February 2018 Prologue

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[DEEP IN THE HINTERLANDS; FEBRUARY 01, 2018 (WR)]

As the bonfire burned and sizzled, light and darkness danced along the log walls that encaged the area. In daylight, the fire circle would have been a meeting place for rangers and woodsfolk to discuss matters or even celebrate harvest feasts beneath sunny skies. The stones and logs here were for sitting and congregating, though they all encircled the firepit itself, just as the walls encircled the place entirely.

Tonight, the fire circle was for deviltry and dark deeds. The horned figure in front of the bonfire remained seated upon a stone when Dagmar and Zaalamon entered from beyond the walls. They did not fail to note that sweltering heat that pervaded the air nor that the area around the bonfire remained dimly lit despite its flame’s size.

A black stone and a dragon tattoo marked Dagmar’s twisted visage – he seemed eternally wrestling with a hateful wrath. In contrast, Zaalamon was quiet and cool-blooded, moving with confidence and without need for the brutish restraint that characterized his colleague. They knelt before the horned figure, head bowed and neck offered in abeyance.

Dagmar spoke first, in a bitter growl. “Dimitri, we failed the Master. The Justicar’s armor is still out of our hands – perhaps, they are with his slaves. The Freefolk… got in the way yet again”

Zaalamon’s grin crept into his words, slippery and oil as the Troll that spoke them. “But we know who the Lightwalkers are. It is only a matter of time before they are vulnerable again. And when they–”

“The Master already knows of your failure, just as he knows that a piece of the Archon’s armor has already made its way into the hands of the Kingslayer”The horned figure did not look at them when they spoke to him, gazing instead into the depths of the flame.

Even Zaalamon’s smile slipped at the sound of that name. “How did he know?”

“The Master has his ways. He has over a thousand darknesses in his employ, did you forget?”

Dimitri’s eyes left the flame and it immediately dimmed to mere embers. The dance of light and shadow fell to a standstill thereafter but the heat remained – indeed, it only intensified.

Standing up, Dimitri fixed his gaze on the pact-bound souls in front of him, eyeing them like a butcher deciding which of his livestock was for slaughtering. “Remember that you are all morsels to him and he can devour you with but a thought. The moment it no longer pleases him that you live and that you FAIL, he will snuff you out”

Dagmar and Zaalamon were dripping in sweat. Gravel cut into their palms and knees. Worst of all, every instinct they had screamed at them to stand and fight or scream and run.

But they remained prone, with only the crackle of dying flame to count the long passing of moments.

After an eternity, there was a sound like deep, mirthless laughter from around them. And they knew then that their time of sentencing had passed them by… for now.

“Find the armor” Dimitri turned back to the bonfire and it flared up renewed. The heat seemed to recede and the strange shadowed light replaced the utter darkness that was. “Bring it to the Master while you still amuse him. Drown Freehold and the Brotherhood in their own blood if you must”

When they left the fire circle, Zaalamon turned back one last time and could not help but wonder how he had first failed to notice the shadow that towered right behind Dimitri.

*Out of Game Clarification: Those with the Dark Pact are vaguely aware of the Court meeting, having seen it in a few recurring nightmares. They are also plagued by a malevolent darkness that haunts their nighttime hours and incites them to dark acts.

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