Thick black clouds obscured the night sky, shrouding the land in an unnatural darkness. The very sky seemed to boil with fury as the thunderheads riled and clashed. No one ventured outside after dark, not even just to the wood pile for some extra fuel for dying fires. An evil aura choked the lands, and it make those who could sense it shiver.
An old abandoned manor stood alone on some forgotten hill, it's outside covered by clinging ivy. The entwining vines had even toppled the walls in some places. The very manor seemed to be sinking into the soft ground of the hill.
At first glance it appeared a normal ruin, but a closer inspection revealed a starling fact. The manor emanated a reverse glow, meaning the tiny amount of light available on this dark night seemed to be swallowed by the manor itself. In fact, the building itself was only visible because it was darker than area around it. A black shape looming out of a black night.
Inside the manor, bits and pieces of a lost lifestyle lay scattered and broken. Slashed pictures and broken frames. A stone chess board shattered on the floor. Broken chairs leaning against the walls. A once grand table stood scarred and scratched in the ruined dining room. Too big to be carried out by looters, and more durable than the other shattered furniture. It was the only intact item in the entire house.
Standing at the head of the table, a tall figure loomed. Maybe the figure was obscured by a cloak with the hood drawn up, maybe it was the source of reverse glow. Either way, all that was visible was a dark shape vaguely resembling a tall man. Other more visible figures ringed the table, leaving the foot of the table empty. They were identifiable as men whose faces were masked, and their heads hooded.
Two stood nearly as tall as the dark figure at the head of the table, their eyes shifting back and forth unseen behind their masks. Two more were short and squat, wheezing slightly, perhaps out of fright.
"I have called you four here so you may receive your instructions." Spoke the figure at the head of the table, a piercing shriek that sounded like metal being bent out of shape. It made every hair on every neck for miles around stand on end. The effect on the four gathered around the table was even more visible. The tall figures began shifting their feet as well as their eyes, and the wheezing from the squat ones increased ten fold.
"The time to execute the plan is at hand," continued the figure, "while I will handle the most important part myself, each of you will have a task that is as vital to this plan as my own. The very thought of the price of failure should make you all swoon and wheeze a hundred times over." The figure spoke the last sentence in an even shriller, more commanding tone. All four figures began to pant as if running as fast as they could away from this horrid place, three of them swaying on the spot.
"As your identities will remain hidden, even from each other, so shall your instructions." With that said, the figure spun the dark area of space where its' face should have been and glared right at the tall figure immediately on its' right. Immediately the tall figure began to convulse, rocking back on its' heels so far it seemed almost ready to topple over, but unable to by some unseen force.
After a few moments, the figure collapsed on the ground and just lay there twitching. Then the figure next to the first began to convulse. After another few moments, it too fell, and the process was repeated with the next and then the one after that.
Finally all four lesser figures were sprawled out on the ground, lying in twitching whimpering heaps. The spine tingling figure at the head of the table spoke once more.
"You now have your instructions…" It began, but a deafening crash interrupted. Whatever caused the sound, also made the entire manor shake as if about to fall down.
A small servants door on the side of the great hall opened just enough to allow a slender form dressed in servants livery slip through. It's eyes were downcast, never even rising as it spoke.
"The Templar are here in force my lord." It spoke, then slipped out the servants door just as quickly and quietly as it had arrived.
"You have your instructions, go, I will handle the Templar. I don't need to add a threat about what will happen to anyone who gets caught…"
One moment the four figures were whimpering on the ground. The next they were sliding out the back of the house so quick, you would think they were on fire, and there was a lake in back of the manor.
Footsteps pounded in the hallway, and the door to the grand hall was smashed down by some unseen force. Several armored men rushed through the gaping doorway, smashing the frame in their haste.
Before anyone could react, the dark figure whirled around, sending its' cloak billowing behind unseen shoulders. There was a blinding flash, and deafening crack, and three of the Templar fell dead, smoke billowing from the gaps in their armor.
"Launch! Launch!" Screamed one of the remaining Templar. All seven of those who still lived pointed weapons or hands at the dark figure, and sent streams of energy flying across the room towards it. The spells stopped just short when they struck an invisible barrier.
Suddenly a huge torrent of water dropped out of no where, slamming all the Templar to the ground, and washing them out the doorway and back into the hall in sputtering, flapping heaps. The figure then seemed to vanish in a blur backwards out the rear door of the great hall.
Alathan stood atop the hill next to the manor and watched the ten Templar under his command sprint the open ground towards the manor. He watched as Gosric snatched boulders from the under the soft peat and hurled them at the manor doors, crushing them to splinters.
He then watched as all ten vanished inside the manor, lost to his sight, but not to his other senses. He sensed the blast of air that Mualdar used to slam open the doors to the main hall. He even could tell when this mysterious being they were sent to arrest cast it's own spell. He had no idea what it was, but he could tell it was using magic. He didn't need the faint sound of Rajjan's command to launch reaching his ears to know seven Templar hurled spells. Only seven, that meant three were incapacitated, or dead.
With a regretful sigh Alathan contemplated his own fate. He would much rather be down there with the men, sprinting headfirst into danger without a thought of his own life, lost in a battle lust. After sixty two years of doing just that, his forced retirement hit home harder than a mace to the head. The only reason he was even on this mission was because Rajjan doesn't have the needed experience to be a full leader yet.
With another exasperated sigh he reached down and picked up a small stone, and began to crush it in his gnarled hand.
Rajjan's voice once again floated across the deserted moor. "Let's go launch! I want that barrier shattered!" So he wasn't dead after all, small comfort to Alathan alone on the hill, 'watching' events unfold.
Sifting through the waves of magic he was sensing coming from the ruined manor, he could tell which seven Templar still lived. But there was something else, a cold shiver on the back of his spine. He could track the source of the chill as if there was a beacon above the place it stood.
Whatever this spell caster is, it's magic isn't normal, and far more powerful than seven Templar. Those seven were still trapped behind an invisible barrier, unable to pursue the spell caster. Alathan could tell the unnatural one was climbing upwards, no doubt towards the roof.
Coming to a split second decision, he dropped the crushed rock he had pulverized unconsciously in his hand. A fine powder fell to the ground, a measure of his anger. Able to crush a stone to the finest crystals.
Putting his aggression towards a speed only an air Templar could match, he sprinted towards the manor. Determined to show those above him that an old Templar is not a useless one, him least of all. He would single handedly capture this spell caster where ten others failed.
Just as Alathan was drawing close enough to the manor, the figure appeared on the roof. A blue glow surrounded one of its' hands, and a portal began to open.
Using muscles strengthened by eighty years of work with magical energy, Alathan leaped towards the roof of the manor, catching himself in an updraft of air that sent him high enough to clear the walls of the manor, and land on the roof.
Sprinting forward, he took control of the air around the opening portal, and crushed the blue sphere down to the size of an apple. He then lashed out with a band of air, wrapping it around the figure's arms and legs.
"Submit!" Alathan screamed, "You are helpless!"
Spinning around, despite being shackled by the air it stood in, the dark figure swung its' hand in line with Alathan and let fly a spell. Certain the dark ball of energy would end his life in an instant, Alathan dove on the ground in sheer fright, loosing control of his ineffective bonds, but somehow maintaining his hold on the portal. He felt the breeze as the ball passed by his head.
Acting on pure instinct, Alathan pointed his finger at the figure from where he lay, and a bolt of lighting lashed out, only to be stopped by yet another invisible barrier. A sizzling sound, and the bright flash were the only indication that anything had happened at all. The figure stood, completely unruffled and unharmed.
Showing the horrible temper common in air Templar, as well as the all too familiar battle lust, Alathan leapt to his feet, drawing his old and trusted sword from his back as he rushed head long at the figure. With a mighty blow fit to cleave open the skull of a rock giant, Alathan brought his sword onto the head of the figure.
The effect was hardly what one would expect. Alathan and his sword rebounded as if he had struck a rock giant, the old but sturdy blade shattering close to the hilt. Alathan himself was thrown backwards into a part of the rooftop that slanted upwards so hard that he shattered the slate roof, and even the beams below cracked.
Too dazed to comprehend, Alathan just sat there, trying to make sense of the images he saw when they wouldn't stop spinning, and there were little white spots swimming all around.
An unseen force picked him up by his throat, seeming like it would choke the life out of him. "Did you really think you could best me old man, when ten of your minions failed? Not even together could the eleven of you even hope to defeat me. I could crush all of you like the bugs you are, but I think I'll leave you alive for now. I think it will be much more amusing to see what happens now that your precious unbreakable sword, that weapon that is like an extension of your body, has shattered. Nobody has ever shattered a Templar's weapon before."
Flinging Alathan away, the figure shattered the prison of air surrounding his portal, then stepped through, the blue expanse closing behind him. The last thought Alathan had before he hit the ground was how that voice made every hair on his body stand on end, and was almost too much for his ears to bear.
Authors Note: I know this opening needs some work, but I've been away from writing for a while and am having some difficulty jumping back into it. Any constructive criticism is appreciated, and don't worry, I know I jumped right in without explaining anything. It will all be explained in the next chapter.