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The Inner Demons of Morgan Cromwell

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I don't remember what god or what goddess it was I served. The life that I once lived is mine no longer. Whoever finds this parchment and reads what has befallen me, know that I am at peace... but that peace came at a terrible cost. Do not disturb my final resting place, lest what claimed my life escapes me!

I wrote those words as calmly as a man writing his own epitaph could. Any moment, I knew my past would catch up to me. Any moment, the grim ones would find me and take me to Hades forever. How did it come to this moment? I had wondered as I lay in the cold cellar of the ruined tower, awaiting my end, with my sword clutched tightly in my hands.

It seems a lifetime ago that I had broken from the brothers and sisters of the order to which I belonged. Unable to keep a vow of chastity, my soul was stolen by a beauty not of our deity but of the flesh, in the form of a maid I met whilst serving the good of a small town called Easthaven. She was not that beautiful; more of a tomboy than a lady such as most men desire... but she did something no lady of any court ever had before: she touched my heart, though my vows denied we could love one another. That was how I came to break my vows...

Her name was Gwen. A simple name, for a simple lass. Many a Gwen lived in many a village as backwoods as her own, and many more still dreamed as she did of seeking excitement abroad. I offered her all she dreamed of and more, and in turn she offered me her heart and more. It was on that morrow, after our first night together, that I turned my back upon my former life, and the light as well as the dark which it consisted of.

We ventured into the nearby woods, so that my former comrades would never see us depart. They would stay in that village to protect it. They would do a fine duty indeed! But would they miss my presence? I doubted it. Gwen seemed to know these woods passing well, and a strange forcefulness overcame her the deeper we tread 'neath the canopy of green, growing into a darksome color as we went along the scant trails which it seemed had been made more for animals than men and women to walk. I asked her where we were going, for it occured to me that she had some plan beyond mine of eluding my former order. She would look at me strangely whenever I spoke thusly to her and a glimmer of wicked purpose filled her eyes. What was it?

I was swiftly to discover the fell answer to my curiosity when she took my arm and very nearly dragged me along a very old trail which seemed adorned on the ground with broken cobblestones in various places. In the distance, ruins filled a clearing and in thir midst I spied an ancient stone tower. Gwen was taking me to that tower, and my heart was loath to allow it. Soon, my eyes confirmed what my heart feared! For in the clearing, amidst all the rubble, a great many piles of bones, skeletons of men in knightly garb not unlike my own and mayhap once led along the same old path to their doom. Ivy and mold clung to them, but their forms were vivid. Fresh blood and fresh dead were near the tower. I tried to break free of my beloved's grasp but it was impossible! She was something else now: a force of nature, perhaps... or a force of death.

With her free hand, she cast open the wooden door of the tower and then hurled me inside with the other. When I asked her what she was doing, she said with malice in her eyes: "You shouldn't have witheld from me the truth about your past! Did you think I could not see into your very soul? That is one of my powers, and not the least mighty! In there, you will find either empty and forsaken ruins, or the evil you deny."

The door was closed and locked fast. I could not escape, and all that kept me from darkness was the time of day, for sunlight filtered in through cracks in the walls and ceiling, illuminating an empty chamber, square as the tower it was in and full of the shadows which grew in length and form as hours fled.

Hours? Soon it would be afternoon. Then nightfall! I searched the walls in a frantic fright as behind me or out of the corner of my eye faint forms began to manifest out of the stuff of those shadows which grew with the hours. The voices of these forms was as faint as they themselves, but grew as they had become more solid. Cloaked and hooded, with skeletal faces and red, piercing eyes. Like wraiths, they were, but a great deal more terrifying! "You are ours, Morgan Cormwell, paladin no more! You were always ours! Remember what it is you were before joining the knights of that righteous order? You lied to them, you lied to that maiden, and you lied to yourself! Let us help you to remember... remember... remember..."

The Prince of Lies was my deity, and long was it since I sold my soul to him for love of a woman. Cyric was not a kind god, nor one to allow a man to escape any bargain made to him. Once I was pledged to him, it was too late...

"Gwen... her name was Gwen. Remember!"

said the voices. And I remembered now! The woman who led me to the tower was the same who drove me into darkness. That was why I joined the order and became a paladin of the light... to be forgiven my sins and given redemption.

"But how could you imagine that even a god of light could redeem you, Morgan? Her blood is yet fresh upon your soul if not your hands... remember her now?" And I remembered having slain her, in my madness at the time blaming her for the loss of my soul. This was after I joined the order... after I was sworn to protect the innocent and uphold law and virtue in the land. This was why I was now thrice damned! Her spirit had returned for vengeance, and roused my innermost demons from their slumber.

Knowing I was near my end, I did pen my epitaph on a piece of parchment which I had with me. I had enough ink for my quill, enough just to finish it and warn others who might stumble into this place wherein I was being rightly tormented. I remember! I said to those ghostly fiends who haunted me. Now let your justice be swift, and done before nightfall. At which they surrounded me like a pack of wolves, their breath as ice and their terrible eyes upon me... piercing into my soul. I heard at once the door upon and Gwen came in. Little had I known she was not of this world! I could have saved myself this doom. But, alas, it was not meant to be! she came forward and touched her hands to my face. There was blood upon them and I was wearing it like the warpaint of a savage! "Your comrades are no more, sir knight." she said matter-of-factly to me. "Only one god are you obliged to, now and forever more. And his name is Cyric!" You sent me to him, that I may return from death to bring you back to his service once more. Leave this hall of the dead, sir knight, and depart of these woods. Never again shall the way to this tower be open to you, unless I ever see you fail to serve our master. Then, I will return and bring you back here to remind you whom we serve. Now, will you dedicate your service to the Black Sun as of old? Or do you intend to persist in the folly of redemption! Answer me that, Morgan Cromwell. Thou knight of nothing! Answer me, now..."

I answered her by shedding tears. I wept, not for myself, but for having brought a once-innocent soul as Gwen's to this fate. She seemed ready to tear me asunder but then with the last light of the afternoon, a bright illumination filled the chamber and all the wraiths of death fled from it. Gwen's eyes, at once became filled with sorrow and not hatred any longer. Her face twisted at one moment into an evil grin, mocking her beauty as the voice of evil Cyric bellowed forth from her: "No! He is my servant, Lathander! Now is not thy own hour, it is not yet dawn! Let me take what is mine... let me..." And just as suddenly, her face was her own again. She was saying... "I see into his soul and know he is truly repented! Let me forgive him for taking my life... let me..." and the voice of a sweet youth called out: "Enough! Morgan Cromwell, all that you have done was for love. All, save the life you took. That, you took out of fear. But I am a forgiving god, and if you pledge your soul to me instead of Cyric, I will redeem you."

Lord Lathander, forgive me! Thusly was how I wept at the sound of that gentle voice, more lovely than anything that I had heard in my life. Thusly was how my voice pledged itself to him, the god of my order, whom I had forgotten during the long hours of my torment at Cyric's hands. My soul is yours, Morninglord! Redeem me my sins. And at once Gwen was filled with Lathander's spirit. She had the light of the sun in her eyes, and I closed mine, unable to look into them. I felt her kiss me, and I felt warmth like no other. She grasped my arm and cast me from the tower. The door shut and sealed itself of it's own accord. I opened my eyes and tried to open that door once again. Gwen! I shouted, my tears choking my voice. "Leave her be, my son, for she is long dead. Let her lie in that place, for did ye not know it was her tomb?" I turned around, to see who spoke to me. It was an old man leaning hard upon an oaken staff. I did not know, old man. This I said to him and he chuckled, kicking one of the murdered knights out of the way as he came closer to me. "Begone from here, Morgan Cromwell, knight of Lathander. Leave the dead with the dead, and let me take you somewhere where the living have need of ye!" I asked him his name and proceeded to wipe the blood from my face with a cloth I tore from the shirt I wore 'neath my armor. "Elminster. Of Shadowdale, if you've heard of it out in this place I've seen on no maps of Faerun compiled in civilized lands. Of course, likely it is, you've not. Rural folk can be like that. Not that where I hail from it's not rural, but you know what I mean, eh lad? At any rate, the Realms need heroes always. If you keep your heart true, I can introduce you to some folks who could put your sword to use for truly worthy causes. What say you, lad?" I agreed to accompany him to Shadowdale. There was nothing left for me in Easthaven any longer, and I was in need of new friends since everyone I had known before was now dead. Perhaps this Elminster knew something of what had befallen me, for it was odd that he knew my name. I would have to ask him of that on the way to the Dalelands. I have heard of Shadowdale. And soon it would come time to see it for myself. Would Lathander keep me safe from my past... or would Cyric stop at nothing to claim my soul? Only time would tell.

"Morgan Cromwell, thereafter, was obliged to fight in the service of the defence of the Dales against the dark forces of Zentil Keep. He fell in the defence of the innocents of that land and was laid to rest secretly by but a single loyal squire and the mage known as Elminster. It was said he was lain within a ruined tower in an old haunted wood in a land not on any map. Often a solitary adventurer might pass it by, and notice in passing the inscription upon the wooden door, upon a pure gold plaque: - Here lies Morgan Cromwell, a knight of Lathander, and his beloved Gwen, a maiden of Easthaven. May they rest in Lathander's paradise, free of the dark doings of this world. - It is said the plaque glows with the setting sun and at the dawn, and blinds those who would attempt to open that door. All around the tower lie the bones of fallen knights, and those who venture near it respectfully are said to incur the protection of their spirits whilst others, of evil intent, are never seen again. This humble scrible, has never seen the tomb, nor found it's location to know if this legend is true. But it is my opinion that it is not simply a rural folk legend, but inspired by an actual event. I have visited the mage Elminster on one occasion to ask him of it and he showed me the parchement that is mentioned in the tale. That... plus historical records of Morgan's time in Shadowdale's service, as well as those records of his death and burial lead me to belive, as so many of my colleagues do, that all of this acutally happened."

- From "A Haunted History of the Dales" by noted scribe and traveller, Volo. An obscure volume only recently discovered to be a very popular work in Waterdeep.

A Fan Fiction, by Chaos_Theocrat

The Inner Demons of Morgan Cromwell © Chaos_Theocrat

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