In a time long before the earth took shape or form, divine gods of an unknown world descended from the heavens onto a desolate rock. Having drifted for eons, they grew weary and took a quick interest in the inhospitable wasteland. Finding it to their favor, they created life as forward-thinking and intelligent as they were. For a time, all was peaceful; the gods relished their children, and their children worshiped them unconditionally. As seasons passed, the divines taught them their ways of magic, metal bending, forms of art, and other higher sciences. Thus, their children's power grew as it did their buildings, machines, cities, and weapons of great height and strength. However, one such creation became beyond that of any other. He rivaled even his creators, and Bahadur was his name. Endowed with the greatest of gifts he was to be the shining example of perfection, the brightest star in a sky of the stars a creation that personified the divine’s brilliance. For a time, he was that which they intended, leading the people of the world with his magnificent feats of power the god’s creations reached ever higher heights. Until he himself was worshipped as a deity, held at pinnacle of civilizations, which the gods marveled in admiration at their creation and what they were capable to do in the beginning. The god’s admiration would not last long, however. Marveled as they were, they quickly grew concerned that they had taught their children too much, and so decided to hold a council. The verdict was unanimous---they would leave the earth and rule afar, in their kingdom.
And so, the races of the world fell into endless chaos, abandoned.
Angry with the idols for forsaking their own creation, Bahadur used his magic to manipulate and bend the others to his will. He was waging war against the gods and all the other races who sided with them. Blood flowed in the rivers and the oceans; the cities burned, and the lands cried out for mercy.
As chaos continued to grow the gods, in a show of love, created one more form of life, immortal like themselves. These new beings were angelic in their features—they were as beautiful as sunrises, and could wield magic far more significant than any other. Descending onto the earth, these stewards battled back the forces of corruption and, with the god’s help, banished Bahadur and his followers to a fiery prison.
As time passed, so did the knowledge of the ancient kingdoms and the valiant stewards who protected the earth from evil. The knowledge fell into oblivion, but evil did not; for darkness does not sleep, and neither do the stewards who stay ever watchful.
“A gateway built on the forgotten steps of a dead empire lay in ruin on a frozen river shore. It has been dormant for thousands of years.” It stood atop the highest mountain peak in the lonely chain, north of the raging river Una. Quiet at first, it suddenly burst into life, with sparks of light like fire from a pier erupt from the stone gateway. The fire burst in every direction with a stunning effect, as if opening from a higher plane of existence on to that of the planet.
"Eos, I have returned to thee."
A tall, snow-white man, with hair like the sun and eyes like the sky, rejoiced triumphantly after stepping free. Titling his face upward, he soaked in the fresh air with two deep breaths. His extravagant white armor glowed with the light of the heavens.
"If only my return were under better circumstances. Only two breaths taken, and I can already taste the rancid flavor of poison in the air."
"Could it be him? That awful demon trying to crawl back out of his hole?"
A dense fog engulfed the enchanter in.
"No one can break free of those chains, but his presence, I can feel everywhere.”
The man unsheathed a silver bladed broadsword hanging from his waist.
"Hear my words, oh great gods of light, I am Loren, an instrument of your design. Offer me your eternal light, so that I may do your bidding."
His prayer dispelled the fog along a pebble road. Using the illumination shining from his sword, Loren ventured forth the gigantic ascending steps carved into the mountain's side. As he went up, the bitter taste of brimstone burned like fire on his tongue. Guarding himself against its stench, Lorne blocked it with his white cape, an ire feeling pressing on the nape of his neck.
"Child of light," thousands of voice ring out in the winds.
"They were right to send me here—the evil is stifling, and it's strong enough to make dead howl. I haven't felt such disgust since the great wars.”
"Turn back," the dead repeat, their words louder each time.
“Quiet!” Lorne shouted, extinguishing their howls with a burst of light, sending them screaming back into the shadows.
"Slumbering malice. Do you not even yield to death?"
The winds howled back with greater force. Lorne clung to the wall, moving against the force slowly. Reaching the very top, he stepped into a graveyard in the grips of a murky bog, where remains of millions rest. It sits in the shadow of a massive doorway, more than four hundred feet high. The colossal doors had the depiction of two orc kings carved in its sides. When the moonlight hit the grave site, it awakened the dusky spirts that lay at rest.
"Return to your graves," Loren commanded, plunging the sword firmly into the black mud at his feet. Touching its pommel, he uttered but a single word.
"Dispel," he said confidently.
But the spirts remained still, staring into the eyes of the wizard, startling him.
"They do not obey the puppets of false gods. They only serve us," a loud voice screeched, causing the spirits to flee.
The hidden figure showed itself with a piercing scream.
With authority, Loren commanded the entity of the mountain, "Leave this world, foul creature. You do not belong here."
The evil presence responded with a loud growl.
"This kingdom is mine," it replied to Loren, raining down bolts of lightning down.
"If you do not release your hands from this world willingly, I shall snatch it from your grasp."
Grabbing the sword's shaft, Loren yanked it free, just as a wall of darkness blanketed him by way of outstretched hands of storm clouds. Turbulent, the clouds spitted all manner of hail and rain against the earth storm.
"I am a steward sent by the gods. You will bend to my authority!"
"No!" the evil answered resoundingly.
Launching another strike of divinity, Loren once again commanded,
“Return to the Void, where you belong!’
"You have no authority over us!" the evil being cackled, menacingly.
Growing in its ferocity, its rage burned against Loren, tearing his armor and flesh, shrieking,
Loren untied his second broadsword, hoisting it upward, far into the air. In his direction, a column of white flame fell over the mountain, drenching it in a cleansing light, causing the entity to roar from the pain. Mightily, the sinister being shook the land to its foundation before it and its power disperses completely.
Exhausted, battered, beaten, and soaked in the rain, the wizard dropped to his knees, out of strength and will to move.
"I've never felt such evil," he whispered, resting under the warming sun showing past the drifting rain clouds.
"I must speak with the high council at once. We must find what manner of things were born to this to this world."
"We were not," a faint whisper responded in the blowing wind. Loren looked up, as a shadowy fire stood still in the entrance of the ancient kingdom.
"Leave this place. Your gods do not reside here," it ordered Loren.
"What are you?" the wizard asked, bewildered, trying to make sense of what stood before him.
"We," the presence repeated, as it split into three separate spirts of fire, "We are the sons of the stars; traversers of space and time, kings of the unknown kingdom. We rule over all things. We will not leave this place until your gods and everything you love burns away."
The wizard fell into despair.
"Be gone. Return to the Void," he strained, pleading with the fiery shadows. Sensing the wizard’s weakening state, the spirts twisted the air, creating a vast hurricane of ice. The heavenly body staggered to his feet, white-knuckling his swords.
"I am in their favor!" Loren cried,
"There is nothing above me but the gods!" he roared, stumping on the ground with all his might.
As he uttered these words, a tremendous blast erupted, shattering the earth. To meet the enchanter's attack, the dark forces unleashed its own. Soon enough, the two energies found themselves in the middle, engaged in a battle of wills. The cataclysmal encounter was intense; it wore Loren down to one knee, the strain ripping him apart bit by bit. The tow mighty forces fought for what felt like hours—but in truth, it only lasted but a mere moment, as the wizard began to buckle, and his swords split.
"Am I abandoned?" he muttered to himself, hanging on by a thread.
The darkness directed another wave of force at the faltering wizard so brute it crashed into him on all sides. It completely overtook the wizard; soon, he found himself flung from the cliff, into an abyss. Every bone in his body shattered into pieces on his way down, where he vanished into a gaping shadow.
Part Two- A Deal with Death
"Loren!" a high and mighty voice calls. "Open your eyes, Loren.”
On request, he opens his eyes to find himself standing on a long winding street, paved in gold, with fields of tall green grass on each of its sides. Looking up, the wizard finds the sun bearing down on him from a clear sky. His hands moved about his frame meticulously, checking for wounds. Remarkably, he is completely healed, and armor repaired.
"Who has called on me?" Loren inquired while looking up to the heavens above, clouds of smoke descending from the sky to the street. Out of the plums, a shadow walked in the shape of a tall man, made from holy white lights of the Gods themselves.
"It is I, Bormethous, that has brought you here to the crossroads,"
"Why have you disrupted me, Bormethous? Do you not know that I am on a mission and do not wish to be disturbed until it is complete?" the blond-haired guardian responded.
"Save your agitation, you were brought here as a result of your own actions."
"My actions?" he inquired. "We have not heard a word from you in months. The council grows impatient waiting for your return. Where have you gone, Loren?”
"Months? My mission was completed long ago," he hesitantly mumbled to himself. "Where am I?"
Loren paused for a moment. His mind searched for an answer to what should be a simple question.
"I do not know, I don't know where I am, but I may be dead," his voice trembled on the last of his words.
"Speak plainly, Loren, for I do not understand", the figure of the light responded.
Growing more agitated, the guardian balled his hands into a fist.
"An evil, full of hate and fury, a malignant force, a rival to the falsity himself, has found a foothold in this world. They were singularly minded in the destruction of the Gods and the mortal world".
"That cannot be. There are none that are equal to that of the monstrosity."
Loren stepped under the shadow’s figure.
"That is what they want us to believe, Bormethous. A scheme can only work if none are watching. But I felt them. Their anger and blood lust is real. They must be dealt with before they become too strong. Send as many as you can, as you soon as you can, or this malevolent force will be far more difficult to contend with."
"Such things do not exist in the mortal realm. If you say you have failed, it is because you lack power and commitment, not because some hidden figures conjured up in your mind.”
Loren stared sternly at Bormethous as he ascended back into the heavens, seething with hot anger.
"I will not abandon this world, Bormethous. If it means going against you and the authority of the others, I will do so with all the power I have left in me," the guardian cried in rebuke.
The shade made of holy light stopped ascending to look down on Loren.
“Awaken,” he said, benevolently.
As if lighting caught his body, Loren jolted back to the mortal realm with an echoing howl of pain. Coming to his senses, he found himself naked, lying on a stone altar, surrounded by candles. Sitting upward on the platform, the anxious guardian once again ran his hands over his body, revealing a once-perfect physique depleted of muscle and covered in healed scars. He frantically searches his face; as he does, his fingers run the course of a deep gash, positioned diagonally from his head down to the thick blond beard.
"I am alive, but have been mutilated," he mumbled, as tears ran down his boney cheek.
"Why do you cry, son of the light?" the soft, alluring voice of a woman asked. Loren wiped away his tears.
"Who is there?" he responded, frighteningly.
"You would not know my name, son of the light. But, be still, you have no need to fear. I will not harm you."
"Yet, you are hidden from me."
"No, not hidden. I am here if you wish to find me. All you must do is follow the path before you."
Loren peered down at the stone steps, lined with glowing crystals on each side.
"Yes, come to me…"
The fluctuation in her voice was unsettling. But Loren had nowhere else to go; there was not much more room on the altar, and no other way out. He descended gingerly, nearly buckling under his own meager weight. But even the smallest movements stole his breath and energy.
“How long have I been asleep?"
"Forty human days."
"Ah, no wonder my body has fallen into this state," he said, with heavy breathing.
Cringing from the pain, he slowly took the steps down one foot after the other, as if a child learning to walk. Pushing onward with great difficulty, he reached to the bottom of the steps. To his own surprise, he discovered a magnificent, albeit upkept, courtyard.
"Magnificent," he said in astonishment of the grand sight.
The courtyard was lined with exquisite pillars of diamond clung to by coiling fruit veins. White stone paths weaved through gardens of blooming flowers of gold. Loren was drawn to a particular diamond sculpture of a man holding two books in each of his hands—a significant presence at the center of the courtyard’s most extensive garden.
"What is this place? I've never felt such magic in the air before," he said, with a trembling voice after placing his hand on the statue.
"Do not fear, Loren; all you must do is come to me."
Her soothing voice was an unescapable attraction, so great that left Loren unable to disobey, even though the sense of her sinter eyes gazing down on him sent chills down his spine.
"I'm coming," he responded, leaving the courtyard.
The frail guardian soon found himself making his way through extravagantly built corridors. They were made of rare metals and stone, with abandoned libraries holding ancient text and scrolls that stretched with no end, and mausoleums. He continued for hours with no spoken words from his guide, until he reached two doors the size of mountains. One door was made of black rock, and the other was made of white rock. Skulls of various races were carved into both door sides, numbering in billions.
"I am here," Loren whispered.
The doors pulled open gradually. Not knowing what to expect, Loren shielded his face with his arm.
"You came to see me. Why do you hide now? Lower your guard, Loren", she directed forcefully.
He followed her orders reluctantly, dropping his arm to his side. There, resting on a white throne, was a youthful-looking woman, as large as two mountains. Her skin was whiter than snow, and it sparkled like the stars in the night sky. Her thick lips were so red they appeared black, and her eyes had the characteristics of a serpent. Her long, straight, pitch-black hair matched her silk dress made of jade perfectly.
"Come closer," she said, no longer in a soothing voice, but rather menacing—so much so that it erected apprehension from Loren.
But the spell had been cast, and he could no longer turn away.
Loren continued further into cross the threshold of the door to enter a room made of porcelain.
"Yes, come to me," she grinned, gleaning at him with her sharpened teeth.
He stopped several feet away from the foot of her throne, noticeably scared of her.
"I will offer you one question, son of light, to help you put your mind at ease,"
Looking into silvers of her serpent-like eyes, he spoke with a stuttering tongue.
"Who are you?"
The woman rested her head upon her knuckle, slouching in her throne, "What an annoying question, Loren. Are you sure you won't ask me something else?”
"I do not know if I am disappointed in your question, or at the fact that I have been forgotten in the higher realm. They have certainly never forgotten me in the mortal one, though," she chuckled. “It is unsettling in its own way, but it is to be expected. You are, after all, immortal creatures."
Leaning backward into her throne, she slammed her fists into the armrest, shaking the entire room as if in a ripple effect.
"You are in the Kingdom of the Dead, and I am its ruler, Death."
Loren clutched his chest as a feeling of great pain overcame him.
"If you are Death, and I am in your kingdom, then am I dead?"
She laughed at the distress on his face.
"No, son of light, you are not. I saved you by bringing you here to recover."
"Why?" Loren asked, perplexed.
She rushed forward in her throne, her temper flaring, knocking him to the floor. "Why must there be a reason!” she shouted.
Cowering, he lowered his head in submission.
"Forgive me if I offended you."
She leaned back, now harboring a smile on her face. "You are not wrong; I did not bring you here out of the kindness of my black heart."
"I have been here caring for the disgraced dead, who were neither accepted by the gods nor thrown to the false king. It is the job given to me, and I do it without fail. However, after eons, I have grown lonely. I need someone to sit by my side, and I have found that someone in you.”
"You are mistaken. I am The Guardian sent by the gods, and I cannot stay here."
"You owe me a debt. Will you not honor it?
Loren rose to his feet. "Why me?"
"Why not you, Loren?"
"May I ask one last thing of you?"
"Anything. You are mine, and I am yours now"
"Allow me to go back to the mortal realm. Allow me to finish my mission, please."
Death's temper flared again.
"Do you think me foolish? I know you would not return to me if I let you leave."
Her voice is so powerful, the room cracked. Loren got down on one knee,
"On my honor and on the gods, I will return," he screamed. "Just give me this one thing!"
"Do not lie to me Loren. I will destroy all the realms to find if you do not return."
"Does this mean you will let me finish my mission?"
"I will. We will have all eternity to spend together. What is a moment compared to that?" she said, with an ominous smile. "Eternity never ends.”
Part three- A Hero's Redemption
Set free from Death's lifeless hands to complete his final task, the once great and powerful Loren now stood frail, weakened, and without the blessings of the gods he once held so dearly. He rose from the cold, rocky ground in his cracked and broken armor, and looked up the mighty mountains peak. He took a deep breath, and begun his treacherous climb up the mountain pass once more. The way was steep and jagged, but Loren, using nothing but sheer willpower to make it to the top, started his journey in an attempt to destroy his enemies and regain his honor.
When Lorne finally made it to the mountain's summit, he could feel the dark energy radiating from his foe. He focused on the power within him, and his eyes began to glow a bright blue while staring down his enemy. The two sinister forces clashed, causing earthquakes as far as the Wondering Ocean. Their powers were strong enough to make villages thousands of miles away crumble, cities fall, and trenches tear apart from the earth. The foul voices of hate carried in the howling winds, calling on damnation's name to strike against the wizard, taking the ascending jagged steps spiraling up the ice-covered mountains' side.
"Back, you foul beings, you will not break me!" Loren roared, with words of power that angered the dark forces mounting against him.
Their corrupt tongues spewed shadow magic, manipulating nature forces, and causing a bolt of fire to crash against the mountain.
An avalanche of rock tumbled toward Loren. He quickly placed his hand heavenward, erecting a powerful light to protect him from the falling rocks. He managed to ward off their attack, encouraging himself.
"Give me light!"
The sun beck to his call, its light cutting past the shadows, burning against the evils. Their blood-churning screams were heard in highest parts of the higher realms, to the deepest parts of the lightless void. The entities momentarily retreated, giving a reprieve to Loren. He fell to his knees, trying to breathe in the air that would not seem to take to his body. Over the noise of his heavy panting and the cutting wind, he could hear the approach of footsteps. He could barely climb back to his feet when out of a haze of fog, the gray fleshed Orcs of the Stone Kingdom charged at him with steel axes and swords.
Loren clenched his right hand, creating a sword made of holy light that he used to plunge past the first orc's dense armor made of stone and steel, through to its board chest.
Yanking free, he sliced the second attacker across the face, releasing blood spray before his limp body fell off of the side. The third orc, more abundant and stronger, with four muscular arms, bared down Loren with a mighty swing, crushing one of the steps after the guardian leaped back down a level.
"Come, guardian, let me crush your spirit," he snarled with murderous intent.
"You will try," Loren replied, with a weak voice.
Using his left hand, he motioned toward him with a flick of his wrist, two shards of lighting crash into the unsuspecting orcs body tearing him in half. The severed orc released a squeal of pain as it toppled over at the waist. Mustering up his strength, the guardian leaped across the gap to the higher level, nearly slipping back and off the ice-covered stone before catching himself. He slumped over, resting his body against the wall of the mountain in the cooling rain.
"Help me, please help me, I need just a little of your strength. Is that too much to ask?" Loren begged with a whimper.
He waited for a response, but heard no answer given to his pleads, to his calls for mercy, to his appeal for some resemblance of help from the gods of light. Tears of suffering fell from his eyes, flowing down the scared terrain of a once perfect face.
The wretched shouts and calls from orcs alerted the hunched guardian to their arrival.
"Get up, they're coming," he said, pushing himself from the wall.
"Everything, I will give them everything." Clenching his right hand together, the sword of light appeared again. He took a fighting stance; a host of orcs charged down the spiraling steps, meeting the guardian in violent combat.
Loren fought with every ounce he had left. He cut, hacked, and clawed his way up inch by inch, level by level, for hours. Though the battle-tested orcs never managed to stab him cleanly, their attacks on his meager body—arms sliced, legs punctured, ribs shattered—attested to their desperate attempt to bring him down in the blood-soaked battle.
It was not until the moon swallowed the sun that the bloodied wizard merged onto the snowy plains of the mountain peak. To his dread, he found a serpent made of fire coiling for miles around the ridges, but it was not stagnant; rather, it moved with a quickening pace.
The fiery serpent was made up of millions upon millions of armored orcs bearing torches in the dark. Their route was that of the forgotten Ancient stone Kingdom. The terrifying army marched to the trumpets' tune, beating drums, horns, and whispers of forbidden magic.
"An army, the fiends created an army," Loren lamented full of anger.
"Yes," a low, gruff voice answered from the shadows.
Loren quickly called forth his sword,
"Who speaks from the obscurity?" he demanded.
"It is I, Vlog, the span of Zar, grandson of Gorm the Mighty. Welcome guardian, to my domain."
Stepping from the darkness was a towering Orc, about eight feet tall. The menacing black armor that he adorned on his chest, shoulders, and thighs had sharpened eight-inch long spikes protruding outward. The armor itself clung to his flesh by deep embedded hooks, while a mask carved into the shape of a skull harmed into his head with nails hid in his face. Two sizeable black ivory horns signifying his power stuck out from the forehead region of the mas.
"My masters are here. Do you feel them, son of light?" Vlog asked sarcastically, staring upward toward the moon.
"I sense the corruptions, their filthy pollutes this land with a sickness I can't ignore."
Vlog smiled at Loren, his pierced lips dripped in blood as his long fangs dug deep into them.
“They told me that once I kill you, I will lead this army in the massacre of this world. They trust me so much, it brings me joy, and so I want to honor such faith by wearing your skin on my armor when I ride into battle."
Loren cringed, hearing such evil.
"Come then, let's not keep your master waiting."
Vlog lifted a shield the size of two human men from the snow with his two left hands. He grabbed a serrated blade double the size of the guardian with his two right hands.
"Let none say I gave in to the whims of evil!"
With reckless abandonment, Loren rushed the powerful figure who sprinted toward him as well. The two forces met in the middle, with Vlog knocking his shield into Loren. The guardian whence on impact, spewing blood from his mouth and nostrils. Vlog swung left with his blade, but with some mobility still left in him, Loren rolled away—though not without the shockwave of the swing knocking the air from his lungs. Vlog growled as he slammed the shield toward the earth, shattering the ground and knocking Loren back even further. Using his magic, Loren managed to rip rock from the cliff side. He threw it at the orc, who managed to deflect the attack with his shield.
"Foolish guardian, I will eat your liver for breakfast,"
Vlog yelled after swinging his sword and, although slow, his strikes were sturdy and relentless.
Loren, with his frame breaking down further, was barely able to dodge the attacks. Out of desperation, he sent a volley of lighting shards toward the orc. Vlog stumped against the snow, putting a shield of stone to deflect the lightning bolts. Loren, in turn, used the distraction to sprint in close, cutting the orc at the stomach and wrist.
Vlog cried out with a booming shout.
Loren hit him again at the stomach, but it sent the mighty orc into a fit and, catching the guardian below him, Vlog head-butted him into the earth with a resounding thud. His equilibrium off, Loren tried his best to crawl away.
"Yes, you can try running away, little guardian, but you will find no salvation."
Suddenly, with a swift, clean swing of his sword, Vlog severed the guardian's right arm from his body.
Loren let out blood-tingling screams, as Vlog laughed, enjoying his suffering.
With tears and blood pouring from his eyes, Loren mustered the last bit of life left in him to crawl to Vlog’s left leg.
"This is not befitting a guardian of this world, master wizard. What do your gods think?"
Hunkering at the base of the orc's leg, Loren looked up at the full moon with a smile from cheek to cheek.
"Come, come to my side, my dearest Loren," the sweet soothing voice of Death called.
"Once more!" Loren blurted out.
With a flick of his left hand, a lighting shard plunged into the gut of the cackling Vlog.
"Master!" Vlog squealed.
With blind fury, the three entities brought all their force down on Loren, who had brought forth a sword of holy light in his left hand.
“Now I can leave," Loren whispered.
He spiked it into the earth, as an explosion of energy destroyed the mountains, the army, and the dark entities shaking the entire universe. When Loren opened his bright blue eyes, he was not in the higher realm, but sitting beside Death in her throne room. The guardian's body was healed, with his armor restored, and a crown made of light on his head.
"They were not destroyed, but their army was defeated and sent back to the Void from whence they came. You have done well, son of the light."
End of story.