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“Who is John?” I asked as I reentered Goran’s home.

“I’ll tell you who John is but before I do that I’ll have to explain how we ended up down here.

There is an agreement on this continent that all tasks revolving around magic are dealt with by the mage’s guild. This doesn’t mean that mages don’t work for the adventurer’s guild, it only means that their problems don’t involve magic.

I was fresh out of the mage’s academy when I first saw the request to find a pendant filled with the soul of a lich. The pendant came to surface a couple of thousand years ago before practically everyone currently in the mages guild was alive. Only the Archmagus Timmel was alive during that time. It’s amazing how long that man has lived, the mana life force he must have must be incredible. It’s taken more than his mana to stay alive though, I was never important enough to meet him but from what I’ve heard he’s incredibly wise. I wonder what secrets he must know.”

“And what about the pendant?”I asked trying to get the conversation back on topic.

“Anyway, no one knows where the pendant originally came from. It’s what a mage did with it that made it famous among the mage community. Magus Larken was the first wielder of the pendant, which granted him uncontrolled power over the undead. With its power, he transformed the dead into the first sentient undead. Vampires are the remnants of these true undead. Unlike vampires however the undead Magus Larken created were almost identical to the living, only their pale skin, non-aging bodies, and inability to reproduce are the only differences between these undead and the living.

It is rumored that vampires are descendants from Larken’s undead. After the Mages guild purged Larken for the overuse of unethical magic, the pendant was hidden before it could be confiscated. Its power was turned off, making it impossible for the Mages guild to locate. This cut the power source to the undead, causing mana starvation. A few began using blood as a power source to sustain themselves. Over centuries they’ve lost their original power and are much weaker than their predecessors. It is rumored there's a sect of vampires trying to regain the power they lost.

When I was fresh out of the academy a rumor spread that there was evidence of the lich’s pendant deep beneath the mountain ridge alongside Dragil. I wouldn’t have normally qualified for a mission of this importance but one of my closest professors was the leader of the expedition. I had done work for him previously so he offered me a spot on his voyage. It was a learning opportunity that I gladly took up. Little did I know how much I regret that decision.

There were five of us in total. Bastion was the leader of the expedition and my mentor. Tormin, Balik and Jorn were the other wizards in our party. Tormin and Balik specialized in enchanted artifacts and Jorn specialized in navigation magic. Jorn wasn’t a particularly powerful mage but what he lacked in power he made up for skill and diligence. He had grown a reputation for his skill at locating artifacts, previously finding the Excalibur of light and the great ax of Gorc.

At first, everything involving the expedition was a success. The rumors turned out to be true and eventually we were able to pinpoint the location of the artifact. Traveling the labyrinth was a major obstacle but with the form of Jorn we were able to find the artifact. I was so excited when we found it, my career looked bright. Not many newly forged mages could claim to have found one of the most powerful artifacts on all the continents.

I, however, had read the stories of the evil this artifact contained so I knew, while it was tempting to keep it, to study it; it must be destroyed. The item was already deemed unethical by the wizarding board in the past, so I knew its powers couldn’t be released.

Most of the group agreed with my sentiment, Jorn being the only exception. He claimed the wizarding board had no clue what they were dealing with, that it’d been so long since the lich’s pendant was last used that it should be kept and studied. We ignored his pleas. The pendant must be destroyed.

The thing is magical items aren’t easy to be destroyed. Oftentimes they are built with barriers that prevent them from safely being destroyed. It takes a handful of mages to perform the proper rituals and immense setup.

Jorn knew this, so he waited. He hadn’t made a big deal about its destruction so we overlooked him. He rigged the ritual, causing Bastion, Tormin, and Balic to instantly be shredded. I hadn’t helped with the ritual since I knew. I was told to watch and study the process. This was Jorn’s biggest mistake. Before Jorn could get his hands on the pendant I was able to cast an illusion that hid the pendant from all eyes.

Jorn knew he couldn’t beat me in a fair fight so he fled. I haven’t seen him since but I know he’s still been looking. He must still be after the pendant and that is something I can’t risk happening. That thing’s evil.”

“So Jorn is John,” I asked.

“Yes”

“What about his family. He mentioned to me that he needed to get out to find someone he loved.”

“That makes more sense. Maybe that’s why he’s still after the pendant,” Goran mumbled to himself.

“I remember he had a wife who died a few years before my expedition. He took it particularly poorly and it was quite the gossip among the wizarding community. I’m sure the constant gossiping didn’t help him cope since it was a constant reminder of his loved one. I would wager that he wants to use the pendant to bring her back but only bad things will happen if he gets his hands on the pendant. Emotional magic never leads to good.”

I nodded. This wasn’t my problem though, I had a dragon to kill.

“Can you help me find my way to the firedrake? I’ll have trouble exploring the labyrinth without tracking tools.”

“I have ways of getting around the labyrinth but I’m sorry but I can’t leave this sanctuary. I have imbued the room with mana to give me more power in case that Jorn becomes impatient and attempts to kill me.”

“Would you be willing to take me to the firedrake if I was able to deal with Jorn?” I asked desperate to get out of these caves. At this point, I worried that I would never leave this place, let alone make it back to Captain Pickford in time. I had no one to find me, no one to help me save Darryl.

“Hmm. You could be of use but I don’t want to kill Jorn right away. He has good in him. I want to give him one last chance. If you help me with Jorn, I’ll take you to the firedrake. I have to ask why you want to find that beast.”

“Those reasons are my own,” I responded. I was tired of trusting humans. They liked to screw me over.

“I hope they’re good reasons. Evil manifests in misguided acts of good. I hope your reasons are good and sound.”

I nodded.

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