Chapter 1: The Mage and the Monarch

"The portal is ready my liege"

King Naknud, who was sharpening his sword, looked up.

"Well it's been about time," exclaimed Naknud. "What else is there to be done?"

"Not much," responded the sage. "Only ten minutes till high noon."

"I see, tell me when it has been eight minutes." King Naknud continued his sharpening. There was no need to prepare his sword in such a way, for it was one of the finest works of metal and sorcery in his kingdom. But decades of battle had ingrained in his skull the need to be prepared, always.

Three years of preparation had come to this; the day in which they harvest the fruits of their labor. The whole plan had been constructed by Drawnem, who, before becoming the court magician, was a mere hermit mage in the forest. But after being hired by the king, Drawnem was exposed to a plethora of books to study from and an abundance of capital to experiment with. Almost immediately after he was hired, the king gave Drawnem his first project as court Magician; to make his army invincible. So Drawnem toiled away for four years, traveling from library to library, country to country, to find the secret of true invulnerability. Until one day he took part in an archeological expedition in the far north-east. There, he and the archeologists found an ancient city buried deep in desert sand. Using his magic, Drawnem was able to expel the sand and together Drawnem and the Archeologists searched the lifeless city for precious information of the past. Drawnem, who explored the deepest dungeons, found a chamber whose only contents was a orb of dark purple. For days he studied the writings on the walls and deduced that the chamber was a hospital, specializing in magical regeneration. After he was finished studying the ruins, he came back to Naknud's kingdom of Revenda with the dark purple orb. For three months he placed countless spells and incantations on the orb in the hopes that it would activate and release its secrets. It was only when he took it outside did he realize that it was the sun that caused a reaction. At first the reaction almost killed him. But he quickly found a way to suppress its power. The orb, he found, could absorb the matter and souls of those unfortunate enough to succumb to its power. Additionally, he found that the stored matter and souls could be used to regenerate a person to full health. Of course, any healer could replicate this type of regeneration, except, the orb could also magically store matter within the recipient. So with the power of the orb, a person could lose an arm and it would immediately grow back using the stored matter. Additionally, if the recipient dies, the orb would use a stored soul to revive the recipient. The only drawback was that the recipient would then transform into the creature whose soul he consumed. And yet with so much power, the orb required a massive amount of energy and resulted in months of charging in the sunlight. So Drawnem drew out the calculations and determined that the orb could make one person invincible if it charged for a year and a half. Of course Naknud wanted to be the first candidate, and of course Drawnem wanted to be the second.

So three years later, in their gazebo, both the High Wizard Drawnem and the Benevolent Despot Naknud, waited. The sun illuminated the royal garden outside their shelter. Made of stone walkways, fountains, flowers and fruit trees this arrangement of pulchritudinous plants hid among the shadows of the scattered deciduous trees.

. . . . . . . . . .

Barbarous had finished the final incantations. For ten months now, he had been enchanting the Revada forest trees to produce a total of 568 enchanted trees. Even so it might not be enough. To have his 5680 trees compete with the Revada populace of about 700,000 was desperate. But what choice did he have? No one would believe him. With no credentials and little evidence to support his claim, how could he make the people understand? They would outcast him as a rebel not knowing that the king they are protecting would be the cause of their doom. Even if he did have their respect and some evidence, why would they believe him? Why would Naknud, the purger of famine, the orc slayer, the shield of Revada, commit such a crime? Why would Naknud sacrifice his people for his own personal gain? Naknud had grown his kingdom like a fruit and now he is ready to devour it.

"So sweet is the power gained," thought Barbarous. "but at what expense? His whole kingdom? Cursed are the motives of Naknud. And yet, a curse is exactly what I need."

Barbarous took his wolf pelt off of his hunched back and sat down on a stump. Around his waist he loosened a mossy rope that held a rabbit skin sack. Barbarous reached into the sack with his wrinkled fingers, blindly felt through the bag and pulled out a skinned mole.

"Hmmm, skinned mole," said Barbarous as he sunk his six black teeth into the juicy animal. It did not take long for him to finish the small creature. Barbarous discarded the bones, sighed and then looked up to the sky. There he saw the sun eagerly reaching its climax. The time to weave the last spell was soon. Barbarous then stood up and walked to an open area of the forest. He then closed his eyes, opened his arms and began to mutter incantations in the deep tone used for such druidic spells. Soon, wisps of blue light fluttered from his mouth and into the trees. In order to trick Naknud's spell, Barbarous disguised 5860 tree souls as his own. So instead of his own human soul being reaped, 5680 tree souls would be taken instead. As the last wisps of his sprit escaped his mouth, Barbarous shed a tear, sad that his corpse would never be able to feed the earth he loved do dearly. Barbarous's lifeless body then fell to the leaf covered floor, never to be seen again.

. . . . . . .

"It is time my lord"

Naknud looked up from his work for the second time that day. "Let's get ready then."

Drawnem took out a dark purple orb from his pocket and placed it on a silver pedestal. Then his placed his hand on the orb and closed his eyes. The sound of glass breaking emanated from the orb as Drawnem broke its protective magical barrier. He looked up and made a waving gesture towards the gazebo roof. A brown tarp, lying on the center of the roof, flew away. Underneath the tarp was a large magnifying window which was already displaying piercing beams of light haphazardly throughout the gazebo. As the sun rose so did the anticipation of the mage and monarch and eventually the sunbeams took their place and concentrated themselves as one white ray upon the dark purple globe. As the beam landed upon the globe the garden began to darken as if a large cloud blocked the sun. Soon the garden grew darker and colder until all one could see was the light beam, cutting through the dark like a vertical crack in the sky. Suddenly, Naknud felt a coldness in his heart as if ice was pressed to it. This feeling grew down to his stomach then into his limbs. Eventually, his skin went numb and the coldness continued to climb up his neck and towards his head. Naknud tried to fight it off and was concentrating all with all his will to block the intruder. But it wasn't enough. The coldness pushed through his defenses with ease and surrounded Naknud's brain. But just then, the sun started to tilt towards the earth, the garden began to lose its shadow and the orb's potent and powerful life source dispersed around the Gazebo. Naknud lost all feeling in his legs and fell. Drawnem of course was prepared and brought a protective amulet for himself. As Drawnem looked around the garden though, he saw withered flowers, dead trees and parched fountains. Exactly as planned. Now that he had successfully tested the unprotected power of the orb, he was ready to release its true potential. Wasting no time he cast a simple levitation spell upon the orb. It floated up and hit the window with a tiny "clink." Drawnem winced. He cast another levitation spell on the window and carefully meandered the orb around the window and placed it back in its original position. When the orb was about twenty feet above the gazebo he suspended it there. He then reached into his pocket and took out a small, black leather, zip cord bag. Inside the bag were four diamonds about the size of acorns. He carefully took one out, zipped the bag up and put it back in his pocket. Drawnem held up the diamond and chanted arcane utterances. After a painfully long minute of chanting, the diamond disintegrated into black soot and the sound of chimes echoed through the air. Naknud, who recovered after his painful ordeal, stood up and saw surrounding the gazebo a pink and transparent magical shield. Drawnem smiled.

"Are you ready Naknud? After this there is no turning back. Are you prepared? Prepared to embrace immortality?"

Naknud's stomach fluttered with excitement but his energy was drained and he had to sit down on the Gazebo bench.

"There is no turning back now Drawnem. Continue with the spell."

"Very well," said Drawnem.

Drawnem placed his fingers upon his temples and closed his eyes. Trying to unleash the orbs power was like trying to ripping apart two powerful magnets. He would have to be swift and intense while releasing it. Drawnem took a deep breath and tested the orb's strength with a slight tug from his mind. It didn't move. Drawnem tugged harder until there was a slight release of the orb's power. From the outside the magical shield a sphere of darkness formed around the orb. Drawnem then pulled with all his might at the orb's magical barriers. The orb's barriers were ripped apart almost to their breaking point but they were not yet broken.

"By the gods," he thought. "It wasn't this difficult to open with the magnified light beam." Drawnem's grip on the orb began to slip.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Drawnem screamed.

From somewhere deep inside of him, Drawnem found a small pocket of strength and pushed. A deafening explosion erupted from above, and Drawnem was almost knocked off his feet. If it wasn't for the shield he probably would. Suddenly, their world was snuffed with blackness and silence. Naknud thought the explosion rendered himself deaf and blind. But Drawnem's footsteps upon the wooden floor quickly denied this. Drawnem cast an orb of light into the air and it floated to the center of the gazebo. It seemed dim and eerie as it cast long gazebo pillar shadows upon the surrounding magical shield. Drawnem went to one of the benches where a brown leather backpack was slumped to one side. He pulled out two, small, finely crafted, jeweled boxes from the sack and sat down besides the king, placing the boxes on the bench. Drawnem then pulled out another box from one of his deep pockets. This one was plain and made of smooth maple. Drawnem opened the box to and snuffed a generous amount of black powder from it. He then sighed and offered some to the king. When the king declined, Drawnem smiled.

"Why, it's not like it's going to kill you once we're done."