North of Hythena Forest and east of the river Vendehar, the border of the Necromancer Kingdoms, the expansive Plains of Ayar extended hundreds of leagues into Valeot, last of the Remnant Kingdoms. From a subtle bend in the river, a narrow road broke away from the King’s Road and snaked to the east. Nearly two leagues hence stood Glorion, sanctuary of the Elder Magus, rising like a pearly fang from the green grasses of the plain.
The armies of Valeot and her allies swarmed around Glorion, pouring in from the road. Once tranquil meadows vanished as war machines and defensive fighting positions were cut into the earth. Half a league to the north a vast number of archers and catapults were arrayed, where the expanse of the river was most narrow. From there the dread Dagir Xethu, the Armies of the Necromancer Kingdoms, were expected to cross.
Amid the frenzied work, a group of four riders mounted on heavily armored warhorses charged toward the glimmering tower. Already a number of tents had been erected around it, and hundreds of larger tents for the soldiers were being assembled. As the group of riders arrived at the tower, its single door, painted a shimmering emerald color and three times as tall as a man, swung wide.
The riders dismounted. Three of them, each wearing the thick silver plate armor of a heavy cavalryman, fell behind one who wore the royal colors, as they strode quickly to the door.
Prince Laveris stood taller than all around him. His black hair was wild, save for a single thin braid that ran down the side of each temple, his eyes dark and tumultuous. Wherever he walked, he filled his men with the same war lust hammering within his veins. Those who knew the prince understood he loved peace more than he loved war, but when war came, he embraced it. No fear was found in him, no doubt he would either lead his people to victory or be buried on the battlefield.
At his side, secure in a deep blue scabbard bound with silver rings, was the sword Valehem, the Son of the Gods. Laveris felt the weight of eons within the weapon, the hilt of which adorned the banner of his kingdom. His father, King Atherion, had presented it to him just before riding out to the western front. Laveris tried to refuse.
Father, he had said, Valehem must remain with you to defend the city should we perish on the plains. Ghelan and Frey will need it if the enemy lays siege.
Atherion had waved him silent, and commanded him once more to take up the ancient sword. His words were severe.
If you fall, Laveris, none of my sons will be mighty enough to save the kingdom.
Now Laveris stepped through the open door, his great helmet held at his side. Two men stood just within the entranceway. The first was familiar to the prince: Revhalom, the elder magus serving his father in the Court of Ceremane. He wore a dark gray robe with a lighter gray cloak over it. His beard was white and long, with the ends coiled into a series of leather bands that bore strange writings upon them. The wizard’s hazel eyes had a predatory glint within them that had ever caused Laveris to feel uneasy in his presence.
Standing just behind Revhalom was an even older-looking man. Laveris stopped short as he felt an indescribable presence fill the tower around him. Layarax the Great, the eldest of magi, bowed respectfully to the prince. He was tall, although not as tall as Laveris. No hair was on his head but his silver beard was long and adorned with silver chains in a manner similar to Revhalom. His wizened face and head were nearly black, covered with tattoos and incantations written in some lost tongue. His silver robe was plain, and over it he wore a loose green vest. Embroidered on the vest, running up and down, golden words appeared to move in the flicker of the torches lighting the tower.
“Master Layarax, my father the king sends his greetings, and his gratitude. What news do you have? Our spies have been silent for three days now.” Revhalom made as to speak, but Layarax stepped forward. The motion silenced the younger magus, and he stepped to one side.
“My lord prince, I have seen nothing new. The will of the enemy is bent on concealing their movements now, such as I have not seen since this war began. This alone tells us they plan a masterstroke. But I have received word the enemy has in fact traversed the Deihaken Mountains, as Dayhoral and your brother Ghelan believed.”
The three companions of Laveris murmured among themselves at Layarax’s words. The prince turned, and as he did so, he noticed the intensity within the elder wizard’s eyes as he watched the three speaking behind him.
“You wish to send forces back to Ceremane to defend against this threat you never believed existed. Yes?” asked Layarax. The manner in which the wizard spoke indicated he already knew the answer.
Harkom, Laveris’ man-at-arms, removed his helmet. He was a stout man, shorter than the others around him, and the oldest of Laveris’ personal retinue. His short black hair was almost entirely overtaken with gray, but his age had yet to take his vitality. Laveris would not consider going to war without him.
“My lord, Ceremane has been emptied of most of her army,” said Harkom. “If any significant force is able to cross the Old Mountains, then they can assuredly pass through the Frost Lands. We must consider dispatching a battalion or two to reinforce your brothers.”
“The force which crosses from the north is great,” said Layarax, holding up a slender hand. “At least four Great Columns have been propelled through those once impassible mountains and even now converge on the forces Ghelan and Frey command. But my prince…” at this Layarax looked to Revhalom. “The threat we face is no less dire. The massive armies you have assembled here will soon face the unmixed wrath of the Necromancer Kings.”