COMPONENT 31: CURSED CITY
Twelve druids stood before the Starr-Sencian pass. A storm was coming on the horizon and they could already feel the unbelievably, knee-bending power behind it.
Still, they stood with earnest, waiting and watching as the dark clouds, and the Walking God came closer. Not a single druid would waver that day; they were one of the four clans of Anhsook Del Iris, the only creatures that held the ability to shape shift into other creatures at will. They were not afraid for themselves, but for Angon and his friends, should they fail.
“Master Hawkwolfe, he approaches, and not alone.” Said one of the younger druids.
The old master looked up, past his long crooked nose. It was true, the impressively powerful orc, Gus, walked with three other orcs, and a small child on his shoulder.
“What do we do?” Another druid startled. “He has a young one with him.”
“We can not give in to his trickery.” Master Hawkwolfe said. “We must buy the forge and his companions time. If the forge does not receive proper guidance from his creator, then the Walking God is the least we will have to worry about.”
“R-right, Master.” The druid replied.
“Everyone…” The druid said. “Take your strongest form, and be prepared to attack when I give the signal.”
“Yes, Master.” The eleven other druids replied.
All at once, they began transforming. Some’s noses retracted into their faces, while others sprouted extra limbs from their backs. One grew a trunk, and mighty tusks, while another became a horned creature that was only found in the deepest reached of the Underworld. Soon, a menagerie of creatures stood, blades, horns, tusks, and spiked tails at the ready.
It was just a handful of moments later that Gus, Gonzeelda, Budge, Weiggs, and Tricia arrived before the pack.
Gus was the first to stop, while Gonzeelda walked up next to him. Budge and Weiggs stayed behind him, but still held their battle-axes out, prepared to strike.
“Shall I make Budge and Weiggs kill them for us?” Gonzeelda snickered.
Gus stared at each of the twelve figures and took them in. With a snort, he shook his head.
“Let us hear what they have to say before an unnecessary slaughter occurs.” Were Gus’ words.
A druid stepped forward and lashed out tentacle-like arms. “A slaughter of filthy, stinking orcs, perhaps!”
“Shall I deal with that one personally?” Gonzeelda asked, drawing a blade, and licking it along its side.
“I said, hold.” Gus grumbled. “I would prefer not to kill one of the balancing spirit clans of our world.”
“Is that what they are?” Gonzeelda muttered. “I wouldn’t have guessed.”
“Will you yield?” Gus asked, looking at a great hydra, who seemed to be the leader of the pack.
“What purpose do you hold behind these lands?” Master Hawkwolfe asked, from one of his many heads.
“I seek to destroy those who will not hand over the Soul Rupture.” Gus said.
The wise druid master knew that the group he had delivered to Angel’s Outpost would not be able to give up the weapon. It needed to be reforged in Angon’s hands.
“Then we will not yield.” The master said, snapping his heads about.
Gus said, “Then you will die.”
“My brothers and sisters, attack!” Master Hawkwolfe shouted from all six of his heads at once.
The druids all charged in at once. Gus grabbed Tricia and dropped her in Weiggs’ arms. With that, he drew his gigantic axe, and the slaughter began.
“It’s getting cold.” Lavina shivered, and reached into her pack, taking out her cold weather cloak.
“And here I came overdressed.” Ramona sighed, looking over her bare arms, and down at her own cleavage. “I’ll need someone to keep me warm.” She grabbed Buster’s back and snuggled up against him.
“Get off me, runt.” Buster grumbled, but she ignored him and buried her head into his robes.
Angon rolled his eyes and walked up to Gavin, who stared into the snow-blanketed city, just a score of feet before them.
“Is he here?” Gavin asked. “Your creator? Can you hear him?”
Angon stared ahead, looking over the first of the once grand towers of Angel’s Outpost, a city that belonged to the magically gifted. He focused, trying to listen, but only heard the howling wind.
“No.” Angon said. “I don’t sense anything.”
“Well, let’s hope all of our information is correct.” Gavin said. “I’d hate to have made this journey for nothing.”
“I don’t think the journey will end here.” Lavina walked up to the pair. “Look at it this way, it’s a chance to further our research.”
“While being chased by the Walking God.” Gavin muttered. “I fear to think what’ll happen when he catches up.”
“Don’t worry.” Lavina said. “We’ll figure something out.”
“I don’t want to be here.” Angon said for the hundredth time, but started walking. “So let’s get this over with.”
“I despise this adventure.” Gavin said, abandoning his horse, and following Angon, the snow crunching under their feet.
Ramona and Buster climbed off the stone-lizard and into the snow as well.
Lavina was the last to cross the threshold as she looked back.
“I hope Hero is all right.” Lavina shook her head, then turned and followed her friends.
Angon was at the lead of the group as they walked between the buildings. And they were unlike any other he had seen yet. The ones in Triden’s Gate had been dilapidated, and crumbling, the ones in Windale made of wood, and the ones in Kendbul made of sun-baked bricks. Here, however, the buildings were clearly made from magic. They shined of magical metals, and almost every one had a tower atop it. Even still, the snow had covered everything so thickly, the true beauty could not be seen.
“Can anything live here?” Ramona grumbled, walking underneath the back of Buster’s robes.
“Would ye get outta there?” Buster snapped. “Yer gonna make me trip!”
“No, no one can live in these conditions.” Lavina said, looking over the side of a bridge as they crossed. The water below was frozen solid.
They traveled deeper into the city, past statues, of powerful-looking mages in robes, with staves and spellbooks, and past a temple dedicated to a familiar deity.
“Wait.” Buster said, walking to the door, and wiping the snow from a door.
“What is it?” Lavina asked, rushing up to see.
“Tis a church of Sheeva!” Buster said, staring at the snowflake symbol on the door.
“So they worshipped the ice goddess here as well.” Buster breathed. “It really is a shame she’s dead.” The blue-bearded dwarf began to sob, but Lavina quickly hugged him.
“Shh.” She said. “It’s okay.”
“No it aint!” Buster cried. “How will I ever know to make decisions? I can’t even tie me own boots in the proper order without her guidance.”
“You sounds pathetic.” Ramona mumled from other the robes.
“Shut up, ye!” Buster snapped, pulling the robes over her head.
She immediately climbed under Lavina’s robes, and pressed up against her back.
Lavina blushed and shook her head. “You’re too cold!”
Angon walked up to the doors, and touched the snowflake icon. An image flashed into his mind. A beautiful dwarven woman, with icy blue skin. She stood with a tall, shadowy, horned figure, and they were speaking, but he couldn’t hear.
“Something about this place.” Angon said, grabbing the handle of the door, and trying to pull it open. The mountain of snow before it held the door in place.
“What is it?” Ramona asked.
“I saw a vision just now.” Angon said, tugging on the door harder. “Someone help me!”
“Oh! Allow me!” Lavina said. She held out her rod to the snow. “Firebolt!”
The snow melted in a burst of light, and Angon was able to pull the door fully open. He leaned in and looked into the shadowy building.
“Yes, Angon.” A familiar woman’s voice spoke in his mind. “Meet your creator.”
Angon gasped. “He’s in here! My creator!”
The forge rushed past his friends and into the dark building.
The others quickly joined him, Gavin being the last, and shutting the door.
“Hello?” Angon called out.
His magical eyes had already adjusted to the light. On each side of the church were pews, and at the front was a statue of the ice goddess he had just envisioned. Angon walked forward and was almost to the front when he saw a figure hunched over in the front pew.
At a loss for words, Angon went forward. Lavina started to follow but Gavin held her back.
“This is his moment.” Gavin whispered, and Lavina solemnly nodded.
Angon walked around the front of the figure, and saw that it was an old creature, given its gray fur. It had one horn, and looked mighty indeed, even in its slouched state.
“Hello?” Angon finally found the voice to whisper.
“That voice… sounds so familiar.” The figure said. “Have you truly come to haunt me again?”
“I’m not haunting anyone.” Angon said. “I’m really here. And I’m searching for someone.”
The figure looked up, and was wearing strangely shaped spectacles that covered his wide set apart eyes. But something in those eyes was off; they were fully white, and Angon realized the man, whose race he couldn’t identify, was blind.
“My name… well, my friend named me, Angon.” The forge said.
“Absolute neutralization of gods and other nemesi.” The man whispered.
“What?” Angon cocked his head.
“It’s what A.N.G.O.N. means.” The man said. “That name is one I haven’t heard in over one hundred years.”
“Yes.” The forge said. “It’s my name. It’s carved into my back.”
The hairy creature tilted his own head, and reached his hand forward, grazing Angon’s metallic arm.
“It cannot be?” The man said. “A-angon? You survived? I mean, the ritual worked?”
“What ritual?” Angon asked. “Survived? I don’t understand.”
“Angon… is it really you? My beautiful, beautiful son?”
The forge stepped back, and nearly fell over. “S-son?” He stammered.
“My little boy!” The man said. “It is I, Azteron! Your father!”
Angon’s world turned upside down at that moment. If this man created him, it was natural to call him his son; but he also called him a little boy.
“Tell me what I am, Father!” Angon fell to his knees before Azteron, who began to cough, and red splattered Angon’s chest. It was blood.
“Father, are you all right?” The forge gasped.
“For the moment, yes.” Azterton said. “But I have so much to tell you.”
“Then tell me…” Angon said. “Please, I want to know everything! What I am, what my real purpose is! How I came to be? Please, every last detail.”
“I see…” Azteron whispered. “You didn’t retain your memories.”
“No…” the forge replied. “Nothing.”
“Then let me start by giving you a choice.” Azteron said. “You can remain as you are, in a body of iron, and steel, cogs and gears, mythril blood… or I can return you to flesh and blood.”
“What are you saying?” Angon asked, thoroughly confused.
“Son, I sacrificed your body, mind, and soul to make this body you have.” Azteron said. “It was my fault you ended up like this. And I have suffered many years for it. I do not ask you to forgive me, for I am not sorry. But if you prefer, I can make you back into a half-minotaur, half-elf.”
“I really don’t…” Angon murmured, on the verge of sobs.
“Angon.” The man said. “I can make you alive again.”