These turned out to be longer than I thought, so I decided to split them up. Part two of the Mythology arc:
Darac’s Descend Into the Underworld
Darac’s victory felt hollow to the great hero, as he knew that his mother was still trapped in the Underworld, suffering unmentionable pain every day. And not only his mother – he knew all too well that there were hundreds, maybe countless, people who had been taken by gods over the eons.
Two year after his return from the Pantheon he called his companions to him. Three answered the call, and after they arrived, Darac proposed that they should descend into the Underworld, to free his mother, and any other humans they could. His companions agreed they would follow him, but said that such an endeavor was plainly impossible. Everybody had known, they said, how to get to the Pantheon. Nobody knew how to get into the Underworld. Darac told them that he had thought about this, and had come up with a solution. He asked his companions to swear that, no matter what, they would be loyal to him, and the cause, and all three agreed and swore this oath.
Darac smiled and gave a sign to his servants. They opened a large door at the other end of the hall, and armed guards led in eight priests and priestesses. Each was in chains. Each served a God known to be particularly cruel – Thachac, Mmoldar, Teggogh, Yor-Sothan, and others.
“You serve your Gods well, do you not?” Darac asked the men and women. They nodded in agreement.
“And what you see, your Gods see, do they not?” Again, the priests agreed.
“Then know this. We are coming for you. We will hunt down every one of you, and kill each and every one of you, until your masters stop us. Banish us to the Underworld, I dare them! Nothing will stop us!” and with this, Darac drew the sword of Yorhorh, and killed each of the eight priests and priestesses in turn.
Darac revealed to his companions that he had used the treasure of the red dragon to gather a small but highly trained and fiercely loyal group of mercenaries – five thousand men in total. And he intended to carry out his threats. At first, the companions were aghast, but Darac reminded them of all the evil the Gods had committed, and convinced them that his way was just.
For the next six years, Darac’s army traveled through the lands, and they killed every servant of those gods they could find. As word of his deeds spread, some cities and kingdoms denied him entry, and so he forced his way. He spared the God-Queen Nuria, but only after burning down her temples and palaces.
At the end of six years, the Gods decided that enough was enough. They banished Darac and his companions, and his entire army, to the Underworld. Darac and his companions used every trick at their disposal, all the power of the dead god Rarthot, to protect their men from the torment, but most succumbed and died in the first weeks. The rest marched on and made war on the demons of the Underworld. They even freed some people, who then joined their crusade.
At long last, Darac found Iruwa. She had not aged a day since Rarthot had imprisoned her, and she was physically unharmed, though her soul had been broken. She did not know who the strangers were who suddenly faced her, and had long forgotten the notion of a life without eternal suffering. She followed, but not out of enthusiasm to be free once more; she followed like any broken slave would in fear of the whip.
Despite having achieved his goal, Darac had a great moment of doubt. It seemed that despite all the hardship, he could not even save his mother. He nearly gave up, there, in the deepest levels of hell, but his companions reminded him of the good he had done, of the people he had saved, and that it was not, after all, too late for his mother – if Darac would lead them out of the Underworld.
Darac agreed, and with a heavy heart took charge of the men again. They soon found that their entry had been easy – all the guardians of the Underworld aimed at keeping people and souls in, not out! Roads that had been free were now open. Rivers of molten lava had appeared where there had been serene lakes of blood before. Things with sharp teeth came for the men when they rested, and the gods sent armies of the dead to confront them. Darac’s army, already reduced to a fraction of its size, dwindled. They fought and defeated Zotsa, whose phlegm dissolved a man within seconds. They came across a lake where a dozen men would not heed warnings out of thirst and turned to stone as they drank. They climbed a wall made out of the writhing bodies of disloyal temple slaves. They braved the burning air of Genvahorr and the frozen caverns of Ucpelardi.
It was in these caves that they nearly found their end, were it not for a strange coincidence. Through the thick snow-storms, they saw several shapes. As they got closer, it became clear that what they saw was a battle. It was a naked woman, with dark hair, surrounded by a dozen winged demons. Her skin was pale, almost blue from the cold, and the demons had frost-covered skin. She was using a horn she had ripped off a demon’s head as a club. Then Darac recognized her, it was the God-Queen Nuria! Without much thought, Darac charged the demons, and his companions and men followed him.
After defeating the demons, and providing some of their clothes to the God-Queen, Nuria explained that she had been cast into the Underworld as punishment for being spared by Darac. She was not the ally Darac would have chosen, but she was a familiar person. More-over, she said she thought she could find the way back, even though she was feeling too weak to make it on her own.
Darac agreed to trust the God-Queen Nuria, and she was true to her word. She led Darac’s now very small group of men to the surface, where they emerged amidst the volcanoes of the southern islands.