The sound of soldiers and their horses could be heard around camp as tents were set up for the night. Nearly eight thousand men moved about, carrying out their varying tasks as lights from the campfires lit the area. In the midst of the sea of people, a man in his thirties which was close to his middle years, stepped out of his tent and into the cold winter’s night. Resting on the man’s chest was an amulet that he tucked underneath his garment the jewel of the one endowed with the power of an Anamerian. Outside, the steady snowflakes that had fallen during their journey had stopped, leaving a white blanket over the area. With a quick glance at his surroundings, the Anamerian made his way to the back of his tent, staying close to the edge. He stopped a quarter of the way to the back, poured out the contents in his cup, and then shook his hand in a whipping motion, clearing out the remaining drops. Satisfied that the cup was clean enough, he made his way back to the front of his tent. On opposite sides of his entrance, two guards were sitting on the ground with their legs crossed, unperturbed by the chilly night, even though one could see that their clothing provided no protection from the cold.
These guards were Ackalans, which means “Guardians,” and no ordinary men. The Anamerian lifted his tent flap and walked inside, aware that the Ackalans were watching, even though no heads were raised. They sat there like statues, unruffled by the wind or cold.
Inside the Anamerian’s tent was a small, ornate table that stood two feet from the ground. On top of the table was an ink jar with a feathered pen. Beside the jar was an open scroll of paper with a small clay oil lamp next to it.
The glow from the oil lamp lit the area around the table that showed signs of use. The Anamerian walked over to the cushion behind the table and sat down, crossing his legs. As he leaned forward, the light from the oil lamp illuminated his face. His eyes were amber, and his cheekbones were well-defined behind his trimmed beard and mustache. Lost in his thoughts, the Anamerian lifted the feathered pen and began to write, as visions of the events that led him and the men he was now leading reopened in his mind.
“How did we get here in such a short time?” he wondered. “Our people have changed because of this war that leaves those who survive in bondage, and in only seventeen years.”
The words seemed to strike a nerve and he paused, trying to stop his hand from shaking as the amulet underneath his shirt lit up and the oil lamp on his table suddenly began to flutter.
He took in several deep breaths to dowse his anger as a sense of determination slowly overcame what was once a personal guilt. As the tension in his body began to abate, the light of the oil lamp stopped wavering. The Anamerian released his grip on his pen, placing it back on the table. He rested his head on his palm and moved his finger back and forth across his forehead, staring at the paper in front of him; his expression was deliberative, as if deciding whether or not to continue writing. Time passed before he reached out and picked up his pen again.
“The land and its people have changed,” he wrote as his hand moved across the page, “because of the one referred to as Gaid’dum, which means Death’s Soul. Some believe he has all of the keys of creation, which would make him immortal, and so cannot be killed or bound by men. Some say, at his command, he could move the Earth itself, while others claim that he is a god.
“While rumors of his power continue to spread across the land, there are those of us who know the truth about him.
“Records from archives reveal that a boy, whose name was Sullivan, touched what no man was allowed.
“Immediately, the power within the scroll claimed his body without him knowing. It began twisting his mind, leaving him with a single desire: the uncontrollable urge to find and acquire the power of creation from the other keys that were spread across the land. While no one knew how he did it. Sullivan was somehow able to obtain most of them; and as his power grew, so did his influence on mankind. Creatures from the abyss once regarded as myth began to appear, serving his purpose as they slowly destroyed the land.
“Thousands have lost their lives in our fight for freedom, which now hangs at the verge of annihilation with the memories of the once-glorious days of the empire fading with the dead like long-forgotten dreams.
“Our enemies appear out of balls of fire and disappear with the wind. They destroy everything in their path, sweeping across this land like an avalanche; taking homes, mothers, fathers, children, and their livestock.
“They kill everything without regard, and all that remains at the aftermath are mutilated bodies. Then there are the markings, charred, concave ring formations that appear on the ground the only sign of their presence.
“In most cities and towns destroyed by these creatures, their great walls and gates provided no security, as they were not touched; but inside were the same charred concave rings with the dead strewn everywhere. While death and suffering loom over the land like the headsman’s ax, we find hope in the three that lead our cause. Though never been seen by most of the people in this company, the rumors of their ability and strength have spread across the land, as far as Gariban, north of Ditra-Vashine to the land south past Eura. They alone stand as a beacon of hope for all. Why these three were chosen to be responsible for the fate of so many, including mine, I do not know, but I believe it is no coincidence they lead our fight today; were it not for them, our cause would be futile.
“Over the years, we’ve found representatives and rulers from what remains of the four Kingdoms which are represented by the prominent cities of Bremah, Ditra-Vashine, Eura, and Bayshia, building our army with the hope of a new dawn and the day when we shall take off the head of the serpent.”
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