Storm clouds danced in Dimitri's steely grey eyes as he studied the tall, silver tower that stood before him; he could feel the power that it radiated. It shone gracefully under the setting sun's rays, with breathtaking beauty. Its ruggedness and austere simplicity drew him in. His ears perked at the sound of ice crunching, " Your excellency, we must enter before nightfall. Wild wolves roam these parts. " Malakai said, bringing Dimitri's stormy eyes on him.
Malakai cowered under his gaze. Dimitri sighed, " Kai, we are like brothers. How many times do I have to tell you not to call me by these titles? " he asked, smiling softly at Malakai, " Get everyone ready; we are going in. " he said and turned to look at the majestic tower.
The safety of his kingdom depended on the outcome of this journey. The tower was guarded by demons and sorceresses. Every step was a trap, for it hid the greatest treasure of all, The Obsidian of Adarlan. The enchanted stone; that would save all of Terrasen from the darkness that threatened to take over them.
The severe and bitterly cold wind howled viciously with each step that they took towards the tower. It felt like the steps were never-ending; the unrelenting wind blew with all its might. Even the elves in the army could no longer move forward. Dimitri looked at his army; everyone was holding onto each other to not fall down the stairs. His heart ached for his subjects. With newfound determination, he shouted out in the cold, " People of Terrasen!". His voice ran down in waves of compassion and determination to the people; a ray of hope rose within them, and they erupted in roars, " All Hail King Dimitri! "
The shouts filled him with pride, he was their king, and he would not let them down. " We came here for our land, for our people. Behind those doors is the one weapon that can help us return to living peacefully like our ancestors before us. I want every man, elf, fairy, witch-folk and dwarf to fight against this wind with all your might. All Hail Terrasen! " Dimitri shouted out to the people before him.
A determined roar sounded against the bellowing wind; they moved against the wind and reached the majestic silver doors. They expected the howling wind to mask the sound of their approach, but as if on cue, the wind died down to a soft breeze. The doors opened to reveal a long, dimly lit, empty hallway. Cautiously, Dimitri led his troop into the tower. When the last of them entered the hallway, the door shut behind them. In the nerve-racking silence, they stood anxious and alert, waiting for someone to strike. A few minutes passed, there were no signs of life in the halls. Dimitri lifted his sword and pointed forwards, "Let's move forward. Rank 2 Elves form a perimeter around the army. Elite unit, protect the king " Malakai's voice rang out sharp and clear.
As they moved forward, a howl erupted through the hallways, shaking the tower. They looked around and saw a shadow move towards the far east. Cautiously they approached; a deep fog surrounded them. The men huddled together, ready to attack; slowly, the thick blanket of fog dissipated, and in front of them, two majestic doors appeared.
Two massive, ornate black doors, with one look at it, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference; it seemed like an illusion. The doors had streaks of silver and gold accentuating them, attracting the viewer.
With a blank look in their eyes, everyone started walking towards the door; as if they were in a trance. Dimitri and Malakai looked at each other, quickly snapping out of the spell and looked around to see everyone walking towards the doors. Dimitri closed his eyes and chanted in Latin, " Ut pervenire in pace
reversus veni huc " Malakai followed him in elvish; a golden glow surrounded everyone, snapping them out of the haze. "Keep your minds rooted here. We have to figure this out together." Dimitri said and walked towards the doors. A mass of black zapped past him; instinctively, Malakai shot before Dimitri and stood guard before him, waiting for an attack. A low growl echoed through the hallway; the lights went out and, darkness engulfed the place. Glowing red eyes appeared around them. The fairies conjured light orbs and hovered above the army. A demonic snarl ripped through the air, a group of Lycans jumped at them, attacking the army. Dimitri ran with his sword unsheathed and plunged it into the heart of a lycan midair. The Lycan whimpered and then growled, trying to rip out Dimitri's heart. An elven warrior jumped onto the Lycan's back and twisted its head. They nodded at each other and ran to help the others. Dimitri ran towards the door with Malakai covering for him while the others fought valiantly. The stench of fresh blood was everywhere. As soon as he touched the doors, writing in red appeared on the silver wall.
' Ostium unum ad viam atque incensa.
Et alterum ad tenebras.
Delige prudenter terrasen rex, vestra optio erit determinare ex itinere praemisit. '
Dimitri clenched his jaws, the meaning clear to him, ringing in his head.
-A door, leading to a path of light, an easy journey; another to abysmal darkness. A choice to make; to move ahead-
He looked to see the Lycans whimpering and drawing back, carrying a limp Lycan on their backs. The Terrasens cheered at their victory, but it was short-lived as they saw the writing on the wall and knew that this was just the beginning.
Malakai sighed and rested against a wall watching everyone tend to their wounds. The writing on the wall was tricky; they were fighting the darkness; why would they want to go into it; the light would be the obvious path. But if you look at it from another way, they would have to brave the darkness to show how much they needed the treasure. He held his head in his hands; there was no way to know which door led to where.
Dimitri stood near the door, looking for any signs of illusion, hoping this was a trick played on them. How could he choose if he didn't know what lay behind which door?
He paced back and forth, calculating the risks. Their whole journey depended on whether or not he was lucky enough to choose correctly.
Dimitri punched the wall; the sound quietened everyone down. In the quiet, he felt a buzzing when he moved towards the right door. The amulet his mother had given him started glowing. He scrunched his brows and moved to the left door; as soon as he stepped away from the right door, the glow and vibrations died down.
He turned to face his army, " I have made my choice. Will you follow me no matter- ? " before he could finish, soldiers started kneeling one after the other, bowing to him, pledging their loyalty in their tongues. Shouts of Elvish, Latin and Aramaic filled the air.
Dimitri turned, standing between the two doors; it was time to let them know what he had decided. A cloud of nervousness filled the air; Dimitri clenched his fists, wondering if he was making the right choice.
He pushed his uncertainty away and stepped to the right, standing before the majestic gold and black door. He guardedly stretched his arm out to open it; as soon as his hand touched it, the door melted away to reveal darkness. It was pitch black. The light that emitted from the orb of the fairies standing near the opening; showed that there was a stairway leading downwards. Cautiously they descended the narrow stairway led by the light orbs; the walls were cold, as they went down, the temperatures dropped lower.
The steps ended, and a tunnel lay ahead; hints of a stench made its way up to them. " Your ex- uhm, Dimitri, the fairies feel drained. The darkness is slowly drinking their power. " Malakai said in a hushed tone. Dimitri thought for a minute, " Pick a few while the others recuperate. Let them channel from the witch folk for a while. " he responded. They moved forward cautiously, careful to not alert any demons of their presence.
After a while, it became difficult to walk and move their feet. It was as if they were moving in quicksand. A soft hum reached their ears. The elves perked their ears, trying to figure how far the source was.
A sweet voice sang an elvish song; as they moved forward, the voice sounded nearer but still far. The quicksand was pulling them down.
The fairies who hovered above flew forward, looking for solid ground.
" King Dimitri, it looks like this whole tunnel is quicksand. " a fairy flew back and reported. "Soldiers, make yourselves as light as possible. Davina, you and the other fairies go and collect all the things from everyone. " Malakai ordered, removing his weapons and armour.
Dimitri quickly followed suit. The song was drawing them to it; all they wanted was to keep listening. Suddenly an ear-deafening scream sounded, followed by wails filled with pain and agony. The elves held their heads; their sensitive ears were terrorizing them. The soldiers snapped out of the haze and looked down to find solid ground. Dimitri cursed under his breath, "It was a trick. Cover your ears, Kai, count and check our numbers." Malakai nodded and turned to count in the low light. They were short of a fairy. Davina was missing. Panic gripped the group. They rushed forward and called out her name. "I'm here", she screamed back. The elves ran, tracking it.
They found Davina standing over a dead elf holding a sword stained with its blood. Their eyes hardened at the sight of the dark marks on the elf's skin. It was a dark elf. Elves who went against nature and fed on blood for power. They were never spoken of after King Matthias led a united army to wipe them out. She whispered a sorry. " There is no need for a sorry here, young Davina; it got what it deserved. " the elf prince, Malakai, replied. Dimitri led the group deeper in; all the lights died down. " Where are the lights? Fairies? " Dimitri asked. "We can't access our magic, your majesty." they answered.
Dimitri sighed, stretched his arms out, and walked guided by the wall.
He felt the smooth cold wall gradually change to a textured, hot brick wall. The warriors grumbled amongst themselves, pushing each other and getting on each other's nerves. " Why are you leading us? You are a half-breed. Filthy half-blood. " one of the soldiers shouted. "Hey! Shut it. He is the king of Terassen. Who dares to speak against him?" Malakai roared. Dimitri felt his blood boil. A minute later, the sound of shoving and fighting broke out. Everyone was at each other's throat, hitting and kicking. A blinding light burst forth; two men dressed in colours resembling the doors they had seen earlier stood in front of them. They had devilish smirks on their faces. One of them was dressed in black and gold while the other in black and silver. Dimitri loosened his hold on one of the men and stood up from the ground. " Who are you?" he asked, eyeing them carefully. The men started laughing. As if on cue, both of them stopped laughing together. The man on the right adjusted his gold overcoat and said, "I am Chaos, and this is my brother Rebel." Rebel stepped forward and walked among the soldiers, " This beauty right here is our work. " he announced, smirking. Dimitri grunted angrily, " How dare you twist the minds of my men?!" he asked through gritted teeth. Chaos chuckled, " Half breed, we are demigods, we do as we please. You have no right to question us. Your kind and everyone you lead must bow to us. " he said haughtily and snapped his fingers. All the warriors of Terrasen were forcibly on their knees. "That is more like it." Rebel said, laughing.
Dimitri tried getting up, but he couldn't move a muscle. Sighing, he spoke, " Please let us go. We are in dire need of the treasure; we have to go forward. "
Rebel looked at Chaos and smirked, " Brother, let's play a game with them." he said, clapping his hands together. He turned to Dimitri, "I will give you a riddle that you have to solve." Chaos continued, " And I will be slowly torturing your soldiers till you give me an answer. If you answer correctly, we will let you move forward. " The devilish glint in their eyes grew darker as they spoke. Dimitri turned to look at Malakai, expecting him to stop him from accepting the challenge, but Malakai nodded, signalling him to say yes. " Tik Tok, time goes, and my patience follows. " Rebel said, irritated by the silence.
Dimitri closed his eyes, "I will accept your challenge on one condition." he said. " Condition? " Chaos hissed. "You need this, not us. There won't be any conditions." Rebel said. Dimitri nodded slowly.
" It can't be heard, nor be smelt.
You can't see nor feel it.
It can fill rooms; there is never a shortage.
It lies beneath your lids and in your fears.
It is there where you come from and there where you end up.
What is it? " Rebel sang.
" Tik Tok, Tik Tok. Answer when you're ready. If you answer incorrectly, your journey ends here. " Chaos smirked.
A low buzz filled the room; everyone fell on the floor holding their heads in their hand trying, to stop the burning pain that had begun. Dimitri looked around and rushed over to Malakai and the others, " Kai? Davina? Generals? Can you hear me? " he asked worriedly. A white film formed over their eyes, and the groans quietened down to soft whimpers. Dimitri shook Malakai's body shouting his name out. He looked at the others and screamed. He turned to see the brothers studying him with an amused face. Seeing his people in pain tore him apart. Rebel got irritated with the silence " Answer fast or, they die. Chaos has them facing their worst fears in their heads. You wouldn't want them suffering longer, would you? " Rebel asked, faking sympathy and placing his hand on Dimitri's shoulder. Dimitri brushed his hand off and paced the room worried.
-Cant be heard nor smelt. Cant be seen nor felt. Is it silence? No, that doesn't fit with the rest of the riddle. - Dimitri thought. With every passing minute, he was panicking.
He closed his eyes, frustrated and gasped as realization dawned on him, the path that they got, the thing that they were fighting, their fears. Everything unravelled before him in his mind. " Darkness", he mumbled, opening his eyes. He turned to Rebel.
" Darkness! It can not be heard, smelt, felt or seen; it can fill anything and never run out. It is beneath our lids and in our fears. It is in the womb where you come from and in the grave where you end up. " Dimitri felt relief wash over him as he saw their faces fall.
" You may continue your journey, half breed. You and your allies are free to go. " Chaos said, and they vanished into thin air, releasing the soldiers from their dreadful nightmares. The darkness that they had ventured into was back again. Dimitri rushed over to Malakai and the others; he sighed as he heard them waking up groaning. " Warriors of Terrasen, I am sorry for the pain that you had to go through. Unfortunately, we have no time to rest; we must move forward." he said to the dark void before him.
Malakai reached his hand out, " Dimitri? " he called out. " I am here, Kai. "
Dimitri said, reaching his hand out searching for Kai. "I knew you could do it. We never doubted you for a second. " He said as their hands met. Davina tried conjuring a light orb; a faint glow lit the tunnel. Quickly, she instructed a few others to follow suit. Dimitri and the troupe hurried forward, searching for an exit.
In the distance, they saw a dim radiance light the floor. The soldiers ran with all their might towards it.
" Does it feel like the light is still just as far as before? " Malakai asked out loud after running for a while. Dimitri panted, "Yet another one of the tricks." he said. He shook his head and grumbled dejectedly. After a while, the soldiers were now on the floor, crawling. Their bodies had given up, but their minds were set on, saving Terrasen. Dimitri held his amulet and said a short prayer before standing up and running. Suddenly, he found himself in a white room. In the centre was the one thing that they were after. He looked back, searching for his people.
The stone flew to him. In the blink of an eye, he was back in his throne room in Terassen. He looked around to see all his soldiers lying on the ground unconscious. He felt a flush of heat in his hand and looked down to see the obsidian. He quickly ran to the Tower Of Peace behind the palace and placed the stone on the wand held by Adarlan. A wave of blue light washed over the land, wiping out the darkness that lay over Terrasen. Shouts of joy reverberated across the lands as the people celebrated the return of peace and the victory of their beloved king.