It had been weeks since Joe had his only chance of escape turned into a pin cushion. As much as that would have normally amused him. He had found that dismaying given where it had landed him. Everyday he repeated the same routine he lived in his cell somewhere beneath the palace or whatever the elf equivalent was. Then by midday he was taken out to entertain the Queen and her court. Then if he pleased her he was permitted to live another day longer, and sometimes even eat.
Right now Joe sat alone in his cell chained to the wall by his arms and legs. He could still move around and sleep on the mat given to him, but his freedom ended just short of his cell door. Joe looked up at his only window, a small one foot by one foot square with bars that barely allowed any light to enter. It was probably almost midday by now. He had to escape this place, his life span probably wouldn’t last more than a few weeks at this rate. Joe began to doze with nothing to do.
“So this is what it looks like to be beaten.” A familiar voice muttered in his ear. Joe suddenly bolted straight up checking his surroundings for the source. He had to be imagining things.
“Who’s there?” He finally called out.
“Forgotten me already have you? It hasn’t been that long since we last spoke.
“ Great he was going insane. That didn’t take very long.
“Calm down, you’re not going crazy. Well crazier. I’m in your head.”
“Just close your eyes.” The voice interrupted. With nothing to lose Joe did so. He suddenly felt as if his entire consciousness was falling in a deep black pit. Until finally he stopped. In the void stood a familiar figure. It was a wizened old goblin that was supposed to be doing a porcupine impersonation, not prancing around in his mind.
“What are you doing here?”
“Keeping up my end of the deal. It’s been more than three days after all.”
“You’re dead. Can’t you at least stay that way?”
“Death is such a relative term. I like to think of it as more of a transitional period than anything else. It seems less permanent that way.”
“I hate you so much.”
“That’s okay. You don’t need to like me. You just need to obey me. Now let’s get started on phase two.”
A lone elf woman sat quietly praying. The room she sat in was sparsely furnished with only a mat that she could kneel on and a small fire out in the center of the room that she currently was in front of. The room had no decoration as it would have been pointless for her blind eyes. Out a large window beyond the fire in front of her the sun was setting.
Mayael had been communing with the gods for weeks now, and she had been met with silence. Today had been no different. The human’s arrival had to mean something, but She had no idea what. Her failure to communicate with the gods unnerved her more than anything else though. With little choice she knelt before the fire one more time before giving up for the day.
She felt herself slip away from her physical body and from the constraints of what it meant to be mortal. She felt herself drift away into a stream of raw emotion and desire. It was primal and powerful, but most of all she felt the beauty and comfort of its presence. Quickly, new sensations washed over her. Fear, rage, and pain. Things she had learned plenty of during the Conflux. These things meant only one thing for the Anima. They were going to war, and that human was their harbinger of death.
“I’m releasing your movement seal.” Bolgrat told Joe as he waved his hand. Immediately Joe felt as if hundreds of pounds of dead weight had been removed. He could walk without becoming winded, and even lift his arms without straining himself against some invisible force. “Now listen, we’re going to break out of here, and go down to the vaults.”
“Go fuck yourself I’m leaving.” Joe immediately willed himself to leave this place. Not entirely surprised he failed to leave his cell.
“You’re not going anywhere till I remove the last seal, and I’m not doing that without you helping me.”
“Fine, let’s get this fucking over with.”
“That’s the spirit! Now be a good lad and blow the door open.” Wordlessly, Joe raised his arms and pointed at the door. Almost immediately thorny vines burst from behind him and crashed into the door. It was thick, but the wooden door quickly gave way to under the assault. They were weaker than normal but they would serve. After the door crumpled he willed his vines to break his chain. They quickly did so leaving the metal rings that attached to each of his wrist and ankles but was otherwise unhindered. A pair of his jailers rushed from from a nearby room as Joe stepped through the open doorway. Spears at the ready they clearly had every intention on killing the escaped prisoner. This neither surprised or worried Joe.
“Kill them.” Joe heard in his head. He was very happy to oblige after their treatment of him. As they charged the death mage waved his arm forward giving the signal for his vines to attack. They did so by firing hundreds of thorns at his assailants piercing armor and flesh with ease. As his dead captors fell to the ground in an almost comedic fashion, Joe’s vines crept closer to their master and wrapped around him somewhat gingerly. As the razor-sharp thorns almost touched his skin they simply retracted while leaving the outside ones at they were. And soon the ‘walker was encased head to toe in his vine armor. Looking more monstrous plant than man. And silently he continued to walk forward so he could be done with this place.
“What?” Maytee was confused. They had spent weeks making sure she wouldn’t leave. Placating her every worry and entertaining her with almost whatever she wanted. And now, suddenly that all changed and she was free to leave. That made no sense what so ever to her.
“You’re leaving.” Celest repeated. “I have orders to heal and release you as soon as possible.”
“But why? Why the sudden change?”
“The Anima got her answer from the gods. She did not like it, but she will adhere to it. You’re free to leave.”
“But what about my studies?” Maytee knew she had desperately wanted to leave since she had arrive in this plane, but now that the chance had arrived she wasn’t so sure she was ready to leave yet. Not after seeing how poorly people had fared. Celest’s expression softened as it often did before soothing her.
“You will be fine. You’re already quite advanced in the seer arts, and with practice I’m positive you will master them.” Maytee wasn’t as reassured as she had hoped she would be.
“But… how do I face everyone after such a failure?”
“They are grieving, as are you. You did not fail them that night. There simply wasn’t anything you could do. You did not run. You died remember?”
“It is okay Maytee.” Celest grabbed her hand comfortingly. “Go back to them. Let them know you aren’t one of the fallen.”
“You have nothing to apologize for.” With a wave of her hand and a few silent words Maytee’s injuries healed. “This is goodbye for now, but fear not. You will return to us, and when you do we will be ready to help.
“Thank you.” Without another word Maytee found the courage to leave the safety of the elves, and simply willed herself back to her plane not fully understanding Celest’s meaning.
A trail of carnage followed Joe as he had carved a path from his cell to the vaults. Bodies littered the ground. Some were mostly intact, but many more had been cleaved or decapitated. Blood covered the walls and ceiling of the hallway as he casually strolled to the next line of defense they had formed.
A guard leaped from the shadows trying to catch him unawares. He swung his sword hoping for a clean hit in the planeswalker’s midsection. Instead the blade was caught mid-swing by a thorn covered hand without its intended target even looking at him. Joe slowly turned his head to face the nuisance beside him. They guard was young looking although that meant little to him since he was an elf, but more importantly he was terrified. And then he was dead as vines shot from his back and skewered the man that had been paralyzed with fear. He continued walking forward dangling his latest victim. Terrorizing as many people as he could.
He could see many guards trembling before the blood soaked horror in front of them, and some began to run. Others attacked blindly. Either choice didn’t make much difference to him as he dispatched those dumb enough stay in his way.
Eventually after rounding a corner, movement caught his eye as a wooden ball rolled into the hallway. It was a little smaller than his fist and intricately carved with various flowers painted in shades of blue and pink on a field of green. He picked it up with a tendril and looked closer at it. as he did so he heard a small squeak of maybe barely contained fear. He looked into the room and saw a small boy maybe 5 or 6 by appearance cowering underneath a table. The toy was probably his.
Joe walked into the room. The boy trembled in fear unable to move or speak as he stepped closer.
“Bah! Kill the boy and move on we’re wasting time!” Bolgrat ordered.
His tentacle moved closer to the boy slowly. His eyes were closed not able to face the monster before him. Then the ball gently plopped into his lap, and he could feel a soft hand muss his hair. The faint smell of urine filled the air as the boy wet himself. Then soft footsteps echoed away followed by a door shutting.
In general Joe didn’t like kids. Hated them even. But that didn’t mean he wanted to harm one. He wasn’t a monster, he was only killing when he had too.
Now after much hard fighting and many more casualties Joe stood before a magically imbued door. It was massive, but also made of wood. Unfortunately Joe soon realized that it was still as strong as steel as his vines bounced off its enchanted surface without even leaving a mark.
“Useless.” His mental warden spat out.
“Release my final seal and we’ll see who’s useless.”
“No, I have a better idea. Hold still this is probably going to hurt…a lot.” Was the dead goblin’s only reply before Joe suddenly felt his head split open, and have vast amounts of knowledge crammed in there in one go. It was almost as painful as his revival spell. Almost.
His body suddenly became sweaty and he breathed heavily as he tried to recoup from his head trying to kill him.
Then it stopped leaving only a full ache behind like a mild hangover. Other than that he didn’t feel any different, but he felt like he knew things. Magics he knew he shouldn’t know, but felt like he had always known.
“Now open it.” The goblin Auntie ordered his prisoner. Wordlessly as if the answer had been obvious all along Joe touched the surface of the door. Almost immediately it shattered with such force it would have looked like it had exploded. Blue Mohawk and all Joe walked over the newly formed rubble to see the contents of such a heavily protected room. It could quite possibly hold all the wealth of the Gilt Leaf Elves. He was sorely disappointed. Inside wasn’t gold or weapons. No precious gems or other things of value. Inside only a small wooden circlet seated atop a velvet pillow was in the room. Even the table that held both items wasn’t particularly grand.
“What the Shit man? I just killed dozens of guards for what? A piece of wood?” The planeswalker spat out even more irritated than before. “And what the fuck did you do to me?”
“Calm down we’re almost done here. That, is part of a set called the Crowns of Transference. When two people wear the crowns the one that wore theirs the longest has their consciousness transferred to the second wearer ultimately overwhelming them and taking over. I believe our great king has been staying alive for an untold number of years by transferring to the bodies of his son and continuing to rule and ultimately cheating death. As for you. I gave you all my knowledge of what do you call it? Red magic? It’s my way of saying thank you for your patience and help in this endeavor. Now be a good lad and fetch that artifact we have one more place to visit before you can be done with me. ”
“Fine!” Joe roughly grabbed the magical item.
” Ah ah ah, carefully, you wouldn’t want to damage it and have me trapped here forever now would you?” Joe then more carefully absorbed the item into his body, and left the vault.
It was dark. Not just any normal type of darkness either like sitting in a dark room with the lights out, or walking through a forest at night far from any sort of civilization. This darkness was pure void. Zeke felt overwhelmed and subdued, with a rock heavily forming in his gut, as he stood up from his fall after being flung through the mystery door by Ezra.
“Wow it’s dark in here. You should consider brightening up the place. Maybe dust out a few of the cobwebs while you’re at it.” Zeke heard Ezra say as he stepped out of the doorway. He was still very old and walking with a cane, but he was strangely visible in all this nothingness around him. Zeke could easily make out all of his features as if he were in a normal room with a black background. “This part looks pretty lightly used too. Are you sure you’re as brilliant as you claim to be?”
“What? Where the hell are we?” The squirrel person asked his associate.
“We…” Ezra began as he summoned a chair to sit in. “Are currently located in your mind. The deepest, darkest depths by the looks of it.”
Zeke was dumbfounded. Then he was horrified. Quickly followed by lots of anger peppered with more fear.
“WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU DO THAT?!?!” Zeke shouted after his face had visibly gone through each of his emotional states to the amusement of the old man training him.
“Well…” Ezra sat down in his new summoned chair and rubbed his bad leg. “I wasn’t idle for those three centuries before you found me. I’ve been building up my mental defenses ever since I was put to sleep. I couldn’t tell you what for, but it seemed important at the time. As a result, I’m most likely the only one that can actually manipulate my own mental plane. But here, you are the masterish. This place is the one place that you can exert the most control over a mentalscape.”
“I left my mind for a reason asshole. Here I’m being hunted. I almost died the last time I came out of hiding.”
“I know, but you’re safe.” The old mind mage responded unconcerned while picking his ear with his pinky. “I didn’t come unprepared. I have turned this area into a safe-zone of sorts. With me here you can do as much manipulation as you want without being detected by any of the three entities that are currently living here.”
After much more fighting Joe had almost made it into the throne room where the newly returned king had locked himself inside. It was somewhat clique for his taste, but at least he didn’t do the smart thing and leave the palace. That would have been annoying. Joe found the final set of oaken doors that stood as a barrier between him and his goal. They were large and old and extremely gaudy looking. Just how most excessively rich people liked it he supposed. Joe then lightly touched the door with his palm casting one of his new spells.
As the doors burst open into splinters he could see several guards charging him with spears and even more firing arrows over them at the newly arrived opponent. And behind all of them Joe could see the King of the Gilt leaf. King Dickfuck as he’s decided was his name, was hiding behind his throne probably praying to something that this monster didn’t kill him too. Unfortunately the Queen wasn’t hiding here as well. It was a pity, Joe had hoped he would have been able to return the hospitality she had shown him.
The planeswalker continued to march forward. As the pikemen charged more of the monsters he had created on his first performance appeared behind the archers strangling them with sharp vined hands. Joe himself barely paid them any attention as small bolts of lighting shot forth from his fingers and electrocuted them all to death.
The king quickly and clumsily swung what was probably a decorative sword as Joe stepped over the charred remains of his former body guards. The attacks were wild and easy to dodge. It was rather sad and amusing that a person that had been alive as long as him had failed to learn some method of personal defense.
Eventually Joe just slapped the weapon out of the king’s hands and grabbed him by the throat, lifting him several feet off of the ground. He then removed the crown from the king’s head and placed the one he had with him on his own head and put the crown back on his captive’s head.
The moment it did pain coursed through his head has he forced himself to not be pulled in. Then suddenly it stopped. The pain was gone, and more importantly the presence in the back of his mind was gone too.
“Are you there?” Joe asked the limp form of the elf he had been holding. He dropped the body on the ground.
“Yes, I’m here. Good work. This went much smoother than expected.” The elf king responded as he stood up patted some unseen dirt off of his robes.
“So we’re done here?” Joe asked impatiently.
“Yes, here you go. Run along now.” Bolgrat responded waving his hand. Almost immediately Joe felt the weight of the last seal being removed on his powers,
“Good.” Joe immediately grabbed Bolgrat by the throat again. He began squeezing tighter and tighter slowly crushing the elf’s weak throat.
“W-wait, s-stop.” Bolgrat stammered weakly under the pressure around his throat. He then continued weakly. “We can work something out.”
“And what could you have that would cause me to stop something so incredibly satisfying?”
“I-I’ll do anything just don’t kill me.”
“Oh come on. Isn’t death just a transition period?”
“Anything!” Joe without letting up any pressure thought about the offer for a long moment.
“Okay.” Joe dropped his prisoner. The new king coughed heavily as he took in very deep breaths into his newly opened airway. The former prisoner leaned over and grabbed the king by the collar lifting him back up again. “You owe me then, and I will collect. It might not be today or tomorrow, but some day I will return and you will give me anything I demand. Am I clear?”
“Good.” Joe dropped the former bogart and left him to his new kingdom. He didn’t know what he would find back on his own plain, but he was sure he wasn’t going to like it. And with a loud crack he was gone from the room, and plane.