|Previous Stories||Shadow of Israphel Retold by O.J. Van Der Beek and - Separated|
Link to Full Story: Shadow of Israphel - The Third Retelling Edit
Summary: Xephos and Honeydew two legendary heroes return home to find their cave blown to the bits and the very safety of their friends in peril. An ancient evil is rising once more threatening everything they know. Thankfully the heroes have a little help this time. But how good can the aid of new companions be when a powerful force of corruption awaits them at every turn? Edit
Prologue: The Last Messenger Edit
The walls stood imperiously, overlooking the massive desert and expanse of sand and cactus that burdened it. They had been erected to protect against the desert, to protect the snowy and forested lands beyond from the dryness and death that the walls contained. The desert was massive with rolling dunes; huge cacti twice the height of a normal man and full of what some said were monsters. After all, that was the best explanation that anyone could offer for the odd noises, clanks and moans that came out of that place as all rational explanations had long been discredited. Expeditions to unearth the secrets of these noises had too failed as many never came back from trip s to the desert, and reason and rationality were abandoned for what many saw as an evil buried in the sands. That was why the walls were built, to protect the populace from what laid buried in the desert. Some said it was more than monsters that lay in the dunes, that an evil spirit that had lain low for an age had been the cause of the infestation of the sands and the odd disappearances at night. That spirit some said was an entity called Israphel, a thing no one knew what it looked like but had come back for a twisted revenge on those who had admonished him in another age. Some even said that the sands themselves were cursed and contained some horrible taint, which would affect anyone who came into contact with it for very long.
At first to combat the sands towers had been built and soldiers, engineers and mages had been sent into the dunes and the outlying towns in a hope to combat the growth and find out the cause. It was to no avail as many years passed and the sands only grew, the rising tide of sand swallowed up town after town and even entire biomes in its wake. The rumors of an evil entity grew more prevalent. At one point the sands threatened the existence of all with disappearances mounting and the desert engulfing more and more of the landscape. And so the walls were built and the sands were contained but the evil never entirely ceased and after the failed battle it was again threatening the world. It was now more apparent than ever that the walls of the last standing outpost, Verigan’s Hold would eventually crumble to the power of the desert. A mission to the last tower would have to be undertaken by the only man who could venture into the desert and come back alive.
The desert was silent in the evening gloom while the nearby tower overlooked it. The tower was deserted and crumbling with its stones broken and cracked in many places. Also, the topmost part of the place was completely open to the wind and air and sandstone clumps had formed in its cracks from the fierce sandstorms that frequently coated the desert. Suggestive to its ancient appearance the tower had a history, it was as empty as the desert but once it had been full of life on the inside, guards once patrolled the top on lookout and the perimeter outlying the tower where walls had once stood. That time seemed like an age ago to the man at its demolished entrance as he walked towards the tower’s inviting gloom. Since then much had changed in the tower, first the sands, as the place had not always been a desert but had once been a swampy forest. Its fate had been horrible; sand now coated the trees frozen in time while the walls to the north were increasingly burdened with the rising tide of sand. Why the sand continued rising had been a source of unknown and great fear of those who lived near Verigan’s Hold let alone the tower but attempts to quell its rise had been futile, the walls were all that stood in its way. The tower was a testament to the crushing power of the sands; it was called Lastwatch Hold, once the proud tower to the south-west of Verigan’s Hold, which was thankfully still around but just. That was why the man was here, as a man on a mission to Lastwatch Hold for he would soon be dead and the way must be passed on, somehow. The way was the only one, which could be taken to quell the rise of the sands and the evil that was suspected to behind it all. As the man trekked to the sandblasted entrance a sudden blast of wind caught him by surprise, nearly knocking him over. He paused, steadied himself and continued inside.
The man paused at the entrance then ruffled through his knapsack pulling out a single torch striking it quickly, throwing a dull orange light across the gloom. Mercifully there were no mobs but the man was well prepared for it with an iron blade at his side while being fully obscured in iron armor. He glanced around the gloom then struck another torch placing it higher than the other at the east end of the room. The room now reflected nothing but decay, a few dusty and windblown tables and old tapestries long since forgotten. However, this was not the room the man sought to enter as he crossed the room towards a stairwell at its end leading up the second level of the tower. Lastwatch Hold had four levels with each one serving a different purpose. The tower itself was the only part of Lastwatch that had not yet been consumed by the
The second level yielded as few results as the first and was just as empty except for a few chests, crafting tables and furnaces, the room had once been an armory as well as a smithy for there was an ancient rack nearby which held a few broken swords. The man paused briefly to light the room with a single torch and then moved on. The third level was the darkest and most foreboding of all the rooms. At one time the room functioned as the barracks for the troops who were funneled in and out of Lastwatch. The barracks were completely dark due to the lack of any windows let alone a hole in the tower walls. Carefully, fully aware of possible monsters the man slowly drew his sword and with his free hand he struck a torch and posted it at the stairwell entrance. He paused for a moment as the orange light flashed across the gloom to reveal a green shape moving quickly towards its visitor a hissing sound emitted from it. The man yelled and flung himself down the staircase just before the explosion ruptured the walls and the floor, sparing the man but raining dust and bits of blocky rubble lightly on his armor. The green thing was a creeper, a hostile monster that had rarely been seen before the sands. However, since then it had spread as far as Mistral and beyond infecting the lands and was not so easily stopped by walls and doors. The man had been expecting it.
“That’s closer than I like it…” he panted as he stood up and raised his sword as he entered the third level of the tower. The man stopped at the landing but there was nothing but quiet, the room was empty. Stumbling, the man fumbled in his pack for another torch, pulled one out, lit it and placed it on the far end of the room. The man glanced around, there were a few holes in the floor but the creeper’s blast had left remarkably little damage. The man smiled what good luck to be so far up in a dark, abandoned tower and to have encountered only one creeper! He did not lower his sword as he climbed the intact staircase to the fourth and final floor. There the man would meet his purpose and do what he must do as Verigan had told him long ago. As the man reached the fourth floor he struck his final torch packing slowly towards the center of the room. Carefully he planted the torch while holding his sword at the ready, as even in the top of the tower there could be monsters waiting for him. Once the torch was lit the man to see where he was. The room was that of the Templar Lords of Lastwatch Hold and was covered in ancient tapestries, a bed rested in the left corner its royal red sheets still intact, and chests lined the walls.
The man paused; the chests had long since been emptied of their possessions before Lastwatch had fallen to the sands. Regardless the man’s mission was to leave a message, for whoever may go so far to find it that would lead them to a way to save the world from the sands. The man coughed, reached deep into his knapsack and pulled out an ancient tattered piece of parchment taking great paints to remove it without tearing anything as he did so. The man reached up and removed his helm with a gloved hand for he could go about his task far easier without it blocking his view. Verigan had given the parchment to him before the last battle in the instance that he should die, his last instructions were still embedded in the man’s mind.
Whatever you must do Karpath; take this parchment it is a map to the terrible evil that lies in the sands. I fear that if left alone, what lies there may fulfill the purpose it was built for... Be quick, the walls cannot hold forever, but know those here do not expect your return.
I know Verigan.
Very well, take this parchment and go to Lastwatch Hold. Leave it up in the fourth level of the tower in the chest nearest the bed with the crest of the Lastwatch Templars.
Who shall find it?
Your son if he should make it so far…you know the why. Take care Kartpath, if the map should find its way into the wrong hands all is lost. Remember, this map is the last and most essential clue to unlocking the secrets of the sands. I entrust it to you Karpath and keep it well, keep it safe until you reach Lastwatch…Adaephon shall watch over the Hold in your stead….
The memory faded into nothingness as Karpath stood in the light and unfurled the map. It was a painted hand, the final clue to destroying the sands. With a swift motion, Karpath opened the chest nearest the bed and with hardly a flicker laid the map gently down into the abyss of the chest and closed it clicking the latch.
“Good luck…my son.” Karpath murmured sheathing his sword starting down the levels of Lastwatch Hold as he put out the torches one by one.
Verigan was right, he would not return, but perhaps his son or someone would – someday