The Lord Of Kaos – Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter Five: The Elder

Outside Nicodemus's door, Faith paced back and forth in agitation. After running their guest away from the Rune Elves into the safety of their home, she had expected some answers for her trouble. None had come, however, and she was getting very impatient and annoyed at her ignorance. Waiting for sunset now, she was near the end of her rope with anticipation. Dark Elves used to be respected… I used to be respected… and this Dark Elf does not like being kept in the dark! Har! Ugh, that's horrible.

"I'm her wife damn it," she muttered, "She's supposed to tell me all her little secrets… well I suppose she does, she just doesn't tell me the big ones! Oh what a sour deal…" Maybe she's wanted to tell me and just hasn't had the time, or perhaps she wants me to come to her. No beating around it! This time I'll ask her straight out, and maybe I'll get a straight answer. If only this little leech wasn't taking my time…Faith then pressed her ear up against the door to listen inside, and heard the soft snores of deep sleep. "A quick steal away cannot hurt with the room securely locked, and I need to know what is going on to better serve the Clan… as well as my curiosity!" So away Faith went, creeping down the hall silently hoping to draw little attention to herself.

*****

Inside the room, Nicodemus lifted his head to listen a few seconds after the incessant pacing stopped. If she hadn't worn a hole in the ground a fell through, she was probably gone now. He had been waiting for this, knowing he could not escape with someone standing guard. Feigning sleep for the past several hours he had hoped against hope that the woman, Faith if I remember right, would leave his room unguarded. Before he had crawled into the bed, he had searched the room for anything he could use as a tool and only found some pins in the wardrobe that he assumed had fallen out of some Lady's clothing. They were enough though, with these he could pick any lock put before him, and he scrambled in front of the door to do just that.

With Morty on his shoulder, Nicodemus inspected the door. Pretty straightforward hitch, this shouldn't take long. Within a minute the satisfying click came, and the latch was popped so that he could exit his luxurious prison. After taking a deep breath, hoping his hunch had been right that Faith had left her post, he slowly opened to door and poked his head outside.

There was no sign of anyone in the hallway, and the only movement was the dull flicker of candlelight from a solitary candle down the hall. Nicodemus wondered why a guard would need such little light to monitor a hallway she was supposed to be protecting. She's a Dark Elf I suppose, either that or she has eyes like a cat. I hate cats. Whatever the reason he decided he couldn't bring himself to really care; he could escape now if he played his cards right. Standing up outside the doorway, Nicodemus relaxed a little and reached to his shoulder to give Morty a pat and a smile as they began their escape. Deciding that there were more than enough shadows in this place to hide in if he should encounter Faith returning, he walked away quietly in the direction of the candlelight.

After a stairway down, Nicodemus realized he was in a small house, and looking out the window he noticed it was one of many in a village. Peering at the clouds that were dim, he noted that it was near sunset. They'll be coming to fetch me soon to go see this Elder person, I better move my legs and find the way out. Beside the clouds lay the Hermit's Mountain; So I'm near Duskan… no matter, it's time to get out of here. Now I suppose I should go up the hills and into the Dwarven Mines, there's plenty of gold to find there and with luck I'll soon be able to replace all I have lost during this mad day. Who in blazes are these people?

To the right of the window was a door to the Village Street that led steadily north. Upon exiting he saw that most of the houses' windows were lit, apparently most people who lived here had decided to go inside for the evening. Moving along the road in the growing shadows, Nicodemus's confidence was growing more and more as he neared the gates that would lead him away from this place.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a Gnome woman walking very slowly, alone. She was wearing a short yellow dress with gold threads sewn into it to depict vines and leaves. Black hair with a silver streak from her forehead all the way down to its tip wrapped itself around her shoulders. A dragon tattoo could be seen on her shoulders as her dress exposed them; perhaps the Wyvern, though the two don't look very similar. This Lady appeared to be very deep in thought, and hardly seemed to notice the scenery around her as she walked southwards along the street.

How can I pass this up? She looks as though her pockets are simply bulging with gold! She isn't looking two feet in front of her, and she would hardly notice if someone just sneaked up behind her and elevated some of that heavy, shiny burden…Unable to control his greed, Nicodemus turns back southwards to slowly stalk the Gnome. Gaining on her slowly as to not draw attention, Nicodemus began to salivate at the thought of how many things he could buy from a gold thread from her dress alone. Morty began to squirm in his coat pocket as Nicodemus neared the woman's pockets, but he ignored the movement slipping his hands into her purse…

Before he could blink the Gnome had turned around and grabbed his hand, twisting his arm so that he fell to the ground with a painfully awkward thud that left him exhausted. The small woman looked towards the house where Nicodemus had been imprisoned, and immediately Faith ran out of its door as if she had been called. Following Faith were several other people, one of whom had… two tails?

Faith looked down at Nicodemus who was still in a heap on the ground, "Don't make me get the sack." She lifted the small Goblin by his arm until he stood, though she never let go. Glancing around, he noticed that he was now surrounded by many, evidently, greatly experienced warriors and spell casters. I can't even consider flight, they would have me before I could reach Duskan.

Faith and the Gnome Lady then looked at each other as if they were exchanging words of conversation as Nicodemus silently cursed himself for thinking he could steal from a Gnome. Everyone knows Gnomes are the wisest and most intelligent of the races! Damn my memory! Faith eventually gave off a brief sound that could have been a chuckle.

"Well Nico," she said, "You weren't a prisoner before, but you are now. You just tried to steal from the Elder." The smirk on Faith's face did not encourage Nicodemus at all. He was the led away by the arm back into the village.

End Chapter Five

Chapter Six: Answers, In Theory

Faith led Nicodemus down the street following the Elder until she led them through a door. Finding himself in a tavern, Nicodemus looked around to see a bar and tables. It was the usual setting for drinking, conversation and merriment. The place has been emptied, though it looks to be a recent development as the barmaids are still gathering empty ale mugs from the tables and sweeping the floor from dust and the occasional broken piece of glass. Before he could decide if one particular barmaid was attractive he was whisked behind the bar and through another door which revealed another room, much larger than the common room.

Chairs surrounded a long rectangular table, three of them already occupied. Torches lined the walls to provide light, while above the middle of the table there was a chandelier that was not illuminated yet slowly rotated in its place; it was not suspended by anything physical that the Thief could see. Looking at the side of the table opposite him Nicodemus looked at who was in the occupied chairs. He immediately recognized Shanti and Balin who sat next to each other and looked at him with unreadable expressions. The third occupant was the Elfish man Nicodemus had seen before, the one with two tails, though Nicodemus still questioned if he had seen that right. The Gnome Lady sat herself at the head of the table before absently lifting a hand and muttering some words to create an orb of light that hovered before her hand for awhile and then rose to the rotating chandelier, casting a blue light across the room. Faith then gestured for Nicodemus to sit next to Lidah, opposite the three others, before she herself went to go sit beside the two-tailed man, patting him on the shoulder as she passed.

"This, Nico, is Tails, the two-tailed fox. Or, what he likes to call himself, every woman's dream." Faith looked at Tails and smirked as she said the last part.

"Don't deny it, I'm foxy. Anyway, we're late and I'm tired. Let's get on with this."

"You're always tired," Faith retorted, "And we're late because this sneaky little Thief tricked me into thinking he was asleep and then somehow managed to escape. Unfortunately for him, he decided to try and rob Lidah… not to smart." Shanti and Balin eyed Faith as if to reproach her for her omission from the tale, that she had left the door unguarded.

Tails looked at Faith with a smirk on his features, "Silly goose you almost lost him. Alustria knows what the Rune Elves would do to him if they found him again. How did he get past you?"

Faith sighed, "I left the door, for five minutes only, he tricked me into thinking it would be safe to sneak away for a moment. He's a tricky little Goblin." She looked at Nicodemus, "I won't underestimate you again little thief."

Nicodemus felt slightly satisfied at the admittance of his talents, but the overbearing gloom of dread over what his punishment would be for his fumbled attempt to rob their elder encompassed his thoughts.

Lidah pulled a pipe from a drawer underneath the table and lit it from her fingertip, creating a thick smoke that began to emit from the head of the table. "It doesn't matter now, in fact it is almost better. Now, young thief, you are tied to us like you would never before have been. Here you have a choice, you may either go to our prison, and it is not comfortable, or carry out an order of our choosing."

No, going back to prison does not sound like fun at all especially if it isn't comfortable as the last one I was in. I don't like orders either though. He hesitated, "What kind of orders?"

With a wave of her pipe Lidah directed the question to Shanti, who stated, "you would be asked to lead us to your cache of stolen goods so we may look to see why it is the Rune Elves desire your possessions. Know that we would not take anything from there save what we find that could interest the Rune Elves."

Nicodemus's face fell, he had expected as much. "I've told you already I don't have any of these crystals."

"Perhaps you took it without knowing; it could be disguised as jewelry or embroidered in a dress by some ancient. I will be able to recognize a Crystal of Power in whatever form it takes." No, not to my shiny things!

"How long… would I be in prison for?"

Balin grinned at the question, "As long as it takes for you to agree to lead us to your hidden store."

I completely despise that man! He thinks this is funny! "I have no choice then, I will take the order." This is just bloody dandy, I'm going to loose everything I own and have to start over!

Lidah then nodded as if she expected no other answer and exhaled a thick smoke ring into the air. "There is more you should know Nicodemus. The Rune Elves are very close to opening the portal they seek. It cannot be estimated how many crystals they lack to complete their task as nothing like it has been attempted in a thousand years, but it is certain that there are few left for the taking. The remainder are hidden away in security as far as this council knows, but security is a weak term these days. This quest you are about to embark on may hold great significance to the entire Realm of Syndar, perhaps its very survival rests upon its success."

For some reason Nicodemus believed her, 'Oh goody."

Lidah laughed an unhappy laugh and brought her pipe back to her lips before continuing. "Tell me Nicodemus, how long has it been since you left home?"

Something about the Gnome Lady made him feel calm, as if he was simply sitting in a tavern discussing matter-of-fact issues and not the end of the Realms. "Not long… two years I supposed."

"And in that time, how many people do you know that have died?"

"Oh very few… one that I can think of at the moment. Why do you ask? It is a strange question."

"And do the people you know often engage in battle? Or fighting at city gates and such?"

"Why yes, all of them in fact. You must know that almost all of Realms often fight each other when they can think of nothing better to do. Or clans, clans fight quite a bit for reasons unknown to me. Honor and such I guess."

Lidah leaned back in her chair, lifting her eyes idly to the ceiling. "Then do you not think it is strange that only one friend you can think of has perished in the two entire years you have been away from your home?"

"I suppose… what are you getting at?"

Sitting up straight once more and looking directly into Nicodemus's eyes, the Elder took on a stance of utter certainty and concern. "There is more going on in these Realms than meets the eye young friend. For the past five years the Gods have been doing battle against each other; each divinity has been struggling to conquer the Realms, and they are using the people of Syndar as warriors. Whenever a person is wounded so much that death threatens them, they crumple to the ground unconscious. Soon after, they awaken disoriented in a Temple of their God. Have you not experienced something similar to this? All at this table have."

"Once I was stealing… acquiring some gold from the nasty monsters of Lake Tarnok when someone stabbed me in the back. I thought for certain I was done for, but next thing I know I'm in my temple feeling like death, but not so much so that I can't limp to the bank to buy healing. I didn't think much about it after, just that I was lucky."

"Exactly. The Gods have made it so that none of their followers can die; we are all temporarily immortal, at least until this war finishes and this age passes into the next."

"That is excellent! What's wrong with no one dying? Wait, what about the people that do die? My friend…"

"Some give up completely, perhaps their souls become frustrated we do not know. Once their soul looses faith in the Realms the body is simply abandoned. These souls sometimes return after a time, but often they do not. They simply quit, or their souls are banned from this Realm by the Demi-Gods. You know of them, yes?"

"Oh! I've seen one once myself!" Nicodemus became quite excited over the prospect of retelling his favorite tale of his experiences, but decided to keep it short, as his company did not look in the mood for a lengthy story. "She was very powerful indeed, and she could summon monsters at a whim and knock then down with her gaze alone! It was quite impressive. Wait, are you saying that I am immortal?"

Lidah smiled sadly, "No, not completely; unfortunately I have not finished my tale. The Rune Elves possess the power to slaughter all in these Realms. Are you familiar with the theoretical divinity of Kaos?"

"No…"

Lidah took another puff from her pipe, gesturing towards Balin this time to explain. His deep voice contrasted the Elder's so much that it left Nicodemus unsettled. "The Kaos divinity is of all divinities and of none. While a follower of Targos would have an advantage in battle over a follower of Nallyssa, a follower of Kaos would have no advantage over any, yet none would have an advantage over them either, this equaling the field."

"Well what's wrong with that? It doesn't give any distinct advantage that I can see…" Nicodemus began to shift in his seat, feeling a little stupid at apparently missing the obvious.

Balin continued, "Only this, every divinity that now exists has a weakness—the other divinity that has power over it. A warrior of Kaos would have no such weakness. If the Lord of Kaos grew enough of a following, with enough strength, all other mortals would be in great danger. And, it is quite possible that the remaining Gods would then try to side with Kaos to prevent their own destruction, leaving the Realms exposed to the Lord of Kaos."

"This is all well and good, well not really, but what does this have to do with my shiny things?"

Faith then interrupted Balin, staring wistfully at the wall in thought, "You mean to say that this is what the Rune Elves mean to do with the crystals? That they will open a portal to let loose their kind into this Realm and unleash the Lord of Kaos."

A deafening silence ensued for a moment, and then Lidah broke through the tension with a nod of her head, "In theory."

"Oh bullocks."

End Chapter Six