by Dylan MartinezPrelude to The Gathering
Mir: The Council of the Twelve (minus the two (thought killed) imprisoned in Annaeyana)
Celpalar: Wizards & King of Maelmor with military retinue
Taltheran: Wizards Guild envoys
Tanimbar: Royal Necromancer
East Torphan: The Brotherhood of the East
Torphan Empire: Imperial Sorcerers
Zelkor: Court Wizard
Vraaal: High Lord and companions
Milakanur: Overpriest of Elanbur
"Welcome." The Archmages greeting echoed round the vast chamber. He paused to survey the delegates.
The visiting dignitaries had seated themselves in seperated groups; the Brotherhood keeping as much distance as possible from their adversaries from the Torphan Empire; the Celpali separated from the Taltheran envoys and watching the Overpriest warily; the two Free Cities emissaries seated as far apart from each other as possible, both throwing curious glances at the Vraaal and Saraa, who were each watching the other; the Tanimbari and Zelkori ambassadors chatting together quietly in a far corner, observing everyone.
The Archmage took in the seated delegates, the tall ornate ceiling of the Hall, the front stage where the other members of the Council of the Twelve were waiting expectantly, where his closest friend and ally Tarfn, the Second of the Council, looked on the proceedings with a concerned expression.
"The Council thanks all of you for answering our petition and attending this gathering. We are sure you understand that we would not have called this meeting unless this were the gravest of circumstances." He paused, seeing if the delegates were listening to his words. The Tanimbari and Zelkori had stopped talking and were staring directly at the stage, and the others had stopped their surreptitious spying and were listening intently. He nodded to himself, pleased.
"These are evil times. The Cedonians have re-appeared as a power and have occupied much of the west once more. The Videssians have massacred the Onagir people of the southern forests countless times. The Asagmari and the Razanians of Aryisa are at each others throats. Pirates from Kaeir and the Tana ravage the coasts." The Archmage paused, apprehensive at his next move. He knew most of the emissaries would recognise the instant he began a conjuration. Nevertheless, it had to be done.
The room was thrown into uproar. Most of the delegates cast eldritch shields of protection. The Torphani sorcerers flung their hands in the air, preparing range magical attacks. The Archmage watched the chaos solemnly, as he ended his weaving, plunging the room into absolute darkness.
"We are no longer in Mirabalpur. Your magic will not operate here." He pointed a finger in the direction of the glowball which hung from the ceiling, lighting the room once more. He raised his eyebrows, his eyes quickly registering the Celpali military with their swords unsheathed.
Tarfn quickly wove a nullification, temporarily imprisoning the soldiers.
One of the Torphani sorcerers glowered at the action and yelled angrily. "What have you done to us? Where are we?"
The Archmage gestured for his second to release the captives, who fell the floor unconcious. The Celpali wizards stared at their fallen colleagues, unable to aid them. Ray-a-man, the Maelmor King, glanced around the room in dread.
"We did not wish to cause any injury. The soldiers are unhurt and will wake up soon. We have brought you here to ensure none of you are able to harm one another." He drew a circle with his arm, encompassing their surroundings. "We are in The Dreaming, or rather a pocket of reality which we created for this purpose. None may enter, none may leave, without our agreement. The entire Hall of Assembly has been shifted here temporarily." He nodded, indicating to a short overweight Council member, who cast a spell in the air, forming a large globe of mist. Within the mist, the history of the continent of Qaiyore began to unfold.
"Our great land of Qaiyore has had a unsettled past. We of the Council admit that some of Mirs former activities may have contributed to the uncertainty." He continued, ignoring the mutterings from the Celpali. "However, everything the Council has done has always been for the good of this world. We dominated the continent not to gain power, but to bring peace to our lands."
The short Councillor weaved a new spell, altering the image in the globe. A black mass flowed from the upper reaches, covering the surface of the globe in darkness.
"Then the Avaerandians came from the north, invading the rainforests. We learnt they planned to invade Celpalar. We could not allow this to happen."
A Celpali delegate stood up and spoke, enraged. "Why is it we know nothing of this? How can we believe you?"
The Archmage smiled. "If you are to believe, then believe what I tell you now." He gestured at the globe, which shifted to show a face, a face twisted by malice.
"This was Alatta, the sorcerer who ruled Avaerand."
Rey-a-man goggled at the vision, the face of a man wracked by malevolence.
"His goal was to conquer Qaiyore and turn it over to the denizens of the underworld. A nightmarish vision of evil and hatred. He had his demonic assistants, the Eerith, travel the world, spreading his lies."
The Vraaal High Lord shifted in his seat.
"We defeated the demonic sorcerers of Avaerand and banished them to the furthest reaches of the Dreaming. We created the fortress of Annaeyana to protect Qaiyore and hunt down the remnants of the Eerith. We discovered many had fled to Celpalar. It was the Eerith that destroyed the Celpali cities, not us."
The Celpali delegates looked at each other in disbelief. A Taltherani wizard raised a hand. "In our records it states that the weapons which destroyed Celpalar came from Annaeyana."
The Archmage nodded. "Thats how the Eerith made it look. They are cunning creatures, made from the darkness in every soul, the evil that surrounds us." He paused, briefly. "It is likely the creatures are in this very room, spying on our gathering."
Some of the wizards looked around, worriedly, while others muttered under their breaths, cursing their lack of magic ability.
"There is no need to worry. The weave that prevents you all to conjure also thwarts those fiends from manifesting themselves. Only our own magic functions in this reality."
The Saraa delegate stood, hushing the others. None except the Mirish sorcerers had ever seen a Saraa before the meeting. "Why is the truth or otherwise of these tales of our concern? The past has gone by. It is the future that should concern our time." He takes his seat once more.
The delegates looked towards the stage, where the Archmage acknowledged the statement with a small nod. "Indeed, it is for the future that this gathering has been called. We imprisoned the Eerith in Annaeyana and left it drifting in the western desert. We thought they were confined there to die." He stared straight at the Vraaal High Lord. "We now know the Eerith have escaped."
Tarfn watched the delegates as they heard his leaders pronouncement. Most had expressions of shock and disbelief. The Saraa and Vraaal did not stir.
The Archmage continued. "We believe they were behind the recent destruction at Areneth." He looked towards the Celpali, who returned his gaze, then turned to watch the Taltherani reaction. "They were behind the recent floods that devastated Aixelsydan. They manipulate the Cedonians and Videssians. The pirates of Kaeir are their tools. They murdered nearly thirty of our fellow sorcerers, including two Council members." He paused. "Some of you may already have had contact with the creatures. Most of you probably will after this meeting. Let me remind you, they are creatures of lies. They will try to persuade you that all that we tell you is untrue. Believe them at your peril." He indicated Tarfn, who stood and spoke to the assembly.
"Three months ago I journeyed to Celpalar, to one of the forgotten monuments." Tarfn saw some of the delegates nod in understanding.
"You all know the legends of the eastern continent of Elyria, the fabled land of the toad people. Well, Elyria exists. Ask our Celpali friends over there, if you dont believe me." He gestured towards the island delegation, a couple of whom nodded in response to questioning glances. "You may know the monuments were used in times past to walk the mists when the destination was unknown to the travellers."
The Brotherhood delegates glanced at each other.
"The monument was being prepared for use, from Elyria." He returned the curious stares. "It was the initiator that forced us to call this gathrering. Alatta has returned and is preparing to invade Qaiyore from Elyria."
The Hall erupted once more. The Archmage asked his Second to sit.
The Zelkori emissary raised his voice over the commotion. "Are you certain? Can he be stopped?"
The Archmage gathered his thoughts. "Unfortunately there can be no other explanation. Alatta is in Elyria and is using the monoliths. He has prepared one to bring him here. We cannot block it. We cannot use it to journey to Elyria and strike him there."
"So stop him the same way you did last time!" The Zelkori yelled, anxiously.
The Archmage waited for the hubbub to die down. "We no longer have the ability. That is why we asked you all here. We need your help. It is likely Alatta will contact the Eerith, if he hasnt already, and use them to prepare for his arrival. We must combine our resources to remove the Eerith danger and strike at Alatta in Elyria, before he is able to use the monolith. Since we cannot use the monolith ourselves, we must come up with an alternative."
He stared at each delegate in turn, taking his time.
"You must return to your people and warn them. Tell them we must make haste. We have maybe five years to attack before Alatta is able to reach us. During that time the Eerith menace must be neutralised."
He indicated the other Council members. "You will be taken from this place back to your cities immediately by one of our Councillors. I cannot stress further the gravity of the situation. All communication between us must be in complete secrecy. We cannot allow the general populous to learn of the danger." He weaved a small spell, wakening the slumbering Celpali soldiers.
"We, of the Council, propose that peace must be maintained between all the peoples of Mir at all cost, if we are to be able to face the evil of Alatta. All belligerent moves by any Qaiyorean society on any other will be viewed as a direct attack on the Council. Spread the word to your rulers, and to their neighbouring rulers. We will not stand by and watch the destruction of our land. Do not take this warning lightly."
The Councillors stood, each walking to a position alongside a different delegation, with the exception of the Archmage, who motioned for the Zelkori and Tanimbari to join him.
"It is time for this gathering to end."
The Archmage weaved a final spell, destroying the temporary pocket and transporting his charges back to their respective cities, before returning the Hall to Mirabalpur. He sat himself down under the peach tree and breathed deeply, wondering what they had put in motion.