Bane stood at the entrance of the tomb, he had awoken from his sleep and his body had slightly recovered. His bony body ached, but it was no longer the intensity it had been. As he walked into the tomb, the door sealed itself behind him again. Around him was darkness, until the very stone which walled the tomb seemed to glow with a subtle blue luminance which allowed him to see the area in an aura. From the floor, a stone coffin came. Bane walked towards, and could feel Shade’s power coming from it.
‘This tomb should be larger...’
Bane was in deep thought of his situation, trying to figure whether the coffin was a fake or not, and what reasons would be behind it.
The thoughts entered Bane’s mind, clearly divided from the chaos that had been in it prior. He could feel Shade’s vibe within him, and his mind reached for it with his mentalic teachings.
‘I have come to gain power, Shade.’
‘The secrets of becoming a dark lich?’
‘Yes. I have studied all I could of you. It is believed that you are aware of how such power is attained.’
‘Of course, I am one. This coffin carries my body.’
‘This vibe you are...Is it part of the theory of souls?’
‘Correct, a branch of necromancy made to extend life. You of course wished to retain a body. I a soul, you a lich. We may merge to become dark lich.’
‘How may I learn more of the art?’
‘Absorb my soul. A soul is only a conscience vibe. Let us merge, and gain power.’
‘I see, I have one more question before proceeding.’
‘What may this inquiry be?’
‘How did you become a dark lich?’
‘I merged with a more inferior soul. The path to a soul does not require the being of a dark lich. The inferior soul I merged with was a pupil of mine. He had potential, and I had him take on the ritual to become a soul. Once he had proceeded with the ordeal, I absorbed him. Eventually, his conscience died and I was left with the power. You will have even more power then I did, as you will merge with me, and not a necromancer of weakness. You are powerful Bane, even when compared to my power.’
A moment later, Shade was absorbed into Bane’s mind. Bane kneeled to the ground as his mind went into shock. His vision blurred and his body felt numb. A high pitched ring sounded within his ears and he could taste blood within his mouth. His mind sent off a shockwave and he felt himself thrown against the coffin. He grasped one of the edges, buckling into the side of it as his body began to shiver. His feet began to clamp and his fingers stretched open, lightening the grasp he had on the casket. Bane felt his lungs rapidly recycling the stale air which surrounded him. He coughed roughly, blood dripping from his mouth. His skeletal hands began to claw at his stomach of a bone case and he screamed in pain with a volume above that which he had had at the entrance. And then it stopped. He felt his body calm, and a wave of calm filled his mind.
‘You lived. Such is your power, Bane. I pass to you the honour and glory of my name, you are now Shade.’
‘How will we deal with the mercenaries?’
‘For now, we will travel deeper into my tomb. At the end of it I have hidden my armoury. We would be safe in this tomb, but there are matters that both of us need to deal with. You have these mercenaries and the destruction of XMancers and ANecro to do away with while I have a score to settle with a foe I believe is still alive called Devra, the daughter of my pupil. She cursed this tomb with a fiend, and was the result of my death, which had a reason of its own. If we are to reach the end of my tomb, we will have to slay her demon she summoned.’
‘Then let us deal with the first matter, your tomb.’
Shade walked toward the back of the room, a staircase dove into the basement which lay much deeper. What demon Devra had summoned from whichever plane Shade knew not, but that it must be slain he knew he must. He could feel its power, his mind sensitive to every subtle change of the vibes which floated about. When he reached the base of the stairs, he could see the demon. Its chain tail was attached to the floor, so it could not leave through physical means and a ward was set to disrupt it from crossing into another plane. It noticed his approach and its cold blue eyes gazed at him from its black gecko head. The head was attached to a body that extended into a plumb oval coated with scales harder then steel and as dark as its face. From the body extended the six limbs, each carrying hands which held three razor claws. Its chain tail stretched as it leaped towards Shade with hunger.
‘I should of guessed Devra would have summoned one of these. It comes from the plane which emits most of the negative vibes. I built my tomb here because that plane aligns with our plane here. It is immune to necromancy, and any other thing you hurl at it. The only thing it will truly die from is the strike of a blessed blade. We won’t be able to kill it, due to its ability to absorb any vibes aimed towards it. We’d only allow it to kill us.’
‘Perhaps if we were to destroy the ward, then it could leave to its original plane.’
‘Devra is known for her ward’s durability. If we wanted to remove it we would have to dispel is ability to remain where it is, then take it with our own hands. A difficult task with this demon.’
‘Is there any way to communicate with the demon?’
‘Impossible, communicating with demons cannot be done.’
‘Perhaps if we communicate with gestures of peace?’
‘Where it came from, peace is a weakling’s attempt to escape.’
‘What is it that you propose?’
‘We make it impossible for it to attack us by rule of the Dark Law.’
‘The Dark Law? I have heard of the such, though you seemed to have taken it with your death also. If you would, explain the Dark Law to me.’
‘In my armoury is a pedestal that you may choose to agree with the Dark Law. Either way, demons are held by it through heredity. The one that we may tie it on is the ban of drawing the blood from those who offer it prior. If we offer it our blood, it will not be able to claw us. It wouldn’t dare beat us with its palm, due to the consequences which would pursue after such a horrible mistake. It would be filled with pain which its mind would not be numbed of. There have been those who have made the mistake of ignoring the Dark Law and have killed themselves promptly. However, this demon would be unable to escape. Take the ritual knife and offer it your blood.’
Shade took his ritual knife soon after the thought. He impaled his right hand with it, and walked towards the demon with his right arm stretched forth. The demon hesitated its motion to strike him and its head moved towards his hand. He stopped, staring into its blue eyes. Its nose flared at the blood and its tongue came forth, licking at his hand. The tongue burned his hand with pain from the acid, but he held his hand out towards the demon. Once it had taken the blood from his hand, and from his ritual knife, it moved away to a corner. Shade walked towards the ward, and focused on it, destroying its resistence. It eventually dispersed and he was able to take it from the ground where it was originally placed. He walked towards the demon and offered the ward now. The demon took the ward with its razor claws and began to barrage the ward with strikes from its claws. The ward eventually lost its ability to function, and the demon began to open a gate to its home. A black sphere slowly became visible as the light was entered it without returning and the demon became transparent. Once the sphere became opaque, it imploded upon itself and vanished.
‘Though the demons of the Dark Law are powerful by its profit, this is an example of how it can be used against its followers.’
Shade walked across the hall and entered the armoury.
Zyx and Narsh hurried to hopefully rendevous with Lyle, Slorm and Fier. They had not ordered a carriage, being that it would hinder their speed. Slorm, being from ANecro, might be able to suppress Bane slightly with the aid of Lyle. This would leave Narsh and Zyx to dispose of the foe. Zyx had dealt with a many necromancers during her time as a mercenary, they somehow were able to anger people quite easily.
Devra opened her eyes and frowned in anger. She could tell that some fool had not only opened Shade’s tomb, but joined forces. She could also tell that her demon she had summoned had been released, though not slain. She had known such would eventually happen, Shade never liked being dead for long. As she grew in power, Shade did the same. She would have to find a different way to seal him this time. She had already sealed him into a pocket dimension. But still he lived after she had collapsed it. He had simply switched the target to her, leaving her to escape it with ease. It seemed Shade was slowly becoming an omnimancer. She had remained focused though, a conjurer. The art of conjuring was much more straining then most and left many of its pupil’s dead after their first attempt to use it. This made it unpopular as a choice of practice, as it became more lethal with time. Devra had used her most powerful conjure with Shade’s demon. Unfortunately, it was held by the Dark Law. She could sense Shade’s presence of being even with the distance that separated them. She would have to confront him again, and banish him.
Devra arose from her cot in the cave she had fashioned for herself. She had been waiting. Studying away, she was now prepared to summon forth another trial for Shade, and torment him for his unpunished deeds. It was all she had thought of between their last meeting. It was all she lived for. When Shade died, she would accept the pursuit of death with no regrets.
Shade looked at the text in front of him. The door which led to the armoury was the Dark Law. To pass, Shade must accept its terms.
‘After reading the text, you simply must make a blood pact. A single drop is all it needs.’
The Dark Law
The blood pact made here is one which binds tightly around its client while aiding them in magnificent ways. The laws are simple, and the punishment is simply based on a magnitude. Any disobedience will be punished through pain in its most primitive form. When one offers blood, draw no more then they have given. Disobedience will void the client’s pact. When one offers blood, they may do no harm upon those they gift it to. Disobedience will bring death upon the client. If one offers blood in a false pact, pay no mercy.
In accepting these solid terms, one will gain power in every way in which the art is concerned.
Shade took his ritual knife impaled his bone hand. The exoskeleton soon gave way and the dark liquid appeared. Shade thrust his hand upon the altar which lay beneath the text and waited in silence. Soon the wall lowered, giving way to the true armoury.
It was a small room, holding a hooded black robe which was jagged at the base and had long sleeves which expanded at the end, also jagged in cut. Behind it hung a black scythe made of an alloy from the place which the demon Shade had freed was born of. The scythe had a handle which seemed to have notches for an adjustable length every three centimetres. The blade had a smooth curve which made it extend half a metre from the handle. Grips curved along the handle gracefully between each notch, allowing for a sturdy slice even after impact, and a quick recovery so that another blow could be dealt.
‘The robe is enchanted in ways which make it channel vibes, it emits them even. While wearing it, a drought of vibes to draw forth power from will be highly unlikely. What is of more value is the scythe however. It is quite sharp, and it won’t go dull. It inflicts damage by taking the vibes from you and turning them into pain and fear for the victim. Both sides are bladed also, and when it slays it will absorb their energy and lend it to its wielder. While murdering those who oppose, fatigue shall be held off as well as death. If death comes to the one who bears it, it shall curse any who is not of the Dark Law by killing them with pure pain, generated from what it absorbs from its dead master. Be careful when you grasp it, trials of pain are to come.’
Shade stepped forward and took the robe, quickly changing into it and basking in its power. He then went for the scythe, fully braced for the pain he would endure for its greatness. Again, for the third time, he was trialed with pain. As Shade’s trial had been harsher then the trial of the gate, the scythe gave a much higher magnitude of pain. His hands clamped, Shade forcing himself to not let go. The pain travelled like a wave through his arms, slowly. It grew more powerful until it collided at his body. The pain joined against him and doubled as it grew, the core only growing in pain. This trial was different then the previous two trials. No blood was drawn, only pain.
‘Enough. Send the pain back into the scythe.’
Shade stopped simply enduring and fought back. With the resistence, came the scythe’s raise in power. Shade drew all his power, absorbing all the vibes which came from his new found robe and the tomb itself to subdue the scythe. The pain peaked and then it dropped. Shade took the scythe from the wall and it finally submitted to him. He released one hand upon the scythe and found that the leverage which should of made it heavier then he could bear was lacking. The alloy was light, and durable.
Zyx and Narsh had met with Lyle, Fier and Slorm prior to the trio reaching the tomb. This was due to the distance of the tomb to Darlz Spire compared to Azlay and the speed of the groups. Talk had been quick, and all agreed that Bane had travelled to the tomb. Now they stood at the entrance, still shut. Lyle was first to speak, as always.
“There are four possible reasons for its state. The first is that Bane did not come here for some reason unknown to us. The second is that Bane has not come here, yet. The third is that the door seals itself after opening and so Bane is in it at this moment. We can’t afford to divide in the last case, he will have much might when he exits. If he is gone, waiting is futile. And if he has not come yet, patience will slay him. The last is that he has already left, and escaping our net before we have even set it in to strangle him.”
Zyx listened to his words, and decided to prod further, and see what Lyle thought was most likely.
“And seeing to all these possibilities, each is not as likely as the other. In your mind, which is most likely?”
Zyx held a curious tone, one to make Lyle think before he spoke.
“If each event had the same probability, we could have one of us contact Darlz Spire to stay on watch for any dark liches, and then wait here. This is likely even more profitable, since Bane has little reason not to come here. Even if he didn’t, Darlz Spire will still be looking.”
Fier now spoke, his voice quieting everyone to listen. He spoke with a voice which was calm and held wisdom.
“Bane sounds like one who hungers for power. In life, those who effect others do so with something which compels them, drives them and makes them desire. Some are so obsessed with what they desire they are willing to do anything for it. I saw in Nelzlyn the desire for knowledge, how she drew forth power she did not have to prove herself to Darlz Spire. With it, she succeeded. Now, we have Bane. What does one gain by becoming a lich, and then a dark lich? I have heard of him before, his study of necromancy is intense and famous among mancers. I believe he desires power in its most raw form. We all want power, be it finance like Market Mancers, or knowledge like Nelzlyn. But Bane wants it directly. If he knew of this tomb, and indeed he must, he would come here even if he had to face multiple factions alone. He is blind when faced with power.”
Nelzlyn looked ahead into the darkness. A figure was in front of her, hidden amongst the shadows in a dark robe. In its right hand was a scythe which intimidated her. The hands which held it were pale and looked as if they were bony and cold. The features weren’t quite visible though, only wisps of thought which she simply knew.
“I am straining to keep our mental link. Either way, I am near Darlz Spire. I need your assistance. Come.”
The voice was distant and sounded like an echo, only resonating within her mind weakly. Nelzlyn looked down as she responded.
“I would like to stay here, I am learning so much. Please, give me some more time, Bane.”
Her voice was slightly set off, Bane invoking fear in her.
“My name is now Shade. Secondly, do you not remember the price you paid? When I agreed to aid you in your studies, you sold me your loyalty.”
Shade held a strong tone, and a hint of anger in his voice could be felt.
“Perhaps I can aid you while remaining here. I can gain important information and give it to you through a conversation such as this. I can already tell you that they have sent five after you, and they have gone to the tomb.”
Nelzlyn held a hopeful tone.
“The tomb is useless, I have taken all I need of it. However, I am going to have to intercept the group. Thank you, I will leave you to your studies.”
“Thank you, Shade.”
With the passage over, the link was closed and Nelzlyn awoke.
Narsh was at the entrance of the mountain trail which led to Darlz Spire, the clouds making the lighting scarce. He had taken one of the horses which Zyx and him had ordered. But the horse stopped, staring in fear at the path. Narsh waited a moment, but his horse jerked to the side, and began to trot. As it was running, it died suddenly. In a moment, it was dead. Narsh raised himself, clasping at the amulet which his allies also bore. While wearing it, mancy could not harm him.
“Show yourself, I suspect you are Bane.”
Narsh masked his fear slightly, drawing forth all his courage from his amulet.
“I am not Bane. I am Shade.”
Narsh was puzzled by the calmness in the cold voice.
“Then Shade was a soul, I have heard of such things happening from time to time.”
Narsh fell into conversation, the new fact swelling his inner fear even more though.
“Though you may be inferior, I cannot trust you.”
From the shadows, Shade appeared Narsh’s fear came out when he saw that his foe had a weapon. He ran in fear, for a moment, then remembered that he had the advantage around Darlz Spire. At his moment of running, Shade had began to chase however. The scythe motioned to collide with his neck, Narsh blocked it by unsheathing his battle staff, which was then dented while hurtling away. In another moment, Narsh began to run into the darkness. Shade would not chase, or so he hoped. As he ran however, he could sense his amulet’s power being dispelled. He turned, his coal amulet now lighting up at his call for it. He drew from it power, and launched a fire wave at Shade. Shade looked at the wall, and in a moment it grew in force with a reversed direction. Narsh focused on the wall himself, the forces making it grow in intensity. He walked backwards, slowly. If he could keep Shade busy with this battle and escape, he could warn Darlz Spire and Shade could be slain. Eventually though, Narsh’s mind fell and the wall flew towards him, he slowed it slightly though, giving him time to hide behind a boulder to his right. He could hear Shade chuckling in the distance, and it was coming closer. And then it stopped. More fear came, as he crawled down a cliff and into an area that was not used as a normal trail.
When Shade had stopped chuckling to himself about how the fool had escaped, he had realized how much fear the poor thing had shown. And with fear came detection. With a simple conversation of vibes and emotion with his scythe, he could sense that the pyromancer had moved to his left, beside a boulder. But by time he moved towards it, he could only hear the rushing sounds of stones being moved along the unused cavity. Either way, he was not going to let the pyromancer escape.
Narsh had never studied the geography of the Darlz Spire region. Due to this fact, he now was lost. But Shade had been quite powerful, fending the mancy of one of the pyromancers of Darlz Spire while in the region. Narsh could feel his coal still against his chest, its warmth cooling. He could hear Shade behind him also, and stopped. Shade must of heard him. He looked about him, seeing that the cavity split into two caves. One was near his left, while the other was between him and Shade. How far they went, he knew not. Narsh grabbed a stone, and threw it into the cave between him and Shade. The stone echoed about, and Shade moved quicker. Narsh bent down, hiding in his dark robe. He could hear Shade enter the cave he had used as a diversion, and leapt for the cave near him. Inside, he moved along the wall, slowly. Shade might give up on looking for him, and leave. He kept moving along the cave. He knew not the length of it, only the chance it offered him. After moving along the cave for some time, he reached the wall. He waited in it, feeling as if he was going to die.
Shade only had to go so far to know that his prey had tricked him. He felt angry, but knew the thing wouldn’t get far. He could sense it, it was near. He looked about after exiting, and saw another cave. He entered it, following his scythe’s directions. And then he could feel the fear in front of him. He did not need his scythe for it, it was so powerful. It made him pause for a moment, and realize the power he had now.
‘Should I kill him? Perhaps he can be of use.’
‘Though fear is wonderful for controlling people, and the man is afraid, they can lash out if given a chance.’
‘True. Still, we may be able to make him ally with us.’
‘I wouldn’t risk it.’
As the conversation of thought went on, Narsh stared up at the dark lich, its scythe raised to attack, but waiting. With a quick motion, Narsh hit the arm which held the scythe while his other arm gave a blow to his foe’s stomach. His fist hit hard bone, however. He hadn’t expected it, though in retrospect he figured he should of. Shade’s scythe came inwards towards Narsh, but due to the range, darkness and time for preparation, only the handle hit him. He fell over, tripping past Shade. In half of the moment it happened in, he realized what fortune had brought him. He continued to run as he gained his balance, hoping Shade wouldn’t catch him. But Shade wasn’t chasing him, he was dispelling the amulet. Narsh recalled some of the basic training he had in protecting the amulet, and set to protect it. The amulet recovered again while Shade destroyed the barrier in a moment.
Shade, seeing that this process of the amulet being guarded until it was cured could continue, decided to take up the chase. He knew he could not fight the other with pyromancy with as much ease, but he didn’t have many choices. He made a wall of fire at the entrance of the cave, hindering the pyromancer to escape without some effort to destroy the obstacle. As he reached the pyromancer, he grabbed the thing’s neck and swung him to the ground, he knew how he could use the fear now.
“If you wish to live, answer my questions. If you wish for a pact, we may create one.”
Shade held a cold tone which gave Narsh the impression that any false move would kill him.
“I will answer your questions, if only you spare my life.”
Narsh held a humble tone, one that let Shade know that Narsh told the truth.
“I have heard that there are five after me, do you know anything of this?”
Narsh could see Shade’s pale skull staring down at him, and he felt his throat was dry. He nodded, trying to regain the ability to speak as he felt sweat sliding down his face and he gasped for breath.
“What of them? Tell me everything you know, and don’t lie.”
Shade’s voice became somehow colder, and Narsh felt his body shaking under the firm grasp of Shade’s left arm.
“I am one of the five, my name is Narsh. The four others are Fier, Zyx, Lyle and Slorm. Fier is one of the more powerful pyromancers, Zyx head of the contract sector for Market Mancers, Lyle a member of XMancers and Slorm is a member of ANecro. I was sent to look for you with Zyx in Azlay. We decided to all go to the tomb and then we found the entrance sealed so I came here to tell Darlz Spire to keep its eyes open for you while they would wait at the entrance to see if you were still to go there or to come from it still. Please I do not know much on this matter, I was only delegated to do this commission because you are of priority to Market Mancers.”
“Good then, I thank you for your valuable information. However, I cannot trust you if you were to leave alone and I don’t wish to deal with your bothersome presence. Because you made the mistake of not taking my offer of a pact, I am no longer entitled to let you live. Farewell.”
And with a single slice, Shade attacked his first victim with his scythe, absorbing a fraction of Narsh’s power and Shade felt another’s blood upon his hands. He took the coal amulet which Narsh bore upon his cut neck and Shade set it upon his own neck, the coal hardening as it permanently lost its enchantment. He then rose, and walked away, he would travel back to the tomb and rid himself of his newest pursuers.
It had been a few days after the death of Narsh that Zyx, Lyle, Fier and Slorm began to ponder upon their comrade’s safety. By the next day, after Bane had not come to the tomb nor from the tomb and Narsh was still to appear, that they began to ponder upon the possibilities.
They came to the conclusion that Narsh’s horse had stumbled and injured itself, leaving him to either attempt to nurse it back to health or continue by foot. In both cases, Narsh would be absent for some time.
But through their natural paranoia, and the problem they were dealing with, they contemplated in silence the possibility that Bane had found Narsh. Such was unlikely, and to suggest it would simply show that they feared Bane. Then again, only a fool wouldn’t fear a lich. Then again, only a fool would combat a lich.
Slorm was the first to react, sensing a change within the vibes he had been carefully watching.
“I can sense vibes which are of a lich’s origin. I think it is safe to assume that the lich of origin is Bane. Though the vibes are powerful, he is likely to not of entered so far, being that he is coming here.”
Slorm spoke with a worried expression, pulling out a scripture to review his defences against liches which he had studied, and which had led to his being chosen for the task. Zyx raised from her restful position and looked along the horizon, as Fier and Lyle were also. A small black figure could be seen, walking in a slow way which made the four become anxious. Slorm looked towards Zyx as he spoke with contemplation.
“From what I can tell, he has already become a dark lich. I sense another within him, a soul I presume. Why he would return here after becoming a dark lich, I do not know. It is possible that the tomb actually opens for only dark liches, though I worry on our chance to defeat Bane. Perhaps if we were to hide within the shadows, he would not see us and we could estimate our extremely small chance of success.”
Slorm was already backing away, his body was shaking enough so that the three others could see. Zyx returned his gaze, thinking through with his idea, which had sprouted through fear.
“Perhaps, though I am not sure how well we can evade him, he probably already knows of us.”
Zyx stared at Slorm, watching his eyes flicker about as he thought about the options.
“I may be able to slightly disable his powers, though he is more likely to set me aside before I can do anything, causing my attempt to be extremely unrewarding. Still, now that I’ve thought about it past my instinct, our goal was to meet Bane. At the eve the event, we should not back away. Besides, I am sure he has not been well disciplined in his new powers, and so I would like to attempt a sealing ritual. All I would need is to have the first strike, perhaps Lyle can aid me in sealing him, as Lyle has been taught how to reverse enchantments.”
Zyx thought over the words, before deciding to call Lyle to speak.
“Lyle, come here. I wish to know about this ability to curse that you possess.”
Lyle moved over quickly, keeping an eye on the lich which was slowly coming towards them.
“Under the authorization of XMancers, I have been permitted to curse enchantments and on strict conditions, people. In the case of Bane, I may use the greatest of my abilities to subdue his power.”
Zyx nodded in thought, revising the research she had done on liches. Time passed, the small group of waiting to face Bane.
Shade held his mind outwards, feeling about the minds he could feel. They wished to battle him, he knew. He had been cautious about the cliff, and his prodding had been set aside. He would have to get closer to have any real effects. They seemed to have someone from ANecro. He would have to deal with the fool in that case. Fighting against odds over belief of morals, it was an odd stand point. Either way, he had reached the last part now, they were probably waiting for him to appear.
As Shade took the final step, he looked forward only to see a weak postured male. He extended a tendril of his power towards the fool who was before him, testing for any traps or wards. His tendril was caught though, the male in front of him staring at him with fear as the foe back fired Shade’s power and locked his mind. Shade felt a second barrier settle upon him as he recovered from the initial strike. He called forth his vibes and felt them spread away. His fingers began to feel as if they were to boil and his mind felt isolated, no longer with the entity.
‘What are we going to do now?’
‘They have four here, we are dealing with two. The one we see is sealing your necromancy, while the one who we have not seen yet is using a curse I once faced. It is made to convert vibes, quite lethal for liches. Either way, you should disable the vibes around you and perhaps fight this battle with the scythe, after disabling it. Besides, the curser seems to be nullifying all vibes, he must be the XMancer.’
In the moment of the converse, Shade began to let go of his powers and slowly dealt away with the weakling through casual meditation, soon the weakling was set off and his body emptied of its vibes. He felt a chill within him, a vulnerability. Before he could look up however, a female had launched herself at him. He felt himself set back and kicked forward to avoid a damaging fall. As he pulled his scythe forward to kill the female however, she gave him another blow. His scythe lost its wielder and Shade himself grabbed the female’s ankle to break his fall, attempting to launch off of her to the former battle ground. But in reverse his ankle was grasped and his chance of escape over, his body already impacted upon new ground. He felt the pain in his side, but also saw the persistent nuisance getting up. Before Shade could stand, his body was pushed again towards another cliff. He lost balance, but decided to thrust himself into his foe’s legs, causing her to also fall. He lifted himself again, running towards the female as she dropped again before he could strike. He tripped, and went to reverse the action to no avail due to his foe’s extra strike. He landed on the ground, his body in pain. There was no source of power to draw from, he had expended it. But he had to find new resources as his persistent foe attempted to land upon him. He moved to the side, his foe landing with slight control. He lay a blow towards her, only to be kicked. He yearned for his scythe, laying at the peak. He ran into the foe, tackling her to side and kicking her unprotected stomach with his heel. He fell back, allowing his sharp hands to seize the neck of his foe. Resistence came as fists plowed at him, though he ignored them. He tightened his grasp and his victim lost awareness until he felt a sharp pain along his back. He lifted himself to see a different male, older then the weakling he had faced earlier. In his new foe’s hand was Shade’s scythe, not reacting because of the disablement he embedded into it. He took to his mental discipline to share the pain of his scraped back with the fool who faced him. As the pain began to enter the other, Shade felt his mind taken again. He took advantage this time of the attack, now prepared for the manoeuvres that were to be taken against him. At once he locked the other and gave it another blast of his pain. He focused on his pain, making it burn within him and the one he was with. The other struggled to escape his grasp but to no avail. And then the resistence stopped. At once Shade probed further into the mind, working to deliver a final blow. But as he found the weakness in the mind, he felt the other move into his mind also, searching about.
‘Kill the fool now, I’ll deal with him here.’
‘He might be looking for you, I’ll quarrel with him. I’ve found his weakness, but he seems to be blocking my blows. He must have taken some discipline for such a defence, it is possible that he has been taught for this very kind of a battle.’
‘Perhaps we should seize his mind when he thinks he is deep enough, and pull him inwards. With his mind near enough to ours, we should be able to probe with ease.’
Lyle sifted through the dense conscience of Bane. He had heard Slorm speak of another conscience within Bane. If Lyle could find it, he may be able to weaken Bane so that defeat could be possible. He could sense Bane within his mind, moving through it with ease. Lyle had taken some teachings in mentalics, but Bane had taken much practise in mentalics. Besides, the mind within Bane likely amplified the ability. All he needed to find though was something that was different, a break in the pattern. The minds were merging though, Slorm had warned him when he went to aid Zyx. It would be a gradual change. It was then that he noticed another part, more powerful and it nearly made him recoil when he probed it. In the moment of a moment that he hesitated, he felt himself separated. He lashed back, trying to escape the firm hold Bane held on him. And then he felt the other come. He could sense its identity, now that it was no longer dormant. Shade. He attempted seal the entity of power that confronted him, but he simply felt himself cornered in the abstract setting. He tried to seal himself instead, but Shade was around him now, he was no longer cornered between Bane and Shade, but surrounded. His mind was weak compared to the two monumental forces. He could sense Bane upon his mind, waiting for him to strike. Shade was waiting, holding Lyle from escape. Lyle could sense probing, giving Lyle slight attacks. Lyle tried to severe the link, but any swift aborts would leave his mind in considerable damage. Bane set upon him finally, giving him a powerful blow. Lyle countered the attack, only to be set aside. He guarded his mind as its outer layer was breeched. He did another scan on Shade’s wall, and found an area of turmoil.
Bane took another blow at the weakling, punishing the bold act of invading his mind. The fool barely even resisted the blows. But he could tell now that his opponent was no longer even focused. He checked over the mind, searching for an indication of what had somehow preoccupied it. He was led to the Shade’s wall, to the turmoil that was happening.
‘Kill him, I’ll deal with the weakling who has decided to lay an attack. It’s a weak one, made to let the comrade escape.’
Lyle had taken his chance already, escaping through the link Slorm had created. He could feel his mind fatigued by the mass of thought. He quickly recoiled into his mind, to escape the thoughts. He did so impulsively, realizing too late that Slorm had been clamped into the minds of Shade.
‘How could you let the fool escape, now we can only do away with the weakling. I’ll deal with the fool, finish the weakling.’
‘I apologize, I will not fail in this task, don’t fail in your task.’
Bane focused on the new prisoner, the weakling he had faced prior. But there were no traps this time. At once he lunged upon the weaker mind, giving it no time to defend itself. The weakling set aside, crippled. It knew its chances to be minimal and tried to abort as quickly as it could, as its mind seemed to fade from Bane’s grasp. Bane grasped a fragment of its vital conscience, making the weakling now a mental cripple. He moved on, the mental battle he had just reigned victorious in had been no challenge, it had been lost due to a foolish mistake. But now he could aid Shade defeat the fool.
‘I’ve lost him, it would seem the fool took the weakling. Did you hold the weakling?’
‘Yes, I rendered him incompetent. What caused you to fail?’
‘The fool had isolated his mind as soon as he escaped, I couldn’t lock on to him again.’
‘Then are we going back to the peak?’
‘Yes, to get the scythe.’
‘What of the female?’
‘We may have to take her hostage. We can interrogate her as well as use her to safely get the scythe. We may also be able to have Market Mancers withdraw. We’ll even give them the hostage back, else they would continue their strike.’
Zyx awoke with her limbs tethered in darkness with her amulet, which had been dispelled. Her neck was sore, as was the most of her body. She sat on a mat, staring across from her was the calm figure of Bane, also sitting on a mat. She looked at him in distaste, and tried to remember how events had led to her imprisonment. She had been fighting with Bane, until he somehow gained the upper hand. She had awaken at one point being dragged, though awareness had not stayed with her for long. And now she was here.
“You have been brought here as a hostage. I will release you later to Market Mancers, if you cooperate.”
Bane seemed calm, and Zyx began weighing how likely she was to actually be released.
Bane gave a slight grin with his bony jaw when her heard her remark. Zyx was having trouble reading his expressions however, due to his skeletal appearance and the lack of lighting.
“You’re quick to figure out your situation. In the likely case that you do not trust my word, I must admit that you have no other chance. Therefore, trusting me gives you a chance of escape which is infinitely larger then not trusting.”
Bane turned, waiting for her reply.
“There are infinitely small chances of escape besides that which you speak. In the case, the ratio is not infinite, but of a higher level. However, I would like to know of Narsh. In the case that you murdered him, then I estimate that the chance of my release through you is lower then that of an alternative possibilities”
Zyx was trying to see how calm Bane could remain, if he began to become irritated then she would have an estimate of his temper. She had been assured of Narsh’s murder due to the slight chuckle when she mentioned his name.
“Would that be the fool who was on his way to Darlz Spire? I never received his name. However, he resisted me until the end, in which I knew that his release would bring harm to me. If I kill you, I will have to face the consequences. In the case of your release, you will also be lacking in knowledge of my whereabouts and therefore be of less harm. I know how Market Mancers is, a group of people who all gain from its monopoly. Loyalty isn’t one of the most prominent things is it, you all simply help each other so to gain more from the growth. What do you gain if you are dead?”
Bane was trying to negotiate, something Zyx hoped to use to her advantage.
“I gain 90X if you are dead, though the total commission is 10^5X.”
Zyx kept a cold tone, seeing where Bane’s other limits were.
“10^5X? Those fools will spend 10^5X over a debate of morals? If I couldn’t sense the truth within that thought, I’d suspect a bluff. I wonder if perhaps you are trained in mentalics.”
Bane was remaining calm.
“I looked into mentalics, however, it takes devotion to train within the field. I have other interests, so that my skill would be of no use against you.”
Zyx was testing how Bane took compliments now, if perhaps she could have him fall on a matter of glory.
“Does Market Mancers communicate with any conjurers?”
Bane had paused slightly before speaking, as if in self thought.
“No, conjurers are a rare find.”
Zyx was curious to the odd question.
“What is the most powerful mancer known to Market Mancers?”
Bane was hesitating now between sentences.
“The question is debatable, though there is a chaosmancer named Zap. He has been known for being unreliable, however. One of the mancers we find contracting at times frequently is O, an omnimancer. However, he is aging and his studies have worn his body. He has taken on great work towards longevity. But omnimancy is an exhausting field. He also refuses to take part in acts of destruction.”
Zyx was slightly set off by the questions, they seemed to be unrelated to the matter at hand.
“Chaosmancer? Well, they are also of short supply. Where may Zap be found?”
Zyx realized that Bane may be trying to bribe associates of Market Mancers, something which was punished greatly when found. However, she had met Zap on an occasion and found him to be uninterested in wealth. She also noticed that Bane took no notice of O.
“He is quite nomadic, we met him through a contract and found his abilities to be quite formidable. We have crossed paths with him on occasion however, he simply paid those he met in exchange for answering riddles or some other odd task. The last time I am aware of his path being crossed was a few years ago, while an escort contract was being fulfilled. His area was known to be near the Zol Marsh, he claimed to be domesticating the grogs.”
Zyx was speaking in long detail as she felt about at the chain bindings about her hands. They were tight, and made in a fashion that each hand was in a separate loop connected with a strand. A difficult knot to target the weakness point. Her feet were in the same situation.
“He tames giant frogs? Well, it is to be expected seeing the branch of mancy he is proficient with. He could be of use.”
Bane stood, pulling his scythe forward.
“And now I am to be executed? Perhaps the Dark Law will hold you back.”
Zyx bit hard on her tongue so to pierce it and bleed upon the ground. She held her mouth open with the sharp pain which swelled within her mouth and the warm liquid which was slowly flowing down into her throat, causing her to cough slightly at the itch she couldn’t scratch. She began to shiver as her tongue scraped across her teeth, clenched as she bore the pain. As her focus withered, she felt her hands lose dexterity.
“I envy the pain you feel. But I will not take it from you, I will only take the blood you have offered.”
Bane spoke in a calm tone, and was acting very ceremonious as he slowly walked towards Zyx, her ability to speak now obsolete at the present. Bane knelt down, setting his snake like tongue upon the small puddle. Zyx simply stared towards the odd sight as she attempted to regain control of her tongue which had froze at her front teeth. Bane looked up at her, bowing. Bane took his claw like finger and pierced into his own tongue, drawing forth blood. He offered Zyx the blood, who accepted with similar ceremony.
“A decade without the pact is unequal to your life’s value. I thank you for your blood, and will leave you in peace.”
Bane rose from the ground and bowed again, leaving Zyx in her pain, after taking the mat beneath her. Zyx moved her hands underneath her legs and brought them before her, gnawing away at the rope. She had to stop when a fibre struck her slit tongue. Zyx lay upon the cold dirt and looked at the sky above. Bane could no longer harm her, as long as she didn’t harm him. However, she wished to know more of the Dark Law. She had been come across a note about it, but only enough to understand the sickening obsession of blood, pain and sacrifice. If she came over the Dark Law, she may be able to find a way to bypass it. But for now she would rest, though she would sleep on her stomach to avoid coughing upon the blood which trickled from the tongue which was pressed against her mouth’s ceiling to slow the flow. Her feet clamped as she tried to ignore the pain.
Having a moment of silence as they walked away from the dead body of Slorm, reviewing the events personally, Fier and Lyle felt the pain left upon them. Bane had risen to the peak with Zyx as hostage, her mind frozen. He’d taken the scythe which Lyle had warned Fier from taking. Bane had left, glaring as Lyle had attempted to curse him. Lyle had stood a moment, realizing that Bane would have gained a new name after becoming a dark lich. And without Bane’s name, his curses were useless. The dark lich had only struck Lyle once though, and fled. With Slorm dead at the base and Zyx taken, they decided to report to Gratz.