Chronicles of a Dwarf

Prologue: i

The Dwarf sat up and gazed over the battlements deep into the night sky. It was a beautiful night, even by the high standards most came to expect at the time of year; placid, too. A soft shade of dark blue was hazed by dark clouds and the none too distant mountains stood out magnificently as great black silhouettes. There was no wind, and the perfect night temperature, slightly warm. Not a single star shone, Drazzal's indication that he still had plenty of time in which to indulge himself in the surroundings. Looking around, he noticed a handy little nook in which he sat, back leaning on the tower and staring dreamily through the lowered gap in the crenellations. Life, at least as a law-abiding and politically reticent Dwarf, was good; nothing but the occasional wandering Soulless had been reported since Soulblighter's collapse, harvests were bountiful, people friendly and females, well, enthusiastic to say the least. Stretching out his stubby arms he relaxed further and slid into a position in which to slumber. Rather typically of him, and, as the garrison's jokes went, the Dwarven population on a whole, he wasn't paying much attention to anything but his personal sense of satisfaction and off slid his horn that had been slung over his shoulder. It hit the stone with a small sound, and by the time he had shaken off his sleepiness and reacted, the horn was already on it's way, sliding across the smooth, sloped surface. Drazzal scrambled towards the edge and made a desperate grab for it, but in vain. He watched with a degree of puzzlement and surprise as it plummeted and was lost in the darkness below.

"Clumsy oaf," he spat at himself and crawled back to his little spot. It was at that precise moment, as he had resigned himself to reporting back to Baryor (his superior officer and a quite arrogant human) and the blasting that would no doubt accompany it, that he realised something was different about the night. Something not as it should be, a subtle yet, at least to a clear mind, noticeable oddity. Curious and slightly suspicious, he lay down on his stomach and looked over the edge. There was a glowing in the blackness. A deep yet quiet rumbling below. Drazzal, while not the sharpest tool in the shed, worked out what was transpiring below immediately. Now he really wished he had his horn. Cursing, he picked himself up and waddled around the circular walkway as fast as he possibly could; tripping and smacking his face on the cold and unforgiving slate on the way. Panting, he reached the wooden door and burst into his superior's office. Baryor was at his table and spat out a mouthful of fine white wine in surprise.

"Stupid Dwarf! How dare you -"

"Begging your pardon, sir – someone's trying to get into the Castle."

"What do you mean, 'someone'? If it's a thief, shred him. Honestly, Drazzal, sometimes –"

"I mean a lot of 'someones', sir. They're down below."

"What? Use your horn then, that's what it's for, you – oh, let me guess, you dropped it somewhere."

As Drazzal tried to form a grin to shrug off his stupidity, Baryor rose to his feet and grabbed his own horn from it's perch on the wall.

"Wake the garrison, idiot, and stop wasting my space," were his final words as he disappeared from view up the ladder to the top of the tower. The Dwarf he left wasted no time in going as hastily as he could through down the circular stairway and through the entranceway into the east wall of the Castle. Dark blue light now appeared spooky as it softly shone through slits in the wall as he went through a long and empty hallway. At it's eventual end he thrust open the door, yelling at the top of his voice, before he collapsed breathless on a barrel in the corner of the sleeping quarters. Men everywhere woke with starts, leaping out of straw beds and grabbing their armour and weapons. Not one even stopped to ask Drazzal what the sudden awakening was about, and the Dwarf was left freely to find his way into the next room and help wake the heavier-sleeping Dwarves up. Just as the final Dwarf put his feet to the floor, a flaming projectile smashed through the next room and the screams of men travelled through the narrow doorway. Chaos ensued, flaming shrapnel scattered about, men lay dying or dead and huge holes gaped in either side of the wall. The ones left alive ran through to the Dwarven room just as the roof above their heads began to collapse from a second devastating missile higher up. What was keeping Baryor from raising the alarm with the giant bell atop the tower? Drazzal couldn't understand it until the top of the tower followed the other room's ceiling and crashed through the floor into the barracks below. At least the bell made some noise, he thought.

Below, he could hear people running about frantically and the blowing of horns. Then he heard exactly what he wanted; the bell of the North-East tower. It rang out like the apocalypse, drowning all other noise in a monotonous dull pitch. And it certainly did his mentality no harm that he couldn't hear the multiple other smashes of missiles impacting in the wall; and the continuous banging on the great doors below. The bell suddenly died and he heard a distant smashing not all too dissimilar from the impact of the tower on the floor. In the depths below a drumbeat began. Drazzal was surprised by the noise it made; there must've been at least a platoon of the enemy all playing exactly the same tune, a steady beat. In all the panic surrounding him he noticed that, in the other room, there was activity.

Taking another glance, nothing was wrong. The corpses were twitching, that was all. He dismissed his worry and was in a position to follow the others out of the room when he noticed a figure in the demolished room, standing on a part of the floor that was left. It groaned and slowly moved towards him. The others were on their way down to the courtyard now to take up defensive positions; he was alone with whoever, or rather, as his fear was, whatever this figure was. He wasn't willing to take any chances; he didn't want to die, so he took out a bottle from his satchel and tossed it in the air, clasping his hand around it in a perfect position to rip the advancing thing ahead of him into many small pieces. "No problem," he comforted himself, "This can't be any harder than target practice." Steadily the creature came into view. Undoubtedly, it was human; but the irregularity of having half it's face and an arm missing was all the motivation Drazzal needed. He tossed the bottle gently so it didn't rebound in his direction; it stopped moving at the feet of his foe. In fact, it stopped altogether. No explosion. That bottle was a dud.

Angry and becoming afraid now the thing was picking up pace and wielding a blackened sword with it's arm, he drew another bottle from his satchel. There would, nay, could be no mistake this time. Sweat clouded his vision, he wiped it off with his left arm and focused. This time he threw it as hard as he could against the wall next to the walking corpse. The explosion came and not only shredded the target, but also tore a significant chunk out of the thick wall, which was too thick to be ripped through by such a comparably weak device to the giant missiles. Drazzal reached the door and jumped through the open doorway to safety. He realised that he should've spent more thought on what was beyond the door when he found himself rolling down the stone staircase. The Dwarven sergeant found him collapsed in a heap at the foot of the stairs and lifted him up by the scruff of his neck. Drazzal explained the situation as he was thrown out of the lobby area and hit the courtyard face-first. By this point he was quite used to falling onto hard surfaces and he barely noticed, despite the cut the granite tore into his cheek.

"Walking dead indeed," murmured the other Dwarf as he left Drazzal on the ground to pick small debris out of his tangled beard and found his way to his own superior. In the few moments he shut out everything that was happening, he felt a great deal of remorse for Baryor; if he hadn't have dropped his horn, maybe he'd still be alive. With a handful of grit and several loud explosions, he was whisked back and got to his feet. The eastern wall was devastated, huge holes ripped through. And they were coming through the door. The night was no longer beautiful. It was unnaturally hot, the flames and smoke blotting out the sky. This wasn't right. He hated it. He didn't want any of it. This wasn't the life for him at all. However, nor was this the time to feel down. As a human yelled at him to get into position, the door finally gave way and a swarm of Ghols burst through, hissing and spitting. Instantly a wall of arrows sailed through the air and met with them.

The defenders were all in tactical positions. It seemed that the East Wall was more or less abandoned, but a palisade wall had been erected in the courtyard for cover. The keep was surrounded by soldiers. On the elevation between the temporary wall and the keep, the archers were stationed with Dwarves in front of them. Drazzal saw the second wave of Ghols and realised that he couldn't reach his allies in time. Instead, unnoticed, he turned and found another door. Inside he found a number of peasants cowering behind tables. An arrow sailed past his head and embedded itself in the wall.

"So sorry," trembled the firer.

Not in the mood to deal with peasants, he grunted and pushed past them, clambering up their staircase, opening a door and emerging on a creaking wooden balcony which looked out over the courtyard. Shouts came from the defending garrison and he saw the Dwarves launch bottles into the air, most exploding on impact with the ground and destroying a horde of what he could only describe as living dead. What was going on? Soulblighter was defeated. The Leveller and the cycle ended. It made no sense. As he pondered, another flaming missile was launched. It flew in a gigantic arc, right over what was left of the East Wall's battlements, and crashed down on the palisade wall, crushing a number of soldiers and sending hot shards everywhere. Men screamed, the impact had massacred at least a hundred of them, yet nonetheless nobody broke position.

From his vantage point, Drazzal watched the carnage with a sinking feeling. He should've been out there with his allies, braving anything the besiegers could throw at them; instead he was holding up in relative safety, like a coward. At least that was what he thought until looking up at the East Wall, he noticed more movement. Focusing, he could make out the distinct figures of Soulless, completely black. They formed a line and simultaneously launched their spears unto the garrison. It was a devastating tactical manoeuvre, the spears all but destroyed the remained of the soldiers behind the palisade wall. Panic spread through the surviving ranks. For the first time in his relatively short existence, Drazzal felt like doing something heroic. He couldn't just stand there and do nothing while his friends were ripped to shreds. He had to try something; he was going to take out those Soulless. At least, his impulsiveness told him he would. Taking in a deep breath and pushing out his chest bravely, he jumped the short distance from the balcony to a piece of collapsed wall which had formed a convenient ramp up the East Wall, and began to ascend.

Prologue: ii

The slope, despite not being particularly steep, was nevertheless quite exhausting. It couldn't be said that the sight of the chaos below, and his own people dying by the lances of the assailants on the East Wall, didn't add to his fatigue. Unwilling to give up, he continued the climb until he reached a small hole in the wall. Squeezing through, he fell into the Dwarven barracks. To his left, a door hanging off it's hinges revealed the human barracks. There was a huge gap in the middle courtesy of the bell-tower. Glancing back at the defence, he saw that they were trying to take down the Soulless, but only the strongest humans could get anywhere near them, while the offenders continued to rain arrows down upon their hapless targets.

Drazzal only had two more floors to climb. It should've been simple enough - just grab some more bottles and open the door on his right - but the door wouldn't budge, blocked by huge pieces of stone fallen from higher up. There was no way to cross the hole in the floor in the other room. The only way was up; convenient then, no doubt, that on the wall of the barracks was a ladder. With all his strength, he clasped it in the middle and lifted. Steadily he moved it and summoned up all his available energy to thrust it upwards and lean it on a few planks above. Panting, he fell over backwards in exhaustion; luckily for him, just in time, as a stone came loose from above him and smashed through the floor between his legs. Shocked, he rolled over twice before picking himself up and clambering up the ladder as more vibrations shook dust from the ceiling.

Emerging on a rough section of floor only about half a metre across, he momentarily struggled to keep his balance. He noted that the other corpses were no longer present; no doubt they were making their way down to the courtyard. The doorway opposite was on fire, as was the room beyond. Above, now in a completely black sky, he could make out the figure of a Soulless. There was no way to get the ladder up without the thing noticing and killing him. What else was there to do? Silently he detached his satchel and withdrew a bottle. Weighing it up in his hands, he drew back his arm and launched it in a high arc to land right next to his floating foe. The thing turned to face him with lightning pace and a hiss but before it had a chance to think the bottle exploded and it was no more.

"I'd best be off," he said to himself, and, getting up, slung the satchel over his back and opened the door. Sure enough, as he had anticipated, several of the fallen Soulless' brethren were beginning to give chase. He slammed the door shut just as they began descending through the hole in the roof.

Unfortunately for Drazzal, what he had just done had all been rather impulsive and he hadn't planned ahead to this point. He found himself in a completely black room. From what he could feel with his hands, the way ahead was blocked with fallen debris and the Soulless were about to come through the door. He suddenly realised that he should've packed more in the way of bottles; he had only four left and there were at least thirty enemies out there. There was no possible way he could fight his way out of this one. Suddenly the thought came to him. He swiftly moved to the door end and put his back to it just as it began to rattle. Then he drew two bottles and threw them simultaneously into the left corner that faced him, the first tearing a small hole through the wall and the second enlarging it greatly. Dark blue light streamed into the blackness and Drazzal wasted no time in getting himself to the hole and, hesitantly, through it backwards. He snuck a glance at the ground below him, it wasn't too far if he lowered himself correctly; but the door burst open, he panicked and slipped. More good fortune for the Dwarf as several feet later he landed feet-first on a sloped roof, sliding down away from the wall and being thrust forward onto all fours. Panting, he picked himself up in time to see the figure of one of his foes emerging at the hole; with a sudden rush of adrenaline, he drew out a bottle from his satchel and hurled it skilfully through to land beneath the creature. Drazzal turned around and covered his ears just in time to avoid being blinded by high-powered pieces of shrapnel.

Turning around again and brushing himself off, all the while trying to inhale as little of the dusty air surrounding him as possible, he glanced up to see the portion of wall devastated. Burning rubble rained down just in front of him and he realised something quite disturbing; he liked it. For a while, he relaxed, stretching his arms, enjoying the gentle warmth emanating from the flames. That was, until, he saw the rest of the Soulless advancing in his direction, and heard a roar and a rumble as the hostile ground troops charged into the courtyard. Looking from the carnage below up to the floating demons above, he realised that he had no time left to escape. The Soulless raised their spears and prepared to swiftly bring his short life to an untimely end.

He made a run for a nearby chimney, knowing it wouldn't be enough. Looking to his left, he threw himself on the ground as a volley of arrows sailed past and impaled the fell creatures which were bearing down on him. For the first time ever, he found himself impressed by those human peasants. Not quite as helpless as Balor would have had everyone believe. He grinned.

Once again however, his momentary peace was cut short by a projectile crashing through the East Wall and just missing the chimney he was next to. The rumble knocked him to his feet and the peasants ran back into their houses. As he tried to get back up, he fell again as the portion of wall above where the missile had impacted caved in, smashing through the floors below and leaving a barren sight to say the least. This time he wasn't so fortunate and scraped his face along the ground. The pain stung and he washed the wound with some of his ale, wincing and scraping out all the grit and rubble with his glove.

Panting heavily, he lifted himself up again and leant against the chimney, recuperating all the time. It was what he saw during this period of recovery that would change him forever. Glancing through the fresh gap in the wall he noticed a very bizarre, almost phenomenal thing; the edge of a bright blue globule of energy, suspended in the air. The ragged edge cut through the fortification blocked his view of the rest of it. Could it be? Could the legendary sorcerors still exist? It would indeed explain a number of things, not least the appearance of the undead.

Drazzal began to move towards the glow, before he snapped his head around in time with a deep gnarl, to find himself looking at one of the deceased men from the sleeping quarters. Just what he needed. Thinking quickly, he ducked under the incoming axe blow and rolled backwards. His foe was slow to respond, so he got to his feet and sprinted away, towards the glowing enigma. Terror was no longer his problem, getting there before the preying monstrousity attained higher speed was. He waddled around the remnants of the roof, sometimes bouncing from foot to foot, getting closer and closer to the hole in the wall.

Heat from the roaring fires all around forced him to sweat; he was tiring quickly and that was troubling. It was as though he was in a dream, it seemed impossible that he could keep his eyes open and keep his balance. He had almost shut out the noise of the carnage in the courtyard out of his mind. A mild breeze brushed across his face from the east and woke him up from his temporary slumber, just in time to narrowly dodge a strike from the creature's axe. As it snarled he blinked, shifting perspiration off his eyeballs, and sprinted away from his adversary to finally make it through the gap in the wall and into the devastated interior.

A large portion of the floor was missing or no longer safe enough to walk on so he had to edge around all damaged parts. So close to his destination, he could hear the pulsations of the sorceror's glowing aura. The only other noises coming from that side of the wall were the tramping of legions of fell soldiers. The other Soulless made no sound whatsoever. A stark contrast then, to the bloodshed, butchery, screaming and shouting of men in the courtyard. Time to end this. He quickly formulated a plot and drew a bottle from his satchel.

After coming so far, he suddenly found himself lacking confidence. If his plan didn't work, he would be killed. There was no doubt about that. Then he flicked his mind back to the way the Soulless had massacred most of his brethren and he was fuelled by an anger that he didn't like, but couldn't control. Baring his teeth with loathing and determination, he whipped out his small axe and stepped out around the ragged edge of the stone wall, and was temporarily blinded by the brilliant light that met him. The sorceror, as indeed there was no longer a shred of uncertainty in his mind as to what this apparition was, had it's head cocked back, looking up to the black night sky, utterly focused on whatever incantations it's tight lips were muttering. It's arms were outstretched, the entire body just a black outline from what Drazzal could see through the supernatural orb.

Glancing behind him, the undead creature was advancing around the opposite wall. Trembling, bottle in his left hand and axe in his right, he took careful aim. With a deep breath, he hurled his bottle in a high curve. As it passed the floating body on the way down, he threw his axe hard and straight, hurling himself backwards in synchronisation. The axe hit the side of the bottle and propelled it through the spiritual sphere enclosing the sorceror. Drazzal wasn't watching as the resulting explosion tore the entity to pieces. The aura disintegrated and all below the creatures either collapsed or began to move off in varied directions.

Not the Dwarf's would-be assailant, however. Drazzal rolled out of the way of a further strike, panting heavily, and the creature lost balance on the edge of the wall's platform. It wasn't done yet, however. The corpse swung it's axe around for one last time, a huge arc which impacted on Drazzal's cheek. The Dwarf fell instantly, unconscious, as the fell human plummeted to it's eventual demise.

Chapter One

The tall man came to a halt and lowered his head respectfully. Lord Darunn regarded him with a smile. Precisely what he had anticipated from the South. Such a perfect specimen; tall, dark, and menacing. Carefully he stepped down from his candle-lit throne and strolled towards the man, squinting in the dim light. He dwarfed Darunn by a good three feet; and at almost 6 feet himself, he was not used to having to look up at people, or as the case may be, creatures. Though he knew well that the man could never harm, nor indeed, lay a finger on his person, there was still something, a fearsome aura, about him which instilled a degree of terror into everyone, including the battle-hardened guards which had escorted him up the tower; Darunn made sure not to venture too close in his examination. Moonlight gave his hood an eerie glow.

With a sudden and unexpected movement, the inanimate figure's hand shot out and it's head tilted back to it's regular position, stopping right next to the shocked Lord's own. Taken aback, Darunn was apprehensive in snatching the piece of paper from the long, outstretched hand. It was slightly weathered but otherwise remained in good condition. Written on it in a script he knew very well; so well, in fact, that it made him smile again, was "To Lord Darunn". Today was indeed a happy day. He unfolded it hastily and excitedly, snapping his fingers to summon a servant and a candle.

"Tuesday, February 17th, Crayzhul

Dear Riemus,

It's been a long time. But sadly, this is no time for joyful exchanges of goodwill. I am writing to you in what will without doubt soon become your moment of need; and Gods help me, will probably be mine too.

We have been pursuing the beast for at least three weeks now, all the way from Erithal in the far South, and I am tiring. Where it came from I do not know, nor have I or any of men gazed upon it clearly for any sustained period of time. But I can, and feel I must, report that it has left nothing but destruction in it's wake. In this short time – as long as it now seems – I have witnessed some truly disgusting things. Whole villages – sometimes even small towns – completely razed to the ground, residents mangled, their intestines removed from their bodies and left on the scorched earth in pools of fresh blood. I have seen men strung up by their entrails, hanging down from flaming trees.

However, how this lone creature makes it's kills and indeed how it destroys entire villages still remains a mystery to all of us; it would appear that the wounds are inflicted by a blade, but the flesh is clearly burned. And I know for a fact that this beast carries no weapon from the silhouette I saw on the night it all began. Odder, still, that the villages we visited had no active sources of fire at the time of attack, as all instances were during the daytime – and all settlements were quite clearly torched.

What is transpiring is beyond any of us; I'm curious as to what you and your scholars can make of it. Our only hope is to catch the beast or destroy him, soon. Last night I heard his monstrous cry again, and that filled me with the optimism that we are getting closer with every passing day. Food is scarce on this hellish hunt and the sooner we can deal with the issue, the better. Not a man here disagrees.

But Riemus, along our path we came across the thing which troubles me most. In the Sayhernwood we overheard a group of brigands; before slaying them, naturally. Their discussion was focused on a large cult, who, from what I understood, often delve in the black arts – and who are marauding their way across the East – in your direction. Of yet, it is unclear to me whether the two occurrences are related, but I am sure a combination of your scholars' knowledge and time will lift the veil. My advice is simple; prepare well, or flee. From what I picked up, I believe the latter is the only sane option.

As for this letter, I hope it reaches you soon, and I daresay, in time. I met with a group of traders and the Lariuth which I am entrusting with this letter; you are wise in your choice of allies, friend. I hope to write to and hear from you again soon; until that time, be safe, and I sincerely hope that Lady Luck views upon us both with kind eyes. I am positive we will need it in the near future.

Good luck, your faithful friend,

Aryen."

Lord Darunn read his friend's name with a sinking feeling. Despite the presence of the powerful and usually re-assuring Lariuth, as well as the numerous servants and their bright candles, he suddenly felt so alone. As much as it hurt him, he had to accept that the events Aryen had charted were very real. They were great friends, and there was simply no chance that the writing was not his.

The Lord, usually so strong and confident, was quite silent and worried. Panic set in and he realised that he hadn't a clue what to do. For a moment he tried to console himself with the knowledge of the great castle of Gavdor that lay due East. Surely the cult would have to go through that first; but he knew his friend was no fool and would've considered it. So, Gavdor would fall. That was something he'd never expected to be hearing in his lifetime; and certainly not from himself. And then his own citadel, Avrida, home to so many good & hard-working citizens – moreover, his own place of residence, would join it. From there – he did not know. Perhaps the cult would descend upon the loosely organised South, or the much-troubled Northern empires. But that did not matter to him. All that concerned Riemus Darunn at present was his own well-being.

He quickly folded the letter again and shoved it down his belt. It would not stand out too much against his bold, bright red robes. A good thing then. His momentary lapse of competence over, he felt himself again; if still a little shaken by Aryen's ominous news. He strode across the room, over to his garrison's commander, Daelmus, a man slightly taller than himself, who had perched himself next to the grand entrance to the large throne hall. Daelmus had clearly taken an interest in the Lariuth.

"Commander – I fear the worst. It appears that Gavdor has fallen – or is about to fall in the very near future. And we're next. Rally the garrison, get guards set up, and summon Pecole to me. Tell him to gather a small scout party – I intend to dispatch him across the Great Lake to Gavdor immediately, and that he is to report for a briefing on the double."

"Very well, Lord. If I may enquire; what exactly is transpiring here?"

"Something that may well be beyond any of us. Prepare the men, and please make haste."

"Lord."

He trod off through the great door and down the airy corridor. There was always something about Daelmus that Darunn did not quite understand – he always seemed so calm, never ate publicly, and seemed able to find his way in the dark – without a candle. He had always put it down to highly-developed senses from his days as a hunter in the Sayhernwood. But not until this moment had he ever considered there was something to fear from it. Again, he forced himself to shrug it off as superstition. Something about receiving a letter in the middle of the night – even though he had expected it's deliverer – upset his judgment. He was barely tired, which further troubled him.

And those stupid servants – standing there like statues! Darunn felt his heart beat faster and wiped his hand across his forehead – he was sweating. He began to pace and pace, all the while his servants remained still and regarded him oddly, until the great door swung open again and the wizened face of Avrida's mage, Pecole, calmed him ever so slightly. He began to query about his task – he always spoke so calmly and softly. It was almost hypnotic. Before he could end his sentence, however, Darunn shoved the paper in front of his face. Slowly and carefully, the mage took it.

Presently he reached the end of the letter, folded it up and handed it back. Steadily his eyes moved to meet Darunn's. It was clear that, through the calm exterior, he was deeply disturbed by what he had just read.

"This does not make for pleasant reading, Riemus. I can understand your decision to position the garrison, but, I must question your judgment on sending me Easy. When you cult moves on this fortress you, and every man, woman and child here, will need me."

"Servants, guards; you may leave," he boomed, and waited until he and the mage were, save the utterly still Lariath in the centre of the hall, in complete privacy. The candles had been laid down by their holders and so while the light remained it became more difficult to distinguish facial features. "I do not intend to remain here should our observers report hostiles approaching. To tell the truth, I have suspected that my life is in danger for a while now, but I expected a rebellion amongst the peasant community; hence my summoning of the Lariath. I have no doubt that you worked this out already."

He paused; Pecole nodded.

"I shall take the underground passages and come out the other side of the Ochewood, from there I will make my way to Muirthemne. I know that Emperor Alric must be warned but I shall not set out on false allusions. I know well that I will be letting down my entire stronghold – but I am scared. You know as well as I do that, although if I succeed my deeds will be viewed upon as heroic and sacrificial, I am doing this for myself more. I am no coward, but this is more troubling than anything I have ever encountered. With luck, maybe this great place will be preserved.

"But I doubt that. Pecole, I am sending you because I trust you. I know that you will look after yourself and all those with whom you travel. Find your way to Gavdor. Discover it's fate. If it remains, warn them and return to me with your news. If not, I recommend that you flee North. Aryen and his men are likely the only others with knowledge thus, and they are otherwise occupied in the South. Therefore – you will have to deliver the message to Muirthemne yourself."

The mage sighed. He knew these tactics were crazy and suicidal, but even in his great wisdom; he could not bring himself to contradict his friend. Defying all logic, Darunn's plans always seemed to succeed. Perhaps it was the impulsive and aggressive side they all possessed; as opposed to his personal laid-back, more thoughtful and diplomatic approach.

Glancing around the room, he observed all the wonderful paintings that the generations of settlers had created. Such a wondrous sight, even through the now extremely dim light. Bold colours could rouse even the lowliest of souls somewhat. But he viewed them with a growing sadness inside. Looking out an opening high on the opposite wall, he glimpsed the moon. Beautiful, satisfying on any other night. But alas, this was to be no good night for anybody in the citadel. It was unbecoming of him to be so melodramatic. Yet cynically, he half-expected a cold breeze to chill his face as though to rub in the situation further; but the night was still.

With a degree of apprehension, he stretched out his hand. Darunn shook it firmly and off marched Pecole, through the door and down the corridor, igniting his hand with a short blast of magic to guide him along the way. He never turned back. It would be a long day and he intended to get the rest he knew he would need. Over his numerous years he had known loss and suffering. But the heat from his fire could not warm him up inside. He couldn't shake the feeling that he would never see his friend alive again. And his premonitions were yet to be proved wrong.