Chapter 27: Darkness

"It was a dark moment, my boy. Perhaps darker than any I had faced before. The ancient serpents paralyzed me mentally and physically with powers not seen on the face of Norrath in five thousand years. They studied me as they would have studied a strange rock. While the minutes crept by like hours they continued hissing to each other, their burning yellow eyes never leaving mine. Only one fate seemed possible. I was surely dead."

Loral paused and scratched his newly grown beard, a habit he knew drove his avid listener crazy. Though the warm breeze and soft rustle of the trees created one of the most serene moments Loral had ever witnessed, his companion, a small Elven boy, seemed ready to break under the tension of Loral's tale. Just as the boy was about to protest, shouting his rage of impatience, Loral continued.

"Their decision had apparently been made. The largest of their number, a great ancient serpent covered with deeply etched glyphes in its rotting scales, moved forward extending a jagged claw towards my face. Red bolts of energy shot from nail to nail as it got closer. But before that horrible claw tore my face and mind from my body and spirit, the creature's head exploded into white light and dark green gore."

The boy literally bounced with excitement.

"Zolina knocked another arrow and let it fly into the chest of the glyphed serpent. Juror's powerful spirit-tipped spear skewered one of the guardians while the rescue party stepped through Tarzel's planar gateway. The shining runed blade of Lavun tore open a rift in the fabric of nature releasing a great green hand of roots, moss and vines that crushed another attacking Shissar between its giant fingers. A huge golem, as large as the fire giants of Nagafen's Lair roared towards the party but a bolt of pure energy burned a hole straight through the beast. I saw the smoking hands and grey eyes of Azile through the hole in the chest of the golem just before it crashed to the ground. Knowing I was safe, my mind turned off and I fell unconscious into the arms of my friends."

Relief flowed into the boy and he fell back against the large oak behind him. Loral smiled and tugged at the fishing line cutting into the mirror surface of the small lake they sat by. Though the boy had heard the story before, he never seemed any less nervous at the outcome than he had here today. Remembering his own actions at hearing such tales of adventure, Loral looked to the boy and smiled. Darlan was a wonderful son, indeed.

Loral's mind trailed back those seventy five years as he thought about the tale of the Shissar. How much his life had changed. How much Norrath had changed. While that day had been dark indeed, many dark days had followed. The Shissar had been a great menace but even they stayed buried in their tomb when the rifts opened. Magic had grown from a thing of mystery and wonder into the norm of everyday life. Merchants and tradesmen no longer traveled in caravans or on ships preferring the speed and safety of teleportation. The Antonican bards had disbanded under the competition of the psychic abilities of wizard guilds. It was a different age.

Then chaos began. It started with reports of travelers becoming lost during teleportation. Stories of parties appearing buried in rock or returning transformed into horrible manifestations circulated. Then the rifts opened. Planiar beasts of fire, stone, flesh and crustation poured into the lands. Armies of city militia were slaughtered by creatures never dreamed of in the worst nightmares of children. Powerful adventurers far and wide returned to their homelands and thus began the Plane Wars.

For ten years the wars raged, destroying cities and gods. Loral's powers of healing fed armies of Elven knights, rangers and warriors. Deep in the wizard guilds of Odus, Felwithe, Neriak and Freeport the great spellcasters looked for an end to the menace and just when all seemed lost, they found it.

Life began again for the people of Norrath. After 120 years of service to the Mother, Loral retired to the life of a jeweler and though his mate, the only mortal woman Loral had ever loved, had been slain in the last days of the Plane Wars, Loral's life was lived again through the eyes of his son.

With the turn of the seasons, Loral and Darlan traveled across Norrath. Over the months they traded the intricate mechanics of Ak'Anon with the velium of the hearty Coldain and the finely crafted gems of Odus for the black acrylia of Luclin. They found great profit in their lives but living his adventures through Darlan was the greatest treasure of all.

Now spring brought them back to Felwithe where they fished during the day and met with old friends in the nearby cities at night. Though his trials had been great over the past two centuries, Loral had finally found the happiness he always sought.

Dark telepathic visions passed from the Shissar interrogator to the ancient glyphed serpent. The beast studied the pale elf, pinned ten feet off the ground by the titanic arms of two enormous golems. Bolts of dark energy sliced through the figure, sending him into spasms. The interrogator had performed such operations before and few had ever survived. Though this broken priest still had some sort of mental activity, the Shissar wasn't convinced that the tiny mortal hadn't already gone insane. A few more hours would tell, but it was doubtful that this one would live through the night.