He ran screaming through the streets, fire and flashes of magical light illuminating the horrid scenes and atrocities being committed around him. He turned a corner and nearly tripped over the torn corpse of a young man. His entrails were spilled onto the cobbled street and blood was streaked up the walls of the buildings either side. Stepping over it he continued to run, silent now, for fear he might run into whatever nightmare had mutilated that young man.
He reached the courtyard of the southern gate to the city and turned to look back toward the royal palace. Flames erupted into the night sky from the tower window and even from this distance he could hear the screams of those within the walls. He could make out silhouettes on the battlements between billows of acrid smoke, probably the last few defenders of the Palace Guard fighting an already lost battle. In the sky above the Palace, a blood red moon shone down enhancing the ghastly nightmarish scene playing out below it. Occasionally an indistinct black shape would flit across it and a shiver would travel down his spine.
He had heard the screams coming from the Royal Chambers a mere half hour ago, and had immediately known that they had come for him, that it had begun, their bid for control of the lands of Parthoris had started. He had fled knowing that if any of them got their hands on him he would suffer indescribable tortures, especially if it was her. Her he feared more than any of the others, and with good reason, he had betrayed her all those years ago after all.
Grabbing his Mage Staff he had gathered a few essentials before leaving his quarters. He had made it out of the castle using one of the secret passages designed as escape routes for the Royal Family should the palace fall. They would not use them this night though, they had not even had the chance to and were likely dead, still wrapped in the sheets of their beds, creatures feasting of them body and soul.
He had emerged in the Queen’s Garden and made his way without incident to the garden gate that emerged onto a side road of the Southern Way. There though he had come across a lesser demon, one of the less powerful creatures. He had blasted it with liquid fire, extinguishing it’s presence on this plane before it had a chance to summon more of its ilk to aid it. Then he had stepped out onto the Southern Way and become swept up into the chaos.
Everywhere he had looked vicious beasts were tearing into the people of Kingarth. Knots of the City Defenders, the branch of the army that policed the city were beleaguered by both demon and human attackers. Men with blood blackened swords were cackling in delight as they cut down soldier and civilian alike be it man, woman or child. A soldier had run at him his raised his sword to hack down, but he had raised his hands and the man had crumbled to dust with a few words uttered under his breath. He had made his way slowly down the street avoiding the worst of the conflict and silently and discreetly taken care of any immediate threats to himself.
He would not be caught here, he would escape south were it would take longer for their influence to reach, were he could hide and prepare for them properly. He was still not fully restored after he had fled from them in Anglasia and could not hope to withstand a confrontation with them now. With this thought on his mind, he sped across the courtyard toward the Southern Gate. It was unmanned; likely the soldiers on that duty had raced into the city to aid in its defence. They would also more than likely be dead now too.
He uttered a few words of power and the gate swung open, creaking slightly on its large iron hinges. Just then a crash of noise altered him and he turned to see a contingent of mounted Knights gallop into the courtyard. They were in pursuit of a small group of black armoured soldiers and in a matter of seconds had cut them down. He ignored them and began to step through the gate when a wave of cold fear passed over him. He looked up to see a dark shape glide over the city walls and a flash of light streaked down from it toward the Knights.
In a second, they and their horses were dead, their flesh and bone piles of ash, their polished armour gleaming from them obscenely. He wrenched his gaze away and ran through the gates as fast as he could. She was here, it was her and he had never been so scared for his life. He would not be caught by her; it would be a life of never ending pain for him if he was.
His legs burned as he ran and his breath started to come to him in ragged gasps. He pushed himself knowing worse would await him upon capture. But it was hopeless. He saw a large shadow pass over him and another wave of fear forced him to his knees. He began to start a chant, one of the more powerful ones he knew, in the hope that it would trouble her long enough for him to slip away. He got halfway though it before he felt needles of white hot pain course through him. He fell face first into the dirt, blood pooling around his nose and gurgling in his throat. He was not dead, no there would be no fun for her in that. Blackness closed in on his vision and the last thing he could hear was her silky laughter.
Then he woke up.
“Gods protect me,” yelled the King’s Magician as he sat bolt upright in his bed, tearing at the sweat soaked bed linens that had become tangled around him. He staggered from his bed and to his wash stand. The water in the basin was still the water from yesterday as the maid had not been in to replace it yet. He thrust his head into it regardless, and threw it back using the shock of the cold, stale water to help clear his head.
His head split from the power of the vision he had just had, and indeed it was a vision not a dream. He had had enough over his many years to be able to distinguish them, but none as powerful or terrifying as this. He sat down shakily on the edge of the bed and flexed his fingers in habit.
“What will I do, what will I do?” he muttered. He got up and gathered a robe about himself and opened the wooden shutters on one of the chamber’s windows. A grey dawn greeted him and he breathed in a great gulp of fresh air before reaching into a chest under the window and withdrawing a small box. Opening it revealed a small drawstring pouch, a small bowl fashioned from an odd looking black coloured stone and a thick, folded piece of paper. Taking the first two from the box he sat them on the ground and fetched a cup of water from his basin. Pouring it into the bowl he watched as the black stone seemed to flow and mingle with the water like it was dissolving. When it had finished he was left staring down a bowl seemingly made of a black viscous fluid, much like oil.
Taking the small drawstring bag from the box he pulled it opened and looked inside. “Not much left,” he sighed disappointedly before reaching in and withdrawing a pinch of glittering powder from it. This is sprinkled into the fluid bowl and watched as it sank into it and began floating around it in a clockwise direction. He tightened the bag and placed it back in the box and then observed the bowl. He placed the fingertips of his two index fingers into the fluid of the base of the bowl and let his mind remember what he could from his vision.
The bowl reacted as he thought upon it, its surface and shape rippling and changing, one second forming spikes, the next becoming flatter and more disc like in appearance, but all the time the fluid rotated, the glittering dust within it speeding faster and faster. When he had thought upon it enough he withdrew his hands and rubbed his wet fingers across his closed eyelids.
And he let the power of the magic show him a way he might avert what he had bore witness to. A way he might stop the destruction of Kingarth and its people, a way he might prevent them from ever coming here. Most of all he focused on seeing a way he could avoid her, for the fear he had felt in his vision was still with him, as strong as it had been then.
His eyes snapped open and he breathed a sigh of mingled relief and satisfaction. There might be a way out from this, a way to avoid that horrible future, and the magic of the bowl had revealed it to him. He looked down at the magical object which was once again seemingly made from stone. He replaced it in the box and took out the piece of paper and unfolded it revealing a map of Erith.
This was no ordinary map though; it had been made in the old times, a lot of it by his hand. And it held far more detail than the maps of the world that existed today in this Era. He traced his finger over lines and mountain ranges he had long forgotten until he found it. The place he would have to go to find what he needed to prevent the horrors he had saw.
He put the map away and placed the box back in its chest and magically locked it, before calling out to the servant outside to fetch him wash water and his clothes for the day. He would need to speak to the King on this, and secure the people and things he would need for the expedition.
Yes, he thought, Kingarth will not fall like that and Arcadia will not so easily fall under their sway. But most importantly he, Kulan Gath, would not die by their hands, not then, not ever.