The Other Side Of The Greater Game


Contact Details
Latest Knews
Fan Fiction
Just For Laughs
What They Say About This Site
Related Links
The Chrysalis - Prologue


"To win a war with an enemy, one must first win a war with oneself."

-  Toldriss the Enchanter, 704 AD.



   Treguard had had little choice but to open the Knightmare Challenge to people of almost any age, and even from different times. The Gruagach's original idea behind the Challenge had been to lure the few virtuous men of the Norman Angevin dominion on what they thought would be an honourable test of their gifts as warriors, but which in truth would end in their certain deaths, thus gradually bringing an end to the Age of Chivalry in England. With Folly's aid, Treguard had defeated the demon and banished it from the physical world, allowing Treguard to reclaim the Castle of his birthright and become the Dungeon Master. From there Treguard was able to turn the false image of the honourable Challenge into some kind of reality, by making it a proving ground for honest warriors to perhaps replace the valiant knights the Gruagach had slain.

   With the rebirth of Good within the Dungeon, the elemental druid-wizard Merlin had been free to re-emerge in the physical world he had once been banished from by King Arthur's sister, the Sorceress Morgana le Fay. Merlin took up residence within the obscure levels of the Castle itself, and with his help all appeared to be going well. Although no-one else appeared to be able to actually Master the Dungeon, with Merlin's power it was now possible to revive them beyond the walls, so that at least they could carry on doing good deeds in the real world.

   Treguard found that he was even enjoying being a Dungeon Master, and even the failure of quests didn't seem to bother him - at the very least they appealed to his sense of humour.

   But then darkness re-emerged, and from a most unexpected source. At some point, Treguard couldn't say when, he couldn't say why, something happened to Merlin. It was as though life in the Dungeon was unhinging him. On the second level of the Dungeon he was still the Merlin that Treguard knew and trusted. A bit forgetful all of a sudden, some of the old sharpness of his mind seemed to have disappeared, the crafty mischief for which he had always been rightly famous had almost dissolved, but the prevailing goodness and wisdom in him were there.

   Whenever he entered the third level though, it all changed. The all-encompassing darkness of Level Three seemed to take hold of him and he would become, well, another person. Here the craftiness would return, but the morals that had always tempered it now seemed to be the element in his persona that had dissolved. He wasn't just mischievous, he became irritable, even hostile. At first Treguard just ignored it, assumed it was nothing more than the irascibility of advanced (incredibly advanced) age and a man set in his ways.

   But as the weeks passed the problems got worse and worse. When on Level Two, Merlin's forgetfulness became increasingly pronounced and alarming, to the point when on one occasion he actually forgot that he was holding onto his favourite amulet, the Talisman of Fortune, and absently dropped it into a cauldron of gravewert that he was boiling up to develop into a reconstruction spell. To Merlin's horror, within seconds the Talisman dissolved from its physical form into three fragments of magical power that disappeared and scattered into different parts of the Dungeon, and it was several years before it would be retrieved for him by a Dungeoneer.

   On the other hand, while on Level Three, Merlin's temper had become so erratic that on one occasion he launched a spell of lightning into the antechamber to silence Treguard, just for interrupting him. All that Treguard had done was to offer him a quick game of chess while waiting for the next Dungeoneer to arrive!

   In hindsight, what followed a few days later was perhaps inevitable, but one who is in denial about his ailments, and others who simply have little knowledge of magic, were blind to it. On one of his ventures into Level Three, Merlin suddenly failed to answer Treguard's summons to the antechamber for a consultation about a minor matter involving a message received from the King. Concerned that something might have happened to the sorcerer, Treguard decided to enter the Dungeon in person.

   When he reached the Third Level, he found Merlin. And yet not Merlin. He was stood in a small courtyard, both his arms spread out above his heads, and also reaching down below them. This might sound impossible but the sorcerer seemed to be in a flux, almost mutating. Merlin appeared to have two heads, four arms, and at least four legs. He looked at Treguard with a strange gurgled scream of recognition, the only light in his tortured eyes the glimmer of appeal for release from his anguish.

   "Hhhgggg-eellllllpp meeee-aaaaggghhh!" the sorcerer managed to cry. With one of his flailing arms he managed to point to the dragon-sword, Wyrmslayer, which was secured to Treguard's belt. Then Merlin ran a finger across his own throat. Treguard knew immediately what Merlin was indicating and refused point blank.

   "I'm not going to kill you!" he protested desperately.

   "Pppppllllleeeeeez!" Merlin wailed.

   It took Treguard long moments to finally do as Merlin had begged. In the end, the realisation of the unbelievable agony that the sorcerer was enduring was too much. Treguard slowly drew Wyrmslayer, took position, gripped the hilt so firmly that his knuckles went white, screwed his eyelids so tightly closed that they hurt... and struck.

   The blast of power that hit Treguard was so powerful that he was thrown against the nearest wall and was out cold for several minutes. When at last he came round, he looked up and there followed what must have been the earliest instance in history of someone dreaming up the idea of stereo. He saw Merlin, alive, reasonably well, standing by the exit to the chamber, throwing small bolts of lightning across the chamber at Merlin, who was also alive and well and throwing bolts of flame across the chamber back at Merlin.

   Treguard looked down, shook his head a couple of times, looked up again, and saw that he had not been imagining it - there really were two Merlins here. The one throwing flames looked older than ever, his beard and hair longer and whiter than ever, his colourful robes more bright and eye-twisting than ever. The other appeared a little younger, without actually appearing young. He was clean-shaven, his robes as black as pitch, his face so deathly white it gave Treguard a frightening reminder of coming face-to-face with the Gruagach.

   "Quail, you doddering fool!" the lightning-thrower thundered (appropriately enough), "Quail at the feet of Mogdred!"

   The older one remained quiet, and continued blocking the bolts and hurling balls of flame back at his twin.

   "My mother destroyed you with good reason, Merlin," continued the one calling himself Mogdred. "You will go back to the netherworlds you belong in. Then I shall live again with your darkest power!"

   "Merlin!" cried Treguard, grasping Wyrmslayer and hauling himself to his feet.

   The two sorcerers stopped and looked at him. Treguard held the sword up, warningly against either of them stepping toward him.

   The flamethrower nodded quietly. "It is I, Treguard." He gestured at his black-robed foe. "It is also him. And yet not him."

   The lightning-thrower looked at Treguard contemptuously. "Do not interfere with us, you scrap of festering insignificance!" he growled. "This is a matter of the highest magic. You have no place here."

   From this, Treguard had quickly worked out whose side he was on, and turned on Mogdred who, realising he was outnumbered, chose to withdraw, vanishing to a different chamber of the Level.

   Merlin cast a spell taking himself and Treguard back to the Dungeon antechamber where he explained what had happened. Centuries before, Morgana le Fay had banished Merlin to the netherworld. Therefore it looked as though the King of the Britons, Arthur, would be forced to fight not only the Saxon barbarians, but also his evil half-sister and her first son Mordred, alone. From the netherworlds, however, Merlin had been able to re-enter the world one last time through the landscape of people's dreams, and managed to trick Mordred into slaying Morgana. Thus both Arthur and Mordred were forced to do battle without their respective mentors. It was the final battle for them both, Arthur slaying his nephew with the magical might of Excalibur, while Mordred, with his last dying action, struck a fatal sword blow to the King's skull.

   Mordred's ghostly spirit had sensed the source of the trickery that had led him to matricide, and intent on revenge, followed it to the netherworlds, where Merlin was waiting for him. The two spirits did battle, before Merlin finally defeated Mordred by entrapping his essence within his own. There Mordred's spirit mingled with Merlin's, but was incapable of becoming dominant. Thus it became no more than a part of the dark side of Merlin's nature.

   When Merlin had re-entered the physical world through the Dungeon of Knightmare, Mordred's spirit was reawakened and reinvigorated by the cloying vestiges of the Gruagach's evil that still existed in Level Three. For months, almost subconsciously, the two spirits within Merlin's being resumed their terrible duel. In Levels One and Two, where the presence of dark magic was fleeting and weak, Merlin had been the stronger. But in Level Three Mordred became the more powerful, which was why Merlin had become so malignant there. The two sides of his personality slowly became more and more fractured and remote from each other. The canny, mischievous side became one with the aggression and greed of Mordred, while losing touch with the rest of his mind, which was why the Merlin of the upper Levels was becoming so absent-minded.

   But the war for control of Merlin was still undecided. Neither one was even able to gain the upper hand, let alone defeat the other. Therefore Mordred drew Merlin into Level Three, where with remnants of the Gruagach's dark magic he attempted the next best thing. He tried to physically separate off the evil and good halves of Merlin from each other into two separate bodies. Merlin's conscious self finally realised what was happening, and tried to stop it, but this was a battle that he was losing. When Treguard arrived he'd hoped that the Dungeon Master would slay him and at least bring an end to Mordred with him. Instead the dragon-blade merely finished the evil deed. It cleaved Merlin's soul into two, cut the evil from the good, and they split off into separate enchanted forms. Merlin's good side lived on in one, while the darker side of Merlin's nature, mingled with Mordred's evil and distorted by the Gruagach's power, lived on in the other as Mogdred.

   A new evil to control the magic of the Gruagach, a new terror to wield the demon's dreadful power. But at least Merlin still existed to stand against him within the Dungeon, and with Treguard as Dungeon Master, it might be possible to at least keep him contained.

   But then Mogdred left the Dungeon and headed South to meet King John. Treguard had been horrified by the stupidity of the King, who, doubtless under the influence of the necromancer, proclaimed Mogdred as his Governor of the North, and abolished the Knightmare Challenge. It was as though the King's desperation to keep the Saxons under his thumb had even led him to support a creature that, if it could learn to wield its power beyond the Dungeon's walls, would be capable of overthrowing the entire world. Mogdred retrurned to the Dungeon days later in malign triumph, knowing that his plans would not have to suffer any interference from the Normans.

   So with no hope of gaining further help against Mogdred from anywhere within England, Treguard followed Merlin's suggestion by continuing the Challenge illegally and to look to other worlds, even other times, to find help. Unfortunately, too many time zones included people who refused to get involved in anything so dangerous - who could blame them - or just refused to believe his bizarre declaration that he was speaking to them from the Past - again, who could blame them? However, he'd eventually found a time centuries into the future where technology had advanced so far that adventure in any real sense had all but ceased to exist. Unfortunately, the only people he could call upon from there were very young indeed, some of them not even teenagers, as anybody older he spoke to very wisely spotted the terrible danger of getting involved, but small help was better than no help. And to be honest, he once again found their bumbling failures quite amusing.

   Now, some years later, he was beginning to rethink that mirth. The lack of success of these future timers was becoming genuinely worrying. Over forty Dungeoneers from the future had entered the Dungeon to this point, and so far only three of them had succeeded.

  Now though, in the year 1216, there was a new dawn - the dawn of Magna Carta. It offered a new avenue of hope to the naive, but Treguard knew full well that the King would not follow through on his promises, that Mogdred would thus retain the Governorship, and that it would be impossible for Treguard to build the army of Northguards required to finally rid himself of the necromancer. He needed help from some other source...