Land In Revolt Interludes VIII
The gnomes casually looked up from their piles of documents when the bright light flashed. Just as quickly, they returned to their work without much of a second thought. It’s nothing they hadn’t seen hundreds of time before. He had returned.
Ralen dropped his arms at the spell’s completion. He and his escorts were back safely in the West Spire. “That will be all, officers,” he said to the team of City Guards. “You are dismissed.” The guards departed as instructed, leaving Ralen in the lobby with his team of diligent, paper-pushing gnomes. He walked past them with great haste towards the Council’s chamber. He did not acknowledge them. Not out of malice; he was extremely distracted. Ralen was about to report back to the Council regarding his interaction with the Golden Saviors.
He didn’t expect it would go well.
The fools actually had the gall to refuse his offer. Ralen could barely fathom it. Didn’t they understand with whom they were dealing? The Council represented the second wealthiest city in Maccordia. Besides that, they were powerful wielders of magic. But above all these things, the Council possessed information that, if made known to the public, would effectively destroy the would-be heroes’ reputation. How could they dismiss that fact so easily? To Ralen, who knew just of what the Council was capable, their actions were akin to madness.
It may not even matter. The group was headed to Oakende, a well-known (and feared) epicenter of undead horrors. Even with the Cleric, now a pariah in his own right, their mission would be difficult. Their collective deaths may make the use of blackmail against them moot. Ralen would still have to get his hands on the artifact. And he’d be damned if he was setting foot inside Chi-Rho Manor, Council’s orders or not. No, he thought to himself, it would be best if the Golden Saviors made it out of Oakdene with the Augmenter. It would ultimately be less work. It wouldn’t take much to discredit them with the evidence at Ralen’s disposal. The pressure of being wanted criminals may drive them to him in the end. He mulled the over the different variables as he neared the end of the hallway.
The sorcerer took a deep breath to center himself. He pushed on the large double doors so he could meet with Valencia’s Council of Elders. It was time to go about making the Golden Saviors the most hated men in Maccordia.
* * *
“Please, I’m…I’m so…tired,” said the exhausted wizard to no one at all.
“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” said the voices. “You may rest sssooooon. But first we must do as the Master commands. You do not wish to displease the Master, do you?”
“N-no,” Alexander said weakly to the thin air. “I w-won’t displease…the M-master…”
“Gooooooood,” replied the whispers soothingly. “Now serve him – your quarry approaches…”
Alexander lifted his head slowly. It took great effort on his part, as if it a cartload of adamantine hung around his neck. The wizard barely resembled his former self. With his sunken eyes and pallid skin, he could just as easily been mistaken for a wight. Any extra weight on his frame had melted away these past weeks. All he did was walk. Walk all day and night. He could not rest. The voices wouldn’t let him.
The only time he deviated from walking was when the voices told him it was time to sate the Master. When that happened, he wished he was walking again. He wondered if he would ever see a day where he didn’t hear the screams of those poor souls in his mind. Those and the voices of course.
His head finally raised, Alexander could see the detachment of metal men coming towards him. If he had the energy, he would have been fascinated at the sight. Instead, all he felt was pity since he knew what was coming. They moved quickly and efficiently, almost like real people. The protective barrier around the stronghold from which they emerged parted for its denizens so they could descend on the interloper.
That’s when Alexander summoned the tentacles.
Before the metal men could react, five of them were slammed backwards into the barrier with incredible force. The one Alexander separated from the pack was far less fortunate. This one would serve as the sample. This metal man’s fate was sealed; Alexander would be the one to deliver it.
The five who were rebuked recovered quickly. On their feet again, they began to hurl all kinds of magic towards Alexander in hopes of rescuing their comrade. The act was futile. The tendrils of otherworldly evil served as an impenetrable wall against the offensive. Eventually the metal men stopped their attempts. Not because of the spell resistance, but due to the horror befalling their friend.
On the other side of the writhing wall of blackness, the lone victim howled in agony. The tentacles wrapped around him, invading every crevice of his metal frame. It looked as if they were forcibly taking something from him. Indeed they were. The five others watched as the squirming appendages ripped the very Essence from their compatriot. The bright lights within his eye sockets disappeared, replaced by an inky darkness. The body went limp and the metal man struggled no more.
“Time to gooooooooooooo, Alexander…” said the voices.
“But, Amelia,” protested Alexander. “Y-you said you would bring me to her…”
“And so we shall,” promised the voices. “But that is for another time. We must bring the Master his priiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiize.”
“Yes,” replied Alexander as he lowered his head. “If we must.”
He turned back towards the treeline surrounding the stronghold. As Alexander moved forward, the sickening tentacles carried their prey behind him. The other metal men could do nothing but cower against the dome.
Alexander kept walking, a fresh set of screams to accompany him.