Submission (competition #2)
* Yes, I know my story highly exceeds the word count limit. But hey, I had so much fun writing it that I could not stop! Hope you enjoy!
**Be warned: spoilers ahead
Keep Yer Heid and March On
The crypt walls echoed with the low humming of a moltitude of voices, their diverse pitches carefully intertwined in a sweeping harmony. A lonely wail raised above the orderly din, weaving an haunting chant, studded with wisely chosen formulas and arcane vibrations, perfected to obtain the complete subjugation of the listeners' minds.
With one last high-pitched note, the High-Priestess concluded her phrase, and, slowly and rythmically, the song came to a halt. The woman closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, savouring the thick silence that blossomed around her. Then she clasped her hands in prayer and let out a single low whisper: “Glory to The Queen That Was”. Immediately, she could hear the sound of hundreds of knees softly hitting the ground, followed by a resounding bellow: “Glory!”.
The Priestess opened her eyes and let her gaze wander among the herd that had kneeled at her feet. Two-hundreds and thirty-one Acolytes, man and women of all ages, bodies clad in black cloacks and visages hidden by ominous ceremonial hoods, dedicating their lives to one singular purpose: serving and revering the almighty Gods. She let out the tiniest of sighs and nodded. “Yes”, she thought, “Our mission is just”. A thin smile painted on her face as she started to talk. “Brothers and Sisters, I am truly rejoiced to see so many of you here on this joyous occasion. As per the letter you received two days ago, many of you will already know that this is indeed a special day. In fact, we are all gathered here to rightfully celebrate the merits of our Brother...” her eyes lingered on the figure of a young man, knelt a few meters away from her, “... whose purposeful actions in service of the Leaden Key have attracted the favour of Woedica Herself”. With an exagerated movement of her arm, she motioned him to come closer. “Come forth, Acolyte! That all may see you!”
The man stood up, the menacing contours of his broad figure accentuated by the dim light of the wall torches. With slow steps, he approached the pulpit where he reverently knelt again in front of the Priestess. The woman turned towards the towering altar behind her and produced a thin, crooked black crown. She raised her arms high above her head so that everybody could see that symbol of power; with a gentle gesture of her bony hands, she then proceded to carefully place it on the man's head, whispering “Well done, Brother”. Then, suddenly, her voiced boomed through the vault: “Inquisitor! State your name and purpose!”
But the answer never came.
Instead, a low muttering erupted from the man's lips, as he slowly started to rise. The Priestess stared at him, her surprise soon replaced by a burning rage as the man took hold of the crown and deliberately dropped it on the ground.“How dare you, you insolent...” the words took form in her mind, but died before reaching her throat. All of her muscles were petrified. A wave of panic hit her in the stomach as her eyes darted among the other acolytes, all rendered immobile by the same spell that held her captive.
She struggled against the mounting anguish as, with a graceful flick of the wrist, the broad-built man in front of her disappeared, replaced by the delicate figure of a young elf whose piercing blue eyes stared mercilessly at her from behind the mask.
“I am no Inquisitor”, he hissed, a pulsating, fiery glow emanating from the palm of his hand, “I'm just the man who'll put an end to your reign of lies”. As he finished speaking, a roaring tongue of flame erupted violently from his outstretched arm, engulfing the the whole crypt. In a few seconds, every inch of stone, every marble slate, every single living creature inside of Woedica's Temple was being consumed by a churning, thundering maelstrom of magical fire, unstoppable in its horrendous ire.
The icy snow crunched under the wizard's boots as he walked down the barren path. He had been walking for what felt like hours but, in spite of the distance, he could still hear the cracking and crackling of the flames reverberating through the dale. He let out a long sigh and looked up to the night sky, stern in its vast emptyness. The steely maws of remorse would always present themselves after such deeds, gently gnawing at the back of his mind.
“Keep yer heid, wizard-boy! Yer doin' the right thing”. There she was.
“There is no such thing as right or wrong, Iselmyr. Not anymore”
“Nay, lad. But truth and lie, they're real enough.”
For an instant, the faint shadow of a smile passed on his drawn face. “They are indeed. This is the reason why I swore to eradicate the Leaden Key, come what may. The time has come for Truth to be avenged”
He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the cold northern air and his soul with burning determination.
“But enough of this palaver. A long journey awaits us”
And thus, Aloth marched on, his stride confident as he prepared to walk down the long arduous road that would have taken him to his next destination: the cold mountains of the White March.
Edited by Barbedbeat, 15 January 2016 - 12:05 PM.