Muspel was divided into four territories or kingdoms. while the southernmost kingdom retained the title of Muspel, the two middle kingdoms were known as the Saidome and the Battleshard.
The Saidome sat to the east and was home to the legendary fire-lancers. The Battleshard sat to the west and was home to the most vicious infantry Nuardis had ever witnessed. These were known as the great demon hunters. In the battles against the darkness, they had fought the demon hordes and had nearly wiped them out.
They had earned the nickname “god-killers” in the last war with the gods. Though they were far from god-killers, they had proven a formidable foe against rogue gods…bringing them to their knees in surrender. Still, they were feared. That was why Zarange remained their ally.
She also believed that their aid would be needed when the time came to defeat the Inquisition. They, alone, knew how to bring the gods back to the lands. They, alone, knew the secrets of defeating the demons that could be raised to overthrow the lands. She shuddered.
The northernmost kingdom was the Gaelheim Fenns, which were under elven control. These elves were extraordinary warriors. As mercenaries, they were unbeatable. As a standalone army, they were irreplaceable. When the armies of all four kingdoms were brought together into one force, no force could meet them head-on.
It was in these four kingdoms that Zarange placed her hopes. The Carribi and Mayatlani would pledge, of course, but the Azitli weren’t so easily persuaded. Neither were the Amazoni, unless a woman was sent as messenger. But the mage she normally sent had died years ago, after the last message she’d sent.
But the Moche were another matter. She had never called upon them. Or the Nazqua. But the Nazqua lived upon the edge of the sea, within a stretch of inhospitable land. A desert of sorts, their home was full of ghosts and enchantments meant to lead the traveler astray. That was why she had sent a shade.
Only a shade could navigate the landscape of that forsaken desert. Only a shade would be heeded by the Nazqua. A ghostly messenger for a kingdom of ghostly warriors.
Bruin stood at the edge of Nazqua lands. From the foot of the mountains, and the foothills, to the sea, he could only see desert. Hot and treacherous, the Nazqua desert was a proving ground for any mortal. Being immortal, Bruin feared nothing. He had no need for sustenance, no need for water, and no need for sleep.
He’d stopped being human a century ago, yet death could not stop him. Such was his power that even when his body had ceased to house his life-force, his awareness continued on. Now, clothed only in a cloak to show his form, he wandered the earth. After all, who would want to speak with a grey cloud of mist?
In life, he had been a great sorcerer. He’d learned the secrets of many arts including shapeshifting and immortality. The only thing he had not counted on was that his physical body had not been intended for an extended life beyond a millennium or two. He had learned that the hard way.
He had grown so used to his shade-form that he would forget the cloak from time to time. But not when he had something important to do. And this was something important. Something extremely important.
Never before had anyone called upon the Nazqua. It was unheard of. The Nazqua were spirit warriors capable of killing souls, not just bodies. Much like himself, they had mastered death and had no fear of it. Unlike him, they had mastered jumping from body to body as they fought.
Their magicks were ancient. Far more ancient than the magicks of many of the Orders to the north. Before Moche, they were. Before the Renge, they had been a civilization. In the millennia while the Rengelanders were still barbarians, they had existed as a kingdom. They had mastered their magicks in the Renge’s infancy. They had ceased to use their physical bodies as the Assassinidii rose to ascension.
Now, they wandered their desert domain freely. Perhaps they even wandered the rest of the world, who could tell? Definitely not Bruin. He simply accepted that, since he was not bound to any place in particular, neither were they.
Bruin. The bear. How ironic that he, a shade, was named after a bear. He smirked.
He stepped into their world, making sure that he paid respects to whatever life might be there. He was the first to appear there in millennia. Silence greeted him, a silence that spoke volumes. It was a silence that he would have enjoyed if he’d had time to do so. But time was not something he had at the moment.
“Welcome, stranger,” a voice called from nearby, “you are the first in many millennia to come this way. Are you friend or foe?”
Sintaxx sold his sword to the highest bidder. He was unparalleled as a swordsman and tactician and he knew it. Most considered him a pirate, but he didn’t care. He was no pirate. His ship never raided any other. Nor did he believe in robbing honest men of their hard won riches, not that most merchants were honest.
Still, he felt that stealing was not an honest profession. His profession was war, at a price. After all, he was putting his men-and women-in the line of fire and he wanted to be able to pay them well for risking themselves.
“Sintaxx of the isles?” A female voice inquired from behind.
“Depends on who’s askin’,” he stated, a mischievous smile creeping upon his face.
“I have a message from Zarange of the Dark ring,” the voice replied coolly, “But only for Sintaxx. If you be not him, then I shall hunt elsewhere.”
“I am he,” Sintaxx replied, “What does my sister, Zarange, want?”
“She asks where your allegiance will stand,” came the response.
He turned to find a short mage holding a scroll with Zarange’s seal upon it. He accepted it graciously, read it, then called for a piece of parchment and a quill. Sitting back down at the tavern’s table, he composed his answer, then handed the rolled up parchment to the mage.
“My answer, miss,” he replied, “my sister should know better than to send a woman into a den of thieves.”
“I was all she had available,” came the retort, “unless you believe your fellow cutthroats can handle seeing a shade, troll, or Baen Si.”
“A troll would be common place,” he shrugged. “but a shade would send all scurrying for some place to hide. Sailors are a scurvy superstitious folk who see shades as the see ghosts—as harbingers of doom.”