Year 3603, the Fifth Age, the ninth day of Spring
Finally it has happened. Finally all my hard work has paid off. For finally I have been invited to Aierthian by Drakkas himself. O’ what a joyous day this is. Excitement was tingling through every fibre of my body as I walked up to the two great stone golems that guarded the gates of Aierthian. They blocked my path, but with one word from me they stepped aside and motioned for me to enter. I felt so powerful as I pushed through the massive doors which stood disembodied in the middle of those plains. Triumphantly I walked into the bright lights and as the stone doors closed behind me the marble streets of Aierthian was laid out before me, and in the middle of the road stood Drakkas himself. I was at a loss for words as he greeted me and showed me through his town. His voice was calm and controlled as he informed me about his plain of existence, and he smiled briefly to me as he left me at the door to my new laboratory. Finally my real work can begin.
-My Blessed Life by Magi Siggr Stinfry
Year 3607, the Fifth Age, the thirteenth day of Spring
“The Fog is thick tonight.” Guardsman Taggar Mōrten remarked and adjusted the scarf that covered his nose and mouth.
“I know, I’ve never seen this heavy. Look how the Gornl Sea is glowing.” Guardsman Wyne replied and pointed to the lapping waters as they walked along the boardwalk.
Beneath the dark waters wide rivers of Fog snaked along the currents near the surface, interweaving and moving off on their own accord. It was not just the Fog in the Sea that was prevalent this dark and misty night, but in the heavy cloud around the two Pentrin guardsmen the rainbow colours of the Fog wafted ominously.
“By The Five Wyne, cover ya face.” Mōrten exclaimed as he looked to his partner, “You know how dangerous the Fog is, you know what it is capable of.”
“Nah, that’s a load of nonsense,” Wyne dismissed Mōrten’s concern, “The Fog grants us magicks, and Magi go and meditate in Fog clouds all the time, it’s not dangerous.”
“Is that why they go crazy?” Mōrten rebutted as the two of them continued along the boardwalk.
“No one has gone crazy ‘cause of the Fog in decades.” Wyne replied calmly.
“You should still where ya scarf, ya fool,” Mōrten was quick to say to the younger guardsman. “Safety first my friend.”
“Safety?” Wyne scoffed. “Who cares ‘bout safety when there are the likes of Lryndl and her gang running the streets? Why don’t we do anything Mōrten? That damn wood elf does whatever she wants and we don’t even do anything.”
“Her connections are too high boy,” Mōrten shook his head. “Believe me I’d like to throw that skinny elf in the dungeon, but she’d be back out in two minutes.”
The younger guard grumbled as he stomped down the wooden steps that led onto the stony beach at the western side of Pentra.
“All this cursed corruption,” Wyne spat and kicked at a piece of drift wood. “We need to do something about it.”
“Yeah, go and be a masked vigilante or something,” Mōrten snickered as he peered through the mist ahead of them.
“Without the mask though,” Wyne laughed back, but Mōrten was not really paying attention as he squinted into the darkness.
“What’s that?” Mōrten asked and pointed along the beach.
“Is it … a body?” Wyne wondered as they both hurried towards the object lying on the stony ground. “By The Five I’ve never seen a dead body before.”
As they both raced up to the dead body Mōrten slid to his knees and rolled the form over. The black hair of the woman was mattered across her face and her old clothes drenched with sea water. As the guard peeled away her hair he could tell she was dead without checking her pulse. The young woman’s clouded eyes gazed unseeing towards the misty night sky.
“Artāre be merciful, she was pregnant,” Wyne gasped.
“Look at her wrists, that’s weird,” Mōrten mumbled as he gently held the woman’s arm and pulled back her sleeve to reveal heavy bruises and scabbing, as if she had been chained up for some time.
“How’d she die?” Wyne asked curiously.
“Drowned like as not,” Mōrten replied absently as he continued to look at the woman’s wounded wrists. “Might ‘ave jumped from the cliff top.”
“Why would she do that?” Wyne asked in bewilderment, “She’s pretty, has a child on the way, and seems in good health. Why would she drown herself?”
“Poor girl.” Mōrten shook his head sadly and placed the woman’s arm down on her belly.
“What the-?” Mōrten gasped and jumped slightly before he placed his hand on the woman’s swollen belly again. “What in the Abyss? It kicked. The child’s still alive.”
“What? How?” Wyne blurted in surprise.
Ignoring the questions Mōrten placed his ear to the woman’s abdomen.
“It is alive.” Mōrten exclaimed as he summoned a Fog-made dagger to his hand. “I can hear the kid’s heart beating.”
“What are you …” Wyne began to ask.
The young guardsman suddenly recoiled and looked away with a gasp as Mōrten cut away the dead woman’s dress around her pregnant belly and sliced open her skin. Wyne vomited to the side and the sound of a child’s cries echoed through the mist and Fog of the night.
Year 3630, the Fifth Age, the eightieth day of Spring
The voice pulled him from his pleasant dreams but he refused to wake as he grumbled and hugged the rock he was using for a pillow closer.
“Wake up Legin,” the voice demanded again and was followed by a kick into his gut.
“What in the Abyss, Vythe?” Legin coughed as his blue eyes popped open and he lurched into a sitting position.
“Get up, we need to leave quickly,” Vythe snapped back in annoyance as he hurriedly gathered his things.
“What’s the rush?” Legin yawned as he ran a hand through his messy black hair, which was short at the sides and back of his head but long on top. “We are in the Engle Mountains, miles from the prison. No way they are catching us now, right Pip?”
The third in the group nodded his head at Legin, “Too right.”
“Don’t be foolish,” Vythe shook his head, “We will not be safe until we are on the other side of Essinendeür.”
“Just let me teleport us then,” Legin replied as he jumped to his feet and dusted off his baggy pants which came in tight at the ankles.
“I told you I do not teleport,” Vythe replied as he began glancing about the dense pine trees that surrounded them.
“Yeah, yeah,” Legin yawned again and began stretching his back and arms, “Well let’s get going then.”
Vythe sighed heavily and dropped his few belongings, “Too late.”
“What do you mean?” Legin laughed.
Vythe looked at him, his dark eyes sad, “Try using your magicks,” he said.
Legin gave Pip a curious look before they both shrugged and Legin tried to summon a Fog dagger. Nothing happened.
“No use doing that monkey boy,” remarked a tall man as he walked from the pine trees carrying a Fog sword and wearing the uniform of a guard from the Gaia Mountains Penitentiary.
Legin jumped in surprise and readied himself for a fight as half a dozen other prison guards walked from the shadows.
“Easy there kid,” smirked another rough looking man, “Don’t cause any trouble now.”
“We can fight them,” Pip remarked as he too was ready for battle.
“Pip’s right we can take ‘em,” Legin agreed as he looked to Vythe, but it seemed his friend did not share their optimism.
“Stand down Legin,” Vythe shook his head and looked dejected, “There is a sphere over us that prevents magicks being used, unless you have and Anther Crystal ring, which they do. Our magicks are as weak as when we first escaped, we cannot win.”
“Listen to Vythe, Legin,” said a beautiful Blood Elf, who was the Captain of this squadron.
Legin let out a deep breath and relaxed, nodding to Pip to do the same.
“We got ‘em again 'ay Fairris,” laughed one of the other guards.
“Give me some skin, Aldian,” the guard who first came into the clearing smiled and he and the other guard slapped hands.
“We better get a promotion after this,” the other woman in the group remarked.
“Wouldn’t count on it Beth,” the rough guardsman grumbled.
“Come on Roth, be positive, like me and Thristen,” Beth laughed back and was joined by the tall guard.
“Come on guys stay focused,” said the last of the guards seriously.
“Always so professional, Bragen,” Aldian laughed, but he and the others moved to coral Legin, Vythe and Pip.
“Summon the skiff Beth,” Captain Fairris ordered, “Let’s get going.”
With a wave of her hand a carriage made of Fog appeared before them and Thristen and Roth open the doors for the prisoners to get in.
“At least I can take some solace in the fact that it was you who caught me, Fairris,” Vythe sighed and shot a smile to the elf. “Perhaps one time you may think to just simply not catch me?”
“I am just doing my job,” Fairris replied evenly.
“Assuring an innocent man continues to be locked up,” Vythe narrowed his eyes, “Sounds like a delightful occupation.”
“Come on get in,” Thristen interrupted and pushed Vythe firmly in the back, “What do you care about escaping anyway, the world thinks you’re dead, remember.”
It pained Legin to see his friend so disappointed and he sighed as he followed Pip to the carriage.
“Move along monkey boy,” the guard Aldian laughed and shoved Legin in the back, “Hey Thristen do you reckon his tail is real?”
Legin’s jaw went tight and he suppressed the desire to punch this guard in the face.
“Dunno,” Thristen shrugged, “Give it a pull and find out.”
Legin suddenly felt a firm hand grab a hold of his tail and yank at it.
“Well blow me it is,” Aldian began to say but Legin spun up the guard with anger burning in his blue eyes.
A quick elbow to Aldian’s gut blasted wind from the guard’s lungs and a quicker backhand split opened the insolent fool’s lip. Legin followed up with several lightning fast punches to Aldian’s chest and knocked the guard to the ground with a heavy side-kick.
Legin would have continued but glowing cuffs suddenly wrapped themselves around his wrists and ankles, pinning them together and stopping his movement. Somehow he kept his balance and was roughly grabbed by the guard Thristen, who raised his fist ready punch Legin in the face.
“Enough,” Captain Fairris shouted angrily before Thristen could hit him.
But Aldian did not hear and he jumped to his feet a fierce expression upon his face and his fist balled and ready to pummel Legin. Before Aldian could get to him the guard Bragen intercepted and restrained his comrade.
“The Captain gave you and order guardsman,” Bragen said loudly as he pushed Aldian away, “Get in the carriage you idiot.”
Blood running from his face Aldian glared angrily at Legin, but he did what he was told and moved to the front of the Fog carriage.
“Anyone else want to be an idiot?” Fairris asked irritably, “The prisoner has a tail like a monkeys, just like Yineth have ears like a rabbits. If any of you want to see if his tail is real again I think I will let him beat some sense into you. Do you understand Thristen?”
“What?” Thristen looked shocked, “Yes, I understand, sorry. I should not have suggested yanking the prisoner’s tail to Aldian.”
“Good,” Fairris sighed, “Now, let’s go.”
The magickal bindings around Legin’s wrists and ankles vanished and Roth ushered him into the carriage to sit opposite Vythe and Pip.
“Nice moves there bro,” Pip smiled as the carriage doors were locked and they began to move away from the clearing without any steeds pulling them.
Legin smiled slightly before sighing and turning his gaze out the small and barred window. The hold where he sat was small and cramped with little room to stretch out his legs. Neither was the glass-like structure, with Fog drifting beneath its surface very comfortable, this was not a very reassuring thought, especially considering it was a long trip back to the Gaia Mountains Penitentiary.
By mid-morning they had moved from the pine forest which covered most of the mountains and the light from the sun, Inüer, shown through the front window and caused the gold, green and pink specks in Legin’s blue eyes to shimmer. Through that window he could see the guards sitting comfortably in the spacious area at the front of the magickal carriage as they talked happily between them.
With a sigh Legin looked away from the window and to the mesmerizing swirls of Fog beneath the glass surface of the carriage. Although it appeared as glass Legin knew well that it could not be easily broken.
The green, pink and yellow colours of the Fog danced across the walls and floor, twisting and twirling like ripples of water on the edge of pools. Outside the confinements of this carriage the Fog was intangible like smoke blowing in the wind. It was as if the actual Fog was caught inside glass, misty to look at but hard and just out of finger reach when touched, as if there were some invisible barrier holding the Fog in place. But even as the glass held the Fog inside, shimmers of colour moved and twisted under the clear surface, as if it were patiently waiting, silently simmering, waiting for the day it would burst free of its confinement.
Legin watched the swirls of Fog now, as they danced back and forth, growing and shrinking, twisting and falling back on its self. It was such a peaceful dance for something that could be so volatile. The movement of the Fog created images of strange and unusual things, like the clouds in the sky, or the ripples in a stream.
The Fog also granted people the ability to use magicks, and if learned or talented, very powerful magicks. He used to be talented with magicks before he was imprisoned in the Gaia Prison, as did Vythe. But the prison used a unique technique called a sphere of anti-magicks or void, which prevented anyone within connecting to the powers of the Fog unless they had an Anther Crystal ring which stores the Fog and allows the wielder to tap into it.
Legin yawned and stretched, “Well, it’s going to be a few days until we are back at the prison, might as well catch up on some sleep.”
Pip laughed as Legin lay down on the small bench seat in the back of the carriage, but Vythe did not reply and continued to stare absently out of the barred windows.
The world of M’Aierth was a big place, so too the continent of Essinendeür, and Legin was right in saying that it would be a few days until they arrived at the Gaia Prison. It was rough going as they moved through the rocky terrain of the Gaia Mountains which sat like spine across the northern region of Gaianaus, stopping the icy winds from blowing to the south.
Legin had to admit that he was not overly fond of the cold weather here and was more comfortable in the warmer climates to the south, like in the city of Pentra where he grew up. But such was the cruel twist of fate that had him imprisoned in this cold realm. In truth he did not think he had done a great deal wrong, theft was only a minor crime after all. It was a shame that he and Pip did not account for the fact that the Lord Dasher, who they had attempted to steal from, took a particular aversion to them and had them imprisoned at the Gaia Mountains Penitentiary near on a year ago.
It was there, when Legin was thrown into the prison compound, that he had met Vythe who had thankfully saved him from a sticky situation involving a particularly nasty inmate.
Legin sighed as he looked back on those first days he had spent in the prison. Of course he had attracted all the wrong kind of attention with many eager to make his time hard simply because he was different. Vythe and Pip had shown themselves to be true friends during that time and it was together that they planned their escapes.
“Welcome home gents,” Aldian laughed through the front window one morning as Legin was scratching his head and causing his hair to stick up at odd angles.
Although he did not need to look out the window to know he was back at the prison, he peered through the bars and sighed loudly.
The prison stood tall and terrible in the middle of the long grassy valley with high peaks all around it. Out of the grass the crystalline structure reached into the blue skies its glassy surface shimmering in Inüer’s light and the swirls of Fog drifting within it. Once there used to be a town here called Pine Vale, but that was a long time ago and now it was only known as the Gaia Prison.
“Home sweet home, 'ay?” smirked Pip causing a slight smile to come to Legin’s young face, but Vythe did not see the mirth and in fact seemed quite depressed.
The carriage followed the high walls to the north and to the entrance that would take them into the guard barracks. Once there they stopped at the entrance and the guards climbed from the carriage and opened the doors so Legin could get out.
“Out you get,” Roth demanded gruffly, “And don’t try anything stupid.”
“Yeah, don’t want to miss your dates with Commander Razaless,” Aldian laughed and tongued his split lip while glaring at Legin. “No doubt he’s got something special planned.”
“No,” Fairris interrupted, “Take them directly into the compound.”
“But Captain,” Aldian tried to argue, “Razaless will want to teach them a lesson for trying to get out.”
“I don’t care,” Fairris was quick to say, “Just do as I ask. I will take any blame that may come of it.”
“You’re sure?” Brager asked seriously and Fairris nodded, “Alright, move along.”
“Don’t forget my bags,” Pip quipped, drawing another smile from Legin.
“You lot are lucky Fairris is so soft,” Aldian remarked as he pushed Legin through the doors to the barracks and down the clean and crystalline corridors. “No doubt Razaless had some good tortures in mind.”
“Shut it Aldian,” Roth snapped, “Like our Captain I believe such practices are immoral.”
“What’s moral in this place,” Aldian was quick to reply, “We let all the prisoners run wild in the compound, doing what they like. The prisoners make goods that we sell to outside merchants, but we take most of the profits. If the prisoners fight we place bets instead of stopping ‘em from killing each other. This place ain’t moral, so who cares about torture?”
“I also think it’s wrong,” Beth remarked seriously.
“Whatever,” Aldian huffed, “’Course you’d take Roth’s side. What do you reckon Thristen?”
“I’m with you bro,” Thristen smiled causing Aldian to look proud of himself.
“I wonder if you would think the same if our places were reversed?” Vythe remarked stealing the guards smile.
“Yeah, well, they’re not,” Aldian stammered.
“Good reply,” Legin laughed, “Really scathing.”
Pip laughed aloud and even Vythe managed a smile which Legin thought good to see.
“Shut it monkey boy,” Thristen interjected, “Enjoy the rest of your life in the prison.”
Just then they arrived in front of two large doors which opened enough for them to be shoved through and into the dusty entrance to the prison compound and the doors locked behind them.
“Good old East Quarter,” Pip sighed loudly as they stood in the wide area which had a few tin huts standing around.
To the southeast the ground slanted away steeply and into the low area of the East Quarter where they mined for ore. To the west the dusty plateau stopped abruptly as it came to a high cliff face and where the northern fruit and vegetable plantations were situated beyond. Straight ahead of them to the south the plateau narrowed out and spilt into thin paths along the rugged hillside.
“I will see you around, Legin,” Vythe sighed sadly and began to make his way to the south through the tin huts.
“Wait Vythe, hold up,” Legin called out as he and Pip moved to catch up with him. “What’s wrong my friend?”
“It does not matter,” Vythe replied softly as he continued walking.
“We’ll find a way to escape again,” Pip said cheerfully.
“Pip’s right, well plan an escape again, and this time we will succeed,” Legin agreed with a wide smile, “Leave to me I’ll work out a way to be rid of this place.”
Vythe sighed and did not reply.
“But in the meantime how about we cause some havoc between the Quarters, Vythe?” Legin continued, “That always cheers you up.”
“Hey,” Legin said suddenly and grabbed Vythe’s white sleeve to stop him, “How about we do something big this time? Like plan it so one of the Faction Leaders becomes leader of the whole compound? It’ll switch up the dynamics completely.”
A slight glimmer came to Vythe’s dark eyes and the corner of his mouth twitched with a smile.
“Come on, you know you want to,” Pip added.
“But who would it be?” Vythe asked curiously, “Definitely not Argyle or Zairole, I detest those two individuals.”
“Then it will be Aurora or Saiross,” Legin shrugged, “I’m more partial to the Yineth personally. But I don’t think it’ll matter.”
“Aurora would be my pick as well,” Vythe nodded and stroked his chin in thought, “Saiross has gotten a bit old and senile in his dotage on the Southern Lake. How would you do it though, Legin?”
Legin turned away and scratched his head a sheepish smile coming to his face, “Hadn’t worked that out yet.”
Pip laughed and Vythe shook his head.
“But we can make it up as we go,” Legin was quick to say, “Just work on your rules Vythe. First we create suspicion between them, play to their fears, and then prompt them to act before the others do.”
A smile came to Vythe face and he nodded his head, “I doubt you will need my assistance in this.”
“What do you mean?” Legin was quick to ask, a confused expression coming to his face.
“The apprentice has become the master,” Vythe replied with a smile, “You could play this all by yourself.”
Legin smiled and looked to the ground, “Thanks Vythe. But still, I want your help. We want your help, right Pip?”
“Too right,” Pip replied with enthusiasm.
Vythe gave Legin a curious look before smirking and shaking his head in bemusement.
“I would be glad to help,” Vythe replied honestly.
“Let’s get to it then,” Legin clapped his hands happily.
“I think we should do some planning before we begin though,” Vythe was quick to say and began walking again.
“Of course,” Legin agreed as he and Pip caught up to Vythe, “You are the master after all.”