Author's Yappity-Yap: So does anyone have any guesses as to who the Sojourner is? If you don't, you're about to find out anyways.
Okay, just a fair note of warning to all: This chapter has now undergone about 3 drafts, and 4 rewrites. The latest and most accepted draft (by me) is still going to be significantly different from the last time you may have read or reread it. I had a tough time trying to figure out the best method to approach these chapters because I basically went too deep into a Tolkien-esque kind of format, which involved a lot of "thees" and "Thous", then I rectified and went too modern when there's a clear fantasy setting, and I didn't want to achieve high comedy with this, so instead, after my fourth draft, I have hopefully achieved a reconciliation of the two styles, but you're still going to see a clash of writing styles because I just can't write Alex's scenes in a fantasy format, no matter how I try. Nonetheless, here's hoping I get to blend the two later on.
The revised writing contains scenes of extreme violence and numerous deaths. Reader discretion is advised.
Please read and review. :)
Pumpkin-love33: Thank you for the review. Update is now here.
WizKid: Well at least I won't have to tell you to get a grip! :P
Chapter 17: Fire And Lightning
Twice in time he comes and goes,
Beckoned to the past and in the stream he flows,
Born to serve the Dawn Star,
A protector from a time still far,
Burning, he endures what cannot be with love,
Freezing, he perseveres like the weary dove,
With acceptance he embraces his destiny surely,
And facing death he will deal fairly.
The all-consuming darkness dimmed any light that shone within the passages of Dulmohk's Keep, the stronghold of the Shadows, and no difference is there for the light of the crystal atop the Sojourner's staff, nor the shine of the Destroyers' armor, nor their own divine golden glow. Yet, unhindered nor deterred, the Sojourner, upon their immediate appearance through magic, turned and sought out a path, traversing upon unseen steps. The sheer darkness hid not only walls and ceiling, but even the very surface they walk upon, yet neither Siphon nor Caral made murmur or concern for the lack of sight, what little light they could perceive from the Sojourner's staff and body is sufficient for them, and they followed in confidence. He walks as one who walks through his home, that he can find his way even if blind. This is so because he has indeed walked the halls many times, when light filled their paths, and joy was the song of all things that grew within. Now there are no songs, now there is no joy. Only the end of thousands of years, the end of long undeserved peace.
Gainless though their walk seems, the unseen voices that bespoke foul promises assured them otherwise, as there were changing voices as they travelled deeper into the keep. Though they remained sightless to the sources of the voices, the Sojourner and the Destroyers moved with purpose and grim resolve, unheeding to the screeching hiss, hooting and barking noises calling loudly from the shadows that surround them so fiercely. Yet nothing of the imposing darkness nor disembodied voices could compare with the visible evil before them that now hindered further advance into the abyss of unholy dwelling. Towering over the men as a mountain, a crown of four crimson-fire graced horns growing from its hideous head, eyes as red as molten pits, and a gaping maw with bladed teeth, exhaling smoking death constantly, red demonic flames draped over the rest of its masculine body like armor, and a skin that is greater than the darkness surrounding it, the Demon of Gath barred further passage for the Sojourner, Siphon, and Caral.
"Move aside, fell being, I have matters to speak with your master." The Sojourner speaks boldly, though the demon moved neither to acknowledge the request let alone the presence of the three. So once more the Sojourner speaks, rapping his staff upon the unseen surface three times, "I say again, unbar our passage, demon!"
With a voice like thunder, rumbling and resounding, the demon finally speaks in its guttural, putrid tongue, "Dén'ghàr tähn ba-kèrahn." Immediately, the sound as like with swift movement is heard in the shadows, as the fell beings of the Shadow descended upon the three.
"So be it..." The Sojourner grips the Magestaff in both hands, turning it twice, more for posterity than need, and begins reciting, "In courage we are strengthened..."
"...In light they are blinded..." Siphon continues.
"...In song they are subdued..." Caral adds.
Together as one, they recite the final promise, "...In irons will the Shadow be bound."
With their last words spoken, the Sojourner strikes the bottom of his staff into the ground, and lightning pours out from the sphere with unbridled fury. The Destroyers, divinely gifted, and unaffected by the need of time of adjust to sudden brightness, sought out those who once claimed the three for prey, and their tridents, imbued with ancient Atlantean powers, struck true, vanquishing the powers of Aérùen. Shrieks of agony and death filled the small chamber and stairway as Atlantean tridents and lightning wrought destruction. All the while, the demon of Gath watched without expression, and soon, there were no more sounds, no more battle.
There is no more left save the demon, and the three.
Facing once more the demon of Gath, though with greater urgency and intensity than before, the Sojourner, eyes ablaze like suns, stands to his full height, glowering up at the elder demon, "Once more, Gath, stand aside! It is not your time yet, nor my place to remove you forever from this plane, but bar me any longer from my purpose here, as surely as the Light is real, I will see you destroyed!"
Deep rumbling laughter emanated from it, fearless to threats, yet it finally yielded and stood aside, allowing passage at last to them. And as they moved beyond the demon, it uttered one word, a single promise: "Death."
Upon reaching the summit of their journey, it is only greater foreboding that can be felt as they beheld the avatar of darkness that dwelt within the throne room. Shrouded by mists of black clouds that slithered around and beyond his armored figure as serpents, Aérùen sits upon a throne fitted for one as great of stature as he, for the Sojourner would have need to stand upon the shoulders of one of his own height that he may gaze into the black depths within the Shadow King's helm. Attending him at his feet, the Shadow Council stand ready. They are thirteen in number, male and female, human wizards that had once been of the most powerful members of many generations of the Wizard Council. Having given themselves over to the Shadow for various means, they willingly whored their souls to evil, and became as their sins deemed. No longer did they hold light, nor hope, nor desire for redemption; Aérùen was within them and through them, growing them in power, and making them with every deed more and more his.
The Sojourner gazed upon them in disdain, for many were once in fellowship with him, but nary did they hesitate when the darkness tempted them. Indeed, they all but leapt forward in wholehearted glee, forsaking all that they once held dear. And so, to him did he accord them the name of the Forsaken, for never will they walk in the light once more. No hope was left for them, not even while there remained one for their master.
For a time, both sides merely stood watching the other, warily. A false move would spark actions and a path none would wish to take. So the Sojourner took the moment to gather his wits, lest he be forced to take action and strike, he did not desire to be caught in surprise.
Little had changed in the throne room of Dulmohk's Keep, save for the vastly enlarged throne which Aérùen now sits upon. Torches shone dimly about the corners of the throne room, giving a faint light. It is not for the convenience of those who cannot perceive in darkness, but rather, a mockery, and a display of the dying of light within the lands now enshrouded in the impenetrable black clouds that blots out the heavens and the stars. Indeed, if it were not for their divine powers, or magic, the three men would surely feel the touch of a sunless air, and be chilled to their souls.
"Late is the hour in which you have come, Sojourner." Aérùen says after lengthy silence, his voice no longer a rasp, no longer in sickness. There is deep power that now comes forth with each word spoken, and the whisper of storms with each breath, "My servants move into place for my vengeance. At my command, your strongholds of light will fall. And lo, here you stand, as I expected, a final show of defiance. Or did you hope you might bandy words with me, and believe me ignorant to your ministrations amongst the mortals, and more importantly, what you have done with the lass?"
A frown creases the Sojourner's face at Aérùen's words, and with caution, he holds his staff by his side, as the thirteen Forsaken stand ready, incantations of death upon their tongues should he move to strike, as he is wont for a swift and sudden move if he must fight. But a battle is not his utmost desire; rather, he understood now, that he must engage in a dance of words that would decide the fate of the wizards. He must now dance with the devil. "Speak plainly what you say, Aérùen. What lass do you speak of and what is it that I have done?"
Though it is to Aérùen whom he spoke, yet it is a wizard, one of the fallen, who responds. He steps forward, pulling back his crimson-flecked obsidian hood, and reveals the face of a young man, handsome and strapping. His hair is groomed and as fine gold, and his face is kept clean shaven, but only his eyes is there the taint of the shadow. He is Dietrich the Deceiver. The first of the Forsaken, and a master of the Mind Flayers. "Think you not that we would be watchful for your movements amongst mortals, Shadowbreaker?" He spits, "We have observed your every move since the first day that you set foot upon their land."
"It is not to you that I speak, Deceiver." The Sojourner coldly replies, "I will hear from your master what he wishes to say."
"Very well." Aérùen rises from the throne, and the Forsaken, lest they risk being trampled, made clear the path for their master. The height of two men standing upon one another, the Shadow King proved even more imposing and gargantuan than the demon of Gath, and tenfold more terrifying in power. Yet even as his underlings wisely averted themselves from his path, the Sojourner, Siphon and Caral stood firm their ground and gazed fearlessly at him. "Dietrich speaks true this once, Sojourner. We have watched you and all that you have done in the mortal world. Behold." Gesturing with steel-covered hands, and uttering spells in a dark tongue, a viewing sphere six paces tall and wide appeared before the three men, and immediately visions of the past began to play out.
Wary, yet of a questioning mind, The Sojourner, along with the Destroyers slowly approach the magical apparition, that they might see what is now known to their foes. Happenings of another world, another place, another time. They beheld a young woman of lovely countenance, and with fine dark hair, her eyes filling with tears, as a male youth of familiar appearance gave reason to his leaving, and as to why he could not return to her, his beloved. He embraced her, and then, as he touched the pendant resting upon her, a white light shines, and briefly all who observe the sphere hear the youth speak an incantation in the high tongue: "Elhéth Inthil taarkin." Yet the lass within the sphere remained unaware of what had been spoken, for it had been softly said, that she may not hear, and yet those who are present can now hear what had been magically enhanced in sound, and the Sojourner blanches.
"Do not yet dismay, Sojourner." Dietrich taunts, "There is more."
And indeed, more was shown, as the sphere goes back further in time. The same young woman is seen, as well as with the same youth, and here they see how he is aware of her suffering. Siphon and Caral observe the scene, whilst casting glances upon the Sojourner in wonderment. The lass confides in the youth that she aches in her shoulder, and he immediately moves to soothe her, yet once more, the witnesses from time can now hear the words he spoke; words of deep magic. "Bellién farhoun mishct'hal. Sudrin elhen nekhar." More eyes afix upon the Sojourner now.
"He sought to heal Alexandra Margarita Russo," Aérùen says, "this...Tristan. He used the most powerful healing spells known, that her life may be prolonged. Moreover, his spells indeed worked, penetrating even my powers - though barely - which proves to me the identity of this young man. You have chosen your side at last. Who will be your friend, and who will be your enemy. She lived longer than she would have without your aid."
Dietrich crosses his arms, and the rest of the Shadow Council stand in preparation. "So tell us, Tristan..." Dietrich uses the Sojourner's true name, not out of friendliness, but rather in mockery, "You know now what we know. Do you still hope to buy time for your allies, with perhaps your life?" Flames erupted from the hands of the dark wizards as they filled the throne room with an unholy light, and the three men beheld that more servants of the Shadow King have already arrived, with black, poisoned blades held ready. Twisted and mutilated elves, now turned into orcs, were gathered in hundreds, with far more filling the passage beyond the doors.
Tristan lifts his head to look into Aérùen's, "Do you not yet understand, Aérùen?" He thrusts his staff towards the viewing sphere, "I have done what I have done not only for Alex, but I did it more for you, and for Ithilwen! I am still on your side, as I am with the light. I have done this to prolong hope and a chance...for you."
Aérùen fixes Tristan with a glare from unseen eyes, "Now it is you that must speak plainly, Sojourner. What do you speak of? What hope do you still hold on to?"
"Know you not, Aérùen?" He points towards the viewing sphere once more, still showing the face of Alex, "Your daughter lives on in her..."
Though covered in armor, it is not lost on Tristan how Aérùen goes rigid at the mention of his daughter, and he continues, "...the one who only knows her father as Aérùen Elf-Kin, her father, High King of the elves, and a servant of the Light."
"Lies!" Dietrich cries out, "Ithilwen Elf-Kin betrayed her own father and wounded him at the cost of her own life."
"Only the Lord of Lies would see deception in truth." Tristan remarks dryly, then he turns to look once more upon Aérùen, "Hope remains, my friend. Turn away from this, forsake the Shadow, and return to the Light, you can save your daughter, and look closely, does Alex not resemble your daughter herself?"
Aérùen does look, and none dare to call upon the Shadow King at this moment, for now, surely, the fates of the worlds rest upon a single being's choice. As the viewing Sphere shifted to show Alex, surrounded by her friends and family. She was happy and content. With no way to read his armor, nor his rigid stance, none knew the thoughts that reigned within the mind of the gargantuan lord. But at last, he spoke, and the flames of the Forsaken blazed stronger. "My daughter...perished thousands of years ago."
With those words, Tristan despaired at last, yet he would try again, "Aérùen..."
"My daughter..." Aérùen says, "I remember now. You love her. You have always loved her."
"For as long as I shall live." Tristan affirms.
"From his own words, we can see, the Sojourner yearns to restore Ithilwen Elf-Kin, for the intent of selfish gain, and perhaps, to destroy our master." Dietrich declares.
Tristan steps forward boldly, thrusting blazing staff towards the Lord of Lies. Immediately the Forsaken step forward, hands, wands and staves aimed maliciously at his face, thus inciting Siphon and Caral to step ahead of Tristan, that they may defend him from the dark magics, but no spells spewed forth yet. Rather, he merely speaks, his words like a snarl, "Twist not my words, Deceiver. You cannot fathom my intent nor desires, because you are as your own corruptions: lies upon lies, you can no longer see nor comprehend truth. So do not speak of what you do not know."
Stepping back, and lowering his stance, that the reluctant peace may hold but a little longer, Tristan then looks toward Aérùen, and stretches his arms to either side of himself. "Aérùen, I plead of you, consider your choices. There is still time, even now. Turn away from the Shadow. The Light is forgiving, and you can be redeemed, you can be reunited with your daughter. All that is about to befall our realms may be averted."
And the dark wizards, thirteen in all, along with the orcs and all manner of monstrosity began to raise their voices. They taunted and cursed at the three men, demanding to know by what strength and courage do they draw upon that they would even remotely hope that Aérùen, their lord and master would listen to the words of the Sojourner. Yet Tristan did not quiver in fear or give to trembling, for he knew who were those who were truly in fear. The dark servants themselves knew that if there were one person in all the realms who could hold the ear of Aérùen Elf-Kin, it will be Tristan. And the orcs did indeed tremble, for they could see into the eyes of their master, and he is indeed giving thought to the words of Tristan. So when he made to speak, by a sliver of movement from a hand, and the throne room fell silent, that the whisper of winds themselves would roar in movement now.
"My daughter is dead to me, Sojourner." He says, and Tristan closes his eyes in despair. "It is too late. And my enemies, the Russos, their mightiest will be fallen, though you may have prolonged her life, she will still fall. You could not remove my hold over her completely, and by doing so, you have chosen your end and your fate." Aérùen raises a giant hand and points at Tristan, "We are as of now, at war."
He turns his back to the three and slowly makes his way back to his throne, "It has been too late for me millennia ago, I have given my life in service to a new master. Whether you or I wish it, Sojourner, I have sealed our fate and our places in this battle." He waves dismissively, and sits upon the throne. "If my servants permit it, you may leave to rejoin the ranks of your kind, and die together with the light."
Tristan sighs, "Then my sojourn is at an end. I have failed." He bows his head lightly to Aérùen, "I am sorry, my old friend. Indeed, we are now at war."
He turns to leave, and Siphon and Caral follow him. But it is only when he nears the entrance to the throne room, from which it can be seen beyond how ranks of orcs fill the hallway that none may pass but to carve a path through their bodies, that the final words of Aérùen struck Tristan: 'If my servants permit it, you may leave to rejoin the ranks of your kind, and die together with the light.' If his servants permit it, and as Tristan observes the orange glow on the walls begin to brighten around him, he knew, they were not permitted.
"Siphon, Caral." He calls, and the Destroyers turn to face him, "Ready yourselves. Take as many with you as you may. It has been an honor to fight alongside with Atlanteans once again." As he spoke, the crystal sphere of his staff began to arc with lightning and green flames, and his eyes, blazing once more as his very spirit, alight with the power of divine gifting, turned to face the cursed fire of the Forsaken. Reaching into his robe, and shifting his staff into his left hand, Tristan drew out a shining blade, the Sword of the Everlasting. "Aés'Ar, grant me strength..." he says as he cuts through the magical flames, and as the radiant blade touched the flames, a white light surged back along the lines of the hellfire, and scorched the very souls of the casters, and the wizards cried out, releasing hold their flames and clutching at their heads. A servant of Light and a master of the Shadow are now at war.
Even as this happened, the orcs descended upon Siphon and Caral in force, and in number and weighting so great that even the mighty warriors would be quickly crushed, if not for their shields and tridents. As the fallen armies moved in on the two brothers, Tristan reached over their heads, taking aim with his staff, and wind surged through the throne room, pushing them back. Lightning crackled out from the sphere, roaring with a deafening explosion as they sought out twisted and mutilated bodies to wholly consume. Orcs screeched and cried out in death as their lives came to its finale, and as some leapt over their fallen, ignorant of death, and fearless of the golden tridents, sought to impale black lacquered poison-laced blades into the body of one man, who shone brighter than a sun in midst of utter despair and darkness. But his own blade, shining steel, to which blackened blood could not stick to, that it may tarnish the light of the blade, put a stop to any that came near to him.
The dark wizards, having recovered their wits, drew upon the vilest powers from below the surface, and cast their own lightning, countless bolts streaking toward one man. Tristan turned to face the oncoming bolts, and raising his staff like a shield, he deflects the bolts away, some to return to their very sender, some striking into the orcs, and some struck the ceiling and walls, shattering stone and bringing down a rain of rubble. Even as he deflects the dark magicks, Tristan strikes back with his own. Many orcs had swept in, crushing in Tristan, knowing that of the three, he would be the most dangerous, and so they sought to end him the fastest, that the Destroyers may quickly perish without his aid, but Tristan, empowered with something that is far more than magic, but with a deeper, and more ancient origin, knew their intent before it happened.
Raising his staff with both hands, even as he holds to the Sword of the Everlasting, he strikes the ground, and light emerged, spreading across the floor in all directions like an unleashed torrent of emerald flames. The dark wizards scattered, and countless orcs were claimed in fire. Siphon and Caral leap over the flames unaffected to strike deeper into their foes, seeking to fulfill their task as Destroyers, that the evil of Aérùen be stopped, and for the source of this evil itself to be vanquished forever. Moving like lightning, they thrust their tridents forward, and pulling back, to thrust again and again into the never ending darkness, always finding a mark and a true strike. Creatures besides orcs were in the fray, and they too fell to the tridents of the Destroyers, just as surely as the magic of the Sojourner aided to hasten their demise.
As they fight, Tristan begins to speak a soft incantation, and a single short-tailed rodent slid out from his robe, somehow, being so small that none notice it as it departs from the battle and makes its escape from the darkened lands, seeking sanctuary beyond the realms of the wizards. Raising a mountain directly from the earth into the building, Tristan shifts the foundations of the structure itself, causing almost all within the building to stumble, save for himself, the Destroyers and Aérùen, who sat atop his throne, watching with indifference to all that transpires before him. And the dark wizards gather once more, taking their stand on either side of their master, Tristan witnesses the failing of light here, within the stronghold, as the orcs, ogres and other creatures finally overwhelm the Destroyers, Caral already missing his head, and his body trampled upon by hundreds of feet. But it is in Siphon that Tristan sees something strange; even as the black steel blade neared his face, in a moment of eternity, the Sojourner can see on the Atlantean's face, peace. For he is returning home, freed from his immortality. "Aés'Ar welcome you home in paradise, my brother." Tristan bids to his friend as he dies. He did not hate or despair for the loss of the two Atlanteans, for he knew from the beginning that this would be their desire, to be freed. And they all knew that if they were to go to battle here, within the center of the Shadow's might, none of them would return from here alive.
Like the Destroyers, Tristan held no intent to merely perish in surrender, but rather, he will claim as many of the Shadow as he might, and so when Aérùen called upon his true name: "Tristan..." and he turned to behold a vast sphere of flame hurtling towards him, he raises staff and blade in either hand, eyes flashing emerald lightning, and his body engulfed in white light as he surges towards the onrushing ball of fire rather than fleeing it, and he cries out a final cry, uttering a name both sacred and mighty, entrusting himself into the Light as the red and orange flames touched him.
Extra Author's Note: Hey WizKid! Still hate Tristan now?
So some of you have seen that name "Ithilwen" flying around the last few chapters, and yeah, if you still can't figure out who the Sojourner is, well...I feel for you. As for Ithilwen, that name is translated from Sindarin to mean "Selena", which in turn means Daughter of the Moon. To find out more about Sindarin and stuff, go to Arwen-Undomiel and add a "Dot Com" after "Undomiel".. It's where I gained a lot of inspiration for my writings in Sindarin or getting a Tolkien-esque feel for some of my chapters. As you can tell, I'm kind of a big fan of Lord of the Rings. I just hope you're not Bored of the Rings. :P
Also, I realize how complicated Tristan and Alex's relationship just became through all these revelations previously unmade in the original draft of the chapter. But just so we're all clear: Tristan is in love with Ithilwen, who is apparently inside Alex, but not with Alex, even if she is the spitting image of Ithilwen minus upraised eyebrows and pointed ears, though he does care for Alex to some extent, just not in the lover's way, which is why Alex has feelings for two men. Like Tristan, she only cares for him, but is not in love, and the feelings she has is coming from Ithilwen, but her true love is Mason. Just start playing Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" song.