“Do you know what the definition of insanity is Joseph?” the voice said, in an almost soothing tone, “It’s trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”
“It is in fact one of the most remarkable traits of the human race. We just don’t know when to give up.” The voice said, moving to the far left corner of the room; away from the near limp body secured to a wooden chair, under a single flickering bulb. And as the dark figure from which it exuded stood there, silent for a moment, Joe felt like the room was empty. And for one brief moment he was alone. But sadly only for a moment. “Surely by now you see that you can end this pain Joseph. Just tell me what I want to hear.”
“Tell me Charles,” the Battlemage said as he stoked the amber flames of the campfire, as they danced before his eyes, “Have you ever been bested my another… Been so beaten that you were unsure you were going to get back up?” His friend turned from the tree he had anointing with the ale of the hours past, happily unaware of the dozens of endangered pixie ants he had just sent to a, lets say watery, grave. “Ha! There is no man who can best me by sword or arm Battlemage! If he were to break my arm, it would mend, and it would return unto him his favour two-fold” “But what if it is not your bones that are broken?” Barekvar added, his face looking much older now than it had in the days past. “Ah…” Charles Manor sighed, finally catching his friend’s drift, “So you speak of the fairer sex. Of wounds much harder to heal.” “I do…” replied Barekvar.
The silence in the small campsite seemed almost deafening. The two childhood friends sat alone around the amber circle, amidst the many Goblin corpses of a raiding party that made the fatal error of thinking they looked easy prey. Their other two compatriots had travelled North, to chase rumours of their quarry, while these two travelled East, to chase others.
“King to Bishop Nine” Barekvar said through clenched teeth as he fought the searing hot pain shooting across his arm. “I can watch this no longer.” murmured Manor under his breath as he turned and walked away, unable to continue his exposure to the sight of his best friend putting himself through such agony, “He is a fool” he added, wiping the beginnings of a tear from his left eye. “Listen to me Barekvar!” King shouted. “He has your Queen. This is over. Stop your madness.” But despite his friend’s pleas of sanity he played the game of infernal chess with the Serpent King, refusing to see the last of his hope dwindle in the face of his opponent’s end game.
As the scaly foe hissed in laughter and made his next move, drawing the game to its inevitable end the Lady Lazarus walked quietly to the Battlemage’s side. There she stood. Motionless and without speech. “I don’t want to hear it.” Barekvar grunted, swallowing back the urge to burst from his seat or pass out from inflamed agony. “I know,” she said, breathing in a long and heavy sigh, “But you have to.”
“No Barekvar! You bastard! Why don’t you try taking me on!” Manor screamed as he pounded his powerful fists against the walls of the cone that held him. Not that his friend and ally could hear him. The cone of silence is a powerful spell, and it had been cast by a powerful hand (if you could call it that).It had been three months since the four old friends has once again taken together and things had been going quite well. Well that is until they fell into the trap of a particularly deranged and sadistic Necromancer. Which is where they currently found themselves.
Barekvar’s hands were bound to the cold marsh earth by ethereal chains that were slowly sapping his strength and his mana, while Lazaraus, King and Manor found themselves entombed inside solid cones, helplessly watching their friend being tormented and drained. “He is strong. I have never seen someone take so much.” said King to himself, racking his brain for a trick or a potion that would free them. The three separated captives seemed not to be of importance to their captor – seemed this wizard was more a fan of those that held in them the essence of the arcane – and the Battlemage was an all-you-can-eat buffet. “Yes Battlemage. Struggle. Struggle and writhe. Feed my hunger.” the villain cackled from under his ebony hood. Barekvar tried to focus his strength on his chains – break their hold and cast a stunning blow – but his mind was flooded with memories and thoughts that jabbed at his heart and dampened his psyche – and no matter how he tried, he couldn’t shake them. “This is no time to fall to pieces old man,” he thought to himself. Was he really going to die enduring such a cliché as his life flashing before his eyes?
“You make decisions every day. Small ones. Big ones. Whether to stop at that coffee place on the corner before punching in. Whether to wait for the light to turn or just chance it. Whether to get that third pint or call it a night. And every one of these decisions affects the course of our lives. Shifts it in the tiniest of ways in a direction unbelievably the same yet completely distinct. This is just one of those decisions Thomas. And like every one of those decisions, it’s one that needs to be made.
Sure some of your choices may seem more pertinent than others. Whether in the end Brown was better. Or should you have held out for Yale. But who’s to say that changed the trajectory of your fate any more than the decision you made between Butternut Squash Risotto or the Rib Eye the day before your 23rd birthday. Who’s to say Yale would have brought you more success? Who’s to say the Rib Eye would have meant you wouldn’t find yourself with that 33 Caliber in your hand right now.
The events of that evening have been often spoken about in hushed tones and whispers. No one knows what really happened mind you. Well, almost no one. Those who swear that they were there, that they saw it with their own eyes, are, I am afraid to say, liars and gossips.
At 12 PM on Sunday the 1st of September Lord Lindsey Lionel Pritchett IV received a letter. Now the most curious thing about this letter was not that it bore no return address, nor that none of the 4 guards at the front gate saw anyone come or go who could have dropped it off, nor even that it consisted merely of 11 words. The strangest thing about it was that it was supposedly written by a man who had been dead near a year. Suffice to say that Lord Pritchett was not amused, for he at once recognized the hand that was meant to have written these eleven words, “The bar good friend. The seventh at seven. Please do come.” and he did not appreciate the prank. Despite his abhorrently long name and his lofty title, Pritchett was a “proper gentleman” only when he had to be, and there were very few individuals who were privy to his true light-hearted nature. But despite his love for a good joke, there were some things he did not take lightly.
“I fear I just do not understand sir. These creatures are very… confusing.”
“What is it about them that confuses you Mr. Fritz?”
“They do not behave in logical patterns sir. Their actions seem almost haphazard at times. Their history shows that they are capable of immense growth. Indeed they have made unbelievable strides considering that their already limited cognitive potential is further impaired by these… What are they called again?”
At an hour too late for most three dark figures entered the near broken down premises of The Lincoln Liars Inn. “We search for the one known as the Battlemage” said the one in a low voice as the figures approached the dingy bar of the Inn. The barkeep shifted in his shoes upon hearing their request, unsure if it was a safer option to answer or to not. “We would appreciate any help you could volunteer” said one of the other two as he slipped a shiny gold piece onto the bar. “Over there” the barkeep whispered pointing to the South East corner of the room with his head.
It is 3 A.M. An unearthly hour by any standard. At this late hour, when the vessel has long since become hollow and empty, the essence leaks forward.
I am Etrigan. I speak with an honesty that etiquette does not allow and society does not accept. When the body is weak from exhaustion, and the wind beaten down by insomnia, I am my strongest. Here, when my mortal host has long lost all will to fight his most primal thoughts, I etch through the sub-concious’ door, as it stands ajar.
There he stood. Face to face with the girl he had said goodbye to all those years ago but had never stopped thinking about. In that one moment that his eyes caught hers he saw his entire life play out before him. He saw the tears in her eyes as he told her he still loved her and always would. He saw himself getting down on one knee in the crowd at a concert as the band played their favorite song. He saw himself waking up next to her smiling face every day for the rest of his life. He saw them old and retired up in the quiet little place in the hills. She really did love the hills. And in that one moment he felt happier than he had ever felt before and so he did something he hadn’t done for a really long time. He smiled. And I don’t mean one of those smiles that you put on for your friends and family so they don’t worry about you. Or that drunken grin you get on your face as you sing along with the song playing in the bar after a few too many pints even though it’s not karaoke night. It was one of those rare smiles where, even though you don’t really have any extraordinary reason to smile, you do anyway, because in that moment, for that fraction of a second, you feel nothing but true content in a way that your mind couldn’t really even begin to understand or express. And wearing that same smile, he turned around and walked away.