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Dargon's Tale of Deceit
The lich lords of Deceit draw many brave warriors and mages in search of gold, gems, fame, glory, and occasionally something quite different. In our Spotlight tale this week, Dargon ventures deep into the corridors of Deceit in search of many things - including the Virtue that has eluded him in the past.

 I was hoping to live my elder years in peace, and put the hauntings of my youth behind me, but that witch Minax didn't make it easy for retired warmages to leave their spellbooks and swords at home. The constant violence her hordes brought the fair cities of our land made sure the failings of my youth continued to haunt me each night. I had to face them, and that meant going to Dagger Isle.
I took the ship my Liege Lady Discord had given me and set sail from Britain, with dread in my heart and the weight of sins on my soul. As La Furia raced across the waves, I forced myself to think about the misdeeds of my youth. An apprentice mage from Moonglow in the era when a Hero from another world did great deeds for the people of Britannia, I wanted to live up to His example, and set out on the Quest of the Avatar. Many years and adventures led me to enlightenment in the Virtues-- all but one. My thirst for magical power outshined my yearning to seek Truth, and I trod down some evil paths. Now, at four-score years, I could not forget what I had done. I had to return to Deceit, to face my fears and the damned undead sorcerers who still ruled it.

A tremor of Dread shot down my spine as the icy shores of Dagger Isle loomed through the evening mists. I directed the tillerman to put in at the southern end of the island. In the moonlight, the ice and the mists shone with silver light. I made my way across the snow, seeking the shrine I had not approached in fifty years. I was full of trepidation as I knelt before the Ankh at the Shrine of Honesty, and spoke the mantra. I prayed for the guiding light of Truth, so that I might seek forgiveness for my sins. The Shrine did not speak to me, but as I hiked north through the peaceful and eerie night, I could see the light I sought, in the very air. The moonlight had a mystical edge to it, clear and crisp.

I plunged into the depths of Deceit with my katana in hand. My dark blue robes hid the shine of my chain mail. In the dimness I snuck by most of the skeletal guards patrolling the first floor, but when I reached the teleporter, I crossed swords with a pair of ages-old skeletal knights, still wearing the tattered remnants of their armor. Their old bones were no match for the keen sharp blade Shadow had forged for me. I moved on, uninterested in stealing the meager belongings of the dead.

It wasn't long before I encountered the first Lich. He came into the hallway, a crumbling book in his hand. I froze, fear gripping my heart, for I recognized him as a former classmate of mine at the Lycaeum. He didn't see me immediately, as his glowing eyes peered at the pages in his rotting hands. My spellbook was closed in my hand, my knuckles white, as I pictured my own rotting face in place of his. I would have screamed, but my lungs had no air. A large bolt of energy shook me from my terror. Allasondro was sneering as he began to cast a second spell, but his energy bolt reflected from my spell shield right back at him! He lost his concentration, and quickly I flipped through my spellbook. The lich began a powerful fire spell, but I quickly chanted a minor spell just in case he had his own reflection shield up. My fireball hit him, and I launched another, knocking his reagents from his hands. My free hand thrust into my belt pouch again, grabbing a piece of blood moss and a mandrake root. "Flam Kal Des Ylem," I spoke, as Words of Power hissed from the lich's dry lips. I dipped into my bag for a pinch of ash and a wisp of silk, and as they disappeared from my fingers I pointed my hand at the evil lich, and yelled, "Bask in the light of Truth, Allasondro of Moonglow!" My swarm of meteors rained down on the horrible rotting creature that was once my classmate, and I drew my sword, closing in. "See where your quest for power has brought you?" I yelled as I chopped into his burning body. I stared into his sickly glowing eyes as I dispatched him, but I couldn't see recognition or even understanding in them. I coughed and retched, leaning against the corridor wall.

I couldn't escape the thought that this very place was where my evil path would have led me, had I not been wise enough to stop my dishonest ways. Seeing a lich I had known, I wondered if it still might be my fate to haunt the vile pit of Deceit one day. I was more frightened than before, but one thing was clear. If I did nothing, I couldn't change my fate. The Truth cut through my fear, and I picked up my sword, determined to brave the depths, and fight for my salvation. I would not murder innocent people in a quest for power as I had done as a lad. I would not be stealing what I needed. Here, I would only be releasing poor damned souls from torment. The mages that call Deceit their home are vile and evil creatures, deserving of their fate, but also of Justice. I straightened my wizard hat, noting with a smile the singe along the brim where Allasondro's first spell had nearly taken me out. I replaced my spell reflection shield and found the runes to teleport me below, to the infamous and gruesome Lich lairs of Deceit.

There were young heroes down here, doing battle in scattered groups with vile undead sorcerers. I hid in the shadows, and snuck past them, casting a healing spell on one knight before I moved on. I could hear fierce cries of battle as I approached the central chamber. Peeking around the corner, I saw six brave men and women battling a constant wave of liches. I counted the enemy as I gathered my reagents, and I noticed the flash of a dark blue cloak, the colors of The Soft Parade. Quickly casting a light spell, I ran into the room, where some of my fellow treasure hunters from the Parade were battling alongside two warriors and a wizardess from another guild. I launched missile spells at the liches until I was exhausted, then moved forward to heal the warriors holding the rotting brigade of liches back. Eventually we were able to prevail, and the stream of accursed enemies dried up, but not before I was hit with a fierce chain of lightning and fell. My ghost floated above the battlefield, and though I was worried this might be the end for me, I wasn't afraid. If the sins of my youth damned me to be a Lich of Deceit rather than a Mage of Moonglow, then I bloody well deserved it.

The battle ended and I drifted, at peace with myself despite the carnage and massacre surrounding my body. A light surrounded me, then darkness...

.... And I sat up coughing, a woman's hands on my chest. The sorceress I had fought alongside had resurrected me, and my skin wasn't rotting and grey! Sophitia, a young lass from Trinsic who recently joined our guild, knelt beside me and cast healing magicks to restore me. I thanked them, and after giving them some of my extra bandages, I looked around for my katana, only to find one broken half of it sticking out of dry decaying corpse. Lady Discord approached me, and offered to lend me her extra sword. Thankful for a weapon to rely on when my mana reserves run out, I accepted her offer, and to my surprise she pulled an old silver sword from her backpack! The runes etched on the blade claimed it was forged in Moonglow during the First Age of Darkness, but I could not decipher the enchantments. Even though I was unworthy to wield such a blade, I knew that I needed it, and badly, so I thanked my Lady, and told my friends I would return. They were content to gather their loot and wait to for more liches to come.

I pressed on down the dark corridor leading away from the central chamber and into the crypts. Eerily quiet and empty, my boots scraped and echoed on the dust-covered floor. Piles of bone lay everywhere, those of vanquished undead and brave adventurers mingling with the bones of the ancient dead of Moonglow. I entered a large chamber, with crypts overflowing with bones running around the walls. It was empty... nothing stirred or awoke from coffins; no skeletal guards stood by. It seemed that all were higher up fighting the living invaders to their horror filled realm. I sat down on the edge of a stone crypt to bring out my wineskin, and eat something for energy. As I washed down smoked fish with a bit of wine, I noticed a metal chest sitting in the shadows. I pulled out the small sack of lockpicks I always carry. I set to work on the lock, but my old hands shook, and I broke all ten picks before I could master the lock. This was a task best left to the young, I thought, and stood up. As I stretched the crick out of my old back, I heard a hissing behind me. I turned my head in time to see a seven-foot tall Lich climbing down from a crypt behind me, red power glowing in his palm! His accusation that I was stealing his chest was clear as his spell hit me and sent me sprawling. I got to my knees, grabbing a handful of reagents from my bag. I had to get behind cover and heal myself! His next spell, a vicious blue energy bolt, sent me rolling across the ground in pain, my bag of reagents flying from my hand and spilling into the dark.

I dragged my bleeding body behind a crypt as the lich lord laughed, a chilling sound full of the cold pleasures of the grave. It was enjoying this, and toying with me! Surely a third spell could have felled me as I dragged myself behind cover, but the old rotting nemesis of the living was taking pleasure in watching me bleed. I opened my bloody fist, listening to it shuffle slowly across the room, its laughter still echoing like dancing shadows through the crypts. I had the reagents for a greater heal spell in my hand. I used them, then tucked my spell book into my belt. I felt much better, but I had no time to apply bandages. The Lich Lord was coming to finish me off-- or worse, to torture me with evil spells. I drew the ancient sword, and got up onto my knees. I held my breath, and waited for the Lich to come around the sarcophagus. I plunged the sword into his belly, springing up with my ailing strength. The Lich screamed, its voice like that of many terrified souls, and I wrenched the sword free and struck again, and again. It fell to its knees, and with the last strength in my arm, I slashed the shining silver blade into its neck, and lopped off its terrible leering head. The tip of my sword dragged on the ground as I moved over to the wall, and sunk against it. My wounds were still bleeding, and I was feeling faint. Before I passed out, I saw the ugly light of corruption fade from the empty eye sockets of the lich lord I had slain. 'Rest in peace, fellow mage,' I murmured.

I awoke to the crisp shining air on the surface of Dagger Island. Discord and Sophitia had found me, and with Ulf's help, carried me from the depths and back to the dragon ship La Furia. As we sailed back home to Britain, I lay and meditated on the Virtues. My quest this night may not have saved my soul, or brought back any of the innocents I slew in my quest for magical power as a young man, but I was finally, after 50 years, on the right track. Living an honest life in retirement in the city as a healer isn't enough to gain enlightenment in the virtue that was always my failing. To reach such knowledge, and in my case redemption, one must actively go out and seek the Truth. Then, with Courage fight to uphold it, and with the virtues that come from Love nurture and maintain it.

Finding the truth within yourself is hard to do when you spend your nights in taverns trying to forget the past. I've not been back to Deceit since that winter night three months ago, but I'm no longer afraid. I've just been busy traveling across Britannia with my guildmates, seeking the Truths inside that until now eluded me, and trying to pass a bit of my wisdom to my young companions, so they don't make the same mistakes I did.

--Dargon, High Councillor to Lady Discord and the Vengeance of the Storm, Napa Valley

The dungeon tales continue next week, as we present another of your adventures in the world of Britannia. Keep an eye on FYI for future spotlight topics, and send in your stories!

Published: October 2000
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
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