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Fantasticoe Spring 2011


Powerstone

from The Stones

 Marcus Huhe

Prologue

                 The High Council requested that Mishra travel to Travincal to head the front of progressing demons. He was the most skilled to do these sort of quests, his magical prowess, uncanny intellect, and muscular body being the most predominate qualities. In Travincal, the man behind the demons, calling the shots was the Archfiend. An Archfiend, by Mishra's definition, is a big bad enemy who controls lesser evils, in turn; they control lesser evils, and need to be eliminated. Most of the time, Archfiends wanted power, and to get that power, they conquered land, pillaging its resources, and if they had one, a Powerstone. Mishra's definition of a Powerstone, not to be put into the bad guy's hands, it will increase their strength, infiltrate shields and resistances, and something that civilized cultures can't handle. You don't mess with Powerstones, you let them be. Travincal was thirty leagues from Lut Gholien, Mishra's hometown. After his parents were killed and his home ravaged in Voltiarium and after getting his revenge, Mishra abandoned Voltiarium. During this time, he was only an adept at his magical skills only having just learned how to cast a spell to slow enemies, but in Lut Gholein, he began to hone these skills and learn stronger ones. He also changed his clothing while settling in Lut Gholein, from the heavy coats and furs for the winters in Voltiarium, to the flimsy shirt and pants for the ocean-side Lut Gholein. After twenty-nine leagues of travel, black smoke flooded the blue skies above Lut Gholein. His contigent from Travincal had left him five leagues ago to set up a base. Mishra was alone. He hurried along the road and forced his way through the broken gate. Lut Gholein's magical seal had been broken.

 

1 – Return

                Upon entering the near-desolate town, Mishra saw the dilapidated wood outlines of the stores and houses he once knew as a child. Traces of black and white charring were noticeable on the exposed edges. Someone torched the town. The foul stench of Ratmen assaulted his nose.

                "How unsightly." A small shuffle of clawed feet behind him told him that he was not alone. The metallic clang of drawing weapons, cries of rage, and clashing of weapons rendered the still air.

                "Be gone, foul intruder!" The Ratman before Mishra grinned showing yellow, missing, and jagged teeth. Ratmen only stood three to four feet tall, mostly black in color, and fur covering their bodies. Most of the time, they were "little annoyances," but now, their purpose seemed driven by an outside force.

                "This isn't your home, scum! NEVER!"

                Glints of metal shone throughout the morning mist as each swing brought upon renowned vengeance. The sparks created showed the fervor of hatred between the two species. Mishra landed the last sweeping blow, a diagonal slash across the chest and an upward thrust through the gut of the Ratman. Using a boot, he pushed the dead body of his sword, turned towards town, and saw at least fifty other Ratmen. Pole arms, short swords, and staffs were in hand. Angry faces scowled and fingers pointed at him. Violent hissing flooded the air.

                "You heathen! How dare you kill! Now you shall feel the wrath of Ratmen!" The Ratmen charged, Mishra made a complex motion with his arms, and energy flowed between his hands in a turquoise light. With the final outward thrust of his hands, he unleashed a wave of freezing water into the thick of the charging Ratmen. A few of the Ratmen shamans tried to "melt the ice," but they were cut down before the last sweeping motion of their arms. The last few unfrozen Ratmen fell easy, either from fear or lack of defense from recklessness.

                Mishra looked at the frozen statuettes before him. Clink. The first ice figure broke into multiple ice shards and cascaded to the ground. After repeating the process of smashing frozen Ratmen, he approached the last one. The sound of ice cracking, visible spider-like lines formed on the solid surface. At the last inch, before his sword hilt touched the ice, the solid crumbled away and the figure of the last Ratman fell to his knees.

                "Please, don't kill Namakush. Namakush don't want to die."

                "Perhaps Namakush can tell me what happened here for starters."

                "Don't kill Namakush, don't kill . . ."

                "Tell me what happened here, and you get an extra day to live." Mishra reached into a small bag he had with him, and pulled out some rope. Tying the hands of Namakush together, he solemnly stated, "Tell me what I want to know, and I'll keep you alive."

                "Please . . . don't kill Namakush . . ." Was the Ratman sobbing now?

                A tug of the rope pulled Namakush flat on the ground. "What happened here? Why did you torch the city?" Mishra knelt on one knee next to the prone Ratman.

                "We burned the city . . . oh, please don't kill Namakush . . . burning was fun . . . we only did it because we were forced to . . ."

                "Forced? By whom?" Mishra grabbed a handful of hair and tugged upwards.

                Namakush could only reply with uncontrollable convulsions and whimpers.


2 – Investigation

                Namakush could only answer that the reason for the burning was a simple raid of the town by the group of Ratmen, and that they were driven from their home by more powerful beings. Mishra could put up with him no longer, so he ran his sword through the Ratman's forehead with no expression on his face. Mishra heard the town whispering to him, "the Powerstone is gone . . . we lost our Powerstone . . . it is not only the Ratmen . . . a darker, stronger force . . . we need that Powerstone. . . ."

                Mishra became horrified. The Powerstone in the wrong hands meant turmoil – it meant untold destruction if used correctly in that fashion. Yet, who had the cunning and expertise to breach the defenses and get the Powerstone? The only people who could access it where the High Council of Lut Gholein and Mishra, but he would not have touched it; he did not know the true properties and uses of the Powerstone. He only knew that the stone either worked like a generator or a bomb – either way, high-powered.

                Mishra began his investigation of the raided town. In the weapon and armor shop on the corner nearest to him, the smith impaled on the point of his anvil, blood and guts dripped to the floor –swords, shields, helmets, plate-mail, and plate-legs either broken beyond repair or stolen. Across the street, was the apothecary bent over the counter, blue skinned and foam at the mouth – poisoned. If anyone was left in the town, they either vacated or Mishra did not see them. The narrow dirt road led past the inn, where tables and chairs were broken, glasses shattered, and people not quite finishing their last swallow of their last drink. He stopped before a pair wooden doors, oddly intact.

                Entering the Grand Hall was like entering a maelstrom. Paper, wood, glass, dirt, pieces of humans, weapons, armor, light, and shadows threw the place into a state of beautiful disaster. He descend the stairs in the back, right corner, three flights before entering the High Council's Catacombs. Everything was strewn like a hurricane went through – no sense could be made of the mess. Through the door at the far end, the central chamber stood the ornate chalice which housed the Powerstone. Disturbingly enough, he could see a non-functional replica in its place. Stolen Powerstone, extremely bad news.


3 – Retrieval

                Mishra prepared himself to retrieve the Powerstone. He gathered various alchemical ingredients from the apothecary, but unfortunately, the fabled apothecary was missing one key ingredient. He would have to find that precious ingredient before he found the Archfiend, or the Archfiend found him.

                Mishra circled the town looking for tracks of any non-magical beings who could not teleport, or were not able to teleport. Several sets of footprints, leading south, were not the Ratmen's. Instead, they made a V-shape and looked about two days old. Not good on two levels. Not only did he have to make a detour to the east for the last ingredient, these V-shaped footprints where renegades of the Archfiend.

                However, each village within the borders of Ancaria had its own method of teleportation, in this case, waypoints. This method of travel would benefit Mishra greatly, as it would cut at least half of the travel to the last ingredient.

                Mishra activated the waypoint and was transported from Lut Gholein to Vinterweil. Vinterweil – a region covered by ten feet of snow, and still snows daily – is the place for the limpwrut root, a jagged, brown root, but it is under the snow. Mishra started digging, creating a tunnel diving downwards. It took him about six hours to find a suitable amount of limpwrut roots. Putting the roots into the unfinished concoction, he felt confident that he could handle the Archfiend without being slaughtered.

 

                After Mishra navigated out of the snow, two demons awaited him. Somehow, the Archfiend knew that he would be here, gathering these roots. He drew his sword, but Mishra was knocked down. His own sword lacerated his left arm, which would severely hinder his combat skills. The demons continued their assault upon him, but Mishra ran for the waypoint. He sheathed his sword and using his right arm and hand, hazardously moved them in attempts to slow down the demons. Since, the near-instantaneous teleportation travel (waypoint to waypoint) has been used to get here; all he had to do was step on it to activate it. In doing so, it would re-lock itself until it was activated again. Fail safes in the security of these waypoints did not permit hostiles from entering and using this method of transportation.

                Mishra managed to stumble upon the waypoint after being hit in the back by a blow from a demon. The other demon slashed one of his Achilles tendons. Yet, Mishra escaped alive.

 

                In Lut Gholein, Mishra's head, arm, and ankle bothered him. The loss of blood before transporting made him dizzy, and with his lacerations, his mobility became limited. With each step, a new surge of pain would shot throughout his body, and nausea began to set in. His vision became blurred as he struggled to the apothecary's shop to gather ingredients for an antidote to the pain. Another two hours went by before he began to stabilize. Within a half an hour, claps of thunder and the splattering of rain resonated throughout the still air. Mishra started south towards the Archfiend. South towards Hell.

 

4 – Showdown

                Almost a week has passed since Mishra had left the southern border of Lut Gholein and about a day since the border of Ancaria. The weather oppressified, becoming a heat wave, lightning strikes, and a sheen of dark clouds, more than enough to dehydrate a human from fatigue. Mishra, however, was undisturbed by the weather change, but the sanctuary of the Archfiend was a day's travel.

                Barren, cracked, and caked dirt stirred as he walked across it. Where the lightning hit, the ground charred and crumbled away to create a depression large enough to bury a body within it. Yet, he appeared to be following a path through the storm.

 

                Arriving at the Archfiend's fortress, Mishra set up a diversion. He drank a silvery, white tonic which created a double image of himself. The double would go up to the gate and demand to see the Caretaker. The original Mishra would then sneak past the defenses, cloaked from potential scouts and alarms. He had entered the compound when the double was violently torn apart, but that did not matter to Mishra, as the remains of double's body and blood turned into the silvery, white liquid and evaporated.

                Mishra, cloaked, continued into the inner circles of the compound. His cloaking effect wore off before entering the main central structure. Long black walls, dark tiles, tall ebony pillars, and the windowless corridor created the tunnel feeling between him and his foe. At the other end of the "tunnel," a faint red glow emanated. The shadow of the Archfiend was thrown upon the far wall.

                He drank the last two concoctions he had. One enhanced his abilities, speed, agility, and strength, the other, would null the pain the Archfiend would inflict upon him. The Archfiend stood facing away, gazing at a yellow stone, lifting, lowering, turning this way and that, studying the Powerstone of Lut Gholein. The scaled, winged, skeletal like figure's head paused when it was looking to the left – the Archfiend noticed the shadow of Mishra.

                After a moment's hesitation, a large, clawed hand rushed through the air, strong enough to rip anyone into strips of meat. Mishra's sword swung for the Archfiend's neck in an attempt to decapitate it. However, the Archfiend's hand in motion closed in on the sword, trying to jerk it out of his hands, but Mishra would not yield. The Archfiend bellowed, releasing the sword, causing him to spin and stumble. Echoes thundered throughout the cavernous room, bouncing of the smooth, glazed walls.

                "You are only a sacrificial lamb and have no hopes of stopping the destruction at hand," the Archfiend snarled as it rushed Mishra.

                "'A sacrificial lamb?' How fitting for something like the Archfiend to say. I mean, seriously, who are you trying to get rid of? Your bad humor or yourself?" Mishra sprang back to his feet.

                "This world will become mine, after this stone destroys it, and you have no chance at altering that fact." The Archfiend bull-rushed him, causing Mishra to sidestep.

                "Yeah, you have no sense of humor. A fact has happened, speculation has not. ‘That stone' hasn't done anything yet, and will not do anything for you." he slashed at the passing figure, creating an incision on the lower back, causing the Archfiend to howl.

                "Quite the contrary," the Archfiend spun, sweeping its arms to slice him. Mishra stepped back, narrowly avoiding the clawed hand. He brought the sword down into the outstretched Archfiend's arm and wrist, causing it to bellow again, and not helping itself, the Archfiend drew its arm back, creating more tearing of flesh. The Archfiend threw a punch aimed for his head.

                "Do you ever learn anything?" Mishra ducked, rammed his sword through the outstretched left arm of the Archfiend, and brought the tip down to the floor. A long gouge appeared, along with blood spraying, and a fresh howl from the Archfiend.

                "You will die here, and now!" But the Archfiend in its rage, continued to give openings to Mishra to "dissect." Each punch, kick, charge, and spin, in its vehement momentum, allowed him to inflict serious enough wounds that eventually put the Archfiend kneeling on the floor.

                "First, through the heart," Mishra stabbed his sword through the heart of the Archfiend, which bellowed in immense pain, "and now off with the head." After pulling the sword out, a strong sweeping motion removed the head and the right forearm that tried to block the blow. As the head tumbled off, Mishra kicked the body of the Archfiend away from him, turned and grabbed the Powerstone.
 

5 – Restoration

                The Hell in which Mishra found himself in started to crumble and sink into the world. With the Powerstone still in his hand, he ran for his life.

                When he reached the edge where the world was not falling in on itself, he paused, lay down, and breathed deeply for the first time in days.

 

                Mishra returned to Lut Gholein, the Powerstone pulsating its light through his clenched hand. He restored Lut Gholein to its former glory before he left it years ago. However, Mishra could not restore life to the people of the town. One would need the Lifestone, but that's another story for a different time.