The culmination of evil begins
|~~Argon 11, 40 AC (After Chaos), The Age of Mortals
Aldemar looked southward out upon the fields of tall grasses and thorn bush covering the lowlands before him. From atop the large tree-covered knoll on which he stood, he could see a far out across the windswept fields. The sun shone clear from a nearly cloudless sky. He searched for the glint of sunlight off of metal; the tell-tale signs of armor and weapons. He knew the grass and brush was tall enough for a small troop of Draconians to move through almost unnoticed, if they kept their scaly, nine-foot tall bodies hunched down and their wings pulled back. The wind blew hard from out of the east, pulling his dark cloak about him violently, catching it on the spikes of his bracers and pauldrons. His armor was mostly blackened leather dulled to not reflect sunlight; the standard suit of armor for a Lily knight squire of Neraka. Beneath the moving shadows of the trees around him, he would be nearly invisible to roaming eyes out in the rolling fields.
From behind him, he heard the crunch of heavy footsteps. It was Greven Mar, Knight of the Lily, Errant to Nordmaar, a massive imposing man carrying sixty pounds of blackened steel plate armor, adorned with skull-shaped pieces, and an engraving of a skull under a lily on the breast-plate. The cloak at his back, dark purple on the under side, held the same symbol, woven into its black fabric. The man took Aldemar under his wing over a year before, sparing the boy from a life as a filthy rogue on the streets of the dusty border town of Tusk. Since that day, Greven has honed Aldemar's discipline and shaped the young man to respect honor, obedience, and loyalty; the true merits of a worthy Knight. He stood a bit taller than Aldemar, and Aldemar stood almost a hand taller than most men. It could be said that Greven can go toe-to-toe with an Ogre, and he is vicious enough and usually eager to do so. To Aldemar, Greven is a symbol of strength and focused power, an exemplary Knight of an Order that stresses discipline and law above all other things. The Knighthood alone has held the ravaged nation of Neraka from falling into anarchy through an age when many other nations succumbed to it.
Greven moved slowly to Aldemar's side, taking in his own view of the surroundings. He spoke, "All the supplies are in order. You did well." Aldemar looked up at his mentor and did see approval in Greven's icy stare. Greven did not often yield approval. He spoke on, "I have found water. We should be moving soon.
"I will get the horses ready. Remain here for a few more moments. When you hear five more calls from the Kingfisher, return to the horses. If you see anything, do nothing, and inform me immediately."
Aldemar watched Greven move between the trees and down the opposite slope, then turned back to the lowlands ahead of them. Teyr, land of the Draconians. Now that the Queen was lost to the world, the Draconians have assumed a form of independence; a nation of their own nestled around the Astivar mountain range, which marks the southwest border of Nordmaar. Nordmaar itself, a nation of nomadic barbarians, tolerates the creatures. The Knighthood of Neraka does not, but they don't have the resources to deal with them. Hence, Greven has been sent from Neraka to collect information on the Draconians, Nordmaar, and their relations with each other, and he has carefully carried out this duty for several years. Aldemar personally despised the Draconians, and considered them nothing more than pawn foot soldiers: a ruthless destructive infantry there only for the powerful to wield as weapons. Greven held the same belief.
From the southern moors of Nordmaar Greven and Aldemar had traveled for days, following Goblin raiders who attacked Nordmaarian summer settlements in the wetlands. The Goblins had made a trail a child could follow into the northern grasslands of Teyr. Greven was certain the Goblins were trying to flee to the mountains, where they hoped the Knight and his squire would have trouble following.
Little did they know Greven‘s knowledge of these lands.
Aldemar and Greven had been constantly on the alert for signs of rogue dragonmen, Draconians not loyal to their own King. The rogues claim the northern grasslands and moors of Teyr as their territory. Aldemar himself was eager for a scaly lizard-like head and wing-tips to rise out of the wind blown grass. His blood almost boiled with anticipation. He knew full well by Greven's constant reminders that Draconians are terrifying combatants, yet still hoped to face one with his blade and strength. In anticipation, his off-hand grasped the short blade he always carried, strapped to his belt. His long blade and great bow were on his horse, but that was only several yards behind him, down the slope. All the possible conditions raced through his mind.
The Kingfisher whistled, perched amidst the branches of one of the knoll-top trees. Its calls were evenly timed, it was almost as accurate as an hourglass. It was the fifth call, so he turned and began moving toward the opposite slope. To the west, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted brush moving against the wind. He stopped, still atop the knoll, and kept his eyes fixed on that area. He saw no glimmer of light on metal. There was a bit more movement, then nothing but wind. He knew it could be animals, possibly a wild boar. He hoped it wasn't.
A quick whistle barely pierced the wind. Greven's call to Aldemar to move quicker. Considering he should have been downslope by then, Aldemar gave a quick light whistle in response. He saw no more movement, and proceeded to where Greven and the horses waited.
Aldemar checked Greven's horse bridle and saddle while recounting to Greven what he saw on his way downslope, then assisted the heavily armored Knight onto his horse. From there, Greven looked westward to the area Aldemar.
"I see nothing," the Dark Knight grumbled, "I know you have a sharp perception, boy, but I think you look forward to fighting Dracs too much for your own good. It was probably a fox. I would hope you are not beginning to see things on me."
"No, mi'lord." Aldemar responded quickly.
"Good. Remind yourself boy, that you won't be so eager when they tear your limbs from you with their claws; through your armor." Greven pointed southeastward, toward a sizable copse of trees in the distance, "Streams from the mountains collect there. It will be a wetland. We will find water for us and the horses."
Despite his criticism of Aldemar's bloodlust, Greven cautiously kept his eyes to the west while Aldemar climbed onto his horse, keen for signs of Goblin, Draconian, or whatever else might be trying to ambush them.
By the time Aldemar was on his horse, Greven put his into a trot. The squire followed behind, glancing over his shoulder one last time to the grove of flowering thorn bush, hoping to catch sight of enemies. He saw only the windblown foliage. He turned his head to their destination, intent now only on that, and in anticipation of what would await him there.