The Chosen

The powers of the Chosen are growing, but so too grows the power of the Void. It is, and has ever been, unstoppable – even for the Maker. And now, the Void is more powerful than ever.
Only by uniting do the Chosen stand a chance against it. The powers of good and evil, light and darkness must come together as one. Divided, they all will die.
But first, they must reach the besieged city of Lock Core, where the Dark Army is spilling into their world. And during their journeys, they must learn that there are many paths to the city, but only one path will lead them to victory.
To follow the Maker’s path . . . it is the only way.
Though the path was paved for them ages ago, they must find it soon, else the Void reclaims all of creation.

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2. LeCynic

 

 

 

 

A chill wind came down from the north, rapidly gaining strength as it funneled its way into the canyon, buffeting the procession of traders stuck between the jagged walls.  Most adapted to the biting cold by covering themselves in a haze of blue flames, leaving the icy wind all but ignored.  Those lacking the Oneness, dug their winter gear from their packs and bundled themselves in thick layers of fur.  Despite the cold, or because of it, they had to keep moving.  The long caravan of people and supplies continued on, trudging through the small canyon town in a race to beat the winter wind southward, all the while the wind drove them on, howling at their backs.

Winter always came early in these lands north of the Gorian, but this year it threatened to bypass autumn all together.  Many of the trees still had leaves of green.  Quite possibly, they would miss their chance to change color this year, and the powerful northern winds would rip them from their branches as they were.  Because of the abrupt change in the weather, the expedition had been forced to cut their trading short; else they find themselves stuck in these godless outlands for the entire winter.  Or even worse, they could wind up buried in snow during their attempt at a southern crossing of the Gorian.

To Coba and the rest of the Magi, the weather was little more than a nuisance.  The wind was unable to penetrate their blue shields, and snow melted as easily with blue flames as it did with red.  The Magi would make the crossing either way.  And if the bloodless fell along the way, what did Coba care?  As for the goods they hauled, Coba would just as soon abandon his heavy burden – or squish the bloodless beneath it, for that matter.  If he wasn’t paid so well to safely transport the load, he likely would have done so long ago.

Coba scowled at the bundle of goods floating in the air before him.  A thread of blue flames extended from his hand to the bundle like a tether, wrapping the cargo in a blue shell.  To his back and his front, other bundles levitated in the air, similarly tethered to the other Magi in the caravan.  The packages were as varied as the mages supporting them.  Those of the Second Order -- the ones wearing yellow robes – held only small, though precious, items aloft; mostly containers of highly fragile artifacts.  Such items sold well among Lock Core’s wealthy, and were highly prized for their foreign beauty and craftsmanship.  Depending on how they sold at market, a single piece could pay for the entire expedition into the outlands.  Because of their value, the weaker of the Order were perfectly suited to transport them.  With their limited power, large sums of goods were beyond their ability to lift.  But smaller bundles, could be easily lifted, and contained in a billowy layer of blue flame. 

The bundle Coba held was likely past a ton in weight – no small load.  But even his burden paled in comparison to what the Reds held; floating above each of their heads were giant slabs of multicolored marble.  The three Reds seemed highly focused on keeping their cargo suspended, no doubt the threat of being crushed giving them ample incentive.

Partly out of jealousy, and partly because he found such use of great power to be a waste, Coba’s thoughts turned dark.  To think, his kind were once gods.   Look at them now . . . little better than slug mules.  With the Oneness, he took hold of a nearby pebble and nearly flung it at the Reds – he would rather see them dead than lowered so – but he paused, as did the entire procession.  One by one, the Mages let their cargo gently fall – the yellows more careful than the rest.   

Coba was grateful for the unexpected rest -- not because he was wearied, truth was, he could’ve held twice as much weight, but merely chose not to.  He needed the respite to calm his mind.  He knew he would not have harmed the Reds; to eliminate such a bloodline of power would have been a travesty.  One day, the Order would rise again – to become worshipped as the gods they were meant to be.  To achieve that destiny, the bloodline had to be maintained.  As it stood now, the bloodline was diluted to near non-existence.  Only four White Mages walked the Seventh World, and it had been ages since there had been a Black. 

The High-Mage Andril'lin had been the last of them – so the rumors say.

Now, the Order was nothing more than laborers.  Coba often wondered why he had joined them at all.  The Oneness was truly a great gift, but what had it gained him?  If anything, he was limited because of it.  Meanwhile, the poor-blooded grew rich and powerful -- nearly more so than even the Keeper. 

Take his employer, for instance.  The young explorer Dane Langlia had gained a title for himself, simply by trading in exotic goods.  The man had acquired his mass of wealth so rapidly the Keeper had no choice but to grant him a parcel of Lock Core’s rich farmland.  Had the Keeper not struck a deal with the trader, Langlia could have potentially bought Lock Core out from under him.  The Keeper would have retained his title, but control of the city would have gone to Langlia, the true ruler of Lock Core.

Of course the Keeper would always have the Oneness; though a lot of good it would do him.  If he lost possession of the city, the best he could hope to gain with his Oneness was a transporter position in Langlia’s trade organization.  The Keeper knew this as well.  He hadn’t been raised to the position by making foolish decisions, so wisely he struck a bargain with the man before he became Dane’s servant.

On the occasions Coba had been near Dane, he did sense a flicker of the Oneness within the man.  But it was doubtful the man even knew it was there.  Nor did it matter, for his power was in wealth, something this age seemed to prize far above the Oneness.

However, his wife, Lady Corel, seemed blessed in every manner possible.  During Coba’s training at the High Tower, he had been able to admire her power and beauty on more than one occasion.  Her red hair was only slightly less fiery than her swelling flames of mage-fire.  But it was doubtful she ever acknowledged Coba’s existence.  She walked another path than he.  For her, High-Mage, or even Keeper was to be her destiny – her entire training at the High Tower was devoted towards such.  No doubt the Keeper and the High-Mage had been grooming her since birth.  Meanwhile, for all the years he had spent in training, Coba was to become a drudge.

If anyone could restore the Order to its former glory, Lady Corel could, Coba thought, resting his back against his bundle of goods.

He noticed smoke rising from the head of the procession, but even as it grew he continued to ignore it.

Should her husband meet an untimely death, the wealth and the power would be her own.  With the right man to advise her . . . anything could be possible.

Coba continued to indulge himself in fantasies of ruling the Triad of Races alongside Lady Corel, oblivious to the fact that the rest of the Magi had departed toward the front of the procession, where the smoke-filled sky had now become fire.  

The nearby village and whatever danger it was facing, only marginally registered with Coba’s thoughts.  He mashed his brow together in disgust at the mere thought of helping the town.  What was he supposed to do about it anyway?  Save some bloodless from some sort of fire?  That wasn’t what he was paid to do.  He had a contract to haul Langlia’s goods.  That was it.  If his fellow Mages wanted to waste their power in the effort, then so be it.  It was doubtful they would be rewarded – if even they were thanked. 

What his brethren should be doing was demanding fealty from the town if they wished the Magi to save it.  Then, if the townsfolk refused their bargain, let it burn.  Damn the Gods!  They should burn the place down themselves.  Then demand their fealty! 

Coba was delighting in the thought of the townsfolk scattering in fear of the Magi, when a sudden sensation flooded his mind.

Immediately he was on his feet, anticipating the appearance of a White Mage -- possibly the Keeper himself.  Instead, what he saw was a woman covered in a motley array of animal skins – half of which appeared to be a large breed of rat.  Her hair was so gnarled and dirty; he half expected to see one of the creatures come scurrying out of it.  The stench emanating from her cape of animal carcasses was nearly equal to the woman’s aura of power.  But the strength of her Oneness was so great that Coba managed to ignore the woman’s smell. 

“Meshe Magi.  Meshe.  Iso, LeCynic.  Basa no suth LeCynic.”

Wild-eyed the woman came at him, her language a meaningless jumble of words.  North of the Gorian, the people often had thick, incomprehensible accents, but only the tribal peoples from the distant uncharted lands were so far removed from civilization as to have adopted their own unique languages.  Few people from Lock Core had ever visited such places.  They were so far distant even Langlia found them unprofitable.

She continued her unintelligible rant, when, to Coba’s surprise, she lifted her thick coat of skins revealing a wiry little boy beneath it.  The boy seemed in a daze, his dilated pupils consuming his brown irises. 

“Magi . . .”

The woman continued to spout her gibberish.  Hoping to gain some sort of understanding, Coba entered her mind.

He slipped in easily.  It was the first indication that she was not the source of power.  Even if Coba had failed to take note of it, what he saw in her mind made it abundantly clear.  Her mind was a jumble of images, all of them centered around the boy child.  And all of them filled with scenes of carnage and destruction. 

No.  This woman had no power.  What he had sensed was the boy. 

LeCynic . . . 

A word the woman repeated over and over. 

‘Fear not, woman.  I’ll take great care of this child,’ Coba said, hoping she would get a sense of his words if he sent them telepathically.  

She backed away while pushing the boy toward him.

“LeCynic,” the woman said one final time before turning and fleeing.

“Well met, boy,” Coba said to the child, staring down into his dark brown eyes, which were slowly beginning to show signs of life. 

He smiled down at the boy, basking in his potential.

“Well met indeed, LeCynic.” 

Coba believed it to be the child’s name, but he had no knowledge of her language or her people.  Had he known the word’s true meaning, would he still have taken the child?

Given the child’s power and potential, most likely yes, but perhaps with a tad less enthusiasm.

 

 

 

 

She was one of the ‘Children of the Lost Sun’.  When humanity arrived on the Seventh World, most stayed at Lock Core, staking their destinies in a final battle with the Plague.  Others fled the Rift, hoping to live peacefully in the Outlands until the day the Plague returned once more.  There were others still, a handful of people who entered the Seventh World and never looked back.  They walked the Seventh World for as long, and as far as they could.  Only when the Plague and the Rift became a memory did they finally stop moving, settling in the deepest and most inhospitable parts of the Seventh World.

For the ‘Children of the Lost Sun’, the Plague, the Rift and the final battle were nothing more than a legend.  But to the woman, the legends had become far too real.  She had birthed a Sira’coll, a fire-wielder.  It was half a star before she knew it was so, and over a full star before her secret was revealed.  She should have immediately given him to the Frozen Lord, to forever be a babe, and sleep eternal.  But she so dearly cherished the boy; and refused to let him go.  It wasn’t until the Great Father came to take him from her that she realized her error.  As the warriors ripped him from her arms his flesh became fire.  The warriors melted at his touch.  Along with the Great Father, they thought to flee, but the boy’s fire was alive.  As though hungry to feed, the flames engulfed them all, leaving not but ash.  By the time his fire was sated, their village was a charred ruin. 

Homeless, she took her son and fled.  At first, she thought to enter the land of the Frozen Lord with the boy in her arms, but the child anticipated her thoughts.  To head in the direction of the open water gave her such headaches she fell to her knees, blood pouring from every orifice of her head.  As soon as she changed her mind, and direction, she was restored, healthier than before.

For several stars they traveled the southern lands, but every village they came upon they were met with hostility -- and the hostility was met with madness and death.   Her path lead ever southward, any other direction meant pain.  Until one day they came upon a great village.  And within it was a blue-robed man who took great interest in her son.  He knew bits and pieces of her language, and was able to communicate that a gathering of fire-wielders dwelt in a great tower in the south.  These Magi would gladly take her son, and give him a home within their High-Tower.

He even offered to take her there, but before making good on his offer, the woman and her child were recognized and once more trouble began.  Afterwards, even the blue-robed fire-wielder couldn’t escape her son’s wrath, his flesh melting as easily as the rest.

Despite his death, the words of the fire-wielder offered her hope.  And for once, the will of the child matched her own.  Thus, with thoughts of this ‘great tower’ at the forefront of her mind, she continued on, heading southward . . . always southward.  

Finally, her prayers to the Frozen Lord were answered.  She found no tower.  But surely the gathering of Magi she beheld contained every last member of their order.  Clutching her son’s hand in fear and excitement, she watched as the multi-colored procession of robed figures filled the canyon below. 

She had only recently found shelter in the town of Cliffmore.  The townsfolk were warm and kind, and had no knowledge of her son or his prior atrocities.  They took pity on her and her young son.  They gave her food and water, and to help her survive the coming winter, the kindly townsfolk even provided her with accommodations in one of their many, cave-like chambers carved in the canyon wall.  Half cave, half rotting wood, the room was still welcome shelter for the woman and her son -- having spent the prior months on the road.

From her perch atop the cavern chamber, she watched in awe as the caravan approached, wondering how so many fire-wielders could exist in the entire world.  And what power!  Massive packs of goods floated before them as though weightless.  Slabs of stone that seemed impossible to lift by a thousand hands, moved to the will of but one man.  She had witnessed the failure of one of their kind to control her son.  But surely, with so many of them together, his evil could be contained. 

It wasn’t.

The rotting timbers of the city’s structures burned first . . . its stone walls took flame soon after.

As always, her son shielded only her from death.  All others fell to the flames, including many of the Magi. 

Once more she fled -- a city in flames at her back. 

It wasn’t until she stumbled into the grey-magi that she felt her son’s evil go silent.  It seemed his search had ended, for her will suddenly became her own – gladly she thrust her son at the man, and equally glad, he took him as his own.  

At long last, she was free of her son . . . ‘the demon’. 

She tried desperately to warn the man of what her son was.  But little did she know, the man had thought she spoke his name.  And that he fittingly named the boy ‘the demon’.  For that was what ‘LeCynic’ meant in her tongue.  And that was most certainly what the child was.

 

 

 

 

"Betrayer!"

LeCynic couldn’t help but smile at the man.  The Red Mage raised his arms, gathering his remaining power for a final blow. 

The Grey Mage, Coba was well on his way to joining LeCynic’s army, so he let the man fall.   He knew that when next they met, Coba would be thanking him.  Of all people, Coba would understand what a gift the Plague truly was.  After all, this was to be as Coba dreamed – they would be like gods once more, and together, they would make the Seventh World bow before them.

"You've killed us all, LeCynic!" the Red Mage screamed, his face constantly shifting from a mask of scars and burnt flesh to flawless, smooth skin.

The man was clueless.  Very soon he would see the light . . . or in this case, the darkness.

"Fool, mage.  Haven't you learned?" LeCynic replied, practically laughing in the man’s face.  "You were already dead."

The Red Mage struck him. 

His attack was feeble, and it was certainly his last.  The Red Mage plummeted to the earth.

LeCynic chose not to damage that one, but rather, he let the man drain himself dry of the Oneness, savoring his every last pitiful attempt to stop the Black Mage.  The Red Mage had been the last of them, the last of their so-called defense of Shattered Rock.  Despite his less than impressive use of the Oneness, he had to give the man a little credit; he did somehow manage to get a city of murders, chopa addicts, thieves and beggars to join together in defense of the city.  Truthfully, LeCynic hadn’t expected that.  He had hoped the fall of the city would have been simpler, less costly.  But it would fall, nonetheless.  With the mages no more, the skies would be his, and soon the city would be as well.

Up next, Lock Core.  Then, he will rule them all . . .

. . . ‘Kill them all.’

He felt the vein throbbing on his neck, pumping him full of the tainted blood.  It was larger than ever, and had been growing at an accelerated pace.  He longed to rip it from his flesh, but knew his life would vanish with it.  It was deeply entrenched in his body now, despite his efforts to stop its continued growth.  He feared it would soon take his mind, and rightly so.  He had seen what had become of his men.  For now, they fought as allies.  But LeCynic knew they were no longer his to control.  Evil, LeCynic may be, but something far more corrupt than he possessed them.  It drove them towards but one purpose – utter annihilation.  If the evil force had its way, there would be nothing left.  Where was the pleasure in that?  What was the point of ruling over nothingness?  The evil being’s motive was beyond comprehension.  Power, pleasure, wealth . . . it was meaningless to the being.  It understood only chaos and death, and sought to reduce all that existed into such.

It had to be stopped.  His battle with the being began within his own flesh.  LeCynic wasn’t about to relinquish his body, his power, and his greatness without a fight.  He will rule this world.  Not as a soulless puppet, but as a god.

He had to maintain control for just a while longer.   He was certain his undead servant, Hollabrand was nearing his objective.  The power of the Destroyer could free him.  He had to have it.  Without it, he was doomed to become a slave.

But for now, what he needed was an army.

Summoning those he had already turned, he drifted down to where the Red Mage had fallen.  He would enjoy this moment; transforming the city’s greatest defender into his greatest soldier.  He directed his army to gather where the man had fallen.  When the Red Mage arose, he would have the honor of leading them in the final assault.

Wait . . .

Someone (or something) else was down there.  A presence LeCynic knew all too well.

Just when he thought his day couldn’t get any better . . .

It appears you will be mine once more, Destroyer.

He already had a list of experimental procedures ready for them man.  This time, he would hold nothing back.

They were together, the Red Mage and the Destroyer.

The man held the Red Mage and wept.

Save your tears, Destroyer.  You will have need to shed them soon.

"Well, well.  Haven't you strayed far from the flock," LeCynic said to the man, gathering the full brunt of his power in case the man tried to live up to his name.

But LeCynic feared no man. 

He approached him, even dared to bend over and inspect him.

And they called this man Destroyer? LeCynic laughed at the ragged looking wretch.  Soon I’ll claim that title as well.

"Finally . . . I have you back once more," LeCynic continued, unafraid of the pathetic looking man.  "Now I will have your power."

"Yes."

The man’s voice was everywhere.  It was everything.

His voice alone nearly tore him asunder.

Oh shi . . .

Then, his true power was unleashed, and LeCynic got a first-hand demonstration of exactly how the man earned the name, ‘Destroyer’.

 

 

 

 

Coba almost died – it would have been his second death in a single day.  He had a feeling his latest brush with death would have been a more permanent state than his first.  LeCynic replaced his life with the Plague, but the Destroyer nearly erased his entire existence.  Luckily, Coba found himself on the fringe of the man’s devastating blast.  Even so, had he been but a man – even a Grey Mage – he would have been washed away in the tide of dark power.  But Coba wasn’t a mortal any more.  The Black Mage had changed him.

LeCynic . . . he always knew he had the potential to be a Black Mage.  But he had become even more.  To say he was any sort of Mage belittled the man.  Now, LeCynic was a god . . . and Coba’s master.  Finally he had found one worthy of his fealty. 

At first, he hesitated to embrace the gift.  Coba awoke to his new life weak from hunger.  He no longer felt the Oneness – only a hole remained where the source of his power had once been.  He fought the desire to engorge himself on the life of others, but the hunger was unbearable, and every moment he fought it served to amplify the pain.  He sensed his Maker in the distance but feared to join the man, knowing that once he did, he would be fully committed to serving the Dark Army. 

Unsure of his destination or purpose, Coba wandered the battlefield.  Unbeknownst to him, his new senses had taken him on a path toward living flesh.  The scent, the sensation . . . it was all so new to him that he didn’t even recognize it until he stumbled into it.  They were a group of soldiers fleeing from Shattered Rock.  Once they saw what he was – what he had become – they immediately attacked.  Even weakened, they were no match for Coba.  During his battle with the men, he realized the Plague was a gift.  It was true power.  His prior dabbling with the Oneness paled in comparison to the power he now held.  The Plague made him more powerful than any mortal could hope to be.  And the more he fed, the stronger he became.  By the time he was through with the soldiers, he was powerful indeed.

Soldiers . . . Coba still scoffed at that notion.  The men he fed upon were thieves and murderers, if they had been anything.  Now what they were, were his – the beginning of his own Dark Army.  Unfortunately, not all of them withstood the Destroyer’s rage.  But Coba knew all too well how quickly the Plague could spread.  His army would grow.  And in time, the bloodless would bow before him.  But for that to happen, he needed his master, LeCynic.  Coba was powerful, but not nearly strong enough to conquer the Seventh World on his own.  Some White Mages remained who could pose a potential roadblock to his destiny.  The High-Bitch Nicola was one such obstacle.  But against LeCynic, Nicola would be easily trampled to dust. 

But what had become of the Black-Mage?  Following the Destroyer’s recent rampage, Coba’s link to LeCynic was severed.  For a time, he couldn’t sense him at all.  Fearing he perished, Coba and his men went to investigate the blast zone.  As they neared the wreckage of Shattered Rock, he felt something.  It was incredibly faint, and vastly different than what he sensed before the blast.  Nevertheless, Coba was certain it was LeCynic. 

Once more the man had changed, but into what?  

Following the dim sensation, Coba moved to join his master.  He just hoped the Destroyer hadn’t ruined the man completely, and that together, they may still achieve the greatness of which Coba always dreamed.

His hopes drained when he found the pile of black sludge that was the remnant of his master.

It contained some sort of life, whatever it was.  Slowly, it crept toward Coba and his men.

“Master?”  Coba asked, attempting to communicate with the black mass.

. . . feed . . .

Coba laughed.  Apparently it would take more than even the Destroyer to put an end to LeCynic.  His chances of conquering this world had just increased ten-fold.

“Return to the city.  Find any stragglers and bring them to me,” he ordered his men.

. . . no . . . these shall do . . .

Before his men could move to obey, strings of black fire shot out from the sludge, burrowing into Coba’s undead followers.  Coba moved back to avoid a similar fate.  But he was ignored.  The dark fire became an inferno, each soldier a pyre.  In moments, they were blackened husks.

Coba watched in awe as the pile of sludge rose up before him.  It continued to rise, until it towered over him.  Then, it became a man – a man of black flames, his eyes blue fire.

It was the greatest thing Coba had ever seen.  He knew he was insignificant to the awesome being.  All he could do was bow before it, and hope he was spared.

“Arise,” the being commanded.

Coba stood up, daring to look the being in its fiery eyes.

“I am free now,” LeCynic said, his voice restored to its typical, cold baritone.  Except for his flaming blue eyes, his body transformed to a humanoid shape – the handsome, dark-haired youth Coba so fondly remembered.

Coba didn’t understand what he meant by being ‘free’, but he did not dare to question the being.

“It is time now . . . join me, Coba.  It is time for me to return to Lock Core and claim my army . . . and then, my vengeance will begin.”

Coba smiled.  Finally, his dreams will be fulfilled.

 

 

 

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