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EM fiction: "The Masquerader" by EM Kaz

Discussion in 'UO Pacific' started by EM Kaz, Aug 24, 2010.

  1. EM Kaz

    EM Kaz Visitor
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    This fiction is in regards to an ongoing plotline that began on 08/12/2010. This piece of fiction will lead into an event that is scheduled for the first week of September. An announcement will be made on this forum and on uoem.pacific.net in regards to a specific date and time.

    "The Masquerader"
    By: Kaz

    Kelvin narrowed his eyes as the daylight crested the mountains and bathed the grassy clearing in front of him. Standing alone was the small tower that had been described to him by Commander Valthos.

    “Finally,” he sighed just as he caught sight of the tower in the distance. Kelvin had been sent by Commander Valthos to locate a man only known as Aganon. Although the commander had conveyed little about him to Kelvin, he knew that he was apparently a skilled alchemist capable of identifying the unusual substance that had been recovered from the corpses of both the orcs and the poisonous beasts that had been responsible for the recent attacks on miners over the past several weeks. After personally delivering the substance to Aganon several days before, Commander Valthos had heard nothing from him since. Kelvin was now tasked with locating Aganon and reporting back to the commander.

    As Kelvin approached the tower, he noticed that it was quite decrepit and poorly maintained. The stone of the building was covered in a thick moss and a stale air wafted from the open windows. Small pieces of rubble littered the grass; a result of the stone walls slowly decaying over years of disrepair. Kelvin looked through the open entrance and called inside, “Sir Aganon?” he said in a raised voice. “Kelvin Hale, on behalf of Commander Valthos. May I come inside?”

    He received no reply and his voice echoed inside of the tower as if it was completely hollow. Kelvin repeated variations of his message several times but still only heard his own voice calling back to him. This was not entirely a surprise to him however, as Commander Valthos had suggested that Aganon could have been captured or even killed. As he considered this possibility, Kelvin became increasingly uneasy. He now wondered why Commander Valthos had sent him to locate this alchemist if he legitimately thought that he was in danger. Wouldn’t it have been more prudent to send a group of skilled warriors to locate Aganon rather than a lone messenger? He now regretted his failure to challenge the commander’s decision when he was delegated this duty. Obviously, it was too late to question the practicality of Commander Valthos’ orders. He was at the alchemist’s tower and it was his responsibility to notify the commander that Aganon was not inside.

    As Kelvin adjusted his backpack and prepared to make the journey back to Britain, he considered another possibility. Alchemists frequently need to scour the lands for various herbs and magical substances to conjure their potions and conduct their experiments. Perhaps Aganon was simply nearby, searching for an elusive root or leaf. He decided that he would leave a note for him before leaving; otherwise Commander Valthos would probably send him back to do the very same thing. He reached inside of his backpack and located a roll of parchment and a quill. He unrolled the parchment and pressed it against the side of the tower. The worn wall of the tower made it difficult to write legibly, but nonetheless he was able to convey his brief message to Aganon. At least now if the alchemist was safe he would return and see the message and know that Commander Valthos needed to speak with him.

    Just as Kelvin turned to leave for a second time, he heard a low grown from inside of the tower. He walked slowly and carefully towards the tower’s entrance and called inside once more, “Aganon? Sir Aganon? I am here on behalf of Commander Valthos. I must speak with you.” The only reply was another groan, this time longer and more pronounced. It was evident to Kelvin that someone needed his help. He stood in the doorway for a moment, considering how he should proceed. Of course, he could walk upstairs and render aid to whoever was inside but at what risk to his own safety? Perhaps there was an attacker still inside, lying in wait. Or he could simply ignore the noise and return to Commander Valthos, informing him that he located nothing of interest but left a note for the alchemist. After only a moment’s consideration Kelvin shook his head, shamed by his own thoughts. He could not ignore the noise; someone could be injured or even dying.

    “I’m coming upstairs. I will help you,” Kelvin said cautiously as he slowly crept up the stone steps. Just as he spoke those words, he regretted them instantly. If there was indeed an attacker inside the tower, they would now be prepared for him. Kelvin drew his dagger from the sheath on his belt and held it unsteadily in front of him, his hand shaking violently as he ascended the steps. Just as his eyes became level with the top step, he could see that someone was lying on the floor. Their boot was all that was visible; the rest of their body was obstructed by the interior wall of the tower. Kelvin then rushed up the steps, waving his dagger wildly in the air at an attacker that wasn’t even there. Once he realized this, Kelvin noticed the horrific scene before him. The boot that was lying on the floor in front of him was in actuality a severed leg. Curled in the corner of the room was an orc, its left leg missing from below the knee. The orc had removed its belt and had wrapped it around its leg, pulling it tightly to slow the blood loss. The orc stared at Kelvin, obviously terrified as it struggled to push itself deeper into the corner of the room. It held its hands in front of its face, evidently fearful that Kelvin had been sent to finish the job that someone else had started.

    Kelvin was bewildered for several moments before he was finally able to compose himself and speak to the orc. “Who did this to you?” he asked, before realizing that most orcs speak little Britannian. The orc did not reply, but instead closed its eyes and thrashed its head to the left and right, still cowering in the corner of the room. Kelvin then realized that he still had his dagger clenched tightly in his hand and had been pointing it directly at the orc while he was questioning it. He fumbled with his belt as he slid the dagger back into the sheath and spoke to the orc slowly, hoping that it would understand at least a few of his words.

    “I will not hurt you,” he kept repeating until the orc finally looked at him again. “Who did this to you?” he asked, doubtful that he would actually receive a response. The orc, clearly exhausted from the panic that it had just experienced, laid its head down on the floor and breathed heavily as it struggled for air. It strained to speak, but was able to utter one word in its deep, grumbling voice, “Trap”.

    “It was a trap?” Kelvin asked. “They trapped you? What happened orc? Tell me what happened?!” Now Kelvin was becoming desperate. If there was any of chance of locating Aganon, he needed to know how this orc ended up inside the tower with its leg severed. He considered that Aganon was attacked by this orc and fought him off before escaping. He concluded that he would need to conduct an interrogation of the orc, but just as he knelt down to do so he heard a clamoring coming from outside. He leapt to his feet and looked out one of the windows. Several orcs were now outside, slowly lumbering towards to tower. He quickly spun around and peered out the window behind him, only to notice more orcs approaching from the other side of the building. He now realized what the orc meant. It was a trap for him, and the injured orc was the bait.

    There was no way out, the tower was now completely surrounded. Kelvin pulled his dagger from his belt, knowing that his only chance for escape would be to fight. However, this thought was fleeting as he came to the realization that he would be overwhelmed by such a large group of orcs. Kelvin clutched his head, terrified of what would become of him. After a moment of brief consideration, he decided that if he were to die he would do so fighting. He crept down the stairs, dagger in hand and prepared to accept his inevitable fate.

    “I am quite reasonable and I am willing to offer you an opportunity to surrender,” a voice bellowed from outside of the tower. “You don’t have to die.”

    Kelvin stopped just short of the doorway, staying hidden from view. He pressed his back against the interior wall of the tower and tried in vein to control his fast, ragged breathing. The voice that spoke to him sounded as if it was human, but he was not entirely convinced. He slowly allowed his back to slide down the wall until he was eventually seated on the damp floor of the tower. He assumed that if he didn’t respond, it would be mere moments before a cluster of orcs rushed inside. He also considered the possibility that this offer for surrender was only a ruse by the orcs to determine if someone was actually inside of the tower. He sat on the floor for what seemed like an eternity, considering how he would reply to the voice from outside the tower. Before he could respond, the voice continued:

    “Sent here by Commander Valthos, I assume? The voice asked. “Seeking the alchemist I’m sure. Well, you won’t be finding him here. I have him…secured.” The voice paused for several moments, seemingly to await a reply from Kelvin. The voice continued after failing to receive a response, “Please, come join us outside.”

    Two orcs then proceeded through the entrance of the tower, grabbing both of Kelvin’s arms without hesitation. Almost effortlessly they dragged him outside and presented him to a figure cloaked in a forest green robe that was standing in front of a group of orcs. The figure appeared to have the body of a human, but its face was that of an orc. As it directed orders to the surrounding orcs, Kelvin noticed that its mouth did not appear to be moving. He surmised that this figure was wearing an orc mask, but he could not be sure. After directing several orcs into the tower, the figure redirected its attention to Kelvin.

    “Ah, you’ve decided to join us. I will make this quite brief. You have two choices my friend, you either join us and our cause or you can join the unfortunate orc inside the tower and die a slow and agonizing death,” the figure said calmly. “I’m sure that you will be quite reasonable.” Kelvin had nothing to say to the figure that he assumed was masquerading as an orc. Instead he lifted his head and without saying a word, spat upon the masquerader’s robe. The figure looked down briefly, adjusted his robe and gestured to the orcs that were holding Kelvin in place.

    “He will come with us. I will decide how he will serve us later. I’m sure Commander Valthos and his band of adventurers will come looking for him soon enough,” the figure said with disgust. “And when they do, perhaps we will convert a few others to our cause.”