|Legacy of the Shadowsword|
|Chapter 1 (part 2a)||Author:
11 Feb 2008 15:34:28
|Author's note: This happens chronologically in between parts 1 and 2, hence the name. When I was writing this I decided to change the name of the 'Sytian Coalition' to the 'Hand of Lorn,' since the older name sounded rather weak for a terrorist organization. Their name refers to the ancient hero, Graden Lorn, who was the lead wizard at the end of the Great War-- they see their intentions as in line with his ideals. I'll be making the changes to the other chapters, and probably merging them into one document a little later.
Also, I'm specifically looking for your impressions of Maelkor after you read it-- what type of person he is, his personality and character, etc. Please leave a comment here telling me your thoughts.
The snow fell quietly over the pines, its soft whiteness almost like a blanket, muffling the sound of the quiet village below. The night sky was obscured with the dark gray of heavy-laden clouds, adding to the brooding silence over the small village.
Maelkor sat, restless, near the front of his light transport. His hand, toying with a small stone, was the only indication of his anxious state of mind.
“We are beginning the descent now lord,” said the pilot, tilting his head slightly to the side.
“Excellent.” The voice was rough, almost raspy. He sat back, allowing himself to relax a little. Soon he would be able to claim the knowledge he needed to begin preparing the world for the future.
The flat craft settled to the ground, fans slowing with a low whine; snow could be seen billowing out to the sides as his pilot killed the engines. He stood, adjusting his gloves, and stepped over to the side hatch, touching the door controls lightly with a middle finger. He waited impatiently for the controls to respond, thinking in anticipation about the coming culmination of the past several months of planning—the Library held documents dating almost from the time of the Great War, nearly two thousand years ago, and they would help with the next stage of the preparation. A moment later, the door hissed open, forming a ramp down which he confidently walked, cape fluttering in the slight wind, cowl and mask shadowing his face.
One of his group leaders waited near a small building just to the side. The man was doing an admirable job of hiding his awe; however, the soldiers he had brought with him were not so composed.
They bowed, lowering to one knee as he approached.
“Welcome, Lord Maelkor,” the leader said, his voice shaking with the barely concealed nervousness. “We have come to escort you to the Library grounds.”
“Thank you, Officer...”
“Beren, lord. Lieutenant Beren.”
“I am grateful for your concern, Lieutenant—rise,” he motioned briefly for the soldiers to stand and they slowly, uncertainly, rose to their feet. The Library could be seen over the tops of the houses in the village. It sat atop a low hill, backed by the evergreen forest which covered the majority of the island. Maelkor walked through the middle of the group, motioning as he did so for Beren to come forward as well.
This was probably the first time these men had seen their lord up close. They stared as he passed: the light reflected off his dark blue armor, inlaid with strange golden symbols; his cape trailed behind with a swirl in the light snow; his mask covered his face and accentuated the lines and angles, showing only his eyes and mouth; the purpose and confidence with which he walked. They were all meant to show a single thing: power. Maelkor embodied the image of the Sytian ideal and the world which they would restore. He knew it, and now these men knew it and they would now fight all the harder to bring that world to reality.
“What can you tell me about the success of the operation, Lieutenant?”
Beren snapped back to attention, hiding his awe behind a stoic expression. Maelkor was impressed; he would have to remember to have the man promoted—the soldiers were much more loyal when they felt that their leader knew and appreciated them personally.
“It has gone well, my lord. There was only minor damage to the building—nothing significant.”
“Good.” Maelkor looked up at the massive structure thoughtfully as they approached. Soon he would have the power to begin realizing his dreams. “Survivors?”
“There were many in the village, lord. Our attack caught them by surprise and they did not have time to flee. They are being held in that warehouse on the outside of town.” He pointed to the north at a large utilitarian building. The roof was pointed to help keep the heavy snow from sticking and weighing it down, as was befitting the alpine architecture elsewhere in the village.
Maelkor nodded, turning his attention to the building at the top of the hill they were beginning to ascend. “And in the Library?”
“It was mostly empty, Lord Maelkor. We found only two of the librarians inside, trying to hide some of the books from us. There are signs of escape into the surrounding forest, which some of the men are investigating.”
They reached the top of the steps; the snow petered out here and left only a slight dusting over the stonework.
“Wait here, Lieutenant. I will return before long.”
Beren nodded and halted at the top, motioning and barking orders to his men to take up positions outside the door.
The middle set of doors was open to the night, and warm air flowed out of the interior of the building, rustling Maelkor’s cape slightly. The other doors were still closed, but their windows had been shattered; the glass still covered the inside of the doorway, he noted. He walked inside, gingerly avoiding the scattered glass, his boot soles thumping against the stone flooring on the other side. Two soldiers, posted as guards, relaxed noticeably as they saw him enter, lowering their assault rifles and straightening.
“Hail, Lord Maelkor!” one said, raising his right fist to his chest in salute.
Maelkor repeated the gesture, striding forward. “Where is the Kaelith?”
“He is on the sub-level, my lord, in the computer core,” the soldier replied.
“Excellent.” Maelkor pointed to the other guard, “Find Commander Giles—have him meet me outside the core.”
The soldier dashed off to complete his orders and Maelkor continued to the center of the building, toward the stairs. It was not difficult to find—the building was exactly as the maps he had studied on the globalnet. The maps, however, had not done justice to the sheer size and magnificence of the building. Rows upon rows of book cases spread down the length of the walkway until they reached the far wall, some distance away. The book cases towered over his head, most of them fifteen feet high. He breathed deeply, reveling in the smell of paper and wood, imagining the amounts of accumulated knowledge represented in the room: almost every surviving record written in the history of the planet. The monks of the Library had made it their quest to gather and store everything they could, keeping the combined knowledge of the world in one great vault: everything from the most recent studies and journals in genetic modification to the oldest, brittlest tomes on the legend of the Great War. Even documents describing the power the ancients held—the power of perfect description and hence, supposedly, the power to invoke that description into reality.
The Library also held a copy, rumored to be the original, of the Journal of Graden Lorn—the most complete account of the Great War in existence. There were many copies and translations in the other, smaller, libraries of the world, but Maelkor thought they were missing something; something that would have convinced the world that the power of the ancients was more than just myth muddled by time.
The stairway was split, half going up to the second floor, the other half going down toward the lower level. There was a decorated rope, carefully hung at the side of the stairwell; a sign which said, in elven, “Authorized personnel only” hung from it. Maelkor glanced at it as he descended; noting that the soldiers had obeyed his orders well—even the specific one to not damage anything on the interior of the library. They had come to retrieve some specific information, but the wealth of knowledge surrounding him now was too precious to waste; after all, they may need to return for more later.
The computer core was not difficult to locate. The large double doors were open, flooding the dimly-lit corridor in bright light. Voices could be heard inside, one of them, which he recognized as belonging to Kaelith Talmad, was loud and agitated.
“You lie!” there was a thud followed by a sharp intake of breath as Maelkor stepped into the doorway. Talmad was standing over a bound elf who lay on the ground, a small amount of blood running down the side of his face. “You must know where it is!” he exclaimed; the Kaelith looked up sharply as Maelkor approached, his armor clinking ever so slightly.
“My lord!” the Kaelith straightened, bringing his fist over his heart and attempting to calm himself.
“Your report?” Maelkor asked evenly, a slight inclination of his head indicating the Kaelith’s subordinate position.
Talmad flushed, looking slightly embarrassed. “This elf claims he does not know where the Journal is, my lord, and our men have not been able to locate it…” He trailed off, apparently waiting for some sort of response.
“And? The rest?” Maelkor snapped.
“Yes, lord,” Talmad was somewhat taken aback, “we have found some of the books you wanted; the rest—the information on genetics and recent research on Shade is presumably in the computer’s files. However, we found him,” he indicated the elf on the floor behind him, “trying to encrypt the network.”
Talmad was obviously flustered. He didn’t like being embarrassed in front of the men in the Hand—especially since he still considered himself their leader, if only in title. However, the men had chosen to follow Maelkor, despite his relative newness to the faction. The Sytians respected power and Maelkor had it; that was precisely the reason that Talmad was forced to bow to him. Maelkor had no illusions, however, that the Kaelith would betray him as soon as he’d learned enough about Maelkor’s source of power for himself.
Maelkor ignored the man—he was already dealing with that problem—and turned his attention to the elf, eyes narrowing, and slowly stepped over, kneeling in front of him.
“I have no quarrel with you, but I will get what I came for. What is your name?”
“You don’t need to know,” the elf spat in reply.
Maelkor frowned momentarily. “Very well, then tell me what the encryption key is.”
The elf simply snorted.
“My technicians will retrieve the information eventually anyway, but if you help, then it will be easier for you and I may let you live.”
“Well, if you’re going to be a while,” the voice dripped with hatred, “then you better get to work.”
Maelkor’s lips twitched in annoyance and he dropped the friendly pretense. Reaching down, he gripped the elf by the neck with his left hand and lifted him over his head as he stood.
“So be it, then. I had no quarrel with you, but now you have stood in my way.” With is right hand, he backhanded his captive, jerking the elf’s head to the side violently. The man’s eyes rolled back as he lost consciousness. Maelkor tossed him lightly onto the ground to the side, where he crumpled like a ragdoll, and turned to the tech waiting at the side.
“How long will it take you to break his security?”
“Several hours, at least, lord.”
Again, his lip twitched in annoyance. “Very well. Get as many technicians down here as you need. I want that research.”
The tech nodded his head in a slight bow and headed to the computer terminal against the wall.
Maelkor turned to one of the guards, pointing at the elf. “Take him to my personal transport. I have use for him yet.”
The soldier saluted in response and immediately moved to retrieve the prisoner. Maelkor looked toward the door, searching for Giles in the hallway, satisfied that his orders were being carried out. Spotting the commander, he ignored the others in the room and headed out into the dim corridor.
“Lord Maelkor,” the commander said with a stiff bow.
“Commander,” came the acknowledgment. “Have you found the books I need?”
“Yes, lord. It took us some time, but we have found them all. The Library’s cataloging system was a great help.”
Maelkor smiled at the irony. “Good. Take them to my transport, I will be leaving shortly.” He glanced back into the room, seeing Talmad watching the conversation suspiciously. Turning back, he discreetly motioned for Giles to follow farther up toward the stairs, as if leaving.
“Keep your eye on the Kaelith, commander,” he said, quietly. “The remaining research is very important to us. We could not afford for something unfortunate to happen to it.” The man was one of the most loyal that Maelkor had and was very good at completing his orders.
Giles nodded, his expression hard.
“What can you tell me of the Journal?”
The commander looked uncomfortable for a moment; Maelkor repressed his annoyance that the book had apparently escaped.
“We have been unable to find it, lord. When we arrived there were few elves in the building—an alarm was raised as we entered the town, due to an… unfortunate incident.”
Maelkor frowned at this, but decided to find out later.
“When we entered the building,” Giles continued, indicating the core room, “we only found him working on the computers—the Journal was not in its place, and he would not answer our questions. The foundation here is riddled with catacombs: our men are searching them now. We have found several trails in the snow going out into the forest in several different directions.” He finished, looking expectantly at his lord for further insight or instructions.
“Irritating. Pursue them, commander, but do not leave the island if the trail leads that way. If they have somehow escaped, then we will need to re-plan.”
Giles nodded and turned to go back up the stairs.
“Commander, one more thing: leave no evidence that we retrieved books on Shade and the power of the ancients. Instead, make quite a mess out of the area in the human physiology and genetics. Instruct the technician to be clumsy in covering our tracks on some of the minor documents he is retrieving, but be much more discreet with the more important ones.”
“Thank you Commander. Dismissed.”
He waited a few moments as Giles went to give the orders, then headed up the stairs toward the entrance again, meeting Lieutenant Beren at the door.
“Lord,” the lieutenant bowed.
Maelkor nodded, straightening his right glove. He felt like a statement needed to be made. He looked over to the large building holding the majority of the village’s survivors.
“Lieutenant,” he paused, thoughtful. “Raze the town, including that building. Allow a few to escape; kill the others.”
Beren nodded, a slight twinkle in his eye. “Yes, lord.”
It was disappointing, Maelkor thought as he walked down the stairs toward the town. But he supposed it was to be expected; the people had decided to resist, and so they would have to be made an example.
He paused at the bottom of the hill, at the entrance to a gap between the buildings. It was quite dark, as all the street lamps had been shot out as his soldiers attacked. Crouching, he drew a symbol in the snow, being very careful to keep the light flakes from falling back into the lines he had made. A few moments later, he stopped, rehearsing the pronunciation in his mind. He spoke a few words in a strange, flowing language and watched expectantly as the symbol flared to life, glowing a deep, molten red. A moment later a small orange light appeared in front of him, lighting the dark area.
Although the invocation had worked as he intended, the resulting pain was stronger than he had expected and he was forced to lean lightly against a nearby wall until the twisting in his abdomen ceased. It was not a complicated description, but the light, dim as it was, still differed significantly from the nearly pitch blackness that had enveloped the area before. Fortunately, with the practice, he was learning to recognize what the consequences of each alteration would be. Unfortunately, it was turning out to cost much more than he had expected for even the simplest descriptions. Hopefully the information they had gathered on Shade would help with that.
Once the pain had mostly subsided, he continued on his way, the small light following just behind his shoulder, illuminating the dark streets. Upon arrival, he checked for the items he had requested. The books had been delivered shortly before he reached his Skimmer, and two soldiers had just finished securing the elven prisoner in the back. He climbed aboard without further hesitation.
“Lift off, pilot.”
“Yes, lord,” the pilot responded, and the fans whirred to life, lifting the craft from the square. As they passed overhead, the town was backlit from the orange glow as the Hand soldiers lit fire to the buildings. The world would react in shock to the news; but it had been a long time since a group of freedom fighters had done something so forward. They would continue to be shocked until they gave in to the demand—until Maelkor accomplished his goal.