If any of you remember, I've entered two SSCs using stories I wrote about Abjicnal, a renegade wizard from Vanda Munda, a plane I intended to submit to had I made it past the second round of MTG's Great Designer Search II.
and now I bring you the third story in the Trials of Abjicnal: The Darkglass Armor. let me know what you think.
THE DARKGLASS ARMOR
“Soon,” The renegade wizard Abjicnal said while steepling his fingers, “Soon I shall finally have my revenge.”
Abjicnal stood at the gates of garland kingdom and sneered at the guards posted there. The last time he stood at this gate, things did not go well, not at all. That accursed champion Zion foiled his last attempt by sabotaging the golem he hid inside. It took days to free himself from the wreckage his nemesis had caused.
But free himself he did, and now he has returned. He will not fail this time.
The wizard reached down and picked up his helmet, and looked it over, savoring his reflection in the glossy dark glass. Should he wear his helmet as he entered he kingdom? Surely its protection would be useful, but on the other hand, he wanted them to see who it was that was destroying them. No, the armor itself would be enough. He will show them his face.
Abjicnal strode forth, swatting aside the two guards that stood in his way with a simple force spell before they could stop asking whether he was friend or foe. He pushed open the massive gate and a siren of warning blared through the air. Abjicnal grinned: let them come.
From the moment he set foot in the main courtyard, memories flooded him. This place had not changed one bit since he was exiled from the kingdom. Very good, he thought, it will make it all the more satisfying when he is ruling.
“Halt, intruder!” he heard to his side. Abjicnal turned to face the man, and saw a small militia of armed soldiers behind him. A crowd had gathered from the nearby marketplace to see what the commotion was all about. The wizard decided to demonstrate his power. Another force spell sent the lead guard off of his feet, and he immediately ordered the others to attack Abjicnal. He responded with a chuckle as he put his helmet on.
Abjicnal felt the rush of his attackers as they swarmed him, but he did nothing. He stood with his arms folded and waited. Let them do their worst. Through the eyeholes in his helmet he could see them, swinging wildly with their swords and axes, trying to stab at him with their pikes. He simply stood and absorbed it. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the Royal archers gathering and aiming. He was not worried: their arrows would be no more effective. With a devilish, cackling laugh he created a force bubble around himself, shoving all of his would be captors away.
“You are not who I came to see.” He looked around and called out to everyone within earshot. “Where is he? Where is Zion?”
“I am here,” he heard his hated enemy say. Abjicnal spun around to see the ebon-skinned champion standing before him with his F-shaped throwing sword drawn, a bevy of high-level warmages behind him. “And you should not be. Or have you forgotten that you are considered a criminal and a traitor here in Garland?”
The wizard did not know how well he could withstand a magic attack. Now would be a good time to make his play. “That is a matter of perspective,” he snarled before taking off his helmet, “I have come to refute the charges against me and invoke the law of trial by combat in the name of King Zarkorvh the Fourth.”
Perplexed looks gave everyone but Zion pause. “Trial by combat?” he heard one ask, “We haven’t had a trial by combat since before the end of kings!”
“Yes,” Abjicnal answered, “but the old laws still apply, don’t they? You are still bound by the laws of the old kings, aren’t you? You must honor my request for trial by combat.”
Zion’s expression did not change. “I will seek an audience with the Queen Mother to clarify this matter. In the meantime, warmages detain him.”
The rogue wizard smiled. “Not so fast, Zion. According to the law, the accused is allowed to move about the kingdom freely until his trial. You can do nothing to me.”
Zion harrumphed. “So be it. But if you bring any of the people here to harm, then no law, no matter how ancient, will save you from my wrath.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Abjicnal answered, “After all, why would I want to hurt my future subjects?”
Zion harrumphed again and left with his warmages. The wizard smiled. The gambit worked, and now it would just be a matter of waiting. He sauntered through the open courtyard he used to call home, looking at the people in their daily lives: the farmers selling the fruits of their labors, the young lovers courting each other, the priests and their soothsaying to gathered crowds, the soldiers posted up and training. The sense of community in Garland kingdom was tighter than in any other fiefdom in the world, and soon it would be all his.
“Make way for the Queen Mother!” He heard in the distance while stopped in front of a glenfruit peddler. He turned to see the dark-skinned, radiant Queen Aleka marching angrily towards him, followed by Zion and his warmages. Oh my, he thought, that didn’t take long at all.
“You have some nerve returning here, outlaw.” She growled.
Abjicnal answered her anger with nonchalance. “My name is not ‘Outlaw,’ Your Majesty. But yes, I have returned. And in accordance with the old laws of the Kings, I invoke my right to trial by combat, with all of the accordances that come with it.”
The Queen’s large, amber eyes narrowed. She knew he had something up his sleeve, but he knew she didn’t know what. She looked back at her Champion, and Zion nodded. To Abjicnal, she finally said, “Very well. You shall have your trial.”
A wicked smile crept across the wizard’s lips. “Aren’t you forgetting something, Queen Mother? According to the old laws, if I am victorious, I win more than my freedom. I am also granted a boon of my choice in relation to the severity of the crime I am accused of.”
Now it was Zion who replied with folded arms. “What is this boon, then, Wizard? Get to the point.”
Abjicnal stared hard at his hated nemesis and replied confidently. “I want nothing less than complete rulership of the entire kingdom. On my victory, Aleka will immediately hand the throne to me, and I will reinstate the rule of kings with her as my concubine, as it should be. And my first act as king will be to have Zion put to death in the d’reg pits of Gluarg. This is my boon, Queen Mother. Take it, or clear my name.”
Zion and Aleka looked at each other, and what seemed like a brief twinge of concern passed between them. Zion nodded. “So be it. Your trial will be in three days. Your opponent will be me.”
Abjicnal sneered. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
And as he turned away, Zion looked back disdainfully and said “Nice armor.” as he left.
Abicnal walked into his old abode, surprised to find it undisturbed since he was last in the kingdom. He had thought that somebody in Aleka’s court would have found a way to bypass all of his magical wards and defenses. Perhaps they had more pressing matters to attend to. Abjicnal felt more than a little insulted at that thought.
He carefully set his helmet down on his old alchemy table, and slowly, deliberately slid out of his breastplate, arm guards, codpiece and thigh guards before taking the time to get the other pieces of his armor off. He knew he must be careful with the armor: it was the key to his victory.
Oh, the many weeks and months he had spent searching for a way to exact his revenge! The other attempts were mere warm-ups, destined to fail due to their flawed strategies. But this latest plan was foolproof. It was great fortune to stumble across the ancient lore while foraging for artifacts in the old Cadar ruins. He could not believe it when he read it: The lost nation of Kraxxis went to war with Garland kingdom many generations ago, wielding magically enchanted weapons and armor that were impervious to physical attack. The items – made of thin glass and turned a dark hue by the magic of the enchantment – were virtually indestructible! With weapons and armor like this, Abjicnal wondered how they could have possibly lost to Garland Kingdom.
But no matter. He would succeed where they failed. The formula for the enchantment was among the most complex and intricate he had ever seen, but it was worth it. What he now had in his possession was a helmet, armor and sword that could not be penetrated or destroyed by his hated enemy Zion, which would undoubtedly give him the upper hand.
The old law of trial by combat was the perfect opportunity to use this new weapon. In the barbaric age of kings, a man could elect to defend his honor and clear his name by fighting the King’s champion in one-on-one combat, with an added boon should he be victorious, depending on the severity of the crime. Many thought this was abolished with the end of kings, but Abjicnal’s research revealed to him that the old laws weren’t destroyed, merely forgotten. Perfect: this way he could control the environment and give himself the advantage. He would use Garland Kingdom’s own rules and laws against them. He could not lose. His victory would be complete, and he would have his revenge.
Abjicnal found the pomp and ceremony surrounding the trial to be a complete waste of time. True, it was the first official combat trial in many generations, but he did not care. He did not care for the musicians, dancers and performers who came out beforehand to make this a spectacle. Nor did he appreciate the dignitaries from the outer lands – including Emperor Vladimir of the Kensington empire, and the old Judawi warchief – being invited to watch. The Queen Mother made a mockery of this trial. The wizard smirked to himself as he looked out at the coliseum full of eager patrons. Soon he would remind everyone of how serious this matter was.
He entered the arena from the far end, furthest away from the Queen Mother’s balconied perch, to a chorus of boos from the audience. Undoubtedly Aleka must have reminded everyone of the treasonous crimes he had been accused of which led to his banishment from the kingdom in the first place. Abjicnal wondered what noises these peasants would make when they are forced to bow down to the one they so vehemently rooted against.
The next to enter, from the other end of the arena, was Zion, clad in his light battle armor that has become his trademark, covered loosely in the tattered jumpsuit of his Judawi training. Abjicnal has seen that outfit – as well as the throwing blade he carried - too many times before, and most often he was looking up at it. But not this time. This time he would be the victor, and Zion would rue the day he saw the wizard’s new impenetrable armor.
The crowd cheered loudly for Zion’s entrance, but the din wasn’t as deafening as it was for Queen Aleka, who appeared in her perch mere moments later.
“Greetings, people of Garland,” she said. “We are honored that you have all graced us with your attendance for this historic event. We have not had a trial by combat since the rule of kings was abolished. But in accustom with the old laws, The accused is granted the opportunity to fight for his freedom against my champion. Should he be victorious, he has stipulated that he wants to be immediately crowned ad Garland’s next king.” She paused to let the crowd voice their displeasure at that stipulation, before continuing. “Zion has stipulated that no spells be cast during the trial, so this will be a fair fight.”
Abjicnal smiled to himself. Aleka couldn’t be more wrong. The queen droned on about tradition and honor, while the rogue wizard tuned her out and imagined what life would be like as Garland’s new king. Of course, the first thing he would do as king would be having Zion put to death, that was elementary. Making Aleka into his concubine was also a matter of course, but there would also be greater challenges of rulership, like changing the colors of the kingdom’s flag – he never liked green and white. Deciding how plush his throne should be was also a tough conundrum. But he would have plenty of time to tackle these pressing issues after his victory.
“Finally,” The Queen Mother said to get Abjicnal’s attention, “We will begin by having the legendary adventurer Xandra sing a special song to commemorate this historic event. Since we are reliving the old traditions on this day, she will sing for you the old Garland Battle Hymn!” the crowd roared in approval as a bronze-colored young lady with long, twin ponytails, clad in battle gear similar to Zion’s – albeit much less battle-worn, made her way to the forefront of the balcony. This was obviously Xandra, the famed seeker of adventure, and from the rumors Abjicnal has heard, Zion’s daughter from a past lifetime, before he became the Queen Mother’s champion and lover.
The crowd fell silent as Xandra began singing. Her words sung with a stirring passion that rose in timbre and pitch with each passing stanza. The song spoke of the Garland traditions of honor, community and bravery, and it even touched the hardened heart of Abjicnal. He wiped away a tear as Xandra sang the final stanza of the song.
“…Will guide us all and lead us to victory!”
The final syllable passed through her lips, and held, rising up to a pitch much higher than Abjicnal knew was possible for a human to sing.
The next thing he heard in chorus with her was a crack.
The wizard looked around to see where the cracking sound came from, just as he heard another crack nearby. Where could that sound be coming from?
Then it dawned on him. Oh no.
He looked over at his darkglass sword, and noticed a series of fine cracks in the enchanted blade, with more appearing by the second . His next glance was down at his breastplate, which also showed cracks forming. By now, bits and pieces of his armor were falling off and shattering on the ground, cracking under the sound of Xandra’s voice. Abjicnal stood there, frozen and unsure of what to do as his sword, helmet and armor crumbled to the ground in a plethora of dark glass shards. Zion, who was standing with his blade ready, simply put it away and stood there, arms akimbo, with a sinister grin on his wretched face. The wizard had to immediately throw away the hilt of his now useless sword and reach down to cover a more vital possession.
“Oh my,” the Queen Mother told the audience from above, “It appears as if our outlaw wizard was wearing nothing under that armor. A crying shame.”
Still grinning, Zion pulled his blade back out and pointed it at Abjicnal. “Would you still wish to continue this trial, Abjicnal?”
“No!” He replied bitterly, “I yield.”
The victorious champion motioned to the guards nearby. “Take him away in the anti-magic chains. He’ll have plenty of time to think on his failures in the Palace dungeons. And bring him a loincloth also.”
As the cloth was wrapped around him and his hands were manacled, Abjicnal shot a last, seething glare at Zion, who looked back at him smugly. This plan was foolproof! How did it fail? How did his wretched nemesis get the upper hand yet again? All he wanted was his due revenge, and yet he would be denied again. How did this plan not work?
“I’m impressed,” Zion smiled at Xandra as he approached her, “I did not know you could sing at all, much less reach notes as high as you accomplished.”
Xandra returned his smile. “Spend more time with me, father, and you will find I am full of surprises.”
The Queen Mother was not far from them, and she joined the two with an embrace to Xandra. “Thank you so much for coming, Xandra. I hope the short notice wasn’t an inconvenience to you.”
Xandra shrugged. “It was no burden. Derk and I had just finished our quest to find the Grymbeest lord, and we were resting up for the next journey anyway. But I am curious of one thing.” She looked at the pile of shattered glass on the arena floor, “Why did Abjicnal’s armor fall apart?”
Zion folded his arms and smirked. “When I saw how peculiar it was for a wizard to be wearing full battle armor, I and Aleka had our scholars look up any similar incidents in our archives. We came across one of our many battles with the lost Kraxxis empire, where they used enchanted armor similar to what Abjicnal used. But what they, and our wizard here, both failed to realize was that though their darkglass armor was enchanted to ward off physical attacks, it was still just glass, and was succeptible to sound like glass is wont to be. Generations ago, the Garland battle hymn was crafted specifically to exploit that weakness.”
The Queen Mother also looked at the pile of glass. “I shall speak to my advisors about finding a way to abolish this barbaric ‘trial by combat’ rule forever. I hope this is truly the last we see of him for a while. It annoys me to no end that he keeps coming back.”
Her champion wrapped a loving arm around her shoulders. “Such is the nature of rulership, my love. If it were not Abjicnal, it would be some other would-be-usurper. Just thank the high celestial that it is him, a man who despite his power and brilliance, can still be outsmarted and foiled. Now come, let us all go to the Hall of Yim to continue our festivities, and celebrate our victory.’
Private Mod Note
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The initiate hurried out, and Shu Yun turned to his most trusted scribe, Quan. When Shu Yun had set out for this summit, he brought Quan with him. There was no scribe more reliable, and Quan could write for many hours without stopping.