1149, Age of Prophecy
The Laughing Moon grinned upon the Valley of Evermore as the men below fought and died. A sickle in the night sky, it shed only a sliver of pale moonlight into the dark valley, illuminating great grey-black stone faces and eroded statues, all staring into the valley with thousands of years of jaded indifference.
The city of Omadon’s ancient glory drowned in the sprawling valley, reclaimed by the desert leaving only fragments behind. Where towers, ziggurats and temples once challenged the sky, now only indistinguishable rubble remained. The profound beauty of the city—something unrivaled in the modern world—was long forgotten in the chaos of the passing years. Time had brought not only ruin, but obscurity. And in this lost empire the Rogue Twelve grew powerful. For the first time in centuries the stones of the great city hummed with magic.
The Twelve stood in a tight circle with their leader in the center. Basked in the glow of forbidden magic summoned by his colleagues, Kesson Pharun appeared more than human but still less than divine. Blue and gold light danced over a face caressed by ecstasy. The eleven others wove various tapestries of the arcane, all funneling into a single magical column absorbed by Kesson’s outstretched arms. Held in his hands was a simple golden wand made alive by the fluid streams of ethereal energy drawn from the Rogue coven.
Surrounding them, the bodies of nearly fifty reiners littered the barren valley. A terrible battle had been waged and lost before a single blow fell. Scattered upon a rocky hill lay the remains of the reiner regiment. Four weary and battered men were left alive, surrounded by the dead in the hush of midnight.
Devrian Lor, the reiner captain, peered over a broken slab to see the Twelve. Standing stones formed a loose circle and in the center sat a large egg-shaped crystal atop a pedestal. A magical light illuminated the thin golden walls of the object, pulsing like the beat of a titan’s heart. It was a thing plucked from fairy tales; a vastum, or would be once the Rogue Twelve were finished. A node of power connecting all worlds of magic, a gateway to the divine.
“The Twelve near completion,” Devrian said to the others gathered near.
“They can’t be stopped. Our powers were useless against them!” said Jemorn, Devrian’s lieutenant who lay badly wounded against a broken column. “They’re impossible to rein if we can’t get near. We would need a hundred soldiers against the Rogue Twelve! More! It was arrogance on the part of the Spire to send one lone regiment.”
“Fifty reiners against twelve magicians hardly seems like arrogance,” Devrian said.
Jemorn shifted awkwardly on the ground, the movement causing him to hiss in pain. “The Council must have known how powerful the Twelve were.” His ashen face hardened. “Perhaps they sent us to die.”
Devrian reached down and clasped the younger man’s shoulder, squeezing hard enough to penetrate the pain and shock. “Remember your place, Lieutenant. You are a reiner and servant to the Spire of Mystics. Take strength knowing you’re still alive. The gods have some purpose for us yet.”
“Look!” cried Aldain, their scout. Kneeling in the shadow of a fallen marble wall, he pointed to the vastum and the surviving reiners fell silent.
The color shifted from gold to crimson as drops of blood fell into the crystal’s hollow top. Levitating above the ring of standing stones, chained in an ancient device of binding called the Wheel, was the great dark angel, Faerlyn. With the moon’s slow ascent, the Wheel turned on a tilted axis, acting as both moondial and torture tool. Bound to this, Faerlyn glared with eyes darker than the overhead sky as a blade drew immortal blood from his exposed chest.
Out of the ashes of time the Rogue Twelve had dragged him. They had stolen Faerlyn from death’s repose, bound him, and in doing so created one of history’s greatest ironies. He who once persecuted thousands of magic users would now become the very instrument of the forbidden wizards’ power.
The dark angel’s hands and feet were bound in heavy shackles made strong by dark magic. His immense black wings spread like storm clouds over the ritual below.
Sneak Peek at The Barren Twelve
Copyright © 2013 Todd VanHooser
Questions? Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org