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Prologue

It was a dark, cluttered, rectangular room, carved out of solid rock, in a keep that was itself carved out of a gigantic monolith, all blackened and cracked as if it had been exposed to tremendous heat and energy. In the middle of this room stood a gray flecked pedestal, hewn from a colossal block of granite. A large hemispherical bowl of black enameled metal, engraved with golden cabalistic signs, sat in a hollow on its polished top. An aura of intense energy surrounded this bowl, and in it a deep blue, shimmering and smoking substance, looking like shiny molten metal, cast eerie lights on to the faces of the small group of people assembled around its perimeter.

The bulkiest member of the assembled group, an imposing figure towering over the others, garbed in his Wizard’s dark midnight blue silk robes embroidered in gold threads with similar symbols to the ones on the black bowl. His white beard and hair were standing on end as if they were charged with static electricity. He spoke in a deep melodious voice, “Eyegar, bring me the rosin, this incantation well needs clearing.”

“Yes, Master Andrack,” responded the tall, gaunt, elderly man, dressed in a gray morning suit, his short gray hair slicked impeccably on his head. He looked more like a well-groomed butler than a Wizard’s assistant. He soundlessly left the group, marching solemnly toward a massive table of dark wood so shiny that the room reflected on it’s polished surface. It was standing against the stone wall of the room and looked like it had grown out of the floor, which it probably did. Even though the table’s legs were squared off tree trunks, they seemed barely strong enough to support the accumulated weight of the phials, beakers and leather bound tomes that lay in a total disarray on its top.

As if the clutter of the table made some sense to him, Eyegar chose, without hesitation, a small clay pot filled with an orange powder. He put it on a silver tray, and brought it back to Master Andrack. The old wizard curtly acknowledged his assistant and took the pot from the tray. He then turned his gaze to the other five.

His eyes first settled on the dark, chiseled features of Chargoff, the General of the Kingdom’s armies. A grisly veteran of the Magic War, he stood ramrod straight in his lightweight, black chainmail. His strong chiseled features, were in contrast to a thick crop of black hair cut in a brush cut that covered his head like a helmet. His piercing gray eyes were holding Andrack’s gaze without flinching. He was a long time friend and ally of Andrack. A look of deep concern was etched on his face.

Next to Chargoff was an eager, powerfully built young man, Prince Arexis. He was dressed in deep emerald green court doublets, in which he seem to be uncomfortable, as if he was more accustomed to be in less formal clothing. A thick mane of curly red hair covered his head and a cropped beard adorned his face. He was the only son of the late, King Bluthor, Andrack’s best friend that had been lost in the Magic War. He was the unseasoned heir to the throne. He looked deeply worried and his eyes were darting from the incantation well to Andrack’s face as if hoping for a quick solution to his worries.

At the thought of his old friend, a smile quickly passed on Andrack’s wrinkled face. How Arexis reminded him of a young Bluthor, the same eagerness, the same open face and bright eyes, the same red tousled hair. Not so his sister, Princess Nathalia, who even barely out of her teens, was regally poised in her long black silk dress molded to her athletic body. Her head was crowned in dark, shoulder length, straight red hair. Where her brother was outgoing and eager, she was reserved and poised. Used to get her own way, she had been the terror of the castle’s staff when growing up. She still had problems getting along with anybody but her best friend and Lady in waiting, Maria.

To her right was a strange looking creature dressed in dark green velvet shorts complete with bright red suspenders. It had long thin hairy limbs with long claws on his naked toes and fingers, a short snout with a grin full of sharp teeth, wide set intelligent eyes and large pointy ears. This picturesque character was Dregnar, an intellectual troll, a rare species of trolls with lightning quick intellect. He had been in the service of the royal family for as long as anyone could remember.

Looking straight back at Andrack was a stout, middle-aged man with graying straight shoulder length hair. Garbed in long dark cleric’s robes with little adornments, he had been a torn in his side since they had met. Balnor, the court patriarch, did not trust magic. He was always quick to point it out. Andrack held out his stare for a moment, then cleared his throat. He said, “I will now show you the chosen one.”

His practiced fingers looked like butterflies when they traced arcane symbols in the air over the shimmering surface of the incantation well. After a timeless period of mesmerizing flight, they took a pinch of the orange powder from the little clay pot, and sprinkled it onto the cloudy surface of the liquid. With a hissing sound, and short green flames, the liquid stopped shimmering and cleared itself into a dark, highly polished metallic surface. Pictures started flickering on it. At first stars moving by at a tremendous speed, then a blue ball on a black velvet background, then white puffy high clouds through which the perspective dove on its way to the ground, finally, a dark unpaved road through a coniferous forest. In the distance a red box-shaped contraption on wheels was following the road. The red thing had a toothless grin and fiery eyes spitting blinding light. It was bouncing down the rough road at a terrifying pace. On its back sat a powerfully built man in his early thirties. A short beard and curly brown hair framed his face. Next to him was a large salt and pepper dog, powerful muscles rippling under its coat as it fought to keep its balance.

Balnor said with a sneer, “So, this is your hero. He does not look like much to me.”

Master Andrack replied, “My magic revealed that this is the only person left in the universe that can help us.”

Dregnar’s squeaky voice interrupted, “He his riding that strange beast, isn’t he? Only a hero could be riding something so fierce. Look at it bounce and growl!”

Andrack looked at Balnor, and said, “He is our only hope. My magic is depleted and I cannot fight Magdar in the upcoming conflict.”

“You could not fight Magdar, either, last time.” Interrupted Balnor.

“I was the only member of the Order of Wizards who survived the War.”

Before the argument could degenerate further, Arexis cut in sharply, “Stop bickering. It is important to know if it is worth depleting Andrack’s magic to bring an unknown warrior to our realm.”

Nathalia added, “We are not even sure that he will help us.”

In a quiet, controlled voiced, Chargoff said, “If we do not bring the chosen one, Magdar will surely be freed and chaos is assured. You, Nathalia, he has chosen as his bride. The rivers of Gods and Power have dried up, and there is a major drought and famine. The Kingdom cannot raise an army big enough to combat Magdar’s hordes. Your brother, Arexis, is not King yet and cannot command the other states. Andrack’s magic can only do one last thing, and it is to bring the chosen stranger. Do we have any other choice?”
After a long moment of silence, Arexis looked into everyone’s eyes. He finally stopped at Andrack’s trying to find an answer to the dilemma in the large Wizard’s gaze.

With a sigh he said, “You are right, I do not think that we have any alternative. Let us bring the chosen one.”

Andrack replied solemnly, “So be it.”

He then started chanting a long incantation in a deep droning voice, as his eyes rolled back and his fingers resumed their aerial dance. A green glowing cloud started to collect at the surface of the liquid in the bowl, its Inner Light became brighter to the point that it was painful to look at. As they stood back in awe, a powerful beam of white light shot out of the iridescent cloud, through the solid stone of the roof, toward the starry sky.

From one of the faint stars lighting the night’s sky, a bright beam of blue light emerged from it. Like a giant bolt of lightning it struck the middle of the burned desert, between the Gates of Doom and Andrack’s keep. A terrifying tremor shook the Kingdom. A gigantic crater, covered in mist, was left by the impact.

Andrack raised his eyes, deep exhaustion and strain showing in them, and he looked at the others. He said in a tired voice, “The deed is done.”

As soon as these words escaped his mouth, his huge form gently collapsed to the ground to the consternation of the others.

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From 1990: One Way Ticket To Talenthar

The Sass

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