Screams echoed from the mountains of Roshamuul, fear seemed to take hold, but despite this they slowly gained ground towards the northeast of the island. After several combats with the creatures of the place they were able to reach the entrance of the cisterns in which Fardos had mentioned. That place was known among adventurers, as many entered and few left, rumors said it was a real labyrinth and that the creatures of the place used to kill their prey by suffocation and fatigue, all this tormented the minds of the noble adventurers even more.
Olga and Riberus took the first steps, both said:
– "Come, by the north stairs!"
The others, a little apprehensive, decided to accompany them, keeping together in this place was the most important thing. Upon stepping on the first step of the stairs, the environment was totally deformed, and before they could look around a strange creature attacked them, it was a Terrorsleep.
As they were in good numbers, this creature, despite being hideous, was easily defeated. Still afraid, they had to decide between stairs and paths, little by little they sank even deeper into that labyrinth.
At one point, when deciding on a specific ladder, the environment changed radically, they were in a room with at least 5 of those horrible creatures, the combat was difficult and long, although with some injuries the team defeated them. There was a strange ladder next to them, unlike the others it was not broken, they decided to go up, but instead of appearing in another totally different place they were surprised that the ladder just worked like a normal one, there was again a Terrorsleep that attacked them ferociously and much faster than any other.
Valiant, in a defensive stance, showed his ring of ending, the Terrorsleep strangely stopped and watched the ring with enormous interest. The team, which was already prepared to attack that creature, retreated from that strange attitude. A strong light began to come out of that Terrorsleep, his body was consumed by the light and his contours began to change, his large and grotesque form gradually passed into a human-like form, soon the light ceased and revealed what would be a real dream warden, everyone jumped in fright and retreated, but he took steps towards everyone and said:
– "You have the key… our symbol… I haven't seen anyone with one of these for a long time, since the captain…"
Valiant replied to the strange fellow:
– "Not only do I have such a ring, our companion Ragna also has one of these." As Valiant spoke, Ragna approached and showed her ring to the Dream Warden.
– "Amazing, two at once… you who have the key will be able to enter our fortress, you are welcome… Those who don't have it will not be able to enter.", said the strange dream warden.
The others on the team started mumbling among themselves, and in less than a minute between exchanging opinions and ideas Hera spoke aloud:
– "Alright, Valiant and Ragna, please follow the plan, we will wait for you here."
The dream warden, satisfied, said:
– "Make yourself comfortable in this place, it's safe, although I looked like a Terrorsleep before, it was just a disguise to avoid invaders and ward off curious people..."
– "Valiant and Ragna, bearers of the ring, know that this room you are in will change with time, and objects related to you and your lives will take the place of these ship captain related objects that are scattered around, they were still here because the last one who came to me was a ship's captain."
– "Are you ready to enter our fortress?"
Valiant and Ragna responded with high interest:
– "Yes we are!"
– "Excellent, put your hands close to this furnace", he pointed to a furnace to the south and continued: "Put your hands on the fire, do not be afraid, the fire will consume you and transport you to our fortress."
A little wary, Valiant and Ragna placed their hands on the blazing furnace, the other warriors witnessed their bodies go up in flames and disappear. Both, in the blink of an eye, appeared on a small road, of all they could see, certainly the most striking was a huge fortress in the background, it looked very dark, with blue bricks and numerous windows, beyond it there were stones that floated everywhere and the climate of the place, which had a damp and rainy appearance. They began their walk towards the front door.
When they got close to the big door they heard a loud noise, as if something rusty was breaking. It was at this moment that Valiant and Ragna realized that the door was opening for them. With a mixture of fear and curiosity they entered the fortress, everything seemed abandoned: there were cobwebs everywhere, an immense amount of dust, and the smell of the environment that made even the strongest succumb to nausea.
Valiant then shouted:
– "Anybody here?"
His scream echoed throughout the room, without any response.
– "Ragna, I think this place is totally abandoned" While he was facing her, she noticed a huge figure passing between two halls, quickly Ragna alerted him while preparing her bow:
– "Valiant! There's something there, and it's big!"
Valiant, frightened, unsheathed his sword. Again such a creature passed quickly by the backs of the two warriors, they were startled and headed towards the figure, Ragna shot an arrow that hit one of the walls of the corridor.
Both, in desperation, felt a wet breath on their backs, quickly turned around and found a creature similar to a silencer, they were about to attack him when they heard a voice:
– "Don't attack him, he's harmless, he's just curious… We haven't had visitors for a long time, and he's happy to see someone besides me here."
A dream warden appeared from the darkness, approached both adventurers and said:
– "By the way, I'm surprised, who are you? Say your name and profession…"
– "I am Valiant, Knight..."
– "I am Ragna, Paladin…"
Both responded quickly as a sign of respect, but as their curiosity was great, Valiant asked:
– "And you, what could we call you?"
The Dream Warden took off his mask and looked at both of them, after a few seconds of silence he finally said:
– "I'm Marv, the last Dream Warden, at least the last one who hasn't gone mad yet..."
Valiant, surprised, said:
– "Were you Captain Marv? From the ship SS. Primordia?"
Marv, even more surprised, replied:
– "Yes, that's me… I would ask you how you know that, but I think your topic is more urgent… Why are you here?"
– "We need to enter Azerus' dreams and get some information." Ragna replied.
– "Invade someone's dream… and why him? Who sent them here?" Marv obviously wanted more information, he knew that something weird was going on.
Valiant and Ragna, undecided, looking at each other seemed to ask themselves in their thoughts: "Should we tell the truth?". Valiant decided it was right to keep his sincerity:
– "We need information about Azerus and an organization to which he belongs, who sent us was Fardos, the creator of this world..."
Marv couldn't contain his amazement, they had the ring, they were allowed in and whoever sent them was none other than one of the gods. Anyone would normally suspect that there would be a chance they were lying, but not Marv, he believed in a legend of the order of the end that indicated that those who owned the ring were sincere and their causes noble, for him there was no chance they were lying. Without any doubt, he decided to give them all the support they needed. Marv, still with visible surprise on his face, said:
– "Alright, I'll help you with whatever you need, follow me. By the way, welcome to the fortress of the Order of the End!"
They went down many stairs towards the basement, the further down they went, the more darkness took over the place. Marv finally stopped at one of the floors and said:
– "We arrived at the dream room, do not be surprised, the place is really huge".
Marv opened the door and a great light dazzled the eyes of Valiant and Ragna, after a few seconds they were able to get used to it and observed a huge hall, extremely bright and well lit with thousands of figures and crystals next to them. As they walked they could identify several of the figures, such as King Tibianus, Queen Eloise, Henricus and many others, Marv seemed to know with extreme precision the location of each figure, including that of Azerus.
After a few minutes of silent walking, Marv suddenly stopped, looked to his right, and said:
– "Here you go, Azerus, to reach your dream you must think of a specific point in time. It can be the past, present or even the future..."
– "We need it to be in the moment before Azerus was defeated and expelled from Yalahar…" Ragna replied quickly.
– "Okay, touch the crystal, you will be taken to the dream of Azerus, hold on tight… The journey is usually difficult the first few times."
They touched the crystal, the world seemed to spin, their bodies were deformed, everything went dark and suddenly became clear again, they were there, watching one of Azerus' dreams.
Azerus was unmistakable with his outfit, he was joined by many other Yalaharis in slightly less extravagant outfits. Valiant and Ragna approached very carefully, they didn't know that no matter what they did, no one would notice them. A short distance away, they began to listen to the meeting:
– "Variphor can't wait much longer, the ascension ritual should take place very soon, but first we need to make sure that his creatures can enter and stay in our dimension for a suitable time..."
– "Azerus, this already seemed to be something right, we were able to keep a lot of Rift Broods, Worms and Scythes underground in the city, the dimension change process seems to have finally reached something stable…"
– "It is stable, but these creatures are losing most of their strength during the transition, and this Variphor will not accept, we need to find a solution and we must be discreet, there are already numerous suspicions around the city, starting with this Palimuth..."
– "Azerus, give him an ultimatum, tell him to join us, or we will kill him to prevent our secrets from spreading."
Ragna, frightened, couldn't contain her fear and let out a shrill scream, Valiant put his hand to her mouth but noticed that strangely no one had heard, again that feeling that everything was spinning came back, a great whirlpool sucked everything belonging to that dream and they returned to darkness. The light again appeared and there was Azerus, but the environment has changed: they were at the final fight room in the center of Yalahar, where other versions of Valiant and Ragna were also, but much younger. Azerus was about to be defeated despite numerous war golems protecting him, a teleport appeared as a distraction and several people entered it, however, in the midst of this distraction Azerus slipped through a secret passage, Valiant and Ragna followed.
Azerus seemed to speak very quickly as he ran, he was using some sort of device:
– "The Plan A has failed, we were discovered, an army is invading and sealing the passage to Variphor's dimension, the inquisition will find us soon if we don't flee, I will meet you all at the agreed location, we follow plan B".
Valiant and Ragna followed Azerus, but were confused as to what this Plan B would be.
Finally they reached the basement of the alchemist quarter of Yalahar, there was a strange portal with bones and energy arcs that seemed to orbit this portal, every minute more Yalaharis arrived, all silent. A few time had passed since plan A had failed when Azerus spoke in a loud voice to all present:
– "Our plan has unfortunately failed, but we will not give up! We will retreat to the land of our master Variphor, a city is being built like the one we have always lived in, we will return and next time the world will pay for its mistakes!
Azerus touched the portal with a staff, it completely changed color and the energy arcs tripled in size, one by one the Yalaharis entered, Azerus was the last. After everyone entered, the portal made loud and incomprehensible sounds and suddenly exploded, the entire environment around the alchemist quarter was destroyed, Valiant and Ragna tried to escape, but the explosion did nothing to them, after all, they were only in a dream plane and nothing there could physically affect them. Right after the explosion the whole environment began to deform, the darkness returned again and after opening their eyes again they were there, with Marv, who was looking at them with great curiosity.
– "What happened?" Said Marv.
– "Azerus is one of the leaders of the followers of Variphor, they have a city in the other dimension…" Said Valiant, almost out of breath.
– "They fled there, the portal is in the Alchemist Quarter." Ragna completed.
Marv didn't know much about Variphor, but he knew that something very bad was happening if the two didn't have full support, he used a spell and took Valiant and Ragna to a forbidden place in the dream area, both jumped in fright when they saw the bright environment change to an extremely dark one, where crystals were the only sources of light in the room.
– "This place… The hall of forbidden dreams, I have never entered any of them because I have always been informed that they can be dangerous."
– "I don't know Variphor very well, but I think you are looking for more information about him… Here is a crystal that leads to his dream. If you want to enter, be very careful, I don't know what you'll find there."
Both adventurers paralyzed with fear, the curiosity was immense and the risk even greater. Entering that dream could bring answers, but it could reveal disturbing truths. Valiant decided to ask Marv:
– "But isn't Variphor a god from the other dimension? How could we access the dream of such a powerful entity?"
– "This dream does not belong to that god, but to his aspect of Demon Overlord that has already invaded or will invade our world in the future."
Valiant and Ragna looked at each other, and thought: "Would that be a prediction of what was to come?", both decided that they wanted to know what would occur in their future, so they approached the crystal and touched it.
The dark room became even darker, immense beams of energy appeared from all sides partially illuminating the darkness, a strong fog made any visual identification of the place even worse, and through the fog appeared an image of a black demon overlord, with yellow eyes and brown horns. Valiant and Ragna thought that like the other dreams, nothing there could affect or perceive them.
Variphor, in his demonic aspect said:
– "Valiant… Ragna… Followers of Fardos… Your end is near, very near…"
Both froze in fear, without speaking a single word they tried to flee the place, they ran with all their strength but the distance between them and Variphor remained the same.
– "It's no use running away… But I have good news for you, an opportunity…"
Valiant and Ragna stopped immediately and turned to look at Variphor. This god, despite being in an aspect belonging to this dimension, still retained great power, and one of them was the ability to hypnosis of inferior beings, and this is precisely what he did:
– "Join me, I will give you strength and power that you never dreamed of, I will grant you eternal life in my kingdom".
Valiant was fighting within him against that immense power that seemed to seep deeper and deeper into his mind, when he let out a cry:
– "NOOO, AAAAHHHH"
He, paralyzed, saw at his side Ragna walking towards Variphor, he desperately shouted again:
– "NO Ragna, don't approach him, hold on!"
She didn't stop, Valiant began to lose his strength. Again he shouted, but now out of breath:
– "Ragna… no… don't do that…"
Ragna approached Variphor and said:
– "Master, I present myself to contribute to your interests." She quickly directed her gaze to Valiant.
Valiant fell to the ground without strength, raised his face and noticed that Ragna's eyes were no longer the same, she was possessed. In a last desperate attempt he spoke:
– "Ragna, it's me Valiant, please come back!"
Variphor let out a hellish laugh and spoke:
– "So be it, I welcome you Ragna, welcome to the kingdom of darkness!"
Valiant noticed that the floor seemed to spin, a strong whirlpool began to suck everyone in, he temporarily lost consciousness and woke up again in the huge hall where Marv was waiting. Marv realized that something very bad had happened since only Valiant had returned, and he was in tears.
– "Where is Ragna?", Marv asked, but afraid he already knew the answer.
– "Variphor… He took her… He was very strong and she couldn't resist… We lost her", said Valiant while crying.
A huge explosion startled them. The hall, until then dark, lit up completely, an extremely bright figure appeared… It was Fardos.
– "Come Valiant, we need to talk urgently, I already took your other companions, come with me".
– "Marv, you knew that these dreams were extremely dangerous…", Fardos said angrily.
Marv, kneeling, lowered his head and said:
– "I'm sorry Sir… I'm sorry, I thought this would help them."
Fardos knew that Marv wanted to help, but unfortunately something in that place had gotten out of hand, again he addressed Valiant and said:
– "We don't have time, the war is imminent and we need to gather… Come with me Valiant" Spoke Fardos while a ball of energy appeared around him.
Marv was left alone while Fardos and Valiant returned to the library. There were Lesly and the other six companions waiting, little did they know they had lost a mate.
To be continued…