Origin: Secret of the Dead Mystics

Book 2

by Aaron R. Allen

A phantasmal surge of energy cuts across the ethereal landscape of the world between, casting a light on a horrid realm of wraiths and wolf demons. After escaping a magical prison crafted by the Gargoyles, Cahan Devlin finds that his windowless cell is in the depths of this ghastly realm. As he strives to find his way out and back to his friends, he encounters the only other human soul in this forsaken place. The man warns him of the ghoulish Vaa’corthra, a creature with the uncanny ability to control the horrific denizens of the world between. But can he trust this man, or is he a shape-shifting specter luring him to his death?

Back in the real world, Cahan’s comrades are trying to prevent the revival of the council of mystics, demons who have an unmatched command of the arcane. Will he reach them in time?

Can he prevent the resurrection of the Dead Mystics?

Excerpt


Chapter One

~ The Fall of Aundyre ~

 

He felt a freeness that he had not experienced in ages. A black haze curled around him, expanding and gaining momentum. Red energy pierced the haze, tearing away what little strength he had left. He fought through the pain. The pain itself, however callous, exposed something: he had no body. Shock waves of panic quaked to his core. A shrill wail resounded in his consciousness. A siren’s call that only he could sense identified him by name—a name that he had long abandoned to the wastes of his decaying memory.

Shabaris!

A kernel of what had been flooded his mind. A prison of gleaming bricks shimmered with a bone-deep chill. Something had severed him from that ethereal dungeon, freeing him from the soul-clutching torment he had endured. He recalled some of it. Barely seen figures hid behind their ancient spellcraft, chanting beyond unplumbed corridors. He knew that his spirit had been channeled somehow, in some foreign device of a Gargoyle’s making. Was it a barrier of some sort?

He had not always been in that prison of gleaming bricks. His solitude was once much different. He had been entombed in a metallic shell deep beneath the ground—a domain held by telepathic creatures that plagued him relentlessly. After many years, his prison had changed. The genesis of a new torture began: a waking torment which had endured for ages untold.

He wondered what year it was. For all he knew, now intelligent life could be but a meager shell of what it once was. The whole of Shintallis could be barren, devoid of thinking beings. Had they invaded in his absence?

Shabaris concentrated, and his sight improved, though it was still fragmented like he was peering into a broken telescope. Currents of black miasma tore across his field of vision. He saw a network of ley lines carrying spellcraft to unnamed places. He gazed down upon the surface, but the lands were somehow alien to him. A panorama of visions flooded his mind all at once. He could see everything for what it was. As he soared over his mystical prison, he saw a large manor house crumble as if torn asunder by the cosmic power of the off-worlders.

He spied hordes of his creations surge into the city, tearing it to shreds. Deep cracks in the foundation erupted in the bloody chaos. The blood-curdling screams of humans filled the air. They were trapped within a barrier while demons could freely pass. He wondered if he was on the outskirts of the kingdom of Protos—they were always quite sympathetic to the plight of the pathetic humans.

It appeared that his children were thriving, if they were willing to raid a Protosian province with impunity. Delight permeated his formless mass, though it soon evaporated. He realized that he would fade into the ether if he lingered too long. Again, he heard the siren call his name: Shabaris! The call jolted him. His black energy heaved red at the edges, and then his consciousness harmonized with the moments before his death.

He remembered Sage Luttrel, the Gargoyle that had nearly destroyed him. As his body was on the verge of red oblivion, his teleportation spellcraft began pounding in his chest. It was about to take him—take him to a master stone deep within Forgatha. The spellcraft began to break down every fiber of his body only to reproduce it elsewhere.

His mind flashed with images of Luttrel’s powerful magic. A burst of light bathed the catacomb. Luttrel indeed had full command of the luminous side of spellcraft; it was ripping into his chest. Flesh and blood spattered and burned away. He could feel the light channel through his eye sockets, burning away to darkness. He shrieked in agony until a cold, choking silence cut him off. The spellcraft continued to break down his flesh, and there was a burning sensation under his skin.

In his mind, he glimpsed the master stone. Something was wrong. It cracked straight down the center, branching fissures creeping toward the edges. Luttrel had captured his spiritual essence, severing it just before Shabaris’s body had teleported.

Made distraught by his emerging memories, Shabaris shadowed his way to the shores of Forgatha, his consciousness whirling from the implications. Blue-black tides crashed against the murky shoreline. The graying lands withered like a dying human clutched in the shroud of death, begging to be reformed in his image. What they had said might be true: Luttrel and the herald had proclaimed that his lands were a form of corruption, not purification, though the lands could have fallen into such a state for many reasons.

As he surged forward, he recognized the city of Necris. He sensed no beings inside. The residential towers were abandoned, the keep decimated, the gatehouses sundered. This troubled him. Why had his progeny fled their homeland? He remembered the city at its peak: covens beyond counting, practicing their spellcraft, teaching the next generation.

He concentrated on the rune engraved in the land directly beneath his formless mass. A wall of white energy engulfed the area, and flaring lines of crimson cut across the landscape, blazing upward like the eternal fire of the charnel abyss. He charged directly into the energy and found himself in a system of pathways. He knew exactly where to go from here now that his memories were slowly returning. It comforted him to find something that was not alien to his senses.

A crimson wall of energy radiating particles arose before him. It flowed like the great Quietus Sea, both mesmerizing and confounding him. For a moment, he lost his sense of direction. He regained his bearings and pierced through the red portal. The black of his outer extremity mingled with the rust-colored vapor, and this started a chain reaction that hurled him into the next wall of energy. Black, amethyst, and azure gushed through him until finally he came to his resting chamber.

A half-decayed body lay limp, suspended in emerald energy. A large gash in the specimen’s chest caught his sight. This was his body. He hovered over the rotting husk, noticing that there was practically no face, no jaw. Instead, skinless muscle was exposed. The charred dermis of the chest and shoulders horrified him. He caught a glimpse of the wound inflicted by Luttrel. It was much more than a gash. It was as if a tharga worm had burrowed into his chest and consumed his organs. Black and red needles of energy shot upward from the half-decayed corpse. The body had retained some of its power, but there was something dreadfully wrong. The spellcraft preserving it had worn thin and would have desiccated before long.

Shabaris had almost forgotten what he looked like. Even this decayed husk managed to generate memories. Now, instead of a corpse, an almost-forgotten visage appeared, covering the decay. His grayish skin tone was far different from that of the other creatures that roamed Shintallis. His ears curved back to a point, almost like a hunter’s cleaning knife; he distinctly remembered dismembering someone for making that comparison. His incisors were sharp, his jawline proud. He was at the peak of physical condition, unlike his frail creations, the Gilpesh. He had always wondered why they did not share all of his physical traits. He had created them from his blood, after all.

He remembered his piercing, red eyes. With them, he had seen rulers fall before him and bow in submission. He had witnessed Valesian adherents chant his name in conversion. They had called out to him, screaming, “Hail, the Great Redeemer!”

The energy emanating from his body beckoned him. The memory of his former self disappeared, replaced by the decayed husk of a corpse. He wished to no longer see the thing. He immersed himself in the red and black energy flowing from the corpse. The searing pain of life rippled through him, bound by flesh and bone. Agony penetrated into every fiber of his being. A peculiar feeling erupted in his eye sockets. His eyes were returning—reforming. A membrane formed around them, fastening them shut.

He cracked open heavy eyelids. He was virtually blind for a moment—nothing but dizzying gray whirled before him. Then he could only see vague outlines. He struggled to move his legs. Perhaps his cadaver was even more decayed than he had realized. He fell from the energy chamber and slowly lifted his head. Before him was his cracked master stone. An image of Luttrel’s spellcraft burrowing into his chest again invaded his mind. He tried to scream, but the only noise that came was a muffled choke—pathetic and barely audible. His throat burned.

He willed himself to rise and shambled to a nearby alcove of burning, ruby light. His fingertips grazed the edge of a rune-inscribed handle. Then, with more force, he clasped the hilt tightly and drew the red energy sword from a recess in the wall. The bones in his hand felt loose as he clutched the weapon. The resonance of a dark wizard’s soul mingled with the blade’s spiritual energy. The wizard had been taken as a sacrifice.

Shabaris realized that someone had followed through with the plan that he had conceived. In fact, his advisers had considered many of the crucial aspects of his resurrection. A contingency plan had been put into place should he fall in battle. This particular magic smacked of Malefic spellcraft.

It glowed, forcing him to shield his newly formed eyes. The blade’s stolen life force channeled into him. He felt his body begin to regenerate, though not entirely—not even by half. He was still in a state of decay; nevertheless, he had feeling in his arms and chest once again.

Shabaris lurched toward a granite table. As he moved, he could not feel his feet. His legs ached as if they had been lashed by a whip. He clutched something that was giving off strong life energy. It was a specter dagger. He drew the energy from it, and his lurch transformed into measured steps. This weapon had a touch of Celestial magic—possibly the blood of a herald.

He carefully rested the dagger on the table. After a slight rumble, the blade convulsed violently. Black energy poured from it and traced the lines of the chamber. On the table, the images of two beings were revealed to him. One was a human spellcrafter, and the other was a Gilpesh, his eyes wreathed in emerald from dark rites. The human’s features were indistinguishable.

Shabaris could sense where the Gilpesh was, but not the human. Both of them were connected to him, and he needed desperately to channel their life force in order to restore his body. He heard a long-forgotten creature wail in the distance. Perhaps he could use this menace to his advantage, as well.

 

Origin: Secret of the Dead Mystics by Aaron R. Allen

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