The Burnt World of Athas

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Rekor shuffled forward angrily under the burning sun. He might be a captive of the Templars of Nibenay but he was not going to give in. He was a tall, well built half-elf, evidently strong as well as wiry, with long black hair and piercing blue eyes. He was currently surrounded by four half giant guards and one of the proud templars of Nibenay in the lead. He guessed that he was probably been led to one of the minor templar buildings for judgment. As he walked on, aided by the occasional vicious blow from one of his guards, he reflected on what had led to his capture and likely death.

Son of a poor merchant of Tyr and an elven woman who after a few months of liaisons and the birth of her son skipped out with everything his father had owned he had lived a hard life. He had hated his father with a passion. His father had always been brutal, but he got worse after his mother had left. He had gotten into drinking and used to come home, totally drunk, and beaten his son for the sins of his mother, using his psionic wild talent of double pain to exacerbate the torture. Rekor learned to avoid his father and to survive by picking the pockets of incautious travellers. A skilled thief by he time he was eighteen, he had skipped town as soon as possible and made his way to Nibenay.

When he arrived in Nibenay he quickly began employing the skills of his profession and it was in this way that he made contact with the Veiled Alliance. He chose the wrong pocket to pick and was caught by a wizard of the Alliance. The preserver had pity on the pitiful youth and began to teach him the basics of magic. After becoming quite an accomplished young mage/thief he was added to the ranks of the Alliance. He had succeeded quite well in all his missions and it had been decided that he would be given a most complicated task. Rekor was assigned to rescue a member of the Alliance of Gulg coming to discuss a possible union of the two Alliances that had been captured by the Templars of Nibenay and imprisoned in a small guardpost. The mission had gone well until he had freed the preserver and was escaping himself. Unfortunately he had blundered directly into the relief of the templar force stationed at the guardpost and had been captured. There had been little doubt of his guilt when his spell components and thief's tools came to light.

A sudden blow from one of the guards sent him crashing down onto the dirty sand and brought him back to the present. They had arrived at their destination. He had expected to be led directly to a judgment area and was surprised to find he had been taken to noble's Quarter. His guards shoved him up to the door of one of the residences and the servant that immediately arrived ushered them into the presence of the owner of the house. He glanced around the building in question. He was impressed. The "house", in truth more of a palace, was made of dark obsidian, reflecting nicely the light of various continually lighted globes placed about the rooms. The floors were carpeted with purple velvet of some kind and rare art and sculpture seemed to be the primary form of decoration. Here and there he caught glimpses of tapestries depicting the Dragon, Nibenay blessing the citizens of his great city and other such pictures. He realised that the palace was organised on a fairly linear layout, with a single corridor slashing the middle of the palace and the rooms going off on either side. Any thoughts of escape by the evidence of great protections visible everywhere. Half-Giant guards casually fondled their weapons as he passed, runes took on a special glitter when the templar escorting him spoke certain words and he thought he caught sight of even darker things in the shadows. Finally the corridor ended in a massive room that could only be described as a throne room. Sitting upon a priceless throne of pure iron he caught sight of something to make him draw in a breath. A proud female templar clad in actual metal chain mail and armed with a casually held obsidian spear. Her eyes were deep, almost black brown and her hair was cut short, in a military fashion, and was copper in color. Her eyes flashed with something approaching triumph when he entered the room.

"Leave us." she commanded the guards to leave, who exchanged knowing glances before returning to their appointed duties. "You are of the Alliance." she said as she approached him, motives unreadable. Rekor sullenly stayed silent, determined never to betray the alliance to Nibenay.. "Your answer is irrelevant, I know you are. I have been looking for a contact in the Alliance for some time." And at this she faced him, her face taking a sincere look. "I want to defect". He gave her a second look and then burst out laughing. "You don't seriously expect me to believe that do you?" he said when his loud, near hysterical laugh was finished. "Nibenay has been trying to infiltrate the Alliance for decades, I don't intend to go down in the history of the Alliance as the one who finally let him in."
She looked at his mocking visage for a minute then turned away, a pained expression crossing her face. "My name is Rasha Va'shen." she said. "You don't have to believe me, but really you have nothing to lose. If I intended you harm you would be dead." He considered his situation for a moment, then turned angrily in her direction. "I do have something to lose! The Alliance has something to lose! I will not, I can not betray the Alliance!" She turned, flushed with anger, having lost her patience with him. "It is irrelevant what you believe. what is important is that I have discovered a way to deal Nibenay a serious blow while simultaneously recovering great magic for the Alliance. But I need aid. If you help me I will free you and the Alliance will have struck a major blow against Nibenay. If you do not I will deal with you as you had expected,"Rasha said, her face hardening, "I cannot chance anybody revealing my secret."

Turning her offer over in his mind, he could not see any obvious leaks to Alliance information, but continued cautiously. "How do you intend to do this? And why should you be stricken with such sudden compassion?" Rekor asked. Turning away slightly, Rasha paused slightly to draw in a breath and then slowly answered. "It is complicated. The gist of it is that Nibenay has discovered an artifact of untold power that he is keeping while he studies it's properties inside one of his palace's The artifact is unbelievably powerful, as I learned from some private sources, and could easily be used to destroy the palace. It seems that it employs a heightened version of lifesucking employed by mages to drain all energy and life out of all around it. Structures will actually lose the ability to hold together when it is activated. I need you for stealth and added power to insure that I can reach the artifact. Once there I know exactly what to do, but it is heavily guarded. My motives are simple. My mother was a member of the templar class and raised me to it, my father merely a petty noble, but soon after I became a templar they were killed in the internal squabbles of the ranks. I am sick of the constant fighting and endless killing. This form of government must end. I intend to start its downfall here and know." At least partially satisfied with this information, though he would be willing to bet that an additional motive was the great power that could be seized should Nibenay fall, Rekor turned over in his mind the necessary preparations. As if reading his mind Rasha added, "I have had your spell staff and other equipment brought up." Finally, seeing no reason to refuse her offer he quietly said "Fine, I agree." "Excellent." Rasha replied. "Then let us begin." Out of nowhere a dimensional portal of glowing blue energy appeared in front of her. "Coming?" she said over her shoulder as she stepped through it.

Nerlis was well satisfied with his life. Serving as a templar in the guard of one of Nibenay's palace was a well paid job with little risk, for who would dare challenge Nibenay. Slowly striding along the empty corridors of the palace quietly exchanging comments with those few guards still on duty at the late hour, he was so enraptured in the prospect of his likely safe and rich future that he totally missed the knife whistling out of the shadows to end his pitiful life.

Rekor dropped himself off a beam forming the palace's roof to join Rasha. Much to his surprise and disbelief the two had hit it off quite well and had become quite good partners in the time it had taken them to organise and carry out their plan. It had been pathetically easy to eliminate the few templars and guards still around the palace at night. He was almost beginning to be suspicious of betrayal at the ease that they had penetrated the palace with. The last area they would have to enter was the inner sanctum of this palace. The entrance was a great bronze portal, engraved with various glowing silver runes of power. Rasha stepped forward, indicating that she knew how to open it. Rekor backed up as Rasha made various motions, but noticed that the light of the runes dimmed considerably when she was done. Slowly the two approached the door and gently pushed it open.

Inside was a well like room, obviously continuing far higher than they could see. They could tell that there were two rough obsidian pillars on either side of the door and that a reddish glow was emanating from above. Uncertain about what else to expect they entered the chamber. Looking upwards once they had entered the room Rekor gasped in surprise. "Look!" he mouthed. High above them a great crimson ruby was floating, giving off the red light that filled the chamber. The obsidian structures that they had mistaken for pillars were in fact the legs of a great obsidian statue, its hands poised as if to catch the eternally falling gem. After a quick whispered conversation Rekor began to levitate himself up to the gem, intent on seizing it and setting the gem to destroy the palace. However, much to the horrified fascinating of Rasha on the ground, the moment that Rekor grasped the gem the statue slowly began to move, gem studded eyes filling with a terrible life, and hurled Rekor against the wall. The surprised Rekor groaned, drenched with blood, as his levitation spell slowly began to fail and sent him toppling to the floor. Rasha rushed over to catch him but was crushed to the ground and temporarily stunned by the force of his impact upon her relatively slight frame. The dazed Rekor spoke a few arcane words and sent a stream of miniature glowing missiles at the titan but it had no visible impact. Rasha pulled herself up and cast one of her more powerful spells, sending a pillar of fire down upon the statue, but apart from some charring and blackening of its skin there was no visible effect. "Rekor!" she shouted. "The Ruby! Give it to me and run!" The impact of his fall still having its effect on Rekor, he barely noticed when she waved her hand to create another dimensional portal and pushed him through. Behind him Merlyka began shouting arcane words and tracing glyphs on the gem while simultaneously dodging the attacks of the enraged statue. Recovering his senses once outside the palace, Rekor turned and was about to reenter the palace when another glowing doorway appeared, similar in appearance to the last one but for the color, which was green. From out of the swirling energies came Rasha , caked in blood and without the Ruby. Realising that they had little time before the arcane magic Rekor grabbed her and ran.

Behind them a black radiance began seeping out of the palace, turning the palace and all within it into mush, which itself began to dissolve even as they watched. Anxious to not be the next victim of the terrible power leaking from the gem he hurried away, elated with their success. A glance at Rasha however dampened his spirit. She was loosing blood quickly and he could tell she had suffered several cracked ribs and broken bones from the angles of her form. He was no surgeon, but the caved in appearance of the back of her skull required very little medical knowledge to interpret. Which great speed he decided that the best place for her if she were to have any chance of survival was the Alliance headquarters. The Clerics available elsewhere would ask far too many uncomfortable questions that he would rather not answer. Rushing through the city, he began babbling to her about what life would be like, his subconscious trying to deal with the fact that he knew he wouldn't get there in time. While it had certainly not been love at first site, Rekor truly liked this woman and if he ever chose any mate to share the perils of the dark sun with him, he would surely consider her. But now ihe would not get that option. "It will be great Rasha." he said. "You can join my Alliance cell, and with your templar status we will bring down Nibenay once and for all! You will meet Jo'ran, and Trask, and Iyas, and you can even meet the leaders of our cells like Arres and Heron! They will be sure to appreciate the missions you joining us will bring!" he continued on, tears streaming down his face, images of all the Alliance and what he could have done with such a one passing before his eyes. When he finally realised that he had arrived at the hidden entrance to Alliance headquarter's, he found she was already dead, blank eyes staring up accusingly at him from their final resting place. Cursing the fates for causing such a terrible sequence of events he moved mechanically to go and make his report...

...And suddenly found he was back in Rasha's throne room in the Noble's Quarter. "What? Huh?" he said, looking around in shock. Rasha was sitting on her throne, a malicious smile on her face. "Poor, naive little Rekor," she said. "What a pity he had to go through all that just so that I could get the information I needed. You must realise that been a templar does not preclude been a psionicist. Nibenay will reward me well for this. An entire group of Alliance cells revealed, and when I use that same technique on them perhaps more! You see Rekor, you never left this room. The psionic "portal" was merely my means to allay your suspicions and place you in a psionic sleep. As for my parents, they thought they could intrude on my power simply for reasons of paternity! Really! Now I am sorry, Rekor, but I am a busy woman and have a Veiled Alliance to destroy. Guards!" At these words several heavily armed half giant guards appeared from the Anteroom. "Take him away. I don't care what you do, send him to the arena, put him in Nibenay's dungeons to rot, whatever. I am sure he will punish himself more than we could."
Her grin grew as the guards grabbed Rekor and began dragging him away. The horrified at the implications of this, he began screaming as he was removed from Rasha's presence, his mind filled with the horror of what his actions had done. The screams echoed through the mansion, mingling with the laughter of the matron templar.


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