Forte felt a surge of energy rush into his body from the pendant.
“Infernus!” He shouted, extending his palm. An intense blaze of heat shot from his palm towards the wall. He casted the spell again. And again. He casted Infernus on Blackbeard, and then on Jack, melting away their corporeal forms as if they were sand. He felt powerful like never before.
The tower had started to collapse. Forte rushed upstairs with Nightmare, making it out just in time.
How could he have known. How could have known that he was the descendant of the original royal family of Motley-Sinclair. The evidence had always been staring at him in the face, but it just dawned on him now. His father never explained where he obtained his wealth, or why nobody else in the kingdom had the last name of Mott. Forte’s thoughts never dwelled on these things, as he was busy reading fairy tales and daydreaming. Lo and behold, he had become part of the very tales he read. He was a living legend, a relic of a lost time, of a house of great magical ability.
The Amulet of Darkness seemed to lift his magic to unknown heights. He was stunned… this amulet violated the First Principle of Magic. But then, who wrote those silly principles in the first place, he thought. Mages without vast power. He continued to cast fireballs with glee.
Amidst his tirade of spells, he began to feel pale and ill. Nightmare circled the skies above, his version of displaying concern. Forte’s mind began to race. What was the Amulet of Magic taking as sacrifice, instead of only stamina? After narrowing down the possibilities, he came to an obvious realization. The pendant was fueling the magic with a combination of his stamina and his royal blood. Forte ceased his spell casting and sat down with wobbly knees. He needed something to eat. Preferably something with meat.
“Catch a hare for me, will you Nightmare? I need to eat.” He whispered to his dragon. He was feeling pale and drained.
Nightmare nodded and took off. Forte gripped the coat around him. He felt cold. And thus was the price of dark magic, he noted. He lit a fire with his hands and warmed them. Nightmare returned soon after, with a wild boar in his jaws. He dropped the boar at Forte’s feet, and Forte prepared a spit. They feasted on the tender boar meat, and then slept on the Rock of Gibraltar. Because of its isolation from the mainland and the unpleasant remnants of dark magic, there were no predators here, and they could sleep easy.
Forte arose early the next day. He was worried for his caravan horses, which he left tied to a tree with food and water to drink. He hoped the horses had not died in the days they were gone. But first, they had to investigate the ruins of the castle, in hopes of finding anything useful. When Nightmare woke up, they finished the rest of the wild boar and then Forte mounted Nightmare, ready to take off to the castle ruins. It was a dark and cloudy day, and fog permeated everywhere.
Forte had gotten used to flying on dragonback now, and they flew for an hour before reaching their destination. The castle was in shambles from what seemed like a large scale battle. Bits of armor and spears still peeked out from the dirt, but time had covered its tracks well. The castle ceiling had collapsed, and it was nearly impossible to squeeze in, but Forte and Nightmare managed. He lit a torch, and they proceeded.
He noticed that most of the valuables had been looted, but some things remained. With the help of Nightmare, he managed to move a few stone pillars that were blocking a room in the treasury. Within it, they found 6344 silvers in a centuries old chest that they broke open—they were rich! Forte quickly stashed the silver into Nightmare’s pack, and the duo continued to explore the castle ruins. After all, Forte reasoned, these treasures all rightfully belonged to him as a direct descendant. He would buy new clothing and new equipment with that money once they headed back north.
The previous looters had cleaned out most of the castle, and Forte only found a few dusty tomes to compensate. The Art of Dwarven Smithing, and Elvish Tales. Forte did not find them particularly interesting, although he noted that elves were once close to humans, before the heir of the Motley family began to enslave the females as expensive and delicate sex slaves. That was what caused the elves to side with the Sinclair family during the great war. Forte was ashamed but also impressed by the actions of his forefathers.
Forte scoured the rest of the castle remains, and found nothing but piles upon piles of skeletons, forever immortalized in their battle. He guessed that those skeletons were vestiges of the great Motley-Sinclair war, as he found a ring with the Sinclair sigil of a white lamb on one of the skeletons. Forte still could not figure out why the two great houses went to war with each other, after living in harmony for such a long time. He figured that Elmund Motley survived the battle, building the tower to select someone worthy enough, with or without his own blood, to become his heir. He must have known he was dying if he was that desparate to find an heir, Forte mused.
The party left the castle ruins and camped for the night. Nightmare hunted for food, bringing back a kam with two stubby tails, another variation from the norm caused by echoes of ancient dark magic cast in the vicinity.
The next day, Forte took off on the back of Nightmare, as they headed back to the caravan. He was relieved to see that the two horses were still alive and well after the days they were gone, despite looking extremely frightened. Forte untied the horses, deposited the silver and tomes he had collected into the caravan, and readied up the caravan for travel. Although the dark magic aura from the isles and the bleak landscape resulting from it discouraged predators, they would potentially run into more beasts as they travelled further north.
He needed to do some planning. He was not allowed passage through the elven city of Istanbal, but it was necessary to get past that forest to reach the north. He considered flying with Nightmare, but that could get interpreted as an act of war by the elves, and cause them to fire arrows at them whilst they were in the air.
Forte was stumped. He needed to somehow bypass Istanbal, but even stepping foot into that forest was probably grounds for the elves to skewer him with arrows, he thought. The only plausible solution he could think of was to fly on the outskirts of the forest, avoiding the heart of Istanbal, and hopefully avoiding every arrow. Forte disliked the elven king for being so rude to him, but after learning what his predecessors had done to the elves, he admitted that the king was correct to not grant audience to a human, and to be suspicious of humans in general.
Speaking of royalty, Forte now knew that his own family was fallen royalty. He had a gnawing suspicion that the discovery of their blood heritage during the king's visit to the Mott estate was what caused the king to order the deaths of his family. He saw them as a threat to his sovereignty. Forte would have to lay low for now, and not reveal his true name until it was the right time. He wondered, if he was a living descendant of house Motley, was there a living descendant to house Sinclair? He shook his head. One miracle was enough.
Forte and Nightmare began their trip northwards, towards the eastern outskirts of the forest. Hopefully they could bypass the forest without any injury, he thought. He considered using the pirates as decoys, but did not want to put the elves on alert for any reason. Ghostly human pirates would definitely cause an alarm. As he rode the caravan, Forte began to read The Art of Dwarven Smithing.
Vaun read the news as he stirred his potion. The king is offering seven hundred silvers for every bar of mithril. He snorted, that was impossible. The king had already spent an inordinate amount of silver on commissioning mithril armor and weapons for approximately twenty percent of his soldiers. The rest of the soldiers still wore steel or iron.
Trouble brews in the kingdoms of Rottheim and Halfast! Local rebellions shake both Rottheim and Halfast. This particular piece of news interested him. Because the kingdoms were so preoccupied with mobilizing to defeat each other, local dukes, counts, and mayors had declared their cities as independent of the kingdom, and were already mustering up their own defense force independent of the royal army. Adith was one such city, as the mayor of Adith raised taxes by an extra fifteen percent on all goods entering and exiting the city to fund military expenses. Unfortunately for the mayor, the raptor attack on Adith had reduced the town’s population by 20% as people fled the city for safety. Vaun heard reports that a storm was slowly creeping in from the west.