Chapter 1 : The Fall
It was a stormy night when the dwarven paladins, Mal and Fundin, journeyd through the rural country. By the order the most noble paladin order they were to find and destroy Zargoth the mad. An insane mage researching life after death and practicing other dark arts. Rumors tell that his tower is filled with the bones of his unlucky victims.
"Someone's following us." whispered Fundin "Aye, Zargoth knows we're coming. Me bets it's some of his foul magicks." answered Mal with his tempered voice. "We'd better to hurry up. I'm not comfortable with the weather, you know." "Me thinks ye're afraid, aren't ye?" laughted Mal slightly
Regardless of the scary shadow figures all around them, the two dwarves walked on the path towards the gloomy tower. The tower itself looked like it had been abondoned for a long time. The only sign of that it was still being occupied was the dim glow of a candle from it's only window at the top of the tower.
"Prepare ye hammer, this is getting ugly." said Mal while drawing his glowing two handed sword. The blade glimmered like thousand jewels in the dim shine of the moon. It was made from pure truesilver, a rare material found only in the far corners of the world. The silence was broken by dwarven foot splintering the moldy wooden door. The dwarven pair marched into the tower.
"My work must not be disturbed! You shall pay for this inconvenience with your life!" screamed the maddened wizard and pointed the paladin with his magic wand. But his words were left empty as the shining blade pierced his chest silencing the wizard for once and all. With wizard dead, his magic started to fail, shivering the tower like an earthquake. The dwarves escaped barely before the tower crumbled into dust. The mad wizard was no more and the presence of the tower was lifted of darkness and shadows.
Suddenly everything went black. Everything was silent. Except the voices in his head. Screams, yells and whispers. He couldn't figure out the words, but he could still hear the voices. Getting louder and louder. And then again a sudden silence. And then came the light, piecring his eyes like thousand needles. And then he saw the pale moon. Zargoth rose up to his feet and raised his skeletal arms to cover his eyes. "I live, again." muttered the undead wizard.
Chapter 2 : The Bargain
It was late afternoon when an alchemist apprentice walked through a gloomy swamp. He was collecting herbs, but occassionally seemed to be talking to someone, although there was no one to be seen.
-"No, I won't do it! There must be another way." -"Zargoth, did you say something? I though I heard something." carried a muffled voice of his master. -"I'm just... thinking aloud. Don't we already have enough of herbs for the whole next week?" -"Appretince! Are you trying to sneak off your studies again? These are not anywhere near to be enough." -"No master, but..." -"Silence. Now, what you think of this herb?" said the master when he approached his apprentice and handed over a herb. -"The shape and color would suggest it's a bruiseweed, but the odor is weird. Is it a blindweed?" asked young apprentice. -"Very good. And why is it called blindweed?" -"Because it has a blinding effect if incorrectly distilled?" -"Incorrect. It's because it doesn't need much ligth to grow. That's why most dark swamps are filled with blindweeds. It accelerates your brain activity and thus increases your capabilities as a spell caster." answered the seasoned alchemist.
The master and the apprentice continued their journey through the swamp collecting samples of herbs. The sun was already setting down when they arrived at a small cliff, overlooking a dark forest. Their herb bags were almost full and the master seemed to be fatigued by their long walking trip.
-"I think we should be leaving now, before it gets dark. That forest you can see over there is filled with foul beasts you don't want to anger." said the master while watching over the edge at the dark forest ahead.
-"But always remember that..." master's words were suddenly cut off, when he felt a violent push at his back. The next thing he knew was that he had fallen off the cliff to the dark forrest. The last sunrays gave up his betrayer as he saw his apprentice watching down from the cliff calmly against the setting sun. He saw Zargoth's saying something, but couldn't hear it. He couldn't hear anything anymore. The only thing he could feel anymore was warm blood running down from his forehead. And then the sun disappeared beyond the horizon.
-"I thought you said you wouldn't do it." a mockering voice said behind Zargoth. Zargoth turned around to face an imp, which was a small demonic creature, laughing at the irony of the deceased master. -"I have done my part of the bargain. Now it's your time to fulfill your promises." -"You mortals are so easy to manipulate. I don't need to fulfill any of my 'promises'" said the demon mockingly and disappeared as fast as he appeared. -"No? Well, we shall see about that later." said Zargoth and gave a small, but evil grin. Zargoth picked up his master's herb pouch off the ground and headed back to their hut.
Chapter 3 : The Plague
Three men walked, or actually limped, around the tower ruins, searching for something. Finally they dragged a crushed corpse from the ruins and threw it on the top of a corse pile on their wagons. A stench of death could have been smelled from far away, if any living creature would venture near these cursed men.
-"Good one. Master be pleased" -"We please master, master lets us feed!" -"We go now, wagons full. Master be satisfied now."
Slowly the men began to drag the wagons away from the tower ruins, towards the nearby forest. Their pace was slow, but they didn't seem to tire at all. Days and nights they journeyd through the dark forrests and lands, never stopping, never resting, never eating.
Zargoth woke up screaming. He tried to raise to sit, but his arms and legs were binded with strong steel shackles. He was on a wooden table, in middle of a room. Although he had been brought back to life, his body remained shattered. He could see his own ribbones coming through his chest.
And he wasn't alone in the room. There was also a person, or atleast something that used to be a person long time ago. Monster's face was distorted by hatred and pain. It's body was rottening and steaming with hundreds of maggots and cockroaches. It walked to the table where the prisoned lied and injected a large dose of black liquid straight into it's unlucky victim's heart. Zargoth quickly passed out because of tremendous shock and terrible pains.
But the pain didn't stop. It came into his dreams as nightmares. Dark figures trying to choke and strangle his mind and soul. Zargoth had a strong mind, as he was a wizard of great power and knowledge, so he was able to fend of the shadows. But he was also a mortal. Even the most powerful of mortals have their limits. And so did Zargoth have. After some time he was able to hold the nightmares away no more. His soul was stolen and mind shattered. Zargoth that used to be is now gone forever. All that is left is nothing but an empty shell of flesh.
Zargoth floated in an utter darkness and silence. He couldn't hear, see or feel anything. But then, all the suddenly he heard a voice. It was as beautyful as it was cruel. It was loud, yet just a whisper in his ears. There was no words, but still the voice carried a message. It told him to wake up. And then came the light, piecring his eyes like thousand needles. And then he saw the pale moon. Zargoth rose up to his feet and raised his skeletal arms to cover his eyes. "I live, again." muttered the undead wizard.
Chapter 4 : Allegiances
It was already a midnight and the forest was pitch black. Wolves were stalking all around the forest for their unlucky victims. Although Zargoth was using his master's masterpiece, a potion that fends off the animals, he was still trying to travel hastily. Finally he got to his master's cottage and was surprised to see a bright light coming from inside. Someone had been, or perhaps still is, in there. Young apprentice reached out for his dagger and moved silently to the door. The fire crackled steadily inside the fireplace, but nothing else than that sound could be heard outside. Zargoth opened the door a little to peek inside.
Inside there was an old man sleeping on a chair. Zargoth knew this man. He was a powerful wizard know as Derenn. From time to time Derenn used to visit Azeronn, Zargoth's master, to exchange their knowledge on their own professions. While Azeronn was a master alchemist, Derenn was highly respected scholar in the field of arcane knowledge. Zargoth knew that he couldn't lie to this man about his master's fate. Derenn was too wise to fall into hastily made lies. There was only one way to get rid of this old man. Only one way. Zargoth raised his dagger for a strike.
"Oh, put that thing away" muttered the Wizard as he woke up suddenly. Zargoth was shocked and the dagger fell from his hand hitting the floor. The old wizard picked up the dagger from the floor before Zargoth could do a thing, and continued "Not that you would had have wounded me anyways, but you would have had ruined a good robe".
"H-how... how did you know I was there?" asked the young apprentice, still frightened for being caught by this old man. "Such a trivial question. Why don't you rather ask why am I here, or why haven't I already slain you for the crime you had in mind?" said the wizard, while handing the dagger back to it's owner. "Oh... and where is your master? Where is... Azeronn the Alchemist?" he added in tone, that was more of a statement, than an actual question. The room remained silent as the tension between these two men kept growing. Zargoth was ready to leap out of the door and run for his life.
A sudden burst of laughter ended the silence, as the old man rise up from his seat laughing. It was only now that Zargoth noticed: The man didn't look so old anymore. As if he would have regained many of his lost years in that brief moment. Any remaining illusions of an old fragile man were shattered as he reached his full height. He was young, vigorous and strong again.
"H-how.. wh-hat!" Zargoth heard himself crying out in fear. "I know your deeds. I know your sins. I know your soul." said the man with the most commanding voice the young apprentice had ever heard. "How... is that... possible?" "Birds. Beasts. Insects. They all speak, you just have to learn to listen to them. And I see you have stolen your master's potion. I searched for you in the woods for hours, but I couldn't find you. You... evaded me. So I came here." "But why?" Zargoth had already calmed down a bit, but was still prepared to escape should things go hostile. "Why? You ask me, why? Did you really think I came here every once in a while just to hear stories of your boring master for all these years? To see his petty potions and alchemical non-sense? Gobgup, get here!"
And much for Zargoth's surprise, the imp he had made a bargain with quickly ran into the house and bowed before it's summoner. "I belive you have already met my pet, have you not?" grinned the wizard.