Disclaimer: Artix Entertainment owns Adventure Quest. I only own a few characters, such as the Hero of Lore (You).

Dawn of the Devourer

Prologue

The walls around you are stone, and chilled to the touch. As you think back on the events which lead you to being thrown in the prison under the Guardian Tower, you can't help but slap yourself for those last few, foolish movements which lead to your capture. Of course they were backing up, it's because someone was moving in behind you. Next you know, everything goes black, and you wake up on the cold, straw floor of a dungeon in Battleon.

"Well, well, well, it seems my new-found friend is awake!" A voice bellows in the darkness, a hearty belly laugh following suit. "Good! Good! Tell me, friend, what's your name?" He asks with a twinkle in his eyes. Rubbing the back of your head, you tell him your name, which prompts another laugh. "Not what I would have named you, kid, but hell! If that's you're name, who am I to tell you otherwise?" Leaning on the bars, pressing his face close, he looks you over. "Lemme get a good look at you, kid. See what the cat drug in." You advance on the bars and let him look you over. He gave a little chuckle. "Ya don't look like much, kid, but the way the guards were talkin, you gave them a hell of a run out there. There's been some talk among the senior guards. Seems like some of them want you to join the Guardians. Of course, as with everything else, there are others who aren't too keen on the idea of a criminal joining the Order." A loud thud permiates the dungeon from an unseen door up a flight of stairs. "Shhh! Get back, kid. Don't give 'em any reason to kill you. Here comes the guards."

Footsteps come down the stairs, heavy plate boots clinking across the stone of the floors. It is mere seconds later when a brown-haired man in silver plate mail armor steps in full view of your cell, a golden axe shimmering on his back. You recognize this man as the one who lead the Guardians to hunt you down before they knew who you were. Walking behind him is another man in plate, an ornately decorated longsword on his hip, a shield on his back, who takes his spot to the man's left. And filing in to the first man's right is a woman with black hair, a raven cloak on her back, hiding her armor.

"This the one, Captain? The one who gave your men a run for their money?" The woman speaks, her entire body hidden beneath the cloak. The brown-haired man nods and smiles to you, putting one hand on the bars and the other slips between them, resting lazily on the cross bar.

"Aye. Sure is." He says, looking at you. "Tell me, friend." The man begins, looking you dead in the eyes. "What brought you to Battleon, and compelled you to steal only one tome from our library?" You're reluctant at first, choosing silence over telling him anything. The male on his left seems more angered at your silence then he.

"Listen you piece of crap! The Captain asked you a question, and you better damn well answer it!" He barks, shaking the bars violently, attempting to scare a response out of you. The brown-haired man puts the hand which rested upon the cross bar on the other's arm.

"Now, now, Jake. There is no need to get violent with our guest. We'll get the answer in due time." Returning to his lazy stance, he gave a submissive smile. "But the sooner you answer, my friend, the sooner I can get you out of here."

"Captain!" The man barks.

"No butts, Jake. You saw what I did in that field. I've not seen combat skills like that in years, and from an untrained thief, no less. To let such talent wither in the dungeon would be a travesty-" He turns back to you. "Wouldn't it? Here's the deal. If you can tell us who hired you to steal that book and why, I'll see to it that you're walking under the sun within the hour. What do you say?" After maintaining your silence for a few more seconds, you finally talk, revealing the client to be a spider-like creature who spoke like a man.

"Epheel. I knew it." The woman speaks almost instantly, seeming to know the name of your client. "What did Epheel want the book for?" With a saddened tone, you tell her he didn't tell you why he wanted it, only that he would pay a sum of gold to make any king jealous to possess it. "Enough gold to make a king jealous? Whatever Epheel wants this book for, I can assure you it's not to bake a cake." The brown-haired man nods and releases your bars, taking a key from a ring at his waist.

"Aye. I agree. Well, you've upheld your end of the bargain, friend, so I'll uphold mine." Putting the key in the lock, he gives it a twist and the bars slide open with a happy groan. "Your freedom, however, is not quite yours yet." The man continues, putting a hand on your shoulder, leading you up the stairs. "There is one final task I would ask of you. Did Epheel tell you of a place to meet him when you aquired the book?" You nod. "Good. I will need you to take the book and lead us there. Epheel is an evil creature who does not deserve to grace the Creator's Lore. If you were to aid us in capturing him, it would certainly go a long way to atoning for your crimes." He opened the dungeon door which lead to the Guardian Tower proper. Standing in the foyer of the tower was a tall guardian with an eyepatch over one eye.

"Captain... why are you bringing the prisoner up here? Surly you can't mean to release-" The man spoke.

"I do mean to release them." The brown-haired man answered sternly. "And don't call me Sherly." The woman in the cloak gave a groan at the joke. "You saw what I saw out there, Wun-Eye. Our friend here impressed Maria, and if anyone can do that, they deserve a place amongst our finest. Remember, Wun-Eye. We had to resort to subterfuge to assure a capture. Something we've never had to do, and I don't plan on making that public. They'll join the Guardian Order as a trump card. We'll keep them incase we need someone to do things a known Guardian can't."

"Then I trust your friend won't be recorded in the ledger, then?"

"No. Too risky." He turns to you with a hand on your shoulder. "I won't lie. What I have in mind for you won't be fun, and it will be very dangerous, but take solace in knowing what you will preform for me is imperative to Lore's survival. Can I count on you for these tasks. Complete them and return alive, and I can assure you that your name will be restored, and you'll be inducted as a full member of the Guardian Order. Can I count on you for this?" Without any real course of action other then to agree, you do so. "Excellent! Your first job is going to be easy, the rest can wait. I want you to go to a mansion on the edge of Darkovia, and speak with the owner, she said she had some information for me, and I can't go myself. Rayne will go with you, as both a guide and to speak for you. You may not remember Maria, but she was there when you were captured. Rayne'll make sure Maria doesn't flay you on the spot. When you return from that, we'll discuss capturing Epheel. Rayne?" The woman in the cloak nodded a sagely nod. "I trust you can handle this?"

"Babysitting a wet-behind-the-ears newbie? You know me, Captain. I live for this kind of work." You can hear the sarcasm dripping off her teeth as she speaks. Artix either doesn't pick up on the sarcasm, or does and just rubs it in her face.

"I know you do, Rayne. I have the utmost faith that you'll preform both of your duties clear within my expectations." He smiled and shooed the pair of you off.

"Alright, newbie. It's you and I for a while. I'm Rayne. Rayne Anasi, and I'll be your babysitter for this bread run. Don't worry. Follow my instructions, and you should be fine." You follow her out of the tower as you walk down the main street of Battleon, the sun peeking over the horizon, the time around six or seven in the morning assuring most of the town was still in their beds. "Darkovia's in the west, about six hours walk out. But we're not walking..." She threw herself onto a horse stabled near the Inn, a regal looking white stallion which seemed to coo at her touch. "Climb up." She ordered, giving you her hand. Taking it, you struggle to pull yourself onto the horse and settle yourself behind her. "Hold on tight, but watch your hands." You tentatively wrap your arms around her waist as the horse takes off down the dusty road in a blur of white.

Despite the wind in your face, as Rayne talks next, you can hear her with great clarity. "Before we meet Maria, there are a few things you need to know about her. First thing's first, she's a vampire. A very powerful, wise one. She's wiser then most of the other Guardians, and has a tongue to match. She's off drinking blood, though, so you're alright there. Second, she's smart. Scary smart for her age. Third, she's older then me, but looks a lot younger; again that can be attributed to her vampirism. And finally, she's very protective of those she loves. Hopefully one day, you can count yourself in that category. But for now, keep your distance, stay respectful, and don't give her a reason to eviscerate you. Do this and you'll be alright." You give a nod and a small audible response to her instructions. "At least I know you can take orders."

The ground flies beneath your feet as the horse's powerful legs carry you with great speed towards the forest in the distance. On the edge of the forest, a mansion appears in the receeding fog of the trees, lights greeting weary travelers and merchants of all kinds. You feel something churn in your stomach as you approach the building, tentatively asking your guide if the house is your destination.

"Sure is." She replies slowing the horse to a gentle trot. "Lemme welcome you to the Hotel Despair, newbie. It's... not really a hotel. It's just a cute pet name Lizzie and I gave it. Come on, I'll introduce you to Maria." Leaping from the horse, she helps you down and begins to walk up the gravel path to the door, with you in tow.

Author's Note: I'm Ba-ack! So yea, shortly after I repaired my old computer, it had a hard-core meltdown, and I was out of one for about 5 months. So, now that I bought a new computer, I'm back in the saddle!