Dungeons, Dragons, and a Little Friendship
Andur swung his morningstar with all the might that remained within him. It screamed through the air as it crushed the exposed heart of the grand monstrosity. The terror that had nearly bested him let out one last terrifying wail as it crashed against the ground, shaking the earth beneath Andur's feet.
Using both hands, he tore the weapon from the beast's flesh, shaking off the viscera that was still stuck to it. At that moment he remembered his friend. He quickly began looking about the destroyed city square. Amidst the destruction and pot holed roads he saw a small patch of cobblestone that was unbroken amidst the chaos, where his friend had made a desperate last stand against the beast. Within lay an unconscious man robed in blue finery.
"CARTANIS!" Andur shouted as he sprinted to his broken ally.
Andur quickly righted the wizard so that he could see his face. Andur could tell that his friend was still alive; barely. Removing the symbol of his clergy he grasped it firmly in his hands, and softly chanted "Pelor, in your wisdom we are humbled, with your mercy we are grateful. Relieve the suffering of this just soul; remove the damage that evil has done."
Light broke through the smoke and clouds of the destruction that the city had withstood and bathed the wizard in its rays. Cartanis' eyes twitched and his nose furrowed. The wizard groaned as the pain of battle was slowly washed away, but he managed to sit up.
"Hat," Cartanis waved a hand over the top of his hair, to find nothing there. A rather annoyed expression overwhelmed his features, "HAT! HEEL!" a few feet behind the wizard a rather dashing blue top hat sprang from the rubble and carefully hovered through the air to rest at the top of the wizard's head. Immediately upon landing on the wizard's head a single gleaming monocle descended from its side and rested in front of the man's right eye. Cartanis gave one last check to himself, straightening his coat and buttons upon his outfit, before he turned toward the cleric who saved his life once more.
"I truly hope that you managed to finish the beast, or else this will make for a very boring purgatory." The wizard said with a distinct tone of a voice worn out by time.
"Glad to see you're going to stick around a little longer." Andur said.
"Good to hear that my ears are still working," Cartanis looked around the destroyed city square before adding. "Where is the elf?"
"Lost sight of him after he used the siege ballista to peg that thing to the ground. He's still around though; he was taking pot shots at it while I was closing my distance to it." He then looked back towards Cartanis, "You know you didn't have to try and take that attack from the creature head on right?"
Cartanis scoffed "Like you would have been able to dodge a shot from that close, someone had to distract it and I had prepared an arcane barrier for just such an occasion today." As he got to his feet his bones popped in protest, despite that he added with a small hint of sarcasm. "Well I am sure the great Te'denithas will show himself once he's certain the danger has lifted. Now let's see to our old friend, Lord Ulanon."
Both of the warriors walked across the rubble surrounding a destroyed fortification of a barracks wall. Inside they saw the carnage that they had dealt upon the tiefling lord's horde, before being forced outside by his "pet" as he called it. Slouched against a wall was a bleeding Lord Ulanon, "I guess I should be used to seeing the impossible today." He took a deep pained breath, "First a ragtag army of lesser races beats my armies at the forefront of my oldest conquest in this new land. Then they manage to push us back into the fortress and send in you five with a teleportation spell. Holding out against what was left and managing to take me down before reinforcements could be called in." A smile ran across his face, "But I think I am going to have the last laugh here."
Air began to rush in from the outside as some great force began something outside. Andur rushed to the top of the rubble pile and saw the body of 'the pet' glowing intensely as air whipped past his face. "What is the meaning of this!" he shouted back at Ulanon
"That thing was made out more unstable stuff than I care to list, some dead god here, a few innocent souls there. But let us just say that you just ignited a bomb that is going to take out a fifteen square mile area. Maybe your armies will make it out of here in time, but you won't." An evil smile crept upon the tiefling's face, "and without a competent leader, the rest shall fall! For I am but a lordling in comparison to whom I bare as a messenger, and I shall die in order to behead your pathetic rebellion gladly." Ulanon was overcome with ragged coughs, each one sounding heavier and more pained than the last, but he retained that toothy smile as his eyes slowly seemed to lose focus. His body now still as the dead city he once ruled over.
Cartanis walked upon the rubble pile and over to the outside, examining the growing sphere of intense space distorting force around the pet. He took a book from his waist belt and began writing within. Warning: To all officers in the army. The enemy has engaged a last ditch effort to end us all before we can escape. An area of twenty square miles must be cleared in order to avoid the danger, I don't want anyone staying closer than the foothills, and don't have anyone wait for us. Stop
As he ceased his writing the words disappeared into the paper of the book and shortly thereafter a reply emerged, Order's received, all forces retreating from the battlefield. May the gods grant us the honor to see you all in the heavens once this is over, Stop.
Cartanis wrote one more message, this time with a special symbol preceding it to filter who received it. To all trusted officials of sufficient rank, this was as we suspected not the entirety of the Tiefling Theocracy. Lord Ulanon revealed to us that there is apparently an even greater force on its way from their home. We have no clear idea to its strength or force, and have no way out. General Alton, we are sorry to leave when you may need us most. Good luck, Stop. Cartanis then shut the book, not wanting to deal with doubters or questions at the moment, "By its rate of growth I say we got a few minutes before it collapses upon its own energy buildup and novas." He said aloud to Andur.
At that moment he noticed the elf that was standing beside him, "Any chance you can make another teleportation spell before this thing does just that?"
"That thing took way too long the first time. I... We don't have the time or resources to do it again."
Andur walked down from the top of the pile. "As long as Leria and Balarash stopped Dra'nahb from escaping, I'll die happy."
"Oh you would of liked it if they were able to stop me wouldn't you?" Said a raspy voice that rounded the corner of the barracks. It came from a man whose face was half covered with skin, old milky eye in one socket as to contrast the bones that openly show upon the other half. His tone changed to one far more annoyed, "That fool never deserved his command, I had a deal in place just in case he decided to unleash that ticking time bomb on you lot. Yet, it seems I'll still get something out of all this"
Andur casually looked at Dra'nahb, the lich who had been at fault for most of this. The rune etched weave through his robes that were used to keep his dusty body from falling apart, the few tenuous laces that also glowed with a deep green hue against the bones in his face to hold what little was left of his face together. Andur noticed that the Lich's phylactery was missing from the socket in his empty eye cavity. "Don't be so ecstatic, I know you can't do much without it on your person."
"Oh sure I can't, but that just means I get to spend a few months somewhere in a nice safe place to regenerate, as you all are but dust on the wind. Considering if this thing will even leave dusty remains of you to scatter about."
Then a slender figure in plate mail walked over a pile of rubble across the other side of the square, followed by the silhouette of a figure larger than Andur himself. A tail lazily whipped back and forth to the stride of the plated figure. It approached Andur and stopped in front of him, removing its helmet to reveal the short trimmed head of a female teifling, horns back like those of a devil. She rested her helmet on a clasp with her backpack,
"Sorry I forgot about your birthday a few weeks ago boss," she casually turned her head towards the lich, "But I think I managed to find you the perfect gift."
The tiefling reached into a pocket on her waist belt and pulled out a large viscous orb that looked not unlike a large marble. Andur recognized it instantly as Dra'nahb's phylactery; he turned to see the lich's face show both shock and anger at realization of what Andur now held.
"Next time don't send it off with some cocky wyvern rider who talks too much and bleeds far too easily!" Leria said with a triumphant flick of her chin.
"Got your message Cartanis," Balarash said in a deep rumbling voice. "And we felt that you," the red dragonborn said as he turned to Andur, "would like to do the honors yourself, considering what he did."
Andur gently tossed the ball sized marble in his hand a few times before he took a stride towards the ever glowing rift. "Dra'nahb, answer me a question or two would you?"
The lich gained some measure of composure and addressed the cleric, "Well I guess I have suffered life long enough, ask away you curious oaf."
"We found that old ruin of the city you founded so long ago, read of your legend, and what happened to your wife. So tell me one thing." Andur turned to look directly into the lich's gaze, "Did she love you?"
The lich let out a dusty cough that Andur guessed was a laugh, "Love is nothing more than a soul's attempt to escape suffering, and it didn't save her from life's merciless reign that it has over us all." He sighed, "She was always so faithful to me." Dra'nahb then stared off into the sky, "Life; It's like a parasite, it'll build you up into something, or take you to someplace amazing. And then it just crashes you into the ground uncaring as you ask it to stop. I was so close to ending this miserable existence and stopping that endless cycle. But it seems it'll always manage to find champions foolish enough to believe in its sweet lies to fight for its meaningless cause."
Andur looked back at the Vortex that was beginning to give off sparks and show cracks in its distortion. "So why all of this, why all of this war and destruction then? You just created more suffering for others."
"I may have," the lich casually scratched at his chin, "but I know I was ending more potential suffering than I was creating. At worst I was life's vehicle, its toy meant to bring about its grand design of loss and pain. Yet I was still an adept bringer of mercy, there are many lives now that will never even know life's cruel embrace." Dra'nahb looked at Andur, " So don't stand there and act like I was misguided and foolish, I know full well what I did, and I would do it again if it meant that I'd never see another design like Grimdig be completed by its greatest and most foolish champion."
Andur did his best to not let the Lich get to him, but the mention of Grimdig only made him grow visably tense. The lich noticed as such, and only sported a quick smile, before looking down upon him to speak once more.
"Don't tell me some part of you isn't exhilarated to get on to your heaven and joy yourself in its ecstasy, to meet all of your old friends as you wait for others to join in on your lovely rapture. It is the greatest gift one can receive when life is done with you, its greatest bribe."
Andur could only think of one thing when the lich talked of old friends, "The one man that was not even of my blood, the man that was my father to me. My only parent. Had to sacrifice his soul to save me once, save me from you and your foul plans," He took in a quick look at his friends who stood behind him, all four of them each with their own approving smile. Andur then took a look at the lich, "So in short" Andur grasped the phylactery firmly in his hand turning back towards the ominous glowing sphere, "Have fun in the nine hells." Andur readied his arm and flung the insignificant thing with all his mustered strength straight towards the breaking field around the sphere.
As it contacted the horizon of the event it solidly shattered the force around the energy, and smoothly sailed into the core of building power. Once the shell was broken a great quake shook everyone to the floor. Before anyone could regain balance they all began floating, and drifting around the ever growing light. The core then began to pulsate and expand, slowly consuming the city square.
Cartanis began shouting over the noise of the event and the earth's movement, "Something's amiss Andur, it shouldn't be doing this! It should have exploded once the shell was breached, this is different!"
Then a great blackness appeared within the center of the mass of light.
Cartanis' eyes grew wide, "Oh dear gods no, not that! Andur grab my hand, this is going to get messy!" As the friends locked hands Cartanis managed to let the elf grab onto his leg. They looked around but the tiefling and the dragonborn were too far away to get to before the next event occurred.
As if reaching some critical point, the small dark sphere within the mass of light violently expanded to overtake both the floating victims and the majority of the surrounding city and countryside. Once it reached the edge of the foothills much to the awe of the retreating armor it stopped. Then as suddenly as it had advanced, it receded unto itself and disappeared from view; leaving only a gaping crater that dug a divot within the ground below and into the clouds above.
Andur was disoriented from the sudden jolt that was given alongside the transportation from where they were to where they are. "Cartanis." he said to the wizard he held onto in the quiet blackness, "Where are we."
An explosion of color and light broke the shadow to reveal the horizon in all directions to be of the same shifting colors, as they all floated helplessly amongst ruins of the city they had recently fought over.
"Welcome to the Void, Andur," Cartanis began, "The place where nothing belongs, and everything ends."
"What do you mean?"
"See all those lovely lights and colors on the horizon there? Well that is the void destroying anything that doesn't belong, and once we run out of air and earth between us and it we are as good as dead."
"There has got to be a way out of this!" shouted the elf in fear as he tightened his grasp on the wizard's leg.
"Would you let go of me already!" The wizard did his best to not kick the elf off, but now he was floating very close to his personal space anyway. He just groaned and answered his question.
"We got one shot I think. If I can get enough matter around us with the right spell I think I can buy us a few extra minutes." The wizard began concentrating and a field of distortion began to become visible around the three.
"What about Leria and Rash?" Andur called out to the wizard.
"We can't worry about them right now; we are on enough borrowed time as it is."
"You can't be serious."
"Look around us Andur! Miles of countryside and cityscape floating about aimlessly, and last I checked none of us can fly. Besides, we have to get out of here before anything more critical happens."
His last words set his companions on edge, but it was Andur who seemed to most perturbed. For he knew the wizard was right, but he couldn't hide his angry at the situation.
As the air around them became heavier and more pressing the wizard eventually spoke up, "Alright too much more and our lungs won't be able to handle this, look around everyone try to find something that should look like the sea on a dark full moon night."
The elf looked about and noticed reflection from a moving surface in the distance, beyond the disintegrating horizon. "Over there," he said as he pointed, but it was followed by a nervous cough. "So how fast would one die out in the void."
Cartanis just said plainly, "A lot quicker than the time we'll have to make that distance in one piece."
"Oh… joy." The elf said back in mild discontent.
Concern was evident on the wizard's face, "That event must have shot us farther from our world than I thought. We still have a chance though, just not as great as I'd like it to be." With a shout of strain, the wizard waved his hand and the distortion with the three included began blazing across the decomposing landscape. As they broke through the horizon, the orb they were within seemed to ignite around them, spitting and hissing as though it were aflame as it faded away into light and color. It was then that one of them looked back towards the fading sphere behind them, and noticed a sudden change in intensity of the colors.
"Cartanis! Something's happening back there."
Cartanis took a second to look behind him, "The void must have made contact with a dense patch of matter and not liked it. Let's hope it won't be too bad."
As the light intensified it could be seen that the intense field of light was separating from the original sphere of weakening matter and energy. Then in an intense flash a shock-wave ripped across the void, fragmenting the original sphere which sent it out as a shrapnel blast of colorful energy towards the trio.
"I don't like the looks of this Cartanis!" Proclaimed the elf.
"Calm down, I might be able to ride the shock-wave and get us there faster."
"But we've got more than just that shock-wave to worry about."
Cartanis quickly looked about, noticing all of the spheres of light hurtling towards them. "We'll be fine. Just tell me when I need to move, we can't spend all our time dodging them." His companions nodded at his reassurance, but they still seemed slightly uneasy as the first wave of matter arrived.
Quickly the group's wayward comet swerved along a new path as a ball of color erupted past it at intense speed. This continued as each piece of flaming matter entered their trajectory. As the shock-wave approached, the comet ceased its rag-tag maneuvers and began blazing a trail straight ahead. The comet was rocked within the force of the explosion, but it quickly gained speed and actually began to catch up to the slowing fireballs in front of it.
"CARTANIS!" shouted the elf.
"I do have eyes elf!" He shouted back.
Once again the wayward comet aced its way past disaster, narrowly escaping as two spheres began to cross paths and then collided. Sending even more shrapnel about that headed straight for the trio.
Andur was shocked as he watched the thousands of tiny sparks ricochet off the orb, causing multicolored streaks of light to erupt from the shell, "Umm, Cartanis? We're going to get hit by the shock-wave from that last collision."
The wizard seemed to stop and think for a second, looking towards the closing wave and the geysers erupting from their safe haven. He nervously rubbed his forehead for a moment, looking toward their goal that was so close.
"I can't fix the orb, so... We're going to have to try something else." He looked to Andur and the elf, "I'll ride this last shock-wave, and it'll destroy the force orb. We might make it through the last stretch to the end, but you all have to listen and remember what I tell you. This place will destroy our bodies; there is no question about that. But it takes far longer for it to thread apart who we are, our souls and memories. We should be able to make the last stretch before the void can break us."
Andur wasn't finding much confidence in the wizard's idea. "Are you sure Cartanis?"
"If I try to fly this thing the rest of the way that Shockwave is going to scatter us all over, we'd be lucky if even one of us makes it then. I have to position us just right so we'll all head there together."
As the orb began to move toward the shockwave Andur took a look behind him towards the strange sea that was before them. He noticed that it seemed to encompass the entirety of his view, where they ahd come from seemed to be down the other end of a long tunnel as the sea was slowly enveloping them. He could make out the rippling patterns of its surface, looking much like a pond that was recently disturbed. He closed his eyes and looked at his hands; he pushed doubt from his mind and braced against the oncoming darkness.
"Come on Twilight! You can do it." Said Spike, the eager baby dragon hopped up and down.
Twilight carefully picked up a dart in her hoof. Aiming it in her mind she pictured the trajectory it would take. Then, with an easy underhand toss the projectile began its lazy arc through the air. Hit center, hit center! Twilight thought to herself. With a humble thunk, the dart stuck cleanly to the eighteen point black zone.
"I keep trying to tell you Twi' you over think the simple things." Dash stated to her friend, as Twilight removed the darts from the board using her magic. Her horn dimming as she set them down upon the table between them, allowing herself a moment to think before Dash interrupted her thoughts again.
"You just gotta feel it! Take the dart, take note of the weight and BAM!" the Pegasus exclaimed as she quickly tossed the dart in the air and then kicked it at the board. The dart Cleanly hit the double nineteen point marker ring.
Spike quickly wrote something down on a notepad, "Rainbow Dash one eighty-seven, Twilight Sparkle umm seventy-two."
"Thanks for letting me hang-out with you today Twilight, it's not every day that the weather patrol gets a day off. Everypony else seemed to be really busy today, even Pinkie."
"No problem Dash, the library was slow today anyway." The purple unicorn picked up her dart, gently flipping it in her hoof. "OK, here we go." Don' think, throw; she let the projectile fly. Aiming for nothing in particular, just to hit the board. As it approached the board she couldn't believe her eyes, it looked as though her dart may very well land dead center.
Abruptly at that time, Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Spike were rocked by a concussive air shock. Which slammed into them, the library, and Ponyville.
Groaning as she regained consciousness, Twilight got onto all four of her shaky hooves. Looking about she could see Spike digging Dash out from under a pile of books. The blue Pegasus shook her head around, trying to dispel her wooziness.
"Oh no, the town!"
Twilight said as she went for a nearby window, carefully brushing aside the broken glass on the floor with her magic. She looked out the window with Dash hovering over her shoulder. Both gasped as they looked out from the viewpoint. Windows had shattered across the town, doors had blown off hinges, and a few even had rooftops missing. Ponies milled about in the streets helping others up as they began to regain consciousness, it looked like a disaster in the morning sunlight.
"Come on Dash, we've got to help." Said Twilight, as both went for the library's door.
Andur coughed and groaned at some lingering pain, but suddenly he realized he could feel the cold earth beneath him again. It was too dark to see, but he laughed a little to himself "Made it."
End of Prologue