End of the Game of Keeps
Hello dear reader! If you don’t know me, my name is Brother Abaddon Ravenwood. Most people in the Wood call me “Brother Ravenwood” or “hey I need a mage”. I’ve been out of the Myth Wood for most of the year on various personal research projects. When I returned, I was dismayed to find the free Myth Wood I left was enslaved by the Game of Keeps. My understanding was that this game had enveloped most of the denizens of the Wood. This could not stand.
I headed to the Mage’s Tower to see if I could find any clues. Sadly, I found the Mage’s Tower in disarray. I stepped out of the Tower to determine what my next step should be. As I was thinking, Rokai approached me. I silently prepared a devastating spell in case he chose to attack.
“Hail Rokai. What brings you to the Mage’s Tower?,” I asked.
Rokai looked skeptically at me as well and said, “Brother Ravenwood, to which side of the game are you aligned?”
“Neither. You?,” I responded.
He seemed relieved and lowered his guard. “I, too, am unaligned. This Game of Keeps has all but decimated the Myth Wood.”
I nodded solemnly, “I was just considering what my next step should be.”
He smiled, “I was hoping you’d say that. I need your help saving the Wood. Would you be so kind as to help me free everyone from this terrible game? I cannot bear the Wood or it’s people being enchanted like this. Please, will you help me?”
My first instinct was to help, but after I thought for a few seconds I asked Rokai, “What’s in it for me?” He was taken aback and quickly thought about what he had available to offer me. Judging by his reaction, I knew he didn’t have much of value at this time to offer me, so I said, “How about you owe me a favor in the future?” After a short consideration, he agreed. With that we shook hands.
“What do you have in mind?” I said.
“Well, I was given instructions on what needs to done to free the people of the Myth Wood. It will be a treacherous quest. First, we need to free Lugh Morningstar from the spirit crystal in this gauntlet. I have an empty spirit crystal here for you to house him in. I was told that either Agamemnon or you would be able to perform this task” Rokai stated.
I deeply considered what spells I knew that could release this soul from the perfect gem. “Ah, that’s the one,” I muttered to myself, then to Rokai said “give me the empty spirit crystal and just hold still”. I hovered my hand over the gauntlet while I held the empty spirit crystal in my other hand and cast, “Azarath Metrion Xinthos!”
As I cast the spell, the emerald began glowing and quickly grew to a blinding light. Once we could see again, the emeralds light was dimmer. However, the crystal in my hand now had a strong glow about it.
Rokai said, “I don’t feel his presence in the gauntlet anymore. I think the spell worked.”
“Good, so what’s our next task?,” I responded.
“Well,” he said, “we need to go find two people. We need to find King Balin and The Derf. In order to defeat the skulls we need Titanias dagger which King Balin has. We also need to let The Derf know that we’ve completed separating Lugh Morningstar’s soul from the gauntlet and give him the spirit crystal you have as well as the materials he needs to forge the first trap.”
I motioned down the path towards town, “After you good sir.”
So I followed Rokai, wondering how this all could have happened to my Myth Wood. We stopped where the path split between Kings Rest and Grey Arrow. Up near Grey Arrow’s gates we could see a group of people. Rokai softly said, “Move slowly as we approach and stay close, good mage.” I nodded agreement, as my only weapons were my spells. While I can unleash Hell, I couldn’t do it in time to stop a sword from going through my gut.
As we approached, Rokai greeted them, “Hail, we are just passing through. May we move through in peace?”
Gadin responded, “Hail Rokai, you may pass as long as you don’t wish us any harm.”
“Nay, Gadin. Brother Ravenwood and I were just walking through and pondering the wonders of our splendid Myth Wood.” Not going to lie, I was a bit nervous as I was not sure the extent this game controlled the people I called friends. I kept my spell components close by in case we were attacked. Thankfully, we were allowed to pass by unharmed.
Rokai took another path and as we approached the next split, he stopped suddenly. “We cannot go this way. It is guarded by Ordo of the Blue Skull.” I looked past Rokai to see what mostly looked like Lord Elric’s body, but the face was definitely not that of my once friendly yet fierce comrade.
As we stood there, determining our next action, Ordo called out, “Brother Ravenwood, your magic will not work on me. Why don’t you come over here so I can finish your miserable existence?” The voice I heard, was definitely not the voice of the good Lord Elric. Rokai motioned for me to backtrack a bit and take the other path.
After what seemed like hours of wandering, we ended up in town. Out of the woods appeared my good King Balin. Rokai whispered, “Brother Ravenwood, don’t be too friendly as we don’t know which side he is aligned with.”
I nodded and greeted King Balin as I always do to keep his guard down. “Hail King Balin, how are things?”
He nodded, “Well enough Brother Ravenwood. How goes it?”
I responded, “I’m helping Rokai here to ponder the majesty of the Wood.”
Rokai spoke up at this point, “King Balin, may I ask how you align?”
“Aye” King Balin said. “I am a pawn of Order.” This struck me as odd. The King Balin I left would be no pawn to anyone. Strangely enough, the King was in the company of an assassin, Riddick. I kept a careful eye on him.
Rokai took a moment to consider his next action and said “Thank you King Balin. There is nothing you can help me with at this time.”
As he was finishing talking to King Balin The Derf came striding into town. Rokai motioned that he would like to speak to The Derf and I nodded for him to go talk to him while I finish up with King Balin.
“My Lord King,” I said, “what are you up to this fine day?”
“Well, Brother Ravenwood, I’m looking for the Armored Gnomes. I’ve found two of them, but am not sure where the third one is.”
I thought about it and remembered seeing an armored gnome over by the Mage Tower. “I think I might know where one is my Lord,” I nodded knowingly. King Balin seemed interested in my information. I quickly went over to Rokai and said, “I’ll be right back. I need to quickly help out the King. I know he’s under a spell, but he’s still my King and his request doesn’t hurt our quest of the Wood.” Rokai nodded assent and I hailed for the King and his assassin to follow me to the Mage’s Tower.
The trip to the Tower was quiet and uneventful. As we approached, the King noticed a blue flower growing in the tower’s ramparts. “Brother Ravenwood, can I have that flower as well?”
I considered it and said, “Sure, my Lord. Let me retrieve it for you.” As I entered the Tower to retrieve the flower and the Armored Gnome, it occurred to me that I wasn’t getting anything in exchange for these desired items. “My Lord. I’ll give these items to you, but I was wondering what compensation is in it for me?” King Balin had a similar look on his face as Rokai had when I asked the same question. I said, “My Lord, how about I give you these items for a future favor?” King Balin readily agreed. As I climbed the ramparts to reach the flower, I asked the King why he needed these items. He responded that the kingdom had fallen into great debt and he was helping others acquire these items. Once he delivered them, he’d be able to cover at least some of the debt. I asked, “My Lord, how much in debt is the Kingdom?”
“Well, about 250 Dirks.”
I considered this next part carefully, “My Lord, I have the funds to cover the debt of the kingdom and will gladly give it to you for a second future favor. Is that acceptable?” He seemed almost overjoyed, much more like the King Balin I remembered. As I handed over the items and the coins, I felt having favors from the King would greatly help us free the Myth Wood.
I returned to town to find Rokai having returned from his own mission. Apparently, besides the soul of Lugh Morningstar, The Derf needed the soul of Grimner Graybeard, Lord Gadin’s soul crystal, Agamemnon’s hammer and the Black Sword of the Daemon Lord. With The Derf having the materials he needed to start forging the traps for the skulls, Rokai and I started wandering the woods again.
“Rokai,” I said, “What is our next step?”
He thought about it and said, “We need to find unaligned allies. While we are formidable, we cannot take all the skulls on ourselves. So we travelled the Mythwood looking for allies. After a long search, we came across Ryn Hawkwynd.
We eyed each other warily. “Hail Ryn.”
“Hail Rokai, Brother Ravenwood.” Ryn replyed
“Ryn, how are you aligned?,” Rokai requested.
“Rokai, I have no alignment. And you and Brother Ravenwood?”
Rokai stated, “We, also, are unaligned. I have a proposal for you if you’re willing to hear it?”
“I’m listening,” Ryn said.
“Brother Ravenwood and I are in search of people to help us free the Myth Wood from this Game of Keeps. We seek to restore the people to their own will, their own choices. No being should be controlled, let alone like this. Will you join us?”
Ryn seemed to consider this for a bit and said, “I’ve worked with all three alignments and none seem better than the other. Why would I join you?”
“Please Ryn, we can’t leave the people in the Skull’s control. This is not the Myth Wood we want to live in. Do you not want to see the people make their own choices once again?,” Rokai pleaded.
After another long pause, Ryn replied, “I shall join you on your quest. What’s your plan to restore the Woods?”
Rokai smiled, “Well, the next thing we need to do is get Titania’s dagger from King Balin.”
“The only way to get that dagger away from him is to kill him,” Ryn said.
I responded, “That’s not exactly true.” Rokai and I discussed this while we were looking for allies. I could use one of my favors to ask King Balin for the dagger.
So the three of us began our search for the great King Balin. We headed back into town, as this was the last place we had seen him. As we entered, we came across the band from Grey Arrow. “Hail Rokai, Brother Ravenwood, Ryn.” Gadin said.
“Hail Gadin.“ We responded.
Rokai spoke up asking, “Gadin, what were you doing at the blacksmith shop? It doesn’t look like The Derf is there.”
Gadin responded “King Balin and his assassin, Riddick, were here. They are of the Blue Skull. We had to slay them. After that we decided to drop off some unsafe items they were carrying for The Derf, as it’s the safest place in the Myth Wood right now.”
Rokai nodded. “Thank you, Lord Gadin. May you go peacefully.”
After the band from Grey Arrow left town, Rokai went to the blacksmith’s shop, hoping that the dagger was one of those items. Sure enough, the dagger was there. As he placed it in his belt he said, “Now we just need to find The Derf and get those traps.” We headed towards Grey Arrow as it seemed relatively quiet and the band from there had gone in the opposite direction. As we reached Grey Arrow, we could hear angry mutterings from up ahead. Just in time, Rokai covered the dagger with his shield.
I hailed our good king. “King Balin, how may we be of service?”
“Nothing right now. I need to find Titania’s dagger. Can’t let them have it.,” as he stormed past not noticing we had it.
After a short time, we continued our quest for The Derf. After a thorough search, we ended up back in King’s Rest. Just as before, The Derf came striding into town like we hadn’t spent what seemed like hours looking for him. The three of us approached him and asked if the traps were ready. The Derf said, “Which skull are you going after first?” After consideration, we decided that taking the Blue Skull out first would be our best option as he posed the greatest threat and once released, Elric would be a great asset to aid us in conquering the remaining skull holders.
“Blue,” Rokai stated. I was nervous, as I’ve seen Lord Elric fight for years and not too many in the Myth Wood are as handy with a sword as he is. My spells couldn’t touch him and the arrows from Ryn’s bow would only distract him temporarily. I felt confident that with Rokai’s shield he might stand a chance.
We left The Derf to head as quickly as we could to the Blue Skull. As we were leaving town, King Balin approached us from behind. “King Balin can we be of service,” I asked. I was trying to keep his attention away from Rokai as he had the dagger.
“Yes, Brother Ravenwood, have you see the other members of Order?”
“Well my lord, the last time I saw them they were that way,” as I pointed in the opposite direction we were going.
“Thank you Brother Ravenwood,” and King Balin headed in the direction I pointed.
Ryn looks at me with a sly grin, “Nice work Brother Ravenwood.”
After a short trip, we arrived halfway down the path Rokai and I had previously seen Ordo of the Blue Skull near. Rokai seemed nervous, and I couldn’t blame him as this would not be an easy fight.
He said, “Once we do this and if I fall, one of you will have to take up the dagger to finish where I have failed.” Ryn and I looked at each other and nodded. Steeling himself for battle, Rokai started forward. “Ordo of the Blue Skull, I am here to challenge you!,” Rokai exclaimed.
Ordo responded in kind, “You all shall not leave here alive!” The two approached each other carefully. Dagger and sword clashed repeatedly, ending with the Ordo slashing Rokai across the face and upper chest as Roaki stabbed Ordo in the chest. A blinding light flashed at the moment of the fatal blow to Ordo of the Blue Skull. Upon the ground was a crystalline blue skull and standing there was my good Lord Elric again.
“It’s good to see you Lord Elric. I see you can’t stay out of trouble while I’m gone,” I playfully said.
He grinned and said, “Yeah, I have that bad habit.” I watched as Rokai picked up the crystalline skull and placed it in the trap. I suggested that we take the trap to the Mage’s Tower as there were limited mages in the woods and I knew a good place to hide it in there. Rokai agreed that the tower with its protection against non-magic users would help keep the skulls safe.
“Lord Elric, I pass Titania’s dagger onto you. A person can only use the dagger once without risking certain death.” Elric reluctantly took the dagger and placed it in his belt.
“Rokai, what do we need to do to free the other skulls from their awful fates?” Elric asked.
“Well, the next thing to do is to get the next trap. Which skull should we release next?” After a round of discussion we decided that Lady Myth of the Green Skull made sense as she was close to our position and we could attack a large force in the graveyard from two angles. We could not do that at the Lady Tree. So our fellowship of four now went in search of The Derf once again. And again, as we entered the town heading to The Derf’s shop we found no Derf. As we approached the shop, he came striding out of the woods again. I begin to wonder, how he manages to maintain his shop if he’s never there to sell or fix things. Something to bring up with him the next time I need him and he’s not around.
“Derf!” Elric said with urgency. Still urgent, but lowing his voice, “Derf, we need you to forge the trap for the Green Skull and quickly.” The Derf grunted and retrieved the already completed work. He seemed to have known we’d be able to defeat the Blue Skull and was ready for us. The Derf talked quietly to Elric about how to use the trap. After a few minutes, we were off.
As we walked, we discussed strategy. It was decided that Rokai would be in the front, then Ryn, myself, followed by Elric. The plan was to rush Lady Myth of the Green Skull and overwhelm her from the front, while Elric flanked her and stabbed her with Titania’s dagger from behind. We were being followed by another group with Riven in the lead. Riven was awfully quiet and was in the company of some of these new Ordins I had heard about. I guessed he had been turned into one of their Champions. Basically an unkillable meat shield until the Ordin who controlled him was slain. Given Riven’s history of backstabbing, I continued to keep an eye on him as the group continued following behind us.
As we approached, Lady Myth of the Green Skull declared, “Come closer people of my realm, for I am the benefactor and protector of the Myth Wood. Come closer so that I may rid my Wood of the vermin that is humanity.” Our party picked up speed and ran directly at her. I saw Rokai engage her as Ryn drew back his bow. I stopped to begin preparing a spell as a distraction. I felt Elric push around my right side as I watched him slide behind the creature that had invaded our friend Marta. As she struck Rokai twice in the chest, I saw Elric slide the dagger into her side. Rokia was saved by his armor. Lady Myth however fell with a deafening scream and a blinding light. As with Elric, a green crystalline skull appeared on the ground next to Marta. Elric placed the skull into the trap. At this moment, the other party came into the clearing to survey the aftereffects of the battle. I, silently, asked Elric for the trap so I could put it in a safe place. As I headed back to the Mage’s Tower, I looked back to see Elric pass the dagger on to Marta and heard our party and the new party discussing strategies for releasing the last skull.
I made the trek alone to the Mage’s Tower to place the skull in it’s hiding spot. When I emerged, headed back to where I last saw my party members. I ran into both groups as I approached the Lady Tree path. Seeing Marta and Rokai first, I sidled up to Rokai and quietly asked, “What’s the plan?”
“Again, Brother Ravenwood, we are in search of The Derf.”
I sighed, “OK” and our party of five headed into King’s Rest. I was shocked that The Derf was already in his shop waiting for us. As before, we asked for the final trap. While we were waiting for him to get it for us we began to start discuss our attack plan for freeing the Red Skull. Just then the warriors of Grey Arrow attacked us. King Balin had come into town as well at that point. I saw Llew head towards him ready to strike. As they clashed, I cast Acid Bolt to destroy Llew’s armor. My hope was this would give King Balin the advantage. Unfortunately, as my spell struck Llew, he ran King Balin through. Llew turned on me. At this point, Marta yelled for all to stop fighting. “The Green & Blue Skulls are gone warriors of Grey Arrow. Do you not realize you are once again free now? You are not the only ones that are free. Unfortunately, Gadin gave his life in sacrifice for the Wood. His soul crystal was used to power Titania’s dagger. When the Lady Myth of the Green Skull was struck down his life force was used up. His death allowed for the Green Skull to be beaten and entrapped, which freed me from my imprisonment. Do not let his death go in vain. Stop fighting the free folks of the Myth Wood. Rise up and let us conclude this Game of Keeps!!!!”
Everyone looked around in amazement that Gadin, who had been with them just a while ago, was gone forever and they now had their free will back. There were mumblings of what we should do. Marta continued, “We need to form a plan to attack Abysal of the Red Skull in the graveyard.” It was suggested that we attack from both graveyard entrances. That we should split up the party members here and go forth. The plan was agreed upon. Marta suggested balanced groups, fighters and defenders in the front and support in the back.
We headed to the Blacksmith shop to finish our interrupted task of retrieving the final trap, only to find that The Derf had not survived the battle. We waited around for a while until he returned from Valhalla Our forces split as discussed and we each took our paths to the graveyard.
As we approached, the Graveyard, we spotted a sentry. It appears they left Darkness to guard the path. We spotted him about the same time he spotted our forces. As we approached, the road in front of started to fill up with people controlled by Abysal of the Red Skull. The front forces started to clash. I lost track of some of my comrades and how their battles were going. I spent time dodging arrows from Aquilan, one of their archers. I attempted to cast Acid Bolt and Fireball at him. He seemed to be able to dodge around my spells. I managed to clip his leg with a Fireball. As he hopped on one leg, as he launch a final arrow, I sidestepped into Sekhet’s spear. I felt the life drain out of me as I was pulled to the sweet release of Valhalla.
When Eir allowed me to return to the Myth Wood, I quickly headed back to the Graveyard, but I was too late. Abyssal of the Red Skull had been defeated. I searched desperately for Marta. I sighed a relief when I saw her. I called out, “Marta!! I’m glad you’re alive. Let me take the Red Skull to the Mage’s Tower for safekeeping.” She gratefully handed it over. As she was handing me the trap, I saw Rokai. “ROKAI!!! You survived!” I exclaimed.
He smiled and extended his hand to me, “Thank you Brother Ravenwood for helping me on this quest to free the Mythwood.”
“No problem Rokai. I’m glad to have been of service.” We shook hands and we went our separate ways.
As I passed the free people of the Wood, I felt the Myth Wood begin to settle into its peaceful state once again. I also felt, for lack of a better term, an awakening. Six higher powers were now awake and active. How I knew, I could not guess, and it did not seem troubling. I was glad that Rokai asked for my help and was quite impressed by his leadership and persistence. Ryn being so noble to accept a perilous quest with no hope for survival. As I once again entered the Mage’s Tower to hide the final skull, I thought “It’s good to be home, in the Myth Wood”.
This is my tale. I shall miss Lord Gadin, but his sacrifice along with Agamemnon, Lugh Morningstar, and Grimner Graybeard was well worth it. No one in the Myth Wood will ever forget their names or what they did to save us all.