The Shadow Dweller (January-April 2010)

Chapter 1

His heart pounded in an arrhythmic pattern. He awoke with a start. Something was not right! Sweat dripped down his face. He could feel it with every sense he had. He smelled an acrid smell. He saw it in his dreams. His skin felt like oily sludge had been pour generously over it.  It was back.  Yes “It”. Daniel hated to think of it as a he.

He sat up on his bed and tried to calm himself. Slowly he went through the meditation he had relied on for decades. Breathe in counting to eight. Breathe out counting to thirty two. Visualize the colour red. Repeat and visualize orange then yellow, green, blue indigo and violet. Soon his heart beat the lub dub to which he was accustomed. Now he had to figure this out.

Daniel had been trained by the shadow people. He was a shadow! He closed his eyes remembering the torture of some of the lessons; the torture “He” had put him through. Not all the teachers were evil but this one was. Once the guild had discovered how he operated, they had devised a plan to rid Sonoma of it forever. Daniel had been a big part of deporting, imprisoning and sealing off of the access routes. They had banished it to another realm and put up safeguards to prevent his return. This had all been done with great care to secrecy. He was sealed away for all eternity. Daniel shivered. What went wrong?

He closed his eyes and tried to remember. There was the time Casca banished Lieutenant Commander Drake Foxx of the Royal Guard. Ah! He thought to himself, the spell of banishment. How did Casca get it to use? Could that have been the cause of the thinning of the threads and seals?

The guild of Shadows was no more. He was alone in this world. He would need help; a lot of help. To whom could he turn? He thought out a plan.

Daniel arose and lit a small lantern on his desk. He pulled out a piece of parchment and began to write. He knew the Royal Guard had ill feelings toward him but they had always come when he asked. They could be pompous but they were also loyal. If “It” returned to Sonoma, there would be great destruction. The guard was their only hope.

He tapped his quill uneasily on a blotting paper. Was the Guard up to this task? They would need more training. We would need more recruits. He decided to send a missive inviting them all to train again and any new people interested in joining could do the test. He needed to speak to their Captain. If the captain was missing in action then a new captain needed to be found.

Chapter Two

He arrived early at the training and testing course. No one was there. He kept reminding himself that he was early. They would come. He knew the Sonoma people were dedicated to protecting their land and their families. He laid a map of Sosaria on the table and tried to think of where It may surface. Soon he was engrossed in his work.  Daniel never became so focused that he was not totally aware of his environment. Missing the slightest nuisance or ruffling could cost not only him but the whole realm. So it was that he heard the tent flap open and Veskara enter. Daniel tipped his hat to her in greeting.

“You are early milady, come in and look at this.”

Veskara looked around the tent and smiled. “I am early and I see no water for the recruits. I think I will get something to drink. I will be back soon. With that she left Daniel to peruse the map. When She returned she informed Daniel that Queen Mum was on her way and her back pack was full of things to feed the guard.

The tent flap opened again. This time Lady Wolfe and Jocelyn entered followed closely by Radnoir, Onlineplayer, and Crazy K. Lady Wolfe looked at Daniel. “Are we braving the maze?”

Daniel nodded. “We must be sure people are strong enough in spirit as well as body. We must know they have patience and tenacity. The guard must be able to focus and overcome obstacles. We must see the strength in those who will lead, those who will follow and those that will always help their fellow man.”

Lady Wolfe grinned.   “I was one of the first to master the course. Parts of it are a challenge and parts are a pain in the rear.”

Clym walked in with Geisha and Hidden Destiny. Lady Covina, Li’maozhou, OJ Tha JuiceMan, Ally ,Carnes the Wise and Gayle soon followed.  Then just as Clym was enquiring about Queen Mum she walked in too. Daniel was pleased with the number who came to test. It was time for Daniel to explain.

He looked out to the people and began his well prepared speech.

“Members of the Royal Guard and Citizens who wish to become members;

I have had an ominous revelation. I had thought with Casca’s untimely death that Sosaria and Sonoma would be at peace.

Alas! I fear it will not be so.”

He took in a long breath and sighed. His eyebrows furrowed , then he continued.

“A great evil has somehow broken the magical bonds that held it. I know this shadow well. He was one of my teachers.”

Daniels rich baritone voice rose in volume and his nostrils flared.

“He will send sadistic minions to torture the innocent! He will send hordes to pillage our towns! And It will come!

It will not stop until it has breathed in the terror of every one of us.

WE need to stand against it.

WE need a strong army of dedicated warriors!

Guards with fighting skills

Guards with healing skills

Tactical advisers.

Healers!”

He paused and spoke in a quieter tone

“I can feel It. Yes he wants me but he will go through you first. We can not allow this to happen.

So…

Today we train!

Today we master the training grounds.

Those who pass will then decide upon a new leader.

A Captain.

Or decide to keep the one you have

We will go through the training in groups.

Three at a time.

Once each group is past the first task three more will enter.

If at any time you feel you can not go on, you may leave the testing grounds through one of the gates. Those that finish will be inducted into the Royal Guard and be outfitted with Sturdy Boots.

These boots do not need to be worn to battle if you have a more comfortable pair.

Should you already be a member of the guard, your position will always be respected. The guard has shown itself to be loyal and capable. We are not usurpers. We seek to increase our numbers and keep our members strong.

Any citizen who chooses not to finish will always be welcome to battle along side the guard during these dire times.

Train hard!”

As Daniel spoke he noticed many others entering the tent. Lestat, Addax,Cleopatra, Swifty, Endrick, Willy Loman, Inigo Montoya and Sirone.

Twenty Three people, some Veterans of the guard, some new. Daniel was pleased.

The course was grueling. One misstep and they would singe their feet or slice their limbs. The hastily yet carefully proceeded through. The next task presented nasty archer. Some people were injured here but others quickly came to their aid with bandages and herbs of healing. Bright yellow elixirs for healing were offered to those in need. Daniel saw Veskara letting an injured man lean on her as she guided him to the next obstacle. Others waited to inform new recruits of dangerous traps. Six others, all veterans of the guard stood by incase they would be needed. Ockie, Nyne Won Won, Takano, Lessa and Ralph Lauren would all do the test again and again to keep themselves in top notch shape. Queen Mum would always be present for your healing administrations.

Daniel had expected the group to be determined to finish. He had not expected the way everyone co-operated and pulled together. They were not going to leave any man behind. An Army needed to be a team. An army needed to rely on the strength and talents of each other. He felt a sense of pride come over him. Quickly he put it down. Too much caring was not good. It led to mistakes. He was not one to lead or to be a team player. His skills would be needed, but from the shadows.

Chapter Three

The sand storm came up from nowhere. There had been no warning signs, no indications. Sand blew hard against any exposed skin exfoliating deeply like the abrasive it was. Air was not given the respect it deserved. We needed it for oxygen. It was giving. Yet it was also harsh and unforgiving. Wind howled and whistled in his ears. He was doing this for Her Majesty.  It was not pleasant but few of his tasks were. He saw before him a big rune beetle. Daniel knew he needed cover of some kind. His Souflas was covering his nose and face but it was still letting the grit through. This Beast would provide shelter nicely. He coaxed the beetle to lie down and then he lay close beside it. The hard carapace provided a wall against the raging storm. For now he felt safe from the storm. But what had brought forth this unusual weather disturbance?

In the morning he would continue to search for the blackened Golem on Isamu Jima. The note the Empress sent to Queen Dawn said it was far to the east. Fishermen in the little village had witnessed this horror destroy the neighbours homes before they fled to Mokito Jima to warn the city dwellers of the terror.

Chapter four

The weather was fierce but the guard gritted their teeth and made their way to informants Daniel had found. The desert was hot and the sand was violent. Air spun in funnels about them often sweeping them off their feet. When they finally got to the small hut that was left the only occupant had been ensorcelled. His name had once been Kurai. When the evil shadow dwellers minion came they turned him into a death watch beetle. It was a sick cruel joke. They came and defiled the village and Kurai was forced to watch. By the time the guard arrived the spell was complete. Kurai would never speak with a human voice again. He would forever stand and watch death.

It appeared that the guard was too late at arriving. They were about to leave and go to the next witness when they were beset by a Rai-ju. Ria-ju were usually a pristine white but the bleakness in this ones soul was apparent in his deportment and pallor. The ashen grey monster went into a rage and attacked the first person it saw. His minions followed. Soon the desert was a buzz with the clanking of metal and the roar of the trained battle pets.

The Reception was better at the artificer near the volcano. He had not been enchanted and was able to relate information. He related that the dark evil things had come from the Volcano and had head down to the small fishing village at the South end of the island. He commented on the abundance of monsters emerging from the pit as well.

Drakelord and Veskara listened carefully. Then one of them shouted,  “Let’s Go Get them!”.

The guard formed up and marched. It was an arduous trip with nasty things hiding behind the rocks and trees as they headed toward the fishing villages.

They marched for hours and were starting to tire when another dark Rai-ju appeared. This one called out to the Thunder and caused caustic gas clouds to envelop the troop. Darktonia was the first to start to spasm uncontrollably. Soon several had succumbed to the illness. Medics got out their orange potions and clerics prayed to their gods to send healing through their hands. Everyone had a job to do. Everyone was needed. Daniel’s gut wrenched. These were just the minions. The worst was not here.

When the melee was over, one of the guards found a note. He eagerly handed it to Daniel to read.

Daniel hated being the center of attention but the words had to be shared. These people deserved to know what they would eventually be up against. It said, “Destroy their very souls. Desecrate their shrines and Temples.”

Daniel informed the group that they would not rest until their mission was accomplished. Then he remembered there was another Island with a temple.Homare. How could they get there on time? He looked out to sea. Ah the fishing boats. They were small but the army all crowded together and made it on. They cast off and made way for the other island. Alas the boat was too heavy and they were forced to dock on a small volcanic island to the south. Just when dispirited and feeling like all had failed. Daniel spotted a portal that was unnatural to the land. He hoped this had been the means the Dark Shadow minions had used to travel to the other island. The guard started to step through blindly hoping to survive the next few hours.

It was the worst they had imagined. The sun was setting now leaving long shadows between the rubble left behind. They knew they had to stop this. Just as the moon ascended for its nightly watch they arrived at the shrine. Vile creatures were ripping up the curtains and smashing the statues that loving villagers had carefully placed to honour their families and fore fathers.

The guard was appalled and set out to avenge the deceased. Finally they cut through the pawns and found a possessed Rai-ju. It was in a berserk rage. Battle lust filled its eyes. The sonoman’s looked at it bewildered. Then Drakelord bellowed “ALL KILL!” And the night air screamed with death. Finally the possessed one was put to death but his spirit rose threateningly. It looked looks a bit deranged as it muttered its curses  “Hahaha he!
You sad and motley imbeciles.”
He danced deliriously.
”Oh how I thirst for your demise.
IT WILL COME!”
He stared off into space and spoke in a whisper,
”It …
…will”
Its mouth started to foam

“It is not here yet.
ALL WORSHIP HIS GREATNESS.”

Then it vanished.

Stunned and dirty the warriors looked around. Some had new scars, blood dripping from wounds. Some lost their best weapons or had new nicks in their armour. It was agreed that they would all meet up at the Malas training ground and repair all the damage.

A role call was done to see who had survived.
Addax, Amber, Ansatsu, Anya, THE ANGELS, An Imp, April Showers, Ash of Caine, Boliviar Shadows, Chadius, Chief RedBull, Crazy K, Cuttles, Dark Thunder,  Darktonian,  Donna MacGregor, Drakelord,  Dralnu, Dreadmoor, Dusty, elf sandy, Essence Of NVA,  Feline, Firestorm, Gayle, GEICO NOT GECKO, Gordon Lightbow, Greater Matey, Henry, ImaLion, Irwin Hunter, Isis, Jack, Katrina, Maggie, Malystryx , Marius, Mr Grieves, Ninjitsu Jones, Scarlet, NumChukaRukaNuka,  Nyne Won-Won, Ockie Vosha, Onlineplayer, Orianna, Orion, Queen Mum, sally, Renuzit, seraph, Sir Scott,   Shetlin, Sirone, Snipe,   son of cecil, Swifty, Surfer D.u.D.e.s, Takano, Tezuka, Venus,Veskara, Violet Jo, War Machine, wizard, Wolfe, Yoda .

WE all made it!

Chapter Five

His stomach roiled as he walked through Ter Mur. He was there at Queen Dawn’s request.  Earlier that day she had received a missive from Queen Zhah.  The Garish Emissary was concerned about the strangeness and change in the refugees. They were making claims of dark Shrouded beings walking about their tents. They were breaking things and taking what and whom they wanted. The feeling was still mild but it was very real.

People along the way had given him information about dark slimy creatures. Daniel hated slimy. He always felt a need to clean his hand when he was around such things. Perhaps it was the memory of when “It” had covered him with acid slugs. Those slugs had eaten into his flesh and left him with scars that never healed. Now he was here again. He knew that the evil one was playing a psychological game.   The thought of the torture was as bad as or worse than the actual deed.

Daniel pulled a fresh parchment from his pack and quickly scribed a note to Queen Dawn.

My Queen,

It is as bad as or worse than Queen Zhah realized. The shadow dweller has a firm hold in the North east and gathers more supporters each day. It is imperative that we aid her realm if we want to continue the truce we have. Already many buildings have been raided and left in rubble.

He rolled the paper and placed it into the small tube that he would attach to the leg of the dove. Then he let the bird fly hoping it would safely return to the Queen. How wonderful he thought it would be to fly. To soar through the sky like a gargoyle or bird. That moment of revelry was a mistake. Letting his guard down was against his training. The thump on his head sent lightning bolts of pain through his brain and down his neck and shoulders. Another and another. He was bound in a magical web that he could not escape. His last thought was that it may be for the better. Perhaps the Shadow dweller would stop its assaults on Sosaria if it had him. He then realized that he cared too much! Sonoma and it denizens were his people.

Chapter 6

Amonos followed Queen Dawn’s orders and met the Royal Guard in Serpents Hold.

Alice , An Imp, April Showers, Bullfeathers, Cactus Flower, Cap’n Crunch, Chocolate Moose, CLEOPATRA, Covina , Darkstar, Darth Waynebo, Evan, Freya, Inigo Montoya, Ira Graves, Isis, J-B, Katrina, Kevin, Medusa , Myst, Ockie Vosha, Orion, Pop Lancermane, Queen Mum, Rei, Scooter, Spitfire,Taylor,  ThunderChicken, Thraximus, Wolfe, Whinny  all answered the call and came prepared to defend Queen Zhah.

The company tracked the minions of the shadow dweller and watched for signs of Daniel Ravens. As they approached a hidden passage all matter of chaos broke out. The area was infested with slime, slugs, bloodworms. The ground appeared to crawl making the hair on the nape of the warriors neck stand on end. The resent training showed as the troops worked together in battle.

April Showers was concentrating on her spell. “Kal Vas An Flam” and flames arced across the  sky.

“Ytsysatsyysthasi! Ysaaistha.” Screamed the giant slug “Must… not die”

Orion, Cap’t Crunch, Wolfe and Chocolate Moose all mumbled independent spells but in unison.

“Ais. Syt asasia.  Is sthisla lythtsyysci!

Thth ythlilisthisa alscira.

Oof! That hurt”

The peons and subordinate Minions were rushing in to defeat the brave RBG. As they weakened they drained blood from a nearby corpse to heal itself.   The sight made my skin crawl and my stomache did one of the turns I was getting all too often.

“Syt. Sylysthsthiythysa sit tsy cy lyshsthistha listhesais” Screamed another Slug as  Medusa mumbled then blurted out “ In Vas Por”

Covina and  Wolfe together cried “ Forul Solum” and the big slimey slug decried

“Siaiththashythyl shi yss. Me hurt!”

Finally the battle subsided and the Royal guard had won the day. They searched the houses and buildings for any signs of Daniel Ravens. Alas he was nowhere to be found.

Inigo Montoya approached Amonos. “ Sir there was no sign of the one named Daniel but I did find a letter on a dead raven just outside”. It Says, “I have managed to capture Daniel for you Master. I could not believe my good luck. He came right into my camp and was daydreaming. We have played some interesting games with him and he has told us little. We will continue these games until he speaks. I have assigned a guard to take him to you r meeting place. We shall guard him there until he give us the spell to safely return you to our lands.

This was not good news. Only Daniel knew the way to defeat this evil. Alas there was naught that the company could do this night. They were going to scout and look for clues and return when they had more information.

Chapter 7

Sleep deprived and week he trudged along hastened only by the yank of the chain around his neck. Blisters had formed, broken into sores and were scabbing over. Every time the chain pulled the scabs would open. He wondered what day it was. He knew he had missed his rendezvous with Amonos and the guard but time no longer had meaning. The riffraff that had him took turns keeping him awake in painful ways. The snow crunched beneath the Sturdy Army boots the Royal Guard had gifted him. Not spring yet. He hoped that the Shadow Dweller would give up his mission to destroy Sosaria and be satisfied that he, Daniel, was now back at his mercy. He listened closely, hoping for a clue to where he was and where they were taking him.

Amonos hurried into the Serpents Hold Royal Guard Meeting Hall. The other members of the guard were anxious to hear what the scouts had discovered. The news was dire but if the guard worked together they would find Daniel. Chocolate, Seth and Endrik were eager to rid the realm of the shadow spawned minions. They had ascertained that energy from “It” infiltrated the cracks in the seals that held him away. “It” wanted so badly to take all joy from Sonoma, starting with their virtues and culminating with Daniel.

“Our informant in Luna has had news. Lilly the Fortune teller hears all, sees all and has sent her familiar with grievous news. She tells us that some suspicious men were seen to the west of Luna. The guard had sent men out to track them and discover their purpose. When they failed to return a search party left to track down their comrades. They found a passage that lead them far to the east. At the end of the passage were their fellow guards. They had been slaughtered. Only bones remained. Justin, the youngest guard took a close look. Forensic examination had been a favourite lesson for him when he was training in Trinsic. The bones had scrapings as though they had been eaten. Some bones were charred but not from fire. It was a magical burning. The stench of Sulphur mixed with mandrake and black pearl lingered in the air. She askes us to come and examine the remains”

An Imp ,  Beastslayer, Cap’n Crunch ,Chocolate Moose, CLEOPATRA ,Covina, Designer Shades , Donna MacGregor , Evil KnieveL, Freya, Galahad, Ghost Walker, Hannible, Independent, Inigo Montoya, J-B, Maggie, Magik, Mikaela Valmont, Medusa , Moar Dotz, Menace, Morticia, Myst, NumChukaRukaNuka, Nyraxle, Orianna , Pffft, Pop Lancermane , Raisha, Remus, Seth Letore, Skittles, Taylor,  ThunderChicken, and Wolfe all journeyed to Luna to speak with Lilly. They made a note of her directions and head out. Soon they found the remains of several humans. It was as the rescue guard had described. The teeth marks were those of a large bat. One of the remains looked like it had pointed his arm toward a hidden cave entryway in a nearby mountain. The group gathered there.

Wolfe was the first to try to enter. She peeked in. It was blocked. Someone had tried to prevent the troops from getting in. Amonos got everyone organized.

“Get out pick axes lets make our way through”

Once a small hole had been made the magiks were able to make portals so everyone could get across. They bravely stormed in. Huge Vampire bats met them biting and scratching as best they could. Gore fiends were guarding the passage as well. Then a site that no one had ever seen before. They resembled the bats but were a bright green. They fought like nothing seen before. Half the group got by them and hurried along to see if they could find Daniel. They found other tunnels blocked but were able to break their way through.

The Green Shadow Terrors would come and claw the heroic assembly then fly to the back of the cave. They were protecting something. Something they would die to keep secret. Hope rippled among those who had remained. Could it be that Daniel had been left behind while the others escaped?

The other half had hurried ahead

They found a box with orders in it. The parchment said., “ The Royal Guard is more of a challenge than anticipated. Gather at Hanse’s Hostel and we will find a new hideout. They forged forward. The hostel was guarded but huge orc kin. They were not letting anyone into the building with out first passing their inspection. A few managed to sneak in.

Once inside the Inn, the Inn Keeper told them that a group of strangers had left just moments before. They had headed to the tunnels to the south east. Knowing that they were close, they hurried along and found that here too the Shadow Minion had tried to block the Army from them. But they got through. The possessed beings here were mostly of the Orc Kin. They rushed at the knights and Lieutenants. They stabbed at the guards and foot soldiers. The RBG fought on. They had a mission and they were not going to be defeated. At the end of the passage they saw a great Brute of a man. NumChukaRukaNukaand, Freya Hannable, Pfft were all cheering each other on as Orc after Orc fell to their fighting skills and magical mutterings.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Malas, Pop Lancermane , Inigo Montoya, Chocolate, fought beside an Imp and Myst. Many others were staggering out for bandages and healings by Queen Mum. They finally defeated the foe. A search of the cave left them wondering if it was possible for Daniel to still be alive. The others returned from the far end of Malas. They reported that the shadow Minions had left through another portal.

Amonos pulled a quill and ink from his sachet and penned a hasty note to the scouts.

“Keep watching for Ravens. He may still be alive but he has been moved.”

Chapter 8

Slosh, shlosh. Spring must have arrived. His leather boots were wet from the slushy snow and puddles he had walked through. All his discipline cleaning and waterproofing his good boots was now long gone. Blisters on his heels had ulcerated. He hoped that if he survived this, he would not lose his feet. He felt delirious. Although he had been blindfolded his skin and smell indicated that night would soon fall. That meant back into the little box. If he was lucky it would be just for the night. He had spent many days in the box last time. Solitary. Confined. Panicky. The trappers call it cabin fever. If he was not careful it would be insanity.

“Take his eye mask off!” one of his captors said. “I want to see his face when we lock him up!”

Daniel was grateful for the evening light. Had it been noon the sun would have blinded him. He was able to look around; to see his surroundings. Evidence of recent war fare the smell of decayed bodies. This was Felucca!  A chill went up his spine and he yearned to hide in a shadow. He shook the thought out of his head and reminded himself, “You are more than a man now. You can do this”

The night was long and the games cruel. The Shadow Dweller had found some innovative alchemists. The light blue potion took over. No matter how hard he tried to rationalize a different question had been asked, he no longer could. He hated himself for saying the words. Now his only hope of saving Sonoma was to be freed. He passed out completely oblivious, in a sensory deprived box.

Chapter Nine

Battle sound could be heard through the walls of his box. He wished he could stretch. The air was stale and stifling. No more. He could take no more.

His senses were full of a presence that knew the deepest meaning of hate. A portal had been made. Daniel could only imagine where. It had to be stopped. Daniel had no idea who might come.

Chocolate had  arrived early to give moral support to the Royal guards. Amonos and Inigo started to speak strategy with Chocolate when the door mysteriously opened and closed. It sent  a chill went up Amonos back. Inigo suggested that the wind must blow very hard in the desolate town. As Amonos turned around, Cactus flower appeared as if out of no where. Perhaps she rode the breeze, undetected by the others, as they had been very intent on what lay ahead. Chocolate Moose latched the door after Sara the Brigand entered.

A mixed group of people arrived at the hall in Jhelom. Some were familiar some not

Remus , Bob the Scribe ,Independent were the next to arrive. Then Clym of Clough, Orion, Big SeXe Vampire, Pffft, Endrik, Hidden Death, Pandora Spocks,Zak Morindo, Ornara Vandor, Violet Jo, Kiss, An Imp, and Ockie walked in. After each arrival, Inigo or Amonos would check to be sure the door had been latched. After some talk, a camaraderie built among some of the people while others were aloof and menacing. Rival factions challenged each other. Amonos reminded them that there was a great threat to their facet and shard and for the time perhaps working together would be beneficial. As he spoke BIG Daddy, TOTOLON, Hidden Death, Nex, aslan, Hidden Death,Cedric Trucido, Anderson, Lady Katrina, Ivory, Orianna, Lord Galahad, Alexandra , Lady Eris,Aleister Crowley ,Shamous Anders,  Sepsis, Twig Slivers, Ornara Vandor, Faust, lumpy,  Lenay and  patch arrived.

Amonos began his speech to encourage the people who bravely answered the call.

“Royal Guard and Citizens of Britainia!” He began. “I am pleased you have come to answer Queen Dawn’s Summons.As you are aware our Scouts have been busy gathering information. Today the intelligence they bring is with respect to The Shadow Dweller.
Several have followed him so that they could report back to us.” He started to pace.

“In the beginning when Daniel first alerted us to this menace. Threads of the shadow dwellers’ soul infiltrated our realm from the void world. His essence then infected beasts
causing them to behave in an uncharacteristic way and to become evil. These beasts were able to do the bidding of this nefarious adversary.They had orders to destroy the virtues
desecrate the temples and get Daniel Ravens. We fought them and won our battles!” Stated Amonos with passion.

“Now our scouts have informed us that the aura, the power of this Shadow Dweller is strong enough to penetrate the soul of humanoids.YES! Orc kin, Liche, kin Meer, Elf, Humans! We are all in danger of being possessed now. Rumour is that there is a congregation of Followers, A cult of people dedicated to returning this Shadow to our lands. This evil wants to rule all of us.He believes he is greater than we are.Let us search him out and destroy him.” When Amonos finished a cheer went up in the room. People lifted their weapons and shields and filled out to fight a foe they had never seen.

They followed the light to a secret place that the Shadow Acolytes had inhabited. It was filled with people, living and undead, all going about various rituals As soon as they sited the Guard they jumped into action and attacked.  Metal clanged and people fell. Soon all the acolytes seemed to have fallen to the mighty Sonomen. As they looked around the tunnels clues to and evidence of Daniel were gathered.

The Dormatory consisted of rows of sleeping rolles and blankets. At the end of the room were four beds with bright red blankets. At the bottom of each bed was a foot locker. It seemed that as you moved up rank you got perks. Orion looked in the foot lockers and discovered clothes that belonged to Daniel in a chest in the dormitory area. Silent Kiss Daniels favourite dagger was in another. Amonos picked them up to return to Daniel once he was found.

As they explored more of the cave they found a common room, an apothecary, an arsenal and armoury and a private room with the name Bragge Agrod on the foot locker. As they were rifling through Bragg Agrods armoirs two powerful Acolytes rushed at them. It took much concentration to defeat them. They were shouting directions to each other using their names.  Har Pruvious and Noinim , these were names that had been seen on two of the footlockers. Higher rank than the others.

Finally, a casket was found and noises could be heard from with in. Amonos opened the cover to reveal Daniel.

Daniel squinted and shrieked as light was cast on his face.”No Please no more!
Free me of this physical body! No More!”
Amonos took control. “Ravens Look at me! RAVENS!  It is Amonos! Look  The royal guard came for you.”

Daniel was baffled and confused. “What trickery is this.This is a new” He was reeling and dizzy. “I WON”T SAY THE WORDS .I WONT RELEASE THE BONDS.I WONT BRING HIM BACK! NO! NO! NO!”

Amonos felt pity for Daniel but would not show it. He knew such an act would be an insult to Ravens. “No Daniel you won’t. They are gone. We won’t let them hurt us.
IS THERE A MEDIC Among us? Can you heal Ravens?”

Daniel looked around. A spark of recognition flashed across his face “You really are The royal Britainnian Guards.” He reached out and touched Amonos arm. “Amonos! You are real” Then Panic set in as he came to his senses. “ We must stop the ritual! We must go to the alter room right away. I do not think they can say the words, but one of them,
named Bragge Agrod, has been an acolyte for many years. He was the only one who opposed the banishment.He is not as skilled as I but He is very powerful.”

As he finished saying the words the Sonoma citizens started to turn on each other. It was apparent that spies had infiltrated the Army. Whether they were followers of the shadow Dweller or just mercenaries after their own agenda was not certain. Daniel was too ill to fight so Amonos cast a spell and delivered Daniel to the Healer in Skara Brae.

After a week of rest Daniel could lay and wait no longer. He knew the Shadow Dweller was here. He needed to gather the Royal guard who were loyal to the Queen and the virtues. He found Amonos and asked him to gather the troops. Alkavar,  Aurora, Centurion, Cirith Ungol,Lt. Chocolate, Covina, Darth Waynebo, Darby Crash, Captain Endrik, Evil KnieveL, An Imp , Inigo, Iscariot, James, MaraJade, Jocelyn, LKatana  Macaroni, Ockie, Orion,   Queen Mum, Radnoir, elf sandy, Sapphire , Lt Seth, Sirone, Stunted Growth, Suzanah the Scot, Taylor, Valon reported to the guard Hall. Others were still in the healers.

Daniel and Amonos stood on the platform watching the group come in. Some had bright battle scars, some had scabs not yet healed. But they all arrived with a spark of honour in their eyes. This was their land and nothing would take it from them.

Daniel began his pacing. He hated to be in front of people. He did what he had to do. Today he had to relate information to the people to ensure their victory. No mistakes this time.

“People” He began. “Amonos and I have both had scouts watching the shadow Acolytes. Many survived your assault and they are also training to defeat our virtues and us. We can never let that happen. We have some intelligence to their new location. It’s name is “Nexus” and It is here. The bonds are broken. Bragge Agrod has said the spell.!”

The congregation all wooped and cried “FOR SONOMA!”

They saddled there war beasts, donned there dented armor and head out. Rain pelted down on them as they head toward the rosy hole that Amonos said lead to the hideout. Despite the miserable weather the group’s spirits were high. They sang marching songs with conviction and trod on. Finally near the serpent infested forest south of the Bank they found there portal. One, two, three…twenty they all stepped through to meet what waited on the other side.

They soon saw that the rooms and corridors were set up exactly as they had been in the cave in Felucca. Everything was in its place. “It” was very particular about how his acolytes maintained the dwelling. It was always important that the Shadow people remember filth meant disease. As Daniel looked around, battle had already started. Metal clashing on metal could be heard echoing about the various chambers. Daniel remembered that slaves had been taken. Saddly they would have had mind altering potions and would have to die. In the dormitory the “chambermaid” slave was making a bed. Daniel offered a quiet apology as he sunk his dagger between the fifth and sixth rib.

She smiled at Daniel and whispered “Thank you” as her life blood spilled from her. Daniel saw another slave stumble around in confusion and pain, wracked with pain. Other slaves would also die this day. There was no time to morn this loss. The inquisitioners  and acolytes also fell. The Guard seemed to be winning.

It seemed the blood bath continued for hours before a silent lull fell over the cave. Daniel walked around looking at the faces of the fallen. A chill wn=ent down his spine as he passed by the “game room” The instruments of torture would have to be destroyed. Never should anything be subjected to that again. AS he was looking at the utensils he heard a small sound. An intake of air. Someone else was in the room. He has suspected the better trained Shadows would not have rushed into the fray. Melee was not their way. He spun around and saw two men hiding behind the Iron Maiden. Not hiding from fear. No. They were hiding to ambush; to take the Royal guard by surprise. Seemed like an easy battle two against the army. But it would be close to even. These men would not fight with honor.  Daniel recognized them. He had spent many hours with them and Bragg Agrod.  He would not mourn the death of Mariaf or Grepas.

MaraJade mummbled  “An Lor Xen” as Radnoir cried “ Kal Vas Xen Corp Ylem” and Chocolate Moose whispered “ Kal Vas Flam , In Aglo Corp Ylem” Then thing started to happen.Covina shouted, “ Consecrus Arma” The earth shook and and giant colossus emerged. Fires started and wind blew strong through out.Ockie called for her war beasts to guard and they obeyed immediately. Alkavars pets were biting and thrashing at the opponents.And the clashing of metal rang through the air once more.   Every once in a while the words In vas mani could be heard. One of the RBG in need.

Finally this battle also stopped. Bragg Agrod still needed to be found. He was the most evil among the Shadow Acolytes. The guard had a moment to bandage there worst wounds before they searched. They started at one end and head up toward the altar. Behind the altar were rows of hops and behind the hops was a pink entity. Bragg could take any form he wished. One of his skills was to change from one being to another to confuse his foes. Did he think the beautiful colour would stop the guard from their attack? It was enough to startle the group and Bragg got the first hit. Quickly the army moved back into action.

Poison was cast out toward Agrod but Bragg was immune to all poisons. Once more magic spells were chanted, sung and whispered. Swords, maces, axes were dancing around the menacing beast. Pets well trained for combat clawed and bit. The stench of blood and sweat filled the air. Finally Bragg too fell to the army. That was when the ringing in Daniels ears ceased. The words coming from Bragg’s mouth froze him on the spot. The summons to Nexus. It was spoken aloud. Daniel’s nemesis could now easily enter Sonoma. There is now a gateway forming somewhere for him. It had taken ten trained Shadow people to close the gate before. Daniel hoped that the guard would be prepared to do what was needed. Daniel explained that Nexus was Evil and vile.  The crimes of his minions were nothing compared to what Nexus could do. He was mid sentence when a big dark explosion rocked the Inner sanctuary where the altar sat. Black dust filled the air. When it finally settled enough for the Royal guard to see again, Nexus stood before them.

“Why Dan!” Sneered Nexus. “ How convenient that you have waited here for me”

Chocolate Moose prepared a spell thinking it might silence the Nexus. “Vas Corp Por”

Valon decreed his support to Nexus. “Wait nexus is  good!”\

Nexus looked about and grinned. “Oh what fun you have brought!” His eyes widened with mischievous pleasure as he asserted, “BOW DOWN RABBLE! YOU STAND BEFORE ME!” He pointed at the crowd, “Who among you serves me?”

Valon nodded as Aurora yelled “I am going to kill you!”

“Noo NOO! “Hollered Suzanah the Scot “Nooo we will not!”

Daniel Ravens spat “They Serve their chosen Queen not you!”

“We shall see!” Averred Nexus. “Mortals are weak. Their flesh dictates their actions. A little game or two and many will serve me”

“We shall die rather than serve you” Cried Suzanna the Scot

Nexus pulled out a branding tool and continued his speech. “ and they will wear my brand willingly”

Suzanah the Scot Stated loudly “We are not cattle you fool!”

Daniel Ravens shook his head, “No Nexus. Not again. I will banish you! And this time it will be forever!”

Valon Appeared apprehensive then blurted out “I give my blood to thee dark lord!”

Daniel Ravens reiterated Suzzanna.  “yea they’re are not cattle! I will banish you and

reseal the locks and have these “Weak Mortals” , as you called them, hold the key. You will be bound by those you loathe and those you view as inferior .You will never rule over Sonoma with your anarchy and tortuous ways.”

Valon  still supported the dark Nexus “ill take all you on, me and nexus lets go! Sonoma for life!”

Nexus smirked. “It took ten great dwellers to exile me. Where are they now? Ravens you are alone.

Ockie Vosha, Orion Suzanah the Scot in unison replied “We’re here!”

Nexus laughed a haunting low rumble and pointed at the crowd. “These things are useless!”

A flash of anger filled Daniels eyes and his nose flared as he spit his next  words out, “They are not things! They have more integrity in their little finger than you have in all your being. You have only learned HATE but I have learned Honor, Love, Humility, Justice, Compassion, Valor ,Sacrifice and Spirituality are far greater.”

The crowd cheered in agreement

Nexus snorted “ We’ll see how well their “integrity” serves them” Then made a last effort at gaining dominance. He summoned wailing banshees and more Acolytes to battle for him and tried to slink back into the shadow but Daniel was fast. He used a spell the mages in Moonglow had taught him. Soon Nexus’ limbs were paralyzed. He could not move.

Nexus screamed with terror. “NO! This can not be!!”

Daniel Ravens smiled. “Yes these mortals whom you despise so much have taught me some things too, Nexus.”

Nexus tried in vain to struggle out of his bonds as Valon desperately  tried to free him “Come Nexus I will help you flee, make haste! Master no, your shackles are too strong”

“Captain ! Lieutenants! I can not touch him as there are bonds between we of the shadows and he could defile and taint me Get him!  Escort him back to the portal”

“IMBECILES! FOOLS! I demand you release me at once!” ordered Nexus. “Do you have any idea the powers I can control? Let go of ME!”

Suzanah the Scotpoked Nexus with her weapon and said “ We will not release you! Oh shuttup”

An Imp looked at the man and replied to his orders “You got nothing”

Enraged by the sharp poke from Suzanna, Mexus spit at her “Scum! How dare you touch me!Swear allegiance to me and I’ll show you riches and power beyond belief!

Aurora laughed.” Seems you have enough power to run your mouth, but not to keep it shut apparently”

Lets bring him to the portal. WE have leet him have enough of our time.Commanded Amonos.

Nexusmade a final cry “Mark my words, you will regret this. IDIOTS!”

The guard all started to chant, “We fight for Queen Dawm”

Daniel Ravens began the very ancient banishment spell making all the right inflections and tones at the exact correct time. Ex bon rel por. Min Rel por.An Por.Ex rel ka bri por no Orm

“I hate you Ravens!” One day we will meet again Nooo!” sobbed Nexus

“You are forever an exile.” Sighed Ravens as the spell took hold and Nexus vanished through the portal. As the army stool watching the portal closed and Magic locked the passage once more. Daniel pointed to the people and and explained that they held the key. He passed each of them a small piece of the key lock. You must always hold this and keep it safe. That locks this portal. As long as enough of you keep the keys safe he can not return to Sonoma Come and lock this portal.”

Valon declared, “I will wait for you! NExus they shall take our lives, but they shall never take…..our freedom!”

The crowd all cheered “Yay!!”

Some of the crowd head back to their homes, others found Queen Mum to tend their wounds and feed them and Taylor alone stood watching the portal. A sentinel.