The robed figure of a frail man stood stolidly against the frigid wind staring towards the twisted trees of east woods. The night was thick and heavy, disturbed only when the overhead clouds would suddenly part, and cause another bout of soft moonlight to gently dance across the trees, giving a moments respite from the impenetrable blackness. The cold wind could than be seen animating the tree branches, giving life to a war of swaying limbs that littered the forest floor in a blanket of dry dead wood.
The man was clothed in dark blood red robes of a cthonic disciple that flailed about his body in the ever-present wind. Beneath his low cowl, his fierce eyes, set deep into his slightly lined face, glowed with power. In his right hand, he gripped a Magus Apollo, with the butt end set firmly into the ground. In his other, he gripped a dark leather bound tome that he held protectively against his side.
Abruptly, he spun around, whipping his hands into a fury of motion accompanied by arcane rune chanting. A goblin guard froze in shock at the formerly defenseless man and turned to run. The runes of the element of darkness entered the poor creature as it turned, and left it as a husk of its former self.
Calmly, the man turned back around to stare sullenly into the darkness. Closing his eyes he whispered something under his breath, and with a deep sigh, walked towards the waiting arms of the dark woods.
The trees around him seemed to reach for his arms and grab his robes as he struggled deeper into the woods. But with hardly a glance up and in the tomb like darkness he managed to make his way unerringly towards his destination.
After a time, the man came into a clearing of sorts. At the edge of the trees, he stopped and finally looked up at his surroundings. The clearing was about fifty paces in length from any one direction, making the area into almost a perfect circle. The trees here seemed gnarled, bent and lifeless. As you continued closer to the center, the ground became less vegetated, until it turned into a barren section of dirt and rock. At the center stood a single stunted tree that seemed to weep in its own existence.
The stench of death and darkness tainted the air, but the man walked unerringly towards the center of the clearing, and stood before the twisted dark tree. A few moments later, the tree expanded and grew even more grotesque, sprouting limbs and features. The dry dead wood turned into a pale hairless skin, and the sprouting branches curved into cruel hooked claws. The man stood unperturbed as the ghastly dubhaimid lord took shape before him.
The man’s mind echoed with the madness of the dubhaimid’s mental intrusion. "Chadul is displeased with your insolence."
The man made no reply to the looming dark creature. And several moments passed before the madness entered his mind once more. "You can not have it, the world cannot handle its power, or hope to win, even if it was somehow harnessed."
"Perhaps." The man intoned gently. "But we shall see."
In the spark of an instant the dubhaimid lord sprang towards the frail man, just as he began another runic chant. In the span of a few heartbeats the beast had covered the distance between the two and lunged savagely for the man’s throat. Just as the hooked talons closed around the man, a rune of protection encompassed him and diverted the beast’s savage strike harmlessly away from him. Mental seething anger flooded the man’s mind as the creature drew itself back up to a towering statue before him.
"So be it, but darkness will contain it forever." The mental madness lessened as the giant beast shimmered and faded before the man and shrank away into the darkness that consumed the area.
With fluid motions of his hands and some quick intonations, the ground where the tree had stood erupted in a shower of dirt and stone. After a moment of settling debris, the man stepped forward and looked into the newly formed crater. He put staff and tome on the ground and slowly reached into the hole. Grabbing a cloth covered item about two arm lengths long, the man was overwhelmed by the darkness that tainted it. Gathering his will about him, he clutched it more tightly and stood with his newly acquired possession.
The war of shadows stood in the balance of life and darkness.
Ealagad knelt silently, oblivious to anything around her. She was in a large chamber with towering stone columns that lined the wall to either side. A long luxurious carpet stretched down the length of the looming room and ended in a stone pedestal, which held the symbol of Danaan, goddess of love and all things under the sun.
After a time, she stood and looked at the room around her. She was flooded with the faith of Danaan, and took in the beauty of everything. The faint light of the morning sun shone the windows of the chamber and danced across the objects of the room. She would never cease to be amazed at the beauty around her.
The priestess had spent nearly all her grown life pulling the kingdoms together to fight off the darkness of the dubhaimid that were unleashed upon Temuair in the signing of the Pact of Anaman. The eight lords of the League of Darkness had made a bargain with Chadul, lord of chaos, which had loosed the dark beasts on the world in exchange for a thousand-year life span. And still the dubhaimid were wrecking havoc on the land.
It caused Ealagad great grief to know that darkness was sweeping the land. Even with the broken kingdoms combined, they held no real power to fight off the darkness. The world was lost. In an uncontrolled moment, the priestess knelt and wept. She wept for all those she couldn’t help and all those who would die.
As she wept, a hand gently touched her shoulder. She was startled as she spun around to see a figure with her in the previously empty chamber. "What do ye be about." She cautiously asked.
Before her stood a man garbed in robes with the cowl thrown back to reveal his deep set powerful eyes that looked compassionately upon her. But her eyes were not held by the man before her, but by the long bundle that he carried tightly in one hand. The item seemed to taint the very air with vile darkness and stain the sacred temple of Danaan. She recoiled in horror and cringed away from the man. How could she not of felt the presence of such a horrid feeling of darkness?
"Do not be frightened dear." The man suggested calmly as he walked towards the raised pedestal to place the tainted form upon it. "This is the salvation you seek."
"The very darkness of that item taints this sacred place. It is evil, and ye would bring it to me claiming it as salvation? I think ye best be leaving sir, and taking yer item of darkness with ye."
The man stood still looking at her with a penetrating glare for a few moments before he softened his features. "I suggest you hear what I have to say dear. There is only one power that can be held over the taint of darkness, and this is the key." He said as he pulled the cloth covering off to reveal a golden staff. The surface of the haft seemed to swirl and twist with contained powers held back by a film of heavy darkness that covered the entire length. At the head, a smooth flawless crystal orb had a dull promise of enormous powers contained by a dull sheen of moving blackness.
"This is the key to the element of light. This, is the staff of Danaan." He declared.
Ealagad gave a soft gasp of disbelief before he could continue on. "Light is the sixth and final element of the world. It holds power over all other elements, as well as the element of darkness.
"As to the staff and the taint of darkness, this is the story. Right after the pact of Anaman when the dubhaimid were released upon the world. Chadul knew that only the element of light, unbeknownst to the world at that time, could possibly drive back his minions. So, to eliminate a possible threat, Chadul sent out his creatures to search out the staff of Danaan. For two hundred years the dubhaimid scoured the world for the staff. Than around Danaan 3056, the staff was discovered in the keeping of a priest of Danaan. She could not harness the true power of the staff, because she didn’t know of the existence of the element of light. The story behind her coming about the staff is of no importance. When the dubhaimid found her, they tore her apart and took the staff back to the lord of Chaos.
"Chadul, could not touch or keep the staff on his plane of existence. So he tainted it with the power of darkness and hid it in the East Woods of the kingdom of Mileth. After disposing of the staff, he set Xavantos, a lord of the dubhaimid to stand watch over it for all time. And with the staff taken care of, Chadul released his minions to destroy the world and bathe it in darkness and chaos. And this was the beginning of the shadow war."
Ealagad, with her hand held to her breast, stood with her mouth agape staring at the frail man. After a few moments she struggled out a few words. "How…how do ye know all this? Who are ye? And…. how…do ye come to have this staff?"
"How and who make no difference. But what you must do, that is what matters." He sharply replied. "The power of light can only be wielded by a priest, someone who understands the power of healing and compassion. And therefore, only a priest can remove the taint on the key that will open the way to learning how to harness the power of light.
"Only someone completely without the taint of any darkness, be it thoughts or actions, can reach past the barrier of darkness, and release the power within. Once this barrier has been breeched, the ability to harness the power of light will be released upon the world, and can the staff be returned to the goddess of all under heaven. That someone, Ealagad, is you."
Deep inside her soul, she knew what the man said was true. The existence of a sixth element that balanced the powers of the world could be the only solution. But how had he come to possess such a relic, and what brought him to her? Doubts clouded her mind, but the fate of the world obviously rested in whatever hope she could find. Her heart was pure, and her love of Danaan and life was without question.
She hesitated to speak "What must I do?"
He smiled slightly before speaking. "You must clear your mind of all doubts and fears. Than fill yourself with the love of life and reach through the taint to the power within. Do not let the corruption and madness of the taint touch you. Only with a clear purpose and determination can you break through the barrier of darkness and let the light fill you. Believe in its presence and release the light upon the world."
She went to stand before the staff and closed her mind to the world around her. With firm determination she plunged her hand down towards the pedestal to grasp the tainted object.
The chamber seemed to shake and tremble in the power that coursed and crackled thru the room and into Ealagad. Fighting off the taint that swam around her wrist, she opened her mind to the power within. All at once, her mind was flooded with the light that surged to be released, and when it hit, her armor from the darkness wavered and it started to creep into her body. Fighting of the madness, she reopened her mind to the light and let the power flow through her into the world, instead of trying to hold it. She bathed in the power of the light that flew through her for what seemed an eternity. Than as the last bit passed through her, she reeled in ecstasy.
Gasping for breath, Ealagad opened her eyes, and stared at the staff below her. It had become dull and lifeless. But she could no longer feel the taint of madness around it. Nor could she feel the power of light within it. The power was everywhere, all she had to do was harness it, and her wisdom and love and understanding allowed her to do so.
She glanced around the room to see the man standing behind her with a slight smile on his face. "You have released the power of light upon the world, woe to the darkness of Chadul." He stepped up to her and gently took the staff from her hands. "Now I must see this returned to my love. Fare well in your duties to the world, the light must shine upon the dubhaimid to save it."
As he was turning to go she cried out, "Wait!" He glanced at her and waited for her to continue. "Your love is Danaan? That must make you…"
"An old man with someone to go see." He interrupted. "Take this power as a blessing from Danaan, the way ahead is still littered with death." He gave one final smile that made his eyes glow with fire, than turned to disappear into the doorway behind him.
She watched the former god of debauchery leave with a twinge of fear mixed with awe. "…Deoch." She finished her statement.