The wagon train made its way through the foothills of the Yatil Mountains. They were missionaries on their way into our lands so that they could bring the One True Faith to our heathen homes. They sangs songs of joy and salvation as they moved in between the hills, confident that their God would protect them while we waited for them to enter the Crimson Valley so that we might show them how powerful their god really was.
As I watched them move along the path I found myself remembering when they first came to the Sevenfold Lands ten years ago. The first missionaries of the One True Faith wore white robes with an azure sign that was the symbol of their God. They brought us books written in a language we couldn't read and told us that He was angry with us for rejecting His word. We were heathens that must be brought into his eternal light, they said. They told us of a loving God and we laughed at their words. Then they grew angry and told us of the eternal damnation and pain that awaited those who forsook the word of the One True Faith. In their anger they sent for their inquisitors.
These men came into our lands wearing black robes with a crimson sign that told the world of their God's displeasure. They held scrolls which gave them the right to torture, maim, and savage their way through our homes until they had brought us to the Light. Throughout the Winter of the Hungry Wolf they stayed within their stone halls and watched us from afar while we listened to their whispered plans and watched them sharpen their blades.
In the spring they rode out of their forts and into the valleys of the Harsh Lands. They came to the Village of Old Men where the shamans carried out the sacred rituals of the old gods and set it to the torch. They laughed as they killed the old men who lived there. They laughed as they beheaded each of the old men and stuck their heads on the pikes that now lined their Road to Salvation. Then they rode back to the safety of their stone forts singing of their bravery along the way.
They had forgotten who we were.
In the days of old we trampled the world beneath our hooves and spoke to the gods as equals. We raised the necropolises of the necromancers and bound their souls to the Whispering Stones for daring to challenge our might. When the One-eyed Lich came west it was our shamans who shattered his body and scattered his soul on the winds. It was our blades that broke the armies of the civilized lands and drove them back when their greedy kings groped longingly for what was ours. And it was us who turned against the old gods and drove them from the lands when they began to wage war on this world. We are the people of the Sevenfold Lands and now they must pay the price for forgetting our names.
Throughout the Summer of Thirsty Blades we burned their monasteries and in our thirst for vengeance we left not one man, woman, or child alive. We took the Fort of Light as the first winds of autumn began to blow across the Sevenfold Lands and burned it to the ground. Before the next moon would rise we had taken the Fort of Truth and now drove the survivors before the hoard down the Road of Salvation.
With the first flakes of winter we approached the Fort of Salvation and slaughtered all 10,000 survivors from the Fort of Truth before their gates. Then we took their heads and launched them over the walls. The Bishop of Salvation sent forth a rider who demanded a reason for our aggressions and threatened us with eternal damnation and excommunication if we did not flee from before their walls. The shamans laughed and began to sing the Ode of Gocak.
The army of Salvation came out to meet us on the battle field with horns blowing and drums beating. They marched in time with each other and formed mighty columns that would have struck fear in the armies of the East where civilized warfare was practiced. We watched them and laughed. Then we blackened the sky with our arrows and rode into the city where we slaughtered every last living soul.
Even after we had torn down their fortresses and burned the earth clean of their taint they still came into the Sevenfold Lands. Always singing and praising the One True Faith with glory to His word. We let them cross the Yatils into our lands, winding their way into the Crimson Valley where we had made a temple to the old gods in the ways of our forefathers.
The wagon train had just reached the mouth of the valley and I could hear them go silent as the looked at the Throne of Supay. The throne was made out of the bones of 200,000 missionaries, warriors, and settlers that had invaded the Sevenfold Lands in the last ten years. It sat at the far end of the valley where the hills parted and allowed the setting sun to set it ablaze.
Until I passed the Ritual of Manhood last summer I had helped the shamans build it and the Temple of Supay that lay just beyond the Throne in the Valley of Salvation where we had destroyed the Fortress of Salvation five years before. It was there that we held the Bishop of Salvation even to this day and performed the dreaded Ritual of Viracocha so that we might teach him what hell really was.
The Chieftain Calp mimicked a quail and we began to work our way down the hill as silent as death. All of the missionaries had run to the front of the wagon train once word had spread of the Throne. Tears were being shed and oaths to their God were made - both would be meaningless in the next few moments.
I reached the bottom of the hill and crept noiselessly from the high grass onto the wagon trail. All around me the Warriors of the Path did the same. Each of us had a job. Some would explore the wagons ensuring that no one survived. Most would be making their way along the trail killing pilgrims as they went. I had a different chore; I was to find their shaman and take him alive.
When I first joined the Warriors of the Path at the start of autumn I had hoped to leave behind the heady incense of the shaman and wet my blade with the blood of our enemies. Such was not to be my fate, the shaman Canberk made sure of that. He had gone to my new chieftain, Calp, and had told him of my ability to bend the winds of magic without the use of the old rituals and prayers. According to Canberk I was a sihirbaz - the first in a thousand years to appear in the Sevenfold Lands - and I was denying the great destiny the gods had set out for me by joining the Warriors of the Path.
Calp had come to me after Canberk came to him and tried to get me to withdraw from the Warriors of the Path and instead join with the Watchers of the Ways. I had no interest in sitting at the Gate of Dagda and waiting for a message from gods who cared nothing for us. No, life in the Sevenfold Lands was short, brutal and filled with blood. If I was going to die then I would do so with a blade in my hands rather than from boredom. My decision displeased Canberk but he could take no direct action against me. Instead he and Calp decided to force me to use my talents to capture shamans from the One True Faith so that we could use them as sacrifices to Supay.
An explosion brought my attention away from my thoughts and back to the present. I started running towards the blast as a bolt of lightening shot past me. Fuck, I thought, how did the shaman do that? I began to weave in and out of the wagons as I raced towards the fight. I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I got there.
Surrounded on all sides by Warriors of the Path stood a group of five warriors. I could see the winds of magic bending about them as they fought. One of the warriors held a maul that seemed to be breaking the very fabric of the world each time he struck. Next to him was a wicked looking dwarf with broken teeth that bleed from a hundred wounds who was standing on the bodies of half a dozen Warriors of the Path. Behind them was a knight. His tower shield marked him as a member of the Order of the Quest and the longsword he used seemed to be cutting through flesh, bone, and steel like they were air. On his right spun a black warrior with a turban on his head and sword so large that I couldn't figure out how he was able to lift it. Yet he moved it with ease and with each rotation dropped yet another of my comrades. In the center of their group was my target, but she was different from anyone I had ever seen before. She was nearly seven feet tall - fully a foot taller than myself - and she was bending the winds of magic with every gesture. A flick of her wrist and a green cloud burst to her right killing a dozen. A wild gesticulation later with some mumbled words and an explosion of fire killed twenty more. Then she raised her staff and sent a bolt of lightening leaping amongst my fellow Warriors.
I stood there watching her move for three deep breaths and then began to bend the winds of magic to my own will. Usually when I started pulling at the winds of magic it was like cupping water from a murky pond, easy to do with a hidden depth that only hinted at the dangers within. This time though, I felt like I was trying to stand still during a flash flood. The winds were shifting wildly, warping all around me, while I could see terrifying images drawing near. My breath shuddered out of my chest as fear started creeping up my spine and these spectral nightmares began to move towards me.
I spun my right hand and began to pull the winds towards me while I used my left hand to write the words the old shaman Meric had taught me. I forced the winds into cords and began to twist them into an arrow the size of a horse. I focused on giving it form out of the void and turned my attention back to the five-some who had managed to break the Warriors of the Path and kill nearly all of us. Anger gripped my belly as I spit into the wind and released the spell.
It was wild and went off like a deafening explosion that sent a thousand magical arrows hurtling across the valley. The giantess turned towards the incoming storm with eyes wide and began spinning her staff above her head as I concentrated on landing every blot. Too late did I notice that she had thrown up a barrier that would stop all of my missiles from landing. I didn't have time to throw up any protections for the rebounding blast. The last thing I remember was being knocked off the wagon I had been standing on and thrown nearly a hundred feet in the air before landing hard against the hillside.