Albinor Chronicles - Chapter 35 - "Into Hell"

by Marcus Pan

Chain Border

August 25, 010

As they rode from the door of Dakon's Tower they clearly heard the magical portal slam shut behind them regardless of the stone they had placed to prop it open. Not ones to worry for the future of things they decided they would tackle the problem of another entry when they return. They turned their hellish mounts, nightmares to be precise, in the northward direction and began to head over the mountainous terrain in the direction of the small village of Fongunis where, as they planned, they were to not only rest and purchase supplies but spend weeks in training to rise in stature in their respective trades.

They stopped their horses quickly after departure from the Tower, merely a mile north. There they posted alternate watches and rested for the evening as adventuring for days within the confines of a place such as Dakon Tower tolls heavily on one's physical stature. The rest was welcomed heartily by the four. They slept easily, dreamed pleasantly and nothing in the midst of the mountains caused them harm throughout the cool, August night.

The next morning began quite normal enough. The four were just beginning to chew on their last day of rations when their mounts began to whinny outside the camp. The went to see what it was that was bothering the four nightmares. Beside Darax's horse was a man dressed extremely similarly to him leading away his mount. However, only he could see him. The others simply saw the mare walk away. But, beside Xarad's mount, was a man dressed like him only he could see. And so it was for all four. They could see the respective men beside their own mounts but none of the others. Another interesting fact about these creatures was that they glowed with a faint, purplish light in the twilight of the morning. The Legion called to them and the four respective creatures turned. The similarities between the Legion of Doom and their four enemies grew more apparent as they turned, for not only did they wear the same armor, clothes and bear the same arms, they also wore their faces. Darax, and only Darax, saw a duplicate of him looking back but only he saw him. Xarad saw his simulacrum, Quorthon his and Zarathos his but none of the others. Everything was exactly duplicated right down to the same fresh wound on their bodies and dents in their armor. Everything, that is, except for the purplish hue which surrounded them.

Needless to say, a battle between the Legion of Doom and their counterparts ensued. The battle was very short, but terribly brutal. Darax and Xarad were felled almost immediately while Quorthon and Zarathos defeated their counterparts. Upon the felling of the respective legionnaires the creatures who matched the features of Darax and Xarad rode off in a hurry on the nightmares. And upon the defeat of the two that seemed to represent the bodies of Quorthon and Zarathos the monsters disappeared upon their defeat accompanied by thunder, a flash of lightning (though now storm rode the skies) and then were gone. However, in the flash and thunder so were Quorthon and Zarathos.

Quorthon and Zarathos, the victors who were left standing in the mountains of Glantri, found themselves upon the bank of a strange, ice-ridden river. The ground was extremely warm to the touch. Rifts and chasms belched steam and soot into the air. The air seemed to be strangely illuminated of its own accord with no help from any sun or other source. Behind them, away from the river, mountains and sheer cliffs rose, amazingly smooth, into the air. They were surrounded by extremes the smoothest of cliffs, the tallest of mountains and the deepest of chasms. Tall waves of fire rode quickly across the parched ground turning everything in their way to ash. Nonetheless, these sights were nothing compared to that which lie on the opposite bank of the river. 'Twas a palace so tall and so mighty one could not be sure the top was visible. It just rose high into the sky like a monstrous abomination. But it fit perfectly, for this place, wherever they may be, was a huge, infinite abomination in itself.

Between the two elves and the palace was a wide expanse of ice-covered river. The ice shifted and cracked often. Then it floated back together and re-bonded in a chaotic manner. Bridges spanned the ice from berg to berg and these chaotically fell into the murky, green water beneath and were rebuilt by unseen hands. The men found, by study, that the shortest route between where they stood and the palace involved the crossing of five spans of ice and four bridges. Still the bridges fell into the water and rose up again. The ice cracked and flowed together again. It was too chaotic to judge the safest route (there really was none) only the shortest.

Their intense study of the river was cut short by the heat and scream of a fire wave that was hurling itself in their direction. Moving at a rapid pace, the two decided to chance river than become ash, so they stepped onto the ice at a trot. Immediately they lost their footing. This ice was slick like no other. The wave was just behind them as the force of their movement flung them across the ice on their backs to the first bridge. The fire passed them by, but it's passing melted the ice and it snapped in the center. Holding onto the bridge as the ice drifted apart, the two men scrambled up it and grabbed the next sheet by their hands as the bridge sank beneath them. The water was life threateningly cold and they dragged themselves, somehow without slipping again, onto the ice. Zarathos thought he felt something brush his leg as he hobbled up onto the ice, but it could have been the cold itself.

They walked gingerly across the second expanse onto the second bridge and attempted the same on the next. Again they lost their footing and the ice began to give way beneath their weight. They placed daggers in each of their hands and half scurried, half dragged themselves across to the third bridge. The fourth expanse split as they stepped upon the fourth and final bridge, but the bridge somehow managed to hold its footing and not fall. Now between them and the palace was the fifth and longest expanse of ice. It must have been nearly fifty feet across and seemed the most chaotic of the rest. Nearly every two minutes it cracked and floated away in five or six pieces. Then it came back together, reformed and split again in a different pattern. No more than two minutes had they to cross this fifty foot expanse, after which was the hard, parched ground before the palace. Strange beasts flew high above them, too big to be birds yet too high to know for sure. Deciding they'd rather be on ground than on a bridge which would probably fall within the next few moments, they made their move.

Stepping onto the ice and moving quickly they attempted to use their feet and hurl themselves across the slippery surface. However when the two tried to push off with their feet they both lost their balance and flipped head first onto the hard ice. Bleeding and dazed, they used the daggers to begin dragging themselves across the slippery surface. When they embedded their daggers simultaneously in the surface of the ice it cracked quickly and they both tumbled into the freezing water. Coughing and sputtering not just from the water but because of its extreme low temperature as well, they tried to climb onto a piece of the ice that had broken off and floated near them. As they rolled onto it the opposite end flipped up and nearly came down upon them. They let go, not wanting to be crushed by a couple tons of ice, and the other end near them flipped upwards in the torrent of weight and waves and hit Quorthon square in the head. Quorthon blacked out, sinking in the water. Zarathos grabbed for him and flung him back onto the ice. He heard his friend's limp body slide across the ice, but couldn't see where he was headed as the ice was too thick to see above. Next he flung himself over as the ice came back together nearly crushing him. He slid over the ice on his knees using the daggers to propel himself and dragged the unconscious body of Quorthon to the ground on the other side of the ice-ridden river.

The ground on the other side was even warmer. Their bodies warmed up and dried off quickly and the two, as Zarathos had awoke the unconscious Quorthon with a few slaps to the head, headed for the palace now only twenty feet away. On either side of the tall, open doors were two creatures covered with coarse, matted hair. Their bodies were a reddish brown and their arms hung low to the ground. The two men simply walked passed them and into the palace. They now stood in a huge foyer. A staircase winded upwards for what seemed like a couple hundred feet. Huge metallic doors were guarded by tall statues of black metal. They didn't move (at least not yet), but not wanting to chance it they headed up the unguarded staircase to a closed door.

The door's workmanship was amazing. It seemed the heaviest of structures, but a single and light touch opened it on hinges that were excellently crafted. They entered into a room which was extremely large. The other side they could not see and columns rose to the ceiling high above their heads. Tapestries on the walls depicted people in wild parties doing all sorts of sins from drink to sex. They headed toward the other side of the room and it began to become visible. Seated upon a huge throne was Asmodeus. The two legionnaires looked at each other and realized their location Hell. They approached the god.

"You've defaulted on your contract, mortals." said Asmodeus in a factual voice. "Yet you have beaten your individual aleaxes. Therefore, you were summoned to serve me. Upon the end of your service, a length of time equal to a year and a day, you are both free to go and live your lives with or without me as your god. However, I have taken back the gifts of the nightmares which you have ridden so long without acceptance nor worship of your lord and god. Your friends are also well and alive though alone." Asmodeus snapped his fingers before they could reply and the two were lead away to begin their direct service to Asmodeus.

Meanwhile, back on Albinor, Darax and Xarad awoke from their fitful slumber. The dream they both shared was a vision of Asmodeus turning his back on them and walking away. When they blinked they also saw the figures of Quorthon and Zarathos walking with him. They awoke and were alone and weak from the brutal battle with the simulacrums. The nightmares were gone as was the other two member of the Legion. They walked northward towards Fongunis totally unsure as to what they should do.

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