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Called & Bound
by Graham Pilling & Kenny Crowe

Brightness moves within the vast chamber, swirling in an
unknown dance of light and sound. The performers were points of
light, some were trapped stars, tiny and pure, others were great
glowing streams of gaseous luminance. Their colours shifting and
changing, ranging from soft pastels to vivid hues. About these
lights swarmed ephemeral visions, veiled in clouds of light, only
lasting seconds before another image took their place.

Each light moved continuously, and their flow was never
broken. Every light seemingly alone, wandering about the cavern
in search of a personal truth, and perfectly a part of the whole.

The dance was both simple, a circular whirl, and elaborate.
Some of the lights twisted and tumbled about each other, only a
moment away from collision, while others moved in graceful
constellations describing complex paths about each other. All
simultaneously moving in a great circle that pivoted about a single
point at the center of the cavern.

At this focal point, one light shifted among many forms,
changing from one shape to another, depicting images that meant little
to human eyes, but meant volumes to those present. The pattern of
images continued until a disturbance shattered their harmony. One
light - an Eerith - tumbled wildly within the cavern, the graceful
dance swept into chaos by it's passing. A scream emanated from it,
changing from a profound groan which shook the very stones, to a high
pitched soulless scream of panic that reverberated and echoed in the
cavern. The Eerith thrashed wildly, seemingly against nothing,
changing forms and colours quickly, all the while emitting it's
deathly wail. It rose into the air above all those assembled, still
continuing it's crazed dance of turmoil, then it rapidly began to fold
in upon itself, imploding into a point of blackness which emitted one
final shriek before falling silent.

The hall erupted into chaos.

* * *

A bead of sweat rolled down the High Lord's dark blue brow.
His eyes were nearly closed; tiny slits of hellish red. His
Concentration was almost tangible. In his hand he clasped a dull
metal medallion, it's simple appearance never even hinting at the
power it contained. It had taken the High Lord of the Vraa'al only
months to find the artefact. After much research in the ancient
books in his library, it had then only taken him a few weeks to
figure out how to harness the medallion's power, but it had taken
him the better part of a year to decide to use it.

His mind was pushing at a wall. Not a wall of stone and
mortar, but a wall of will. He had been standing alone in his chamber
for hours now, although it seemed like days. Time had lost its
meaning. There was nothing but the wall. For brief moments it felt
like the wall was about to give, but then it would suddenly push back,
against the High Lord's own mind. He was locked in a mental struggle
with another being. He was summoning an Eerith.

The wall broke.

His first thought was not one of joy or satisfaction at
breaking the stalemate that had lasted for so long. For the first
time since he had decided to go about finding a way of contacting
the Eerith, he wondered whether he had made a mistake.

His instincts told him that he was no longer alone. He
relaxed, opened his eyes, and regarded the presence that now shared
the room with him. There on the stone floor, a few paces before him,
sat an infant pondering its tiny hands. The High Lord was shocked
to his core. He, who had killed without remorse and committed
unspeakable atrocities in the service of the Sorcerers of Mir, was
now facing a vision of pure innocence. The naked babe looked away
from it's hands and regarded the Vraa'al with it's wide soulful eyes,
and the High Lord could do nothing but stare back. Transfixed with
the beauty and contentment of the child, and feeling the weight of
years upon his soul.

A memory flashed through the High Lord's mind, the feeling
of exhilaration at finishing a work of art, the embrace of a lover's
arms, the sweetness of a first kiss. A gentle caressing of his senses
and memories. Then it dawned on him. He had succeeded in summoning an
Eerith, and upon being removed from wherever it had come, it had taken
on the least threatening form it knew, that of a defenceless infant.
The High Lord marvelled at the impeccable logic of the wondrous being
before him, and realised that he had been caught completely off guard.
It was he, not the Eerith, who was entirely defenceless.

"Why have you not attacked me?" said the Vraa'al, "I'm quite
sure you could have all but destroyed me, considering the artful way
you caused me to drop my guard."

The happy and peaceful memories ceased, and the High Lord was
surprised to find that he felt saddened by their loss. The infant
suddenly shimmered before his eyes, both standing and growing in
stature at once, the body and limbs became lean and covered in well
defined muscle, until the figure of a young man stood before him.
But it came no closer, as steel hooked wires streamed up from it's
former resting-place, bringing the youth to a stop as the skin was
grabbed by a thousand hooks, all originating from a single circular
object upon the floor - a copy of the dull, metallic form of the
medallion that the High Lord still held.

"I hold you here?" the High Lord held up the ancient artefact,
"This holds you captive? I have not brought you here as my prisoner, I
simply wanted to..."

The High Lord paused in thought. He wasn't sure why he had
summoned this Eerith. Curiosity certainly had something to do with
it, sparked by that dim-witted Sorcerer who was practically begging
him to help Mir against the 'evil spirits' that were breaking free
from their prison. But curiosity wasn't enough; there was something
more. The High Lord was reminded of the time when he and others like
him had unquestioningly served the Sorcerers of Mir; dark shadow
assassins silently taking the lives of the so-called enemies of Mir,
relishing in the kill, in the Dance of Death. During that time the
Eerith were also servants of the Sorcerers, sharing with them the
knowledge of the ancient arts of magic and using their powers for the
so called 'good' of Mir. The High Lord's mind was filled with sudden
images of times long ago. He felt the reassuring presence of the
Eerith, and contemplated the images flashing before his mind, images
of servitude, of betrayal and bitter sadness.

The High Lord not only understood, but he also felt for the
Eerith as a people. They had been used, just as he and his Elven
brothers had been used. While he had chosen to spend his days
since the end of the Mir Empire cultivating his society, living in
isolation, in a meaningful contemplation of art, the Eerith had been
imprisoned. Confined to the floating city of Annaeyana. The injustice
of it hit him. In a world all but controlled by the shallow, trivial
whims of mortal humans, such a beautiful and wondrous race of beings
did not deserve to be locked up, like some greedy collector would lock
up a piece of valuable art. They should be free. Even as he thought
this, he realised that he was holding the Eerith against it's will,
and that the spirit-being was held captive by the power of the ancient
Mir medallion.

"You are free", said the High Lord as he dropped the medallion
in disgust. Hissing as it fell, the medallion faded into nothingness
before it hit the ground.

The youth smiled as the hooks disappeared, but the flesh
did not knit itself to wholeness. A vibration and humming began -
emanating from the youth, this sound was soon joined by a whistling
sound that called out to him with it's mournful melodies. The sound
continued to rise until it shook the very stones of the room.

Suddenly the youth exploded into a million fragments of light.
So intense was the illumination that emanated from it that the
High Lord could hardly look directly at it. The brightness overwhelmed
the torches on the walls as easily as it would have overwhelmed a
million fires. As he shielded his eyes, his mind struggled to
understand the reality of what was before him. The voice of the
Eerith seemed to pierce the center of the High Lords being; he could
hear its melody in the very bones and tendons of his body, not
painful, merely deep and penetrating. Soon other voices joined in the
melody, which rose and fell like the waves on a beach, a deep rumbling
eerily echoing the high piping and whistling that filled the air.

The room was filled with sound and light. Like the heat from
a great fire, the room shimmered with the presence of other Eerith and
the swirls of light and spirit sang with jubilation at the freedom of
their brother.

With a slight shiver, the High Lord realised that they had
been there all along, simply waiting to see if he would release the
Eerith he had captured. He was glad he had.

A dimming of the light before him caused the High Lord to
lower his arms in an attempt to see the vision before him. A figure
was forming in front him, outlined by the brightness which filled the
room behind it. Nearly blinded, he tried to see the face of this
being, but his eyes were confused by the images about him. The Being
was a mire of shifting forms, face blurred and body smeared as ribbons
of iridescent light passed across its body. The only part that he
could fix upon was a pair of eyes which stared back at him. Amidst the
symphony of sound he heard voices. They spoke in the ancient language
of Vraai, words rising and falling with the harmonies.

"You have freed our brother... Of both the prison and
medallion... We give thanks... I will return soon... We have much to
discuss... We have much to share..."

The High Lord could almost see the Eerith now, wings of fire
flared up to the roof of the chamber, and graceful lines outlined the
as yet undefined body.

"We must leave for now..."

The High Lord watched in wonder, as in the blinking of an eye
the Eerith left his chambers; the air changed from its surreal swirls
of sound and light, and shuddered back into cold reality. In the
silent and empty moment after, the High Lord realised that the time
had indeed come to 'choose a side', and with a gleam in his fiery
eyes, he realised he had already done so.

Laughter rang out in the chamber of the High Lord of the Vraa'al. In
the space of a few moments, everything had changed.