by Enoch Adonai
Lance is a cursed wizard barely able to cast magic. Will he be able to avenge his family?
Lan'ce looked nervously over the road ahead. The army behind him was waiting on his word that the road ahead was clear. It wasn't. The road going up the mountain had a tangle of magical traps. He was gifted with the Sight, but he could not see a single thread that he could start pulling from the weaves ahead without setting off all the traps. He wiped his sweaty palms on his shirt and looked up at the castle in the predawn light. Children had been kidnapped. If they were still alive, they were up there trapped. There was one thing he was good at in life, and now he didn't see a way through.
"Well?" Bryce asked.
"The road is magically trapped, there isn't a way to take apart the weaves without setting off all the traps, and there is a lot of magical power tied up in those weaves."
"What do you mean? An army of goblins came through here, and you can't open the way. I thought you were good at this sort of thing."
No they didn't! He thought. His head jerked back to the road. He looked over it once more. He didn't know a single wizard that could have untangled that mess of traps. "No,... no goblins went through here." Lance turned and studied every part of the mountainside they were on. When he looked at the cliff side opposite the road, something seemed off. He walked over and reached out his hand to touch the cliff and it went right through. An illusion, and a very well built one.
Lan'ce stepped through warily. The whole cliff side was an illusion. The road was rough and narrow. Lan'ce studied the rough road ahead. He didn't see any signs of traps ahead, but there was still a possibility of golems. They were much harder to spot. Their auras didn't look much different from that of a small animal. Only the most powerful golems were easy to spot. Lan'ce quietly worked his way about ten cubits before stopping. Bryce was right behind him.
"Why are we stopping?" He asked.
"This skilled of a wizard probably has some golems which are not easy to spot. Most are not very smart though." Lan'ce hunched done and dug a couple balls with spikes and set them down. He activated the golems and then commanded them, "Run into the castle and hide."
The two little golems took off up the mountainside road. Near the top 2 stone golems tore loose from the side of the mountain and chased after the miniature golems. Shortly afterwards they battered their way through the iron gates and goblins were screaming all over the castle walls and from the inside as well. They were throwing spears and loosing arrows at the stone golems with no effect.
"What the devil did you do Lan'ce? The entire castle is alerted now!"
"If we had tried sneaking in, the golems would have attacked when we reached that point, and the castle would have been alerted anyway." Lan'ce thought for a minute. "I ordered my little golems to hide. There's a chance that the wizard might think his stone golems malfunctioned if they don't find any evidence of anyone else here."
Bryce looked at him a moment. "Let's get back across that fake cliff thing." The few men that had followed behind carefully went back down to the main mountainside road across the cliff illusion. Lan'ce placed a very small eye shaped golem just inside the cliff illusion against the mountainside looking up the hill. He pulled out a construct that was linked through a braid of magical threads to the eye golem. The eye construct had a looking glass in it, but instead of showing a person's reflection it showed what the eye golem could see. The men dispersed into the woods around the mountain road and waited. Time ticked by in nervousness while the men heard the screams of dying goblins up the mountainside. Dawn broke shortly afterwards and the fighting was still as loud and intense as before. Lan'ce almost jumped when two large claps of thunder blasted down the mountainside under a clear sky. The sounds of battle started dying down.
Bryce leaned over and whispered, "What do you think that was?"
"The wizard was casting a couple lightening bolts at the golems."
"We're going to have a heard time with this one aren't we? I mean, I know you have the sight and all, but you don't have the magic juice to really get in a wizard fight do you?"
Having his weakness put front and center burned. "You know the bloody answer to that."
"I'm not trying to be a jerk, Lan'ce. Some people aren't physically strong either. I don't hold it against them, but I still wouldn't want to depend on them in a fight. I can't afford to be an idealist. Idealism gets people killed unnecessarily."
"Go to Sivek."
Bryce chuckled. "We'll go there together my friend, soon enough."
"I'm not your friend, and you've never been a friend to me. If your going to lie, at least tell believable ones."
Bryce looked at the cliffside as if trying to see beyond it. "I wasn't lying," he whispered, but Lan'ce didn't notice.
Lan'ce watched goblin patrols through his construct. They were searching everywhere for an explanation of what set off the stone golems. The men could hear the wizard yelling down the mountainside. They could make out some of what was being said and the wizard was furious. He was demanding answers and was furious the goblins had none to give. Bryce sent a messenger back to General Roderick while they were waiting to let him know what happened.
Lan'ce froze for a moment. He saw the wizard pop into view at the top of the mountain road. He was working his way down and looking over every part of the mountainside as he went. What threads is he able to see? Will he see my spy golem or the linking threads?" He was afraid to move it. Movement attracted attention. Lan'ce motioned with his hand for everyone to get out of sight. He was sweating again as he watched the middle aged wizard working his way down the mountain road. When he got to the illusion he stuck his head part way through. The site of a human face sticking part way from a cliff and then merging into that cliff was nauseating. Lan'ce clamped his mouth shut while the wizard looked over the roads. The wizard turned and spoke loudly at one of the goblins.
"Fine, I'll deactivate the stone golems for now, but you better not disappoint me. You know what'll happen to your little baby goblins."
"Yes, master, we won't disappoint you, master." The smallish goblin said. The wizard and goblin patrol turned and walked back up the mountainside to the castle.
The general worked his way up to Bryce and Lan'ce. "What do we got."
Bryce laid out the basics of what happened since that morning. At the end he said, "These goblins aren't the normal breed. They're small, and the wizard's got their gocs. We might be able to turn them against the wizard if we promise to rescue them."
"No, they might just turn on you out of fear for their gocs as well. They're going to be tired and relaxing from the fight they just had. Sneak in. Kill 'em. Find the kids first. Let's get them out of the castle before we get into a battle with a wizard. I'll have a squad of bow men and longbow men help clear the walls and get you in. I'm also putting Tao's squad under your command."
"Sir, most of the regiment is green. They might hesitate if some of the goblins surrender."
"Tell them to bound and gag them immediate and if they make noise kill them anyway even if they surrender. I will give the remaining squads following you the same orders." Roderick turned to Lan'ce. "You know the most on magic out of us here. What are our chances of taking out the wizard?"
"Let me stay at the front as I have been. I have a little mana I can use. If I can catch him by surprise, I might be able to take him out before he knows it. If I fail, spread out bowmen and try to take him out from a distance."
"Okay. Let's go."
Bryce and Lan'ce moved out with the bowmen and Tao's halflings in tow. Lan'ce grabbed his spy golem on the way up. The men had been nervous but hearing the wizard say he was deactivating the remaining golems and a chance for some action had them excited and ready to go. They kept to cover as they got close to the top of the road. Lan'ce put out his spy golem again. It crawled its way up the road and let them get a full view of the castle walls. There was only a few goblins on the walls and they weren't paying attention. They were exhausted from their battle with the golems. Bryce motioned to the bowmen where the few guards were. They carefully raised up just enough to take aim at the few guards and take them out. The men then quickly moved up against the castle wall near the gate way.
Bryce launched a grappling hook upwards and caught it on the top of the wall. Tao led the halfings up first followed by the long bowmen to cover the yard. By that time a squad of swordsmen had caught up with them and more soldiers were coming up the road.
"Bowmen, go in front. I want a swordsman behind each of you all. Sneak in. Put anything done before it can cry out. We're facing a wizard here. Let's get out of this alive." Bryce ordered. Lan'ce and Bryce stayed at the front of the squad as they moved in between different huts heading towards the castle. The going was slow as they checked each hut to quietly put down anyone that might cause trouble later. As they got closer they started hearing something bellowing in pain from near the top of the castle. Along the way they spotted some goblins who were on the ground rocking back and forth. They held their hands over their ears trying to blot out the cries from above.
The men were nervous. These were smaller goblins than normal, but the men had never heard stories of goblins being fearful about much of anything. Bryce, Lan'ce, and two squads proceeded into the castle. It was dark, as if something ominous was waiting to strike. They waited a moment letting their eyes get used to the darkness before making their way forward. The men warily checked each room but the floor was mostly empty except for a little furniture. They come to the stairway. One staircase led into the basement while the other led upstairs. The screams echoed weirdly down the stone stairwell.
Lan'ce looked at Bryce. "Which way?" He was fighting to keep calm but his fear must have showed on his face. Bryce put his hand on Lan'ce's shoulder.
"You'll be alright, Lan'ce."
Lan'ce jerked away, rage burning away his fear. "Which way do we go, oh fearless leader."
Bryce let the jibe go and turned to the stairs hesitating with the same nervousness the rest of the men had, but there were kids in trouble, and he couldn't afford to sit forever. He was about to go upstairs when he thought he heard crying from below. He took a few steps down and listened closely. He heard it again. Children were down below. He led the men down. When he come out of the stairwell into the basement, he seen a dungeon filled with crying children. Bryce started to run to the first cell when Lan'ce grabbed his shoulder. "There are traps."
Lan'ce walked over while Bryce looked on. It looked like Lan'ce was grabbing at air, but after a moment there was a glow along one of the walls as Lan'ce released the magical energy of the trap. Growing suddenly mindful of a sneak attack, Bryce turned to order a few men to watch the stairs, but several of the soldiers were already doing so. Green they may be, but they are well trained. Bryce thought. He turned back to watch Lan'ce release another magical trap. Lightening energy crackled near the bars of one of the cells as Lan'ce struggled to contain it. After a few minutes struggle, he was able to get it safely released, but it was clear the effort was wearing him out. Lan'ce pointed to two cells. "These are now safe to open," and then continued working on a couple more traps. They left the kids in the care of other soldiers as they turned to go upstairs towards whatever horrors the wizard had in store for them on the upper floor.
A chill went down Lan'ce's spine when he climbed onto the upper floor. In the main hallway were 4 deactivated stone golems. They were not weak ones either. Whoever this wizard was, he had considerable resources. He warned the men not to touch any of the golems lest one of them reactivate. There were some magic traps here as well, but he was exhausted from releasing the ones downstairs. He told the men to follow exactly in his footsteps and led them carefully towards the screams of agony. Suddenly one of the men stumbled into one of the traps. Lan'ce jumped towards the weave as its magic was being released. He tried to use the little mana he had left to disperse the magic of the trap but it hit him before he had the chance. His right arm, both hands, and the right side of his face was burned. Bryce was at his side a second later and clamped his hand over Lan'ce's mouth before he could scream in pain. Lan'ce struggled a minute from the pain. Once Bryce knew he wouldn't scream anymore he let go and helped Lan'ce up. Lan'ce gritted his teeth in pain. They were past the last trap now. The doorway to the room with all the screaming was about 15 cubits ahead. Lan'ce and Bryce worked their way forward until they could peer around the corner of the open doorway. They were now able to hear the wizard talking to whomever he was torturing. The wizard was taking real pleasure in his cruelty.
Lan'ce could tell from the wizard's aura that he didn't have a chance in a straight battle. He had only a tiny mana left. The wizard was not only powerful, but was soul linked to an external mana source. He could see the mana flowing in from somewhere below. The wizard was torturing a very large orc. The poor creature was marked all over with cuts and burns. "I've been reading a book from an old necromancer who believed that tortured souls produce more mana once trapped in a soul stone than just a normal soul. I'm eager to test the truth of this," the wizard said as he poked the orc with a hot poker. The orc strained against the chains but they had been magically reinforced and would not break even with his massive strength. If Lan'ce could free the orc, they could attack the wizard from 2 sides. He didn't know if the orc would be friendly towards them or not, but it would be better facing the orc afterwards than this wizard.
Before Bryce could react Lan'ce ran into the room hoping the orcs screams would hide his approach. He draw a dagger in his right hand and readied a telekinesis weave. The wizard sensed something and turned towards Lan'ce. As he turned Lan'ce cast the weave at the locks of the orcs chain's and threw the knife. The wizard used a weave of his own to knock the knife aside. Lan'ce threw himself to the side and tried to throw another dagger, but the wizard trapped him in a telekinesis weave of his own. If he had had some mana, he could have gotten loose, but he had used the last bit trying to free the orc who was still struggling against the chains. The wizard walked Lan'ce over against the pillar. "You're the cause of the trouble this morning, aren't you!" His face was twisted with fury as he begin flinging needles into Lan'ce. "How did you get past my traps?" He screamed at Lan'ce.
"I have the sight."
"Oh, one of those. You've got the sight. Aren't you just precious?" The wizard sneered. "I've learned my magic the hard way. What good is your sight when you can't do nothing you weakling?" An arrow shot from the side which the wizard knocked aside. He then cast a lightening bolt at the doorway which drew a startled cry.
"Get out of here!" Lan'ce yelled before the wizard clamped back down on his throat.
"I'm going to let you breath long enough to answer one more question, half-breed. How do you 'see' this ending?" The wizard twisted Lan'ce's face back towards him. He was surprised to not see fear in Lan'ce's eyes but instead a cold depth that made him shudder.
"It will end with your death." The wizard had expected Lan'ce to beg for his life. Realization dawned in his eyes and he started to turn when the orc smashed a war hammer through the wizard's skull. The orc continued bashing the war hammer into the remains of the wizard's head after his body had fallen over.
Soon soldiers were spilling into the room and had surrounded the dead wizard and the orc. "Easy boys. Let's not get excited." Bryce said calming the men down. The orc turned to face the men looking over them from bloodshot eyes. Bryce held out his hand. "Name's Bryce. We hated this wizard as well. I'm thankful you killed the monster."
The orc stared at Bryce for a moment. "You with him?" He asked motioning towards Lan'ce.
"Yes, he's one of my men."
The orc walked over to Lan'ce and offered him his hand to help him stand up. "You opened lock didn't you? You magic user?"
Lan'ce nodded. "Yes."
"Thank you for saving my life. You are little man, but big fight. My name is Pasha Bora, but most call me Tiny."
Lan'ce looked up at the giant five cubit orc and said, "Yea, people call me tiny, too."
The orc smiled. "I will travel with you, Tiny Two."
Lan'ce chuckled. "Call me Lance please."
"Good name. Lance. I will travel with you and one day repay you for saving my life."
Bryce relaxed a little. He had been worried the orc would strike at everything that moved, or his men would attack and set him off. "Tiny, Lance is a soldier in our army, and we need strong men. Would you like to join up and make some money while traveling with Lance?"
"We have some Clerics coming up who will tend to your wounds." Bryce held himself tall in front of his men, but after walking back into the hallway, sadness spread across his face. He walked over to the crumpled bodies of two of his men. He covered their bodies with a cloth, then went to check on any others who were injured. The clerics treated and bandaged Lan'ce and Tiny. They also used some of their healing magics, but the burns from the magic trap were pretty severe and would take time to heal.
Lan'ce remembered the soul link that was pulling magic in from somewhere below while the wizard was alive. There had to be a mana spring somewhere in or around the castle. Every kingdom always claimed all mana springs for national use. It was considered treason to link to a mana spring personally. Only the highest ranks of the military wizards were permitted to do so, and they were only allowed to use their power for the national benefit. Lan'ce was tired though. He was tired of being treated as a weakling. He was tired of being compared to his father. He was tired of all the people who were disappointed that he came no where close to what his father had been. He was tired that he could not even produce enough mana to gain entry into the military magic academy. He took the studies anyway, but he would not even be considered a mage, the lowest recognized order of magic users in any of the civilized lands. His father had been considered the most powerful wizard in all the known world. He was even respected by the people of Nyasaland. Lan'ce hobbled down the stairs to the basement dungeon, and started searching for any signs of a hidden door or illusion. He only found it because he went along tapping on the wall and his hand went through were an illusion hid the underground entrance. Lan'ce made sure he was alone and then ducked in.
He had recovered a little mana and used it to make a small amount of light. The cave was tight and awkward to climb around in but he found the mana spring soon enough at the back of the cave. It flowed into a pool of water that had two rare breeds of oysters growing in it. The cave had everything the wizard had needed to make his golems, and the oysters supplied him the pile of spirit and soul gems that he had seen in the top room. He couldn't risk taking the materials. He would have to come back for that. He climbed around to the mana spring and established a spirit link instead of a soul link. This would let him disconnect from it any time he was near someone with the sight. The mana would flow a little slower, but the spring was small and wouldn't give him much at once anyway. It still left him feeling recharged pretty quickly. He had to get back now before he was missed.
Lan'ce checked carefully before entering back into the basement. He would have to hide the entrance better. He hated not having nothing actually sealing off the cave location. He went back upstairs and intermingled with some of the crowd before Bryce found him. "Hey Lan'ce, we need you back in the wizard's room. There is some magical stuff-... What happened to you?"
Lan'ce's heart started pounding, "What, what do you mean?"
"You're filthy. They just put these bandages on you. Don't tell me they put this dirty junk on you?"
"Wha-oh, I fell down is all. I'm fine. I'll clean myself up."
"Well, you'll have to do that later. They need you up above to check out the stuff the wizard had up there. They're worried some of it may be cursed, and some of the clerics think that there are some souls trapped in some of the gems up there that need released."
Lan'ce shook his head. He was always amazed at how superstitious and backwards everyone was. "There's no such thing as a curse. There are magical traps or wards, but curses don't exist."
"Well whatever you want to call it, they are afraid of it up there. We need you to check it out."
Lan'ce dusted himself off as he headed for the stairs. Bryce looked after him. The dirt on him didn't look like it come from a fall. His clothes were wet in spots as well, and he was sweaty. He didn't remember Lan'ce looking that dirty after the battle. He had been sweaty some, but there had been time to cool down. What was he doing? Where could he have gone in this castle that would have gotten him that dirty. What could be in this castle that Lan'ce would get so dirty looking for? There was nothing strategic at this location. There wasn't much in the way of natural resources here and only a few small villages nearby. The only explanation left was a resource that a wizard would need. A mana spring? Lan'ce what are getting yourself into? Bryce grabbed a cloak and chased Lan'ce up the stairs. Lan'ce had stopped at the top of the stair well and was trying to clean himself up. Bryce threw the cloak around Lan'ce. Lan'ce had a puzzled look on his face. "I didn't realize you was so dirty, we don't want you looking like a pig in front of the general."
"Your dad-uh General Roderick been in yet from the battle?"
"No, he's been seeing to the care of the children and working out the logistics of getting the kids returned to their parents."
Lan'ce started going over the papers, equipment, and other paraphernalia from the main room where he had battled the wizard. It appeared the room was used as a laboratory for various experiments. The monster had been experimenting with necromancy. There were a pile of soul gems and most had a soul trapped inside. He would need to free them, but would need either a cleric or a priest to help with that. He set them aside for later. There was also a pile of spirit gems that were filled. Those would be useful in making golems. He hoped he would get a few out of it. There was a longbow with a spirit gem enlaid in its grip. It had a weave built in to help fling arrows with tremendous force, but the weave the wizard had created only used the positive side of the spirit gem. The design was poor. Whoever used the bow would slowly get mana sickness and the gem would eventually blow. He would have to redo the weave on it.
Lan'ce started to leaf through the papers to see if there was any useful information, when a couple of the unarmed goblins were escorted into the room. They were acting distraught. "Pleassse, sirs. He said our little gocs were up here. He said we serve him they live. We did as told."
"Look for yourself. You can see that none of your kids are here."
Lan'ce looked over at the crying goblins. They were ugly critters. They didn't even have a soul. All they had was an enlarged spirit called a kama. Lan'ce turned back to the papers in front of him which was right by the pile of spirit stones. Seeing the spirit stones got him to thinking and he picked one up. He had to hold it close to see the aura inside but the shape of the aura was the same as that of the goblins. The wizard had killed the gocs to fill a bunch of spirit stones. Lan'ce turned back to the goblins and told them, "The wizard killed your gocs. They're dead."
"How you know, you don't see them?" Responded one fighting for hope they were alive.
"He wrote in his papers that he killed them in his experiments. Go tell the others." Lan'ce lied knowing that the goblins wouldn't understand how he actually knew. He had no pity for them. Goblins were always attacking small villages or caravans and would run when the army came. They disgusted him. Even though goblins could speak and showed a capacity for some intelligence, Lan'ce considered animals a better and higher life form. For a moment he wondered why the gods would permit such a vile creature before turning back to his work.
There were a lot of papers from the wizards studies and experiments but most of the information was nonsensical. Being able to see the weaves, auras, and mana fields left him knowing more than even wizards who had studied for decades. He threw the papers into a pile to be burned. After that were jars of magical ingredients, no doubt refined from the mana spring below, that could be used in a number of applications. He set them and some pouches of magical herbs aside to be hauled back to the academy. He picked up a hammer and a chisel, and started chiseling out the spirit gems from the backs of the stone golems. There was always a risk of the golems getting set off. They needed to be deactivated permanently. It took a while and he was sweating profusely once more. He stripped his cloak off, but kept the long sleeve shirt on. He was hungry and tired once he got done.
He bagged up the soul gems, hiding an empty one in a pouch, and hauled the rest down to the castle yard to find a priest and a bite to eat. He used his dagger to slice off a piece of roasted meat and a piece of bread and ate that with a a bit of cheese while looking around for a priest. He found the priest trying to help with the last of the children. Lan'ce told the priest about the soul stones. They left to the backside of the castle to keep the ritual out of site of the children. Soon the priest had summoned the doorways to Paradise and Sivak, the Frozen Lands. Now Lan'ce had to destroy the soul stones which was the most dangerous part of the ritual. Only mage fire could destroy soul stones. The trouble was it destroyed everything. It destroyed both matter and the threads of the weave that held all life together. He carefully spun barrier weaves that produced the only energy field known to stop mage fire. Once he had the barriers built, he summoned a small amount of mage fire from its dimension. It quickly burned through the dimensional portal closing that dimension back up. The mage fire that made it through burned everything in blinding arcs of blue and green. The soul stones, every speck of dust, and even the air were destroyed by the mage fire. Once everything in the barrier was destroyed the mage fire went out.
Once the souls were released, they gathered at the doors to Paradise. A few didn't belong though. The doors to Sivek opened first. Skeletal figures of shadow flitted through and stabbed into the souls of the unworthy and drug them screaming into the frozen terrors of Sivek. They soon found the wizard's soul. He tried to cast spells but he was no longer attached to the material plane. They stabbed into him with their fingers and drug him while small ones gnawed at him with their teeth. One of the monstrosities flitted right up to Lan'ce. The Skeletal only had sockets. There were no actual eyes, but Lan'ce felt as if it was looking into his soul. He shivered. Then the figure was gone. The doors to Sivak screamed as they shut and then vanished from sight. Then the doors to Paradise opened. The souls quickly poured in. Lan'ce tried looking in hoping to see his parents, but the priest drug him back. "Don't you fool. Mortal's have no place looking into there." Then those gates closed as well.