by EM Malachi

“My meditations are not to be disturbed,” Batlin said to the sentry. Instead of the lordly garb and golden pendant Batlin usually wore, he was clothed only in a simple woolen robe.  The trapdoor creaked as the cult leader pulled it up by its iron latch. As he started down the stairs, Batlin responded to his follower’s confusion, “One must descend into darkness to rise up stronger.”

The sentry pretended to understand. “Yes, Brother Batlin. Nobody will get past me.”

The cellar was empty except for an object wrapped in cloth at the center of the room. It was the cleanest basement in all of Britain. Absent were the skitterings of insects or vermin. Batlin sat down and took a deep breath. He unwrapped a perfect cube carved in Blackrock. Then he extinguished the candle and waited in the darkness. 

Batlin felt the cold rage before he heard the words, “You have failed.” The Voice did not give him the opportunity to stammer out an explanation before the pain began. With the Cube’s magic, the darkness pulled the relevant memories from his mind:

Fellowship loyalists had carefully placed explosives in the sewers under Britain. The detonations had flooded the dungeon of Castle Blackthorn with sludge and river water. Dozens of masons and carpenters, already conditioned at a Meditation Retreat, had cleared the caverns under the castle and built the Cube Generator needed to spread the Voice across Sosaria. For a time, the Fellowship’s influence had grown, until some heretics had smashed the workings of the generator. The first of the Fellowship’s gifts was now a silent monument under Britannia’s capital. 

Batlin muffled a scream and hit his fists against the cold stone floor. “I protected it as best I could. We wanted it close to influence the King, but it raised too much suspicion. If I could be allowed to raise an army, we could take half the country.”

They have already been tested thus.” The darkness formed images in Batlin’s mind:

Britannia was invaded by the raw elemental powers of Pagan. It was not the slaughter the Titans had expected. Humanity and its gargoyle allies had been ready. Stratos won no allies with her silver lies. Hydros failed to drown even the canal city of Vesper. Pyros was torn apart by legions of trained dragons. The warhammers of Minoc had smashed the foul visage of Lithos. Victory had gone to Britannia. 

Batlin felt the harms his master’s minions had endured, every spell and sword strike. He whimpered pitifully on the ground. “What can I do to fix this?”

Take their power.” The images changed to another of the Fellowship’s gifts, a great Blackrock Tetrahedron:

High in the mountains, the dark pyramid seemed to bend the light of the setting sun, focusing it on a single Britannian island. The magic torches of the Lycaeum sparked and sputtered before exploding. The mages who fought the inferno found their spells either failed or added to the chaos. As the great library burned, the rest of Moonglow was plunged into darkness and madness. 

Batlin pulled himself into a sitting position. “It will be done.”

Then you will finish the gate on the dark path.

Batlin struggled to his feet. “Soon, Master, soon.”