@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 III)

"He's a blasted horned one!" roared Raist, ducking as a winged fiend passed dangerously low overhead. The wizard pointed his staff at the bat-like demon, arcing a white bolt of jagged energy lancing through it's chest. Raist ignored it's death-knell as he whirled on his Patriarch. "You're insane, Ca'let; how do you know this isn't some demon-spawned trick?"

The warrior Ca'let Redlance of Cacergoth lunged forward towards his friend, pushing the mage aside with a gauntleted hand and slashing down with his sword, slicing cleanly through the skeleton at his back. "Haven't you learned to trust me yet?" he asked the wizard, clapping him on the shoulder. "Call it a gut feeling, but I'm certain the Bull-Man is to be trusted." Raist snorted his disgust, casually releasing a small fireball into the midst of three skulking zombies. "Fine - as long as it's your guts all over the floor when he turns on us" he sneered, crossing his arms in anger.

Across the defiled temple the Minotaur dove low to the ground as a scavenger leapt high, missing the displaced knight and sailing over his back. He flipped his axe-blade back and spun sharply, driving the weapon through the beast's bony flank and out the other side. He growled deeply to himself, trying to ignore the leather-clad assassin Sheila-Rah who marked his every move, mere handspans away.

M'Kowh snorted, trying to drive away the anger that welled up inside. A part of him refused to understand why Redlance insisted he join them; while honored to join those that he, and he alone, knew were the founders of his Order, still he felt dismay at the cold reception they'd offered him. The scout, Zeen...Zeenia? Xena, he recalled; she'd given him odd looks, studying him from the corner of her eye. Others - Katerine, the elf Beldin, the barbarian Goldschlager...they'd been indifferent to his presence, accepting him without fully welcoming him.

He glanced around; a few fiends still shrieked in the alcoves, their wings keeping them - temporarily - at a safe distance. A few warriors were mopping up, kicking aside skeletal remains or chasing down a rogue zombie. This evil place was not his world; the scent of brimstone and magick was heavy on the air, and it made his nostrils twitch. It was a dead place, this Tristam; nothing would revive it, no true peace would come to this war- torn land. It's people, he reflected, were too used to the slaughter, the killing; when the source of the evil was gone, who would they turn to next? How long before they turned on themselves?

His thoughts flew across the dimensions, back to his world of birth. Could that, then, have been how it was for the Ancients? Were his ancestors also united against a common goal, joined with the races of the HAR and VAR? Did the taste of battle become too ingrained within their hearts, causing the split that even now kept his world apart?

A hand shoved him roughly from behind; he turned to face the woman Sheila-Rah, her eyes narrowed in scruitiny. "Staircase down is that way" she muttered, pointing towards an old archway. M'Kowh glared at her, his hand tight on his weapon. "Men have been slain for less" he warned, his eyes blazing. She shrugged, pushing past him. "Lucky for me", she spat, "I'm a woman."

"Hey Erik, you want to give a hand here?" Cosmic grunted, trying to lift the unconscious Minotaur from the chair. Erik sighed, uncrossing his arms as he regarded his options. "Why bother?" he mused. "Not like he's going anywhere soon."

BigDogg crossed the room, brushing the warrior aside as he reached for M'Kowh's other arm. With Dor at his hooves the trio managed to lower the Knight carefully to the floor. "Okay", panted Dor, "What now?"

RavenLar lowered herself to a squatting position, just beside the Minotaur. "Now we see what we can do about his wounds, at least" she muttered, closing her eyes and raising her arms over his chest. The pair began to glow with a bright light, briefly illuminating the room; slowly the wounds across the Knight's body began to close, the flow of blood staunched. The light quickly faded as Raven lowered her arms, shaking her head. Cosmic crouched beside her, placing a cloak around her shoulders. "What is it?" he asked, his brow furrowed in concern.

The Elf looked up at him, smiling her thanks before turning back to the Minotaur. "I'm not sure" she said, suppressing a shiver. "I could feel him, his energy, as I healed him...but it was like fixing a hollow shell." She looked up at the others, her eyes wide. "It's almost as if his soul was gone."

"Not like he ever had one" grumbled Erik, crossing the room to look out the tower window. Sucre shot him an angry glare. "Erik!" she reprimanded, her voice sharp. "That wasn't nice!" Erik shrugged, his face still turned away from the group. "Maybe. Still, what are we supposed to do?" He leaned against the stone wall, his arms crossed once more. "Not like we can track his soul."

"That's exactly what we can do" whispered a voice, causing him to jump. Erik turned, his sword in hand as he whipped his head back and forth. "Who said that?" he barked, stepping away from the window. The others rose to their feet, weapons at the ready.

"I did" replied the same voice, quiet and smooth as silk. A shadow pulled itself off the wall, jumping down from a tapestry- strewn shelf and landing lightly on the floor. "Elindil!" called Dor, striding over to greet the Elf, a smile on his face. BigDogg turned to Sucre, his eyes questioning; she shrugged. "No idea" she answered, watching the woodland-garbed Elf with interest.

"Long time" noted Erik, nodding at the wandering member of the Order. Elindil bowed slightly, smiling. "Too long, perhaps" he replied, bending to his knees as he regarded the Minotaur. Raven locked eyes with him, concern on her face. "Can you help him?" she asked. The forester shook his head, using his hand to indicate the group. "I can't alone - but together, perhaps we can."

-to be continued-