Chapter One: Abbul

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Tap. Roll...

Tap. Roll...

Tap. Roll... Clack!

The high general of Kaz' Rafnak grumbled in discontent, but did not make a move to retrieve his writing charcoal from the floor. What time was it again? Green eyes darted about the room, finding the mounted water clock that had settled in this office long before the general himself even had. Half past two. Gods help him, the day was slow.

His eyes lingered on the ticking hands, challenging them to tick faster. When they inevitably refused, he pried his gaze away from them and focused on the map rolled out on the carved stones of his desk. Yet, no matter how hard he stared, nothing changed. The silver pieces remained as he'd left them upon hearing the last report. They would not change until his men returned with more news. Good news, he dared to hope. On the last push, they'd ended up losing good ground in the Atlas.

The Atlas. It was well known that the country of Fellhearst consisted of five regions: the dwarven lands of Kaz' Rafnak, the human lands of Dornsomar, the elven lands of Ellin'leathin, the smallfolk lands of Jesanelle, and right in the middle of all of them... was what was widely referred to as the Atlas. A vast forest that separated the four factions. For centuries, bad rumors circulated around the place. For as long as time itself could remember, it was a wide territory of what simply was referred to as no man's land. Where beasts roamed and monsters ruled.

That was... until the drought. Fellhearst had always been a hot country... but it got to its very worst in Year 346 of the 3rd Era. Two years ago. The country had had its share of droughts, but this was the worst. For many, many months, no rain fell. Except for in the Atlas. It was almost mysterious, seemingly a very taunt from the gods, how it only rained in the middle. Desperation drove the factions in, looking for food and water to keep them alive.

That's when it happened. Not only did its resources keep the races above ground, riches were discovered everywhere in the Atlas –riches and minerals worth fighting the forest's inhabitants for. And after that, each other. The drought ended three months after the Atlas saw its first explorers.

Since then: war. A drive for the rights over the lands. Between elves, humans, dwarves, and the smallfolk... battle had not ceased for well over a year and a half. And somehow? The general figured this was still the beginning of what was going to be a really long struggle.

I should be there with them. Fighting. The stray thought passed through his mind, now bringing his attention to the corner of the room. Sitting on an intricate stand, a two edged axe beckoned his name like a siren. If only he could just –no, he couldn't. He had to stay here where he belonged... for now.

Thick fingers moved toward the man's face, stroking circles in the density of brown hair that grew from his jaw. Then, it all ran together. Boredom gave way to languor and the man lost himself in a maze of his own thoughts. His eyes were now blank, staring forward at nothing. It could have been for a few minutes, or hours, for all the man knew.

In fact, his body was well on its way to a midday nap until–.

Knock knock!

The sound of a fist on his office door roused the high general from his torpor. His heart picked up in his chest at the chance to do something. Anything.

"General Stonecleaver? You in there, lad?" called a familiar voice from the outside.

"Yeah," the general barked, and then settled, "yeah, come on in."

A moment later, the door opened, giving way to a visitor: a dwarf. One which the general recognized immediately. The man in the doorway was brown-headed and bore a pair of light blue eyes. He stood a mite taller than the usual dwarf and had the stature of an ox. With a nod, the visitor entered the room completely and shut the door behind him, making a quick survey of his surroundings.

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