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|The armed forces of the Empire were still finishing off the remaining Undead inside the crypt, striving to procure the remaining keys to unlock the final enclosures.|
Everyone had a clear demoralizing feeling of incompleteness. The most glorious Heroes of the Empire tried on the newly discovered equipment, skeptically observing their reflections in mirrors, comparing magnificent Helmets of twilight with already palled Firebender robes, and the contrast was obvious... However, the engineers, covered by volunteering heroes, explored the crypt main hall and looted enclosures one after another, and could not discover any secret passages, hidden doors, or even a foundation that could be base for any unexplored sections of the crypt. It looked like the hope of continuing the campaign was dying away before it could even assume its place in valorous hearts of Empire nobility.
But the scientific minds of the Empire were even more desperate. There were no items of particular magical insight or historical value in the enclosures. All there was were some plaques and scrolls of parchment with rude drawings and several words, of which "Unholy" was most interesting. Without any greater basis about the term, they were unable to shed any light on the crypts, their purpose, their structure, or any other information the chroniclers were so eager to find.
Bilir and Kh'Everst arrived at the Steppe. Abu-Bakir was rumoured to be spending a lot of his time near the crypt, and the wizard felt a little jealous. He was certainly interested in any possible discoveries to be made at the crypt. Back at the old Empire he had founded a lot of Theories based on the documentation captured from the mysterious Venomancers. But the eruption made his labour null and void, his works were by now buried under inches-thick layer of hardened lava. Having heard the news that the New Empire had discovered another crypt, he moved all current affairs aside and locked himself in his new office, restoring those works by memory.
He had recently finished it, even managing to derive new minor assumptions that helped match several contradicting facts in his theories together. Now he was eager to meet Abu-Bakir, to get updated on any possible discoveries, and share his fundamental ideas. Traditionally, Kh'Everst was accompanying him, foreseeing the need of interpretation between the two.
Bilir realised by the downcast appearance of his wizard vis-a-vis that there was little to no news, so he motioned Abu-Bakir to have a talk somewhere quiet. Kh'Everst remained near the crypt, drawn by curiosity, or rather, as it would later become clear, by serendipity.
|Bilir explained the purpose of his visit shortly, and handed the Court wizard a large scroll, offering him to get acquainted with the basics of his research. Different parts of the fundamental concept were revealed to and worshiped by different cultures and civilizations of their world in different times, and perhaps, Bilir's understanding of the structure was still incomplete, but it offered a global look at the Universe, and had no significant controversies within itself in its current state. Abu-Bakir immersed in reading, stopping occasionally at paragraphs of special interest.|
The world is an accumulation of four different Planes, each of those Planes manifesting itself in the complex world as torrents of energy of Magic schools: Holy, Darkness, Nature and Chaos.
Planes are parallel, existing independently, each with its own primal aspect; the combination of the four makes up our beautiful world full of light and shadow, order and chaos.
There is life in every Plane. The Planes being parallel is a theorem that explains why living creatures within one are not seen and not felt in another, it is yet to be confirmed. Traveling between Planes is possible; however, it requires either knowledge of the process or technological preparation which eliminates the chance of accidental transition.
The animated entities originating from our world are unable to exist within one plane for too long, as they were born in the complex world and consist of aspects of more than one Plane. On the contrary, an animated being from any Plane can maintain its form of existence in our complex world.
There are certain points within our Universe where the Planes come in contiguity with it, called Vorpal tangles. The presence of primal aspects of that plane is greater in proximity to a vorpal tangle than of all other Planes. There are anomalies near them that are difficult to study since the tangles, as their Planes, are unseen and unfelt by our senses.
Abu-Bakir studied the scroll with absolute commitment, from time to time fixing his eyes on Bilir's written theses. He would later put his work to scrutiny, but at the time a squire ran into them, announcing that Councilor Kh'Everst was acting weird inside the crypt.
|Kh’Everst met them outside the crypt. His face demonstrated utter embarrassment; a casual look at him would reveal a child lost in the throng of a fair.|
“I’ve felt it again, Bilir”, he addressed his friend with confusion in his voice. “It is there, as last time, and it is in the crypt again. I feel something dark right at the entrance. There isn’t one in a million chances that it is a coincidence!”
Bilir smiled, turned to Abu-Bakir, and suddenly grew perplexed. At first, he even rejected the thought that struck his mind. But the thought clutched at his brain and managed to evade being cast into oblivion, returning the wizard’s attention to itself again.
Kh’Everst had found a Darkness vorpal tangle! Unbelievable as it seemed, it was the explanation!
He narrated to Abu-Bakir of one somber evening he spent in the Academy. The weather was horrible and, sensitive to nature’s whims, Bilir could not work at his current projects. He started musing upon what he called interjection technique, a way to shift fragments of physical space between planes, basically switching voluminous chunks of two planes.
As he put all parts of his theories together, he realised that it was practically useless. Interjection with any frame could only be conducted within physical proximity to a certain point where that frame came in contiguity with the complex – exactly what Bilir had titled "vorpal tangles". Without those nodes of co-alignment between planes, there simply were no points of contact to bring the two together from within the complex world.
The main problem was discovering these tangles; it was certainly fringe science and not much information was available. Unless they had innate perception at disposal, like Kh'Everst's feeling of Darkness presence, they were unable to locate such points. As a result, the knowledge could not give much practical use, and was not researched broadly.
Abu-Bakir was listening, his eyes shifting from the wizard to his papers, absorbing every word of the refugee colleague. Theoretical research in his Empire had not gone as far as Bilir's, but in fact, the existence of magical Planes was predicted several centuries ago, and the Academy, even before Abu-Bakir, had conducted many practical experiments to study the structure of the Universe. Bilir’s story sounded like an amazing opportunity. An idea was born in the Court Wizard’s head instantly.
He started speaking out loud, and Bilir almost immediately joined him in his reasoning.
Following a chain of conclusions, the wizards suggested that these Unholy used the crypt in both Darkness Plane and complex world as their base and storage, traveling between both.
There was a section of Darkness Plane that supposedly matched the crypt in its shape. Abu-Bakir and Bilir agreed in their assumption that the unseen creatures, including their leaders, could exist in both Planes, which, according to Bilir, this was impossible for all living beings originating from the complex world.
And this meant they were originally from the Darkness Plane, with their base there. If any important documentation was to be found, they needed an interjection to get a chance to explore the crypt in its Darkness plane analog.
Preparations began almost immediately.
|Abu-Bakir was at the top of his spirits. His unquenchable thirst for exploration and knowledge was yearning for action. In fact, his nature of discoverer has given birth to many changes in the Empire. Unveiling an entire country, the Kingdom, hidden by the shroud of invisibility for a century; opening a time portal into the Past and exploring the ancient lands and meeting the factions of that time; and many other - all were merits of the inquisitive Court Wizard. And now, he was about to do something that nobody was likely to ever have made before, the first mortal to delve into the structure of Universe! His excitement was immeasurable...|
Bilir expressed his concern: interjection required much energy. Much was probably a bad word for it, not even a hundred of powerful sorcerers channeling magical energy torrents together could manage to supply the interjection.
But Abu-Bakir had a solution even to that.
"You are forgetting where we stand, my dear Bilir", he said merrily. "South to us lie wizard lands, with several powerful magical leylines beneath them. You as a spellcaster must have felt their effect: mana recovers faster in those lands. We'll just link to the leyline stretching from the Sunny city!"
"But, the leyline of the wizards, I mean uhm... Won't the Wizard King be displeased if we use their streams of magic without his consent?"
"Hmm... Bah, that's irrelevant", Abu-Bakir frowned. "I've done it before too, in fact", he winked at Bilir. "Actually, back when I was still Cyrus' advisor. Before we joined the Empire and I became the Court Wizard... Oh, that's right. I'm Court Wizard", he exclaimed loudly in a tone that would not accept objections. "In the name of the Empire we do it! Enough acquittal for me".
As the preparations were coming to end, Abu-Bakir consulted Bilir about the time they had. An entire slice of the Darkness plane was going to be torn out of it and projected onto the complex - a deed astounding with its arrogance, and the universe would not bear with it. Bilir sat to make several calculations in his sketches, and minutes later relief was cast on his face. They would have several hours, six at least, twelve at most, before the alien fragment would be ejected out back to the Darkness plane.
"I would rather count on three", Bilir declared slightly disturbed. "Lest everyone present in the shifted zone should not be ousted along with the land and... can't even imagine what would happen to them. Split in jumpets, perhaps".
Abu-Bakir didn't understand the part about jumpets, but he couldn't care less at the time. Everything was ready.
The Heroes of the Empire drew the Unholy back into the depths of the crypt, securing complete safety within the entrance, and were all evacuated from the crypt hurriedly. Abu-Bakir went down the steppes and approached the little mark on the floor - a circle drawn in the place where Kh'Everst had sensed the accumulation of darkness. His academics advised him to let someone else act, but his nature demanded him to be the one to perform the technique in person. He commanded them to start redirecting the magical torrents. There he stood, his greatstaff in one hand and Bilir's scribbles in the other, about to make yet another epoch-making discovery. He looked back at Bilir and received his inspiriting nod, then raised his staff...
...The scene was magnificent. A fissure appeared in the air, slightly above the ground, and Darkness, ray after ray, burst into our world. Abu-Bakir retreated out of the crypt just in time, before the entire crypt got suffused with breath-taking sombre essence. The spectacle amazed with its gloominess, and the few superstitious creatures ran away in fright, while others, especially the Lords and Ladies studying Darkness, stood admiring what few have ever dreamt of witnessing - the beauty of Darkness plane...
And only one person wasn't - Kh'Everst, unable to look at the scene. He felt acute pain as he saw the darkness fiss through the fragile border and spread into the world, and he turned away. "This won't go unnoticed", Kh'Everst muttered more to himself than to Bilir bustling nearby. "And by that I don't mean just Sorish, or King Cyrus' discontent..."
"Oh?" Bilir raised his eyebrows absent-mindedly, then at last turned his head to the dark elf. "Sorry, I must've been drawn away by these... Could you say that again?"
"Never mind" Kh'Everst shook his head desperately. "We'll talk later", he said gruffly over his shoulder as he slowly walked away...
|The number of remaining keys left to unlock the final enclosure was quickly reducing, nearing the long-expected moment of its unlocking. Archmage Sorish arrived to the crypt, his King having realized that the leyline had been linked to. His deepest interest, however, was in discovering new knowledge about the crypt inhabitants.|
At last, this moment had come. The heroes who procured the final keys, exhausted from battle inside the Darkness crypt, handed the keys over to the Archmage himself. He inserted the keys into the enclosure locks, and stepped back, listening to the grinding of the door mechanisms. Then suddenly, an unknown force broke through the open door and, emitting a harrowing shriek, knocked the officials gathered around the enclosure off their feet, and vanished in the air.
Sorish looked around. Everyone was puzzled about what had just happened, but there was no more threat, and everyone hurried into the enclosure of the Darkness crypt to come into possession of its contents.
Another batch of powerful artifacts, not quite what the wizards were so eager to discover, but a closer examination revealed a number of scrolls – exactly what was so anticipated.
Sorish looked through them, giving some to Abu-Bakir, commenting that the Empire historians would be delighted to make a study of the mythical Guardians of Dawn and Keepers of Dragonrest, vanquished and plundered by the Unholy. Then he passed the remaining scrolls to one of his assistants, ordering to burn them.
"May I have a look at those?", the Court Wizard asked curiously.
"You shouldn't, Master", Sorish answered with a slight tone of insistence.
"Nonetheless, we would really like to", Feurlis' voice announced his stepping into the scene.
Giving a nervous look around himself, the wizard king councilor understood that his concerns weren't going to find much sympathy. "These scrolls are cursed!", he exclaimed indignantly.
"My entire essence is cursed!", the undead necromancer parried with his tone raised accordingly.
"You do not understand! They are dangerous... for the Empire, for the entire world!"
"I will do my best to ensure safety", Abu-Bakir stretched his hand demanding the scrolls.
"You are making a mistake", the archmage answered with a sullen face, signaling his assistant to surrender the scrolls, then silently striking his staff at the floor and teleporting away from the cursed sepulcher...
The scrolls were taken to the Academy to be studied by Abu-Bakir and his assistants, which would undoubtedly require some time.
Hours later, the fragment of the Darkness Plane was pushed back into its plane. The Universe had thus corrected the daring intrusion into its structure.
In the meantime, the Empire was celebrating the end of another campaign. The shops were filled with newest artifacts discovered in the crypt, and many glorious heroes were trying them on, getting ready for the celebration parade...