The Archmage and the Conjuror Part 1 by Carl G. Lilley
The darkness lifted without warning. Hellmut's eyes raged against the sudden light. The pain of the memories was worse. Rian's laughter echoed through his soul. This sensory overload befuddled him, but then a voice he recognized cut through the vortex of stimuli.
"My dear, Archmage," said the Arbiter. "The Doomtower is no place for you." Hellmut quickly regained his wits.
"You're the one who put me there."
"You gave me no choice. Now, we can sulk about the past or you can pull yourself together as I have pulled you out of your prison. These champions accompanied me." The Arbiter stepped aside and held out a hand to give an introduction. Hellmut likewise held up a hand.
"So that's it? Not even an apology. We both know Rian should never have gotten away with it."
"Stop interrupting. You know nothing of what has transpired in Teleria since your self-inflicted incarceration. I want you to meet the leader of this group. Does she look familiar?" A tall, white-haired woman, clad in lightbringer golden armor stepped forward. She stared at the archmage, sized him up and snorted derisively. Hellmut could not take his eyes off the remarkable scar on the left side of her face. It looked like a handprint burned onto her skin; palm on her cheek and fingertips across her forehead.
"Godseeker," Hellmut mumbled a somewhat humble greeting. "What happened to your face?" She silently tilted her head, proudly showing the accolade of her prowess.
"As I said, much has transpired since you entered the Doomtower. We do not have time to give you a history lesson," the Arbiter said.
"Rian has come out of hiding," Aniri said.
"Where is that treacherous witch?" Hellmut scowled at the Arbiter but Aniri’s comment hit him like a gut-punch.
"I continued the hunt after you were...displaced." Godseeker Aniri glanced at the Arbiter before leaning on her large shield to continue. "It took a few years, but I have finally found her."
"I knew you were a good choice," Hellmut said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Wait--you said years. How long have I been here?"
"As I said, much has transpired--" The Arbiter maintained a neutral visage.
"Yes, yes. We heard you," Hellmut growled. He knew well how she operated. One had to be extremely wise to discern the true meaning of the messages she relayed. It must have something to do with being the liaison between mortal and immortal beings. Either way, Hellmut thought, a straight answer was highly improbable so he let it go. "I am glad you are thorough...and persistent," he said to Aniri.
"My work here is done, archmage," the Arbiter said. "Aniri can acquaint you with the rest of her team. I have other things to attend." Without a goodbye, the Arbiter disappeared.
"Nothing really changes," Hellmut muttered. "You have a team, you said. Are they strong enough to take on Rian?"
"Well, at least you're honest."
"You have to take on Rian. We will support you and deal with her servants."
"Ahh, I see. So who do you have in mind?"
"Are you familiar with the Shadowkin?" Aniri asked.
"The filthy demon-spawn half-breeds from the Dawnlands?"
"A simple 'yes' would suffice." Aniri frowned. "This is their most powerful general, Harima. She is one of those--as you put it--half-breeds intent on undoing the damage Siroth wreaked upon them. She has been most useful." Harima stepped forward and placed her fist in her palm and bowed to the archmage. Hellmut took a step back to avoid the large helmet ornamentation, cleared his throat, and nodded. He examined her armor. The people of Yakai were renowned armorsmiths that used ancient techniques to achieve the hardest armor. When she finally stood erect he saw the fierce look in her eyes made her armor look soft. He was remiss to completely throw out his misgivings of having a Shadowkin as an ally but if there was one that could persuade him to rethink his position, he felt this was the person to do so. He was willing, at least, to give her an opportunity to prove herself. They stared at each other for a few minutes.
"And this is her confidante, Genbo the Dishonored," Aniri said to quell the awkward silence.
"Dishonored? Dishonored by whom?" Hellmut asked.
"Siroth himself," Genbo answered vociferously.
"The Dark Lord cursed him when he rebelled," Aniri explained.
"I wear the Dark Lord's 'curse' with pride." His eyes glowed, two ethereal lamps of piercing bright blue light. "You have nothing to worry about, archmage. I have given the Godseeker my word. Your vengeance is my vengeance. The conjurer known as Rian will cease to be. This I promise." Satisfied, Helmut nodded.
"Just the four of us, Aniri?"
"There is one more. She is still veiled. Yannica, reveal yourself please." The air shimmered and a warrior took form.
"Two Shadowkin isn't enough, Aniri? You have to bring the most arrogant elf in all of Teleria?"
"I could have slit your throat, old man. You never even knew I was here." Yannica flashed a sardonic grin. Hellmut bristled.
"She can put her arcane knowledge to good use," Aniri said. "We need the element of surprise."
"We need warriors who can work together as a team," Hellmut corrected. "She won't--"
"I won't have to break a sweat. Rian is so far beneath me I would have to scrape my boots clean to find her."
"Well then," Helmut threw his hands in the air. "Why don't we just send you so the rest of us can make a cup of tea and sit and wait for you to finish?" Yannica strolled up to Helmut. She was taller and made an unmistakable motion of looking down her nose at the archmage.
"Trust me, mage. The thought crossed my mind. The Godseeker asked a favor. I obliged. Don't make this awkward."
"Perhaps," Aniri said, stepping between the elf and the archmage. "Perhaps we could discuss our strategy and save our animosity for our foes."
"Tell us everything you've learned about Rian while I've been imprisoned," Hellmut said to Aniri without breaking eye contact with Yannica. She flashed her smuggest grin. Hellmut rolled his eyes.
"She is in the desert; not far from the Necropolis. She has amassed a following. Either through guile or magic, it matters not. This won't be easy."
"How far is the Necropolis?" Hellmut asked.
"Three days. We should remain low key--that is, no magic--until we are in position to strike."
"Very well Aniri. Lead the way." Helmut took a quick look at his new companions. It was certainly an eclectic mix that he would never have chosen for himself. He trusted Aniri had done her research and had gathered the best possible team for the task. It would have to remain to be seen, he thought cynically. He wondered if this was truly worth the effort. His wisdom argued against the endeavor but his sense of justice demanded recompense. Rian would have to pay for her crimes. How dearly she paid would depend on her.
Carl G. Lilley (aka Jediel) March 3 2023