Torben Eastlander smiled at the hostess as he laid some coins upon the table to pay for his meal, but his mind was in turmoil. For so long now he had written about the adventurers and he was short on ideas; and coins. Their stories grew and grew, and were so big now he knew not where to take them. So much hack and slash. So many feats of daring. Saving the world with every adventure. With stories of the five swirling through his head Torben staggered out into the cold night air.
The half-orcs who had been waiting for him were still waiting for him, but this time in the shadows of an alleyway. The right side of leader’s face was visible in the moonlight – the left side in dark shadow. The rest of his hunched form and hands lay hidden in the shadows. His eyes followed Torben and then shifted to a slender, motionless figure who stood across the street. Their hood hid their face, but Torben did not notice for he walked past with eyes down at his feet and mind still deep in thoughts about the five. The slender figure motioned. The half-orcs made their move. The leader produced a rapier from under his cloak and in but a few quick strides drew close to Torben.
The tip of the weapon was plunged deeply and directly into Torben’s abdomen. The sight of this was clearly visible to Torben as his eyes had been cast down. At first the extremely sharp blade didn’t hurt, but Torben knew that it soon would as he had experienced so many paper cuts in his life, being a writer. Now the adrenaline kicked in and everything moved in slow motion. He looked up from the fist that held the blade and into the eyes of the half-orc holding the instrument of death. Funny, there was no malice in the eyes of that man-orc. Puzzlement came across Torben face. All he could do was to blurt out, “Why?”
Now the pain became quite real and as an involuntary scream came surging from his throat, the three half-orcs held him up on his feet and dragged him deeper into the shadows of the alley. Torben felt light headed. Bright red was pouring out of his belly, with the blade still held firmly in place. “This is how I will die,” he thought. His body was going numb. Regrets flooded his mind. He began to lose consciousness.
Was he dreaming? A vision of the five filled his thoughts, with the one whom they called Tasedar. Where was the tunnel? Tasedar was instructing the heroes. Where was the bright light? Torben thought he could hear this Tasedar giving instructions for the five to fight the demons. Where were the Elysian Fields of green fed by cool blue streams? Rift was summoning horses via a magic ritual. What, no busty valkyries?
With these visions passing through his mind, Torben lost track of time and gave himself over. He could see and hear the adventures talking with a man named Geralt about riding to the Northlands. First they would have to go to Kengistan. So vivid was this dream! The wreckage that was Kengistan was laid out before him and Torben knew this to be real for word of the devastation had already spread. Torben became alarmed for he now thought that his mind may have left his body. Was he dead? Was this the out-of-body experience that some had told of?
Still, he saw the five act with compassion. Z’alden walked the charred and smokey landscape healing the wounded and giving aid to whomever he could. Back in Fallcrest where his body lay, Torben’s eyes welled up with tears as he witnessed the good deeds of the five. Their inspiring leadership was to give new hope to the Kengi – to open free lands to the Kengi for their new homeland.
Torben’s vision then changed to the Temple of the Arcane, where the five and Geralt now stood with Illidan, who in another life consorted with demons but now held off their invasion. It became clear to Torben just how important the role of the five was in this world. They were saviors, of sorts, and not just adventurers seeking excitement and loot. Their actions had saved the world so many times, and he had questioned them. His folly now weighed upon him and back in Fallcrest tears streamed down Torben’s face.
The scene changed yet again and Torben could see the five and Geralt making their way though what must have been the Northlands. Torben heard the scream of a woman as if her very life was in peril. He could see Geralt moving quickly and efficiently, dispatching three villains. “The five walk with others of virtue,” thought Torben, “These are true heroes.” His mind then relaxed in blissful reflection and realization. When he regained focus the heroes were in a tavern and standing up to more villains. Torben’s physical body wept.
Soon the adventurers and Geralt were in search of a young man and endangering themselves in a horrible graveyard. They did this not for fame, nor wealth, but out of sympathy for a distraught mother. The righteousness of their actions continued to impress itself upon Torben. Though the visions seemed clear, he was on a tour that he could not control. In the back of his mind, he wondered why he had been chosen for this journey. His emotions struggled in the chaos of a vortex that was inexorably leading to a conclusion that he felt coming, but he not yet understood. Was it death? Was it new life?
In that graveyard, Torben saw the adventurers contract a terrible disease – not a wound of the normal sort – something insidious that would prey upon them over many days. The visions moved forward quickly to seeing Rift upon her death-bed, blind and having no good fortune from the healers. Erik too was sick and unable to be helped by the healers. Torben watched, though his body still lay upon the cold ground in some alleyway, in the town known as Fallcrest. He cried out in pain as he watched Rift die. Erik followed soon after.
Wraiths! From Rift and Erik’s bodies rose apparitions of all that is impure and immoral. Z’alden, Barrick, Tira and Geralt quickly dispatched the entities of pure evil. A thought was then introduced into Torben’s awareness and he realized that these manifestations of evil had sprung from within Rift and Erik and by exiting them had actually left Rift and Erik more pure. They had been cleansed. Z’alden administered glowing potions of light to Rift and Erik and they returned from the dead to the living. They were alive! The enormity of the vision took hold of Torben and he lost all control and wept without inhibition. Everything went to black.
Torben Eastlander awoke with a start. His head was buzzing and he felt faint. A cloaked woman was crouched over him, holding his head off the hard stone passageway. At first he thought he might still be experiencing the vision, as she was so beautiful, but his physical pain reminded him that he had returned to reality.
“Rest,” said the woman, “you have been gravely injured. Fortunately I have administered an elixir that provides potent healing. Still, you are not well. You require much more healing.”
Her voice was calming and trustworthy, so Torben attempted to heed her instructions to rest. Yet the visions he had just experienced were too strong, too powerful, too life-altering. He struggled to get words out through his now blood encrusted lips. This “angel of mercy” continued to calm him and urged him to rest. He persisted. Finally, she said, “Well, you must have an incredible story to tell. Let us go back to my dwelling where it is safe and you can recover at a proper pace.”
The lady left him for what seemed like an eternity to Torben, but he then heard hoof-steps. Still in quite a bit of a daze, the lady helped poor Torben up on a mighty black stallion. She then gracefully mounted her steed and Torben held on tightly. The powerful beast lead them out of the city and up an old road. It was Fall and normally the shadows cast by the combination of leafless trees and moonlight would have scared most men, but Torben felt comfort and safety not just in his personal savior but the new understanding of the five, who were savior to all.
Rounding a final bend, the lady stated, “This is my home. Welcome.”
Torben was now a bit more lucid and could see a tall, grey-stone mansion before him. It was the old church that looked over the city, long known to have fallen into disuse and disrepair. The lady noticed the question Torben’s face and laughed, “Oh, yes, that is indeed the old church, but I am in the process of giving it new life. It is warm inside. Come.”
Torben replied, “I am a writer.”
“Yes, of course. Rest here. I want to hear your story. Perhaps you can tell everyone… everyone your story,” replied the beautiful lady.
That evening, as Torben slept amongst the softest feathers, wrapped in the finest silk, the lady sat alone high in highest tower of the old church, overlooking the city and beyond. Before her was a large wooden box with a lock. With magic words, the box was unlocked. Within the box was a sphere, covered in a impossibly black magical cloth. With gloved hands she removed the crystal orb from its sheath and rested it upon a jeweled pedestal. It began to glow a bit of red and she sat upright, with full attention upon it.
The form of a humanoid figure shimmered within the orb. The lady nodded, eyes cast down. Then she spoked to the orb, “I have the writer. The virtues of the five will be revealed to all that are willing to listen. Everything is proceeding as you have predicted.”
Then the figure in the orb spoke.
“Continue the plan, but not too fast. There is plenty of time. Plenty of time. Be patient. Control takes time. Your soul shall be rewarded, my sweet Elana.”