“Halt! In the name of the Titans.” Thane Aster yelled. “You, Herten Bane, are convicted for Necromancy, and the practice of the Dark Arts! Yield to me now and your death will be swift and painless!” Thane looked down at the sword he was concealing in a dark sheath. “Or, we could do it the hard way, it’s your choice.”
Herten’s black cloak swirled around him in the cold wind. His red eyes bored into Thane as he stepped forward. His pale skin was stretched over his bones like canvas, wrinkled and yellow from the dark magics he practiced. Under his right eye, a tattoo of a twisted line rested.
“You boy!” He hissed. “Ha, I am a Necromancer, you are nothing!”
“The hard way it is.” Replied Thane with a mock sigh. He flung himself into the air, his traveling cloak rippling as he flew toward his target. In mid air, unsheathing his sword, he sliced at the Necromancer’s head. In an instant, Herten darted out of the way, and up to the fountain in the center of the square. Raising his arms above his head, he began to moan an incantation. Though the moon shone brightly on the dark city streets, everything seemed to dim. As the Necromancer began to chant, a dark mist seeped from somewhere under the cobblestones.
“Orior, ab inferis, ac omnes conume” The Necromancer intoned. “Ab inferiori ad summum spiritus temporibus amiserunt progressul!” The mist began to rise like brackish water, and from it, twisted shapes emerged. They were humanoid, made of mist and smoke, their soulless faces grinning, watching. “Venit tempus exsurgendi ex alto! Reverse tempus , ascendit!” Herten pointed a crooked finger at Thane, “Impetum venator videntis!”
With a sigh, Thane picked up his pace, moving steadily toward the Gate. The huge arch, blocked by an iron portcullis, was the only way in and out of the Heights. And it was only opened during the day.
“Dammit!” Thane swore under his breath. He had forgotten about the gate. How in the name of the Titans was he going to get back in?! A row of four guards patrolled the perimeter of Gate square.
There was no way past, unless you were Thane. He slipped around the edge, hidden in the shadows made by the steepled roofs of the shops that surrounded the square. He focused on the night around him, gazing into the silver moonlight. He closed his eyes, spread out his hands, and spoke a single word.
“Tenerelux.” Opening his eyes, he darted across the square, unseen by the guards. Moonlight filtered through his body, rendering him nearly invisible. Drawing up behind the leader of the guards, he raised his hands. Apologising mentally, Thane brought his fists down on the top of the guard’s head, rendering him unconscious in an instant. The four other members of the troupe turned toward the source of the sound.
“Wha- Who goes there!?”
“Only a shadow in the night.” Thane replied. He darted over, still unseen, and with one swift move, knocked the guards out with the flat of his blade. He quickly removed the key from the lead guard’s pocket, and crept to the gate. Gently touched the key to the gate, Thane watched the wrought iron bars within the arch dissolve into thin air. Replacing the key in the guard’s pocket, he slipped through to the Heights. Behind him, a grinding noise signaled the closing of the gate. There was only iron bars within the arch now. Across the second courtyard, down Luminose Way. The gilded lamps arched over the street like glowing branches of some colossal tree; each lamp a bough. At the end of the street was Thane’s goal. A monolithic set of double door, each in the shape of an enormous leaf.
Shimmering and jeweled, they rested within the arched frames of the tower. The Umbral Tower. This time though, he had a key. Thane calmly stepped up to the tower doors, sword unsheathed in his hand. A single square of solid gold held the doors together, binding them. A single touch of Black Angel activated the mechanism within, and the doors began to move. The gold cracked in half down the middle, sliding to either side. From within, clicking gears could be heard, and stone and wood grinding together. Perfectly synchronized, each door swung outward, completely silent. Resheathing his sword, Thane stepped beyond the threshold, onto the amber floors of the entrance hall. High, vaulted ceilings soared above Thane’s head, as if the huge, stone arches were trapped in their golden essence. Shadows wrapped around him, as Thane stepped into the inky darkness.
“Uh-oh,” said Thane. “That can’t be good.” Slowly, the summoned spirits turned their faceless heads in his direction. As Thane moved back, they began crawl towards him. A spirit swiped at him, talons razor sharp. Despite the spector’s ghostly appearance, it’s talons tore through Thane’s cloak with ease. Backing away, Thane sliced straight through the middle of a spirit. The ghostly figure split in half.
Its form seemed to waver, as it’s soul was flickered into view. A grinding, wrenching sound came from the both Herten and the spirit, and the reawakened dead began to dissipate. The horrible wrenching sound came as a vortex came open in the sky and the spirit’s souls began to glow. Hundreds of orbs, the souls of others, souls that Herten had taken. The necromancer whipped his head back as darkness streamed upwards, cocooning him. He burst, showering the courtyard with souls. Crystalline, shimmering, the souls hovered gently above the courtyard’s stones, flaring with an inner light. Each beautiful, red orb flashed white momentarily. The orbs elongated into streaks of light. Streaming into the sky, up into the vortex, freed. All that was left of Herten was a miserable skeletal figure. Thane calmly walked up to it, and promptly stabbed the twisted half-corpse. One more scream, and Herten’s soul glowed, wrapping and twining around Thane’s sword. A flare of energy enfolded Black Angel’s blade, and the sword hummed like a tuning fork. Finished with the necromancer, Thane sheathed Black Angel, and pulled the cloak of his hood up, concealing his face in shadow. He had to retreat before the public came to investigate.
Up the cobbled streets of the Tiers, and towards the Heights. Past the countless shops and houses. Up through the alleys, to the lifts. Each of the mechanical boxes was in place, all in a perfect row; undisturbed. Only one guard was on patrol. Slipping past the ticket booth, he entered one of the grated lifts. Thane pulled a lever on the control panel, and the box began to rise at a steady rate. From his rising vantage point, the thousand wisp-lights of Thyr-Onduon looked like a sea of tiny stars. The lift rose above the stone walls, and left the Tiers. Still the cable pulled the lift up, and still the lift rose, far above the stony spires. There was a final creak and a jolt as the lift stopped, and the mesh door slid open. Thane stepped out, looking from side to side, checking that there were no witnesses. Before he had gone to far though, a voice behind him said:
“You took your good time breaking those fellows.” Thane turned to see a figure in midnight blue cloak, it’s hands resting on its hips. The figure lifted it’s hood to reveal a young woman with midnight-black hair, streaked with blue. Her skin had several complex tattoos coiling around each other. A single inky black design curled around her left eye like question mark. Her cerulean eyes had a cold, secretive look in them, hidden by a false smile.
“Oh.” Thane said. “Hello Pandora, I expect you want your payment.” Thane was careful to tread lightly around Pandora. The young woman looked benign, but if provoked, could be a deadly enemy.
“Straight to the point.” Pandora replied, her voice inky black silk echoing through the empty square. “I like it. And of course I want my gold! You’re one of my best patrons, and I expect that you uphold your status with me.” She held her hand out. Thane took a heavy black pouch from his pocket. After examining the contents of it, Pandora slipped it onto a hook on her belt. “Well,” she said. “You had better hurry back to Umbral tower before anyone notices. You wouldn’t want to get banned from the Tiers, would you?” Pandora chuckled as she pulled her hood back up. Before Thane could even think, she had melted back into the shadows.