The Genemage Archives: Book One, The Eternal King-Chapter Four

 

You can read Chapters one through three at the links below.

Legends Of The Genemage: The Eternal Sovereign, Chapter One

Legends Of The Genemage: The Eternal King, Chapter Two

Legends Of The Genemage: The Eternal King, Chapter Three

     Prince Vikryn stood in the entranceway to Woodhole prison and watched his houndsmen as they performed their duties.  Each houndsmen slowly walked around the dungeon, smelling the air, touching every surface they could, and focusing their minds on their surroundings.  At first, Vikryn had been convinced that the houndsmen were leading him around in circles, but it was soon evident that the circles were not the work of the houndsmen at all.

       Using their heightened senses combined with their mental abilities, the houndsmen had easily picked up the trail of the escaped prisoner.  The trail had first led the prince and his hunters to a small, quiet hillside village of farmers.   After searching the village, the houndsmen sniffed out the prisoner’s trail, which led to a small hut at the edge of the village.  The hut had been abandoned days before the arrival of the hunting party, left empty and barren by its previous occupants.

     To the dismay and disbelief of the prince, the houndsmen then followed the trail back to Woodhole prison.  At first, the prince thought the houndsmen were playing some type of joke on the prince, a jest they would surely pay dearly for.  When they arrived at the prison, it was immediately obvious that there was no jest when the prince learned that another prisoner had been freed.

   “What have you learned from your investigation,” Vikryn asked as the four houndsmen approached him.

     “This break-in was different than the first,” Kretch said, his eyes glazed over as though he were focusing on something beyond his prince.  “There was no stealth or caution this time.  Instead, they barged right in and took the guards by surprise.  The prisoner was joined by a dwarf and an ogre.  It was the ogre that did the most damage, fighting the guards as the prisoner and the dwarf rushed to the cell and freed the prisoner.  The attack was quick and brutal, and they managed to escape before reinforcements could arrive.”

     “I see,” Vikryn said, glancing around the room at the bloodstains and broken bodies littering the floor.  And what can you tell me of this second prisoner?”

     “A woman named Leighta Anhoam,” Kaishu continued.  “A researcher and educator imprisoned for attempting to spread the forbidden knowledge to the lesser classes.”

      “An educator,” the prince repeated, shaking his head as his mind put the puzzle pieces together.  “This is even worse than we had realized.”

     “What does this mean my liege,” Kretch asked.  “Why is this woman so important?”

     “Because she teaches,” Vikryn replied, letting out an exasperated sigh.  “They plan to use her to teach them the magic of science so that they can try to fight my father again.  It is now more important than ever that we find and kill this madman before he can rebuild any kind of army.”

     “Leave that to us,” Kretch said turning to face the other houndsmen.  “We will find them.”

     The four houndsmen gathered in a circle opposite each other, closed their eyes, and grew quiet as they focused their minds on finding the trail of the prisoners.  Vikryn watched impatiently as the houndsmen silently focused their minds, reaching out with their mental abilities for any evidence they could discover.

     “I found something,” Mooris whispered after a time, his voice cutting through the silence.

     “Disseminate,” Kretch ordered, turning his head slightly to face Mooris.  A moment later, each of the houndsmen began to slowly nod their head, seeming to all come to a simultaneous realization.

     “Yes,” Kaishu said.  “I see it too.  I am getting another vision link from that.”

     “Yes, yes,” Kretch said, clenching his hands into fists.  “The picture is forming.”

     “What do you see,” the prince asked, his impatience growing.

     “A town,” Kretch replied, lifting his head while keeping his eyes closed.  “To the north.  Several days journey.  Our prey is headed there.”

     “A town,” the prince repeated with a sigh.

“Yes,” Kretch replied, nodding slowly.  A town that is both bright, yet dirty at the same time.  A town full of noise and debauchery.  A town-”

“Iniquity,” Vikryn exclaimed, interrupting Kretch.  “The town you are describing is called Iniquity.”

“You know this town,” Daan asked.

“Oh yes,” the prince replied with a smirk.  “I know Iniquity very well.  You could say it is practically my second home.  I have had many, many hours in the town of Iniquity.  Hours filled with very interesting experiences.”  Vikryn paused for a moment, staring off into the distance as memories filled his brain.  The prince then put his hands together in a clap of excitement, and let out a laugh dripping with mischief.  “It has been a bit since I have visited Iniquity.  I get to hunt my prey and have a little fun while I am at it.  I like it.”

“Sire,” Kretch asked in confusion.

“Pack up and get ready to move out,” Vikryn ordered.  “We are heading north for a bit of hunting and debauchery.”

“As you command sire,” Kretch said, bowing to his prince and then turning to face the other houndsmen.  “Houndsmen, prepare to move out.”

The Gods Wager-Part One

The Proposition

Ozmos took a deep breath, steeling his nerves as he soared towards the temple of the First Gods on the back of his colossal falcon.  Though it was Ozmos himself that had demanded an audience with the First Gods, he was mindful of the fact that the pantheon greatly outnumbered him.  Ozmos was also painfully aware that he, having no other gods in his pantheon to rely on, could only ask his faithful to give him the strength needed to confront the First Gods.  As his falcon swooped down towards the ancient temple, Ozmos leapt off the great bird, flipped through the air three times, then landed at the foot of the temple in a crouching position.  Ozmos turned his fierce gaze to the entrance of the temple before slowly rising into a strong, warrior stance.  As he stood there, staring defiantly at the temple, a small figure scuttled out of the shadows of the entrance-way.  As the figure entered the sunlight, Ozmos could see that the figure was nothing more than a short, thin, elderly man that seemed to be in danger of being swallowed up by the thick cloak he wore.

“Ozmos,” the man wheezed loudly, “Son of the Holy Father, Protector of the Unwashed, Defier of the First Gods-“

“I think you’ve covered enough of my titles,” Ozmos barked.  Let’s just get on with it.

“Very well,” the old man said, smiling wryly.  “If you would follow me then.”

Ozmos let out a frustrated sigh before following the old man into the darkened entrance of the Temple of the First Gods.  As his eyes adjusted to the interior light provided by several flaming torches along the wall of a barren hallway he was being led down, Ozmos found his nerves settling by his surging fortitude.  Moments later, the old man led Ozmos through a doorway into a large antechamber.  In the center of the chamber, a large pit of fire burned, sending dancing shadows across the walls and ceiling.  On the opposite side of the  chamber, a robust, middle-aged man with long hair and a strong beard sat on a throne atop a large dais glaring down at Ozmos.  Seated next to the man was a woman of great beauty, her face an expression of soothing calmness that eased the remaining nerves of Ozmos.  Before the dais, a young man in full armor stood, his arms crossed in an expression of defiance as he to glared at Ozmos.

“Dekus,” Ozmos said, bowing his head to show respect to the gods before him.  “I am honored that you would agree to meet with me.”

“Honored,” The bearded god Dekus barked angrily.  “The only reason I agreed to this meeting is to see with my own eyes the petulant child that would dare to request an audience with the father of all the gods.”

“You are the father of all the First Gods,” Ozmos stated bluntly.  “But, you are not my father.  I am not one of your god children.  You would be wise to remember that.”

“You would dare,” Dekus roared.  “You are nothing to me, the First of the First Gods!  You are but a juvenile to me!  A false god trying to claim what belongs to me and my First!”

“I may be a new god,” Ozmos declared calmly, “But I am a god, make no mistake.  My followers give me just as much power as your followers give you, and my the size of my flock increases constantly.  Even as I speak to you now, I gain more followers.  Soon, my congregation might even outnumber yours.  A new dawn is rising, Dekus.  The faiths of man are ever-changing, and you of the First Gods cannot hope to remain relevant in the face of such evolution.  I represent the progress of man from the darkness of the First Gods to the light of the one, true god.  You cannot hope to halt such progress forever.”

“We do not have to stand for such disrespectful boasting father,” the young man in armor shouted.  “Let me face this heathen usurper in combat and I will prove who is the better god.”

“Calm yourself son,” the woman in the throne beside Dekus chided.  “There will be no combat in this sacred temple.  And husband, you let your temper get the better of you again.  Please, allow me to handle this situation.”

Dekus glared at his wife briefly before finding his anger melt before her soothing eyes.  “You are right my love, as always.  Please, speak for me.  I trust your judgement in this matter.”

“Thank you my husband,” the woman said, smiling and placing her hand on the cheek of Dekus.  After a moment, the woman turned her attention to Ozmos, who stood tall and defiant before the First Gods.  “Do you know who I am?”

“Of course my lady,” Ozmos replied, bowing his head slightly.  “You are Ielis, wife to Dekus and mother of the First Gods.  I am honored to speak with you.”

“You come before us speaking of honor,” Ielis affirmed, “but then you proceed to inform us that we are antiquated and obsolete.  It seems you are the god of contradictions, if not the god of good judgement.”

Ozmos let out a long sigh, then lowered his head before speaking again.  “I must beg your forgiveness I’m afraid.  It was not my intention to insult you, your husband, or any of the First Gods.  Nor was it my desire to be the cause of confrontation.  I am not a warrior like your son, Atul, the God of War.  I am a god who spreads the tenets of peace, the words of love, the code of brotherhood.  I have not come to your temple, your home, to attack or threaten you.  I have come only to show you the truth of the world outside this temple.”

“And what truth might that be,” Ielis inquired dubiously.

“A simple truth,” Ozmos replied.  “One that should be obvious to those not blinded by pride or arrogance.  As I have stated, I am new to the role of god.  Once, I was but a mere mortal man elevated to the position of god by those who believed in me and placed their faith in me.  Being that I was once mortal, my followers see me as one of their own.  A god who cares more about the people of the world than about his own power.  I am here to warn you that my followers are growing at an exponential level, converting even those who once followed the First Gods.  As I said, this is the path of progress, and I fear that the First Gods are in danger of being wiped from existence by such progress.”

“And so, you have come to our domain out of concern for our existence?  You are telling us that you are acutally concerned about those that you are usurping?”

“I am not trying to usurp the First Gods, my Lady.  If I had my choice, I would gladly share my faithful with the First Gods.  I am afraid,  however, that such a thing is not possible.  It is the will of the people that the order of the First Gods fade from existence, leaving only myself as the one true God of the people.”

“This is preposterous,” Dekus bellowed, springing up from his throne and waving an angry fist at Ozmos.  “You claim that you are no warrior, yet you are clearly here to challenge us!  And yet, you are but a single, solitary god, challenging a pantheon of many.  Why should we care what you have to say to us?  What could you possibly have to challenge us with?”

“Again Old Father,” Ozmos replied calmly, “I am not here to attack you.  I am here to inform you.  Your days of godhood are waning.  Soon, you will fade away as your faithful are all converted to following me.  Your existence will be forgotten, and you will be nothing more than stories parents tell their children to bore them to sleep at night.”

Dekus glared at Ozmos for a long moment before finally letting out a loud, boisterous laugh.  “I have to admire your fearlessness Ozmos.  I question whether it is courage or foolhardiness that motivates you to challenge we the First Gods, who have ruled the heavens for thousands of years.  You say you are here to warn us of our impending demise, so tell me then, what do you propose.  What is the true reason for your visit here?”

“Despite what you might think,” Ozmos replied, “I do not actually wish to see you or your pantheon destroyed or eliminated.  That is not my way.  I am actually here to make you an offer.  Your reign as gods will be over soon, but your legacy can live on if you choose to join me and my gospel.  I will canonized as the first of my saints.  It is an honor I bestow on only the holiest of my flock.  You will be remembered always as my disciples, immortilzed in scripture for all time.”

Dekus stared coldly at Ozmos, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully as he rubbed his bearded chin.  Dekus then took a deep breath, exhaling it slowly.

“I have an alternate offer,” Dekus said at last.  “A true test of the validity of your statements.  If you are so certain that your flock is stronger than mine, then I propose a wager.  A true test of the faith of our followers.  I propose that we each choose a champion among our faithful to represent us.  These champions will face each other with their faith in their hearts and we shall see whose is stronger.  We each give our champion a set of weapons and armor that is strengthened by their faith and see who’s faith prevails.”

“An interesting proposition,” Ozmos responded, nodding his head thoughtfully.  “And what will be the stakes to such a wager?”

“If you win,” Dekus answered, “then I, and all the First Gods, will agree to your offer.  We will relinquish our godhood and agree to become these saints that you speak of without any further resistance or complaint.”

“And if you should somehow happen to defeat me?”

“Then you will give up your godhood, tell your followers that you are a fraud, and return to your existence as a mere mortal.  I will even allow you to become a legend among our followers.  I will create a parable about you, the man who challenged the First Gods and lost.  Your story will forever be a moral for all to learn from.  How do you respond to my proposition Ozmos?”

Ozmos turned his glance towards the fire pit in the center of the room as he pondered the offer presented by the Old Father.  Weighing his confidence in his faithful against the risk of losing such a wager, Ozmos came to the conclusion that there could only be one possible outcome for his beloved flock of followers.

“Yes Old Father,” Ozmos answered slowly.  “I have as much faith in my followers as they have in me.  The terms you have put forth are acceptable.  I agree to your wager.”

“Excellent,” Dekus replied with a laugh.  “Then let it be so.  Let us now go and find our champions and make our preparations.”

“As you wish,” Ozmos said, bowing respectfully towards the First Gods.  “Shall we reconvene once all is ready to witness the challenge?”

“Indeed we shall,” Dekus replied cheerfully.  “I look forward to the contest.  I must thank you Ozmos.”

“Thank me for what?”

“Existence has been a bit mundane for me of late,” Ozmos stated.  “You have brought a touch of excitement into my life.  No matter the inevitable outcome of our game here, I am at least grateful for this experience.”

“I am happy to breathe some new life in your ancient existence,” Ozmos said casually as he walked out of the antechamber.

Boys Will Be, Part Two

The plan was simple enough, what could possibly go wrong?  Bert, the bully who spent his days picking on and tormenting Scottie, had put forth a dare for Scottie to sneak into the Mystery House in their neighborhood to get proof that the house was haunted.  Scottie, skeptical that the house was actually as haunted as people said, was trying to find a way into the house when the front door mysteriously opened for him.  With Bert goading him on from the safety of the sidewalk, Scottie cautiously entered the front door.  Initially, Scottie was unimpressed by the stark hallway before him, which contained no decorations at all.  Scottie saw two doors in the hallway, one at the end of the hall, and one to his left side with a staircase leading to the second floor of the house on his right side.  As he moved down the hallway, Scottie was shocked to see what appeared to be the ghost of a woman appear at the top of the stairs.  When the ghostly woman charge towards him, screaming that he did not belong in the house, Scottie found himself frozen with fear.

With his eyes shut as tight as humanly possible, Scottie felt a sudden urge to flee overtake his mind.  Scottie took two step backwards, then tripped on a rug in the hallway, falling backwards onto the floor.  As he hit the floor, Scotties eyes opened, and he watched the ghostly woman float over him, passing the spot he had been standing.  Scottie scrambled to his feet, and looked back towards the front door he had entered to see the ghostly woman floating there, directly blocking his path out of the Mystery House.

“You should not be here,” the woman hissed, pointing her bony finger at Scottie once again.

“Please,” Scottie whispered, his dry mouth preventing him from speaking fully.

“You should not be here,” the woman screeched again before charging towards Scottie once again.  Scottie let out another hoarse scream before turning around and running towards the closed door at the end of the hallway.  Once he reached the door, Scottie frantically reached for the doorknob, turned it, and felt a microscopic moment of relief as the door opened.  Scottie rushed into the room on the other side of the hallway, slamming the door behind him and falling to the floor with his arms covering his head.

When his pounding heartbeat at last settled to a dull throb in his ears, Scottie realized that several minutes had passed in silence with no sign of the ghostly woman.  Scottie slowly moved his arms away from his head, slowly scanning the area around him for immediate danger.  Scottie was surprised, yet relieved to discover that he had landed on the floor of a rather conventional kitchen.  As Scottie looked around the kitchen, he saw an old, if otherwise unremarkable, refrigerator on the wall opposite the door he had entered. To the left of the refrigerator, a sink with a small countertop attached to it had a small pile of dirty dishes peeking over the rim.  Scottie noticed immediately that the dishes appeared to be recently used, which he found extremely odd.  Scottie found himself wondering if the ghost woman that had attacked him was responsible for the dirty dishes, but he quickly dismissed the absurd notion with a chuckle.  A small window above the sink gave Scottie a view of a sparse and empty back yard.

On the other side of the refrigerator, Scottie saw another closed door that appeared unexceptional.  On the wall directly to the right of the closed door, Scottie saw an old style gas stove  with a couple of dirty pans resting on top.  Behind the stove, another window look out onto the driveway on the side of the house To Scottie’s left, another closed door rested on hinges that would allow the it to swing open and spring back to close once again.

Scottie slowly ran his eyes back and forth between the three doors leading out of the kitchen, including the door he had been chased through, trying to decide what his best course of action would be.  Scottie quickly decided that he did not want to face the ghost woman again, which made the decision to eliminate that particular egress an easy one.  Scottie took a deep breath, looked towards the ceiling of the kitchen, then decided to enter the swinging door to his left.

Scottie stepped towards the door, trying his best to be as quiet as humanly possible, placed his hand on the door, took another deep breath, then carefully pushed the door open.  Another small room occupied the space on the other side of the door as Scottie entered, though he could not focus on the details of the room as he could only focus on what lay in the center.  Scottie let out a gasp of horror as his attention was pulled to a large, wooden table directly in the middle of the room.  The table itself was completely unremarkable, but the man laying on the table shocked Scottie to the very core of his being.

Scottie’s first instinct was to flee in terror when he saw the man lying in two pieces on the table, but he forced himself instead to investigate closer.  The unfortunate man, who was clearly dead, was separated at the waist, cut in half by some unknown blade perhaps, with his legs resting at least a foot away from his upper torso.  What struck Scottie as odd, other than the fact that there was a dead man cut in half lying before him, was the fact that there did not appear to be a single drop of blood anywhere on the table, or on the man himself.  Letting his curiosity guide him, Scottie reached out his hand to touch the man, if only to see if what he saw was real.  As he cautiously moved his hand towards the halved man, the man’s eyes sprung open abruptly, causing Scottie to stumble backwards with a scream.

“You,” the halved man hissed, his voice barely above a whisper.

“No,” Scottie cried, continuing to step backwards.  “Oh no!”

“You s-should,” the man stuttered, struggling to get the words out.

“Don’t,” Scottie whispered.  “Please don’t.”

“You should not be here,” the man stated at last.

“I know,” Scottie whispered.

“You should not be here,” the man said again, louder this time.

“I know,”Scottie whispered, his voice shaking.  “I know.”

“You should not be here,” the man bellowed, loud enough to startle Scottie.

“I know,” Scottie shouted, turning and bursting through the swinging door back into the kitchen.  “I know!  I know!  I know!”

Scottie continued shouting as he ran through the kitchen to the one door he had not yet been through.  Scottie opened the door and was greeted by a darkness that he could not see through.  With fear pushing him, Scottie stepped through the doorway into the darkness, and immediately felt himself fall and tumble down a flight of stairs he could not see.

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