So, first of all, this is directly copied from the Runic forums. Secondly, this is probably my only attempt at fan fiction - I feel that I can make a better story without a 3 day time limit (like the one for the competition this was written for), and by being able to come up with my own "lore".
Alright, here it is. The complete version. I'd recommend reading it at this link though: Hawkn's Blog: The Sword and the Enchanted Ember
What happened? Lexx asked himself this, as he came to, his mind still hazy. That was a stupid question. He knew the answer all too well. Why did I ever agree to this job... I knew this was a mistake. Lexx began to gather his wits as best he could. Looking around himself, he saw little. He tried to sit up, but noticed that his arms were shackled to the wall above him. He could feel something still warm and sticky on his head. Lexx assumed it was blood, where he must have been hit. Or he really hoped so. Who knew what else was in here? Maybe a monster had been drooling on him while he was passed out... He tried to stand up, but groaned and fell back down in pain. Damn... I'm not going anywhere for a while. Where were his captors though? He again looked around, wincing in pain as he craned his neck. His eyes had begun to adjust to the dark. All that Lexx could make out were stone walls, and one solid wooden door, with no window. He could spot faint ghostly green light coming from the cracks around the door, but not enough to see by. There was only darkness, and the stench of decay. In one corner of the prison cell, Lexx could see what appeared to be a skeleton, also chained to the wall. He hoped this skeleton was like the ones he had seen earlier - dead. Tilting his head back, allowing it to rest against the wall, he thought back to how he had gotten into this mess...
Lexx had been at his favorite tavern – The Flying Varkolyn, in the outpost of Rummage. With the call of ember beckoning in Vilderan, outpost towns, and with them, adventurers had become a common thing. And every good outpost needed a place for adventurers to go to drown it all away, find “companionship”, or jobs as mercenaries and explorers. But that was not why Lexx was here. He had grown a reputation for himself over time as an accomplished thief. But Lexx wasn't a petty thief; no, he stole from the lairs of the dead. After all, what good were treasures to dead people? He sat in his usual corner, with an empty jug of mead on the table in front of him. He was well known here. Lexx could be seen almost nightly, sitting in his quiet corner of the otherwise busy tavern, drinking away painful memories. But this night was different. He was waiting on someone. Someone whom had contacted him via letter that very morning, with the name of the tavern, and the time written in it. Aside from that, there was little else in the letter. He knew that this was for a job though. Lexx had done this enough to know what to expect, and what not to expect – including the name of his employer. He didn't care though – the less he knew, the better. He had taken some dangerous “jobs” before, but every time, he had come out alive, if only just barely. They were usually simple missions involving sneaking in, avoiding a few simple traps, maybe dispatching a few undead, and then making off with a sack of gold and gems, or a crumbling artifact. He always did the job well, took the package to his employers, and left with his reward, no questions asked. This job seemed different though. The letter had made no mention of what exactly it was Lexx would be retrieving, or where he would be stealing it from. So he sat. And waited.
He had been sitting in his corner for an hour past the meeting time now, and was growing impatient. He began to think that the letter was a hoax, a simple joke played by rival treasure hunter, and thought about leaving. But before he could do that, a strange old man shuffled his way towards Lexx. The old man slipped into a seat across the table from him. The man was strange, nothing like Lexx had seen before. The man looked as if part of his face had been replaced with strange gizmos that he didn't recognize. He had a glowing lens in place of his left eye, and the left half of his face had either been replaced by bronze metal, or that it had been bolted onto his skin. Lexx looked the man over for a good ten seconds, intrigued. the man seemed not notice, and stared back at Lexx before saying “Lexxroth, I presume?”
“Are you the one who sent the letter? Listen, I don't care who you are, what you want, or why you want it. I just need to know where it is, and how much I get paid.”
“All in good time, my friend. First, I must ask you something. How much do you know about undead?”
Lexx paused, cringing at the name. “Enough. I can get the job done, if that's what you're asking.”
“Good, good...” the man trailed off, stopping to think. “I need you to sneak into a crypt, and retrieve an ancient amulet. I need it for... research.” He smiled, showing a row of shining white teeth that matched his shiny bald head made of both skin, and metal. “The pay will be good. Enough to let you live in comfort for a long time. That is, of course, assuming you are able to complete the job. I have sent one fellow in the past, but he never came back out. But don't let that scare you off. After all, you said you can handle a few undead, right?”
Lexx sat back and thought for a moment. “And how do I know you'll keep your side of the bargain?”
“I have... friends whom will ensure you are paid in full. But should you speak a word of the mission, I cannot guarantee the safety of your life. My acquaintances don't appreciate someone with loose lips.”
Lexx knew that there was probably more to the story, and the reason this strange man wanted the amulet. But he didn't care. He never did. It was just another job to him. “Alright, I'll do it. Where is this amulet located, and how will I know when I've found it?”
The old man handed Lexx an envelope. “Everything you need to know is in here. Once you have it, there is a scroll inside there that will take you to the place where you will drop it off. You will be paid once you deliver it.” The man looked Lexx in the eyes, his strange lens-eye seeming to look directly into his mind. “Remember what I've said, I know you will not fail us.”
Lexx watched the man stand up awkwardly, and walk out the door, unnoticed by most in the busy tavern. He looked down at the envelope, and decided to go to his room he rented on a monthly basis before opening it. He stood up, walked up to the bar and paid his tab, then went upstairs. Once inside his room, he locked his door, lit the lamp sitting on the nightstand, let himself drop onto his bed, and slowly opened the envelope. Inside were a few old maps, and a small bound scroll that gave off a faint magical glow. The first map showed a mountain pass that Lexx recognized as the Murktop Mountains. They were no more than two days away from Rummage, by foot. There was a red X on a certain location, far off the normal path taken by merchants. Lexx assumed this is where the crypt he was going to was located. The second map seemed to show an expansive tomb, with a similar X located in a large circular chamber of the tomb, far from the entrance of the crypt. Lexx spent a good hour studying the maps, and decided that in the morning, after gathering some supplies, he would head out to the mountain pass where the tomb must have been located.
The next morning, Lexx had gathered the supplies he deemed necessary. He had thought about hiring a mercenary or two, but decided against it after thinking about what the strange man had said. He did not want another liability on this job. Not after what had happened to him in the past. And not when Lexx was not sure what organizations wanted to get their hands on this artifact. He set off about an hour after sunrise. Merchants were a scarce sight – he only encountered a blacksmith and his apprentice the entire trip. Murktop was known for being dangerous. There were both monsters and bandits waiting in the deep fogs that constantly enveloped the mountain, making travel through the pass without a band of armed guards unattractive for most merchants. Only the bravest (or most foolish) of merchants went without hired mercenaries. But Lexx was on his own. His own safety never even crossed his mind. All that was on his mind as he walked towards the mountain were old memories. Memories of a friend long lost. Only after walking quite a distance did he realize that his hand had been on Elona's blade the entire time. He pulled her blade out of its well kept scabbard, admiring the detail on the sword. Its hilt was made out of the hardest iron, but covered in a gold leaf. The guard was fashioned to resemble ivy growing out of the grip. The blade was sharp enough to cut through even the lightest feather unlucky enough to touch its deadly edge. This sword was the work of a master artisan. But the real power within the sword came from the ember encrusted in the pommel. It glowed a faint blue, enchanted by a magician many generations ago, with magics long since forgotten. The ember lent its power to the blade, making the blade all the more deadly when tearing through the flesh or bones of the undead. Admiring the blade, Lexx's thoughts drifted back to Elona... Elona had been a master swordsman. But that had not saved her all of those years back. Lexx painfully recalled how she had been killed that fateful day. How the monster had sneaked up behind her. How he had been to slow to shout a warning. He had watched her be cleaved in two at the waist. The look of shock, and sadness in her eyes pained him to this very day. Enraged, Lexx had taken Elona's sword from her hands as she laid on the ground of that cold catacomb, all life drained from her. He had killed every monster that was in that catacomb without mercy. When he confronted the beast that had killed Elona, he used his knowledge of the lesser magics to make the construct’s death slow and painful. Elona had been his friend since they met at the orphanage. Hoping to make better lives for themselves, they ran away (the wretched old lady that ran the orphanage never even reported them missing). They had started off as common street thieves. But they had grown more skilled, and also, closer. He had fallen in love with her. And suddenly, it was all gone. She was dead, her spirit gone, into the realm that even darkness fears. Lexx longed for her embrace just once more, the chance to say goodbye, but death knows nothing of mercy. He vowed never to work with a partner again after that tragedy. Sure, it was dangerous to go alone, but it was almost as if part of him didn't care what happened to himself anymore. He just did the job he was asked to do. Lexx made camp that night, trying not to think about the past. He had one more day of travel before he could even begin searching for the ancient crypt. Lexx laid in front of the fire, and eventually fell into a fitful sleep.
In the morning, Lexx set out again, still miserable from the night before. Already, he had a hard time seeing even a hundred paces in front of him. But he knew where he was going. He followed the winding path up the mountain range, encountering no one the entire day. He was sure it had to do with the influx of raiders in recent months. As night was approaching, Lexx finally reached the point that he knew he must leave the mountain path, and head into the dense fog in search of the crypt. He had a general idea of where to go, but he was by no means certain. He took in a deep breath, and headed into the darkening fog, and trees that had begun to grow more frequent, as if growing from the fog itself. He wanted to find the entrance before making camp. Lexx told himself he would explore the tomb in search of the amulet the next day. But when he reached the point on the map that the entrance should have been, he found nothing. Instead, there was a large clearing in the middle of what had become a dense forest, but there was nothing there aside from snow. He found evidence of a recent camp – though who had been here was a mystery to him. The tracks were too distorted to make anything of, but one thing was certain; they weren't human. He continued his way across the clearing, and eventually came upon what appeared to be a path in between the trees.
Lexx followed the winding path, wondering if it would ever end. Just as he thought he saw some light a ways ahead, he heard a branch snap behind him. As he spun around, he saw two Sturmbeornen crash out of the brush. He turned around, preparing to run, but another one jumped off of a low hanging branch, blocking his path. They were huge creatures, half bear, half man - and they didn't appear to want to talk. These “bear-men” were known to attack both merchants and adventurers in search of plunder. These three must have seen him coming, and set up an ambush. Lexx saw that all three of them had large axes, and were closing in on him. Lexx pulled out his glaive, and threw it at the first Sturmbeornen, and gave a satisfied smirk as the glaive spun past him, but came close enough to cut deep into its flesh. The bear-man howled in both rage and pain as the glaive flew through the air back to Lexx. He dodged to the right as the other two bear-men charged at him from both sides, angry about their ally’s injury, and likely wanting to avoid receiving a similar wound. The two Sturmbeornen ran into each other with a resounding thud, and fell to the ground, confused about how Lexx had been there one moment, and was gone the next. Lexx didn't waste this opportunity, and threw a handful of dust at the two bear-men, and then jumped at the injured Sturmbeornen, unsheathing his sword while in the air. He quickly finished off the injured beast by running him through. Behind Lexx, he heard the pained roars of the other two Sturmbeornen, now covered in the painful powder. Lexx pulled his sword out of the now dead bear-man's gut, and with his other hand, threw a fan of knives at the two Sturmbeornen that were now back on there feet, and charging at him. One of the bear-men was hit by three of the poisoned knives, and fell on his face, instantly dead. The third and final monster had been lucky, and was not hit by any of the knives, and had raised his axe over his head, ready to deal a death blow to Lexx. As the fatal blow came down though, Lexx flipped out of the way, narrowly missing being hit. He threw his glaive at the Sturmbeornen, who was not struggling to dislodge his weapon from the ground. The glaive hit home, sinking deep into the creature's chest. Lexx used this opportunity to charge the creature. He quickly dispatched it with a single slice across the throat. He pulled his glaive from the dead Sturmbeornen, wiped it and his sword clean in the snow. He searched the bodies but found nothing of value. Once again he began walking toward the light, leaving the bodies of the three bear-men behind, and the snow now red with blood.
Out of the forest, Lexx continued towards the light. Soon, he realized that he was at the foot of a large cliff. When he reached the light, he gazed through the thick fog, and saw that he had come upon an ancient doorway with green glowing runes above it, the door that had once been there long ago crumbled away, leaving a dark maw in the side of the cliff. He could not understand the runes completely, but made out “The Guardian does not rest”. This didn't faze him though, as most tombs he had seen in the past had warnings like this to scare off would-be tomb robbers. That said, Lexx wasn't about to take any unnecessary risks, so he decided to try to sleep outside the passage for the night. He wanted a fire, but thought better of it, as it might have attracted even more Sturmbeornen, unhappy about the deaths of their allies. Lexx curled up on his mat, shivering in the leathers and heavy coat that he had worn up here. He hadn't noticed how cold he was, but now that the adrenaline from his past fight was wearing off, he was miserable. No matter how hard he tried, he could not fall asleep. He leaned against a rock, looking at the faint blue glow coming from the pommel of his sword. He stared at it for what must have been hours, deep in thought, because before he knew it, he could see some sun through the ever present fog. Lexx gathered his supplies, placing them neatly in his backpack, and stood up. He used a minor magic to create an orb of light. He wanted to find the ancient amulet, and be done with this. He thought about how this would change his life, finally able to give up his job, and settle to a quiet life. He knew he could never have Elona back, but maybe this would help make amends for the guilt he still felt about her. He flicked his wrist, commanding the orb of light forward, and stepped through the entrance, ignoring the warning, glowing with fell energy.
The crypt was ancient, that much he could tell. Even his extensive knowledge of dead languages did not help him in here. He had been self taught, spending every waking moment in libraries as a youth, but this was beyond anything he had seen before. Lexx walked through a large passage way, covered from the floor to the ceiling with ancient text and runes that he didn't recognize. There were cobwebs everywhere, but it appeared that whatever had once built the webs were long since gone. He could feel an evil presence around him. After walking for what felt like an eternity down the long hallway, he finally came to a large circular room, with a staircase that wound endlessly down into a black pit. All around the pit were the bones of dead creatures, forgotten by time. But Lexx had memorized the map, and knew this was the only way down, the direction he needed to go. Carefully, he approached the edge, and gently put his foot on the first stair. It didn't give. So he put more weight on it, and it still held. Lexx slowly began the long descent into the darkness. After walking for an hour, he noticed more and more skeletons littering the stairs. Eventually, he reached the “bottom”, which was made of thousands of bones littering the floor. There were so many, Lexx could walk on them, wincing as he heard them crunching beneath his feet. But he saw what he was looking for – a small doorway carved into one of the walls. The doorway led to yet another hallway, this too littered with bones. But this hallway had many paths branching off to both the left and right. Lexx knew where he was going though – he needed to go straight. It would lead to the chamber that held the amulet. He continued, slowing down the closer he got to the chamber, due to the large amount of bones that were strewn across the floor.
When he finally reached the chamber, he was awestruck. The chamber was massive – perhaps big enough to hold a castle. His magical orb of light didn't even begin to light it. But the strange balls of green slime that were placed throughout the chamber did. Even then, he could barely see the ceiling of the chamber, it was so high up. Across the room, over the bones that covered the floor, Lexx could see a coffin, carved out of the mountain itself. It was ornately decorated with ancient runes, and glowed in the same manner that the runes at the entrance had, but Lexx could not interpret these words, their meanings lost to the relentless greed of time's grasp. Leaning on the coffin was a huge skeleton – it must have been a giant in life. But what grabbed Lexx's attention was the amulet that hung from its neck. It had a chain made of platinum, and a green gem the size of a man's fist hung from it. It glowed with power, giving off a green aura. Lexx carefully approached the mammoth skeleton, wary of any trap that may be in the room to protect the artifact. As he got closer, he noticed weapons on the floor, among the bones. What really disturbed him though, was the huge sword lying on the floor next to the giant skeleton. The sword was longer than Lexx was tall, and he could only imagine the kind of warrior who could wield such a weapon – but when he looked up, he didn't have to imagine. This beast must have wielded it in life. Finally, he reached the coffin, and next to it, the amulet hanging from the giant's neck. Knowing it was a bad idea, but since he saw no other option, he tested the stability of the lid. Carefully, he climbed atop the coffin, still watching for any traps he could have missed. He began to stand up on the coffin lid, reaching for the amulet. Just as he did though, he heard something click, and felt the lid sliding from underneath his feet. At this point, there was nothing he could do from the awkward position he was in. He felt himself begin to fall backwards, now into the coffin, still inhabited by its original owner. He twisted in the air, trying to catch himself, but he was too late. His head slammed into the edge of the coffin, and everything began to go black. The last thing he heard was rattling, then he passed out...
I must be in one of the side passages I passed on my way to the chamber. Already, Lexx was thinking of a way to get out of the manacles that bound him. Whoever had locked him up had not thought to take away his weapons or even his bag, which was still on his back. Who found me while I was unconscious, and locked me up? Lexx wanted to know why he had encountered no traps up until that point, but for the moment, it didn't matter. He needed to get free. Lexx leaned over. Carefully, he twisted his entire body around, until he was upside down, with his shoulders on the ground, his hands still chained behind him but now crossed, and his legs above him. His arms were screaming with pain from being stretched, but he shook his back, and all at once felt everything spill out of his bag. Quickly, he turned back over, again slumped against the wall. After taking a moment to rest, and let the pain his arms ease, Lexx began using his feet to search through the contents of his bag that were now strewn across the ground. Eventually, he found the leather bundle that held his lock picking tools. He pinched the bundle between his feet, and flicked it up to his hands. After a few tries, he finally caught it, and was able to get a lock pick out of the pouch. The locks on his hands came apart easily, after being so rusted with age. Gathering all of his belongings again back into his bag, he sneaked quietly to the door. Carefully, he opened the door, peaking outside. He was at the end of a hallway lined with the green slime. The Hallway was empty. He made his way to the end, and discovered that he was back at the main hallway that led to the chamber. But something was wrong. All of the bones were missing. Deciding to risk it, and the desire to find out what had happened to him, he quietly made his way to the giant chamber.
When he arrived, he stopped at the tunnel's exit, his jaw hanging wide open. The room was completely filled with skeletons, animated with a green sickly aura. And at the center of it all, Stood the giant skeleton he had seen earlier. But now he was standing, pulsing with the green energy, and holding his massive cleaver. The amulet still hung around his neck, now glowing even brighter than before. Almost instantly, the giant's large skull snapped in Lexx's direction, Lexx's eyes locking with the glowing sockets of the giant. “Ahhhh, the living one is free... You were supposed to rot in there.” He rumbled, his voice so deep, Lexx could feel the earth beneath his feet shake. “I have existed long before you humans came here, and I shall exist long after. He has tasked me to kill you all.”
“Who are you? And who is 'He'?” Lexx asked, unsure of what to do next.
“I am the Guardian. I was tasked with guarding powers that you cannot fathom. Our magics are ancient, our ways lost to time. You are an intruder, and therefore must die. He has commanded it.”
“I was hired simply to collect the amulet you have, and to leave. I knew there might be some undead, but not of this magnitude. What is it you are guarding, exactly? Is it the amulet? What is so special about it?” Lexx was trying to buy time, think of a way out. But he was surrounded by skeletons now, and a way out was not obvious – the tunnel was now full of shambling undead, all gazing at him, as if waiting for the signal to attack.
“This amulet is from the time before time, and holds the power to dominate nations. But you will not live to see that. You will join the army that has amassed here over many generations.” The Guardian hefted his blade. “Enough with your small minded talk. You must die.” The Guardian began to run towards Lexx, his giant steps covering the distance quickly. It was all Lexx could do to just get out of the way. On top of that, the undead horde had begun to move towards him. Lexx threw his glaive through a large group of undead that had gotten close to him. The glaive smashed through the group, turning them all to dust. Lexx unsheathed his sword, and swung it in a ark behind him. He managed to catch part of the Guardian's leg, but it seemed to just infuriate the Guardian more. Roaring, the Guardian swung his blade down at Lexx, barely missing, but the impact knocked Lexx off his feet. He scrambled to get out of the way of the Guardian's massive foot that was now trying to squish him like a bug. He rolled onto his back, and leaped onto his feet. His glaive had fallen about twenty paces away from him, and Lexx ran forward, through a crowd of skeletons. He swung his sword back and forth, clearing the way in front of him, like a hot knife through butter. He managed to pick up his glaive, then roll out of the way as the Guardian thundered past him, in an attempt to trample Lexx. The Guardian turned around, and spotted Lexx, but as he did, Lexx threw his glaive at the Guardian. The glaive hit the Guardian in the face, and shattered the bottom half of his skull, then embedded itself in the Guardian's spine. The Guardian swung at Lexx, managing to catch Lexx in the chest with the tip of his sword, leaving a bloody gash on him. Lexx knew he had to finish this soon, and find a way to escape. He jumped at the Guardian, and swung his sword in an arc. He cut clean through the Guardian's neck, and the Guardian's skull fell to the ground, shattered. The amulet slid across the ground, now free of its owner's neck. Without the necrotic energy holding it together, the rest of the Guardian's body fell to the ground. The skeletons surrounding Lexx let out an ear piercing shriek, and all began to charge at him at once. Lexx dashed for the amulet, grabbed it, then juggled with the items in his pocket. He pulled out the scroll the strange man had given him, and ripped it open, just as the skeletons reached him. Everything flashed, then went dark.
Next thing he knew, he was in a small, dark room. There was a single table in the center, with a lamp on it. The strange man was standing next to the table. “Hello Lexxroth, we've been waiting for you.” Stepping closer to Lexx, he said “You have the artifact, I assume?”
Lexx clutched his chest, trying to stop the blood, but with the other hand held the amulet, still glowing green. “Yes. But I'll need to see the money before I just give you it.” Grimacing, he asked “You don't happen to have a health potion lying around here, do you?”
“I'm sorry Lexxroth, but He thinks you know too much.” The strange man stepped into the shadows, only the glow from his lens eye visible, and a dozen men in armor stepped out of the shadows, their swords drawn. Lexx also noticed some more shadowy figures standing in the back, flames now dancing around their hands.
“I see.” Lexx drew his sword, its comforting glow once again with him. “Maybe I'll see you soon Elona.” He whispered.
Yeah, this sucks.