|The Spine of the World Mountains|
Neither could anyone rival Balazar Agundar in his fanatical commitment to the lord of destruction; but he was equally possessed of ghosts and rage. Each night in his dreams Balazar relives the horrible godsfall—the feeling of disconnection and desolation from Talos was like a phantom-limb haunting an amputee. Balazar tries to take up the mantle of his god's aspects to restore Talos, but he is foiled at every turn by the mischief wrought by both Umberlee and Auril—the bitch and the witch.
Balazar discoved many struggles in his attempts to focus energies on his responsibilities as Marchion as well as the duties imposed upon him by the church, but all this fell woefully short of exercising Balazar’s haunting memories: his broken family, his betrayer wife, and the two false sons. Their existence mocked him, angered him. How he hated them. He needed a drink, Balazar thought as he walked west with Auril’s Gale at his back, encouraging every step.
Bereft of his entourage, Balazar earnestly considered himself lucky to be drawing breath. His actions may have been hasty, but he would not let his city starve this winter.
In response Luskan’s excessive taxing of Mirabaran shipping merchants, Balazar deemed swift and aggressive action was called for. He was the Marchion of Mirabar and her caretaker; he was responsible for her health and longevity.
Before Balazar and his two hundred Talossans were able to present challenge to the pirate captains, Balazar’s cohort Halvor came with a note delivered by a tiny yellow dragon- no bigger than a pear.
The Hosttower offers its hospitality in exchange for palaver before thee lay siege to the City of Sails. Signed: Kyrrolla of the Hosttower.
Leaving Kitiara in command Balazar and Halvor accepted Kyrrolla’s invitation, and after some weeks- during a moonless wintry storm the Hosttower of the Arcane came into view, a marvel of magic construction. The tower’s crown disappeared into the darkness, lost in the night sky. Faux flames flickered to life and floated up as Balazar and company crossed the bridge to the tower.
A figure soon came into view, waiting for their arrival. It was Kyrrolla and she was terrible in her beauty. Whatever her sorcererous bloodline is, Balazar thought, it had all the charm of a banshee. They entered the Hosttower and sat amicably upon a white arrangement of chairs and couches. An unremarkable man in sterling white clothes sat; he seemed to be waiting for them, but remained a silent observer.
“Gratutude for entertaining my invitation,” Kyrrolla said, around her magical stones followed her every movement. “We promise to delay you no more than is necessary.”
Her posturing angered Balazar, “My arrival should be no surprise to the Luskan pirates! Winter is coming Lady Sai and these excessive harbor fees are targeting everyone—merchants down to the citizens. This is about the metal trade- 'he who controls the weapons wins the war' right?" His rage plain as the axe at his side, “the captains intend to hinder...”
“Can I offer you a drink Sai Agundar?” Kyrrolla interrupted a trace of lust now in her voice.
“You may and yes I will. With thanks.” Balazar said but continued noticeably calmer with the promise of libations, “I have merchant warehouses and stockrooms fat with armaments and equipment, I am going to show the high captains that an embargo of Mirabar is bad for the economy of Luskan... I will burn their precious markets down with thunder and lightning.” Damn, putting words to his anger felt good! “The clerics of Talos…”
“Have no more power.” The man in white, silent until now, interrupted. Balazar found that despite the insult this did not invoke further his already simmering rage. “Do they?” He finished.
The ghosts of Balazar’s many failures and setbacks reflected in his eyes all at once as he came to terms with the truth of this man’s bold but accurate statement.
“But do you know who does have power in the North? The storm dragon Frostburn Sai Agundar and the dragons of the North,” the man in White said. Rising to his feet the man known as Karlott faced Balazar full-on. His eyes blazed with icy coldness. “It is inevitable Sai. Frostburn has assumed the mantle of beast lord and destroyer, it would be best for you to come to terms with this reality now… ‘winter is coming’ and you know how deadly winter seasons are in the North.”
“You say true.” Balazar said looking at his reflection in the ale served to him before quaffing it. “Why did you call me here White Magician?”
“It is simple really. We will entertain Mirabar’s patronage of Talossan clercis or Mirabar will suffer the wrath of the dragons.” Karlott said with cold assurity.
“You will know of us as the Cult of the Dragon.”
“Put words to terms and see them considered.” Balazar heard himself say finishing another ale.
The Man in White tittered and began to stroll outside. Kyrrolla stood as well following Balazar and his cohort. “Unite your ministry with us, be the first of the Storm Dragon’s followers, and become his divine shield.” Karlott stopped and Balazar’s gaze settled on the eastern horizon where scores of dragons were viciously slaughtering the Talossans. Death screams mixed with the battle-roars of the dragons in the shadow of the Hosttower.
Days later, alone in his travels, Balazar’s dark tired eyes focused upon the familiar mountain cluster to the east and central mountain peak upon which sat Mirabar and again considered himself lucky to be drawing breath.