- Memories -
A dark alleyway, two figures wearing Penny's masks hurrying towards him, their shadows swift across the lantern lit walls of weathered purple stone.
Behind them was the light of a distant fire, the sounds of footsteps and doors opening in the main street, as people went out to to gape at the flaming side of the Cerberus Tower. Across the starry night sky, the silhouettes of griffin riders scoured the city from above. "Fire in the tower!" said the waking folks; "What's going on?"; "Thieves broke into the tower!"
"I have the book." said Penny's panting voice from the first masked figure. She patted her backpack, her gloves streaked with blood, as she and her companion ran past him. "And the rumors were true, the key isn't there anymore."
"Well, at least you two got one thing right in this whole fiasco. In the wagon, now." said Manuel's voice quietly, snatching the bag from her impatiently. Waiting behind him was a small group of what seemed to be a family with a priestess --- no, ruffians disguised as a family and priestess.
"You two will love your disguises." said the breathy voice of one ruffian. "You're going to be corpses."
"Slater, let's move." cut in Manuel. The ruffians all took their positions, as Manuel took out two small sickly red vials and handed it to the two masked thieves.
* * * *
The wheels of the wagon grinding up a slippery slope up under heavy snowfall . . . a bridge in the distance . . . a familiar giant spider like machine . . .
Later, Manuel strode into the ruins, pass the mindless working drows, and into a warm chamber flanked by floating Katulu Archeons, the most masterful mages of these disgusting octopus people Theosebia had enslaved. And there in the center was a beautifully decorated steaming pit, but within it . . . a mass of flesh and eyes, decorated with rings and necklaces of gold and precious gems . . . nesting a pile of dead drows . . . it's many arms waving, creating the same spell sigil, as the whispers of many women rose from whatever semblance of a hundred unseeing and nose-less faces bubbled out of its glowing green flesh like bubbles. Various soul stones of all colors and shapes rose from the corpses as they were being eaten.
"I'm back. And I have the book. All that's left is the other one, and the key."
"VERY GOOD. YOU HAVE DONE WELL TO BRING ME CLOSER TO SEEING MY DARLING ONCE MORE . . ." whispered the voices. "OUR EXCAVATIONS HAVE BEEN FRUITUITIOUS. THEY HAVE FINALLY DUG UP THE LAST BRUMESTONE WE NEED TO LIFT BARAD EITHEL INTO THE SKY AGAIN."
Wordlessly a set of doors opened, and a group of slaves came bearing a heavy amber yellow crystal much like the one that encased Vidya's arm, and the one that encased Magni, though this one was cut into a beautiful oval and was smaller than Magni, just about as big as a wagon wheel.
Manuel examined the crystal with much interest. "I wish we had more. This is a better source of power than having to collect and meld dozens of soul stones for the goliaths."
"ALAS, IGNORANT FOOLS HAVE CHIPPED AWAY AT THE BRUMESTONES IN THE FALLEN CITIES, THINKING THEM MERE TRINKETS FOR THEIR RINGS AND NECKLACES. SOULS WILL HAVE TO SUFFICE FOR NOW. WE HAVE MANY. AND I HAVE SAVED THE MOST TROUBLESOME ONES FOR YOU TO PLAY WITH."
* * * *
Floating in the obelisk chamber within Malus . . . watching the katulus work, as he directed them . . . Every now and then he'd look at his spell book again. There were drawings, plans, a diagram of what looked like . . . like Loki's eyes. His real eyes . . . There were arithmetic calculations . . . adding up the spell power of about six obelisks . . . if it was enough to seal him . . .
* * * *
Manuel walking through the many passages of the brass and gold-patina ruins, past pits where smoke rose from the smelting of tons of metal, the hammering as slaves worked to repair the fallen flying city . . . past the working portal where they were bringing in lumber from The Highlands, felling down the ancient trees to fuel their forges . . . and outside, on what seemed to be four square blocks of the ancient city leveled and straightened, there stood the largest portal he has ever seen, big enough for goliaths to pass through nearing completion. The runes around the gateway marking the path that will open to the Void . . .
He made his way into the golden dome, past the old clockwork gears of this giant building of a machine, the great swirling blue rings of energy that powered this place that the old ones had used to command the goliaths as one and slay Titan centuries ago. It had changed the land and more importantly changed a people . . . the ten thousand survivors of that age that still reside in Theosebia . . . who cast away their bodies in a moment of desperation, and took refuge within the Vault Key . . . trapped inside until that fateful day forty years ago that set Theosebia free . . .
He thought about their very first meeting, when he was still a young man eager for the power of the Age of Arcana, finding Theosebia in the sewers of Barad Eithel . . . the knowledge she had contained . . . and learning . . . that she was the Vault of Memories . . . Hers and the memories of the ten thousand survivors within her remember . . . and the stories they told him . . . it was a much better world than the one he lived in . . . and to see how far they've gone to bringing it back . . . once Theosebia takes in Loki's soul . . . she will become as powerful as and Ancient . . . and then they can remake the world, and make it beautiful once more.