THE IMMORTALS’ FURY
YEAR 1005 AC, A DAY OF AUTUMN
CROWNGUARD KEEP, PRINCIPALITY OF KLANTYRE
For Raisten Zargos this was not the first call to Crownguard by his master. Yet every time the discomfort he felt was the same. It was the unnatural cold, which caused him a sort of melancholy that afflicted him as soon as he sat foot there. The magician winced and, after a deep sigh, he began to climb the steps of the dark black stone that would bring him on the top of the high tower, where his master spent most of the days. As he climbed, with heavy steps because of his thoughts, he also remembered how he tried to protect himself from the bitter cold, the first few times he had visited Crownguard, even resorting to magic, but every attempt had been futile. This time he had decided to put off and not take any precaution. He let curiosity and eagerness to learn to take control of his being. The dull sound of his stick echoed on the cold stone of the landing. The staircase did not go on any further. He knocked on the door but there was no need to wait for any answer, it opened and moved away like by a magical force.
The environment was quite bare, except for piles of books and dusty tomes stacked on the shelves, chests and wherever there could be place for them.
The translucent, milky, image of the Prince’s servant materialized silently at the side of the magician who, in the meantime, had entered the room. Raisten hated it when the soul of the ectoplasm crossed that way the Ethereal Plane and materialized in front of him like that, without a warning. It almost seemed that the ghost felt an insane and wicked pleasure in seeing him wince. He threw a dirty look to the being, then strode toward the bench where he knew he would find his Prince.
“Ah..ah , AULD REEKIE DOESN’T LIKE YOU. AND HE NEVER MISS A CHANCE TO LET YOU KNOW. IF POSSIBLE HE HATES YOU … LIVING BEINGS … .. AS MUCH AS I DO” If there was something that played more discomfort of the unnatural cold of Crownguard Keep was the laughter of Prince McGregor. It was heavy, about as unnatural as it might be. It seemed the cawing of many crows and, at the same time, a clawed hand that scratched on a smooth wall.
“SEE TO BE MORE TIMELY IN THE ANSWER TO MY CALLS, ZARGOS. I CAN BE ETERNAL BUT THIS CAN NOT BE SAID ABOUT MY PATIENCE!” Although the tone of Prince McGregor was flat and expressionless the young wizard knew that, inexplicably, he enjoyed the credit and sympathy of his lord. That expression, was the way for the undead to prove it.
“Forgive me, my Lord. I am mortified. “
“NAE BOTHER!” From the eloquent and nervous gesture of the bony hand it was all too clear to Raisten that Brannart was using the excuse of the time, of his lateness, just like a chess expert player preparing its opening, to try to gain an advantage over his opponent. Raisten was flattered. The Prince certainly did not fear him but he respected him.
“HOW ARE THINGS PROCEEDING IN THE BARONY OF THE TWOLAKES ? THERE HAVE BEEN OTHER .. AYE .. “TRESPASSINGS” .. FROM THE PORTAL OF ULSLIME THE CHAOSAR?
“Only minor entities, my Lord. Mostly incorporeal undead. But nothing to worry about. “
“GOOD. VERY WELL. BUT DO NOT NEGLECT OF COMMUNICATE ME EVEN THE SMALLEST AND INSIGNIFICANT DETAIL. “
“Of course, my Lord.” That simple exchange of words was spreading some confidence in the wizard.
“BUT THIS IS NOT WHY I HAVE SUMMONED YOU.”
“Of course, my Lord.” The tone could not conceal the trepidation mixed with curiosity.
“YOU ARE OF KARAMEIKOS. I NEED YOU TO GO THERE FOR A MISSION OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE. “
“I’m originally from Thyatis, my Lord. I studied at the College of Lucinius. But it’s true, I lived for a short period of my life in the Grand Duchy. “
“I NEED YOU TO USE YOUR CONNECTIONS. IT IS OF THE HIGHEST URGENCY. IT REQUIRES DISCRETION.” He emphasized the last words.
“I had friends there, once, my Lord.” The Thyatian magician had suddenly got moody. A heavier melancholy weighted, like a boulder, on his spirit.
“AYE .. RAISTEN. IT SEEMS THAT I HAVE TOUCHED A SORE SPOT.”Although the tone was flat, the words implied an explicit question.
Yes, my Lord. At one time I had friends in the land of the Grand Duchy. Friends with whom I shared everything. Joys. Pains. Adventure. It was a short but intense period of my life. Then the journey on the “Endurance” . Remoteness. The prison …. “That was the word that best described what he had experienced. “For those who remained it was only a few months. But for us untold years. In short, we managed to get out. That land has changed us forever. Not just physically. “His thought, for a moment, focused on Talaric, the elf of Dorneryll and Demetrius, the only two other survivors. The words of his Prince, however, brought him back to reality.
“AYE .., REALLY FASCINATING THE NATURE OF THAT DIMENSION” For a moment in the mind of the Prince McGregor flashed the idea of listening to, once again, the detailed account of the journey of Raisten and his companions but the thing, how charming as that may have been, would have taken them too long. And time, oddly enough for an undead like him, was the most important thing now.
“RAISTEN, WHAT DO YOU KNOW OF THE ANCIENT NITHIA AND ITS SETTLEMENTS IN THE LAND THAT WAS LATER TRALADARA AND NOW KARAMEIKOS?”
The question was a surprise for the Thyatian magician who did not in the least made an effort to conceal his amazement. Then he answered truthfully. “Not much to tell the truth, my Lord. Not much more than what is taught in Lucinius. Namely the fact that it is NOT just a legend. Ancient history, the past of Mystara, was never a priority for me and my studies though.” Then weighing carefully each word, Raisten continued, he knew he was going into a very dangerous territory. “I’m much more fascinated by the study of alternate forms of magic. The magic of the planet. Or rather the influence that a specific part of the planet is exerting on the nature of magic itself.” Here. He had said it. He threw the stone into the water. He would not take back the hand. No matter the cost.
Did Brannart grasp the meaning of his words? Raisten could not say it. The Prince did not broadcast any visible emotion. And this, for the young wizard, was not a good sign.
“THERE IS A PLACE, XITAQA.” The words came from the grave. Raisten could not repress a shiver. Although the Prince had resumed the conversation exactly where it had stopped, something had changed.
“IT’S AN ANCIENT CITY OF THE HUTAAKAS. AN OLD RACE, TODAY EXTINCT AND BOUND TO THE CULT OF THE IMMORTAL PFLARR. I WANT YOU TO GO THERE AND RECOVER SOMETHING FOR ME.”
A search? Just that? Why send him for something so trivial and that the Prince could delegate to a group of mercenaries or to some of his most experienced and trusted servants?
As if he had read in his thoughts, the undead continued. “DO NOT ASK YOURSELF WHY I CHOSE YOU RATHER THAN ANOTHER. THE QUESTION IS OF THE MAXIMUM SECRECY. AND I KNOW I CAN TRUST YOU. “
“Of course, my Lord. You can count on me but tell me: what is the thing that you look for in this Xitaqa? And how would I, above all, find the ancient lost city of Hutaaka. I am not aware that it is in any of the maps which I inspected. The Grand Duchy is a very vast land and .. “
The outstretched arm of McGregor, an open hand, palm toward the young wizard was much more eloquent than a thousand words.
“IT’S NOT A THING YOU NEED TO FIND BUT A PERSON. “The two red dots which burned in the dark and empty sockets of the undead face became, if possible, even brighter. Or so it seemed to Raisten.
“TAKE THIS.” he said, throwing an unidentified object on the ground, small and wrapped in a tissue flap. “IT WILL HELP YOU TO FIND THE PERSON YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.”
“My Lord, what’s the name ..”.
“NO NAME. BRING BACK TO ME. “
“Sure. As you wish my lord. But if this person does not want to follow me and .. “
“YOU WILL HAVE NO PROBLEM, FOR SURE. NOW HE IS … DEAD!” Raisten sensed the sarcasm in the words of the Prince of Klantyre.
“DENNI FLASH ME, ANYMORE, WEE HUMAN”. With a sweeping hand gesture, Prince McGregor dismissed his vassal. Raisten did not miss the hand of his master, without two phalanges in a finger.
“I will not fail my Lord.” said the young wizard walking briskly away. He wanted to leave that place and quickly.
When leaving the tower Raisten opened the envelope given to him by his lord, and winced at the sight of a rotting finger, reduced to little more than a skeletal bone. He put the macabre fragment wondering to whom belonged the corpse that he was to recover.
– – –
When the magician had left, the shadow materialized alongside the glantrian Prince. “So he knows?”
“SO IT SEEMS AULD REEKIE. SO IT SEEMS.” The statement hinted to a truth. Before the Prince harboured doubts about his new vassal. Now he had clearly implied that he knew of the existence of the Radiance. For a moment the memories of McGregor went to a year before, when he’d kill Troikithus, the elf who turned out to be a spy in the pay of Eriadna  of Alphatia. Troikithus, before dying at the hands of the undeads that he had sent to Glantri City on his trail, was able to talk to strangers, to give them part of his discoveries. Until then McGregor had only suspected that Raisten was part of that group, escaped to his hounds only thanks to the intervention of Etienne. His thoughts were confused. That was one of the rare moments when he felt of not being in control. Of not knowing what was the right move to make. Unknowingly he had walked to the alcove that concealed the receptacle. It was a marble column, with red gold veins which supported a kind of bathtub of the same material. He waved his hand over the still water contained in the basin and this rippled assuming an intense blue luster, with golden highlights. It was the Radiance.
“HAIL THE LIGHT OF RAD! Brother, why did you call us?” The voice came from the glass itself. Some shadowy figures were materializing through the reflections of the liquid.
“BECAUSE I WANT TO SUBMIT THE CANDIDACY OF A NEW MEMBER TO OUR SELECTED CLUB.”
“Brother, you know the true cost to pay if we do not accept your request?” asked one of the shadows.
“OFF COURSE. OR WITH US, OR DEAD. AND I WILL HANDLE IT MYSELF.”
To be continued..
 RAISTEN ZARGOS, along with some comrades, foiled the plan of the Alphatian wizard Wazor the Cunning, helped by the cleric Ulslime the Chaosar and the blue dragon Korbundar. They proposed to open a portal with Dimensional Plane of the Sphere of Entropy to throw into chaos the Principalities, who declared war to the Empire, at the end of 1004 BC [ref. CM2 – Death’s Ride]. This operation is part of the sabotage actions concocted and sponsored by the Empire of Alphatia since the summer of 1005 AC [Ref. Alphatia Sends Monsters in The Immortals’ Fury]. The Barony of Twolakes is located within the territory of the Principality of Klantyre. When he learned that this portal was opened in its domain, the Prince McGregor did not see it as a threat but rather as an opportunity. With Ulslime killed by Raisten and companions, McGregor easily convinced the magician to go into his service. In return for the dominion over the Barony and access to invaluable information about the Radiance, of which Zargos became aware some time before, during the few months of the so-called Affair Troikithus, he asked him to watch over portal activity .
 ENDURANCE was the name of the ship sailed from Athenos and direct to Alphatia that, for the sins of its captain, attracted the attention of the Dark Powers that regulate and govern the Demiplane of Dread. The ship was transformed into the SHIP OF HORRORS of the homonym adventure and the company’s fate, the first Shield of Benekander, changed forever.
 Eriadna, Empress of Alphatia.