@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 II)

"I'm telling you, he came in here!" The young warrior trotted down the Avenue of Orders, spinning and waving impatiently at his Elven companion. "Would you hurry up?" he called. "I want to see what he's up to!"

The Elf jogged up to him, bending over to catch her breath. "Slow it down, Dor", she panted. "Some of us only have two legs, you know!" The Centaur grinned, glancing towards the Order Hall for the House of Three Moons. "Not my fault you're born defective!"

The young woman slapped him hard on the arm, causing him to cry out. "You didn't have to hit me, Sucre!" he cried, rubbing his arm. She glared at him, trying to hide the smile that forced its way onto her lips. "Be lucky I don't tell Raven on you" she chided. "You want to tell her she's defective, too?" Dor shuddered, smiling. "Nope, not me. We'll tell her M'Kowh said it." The pair laughed, sharing joks about frozen steaks as they approched the boarded-up building. Sucre pushed open the door, poking her head inside. "What do you suppose he does up there all day?" she asked, squinting into the darkness. The Centaur shrugged, stepping into the room. "Probably makes faerie rings out of flowers" he muttered, pulling a torch down from the wall. Sucre turned, staring at Dor as he used a flint stone to light the torch. "Faerie rings?" she giggled, picturing the gruff Minotaur weaving flowers together. Still chuckling, the young Elven woman took a look around the torch-lit chamber.

The flickering light revealed a dust-enshrouded room, the crest of the Order hanging from the high-domed ceiling. Tapestries of past glories adorned the walls, marking the tale of the House of Three Moon's journey to Evermist. She reached out and ran a finger along the heavy embroidered cloth, sending a brownish cloud drifting to the marbled floor. "All of this was here, unused", she whispered, "and I never knew it existed."

Dor strode over towards a single spirally staircase, his hoofbeats echoing across the silent antechamber. "Most don't. When the others journeyed back to Tristam they boarded the Hall, thinking to reopen it when they returned." He glanced quickly around the chamber, his head tilting up towards the ceiling. "They never did." His eyes traced a clean path along the floor, leading up the staircase. "I'll bet he's upstairs" he called out, nodding up towards the ceiling.

He jumped as Sucre burst past him, clearing the steps in graceful leaps. "Race you!" she called back, laughing as the Centaur grunted in amused annoyance behind her. "Cheatin' Elves!" he laughed, galloping after the Elf.

It was a short climb; Sucre arrived just seconds ahead of her friend, standing stock still in the doorway to a candle-lit chamber. "There he is" she whispered as Dor trotted up beside her. The Minotaur sat slumped over a large desk, surrounded by a pile of books. Dor nudged her playfully, putting a finger to his lips. Taking care not to make any noise he crept towards the prone Knight, stopping just beside him. Cupping his hands and bending towards the Minotaur's ear he cried out, "Moooo!"

The Centaur jumped back, chuckling...then froze, his smile replaced by a frown. "M'Kowh?" he asked; the Minotaur hadn't so much as flinched. "Hey, M'Kowh" he tried again, louder this time. Sucre glided silently beside him, concern on her face. "What's wrong with him?" she asked, placing a hand on the Knight's shoulder and giving him a shake; still, he lay silent and unmoving.

"You'd better go get the others, Sucre" he grunted, all amusement gone from his eyes. "Something's seriously wrong here." Sucre nodded, watching the Centaur pull his warhammer from his belt; a quick glance at her unconscious ordermate and she slipped from the room, racing to find her comrades.

Dor took a step closer, clapping the Minotaur on the shoulder. "Gods be with you, pal" he whispered, standing protectively before his friend.

M'Kowh ran across the stone-covered field, diving into a roll as an arrow missed his ear. The mob was still a few good paces behind him; the archer was good, but not a crack shot. Using an oak for protection he spared a look around, hoping for some ground he could use to defend himself.

He squinted; in the misty fog he could just make out the outline of an old church, just ahead on the opposite side of the field. It'd leave him exposed for the few moments it would take to reach it, but the mist provided him some hint of protection. "Krag protect me" he prayed, steeling himself before springing from his hiding place and charging towards the chapel.

"There he goes!" someone shouted; he could hear the mob thud across the field towards him. He burst through the open courtyard, flying down the flight of stairs in a massive leap. He hit the stone floor hard, giving a short cry of pain as he landed awkwardly. He rolled sideways, using a massive stone pillar as protection while he slid to a sitting position, inspecting his arm. "Dislocated" he muttered, wincing at the sharp pain. M'Kowh spared a glance up the staircase; oddly enough, no one had yet followed him down the bone-white steps.

"Not about to look a dragon down the throat" he mused, rising to his hooves. With a roar he slammed his shoulder into the pillar, knocking the arm back into place. The Minotaur staggered a bit from the pain, his vision spotted with haziness; it took every ounce of willpower not to black out.

He grunted, considering his position. It hadn't been but hours since he'd awoken in this strange place, hours since he'd met those who'd founded his Order. The world since then had been a haze of confusion; he'd left the alley, only to find a hatred and fear of his kind that made the streets of Evermist and Thungar as tame as an abbey. His attempts to speak with the people only served to frighten them more; a few brash youths had gathered together to hunt him down, calling him names such as "pitspawn" and "demon". He'd considered fighting back; it would have been a simple enough task, with the inexperience shown by these villagers. Still, he reflected, he bore these simple folk no ill will; better to seek out someone with more patience, willing to listen to his tale and perhaps provide an answer.

M'Kowh frowned, daring another look up the staircase; still no pursuit? He stepped away freely, testing his shoulder while keeping a wary eye on the entranceway. No sounds came from above; apparently, the villagers did not wish to follow him here. Snorting his confusion, he took a good measure of the temple.

The Minotaur could see why the people avoided this place; by Krag, it stank! Decay and rot lay everywhere, in the vines that threatened to crack the walls apart to the broken and water- streaked stone floors. This was, once, a holy place; now, he reflected, it was little more than an empty husk.

A noise caught his attention; perhaps more than an empty husk, after all? The Knight pulled his hand axe from his belt, turning towards the sound. An odd glow pulsed here, a dim light seeming to come from the very walls themselves; it was enough for him to see by, yet served to discomfort him all the same. "My lord, steel my mind against this place" he prayed, feeling a sudden warmth flood his thoughts. Krag had answered his prayer, giving him a much stronger level of concentration against the evil in this temple! Pleased by the response he stepped forward, calling out into the murky darkness. "Show yourself, wraith!" he cried, brandishing his axe before him.

He could hear a shuffling sound, as if something wet was being dragged across the stone floor. A shadow appeared, followed by a small form - then another, and yet another. M'Kowh backed up a step, turning as the sound echoed behind him; he whirled, only to see yet another of the strange creatures. Small and dark- fleshed, they reminded the Knight of the small Imps he'd encountered before. Those, at least, seemed real enough; these creatures had an inky blackness to them, a malevolent evil that radiated out and threatened to smother the Minotaur's senses. "By the gods" he whispered, clutching his axe ever tighter.

They jumped and chittered about him, their eyes glowing with a reddish gleam as they bared their fangs. There had to be scores of them, all climbing atop each other in their eagerness to move closer. He crouched, preparing himself - they'd not take him without a fight!

A voice rasped out from the darkness to his side; he whirled, axe raised to strike. "My lord" it hissed, giving the Knight pause; he froze, a chill coming over his heart. The creature stepped from the darkness, head bowed in supplication; M'Kowh gagged at the stench of it, the smell of rot worse than the foulest Troll. "Zombie" he growled, even as the creature knelt before him. The walking corpse raised it's head, it's hollow eyes filled with an unholy light. "Have you come to lead us against the topdwellers, lord?" it asked, the hopeful look on it's face evident even through the dessicated flesh.

"Lead...you?" asked the Minotaur. M'Kowh shuddered; was this, then, what Krag wished of him? To lead these demons against innocents? "On my ancestors, guide me" he whispered to himself, for the first time in years uncertain of his god's will. "Do not let this be true."

-to be continued-