_“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”_ - Khalil Gibran
_Abyss below. I hate the desert. I hate the people here. I hate this entire fucking continent. If I get the chance I will rain down holy fire on this hell hole. I am talking scorched earth, motherfucker. I will massacre this entire Caliphate. I will personally rip the arms off Zazim. I will eat his heart. I will…_ My thoughts are interrupted as we arrive battered, bruised and thirsty at the gates of Shaniyabad in the morning. Since we look like either deserters or refugees with lots and lots of weapons, we decide to act like we are survivors from the Battle of the Red Dawn, which of course we are, but we were on the other side – the winning side. The guards are naturally suspicious of us, so we have to bribe them. _What kind of moronic guards let the enemy in for a few gold pieces? These people clearly don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me._ Ecco pays them quickly. We need to eat and drink and sleep soon, and I’m tired of hearing about Corwin’s need of a woman. We settle on an inn to meet in and Corwin is off to a place called ‘the Water Room’, which is clearly a gay club or sauna. We look at each other, all clearly confused since neither of us knew Corwin apparently swings both ways. ‘_The barbarian way indeed’_. After a short while Corwin comes out looking sheepishly at us, trying to explain that it was a mistake and that he didn’t knew it was an all men’s club. _It’s good to have a laugh after all this time. I don’t think any of us have laughed since the death of Harlon._
We book a private room in the ‘Early Dawn Inn’ and sit down to eat. Not long after there’s a knock on the door. We reach for our weapons and prepare to kill anything that comes through. The situation is tense as Ecco opens the door, but on the other side we find a creature known as a dwarf. He (or is it a she?) is grizzled and clearly a veteran, but other than that he is non-threatening. He gives us no name, but he tells us to meet the Dirgewarper at the ‘Scarlet Scorpion’ later. We are all puzzled as the questions mounts up. Why? How? Why us? A trap? We have too little information and are deeply behind enemy lines with no exit strategy. We need to get our bearings and get an understanding of the situation.
Since Ecco is great at talking to people and sniffing up secret information, and given the fact that he most likely is the least recognizable character among us, he is sent out into Shaniyabad alone. He quickly learns that the Caliphate army is sent back to the capital of al- Wazif to make a final stand there. Ecco also find out that the Dark Messiah, whom they call the Great Prophet, is marching a huge army to al-Wazif from the south in support of the Caliph. There are rumours about the Empire of Callus is preparing for another war and conquest. This time they apparently plan to cross over the Uzmelech plains towards the Three Realms. _I feel the cold sweet on my scared neck. If that army moves again someone will have to be there to stop Him. And stand in his way I will. But how do you defeat a god? I guess a sword through his eye can fuck up even a god’s day._ And Ecco discovers that there’s a new powerhouse in the city’s dark underbelly. A player we’ve seen and fought before. A player that is extremely powerful and whose objects and goals and even its identity is still unknown. A player known only as the Cabal.
We are by all accounts in over our heads. We are all quiet and sitting in our own thoughts when Lucien leaves. I decide to take a nap. Lucien wakes me up. I go to meet the others who are a confused as I am. One by one Lucien calls us into his room. There, there are symbols on the floor and walls, a thousand candles are lit and place in perfectly in symmetry of some ancient symbol. As I enter the circle in the middle of the room, Lucien chants and enchants my being through my belt buckle. I feel the power of his sorcery in my bones. I feel … Blessed. The others have the same experience. _Lucien is clearly more than the lunatic he appears to be._ And what is more, he’s given us our focus back. We have no other choice than to press forward. The heavy infantry soldier’s way. My way! We armour up, sharpen our swords, and prepare for our meeting with the Dirgewarper.
(Excerpt from the ‘Memories of the Lion’ by Ovidius the Old)