It had been a long, hard battle, yet more senseless killings in the name of greed. The vast Morda tribe from the Middle Land had decided that this southern village would be an ideal addition to their ever-growing empire of conquered tribes in the United Lands and had brought their warriors over for what they had considered to be a mere formality.

But the small Verdo tribe had been saved, thanks to the chieftain's son. And now he would be banished for saving his people.

The old man known as Guardian sighed as he watched the determined young man stride down the hill towards the hut where the Elders would be meeting. It was all wrong. The lad had saved his people and was getting punished for it. There should be some change to the rules, but no-one was going to argue with a law that had been in place for a thousand years that had guaranteed not peace exactly, but an absence of the sort of fear that had been felt a thousand years ago.

A thousand years ago the United Lands had been separate countries, warring against each other. All the lands had been rich in magic, and about one in three people were skilled in the Art.

And then along came Wender. The man whose name people still feared to speak today.

He had been a mild-mannered boy in whom the Talent had been particularly strong. When he had come of age he had decided to travel the world, and turned his Talents to the dark side of the Art. He gloried in the power of sacrifice, he could conjure demons to do his bidding. It was said that he was virtually immortal.

Wender quickly rose to power, slaughtering all who stood in his way. The most vile aspect of his reign was human sacrifice. He would order young women who were with child to be brought to his castle, and once there he would tear the babes from their mothers' bodies and devour them.

Eventually all the leading authorities in the Art had joined together in resistance and, after fifteen years of deadly magical war, they had finally managed to defeat him.

It was that day that the United Lands had been formed. And it was then that the authorities had decided that magic was too dangerous, and had it outlawed. Fifteen were chosen to guard the fifteen Circles, containing the magic within them and preventing passage between the different worlds. Guardian had been one of those fifteen.

The guardians were the only ones who had the power nowadays, and the only time they were allowed to use that power was to open a Circle and send a person convicted of using magic through to another world. For the penalty of using magic was banishment.

And today...

Guardian sighed, and followed the young warrior down the hill. The battle had been in full swing, the invaders relying on their strength of numbers to swamp the villagers. The boy had been fighting well, still young and reckless but showing all the promise of a great warrior.

Then he had been knocked down and lost his sword. He had rolled to his feet, screamed something in a language that was unknown to all but Guardian...

And the enemy had disappeared in a flash of green light.

Guardian reached the hut and slipped in, unnoticed by anyone. Varnis, the chief, and Karlis were having a raging argument. Guardian leaned on his staff and watched the row with a heavy heart.

"You know the law, Karlis, and you know the punishment for breaking that law! Magic is dangerous!"

"How can it be dangerous? Father, I saved the tribe!"

"Ah, Guardian, you're here. The boy will be banished immediately. I trust you have made the necessary preparations." Guardian nodded.

"How could you do this to me, Father?" screamed Karlis. "I'm your son!"

"I have no son!" bellowed Varnis. Karlis spun around, tears filling his eyes, and strode towards the door. As he reached the door he turned back to Varnis.

"You'll be sorry one day. When the Sun turns black and the Dark Lady returns you will know a terror that will make even Wender seem gentle. And you will beg me and my kind to return and help you, for we will be the only ones who can." An uncomfortable silence filled the hall as Karlis departed, followed by Guardian.

They reached the Circle. Guardian raised his staff, preparing the incantation that would open the Gateway, then caught Karlis' eye and lowered it.

"What was that nonsense you sprouted, boy?" he demanded, fixing his gaze on the young man.

"It wasn't nonsense. You remember Musta?" Guardian did. Musta was a young girl who had been banished for unwittingly unleashing magic on a man who had been harassing her. She had vowed to return one day and exact her revenge. Guardian shook his head and muttered the words of the incantation. The Circle glowed red and Karlis stepped forward. He turned to face Guardian.

"She will return. On the day that the Sun turns black. And you will beg for me to return." Karlis strode into the Circle, which glowed bright for a second, then the colour vanished along with the youth.

Guardian sat down on the grass, his thoughts confused. Granted, Musta had vowed to return some day, but that had been nigh on three hundred years ago, surely she was dead now? And what was this nonsense about the Sun turning black? Guardian shrugged, and dismissed the comment. Whatever the boy was talking about, it was unlikely to happen.