- The Death and Times of Halren of Durgol (Part One)
- The Death and Times of Halren of Durgol (Part Two)
- The Death and Times of Halren of Durgol (Part Three)
- The Death and Times of Halren of Durgol (Part Four)
- The Death and Times of Halren of Durgol (Part Five)
The Death and Times of Halren of Durgol
©2009 Jason Penney
“Oh, I don’t like this.” Halren stood alone in a small glass room, which somehow levitated up along the wall. He could now see the entire game floor, fading away below. His stomach seemed to move at a different speed than the rest of his body. He closed his eyes and groaned. Perhaps he shouldn’t have eaten so much, or so fast.
A bell rang somewhere nearby and the little room eased to a stop. “Floor of the turtle,” said the disembodied voice.
The door opened and Halren rushed out of the glass room, happy to return to solid ground. He took in his surroundings. He stood on a sort of suspended bridge that ran the length of Bolrinia’s outer wall. He crept towards the inner edge. Similar walkways ran along the same pathway both above and below. He peered over the railing. The gaming floor stood far below.
Halren imagined what it would be like to fall from this height. The world around him began to spin. He shoved himself away from the railing and sat on the floor and waited for the dizziness to pass.
Once he recovered, he walked along the outer wall, avoiding looking towards the center of Bolrinia. Doors with numeric symbols lined the outer wall. Halren looked for the symbols matching those on Valestra’s tarot.
When he found the room, a short purple skinned creature blocked his way. The creature had long pointed ears and only a few thick black hairs on its head. It wasn’t much larger than a child just learning to walk, but much less cute. “Sorry, Pal. Invitations only.”
“I have this.” Halren held out the strange card.
The creature’s skin color changed to a pleasant blue. “My apologies, sir.” The creature bowed and stepped aside. “Go right in.”
“Thank you.” Halren tried the door handle. It wouldn’t give.
“Put the key in the slot.”
Halren turned to look at the creature. Now a pale green, it extended an empty hand and made as if to give something to Halren.
The creature pointed at the door and repeated the gesture. “The card.”
Halren examined the door until he noticed a slot just above the handle, similar to the one on the magical chest. He shrugged and inserted the strange card and heard a click. When he tried the handle again the door swung open.
Halren stepped into a long hallway with walls the light red of dawn sky, only harsher. Where did such a color come from?
“Halren, come on in.” Valestra’s voice came from somewhere down the hallway.
Halren walked towards the voice. “Hello?”
Halren thought he heard giggling.
He exhaled, relieved to hear someone else present. He thought the signals he picked up from Valestra earlier could only mean one thing. Of course she was not just any woman. She could have any mortal she wanted, or any of the gods.
“Come on, Halren. We’re waiting for you.”
More giggles, louder now. Halren increased his pace and tried to ignore the many paintings of beautiful people in various stages of undress that lined the walls.
At the end of the hallway Halren turned the corner and stopped dead. The room was impossibly huge. The high ceilings rose up at least two more stories. Two rows of white columns ran the length of the room. It seemed somehow familiar. Had he been here before? Then it came to him. This room was the twin to Valestra’s great temple in the capital.
A sea of people filled the room. Naked people. Naked people doing things he had only ever heard about in late night tavern brag sessions, and a few he had never even imagined. Not just mortals. Some glowed. Immortals, scattered throughout the crowd. Halren heard tales of unions between gods and mortals, but he never imagined anything like this.
And there… Could it be? There, entwined with Lynara, the goddess of sorrow, lay old King Amullon. Tears streamed down his smiling face as he…
Halren averted his eyes and they settled on Valestra. She sat reclined atop the altar at the temple’s far end, naked except for the strange glow all the immortals gave off.
“It took you long enough.” Valestra gave Halren a wink.
Halren tried to speak but only managed to blink a few times. He could use a stiff drink.
Valestra snapped her fingers.
Two tall, beautiful, but more than a little intimidating women flanked him. One shoved a chalice filled with a glowing greenish liquid into his hand. Halren hesitated only a moment and then gulped it down. It tasted sweet, with a hint of fruit.
“Bring him here,” Valestra said. An undertone of command snuck into her sweet voice.
Before Halren could react the two women led him through the crowd to the altar. He didn’t resist. Why would he? Love herself wanted him. How much better could Bolrinia get?
The two women stopped just before the altar and began to remove Halren’s clothing. When they finished, they melted away into the crowd. Halren looked into Valestra’s eyes. He no longer felt anxious. Whatever they had given him to drink must have boosted his confidence.
“Well, I see you’re not shy.” Valestra beckoned to him with her index finger.
Halren smiled, and stepped forward. This truly was paradise. Dying was the greatest thing to ever happen in his life. Behind him the room went silent. Valestra’s eyes widened as he leaned over her.
She frowned, and Halren noticed she was looking past him. Now what? He turned. A bleached white skull grinned back at him, barely a hair’s breadth away. Halren fell off the altar in surprise. He rolled on his back and stared up at the red-robed figure. Nenus, the third escort.
Nenus grabbed for him, but Halren slid away from his grasp.
“No need to be so rash. Can I just grab my clothes? They’re around here somewhere.”
Nenus’ cold hands were on him now. The wraith tossed him over his shoulder. Halren’s vision began to swim. He saw Valestra pouting like a spoiled child just told she couldn’t wear the Queen’s crown. Then everything faded into nothingness.
Tune in next week for another installment.