Atonement

Originally published on Guild Wars Vault on 2008-01-25


Atonement

It is the strange fate of man, that even in the greatest of evils the fear of the worst continues to haunt him.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

Belzan emerged from the dank catacombs to find an even bleaker scene before him. Judging by the path he took, he was somewhere in Green Hills Country just south of the Great Northern Wall. The land around him was barren and showed few signs of life. Alone, famished and exhausted, Belzan fell to his knees under the dark, cloud-covered sky. The minions he raised gathered around him, as if shielding him from the harsh winds that blew. They were the bodies of the slain Ascalon women and children. If not for them, Belzan would never have dug his way out of the rubble.Ironic, that he owed his life to those who no longer had lives of their own.

“Soon. Soon we will be in Ascalon and I shall lay your bones to rest.”

Danielle O'Loria
Danielle O’Loria – Ranger of Melandru
(picture by Belzan Furu)

“You there! Stay on your knees!” A woman’s voice commanded from a collection of rocks just outside of Belzan’s field of vision. Her voice drew the attention of the minions, who began to advance, but were halted by their master’s silent command.

“Be you friend or foe, stranger?” The woman continued.

“Have you food and water?” Belzan replied.

“Enough for two.”

“Then, I am a friend. Please do not be threatened by the likes of me or my minions. I assure you we mean you no harm.”

A Stalker approached Belzan and his circle of minions. It sniffed around and made its way through the minion ring to the kneeled man. There was curiosity in its eyes, masked slightly by duty. It sniffed all around Belzan, gathering information about his intent. When it finished, the great cat returned to its master.

“You may stand.” The woman stated finally. “Melly finds no fault in you. Now, what is your business in these parts?”

The woman approached Belzan, allowing herself to be seen. She was slightly taller than he and had curly blonde hair down to her mid back. She wore dirty hide armor, dyed all shades brown, green and gray. In her hand was a simple longbow of adequate quality, and at her side a sword of equal quality.

“My name is Belzan Furu of the Necromantic Order of Ascalon. I have been investigating the disappearance of several citizens at the behest of Mhenlo of Ashford Abbey. These animated corpses are all that is left of those who were kidnapped. My business is to return them to Ascalon to receive proper burial.”

The ranger nodded her head, almost in disbelief. Her first impression of the man before her was more sinister. Her previous encounters with Necromancers had led her to assume that they were all drunk with power and intent on bending others to their will. She did her best not to let this oversight be heard in her voice.

“I am Danielle O’Loria, ranger and hunter of Melandru. My father and I hunt… hunted in these parts. He disappeared sometime before the sky fell. I’ve been tracking him, but so far he is days ahead of me.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Perhaps someone in Ascalon City has seen him.”

“No, he rarely travels by road or into cities. My father Jared is a man of the woods; though, there aren’t too many of those left here anymore.”

“What can you tell me about the sky falling, Danielle?”

“Only that fire rained from the skies a few days ago. The land has been scorched. Trees burned, stone charred, and waters turned to tar. Such a horrible time this is.”

“Danielle, would you escort me to Ascalon City? I am famished and I don’t believe I can make the trip alone. It is imperative that I arrive before dusk, or I will not have enough strength left in me to keep these citizens animated. Once there, we can gather information about your father and find out about this change in the weather.”

“That sounds logical. Here, I have some dried meat and water. That should help you to gather your strength. The walk to Ascalon City isn’t far, but we mustn’t travel by road or risk being ambushed by Charr.”

The Great Northern Wall could be seen clearly in the setting sun. It appeared aged, like a relic of the past, and Belzan could clearly see where it had been breached. The path Danielle made zigzagged across a dusty that once was a meadow. Belzan saw a stream of tar where, days before, he stood in a stream commanding battling his master’s minions.

Charr Archer
Charr Archer outside of Ascalon City
(picture courtesy of Guildwiki)

“Quickly! Into the city!” a man shouted from off in the distance. A small contingent of soldiers charged in the direction of the two travelers. Despite Danielle’s efforts to cover her tracks, the Charr followed her trail. Both turned to look and found a dozen Charr, armed to the teeth with steel, bounding down a hill toward them.

“We can’t outrun them.” She stated.

“Then we must fight.” He replied.

Danielle knocked her bow and commanded her Stalker into battle. Belzan commanded his minions to meet the charge and drew Danielle’s sword from its scabbard. “For Ascalon!” the cry came from behind as the soldiers reinforced the travelers in their stand.

The minions did all that they could to slow the advancing battle-hungry Charr. Danielle picked off a couple with well placed shots, but was less accurate as they closed in. Belzan, in a moment of clarity, finally found a proper foe. Casting his curses, he slowed the movement of three Charr. He did his best to parry their attacks with the sword, while simultaneously stealing their life force with his gaze. His tactics were crude, and painful, but effective, for the Charr had no defense against his attacks, while he healed his wounds with their blood. The Ascalon soldiers clashed with the Charr and the battle was quickly finished. There were few Ascalon casualties, but nearly all of the minions were destroyed.

“Men, seize that Necromancer. He is an outlaw of the Order and is responsible for the kidnappings of several Ascalon citizens.”

The soldiers circled Belzan and Danielle took several steps back. “I knew it! I knew I should have trusted my instincts. You Necromancers are all alike.”

Belzan dropped the sword at his feet and placed his hands at his side. “If that is the truth you believe, then you are entitled to do so. I will return with you to Ascalon City to resolve the matter. Please see that what is left of my minions find their way to Brother Mhenlo of Ashford Abbey.”

“Your minions can rot here for all I care. You’re coming to—“ The captain began.

“These minions will be taken to Mhenlo.” Belzan stated in a commanding tone. “I will return with you to Ascalon City cooperatively, on that condition. I will complete my task and you will not stand in my way.”

“Is that a threat?”

“Interpret it as you like. You know nothing of my task, my minions, and of my power. You’re acting on a lead received from another Necromancer, no doubt, and all you have to go on is a rumor and a description of me.”

Danielle watched as the two men bickered. Her mind raced trying to figure out the Necromancer’s confusing intents. The battle of egos before her would only end in bloodshed, and she didn’t relish in the thought of more innocent blood being spilled when she could do something to prevent it.

“He is my responsibility.” She said finally. “I am Danielle O’Loria of Green Hills Country. My father is Jared O’Loria, a friend of Duke Barradin. The Necromancer is my responsibility. I will see that his task is complete. Leave three of your men to help me carry the corpses and you and the rest of your men can escort him to the city.”

The captain thought for a moment. “Fine. You three men help the ranger, the rest of you, move out.”


 

“So it was Verata who was kidnapping the citizens then?” Necromancer Morgan stated in a small hut within the city walls. “I have to say that I’m not entirely surprised. He’d been talking for some time about strengthening his minions. I guess experimenting with humans was the next logical step. I’ll see to it your name is cleared, Belzan, and we’ll start a search for Verata.”

“Thank you, Morgan. I made sure to bring the corpses back for a proper burial, though it will be hard to distinguish which corpse is which. They dug me out of the catacombs after Verata’s cave in. I’ll see to it that they receive a proper burial.”

“You’ve done well, Belzan. It is not often you find a Necromancer so willing to aid others.” Morgan replied.

“Yes, and for the same reason, I feel that I have chosen the wrong path in life. I was raised in the church of Dwayna; and I have carried her teachings with me, even through my studies in the dark arts. She gave me the courage to defy Verata.”

“I see. Turning one’s back on Grenth after making the sacrifice is often met with retaliation from others. I would say this would apply more so given your mark. You will not receive retribution from the Order, I will see to that, but heed my words. Every man’s life is his to live as he sees fit, but one’s destiny is inevitable.”

Belzan nodded, “I understand.”

“I will see to it that we track down Verata and punish him for his crimes against the Order and Ascalon. Regardless of your affiliation, I ask that you aid us in this endeavor.”

“You have my word, Morgan. I will track down any lead you acquire. For now, I must meet with Mhenlo and get some questions answered. I will be in the city if you need me.”

Belzan and Danielle parted ways shortly after his arrival in Ascalon City. She traveled west, following her father’s trail. He often wondered if she ever found her father, and was afraid he would never know. She had done him a great favor that day, and he hoped to some day repay it.

For nearly two years, Belzan aided the citizens of Ascalon in recovering from the Searing. He learned about the Charr’s great attack and the fate that had befallen Surmia, Nolani, and Rin. The great cities of Ascalon had fallen to the fires of the Charr. From his studies with Brother Mhenlo, Belzan’s strength in the healing arts grew. He often followed soldiers onto the battlefields in defense of the city, healing their wounds and protecting them from the harsh attacks of the relentless Charr.

Morgan approached Belzan one afternoon and informed him that the Order had a lead on Verata. There had been several unexplained disappearances around Yak’s Bend in the Northern Shiverpeaks. Belzan traveled to Yak’s Bend and tracked down Verata. His story hadn’t changed, though he appeared more powerful than when last they met. Verata’s minions were noticeably larger, and he was noticeably more arrogant. He made a narrow escape before Belzan could enact his plan to smite down the Necromancer. Once again he had failed to put a stop to his old master’s plans.

 

 

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