an old story of The Fall (and primal tadpoles)
(( written decades ago ))
It didn’t exactly move, so much as it slithered…
The tiny swimming lifeform looked similar to a tadpole, with a bluish-white core that housed it’s life force. This aura of energy bathed it’s tiny heart and gills as it slithered through the water, it’s primordial essence demanding FOOD. As it swam along, the lifeform had no fear of predators. As far as it’s mind could comprehend, it was the only living thing on the planet.
It had evolved from bacteria over a several hundred years, bacteria which fed on decomposing matter. The bacteria which caused the matter to decompose was a food source as well, but for some reason that strain never stepped up the evolutionary ladder. All of this, of course, was unknown to the practically unintelligent primal tadpole which swam onwards, seeking it’s supper.
As it swam along, tiny little sensors built into it’s feeding orifice tasted the waters it passed through, searching for a particular sooty particle. It knew that when it found that particle, food was nearby, or at least had been. Hours passed, and still the primal tadpole flipped its tail, growing ever more ravenous.
This little roadtrip came to an end when something nearby bumped the creature. The tadpole’s core flashed quickly from bluish-white to an angry red. It opened its tiny circular mouth and bared its rings of sharp, cutting teeth. The muscle ring on the outside of its jaw contracted to the left, while the inner ring contracted to the right. A low, soft burr could be heard and felt as this took place, the muscles expanding and contracting dozens of times per second. A small ripple could be seen in the surface of the water above, if anything were up there to see it. Beneath the surface, a deadly dance had begun.
The primal tadpole was angry. Angry that something dared be in the water, its water. It could feel the buzzing in the water, which told it that it had been bumped by another of its kind. The differing in the frequency let it know that it had been bumped by a female tadpole. This mattered little to the male, as he wasn’t in the mood to be friends, he was on the hunt ! The two tadpoles circled one another warily, knowing each others location by simple vibration triangulation. Then, without warning, the male darted forward. The smaller female tried desperately to dodge to the side, and received a viscious bite along her flank for her trouble.
A tiny ribbon of bluish-white energy rose from the wounded female. Tasting the change in the water, the male tadpole dove in for the kill. As the female attempted to retreat, the male dove straight in and bored through her side with it’s buzzing sawteeth. Reaching her body’s central chamber, the male feasted on her life energy as the weakly wriggling female finally died.
He feasted on her for a few minutes, and, somewhat sated now, tore through her digestive sac. Inhaling the somewhat digested food, he found something that surprised him. Along with the normal, sooty particles and bits of semidigested flesh, a few milky white particles had been eaten. And they were good, better even than the taste of the black particles which made up his normal diet. Resolving to find more of these invigorating particles, the male bored his way out of the females carcass and swam off in the direction she came from. His core faded quickly from red back to blue-white, and glowed more brightly than before, looking less like an underwater firefly and more like burning magnesium.
Traveling quickly now, the primal tadpole eagerly flipped its tail, moving at such an accelerated pace that the water above showed a little V as he traveled along. After several miles, the tadpole began to taste both black and white particles in the water. Growing ever more excited, it stopped and listened for the familiar buzzing noise of other tadpoles in a feeding frenzy. Sensing ripples of movement ahead and to the left, he swam forward slowly, feeling all around for others of his kind. Traveling for a few dozen meters, he finally felt the sonic buzz of feasting tadpoles. Breathing calmly, his gills flickering slowly, the primal tadpole approached the others placidly, unthreateningly.
Approaching the food source, the tadpole was all but ignored by its bretheren, so focused were they on feeding their hungry little bodies. He dug in, circular maw chewing on some strange flesh he had never before tasted, flesh with white particles, not black. This, thought the tadpole, is what food is supposed to taste like. Then, as if reacting to the thoughts of the feasting tadpoles, the food moved. As one, all of the tadpoles stopped eating, jaw muscles freezing in place as a single community thought passed through the school. “What was that ?”
It was the last thought the school of primal tadpoles had, as a tugging sensation ripped their lifeforce right from their beating hearts. In but a breath, hundreds of tadpoles fell to the sandy floor of the swamp.
From above, the rippling of the water ceased around a virtual forest of decayed corpses, all frozen in their last position. Hundreds of dead humanoids, some large, some small, stood rotting in the swampy water. Far overhead, a disinterested sun shone down upon the land, revealing dessicated trees, crumbling mountains, and more bodies. In the center of a ring of beings, where the ripples faded into nothingness, the leg of one corpse seemed to twitch. After a moment, a bluish fire seemed to sprout from the flesh of the corpse, peering out the cracks of its leathery flesh. The arm twitched, looking ever so much like a man who’s caught his shirtsleeve on fire. Suddenly, the bluish fire pulsed and blue fire shot into the muggy summer sky. The corpse reared its head back and let out a terrible screech of pain, a sound unheard on the planet for hundreds of years. The sound echoed eerily across the land, and the sun high above peered down at the something that was awakening on the world below. A bright beam of yellow sunlight struck the being, and the blue fire turned golden, looking now like a gilded phoenix was bursting from the chest of the dessicated body. It screamed again, and the sun beheld the necrotic tissue reknitting together, the flesh becoming smooth and whole. As the flames died away, the figure opened his eyes.
“May the gods damn whatever the hell that was that hit me !!! Jeeezus, I feel like i’ve been dead for years !” spoke the being, oblivious to the fact that he had, indeed, been dead for much, much longer. Shading his eyes against the dazzling sunlight, he peered around and realized he was standing there stark naked. Letting out a little womanly squeak, his flesh seemed to fold over itself as he clothed himself in a simulated jock strap. The figure grinned at the world and said “Ah yes, much better. Now, where is…” his voice died as he looked at his surroundings and realized he was standing in a wide field of rotting bodies.
The figure blinked several times, then frowned. As if confused, he looks down at his feet, standing up to his knees in murky water and feeling the sand between his toes. Then the odd being looks up and scans the skyline, peering intently at the crumbling mountains. In a dazed voice, he says “Anauroch ??? A swamp ??? What the hell ???”
Frowning, Daren the Powermaster sloshed a few steps over to the nearest corpse. He studied the rotting countenance, trying to imagine what it looked like in life. Abruptly, he jerked back as the face took shape in his mind, and Daren realized that he was staring at himself. Or at least, one of his dead selves. Splashing through the water, he walked over to the next figure, which towered above him at a full dozen feet tall. After a moment, he rebuilt in his mind the rolling eyes and overhanging brow of his star pupil, Arg the PowerOgre. As Daren studied the dead countenance of his friend, a forlorn look came over his face and his bottom lip stuck out. “Poor old Arg,” spoke the formerly blue figure. “I miss you, ya big lug…”
Setting his jaw, Daren reached out for his magic, the one thing that he lived and breathed for. “Don’t worry, Ogre…I’ll fix ya right up. Yup yup yup” he muttered in unconscious imitation of the ogre. As he reached out his hand, his right eyebrow quirked up and he looked at his arm, which was a pale white instead of his normal, healthy blue. Quickly running a self-check, he realized that the three quadrants of his mind devoted to magic, divinity, and psionics were dormant. The only functioning part of his processor cortex was his physical being. This alarmed him somewhat, since a Powermaster without power wasn’t terribly effective, but he took comfort in the fact that they were still there, just sleeping.
Wading over to a nearby, half pulverized boulder, he sat down and started thinking. “Let’s see…I know that everything around me is dead. I get nothing but the tiniest, faintest itch of life here. The corpses of my friends and comrades look as if they’ve been baking here in the swamp for at least 20 years. Obviously there’s no life to support the weave of magic that powers me, but then how did I return ?”
Daren frowns once more, then closes his eyes and assumes the lotus position on the crumbling boulder and begins to meditate. He sends his own consciousness inward, along the circuit pathways that he knows so well, even better than does their creator, the enigmatic Magnesti Elf known as Zap. Twenty minutes pass, then forty-five, then an hour and still he runs along the crystalline pathways that make up his core being. After almost two hours, he finds what he’s looking for. A single blackened spot between the 8th and 9th level of his primary motherboard, hidden right below a strange crystalline fiber that connects the 9th level of his motherboard to his tertiary input pathway, is a charred bit of metal with crystal fragments all around. Daren inspects the fiber and surrounding area for damage, but it appears that whatever it was served its purpose and just smoked up the rest of the area with soot and crystalline residue.
Finishing up his full system check, Daren’s eyes flutter open and he looks at the sun above, which has moved several degrees from its earlier position. “I betcha that crafty old magnesti put some kind of emergency failsafe revival system on my shit and didn’t tell me about it. Still, it had to be triggered by magic, so where and how he did that, i’ll probably never know. Unless he’s still around, that is…” The sun, either declining to gamble or just outright ignoring the powerless Powermaster, made no comment.
Daren stands up on top of the crumbling rock and peers around. Having an odd thought, he looks down and realizes that he’s standing on what he was looking for, or what’s left of it anyway. “Hoooooeee…Obelisk, you don’t look so good.” Jumping off, Daren gives himself gills and sticks his head under the water for a closer look. A tremendous crack runs through the center of the crystalline structure. The obelisk itself has turned a milky white (“Rather much like me” thinks Daren) and looks for all the world to be dead beyond repair. The powermaster sighs and bubbles stream to the surface. “Nevbber wasbbb asbb gbbbooddd asbb dbbbuh ogbbbre atbb fixbbbing crystbbbbble.”
Then, an idea strikes the powermaster. His shape seems to melt and reform, into that of a large puppydog with gills. He sticks his nose down in the sand and begins digging in traditional doggy style. As he excavates the obelisk, he comes across little shattered and dead clumps of crystal budding from the base of the obelisk itself. Without warning, he feels a sharp pain in his hind leg. The odd whitish puppy gives a yelp, then turns its head to look and stops digging. One of the primal tadpoles has begun burrowing into his leg and it’s tail is just disappearing under his flesh. Regrowing the face of Daren, he says “Little fish, you just bit the WRONGGG motherfucker.”
Darens’ shape melts and shifts, looking like a confused amoeba until he reforms into his normal, humanoid shape which grasps a tiny wriggling shape between its forefinger and thumb. Like a mad alchemist, he studies the creature, one eye growing several lenses and extruding out, making him look like Daren of Borg. “Humph. How very, very odd. Unless I miss my guess, you’ve got a tiny spark of magic wrapped around your center, little biter.” Daren places the odd, leech looking tadpole against his forehead and it immediately bores through his skin. “Yeeee christ that smarts,” bellows the powermaster as he focuses what little mental energy he can muster into his innate ESP talent. Daren keeps a firm hold on the tail of the little bugger and sends the tiniest mental tendril into it’s consciousness.
He learns that it’s the most base of creatures, existing only to eat and that more of its kind are swimming around. Eyes crinkling with glee, Daren grows the bleeding hole in his forehead into a mouth and chomps down on the creature, killing it instantly. The tiny bit of energy in the creature makes a pleasant spark against his teeth, and he feels a distant stirring deep inside his slumbering brain. “Oh yeah, oh HELL yeah !!” bellows the powermaster and his form melts again, shifting into a large fishy looking shark with more teeth than a tarrasque. Diving merrily into the water, his conscious mind says “Now don’t eat them all or you might find there’s nothing left later” while his primary control systems says “SHUT THE FUCK UP AND EAT !!!”
Daren the Tarrasqfish swims faster and faster, slurping up primal tadpoles by the dozen and munching happily on their essence. After clearing the immediate area of all tadpoles in slightly less than half-an-hour, the fish jumps into the air and shifts back into the humanoid form of Daren. He’s now got patches of blue spotting the whiteness of his body, and all 4 of his brains are spinning madly. “Woohoo !!! Ladies and Gentlemen, I am BACK !!!” He looks down at the blue splotches and mutters “Well, okay, maybe not all the way, but i’m gettin closer !” He looks over at the dead ogres and dead Darens and his smile fades away. “Sorry guys, you’ll have to wait just a while longer…I have to find me a power source.”
Shifting back into the form of an aquatic dog, Daren once more begins excavating sand around the base of the obelisk. Nothing disturbs him this time as he digs deeper and deeper. Although it all collapses on him at one point, such things are little more than annoying to a doppleganger, who can reform and start anew in but a moment. He digs for hours, even days before finally reaching the bottom of the obelisk. There, at the very base of the obelisk, a large, intricate ruby the size of Daren’s fist shines brightly in the murky silt. Instinctively, he reaches out to grab it and feast on its energy. The only thing that halts his hand bare moments before it touches the gem is the incredible aura of hostility coming off of it. Daren blinks twice, then retracts his hand and tries to ping the gemstone.
“Hello ?” queries the blue polka dotted powermaster.
“Back off, Jack.” replies the crystal.
“Um, whom am I addressing here ?” speaks Daren.
“You are addressing the Remnant. Now just back away slowly and you won’t have to join the rest of this world in Oblivion.” the gem spoke in a commanding voice.
Daren backs slowly away for a few steps without even realizing he’s doing it. He gets an annoyed look on his face and glares down at his feet, which obligingly stop backpedaling and halt their movement. “Well Remnant, we have a problem here. You see, you have magic and I need magic.”
“I don’t see that as being MY problem, Mortal. Now kindly take a long walk off a short pier and go away.”
Daren looks down at his feet as they start shuffling backwards. Getting a resolute look on his face, Daren merges both of his legs into a solid block of flesh with no motive ability. “I don’t think so, Remnant. I really must have that magic, you see ? But we’re going about this all wrong. Are you in some way related or connected to the obelisk that you lie under ?”
Daren feels a cold chill rise up his spine when he gets an answer. “Yes, Daren of the Powermasters, I am intimately related to the obelisk. YOUR pet magnesti imprisoned me within eons ago. Now I am all that remains. When this world lived, before you and your blasted offspring destroyed it, I was called Boccob. So, now that you know me and I know you, I suggest you fuck off before I destroy you out of principle.”
Eyes narrowing, he spoke to the gemstone. “If you truly are Boccob, why haven’t you already done so ?”
The gemstone, bereft of a living body, seemed to sigh with exasperation. “Obviously, I am trying to survive until life returns to the planet. To tap my divinity and discharge my power upon you might wind up killing me in as the spell cannibalized my own magic. However, even though it might cost my life, the price of your destruction is a tempting thought. And rest assured, I would happily annihilate us both before I would EVER give you my magic.”
The pale face of the Powermaster frowned at the gem. “Well ain’t this a bitch…” and he swam quickly back to the surface. Lesser beings might have wrote off the gemstone below, smarter beings wouldn’t want to antagonize a deified magus, but Daren was neither of these. Rocketing out of the water, his form altered to his preferred body and he landed atop the obelisk’s dead husk and began to plot a way to steal the essence of Boccob. Inside the mind of Daren, the four quadrants of his brain took their own shape and began debating on the best plan to use.
“Look,” said the blue energyform that was Daren’s mage side “he’s already told us he was waiting for life to return to the world. We need an easy way to make him release some of that pent up energy.”
“We could send down one of those blue tadpoles to bite his ass. Then he might release something.” offered the white energyform representing Daren’s clerical power.
“I think we should just kick his ass and be done with it.” announced the green energy that was Daren’s physical form. “He might be tough, but at least we’ll die in magic if we can’t eat it first.”
Ignoring the physical power, the red energy of Daren’s psionic form spoke. “I’m not ready to assume that they’re not his creation in the first place. If he’s the only surviving god of magic, and they have magic at their core, isn’t it logical to assume that they’re his doing ?”
Blue looked at green. “You’re a dumbass. That tactic only works for Arg. Every fight we got physical in, someone had to put us back together again afterward.” White just looked at green and shook his head.
This internal debate went on for several hours of brain time, which turned into about 20 minutes of “real” time before an idea came forth.
“You know,” spoke red “the only person that Buttcobb hates more than us is Zap.”
“Yeah, so what ?” queried white.
“Well I was thinkin…” blue rolled his eyes at red as he paused for impact. Green blinked stupidly “Dat’s what you’re supposed ta do.”
Red sighed wistfully and continued “What we need to do is make a replica of Zap, one with a big knot on his head just like ole’ pointy ears used ta have. We need to fashion this facsimile using only my power, as he won’t sense that, and we need to place a bit of VoidCrystal in the place of Zap’s braincell.”
Red smiled as blue and white blinked. “Say, thats a pretty good idea !” blurted green. “Then when he blasts the fake Zap to flinders, the VoidCrystal will eat the power and we’ll harvest it later !” red nodded at green as white and blue looked at each other.
“We’d have to implant a living memory in his mind, so that Buttcobb wouldn’t know it wasn’t Zap.” spoke red, as white said “That may give him the power to just laugh off the attacks of Boccob like the original always did.”
They debated the merits and points of the plan for a few more minutes, then got together and told the outer self what to do. Daren’s form rippled as he became a giant hawk. Screeching his defiance, he took flight and started winging his way towards the far off land of Hommlet.
The giant hawk squawked its mournful tone as it circled the blasted village of Hommlet. Daren had passed over dead villages, destroyed towns and ravaged, decaying cities on his journey here. Feeling severely depressed, he landed in what once was the town square of Hommlet, where he had originally met Arg.
“Cripes, the sheer magnitude of the devestation that was wrought. I’m surprised there’s a planet left here at all. Whatever killed this world made the Great Resurrect look like a frigging tea party.” Daren shook his head as he walked over to the spot where the Ogre’s house once stood, before the coming of Chaos Inc. Shifting into the form of a type V demon, he quickly began clearing the burned and shattered debris where Arg’s cozy cottage lay. “Six hands are better than one” thought the powermaster as he worked. Soot, dust and slivers of gemstone flew in a cloud from where he scrabbled through the ruin. Boring his way through the silty earth, he reached the spot where Arg’s underground laboratory once stood, it’s stasis fields long since dissipated by the lack of a weave. Remembering the nasty monsters that Arg kept contained here long ago, Daren peered nervously into the dank, semi-collapsed cavern.
Risking a little magic, Daren flooded mana across one of his old circuit pathways and felt his eyes burn as WizardSight activated. He scanned the room, expecting nothing and was happy to see that no undead monstrosities watched him from within. As he peered about, eyes alight with a bluish fire, he grumped aloud “Now where would that damn Ogre have hid his VoidCrystal.” Searching for hours, the powermaster shifted every piece of debris on the floor twice as he desperately dug about. “Damned big lug, why’d you have to be so good at hiding shit ?”
A frown crossed Daren’s countenance as a stray thought fired out from his physical process. “Wouldn’t a tall feller like Arg be more inclined to hide stuff in the ceiling ?” Daren almost smirked as the other quadrants of his brain looked at the retarded physical sector. “Shit !!!” the three bellowed in unison. Elongating his form, Daren began searching the ceiling and after just a few minutes, located a suspicious looking stalagtite. After fiddling with it, the blue powermaster unscrewed the stalagtite in a counterclockwise direction and found Arg’s VoidCrystal snuggled safely within a compartment. Rummaging through the other compartments, he found a few rechargable Big Ohm gems (what the ogre called Heal gems) along with a dog eared copy of PlayOgre Monthly. Daren groaned aloud as the unwelcome sight of Arg’s naked wife (an Ogre as well) smiled at him from the front page. “DAMMIT !!! Can I never be free from seeing this accursed magazine ??” Daren flung the pages across the room and continued to rummage, finding several more gemstones, a non-magical wand, and a collection of dusty old chickenbones. Growing a pocket, Daren swiped the crystals and screwed the stalagtite back on. As he walked from the chamber, he passed by the magazine he flung earlier which was now stuck to the wall, it’s fully naked centerfold draped right by the exit. Daren groaned and willed the image from his mind.
Emerging from the darkness, Daren noted that night was about to fall here in what was once a beautiful, blue-green world filled with magic and wonder. Morphing himself into a giant hummingbird, he zipped off across the ravaged planet of the Forgotten Mess.
A day and a half later, an exhausted giant hummingbird landed in a province of the far off land of Daerma, on the continent half-way round the world from Anauroch. This small province was named V’ral, called such after the ruler of the land - Duchess Varalla. Casting a weary eye across the vista, the PowerMaster noted 8 skeletal figures clad in shreds of dirty white material arraigned around a central figure, adorned by yellowish scraps of cloth. Each of the 8 stood upon a point of a star of tarnished silver, inset with runes of gold around the core, which was a disc of platinum where the central figure stood vigil. A sad look on his face, Daren frowned at the familiar form of the Duchess, long since dead. Dozens of rusting armored carcasses lie in various poses of combat, a respectful distance from the dead daughters. The long dead sons of Damien/Reorx still gave off a palpable aura of menace, as if any who dared disturb their charges would ignite the fire of unlife in the eyes of their protectors. Flying overhead, the blue hummingbird noted with some dismay the distant gleam of a giant, razoredged golden disc. Zipping up to the badly bent and twisted hunk of metal, he forlornly noted the familiar countenance of the Avatar of Roland. “Roland, my old friend, my creator, you’ve certainly seen better days. We knew when the light left Rasingra’s eyes that you had fallen, but we knew not where.” Blinking away the moisture which suddenly filled his eyes, the powermaster zipped across the city to the broken crystal at its center.
Approaching the smaller, shattered Obelisk in the city of V’ral, Daren resumed his normal shape and noted several more dead beings buried in the crystalline rubble. A rotting, dark skinned figure lay transfixed by a shard of the broken obelisk, it’s mouth open in a silent scream of pain. The feline corpse of a wemic stood over the fallen drow, hand outstretched towards the drow as if to pull the splinter from his chest. Another large skeleton stood in the nearby alley, clad in twisted sparkly admantium, its mouth agape as its sightless eyes sought out the Obelisk. Daren noted a half-giant, an elf, and another feline being standing along with several other skeletal forms a dozen feet from the carcass. Landing with a thud on the broken obelisk, Daren sighed. “Gods above, that was a long flight. I never realized how much of a pain in the ass it was to actually travel without teleport magic.” Curling up around the base of the blasted Obelisk, Daren slept like the dead, his hand curled tightly about the ogre’s VoidCrystal.
Waking sixteen hours later, the PowerMaster felt better. His body’s own natural regeneration had begun rebuilding his manapool. During the long slumber, residual magics inside the VoidCrystal had awakened and attempted to drain energy from the slumbering magus. Daren’s own systems fed the crystal a small trickle of magic while simultaneously drawing back ten times what it was feeding it, reinvigorating the powermaster. He had been living with gem magic ever since he raised the Ogre up as a spellcaster, and his own subconscious mind knew how to operate the intricacies of the VoidCrystal.
Now fully blue and charged with energy, Daren changed his form to that of a Xorn and sank below the surface of V’ral. Traveling to a depth of several hundred feet, he peered at the base of the Obelisk where a blue-white star sapphire glowed serenely. Sending a tendril of his own magic out to the stone, he watched as a tendril of white energy enwrapped his own and felt a familiar voice inside his head. “Well well, look what the cat puked up. Daren, how the hell are ye ?” Quirking an eyebrow, the Xorn smiled (not a pretty sight on a Xorn) at the gemstone. “Hello Obelisk. I’m glad to see you were able to survive the destruction of our world.” Getting the distinct impression that the gem was smiling, it said “I plan for every eventuality, after all…when one sits about all day and night babysitting humans, there’s a lot of free time for me to ponder such things. I don’t suppose the Ogre is around ?? I’m in dire need of a patch-job.”
Looking down at his radiant blue form, Daren thought for a moment. “Actually I’m working on a plan to harvest the energy of Buttcobb so we can do somethin about this situation. Now that I’ve got a wee bit of power again, I think I’ll go resurrect the boy. His aid might prove useful to my plan.” Waving his three stubby arms about, the PowerMaster disappeared via a mental teleport.
A titanic fireball erupted from Daren’s location as he came into being. Roaring across the sky, it burst upon the landscape and knocked over dead trees, incinerating bodies and patches of water alike. Smiling gleefully, the blue figure bellowed “HEY
BOCCOB !!! FEEL THAT ??? YA FUCK !!!” Walking jauntily over to the toppled form of the dead Ogre, Daren enshrouded the Ogre in several hundred points of energy and activated a Mega-Resurrect spell. The blastwave of energy coalesced around the still form of the ogre and bound itself to his parts, which clacked together and regrew in the space of a heartbeat. As the ogre opened his enormous eyes, Daren bellowed “HOW ABOUT THAT, ASSHOLE ??? GUESS WHO’S NEXT ??? HE’S WHITE WITH A BRAINCELL AND HE’S COMING FOR YOU !!”
Arg’s neck creaked as he looked from side to side, then stood up in the swamp that was Anauroch. “Hey 'dere self,” boomed the deep bass voice of the ogre “who left 'da faucet on ?” Unable to repress a smirk, Daren chuckled at the simpleminded behemoth. “I think that something melted the Great Glacier, ya big lug. And all these dead folks died at the same time we did.” Arg quirked an eyebrow at the small blue man, who kept talking. “Basically everythings dead except you and me. Buttcobb’s essence survived under what’s left of your Obelisk,” Daren frowned as a big-ass tear rolled down the cheek of the ogre and quickly continued “but the Obelisk’s intellect survived under the Daerma location.” The grin that filled the enormous ogre’s face was infectious and the powermaster couldn’t help but smile. “We need to go there now, he needs your help and I may too.” Reaching out his hand, Daren grasped Arg’s arm and psionically teleported back to V’ral.
Days later, after exhausting what little magic was left in the VoidCrystal, Daren had the physical body of a magnesti that looked like Zap completed. Leaving the body in the remnants of Sorvani’s lab, he walked across the ruined town to where the ogre was still grumbling and cussing at the broken Obelisk. The blue jewel holding the intellect of the greatest crystalline entity that ever lived was around the neck of the PowerOgre, arguing with him as he worked. “I think that sliver went on the north side, Lardass.” “Bah, what do you know, Moron ? I been making gems since before you were a speck of salt.” “I know everything, Nimrod. I guess you forgot that while your ass rotted in Anauroch.” And so on they griped as the two of them worked to restore the form of the Obelisk. When the sliver of crystal was in the right spot, the blue gem would flash and it would fuse the sliver to the rest of the structure.
Daren interrupted their work. “Hey Arg, I’m ready with the body. Can you come and connect the VoidCrystal to the rest of the bonelattice so I can begin implanting it’s bad attitude ?” The titanic form of his student peered at him with a jewellers lens over his eye “Sure, you betcha ‘self’. Gimme just a minute here and I’ll be right over.” Arg had been calling the powermaster “self” ever since Daren tricked him into learning magic in the first place. All in all, it was a better nickname than others had stuck him with, the most disagreeable of which was “CrackerJack”. He watched as the ogre slid another piece of the obelisk into place and it flared with a blue radience. The Obelisk looked nearly complete, with only a few dozen more pieces left unassembled. Walking over to the powermaster, the ogre strode towards Sorvani’s laboratory.
“So, did you figure out what caused all this destruction Arg ?” queried the powermaster.
“Yup yup yup” replied the ogre. “Apparently ole Zap was right about Ethos. Your son twisted and went evil and released something hideous on the world. He partnered with a creation of your Forsaken sister and the two of them fulfilled some ancient prophecy. That opened the doorway to a dimension of insanity, and thousands of outsiders escaped from this hellish plane into our world. Right before the Obelisk exploded, he saw what 'dey looked like.” Daren watched as the blue gem on Arg’s chest flared, and an illusionary nightmare took shape. Standing five foot tall, the tentacled insectoid was a dark and evil cousin to the dwarves, with an alien hostility that could not be defined. The figure oozed corruption from its twisted and dark soul, causing everything it touched to immediately decay and moulder. Small, wriggling things dropped from its hide as it walked, swiftly turning the landscape around it to a dried and withered husk. As it slogged along through the muck of its own making, the vision swooped back revealing hundreds of similar figures. The illusion panned around and Daren saw what the final moments of the crystal were like. The corrupt beings squished quickly towards the Obelisk, and the powermaster saw the dark figure of Sorvani standing atop the crystal spire. Arms gesticulating in practiced magical moves, he saw V’ral’s Fallen Legion move into place to delay the creatures from reaching the square. Erok snarled at his approaching demise and strode forward, Sorvani’s geode in hand. Setting it down a dozen paces from where his legionnaires stood, Erok raised his shovel to shatter the magical stone. A huge wemic whispered something to the legionnaires as Sorvani’s spell went off.
A glowing, white-hot beam of energy shot from the obelisk into the drow and he screamed in pain as a miles-wide firestorm fell upon the attackers. Erok swung in perfect time with the energy of the spell, cracking open the fully charged geode and engulfing himself and the spell with the bluish spellfire explosion. Enchanted gems cracked and flew off like magical popcorn from the burning Ogre as the spellfirestorm raged around the encroaching enemy. Watching with satisfaction, Sorvani smiled grimly as wave after wave of magical energy flooded the enemy. The look on his face quickly changed as the blue spellfire turned black, and the spell shot back into the sky. Eyes wide with panic now, the black firestorm coalesced into a bluish-black sphere and hurtled down at Sorvani. Erok, standing scorched and burnt by the spellfire, barely hanging on to life frowned as the unharmed enemy approached with ten feet, then turned to see what was going on with Sorvani’s spell. The black sphere shot down out of the sky and passed through Sorvani, draining away every iota of magic from his being and shifting him from dark blue back to fully black. Gasping, he fell from the top of the crystal spire as the sphere continued downward, entering the top of the Obelisk. The last thing Daren saw was the first of the creatures reaching out and touching Erok, and he watched, horrified as its touch changed Arg’s son. Erok’s face seemed to age and a wave of splotchy disease spread across the noble features of his countenance. His hair turned gray, then white as a pox coated his hands and arms. Rot spread down his form in an instant, and his eyes shifted from sparkling green to sightless white. His mouth opened to moan and in the next moment, Erok expired. As his last fetid breath vacated his lungs, several of his teeth fell out and the flesh of his entire body darkened with mold and corruption. Sickly green fluids oozed out of the son of Arg and in less than 3 seconds he had gone from vibrantly alive to the rotting dead. Daren felt an illusory thump as the Obelisk exploded from within and sent shards flying across the square, accompanied by a blastwave of evil, greenish-black corruptive spell energy and then, blissfully, the illusion went dark.
Blinking his eyes against the intrusion of the sun, Daren felt as if he were waking from a dream. Shaking his head until his teeth rattled, he peered about the shattered and blasted square, his gaze falling upon the Ogre who stood proudly by the nearly completed Obelisk. A single, large tear rolled down his cheek as he surveyed the dessicated form of his son. “You died well, my boy. That’s all that any of us can really hope for.” Wiping the tear from his cheek, Arg once more began walking towards the laboratory of Sorvani.
“Damn,” spoke the smaller blue figure as they walked “whatever those were, I certainly hope they’ve left the sphere. Magic just rolled off 'em like water off a duck. Kill a person in 3 seconds ?? Sheesh !”
Arg looked at the small blue doppleganger and changed the subject. “So why are we gonna trick ole 'Boccob anyway ? You got something you need a whole pile of magic for ?”
Daren grinned “Of course. I ALWAYS need a pile of magic, who do you think you’re talkin to ?” Arg shook his head as Daren continued. “See, here’s what I figure…With the amount of power we can harvest from the only surviving deity in this sphere, I’ll bet we can actually open a temporal gateway across time and space. We’ll send out a coded pulse of magic to the one being that I can trust to pick up such things and not screw the pooch, as it were. Then, assuming he’ll figure out a way to get here, we’ll let the ole’ Braincell figure out how to stop all this from happening.”
“Besides goin back and just killing Ethos, I presume ?” queried the ogre.
“Erm, yes, well…of course. I’d prefer to keep my son alive. There’s got to be a third option here, one that we’re just not seeing.”
Shrugging as they approached the lab’s entrance, the big blue ogre looked at Daren. “Okay 'den. If ‘dats what you t’ink is best. I’ll go along with ya’.”
The pair of powermasters walked inside and the largest walked over to peer at what the smallest had created. The ogre whistled softly in wonderment. “Wow, self. Dis’ is pretty impressive work. Didja mount 'da voidcrystal inside his noggin already ?” Daren nodded to his pupil as the blue behemoth poked and prodded at the core of the magnesti construct. “Hokay 'den. I’ll go hook up 'da lattice.” Arg gesticulated and shrank as Daren intoned “Remember, Ogre. No magic can be used, you’ve gotta use psionics only so 'ole butthead don’t know what’s goin on.” The rapidly shrinking ogre nodded as he shrank to microscopic size and flew into the ear of the construct. Daren began pacing as he waited for his pupil to complete the task.
After a few hours, Daren pinged the ogre mentally. “Oy, Arg. What’s takin so long ?” A tiny ping came back “Well, you misrouted 3 crystalline fibers and cracked another. It’s taking me a bit longer to restring and patch 'dese.” The powermaster shook his head as he listed to the report. “Sorry Arg, I guess I ain’t got the touch you have.”
“Notta problem 'dere self. I had twenty-five thousand years 'ta practice, doncha know. I’m kinda surprised 'dat you didn’t crack more of 'em.” replied the Ogre, which caused Daren to grin. Arg had this way of making everybody feel good while he was around, which was one of the reasons that almost all of the gods enjoyed talking to the Ogre. Daren had long ago concluded that Arg’s simpleminded demeanor somehow coupled with his startlingly intelligent mind served as a way to reassure others about the Ogre’s intentions and cause them to relax. Nobody even entertained the idea that Arg used subterfuge or cunning, and took everything he said at face value. Daren was one of the select few who’d actually seen his pupil’s clever mind at work, and knew that the simpleminded act was Arg’s “default” behaviour, but that he’d switch into devious mode if it suited him. The evil DarkOgre was plenty proof that such things existed in all the Arg’s, as the DarkOgre had foiled the plans of deity and mortal alike.
Daren paced away for another hour before the glowing blue speck that was Arg emerged from the Magnesti’s other ear. Daren smiled as the speck grew into the typical enormous form of Arg, who was covered in a silvery powder that was tiny crystalline fragments. The powermaster blasted a magnified gust of wind at the Ogre, which blew away the powder from his clothing with a 150mph breeze. Lesser folk might have been blown out the window, but the titanic ogre just leaned into the breeze and didn’t budge a single inch. Arg looked tired from his labors, and pointed at a large barrel which sat nearby. With a flare of energy, the barrel filled with a dark amber liquid with a distinctive scent. Daren smiled as the odor of the beerdwarf’s “private stock” wafted across the room. Casting a minor creation spell, Daren formed a piece of debris into two pewter mugs which the ogre obligingly filled. Using the last dregs of his psionic power, Arg telekinettically floated both mugs to the smaller powermaster and took a big drink outta the barrel. “Ahhh…dat’s much better. Hacking a magnesti’s brain ain’t quite as difficult with no braincell in 'da way, but it’s still a thirsty job.” Daren downed half a mug and smiled at the Ogre. “Now it’s my turn, Arg. I’ll probably be programming this thing for a few weeks. Do ya think you can stay outta trouble while I’m inside ??” The ogre stuck out his bottom lip and peered over the bucket at Daren. “I’ll try to. It’s not like anything’s still alive to get into trouble with.” Daren finished his mug and grabbed the second mug, then shrank down to a blue speck and flew up the magnesti’s nose. Arg picked up the half-empty barrel of ale in one mighty hand and strode out to finish repairing the Obelisk.
A powder white figure stalked through the dead streets of Anauroch, looking for all the world like a vengeful spirit. It had electric blue eyes that burned with anger and exuded ozone as it walked above the surface of the water. Primal tadpoles glowed like fireflies as the wake of its passing rippled the surface below. “Somebody is gonna get ERASED for honking up my tower, when I find the bastard. ETHOS !!! HEAR ME !!! YOU’RE GOING DOWN !!!” bellowed the angry magnesti. Throwing his arms wide, a ring of force spread from the pale figure, then coalesced into a titanic Force Elemental. “FIND me that arrogant SON of DAREN and bring whatever’s left HERE.” The towering figure nodded and then dissipated into concentric shockwaves that rippled across the land.
Back in the land of Daerma, the hulking form of the PowerOgre sat beside the smaller PowerMaster as they viewed the goings on in the surface of the rebuilt Obelisk. Dozens of geodes that Arg had scrounged up in all his hidey-holes now lay empty beside the tall crystalline structure. Even so, the entity gave off a low hum that set one’s teeth on edge, a sure sign that it was hungry and had little energy left. The taller blue figure frowned and then looked over at Daren.
“Hey self, how come we didn’t just open a gate to the Magnesti’s sphere. He’s probably got all kind of mojo 'dere we could use.”
Daren shook his head. “That’d be a waste of time, ogre. If Zap were alive, he wouldn’t have left me to rot for a few hundred years.”
The big lug stuck out his large bottom lip. “He’d a left me to rot…ole’ pointy ears never liked me much.”
Grinning, the powermaster winked at Arg. “Thats because you were the only one to learn a few of his secrets. He never did get over that.” Daren conjured a vast tub of buttered popcorn and they returned to watching the show.
As the pale elf strode about, poking and prodding at the remains of the city, the force elemental rippled back into being behind him. Reaching out one massive hand, it grabbed the magnesti by the back of the neck and squeezed. With nary a effort, the white form vanished, only to reappear a few hundred yards from the elemental. “So, Ethos has corrupted my elemental. Very well.” The elemental relocated its target and shimmered through the air at the slender elf. Zap smirked (“The smirk of doom,” whispered Daren) and raised a single imperious finger. A strand of burning Weave shot from the digit of the elf and cored its way into the force elemental with the power of divine wrath. Screaming hoarsely, the force elemental changed into a scarier looking entity as the elf spoke. “I cleanse your form with deified power, and you are reborn as a Manaforce Elemental. Now go find me that bastard Ethos.”
The spellfire enshrouded elemental nodded and changed form to a slender silvery lightning bolt, then crackled off into the distance.
The translucent face of the obelisk began running a timer, which counted down from three minutes. The second face of the obelisk showed the silvery lightning bolt being attacked by some insidious form of reddish energy. The red glow swiftly took over the silver (just as it had done to the force elemental earlier) and within a few minutes had enveloped the silver entirely. The crimson lightning rebounded off the ground and arced back towards the city of Argopolis.
Sensing something amiss, Zap looked around the ruined tower he was picking through. Incanting “Seeriam Finalis Magann Terunn” the elf’s blue eyes shifted to a brilliant emerald green. Rotating slowly in place, the magnesti noticed the reddish energy that coalesced outside around the shattered obelisk. Shaking his head, Zap strode out the decimated doorway to where the obelisk stood. “Boccob, you naughty boy, have you been stealing my hunters ?” spoke the magnesti in a reproachful tone. “I would have thought that after the last whoopin you received at my hands that you’d know better by now.” The crimson energy grew darker and lanced into the sky, shifting into the spectral form of the last god of magic. “FOOL !!!” it bellowed, “I AM REBORN AND MY REVENGE WILL BE SWEET !!!”
As Zap began laughing at the deity, he gesticulated and crafted a defensive armor of bluish crystal which formed around his body. “Well come on then, you want another ? At least this time you won’t have the other gods laughing at you.” The deity grew black with anger and reached down to smash the magnesti into the ground. As the deity struck the magnesti, a divine annihilation spell triggered. Daren, having experienced this spell firsthand, knew that it would scorch and bubble the earth for a quarter mile in every direction. However, when the mighty magic struck the armored elf, there was a flash of energy which outlined Zap in a black nimbus, and then faded into nothingness.
The magnesti snickered and yelled out “What’sa matter Boccob ??? No lead in the pencil ???” Far off in the distance, an ogre guffawed and a doppleganger giggled. Even the obelisk stopped its incessant humming as a tinkling laughter like windchimes filled the square of V’ral.
Zap incanted another spell as the deity roared with anger. “YOU PUNY BUG !! I WILL HAVE YOUR SKULL FOR MY DOORMAT !!” As Boccob reared back for another weave-melting blow, the magnesti’s spell effect activated and a titanic blue hand appeared above the deity and bitchslapped him upside the back of the head. Any mortal would have been blasted to undead status by the MegaVampiric Touch, but all it did was slow down Boccob. The god’s energy equilibrium fluxed and overbalanced him temporarily, and during the moment of confusion a massive contingency awakened by command of the magnesti. Boccob shook his head and struck at Zap again, this time with a maximized, deified shocking grasp. Torrents of electrical energy flooded through the elf’s slender form, causing it to spasm strangely.
Far away, Daren grimaced. “Dirty pool, old man. I didn’t plan for you seducing him.” The ogre blushed as he watched the translucent obelisk. Glancing up at the crystalline entity, Daren nodded once. “Time it as close as you can, we’ve only got one shot with this trick.”
Boccob grinned as more and more electricity limned the elf. “Didn’t think of this, didja bright boy ? I didn’t spend all that time in the obelisk without learning a few new tricks,” he muttered as he tried to overload the magnesti. Behind him, the cracked great obelisk shuddered once, then lay still again. The deity panted as more and more energy was blasted into the slender form before him. “Your ass is mine, Rolandspawn.”
Back in V’ral, the obelisk chimed once as the contingency summoned BattleXorn Master grasped the red jewel beneath the Anauroch Obelisk. Within the span of a single heartbeat, a pair of dematerialization beams pierced the air across the vast gulf of space tween the great desert and the city of Varalla.
Boccob gave a grunt as the elven figure collapsed into the sand. Reaching down with both hands, he twisted the head off the magnesti with a cry of delight. “YESSSS !!! I gotcha !!! I gotcha !!!” The deity pranced merrily around swing Zap’s head by his ears for several moments. Then Boccob’s eyes narrowed as he realized something was wrong. He turned to glare at the shattered obelisk and stared through the sand to where his gem used to be. Spinning around, he looked first at the body of the magnesti, then at the head he held by its ears. Reaching out a finger, he pushed the knot in its forehead inward, where it collapsed empty against the skull. Eyes wide now, he grabbed the body and peered into the neck, noting for the first time all the crystalline optical fibers and bone lattices within. Blinking in disbelief, skin purpling with rage, he howled his anger at the heavens above “FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKK!!!”
Back in Daerma, the rebuilt Obelisk reached out a tendril of energy to the voidcrystal and the red gemstone and with a slight shimmer, transported it and the two powermasters into a pocket reality away from the enraged deity. Daren’s whisper could be heard across the entire sphere as he faded from existance. “Check and mate, asshole.”
A few days later, the freshly charged obelisk (looking much more like its former self) and two well rested powermasters emerged into the weird reality of the Magnestisphere. Here, much as in his home sphere, nothing living moved or breathed. Unlike the Forgotten Mess, however, there wasn’t ANY lifeforms at all. The crystal sphere was inhabited by cold, dead rocks that once were planets, moons and stars.
“Boy oh boy, is ole pointy ears gonna be pissed when he sees this” intoned the ogre. “Probably blame it all on me too…” as the big bottom lip shot into view. Daren tried not to snicker at the note of resignation in the behemoth’s voice. Working as a team, they crafted a fourth dimensional box around the Obelisk for it to use as an anchor point. Neither Arg nor Daren understood it completely, but as the Obelisk constantly reminded them “I’m the smartest being alive right now, and I certainly don’t need you two numbskulls to check my work. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” As Daren placed the last crosspiece in place (which disappeared once he aligned it properly) the Obelisk began to pulse. Both powermasters backed off and contented themselves to watch and let the obelisk to his work.
Arcane energies of every color writhed across the pieces of the box, making a strange flickering glow when they traversed the fourth dimensional parts. As the power built inside the chamber, both ogre and doppleganger felt energies being leeched from their bodies. Of one mind, both frowned and teleported farther back where no energy drain was evident. When the box was fairly glowing like a minature sun, a temporal rift opened in the heavens above and a stream of energy launched out from the obelisk through the rift. Acting as a temporal anchor, the crystalline entity shimmered for a few long minutes until a slender white figure crossed through the rift. Looking askance around the area, he reached up and sealed the temporal rift with a single finger. The lights in the box died and the obelisk glowed weakly within, humming urgently once more for energy.
Nodding to one another, Daren and Arg flew close to where the magnesti stood looking about his ravaged sphere. As they approached, he spoke to them without looking “Looks like somebody humped the bunk… tell me it wasn’t either of you.” The Lord of the Magnesti grinned at his two companions and they hunkered down to fill him in on what had transpired, and make plans to save their world.
Whew now that does go back.