[size=14][b]The Ocul Tritae[/b][/size]
The storm settled in with steady rain as darkness fell. Sarkan took shelter under a low rock overhang, cast into a gentle curve of smooth stone after millennia of wind and sand. He lay on his back, exhausted from his flight from the excavation site. Propped against the sloping rock wall, the great rune-inscribed disk was illuminated by the frequent lightning.
[i]What are you?[/i] Sarkan questioned in the confines of his mind. There was no response, though he was sure he could feel a presence hovering over him, or perhaps within him.
“What are you?” he asked aloud.
[i]I am your path to power, your…[/i]
“Yes, you said all that before. But what manner of being are you?”
There was a moment of pause. [i]I was once a priestess in study at the great temple the acolytes now excavate.[/i]
“Then you are a servant of Set,” Sarkan said suspiciously.
[i]Those that lived in my time thought so, but in truth I was sent into these lands to aid in annihilating the Priesthood.[/i]
“I do not understand, if you are faithful to the Serpent…”
[i]I was faithful to my cause, simple one. I was not pure-born Stygian, though I resembled your ancestors in those days. I was born in Koth, and we could see the power the Priests held over the lands. When one has power and the will to use it, rule by fear is easy and it spreads like the plague. Our plan was to infiltrate the Priesthood and destroy it from within.[/i]
“You sought to protect your people from the Priests? When was this? How do you exist through this artifact?”
[i]That ”˜artifact’ is called the Asciso Obis. It is a powerful weapon created long ago by a man of the arcane who sought to remove absolute darkness from the world. It is used with the Sipordus, the pendant you carry, to contain the malicious spirits of those that would do dark deeds in the world. Many demons have met their end inside the Obis.[/i]
“Then you are a creature of darkness,” Sarkan accused.
[i]I am a creature that was in the wrong place at an inopportune time. Centuries ago, as part of my duty, I was required to become… close, to the high-priest of the temple. In order to assure my ascendancy, I did what had to be done. But he was a brutal man with many enemies, and when they came for him, I was a victim of their vengeance. The Asciso Obis has a twin, the Ascero Obis. It was used to destroy the high-priest, but the assailants’ blood-lust was not sated by his death. I was seen as a follower, and they deemed my death necessary. They intended to use the Asciso Obis to destroy me as well.[/i]
“But you said the artifacts were designed to destroy evil, if your intentions were noble…”
[i]When the men came for me, I was furious. They destroyed years of my work with a swipe of the blade, and then turned their hatred towards me. At that moment I wished to destroy them all and I emanated such hatred the very essence of my spirit was altered. The Obis was aware of these thoughts, and sought to contain me. I would have been utterly destroyed had my spirit of hatred been pure. But the Obis is of intelligent design. It was content to only restrain me, and not commit me to oblivion.[/i]
“Such a wondrous device of metal, that it can inspect the thoughts of men,” Sarkan said with awe.
[i]The artifacts are collectively known as the Ocul Tritae. The Oberis are powerful separately, but placed together can purify a spiritual presence. This is why I have chosen you. I wish to be free, but the Ascero Obis is lost to me. Those seeking to vanquish darkness have carried it across the lands for centuries, passing it from generation to generation, no doubt hoping to unlock the mystery of its function. But its power is out of their reach without the Sipordus, and it could easily have been lost in some cache of arcane study or to some unfortunate soul seeking to use the incomplete weapon against the spawn of hell. But I can feel the continued presence of the Ascero Obis, as you would sense the slightest hint of perfume on the wind.[/i]
“I can be of no help to your search, spirit; I have not been beyond the province. I have no means to leave these lands. The peasant-caste is forbidden to travel without permission of the nobles or priests,” Sarkan said bitterly. “None of us that suffer under the demands of the upper castes would remain here if we were free to leave. To abandon our assigned lands guarantees a long death if captured.”
[i]Ah, but you have not had the benefit of my aid during your hard years. As I promised, your life is about to change if you wish it so. You can take control of your life from this moment if you will help me to be free.[/i]
“You have pretty words, but what can you possibly do to help me as a mere voice in my head?”
[i]You have witnessed my power, and I have already saved your life once today. With your help, I can expand my influence to your world. I can unleash abilities within you that your kind has never dreamed of possessing.[/i]
Sarkan considered the words. For over twenty years he had suffered under the brutality of the Priesthood, and was detested by the Nobles. Such irony, he mused, that it was his caste that supported the whole of Stygian society with the hot sweat of their labor and needless sacrifice of many to the Serpent, including his mother so many years ago. The Priests were vile, hiding behind the threats of their demon-god. He was not sure the gods existed, but he knew that the evil within men did.
His thoughts shifted from resignation to hope. If the artifacts, the Ocul Tritae, had the power Daecora described, then they would be useful against the Set priests. He would no longer need to watch his people suffer under the pretense of righteous power held by those of higher blood. For once in his life, Sarkan would have the ability to take action if this spirit could wield gifts beyond what he already witnessed. And those gifts could be used to save his people.
“Very well spirit, if you wish to be free and are willing to aid me, I will help you. Where do we begin this search?”
[i]If you are to survive, we must make you stronger. And for that, you must die.[/i]