The Stranger

Part One

I stood on the border of the shadowlands. I never did need to worry. Huge craters showed a path., and the meteor remained in one. It was like a beacon, calling to me. I had no choice. I approached the stone, to see a rune etched into the extraterrestrial rock. It pulsed with a dim red glow...I was drawn in. The water rune upon my sword began to pulse with the other, a cool blue. I still do not know why I did it, but at that very moment, I drew my sword and sank it into the rock.

The meteor devoured it. It unraveled my sword to the ley from which it had come. The fiery rune upon it's surface began to glow more fiercely. The compulsion upon me grew. I reached out a hand, and touched the stone.

A fierce power coursed through me. Ancient languages tore through my mind. I spoke, but did not comprehend. Throughout, the light of the rune grew ever fiercer. I felt an end to this ritual, and a great reward approaching, when I was tackled from behind.

I was weaponless, but still agile enough to slip from under my attacker. When I turned, I quickly ascertained her identity.

It was Natalia.

I faced her. She held a rapier by her side. I decided then and there, I'd give her what she wanted...but set my Word of Recall to bring me here. A risky plan, but I was unarmed.
"Leave, Salin." Natalia hissed. The ground around her glowed. "or else."
"and why would I do that?" I was stalling, as I wrapped ley around the spot. It was risky, but I truly had no choice. Natalia was hiding something, and it was powerful.
"Do you really want to play this game? You're unarmed. Your mental barriers are down. You're only so much putty in my hands right now."
It was true. While I cast my spell, she could control me. Unless....
"Not yet, Natalia. Not yet." My ring sparked as I spoke, shining like a hot ember. I slapped the air in her direction, and she flew back, though she gracefully landed on her feet.
"You really don't want to survive, do you?" Her voice had a tone of power. She was channeling something. My only problem was that I didn't know what.
I am ashamed to have done so, but I ran. The craters were Layla's handiwork. I didn't know what she had brought here, but she had left a clear message. I knew where she was. I leapt into the air as my body dissolved....

...and landed on a hilltop, miles away. In a valley in front of me lay a dark, unbroken dome. They were holding Layla there. I moved down the hill with the greatest stealth. As I got closer, I saw guards. They had the shape of knights, and stood back to back around the dome, spears crossed in front of them. As I approached, a hollow whisper reached me.
"State your name..."
"Salin Impedimenta."
Clang. Each knight turned to face me, standing at attention.
"Pass, Impedimenta. But know this, your beloved is protected by a powerful entity." As the words faded, a doorway formed in the side of the dome, swinging slowly open. I was expected, and whoever did this had a flair for the dramatic. I entered, and the dome sealed behind me.

The interior of the dome was lit by torchlight, and oddly square. A high throne sat across from me, and Layla stood in the middle of the floor. Only problem I saw was that she was petrified, covered in stone. I saw no guardian, though the floor tiles held a few obvious traps. For example, the tile directly in front of me held a Binding spell, to hold whoever was unlucky enough to step on it. Two tiles at the edges of the row ahead held a tripwire, probably doubled with an alarm: They glowed with enough power to be seen miles away. I shook my head with disgust, and decided to dodge the traps, just for the fun of it. I backed up, took a running start, and flipped over both the Binding and the tripwire. The floor in front of me was clear, I had a clear path to Layla...

Layla was always a master of the runic magics. She had runes etched all over her body, including a very special one on the back of her neck that I had been taught to activate. This rune created a magical dead zone, ending all enchantments within range. Of course, it would break whatever held her petrified.
I ran behind Layla, then groaned. Her hair had fallen over the rune. It was impossible to activate. The only way I would free her would be to defeat this "guardian", whatever it was. I walked over to the throne, then let out enough power to make my presence known. A wisp of smoke rose from the throne, to reveal a man. He was tall and dark, dressed entirely in black. When he spoke, his voice boomed throughout the room. I sighed. Another Dungeon-Master type. They're all the same....
"WHO GOES THE-" I punched him in the face before he could finish the clichè.
"Listen up, and listen well. I got through your traps in about two seconds. Let my friend and I go without a fight, and you'll survive this. After all, what makes you think you can take me?"
"That just tells me to go all out. Do you know the best thing about being me?"
These guys are literally one clichè after another... "There's so many of you?" I said, expecting to see a clone army at any moment.
"Actually, I was thinking something more like unlimited power." When he finished those words, several orbs of dark energy rushed me from the corners of the room. The man had elementals, he did have power.I attempted to summon a sword... get instead a golden katana. A katana I had never seen before. A weapon is a weapon, I supposed. I held it ready as the elementals sped toward me.

I held the blade at a ready position, as I was rushed by the dark elementals.I stood motionless as they approached, trying to predict the first one to reach me. They sped onward, and I lunged towards my choice.
If I was right, I would impale the elemental with enough force to destroy it before spinning to engage the other three. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I lunged and hit empty air. I had already spun to face the final three when I realized this. I ducked. They collided with each other. I was In for a fight.
The man lifted his hand, tying the elementals together with twisted ley. A chain of the power arced to his grip. He had formed a deadly ball and chain.
"Well, Salin. Your enemies know how to buff a person." he says. His voice was confident.
"Why did Natalia put you up to this?"
"Ah, you fool. Natalia is just a pawn..." He swung the elementals toward me. I had no chance to dodge. If the weapon hadn't arced away from me, I would be dead. My sword began to spark. Ley lines became visible to me. It had protected me, and was showing me other layers of reality.
The lines were in sad shape. They were twisted, their course altered to form a nexus below my adversary. I gently called them, bringing them to me. They moved against chains, straining to escape. My blade nearly moved on it's own. The elementals were flying towards me, and passed through the golden edges of the katana. They dissolved instantly, freeing the ley lines. As my enemy staggered from the huge loss of power, I grabbed him by the wrist and flipped him across the room, the power of freed ley behind the motion. He skidded across the tripwire and into the Binding trap as lighting arced from the stones of the wire. He was killed instantly, and his corpse dissolved. I half-expected a heart container to pop out, but nothing appeared but a small diamond-shaped ruby. I pocketed it, then turned my attention to Layla. I traced her neck and face, searching for a rune. Any release of power could activate one, and disrupt the now unstable binding. None were to be found, at surface level anyways. I sighed, as I formed a magical shield around me, then released all the energy I had.
There was no result that I could see. Then, I allowed myself to hope as I saw a flicker of motion. The binding spell had unraveled too much to restrict her movement. Encased in stone, Layla blinked. Then blinked again, frowning.
"Why on earth can't I see anything?!"
I brushed the hair from the back of her neck, then rested my finger upon the rune there, allowing power to trickle into it. The stone rushed away from it, crumbling and disappearing, revealing skin, hair, and cloth.
"Great thing to say to the guy who just saved you."
Layla was back. A slow clapping filled the air, followed by a soft voice.
"Good work, Mister Impedimenta. I was glad to see what you could do. A figure stepped into the dim light, completely cloaked in darkness. I could not determine anything about the person, and the voice was monotonus enough to hold no clues. "I could destroy you now, but there would be no fun in that. Go home."
The last two words were a command. The world melted around me, Layla the only thing that remained real.

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