From Imaginary Ripples · Stories

Imriçanâth – The Prologue

Apparently, I had one more story fragment lying around the place. This is another piece written within the Twelve Worlds Universe. I had a rather long story planned out for this one. I might get around to writing it one day. Probably not though. Enjoy.

Lightning illuminated the evening sky as the cloaked man waited patiently in the shadows of the Column of Miziah. Around him people hurried to and from the large white marble tower that housed the ruling Council of Arbesian Mages, for tonight the Archmage had called an emergency sitting of the council. Rumours flew about the reason for the session, many believed that Arbes’ long lasting peace with the United Kingdoms of Thasemer had come to an end, and that Thasemer was even now marching on the mainland city of Lunnisar. Others postulated that the Archmage was finally going to challenge Lord Ossine and lay charges of corruption. Few considered what would turn out to be the real reason as even possible. Such a calamity had been unheard of in several centuries, and even the longest living of the so-called Immortals could not remember the last time it had happened. Besides, the precautions and the plans that were in place meant that it was impossible. It could not happen again.

The waiting man was unconcerned by the reason for the session. He was far more concerned that the amulet he wore, a gift from a powerful patron, would not protect him from some of the most powerful magical security systems on the planet. He was even more concerned by the weather. It was the middle of winter. The island should have been snowed in for weeks now. He had yet to see a single snowflake, just lightning and torrential rain. It was the lightning that he was concerned by, it made the prospect of scaling the column that much trickier. The rain would make the smooth column surface even slipperier, but he was confident his newly acquired climbing pads, purchased at great cost from a Tenan black marketeer, were more than up to the task. No, what he was worried about was that an unusually dutiful guard would still be alert in the storm that should soon start, and that the lightning would mark his passage on the column before he could reach the relative safety of its peak. Drawing his cloak about him, he sank further into the shadows, resolving to concentrate on the task at hand and not worry about events outside his control.

Thunder pealed and abruptly a torrent of rain filled the air, people cursed their ill luck and rushed for the cover of nearby doorways and the city’s extensive archways. The dim blue glow of the magical strands that carried the electricity supply of the city flickered and arced before plunging the core of the city into darkness. The sound of the rain intensified as people tried to find their way through the unlit darkness of the city core, the dark clouded night sky offering no light. The first sounds of hail striking the tiled rooves and cobblestone roadways permeated the night, causing children and adults alike to seek the safety and comfort of loved ones. Only the deafening roar of thunder interrupted the sound of the hail and rain as the storm intensified from the expected harsh storm of winter into a storm of terrifying ferocity abuzz with energy that betrayed its unnatural origins. Cursing the stinging of the hail, the patient man started to climb the smooth column, slowly at first and then with growing confidence as the pads worked as well in practice as the alien merchant had said they would. After nearly an hour of climbing the man had reached the top of the column, he had planned to rest before he crossed over to the roof of the council chambers but the hail was increasing in size and he was eager to be freed of its bite. Quietly and carefully, he pulled his crossbow from his pack and loaded the grappling hook. After a few moments of aiming he squeezed the trigger, propelling the rope and hook into the side of the chambers with a thud that was overwhelmed by the forceful screaming of the storm. Securing the rope to the peak of the column, he gingerly tested its strength before grabbing the rope with both hands. He slowly, and against rising panic and fear, pulled himself off the safety of the column, dangling beneath the rope. Swinging himself back and forth, he swung his legs onto the rope, entwining them around it as he started to inch his way across to the council chambers. Progress was bitterly slow and arduous, the hail and the strain of carrying his own weight two hundred metres above the hard stone ground combined to make the journey torturous. He paused for a moment at the two-thirds mark to clear his head and wipe the sweat and rain from his eyes. Tilting his head back, he sought to check how much further he had to go, the distance seeming impossibly further than he had already endured. Suddenly, pain tore through his left shoulder as a hailstone the size of a golf ball shattered and cut into his flesh and muscle. Screaming in agony, he lost his hold on the rope, and swung downwards, dangling from his legs. His legs protested against the strain as he desperately tried to swing back and gain a handhold. Once, twice he nearly got there, a third time he unthinkingly reached out with his left hand and again his screams were drowned out by the fury of the storm. Again and again he tried, his mind consumed by no thought but to get a grip on the rope and avoid the grisly and hard death that awaited him below. After what seemed an eternity he managed to regain his precarious perch on the rope, and with agonising slowness and excruciating pain he restarted his journey to the other side. He had travelled no more than a scant few feet when, with a sickening rush he felt the rope go slack as it tore away from the column. Eyes widening in panic and horror, he swung towards the marble wall of the chambers oblivious to the sting of the hail and the agony of his shoulder. With a sharp crack, he smacked into the wall. Pain consumed him as his head swum from the force of the impact, barely conscious he struggled through the haze of pain and disorientation to hold on to the rope. Looking up he saw the roof of the chambers only a precious few metres away. Through pure force of will he started to pull himself up the rope, his left shoulder protesting with excruciating agony with every heave on the rope, much as his stomach threatened to empty its contents. After much effort and more pain than the man had ever believed one could live through, he pulled himself onto the roof of the chambers, rolling onto his back and thanking lady luck that he had survived he slipped into unconsciousness.

He had no idea how long he had been out for, but the rain and hail still stung his body and the city remained eerily dark. Thankful that he had not been injured enough to remain unconscious for the night, he felt around for the rope and started to pull it up onto the roof. He spared a brief moment to examine the end of the rope. A pause that would prove to save his life, as with terrifying clarity he realised the rope had been severed. A flash of lightning revealed an ill-timed movement by his pursuer, and the man threw himself sideways as a bullet tore through the space he had occupied. Not waiting to see what his pursuer did next, the man ran in a crouch towards his target. Abandoning stealth, he reached the famous crystal roof of the voting chamber, where the council had assembled to hear the Archmage speak. Hurriedly he pulled his pack off his back, enduring the stabs of pain that came from his left shoulder. Reaching inside he discovered with horror that the glasscutter had fallen out when he was dangling from the rope. Only the explosives remained. A brief moment of hesitancy passed through the man, before he resolved to complete the mission and destroy the symbols of the magic that he hated more than he loved his own life. Determined, he strapped the pack back on and set the timer. Standing, he took a small step backwards and then threw himself at the crystal roof. Pain shot through his body as he crashed into the crystal, and for a moment he thought it would not break, but then he heard a slow creaking sound resonate through the crystal beneath him. With a resounding crack, the crystal shattered and he started to fall the stories to the floor beneath him. Hundreds of eyes turned upwards as the sound of the storm suddenly penetrated the sanctity of the voting chamber. The Archmage paused in his speech as he looked upwards, his face contorting into one of horror as a shard of the falling crystal roof sliced through his exposed neck, releasing a fountain of blood and draining the life of the Archmage. Pandemonium erupted as a hundred mages fled for the doors, whilst a hundred more hurriedly cast powerful spells of protection and shielding. In the midst of the chaos and panic, the man went unnoticed. He hurtled into the floor, forcing the air out of him as his ribs were cracked and broken. He lay there in a growing pool of his own blood, slowly mingling with the indistinguishable blood of the Archmage. Blood from a thousand cuts covered his body, and his mind watched with a detached and curious manner as he tried to decipher why the room was so chaotic. As he slipped into his final, deep sleep a loud, deep, resonating explosion tore through the room wreaking havoc and destruction on everything in its path. Moments later, with a deceptively quiet and discreet crack, the building started to collapse inwards…

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