1.8. Dulan 516--Dikain Goes to Northernland
When Cyripus' men didn't find the Archons in Gracia's village, Cyripus supposed she must have left them elsewhere for safekeeping. The safest place she would have known was the main temple in Serend, so that is where he turned his attention next. Dikain, a monk of the highest level, guarded the temple. He was a formidable force all on his own, but since he was surrounded by his people, he was invincible. Cyripus knew he had to destroy Dikain from the inside if he had any hope of gaining any Archons that he guarded.
The army of Dulan arrived at the temple one day and displayed for all the people a remnant of a robe worn by Dikain. They said they had retrieved it from a band of orcs that had been captured on their way back to rejoin the larger orc army. They also carried with them a detailed map of the defences at Serend. Dikain, they said, had betrayed his people to the orcs for a large sum of money. And there was the proof.
Dikain came out and protested that he was innocent, but the tension in Serend was too high. The people turned on Dikain and together with the army from Dulan, they drove him from the city to a bluff over the river. He cast himself over the ledge, and his body was never found.
To Cyripus' dismay, his men reported Dikain had taken the Archon of Wind with him from the temple when he fled. Serend had lost their most powerful protector and the soldiers of Dulan destroyed the city in their search for more Archons, but none were to be found.
This event was a turning point for Prince Cerion. He knew his father would never lie about evidence and bring down a respectable monk, so therefore he must no longer truly be in command of the army of Dulan. The prince took the forces loyal to him and struck out into the countryside to oppose the Dulan soldiers. Prince Cerion's men became known as the Knight Corps and were spoken of as heroes of the people.
What no one knew was that Dikain survived his fall into the river, and was slowly making his way to the Northernland, with the Archon of Wind tucked safely in his cloak.
1.9. Dulan 517--Zian and Ugdrasil Find out About the Archons
By now, Zian and Ugdrasil had begun to make names for themselves. Zian was known as an excellent young warrior. Ugdrasil was never quite accepted among orcs or humans, since he was half-blood, but his skill with magic could not be denied.
The two friends would get together once a year to go adventuring together for a month or so. They always met in Kuskut near the home of an old mystic skilled in prophecy. But this year they arrived at the usual place and found chaos. Cyripus, with his Dulan soldiers, and Prince Cerion, with his Knights Corps, had both come to consult with the famous mystic at the same time. Bloodshed was the inevitable result of the encounter, and the old man was trapped in the middle. His home soon caught fire from all the spellcasting, and when Zian and Ugdrasil arrived they found the mystic desperately trying to save a few of his prophetic scrolls while swords and magic clashed around him.
Zian and Ugdrasil waded into the fray. Ugdrasil used his magic to douse the flames, and Zian protected the old man from the battle. But it was too late--most of the scrolls of prophecy were destroyed. When Cerion and Cyripus realized this, they ordered their men to fall back. They thought the mystic couldn't provide prophetic guidance without the scrolls. There was nothing left to fight over, so the soldiers dispersed.
Zian and Ugdrasil remained to help the old man, but there was not much they could do. The mystic sat down in the middle of his ruined house and looked around. He told them the story of the Archons and the magic of the Elementals. Then he looked closely at the young men. "You have both shown great honour this day," he said. "And you will both grow to have mighty power. But one of you...one of you will tread a dark path." He shook his head gravely.
The time had come for Zian and Ugdrasil to return home, and they went away wondering about what the mystic had said. When Ugdrasil arrived, he found Kaliur looking very somber. Something was not right, he said, and he planned to go away on a long spirit quest. He intended to leave Ugdrasil as his successor. The half-breed orc would become the lord of Gaiahon--Walcure's magical staff.
1.10. Dulan 518--Ugdrasil's Rise to Power
Ugdrasil did not hesitate to use the power he inherited from Kaliur. He set out to unite the warring orc clans into one nation--and he intended to make it a peaceful nation. It did not come easily. Ugdrasil began by building a city he named Trilgad. It grew strong and Ugdrasil used it as his power base. Abandoning the old ways, he used persuasion and influence to unite his people. He faced strong opposition from the five chiefs of the main orc clans. They didn't want to follow a half-blood.
But the younger generation was tired of the constant battles and saw in Ugdrasil a great leader. One in particular was a great friend and supporter of Ugdrasil as he fought to overturn the old ways. His name was Lamunesil. He was also a student of Kaliur, and the two of them had grown up like brothers. Lamunesil helped shift the political tide in favour of Ugdrasil's massive changes, and by the year's end Ugdrasil had succeeded. He was head of a single orc nation, and declared peaceful relations with all other races. It was such a momentous event that from that day on, orc history began to be reckoned according to the Trilgad calendar, just as humans used the Dulan calendar.
It did not occur to Ugdrasil that perhaps he had already started down that dark path he was warned of by the prophet.
1.11. Dulan 519--Gracia and Cyripus
Cyripus knew Gracia was still alive. He knew she would come after him, and now he knew she still had one Archon in her possession--almost certainly in her bow Evangarda. So instead of chasing her down and fighting on her territory, he laid a trap that would bring the moon elf to him.
When Gracia saw the tracks and evidence of where she could find Cyripus, she weighed her options. It was too easy. She knew it was a trap, but decided to go ahead. She wasn't afraid to face her enemy. Cyripus' men captured Gracia when she walked into their ambush in a dark, forbidding forest. She let them take her bow from her, and they imprisoned her in the underground city of the vampires. The ruler there was an ancient woman named Ignatia, known as the Queen of the Dead. She had been Cyripus' ally from the beginning.
Cyripus would not face Gracia directly. He still feared the Elemental power at her command. So he communicated with her through a magical mirror, asking her questions, trying to find out what she knew about the other Archons. Gracia used this opportunity to learn as much as she could about him and about what had happened to the Archons. She knew the world could change a lot in the 500 years she had been away.
Throughout the interrogation, she gave nothing away, but discovered Cyripus was in a position of power among the humans. She also found out what happened to Dikain, with his Archon of Wind; that Brumhart had been cast into a pool of lava; and that the leader of the orcs wielded Gaiahon and the Archon of Earth. She became certain that the secret of the Archon buried in Dulan was still safe. When Gracia was sure she had learned as much as she could, she decided it was time to leave. She didn't care for the hospitality of the Queen of the Dead.
Gracia used her innate spirit skills to tap into the magic infused in the mirror. With that source of power, she smashed the mirror and set off an explosion that ripped through the Queen's dungeon. It also extended through to the other side of the mirror, causing destruction in Cyripus' own camp. Gracia regained Evangarda from the fallen guards and began her escape from the underground city.
She tried to sneak out quietly, but it was festival time and the vampires were all in the streets preparing for their ancient rituals. Word spread quickly of Gracia's escape from the dungeon, and her sneaking had to turn to running--then, to an all-out battle, with Gracia and her Archon versus the entire City of the Dead. Gracia won. Most of the city was leveled, and the bridge to the outside world crumbled as Gracia raced across it. Subsequently, the vampires were isolated from the rest of the world for a long time, and they nursed a strong hatred of all moon elves.
While Gracia was rekindling her old fight with Cyripus, Zian was growing famous as a warrior. When he joined the prince's Knight Corps at the end of the year, the news spread far and wide.
1.12. Dulan 520--Ugdrasil Cuts Off Relations With Humans
Ugdrasil was young and idealistic when he declared peace with humans. He soon found that ancient race hatred was not so easily erased, but Ugdrasil refused to give up. Then everything changed.
Some Dulan soldiers moved their search for ancient treasure into orc territory, and were captured after destroying a village. The orc captors asked Ugdrasil how they should dispose of the invaders. Ugdrasil ordered that the humans should not only be allowed to live, but they should not even be mistreated while he worked out how to bring them to justice in their own nation. The orcs disagreed with this plan, but they followed orders.
The soldiers of Dulan didn't appreciate the gesture. At the first opportunity they saw, they rebelled and killed their guards, then looted their bodies and escaped.
Ugdrasil could see he had been too optimistic, especially as his people began to cry loudly for revenge. Finally, he decided there was no way the human and orc races could interact peacefully at all. He declared that every human in orc territory must leave immediately. Orcs took this as a license to kill all humans within their borders, and the ensuing massacre lasted three months. It was later known as "The Hunt of Last Resort."
From that day on, Ugdrasil cut off all relations with humans.
1.13. Dulan 520--Zian Acquires Brumhart
As his adopted father Kenneth lay on his deathbed, Zian learned the story of how he had been found in the forest--and the meaning of the ring found with him. He was an heir of the Manas family, with a rich tradition of honour and important holdings in the city of Dulan. But a ring was not enough to prove his history. Kenneth told him about Brumhart, and that the magical seal on the scabbard would recognize Nathan's heir.
So Zian began his quest to find Brumhart, not just for the power of the Archon, but also to prove who he really was. The search led him to the land of the Noum, with their dangerous foundries and forges deep underground. They, of course, recognized him immediately, but would not allow him to have the Archon without proving himself. He wandered the labyrinth of their caves for six months, fighting fire demons at every turn. Finally, he found the deep pit where Brumhart had been thrown. There, he faced the most ferocious of all the fire guardians--the Fire Dragon. He fought desperately for his life and for the right to claim his family. Finally he won, and as the huge beast fell backward into the pit of lava, the sword Brumhart was flung back up with the splattering, molten rock. When Zian approached it, he found the hilt of the sword strong and cool--and the blade slid easily from its sheath, shining brightly and perfectly.
He turned around and discovered hosts of Noum had been watching the entire battle. Their leader stepped forward and spoke solemnly. "There is a work waiting for you in the world. A work that requires the pure power of the Elementals." He then turned and opened a way for Zian to return easily to the surface.
In the meantime, Gracia had decided to take the ultimate step. She went to a dark elf craftsman who knew the deep Elemental mysteries. He began crafting special arrows for her--arrows with the power to destroy even the malicious, enduring spirit of Cyripus. These arrows required one special ingredient--the secret life essence--which would provide Gracia with her life span of many centuries. She was preparing for what would be the final confrontation, one way or another.
1.14. Dulan 521--Death of Cyripus
Cyripus also had tapped into the deepest ancient arts of the Elementals. Through his dark magic he discovered that one Archon was buried practically beneath his own feet in the city of Dulan. He gathered his soldiers there, and urged the king to order them to begin breaking down the castle and the city in search for ancient treasure.
But Cyripus had pushed the people of Dulan too far. They would not stand by while a mad king destroyed their city. Fighting broke out, and the people sent for the prince and his Knight Corps, urging them to return to Dulan to save them.
Cyripus grew impatient. In the middle of one fierce battle, he killed King Ladeus II and revealed his true nature as an ancient magician with devastating power. He single-handedly defeated most of the Knight Corps when they arrived and was about to kill the prince, when Zian made it to the city.
Zian had discovered who was responsible for the death of his father. He saw Ernan standing before the injured prince, ready to deal the deathblow. Zian didn't hesitate; Brumhart flew into his hand. Rage, justice, and the power of the Elementals fueled Zian's devastating attack on Cyripus. Not even the ancient magician's magic was enough to save him from the onslaught. The body of Ernan didn't stand long, and the spirit of Cyripus began searching again for a new body.
He seized a nearby man, one of the Dulan soldiers. Zian didn't realize what had happened, but when Gracia arrived in Dulan soon after, she was not deceived. She recognized the essence of Cyripus immediately, and let fly one of her special arrows. It pierced the guard's heart and pinned the spirit of Cyripus within the dying body, forcing him to leave the world forever.
With Cyripus' death, it seemed the search for the power of the ArchLord was over. Prince Cerion took the throne as King Ladeus III. Zian took his rightful place in Manas castle. Gracia left Dulan secure in the knowledge that the secret hiding place of the Archon in Dulan was still safe.
But the next threat to Dulan was growing in the east.
Part three of the lore of ArchLord will be posted on August 28, 2006.