I, Nidiz, soldier in the army of Vernon and loyal servant of King Dasharpa write now my account of the Dark Magicians and the battle we fought against these dark foes, for after the ravage of the white plague, little was known of Etnyben until the world was covered in the dark ash of the great Red Mountains, and I shall make known much that was learned in our attack on the enemy’s fortress on the banks of Lake Icavor.
Our history has always followed a lengthy set of prophecies set in motion at creation, the exact nature of which remains unknown with some saying they will always happen and nothing can hinder their progression, and others say that intentional intervention could alter the outcome. I cannot say either belief is completely true, but historically they have come to pass in groupings of three, by both seemingly random events and unintentional actions. During my lifetime, and specifically during my time in the loyal service of King Dasharpa, I witnessed the fulfillment of one such grouping of prophecies.
Light grows dim, an enemy revealed.
Near smoking earth, the many gather.
The darkness grows, the world fights.
An extremely ancient script stored deep in the library vaults in Atalan also records the words of an unnamed Lunari as it gave more detail to the nature of these specific prophecies.
The Red Mountains roar
And down fire pours
For as many the flames
They number the same
There is no more light
The world will fight
When seen in the context of these small foretellings, my story becomes much more believable, for the events I witnessed were beyond the natural, and many already doubt and contest the truth of my words as I now begin my narration.
It was midsummer in the month of Kilil when the great smoke came without warning and covered the world. At the time, Vernon was at war with Nerak, battling for sovereignty over the southern boundary of our two great nations of Panei. In the early morning with the battle barely renewed for the day, and as we advanced on the army of Nerak, a dark cloud appeared on the western horizon behind us. As we fought throughout the morning, it grew closer, and at midday, it finally covered the land. We had seen storms before, but this was darker, fouler, and more ominous than anything we had yet experienced. However, this was no storm, and when the dark ash began to fall from the sky, our eyes were opened and we knew it was a device of an enemy against us all, not just Vernon and Nerak, but against the world. Many soldiers, even some of the bravest, and from both armies, fled the battlefield in terror. Despite my fear and the examples of others, I stood my ground. I am a loyal soldier and waited for my King’s commands. The battle stopped and a treaty ended that day on the field of Efundil. No kingdom would dare war with the other while an even greater enemy threatened the entire world.
For a full month, the smothering ash fell upon the world, thick, dark, and deadly. The ash blotted the sun from the sky, and after a few days, the darkness intensified until even torches barely illuminated their immediate surroundings. Water became scarce, and what was available was putrid and gritty, and did little to quench the thirst. Breathing was laborious and required a scarf over the face to keep from choking. Entire crops were lost without the sun and water needed to sustain them. I have also heard tales of several people who dared to venture out into the dark and never seen again, except later when survivors found their petrified bodies buried in the ash not far from the shelter they had left. During this time, the armies of Vernon and Nerak remained encamped at Efundil instead of attempting to brave the ash and find our ways back to our homes far away.
Finally, a great rain fell and washed the dark ash from the sky. We emerged from our tents to find a world changed from the lush grassland we once knew, to a waist deep desert of wet ash. It would be years before Panei would once again be green and bear the fruits it once did. The southwestern part of the land is now a barren desert, and the new windswept dunes serve as a timeless testimony of these events, which will last through the ages. Some would argue that it would have been wise for the army to return immediately to our capital, Uphany, but King Dasharpa decided it best to take care of his soldiers first. Water and food needed found, the sick needed healing, and the dead needed buried. Because both armies lingered in this location and some soldiers never returned to their homes, the camp grew and became the city of Efundil.
Within days of the end of the ash fall, envoys from all lands departed for Atalan where the great King Alasutham and Queen Cindro’Lah ruled Tanarad. The honor of accompany King Dasharpa on this expedition was given to myself. Atalan was the greatest city in the world and the King here had more influence in the world than any other king had, and could issue commands over all other kings, queens, and rulers from all nations. Men, the Barbidon creatures, the talking dogs they call Canari, and several of the more obscure races formed by the Lunari, all came to discuss the new threat to the world. The council lasted for weeks, and while too long and tedious to insert into this story, a full dissertation of all that transpired in that great assembly of kings was sent to every nation in attendance except the Canari, for they have no written language. The resulting agreement was for every kingdom to supply soldiers for an army that would depart from Atalan near the end of winter. From there they would sail to Etnyben and investigate the Red Mountains where many believed the great ash had originated. I volunteered for this duty, and with the permission of my King, I set sail from Atalan on the fifth day of Dolthe as one of fifteen thousand soldiers under the command of Commander Sartona.
It was a two-week journey from Atalan to the coast of Etnyben, but the great desert was not where we desired to come ashore. We sailed east along the coast of Etnyben for many long days. After a month of seeing nothing besides the hot sand on one side and the endless sea on the other, the desert gave way to a great range of mountains. Three more weeks of sailing past these, and the land changed to a swampy jungle. We also avoided this land since the damp of the air would cause an incurable sickness in many men who were unaccustomed to the climate. After another month, we finally approached the Red Mountains. They are the greatest mountains in the world, stretching high into the clouds with smoke and fire flowing from great chasms. It took two weeks to sail past these mountains, and we dropped anchor on a rocky plain before the treacherous Bay of Ivil. Commander Sartona had a camp set up, and we began the process of moving all our supplies off the ships. Within two weeks, we began our march inland. We knew our enemy must be in the vicinity of these Red Mountains and our goal was to find it. The trek was harsh and our thirst was great. There was little water in that land, but we are soldiers; we must overcome the hardships in our path to accomplish the mission set out before us. Finally, five months after our departure from Atalan, we arrived at Lake Icavor where we were able to quench our thirst.
Not far from the banks of Lake Icavor grew a single flower with a yellow center and white petals rimmed with crimson. I have seen no other flower like it in the world, and with its magnificent brilliance, seemed strangely foreign to that land, almost as if the cruel whim of fate had planted it in that spot. Commander Sartona forbid us from touching the delicate plant. A large stone sat next to the flower, and upon its face, someone had carved a single name, Yanna’Reh. It was not until after my return to Atalan, that I learned the history of that name. To the east of this flower, is a hilly area covered with sparse vegetation, where even the trees do not grow more than a few feet. To the west are the Red Mountains where the world is barren, rocky, and devoid of all life.
In the center of this destitute land, stood an immense circular citadel of black rock, with three high walls as smooth as glass and divested of gate or entrance, and three colossal pinnacles which looked like three giant claws stretching to scratch the sky. The army set up camp half a day’s march from this fortress, for this undoubtedly was the lair of our enemy, and for two weeks we watched for any signs of habitation from the unnaturally silent structure. When the commanders could wait no longer, we formed into battle ranks and prepared to advance. At the time, I called it bad luck, for the order given to my company was to advance ahead of the rest of the army. The commanders hoped to use my company as bait to lure the potential enemy from hiding. Few men are loyal enough to knowingly march to their death, and it is this loyalty to our King and Commander that I am proud to have demonstrated with those who marched beside me.
The fortress of black stone looked even more ominous as we neared its great walls, which were large enough that they dwarf even the great doors of Nasad. When we were only a few hundred paces away, I heard a cracking and looked up. A section of the citadel, as large as a man, yet tiny in comparison with the entire structure, had separated from the closest tower and began to fall to the ground. As it built up speed, it began to take the appearance of a black cloud of debris, and the rock was lost to sight as it hit the ground. When the dust and black fog settled, a single figure stood in place of the rock, his arms raised over his head and his hands clenched together. I looked behind us and saw that the rest of the army had halted. They were waiting to see what happened as we attacked this companionless enemy, and would aid us only if needed. I have fought many enemies, but this figure was unlike any other foe, for I have never fought against a user of magic. My company surged forward, our shields forming a wall before us as we braved the burns from the fire streaming from the Dark Magician’s hands. At this time, more of the enemy began to fall from the fortress, and the rest of the army began to charge as Commander Sartona gave the order to attack.
I no longer claim to understand the forces that dictate fate. Of the entire company, only I still stood in front of the Dark Magician we had charged. Those who had followed with me were just as brave and worthy to live, but the Dark Magician standing there, his black cloak fluttering against the breeze, and dark smog clouding his feet, had slaughtered them almost effortlessly. The reek of the noxious green skin that covered his gnarled gangly body still disgusts me. I swung my sword against his thin frame, but there was a magic here that made my weapon burn hotly until I dropped it. Obviously, this Dark Magician lacked skill with the sword and refused to fight me except one on one, man-to-man, hand-to-hand. This was his undoing, for his fragile body was easily subdued, and when I held his dark form on the ground, I gripped my dagger. Time seemed to freeze briefly as I stared into his hideous face, the yellow eyes burning with a dark passion, a hate for the doom spelled out in my face upon which he now looked. Soldiers rushed past us as I held him there. They would have left me behind as they advanced if I hadn’t suddenly realized I needed to destroy this foul enemy before his evil gaze held me captive forever. Before I slit his throat I asked one question, where he had come from, and the dark fiend gave his arcane answer that he came from the fire that darkened the world. I now had my answer and dared not ask more. This was a Dark Magician, and to leave him alive any longer could be deadly. I ended his life and dropped the body to be forgotten and trampled in the chaos of battle.
In the confusion that followed, I find it hard to remember specific details. With so many Dark Magicians falling into existence from the citadel and landing among us, the world was an obscure blur of black smog and fire amid the glimmer of bright armor and swords. The bodies of my fallen comrades began to cover the ground, and soon I heard the retreat sounded. The army was muddled. There were no more ranks, and soldiers turned and ran in every direction. Despite my loyalty to the authorities that I serve, I still do not agree with the next order given by Commander Sartona, for it sealed the fate of the battle. He ordered the entire army to run for our lives, an action, which when performed, would be to forsake each other and think only of ourselves. In desperation, men turned on each other and fought like animals to escape from inevitable death. It was at this time that fate once again chose to intervene and save me over greater men, and I tripped over a large stone and fell. As I lay on the ground, trampled by others, the ground trembled and I heard a great rumble as the entire citadel unexpectedly collapsed into a massive army of the abominable enemies. From my vantage on the ground, I escaped the fire that issued across the battlefield, but those still up and running for their lives did not. I closed my eyes to avoid the sight of all those writhing soldiers as they burned alive, and covered my face to block the stench of their incinerated flesh.
When the ghastly screams of fifteen thousand burning soldiers finally died into silence, I raised my eyes and surveyed the indescribable scene before me. There was absolutely no movement aside from the drifting smoke, and broken only by the occasional flame of a still smoldering body. Looking over my shoulder, I could see the dark shape of the citadel, partly damaged after the loss of the few Dark Magicians that had not survived, but standing once again with its pinnacles stretching high to scrape the sky. This was their plan, to wait out the length of time, banded together as an immense fortress of rock. Another attack would come and once again they would fall apart and fight. There is no army in all Nebulum that would ever be able to defeat this enemy, for mortal soldiers take generations to replenish while this enemy of darkness remains untouchable while it waits out the slow passage of time. My goal now was to escape and make my way back to a known land to inform the world of the enemy we now face.
When I was sure there was no Dark Magician within sight, I jumped to my feet and ran. Then I heard a sound, the type of sound that through some sudden remembrance of a prior experience causes the heart to pause with a sudden realization of error, the sound of cracking rock. I looked over my shoulder to see a black rock tumble from the fortress. They had not forgotten battle, but were simply resting while they continued to keep a silent watch. They had spotted me, and now one of the enemies was behind me. I sprinted forward, the drifting smoke would conceal and the charred remains of the dead would provide momentary cover. I would not be able to outrun his fire, but I hoped to outrun him and his range. I was wrong in my overconfidence after my previous victorious encounter, and soon I could hear his nearing footsteps and the hollow hiss of his gasping for breath. I ran to the white flower and dropped behind the rock beside it. I could not continue, I was fatigued from battle, shocked by the horrors I had witnessed, and now unable to go on without rest. I looked past the rock at my approaching enemy. His demeanor was similar to the first I had encountered, except this Dark Magician did carry a sword. I do not know why, but I whispered the name on the rock, Yanna’Reh. This white flower must have been hers. A woman worthy of such an exceptional flower must be powerful indeed to keep it safe for so long in such a forsaken land. “Darkness threatens,” I whispered.
I could hear the Dark Magician who had chased me draw near. He demanded I face my destiny as a man and that there was nothing that could save me from my death. As I huddled there in terror, I realized my enemy was correct; only the rock stood between his sword and me. I then heard a soft voice like that of a young maiden say, “I don’t think so.” At these words, I looked up and saw the faint image of a beautiful woman wearing a blue and purple dress, her reddish hair fluttering in an unknown wind. I watched her take up a sword and stab the Dark Magician. A resplendent flash threw me to my back, and when I looked again, there was no sign of my enemy or my savior aside for a few sharp shards of black rock lying on the ground where the Dark Magician had stood. I was breathless after my near death and unnatural deliverance. I sat whispering my gratitude until the following morning, when I gathered several of the black shards and began to make my way along the shore of Lake Icavor. I hoped I could travel up the Icavor River, and by doing so, bypass the Red Mountains and Bay of Ivil. However, I did not know how long this would take.
When I finally arrived at the Icavor River, I decided to take a large number of the small trees in the region and weave them together into a raft. For a week, I worked at this, and finally I launched my small craft. It barely held my weight, but it did manage to float freely in the deeper parts of the river. For two weeks, I floated along the swift current, living off the fish that I managed to catch with a makeshift spear. It was during one midday meal as I floated along that I noticed a column of mist in the distance. I knew there must be a waterfall ahead, but no matter how hard I tried, I was unable to float my raft back to the riverbank. I have no fear of heights, only a fear of falling, and the great height I fell from ranks among the most unpleasant experiences of my journey. Once again, I was strangely fortunate, and soon I found myself cared for in a previously unknown village at the bottom of the waterfall.
The people of Sehol were friendly but cautious. They would not let me know much until I had told where I had come from, and how we had failed in our attack on the Dark Magicians. They were not too pleased, and it took me awhile to persuade them that there was no dark army following me. In the days I stayed in this village, I learned more of the woman named Yanna’Reh and the white flower. According to the legend, her beauty was unrivaled, and her lover Icavor, the man from whom the lake and river received their names, traveled the world on quests to gain her father’s acceptance and her hand in marriage. Later in life, she avenged the deaths of Icavor and her parents, and killed the soldier of darkness who had killed them. For eight years after her loss, she continued to live, but her spirit grew attached to the white flower given her by Icavor. In the eighth year, she died, and her spirit now protects the flower from all darkness. The villagers claim this is why she protected me from the Dark Magician. It was during my stay here at Sehol, that I began to care little about my experiences and only about my desire to return to my home in Vernon.
At the end of my stay in Sehol, I boarded a barge sailing down the river. The Icavor River is much longer than I had expected, and it was several weeks before we reached the open sea. There was a larger village on the coast called Torheem. It was here that I managed to convince the daring captain of a ship, that he would receive a rich reward if he managed to take me safely to Atalan. From halfway around the world, there were two routes we could take, over the top of the world, or under the bottom of the world. The captain soon decided to travel under the world and back up to Tanarad. As we sailed, I lost interest in the land, for much of it was open grass as far as I could see. At the cold bottom of the world, we sailed farther from the coast to pass the jagged rock and ice jutting from the sea. Once past those dangerous waters, it was along the coast of the great desert, and then north to Tanarad.
Around the world and away for over a year, to see a familiar land after so long, gives both a welcoming feeling, but also a feeling of distance from the things to which I was once accustomed. It is hard to return to a past lifestyle when one has been through so much. The nightly remembrance of ghastly scenes, the daily longing for more excitement, the incessant desire to know why I survived and no other, will forever haunt me. While many believe my tales of the things I have experienced, it is the doubt of countless others that necessitated the writing of this account of all that I witnessed on Etnyben. Thus concludes my story, written for the benefit of the world at the request of King Alasutham.