June 22, 2000
The passageways twist and turn, their random placement resembling that of a complex dance. Large stalagmites, jutting up from the ground, seem to reach out at anyone who passes. A cool breeze drifts through the rooms, creating waves of chill, and everything seems to react to it. The moon creates a blue glow that fills the area, lighting everything in sight. The smell of manure and fresh blood fills the area. A sense of destruction and death hangs over these tunnels.
Suddenly, this peaceful silence is shattered as a snarling beast furiously enters the room. He is an immense creature. He has hoofed feet and hairy legs with knees facing behind him, allowing him to run swiftly. He has the body of a man, but it is covered in hair. His arms are rippling with muscles, and elongated claws extend from his fingers, which look like they could shred through steel. His face is that of a bull, with thick viscous drool dripping off his teeth, which resemble incisors. He has two magnificent horns, used in battle to charge at and gore his prey. The most intimidating part of him is his enormous battle-axe, which has much value in gold. It possesses magical powers which it bestows on is wielder and it compels toward its target.
The Minotaur glances around the room, searching for something. He walks to a wall, and examines it. He scans the dirt for fresh footprints. He finds a bit of shredded clothing, and sniffs it, trying to find some scent that might lead him to his prey. He snarls as he finds nothing, and continues on his search.
A gray beast, resembling a large rock with arms and legs, jumps out at a wandering knight attacking him, and powerfully smashes his leg to pieces. The young man barely dodges another of the golem's attacks, and with one fell swoop, utterly massacres the golem, leaving a bloody corpse on the ground.
He staggers and collapses, completely drained of life. Wounds cover his body from previous battles, and his hair is matted down with blood. His leg is crushed, and now completely useless. He pulls from his backpack a vial made of glass, which contains a glowing green liquid, and pours it on his leg. His whole leg sizzles where the liquid touches, and then is healed. Out of energy, he rests; restoring what is left of his life.
Suddenly, a white light explodes throughout the room, and nothing can be seen. As it slowly disappears, a young woman in white robes is there. As she puts her hand to his body, a brilliant sapphire light emits from it, restoring the warrior's energy. He snaps up to attention, and with much dignity, bows before this lady, thanking her for her help.
He then turns, and starts to examine the corpse of his attacker. Finding what he wants, he pulls out a small bundle of coins, which he tosses into his backpack. He then turns to the woman, giving her his full attention.
"Thank you my lady. 'Tis very kind of you to help me. I am Draykon."
"I am much obliged. You are quite the gentleman. My name is Aephryel."
"Well it's nice to meet someone so helpful," Draykon replies. "What brings you to this nasty underground hole?"
"It is lovely to see a ruffian such as yourself who still respects a woman, but I can handle myself better than you," she says with a smirk. "I heard a cry of pain, and I came to help."
"Well, thanks again, for I was hurt rather severely," he replies gratefully. " Be careful around here, for a large beast roams this area, who is half man, half bull. He is strong beyond compare, and extremely fierce," he says with a shudder.
"I know. It is the Minotaur you speak of, who killed my father, and I have sworn to defeat him somehow. My family is of an honorable lineage, and I strive to meet their high demands."
"Not for me. I was raised in a simple little hut, learning the warrior skills from my father, who sold firewood. I have a brother named Gollumak, who has been sent away to a training school. Back in the good old days, my pop and I cut down huge trees to sell while my brother and ma did housework and made meals."
"That sounds rather enjoyable compared to the immense standards I must face everyday."
Extending his hand out towards Aephryel, he asks, "Since you are much learned in the arts of healing, will you join me in conquest of the Minotaur?"
She hesitates, then agrees. "We will make a fine team, and nothing will stand in our way. Should we get in trouble, I have a spell or two that just might save us."
The two adventurers, after resting, continue their journey. Soon, they wander into a dead end. A large beetle, engulfed in flames, is roaming the area, looking for food. Draykon prepares himself for another battle, when a dark figure leaps out of the shadows and thrusts a gleaming dagger into the left shoulder of the overgrown bug. The creature howls as blood covers the once beautiful dagger, and sprays the room.
The beetle turns around and faces its attacker, who deftly trips the bug, and slashes at him again, missing. Although the beetle shreds the young man's leg with his pincers, the man continues to fight. The thief grabs a small dagger from his jar, and throws it at the bug, where is sticks into the bug's leg. He then waves his arm around, tracing lines in the air. Chanting words in an undertone while pointing at the beetle, he finishes his task and his enemy, the beetle, collapses in a deep sleep.
The thief then nods at Draykon and Aephryel, and continues his work. He takes his now blood-soaked dagger, and decapitates the beetle skillfully. The head rolls on the ground, blood seeping out of the end of it. The body then falls in a heap on the dirt. The young thief then rips his dagger out of the corpse' s leg, and sits down with a sigh.
"Hey. M' name is Xavrius. Whaddya doin' in here?" says the thief.
"We are on a quest to vanquish the fierce Minotaur. I am Draykon, and this fair woman is Aephryel," replies Draykon boldly.
"His evil is very great, and we wish to rid the world of his destruction," chimes in Aephryel.
"Ah, I see. I am here to train, and grow stronger. As you see, I am skilled in the thief arts as well as the spells of a mage, which come in handy. It looks like you need another in your little party, and I have been brought near to death by the Minotaur, barely escaping with my life. My motivation is vengeance; it is fed greatly in every passing moment. We would make a good team. What say ye?"
The bold warrior blushes, hating the fact that he needs any assistant. He pretends he didn't hear, and does nothing. The lady cleric, seeing what is happening, steps forward and volunteers a response.
"We would be happy for your assistance. Although Draykon showed me much courtesy earlier, I feel he is ashamed of his few shortcomings."
At this, the warrior's face becomes a deep red, and he mutters something about his self-image under his breath.
Ignoring him, the thief snorts while saying, "I feel honored that you recognize my worth. And for ye," as he turns to Draykon, "You got to learn that you hafta take all you can get. Miss Aephryel: I see ya got the clerical arts. Would ya mind healing me?"
"Why yes of course."
She leans forward towards him clutching his arms. She tenses, using her power, and a white light fills his body. The tension in his face clears, and his weakened muscles seem to grow larger.
He opens his jar, and takes some food out. He hungrily gobbles it down, and then chugs some water from a flask. It drips down his face and pools on the ground.
"Let's go find that Minotaur now."
Draykon and Aephryel wander into the room, completely surveying their surroundings, searching for their prey.
"Where'd Xavrius go?" questions Draykon as he peers around the room.
"Right 'ere," chimes in a voice from the shadows.
"Xav?" asks Draykon.
"Yea, I'm right here. I use the shadows to hide and sneak around, so ya might not see me, but I'm here. Let's keep goin'."
The Minotaur lowers his head to the dirt, sniffing along unseen lines. He grunts, and raises his head into the air, sniffing furiously. He then heads north, and starts running until he finds another fork in the road. Here, a clear glass vial is on the floor, with a drop of green liquid inside. The Minotaur grasps it in his hand, examining it. He then roars, and increases his force upon it, shattering it.
He then moves on, coming upon a large ant. The ant is walking around the room very territorially, and is ready to attack any that dare challenge him. He raises his battle-axe into the air, and swipes at the ant, whose body quickly falls apart to two pieces. The part with the head still struggles to fight, blood gushing out of it and pooling on the ground. The Minotaur laughs, and crushes its head in with his hoof.
He grabs his axe and shoves it in the dirt, wiping the blood off it. He wipes blood off his hoof, and then, shrugging, leaves.
The small band of heroes wanders into another room. Xavrius notices a massive centipede creeping along the floor, and leaps out at it, thrusting his knife into its back. Before it can turn around, Draykon kicks its face in, blood splattering his shiny boots. He mutters something about how long it took him to shine them, and then proceeds to loot the corpse. Finding what he wants, he grabs two potions from the corpse, and shoves them into his backpack.
"That was too easy. Somethin' had to attack it before us, making it an easy battle. I have a bad feeling about this," mentions Xavrius.
"I understand what you are saying," replies Aephryel with a shudder. "Maybe the Minotaur was here."
"I dunno, but I hate all this waiting. Where is this damn Minotaur that y'all are talking about?" Draykon asks furiously.
"I don't think we are the hunters anymore," replies Aephryel, "but we've become the hunted. I have a feeling someone is watching our every move, waiting for the right moment."
"All I know is that somethin' has been here an attacked that centipede," nods Xavrius.
"Well let's not worry about it. Let's just keep going. I have heard tales of a magic shop with various potions and a bakery with exquisite food," Aephryel says, trying to get off the subject of being hunted. "There are also armor shops with the toughest armor, and weapon shops with fierce daggers and strong blades. If we can get there, we would be ready for the battle ahead."
"Aye, I have heard of those tales. But I question their integrity," interjects Xavrius. "Either way, lets get going."
The Minotaur hurries through his work, sensing an adventurer approaching. He lays a trap, and skillfully covers it with dirt and grass, rendering it invisible. He then sets it, and steps back into the shadows, disappearing from view.
A young ruffian wanders into the room, looking lost. He staggers across the room, obviously out of breath. His body appears very frail, but his face is fierce and a flaming shield of heat surrounds him. He takes a wary step, and SNAP! A trap closes around his leg. As he struggles to free himself, the Minotaur steps out of his hiding place.
The mage gasps as the Minotaur charges him. Fierce flames leap out at the Minotaur as he attacks, but he continues. The mage chants something and thrusts out his hands, which begin to glow red. Suddenly, a burst of various colors spout from his hands and surround the beast's face, who howls in agony.
The Minotaur shakes his head and struggles to see through the colors. He blindly swings his axe, slicing the warlock's stomach, eviscerating him and turning his cloak bright red. Flames burst out at the Minotaur once again, but he is far too enraged to notice. The mage struggles with another spell, and bolts of yellow lightning leap forth from his hands and engulf the Minotaur.
With one last burst of energy, the beast decapitates his foe and staggers, falling to the ground. He gasps for air, realizing he hadn't been breathing. Suddenly, a necromancer appears and steals the dead warrior's soul, and disappears just as quickly. The Minotaur searches the corpse, but loudly roars as he finds nothing.
He stands up, and stretches. The Minotaur then looks around for any more attackers, and then continues searching for the adventurers.
The small band of adventurers' endurance has been shot. They trudge on wearily, but soon they will have to rest. They enter a room with only two exits, and small ones at that. It looks cozy, and is nice in size.
"We can camp here," sighs Draykon. "I'll barricade the exits, Xavrius, you set up tents, and Aephryel, you can start dinner."
They start their jobs with a sense of renewed joy at the thought of rest. Draykon covers the eastern exit with a wall of sticks, and uses mud to fill in the holes. He kicks it with all his might, and it easily holds up. Grinning with satisfaction, he moves on to the other exit.
Xavrius struggles with a tent, which finally opens. He then quickly puts it up, having much experience. He stands back surveying his handiwork. His face fills with a look of satisfaction, and then he pulls another tent out of his jar, and starts to work on it.
Meanwhile, Aephryel starts a fire, which soon grows to be very large. She places a few sticks together, forming a crude barbecue. She pulls some bloody raw meat out of her bag, and puts it to cook. Waiting for the meat to finish, she pulls out a harp and starts to play. Her music is melodic, and fills the adventurers' hearts with joy. Every second she is not playing, their hearts droops with sadness, longing for her to start again. After a few minutes, she stops and checks the meat, deciding it is done.
"The food is ready," she announces as she puts various spices on it. "This is my specialty and I think you will enjoy."
The two men quickly turn and grab some, gobbling it down. Sighs of pleasure can be heard through the disgusting noises of their hunger. Aephryel, appalled, sophisticatedly pulls out a plate and fork and proceeds to eat her dinner with manners. Draykon, obviously satisfied and slightly larger around the waist, mutters something about good food and enters into his tent. Loud snores emit from his tent, telling of his sleep.
"Well, now that he is asleep," says Xavrius, "maybe you and I could talk."
"Yea, and about what?" replies Aephryel sweetly, nudging Xavrius on.
"So," says Xavrius, struggling to find something to talk about. "What made you decide to learn the healing arts?"
"Family tradition. My mother and grandmother were both clerics, and so I was destined. What about you?"
"I was abandoned as a child, and had to survive alone. Fayrken, a skilled mage, offered me shelter, and in turn, I trained under him as a magic user. But I soon found thief skills very limiting. I wandered on, in search of something greater. There I met Trilmac, who I befriended, and lived with for many years. He is a master of the thieving arts, and some of that rubbed off onto me."
"Wow. That's a tough story. What a horrible childhood! It seems to have made you stronger though."
"Yea well," replies Xavrius blushing, "I'm glad you think so."
"I like more than just your fighting abilities."
With that, Aephryel leans forward, and grabs Xavrius' armor. She pulls him up to her face, and gently kisses him. He reacts to this by wrapping his arms around her, and continuing this passionate kiss.
"Lets not be too hasty," smiles Aephryel, teasing him and backing away. "We will have lots of time ahead of us."
Aephryel then returns to creating beautiful music with her harp. Xavrius listens, completely content, and is lulled into sleep. Aephryel soon realizes she is the only one awake, and pushes Xavrius, who is sleeping like a baby, into his tent. She then puts out the campfire and crawls into her tent.
"OK everyone, get up," shouts Xavrius. "We got a lot to do today."
Aephryel and Draykon exit their tents to find a beautiful meal of eggs and biscuits and steak. All of this is set upon a crude table built by Xavrius, who has also placed plates and huge mugs of mead. There are three chairs at the table; two of them are next to each other and one is all alone.
"Good morning sweetie," says Aephryel with a smile and a kiss for Xavrius. " This looks splendid."
"Well thank you," replies Xavrius, beaming.
"Lets jus' eat", retorts Draykon jealously.
They gather around the table in awe at the magnificent meal, and then quickly get into their seats and fill their plates. They eat slowly, savoring every flavor. The mead is also a special surprise, for they rarely have anything but water. They cherish this whole meal, wishing to remember it for days.
"Late last night I heard some scratching and roaring outside of our barricade. Something was trying to get, but another beast quickly silenced it," tells Draykon solemnly. "I think that other beast was the Minotaur. We've been wandering aimlessly as it followed us. If we go up ahead, and prepare ourselves for battle, the Minotaur will be an easy target."
"I've been thinking of a plan that centers around that idea," says Xavrius thoughtfully. "We should go up ahead and I will set a trap. We will wait in the next room until we hear it snap, then I will go on, hiding in the shadows, and backstab him. After that, I will give you the signal and you two come in. Draykon, you attack it with your feet and your sword, and Aephryel, you keep us from dying with your healing powers. Everyone got it?"
"Lets get going then. While me and Draykon go ahead to set up, Aephryel, I want you to remove certain parts of our barricade so that when pushed it will fall through like wet parchment."
"OK, everything is ready. Now all we do is wait. Prepare yourselves for a huge battle. Have some green potions of healing handy, and wear your toughest armor," advises Xavrius.
"There's our trap. When I give the signal, rush in, but do not attack."
Xavrius starts sneaking, sliding along the walls in the shadows. His exit is not seen by the other two, nor his entrance. He slowly sneaks up behind the Minotaur, and slices through his back with his dagger. The Minotaur, who is struggling with a trap, turns and roars furiously. Blood sprays Xavrius as he removes his dagger. Panicked, Xavrius quickly chants the incantation for a spell and points at the Minotaur, who falls to the ground and curls up to sleep.
"OK, come on in."
Draykon enters warily, followed by Aephryel. They find a nasty scene before them. The Minotaur, who has a large gaping wound in his back, is lying on the ground peacefully. Xavrius is there, a little out of breath, and covered in blood.
"Ready?" asks Xavrius quietly. "The spell will only last for a while so we have to move quickly. Once I attack, join in."
Xavrius focuses his mind for a second, and points at the Minotaur. Little clusters of flame surround the Minotaur as a pink outline surrounds him. Satisfied, Xavrius takes his bloodied dagger and thrusts it in the Minotaur's skin, which is as hard as rock. The Minotaur, aroused from his sleep, charges at the first thing he sees: Xavrius. Xavrius quickly clears his mind, and summons energy to his hands, which begin to glow red. He aims at the Minotaur, and huge swirls of random spiraling colors encircle the Minotaur's face, who shrieks and scratches at his eyes.
The Minotaur, still struggling with temporary blindness, swings his axe is circles around him, preventing any more attacks until he regains his vision. Xavrius again summons up another spell. Pale yellow energy surrounds his arms, and he thrusts them out at the Minotaur, and nine large magic missiles smash into the Minotaur, who staggers further backward with each hit.
The Minotaur, who can now see, turns to Xavrius. Before he can get a decent hit in, Draykon places a hard kick in his stomach. The Minotaur, only further enraged, surrounds Xavrius with attacks, who deftly dodges many of them. However, a few hit their spot, and Xavrius is shrieking in agony, as blood pours out of his body. Aephryel quickly tries to finish a healing spell, but is too late as one last hack from the Minotaur leaves Xavrius dead.
Draykon, filled with intense vengeance, rushes for the beast. With one large swoop he cuts off the Minotaur's arm. Before the Minotaur can react, Draykon kicks him in the head, and Aephryel, who had been preparing a spell, grasps the Minotaur's body as her hands flare red. The Minotaur winces in pain, but turns on to Draykon.
He brings his axe down upon Draykon, but it is parried away. Draykon grabs a metallic wand from his inventory, and holds it, and then points it at the beast. It starts to shake and then explodes as several large magic missiles encircle and smash into the Minotaur. The Minotaur, in return, smashes Draykon's shoulder with a massive blow.
Draykon quickly wields his sword with his good arm, and thrusts it into the monster's belly. Aephryel holds her glowing hands up to Draykon, who smiles as a bright aura surrounds him and removes his wounds. She then collapses, fully drained of energy.
"You're on your own, Draykon. I have nothing left."
Draykon brings another kick up to the Minotaur's crotch, who howls in agony. He then summons what energy he has left for one last attack, and jumps toward the Minotaur. He launches his sword right through the Minotaur's stomach, quickly retracting it, and faces the Minotaur who looks rather shocked as he falls backward to the ground. Blood rushes out of the beast's body, who struggles to speak with them.
"I...I am...not...the...last. T- t- t- th- the- there will..be others," the Minotaur warns with one last breath.
His eyes close and his body falls limp. Large wisps of energy are emitted from his corpse, and surround Aephryel and Draykon. The party realizes they have just won, and start to celebrate, until they remember Xavrius. Aephryel runs to his corpse, weeping, and holds him to her body.
"You can't die. I l...loved you," she sobs. "We had a long future ahead of us. "
Draykon turns, thinking of a way to help her. An idea jumps into his head, and he runs over to her.
"Don't worry. I have heard of experienced adventurers who have mastered all forms of fighting called heroes. Some of them even devote their life to helping the inexperienced, and they call themselves avatars. They have the powers to resurrect murdered adventurers. If one could come, he would come back to life."
He turns, and summoning his last bit of energy, and shouts:
"We are in need of the help of a powerful hero to resurrect a friend destroyed in battle against the Minotaur. His name is Xavrius, and he was a good friend," shouts Draykon, his voice trailing off.
Suddenly, the room is filled with a blinding sapphire light. It slowly fades as mist forms from the ground and engulfs the room. Everyone struggles to see through the mist, but cannot. As it dissipates, a large man appears. The man is immense in body, mind, and spirit. His presence fills the room with calm and joy.
"Hello. My name is Marjoran," he says. He points to the corpse, "Is that Xavrius?"
"What is left of him, yes," bursts Aephryel through sobs.
"Do not worry young lady, he will soon be back into your company."
Marjoran reaches into his bag and pulls out a bright red stone that seems to be beating. He holds it and points it towards the corpse of Xavrius. He takes a big breath, then chants out a few arcane words. Blue energy is drawn from each of the adventurers, and into Xavrius' body, who takes a large breath and sits up.
"There. He is not at full health, but he is alive. Am I correct in assuming he was slain by the Minotaur, who is now dead?"
"Yes. He gave it his all and it destroyed him," replies Aephryel proudly.
"Thank you wise man," Xavrius interrupts as he shakes Marjoran's hand.
"My pleasure, for you died for a great cause. I must leave now."
A small portal appears, and the hero steps into it, disappearing. Xavrius stands and faces the group, his armor covered in blood. Aephryel runs over to him and hugs him, planting a large kiss on his face. He winces in pain, but manages to grin.
"Draykon," says Xavrius. "Take that axe. It will bring you much fortune. And as for you," he says as he turns to Aephryel. "We have some catching up to do."
*ONE YEAR LATER*
A small man dashes into the room Xavrius is sitting in. Xavrius struggles with his hat, which matches his equally splendid clothes.
"We're all ready," the man speaks, through long breaths.
"OK, be there in a sec."
They exit the room together, into a large hall. Pews fill the sides, and a walkway parts them, covered in a beautiful, velvet carpet. Everyone turns, and smiles as Xavrius enters the room. At the end of the walkway is Aephryel, standing graciously, who looks dazzling in a long, flowing white dress, obviously crafted by elves. A wise old man stands in front of Aephryel, holding a large book. Organs play as Xavrius walks up the aisle, and takes his place next to Aephryel.
"Do you, Xavrius Nefrey, take Aephryel Ameir as your lawfully wedded wife?" asks the man.
"And do you, Aephryel Ameir, take Xavrius Nefrey as your lawfully wedded husband?"
"Then with the power vested in me, I pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride."
Xavrius turns, and wraps his arms wrap around Aephryel as he gives her a long, passionate kiss. The audience cheers. Flowers burst into the air in large handfuls, and scatter as they fall. Trumpets blare, and Aephryel, holding her hand behind her back, throws the bouquet into a mass of screaming women.
"I love you Xavrius."
"I love you too Aephryel. May our time together be happy and joyous."
Meanwhile, a large man with a black cloak screams as Draykon's sword thrashes into him. Draykon waves his hands in the air, which begin to glow yellow. A massive shockwave bursts forth from his hands, and engulfs the dark warlock. As it disappears, all that is left is a pile of ashes. Large wisps of energy spout of the corpse and surround Draykon, and he seems to get stronger and wiser simultaneously.
You feel a voice in your head, as the illustrious god Kylrathin tells you of the wondrous news. "Draykon is the newest hero in Medievia. His strength is unmatched by all. Be sure to congratulate him," says the little voice. "Also, a new couple has been made as Xavrius and Aephryel were united in holy matrimony."
And all is joyous after all. Revenge has been fulfilled, good has won, new love has sprung up, and another hero has emerged from the darkness.