Insanity’s End: The Seekers

August 23, 2007

It could be called a temple, but never had there been a temple so far removed from the human spirit.

They looked down from atop a grand plateau, with the sun burning hot and red in the sky above – before them they could see the blasphemy rising from the ground, a towering monstrosity of slick black tiles and pulsing green walls. Still some miles away, it yet loomed over the landscape, obscuring the very sky itself. This was why the land was barren in all directions – every scrap of life had been harvested for this horrific structure and the sprawling town that surrounded it.

It was not truly a town any more than the Beast’s lair was a temple, but the word served well enough. Malformed spawn slithered through its streets and alleyways. Some had once been men. Others had been born in darker realms, or sprung fully-formed from the alien force that was consuming this world.

Aubrick rested one hand on the hilt of his sword as he stepped back down the ridge, out of the sight of the city. He was a warrior born, and fearless – but he would not charge into a hopeless battle. Fighting their way in through force alone would be the height of foolishness – and even should they win through, giving themselves away before confronting their true enemy would easily spell defeat.

Rowen let out a sigh. “Not as unguarded as hoped, Spellweaver. We have no choice, now – I can bring us into its lair, though it shall feel us coming, and sense what we carry with us along the way.”

Shaking his head, Tailos cupped one hand before him, and blew softly into it. Slipping between his fingertips was faint lines of blue light – which threaded together in the air, pulsing as if to a tune, and then flitted away out of sight in an instant.

“What was that?” demanded Aubrick, staring at the departing spell.

“A message to those who I told to gather near here, and lie in wait. The remaining armies of the free people left in these lands.” Tailos wore the same dour demeanor he often did, but there was a weariness in his words. “I had hoped this would be less defended… but even if not enough to win out over the spawn, they shall provide us with the distraction we need to slip in undetected.”

Stanley was watching the exchange with curious eyes, but Rowen was frowning. “I sense no others in these lands. All the mortals yet alive have fled to the farthest corners of the realm.”

Tailos turned his dark eyes upon the god. “They are cloaked from all prying eyes – even yours. It has, perhaps, been what has allowed them to strike against the enemy so effectively, in our absence-”

“Enough!” Aubrick shook with rage, though he kept himself from striking his friend. “You have kept one thing after another to yourself! From these others I would have expected it, but not from you, Tailos! Why?”

The mage gave only a single glance at the warrior before turning away amidst a fit of coughing, leaving his question unanswered – but in that single glimpse, Aubrick could see the reason.

“You… you don’t trust me. You suspect I will betray you.” 

Tailos managed to catch his breath, and spoke again, his strong voice not giving any sign of the pains that had just wracked his dying form. “The one man to survive your kingdom’s fall. The one being close enough to me that I would trust them on this quest. You must admit… it is a suspicious thing.”

Distrust, thick and heavy, shrouded his features – but Aubrick merely looked upon him with pity. He did not know if it was his friend’s fiendish blood which had brought forth his paranoia, or instead the strain of his research and their quest. It did not matter – and they had more important concerns.

“Very well. Doubt if you must. You will remember, before the end, that I am always true. But for now, tell me of your plan – when will your allies strike, and how can we best take advantage of it?”

The wariness seemed to fade a bit, if not completely, and Tailos turned his attention to take them all in. “Of course. It should not be a difficult path, but we will need to be quick. The attack shall be coming soon, and we won’t have much time…”

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