Chapter One

He had committed a terrible crime. His selfish actions brought fear into the hearts of those who previously had no concept of terror. The world changed and he was the reason. Gone were the days the people of Hyrdyth could live in harmony and be ignorant of the evil that once lived in only the darkest places. This man, known as Yrèoc, was able to escape punishment when a fortunate opportunity presented itself. He fled from his home in the Balfrem province and went into hiding.

Now, he sits in a darkened corner of a crowded tavern nursing a tankard of ale.  His appearance is dirty. A filthy, heavy cape hung from his shoulders, torn and full of holes at the base where it had been dragged through the dirt on the floor. His hair messy, long and dark was slightly swept back with the exception of a few stray hairs drooping in front of his face. Even his boots were entirely covered in dried mud. Nobody would ever have guessed these were made from some of the finest quality leather you could find.

Gripping the small tankard with his grubby fingers, he stares deep into his ale, mourning the death of his beloved.  Ultimately his thirst for power was the reason for her death. Yet still, he searches his mind contemplating if he could have done anything differently to save her. It is unfortunate there is no known magic which exists to bring her back.  He will have to live with her death on his conscience for the rest of his days.

His greed not only led to the loss of his lover but the loss of his trusted followers. Those that looked to him as a leader and wished to be a part of his grand plans. Collectively. they dubbed themselves ‘Shri’. A group of young, exceptionally talented sorcerers with only one intention; to obtain and dominate Hydryth. Yrèoc was their leader and without them he would have been lost. He had come to think of them as more than followers. They became his family and he led nearly all to their deaths.

Sipping his ale, he looks around the small bar and cannot help but notice how quickly the world forgets and moves on. If only he could do the same. Blissfully unaware that the man responsible for unleashing an unearthly power that almost destroyed their way of life was sitting in the very same place as them, the folk of this small town drink and laugh together without a care in the world.

With such a busy environment, Yrèoc fails to notice a lone, hooded figure sat at the far end of the bar. If his grief had not been such a distraction, he would have realized that this man had been following him for the past few days. Peering out from beneath his heavy hood, the figure observes every move Yrèoc makes. Not that this was hard work. All his moves of late consisted of wandering to and from the run down building he now called home and to this tavern.

This had become Yrèoc’s favourite bar. Not only for its cheap ale but for its badly lit surroundings. The tiny, round windows were almost impossible to see through. The dirt and dust were so thick on the glass that, during daylight hours, the sun could barely creep through.  Many could come and go as they please without attracting unwanted attention. A “no questions asked” environment, although a lively place, full of jolly locals. The particular corner he sat in was perfect. It had virtually no light and was away from the groups of loud regulars.  Just a dark, little nook, with a single wooden chair and a small table. Not even the glow of a candle. It was a shadowed area and he liked it.

Hours pass and he barely moves, other than to order more ale from the bar. Most of which is spilled on the old wooden floor as a rather drunk Yrèoc makes his way back to his seat, where he assumes nobody will pay him attention.  One final gulp and he finishes his drink. With last orders having formerly been called, he decides to leave the comfort of the corner and return home. Still oblivious to the fact the figure continues to watch him, he makes his way toward the tavern door stumbling along as he goes. Luckily, the place is now quite empty and he avoids falling into someone on his short journey to the exit. The few festive folk left in the bar pay him no attention as he heads out into the street.

The heavy, wooden door crashes shut behind him.  It is late and many of the townsfolk are in their homes for the night. Staggering a few paces along the dusty road, Yrèoc trips and falls against the stone wall of the tavern.  Perhaps he had drunk too much tonight? Suddenly, the tavern door bangs shut again. The loud noise startles him and he peers around. To his surprise, nobody is there. Torches attached to the surrounding buildings light up the street, but still, he sees no-one.

Drunk and confused, barely able to stand, Yrèoc continues his walk home.  After only a few more paces, he stumbles again and leans against the wall. The journey home is not long yet, he feels he has already walked a million miles. Before taking the next few paces he contemplates using magic to get him home. Although this is no wise decision. Using magic when one is drunk can result in unpredictable results. Deciding against the idea, he once again pushes himself away from the wall and walks on.

Shortly, Yrèoc arrives at a small archway between two buildings with a lone torch above it. He enters this dark walkway. It leads to an alley and it is here, down at the far end, he has occupied an abandoned, run-down old building. Unlike the street he just left, this alley has no torches. It is dark and quiet. He is alone with only the sound of his feet shuffling along the dirty ground. Many would not dare to dwell in these unlit areas of the town. Rumours have grown of evil acts in the shadows. Ordinary men, whom now fancy themselves as sorcerers are said to gather in these places. Preying on the weak, they use their cheap gimmicks to scare any foolish enough to wander into their territory. Unlike many of the townsfolk, this man was not afraid of the dark. These apparent sorcerers were nothing more than tricksters, who relied on the talents of magical charms. He was more than capable of looking after himself.

Further into the alley and far from the brightly lit street, the glare of the moon lights Yrèoc’s path. He stumbles some more before walking into a pile of wooden crates. Uninjured, he rests against them to compose himself. Darkness and silence surround him and his mind begins to wander. Soon, whomthoughts of times past fill his head. How he wishes he could return to Balfrem, the province he had called home for so many years. However, he must stay away. It’s still far too dangerous for him to return. There could still be thwhowish to capture him. Binath is his home now; this small northern town in the Welm province.

Suddenly, the silence is broken by a loud noise, like a glass bottle smashing as it hits stone. Alarmed, he hastily turns to see who is there but loses his footing. He trips and falls causing a heavy thud as his body hits the ground. For a moment he lays still, groaning to himself.  Eventually he manages to drag himself up using the crates as an aid and, although it takes a few minutes, he is once again back onto his feet. Taking a moment to compose himself, Yrèoc rests. Out of the corner of his eye, he becomes aware of something moving close by. A shadow. By the time he looks up it has gone. Thinking his mind is playing tricks, he attempts to finish his walk home. Then he sees it. There, directly ahead blocking his path, a hooded figure.

The figure stands silently still. With a dizzy head from the alcohol, Yrèoc staggers away from the crates toward the middle of the alley until the pair are only a few feet apart. Minutes pass and neither say anything. Tired and feeling ever so worse by the minute, Yrèoc starts to pace forward. The hooded figure reacts immediately by leaping high into the air, until he disappears out of sight into the sky. Bewildered by what is happening, Yrèoc looks up, his eyes searching for the figure. Slowly, he spins around on the spot still peering up, seeing nothing but a dark sky filled with stars.

At that moment, the figure lands directly behind him, thrashes him on the head and forces him to the ground. The figure watches as Yrèoc struggles to get up. Unable to pull himself up, he flips over onto his back and lays facing the sky.  He can see the hooded figure standing over him. As if from nowhere, another hooded man appears next to him. Both look down at him. Feeling very drunk, Yrèoc lays there, unable to move. He passes out, but not before hearing one of the men say to the other “Is this him?”.