The Year 1038 Second Age, the Island of Kare in the Greater Sea
The elm tree groaned as its roots were torn from the ground. The last cord snapped, and the entire tree crashed to the ground, its branches crunching like bones under its own massive weight. No sooner had the trunk hit the ground than over a score of Thayscarr jumped onto it and began to hack it to pieces.
The strange beasts varied greatly in size and shape; some where more noble in appearance like Men, some had darker skin like Elves, some were shorter with beards, and some were more graceful like Driinas. But for all their differences, they all had some very similar aspects. They all had pale blue eyes, sickly bleached hair, and death-like skin. Their eyebrows were pale and almost indiscernible. Nearby sat the burnt remains of a hut, along with a trampled and worthless garden, and a smashed chicken-coop full of freshly killed hens. Between the house and the chicken-coop was a dead man.
As the Thayscarr continued to hack away at the tree, their master watched grimly. His hair was dirty-blonde and reached just below his shoulder. Strangely, his eye-brows were dark black, connecting just above his nose. The most notable feature about the master was his eyes, which were not blue, brown or green, but golden like an eagle’s. The beast was neither Man nor Driinas, Elf nor Dwarf. He stood nearly seven feet tall, and wore a black cloak with a silver-colored breastplate underneath it.
The master smiled as he watched his minions tear the tree to pieces. His grin was a small, ghastly thing accompanied with a flash from the golden eyes. The master turned and faced the two beasts behind him. One, his captain, had long black hair and lifeless gray eyes; the only part of him that had any color was his blood-red lips, which contrasted greatly with his pale skin. He wore a black breastplate, and dirty grieves; blackened by smoke, dirt, and blood. Held tightly in the captain’s grip was a sullen, dark-skinned Dwarf, wearing a forest-green tunic and light brown trousers.
“Well Kewmu,” the master began, “Where is this god of yours now? If he really cared so much about you, why would he let his last beloved seer die?”
The colored Dwarf didn’t answer, but simply looked down.
The Master laughed heartily, and then turned to his captain. “We will return to the ships. We are done here. The Thayscarr will finish the rest.”
The Master turned and began to walk off. The Captain looked at the Dwarf he was holding and then asked, “What shall I do with him, sire?”
The Master turned and studied the Dwarf, as if weighing his life with his eyes. The Captain looked away, avoiding his master’s gaze. He had learned quickly not to look his master in the face.
“Take him with us.”
The Master walked off again. The Captain hurried behind, dragging the Dwarf with him. It was all the Captain could do to keep up with his master. Not only was his master walking fairly briskly, but the Dwarf was doing all he could to slow him up.
The Master disappeared behind a corner, and the Captain thrust the Dwarf in front of him.
“Move your legs, slime! Move faster or I’ll kill you!”
The Dwarf grunted sullenly. “Go ahead then. You’ll kill me anyway, so why not now?”
The Captain growled in annoyance, and turned the Dwarf to face him. “I’ll cut out your tongue.”
The Captain drew a long, wicked knife and the Dwarf cowered back.
“You know I will.”
The Dwarf bowed and moved sullenly on.
They turned the corner, and found the Master standing quite still and gazing off into the distance. They were on a cliff that looked due south, behind them was the scrub and elm woods of the island, before them stretched the vast and varied ocean. The sun hovered about two hands’ breadth from the horizon to the west.
The Captain stopped a few paces behind the Master and waited breathless.
“It’s done,” the Master finally said.
The Master turned and looked at the Captain, with the look of a great cat that has just gorged itself beyond what it’s belly can hold.
“It’s done,” he said again.
The Captain blinked in confusion but then replied, “Very good, sire, well done.”
The Master smiled contemptuously. “My life work, I mean. It’s done, all done. I have succeeded.”
He turned and looked back across the ocean, the Dwarf muttered something and shifted his weight nervously, but the Captain put his knife to the Dwarf’s throat and he stood still again.
“It was two thousand years ago,” the Master continued, “when I was summoned from the darkness of oblivion; when I seized that miserable soul that is now my body, and sealed my covenant with Diabollas in his cowardly blood; that was my first life. Yes! Those were the days of glory and vengeance. We ruled the earth then, and all bowed before us. We were called the Hellings – me and my brethren – children of hell, devised in the mind of Diabollas Most High, and forged in the flames of the stars. But Seers of Elelyon resisted us, in those ancient days before the sundering of mankind, and they bound us with the bonds of the Sheol. So we waited in the light of the Counter Essence.”
The Master paused, and the Captain licked his lips slowly, trying to decide if his master was waiting for him to say something.
The Master let out a sharp hiss through his teeth as if remembering something painful. “That day I vowed I would have my revenge on the Seers. I would kill every last one of them.” The Master sighed. “Today I have done it.”
The Captain nodded. The Dwarf fidgeted again, and the Captain poked him hard with his knife until he was still again.
The Master turned slowly and smiled at the Captain without meeting his eye. “My kingdom is safe now. The chiefs of the south will send me their blackmail and tribute, and then I will march to the north and conquer there. My kingdom will not wain until Diabollas requires it from me to seal the whole earth. There is none here with the power to stop me.”
“What about the–” the Captain shut his mouth tightly. He should have know better than to speak, why had he let his tongue get the better of him? The Master stared at him long and hard, now that he had his eye, the Captain dared not look away. “Adrianm Lao.” he finally said.
The Master’s lips curled disdainfully. “’The Light-Bearer’? You refer to the prophesy?”
The Captain nodded, not trusting himself with speech again.
“No,” the Master said simply. “That was but the babbling of a drunk man.”
He turned and was about to go on towards the ships, when he stopped hard and turned back to the sea.
“And yet it might not be. Even Diabollas fears the one to come; the ‘Great Light-Bearer;’ the Adrianm Gehem.”
He paused for a long moment in thought, and then motioned to the Captain. “There is only one way to see.”
The Captain shoved the Dwarf towards the Master and then handed over his knife.
The Master turned his golden eyes on the Dwarf. “You will be glad to know that you will not be joining my slaves as a workman, but joining my ranks of Thayscarr.”
“I’ll die first!” The Dwarf hissed viciously.
“True, true.” The Master said condescendingly.
With a sharp thrust of the knife, the Master struck the Dwarf across the shoulder. Blood began to soak the warrior’s tunic. The Master laid his left palm on the Dwarf’s shoulder and then took two steps back. With a few deft movements of his hand, he drew a circle around the Dwarf and himself. The Captain backed away, knowing too well what would happen if he crossed into the circle.
The Master now began to draw on the ground in front of the Dwarf with the blood, making weird marks and devious symbols, then he straightened to his full height. The Master swayed back and forth as he began to muter a long string of horrendous words. The Captain quivered and shrunk back at this scene of barbaric savagery.
The Dwarf lurched forward, but stayed on his feet. His eyes closed and his face contorting into a grimace of pain and hopelessness. The color drained from his face and from his hair.
The Captain knew what was happening. He had done it himself once, but the very memory made him shutter. That journey had cured him of his thirst for necromancy. It was that journey now that the Master was taking. It was a journey out of time and space, across barriers and walls, and between the forbidden dimension. The Master was on a quest, a search for knowledge; a search for truth – if there was such a thing, and if not, he searched for confidence.
The Master would now be heading to the continent and then to Sarnach the center of the Darkness. He would search the Libraries of the Ancient Kings and peer into the thoughts of the Wise Men now dead.
This was the Great Journey; the Search for Answers. This was the height of necromancy.
But the Captain knew the Master must do this all quickly, for the Dwarf’s strength – though great – was leaving him, and when it was gone and his life left him, the journey would be over, no matter how much, or little, the master had found.
Suddenly, the chanting stopped, and the Captain opened his eyes – had he been closing them?
The Dwarf was now completely limp. Dead by all appearances, though he still stood on his feet. The Master stood with his eyes closed, shuddering, as if the icy wind of the north blew on him. Finally, he opened his eyes, and gave one last shudder. His eye was lusty, and bright, but his face was haggard as if with exhaustion; yet the Captain thought he could see something else in those golden eyes, something hidden, or else masked. Might it be uncertainty? Or was it – could it possibly be – fear?
The Captain shuddered.
“It is true,” the Master leaned against a tree and held his head as if it hurt.
The Captain didn’t dare respond.
“The seer spoke rightly. A Light-Bearer will come, an Adrianm Lao, and a blue-brow, who will bring an end to my kingdom. It is true, whether in part or full.”
The Master stepped forward and touched the Dwarf on the forehead. His eyes snapped open, they were not his old eye, eyes of strength and vitality, they were the eyes of Thayscarr. He looked up towards the Master and bowed.
“How may I serve you?”
The Master smiled. “Go back to the tree, the others will see you do my work.”
Without another word, the Dwarf turned and walked down the path they had come. The Captain looked after him with a smile of contempt.
The Captain turned back to face the Master. “Yes, sire?”
“This Light-Bearer must not even know of my existence. We will find him first and kill him. Nothing will threaten my kingdom.”
The Captain nodded. “Yes, sire. What shall I do?”
“Call the werewolves,” the Master replied. “Send them to scour every corner of these islands. They must kill any suspects.”
The Captain bowed. “It shall be done as you say.”