and reputation, making him an outcast among his people. But most importantly, and most painful to his memory, they had slaughtered his family before disappearing again into oblivion. Since that time, he had hunted the culprits down, unearthing a secret society far beyond what he had expected. It had taken a great deal of time, but he had discovered the identity of each and every member of the organization and had made them pay for their crimes in pain and blood.
His anger and seething hatred had carried him through each kill, fueling his imagination as he devised horrific deaths for his enemies, energizing him in a way nothing else had ever been able. His rage had become such that even the earth trembled at his coming, and the denizens of Anything fled from before him.
His passion and determination for vengeance had flagged with each subsequent death, however. The passage of time and the fact that he was nearing the end of his campaign of bloodshed had taken some of the edge off his wrath. He was beginning to lose interest, no longer waiting around to watch his victims be reduced to dust, sometimes even questioning his motives, his desires. He felt as though the darkness of his soul was beginning to abate, and he wondered if it was even necessary to destroy the last of his enemies.
It suddenly occurred to him that in all this time he had never learned the reason why his enemies’ had risen against him. He had never even known they had existed, let alone done anything that might have incurred their wrath. It had, in fact, signaled their very demise by striking against him, when they could have continued to operate unchallenged had they simply left him alone. It puzzled him. Funny how he had never thought about it before now.
As DruidOverlord stood there lost in his reverie, puzzling over this new question, the glen was cast in shadow, the air to his right shimmered, and a shade appeared. DruidOverlord spun to face the shade as a blast of arctic air washed over him. The shade lifted his cowled head, its deathly eyes fixing on him, and DruidOverlord felt his blood turn to ice.
_You falter in your cause, dark one._ The shade’s voice echoed in DruidOverlord’s head.
“Who are you? What do you want?” DruidOverlord challenged, wariness reflecting in his eyes.
The shade ignored his questions. _Your soul belongs to the dark now, druid. There is no hope for your return. You hesitate without reason, your mission incomplete. The memories of your loved ones cannot be placed to rest until the last of your enemies is destroyed._
“What can you know my cause, shade? I know you not, and your is existence only barely tolerated in this plane,” the druid sneered, spitting that last with bitterness and contempt.
_I know what has been taken from you. I know the hatred that flows through you. It fuels your vengeance, and the energy that flows from it can be felt on the spirit plane, as well. Yes, druid, you are known. You are known, and you are watched with great interest. There are great plans for you, dark one._
“Who are you?” DruidOverlord demanded again. “Of what plans do you speak?”
The shade merely laughed, or at least that is what DruidOverlord thought he was hearing. The sound was like bones scraping together, an altogether unpleasant, otherworldly noise that made his skin crawl.
“I am no dark one, shade. I am simply an executor of justice.”
_Yours, then, is a dark justice. The pain you have inflicted on others is worthy of the most evil creatures. Consider this…_
At that, the shade launched a volley of mental images, visions, and hallucinations on DruidOverlord, causing him to stagger and fall. He relived all the torture and death he had visited upon his victims, witnessed anew the bloodshed, the agony, the horror. The immensity of it left him gasping.
After a moment the shade lowered its arms, and the visions ceased. It was a moment before DruidOverlord was able to speak again.
“It’s over shade,Ã¢â‚¬Â he panted. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have only one left to destroy, only one to visit pain and death upon, and then I am done. It is over, and I can rest.”
_It is not over, druid! It is never over!_
The shade launched another series of visions on DruidOverlord, this time displaying faces of others that were responsible for his pain. The mental assault went on for what seemed an eternity, a bombardment of images and sensations that threatened to overwhelm him. After a while, a madness began to creep in, and DruidOverlord saw that the conspiracy against him was total, that there was none he could trust. His rage erupted fresh and hot, and he could feel his magic flare to a burning point within him. He opened his eyes and looked at the shade.
“Enough!” A bolt of energy shot from his hands and engulfed the shade in reddish-white light. In seconds, the shade was reduced to ash and the assault on DruidOverlord’s mind ceased. He stood up, looking into the sky, and lifted his arms. Energy crackled at his fingertips, then shot into the air. The gathered clouds turned black, responding to his rage with their own, swirling down and lifting him from the ground to carry him away toward the heart of Anything.
Shed of his guise, in human form once more, the shade stood in the shadows of the forest, watching DruidOverlord depart. A triumphant smile was settled on his face. He continued to watch the broiling clouds speed away as another stepped up beside him.
“It begins then.”
“It was begun when we destroyed his life,” the shade replied. “This is simply the continuation of the plan.”
“He has grown powerful, more so than we expected.”
The shade’s smile turned grim. “Indeed. But that only serves us all the better. The destruction he will bring to Anything will be more complete, more total — and more devastating.”
The other nodded. “For them? Or for us?”
The shade looked at his companion finally. “Does it matter? We need only what he can bring. How he does it is irrelevant.”
The other glared. “Let us just hope that he does not learn of the tapestry of lies we have manufactured against him. If he ever learns that his life, his family, were destroyed for our own vanity, if he ever learns that we started all this just so we could wield him as a weapon…” He did not finish.
The shade looked back to the lightening sky. “Your fears are misplaced. He will not find out. The truth has been carefully concealed from him.”
They stood together in silence for a moment. The other broke the reticence.
“You forget his hesitancy. He is not as completely given over to the dark as you led him to believe. If he turns again, we will not be able to recover. Our weapon, our plan will be irretrievable.”
“It is true — he may yet rediscover his conscience.” The shade paused, considering, the thought clearly unpleasant to him. He nodded slightly to himself, the hint of a smile appearing on his face. “But it will not happen today. Today, Anything will bleed.”
Ã‚Â© 2004 James P. Stitzel