An Interlude: Helgraf's Tale

by Helgraf Dragon


A simple study. A small wax candle lights a desk, casting flickering shadows about the chamber. On the wall opposite, before a table weighted down with devices and apparatuses, a figure in black hooded robes with silver trim looks deep into a sphere of black, perfect save for small flecks of silver which might represent stars - or perhaps not. Time passes, and a series of images pass through the murky depths of the sphere. The figure regards each one in turn, seeming to grow somewhat agitated by what they portend.

... time passes

All things being equal, I would have been happier in ignorance. Prophecy is a delicate business, all the moreso with the awareness of the efforts of the Kol. The duties require ceaseless research; of which only a part can be handled by the matrices without direct intervention. Worlds which have their own fully invested watchers can handle their own affairs; those prophecies can be trusted to resolve themselves. It is the larger ones, the ones that speak of the fates of entwined worlds; of entire dimensions. These require a more personal touch. Consequentially, while one is tending to these matters, the books of prophecies keep filling; each job completed brings you back to at least two more in need of attention.

On occasion, one comes across a prophecy nexus; a point where several prophecies come to fruition in a single locality. I learn to dread these even as I look forward to them. When they can be resolved, incidental causes often align still other prophecies on their appointed paths; I may get as much as a whole week to reorganize and engage in 'autonomous work'.

... time passes

Britannia. A core world. Linked directly to eight parallels, two incidents, and one remote. An interesting study as many of those of the remote know of Britannia, but not as a reality; it is, to them, a land portrayed in games of the imagination. Save for a select few, whom have made the journey. Britannia is also unusual in that it is, in fact, a fragment world; once part of a greater realm Sosaria; which consisted of four great continents. The Lands of Danger and Despair remain connected via the strange sorceries of the Serpent Pillars; it is not well know what happened to the other major landmasses once the Incarnation Mondain was thrown down. Prophecy that affected Britannia echoed in the parallels; conversely, events in the parallels have, on occasion, 'washed back' into Britannia, albeit with far lesser frequency and potency.

But now there is a new link. Vasult, in its own state of awareness, has arranged that Britannia's sphere will touch briefly with another realm; a strange realm very much unlike Britannia. The action has spawned paradox fields; the Time Lord is dealing with those even as we speak. A man will come through while the two dimensions are most congruent. He must be stopped; his desire, though noble for his realm, will spell doom for both realms if it is allowed to occur; a Titan has been watching Britannia for some time and such a gateway will call him like iron to a lodestone. It is clear what will happen if he is permitted to enter Britannia before the appointed events have come to pass.

Once again, I am required to take action. Reaching up, I take a book, opening it. Several silver amulets, a sabre. And pain. This is not going to be an easy resolution.

... time passes

Quietly, he extends his senses into the Void, stepping into the world between worlds. The study fades away behind him. He works the spell of Sealing upon his demesne, and shifts his reality to the Ether near Britannia. He watches the unfolding events, feels the mana drained off in the vicinity. A complication, to be sure. When it returns, he steps sideways into the web of gateways...

<<Author's Note: The succeeding events were been chronicled in "A New Age of Darkness" and "Strangers" We pick up at the conclusion of the latter tale. >>

A book opens in darkness. A candleflame flares to life, its beams picking out a small earthen chamber. Then, a single pure tone of a bell's report. Echoes and resonances, the ringing seeming to match with the flickering candle and the low rustle of the turning of the pages of the book.

Betwixt the three objects, a small grey cube falls with a small thud. From within it, something vaguely amoeboid oozes out, a formless shape which catches the flickering candlelight upon itself, casting reflections all about the chamber.

A voice, kindly, seeming elderly echoes quietly through the chamber. "So, how did it go?"

The amoeboid figure, if it replies at all, does so only with a faint jiggling of its mass.

"Now, you know I can't do that. You weren't supposed to directly intervene."

The agitation across the membranous mass of the amoeboid seems to threaten to divide it in two.

"One of these days you'll appoint a follower, and you'll have to deal with all of this. You've lost a perfectly functional body, so you'll need to earn a new one. And don't talk to me about the necessities! It didn't help when I protested, nor when she who taught me did to her teacher. Just consider yourself lucky that the Vortex Cube cannot truly be destroyed, so long as the companion volume exists."

A single roughly formed psuedopoda wiggles noncommittally. It's thought is simple. "All things being equal, I would have been happier in ignorance."


The conscious plasm-mass which serves as my body wobbles under the effects of local gravity. Indignant, I roll across the floor, picking up lint and other evidence that my old master has been slipping somewhat in keeping this place clean. There are some scant advantages to this form; I am not revulsed by the sensation and it permits me to maintain function without needing to stop to eat.

A slow rolling; a motion which would be dizzying in a more advanced shell. I cross the threshold of this domain, passing into Voidspace beyond. The sensation of bitter cold is new to this form, though familiar to my mind; I can feel my sensate layer taking on a rigidity and adjust my inner mass to take advantage of this, taking on a vaguely man-like posture; one more comfortable to the vanities of my mind if not the manner of my nature.

I extend my consciousness into the world that surrounds me; sluggishly, as if something long out of practice. I spend a moment in the sensation, feeling the passing flavours of worlds by their gateways absorbed in an input this body can appreciate. I could spend days here.

Alas that I have no such luxury of free time. It seems there have been some unusual ripples in the Britannian frame; my master refused to say what, though his expression poorly hid a grin. It would perhaps, be best to investigate that matter; still, if I were to arrive in this frame, like as not I would be roasted as an amoeba or acid slug before I had the chance to explain himself.

My gelatinous body quivers a moment, savoring the flavour of a particularly unusual world, but the sensation disperses as the Void begins to move past me. If I had a solid body, I would move the Void past me faster; caution dictates a more leisurely pace, so I only move just below the threshold of noise. A speed that some would consider impossibly fast; yet the vastness of the Void means that it will still be some amount of true time passed before I arrive. This gives me time to mull over some matters which rose from the resolution of the last two nexus points.

Destrius of Tideron, the "Mad Mage". What is his interest in the Britannian sphere, and how does the presence of a figure from his world infect the pattern flows? What drives him? And, should prophecy require me to move against him, how to best go about it. A prospect I do not enjoy; his abilities do not follow convention; he reminds me of Mythran, though his magic does not feel as loosely cobbled together.

Perhaps I might bargain with Xorinia for a suitable form. Matter is considered a lesser form of payment than information for them. Still, it is a rare situation to have the resident mind of a dimension in your debt; it is perhaps best that I manage this matter without cashing in that debt. And frankly, I am sure there will come a time when I need information from them once again.

I feel the last pieces of a working plan fall into place as my psuedosolid form glides to a stop, hovering just outside the gateway which will lead to the place I need to go next. It waits, quiescent, aware, for me to speak. That it may open the doorway, or feed.


Several moments wasted; it takes me a few minutes to remember that voice requires more than lips, teeth and tongue; the intricacy of duplicating a functioning voicebox takes the better part of two hours to shape and arrange so that it won't collapse the moment I stop concentrating on keeping that part of me so contorted.

"Time Lord" the wavering, high-pitched voice exclaimed, "open the gate!"

There is a reply, though not by the slavering watchbeast. It is low, almost mechanical.

"Vocal Pattern nonconsistant. Secondary verification processes underway"

A strange electric tingle passes through the plasmic mass of my body; my control is lost, and I feel the restraints which keep my body formed collapse; I am once into a puddle of formlessness.

"Verification process complete. Your case requires special processing. Please wait."

Mentally, I curse; the only reflection of my irritation is in the way my plasmic form shivers all along its surface area as I vent.

... time passes

In the passage of time, there was no signs of arrival. There was nothing, then suddenly he was there.

Time Lord : It is fortunate I anticipated your arrival. I presume you wish entry into the Britannian real-sphere?

I would nod; but I have only just now with his arrival, been freed of that which bound me to the truth of my current shape; instead I extend a 'pod' of myself and wiggle it slightly.

The Time Lord does something odd. He chuckles.

Time Lord : You know they're singing songs about you down there, don't you?

He must have sensed my sudden agitation, because he laughed again.

Time Lord : Very well. I will grant you entry to the Real-Sphere. The Titan is far enough away that I can close the gate without interference.

And suddenly, I was elsewhere...


A small circle of stones; a river to the north and the waves of the Britannian Ocean lapping in the sand not far distant. It is evening, but the first moon has not yet risen. A cool breeze blows in from the sea.

"This must be near Trinsic. I must be careful; it would not do to run across Goldenflame here, it is still too early to reveal my presence any more than absolutely necessary," are my thoughts. Quietly I begin to 'roll' through the thick verdant grasses, west by southwest, toward the location where once dwelt the Shrine of Honor.

There are some scarce advantages to this form; I seem to have no natural enemies; most animals shy away from me. The orcs and trolls, once troublesome nuisances throughout Britannia, have had their numbers sufficiently depleted that I do not see even one as I crest a hill and see the large standing stones which mark the presence of the Shrine.

The tranquility of the Shrine seeps into me; washing over me in waves. Quietly, I meditate in the accorded fashion. I do not expect ordainment; I am not of the citizens of this realm, nor an appointed champion. I was never chosen by the White Light. I seek only to centre myself.

Thus it comes as quite a shock when I hear the resonating 'voice' of the Shrine.

"I know you and your purpose, Warden. You must fulfill your role, though it conflicts with what you perceive as your needs."

I try speaking, but I cannot. So I 'think' at the Shrine, knowing not if it 'hears' me.

"I cannot. This form does not allow me more than the most rudimentary of abilities."

"You determine your own limits, Warden. Remember that."

And with that, I was suddenly back. No sensation of being filled with a holy quest; not even any appreciable answers to my questions. No matter; I had expected nothing, anything, by comparison, is an improvement, no matter how enigmatic.

The lush Britannian flora easily meets my rather minimal sustenance needs as I float across the small swamp outside the Shrine, then begin rolling from hill to hill, heading west-southwestwards, skirting the mountains. It is perhaps an unneeded precaution, but I wish to make sure of the security of the Shade Blade; it should have been transported to my destination; the place I enigmatically referred to as the "Cave of Innocent's Proof".

The scent of dragon. Correction; the scent of many dragons. I have to admit, this form's sensory distinction capabilities are quite good. Save that for another time. Dragon means 'fire-breather' in high likelihood; and even the ones that don't breath flame could easily destroy this form with a quick swallow and trip into the blast furnace which is a dragon's super-efficient digestive system. Modifications are necessary Extensive modifications. I withdraw to a place where I can do what must be done to myself without becoming an unwitting meal for the great ones.


Time has passed, though I cannot say for certain how much. Darkness cloaks the Britannian landscape like a loose-hanging shroud, pierced only by the third quarter profile of Felucca and a few twinkling stars. Slowly I push myself up; I have again exercised some vanity in binding this shape into a roughly man-like form. More importantly however, I have instructed certain specialized cell growths to produce a certain marker; one which will hopefully flavour the 'scent-taste' of my amorphous self enough to keep the more dangerous predators from grabbing a quick bite, so to speak.

Progress is slow; maintaining this form is more difficult without the rigid shell that was produced in the deep void. It is rather like working in beach sand. But I will persevere.

"Besides," I muse with a mental grin, "conversation will prove quite difficult enough as is. Precious few have even attempted to learn how to interpret what the various wigglings and shakes of plasm mean; fewer still have met with any degree of success."

By the time I have reached the cave mouth which forms the westernmost of the two entrances into the mountains, Felucca stands high in the night sky, and Trammel is rising over the lip of the horizon, barely visible as a crescent of pale light. I pause a moment to observe the night sky in silence. Britannia has always held a near place in my heart; my mentor has pointed out that I tend to focus on the prophecies involving her; perhaps too much so. Yet he smiles when he says it; I expect that in his prime, he was not all that different.

As my memories fade once more into the folds of my subconscious, I quietly enter the cave. There is no point in subtlety here; he who dwells here is not easily deceived. And I have no wish to create animosity between us.

I can 'hear' the sound of water spraying in the air; the echoing vibrations against my not-solid skin triggering instinctive knowledge of direction and distance as though it were prey. I work my way towards it, and mentally curse again the nature of this body's vision; I can perceive light but detail is lost to me. Much of what I 'see' currently is, in reality, hallucinogenic images produced from memory so my mind can cope with the total difference of perceptual inputs.

My reverie is interrupted by the relatively loud sound of hoofs clapping against the stone floor. It seems my host has deigned to acknowledge my presence.

It is, of course, Lasher. The unicorn approaches, though staying about five yards back; presumably as a caution should I prove hostile. I can feel the buzz of his thoughts; unlike Smith (ref. Horse, Baneful; Prophecy of the Binding), Lasher's communication, though rough, is primarily telempathic in nature. It does not take him long to ascertain who I am; though his thoughts continue to express distaste at my soul's current habitation.

However, it seems Lasher is somewhat irked by the fact that there is now a large sword stuck through the floor right where he used to like to sleep. A sword which not even his considerable magical prowess can remove.

As I regard my host, some portion of my nervous system calls up my conversation with the shrine...

... "I know you and your purpose, Warden. You must fulfill your role, though it conflicts with what you perceive as your needs." ...

Other memories. Fragments of conversations with my mentor. With Destrius while on Balfas. The Time Lord mentioning ballads being sung. A possibility tugs at the corner of my awareness. A snippet from a book once read; "Within the cerulean sea held; until interred in the dead flesh living."

I offer my condolences, then ask if I might be allowed to take a look at the item which has caused such inconvenience.


I walk toward the back of the cave. With each step closer, I can feel a strange sensation; it feels almost as if I were being pulled along. When I stand still, it seems to fade until it is like some forgotten fact that nags you for its conspicuous absence.

A long time I remain still, but I cannot be sure of the disposition of what brought me here by remaining thus. I take a step forward, and the sensation returns. It is quite puzzling; the primitive vessel of plasm which forms me does not report this sensation. It is almost as if whatever is calling me is not, in fact, drawing my body at all.

Again, I hear the echo of the Shrine's words to me..

"I know you and your purpose, Warden. You must fulfill your role, though it conflicts with what you perceive as your needs."

I turn a short corner, and there it lies. The Shade Blade, stuck half the length of its blade in the stone floor. But, I must be sure. The disposition of prophecies that tie to the Britannian sphere demands no less than full diligence.

I step closer, my intent to grip the blade by the hilt. A complex, but routine from use, ritual will tell me what I need to know. A step and a step. Then I can look into the matter of these songs. I am a foreign element; being enshrined as a hero could result in contamination. If that were to occur, the side effects for the Britannian fateweb could snarl in ways unpredicted by the currently favoured prophecies. Or it may just resolve itself by necessity. Neither of these possibilities are particularly pleasant, especially for whomever becomes ensnared in the process. My thought is to reach for the sword.

My amorphous mass engulfs the blackrock alloyed blade and hilt; flows around the cerulean gem which is both prison and the blade's magical focus.

My . . amorphous mass?! Thoughts run wild over one another as I attempt to determine what has happened. A stray thought meanders, seemingly unrelated to the rest...

"Within the cerulean sea held; until interred in the dead flesh living."

Too late do the puzzle pieces fall into place. As the latent magic in my nature caresses the blade, instinctive processes activating the analysis.

There is a moment of being 'elsewhere'. I am overtaken by a sensation of nonentity; the body I have known has no need or concept of sleep or unconsciousness - the sensation is translated the only way it knows.

... time passes

My eyes open, and I blink several times, as if trying to banish the evidence they present me. To deny what they tell me. Failing that, my mind, ever the rational irrational thing it is, attempts to formulate reasons for what I now regard.

I look through an open door into a room which is the twin of my study-place within the toroidal body which exists in the Void. Identical in every capacity, save that the entirety of it is lit in sparkling cerulean, as if submerged in some deep part of the Britannian Ocean. I wear the body I possessed during the Tideron/Balfas affair, save that my chest bears no fatal puncture from my own dagger wielded by the Darkshrouded One.

I reach out with my mind, encountering a semi-permeable barrier. Eventually surmounting this, I find part of myself, disembodied, once more within the Real-Sphere. I look down to where my feet would be. The Shade Blade lies encased in rock, but the small gem sparkles now. There is no sign of the plasm-form I came into the cavern with.

Reality settles in far too quickly and I let out a primal scream that goes unheard; none close enough are attuned to my current state...


I feel as if much time has passed, but within the strange pseudorealm of this soul prism little is certain. I have discovered that although I can project my mind out of the binding, but I can do naught to directly interact with the real-sphere. Of some benefit, I am assured now that the Shade Blade has been safely placed, and indeed unharmed by its transit. My laughter echoes hollow in this reflection of my demesne. So long as I am held here, I cannot maintain the better part of my duties.

The next time I extend myself beyond the shell of this realm, I will attempt a communication via magic. A purely mental communication may yet prove effective; it may, in fact, prove to be the only means I have; so long as I am trapped here.

So long as I am trapped here...

The words roll through my mind, triggering memories. The Shrine of Spirituality; and its keeper, Palos. The trial as Palos was absorbed into the prison I now occupy. Later, its release. A slow wave of despair rises. If someone frees me from the gem, I will be as surely undone as if a dragon had eaten me. I do not have the cube to provide an exodus for my spirit. At best, I would truly become a ghost; a lost soul without a body, feeding on remnants of life energy, linked to an unfulfillable obsession. As has been happening often of late, prior moments continue to drift up from the recesses of my mind...

..."I cannot. This form does not allow me more than the most rudimentary of abilities."

Several deep (and unnecessary) breaths later, I slowly rise from the chair which I have been resting in. It does me nor anyone else any good to brood over the circumstances. I walk over to the door of my study, and throw it open wide. The vanities of form, I realize. The nature of what I must do does not require the small rituals, but they are a comfort. As my mind settles into a quiet state, I begin the focusing exercise which projects my mind outward. A moment of disorientation as I push myself through the interference and everything goes fuzzy.


I float about man height off the ground, observing my surroundings with bodiless form. More vanities; I prefer the longer 'walk' through the cave rather than passing through the rock strata as I could easily do. Geology never was a strong point of mine. Emerging from the cave, I pass around the mountains, heading toward the eastern coast. For what I would attempt, I can use any aid I can get, and the presence of the moongate should facilitate matters.

It takes little time; the beauty of Britannia, a thing which would normally slow my progress to observe it, is largely ignored. Much of my former self seems held thrall still in the blade, but not so much that I do not notice the differences.

Eventually, I arrive at my destination. Hours left till nightfall, and more importantly, moonrise.

... time passes

The rise of the Moongate is the only herald that both moons have cleared the horizon, for the sky is completely overcast and threatens to storm. The darkness which was total is broken now by the glowing gateway. I step to within a foot of the gate; without a body I can feel the slight pull of the beckoning gateway; I cast forth a thought-tendril, using the network of Moongates to guide it all the more quickly to its destination far inside the Deep Forest.


/Nicodemus, hear my call.../

Seconds pass silently, the tension growing, fear gnawing at me. If this should fail, then I have no recourse at all. If I had a body, I doubt not my own heartbeats would be drumming loud in my ears.

Nothing. Nothing. Something? Nothing. Something. Contact.

/What's so important you disturbed me in the middle of my alchemical studies?/

/Join me - I'm sure you'll figure it out./

I sat down (relatively speaking, my point of vision lowered to within two -three feet of the ground) and waited...


I could feel the rippling ether - oh, not in the way that a Britannian mage feels it wash over and through him, carrying whispers and eddies, but as a cone of force existing in multiple levels; on the Real Sphere it would be represented by the sudden appearance of Nicodemus; in the ether, the sensation is something akin to being sprayed by a foaming whitecapped wave. In this realm not-quite-of-ghosts, I see the echo of his spell, and for a moment, I see the brilliant spirit that lies within, but then it is gone, as the spell completes and his flesh-form arrives.

He looks around, puzzled.

"What manner of foolery is this? Show yourself!"

I 'speak' through the spell; the words are heard in his mind, but make no echo in the realsphere.

/Would that I could. I am sitting on the ground two feet ahead and six inches to the right of where you now stand. Though I suppose the concept of sitting is purely a phantasm for my own comfort./

Nicodemus reacts well, considering the circumstances. It takes him less than a minute to realize what has occurred, and his expression hides his surprise well.

"So why have you sought me out?"

/It would create too much of a disturbance to attempt to have Lord British address the matter. Rudyom is not suitable to the task. Mariah is contingent; I cannot risk further contamination. The Gargoyles would, like as not, build a statue if they did anything for me; if I wanted an immobile occupation, I could remain in my current accommodations./

"What about a Resurrection spell?"

/No good. I don't have a body right now; as it is, the finer aspects of my spirit have been captured by the cerulean prism in the Shade Blade, so the spell would likely fail anyway./

"I do not know what it is you expect me to do then."

/I do not 'expect' you to do anything for me. I merely wish to ask a favor of you, one which will require very little effort on your part. Well, actually, two favors. First, I need to find out why there are bards singing about me here, and who paid the commissions./

"And the other matter?"

/A resolution is coming. The champion of this sphere who was taken will return, but certain events in this world must take place first. Certain elements must be in place when the champion finally arrives. Before that happens, there is another prophecy which needs to fall a certain way./

"And what does this have to do with your favor?"

/Those who acted during the Rebirth of the Shadowlords will begin gathering again soon - in relative time, of course. When this occurs, find reason to send one of them, preferably either Goldenflame or St. George's, to the demesne. of Lasher to retrieve the Shade Blade. At that point; at least, I will be able to assist them more directly./

Nicodemus nods, his expression thoughtful. A few moments later, a curious expression worms its way across his features.

"I will do what you ask. How can I contact you?"

/You could try the Seance spell; though you will need to alter the spell to target the gem within the Blade. If that fails, then we will have to wait for the alignment of the moons to match tonight's phases; at which point I can contact you in this manner once more./

"I wish you well. Not many could long endure such imprisonment."

/I fear all too keenly you may prove correct in that matter. It is . . a strange existence. I am whole within the prison, or an empty vessel when outside it. Fate willing, I will not be so contained much longer. Go now; my sojourn outside my cell is come to a close and I must return to replenish myself./

Nicodemus shakes his head slightly from side to side, something akin to sorrow in his expression, then quietly invokes the travel spell in reverse, presumably returning to his abode. I would not know. The last I felt was the gathering wave of ether, then a moment of suffocation in a syrup of blue... then blackness.

... time passes

Time passes, as ever it does in the real-sphere. Reunited with my trapped spirit, my mind restored itself in time. I do not know what is to come next; within this blade my body the future's veil is thick; only the futures I was aware of before I entered do I retain, and even the changes to those are progressing unknown to me.

A day will come when my blade-form will be taken up; it is likely my bearer will not even recognize my presence within at first. Not on that day, but perhaps another day after, perhaps then I shall know the strange freedom of a body under my own will. Until then, I wait...

There are times I would have been happier in ignorance...

...but this is not one of them.


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