Arkin Moonlight surveyed the damaged field. All around him small fires were being put out by startled and rattled townsfolk. No one here knew of course that he was a magus of the highest regard. In truth it was probably better that way. The last few hundred years had been hard because of magic users and the hatred ran deep still. So keeping the worn cloak he wore wrapped tight against the chill wind he walked around the left over battlefield.
The Township of Haggfast was under imperial strong-arm and so several guardsmen in the shiny helmets and fur cloaks were poking around. All around them were hundreds of bodies, many of them burned to a crisp. The couples that were distinguishable were just barely. They were grey skinned orcs with full black iron armor and weapons. Arkin put away the implications of that for later and continued on his search.
The fireball that had been cast must have been enormous and Arkin guessed it would have taken someone with tremendous power to do such a thing. Arkin himself could throw a few fireballs the size of a horse but afterward he needed to sleep for a few days. The mage that did this should be dead but some clue to his identity would still be possible.
After a time the field was starting to be cleared and Arkin decided that the magus had survived. Turning with a sigh and trying not to worry about the power used here, he started for the tree line so that he could use his teleporting staph. As he did he looked along the perfectly burned tree line. The trees were almost cut by the fire and many of them were burned almost with amazing care.
Arkin had an idea and hurried his pace to the inner wood. The Imperial guardsmen all looked around stumped but growing worry dotted each face. They payed the old man very little if any attention. As he entered the woods and hoped over rocks and fallen logs he reached out with his mind and called for his companion animal, Whoot, the owl. The massive barn owl was hunting and grew slightly irritated at having been summoned. The wizard pushed a picture of two fat mice being feed to Whoot which seemed to make the bird happy.
The owl knew instantly what its master wanted done and flew high into the night's sky. Arkin always loved to look through Whoots large eyes and feel the night wind on his feathery face. The owl went up high and then turned so its head had a good view of the meadow below. As the wizard looked on in shock there was no denying the message burned in the land.
I am coming.
Feeling almost sick Arkin had to stop where he was and brace himself against a tree. The words burned into his mind and the nervous twitch of his eye instantly returned after nearly a hundred years of being all but dormant. Whoot swooped down and landed on a tree branch not far from his sick master. The bird did not seem to think that being nervous and worrisome was necessary. Wishing the bird could trade with him he finally stood up and continued to walk to a safe place to leave the area.
The Red Rose Inn always smelled of roasting meat and ale. Fibald Manatharel always came here during the night when he was not guarding the insane and powerful sorcerer, Sadathrus. In Etchatum, The City of Sand, there were only a few good taverns and Fibald loved this one more than any other. All around him Sadathrus's guardsmen drank, ate, and played.
The place was enormous with a second level which looked down at the fifty long tables strewn around the room. In the center was the fighting pit where some of the city's most famous arena fighters made their living. Large bosomed serving wenches wearing practically nothing sauntered around with tankards, winking and this and that.
On this particular night a large mercenary group had come in and taken over half of the Red Rose, The Bone men, all stood laughing and jesting at the guardsmen's expense. Sadathrus had ordered no fighting against the band as the wizards plans for them were to important. Fibald, who was normally an easy going man, was finding it hard to enjoy himself. One of the leaders of the troop, a giant of a man with several scars across his chest, Borigar, was growing drunk and loud mouthed about the quest there were soon to go on.
Fibald gritted his teeth as the big man yelled more and more of it. While much of the city was filled with Aranasie blood, loyal to Sadathrus, there were a few who still opposed him. Looking over at his men they all saw the evil look he shot Borigar. The Bone man noticed it to and turned with a smirk. "You have a problem, Fibald Manatharel? Maybe I should call you "Ghost King" Tell me...How fares Rostreal and the rest of the border lands?"
The warrior was up and on the table, his long sword, Kitecheon, ready for blood. A Bone man with double scimitars thought he was faster and jumped on the table to stop him. Fibald lunged into the man with an awkward slash. The foolish mercenary went for the fake and Fibald spun the sword at the last second across the side of the man's neck. Blood sprayed into the rest of his crew.
Borigar bellowed with rage and slammed his huge fist into the wooden table sending it crashing inward. "You dare?!" The giant screamed through his bone helmet. Fibald threw his thick black hair back and motioned for Borigar to come. The large man had never backed down from a fight. A large black iron mace stood beside him and he lifted it with ease. All around him his men took to arms.
The next bone man came from behind and swiped at Fibalds back. With quick feet Fibald shifted quick and sent his sword into the man's arm. Before the man could recover Fibald lifted his fist upward and pushed the lever on his palm sending his wrist blade out and into the man's eye. With a hard push the dead man fell into his friends sending more than a few down in a heap.
The sounds of battle filled his ears and Fibald suddenly lost himself. It happened anytime the warrior king was in the heat and thick of combat. Things slowed and his senses intensified. The blood of his ancestors, the protectors of Adalin, made him death to all his enemies. Two men rushed him trying for his feet thinking it the easiest way to tell him. Fibald jumped and spun right over the two of them. Landing behind them he quickly dropped down and with two deft strikes sent both men to their graves before they even hit the ground.
A smaller Bone man came with two daggers glittering in the candlelight. The small man fainted with one dagger while the other came low toward Fibalds belly. The move was fast and Fibald turned but caught the blade slightly against his ribs. The Bone man sprang back as Fibald sent his blades down which sent the attacker off balance. Fibald threw up his boot into the skinny man's balls and his blade into his throat.
Instinctively Fibald ducked down and rolled off the table. Something large sent the table into splinters with a crash. Fibald turned to see Borigar smiling, his bone helmet cracked, blood streaming down his face. "I will be the killer of the great Fibald!" The big man moved with amazing speed and bone jarring strength. The Black Iron mace swung through the air like a hawk in flight and Fibald threw up his blade in time to catch the brunt of the blow. More rained down on him and Fibald had to keep on the defense, his blade the only thing keeping him from being crushed to death.
Fibald turned to see the wall not far from his back and knew he had to move or get pinned. With a quick step Fibald appeared to stumble and Borigar's face lit up with satisfaction. The big man threw all his weight into the swing which would have popped Fibalds head like a gourd. At the last second Fibald rolled out of the deadly arc and was behind a surprised Borigar. Kitecheon sang as it went into Borigars back and out his stomach. Borigar looked down at his entrails hanging on the end of the sword and grunted before falling into a huge pile on the floor.
The sudden flash of light and the smell of sulfur filled the air. All of the guardsmen immediately went to their knees. Fibald simply laughed and turned hoping for more fools to keep his blade satisfied. All the Bone men stood back, most weary of the magic that Sadathrus now brought to the room. The mage himself was wearing his crimson robe with his face almost completely concealed in his hood. Across his fingers many rings were worn and each held powerful spells and enchantments.
"What is the meaning of this?" Sadathrus spoke with amplified magic behind his voice. All around Fibald the weakest started to cower in corners and tried to sneak out.
Fibald turned and bowed. "These Bone men are nothing more than common thieves. A real mercenary band would have given me and your men more trouble."
The sorcerer smirked, the irritation clear on his smooth face. "I need men who know the Northern Mountains. You just killed one of their leaders. This will cost me more gold."
"Your slaves make enough for me to kill a hundred score more," Fibald said nonchalantly. The warrior turned and sat down at the nearest table and grabbed a mug.
"I should have you killed, Border man," Sadathrus's voice was icy and cold.
A large man with an ogre skull for a cap stood up. A thick black beard was covered in blood and gore. " I am Thabus the wicked. I am now leader of this band now that fat Borigar is dead. No more payment is necessary. Borigar was always stupid and reckless."
Fibald chuckled. " See that magus. These men are so piss bloody scared of you they deny your gold." Chugging the ale down felt good after battle and finding a wench was definatly next on his list.
Sadathrus's fist clenched into balls; a small cloud began to form around his head. Guardsmen and Bone men alike scrambled to find shelter against the flood of magic. Fibald merely looked up and snorted. " You already know that doesn't scare me."
As quick as the rage came it seemed subside and the wizard's mouth sneered in irritation. " Thabus...the wicked is it? You will tell the other leaders of the Bone men to meet me in the castle tonight. Your time in the city is at its end." The mage turned sharply and with another bright flash of light and a crackle he was gone.
Fibald turned and eyed Thabus up and down then took another swig and sat back down at his table. The guardsmen around him soon had all the bodies gone from sight. The Black priest would have their hands full tonight. Within moments the sound of laughter and rivalry returned with a vengeance. A large breasted wench came and sat down on Fibalds lap and within moments he was ready to head to the second floor for some fun.
Sadathrus stood in his tower study and looked down through his huge balcony. The cool winds of the night would grow down right cold in a few short hours. It was a pity that the sorcerer couldn't feel the wind on his face from his nose and all the way to the top of his head. A thick layer of scar tissue covered his skull from a near deadly fight he had with his former mentor. Revenge was of course something in the back of his mind but it was not his most immediate goal.
The Sultan, Amagrait Titus, who was barely old enough to wipe his own ass had no idea of the power of scope of Sadathrus's plan. With a grin he turned to group of men sitting around his dark wood table. The wood was an ancient kind and almost impossible to get in the desert regions. This specific one held a fear spell and although it was very light it kept everyone at the table uneasy. Having the crazy border king, Fibald with his arms crossed at the door was equally making them all squeamish.
All of the men had been secreted to his room through the hundreds of secret tunnels in the walls of the palace. The Titus family and indeed the Aranasie kings before had been paranoid and secretive. The Sultan himself hadn't a clue of just how many tunnels there were. More than a few held the treasure's Sadathrus had obtained over the years and were almost impossible to get to. Only those most loyal to his goals were allowed in his study.
Many of the men were wealthy merchant lords of the free islands but there were also a handful of Imperial men as well. One of the most influential of them was a member of the Imperial Senate. All the men wore black robes and masks. Sadathrus wanted no one to get any thoughts of disloyalty by knowing another.
A large man stood up and growled more than spoke. " We came, mage. I for one had to travel for more than three months to get here. None of us have gotten where we are without your help and by the promises of great wealth. What is going on?"
Sadathrus grinned and his eyes bore into the big man till he took his seat. " The time for change is coming. In order to survive the coming storm we must be powerful and ready. Yes I have helped each of you and for good reason. We are going to usher in...," Sadathrus paused and watched as each man hovered on his every word. " A Titan."
The collective gasp was nothing short of marvelous. Another robed one stood up. " Great mage...surely you must be jesting us. The old gods were turned into Titans and forced to sleep by the True God. To wake one would mean the end of the world."
Sadathrus chuckled and put up his hands in slight defense. " We must fight fire with fire. Another Titan is already walking the earth." The gasp again was getting more amusing .
One of the hooded ones shook his head. " You are a powerful magus. The knowledge to awaken a Titan might be above even your power."
" I have spent over a hundred years searching for the knowledge. I know what must be done. That will be my task. From each of you I need armies," Sadathrus said as he walked around the huge table. Occasionally he reached out to one of his many tables to check some alchemy flasks or fix a crooked tome.
The large one growled again. " Armies? Ye think we have enough power to sway? My people will not fight for ye. To much bad blood."
Sadathrus looked over them all and gave them each a sly smile. " You all will accomplish this or die in the flames of the Titan. In order to raise an old god we must have armies to appease its hunger."
One of the robed men had a considerable stoop and he wrung his hands nervously as he spoke in a light voice. " You mean to raise Algal? The god of war will never stop if he is awakened. There is no way he will let us that sit in the shadows live."
Sadathrus turned with irritation, his face growing red with anger. " You should worry about me. I will control the Titan, he will do my bidding as he no longer has the full powers of a god. Each of you has the task of gathering an army. Either you do as you're told or I will kill you now and get it over with." No one spoke again.
After a few more trivial odds and ends each robed figure was given a trinket or magical item to help them accomplish the mission at hand. When they were all gone Sadathrus clicked his fingers and his dark wood table turned into a large wooden throne. Fibald walked down and gave the magus a grim look. " You are going to get yourself killed. Maybe burn the entire world along with you."
" Well then you will get your death wish, then. It is only through lofty goals that true greatness comes, " Sadathrus clicked his fingers again and his study doors opened to allow Thabus the wicked and the rest of the leaders of the bone men in. " Welcome Thabus. Our little show worked better than I could have imagined. It's you the men follow."
Thabus bowed his head, his thick black beard nearly reaching his belly. The large bone helmet he wore giving the big man the appearance of a barbarian. Sadathrus knew way better than that. Men like Thabus were cunning and ruthless. The war leader motioned to the other leaders as he began speaking. " We have over ten thousand men at arms waiting outside the city walls, of which only three are known to the Sultan. Calling in a few favors we'll have nearly all the free mercenary groups under your flag within a moons turn. The city will be yours when you give the word."
Fibald snorted. " It will be harder than you think, Bone man. The people here will be easily taken but keeping them will be near impossible. Aranasie blood flows through the sand here and the surrounding cities will not open their walls to you."
Thabus gave the warrior a long hard look. " Once we cow them down we kill any who oppose us. Our numbers are far to many to be stopped." Sadathrus didn't care one way or the other what befell the city after the attack was over. All he cared about was the continued conquest of the southern lands. Thabus did not take his stare away from Fibald and nor did the legendary warrior.
" Then we will get your men ready, Thabus the wicked. Remember to use the idols I gave you. That is the most important part." Sadathrus said no more and the mercenary and his men left with looks of bloodlust and conquest.
Fibald went over to a table with wine and spirits of every kind. Choosing the first thing he saw he gulped down several swallows of the sour wine of the south. " What is it you want with me, magus? It cannot be to guard your back as the power you hold could allow you ten times the guardsmen. What is it you want from me?"
Sadathrus reached into his robes and found one of fifty pockets with various things inside. He produced a small glass orb about the size of his palm. Pale blue light swirled inside as if some kind of smoke had been caught in it long ago. " You always have been very perceptive if you were nothing else. You're going to find someone for me. While I devour the southern lands you will go and seek out one of the only people in this world that could not only stop me but ruin any chance you have to find that which you seek more than anything." Fibald turned, his hand on the hilt of his sword. " If I find that you knew of the whereabouts of my sister..."
Sadathrus laughed loudly and long. When at last he stopped he felt he had angered Fibald just enough. " I do not know if she is alive or dead, Border King. I can only look into the orb and see images and glimpses into the future. I do see a young woman with raven black hair. A small scar across her left eye."
Fibald started to walk toward the mage with murderous intent in each step. Knowing that the man possessed one of the only true threats to Sadathrus, the magus actually began to sweat. It had been a long time since he had felt any fear of anything. " I do not know where she is. The orb only tells me that your fate is still intertwined with hers...and his."
The warrior stopped and thought about his next move. For the last few years he had traveled the south in search of clues as to his sisters' captures. His ruined homeland had left little alive save for the brief notion that somehow Mardeth was alive. Finally he turned back to the table and continued to drink. " Tell me everything about this man I am to find. As quick as the wind blows I will be on him."
Sadathrus crossed his hands. Everything he planned was happening better than he could have imagined.