The Vvrael: A Chronicle by Frijthof Schoun

You wish to learn about the Vvrael? That is a long story that goes back many ages. Come sit with me at the hearth, and though I am no scribe or bard, I will tell you what I know.

The Tearing of the Veil

The story of the Vvrael in our lands really began over 100,000 years ago. At that time, the Ur-Daemon, beings of unimaginable power from another dimension, opened a portal between their world and ours. Through this portal, the Ur-Daemon attacked our world, feeding on the natural mana flows of our dimension. They were opposed by the Great Drakes, the greatest and most powerful beings ever to inhabit Elanthia, the masters of what later came to be known as the Arkati. For many long centuries the Drakes battled the Ur-Daemon, finally driving them back through the portal in a final cataclysmic battle. Leading this final charge was the greatest Drake of them all, the one who finally turned the tide and sealed the portal. Of him more will be told later.

During the Ur-Daemon war, while this portal was open, another sentient entity (or entities) was able to view our world. It did not enter, but merely observed. Whether it is from the same dimension as the Ur-Daemons is not known (personally, I think the Veil separating our dimension from others is itself omni-dimensional -- a rift can potentially open to every and all dimensions, and everywhere within a dimension, simultaneously). This entity observed our world throughout the Ur-daemon war, learning much about our dimension, but were cut off when the portal was sealed by the Drakes. Immediately this entity, which we have come to know as the Vvrael, set to work trying to re-open that portal.

The Vvrael First Attempt to Enter Our World

Millennia passed. The Great Drakes, their might and sanity shattered by the conflict with the Ur-Daemon, passed from power, to be succeeded by their servants, the Arkati. The Arkati nurtured the land and its inhabitants, teaching and guarding. The great Elven Empire arose in Elanthia. Then came the Undead War, which is a saga in and of itself. It touches on the present story only at its very end. When it seemed that nothing could stop the undead hordes of Despana, a Feandryl mage named Daephron Illian set to studying the means to summon demons in order to fight the threat. It was he who discovered and developed the spells that destroyed Maelshyve and ended the Undead war. What was not known at that time was that demons were themselves extra-dimensional beings, the summoning of which involved penetrating the Veil separating the dimensions.

As is well-known, the other elven Houses, repulsed by the use of such loathsome magic (or perhaps sensing the opportunity to bring down the powerful House that had ruled the Empire virtually unchallenged for centuries) banished the Feandryl to the caves beneath Rhoska-Tor, where Daephron continued his studies in exile. He continued advancing and refining his techniques, seeking, in his arrogance, to summon ever more powerful spirits to do his bidding. Whether the Veil was re-opened then, or later, his experiments eventually lead him to lift the Veil enough to allow the Vvrael to come through.

Daephron quickly realized that he had released something that was far more powerful than he had anticipated, something he could not control. Realizing only at that moment the depth of his folly in toying with forces he did not understand, he sought to reverse his spell, and reseal the Veil. But he could not stop the unfolding of what he had set in motion. In a final act of desperation, seconds before the Vvrael fully entered our world, he cast a mighty spell, trapping the dimensional rift, and the Vvrael, within a simple modwir box. Using his own life force to seal it, he was cast adrift in the swirling mists of time. The Vvrael were wedged within the rift in the Veil, apparently unable to fully enter our world and unable (or unwilling) to return to theirs.

The Release of the Vvrael, and Their Coming to Present Knowledge

More centuries passed. The box passed into the hands of one Malaphor, an Ashrim mage and advisor to the Patriarch of that House. It was among the wedding gifts sent ahead of the Feandryl Princess Chesylcha on her ill-fated voyage to wed an Ashrim prince -- the voyage that sparked the Sea Elf/Dark Elf war. Such curiosities, "puzzle boxes," were common among the Feandryl, and the true nature of this particular box was not realized by the Feandryl who gave it.

Malaphor, however, had realized at once that the box was not a simple puzzle box, and that it possessed great power. He saved it from the destruction of Ta'Ashrim when he fled in a ship with the last of the Patriarch's blood-line. He found refuge in a small human village named Ruin Creek, situated on the southern tip of a small continent, somewhat to the north of Teras Isle. There Malaphor began studying the box, seeking the means to open it. His studies did not go undetected.

Many years went by, and many spells were tried. When at last he succeeded in unraveling the spell and plucking Daephron Illian from his temporal prison, magically transformed into an infant by his prolonged captivity, the Vvrael moved quickly. A black knight appeared at that moment and immediately attacked Malaphor. The Vvrael had corrupted many beings, both mortal and immortal, in the course of their semi-confinement in the Rift. The black knight was one such corrupted soul, sent by the Vvrael when they sensed Malaphor's success in opening the box. The attack was swift and furious. The black knight slew Malaphor and destroyed his workshop and library, seizing the box from his dead hands.

However, even as he was struck down by the black knight, as his dying act Malaphor opened a familiar gate to Wehnimer's Landing, through which his young apprentice Tindal fled with the babe. Thus, the Vvrael passed into present knowledge and history.

The black knight followed Tindal, seeking the infant that he had carried away from the destruction of Malaphor's workshop, for Daephron, having imprisoned the Vvrael, had the power to release it. Tindal was never seen again, and while his actual fate is unknown, it is apparent that he died sometime after arriving at Wehnimer's Landing, mad with fear and trying to protect his infant charge, with only his wits and meager apprentice’s powers to help him against the shattering power of the Vvrael.

At the Landing, visions of an elven child in grave danger were received by an empath, and the people of the Landing banded together to seek the child. During this search, the ghost of Malaphor made the first of two recorded appearances. Malaphor told the bystanders to remember three words: "The box, the key, and the babe." Shortly thereafter the black knight appeared near the elven village to the southeast of the Landing, killing many, apparently seeking the babe. There was a sharp battle wherein a sorcerer and a wizard combined their powers to defeat the corrupt soul while many others distracted it with harrying attacks. When the black knight fell, the elven babe came out from the shadows.

The babe was brought to safety in the village, and was handed the box that had been taken from the defeated knight. As the child slowly traced his fingers across the enruned box, he released the spells that bound him to it, and time began catching up to him. As he rapidly aged before the astonished eyes of the bystanders, he told them of the Vvrael, bringing much of what is now known about them to light for the first time. He aged to such a degree that he collapsed and died ere he finished speaking, his body decaying into dust on the spot. The local elves, who had been watching silently, suddenly spoke up with advice for those assembled. They urged that the box be kept safe, and not tampered with, and that the name Daephron Illian should be remembered, for the babe had indeed been Daephron Illian himself. The box was therefore entrusted to the Lady Featherhair, and kept well-hidden.

The Role of the Arkati, and the Shrine of the Drake

The Arkati became aware of the presence of the Vvrael as soon as the stability of the Veil was threatened. Setting aside their differences, the pantheons of Liabo and Lornan joined their powers in an effort to seal the Veil and keep the Vvrael from our world. Powerful as they are, they were only successful in holding closed the Rift, blocking the Vvrael but not forever sealing them from our dimension. It became clear that they could not hold the Rift against the Vvrael indefinitely. The Lady Lorminstra, a devout servant of the Emperor Drake in days of old, recalled the might and powers of her master, and recalled the great shrine that the Arkati had built to honor him in the aftermath of the Ur-Daemon war. This Drake was seen in a vision by Lord Strendor Soulrester, who recounted the experience thusly:

Many Drakes had perished in the titanic battles with the Ur-Daemons who even now strained the veil, seeking to return to consume all the world. The Drakes, mighty Lords and Masters all, trembled in newfound weakness and fear. But not all!

For suddenly a Drake, the mightiest Drake I had yet seen, leapt atop a rocky spire. His wings spread full and wide as his great talons dug deeply into the rock. Though his body held wounds enough to slay any lesser being instantly, he threw back his head and with thunderous voice, he ROARED! Surely this was the Emperor Drake, the leader of his kind!

The Shrine was built atop the tallest mountain in the land, on Mount Aenatumgana, the Top of the World. Within dwelt the Great Drake for long ages, and perhaps still dwells, and within was a dimly-remembered artifact that could be the means to seal the Veil forever.

The Choosing of Lorminstra's Champions

The Shrine of the Drake had been cut off from the rest of the world for many ages by magical storms of great violence, but Lorminstra sensed that the time was coming when these storms may abate and the Shrine might be gained. She selected thirteen heroes as her Chosen, her champions to gain the Shrine, enter it, and find within the means to seal the Veil permanently.

First-Chosen was the sorceress Lady Heathyr, upon whom Lorminstra bestowed an additional token of her favor, a black shield emblazoned with a golden key, the symbol of Lorminstra. Lord Krackenstar and Lord Writher were also chosen at that time. As the Chosen became known, and the Vvrael grew in power, the attacks began. Anti-mana was the Vvrael, so that spells had no effect on it. It sucked the very spirit from its victims with horrible grasping black tentacles that reached out from the shadows. Terate, Jala, Berr, Mithadris. One by one Lorminstra chose her champions. Risper, Wanton, Nyte, Tedra, and finally, Beldin and Merry. Many times the Vvrael attacked, killing the Chosen and those around them, but Lorminstra comforted her Chosen with words and visions.

The Fall of Terate

But the Vvrael did in one fashion succeed in their efforts to destroy the Chosen. Unable to kill them, they took one by stealth. No one knows for sure how Terate Niebelun, the fourth Chosen, was taken by the Vvrael. In visions he was seen lying horribly wounded, close to death, surrounded by the evidence of a violent battle with unknown foes. As the thread of his life was near to snapping, the Vvrael offered Terate LIFE and POWER. With a thought, the pact was made and Terate became a creature of the Vvrael, like the black knight, but infinitely more powerful -- the Fallen One. Thus Lorminstra's plans seemed to have been foiled, though the Chosen went on, hoping that some way might be found to free Terate, or complete their mission without him.

The Fallen One had unimaginable powers. He was near-immune to physical and magical attacks, could drain the spirit from other mortals, could kill with a glance, transport anywhere instantly, and could even resurrect himself. Terate appeared on numerous occasions and created mass destruction, though at times also appeared very gentle and imparted significant information and aid. On one occasion, he slew every single person on Teras Island, repeatedly.

On this occasion, the Lady Lorminstra herself appeared in the form of a young lass and raised the dead. She then gathered her Chosen and spoke to them, telling them of the coming of the Vvrael, the efforts of the Arkati to keep them from passing the Veil, and of the task ahead of them, finally revealing the existence of the Shrine. The Chosen were to find the Six Stones of Virtue, with which they would gain access to the Shrine far to the north. Lorminstra had selected a guide to lead the Chosen through the mountains to the Shrine, a hardy halfling named Ardo. He had been seen in Icemule Trace, heading out with his packtrain to the distant trading outpost of Pinefar. He promised to return and lead a party over the mountains. He was never seen again. About the Stones the Lass was able to say very little, only that they lay concealed about the land.

The Search for the Stones Begins

Immediately a great search was undertaken, under the direction of the cleric Lord Truekillr. Persons great and small scoured every corner of the lands for the stones, at first without success. Then new discoveries were made. A castle was discovered in a hidden valley in the lower Trollfang Forest, and within its walls a locked chest was found. When opened by Lord Xanith, the chest was found to contain a reflective stone, the first of the Stones of Virtue. The Chosen Tedra claimed this Stone, and kept it safe against the day that it would be needed to open the Shrine.

Far to the north, near Icemule Trace, a new path was discovered that led across trackless snowfields and up into the mountains. There, in a cave on the mountainside, the remains of Ardo and his party were found. The bodies, all but one, were dismembered and piled about the cave, faces set in looks of abject terror. Only Ardo was untouched, sitting frozen against the wall with his arms clutched about him, holding in his hand a small pin that he had bought in Icemule as a gift for his fiancee, whose name could still be read on the tattoos of his arms -- Belle. In the spent ashes of the fire at Ardo's feet the second Stone was found by Lady Nanna, this one a clear crystal. This Stone was claimed by the Chosen Merry.

As the weeks went by, two more stones were found, and claimed by the Chosen. A dull gray Stone, found in the upper Trollfang Forest by a young adventurer named Fryzz, was claimed by the Chosen Heathyr, and a flawless silver Stone, found in River’s Rest by Marilyna, was claimed by the Chosen Nyte.

Then one night, a night that will never be forgotten for the horror and destruction that it brought on the inhabitants of Icemule Trace, the fifth Stone was found. This Stone, of veil-iron, was found by Lady Rayyne, of whom Terate the Forsaken had become enamored. After finding the veil-iron Stone within a box in a small crevice beside the mountain trail north of Icemule, Rayyne gave it to her love, and a terrible attack followed. A rift appeared, along with swarms of Vvrael witches and warlocks. The Chosen, and everyone around them, where attacked by these minions of the Vvrael, killed, and dragged into the rift. Terate, however, did not kill. To the astonishment of all, he traveled in and out of the rift, rescuing the dead and even attacking the minions of the Vvrael. "It is like attacking ourselves," he was heard to say, in anguish. By these acts Terate confirmed that some vestige of the elf he once had been still remained, that he was still a Chosen, and that he could defy the Vvrael, at least for a time.

When this attack was over, Terate fled with Rayyne from the confusion of the Temple (to which he had been transporting the slain), seeking solitude at a nearby tavern. He returned the box with the Stone to Rayyne, asking her if she was certain that she wanted him to have it. She gave it to him again, "with all her love," affirming her faith in him, the elf, the Chosen. Terate's defiance of the Vvrael, particularly in giving up the Stone which they so avidly sought, did not go unpunished. He became wracked with pain during a visible internal conflict. At last he raised his head and stated simply "It is finished." The Vvrael had won ... or so it seemed. Terate killed everyone he encountered in Icemule that long night, with the sole exception of Lady Rayyne.

The Finding of the Sixth Stone, and Mount Aenatumgana

In the weeks that followed, the Vvrael continued their unrelenting efforts to prevent the Chosen from sealing the Veil. They tried to trick Featherhair into giving them the box that had once been their prison, and eventually Terate succeeded in destroying the box. I remember well the long, cold vigils in Icemule and the mountains above, when we sought comfort in one another's company, and wisdom in one another's counsel, all the while searching for the path north and the sixth Stone, waiting, hoping.

Then, at last, the sixth Stone was found, and the way to the very base of Mount Aenatumgana was discovered. This milky-white Stone itself gave instructions to the Chosen that would help them in their task. One of the Chosen, the bard Krackenstar, sang to the Stone, which produced this vision, as recounted by Lord Krackenstar himself:

You see before you a huge man seated upon a stone throne. His hair and beard are grey, and his skin wrinkled. Hunched are his shoulders, as if they were burdened by a great, unfathomable weight. Upon his brow sits a six-tined crown fashioned of pure gold, its exemplary craftsmanship accentuating his imposing presence. Though he would appear to be as old as time itself, the years seem to have only taken their toll on his body, for his piercing eyes burn with a profound wisdom.

The man regards you for a moment, then begins to speak in a commanding voice...

"For those who are the champions of Elanith, you shall have a grave task ahead," says the ancient man. "You must learn of the virtues held in the stones you have won. Only through them shall you fulfill your destiny to look into the Eye of the Drake."

He pauses a moment to let the words sink in before continuing, "Those who are not chosen shall be tasked as well. For them to aid in this time of need, they shall have to learn the lessons of the stones, and use them to invoke the magic of the Crown."

All the Lands stood in taut anticipation as the Chosen prepared themselves for the final battle in the Shrine that would determine the fate of our world.

The Stories of the Stones

It should be recorded that each Stone was found to have a unique story, revealed by the bards' Loresong. Each song revealed the Virtue of the Stone that contained it.

The first Stone, as has been said, was smooth and reflective. Perfectly round, it was crafted with a precision unmatched by any mortal glass-smith. Silver at its core acted as a mirror, reflecting the light falling upon its smooth, polished surface. Warped by its contours, you could see your own reflected face within its depths, staring back as if in judgment. Its song told of a dirty disheveled man who, while walking through a huge city, finds a silver coin that had fallen from a rich woman’s purse. Though hungry and poor, the man chased after her and attempted to return the coin. The Lady thought about taking it back but said that she would be happier if he kept it, and left with a radiant smile upon her face. From this story it was deduced that the reflective stone was the Stone of Honor.

The second Stone was of delicate crystal, and perfectly round like the first. Its curved surface bent light into tiny rainbows along its edges, yet the stone was completely transparent at its center. Gazing into - through - its unmarred clarity, you could see the world in sharpened detail. Its song told of a nobleman who had a slave that he beat all the time. One day he told the slave to go to the Hall where the Queen was, and lie to her. Despite knowing he'd receive a beating, the slave told the Queen the truth. She cut the slave's bindings with a jeweled dagger and told him that she knew what he had done, and gave him his freedom. From this story it was deduced that the crystal stone was the Stone of Truth.

The third Stone was of a dull grey rock, remarkable only for its perfect roundness. Its porous surface is pitted yet smooth, worn by the passing of thousands of years. Its song told of a young servant working on floors, scrubbing away with a rag but content. Two nobles walked by, one, a spineless man, kicked her bucket across the floor sneering that she had missed a spot, then walked off. She wept. The other noble was cut from a different cloth, however. He sighed and, kneeling, helped her clean up the mess.

The servant girl wiped her tears away and thanked him, and told him she will never forget his kindness. Years later, the kind nobleman lay upon a bed in a small room, passing from this world in fever. As death began to claim him, the girl walked in, no longer in rags but in a robe of unadorned white and black that was dazzling in its simpleness. As she laid her hands upon the nobleman’s head, his eyes flickered open and clear! Smiling she said "Awaken, my child. For as I promised, I did not forget your kindness." Its story showed this stone to be the Stone of Humility.

The fourth Stone was of purest silver and its song told the story of Voln, the champion of Lorminstra. The Loresong told of several people standing within a village square, their hands bound to stakes behind them. A priest walked down their line, wearing brown robes with a green serpent embroidered upon the back, and holding a dagger with a twisted blade in his right hand. Stopping at each of the prisoners, he asked them an inaudible question. Some of them would nod in response, and were cut free. Others shook their heads and the priest drew his dagger across their throats. The priest then stopped in front of a boy. Leaning forward he asked, "Will you pledge your soul to the serpent?" The boy simply glared at the priest, hatred burning hot within his eyes. After a moment, the priest sighed and moved his dagger upwards and across the boy's throat. Impossibly, the blade did not pierce the tender skin! The boy's eyes widened with comprehension, and his hands broke free of their bonds. Snatching the dagger from the stunned priest, the boy dispatched his would-be executioner. A booming voice then reverberated across the square, "Go forth, my loyal and immortal son. It is your destiny to be my champion against the unlife!" From this story it was deduced that the silver stone was the Stone of Faith.

The fifth Stone was veil-iron, bearing the engraved image of a sword and the worn letters A ...ram.... This is the Stone given to Terate by Lady Rayyne. The song of this Stone tells of the final charge of the Sabrar at the Battle of Shadowguard, during the Undead War. As the undead forces seemed near victory, the Sabrar, elite cavalry of the Vaalor, made a final desperate charge into the heart of the undead army, lead by Taki Rassien, wielding the veil-iron sword Aramier. A final duel between Rassien and the Arch-Lich Dharthiir left both dead. Not one of the Sabrar survived the battle. From this story it was determined that the veil-iron stone was the Stone of Courage.

The sixth and final Stone was milky white. Found by Lenthorn in Icemule Trace, it was claimed by the Chosen Beldin. As already described, it evoked images of an ancient and wise ruler, wearing a crown of gold, who gave counsel on how to prepare for the final conflict with the Vvrael. From the story of the stone it was deduced that the milky white stone was the Stone of Piety.

The Opening of the Shrine

Once all of the Stones of Virtue had been found, it remained only for the storms shrouding Mount Aenatumgana to clear, so that an attempt could be made to gain the Shrine at its top. Many weeks passed, and anticipation grew. The attacks of the Vvrael minions became more frequent, and more intense. They struck without warning, and no part of the lands was spared.

Still, these attacks paled beside the ferocity of the final days before the Shrine was opened. After days of almost constant attacks in all quarters of the Lands, during which the sky rained blood, terror and destruction were a constant presence. At last, the storms on Mount Aenatumgana quieted and a trail was found leading up the mountain. That night, in the midst of the fiercest attacks yet seen (the lodge at Pinefar was the scene of the most desparate hand-to-hand fighting that I, a veteran of the Bregandan war, have ever witnessed, reaching even to the innermost hallways of the Lodge), Terate appeared. One by one the Chosen where summoned to Pinefar by the Lady Lorminstra. Immediately, parties set off for the summit of the mountain, fighting their way through the hordes of the Vvrael’s servants and wild beasts driven to madness and fury by the storms and unnatural energies coursing through the ether. Many joined the Chosen, to aid and protect them on the dreadful climb, and many died.

At the last, Terate transported the last of the Chosen directly to the door of the Shrine. What stood before them was a monument immense in size and of extraordinary beauty. Columns marched across the facade, their tops almost lost in the clouds, framing a colossal door. Beside the door, a shining gold crown was mounted in bas-relief. Fashioned of solid gold, the magnificent crown was decorated with images of winged drakes rendered in exquisite detail. Between each of the dragons, words were engraved: Truth, Piety, Humility, Faith, Courage and Honor. Aligned with each of these was a heavy golden tine extending from the edge of the crown.

One by one the Chosen placed their Stones in the crown: the crystal Stone of Truth, the milky white Stone of Piety, the dull gray Stone of Humility, silver Stone of Faith, the veil-iron Stone of Courage, and the reflective glass Stone of Honor. As the last Stone was set in place, the aura surrounding the crown exploded, sending a dazzling wave of light streaming outward. The light enveloped the group, leaving them momentarily blinded. When their vision cleared, they found themselves within the Shrine. With an evil grin and a laugh, Terate immediately headed into the depths of the Shrine. Overcoming their shock, the Chosen immediately followed, fearful of what would happen if the Forsaken reached the Eye of the Drake before they did.

The Final Conflict, and the Death of Terate

After long searching, they at last found themselves before the breach in the Veil, in the Cavern of Ages. A series of niches in the chamber's walls were polished to a reflective surface, showing the beautiful texture of the living rock from which the chamber was fashioned. The cavern's eastern wall however, was melted, as if by a great heat, forming a semicircular depression just behind a golden pedestal. On the golden pedestal before the breach hovered a flawless dragonsbreath sapphire -- the Eye of the Drake.

With the deaths of the people of Elanthia echoing through their minds, the Chosen desperately sought to find the way to seal the breach. There was no guidance from the Arkati now, whose powers were wholly bent to holding the Rift closed against the Vvrael's onslaught. The Chosen were on their own, mere mortals against an unfathomably powerful opponent. They soon validated the trust Lorminstra had shown in selecting them as her champions.

Unable at first to touch the Eye, at last Lady Risper was able to spin the dragonsbreath sapphire, which rotated freely in the air, ever faster, until it was nothing but a blur. A soft luminescence began to emanate from the spinning gem, bathing the room in light. Suddenly, the sapphire exploded with a brilliant flash, leaving those around it momentarily blinded! As vision returned, the sapphire was no longer visible; where it once was, a small nebulous sphere now hovered in mid-air. Pulsing with colors and sending out arcs of energy, the sphere swelled and shrank with each pulse.

A voice filled the room, "...AH SWEET TERATE...YOU HAVE COME TO FEED US...BRING THE SOULS TO US NOW...OPEN THE RIFT WIDER OUR PRECIOUS ONE...," and Terate struck down the Chosen Beldin, then Krackenstar, then Risper, his first acts of violence against the Chosen that night. "...FEED US...FEED US...TERATE...OPEN THE RIFT WIDER...," the voice commanded. Then Heathyr fell to Terate’s deadly touch. "...FEED US...FEED US...WE HUNGER FOR THE SOULS...," the voices insisted.

But the remaining Chosen stood defiant, and with their companions' help healed and resurrected the fallen even as they were struck down. The Lady Risper, restored to life again, then swore to stop the Vvrael: "This must stop. By Lorminstra's name, I stand here, and you shall not have them."

And Terate struck her down again, enveloped in dark tendrils of anti-mana. Jala followed. The Chosen pleaded with Terate to remember his mortal self, to remember Rayyne, his love, but it seemed that all traces of the elf he once was were now swept away. Then Berr, fell, even as Lady Rayyne arrived, then Tedra. Rayyne alone stood among the dead, sorrowfully, confronted with the choice of killing her love, or watching him destroy her world.

But Terate paid her no heed, instead thrusting his hands into the sphere. The mountain around him shuddered and black tendrils of anti-mana crawled up his arms, spreading across his body until he is enveloped in a shroud of darkness. He screamed in agony, violent convulsions wracking his body. Just as it seemed that he could endure no more, Terate was thrust from the orb, as if something within it had released him. The sphere now throbbed with power, increasing in size with each pulse. Within its depths were visible inhuman forms writhing against each other, as if struggling to escape. A loud howl pierced the air, reverberating through the cavern, and a hideously deformed face appeared within the sphere. Its lipless mouth was spread in a hideous grin, revealing a set of sharpened teeth. This was the face of the Vvrael, hungry, expectant, triumphant.

Glowing veins appeared on the surface of the sphere, writhing as it grew in size. The sphere swelled and bulged, as if straining under some incredible force that was pushing from the other side. "...THE RIFT...OPEN IT NOW...," insisted the hideous voices.

Though dead on the ground, Risper breathed in a ghostly voice, "You cannot keep me down, Terate." A white light streaked down out of the sky and brought the light back to Risper's eyes, and a voice said, "Stand my Chosen!" And Risper stood, and advanced on Terate with cold determination, her eonake mace, the gift of Lorminstra herself, at the ready. Laughing, Terate pointed at Risper, saying, "We have something special for you Risper..." The black tendrils of anti-mana crawled over Risper's body at Terate's touch, draining her life force. But this time he did not stop with her death, but drained every ounce of her soul. The Chosen watched in helpless horror the loss of one of their own to the demonic.

Lady Rayyne, standing alone among the fallen, feverishly sought a way to destroy the sphere, as the strange forms moved restlessly within. Haunting moans reverberated throughout the chamber. Suddenly, a voice, more sensed than heard, echoed through the cavern, "KILL HER! KILL HER NOW!"

Terate shuddered, then slowly turned to face his love, eyes glowing with a red fire, his mouth contorted in a grimace of pain. Rayyne, trusting, hugged her lover, a question in her eyes and on her lips. But Terate did not respond. Slowly lifting his arm, eyes fixed on Rayyne, he touched her. The black tendrils of anti-mana crawled over her body, draining her life force, even as Rayyne pleaded with him, for the sake of their love.

"You silly sorceress.. did you think we were so WEAK??!!" Terate mocked, laughing.

"...THE RIFT...OPEN IT NOW...BE DONE WITH THE HUMAN...JOIN US...," insisted the voice from inside the pulsing sphere. As Rayyne screamed in pain, the voice commanded, "...KILL THEM ALL..."

But Terate instead moaned in anguish and dropped his arm. The anti-mana blinked out of sight. As he had done before in Icemule, Terate fought the possession of the Vvrael, his body wracked in agony. With a scream, his body went rigidly still, then he slowly raised his arm again to point at Rayyne, and the anti-mana once again sent her into violent convulsions.

"...KILL THEM ALL...NOW...WE MUST CONSUME...OPEN THE RIFT...," came the voice, almost a chant.

Then Rayyne remembered the most powerful incantation against the Vvrael.

"I love you, Terate!" she exclaimed.

The internal struggle resumed, though now the elf had the power he needed to resist the Vvrael. Growling ferociously, Terate unleashed waves of dark anti-mana that ricocheted violently around the cavern. Whirling to face the orb, he cried, "I defy thee! I WILL SEE YE IN HELL BEFORE I DO THIS!", and sent black anti-mana streaming into the sphere. As the sphere billowed and folded in on itself, a chorus of a thousand voices screamed "NOOOOOOO!" This cry of frustration and defeat was heard throughout the land, and we knew that the Chosen had succeeded in their task.

But the Vvrael had their final revenge on Terate. As he sent a final arc of anti-mana toward the sphere, it pulsed violently, reflecting the bolt back to strike Terate full in the chest, throwing him against the wall of the cavern like a rag doll. He fell to the sand without a sound. As he lay dying, his body broken and horribly wounded, the Lady Rayyne took him in her arms and kissed him. Giving Rayyne his void blade with the last of his strength, Terate said "Rayyne ... you were the rock that held us. Dear one, your were loyalty and love. I ... claim you as my princess." At last himself, Terate breathed his last with a peaceful smile on his face. Terate's death cry echoed through the minds of all of Elanthia, slowly receding to a quiet whisper carried off on a cool breeze. His soul departed, Terate's body shimmered, then fell away to ashes, leaving nothing but an outline in the sand.

Epilogue

After the sealing of the Veil, and the death of Terate, the Lady Lorminstra appeared to the onlookers in the now familiar form of a young lass. Smiling, she said, "My children...this morning has brought the dawn of a new day, a day that we can live without the fear of the Vvrael." The lass warned them that the Vvrael still existed, trapped within the Rift, and that only the bravest and strongest should attempt to enter the Eye of the Drake.

Lorminstra then gave a small orb to each of the surviving Chosen, with which they could travel to the Shrine at will. Within the orbs can be seen visions of the creation of the Shrine by the Arkati. I set them forth below in their entirety as reported to me, as they are quite beautiful and inspiring:

"Your eyes cloud over as a vision begins to flood in, cascading out of the small orb like a tidal wave. You see an immense mountain encased in vicious cold and savaged by roaming storms that carry death in their howling song. At the top of the peak, huge slabs of granite rise slowly up out of the snow, lifted by the mind power of a group of four individuals. The tall, lithe beings stand back to back, facing each of the four compass directions with a globe of power encircling them like a glowing sphere. Their faces are set in concentration. They stand motionless as a huge shrine rises into the clouds, granite slab settling on top of granite slab. Finally, the magic pulses a last time throwing reflections into the clouds, and as light settles back into the grey overcast sky, a monumental shrine stands majestically, topping the mountain like a gem."

"Your eyes cloud over as a vision begins to flood in, shooting out a snaking finger of images, which spread themselves across your sight like a panorama. A vast shrine sits atop a blizzard-wracked mountain, piercing the shifting clouds disdainfully. A group of four individuals stands before the temple, as silent and rigid as the building's ramparts. They send out an unwavering stream of power, which flickers over the structure like static electricity. Suddenly, immense wings descend from out of the clouds supporting a drake so large, it dwarfs the mountaintop. The energy immediately stops and the four entities nod, in perfect unison, to the leviathan crouched over them. Snow and wind then seem to pause motionless in the air, and in the next heartbeat, the dragon melts down into the shrine in a blurred funnel as the elements resume their onslaught. Four shapes silently fold into flat images and fade into nothing."

Leaving the Chosen with her final tokens, the lass departed, with a final epitaph for the fallen: "Risper was a brave soul who sacrificed herself so that the world would live on. Risper and Terate's sacrifice should never be forgotten."

We will not forget.

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Last-modified: 2015-04-22 (Wed) 11:03:15 (1308d)