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"Describe it to me," Jelen said as he moved down the walkway with Xander.
 
"She looked like she was in steam or water or behind it," Xander tried to explain, "I wasn't dreaming I was awake and working on something."
 
"That sounds odd. And you say she mentioned the mouth of oblivion and a toll?" Jelen sounded curious but not alarmed. 
 
"Yes, do you know of this?" Xander felt alarmed.
 
"I know of the place, but not of a toll. Maybe we should check it out together." Jelen said," I will gather some things I suggest you pack what you think you need.
 
The men met up shortly. Instead of armor Xan chose to wear a leather shirt with carved pieces of worm scale with engraved runes suspended from it by tiny threads. They made a strange tinkle noise as he moved but did not hinder the movement. Jelen and Xan both had a water canteen each but besides a knife and jerky tucked away in Xan's belt pocket. They were both traveling light.
 
"Step where I step, and you will not loose your place between," Jelen said as he appeared to part the very air. Xan nodded and carefully stepped in his footsteps. 
 
Jelen stopped and Xan stopped short. They both stood silent for a moment. 
 
"Can you feel that?" Jelen questioned.
 
"It feels, hungry," Xan squinted trying to understand.
 
"That is the Mouth of Oblivion, Our magic will not help us here." Jelen cautioned.
 
"Oh," Xan said uncomfortably.
 
"Let us enter," Jelen said as he moved ahead.
 
They could feel the wet slickness at the opening. They both stepped forward warily. Xan drew the dagger from his belt. Slowly they went toward the narrow path and the engulfing darkness. Xan could feel his magic being pulled from him like a siphon. He felt dizzy and wrong. Xan looked to Jelen.
 
"I feel it too." Jelen acknowledged.
 
They moved deeper into the cave until they felt weak like the air withheld itself from their lungs. Something moved ahead of them. They approached the area cautiously. Then they saw the movement flicker again. Xan squinted and saw a man who was not just a man, he seemed more. A darkness shrouded him, the shadow adorned him like steam rising and hung like a cloak from his shoulders that spilled over and out onto the cave floor.
 
"Am I to be rescued?" It spoke in extremely hushed tones.
 
"From what?" Xan asked
 
"From me." A bodiless imposing voice boomed. 
 
Xan and Jelen both turned but saw no one. Jelen drew his sword. Xan's muscles tensed in anticipation.
 
"You did not bring her." The voice sounded disappointed. 
 
"Of course we didn't" Xan fought hard to stifle the look on his face.
 
"A soul for a soul." The voice demanded.
 
"No." Jelen forcefully uttered, "I have conceded enough."
 
"Then you both must go!" The voice exclaimed
 
The men found themselves at the entrance to the cave once again. Xan could feel his magic bounce back and it almost felt like it bludgeoned him. Jelen seemed to be a bit breathless himself for a moment. Then he looked concerned.
 
"I can not feel hardly any of my kin." Jelen looked as though he were thinking.
 
"How so?" Xan asked.
 
"Usually it's a background buzz unless one is dire, it pulls urgently." Jelen looked disheartened,"I don't feel the buzz at the same intensity anymore. We must go!"
 
Jelen turned and quickly parted a way through and stepped briskly, Xan had trouble keeping up.
 
"Wait!" He yelled but he could already feel things closing in on him.
 
Then the world went so bright, the light blinded everything from his view. Xan's ears began ringing.
 
"Havadar" A voice neither male or female in an almost musical tone spoke.
 
The ringing in his ears stopped.
 
"What?" Xan was confused.
 
"Champion, chosen by the realm of gods and elements alike." The voice continued, "You are needed to lead your children. It is time to fulfill your true destiny."
 
"My what?" Xander started to get his vision back.
 
He rubbed his eyes what appeared before him was a humanoid being with two sets of wings working in tandem to keep it aloft. The being was heavily feathered from just under the shoulders down with bare head and feet.
 
"You are tasked with recovering and protecting magic and the marked. Our chosen," The being let the words resonate,"They have need of you"
 
The being then raised bare hands above their head and clapped them together loudly like thunder. Xander's hand began to itch and hurt. He looked down to see that surrounding his earth mark were the other elemental marks and the healing mark.
 
"You must save them," The being said in a chorus of voices, "We will see you again."
 
Then the world went bright again and Xan's ears rung like before. The world suddenly became dark and he found himself in a dimly lit prison or dungeon. The smell of blood and other waste hit his nose like a hammer. The first guard he saw came after him and Xander used the earthen floor to hold him in place. He did this with each guard until all were subdued in a similar fashion. 
 
The woman mage came into the room and Xan could feel her corruption and sickness. Xan felt a spark of power and was startled to see vines encumber the woman and with every leaf that sprouted on the vines he could feel a bit of her corruption heal, and her power lesson. 
 
With everyone subdued, Xan took a good look around him. Frightened prisoners in shackles with mouths agape stared back. Then he saw the severed hands with fading marks on the floor by a bloody table with deep grooves running haphazardly through the same spot. He became angry and had to fight the urge to kill the woman outright. Instead, he engulfed her to the waste in dirt and made it squeeze her.
 
"Release them!" He shouted his eyes narrow and his face the image of disgust and scorn.
 
The mage did not respond. He made the dirt constrict more and the woman cried out, and then with a wave of her hand, the shackles and collars dropped. Several tried but could not open a portal, so they ran chaotically to the stairs to go up and out.
 
He heard a noise behind him and what he had always imagined a Lich to look like was walking his way. It flicked it's hand and Xan saw rat corpses moving as a single mass into the stairwell. They just rose from the ground as though it were easy to slough it off like a coat. He let fire burst forth, but the skeletons kept biting and chewing, and frightened prisoners kept screaming and running. He turned to the Lich and made the earth swallow him and hoped it gave him enough time.
 
He then directed the vines to start entwining themselves into and through the skeletons and then broke them apart by expanding themselves. He could hear the people retreat to the outside. He turned to deal with the Lich and something hit him on the back of the head. It sent a pain through him like lightning, then Xan just felt numb. He turned to see that the guards were free, and so was the Lich. He pulled two rune stones from his shirt and threw them. They exploded with fire. The Lich remained unaffected. Xan stumbled. He put his hand to the wound and drew it back covered in his own blood and a deep shooting pain inside his head and teeth. He could feel the wet, warm slick dripping slowly from head and hair into his clothing and then he felt nothing.
 
 
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