Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Ring of the Howling Moon ❯ The Price of Power ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Anjeel concentrated over the journal intently, searing the knowledge of every page into memory. He knew the book contained ancient secrets and today he was looking for specific information. His frustration grew with each page flip; impatience tearing at him like madness. He knew that his lovely wife Pursìa was in need of a new ring to increase her power and he remembered there was a passage that spoke of one such bauble.

“Page after page after page of failure” he thought to himself. He would not cease in his search until he located his prize.

“Anjeel.” The luxuriousness of Pursìa’s voice stirred him from his concentration. He could not help but smile as he watched her languorously sip at her wine. He watched as she lifted the glass from her lips and allowed the last drop of crimson wine to drip from the rim of her glass, splashing onto the tip of her tongue. He shook his head and reminded himself to concentrate, pouring over the journal once more. As he turned the page once more in frustration, his eyes lit up.

“There it is!” he exclaimed audibly. Pursìa gazed at him as he furiously read the page repeatedly. She watched at he mouthed various incantations repeatedly. She began to part her lips to ask what he found but stopped herself short; knowing that to break concentration during an incantation could mean instant death.

After what felt like hours, Anjeel pulled himself from his recitation and memorization. He slammed shut the journal and tossed it into the nearby fireplace. He took a few moments to compose himself and appraised his current situation. He remembered that he was in The Slaughtered Lamb, a favored drinking establishment of dark casters. He looked across the small table and smiled as he remembered he was with his wife. He looked over her slight frame, ruby lips, enthralling emerald eyes, and raven locks before placing his hand in hers. He gazed at her long slender fingers and grimaced when he glanced at the ring she wore. It was a cracked bronze band discolored with blood. Even as he looked at it, he could feel its power ebbing.

“My dear, it is time we replace that filth,” Anjeel stated simply.

“Oh, and what do you suggest we replace it with? We removed this from a Witch Regis not three weeks ago.”

“And in that week, have you not noticed its power fading? I fear that ring was linked to her spirit.” Anjeel opened the pouch on the left side of his robe. As he reached in, the tortured screams of a multitude of souls could be heard echoing throughout the room. He pulled out a single crystal. It was significantly dimmer than the majority of the others.

“Must you open that thing while we are in here? I can hardly stand it when you open it on the battlefield, let alone in a quiet tavern,” she mused.

“The soul of that witch. I have carried it as long as I could and now its power has severely weakened. I have to use it soon before it has been completely wasted. I fear that when I do use it, the power from your ring will be completely drained.”

“So what do you have in mind”?

Anjeel began to regale her with the legend of the Howling Moon Ring. He pulled a map from his robe and spread it across the table, nearly spilling his wine. Pursìa frowned and moved the glass. He trailed his finger in a path north to the Howling Monastery.

“Getting there will be the simple part. I’ve no fear of attack on our path. Once we arrive, however, the fun begins. We will be heading to the cemetery.” He drew a circle around the northwest quadrant of the monastery. “Once we get inside, we will need to pass through the execution chambers. It is said that they are haunted, but you and I know better. There will be rotting corpses so you will have to remember to hold your breath whenever possible so you do not suffer the rancid smell. When we pass there, we will enter the courtyard which contains the cemetery. Our goal. I will go into more detail once we arrive there.” Anjeel stretched out his arm and helped Pursìa to her feet. “I hope you harbor no superstitions,” he winked.

She giggled as they walked up to the bar, paid their tab, and exited.

“Gather our things and contact Zeran. He should be most interested in this information” Anjeel instructed Pursìa.

She nodded and began to chant, her robes flowing with the magic. She peered at the skies and spoke silently to the wind. In the distance, she could see her drake’s shadow as it passed over rooftops. It stretched its claws out in an attempt to not damage the ground as it landed gracefully next to her. She stroked its sapphire head and spoke softly to it, in praise.

“Sapphyr, take me to Zeran,” she instructed her drake as she ascended one of it's wings and made herself comfortable on it's neck. The drake extended his wings as it leapt from the ground, taking flight. They were soon out of sight of the city, heading to the Tower of Grande Ronde, where the wizard Zeran resided.

The park was alive with the sound of wind rushing between the autumnal trees. The leaves rustled and fell to the ground, inattentive of the sounds of claw against mail, and lightning against earth. The fish swam through the pond amidst the pouring rain of the waterfall. Nature that day paid no heed to the two combatants sparring in the expansive emerald grass.

The druid shifted from his form as a ferocious bear, into that of a diminutive feline and slunk into the shadows. The grass seared and burned as the shaman placed a ward on the ground, causing an explosion at his feet. The cat crept up silently behind the shaman, mindful of his surroundings. The shaman turned a moment too late as he heard the slightest twig crack at his hooves.

Tyrannius grimaced in pain as the claws raked across his flesh. “You fool! I thought we were sparring. Not trying to kill each other!” He paused for a moment and began to chant a healing incantation. His wounds slowly closed as he placed a totem at his feet. He lifted his head and sighed deeply as he felt his strength regenerating.

“Sorry, I got a little carried away,” Veradin half joked. “At least you can heal yourself nicely”. His feline form slinked into the shadows once more.

“Pfft. You always have those 'oops' moments when you are in cat form. When will you just give it up and realize you are only good as a bear?” Tyrannius chided as he looked down at his tattered shirt. “And you do realize I just bought this shirt yesterday”?

“Yeah…. About that. That shirt looked terrible on you. I’ll pay you back nonetheless.”

Tyrannius shrugged, knowing that to be repaid by a druid could take centuries. He looked out into the distance and saw a familiar form walking down the road. His robes dark as the moonless night, as though the void itself had called him master.

“Hey Veradin, I think Anjeel is headed our way.”

“It’s about time. I thought he and Pursìa were never going to come back. Their sixth honeymoon must finally be over.”

Veradin returned to his elven form and both he and Tyrannius brushed themselves off as they walked up the road to meet with Anjeel.

“It is good to see you my friends.” Anjeel greeted his companions. They exchanged greetings and walked to the pond where they all sat on a ledge. “I think you all know that I have come on business. Otherwise we would all be singing drinking songs.”

“What’s going on?” Veradin asked. Anjeel took out the crystal that contained the soul of the witch that influenced Pursìa’s ring’s power.

“This soul is weakening. Soon, my wife’s ring will be powerless. I will not allow any weakness to befall her.” Anjeel spoke the last words through gritted teeth. “I have been searching for a new source of power for her ring for the past week and have found none. But, I have found her a new ring.”

“I see,” Tyrannius interrupted. “This is where we come in, isn’t it?”

“Hah, you sound as though I am asking a favor. No, I know you both to not be the types to turn down a good fight. This ring I have located is situated in the Howling Monastery, guarded by the undead and lycan.”

“Undead? lycan? I thought you said this would be a good fight. Those would hardly cause us to break a sweat.” Veradin mused.

“That is where it gets interesting. Legend has it that in the execution chambers, there is a werewolf that guards a jack o lantern."

"A jack o lantern?" The Draenei shaman arched his eyebrow skeptically.

"Yes, I said a jack o lantern." Anjeel frowned at being interrupted. "But inside of it lies a key that will unlock the crypt and allow us to face the black god. Once we place the key in the crypt where he was sealed, the fun will begin. His anger is said to be that of a thousand deceased and forgotten deities. He wields a scythe in one hand, its blade shattered and split from constant use, yet still sharp enough to cut brick with merely a touch; and a three fingered claw, known to cause even the bravest men to flee. Now are you interested?”

“You have our attention,” Veradin and Tyrannius replied in unison.

“Good, let’s get moving. Pursìa is getting Zeran and will meet us at the monastery gates.”

"What, you mean now?" The druid questioned.

"Yes, now. Did you have other plans?"

"No....." the elf trailed off as the shaman gave him a condescending glance.

Veradin closed his eyes, his body growing feathers as he shrank, his face elongating as it transformed from mouth to beak. His body at last took the form of a crow and he sat on Tyrannius’ shoulder. Both the shaman and warlock summoned forth their onyx drakes and took flight.

They passed over the war torn countryside, seeing the ravaged fields where the ghouls were inhabiting half broken houses of once prosperous cities. They passed over goblin infested swamps where the black market was running rampant. Hours upon hours they flew, until in the distance they saw their goal. Its ivory pillars towering with the images of long forgotten deities. Its very presence invoking awe and wonder. As they approached, they saw the undead cannibalizing the flesh of would be explorers upon the Monastery steps, their anger growing as the undead ripped the gnawed limbs from the corpses, tossing them to the side as they tore at the body’s ribs.

“Onyx, rend their rotting flesh from their bones,” Anjeel cursed at his drake. The black dragon descended from the sky. He set his eyes upon one of the hapless undead. The foul creatures scattered as leathery wings nearly touched ground, claws piercing the throat and abdomen of one of their number. Onyx lifted off of the ground, flapping his wings a few feet from the ground, the body dangling from one of his claws. Inhuman screams filled the air as Onyx used his other claw to slowly tear limb after limb from the fiend. They writhed in their own agony as they hit the ground. Once he was satisfied that all the undead had left was a torso and head, Onyx dipped his head down and closed his massive fangs around the undead’s neck. He allowed the body to fall to the ground as he swallowed.

“Good work.” Anjeel patted Onyx on the head and motioned for Veradin and Tyrannius to descend. They landed in front of the steps and the onyx drakes; relieved of their burdens, flew off.

“Here we are. It has been a while since I took the journal from the library here.” Anjeel looked at the shattered door to the library and then to the sealed door of the execution chambers. “And now we return. Prepare yourselves; we now only await Pursìa and Zeran” Anjeel stated with a tinge of impatience

******************************************************* ********************************

Mountains and valleys passed in a blur as Sapphyr beat her wings furiously. The flight to Grande Ronde was a long and arduous one and she knew that Pursìa was in a hurry. The weather was getting worse and they were ascending into thinner air. She knew that if she were to take much longer, the strain on her lungs would force her to land early, costing valuable time. Pursìa stroked Sapphyr’s neck in reassurance.

“Don’t strain yourself too much,” Pursìa soothed the emerald drake. “I don’t want you to injure yourself.” She trailed off in thought, wondering if Anjeel was safe and hoping that Zeran would be at his tower.

“Ahh, yes. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” She reached into the folds of her robe and produced a small clear orb. She placed her other hand over it and began to concentrate, the orb becoming cloudy. “Almost have it,” she thought to herself. The cloud began to swirl and forms began to take shape. As the image cleared, she could see a figure furiously fumbling with several vials at an alchemical station in an expansive laboratory. He placed the vials back on the table and seemed to look toward Pursìa, squinting slightly.

“Pursìa, is that you?” The figure stated flatly as he moved closer to the scrying orb in the laboratory.

“Yes Zeran. Are you busy? I’m almost at your tower and I wanted to speak with you.”

“No no. not at all. Not... at all. In fact, I just conjured thirty seven pounds of bread if you would care to join me for lunch.”

“Were you having a party?” Pursìa asked bemused.

“No, why do you ask?” Zeran questioned puzzled.

“How in the world do you eat all of that and not get fat,” Pursìa joked.

“Oh, it’s not for me. I just wanted to be prepared,” Zeran shrugged.

“Zeran….. We haven’t been in large scale conflict for 10 years. Ugh, nevermind. Do you mind if I enter your tower. Anjeel found a ring he insisted I have.”

“Not at all. Come on in.” Sapphyr let out a thankful sigh as the tower came into sight. Its ivory walls gleaming with the reflection of the sunset. A small section of wall began to fade and Pursìa could see Zeran standing by his scrying orb, waving emphatically. Sapphyr slowed as she approached the tower wall, allowing Pursìa to step off of her back and into the lab.

“Well, I suppose since no one else wants my bread, you can have it Sapphyr.” Zeran waved a circle in the air with his finger, causing another section of the wall to disappear near the base of the tower. Sapphyr nodded before lowering herself and entered the tower silently, the wall materializing behind her. “At least someone appreciates my work,” Zeran sighed.

Pursìa ran up to Zeran and wrapped her arms around his slight frame. “It’s so good to see you again,” she exclaimed. “You hardly ever leave your tower. What are you doing anyway?”

“Well, I’m attempting to deconstruct and analyze this shrinking potion I purchased from a goblin in order to learn the components that comprise it,” Zeran wrinkled his nose a bit. “But it isn’t going all that well.” He pointed to a far corner of the room where an enormous imp was rebuilding a station that had apparently exploded.

“I see….” Pursìa frowned. “You really need to be more careful.”

“All in the name of metascience,” Zeran shrugged. He waved his arm and produced a glass of water and handed it to Pursìa. She examined it closely and took a sip.

“As good as ever. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Zeran said excitedly. “It is a rare occasion anymore that I serve someone a drink.”

“You really need to get a girlfriend,” Pursìa mused. “But alas, that is not why I’m here. Can we sit somewhere and talk?”

“Certainly.” Zeran left the lab with Pursìa in tow. They ascended several flights of stairs before exiting into the tower’s expansive library. They arrived at a small table surrounded by chairs and sat down. “Now, what is it you wanted to talk about?” Pursìa told him everything that Anjeel had relayed to her. She explained his plan said that they were to meet with he, Tyrannius, and Veradin at the gates of the Howling Monastery.

“Tyrannius AND Veradin?” Zeran exclaimed. “This will be like old times! I simply must go as well!” Without another word he immediately got up and walked to the center of the room. He waved his arms and pile after pile of bread and gallon after gallon of water materialized on the floor. Pursìa shook her head, got out of her chair, walked up to Zeran, and placed her hand on his shoulder softly.

“Zeran. There are only five of us. And we aren’t even there yet.”

“Oh yeah,” Zeran laughed. “Sorry, I got a little excited. I’ll go pack a few things and teleport us to the monastery. I’m sure Sapphyr would like a break.”

“Sounds perfect,” Pursìa said. She sat down again and waited for Zeran to return. Only a few minutes passed and Zeran appeared in the doorway in full battle attire. His sword dangling at his side and orb hanging from its pouch.

“I’m ready.”

“Let’s get going.” Pursìa rose from her seat and stood next to Zeran as he started his incantation. Sparks flared, splitting the air in front of them. The air began to crack and open, revealing an image of the monastery. Pursìa beamed as she saw Anjeel standing next to Tyrannius and Veradin. Zeran ceased his incantation and marveled at the perfect circle his portal created. Pursìa took him by the arm and both stepped through.

“And now we return. Prepare yourselves; we now only await Pursìa and Zeran.”

Pursìa slid herself directly behind Anjeel and whispered into his ear, “Do not worry my love. I am by your side.”

***************************************************** **********************************

Anjeel’s gaze shifted from the shattered doors of the plundered library to the magically barred and sealed doors of the execution chambers. He knew that the prize they sought was within their grasp. He envisioned the new ring upon his lovely wife’s finger and couldn’t help but crack a smile.

“And now we return. Prepare yourselves; we now only await Pursìa and Zeran.” Anjeel stated with a tinge of impatience.

Just then, the air cracked and fizzled silently behind him and Pursìa stepped through, accompanied by Zeran. Pursìa slid herself directly behind Anjeel just as he finished his statement and whispered into his ear, “Do not worry my love. I am by your side.”

Anjeel’s blood went ice cold and a shiver crept up his spine. He could barely keep himself from jumping and screaming like a young goblin. After a few seconds of silence (and waiting for his stomach to stop flipping) he composed himself and turned to face his bride. In a shaky voice he tried to sound commanding, “And it’s about time.”

Pursìa giggled slightly as Zeran walked up to Anjeel and wrapped his arms around him in a bear hug. “It has been far too long since we’ve done anything like this,” Zeran exclaimed.

“And it will be well worth the effort,” Anjeel returned. “Everyone prepare yourselves for battle. I will be breaking the seal soon and it will wake the denizens of the monastery from their suspended animation. I’m fairly certain that they won’t be happy.”

“Are they ever?” Veradin stated as his body contorted into that of a panther. His form slid into the darkness and his glowing eyes were all that could be seen.

“No, they usually aren’t. But when has that ever bothered us” Tyrannius goaded as he pulled his axe from the sheath. He checked his pouches and grasped his idols, reciting a slight prayer.

“I don’t believe it ever has,” Zeran chimed in as he waved his arm in a circle. Pile after pile of bread and water appeared at his feet. “Make sure to carry as much as you can.”

“Didn’t we JUST have a talk about that Zeran,” Pursìa smiled as the shadows began to consume her form, sliding over her hips and fingers. The shadow traced her delicate figure as it consumed her body. Her eyes darkened, finding their peace in the most pitch of black. She exhaled, expelling the last shred of light from her lungs, and inhaled, breathing in the darkness.

“I love when you do that,” Anjeel looked lovingly at Pursìa. “My turn.” Anjeel focused his energy. A slight green tinge covered his body for a moment before absorbing into himself. He reached into the folds of his robe and produced a shimmering dagger. He slid the tip of his index finger across the edge, lightly coating it with his own blood. He stretched out that same arm, allowing small droplets of blood to form a circle on the ground. He pulled open his pouch and echoed screams filled the air with twisted agony. He pulled a crystal from the pouch and sealed it.

“Yes, you will do nicely,” he grinned wickedly as he traced a circle in the air above the circle of blood. “I consecrate this circle with my twisted blood and with this soul of innocence. OPEN PORTAL! Show me the gateway to hell.” Anjeel threw the crystal to the ground in the middle of the circle, shattering it. A tortured scream could be heard as the soul emerged from the crystal and attempted to exit the circle. The portal began to turn red, flames licking the edges as the portal turned to blood. The soul pleaded with Anjeel as he continued to recite. “Come demon. I call upon you Dar’ota. Assume the form of the succubus and materialize in this world. Accept this innocent soul as payment and bind your soul to mine. I command this of you!” Anjeel’s eyes turned red as a demonic form took shape within the portal. Hooves like that of a goat, wings of a bat, and the body of a woman. She consumed the soul and accepted the payment. “YES YES!” Anjeel shouted. “Now, to make sure the bond is complete.” He lowered his robe and bore his chest. With the knife in hand he put the blade to his flesh and began to slowly drag it. His grin widened as the succubus began to writhe in agony while she took his wound, and with it, his pain. “Perfect.” He unsealed the circle and closed the portal, commanding the succubus to follow him. She stumbled out of the circle, clutching her chest with labored breathing, and followed.

“Is everyone ready?” Anjeel looked over his group as he adjusted his robe once more.

“Yes my love,” Pursìa walked up to him and kissed his cheek.

“Let’s do it” Veradin and Tyrannius stated.

Zeran sighed. “I suppose so, though no one took any of my bread.”

They approached the sealed door and Anjeel spoke the incantation to break the ward. Satisfied, he pushed on the door, causing his succubus to scream once more.

“Infernal arcane magic. Zeran, you must have learned a spell to break magical seals?” Anjeel exclaimed impatiently.

“Well now that you mention it, I have! I was reading this book that we found in the library when we took my tower. It was absolutely amazing I tell you. Well, anyway, I read this one passage…..”

“We can discuss the book later my friend. For now, can you just open the door?” Anjeel interrupted.

“Oh yes. Sorry”. Zeran walked up to the door and spoke three draconic words. The sound of cracking wood and searing fire could be heard coming from inside the doorway. Zeran concentrated his power on the door’s lock for only a few moments before an explosion of magic burst from the door, knocking Zeran to the ground. “Well,” He panted. “It worked.” He pulled himself to his feet, steadying himself on Tyrannius’ broad shoulders. From inside the monastery could be heard the wail of ghosts and the tortured screams of the tormented.

“It would appear the monastery has returned to life. If you can call that life,” Anjeel said. “Veradin, open the door and take a peek inside.”

Veradin slowly crept to the door and touched it softly with his paw. Satisfied that he wasn’t going to be immolated by magic, he pushed on it. The door creaked open slightly before collapsing in on itself. The sound of the crumbling echoed down the hallway. Not wanting everyone to think he had another 'oops' moment, Veradin quickly thought of something to ease the tension of the moment.

“Trick or treat,” he stated very loudly.

“Oh, shut up,” everyone simultaneously retorted.

Relieved that he was able to diffuse the situation, Veradin sighed. He crept out of sight for a few moments before returning. “Everything looks clear through this hallway.”

“Very good. Let’s get moving.” Anjeel took the lead as they entered the hallway. They continued to traverse the walkway, their footfalls echoing slightly, until they came upon an open room. A single figure roamed the room, constantly mumbling to herself about the cleaning. Her clothes and broom were soaked with blood. She turned and faced the group, her hollow eye sockets oozing with pus.

“The master took my eyes. He did not want me to see what I was cleaning. I will see though, you have plenty of eyes. I WILL HAVE THEM”. The figure’s form contorted, turning a ghostly white as she glided across the floor toward Pursìa. “GIVE ME YOUR EYES”! The echo of the scream resonated through the room, nearly knocking the group over with its force. A spike emerged from the bristles of the broom as she struck toward Pursìa. Tyrannius parried and brought his axe down on the wooden shaft, shattering it. Zeran released a fiery wave from his hands, consuming the figure as it crumpled to the ground weeping.

“Well, that was easy,” Veradin stated.

“Don’t get overconfident,” Tyrannius returned. “That was only the beginning. Let’s search the room for the pumpkin.” The group scoured the room for the squash, only to find themselves empty handed.

“It isn’t here,” Pursìa stated after several minutes of searching. “We need to continue on.” They followed the next hallway, noting the scent of decay getting stronger. They could feel the weight of the moisture in the air as each step felt as though they were traversing a swamp. The cobwebs grew thicker the further they traveled. Pursìa grasped Anjeel’s arm as a large black spider was smashed under Tyrannius’ hoof. Anjeel looked back to see that his succubus had fully regenerated and was keeping pace better. They reached the end of the corridor and saw several torches alight around a large granite slab. As they moved closer, they could see imprints where prisoners had broken their fingernails off in an attempt to drag themselves off of it. A single bladed axe could be seen attached to several pulleys that connected to shackles on the slab. It’s blade stained brown from caked blood. Strands of hair could be seen dangling from the blade as a slight breeze wafted through the room.

“Ok, this is a little too spooky for my taste,” Pursìa choked out as she clutched Anjeel’s arm.

As they began to walk past the device, Anjeel’s foot connected with something on the ground, causing it to roll through the room, breaking the silence. Tyrannius pulled one of the torches out of its holder and tossed it in the direction of the sound. As it landed they could see rotting flesh losing its hold on the broken skull Anjeel had kicked; the face sliding to the floor. From their flanks, they could hear bones rattling.

“That wasn’t very nice. It isn’t wise to rouse and anger the dead. It just might come back to HAUNT you!” The group jumped back as they could hear a bone shattering thump. Anjeel’s succubus slumped to the ground, her arm broken.

“Pursìa, grab a torch!” Anjeel commanded as he turned to face his assailant. Pursìa took another torch from its stand and rushed to Anjeel’s side. He could see four skeletons in shining armor standing in front of him and to his sides. He motioned for Veradin and Tyrannius to move to the left and Zeran to move to the right so they could dispatch their respective targets. Veradin silently crept up behind one as Tyrannius whistled, grabbing their attention. He hurled a bolt of lightning at one while Veradin came out of the shadows and slashed at his target’s neck, removing its skull. The lightning bolt struck the second skeleton in the chest, causing bones to fly in all directions, nearly hitting everyone.

Zeran looked at his target and smiled. “Do you know how long I have waited for this moment? It has been years since I flexed my mind and you, sir, have no chance”. The corpse cackled as it moved towards the frail mage. It hefted its mace above its head, bringing it crashing down on Zeran. Zeran chuckled as he deftly sidestepped the swing. He raised his hand, pointing at the corpse's arm. "Oh yeah, this is going to hurt," He mused as a fiery blast escaped his fingertips. It collided with his aggressor’s extremity, exploding with an orange glow. The mace flew from the vaporized arm, coming to a rest against the wall on the opposite side of the room. Not wasting another moment, Zeran began to form a ball of ice in his hands. He sculpted it into the form of a dagger within seconds and hurled it at the skeleton's head. The skeleton shrieked as the dagger connected, causing a block of ice to form around the skeleton’s head. As quickly as it formed, the block dissolved, taking the skull with it. Zeran wiped off his hands as he scanned the room, seeing only Anjeel and Pursìa's target still alive.

"Why are you here," the corpse hissed at Anjeel. "The master does not like visitors."

"I am sure he will be more than happy to see us. At least possibly his severed head." Anjeel turned his gaze to Pursìa for a moment. "Bind him." Pursìa breathed in deeply. As she turned to face the corpse she exhaled slowly, causing chains to rise from the floor. They wrapped themselves around the corpse's hands and feet in a matter of moments. It struggled against the chains, causing them to tighten even more. Anjeel walked up and pulled the mace from the skeleton's hand.

"It really is a shame that you are dead. I would love to have used this device to extract information from you," Anjeel stated as he stole a quick glance of the slab. "But alas, I don't think you feel pain". The corpse began to open its mouth to reply. "Silence! No one said you could speak". Anjeel lifted his arm to be level with its eye sockets. He mouthed two words and a blast as dark as the Pit caused the skull to shatter. The body of the corpse fell to the floor, the chains releasing it.

"Now then, shall we continue?" Anjeel dusted himself off as he took one of the remaining torches and moved toward the next hall. "Once we see the end of this passag, we must extinguish these. We cannot afford to be caught off guard again." The group walked out of the room, continuing down the hallway.

They traveled down the twists and turns of the passage as the air grew thick with humidity. The putrid smell of death enveloping even the sweetest perfume. The walls were slick to the touch from condensation. Anjeel motioned for the group to put out their torches as he could see flickers of light emanating from the end of the hallway.

“This must be it,” he thought to himself. As the grouped neared the end of the hallway they stopped. Anjeel motioned for Veradin to scout the room. The druid nodded as he faded out of view, his footfall barely audible. He entered the room and looked to his right. He saw decaying bodies lining the walls, pikes jammed through their chests. Droplets of blood could still be seen leaking from the tips of their toes. Veradin grimaced at this sight and focused his eyes to the left. In his excitement he almost yelled out that he found what they sought. He crept back to the group as quickly as his paws could carry him.

He conferred with Anjeel for a few moments and returned to the room. He set his sights on the pumpkin to his left, lowered his body to the floor, and moved towards it, crawling as quietly as he could. As he reached the pumpkin, he saw the relic held by steel teeth. He reached up and tried to pull it out, causing a screech to echo through the room. He looked around to ensure that no one had heard the sound, and content that he was not heard, he looked back at the relic. As he looked down, he noticed that the rusted pedestal that held the pumpkin had writing on it. He narrowed his eyes, and after adjusting his focus for what felt like hours, he could barely make out what it said:

“The black god awaits those who dare
To seek his riches and ring
But I require one thing more
And that is a blood off’ring”

“Anjee……” Veradin’s breath was cut short as he was thrown to the side. He coughed as he shook his head and turned to find out what happened. He saw the figure of an enormous werewolf as it reached down, pinning his shoulders to the floor.

“Veradin!” Anjeel yelled back as the group turned the corner to find out why Veradin’s voice was impeded. They heard a blood curdling scream as they saw a hairy beast, twice the size of the largest among the group, tearing at Veradin’s throat. Pursìa stepped forward and pointed at the wolf.

“Zenn!” she yelled the shadowy word of pain. The wolf reared back and howled in agony. In a fit of fury, the wolf turned to face Pursìa; it’s eyes as red as boiling lava.

“You disgusting wench,” it howled through clenched teeth. “You will be the first to die.” The wolf began to charge at her, baring its claws and fangs.

“I’ve got this,” Zeran stated as he stepped to the side. “Tyrannius, get to Veradin before it is too late.” Tyrannius went to the druid’s side and placed his hand on the slashed throat. A green glow could be seen emanating from the open wound, sealing and healing. Satisfied, Zeran turned his attention to the wolf. He took a deep breath and blew, expelling a frozen mist; slowing the wolf.

“Everyone spread out,” Anjeel commanded. They all circled the wolf, weapons brandished. A newly healed and an extremely pissed off Veradin stood directly behind the wolf and began taunting and cursing it.

In frustration the wolf raised his claws and bore down on Pursìa. As he drew near, the priest let out a piercing scream, disorienting the wolf and causing him to flee in the terror, and much to the wolf’s dismay, right into Veradin’s extended claws. It shrieked in pain as the claws raked down his flesh, from his chest to his feet. The weakened wolf staggered back again and had begun to raise his claw once more when his eyes went black. As he fell to the ground, Tyrannius’ axe could be seen jutting from the wolf’s spine.

Anjeel looked over the pumpkin as he pondered the message below it. “A blood offering,” he thought to himself. He fumbled with the pumpkin for a few and pulled off the top, setting it on the ground to the side. “Hmm, this is pretty big. I wonder…”. A sly grin spread across his face as he looked over at the werewolf.

“Tyrannius, cut that wolf’s head off and bring it to me”. Tyrannius shrugged and raised his axe. With a dull thud, the axe sliced through the hairy neck and spine, hitting the ground as the head rolled away slightly. He grabbed the head and picked it up by a tuft of fur. As Tyrannius handed the head to Anjeel, the warlock’s face contorted in pure hatred.

“In life you DARED have the nerve to speak ill of my wife. Dead or no, you will not have a tongue!” Anjeel reached in and tore the tongue out of the wolf’s mouth. He held it aloft, and in a rage, turned it to ash. He tossed the ash to the ground and turned his attention back to the wolf’s head. “And now, in death, you will serve.” He placed the head inside of the pumpkin and placed the lid back on top. Blood began to ooze out of the pumpkins mouth, dripping into the lettering on the rusted pedestal. As the wording began to run red, the steel teeth released the relic. A creaking sound could be heard from the opposite side of the room as the object fell into Anjeel’s hand. The sweet smell of fresh air filled the room and the group turned to see the moon shining through the now open doorway.

“We are almost there,” Anjeel stated as the group turned and approached the now open doorway. He clutched the relic tightly as he knew their goal was now in sight.

The moonlight shone upon the party as they emerged from the doorway and looked upon the expansive courtyard. Fires blazed around the shattered tombstones that littered the ground. Ghouls and mummies roamed aimlessly, trampling the already dead foliage. Skeletons hung from pikes extending from the exterior walls. A small cobblestone walkway stretched across the center of the room to a large granite door. As Anjeel looked intently at it, he could see what appeared to be a small indentation, but he could not be sure if it was a seat for the relic. They pondered their next move, wondering how they would eliminate so many enemies at once. They knew the moment they entered the courtyard, the slew of undead would notice them and be upon them. Zeran was the first to speak.

“I know this may sound crazy, but I think this will be a lot simpler than it appears,” he stated; his head in his palm.

“What’s your plan,” Anjeel asked.

“Well, one of us can run in there and catch their attention. When they try to catch the person, we can huddle them in one place and blast them all”.

“That sounds like an interesting plan. But where are we going to find someone stupi…… brave enough to do that,” Anjeel caught himself.

“That is going to be tricky…………” Zeran looked around and noticed that everyone was staring at him. “Oh no! I don’t think so. You can possibly think that I would do…..”

Zeran stepped out into the courtyard slightly and observed his surroundings. He could see the multitude of undead mulling about their mindless tasks. He gulped and straightened himself up. He though to himself: “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. Oh heck with it.” He burst into a sprint towards the center of the room. He yelled, hollered, and threw insults at the undead as he passed. His heart skipped a beat as he heard a piercing wail. He stopped dead in the center of the room. As he looked around, sweat began to fall off his brow. Every unliving thing in the courtyard was bearing down on him. He paused for a moment, making sure that he had his spells perfectly lined up. As the undead inched closer and closer to him he found his resolve. He grit his teeth as the first reached out to grab his sleeve. In an instant he was running toward the door. He looked behind him to see that the undead were frozen in place and that he already covered half of the ground back to his party.

“NOW NOW!” Anjeel heard the yells and motioned for the group to move forward. Tyrannius cleared his mind as he rushed forward; Veradin shifting from his feline form to his natural state. Zeran turned and they could see that the undead were breaking free of their icy prisons. Zeran waved his arms and called forth a blizzard; the hail pelting down on the undead. The air began to move as a ferocious windstorm centered on the mindless crowd. Lightning shot from the clouds, striking each walking corpse and moving to the next, singing and searing the flesh. As the undead fumbled around, trying to make some semblance of sense about the weather, meteor after meteor came crashing down on them, crushing one after another; the black blood of death splattering on the ground. One by one the undead crumpled until none remained. As they last body hit the floor, the weather subsided.

“Nice work,” Anjeel praised Zeran. “That worked better than I could have possibly imagined.” The group stepped forward, crossing the field of dead bodies. They were mindful to check for any signs of movement, and satisfied that there was none, continued down the cobblestone pathway. Anjeel clutched the relic as they neared the crypt; its towering walls dwarfing him. The black granite door had upon it a vision of a great battle. Pile after pile after pile of corpses lined the foreground and a giant figure in glimmering black armor stood atop a small mound. On the figure’s side was a scythe with a jagged bloodstained blade, and on its other, a hole where a claw was removed from the gauntlet. Anjeel extended his arm, placing the relic next to the hole. He looked at the group with a smile on his face. “This is it.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Anjeel placed the relic in the hole and took a step back. The door itself began to rumble. The rumble turned into a shudder as the door looked like it would crumble in on itself. The group could hear a thud from the other side of the door and prepared themselves for the coming battle. A small crack appeared in the center of the door and grew slightly larger with each thud. The thud grew louder and the crack continued to grow until the edge of a blade could be seen. When the next thud hit, a clawed gauntlet ripped through the wall; its edges gleaming from ripping at the door. Pursìa gasped as the fingers stretched before the gauntlet receded into the door. She would remember the next moment for the rest of her life. The black god stuck once more at the door; its arm reaching completely through. Just as a second crack started to appear in the door, it crumbled; the dust completely blurring the group’s vision.

Anjeel motioned for the group to take a few steps back so they could assess the situation. As the dust settled they could see the figure’s full image. Its towering black armor gleamed in the moonlight. It hefted a scythe above its head, the blood stained blade jagged and cracked from a millennia of usage. One of its gauntlets clawed like a demonic beast. Its visor turned to face the group. Anjeel’s heart beat fast as his eyes scanned the god, looking for his prize. As he looked upon the breastplate, he saw it! It seemed to be fused to the metal on the left of the breastplate, where the heart should be located. The god took a frightful step toward the group.

“Everyone, circle him! Divide his attention! Veradin! Charge in and draw the god to you!” Anjeel shouted orders. The group nodded and took their positions around the god. Veradin ran forward, his body shifting and contorting to that of a demonic bear. He took a sweeping swipe at the armor. The echo of the clang filled the room and the god turned to face his attacker. Tyrannius cursed as lightning flashed through the air, striking and bouncing off of the back of the shining armor. A shadowy lance materialized from Anjeel’s hand and hurled itself at the god, causing it to take a step back. The god recovered his footing and mimicked the bolt, colliding with Anjeel’s chest and throwing him back several feet. Anjeel quickly pulled himself from the ground, shaking his head. He smoothed the singed robe over his bare skin and glanced over at his succubus who was writhing in pain on the floor. He sighed in relief and turned his gaze back to the god.
A fiery bolt stuck at the armor, causing the oppressive form to fall to one knee. Veradin took this moment to bite at the head and slash at the armor’s throat. The god struck out with his arm, throwing Veradin over his shoulder. He landed on the ground with a terrible thump. Dazed, Veradin slowly rose to his feet as the god stuck at him once more. Catching the glint of the armor, Veradin barely moved before the claw stuck the ground, ripping several cobblestones from their footing.

“Zenn!” Pursìa screamed the word for pain as she directed it at the god. She gasped as the dark armor turned to her, unphased.

“If you don’t like the idea of pain, how about some AGONY!” Anjeel directed all of his hate toward the god. It turned to him, again unphased. He swore an epitaph as the god shoved Veradin out of the way and stepped toward Anjeel. It raised its clawed arm over its shoulder and struck down toward Anjeel. “You are far too slow,” Anjeel goaded as he jumped out of the way. “For a god, you are very rusty. Everyone move back. Zeran, fire seemed to be effective against this thing. Scorch it!”

The group moved back several paces. Zeran and Anjeel focused their concentration. The group could see flames start to shoot out of the god’s visor. It fell to its knees as fire engulfed its body. Veradin jumped back and joined the group just as the god’s clawed hand crashed to the ground. The group marveled as their work as the fire blazed for several minutes. Anjeel started to turn to face Pursìa as a flash of light appeared from center of the fire. Within a split second, the fire had gone out and the god struck at Anjeel with his scythe. Anjeel laughed maniacally as the scythe pierced his side and sank into his body. He did not notice as blood began to gush from his side as the god pulled his scythe back. It was only when his laugh was interrupted by a bloody cough that he understood his mistake. He slowly craned his neck to look upon his succubus. The totality of his situation sank in as he looked upon her. In that moment, he realized that when the god brought down his claw to strike him, it was aiming and struck the succubus. In his weakened state he took one last glance at his wife and raised his arm to reach out to her before his strength gave out and he fell to the ground.

“ANJEEL!!!!” Pursìa screamed as she ran to her husband. She knelt by his side and shook his shoulders, trying to rouse him. “NO!!!!!” she screamed when she realized he wasn’t waking. “You can’t die. Not now. Please. Anjeel. ANJEEL!!!!”

She turned to face the god that had felled her husband; her fury like that of a raging wildfire. The shadows consumed her form; her eyes like pits of the abyss. The god slowly turned towards her, dragging his scythe across the ground, fresh with the blood of her mate. Her anger continued to consume her as he edged closer. Pursìa turned once more to look upon her husband’s body, her form shaking as she could no longer contain her grief. The creature raised its scythe. She stretched out her hands as a drop of blood fell from the its tip. She pulled her arms close to her heart and closed her hands around the droplet, binding their souls together once more. A wave of calm passed over her as she looked into the god’s eyes and the shadows began to fall from her.

“Karkun” she murmured the shadow word of death as the scythe came down toward her. A frightening scream could be heard from beneath the armor as the scythe shattered and his body began to melt. In one final desperate motion, the god attempted to grab hold of the Priestess' arm in an attempt to drag her to hell with him. The steel gauntlet shattered as it touched her gleaming skin. All at once it was over. The black god was dead and the ring sat in front of her, easily within her grasp. “This was never worth a mere ring……” she sobbed as she collapsed upon Anjeel’s lifeless body. Veradin and Tyrannius sat helpless as they could not ease her sadness. Tyrannius retrieved the ring and came to Pursìa’s side.

“I know that nothing can ever erase what has been done…. but we at least accomplished his goal,” Tyrannius attempted to soothe. Zeran came to Pursìa’s side and knelt beside her, silently trying to ease her pain.

“I would rather that thing never existed…” Pursìa cried. She looked down at Anjeel’s hand and saw the band that they had acquired on their first meeting. “We have always been together my love. We promised to be together throughout eternity. Our paths will not end here.” She slid the broken ring from her finger and tossed it to the side. She tenderly traced her fingers across his and slowly slid the ring off of him, placing it on her finger. “I would rather have a small trinket from you than the greatest bauble this world has to offer.” The horror of the event crashing down on her, she fell across him once more and was racked with sobs.

It was a somber flight back to Grande Ronde. Zeran had already returned to his tower to prepare the funeral pyre. Pursìa rode aback Onyx while he clutched his former rider's lifeless body in his claws close to his chest. The drake hung his head low during the flight in tribute to his master. Veradin and Tyrannius took positions to the left and the right as they flew. Mile after tormented mile, Pursìa remembered her life with Anjeel. She remembered their first meeting, the moment they were married, every little insignifcant fight they ever had, and the way he looked at her when he told her he loved her. Her tears poured out that entire flight.

After what felt like an eternity, they arrived in Grande Ronde. As they approached Zeran's tower they could see a magnificent funeral pyre in the grassy field that encompassed the tower. The wood stacks adorned with arcane runes and symbols. A black silk sheet made the bed where Anjeel would find his final rest; its edges draping over the sides of the pyre. Zeran was standing near the base in his costume of mourning. He had three others laid out for the rest of the group.

Pursìa motioned for Onyx to fly to the pyre. The drake pulled ahead of Veradin and Tyrannius and spread its majestic wings as it landed on the silk bed. Pursìa slid down its wing and placed Anjeel's body on the silk. She crouched next to him and clutched him tightly. She kissed him one last time as her tears streaked down his cheeks. Composing herself, she stood and climbed back upon the drake. It touched down next to Zeran and Pursìa slid down, allowing Zeran to climb aboard the drake. Pursìa donned her mourning attire as Zeran ascended the pyre. He reached into his robes and pulled out the ring they acquired from the black god. He placed it on Anjeel's chest and bowed before returning to be with the group. They each took up a torch and ritualistically lit them. As they took their places along the side of the pyre, Tyrannius, Veradin, and Zeran paid their final respects. They tossed their torches down, igniting the base.

Pursìa took a step forward, looking up at Anjeel's body once more. She shuddered as she held back her sobs. As she remembered all of the wonderful times that they had, a wave of peace passed over her, and she threw her torch to the top of the pyre. The flames grew, engulfing the now flaming coffin, and the group drew together for comfort. Pursìa stepped forward and fell to her knees. As the flames touched the heavens, her lips parted as her heavenly voice seemed to fill the world with her song.

“The curtain is drawn on the shadow of life
The spirit’s light shall fade away
Even though your soul has found eternal rest
Your memory, with me, will stay

How I will miss your tender embrace
And the warmth you could bring with your smile
The bed will feel cold, empty, and alone
Every unechoed step, a mile

Oh God how I miss tasting your sweet kiss
And your hands, how they slid into mine
How I wish I could feel your heart beat
I only wish the world could see

The day we first met, how I almost died
And how you had rushed to my aid
And how not long after, I fell for your charm
And in hardship together we stayed

I will always remember the day that we wed
And forever bound our souls as one
That joy will never fade from my heart
Nor shall our bond be undone

And I know that I’ll fight when they say life must go on
I am your wife and that will always be true
Though you’re gone, there’s one thing that never will change
And that is that I… love… you…”

Pursìa’s voice trailed off with the breeze. As the flames died down, she knew that her husband had passed to the next life hearing her beautiful voice and even though he was gone in body, she knew that he would always be with her. She rose from her knees and walked back to the group, embracing them all. She said her goodbyes and called for Sapphyr and Onyx. The drakes came to her and she released them from their duties. They flew off into the night without a further word.

"Zeran. Send me home please," Pursìa stated while looking out into the darkness. Zeran nodded and ripped open the fabric of the world. An image of a living room appeared in front of them. Pursìa looked straight ahead as she stepped through and it slowly closed behind her, sealing the tear and sealing an era in her life.