Chapter 1: Four Kingdoms

The land of Rianu was one of the most powerful continents in the known world. Four allied kingdoms guarded the borders, and their alliance made them invincible to invasions by some of the more terrifying and powerful creatures. The kingdoms of the northern and southern borders were powerful warriors, who each had skills with weaponry and combat. The kingdoms of the eastern and western borders were ruled by sorcerers, each possessing certain mastery in the craft of magic. While these kingdoms were united against outside foes, internally, their relationships were not always harmonious. Before the great alliance many had been at war with each other, and minor skirmishes still occurred along the borders to this day.

The ruler of the North was a knight called Lord Kathor Farstream. Many of his own people had acclaimed him to be the most powerful knight that had ever lived. Most of his kingdom was human settlements, but there were known to be nests of great war birds, eagles and griffons, who also swore loyalty to Kathor. The lands were rich for farming, the mountains were rich in good metals for weaponry, and the capital city of Aevrian was home to an elite academy of warriors. It was considered honourable and noble to dedicate oneself to the arts of war by the people of the North, and the highest honor won could achieve was to be invited into the Champions of Farstream, an elite order of knights who were devoted to High Lord Kathor and the Farstream Kingdom.

The South was also ruled by a warrior, Lady Elsana Bognarl, who also dedicated her life to the arts of war and combat. The humans of Bognarl shared a common ancestry with the humans of Farstream, but their ideals of combat and honor had diverged long ago. The citizens of Bognarl were barbarian humans, who used primitive weapons to fight and did not train in swordsmanship or jousting like those of the north. They were known to befriend wolves and trolls and seek their strengths in combat. The mountains were the homes of Cyclops and Giants, all of whom were loyal to Lady Elsana. Lady Elsana also oversaw the operations of a warrior training facility, but rather than teach by strict discipline and codes of chivalry, the warriors of Bognarl learned through training for competitive tournaments, which had very little in place regarding rules and order.

The Eastern Kingdom was ruled by an elven mage, Lord Gilmor Avadale. Gilmor ruled over an elite School of Magic and served as the head of the High Council of Mages. The people of Avadale came from the forests, and were mostly elvish, though many other magical creatures in the forests of the East had sworn loyalty Gilmor, including unicorns, faeries, and phoenixes. Many people who lived in Avadale had travelled from other lands to study in the Magic School, including barbarians from the South and knights from the north.

The fourth kingdom in the West was ruled by Lady Jiliara Marwytch, who was a powerful sorceress. She dwelled in the darker arts of sorcery and necromancy, and had armies of undead, all loyal to her. Her kingdom was inhabited by hoards of undead monsters including ghouls, vampires, and skeletons. Lady Jiliara herself was of mixed blood, with ancestry from the forest-dwelling elves and the mountain-dwelling humans, and had a fierce reputation that was only shadowed by her notorious vampiric grandfather. Before Marwytch had been overrun with the undead, the cities and villages had contained mixtures of elves and humans, and the few living that remained were mostly necromancers and warlocks who sought power from their undead neighbors. Various kinds of demons and werewolves were also found within the blackened forests. Lady Jiliara served on the council of Mages, but had never attended the meetings in person, preferring written correspondence over travelling. Her kingdom struggled to keep peace with the others, since many of her undead minions had been known to attack other settlements in Farstream and Bognarl, though she personally believed it was the foolish warrior humans who instigated the attacks, as though her undead minions were fierce and bloodthirsty, they all swore oaths of loyalty to her and did not attack the living against her orders.

It was the first night of the full moon following the vernal equinox when three of the four leaders had gathered at a temple in the apex of the Dragon Mountain which stood between the four kingdoms. Terrible rumours from the other lands had reached the leaders of Rianu with horrifying tales of dragon-like monsters that were conquering the entire world, taking over all of the lands and castles in the distant empires. Concerned for the safety of their lands and the peace and prosperity of their nation, leaders of each kingdom came to the great mountain, a neutral place that was inhabited by a prophetess of the mountain. The only leader who did not appear was Jiliara of the West, who stayed within her castle, but watched the proceedings of the council through her magic looking glass.

All of the others were somewhat relieved that she chose not to appear in person for she drove a carriage pulled by shadow mares and had a young vampire attendant that followed her everywhere and terrified the attendants and servants of the other rulers. The three gathered around the altar where the prophetess was meditating and waited for her to speak. The prophetess slowly opened her eyes.

"I have long foreseen the coming of the Drakes, but now that you have gathered here, their arrival draws nearer and our time to prepare has grown short. They are mutants, crosses of demons and dragons that breathe streams of black acid and fly through the air by scaled wings. They seek total domination, and their dragon relatives do not have the desire to stop them. No ordinary sword can slay them, nor can spells touch them. The only weapon that can destroy them is the Blade of Dragons.

She paused and looked around the room. All three rulers were standing with silence and reverence, waiting for her to continue. Only Elsana flinched which she heard mention of the Blade. The others had probably long forgotten its existence, for even the oldest of legends did not mention it.

"The Blade of Dragons was forged with ancient metals by the fire of Kah'raktor, the High Lord of the Black Dragons, and it has rested here within this altar ever since its last wielder left it here before he began his journey into the worlds beyond our own.

"No ordinary warrior can wield this blade. To produce a warrior capable of this task, each kingdom must contribute. Lady Elsana Bognarl, daughter of Roh of the mountainfolk, your mission will be to train this warrior in the arts of combat. Your skills in combat are renowned, and your kingdom is famous for its use of primal instincts and intuition in combat. Use your talents to train this warrior so that he might face the drakes in combat."

Lady Elsana nodded sombrely, although one might say a distinctive sneer might have been heard from Lord Kathor. He had always believed his warrior schools were superior to the primitive combat methods of the South.

"Lord Gilmor Avadale, son of the Eastern Forestfolk, your mission is to train this warrior in the arts of magic. Although the Drakes are immune to magic, their environment will not be, and a true warrior should be able to use all resources in combat."

Gilmor nodded, accepting his task without any hesitation.

"Lord Kathor Farstream, son of Milos of the Mountainfolk, you are a skilled knight, but a great noble heritage flows through you in your blood, and you also are a son of Roh. Your ancestors have possessed the Blade of Dragons in the past. For this, I have foreseen that this warrior must be sired by you."

Lord Kathor did not portray any immediate reaction. He glanced around cautiously. The honor of having one of his sons inherit such a powerful weapon was dampened by the plan of having to send them to the south to be trained by barbarians. His oldest son had reached age of fifteen and had already begun training as a knight; perhaps he would be the one that could wield the Blade of Dragons. Perhaps Lady Elsana would allow him to continue his study of chivalry while training in the South. He did not have time to wonder long though, because the prophetess spoke her last command.

"Lady Jiliara of Marwytch, though you did not join us in flesh, your magic allows you to see and hear from great distances, and I detect your presence among us. You are a descendant of Idris, a great lady of the mountains who mastered animal magic and discovered the principle tenants of magic that allowed the mountainfolk to possess it. She herself was a dragon in life before ascending to the stars and becoming a being of power. The blood of dragons flows through your veins, and it will flow through your children's veins for only a warrior with the blood of dragons can wield the Blade of Dragons. Therefore, Lady Jiliara, you must be the mother of this child."

There was an immediate disturbance from the three rulers present, especially from Lord Kathor.

"That is absurd!" he protested. "She is an evil witch, who has threatened all of our kingdoms and come very close to breaking the peace treaties between us! My sons have noble and holy blood. Let me choose one of them!"

"I have spoken," the prophetess said. "If you wish to protect yourselves from the invasion of Drakes, you know what you must do. Only a warrior born of the right blood and trained by the right masters will be able to wield the Blade. I have foreseen that the Drakes are not content with their destruction of the lands of Kritiko which are far from here. If the warriors of Kritiko hold out like I have foreseen it will be twenty years before their lands are completely destroyed and the Drakes make their way to Rianu. You have heard my advice, now it is your time to act."

The elderly prophetess gave a seductive wink towards Lord Kathor before disappearing in a puff of smoke. Elsana and Gilmor left the altar and made their way towards there respective kingdoms while Lord Kathor lingered for a moment, staring at the altar. He had never noticed before, but imbedded into the stone of the altar was a magnificent looking sword. He ran his fingers over it, and it began to glow and bright red colour, but nothing else happened. He took one last look at the sword before returning to his carriage for his journey home.

Lady Jiliara remained seated, staring into the spy glass with disbelief. She was horrified by the commands of the prophetess. The prospect of having to bear a child of the human Lord Kathor was revolting to her. Never before had Jiliara been with a man of any race, choosing to dedicate her life to magic and necromancy. She had never even had the desire to be with any man, and she had especially despised Kathor. Frequently he had threatened retaliation after rumours of undead from her forests attacking villages in his lands. Jiliara insisted that her vampires only attacked invaders who were trespassing within her forest, and that she had no reason to stop the other undead creatures from acting in their own nature, and that perhaps his villages should learn better defense.

Her sudden anxiety and dread did not stop her from picking her quill and drafting a letter to Kathor. While each kingdom had its own philosophy and culture, they all shared one trait, completely loyalty to the prophetess. The prophetess had never been wrong, and Jiliara and her ancestors before her had known that and trusted her words. If she wanted to save her own kingdom, as well as all of Rianu, she would have no choice but to bear a child, and that child would have to be sired by Lord Kathor. She wondered if there might be ways of using magic to allow Kathor to sire her child without ever touching her, but after consulting her library she found nothing.

"Arumstrang!" she called to her faithful servant and a young vampire boy appeared. "Fly to Lord Kathor's Palace and tell him that I wish to meet with him. Deliver this letter and bring his reply back to me. Fly swiftly, and don't eat any humans while you are within his borders."

"Yes, milady," the vampire boy said as he took off into the night.