Agribane stood apprehensively at the formidable gates of Phoenix. In the back of his mind he recalled the rumors of war on the mainland and the frantic messengers begging for help but he quickly put these thoughts aside. The King had order a full guard on the massive castle, and he rarely had drills. Knights joked uneasily and there was an unsettling air, almost a tangible presence of darkness. Yet the orange sun fell and no attack, although even the wolves had ceased their howls. The gryphons and pikesmen were being withdrawn and the townsfolk muttered angrily about false alarms. While the last of the sleek gryphons were heading up into the castle, Agribane glanced up and saw a far-away dark object moving across the twin moons of Anym. He blinked once and headed into the secure city.
In the safety of the grand throne room King Laiorius sat in a striking darkwood seat, impassive to the guards. Fidgeting with his gold crown he considered his possibilities. He knew something was amiss, he could feel its unholy presence. He had worked all his life for peace, rooted out corruption. But something was left and it was growing stronger. The foul stench that filled the castle was not just in his head. He could not keep his city awake all night because of his feelings, but what if he was right? Then it would be only worse. He had heard the stories of the fervent messengers, cities destroyed, people killed mercilessly, but no one would dare challenge the sovereignty of RavensLand! Or would they?
Meanwhile Trelius sat outside in the forest staring out at the stars he knew so well. It was time to get some rest he thought as he lay gazing at the white moon of Anym, lumanis. To his shock the moon's pure light was slowly blanketed by darkness, he brushed his dark brown hair out of his eyes and checked again. There were no clouds out and the seers would have seen a lunar eclipse coming. What could it be? Once bright stars began to flicker out and entire constellations disappeared. Almost indiscernible it started getting colder. It grew pitch black. Trelius Knight drew his vine enwined oaken staff from his leather sling preparing for the worst. His years of training in the wood elven homeland of Sylvanistah had taught him to control his fear and to fight with honor but what powers on Anym could block out the brilliant moon?
Far on the outskirts of town TumbleFoot SpeedCreek lay staring at the non- descript ceiling from inside the "inn" ; he liked it better on nights like these when he could see the cockroaches crawling around on the dilapatated walls. Of all things Tumble hated, it was sleep. It was a good thing Rekirs needed little sleep or he would have gone as mad as a dark dwarf. Fondly he remembered his adventures in Kalgalf's labyrinth with his old friend, TenderWeed . Not that Rekir ever really grow up. Now he was stuck on a small island searching for the sunken treasure thought to be deep in the Dark Sea. As he ran his reptilian hands over his beloved pouches, he thought dismally of his parents deaths at the hands of a DarkLord. Before sorrow crept over him he randomly pulled out of one of his many pouches a small black dagger sheath. Fidgeting with the sheath he considered the possibility of exploring the castle and maybe talking to the king ,but suddenly a crash sounded in the distance! Jumping from his cot he unsheathed a tiny silver dagger, the one reminder of his father. Finally he thought, maybe some excitement!
It was long after sunset when the first transport landed. RavensLand had no defensive warships mainly for the fact that kept secluded from the rest of Anym. The dark newcomers entered Phoenix's harbor without incident. Phoenix's entire naval fleet was devastated in the first few minutes. Out of the ghastly bone transports darkly clad soldiers emerged. As far as the eye could see there were black specks, in the air and sea. As the troops were unloading, black manticores swooped down breathing their harsh flame's upon the city of Phoenix.
Not long after Alandone PureVengeance awoke with a jolt, almost falling out of an old oak tree into the soggy forest floor below. His first thought was to look down and check on the rest of the lawless brigands he unofficially commanded but halfway there he saw off in the distance a bright reddish glow. The city! He quickly climbed down the tree, slipped on his green wool cloak and ran towards the burning kingdom. He stood overlooking the vast legion that surrounded the proud city, staring in a terrified awe at the thousands of black soldiers. "Phoenix has no chance" he thought.
The entire kingdom was bathed in the reddish light of the flames. The city gate was wedged close, but was quickly buckling under the pressure of the black horde. Peasants ran about wildly trying to extinguish the flames, while pikesmen and knights waited anxiously for the gates to give way. A few people glanced with curiosity at the odd salamander like creature that darted in and out of the mob, taking trinkets that lie on the ground and staring with fearless awe at the manticores that flew overhead. One might wonder what a Rekir was doing in a primarily Human city.
King Laiorius immediately began thundering orders to his messengers. He had been wrong. He knew that his mistake would cost him his kingdom and the lives of those in it. He locked the doors to the throne room tight and wedged them shut with chairs. What did they want with a small island? But they wouldn't get him, he told himself. The throne room doors were crafted by the finest dwarven smiths. No, he would be safe. All he had to do was wait, after a while the army would leave and he could go back to being a fearless king. All I have to do is wait...
Agribane wandered the chaotic streets heading to the gates. He knew that this would be his end. The gate was bulging unnaturally and the screams seemed to shake the ground. He clutched his quarter staff tensely, barely resisting the urge to run. He would die fighting not hiding, after all he had nothing to lose.
Angrily Trelius stood on the hill watching the gate buckle. He had to give Phoenix's defenders more time! Slowly but methodically he raised his oaken staff and began chanting the unearthly words of a spell. "Arec y'tinasni vraal cinter!" Almost indiscernibly small thorned vines began creeping out of the fertile soil wrapping around the surprised soldiers' legs. Unearthly wails filled the air as Trelius sank to his knees, the spell drained him of all strength. No, he must not rest, he knew that this was a battle that could not be won. He had seen the devastation of Sylvanistha. If the first attack failed they would try again, till nothing was left.
The crash of the battle sounded far above Kaltus PureValour. King Laiorius had been good to him and he would return the favor, even if it killed him. Long ago he served with Laiorius among the Knights of the Holy Crown, an elite group of calvary that protected the now destroyed land of Soulaicen. He was directly underneath the stone castle in the slimy abandoned sewers. High-pitched squeals interrupted the noisy battle overhead and red eyes watch him malevolently. After what seemed forever he found the hatch that lead him into the main hall of the castle. He had to get to the throne room before it was to late.
Steels crashing and the screams of dying men were the only thing to be heard. Wherever one looked there was blood and other indistinguishable body parts. Amidst this chaos, looking down from a jet black gyrfalcon, sat a DarkLord. It wore a suit of full plate armor that was as black as midnight and a helm of bones adorned with two dragon horns. He charged forward skewering soldiers on his dark lance and headed into the castle, the throne of Laiorius. His rampaged was halted when he saw a grizzled old warrior, tensely clutching a brilliantly shining greatsword that was blocking his path. He continued on at full speed and lowered bloodstained lance for the kill, but something was different about this warrior. The lance was deflected over the old man's head and his greatsword sank deep into the chest of the mighty gryfalcon, eviscerating it.
Seeing his chance, Alandone charged into battle hacking his way through the dark creatures to reach the Dark Lord. A black manticore swooped down landing between him and the leader. Alandone readied his shield and valiantly charged the beast, screaming at the top of his lungs. The manticores spiked tail whipped around, catching him in the knee and he dropped to the ground. The vile creature sent a white hot flame at Alandone as he lay on the ground but his iron shield deflected the inferno skyward. Alandone stood up just in time, when the manticore reared back its horned head and lunged at him. With lightning speed Alandone raised his broadsword and wedged the beasts mouth open. As it thrashed and screamed he picked up a nearby spear and shoved it through the dragons long spiny throat. The manticore twitched a little before slumping to the ground in a pool of its own rancid blood.
DarkLord Vraag dismounted his dying gryphon and drew a bone-studded warsword from a leather sheath. "The decrepit old man who killed DarkWind will pay" he thought to himself. The wrathful leader searched the battle until he found the valiant warrior standing at the end of a desolated golden hall. "This will be too easy...." As he walked slowly down the majestic hall, Alandone who was hidden, prepared for an ambush. With a masterful swipe Alandone brought his golden blade down on Vraag but was blocked by his warsword. Alandone fought bravely against him but he was stronger. A hard blow brought the bitter Alandone to his knees and Vraag put his sword to Alandone's throat ready to finish him off. With a defiant kick he sent Vraags sword flying into the air and the tables were turned. Only having a blackened shield to defend himself with the DarkLord quickly tired. As Alandone brought his golden broadsword for the final blow Vraag whispered a magical incantation and disappeared.
A great horn sounded through out the city and at its cry the dark soldiers began to flee. A cheer of victory rose up among the inhabitants of Phoenix that still lived for they though they had won. They could not have been more wrong. As the baneful troops were retreating the proud city suddenly grew quiet and a cold wind began blowing. A frigid darkness descended on the town almost like a thick fog. The air became murky making it almost impossible to breathe.
Laiorius heard the sounding of the horn and he told himself that everything was going back to normal. It would be safe again. The Darkness was leaving. He was right! Only a few people would die but he would live. Suddenly small tremors rippled through the ground until they slowly more gained power then buildings were toppling and huge rifts appeared. Molten rock seeped out of the ground and the screams of the people were punctuated with the roar of thunder. Trelius ran wildly towards the docks stopping to help a small lizard-like creature that stood on two legs from the edge of a precipice. With him in hand he boarded one of Atlantis's few remaining war ships, the "Phoenix's Fury".
It was a proud ship built long ago in the dwarven city of StoneHaven. Cannons lined her oaken deck and tall masts rose out of her iron bound hull. Trelius was hurrying in stunned townsfolk while Alandone readied the silken sails. The ship was a museum and a reminder of the past to the inhabitants of RavensLand. She had not sailed since the first Dark Wars and was desperately in need of renovations, but she would have to do. Phoenix was crumbling and land would not be safe from the magical cataclysm caused by the invaders, neither would water for that matter. The cold winds of GlacierWall at their back and the swift currents quickly drove them quickly away from RavensLand. Tidal waves roared over the deck taking anything not tied down with it. Trelius looked back over the reddish waters at what was his once proud city and clenched his fist till he drew blood. There was nothing left. The city had sunk beneath the ocean and all there was to remind you that it was there were the floating bodies of dead men and a few crates.
For three long days Agribane said nothing, staring into the vast emptiness of the calm blue ocean. Not accepting food or water he sat below deck thinking. He knew why they had come, he saw their for power. The Dark was searching. They had called to him, invited him to join, attempting to seduce him with their strength. But he mustn't give in. He couldn't. But maybe... if he could use the dark against itself, just maybe he would be able to avenge the destruction of his country. Yes... He would be a hero! But how? To enter the darkness and return unscathed. It had never been done, not even the greatest mage could accomplish such a task. Or could they? He had to try! Anthelius did not defeat the DarkLord without risks! He cringed at the memory of his old friend, the first movement in a long time. The old man was dead now, most likely. Yes, he would do it. He mustn't doubt himself, what would Anthelius say if he saw him pouting as he was now? He would study, prepare for his long path.
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