Written by EM Drosselmeyer
The city had been a nicer place once. It had been busier, filled with bustling life and mages learning and earning their keep amidst masters and grandmasters. But that was many years ago, he reminded himself…and despite the ferocity of those remaining in these lands, so many had already moved on to calmer waters. He’d been warned against going at all by his Royal Guard, with them finally relenting when he agreed to take two with him as protection, but he told them as simply as he understood it himself; If he found who he was looking for and they were intractable, a regiment would likely not be enough.
The gates of wrought iron still stood, and though there were traces of rust, it was no worse off than the rest of the great city. As he passed through, more foreboding signs abounded…there were bodies amidst the streets, and he shook his head…most of them inhuman, monstrous things that should have been in the dungeons of the lands instead of the streets of a city steeped in history. Cracks of lightning and the pull of bowstring could be heard from various directions, but it was when the entire sky seemed to open up with a continuous peal of thundering roars that he knew where he wanted to go.
As they headed forward, his guards saw a dragon rise up from behind a building, jaws smeared with the red of blood, and let loose a roar at the trio. They immediately stepped in to engage, mace and war axe singing their deadly song as the warriors danced with the beast, and the man found his hands conjuring forth power. Fireballs and bolts of pure energy were slung forth from his hands before one of the guards sank his war axe deep into the beast and wrenched it free as it fell, shaking the ichor from it as they resumed on their way once more. “We must hurry, because I fear he will not tarry long.”
“Aye, M’lord.” They responded in unison, falling into pace with their King as he quickly headed forward. Turning a corner, they came across a rank of mages under the command of a man standing astride a slanted rooftop, wrapped in a robe and cloak of llamahair and shouting commands. Even as the mages under his command worked in unison, he spoke in chants that shook the heavens with their power, and a bolt of lightning as wide as a house blasted down into the lighthouse, and it shattered under the power, exploding into ruin. This was the man he sought.
Astride the roof, the man turned with a curious look as one of the mages called out to him, and he grinned a crooked grin as he saw the King. He motioned with an expansive gesture that took in the broken cobblestone and cracked walls of the buildings of the city, smiling widely as he spoke. “Well, boys and girls, all bid welcome to your rightful ruler and King, the most esteemed and glorious Lord Blackthorn! It seems he’s seen fit to give us a call, and here we’ve no feast prepared! What do you think we should do about that, m’boys?”
The knights bristled at hearing the words in such a mocking manner to their King, but he merely waved them down. “Were I to call in that fashion I’d bring a feast for you and your men, rather than expect you to provide, Grand Councilor.”
“How magnanimous! But you’ll never find a mage wanting for food, Lord Blackthorn, only for reagents!” A grin and several chuckles came out of the crowd as the lively man cast a spell and teleported down, appearing only a few feet from the king. “Of course, you were a mage once yourself, weren’t you? I heard about that mess with the gates, so I assume you still are…” The mage swayed back and forth on his feet, examining the regent before speaking again. “Now, what brings the Regent of all Britannia to Felucca Moonglow, M’lord?”
“Grand Councilor Anon, it’s you that have brought me; Or rather, searching for you has. I would ask a favor of you.”
Anon looked at him incredulously. “You came here to ask me a favor? And why would I help you, Blackthorn? You did precious little to convince Nystul of his folly when siding with me might have swayed him.” Distrust and paranoia seemed to tinge each of his words, and his hands were constantly moving in agitation.
King Blackthorn gave an appreciative nod to his remark, noting the behavior once before forcing himself to look Anon in the eyes. “That is true, Grand Councilor…and I cannot say if I had the chance whether I would have changed that or not. I do not have that chance; But we have a chance now to work together. With Nystul gone and Clainin dead…”
“A halfwit and his puppy…”
King Blackthorn ignored the remark, continuing on. “There is no doubt whom is the most powerful and knowledgeable mage in all the realm.”
Anon puffed up slightly, looking rather pleased at the praise, and was about to open his mouth before the King spoke once more.
“Or, rather, there would be no doubt if someone hadn’t managed to open the way for these invasions. Currently, I suppose most would think our culprit is the most powerful mage.”
Anon’s words died as he was about to speak them, a red flush of anger coming to his face. “I am far greater than Minax could ever hope to be! It’s me and my council of mages that have kept her forces in check for years, while that little nonce Dupre played about on horses like he was at a joust!”
The King nodded, despite the insult to Sir Dupre…far more intriguing was the surprising information Anon had revealed. He’d suspected Minax as a possibility, but Anon seemed to have information he did not. “Well, Grand Councilor, I wish to remind her who it is that is her superior in this realm…yourself, of course…but I find it difficult to do without your assistance; And I think I might be able to provide you with certain resources you don’t have.”
Anon studied Blackthorn’s face, searching for something there that Blackthorn wasn’t quite sure of. Many mages were said to get more eccentric as their power grew, and Anon had always been eccentric even long ago…Even putting aside the mongbats, who could know how much he had changed?
Finally, he nodded, and turned to his men. “Well, boys, it looks like I might be forced to traipse off to the land of daisies and stuffed bears! I’ll bring you back some souvenirs, though…and which of you is it…Ah, Kovis! Kovis, you’re in charge of Knobby and Flappy. Take care of them!” Turning back to the king, he gave an overly flamboyant curtsey in front of him. “Well, M’lord King Blackthorn His Grace, allow me to be at your service for one favor…of course, I will expect a payment we can discuss soon…”
The King smiled to him despite the Councilor’s mocking manner, as he knew he needed his abilities more than his own pride. “Then come with me, Grand Councilor, and let us plot. Ocllo should serve well.” Before he could finish, Anon was already casting a gate to the city. “And before I forget…Knobby and Flappy?” His brow was quirked in a curious manner as he studied the mage.
Anon responded by giving a heated glare. “My pet mongbats, and it’s the last we’ll speak of them.”
King Blackthorn only nodded, even though he couldn’t stop the thought crossing his mind. Eccentric, indeed…