“Sing we of rage,
In Tower and field
Of this dying age
That will not yield
Sing we of steel,
Forged in the east
As turns the wheel
And carrion feast
Sing we of empire,
For which we bled
Of flickering fire
Now all but dead
Sing we of foe,
Of victories won
And that first woe
Tyranny of the sun
Sing we of ruin,
As again we tread
West, ever pursuing
Fate writ in dread.”
– ‘The Tyranny of the Sun’, a Praesi song written in the latter stages of the Sixty Years War. Banned by decree of Dread Emperor Nihilis.
Wekesa eyed the sculpted mancala board with a frown, sipping at a chilled Aksum red. The handful of stone seeds in his hand rustled as he flicked his wrist, counting those already sown on the board. Dark eyes moved to Eudokia, whose calm visage betrayed nothing.
“There’s two missing,” he noted.
Scribe’s face displayed only wounded indignation.
“I am insulted, Wekesa, that you would resort to such implications simply because you are afraid to lose,” she gravely told him.
“This is senet all over again,” he sighed.
In all fairness, he’d been the one to start enchanting dice. Though in his defence, Amadeus had never once played without trying to sneak in a loaded pair and Eudokia had a knack for making pieces disappear when no one was looking no matter what they played. Hye had tended to ‘accidentally’ flip the board when it became clear she was losing – even when he spelled them stuck to the table, which rather eliminated plausible deniability for the half-elf. The only one of them who’d ever actually followed the rules had been Sabah, and… Wekesa’s face darkened. The passing months had done little to bury the grief of that. A friendship four decades long could not be so easily let go of. Not when her killer still breathed.
“Calm, Wekesa,” Scribe quietly said. “Nothing was forgot. Nothing was forgiven.”
The dark-skinned man waved his hand in dismissal. He was not Amadeus, to sink into himself at the first sight of anything that would disrupt his composure. He would mourn his old friend properly, and no part of that involved forcing his grief into a box to be addressed only when convenient. He drank deeply from his cup of wine, setting it down. The shiver down his spine that came from someone crossing the wards informed him of Black’s arrival before the man strode in sight. Amadeus’ eyes studied the board, then crinkled in amusement. Ignoring the Warlock’s languid invitation to sit, he leant over it and snorted, a finger flicking at the latest seed Wekesa had sown.
“Someone’s in trouble,” the pale man lightly said.
Warlock inspected the board again, and unsurprisingly found one of the empty houses now held a seed. That smug bastard.
“You’re not even playing,” the mage complained.
“It’s sad how sore of a loser he is, isn’t?” Amadeus told Eudokia with a saddened sigh.
“Hardly becoming of the famous Sovereign of Red Skies,” Scribe agreed solemnly.
“You won’t get away with this, you perfidious dwarves,” Wekesa said. “There will be retribution.”
The allegedly dignified Black Knight smothered a grin and finally sat down at their side while Warlock began to put away the stone seeds before he could be conned any further. Eudokia’s protests that they had a bottle riding on this and the act was a clear concession went superbly ignored. He wasn’t letting those two cheat him out of another prize piece from his cellar. ‘Loshe would have his hide if they grabbed another bottle from Kahtan, the current High Lady was curtailing the sales to better hike up the prices. The two savages didn’t even enjoy the vintages, anyway, they just loved robbing him blind. He’d nearly cursed Amadeus to lose all taste when he’d seen the man drink a forty-year-old Okoro red with cabbage and mutton. In the first Sanguinia’s day that would have been a hanging offence, and was a little cannibalism from the Tower really such a high price to pay for proper stewardship of taste? Good and loyal friend that he was, unfortunately, Wekesa still offered Amadeus a cup. The green-eyed man declined, as he usually did when there was a battle on the horizon. Warlock had always considered that a peculiar habit, considering the effects of alcohol could easily be burnt out of the body by any competent Named.
“Onto the sordid business of war, I take it,” Wekesa sighed.
“Dawn is an hour away,” Amadeus replied. “It has been long enough, and yesterday was a severe defeat for the crusade. The real threats will come out today.”
“Your request has been ready for near a month,” the sorcerer shrugged. “The array as well. I foresee no trouble there.”
“I have no worry of that,” his old friend said. “I came to speak of the Witch of the Woods.”
“Of which we know precious little,” Wekesa pointed out, though his gaze flicked to Scribe.
She shook her head.
“As far as we know she has spent most her life in the Foloi forest, which is beyond our reach,” she said. “Attempting to gather intelligence in Gigantes territory is an exercise in futility. They kill everything that crosses the border without warning. All the Eyes have been able to gather is second-hand, overheard conversations. And even these are rare, save for the unreliable.”
The Warlock sipped at his wine, unmoved. It would not be the first time they faced a heroine whose history was essentially a blank slate. It did make the killing more troublesome, but not overwhelmingly so.
“If she was truly taught by Gigantes spellsingers, she will be using Ligurian formulas,” Wekesa said. “I’ll concede that for greater workings they are without match, but they lack the flexibility and breadth of Trismegistan sorcery.”
“Those greater workings are my exact worry,” Amadeus said. “I remember my histories, Wekesa. The last time spellsingers fought with a Named Praesi sorcerer, plains large as half of Callow were turned into the Titan’s Pond.”
“I am hardly Triumphant,” Warlock chuckled. “And the Witch is no true spellsinger. She has not spent a few hundred years accumulating power and perfecting her craft. There will be collateral damage, to be sure, but I did not toil for months on our warding schemes to protect your armies from dwarven toys.”
Black inclined his head in concession, but his eyes were not in agreement.
“I would not bind your hands on your first encounter with an unknown quantity,” he said.
“Yet,” Wekesa said.
“We cannot afford the losses that large escalation might entail,” Amadeus said. “I won’t bar you from using sorcery falling under Red Skies protocol, but I’d ask that you keep in mind the possible consequences of it.”
The dark-skinned mage finished his cup, rather irked that such good vintage must be treated in so cavalier a manner. War truly was hell, he mused. Setting down the silver, he offered his friends a mild smile.
“I will attempt coddling, then,” Wekesa conceded. “Let us see how long that lasts. And what will you be doing while I get my hands dirty?”
“Settling a philosophical question, in a manner of speaking,” he said.
Warlock raised an eyebrow.
“And what would that question be?”
Amadeus smiled that old smile of the damned, the one that had been the ruin of realms and the death of armies. A madman’s smile.
“Can a man cheat providence at dice?”
The army had risen in hushed silence, but Hanno could feel the thrum of excitement going through the soldiers. Yesterday’s defeat had put fear in the hearts, yes, but also thirst for retribution. The vicious schemes of the Praesi had given birth to the old wroth that was always the fall of Evil, that burning determination that came from witnessing the senseless destruction sown by the Enemy. Yet they are not so senseless, these monsters, the White Knight thought. That they were abominations could not be denied, the paramount fiends of this era, but Hanno had studied the Carrion Lord. The man’s actions followed his own barren sense of integrity, though no one sane would truly apply that word to the works of the Black Knight. It made him dangerous in a way that few villains the White Knight had witnessed could be. No less mad than the Emperors of old, perhaps, but there was cold method to the madness. Hanno had learned the hard way that underestimating the Calamities on the field would only lead to death. He thought of the sisters he would never hear again, snatched out of Creation before they had truly lived. We give you nothing, the Seraphim had promised as they anointed him. We take everything. As in all things, they had spoken truth.
Antigone stood crouched on the ground, watching the burning waters. Pyres of green flames that were birthed beneath the surface and spread from there, unheeding of the laws that bound true fire. There was nothing in the world, they said, that goblinfire could not burn. Some priests in Procer had called the substance the distillation of unholy hunger, the sins of the East made into liquid flame. The impossibly massive wolf that the Witch’s mount and mother both was lying on the ground, her muzzle resting on her paws as she warily watched the heroine she had raised weave sorcery. Lykaia, her name was. Hanno had expected the Champion to started eyeing her as pelt and trophy the moment they first met, but to his surprise Rafaella had swiftly taken to the wolf-mother. The opposite was also true, Antigone assured him, though it could be hard to tell. Lykaia’s notion of mothering occasionally involved being batted around by massive paws, though in all honesty the Champion seemed to rather enjoy that. Perhaps he should have anticipated that Rafaella would be utterly delighted at the opportunity of wrestling with a she-wolf larger than most houses. Antigone sliced across her palm with a stone knife and pressed the blood into the earth. Hanno felt the shiver of power scatter around them, massive and then gone.
Lykaia whined until Antigone sighed and presented her bleeding hand for the she-wolf to lick, almost nudging the Witch off her feet with an affectionate nuzzle he suspected was a reminder to take better care of herself. Wiping away the slobber covering not only her hand but most her arm – though, Hanno noted, the wound already seemed to be closing – the Witch of the Woods bowed her head to him by the slightest fraction. She did not move like a human. She was a beast of the forest, at times, but at others he could only see the Gigantes in her. Chin tucked in, if hidden by the mask, crown of the head made slightly lower than his. Respect-deference-accomplishment. The giants could express broader nuances of relation and hierarchy in a single gesture that the land of his birth could with millennia of tiered citizenship. Hanno kept his back straight and tilted his face slightly to the left without moving his neck. Praise-gratitude-companionship. He was careful not to move too far left, lest he imply subordination on his part. By the mores of the Gigantes, what he had offered was already intimate warmth. Antigone’s head straightened into neutrality, though slowly enough the implication lay she was pleased with his response.
“It is done,” the Witch said. “When you are ready.”
Hanno breathed out, watching the spread of burning green before him. He unsheathed the sword at his hip, mere steel forged at the hands of men. The lance strapped on his back would remain there until it was needed.
“Now,” the White Knight said.
Antigone stomped her feet on the ground, where her blood still lingered, and Creation howled. She did not control it, not the way a spellsinger would have. The Witch had not spent centuries permeating her body with the light of moons and stars, woven a second soul out of sunlight or aligned herself with the celestial spheres. She could not sing hymns to the world and make it dance to her will. Instead the power of her aspect flared, and for a moment she was one with the fabric of Creation. A single cord sounded where she had spilled blood, and the vibration reverberated beyond mortal understanding. The winds stirred the burning lake and quickened until a whirlwind of water and fire was birthed, emptying the grounds where so many had died yesterday. The Praesi’s own murderous alchemy, turned against them as it went howling towards the tower men called the Bloody Twin. Hanno of Arward began his advance, endless ranks of crusaders behind him, as sorcery bloomed ahead.
“Okeanos Risen,” Wekesa said, reluctantly impressed. “Using an unseemly shortcut, but still nothing to sneer at.”
Especially on freshwater. He’d never heard of Gigantes using this particular working away from the sea. Ashurans, when they’d still been Baalites in more than name, had learned the hard way that attempting to invade the Titanomachy from the water only resulted in the sharks growing fat. There was no audience atop the tower for him to expound at, as Amadeus had ordered room be cleared for him to work undisturbed, but speaking his thoughts aloud did tend to bring a sense of satisfaction to his work. He’d gotten into the habit when teaching Masego, as it helped his son understand his conclusions if he was privy to the thoughts that led to them. It was unfortunate that Masego still lingered at Foundling’s side, though Wekesa had made his peace with it. Much of his enmity for the girl had ebbed since she’d thrown away her apprenticeship to Amadeus and ceased being a dagger at his throat simply by existing. Eudokia was furious that process had involved their old friend being stabbed, but Warlock was not particular bothered. Not since he’d noticed that Black’s agelessness had taken a tint of youth in the aftermath. She’d offered his first and oldest friend a second lease on life by her actions, and he considered that to settle the balance of the threat she’d once posed.
She’d still have to die, of course. Alaya would insist on it as soon as the politics of the act became acceptable. It would make a bit of a mess, but those two would bind their wounds and entwine their fates anew after enough time had passed. They always did, no matter what shallow wounds they managed to inflict on the other’s pride. Perhaps it was in order that he suggest Amadeus spend a few years in Refuge, after the dust settled. It would do wonders for both his mood and Hye’s – Wekesa was of the opinion she’d cease gallivanting around the continent picking fights with gods for a bit if she found her lover returned to her bed. Alaya would be miffed at losing her right hand to a ‘vapidly murderous vagrant’, as she’d once described Ranger to him, but Wekesa was rather miffed at her himself. This whole Liesse affair had been gauche in many ways, including the implied insult to him. That she’d never approached him about building such a doomsday device implied she’d believed he would refuse her and go straight to Amadeus. It was a disregard of the trust he’d thought there was between them. He was not inflicted with Eudokia’s blinders, to believe Black should be crowned. Alaya was better fit to rule Praes, and more apt to deliver the peace and quiet that was his preferred state of affairs.
Warlock had no intention of spending the next two decades of his life breaking millennia-old wards, banishing demons and immolating every practitioner in the Wasteland with a modicum of talent for theoretical research. Which was the very likely consequence of a reform-inclined Duni climbing the Tower. That killing one of his few friends as a prerequisite only made the notion more unpalatable, as did his suspicion that Amadeus crowned would find everything admirable about him devoured by the demands of the throne. Shaking the thought, Wekesa waited for the whirlwind to properly and come within the preferred action range of his prepared answers. The addition of goblinfire to the assault was a clever improvisation on the part of the enemy, and did indeed complicate matters of containment. The alchemical flames would begin devouring any solid ward upon contact, and a working of this strength could not be easily be contained with a flawed warding scheme. That was not to say, of course, that there was nothing he could do. Screens of sorcery bloomed before him as he observed the strings of power that had initiated and now maintained the whirlwind. Examining the formula directly was not a real possibility at this range, but he could glean from understanding of it from the observable phenomenon.
The central element was clearly a Creational cascade, the signature element of Ligurian sorcery. A controlled released of power into the world that accumulated ever-deeper orders of effect. The main difference with records of Gigantes sorcery was that there seemed to be no guiding element at play, no ‘song’ – though that was merely a mundane and narrow term for what was in reality an exquisitely complicated verbal control technique. Interesting. Ligurian sorcery required the caster to have a deep understanding of Creation’s workings that Praesi would call High Arcana, though the way Gigantes understood the world in a fundamentally different manner meant there was little overlap with Praesi High Arcana and the Titanomachy’s preceding equivalent. The implication here being that the Witch of the Woods, though taught by the Gigantes, did not share their inherent understanding. Aspect-based bridging, most likely, relying on her Name to expand the capacity of her mind. Aspects did tend to be passing, however, and that would explain the lack of so-called song: the Witch had glimpsed the web when calling on her power, but had not kept that understanding afterwards. Once loosed, her control on her spells was either thin or non-existent.
“How kind of you, my dear,” Warlock murmured, “to gift me a whirlwind.”
Runes formed around his wrists as he set boundaries in the area the winds were about to enter, weaving the forces that would attempt to modify rather than disperse. A hundred feet from the tower, the working fell into his ward and without a word Wekesa activated it. The first part was elementary: he stretched the spinning upwards, thinning the board whirlwind into a much taller pillar-like structure. From there, effect was easier. The forces were dispersed where they had once been concentrated. He flattened the pillar into a sphere and tossed back the burning water and winds in the direction of the advancing enemy army.
“Do try to make this interesting, child,” Warlock said.
Power flared, and this time he was able to watch the cascade unfolding. It was beautiful, he thought, in the way only the very highest of sorcery could be. A single mind touching a facet of the godhead through will and knowledge. The burning sphere shivered and winked out, leaving nothing behind. His eyes narrowed. Matter could not simply vanish, and there had been absolutely nothing left behind – not even air, as the absence had drawn it in. The cascade had not been a physical effect, which meant…
“The Riddle of Kreios,” he said softly. “Now that is a memory I will have to extract and study.”
The Witch of the Woods had inflicted the passing of time inside boundaries, which was masterfully absurd. One of the great riddles of sorcery was that there was no such thing as time – it was a sapient construct, a recognition of entropy – yet there was a force that could only be called this that could be manipulated by magic. The Witch had enveloped the sphere inside folded time until the goblinfire devoured everything within, a beautiful parry. Had she called on Kronia’s Sickle instead the alchemy would have attempted to devour the time actively quelling it but Kreios relied in the conceptual passing of time, not destruction through it. An important distinction, one that had crafted an envelope instead of an attack: she’d let the goblinfire itself do the work, an elegant solution. And one made possible only by his actions. If he’d not gathered the goblinfire together and she’d employed the Riddle, entire parts of this mountain range would have vanished – and likely parts of her army with it. No mere spell-slinging savage, this one.
“Let us test the depths of your knowledge, then,” the Sovereign of Red Skies grinned, and runes burned around his wrists.
Hanno led the assault without looking at the sorcerer’s duel echoing across the valleys. He would trust in Antigone, that she was the match of the Warlock and would allow no harm to come to them. He’d acted to ensure that much, by sending all other heroes to the northern valley. With only he and the Witch present, Creation’s grooves would not be filled with a plethora different stories that all weakened each other by allowing none to be come into the fullness of being. The Witch of the Woods would fight the Warlock. The White Knight would fight the Black Knight. The clarity of this would be as dangerous a blade as the one in his hand. In the Twin above engines and crossbows spewed death at the advancing crusaders, checked only by the shields of mages and the fences of priests. Praesi sorceries lashed at them both, tearing holes that were filled with steel and stone with eerie coordination. It did not matter. With him at their head, the crusaders roared and advanced. Sword bright with the Light, the White Knight pushed through storms of fire and clouds of poison. They dispersed like mist under the sun. Darkness fell in a rain of needles, men they pierced convulsing in violent throes, but Hanno screamed his challenge and they shattered like glass.
“Carrion Lord,” he yelled as in the sky above lightning fought spinning lights. “I summon you, Black Knight.”
His words rang like a thunderclap across the valley. A gauntlet thrown, and not easily refused. Not without consequences greater than whispers of cowardice. A duel of champions for Above and Below was an ancient thing, and not disdained without earning the same disdain from the Gods. The gates of barded steel and iron at the foot of the tower slowly opened. Out came a silhouette riding a dead horse. His plate was simple and worn, his lance a thing of blackened steel and the sword at his hip goblin-wrought steel. As he rode a dark cloak streamed behind him. The helm, as always, hid his face save for eerie green eyes and hints of pallid skin. Bringing up his shield, the Black Knight moved as the gates closed in his wake. Hanno felt it, the cold thing behind the flesh. The cogs of steel ever-turning. His power was faint, even fainter than on their last encounter, but the taste of it had not changed. The presence of two aspects wreathed the man like two ravens on his shoulders, urging the villain to Lead and to Conquer. An old monster drenched in blood, come at his summons.
“It ends today,” the White Knight said.
The monster cocked his head to the side.
“Uninspired,” he replied, and the lance descended.
Lives flooded through Hanno’s mind and he chose the first he had prepared: the Lance of Light. His Name took his reflexes, his training, and replaced them with another man’s. The Knight went deeper still, until his eyes no longer felt as his own, and only then did the Light boil out of him. The radiant mount pawed at the grounds, scorching them, and his lance rose to match the abominations. Hanno was no jouster but Felix Caen, Duke of Liesse, had been the glory of Callow’s knighthood long before he led the doomed charge in the East that earned him his Name. The stance came easy to him as breathing and he watched the Black Knight lead his mount to face him. There should have been a hush over the battlefield, but no quarter was offered or given. The Legions still spewed death from the tower, though their crossbows and engines were alien to him. No less, he thought, should be expected from Praesi. There was no honour to the Wasteland, nothing but barren hatred to be found past the Blessed Isle.
“Come, slave of the Tower,” the Lance of Light laughed. “Breaker of heroes. Come and die.”
The mounts charged, death flying around them, and it was all wrong. It should have been an olive-skinned southerner, a vicious lady of the Hungering Sands with lips like fresh blood, not this pale leech before him. He would crush the thing anyway. Already the Lance could see the sequence, the alignment of men and horse, the way the tip of his lance would go through the throat. Then the man’s shield went down, hand hidden, and the Lance of Light spurred his horse. Death, death was offered to him and he would deliver it in the name of House Alban. Then the Praesi threw himself off his horse at the last moment.
A heartbeat later, as the Lance passed by it, it exploded.
Hanno landed on his back, breath stolen from him and smouldering. He hastily rose to his feet and found the Black Knight awaiting him with the flat his sword resting on his shoulder.
“That remains a surprisingly effective trick,” the monster mused. “I really should send her a thank you note.”
The White Knight frowned. He was talking. Bantering, instead of pressing advantage. Pale green eyes flicked to him.
“Shall we get on with it?” the Carrion Lord drawled. “There is a war on, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“You,” Hanno said. “What have you done?”
“Blown up a rather expensive horse,” the Black Knight said. “With the dark and wicked spell of wick and cheap matches. My coffers aren’t what they used to be. Tremble, White Knight, for my power is truly boundless within reasonable limits.”
The White Knight bared his sword, and let the Flawless Fencer flow into him. His stance changed. Sofia of Nicae had always been heavyset, nothing like the slender girls whose beauty was praised by the men, but she did not mind. Her only true love was the blade. This one was well-fitter to her hand, the weight of it perfect for her craft, and she closed the distance with anticipation thrumming in her veins. Praesi, this man, but she’d killed that ilk before. Bands of them had kept roving the Free Cities for years after the Dread Empress was unceremoniously thrown back into the sea by the coalition. It was not as satisfying to slay those as Ashurans, but it would keep her sated until supper. The foe was a sword-and-board man, and not half-bad. He danced properly when she struck, his parry technically perfect and riposte appropriately vicious. She elegantly turned it downwards, then struck across the throat. Ah, just a little too slow. She was off her form today. She circled around him, letting the slope weaken his stance, and offered a feint towards the eye. The shield went up, she closed the distance even as he struck and spun with him as he adjusted. Elbow to the back of the head, then she dropped under his answering swing and hit his helm with the pommel of her blade.
The man worked through the pain, but his stance was broken. She drew blood at the juncture of his elbow, slid around the shield bash and hacked down on the extended fingers of his blade hand. She hummed approvingly when he decided he’d rather lose two fingers than the grip on his sword, then rewarded his courage by kicking his knee and forcing him down. He swung where she would have been, were she an idiot, but instead she kicked dirt into his face. Then, as he struggled with that, she kicked his chin and laid him down hard. Time to end this, then. The Flawless Fencer vanished back into the flood and the White Knight clasped his sword.
“You are not him,” Hanno said.
“A question almost theological in nature,” the thing noted. “Nefarious did have a certain knack for blasphemy.”
“This is a trick,” the White Knight hissed. “You shy from judgement.”
“Shall I give you a lesson, child?” the abomination said. “I so rarely get to monologue, but this is fortunate happenstance. You see, whatever I tell you will not matter. Not in the slightest. You are, by your nature, incapable of learning what I would teach. If you did it would destroy what a more poetic man might call your soul.”
Hanno grabbed him by the throat, raised him up. The thing laughed.
“What have you done?”
“Agency, boy,” the abomination said, sounding amused. “You have discarded yours like a petty bauble and never once considered the cost. Blind faith is such tempting notion, isn’t it? Being able to believe in an answer, in a force, without ever questioning it. Certainty and blindness. I have always wondered at the difference.”
“Where are you?”
“Ah, already better,” the thing said approvingly. “But your true question is – why did you ever think I was here? And so the circle closes, and we return to the matter of faith.”
He could have squeezed, snapped the neck, but he needed to know. To understand the trap so he could break it.
“The answer, of course, is providence,” the abomination said. “You are here because that elusive golden luck of heroes told you I would be here to face you. And I am, in a sense. That is the rub, you see, when one relies on something one does not fully understand. If you do not know the rules, you do not know how they can be cheated.”
“You cannot cheat the Heavens,” Hanno snarled.
“Ah, but providence is a different matter,” the villain said. “It is a force, you see, not an intelligence. It cannot reason. If the greater part of what is me is here before you, well, that is the guidance it will provide. Never warning you that a mind and a body are very different things until it is much, much too late.”
And just like that it fell into place.
“You are in the other valley,” the White Knight said.
“Praesi, Hanno, have so many flaws,” the abomination mused. “Sometimes it seems as if it is all we have. Yet there is one among them that I always believed to be a virtue, in its own way. All it takes is the faintest hope we will get away with it, and we will sit across even the Gods, smile and lie.”
“There is nowhere I will not reach you,” Hanno replied quietly.
He dropped the abomination, and it did not even attempt to rise. Its lips quirked into a smile, thin and narrow and vicious. A blade-smile.
“Do enjoy your victory, White Knight,” he said.
When Hanno’s blade cut through his neck, the body already had empty eyes.
Amadeus of the Green Stretch breathed out. After a moment he rose to his feet. The sounds of battle could be heard at the bottom of the northern Twin, heroes and crusaders having reached the gate and struggling to break it. Ranker was behind him, looking to the back of the tower, and without a word he went to join her. Both of them stared down.
“Is it done?” the old goblin asked.
“They are both committed,” the green-eyed man replied. “My death was the agreed-on signal. Warlock will cover the retreat.”
“Then now is our part,” the Marshal of Praes said.
“So it is,” the Black Knight agreed.
They looked down at the two legions that had moved to the northern passage overnight, swelling the ranks of the three already under Ranker’s command. Amadeus bared his sword, raising it high. The responding clamour drowned out the world.
“Well, old friend,” he murmured. “I think it’s about time we went on the offensive, don’t you think?”