Sarachin stared at the room, trying to absorb its contents, once he became unbound, gulping as deeply as the harness would let him. One of the guards spun him on the spot from his kneeling position to face the Grand Master. Sarachin bowed his head in respect to the lord that had exiled him and now had summoned him back. Grand Master Exhochim, who was in the prime of his life with pale blond hair cropped short to show his hard, strong features, indicated to the two Dedicated to strap on the Crown of Sight to his head. The ancient Sage Marumak had built the Crown of Vision nearly nine hundred years before to aid his visions into the hazy paths that entwined the future and destiny. Since his era there had been very few who could only dimly manage this art. Until now. The Crown itself was wrought from Dragonbone and a thin line of gold covered the upper rim of the diadem connecting the twelve blood red gems mounted three inches from the circlet. Every stone was placed an exact distance apart for any slight over- focus of power could unravel the users mortal coil and, therefore, kill him. Each gem was the Heartstone of a live Shadowman and was one of the most focussed magical substances able to be found. Of the Shadowmen; they were kept screaming for eternity in a deep, but ceaselessly lit chamber to prevent such half dead abominations capable of stalking the land. As the Shadowmen were assassins created by evil influence the crown was kept under watch and guard to prevent such a potent and tainted artefact from falling into the wrong hands. The Crown of Vision was not the only hallowed object to be present at this time; the Staff of the Afflicter was also tightly gripped in the Grand Masters hand. This ancient tool was first used to turn mages against their friends but had since become sanctified. Nevertheless due to its previous manifestation it was only used in the direst of circumstances. Sarachin had proclaimed that he knew of a prophecy that would, in a few centuries, change the world but he neither knew the full extent of it nor was unwilling to share its contents with his previous comrades. As he had Foreseen, it would come to this. The Grand Master had his twenty strongest Masters to accompany him in this “questioning”, ten Dedicated to restrain the subject and one hundred Aspirants to record the details that would be uttered forth from the traitor’s mouth. Nothing would be left to chance. At a signal from a Dedicated the Masters began to delve into the source, centred at Exhochim. Despite his exceptional strength he could barely contain the destructive transfer of power into the staff and once he believed enough had been gathered he plunged the perfectly cylindrical rod into the crowned deserter. Sarachin grunted as his skin convulsed black and rippled with spoiled magics under his skin. The staff bored a hole into his still beating heart and Sarachin lost all feeling as unknown insanity washed over him. An ear-chilling screech that was not his own emanated out of his mouth as Exhochim shuddered with the effort to invade Sarachin’s mind. Sarachin’s red irises glowed and beams of light lanced forth from them. The beams of dæmonic light passed over the row of Aspirants with quill in hand and each soiled himself in turn as the light passed over them, whether they were looking at him or not. Before the glare reached the Masters the black ripple spreading over his body reached his face and his spewed forth, releasing black fluid that trickled down his face. The Master Bolodun wept in sympathy and guilt. As the will of Exhochim overtook Sarachin, the blood red rubies atop the crown began pulsing a warning light as the man’s mind strayed into a world not yet formed. Even for a Sage as gifted as Sarachin and with an aid so powerful his limits were pushed beyond what he could cope with. Ancient wounds opened and Sarachin’s lifeblood began to ooze out of every pore and stain his snow-white gown as red as the jewels above his head. His teeth aged with potent magics and discoloured to a frightful black. Some dropped out and clogged up in his throat. The jewels shone brighter than before as his mind became linked to a strong thread that lead his psyche to the future. Once that link was established the Masters applying the energy were allowed to relax the flow, but no matter how much assistance, their own lord needed every fraction of concentration to prevent his life force from being drained. As Sarachin’s robes, now, stained yellow and brown over the red, a chilling but vaguely familiar voice that was not his own launched from his gullet. In unison, quills started scratching. “On his heart shall lay the eight ways he must travel, each to point him beyond the world. The Ancients shall mark him at his birth, at the planting of his soul. To mark him true he shall possess three swords, together they become one: the curved scimitar, for honour and family. The rapier of steel, passed from Master to apprentice for duty and friendship. Last shall be the silver blade, marked of the twin dragons, untarnished by age and undamaged by battle, forged at the first dawn and to be destroyed at the last sunset; this shall mark his inescapable destiny. To prove him true, he shall fight himself six times and victor shall he be. The woman shall be his guide and the man his aid in times of need. The beast shall be his saviour and the fiend his friend.” At this, the Sage shuddered in one final desperate but futile attempt of regaining control over his own body. For the first time since he had started speaking he looked up and stared his tormentor in the eye. For the first time in a decade Exhochim felt doubt. For the first time in an hour he spoke. “But what is his prophecy?” “He shall save man” “From who?” “Who do you think? From both us … and them” For the second time in his life Sarachin’s eyes turned blue; they had been that colour at the moment of his birth but had remained a distracting red, until now. Sarachin smiled, he could rest now. Suddenly, the Staff hurled itself from his heart and was sent, straight and as true as an arrow unswervingly outwards. The Grand Master held on in a false reaction and a Master tried to help. Both were propelled across the chamber into an Aspirant still recording this rare occurrence. All three died in a welter of blood and crushed bone. All present rose to look at heir fallen lord and then turned to the murderer. His back arched and his fingers tried to hold air in his death spasm. The glow on the twelve stones grew ever brighter until they hurt to look at. They exploded simultaneously, showering the floor already covered with clotted blood, among other things. Sarachin screamed the last time as his blood turned to acid, his organs exploded and his brain liquefied to a thick muck that sprayed over the room as his skull cracked open due to the energies flowing through his poor tortured body. All that remained of Sarachin was a bloody broken heap of bones with a mop of black hair covering the remains of his scalp. Silence filled the room until it was saturated to bursting point. The quills had stopped their scratching. All were still. One voice infiltrated the void, like a screech of a banshee, and all life shattered.