Every tale has a beginning…
The black-robed figure stood motionless at the edge of the pool, staring attentively into the faintly glowing dark-red liquid. What little light it emitted illuminated the granite walls of the chamber, casting an oppressive hue on to the pillars. Torches, fixed to the walls by wroughtiron holders, flickered briefly causing shadows to dance across the floor. Shadows that were cast from everything in the room, except the figure.
Slowly he moved his shoulders, stretching his neck muscles. His robes shifted and tightened across his back. The figure reached for his cowl, pulling it halfway down over his face, shielding his eyes from the light of the torches, but not from the light of the pool.
Crossing his arms, he settled his hands back into the opposite sleeves. He dropped his head and gazed intently into the vast circular basin. Concentrating on the magma-like liquid he watched as the deep red colour unexpectedly started to lighten. A patch of bright crimson formed in the middle of the pool. It widened and began enveloping the darker red.
A glowing pink sphere rose to the surface at the right edge of the pool. It sat glistening for a second before bursting, spilling forth its aqueous contents. The pink solution seeped steadily throughout the pool. As quickly as the pink colour had appeared, a fiery orange formed around the periphery. It fought its way through the other colours, pushing them back and lapping over the surface in a slow, viscous surge.
Squinting, and with brows furrowed, the figure stared as the colours battled for supremacy. He was being told something – but what? Was it a warning? He had been the pool’s keeper and guardian for over five centuries, feeding off its power and being guided by its arcane sorcery in the form of dreams. He had carried out the pool’s bidding and concealed its existence from those who would seek to destroy it, and yet, in all that time, he had never seen such activity as he was currently witnessing. He ran his eyes over the coalescing colours once more and felt his usually slow, steady heartbeat begin to rise.
The pool’s activity was increasing. Reds, purples, pinks and oranges were shifting from within its different sections in a sluggish, silent crescendo. Sections of its gloopy mass began to swell and slump, rise and fall, before once again being swallowed by the main body of the pool. Stalagmite extensions over two foot high rose up from the surface: bulbous polyps trying to escape capture.
The robed figure dropped his arms to his sides, before edging slightly backwards from the turmoil unfolding before him. Confusion and concern were quickly giving way to panic. In five centuries he had never seen the pool act like this.
And then it stopped.
The Pool of Power
High on a cliff near a sleepy hamlet on the edge of Delathorn lies an ancient temple of unknown origin. Within the temple is a secret that has lay uncovered for millennia; the Pool of Power. No one is sure how to harness the magic it contains or what its abilities it processes but when the pool is approached it reacts…as though alive.
All movement in the liquid ceased. The surface calmed and settled, and the bright colours coalesced and darkened back to deep red.
Bewildered, a wave of relief passed over him.
The figure rubbed his grey goatee beard and then wiped the sweat from his hairline with his thumb and forefinger. He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, trying to make sense of the events that had just played out before him. As he delved into his thoughts, running through everything that had happened, he muttered a litany to calm his pounding heart. His concentration was broken by a dull thud from outside the temple.
The room filled with the sound of stone grinding on stone as the huge doors slowly opened inwards. Moonlight crept into the cavernous room, filling it with a pale glow.
The robed figure showed no visible reaction. Behind him he could hear the distant crashing of waves against the rocks of the cliffs below and could even taste the salty sea air carried in by the cool night breeze. But these were things that did not concern him. What did concern him, what he had waited for with eager anticipation for the last month, was the information about to be brought to him by the gigantic black dragon that had just opened the doors of the temple.
After rearing up on its hind legs to put its weight against the heavy stone doors, the dragon returned to all fours. It folded its huge leathery wings, carefully tucking the membrane tight against its axillaries, and moved forward. Its claws scattered the loose dirt that covered the steps at the temple’s entrance, sending it spiralling into the wind.
Keeping its head level and pushing its neck forward, it squeezed its frame through the double doors of the temple. As it walked slowly between the columns, its movement was more cat-like than reptilian. Its shoulders oscillated up and down with every step, its tail swayed slowly like a pendulum, only flicking at the end and never touching the ground.
Its eyes were fixed on one thing; the robed figure in front of the pool.
The figure stood motionless as the dragon approached. The beast stopped behind him and lowered its head, level with the man’s. The robed figure could see the dragon’s black scales in his peripheral vision and could feel its hot breath. Its green glassy eyes shone brightly, its convex pupils narrowing as they reacted to the light in the room.
Both gazed into the pool until the dragon broke the silence.
‘The visions were correct, the child has been born in the South,’ said the dragon in a low, rasping voice.
As it spoke, it revealed an array of razor-sharp teeth, some as long as broadswords.
‘Does it bear the curse?’ the robed figure queried in a whisper. Still unnerved by the earlier events, his voice caught in his throat, making his question barely audible.
‘It casts no shadow.’
‘And its mother?’
‘Dead. Perished in the act of birthing it,’ the dragon growled.
The dark-robed figure walked slowly to the edge of the pool. Taking one last look into it, he turned to face the dragon with a wry smile.
‘This is the child we have been waiting for, the child foretold by the prophecy. Finally, the Shadowmancer is born.’