To Enter The Abyss II: God Of Chaos [Story]
It was the pain that first brought Elara back to the world of the conscious. Although she wished to return to the blank nothingness, several factors prevented such. The throbbing of her head seemed most prominent, yet movement and the force of a shoulder digging into her abdomen was also high on the list. Even with her eyes open, the young elven girl could barely see a thing. She was in a place of true darkness where no light could penetrate.
It was a strain to remember but finally images began to leak back into her head. She had been on the edge of her homeland, near the human border sitting by a river. She always enjoyed the river and all the life around and used to sit there for hours, feeling the energy and life of her world. Being of elven descent she tended to appreciate such things much more than humans and was content to remain there for long periods.
Just like any other day, Elara had been sitting by the river when a man totally clad in black materials appeared upon the other side of the river. Elara had watched him with slight caution but her friendly nature could not be denied and so she had waved to him. The man had watched her for several moments before making a single leap over the river to land before her. Elara had been surprised initially; humans usually couldn't jump such a distance. She was about to ask the man what race he was yet his fist met her temple before she could do so, plunging her into darkness.
The man carrying her noticed Elara was awake and gave her an extra hard jab with his shoulder, indicating she better not cause any trouble or she would regret it. Still she could make nothing out but the vague shape of the many carrying her and the movement of others nearby. They all seemed to have perfect vision in this dark place, but even Elara's elven eyes could not make out distinct shapes or any details whatsoever.
After several more minutes of silent travel, Elara couldn't stand it anymore and attempted to speak. To her dismay she discovered that this was not possible. She couldn't find anything physically wrong with her throat yet no sound emerged, no matter how hard she tried. And so she fell into resignation once again, merely waiting to see what fate would bring her.
Finally she began to make out a clearing ahead. It wasn't exactly light, just less dark to the point where she could actually see things now. The clearing was encircled by several black clad men, all wearing identical masks that completely covered the face, save for unnerving blue eyes. Blue like the coldness of ice, Elara couldn't match a gaze with any of those eyes.
At first the things before her were confusing. A young human male of similar age was also being carried into the clearing, yet Elara was only able to gain a quick glance of him before she was placed in the centre of the grove and leaned against a thick wooden stake. She could feel the boy being tied to the stake behind her, just as she was but it seemed his voice had wandered off to wherever hers was as well.
Several more minutes passed until three more black clad men entered the grove, one bearing a large looking egg within his grasp whilst the other two carried an unconscious form between their shoulders. As they moved closer, Elara determined it to be a dwarf. With three of the four races now present, she could only assume that a baby dragon sat within that egg.
Whilst Elara had no idea what was going on, she couldn't help but feel it was sinister. The forest she was in seemed very unnatural. All the trees were dead, yet not, there seemed to be no animals and not a single ray of sunlight ever penetrated the canopy. It took a moment for her to realise... she was in the Dark Wood, deep within human territory. The fact that she was within human borders wasn't so concerning as the fact she was in perhaps the darkest and most feared place in all of Khadrim (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c372/Assington/NationStates/Khadrim.gif). The dark wood had been declared unsafe for anyone to enter and was the least desirable location for anyone to end up. Elara began to panic.
Her breathing began to quicken pace as the men around her began a chant in some unknown language. The hum of such words made the hair upon the elven girl's neck stand on end. A particularly large black clad man stepped forward bearing a recently polished curved blade and grabbed the dwarf by the hair. Before Elara realised what was about to happen, the blade sliced through the dwarf's neck, severing his head completely. Elara couldn't scream or even look away as a meaty fist was plunged up into the skull of the dwarf and a large brain promptly removed. Elara could smell the blood; the stench of death stinging her nostrils as the brain was placed to her right, upon the stone altar at the base of the stake. She hadn't noticed the stone before but now that it was covered in brain juices and blood, it would never leave her mind.
The massive man seemed to show no emotion as he walked passed Elara and picked up the dragon egg that had been sitting upon the altar on her left. A quick whack with the butt of his weapon cracked open the egg and allowed the sinister looking man to bury his fingers into the shell before removing a screeching baby dragon. Elara could tell it was scared, even without the screeches of horror. The dragon was much bigger than Elara would have imagined and within time it became evident this was a golden dragon, the most powerful of them all. Without a moment's hesitation, a smaller dagger was retrieved and used to open up the soft underbelly of the dragon. The screeches grew in pitch yet that did not stop him as two fingers dived into the beast's body and yanked out the tiny heart. Immediately the dragon fell silent and the heart was placed upon the altar, where the egg had been.
With two out of the four tasks complete, the blade wielding man moved around to stand before a quivering human boy. Whilst Elara couldn't see what was going on, the sounds of steel meeting flesh were prominent within her hearing as the young boy struggle against his bindings, attempting to escape the pain being inflicted upon him. Eventually he fell limp, either from too much pain or lack of life, Elara couldn't determine. Eventually he circled around to face her, a new dagger within his hand. Icy blue eyes gazed upon Elara, causing her to look down in fear.
"Your soul will serve a greater purpose girl..."
The voice was almost an inhuman hiss, stinging her ears as the blood stung her nostrils. A sense of impending death surrounded Elara, engulfing her completely. Then the pain begun. She closed her eyes as the blade slice her flesh, creating cleanly cut sigils of death and chaos before really digging into her, causing innards and blood to gush out of her abdomen. Before Elara passed out, a wrenching pain overwhelmed her, as if something was tearing away her very being. Finally it became too intense and as the tearing feeling peaked, Elara plunged into a darkness from which she would never return.
With the final phase of their intended ritual complete, the black clad men fell silent and waited. A soft crimson hue surrounded the altar, indicating their spells had worked. A single beam arced through the forest canopy and into the night sky where it disappeared, into another world. Silence and darkness reigned for almost thirty minutes before the last sign came to be. The beam returned from the sky and into the grove, causing a wave of energy to flow around the grove. Silence once again before the wave of power expanded rapidly, passing through the boundaries of the forest to encompass the entire nation.
A deep rumble followed shortly afterwards, shaking the very land itself. All the men within the forest grinned; their god was back. Xerxes, God of Chaos was finally loose in Khadrim.
Although many in Khadrim viewed the dragonic deserts as a place of hostility and death, Ryath had a different perspective on things. The land used to be filled with valleys, grassy plains, forests and all the other usual life that could be found scattered around the nation. Of course, that was almost a thousand years ago.
Back then, Khadrim could not call itself a whole nation, as its peoples were not united, even the respective races weren't united within themselves. Besides the common conflicts with the humans and dwarves, dragons had been at war with eachother. There wasn't any clear leadership amongst the ancient creatures and so an epic battle for power had ensued. Some of the lower breeds of dragon attempted to rise up and destroy the higher breeds, such as the golden dragons and take their place as most powerful dragonic species. This had led to a war of untold ferocity. Dragonic flames swept the land, burning all life into ashes as the titan like creatures clashed in their thirst for authority and power.
Eventually the golden dragons had won, yet the cost was great. The lush lands that dragons called home had been burned into a desert, stripped of all life and left simply bear. Some had hoped it would regrow; yet the dragon fires were too much for nature to overcome, and so their land remained desert. There were some outcrops that had survived the war, at the base of the mountain dwellings yet they were but small memories of what once was.
Ryath sat upon the cool sands of the desert, her giant golden form gleaming in the moonlight. The heat didn't bother her as she stretched her massive legs, enjoying the open space big enough to allow her dragonic form. The desert seemed to depress others, yet Ryath looked at it as potential. She figured that one day; this land would be green again. She didn't know what gave her such notions, but Ryath had always been an optimist.
As she arced her head upwards, Ryath's keen eyes picked up a stream of crimson light far in the distance, shooting up into the night sky. She thought nothing of it as it was most likely to be human sorcery. It wasn't until she noticed the crimson beam return, this time flowing from the sky into the earth. Shortly afterwards a giant wave of light could be seen rocketing toward her from the human lands. The ground shook as Ryath leaped to her feet. The golden dragon continued to watch as the light raced forth and passed right through her. There was no physical effect, but she couldn't help feel a sense of incoming dread.
Several minutes passed and the feeling faded, yet Ryath was still quite suspicious. Soon enough, the ground rumbled with the force of thousands of dragons, shaking every inch of the land about her. The quake passed quickly, but Ryath, leader of the dragons and member of the High Council was left feeling worried and confused.
Something had started and she couldn't shake the feeling of dread once again.
Thor sighed as he stood within the city square of Knossoss, the human capitol of Khadrim. The midsummer festivals had been going on for four days now and so far there hadn't been a problem. Not a single drunken brawl, no significant thefts, everyone was in good spirits and simply enjoyed the holiday. Of course that was too good to last and as the human mage predicted, people could never have enjoyment without strife.
Being the capitol of the human province, Knossoss was home to many arcane institutions and unfortunately one cannot control the temperament of particular magi students when they induce too much ale. A group of them was particularly dangerous and since numbers were so high in the academy this year, Thor decided it would be best if he were to be present for the festival in case any of the young ones needed a little behavioral realignment.
Screams and roars of drunken panic filled the air as slight flashes of magical discharge illuminated the night. Despite the heavy influence of magic in their society, people seemed to fear it, some even if they wielded it. With everyone being considerably drunk, it just compounded the problem.
Gripping his stave, Thor plunged into the masses of worried people and began navigating his way towards the source of trouble. No one seemed to notice as Thor weaved by them in his dark blue robes, covering his entire body. The only things ever visible were his eyes, only when they gleamed with power. At this moment his eyes shone a bright blue as he called upon his talent, preparing himself for whatever lay ahead.
Finally the people cleared and Thor found himself gazing upon four young men, all wearing the robes of magi students standing over five large men, blacksmiths by the look of them. The students were rather lean looking, all holding charges of raw power within their hands and using them to force the blacksmiths onto their knees. Thor hated these kinds of people. The mages that thought they were above the common man, untouchable by steel because they wielded magic.
Stepping out of the shadows, Thor gave the closest mage a light kick in the backside.
"Boys, it's about time you went back to the academy."
All four turned around, irritated scowls plastered across their faces. The tallest mage stepped forward, assuming group leader position as he gazed upon Thor's glowing eyes.
"And what are you going to do old man? Look at us until we get tired?"
Snickers emerged from the others as Thor remained silent for a moment. An instant later his stave shot forward and slammed into the face of the young mage, knocking him unconscious instantly. The others gathered their own power and launched small balls of it towards the robed mage. Thor couldn't help but grin as the balls approached him. These boys had no idea what they were dealing with. Holding up his left hand, Thor watched as the three spheres stopped and disappeared into nothingness.
Before the stunned boys could react, Thor unleashed a single wave of force strong enough to knock all three off their feet and into various hard surfaces, forcing them to join their companion in the depths of unconsciousness.
Before he could address the distressed blacksmiths on the ground, Thor spun around as he felt the rushing force of something dark approaching. A massive wave of crimson light passed through all matter in its path at tremendous speeds, not slowing at all as it continued and passed through the mage. A sense of dread overwhelmed him for several moments before it faded. He only had a few moments to ponder such before the very earth below him began to rumble. Fortunately, that too passed.
Completely lost as to what caused such an incident, Thor disappeared in a brief blue flash. Something was wrong and he had a bad feeling about where it had come from.
Even after centuries of inhabiting the land under and around the twin peaks of Dargoth, the dwarves still had many tunnels to dig, more precious resources to find and an untold amount of new technologies to develop. Unfortunately they were at the stage when tunnel digging was at its most dangerous stage. With so many already existing, they could never be entirely sure just how stable the rock above them was.
Bifrost stood silently as he watched the latest dwarven contraption tear its way through rock as if it were water. There was no doubt they had progressed to a stage where it was becoming more than difficult to build better mining machines, yet there were always other areas to worry about. Getting through the rock wasn't a problem anymore, it was detecting the stability of the tunnels. Extreme difficulties had been encountered when it came to telling how much support the tunnel had underneath and even more importantly, how strong was the roof of the tunnel.
Drawing his worn battle-axe, the dwarven leader stroked his beard as he walked through the newly formed tunnel, dragging his blade along the roof. Most dwarves would figure he wasn't doing anything, yet Bifrost happened to be one of the few dwarves blessed with a strong natural talent for magic. He could sense the very formation of the rock, feel the weak spots and the potential danger areas. All seemed to be going well so far until he came towards the end of the tunnel.
Something seemed wrong, yet it wasn't with the tunnel structure. The land itself could feel it, something wasn't right. Dropping his axe back into a side sheath, Bifrost spun around and began running as fast as his stout legs could carry him.
"Get out of here... now!"
Without hesitation the other dwarves began a rapid spring through the network of tunnels, weaving their way upwards for several minutes until they finally arrived at one of the many surface entrances. Most entrances were hidden by magical illusions that presented no problem to the native dwarves and so they burst straight through the gaps in the mountain and continued to run for several more meters.
As Bifrost emerged from the mountain, his attention was drawn immediately to his right as a red blur of light passed right through him and continued onwards, not slowing at all for flesh or rock. The dwarves stood around in an uneasy manner, not sure of what had just occurred. Several minutes of waiting produced nothing of importance and so the dwarves began their way back towards the tunnels.
The other dwarves stopped, expecting Bifrost to give them further reason as to why they should remain outside. With none about to come, they continued their path towards the tunnel entrance. Before any of them made it, the ground lurched beneath them and broke into a terrifying rumble. Rocks fell from the mountains, as it seemed the very ground beneath them would crumble. Thankfully it passed quickly, yet all those around were now too wary to return to the tunnels.
Bifrost merely sat down, attempted to make sense of what just happened. It wasn't... right.
Izual stood silently upon the edge of a forest grove, watching the younger elves before him. All four were bound across the arms, legs and eyes. Their ears had been spelled into a world of silence. They couldn't see nor hear his approach in the slightest, making it rather easy for the elven leader. Step after step he drew closer, gripping a gleaming blade in one hand as he prepared to make the winning move.
The elf had hoped things would be harder than this, but he wasn't going to allow his disappointment to prevent him from finishing his task. A few more steps and it would all be over, he would win and they would all lose to his skill. With the blade poised to strike, Izual took the final step necessary and almost fell flat on his face. Glancing downwards, he noticed two very thick tree roots wrapped around his feet, preventing him from taking another step anywhere.
At that point the blindfolded elf spun around and spoke, not bothering to remove his blindfold.
"I believe you have been caught master Izual."
The master elf looked upon his student seriously for a moment before breaking into a grin.
"You may all remove your blindfolds now."
Happy to be able to hear and see once again, the elves quickly began dealing with the rest of their bindings however they saw fit in order to convene around their master.
"So tell me Talron, how did you figure I was behind you?"
The younger elf looked at his master with an expression of achievement and pride.
"I finally did it master. I opened by connection to the earth, it told me you were there. I could sense your every step and I asked the forest to help me."
The elf continued to grin as he indicated the roots wrapped around Izual's feet.
"Very good. You've passed your final test Talron. I'll be sure to inform the elven council once we return."
As Izual made a request with the earth to release him, he felt something strange resonating through the land. It wasn't natural and it seemed to be effecting the entire nation. Spinning around, the elf was able to capture a glimpse of crimson light before it continued to rush forward, passing through him and all the other elves. Being specially attuned to the land, all the elves could feel the dread of whatever had just past.
The feeling of sadness was only just fading when a horrendous rumble of the earth caught everyone's attention. All those present could feel the anguish of the earth, feel the pain it was going through caused by some unknown force. Something unnatural to this world. Shaken to the very core, Talron was the first to speak.
"Master, what was that?"
Izual looked back to his elven students.
"I don't know..."
Whatever had done such was of a dark nature, that much was for sure. Besides that, Izual, leader of the elven people was completely baffled.
The night sky was perfectly clear as Ryath soared through the darkness, her massive wings pounding faster and faster as she rushed towards the human capital of Knossoss. She knew Thor and the others would have noticed whatever it was that just occurred and Ryath figured it was of enough concern for the council to convene and discover what the source of this event was.
Allowing her natural instinct to guide her through the air, Ryath closed her eyes and expanded her mind outward, searching for three distinct life signatures spread about the nation. Within seconds she had gathered the locations of the other council members and pulled them all into a temporary convening of in a place that only existed within the mind.
Ryath opened her eyes to find herself in human form, sitting at a small round table of pure marble situated within the centre of a pure white room. There appeared to be no ending to the room in any direction as far as even her eyes could see yet that was not of any real concern anyway. What did matter were the elf, human and dwarf also sitting at the table.
"I trust you're all as baffled as I?"
The other three nodded, their expressions mildly sombre as they contemplated the meaning of this quake and the dark energies tied to it.
"Do we have an origin?"
At this point Izual spoke up, the elven representative upon the council. Ryath had assumed it would be him to know the location, as he was more in touch with the land itself than any of the other council members, including herself. Out of habit Ryath ran both hands through her long black hair, despite it not being real she couldn't help the habit she was accustomed to in the physical world.
Thor remained silent under his dark blue robes as he pondered the situation whilst Bifrost merely listened intently, an unhappy scowl firmly placed across his face. Izual on the other hand appeared relatively calm.
"It has come from deep within the Dark Wood, there is no doubt about that."
This caused Thor to look up, his face still hidden under his hooded robe.
"Whatever it was didn't originate from this world. Nothing in that forest would have caused that."
Ryath nodded, inputting what she knew.
"Indeed. I noticed a beam of power travel into the night sky. Not long afterwards another replied."
Finally Bifrost stood, voicing his own opinion.
"I say we go investigate."
The other three responded simultaneously.
With that said, all four stood and nodded their goodbyes. Ryath closed her eyes momentarily as the room around her dissolved into nothingness, severing her contact with the other council members and returning her senses to the physical world. She would be at Knossoss within the hour and from there her and Thor would make their way to the Dark Wood.
Thor cursed as he paced up and down the vast hallways of the Magi library within the Academy of Magic. Something about this had him edgier than normal and the fact this thing had originated from the Dark Wood made things worse. That place was sealed off for a very good reason and activity such as that which recently occurred didn't sit well with anyone that had the nation's interests at heart.
Stopping mid stride, Thor spun around and called one of the large nearby historic tomes to his hands, watching as it glided through the air to land within his grasp. Flipping directly to the end of the tome, Thor scanned through several pages of information regarding magically induced quakes during the past. Nothing similar to this at all. Replacing the book, Thor began pacing once again.
So intent on his thoughts, Thor didn't notice as one of the many magi advisers of the academy silently approached from behind, his pale green ropes dragging lightly upon the polished boards of the floor.
"Don't worry so much Thor, I'm sure the rest of the council and yourself will be able to put this mystery to rest."
Jumping slightly, Thor spun around to face Alexis, a man that appeared to be much older than Thor but in truth was far younger.
"Perhaps so Alexis, but I cannot shake this ill feeling. Something is different this time."
The other mage could only nod. He'd felt the sombre touch of the quake yet he held to more optimistic ideals, as was his nature.
"Ryath will be here soon."
Alexis merely nodded and the pair waited in silence, going over every detail of their vast knowledge in an attempt to discern some answer to what was happening within their nation.
The land was different after the quake. Not only physically but also something else, the spirit of the earth had been affected in some manner that was not quite obvious yet did not appear to be beneficial. Izual sat before a dying fire within the tree he called home, high above the forest ground.
The elven representative of the council barely spent any time at home since his duty was so demanding and required him to be travelling constantly. There was nothing particularly affluent about his home, yet there never really was about any elven home. Of course, being the King of elves within Khadrim allowed Izual certain rights yet he was never one to bother with trivial matters or let power go to his head.
It was time to depart once again. He knew the others would be on their way and decided to meet them at the Dark Wood boundary since there was an energy lane running right past the forest. The council had gone to extreme efforts to erect the wards around that forest so beings of a foul nature would stay within its limits and not gain access to the surging energy of the very earth beneath them.
Rising from his hand crafted chair, Izual extinguished the fire with a wave of his hand and began the slight trek back towards the ground and the lane focus at the centre of the elven town known as Albion. Several elves bombarded Izual with greetings yet he could not stop to chat as more pressing matters required him to depart.
Taking hold of a firm vine Izual created a little running space for himself before leaping off the wooden platform maintaining his current altitude and swung outwards as the force of his push carried him further towards the centre of the settlement. Releasing the vine is his right hand, Izual descended some distance before taking hold of another and rotating around the firm plant as he finally thumped against the ground, landing in a crouch.
The elven leader was paid little heed as he strode into the lane focus, a slightly elevated stone platform surrounded by four small shrubs. Upon stepping onto the stone, Izual muttered the necessary incantations and watched as the runes etched within the stone glowed in response. Connecting his conscious will to the stone, Izual made his intent known before mutter the final word.
In a single brilliant flash of energy, Izual had disappeared as his physical form was converted into pure energy and sucked into one of the many energy lanes that moved underneath Khadrim, transporting the elf far across the nation.
Now seemed as good a time as any to test the latest contraption of the Dwarven kind. Bifrost needed to get somewhere fast and this new toy promised to get him there faster than most other methods of transportation, save perhaps the energy lanes.
There was no doubt that it would be particularly accurate though since it had never been tested and it could very well result in severe injury but Bifrost had never been one to heed the warnings of his less outgoing Dwarven peers.
"Prepare it for launch, I want to be soaring out of here within the next few minutes."
Normally the other Dwarves would put up quite the protest but considering recent events and pressing matters they decided not to argue with their Dwarven commander.
Bifrost was quite impressed with this little contraption, another skilful combination of technology and magic to create something truly unique. The machine did require someone with at least a minute spark of magical talent, of course that was quite common in Khadrim. The machine was quite similar to a catapult, yet it stood upright and had several valuable stones embedded within key locations. The idea was that one would use their magical talent to imprint the intended location within the crystals, then step onto the launching platform. Once everything was ready the user was launched high into the sky and the magic within the stones would guide the user to their intended location. Supposedly accurately and safely.
Finally the founding creators of the machine nodded the go ahead and Bifrost stepped up to the machine and looked up at the large gap in the cavern roof above him. Hopefully it would be accurate enough to not splatter him against the stone roof. Placing a hand upon a rather large saphire, Bifrost allowed his destination and everything he knew about it to flow into the crystal. With that done he moved onto the platform and nodded to the others. Pulling key levers, the Dwarves watched as crystals began to glow and their leader was launched clear of the cavern and high into the night sky.
Bifrost couldn't help but give a silent thanks as he cleared the cavern and soared through the sky, hopefully heading for Knossoss.
With the ritual complete and the essence of their god returned, the black clad men belonging to the cult of Xerxes congratulated eachother upon finally accomplished what their they had set out to do hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately not many of the original members had endured the years as they had met ill fates with certain members of the High Council.
Whilst many of the men within the Dark Wood today were younger members of the cult, their faith was strong and their resolve rock hard. Thanks to their efforts the task was complete and true chaos would be unleashed within Khadrim.
Standing within the centre of gathered men, a single black clad man, identical in appearance to all the others, covered from head to toe in reasonably tight black clothes. Being a member of this cult meant giving up one's personal identity and becoming part of the greater darkness, the vast abyss. This man in the centre was different for one reason though. He was the last original cult member. Whilst he had no name now, he was once known as Mort. Of course that didn't matter anymore.
Gazing upon his fellow brothers, Mort couldn't help but feel some sense of joy. He'd noted over the decades that his sense of emotion had faded away, most likely affects of being touched by Xerxes himself. Hence his long life.
"My brothers. Our day has finally come. Whilst we have worked hard to accomplish task and bring our Lord to this world, our tasks are not over. Now that He is here we shall be much more active, we shall need to awaken all the dormant brothers that have been planted around the nation. Go now, back to your assigned locations. I shall communicate with our Lord and discover his wishes in detail."
The remaining men nodded in understanding, saluting their cult elder by placing their right fist into their left palm before scattering off into the darkness, unafraid of the strange creatures within the forest as they made their own way out.
With the others now departing, Mort sat upon the blood stained alter recently used for foul magiks. The bodies and supporting stake had disappeared during the ritual, leaving ample space for Mort to seat himself. Deciding to lay himself down, Mort rested upon his back as his eyes closed and he fell. The world around him was gone and he simply fell into darkness. At first there was panic but Mort quickly calmed himself, seeking out that which he served.
Without warning he stopped, hovering in the darkness. Despite his arcane skills, Mort was unable to see within this place yet he could sense His presence.
"My Servant. You have done well in bringing me back. I trust it is permanent?"
"Of course my Lord. Your essence is complete within this world."
"Good. It will take me time to manifest my physical form and so I shall remain within these woods. Once my strength is replenished, these wards shall crumble and I will be free to roam these lands. I trust you recall the plans?"
"Indeed, every detail. I have already sent the men to their key locations and the dormant Brothers are in place. Although we are fewer in number than planned, we shall merely have to compensate with the converted."
"Yes, I'll see to that too. What of the council?
"They are as strong as ever yet we've descended their list of priorities due to a few distractions I've instigated. I imagine they'll be here soon to investigate but I doubt very much they know what they'll be walking into."
"Very well. They'll soon find out just what they're dealing with."
"Indeed my Lord."
And with that said, Mort awoke with a gasp as an icy chill left his lungs. He began breathing once again, shaking off the pain and producing a wicked grin. Their plans could finally be implemented.
After just under an hour Bifrost began his descent towards Knossoss. A rough grin emerged from under his bear as he gazed upon the city lights far below. It appeared as though the accuracy of his contraption seemed to be in order as he figured that any landing in sight of the city was accurate enough considering the calculations and distances involved.
The night remained clear and yet there was a sense of dread in the air. It wasn't particuarly strong but obvious to those attuned with the well being of the land. Whatever this was it appeared to be affection the entire nation. Picking more speed as he fell, Bifrost began to have slight doubts about the safety of the landing system involved. It would be an aweful shame to die upon the landing considering everything else had gone so well.
As Bifrost's descent took him closer towards the city and the surrounding land he ran over quick calculations and guesses based on his own judgement, resulting in a loud curse. Assuming he the landing magic would hold true, it's likely he would land safely, only to be carried forward into a portion of the large stone wall surrounding Knossoss. Too late to do anything about it.
Thankfully the dwarve's calculations were off. He did hit the wall but his velocity at the time was much less than he expected and so he merely recieved a bloodied nose for his efforts. Sighing to himself, Bifrost stepped back from the wall and willed himself through the stone and onto a cobbled road behind it. It was only a short trek to the Magi Library from here.
Ryath landed lightly as she lost her dragonic form and took on her preferred human appearance. That of a young woman with long black hair and a light tan. There was something about her beauty and appearance that gave away the fact she wasn't human, of course that didn't appear to bother most males upon the street as she walked by, promptly leaving them behind as she weaved her way through the streets, heading towards the Magi Library.
Noting the presence of a bloodied Bifrost exiting the street opposite her, she cocked an eyebrow as he fell in next to her, his eyes meeting hers. She didn't have to say a word and neither did he. There were only two reasons why Bifrost would be injured in some manner and she didn't think he'd stopped off to enjoy a quick bar brawl.
"What does this one do?"
Bifrost grunted before replying.
"Fast way of getting long distances without knowing how to use the lanes or teleport yourself. Let's just say I need to work on the landings and accuracy a little, need to take obstacles into account."
The pair ceased their conversation as they walked into the Magi Library and came across their human counterpart, Thor. The robed human spun around and greeted them both with a nod before reaching into his robe and withdrawing a cube.
The dwarf and dragon took up positions next to the human as he gazed into his cube, allowing the device to sense his will. Almost immediately the cube began to scry out a location, showing images of the land around the Dark Woods. There was plenty of open space for the trio to occupy.
With that fact established, Thor activated the cube and the trio disappeared in an inward rush of air.
The land surrounding the Dark Wood was dead silent. No wind, no animals, not a single disturbance. Those that had been in the area had been overcome with an urge to get as far away as possible after the quake and even the worms and flies made a distinct effort to put much distance between them and that dark place.
Of course that silence was short lived as a brief rush of air soon signalled the arrival of three Council members, their feet pressing down on the long blades of grass surrounding the forest. All three members noted the distinct presence of anything else, a sure sign that something was not right as animals tended to have a keener sense for these things than most humanoids.
Not wasting any time, Ryath, Thor and Bifrost forged a path through the near waist high grass toward a stone dias about one hundred metres away. The dias was surrounded by four crudely constructed stone pillars as if someone had attempted to build a structure around the dias and given due to lack of abilitiy. Of course the three standing just outside the pillars new very well there was a more significant purpose to their presence. These pillars acted as wards to guard against anything from the Dark Wood accessing the lifeforce lanes of Khadrim.
Within minutes of standing outside the pillars a dull glow sprung forth from several runes etched into the stone. The dias acted as a access tunnel into one of the many lanes flowing beneath Khadrim and judging by the glowing runes it was about to open and allow a lane traveller back into physical form. Eventually the entire dias was engulfed in a momentarily blinding light as Izual was converted back into his physical form. Once the energies subsided the elf could be seen standing there, a grim look upon his face.
"We must hurry, I feel even the lanes have been affected by tonight's event."
Equally troubled, the others merely nodded as they spun to face the forest and began the tek into the woods. It had been some time since there was a thread great enough to bring all four members into this place and of course that didn't sit well with either member.
Izual reached the forest boundary first and uttered a single word in elvish, invoking the ward and bringing its presence to plain sight. Immediately a dome of dull golden energy became visible around the forest, it's integrity noticably compromised at the pinnacle of its height. Another few words resulted in a slight doorway opening within the ward, allowing the Council to pass through. With the ward now closed behind them, the Council continued deeper into the forest.
Thor's staff flared into life as the cyrstal resting atop unleashed a far reaching blue glow, lighting the way for the others. No one spoke as they weaved through the mass of dead plants, trees and various corpses. Nothing ever lived long within the forest and yet the place was never empty.
As the Council progressed, a presence beyond their senses watched and waited. Everything would work out according to his will and the so called mighty High Council of Khadrim would be no more. They would live for now but in time they would be picked off. Tonight was merely an introduction as to what they had coming to them. All in due time.
Within minutes of entering the forest an overwhelming groan filled the air. It sounded as if the trees themselves were moving stiff limbs, the resistance creating an almost deafening noise. Glimpses of the moving branches could be caught out of an eye's corner yet no movement was clear upon directly gazing at the ancient lumber.
No one spoke as they remained ever ready to combat any threat that presented itself. Whilst Izual was normally attuned to the workings of the land and the living things upon it, this place was pure darkness to him. Everything was dead or corrupted by forces beyond nature. It saddened him to see a once proud forest shamed in such a manner yet it was necessary to contain such beings somewhere and this location had been ideal.
High above the moving council members, dozens of eyes watched patiently, silently. Once the oppurtunity presented itself they would strike, combatting the enemy with their own unique strengths, bestowed upon them by the almighty Xerxes.
As his minions watched the enemy, Xerxe's all encompassing presence observed all that occured within the Dark Woods. Crucial steps to his plan were being executed whilst his enemies wasted time wandering around the forest. Evidently they had become complacent and would pay for it.
The ring of Izual's blade filled the air before the others even noticed anything was happening, his elven hearing picking up the faint movement of beings waiting above them. Immediately Thor's eyes flared an even brighter blue as he plunged his senses into what he termed 'mage sight', a magically enhanced perception of the world that allowed him to view the living energy of things and focus on certain objects. Within seconds he noticed the distinct energy patterns of human, or at least partially human creatures within the trees above them.
"There's a lot of them..."
The others nodded, now watching as the black clad men fanned out and descended the trees at supernatural speeds. Izual planted his blade within the earth and retrieved his bow.
"Aye, best we eliminate them quickly and release their tortured souls."
With that said, Izual muttered a slight incantation under his breath and released his arrow, allowing it to soar through the air and evade all but its intended target. A loud thud resulted as the arrow head caught one of the many generic black clad men (BCM) in the chest, forcing him to descend much quicker and slam into the ground. Immediately he burst into flames and was quickly engulfed by a raging white fire, complete incinerating his body.
Without turning around Izual communicated a vital message to his dwarven companion.
"Behind you my friend."
With the skill of centuries practice, Bifrost promptly withdrew his battle axe and gazed upon the reflection the constantly shiny blade displayed for him. Another BCM was about to land a nasty looking dagger into his back. Spinning around in perfect timing, Bifrost's blade wedged into the skull of the descending enemy, shattering bone and splaying blood as the now dead soldier collapsed to the ground, slightly spasming from the shock to his nervous system.
Thor found himself confront by three men, they're eyes glowing brightly like his as they approached. It was evident they all possessed an arcane ability of some description, it was simply a matter of discovering what exactly. Allowing his stave to stand of its own accord, Thor raised both hands before him and allowed the energies summoned in each hand to jump between eachother. The crimson electricity burned the air instantly, filling it with a distinct odour.
Forging the power into a single orb, Thor unleashed three arcs that singled out the a BCM each. One wasn't fast enough to avoid being struck and so his strength became irrelevant as Thor's attack surged through his body and destroyed his brain. The other two were ready, one merely dropping out of the way whilst another appeared to be coated in a thick layer of stone momentarily.
Stone skin... easy.
Slightly brushing his stave, Thor willed an already prepared spell into action, summoning a large entity of smoke to pour forth from the gem lodged atop his stave. Immediately the white substance began to take the shape of a man and approach the speedy foe, occupying him for the moment.
Summoning more power to his right fist, Thor approached the stone enabled foe and prepared to attack again. His enemy noted the much larger gathering of energy and this time turned himself completely into stone. Thor merely grinned as molten rock spawned into existence before his hand and was unleashed within a circle around the stone figure, quickly forming a pool of lava around his feet. Within seconds the pool had gained metres in depth and the stone warrior plunged into the firery depth, the intense heat melting burning him out of existence.
Thor turned to see the other warrior struggling against a foe he could not harm. The misty man couldn't really do any harm yet everytime he touched the enemy a sense of cold and loss would come over him, as if the misty was stealing his very life force. Shaking his head, Thor called upon the mist to expand and completely surround the BCM. Immediately he reacted by unleashing his onw ability. Telekinesis. Thor noted the energy pass through the mist and smiled. Completely useless.
With the mist now completely surrounded the warrior, Thor shifted it from one form of matter to the opposite. Gas became solid and the mist turned to ice, freezing Thor's foe and shattering on the spot.
They may have been given abilities yet they were definitely not learned in the lores of magic.
A large majority of the BCM had surrounded Ryath, intent on destroying the most powerful of the group. She didn't bother wasting any time as an unnerving dragonic roar escaped her lips, knocking several men over. Within seconds her form was engulfed in a golden light, blinding her presence from the others. The light continued to intensify as it took on an almost white hue. This continued for almost a minute, Ryath's enemies unable to attack as they couldn't see her. Finally the power subsided and visibility returned. Ryath now stood alone.
A dead silence seemd to reign over the forest as the earth apparently responded to the violence occuring upon with a bone shattering roar. The very ground shook and rumbled, trees were uprooted and the BCM disappeared.
The only thing that could be heard amongst the rumbling was Bifrost's loud Dwarven curse.
There was something about the absence of light that was just so unnerving. None of the Council members could place it but the idea of not knowing what surrounded them played on deep seeded fears. Despite various efforts at sparking illumination, nothing appearing to work as the quad remained in darkness.
Izual had established they were no longer within a forest, or any other detectable life. Nothing stood out, the place was literally an abyss of utter nothingness. Ryath sighed as she moved around in circles, not wishing to stray too far from the others.
"I think it's time we admit what we're facing. He's back... after all those years."
Bifrost shook his head, despite knowing that the others wouldn't see it.
"How can we be sure? There is no evidence of such."
"Indeed, but I think you can agree it is the logical assumption."
A dull hum began to fill the air, no source apparent to the four trapped beings. Each of them could feel the very essence of what they worked so hard to prevent from touching Khadrim... pure chaos.
"Why is it the dragon is always the most perceptive?"
All Council members stood dead still as they attempted to locate the source of that booming voice, that voice that could only belong to one entity.
"You won't find me, my form has yet to acquire physical properties."
There was no need for any further clarification, all four of them knew exactly what they faced and it chilled them to the core. Extreme efforts had been taken to prevent this being from ever returning to Khadrim and the Council couldn't help but wonder how it had happened. The past fifty years had focused mostly on other issues, yet such an effort should not have gone undetected.
"I suppose you're wondering how all this happened? Let's just say that when you're sealed within an endless abyss for thousands of years, you have a lot of spare time to carefully think things over, plan every detail."
There was no use acting out now, the Council members could do nothing but wait and listen. If attacked they could most likely defend themselves as Xerxes did not have a full grasp of his strength in Khadrim, yet that wouldn't take long to establish.
"I look forward to seeing this nation in ruins..."
With that said, everything went blank again and the Council found themselves standing outside the forest, everything returned to normal without a sign of anything out of the ordinary.
Silence reigned for a moment before Ryath finally spoke, looking to the others with an abnormally pale face.
"I suggest we return to our homelands and prepare for the coming events."
Each member nodded silently as they withdrew dull glowing orbs from their person and disappeared in an inward gush of air.
Knossoss (human capital)
A sense of normality had begun to return to Knossoss, the effects of the quake having worn off and many grateful there was no life lost within the city, or even much infrastructure damage. All signs of the previous night's festival had disappeared and the city was back to routine, men, women and children all going about their own activities.
The only thing out of place was a severe lack of any mages roaming the streets. Being the magical centre of the human Kingdom, the city was normally filled with magic users of all kinds and yet one would now be hard pressed to find any upon the city streets. Due to this fact, no one was able to forsee or prevent the initial phase of an event unheard of within the history of humanity in Khadrim.
Dusk was well underway when they struck, making it easier for those clad in black fabric to blend with the shadows, to hide from watchful eyes until the time was right. And yet the first attack was not from strangers clad in black masks or hostile sword wielding bandits, it came from the very people inside the walls.
Blacksmiths, soldiers, fletchers, inn owners, farmers, and general citizens, the dormant Brothers were amongst them all. The sun finally set and the signal was given from deep within the forest to the south. They weren't dormant anymore.
All around the city, men of many occupations and personalities stopped what they were doing as they changed within. Something within their minds had just been unleashed and it was spreading throughout their very souls, changing how they act and perceive things. Many of them simply dropped what had been previously occupying them and began a seemingly aimless trek towards some unknown destination within the city. Those that were soldiers or warriors took up arms and moved towards the barracks armoury, opening the doors in order to provide their comrades with weapons.
Within an hour they were all armed and yet no one was the wiser. There was no reason to suspect anything was afoot if their fathers or friends held a blade, there could be a number of reasons for such. And so no one was prepared when a large amount of the Knossian men began drawing blades upon their own families, friends and peers. Appealing to these men was useless at it fell upon deaf ears and blind eyes.
Of course the many city guards and posted soldiers quickly formed a counter force to these possessed men, fighting them back yet attempting not to kill them. Alas this was proving more difficult than one would think as these men had somehow learned sword mastery overnight.
Unfortunately for the defenders of Knossoss, they were not counting on the city gates being opened by the amred men in order to allow thousands more black clad warriors into the city, not hesitating to slaughter anything in their paths.
Deep within the Arcane Palace, the triumvirate of mages sat deep in discussion over the recent appearance of Xerxes. Evidently there was little the triumvirate could do to prevent Xerxes, their main concern was protecting as many people as they could from the devastation he was sure to unleash.
Unfortunately such discussion as interrupted as the doors to their chamber swung open, revealing the form of an unsettled watchman.
"Sirs, you need to see this. Several men have gone mad, taking up weapons against their own people. They have opened the gates and allowed an army of men clad in black cloth into the city."
The three men looked at eachother momentarily before rising, Thor turning back to the watchman.
"Alert all mages that they shall be required to defend the city. The apprentices are to remain within the school and seal it."
With that said, Thor disappeared in a brief flash and appeared upon the walls of magi community, a small town within the city of Knossoss. This part of the city was restricted to mages only and contained the school, the palace and a number of other things that ordinary citizens should not be around.
Looking down towards the other parts of the city, Thor sighed as he noted the beginnings of several fires and heavy fighting in several streets.
It had begun.
Ellandale (Elven capital)
When the army of Brothers came they were surprised to meet an already established defense. Despite their efforts over the years it had proven impossible to corrupt the minds of any elves, hence lowering their barriers from the inside was not going to happen.
As the first wave charged into the river that officially acted as the border of Ellandale, they found themselves unable to move any further. It was as if the water and air themselves had become so dense that it was impossible to move through them.
Before the soldiers had a chance to realise what was going on they found themselves being rained upon by the enchanted arrows of Elven archers. So many arrows filled the air it was almost impossible to view the forest canopy above, almost every shot found its mark, causing the unfortunate targets to simply fall apart as the very energy that binded them disippated.
There was simply no way for the forces of Xerxes to even engage the Elven warriors as they found themselves impeded by elven magics stronger than they could have predicted.
Deep within Ellandale and far from the conflict, Izual sat at a pentagonal table within the widest oak of the forest. Whilst the tree itself only appeared as though it could house one or two comfortably, the magics of the tree dwellers allowed many more numbers to fit inside without any worries about personal space.
"There is no doubt it is him. For now he is bound by the wards of the Dark Wood yet we can't rely upon them to save us."
Izual gazed upon nodding faces, his four peers understanding the dire situation they were in. The silence allowed another to speak his mind.
"We need to gauge for well the rest of Khadrim is doing against these armies. No doubt it will take our combined might to destroy Xerxes."
Izual agreed with a nod.
"I will leave for Knossoss soon. For now we should ensure our own barriers are as strong as we designed them to be."
Dragonic Peaks (Central Dragon Lairs)
To the human eye, the Dragonic chamber designed for the meeting of all four species leaders was unnecessarily huge, the cavern ceiling almost so high that it could not be seen by the naked eye. Of course humans regularly underestimated the size of fully grown dragons.
Ryath stood in the centre of the massive chamber, her golden scales reflecting the little sunlight allowed inside. Surrounding her were three other dragons, equally as large and imposing as her, one black, one red and the other green. Whilst Ryath had earned the right to lead her kind and represent them on the High Council, she tended to seek counsel in her peers as they were all wise and respectable creatures.
"We have confirmed the presence of Xerxes within our world. From what I can gather he is still regaining his strength after eons of banishment. We don't have much time, but we must act."
A deep growl resounded through the chamber as Dragoth, elder of the Black Dragons spoke.
"What can we do against a god? We all know the other gods abandoned Khadrim long before there was any established civilsation. We were only able to imprison Xerxes due to the Tear and as I recall, it was destroyed to prevent anyone from freeing him."
Ryath nodded sadly, regretting that decision they had made so long ago. This time a softer voice spoke, the female tone of Eosia, the Green Dragon.
"We may not be able to combat Xerxes directly, but his power will be limited by his followers. We can destroy them and thus reduce his power."
Displaying a small smile that would appear threatening to any other creature, Ryath nodded towards Eosia.
"This is true. Perhaps it is our only course of action. I suggest we rally our forces in order to combat the black clothed men of Xerxes. First I shall consult with Thor."
With that said, the other dragons nodded in agreement and Ryath lifted herself off the ground with several flaps of her massive wings. As if the very stone itself new Ryath's intent, a hole rapidly appeared within the stone to accomodate the dragon as she moved into the evening sky, heading towards Knossoss.
Frosthaven (Dwarven capital)
Bifrost couldn't help but take a moment to admire the underground maze of connection tunnels and structures that was Frosthaven. The massive city encircled what was perhaps the largest known underground lake in Khadrim, the calm, clear surface reflecting the charming glow of the Dwarven lighting, gems stuck to the wall infused with a spell to create light.
Shaken back to the his senses by the extreme nature of the current predicament, Bifrost carried himself down a flight of intricately carved stone stairs, breathing the surprisingly fresh air as he descended. Several others acknowledged Bifrost as he moved by. Whilst he was essentially equal their King, the Dwarven society was very casual unless it came to matters of war or other particularly serious business.
Moving onto a sterdy metallic bridge, Bifrost grabbed the railing as the entire cavern seemed to shake. It wasn't uncommon for mild earthquakes to occur, although they were quite rare in Frosthaven as there were no stress areas within the earth anywhere near it. Waiting another few moments, Bifrost decided to continue after there was no follow-up.
Unfortunately the Dwarven Councillor was only able to move another few steps before a deafening rumble spread throughout the city. Cracks could be seen forming in the ceiling and buildings began to collapse as the ground shifted beneath them. Several loud curses escaped the Dwarve's mouth as he began to move as fast as his stubby legs could carry him.
Only a few metres from solid land now, Bifrost was too intent on making it off the bridge to notice a large chunk of stone that had broken off the cavern ceiling and began a rapid descent towards the bridge. Whilst he was fortunate enough to not be crushed like a bug upon impact, the stone utterly destroyed the bridge with a resounding shriek as steel was snapped and the stone plunged into the lake, launching water, stone and steal everywhere.
Bifrost was nowhere to be seen...
Izual stood within the arcane grove established directly over an earth lane. An hour had passes since his meeting with the other Elven elders and now he needed to be in Knossoss. No doubt Xerxes' men would have attacked there as well, he could only hope that they were able to hold off the attacking forces.
Chanting the necessary words, runes encircling the grove flared into life as the spell activated, unleashing a brilliant flash of light as Izual was sucked into the earth lane and carried halfway across the nation within an instant. Upon opening his eyes, Izual found himself standing within what resembled a town square, within the magi community of Knossoss.
Almost immediately his senses were assaulted by the obvious stench of burning wood and flesh, smoke roaring up into the sky from multiple fires around the city. The clash of steel could be heard in the background, yet by all appearances the fighting had not breached the inner wall, although he couldn't be sure how long it would hold.
Weaving his hands to create the appropriate sigils and muttering a few words, the air shimmered before Izual to create a mirror life surface. For a moment he saw his own reflection yet it was quickly replaced by the hooded form of Thor.
"Many of the townsfolk have gone mad, attacking anything that moves. They've opened the gates and allowed thousands of Xerxe's black clad soldiers into the city. Unfortunately the majority of the garrison is a day or so away, dealing with bandit camps."
Thor spun around as a soldier behind him was struck down by an arrow, the projectile planted firmly within his eye socket.
"We have another problem too. Xerxes has done something to his soldiers, they're immune to arcane attacks. Conventional weaponry remains as effective as usual, but our mages are near useless against these soldiers."
On the rare occassion, Izual could be heard cursing in his own language. Even so, the words sounded musical and of no ill meaning. Thor merely smiled under his hood, although that was shortlived as another soldier dropped to his right.
"Would it be possible to mobilise your own forces and get them outside the city?"
"We're under attack ourselves, but the defenses are holding easily. No man of Xerxes' will be getting into Ellandale. I shall return and begin gathering our forces. I can have five thousand warriors outside Knossoss within two hours. Can you hold out that long?"
Thor's voice seemed determined, yet a faint air of doubt was evident to Izual.
"We'll have to."
With that said, the human mage dismantled the spell on his end and Izual was left to his own devices. Returning to the 'town square', Izual began the ritual once again, this time speaking in the human tongue as the runes were tuned to respond to those words. Strategically place runes began to glow once again and the same brilliant flash ensued.
If one could see the earth lanes from an airborne view above Khadrim, they would note something very perculiar. It was too late for Izual as he'd already activated the spell, but as he was being sucked into the lane another nation wide earthquake ravaged the land, knocking over buildings, collapsing mountains and opening gaping holes within the earth. Whilst the physical damage was evident, the change of most significance was that the earth lane that usually ran through Knossoss and straight on towards Ellandale had curved. It now ran through the Dark Woods before making a bee line towards Ellandale.
Izual knew something had gone wrong when he opened his eyes to encounter only darkness. He reached out through his link to the earth and only received a sense of pain. Something was terribly wrong.
"This really it too easy..."
Izual spun around to place a face to the voice behind him, only to gasp in pain as a blade was shoved straight through his beating heart. The near transparent figure wielding the blade didn't stop there but began twisting the blade in any direction possible, completely ripping apart the vital organ. Blood poured forth into Izual's body as he attempted to gasp for air, a gurgling noise the only result of his efforts.
Withdrawing the blade, the figure watched as it fell through his hand, unable to grip the weapon.
"I may not be here entirely, elf, but it was enough to get your blood on my hands."
The figure didn't possess a face or any distinguishing features, simply a humanoid body and an all encompassing voice. A look of shock and horror etched upon his face, Izual collapsed to the ground as he lost the strength to stand and the world faded to black.
With the remainder of Izual's life bleeding away, Xerxe's began to work upon elf, lacing him with spells and energies that would emerge at just the right moment.
Half an hour after Izual had departed from Knossoss, the lane grove in Ellandale flared to life and ejected Izual, several of his companions awaiting his arrival. Within they knew something was wrong as their leader lady upon his back, unmoving. There was no evidence of any violence, it was as if Izual was merely sleeping.
A young soldier moved forward, reaching a hand out to sense Izual's vitals. Unfortunately for all of Ellandale, that touch had sealed their fate. The second contact was made, the spells weaved within Izual's corpse activated and exploded outwards. A dome of pale white energy engulfed the community, all the way up to the borders of the elven capital. Anyone observing from outside the borders would note the entire forest was now frozen. Everything within trapped inside a prison of impervious, unnatural ice.
The elven race had been essentially crippled in a matter of seconds.
Thanks to the efforts of Thor and his arcane brethren, the stone wall protecting the Magi community stood intact, despite the rest of Knossoss being completely overrun by the near rabid forces of Xerxes. Unless part of black clad force, everyone else was dead or dying thanks to the merciless attack.
Many of the younger, less experienced mages found themselves unable to concentrate upon their spells as the sight of their fallen friends and family clouded their minds and emptied stomachs. The air was thick with a horrid mixture of blood, burned flesh and other various materials found throughout the city.
Taking a last glance over the wall, Thor moved back down a number of stairs to speak with the other two ranking Magi that formed what was referred to as the Triumvirate.
"We can't keep this up forever and these men seem to be possessed to a point where fatigue is not an issue. Whilst we're not in any immediate danger of the wall being breached, it is inevitable unless we do something to prevent them from coming into contact with it."
Two men stood before Thor, Alexis and Illandir. Alexis appeared to be in his mid sixties yet moved like a man of thirty. Whilst he was easily younger than Thor, Alexis never bothered to return a youthful appearance to his exterior as he felt it was unnecessary. A moderate bearded hung from his face, the edges quite grey and slowly spreading throughout the remainder of his facial hair.
Illandir actually appeared his age, a relatively young man in magi terms of fifty years. Illandir had proven himself a more than adept mage and quickly risen through the ranks of the order, finding himself a place upon the Triumvirate by his fortieth year. Sporting a dirty blonde mane of hair, it appeared as though it had never been maintained in his life. It was Illandir that replied first.
"If we could get them back from the wall for a few minutes, we should establish a barrier that no siege weapon is going to get through. Xerxes may be a God but as I understand he still has limits so we should be able to keep him out as well."
Thor contemplated this for a moment.
"With the arcane power we've got in here we can certainly manage such. How would we clear the wall?"
Alexis took this moment to voice his own thoughts.
"They may be immune to the energies of our attacks, but what if we were to employ the aid of a green dragon and use the air itself to remove these offenders?"
Thor nodded, his comrade's idea seeming perfectly plausible.
"I'll contact Ryath about such. For now we keep defending."
Everytime he visited the vast halls of the Dragonic Peaks, Thor never ceased to be awed at the sheer size of the dwellings. Whilst of course it was normal to a gigantic dragon, for a man that only stood at roughly six feet, he could be one hundred times tallker and still not reach the ceiling.
Ryath stood before him in her human form out of courtesy for her human colleague. So far there hadn't been any sign of Xerxe's men moving towards the home of the dragons, most likely due to them all being focused on Knossoss and other human settlements.
"We don't have a lot of time as our attacks appear to be near useless against Xerxe's men. They are completely immune to our arcane attacks. Alexis has theorised that one of your green kind would be able to force them outside the city long enough for us to erect formiddable barriers."
Ryath nodded as she contemplated such.
"I am not aware of any such spell that could create an immunity like what you speak of, but your fellow mage's suggestion seems more than feasible. I shall ask Dria and Hellion to accompany you back to Knossoss and dispose of the attackers."
Dead silence filled the city of Knossoss. Nothing stirred outside the enclosing wall of the magi community, not even scavenger birds. There was no explanation for it, Xerxe's army had simply turned about and moved outside of Knossoss and continued off into the horizon.
The strangest part was that the army had very nearly breached the wall a number of times and thus it was only a matter of time before they made it through and defeated the forces within. Despite the lack of attackers, the mages and soldiers within kept an intense vigil along the wall, unwilling to move into the outer part of the city.
Minutes after the last soldier disappeared, a lone figure was spotted walking into the city. He wore a simple grey robe that hid his face and covered him from head to toe. With no distinguish marks, those on the wall became immediately suspicious and aimed weapons at the figure as he approached.
Halting before the great stone wall before him, the figure called out in a voice that filled every inch of the city.
"The time has come for you humans to fall."
Before any of the defenders realised who was standing before them, the very world around them seemed to explode as a force unlike anything they'd ever encountered ripped through the air and stone as if it were nothing. The walls were incinerated instantly and anyone upon them at the time as well.
All ears were filled with a furious roar that could not be placed to any living creature. This roar was the result of godlike power surging through the air, more intense than any flame and harder than any stone. Within minutes the entire city of Knossoss was engulfed in a dome of this power as it was promptly being ripped apart and burned out of existence.
A few more minutes passed unti the dome finally subsided and the robed figure was left on his lonesome, standing within a massive circle of charred earth.
Ryath stopped in midspeech as the very land around them cried out in pain. It was rare that nature would have such an obvious reaction that even the dragons and humans could detect such. What followed left both Ryath and Thor completely shaken to the core.
Screams of terror filled their ears whilst images of the destruction of Knossoss filled their eyes. Whoever sent such a message was no longer in existence and it could only be assumed they perished in the absolute devastation. On top of the life lost within the city, many objects and tomes of untold arcane value had also been destroyed. It was all gone.
Whilst there were no confirmations at the time, it was a reasonably safe assumption that Xerxes had gained a physical form and broken through the wards of the Dark Wood.
A full day had passed since the destruction of Knossoss. Since then word had reached Thor and Ryath that Ellandale had frozen over completely and any attempt to undo such a spell had been unsuccessful. Frosthaven had suffered extensive cave collapses, as had many other Dwarven dwellings.
Several other human cities had also fallen under attack from Xerxe's army, many of these littered with mages and thus proving far too effective against the human armies. Unfortunately the majority of human mages in Khadrim had been killed in Knossoss so there were few to defend against any arcane attacks launched from Xerxes' men.
It appeared as though the entirety of Khadrim save for the Dragonic lands had been plunged into chaos as normal citizens suddenly took up arms and joined the armies of the black clad men against their own friends and family.
With little to no aid from the Dwarves or Elves the Human nation of Khadrim would be overrun and eventually Xerxes would look to the dragons, perhaps the only force capable of putting up a true fight against his armies.
Almost a week had passed since those taking haven in the Dragonic Peaks had learned of the events regarding Ellendale, Knossoss and Frosthaven. Several attempts had been made to free those within Ellandale and Frosthaven yet the efforts were fruitless as the ice could not be penetrated and some form of barrier had completely sealed off Frosthaven from arcane entrance whilst the collapsed tunnels prevented any physical attempts.
With the major armies of the Humans, Dwarves and Elves either dead or severely damaged, Xerxes' near limitless amount of black clad men had very little trouble dispatching of any further resistance. Garrisons were easily overwhelmed by sheer numbers, those putting up any resistance were merely destroyed whilst the others found themselves slaves within their own towns and cities.
With Knossoss completely gone, Xerxes had decided to station his throne about the site of the once proud city. Construction had already begun whilst the army moved around the nation, wiping out any resistance. It appeared as though the days would only get darker in Khadrim.
The very ground itself appeared to shake as a mass of men moved ever onward through the desert known as Dragonic territory. Xerxe's army was certainly not founded on discipline nor clear structure.
No one marched in nay particular formation, some men rode whilst others walked, their weapons slung over their backs or strapped to belts. The only similarity between each man was they they wore black clothing from head to toe, only revealing their eyes. They travelled at night to avoid the heat of the dragon scarred desert and after several days they had reached the Dragonic Peaks.
Thor, Ryath and Dragoth, a black dragon and mate of Ryath, sat within one of the many vast chambers that existed within the Dragonic Peaks. If one were to carefully examine the layout of the dwellings they would realise there were far more rooms and space than physically possible within the mountains. Thor had realised such long ago but never asked how his friends were able to accomplish such.
"I honestly don't see any other options for us. Without the Tear we cannot directly combat Xerxes and even if we destroy his armies I'm sure he can come up with more mindless warriors."
Dragoth's deep voice appeared out of nowhere due to the use of a spell. Since he was unable to transform into a humanoid state, he had to project his voice in an arcane manner.
"Xerxes will not be able to enter these peaks and we are more than able to handle his army."
Thor seemed somewhat confused as he turned to the massive black dragon.
"What is preventing him? I don't mean to offend your kind but I doubt even you could form wards that would do more than simply slow him down."
This time Ryath spoke, her fluid voice flowing out of her voicebox as if she really were human and always spoke like such.
Thor merely looked at his companion, waiting for a further explanation.
"This land was created by the four Dragonic gods. Later on they agreed to share it with Elven, Dwarven and even Human gods. Thus the races were created and generally kept to themselves.
The Dragonic gods kept to themselves for the most part but the Elven and Human gods continuously warred, using their followers as puppets in their own personal battles. Eventually the Humans were able to gain Dwarven support and the Elven gods were slain. They disippated into the very earth and hence the Elven connection with the land.
From then on the Human and Dwarven gods remained good allies but they were too preoccupied with themselves to notice their own people losing their faith. Eventually there was so little faith amongst their own followers that they left Khadrim.
The Dragons on the other hand had a much closer connection with their gods and thus they remained present for much longer. It wasn't until the beginnings of our 'civil war' did our creators leave in disgust, horrified at our actions and thus abandoning us to suffer the consequences of our actions. On many occassions the gods would reside in these peaks as their temple exists here and thus they sealed the place with wards barring the entrance of any other gods without their express permission."
Dragoth nodded his approval.
"Perhaps if we can appeal to the gods for their return, we have a change of defeating Xerxes."
Whilst it was impossible to see Thor's expression it was obvious he was quite surprised. He never knew the history of men or the other races within Khadrim and had always figured the peoples to be godless. After some time, he finally spoke.
"How shall we find your gods?"
Before any of the dragons could speak a thunderous roar filled the many halls and chambers within the mountains, an obvious warning. Ryath was the first to speak once it subsided.
Far below the peaks stood the black clad mass of men known as Xerxes' army. If one took the time to count their numbers they would find over half a million men at the ready. The Dragonic Peaks happened to be one of the few places within Dragonic Khadrim where trees actually grew and the distinct sound of axes hacking at wood in order to build siege weapons resulted in several roars of intense anger erupting from the peaks.
From the perspective of the army, towards the left they faced an almost flat cliff face and thus were unable to approach from that side whilst towards the right the terrain began to slope upwards, boulders and such littering the path upwards. It was a very easily defendable position and would be essentially suicide for anyone to attack it, especially considering the occupants were dragons. Of course this did not deter the black clad men as several squads already began ascending the mountain.
The attackers were soon met by the defenders as waves of dragons poured out of the mountains, black, red, green and gold alike, all willing to fight to the death in order to defend their home.
The first wave of warriors simply dropped dead as a wave of black dragons swept over them, employing their natural ability to suck the life out of any living creature. With the immediate threat to their home knocked back, the remainder of the dragons formed a circle above their attackers, dodging or destroying arrows when necessary.
Once everyone was in position over a thousand dragons descended upon the army, unleashing their devastating fires upon the men below. They may be immune to spells and such but there was not combatting the pure destructive force of fire.
Thor, Ryath and Dragoth stood upon a cliff edge overlooking the decimated battle ground. The battle had lasted nearly a full day yet by the end every last member of the attacking army had been destroyed. The battle would have raged much longer if it weren't for Thor offering his experience in battle and thus sound tactics.
The initial assault from the flame wielding dragons had surprised the offenders and killed many of them and yet more came. Those further back from the dragonic assault were able to organise themselves into some form of order and began unleashing waves of arrows and other projectiles in order to deter the dragons.
Whilst it was common knowledge and spells the arcane creatures employed would be useless, it appeared as though the army before them could not stand up to the Dragonic natural talents. As the airborne dragons retreated in order to avoid being harmed by the arrows, although most merely bounced off their scales, the very ground beneath the army began to shake.
High upon the peaks of the mountains, out of sight of the army, over a hundred green dragons sat watching. Together their collective sway over the elements was enough to literally rip the ground apart beneath the masses of soldiers. There was nothing they could do as the earth fell in beneath them, allowing gravity to do the rest. Those few that remained had easily been dispatched afterwards.
After many moments of silence, Thor spoke.
"He won't make the same mistake twice."
"Come, it's time we entered the temple. It will take some time for Xerxes to gather another army and we must be ready for I doubt it will be so easy next time."
Ryath led Thor through the gigantic hallways of the Dragonic Peaks, winding around in multiple directions as if it were designed to make intruders lose their bearings. If it weren't for Ryath guiding him even Thor may have found himself lost within the masses of tunnels. The only obvious direction they'd been following was down, which seemed odd as Thor never thought the Dragons lived far below the summit.
As they progressed Thor noticed a significant change in the tunnels, the first sign being the noise his boots made upon them. Thanks to his arcane sight Thor was able to examine the tunnel closely, noting the completely smooth, obsidian surface. It was as if dragonfire had been used to melt a pathway through the very rock.
Remaining silent, Thor followed Ryath for several more minutes as they continued descending until Thor realised they had actually ventured underground. Even more surprised, he was about to save something when Ryath came to a stop before what appeared to be the end of the tunnel, merely more of the obsidian tunnel wall.
Knowing well enough that appearances were deceiving, Thor merely waited as Ryath closed her eyes and a dull golden hue began to illuminate her form. Without speaking a word she place a hand upon the wall before them and opened her eyelids in time to see it simply fade away as if it had never been there in the first place. Turning back to Thor, Ryath spoke.
"It may be somewhat uncomfortable when you step over the barrier."
Thor merely nodded and watched as Ryath stepped through the space where the wall had been and disappeared. Not one to hesitate, Thor followed and almost immediately regretted it. One could describe the sensation as being violently upheaved and then thrown off a mountain peak with strong gales knocking you around the rocky peaks. Whilst physically nothing was actually assaulting Thor, it didn't make the journey any more pleasant.
Finally his world appeared to reassemble itself and Thor found himself on solid ground, one knee resting on it whilst he used his stave to maintain balance. Gasping for air, the human mage rose to both feet and took a few wobbly steps, progressively getting better.
Once his eyes had adjusted Thor couldn't help but stare. He thought some of the dragonic caverns were awe inspiring but this place made them appear as dank dungeons. The floor was composed of the whitest marble Thor had ever gazed upon whilst the walls were of that same obsidian nature as the tunnel, though a seemingly sourceless light made it appear all the more majestic. Elaborate patterns of jewels line the walls and floor, some bigger than a man's head whilst others were so small they could hardly be seen.
The jewels had also been used in several depictions of legendary Dragonic creatures, perhaps even the Gods themselves. There were no words to truly describe the place before him, a fusion of arcane and stonework mastery. The ceiling seemed limitless Even with his vision Thor couldn't spot it and he doubted if even dragons could.
Ryath merely smiled as she watched Thor gaze upon the wonders around him.
"Welcome to the Dragonic Temple. This is where our four Gods used to be worshipped and meet with us..."
Ryath led Thor further down the marble stairs, allowing him to gaze upon the immensely vast hall, free of any pillars that would hinder his view of the temple. Whilst the width appeared to be endless. Thor could at least see the end of the temple as it rose towards a podium, sitting atop were four dragons. One composed of gold, the other black pearl, the next a firery ruby and the last a purely green emerald.
Now standing before the podium Thor realised how massive these model dragons really were, far larger than any real dragon. Stepping to the side, Thor remained silent as Ryath transformed back into her natural state before the podium, bowing her massive head as she uttered words in her native tongue.
After several minutes the eyes of all four statues began to pulse.
"The Gods have recognised my call... but they are not easily persuaded. As I guessed, we shall have to seek them out."
Thor gazed from each pair of eyes as he replied.
"Whatever it takes."
Knowing her companion's words were true, Ryath spoke another guttural word and the valuable dragons before them shifted position, all four unleashing their own wave of blinding flame. Thor expected to feel the burn yet didn't feel a thing as the fire engulfed him from head to toe.
Once the flames had subsided, Thor and Ryath were gone, swept out of Khadrim and with no one the wiser.