Originally published on Guild Wars Vault on 2008-01-11
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
“No, no, no! You’re doing it all wrong! Affix your gaze and release your energy!”
“But it doesn’t have any eyes…” Belzan replied. His master stood nearly ten feet away amidst half a dozen waterlogged river tad corpses. Before him stood a small animated minion who did little more than drip water into the slow moving stream in which it stood.
“It doesn’t matter. Affix your gaze to it, and command it to serve you.”
Belzan tried once more, but was unable to get the attention of the minion. “It is not working Master. I don’t understand. I’m doing everything that you’ve instructed, but it is unresponsive.”
“If you are unable to assume command of a masterless minion, how will you ever steal minions from your foe? Perhaps you simply need the proper motivation.”
Verata raised his hands and animated the rest of the corpses, who gathered in formation around their master. Using a small knife, Verata sliced his left arm deeply. Each minion looked immediately rejuvenated and stronger than before. “Now you’re properly motivated Belzan. Either you steal my minions or they hack you to death.”
The minions advanced on Belzan. He took two steps back and thought quickly about his next move. Casting his magics, he slowed the movement of four minions. He then turned his attention to the two still advancing. A rush of energy burst out of his eyes and he felt the scar on his face burn. He looked the first minion squarely in the upper body, and it stopped in its tracks. With a mere thought, he turned its attention on the minion who still advanced, and watched as they did battle before him. He then turned his attention to the four slowed minions who had made their way within five feet of him. One by one, he commanded them to stop their attack and turned them back upon their master.
“You have done well. This lesson is over.” With another wave of his hand, Verata commanded the minions to return to his side. “I will be busy for a few days. Feel free to keep yourself occupied looking for work around Ascalon.”
Belzan nodded. “I have some things to keep me busy, but I’ll ask around and see what help I can be.” The two parted ways, and Belzan returned to the abbey where he was greeted by Brother Mhenlo.
“How are you today, Belzan?”
“I’m doing as well as can be expected after another one of Verata’s lessons.”
“Are you in need of healing then?”
“No thank you, Brother. I was better prepared for today’s lesson than the last. Tell me, Brother Mhenlo, has a package arrived for me?”
“Indeed it has. It arrived just this morning after you and Verata left. Come. I’ll take you to it. I would like to speak with you about something as well.” The two men made their way into the abbey and down a long hallway into a private prayer room.
“It is here.” Mhenlo stated as he retrieved an overly long, wooden box and handed it to Belzan. “I have a favor to ask of you, Belzan.” Belzan’s attention turned quickly from opening his package.
“Several women and children have gone missing recently. The only lead we have is that they all are families of men fighting in the King’s army. I have personal interest in this, as a student of mine is among the missing, though the Church of Dwayna would never hesitate in aiding in this matter, regardless of her involvement.”
“How can I help?” Belzan asked.
“As a Necromancer, you are privy to conversations and plots of the darker sort. That is not to say you yourself are evil, indeed, I believe that is not the case. Suffice it to say, the company you keep have a tendency to keep secrets and to involve themselves in acts that are a bit of this character. I ask that you keep your eyes and ears open for any information regarding these disappearances. I will gladly pay you for any information you may glean, though I doubt you would accept such an offer.”
“That is true. My mother was a priestess of Dwayna, as you well know. I find it hard to say no to the Church. I will look into the matter. I have some free time at the moment, and it won’t take more than a day to finish crafting my staff now that I have this piece.”
“Yes.” Belzan opened the wooden box and withdrew a long, slender bone stretching nearly seven feet in length. “I special ordered this from a place called the Crystal Desert. I’m told that giants used to walk the sands there. It is the only place I could think of where I could find a single bone of this size.”
The next day, Belzan made his way deeper and deeper into the catacombs. He was intent on trying out his staff and was on the prowl for gargoyles. The crypt spiders caused him little trouble and only served to provide him with three skeletal companions to do his bidding. He had wandered much deeper than he had gone before when he suddenly lost his footing and slid down a slope.
Belzan slid for about 20 feet until he bounded off of solid rock and sprawled out on the ground in a small, dimly lit room. A throbbing pain drew his attention to his left knee, which hit the rock only seconds before. It was surely broken.
Around him, he heard whispering. The sound of hushed voices filled the small room. As he looked around, he saw a number of cages containing 3-4 people in each. Some were clearly malnourished, while others seemed only to be unaccustomed to the dark.
There were no men in the cages—only women and children.
A large creature came bounding into the room. It stood nearly eight feet tall and was hunched over like an ettin. On its head was a single, long horn and one of its arms was the shape of a giant axe. Belzan knew immediately that this creature was undead.
“Stop.” A voice spoke from down a passageway. The bounding minion obeyed its master.
“Belzan?” The voice said as it approached. “What are you doing here?”
“Master? It is you? You’re behind the kidnappings? Why?”
Verata came into view of the room. He snapped his finger and several wall sconces lit, illuminating the room.
“You of all people should understand sacrifice, Belzan. I’ve brought these people here to allow their lives to have meaning and purpose. They will soon be a part of something greater than themselves.”
“You mean to sacrifice them then? To what end?” Belzan retorted.
“They will help me to create. They are a part of my plan to strengthen my minions. They will give their lives so that my minions will live longer.”
“This is ludicrous. You are killing innocent people to further your own plans? What right do you have to take their lives?”
“I knew you wouldn’t understand. You are too soft. Always caring for those who need it and protecting those who don’t deserve it. When will you realize that they are as much your minions as the creatures you animate from their dead bodies?”
“I will expose you, Master. Your actions go against the Order and against Ascalon.”
“I answer to a higher power, Belzan. I do not need the Order’s permission, nor do I seek it. They know about my experiments, and they won’t trace the disappearances to me.”
“Who do you think they’re going to believe Master, you, or the Child of Grenth?”
“You are a mockery, boy!” Verata snapped. “You are a weakling! You do not deserve the privilege of being a Child of Grenth! Have you not figured it out? Are you clueless? I am the true Child of Grenth! I have Grenth’s blessing, and I do his bidding.”
“There is only one Child of Grenth.” Belzan replied. “I was born scarred. I am the one with the power, and I will see to it that I use that power to destroy you, Master. You will not harm another innocent person.”
“Listen to yourself! You are nothing more than a pathetic spell-beggar. You have no true power of your own; you must get on your hands and knees and beg your pathetic goddess for it. A true Child of Grenth takes his power from his foes!”
Belzan managed to shift most of his weight to his right leg, in order to stand. “Child of Grenth or not, only one of us is walking out of here today. I will not stand idly by and watch you murder innocent people for your own benefit.”
“I had hoped one day you would see it my way.” Verata began. “There is only ever one Child of Grenth at any given time because when there are two they inevitably seek to destroy each other. The power between the two of us is awesome, Belzan. I had hoped you would put Dwayna behind you and truly accept Grenth. Dark times are upon us and a new world will need strong rulers. It would seem I am destined to rule it alone after all.”
A flash of blue light came from a cage to Belzan’s left. At once he was able to stand up straight. The wound on his knee was healed. He looked over to the source of the light just in time to see a young woman fall to the ground. Instantly Belzan felt her soul leave her body.
Verata smiled, “I never liked that one anyway.”
Belzan’s attack was swift, but short. The oversized minion before him blocked his view of Verata and cut short any chance of a swift battle. Belzan did his best to retreat while casting curses at the minion to slow and weaken it.
“It is no use Belzan, neither you, nor these fleshlings, will make it out of here alive. I will live on to do Grenth’s bidding, and you will die and be blamed for the kidnappings.”
Verata’s Flesh Golem
(picture courtesy of Guild Wars Official Wiki)
Verata walked slowly from cage to cage and gazed upon the women and children. One by one, they fell to the ground; and one by one, Belzan felt their souls leave their bodies. At once, an epiphany hit Belzan. Dodging another attack from the minion, Belzan affixed his gaze upon it and commanded it to stop attacking. His first attempt failed, but he kept at it and after a couple more tries he successfully unbound the minion. Then, just as before, he turned the minion back upon its master. Slitting his wrist, he enchanted the minion and healed its wounds. Then, with all of his might, he commanded the giant golem of flesh and bone to attack and kill Verata the Necromancer.
But Verata was prepared for such a move. Utilizing the corpse by the entrance, Verata teleported to safety as the golem slammed into the cavern wall. “Farewell, Belzan.” Turning his back on his pupil, Verata exploded several strategically placed corpses around the room. One by one, their explosions echoed throughout the small space and shook the very walls and ceiling loose, which tumbled down upon Belzan and the slain Ascalon women and children.