Having been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy, Drakar heads south on the ship Koraph's Delight, searching for the mysterious Fortress Abbadabass, home of the Order of the Blackened Glaive.
The Order of the Blackened Glaive
Koraph’s Delight makes landfall the next morning. Captain Koraph is no longer with the ship, but in his absence, the rest of the men have proven easy to manage. Drakar reclaims his purse from Koraph’s cabin, leaving what he feels is a fair wage for his passage but claiming a share of Koraph’s strongbox as payment for his troubles during the journey. He divies the rest of the coin out to the sailors, who are pathetically grateful to receive it. The cabin boy weeps and asks to accompany Drakar, but of course, there can be no room for a child on the road to Fortress Abbadabas. Drakar takes his leave of the ship without looking back, though he can feel the eyes of the sailors upon him as he descends the gangplank. He thinks that perhaps he has done these men a service, though they will struggle for awhile without Koraph’s hand to guide them.
Their struggles are irrelevant. Drakar has his own goals and his own concerns, and he cares little for the fates of men too weak to free themselves from the persecution of a man like Koraph. Somewhere ahead lies the Order of the Blackened Glaive. These are men made of sterner stuff, and it is with them that Drakar will find his fate.
After spending a fortnight at sea, Drakar has traveled far to the south, and as a result, he’s found an entirely different climate than the one he knew back in the Empire. The port town of Jakara proves to be a study in contrasts. The sun is not merely hot, it blazes, leaving even Drakar’s infernal eyes squinting against the glare. The wharf is old and sun bleached but mostly in good repair, and though the space is not large, there are as many as two dozen ships docked at irregular intervals along the quay. Many are small skiffs and dilapidated-looking barges, but several modern caravels are here as well, along with a frigate from the Imperial Sentralian Navy. A great stone stronghold stands on a bluff overlooking the city, but most of the structures that Drakar can see are little better than freestanding tents or canvas lean-tos built against a bit of ancient stone wall left over from the ruins of whatever long-forgotten culture once occupied this place before the founding of the modern era. The wind blows incessantly from the east, occasionally throwing sand into Drakar’s face and giving the entire landscape a temporary feel, as though the whole will be swept away with the next storm.
Though there are sailors from a dozen nations near the port, the actual denizens of Jakara appear to come in two types. The first wear long, flowing robes that cover their entire bodies from head to toe in white cotton robes or shifts. Of these, Drakar cannot tell men from women, nor has he the least conception of what they say when they speak. The others wear no shirts at all but have either loose-fitting pantaloons for the men or long grass skirts for the women, with wide straw hats shading faces and eyes from the sun’s glare. These are dark-skinned people, the first that Drakar has ever seen, but they are friendly, even to a man with red skin and nubby horns on his head. Drakar finds their immodesty distracting, however, and so he makes no effort to engage any of the merchants who cry out to him from their various stalls.
Drakar wanders for a time without destination. He feels somehow that Fortress Abbadabas is close, but he has no idea in which direction it lies, nor does he know where he himself has landed, exactly. Indeed, he knows the name of this place only because the cabin boy told him before he debarked Koraph’s Delight. By wandering aimlessly, Drakar eventually finds his way into a rough shanty town filled with old tent pieces, parts of wooden crates, and rudely strung blankets, all serving as crude, makeshift shelters. If the rest of what he has seen looks windswept and temporary, these shelters are barely even that. He has wandered into a hovel, and though he does not fear the natives, neither does he wish to stay longer than necessary in such a rough part of town. Eyes watch him constantly. Most belong to children and what Drakar assumes are women huddled beneath the impenetrable white robes that they wear, but some few are large enough to be men, and the looks they give are unfriendly, even through the slits they’ve cut in their robes for their eyes.
Though he is eager to be away from this area, yelling catches Drakar’s attention before he has half cleared the shanty town. He looks around, realizes that he has entered a close section where tents, ancient stone piles, and the remnants of wooden crates and refuse form an alley of sorts that guides his footsteps. He is on the point of turning back when a thought echoes unbidden across his mind.
Curious, Drakar presses on. Though he does not remember summoning it, he the Hellglaive has materialized in his hands.
Drakar steps from the alley into an open area that’s tight with the press of bodies. The yelling that he heard before is here, right in front of him, but sand blows across his face and into his eyes before he can fully register the scene. He steps back and brings a hand up to shield his face. Before he can recover, a figure bumps him and then almost knocks him down. He has caught the girl without realizing it, and then a rock bounces off of his left shoulder pauldron. Another flies by his head and then a third strikes the girl at the base of her neck. She whimpers and then sags into Drakar.
A rage like fire fills Drakar, and before he has fully realized it, he has pushed the girl behind him. The Hellsglaive is already in his hands, but now it bursts into flame. Smoke wafts from the blade, filling the air with the pungent stench of brimstone. There are dozens of the robed figures before him, each holding rocks in both hands. Several let fly--whether at the girl or at Drakar, he knows not--and their yelling reaches a crescendo. Drakar knocks a rock from the air with the Hellsglaive and advances, a snarl on his lips.
Several more figures throw rocks--at Drakar this time for certain--but they bounce harmlessly off of his breastplate, and then the crowd seems to realize what they face. A pair of larger figures, certainly males, advance with more rocks raised, but Drakar advances as well, meeting their charge in the space before the press of the crowd. He sweeps the men’s feet out from under them with the butt-end of the Hellsglaive, and when the first tries to rise, he uses that same end to knock the man unconscious.
“The next man who approaches me dies,” Drakar says. A part of him wants simply to lay waste to this crowd and be done with it, but though he is half demon, he has not yet descended into butchery. Some part of him does not care, but he has long since mastered that part. He is a man, not a demon...
The crowd falls back a step but waits to pounce like a beast. A few start forward with rocks, and Drakar has to feint with his blade to keep them back.
“They don’t understand you,” the girl says behind Drakar. “Cut free my manacles, and I’ll handle this. It’s a misunderstanding. They think I’m a witch.”
Drakar turns fast, sees the girl holding up manacled wrists, and then turns back to the crowd, again feinting to keep back the press of bodies. Another rock flies and then another, and the girl ducks, leaving the strikes to fall harmlessly. One goes past Drakar’s head; another strikes his breastplate. Still another hits his armored greave.
He growls and turns back to the crowd in anger, but the girl grabs him. “No! Cut me free. I’ll handle this.”
More rocks fly. One hits Drakar in the arm while another strikes his head. His anger flares, and he rocks forward, lashing out again with the butt-end of the Hellsglaive. The haft strikes, leaving two men moaning in the sand. More rocks are thrown, but the men have backed up, giving Drakar a moment to act. He turns, sweeps the Hellsglaive over and down, and cuts through the girl’s manacles before turning back. There is a moment of quiet and then the robed figures cry out and back quickly away, their anger suddenly turning to terror. Several stumble in the press, and then there is a crack like thunder. Black lightning arcs into the crowd, scorching bodies, leaving panic and cries of pain. Smoke rises from the torsos of those who’ve been hit, and then the girl steps forward, arms out, black magefire held openly in both hands.
“I’m not a witch, you maniacs!” she screams. “I’m a wizard! A war wizard! It’s past time you learned exactly what that means.”
More black lightning arcs into the crowd. It spreads like a fan and then jumps from body to body, and the robed figures begin screaming in pain and panic. They try to turn, to run, but there are too many, and the space is too crowded. The girls stalks forward slowly. Drakar can actually feel her anger. He can feel her rage and the power that is hers to command. It is intoxicating. Only with effort is he able to sheath the Hellsglaive and reach out, grabbing the girl by the shoulder.
She turns, follows his eyes, and sees that it’s true. The space is already nearly empty. A few last stragglers turn and stare, but the fight has gone out of them. Most have simply disappeared into the refuse.