The man had been called several times in his lifetime to walk down this dark, dank passage to a place where nothing grew, a place that had startled him when he had initially walked down to meet the dark one. A place where reality seemed weak, where no life other than that which entered of its own will and was allowed to remain alive by the dark power the ruled here. Although this lack of life had been the least of the things that the man had seen on the day he embraced the dark, it was that detail that stuck most strongly in his mind. Before now all summons had been offhanded but expected to be followed despite the uncaring manner in which they where said. The man had heard every summon and had been sure to arrive at the appointed time. Hopefully he would be rewarded. When he reached the point where reality began to bend he felt a dark presence pass over him and a black tendril of thought entered his mind.
It is good that you came quickly, my son, I am impatient.
���What has happened lord, your message sounded urgent."
The man continued down the passage wondering what had happened that could make his master impatient. He membered the old days when his master had never been hurried, had never felt even an ounce of urgency. That change troubled the man.
When he reached the door to the chamber a guard appeared and made a sign to him. When he made the countersign the guard opened the stone door and admitted him to the chamber.
It was dark, as usual, and he seemed to be the first to have arrived. Knowing that there was nothing to look at the dark room the man moved to his customary place and began pondering over his masters strange urgency.
The man expected many of his master’s servants to hear the summons but to his surprise only twelve others came. They arrived one by one, each entering the dark room and walking to their appointed places. The man didn’t attempt to identify the twelve people who entered the room because he knew that he would not know who they where. None of the servants that gathered here knew one another and those who did pretended not to. Friendship made one weak, and weakness is not something that one can afford to have when serving this particular master.
Moments after the last of the thirteen men and women were in their places the shadows began to coalesce at the head of the room. A darkness so deep it contrasted sharply with the gloom of the chamber. Wispy feelers of darkness then stretched across the room and plunged into the skulls of those assembled.
An intense voice boomed and echoed in their minds, Do you know me?
The men and women attempted to communicate something that meant yes, but as soon as they attempted to move or think intense pain flooded through their bodies.
The intense booming voice continued, I am your master, you have pledged your souls to me. Bow down now or die.
The men and women assembled quickly fell shaking in a bow to the dark presence. With their bow the feelers withdrew and the same intense voice they had heard in their minds reverberated within the stone chamber. You thirteen have been called because I have chosen you to rule over my lesser servants. You shall be called The Forsaken of the Light. Forsaken because the light is gone from you…
The man awakened suddenly, breathing heavily. It had been years since this encounter with the Dark One but still he remembered the pain his master had inflicted on him. I have the power to inflict pain..but it’s strenuous…and he did it with such ease… The man shook his head, such thoughts never led anywhere except to frustration, which is not something he needed more of. His plans which had been working so marvelously in the beginning had ground to a halt, and he had gone nowhere despite months of preparation to raise his standings within the forsaken. He stood fourth in power, just behind that cursed elf they called Imala.
If only he would have been able to recover the secrets of the tattoos that he had seen many powerful sorcerers etching upon their skin. According to several ancient manuscripts these tattoos could increase the strength of the wearer but could also grant him new powers. But, alas, his efforts where futile, the secrets of these symbols where too closely guarded for even the most intelligent among the forsaken.
The man suddenly stood up straight. A door opened behind him and a tall, thin, pale man stepped out of the hall and into the room in which the man sat.
���Hadyn, I hear you were seeking the secrets of tattooing.��� said the pale man with the drawl used by the rich who find themselves speaking to an individual they find to be repugnant.
He stood and turned angrily, ���Do not call me by that name Balos! I have ceased to be that ignorant farm boy from Masad.���
���I wouldn’t be so certain, you are quick to remember your former self and slow to act in a manner befitting Athelstan the Mindchain.��� Replied Balos.
���Curse you. You needed to make no change! Save the power granted by the Dark One you have not changed! I������
���You are so weak Hadyn. So quick to reveal your weakness. It is only your abilities that keep you from death. But power alone cannot keep one alive. You will die some day, and it will not be from natural means. One day you will be killed, and on that day I will laugh at your stupidity and weakness.��� With that Balos Flamefire disappeared in an outbursting of flame.
Athelstan stood for a long time staring angrily at the scorch left by the departure of Balos. He wished he had the strength to kill that bloodsucking thing! Besides his hatred of his unnaturalness Athelstan hated the way that Balos spoke to him. Always as an inferior to be insulted and convinced of weakness. One day he would rule over him and then, oh then, that unnatural creature would have a taste of the power of the Mindchain.
Raff looked across the valley that had been his home his entire life. He saw the familiar curve of the Saran River flowing across his home that outsiders often called Dusaranlon but to him it was simply the valley. He then spotted a rabbit dashing through the undergrowth. He quickly drew his bow and made a quick shot. He missed.
���Drat! I missed.��� exclaimed Raff.
He looked around somewhat sullenly searching for another quarry to fill his game bag. He walked down deer trails and scanned the earth for signs of some kind of creature to take home for dinner. Just then he spotted a young buck dashing through the trees away from some unseen danger. His curiosity sparked Raff began to stalk towards whatever the deer had been running from.
Before he had gone more then several hundred feet there began to be a sulfurous smell in the air . Raff made a face he thought, it shouldn’t smell like this up here… Then he saw a ruddy light curling around the trees ahead. He silently walked to the tree and eased to the ground. When he was laying on his belly Raff began to crawl around the tree to get a better look at what was emitting the fiery reddish light.
���Where can I find the town of Theys?��� said a pale dark robed man holding a globule of flame in his hand.
���I- I dunno- I don’t live a-around here- I’m only a h-hunter.��� said leather clad hunter with his voice full of fear.
���Do not lie to me foolish human, I know that you are of the sons of They. You reek of turnips.��� retorted the pale man with a sneer.
���N-n-no I’m not-I-I’m a son of Tossk-they g-grow not t-turnips in They.���
���Ah yes Tossk, a city of liars.��� the pale man took the man by the chin and lifted his head while shoving the flaming globule into the mans stomach.
���Ahhhhh!��� the hunter screamed in agony as the flames consumed his insides. The scream continued for nearly a minute when the hunter slumped back and fell smoking in the undergrowth, a smoldering hole gaping in his midsection.
Raff lay paralyzed in fear. Questions rocketed through his mind. How could a man hold flame in his hand? How could someone be so evil as to burn a mans insides without showing any emotion? Then in an instant of clarity he thought, That man was looking for They, his They. When the pale man left Raff crawled back to a safe place and began a mad dash for home.
He ran for nearly an hour crashing through the foliage when his foot caught on a protruding branch and he fell to the ground. After the moment it took Raff to recover he found that he had either badly sprained or broken his ankle.
Curses flew from his mouth, ���Now what?��� Raff pulled his leg out from the branches embrace and shakily stood up. Pain lanced through his leg when he put his weight on it. Despite this he began to painfully limp towards Theys.
Nearly hour later he left the mountains and began to cross the immense plain of the Dusaranlon towards the town of They. When he had crossed half the distance between the mountains and Theys Raff noticed smoke drifting through the sky. Oh, no. He’s already arrived at Theys, he thought.
When he reached the outskirts of town he began to discover the carnage of what had occurred there. Houses left smoldering, the occupants locked inside. Men torched by some mysterious flame fighting for their lives. Burnt corpses littering the streets, among them women and children. But despite this awful sight all Raff could think of was: Is Jerod still alive? Is my father still alive? He walked through the streets in a daze. Aimlessly wandering towards his home. Although it was only a six or seven minute walk from the outskirts to his home it took Raff nearly an hour to reach the his homestead.
The home Raff had grown up in was gone. Entirely burnt to the ground. Every room had been systematically burnt to be sure that nobody would survive. They where looking for me, weren’t they? But why me? I’m no better than any other boy from this village. But he knew better than that. Despite his rearing he was from some far off place he could only dream of. Who knew? He could be worth taking.
Raff wandered through the ashes of his former home until night fell. When he grew too tired to wander through the remnants of his home he curled up in a small alcove and fell asleep.
Raff woke with a start. Totally disoriented. He remembered dreaming that a man had been killed by another man who held a globe of fire in his hand, and that his entire village had been burned. Then he tasted ashes. He jumped to his feet and discovered that a man had, in fact, been killed by flames along with many more from his village. It had not been a dream. He had slept in the ashes of his former life.
Not knowing what to do Raff decided to search the remains of the buildings for some supplies that could allow him to reach Tossk to the west, or perhaps Fort Rava over the mountains.