Crom is confronted with an old friend who has conformed to evil.
|The man and his wife ran into each other’s tight embrace with the child between them. They laughed with joy and Bronus cupped Gyness’ cheek delicately then kissed her on the lips.
Bronus lowered his eyes to his son Simon and kissed his forehead before picking him up into the air.
“This is Crom. He is a monk that is familiar with magic. He led me to you both.”
“I cannot tell you how grateful I am,” the woman said with a smile shaking her head as her blond hair swayed in the wind.
“It is my pleasure. Now what about…” Crom became still with alarm. He closed his eyes briefly, and then they shot open.
“We have been followed! The raiders are on their way to us!”
“Let them come. I’ll make short work of them,” Bronus said.
Then Crom’s eyes widened and his face became flush and the calmness of his countenance left him. “It can’t be! How could he still live?” he said lost in his own thoughts as though he was separated from the present world.
Crom spoke in an unsettling, subtle tone. “If I’m right, it won’t matter how strong you are. You could be killed.” He cocked his head towards Bronus. “Leave! I must stay behind. I feel a familiar presence, except it’s different, malevolent.”
Bronus shook his head and yelled. “What are you saying!?
“Take your family and make haste to my hut! It may be the only place unscathed by the raiders.”
Bronus saw that his wise friend could not be won over so he obeyed his demand and he departed with a few last words. “Just promise I’ll see you again.” Then he rode off.
The monk stood there like a perched owl, waiting. The sound of multiple hoof beats approaching echoed in the air. In the distance he made out four horsemen. One of them wore a black helmet with metal protrusions that circled his head like a crown and wore a dark purple cloak. It was not long until they came into full view and within minutes the raiders had reached him. The three riders with no helmet took positions so that Crom was surrounded on three sides. The mysterious figure in purple came to him.
“Hello Crom. You have been kept from death after all these years. Ah, but you are not the only soul with a secret to longevity,” said the man with pomp.
“I can sense your aura Euricle. You’ve changed. Wickedness and cruelty fills you. I don’t know how you have survived, but it is certainly of evil. Why would a wise mage such as you debase yourself to murder and embrace dark magic?” said Crom.
“If you must know, I live because of a certain talisman.”
The man on horseback took off his helmet revealing a face with deep inset eyes that were like peering into a murky abyss. His hair was silvery white. He smiled gritting his teeth as he looked at Crom. With the side of his eye he winked as he withdrew an onyx necklace from his cloak.
“The Stone of Raffa? Euricle, your foolishness will doom us all! The Stone is full of destructive power that none can control. Where did you find it?”
“I have controlled it this long, have I not? As for where I found it, that does not matter.” Euricle got off the horse and strode near Crom. “I will not rest until the whole forest is mine. Those who resist will perish like those of Barail. As for you, may the fires of Hell consume your body!” Euricle lifted up his hand and waved it before Crom. When a few moments had passed with nothing happening, Euricle stepped back and marveled with a trembling voice.
“You should be engulfed in flames now!” said Euricle.
“Ah, foolish Euricle. When I took the oath hundreds of years ago in the presence of you and the other mages, it not only gave me extended life, it bound all evil sorcery from me. I do not know why, but this property was omitted in the ancient scrolls of Ithia that spoke of the oath. I pity you Euricle. What drove you from the natural mystic arts to take up dark powers?”
Euricle breathed heavy with anger and clenched his teeth. “Although I have abandoned the natural arts for more powerful magic that may not work here…” He paused and pulled out a sword and examined it with a smile as his eyes landed on Crom. “…a simple blade will suffice my will!”
Euricle dismounted lunged at the monk with the tip of the weapon aimed at his stomach, but when it was inches away, Crom lifted his palms into the air and spiky, glistening icicles rose from the ground and circled Euricle up to his shoulders.
“Kill him!” the immobilized fiend yelled to his men.
“That would not be wise my friends, unless you want ice shards in you chests,” Crom spoke waving his finger with a slight grin.
“He’s lying! Crom is bound with an oath to do no harm. Even if the situation were altered he would not have it within him.”
The riders pulled back looking at each other without a clue of what to do.
“Perhaps, but I am still able to encase you three in ice. You’ll be unharmed, but you will live out your days as a lifeless shell,” Crom said addressing the underlings.
“Tell your men to surrender and give me the Stone and I will spare you the nightmare,” he said to Euricle.