The old estate had slowly come to life. The cold stone walls and marble pillars had felt the warming touch of mankind for the first time in generations. The arcahic spellwork and magical systems had been brought back to life by the talents of the Red Wizard and the hard work of dozens of slaves. Now smoke rose from the chimneys of the marble white, red roofed structures standing in a square, enclosing an open area and a well. Dust was stirred up as busy feet hurried back and forth. Soon the crops would be prepared. The wizard had revived the power of the old runes, and life was returning to the sun-burnt land around the estate.
He had known peace since he arrived, with his exotic woman and their newborn. The town in northern Delhumide to which the estate was attached had little contact with their Red Wizard lords. The Prefect of the settlement was an elderly warrior, content to send the resources the Zulkirate requested on their way south, and distribute the tools, spices, wood and stone from the south among the citizens. Once his purpose, to settle in the old estate and revive the surrounding farmlands had been explained, the Prefect wished him luck and returned to the comfortable tasks he had perfomed for many years. Zulkir Szass Tam had not initiated any contact, which was another stroke of fortune. The time had come to focus on his family, and to finalize his personal quests.
The estate became a thriving household in a few months. The marble was polished and repaired, the red shingles on the roofs replaced where damaged. As life returned to the land, plentiful wheat grew on the fields. Following a proposition to the Prefect, a full Centuria of soldiers and a contingent of slaves had started to improve the road network, replacing dusty tracks with stone-laid Thayan highways. The province was starting to prosper, and few disturbances were noticed. One day, a shadow had passed over the land. Soon thereafter, earth-shaking explosions had been heard, and sulphorous ash had travelled with the wind for miles. The carcass of a great Red Dragon had later been found, with a note that the magical bones and scales were now the property of the town. Another event had left a small valley grey and lifeless, the ground covered in blackened runes, which were recognized as part of an arcane ritual by the magically inclined Thayans. The wizard had briefly explained that an undesirable creation had been removed from existance, but whether the cursed ground would ever return to normal was unknown. The citizens did not mind the distractions, having grown unaccustomed to the affairs of Red Wizards over the years, and greatful for distractions from the daily work.
The peace would not last for ever. An afternoon expedition to seek out locations for quarrying stone ended in a brutal massacre. Tales spread of a spell battle where one of the mythical witches of Rashemen had appeared. Energies had been launched back and forth between the Red Wizard and the Witch, and though the former was victorious, he was unable to protect his fellow Thayans. Dozens of slaves and citizens had been eradicated, and the survivors, grey with terror, would only speak of what they had experienced under the influence of powerful hypnosis. Yet for a time, the wizard was seen as a hero. A sentinel against the mythical barbarians of the northern marches. He became known as a Witch's bane, one of the highest honors in the northern Thrachs. Then came another. Powerful lightning struck from clear skies and ancient tribal spirits ravaged the outlying farms, killing with deadly purpose. The eventual battle was even worse than the first. Veterans from the third legion of Delhumide cut through air as the half-invisible spirits taunted them, and fled in terror when brothers in arms were ripped apart and showered those around them with blood and severed limbs. The Witch and her summoned allies were eventually slain, but the cost was nearly unbearable. The Wizard himself was found scarred by malignant spells not far from the fallen Witch. For days he was kept locked inside his estate by his family, unconscious and weak. When he awoke, it was to answer questions. The Thrachion had sent more wizards. A council was formed to decide whether further attacks were to be expected, and how to repell them. The attacks ceased, the barbarians perhaps sensing the powerful hand of Thay once again taking its iron hold of the land.
However, priorities changed. Orders came that a small region of fertile land in southern Thesk would be settled by Thayan citizens. This would naturally require legions and Red Wizards, to ensure the safe transfer of land to Thayan control. The council left for the border, taking with it the reinforcements it had brought to the small town. That same night, the killing was resumed.
Her fire burnt brightly in the pitch black night. She strode down the street in her elegant garment, the cloth embracing her figure as she spread her arms widely. The glow around her was too intense, too brilliant for the devils, who averted their eyes. She was the molten core of a newborn star. She was power. The windows of the white stone buildings on each side lay empty, gaping holes in the fascade which was scarred by force and blackened by soot. She was exalted above their understanding. The devils ran, they crawled over the filthy remains of the fallen in terror. It was no more than a whisper or flick of a wrist to annihilate them. Roars tore the night asunder as her power manifested again and again, swept left and right leaving broken bodies and sundered terrain in its wake. The cries were the songs of her glory. She was a force of vengeance, invincible. The dust was swept aside before her feet touched the stone-laid road. Nothing concerned her, nothing A voice was raised in defiance. She glared to her left as she reached an intersection. Her glare locked eyes with one of the devils, different than the others. Behind a wall of shields he stood, a hateful countenance marked by unbelievable grief and anger, one of many, but their only voice. "Tecombre!", he shouted, and the wall of shields moved. The formation of warriors charged, ironclad boots thundering, swords eager to tear into her delicate flesh. With a mere suggestion she sent a white-hot bolt of lightning surging through the air towards them. The energy discharged across their mighty shields as a viper of light would pounce upon its prey, grounding into the terrain around them. Shocked, but alive, their charge continued. Angrily she arranged her thoughts into focus. A moment later another roaring explosion blasted the village, and the warrior-devils were no more. Her power rose towards the skies, it constantly needed direction. From her glowing form it expanded with chaotic fury, igniting all around her. Devouring flames licked the structures in which the devils nested. She purged the ancient land of devils as was her destiny, destroying their foul marks on the holy ground, exterminating the monoliths of their conquering culture. Her path of destruction took her to the open area in the centre of the village, oval in shape. From the opposite side, someone came to meet her. This one neither fled nor charged. He strode as she did, sheathed in flowing red garments, wearing his demand for respect as an invisible cloak. She started to gather the power, taking breath after breath of sweet essence from the source until her very being trembled. Meanwhile, the one who came to meet her had approached with purpose, at an even pace, calmly. His voice reached out to her, moments before she would release the full fury within and send him to oblivion. "It grieves me to see the wanton slaughter you have commited here, witch. But you are dead. Your fate was sealed the moment you rode the arcane winds to this village. With the same certaintly that lies in the passing of one age into the next, you have already passed into nameless history. Yet the historians, no matter their alacrity, only establish the past. The execution remains." Somehow the words reached her as she realized what had spoken them. One of the red devils, the diabolical tyrants from far east, was within her reach. His bald head glimmering with symbols beyond the humane, his infernal features lit up by the glow. She was power, and she feared no devil. She brought the entire pillar of sanctified flame rising from within down upon him. The red devil merely clapped his hands. For a moment there was nothing. Then came a titaneous impact as if she had been struck by a giant hammer. She stumbled, holding her head while convulsing. Pain coarsed through her body, her joints flaring in protest at every limping movement. The power bled out in the air around her, streams of molten lava condensing from her magical aura, forming hissing pools on the stone-laid street below. "All you have done, all these murders, all this bloodshed, I understand you. That is not to imply I forgive, or that I pardon. Yet when I was very young, I inflicted the same on your people. Power is the intoxicating nectar of youth. I tore the souls from your savage countrymen in great numbers because I was commanded so, and I was glad to follow my commands. I devastated villages that, despite the insult the comparison invites, were not so different from this. But with age comes the realization that power is a hollow ideal. Power without virtue makes you hollow. Inhuman." Subtle energies moved at his commands as he spoke, and she felt an oppressive pressure build up around her. She tried to gather her strength, but it was gone. Beaten out of her quickly by a red devil. He had come near her while she struggled. Strangely, he appeared human. Beneath the neutral mask the red devils wore, she noticed frustration and anger. She had no choice but to listen to his words as he continued. "I could not have killed all these people. Not even if we were miles beyond the border, standing in the midst of one of your tribes. But I can kill you, because I am no longer young. I know the nature of power. It lingers in the background as an old friend, a shade of the past promising glory. But I will not cut a blazing trail of death into the heart of Rashemen after we are done. I will rebuild, we will become stronger and greater, until the shadow of your kind finds no retreat in this world. I do not know what afterlife you will find, or what memory you will have of these words. In truth, age has the unfortunate effect of driving men and women to elaborate speeches, most of which none will remember. Now it is time for your execution." She struggled against the invisible bonds as she comperehended in full the finite tone of his voice. The paniced twisting slowly came to cease as the pressure inceased, the invisible hand that held her clenched its iron grip. So she finally died, the last breath crushed out of her lungs. The remains would carried out in the desert, and she would remain there until the corroding desert wind had filed her bones to dust. Her killer spoke again. "Thrice witch's bane. But to what use?" He seemed defeated, despite his victory, as he watched the destruction around him.
After the tragic destruction of lives, homes and goods, a new solution was presented by the Thrachion. His family would be relocated, and he would travel for a time, until the reason for the assassination attempts could be discovered and eliminated. And so he travelled.
With a violent swing he brought the metallic staff crashing into a boulder. A small discharge of negative energy instantly mummified a curious fly, that perhaps mistook the head of the artifact for a human skull. There was no sign of weakness in the material however. Every spellbreach had failed, every inquiry into the art of dismantling magic had ultimatly been met with failure. As always the unexpressive skull with the dull, glowing eyes remained impenetrable to spellwork. It seemed the old dragon had created a flawless item with a surface completely solid both in appearance in the material world, and to the arcane sight. With a grunt his sunburnt hands released the staff, sending it a small distance down the hidden-away valley that was the location of the experiment. It did not lay in the Red Wizards' normally noble character to grunt. He was, judging by the fire in his eyes and the aggressive grimace stretched out on his face, both hateful and very frustrated. Tasks that were beyond his considerable magical ability were rare, and of an inherently foul nature. That, at least, was his firm belief.
Growing inceasingly desparate as the hours passed and clouds started forming at the horizon, unwilling to accept failure, he spoke out. "May the spirits ancient and noble see fit to aid me in this task. Gods and devils, hear my plea. If it is within your power to destroy this staff, I have much to offer!" Silence was the initial response. Bemused by this, he cast a glance at the staff, defiantly resting against a few rocks by a shallow stream. The skull seemed to mock his attempts. With divine intervention in rare supply, he decided to meditate. The mental regimen successfully took his mind off the task and set it free to contemplate a vast array of scenarios before finally giving him a sense of tranquility. He felt the inner warmth as spells once again took their place in his memory, and his ability as a wizard, which had been drained from launching volleys of spells against the resistant artifact, returned. With the process complete, he opened his eyes with a sense of focus. A gust of wind stirred the long, yellow straws of grass around him and set his cloak to flight like a banner. Before his eyes stood a blurred figure. Green-tinted skin and ceremonial garments covered the frame that held two sickles crossed over its chest. An ancient crown adorned the head of the figure. While he spoke a protective enchantment and the arcane syllables formed wards around him, the figure took solid form. Its power was tanglible now, the air growing thick, the grass growing visibly longer and life bursting out in an circle around him, yellow sunburnt plain turning green and lusterous. It spoke, and the wizard was instantly enthralled by the vocal power, unable to present a greeting. "I am Osiris, lord of life and death, he who plants the harvest, and he who reaps it when its time has come. Speak your will." The bonds which had kept his tounge immobile were released. True to his beliefs he offered no reverence and spoke directly. "I wish this staff destroyed. It has plagued me for many a year, followed me and numbed my capacity to live." The creature who had named itself Osiris stood in silence for a time, the timeless expression perfectly still. The wind had started to gain strength and while the opulent robes of the wizard billowed around him, while the garments of Osiris remained motionless. Finally it spoke. "For this you will not animate the dead." The wizard found it agreeable, and no sooner had he uttered his acceptance before the knowledge appeared to him.
The staff now stood upright, its sharp end burrowed firmly in the earth. All through the night the wizard had moved back and forth through the valley, using ink to paint runes on the ground itself in macabre patterns. Posted on the western slope of the valley, he began the incantation. His right hand moved, fingers illustrating symbols of light that would hover in the air. The energy built up around him. The instruction led him on through the ritual. Before his eyes the water of the stream turned an oily black. Half-visible spectres whispered of blood and madness, darting in and out of reality. The ink that marked his runes started to boil and unleashed noxious vapors. The spell started to take hold. A massive force was concentrated in the valley, and the world struggled to keep up. The spectral chatter grew louder and more intense. Voids were torn in thin air, pulsating, threatening to brust wide open, revealing vast unexplored spaces beyond. The halo of symbols around the wizard was pressed closer to his physical frame. Terror began to engulf his mind at the unexplained, the outerworldly far beyond any demon or wyrm. Then, finally, the madness was broken. A fizzling sound was heard as steel and copper was liquified, and the skull-adorned staff was deformed when, from top to bottom, it melted and the metal formed a small pond on the ground. As the process grew to an end, a great wraith shot up violently from the remains. An orange cloud of malovent bloodlust, vague shapes of features locked in a silent scream within liberated itself from its metallic shell. It twisted back and forth with shocking alacrity but could not approach. The spell had done its work. Its movements came to resemble a tornado of soulless rage, ever changing and shifting as it whirled more and more erratically above the molten remains of the staff. Then, with a curious explosion that seemed to kill all sound and leave behind it a noiseless crater, it was dispersed. The wizard slowly backed away from the chasm of madness. Nothing would ever grow in the valley from that day on.