The Board

((Nargozond, Dalen Alps NW of the Dalen Remnant))

Many people who required a fort or a tower sought to have the building on top of the highest achievable height. That was not the thought process of Bathlazaar Gelt when he raised his fortress from stone. Instead, his abode was nestled between two mountains within a long-sealed pass. The sheer walls afforded him complete protection from three sides, short of a dragon or someone with a spider climb spell. The path up to his abode was layered in illusions and alarm spells; none who approached would escape notice.

And deep within that fortress, the archmage stood with his hand over a small crystal ball, crimson gloved fingers clawed in the air just above it. The room was empty, save for him. The hexagonal room had no other furnishings except for the pillar, the crystal, and the iron double door that led out. Arcane pentagrams and sigils were etched into the floor, exact in mathematical placement. And Gelt stood still at the crystal.

It was through the crystal he saw the world as a whole. His will to see the events brought them forth. It was his silent voyeurism that allowed him to see the Zatarian city burn. He watched with no emotion as men, women, and children were put to the sword. He admired how she spurred her companions and her army to such a righteous fevor. And she was willing to whatever it took to succeed.

She was focused. Not as a mage was with spells but as a warrior who knew that battle was a chaotic choreography and every step was known. And her iron will was felt even through divination. Her malice was a poisonous snake that he admired the slightest. She was everything he wished of queens from the times of the Two Kingdoms. Thalia had rejected his offer, forcing him to move pieces. He knew the variable of time very well in all of his careful machinations and for the first time felt annoyance at himself in a long time. Now, at the precipice of his next move that would finally tip the first of many dominoes, a suitable candidate had arisen.

He lowered his arm, other hand clasping his staff.

He had proceeded too far to truly stop. He could perhaps stall for a time. It would certainly afford himself the ability to gauge this new queen. He would not move her to his side yet, she was still unproven in many trials. Gelt thought for only a moment longer on the subject before turning to the doors. His robes swayed silently as he exited, a row of four robed individuals waiting beside the door. They looked expectantly to the archmage even as he stood staring ahead. He did not need to look at them. They knew.

"The prince is no longer our concern. We will proceed as planned. Verden still lies ready to be moved into certain ruin but not yet. You will encourage the prince to wait until I am certain," Bathlazaar stated, his voice double-tone in power.

The last mage in line turned slightly towards Gelt. Now his eyes turned to him, deep within the eyeholes of gold. He stood silent, the weight of attention upon the mage before him that chose to speak. He knew these four were trained enough to not speak unless they had a logical question, sometimes an empathic one, or statement. To speak of something they already knew, of what he chose them to know, to speak in ignorance...

They all knew the penalties.

"The prince is all but within our grasp but not the citizens," he started. "Many of the criminal networks are well within our ability to subvert yet the process cannot be stopped. There lays the problem of what we have accomplished. Shall we divert from Karavoss?"

"No. Continue our search there. I sense power still, it is weakened. Find it and retrieve it."

The mage returned to mimic the rest. Gelt walked forward, silence left in his wake as his staff made a gentle tap with every footfall. They would accomplish their many fatal tasks well, this he knew. The last of the Two Kingdoms will be the first to capitulate to his will, of this he was certain. The hunt of Ceriden Malkaan continues now to his ever pulling whims, weakening the Inquisition's attentions back home. The fact that the Knights of Sarnia had decided to aid the Inquisition proved interesting but irrelevant. If anything else, the problems of Sarnia would burden the Inquisition further.

And then, the lords and warlords of the Dalen Remnant.

A true wasteland now. Devastated by years of war waged by arcane power and demonic invasions, what was once a proud magocracy ruled in by fairness and bringing advancement to magic is now nothing of its former self. The skeleton of the kingdom was picked through by those city-states that scrambled to hold what remnant still existed in their hands. And that would never do.

As he arrived at the end of the hallway, passing by many doors and passages, he finally decided on what he would do. The doors opened with a clanking of metal as he came out to the balcony that rested there. Below him dozens of fires were lit, the din of metal being hammered a constant chorus. Beneath him upon the inside of the mountains, many dark red creatures moved with roars akin to a lion's; they pushed and shoved others even as they worked with menace.

His Kragan were bred for war. And war he shall give them. The numbers were not yet ready, to which he would simply wait. More were being pulled out of the earthen vats below, fully grown and ready to kill. In time, this gathering would be the greatest army ever seen. The first of the empire.

He would deal with Lord Soldor and his claims of restoration. And much like the queen he watched, those warlords would find no quarter. He was The One Who Had Changed, soon the land would change as well. The board was set, he only needed to set one piece in motion for it all.

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