Dagger of the Mind

by Stuart Kerrigan the Amazing Dragon

An echo.

It all began with an echo.

A loud echo.

A dying echo.

An echo of the words, "Damn you, Avatar! Damn you!"

The Black Gate smashed into millions of pieces of blackrock as the lightning bolt struck. The Guardian's voice was heard throughout the hall, and then silence.

Stuart, the Avatar of Britannia, stood motionless, with Rudyom's Wand still pointed at where the gate had been only moments ago. His companions, Iolo, Shamino, Dupre, Spark, Julia, Sentri and Tseramed all remained silent as they realised what their leader was thinking about.

Home. And how he would not reach it.

Then the Avatar's voice broke the silent. It was a mixture of weariness, bitterness and remorse, "Justice. You've got to admire that virtue."

At that point, his face regained warmth and he said, "Let us go home friends."

But the voice spoke again. 

Even as the Guardian taunted the Avatar, his voice still echoed, "Damn you Avatar! Damn you!"

Ever weaker, ever quieter. But still there.

The eight companions could no longer hear the sound of the piece of blackrock as it floated away, reaching the ceiling and in the tiniest wink of red light the piece was gone.

In the ethereal void, there now floated an insignificant piece of blackrock, a foot long pointed piece of blackrock which, to those with the greatest of hearing, was still echoing the words, "Damn you Avatar! Damn you!" 

Gorn's campfire was the only beacon of light on the island. He was stranded on the island since the storms had struck his ship and sunk it. He had been sailing from town to town since he had lost contact with the voice in his head more than eighteen months ago. Now he was stranded on this island, with only the clothes on his back and a few hours worth of food. He watched in the distance as the storms continued to strike the capital. So entranced was he that he could not see the red flash above his head, or see the black pointed rock that embedded itself in his meat. The sound of the storm was so loud he could not even hear the almost-silent, "Damn you Avatar! Damn you!"

Crouched with his back to a tree, Gorn, absent-mindedly stabbed his fork at the meat on his plate. Instead of a juicy piece of steak he tapped against the blackrock.

"Vat is dat?" said the warrior from Balema to himself as he looked down at the black knife stuck in his meat..

"Damn you Avatar! Damn you!" whispered the voice.

Hunting in the wilderness of Balema had trained Gorn's ears and he heard the whisper quite perfectly. He recognised the voice.

"Brom?" he asked. "Brom?"

"Damn you, Avatar! Damn you!"

"Brom?" he said again. "Is dat you. Dis is Gorn, from Balema." 

In his palace, the Guardian looked down on the happenings of Britannia. Since the loss of the Fellowship and the destruction of the Blackrock Gem he had only been able to watch the events unfold on Britannia and speak to some of his loyal followers. He had felt that a small amount of his presence had reached Britannia, but not enough for him to be able to directly interact in the goings on of the world around him. Damn that Avatar! He had stopped his physical form from entering Britannia when he had shattered. He could only watch through the power of his magic. And now he could here a voice speaking to him directly from Britannia without the aid of any magic!

And it was not a Britannian that spoke to him. It was one of the Avatar's companions of old, Gorn, who had entered Britannia from one of the Guardian's realms, Balema, an insignificant realm of snow and ice. But this mortal might prove useful.

"Eet is good to heer you again, Brom! I vought you vere gone again!" 

The blackrock dagger glowed, "Gorn! This is Brom, your lord. I need you to do a service for me."

"Vat is it dat you vant my lord?"

"I have many enemies in Britannia. You must slay them for me. With this dagger I empower you to kill Lord British."

"But, Lord British, dat is my friend."

"You thought the Avatar was your friend. He betrayed you, and stopped us speaking. British made him do that."

"Dis is hard. I vill think about it anon."

"Foolish mortal," said the Guardian. "I do not have long enough to wait on your insignificant mind! You will kill Lord British with this dagger of blackrock. I empower you, and bind your feeble mind to the task."

The dagger gleamed and a bolt of lightning hit Gorn.

"But, master," said Gorn, "dere is no way to leave dis isle."

"Foolish mortal," said the Guardian. "I have powers to take you anywhere."

"I... I vill obey!" said Gorn, as the red lightning struck him. "I vill kill Lord British, master! Da enemy of Brom will die!" 

The guard on the roof of Lord British's castle cursed the Guardian under his breath.

"Bloomin' freezin' and now these bloody storms. Curse that Red Titan." said Cedric, turning to the guard who was pacing up and don.

"You don' know the 'alf," said Gilbert. "That bastard trapped us for weeks in this castle. It were freezin' in there too."

The prisoner in the southwest tower, who had been silently listening said, "The Guardian will win in the end. It is useless to resist."

"You bloomin' Fellowship scum!" said Gilbert.

"What's 'is story?" asked the other guard.

"That is Elynor, the bitch was the Fellowship leader of the Minoc Branch. And she knew of the murders of two gypsies, as well as their other plots. I said we should execute her. Bloomin' disgrace to keep her alive at the tax payer's expense, and the jails of Yew are filled with 'em Fellowship scum. What was the judge thinkin' of. Clean simple hangin' is the way."

"Perhaps the judge realised the inevitable," said the haughty villainess, as she glared through the bars of the prison at the guards. "The Guardian will triumph. These storms are but the beginning." 

The Blue Boar inn was silent. Not that this was unusual now, with these storms. The barmaids served the food and drink as the patrons huddled together for safety. The sound of the storms outside was unnerving, only a few days ago the Britannian mint had been struck and the entire building had been replaced by what appeared to be a lighthouse of some kind. Cynthia, who had been working late had also disappeared with it.

At last, Sean the Jeweller spoke, "'Tis the sound of the end we hear."

All the patrons looked at the man. Couples pressed their hands tighter and the children looked up at their fathers.

"Fear not," said a warrior in chain mail, who sat at the bottom of the table with a glass of ale. "The Avatar will find a way to stop the storm."

"The Avatar is not coming back," said one of the peasants.

"And who told you that?" asked the warrior. "The Guardian no doubt. Nay, my friends. We must have faith and be optimistic. Ignore the Red Titan"

"Listen to Sentri," said one of the tavern wenches. "He travelled with the Avatar. He knows what he is capable of."

Outside the storms worsened, coloured bolts of lightning hit the buildings. A cat appeared in the doorway and was struck by a bolt. There was smoke and in its place was a pair of boots. A woman at the table fainted in fright.

"I don't care what you say," said one of the patrons. "The Guardian will finish us all. I'm going home now. Adieu."

He rose from the table, put on his jacket and strided past the boots, which Kessler the alchemist was now analysing.

"Perhaps we should retire also," said Sentri to Tseramed.

"Agreed," said Tseramed.

The hunter's hut had been destroyed by one of the earlier storms, and he was now staying with Sentri, who he had grown close to during his journeys with the Avatar. At any rate, he was stuck in Britain, travel on the roads was now almost impossible with the storms. 

"I thought you gentlemen might be hungry," said Nell to the guardsmen on the roof as she produced a plate of biscuits and cheese.

"Thanks lass," said Gilbert, as he accepted the plate and began to eat, sharing with Cedric.

Just then the lights atop the castle went dark. The lanterns set on pedestals by the guards seem to burn out. The magical lights of the castle had failed with the ether, so they were forced to leave lanterns nearby. There was a strange sound, a loud bang, the sound of a sword being drawn and a woman shrieking. Then light was restored. A tall, muscular, long haired man stood by the corpse of Cedric, holding Nell in a tight grip with a sword at her throat.

"What are y'doing?" said Gilbert, and he drew his sword. At this time, however, lightning struck the sword, turning it into a bouquet of flowers.

"Da master wants British," said Gorn. "Dat is vot is wanted. Bring da lord of dis castle to me." 

It was close to eleven o'clock when Sentri and Tseramed reached the dojo. Both men walked in silence, until they reached the door. Sentri began fumbling in his coat pocket for his key.

"Well," said Sentri, finally breaking the silence, "That was not the evening of entertainment and mirth I had expected."

"The Guardian has everyone on edge with these storms," said Tseramed, "and I suspect he still suggest doom and gloom in the minds of people."

"Well..." Sentri thought, and then a grin broadened his face, "Perhaps a bottle of Abbey Dry might make for a more enjoyable night."

"My favourite wine!" said Tseramed. "But how..."

"I had a bottle set aside for a rainy day. I think this qualifies."

"Well it's certainly stormy," said Tseramed. "I'll tell you, one thing I miss about living in Yew is the fact that I was a few minutes walk away from the Abbey where they made this, and I could trade some meat or honey I had got for a bottle of that fine stuff."

Sentri finally produced his key and unlocked the door. The dojo was next to empty apart from the target Sentri and Tseramed practised on, the steel door of Sentri's vault and the wooden door to Sentri's quarters. The dojo was suffering under the storms, like most businesses. He had not had a single pupil since they had started. He had the last of his cash in his pocket, not that Lord British would let any companion of the Avatar starve.

Sentri provided two chairs and a table quickly, and then the bottle of wine and two glasses. They were about to sit down when there was a knock on the door.

"Damn," Sentri said, "Who could that be?"

Two long haired men dressed in furs, armour and carrying spears were standing at the door. They were tall, at least six foot and made Sentri feel like a mountain man in comparison. Their skin was bronze, they were not from Britain, that was a fact. Apart from their complexion he did not recognise the furs they wore, or the emblems on their leather armour.

"I'm sorry," said Sentri, quite taken back. "Training hours are from nine until three."

The first man raised his spear and said, "Die!"

He hurtled it at Sentri, who with the agility he had gained through almost 200 years of training rolled out of the way in time so it hit the wall behind him.

"Tseramed," said Sentri, but the ranger was already ahead of him. As always, he had his bow with him. Sentri retreated back into the dojo and felt frustrated as he had no weapon to help Tseramed. The archer aimed one arrow at the first man as he stepped in the doorway. It fired true, but bounced off the armour.

"Sentri!" yelled Tseramed. "Their armour is magical!"

He loosed another arrow. This one flew through the armour and hit straight the lead warrior through the belly. Enraged, he charged at Tseramed, who was now forced to reach for his dagger, and stepped back into the corner.

The second warrior rushed at Sentri and stabbed at Sentri who dodged to the left, allowing the spear to strike the wall of the dojo. He hastily opened the steel door to his vault and stepped inside, slamming the door behind him.

"Ha ha!" yelled the warrior. "Coward! See green man, your friend has locked himself in his little bathroom. Now we will kill his friend, and we will wait for him to starve."

He advanced on Tseramed, who had been knocked back into a corner, but had managed to injure his attacker to the point that he was staggering slowly away. Tseramed looked at his quiver, it was empty. His dagger would be no match against the warrior's spear so he looked around. The warrior closed on him, and then his face turned to a look of surprise as a two-handed sword was buried in his back. He fell over, and Sentri struggled to free his blade as the second assailant staggered towards him. Tseramed threw his dagger past Sentri and into the belly of his second assailant. Two arrows and a dagger proved to be more than a match for him, even with enchanted armour and he too fell over, dead.

"Thanks," said Sentri, as he helped Tseramed to his feet. "You didn't honestly believe I'd run away did you?"

"Well..." said the ranger, grinning.

"Secret doors," said Sentri, "Had them installed from my weapons room to the dojo after our quest. Helps surprise the students, or assailants."

"We'd best get the city guard..."

"They're already here," said a voice behind them.

Standing at the door were two of the city guards, looking somewhat shaken.

"Sorry... sorry to waken you at this hour milord. But... we need your help..."

"What is it?" asked Sentri.

The guard's shaky arm pointed towards Lord British's castle. Sentri stepped onto his doorstep and strained to look in the direction the guard indicated.

Atop Lord British's castle there was a blaze of fire. . 

"You'll get me master over my dead body!" Gilbert said, "Die fool!"

He drew his sword at Gorn, who threw Nell aside and held the dagger.

"Brom! Master! Protect your servant!"

The dagger shone from black to white and said, "Powers of Fire! Vas Flam!"

Fire slowly appeared from Gorn's feet and spread towards Gilbert. There was an explosion and the guard was blown off the battlements and into the moat. Below, waiting tentacles ripped him apart... 

Lord British sat limply on his throne, thinking of the Avatar and his companions, when the doors to his throne room swung open and a bloodstained Geoffrey entered. He was shaken and could barely speak.

"Milord," he stammered, "in the courtyard. He's in the courtyard. Flee milord!"

"What is it Sir Geoffrey?" said Lord British, rising from his throne, "Let me see."

He shoved his way past, followed by four of his elite guards to the doorway that led to the courtyard.

Through the door Lord British could see the bodies of several guards lay, as ten or more of the swordsmen battled with what seemed to be one man. A large warrior with long black hair was armed with a black dagger, and carrying the limp form of Nell, the chamber maid, was doing battle with guardsmen who he had forced back from the jawbridge.

"Die in the name of Brom," said Gorn, and lightning flew from the dagger, killing all ten of the guardsmen instantly. Their bloodied bodies joined their comrades on the ground but not before twelve more began to battle the mad man.

"He has a dagger of blackrock!" said Geoffrey from behind him, "Just like the sword the Avatar carries. Milord, that blade has the power to kill even you! You must flee!"

"No!" said Lord British. "I will not give up my castle so easily! Who is that man? I recognise him."

"Gorn," said Geoffrey, "I recognise him. He's a comrade of the Avatar from another world, Balema I believe."

"Indeed," said Lord British. "He is too powerful for us to take on. Perhaps we should reason with him. If it's me he wants..."

"No my liege," protested Geoffrey, "I have a plan. I shall tell our men to retreat. They are no match for Gorn anyway. But you must flee!"

Lord British was silent, and nodded, "First, Sir Geoffrey, let us see if we can get someone to reason with him." 

"Gorn?" said Sentri.

"Who is Gorn?" said Tseramed as they ran through the streets.

"Gorn," said Sentri. "We met him before we destroyed the Black Gate. He was once a companion of the Avatar. We travelled with him in the time of Blackthorn. He came from Balema, another world, and was captured by Blackthorn. With his help we defeated Blackthorn and saved Lord British. But when we met him in the Meditation Retreat he renounced the Avatar as his friend..."

"Yes," said Tseramed, "I remember the man now."

"I do not understand it," said Sentri. "He was a good man, I cannot believe that he would become a murderer."

They raced across the jawbridge with the two guards, and were met by Nystul, British's wizard.

"We have tried all magic to contain Gorn, but with these storms my magic does not work," reported the old wizard, rasping for breath. "Lord British has been hidden below the castle with his men. We are the last chance. If you cannot reason with him, we may lose Castle British to him..."

"By the Virtues!" said Tseramed, "Can one man forced Lord British out of his ancestral home? If this were too happen..."

"Yes," said Nystul, "It would serve as a symbol to those who believe we should surrender to the Guardian."

"Is the Guardian behind this assault?" asked Sentri.

"I know not. I cannot think of anyone else who could get that kind of power... except the Avatar, and he is not here to help us," said Nystul, grimly. He gazed at a gem, and said, "We are on our own gentlemen. When you are ready."

"I'm ready," said Sentri. He had not had enough time to put on his armour, and only had his two-handed sword. If it came down to blows, it would be over quickly.

He entered the courtyard. In the north-eastern corner Gorn was up against a wall with the unconscious Nell slung over his left shoulder and in his right arm was the blackrock dagger. Around him were the bodies of many of guardsmen he had slain.

"Gorn," said Sentri. "It is I, Sentri."

"Stay back!" yelled Gorn. "Da master told me dat you might be coming."

"Well, we are here, but not..."

"You vere once my friend..."

"That's right..." Sentri began.

"Da master demands your death... but first he vants da one who cowers among you, da Lord British."

Tseramed spoke then, "We will never surrender our liege."

"Then she dies," he said, and began to press the dagger towards the unconscious Nell.

"No wait!" said a voice from behind Gorn.

It was Lord British, who stood alone, in the throne room.

"My liege!" said Nystul. "Where is Sir Geoffrey and your guard?"

"I have sealed them in my chambers," said Lord British solemnly.

"Gorn, if it is me you want, and I suspect it is, as thy weapon is the only weapon in Britannia that can kill me, then release my serving maid..." he silenced Nystul with a look at this point. "then once all my friends have left this castle you may... finish me."

"My lord!" said Sentri, aghast.

"Do not be afraid," said Lord British, "I've lived a long life. Perhaps it is time for me to die. I shall die in the name of my virtues, in the name of honour and sacrifice."

"Da master says dat is agreeable," said Gorn. He beckoned to Lord British, who walked slowly towards him. The massive warrior dropped Nell to the floor. For Nystul, it was a simple case of an awaken spell, which thankfully worked, and Nell was being led out of the castle by one of the guards. Then Geoffrey and the guards were freed and despite many protests also sped across the jawbridge. Sentri and Tseramed reluctantly turned to leave, but Gorn stopped them.

"Da master wants you to stay and watch de execution," said Gorn, "for dat will be your fate next. Kneel British."

Lord British humbly knelt by the barbarian, and became still, as Gorn raised the dagger for the killing stroke.

His voice became the voice of the Guardian, and he spoke the words, "This blade is thy doom, Lord British!"

"So it is the Guardian who is behind all this," said Lord British. "Gorn is but another of the Guardian's instruments."

Just then, Gorn's eyes became blank. His hand went limp, and he simply held the dagger.

"I didn't say dat!" he said.

The voice of the Guardian filled the courtyard, "It was I, Brom, your master! Kill this man! Kill him now!"

"Don't do it, Gorn!" said Sentri suddenly.

"Silence mortal," said the Guardian. Lightning struck the castle battlements, creating a display of lights that lit up the early morning. "I know control Gorn entirely."

"Brom? What are you saying?" said Gorn.

The Guardian's voice boomed through the castle, "Curse this imbalance, it has grown too powerful for my spells to work on Britannia!"

"The Guardian was controlling you!" said Sentri. "Thank the virtues! I knew no companion of the Avatar would turn against him."

"But Brom..."

"He was controlling you," said Tseramed, "making you hurt people."

"But Brom, he is de provider, de companion, de master."

"He is evil!" said Tseramed.

Just then the lightning stopped. The imbalance had decreased, for the Avatar and his companions, in far of Serpent Isle had balanced the shrines of the six virtues of order and chaos. He stood at the pillars, chanting from an ancient obsidian book.

"Your treasured Avatar grows closer to restoring balance! How ironic he has allowed me to spell you doom."

Blue lightning struck Gorn as once again the Guardian's influence came upon him.

"Destroy Lord British! Destroy Sentri! Destroy their foolish little friend!"

Gorn, now doubtful as to the wisdom of his "master" fell to his knees, and clutched his head in his hands, with the dagger flashing.

"No. Dat would be wrong. De master is wrong. Dis is wrong."

Sentri hastily strode over to Gorn. Gorn became alert and pointed the black dagger at the warrior.

"Stay back!"

Tseramed, who had been watching, yelled, "It is the dagger! Gorn, you must drop the dagger!"

Gorn nodded and threw the dagger. The black blade hurtled across the courtyard and imbedded itself in the garden floor. There was a purple glow and the blackrock knife reappeared in the hands of the warrior.

"You cannot leave me," spoke the Guardian through the dagger, "Only in death can we be parted."

Gorn's face became grimly determined. He pointed the dagger towards his heart, and in one motion stabbed it through his heart. Convulsing he lay on the ground. Sentri and Lord British raced towards him. Gorn's eyes reached the sky, and his mouth opened, but no sound came out.

Sentri closed his eyes. He turned, and then his eyes matched those of Gorn's.

The dagger was nowhere to be seen, he realised. 

Elynor had watched it all from her cell on the battlements. She had seen the deaths of the guards on the battlements. the battle against Gorn, empowered by the Guardian to destroy Lord British and the companions who had smashed the Black Gate. She had seen many more of Lord British's guards become the many corpses that now littered the courtyard. She watched as Gorn killed himself with the blackrock dagger. It was this dagger that had now appeared in the cell with her.

"Elynor!" said the Guardian through the dagger. "Take this blade, and slay all of them. Kill the mortals with the dagger. Hurry!"

Elynor stooped to pick up the dagger. She felt the Guardian take control of her body, and felt the ecstatic power flowing through her veins as it blew open the cell door. She walked slowly over the bodies of the guards to the crenellations overlooking the courtyard. Silently, almost zombie-like, Sentri and Tseramed were standing over Gorn's body, and they were being joined by Geoffrey and Nystul. Lord British, having recovered from the magic of the Guardian was slowly standing up.

"This blade shall be thy doom Lord British!" she said, pointing the dagger at British.

Tseramed quickly loosed an arrow from his bow which caught the woman in the chest. She screamed and fell onto the courtyard, joining the bodies. The Guardian's voice laughed, "Fools! I have power over life and death!"

Elynor began to stand up, blood over her face. 

The Guardian watched, triumphant, as Sentri and Geoffrey drew their blades and swung at Elynor. Oblivious to the damage she turned to Lord British. Just then, he saw the Avatar, floating in the Void. Hatred filled his mind, and he decided to let Lord British live... he had a new plan. He began to concentrate on a new spell. A spell of teleportation. Teleportation to a far away realm. 

Elynor had several cuts on her as she reached Lord British. She prepared to swing the dagger, but instead sunk to the floor.

"No! No master!" she wailed, "Do not forsake me!"

But the Guardian had forsaken her. All his magic was spent on hurtling his ultimate foe, the Avatar, into the world of Pagan...

Lord British, Sentri, Tseramed, Geoffrey, Nystul. All considered themselves fortunate. The Guardian laughed. With his new plan, he would not need to destroy Lord British. An eternity of pain would be worse than the merciful death he planned. Pain, for both British and the Avatar.

Once again the Guardian laughed. He laughed at the pathetic squirming of the mortals, as they mused on what had just occurred. Let them rest for now... the future, without an Avatar, was bleak. 

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