by Seven Ink
(Unfinished, work in progress)
The tower stood like an ominous black scar on a lone island, surrounded by the vast waters of an ocean. Arius groaned internally as he recognized the place he'd dreamt about for nearly a year now. Like the lens of a jeweler, his mind zoomed in, past the intricate hallways and lifts that made up the interior of the tower. There, at its heart stood an immense clock. The hands ticked away the seconds as the hour neared midnight. He watched as they closed in on the diamond at the head of the clock that marked the hour. As they struck the world suddenly twisted and warped, reality distorted until he found himself someplace else. Arius' head swam as he gathered his new environment: a dark room dimly lit by a torch on the wall. The room was little more than a poorly kept shack, the starlight visible through the cracks in the rotten boards. The floor had long eroded to nothing more than dirt.
“Hurry the hell up if you're going to do it.” a ragged voice drew the sorcerer's attention to the center of the room. In the dim light, he could make out the figure of an elf. He was bound to a chair, and three hulking figures towered over him. Each of the elf's supposed captors garbed in white robes trimmed with crimson, the cowls raised so their faces were obscured. The chained elf bore tanned skin and flame-colored hair which hung about his face in disarray. His face, which may have normally been attractive, was marred by vivid bruises and encrusted blood.
“If you're in such a hurry to die then we may as well grant your wish, heretic. Kill him.” one of the men spoke, his voice conveyed the sneer that was hidden beneath the shadow of his hood. The tallest of the three men paced to a corner of the shack where a sword was propped. With a chuckle, he grasped it and turned back toward his victim. Despite himself, Arius felt his heart race in distress, he had long ago learned that there was nothing he could do to affect the outcome of the dream. The people in the shack could neither see nor hear him and likewise, he simply drifted through them like an apparition if he attempted to stop the slaughter.
The prisoner regarded his captors through swollen eyelids, his mouth forming a mutinous line. He did his best to straighten in the chair, and tilted his head back in defiance. The man leveled the blade with the red head's neck, he drew it back and then swung it forward. The weapon hissed as it sliced through the air, followed by the sickening wet sound of flesh and bone being sliced. Arius flinched as blood sprayed from the headless body, staining the white robes of the three murderers. As he opened his eyes once more he scanned the floor as he had a hundred times before, his gaze finally settling upon the severed head.
Arius sat up with a start, gripping the sheets in his fingers as he gasped for breath. He gazed about the room with a disoriented expression before the reality of awakening finally set in.
“Again?” a voice rasped to his right. Arius turned, bloodshot crimson eyes settled on the raven that perched on his bedside table.
“What do you think, Moru?” Arius grumbled irritably. The pale-skinned elf flopped back against his pillows.
“Maybe you should see a doctor about this... It's going to be a year since you started having this dream next month.” Moru croaked, golden eyes narrowed as he hopped from the nightstand onto the bed and sauntered up so that he was standing on Arius' chest.
“It's just dreams, Moru. I don't think there's anything a doctor can do for recurring dreams.” Arius sighed as he ran a hand through his snowy hair.
“Well then, maybe you should do something about it.” Moru gave a derisive caw and pecked at the sorcerer's chest. Arius yelped at the sudden assault and sat up and batted at his familiar who flapped just out of reach.
“Oh really? Just exactly what would you suggest I do then?” Arius sniped as he regarded the avian with a scowl.
“Well, you're not going to get any sleep so to start you may as well get your skinny arse out of bed and get dressed. Here, I'll even get your clothes.” Moru glided from the bed to the floor, his feathers began to crackle with magic. A small violet whirlwind erupted from the spot where he stood, it enshrouded the bird for several seconds. As the spell dissipated a man stood where the raven had been, clothed in the black garments of a butler. Neat shoulder-length black hair framed his familiar's pale face, keen golden eyes seeking the wardrobe as Moru set about preparing his master's clothing.
“Fine..” Arius groaned. He tossed the sheets back and swung his legs so they dangled off the edge of the bed. Wearing a self-satisfied smirk Moru paced back to the bed with his robes.
“Have you considered that this dream is more than just a dream?” Moru questioned, folding his arms. Arius silently discarded his bedclothes and began to dress. He contemplated Moru's question as he pulled on his robes and smoothed his snowy hair into something resembling decency.
“Of course I have...” Arius finally answered,as he seated himself on the bed and donned his sandals. His nimble fingers laced up the leather cords that bound them to his legs.
“So why haven't you tried to do anything about it? If a doctor can't help you why don't you try helping yourself, or are you telling me that with all your power there is nothing you can do?” Moru demanded firmly.
“You know you're lucky you're my familiar. Most other sorcerers wouldn't tolerate so much cheek,” Arius growled in annoyance, “I suppose you're right though. Let's get to work then, we've got a lot of work to do if we're going to figure this out.”
“That's the spirit,” Moru stated triumphantly, following his master as the silver-haired sorcerer left the room.
“Alright, that should do it...” Arius panted as he braced himself against the headboard of his bed which he'd just pushed to the center of the room. The floor beneath the bed was covered in a scrawl of arcane spell writing, forming a circle with the bed in the very middle.
“If this does work, what exactly is it you plan to do?” Moru asked from across the room. Still in his human form, Moru bustled about fixing tea for his master.
“Well, assuming that the gate spell functions and is actually able to take me to the place I keep seeing in my dream then I'm going to stop those brutes from killing their prisoner.” Arius groaned as he straightened and crossed the room to retrieve his freshly made tea.
“I left a note with the academy that you may be gone indefinitely as you asked. You did write the spell so it will take both of us, right?” Moru drawled, setting the tea tray aside and sipping from his own cup.
“Yes, for the fifth time Moru, I did. When the gate activates it will bring both of us to the location specified in my dream. We'll be outnumbered but the three in my dream seem little more than big brutes, easily handled enough.” Arius stated. He moving to seat himself in a leather chair at the edge of the room.
“Only three? That's going to be way too easy of a rescue mission.” Moru moaned in disappointment.
“Don't jinx us. The last thing we need is for this to be any more difficult than it has to be.” Arius snapped, earning a smirk from his familiar.
“It really is too easy to pull your chain.” Moru shot back smugly. Arius rolled his eyes in response before drinking deeply from his tea.
“Well, there's no time like the present. Finish your tea, Moru. Let's get this over with.” Arius ordered sternly, then drained his own cup of tea. Wordlessly his familiar finished his own drink, then in a whirlwind of black magic energy and feathers shrank back to his raven form. Arius rose and set his cup aside on the tray and then paced to the bed. Fully dressed, the sorcerer stretched out across the bed. Moru flitted over to the bed and nestled down onto Arius' chest.
“Alright, just sit tight Moru. As exhausted as I am it shouldn't take me long to fall asleep.” Arius murmured and closed his eyes. He slowed his breathing and let his mind drift, the heaviness of exhaustion bearing down on him as his consciousness slipped away. He couldn't be certain how long it had been but Arius found himself standing in a black void, the only visible thing other than himself was a pair of stone doors engraved with strange and unfamiliar figures.
“Is that it?” a voice called to his left and with a startle, he realized Moru was flitting about in the air beside him. Lucid thought quickly came to him, the recognition that the gate spell he had set up had activated.
“I guess so. Brace yourself Moru, we're probably going to have a fight on our hands in a moment here.” Arius squared his shoulders and approached the door and laid his palms against it, throwing it wide open. The interior of the dimly lit shack from his dreams spread out before him along with the figures he'd watched so many times. Unlike every time before, the three robed men and their prisoner were aware of his presence. He stepped across the threshold of the gate and felt prickling sensation as his body materialized in this dimension. Moru landed on his shoulder and with both of them through the gate it vanished with an audible crackle of magic.
“Wh-what the hell? A sorcerer?” one of the three large men stuttered.
“Good, this time you can see me...” the words left Arius' lips in a dangerous whisper, the corners of his mouth curved into a vicious smirk. Their prisoner craned his neck, attempting to get a better look at the sorcerer from around one of his captors. The robed men staggered backward, one of them backed into the corner where the sword was propped and began to reach for it.
“Oh no you don't,” Arius hissed. He summoned power to him, concentrating every bit of anger and frustration he'd felt over the past year into a single spell, “Die.”
At the word from the sorcerer's lips, the three thugs shrieked and then dropped to the ground. They convulsed for a second beneath Arius' distainful gaze before they stilled. The imprisoned elf looked to his deceased captors and then back to the sorcerer, his bruised and bloodied face turned pale. Arius relaxed his stance, his expression softened to a smile as he regarded the redhead tied to the chair.
“Don't worry, I won't hurt you,” he spoke gently as he circled the man and came to stand before him.
“Master, may I?” Moru cawed, and as Arius raised a hand the raven fluttered down to pick at the eyes of the dead men. At the sight, the bound elf wrinkled his nose in disgust before he looked to Arius once more.
“What are you going to do with me?” he asked the question, the words thick and sluggish from the beating he had suffered.
“Isn't it obvious? I came here to save you. Now let's get you untied. My name's Arius by the way.” he cheerily answered and then focused his attention on the rope that restrained the other elf. Holding out a hand he summoned a small amount of power, pooling in his fingertips and manifesting as several droplets of acid which ate through the rope as soon as it touched.
“I appreciate the rescue. I suppose I should give you my name. I'm Kieran Sylvain.” the redhead answered gratefully, rubbing at his arms where the ropes had abraded at his skin.
“Kieran, hm? Well, let's get you out of here, just in case there's more of those thugs. We can talk more once we're on the move. Moru, let's go.” Arius called and walked to the door of the shack. He nudged it open and peeked out to the street beyond. A dusty alleyway lay before him, devoid of activity save for few moths that fluttered near a street lamp and a cat that was picking at some scraps on the ground.
“Come on, ginger. We're going to take you home.” Moru cawed roughly and hopped out of the shack. Out in the street, the raven began to grow in size until he almost took up the entire alleyway. The cat took with a scrabbling of claws at the sight of the expanding bird. Arius glanced back to see Kieran walk through the doorway and stare with his mouth agape at the raven which was now bigger than a horse.
“We're going to ride on that?” he gasped incredulously. Moru cocked his head to one side, ruffling his feathers in offense.
“His name is Moru. Now get on, we don't want to linger here if you've got people looking to behead you. Climb on behind me and hold on tight.” Arius asserted calmly and climbed up onto the immense raven's back. Kieran hesitated for a moment, and Arius wondered if he would run, but then he climbed onto Moru's back a bit awkwardly and wrapped his arms about his waist.