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Keys of Magic - Part 1

My story starts with legends, parts of the past that people only remember through words. Even the youngest kids know the story of the Slayer. She is known by many names but none of them are her real same. Some call her the Eternal Liberator, others the Doom of Salvation but most simply know of her as the Slayer.

Five hundred years ago she raised her sword, not against a bandit or a king but against the very Gods themselves. One at a time they fell before her blade. First it was Xeenil the Soul Forger. Next it was Demji the Harvester. The pantheon rose up to fight her but their powers washed over her like water and one by one they were slain. At the end only two God remained to oppose the Slayer. Zillk the Hope Ender and Enturmar the Radiant. The greatest of the Gods fought against the Slayer and the result was disastrous. All three died.

The Gods were dead, the Slayer was dead, and the world was flung into chaos. The Gods were dead but their power was not gone. Apostates, humans wielding a portion of the dead Gods powers, appeared and used there power to influence the world. Kingdoms rose and fell and nothing was the same.

However all of that is ancient history, something that happened five hundred years ago. Yet the Apostate still exist and the legacy of the Gods is not so easily forgotten. This story is really about two Gods. The first is Zillk, the Hope Ender whose blade pieces the Slayer’s heart just as her blade pierces his. The second is Eyyo, the Cloaked Betrayer whose name is never spoken in legend, the forgotten God. Forgotten yes, but not dead.

                                                                                                    

I broke through the glass of the window on the second story just in time. A jet of fire followed me out the window but gravity managed to grab me fast enough and pulled me out of the way of the flames just in time. I reached out and grabbed at the ledge of the inn and managed to hold one for a couple of seconds before my own weight pulled me free from the ledge and I fell tumbling to the ground. I had slowed my fall just barely enough that I managed not to break anything and in a daze I stumbled to me feet and began running away from the Juggling Jester, the inn I had rented a room in.

Looking over my shoulder I caught a glimpse of the man who was in my room. One of the Apostates of Yulf the Burning Rage. His hand was clutched at something around his neck. It was also certainly a golden amulet in the shape of the Sun, the medium that let him channel the power of the dead God Yulf.

Unfortunately the part of my mind that puts these logical pieces together was cut short by three people blocking my escape. They each had a large cudgel and looked ready to inflict some kind of horrible pain on me. Since I’m rather allergic to pain, it makes me break out in large black and blue bruises, I decided I would rather not get beaten up by these three people. I doubted however that the small knife at my belt would dissuade them so rather than face them I decided that escaping would be the valorous and merciful thing to do.

I turned back toward the other way and ran. That however turned out to be a mistake. That way lead out to the main street and near the main entrance to the inn. I was more shocked however when I saw the man I had seen on the second story walk through the front door on the inn. How had the managed to get downstairs so fast?

I’m sure I made an easy target for him. It was past midnight and the streets were deserted. The moon shone bright and so did the large ball of fire that his was holding in his hand. I took a moment to contemplate my bad fortune before I dropped at fast as I could, barely managing to again avoid the fire that the man through at me. There was no way I could stand up to one of the Apostates of Yulf with only a small knife. If I had a crossbow with metal bolts maybe, but in the current situation things were stacked against me.

Rather than deal with him I reconsidered my acquaintance with those lovely cudgels in the alleyway. I scrambled back to my feet and ran back toward the alleyway. To my pleasant surprise it seemed to be the last think they expected, probably because it was absolutely insane. I managed to rush past the first one before the were able to do anything about it. The second one took to long and I was able to grab his cudgel and push it just enough that he lost balance and fell backward. The third one however was a stout woman waited until the right moment to thwack me with her cudgel. I managed to block it with my back so while it knocked the wind out of me hurt all kinds of ways I managed to avoid breaking anything… I think.

Stumbling the best I could I pulled away from the assailants and past them, putting them between me and the Apostate of Yulf. The brutes however might turn out to be a more immediate danger. I’m not exactly what one would call well muscled. Some might call me weak or delicate but those people would be crass and tactless. I prefer to think of myself as conditioned to a life of pleasures. Which is why my current situation was so dire to me. A month ago I never would have dreamed of being caught in an alley with three brutes and an Apostate.

Perhaps I should explain myself better. I am, or used to be, Lord Friddnick of Korfield. It was a lesser noble title but a noble title no-the-less. I had a fine country manor, prosperous lands, servants who would cater to me, and a reputation of being a kindly lord. Like many other lords I would divide my time between the courts and my lands, although I’ll admit that I spent more time at the courts then some of the other lords. Either way battling roughions and Apostates in the street the the last thing I would be expecting to do. Of course that was before I became an Apostate myself but now I’m getting ahead of myself.

My doom started at the summer festival. Really it was a commoner festival but it was an excuse to drink so I usually held audience in the town to enjoy the atmosphere. Some of the wealthy merchants in the town used it as an excuse to offer me drinks and convince me to fund whatever recent endeavor they were attempting. It usually worked. I am really far too kind and generous. That year however an old woman came for audience. I was… let’s say slightly tipsy at that point so I didn’t noticed those around me quieting as she approached.

I recognized her an an Apostate of Ulvarious the Enigmatic Watcher. Had I had wits about me I might have forbid her approach. Because of this have have sworn never to touch alcohol again, I’ve been mostly successful in that endeavor. She approached me and spoke in a croaking voice. Despite how the alcohol clouded my mind at the time I still remember what she told me. It is still burned into my mind as crystal clear as if it was yesterday, maybe that was part of her power.

“Haunted Hunted Noble, Dread Dire Fate. Fiendish Forgotten Awakening.

“All will crumble around you. All you hold will vanish. All hope will be lost.

“Hidden behind the veil is the one who hunts you and who you must hunt.

“You will reach out your hand to the void and two will take it.

“Before you is the Slayer, beside you the Hope Ender, and behind you destruction

“Woe, woe, woe. Your legacy will only be terror, hate, and fear.

“Break the world a second time, Free the world a second time, Doom the world a second time

Her words caused a chill to run down my spine when I heard them and somehow I knew that they would be true. Like her saying them make them written in stone and unavoidable. I’m sure everybody else had the same feeling because when I looked around I could feel them all staring at me waiting for me to say something, to do something, to doom them all. Trying to disbelieve I denounced the woman as fraud and called my guards to send her away but everybody remembered that feeling, the truth behind her words.

The next few nights for me were sleepless, I couldn’t close my eyes without hearing her words echo in my head again. Finally partially mad from the haunting voice and the lack of sleep I ride off alone trying to free myself of that disastrous prediction. How could I, a frivolous noble, be connected to the Slayer and the Hope Ender. It was ridiculous, impossible, and true. I tried denying it in my head as I rode to the only place that I thought could answer my questions.

My family has been lords in this land for generations, since before the Slayer’s time. However after the Reckoning had shook the earth we had move from the older family keep to a large manor. The keep had been abandoned for decades but after the woman’s words I was drawn there like a moth to a flame. Somehow I knew that the answers to my questions would be found there. I never should have gone.

Decades of neglect has left the place little more than a ruin. Parts of the walls had collapse and I had to get off my horse to traverse the rocky ground leading up the the keep. I picked my way through the keep looking for anything that might tell me what I wanted to knock, what I needed to know. I finally found myself in the old chapel of the keep. It looked even more dilapidated than the rest of the keep. It had a strange feel to it. Since the Slayer’s time the Gods have been dead and there have been no need for chapels. The were many ruined statues around the edges of the room, monuments to the dead Gods.

I found myself standing in front of the broken statue of Zillk, the Hope Ender. It had been cracked at mid chest, like the Slayer herself had pierced this statue’s heart with a sword causing it to shatter. Who knows, maybe this statue did break when Zillk died. Stranger things had certainly happened. I looked at the statue expecting something to happen, like a glow of light or a mysterious voice. However nothing happened, the Gods were dead after all. They could no longer speak to human or command them.

It was disappointing really. I reached down into the rubble of the statue and lifted part of the broken statue. It was the hand of Zillk, in the original statue he was probably raising his hand above his head. In his hand was a circular band of metal. The statue’s arm was broken at the elbow and the band of metal was bent slightly. I remembered reading that Zillk’s empty band of metal represented lose, of emptiness. Among his many other meanings, Zillk was the god of remorse.

I was about to set the broken part of the statue down when I heard somethings from the entrance of the chapel. It was a footstep which made me look up and toward the sound. It was a cloaked person, a man probably, standing in the entrance of the chapel.