Originally posted on Crossroads of Dereth Tales Forum, Month Unknown 2000
This is another of my AC Darktide stories, one that I had forgotten about until a chance link from the TAO website lead me to find this and the “A Kiss Goodbye” story.
I think I wrote this mostly to celebrate finally learning some of my level 6 spells (then the highest level spells available). I learned the ones that let me buff my patron first, so that he’d be more effective in battle. I wasn’t the greatest PvP player because looking back now, I got myself stuck into the mindset of playing a support character. It’s taken me a long time to try to break that mold, but I’m learning. 🙂
The young archmage sat quietly on the ground, looking out over the desert town spread out below her. The occasional cry of a bird could be heard, but otherwise silence was her only companion. The breeze played with her hair, tugging the silvery strands into knots around her face. Sitting here like this reminded her of how much she missed the mountains of the Northlands. She missed her former home in Stonehold, where she had first met her Lord and patron. This lonesome spot reminded her of that place.
The two of them used to sit together under the night sky, simply talking and enjoying each others company. Those days were long gone now. Almost constant warfare and new dangers swept the land of Dereth, and much had happened to her since those days. Now, she lived by the edge of the western ocean, helping to carve out an oasis of peace for the Light and her fellow dragons to live in.
But still, she remembered the days of her youth, and a promise made to her Lord, sitting on the mountain like this. She had said to him that one day, she would be strong enough to fight at his side as his equal, and together they would work to bring the Light to this dark land. He had laughed quietly, and said he looked forward to that day also. Then, smiling to herself, she remembered how she had finally fulfilled her promise.
“Rhyssa, will you come with me to assist a new brother of ours? He needs help in getting to our new home here.” Bennoc’s quiet voice filled her mind and Rhyssa quickly responded that she would be glad to help. Ivanhoe, newly sworn to the Bard Aytalya, would meet them the town of Cragstone. The town itself was not the safest, being frequented by assorted brigands, riff-raff and servants of darkness, but it was the closest town for the new dragon to reach easily. Rhyssa went to meet Bennoc, accompanied by her own newly sworn vassal, Armand von Draeka. The swordsman offered to come along to help protect the two mages.
While preparing themselves for the trip to Cragstone, the voice of her patron, Steele, filled her thoughts. She quickly explained the mission they were about to undertake, and Steele also agreed to come along. Rhyssa was privately ecstatic, for her recent intensive studies had helped her learn new spells, and there was one in particular she wished to show her lord.
After making sure that her own protections were complete, she then turned her attentions to Steele, who was waiting with his newest axe in hand. The lightnings danced along the blade and haft, mesmerizing her. A gentle mental nudge from him recalled her to her duties and Rhyssa began to speak the words of power she had worked so hard to memorize. She focused all her energies on this spell. The magic surged through her and power danced around Steele’s motionless form. Twice more she cast her magics over her lord and when she was finished, Rhyssa stared in awe at the axe he held – the lightnings now seemed to crackle and leap from the blade almost as if alive.
A portal was quickly summoned, and the four dragons leapt through, eager to start on their way. Quickly and easily avoiding the monsters that lie waiting on the other side, they ran north towards the portal to Cragstone. There was a lifestone next to this portal, and for a while, many of the dragons had lived near this particular spot, but none lived here any longer. Now, many evil persons had moved into the area. They would have to be vigilant when they got nearer.
“Stop here and make sure your protections are still good before we go through the portal” Steele commanded. He was the most experienced of the group, having been a Black Dragon for quite a while. She was double-checking all of her spells when a harsh, mewing cry sounded behind her. Seconds later, Bennoc cried out in pain, and before any of them could turn, he cried out again – this time a death cry. This was not a good start to the mission.
Bennoc mind-spoke their fellowship, “Ivanhoe is waiting for you and there are enemies in town. He is in danger and needs help as soon as possible. Go now and I will rejoin you when I am able.” The decision was made to simply run to the portal and through it, ignoring any enemies who may be in the immediate area. Faces and names of residents blurred in her mind as she ran past them, but one stood out clearly: Chao Chao. He was well known to her as a follower of Shollos, one of the most powerful dark lords in all of Dereth. The three dragons sprinted past and clamored down the slippery stone stairs into an underground lair. The small room was lit by the lurid glow of a portal. Mindful of the danger that was behind them, wary of the danger ahead of them, she strode into the madly whirling storm, and closed her eyes against the dizzying swirl of energies that surrounded her.
Emerging outside of the town, they contacted Ivanhoe to get his location. Moving off, they stayed close to one another and keep a watch for the enemy. Their flight to the portal had not gone unnoticed, and as soon as they began to move away, another figure started to appear behind them. Almost as if recognizing him had been an omen, Chao Chao silently attacked her vassal from behind and with the element of surprise on his side, Armand was quickly slain. When her magics coruscated around his form however, and he saw that Steele was preparing to attack him in return, Chao Chao ran like the dog he was. Fear obviously lent him strength, for he managed to outdistance the remaining two dragons and fled into another portal.
Rhyssa frowned at the message she had just received, and turned to Steele to tell him the news. Not only had Armand fallen to the enemy, but Ivanhoe had been caught also and slain. He was now at the nearest lifestone; they would meet him there. Bennoc waited for Armand to regain a bit of strength, and the two of them began their journey to recover their corpses, and rejoin her and Steele if possible. Steele led the way to the lifestone, and gathering up Ivanhoe, they moved off to a spot of relative safety so that she could summon a portal to a dungeon near their home. She cast hasty protections on him, and then, giving directions, sent Ivanhoe off on his way. They stayed behind to guard the portal while it remained open, and then went off to find the treacherous dog who had killed their fellow. Renewing their protective magics, the two headed into a portal that would take them to Zakhail, a den of villainy and scum known throughout all of Dereth.
The portal drop area was empty, and listening to the conversation of Bennoc and Armand, she could tell the two of them were still safe also. Steele headed off towards town, with her following closely behind him. A figure in one of the far buildings looked up in startlement, and seeing who they were, fled out a back door trying to escape. They gave chase, but suddenly, the magics that had bound the four dragons together in fellowship dissolved, leaving her disoriented for a moment. A moment was all their quarry needed, and he made good his escape. Her Lord then recast the spell of fellowship for the two of them alone, and they continued their patrol.
A fleeting glimpse, another enemy to target, and the chase was on once again. They followed this enemy easily, and fearlessly charged into the unknown portal after him. This coward used foul magics to halt his passage through the portal, and there was no one waiting inside the dungeon. Steele charged ahead to search the lower levels of the dank place. The only creature found was a miserable slave kept here by force. They quickly dispatched him to his lifestone.
Returning to the entrance hall, Rhyssa saw the tell-tale disturbance that signaled the entrance of another person. Her skills let her read the villains monarch before he had fully arrived: Crum’. This too was a follower of evil, and he would pay for that choice. As soon as his figure appeared fully, she spoke the words of magic, and cast the spell that would make him more susceptible to the lightnings of Steele’s mighty axe. With one swing, Steele cleft the startled victim in two, killing him instantly. Almost immediately, another began to materialize in the hall. It was their original quarry – finally returning to the world. His attempt to deceive them had failed, and he soon visited his lifestone of choice.
Leaving quickly, Rhyssa and her lord headed back towards the portal to Cragstone, planning on returning there again. Pausing outside, she renewed the spells on Steele, and making sure her own spells were still working correctly, they prepared to enter the portal. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a running figure headed towards them. It appeared that the follower of Crum’ had returned and was set on trying to extract revenge.
Once back in Cragstone, they decided to lead him out of town in an attempt to lose him, but he followed closely on their heels. They spoke quickly while they ran, and decided that today would be a good day to die if needed, the two dragons stopped suddenly and turned to face their opponent. The surprise attack startled him, giving them precious extra moments to prepare. Once again, her spells surrounded his form and he fell to Steele’s axe. Even the intervention of yet another enemy could not prevent them from claiming victory. She turned to this new threat and desperately began to drain his mana energies from him. Steele charged and ferociously attacked, and she used the mana energies she had stolen from the enemy to cast a spell on him. Almost too fast to realize, the fight was over. The bodies of two enemies lay sprawled in blood on the ground, and two victorious dragons stood above them. Gathering the spoils of their victory, Steele told Rhyssa to return home, he would follow after her.
Back in town, Steele told the tale to the acclaim of friends, while Rhyssa stood quietly smiling to herself. Finally, after all this time, she had fought beside him, as his equal, and they had been successful. The One was obviously pleased with this union of talents and persons. She realized that not all fights would end this well, but for now, this first victory was a wonderful omen. She wondered if he remembered the promise she once had made to him.
The sunset over the distant mountain range glared briefly in her eyes, and then the sun finished its slide behind the mountains, leaving twilight to descend over the desert. She looked up at the clear, starry sky, trying to find the familiar constellations she knew from up north. This spot, while not the mountains she was used to, was very beautiful and peaceful in its own way. She would have to remember to mention it to Steele. Perhaps they could find the time to come here, and simply talk again, away from the pressures of the outside world. Every warrior of the Light needed a break, in order to look around and remind themselves what they were fighting for. The One knew, this spot had helped her remember good times, and the first of her victories over the darkness.
Stretching, the mage stood up and fastened her outer robe against the desert chill. Then, she began to walk down the hill, towards the still peaceful town below her.