Sidriss looked around. She was in a room reminiscent of a temple or church, with light blue walls and a slightly unreal look. The room was situated in Level 2 of the Dungeon, in the now-abandoned area of the Original Chambers. The majority of the Original Chambers lay in ruins, or had even ceased to exist after one or another Phaseshift - these deep areas had existed in times when Phaseshifts had been violent and destructive. Some people believed that this was the true nature of the Dungeon, and the calmer nature of transitions between Phases was a side effect of the Technomagical operations of Lord Fear. Others belived that as the dungeon grew from a simple set of magical chambers into a realm of continents and oceans, the sheer size of it provided a sort of buffer, making Phaseshifts appear less violent.
Sidriss removed the hooded cloak she'd worn to this point. She'd worn it to avoid being recognised, but it was fairly certain that she'd be safe from undesired recognition here.
Even now, the chamber attempted to act as the Level 2 Clue Room, offering a small loaf of bread on the table. Sidriss was feeling hungry, and wolfed down the bread. As she did so, she felt a presence manifest. Not good or evil, but a true neutral. As she turned, she saw a ghostly woman's face appear in mid air, a face easily more than twice the size of Sidriss herself. Sidriss had never come across the Oracle of Confusion before, and stayed a few moments for the novelty, even though she knew it was doubtful the Oracle would happen to give any information relevant to her.
"Seek not the advice of the Dreaded One, who corrupts innocence and turns purity to evil." The Oracle whispered in a voice devoid of emotion. "The Golden Spear is not gold, but appears so to all but the spear's master. In the Original Chambers, even Elf-Paths may be impossible to find. It is better to be confused than reviled. A Nightmare may protect one who wins her heart. Salvation may be found in the most unlikely circumstances..."
The Oracle faded away, leaving Sidriss alone. Sidriss shrugged and continued through the Dungeon.
She stopped at a strange room, what appeared to be a library. Various books were lying around the place, and there were several pieces of old-looking furniture. In the centre of the room was a throne of a sort. Sidriss could sense illusion at work here.
"Welcome to the Hall of Folly, young Sidriss!" Sidriss turned around to see Mogdred in the largest doorway of the room.
"The Hall of Folly? As in Merlin?"
Mogdred nodded. "Yes, a room that once housed my alter ego. Although..." For a moment, there was a look of what might have been nostalgia in the ancient man's eye. "This isn't actually the Hall of Folly. Sadly, the true version did not survive the second Phaseshift of the dungeon. But I created this illusion. Perhaps I'm getting sentimental in my old age..." Mogdred chuckled. "But enough of my recollections. Do you wish to begin the lessons?"
Sidriss nodded eagerly. "Yes!"
"Well, then, let us begin with something simple. Take this pendant and concentrate..."
Sidriss was walking slowly back to her father's home, her hooded cloak wrapped tightly around her for warmth as well as recognition. She would soon be back into the inhabited part of the realm and there was the possibility that she may meet up with Hordriss himself. She shivered as the wind howled around her, she realised a storm was going to hit soon. As she hurried along the overgrown path she thought about her lesson with Mogdred, for the first in a long while she had managed to concentrate her magic on one task, she had started with a simple float charm but had managed it with no trouble at all. Mogdred wasn't like her father in his teaching methods. Strangely he seemed to have an endless patience with her and didn't demand the finished result of the spell to be perfect, or set a goal for her to achieve, he was satisfied if she only got half way to completing the spell before she admitted defeat. He had instructed her on how to find and harness the Mana that she possessed and assert her control over it, instead of just expecting it to manifest when she needed it. She had also managed to manipulate a small flame as Mogdred had suggested that they should start with her strengths, which were natural Lore and Earth Magic. She smiled as she remembered the feeling of being completely in control, and the sensations as she used her magic properly. She looked down at the small pendant that was still clutched tightly in her hand, Mogdred had given it to her as a gift after the lesson had ended. It seemed to be a small horned skull, but whether it was animal or not she couldn't tell. Two tiny black gems were embedded in the silver eye sockets giving the skull an eerie sense of realism. She had noticed that it felt cold to the touch, but she suspected that even on the warmest day it would feel deathly cold. She looked at it for a moment longer then pushed back her hood and placed it around her neck, she was surprised that nothing untoward happened when she put it on, she had expected something magical as she sensed it contained Mana of some kind. Hearing someone approach she pulled her hood over her face and hurried on down the path, all thoughts of the pendant were lost as she rushed away.
Unknown to her she had been watched through the forest, her unseen follower had tracked her through the cover of the trees and was now resting on a branch some distance above her. They watched as she rushed towards the nearby village but, as they guessed correctly, moved around the outskirts and did not enter. The stranger knew of Sidriss, and her unusual behaviour should not go unreported. They shielded their eyes as the first drops of rain started falling, and stared at the ever-looming presence of Dunshelm that dominated the horizon.
Hordriss came into Sidriss' room, carrying two candles. Sidriss knew immediately what he was going to try to teach her and she smiled, she had mastered this technique with Mogdred as one of the first lessons.
"Now my dearest, I am going to teach you a Level Two spell, as I feel your abilities have progressed sufficiently."
He paused, Sidriss smiled at him and stood up. He had been expecting her to be somewhat nervous at this statement, he certainly hadn't expected her to be almost complacent!
He placed the two candles on her dresser and lit them.
"I want you to watch very carefully what I do, and then try to emulate it"
He stared intently at the first candle, a tiny flame flickered on the wick then it became larger. Hordriss shifted his concentration to the entire candle and the flame slowly engulfed it, but didn't melt the wax at all. He finished by returning the flame to the wick and extinguishing it. He turned to his daughter.
"Now you try."
Sidriss felt the power that she possessed and started to harness it in the way that Mogdred had taught her, Hordriss watched in amazement as she completed the spell without a mistake and considerably faster than he had done!
"That's . that's very impressive. Have you done this spell before?"
She smiled innocently at him.
"No father, not this spell."
"Really? Er, I mean very well done indeed!"
Hordriss noticed for the first time the pendant, which she now always wore.
"Sidriss, let me see that."
She realised what he had seen and backed away, Hordriss walked towards her and held out his hand, she reluctantly removed her gift and placed it in his outstretched palm. He shivered as he touched it and held it up to the light, his eyes grew wide as he noticed the tiny ornate pentogram on the reverse side of the skull.
"Where did you get this from?"
"The Market, father."
Hordriss looked squarely at her and she turned away.
"Oh no, I don't think you did, did you. A mere Market trader would not be in possession of such a thing, and if they were one would be most worried. This, Sidriss, is a powerful arcane symbol. I ask you again, where did you get it?"
This was no longer a question, it was an order. She could see that her father was furious but was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to hide it.
"A friend gave it to me, it was a present."
"Which friend? Tell me!"
She stayed defiantly silent, what right did he have to pry into her life.
"Was it the same friend who gave you this?"
Sidriss stared in horror, as Hordriss pulled Mogdred's other gift, the tiny spell book, out of his pocket.
"How did you get that " she faltered
For the first time, a wave of uncertainty crossed his face.
"You've been searching my room! How dare you! That's not fair Father, I'm allowed to have a life!"
"Yes, you are. But not when it concerns fraternising with Dark Magic. Now, if you don't tell me who gave them to you, and where I can find them, I will not let you out of my sight for the next month!"
"No I will not! I never thought you'd stoop so low as to go searching my room, instead of talking to me if you thought there was something wrong. Don't you trust me?"
"I trust you Sidriss, but I do not trust others who would take advantage of you!"
"Father I'm almost eighteen, don't you think I know what's right by now."
"Evidently you do not, otherwise you wouldn't be carrying these things around with you!"
"I've had enough of this!"
She snatched the pendant out of her father's hand and stormed out of the room, Hordriss stood dumbfounded for a second and then persued her.
"Sidriss, get back here now. One commands you!"
"I'm going out, I know when I'm not wanted!"
Hordriss reached the door just after Sidriss slammed it shut. She could feel the tears running down her cheek as she placed the pendant round her neck once more.
"I'll show him, I will be better than him. Mogdred has said so!"
Somewhere far away, a Dark Sorcerer watched these events through a large, ornately decorated magic mirror. He smirked as Sidriss and Hordriss argued, and chuckled deeply and evilly as the young Sorceress stormed away from her father.
"How satisfying it is to witness a plot coming together." Mogdred mused.
Sidriss was searching the Market for her father, she had just completed a particularly difficult spell and was desperate to show him. As she walked into the centre of town she heard a voice and sighed, she turned to see Motley running behind her.
"What is it? This better not take too long Motley!"
"I 'aven't seen you for ages Sidriss! I was just wondering whether you'd got lucky with the frogs!!"
Motley's grin faded.
"It was a joke, honest. What's gotten into you?"
"I'm just fed up of always being laughed at."
"No one's laughing at you. They're probably laughing at me, I am the greatest Jester in all the Dungeon!"
"You're the only Jester in all the Dungeon, and you're a bad one at that!"
He looked downcast.
"I'm not that bad, just a bit out of practice! Who are you looking for anyway?"
"Father actually, I wanted to show him a spell I'd been working on."
"Oh, yeah. I've just seen him going into 'The Mad '"
Motley was shocked
"Eh? What do you mean?"
Sidriss glared at him.
"I should have known that he would rather be with that girl than with me, I knew I shouldn't have introduced them!"
"You don't mean Marta surely? She's a lovely person! And your father deserves a rest, what with all he's had to put up with recently."
"I don't understand?"
Motley suddenly looked very guilty
"What is it?"
"Erm, well. I don't mean this in any bad way at all but ."
"What? Just say it for goodness sake!"
"Well, it's you. You haven't been the easiest person to be around recently, and erm, people are starting to notice."
Sidriss stood dumbfounded, Motley backed away a few steps unconsciously.
"What do you mean by 'people are starting to notice', how dare they talk about me behind my back!"
"An' that thing you've been wearing as well, it's not really your style is it! I wouldn't 'ave thought that wearing a skull would be creepy but it really is."
Sidriss was furious
"You're as bad as Father! What I do and what I wear are my business, how dare they! I'll show them, I'll change their idea of who I am "
Motley desperately tried to calm her down.
"I'm sure it's just village gossip Sid, it's harmless. People respect you just as much as they respect your father!"
She laughed out loud at this statement
"They don't respect him, I see that now. We're both just convenient targets for their petty insecurities, we are so much greater than them so they find excuses to ridicule us."
"Sidriss, I'm worried about you. You've never talked like this before, I don't think "
"I don't care what you think, you're as bad as the rest of them! VERTERE!"
"No Sidriss! Not agai...!"
A look of horror passed over the young Jester's face as he mutated and shrank, Sidriss grinned and picked up the struggling form of the Rat which had appeared before her.
"Let's see you wriggle out of this one, that will teach you to doubt me!"
She laughed and put the rodent into her pocket, she turned to look at the Tavern in the distance.
"I think I'll pay a visit to dear father."
Hordriss was, at that moment, regaling his deep concerns for the wellbeing of his only child to Marta. The landlord had unofficially allowed her to spend some time with him as Hordriss was a powerful Mage, and it was good for business to let him to talk to her!
"One really thinks that she is becoming lost to me, she's never been like this before."
"Well, maybe she just wants to be her own person sir. Every child has to go their own way eventually."
"Perhaps, but one doesn't seem to want to let her go!"
Marta smiled at this.
"It's understandable sir, but let her have some freedom. It might do her good . "
She trailed off, for a moment she looked confused.
"Is something the matter?"
"My head, I it feels like someone's pushing a needle in it."
She closed her eyes and held her head in her hands, the hairs on the back of his neck began to rise as he sensed powerful sorcery. Hordriss turned and glanced behind him, half hidden by the frame of the door was Sidriss, she was staring intently at Marta with a malevolent smile on her face. Hordriss stood up and strode towards her.
"Sidriss, cease your magic now!"
The Inn fell silent, all eyes turned to Hordriss and his daughter. She spoke but continued to stare.
"Don't let me stop your little engagement father, you seemed to be having a very good time."
"Sidriss, one commands you to stop this at once. People are "
"I don't care! They all think I'm stupid anyway, if they want to talk about me when I've done nothing wrong, then I might as well give them something real to talk about!"
She broke her gaze and Marta was released, Hordriss turned to see if she was all right but Sidriss stopped him.
"It might have escaped your attention, but while you've been with her I've improved my sorcery skills. You haven't even noticed me these past few weeks."
Hordriss was shocked.
"That is simply not true."
"Yes it is, you couldn't care less about me."
She turned to go, then reached into her pocket and dropped Motley the Rat into her father's hand.
"I've a present for you, it's evidence!"
She stormed out of the Tavern. Hordriss, immediately recognising an enchanted human, reversed the spell and a rather confused Jester appeared before him.
Hordriss glowered at the jester impatiently.
"One does not especially care about the discomfort being shape-changed has caused you. What One does care about is you ceasing your idiotic prattling and answering the question put to you!"
Motley gulped and collected his thoughts. He'd automatically gone into jester mode when Hordriss had released him from the enchantment, and had riled up Hordriss. The inn had cleared of all cutomers except for the mage, all staff except for Marta, and any other living soul apart from Motley. Motley had never been comfortable around Hordriss ever since he'd gotten the Confuser angry and found himself facing life as a mime. And Hordriss looked far angrier now than he had then, so Motley intended to tell what he new, then get out of there as fast as his legs would carry him.
"I-I don't know, your Worship! She seemed in a bad mood about something, like it was that time of...er, anyway. She started yelling about how people laughed at her and all, and about you and Marta here, not that there's anything wrong with the two of you, and I wouldn't think anything about it except..."
"Sorry, your Greatness! Th-the point is that, well, Sidriss just seemed to blow up for no reason!"
Hordriss sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Very well. Begone."
Motley gratefully ran out of the inn. Marta gave Hordriss a worried look.
"You were right, sir. I'm afraid that something might be very wrong."
"Yes...If only I knew what! Oh Sidriss...what is wrong? Why won't you tell me?"
A little while later, Sidriss was pacing back and forth near a cliff on the other side of the Greenwood. Part of her felt guilty about turning Motley into a rat, even if the little creep had been asking for it - while he did have a habit of saying the wrong thing, it was generally more by accident than by spite.
What really got her blood boiling was her father, and that tramp Marta. She was really starting to hate what they had between them. No wonder her studies with her father had never gotten anywhere, if he preferred to spend all his time with a serving wench than with his own daughter...
So consumed with her angry thoughts, Sidriss failed to notice the approach of a strange figure dressed in black and dull silver until he spoke.
"Snip, snap...Snip, snap..."
Sidriss growled as she turned, knowing at once who the intruder was. "Go away. I passed your test, and I don't have any patience for you right now!"
"Ah, but my pretty, you only got two, and only with help you got through!" Snapper Jack replied slyly. "Test you again we will, test again. Will you prove to be smart, or come with us to our den?"
Sidriss snarled. "That's it. I warned you! IGNIS!"
A huge fireball consumed Jack. Sidriss turned and started to walk away, feeling a bit better...until she heard Jack's voice from within the flames.
"No, no, no...On the Fooltaker, magic doesn't work. Nothing save wits, so answer, don't shirk!"
Sidriss clenched her fists. She turned back towards Snapper Jack.
"Here's Number One, just for..."
"Of all the disrespectful...DISINTERGRATUM!"
While Jack might have been immune to magic, the ground beneath his feet wasn't, and he suddenly found himself dropping into the river some way below. Sidriss, certain that her tormentor was out of mind this time, walked away.
Several days went by. Hordriss searched for his daughter, yet could find no trace of her. He was starting to despair when, while searching through the Greenwood, he felt a presence approach him. He turned to see a green-clad Wood Elf crouching on a thick branch nearby. Hordriss recognised him as a former assistant of the Dungeon Master Treguard, and searched his memory for the Elf's name, or rather, the name the Elf went by.
"Yes! Pickle, wasn't it?"
"That's right, sir."
"Whatever it is you want, I am afraid that One does not have time to entertain your..."
"With respect, sir, I did not approach you with a request. Rather, I have information concerning your daughter."
"Sidriss?! Tell me!"
Pickle licked his lips nervously. "Some time ago, I saw Sidriss emerge from an entrance to the Original Chambers. There was something different about her. I...have been following her, on and off, ever since." Pickle flipped down to the ground. His eyes were troubled. "A few days ago, she entered the ruins of Dungarth. At that time, a magical operation began, and much of Dungarth has been restored...after a fashion." Pickle did not add his suprise at finding Sidriss to be competant enough to perform such a task.
"What do you mean, Elf? After a fashion?"
Pickle nodded. "Dungarth is almost as it was, yet at the same time, it is different. No longer the proud citadel, there is a sense of wrongness. Foreboding. It makes me shiver just to think about it..."
Hordriss groaned. Events were spiralling out of control. "One thanks you for the information, Pickle. I...I must see my daughter."
Hordriss turned and walked away. Pickle shivered. Hordriss was a powerful Mage, and could have teleported himself to Dungarth in an instant. Pickle wasn't sure why, but he found the fact that Hordriss had chosen this slower, conventional method to travel sinister, like an ill omen. Pickle hoped that he was being paranoid, as his former master had so often called him.
During the course of his life, Hordriss had seen much that normal people would never have imagined to exist. He had faced adversaries that would have made the most powerful knight quail, and dangers that would make the boldest adventurer think twice about risking. He had always taken these obstacles in stride, for he had considerable power, with a self-confidence that bordered on egotistic.
As he stood outside Dungarth now, though, a sense of fear settled in his stomach like ice. He had faced many enemies, but none of them had ever been his own flesh and blood.
Dungarth had changed. There were still ruins, but the parts that had remained almost completely intact were now armoured and well-maintained. The main door stood open, a mocking invitation. Hordriss balled up a fist, then strode in.
The main hall was made of dark stone, and had crimson and black crests lining the walls. Hordriss' horrified eyes were drawn to a corpse hanging upside down in a thin cage from the ceiling above. From the look at it, the poor wretch must have died in terrible agony. Hordriss summoned up some of his power and looked at the corpse with magical senses. To his immense relief, he saw that the body was no more than an illusion, presumably some sick mind game that Sidriss hoped to fluster him with. But she'd used an illusion instead of actually torturing some innocent passer by to death. Perhaps that meant that she was not yet beyond redemption. Hordriss desperately hoped that that was the case.
Hordriss walked through the hall into the large dining room. The room was furnished, but empty of inhabitants. One door at the other end of the room looked like it would lead to the throne room, which Hordriss thought as being the most likely place that Sidriss woul be waiting for him. He started to cross the room. Halfway across, mocking laughter started to echo across the stones of the room, and a ghostly skull that was once an Energy Sprite flickered into existence in front of him. Hordriss wasn't at all intimidated by the apparition - he was more than capable of destroying it. But the laughter, as evil as it was, he recognised as the laughter of Sidriss. Once, it had been full of innocent happiness and mirth. How could that same laugh be so tainted now?
"AVAUNT!" Hordriss cried. The ghost gave a sigh that sounded like a quiet scream, and faded away. Sidriss' laughter quietened, but could still be heard on the edge of his senses. She was beckoning to him.
Hordriss entered the throne room. In the middle of the chamber, his daughter stood. Her dress had been replaced by one in a similar style, but with red replacing the pink, a red so deep and shiny that Hordriss could almost believe that it was some sort of fabric made from blood. Her hair was tied back with a black ribbon, her fringe contained within a silver tiara. Her right hand wore a dark velvet glove, and the pendant that Hordriss had noticed before was around her neck. The biggest difference, though, was her face. The innocence and brightness Hordriss was used to had been twisted into a look of cruel amusement and disdain.
"Welcome to my castle, father." Sidriss sneered. "Oh, I know that I still have to fix the ruined parts, but it still looks impressive, doesn't it?"
"Sidriss, this madness must stop here!" Hordriss exclaimed.
"Madness? Ha! The first sign of an indivdual desire, and you call it madness." Sidriss spat. "The truth is that you can't stand the thought of your daughter being her own woman, can you? You hate the fact that I'm becoming far more than you could ever hope to be, so you have to try and keep me under your thumb to appease your own insecurities!"
"That is simply not true! All I want is the best for you!"
"Really? Then how is it that as a dutiful daughter I was a hopeless Sorceress, yet after breaking from your influence my power increases daily?" Sidriss demanded.
Hordriss was not the most patient man, and the stress had caused what patience he did have to evaporate. "One will be happy to explain to your heart's content, daughter, but first One will be taking you home!" With that, Hordriss threw forth a prepared Trap spell. Glowing chains of energy wrapped themselves around Sidriss.
"You dare spelltrap me? In my own domain?" Sidriss snarled. She clenched her gloved hand and chanted under her breath. The magical chains turned from white to yellow, then to a fiery orange. Their light intensified, and the chains burst into nothingness.
Hordriss faltered. He had underestimated Sidriss' power, and had managed to anger her further. A magical battle was looking likely, and he really didn't want to use offensive magic on his daughter. Unfortunately, Sidriss seemed to have no such qualms, throwing a fireball right into his chest. Even as he was thrown into the wall, he could see Sidriss preparing a second spell. Quickly, Hordriss set up a magical shield which deflected the energy blast harmlessly.
"Sidriss, my daughter, I have no wish to fight you..."
"I'm sorry to say that I can't agree!" Sidriss punctuated her remark with another fireball. Hordriss' shield quivered slightly.
"Come on, Hordriss!" Sidriss shouted. "At least pretend you can put up a fight!" A third fireball caused the shield to buckle.
"Pathetic!" Sidriss taunted. "You really are too weak for the Dark Arts. No wonder mother left you behind..." She prepared to fire another energy blast.
Sidriss' last remark cut deep into Hordriss. What had happened between him and Sidriss' mother had hurt him deeply. Sidriss' casual insult about that caused his temper to flare up violently. Without thinking about it, he screamed an ancient incantaion, and blasted Sidriss with a huge lightning bolt. The bolt caught Sidriss completely by surprise. She screamed and flew back into the wall. She slumped to the ground, and didn't move.
Hordriss looked in horror at what he had done. He ran over to his daughter, limping from the damage the first fireball had done. Sidriss seemed completely out. She didn't even appear to be breathing.
"No..." Hordriss moaned. He cradled her head in his arms, and shed a tear. But then she stirred, and put an arm around his neck. Hordriss sighed in relief, and brushed back Sidriss' hair. But his blood ran cold when he saw the look of rage and cold hatred on her face. Her hand gripped the back of his neck, and she whispered a powerful Dark Incantation. The next thing he knew, his body was wracked with pain.
Hordriss stumbled back and cast a spell of pain relief. The pain receded, but Sidriss was back on her feet.
"Well, father, perhaps we shall have some fun after all. Here, I'll even provide the entertainment." Sidriss gestured at a mirror, which clouded up and showed a scene from far away. The mirror zoomed into the caverns of Level 3, near the Heart of the Dungeon. Some of the caverns had been sealed off from the others. The mirror went to one of these cave chambers. A familiar figure could be seen in it.
"Marta..?" Hordriss whispered.
"Yes, dear old tavern wench Marta." Sidriss chuckled. "Oh, don't worry about her being lonely there. I've given her a companion..."
The mirror moved to another chamber a little way from Marta. Hordriss gasped in horror. The chamber was occupied by a large Catacomb Bite.
"Sidriss! You cannot do this!"
"Really? I think I already have."
"But Marta is your friend!"
Sidriss gave a dry laugh. "What sort of friend would involve herself with my father. Really, it's disgusting. I think the Dungeon would be better off without people like this." Sidriss gave her father a sly smile. "But maybe we can come to some arrangement."
"Yes. I will release Marta if you submit to me and accept a seal on your powers."
"Never!" Hordriss was horrified. "Do you realise the damage that such circumstances would allow to occur?"
Sidriss sighed sarcastically. "As you wish. I hope that the Catacomb Bite doesn't cause Marta too much pain..."
Sidriss raised an eyebrow towards Hordriss. The Confuser sighed in defeat.
"One...I will accept your terms." He slumped to his knees in despair.
"How droll." Sidriss remarked. She walked up to her father, grabbed his head with her hands, and started to chant. Hordriss' head felt like it was going to burst with sheer agony, but the sensation lasted only a moment. Worse was what followed - a feeling of weakness, of being helpless. He felt even worse than after Grimaldine had hit him with the green fireball.
"There. I will release Marta now, and send her to your home. No doubt you will need some comforting." Sidriss chuckled. "We have no further business. Leave."
Hordriss looked up at his daughter, desperately looking for something, a sign of sorrow or regret. He could find no trace of the Sidriss he knew and loved in that evil face, and could think of nothing to say that might bring her back. Sad and defeated, he turned and left, his head hung low.
Sidriss was seated on the throne in the great hall, she sat back and thought of her father, now a pitiful and broken man. He would never again be the mighty Sorcerer with a reputation that had tortured her for all of her life, she had always known he would bow to her one day.
"I hope they're happy, a defeated Sorcerer and Tavern scum. They deserve each other."
Sidriss threw back her head and laughed, the sound echoed around the hallway as the darkness settled outside.
Sidriss entered the dark halls of Mogdred's stronghold, deep in the Underworld. Part of her felt uncomfortable in the...no. She berated herself. That was the old Sidriss, cowering and pathetic. The new Sidriss, the woman she was now, had no fear for the darkness. Indeed, she revelled in it.
Nonetheless, there was a tiny part in her, deep deep down, that cried out at what she had done, pleaded with her not to continue along this path...
"Enough!" Sidriss silenced this part of her. She walked through the great doors into Mogdred's throne room. She bowed before the Dark Sorcerer, who smiled back.
"It is good to see you, my young acolyte."
"It is good to see you, my mentor. You summoned me?"
"Yes." Mogdred stood up and walked towards her. "I must admit to being very impressed with regards to your recent dealings with the Confuser. It bodes well for your future."
Sidriss smiled. Deep down, that annoyingly weak part of her tried to call to her again. She shoved it deep down - she would not show weakness in front of Mogdred!
"Thank you, sir."
"Sidriss, I have no doubt that, with my guidance, you will become a Sorceress of great power, one of legend. Does this please you?"
"Indeed it does!"
"Well then, if you would a legend be, then Sidriss, pledge yourself to me."
Sidriss blinked in suprise. Had he just asked her to...?
"Well, Sidriss? Do you so pledge?"
"Pledge to you? I can't, I said before that Father would never forgive me if I did."
"Look at the progress you have made, if you remain under your father's shadow your powers would once again begin to diminish."
Sidriss looked uncertain.
"Now I know how to control my magic, I don't think it would, besides "
"You ungrateful little wretch, how dare you refuse me after everything I have done for you!"
Sidriss backed away, a change had come over Mogdred, she knew that she was suddenly in mortal danger.
"I am eternally grateful for everything you've done, but I can't desert my father. He would have "
Mogdred stepped forward and struck her with such force that she staggered backwards, she raised her hand to her face, he had drawn blood. She stared in horror as he continued to advance.
"Please, let me leave!"
"You have crossed the wrong sorcerer, child."
She clenched her fists, he knew she hated being called a child.
"Did you really think I would have wasted my time with you if I didn't have an ulterior motive?"
The look on her face told him that he had confused her.
"I was not lying when I told you that your powers would grow to exceed your father's, what a sweeter revenge than to have the great Confuser defeated by his own precious daughter. Unfortunately I had not planned on your level of intellect remaining as it was."
Sidriss was now incensed, her lips framed the words to her father's calling but Mogdred stopped her.
"If you really believe that you have control of yourself and your power then face me. I challenge you Sidriss!"
"You will lose Sidriss, I hope you are willing to accept that your life will become mine to control."
"You won't beat me! I have learned enough!"
Mogdred smiled with dark amusement, she had said that with more confidence than she felt.
Sidriss called a spell to her hands and tried to entrap Mogdred where he stood, the spell dissipated before it reached him! He folded his arms and waited.
"Try again, apprentice."
"I'm not your apprentice!"
She threw a fireball at him, Mogdred blocked it harmlessly. She followed with three more in quick succession but to no avail, his mocking laughter made her cringe.
"Allow me to demonstrate how it is done, TANGERE TIMERE!"
Mogdred's eyes started to glow with a piercing white light, before she could stop herself she found she was staring into his eyes. She froze in terror, unable to move.
"That really is appalling child, I have felled you with one spell. But then you never were that good, a mere infant could learn the amount of magic you have in a few days. I had predicted that you would use Light magic against me, you haven't the intelligence to use the Dark Arts for yourself."
He strode forward, knowing that she was transfixed by his spell. He reached out to touch her head and deliver the deathblow, but to his surprise she backed away. He realised that she was trying to fight the enchantment, he stopped and watched her with a grim amusement as she slowly broke his gaze.
"I'm impressed child, maybe you have more skill than I thought "
Sidriss felt the magic inside of her erupt to the surface, she screamed an arcane curse which sent Mogdred reeling.
"For the last time I am not a child!"
She felt power flow into her hands and struck him with black fire. He staggered back from the force of the spell, Sidriss laughed as the Sorcerer lost his footing and fell with the next spell she threw at him.
"Have you had enough, old man!"
Her eyes gleamed as Mogdred was thrown against the wall by a bolt of lightning, she could see that he was starting to weaken with each blow he took. She walked slowly towards his still form, raw magic was glowing in her hands at the anticipation of a counter attack.
"Get up, this is far too enjoyable to stop now!"
She stepped back as he struggled to his feet, Sidriss was now watching him like a Hawk. If she sensed any magic she was ready to strike him down, he turned to face her. The look in his eyes was beginning to unsettle her.
"You can feel yourself becoming stronger, can't you."
"I am stronger than you!"
"Defeat me then, as you say I am an old man."
She suddenly realised what was happening, and what she was becoming. She cancelled her spell.
"Are you still frightened of me."
"No, I won't fight you by your ways."
She closed her eyes and stood defenceless before him. He paused, uncertain of what she was doing.
"I won't use your Dark Magic, if I can't fight you with Light Magic, then I won't fight at all."
"Not even to defend your life?"
She looked him straight in the eye.
"Very well, INFRENARE!"
Sidriss cried out as a vine burst from the stone floor and twisted around her, the needle sharp thorns sliced into her skin causing her blood to run freely. She desperately tried to counter it but only managed to increase the growth, Mogdred laughed maniacally.
"Have I taught you nothing! You are a pathetic excuse for a Sorceress."
Mogdred's taunts and insults were grating at her patience, she knew that she had learnt more from him than anyone else, she had to put her lessons into practice now or her life would be forfeit to him. She concentrated her magic and her thoughts on Mogdred, blocking out the pain and the feeling of weariness that had taken hold, until all she could see and think of was the twisted face of the Dark sorcerer who stood before her. She silently whispered a spell that caused the vine to crumble into dust, she sensed a build up of magical energies and quickly created a shield to deflect the lightning he immediately rained down on her. Mogdred's expression changed to one of amusement.
"Well, I am intrigued. Lets see how you deal with this..."
He pointed to where she was standing, the ground beneath her feet started to pulse with a red light and she backed away as cracks started to appear in the stone. Within a few seconds a gaping void had appeared where she had previously been standing, Mogdred laughed as she desperately scrambled away from the second hole he created under her feet.
"This is what real magic feels like young Confuser."
A third blast knocked her down, she barely escaped falling through the floor this time. Mogdred advanced on her as she struggled to her feet, before she could call up any defences he hit her with a spell that sent shivers down her body. She looked down in horror as she started to grow cold, thin tendrils of ice started to snake along her skin. She started to stiffen as the ice surrounded her. She knew that she was going to die, and if that was the case she was determined to take Mogdred with her. She thought of her father, and how badly she had let him down, then an idea struck her, she raised her hands and invoked a spell.
A column of fire roared from the floor and engulfed her, Mogdred heard her scream and then fall silent. He smiled and cancelled his glacial spell as the fire raged, the idiot child had burnt herself to death.
"Pity, you held so much promise."
He turned to walk away when a voice spoke behind him.
"I'm not finished yet."
He turned around to see Sidriss standing in a pool of water.
Before Mogdred could prevent it she threw a fiery energy blast straight into his chest, the impact threw him off his feet and down into one of the pits he had created. She stumbled over to the void in time to see him disappear in a blinding light, he had escaped for now. She sighed and looked down at herself, her arms were red from the blood still seeping from the open wounds caused by Mogdred's vine. She was so weakened by the combined blood loss and magical battle that she could think of only one thing to do.
Hordriss felt the summoning and sighed, he didn't have time to waste with Dungeoneers when Sidriss was rapidly becoming a stranger to him. He was, however, compelled to answer the call. He was transported to the high vaulted corridors of Mogdred's palace, he turned expecting to see a Dungeoneer, but not a soul stirred in the barely lit hall. He was perplexed, it seemed that someone had invoked the summoning but hadn't called him to their location, as if they were too weak to complete it. He walked to the nearest doorway and entered a large chamber; he halted and simply stared, the room had been the site of a furiously fought battle. A barely audible whisper reached his ears.
He turned to see Sidriss smile at him and then collapse in a rapidly spreading pool of her own blood. Hordriss rushed over to her fearing the worst, he saw the deep wounds caused by the thorns and the bruises on her face. He knew he had no time to waste, he chanted a spell and they both faded from Mogdred's castle.
She became aware that she was surrounded by darkness, vague images and sounds merged and forced their way into her subconscious. Lights flared and exploded all around her, but one small point was constant and bright. As she made her way towards it she felt as though she was rising from water, she opened her eyes. Sidriss started to panic until she recognised her surroundings, she was in her own room and currently staring at the ceiling. She tried to move her arms but found they were bandaged and their movement was restricted, she felt extremely light-headed and very weak. She heard a noise by her dresser and suddenly became aware that she was not alone in the room. She turned her head slowly to see someone standing over a bowl of water, preparing fresh bandages.
The young serving girl turned.
"Thank goodness you're awake!"
"How long have I been here?"
Marta sat on the bed next to her.
"Near enough a week, I've been keeping your wounds clean. Whoever did this did a good job to be sure, if you'd have lost any more blood you would have died."
"So have you been here all week?"
Marta blushed and nodded.
"As soon as your father found me and told me what was wrong, I came straight here. I'll go get him."
She ran through the door, a few moments later Hordriss walked in. He smiled broadly at her and sat by her bedside.
"Sidriss, my dearest child. One was so worried about you."
"I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused father. I was getting so annoyed with myself about not getting any better at my lessons."
"You were getting better, magic takes time. It cannot be mastered in a few weeks."
"Mogdred told me that if I had control of myself "
Hordriss' expression changed.
"Who did you say?"
"You were taking lessons from Mogdred? Sidriss how could you, of all the stupid "
He stopped himself when he saw the look on her face as she turned away from him, he stroked her cheek gently.
"Forgive me, one has had such bad experiences with Dark magic that, well, one cannot bear to think about what would have happened to you if you had started to use them. One would have had nothing left "
"You've got Marta!"
Sidriss grinned at her father's obvious embarrassment.
"Ah, well. One does not know much about non-magical healing and, er, she was the first person that came to mind! Anyway, you were lucky that Mogdred grew tired of you, if he had challenged you "
"He did father, when I refused to pledge to him. I tried to use what he had taught me, and turn it on him."
"So, he didn't go of his own will?"
"No father, I sent him away. I managed too see him off and then I called you!"
He stared open mouthed at his daughter.
"You defeated Mogdred?"
Hordriss started laughing, she gave him a puzzled stare.
"I'm sorry my dearest, I was not taking amusement at you. One should imagine that Mogdred expected you to join him, he wouldn't have thought about you refusing him and most definitely not beating him!"
"I hope he doesn't seek revenge on me."
"Unfortunately he may, but one imagines that you are now more than capable of dealing with anything that happens!"
Marta appeared at the door again, Hordriss looked up and smiled broadly at her.
"I brought a drink, I didn't know whether you wanted one or not Sidriss."
She realised how long it had been since she had had anything to eat or drink, Marta sat next to her once more and handed the glass to her. With her father's help she managed to sit up and take a few sips, when she had finished Marta took the glass and walked towards the door. She turned to look at the Mage.
"Hordriss, I think she should rest now."
He smiled at her.
"Yes, of course."
He rose from his chair.
"Try to sleep, my dearest."
He moved to join Marta and silently closed the door behind them.
Sidriss reached up to her neck, the pendant was missing.
She sighed and closed her eyes, falling sleep again almost immediately.
Sidriss paused, uncertain. Pledge to Mogdred? Did she really want to go that far?
On one hand, she had come further in her short time with her new teacher than she had in years of learning with her father. On the other hand, Mogdred was seen as a monster throughout the levels of the Dungeon. Did she want people to see her that way too?
Her father. He'd always been there for her, there to bail her out when she'd gotten herself into trouble. But he did talk down to her a lot, as if she was still a child...
Motley. Sometimes he'd been a good friend, and had agreed to allow her to practice magic on him even after numerous mistakes had occurred. But other times he'd insulted her and poked fun at her, making her angry...
Marta. She was another friend. But she'd started a relationship with her father! Was that the sort of thing a friend would do..?
So many conflicting thoughts. Sidriss felt lost. She had no idea what to do. Parts of her screamed to flee from the Dark Sorcerer before it was too late. These parts reminded her of the looks of fear that she'd gained since she'd started to learn from Mogdred, the distance that had grown between her and those she had once cared about.
Other parts, though, told her to pledge herself without hesitation. These parts reminded her of how good it felt to show up those who'd looked down on her. How good it felt to control her power. How good it felt simply to use and revel in the Dark Arts.
She looked up at Mogdred. She had made her decision.
One year later...
Wolfenden, a town that had once thrived on the edge of the Greenwood, lay in decrepit ruins. Bands of goblins and wolves, Pookas and even the odd Cavern Wraith prowled the desecrated streets and buildings, hunting and tormenting those who survived and hid in the shell of their former home. The Greenwood itself was in even worse shape. People, at least people who were far away enough to have not been hit by the travesty of several months ago, now referred to it as the Damned Wood. The wood was teeming with monsters and hazards, and it was whispered that the evil Sorceress that had lain waste to this area had gifted the trees with human-like intelligence. Intelligence of a malevolent nature.
Looking down on Wolfenden was a huge citadel of shiny black marble. The roof was lined with gargoyles which seemed to move and claw about the higher walls in the murky light that was all that was left of the bright sunlight once known in those parts. A moat, filled with thick liquid, vile and dark, surrounded the castle, and two guards stood by the drawbridge. The guards were obviously spellbound to obey the whims of their mistress. Their faces were permanently fixed in an expression of fear and terror, and even as they patrolled and fought ferociously, you could see the smallest glimmer of pleading in their eyes. Pleading to be released from their own personal hell.
The worst thing about this castle, though, was the air. The air was thick, almost tangible, and cold. There was no wind, but there was the illusion of wind, like a demon shadowing a mortal, seen only on the edge of his vision.
Inside the castle, the rooms and corridors were like tunnels in a nightmare. They seemed to expand and contract, as if you were seeing a huge marble troll breath in and out from the inside. And high in the central tower was the throne room. The throne was made of cracked and warped bones, with a huge skull overhanging the seat. Only someone of great power and a sadistic disposition could have done such a thing to a Catacomb Bite. On the throne was a woman, draped in a robe of black velvet and a blood-red cape. Each hand wore a studded leather glove, matching the evil looking boots on her feet, and a thin long black veil was entwined throughout the long gold-and-red locks that made up her hair. This was the Sorceress known throughout the Dungeon as Sidriss the Defiler.
Sidriss waved a hand lazily at a large mirror nearby and had it display various parts of the Dungeon Dimensions. She had grown bored of her domain in the Damned Woods, and intended to expand her territory. She observed and considered various places such as the Realm of Goth, the Angar Plains, the Caverns of Gore and Forest of Dun. Finally, she stopped her mirror on one particular place. An evil smile spread across her face. How appropriate. She cared not for the Powers That Be, nor for the Opposition. At the end of the day, both sides would fall to her. She balled up a gloved fist and laughed.
"Very well! In one month, I shall conquer this place and add it to my domain. I shall enjoy my new castle...Dunshelm!"