The hot wind blew across the desert and disturbed the sand on top of the dunes that were the only features in that arid landscape. The sand looked golden under the harsh sun, the tiny grains reflecting the light a hundred times and making the scorching heat even more unbearable. The sky was empty, a bright featureless curtain that only turned bluish gray near the horizon. There was not a wisp of cloud in sight and no bird dared to fly across a sky that was as barren as the desert below.
The stranger reached the top of a sand dune and surveyed the undulating landscape, noticing the lack of vegetation that could have otherwise broken the sun’s dominance over the desert. The few creatures that had managed to survive under such hostile conditions had buried themselves under the shifting sand and remained well hidden from the unforgiving sun. The stranger seemed to defy the harsh elements and stood out in the open with only a white scarf as face covering and a flowing garment that reached the ground.
Behind the stranger were footsteps that became a thin trail of disturbed sand that eventually led to a small outpost faintly visible in the distance. The crumbling walls of the outpost hardly protected anyone and only served to mark the area as a place where humans can converge for a while before moving on to their destination. For not a few travelers, it was also the last vestige of human civilization that they would see before perishing in the desert.
A gust of wind caused the stranger’s clothes to flutter like a flag, the hot air penetrating the thin garment. The stranger stood firm while surveying the horizon as dark shapes started appearing from behind the sand dunes. The stranger knew that it would not take long before these dark shapes transform into menacing figures intent on seizing the most coveted object in the whole of Sendorra.
The stranger descended the sand dune and did not take long before reaching its base. With feet planted firmly on the sand, the stranger slowly raised a hand and opened it to reveal a round featureless stone. The stranger dropped the stone a short distance where it was partly covered with sand and then took out a small waterskin. With arm outstretched, the stranger slowly poured water over the dark stone.
A sudden burst of blue light erupted at the spot where the stone was dropped, emitting bright particles that revolved around the stranger and left bluish ripples in their wake. The stranger did not seem surprised and slowly raised both hands towards the sky. A ball of azure light slowly rose to the air, blue particles swiftly revolving around it. At its nucleus was the stone that the stranger had dropped and had gained a luminous quality. The stranger was enveloped by the flying blue particles and floated in the air towards the scintillating stone.
The dark shapes that the stranger saw on the horizon became recognizable as soldiers clad in black garments. They rode on dark steeds that seemed to fly across the desert and soon crested the sand dunes until they reached the area around the stranger. The soldiers looked up, as if mesmerized by the ripples of blue light, but no sooner had they stopped did they took out their bows and aimed their arrows at the floating spectacle in front of them. A tall soldier with a helmet decorated with red plumage raised a fist and shouted with a loud voice, signaling the rest of the soldiers to release a barrage of arrows towards the levitating stranger.
The sky was filled briefly with flying arrows, like birds darting across the air from the soldiers’ bows. Then, instead of hitting the stranger, the arrows were stopped by an unseen force and hurtled towards the ground. The tall soldier did not seem perturbed and issued a signal to release more arrows at the stranger. The sand below the stranger became littered with broken arrows as more of the wooden projectiles dropped harmlessly from above.
The stranger stretched both hands and waves of blue light that resembled ripples on the ocean surface emanated from the stone, creating the illusion that the sand below was underwater. As the stranger looked, water suddenly erupted from the dry sand and quickly began to fill the low areas between the sand dunes. The soldiers noticed that the water was rising fast and tried to escape, but they were too late. The water foamed and hissed as it swallowed the dark soldiers and their steeds.
A few of the soldiers managed to scramble towards the top of the sand dunes. The stranger saw this and raised a hand towards the soldiers that were trying to escape the rising water. Huge tentacles rose from the surface of the forming lake and hit the escaping soldiers until smoke emanated through their armor, their bodies dissolving and disappearing under the water.
The water soon ceased to hiss and churn as all of the stranger’s enemies were engulfed by the waves and disappeared underneath the deluge. The ripples of blue energy slowly dissipated and the stranger felt drained of energy. In a moment, the stranger’s empty garments rippled in the wind before falling to the edge of the water. The blue stone that was floating only moments ago dropped to the shallows where it continued to scintillate.
After a while, two people garbed in flowing garments similar to that of the stranger appeared from behind the sand dunes. A young woman saw the blue light pulsating in the shallows and entered the water against the warnings of her companion. She saw the blue stone still scintillating under the water and she waded towards it.
One hundred years later... Thin beams of light from the morning sun pierced through the gaps of the shuttered windows, revealing portions of the cracked stone walls, yet scarcely illuminating the dark corridor. Torches that had burned the night before had long been extinguished, but the still air remained heavy with smoke. The ceiling had blackened with the accumulation of decades of soot and the spaces between the wooden beams were thick with dust and cobwebs. On the stone floor were grooves and streak marks made by the heavy carts that rolled over it and the heavy chains dragged by countless condemned prisoners. A door opened noisily at the far end of the corridor and a young bearded man emerged, walking at a brisk pace. He wore a long-sleeved shirt embroidered with red and gold thread and knee-length pants wrapped in a wide belt of intricately woven fabric. His head wrap featured the same weave, decorated with gold embroidery while a gold sash, ador
Enzir appeared to be alarmed at the sudden reaction of the prisoner to the psylugs. He had never really used them on any of the prisoners before, but Lankko mentioned that they were very effective in eliciting the truth from those they latched on. The psylugs continued to change colors rapidly and appeared to swell. Enzir was dazzled by the brilliant display of color and seemed transfixed until he realized that the prisoner’s screams had gone silent. Enzir shook his head and blinked his eyes as he saw the psylugs fall off the prisoner's temples to the grimy floor. The psylugs continued to writhe, eventually returning to their original dull gray color.The prisoner’s body went limp and Enzir saw that he had become unconscious. He turned to the soldiers who were still holding onto the prisoner’s restraints."Wake him," Enzir said, turning away from the unconscious prisoner. Lankko heard his master and gave instructions to the soldiers. One of the soldiers tapped the prisoner’s shoulders
The previous night, Lankko sat comfortably on a soft thick mat and nibbled on the assortment of fruits that were served at his low table. He winced when he bit through a hard seed and threw the fruit away. Music drifted through the air as a small band of seated musicians played with percussion and wind instruments. The music rose to a faster beat and Lankko found himself tapping his thigh to the joyful rhythm. One-by-one, a group of dancers came out waving red fans and colorful scarves as a woman's soulful voice soared with the music.The dancers swayed and spun gracefully, their quick movements dissolving into flashes of color that were mesmerizing and pleasing to the eyes. Lankko's gaze was pulled towards the lead female dancer whose red dress hugged her body and revealed her slender frame. The dancer seemed to have noticed Lankko's gaze and danced closer to him. As the dancers pulled off their shawls and started waving them around, the dancer who caught Lankko's eye decided to throw
Later that night, Lankko dragged his steps over the stone floor of the corridor of his dungeons as the effects of the copious amount of wine he had consumed slightly affected his balance. He clung onto Mira when they stepped over the threshold as he almost stumbled to the floor."Careful, my sweet, you'll hurt yourself," said Mira, holding Lankko steady."I'm fine," said Lankko, steadying himself. "Let me show you the chamber."They entered a dark chamber used for questioning prisoners and Lankko smiled proudly as he showed Mira around."So this is the famous torture chamber!" exclaimed Mira. "Just how many prisoners have you had here?""Shh! Don't call it torture chamber. I'd rather call it the questioning room. Makes it less painful to the ears."Mira looked around the dark room lit only by two torches pinned to the far wall. "So, how many prisoners have you questioned here?" She asked, emphasizing the word 'questioned'."Let me tell you a secret," began Lankko. "I don't really do mu
Mira watched the pearl scintillate within the large circular glass in which it was immersed. It emitted flashes of blue light that sailed across the room, leaving mesmerizing ripples behind and casting bluish patterns on the walls and ceiling. It was unlike anything that Mira had seen before. It seemed as if the room was transformed into an ocean of flying stars and undulating waves. She watched in awe as Lankko looked on."Welcome to my laboratory!" said Lankko. "Amazing, isn't it?" He asked Mira who was still entranced by the spectacle before her."So enchantingly beautiful…" Mira murmured. She tried catching one of the sparks that darted across her, but only managed to disturb the undulating light it left in its wake. "It's like looking at living water."Mira's gaze followed the blue spark which moved around the room before it went upwards and encircled the circular vessel containing the blue pearl."What is that?" Mira asked Lankko who was also gazing upwards at the pearl."That, m
Mira raised a finger and poked it at Lankko's shoulder. Slowly, Lankko dropped sidewards among the cushions. Satisfied, Mira rose determinedly and took Lankko's keys. She then ran out of the observation room and retraced her path through the corridors and doorways until she reached Lankko's laboratory. She unlocked the door and opened it, beholding once again the Pearl of Sorrelia. She looked around the room and wondered about the best way to reach the vessel in which the pearl was contained. Seeing no easy way across the tubes and glass vessels on the table leading to the pearl, she climbed the wall like a cat and went across the beams on the ceiling. When she was directly above the pearl, she grabbed the beam with her legs and reached downwards into the circular vessel. The lights that danced around the room were immediately extinguished when Mira took the pearl out of the water and she found herself looking through an almost inky darkness. She felt the pouch that hung around her
The small city of Alnoc lay on the southern tip of the land of Sendorra, bordered by a long stretch of mountain ranges that extended from the north and northwest to the almost impenetrable jungles of Alanca in the east. The treacherous waters of the Corian Sea made up the southern borders, making Alnoc one of the most isolated cities in Sendorra. Nevertheless, Alnoc's location in the warm south, far from the administrative clutches of the imperial government made it a center for merchants trading in the black market. Occasionally, trader ships would sail through the rough waters of the south seas or venture through the dense Alancan jungles to reach Alnoc where they would negotiate and sell to the highest bidder. When the emperor decreed for magic to be prohibited to all citizens and that magical artifacts to be confiscated and brought to the capital, many of the black market merchants flocked to Alnoc, far from the probing eyes of imperial soldiers.Governance of Alnoc, as w
"Would you like to have your breakfast at the dining hall or would you prefer to have it in your room?" the servant asked Enzir with a bow. It was a sunny morning and Enzir wanted to make the most of it, so he followed his servant to the dining hall where the large windows let in the sunlight and the cool morning breeze.There was no one else at the dining hall except for the servants who waited on him, the rest of the household still very much asleep at that time of the morning. Enzir preferred these quiet times over the chaos of lunch and dinner when most of his household would be dining with him. He wanted the silence of the morning to help him think about his affairs and what he would do the rest of the day. He enjoyed the rice porridge that was served him and left the boiled egg in his bowl for last. He observed that it was smaller than what he was expecting and would like to talk to the cook for not boiling a larger egg. He was to be told later by the feisty cook that i