Not far to the east, lay a magnificent city, resplendent in the dawn sunlight. Golden light shimmered off the mirror like walls and illuminated the remarkable emerald tower that lay at the city’s heart.
The city was known as Sanctus, though many knew it as the Jewel of the East. It stood apart from all other cities in the region due to the fact it was dedicated to the study of the arcane. Mages and other mystics flocked to the city to read in its vast libraries or learn at the School of High Sorcery.
At the epicentre of the city, resting atop the convergence of several powerful magical laylines, was the emerald tower known as the Sanctorum, or Tower of High Sorcery. High atop the tower, in a twelve sided room with views in every direction from the city, sat the Sorcerer Supreme, Archmagister Stephanos Le’Strange.
In meditative pose, the man sat in deep concentration, magical energy flowing freely through his body. He could clearly see every strand of magical power, like a vastly intricate spider’s web, waiting for him to reach out and manipulate it. But manipulate it he would not, for this morning’s meditation was to merely attune himself with the aura of Erith, so as to better perform his spells.
“It pleases me that after all these years you still pay tribute to your old master’s teachings,” stated an ethereal voice.
Stephanos opened his eyes with a smile at the site of his former teacher, the Ancient One. Before him stood an old man, with long white hair and a thin moustache that nearly reached his waist. The fact that he floated several feet above the ground did not disturb the Sorcerer Supreme; the Ancient One was a ghost, having been dead for over fifty years.
“I thank you for your praise master,” replied Le’Strange humbly, “to what to I owe the honour of your presence?”
The old ghost looked troubled, “I bring a dire warning, my student. A force of chaos is coming to your fair city. A being of unbridled rage and destruction. The Behemoth,”
Stephanos gasped and rose to his feet in shock, “A new Behemoth has been created?! How did I not know of this?”
“The Chaos Beast is far weaker than in ages past child, but it still holds untold power. You would best prepare yourself. It can only be after one thing, and should it be destroyed darkness shall be unleashed,”
“The Seal of Agamotto,” stated Le’Strange solemnly.
“Protect it with your life, my student. The beast shall arrive by sun’s apex. Be strong, and remember your teachings…”
The ghost faded away to nothing, leaving his former student with a feeling of foreboding. With several words of magic, he too faded away, rematerialising in the deepest levels of the tower, far underground.
He stood within a circular chamber, accessible only by magic. Thirty feet of solid stone stood between his head and the basement levels of the Sanctorum, as well as various magical guardians and safeguards installed within the chamber itself.
The chamber was barren, devoid of any item but glowing magical orbs upon the walls and a circular platform in the centre. The platform, marked with various runes, acted as a gateway to the most secure hiding place on Erith; a pocket dimension.
Clutching the magical Orb of Agamotto hanging around his neck, Stephanos stepped upon the platform and recited the worded, “il fortum lega!” and was engulfed in dazzling light.
An instant later he appeared in another circular room, this one seemingly made out of solid golden light. Within the pocket dimension rested only three items.
First was a radiant orb as large as a man, seemingly composed of every colour in existence swirling together in a beautifully chaotic pattern. This was the literally the heart of the deceased sun god Auronus. In the wrong hands, such at item could reduce much of Erith to a cinder.
Second was a massive hammer, with a handle longer than Stephanos was tall. This was the Hammer of Korr; a fabled item said to be used by the god Korr in the forging of the world.
Thirdly and most importantly, was the Seal of Agamotto. The seal was a golden disc, twice the size of a man, and engraved with the symbol of a massive eye. Agamotto, a member of the mythical Eternals who is rumoured to have ascended to godhood, created the Seal to contain the power unleashed when the first Behemoth nearly tore reality in twain.
Stephanos was certain this new Behemoth was coming for the Seal, in order to finish what its predecessor had started. The power released from the seal, could very likely free the Exiled Trinity from their shadowy prison, as well as destroy all of Parthoris.
He vowed to lay down his life before letting such a thing happen.
The Behemoth charged onwards through the woods and fields. The apparition of his father always just out of reach, assaulting the beast with a barrage of jeers and taunts. Brucien pleaded in the giant’s mind for reason but he was berserk with rage and deaf to everything but the apparition’s heckling.
The alchemist could only watch on in dismay, powerless to do anything, and eventually fell into a depressed silence. He briefly pondered the source of this illusion, but in his despair he couldn’t bring himself to care.
It took several heartbeats before he realised he was no longer watching the world through the Behemoth’s eyes. Instead he was standing in a rocky desert, with a starry sky glittering overhead.
“What…” he spun about, utterly disconcerted, and found himself face to face with his father.
“Hello son,” he smiled warmly.
“You’re not real!” Brucian was at his wits end. After every thing that had happened in the past few days, he was certain he was slipping into madness.
The smile faded from Bryan Bannerson’s face and a scowl took its place.
“Mind your manners boy, I didn’t raise you to be an impertinent whelp,” he said sternly.
“I…I…no! This is all a trick!” he placed his hands over his ears in an effort to keep the voice out.
Hi father took a step forward and lifted Brucien by his throat as if he weighed nothing. If this wasn’t real it certainly felt real, as Bryan’s vicelike grip was crushing his windpipe. He pulled Brucien in close, until their faces were only inches apart. He could swear he could almost smell the ale on his father’s breath.
“You shouldn’t deny your nightmares, boy.”
Stephanos received the warning ten minutes before noon; the Behemoth was approaching. Invisible wisp watchers of his own creation dotted the landscape for leagues around Sanctus, notifying him of anyone’s approach long before they were even in sight of the city.
With his cloak of levitation he ascended well above the peak of the Sanctorum and gazed in the direction the wisp watcher had told him. At first he saw nothing, but using the Orb of Agamotto to enhance his vision he soon noticed a hulking grey figure charging in the city’s direction.
It was certainly a lot smaller than he expected; the last Behemoth was reputed to have been the size of a mountain. He new appearances could be deceiving though.
With his advanced connection to the magicka of Erith, he could clearly see the thousands of threads of power that formed the world’s magical weave. Around the Behemoth the threads bent away, snapped, or changed direction in chaotic ways. It truly was a creature of chaos, and worse, it was likely resistant to many forms of magic.
The beast would be upon them in a matter of moments, so he quickly descended to the city walls. He promptly landed beside his second in command, Wong, who commanded the city’s militia. Wong bowed respectfully to his lord, as did the militia by his side.
“Sir, archers are ready along all the walls with their spells prepared. Soldiers and mages are ready at all the major entrances to the city,” said Wong.
His second in command had served by the Sorcerer Supreme’s side for many years, first as a mere manservant, then as a bodyguard, until he eventually reached the rank of captain of the city guard. Despite his position, the man, who hailed from far across the seas, held a humble disposition. Many new recruits often marvelled at the fact the man never wore any armour, instead donning green silk robes. More senior soldiers simply replied he didn’t wear any because he didn’t need any.
“The beast is approaching, it should be here within a few moments,” replied Stephanos.
After a few moments of tense waiting, the cry rand out from halfway down the city walls; the Behemoth had been sighted. Le’Strange and Wong rushed to that area, and quickly spotting the charging beast, rushing madly towards their fair city.
“It’s no bigger than an ogre,” exclaimed one archer cockily. Normally Wong would chide the man for speaking out of turn but he was otherwise occupied.
“Archers ready!” he called, and every archer on this side of the city raised their bows and knocked an arrow, “flames!” each archer whispered a word of magic and their arrows erupted with magical purple flame, “fire!”
Hundreds of flaming arrows flew through the air, before descending down upon the rampaging beast. Each arrow struck true, Sanctus archers never missed thanks to spells of seeking. Wong raised is hand, telling the archer to wait before firing again.
Much to everyone’s dismay, no arrows pierced the flesh of the beast, though many left the magical purple flames upon its flesh. The flames were hot enough to burn steel, and yet the monster swatted it away like it was snowflakes in winter.
“Ready!” called Wong once more, “lightning!” this time hundreds of thunderbolts launched into the sky, before striking the Behemoth true.
This time the beast roared in rage, which could even be heard from the city walls. Using his Orb, Stephanos saw the beast clearly. The grey skinned beast was practically frothing at the mouth, and its eyes appeared glazed over. The assault seemed to cause some damage, but it hadn’t stopped charging towards them. It was easy to forget this was once a man.
“Shall I call for another volley?” asked Wong.
Stephanos shook his head, “No, it only seems to enrage the beast. We’ll have to try another tactic.”
He closed his eyes and immediately began chanting, his fingers weaving intricate patterns with strands of magic. Throughout the city, people’s hair began to stand on end as the sky sparkled with magical energy. A shimmering rainbow dome manifested over the jade city, blocking entry to all.
The Behemoth hit the barrier at full charge and fell backwards, like a man running into a brick wall. The beast rubbed its head before rising to its feet and examining the barrier warily. It paced back and forth, eyeing the shield and tentatively prodding it. Every so often it would swat at something that wasn’t there.
A moment later it let out a tremendous bellow and punched the barrier repeatedly. People throughout the city cried out in shock as the entire barrier shook; never before had something been powerful enough the affect the barrier so. A worse shock came a few seconds later, when the beast’s ferocious attack shattered the dome like glass. Screams of panic arose as giant shards of magical energy fell upon Sanctus, only to have them dissipate before touching the ground.
“By the gods!” exclaimed Wong.
“It would seem we’ve failed at keeping this monster from our fair city,” stated Stephanos grimly.
The beast would be at their walls in less than a minute.