Sceptre of the Sorceror King

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Ryan and Evelyn, two young lovers from the fantasy world of Shumir must search for the Sceptre of ancient race in order to save their own world from and invasion of undead creatures and the evil faerie that control them.

Submitted: December 20, 2007

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Submitted: December 20, 2007

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SCEPTER OF THE SORCERER KING
By
Susan Shock
 
Ryan and Evelyn were surrounded by undead. Skeletal creatures with bits of rotted flesh hanging from their ancient bones, they stalked their two young victims with a single minded determination.
The creatures appeared out of nowhere. Only moments ago the two were crossing the great Amari Floodplain, the last known landmark that separated the land of Shumir from the unexplored Wild lands. They were on their way to the Valley of the Ancients, where their long dead predecessors on this world buried their kings.
The undead, at least a hundred in number, came up out of the ground, empty eye sockets fixed malevolently on the small, elflike woman and the slender dark eyed young man.
“Run!” Ryan cried, pushing Evelyn protectively behind him.
“I can’t! We’re surrounded!” Ryan turned, and his dark eyes widened in horror. He unsheathed his broadsword and swung at a creature as it reached for Evelyn
“Don’t let it touch you!” she cried, her blue eyes filled with terror. A skeletal hand grabbed a lock of Ryan’s dark hair. Ryan kicked it and it fell backward. But then another took a swing at him with a rusty dagger. Evelyn backed up against him and parried a blow with her dagger, all the while trying to remember the words to a spell her father, Court Wizard to Ryan’s father, the King of Isin, once taught her. She wished now that she’d been more attentive.
The words came to her memory slowly and she forced them out of dry lips, while a skeleton grabbed a lock of long red hair. She heard a scream behind her, and turned just in time to see one of the creatures grab Ryan’s sleeve. She forced out the spell incantation once more.
“Grab my hand!” she commanded.
Ryan obeyed. Suddenly they were enveloped in thick black smoke. Ryan felt his entire body tingle as magic coursed through it. When the smoke dissipated a few moments later, they were now standing on the edge of a river bank, some one hundred feet away from the undead creatures. But they were not out of danger. The skeletons began to shamble towards them. Ryan glanced at Evelyn and saw just how much the spell had taken out of her. Her face was pale and she could barely stand. They would have to swim across the river.
“I can’t swim.” Evelyn said, seeming to sense his thoughts, and glancing terrified at the river.
“I know. Put your arms around my neck and hang on.” She obeyed, trying to ignore the pleasant tingling she felt when their bodies touched. She didn’t want to still love him. Ryan glanced briefly at her, pain in his eyes, and jumped into the river. The water was cold and deep, and the current was very powerful. Despite his slim build Ryan was a good swimmer, but with Evelyn weighing him down, he struggled to stay above water. The current tried to pull him downstream and he was soon exhausted from the struggle. Evelyn clung to him, her body shivering in the cold water.
By now the skeletons had reached the riverbank. A few tried to step into the water, too stupid to realize that the magic that created them was made null by the river.
Ryan was beginning to weaken from the cold and the pull of the current. His muscles ached with fatigue and his feet and hands were going numb. He gritted his teeth and forced his aching arms and legs to keep moving. Evelyn clung to him, but he could see that she was weakening from the cold. If they stayed in the water much longer they would both die of exposure.
Ryan took a breath, prayed for strength and forced himself to swim as hard and as fast as he could. His lungs ached and his muscles screamed from the exertion. His back tightened from Evelyn’s weight, while the current continued its assault on him. He began to black out.
He stumbled and realized dully that there was earth beneath him. They were at the river’s edge. He looked up and saw the river bank just inches away. Now he felt Evelyn’s arms around his waist. She was helping him over to the riverbank. With her help he stumbled onto land, and then collapsed onto the grass.
II
Ryan was dreaming. He was sixteen and the world wasn’t such a scary place. It was early in the war. The city states of Lagash, Saruppak and Ninsu had not yet fallen to the undead armies unleashed on Shumir by the sorcerer king Timat.
He and Evelyn were walking in the palace gardens, holding hands and talking about things. They were comfortable with each other.
“It’s hard to believe on a night like this that there’s a war going on.” Evelyn said, glancing up at the moon.
“My father reminds me every day that we’re at war.” Ryan said grimly. The life of a prince of Isin was not one of indolence. His father the King required him to be at the daily war councils. He knew just how badly the war was going.
“So does my father.” Evelyn said. “He insists that I continue in my studies. He says I have the potential to be very powerful once I learn how to properly channel magic. He thinks I can one day defeat Timat. I don’t think anything can defeat Timat.”
Ryan nodded, his eyes sympathetic. Before Timat seized control of the city of Lagash, the city states of Shumir had been prosperous and peaceful. It had been three centuries since any of them had gone to war with one another. But the sorcerer king of Larsa was power mad. Corrupted by the use of the dark arts of humanity’s enigmatic predecessors, he’d enslaved his own people and then created a powerful army of undead creatures which he was using to enslave the rest of Shumir.
“Darling we’ve got to have hope. We’ve got to keep fighting.” He said, his voice gentle. He touched her smooth delicate shoulders. She looked like a princess herself, in a delicate gown of dyed gauze, cinched at the waist with a gold filigree girdle. Her long red hair fell to her waist in soft waves.
“I haven’t given up hope.” She said. “I just want to forget the war for just a little while. I know you do too.”
“Yes I do.” He whispered and bent down to kiss her lips.
“Ryan wake up. Can you hear me?” Evelyn’s worried voice brought him back to consciousness. It was three years later, and two more city states had fallen to Timat’s undead armies.
Ryan opened his eyes and found himself laying on the ground, wrapped in a blanket, a surprisingly dry blanket. A fire burned brightly nearby. Evelyn was knelt down beside him, wearing only a short thin tunic, her hair still wet. Looking into her eyes he saw briefly, the girl he’d fallen in love with, and still loved. It was because he loved her that he’d left, put her at arms’ length and spoken little more than a few words to her in the last three years. It was the only way he could think of to save her life. His heart ached everyday, but it had to be so. He’d opposed her being sent with him on this mission, but his father overruled him, and he could not change his mind without revealing what he knew. It was a secret Ryan would take with him to his grave.
“Where are we?” he asked, his voice slightly hoarse. He vaguely remembered struggling to cross a powerful river.
Evelyn’s blue eyes turned icy now that she knew he was conscious.
“We are on the other side of the River Tigras, my prince.”
Ryan winced at being called prince. He knew he deserved it, but it hurt nonetheless. He wished he could tell her the truth and make her understand, but he didn’t completely understand things himself. He’d been a small boy when the gift first appeared. Suddenly he’d gone into a trance and when he came out of it, he’d drawn something, a brief clue to a future event. He was an artist, had been for as long as he could remember, but when he went into the trance something else controlled his hand. Most of his predictions turned out to be relatively minor. But he’d predicted the undead armies and the fall of Larsa. Only his father knew of his ability and even he was a little skeptical. His family had no magical ability, unlike Evelyn’s whose parents were both magic adepts, and whose talents were passed on to her.
But the most terrifying and traumatic prediction came just hours after that romantic walk in the palace gardens three years ago. He woke up the next day, his heart singing, until the trance came over him. It lasted only a moment, but when he came out of it he saw a new picture, a very disturbing picture. He saw Evelyn falling into a chasm and him at the edge of the chasm, trying and failing to catch her. It was a picture that had haunted his every waking moment.
Ryan sighed and gazed at Evelyn as she tended the fire. The sun was sinking fast in the west now.
“You used your magic to dry our things?” Evelyn nodded. When she didn’t have to memorize a spell the magic came to her much easier, though it wasn’t as powerful or as focused.
“We can’t afford to get sick. Too many lives depend on us.”
“Evie you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to save your strength. We’ve got greater dangers ahead then wet clothing.”
“I am aware of the dangers we face.” She snapped. She turned away from him for a moment, then said calmly.
“We’ll stay here for the night.” She handed him rations from her pack and the two ate in silence in front of the fire. From time to time, he caught himself gazing at her, longing for the closeness they once had. She refused to look at him and stared at the fire.
III
They were up early and on their way as soon as the sun was up. The skeletons had retreated for the moment. They crossed the grasslands of Carpatha in silence, lost in their own private worlds. Around midday they arrived in the ruins of Kamatra, a long dead city once inhabited by those same enigmatic predecessors who died long before humans came. All that remained now of what must have once been a sprawling city, were mud brick mounds eroded by time and the frequent winds which swept across the savannah. From this city had come the Nodur Parchment, a document found nearly a thousand years ago amidst the ruins, by treasure seekers. The Parchment, undecipherable until recent times, told of a special scepter used by Dumuzi the Sorcerer king, a magical artifact of great power that was created for the sole purpose of defeating the undead armies created by the Dark Faery thousands of years ago to try and conquer Shumir. Ryan reflected briefly on the way history seemed to be repeating itself.
It was late afternoon when they finally approached the Valley of the Ancients. The two stared in awe at towering red cliffs, cliffs that seemed to be keeping watching over the tombs hidden in their midst. Then they saw something that made their hearts stop. In the distance, at the top of a barren hill stood a black pyramid.
“It really does exist.” Evelyn gasped.
“If it exists, so does the Scepter. I’ve prayed it wasn’t just myth.”
Entering the Valley, both noticed at once the deathly silence. Not a bird or insect stirred. And the air was hot and stale.
“I don’t like this.” Evelyn said, forcing her voice to remain even. Ryan nodded. His stomach was knotted with anxiety. Then the things appeared. Black and shapeless, they flew out of the pyramid and headed straight for them.
“Run!” Ryan screamed, grabbing Evelyn’s hand and looking around for a hiding place. Evelyn pointed at a cave opening and the two made a dash for it, hearts pounding with terror.
The flying creatures were faster and soon swooped down upon the two. Ryan heard a bloodcurdling screech behind him and turned to see one of the flying things hurling itself at him, long talons out. He screamed and threw himself and Evelyn to the ground, only barely missing being raked by razor sharp talons. But another creature swooped down upon them. Ryan unsheathed his short sword and slashed at the creature.
Evelyn, stunned from being thrown to the ground, lay sprawled on her stomach, until she felt sharp talons scrape against her back and then grab her by the hair. She screamed as she was picked up and dragged upward into the sky. Ryan turned in time to see her being lifted off the ground. He swung his sword viciously at the creature. It hissed and a stream of green liquid came out of its mouth, barely missing Ryan but burning a hole through the body of another of the flying things.
Evelyn continued to struggle with the creature that held her, but she could not make it let go. Ryan lunged at the creature again, this time impaling it with his sword. It screeched and let go of Evelyn, who fell to the ground, stunned. A scream from Ryan, brought her out of her fog. She saw Ryan lying on the ground, his shirt torn and an ugly bleeding gash in his shoulder. She screamed in rage and called upon her magic in its most primal form.
Power coursed through her body, draining her of all strength, but that didn’t matter to her. Something had to be done, and only she could do it. Now bolts of white fire flew from her fingertips and enveloped all of the flying creatures. In seconds, they disintegrated. Drained, Evelyn collapsed to the ground. Only the sound of Ryan moaning in pain kept her from passing out. She stumbled over to him.
“I’m okay.” He mumbled, struggling to his feet. Evelyn put an arm around his waist and together they staggered over to a nearby cave, collapsing just inside the entrance.
Sometime later Ryan opened his eyes and saw Evelyn cleaning his shoulder wound with a wet cloth. He winced painfully as the cold cloth touched the wound.
“Sorry.” She said. “It’s got to be cleaned.”
“I know. It just hurts like crazy.” Her expression softened.
“I know. I’m sorry.” She finished cleaning the wound and then took strips she’d torn from a clean shirt and bandaged his shoulder.
“That should keep it clean until we get you to a healer.”
“If we can get me to a healer. If we survive this mission.” He said dryly. She nodded. Her face was pale and smudged with dirt and sweat.
“I know. We can’t go back without the scepter. But for now at least we can rest. Maybe you’ll feel a little better in the morning.”
Their eyes met and suddenly the last three years disappeared. He saw tenderness in her eyes and he couldn’t stop himself from responding to that tenderness. Their lips touched softly and they embraced each other for a few blissful moments.
“I’m sorry.” He stuttered, his face flushed. Now he saw hurt and anger in Evelyn’s eyes.
“You’re sorry that you kissed me? I don’t understand you at all.”
Ryan turned away, unable to face her anger. He ached inside, wanting so much to tell her that he loved her.
“There’s someone else, isn’t there?” Her voice was accusing now. She wanted at that moment just to hurt him, make him feel her pain.
“There’s no one else. There never has been. I’ve never wanted anyone else.”
“You have a funny way of showing it.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” He bowed his head.
“You never even said goodbye.” Her voice was pain filled. “What did I do?”
“Nothing. You’ve done nothing wrong. It was never about you. I’m sorry. I can’t explain.”
She glared at him. She remembered the day he left with his brother Evan on a scouting mission. He was gone for a year, and when he finally returned made no effort to contact her. Then he was gone again on another mission for the king, and did not return until just a few months ago. When she finally saw him face to face for the first time after three years he spoke maybe two words to her at a birthday banquet for his mother the Queen. It was like she no longer existed.
“If you truly cared for me you would explain yourself.” Ryan turned away. If she must think he didn’t care so be it. She would stay away from him and live, and that was what mattered.
“I hate you Ryan.”
“I know. You should rest now.” He turned away from her and unrolled his blanket, wrapping it around him and then leaning against the cave wall. He closed his eyes tight and told himself it was better this way, all the while his heart ached.
 
 
IV
“Well there it is.” Ryan said late the next day as they arrived at the top of the hill on which stood a giant black pyramid. They walked up to the pyramid and examined it closely. It was made of polished black granite, a tremendous engineering feat, and was many thousands of years old.
“Amazing.” Evelyn exclaimed, staring at the pyramid and refusing to look at Ryan. That was the first thing she’d said to him since they got up that morning. It was now late afternoon. Ryan told himself it was better this way. Neither really had anything more to say to one another. But he longed for the past when he was free to love her without fear of losing her.
Evelyn walked up to the side of the pyramid that faced them.
“Careful.” Ryan warned her. She ignored him and began to survey the structure’s perimeter.
“I don’t see any kind of entrance.” She remarked, examining the granite structure. Ryan followed her, ever watchful for trouble. He did not want to have to deal with anymore of those flying things that had attacked them the previous day. His shoulder still ached badly.
“Ryan look!” Evelyn exclaimed, pointing at something at eye level. He examined what were several rows of strange signs and squiggles carved into the granite.
“It’s their writing.” He said. “The same writing as on the Nodur Parchment.”
“Can you read it?” He nodded. During his time in the north with his brother Evan, he’d learned to read the language of the ancients. Ryan studied the inscription carefully.
“What does it say?” he heard Evelyn ask. She walked over and stood close to him while he studied the inscription. She placed one hand on his arm. Ryan focused his attention on the inscription, trying not to think about the warmth of her touch.
“It says ‘In the days of Dumuzi the sorcerer king, the Faery came to Shumir and spread their evil throughout the land. They made the dead walk and obey their every command. They made war over all the land. But Dumuzi and his most powerful sorcerers created the Scepter, giving up their own lives so that Shumir could live. Dumuzi used the Scepter, destroying the undead, and sending the Faery back to their dark realm forever. Beware, you who come for the Scepter. It is not a treasure, not a prize, not a tool to be used for greedy or selfish purposes. Only one with the purest of hearts may use the Scepter. All others will be punished.’”
He turned to glance at Evelyn. At that moment the ground beneath them disappeared and they tumbled into darkness.
V
They tumbled down a long dark shaft.  Evelyn cried out as she struck cold hard stone before finally hitting a cold dirt floor. Nearby she heard a thud and a cry of pain from Ryan.
“Ryan? Speak to me.” She cried out, her voice quivering. She heard a groan from him.
“I’m here. Are you all right?”
“Yeah I’m all right.” She struggled to keep her breathing normal, but there was a knot of terror in her stomach. She did not like the darkness. She never had. She tried to remember the words to a spell that would bring light into their darkness.
“I suspect we’re inside the pyramid now.” He said. “Evie, what’s wrong? You’re gasping.”
“I’m fine!” She didn’t want him to know how terrified she was. She would not let him see how weak she was, not ever again. She uttered the words to the spell she’d been struggling to remember. She would soon have cause to regret it.
The room filled with light and the two now saw their surroundings. They were in an underground chamber, but this was no ordinary chamber. The walls, made of smooth brown granite, were painted all over, even on the ceiling, with strange murals. They saw tall birdlike creatures with beaks instead of mouths, and feathers instead of hair, wearing colorful loose clothing and delicate gold and silver jewelry. Ryan guessed that the smaller, slimmer beings were probably female. He saw these beings in all manner of activities. There were some doing farm work, harvesting the same crops that the humans of Shumir now used for food. He saw kings being paid respect by their subjects. He saw scenes of warfare. There were many scenes of warfare. He saw what he believed were sorcerers casting spells.
“We’re looking at the entire history of the ancients.” He said. Evelyn nodded, following his gaze. Eventually his eyes took him to the War with the Faery, as the Nodur Parchment referred to it. The Faery were creatures from another world, beautiful, but malevolent, they fooled the Ancients into thinking they were friends. But their magic conjured undead from the bowels of Shumir to try and destroy the Ancients so that they could have Shumir for themselves.
Thanks to Dumuzi and the Scepter, Shumir survived and the Faery were sent back to their realm. But the war turned out to be the beginning of the end for the Ancients. The final murals told of the decline of this birdlike people. Their women gave birth to fewer children each generation until finally only a few remained, and they were barren.
Ryan shuddered. Something about the murals disturbed him. They seemed to come to life. Ryan felt as though he was being pulled into the murals, into this ancient world, and it disturbed him. He closed his eyes tightly, but not before noticing for the first time that this strange room was all walls, with no way of getting out.
“Ryan what’s wrong?” Evelyn asked, seeing that his face had paled.
“Get rid of the light.” He said sharply. Evelyn protested.
“Ryan no! I hate the darkness.”
“Evie do as I say! Please!”
Reluctantly she obeyed. As they were once more bathed in darkness, Ryan felt the murals fade from his mind, releasing the strange hold they had on him. But then Evelyn cried out.
“Ryan where are you?” She was terrified.
“I’m right next to you.” His voice was gentle, soothing.
“I need you. Touch me please.”
He gathered her trembling form in his arms.
“I’m right here. I won’t let anything hurt you. I promise.” She nuzzled her face against his chest. For the moment her anger was forgotten.
“Don’t let go. Please don’t let go.” She clung to him, wanting only at that moment to feel safe.
“I won’t let go Darling.”
In the darkness they found each other’s lips. As they kissed Ryan felt his self control slip away.
“I love you.” He whispered. “I can’t help it.”
“Don’t fight it Darling. I love you too. I always have.”
Sometime later Evelyn said.
“I think we’re going to die here.” Her head rested on his chest while her fingers delicately caressed his face. He held her tightly against him, stroking her back gently.
“I know.” He said, his voice surprisingly calm. At least they were going to die together, he told himself.
“Tell me the truth Ryan. Why did you leave me three years ago? I can forgive you Darling. I just want to know.” Her voice was gentle. There was no trace of anger.
Ryan gathered up his courage. It was time to tell her the truth. He did so.
“I’m so sorry Darling. I just didn’t want you to die.” He said, a sob catching in his throat after having told her his story. “I hated being away from you.” His voice broke. Evelyn wrapped her arms around him and just quietly comforted him.
VI
They slept, a deep dreamless sleep, one brought on by physical and emotional exhaustion. But they were jolted awake by the sensation of warmth. Opening their eyes, the two suddenly found themselves bathed in a bright white light.
“What’s going on?” Ryan cried, sitting up violently. The murals remained, but did not have the power they had on him hours ago. But now, just a few feet away they saw that the light came from a corridor, one that was not there hours ago. Was this an illusion, Ryan asked himself?
“I suppose we should see where it leads.” Evelyn said. Ryan nodded and the two stood up and walked down what was a plain granite corridor. It led them a short way to another room. This one was small and its walls were covered with more of the Ancients’ writing.
But it was not the writing that caught the attention of Ryan and Evelyn. What caught their attention was the black onyx pedestal in the middle of the room. On it was a long slender scepter carved of oak and topped with an amethyst set in a gold filigree clasp.
“Is that it?” Ryan asked, staring unbelieving at the scepter. “This is too easy.”
“I agree. But I sense great power coming from it. I think it is the scepter.” They stared at the artifact, unsure what to do.
“One of us should go pick it up.” Ryan said. He glanced at Evelyn, and she nodded. Ryan started towards the scepter.
The creatures appeared out of thin air. Evelyn recognized them immediately. Wailers, they were called, spirits out of myth and legend, ugly and ragged, usually vaguely female, that screamed and cried angrily at anything living. Their screams were deadly, they cut through the living like a knife through cheese. Their assault drove Ryan to his knees. He covered his ears with his hands, desperate to block out the terrible wailing and screaming, but his efforts were futile. His head began to ache. Tears of pain filled his eyes. Suddenly all he wanted to do was run away and somehow escape the terrible howls.
Evelyn fared no better. She lay on the floor in a fetal position, the wailers’ screams cutting to her heart, tearing her apart inside. She tried to call upon a spell, but she could not concentrate, let alone remember even the simplest of incantations. She could feel her sanity slipping away from the creatures’ assault. She closed her eyes, stuck her fingers in her ears, but it did no good. They were inside her mind, ripping it to shreds. She tried desperately to retreat to the farthest corner of her mind, using meditation techniques taught her by her father. It was an effort though to even remember who she was.
Gradually her mind began to calm and the wailing ceased to bother her as she retreated to a small corner of her being, where she could more carefully examine their situation. Opening her eyes, she saw herself still curled up in a ball. Ryan lay on the floor next to the pedestal, blood coming out of his nose, eyes closed tightly, and the scepter forgotten. The wailers were nowhere to be seen, though she could still hear their howls. It was then she realized that the creatures were an illusion, albeit a very powerful one. Evelyn knew from things her father told her that illusion magic could be just as deadly as the most powerful lighting bolt or fireball. Somehow she had to break this illusion before it was too late.
She began to recite the words to a spell, one that would dispel the illusion. She mumbled the words over and over again in her mind until she was sure she would be able to remember it. Then she opened her eyes and allowed the sights and sounds of the small chamber to once more fill her senses. It was agony, but Evelyn forced herself to stand up and forced the words of the spell from her mouth. The last word of the incantation came out as a harsh croak, but she could feel power flow through her body now.
The wailers vanished and there was silence once more. Evelyn collapsed, exhausted and in pain. For a few moments there was only darkness and silence. Then light once more filled the small chamber. Evelyn looked up and saw Ryan struggling to his feet. He was pale, but no longer in pain. Standing next to the pedestal now was a creature, ethereal like the illusionary wailers, but nothing like them. This being resembled the birdlike creatures from the murals. He, or she, wore a long caftan embroidered all over in gold, with bracelets of gold on each arm, and a delicate gold crown over a head that was covered with feathers. Silver white eyes stared shrewdly at Ryan and Evelyn, though its movements indicated no hostility.
“Dumuzi!” Ryan gasped, remembering the murals. Now the being spoke, but not with words, with thoughts that echoed inside their minds.
“You are correct young one. I am Dumuzi, and that is my scepter. Why have you come for it?”
“This world is in danger.” Evelyn said, her voice grave. “Undead ravage the land as they did in your time. A sorcerer who calls himself Timat has created armies of the creatures. We cannot defeat them alone. We must have the scepter.” Dumuzi nodded.
“Timat. I know of him. His mother was Queen of the Faery.”
“Queen of the Faery? But Timat’s human!” Evelyn gasped.
“Only part human my child. Did you not ever wonder how a mere human could have such power, power that not even my race at their nadir, could have?”
“We’ve been too busy fighting for our survival.” Ryan said. Dumuzi nodded.
“I understand children. But Timat is of the faery. I sensed that from the day he was born. I hoped he would not follow in the evil path of his mother. My hopes were in vain.”
“But how is that possible? The Faery were exiled.”
“Their evil knows no bounds. The Queen is insidious. She found a way back into this world, though only briefly, and mated with a human man. That is why Timat has such power. That is why he can create armies of the dead.”
“The Faery are trying to come back, aren’t they?” Evelyn said.
“Timat is their gateway back. When the undead finishing ravaging Shumir, Timat will be so powerful from feeding on the souls of the living, he’ll be able to reverse the spell that keeps the Faery in their realm.” Dumuzi’s voice was grim.
“That’s why we’ve come for the scepter.” Evelyn said.
“I know. I’ve looked into your hearts. You have passed the tests to prove your worth. Now you must take the scepter and use it.” Dumuzi shifted his penetrating gaze to Ryan.
“Be warned my children. Only the purest of hearts may use the scepter.  It will not work for any other. And those hearts are touched with darkness will rue the day they touched the scepter.”
Dumuzi’s gaze never wavered from Ryan.
“Take the scepter young Prince Ryan and use it. Save Shumir.” Ryan gasped.
“I can’t. My heart isn’t pure.”
“I’ve looked into your heart. It is filled with light. You are so much more than you realize.”
“Yes, Ryan you are.” Evelyn said, smiling tenderly. “You were willing to give up your own happiness because you love me. I know no heart that is purer.”
Their eyes met and his gaze lingered on her for a few seconds. Then Ryan turned and picked up the scepter, clasping it firmly in his hand.
“Go children. Stop Timat before it is too late.” Dumuzi faded and as he did so a corridor appeared where his image once stood.
“Nice of him to provide us with a way out.” Evelyn remarked, taking Ryan’s hand.
The tunnel was narrow and dark but after several minutes of walking they saw a faint light in the distance. They moved quickly towards the light. Some moments later they emerged into sunshine. The position of the sun in the sky told them it was late morning.
Suddenly the earth shook, throwing them to the ground.
“What’s going on?” Evelyn cried. Now the earth opened up and the decaying bodies of long dead ancients appeared.
“Timat!” Ryan gasped, reaching for the scepter, lying just a few feet away. But a foot appeared in his path, stepping hard on his hand. He screamed and looking up, saw a man standing before him, holding the scepter in his hand.
Timat the Terrible, Lord of Larsa, was tall and exotic looking with his pale sallow skin, long hands that resembled talons, and beady gray eyes that stared disdainfully down at Ryan.
“Thank you young one for bringing me the scepter.”
Ryan cried out angrily and tried to grab the artifact from the sorcerer. But when he touched Timat, sparks flew from the sorcerer’s body and Ryan was thrown violently backwards. Evelyn screamed and ran over to where Ryan laid, his body painfully contorted. She dropped down beside him and took his limp form in her arms. The undead ancients now surrounded them.
“You will all rue the day you crossed the Faery.” Timat shouted,  raising he scepter above his head. His eyes sparkled with madness. “This world is ours for the taking. Come to me my Faery brethren! Come to me now!”
The scepter was now transformed, from ancient artifact of a long dead people, to an instrument of power. It turned bright red as the magic that created it was activated for the first time in many millennia. Timat laughed. His amusement was short lived. Now his body turned bright red as powerful magic coursed through him. He screamed now and before the horrified eyes of Ryan and Evelyn, began to deteriorate, flesh and blood and muscle and bone burning to a cinder until there was nothing left but dust. The scepter flew through the air and finally landed next to Ryan and Evelyn.
“Use it now!” Evelyn cried as the undead ancients approached. She swung her dagger wildly at them, desperately trying to avoid their poisonous touch.
Ryan picked up the scepter, unsure how to use it, unsure it would even work for him. He raised the artifact in the air and closed his eyes, praying something, anything would happen. Magical power flowed through his body. It was both frightening and exhilarating. The earth shook once more, this time even more violently. Ryan opened his eyes and saw deep fissures opening in the earth, fissures which enveloped the undead, those that didn’t drop lifeless where they stood. He felt fear and triumph, fear at such power, but triumph that these monsters were now being destroyed.
Then he heard a scream behind him. Ryan turned just in time to see Evelyn tumble into a fissure that had opened up underneath her, just as in his prophecy. He screamed in anguish and dropped to the ground, desperately determined to catch her. But the earth shook once more and he tumbled into the fissure after her.
VII
“Am I dead?” Ryan heard himself mumble as awareness returned.
“If you’re dead, so am I.” he heard Evelyn say. Ryan opened his eyes. Wherever they were, it wasn’t Shumir. He lay sprawled on his stomach on soft meadowland. A bright red sun beat down on the earth. Evelyn lay next to him, her eyes open, staring in wonder at their surroundings.
“I think we’re alive.” She said, reaching her hand out to touch his face gently. Ryan found her touch reassuring. Wherever they were, at least she was with him.
“The prophecy came true.” He said. The memory brought tears to his eyes. Evelyn caressed his cheek.
“Yes, but it turned out to be not so terrible. I wonder what this place is.”
“The other side of the world, or a different world altogether. I guess we’ve got some exploring to do.” Evelyn nodded and squeezed his hand.
 
THE END
 
SCEPTER OF THE SORCERER KING
By
Susan Shock
 
Ryan and Evelyn were surrounded by undead. Skeletal creatures with bits of rotted flesh hanging from their ancient bones, they stalked their two young victims with a single minded determination.
The creatures appeared out of nowhere. Only moments ago the two were crossing the great Amari Floodplain, the last known landmark that separated the land of Shumir from the unexplored Wild lands. They were on their way to the Valley of the Ancients, where their long dead predecessors on this world buried their kings.
The undead, at least a hundred in number, came up out of the ground, empty eye sockets fixed malevolently on the small, elflike woman and the slender dark eyed young man.
“Run!” Ryan cried, pushing Evelyn protectively behind him.
“I can’t! We’re surrounded!” Ryan turned, and his dark eyes widened in horror. He unsheathed his broadsword and swung at a creature as it reached for Evelyn
“Don’t let it touch you!” she cried, her blue eyes filled with terror. A skeletal hand grabbed a lock of Ryan’s dark hair. Ryan kicked it and it fell backward. But then another took a swing at him with a rusty dagger. Evelyn backed up against him and parried a blow with her dagger, all the while trying to remember the words to a spell her father, Court Wizard to Ryan’s father, the King of Isin, once taught her. She wished now that she’d been more attentive.
The words came to her memory slowly and she forced them out of dry lips, while a skeleton grabbed a lock of long red hair. She heard a scream behind her, and turned just in time to see one of the creatures grab Ryan’s sleeve. She forced out the spell incantation once more.
“Grab my hand!” she commanded.
Ryan obeyed. Suddenly they were enveloped in thick black smoke. Ryan felt his entire body tingle as magic coursed through it. When the smoke dissipated a few moments later, they were now standing on the edge of a river bank, some one hundred feet away from the undead creatures. But they were not out of danger. The skeletons began to shamble towards them. Ryan glanced at Evelyn and saw just how much the spell had taken out of her. Her face was pale and she could barely stand. They would have to swim across the river.
“I can’t swim.” Evelyn said, seeming to sense his thoughts, and glancing terrified at the river.
“I know. Put your arms around my neck and hang on.” She obeyed, trying to ignore the pleasant tingling she felt when their bodies touched. She didn’t want to still love him. Ryan glanced briefly at her, pain in his eyes, and jumped into the river. The water was cold and deep, and the current was very powerful. Despite his slim build Ryan was a good swimmer, but with Evelyn weighing him down, he struggled to stay above water. The current tried to pull him downstream and he was soon exhausted from the struggle. Evelyn clung to him, her body shivering in the cold water.
By now the skeletons had reached the riverbank. A few tried to step into the water, too stupid to realize that the magic that created them was made null by the river.
Ryan was beginning to weaken from the cold and the pull of the current. His muscles ached with fatigue and his feet and hands were going numb. He gritted his teeth and forced his aching arms and legs to keep moving. Evelyn clung to him, but he could see that she was weakening from the cold. If they stayed in the water much longer they would both die of exposure.
Ryan took a breath, prayed for strength and forced himself to swim as hard and as fast as he could. His lungs ached and his muscles screamed from the exertion. His back tightened from Evelyn’s weight, while the current continued its assault on him. He began to black out.
He stumbled and realized dully that there was earth beneath him. They were at the river’s edge. He looked up and saw the river bank just inches away. Now he felt Evelyn’s arms around his waist. She was helping him over to the riverbank. With her help he stumbled onto land, and then collapsed onto the grass.
II
Ryan was dreaming. He was sixteen and the world wasn’t such a scary place. It was early in the war. The city states of Lagash, Saruppak and Ninsu had not yet fallen to the undead armies unleashed on Shumir by the sorcerer king Timat.
He and Evelyn were walking in the palace gardens, holding hands and talking about things. They were comfortable with each other.
“It’s hard to believe on a night like this that there’s a war going on.” Evelyn said, glancing up at the moon.
“My father reminds me every day that we’re at war.” Ryan said grimly. The life of a prince of Isin was not one of indolence. His father the King required him to be at the daily war councils. He knew just how badly the war was going.
“So does my father.” Evelyn said. “He insists that I continue in my studies. He says I have the potential to be very powerful once I learn how to properly channel magic. He thinks I can one day defeat Timat. I don’t think anything can defeat Timat.”
Ryan nodded, his eyes sympathetic. Before Timat seized control of the city of Lagash, the city states of Shumir had been prosperous and peaceful. It had been thr


© Copyright 2017 SusanSh. All rights reserved.

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