Olgath paced in his chambers. The old prophet had died and the new one was not as friendly to him as his predecessor. Darakkys had been the last of the old prophets. The new ones, the young ones, despised the Dark Ring. Or maybe they just despised him.
And that bard. He had always been leery of the Master of the Dark Ring. Suspicious. Untrusting.
And not without reason. Olgath had known he’d become too lax. He was too forgiving where his son was concerned. But he was trying to be a good father to the boy.
He had taught Golmagug a portion of what he knew. Magic-wise, Golmagug was nothing more than wizard fourth class. But in charisma, he was one of the best orators Olgath had ever heard.
He could talk the tale off a manticore and make it glad to give it away. The boy more than made up for his lack of magic with words, but that had led to a revolt. The revolt almost ended the Ring. But he still held out hope for the boy.
Even after Golmagug created the Inquisition, Olgath felt there was still a chance to save him. But hope was slowly slipping away. Deep down, Olgath knew that his son was too far gone.
Mastery of the Ring was little consolation for his loss. Now, he had no heir. No one would be able to ascend to become Master from the dynasty that had held it for one thousand years, it had been held by his family. His grandfather. Then, his father. And him. It would have gone to Golmagug, but the boy had been in a hurry. The boy had been power hungry.
And it all had ended badly. The schism had ended the line of heirs, the House of Olgran. After him, there was no other. This concerned him.
After the rebellion, the Orders had grown more assertive. More demanding. More concerned with their staying power. More concerned with growth.
They had begun to demand that they be allowed to open access to outsiders. One by one, the Orders began to do so, with or without the Master’s blessing. And they all seemed to be growing at an alarming rate. All except the Cyrtian Order. The old warrior Order seemed to resist the change even though their numbers were dwindling.
The only consolation for Olgath was that the Orders each lived in their own quarters, that is to say districts, within the four lands. Their capital cities had served as their tribes’ seat of throne in their times of rule. Now, their glories were mere memories and their rule no longer remembered. Of all the cities of the four lands, those inhabited by an Order were the most beautiful.
Some were dark and austere, while others were light and full of ornate beauty. Those that were austere had their own charm that translated to a form of majesty that most cities could never match. Yet, they held a foreboding that held would-be intruder at bay—such were the magicks of their inhabitants.
But the mystique was starting to erode as the Orders began seeking new members from outside their hallowed bloodlines. Youth from surrounding cities were being drawn to the Orders in droves as they sought sanctuary from the growing menace of the Inquisition or worse, slavery. New blood, it seemed, was needed to bring on a resurrection of sorts to all the Orders—much to the chagrin of Olgath. He had simply hoped to breed the Ring out of existence, but there was no chance of that now. Their open enrollment had seen to a rise in membership.
Perhaps the Inquisition could serve his purposes. Perhaps the schism hadn’t been all bad. Yes. He would allow the Inquisition to attack the Orders, but not their cities. Those who ventured from the cities in search of converts would be fair came.
But Golmagug would be instructed to avoid the Cyrtian Order since they had not followed the others into the open recruitment of outsider. From now on, it was open warfare on the Orders. After all, they had to be shown who was in command…and it was not their own Masters. He was in command. He was the Master of the Ring.
Golmagug sat upon his throne, smiling. He had power. He had glory. He had his own little kingdom.
Those who’d followed him had formed their own little council, a Ring to rival the Dark Ring. The new Black Ring. Since losing his inheritance, his place in line as the next Master of the Dark Ring, he had focused his energies on finding the lost tomes of the Black Ring. He wanted to know their great power. Their secrets.
It was the purpose that now drove him. He wanted to resurrect the black ring, bring it back to life so he could rule the four lands. His lust for power knew no bounds. His greed was endless.
He was still bitter toward his father for exiling him from the Dark Ring’s capital city. He saw the Ring as his, not his father’s. He should be leading it, turning it to his will. Still, he had some followers.
Piadarran Kilthos was his first lieutenant. Nothing got by the quiet knight-sorcerer who’d fallen from grace within the Cyrtian Order because of his unbending loyalty to Gol. Piadarran was his Knight Templar, the guardian of Valthrid. He was the general of Gol’s new army.
The only thing Piadarran did not agree with was Golmagug’s unholy desire to bind the king of Demons. It was madness, but he had to go with it. His leader wanted it no matter the cost.
So they searched for the lost tomes of the demon masters. No matter how terrifying it got, they would find those tomes. Even if it cost them half the warriors they had. Those could always be replaced through deals with the slavers.
The trick was to discover their hiding place. The Black Ring had been known for their dark spells and their ability to hide things in plain sight. Even people were said to have been hidden in the last days, made quasi-shades, hidden from the hunters who’d destroyed the ring.
But his Master thought he could use the black tomes for good. He thought he could bind evil in the service of the Way. Piadarran had his doubts, though. None who’d ever sought the tomes had returned. What made Golmagug think any different?
Nearby, Grand Inquisitor Jennara stood. He had been inquisitor for the Dark Ring, but had rejected his post as Olgath began to refuse the Orders’ requests and suggestions. The old man had gone insane. Jennara had realized that. Thus, he took Gol’s side in the conflict over the leadership of the Ring.
His stance had cost him his position and the favor of Olgath. But Jennara was a cruel man. He loved torture and mutilations. Anything to effect a confession. Olgath hadn’t seemed to mind,at first. But things changed rapidly after Jennara had chosen Gol as leader.
Not that he cared. A leader was a leader. They changed more than the Renge itself. For all he cared, Gol could die and make him the leader.
He smiled. That would be good. He would savor the position. He could be as cruel as he wanted.