Escape from Veroria
A Tale of Infinity Wars
The only light came from the glowing chains that bound him in place and the runes etched along the walls, the floors, the ceiling. Scratches of purple light that seemed to claw at his eyes in the midst of the darkness, pulsing irregularly.
It gave him a headache.
Souta shook his head--the only action left to him by the magical chains that held him in place. It didn't dispel the headache, or the boredom, but it was something.
In the vague direction of 'above' the darkness of the dungeon, thunder boomed. The entire citadel seemed to shake. There was a lurch, as though the universe had torn itself inside-out, and then he heard a series of explosions. The runes in the dungeon flared, blinding him, then faded. His chains disappeared as the citadel continued to shake, disturbed to its very foundations. Suddenly released from bondage, he collapsed to the floor.
Sitting up, Souta stretched with a groan of pain and set to massaging aching limbs. "I have to get out of here," he muttered. With the disappearance of the runes, the darkness had become absolute. He rose to his feet, then immediately reached out to support himself on the wall as his legs gave out. Taking a deep breath, he rose again. His legs wobbled, but he stood. "Discipline and honor, Souta," he said to himself. "You can do this. Three days in this hell can't break your spirit." He summoned a jade wisp of fire around his hand and took trembling steps towards what looked like a cell door. The magical flames cast everything in an eerie blue-green light, almost sickly, but light was light. Carefully, he placed his hand on the door's center and concentrated.
It opened into a long, dark corridor, with hundreds of doors branching off in either direction. Smoke wafted from extinguished torches, their purple flames snuffed out by whatever had drained the power from his bonds.
Nodding to himself, Souta opened the cell door and stepped into the passage, the heart of the dungeon. With his left hand upraised to provide light, he walked towards the first door on his left. He placed his hand upon the center again, whispered words repeating the spell.
A dark cell without occupant. In the center lay a skeleton in faded, tattered robes, its four limbs outstretched in death. No one had gone in there in quite some time.
Sounds of battle and cries of alarm echoed down the hall. Off in the distance, someone shrieked in pain and was suddenly silenced. To his right, Souta noticed the glimmer of a flaming torch and the sound of pounding feet. Quickly extinguishing his magical fire, he ducked into the unoccupied cell.
"My thanks for your sanctuary, brother," he said, nodding at the skeletal remains. "I don't plan on intruding for much longer." In the main passage four pairs of feet rushed past, the frenzied voices incomprehensible. Souta glanced at the skeleton and the eyeless skull seemed to stare back. "You know," he said, "you'd think the cultists would use conventional security measures instead of just using magic for everything. Right?" The skull didn't respond. Realizing that he was talking to a skeleton, Souta shuddered. He waited for a few more minutes, taking advantage of the time to rest his sore limbs, then placed his hand on the door again.
The hall was the same as before, with the group disappearing into the distance in the same direction he had been travelling.
"I wonder if they were coming from above or are heading back to the surface," he muttered, re-entering the passageway and continuing along slowly, carefully. "Hopefully they're on their way out."
As he walked along the hall, the light of the jade flames showing the way, Souta couldn't help but notice the floor. Bloodstains and gouges from inhuman claws marred the surface, and as the entire earth shuddered he fell to his knees and noticed that the foundation of the keep was less than solid. "I'll have to move quickly," he said, rising back to his feet.
To his left, something ran into a door. The door shuddered from the impact but remained on its hinges, a large metal bar keeping it locked where other doors had relied only upon magic. "So they have some physical measures after all. Fancy that." Curious in spite of himself, Souta stepped over and placed his hand on the door.
A brutish creature, once man but now something far worse. Corrupted by sinister magic, the brute was a mass of muscled flesh and dark pulsing veins. A man's height and half again and as thick as a pillar, with purple splotches on its skin marking where sorcery had twisted its flesh. It scowled and roared at the door, broken chains swinging from its wrists. The door shakes on its hinges and sounds of battle echo overhead. The brute bellows in response, its grotesque face contorted in pain and rage as it throws itself against the cell door again after again.
He stumbled back as the door shook from the impacts. "No, thank you," he said, walking away from the cell. "I think I'll pass on that fight." Chills ran down his spine as he considered that the monster contained therein may once have been a man like him. He shook his head. "Discipline and honor, Souta. You can't falter now."
As much as Souta hoped to find and free more of his brethren from the dungeon, he knew deep down that there were precious few of them left prisoner and that there simply wasn't time. From the continued tremors and the sounds of battle, it seemed that the keep was tearing itself apart. If I'm going to make it out of here alive, let alone in one piece, he thought, dodging a falling chunk of the ceiling, I need to move fast. No more distractions. Echoing his concerns, a tidal wave of rats began fleeing from deeper within the dungeon, their scurrying squeaks and scratching feet forcing Souta to place his hands over his ears in reflex. The jade flames around his wrist made it look like the ground itself was moving, swelling, surging like liquid stone. Every time a stone fell, a few rats would squeal as they were crushed.
Yet as he began to hurry along the passageway, hopefully on his way out, he stopped. Another door, bound with chains arranged in a runic star. Bloodstains marked warding runes since drained of power by the cataclysm going on above.
"Nothing good lies behind that door," he said to himself, even as he walked towards it. "Nothing good at all."
Darkness. There's a presence behind the door, a presence not of this world. Chains once empowered by magical runes to bind an inhuman creature lie abandoned on the floor, manacles torn apart like so much rice paper. The darkness within the cell is absolute, even to his magic.
Then he felt it, and recoiled from the door.
Tendrils of dark sorcery reach out from the darkness and towards his mind, his soul. The jade flames around his hand erupt to life and spread across his entire body, holding back the curse. The dark tendrils subside, then renew their attack upon him to the sound of deep laughter from the demon in the cell. He can barely make out the demon's outline, an immense thing at home in the absolute darkness. Wings sprouted from its back and claws reached out towards him. Three times the dark power assaulted his defenses, trying to rip his soul from his flesh, and three times his own magic barely held it at bay.
Trembling, he forced himself away from the door. "No," he said, holding his shaking hand in front of himself like a shield. "They didn't. They wouldn't dare." No one is so foolish as to think they could control the demons of Torment, he thought, yet here one such true demon was. Not a corrupted devil of the wastes, not a brute formed by sorcery and a twisted mind, but a twisted mind incarnate. A True Demon.
The door shuddered, the chains rattling as the demon tried to claw its way out. There was a dent from a fist larger than his head, then a scraping sound as claws rent at the door's surface. The rats in the hall milled around in a panic, not wanting to go past this otherworldly presence but fleeing yet something else--something worse?--from below.
He stumbled away, footsteps ringing out in the passageway loudly as he fled the otherworldly presence on the other side of that door. "If they dared to summon demons and the binding wards are all broken," he breathed, breaking into a run even as the ground continued to tremble. His legs weren't ready to run and he found himself tripping, falling, getting back up and forcing himself to go forward anyway. He stumbled forward, desperate to escape. Sounds of conflict reached his ears, guiding him towards the surface and out of the dungeon. Shouts of alarm, screams of pain, and the sizzle of spells being cast filled the passageway.
Heedless of whatever doom might lie before him, Souta continued forward, dodging another falling section of ceiling and leaping over a cultist's headless corpse. The passage widened and was filled with signs of damage, as though something too large for the hall had forced its way through.
"For the love of all that is holy," he whispered, "not another one."
Yet the signs were there: deep gouges in the walls, eviscerated remains of cultists and thralls cut down and torn apart by the escaped demon. The floor was slick with half-dried blood and random limbs were scattered about. The cultists had tried--and failed--to stop something from getting out. The stench coming from the bodies was awful, even to a nose gone blind to the stink of the dungeons. Screams filled the night ahead of him and he hesitated, uncertain of what to do.
"I can't go back to that demon," he decided, sounding more confident than he felt, "so I must go forward. Discipline and honor."
Before him lay a great set of double doors, torn from their hinges and discarded by whatever horror of the night had passed through here on its way out of the dungeon. The doors were immense, each a foot thick of solid oak. Yet they had been cast aside as trivially as a half-eaten meal.
Beyond the doors lay the main hall of the keep, where a battle was raging. The room was huge, its rows and rows of tables overturned or destroyed in the magical melee as figures scurried about, stepping over the bodies of the slain because there were too many dead for the living to avoid them. Souta doused the jade flames around his hand, no longer needing their light. Enough violet lightning was flying through the air in flickering bursts of power or swirling in magical circles of runes for anyone to see. Immediately he regretted his decision as the constantly flickering magic of the cultists brought on another pounding headache, but adding his own fire to the fight wouldn't make the flashing bursts of light any less painful.
At the head of the hall, the Sorceress stood, holding her staff at her side and sweating in exertion as she dueled against an immense demon. Her purple robes whipped around in a magical windstorm, as did the brown hair once concealed between a now thrown-back hood. Her eyes flared a bright purple, the light piercing through the chaos against all odds and seeming to provide a center to the battle. Her foe was the largest demon Souta had ever seen, even larger than the one he had encountered in the dungeon cell below. Easily three, four times a human's height with a narrow, triangular face and two prominent horns sprouting from just above the ears, with leathery wings as large as a ship's sails. Chains dangled from its wrists and were slung over its shoulders, physical bonds that meant nothing to the inhuman monstrosity. The demon grinned, revealing a mouth full of sharp teeth, as he flexed his batlike wings and tore through binding spells even as the Sorceress tried to bring him back under her control . Claws rent the air, sending a swirl of dark magic towards the Sorceress that her cultists barely held at bay. Three died with screams of horror and the demon laughed, a booming voice that shook the chandeliers that hung, lightless, from the vaulted ceiling high above.
The Sorceress slammed her staff into the ground, firing a ray of raw power at the demon's chest. In response, the demon wrapped itself in its wings, deflecting the blow and sending a swirling vortex of dark magic back at the gathered cultists. A violet shield took form in the air and shattered on contact with the demon's magic, sending a shockwave throughout the room that flipped tables and shoved people into the ground. Souta steadied himself against the wall as the blast brought down part of the ceiling opposite him, revealing a sky swirling with magical lightning and booming thunder.
Yet that wasn't the only fight taking place in the battleground that was once the Lone Keep. Cultists filled the hall with their spells as they fought off a seemingly unending horde of... something . The horde moved into the hall from the outside, advancing step by step as cultists hurled death spells and ducked behind overturned tables. They surged forwards, heedless of the death magic as it tore through their ranks, bodies collapsing to the ground. The creatures were unlike anything Souta had ever seen, orange lights blinking from their flesh and filling the hall with a scent of rot. Whenever they encountered a cultist as they advanced into the hall, they would tear her apart, screams lost in the din of battle as limbs were ripped from their sockets and thrown backwards. Soon they were on top of the main body of cultists and it was clear that the furious storm of death spells was not going to stop them.
I won't survive this, Souta realized with a sudden calm . The only ones who will have already fled. I'm already dead. Even as he thought this, a few members of the horde turned and advanced upon him. If I die today, let it be with discipline and honor, he thought, sinking into a practiced fighting stance and summoning jade fire around his fists. The first horror came at him, orange lights twinkling on its torso, and he ducked under its wide strike, jabbing at its chest with his flaming hand. He winced as he struck metal and took a step backwards.
The rats were fleeing the hall, back into the dungeon, more terrified by this horde and the demon than by whatever lay within the darkness below.
The creatures were clearly humanoid. Souta leaned to the left to avoid a blow and kicked out, knocking the creature back. Yet another one was already there, attacking from the side. A layer of magical armor swirled to life around his arm instinctively as it grabbed on, but the magic began to flicker. "Discipline and honor," Souta growled, and the jade light grew stronger, throwing the abomination back. Three came at him and he blocked their strikes, his limbs shaking from the force of the blows. His foot slipped on some slime--or were those entrails from a cultist already slain?--and he went down. The creatures immediately fell upon him with furious blows, and he cried out in pain as his right arm was ripped from its socket. A fist plunged into his chest and squeezed.
My path is blameless, Souta thought. Even as I die, I stand strong.
This was my attempt to write a horror story based off of IW. It's not a genre I'm particularly familiar with or good at, so who knows how successful I was. Taking place during the end of the Infestation/beginning of Ascension at Vasir's escape and the destruction of the Lone Keep, this story focuses on an escaped prisoner trying to get out. The idea was that even though he made no mistakes--"my path is blameless"--he was still going to die, which to me seems far more frightening than a horror story where the main characters do all sorts of stupid things and then die. I may come back and edit this story in the near future.