The fate of mortal creatures is forever plagued by death and chaos as darkness ever lingers. It looms in the hearts of those pretending to follow the light with its magical effect on the purity of life. This corruption within every soul is the cornerstone of the great age-old rivalry of good against evil. It is what fuels the engines of war and drives nations to the brink of destruction as young and old are called to service.
Immortals and mortals are both destined to battle for supremacy with a stalemate all but certain. That is, until a new hero steps from the shadows and blinds the world with heroic deeds. Perhaps not out of necessity, want or need, but out of love born from mortal passion. The love between a man and woman is eternal and most powerful. It is the one true source of the ever-unexplained phenomena that is magic.
This story follows ancient times, long since forgotten, that were named by immortal Elders. Each age had a name according to a celestial or earthly occurrence that predated its coming. These signs could be the birth of earth’s mightiest creatures, dragons, or simply the spilling of blood or the falling of a star from the dark heavens above.
Seven Elders there were, all regarded as not of this world yet conceived from its power. All knew that any scroll, tablet or work of text bearing the Seal of the Elders was not to be taken lightly. Many have found their doom either in the depths of the abyss or in the very epitomes of fame and glory.
The age in which this story unfolds is called Vuur, or the time of fire, as it is translated from the language of the Elders. The first century of the tale, which takes place on one of the continents of Nua, was so named by the Elder Sius Mordorus and is inscribed in the Hall of Time.
The name was derived when two stars fell to the earth. The resulting fire destroyed the entire village of Murof. All who survived were emotionally scarred by death and the reek of burning, human flesh. The heat from the flames were so intense that not even water could quench its thirst. The only salvation for the village was the rumour of a powerful wandering warlock who could whisper in an ancient form of Elvish. Elves had the ability to control the elements and as such the warlock could save what was left of the village.
He was said to have been seen near Murof’s northern border, regularly wandering through the forest. This forest was dark, evil and silent. Yet the only thing separating the village from a far more sinister world filled with terrors and great horror.
After the nameless warlock subdued the fires, village militia were sent in to inspect the deep craters. Within they were astounded to find that the old, Naradithian gods were standing guard with a great host behind.
These gods had not been seen for tens of thousands of years and as such they were deemed lost to the darkness of ages. The only remnants that remained were a few prophets and priests who proclaimed that some day a master prophecy would bring them back into the light.
“Long has your kind forgotten our existence. Long has it defied our faith set forth millennia ago. The events of today will thus serve as a reminder of our power. Fear you should not, nor despair. For in these heavenly stars great hope has been buried for the good of humanity. In these celestial rocks lies a raw power with a prophesied destiny,” uttered Gol, Naradith god of wisdom and knowledge.
The most important question on the villagers' lips was why these ancient gods had suddenly chosen to intervene in the affairs of mortals. It was believed that they had abandoned Nua to its fate, giving over their reign to a council of lesser gods, the Athid.
The Naradith made use of the best weapon and armour smiths from the Elvin race of Samsu, who had a fortress concealed on a paradise island that no mortal had ever seen. It was protected by powerful magic, and of course the Centaur race of horse-like creatures. The Naradith tasked the Samsu Elves to forge two swords from both stars. These were to be accompanied by matching sets of indestructible armour. These items, later named the Banners of Flame, were enchanted by Naradith magic.
When the Samsu finished, the Naradith god of war and strategy, Lemlaros, commanded that an order of mortal men be created. They were charged with the protection of the Banners until their rightful, destined owners could claim them. The order came to be known as the Masunians. As the centuries unfolded they became a magical race of human witches and warlocks.
Their power was unequalled in all Ciatalon, the continent on which this story will unfold. The order created a ritual joining where worthy candidates had their bodies infused with magical tattoo-runes.
Lemlaros himself trained the Masunians in the arcane arts of the Naradith. A select, elite group were trained separately in the use of dark magic. Dark magic, however, had not been used since the First Great War because it was not used without consequence. The creation of dark magic dates back to the age of Nag, translated as night.
During the age of night a Naradith chose to abandon his kinsmen, seeking power that would enable him to rule the world. The memories and heroic deeds of the First Great War have since been lost. The Elders believed that the essence of life was created by the chaos caused by this god, Mael. In the common tongue it means the bringer of death and chaos.
Mael was a revered commander and the first Naradith god of war. With time he developed a deep lust for battle, sated only by blood and death. He craved it with all his being, so much so that it transformed him into a vessel of darkness. He lurked in the shadows and whispered to all manner of creature, corrupting their souls. This darkness, when lingering in the heart of a god, becomes more powerful than any force known to the world. It threatens to destroy all that is good and beautiful and not even the mightiest of forces such as the power of love and courage can stand to oppose such twisted evil.
When Mael had the first taste of this new-found power he knew that his kinsmen would want to destroy him. He believed that to defeat them he had to travel to the depths of the earth to seek out the Dreadlords. He wanted to empower and release them and in return coerce them into joining forces, bolstering his numbers. This led to one of the greatest enemy forces ever seen on Nua. It even had demons and the living dead.
The armies of the underworld were, however, an unpredictable force. With great strength and uncompromising cruelty, Mael waged war first on the heavenly realms. Every pressing victory added to his ever-growing ego, arrogance and confidence. Mael came to believe that he was invincible and without equal.
For nearly three centuries all believed he was unbeatable. That was until it was discovered that he bore a deep love for one of his fellow Naradith. He appeared to have fallen in love with the goddess of life and beauty, Adonia.
What made the union unnatural to some was how the Naradith believed that the joining of their bloodlines was the key to immortality. They were, after all, descendants from the creator, Phós, and all blood brothers and sisters.
The ending to this tale, although somewhat skewed over the centuries, is found in another account by the scholar Andreas in the Book of Flames - a story for another time. For now readers are taken back to after Lemlaros had issued the creation of the Masunians.
Darkness siphoned into the hearts of men as corruption spread throughout the realms of Ciatalon. The spread of evil, death and chaos prompted the Masunian Order to adopt a reclusive approach in to safeguard the Banners of Flame. They built a fortress temple around the crater created by the falling stars. It was concealed by magical spells similar in nature to those hiding the Samsu Elven homeland, but not as powerful.
He became an influential member of the Masunian order. He developed a great affinity for knowledge, albeit from darker times. He devoted countless hours to the study of ancient spells and the tales of nameless battles between good and evil as described in dusty, fragile old scrolls.
The Masunian leaders saw that Draegan's lust for knowledge was slowly becoming an obsession. After a confrontation with his teachers and mentor, Draegan was banned from the order. This angered him, drove him to madness and reaffirmed his childhood belief – all must fend for themselves. He grew cold and bitter as the world slowly rejected him in fear of what he was becoming.
In his exile Draegan heard rumours of an ancient place of great power said to be of Naradithian design, housing a great relic. He had stolen rare ancient scrolls hidden away in the Masunian library confirming this. These scrolls showed the way to the location of the Black Mountains where the place of power was said to have been built. The information led him to a vast desert country far over the great waters of Malta.
No one dared venture near the Black Mountains because they feared the wailing screams that were heard. The scrolls Draegan had found spoke of a secret entrance in the highest of the Black Mountains. Within this mountain he found the remnants of an ancient tomb. The deeper he ventured, the darker it became and the more sinister it felt. Even the air seemed to suck the breath right out of him. Eerie screams whispered past corners and wails breezed through the walls. He encountered creatures that he thought to be the guardians of which the scrolls had spoken. These “things” were known as Icti, demonic spirits cast from the depths of the underworld for their unrelenting violent nature.
Draegan, with his adept training in magic, was able to defeat much of the Icti as he made his way deeper into the tomb. He stumbled across a massive cavern with a stone table in the middle of the seemingly hollowed out cavern. On the table Draegan saw two rings encased inside a glass sphere.
The stone table had been enchanted by a rare form of magical runes and try as he might, Draegan was unable to break the glass sphere or the table with any spell he had been taught. No spell even made a dent. He mustered his strength for one last surge of power to cast a dark spell of destruction…
“Never before have I seen so much power bent and broken inside a man,” a husky whisper of a voice came from the shadows. Draegan cast a defensive spell without thinking hoping to catch whoever, or whatever, it was that had spooked him. The voice had an evil laugh that sent chills down his spine. “No magic or weapon can touch me for I am neither flesh nor spirit.”
“What are you?” Draegan demanded as he regained his cold composure. “Answer me demon,” he bellowed as the room fell silent except for the eerie sound of a whizzing breeze. “You do not want to anger me. I could but conjure a thought and you would be wiped from existence!” What frightened him even further was that he could not sense the presence of this creature speaking from the shallows of darkness.
An advantage that Draegan had was that as a trained Masunian he was able to identify all types of power, magic and creature wielding it. However, in this thing he could not sense anything except an aura of ageless knowledge. It was as if a vast soul of information had long been trapped within this earthly tomb bound by magic and stone to never leave.
“Your feeble tricks will not help you here. This place protects me as much as I do it.” From the darkest shadows a figure began to emerge, its raspy voice filled with conviction. At first, Draegan thought it to be female in nature, but as the figure neared it became that of a male clad in translucent black robes with eyes neither white nor blue.
“What are you talking about?” Draegan had been cornered with his back to the wall, his only route of escape back past the creature. “How is it that you came to know of this place,” asked the being looking Draegan over.
Draegan unsheathed his silver sword and cast a barrier around himself, which the man simply blew away. The sword melts in his hand and with an insolent wave of the creature’s hands the barrier dissipated. “I am more powerful than anything you have faced in this world. No metal is strong enough to pierce my skin. No shield, whether created or cast, is powerful enough to stop my power. Though, I do admire your tenacious spirit warlock.”
The man sat on the stone table and looked Draegan over once more before striking fear and pride into his mind. “I sense in you a darkness that has not walked this earth since ancient times. You should be careful flesh-ling for such power left unchecked will draw enemies to you beyond imagination. You call me a demon when the darkness in your own soul will likely consume the known world and all within it.” Draegan suddenly felt a disturbance in the air around him as if a spell was being cast.
“I can see into your future warlock. A great destiny is weighted upon your shoulders. It will not be ignored for much longer. You are the one to set into motion a series of events that will shape the future of all. You are the one the Naradith have grown to fear and humans will come to hate. You will bring about the end and the beginning.”
With a simple pat on the table, the glass shattered releasing the rings that had been encased within. “This is what you seek yes? Tell me, boy, do you know how these things came into existence and what their power unleashed?” Draegan took several steps closer to the man. With every step he took he could feel the power grow within him as if those rings were calling to him. Yes, they were calling to him now, whispering his name.
Without thinking Draegan started explaining what he knew about them from reading ancient scrolls that had been presumed lost. “They are the rings of Mael and his Naradith lover Adonia. They were forged by the Dwarven master smith, Fâwl, in the embrace of the eastern Silver Mountains in the kingdom of Estalia. Imbued by a magic Mael had created himself. The purpose of those rings was to bind the souls of Mael and Adonia together for all eternity. They turned him into the strongest of the Naradith, but as was soon to be discovered, the effects of dark magic turned her into something he did not imagine possible. She became a powerful, vengeful beast that could not be controlled. Not even the combined strength of the Naradith could stand against her. It was by her hand that the world nearly came to its end, if it had not been for the love,” as the word rolled off Draegan’s tongue he cringed, “of the Naradith god Has for a mortal woman and the power he found in her embrace the world would have ended thousands of centuries ago.”
“Only a few in this world know of that past. Those who do, rarely believe in bringing it up because of what it did to all who bared witness.” The raspy-voiced man stood from the stone table and made his way to the centre of the room where he knelt to his knees and looked to the dark cavern roof.
Draegan firmly took hold of the rings, but as he clenched them tighter and tighter beginning to dream of the vengeance he would exact on the Masunian order for their rejection, the man impeded his thoughts with a wave of his hand sending him flying across the room, thudding against the furthest wall.
“I am the guardian of these rings. Charged with their eternal protection, they cannot be given to any living soul for their power is too great and terrible. Within those small bands of silver lies destructive magic so powerful to imagine…” The last three words silently rolling from the tongue of the man as he rose to his feet and towered above Draegan who had regained his footing, rock in hand, shield once again cast.
“What is your name? There is no mention of a guardian in any scroll.” The man looked at Draegan speaking as a certain smirk grew upon his face.
“You would not find my name in any scroll, book or drawing for it was erased from history. The last I had heard my name was in the last days of the Great War so many millennia ago. My existence had, you see, been wiped from memory as punishment for defying the Naradith, my former masters. I have lived for countless eternity protecting these damned things. For hundreds of thousands of years, I have yearned to be set free from this prison, from Ega.”
“The mountain of misery,” Draegan added as he gingerly tended to the blood dripping from his right leg that had been pierced by a spike set against the wall. He closed his eyes and summoned just enough magic to close the wound but found that his magic had no effect. “What have you done to me?” Draegan interrupted the man, now nervous and anxious. He knew that even with his magic he could not beat this being, but still felt his powers would be significant to at least prolong his life to coerce this powerful entity.
“The effects are only temporary. Ega is a living embodiment, it defends itself. Why do you think it is called the mountain of misery? You should count yourself lucky for having found an entrance that did not flay you alive.” Draegan sat back down on the floor, slowly feeling the effects of the wound. Clearly, the spike had been laced with some form of poison. “Did you not use magic to destroy the glass sphere and cast me aside like I was some kind of puppet?”
“Yes and no. I am a being of magic, yet I know no magic. That is the riddle of this mountain. It allows you to understand the power that is magic and how one who wields it can live without it. There are specific times when the mountain does not allow the use of magic and there are times when it enhances your skills. This is one of the main reasons this mountain has been kept secret for centuries. It cannot be seized by any kingdom for its power is too great. Yet I sense that I have just unlocked some part of your plan that may well hold the key to my freedom.”
Draegan got to his feet and with confidence oozing he extended his right hand. “I do not believe we have been introduced. My name is Draegan, son of Solal and Tali. I aim to rule this world, but I am in need of a general for my armies to be. Would you be up for the challenge, master…?”
The man looked deep within the glowing green-grey eyes of Draegan, thinking to himself how confident this mortal man was and yet did not seem to know that someday his hubris would be his undoing. Yet an opportunity such as this to escape an eternal prison could not be passed. He too sought vengeance on those who had tarnished his name. He wanted to kill and destroy those he once called master. This man was to declare war on the Naradith and neither kingdom nor army would be able to cure his deranged heart and, perhaps, with the aid of Draegan he could become even greater than during ancient times.
“My name was once Creel. The Naradith took away any evidence of my life for a crime I had committed many, many moons ago. I had betrayed a secret way of life set aside by my masters. What I was to learn was that one does not simply betray the Naradith without repercussion. Mine was to feel the wrath of death itself until the Great War had ended. Only then was I brought back to stand guard over the rings you now hold. Those metallic bands have caused so much pain and suffering to the world. If you are to use them, I bid you think it through for there is no turning back once you leave this place.”
As the last word was uttered, Creel looked at Draegan and something flickered at the back of his mind. He remembered something from long ago, from before the Great War. He remembered the way Mael had been, his generosity and his compassion to his subjects was the stuff of legend. What had driven him to power and the temptations that corrupted his soul now lingered in Creel’s mind and somehow, he saw the same fatal end for this warlock. Letting out a soft sigh he thought about what his actions today possibly unleash. He craved to feel the emptiness his soul had been indulged in before he was brought back to life as a nameless guardian, a faceless fear whispered in the echoes of time. Thinking to himself he reluctantly stretched out his hand toward Draegan and offered him a firm shake of the hand. He hesitantly moved to react. Creel firmly grasped his hand and looked him dead in the eyes.
“I am willing to let you leave this mountain with those dreadful rings, but not without a price. I hand you the knowledge of this mountain, but not without a word of advice. I most certainly hand you my loyal services as general of your armies, guardian and advisor, but not without a story. Should you not adhere to my advice your doom will quickly follow. Do you understand? I will not be your servant, yet I will follow your commands.”
Staring at Creel with nothing but cold determination Draegan uttered an oath of obedience, one that would go down in the history of Ciatalon as a foreshadowing of destruction. “I, Draegan, swear my allegiance and eternal friendship to you, Creel. This is my oath of promise to adhere to your words of wisdom. I will regard you as an ally and most trusted of generals.”
Draegan took a few steps closer and took a firm hold of Creel’s hand. “I intend to make you one more promise,” he added as he gently slid the silver ring over his own index finger and the other over the ring finger of Creel. “I promise to hand you your vengeance over the Naradith. In fact, I swear on this day that by all I hold dear we will both have revenge!”
It was from this moment onward that Creel only saw destruction and death in the future of this warlock. How Ciatalon would suffer at his hands, but Creel knew of the ancient prophecy which was written by the Elders. It was cast in stone so long ago that not even he could remember the exact wording. The only thing he knew for sure was that the rings in Draegan’s hand now meant that it had finally been set into motion. Soon an influx of opportunities would set apart the strong from the weak and hand power to the fool while the wise were left in the cold. The prophecy was referred to in the old days as the Firestorm.
At the tip of a conjured blade, Draegan anointed Creel his second in command, his war general and the commander of his soon to be empire’s armies. “Your name shall no longer be Creel, but Xin.”
Looking up the newly named Xin stared into the eyes of this warlock and rose from the ground understanding that there was no turning back. What fate had deemed cast could not be undone. His fate he had sealed. “I accept your offer and will not disappoint you … my king.”
As Xin stepped outside of the mountain having broken free from its immovable walls, he remembered the Firestorm prophecy. He thought it a fitting start to a new life. He had not told Draegan of its existence and would continue to keep it a secret until he knew more about the age he was stepping into. It did however not stop him from whispering the prophecy into the soft, biting whispers of the wind: “From the remnants of an ancient evil shall spawn endless darkness. Allied with forgotten horrors, the Lords of Dread shall walk the earth, challenged by the son of the daughter that broke the shadow. Darkness shall seek to quench the Eternal fire, but the spark of a new flame, conjured from a dying love, will once more give flight to hope.”