To feel that one has a place in life solves half the problems of contentment.

Ba'erthius -- Water Monk of Temples West


Armdoon lay in the Eastern reaches of Lodus; far from Allroy and the Imperial Cities and South of the Forests of Earthpoint. A major trade hub between the kingdoms of the Basilus Empire and Paran'ardis, the streets were paved in white marble as were many portions of every building. Many nobles still web themselves to this large city even after the fall of trade twenty years before. When the dangerous forests of Vaybod burned during the old conflicts of the mages of Allroy and the Basilus empire, many new trade routes were opened leaving Armdoon in a drought.

And thusly it had stayed, the white city's core decayed, leaving only the tall outer towers; home of the nobles, and their minor collection of housing free from the starvation and want that infested the rest of the fallen metropolis. The streets were cracked and uneven. With the many once beautiful taverns, churches and pillared buildings now like that of an olden corpse; slowly falling apart as wind, like carrion birds, ate at their edges.

And there could not have been a better place for the advent of religion.

The light of Aritasha and Masasihadda shone through the center of Armdoon with many priests and monks serving to aid the hunger and frustration the people suffered from. Erected in the very apex of the city rested a massive statue of a women in robes fiercely wielding a halberd as water flowed from the base that she stood. Fresh water, a rare jewel, resided in this fountain as many flocked to see the grace and benevolence of the Gods.

Small beads of water trickled down his bare head and face as he knelt in reflection over The Goddess' likeness. Occasional dots of water sprayed his features as it fell the distance from Aritasha's feet to the waiting pool below. The last breath of his meditation was long lasting and he held air from his lungs before opening his blue eyes with the intake of breath.

"Done with your meditation I see." Came a voice along the fountain. He could hear the children playing now and it was indeed a boisterous square, where many of the hopeless convened. "Perhaps you can help in the sermon to our patron gods this afternoon Nayden?" The priest's voice was warm, inviting and matched the smile beneath his short, but grayed, beard.

Nayden shook his head as he stood,

"I'm glad you still try after all this time Father Cain, but we do not drink from the same waters." The two bowed to each other deeply,

"Surely a monk like yourself, disciplined as you are, could find a place within Aritasha's light?" It was then that Nayden took stock of the priest's clothes. Each of the Priests of Aritasha had fine silken robes of various colors; Cain's being a royal red and gold, probably supplied by the lingering nobles. It was said that these fine robes distinguished them from the local populace and even supplied hope that perhaps one day the city would rebound from their current situation.

Nayden found it a gross display of authority.

"Not today I'm afraid. Aritasha would be loath to hear my words."

"Nonsense!" Cain spoke adjusting the book of the gods under his arm. But before he could continue Nayden had bowed again and began walking down the cracked marble street. The backs of his loose brown pants drug lazily on the ground, though they used to be a blue. The same was with the shirt he wore, so long used that its color had warped and long since had his shoes worn to be unusable. Though his clothes were beaten, he still had more than most here.

Laughing distracted him and he turned to see a group of children playing as a smile spread across his face.

"Nay! Why don't you play with us?" One of the small children called, a small blond headed girl named Marin. The monk nodded slowly and walked with a quick pace to join the children.


"Those are fine clothes..." The first hood began, drawing a knife on the stranger as his accomplice joined in,

"Not as nice as the priests, but we'll look great in them." The second mocked as he drew a long sword whose edges were dull and cracked. They're clothes matched everyone else's here, tattered, dirty and some even seemed to have collected a bit of slime. A hood and cape covered the man, but as he snapped his hands before him, the black sleeves underneath flared back to leave his arms bare. Sun seemed to shine dully from his black, scaled arms.

"Our victim is sick, this outta be even easier…" The first said and arched his back with the first step, preparing to charge the man. He only made it one step before a bare foot blotted out his world. Fumbling his dagger, the man fell wholly backwards, disturbing a pile of trash that lay behind him.

"Dain..." Came the voice of a monk they all knew too well. The expression Dain held when he was first struck stayed with him as pain surged through his face and blood ran from his nose. "You know, everyone knows, that if you poison the water you drink from we will all surely perish. Should this happen again I may not be here to save you."

Dain's partner in crime dropped the sword and ran from the dirty alleyway the moment the monk had showed and as Dain himself rose, with the help from the monk, he walked slowly back towards the main square.

"Yes Nayden..." Smacking the dust from his hands the monk turned, satisfied, to the stranger with a knowing smile. The figure didn't move.

"What's your name stranger? And what brings you to our humble city of Armdoon?" Pulling down his hood, the monk saw chin length light brown hair and the angry, hazel eyes behind them.

"I can handle myself monk." His voice was harsh and spoken through a tone of grit teeth, "I didn't need you to step in with those children." The monk responded quickly and without hesitation,

"You needn't my strength..." He started before he was interrupted,

"The name's Clydus and I have to leave." Brushing past the monk, Clydus proceeded into the open street when he heard the steps following him.

"Nayden Stair, Freyja of the Water Temple's of Lodus." He pronounced in a proud manner, not overbearing but certainly confident.

"Where's the Eastern gate then, Nayden?" Clydus asked as he stopped looking over his shoulder. He could hear the water trickling from the fountain and the counting games the children were competing in.

"And lo! There was a great light from Masasihadda and in the form of his rebuke, the sword to cut the heavens grazed Battizon, casting him to the abyss from whence chaos originated!" His words took up the man's entire chest to say, booming as they were so as to fill the square with his voice.

The monk smiled and shook his head,

"Not until you reveal why you've come to grace our waters."

"I'm running!" Clydus said, spinning about to face the monk, "From a dark army that is after the crown of Lodus. I flee them until I can find a way to get my possessions back." His eyes were blazing and serious.

"Indeed." The monk say, folding his arms behind his back, "Allow me to escort you to the gate." He bowed and they proceeded in the opposite direction. Clydus' boots were heavy behind the monk as he surveyed his surroundings. Armdoon was a city of spires, they rose from nearly every building in a grand crescendo that pervaded skyward. Each building looked regal once and seemed to hold a religious significance as carved runes adorned each door and spire. Old magic rested on these buildings, but their smell was long gone now, eroded by the ages of battles that tore across their surface. Much like the conflicts of Lodus. Peacemakers had no place here, he thought as the sound of Cain's sermons dulling in volume with each step they took for several minutes.

"What will you do?" Nayden asked, with a sidelong glance over his shoulder. Clydus narrowed his eyes,

"What about, monk?"

"When you regain your possessions, what will you do?" It was a quick answer,

"Kill Armadeus and Taer'phion, the generals of the Asher Army." Nayden looked forward, nodding emphatically,

"Exciting. Then? Will you take control of this army?" There was a long silence. A breeze blew between them then and they both stopped, Nayden in response to Clydus.

The monk had started to ask a further question when his guest began blowing wind from his nose. Sniffing and then puffing his nostrils, the same Nayden had seen children do when something that smelled awful was in the air. Except this was much more violent than simply blowing air; Clydus wiped his nose frantically, shook his head and then finally began looking about, suddenly panic stricken.

The sky flared with oranges and reds as the sun began to set and a dark point rested high above the city, progressively growing larger. Nayden saw it too as he commented,

"A strange occurrence."

"Vile magic!" Clydus spat as the pinprick of darkness expanded exponentially and wavered; a massive dark teardrop. The sky turned a darker red and fell towards Armdoon's square. The two raced back, moving as one.

The ink began floating in specks upwards and dissolving in the air. The Necromancer's spell had worked, and brought them here. Something that made the titan, Archarus emit a chest heaving laugh as the children fled. He stood a much taller than any man, towering nearly eight feet from the ground.

"People of Armdoon! You have provided a great service to us this day!" He laughed again, a gurgled thing that made the priest cringe. His armor was all curves and spikes with a triangled helmet that sloped backwards and a massive plume on his chest. Magical designs that mimicked the pattern of a blood blossom spread from his chest and down his arms, all red petals with white and black insides. Shouldering the jet blade over his shoulder he held out his free hand and balls of flame shot forth from his metaled hand. These spheres exploded on contact decimating the nearby building, normally where stores of food were kept. For a few moments, only the explosions could be heard, followed by the tumbling of the building as its foundations buckled. Dust shot out into the street and cast a fog between the soldiers and Cain.

A groaning emitted from a soldier next to him and Archarus held his tongue from barking the foul words he had stored. These were the losses of the attack on Castle Luce. Only, the Necromancer had brought them back. They now had white flesh, pointed teeth and ears and had a great propensity for slaughter. Archarus was proud to lead such a force into battle. They numbered several dozen and in a past life, one had even been a fair sorcerer.

It's then they spread, as if a torch had been tossed between them, drawing their swords and exotic weapons to begin their grim work. Archarus' ruined face twisted into a smile with the remaining portions of his lips. He began marching forward, through the dust and debris as it settled.

Dain tripped as the monster that chased him made a strange gurgling noise with the intake of each breath as if it's lunges and throat were covered in mucus. He breathed hard enough to cry as he struggled to crawl to his feet. A stiff boot to the back quelled his escapism and he fell into a pile of garbage. It was upon him then and marked him twice across the chest. Dain cried out but the monster wasn't finished. The formation of claws had destroyed his gloves as he heaved the boy to his feet, breathing rotting breath into his face.

"Please don't!" Dain pleaded but the creature's yellow, beady eyes only shot from here and there as they pondered what horrible things Dain could only imagine. It flinched then, probably moving to attack, but it's efforts were culled when Dain thrust the sword up through the bottom of it's chin. It's eyes crossed and a stink rose into the air the likes that he'd never experienced before. They fell together and Dain vomited several times and a cold sweat enveloped him. The cracked, dull sword his friend had dropped earlier had just saved his life. Struggling to his feet walked to the end of the alleyway just in time to see another white face monster looming over a small girl.

"Marin!" He cried as another explosion rocked the square, sending a new wave of fog between him and his sister. The monster brought it's sword up as the girl crawled on her hands and knees, tears falling from her eyes as she sobbed, then struck. His sword met cracked, dullened metal. Slime dripping from it's maw it slowly turned to see Dain. Knocking the sword free, Dain was stuck down onto the now broken fountain of Aritasha with a new wound across his face. Marin struggled and the monster marked her back as well, laughing in curdled breaths as he advanced for the killing blow.

Dain moaned in pain as his leg slipped and he fell pathetically to the ground. Then the sun was blotted out and the darkness of a shadow covered him. He heard the hiss of a sword and cowered.

Clydus landed with green gore dripping from his blade and Dain saw that he was in the finishing animations of a strike. His eyes then shot to the monster whose neck was missing it's mate of a head and its hands went limp. Catching the blade, Clydus cut a cross in the next enemy, first up then left to leave it, too, without a cranium. He then rushed through the fog of smoke, swords cutting with blazing speed.

"Get up! Your sister needs you!" He heard Nayden call as another monster flew past him, tumbling uselessly past, "The guards and I will cover your retreat, just get to the Eastern Gate with the others." Dain felt the monk's hands grip his collar and toss him to his feet. One of his eyes was useless as blood dripped into it but he knew his way. Scooping up his ball of a crying sister, Dain rushed through what had become an ethereal miasma. Nayden spun and saw Cain stumbling over dead bodies,

"Everyone's leaving, why not you?!" He called but Cain merely shook his head as he began chanting, holding his hand out, stiffened in front of him.

My Lady and Lord, guide me in the destruction of this evil and allow the people of Armdoon to escape…

Please…

White fingers of magic exploded from Cain's feet and spun in feathery waves. Mist blew back from him and he cast his hand forward,

"To arms, guardians of Allroy!" He cried and from the bright aura around him, six ghostly men appeared with massive swords. Many creatures emerged from the mist then and were viciously struck down by the ghostly warriors. Nayden shot forth into the fray as well and the forces were being steadily driven back.

Snapping his body tight, Clydus not only blocked the attacks of two lurching monsters, but blew them back. They stumbled and he shot forward, driving both tips into the chest of the monsters and ripping outward. Their gurgled cry seemed to deflate as their rotting insides spilled out onto the cracked, fading marble ground. Sliding past Aritasha's statue he joined with the priest and shook his head to clear himself of the distractions his magic cast. That's when he heard it, the familiar laughter of his once commander.

"A fine effort…" Archarus choked then continued, "Armdoon will be ours cretins!" Clydus' teeth marred as they ground against each other,

"Archarus!" he cried casting aside his cloak to reveal the same black outfit that the undead warriors were equipped with, equally as tattered and worn as one freshly buried. Heavy footfalls lead Archarus through the mist, his sword dripping crimson from the slain guards. Clydus could almost hear the arrogant smile in his commander's tone,

"Clydus, my traitor of an officer, how good to see you again." A guard flew through the mist then, jabbing a spear into the chest of Archarus ineffectually before he was batted aside in two. The weapon rolled and Clydus dropped his swords to pick up the spear,

"You won't ruin anymore lives Archarus, you or that wretched Sorcerer!" His movements flowed as he shot the spear from his hands with the muscles in his entire body. The shaft's flight was true and ended too quickly for the titan to respond, it dug deeply in his chest. Blood fell within his armor but Archarus was still pleased to break the wooden weapon like a small branch, at least had Nayden not gotten there first. Airborn, the monk was on the beast within a moment's notice, running as soon as Clydus retrieved the weapon, driving the stake with his heel and a strong kick.

Burbling, gore spilled from his chest and helmet as he fell backwards with a massive slam. Clydus and Nayden both were breathing heavily when the mist cleared to reveal a nightmare. They were surrounded by enemies on all sides and they slowly began to press in over the many bodies of citizens and guards. They gazed over their pretty with thoughtless, hungry eyes that seemed to drive Clydus into a blood frenzy for he blew past Nayden and into the middle of nearly eight opponents, slashing wildly. The monk turned to see the greatest threat however, an undead in mage robes that was moving his hands in arcane passes; he was casting. Nayden ran over the body of the titan, his feet pushing hard against the ground.

The spell finished before he arrived however, and six ogre fiends appeared in front of the Sorcerer. Each was six feet of red skin, thick muscles and various patterns of horns as their black eyes looked over the carnage, conspiring on their first victim. A process that was made much easier as Nayden came hurtling at them.

Leave them. There's no time!

Cain began another spell as he heard the calling. Over quick passes and many spoken phrases the priest began to feel the magical conjurings of his Lady.

Clydus pulled back, limping from the wounds on his legs and breathing heavily. They had gotten lucky and scored him several times. They lurched forward, even over the many, many corpses of their comrades to push their swords on the traitor as he stumbled back.

Nayden leapt, gored an ogre in the chest and vaulted over him onto the mage. Two punches struck the mage's face before a magical aura enveloped him, many black fingers, tossing him high into the air. His clothes beat against him noisily as he passed in height of even the tallest noble's tower, the mage and ogres only small markers on the ground. He'd heard of this, how mages found joy in eliminated their enemies in cruel and satisfying way. The monk took a deep breath as his momentum faded; he listened to the far away sounds of the conflagration below as he sought peace.

It would take all of his magic and more to cast this spell but he would risk that. Withdrawing a knife from his robes a thin line was cut across Cain's palm.

My Lady, please forgive my past sins and allow these people to escape.

Clydus fell back, a collection of wounds growing now, as the undead fell upon him. Then the smell threatened to overwhelm him, like spoiled ozone, as he found a white glow begin envelope his vision and he fell back, unconscious. Nayden experienced similar phenomena as the spires of Armdoon fell closer and closer. The monk heard singing at first and he fell into a peaceful sleep as the wind beat against his ears.