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Tales of Mystrum - The Arrival (Prologue)

Author: 
Psycho Circus
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
297

Prologue



Sliding from the multi-colored mists surrounding the mystic portal was a wizened old man, with long, flowing white hair, and a snowy white beard. As he stepped forth into this new world, pulling the length of his dark purple robes up, he looked out across the fertile grassy expanse of land, sighting on the village just over the rise. He smiled, nodding in silent satisfaction at his arrival to this place. The magical aura was strong, indeed, here, just as it had been when he’d first decided to come here from Earth, a realm almost totally devoid of magic.



Yes, this place would serve well as his new home. Wrapped deep in his cloak, the heft of the huge sword slowed his pace a bit as he walked towards the village. He could feel its magical energies twining about themselves, building up strength. Sighing, he waved his hands, muttering an incantation to cast a spell of lightenment on the heavy blade. Blue magical energy flowed from his fingertips and enshrouded the outline of the sword hidden deep in his cloak. After it subsided, the weight decreased greatly, allowing his robes to be worn a bit straighter.



Soon, he was at the top of the rise, where a procession of people took notice of him. One being, appearing almost as a child, so thin and fine boned was he, stepped forward from the group, a short slim fellow with long chestnut brown hair, and asked, “Can we help you, sir? I don’t recall seeing you here before. Are you lost?” The being’s dark brown eyes glittered with kindness, and his delicately pointed ears protruded ever so slightly from beneath his hair.



The old wizard chuckled softly, and replied, “An elf, of all beings, an elf!” He looked the elf over rather thoughtfully, scrutinizing his fine features and pointed ears carefully. “I take it that you are full grown, yes?”



Eyes shining with mild amusement, the elf responded, “Yes, I am full grown, though I am still a bit young.” He wasn’t sure of what to think of this old human, dressed in dark purple robes, carrying a long staff, with a shiny chrome-like sphere at the end of it.



The old mage touched his face thoughtfully, eyes glazing slightly with the look of far away thought. “Young...I was young once. And I will be again...though that will be a long, long time away.” He glanced back down at the elf, then up at the rest of the group.



There were eight in all; four elves and four humans, among which were two female elves and two female humans. The old magician studied them each in turn, and then said to the only member of the party to have thus far spoken, “I never thought I’d ever truly see an elf, though I have foreseen it. This place must be truly special, indeed, my young friends.” He rapped his staff against the soft grass as he centered himself among the group. “And, my gentle beings, just where is it you are going?” The gleam in his eye could have been mischief, or madness.



The mixed group of travelers looked at each other in confusion, then the one that had been speaking so far said, “We are headed to Trahn, a very small community south of here.” He drew himself up, obviously expecting a bad reaction to his next statement. “We are adventurers. We are going to help out as many of the people in Trahn as we can from the raiding orcs, trolls, and griffins.”



The old man’s eyes grew very wide, and he began laughing, which quickly escalated into a high-pitched shrieking cackle. He fell to his bottom on the ground, rolling over and over as he fought to restrain his mirth. The group looked at each other as all their faces flushed hot with embarrassment.



After several long minutes, the old man rose shakily, still chuckling. Wheezing for breath, he sputtered, “Orcs, trolls, and griffins, eh? Well, my young friends, if there be elves, then I guess there be orcs, trolls, and griffins as well!” He headed off, walking due south a few paces, then stopped, looking back at the flustered group.



“Well, what are you waiting for?” he shouted. “We have a gaggle of orcs, trolls, and griffins to get rid of for this little town of yours! Let’s not keep those poor, good souls waiting!” He turned and continued on his way, muttering and waving his arms about rather madly, seemingly oblivious to the group of adventurers now.



The rest of the group looked at each other again, then plodded out after the old crazy man, heads bowed, faces determined. Occasionally, one would look at the other as if to ask if this was a bad idea. The look they received was always pained, but full of curiosity, despite themselves.



After several hours of walking, night finally drew near, and the band of adventurers, along with the old man, decided to make camp. Aurich, the elf with the long chestnut brown hair, was intrigued by this old codger, despite his peculiar behavior. Lenae, his fair-haired sister, was less than enthused by him. Chaz, the stern gray elf, thought idly about what would happen if he cut his throat, except for there was a feeling of great power about this old wrinkled human that evoked primal fear in him, as well as the rest of the group.



Fiora, the dark haired wood elf, considered him like an elf that had reached the age of about eleven hundred years or so, a bit addle-brained at best. She was irritated, but other than, she wasn’t overly bothered by him.



Jaman, the wiry brown haired human, felt like he could learn a thing or two from the old goat, if he was indeed a wizard. Dina, the blonde human, and Lara, the black haired human, both felt he was probably senile, and a bit “touched” by the One in a special way that normal people were not. Morag, the red haired swordsman, big, beefy, and strong, felt that at best, the old goat was an escaped patient of some healer that had been mind wiped, or worse.



Having learned all their names as they had walked, the old man had learned quite a bit about each as they had traveled. They were all getting pretty suspicious, as would anyone faced with the same circumstances. The only problem was that none of them knew exactly how to breach the subject with the old man. Finally, a resolution presented itself. As he prepared the fire, Jaman asked him, “Sir, you still have not told us your name. Are you a wizard, perhaps one that we might have heard of?”



The gleam returned to the old man’s eyes, that spoke of both mischief and madness it seemed, and he answered, “A wizard? Why, yes I am, young Jaman. One of the strongest wizards to be found in my homeland, I was...or am...or shall be. It is truly hard to keep track of these days.” His eyes got that far away look again, for a moment, then he said, “My name is a rather simple one, my children. It is rather doubtful that you have heard it. I, my young companions, am Merlin.”



Lara poked at the fire with her short sword, stirring up sparks that wafted off into the darkening sky. “I have never heard your name mentioned before, venerable sir. Are we to take it that you are of renown?” Her tone sounded doubtful at best. His name didn’t sound anything like any name she’d ever heard before, neither local, nor from any traveler that passed through Wynon.



Merlin’s eyes twinkled yet more, and he asked, “Do any among you study the Arcane Arts of Magic?” He eyed each in turn, waiting for a response. The firelight reflected in those eyes that burned with either genius or madness, and in the chrome sphere atop his staff as well, which he waved about with in seemingly random sweeps of his arms.



The question took the group of adventurers completely by surprise, given the way things were. Anyone would know the answer to that without having to ask, they all thought. Dina shook her long blonde hair behind her shoulder, her deep blue eyes finding Merlin’s. “A strange question, honored one. Of course there are some among us who study magic. Nearly everyone in the world knows a few spells, at least.” Her eyes flashed with something like a mixture of fear, contempt, anger, and a compassion for a warped, crazy old man.



“Easy, Dina,” soothed Aurich. “Sir Merlin apparently has forgotten this tiny bit of useless information by now, as I’m sure his magic is quite powerful for one of his years.” The veiled warning in his words was not lost on Dina. Aurich felt this insane old man was a powerful wizard, indeed, apparently. A glance at the rest of the group revealed that his words were not lost on them, either. Aurich was the most powerful wizard among them, and he himself was inexperienced at a great many things, to say the least. Aurich was only nineteen, very, very young for an elf indeed.



Aurich cast an uneasy glance over his companions. Judging from the looks on their faces, they agreed. No matter how crazy the old man seemed, he was in all likelihood a very, very powerful wizard. Merlin, however, seemed not to notice their unease in the slightest. He looked at all of them, smiling slightly, his eyes reflecting the orange light of the campfire.



Merlin stared at the group, which stared back at him in turn. It seemed a very odd sort of stalemate. When no one spoke, Merlin asked, “Come, come. Which among you are the strongest wizards?” His gaze swept over all of them, eyes glittering with that almost maniacal gleam. Finally, his eyes rested upon Aurich.



“I am one of them,” Aurich managed to get out in some semblance of calm, albeit a rather shaky calm. “I have practiced magic more than most of the others.” There, he’d said it. That cold, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach just grew deeper and colder. He didn’t know why, but he had the definite feeling he’d just laid his neck on the chopping block.



There was an uneasy stirring among the group as Aurich spoke. Jaman nervously offered, “And I as well.” From the look on his face, he was almost sick with worry over what would happen next. It was strange for the others to see normally easy going and friendly Jaman, everyone’s friend, being uneasy with even this deranged old man.



Merlin, however, seemed oblivious to their tension. Smiling, he leaned towards the two young men and said, “Show me your most impressive spells, my young mages. Fear me not, young ones,” he added. “For it is not my intention to harm you. I wish only to learn from you, and, perhaps, teach you something as well!”



Aurich and Jaman looked at each other, then at their companions. The thought Learn and teach? ran like quicksilver through their minds. Surely even this ancient one must be a very accomplished master of magic. His presence, his bearing, even his eyes screamed it for all to see and hear. After several long seconds, they decided Merlin wasn’t going to harm them. Now that everyone seemed a bit more at ease, Jaman stood up, uncertain at first.



After several seconds of thought, he spoke an incantation, waved his hands about, with thumbs touching and fingers spread, and arcs of flame leaped from his fingertips, scorching the leaves of several overhanging branches. A few moments later, the flames died down, leaving only a couple of dying embers glowing near the fire.



Merlin laughed, and clapped his hands heartily. “Very good! Very good, my young wizard!” The old man clasped Jaman’s shoulder in a surprisingly strong grip. “Now, young Aurich! Let’s see your spell!” He turned his attention to the elf with the attentiveness of a rabid theater fan in the first row at the last performance of the land’s greatest troupe in the area for years to come.



Concentrating, Aurich spoke his incantation and made the appropriate gestures, summoning the magical energies forth from deep inside himself. Suddenly, the camp was surrounded by nine elves, all identical to Aurich. Merlin eyed each, laughing and delighting in the fact that they all looked, acted, and moved exactly like the other eight.



“Wonderful! Simply wonderful, my young ones!” The old man patted Aurich on the back as his eight duplicates winked out of existence. “Most impressive, indeed! Rarely have I encountered such talent in ones so young!” He continued to cackle and laugh to himself for long moments, again seeming almost oblivious to the group.



Morag, though, did not seem so impressed with the old man. The young, but powerful warrior snorted derisively and shook his head, until he could take no more. He stepped towards him, his already rough voice gaining more edge with his skepticism. “They’ve shown you their magic, old man. You still haven’t shown us anything yet!” His hand rested comfortably on the hilt of his long, curved sword, clearly ready for a fight.



Merlin seemed nonplused, however, even as the rest of the party gasped in surprise, and Lara began to admonish him in hushed tones, her eyes widening as she watched Merlin stand. He merely laughed, and replied, “You’re right, my young warrior! It is only fair to let you see a touch of my power as well!” He seemed to be searching for something for a moment, as the group of adventurers looked on, then finally deciding he couldn’t find it, turned back to the red headed human.



The old wizard cackled, speaking in a strange language, and waved his hands about in intricate patterns. Four glowing spheres materialized about the old man, each about three feet in diameter. For all intents and purposes, they resembled will-o-wisps.



The globes slowly whirled past Morag and the others, moving like glowing insects across the land. Morag snorted in disgust, eyeing the old wizard harshly. He guffawed, “That’s a touch of your power? The Dancing Lights spell?” His laughter shook him all over, his light armor rattled as he slapped his leg. “One’s Blood, old man, even I can cast that one!”



Merlin smiled as the spheres floated away from him towards the row of trees beyond the campsite. He didn’t seem overly concerned with Morag’s obvious disdain for what he was seeing thus far. He simply asked, “But, my young Morag, does your spell do this?” The spheres were slowly circling a mighty oak tree.



The old man’s tone seemed rather odd. They each glanced at each other, wondering what he meant. Aurich stared at the spheres, and then his mouth dropped open. “Morag,” he said. “Those aren’t dancing lights. They look like...”



The four spheres seemed at that very moment to explode in a blaze of blue, large streaks of lightning lancing forward to strike the tree, effectively cutting it in half, sending it falling with its ends glowing in embers. The mighty tree seared and sizzled in the night, and when it hit the ground, it did so with a loud, low rumbling boom that carried for long moments after the tree had struck ground.



Morag’s face evinced a look of fear as the four globes struck out at the tree. He shouted, “Wow! Like lightning!” He glanced from the fallen tree back to the old wizard, who waved his hands, making the four globes disappear, in fairly obvious disbelief. Morag shook himself as if to assure himself he’d truly witnessed what he’d just seen. He gingerly walked up to Merlin, eyes wide with a mixture of fright, awe, and amazement.



The others were standing slack jawed in awe. None of them seemed capable of movement or speech. They stared at the tree, then at Morag, and finally at the old man. Merlin simply folded his arms across his chest and smiled at the group. Morag finally found his voice, “You, you are truly a powerful wizard!” The shock was very evident on his visage. He knelt at the old man’s feet. “How may I serve you, Lord Merlin?”



The rest of the group wasn’t sure about what to do next. This question seemed to spark something within them and they all began to clumsily move about. Some attempted to kneel; some fell to a sitting position in shock. Merlin frowned at them, then grabbed Morag by the arm, and with a strength not evident in his frame, hauled him to his feet. “I am no lord, nor do I want servants!” He began pacing among the group, waving his hands about, which caused the entire group to flinch with each gesture.



“I came here to find a new home, in a world with plenty of magical energy, where magic is not a dying art!” His eyes blazed with a fervor of the like never seen by the young adventurers. “I want to find a place to settle, where I can teach apprentices and further the Arcane Arts of Magic!” The power of conviction was in his words, the group could all agree to that. The old one was indeed passionate, this was for certain.



He rounded on the group again, eyes ablaze with magical energy and conviction. Most of the group shied away from the ferocity of the old one’s gaze. He didn’t seem malevolent, but he definitely seemed out of sorts. They didn’t wish to risk an explosion of temper, under any circumstances. Aurich looked at Jaman, who returned his glance. This was their chance. Jaman swallowed, then stammered, “S-sir, Aurich and I would like to b-be your a-appren-apprentices.” He shrank back from Merlin’s intense expression, fearing a violent response.



“Do you now?” asked the old mage. The wizard’s face softened, and his gaze cooled to a normal countenance. He stroked his beard thoughtfully, eyes getting that far-away look again, then replied, “I will have many apprentices here, many indeed...” Looking back at the boys, he continued, “Yes, yes! Very well, my young friends!”



The old wizard grabbed his staff, and started into the woods. The group stared at each other, then at the retreating wizard. Merlin stopped after several yards, turning back to face the group. “Well, what’s wrong? Did you forget how to walk? We have much work to do, much work!” The group dazedly began gathering their equipment. This adventure was turning out to be far more interesting and strange than any of them had anticipated.



Merlin laughed, a deep chuckle that rose in pitch. His feet plodded relentlessly over the ground, shaving distance off their trip in rapid strides. “Yes, yes! Much work indeed! Come along, now! We have orcs, trolls, griffins, and other assorted beasts to defeat! Much magic to explore!” He was once again walking off into the darkness. His voice, seemingly ranting, carried back to the group of adventurers as they followed after him in dazed shock.



Lara sidled up to Aurich as they followed the loudly expounding old human and asked in hushed tones, “Aurich, are you sure about this? This old man could kill us all in the blink of an eye!” She herself knew almost nothing of the arcane art, but she knew power when she saw it. Her face told Aurich that she indeed saw power in this old man, who was not quite what he seemed, it appeared.



Aurich looked first at Merlin, eyes intent, and then back at Lara, his expression set in determination. “More sure than I’ve ever been of anything in my life.” Aurich’s eyes spoke the tale. This ranting and raving old man had to be the most powerful magic user the world had ever seen. Surely such a force had to be for good?



Behind them, Aurich’s sister Lenae, her sharp ears catching the whispered conversation, shook her head slowly. The fair female elf didn’t share her brother’s optimism. She could only hope her brother knew what in the world he was doing.



*********



Four days had passed, and the group was once again at ease around the old wizard. Aurich and Jaman had begun their apprenticeship with Merlin, having learned much in the time they had spent together. The rest of the group had learned quite a bit as well, hesitantly at first, but becoming more relaxed as time passed.



Looking up, the group saw smoke from a chimney rising over the hill. Trahn was just over the rise. Morag, who had been complaining about his sore feet, said, “Finally! Now we can at least rest in an inn, instead of the blasted woods!” His pace seemed to quicken a bit, and he shook his feet with each step, humming a hearty war anthem as he plodded towards the small town.



Truth be known, the entire group, with the possible exception of Fiora, was looking forward to a bed, instead of a forest floor. The tired, hungry travelers smiled as they approached the little town, relieved that they wouldn’t be subjected to Morag’s incessant grumbling for a few days now, as they had for the entire trip thus far.



As they entered the tiny town, Chaz broke off from the rest of the group, his long sword drawn. As the rest took notice, Morag also drew his sword, and joined Chaz. Lara, Dina, and Fiora took protective positions around Aurich, Lenae, Jaman, and Merlin. Lenae, worry crossing her fair face, her blonde hair blowing in the gentle breeze, asked Dina in a whisper, “What is it? What’s wrong?”



Dina’s icy blue eyes scanned the trees around the road into the little town, and focused on a rooftop barely visible to the left. She whispered back to Lenae, “I don’t know for sure. But something has Chaz’s attention, and that means trouble.”



Lenae thought over what Dina had just said. It was true: Chaz’s instincts were very sharp for such a young elf. If he thought there was trouble, there was probably trouble. Silently, the remainder of the group listened intently, eyeing all the surrounding brush suspiciously. Time itself seemed to almost stop, as only the buzzing of small insects and the chirping of birds seemed to fade and disappear. The silence that followed was almost overpowering.



Suddenly, Morag’s voice thundered through the trees in a loud battle cry. Lara, Dina, and Fiora’s muscles tensed in anticipation, as sounds of a fierce battle rang out from the direction of the rooftop. The other warriors of the group gathered themselves and quickly began planning how to enter the fight without endangering the wizards. Merlin spoke up, “Perhaps the boys require help, my young friends! Quickly! Into the fray!” With that, he disappeared. Those remaining stared at the place where he had only seconds before been in open mouthed awe.



Finally, after collecting themselves, the rest of the group stumbled into the overgrown area of trees after gathering themselves from the stupor of amazement at Merlin’s power. They broke out into a clearing where Morag and Chaz battled eight skeletons and two giant scorpions. The two immense scorpion beasts were black, with stingers tinged with dull red, apparently from dried blood, and were screeching horribly. The skeletons gave the distinct impression of being true undead, for they glowed softly in the dim, overcast sunlight, and reacted with no pain to the strikes brought against them.



Before them, the battle lay in panoramic squalor. Morag swung his long sword through the midsection of a skeleton, evading the apparition’s savage sword thrust at his head. His blade cut through animated bone, severing the undead thing’s spinal cord. The undead creature shrieked in rage and clattered to the ground, a useless pile of bones. Morag yelled in triumph, his smile encouraging the advance of his companions.



Fending off a stinging attack from one of the giant scorpions, Chaz kicked the helmet off another of the skeleton warriors, effectively blinding the spirit. It stumbled about, swinging blindly at the sounds of its enemies. Dina swiped at it, taking its head from its body, reducing it to a pile as well. Chaz swung with strength belying his size. With his second stroke, the stinger was lopped off the end of the giant scorpion’s tail, sending it shrieking into what were apparently the ruins of a once great castle. The trail of blood was thick and horrid with stench.



Aurich, trembling, waved his hands before him as a skeleton advanced towards him. After he and the rest had entered the clearing, they had spread out to help their friends. His hands glowed, and then a burst of magical energy lanced outward from his hand to blow half of the skeleton away. The skeleton advanced one more foot forward, then collapsed into a heap of bones.



The remaining skeletons converged on the small group, fighting furiously with the skill of great swordsmen. The group of adventurers fought mightily against their supernatural opponents, slowly killing the frightening creatures. Morag, sighting Fiora, yelled, “Where in the Pit is Merlin?” His enemy fell into a scattered lump of bones as he hacked repeatedly at the thing. Each of the party was engaged with keeping their heads on their bodies as the skeletons slashed at them heavily.



Fiora, her own blade flashing quickly, parrying several attacks, shouted back, “I don’t know! He disappeared!” She ducked beneath a killing swipe at her head, swept the bony legs out from under the creature, and removed its head with a swift strike.



As Morag split his enemy in two, he muttered, “It figures! He’s just so powerful, he couldn’t fight like a man!” He stomped across the fallen thing, blade lifted, preparing to strike, when he suddenly realized the wind was blowing very hard.



The small group looked up, pausing in their battle, to see dark skies, and the old wizard Merlin on the roof of the ruins. The old man’s face was dark with power, eyes flashing. His voice was booming, incredibly loud, as he waved his hands about his head, speaking in a strange tongue, casting a spell of unbelievable proportions.



The little clutch of adventurers covered their ears as thunder boomed loudly above them, and scrambled for cover as lightning blasted the remaining skeletons and scorpion into ashes. When the smoke cleared, they all shakily stood, gaping in awe at the old wizard.



“By the One, what happened?” asked Dina, brushing her hair back behind her shoulders. She was scraped up a bit, bleeding from about four scrapes. The others were scratched up as well. Her gaze flowed over everyone, clearly rattled.



Chaz, brushing grass out of his long silver hair, replied, “Some kind of spell, I guess. One I’ve never seen before.” He sheathed his sword, and moved towards the entrance of the ruins. Nothing else seemed ready to leap at them from the ruins, or from the woods surrounding it. “Let’s go see what we can find!” His enthusiasm was evident, and catching.



Shaking her head, Lenae spoke out, “But wait! It could be dangerous!” She pointed to the lump of ashes that once was a gargantuan scorpion. “The other one of these things ran in there!” She trembled, obviously not wanting to come face to face with the injured and enraged scorpion.



The others followed with their eyes to where Lenae gestured, sobering as understanding sank in. Finally, Lara spoke, dark eyes flashing, “Lenae is right! We mustn’t allow our victory here go to our heads! We must be careful!” She cautiously approached the opening of the ruins with an air of apprehension. The rest followed behind cautiously.



Jaman glanced back at Merlin, who simply smiled and shrugged, and followed the rest of the party inside. He could smell the sharp odor of decay strongly as he crept into the long deserted building.



Inside, Aurich led the way, a pale blue light illuminating the way ahead of him. The old and moldy furniture, scattered and broken, reeked with decay, animal droppings, and only the One knew what else. The trail the wounded scorpion had taken through the catacombs was evident; furniture was overturned, making them reek anew of mold, decay, and age. There was also, of course, the trail of black blood, barely visible in Aurich’s blue light.



Morag, headstrong as always, headed straight down the corridor, venturing deeper into the ancient castle. Fiora, headstrong as Morag, followed quickly behind. Noticing their departure, with only Morag’s hastily lit candle and Fiora’s low light vision to lead them, Lara called, “Morag, Fiora, wait! There could be trouble down there!”



Merlin, sighing with wizened experience, said, “Rest easy, young Lara. It has been my experience that those gifted in the arts of warfare rarely think with their heads, only with their weapons.” He got that faraway look again. “The only truly thinking warriors I’ve ever encountered were Arthur, and his Knights of the Round Table.”



Lenae, looking at Merlin as though he was blanking out again, asked, “Who is Arthur? I’ve never heard of him before.” Even his name sounded otherworldly, for no one she knew ever mentioned a name as foreign as that one. She still had a couple of reservations about their new friend, it seemed.



Merlin, starting down the corridor after the two warriors, his staff radiating a bright light, replied, “It’s very doubtful you would ever have heard of him, young one. Arthur was the King of Britain, a very wise and benevolent ruler.” His eyes seemed to mist over as they advanced down the dark corridor.



“I would be honored if you would tell us a few tales of this noble Arthur,” said Aurich, passing Merlin and his sister. “Only, let’s try to live through this long enough first.” With a last glance behind him, he headed into the corridor after his friends, the look of determination in his eyes not lost on the old man.



Dina, sword drawn, and Lara, sword also drawn, followed Chaz as he passed the four wizards and advanced down the corridor, still staying within reach of Merlin’s light.





Tales of Mystrum: The Arrival - Prologue © Psycho Circus

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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