The Order of the Black Flame,



  • The Journey begins,

    _Writ of Command

    The receiver of this scroll is hereby ordered to cease all other activity and journey immediately to the temple of the Ruins of Faith, the Valley of the Black Dragon, the Forsaken desert. Make no preparations and inform no one of your coming.

    The bearer of this scroll has the right of passage through any legion outpost and will be supplied any transport that is requested. No one may question the bearer of this missive on any subject for any reason.

    By the authority of Exceradin, the Crimson Dragon
    High General of the East_

    From a cloudless star filled night sky, moonlight poured down over the great lush emerald canopy of a forest of tall trees as a cool night breeze played through the branches, rustling their myriad leaves. A man, his lean muscular frame clothed in layers of tattered onyx robes, rolled up a small scroll of fine white parchment, after he had read it for what might have been the fifth time, and tucked it safely back into his robes. He wore a hood that hid his short dark hair and most of his tanned skin, with a matching black cloth over his nose and mouth to hide all but his eyes, the left a brilliant ruby, the right a deep well of sapphire.

    Over the noise of the dancing leaves overhead, Rythan could hear birds cooing somewhere in the distance, and nothing else. He was alone in the north of the Elvin forest of Acandrialon, not far from the borders of the graceful city of the same name that rested at its center hidden by powerful magicks. He had been visiting an old friend when he found the scroll, and the fact that he stumbled upon it could only mean that it was meant for him. As he looked back through the trees he could just begin to make out the city lights as they filtered through the darkness, and his eyes held a small sadness. He was loath to leave Jenadel as he did in the middle of the night, with no warning and no goodbye, but these were his orders; she would understand.

    Turning away from the distant city the ghostly figure began his long journey north to learn why he was summoned so…

    **

    Within a great chamber of gray stone, lined by fixtures of dark metal that held torches whose flames burned nearly white and spread their light across the room’s massive expanse, a series of hollow booms echoed in rapid succession accompanied by the shattering of stone and the clinks of chips of rock as they fell to the polished floor. Off to one side was the hulking figure of a dragon with the form of a man, standing five meters tall with his massive arms crossed before his chest. The Shadan Cor was incased completely in a deep black armor that appeared to be crafted masterfully and specifically for him. The armor’s surface was polished smooth and its joints were subtle with a crimson chain mail visible beneath them. The fingers of his gauntlets came to long razor points, the way the claws of his own hands did, and the same was true of his boots where the armor flowed over his talons. His great onyx wings, large enough to wrap around himself and be completely concealed, were armored as well, with a dark spike topping each of them and a dark chain mail over both sides of their leathery ribbed surfaces. The tips of those wings held the edge of an armored blade that ran the length of their undersides. His helm was a single piece which completely hid the features of his face, save for his eyes which burned of an unearthly azure flame.

    The creature watched another of his kind, this one only four meters covered in small gray scales so smooth as to appear skin and having reptilian eyes a deep shade of red. The creature bore neither armor nor wings and stood before an onyx boulder, larger than himself, with many fractures and pieces missing from its surface, broken bits of black stone were scattered about the floor. The Shadan Cor shook his head from where he stood, and then paused as he sensed the approach of another from the chamber’s entrance.

    A man in a fine white shirt with matching pants ands boots, standing all of two meters tall, strolled into the chamber, a bright smile upon his handsome sun darkened features. Curled hair of crimson fell to the man’s shoulders, framing his face. The man looked from the special training stone to the Necra who had been using it for practice with a mixture of amusement and curiosity, “Does the rock owe you money Thalren? Or perhaps he’s been calling you names? I’ve always found stone to be rather rude in conversation.”

    The large creature smile, bowing his head respectfully and speaking in a deep voice that rumbled like distant thunder, “No Lord Aron, I merely asked Ares to aid in my training.”

    Aron glanced over to the Shadan Cor who stood in silence against the wall on Thalren’s other side, the massive creature bowed respectfully as it met Aron’s gaze. His gaze shifted back to Thalren, “I don’t know how much bully a stone is going to help you in a real fight,” he looked down to the crumbled pieces scattered about the floor, “Unless that’s what you’re training for. If so it looks like you’ll become a masterful rock beater. Boulder’s everywhere will quake with fear of your presence…” he trailed off, “Maybe that’s not the best plan, think of the earthquakes.” Aron shook his head, “You need a sparring partner Thalren.”

    If the Necra smiled before, now he was beaming, “Thank you my lord, it will be a great honor to have you test my mettle in combat!”

    Aron arched an eyebrow, wearing a small grin, “That isn’t what…” he shook his head as he saw the cheer in Thalren’s eyes, “Very well. Come when you’re ready.”

    From where he stood Ares quietly watched what unfolded next as it was a rare display few would ever see. Thalren burst forward towards the man who stood at his ease, launching a punch that was little more than a gray blur. Placing his left hand behind his back Aron fluidly raised his right, catching the crushing blow with his open palm. The shock of the strike sent a rumble through the ground that caused the small stone fragments to bounce along the floor while the rush of air ruffled the smiling man’s hair. His hand, however, was unmoved. As Thalren withdrew his fist and quickly shifted to follow up his first attack with a second Aron removed his left hand from behind him, but proceeded to close his eyes. Thalren spun to his right in a full rotation and launched a vicious kick with his right leg. Aron took a smooth step to one side and tauntingly slapped the kick lightly as it streaked by; Thalren continued his spin, dropping down into a sweep kick with his left. Aron leapt upwards, allowing the second kick to rush by, spun to his own left, and lashed out with a powerful strike, fully extending his right leg as he drove his heel into Thalren’s temple. The blow sent the big creature crashing to the ground in a heap as Aron landed back on his feet with his back turned, eyes still closed.

    The opponents were fighting using exactly the same style; though at levels of mastery so far apart they were barely comparable. Indeed, were Ares in his best shape he could not match Aron’s technique. This style of fighting was an ancient thing, known as the Dragon’s Will, created long ago by the god Ragnarok, and passed down to the Necra tribes. While using the Will one looks upon their opponent with extreme clarity and from the slightest of movements can divine what there opponent will do. Mortal masters of the technique are sometimes skilled enough to read two movements ahead. Ares himself, with his years of special training and divine blessings, was able to read three. It was apparent from what Ares had seen that Aron could likely read at least five movements at a glance, a feat that was impossible for any mortal due to the sheer level of perception required alone; however Lord Aron was far from mortal.

    Thalren blinked several times and attempted to clear his blurred vision by shaking his head as he pushed himself up from the ground unsteadily. Aron turned to the rising Necra and opened his eyes, his smile remained but his usual oblivious demeanor was replaced by one that spoke of great clarity of mind, “You’re strong, and you’re fast, but you’re misusing your technique. You have to stop trying to simply hit what you see, you have to look ahead, to use a series of attacks that will lure your opponent into a position to fall victim to the real blow you’ve had planned all along.”

    The Necra bowed deeply to him wearing a satisfied smile, “Thank you for your words and your instruction, I will use them well to advance my training.”

    Aron chuckled at that, “You’d better; I imagine being kicked in the head would get old after a while.”

    **

    It had taken days to ride across the green rolling plains of Hyperia, and more to trek through the black sands of the Forsaken on foot with only the perpetually black storm clouds that filled the sky overhead for company, but as Rythan looked to what waited for him on the horizon, he knew he had nearly reached the end of his journey. Set against the black desert was a jagged range of mountains like the claws of some godly dragon, a fitting description for what lay within. The peaks of the mountains disappeared into the dark clouds above as they always had. Rythan had heard tell of what they looked like from dragon riders he had known, that they were five sharp spires that rose towards the heavens while the clouds below broke upon then the way the tide breaks upon the shore. He had never seen the sight himself, but the magnificent imagery of the story itself was enough to give him the desire.

    Thunder rolled out over the dunes from those distant cliffs, it always did, though there was no lightning to be seen. The roar was a welcome change from the droning howl of the wind across the sands, and Rythan was glad to reach the base of the mountain and enter the long cavernous tunnel that would take him to the valley beyond. As Rythan entered the shadowy mouth of the tunnel his boots fell upon gray sand of a finer grain than the coarse black that lined the desert. Though the wind outside should have flowed within after him, howling through the cave, it never seemed to venture more than a handful of feet within. Instead the cavern was held by a solemn silence. Several brazens of dark metal held torches of white flame that cast stark shadows from any who drew near. The whisper of their crackling dominated the tunnel, even though there were travelers headed in either direction. Some had come on a pilgrimage to the temple, perhaps seeking an audience with Lady Amarra, or the Lord Necrialx himself, god-emperor of Oblivion. Some young warriors and adventurers had made the journey in the hopes of joining the honored ranks of the Dragon Legions. While still others reported there on matters of Legion business.

    Rythan emerged from the cavern and stepped out onto a great valley that rested beneath a star filled night sky. The midday sun crawled across the picturesque black velvet ocean of stars as a beautiful orb of fire. One could tell pilgrims and new recruits merely by watching those who took time to gaze upon the sky in awe. Set at the center of the great valley, bathed in the surreal starlight from above was a large temple of gray and black stone. While it was not as ornate as one might have expected the temple was well crafted, made in such a way that it seemed to grow out of the ground beneath, rather than have been built atop it.

    Dotting the valley, surrounding the temple like the points of a star, were five black stone forts, made in the same style as the temple itself, these, the Dragon garrisons, were the primary training centers for masters and new recruits alike. While Rythan strode across the sand towards the temple he could see men and elves in black armor being drilled on formations in well regimented lines, the calls of their commanders barely reaching him across the distance. However, it was a much smaller group of soldiers, nearly directly in his path, which drew his attention.

    Rythan gazed upon a circle of little more than a dozen young men, each encased in a full suit of plain onyx armor; plain save for a golden symbol emblazoned on each cuirass, that of a mighty four winged dragon roaring to the heavens. The soldiers, some breathing raggedly, others clutching their sides in pain, stood around a single large muscular man whose own armor was worked intricately with silver over its dark surface, naming him a captain among their ranks. The man wore no helm, and held many scars across the hard angular features of his face, and his jet black hair was bound into a thin tail that fell half way down his back. His dark brown eyes held a steely gaze as he looked over the soldiers around him with contempt.

    The captain’s eyes lighted upon a single man, a sneer curling upon his lips. When he spoke his gruff voice held a ting of anger laced within its commanding authority, “Step into the circle soldier, it’s time to prove your worth.”

    The young man, his eyes an almost honeyed shade of yellow, blinked in surprise, “Me captain?”

    The officer shook his head, “Who am I looking at soldier? You damned Hyperians are all the same, thinking that just because you’re stronger and faster than a normal man you deserve to join the Legion.” He laughed roughly, “You know what I think kid? You and your kind shouldn’t even be here.” The young Hyperian narrowed his eyes angrily and stepped into the circle, “Grown a spine then have you?” the officer taunted, settling into a defensive stance as he watched the young soldier approach.

    The young Hyperian placed his left boot down in the sand before him, turning his body so he presented his left shoulder to the officer. Without warning the young warrior sprang forward like a dark wind, a cloud of sand erupting behind him as he pushed off of his right leg in a single powerful motion. The soldier’s boots barely seemed to touch upon the sand in his furious rush, and few in the circle could even follow the speed of his movements as he attacked with a savage right punch. The officer perceived the attack, dashing straight and to the left he caught the Hyperians wrist and slammed his left palm into the back of the younger man’s shoulder just as he swept the boy’s feet out with a fluid kick to the lower shins. Completely surprised and unbalanced the Hyperian fell and with the officer maintaining an iron grip he was spun about to crash face first into the sand. The young warrior grunted in pain as the hardened officer slammed a knee down upon the back of his right shoulder and pulled viciously upon his arm. With a muffled but audible pop the yellow eyed soldier’s right arm was dislocated.

    The officer released the boy’s arm with a look of disgust, “Pitted against a real warrior you fall like timber.” The man looked down upon the boy as he struggled to rise, “You don’t belong here half-breed, go home.” He turned and began to walk away, “Who’s next?”

    Rythan strode slowly over to the young soldier, a light breeze stirring his black robes, “Give me your hand.”

    The officer looked back over his shoulder upon hearing the unfamiliar voice and frowned darkly as he saw what the dark figure was doing. He spoke as he turned around, the starlight shining off of the silver scrollwork on his armor, “Leave him alone, this isn’t your concern.” Rythan clasped the young Hyperian’s hand and pulled him to his feet, completely ignoring the officer, a move that did not sit well with the man, “What did I just tell you? Are you…” he stopped as he caught a glimpse of Rythan’s eyes, one of red and one of blue, both of them deep and bright in a way not found in normal humans. The officer narrowed his eyes, “You’re another one. I should have realized you would stick together. Perhaps I should teach you the same lesson I taught your friend?”

    For his part the shadowy figure merely glanced at the officer in silence. The human didn’t take that well either, clenching his fists and taking several quick steps forward— Rythan’s open right palm crashed into the officer’s face, splattering the man with his own blood and blurring his vision with shades of black and red. Immediately after the blow Rythan’s left fist struck out like a viper into the man’s throat.

    Staggering backwards, gasping for air, the officer fell to his knees clutching his throat. Rythan simply watched the man fall to the ground and, seeing no more threat, turned to walk away. “You there stop!” a voice called out from behind him and as Rythan looked back over his shoulder he could see a dark armored figure pounding across the sand as it dashed towards him. In the surreal light that rained softly down from above Rythan could see the shine of polished steel as the coming soldier drew a sword from the sheathe at his hip.

    The strong voice of a second man cut through the chaos, “Hold.” Rythan looked to see a familiar form approaching. He stood just over six and a half feet tall, with skin nearly as dark as his black armor, short night black hair, and eyes of a vibrant red that matched Rythan’s own. His armor was sculpted over his muscular frame and bore a red dragon upon its cuirass. It was ornately worked with a jeweled ruby design, with cape of dark blue flowing out behind the man as he strode forward. This was Exceradin, blessed of the Necrialx, the Crimson Dragon, and High General of the East. All of the soldiers present saluted to him, placing the right fist over the heart, all save for the injured man who was in too much pain to try.

    Exceradin looked down to the fallen captain who still struggled to breathe, “I saw what happened here.” He gestured to a pair of the young soldiers who were gathered, “Take him to a healer. Torresan,” he shook his head as he looked to the officer, “You disgrace yourself. When your wounds are cared for you will report to me promptly.” His gaze turned to Rythan, who inclined his head respectfully, “I’m sorry to have kept you, but you are needed within the temple itself.” Without a word Rythan bowed respectfully once more and walked away in the direction of the temple.

    As the dark figure tread across the sand the soldier who had originally given chase sheathed his blade, “I’m sorry High General, but was that wise? The way he hit Captain Torresan..." he trailed off, shaking his head, "Any harder and the man wouldn’t have awakened for hours, if not days.”

    As Exceradin watched Rythan’s retreating form he laughed quietly, “No. Had his blows been any harder Torresan would never have awakened at all.”

    **

    A short wall brought Rythan to the base of the great stairway that led to the temple’s southern gate, a large archway of black stone. Reach the top of the stairs left him to face the gate’s solemn guardians. Each standing four meters tall, a pair of Necren warriors, one on either side of the archway, stood guard. The gray-scaled dragon like creatures wore a cuirass and greaves of smooth pearl white metal. Like all soldiers of the legion each Necra bore the image of a four winged dragon upon his cuirass, theirs was blue, but unlike most soldiers neither of them wore a helm, gauntlets, or greaves. Each of their powerful arms and legs were bare, lined with muscle stronger than most natural metals. Their fingers ended in ivory claws, their toes in large curved talons on the same color.

    As Rythan stepped forward both Necra watched him silently with their crimson eyes, though they said nothing. Truly, they did not have to speak; it was obvious that they would let no one who did not belong go passed them… at least not alive. Rythan reached into his robes and produced the scroll he had been given. Unrolling it he handed it up to the Necra on his right. The great creature accepted the parchment, to him it was no larger than his palm, and read it. After a moment he looked back to Rythan, “You may pass.” Respectfully inclining his head Rythan strode through the dark archway and into the temple’s halls.

    As the shadowy figure made his way through the temple’s gray stone corridors his footfalls echoed softly around him. There was no light source to be seen, but there was always light enough to see. The Ruins of Faith were erected years ago as a testament to the Necrialx’s pledge to defend the mortal realm from Nasarak and his demonic blood. The God of Oblivion kept many secrets locked within this place; he held great powers that were received by only a chosen few, as Rythan had. Lines of blue-white flame ran across the walls, forming into various runes for a few moments before changing their form. As Rythan proceeded deeper into the temple he turned down corridors at random, choosing a direction based on the first he had thought to take at the moment of reaching the intersection. If you were true to yourself while you traveled these halls it would not matter which way you went, you would reach your destination without fail.

    It wasn’t long before Rythan stood before a doorway, framed by white stone, leading into a small room, empty save for a single person within. As he entered the chamber, the woman at the other end turned to face him. Fiery red hair fell in curls to her shoulders; onto a form fitting dress blue enough to match her sapphire eyes. She was young in appearance, her years seeming to number only a score, and her beauty was unmatched with a figure that was both lithe and voluptuous. Her skin was naturally sun darkened, as was seen upon her face and left arm, her right was hidden by the dress’s single long sleeve while the left was bare to the shoulder. Crimson runes were scrolled all across the length of her exposed arm; her cheeks were each marked by a pair of crimson wings as well.

    It was argued widely as to whether the Lady Amarra was a goddess in her own right, or if she was merely a powerful mortal being who held the love of the God of Oblivion. One only had to enter into her presence to realize that the former was true. Amarra smiled to Rythan as she approached with a lilting grace, “It is good to see you Rythan, I am sorry for pulling you away from Jenadel the way I have.” Her voice held a sweet musical tone, “But there is something I must ask of you.”

    Rythan knelt down on his right knee and pressed his right fist to the ground, bowing his head as he did so, “I am at your service my lady.”

    Amarra tilted her head to the side with a small smile, “Where does the cold fire of your eyes go when you stand before Cin and I? I can see it fade away almost as quickly as when you are with Jenadel. Please rise Rythan, you serve your people, not me.” As Rythan stood he merely murmured his thanks and allowed Amarra to continue, “The Lord Aron wishes to spend some time, living life as mortal in a distant land.” Rythan looked up questioningly, but the goddess merely raised a hand to forestall his words, “I know that he does this often, but it is not that he wishes to do this, it is where he wishes which is of importance. After Yggdrasil was corrupted we became aware of yet another Sphere that had been hidden to us before. Necrialx fears that it too was corrupted by Nasarak’s touch but…” a hint of sadness, and perhaps loneliness shadowed the beauty of her features, “The seals of his corporeal form were damaged too greatly in Nasarak’s last assault, it will still be some time before Necrialx can enter any of the mortal realms without his power placing them in grave danger. So instead he wishes to allow Aron to make the journey, and it is his wish that you go as well.” Rythan thought about that for a time. In his encounters with Aron he had always found the god to be amusing, but he had also greatly doubted the being’s sanity, “This will not be an order Rythan,” Amarra said soothingly, “Should you refuse another can be chosen instead.”

    “No,” he said, after barely a moment’s pause, “There is no need for another, I will go.”

    A thankful smile graced the goddess’s full lips, “My faith in you is never misplaced Rythan. I will prepare to send you out to Yggdrasil, where Aron will await your arrival. Are you ready?”

    **

    Yggdrasil was once a realm of light, peace, and tranquility. Its sweeping bridges of stone had led to lush green divine forests, sanctuaries of life and magic that housed great portals to other realms, other “Spheres” as they were called. Now Rythan stood upon a bridge marred by fractures and cracks, surrounded by an inky darkness that tried to press down upon him. Aron stood upon the bridge as well, wearing an entire suit of smooth armor over his lean well muscled frame, armor polished so that it resembled the pristine surface of a shining mirror with its edges trimmed in what looked to be deep red steel. A silken cape of royal crimson flowed down his back and nearly to the floor, hiding the sheathe he wore to hold his sword. An ornate silver hilt could be seen as it rose from behind his left pauldron, its cross guard crafted in the image of a dragon’s talons with a single sapphire jewel resting just below the blade. With his armor he wore a matching helm, made of two pieces. The first was an open faced helm of the same mirrored metal as the rest of his armor, a decorative set of wings, like those of a dove in flight, adorning either side of the helm, lacquered to be a beautiful azure color with a brilliant shine. The second piece of the helm was a solid mask worn over the nose and mouth almost like a scarf that had been locked into the first as Aron placed it on. The helm hid all except for Aron’s eyes, which peered about the darkness surrounding the pair, a pitch black sphere held at bay only by a brilliant sphere of white light that Aron had created to float ahead of them.

    This was Charybdis, the devourer. It was an endless darkness which knew not pain, nor fear, nor mercy; only a ravenous hunger for souls and blood. An eerie silence surrounded the pair as they made their way across the once majestic bridge, their footfalls whispered from upon the stone, but the sound seemed to travel no further than the onyx wall, as if that too fell victim to the hunger. They made their way carefully around gaping holes in the bridge itself, for below waited only the infinite ominous black.

    Neither of them missed the bridge as they stepped off of it into the garden which held the gate portals, though they were not happy to enter that foul place either. Grass that had once been emerald green was now a dark wet crimson. Instead of smelling like spring as the great forest once had this place smelled only of blood and decay. Whispers could be heard from the darkness, heavy foot falls, and sometimes low groans. The bodies of those who were taken by Charybdis became warped dark vessels, mindless horrors that wandered through the darkness in search of prey. Thankfully they would shy away from the light they way the massive creature which birthed them had.

    After a long wandering through that dark place, they finally came upon what they searched for. Great pillars of dark stone rose from the blackened ground in the form of an arch. A crystal blue liquid filled the passage, rippling slightly as though from a breeze no one could feel. There was a small stone slab placed into the ground before the portal, upon its surface blue-white flames faintly traced their way across, forming a single word that could barely be read: “Cythera”. Wasting no time, the pair entered into the liquid portal…

    **

    The morning sun shined its golden rays down upon the lush green land from a cloudless blue sky. Under the shade of a copse of trees not far from a well traveled dirt road Rythan and Aron both appeared, as though from thin air. As the cool morning breeze rushed through the trees, ruffling Aron’s crimson cape and Rythan’s tattered robes both, the darkly garbed warrior breathed deeply of the fresh air. Though he did not fear the journey he had just taken the warrior was glad to be done with it.

    Aron gazed off into the distance, stepping out from the shade as he did. The God of Mischief and Merriment removed his helm as the sun’s rays reflected brightly off of his mirrored armor, a smile upon his face, “I see a town over there.” He looked back over his shoulder to Rythan as the darkly clothed warrior leaned back against a shady tree with his eyes closed, apparently resting, “Are you going to join me?”

    Rythan responded with his eyes still closed, “From a distance, I will come to you if it is needed.”

    Aron shrugged with a chuckle, “I’ve always enjoyed your sunny disposition. Suit yourself, I’m off.”

    This post has been edited by Ragnar0k : 29 January 2007 - 03:58 AM



  • Impressive! There's nothing more for me to say, really. :)



  • Thanks. I went over it and noticed a few spelling errors as well as misused words (their instead of there and that sort of thing), those are generally things I never see until well after I'm done, shrug.

    However I'm overall happy with what I've written and am very glad you enjoyed ^^.



  • Wow.
    (Explains everything, doesn't it? :p)



  • Thanks Crazy ^^

    If you guys don't mind offering your input I was thinking about using some of these locations (Yggdrasil beseiged by Charybdis really) in a later TS, or at least another Chron. I also wonder as to whether a character like Ares could make his way into Cythera, or any of the other characters displayed in the story.

    Well just let me know what you think.



  • It looks good, Ragnar0k, very detailed and well-written. :)



  • Impressive! um... I thought I had something to say, but... well... I'm speechless! (Yeah, speechlessness comes way too easily for some people :p)


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