Death as a friend
It was such a peculiar feeling. I don't remember all that happened, but it seemed to me that in an instant I had found both happiness and despair. Can you be happy and despondant at the same moment in time? My life has taken an unexpected twist.... Death.
I don't remember much of what happened. We landed at the Temple of the Aspect of Tiamat, seeking our quarry that was once so elusive in this struggle over Mere Lake. I remember landing at the entrance, and I remember being too head strong to form a good plan. I remember my friends were all there. Cerebrum, Skafloc, Dev, Aramis, and even that new sorcerer I hadn't really talked with much yet. I remember walking to a large door, my heart filled with rage and wanting to bring Justice to these beings that had tried and failed to rule the world.
After that, I don't remember much. The sounds of battle, a huge beast decending upon me, and pain. But my life is all about pain, and I welcomed it. After that I don't remember living events, but I remember watching myself play them out.
Tredis stood in a black room. No light, no walls, no discernible ceiling. Just black, all around, black. Had he done something wrong? Should he not be welcomed by Raziel and see the Kingdom of Solarus? Suddenly, he was no longer surrounded by black, but a pure incandecent white, brighter than he had ever known. A lone figure stood in the room with Tredis, a man tall and gaunt with a deep black robe, black as night. His face was sunken and hollow, his limbs rather withered and pale.
"Hello Tredis, at last we meet."
"Who are you?" was all Tredis could reply?
"I am your failure Tredis. Your band of misfits and you have failed. Solarus has been overthrown and his light snuffed out. See, you've been dead for almost 200 years now. It was just by happenstance that one of my minions stumbled upon your remains in that cave of Tiamat, our new Lord of Darkness."
"200 years? That is impossible!"
"So say it yourself I suppose, it changes little."
Tredis was a little apprehensive of this new development, but failed at hiding it from his new host.
"Would you like to see for yourself? I am of course ruler of Life and Death, if it is my will you would live again."
"No, to be restored by one like you Nuerull," recognizing the man at last, "would not be a life I would long to live. I would stay in this prison for all of eternity before I allowed you to touch my soul."
"Suit yourself, Paladin. Your kind fell quite easily after you died. Your friends proved to be quite easy to overcome for Lord Tiamat's minions."
Tredis had little fear of his friends dying because as a man of justice and good, he knew that life was only a trial where a soul was to be judged before placement in Heaven or Hell's armies after death. However, what if this were all true? What if everything had changed and Tiamat did rule the world? Could he have invaded the Outer Planes as well with his newfound power?
"You're starting to know what I say is true, I see that in you. Perhaps I can just show you what has befallen your world, and then you can make your choice."
In an instant, he seemed to be flying accross the expansive continent. He recognized Mere Lake at once, but something was different. Twilight, Saltmarsh, Darkness Falls. None of the towns were there! They swooped lower and lower, and he saw long lines of humanoids from Raptorans to Dwarves and Elves standing in chains, being whipped and beaten and cast about by demonic representations of Dragon's and Undead creatures afoul. Sickened, he averted his eyes, then saw to the north a swirling vortex. It was massive, and seemed to encompass the entire horizon before him. Inside the vortex he knew were souls, the souls that Tiamat was using to feed his power, like a giant vaccuum void, never able to be filled.
The next instant he was standing in the Throne Room of the Great Kingdom. Only now, unlike before, there was no King, no court. No anyone. Just cracking blocks, vines, mold, and dust. Skeletons strewn about, like an ancient tomb.
He stood in the Halls of Solarus, or what was left of them anyway. One of the walls had already fallen in, a home for nothing more than mangy rat creatures that paid him no mind. The great Alter of Solarus had been desecrated, with Runic inscriptions he did not understand but knew were etched with the intent of defiling his God and temple.
At last he was in the cave, where his last life's breath had been expelled. He stood over his own body remains, nothing more than a dusty skeleton, still gripping his battle axe and shield. He smiled, knowing as a true Knight, he had not dropped his weapon even in death. The bodies of his party, his friends, spread accross the room. Unplundered except by the ravages of time. Little care for treasure in this new world of Darkness.
Neurull approached him, "See now why your failure was so complete? See now why you could never go back?"
Tredis didn't even look at him.
"I can help you go where you want to be. But a price must be paid, for nothing is free. I can take you to Solarus, for he is alive, but only upon your word that you will never return to this world. You must bow before me, recognize my power over death, and swear to me that once I send you to your God upon your own judgment that you will never return here."
Tredis didn't move, didn't speak, didn't really think. He already knew. When his lips moved, it came out as a shout, "I AM HORSE LORD TREDIS SHADOWBANE, COMMANDER OF FAR KEEP NINE, DEFENDER OF THE PEOPLE AND KNIGHT OF THE HOUSE OF SOLARUS. I WILL NOT BOW BEFORE YOU OR ANY OTHER GOD THAN THAT OF SOLARUS. I FEAR NEITHER DEATH NOR PAIN, AND I SHALL SEE THAT YOU FACE THE JUDGEMENT AT THE END OF DAYS."
A massive tremor shook the room, the walls and floor seemed to shimmer, to waver ever so slightly. The darkness seemed to crack and split, once again becoming the white light that had broken through before. A huge being, made seemingly of fire, with huge angelic wings and a face of crimson ash, came before the pair. Nuerull didn't budge.
"You have no power here Raziel, you are on my plane. His soul is MINE! This world shall be mine as, as Lord Tiamat has promised!"
"That is where you are wrong Neurull. For Tredis is one of my own, a Fist of my own flesh. His faith in Solarus will carry him through this all, and Solarus has asked me to retrieve him from your grasp. You lose Neurull, his heart can not be tempted or fooled. Go back to the shadow, you insolent whelp of a godling!"
Neurull sagged back, seeming to shrink before the light of Raziel that burned brighter and more intense to the point of blinding Tredis. When the light and fire faded, they were alone.
Raziel put his massive hands on Tredis's shoulder, and looked him full on in the face.
"My son! I am proud to call you one of my own, you embody all the qualities of good, and are both noble and wise. Your work is not done my son. My time is short, I have borrowed Father's power for only a short time."
"Then the world is whole, humanity...."
"All lies my son, only meant to decieve and demoralize you. Neurull can be very influencial. And I was proud to see you see through him and defy his power. You must now return, your friends will need you."
Tredis turned to go, the only door out of this place. But stopped, "Will I see you again Lord Raziel?"
"Of course you will. Just make sure you win." and Raziel laughed in spite of himself.
"Oh and Tredis, be nice to the bard. You two are more intertwined than either of you can ever understand. Your paths are different, but your fates are the same."
When I awoke, I found myself standing outside of the Rusty Anchor, the rain was pouring hard. My body was healed, my flesh and hair restored. Had any of that actually happened? What was the future going to bring. I HAVE to find my friends, they MUST know I live!