Edge of Darkness: The Broken Circle
Episode 6 - The Trap
14,000 years ago
Kal’Dan Melir sat confidently upon a throne crafted from the skulls and bones of his vanquished enemies with his hands resting upon the tops of two skulls that formed the ends of the throne’s armrests. The skeletal fingers of his right hand tapped rhythmically upon the skull as he waited, creating a unique sound of bone upon bone.
Once, Kal’Dan had been the fairest of the silver elves and the mightiest sorcerer to ever walk the face of Ondoron. He had been a hero then, back during the foolish days of youth. Unlike most of his kind, he had made his home in the human kingdom of Din’Garreth, in the capitol city of Goldgate so that he could be closer to his mother.
Goldgate had been a wondrous city, and was even now remembered as a lost wonder of Ondoron. People from all races dwelt together within the city, and tall spires within the city reached towards the heavens that the city guarded. The wealth of the kingdom was known far and wide, and it spared no expense in the upkeep of its capitol city. It was a haven of knowledge and enlightenment.
But then came the Insurrection of Heaven, when the so-called Dark Watchers attempted to seize control of Heaven and the fate of mortals. Violent energy spilled over through the Portal to Heaven into the city of Goldgate and the kingdom it reigned over, destroying all that it touched.
Or would have. Kal’Dan called upon all of the defensive powers he had to attempt to shield the people of Din’Garreth from the unleashed fury of the Watchers, but it had not been enough. He succeeded in preventing the land from shattering and many of the people from being obliterated into nothingness. But for all his power, he could not prevent them from dying. Nor could he save his own life. And he could not have known what would happen to those corpses that survived the unfocused wrath of the Watchers. In his past life, it would have horrified him.
But that was before he had known true power….
Ka-boom! The black stone doors that were carved with arcane sigils and symbols of death shattered into the throne room, and molten pieces of metal flew through the open portal a few seconds later. An empty helmet that glowed red-hot bounced noisily through the door and came to rest a dozen feet before the staircase that led up to the skeletal figure that sat upon a throne of bone. Kal’Dan’s thoughts returned from their reverie.
Smoke and rock dust filled the now-open doorway, and silence reigned within the hall beyond as the former pieces of door and guardians settled across the floor. Moments later, the rhythmic step of an armored warrior could be heard from the corridor. The warrior stepped through the smoke and dust and paused. He was an imposing sight. Nearly six-feet in height and covered from head to toe in thick, silvery plate armor. In his right hand he carried a spear that was slightly taller than he was. The armor of the figure showed evidence of scratches and burns, but the figure that wore it seemed undaunted. The green flames that burned within Kal’Dan’s skull sockets gleamed brighter in anticipation. His guest had at last arrived.
- * * * * *
“Knock, knock, big brother. Anybody home?” A voice from beneath the silver helm said as he surveyed his surroundings.
The throne room was immense and appeared to be made entirely out of black stone. This did not surprise the silver-armored figure. The black stone matched the rest of the décor of this dark fortress. A large black slab of rock jutted up from the end of the room, rising up about 40 feet from the floor. A staircase rose steeply from the floor to the top of the stone slab. A dozen Dark Reavers were standing silently at attention inintervals up the staircase.
The throne sat upon the top of the slab. Seated upon the throne of bone was a skeletal figure with burning green eyes. He wore clothing that was probably rich and stylish 14,000 years ago. A crown of platinum adorned with precious jewels sat atop long silver hair that still clung somehow to the bare skull of the creature on the throne. The flesh of Kal’Dan Melir had been burned off in the Insurrection of Heaven. Now all that remained was his skeleton. And apparently his hair. Regardless, the armored warrior could feel the raw power and the pure evil that radiated from the Dread King of Din’Garreth.
“Ah, at last we get a chance to meet dear brother. I have been watching you for a long time and looking forward to this meeting,” the skeletal king said, with a trace of mockery. “You do know how to make an entrance, Ral’Tandrack.”
“Sorry about the mess,” Ral’Tandrack replied. “Your minions seemed upset that I didn’t give enough advance warning of my visit. But I convinced them to let me pass.”
Kal’Dan’s laugh was hollow and cold. “You will forgive me, I hope, little brother. I had to make sure that you were indeed old enough to play with the adults.”
“I trust that I have sufficiently proven myself, then.” Ral’Tandrack made it a statement rather than a question.
“I am sufficiently convinced that you are not an ordinary fool,” Kal’Dan replied. “But you are a fool nevertheless. I should destroy you where you stand, but I shall humor your intrusion because you are kin. What do you seek of me Ral’Tandrack?”
“I have heard that you have finally agreed to an alliance with Emperor Dracnus. Such an alliance will almost guarantee that the world shall fall under his boot. I have come to convince you to reconsider your alliance.”
The green eyes glowed a little brighter. “I see. Do you mean to convince me as you ‘convinced’ my minions to allow you access to this chamber?” He glanced pointedly at the helmet that was slowly cooling feet from the base of the throne.
“If need be, brother,” Ral’Tandrack replied. “But I hope that it does not come to that.”
Again, Kal’Dan’s hollow laughter echoed around the chamber. “You do have great courage Ral. I will grant you that. You barge into my sanctuary uninvited? You destroy my henchmen? You threaten me? My dear brother, your pathetic, ragged alliance of misfits cannot possibly defeat Dracnus even with your help. Whether I aid the dark elf or not, the result will be the same. This Demon War is already won. You are just too stubborn to admit it.”
Ral’Tandrack stiffened slightly. “Don’t be so hasty to dismiss us. We still have a chance.”
The flame that burned within Kal’Dan’s eyes grew two shades darker. “The only chance they had, brother, was you. You are powerful. But you have no idea what power you are up against. You cannot defeat me, certainly not here in my sanctum. On the mortal plane you could perhaps injure me. Here, I am invincible. It was foolish of you to come here alone. We have much to catch up on, my dear brother. I insist that you stay here as my….honored guest. We shall see how long your insignificant rebellion lasts without you.”
Fixing their gazes upon Ral’Tandrack, the Dark Reavers stirred, readied their weapons and began descending the stairs.
“Don’t do this brother,” Ral’Tandrack said. “You were once a good man, a hero. Don’t you remember? People once praised your name and composed ballads of your deeds. It’s not too late to turn away from this path. Stop denying who you truly are. Join me. Together we can defeat Dracnus and free the people of Ondoron.”
“Oh, Ral. I do remember those days. I was just as much a fool then as you are now. But I have tasted true power, brother, just as you shall. And you, too, shall realize how foolish it is to waste your life and your talents protecting these pathetic mortals whose lives are so short and meaningless. You and I are more than they are – more than they could ever hope to be. In a few short instants, the mortals live out their lives. And soon after they die they are forgotten and it is as if they never existed. Ask a human what he knows of his great-great grandfather sometime. You and I shall live forever, Ral. Do not waste your time with these sad, pathetic creatures whose only purpose is to breed before they fade into oblivion. They are cattle Ral, to do with as we please.”
Four of the Dark Reavers were off the staircase, advancing steadily on their target.
Ral’Tandrack stood his ground and shook his head. “You are wrong about them Kal’Dan. I take it that you do not intend to break your alliance with Dracnus then?”
The green eyes of Kal’Dan Melir blazed brightly. “No, dear brother. Dracnus has the support of Din’Garreth.”
Six of the Dark Reavers were off the stairs, and two more were close to touching the floor. Ral’Tandrack sighed. “So be it. Pyrus Argentum!” he shouted.
A radiant beam of silver energy flashed down from the ceiling and smashed into the column of rock, shattering stone in an explosion of radiance and sound. Kal’Dan did not move a muscle upon his throne as he was overwhelmed by the silver fire. Flying chunks of rock crashed down, and the five Dark Reavers that still descended the staircase were shattered like fragile crystal beneath a hammer. A sixth Dark Reaver was hurled from its feet to the floor, and the others staggered briefly as the chamber resonated with the power. When the blinding silver light receded an instant later, the throne and the rock it sat upon were gone and a crater was all that remained.
“Now that was entirely too easy,” Ral’Tandrack muttered to himself.
Ral’Tandrack didn’t have time for further analysis as the first of the Dark Reavers leaped forward and swung his sword in a downward arc while a second charged and swung a moment later, hoping to impale Ral as he fended off the first attack. Ral’Tandrack lifted his spear to parry the first blow and while doing so, spoke a word that brought a globe of air into being directly in the path of the charging Reaver. The second Dark Reaver had too much momentum, and could not avoid the orb. As soon as he stepped inside, the swirling currents knocked the construct’s legs out from under it, then sent it tumbling head-over-heels into the air. The Dark Reaver flailed as it flew up, and then fell back down to the earth with a resounding crash of metal on stone.
Meanwhile, Ral’Tandrack had dispatched the first opponent with a spear thrust through the breastplate and was now engaged with the next two armored assailants. The two Reavers flanked the warmage, who was hard-pressed to parry the onslaught of blows as two more Reavers closed in. With incredible dexterity for an armored warrior, Ral’Tandrack dropped to a knee as the Reaver behind him made a thrust at his exposed back. Instead of piercing his opponent, the Reaver instead impaled his companion and sent it crashing lifeless to the ground. The warmage quickly swept out with the blunt end of the spear, sweeping the surprised Dark Reaver’s legs out from under it. With a quick word, a wall of fire burst into being between himself and three charging Dark Reavers. Without missing a beat, he raised the spear to finish off his fallen opponent.
From the corner of his eye, Ral’Tandrack noticed Kal’Dan Melir appear seemingly out of nowhere. “An impressive bit of magic. Had I actually been seated on the throne, I may have been singed a little. I replaced myself with an illusion right after you knocked my door down and decided to watch from down here. But now it’s my turn, little brother.” Kal’Dan raised a single hand towards Ral’Tandrack. A bolt of black energy flew from his fingertips.
Snarling in irritation, Ral’Tandrack summoned a silvery wall of energy to deflect the spell. But to his surprise, the bolt shattered the wall into shards of silvery energy that collapsed toward the floor before they dissipated. The energy bolt did not stop, however, and hammered into Ral’Tandrack, knocking his spear from his grasp. The warmage was lifted lifted off of his feet and hurled through his own wall of flame. Ral’Tandrack landed with a crash on the other side, shattering one of the Dark Reavers that was just preparing to move through the curtain of energy. A terrible shrieking sound filled the room as Ral’Tandrack’s armored body skidded across the stone floor.
Ral’Tandrack climbed to his feet. A quick inspection of his armor revealed his breastplate was blackened and dented, but still intact. The curtain of flame he had summoned was still burning brightly, obscuring the Dark Reaver he had nearly killed and Kal’Dan Melir from his view. On this side of the flames, there were still two Dark Reavers near the fire wall and a third that had just climbed to its feet after it had been flung skyward by the ball of air several seconds ago.
Ral’Tandrack leaped to the attack, jumping towards the dented and battered Reaver with a ferocious battle cry. A green beam of energy sprang from his outstretched hand, reducing the construct to dust before it could do little more than raise its sword.
The other two constructs were charging now. A bolt of lightning brought one of the attackers crashing lifelessly to the ground, but the second attacker had closed to melee. It brought its axe down at the warmage. Ral’Tandrack stepped aside and caught only a glancing blow from the weapon. The axe flashed down a second time, but this time it was intercepted by a shield of force energy that the warmage summoned. Undeterred, the animated suit of armor raised its axe again to strike.
Ral’Tandrack took a step back from his opponent, dodging another blow of its axe. A silver blur shot through the wall of flames toward the warmage’s outstretched hand. It struck the Dark Reaver in the back just as it was preparing to bring its axe down again. There was an explosive blast of fire from the strike, and the construct crashed to the ground. The spear flew into the grip of its master, gleaming brightly in the light of silver flames that burned from the shaft.
A field of darkness gathered around the wall of flame. The fire burned fiercely in defiance, then flickered before dying out. Kal’Dan stood several feet from where the edge of the energy curtain had been, the surviving Dark Reaver by his side.
“You have fought well against my minions, Ral’Tandrack. But you cannot defeat me. Not here.”
“We shall see,” Ral’Tandrack replied. He summoned all of the energy that he could into a single blast of arcane energy and sent it hurling towards Kal’Dan Melir. The energy bolt split in half, then both bolts split in half again, then once more the bolts split. The final Dark Reaver leaped in front of its master and was shattered without slowing or deterring even a single one of the powerful bolts from its course.
There was a blinding flash of light as the bolts struck, and the backlash of energy caused Ral’Tandrack to take a couple of step backwards and to shield his eyes. Tiny, silvery fires burned around the chamber as the brilliant blast of the explosion dimmed, and Ral’Tandrack was happy that his helm hid his dismay at seeing Kal’Dan standing exactly where he had been before the blast. A hemisphere of dark, transparent energy surrounded the skeletal figure, whose arms were crossed in a defensive gesture. Around the edges of the shield, the black stone floor was reduced to black gravel for fifteen feet in all directions.
Kal’Dan dropped his arms and the hemisphere of dark energy dissipated. The green eyes burned fiercely. “Most impressive. Most impressive, indeed,” he said. “You and I could do great things together Join me, my brother. Not even Dracnus could stand before our combined might. Together, we could rule this world and forge it to our whim!”
The fight to get to Kal’Dan’s hidden demiplane sanctuary had been a long and hard one, as had the effort of breaking through the defenses of the sanctuary. Ral’Tandrack was rapidly growing exhausted, but he tried to conceal it. “I will never join….”
“Fine, have it your way,” Kal’Dan interrupted with a flick of his hand. Twin green beams shot out from his fingertips. Ral’Tandrack was able to bring up his silvery wall of defense to intercept the blast. The first bolt struck the wall and tore a hole in it, and the second bolt passed through the opening and struck the tiring warmage as he tried to leap clear.
The breastplate, helmet, and right side of the full plate armor simply vanished into nonexistence, and Ral’Tandrack crashed to the floor on his still-armored left shoulder.
With a laugh, Kal’Dan gestured again, and two more beams of green energy shot forward. Ral’Tandrack made a gesture and spoke a word, and a wall of rainbow-colored energy sprung into being, and the green bolts shattered ineffectually against it.
Ral’Tandrack knew he needed a way to change the trajectory of the battle, and fast. Reaching out with his arcane senses, he felt the abjurations that restricted dimensional travel. Teleporting was not an option. And Kal’Dan appeared to be able to deflect ranged attacks with little difficulty.
That left only one real option, Ral’Tandrack supposed.
With a snarl of impatience, Kal’Dan waved a hand at the wall of flickering rainbow energy. Darkness touched against the wall, and the mixed colors began separating into bands of individual color. Then in a flash of light, the wall was gone.
Ral’Tandrack charged forward with his spear, hurling powerful bolts of energy ahead of him. Kal’Dan hissed in annoyance and brought up his dark shield again. The bolts of many types of energy struck the shield over and over again. Kal’Dan’s shield held, but he had to lower his head with the effort.
Two final orbs of fire struck the dark hemisphere of energy, and then Ral’Tandrack flew into the barrier, bringing his spear down with all of his might. There was a flash of silver, and the globe of darkness shattered. Kal’Dan stumbled back in surprise, and Ral’Tandrack pressed his advantage. The spear tore holes in the elaborate clothing of the skeletal lord, and a reverse stroke crashed the shaft of the staff against Kal’Dan’s skull. The Dread King stumbled back with an outraged snarl and extended his hand. A staff of black energy materialized there. Kal’Dan deflected the next three attacks, slowing Ral’Tandrack’s momentum before taking the offensive. He brought the staff down, which Ral’Tandrack blocked with his spear in an overhand grip. Kal’Dan then quickly followed up with the other end of his staff, bringing it up and under Ral’Tandrack’s defenses. There was a loud crack as the staff struck Ral’Tandrack’s chin and sent him stumbling backward. Kal’Dan pressed his advantage, laying a pair of solid blows on his younger opponent’s ribs before delivering a powerful blow to his head.
Ral’Tandrack’s spear clattered to the ground as the warmage fell. He laid there, blood dripping from his nose and mouth as he looked defiantly up at the looming figure of Kal’Dan Melir. Kal’Dan kicked the spear aside, then dismissed his quarterstaff with a gesture. He picked up the fallen warmage by his tunic, then held up his other skeletal hand. It was surrounded by a corona of dark energy. “It has been long since any have dared to strike me. But the game is over Ral’Tandrack. You have lost.”
Ral’Tandrack smiled through bloody, swollen lips. “Don’t I get any last words?”
The green flames within Kal’Dan’s eye sockets seemed to diminish somewhat. “Very well. Do you wish to plead for your life? Warn me that your friends shall avenge you? Tell me that there is still good in me and it is not yet too late?”
Ral’Tandrack continued to smile. “No, nothing like that. Just two words.”
“Two words? Really?” Kal’Dan sighed. “Very well. Get on with it.”
“Dodge this,” Ral’Tandrack said, still bearing that same smile. He thrust a hand hard into the ribcage of his captor and released a blinding flare of brilliant silver fire. The force of the blast hurled Ral’Tandrack backward twenty feet, leaving half of his armor padding torn and still clutched in Kal’Dan’s fist. The spear of silver energy punched a hole straight through Kal’Dan and sent him flying back dozens of feet to crash into the wall of the throne room. The stone of the wall cracked and left a vaguely humanoid depression and Kal’Dan dropped to the floor. Smoke curled up slowly from the tattered remains of his clothes.
It seemed to take an extraordinary amount of effort for Ral’Tandrack to lift his head to stare at the still body. With a sigh of relief, he let his head fall to the floor.
The relief was short lived, however. Moments later, Ral’Tandrack heard a rasping sound. Against his better judgement and the protests of his aching body, he opened his eyes and looked over towards the fallen Kal’Dan.
The skeletal form of Kal’Dan was rising from the floor and standing on its own two feet. The spinal cord had already repaired itself from the blast, and a latticework of dark energy seemed to be replacing the lost bone of the ribs as Ral’Tandrack watched.
Ral’Tandrack let his head drop back to the floor. “You have got to be kidding me,” he complained.
Kal’Dan advanced slowly, gathering strength and stability with each step. His eyes blazed a fierce green that filled the entirety of the socket. “Did you really think that destroying me would be so easy?” the angry voice of Kal’Dan demanded.
Ral’Tandrack tried to laugh, but it mostly came out as a cough. “You know, that wasn’t quite as easy as I made it look.”
“You can’t even imagine the ways that I shall torment you for this insolence,” Kal’Dan continued. “I cannot overlook the affront of coming into my fortress and injuring me, minor enough though it was.”
“H…how did you bounce back from that so fast?” Ral’Tandrack asked. “Even the nosferil don’t regenerate that quickly.”
Kal’Dan laughed. “You think that I am merely nosferil?” He laughed mockingly for several moments longer before continuing. “Is that the power you thought I was speaking of?”
Ral’Tandrack did not answer.
“I am something far greater than a mere nosferil,” Kal’Dan continued. “As the wrathful energy of the battling Watchers flayed the flesh from my bones, I grasped out. Perhaps it is due to the legacy of our mother, but I clutched the power that was flashing around me and hung onto it. I snatched a portion of the essence of Romd and Dyradak as they were locked in combat. I have made that power my own. Dyradak has taught me to develop those powers further. I am a no longer a demi-god, as you are brother. I am fully a god. You cannot destroy me.”
“I know brother,” Ral’Tandrack replied calmly.
Kal’Dan stared down at his prey. “You knew I was a god when you came here?”
Ral’Tandrack nodded tiredly. “Yes. I had my suspicions from some of the accounts I had read. But I also asked our mother. She filled in the rest of the details.”
Kal’Dan knelt down next to Ral’Tandrack, intrigued. “And you came here to fight me anyway? Knowing that there was no way that you could win? Or were you arrogant enough to believe that you could kill me?”
The smile crossed Ral’Tandrack’s face again. “My brother, I don’t have to kill you to win. In fact, I dare say that I have won already.”
“What do you mean,” demanded Kal’Dan. “I do not see how you can possibly beat me. You have spent your energy reserves. You are disarmed. You haven’t the strength to even stand anymore. HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY SAY THAT YOU HAVE BEATEN ME?”
The smile never wavered from Ral’Tandrack’s face. “Building this extra-planar realm was a great idea, brother. Here, you set many of the rules and can alter reality to augment your whims with less effort. But it has a downside as well. A critical flaw that even now, you are too prideful to understand.”
Kal’Dan ground his teeth together. “And what might that be?”
“That you are a god, a power similar to the Dark Watchers, if you aren’t quite in their league yet. When the Dark Watchers were defeated in the Insurrection, they were trapped in their own extraplanar realm where they could not escape. There was no door out, and the other Watchers warded the walls of the planes to prevent their escape. True, the Dark Watchers could control their new Realm and bend it to suit their powers and tastes and augment their abilities. But they were prisoners there. This, brother, is your very own Hell. And you crafted it yourself.”
“But I am not trapped here,” Kal’Dan said. “I have a doorway that I may freely cross into Ondoron.”
“I needed three of the Great Powers to agree to barring you access to Ondoron. Romd was more than happy to, since you are both undead and you stole a portion of his power when you became this abomination. Mother, too, agreed that you needed to be locked away. Rozerus knows the atrocities you have committed, and he was happy to agree to block your entrance to the world too.”
“Clever,” Kal’Dan said. “But foolish. They cannot keep me out….” Then he stopped as realization began to dawn upon him.
“….Unless the gate between your sanctuary and Ondoron is destroyed. If it is, you are imprisoned here. You are correct, I cannot destroy you here. I knew that coming in. I merely had to keep you distracted while my allies destroyed your gateway. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that hasn’t been finished by now.”
Kal’Dan’s fury was incredible, but he also felt fear for the first time since the devastation of the Insurrection of Heaven had transformed him into a full god. “I will deal with you later, brother,” Kal’Dan snarled. “First I shall destroy your worthless allies. No doubt my servants have delayed their actions. You shall watch them die….”
With what remained of his energy, Ral’Tandrack curled around the skeletal foot of Kal’Dan. The Dread King looked down in surprise at the undignified display and gave a couple of solid kicks to dislodge his attacker. But even with divinely augmented strength, Ral’Tandrack would not be brushed aside. He clung to the foot with an iron grip of desperation.
Kal’Dan snarled with impatience and moved quickly towards the broken throne room door, dragging Ral’Tandrack all the while. He believed that surely the weakened Ral’Tandrack could not maintain his grip for long. But in this assumption, Kal’Dan was wrong. The warmage did not slow the progress of the angry Dark Watcher much, but the indignity of the situation became simply too much for Kal’Dan to endure by the time he reached the shattered door. With a hiss of fury, Kal’Dan stopped and aimed a finger at the defiant warmage, preparing to strike. “A swift death is not what you deserve for your treachery, insolence, and defiance Ral’Tandrack. But you have stalled me long enough.”
Ral’Tandrack did not move. Instead, he curled even tighter about the skeletal leg he held. Black energy surrounded the hand as Kal’Dan prepared to crush this threat to his power.
There was a tremendous roar that shook the walls as over seven feet and 600 pounds of muscle, scale, and armor appeared out of the hallway leading into the throne room and smashed into Kal’Dan. The Dark Watcher’s blast of energy destroyed a chunk of floor and missed Ral’Tandrack by more than a foot. Ral’Tandrack released his hold on Kal’Dan in surprise as a massive Hisskarssi warrior lifted Kal’Dan into the air and then smashed him into the floor hard enough to shatter stone. The warrior threw himself on top of the surprised god, pounding on him with a fist and slashing with the drasstarin on his left hand.
“Klassantassimus?” Ral’Tandrack asked. Three other figures materialized out of the hallway. Two of them looked very similar, and it was easy to tell that they were brother and sister. Both were human and clad in heavy armor designed to withstand the sharpest of demon claws, at least temporarily. And both were painfully young, not even out of their teenage years. The third figure was a gnome female, a talented bard who entertained and heartened the troops.
The human female ran over to Ral’Tandrack. “General, we’ve come to get you out. We are ready to destroy the gate.”
“It should be destroyed already, Captain,” Ral’Tandrack returned. “All of this is for nothing if he escapes.”
The human female looked back, “With all due respect, sir, you are too important to lose here. Brighton, Chloe, get the general out. I’ll help Klassantassimus hold off Kal’Dan.”
It clearly agonized the young man to leave his sister behind, but he bit his lip and nodded. They both understood how critical this mission was. And Crystal was simply the more nimble warrior of the pair, while Brighton was the stronger. “May Rozerus give your sword arm strength, sis. Come on General.”
“We’ll be right behind you, big brother,” Crystal said as her eyes and her sword began to glow with holy energy. There was a blast of darkness, and a draconic roar of pain as Kal’Dan blasted Klassantassimus, sending him flying into the air hard enough to crash against the high chamber ceiling. The hisskarssi then fell with a crash.
Brighton picked up his commanding officer and ran down the hallway as he heard his sister’s battle cry, “For Rozerus and the Alliance!”
- * * * *
Ral’Tandrack emerged from the portal into a gray expanse of land. 40,000 years ago, this place had thrived with life. The fallout of the Insurrection of Heaven had changed all of that. Nothing lived in Old Din’Garreth anymore. It was home only to the dead and those that should be dead. Negative energy saturated the soil and the air, even two score thousand years after the Insurrection that devastated the land. No living thing survived long in this cursed desolation. The undead denizens of Din’Garreth were ruled over by the Dread Lords, beings of incredible power who rose from the ashes of the devastation of the Insurrection. They had carved small empires for themselves upon the remains of this once-proud nation. And over all the Dread Lords reigned the Dread King, Kal’Dan Melir himself.
The portal to Kal’Dan’s extraplanar sanctuary was deep inland in the center of a group of standing stones. A group of armor-clad mages stood in a circle around the standing stones and Ral’Tandrack could feel the power that they had built up. Clerics of Romd stood guard around them, and near the center stood a group of spellcasters that were maintaining a veil that kept them all hidden from the undead and the Dread Lords that ruled them.
The clerics of Romd had placed wards upon each soldier and mage to protect them from the deathly effects of this land, but such wards had short lives in this place. If they didn’t leave soon, the wards were going to collapse, and the land would begin leeching the life from them all.
Ral’Tandrack knew that if he could feel the power gathered here, some of the Dread Lords could too. It would not be long before they were attracted here. It was fortunate that Kal’Dan was so secure in his own power and enjoyed his privacy. Had any of the Dread Lords lived close to the gate, this mission would already have ended in disaster.
Captain Brighton set Ral’Tandrack down shortly after coming through the portal. “Can you stand, sir?” he asked anxiously, clearly eager to go back through the portal to aid his sister and his friend the hisskarssi warrior in battle.
Ral’Tandrack nodded and stood. His body ached, and he was extremely tired, but he could stand. “I’ll be fine, Captain.”
“Permission to return to the fight and cover the retreat, General?” He asked.
Ral’Tandrack shook his head. “Denied, Captain. Stand your ground here.”
The young human stiffened somewhat and opened his mouth to object, but then clamped his lips shut again. After a moment he said, “Understood, sir.”
Ral’Tandrack took a deep breath and laid a hand kindly upon the young man’s shoulder. “I don’t doubt your courage, Captain. You and your sister have extraordinary talent. You have earned your ranks as Captains. But this foe is beyond any of us. You are needed here. I shall get your sister and Klassantassimus out. This is my fight, Captain Brighton. But one day the fight shall be yours.”
Brighton looked over, concerned. “But sir, you are injured. And all due respect, you don’t look like you can do much casting. Your armor is ruined. You can’t face him like this, sir.”
Ral’Tandrack nodded. “I agree, Captain. Chloe, some quick healing please. And Captain, I need your shield.”
“My shield, sir?” Captain Brighton asked.
Ral’Tandrack nodded. “Yes, Captain.”
Brigton looked down at his shield and back to his commanding officer, then understood. He held the shield out to Ral’Tandrack. “Here you go, sir.”
Ral’Tandrack accepted the shield. “I promise Captain, that if we survive this I’ll make you another one. A much better one.”
Chloe hummed an upbeat tune as she touched Ral’Tandrack’s bruised ribs, and some of the weariness and pain receded. Ral’Tandrack, General of the Free Armies of the Alliance, held the shield in his hands and concentrated, feeling the power of the enchantments within the shield. Silver elves were beings of pure magic. Among their powers, with proper training, they could drain the magical essence stored within items to restore their inner reserves. Ral’Tandrack reached into the shield, gently but rapidly breaking down the bindings of the power stored within and drawing it into himself. He felt his arcane strength increasing steadily.
“Captain Brighton,” Ral’Tandrack said as he concentrated. “As soon as I enter the portal, give the order to attack the portal. It should take about 30 seconds or so to destroy the gate with the amount of power they have gathered. As soon as the attack is unleashed, the Dread Lords and their forces will be drawn here like a swarm of angry hornets. You and the Romdians need to hold them off until the gate can be destroyed. This is critical, Captain. If you fail, Kal’Dan will remain free and shall join his might to Dracnus. This cannot be allowed to happen regardless of the cost. Is that clear?”
Captain Brighton nodded soberly. He understood the message. The door must be closed as quickly as possible, regardless of who may be stuck on the other side. No stalling this time. “I understand my duty sir.”
Ral’Tandrack nodded, sighed softly, then handed the shield back to Captain Brighton.
The captain accepted the shield, but it felt strange in his grasp, somehow heavier and slightly unbalanced. “May Rozerus go with you, sir.”
Ral’Tandrack nodded and gripped Brighton’s shoulder. “May he watch over you as well. I’ll look after your sister, I promise. Now prepare to give the order.”
Brighton raised his sword, and the mages around the circle of stone tensed in preparation of the long-awaited signal. Ral’Tandrack stepped back through the glowing green doorway and vanished from sight. Brighton dropped the sword down and yelled, “Fire!”
The warmages, all students of Ral’Tandrack through the years, released some of the energy they had been gathering in a wave of powerful bolts. The bolts struck the stone, causing the gate to tremble and cracks to appear on the surface. Somewhere in the distance, seemingly on all sides, a shrieking howl of fury rose.
“T….that was just the wind, right Captain?” Chloe asked as she crept near him.
Captain Brighton shook his head. “I wish it was, Chloe.” Then he turned to the mages. “Fire at will. We need this portal down now. Romdians! We’re about to have company! The circle of mages must be protected at all costs! Hold the line like the lives of everyone you love depend upon it, because with Rozerus as my witness, it does.”
Dark shadows appeared on the horizon, heading rapidly towards the gate. Brighton looked fearlessly at the oncoming tide and strode forward to meet it, shouting encouragement to his comrades all the while.
- * * * *
Ral’Tandrack felt the impact of the attack on the gate. The entire extra-dimensional fortress shook and a few chunks of rock fell from the ceiling. He strode forward down the hall.
He didn’t have to go far. Klassantassimus and Captain Crystal were harrying the angry Kal’Dan Melir, but they were clearly not able to stop him. They succeeded only in stalling him a little. Both the Hisskarssi and the female warrior had been injured from their brief battle, but the fact that they were still alive was no small testament to their skill. And probably their luck as well.
Crystal dodged a bolt of energy, and Klassantassimus dove forward, catching the arms of Kal’Dan and, pulling them behind him, lifted the angry god off of the floor. Crystal leapt to the attack, her eyes and sword glowing brilliantly.
Victory seemed certain in the circumstance. Klassantassimus was incredibly strong, and few mortals could hope to break out of his grip. But Kal’Dan was not mortal. He pulled his legs up close to his chest and waited. Crystal’s sword descended, cleaving through Kal’Dan’s shoulder bone and brought a scream of pain and anger from Kal’Dan. But then the dark god lashed out with his feet, striking Crystal squarely in the chest with the force of a giant’s fist.
Crystal’s sword flew from her grip as she smashed into the wall, bounced off, and crashed into a still heap on the ground. For a second, Ral’Tandrack feared she was dead, but he noticed a faint movement and a soft golden glow around her as she healed some of her injuries and struggled to her feet.
Klassantassimus growled in fury as he saw Crystal fall. He spun and slammed Kal’Dan several times into the stone wall hard enough to break stone.
Ral’Tandrack spoke a few quick words and focused on Crystal. This was a spell he had devised to silently issue commands and to reduce the likelihood of being overheard in conversation. Crystal, do you hear me? He thought at her.
A moment later, her thoughts reached back to him. General Tandrack?
Yes. The gate is coming down soon. You have to get out. I will hold off Kal’Dan. You need to help Klassantassimus through the portal before it collapses. Can you do that?
Yes…I think so. What about you, sir?
I’ll be right behind you.
The extra-planar fortress shook again as another volley of magic struck the gate. The earthquake was more violent this time. The portal was giving way.
The shaking knocked Klassantassimus off balance, and he stumbled back. He managed to keep Kal’Dan in his arms, but could not continue to smash the dark god against the wall.
Kal’Dan’s eyes were blazing brilliantly green. “Mortal, LET GO OF ME!” Black energy sheathed the skeletal form of the Dread King. Klassantassimus let out an anguished roar and dropped Kal’Dan to the floor. The Dragon Knight stumbled back, clutching blackened and withered hands. Instead of dropping to the ground, Kal’Dan hovered in the air. He turned to face the wounded hisskarssi and launched a bolt of dark energy that would annihilate him.
That probably would have been the end of Klassantassimus, but Ral’Tandrack was faster. Reaching out with telekinesis, he hammered the hisskarssi and sent him stumbling back towards the diminishing portal. Kal’Dan’s deadly energy blast passed through the spot the Dragon Knight had stood only a moment before.
Now Crystal! Go! Ral’Tandrack thought urgently.
Crystal pushed herself up from the floor and moved as quickly as she could towards the door leading back to Ondoron. “Come on Klassantassimus it’s time to go! Now!”
Klassantassimus snarled and braced against the invisible force and stopped sliding towards the portal. “No. I have challenged Kal’Dan. My honor demands that I not flee.”
Kal’Dan looked surprised to see Ral’Tandrack standing in his way once again. The Dread King again summoned a bolt of dark energy to throw at his little brother. “Again, you stand in my way?!”
“Always, my brother,” the warmage replied. With a quick gesture, Ral’Tandrack released a bolt of lightning that struck the hallway ceiling between himself and Kal’Dan. The ceiling, already weakened by the assault on the gate that linked the fortress to Ondoron, collapsed. Tons of black stone fell, intercepting the bolt Kal’Dan threw.
“Go now, Klassantassimus. Thank you for your help my friend, but this battle is over. I just need to delay him a few more seconds.”
Crystal pulled upon the Dragon Knight’s arm. “Please, Klassantassimus. My brother and the others are under attack right now. We need to make sure the mages can shut this portal down.”
Klassantassimus growled and looked at the wall of stone, which was already shuddering. He looked down at his devastated hands.
Ral’Tandrack lowered his voice. “We have fought many battles together, my friend. But Kal’Dan cannot be destroyed here. You have done more than any mortal can be expected. Crystal is right – they need you out there. Kal’Dan is my brother, and this is my fight. I do not doubt your courage my friend. You have proven it time and time again. But this battle is mine to fight. Please don’t dishonor me by trying to fight it for me. I must finish this alone.”
The Dragon Knight nodded. “You speak truly. I mean no dishonor. I shall protect the younglings. May Bahar strengthen you and grant you a just victory.”
The Dragon Knight half-carried the injured Crystal through the portal. Seconds later, the chamber rumbled once more and the portal shrunk to half its normal size. Just a few more seconds… Ral’Tandrack thought.
The wall of stone that sealed away Kal’Dan glowed black for a moment, then simply ceased to be. Kal’Dan hovered where he had stood before the collapse of the wall. Black energy sparked off his body like a swarm of agitated serpents. His green eyes fixed upon the weakened portal. “You cannot stop me.”
With a word, dark fire leaped up around Ral’Tandrack. The warmage was barely able to bring a shield up in time to save himself. Though the flames were black and gray, they were incredibly cold. Even through the silvery shield of energy Ral’Tandrack maintained, he could feel the sharp bite of cold so intense that it seemed to burn. It took almost all of Ral’Tandrack’s focus to maintain the shield, and his strength reserves that he had taken from the shield were burning away rapidly. As soon as the shield fell, the battle would be over and the flames would overwhelm him.
Kal’Dan appeared to be expending very little effort on maintaining the raging black flames. He floated steadily forward towards the portal, confident in his triumph. With the shield up, Ral’Tandrack was unable to throw any further spells. And if the warmage dropped the shield, he would be consumed before he could cast anything anyway.
A moment of doubt and despair struck Ral’Tandrack. He felt utterly helpless as he watched Kal’Dan making his escape. In his frustration, Ral’Tandrack wanted desperately to make one final gesture of defiance. He would even settle for something to throw, but he couldn’t drop the shield…..
He paused a moment as the idea struck him. Something to throw? This was a little different than what he usually attempted, and he would only get one shot. He was also uncertain whether he even had the strength to do it. But what other option is there? If Kal’Dan escaped, all would be lost.
Ral’Tandrack poured most of his will and energy into maintaining the shield, but he extended his arm towards the distant throne room and focused a small bit of will and magic in that direction, Argenthia , to me!
Moments passed, and Kal’Dan was nearly to the portal. Then Ral’Tandrack saw the silver glimmer at the far end of the hall, rocketing towards the warmage with increasing speed.
Steady, Ral’Tandrack thought. He had often called his spear to his grip. Sometimes he used it to pierce enemies as it came. But this was an entirely new use of the calling power. If he messed it up, it was likely that the enchanted spear would shatter his own shield and bring about his own death. Kal’Dan would then escape and kill everyone on the other side of the portal – Captains Brighton and Crystal, brave Klassantassimus, Chloe, all of the mages and clerics outside. Kal’Dan would cement his alliance with Dracnus, and the world would fall into utter darkness. No pressure or anything Ral, he thought to himself.
The spear flew towards Ral’Tandrack and the slowly failing shield of silver energy. The warmage timed it carefully, and expended as much energy as he could into telekinetically nudging the spear, sending it arcing around the shield and directly towards Kal’Dan. The silver shield flickered dangerously and the chill intensified as Ral’Tandrack pulled his concentration away from maintaining it. His body and will ached from the exertion and sweat ran down his brow from the exertion. Then the spear was away, and Ral’Tandrack fell to his knees, attempting to recover his focus and maintain the shield.
Ral’Tandrack’s aim was true. Just before Kal’Dan floated through the gateway, the spear struck him in the skull and impaled the dark god in the solid stone wall beside the failing door. Kal’Dan screamed in agony as a blast of flame exploded from the spear and coursed over his skeletal frame.
The black flames died just as Ral’Tandrack’s shield failed. The warmage was incredibly tired, and the gate seemed very far away. Why hasn’t the gate closed yet? The final blow should have come by now. Ral’Tandrack thought. What if the Dread Lords had succeeded in disrupting the attack?
As Ral’Tandrack crawled down the hallway, the fire stopped coursing through Kal’Dan and was replaced by pulsing black energy. With a furious bellow, the silvery spear shattered into a thousand pieces that flew around the hallway and bounced off the walls. The hole in his skull was filled with the black energy as well, and bone began filling back in.
“You are too late, Ral! I am free! But you, I think, shall remain here forever. A fitting twist, since that’s what you had planned for me. Farewell brother!”
He floated once more towards the portal, but a figure stepped through it from the Ondoron side. A young man in armor and carrying a sword and shield stepped through, blocking the dark god’s way. In annoyance, Kal’Dan realized it was the same one that had carried Ral’Tandrack out of the throne room. Is there no end to these pointless interruptions? He thought in exasperation. He summoned dark lightning to blast the youth away.
“Rozerus, give me strength!” the young man shouted as he leaped forward. A brilliant field of energy encircled him, and his eyes blazed like twin suns. The dark lightning struck the warrior, but the brilliant field of energy seemed to reduce its power. The warrior staggered, but continued forward. With a battle cry, the young paladin swung his blade. It struck the field of energy surrounding Kal’Dan, but knocked the floating god back into the wall.
Black lightning continued to pour into the warrior, but he staggered forward, holding his sword before him in a two-handed grip. Gritting his teeth against the agony, Captain Brighton plunged the sword forward with all his strength. “For Rozerus and the Alliance!”
The blade parted the dark field of energy that cloaked Kal’Dan, and slid through the ribs and into the stone behind it as if it were as soft as clay. The sword glowed with its own brilliance, and Kal’Dan arched and screamed in agony. The assault of dark lightning ceased, and Brighton staggered back. His grip on the sword faltered, leaving the sword in the wall with Kal’Dan pinned once more.
Ral’Tandrack had managed to crawl over to Brighton and struggle to his feet. “Captain Brighton, it’s not that I’m unhappy to see you, but what of the battle you were supposed to be leading?”
Captain Brighton helped to steady Ral’Tandrack. “It isn’t going well, sir. Crystal and Klassantassimus took over, but we need you sir. They broke through the line, sir. The mages were overwhelmed before they could finish bringing down the gate. Now they are fighting for their lives. It’s almost done, sir. But we were hoping you had enough strength to finish it.”
Ral’Tandrack looked over at Kal’Dan, who had his hands upon the hilt of the longsword and was beginning to draw it out of the wall. Smoke billowed out from the skeletal hands where they touched the blessed metal. He wasn’t going to stay pinned for long.
The warmage shook his head. “I’ll have to. But I’ll need you to watch over me. I cannot be interrupted,” Ral’Tandrack said warily.
Captain Brighton looked at his commander doubtfully, but nodded. “Of course sir.”
They stepped through the portal together.
- * * * *
The two emerged into the middle of a pitched battle, but it was obvious that it was winding down. The defenders were outnumbered, outmatched and surrounded. More than half of the defenders were dead already. They could see Crystal and Klassantassimus fighting in the thickest part of the field near a pair of cracked standing stones.
Brighton drew a dagger and turned to face the portal. The stones that housed it were deeply cracked and leaning, but still upright.
Ral’Tandrack wished briefly that he had his spear to lean on. He hadn’t felt this drained since the Battle of Bleak Mountain.
“I don’t suppose you would want to lend a hand, Mother?” Ral’Tandrack asked the air. Silence was his answer. The warmage sighed as he took one ring off of each hand and cupped them in his palms. “I know, I know,” he said as he closed his eyes and began to drain the power from the magical rings. “This is something I have to do for myself.”
Captain Brighton heard his commander talking to himself, but had the courtesy to pretend that he didn’t. As he watched, he caught a flicker of movement behind the portal. It appeared almost as a shadow behind a thin curtain of energy. Kal’Dan had freed himself and was going to come through.
“General! Any time, sir! Kal’Dan is coming!” he called back. Divine radiance still surrounded him. He looked down at the dagger in his hand. Not seeing a better option, he drew it back and threw it through the portal at the black shadow. Whether it hit, or if its appearance simply caused Kal’Dan to fall back, Brighton wasn’t sure. But the shadow disappeared for the moment.
Ral’Tandrack had been draining the power of the rings as quickly as he could. Magical strength flowed into his body in an intoxicating wave. Pulling in magic this fast was dangerous. It was easy to get lost in the euphoria and overdo it.
He saw Brighton throw the dagger and heard him call out. He gritted his teeth and raised one fist in the air. He squeezed it hard, and he felt the ring clenched within crumble to dust from the pressure of being drained so quickly. He summoned his will and drew in energy for the spell, calling upon the innate powers of destruction that had tainted this land to enhance it further.
Captain Brighton saw the shadow return behind the curtain. He was out of weapons. He clenched his jaw and prepared to leap through the portal. He would undoubtedly die, but perhaps his sacrifice would buy Ral’Tandrack the time he needed to close the portal. He took a step forward….
Ral’Tandrack saw Brighton move forward, probably to do something self-sacrificial and crazy. Ral’Tandrack was out of time. He brought his fist down and released the spell.
A pillar of silver fire fell from the sky onto the portal. A tremendous explosion of energy knocked Brighton off his feet and away from the portal. The sounds of battle paused as all of the combatants looked over at the brilliant explosion of light.
The pillars that contained the portal exploded, and the darkening shadow behind the veil disappeared in a flash of green energy. A shriek of anger, fear, and frustration came through the portal, but was abruptly cut off as the portal collapsed. The pillar of white flame burned brightly for several long seconds, then died out.
The sand around the ruins of the gate had been turned to molten glass from the heat of the spell. The standing stones were shattered and partially melted. Ral’Tandrack felt the magical strength leave him once again, and he sunk down to a knee. His silver hair was soaked with sweat, and he was breathing hard from the exertion. “I’m sorry it had to end this way, brother.”
“Victory! The portal is destroyed! Retreat! Retreat!” he heard Brighton cry out. Most of the undead stared at the remains of the portal in shock. The surviving defenders pulled out small stone tokens and broke them, vanishing from sight and returning to the safety of their hidden base. Ral’Tandrack was nearly knocked over by an enthusiastic and ichor-covered Crystal. “We did it! We did it!”
Klassantassimus glowered at the legions of undead and walked over to stand beside Crystal, Brighton, and Ral’Tandrack. The undead continued to stare in shock and confusion.
“Let’s go home,” Ral’Tandrack said tiredly. Crystal took out her token and crushed it in her fist. All four companions disappeared.
- * * * *
Several days later, Ral’Tandrack was standing on top of a cliff, watching a waterfall crash into the deep pool below. A rainbow glimmered in the warm summer sun as the light danced upon the spray. Spots like this were important. It helped Ral’Tandrack remember what they were fighting to protect, and helped the soul recover from the horrors of battle.It also reminded him that there were some places that the darkness had not yet touched.
Footsteps sounded behind him, and Captain Brighton walked up and took a seat beside his commander.
The two sat in silence for a time, appreciating the view and the warm summer day. Finally, Brighton broke the silence. “What will happen now, sir? To the Dread Lords I mean? What if they ally with Dracnus?”
Ral’Tandrack shook his head. “I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that any time soon. Kal’Dan was careful to keep the Dread Lords at odds for 40,000 years. It was only his will that united them as one, but behind the scenes they are a fractured group. 400 centuries is a lot of time to build up grudges and resentments. Now that Kal’Dan is gone, I think we’ll see a civil war. None of the Dread Lords will want to weaken their strength by dedicating forces to Dracnus’s war effort.”
Brighton nodded. “So we did win then sir.”
Ral’Tandrack sighed. “Yes, we won. But the cost was very high. A lot of good men and women lost their lives. But now we still have a chance at besting Dracnus.”
The two fell silent again for several minutes before Brighton asked another question. “Sir, I know that you said Kal’Dan was your brother…. Was it…. Hard?…. To lock him away, I mean?”
Ral’Tandrack continued to watch the waterfall in silence for several seconds. “I never knew him when he was alive. He died long before I was born. But my mother has told me stories about him. He was a great hero at one time. And even at the end he sacrificed himself to try and protect the innocent. He was my role model and my hero. He was always larger than life to me and the ideal I aspired to. At least before his corruption.” He shook his head sadly. “As a young man I used to dream about redeeming him. He could teach me all that he had learned in his long life, and we could be real brothers and companions. It isn’t easy, and it’s more than a little lonely being half-immortal. I outlive everyone, even other silver elves. It isn’t easy to watch those you love and care for grow old and die, then watch their children and their children’s children and their children do the same.”
Brighton nodded. “You don’t think that Kal’Dan can ever be redeemed?”
Ral’Tandrack smiled sadly. “Now that I’ve met him, no. I don’t think there will be any redemption for him.”
“Can he escape from his prison?” Brighton asked.
“Perhaps someday, but not on his own. Just like the Dark Watchers could not escape Hell without a mortal opening a gateway, so too is Kal’Dan imprisoned until someone rebuilds the door.”
Brighton looked over in concern. “What if the Dread Lords rebuild the doorway?”
Ral’Tandrack laughed softly. “No, I think there is little chance of that. There is one of the Dread Lords that was his favorite. In life, that Dread Lord was his apprentice. That one Dread Lord will likely seek to restore his master to the world once again. But the other Dread Lords, they will not be anxious to return to servitude. They will oppose Kal’Dan’s return, probably forever. With any luck, they’ll manage to kill Kal’Dan’s former apprentice in the civil wars to come.”
“And if they don’t?”
Ral’Tandrack looked over at his young friend. Even though he was very young and a human, Brighton often seemed wise beyond his years.
“Then I will be here to oppose him for as long as I live.”
Brighton nodded seriously. “Maybe Crystal and I can help. We won’t live forever like you, but if our experiment works and we prove worthy, maybe I can found a new Order to help you in keeping the world safe.”
Ral’Tandrack smiled within, but kept his face serious and straight. “That sounds like a worthy goal. I have to say, you and your sister do an excellent job of slaying demons and dark elves.”
Brighton smiled and nodded enthusiastically, acting far more like a normal teenager. The sight was refreshing to Ral’Tandrack. Brighton and Crystal were young and very special in their own right. They had seen the worst horrors of war and battled some of the most evil beings in existence. If they still had some youthful exuberance left, then maybe there was hope for the future still. Brighton was speaking, “….and Crystal told me that she could smite the undead just as well as she could smite the demons! And of course, we can smite dark elves too, but it seems to work a little better against demons. I know we’re good against demons because that’s whom Rozerus chose us to fight. But I wonder why we are just as good against undead? Maybe it has less to do with where the evil comes from and more to do with the intensity of the corruption? I wonder if there are other evil things we are particularly good at smiting?”
Ral’Tandrack reached over and laid a hand on Brighton’s shoulder. “I’m sure that you and Crystal will find out in due time. And I, for one, think Rozerus chose his champions extremely well. I could not have sealed Kal’Dan away without you and your sister. And of course, Klassantassimus. Thank you.”
Captain Brighton lowered his head and his cheeks turned red. “We were just doing our duty, sir. But you are welcome. We were glad we could help.”
Ral’Tandrack smiled and changed the subject for the humble warrior. “Well, may I suggest something to you if you form this Order for the protection of the world someday? Don’t tie it to an Empire. Fewer things corrupt good intentions than mixing in politics and favors with a sacred mission. There was an order dedicated to chivalry back in the days of the Empire of Verith Nuul known as the Knights of the Sun. They didn’t have any special powers like you and Crystal do, but there weren’t any demons to slay in those days either. You see, during Lunarus’s century of exile from Heaven……..”