I spent this weekend in the wilds of deepest, darkest Essex. A place which I like to think of as more or less perfectly fitting the bill of the anti-north. I was renewing acquaintances with an old friend of mine. There had been a forecast of snow, but when Saturday morning finally rolled around I did not expect to find it lying so thick and heavy. All plans to go or to do were abandoned as we found ourselves housebound. Not so much due to an inability to leave the house, but through the plain common sense that perhaps driving anywhere that day might not actually be very near the top of a list titled “Clever Things To Do.” Gravitating to the kitchen, as all right-thinking folk do, we quickly found ourselves embroiled in a tale of high adventure, with epic quests and feats of daring do as we set out the reshape the world with our deeds.
We set out into the hinterlands of the kingdoms of Atlantis in search of three rebel cities. Our task was simple, we were to find them and conquer them. Be it for our own glory or that of the state. We were to be the hands of the Council of the Void and bring order and stability to the region. Whatever the cost. So I, Arythea the Blood Cultist and mighty Mage Knight set out with two of my fellows in search of rebel scum. We were to have only two days and two nights to hunt out these rebels and pry them from their strongholds. It was to be no easy task. We were under equipped and under prepared (I blame budget cuts personally.) We needed resources, we need intel, we needed allies, we needed the means by which to achieve our goal.
A head-on assault was out of the question, we were not yet strong enough for that, nor did we know where the enemy had built the seats of their power. So with little other choice we blazed a trail of blood and destruction across the countryside. Rampaging hordes of orcs and goblins fell to our blades; we befriended local villages to heal our hurts and levied troops; we sought out ancient monasteries to partake of their secret wisdoms and gain the support of their strange and mysterious denizens; we crushed rebel keeps that stood in our paths and claimed the fortifications as our own; we cowed dark wizards and the forbidden powers of their towers, bending their will to our purpose; we plundered long forgotten dungeons and took the relics and magical bounties that lay within. Skirting around the edges of the rebel lands we found their cities, we watched from a distance, until we were ready to strike. Then, and only then, did we move in for the kill.
When the word came that it was time for the assault I was ready. Using the arcane mysteries I had learnt in my travels I conjured the Song of the Wind and flew across the plains as if they were not even there, even the wastelands barely hindered my progress as I set them afire with clouds of burning dust. And so did I rejoin my companions, reunited after our own journeys and our own quests before the gates of the Poisoned City of the Dead Swamps. Under the cover of night, we began our attack.
There were but three of us. Three against the strength of the city garrison and the might of the rebel leaders. We fanned out before the walls, our cohorts in tow. Torvak and Goldyx were lucky, their assault was met only by the lieutenants who fell quickly to a barrage of claws and fire. I, Arythea; Scourge of the Plains; hammer of the Ivory Keep; Keeper of Gems; Wielder of the Ring of Diamonds; The Demolisher; was not to be so lucky. As I breached the walls of the city I was met by the rebel general himself, dread commander, bringer of nightmares and trailing his sorcerous cabal in his wake. I was to face the Altem Mages.
This was to be by far the greatest foe I had faced in my travels. Never before had I encountered such raw Power. Through arts long forgotten by mortal man the Altem Mages had inured themselves to physical harm, blades slid from their skin leaving nary a mark and their artifices protected them from the most powerful of ranged attacks, even the greatest of trebuchet stones shattered into nothingness upon this bulwark. Deprived of my ability to wound them with my arsenal of siege weaponry they fell upon me, slinging spells wrought from a cold so chilling that it burned with a fire not of this or any other earth.
Were it not for the band of Northern Monks I had befriended I would likely have perished there and then. But they are hardy as they are loyal. Diving before this onslaught they took the brunt of the Mage’s dark majicks. But even still, both the brave and noble monks and myself suffered wounds most grievous. I had long been trailed by a trio of herbalists from a small, isolated village. Always fussing over my health and cooking up stews, the contents of which I always thought best left unknown. Their healing arts and knowledge of the green and secret ways of the natural world cleansed the dark and burning taint of the coldfire. The Altem thought they had us on the back foot, they thought that victory was within their grasp. The healing unguents of my Herbalists were spent. The Mages could keep this up all day. It was unlikely that I could. But I still had one more trick up my sleeve…
During my many travels I had come to know myself. Not just how I thought, I mean really know myself. Know the very essence of my soul and the potential that lay within. I knew how to unlock my latent magical talents and tap into the very fabric of the cosmos. With this knowledge I knew I could defeat the Altem, and so I charged. The great shield that protected them had never been designed to stop a single person. It was a ward against barrages and artillery and I slipped through it like a stone dropped into a mill-pond. While I had been unable to bombard them from range within the confines of their own protective dome it was a different story. I took a curved dagger to my palm, drawing a thin trickle of blood, I drew power from my own life-force, I drew power from the chill of the air and the water in the wind, I drew power from the very night itself! For a blink of an eye this little bubble of tranquillity was rent asunder by a blizzard the likes of which had not been seen since the Old Time, and even then only in the High North and the Wastes shunned even by the Frost Giants of Old. This was a blizzard that could topple nations, snuff out whole empires, a force of nature which buried cities and left their populace encased in ice for aeons beyond counting. Against a single group of mages? Beings who despite their powers and artifice were just beings of flesh? They had no hope. Their lives were snuffed out like you would a weak and flickering candle. With their defeat at my hand the city fell.
The rebellion was not yet routed and the leaders not yet crushed. Rebel cities still yet stood, but for now this city was ours. The others could wait until another day…