The Crucible of Mirrors

The wind howled. Its lonely lament was joined by the snapping of pennant flags in its relentless grip. Plumes of smoke and clouds of dust covered the sky and billowed across the carnage that was bare on the fields that only moments ago had been filled with the sound of clashing swords and men.

The ground itself was stained red with the blood of thousands, if not tens of thousands. They were dead. Slain in a vain last-ditched effort to protect the city from its wroth invaders. The once-pristine golden spires that had glittered in the morning sun were strewn across the pavements, shattered. The marble ramparts, that gleamed white while the sun was high above, and shimmered with the colours of sunset when evening called, had been reduced to smouldering rubble. The city of IldCarr had been taken.

The intruders were from the unknown lands in the East. Little was known about them, much like the lands they hailed from. All the races of men knew only that they were pale-skinned riders, and that they were cruel beyond belief, and merciless on the battlefield.

It had been six hours since the grand city of IldCarr had fallen to the invaders, and still, the deathriders still scoured the battlefield. They hunted for any and all signs of life. Any survivors. They snuffed out whatever they found with little regard. Carrion birds circled high overhead. The clouds of war were afraid to descend. They did not want to face the ire of the strange warriors.

The slow clop of hooves of a passing deathrider faded into the distance behind a heavily wounded soldier. He had spent that last agonizing half hour, lying as still as he could. Thankfully, his ruse had been so far successful. He had deceived the deathrider into thinking that he was already dead.

The soldier crawled, throwing all caution to the wind, towards the outstretched arm and dead eyes of his brother. Between them was a pool of fresh blood. It was calm despite the ceaseless howling of the wind. Before he could grip the arm of his long-gone brother, he heard a high-pitched keen behind him.

Within him a dull rage sparked and something… inexplicable snapped. As he heard the horse whinny and rear up on its hind legs; as he heard the unearthly metal of the deathrider's blade scrape against its scabbard and the whine of the blade as it vibrated on the downstroke, the world around him dissolved into darkness. Below him, the pool of blood turned silver and expanded as it spun into a massive mirror spanning as far as the eye could see.

The mirror showed himself on the ground, with the deathrider towering behind him, ready to end him. As he watched, the reflection save for himself blew away like ashes in the wind. On its tail, a fantastical landscape of towering fa├žades and bright lights and strange metal carriages that moved without horses. The image solidified and he fell through the mirror. Looking down at a road paved with black stone, he let go and the world turned black.


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