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Legendary Heroes

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Forsaken Hero


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    A lone figure walked through the graveyard, alone.  The figure was the Sorceress, a practitioner of magic.  She was not an evil practitioner, which was contrary to the current belief of the townsfolk, but a good one.  The current belief that she was evil came from that happened many years ago.  It was an event that she looked back on in dread.
    The Sorceress, whose name was Lilandra, always looked back at that moment with dread.  It was the day she lost someone dear to her, due to carelessness.  She was still unsure whose carelessness it was, but the results had been staggering.  At first, she thought the loss had been the only bad thing, but after that things had changed.  Her spells started backfiring, or going wrong after they were cast.  The bigger the spell, the more disastrous the backfire.
    Then there was the effect on the fields.  In the years since the incident, less and less grew, and the livestock started dying from eating what was harvested.  Some of the townsfolk were certain that the population would start dying off soon.  The worst, however, was just starting to happen in the past month or so, which made her trek to the Mausoleum all the more perilous.
    A month ago, someone had stepped from the graveyard.  At first, no one thought much of it, until the screams of terror started.  It had been a zombie, a reanimated corpse.  At once, everyone blamed Lilandra, and that made her feel worse.  Every day since then, people were trying to scare her off, but they still were too afraid to actually toss her out of the town.
    As she neared the door to the Mausoleum, Lilandra thought back to that disastrous day.  She had come across a rare spell book.  It had been mentioned in one of her other tomes, one that spoke about the various legends of the realm.  According to the legend in the book, each realm had a Legend, a hero who could transform into a bestial form.  The key parts of it were having a Legendary item in their possession, and to be of one of the legendary classes.
    Lilandra, at that time, wondered if she was one of them.  Something in her sensed that was the case, and on that fateful day, she thought she had taken all precautions  She had a guard at the door to her lab, and she had made sure nothing would disturb her.  At least she thought she had taken all the precautions.  When she had put enough focus into what she was doing, she felt her body begin to change.
    Her dark skin turned into green scales.  Her long hair turned into a mass of writhing snakes.  Even her dress seemed to take on a snake like appearance.  She had become a Medusa, or a Gorgon.  She had not known this would be the form a Legend might take, but it was the reason she wanted to be undisturbed.  Tragically, it had been that moment that her own brother, Liam, came barging in.  At that moment, when she turned in shock to face him, he had turned to stone.
    She almost started to cry again, after thinking about that day, when she heard murmuring.  Although no one was close, she heard on the wind some of the townsfolk's fear mongering.  “She probably going to raise the spirits of the dead, or ruin her good brother‘s body.  Poor lad was just trying to save us from her wicked ways.”  This brought another tear to her eyes, mainly because of the nature of her magic.
    Her magic wasn't evil.  If it had been, she was certain the rare spell book would not have worked.  Even all the spells she had done, including the one's before the fateful day, were life giving.  Dark magic was destructive, which was sadly easier to do.  What was worse was that had she been a man, they would not have been saying those things.  Wizards were held in higher regard.  In fact, even from her cottage, she could see the tower of one of the greatest Wizards of all the eight realms.
    That tower was the home of Sumner.  Lilandra had heard many years ago that the tower was so mystical that it stood on many lands.  It was due to that special mystical nature that Lilandra's request for help to cure her brother had been answered so quickly.  Sadly, when the help arrived, it didn't work.  While it should have restored his body, it had instead turned him into a rotted corpse.  That also fuelled the fear in the villagers.  It made them all think she was practicing very dark magic.
    When she reached the door to the mausoleum, she heard one of the few villagers who still didn't believe the rumors say, "I don't think so.  I think she is going to pay her respects.  I've seen that book she carries before, and it says it is a good book.  Might even be the old Book of Protection."  She wanted to respond, to thank the person, but the others laughed, as if that person was a fool.
    She quickly entered the mausoleum, and closed the door, shutting out the hatemongering.  Once inside, the air felt colder, and her dark skin was covered in gooseflesh.  That was to be expected in a place like this.  These places were homes for the spirits of those who passed on, and luckily the hostile ones were greatly outnumbered by peaceful ghosts.  As she moved through the place, she paused long enough to say a prayer in the buildings chapel.
    Once she passed the chapel, she noticed a more malevolent feel in the air. Lilandra knew this could not be right.  The peaceful spirits had always outnumbered the hostile ones, but now it seemed different.  It seemed the peaceful spirits were becoming more hostile.  Even this place, which had to have been sacred ground, was becoming tainted.
    With fear for her brother's spirit foremost in her mind, Lilandra ran down to the crypt where her brother's body was.  The air felt thicker, full of the taint of evil.  Fear started to consumer her thoughts as she opened the door to the crypt.  She dashed in, closing the door behind her, saying "Brother, I hope your spirit is alright.  I'm sorry for what happened to you long ago."
    She had not expected what she heard, but when she heard it, it chilled her to the bone.  “No need for you to feel sorry, sister.  Everything has gone exactly to my plan.  In fact, it has gone better than I hoped.”  At that point Lilandra watched in horror as a corpse broke through the ground.  It looked like her brother, except it was twice his size, and the flesh was decaying.
    She started to back up, but fell backwards.  To her horror, a skeletal hand had grabbed her ankle.  She quickly got a hold of her senses, and blasted the hand with her wand.  The bones scattered, and she got back on her feet.  She backed up to the door of the crypt, something the figure had said hit her.  “What do you mean ’your plan’?”
    The corpse laughed, its rotten breath fouling the air in the room.  “My foolish sister, doing all you could to correct your mistake.  All that time, as my body prepared, I was fouling your magic, just as I fouled the land.  Now that the transformation is complete, I can fully bring the zombies and ghosts to the land, and this land will be back as Skorne wants it.”
    Hearing those last words made ice go through her.  She had read the legend of Skorne.  Long ago, the demon had almost destroyed the eight mystical realms of the land.  The one that dominated the province was a Lich, an undead wizard.  The very book she had was used to defeat it.  However, she also knew that the original person who defeated the Lich had also been a Sorceress.
    She glared at the thing that had been her brother.  “You will not succeed.  There are people who will stop you.  I shall..”
    The creature laughed again, and cut off her words.  “Do nothing.  You can’t get anyone to believe you.  I’ve befouled your magic, and they will even suspect you.  I’ve even made sure they can’t see the truth of the book.  You might as well die now.”  With those last words, Lilandra saw the Lich pull an axe out of the ground.
    She realized what would happen, if she allowed it.  She raised the mystical Book of Protection, and light magic shot out of the book, striking the Lich.  It staggered, and Lilandra ran through the crypt door.  She was no longer surprised by the number of hostile spirits.  The Lich would definitely increase the power of them, and make the things a real threat to people.
    When she got out of the Mausoleum, she noticed that more zombies were rising from the ground.  Just the sight of that made Lilandra run for the cemetery exit.  She was surprised that when she reached the exit, she saw all the villagers waiting there.  For a moment, she thought they knew about the Lich.  Her thought changed when she noticed that all of them looked at her as if everything was her fault.
    Before she could say anything, one of the more prominent people in the village stepped forward.  “So, you were trying to bring more of those creatures out with that evil book of yours.”  She was about to respond, but the man just continued.  “You cannot lie to us, witch.  You entered, and more of those monstrosities started showing up.  We know what we need to do to get rid of them.”
    Suddenly, the only thing she knew would defeat the Lich was ripped from her hands.  She reached forward, shouting, “No.  That is not an evil book.  It’s the only thing that can help end this.”  Her words were met with loud jeers.  None of the villagers believed her.
    Lilandra was then shocked by the man’s next words.  “Don’t lie to us.  We know it is evil.  We even know about your late night attempts to seduce the men here.  You are banned from the village.”  She didn’t know which was worse, being banned or the accusations.  Before she could protest, she felt two other villagers grab her arms, and then escort her to the gates of town.
    As they continued to move, she saw in the distance, Sumner’s tower.  It was a connection point between the eight realms, and Sumner was known to move freely through all of them.  Even if the people here didn’t believe her, he would.  She wasn’t sure how old Sumner was, but the great wizard would definitely know the truth and what to do.
    Once she was out of town, and the gates closed.  Lilandra set her gaze on the ethereal tower, and walked to it.  As she walked, she said to herself, “They may have run me out of the town, but I will return.  I will not let my home be destroyed.  They must be blinded by the Lich’s magic.  Sumner will have an answer on how to make them see, as well as save the land.”  At least, she hoped he did.  Still, if Skorne was back, the world was on the edge of destruction, and she was certain that one hero would not be enough.

Chapter Text

Beastly Barbarian
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.  The events of this story take place before the game.)
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    Of all of the eight realms, none had the majestic peaks of the Mountain Kingdom.  While from a distance they were beautiful to look at, they were actually a rugged terrain that only the toughest could survive.  In fact, the only people who could tame the land was the barbarian people who called it home.  They were tough enough to fight off the Orcs that hid in the mountain, survive the stings of the Scorpions, and withstand the fiery breath of the Demons.  However, no single warrior could take on the occasional dragon.
    Teams of warriors were tasked with defeating the dragons.  One such team had been assembled, and they had made their way to a dragon's lair.  They had not entered the lair yet.  It was always best to set up a plan, and the warrior who had that plan was Tybear.  His name was already being included with the likes of Untar, the legendary warrior who could wield an axe of mystical ice.
    Tybear had heard legends of the axe.  The mystical weapon would freeze any dragon, but would only reveal itself to a true legend.  It would also freeze any dragon on contact.  Legend also stated that one dragon that had terrorized the Mountain Kingdom was powerful enough to break free of the spell.  Deep down, he hoped that dragon wasn't back, and wasn't this one.  The dragon his team was about to take one had already killed one group of warriors.  Tybear, however, did not think the dragon had been overly to blame.  The warrior leading that group, Leeroy, had taken the unusual method of using his name as a battle cry.
    With that fiasco in mind, Tybear looked in, noticing the dragon appeared to be sleeping.  He noticed all the rocks set up, and that it would be easy to hide behind them.  He turned to the others and said, "We may have the advantage of our prey being asleep.  We move in, quickly and quietly, using the rocks for cover.  If we do it right, we can move in, and cut the beast down with our battleaxes before it awakens."
    The warriors following Tybear nodded, and the group entered the lair.  They needed this lucky break, since during the trek to this lair, the number of foul creatures in the mountains had increased.  During past attacks on dragons, the monster number didn't increase like it had.  It was something that had wore down the group.  Once they were in the lair, there was only one beast to fight, and as they cautiously advanced, some odd things started to happen.
    The first was only noticed by Tybear at first.  He had felt a sudden chill.  This was very odd, since a dragon's fiery nature caused a large amount of heat.  He also realized that the chill was coming from his battleaxe.  For a brief moment, the axe, which had been handed down from generation to generation, was coated in frost, and then changed from metal to ice.
    The second thing was noticed by everyone else.  While Tybear was focused on his axe, one of the warriors with him shouted, “The Dragon is awake."  He saw this was true.  The beast had been feigning sleep, and the one who had shouted was the second to be incinerated.  At that moment, Tybear felt his quest would be doomed to failure.     
    As more of the warriors fell, Tybear let loose a mighty bellow, and hurled his axe at the beast.  The second the blade struck the beast, the dragon appeared to be encased in ice.  Tybear turned to urge any warriors left to attack, but he was dumbstruck by what he saw.  All of them were dead, their corpses nothing more than charred remains.  He then faced the dragon again, still frozen in ice, and paused.
    At first, he thought he was facing another minion of the dragon, or some other foul mountain creature.  It looked human, but its torso and head looked more like a bull.  When it mirrored his movements, he realized what he was seeing.  It was himself, except he had changed into the form of a minotaur.  He was a hero of legend, for only they could do that.
    He had been so stunned by that revelation that he didn't move until he heard the ice cracking.  At first, he thought the dragon was breaking apart, but then he saw the truth.  The ice was falling off the beast.  He looked at his hands, and noticed that the axe had returned to his hands, but before he could throw it again, the dragon swung its claw, and sent the Ice Axe flying through the air.
    In that moment, Tybear backed up, but to his surprise, the dragon didn't attack.  It laughed, and even spoke.  "So, the spawn of that blasted Untar exists.  Skorne warned me that the blasted warrior had sired a line.  You can even take on that blasted bestial form.  That won't help you now.  I shall wipe out all of your line, and all of your people."  Tybear took the dragon's ranting as a break, and got out of the lair.
    He heard the beast roar, but he also realized that he could no longer understand it.  He also felt his body had resumed the shape of a human being, but that was a small condolence as he made his way back to the village they had.  The dragon was the one Untar had slain, and like the legends stated, was a minion of Skorne.  If Skorne was returning, the mountains would start erupting again.  All life on the mountains would be destroyed, and the rocks might even come to life, as the legend stated.
    He knew what he had to do.  He first needed to warn his people, and have them get to safety.  Then, he would have to reclaim the Ice Axe.  It was the only weapon that would weaken the dragon.  To do that, however, he would have to find help, and he was sure once his people heard the news, they would not want to help.  The dragon was more than any of the other dragons had been.

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    When Tybear had finally reached his village, he saw the people had gathered, and were celebrating.  They must have heard the roar of the dragon, and since he returned, thought he had killed it.  Even Gisselle, the woman he was betrothed to, as well as the daughter of the elder, jumped up and wrapped herself around him.  This did not surprise him, since a sign of affection like this was considered alright.  It was also followed by one of the more passionate kisses she had ever given him.  After the kiss ended, he saw her look him right in the eye.  “Father wants to see you.  I think he wants to congratulate you, and after that, I want to as well.”
    Tybear started to feel worse, but he would not let it show.  He didn’t want everyone to think he was a failure as a warrior.  At least this would post pone the disappointment and outrage that would happen soon.  He headed towards the Elder’s place, taking note that his betrothed was at his side.  He honestly feared how she would react when she found out about his failure.  He wasn’t even sure how the Elder would react.  He only took strength that he was going to be telling the truth.
    When they reached the home of the Elder, Tybear entered, and he noticed right away that the Elder knew the dragon wasn't dead.  He also noticed that the Elder didn't look upset. In fact, the Elder looked thoughtful, as if he already knew what had happened up at the lair.  Tybear started to speak, but the Elder held up his hand, and Tybear closed his mouth.  After a moment of silence, the Elder just asked a question.  "Did the axe turn to ice?"
    Tybear gasped, wondering how the Elder knew that.  He was even at a loss for words, but he nodded to acknowledge the truth.  He heard his betrothed gasp, since that could only mean one thing.  The Elder nodded again, and then said, "You heard the Dragon speak."
    Tybear nodded again, and then realized it wasn't a question.  He got down on one knee in front of the Elder, as a sign of acknowledging his leader.  "Yes.  I had also transformed, which is how I understood the thing.  It said Skorne was returning."  He heard another gasp come from his betrothed, but in that one, he could hear fear.
    He then saw the Elder shake his head.  "I was hoping this day would come well after my lifetime.   When Untar first defeated that fowl beast ages ago, the legends say he heard the Dragon say it would return.  Untar even felt it, and passed his Ice Axe down for the day it returned.  He also said that it would take more than a single warrior to do it.  It would take many types of warriors.  Some skilled in magic, some skilled in speed."
    Tybear nodded, and then remembered what happened to the Ice Axe.  "We will also have to retrieve the Ice Axe."  He saw the Elder nod, and realized the Elder must have seen the Ice Axe arc through the air.  He glanced right at the Elder, and asked the question that just reached his mind.  "Did you see where it went?"
    The Elder shook his head, making Tybear worry.  Then the Elder spoke, which gave Tybear hope.  "It has left the Mountain Kingdom.  I fear it has gone in to one of the other eight realms.  You must leave now, Tybear, and get help from the Wizard Sumner."
    At that point, Tybear heard a voice cry out in protest, and realized it was his betrothed.  "Not the surreal tower at the base of our mountain.  Any time a warrior goes there, they never seem to return.  Father, Tybear and I are to be wed in a day's time.  What about that?"
    The Elder sadly shook his head, and Tybear realized this saddened him.  "I know, Giselle.  Sadly, if Tybear does not go, our clan will die, if not tomorrow, then someday soon.  The demon Skorne will not let us survive, nor will he let the other realms survive.  Plus, if the Dragon is to be defeated, we will need the Ice Axe again.”  It was true.  The only way that Dragon could be defeated was with the Ice Axe.
    Tybear nodded, and then turned to Giselle.  “My love, I must do this.  Skorne’s Dragon will turn the Mountain Kingdom into a blazing inferno.  No one will survive, and who knows what will happen to the other realms.  If I don’t go now, we will never have a life together.  I promise you this, though.  I will return, and we will be wed.”
    Tybear saw her nod.  “Alright.  Once the demon is gone, we will be wed.  I want us to have a long happy life together.”  He nodded, and then he left the Elder’s place.  He did so quickly, since he didn’t want to be tempted to turn his back on his duty.
    As he made his way out of the village, he heard people celebrating.  Right now, they were celebrating a victory that never happened.  When they learned that the Dragon was not gone, they would be upset, but it would be worse when they learn it was the Dragon of legend.  No doubt, a panic would start, and the village would flee the mountains.  Most likely, they would head to the very place he was heading now.  Down to the base of the mountains, where the ethereal tower of Sumner stood.  For a moment, he wondered what it would be like to stand at the base of the tower, since they said the tower stood in many lands all at once.  Well, he would find out soon, and when he did, he would be ready for that adventure.

Chapter Text

Flight Of The Valkyrie
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.  The events of this story take place before the game.)
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    Amongst the eight realms, none is so heavily fortified as the Castle Stronghold.  The thick walls, as well as its defenses keep the people safe.  Some of those people have made their home in the castle, since the days when it had been an outpost of the demon, Skorne.  Back then, a lone Valkyrie, named Rasha, had destroyed the guardian creature, a three headed Chimera.  Since then, the Lord and Lady of the land made sure the defenses included Valkyries.
    Every generation, the Valkyries, who were all women, fought bravely to defend the realm, and keep any foul beasts from infesting the castle, and therefore the land.  The current leader of the Valkyries, a brave woman named Karren, had become a figure to be admired.  She had risen to the role of leader before she was twenty, and had held the position for a decade.  This was unusual since the captain retired in one of two ways before a decade passed.  One was by death, and the other was by marriage.
    Lately, Karren had been thinking that she should leave the Valkyries, and since she had started spending more time with one of the guards, that seemed more likely now.  The guard she had been spending time was a new one, but he had talent.  On the rare occasion that they had to work together, usually destroying a horde of Living Armor, not a single one of the strange creatures could lay a gauntlet on them.  There was no stopping them.  It was also that feeling that made her think she had found the man for her.
    In fact, she had been thinking that after they were both done with their duties for the day, she would propose.  It was not unheard of in the Castle Stronghold.  It was common that the Valkyries were the ones who asked a man to get married.  They were the strongest women in the land, and had earned the right.  Even the Lord and Lady, both of whom agreed she deserved the title of leader, had been asking when the day would come for her.
    Karren was almost lost in those thoughts when an alarm sounded, echoing through out the castle.  It was an attack, and judging by the sound, she knew it was by something formidable.  As if responding to a born instinct, she started running through the place, eventually making her way to one of the battlements.  It was almost luck that she didn't run over her second in command, a younger woman named Molly.  "What's attacking?  Is it another gargoyle?"
    The young woman shook her head.  "Worse.  It's a chimera.  Some seems to think it matches the one in the tapestry."  That made Karren’s blood go cold.  If that was true, there was only one weapon that could defeat it, and that was in the room where the tapestry was.  She'd have to run to it, and then get back in time.
    She looked at the young woman, and gave the command.  "Keep the beast busy, and try to defeat it.  If it is truly the Chimera of Skorne's, I'll be back with the weapon to destroy it."  She saw the second in command nod, and then run off.  In response, she ran off to the room the tapestry was in.  Given her long time in charge of the Valkyries, she had memorized almost every nook in the castle, which meant she got to the tapestry in no time.
    She walked right up to the sword that was at the base of the tapestry.  It had been wielded by the legendary Valkyrie, Rasha.  The story was that the legendary Valkyrie flew into battle against the Chimera, and, with one swipe, cut off all three heads.  The tapestry even had shown Rasha, except she was a Falconess, a woman who had the head and wings of a falcon.  For a moment, she wondered what it would have been like to have flown like that.
    She was broken out of those thoughts when she heard an unearthly sound.  It was followed by screams of pain and death.  She quickly ran back out to the battlements, and almost froze in horror at what she saw.  Half of her Valkyries were dead, their bodies unrecognizable.  Almost all the guards were dead, and the Chimera was ripping one apart.  The real horrifying fact was that the figure being ripped apart was the man she loved.
    At that moment, a rage went through Karren, and she leapt out at the Chimera.  While she was a long way off, she was surprised to feel herself flying through the air.  It wasn't until she was halfway towards the Chimera that she managed to catch a glimpse of herself in one the courtyard's waterways.  She noticed feathery wings had sprouted from her back, and her head had changed into that of a falcon.  She had become a Falconess.
    As she neared the Chimera, she realized that this new form had another benefit.  Before this had happened, the sounds she heard from the beast had been nothing but animal noises.  Now, she heard the foul creature speak, and the words chilled her to the bone.  "Not another bitch like that accursed Rasha.  If you think I will let that thing cut off any of my heads again, it won't happen."
    Karren spun around in the air, and then slung the blade through the air towards the Chimera.  As it flew, she shouted, "And if you think I'll let you kill another soul, that won't happen either."  Much to her surprised, the blade soared through the air, and almost hit the middle head of the Chimera.  The surprise was unpleasant, since at the last moment, the beast ducked low, and the blade continued spinning, heading past the castle walls, and to the lands far beyond.
    She gasped in shock at the loss of the legendary weapon.  That gasp was then drowned out by the laughter of the Chimera's three heads.  She turned and saw it was now flying away.  As it flew, however, the Chimera boasted.  "Thank you, foolish woman.  Skorne will be happy that that bane is gone.  And once I am far enough away, you will fall to your death.  Then all the humans here will be my feast."
    Karren watched, almost dumbfounded as the creature flew off, but then she remembered where she was.  She quickly landed on the battlements, just as she returned to normal.  She watched as the creature became a speck on the horizon, and heard the Lord and Lady approach her.
    She turned to face them, but lowered her head.  She even got down on one knee, but was ashamed to look at them.  "My lieges, I'm sorry I have failed you.  I failed to stop that foul beast, and now a blight will come upon the land."
    She was almost grateful when the Lady spoke.  "Do not despair, Karren.  You did your best to defend, and the people are still safe.  I was sadden to see that the man you loved was slain."  She almost flinched when she heard that.  She had not realized the Lady had seen that.
    The next voice surprised her even more.  It was the Lord.  "It is ironic that facts about your life parallel Rasha's.  It is written down in the archives that she had been like you.  Captain of the Valkyries at a young age, and held the title for years.  She was able to become a Falconess.  The only thing that was different was that when she wed, it had been with a Knight, not a guard."
    For the first time, Karren looked at her rulers since she kneeled.  "A Knight.  But they are of the Sky Dominion.  They don't come here, do they?"  She had only heard about them, as well as the Sky Dominion.  True Knights from there never set foot on land once they reached the air.
    The Lord, much to her surprise, nodded his head.  "On rare occasion.  Rasha had not been the first to hold that blade. A Knight had brought it down to her after it had flown off, thrown by the first person to hold it.  That may be case now, especially if the Chimera's master, Skorne is returning."
    Karren did not know how to respond to this.  What it did cause, however, was hope to rise in her.  She quickly got to her feet, and saluted them.  "While the news that Skorne’s returning is bad, this may not just be happening here.  There may be others, from other realms, preparing to fight, and looking to help.  I wish to go to Sumner's tower."
    She was not surprised that both monarchs nodded.  The most powerful wizard in the eight realms, Sumner, would know how to find the Scimitar, as well as what other defenders might help.  She didn't wait for another word to be said, but dashed away, and eventually through the castle’s gate.
    She locked her eyes on her goal, and ran, passing many people who had been living in the Stronghold.  Some looked at her, and she could tell they though the Valkyries were fleeing as well.  Others, she heard as she passed, mentioned that she must be seeking some heroic item.  She knew they were the one that were correct, but most likely, as things happened, would not be believed.  It was the state of human nature at these times.  Still, she closed the distance to the ethereal tower, inwardly marveling at how it seemed to be both there, and not there, at the same time.  There, Karren knew, would be help.

End of the Valkyrie’s tale.

Chapter Text

Dark Cloud, Dark Knight
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.  The events of this story take place before the game.)
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    Of the eight realms, one of the largest was that of the Sky Dominion.  It was so large that it could, in theory, connect to several of the realms.  The truth was that the Sky Dominion only had a small bit of land, on which a huge spire was built.  That Spire was the linking point between the land and the sky, and it was also the home of the guardians of that realm.
    Those men were the Knights, whose job it was to defend their realm, as well as the other realms, from those foul things that roamed the air.  They also protected those people who lived in the various sky ships.  It was a daunting job, and the men who were Knights were considered the best for it.
    Two of those men stood on the spire, watching the horizon for any threats.  One of the Knights, a man named Percival, was the first to notice something on the horizon.  It was a vast dark shape, like a huge storm cloud.  Every Knight knew that a storm cloud meant no ships could dock at the spire, nor could any ship survive the harsh winds.  Most of the ships stayed where the storms would not bother them.  Percival, however, could tell that something was odd about the cloud, and turned to his compatriot.  "Doesn't that cloud look odd?".  
    The other Knight, named Jonas, nodded, but his face remained neutral.  “It does look odd, but I can’t say it is a threat.  Most likely another storm.”  Jonas was a more experienced Knight, but for some reason, Percival could not shake the idea that the storm he saw was more than it seemed.
    Apparently, Percival was not the only one to think that the cloud was more than it appeared to be.  The most senior of the Knights stepped out on the spire’s top, and looked at the cloud as well.  After a few moment, the man let out a low growl.  “That cloud is both poison and plague.  I feel it in my bones.”
    Those two words made Percival pause.  He had read the lore about the time of Skorne, and when plague carriers and living acid plagued the Sky Dominion.  If it had not been for the Knight, Marker, things would have been far worse.  All the realms might have ended up infected, and the people dying.  They did not need a repeat of those times, which was why Percival spoke up at that moment.  “Sir, we could go check it out.  I know the lore, and we should make sure that the threat isn’t too big.  We may have to hunt down Marker’s Javelin before we can hope to succeed.”
    Much to the surprise of both the Knights, the leader had already had the Javelin with him.  “Agreed.  Something about that storm cloud seems to fit with the legend of Skorne’s Plague.”   He then handed the Javelin to the Knights, and they ran for the nearest flying device.

*****************************
    
    The lengthy trip had given both Knights time to prepare for what they were about to see.  Percival, who had less experience, almost gasped in shock when he saw the sight in front of him.  The huge cloud had been the cover for a massive flying ship.  It was almost as big as some of the settlements in the other realms.  It could even house an army of troops.  It was the words of the calm Jonus that snapped the younger Knight out of his shock.  "That cloud is laced with Skorne's plague.  If it were to dump that on the world, the death toll would be too large."
    The younger Knight looked at Jonus, obviously admiring the calm the older was exhibiting.  When the ship finally docked at a point, he jumped off, saying, "If that is the case, we need to either send it off, or destroy it."  The younger knight ran forward, holding the Javelin.
    He paused when the older Knight spoke words of wisdom.  "The best course right now would be to send it back to where it came from.  If we were to destroy it now, the plague would rain down on the Mountain Kingdom.  The only safe way to destroy the ship is to destroy the plague.”
    As the two Knights set forth, the air ship looked unmanned, but both Knights had enough training to know that just because something looked unmanned didn't mean it was.  They proceeded with caution, and despite the rules drilled into them, split up.  For Percival, it had been unintentional, since he was so focused on figuring out a way to destroy the plague.
    While Percival made his way up the decks, he eventually found a very disturbing site.  In a cage above the one deck, there was a skeleton.  It was disturbing, but as the lone Knight stood captivated by the grisly sight, an ethereal voice spoke.  "Brave knight.  You must get the warning out to the other Knights."
    Percival blinked, and then shook his head.  He wasn't sure he had heard what he heard, but he knew better than to think otherwise.  He looked around for a moment, and then said, "Who said that?"
    The young knight’s attention then went to the skeleton, and for the briefest moment, he saw the thing turn its head to face him.  While there were no facial features to make out, something of the ethereal voice made him think the skull could show emotion.  “Young Knight, the Plague Fiend, servant of Skorne, is returning.  They have corrupted another Knight.  You must stop them, or Skorne will return.”
    Percival realized what the statement meant.  He had heard that one of the other Knights had disappear some time ago. No one had known what had happened to the Knight, but hearing one was corrupt was disturbing.  It was something Jonus had to be made aware of.
    He moved faster through the flying craft, and as he did so, Percival noticed some new things appearing on the craft.  The legends spoke that the ship of the Plague Fiend had been manned by deformed creatures that wore masks to hide their deformed faces.  Countless numbers of the creatures would come from something like a small wooden shack.  That had to be what he was seeing now; the wooden shacks that the Plague Grunts resided in.
    Finally, he had found a door that was open, and in it was the silhouette of a familiar figure.  It was Jonus, and as he entered the room, he saw, to his horror, that they were on a platform high above a foul looking green liquid.  It was the heart of the Plague Fiend’s power, but no sign of the fiend.  The creature had yet to come back to life.  He ran up to the older Knight, and said, “Jonus.  This is the lair of the Plague Fiend.  It’s trying to come back, but we might be able to stop it.”
    He saw Jonus nod.  “Yes, if one were to able to find the eye of the Plague Fiend, the only part that managed to remain after Marker blinded and destroyed it, they could effectively destroy it before it could reform.  It would be a one in a million shot, something not for a novice.”  With the last word, Jonus had held out his hand.
    For a moment, Percival almost handed over the Javelin.  Before he did, however, he remembered that the door was open.  It was open, and obviously not forced, or there would have been some marks on the door.  He also remembered the skeleton had said another Knight had been the culprit.  He held the Javelin back, and said, “I think it would be better if I didn‘t hand it over, sir.”  
    For a moment, neither moved; then Jonus, almost foaming at the mouth in rage, lunged forward, and grabbed for the Javelin.  “So you figured it out.  You figured I was helping the Fiend.  You know that Skorne is returning, and when he does, the weaker species will be destroyed.”
    Those last words, said by a man Percival had trusted for years, gave him a surge in strength.  He managed to throw Jonus, causing the corrupted Knight to look at him in shock.  It also caused the man to fly off the platform, and into the toxic goop with a nauseating sucking sound.
    Percival started gasping for breath, momentarily forgetting about the noxious goop below him.  For some reason, he felt like he needed more air than normal.  It didn‘t make sense, until he noticed his arms were covered in white fur.  He took his shield off his back, and momentarily looked at himself in the shiny surface, amazed at what looked back at him.
    He had turned into a walking Unicorn.  According to legend, Marker had done the same when he was fighting the Plague Fiend.  He didn‘t understand how this could have happened now, since the Plague Fiend had not reformed.
    A new sound entered the air when that thought hit him.  It was a bubbling sound, and he turned around.  Before he finished, however, he jumped, since a green oozing tendril had come down where he was standing.  The Plague Fiend had reformed, and to Percival‘s horror, the face shared features with Jonus.  The voice it had, however, was almost a gurgle.  “So someone has the same talents as Marker.  This time, however, the hero will die.”
    Percival reacted before the second tendril came down on him.  He threw the Javelin, but it was what the monster had expected.  The creature easily ducked aside, and the Javelin not only missed the Plague Fiend, but went through a portal in the lair, flying out into the sky outside.  He knew that by the time he reached the flyer, the weapon would be lost.
    He also knew that he didn‘t have a chance at beating the fiend.  Before the cursed creature could attack him again, he bolted out of the place.  While he could feel the form of the Unicorn starting to fade, he took advantage of it, rushing past the creatures now emerging from the shacks.  He lucked out that they were so surprised by his appearance that they didn‘t have time to react until he had left the ship in his flyer.  Now, Percival knew, he had to warn the others, as well as tell them the horrid truth.

********************************************

    After the long flight back, Percival relayed the news to all the Knights in the Spire.  All of them shook their heads in disbelief, not believing the story, until one arrived from one of the flying outposts, relaying how he had been attack by ugly green blobs.  An attack like that had not occurred since the time of the Plague Fiend.
    The commotion that caused was only halted by the leader raising his hands and saying, “Enough.   We knew this day was coming.  Marker had predicted it.  It saddens me to say that I did not expect one of our own to betray us. Since that is the case, we will need to go for help.”
    Many of the other Knights agreed, and offered to volunteer, but the leader shook his head to all of them.  “There is only one person who should go, because he will need to travel to other places as well.  Percival will go to the tower of Sumner, and ask the great wizard for help.”
    Percival was amazed at this, since he did not think it was wise.  He stood up, and said to the leader.  “Sir, I can’t leave now, not with the Plague Fiend coming back.  I know how to find his lair and…”
    He was cut off by the leader.  “You also need to retrieve Marker’s Javelin, which no doubt fell into the Mountain Kingdom.  Besides, that foul beast will be expecting more Knights to come.  No doubt that if the Plague Fiend is back, the other realms are having their own issues.  You will get allies, ones the minions of Skorne won’t expect in the Sky Dominion.  Now go, Percival.  It is your quest.”
    Percival nodded, and then left the Spire, heading for the ethereal tower.  It was an odd thing, since sometimes it was transparent, and other times it was solid.  The stories all said that the tower home of Sumner existed in all the realms.  The odd thing was that it was always nearest the heart of each realm.  It was one of two buildings like that, and no one fully understood why.  What Percival did understand was that his destiny was linked to going there.  He had to do it, since the Plague Fiend’s return marked the return of the demon Skorne.

Chapter Text

Tiger, Spider, Burning Bright
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.  The events of this story take place before the game.)
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    Of the eight realms, one of the most deceptive is the Forest Realm.  Even since the times of Skorne, the realm had hidden terrors in its majestic beauty.  Only the Elvin people of that realm had found the secret of surviving them, by living in the area between the canopy of the trees, and the treacherous forest floor.  Ever since that kingdom had been developed, the elves fought off the forces of the spiders and the lizard men.
    Unfortunately for them, the worst of times had started years ago, when the Queen of the Realm proved to be as evil as the giant Arachnids of the realm.  Some wondered if she served the giant Black Widow that led the spiders, or if it was Queen Melane that controlled the giant spider.  Even the Queen's sister, Tori, who headed the Archers, was unsure, and it broke her heart to depose and exile her sister.
    It did not break her heart as much as the sight she saw now.  From her vantage point, she saw the growing corruption on the floor.  For years, the forest floor was becoming more swamp like, which was perfect for the malicious lizard men.  She knew the creatures weren't as vicious as they had been during the days of the demon Skorne, but as the corruption continued, she felt they would be.
    What she noticed now, however, was that the swamp was completely quiet.  There was no signs of any of the lizard men.  Even the small spiders that could be seen from the lowest levels of the community were nowhere to be seen.  It was an odd sight, and it set off every nerve in her.  Where had all the creatures gone?
    She received her answer when she heard a commotion coming from another area.  She quickly bolted through the catwalks, bridges, and other parts of the tree born country before finally reaching where a majority of the Archers were.  All were gazing out in the distance, many with their bows trained on something.  This led to Tori asking the question that all leaders ask.  “What’s happening?”
    One of her troops didn’t look at her, but answered the question.  “Something is going on out there.  The lizard men and the spiders are rallying over there, near that distant ramp.  That ramp wasn’t there earlier today.”    
    She nodded, and did some quick mental calculations.  “That’s not good.  That ramp must be near one of our catwalks, one that is undefended.  We will need to make sure that there is someone…..”  Tori’s words were cut off as loud screams cut through the air.  As one, her Archers made their way to the location she felt the ramp was near, and wasn’t surprised by the spiders and lizard men now on the pathway.  Without waiting for a command, all the Archers fired their bows, and the creatures quickly died.
    Once the last of the creatures died, Tori turned to her Archers.  "We need to stop this before it gets out of hand.  I want several archers to work their way down this ramp, destroying it when it connects to our home.  By the size of it, it looks like our biggest threat will be above us.  I'll take care of that one."  She watched as the others nodded, and moved out.
    When they had all gone, Tori ran back to the Archers’ barracks, and opened a special case.  In it was a huge pair of bellows.  Ages ago, when the giant spiders had been agreesive once before, they were led by a foul giant spider.  Some said the creature had been the same black widow spider, but things about the legend got muddled over the years.  One of the early Archers, at that time a male named Questor, had managed to get venom of that spider into the bellows, making it a devistating weapon.  Tori was certain only a spider of that size would be able to create the webbing ramp that lead the other creatures into her people's home.
    With the bellows in hand, Tori bolted back to the ramp, and started rushing up it.  As she ran, she noticed that in the far off trees, humanoid like creatures were starting to leap about.  She once heard legends about dryads, but these could not be them.  These looked evil, even from a distance.  They looked like something she thought might be Treants, but she always assumed they would be larger.  Still, if they made it to the community, her people might not survive.  They respected the trees.
    Eventually, Tori reached the top of the webbing ramp; and what she saw there made her shiver.  It was the largest spider web anyone had ever laid eyes on.  At the edge opposite of her, Tori saw a huge black widow spider, one that could easily trap any person in seconds, and kill them just as quickly.  The most unnerving thing was what was sitting on top of that spider, as if the spider wasn't a threat, but an ally.  It was her sister, Melane.  As she stood there, Melane addressed her.  "Ah, my dear sister.  Did you come realizing the folly of opposing me, and want to join the winning side, or do I have to kill you?  I really hope it’s the latter, since you exiled me."
    Tori snapped out of her shock, and held up the bellows.  "No.  It won't be either of those two.  I don't know how you are controlling that thing, but its kind will kill the people."  She started to pump the bellows, but stopped when she heard her sister laughing at her.  She glared at the evil woman and said, "And what has you laughing?"
    She didn't falter in her stance when the giant spider started to advance.  She did gasp, however, when her sister responded to her question.  "Oh, this thing isn't in my control.  We are working together.  I knew long ago that the demon Skorne would return, and that this spider was his minion.  I struck up a deal long ago.  She's quite intellegent.  She knows how those bellows were created, and the way to defeat their power.  It also knows that our kind would be perfect food for her children.  I‘d provide it, and in return, Skorne blesses me with the whole Forest to rule.”
    That last statement was all Tori could take.  She pumped the bellows, and a toxic green cloud left the thing, and struck the giant spider, as well as Tori‘s sister.  The forest would be safe from two threats now.  She watched, almost in satisfaction as the cloud engulfed the two, her sister sitting on the spider.  She would have taken a bit of pleasure in it, but her near satisfaction was quickly destroyed as she watched what unfolded.
    Something about the cloud cause the two figures the writhe in agony, but then she heard wicked laughter coming from the cloud.  She was so stunned by the event, she almost didn‘t jump away when a whip strike came from the cloud.  To her horror, the cloud didn’t kill the two evil beings, but merged them into a new monster.  “Oh this is better, dear sister.  You’ve truly created a Spider Queen.”
    She jumped again as another whip strike came at her, and pulled out her bow.  It was awkward for a moment, but she moved the with the speed of a tiger.  She quickly nocked six arrows, and hit four of the legs, the other two stopping whip strikes.  She then paused, amazed that her hands were now paws, tiger paws.
    For a moment, the old legends came back to her.  When Questor had used the bellows, he had become a humanoid tiger.  Somehow, she had become a Tigress.  Was this an omen that the fiend in front of her was truly the servant of Skorne.  If it was, then maybe another attack form the bellows would destroy the creature she had somehow created.
    Tori’s momentary musing turned out to be disastrous, as the Queen Spider’s whip wrapped around the bellows, and allowed the monster to whip it away, the item flying out of the forest.  With the speed of a tiger, she shot more arrows, keeping the monster at bay, and severing several parts of the web.  Just as she returned to her humanoid form, she had fully cut the ramp away from the huge web.  She looked at the monster, and said, “I will stop you, Melane.”
    She dashed down the ramp as the roars came from the creature.  Still, the encounter told her many things.  First off, she was the Archer of legend now, and it was her goal to stop this beast.  The second was that she would need to retrieve the Bellows again, and that they flew off in the direction of the Desert Lands.  The last thing she realized was that she could not take on the Queen Spider alone.  She would need help, and unfortunately, it could not be her Archers.
    When she reached the rest of her people, she saw her second in command come up to her.  “Were you able to stop the spiders?  And where are the Bellows?”  Tori could already see that the question had an undesired effect.  The others were starting to worry.  They were right to do so, but Tori knew they needed to stay calm.
    She held up her hands and everyone quieted down.  She knew what she would say would not make people happy, but it was better they be prepared, than to be slaughtered.  “I was not able to stop them.  Melane was there, and she had teamed up with the foul creatures.  What is worse is that she and the giant spider merged, and in a moment of surprise, got the Bellows and flung them away.  I must leave the Forest Realm, and go find them.”
    She heard the others start to protest, and even volunteer to find them, but she shook her head.  Finally, her second in command spoke again.  “You have to go to the tower, at the far end of the swamp.”  When she nodded, her second in command understood.  “Fair enough.  What are your orders for us?”
    Tori inwardly breathed a sigh of relief.  She then looked at the others.  “I want you to keep the creatures from getting at our home.  Some should also get the people to safety.  I don’t know how long it will take, but our family and friends should be safe.  This is the sign of dark times, and we don’t need to be almost wiped out.”  The others nodded, and started heading to their tasks.
    Once they were all gone, Tori started her long trek to the ethereal tower of Sumner.  It was the oddest structure she had ever seen, even from a distance.  It always looked like it was there, yet not there.  Still, Sumner was legendary.  A wizard who could fight the darkest evil, and he was what was needed now.  It was possible the wizard could get her the Bellows back, and even help her destroy the Spider Queen.  She wouldn’t hold her breath, though.  She just made her way to the ethereal tower, hoping for the help she would need.

Chapter Text

Genie, Not Djinn
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.  The events of this story take place before the game.)
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    Of the eight realms, one that is mixed with both desolation, and beauty, is the Desert Lands.  While a majority of the land is desolate, and over run by venomous snakes, the habitable areas are true signs of man perseverance in harsh climates.  Part of that was made possible by the Wizards who were called in to help people in the land, and the other part was made possible due to Djinns, magical beings that were benevolent.  They were a far cry from their one eyed cousins, the Genies, whom granted wishes, and grew in strength.
    No one knew this more than the Desert Lands' most praised Wizard, Toyodai.  Even though he was still on the young side, he had learned all about the Djinn and their malevolent cousins.  He even knew how to banish most of them.  They needed to be surrounded in a cloud of dark smoke, and then struck down.  The Lamp of Dark Obstruction owned by one of the greatest Wizards of all time, Merlin, was usually used for that.  He felt proud that he owned it.  It actually put him in the same league as Sumner.
    It also came as no surprise to Toyodai that he was being requested to meet the Pharaoh.  The supreme ruler of the Desert Lands, was one who always wanted what was best for his people.  He helped keep the monstrous nomads at bay, and like every one before him, he also communed with the ancestors buried under the mystic pyramid.  In their world, they always communed with their spirits, who when called upon, would returned to their mummified corpse to offer advice.
    This time, however, when Toyodai visited the Pharaoh, he found that the ruler looked very troubled.  It had been true that the nomads' attacks had picked up in both intensity and number, and that had to weigh heavy on the mind of the ruler.  It also meant that the areas that provided both food and other essentials were producing less.  No doubt, Toyodai would be asked to help in that matter.  As a matter of respect, he knelt in front of the ruler, and calmly said, "You sent for me, my living deity."
    He waited until the Pharaoh motioned him to rise.  "Yes, Toyodai.  I have a request that I need your help to fulfill.  One that I know will help the people, although my advisors say it will not."  This made the Wizard pause in standing up.  Any Pharaoh had only one set of advisors, and that was the dead Pharaohs.
    When he was standing, he looked at the Pharaoh and said, "You are going against the wishes of your ancestors.  No Pharaoh has ever done that since the time of Skorne."  He had not wanted to speak the name, but the point had to be made.  Skorne had first caused problems in the Desert Land when one Pharaoh had tried to make peace with the monster.  The resultant tragedy lead to the Dark Genie, a powerful one that caused great havoc, including enslaving the dead.
    Toyodai had hoped the Pharaoh was jesting, but a grim look on the man's face told him it was no joke.  “It is a dark time, Toyodai.  Giant men of the desert sands attack our people.  No doubt it is the dark Genie influencing things.  My advisors say to destroy it.  I want you to subdue it.”
    The wizard felt a chill go through him.  To control any Genie was dangerous, but the Dark Genie meant risking their life and powers.  He also knew the proper course of action would be to destroy the foul creature.  Still, his leader wanted the foul creature subdued.  “I will do my best.  I will need to find the proper lamp to obscure the creature‘s sight.”  Toyodai hoped his statement would help to deter the Pharaoh from this foolish course.
    To his surprise, the Pharaoh shook his head.  “There will be no need, Toyodai.  I know you have the very one that is needed.  We shall go down together, and subdue this thing."  Deep down, this scared Toyodai more than the initial request.  If the Pharaoh went down with him, it was only because his leader did not trust him to do the right thing.
    Toyodai corrected his thinking after that.  It was the sensible reason to join.  Toyodai suspected another reason, and that was far more disturbing.  Regardless of the reason, Toyodai only nodded, and said "Very well, your godliness.  We shall head off at once to subdue the foul being."  Toyodai now hoped that they would be successful in that task.

***********************************

    The time it took to reach where the Dark Genie was confined was long, but fortune had favored them.  While reports of huge creatures of living sand were not the norm, Toyodai had expected at least one of them to attack as they passed through the Temple of the Magi, and even the Mystic Pyramid.  Those two location were the only barriers between the lands of the living and the dead.  Now that they moved through the Tombs, he could not help but feel a sense of foreboding.  It made him fear for the Pharaoh's life.
    As they neared the central chamber, taking note of the numerous open sarcophagi, he said to his leader, "I feel something is wrong, sire.  All those sarcophagi were empty, and we had a very easy journey here.  The Genie is obviously up to something."
    To his dismay, he heard his Pharaoh say, "The Genie realizes who the master is.  It shall be easy to put it under my control."  He knew that would be a problem.  There was no way that evil thing could be control.
    When they entered the chamber where the Genie was confined, the room seemed empty.  The only thing in it was the bottle the Dark Genie was confined in.  Again, the sense of unease hit Toyodai, and he also felt power.  It was a power that was too much for just one man to combat.  He also felt that the Pharaoh‘s presence there was a folly.  The people need him to be alive, and he was being too stubborn to listen.
    As they neared the center of the vast room, Toyodai felt the malevolence in the air.  He turned to the Pharaoh and said, “We should flee.  There is a great power of darkness here, one it would take only a powerful practitioner of magic to combat.”  It was the truth, since he was feeling a demonic presence as well.
    He was shocked when his leader turned on him, and Toyodai could see a madness in Pharaoh’s eyes.  “Toyodai, I am a god.  The genie will bow to me, because he can not defeat me.  If you are against me, you will die.”  At that point, Toyodai knew death was near, and had he not seen what was coming, it would have claimed him as well.
    Toyodai leapt backwards as the figure that had appeared behind the Pharaoh swung one of its swords.  It was the Genie, and the dark creature had sliced the Pharaoh in half.  He then saw the evil being look straight at him, its one red eye starting to glow.  As it did so, he heard the creature say, “You reek of magic, human.  I shall enjoy killing you as well.”  Toyodai then noticed a surprised look on the foul creature‘s face.
    He didn‘t wonder what caused the look to cross the creatures face, but Toyodai pulled out the Lamp of Dark Obstruction.  The second he had pulled it out, a thick black fog started surrounding the evil creature.  He started to back away, hoping the fog would keep him safe long enough to do something to escape.
    When he was almost to the top of the stairs out of the pit, he froze, noticing his reflection in the Lamp.  His head had changed into that of the god Anubis, like in the legends of Merlin.  Was he the one destined to defeat the Genie.  If that was the case, he knew he wasn‘t going to be able to do it alone.  He needed help.  There had to be other people blessed like he was.
    He was broken out of his thoughts when something caused the Lamp to fly out of his hands.  It was so swift and forceful that it had smashed thought the ceiling of the chamber.  He then found himself looking eye to eye with the Genie, and heard the foul creature say, “So, there is another of those fools.  Even your Legends cannot destroy me, nor my master Skorne.  I shall turn all the people of the desert into my undead minions.”
    Toyodai leapt backwards as the blades came at him.  He had jumped out of the way, but then he noticed the forms coming towards him.  They were smaller forms of the Genie, but just as deadly.  He launched a few fireball blasts from his staff at them before dashing out of the Genie’s Lair.
    He quickly made his way out of the Tombs, but he was unsure of his next move.  Very few of the guards had known that he and the Pharaoh had made this trek together.  Those that did know might suspect that he did something to the Pharaoh.  He needed to figure out a way to make sure people did not think the worst of him.
    In that moment, Toyodai’s eyes focused on one structure that was beyond the far side of Desert Town that was his home.  It was the ethereal structure that was Sumner’s Tower.  The few people who had ventured close to the structure had often said the landscape seemed to change around them, like two different surroundings were both there, and not there.  If anyone would know what to do, it would be Sumner.
    Toyodai quickly made his way through the Temple of the Magi, and then through the Town.  He noticed as he did that the number of people out and about had decreased.  It wasn’t deserted, but it seemed to hint that something was going wrong in the area.  Did the people seem to know that the Pharaoh was gone.  He shook his head at that thought, since no one could know.
    It was then he saw it.  An odd door that didn’t seem to match with a known home.  He noticed the markings, and he knew what was happening.  The brutish nomads of the desert were now breaching the town, and it would not be long until their more advanced fighters would start invading.  The people were in trouble, and they needed their Pharaoh, or even better, heroes to fight off the minions of Skorne.
    With this new reason in mind, Toyodai picked up his pace, and left the Town, making his way for Sumner’s Tower.  As he ran, he chanced a glance up at the sky.  He tried to spy where the Lamp of Dark Obstruction might have gone, or even if it was coming down.  He had hoped that it was still issuing out it’s thick black fog, but he could not see that.  What he did see was a hazy green streak heading down to the Mystic Pyramid.  While he was certain it wasn’t the Lamp, he was certain that whatever it was, it was needed to defend one of the other seven realms he knew existed.  That actually gave him hope, even though it was a grim sign for another of the realms.  It meant that there would be others like him, ready to become Legends.  With that hope in mind, he picked up his pace, and ran even faster for Sumner’s Tower.

Chapter Text

An Ogre Problem
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.  The events of this story take place before the game.)
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    One of the harshest of the eight realms is the Ice Domain.  It has the coldest temperatures of all the realms, and only the toughest races can survive it.  It is for that reason alone that the dwarves have thrived there.  Their short stature, thick skin, and long beards make them the most suited for survival in that realm.  Other races will visit, but the dwarves remain, mining the land.
    One of those mines was headed by the dwarf named Smithy.  As was the nature of dwarves, they all called the head of the mine Smithy, since that was their title.  For Smithy, however, it was also their name.  This mine also had been one of the deepest that the dwarves had, since it reached down to actual lava.  Smithy had even thought that the lava was the most dangerous thing in mine.
    Smithy found those thoughts to be wrong one fateful day.  It happened when Smithy's foreman came up and said, "Smithy, we found something in the deep mine.  Some sort of green rock, and its doing something weird."
    That caught Smithy's interest.  "What kind of weird?  Is it radiating cold air.  Is it making the creatures docile?  Is it turning the gold into garbage?  You have to be more specific."  Smithy had seen stones do all sorts of strange things, more than what had been mentioned.  One had to know for certain what was happening before acting on it.
    To Smithy's displeasure, the foreman just shook his head and motioned for Smithy to join him.  "You have to see for yourself, Smithy; but you best be careful.  The bears started acting funny."  Now that made Smithy worry.  The dwarves always got along with the bears, since both enjoyed the underground.  If a bear was in the area, they worked quietly, or made sure they had some fresh fish to feed it.  For the bears to start acting odd, there had to be something weird down there.
    Smithy nodded, and started following the foreman.  As they made their way down, Smithy looked around, noticing something odd about some of the barrels that were about.  They were all green, and a sickly green mist was around them.  Something was definitely not right with the ore.
    As they moved over the catwalks branching some areas of mine, Smithy recalled something about the history of the area.  "Aren't we in the area where that strange rock crashed through the ice?"  When the foreman nodded, Smithy started having serious misgivings about mining in the area.  "That's not good.  That was the area that cursed Yeti was in.  We don't need to risk waking that abomination again."
    Smithy was thankful when the foreman responded with one positive thing.  "The ore we needed is in this area, so we have to take the risk.  We made sure we had the scroll made by Tarkanna.  The fire still should burn the fowl beast."  Smithy hoped that it would be enough as they went deeper in the fissure.
    There was one thing that became more noticeable as they got deeper into the fissure.  The sounds of the miners working were gone.  There were no pickaxes, hammers, or other implements for mining ringing out their jobs.  It was a very disturbing thing to be in the middle of.
    Even the foreman seemed on edge.  They were looking around, noticing the utter silence.  That, coupled with the increasing green glow from the heart of the fissure, made the mine feel creepy.  All it needed was the roar of the Yeti, and thankfully that wouldn't be sounding out.  That foul creature had been gone since the time of Skorne.
    It was at that point that Smithy noticed a figure rising up from a hole.  At first, Smithy would have figured that it was one of the miners, but the figure was too tall, and didn‘t look right.  The figure looked like it wasn‘t even alive, but the way it hefted the tool in its hands, Smithy knew the figure knew how to use it.  Unfortunately for the figure, Smithy also knew how to use their own weapon, and decapitated the creature.
    Once it fell, the foreman finally spoke.  “That miner, they were changed.  It must have been the ore we were mining.  They weren‘t even dwarf anymore.  If that stone did that, then it could…”  The last words were cut off then an unearthly roar went through the mine.  While neither of them had heard it when the creature was first in the mine, the sound broke though to an ancient fear all dwarves had.
    Smithy was first to react, grabbing the scroll from the foreman.  Smithy then looked around, trying to spot where the creature was emerging from.  It was actually easy to spot, since only one cave in the mine seemed big enough to house the creature, and Smithy ran to it, preparing to open the scroll.
    In that instant, several things happened.  First off, Smithy‘s stride appeared to increase.  This was due to the fact that Smithy‘s body was shifting out of dwarf form, and into that of something similar, but more powerful; an ogre.  The second was that the Yeti had emerged, and a manic look crossed the creature's face.  Smithy was also surprised to hear the creature speak.  "So, Tahranna's descendant manages to still exist.  Your foul flame won't stop me this time."
    Smithy had been so shocked by hearing the monster speak that when the Yeti let out a powerful, icy breath, the scroll blew out of Smithy's grasp, and the magical flame that started to emanate from the scroll was carried away on the wind.  It was even carried all the way out of the deep chasm.  Smithy knew that there was no choice now but to flee.
    While Smithy didn't want to do it, Smithy turned and ran as the Yeti started throwing huge boulders of ice.  Smithy knew they would not survive being hit by one of those.  As Smithy ran, ice stalagmites erupted from the ground, and one even knocked the foreman to the ground.
    Catching and helping the foreman run, Smithy said, "The Yeti's back, and more powerful.  We need to abandon the mine, and get help."  The foreman's face had a look of horror on it, as if what they were looking at was more horrible than the Yeti.  Smithy couldn't understand this reaction, but was thankful that the foreman kept running towards the exit.
    The two had dodged more mutated miners, as well as huge ice worms.  It was all the two could do, as well as call out warnings to any of the miners able to flee.  "Abandon the mine.  The Yeti has returned.  Monsters are invading."  As they neared the exit, they had been joined by many more dwarves.
    Once they were out of it, they saw that the camp was in chaos.  Wolves had invaded as well as more mutated miners and ice worms.  It was made worse by the fact that some of the fleeing dwarves were being mauled by one of the crazed polar bears, and even a pack of wolves.  It was a nightmare, and if Smithy hadn't been so certain that they weren't already awake, Smithy would have been wanting to wake up.
    The group of dwarves managed to make their way out of the camp, and all the way to the docks.  As the dwarves spoke amongst themselves, the foreman turned to face Smithy, and to Smithy's surprise, said, "You need to leave.  You brought back that evil creature.  You even became one.  If it wasn't for the fact that you are a woman, I'd run you through."
    She staggered back in shock at the words.  Smithy had never been isolated like this, since all dwarves looked the same.  The only way to definitely tell the difference between the two genders was when a dwarf ate food.  Other than that, a worker was a worker, and all were equal.  She then said, "You know I didn't bring that thing here.  I even saved your life.  If I was in league with that creature, I wouldn't have done that."
    To her horror, the foreman shook his head.  "You did not save my life.  Ogres don't save lives.  I saw you show your true colors.  Besides, you don't have the scroll."  Smithy could not believe what she was hearing.  She had realized she had transformed when she saw her reflection in the ice.  Unfortunately, while ogres were not seen for years, with the last one in the time of Tahranna, there was still an unknown prejudice; one she was falling victim too.  The loss of the scroll now would not matter.  They were blaming her.
    She then looked towards the one odd feature on the ice.  The ethereal tower that belonged to the great wizard Sumner.  Rumors had said that Sumner knew about the time of Skorne.  Maybe the great wizard would have answers about what had happened.
    Smithy didn't glance back at the foreman.  She knew it wouldn't matter if she said what she was going to do or not.  She was going to help her dwarves, even if they didn't want her help.  Smithy shook her head, and started towards the ethereal tower.  It was the only course of action that could rid the Ice Domain of the Yeti, and of Skorne's influence.  It might even lead to her reinstatement in the mine.

Chapter Text

In My Father’s Shadow
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.  The events of this story take place before the game.)
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    Of the eight realms, none is more fantastic than the Dream Realm.  In this realm, anything one can imagine becomes reality.  Anyone not native to the realm could possibly lose their minds when confronted with the strange sights within the realm.  It was for that reason alone that the primary occupants of the realm were the real Jesters.
    While one might look at a Jester, and think it was nothing more than a glorified fool, true Jesters were gifted fighters.  Their appearance was only part of their power, since it lulled opponents into a false sense of superiority.  Many an opponent had been defeated by a Jester's bomb, and the current prince of the Dream Realm, Ishkar, was one of the best Jesters.  While he enjoyed crafting places where people could visit in the Dream Realm, he was also gifted with accurate fighting abilities.
    It had come in handy during the occasional Imp attack.  That usually happened in the more established areas outside the castle.  Ishkar had even created one of those established areas.  It had been made into what one might call an Amusement Park.  There, many visitors would enter into the festivities, and Ishkar made sure they were entertained.
    With that in mind, Ishkar was surprised when darkness started to infest his area.  First, the games the people enjoyed playing turned darker, and more people started losing them than normal.  The circus shows had also started taking a darker turn.  His fun little haven for the people and visitors to the Dream Realm was becoming a nightmare, and that was a horrible thing to happen.
    The only thing that he could do was consult with his father.  That meant returning to his home, which when he first created this part of the Dream Realm, was a pathway through disguised as a fun house.  Now things had changed.  The fun house had taken on a more sinister feel.  It had become a place of fear.  Even the mirrors that had been placed to make distorted reflections of people now made anyone whole looked into them appear to be wicked, two dimensional fiends.
    Ishkar had remembered stories from the days of Skorne, and how the demon had created such evil creatures to help control the Dream Realm.  They had been the only ones that could remain in the Maze of Illusion for extended amounts of time.  Any being that tried to stay there for too long went insane, unless you were royalty of the Dream Realm.
    The entrance to that maze was at the very top of the building, and Ishkar made his way there carefully.  Right now, the building seemed alright, but parts of it were reconfiguring itself as he walked through.  Once, he had to tread very carefully around one area, for it had a very unusual shadow.  He knew what it was.  It was a resting Shadow Golem.  They never took up residence in a good dream.  They remained in the space between dreams, or in the foulest of nightmares.
    He reached the doorway, and as he passed through, Ishkar could have sworn he felt another dream was trying to insert itself between the house and the maze.  Ishkar kept his mind focused, and kept it from forming for the time being.  It didn't stop him from sensing something foul about it.  It felt full of some of the worst taboos anyone could dream about.  Nothing that foul had been seen since the times of Skorne, and his follower, The Shadow Wraith.
    Just the thought of the foul thing made him shiver.  It would be a very dark day if that thing returned.  Luckily, the Lantern of Revelation should still be in its place in the throne room, right behind the throne, where the barrier between the dreams and nightmares was the thinnest.  The Lantern's light even cast a warm positive glow that radiated from the palace.
    As he neared the throne room, Ishkar realized something wasn't right.  The glow seemed to have dimmed, like the Lantern was being obscured.  Even when he entered the room, it felt darker in the room.  It was enough to make him look towards the throne, and for a moment, he felt relieved.  His father was sitting there, looking over a mystical display of the realm.  He must see what was going on in the realm.
    He walked over to his father, and said, “Father.  Some thing is happening to the Realm.  Imps are starting to show up in the various dreams, and they are turning dark.  I think I even saw the mirrors that housed the Warlocks showing up.”  He was about to say more, but then he noticed something.
    His father had a very neutral look on his face, as if what was being told to him didn‘t matter at all.  He had never noticed a look of uncaring on the man‘s face before, and here it was.  His father had always shown some sort of concern when something foul entered a dream.
    After a moment, he heard his father say, “I know.  I‘ve been working to stop it.  Those against us have been trying to take our power.  I‘ve finally found the source of the incursion, and I‘ve been working to stop it.”  For a moment, Ishkar felt better, and then he saw his father move towards the Lantern, reaching to decrease its light.
    He quickly ran over and grabbed the Lantern.  “Father, have you lost your senses?  This is what is keeping the powers of darkness at bay.  If you…”  His voice caught in his throat when he saw two malice filled, green glowing eyes looking at him.  There was only one thing that had eyes like that.
    He backed up as his ‘father‘ started to advance towards him.  “So you‘ve realized it.  I am working with the Shadow Wraith.  He was right, you know.  Fear is needed to keep things in line.  People can‘t know they can control their dreams.  The time is right as well.  Skorne is returning to power.  This time, he won‘t be stopped.”
    Ishkar reacted on instinct.  He held up the Lantern, and let loose the full force of its light.  It lit up the whole area, and Ishkar could see that the barrier was already open.  A large vortex was behind his father, but instead of it drawing things in, it was spewing forth darkness.
    The light also caused two transformations to happen.  The first was that Ishkar‘s father‘s skin split apart.  To his horror, all that was left was The Shadow Wraith.  He also saw an intense hatred in its eyes, and heard its voice utter in an unworldly tone, “You are one of them.  You will die.”
    Ishkar knew what he could do.  He pulled out one of the bombs that was the traditional weapon of Jesters, and went to throw it.  He knew the Lantern would weaken the thing, but he hesitated.  This hesitation was because he saw the second transformation that had happened.
    His hand had been replaced with a paw of sorts.  He then noticed that his face had lengthened out in a muzzle.  He remember the tales of the person who originally used the Lantern.  The original Jester had transformed into a Hyena when he wielded the Lantern.  It was the sign of a Legend, and now it was Ishkar‘s time to be the Legend.
    Unfortunately, that momentary distraction allowed the Shadow Wraith to strike a surprising blow to Ishkar.  One of shadowy blades that formed the Wraith‘s cape had lashed out, and it struck right at the Lantern.  The blow caused the thing to fly out of the palace, but Ishkar knew it wouldn‘t leave the Dream Realm.  All he needed to do was to reclaim it.
    For now, Ishkar knew he had to flee.  He jumped back as another attack lashed out, proving that his thought process was correct.  He was not any match for the Shadow Wraith.  He would need help, and there was only one place to go to find it.  He just had to get out of the palace.
    He ran quickly through the Maze of Illusion, his body returning to his human form.  As he did, the maze shifted in ways that he never saw before.  Once he was through that, he passed through that odd portal, and to his relief, it expanded just as he finished traveling though it.  He glanced back long enough to see that it truly was a horrifying nightmare.
    Eventually, he made it out of the path to the palace, as well as the carnival that he had created.  Both were now macabre versions of what they had been, infested with all sorts of foul creature.  No one would have nice dreams now, and if the words of the Shadow Wraith was right, it wasn‘t going to be a pleasant time for anyone in the other realms.
    He then glanced out at one part of the Dream Realm that never changed.  It was the only way people could visit the realm when they were awake.  It was Sumner‘s Tower, home of one of the most power wizards who had ever existed.  If anyone would know how to battle Skorne, it would be the powerful wizard.  According to some, he was either around at the first time of Skorne, or related to the wizard who had been there at the time.  He then made his way to the tower, feeling help would be found there.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Oh, Brother
(This story is based off characters from the game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy.  The events of this story take place before the game.)
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    In all of the eight realms, there stands a structure that links them all together.  It is a tower saturated in magic.  It has stood since a time forgotten, and is safeguarded by the most powerful person of the era.  That person now is the Wizard Sumner.  Over the years, Sumner worked to learn all about the home he had earned.
    One of the things he had learned was that his tower was much taller than it appeared.  He discovered that the tower did not exist in eight realms, but nine.  This led him to wonder why this detail was never known.  Why was this ninth realm never known by the other realms.
    To his shock, Sumner learned that this ninth realm was discovered long ago, at a time before the era of Skorne.  It had been the hero that had the tower at that time that found this realm.  Skorne had been the ruler, and his skeletal minions began an invasion.  Those minions were the ones who then created the ones that plagued each of the eight realms.  It had also been the basis of the magic that plagued the Temple that all the realms could access.
    Sumner knew he could not do anything to explore that realm, and had called on someone he felt he could trust, his brother Garm.  His brother was more versed in combative magic, and had a love of exploring.  His brother was also a more think on the fly kind of individual.  That made him perfect for exploring this odd realm at the true base of the tower.
    It just so happened that on one fateful day, Garm had returned from his explorations all excited.  He had climbed up to where Sumner had been researching something about Skorne.  Sumner looked up from the scroll he had been reading, and said to his brother, "Garm, had you found something in your explorations?"
    Sumner was not surprised when his brother nodded.  "I found a lot of things, Sumner.  First off, none of the skeletal warriors are about.  It looks like they all went away after Skorne's defeat.  I did find, however, that the demon had a citadel at the farthest reaches, and in it was something very interesting. "
    That last bit caused Sumner to react.  He had looked over the area with a telescope, but had not seen anything like that.  "What had you found, Brother?"  He was very curious about the find.  Anything they could find out about the demon would be interesting.
    What he heard, however, was worrying.  Garm had come across something very troubling.  "Well, I found something in the citadel that showed that the demon wasn't fully defeated.  He had set something up so that should he be forced into the underworld, he could come back when his minions were brought back."
    The mention of the minions returning made Sumner look at the stained glass window behind him.  He had noticed the light from it dwindling, and he feared what it might mean.  He knew he would have to check the Desecrated Temple.  He had to be sure that Skorne couldn‘t surge forth out of the place if he returned.  It was already bad enough that if Skorne did return, all sanctuaries would be tainted, and feed power to his underlings.  He looked at his brother, and said, “That‘s not good, Garm.  If that demon has anchored himself in the temple, he could take over the eight realms.  His minions in the Battlefields would rise up and try to siege the tower.  I need to be sure he‘s not rising right this moment.”
    Sumner saw his brother nod.  “A very good idea, Brother.  I shall hold the tower down until you return.  It would be folly to leave it unattended now.”  For a moment, Sumner thought he heard more in his younger brother‘s voice, but he put it off to his elevated concern.  Now was not the time to suspect something was odd.
    He quickly went over to the stained glass window, adorned with all of the minions of Skorne.  Each of them appeared to be paler in color to what they had been just that morning.  Something was happening, and Sumner didn‘t like it.  It just made him step into the light from the window with more caution than usual.
    The light from the window actually created a portal to the temple that had similar properties to his tower.  The Temple was never rooted in just one of the realms, but touched them all.  Almost every religious shrine in the realms connected to the Temple, but since Skorne‘s first invasion, the temple was inaccessible.  It was a precaution taken at the time when the first group of Legendary Heroes fought him off.
    It was for this reason why, when Sumner appeared at the temple, he wasn‘t surprised by the state it was in.  Pews were still placed as barricades.  Statues were still knocked over, broken on the floor.  The few statues that weren’t broken, however, Sumner remained wary of.  It was well known in the realms that sometimes Death would appear to be a statue.  Only those well versed in magic knew how to stop that manifestation of Death.
    Carefully, Sumner made his way through the temple, and to the area before the altar.  According to what he had learned, there was something that was supposed to be left in place there.  A weapon of some sort that would blast away at the demon, and protect those who would fight him.  He saw nothing in the apse, which made him worry more.  It was with great care that he approached the altar then.
    When he reached the altar, he could tell something was off.  From what was written down, the floor of the altar had been destroyed by Skorne when he appeared to the heroes.  It could not have been repaired, yet the floor was whole.  He did, however, hear a voice coming from that floor.  It was a horrific voice that could only come from something not of this world.  It really made a chill go down his spine when the voice said, “So, the great wizard Sumner has arrived.  You will make a fine first victim for my return.  Imagine how much it will add to my power when people hear of your death.”
    At that moment, the floor exploded, and Sumner raised a personal shield to protect himself.  As he figured, the shield protected him from the debris that had been the floor.  When Skorne rose up out of the hole, Sumner knew his shield wouldn‘t be enough.  The best he could do, for now, was to distract the demon, and then flee.
    He summoned the most powerful attack a Wizard can cast, the Demon Skull.  The magical construct rose out of the floor, and launched towards Skorne.  As it flew, Sumner shouted, “You won‘t find the people as foolish as your last time here, Skorne.”  When Skorne blocked the attack, Sumner ran away from the altar.
    While he would have preferred fighting, he knew he had to get to the tower.  People would need to be warned.  There was also something he wanted to check.  Skorne had been banished to the underworld, and while he wasn‘t killed, he would have to be summoned forth again, no matter what he had used to make sure he could be summoned forth.
    Sumner ran through the temple, and to his horror, crystal tiles started appearing on the floor.  As he passed them, creatures started emerging from them.  Skorne had obviously raised enough power to resummon his minor minions back into the realms.  Luckily, he managed to get to the exit before any of the creatures could even attack him.  The second he hit the point he had appeared at, he was instantly back in the tower.  He hadn‘t stopped running either, which had been a good thing.  The window shattered, and he fell to the floor to avoid getting hit.  He didn‘t hear any glass hit the floor, which he partially expected.
    He turned to look up, and saw the window had broken into eight pieces.  From what he read, this had happened before.  Each shard would head to the underling of Skorne who now took charge over that realm.  He then saw them fly off to the various realms, flying into the entry points of the various realms.
    He got up, and walked over to a sight he did not expect to see, but was not surprised.  He saw a body lying on the ground, near the remains of another portal.  Sumner knew what both had been, and put together what happened.  The body was his brother, Garm, and the remains was a portal to the Underworld.  Garm had done the foolish thing of summoning Skorne.  It made him feel a little foolish now for entering the temple.
    After a few moments, he looked around the tower.  All the entries to the realms were now occupied by people.  He had no doubt that this wasn't a coincidence, but fate.  These would be the ones who would fight Skorne's creatures.  He made his way back to where he did his research, and said, "All of you, please come to me.  There is much to discuss, and not much time.  Skorne has returned, and I have no doubt that you have all encountered his followers."  He watched as they all approached, and as the passed all the entry points, the tower rumbled, and all the entry points became sealed off.  Added to it, a group of crystals appeared near the entrance of the one realm.  That was a failsafe he had read about.  Now he was going to be the one to help the heroes that would stop Skorne.
    One thing bothered Sumner, though.  Why had his brother done this, and what happened to his soul?

Chapter Text

    Deep in the depths of the Mausoleum, the being that was now The Lich looked over the majority of the elders from The Forsaken Province. He could see the fear in all their eyes, and he knew why it was there. He had made sure when they were brought into the building, it was by way of all the corruption his evil had wrought on the place. Ghosts were running rampant in the building, and even the chapel area was no longer safe.
    To the credit of their stupidity, the figure he had recognized as the village’s leader stepped forward, and almost bellowed, "How dare you think you can do this. Your mistress was cast out, and you will be without power soon. Even if you kill one of us, you will be destroyed by the rest.
    The Lich inwardly chuckled, knowing that the leader was as stupid now, as he had been then. He would enjoy the scare he would give the old fool. He also glanced at the blade that was poised to come down. It was sharp and ready to taste living flesh.
    He turned his attention to the town elders, and smiled what he knew would be a decaying smile. He took pleasure in seeing the fear on their faces. It would only increase when he told them the truth.
    He picked up his axe, and pointed the tip towards the leader to deliver his point. "You truly are a fool. That whore wasn't my mistress, but the one capable of stopping me. " As he expected, a look of horror crossed all their faces.
    One of the other elders, a woman, shouted, "The youngsters were right. We cast out the good person, not the evil one." He then saw the woman, and some of the others turn to run. He wasn't surprised by that since he had planned for it.
    As some of those made it past the entrance to his inner sanctum, the blade finally came down. The Lich took delight as the blade cut a few of them in half. This caused the ones who remained to cower in fear, and the ones who had cleared the blade to run faster.
    Those that had run, however, stopped when two of the Lich's minions appeared in their path. The one had been a golem, made of the dead trees that now populated the province. The other one was one of Skorne's pets, a serpent headed gargoyle. While the golem grabbed some of the runners, the gargoyle sprayed the area with a greenish mist.
    The Lich watched in delight as the mist hit the runners the golem didn't grab, and dissolved their flesh. The screams of pain from the dying gave him strength, and using it, he bound the spirits to his power. In moments, their spirits were brought into the fold of evil ghosts at his command.
    He waited as the golem brought the remainder back to him, and then returned his attention to the leader of the Forsaken Province. He smiled a rotting smile at the coward, and brought out his axe. He spun it in the air, all the time looking at the man. "At least you get to be the first of my generals."
    He swung the blade of the axe down, and he hit his mark. The blade cut right thought the man, and the Lich felt the soul of the man get sucked into him. The body withered, but as the Lich removed the axe, the body appeared whole. That was because the blade was mystical, and cut physically only when the Lich wanted it to.
    Once the blade was out, one of the strongest ghosts came over, and slipped right into the body. This had the effect of adding unnatural bulk and height to the corpse. The clothing material moved over the head, looking similar to an executioner's mask. The image was perfect in the Lich's mind. He then turned his attention to the next surviving town elder as his new general got a Scythe.
    He was in the middle of making his second general when a demonic image appeared in the air. While the face was hidden by a golden mask, the Lich felt the ethereal presence of Skorne. He paused in his current task, and turned to face the image. "Skorne, you have returned."
    He bowwed a little, as the demonic image regarded him with a nod of approval. "Yes, thanks to the foolishness of Sumner's little brother. It was almost not to be, as the brother was almost capable of taking my power." That bit of news was a bit troubling. Was Skorne weak after all those years away?
    The Lich looked over at his new general, and then back to Skorne's image. He had to wonder how much was in place at the moment. "I hope that hasn't stopped the others from returning. It took me time to find the right host." It was true. It took him ages to find the right form, and it had been descended from the one who beat him last time.
    Skorne responded to the statement with a sound of approval. "Indeed you have, but your host's sister has made her way to Sumner's tower. Are you prepared to stop her?"
    The Lich nodded, and gestured to his new general. "I'm in the process of making more generals. I have even summoned forth some golems to ambush the stragglers. Some of the gargoyles based off the Chimera are also with me."
    This, he noticed, made Skorne happy. The demonic entity nodded, and soon, two gray stones appeared. They each had a yellow rune on them. The Lich realized what they were right away. "I want you to make sure these two stones are hidden. Make sure you don't hide them near where ever you hid the Book of Protection."
    That statement brought a chuckle to the Lich's decayed mouth. "No need to worry about that. I managed to have one of my minions get it up to the Sky Dominion. The only way my host's sister can get that item is if she can get up there." There was only one place to access the skies, and that was the Spire that marked the entry point to the Sky Dominion.
    Skorne let out a happy demonic laugh, and The Lich was pleased to hear that. He then paused as a ghost came into the lair. The spirit managed to hold onto a parchment in its hands. The Lich studied it from a distance, not daring touch it since it was surrounded by a flame of some sorts.
    It took him a moment to realize what he was looking at, and he smiled before speaking. “So now I have Tahranna's Fire. Very well, place it on one of the statues in the fountain. They won’t even think to look at it.” He saw the ghost nod, and then venture out, most likely to pass the task onto one of the zombies.
    He looked back at the Runestones, and then called the ghost back. “Wait a moment.” He motioned to the one, and said, “Take this stone, and hide it in the mausoleum.” He then took the scroll, and handed it to his newly formed general. The creature took it, and the Lich motioned to the other Runestone. “Take that scroll to where I told the ghost before, and then hide this stone somewhere else.” When the hooded figure nodded, the Lich turned back to Skorne’s image. “There, my lord. The items should be hidden away. This world will be corrupted into the image you want it in.”
    There was a nod of approval from Skorne again, and then the image disappeared. The Lich turned back to the townspeople that he had left in his lair, and smiled one of his rotted smiles at them. “Who’s to be my next general?” While most shook their heads, he let out a wicked laugh. “Like you really have a choice at all?” With that, he swung his axe again, taking the soul of another town elder. The second age of Skorne was now underway.

End Chapter

Chapter Text

    At the very peak of the highest mountain in the Mountain Kingdom, the Dragon rested in his lair. Since he had returned to the realm, he had spent his time making sure there were no challenges to his claim. This had involved putting several smaller dragons in their place. While some had tried to challenge him, none of them had the same things going for them as The Dragon had. He had a whole army of demons ready to kill for him.
    He lowered his head, and bit the limb off his current meal. It had been one of the maidens from one of the tribes. This one screamed, and he shuddered in delight. Humans always tasted better when they were afraid. It was also enough, in this case, to offset the fact that this female was almost a fighter, as well as not being virtuous.
    He took another bite, and as he did so, a few of the orcish grunts from the mountains came forward. Two of them were escorting a prisoner, while the third carried a javelin. He started to have an idea about what was brought to him, especially as he was busy eating. He was not above eating a minion if they did something stupid, and disturbing his meal without a valid reason was the stupidest thing a minion could do.
    The orcish grunt could already sense the question as it neared, and was well aware of the consequences should they displease the dragon. It looked at the prisoner, and then stepped forward, keeping an eye on some of the demons there. They ranked slightly higher to the dragon, and the dragon had those that displeased him fed to the demons.
    Finally, the grunt found his voice and answered the unspoken question. "We found this human lurking around, not sure how he made it this far." One of the others shoved the man forward, making him fall over his own feet. The first one then said, "We also found this javelin near the tunnels leading here."
    The Dragon leaned his head down, and smelled the human. They smelled familiar, and the dragon realized why that was. This human was from the same clan as the one who had held the Ice Axe of Untar. The Dragon stared at the human, and in its best attempt at speaking in the human tongue said, "You smell like the warrior that dared to wield the Ice Axe. Where is that piece of meat?"
    The man's eyes were full of fear, and the dragon knew that the being wasn't going to be able to answer. It had always seemed that most humans, even those of the barbarian tribes, literally lost their minds around creatures like him. Still, this one would have information, even if he didn't know it.
    The Dragon glanced over at the leader of this group of grunts, and the grunt knew what he wanted. They walked over and picked up the human. The second the grunt had the human standing up, the dragon let loose with a magical blue flame that engulfed both the grunt and the human. Soon, two screams of pain could be heard in the Dragon's lair.
    Soon the sound went from two screams to one, and the dragon knew what he did was successful. The flames died down, and instead of two severely burned figures lying there, there was a single, slightly taller grunt standing there. It took another moment for the figure to realize that it was, not only alive, but now had the knowledge the dragon wanted. It also realized that the Dragon was its master, and it kneeled as it spoke. “Master, the warrior you are referring to was sent to the ethereal tower, the one belonging to Sumner. Also, the hero's tribe managed to make it to the base of the mountain, after abandoning their settlement.”
    Those words made the dragon lift his head up and back in surprise. He had heard of the wizard, and no doubt there were other foes a foot if they sought Sumner for help. That would mean he would need more than the grunts and demons. He would need more generals, and more powerful help.
    As if on cue, a demonic face appeared in midair, and the dragon knew who exactly it was. It was his master, Skorne. The demon had finally been free of the bindings that kept it from the realms. The demon's helmed head surveyed the dragon, and the dragon hoped the major demon was pleased. Soon, it spoke in a tone that demanded obedience. "Dragon, I hope you have been able to secure the Mountain Kingdom."
    The Dragon nodded, looked at his new general, and responded to his master. "Yes, Skorne. I just learned the location of the tribe where the hero had come from. It also appears that a javelin was brought to me. "
    The Dragon saw Skorne nod, and then respond to the news. "Very good. That javelin is Marker's Javelin. Hide it so no hero can find it. The Plague Fiend will be in trouble if someone gets it." The Dragon understood this, and nodded.
    The Dragon motioned to some of the demons that immediately went over to the javelin. "Take it down to the deep Volcanic Cavern. Maybe the intense heat will set it on fire." The Dragon then thought of the weapon that was the biggest threat to himself. He turned back to Skorne, and asked, "What about the Ice Axe of Untar? What had been done about that? "
    He watched as Skorne just glared at him. For a moment, the Dragon thought he had doomed himself, but his master finally replied. "The Axe has found its way to the Castle Stronghold. It is no threat to you now."
    The Dragon lowered its head to bow to Skorne. That was welcome news, to know that the one weapon that could severely weaken him was no longer in the Mountain Kingdom. Still, something told him that there would still be a chance that it could find its way back here, even in the hands of the warrior that was descended from Untar.
    He looked at his master again, but before he could ask, his master spoke. "I have already sent some snake gargoyles to you. I also suggest you get the rock golems to help. I have no doubt the humans might have killed some of them." The Dragon nodded.
    The Dragon beat its wings for a moment. It was itching to fly and target the barbarian clan. Maybe he could even drive them from the mountain. He got up, and prepared to take flight. He then noticed that Skorne's image hadn't disappeared. He looked at his master, and asked, "Was there something else?"
    In that moment, a grey stone with a glowing red mark appeared. As it did, Skorne answered his question. "Yes. Hide this runestone where no one would ever look for it." With that, the Dragon saw his master disappear.
    The Dragon looked at his new General, and ordered, "Take that to the Valley of Fire. I doubt that any foolish hero would think that what they seek will be that close to their lines." He saw the general nod, and then took flight. He had people to terrorize. He even figured he might demand one of the people as a snack. An evil thought crossed his mind as he flew. He would demand the hero's mate, if they wouldn't give up the hero. It was the perfect way to put more fear into them as he torched their new settlement.

Chapter Text

    Sitting atop the highest set of ramparts in the Castle Stronghold, the Chimera could see all of the sprawling fortress that it had finally taken over. Sure, there were small pockets of humans, elven creatures, barbarians, or the dark skinned ones that had domain over the rough deserts, but they would be no match. The Chimera had managed to destroyed all the strong fighters that had been left in the castle. Even now, the Chimera’s snake head was sinking its fangs into one of the few Valkyries that had remained. She wasn’t even a challenge, running right into the poisonous gas that came from the snake head.
    The eagle head was also snacking, but on an elven creature. This one was also female, but stringy. It wondered briefly if that one had been one of the creatures that the Spider Queen was supposed to be leaving to the lizard men in her realm. It wouldn’t matter, since it was already one less problem there, but wondering about these things were part of the problems of a creature with three heads, and three minds.
    The usually dominant head, the lion head, was currently gnawing on a leg from a human. It had been a particularly plump man, and had the smell of treasure on him. Knowing where all the riches were was great, since it knew where the greedy human beings would be headed. It made it easy to get food. Occasionally, that head would cook the meat with its fire breath, making the smell take over the ramparts.
    While the Chimera ate, its minions knew better than to disturb it, unless it was important. With the multiple heads, it meant even they would be a feast if the Chimera was displeased. Still, it noticed that some were approaching with the King and the Queen of the castle in tow. No doubt it had taken them a while to locate them. Even though the Chimera’s forces had managed to overwhelm the people living in the stronghold, the two rulers seemed elusive for a while. No doubt they were using some of the places secret panels and magical transportation to get around.
    The three heads stopped eating, and focused on the approaching group, locking eyes with the strongest lupine creature, something the humans referred to as a werewolf. The creature didn’t flinch, which told the Chimera that this one was destine for something greater. This demanded appropriate attention, as the Chimera responded with all three heads speaking. “So you finally found the rulers. You’ve done well, and were brave to bring them while I ate.”
    The lead creature nodded, responding with a growl in its voice signaling the acknowledgement of that respect. “Yes. It took a while, but we found them. Also, another group has received some items from Skorne, and are bringing them up.” That statement surprised the Chimera, and sure enough, another group of the lupine creatures came up with two special items.
    Once they were up, the Chimera looked at the King and Queen, and brought up the one question that was on its mind. It still remembered the Valkarie that had transformed into the Falconess. It didn’t want that to happen again, and said to the fallen foes, “Where did that Valkyrie go? We know she wasn’t part of the group we had defeated. Did she go off in search of that cursed Scimitar?”
    To his credit, the King shook his head and responded, “I won’t tell you. You can eat me, kill me, but you will never get that from me.” The Chimera had all of its heads focusing on the man, and contemplated those words. Threats of death wouldn’t work on the ruler, and the Chimera had a feeling that threatening the Queen would result is a similar response, but an answer was needed right away.
    The Chimera’s eagle head looked at the lead lupine like creature, and said, “Hold that sorry excuse for a life upstanding. There is only way to get the information quickly.” It watched as the creature did as it was told, lifting the man up, and forcing them to stand still. Once that was done, the Chimera reared back with all three of its heads, and focused on the two in front of them.
    It then let loose with breath from all three heads, all focused on the King and the creature holding him. The two were bathed in the poisonous breath from the snake’s head, the fiery breath from the lion’s head, and lightning breath from the eagle’s head. If one of the two figures would have been alone, the body would have been disintegrated. Since they were together, however, the resulting mixture was enough to force the two figures to merge into one.
    The Chimera stopped breathing the dangerous breath, and the figure that was now standing in the place of the two fell to its knees, breathing very heavily. No doubt the process had taken a toll on the figure, but the Chimera remained patient. This was the crutial part, since this new figure would have the minds of both of the figures used to make it. If the King had been more powerful, the new figure would attempt to rebel. If the King wasn’t the more powerful, all the King’s knowledge would be easily accessed by the mind of the lupine creature.
    Soon, the figure got to one knee, and looked up at the Chimera. The new figure placed a fist to its heart, and started to speak. “It appears the Valkyrie was sent to the structure known as Sumner’s Tower. She thought that was the place to go to reclaim the cursed Scimitar.”
    This news made the Chimera frown on all of its faces. It had hoped to snack on that Valkyrie. Still, it knew the Scimitar was no longer in the Castle Stronghold. Since she hadn’t been experienced enough, she hadn’t known how to use it, making it easy to dispose of. Still, to know she was seeking to find it was not a good thing. The Chimera then looked at the Queen, and realized it had the perfect way to capture the Valkyrie.
    As if reading the creature’s minds, the Queen chose that moment to speak up. “Your victory here will be short lived, foul beast. She will return with Rasha’s Scimitar, and liberate this castle.” The Chimera had to give her credit. She managed to present herself as a leader, even though her outfit was not in pristine condition.
    The Chimera turned to its new general, and said, “Take her down to the dungeon. Place her in one of those cages that they hang high in the room.” The Chimera took pleasure in seeing the fear in the Queen’s face as the general nodded, and then dragged her off.
    Once she was taken away, the Chimera turned its attention to the other group of its grunts, who all appeared to be cowering under the triple gaze. It was obvious that they were not ready for the honor of being a general. They did, however, manage to keep enough of their wits together to finally say while holding up a magical Ice Axe. “Master, this was sent to the Castle Stronghold for safe keeping.”
    Before the Chimera could respond to that statement, the image of Skorne appeared, causing those grunts to stagger back in fear. The image looked at the Chimera, and then at the items the grunts were holding before speaking. “I see that the axe and the rune stone has arrived. They need to be safely hidden, Chimera. If not, it could be a disaster.” The Chimera understood entirely the concern of its master. Those accursed items had ruined Skorne’s last time of domination long ago. The Chimera’s one neck still stung from the time it had lost its Lion head long ago. Skorne’s own powers had only managed to save the Chimera from complete destruction.
    The Chimera bowed all of its heads before responding. It took a moment, however, to make sure that only one head was speaking. “I understand, Skorne. I have a perfect place in mind for the Ice Axe, as well as for that Rune Stone.” The Chimera could see the surprise in Skorne’s eyes through his face mask. Many forgot that the Chimera could think with all its heads, tripling its mind power from time to time.
    The Chimera then looked towards two suits of armor that stood at the corners of the ramparts. While they didn’t speak, they approached the Chimera, and placed their empty hands where their hearts had to be. The Chimera then said to the one on the left, “Take the Ice Axe down to the barracks, and place it in that ice room they had for the food stores.” The Chimera watched as that particular armor just nodded, and carried the Ice Axe off, the magical axe causing a coating of ice to appear on its arms.
    The Chimera then turned its attention to the second suit of armor. This one was perfectly stationary, waiting for its command. This pleased the Chimera. It then said, “Take that rune stone down to the Armory. Place it safely away in one of the pits. Also, make sure one of the Granite Golems is guarding over the area.” This armor also nodded, and made its way down into the Castle Stronghold.
    It then heard Skorne make an approving sound. “Very well done. That should keep those items safely out of the hands of any Legendary Warriors that might be about.” That little statement made the Chimera worry for a moment. The Valkyrie the Chimera had encountered had shown signs of being a Legendary Warrior. If there were more about, it could be a serious threat to all of the others.
    This prompted the Chimera to ask something that was on all of its minds. “Lord Skorne. Where exactly did Rasha’s Scimitar end up?” It had to be placed somewhere that no Legendary Heroes could easily get it.
    The Chimera felt better when Skorne’s image chuckled, and responded to the question. “That particular item is embedded in a tree. It’s not something they can chop down.” That bit of news was good to hear. It meant that the bane of the Chimera’s existence was in the Spider Queen’s realm.
    Skorne spoke again, bringing the Chimera’s minds back to the moment. “By the way, you must send more of you children out. The snake headed ones need to make their way to the Forsaken Provence and the Mountain Kingdom. The lion headed ones need to go to the Ice Domain, the Desert Lands, and the Dream Realm. The eagle headed ones can head to the other realms.”
    The Chimera bowed, and nodded all three heads. “It will be done. Their tough hides will be tough for any hero to break. I’m sure they will also enjoy the feast any who oppose you provide.” The Chimera looked up, and saw the image of Skorne fade. Another feast would have to wait, since the need to summon more of its kin was needed. It only meant a momentary departure from the Castle Stronghold, but it would be enough. The forces were in place to defend it from any heroes who might come to liberate the place. There were Granite Golems everywhere in the place, as well as Eagle Gargoyles resting at key positions. No hero should be able to make it through the place.

 

Chapter Text

            Way up in the Sky Dominion, a great fleet was forming.  It had been taking over the various vessels that had been controlled by the Knights who protected the vast area.  Even now, the fleet, as well as the knights, had dropped in numbers as the plague-ridden Mothership was starting to the poison the skies.

            Deep in the Mothership was the lair of its controller, the Plague Fiend.  For ages, his essence had rested in the bowels of the ship, waiting for a new host.  Luckily, it had arrived in the form of a knight, who was now merged with the foul entity.  He now worked to rebuild his army, using his powers to recreate his plague grunts, as well as the floating green blobs that some might call beholders.  He had also created the living acid puddles in order to trip up any invaders.

            Even now, he was busy trying to find out information from one of the knights they had captured.  He was interested in one particular knight and had not seen hide nor hair of them since they had managed to escape from the Mothership.  He had figured all this time that that knight would have been part of the assault.  This prisoner was one of the high-ranking knights, one of the ones most likely to know what he wanted to know.

            With them suspended over one of the plague vats, the fiend focused his singular eye on them, and asked, “Where is the one that was first here?  Where is Percival, and why is he afraid to return?”  He watched as the knight turned his head to look away from him.  Not many of the knights could bare to look at the blob-like form.  In fact, those who even got a glimpse into his lair tried to bolt, and those that did come in always tried to look away.

            When the knight remained silent, the Plague Fiend just waved a pseudo-tendril, and said “Lower him in.”  When he looked away from the knight, he heard the gloppy sound of the body being submerged into the vat.  It was his process for making generals.  The glop that comprised the Plague Fiend was the most concentrated form of disease in all of existence.  Full emersion in it would destroy the body in minutes, corrupting the spirit of the being, and leave behind a form that was hideous if ever seen.  The spirit would then be very willing to help the Plague Fiend in his cause.

            At that very moment, the Plague Fiend saw some of his grunts entering.  All had their gas masks on, which signified they were the middle level ones.  A few had their knives herding another captive knight in, while a few others were carrying some items.  As they approached, he addressed them, “What are all these items, and is this the next prisoner for interrogation?”

            He then noticed the items that were being carried.  Two were rune stones, each inscribed with a glowing blue rune.  Those were powerful runes, as he knew they had the power to open a path to the underworld.  The book being carried by another of the grunts was not something he knew of.  It wasn’t something that overly worried him.

            Before any of the grunts could answer him, though, the prisoner managed to leap away from his captors, and grabbed the book.  It was obvious to the Plague Fiend that the knight thought he could use the book against him, and before any of his minions could stop him, the knight had opened the book, pointing the pages at him shouting, "Take this, you foul creature."

            To the knight's obvious surprise, nothing happened.  The Plague Fiend knew this would be the case, but he figured his minions hadn't known.  Several of the grunts had grabbed the knight, while one of the blobs managed to hold him still with two spikes as another grunt snatched the book away.  While the knight still looked stunned, one of the living acid puddles moved underneath him, and started to dissolve the knight.

            As the captive knight's screams filled the chamber, the lead grunt started to explain what had happened.  "Forgive us, your great pestilence, but those items had arrived up on the deck, and as we were bringing them in, that knight ambushed us.  We had not been aware that he had gotten aboard, and we are increasing out patrol numbers."

            The Plague Fiend nodded, realizing Skorne must have sent them.  It was very possible that the fact that the Mothership stayed mobile might have messed up with the delivery of the items.  He then looked at the grunt, and said, "At least you got them here before Skorne contacted.  Are things ready for the depurification? "

            Before the grunt could answer, the image of Skorne's armored head appeared in the room.  It looked over at the items and nodded before speaking.  "Good.  The runestones and book have arrived.  It is good I had taken the speed of your vessel into account."

            The Plague Fiend nodded at the image of his master.  “Lord Skorne.  Yes, it is good you took that into account.  It would have been to our disadvantage for those items to have fallen below to the ground.”  Inwardly, the Plague Fiend thought that if the items had fallen to the ground below, they would have been unlikely to be found.  He didn’t know what area of the world below they were over, but it was most likely someplace remote in one of the six realms on the ground.

            He saw the image of Skorne nod.  “Indeed.  While there might have been a benefit in that, it would also have meant that those items were not in our control.  If something isn’t in our control, our enemies could have it.”  The Plague Fiend couldn’t fault that logic.  He wasn’t exactly sure which of the land-based domains his mothership was flying over.

            He was brought out of his thoughts when Skorne spoke again.  “Now, while you prepare to start poisoning all the lands, weakening all the mortals there, I want you to make sure those items I sent are secured.  The book will deal a serious blow to the Lich if obtained, and those runestones need to be kept out of the hands of any who could use them.”

            The Plague Fiend understood now and keeping those items secure would be very important.  It even made him wonder where Marker’s Javelin was at the moment.  As he eyed the items, he asked, “And where is Marker’s Javelin, my lord.  I hope it is somewhere very secure, or where it can be easily destroyed.”

            He heard a demonic chuckle come from Skorne at that moment.  “I had it placed in the Mountain Kingdom.  No doubt it is placed somewhere where it can be easily destroyed, unless those items have extra enchantments on them.  If that is the case, it may take time for them to be destroyed.”  That last part made the Plague Fiend wonder if that was the case with the Book now in his realm as well.

            After that was said, the Fiend looked at his minions and point a tendril at each item.  "Place that Book in one of the shipyard's prisons, preferably one with a complex locking mechanism.  Put that one rune stone in the Cloud Docks while the other one needs to be kept in the Mothership.  I don't want them easily obtained, or it will be your hides. "

            To his delight, all his minions nodded, and then bolted off.  They all knew the price for failing him.  If they were lucky, they would only get throw into the plague vat, their decaying corpses adding to its power.  The unlucky ones got ingested by the sentient barrels that made up the Plague Golems.

            Once they ran off, he turned his attention to Skorne and reported, "Your request is being completed.  Hopefully, I will soon have the information needed to prevent another problem from surfacing."  He glanced over at the one vat, which was now starting to shake, signaling the transformation happening inside to soon be complete.

            He saw the image is Skorne look at the bar as well.  "Good.  The age of mortals will truly end this time.  They will either be food, fodder, or slaves.  I must now check on the others."  With those last words, The Plague Fiend saw the image of his master disappear.

            During that moment, those few minions who had remained had been raising the form out of the vat.  Some of them momentarily recoiled, but they managed to finish the task of raising the figure out.  Some were even ready to put on the special gear of a Plague General.  It could be difficult, even for him, to gaze at the mutated form.  Not every General looked the same under the mask.  This one's eyes had moved to opposite ends of their skull, and the nose must have moved to the back of the head.

            Once the General was in his gear, it got down on one knee.  In a moment, it was answering the question asked before he was submerged in the vat.  "Master, the one you seek had made his way to Sumner's Tower.  He still hasn't returned, as far as I know."

            That bit of news was troubling.  Sumner was well known, and very powerful.  If anyone would know how to defeat Skorne, it would be him.  The Plague Fiend could access the memories from his human host.  He would need to be sure the Spire was more fortified than ever.  If he didn't, they might end up falling a second, and more permanent time.