“Pri- Captain, do you see that?” A young woman spoke, glancing cautiously at their surroundings before focusing on a plume of smoke in the distance. Her long brown hair flowed outside of her hood, and her two hazel eyes looked on with worry.
Cloaked in red and black and red and white, they were members of the 12th ward Mystiks guild. Their team of ten had been tracking a vicious group of butchers for the past turn and while the trail begun in southern Darsus, it had led them north and was now cutting through the logging village of Kerkhill.
Arriving at the edge of the forest, it was already late afternoon but the telltale signs of destruction they had been following were prevalent.
“Yes… I don’t like this.” Another hooded young woman also cloaked in the colors of the Mystiks Guild replied. She too was staring at the dark smoke rising in the horizon. “Banahr, Tyhis, Narvin, go through the woods and circle around. Lisin and Turlin, you two are with me. The rest of you, fan out and await my signal. It might be our target so be prepared for anything.” She promptly instructed.
The others quickly dispersed and vanished into the forest. Some disappeared underground with earth magic, while others took to the trees.
The three of them cautiously approached the village from the front.
Upon entering the burnt remnants of what was once Kerkhill, they began hearing indistinguishable voices.
“This is…” Turlin, a man in his late thirties muttered.
“Survivors?” Lisin questioned, unable to believe what they were hearing.
She was Lisin Rhonorus, the second daughter of the Rhonorus house. A former student of Zorin academy, and now, a member of the 12th ward Mystiks Guild. Bordering the magical strength of a Malgin, she was a promising mage, and had already bound her third spirit. Because of her summons and powerful abilities, she was transferred from the 11th to the 12th ward guild to become a seeker: one who hunts rogue mages.
Quickening her pace, she moved forward to try and settle her doubts. “Lisin wait. We don’t know what is up ahead.” A voice from behind halted her steps. “Sorry.” Lisin apologized, taking a few steps back to hide with them. The previous village and two settlements they had come across were bereft of life. She had not expected Kerkhill to be any different.
The three of them moved carefully through the ruins of the village, keeping to the shadows and scorched walls. As they closed in on the voices, it became clear that it was the sound of mourning. Through a broken window they spotted a pyre spewing black smoke. Out in the open, the scene of a grisly sight.
“!!” Lisin couldn’t help but look away as the spectacle of her curiosity came into full view. She had glimpsed a young lady crying and holding onto the lifeless body of a bloody young man. She caught sight of a young girl sobbing and lying next to the body of a man with a gaping hole in the side of his head. She could not bear to look and averted her eyes, but such actions did nothing to stop the cries of anguish that were clawing their way into her ears.
“… I’ve always wondered what could be worse than the charred bodies that we pull out of the houses and rubbles, but this… this has got to be it…” Turlin spoke out loud and lowered his head.
“… Signal the rest and bring them in. There is work to be done.” The captain ordered with a disheartened tone and stepped into the open. Pulling back her hood, it revealed a beautiful young woman in her early twenties with a head full of emerald green hair and two radiant green eyes. “I am Prim Ashlin Lithius of Ferrent’s 12th ward Mystiks Guild! Someone, please tell me what happened here!” Prim yelled, addressing the group of survivors as they turned to her direction.
She was Prim Lithius, a prodigy the likes of which the world had not seen in decades. Her spells were potent, her casting swift, and was gifted with a mind for magic. Those in her age group and many before her could do naught, but resign in the face of her power. She was the youngest in over a decade to be sought after by the Mystiks guild, and not only could she control wind magic freely, she had also become adept with lightning and nature magic.
“S-Stay back!” A terrified woman shouted and quickly stood up. In her shaking hands was a short and crude spear made of sharpened wood.
“Please, we mean no harm,” Prim spoke, holding her hands up, “we are a unit from a larger investigation force sent out by his majesty. We are after whoever’s been destroying these lands, and are tasked with bringing them to justice!” She shouted loud enough so that everyone present could hear here before taking another step toward the group.
“How- how can we believe you?!” Another young lady ran forth to stand with the other woman. She too held a sharpened stick in her hand.
“As a guild mage, I have sworn to protect the livelihood of Darsus’ citizens. The same goes for these two behind me. This symbol upon my cloak is proof enough.” She turned around, revealing the symbol emblazoned on her back.
A red fist encased in a white crystal, set upon a black diamond. The order of the Frozen Fist.
Through the sobs and pained cries, they were able to obtain some information about what transpired.
The survivors told them that the village was attacked the previous evening.
After being corralled into the tent and constantly beaten, many of them did not know what really happened but by morning, dreadful screams and begging were all they could hear. Then everything went quiet and a young man cut open the tent to ask them where he was before leaving. Afraid to leave the confines of the tent in fear of a trap, they had waited until noon before doing so, only to find blood splatters everywhere and their captors in pieces. Pulling out their loved ones from the pile of corpses, they had burnt the monsters who destroyed their lives.
“Lisin.” Prim spoke as they were in one of the tents drawing up a report to be sent back to the guild.
“What do you make of what happened here?”
“My only speculation is that they were saved by someone.”
“Let’s hear it Lis. Tell me what you are thinking.”
“If what the villagers said was true, I’d say we just missed whoever had done this by half a day. From what I can see, I can’t tell how many there were, but whoever saved the villagers must have been extremely skilled. At least enough to fight against a group of armed bandits. If I have to guess, it was probably a group of swordsmen. Perhaps a militia or better yet, the mercenary guild.”
“And why do you think that?” Prim looked curiously at her friend.
“The villagers said their tent was cut open from the outside.” Lisin stood up and walked over to the side of the tent that had a large hole in it. “Judging from this cut and the other, it looks like a sharp blade was used. A knife, perhaps a sword. The villagers also said they found their captors in pieces. With the bodies burnt to ashes it’s hard to tell, but I’m willing to bet someone skilled with the sword could dismember a body easily. If it was the knights we would know, but the mercenary guild, I’m not so sure. They operate on their own agenda and they have no obligation to divulge their actions to the Mystiks guild or the knights.”
“Hmmm… true, but something still bothers me. What about the one who spoke to them? If it was a group, why didn’t anyone else check on the survivors after him? Most curious of all, why didn’t they stay to claim credits or a reward? A militia or a group of passing mercenaries wouldn’t have just left like this.”
“I’m still trying to figure that out.” Lisin replied, walking back to where Prim was sitting. “How are you going to explain it in the report?”
“I don’t know… I won’t, I guess. I’m going to write down what we’ve heard and let those at the top figure it out for themselves. We have enough to worry about here as it is.” Prim answered, looking down at the piece of paper in front of her. She then got up and walked over to the tent’s entryway. Looking outside, “Narvin!”
A tall man a few years older than herself hurried over to the tent. “Yes captain?”
“Get some rest. You are returning to the main group first thing in the morning to deliver a report, and to let them know we will be returning with survivors.”
It swirled in the air, hidden by the light.
It watched as the new group of people came into the village. It listened as words were exchanged between them. Thoughts about intervening crossed its mind, but it chose not to. It had seen their colors before, and recognized that they posed no threat.
Its job was to keep the survivors safe, and without any impending danger, there was no need to show itself.
The entity gazed eastward, yearning to be at its master’s side. Yearning to partake in the slaughter that was to come.
-Two days later-
Seven figures quietly stood together side by side.
Their faces were hidden underneath hoods and masks, and only their eyes were visible in the darkness. They did not speak to one another, nor were any of them sitting on the chairs scattered about the room. For some time, they stood, quietly staring at the single light source in the room.
The sound of footsteps could be heard echoing through the large underground tomb and soon enough, an object of fear emerged through a door in the opposite wall.
A bearded old man with a head of white hair. One who should be lying in bed and awaiting the kiss of death. Yet the old man was neither hunching nor limping, but walked with a healthy gait and a refined posture.
““Master.”” The seven figures immediately greeted as the new arrival walked into the light.
The old man scrutinized them before opening his mouth.
“Narshon. I assume the new position is suiting you favorably?”
One of the hooded figures stepped forward. “Yes master. Thank you for the privilege.”
“Do not fail me like your predecessor. You know full well what happens if you do.”
“Of course.” The man bowed respectfully.
“Well then, let’s hear it.”
“The mining town of Tolvuntir is now ours. We have purged the Lurustin family along with their supporters, and to hide our involvement, the Evurin family will be taking over the operations. The ores will be shipped to Gravner as usual, but a third of the profits will be coming to us.”
“Impressive. I was thinking it would take you another two turns to subjugate the Lurustin family, but to have done it in half a turn, it looks like I was not wrong in putting you in charge.” A grin appeared on the old man’s face.
“Your words are too kind, master.”
“And what of Altha?”
“My spies in the capital reports of discord between the Kithorian church and the ruling monarch. From the looks of it, the city is already corrupted. With a few more years, I’m sure we can bring the church to our side.”
“Very well. Keep me up to date on any significant changes.”
The old man dismissed Narshon before turning to another. “Kaval…”
“Yes master.” A woman stepped forward and bowed.
“What is this I hear about you being unable to complete your task?”
“It is not a problem, master. Just a minor setback.”
“Not a problem? Please enlighten me.”
“The boy seems to have slipped my grasp, but fear not, for it is only a matter of time until we find him.”
“Fear not?” The old master glared at Kaval. “You are wasting manpower from the others because of your incompetence, and you tell me to relax?”
“Forgive me master, I did not mean it that way. We’ve found out that the boy has escaped to Malpaars, so I am borrowing Eril’s strength to find them. I assure you, it will be taken care of.”
“Why should Eril be involved with your blunder? The boy should have never been able to leave Unotus in the first place. Take care of it yourself, or someone else will.” The old man snarled.
“Yes master…” Kaval bowed deeply before moving to stand with the others.
“Zavon.” The old man called out.
“Fuckin old man. Gives me the chills every time I see him.”
The man called Zavon tried to steel himself by talking out loud as he walked through the desolate forest of white.
Only a turn ago, did he witness the true disposition of the man he called Master. The late Narshon never stood a chance, and before they knew it, the man was a bloody pulp before them. He had never seen voiceless incantation before, and was not prepared to witness how devastating it was. Even including the late Narshon, none of them could have defended against such a spell.
Cutting through the fog, he made his way back to the portal that had brought him there in the first place.
Ever since becoming Zavon, he had been privileged with many of Tal’hrus’ secrets. The White world was the most amazing of them all, and he could barely convince himself that such a world exists.
He had trekked the path dozens of times, but every time he saw it, the world amazed him. He was thankful to have become one of the seven masters, and he would not fail, nor would he die like an insect because of some stupid mistake. Everything he did was bordering perfection, and the powerful role suited him perfectly.
In only half a year, he had recaptured the attention of the denizens of Darsus, reclaiming it for Tal’hrus. A third of Darsus was already under their control, and even the Mystiks Guild could do nothing but run around like idiots chasing the wind.
His report had been nothing but good news about his conquest, and the thriving slave trade he was coordinating. Adhering to the old master’s orders of not getting too close to Ferrent, he had felt nothing but positive expectations from the old man, and it invigorated him. After a decade of serving the organization with undying loyalty, he had finally risen to the top.
Having walked quite a distance from the meeting place, he came to a stop. Before him was a distortion in the white world. With a spell, the portal opened up and he stepped through it.
He was expelled into an underground sealed chamber, hidden beneath his bedroom. A mirror shard hung on the wall behind him. “Asiran. Gelnos Pleiss Vayn Torgall Zucet! Delovus Tretos Vaas!” The chamber ceiling opened up and the walls began sliding out, creating stairs for him.
Looking up, light was shining down into the underground chamber and he could see the sky clearly from where he was standing. “What in the world?” Ascending the stairs, his eyes fell upon a shattered world. One very different from the last time he had laid eyes upon it.
Their temporary base had been destroyed, and the top half of it was missing. Large scars created by who knows what, ran along the ground, cutting into the walls and pillars. Slabs of stone that had been the ceiling of the building were on the ground, and everything was broken or crumbling. Nearby, his two subordinates who had been tasked with guarding his chambers—while he was gone—were lying in pools of their own blood. They had been cleanly sliced in half at the waist.
He began shaking with anger, seeing what he had worked so hard for in ruin.
He spotted bits and pieces of what looked like body parts as he moved about, and saw that the ground was dyed in blood. “Who!? WHO WAS IT?! WHO DID THIS?!” Zavon angrily shouted, trying to find an answer.
A thick and suffocating atmosphere suddenly befell him as an eerie wind began to blow. From the unnatural wind, something else was pouring into the world.
‘Lagus.’ The name of the spirit plane came into his mind and like an illusionary dream, primal mana burst forth and swirled about him.
“What?!” Power unlike any he had ever felt before wrapped around his body and bound him in place. Before his very eyes, a tempest erupted around him, picking up the rubbles and flailing them into the air.
“Masssster.” A hissing voice resounded in the wind, and Zavon’s eyes locked onto a figure ahead of him.
A young man with long black hair and a sheathed sword at his side was walking through the lashing winds, moving against it. Looking closer, it was not the boy withstanding the force of the gale, but that the wind and debris were avoiding him.
Without any words or introduction, “You’ve kept me waiting…” The boy spoke, holding out his left hand. From a ring on his finger, dark liquid began oozing out onto the ground. “Bring me the shard.” The boy commanded, and the liquid immediately turned into a pitch-black arm.
Zavon could only watch as the sealed chamber that had taken him a whole day to create was blasted open with a single strike. “You! You did–” This! He tried to shout but before he could finish, he was on the ground. His jaws felt like they were broken, and he had bit his tongue. There was a ringing in his ears and he could not push himself up as he began spitting out blood.
“I did not await your return to hear your blabbering. If I didn’t have a use for you, you would already be dead.” The young boy coldly stared at him with two dark eyes.
Struggling to get back up, Zavon saw a dark blob rise out of the sealed chamber. The blob stretched toward the young man, then transformed into the black arm once again.
“NO!!” Zavon shouted angrily as he saw what it was holding—the shard that the old master had personally given to him. A part of the arm deformed and stretched over to him, slamming into his chest and knocking the wind out of him.
“What is the unsealing incantation?” A voice devoid of compassion questioned him.
“Asiran! Devous Giane Nuiva— Guagh!!” He began summoning his light spirit as soon as he could breathe again but instead of finishing his incantation, his face had been kicked.
“Do you know who I am?!?! I am the–” *KRACK!* Once again, excruciating pain tore at his jaws, and the boy stood over him. Attempting to talk, there was nothing but agonizing pain. His lower jaw had been crushed and he could not even scream.
“You are a parasite. A plague upon these lands and I will no longer tolerate your existence. You do not know it, but you are already dead.”
Looking up, two silver eyes devoid of any emotions stared down at him. The young man’s black hair was now a lustrous silver, glistening in the sunlight.