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Sun Oct 28 2018 21:27:49

The Ashes of Madness - Part Three

Hoewhoew


He was nearly there. At least he hoped he was nearly there. His journey had taken him far, much farther than he had anticipated at first. Five years it had been now. Five long years of following clues and travelling. A journey which had started in Divinity’s Reach and had lead him all over Kryta, and then further into Tyria. He had been to the Charr homelands, to the Far Shiverpeaks and even to Orr. Every journey leading him further from his goal, and yet closer at the same time.

Connor could feel it, he was close now. After five long years he would finally reach his goal. It had to be here. She had to be here.

“Just a little further,” he puffed under his breath, the sands shifting and crunching under his boots. “Soon, I shall set you free, my Queen. Soon, you shall rule again.”

The massive man stopped to rest a few minutes, getting his heavy breathing back under control. He took a sip from his water jug and welcomed the pain as the water moved between his cracked lips.

“What a journey it has been,” Connor thought to himself, “what a journey indeed.”

With the blazing and scorching sun behind him, he moved his hands above his eyes and took in his surroundings for the first time. The area now vastly different from the Maguuma Jungle he had travelled through.

“Pheeeew,” he whistled out of appreciation,” they certainly knew how to hide you, E.”

To the West and to the East all he could see was sand. Looking identical to the path he had been following for the past six weeks. Nothing but a vast ocean of sand. He had done well studying the area and its constellations, or he would have been lost weeks ago.

In front of him, however, he saw something else. Between all the sand he could see three single peaks of rock, far in the distance ahead of him. If his research was correct, that would be his destination. For those peaks of rock were mountains, vast and tall. And within, he hoped to find the reason of his journey.

“Come on, big guy,” the man encouraged himself, “we’re nearly there.”

With renewed energy Connor took off once more, every step lessening the massive burden on his shoulders. Every step bringing him closer to his goal.

It wasn’t until the sun had set and the air had become chilly that he reached his destination. The enormous rock formation loomed ahead of him, encompassing his entire view. They must have been at least three hundred metres tall in a span of several kilometres. A monstrous wall of solid rock, guarding whatever lay behind it.

“It must be here somewhere,” Connor whispered to himself, tired from his long trek,” but where?”.

As if in answer he noticed a gap in the mountain not moments later, leading to what seemed to be a cave. The man didn’t hesitate for a moment and quickly walked towards it, squeezing himself between the bedrock.

It was dark inside the cavern, but that was to be expected. In seconds he had lit a torch from his backpack, its light revealing the massacre surrounding him.

Bones and skulls lay scattered across the ground. Spears protruded out of skeletons, impaling them against the walls. Dried up blood smeared across the walls and ceiling. There were dozens of dead bodies, if not hundreds.

Upon closer examination, he could tell that they all wore the same armour, bearing the same emblem. A golden griffon on a white background; the sigil of Kryta, his home.

“By the Gods,” Connor exhaled, “what happened here?”

As Connor moved further into the opening, which appeared to be a passageway of sorts, more of the gruesome scene revealed itself. Bones and skulls cracking under his weight, filling the cavern with sickening noises.

“Do you like what you see, my brave warrior?” a female voice suddenly said, making him halt.

Connor quickly turned around, trying to determine where it had come from. “Who are you?” he shouted, but he already had a pretty good idea.

“Oh Connor,” the voice said, “I knew you’d come for me. I just knew it!”

“This can’t be real,” Connor thought, “I’m going insane.”

“Oh no no no, my hero, you’re not insane at all! Not any more than I am” the voice chuckled.

Connor felt a cold chill go up his spine. How had she known his thoughts? He hadn’t said anything, had he?

“Of course, I’m in your head, Connor! I always have been, have I not? Is that not why you have come? For me?” he heard.

He was certain now. She was here.

“E..Emillia?” he hesitantly asked.

“At last, he thinks! You’re not the brightest cookie, are you? But then, I won’t complain. Did you enjoy my art? I made it just for you!”

Connor was confused. Art? He had not seen any art when he had entered. Unless…

“By the Six,” Connor whispered, “these bodies … the blood … .”

“Yes! So you DO enjoy it! Oh I’m so glad, Connor. Finally, someone to appreciate my creativity! I did it just for you, you know? You are the star after all!”

“For me?” Connor asked in surprise, “but why .. how?”

“Why? They would never have let you pass to see me! I couldn’t let that happen. You can’t imagine how lonely I’ve been. Yes yes, you guys were here too, but it’s not the same!”

Connor looked around him, confused. Others? But he was all alone.

“I wish you could have been here though,” the voice continued, “Ah it was so beautiful. The screams, the spectacle, the drama! Pity there wasn’t better lighting in here, it was quite dark sadly.”

Connor still didn’t understand how all his fellow countrymen had died. He had seen no signs of an opponent or enemy force when he had entered the cavern.

“Oh, but you just haven’t looked closely enough!”

Holding his torch to the side, Connor looked again at the massacre surrounding him. Each one of the bodies facing another, spears and swords in hand as if in a fight. But there was no one else, no visible opponent. No one but .. .

It suddenly dawned on him. The men! They had killed each other! Yes, he could see it now. Somehow, they had slain one another, or even themselves. But how?

“Not everyone is as strong minded as you are, Connor. And, can’t you see the beauty in this? We just had a bit of fun! A little game! And I won! I won Connor! Oh, that makes me so happy!”

Connor didn’t quite know what to think or feel. Of course, he had known that Lady Thorn had been … affected. He had known that she could be considered cruel to some, but not to him. No, he saw her as an inspiration. And she was the rightful heir, the Queen of Kryta. She deserved to be a ruler, unlike Queen Jennah who was just a child.

“Are you not coming any further? But .. but I thought you were here to play!” she said.

“No, he won’t abandon me. He came just for me! Oh shut up! You know I love you too! No need to be jealous now.” Connor heard her say, as if she were having another conversation.

He glanced backwards, trying to see if anyone else was in the cavern with him.

“Don’t leave … Stay! STAY!!” Emillia shouted.

“Yes, my Queen, I’ll stay.” Connor said, and paused, “Where are you?” he asked.

“Ohh!! You hear that Elisa? Company! Guests! This calls for celebration! Just follow my art, my hero, you’ll find me. I know you will.”

The voice suddenly grew weak and disappeared, leaving Connor alone in the dark. Filled with happiness and hope, for his journey was nearly complete, he reached the end of the passageway and climbed out.

What he found was beyond his imagination. The rock formation guarding Lady Thorn lead straight into a lost city made of rock, surrounded by a precipice. At its centre stood a waking flame next to a giant urn.

He had found it. Found her. The ashes of Lady Thorn. The ashes of Madness.