The story so far:
He stood at the foot of an immense tower the color of night, that seemed to stretch forth to the very heavens themselves, reflecting back the stars as if it was its own universe. Ander knew not when he had arrived at its base, just that he was there. It was like the shroud, one moment he was declaring his intent, the next he was wrapped in its shadowy embrace.
His silver eyes tried to penetrate the veil of that tower, scanning for its secrets, but he could find no entrance. Like his soul it was hidden from him. With his left hand outstretched to caress its dark beauty he began to walk the base searching for anything that could give him entrance. It was completely smooth, without flaw or purchase of any kind. Ander was about to give up and rethink his efforts when the moons light stuck the towers base just before it sank behind the mountains he had come from. He moved quickly to that silvery thread as it pierced the veil of the obsidian tower, illuminating a recessed archway that had not been there moments ago.
The moon light was fading. The recess was slowing closing with it, but still no entrance just the hint of one. Hurriedly he began to run through options of how he might gain entrance when the shroud stretched forth of its own volition and covered his hand, turning his skin as deep and dark as the tower itself. He saw how it wrapped around him completely, and he thought as the last of the moons light finally faded, “I am night. I am shadow itself.” With absolute surety he walked through the arch and it yielded to his darkness, as if his true self was all that separated the two from being one.
As he crossed over the threshold he was blinded by the brilliance of its interior. Dark as the exterior was the inside was its opposite. White marble of the finest quality with deep veins of black greeted him. Torches flared to life, held by sconces in the likeness of ebony hands, making it hard to see. When his eyes adjusted to the light he could make out how the black veins mimicked a mathematical pattern that was somehow familiar to him. It was striking! Never had he seen such beauty or workmanship.
Six colossal pillars stretched upward around the towers circumference and reminded him of giant white sequoias. He was momentarily taken aback; it was like a dream come to life. It seemed like hours had passed as he basked in wonder before he took his first steps into the grand hall.
The ceiling stretched in arched precision for six stories. He could see no other adornments beyond the sconces. A grand stairway snaked upward from the end of the hall disappearing behind the end pillars. His footsteps echoed life into the stillness. As he came to the first step of the stair he stopped to look back and was witness to something extraordinary.
The archway he had entered from and the floor he had just crossed was stained with the dark footprints of his passing. But that is not was caused him to stare in wonderment. It was what had happened next.
As he stood transfixed, the darkness spreading across the floor, as if someone had poured black milk into a glass of water. When it touched the veins of the marble it turned them to crimson. As the black ink of his passing continued up the pillars and the walls, he followed the crimson veins with his eyes to alcoves placed two stories up along the walls. They were hidden from the entranceway by the pillars, but not the stairs. The alcoves were occupied with white marbled statues of eldritch warriors, that is, until the darkness found them, they then turned into ebony warriors clad in shadowed armor. The crimson veins pulsated once when it was complete and then they moved…
Their ebony continence never changed but their bodies turned in recognition of Anders presence and as one they kneeled in supplication, stirring not again. Ander looked upon his body and noticed he was still covered in the deep black of the shroud, which made him look as ebony as the statues that now kneeled above him.
Momentarily worried at first, thinking they might jump down to give chase or block his passing, they did not stir. The grand hall was silent as the darkness finally stopped when each point met in the center of the arched ceiling. He felt welcomed for some reason, as if they had been waiting just for him. When he turned back to the stairs they were still white all except the step he stood upon.
Power rose within him. It pulled him upward as if he had control no longer. The shroud was now his guide.
Ander knew then that the tower was awakening. It was confirmed upon the second floor when the shadow of his passing continued outward from his position to soak this chamber as well.
He stood upon the second floor foyer as the transition took place. The chamber was similar to the first, six colossal pillars, arched ceiling, but the six alcoves were located just above the floor and the ceiling was not quite as high, no more than three stories, and the statues were different and there was something else…one was missing.
They were more elaborately decorated. They had long beards carved upon there surfaces and held grim features, long swords not of marble but of true steel hung at their sides and their armor was of such exquisite design that it was hard to tell whether or not it was real or chiseled, they all had the looks of eldritch kings. The shadow took them as well. When it was complete they turned their ebony visage upon Ander and their eyes shown with crimson light. And as before they turned to him as one, but this time they stepped forward and extended their long swords and bowed their heads.
Ander felt…no menace. Ander felt…no fear. Ander felt…Power.
He saw only men welcoming home their king.
Walking forward, toward another flight of stairs on the far end of the second floor, each shadowed statue knelt and laid their swords upon the ground, all but the last two. They walked without expression and knelt before Ander placing their blades at his feet, crimson eyes downcast as to not offend one so far above them.
He was compelled by the shroud to touch them, laying an ebony hand on each as he passed. As he did so they stood and fell into step behind him, somberly following him up the stair. He tried to stop and look behind him but could not. The shroud was still his guide, leading him to his destiny.
Upon the third floor stood only two alcoves and a recessed archway similar to the entrance to the tower itself, the alcoves were unoccupied. Ander stopped in front of the archway, his honor guard walked to the alcoves and stepped up and turned toward him, again they knelt, but this time with sword points to the ground and then rested their heads upon the pommels. With the last of their movements ended, the archway melted away.
There before him sat a throne of white marble with black veins and sitting upon it was a shadowed man with swirling whispy eyes of twilight. Ander did not hesitate, he could not, he still had no control, but as he crossed the threshold he screamed out in agony and fell to his knees, in control once again -just not his control. As he faded into unconsciousness he heard deep rumbling laughter.
It was his twenty-first birthday, he’d been celebrating with friends all night, letting go of the worries of a mediocre life, being a gas station attendant really had no perks other than the occasional drunk girl wandering in or the free cigs he would get.
He was not special in any way, like others he had dreams that he was. There was a reoccurring dream of being a powerful magus that he’d loved. Upon waking from this dream he would always be happy for the rest of the day. He knew it was a dream of course but that would not stop him from enjoying the power he felt from that dream. And then there was the other aspect of the dream that only sometimes carried over into the waking world, the anger, the hate, the pain he’d loved inflicting.
Those feelings never lasted long. But this night as the drink took hold he’d done something that he could never forgive.
The local pub was not far from his apartment, about a fifteen minute walk -thirty if he was drunk as was the case. Jessica, his neighbor, had driven and they were both to drunk to drive, it was a nice night, cool for summer in Missouri, and Jessica was good company, not to mention beautiful. He had no chance with her of course, she went through boyfriends like he went through cigarettes.
They got home fine, laughing and joking, he hugged her good night when she told him that she couldn’t come in for another drink, Jeff was on his way over and he didn’t like it when he had to knock on Anders door to find, “His Woman.”
That alone made Ander want to kill the guy, but what really made Ander hate Jeff was that sometimes he heard Jeff hit Jessica through the thin walls of their apartments. Ander was not what you would call courageous or well built and Jeff was a **** bar of steel, a construction worker by trade. Needless to say, he intimidated the hell out of Ander. Except for this night, this night he had found courage hiding behind -at the least- twenty-one beers, Dixie’s Blacken Voodoo, man he loved that beer...and something else.
Soft and hideous laughter brought him back to the white marbled chamber with the shadowed figure standing now in front of his throne...His throne? Had he been dreaming…? Is this still a dream…?
“What…? What are you? Where am I? AM I still dreaming?”
Soft wispers replied, “Yesss, Ander you are. You need to wake up to help Jesssssicaaa, sssshe needsss you.”
Shaking his head, he looked up from his position on the floor, the shadow had gotten closer. He looked at his features to try and bring back focus of thought, everything was a blurr, nothing made sense.
“Something’s not right?” Ander said softly under his breath, he reached up to whipe sweat from his brow and then he remembered as he saw his ebony skin and it shifted in the breeze from the only window in the chamber.
“YOU! You did this to me. You brought me to this place. What did you want?” Shaking his head, fighting fatigue and memories he slowly looked up at the shadowed being again, anger was etched upon Anders face. The shadowed being took a step back.
“You need to awaken Ander, lie back down and help Jessssica.” It whispered soothingly again.
“NO! I remember now, you asked of me something didn’t you…a thousand years ago. You asked me to put on the shroud and you would help me. You said…You said…” Shaking now, Ander was starting to lose himself again, he thought he saw the shadow smile and take a step forward again.
“STOP!!! You may come no further! You hold the shroud no longer! Your time with it is up and has been up for four-thousand years. You wished to take me as host. I remember that now. You needed me to say yes so that you could take me as your host. You placed the shroud upon me to give me strength and you thought me weak, and weak I was. But I ran after I killed that man and the shroud stayed with me.” Ander stood, darkness seeped out of him and stained the floor, inching its way toward the throne. The shroud whispered words into his mind, “You have forsaken your oath shadowed one and refused your post as guard. Instead of standing in honor you now beguile and mislead to continue on in this existence and the universe suffers for it. No longer!”
“Foolish Child, you do not know what you are up against. I can still take the shroud from you. All I need is a moment of weakness and it will be mine again. Then, when it is mine, I will damn you to nothingness, forever lost to the void!” The shadowed being shook, but this time in rage and uncertainty. It edged toward the window.
Ander standing now, walked toward the throne. Standing in front of it he turned to the shadow being that now seemed weak to him and faded.
“You can do nothing now that I have My Throne.” And with that statement Ander sat upon his throne and slowly the white of the marble throne turned to black, the veins that ran black a moment ago turned to silver. Power like the power of his dreams coursed through his veins. With a word, Ander summoned one of his shadow guards that were standing in an alcove just outside, “Suen!”
The shadowed being lost some of its substance as the menacing guard king entered the chamber.
Ander looked upon the guard that the shroud and the throne had helped him to summon and spoke words of power and command. “Suen, I charge you with finding this beast and bringing its true form back to me so I may judge him with crimes against the Balance. Do this and I will release you and call your oath fulfilled.”
“Nooooo, you have not the power!” the shadowed being screamed.
“Oh but I do. Look well upon your destroyer.” replied Ander with such ferocity and power that he did not recognize his own voice.
The shadowed being took one look at Suen and leapt through the window to gather its power for the war that has just begun.
The retired king of shadow looked upon the beast once before it made its mad leap out the window. It breathed deeply for the first time in millennia and turned to leave the tower to fulfill its duty. Never in its many millennia of existence had it dreamed of ever being released.
As it exited the Obsidian Tower, with its king now upon his throne, Suen’s ebony skinned changed to that which it once was long ago, deep and vibrant brown. Air filled his lungs. Flesh felt the wind. Eyes of blue looked to the west where one day the sun would rise again.
So ends the first trial of Ander. Now begins the Quest of Fulfillment.