Into the Remains of the Past

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<<Are you sure?>> Gerumenum hissed as he peered through the distance glass at the battered ruins some four or five leagues distant. Sitting in a finely tooled leather saddle astride a skittish roan mare, the broad shouldered former cleric in heavy cloak, exquisite silk and fine leather looked little changed from the day he threw aside the Var Ethisdil credo to form the Ka'thesck in a dark bid for power. There were a few more lines to the handsome face, perhaps, a dash of gray in his hair. But the power-hungry look in his eyes had faded not one iota in the eleven cycles that had passed from that fiery day of rebellion to this one.

He dropped that hungry gaze from the distance glass' eyepiece to glare over at his companion.

<<The human whelp is in the ruins of Jair Kalial?>>

<<He is there.>> The harsh reply came from behind the Shadowmaster's face-covered black leather mask. Almost angular in head to toe black, Gerumenum's feared lieutenant sat on a plain black saddle strapped across the back of a massive black charger, the stallion standing almost passively as his master sat shock still, not even moving to reply to the elf who called him 'slave'.

<<How do you know?>> Gerumenum pressed, lifting the distance glass to his eye once again to stare hard at the crumbling walls in the distance.

<<The Shadow told me,>> the Shadowmaster grated in retort. Then, without warning, he kicked his charger into motion and the massive stallion exploded towards Jair Kalial, forcing Gerumenum to kick his own mount into motion with an oath or risk being left behind. The full five companies of Tjor'riin that had been waiting impassively behind them also stirred into motion, not a few of them with whispered curses at Ri'im hanging high in the sky overhead, to throw themselves after the two galloping horses.


<<What kind of unpleasant company?>> Feladorn pressed as the five of them ran lightly down a debris-strewn avenue, heading towards what was left of the city center. Just in front of him, paced by a concerned looking Dezi who kept throwing the grim human looks, Shawn ran on as if he hadn't heard his friend's question.

Instead his eyes blazed as if lit from within, the vision of the shadow city scrolling across his mind's eye dominating all else.

<<This way,>> he curtly directed, sending the small company to their right and onto yet another avenue, this one even wider than the first though nearly choked closed by a number of buildings having collapsed into it.

<<Damn it, Shawn, answer me, man!>> Feladorn put on more speed to pull even, looking over at his friend with a scowl.

<<What kind of, . . .urk!>> He grunted in surprise as Shawn's unexpected grip on his collar hauled him to an abrupt stop. Just in time to see a heavy war spear slash by, missing the tip of his nose by a mere hand's breadth to hammer into the stone wall to their left not five paces from where they halted.

Having ducked at the same time to let the spear pass overhead, a crouching Dezi joined her companions in tracking back along the spear's path in the hopes of finding its owner. And she heard Banik, Feladorn and Thom all curse softly under their breath when they found themselves staring at a figure all in black on a massive black charger, its arm just now lowering.

<<The Shadowmaster,>> Thom supplied the name with a harsh whisper. Then they were all shivering in surprise when Shawn's clear voice cried out.

<<Not so easy to hit, now that you're aiming at something other than my back,>> the human shouted, a sneer on his face as he stared hard at the mounted figure some twenty paces away.

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