“I have decided,” Kyrzhad began as he sat upon his throne before the group of nobilis standing before him, “That Korlabdis shall be made a target. For too long those twin mages have held that city. For too long, they have had governorship against my will.
“It is time for them to cede it to me. Whoever takes Korlabdis will win Yndarr. His second in command will receive Korlabdis. Do I have any generals worthy of the task? Or are you all so lotus-laden to be of use to me?”
“I will march against the mages,” Hadrax replied, standing, “but I need a proper army, my Emperor.”
“And you shall have one,” Kyrzhad smiled, knowing that his plan had not failed, “well trained, and at your command. A legion of my finest shall accompany you and follow your command.”
“Thank you, my liege,” Hadrax acquiesced, sitting back down.
“Those of you who did not heed the call of your Emperor may leave,” the emperor commanded, “but I wish for you to stay, Hadrax of Yndarr. We have much to discuss.”
Hadrax bowed. “Yes, milord.”
The rest of the nobilis present filed out of the throne room. The emperor remained quiet until they had gone. Hadrax remained seated. Kyrzhad smiled at his new favorite.
“Seems I have a court of cowards and lotus suckers,” the emperor sneered, “not one desired the taste of battle. Only you.
“Today, you have made your emperor happy. Come.” Kyrzhad rose. “Let’s plan our wars.”
Hadrax followed his emperor out of the throne room. They slipped from the Hall of Judgment through a secret panel behind the throne seat. They went down a long hallway within the wall that no other knew existed. At the end, they entered the war room.
At the center sat a table and a map stand. Upon the stand sat several scrolls containing maps. With a flourish of his hand, all the torches in the room poured forth light bright enough to make Hadrax wonder if the ceiling had dropped away and the sky now stood above them, unimpeded. Looking up, he noticed that the ceiling was indeed still above them.
The emperor went to the stand an took a map-scroll from it. He unrolled it and placed it upon the table so that Hadrax could see. Hadrax looked over his emperor’s shoulder. It was a map showing Korlabdis and the surrounding cities. The emperor placed his finger at about a league from the city.
“Here is where you should set up your headquarters,” Kyrzhad began, then moved his finger closer. “And here is where you should set up your siege line. Ladders, archers, and infantry should stretch in between. Let your lieutenants stand with your units while you stay within your headquarters.
“After Korlabdis, we will talk other battles. I want those gutless curs removed from their positions. I have no use for a bunch of weaklings in my government. We will raise men of courage to those positions. A new nobilis of warriors that will make our lands the envy of all those who witness its rise.
“We’ll take care of the Inquisition when the time comes. And possibly the Dark Ring. But for now, I want to remove the governors of our cities.” He looked up at Hadrax. “Any questions?”
“My liege,” Hadrax chose his words carefully, “I do not want to sit as governor of Yndarr. My father resides there and he would openly defy me.”
“And who is your father?” Kyrzhad asked.
“Bezreddyn the bard, my liege,” Hadrax replied solemnly, “and though I do not see things as he wishes, I do love my father.”
“So banning him from his trade or executing him is out of the question?” The emperor inquired.
“You could never stop the bard from telling his tales,” Hadrax replied, “and you cannot kill him. He is an immortal. The only way for him to die is to pass his legacy on. I was next in line, but I rejected it. One of my children will likely take that when they are old enough.”
“Then I shall switch your reward to Korlabdis,” the emperor ceded, “and give Yndarr to your lieutenant.”
Thuron stood on the borders of Atli. Across a small sea lay Carribis and a few smaller, weaker kingdoms. Both Atli and the island kingdoms were dangerous, at best, to go through. Yet he had a mission.
As a mage, he was unparalleled in his abilities. As an emissary, he was a one-of-a-kind diplomat and negotiator. At the moment, he was on his way to the Moche on a mission for the Council of the Dark Ring. Though he did not belong to the Ring, he was an ally to the Orders. But he hated the Master. As far as he was concerned, the Master was as useless as an unskilled adept in a life-and-death battle between mages.
The message he carried was important. It was addressed to the council of Moche mages. He had a second addressed to the council among the Amazoni. Another had been sent to deliver the message to the Atli councils. By the gods, he wished he could be there to see their faces when the messenger arrived! Atli’s first kingdom, the Mexoltle, tended to kill strangers if they were caught. But the stranger paying them a visit would be damn difficult to kill.
Thuron smiled. The mage chosen to deliver the message to Mexoltle was none other than the legendary Troll-mage, Baltesar. Trolls, by nature, were nigh invincible; their hides so thick that conventional weapons could not penetrate. Add an immunity to magicks and you had a creature that no one could kill. Well, almost no one.
The third messenger picked, the one headed for Mayatlan, was Banshidar. He was almost like a shade, stealthy and able to vanish without a trace. All three had been picked for the mainland kingdoms. Seven others had been picked for the island kingdoms. who they were, Thuron did not know. He had left long before they had arrived to take counsel with Zarange.
He only hoped that Baltesar had reached the Mexoltle capital. If the troll had, then he would be able to easily slip past the kingdom. Mayatlan would be no problem. Their people were peaceful.
Baltesar strode into the Mexoltle’s capital confidently. It’s citizens stood and stared, not moving. He smiled. He knew that he was the first troll they had ever seen.
Unlike times reported, no one made a move to take hold of him. For the first time in millennia, a messenger had not been accosted. Unimpeded, he made his way to the council’s temple. His mission would be done soon.