@Copyright E. Charles Tucker, all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of the author.
This was written during my stint with the online RPG, Illusia. At this point I was near-exclusively playing a Minotaur Knight named "Kowh", and for role play purposes I played the pround knight aspect up as far as I could take it. Some background: the game world centered around two alliances, light and dark, one led by the "goodly" humans and the other led by the "evil" V'lalek, or Vampire race. The Minotaur were aligned with the V'lalek race, and were considered evil; they, however, considered themselves noble and often looked down on the other races of their alliance as necessary comrades in arms, but loathed being in their presence.
This tale begins many years into Kowh's Knighthood, himself a grizzled veteran. He'd joined a coalition of like-minded beings, a group comprised of various races from both dark and light calling themselves the House of Three Moons, and at the time of this story he was an Elder of the multiracial clan and reluctant leader...
(Note: The Order of the House of Three Moons to which I (Kowh) belonged originated in the Blizzard game, Diablo. Those members migrated into Illusia, and drafted me into their group; when they left for newer pastures, I was left to hold down the fort.
Spirits of the Past (Part I)"...could only watch, his arm shattered, while his comrades cast spell after spell against the archdemon, Ala..."
"Oh fekt!" M'Kowh snorted angrilly, pushing the weathered tome across the table. The Knight leaned forward, rubbing his eyes with his fingers while leaning upon his other hand. By the Gods, this is tiresome work!
He stood, stretching in the pale candlelight; he'd been at the old tomes for several hours, pouring over the faded and over-elaborate script in search of the answers he needed. The Minotaur shook his head; the histories of the House of Three Moons had not survived the journey across the dimensions intact. He ran a wistful finger across the face of one book, drawing a line in the wrinkled leather; no, they hadn't survived well at all.
He'd spent a full moon cycle searching these old texts, stumbled upon while exploring the unused building leased to the Order. Boarded up long ago in preparation for the Exodus, the Athenaeum had become a home to insects, rodents, and dust; what secrets it held had long since faded into nothingness.
M'Kowh sighed. Many of the Order were travelling abroad, taking much needed personal time on individual quests. "Krag strengthen you all" he whispered into the flickering shadows, his fingers automatically forming the twin-horned symbol of the God of Strength. He looked around the library, tapping a finger on the oaken surface of the desk. No, he thought; most of these old tomes would be useless to him. Most were torn and incomplete, the ink dried and faded; others were in obscure languages, brought into Illusia from those hellish lands which spawned the original founders of the Order. Why, he thought, does it fall that nobility and virtue are so often birthed by war and strife - that one rarely exists without the presence of the other?
He grunted, wiping the dust from his hands. Such thoughts are for the mystics, he decided; the tasks before him were much more mundane in nature. The Minotaur eyed the stacks of books warily, not yet ready to concede his search for the histories of the Order. They existed; he had vowed not to let the memories of those who'd come before him die, and not even the demons of Bloodvale would keep him from that task.
The Knight yawned, raising a hand to his snout; he'd not yet eaten, and the hour was already late. A glance out the tower's window showed the emerald star of the Eternals, shining brightly through a cover of misty cloud. He reached for the moth-eaten book, taking his seat once more and opening the book before him. Another hour, he promised himself through drooping eyes. Just a bit more, then he'd end his search for the ancient tales of valor by those of the Three Moons for yet another night...
A noise woke him with a start, his hand instinctively reaching for his enchanted claymore. He frowned; his fingers clasped only air, his belt empty of weapons and pouches. Robbed, here in his own Order's tower? The inborn rage threatened to rise within him at the thought of such trespass - enough to invade this sacred place, but to have taken his bonded weapon as well!
His attention turned to the window; the noise grew ever louder, coming from the streets below. Trouble, in the walkways of Evermist? Unthinkable! He rushed to the portal, leaning out to better see - and froze, his brow knitting together.
Was this Evermist? The streets seemed...different, somehow. Even at night, the city of the Humans held a certain gaeity and brightness; this cobblestoned city was blanketed in a fine, white fog. Barely a light shone through from shuttered windows, nor did there seem to be the usual phalanx of guardsmen and travellers. Still frowning he glanced up at the sky, his trepidation growing further - he could no longer see the emerald star, always there in the night sky.
A scream caught his attention; despite the echoes, he had some idea as to the source of the sound. Cursing the lack of city patrols he burst from the library and out of the closed building, barely stopping to wonder what had become of the now-vanished wooden planks across the lower windows. He managed a quick inventory; he'd not had time to don his armor, and stood wearing only simple greaves on his legs and leather pants beneath. None of his weapons were at hand; he'd have to face this danger unarmed.
M'Kowh charged down the fog-enshrouded street, turning blindly into an alleyway where the sounds of a scuffle could still be heard. The Minotaur bellowed a roar of challenge, seeing a small Elven woman facing down two larger, Human aggressors. The pair turned, their faces fading to a shade of white at the brown-skinned, seven-foot Knight's appearance.
Taking full advantage of their surprise, he charged; the first and closest of the pair realized his mistake seconds too late, trying vainly to brace himself against the stampeding bull. M'Kowh rammed into his midsection, sending him sprawling back into the shadowed alley and clutching his badly-gored chest. The Minotaur turned his head, his black mane flying wildly as he glared crimson eyes at the remaining attacker. The man hesitated only a moment before spinning on his heels, his footfalls fading as he quickly vanished into the mists.
Chuckling, M'Kowh stood upright to face the Elf - and snapped his head aside as a slender foot lanced upwards, slamming against his chin! He staggered back, caught completely unawares by the woman's attack. "Are you mad, Elf?" he cried, bracing his hand against a stone wall.
The Elf - dressed in black leathers, he noted, with a longbow across her back - remained silent, instead drawing a slender dagger from her belt and slicing out with it. M'Kowh dodged aside, moving his body away from the woman's swing and reaching out towards her unprotected arm, thinking to hold her steady while he explained his presence.
Instead she twirled with him, her body moving opposite his as her knife hand continued it's spin towards his outstretched arm. The Minotaur dropped to the ground even as the Elf scored a slash against his shoulder and brought her leg up towards his falling chin. Grunting at her impressive assault he slammed his fist upwards, driving her leg up at a faster rate than she'd intended and throwing the woman off-balance, her foot missing his chin by an inch. He wrapped a massive hand around her ankle and pulled, dropping her hard to the cobbled ground.
Hurried footsteps echoed closer in the night shadows; he whirled, just as a figure emerged from the mist. He held a longword in his hand as he stepped closer, his features obscured by the dark alley. "I knew you'd find trouble, Sheila" he said. "What a Mino is doing here in the city is a hell of a mystery."
The woman twisted in his grip; something sharp tore across his palm, causing him to cry out and release her ankle. She rolled into the shadows, muttering "You talk too much, Cacergoth."
M'Kowh froze; Cacergoth? His Patriach, Redlance, was also a Cacergoth - he'd thought, from the few tales he managed to decipher, the last of that race. Was there, then, another? "Hold, friend - we've no need to fight" he said, holding his hands up in supplication.
The man nearly dropped his sword, so obvious was his surprise. "You speak, creature?" he asked, tilting his head. M'Kowh shrugged, keeping a wary eye on the crouched Elf beside him in the darkness. "Don't we all? Did not your Evermist schools teach of the sages of Tikuur's Isle?"
The woman named Sheila blew air through her teeth, annoyed. "Kill the oaf and be done with it" she hissed. The man laughed, dismissing her with a wave. "Be silent, Sheila-Rah" he admonished. "The Bull-Man speaks Common, and talks of strange places; I would hear more." The Elf spat onto the street. "Why not just invite him into the Order while you're at it?" she muttered, disgusted.
Sheila-Rah! M'Kowh's vision swirled, his mind spinning excitedly. The Assassin from the legends of Tristam? Here, hidden in the shadows beside him, was a founding member of the Order! The Minotaur frowned; if this is true then why had she come to Illusia unannounced? And this Cacergorth...by the Gods! "Redlance?" he asked, cautiously.
The man stepped forward, resting his blade casually on his shoulder; M'Kowh stared, unprepared for the change in the founding Patriarch of the House of Three Moons. His face showed the smoothness of boyish youth, his frame thinner than the Minotaur remembered. His beard was thin, barely formed; impossibly, this man was years younger by far! He grinning, raising an eyebrow and nodding towards the shadows. "You see, Sheila - he knows of me. My fame is assured." The woman snorted derisively, scraping her blade across the rocky cobblestones. "I still say we kill him" she spat.
The frown across the Knight's face deepened. They did not know him - did not recognize him, though he'd hunted with Redlance several times before. Something was wrong here; this odd fog, the strangeness of the buildings and the city, the seeming renewed youth of Redlance. Seven hells, the very air smelled strange!
The air shimmered between them; M'Kowh took a cautious step back, away from the spiralling energy that formed in the empty air. Magick! The Knight snorted his disgust; he'd never felt comfortable around magick that was not granted by the Gods. He watched as a darkness opened in the center of the swirling mass, a robed figure emerging from the mystical portal. "You vex me, Redlance" he grumbled while brushing his robe clean. "Have you no idea the effort it takes to find you, let alone cast..." He stopped, striking a defensive pose as his fingers quickly wove a mystical pattern in the air. "Minotaur" he snarled, his hands crackling with arcane energy.
Redlance raised a restraining arm across the mage's chest. "Hold, Raist; this one is more than what he seems" he cautioned. The wizard darted a look at his patriarch, barely holding his contempt. "You've gone daft, haven't you? He's addled your brain! Study the beast's corpse, dammit!" he snarled. The Elven Assassin stepped from the shadows, a ever-so-slight smile upon her lips. "My thoughts as well" she agreed, flipping her blade between her fingers as she locked eyes with the Minotaur.
Raistlin turned towards his Patriarch. "We've no time for this" he spat. "Kat and Severian are down below; we think we've found the demon again." Redlance nodded, sheathing his sword. "Gather the Order. The fiend Diablo dies, tonight." He spun in military fashion, set to leave the alleyway before Sheila-Rah's voice whispered "And the beast?" The Patriarch of the House of Three Moons turned his head back, regarding the bare-chested Minotaur; with a casual ease he pulled a short axe from his belt and tossed it to the Knight. M'Kowh caught the weapon by the handle, testing the edge of the blade with his thumb.
"Leave him be" Redlance ordered. "He'll find enough troubles, walking alone through the streets of Tristam. We have a demon to destroy." The Cacergoth flipped his blade to his forehead, offering the Knight a salute before running out into the night, the cry of "Invictus Maneo" echoing across the streetways.
M'Kowh stood there, watching the trio run off into the fog. "Tristam?" he whispered into the darkness. He raised his head, slowly, up to the cloud-filled sky. "Krag" he asked, calling upon his deity. "Where in the heavens have you sent me?"
-to be continued-