The enemy is invading King Roberts lands, using a Prime Gate that must be purged and closed. A 600 year old letter is telling Wendell to go Til-Thorin Keep. It's also encouraging him to keep secrets from those sworn to protect him.
Now Wendell is about to venture through the Tilliman Highlands with a blood thirsty horde on the loose.
The true danger isn’t that evil exists. It’s that evil is organized, prepared and determined to convert you or wipe you out.
That should have you worried.
Saturated leaves of red and yellow fell from the trees and tumbled across the mud and snow. Frost crystals chased along behind them, playing tag in the bitter wind. Charcoal black clouds pushed across the sky, flashing in anger and shouting challenges at the highlands below. The twin moons remained distant and unattached, fearful to get involved.
Fire was not permitted, even though armor rattled and flesh cracked. Soldiers shivered under oily blankets, cursing the cold of nature mixed with magic. But the wind did not care. It continued to shriek and howl and bite exposed flesh.
No one spoke within the camp. No one dared.
Instead, all eyes watched with trepidation.
The Tent of Sacrifice had been erected.
For a fleeting moment, the moons slipped past the clouds, casting their pale light upon the twisted, deformed faces of the guard. Thirteen giants surrounding the red and black tent hunched behind them. Frost crystals clawed at the graven images, coating their green skin with a thin white blanket. Hands of stone gripped broadswords, teeth clenched under frozen helms…but they did not move.
Disturbing the ritual meant death…or worse.
Within the swaying tent, Chuur and Kapmim burned in pots of black onyx, polluting the air with its foul smoke. Red candles taunted with their feeble light as they sat, squatting over the severed skulls of human prisoners. Faces twisted and deformed, preserved in the last moments of life and pain—their tongues black and swollen, sticking between broken teeth.
Lord Thule knelt at the alter.
Thick wedges of black iron stabbed into the ground, skeletal fingers reaching up from its center to hold its priceless treasure.
A ruby without blemish.
A ruby, red as blood.
A ruby, the size of a mans chest.
The Kala’iskul was a window between realms. It allowed a mägo, willing to sacrifice of himself, the power to speak with the unembodied. Tormented souls without flesh and bone—trapped upon within the world, without any hope of partaking of the experiences of mortality. Forever bound—watching, waiting and whispering to mortals—tempted by the flesh they can never attain.
Thule was not interested in communicating with the damned.
He sought the counsel of their King.
Removing the studded leather gloves, he drew his dagger from his waist. Gripping the blade tightly, he slowly pulled his calloused palm and fingers slowly across its arc, unflinching. The blade bit deep. Blood seeped through his fingers and dripped down wrist and forearm. Satisfied, Thule laid the dagger upon the alter. Whispering the incantation, he rested his left hand upon the orb.
Streams of red streaked across its smooth surface, almost imperceivable against the polished surface.
The wicks burned low. Blood ran free. His lips turned pale.
Thule continued his chant.
A crack appeared within the gems center. Thin as a hair, black as night. Again and again Thule chanted the incantation, calling and reaching out with his mind.
Tentacles leapt from the center of the Kala’iskul, swirling, then reaching out to touch the hand making contact. Biting into Thule’s palm, the Kala’iskul feasted, eagerly accepting the sacrifice of blood—sucking, drinking, tugging at his veins for nourishment.
“Why do you call me?”
The candles sputtered.
The voice was dark. Ominous.
“Master,” whispered Thule, bowing his head low, “I believe the one you foretold of has come.”
The blood trails darkened and bubbled, giving off smoke that defied the currents of air within the tent. It pulsed and churned, slowly rising over the alter until it curved back towards Thule, like the head of a snake ready to strike. Two wisps of smoke rolled forward, curling upward into horns. Black slits appeared in the red vapor.
“Are you certain?” it asked coldly, the black voids studying the kneeling Vallen.
Thule swayed. Blood trailed down his arm, soaking his tunic.
The slits narrowed, “Speak.”
“We have searched Master, as you commanded. My men discovered a boy within the Black Market. A human child.” Thule looked up to meet the demons gaze. “He was with the half-breed and the wizard.”
Another slit appeared at the base of the smoke. It split, rolling upwards in opposite directions until it formed a grinning maw.
“Have you captured them?”
The Kala’iskul bit deeper still, lusting for blood to keep the link open. Thule’s hand had already lost its color, his fingers now pale as cotton. The skin shriveled, though he never released its grip upon the orb.
“No…Master,” he growled, gritting his canine teeth. “The wizard provided their escape.”
The smile faded into the smoke.
“Are the gates secure?”
“They shall be yours within a fortnight, Master.”
“Do not delay. Lay the seeds as I commanded and prepare for the ritual. I must have flesh upon the land.”
Thule bowed his head once more. “As you command, my Master. And what of the boy?”
The face vanished—the crimson smoke turning charcoal black. A brisk wind yanked back the entrance flap, extinguishing the candles. It carried away the voice as a fading whisper.
“The boy will leave the protection of the Iskari…and he shall come to us.”
Thule’s eyes rolled back into his head.
Hand sliding from the Kala’iskul, his body slumping to the ground.