Post by LiquidChicagoTed on Dec 8, 2018 20:11:19 GMT
Meadows... Coming back to the place he was born in was never an easy task for Edmond. Even back when he had been younger, it had never been a home. The people here, they were different. Simple in their dreams and needs. Not that he considered that a bad thing, not that he hated them, but he had never fit in with them and coming back here felt weird. There were days where he thought how it would be if he hadn't been born like this, hadn't been born a mage. There was nothing he could do against this and neither did he want to. But perhaps he could, one day, make them see the world like he did.
Quiet and in the shadows of dawn, the two riders crossed the Pandlaril close to Baliho, before following a crude trail through the northern forest. The darkness was their friend here, for the strets were busy during the day and not with common travellers. There were many priests of Praios in Meadows these days, more than either of them expected and more than there should be. Did they know anything? Could they know? The thought made him nervous, as unlikely as it was. Still, they were the one kind of person Edmond outright hated, since they stood for everything he fought against. The old order, a world in which magic was kept down, where mages had to be ashamed for what they were, where people like him had to feel bad because they were born different from the rest.
Finally, around noon, they found the house. It was an abandoned farmhouse, with a broken gate and a collapsed stable for cattle. Deep markings in the wooden walls, the kind that came from swords and axes, gave him a hint what had happened here. The Orkenstorm had littered the province in ruins like these and not in all cases were people left to rebuild, now that the orks had been driven north.
It was inconspicuous, just one of hundreds of abandoned farms in Meadows. The perfect place for the sort of meeting they meant to have tonight. Edmond descended from his horse, noticing that Urdo, as always, had been faster. Dragging his steed to the dry well in the centre of the farmstead, he tied it to the wooden beam and Edmond did the same.
“Gods, I hate this place”, Urdo mumbled and Edmond raised an eyebrow. “Is there anything you don't hate?”, he asked and the twitchy man thought about it for a moment. “Borbarad, of course”, he spoke, in an almost mocking tone and his grin was infuriating. Edmond frowned, but left it uncommented. By the gods, he hated Urdo of Gisholm. During their journey from the Rashtul Wall to Meadows, he had made it his personal mission to piss the mage off, proving once again and without a doubt just why few of the circles wanted to work with him. But his speed made him valuable. None were able to deliver messages as fast and discreet as Urdo. He was a necessary nuisance with useful talents, as Liscom himself had realized, so many years ago.
Walking closer to the farmhouse, Edmond tightened the grip around his staff. There was always the possibility that Urdo was leading him into a trap. After all, someone who worshipped the Seeder of Strife was hardly to be trusted. Treason was in Urdo's very being and perhaps the only thing that kept him in line was the reward he hoped to get out of this. Needless to say, those who followed Borbarad's teachings to hope for a reward were disgusting to Edmond. What they were about to do was a service to the mortals of Aventuria.
The door opened and Edmond was half-ready to unleash the fire bolt from his staff. However, he instantly calmed down as he realized that he was not being led into a trap. There in the doorframe stood a tall, thin man, a few years older than him, clad in a black robe. His hair was similarly dark and tied into a ponytail, whereas his skin, naturally tanned, was a little bit more pasty than usual. Leaning onto his staff, he looked at Edmond out of dark eyes, before a smile formed on his sharp face.
“Edmond!”, he greeted him in a deep tone, spreading his arms, as the two men exchanged a friendly hug. “Sulman”, the other mage said, as a grin found its way onto his face. “It has been too long” Sulman al'Venish gave him a nod. “Undoubtedly”, he agreed. “It has been... what, three years?” Edmond smirked. “Almost four”, he replied. “But I heard you've been busy down in Selem”
“Ugh, don't remind me. Nearly grew mad in that place”, the other mage chuckled, before he looked past Edmond. “Ah, Urdo!” He and the smaller man exchanged a warm handshake. It was baffling to Edmond how anyone could like Urdo, but Sulman was perhaps the exception to the rule. “I'm glad you both made it”, Sulman spoke, as he stepped aside, allowing both to enter.
The room was large and dark, showing signs of decay already. Covered in dust and spiderwebs, it looked pathetic, not unlike the main room of the house he had grown up in. The wooden furniture was shattered, but it had likely never been a pretty sight. A small fire was burning in the fireplace, barely illuminating all of it. What it did show him though was that they were not alone.
In the corner, there was a tall, broad-shouldered man in his early forties, with wild, black hair that fell down his shoulders, as well as an unkempt beard that reached almost to his chest. Beneath, he had a haggard face, with a prominent nose and sharp cheekbones. Clad in a black gambeson, as well as a thick, black cloak, he was an intimidating sight and there was something within his deep, dark eyes which Edmond did not like. And yet, for as imposing as his build was, he carried a staff with him, which he immediately recognized as a mage's staff, despite its crude construction.
“Ah, of course”, Sulman spoke, as he notice Edmond's confusion. He entered the room in full now, revealing a notable limp on his left foot, something that hadn't been there when they last met. “Edmond, this is Korobar, our new ally here in Meadows”, he introduced the black-haired man. Korobar nodded as a greeting, but remained silent. “He earned quite a reputation over in Tobria. You might have heard of the Tobimora Shadow?”
Edmond raised an eyebrow. “Can't say I do”, he replied. “How does one earn such a nickname?” Korobar smirked, a thin, joyless expression. “Killed a few people. Raised them again”, he explained, rolling the 'r' in the harsh accent of the Norbardians. “I am a necromancer. The Tobrians are quick to give names to people like me”
And there, Edmond realized what it was that threw him off about Korobar. The man looked almost like a corpse himself. The pale skin, the gaunt cheeks, the sunken eyes. He was alive, obviously, as his breathing proved, but Edmond had seen enough demon cultists to recognize one when he saw them. “And when did you sell your soul to Thargunitoth?”, he asked.
“Ah, of course”, Korobar said calmly, as Sulman closed the door. “I was informed of your... dislike towards cultists. I hope that will not stand in the way of us working together” Edmond was taken aback by the subtly threatening tone in the necromancer's voice. “My dislike?”, he asked sternly. “I follow the teachings of Liscom” He glanced at Sulman. “I thought I was not the only one in this room”
Sulman sighed. “I admire Liscom's teachings as much as you do”, he spoke, in a tone that revealed to Edmond that there would be a 'but'. “But he was the idealist among us. After his death, compromises had to be made, so that the cause as a whole can survive” As much as Edmond disliked this, he had to admit, Sulman had a point. The Borbaradian cells had been on the verge of breaking up after Liscom's death. Without Sulman, they would have surely lost their way.
“That is actually not all that has to be revealed now”, he spoke and Edmond briefly caught Urdo's sinister smirk. He raised an eyebrow, as Sulman limped closer to the fireplace. “What happened to your leg?”, he asked and Sulman sighed slightly. Then, he raised his robe a little bit, to reveal his left foot, which he wore no boot on. Edmond gasped, as he saw it.
In the light of the fire, the flesh was ghastly pale, yet the closer it got to the toes, the darker it became. By the time it reached them, it was rotten black. The big toe, however, was devoid of flesh entirely, showing the bare bone instead. “As I said”, Sulman spoke with a strained voice, as he hid his pact mark again. “Compromises had to be made”
“But a pact?”, Edmond growled. “Surely there could have been other...” To his surprise, Sulman cut him off, with a loud, sharp command. “There were no other choices!”, he barked. The outburst came quick and took Edmond off guard, though he stood his ground, responding with a sharp glare. Sulman took a deep breath, calming himself quickly. “I am sorry I have to disappoint you, my friend”, he mumbled. “But I am not Liscom. His plan to return the master to this world by his mortal strength alone is something only he could have done. I however... am not strong enough” He gave the wild-haired necromancer a nod. “Korobar introduced me to the powers of the Nether Hells”, he explained. “And the Queen of Undeath has been highly supportive of our goal”
“Returning Borbarad to this world with the help of demons”, Edmond mumbled, as he sat down at the fireplace, Sulman taking the seat next to him. “You should have told me” Sulman shrugged, as he stared into the flames. “I just did”, he spoke. “Besides, I didn't want to tell you before I had absolute faith that this step was necessary”
Edmond raised an eyebrow, as he slowly calmed down. Then, he felt a sudden wave of excitement. “Are you telling me...”, he gasped and Sulman reciprocated his grin. “Yes!”, he confirmed. “Yes, it is time. What failed six years ago will succeed now. Borbarad's return is imminent”
And just like this, it was all good. Edmond was more than willing to ignore the presence of Korobar the necromancer, he was more than happy to accept Sulman's new demon pact, if it meant that all of this had a reason. Liscom himself had been preaching this. Great sacrifice is appropriate, something even outright required for great deeds.
“Can you understand why I never told you?”, Sulman asked and Edmond thought about it for a moment, before he nodded. “Because I would have entered the pact, had I known we needed it”, he said and Sulman smiled. “Do not burden your soul with a pact”, he spoke. “But my sacrifice will be repaid a thousand times once Borbarad has returned”
“The howling queen won't get our souls once Borbarad watches over us”, Korobar added and Edmond nodded, with a newly gained understanding for the dark necromancer. As much as he loathed demon cultists, he was nothing if not supportive of those who wanted their freedom. “Then how is it going to happen?”, he asked, his voice shivering with anticipation. “Have you made sense of Liscom's notes at last?”
“Something like that”, Sulman replied. “I met a man in Selem, who showed me just why I have no chance in completing Liscom's ritual on my own” He cracked his knuckles, as he stared into the fireplace. “Liscom was different from the ordinary mage, the brightest mind of our time. And his interest went beyond matters of the arcane”, he explained. “He saw hidden connections between all of this. Satinav and the gods of the Achaz and their relation to Borbarad”
Edmond raised an eyebrow. “What does Satinav have to do with this?”, he asked. Truth be told, there wasn't much he knew about the guardian of time. A mysterious entity, unconcerned with mortal affairs, and the last he would have expected to play a part in their goal. Sulman shrugged. “I don't claim to understand the whole connection”, he admitted. “Not even with the new... perspective Thargunitoth has granted me. But Hamid, he saw it”
“Hamid?”, Urdo asked and Edmond noticed how the small man had silently gotten closer to them. He always felt a chill, having to turn his back on the man, so he shifted a bit, so that he could keep an eye on them, even if it meant having to turn his back on the intimidating figure of Korobar. “First time I hear of that man. I always thought it was just you”
Sulman narrowed his eyes. “That is because I don't tell you everything”, he admitted calmly. “At least not until now, when we are so close to succeeding. The man I met in Selem is named Hamid ben Seychaban, a Tulamid scholar and mage” He paused, suppressing a smirk, as he clenched his fists. “It was a lucky coincidence that I met Hamid, for he finally made sense of Liscom's legacy”, he spoke. “It seems Liscom himself has been close to a breakthrough shortly before his death and it all revolved around Satinav”
“Four hundred years ago”, Korobar's strong voice snarled from behind. “That was Rohal the 'Wise' and his army marched against his own brother. Borbarad and his faithful stood against him, but Rohal triumphed on that day” Edmond glanced over his shoulder, noticing that a grin had formed on the gaunt necromancer's face, revealing a row of yellowish-brown teeth, the canines clearly sharpened into fangs. “He did not kill him, oh no. He merely managed to trap him in a place outside of the world, outside of life and death”
“Limbo”, Edmond confirmed. “I know that much. And you mean Limbo magic won't be enough to bring him back?” Korobar shook his head. “Else someone would have done it centuries ago”, he growled. “We are not the first who follow his teachings, nor will we be the last. But we will be the ones that triumph where generations of mages failed, because thanks to Hamid ben Seychaban, we know of the missing aspect, the one part of the ritual everyone ignored”
“It is not just that Borbarad has been banned into Limbo”, Sulman spoke, taking over from the necromancer. “The location is easy to determine, the 'where' has never been a question. But Limbo is a place outside of time. The 'when' has always been the problem. While the world moved on, while four hundred years have passed, the master remained exactly the same, trapped in crushing agony between the spheres”
“Four hundred years...”, Edmond mumbled, as he began to understand. He was not an expert on the Limbo and knew almost nothing on the field of temporal magic, but he had studied in Punin and he was still a mage. As Sulman and Korobar laid it out, he understood completely what they meant. It made sense... by the gods, it was brilliant! A baffled smile of disbelief formed on his face, as he shook his head. “Can it be this easy?”
“In theory”, Sulman confirmed. “But it will not be. Four hundred years have been stolen from Borbarad, so they must be returned to him somehow. Four hundred years full of life need to be given, so that he can break free of his prison” Edmond raised an eyebrow. “That sounds like something the priests of the Nameless One would say”, he brought up. “They are not involved in this, are they?”
Sulman chuckled, before he immediately shook his head. “This I can assure you, my friend, I would never stoop so low”, he promised. “The Nameless One is the enemy, more than any of the other gods. That being said, there are similarities between his imprisonment in the Wall of Stars and Borbarad's imprisonment in the Limbo. The difference is that the Nameless One requires merely life and power to break free, but Borbarad needs time. The longer he spends trapped outside of it, the more he will need to return to this world”
“And Hamid knows how to give him this time?”, Edmond asked. “Where... where is this man? I desire to speak to him” Sulman and Korobar exchanged a brief nod, as he noticed, before his friend began to speak again. “Hamid has accompanied me to Meadows”, he confirmed. “But he has journeyed ahead, while I was waiting for you here. A ritual will be needed, at a very particular place”
“Drakesfield”, Korobar growled and the word sounded downright monstrous in his harsh accent. “A village near the Black Sickle, entirely unremarkable in itself, but, by chance located at a very particular place of power. There, he has prepared for the ritual. It is almost done” Edmond's eyes widened. “Then we must travel there at once!”, he spoke. “I want to be there when Borbarad ushers in the new world, when Liscom's dream is fulfilled at last”
Sulman nodded. “And you will be”, he promised. “If you want to, you can accompany Korobar right away. He will start his journey there after we have finished our talk, to meet up with Hamid and support him in finishing the ritual. I will arrive there a few days later, but it should all be in time”
“And what am I going to do?”, Urdo asked, as Sulman glanced at him. “My friend, you will travel west, over the Pandlaril again and to the city of Baliho”, he told him. “Hamid has spent some time there, but the ritual forced him to leave some matters there unattended. I need you to tie up loose ends and gather some of his belongings”
At the final sentence, Urdo smirked. “I have always been good at that”, he agreed. “Fine, I'll go. Anything I should know?” Sulman hesitated for a moment, before he glanced at Edmond. “Maybe one thing”, he confirmed. “There is a man in this city whom you must stay away from. Much as you might want to, he should not be underestimated and the last thing we need is his meddling in our affairs yet again”
Once more, he and Korobar exchanged a glance and Edmond noticed how the necromancer was downright frowning. “I am talking about Delian of Plainsbridge”, Sulman spoke and Edmond felt hatred growing in him. “Plainsbridge”, he growled. “The rat who murdered Liscom. What is he doing here?”
“Looking for me”, Korobar revealed. “We had an encounter in Tobria that left me badly injured. Without the Archdemon, I would have died on that day, but Thargunitoth was not yet done with me” He crossed his thick arms. “I have been seen in this region and of course, Middenrealm Intelligence sent their blood hound”
“We should not allow him to stop us again”, Edmond barked. “Urdo should kill him” Sulman shook his head. “If he fails, Plainsbridge will be on our trail”, he spoke. “I hate him as much as you do, but his time will come. Dealing with him can wait, no, it has to wait. All Urdo will do in Baliho is to remove evidence of Hamid's stay there, to prevent Middenrealm Intelligence from getting in our way again”
“Besides, you are not the only one with a grudge on Agent Delian, boy”, Korobar hissed. “He and I, we have unfinished business. He will follow my trail eventually, but by the time he finds me, I will stand by the master's side. Then, we can kill him” He grinned as he spoke this and given his powers, Edmond doubted just killing the man would be good enough. Not that he complained about it. Delian of Plainsbridge, the coward, the man who murdered the greatest mind of their age, he deserved what was coming to him. Begrudgingly, he had to admit that he could wait, just a little bit longer.
“You can go with Urdo if you want to”, Sulman spoke. “Together, you could deal with the matters in Baliho faster. Then, you meet up with me again and we travel to Drakesfield together, where we will join Hamid and Korobar” He glanced from the short, wiry figure of Urdo of Gisholm to Korobar's imposing physique. “To be honest, I merely want you to be there when the master returns. Out of all his followers, you deserve this honour the most. Urdo and Korobar, they have specific tasks to fulfil, but true to Borbarad's teachings, you have the freedom to choose whom you wish to support”
Edmond followed his gaze. To be honest, he liked neither of these men. Urdo was a necessary evil, a man he did not trust and whose crude attempts at riling him up got on his nerves. But his task was undoubtedly important. Erasing Hamid's tracks, to prevent Delian of Plainsbridge to get in their way again was something he would like to help with, if only to keep an eye on the man who murdered Liscom. Meanwhile, going with Korobar, it would mean arriving in Drakesfield earlier. Who knew what would await him there? Maybe it was worth travelling there in the intimidating company of the necromancer if it meant getting behind the secrets of this a bit earlier. He sighed, noticing Sulman's anticipating expression and he knew, he had to make a choice.
[Go with Urdo] [Go with Korobar]