Assassins - The Fourth Age Shadow Wars
Bran's diminutive figure lay under a magic cloak given to all the Walkers by Aradia, Elf Queen of Phoenicia. Months of planning, hardship and pain would be rewarded, or he along with his friends would die here in Plaga Erebus, the dark kingdom of Magnar. Ash spewed up from the Brunna Hatan, the fountain of hate, where Dark Lightning crackled and hummed, at the top of its metallic peak, just a mile from their position. The ash spread outwards from the terrible fountain creating a gloomy pall that covered the sky, blending day into night.
Dark lightning crackled behind them, flickering all along the borders of Magnar's realm of nightmares, forming an impenetrable barrier obviating the need for border guards. Nearly all of the Dark Elves and Men comprising Magnar's army of conquest lay dead upon hate filled battlegrounds across the great lands known as Nostraterra. Most of the remnants gathered at the Sanguine Templar, the enormous temple complex only miles from the fountain, sacrificing captives from all the races, fueling the Dark Lightning. Others roamed the confines of the land patrolling between the temple and the fountain, guarding against any interference while Magnar brooded and festered in malice, plotting his resurgence.
Aradia, Elf queen of Phoenicia, driven from her realm into exile in the human realm of Eldora used her magic to find a small rent in Magnar's lethal defenses, allowing the Watchers to penetrate step by step avoiding all contact with the guardians of this dark kingdom. Horses could not fit through the small stone archway that was the only ingress to this land and the Elven cavalry waited upon the hills just outside the shimmering fence of death, waiting for their chance to rescue the Walkers upon their success.
Now, with a slight increase in light, day was beginning, they must strike soon, or risk detection this close to the fountain. One of Bran's fellow Walkers, the Dwarven King Gneiss approached leaned down to whisper,
'It's time Bran; stay behind me while I see if I can breach this infernal pipe.'
Gneiss and Bran moved to the edge of a freshly dug hole only three feet down, where the top of a subterranean pipe lay, flowing with the raw magic supplying the Fountain. Bran's three closest friends from their homeland of Platonia were gathered close to Bran, chosen from amongst their fellow Gracies to bear the water of life from their Spring of Hope to this terrible place. The four men from Eldora lurked nearby, their bows at the ready as they covered the rest of the party. The three Dwarven engineers, accompanying Gneiss had located this section of pipe, which was close enough to the surface to be breached, digging the hole. Now, the magic of the Dwarves must sever the hard metal of the pipe for Bran to complete his mission.
Gneiss took an ornate ancient war-hammer from his pack, its' head made of solid Platina a priceless metal mined by Dwarves, and Gneiss muttered an ancient Dwarven spell. Withdrawing a gleaming crystal cylinder, capped in Platina which shone with hundreds of changing colors and tiny shapes, Gneiss inserted it into a socket in the top of the hammer.
Muttering for everyone to stay back but his fellow Dwarves, Gneiss struck down through the hole in the ground hitting the pipe with a tremendous metallic crash. Small bits of black metal spewed up into the air from the hole, and Gneiss lurched backwards, pulled by the Dwarves.
'Now Bran!' said Gneiss.
Bran and his three fellow Gracies approached the hole and peering down Bran saw a large rent made in the dark pipe, where a thick dark red liquid swirled its' way to the Fountain, the smell of rotting flesh emanating from the fissure was nearly overwhelming. 'Death, in liquid form.' thought Bran, 'so Aradia was right.' Gracie lore held only Life can defeat Death, and now Bran uncapped the jar of blue liquid—the waters of life carried from Platonia. His fellow three Gracies held him around the waist as he poured in the waters, and for a moment nothing happened; Bran feared that he had failed.
Suddenly the liquid in the pipe turned from red to a purple white, welling up from the pipe into the hole, as the ground beneath their feet shuddered. The Fountain's muttering flicker visible above their heads stuttered and went out, an unearthly quiet descended upon the land. Then, the Tower exploded in flickering sheets of shimmering energy, blue-white bolts discharging up from the ground and into the sky in actinic courses, running along the ashes of the surrounding desert. The deafening roar was pierced again and again by the sharp cracks of fresh bolts emanating all around. Bran, dragged up from the hole was pushed to safety by his Gracie friends, when a great rush of gas and liquid vomited forth from the hole, claiming two of his friends. Their escort of men grabbed Bran and his friend Arwel, propelling the Gracies to run as fast as they could, following the Dwarves towards the borders of the land, hoping for rescue by the Elven cavalry.
Seconds turned to minutes as Bran ran as fast as his short legs could manage, the bolts of Dark Lightning flashing across the ground and the sky. Bran paused at the top of a small rise, gasping for breath turning to watch the Fountain discharge its energy upon the Sanguine Templar. The entire temple structure was covered in streams of the dark lightning, when suddenly it exploded upwards and outwards; dark red blocks of stone hurtled hundreds of feet skyward before crashing down again. The magic of the Sanguine Templar faded, its dark red glow failing at last. Now, the Fountain spewed its magic outwards, the bolts lashing further and further from its peak.
'Run, Bran, run.' Cried Gneiss and turning to look ahead, Bran saw that the Dwarves were in front, with the men bringing up the rear. The smell of ashes, of ancient dust and decay, filled Bran's nose, as a bitter alkali taste choked his tongue, acrid vapors filling the air, making it difficult to breathe. Wheezing, he ran down the slope of the rise, seeing the dark hills where the cavalry surged down from the hills, the deadly fence vanquished. A leap of hope unlooked for soared in his chest,
'We did it, we destroyed Magnar and Platonia is safe and soon I will return home.' He thought but one last bolt of dark lightning caught him, its dark blue threads burning across his face and body. His left ear erupted in a cacophony of great sound and he writhed upon the ground in agony. Arwel had caught most of the blast and was ablaze, the men behind him vanishing forever. As Bran lay upon the sands of Plaga Erebus he saw dark ash filling the sky, his feeling of triumph over the destruction of the fountain replaced by hopelessness and despair as he realized price of victory. Bran thought he would die until the strong arms of Gneiss grabbed him and dragged him towards the distant hills, where he saw with his last sight a small column of horsemen racing towards them across the bitter desert.