We followed the big headless horse-man with his skellies flanking our sides. It looked as if we were prisoners being escorted, but no, it’s just the usual retinue to bring guests before their boss… I hope.
While we were heading deeper into the labyrinth, I looked to the sides and noticed this place seemed completely devoid of mana. Miasma is one thing, but mana is ever present so its strange that this entre cavern is missing such an important factor that would let it continue its function as a Labyrinth.
“You must be… wondering, why the mana… is gone. It’s the work… of our Lord. To prevent the devils… from spawning.”
Himalgrim must have known we’d be wondering about the missing mana, so he gave us an answer. Technically, devils don’t need mana, but miasma. However, miasma is corrupted mana, so it sort of works the same way. No mana to corrupt means no miasma.
Which brings me to another mystery regarding these undead. No mana means they shouldn’t be functioning as well.
How powerful is their lord that it can control the mana within a region and yet possess enough to supply its own minions?
“We… have arrived.”
While I was mulling over their boss, we arrived before a vast and open cavern that seemed to be walled with rough stone that looked as if it was coated in oil or tar.
Pale glowing blue crystals were hanging here and there on the ceiling and walls not entirely giving the area light, but more of a dreary sort of feel.
What made this place so eerie, however, was that it was completely empty. Just a vast seemingly lifeless expanse with strange mists floating here and there.
I was about to ask our would-be guide where our host is, but then I felt something extremely heavy pressing down on me.
An incredible feeling of fear was trying to force its way into my mind, but something from deep within me exerted an even greater amount of pressure that washed over the fear like a rising tide of fury.
One concentrated roar rang out from within me and exploded out of my maw, blowing away the presence that tried to force me down.
I looked to the girls and saw they were barely standing up and shaky all over, but they appeared unharmed as they shook off the earlier sensation with the help of my roar. Fenril looked wobbly as if he were tipsy, but seemed mostly fine.
APOLOGIES.IT HAS BEEN TOO LONG SINCE I’VE HAD VISITORS FROM AMONG THE LIVING.
A deep echoing voice as if sounding from everywhere at once entered my head. Sensing something forming on the expansive wall before us, we all turned towards it.
The stone on the floor and walls surged like a wave as they pulled apart to merge into a black throne, way too big for even the likes of Fenril or Himalgrim.
As soon as the throne was formed, fragments of what seems to be bone started emerging from the walls and the ground, floating in the air to then assimilate onto the throne, then coalescing to form a cloaked figure with a silver halo in the shape of a crown over its head.
Two blazing blue flames burst from underneath the figure’s cowl, illuminating its frame of black bone cloaked in what seems like solid shadow.
There it sat before us, a being radiating so much power that its very presence made the space before it seem to tremble; just like looking at the horizon within a heat haze.
“Camus Helmight… Helmight. A name I didn’t think I’d hear again in centuries.”
Holy, his voice is freaking smooth! But that’s not the best part, he honestly sounds like the best variation of that actor who played a space opera hero with a beam sword and eventually voiced an iconic clown of crime!1I don't know if I even have to point this out, but for those who haven't figured it out, he's referring to Mark Hamill.
While it did give me goosebumps, I couldn’t help but focus one what he just said.
“Do you… know my dad?”
He tilted his head at my question while the glowing blue fires under his hood dimmed.
“Dad, you say…”
He cupped his chin with his hand while he stayed quiet for a moment, seemingly in thought.
“As far as I can remember, Gaius never had children. An issue with his wife, if I recall. Then again…”
The fires suddenly lit up again, seemingly staring into me.
“You aren’t exactly human… whereas he and his wife, were.” He lowered his hand and settled it on the armrest. “He raised you, I presume… and seeing the strange amalgamation that is your mana… I’d say he raised you long after he became undead.”
A shiver went down my spine as he said that. Something was wrong with my mana?
“You look… confused… perhaps you’ve never realized this, but your mana is not exactly pure. There are faint traces of what I have named, Mortema, the corrupted energies that flow within us undead.”
He lifted his bony hand before him as a wispy vapor formed over his palm.
The wispy vapor became brighter with a deathlier blue glow as it formed into a bubbling sphere with strange shapes that look like faces forming over its surface.
“Mortema… call it whatever you like, but a soul exposed to the energies of the world upon its death becomes saturated with mana unless purified by holy elements. Of course, a normal soul wouldn’t be able to bear becoming one with the energies of the world and would gradually develop –“
I unconsciously mouthed what I was thinking when I realized what he was trying to say. He then looked towards me as he closed his hand, dispersing the energies that formed.
“That is right. Decaying Corruption. With no mortal vessel to shield one’s soul from the altering nature of mana, one’s ego is slowly ground down until their soul becomes mortema, a near-omnipotent energy that wields the weight of a being’s life and turns it into power.”
The throne he sat on moved closer as he pointed towards me.
“And you, young dragon… have mortema flowing within your veins.”
I… didn’t know what to say. Was I… an undead all this time?
“It seems you have a lot to think about, but know this…”
His face moved closer as he looked at me with his glowing fires for eyes.
“You are still among the living.”
He then retracted himself as he sat back on his throne.
“I do not know how you came to possess mortema, but it’s a mystery I’ll have to learn for another time.”
He stood up and stepped down from his floating throne.
“Forgive my rudeness, but allow me to introduce myself.”
Standing at full height towering above us all at over nine feet, the weight of the being’s existence unfolded before us with the ripple of energies that washed over our bodies.
“I… am Urzemire Magogh. An Archlich and the Supreme Archlord of Time, I am he who rules the Throne of Death and the Grand Custodian of the Logos Eternus Magistus, The One True Book of Magic, also known as the Key of Astranir.”
He waved his hand and suddenly the earth rumbled as it split to reveal a path before a gate. The gate reached all the way to the ceiling and was as wide as six carriages put together side by side. It also seems to be made of marble inlaid with runes and magic arrays.
“I am also one of the Cardinals of the Church of Arcanas, and my Lord has requested your presence. The others can follow, but he will personally see only you.”
He… Urzemire, lightly bowed before us. It’s just one weird thing after another.
First, the strange robbers on the road to this city. Then, there were those fanatics. The “event” at the Pavilion. The organization of assassins that took over the ruling house. The “invasion” of the devils. And now… this.
“You have many questions. Most of them can be answered by Lord Astranir, but if you still feel that there is more to ask from me, then we shall speak after your meeting.”
Every time, it’s as if he could read my thoughts. Does my face really make it obvious? I really need to find a proper mirror and look at myself.
With this thought in my head, the gates opened before us and revealed only a curtain of light that seems to be blocking the view of what was within.
I could no longer see Himalgrim or the skellies so they have gone off at some point. The girls have been mostly quiet, but it’s likely because of the pressure Urzemire kept emitting when we had our conversation.
They’ll likely have a lot to talk about with me, but first things first, I’ve got a ton of questions to ask a god.
Let’s finally meet my so-called brother, face… to face.