Calling the Dragons
The fields were still bounteous. Cattle grazed the grass in the meadows. Rivers drank the water from the mountains, and their throats dried out in the sweltering heat of the summers. Children were born and raised. Youngsters teased each other in light-hearted play and enjoyed themselves in traditional festivities. But our homes, our clothes, and our skin were soaked with the stench of death. Legends reached our ears of entire villages from which people, as well as their names and any memories of them, were disappearing. Busy, lively Kladar fell quiet. Its glare, bringing light to the gloomy neighbouring lands, was now being devoured by covetous dismay. Roads were stained with fear, imposed by Rasgaroth’s minions.
And yet, you would not hear of any revolts endeavouring to oppose the Black Gangrene. Human beings were powerless compared to Faer in Rasgaroth’s service. Common human beings were. Mages were not. Great numbers of them disappeared shortly after an informer’s pocket was filled with his reward. Others managed to find refuge in the mountains; in forgotten, remote places; in rooms hidden under the floorboards in the homes of good-hearted people. Some even forgot their craft and blended in with the common folk to fight in their everyday, ordinary struggles. There were few orders strong enough to secretly keep their name and a handful of members. Yet, only the Order of Vis continued in its search for a remedy to the malign disease that had ubiquitously crept, even into the farthest recesses of the country.
“The way you cleanse a wound to remove dead tissue. The way you burn out a septic ulcer or a snakebite with a candent piece of iron. Only fire has the power to heal the incurable disease of the Black Gangrene,” raged Tyvor of Dalam, doggedly struggling to convince the other mages that he knew how to deal with Rasgaroth. You didn’t need to read ancient, half-forgotten books to find tales and legends that warned that dragons are not visitors you would invite into your home. However, one by one, all the mages forgot this, accepting Tyvor’s view. Then, when Lowen’s Circle and all its priests were slaughtered, even the Great changed their minds, willing to ignore the warnings handed down in ancient wisdom.
Several years before, any invoker would have just laughed at any serious mention of allurement. Mages knew dragons were not merely creatures depicted in tales. Even if only for a fleeting moment, the most talented of them had managed to attract dragons and catch a glimpse of them. They knew it was possible to allure them. It was possible, yet still absolutely impossible. But now, when the spring of Faer was driven by excruciation, murder and torture coming ceaselessly from Arakius, even the commonest of rural apothecaries would easily play with sorcery.
The canvas of fate onto which was painted the destiny of the traitors of the Battle of Tarima was, in the end, repainted with the fate of Rasgaroth himself. The few years of his reign had stirred so much dark energy under the surface of Kladar that the mages of the Order of Vis managed to attract three Lords of Fire to the neighbourhood of the citadel of Arakius. They succeeded in binding them with their will and sent them to burn out the darkness that had settled within the citadel. The winged creatures took off and headed for the bulwarks, sticky with blackness. The dark sorcerer himself materialised to defend the murky heart of his realm. Ghosts and spectres rose from the earth, masquerading as humans. A choir of piercing shrieks intermingled with a low bass drone and crackle was pierced by dragon flame. Nothing remained of the wraiths but the charred torsi of their unreal bodies. Rasgaroth stood alone, surrounded on three sides. Furious, but powerless. Abandoned by the treacherous Faer. For a day and a night, he stood there, flooded with heat. A blazing column from which the veneer of power continued to peel, allowing the flames to devour the decayed body and the wailing soul prevented from finding peace by the dragons.