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   Forums-->Official announcements-->The Spider weaves again

AuthorThe Spider weaves again
It was getting hot outside, the sun was nearing its apogee in the skies above Empire Capital. Kh'Everst and Bilir had gone for a morning walk, both feeling the need to continue their arguments about the recent adventure with the time portal, and both had their own point of view which they had yet to prove to each other. Late spring morning an fresh air were a brilliant scape for it, but the humid air gradually grew sultry and chased the councilors back into their comfortable mansion. The two came in and climbed the stairs, then doubled the corner in the corridor and passed by the valet who opened the door into their living-room, noticing his complaisant smile and smiling back at him in return over the shoulder.
The door closed, and at the next moment the smile came off the valet's face. He listened to the distancing murmur of the councilors for another couple of seconds before fishing out a miniature notebook out of his inner pocket. He searched the notebook hastily for the place of latest entry and added a new one: "Bil + Khev in, 12:23 f. l-r". He was supposed to quickly hide the notebook back into his pocket, but either his self-imposed importance, or his innate scrupulousness, or maybe even a combination of the two made him read through the several latest pages.
He had been instructed by an Empire court official to keep detailed track of the foreign councilors' dislocation into, within and out of the mansion provided for them as their dwelling, and the notebook contained short remarks on every step of the four noble foreigners within those borders.
Immersed into reflections, the valet stood fixed, concentrated on the notebook, when suddenly realised a strange cold feeling behind his shoulder. He turned around and shuddered with horror.
A sinister-looking undead monstrosity stood right behind him. The monstrosity had a most uncanny grin on its face, its dark clothes, shining eyes of the colour of dark jade and especially its menacing scythe on its shoulder made an impression that a death herald had arrived to claim his soul.
"I am councilor Feurlis", the monstrosity said slowly, with grave pauses between every word, visibly enjoying the situation. "I have arrived. Note that too"
The valet opened his mouth, inhaling deeply, desperately trying to think up something to justify himself, but shut it again dropping his unborn speech as the scythe settled on his shoulder in a trice.
"I will take that", the councilor said in a dull voice. There was not a sign of threat in his tone, he spoke as if he was narrating a fairy tale to an elf child. He grabbed the notebook. "I... No, you will not want me to see you ever again", he finalised and observed the valet rush toward the corner leading to the stairs, running for his safety before the terrifying councilor changed his mind.
Feurlis looked through several pages of the notebook, nodding constantly. He then raised his head, shut the notebook and entered the living-room.
"Feurlis, dear friend", Bilir and Kh'Everst stood up from their arm-chairs to greet him. "So glad to see you again, sorry about... you know, taking so long", Bilir muttered. Feurlis nodded with a guilty smile.
"You know, we have just been talking about my new theories related to time and magic!.."
Feurlis stood still and listened, although in his thoughts he rolled his eyes in desperation. The wizard was so naive and cute in his eyes every time he embarked in scientific discourse. But Bilir was one of the few entities in the entire Universe whom Feurlis would not dare to interrupt, so he called upon his patience and listened. Luckily, this time it was quite short.
"What can I say", Feurlis mouthed emotionless, "I am astonished".
"You are?" Bilir gazed at Feurlis with awe. Out of anything the necromancer could say, such words were probably the least expected to hear from him.
"I am. By absolute absence of your vigilance", Feurlis disillusioned him. He caught their uncomprehending looks and held out the confiscate object to them. "Take a look for yourselves", he said solemnly and approached the veranda door with his arms behind his back, leaving the two behind.
"I believe you have most negative ideas about this document?", Bilir uttered after familiarising himself with the notebook contents.

"You mean you do not?", Feurlis turned to them bluntly with a serious air.
Bilir and Kh'Everst exchanged looks. The dark elf shook his head slightly.

"My dear colleague...", Bilir raised the notebook in front of him with a pacifying look, as if the fact of existence of such spying log on their actions was absolutely expected, obvious and not even slightly offensive. "This is normal. I do not have to explain you, espionage is your walk of life, but don't you think anyone would do that in such situation? They want to know if our agenda is what we claim it to be, if we aren't up to anything improper toward them..."

"You are, right, it is not your field", the necromancer sighed skeptically. "Look around you, fellow councilors, and tell me what you see". Then, without waiting for any answer, he continued. "I see strange things. Comfort. Luxury. You all. You are employed in your usual positions, taking high posts in the new Court second to the highest ranks, sharing your knowledge! Have you lost your minds or left them at our Court so that the volcano devours them?!", he exclaimed through clenched teeth. "Do you really not understand that this is too much to even call it a miracle, all this is a farce, a play to use us, squeeze everything they can out of us and then dump us?! Do you, for once, think that this little notebook is the ONLY trace of their distrust towards us?", the ever increasing indignation made Feurlis raise his voice, and Kh'Everst waved his hand at him, asking for a word.

"You are overreacting, my dear friend", the dark elf kept waving his hand when he saw Feurlis' intention to interrupt him for another ireful tirade. "We all understand our position here, and we have already had these doubts. I assure you, we have had a discussion about this unexpected hospitality, and agreed that we were safe. Their attempt to keep us in sight is just a normal measure of staying in control, you know it better".

"This is ridiculous! You are walking on an edge of a pit, and you don't even care to glance inside to know how deep it is. On board of that ship, I couldn't think I would remain the only prudent one among us all", Feurlis palmed his face desperately. "But fine. Time will tell, and when it speaks for me, you will be thankful for my hand stretched for you to get you out of that pit. I have appointments in the meantime, you will excuse me. Your pigeon will find me at Sorish's, should you need me. Sunny City gives an amazing scene when plums bloom, I've heard", Feurlis finished this last phrase of his monologue muttering to himself, outside of the living-room already, without caring to bid farewell.

"Nothing we can do", Kh'Everst smiled bitterly in response to Bilir's mute question. "He will do it all the same, can't change him, it's what he is..."
And the truth was, Feurlis was no ordinary councilor, if being one of the seven figures next to a monarch could even closely be called ordinary at all. Back in their lost Empire, he was a spider who wove an immense web of agents, spies, sleuths, delators and all the like, the strings from each stretching towards the center of that web, right into his hands.

...Many years ago, even before Arabat's break-off from the Infernals and joining the Empire with his wayward demons, there were two promising military figures at the service of the Emperor.
One was a gifted warrior, both talented strategist and an outstanding orator. Born to the family of a simple keymaker, he rose greatly, walking the path from gaining the Lord title to commanding an entire regiment of his kind, the Knights, within the Empire regular army forces in a relatively short period of time. General Kalirosh had earned complete trust of the Emperor and was called His friend at the Court by Him in person.
Another had a different destiny. Originating from a very noble family of necromancers studying darkness magic, he was educated in the atmosphere of respect and obedience to the Throne. His parents nurtured hope for him to become a great darkness master, but Lord Feurlis never went further than learning the necessary basics that the Academy had to offer. Instead, he was fascinated by the military possibilities of the Undead; he studied war theory diligently and later volunteered to join the undead detachments of the regular army. Due to his noble origin, he was recruited directly to high post skipping many low military ranks; but his zeal and evident vocation to command the undead in wartime proved that he deserved the post as none other.
The two were always in contact. They couldnt say they were friends; they were more of what could be imaged as two cogs of one mechanism, functioning together and relying on each other.

Then, civil war came to Empire lands. It brought many casualties, but of them only two matter most to our story.
First, His Majesty received a fatal wound in that war, and passed away a fortnight later, leaving it to His only daughter to succeed to the Crown.
Second, Undead commander Feurlis fell in battle, and this episode deserves close attention.

The war was in full motion, and two huge armies were going to clash in the Northern part of the Empire, the hilly upland that would later be called Silent hill to commemorate the fate of the fallen warriors fighting for the wake of the Emperor.
Kalirosh and Feurlis led their regiments next to each other, and at some point Feurlis Undead found themselves cornered. He signaled to the rear line of the army asking for support, and an indigo-coloured flare was fired above him, ordering the Knights to outflank the rebels and mercenaries and to rescue the detachment. Kalirosh obeyed, turning his Knights and leading him up and around the enemy forces, eventually finding himself near Feurlis. And then, the classics.
He noticed Feurlis had been wounded, but in the opposite side, a standard-bearer was shot down by aimed fire of mercenary archers, and the Empire standard was about to be captured by the rebels. For seconds he stood petrified, deciding where to rush to, and eventually chose to save the Empire standard.
He remembered the look of the outnumbered Undead commander. "Traitor", Feurlis eyes threw at him before he turned his back to the scene and charged to rescue the standard...
He was sincerely surprised later when he saw Feurlis at the Court. He was not an expert of Nature magic and only knew that when raised, the perished creature grew void of will, sluggish and repugnant, only following the commands of its animator.
With Feurlis, it was different. Feurlis returned as an undead, raised by his most trusted demilich as a full-fledged personality, having completely preserved his consciousness; his allegiance to the crown had not changed, although he cultivated an undying hatred for Kalirosh. The Knight, however, was convinced that he had made the right choice back then, he believed the Empire banner in battlefield to be of much greater importance than life of one commander, and never gave in to Feurlis' accusations.

Her Majesty the Empress was later well known for many reformations Her government made. As one of the first, She assigned warlords of all six factions to represent, train and develop their factions. Kalirosh and Feurlis stepped in to guide Knights and Necromancers respectively, and to great discontent of the latter, were forced to bear each other's presence often during the Court assemblies.
With another reformation, the military powers were renounced in favour of the Military clans, and by that time the seven warlords assumed new, unwonted posts of Councilors. Kalirosh chose to patron the Homeland Security, a choice that was rather predictable.

Feurlis hadn't hesitated much either. He was reluctant to admit it, but all his friends in his milieu pointed out that the process of his reanimation had changed him. The bright, talented commander had evolved into a master of intrigues and shadowing. His paranoia influenced him to the point of doubting every word, suspecting every person, always resorting to the obscure and to the untold. He entered the post of Internal Affairs councilor. In short time, his agent network covered the entire Empire, he was always in the know about the events in Empire's shadows and had an impressive power to his command. Perhaps, his noble roots and early education were the insurance behind his unfailing loyalty to the crown.

Another little peculiarity caused by his transformation was the odour. No matter where he went, a sickening stink of Undeath accompanied him. It was a great problem until Bilir, chief of the Academy and warlord of all Wizards, came to his assistance by developing a balm that completely suppressed the smell. The balm was based on a species of herbs occasionally encountered in Blooming Glade, the wizard had to produce another batch of balm whenever Feurlis ran out of his reserve. At first, the necromancer felt uneasy to depend so much on one person, even on an equal, but later he ascertained that the wizard had no second agenda nor was going to use this dependence, and settled down eventually. Bilir even kept that little detail as secret as he could, thus gaining gratitude and respect of the undead colleague...

During the exodus, Feurlis managed to grab a phial of balm which, naturally, ran dry very fast. Since that moment Feurlis had to stay hidden, which greatly interfered with his plans. Accustomed to the life full of lies, backstabs and switched sides, he strived to recreate the network where he would occupy the central role. But for that, countless conversations had to have been held, hundreds of heroes bribed, myriads of binding little favours made; and his smell was a serious obstacle to that, so he rested in a place known only to Bilir, patiently waiting for the help of his friend.
Having suffered many failed attempts to discover the plant for the balm, the wizard gave up and eventually found a replacement ingredient after returning from the expedition into the Past.

Now, the Spider weaves again
After having gotten his natural defect fixed, Feurlis had been busy. He has toured several large cities of the new Empire, such as the Harbour City, Kingdom Castle and Peaceful Camp. His purpose was to get acquainted with local authorities and preferably worm himself into their confidence. He knew by abundant experience that the further it was from the Capital, from the crossroads of all Empire routes, political, economic and social, the easier it could become to get their favours bypassing the law, should there be need for any.
His experience was varying, but at the moment it could wait; he had contacted archmage Sorish, an old friend who had always favoured their lost Empire, and received an invitation to join him in "field trip that my King pins much hope on", as he wrote.

From what Feurlis had learned, King Cyrus was the leader of wizards of the Sunny City, an ancient magi polis that existed since time immemorial, and caused great influence on the surrounding lands. The proud wizards of the Solar City had a rich history and traditions; they had no dynasty and thus no heritage rights, the new leaders were appointed by the board of Academics after death, abdication or dismissal of the current leader. Plain magocracy, one would say, but there was a fact that Feurlis found especially remarkable: even after the capitulation of the Solar city and its absorption by the Empire as consequence of the so called "Carbuncle of Elements" incident, Cyrus was still recognized as the wizard King. And not just by title; he kept his political power, strategic facilities in the polis were still under his exclusive control, and the Academy main campus became the center of Magical science for the entire Empire, with Abu-Bakir preserving his post of headmaster. The latter had even been assigned the Court wizard and visited the renamed Sunny city on academic matters only.

The plums were pretty indeed, but the necromancer hardly noticed them. He entered the Sunny City for the first time, reflecting on his upcoming conversation with Sorish, incidentally noting the remarkable architecture and town design of the magopolis.
Sorish met him cordially in the Academy Grand Hall, and immediately announced they were leaving for an errand of the wizard King, confusing Feurlis' plans for an initial conversation where he would set the fashion of their encounter.

The two went out of the Academy and boarded in a carriage. Feurlis was in the dark even about their destination, and that drove him out of his wits. He fidgeted nervously on his seat, when suddenly caught an attentive, onlooking gaze of the archmage. "Oh, it is a masterplay... Finally a worthy opponent!", Feurlis thought to himself, immediately relaxed and assumed an air of a bored traveler casually peeping out of the carriage.
"As an educated person you must know that wizards rarely practice Darkness magic", Sorish addressed the Necromancer, feeling obliged to begin the conversation. "It is not because we are inapt to comprehend it, we just despise it".

"Known fact", Feurlis nodded, "You are all fastidious sissies not willing to soil your hands with it".

"That's one way to look at it", Sorish continued their duel of gazes, not even slightly offended by the undead's words. "But it is more about our history which we don't share much", he drove his eyes away. "There were episodes in our past that made us renounce the Darkness. Those pages of history are covered with gloom and horror".

Sorish made a pause to reflect on his words, and Feurlis felt it would be clever to respect the silence this time.
"When Abu-Bakir opened the Portal of time, he and his Academics organised an expedition for manifold research. My King sent his people into the Past too, with an independent task", Sorish continued minutes later. "Their mission was to locate a facility in the Past which had direct relation to those events, and they succeeded. You will pardon my secrecy, I am simply not entitled to share any details at this moment, but when I received your greetings with the pigeon, I thought you of all could come to my assistance. I suspect that the place we are going to might be filled with Darkness, and an expert in this school of magic could help. If we are successful in finding what we are looking for today, it will help us discover very useful facts about the history of us, wizards, and help us evolve", Sorish concluded. "We are almost there by the way".

Feurlis looked out of the carriage. They had entered the steppe, its clay soil and relative paucity of vegetation gave it a monochromatic brown tone to the point that even the sky at the horizon looked brownish.
Feurlis looked at the archmage and noticed his strained stare. He followed it and saw several humanoid figures quickly running from some ruins toward a chariot. Their pace clearly demonstrated panic; they were simply taking to their heels.
Sorish loured. "Are they Dwarves? That looks like Tolgar's coat of arms on the transport. What are they doing here?.."

Feurlis followed Sorish out of their carriage to the site, concentrating his willpower. Something scared the dwarves away. Knowing the dwarves, it could be a pack of wild animals unwilling to become hunt prey, or as likely something much more threatful.
They neared the ruins, Sorish holding his greatstaff in battle position. There, on the ground, they saw some scattered archaelogy tools.
"This... is unexplainable", Sorish muttered. "It is the right place, but this is certainly not what I was expecting to find", the wizard picked up a small object from the ground and cleared it from dust. "I have seen this before!"
He passed it to Feurlis. It was a seal with a little signet on top of it, in the shape of a crescent moon.
"In fact, I have seen this too", Feurlis responded thoughtfully. "And I might even happen to know what the dwarves were doing here".

A horrifying, palsying wail resounded the area around them, leaving Sorish's question unasked. It was irresistible, oppressing every fiber of courage, making them turn their backs and flee, flee abandoning all agenda and all goals, just run away from there, the faster and further the better...
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