“They follow us, master!” The Apprentice shouted to Manish. Their slowed pace, due to the Elder’s presence, allowed the Cultists to easily catch up, but they slowed their pace as well. Their presence was no mystery, to Manish, pursuing an orb in the moon’s rise was a fools errand, but now, between the mages and the cultists, the orb would be retrieved, no question..
Jraedin debated the cults presence in his mind, wondering who would ultimately leave with the orb.. He raised his fist, signaling the halting of his riding parties momentum, as the cultists caught up behind them.
Elder Grein raised his hand, being at the back of the riding party, closest to the approaching cultists, signaling that he would engage them.
“Your presence here is appreciated, riders.. Our calling orb has signaled a release of energy nearby..” The Elder announced.
8 riders came up upon them, the 9th, clearly their leader, a man draped in a long green cape leading them, replying “We understand.. There is more than one Blight inhabiting the Unjaryk; the orb situation is growing increasingly worse and if we can prevent any further developments from occurring, we should work together to see to that..”
Elder Grein agreed “Yes.. But.. Who will take the orb, once it is recovered?” Addressing the question that burdened the minds of all the mages.
The man in the long green cape replied “I sense that we will not recover this orb.. It’s power has been used extensively.. Clearly a masterful hand manipulates it’s energies.”
Elder Grein was surprised “…You are an Anthranhall?”
“Yes. You have knowledge of our awareness of the orb’s energies then?”
Elder Grein acknowledged “Yes.. I have heard rumors, but have never met an Anthranhall in person.. They say your kind are only dispatched in grave times.” The moon began rising higher, as darkness settled in among the two parties.
The Anthranhall ignored the Elder’s request for knowledge, instead insisting “Another time, mage.. Grave times were when the Clansmen attacked Puzzle-Tyric, we are passed that now… Let us find the source of this orb’s rogue manipulator. Are we following any hunters? Can we depend upon their presence, as well?”
Elder Grein turned to Manish and Jraedin “Speak. Now.”
Clearly, the Elder had overheard their conversation and rather than hide it, the two felt it pertinent to disclose what they knew “We sent two hunters, along with a fellow mage who requested use of an artifact.. This mage, Strohm, is his name..”
Elder Grein grinded his teeth “You let Strohm have an orb!?…”
Manish and Jraedin looked at each other, Manish speaking after their eyes exchanged franticly “Yes, we did.. Strohm has been departing from the Puzzle Ruins, days at a time, before returning, without explanation.. We supposed he was up to something, maybe Blight worship, so we decided to pay two hunters to follow him on his journey, kill him and return the orb.”
The Anthranhall yelled at the two, before Elder Grein could respond “Hunters are not equipped to deal with experienced mages!.. They are Hunters, they ambush; when not in the shadows, they stand in front of the mages, with shields, protecting them.. They are not equipped!..”
Elder Grein yelled back “You fools!.. He speaks the truth.. Strohm is a powerful veteran to our order..” The Elder looked back at the Anthranhall “He was next in line, to my position of Grand Master.” The Anthranhall nodded.
Jraedin spoke up “They had orders to strike near the Oasis, throw his body over the cliff, for the snappers..”
The Anthranhall’s horse trotted to passed the mages “We passed them today.. Did we not?” One of the riders that followed the Anthranhall replied “Yes, mid-day, before our final skirmish with the Clansmen.”
Elder Grein nodded “Lead the way, we’ll follow your group.”
Now a single riding party, the riders were led by the Anthranhall, who rode with a giant flame in his hand, acting as a torch, lighting their way forward, as nightfall now descended black.
Coming to the Oasis Cliff’s, the Anthranhall saw a body, yelling “Slow.. Secure the area around us, Draetarn!, The rest of you, circle the mages, protect them!”
Draetarn rode around the Oasis, now wielding the Anthranhall’s flame, as the mages now wielded flames of their own, lighting the grisly scene. “One of the hunter’s we hired..” Jraedin acknowledged “Definitely. I remember his face. His throat has been slashed, one masterful stroke.”
The Anthranhall acknowledged “No signs of magic damage.. No mage would exercise a trained slash like that..”
Jraedin walked to the cliff “More blood..” Pointing at the rocks near the very edge of the cliff. Jraedin waved his hand above the blood, it’s composition turning a bright green “Mage blood.”
Elder Grein walked to the cliff, examining the blood “I assume the body..”
Manish approached the cliff as well, adding “The snappers are not on the surface.. They have been disturbed.”
The Anthranhall acknowledged “So.. Where is our other hunter?.. Draetarn!”
Draetarn was now at the other side of the chasm that the Oasis resided in, yelling back “No signs of any physical.. But there was magic cast here.. I can feel it!”
“Let’s go join him.. Stay together at all costs. ” The Anthranhall commanded, as the riders and mages dismounted together, tying their horse reigns to the nearby trees that scarcely surrounded the Oasis chasm.
Elder Grein noted, once together with Draetarn “Yes.. There was magic used here.. Whoever used it, leapt across the Oasis chasm’s mouth, from one side to another.. I can feel the magic trail in the air above it.. But there was another spell cast.. A very powerful one.. Over the Oasis itself, as the caster was in mid-flight.. I am unfamiliar with all parts of this spell.. I must get closer, but I cannot reside in mid-air over the Oasis..”
The Anthranhall acknowledged “Come.” He shot his green cape over the Oasis, flattening it into a pathway, as it unraveled from his body, amazingly unattached to his armor. He walked across it now, to the middle of the air, directly over the Oasis itself “Do not be afraid,” he beckoned
Elder Grein walked across the cape unsure at first, but soon felt at ease, feeling that the cape had no flex in it’s support of his weight. Joining the Anthranhall in the middle, Elder Grein sampled the air “What kind of magic..”
The Anthranhall was perplexed “I am unaware of this.. Feeling. Clearly, some sort of magic projectile was shot below, into the Oasis itself.. But it’s purpose is unclear to me.”
Elder Grein extended his hand towards the Oasis “Are the snapper’s dead?”
The Anthranhall extended his hand, lowering the cape inch by inch “This requires intense focus.. Do not disturb me, until we stop.” He lowered the cape mere inches, before declaring “…I am losing.. My focus.. we must go on foot.” Raising the cape to the cliff again, the two departed off of it, the Anthranhall announcing “We’re going down to the Oasis’s surface.. Something is amiss.” The entire party followed them, as they neared the beginning of the path’s descent to the Oasis below.
Elder Grein stood on the path’s beginning, noting “Orb energy..”
The Anthranhall agreed “Yes, easy enough to sense.. Very different from the energy we felt above the Oasis.. Clearly, there are multiple magic users at work here..”
The group’s descent to the Oasis surface was slow, as the two leaders sampled the magic that lay dormant in the air, Elder Grein noting “The energy here is strong.. It is as if, the path was walked multiple times by the orb user.. This is strange.”
The Anthranhall expanded “Twice. Once to the bottom, then back up.”
Coming to the Oasis surface, the group expected to be greeted by a curious snapper, but none arose from the depths. Elder Grein observed “The snapper’s must be dead.. Their lizard-like vessels crave food, at all times.. They will eat just about anything.. Yet, I feel no predatory eyes on us..”
The Anthranhall extended his cape once more, now across the surface of the Oasis, but said “..I cannot focus enough to sustain even my own weight upon it.. There are clearly dark forces at work here, residual.. Like a Blight obstructs my thoughts, nearby.. But I feel nothing of the sort.”
Draetarn suggested “Maybe.. A Blight hides it’s trail?”
The Anthranhall acknowledged “Hmmm…”, before extending his hands and yelling “Sutrema, Blight!”
Instantly, a great flash of light erupted from the waves, wind howled in the chasm.. The Anthranhall expected to see a monster erupt from the Oasis surface, but nothing.
Elder Grein pointed to the path they came up on “Look!”
The Anthranhall looked to the path, seeing a mass of 3 pronged, large clawed foot prints, dozens, now littering the path upwards, ascending the path, towards the Oasis cliff “What in the hell?” he said inquisitively, to himself.
Examining the prints, Draetarn announced “I have never saw anything like these before.. Snappers do possess 3 claws on each of their feet.. But they do not walk upright, like these prints suggest.. Furthermore, the Sutrema magic uncovered what the Blight magic was casted to hide..”
The Anthranhall walked up the path briskly, head down, examining the mass of prints that ascended, yelling “This is the work of Blight magic, to which I have not yet encountered.. I believe whatever was casted on these snappers.. Could of very well.. Turned them into, well, servants of the Blight, would be my best guess.. The caster then concealing their prints.”
Elder Grein suggested, following the Anthranhall “Aren’t Blights of the spiritual world!?”
The Anthranhall yelled, without turning back, as he continued to ascend “Yes!, Indefinitely!.. This magic suggests, however, that the Blight is in our physical world, not just the spiritual!.. It’s magic is based in the spirit world on influence, meaning the affected person, to some degree, has to choose to be subjected to it’s power.. Beasts have no conscious mind to make choices and domination magic.. Is of the physical realm..”
Draetarn followed Elder Grein, along with the rest of the group, ascending “Are you suggesting this unknown magic is a form of Blight domination?”
The Anthranhall yelled back “It would explain many things, certainly my feelings of it, being unknown.. I have experience with all Blights..”
Ringing bells from Puzzle-Tyric interrupted the Anthranhall’s observation, as he looked back to the Elder, eyes wide, behind his engraved plate helmet, the Elder declaring “The Clansmen attack again!?”
The Anthranhall began running up the ascending path, yelling back, as the group followed him “Let us hope so!”