Thursday, November 19, 2009

Paladin-Part 13

James led his company of warriors on a steady campaign of raids against the barbarian mutants that so harried the People of the White Tower, and soon the wilderness beyond the People's lands filled with plumes of smoke by day and pillars of fire by night- a sign that brought great joy and celebration back at the base of the White Tower. Yet, ever-cautious and concerned, the Archmage and the Eight Masters looked on with brows heavy with worry. Atop the White Tower, gathered in council, they looked on the signs of their proxies war-making prowess.

"Master, your newest protege seems to be living up to your belief in his quality." one said to the Archmage.

"Indeed." another said, "I confess that my assessment of him was in error. I apologize for my miscalculation."

The Archmage, his eyes focused on the smoking and burning far in the distance, waved both of his former students off, saying "Masters of Enchantment and Transmutation, do not be hasty. True, young James is at present making a mockery of our enemy's sense of security, but I already see the reaction in motion. The enemy's champions answer the call to battle, and soon they shall enact a scheme to ensnare our men. When that happens, then we shall see their true quality."

A third said, "Master, do you see which of their champions heed the call?"

The Archmage nodded. "The sextet I expected."

The Eight Masters closed in and murmured amongst themselves until the Archmage again waived for silence.

"We nine know well what fates may befall these youths." the Archmage said,"It is no use to debate actions when we all know what must be done now. Let it be done."

"Agreed." they said, one by one, and atop the needle-like summit of the White Tower the Archmage and the Eight Masters spread out. Each of the Masters stood at one of the eight cardinal points, while--with seeming lack of effort--the Archmage let the winds buffet him to the very top of the needle-like protrusion. Standing atop it, in perfect balance, the Archmage turned himself such that one eye could gaze towards the setting sun in the west and the other back towards the lands of their mutant enemies.

"Our enemy now feels pressured to act." the Archmage said, his voice now greater than the winds about them, "He must reveal himself to present a threat to our warriors, so now we shall engage him."

The Eight Masters began a long, low and slow hum. Hands outstretched, as if to close a circle, the sounds uttered soon induced a trance that blocked out the world and put their minds wholly on their collective pooling and shaping of arcane forces. Visible lights sparked into existence in the palms of their hands at beneath their feet, and then streams of brilliant, scintillating power beamed forth from hand and foot to put all of the Eight Masters into a double-circle of power.

The Archmage now sounded a high note, and with eyes now turned skyward that note now became a song. The Eight Masters joined that song, each taking a part in a harmony of beautiful and haunting majesty. One and Eight became Soloist and Chorus, and the power flowing about them in the circles now shot toward the center--toward the Archmage--and now as one they harmonize their voices, minds, souls and wills towards the single objective: the removal of their opposite number amongst the barbarians.

Distant from the White Tower, looking down from a hidden place on Silvertop Mountain, is one of the junior masters of the infernalist cult that dominates the mutant barbarian hordes. In the master's company are the most potent mystics and sorcerers amongst the barbarian peoples, and they are also united now in power and will in a ritual working of their own. In a staccato cacophony of sounds that barely manage to stay out of the way of each other, the cultists haphazardly collaborate their individual powers towards the breaching of dimensional barriers that should not be violated.

Immaterial hands grip a violet membrane and tear open a hole, black as night and foul as a charnal house, but nothing other than the presence of a being as ancient as it is evil and powerful comes forth. Then another presence comes forth, no less ancient than the other yet utterly alien to the minds of the cultists, but still nothing seen comes forth.

At that moment, back atop the White Tower, David comes amongst the One and Eight. He passes into the circle without incident, and then--as if he had wings--David ascends to meet the Archmage. Taking the Archmage's hands into one of his own, he holds his hand up to the sky; the power gathered turns from rippling blue-white to a blindingly golden color. David points his free hand now towards Silvertop Mountain, and a beam fires forth.

The master infernalist, en rapport with the potent entities within the black portal, never saw the solar spear coming. It struck as soon as it flashed, obliterating the portal. The power generated, barely held in check, exploded with an unnatural violence typical of practicing infernalism; all of the ritual participants, including the master of the ritual, burned to ash instantly- their souls consumed by the conflagration of infernal fire. Only a single demon, an observer in service to the true master of Silvertop--and the infernalist cult--wasn't annihilated. He fled back to his master's side.

Seeing his master dismissed six of the cult's champions as he approached, this minor demon tread carefully in his approach. Only when the others walked far enough to not overhear did he speak of the situation.

"I see." the demon's master said, "The Old Man's making his move. Endgame it is."

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