|Demonforge/ The Hunting Grounds|
Designed by Athrian, Jaolen, and Khumbu
Medium Groups: 31-31
Large Groups: 31-31
Silhouettes danced on the blackened walls of the examination chamber as the dark mage lit the torches with a wave of his hand. The light was not nearly as bright as it would have been had he simply used an enchanted globe, but something about the way the flames danced brought him a touch of satisfaction. This, he thought, was going to be a very satisfying day.
Stretched out before him on the cold marble slab, the infamous spy of Shangri La looked far less dangerous than he had during the fighting. A peaceful, tranquil look had come over his face in death, and for a wonder it almost moved the dark mage to regret what he was about to do. Almost. He turned to the white-robed figure in the corner of the room and said quietly, "Revive him."
With a bow of her head she approached the body on the table and flung her hands high into the air. Power coalesced around her, unseen to normal eyes but blazing to the dark mage. With a cry in words long forgotten, she sent the torrent of energy coursing into the man on the slab. The man was long past the stage where any normal priest could have returned life to him, but the dark mage's bride was far greater than the so-called mighty clerics of Medievia.
After a time, the chanting faded, and the glorious aura of power surrounding the woman in white faded. Shuffling over to the slab, the dark mage looked down upon the man lying there. His chest rose and fell in the pattern of normal breathing, and after a brief moment he opened his eyes. The dark mage stared at him hard, waiting for some reaction, then frowned. There was not the least hint of recognition in the man's eyes.
"Do you know who you are?" the mage asked.
The man didn't answer aloud, but instead turned his head to examine his surroundings. After a shake of his head, he said in a soft voice, "I remember ... you!" His eyes widened in alarm, and he leapt to his feet in one graceful bound. The mage had to admire his athleticism; most people recovering from such a resurrection would barely have been able to walk. It was, however, irksome, and with a sigh the dark mage let tendrils of magic flow from his hands, binding the prisoner in place. The tendrils flowed like dark smoke, tying the man to the table more securely than any ropes.
"I brought you back because there is a task you can perform for me," he said simply. "Do it well, and I shall grant you what remains of your life." Fear radiated from the revived man, but even more powerful was a sense of defiance and anger. The mage sighed again: this might not be quite such a satisfying day after all.
"Foul creature," the prisoner spat, "I'll give you nothing save a blade in your heart."
"Brave words," the mage said with a twist of his mouth, "but foolish. This would be much easier if you simply acquiesced, but I suppose I'll just have to take what I want." Drawing deeply upon his power, the mage entered the prisoner's mind. The man resisted as best he could, more than the mage had thought him capable, but all the same he felt the barriers weakening. Soon he would have the meddlesome girl's location. Then it would take but a few simple steps, and Shangri La would finally be his. Just as he felt himself reach the memory, the knowledge coming into his grasp, a blinding white light exploded in his head. For a moment the world was a haze of pain, until he felt his bride's hand press against his head and saw the room come back into focus.
The prisoner was still bound to the table, and the dark mage's bride stood over him, a look of concern in her eyes. Gruffly he rose to his feet and felt the stirrings of anger inside him.
"Warded," he snarled. "You are determined to make this a long day, boy."
The prisoner laughed at him, and, straining against the tendrils that bound him, cried "It's gone, fool! I know what you seek, and it has been destroyed from my memory as surely as if it were never there." His face twisted into a grin, and he said, in a confident voice, "You've lost."
The mage's eyes blazed with anger. "LOST?" he shouted. "Nothing is lost! You've merely delayed the inevitable, fool, and for it I shall make you suffer a fate worse than death. You will be my hound, tracking down your beloved until she is in my hands. From this day until the day you die. You. Are. Mine." Focusing his rage, the dark mage drew upon every ounce of energy he possessed and seized the prisoner's mind utterly, twisting and reshaping it until all the man knew was devotion to his task and to the mage.
Feeling his anger drain out of him, he noticed for the first time that one of his patrolmen had entered the room, wisely keeping his a distance until he was acknowledged. "What do you want?" the mage said in a strained voice. He had not meant to lose his temper so easily.
"Master, two of the prisoners have escaped," the patrolman said hesitantly, trying to gauge his master's response. "Niram and ... the madman."
Any satisfaction the mage had hoped to gain from the day evaporated. "Find them, then! I should never have let them live this long anyway. I want you to address this oversight personally." Then, with a slight smirk, he looked at his prisoner and added, "Take Kanchenjunga with you. You can hunt for them as well as for the girl." Releasing the tendrils that bound Kanchenjunga, he dismissed them both with a wave of his hand.
After they had left, he turned to his bride and shook his head. "I'm sorry for that outburst, my dear. It seems things are going to be delayed a bit. Fear not, though, paradise shall soon be ours."
The archer looked down upon the courtyard below with a great feeling of desolation. It had been over a month since he'd escaped the clutches of the dark one, and since returning to the safety of the tower he had been incapable of locating that infernal girl. More and more he worried she had been captured by one of the Neumanaga patrols. But no, if that had happened they would already be dead.
Rosco and the duke doubted him; the archer could see it in their eyes when they spoke to him. The duke he'd had to sequester. No sense in risking the guards' loyalties falling on the wrong side if the duke decided it would be wiser to open up the tower. Rosco worried him as well, but he suspected the former captain would do nothing. Idly he ran his fingers along the stringless bow he'd carried since his escape. The girl must be found, or they would all be doomed.
"Have we made any progress?" the first shadowy figure asked. All the figures were hidden beneath dark robes, and none of their faces were visible, a matter of tradition more than of trust. If any of them had been traitors, they'd have long since been killed.
"Not much to speak of; we still haven't been able to locate Niram since his little escapade," the second figure responded. "I fear we have little hope of catching them off-guard now. I hate to say it, but we need the bounty hunter."
A third figure spoke. "What of the tower? Can we hope for any aid from there?"
"Not likely," a fourth said sourly. "It's been locked up tight since the archer's return, and they have shown no sign of making any move."
"Then we have little choice," the first said. "Niram must be found."
They all nodded their heads, and left unspoken what would happen if the dark mage's soldiers found him first.
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