Thursday, February 10, 2005

Chapter 9

(for those who *usually* read these "chronicles": I am sorry for this long absence. But school works and exams stole my time to write this kinda stuff. They aren't gone yet; still, I will continue as I can. For the few of ya who sent nice words for me: thanks. I do this for you.)

The great army of demons stood in the wide, fertile field of Hynduil River, in front of Denna Gammidge's the heavy doors, laying siege on Aznaghal's capital city. There were thousands of them, their weapons ready to the slaughter, their bloodthisrty gaze fixed on the top of the city walls. Behind the demonic lines, powerfull ebony ballistas and catapults were being loaded, to strike upon the surrounded city with frag flaming bombs and burning arrows. Inside the walls, the remaining warriors of the king's defeated army ran through the burning streets and took defensive positions along the walls. They still believed someone might come for help them - minotaurs, dwarves, angels - perhaps even the elves.

One of the demons crossed the lines and walked towards the city doors. He stopped, halfway between their fellows and the walls, holding a black standart in one hand, and a strange lightning sword in the other. He wore a heavy armor, shining with the morning sun's light. He looked for the top of the walls and shouted:

"I am the shadow that rose from hell to consume this world!" His loud voice echoed through the wide plains. "These are the minions of darkness that came to despoil these lands! We are the deathbringers that ascended from the depths to claim this wretched world in the name of the Underworld!"

The first rays of the morning sun entered through the window's fences, pushing away the darkness left by the night. She blinked once, and twice, feeling in her face the soft heat of the morning light. She sat on her bed and stood still for a while. It must be a radiant morning outside; she could feel it, though her eyes saw only darkness. She smiled; yet the dream she had still haunted her, disturbing her mind. A vision, a terrible future approaching as the sun rose up in the blue skies, and only her blind eyes could see its face.

She pushed aside the blankets and rose from the bed. She got herself dressed, the same red irregular skirt and the night-black tunic she wore for years and years. She could no longer see her clothes' colors; still she could remember the time she stared at herself on the mirror and saw how nice her green eyes and milky white hair looked with that colors... She sighed. How ironic, she could see things no one else could, and the mere sight of the most trivial things was forbiden to her, since that day lost in the time when she ran away from a long forgotten war and entered this world... a war her blind eyes could see again, as if it was about to be fought... once more.

She grabbed her walking stick - a strange artifact made of ebony with a ivory ring on its top, and some multicolored crystals incrusted on it. The dream was still behind the darkness of her mind's eye. It was not present - just another mirage that might come true, as her dreams always come true.

A sudden rush could be heard somewhere in the house. She heard steps behind the door, and someone opening it. A small goblin entered the room and stared at her with the smile his mouth allowed.

"Ya need me, sybil?"

"Yes, Lorg, I do. Good morning", she answered, smilling. "Here, take my hand. I wanna go outside."

"Rigthy away!" The goblin approached and got her hand. Slowly, he took her out of the room and through the house's exit door. Suddenly she felt the sunlight warming her pale skin, illuminating the darkness ever present in her eyes.

"Describe me what you see, Lorg", she asked. "The morning."

"Well", the small goblin started, "It's the dawnbreak. The sun makes snowblind on the snow-covered hills. The sky's blue, and everything's shinin'."

Her lips formed a genuine smile, as if she could indeed see what he roughly described from where they stood, in the top of Ambeon, the independent goblin city in the North, right in the border that separated the kingdom of Aznaghal from the barren, frozen wastelands of the mountains. Taking a long, deep breath of the cold morning air, she said:

"Lorg, I need you to come with me."

"Where to, sybil?", he asked, curious.

"To Denna Gammidge", she answered. "To see the king. I... must talk to him."

"Another of your dreams?" She nodded and said nothing. "Well", he said, scratching his head and his stomach, "that's a lotta ground to cover on foot. Better tell Krag to come with us. And get food."

"You do that", she said, smiling at him. "It's a good idea."

"Then, excuse me, sybil". He tred to be polite, as she tried to taught him. "Gonna look for him and get the stuff ready to go."

Without a word, she returned to the door's threshold and sat, feeling in her skin every little bit of the radiant morning, as the goblin walked down the street to find his friend and prepare things for the long trip they were about to take.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Chapter 8

Sitting in her bed, in the room's red darkness, Evaila watched the Blood Moon's rising in the ridges. It was still a strange view, that red disk in the bleak skies, giving everything its unnatural red glow. Though it was beautiful - in fact, one of the most beautiful things she'd ever seen. Mil'garion had no moon, or, at least, no visible one - it was day all the time, as if the whole world was ever presencing a glimmering dawnbreak. Only the Earth had a moon - but nothing like the Underworld's.

The angel raised from her bed and covered her naked body with a black dress she'd in the closet. She couldn't sleep, and wasn't feeling as staying in bed waiting the slumber. She didn't know the castle, though she was there for some months. It seemed a good time to take a walk through it.

She left the room, walked to the end of the hallway and descended the stairs, heading to the cathedral. Narayan shouldn't be there at that hour, she thought, and probably he wouldn't mind if she went there without him. She found no one in the corridors, as if everyone was sleeping.

A cold chill traversed her as she crossed the heavy door's threshold and entered the wide cathedral. It was impressive, no less magnificient than the great ivory temples of her homeworld. The high ceiling was sustained by titanic columns made of obsidian, as the walls, the floor, the ceiling itself. The cathedral was illuminated only by the moon's red light behind the great colored window; the torches stuck in the collumns were not lighted.

She stared at the mettalic throne and approached it. Touching its cold surface made her remember the day she'd arrived there, and the man who used to sit on it, misterious but somehow friendly.

Her thoughts were suddenly cut by a loud 'click' sound made by a small mettalic button hidden in the throne that her fingers touched by accident. A wooden panel on the right wall slided down, revealing an unknown passageway for some hidden place. For a moment she stood still, staring at the dark hallway she had in front of her eyes. She imagined Narayan had many, many secrets. But a secret place inside the castle...

A sudden rush of curiosity stroke her. What could possibly be in the other side? Slowly and silently, she approached the opening. She knew she had no right to enter. If he hadn't shown it to her, he must have his own reasons, and she had nothing to do with that. However... what was he hiding?

Curiosity was strong and won the fight. Looking around to be sure that no one was watching her, she crossed the threshold the wall revealed and descended the stairs into the darkness.

It wasn't a room, but a long and dark corridor, with no doors nor windows. No ornaments of any kind. She walked through it, until she founds a rusted iron door at this end. It was closed. For a moment, she thought of going back. But it was just a thought. The following moment she was pushing the door.

A wide room appeared. It must be still a part of the castle, for its walls were too made of black obsidian. It must be underground, though. There were no windows. The room was illuminated by two torches placed in the wall of her left. Below the torches there was what seemed a study table, some crystals and strange artifacts left on it in a disorganized fashion. Large bookshelves filled with ancient books, dusty scrolls and scattered papers covered the other walls. At the center of the room, there was another table, this one smaller. Another artifact was placed on it.

Time itself vanished as she stared in disbelief at what was laying in that table. It was a weapon - a long spear, made of some kind of strange metal, that seemed both silver and steel. It's edge had not only one blade, but three, shaped like a cross. It had no ornaments of any kind; still there was an eerie aura involving it, surrounding the artifact with some kind of dark energy.

The Destiny's Edge. Evaila recognized it almost immediately. She could remember see it drawn in the pages of some old books at Mil'Garion's Archives. A legendary weapon made - according to the ancestral legend - by Nitramneadh, the God of the Dead, capable of release an unimaginable power in the tower with the god's name. Legends said the one who owned the Edge was given an unmatched power and an immortal army. She never expected to find it there, in the heart of the Underworld. In fact, she never believed such a thing could really exist.

"You can believe in your eyes. It is real", said a voice behind her.

She turned immediately to see Narayan at the door's threshold, looking at her with an impenetrable expression. Caught, she thought. She had been caught in a forbidden room, with a forbidden artifact. She stood silent, wanting to say something but having no courage for that.

Narayan entered the room and closed the door. He walked to the table and grabbed the spear. A somehow bitter smile was drawn in his lips. "The Destiny's Edge. Norcross gave it to me some years ago. Think he found it somewhere in Earth."

He made a pause and laughed. "Of course, he had no idea what this thing is. For him, it might be just another weapon. If in his dreams he guessed that this was the legendary Destiny's Edge, I've no doubt that I'd have to fight his entire warhost inside this castle's walls."

He turned to Evaila, who remained silent, afraid of his reaction. He looked at her and smiled, bitterness away. "You weren't supposed to know about this yet. But whatever. Everything that happened so far today wasn't supposed to."

"What... what are you going to do with that? Who are you?", asked Evaila with some hesitation, trying to find a way to escape.

"Chill out", he said, knowing she was affraid of him then. "I said I wouldn't hurt you. I always keep my promises. You don't have to fear me."

"Do you even know what do you have in your hands? That -", she pointed to the spear hanging in his hands. "If that is indeed real, so are its legends..."

Narayan returned the Destiny's Edge to the table. "I know that. I know the power I have. And I understand your confusion, your fears", he said, turning to her. "I own a weapon that probably could finish the Underworld, and I do nothing. So, I must be working with the Underworld, planning to use this weapon against the Earth and Mil'Garion. Is this what you're thinking?"

"I... I don't know...", she replied, confused. "You... you've been the only one who cared about me since I came here... I don't want to believe that... but I don't know..."

"I am not with Norcross and the others. But there are somethings that I simply cannot avoid."

He sat on a chair next to the study table. "I've just arrived from the Warlords' Council. Norcross revealed his intentions of launching a full-scale invasion on Earth. He slained every warlord who opposed him. The others gave him their warhosts. He proclaimed himself Emperor."

"What?!", Evaila asked, caught by surprise.

"Before the next moonrise, the legions of the Underworld will be overruning the Earth. And believe me, together under Norcross' rulership, they have power more than enough to do that. I don't know if even the angels could stop them this time. Norcross has been workin' on this for almost two thousand years."

"It can't be!", she exclaimed. "There must be some way to stop them... You! You can stop them! With that!", she pointed to the Destiny's Edge again.

"No, I can't. Not yet", he replied, raising from the chair. "I'm coming with them. I'm supposed to help, as the most powerful necromancer the Underworld have... and you're coming with me."

She was about to complain about that, but Narayan was fastest than her. He approached her and put a finger in her warm lips softly, looking into her deep blue eyes. "Trust me", he said, almost a whisper. "I am not with them. But Norcross can't know that now. I have a plan, but I'm going to need you to stay with me. Can I count on you..?"

He let down his finger and his hand. Evaila looked at him, without understanding. He said we was going to cooperate with Norcross, but he had a plan... what was he thinking? Asking was pointless; though she didn't know him well, she knew him well enough to be sure that he wouldn't say nothing more then.

He asked her to trust him. She shouldn't; but there was something inside that was saying she could trust him. "Yes", she said, without thinking, allowing the voice inside her to speak. "I trust you."

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Chapter 7

A glimpse of red revealed the Blood Moon in the horizon behind the Dark Ridges. Shining in the dark sky of the Underworld, the ever-present cursed moon illuminated Nitramneadh with its unnatural red light. Ancestral legends said the moon was made of the blood of the dead, and in the Judgement Day that blood would cover the Underworld and raise an undefeatable army.

It might be, thought Narayan, walking alone through the streets. But in that moment, the Underworld's satellite would only mean for him a gathering of warlords he was to assist, and that idea didn't please him at all. Three millenia had passed since his arrival to the Underworld, and he'd never involved himself in the local hierarchy. He could remember the time he had been trapped in that hell - then, the Underworld was ruled by a king - Vaurk.

The necromancer stopped in the Hall of Tombs, right in front of the Warlords Council's main entrance. There, right there, where he stood, Vaurk had been killed by two rogue warlords who had become too greedy. He owed Vaurk everything. Still he couldn't do nothing for him. And his son, Nardris, who ascended, wasn't strong enough to control the warlord's rebellion that erupted few years after his father's death. He was murdered, too, and the warlords took the power. He had never entered the Council again since then.

Until that very day.

* * *

"Well, well", said Bir'Kaar, one of the nineteen warlord sitting in the great assembly. "The Rogue Necromancer in the Council. Thought you didn't like politics."

The others laughed, looking at him with wild curiosity.

"And I don't", answered Narayan, his eyes burning towards Bir'Kaar. "But I've been summoned."

"Summoned?", Bir'Kaar asked back. "Summoned by whom?"

"By me", said Norcross, crossing the door assembly's door.

Silence fell like a stone. No warlord dared to speak, as Norcross walked to his place, signaling Narayan to follow him and sit by his side. Everyone present wondered why Norcross had summoned the Council, and why had him brought the necromancer with him.

"Now that you arrived", started Sia'uhl, a massive warlord seated right on Norcross' side, in the assembly's upper level, reserved for the greatest warriors, "perhaps you could explain why have you called us."

"Of course, my friends", said Norcross, as sarcastic as he could be. "First of all, I'd like to thank you for coming..."

"Cut that crap, will ya?", interrupted Bir'Kaar. "Go straight to the point; what are we here for, and why is he here with you?", he asked, pointing to Narayan.

"Bir'Kaar is right", said Amok, sitting in the third level. "He is not one of us. He hasn't the right to sit here among us."

Norcross smilled with disdain for both warlords. "He is here with me because I wanted him to come. I wondered, gentlemen, once you don't agree with his presence among us, perhaps you would come up here and send him out?"

Amok and Bir'Kaar looked at each other with anger, and said nothing.

"That's what I thought", Norcross said, sarcastic. "Well, you want me to go straight to the point, right? So be it; Time has come for our armies to cross the Eastern Gate and to invade the Earth and Mil'Garion."

Bir'Kaar laughed. "That's what you say."

"Wrong", replied Norcross. "That's what I'm going to do. I summoned the council to inform you that actually I am taking your legions and gathering them under my standart. The full invasion of Earth will start with the next moonrise."

"You what?", asked Amok, incredulous.

"You heard it well", said Norcross. "I want each one of you to join me freely. That's why I summoned you. To hear what you have to say about this."

"Well, I say you're out of your goddamned mind!", exclamed Bir'Kaar. "You come sayin' you're going to take over our warhosts to invade the Earth... I won't give you the command of my armies!"

"You won't?"

"No, I won't!", shouted Bir'Kaar.

"Fine", Norcross said simply. He raised from his chair, descended to the third row, approached Bir'Kaar and, without warning, drew his great sword and cut his head off. Then he climbed to the second row, and stared at Amok. "Were you about to say something?"

Amok remained silent, still staring at the fallen, headless body of Bir'Kaar. Norcross gave him no time to say nothing; he grabbed his horned head, lift him into the air, and smashed his head. Then he threw the dead body to the floor next to the alley's door, and turned to the council. "I suppose now you know what I mean, right?"

"What? Are you sayin' you're gonna kill us all if we oppose you?", asked Irhsan, a warlord of the first rank, as Norcross.

"If I have to", replied Norcross, facing the other unnafraid.

"Goddamnit, Norcross, you will never change", said Sia'uhl, laughing. "But there will be no need for that. I am with you, and so are my legions. Just one question: is the Rogue Necromancer with us?"

Everybody turned to Narayan, caught by surprise. He never expected Norcross to do that. Not so early. He wasn't already prepared for that; but there was no turning back. Norcross started it all. He had to accomplish... and see what he could do.

"I am", said Narayan at last, after some seconds of hesitation. "I am giving you the dark shamans I've trained. Think they'll be useful in the frontlines."

"Actually", replied Norcross, approaching the necromancer, "I was expecting you to come with us. But yes, the shamans are welcomed."

Narayan's face darkened. He glanced at Norcross, trying to understand what exactly did he want. But his intentions were dubious, he had no doubt about it.

Still he didn't fear him.

"Sure. I will join you", he said.

"Fine. What about you, gentleman?", he asked, turning again to the council. "Does anyone here oppose me, or can I count with each one of you for the incoming war?"

No one said nothing. After Norcross' small demonstration, no one dared to speak agains him. He was the strongest; even Sia'uhl recognized it. They had no other choice. Besides, time had come for them to put aside their differences and to finish what they had begun many millenia ago. Time had come for the Underworld to rise from the darkness oncemore and overrun the other worlds. Every warlord agreed with this. They just needed a strong leader to command the hordes of darkness; and Norcross rised as that leader.

"Very well", said Norcross. "This council is over. Gather and prepare your warhosts. After the next moonrise, the Earth will be ours once and for all."

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Chapter 6

"Warlord Norcross wants to see you, Master", said Varag, the castle's doorkeeper, entering the cathedral where the necromancer sat, alone, his mind wandering free all around the wide room.

Narayan focused his wandering mind in a second and turned his attention to his servant. "Norcross? Where's him?"

"He's waiting on the entrance. Shall I let him come?"

"Yes", answered Narayan. "Let's see what does he want", he thought for himself.

The household servant left, and the huge warlord entered the cathedral. He stared at the necromancer with a glimpse of despair in his eyes - a glimpse Narayan noticed and retributed.

"Norcross the Great", said Narayan. "Be welcomed to my humble hoouse. Make yourelf confortable, please."

He was being obviously sarcastic - there, "confortable" meant to stand in front of the altar's mettalic throne. This irritated Norcross, even more than he already was.

"Cut the bullshit", he said with angry. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"What do you mean?"

"The angel", Norcross replied, holding his sword. "You dared defy me for her, in front of everyone's eyes. You disauthorized me, as if my power was insignificant. I should kill you for that."

Instinctively he held his sword tigher.

"You should, but you can't. And we both know that." Narayan was calm, even when facing a warrior that actually made, at least, three of him, saying he wished to kill him - not a friendly wish.

"One day, Narayan", prophetized the warlord, "all armies of the Underworld will march together under my coat of arms. My legions will be unstopabble, untouchable, invencible, and to overrun the Earth and Mil'Garion. Then I won't need you and your dark magic, and your power will be useless."

This thought made Narayan smile.

"It might be. But, when that day come, have one thing in mind... the first time I sat in this throne, the Underworld was still ruled by kings. I am here for many, many time, Norcross. Three millenia in this hell gave me time to learn its ways. Don't underestimate me. You just don't know me."

The warlord didn't answered. Narayan continued: "For now, you need me. You need my dark rituals to strengthen your warriors. You need me to teach your battlemages the secrets of black magic. You need me as every warlord before you needed. Let's consider the angel as a payment for my services."

"Just remember my words", replied Norcross, turning to the door. He stopped when he reached it. "I almost forgot. The Warlords Council will reunite tomorrow with the moonrise. Your presence has been requested."
"By whom?", he asked.
"By me", the warlord answered. "I think you owe me that for the public humiliation. Besides that, this time your presence will be important. Every warlord will be there."

"All right. I will be there", Narayan said. Then he took a small golden rune from a pocket and threw it to the warlord, from on side of the cathedral to another. "Here. Take this. Add it to your sword. I think you're gonna like it."
Norcross' wide hand caught the rune in the air. "What is it?"
"A gift of good will", the necromancer answered simply.
Norcross smiled, looking at the rune. Then he left, allowing Narayan's mind to wander again through the wide cathedral.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Chapter 5

How long had she slept? She had no idea; through the window of her room entered the same reddish light from the Blood Moon she remember seeing moments before she fall asleep, exausted. Laying on her bed, staring at nowhere, Evaila's mind wandered. Theronia's battle, her fall from the skies when that starge blast ripped through her right wing, the demons al around her, the chains... the walk through the ridges, the storm and the living shadows, the great, dark city of Nitramneadh... then Norcross, the Hall of Tombs, the crowd of demons - and Narayan.

He was a complete mystery for her. Somehow he seemed not to fit in the Underworld. His simple manners, his smile, cold but somehow warm... every little thing on him seemed different. There was something about him; something that made her fear him, but also trust him... and as a matter of fact, she had no other choice. He had been the one that cared about her - or, at least, that seemed to care about her - in those dark lands.

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted bu a soft knock on her door. Instinctively she wrapped herself in the bed's blanket. The door budged a little, and Ysolla's small silhouette appeared in the opening.

"Excuse me", she said. "The dinner is being served. The Master is waiting for you."

"Dinner?", Evaila wondered. "I don't eat... angels don't eat. The air of our world gives us everything we need."

"It might be", replied the servant, smilling as if expecting Evaila's answer. "But you are not in your world. The air here won't be enough for you. You need to eat, as any other living being. And you must, if you want to heal quickly."

The wounds. By instinct, Evaila looked at her right wing. Then she noticed.

Her angelic feathers were losing their light. They used to shine, gifted with a pure, radiant light. They were still shining, but not as brightly as before. Somehow, their glow was fading away. She didn't understood.

Ignoring the angel's indifference, Ysolla entered the room. "Here's something for you to wear", she said, placing carefully in a chair on her left a long black dress. Then she left the room, closing the door behind her.

Narayan. He must know what was happening to her natural glow. She raised from the bed and grabbed the dress. It was a simple design, dark, yet beautiful. She wore it, surprised because it suited her perfectly. He must have guessed that, she thought. Then she turned to a great mirror hanging in the front wall. It was strange, at the first sight. Wearing a black dress, and without her radiance, she looked so different - almost a dark angel. Still she could recognize herself.

He was waiting for her, the old servant said. And Evaila had much to ask him.

* * *

In the castle's dining room, the great table was set for two people - a rare event, that happened only once, perhaps twice in the last three millenia. Narayan sat on the head of the table, staring at nowhere, waiting.

Evaila suddenly entered the room. She looked even more beautiful in the black dress. Narayan was struck by the vision for a moment. Smiling at her, he raised, indicating her the place on his right.

After a second's hesitation, she sat, somehow embarrassed, without facing him.

"You're beautiful", he started with a friendly voice. "I'm glad you joined me."

She turned to him. "Had I any other choice?"

"Of course", he answered, while a servant served the dinner. "As I said, you are free."

She looked at the dish. Strangely, she thought, the food was like the Earth's food - meat, and something that seemed rice. A red drink filled the glasses.

She could' avoid being ironic. "What do you drink down here? Blood?"

Narayan laughed. "Blood? Oh, no. It is just wine. And before you ask, no, that's not demon's meat."

They started to eat in silence. It was not bad, she thought, whatever it was. She looked at him, wondering why was he doing that for her. "Can I ask you a question?"

He looked at her, interrupting his dinner. "Sure."

"It's about me", she said, concerned. "My wings. They are losing their glow. It never happened before."

"There is no light in the Underworld", the necromancer explained, with a glimpse of sadness in his voice. "Light here is corrupted, until it fades away. That's what is happening to you. Your light is fading away."

"What does that mean? That I am corrupted? That I will become... a demon?"

Tears fell from her eyes with that thought.

"I... I have to get out of here....", she said, almost with dizzyness, trying to force herself to believe that she was living some kind of nightmare, that there was a way out of it. "My people... the angels... they will come."

"The angels?", replied Narayan, almost laughing with that thought. "I wouldn't expect that. They wouldn't dare enter the Underworld again. They can't. Just as the demons can't invade Mil'Garion. That's why both keep fighting on Earth."

"Why not?"

"In darkness, no shadow can exist", he aswered simply. "But where there's light, there's shadows. Angels would be corrupted if they crossed the Eastern Gate."

She looked down, crying, realizing that he was right, and there would be no rescue. It was her fate now, to become a demon, a corrupted soul.

"You're not corrupted. I mean, your essence is not corrupted", he said, as if he could read her mind. He tried to somehow make her feel better. "And it won't be, unless you let it happen. Unless we let it happen. You might now be a fallen angel. Your wings might become dark. But your soul... your soul can still shine as it ever shone."


He wiped a tear from his face, raising her face and staring at her blue eyes. "Trust me. I won't let it happen. I won't let this world corrupt your soul."

"Why?", she asked, almost whispering. "Why are you doing all this? Why did you confronted Norcross for me? Why are you being so... kind to me?

"Because you are pure", he said. "And because I need you. Evaila... I'm here for many, many time. And you... you are the first pure soul I've seen in the last three thousand years. You remind me the world I left long ago. I can't lose that. I can't lose you."

"So you're not from the Underworld as well", she concluded, wiping the remainings of the tears from her face. "Who are you, Narayan? Where are you from?"

He said nothing.

"You said I could trust you", she said, remembering their first conversation, in the cathedral. "You said you'd be my friend. Friends trust each other. You can trust me as well."

Narayan smiled to her. She was smart, he could say that. "We have time", he replied, "much time. Eat now. Answers will come later."

They resumed their dinner in silence. No more words were exchanged between them - thoough both feel much more could be said. But there was time, Narayan said. There was time.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Chapter 4

It was a living forest. She had been here for some times, and the feeling was the same everytime. As if some kind of ever-present spirit stalked the strangers from the treetops, form the ground grass, from the polen spreading through the air with the evening breeze. From everywhere.

The angel ambassador felt a chill. She was being observed, she knew. But this land was friendly, or at the very least, neutral. Not bad, in times of war.

Two elves wearing hardened-wood armors and spikes suddenly intercepted her path, coming from nowhere, looking at her as if they had been looking for her.

"Ambassador Aline", said one of them, "we apologize for letting you walk alone through the forest for so long."

Aline felt somehow relieved for having company. Still she wasn't about to show weakness or fear.

"There was nothing to fear. This is friendly land."

"Indeed", said the elf, smiling. "Come. We will bring you to our Queen."

What she said wasn't exactly true, but it didn't seem to matter then, Aline thought. She resumed her walk through the forest once again, now escorted by the two elves. Night was falling, and with her, a deep, spectral silence. No creature was heard, no leaf was shaking with the wind. Darkness spread all around. Temperature dropped. Mist started to form at the ground level, envolving the trees, the green soil. The only light she could see came from the torches the elves carried to illuminate the path.

They reached the trees' threshold. A wide, clear space opened in front of them. A throne made of wood and vines was in the center, two great fires burning behind it. Elvish sentries were positioned all around. In the throne, sat an elf - Amadrienia, Queen of Nindel.

The elves escorting Aline led her to their queen, bowing for her in respect and worship. Then they left.

"Queen Amadrienia", started Aline.

"Ambassador Aline", Amadrienia replied. "It is a pleasure to see you once again, though I am inclined to believe you didn't come here to bring me pleasant news."

Aline smiled. Amadrienia was indeed pragmatic and intelligent. Her irony was sadly right. Never had the angels send an ambassador to Nindel for good reasons.

"My apologies, my Queen, but this time will be no different."

"Do tell."

"The Underworld", the angel said, the smile vanishing from her face as she became suddenly serious. "An army crossed the Eastern Gate days ago. They laid waste in some southern Aznaghal's towns."

"That is not new, Ambassador", replied the queen. "Since the opening of the Eastern Gate fifty years ago, the Underworld's raids against Aznaghal and Brania were more or less regular. I thought already knew how to deal with their demons."

The elf queen's despair for the problems of the other side of the world shocked Aline, specially because she knew Amadrienia had fought the last great war against the Underworld - a legendary war almost three millenia ago, known everywhere as the Eastern Wars. So, the angel council - the eternal peacekeepers - expected Nindel to join the other nations for an incoming war. Aline had been sent to the living forest to seal the alliance - a purpose that seemed suddenly hard to accomplish for the young angel.

Still, she wouldn't give up so easilly. "They've never been. And even if they were - things changed."

This statement seemed to draw Amadrienia's attention. "What do you mean, Ambassador?"

Aline went on. "The army, led by a warlord powerful as no other we had seen before, crossed the Eastern Gateway and laid siege on Miordaal, a city located in the southern Aznaghal Mountains. The city resisted a few hours. Then they advanced, despoiling the fields, burning all the villages they found in their way, until they reached Theronia, an important trade city."

"Are you going to tell me the battle's whole story?", Amandrienia interrupted, bored.

Aline sustain her anger, trying to ignore the queen's insolence. "Theronia called for help. The Aznaghal king, Valek, answered the call, and sent an army. Mil'Garion answered the call as well, sending a small army to help. Both have been slaughtered. The city has been wiped out. Then the demons returned to the Underworld."

Amadrienia's expression changed with the ambassador's latest words. She was worried, knowing that even the angels had lost a battle - which was out of anyone's mind.

"The Underworld has grown more powerful", continued Aline, having everyone's attention. "They are using some kind of dark magic to strenghten their warriors, to enhance their weapons. Their leadership structure might have changed as well, but that we cannot know, for no one of our spies returned."

She had worried Amadrienia, and she felt a dark satisfaction for that. Still, the most difficult part were yet to come.

"I have been sent here for a reason", Aline said. "After the battle, Valek decided to wage war against the Underworld. Knowing that he can't fight the demons alone, he sent ambassadors to every nation in the world - even to us. I know you must be asking yourself by now why am I here, and not his ambassador. It's simple, in fact. We knew the relationship between Nindel and Amakhor are not the best - so, we thought a neutral party might show more trust for each side."

The damage a love affair could do, Aline thought. Nindel and Amakhor have been allied not long ago - while Valek and Amadrienia were lovers. They broke up recently - and so did their nations. Only hatred remained between king and queen, and that's why the alliance between them - even to fight a common enemy - seemed so complicated to achieve.

"We must wait", said Amadrienia, for the ambassador's surprise. "As you said, we still don't know what's the source of the demon's unusual strenght. We must find out first what we are up against. Then, Nindel might consider to join Valek's coalition."

"You must understand, my Queen, that -"

"That was my last word, Ambassador", she replied, not letting the angel to finish her speech. "I must reunite with the Council of Leaves. The situation will be avaliated. Word will be sent to Mil'Garion when the time comes."

Continue to argue with the elf queen was pointless then. Turning to the elf scouts, who were already waiting for her to guide her through the spectral forest, Aline sighed, frustrated. For a moment she wished the Underworld to invade Nindel; but remembering what she had seen in Theronia - in Theronia's smouldering ruins -, she decided that even Amadrienia's pride didn't deserve such fate.

Chapter 3

The castle's heavy, iron doors closed behind them as if moved by some kind of magic force. No one stopped; instead, Narayan kept walking through the doorway on his left, towards the old cathedral, where his visitors could usually find him - assuming there were visitors, of course. The servants and the chained angel followed in silence.

They entered the cathedral. Heavy pillars forming a corridor sustained the high ceiling - or so it seemed. It was so high it made people look tiny and insignificant. Towards the door, in the other side of the wide room, there was the altar, and above, a great multicolored window. Light came from it, though night had fallen long ago. No ornaments of any kind; in the altar, there was nothing but a massive handcrafted chair, made of both steel and wood. It was like a throne, where Narayan sat, without a word.

The servants followed him half the way. When they stopped, one of them forced the angel to knee in his master's presence. Weakened and wounded, the angel fell to the floor.

"Hey", Narayan shouted, his voice echoing through the whole room, almost slaying him with his eyes. "What do you think you're doing?"

The minor demon was confused. "I thought your slaves had to knee in your presence, Master", he replied.

"She's not a slave", the necromancer answered simply. "Not even a servant."

"But you paid for her."

"It means nothing", was Narayan's statement. "She is my guest, and so she must be treated as a guest. If she's mistreated again by any of you, the punishment won't be death, if you know what I mean. Is that clear?"

"Yes, master", the servants said simultaneously.

"Good", continued Narayan. "You", said he, pointing to the first servant, "Remove her chains."

Obeying his master's order, the demon broke the chains that tied the angel's fists and ankles. Drops of blood fell from the wounds left by the chain's rust. She didn't move, still his face revealed not only her physical pain, but also her sorrow and fear.

"Now leave us alone", ordered Narayan, with a decided voice. "Prepare a room for her."

Without a word, the servants left, closing the door behind them. Narayan and the angel were alone in the wide cathedral. He looked at her with a soft expression.

"I am sorry for that", he apologized. "I had no time to tell them how shall they treat you. It won't happen again."

She said nothing. She kept looking to the floor, avoiding to face him, trying to focus her attention in something that could make her forget fear, pain and sorrow for a while.

"You don't need to worry anymore", he continued. "No one here will hurt you."

No word from her. Only silence.

"Do you have a name?", he asked.

She didn't answer.

"Look", he insisted, with a sigh. "I know you lost everything, I know you're wounded, tired, confused, scared. I know you're in pain. But silence won't help you here."

"Evaila", she said, hesitating, facing him for the first time.

He smiled. Leaving his throne, he aproached her, and start speaking to her with a warm, friendly voice.

"You're no longer a prisoner. You're free now. Free to leave, if you will. Though I don't believe you can survive for more than five minutes out there. Perhaps you will never consider me a friend. But believe me, I'll be the closest thing to a friend you're going to find here in the Underworld."

"You said that because I'm wounded", she bursted with despair. "Even if I want to leave, you know I can't. You should have left me to die in that square."

He laughed. "Do you really think Norcross would kill you? No, my dear. If I'd left you in his hands, your wings had been cut with a battle axe, you had been raped by him and by some of his guards, and now you must be in a warlord's house, to be his personal sex puppet until the rest of your life - and you would live long."

"All right. You saved me from the warlords", she replied, consumed by anger. "And what for? What do you want in return?"

Narayan shook his head. "Nothing. I want nothing in return."

"I don't believe you."

"Why not?"

"Because you're a demon."

Narayan turned his back on her. He walked to the altar, staring at the great colored window with an empty gaze. A sad smile appeared in his lips. "You have no idea the energy I spend everyday to avoid becoming a demon..." Then, he turned to her. A glimpse of red light flashed in his eyes. "Know that you're safe is everything I want in return."

His words carried some kind of secret pain, she felt. That made her think . "Why?", she finally asked.

"Because you remind me of someone." He smiled, as if pushing away some old and painful memories. "Ysolla!", he suddenly shouted. Another door, on the left wall, was opened by an old woman who came in a hurry. "Bring our guest to her quarters. Take care of her wounds and anything else she needs."

The woman nodded in silence, signaling Evaila to follow her. She followed, looking to him one last time. He was seated in his throne, absorbed in his own mind. Some eerie aura seemed to surround him - and, for a moment, something inside Evaila told her there was some kind of light inside the darkened soul of the necromancer. The only question that remained was if that light was pure or dark as his soul seemed to be.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Chapter 2

"Norcross' warhost has arrived", said the servant in its usual dry, emotionless voice.

Narayan didn't react immediately to the news. He was lost deep in his own thoughts, as he always used to be at the twilight. It was his sacred hour of the day, when he used to go to the southern tower of the castle - his castle - to spend some time with himself, staring at the horizon until the Blood Moon started to rise in the starless sky. Always alone. His servants had orders not to disturb him - except if something important was coming up around the city.

And the arrival of the greatest of Underworld's warhosts was an event important enough.

"Spoils?", he asked, without turning to the demon behind him.

"Gold", the servant answered. "A lotta gold. And many slaves. No books nor knowledge, as far as I know."

Narayan sighed, somehow frustrated.

"Nothing new, then."

"Not exactly", turned the demonic servant, now with some mystery hidden in his words.

This caught the attention of the necromancer, who immediately turned to the servant.

"What do you mean, not exactly?", he asked, aproaching the demon.

"The slaves. There's an angel among them. Must have been wounded in the battle or somethin'."

The answer made Narayan think. Curious thing, an angel, in the heart of the Underworld. Not usual - as far as he could remember, the angels would rather kill themselves than let them be taken as prisoners, slaves, whatever. Something must have gone wrong for that soul, he thought.

"Where's Norcross now?", he asked, almost guessing the answer.

"In the Hall of Tombs, as ever", was the demon's natural answer. Whenever a warlord returned from a campaign on Earth, he would lead the warhost to Nitramneadh's central square, in order to divide the spoils of war - better saying, to sell them -, and to slay some slaves for the population's amusement. This time the show would be different. When an angel was captured, she wasn't sold as any other slave; instead, she was mutilated, raped several times, and given as a gift to another warlord, as a sign of good will and, sometimes, as seal to a new alliance. Then she would become the warlord's personal slave - sexual slave, for what is worth. This time should not be different.

* * *

The Hall of Tombs was overcrowded, as if the whole Nitramneadh was concentraded in the square. Nothing out of ordinary - the arrival of a triumphant warlord deserved celebration, and celebration in the Underworld meant a great circus, where spoils and slaves were sold, prisoners fought demon gladiators until one's death (the prisoner's for sure), and slaves immolated to the light of the great Tower. Everybody in the city was invited. This time, however, was different - an angel has been captured, which meant a rare show that no soul in Nitramneadh would miss for nothing. After all, it was all about the Underworld's hated enemy for countless millennia. The opportunity to see a small personal vendetta would be at least fun for anyone in this world.

The stage had been set up in the middle of the Hall of Tombs, in front of the Tower's sacred gate. The slaves who survived the Ridges stood there, looking to the croud of humans, demons and hybrids with fearful expressions. A small elite guard stood next to them, swords risen and ready to terminate any reckless - and useless - escape attempt. In the center of the stage, next to the torture table, stood the warlord Norcross.

He raised his right hand to the air, and the crowd became silent in a heartbeat. No one even dared to breath; Norcross, the greatest warlord, was about to speak.

"Once again the armies of Nitramneadh invaded the mortal's land and returned victorious", he shouted to the croud, his loud voice echoing through the streets of black volcanic stone. "Once again we have spoiled theis lands, burned their cities, slew their children, stole their gold. Once again we brough them for the hell they despised since the beginning of times."

Norcross stopped for a while. No surprises. The crowd listened to his speech, fascinated. He smiled.

"This time", he continued, "Mil'Garion sent an army of their own to fight us. They tried to save what could never be saved. They tried to stop the unstoppable. They tried to stand in our way, and their wings have been clipped, their voices have been silenced, their blood have been spoiled - for no one, not even the angels, shall stand in Norcross' way!"

Norcross' declaration of unmatched power echoed like a thunder across the whole city. Then he turned back to the slaves, grabbed the angel violently, and threw her to the front of the stage.

"This", he said, approaching the fallen angel, "is what is left of their army of light!"

Some kind of hysteria spread through the crowd, arms risen to the air, yelling hurrays to their great warlord.

"And now", Norcross shouted back, for the crowd's excitement, "we will have revenge!"

He grabbed the angel's left arm, lifting her with anger, and threw her again, that time next to the torture's table. She fell again, defenceless, blood tears running free through her pale face. Norcross wasted no time. Coming back for her, he took an heavy axe from one of his guards and grabbed one of the angel's radiant wings. She tried to struggle, but the chains around her fists and legs didn't let her move.

"Does anyone here have something to say about this?", he asked the crowd, raising the axe to cut the angel's wounded wing.

"Cut! Cut! Cut!", the crowd shouted back, in delirium.

"I have.", said another voice, loud enough to be listened among the almost hysterical shouts.

An heavy silence fell in a heartbeat. Not even a breathe could be heard. Everybody in the square - slaves, civilians, warriors, warlords, even Norcross himself - turned to see who dared speak against the whole city, against the warlord's Council, against the triumphant warlord.

On the threshold of the Hall of Tombs' Eastern Gate stood Narayan, with two servants behind him, watching with undeniable amusement the crowd's surprise.

"I have something to say about this", he said.

The grave silence remained.

Norcross lowered the axe and released the angel's wing. With a sigh he turned to the necromancer.

"Very well", he said, defiant. "Speak."

"You won't kill her", Narayan said, for everyone's surprise.

Norcross laughed nervously. "I won't? And who the hell do you think you are to say that? Who the hell do you think you are to interrupt our ritual?"

"I am the Rogue Necromancer", he answered simply.

Then Narayan started to walk in the stage's direction. The compacted crowd opened almost instantaneously a passageway for him, fearing his dark powers more than anything else. He reached the stage and, with no hesitation, climbed its stairs until he was right in front of Norcross titanic figure.

"She is coming with me. I have gold enough here to pay for her", he said, making a signal to one of his servants, who placed at the warlord's feet two huge sacs of gold. Then he continued, a touch of irony in his voice as he mentioned the crowd."And to pay for their sad disapointment. If you think it is not enough, you may think about the black magic I give to your weapons. I think it's fair enough."

Norcross incinerated the necromancer with his devilish eyes, feeling the anger running through her veins. He would smash him right away - what a delicious thought. But it was a thought, and no more. He needed Narayan, more than the necromancer actually needed him. His warhost was the most powerful because of his black magic. There was nothing he could do but try to argue a little more.

"Take your gold. They want me to cut her wings. Then you can take her with you."

"I don't care about what they want", turned Narayan with despair. "I am buying a slave, and I don't want mutilated slaves. She is coming with me now, and her wings will come with her."

A sound of protest suddenly crawled through the square. No one particularly liked the necromancer, and no one liked to see the celebrations spoiled by him.

Narayan didn't even have to say anything. He just turned back and face the crowd. That was enough for the rumour to disappear as fast as it had started moments before. Then he turned to the other servant, who grabbed the angel's chains. They made their walk back through the angry and fearful crowd, leaving behind Norcross, almost bursting with anger.

Chapter I

(A previous note: I am not from a country where English is the mother language - if you must know, I am Portuguese -, which means that my written English could sometimes be not as bright as I'd like it to be. My apologies for that. Feel free to report my mistakes - I will thank that. Hope you enjoy reading my world as much as I enjoy writting it.)

The whole sky was flashing with light. Angry lightning burst through the black clouds, illuminating the dark night for no more than mere seconds. Some bolts came alive to the dusty soil, bursting violently on the hardened ground with a ravenous sound that echoed through the wide valley.

The earth itself, as the sky, was dark, stony, irregular, forming deep valleys between huge rocky formations. The blistering light thrown up by the furious skies above casted strange shadows all around. Old legends said those shadows had a life of their own, changing their shape according to the very thoughts and emotions of those who stared upon them.

But, afar from that, the Underworld wasn't much different from the Earth in those bleak days.

Or so it seemed to her crying blue eyes.

It was all a matter of perpective, said the demon who was in charge of the expedition. Usually, those who survived the journey through the ridges and reached the city of Nitramneadh found in the Underworld quite a friendly place.

Whatever the word "friendly" meant in that blasted land.

In that moment, the better for her was try to find it friendly somehow, she said for herself. But how could she consider anything friendly then? Heavy rusty chains hold her fists and ankles tightly, opening wound in her soft, white skin. Her hands were firmly bounded on her back, and the chains on her feet only allowed her to give small steps. He could not think about running, for she was chained to other prisoners behind her. She was the first of her queue. In front of her, marched the army of demons.

For a moment she stared at the dark sky. If she could at least fly as before... but thinking about that was pointless. Even if she wasn't chained, her right wing has been wounded in the battle days ago. The freedom of the skies was now too far from her.

As the freedom of her world, lost behind the vortex of the Eastern Gate.

Another tear fell with that thought. Lost. The tear, her freedom, her world, her future. Everything lost in a war that didn't belong to her. But now that she was trapped in the very heart of hell, that just didn't matter anymore.

Far in the cloudy horizon, the great, dark obsidian Tower of Nitramneadh could now be seen, the eternal fire on the top of it burning like a beacon of light in a world of darkness.