Medievia Mudslinger

August 17th, 2001

Ruby of Destruction - By Robicheaux

Even at night, when the wilderness is crawling with deadly creatures, Riverton is a nice place. It's a beautiful town in a lovely setting. The people there are downright hospitable and they're used to seeing unusual strangers come through the city gates. They make a warrior welcome and feel right at home. There are even several training areas in the mines to practice your trade in. It's a rather wealthy place and the militia placed there are well-trained, resulting in few thieves and outlaws in the city.

That didn't stop a seemingly invisible black clad stranger from riding in. Maybe it was because he seemed to radiate power, or because he was well-armored and armed, but the Greycaps didn't move to stop this figure. Soon all trace of the man was lost in the darkness of the shadows caused by the full moon, and the guards breathed easily once more.

I was in the tavern at that time, drinking and joking around, with my friend Venlar. He was a rather sarcastic person with a dry sense of humor. We were talking about several pieces of expensive weaponry and armor we had spotted for sale.

"Hey, we need more ale over here now," a dwarf shouted from across the room.

"A couple of trade runs from here to Karlisna might do it," Venlar was shouting over the noise within the tavern when the door exploded, splinters flying in all directions.

The midnight-clad figure was standing where the door had once been.

"Where is Venlar?" he shouted as he drew a broadsword glowing with a bright red aura.

"You're dead!" my friend yelled as he drew his sword in response. He muttered some unintelligible words and a glowing white aura swirled around his body, coalescing as he rushed toward the man.

"Hand over the Ruby of Destruction or feel my blade upon your throat," the intruder shouted as he parried Venlar's swing. His riposte stabbed at my friend's knee.

I snapped out of my stupid stare and stepped in the battle and blocked the stab with my shield. Venlar kicked the man and he reeled across the room. Bleeding slightly, the black-clad man recovered again and pointed a finger in our direction. Sprays of acid erupted from his finger and covered the room. Dodging the deadly acid, Venlar raised his hands to the heavens and a bolt of lightning pierced the ceiling to strike the attacker. Feeling the electricity coursing through all his metal armor, he painfully stood up and sent us reeling with a massive shockwave. Angered, I drew my dagger of Venom and sliced a neat line filled with poison through a chink in his armor. He staggered and collapsed.

Glancing around the room, I spied Venlar sneaking out of the tavern. Running over the debris and the bodies of one-time customers, I tackled him to the ground.

"You got a lot of explaining to do and you're crazy if you think I'm going to let you go after what we went through here. Why's someone after you and what is the Ruby of Destruction?" I asked him, still holding him to the ground.

"Okay, Okay. I guess this was going to go out sooner or later," he muttered as he reached inside his armor. He pulled out a glimmering ruby object and allowed me to take a look at it.

"This is the Ruby of Destruction. I came to possess it through many hardships and the deaths of numerous companions in a mysterious temple to the south. It is a very powerful artifact that enhances your fighting abilities tenfold, but with its power comes a price. A part of your essence is captured and placed within the ruby. It constantly takes your energy to fuel its destruction, all the way to the point of death. A being with great vitality and force of will can ensure this world's destruction while one who is simple and weak can have the fighting power of a dragon. Imagine the Necromancer or one of the great dragons possessing an item of this magnitude," he finished, shaking his head.

I examined the shining ruby with astonishment. It appeared to be crafted into a diamond shape, and in the center of the gem a fuelless flame was visible. A red aura radiated from the artifact and it seemed to consume all living things around it.

"But... but why did..." I asked with hesitation.

"Why was that man after me? Apparently someone has learned that I possessed this artifact and that person deployed agents to take it. I had hoped to lie low in Riverton for a while, but they seem to be tracking me closer and faster each time. I'm leaving right now after the stable master gets me a morgan horse. Well, farewell."

He turned to leave and was about to go out of sight toward the gates when a thought occurred to me.

"Hey, wait," I shouted running to catch up. "Why don't I come with you? It's been too long since we last saw each other and I could help you out."

"You sure? You'd be putting yourself in a dangerous situation. The enemy probably knows of you by now. But if you insist, then I will welcome your sword. Come on, let's go."

We rode out of Riverton on fresh mounts and headed toward Castle Medievia. Venlar explained that once we got the ruby to Vryce's advisor, he would ensure that the artifact was safely placed in the void. Throughout the seemingly endless night, we struggled to reach our destination. Fighting our way through the countless wilderness beasts was slowly sapping our strength. At last, the rising sun appeared on the horizon.

"Let's make camp here. We can head out tonight again. We'll take turns keeping watch," I suggested as I tethered my mount to a nearby rock.

"Yeah, sure, whatever," he mumbled.

I poked his shoulder to wake him up and he jolted, fell off his mount and started snoring. A small red jewel fell out of his armor when he fell and bounced once on the ground beside him before coming to a rest at my feet. I looked at it and saw that it was the Ruby of Destruction. I picked it up and put it in my pocket thinking that it would be safer if I held onto it.

Muttering under my breath, I set out to look for wood to start a campfire. Most of the area was void of trees and bushes. Only some ugly plants that were unknown to me were all that I could see in this forsaken wasteland. After collecting a pitiful amount of twigs, I started heading back to where we had set up camp.

To my surprise, I found Venlar wide-awake standing outside the tent.

"This amount of wood won't make us anything serious, but it's the best that I could find." I was saying as I sorted out rocks to contain the fire.

I glanced at Venlar and was slightly startled to find his sword halfway drawn.

"Come on, stop playing around. Help me make this fire," I said slowly, thinking mournfully about why I had become involved with this mess. What was up with Venlar? He was standing, staring as if he was under the charm spell.

"Hey, Venlar. Snap out of it," I called.

Suddenly, he lunged at me, his sword whistling through the air. I dodged to the side and realized that my friend was indeed under the charm spell. Spinning to avoid another stab, I drew my own weapon and parried his next attack. With our blades locked, I chanted the arcane words and blew him away with a fireball. Without giving him a chance to regain his footing, I surged forward and bashed him as hard as I could. He fell heavily, unconscious, dust flying as he went down.

The sound of a shockwave screaming across the ground alerted me and I barely avoided it; aftershocks radiated through my armor. Gasping for breath, I spun and spotted another black-clad man like the attacker we fought in Riverton. Before I moved, he whipped out three black knives and threw them at Venlar. The steel blades pierced his armor and embedded themselves in his back, crimson blood pooling underneath him. Dumbstruck, I stared at the corpse, which was once my friend. Wounds from a sword, burns from a fireball. My doing. My anger rose up, as did my sword. Growling, I charged at the man. He nimbly leapt aside and stabbed at me with two daggers. The blades bit deep and cut into my arms.

"In Corp," he chanted and a black aura descended from the heavens and surrounded his hands.

He leaped at me and I felt overwhelming pain from my flesh withering from his grasp. I fell back, heavily wounded, but I managed to concentrate and succeed in conjuring up thousands of razor sharp frost shards. I pointed at the dark figure and simultaneously all the shards leapt from my hand to the enemy. He tried to dodge them, but most tore his armor up and hit his shoulder. Looking down at it as if it was a minor annoyance, he casted shockwave after shockwave in quick succession.

Catching a shockwave in my chest threw me across the area near the body of Venlar. Despite being bombarded by massive blasts of force, I put my hand in my pocket and drew out the Ruby of Destruction. Though it hurt me to resort to using the ruby, my anger overrode my good judgment.

"NO!" the assassin shouted when he saw what was contained within my hand.

Eyes flashing with fire, I gripped the jewel and the power of the Ruby of Destruction was displayed. A radiant red aura exploded out of the gem and engulfed me, swirling in circles around my blade and armor. The ground cracked under my boots, revealing rocky soil and nearby brush and twigs exploded into flames. With a grimace of pain, I felt some of my energy transfer into the artifact.

With astonishment, the black-clad man stared at the incredible power of the object in my hand.

"For the murder of Venlar, you shall pay in kind." I shouted.

The man turned to flee, but I jumped up and slashed fiercely at him. He dodged to the side and tried to match my blows. His blade seemed to dull and slow every time our blade clashed together. A red beam erupted from the surface of the ruby and struck my opponent, inflicting devastating pain. He screamed in agony and attempted to respond with several shimmering war hammers that had appeared out of nowhere. The red aura that surrounded me warded off the massive blows while I concentrated and summoned most of the energy into a black cloud of energy. A mixed look of anger, pain and worry was all my opponent left me as he tried to run away. I pointed at his fleeing figure and a bolt of supercharged energy struck him.

With a final death cry, he crumbled and was reduced to ashes to be blown away by the wind.

All was silent after destruction. The landscape looked as if a pair of dragons had fought there. I looked around surveying the damage done by the artifact. Looking once more at the still body of the friend I had adventured so often with, I burnt the corpse with a fireball.

None dared hinder me as I continued my journey to Castle Medievia. Every being seemed to shrink as I approached the castle. Perhaps they knew, perhaps they didn't - I was past caring.

Vryce's advisor offered me a large amount of gold, but I declined knowing that nothing could ever atone for what happened out there. It wasn't until the second the ruby came out of my hands and into another's that I felt the weight upon my shoulders had been lifted.

Humming a tune I had picked up from Venlar, I rode out of the gates of Medievia.

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