All posts by prlepper

An Order Fallen From Glory, a Temple Long Forgotten

The ancient order of warriors known as the Deathsworn, founded in an age long past to fight the ravening swarms of faceless terrors from the realm between realms known as the Void, has fallen far since its glory days.  Now reduced to a few scattered  bands, wandering the world and stamping out evil where they can, it is a pale shadow of the mighty legion it once was.
And now, reality is starting to fray once again.  The threads that bind the planes together are snapping one by one, and it is only a matter of time before the very fabric of existence tears open and the beasts of the Void come pouring out once again to wreak bloody ruin on everything unfortunate enough to be in their path.
Gormaul, the second-oldest living Deathsworn, is determined to stop them.  But as it stands, the Deathsworn order does not have the numbers it would need to fight off a full-scale incursion of Void beasts.  So Gormaul sets off into the barren wilderness of Sarkroth, chasing a legend of an ancient Deathsworn temple-fortress.  Buried inside is said to be information on the elusive and enigmatic founder of the Deathsworn order, as well as undoubtedly magical artifacts that could help the order in the fight to come.

Gormaul scrambled over a boulder, scuffing the ebony sheen of his greaves on the dusty rock. Dropping to the ground on the other side, he looked up at the enormous cliff looming in front of him. It must have been at least sixty or seventy meters in height, soaring upwards in flights of grey-brown stone. Built into the side of it was his quarry – the ancient temple-fortress he had crossed two continents to find. Stepping out cautiously onto the ancient stone bridge that spanned the rushing water between it and him, he tried to imagine who the last person who had walked this path had been. How long ago was it that the last living soul strode the hallowed halls he was about to enter? How many thousands of years had passed since this catacomb had echoed with the sounds of footsteps and the voices of warriors? He somehow made it to the other side of the bridge without it collapsing and dropping him into the raging river below, stepping onto – relatively – solid ground. Putting a gauntleted hand on the cliff, feeling the stone hard and cool beneath his fingers, he took a moment to steel himself before pressing on. After a few minutes of walking along the base of the cliff, hopping over stones and splashing through the shallows of the river, he came to a door. It was set into the rock wall, little more than an arch of rough-hewn stone, a stylized skull carved into the capstone. Looking up at the menacing death’s-head looming over him, Gormaul took a deep breath and walked into the stygian gloom. The blackness closed around him like a thing alive, pressing in on all sides and seeming to clutch at him with fingers of darkness. He hadn’t brought a torch… but that was because he didn’t need one. Closing his eyes, he reached inside himself and called up the power that was buried within. As a member of the Deathsworn order, he was imbued with the power of the Void, a darkness that lurked inside his soul, waiting to be called upon. And now it flooded his body, the sickening cold of the endless dark seeping through every vein, repulsive yet oddly comforting in its familiarity. Every sense was instantly strained to a razor’s edge, his muscles burning with power and his heart flooded with the icewater bath of adrenaline. Blinking open his eyes, he watched as the darkness was peeled back like a curtain. Compared to the unending night of the Void, even the darkest corner of the mortal world was afire with light, and so he needed no torch to see in the gloom. He stood in a large entrance hall, lined on both sides with columns, each great pillar topped with a leering skull carved from black rock. The ceiling was vaulted, an inscription in some ancient language that Gormaul couldn’t read carved into the wall at each end. Looking around in wonder, he started walking across the room, his heavy boots clomping on the stone tiles. He passed through the arched doorway at the other end and emerged into an enormous cavern. Shreds of golden sunlight filtered in through crevices in the ceiling high above, and a waterfall tumbled down the rocks on the far side. Everywhere there were ancient structures built into and out of the cave walls, giving the impression of a city underground. Gormaul’s jaw went slack at the sight, and he stared around in wonder at the unfathomably ancient chamber. He couldn’t help but feel a connection to these empty halls. Millennia ago, the first Deathsworn had built this place, back when humans were first settling down and abandoning their nomadic lifestyle. They had been mostly Kriegans – like him – and Goretyns back then, if the ancient scrolls were to be believed. He had come here because there were things he needed to learn. Secrets about his order, truths long forgotten that needed to come to light once more. Only a bare handful of Deathsworn were left these days, compared to the legions that once walked the earth, and their time was running out as the dark power inside them ate away at them. If there was anything that could bring their order back from the precipice of extinction, it was in these vast halls. Something moved on the other side of the hall, a vague flicker of motion between two towers that he barely saw. Taking a step forward, he narrowed his eyes, scanning the far wall for any sign of what had moved. His only warning was a faint glimmer of light reflecting off of steel. But it was enough. The dark power flooding his system and pulsing through every muscle let him move many times faster than a mortal, and as his brain registered an incoming threat, his heart flooded with ice-cold adrenaline. Time slowed to a crawl, until the arrow whistling toward his head seemed to be floating lazily as if through tar. Dodging out of the way, his twin axes out of their sheaths before his mind consciously registered what was going on, he stared around, his toothy maw opening in a reptilian hiss. Someone else was in here. He didn’t know who, but if the arrow meant for his skull was any indication, they weren’t friendly. He started off at a loping run along the edge of the cave, his booted feet pounding on the cobblestones as he dodged between ancient stone structures, vaulted over rocks, and leapt across gaps in the floor. Another arrow struck the wall nearby, the shaft splintering from the impact. Gormaul’s blood sang with the prospect of violence – Kriegans were a warlike people, who valued martial prowess and strength of arms above all else. He was here to unearth ancient secrets, but if he had to kill a few tomb-robbers along the way, that was fine with him.

FINAL VERSION