Master Kacper Arne, famed student of Goldenbrook, discoverer of secrets of the Aether beyond all imagining, felt he was losing his mind.
Or, at the very least, losing track of days.
Since arriving at Argent, this ancient city from the time of the old Emperor Conn, Kacper had felt a shifting in his mind coming from an outside source. The wizard knew that another was attempting to violate the sanctity of his vast intellect. The Enemy was insidious in its attempt and, thus far, Kacper had not been able to pinpoint the source, though he had his guesses.
In the meantime, he spent hours and hours walking the ramparts, exploring the city, looking over the Great Balcony into the open portal to the Primordial Chaos below – all with the wizard Faarlung.
That the Algorithm had come into his possession mere weeks before he would meet with this ancient wizard from another time was too coincidental. Perhaps the artifact sought its owner and was using Kacper as a means of travel? Or, the wizard suggested, ever-so-subtly that Kacper retrieve the item?
Most likely, the wizard Faarlung was not who he claimed to be.
Kacper had not yet been able to prove it, but he knew. He knew with absolute certainty that this “mysterious and ancient wizard” was not what he seemed.
Faarlung was trying to present himself as a man losing his mind from centuries of lack of sleep and constant fighting. He was trying to insinuate the idea to Kacper that he, Kacper, should take command of Argent upon “Faarlung’s” death and protect the City of Argent against the Primordial Chaos.
Or, perhaps shift the constant portal to the Primordial Chaos into something else. Shift it using the artifact of power that Kacper held within his magical bag. “Faarlung” had suggested enough hints and subtleties that Kacper knew what he wanted: Kacper should release the Portal to the Aether and permanently change the Primordial Chaos portal into one that leads straight into the Heart of the Aether, the Multiverse itself.
The problem was, Kacper knew he had to do just that. Oh, he could get his allies into the Aether world without the permanent change and he intended on doing so. There was no other way they could retrieve the Black Banner.
But after the defeat of Piranoth – he would be defeated, Kacper knew his companions well enough to say their percentage of failure was…minimal.
After the death of the Titan, the Primordial Chaos had to be sealed. The only way to do that would be to open a portal to another realm. The Feydark? No. Not a chance. They Feywild? Just as bad, for other reasons. Some other multiverse? No.
The Aether had to be the focus. Kacper simply did not want to give The Enemy what he wanted, not matter that the reasoning was sound.
So, since he could not determine The Enemy’s purpose, or who he was, Master Kacper Arne decided upon the direct approach.
The young wizard led “Faarlung” up onto the ramparts where the ancient wizard had been teaching him about the city’s Mythal. Kacper began by stating that he was comfortable in the usage of the magic and could likely run the city’s defenses on his own, if he so chose.
Kacper led the conversation down a spiraling path, twisting to and fro until the topic of the Aetheric Portal rose once more.
Kacper stopped them at the Great Balcony. The site was perfect for the conversation as it overlooked the intended target.
And allowed for a small alcove for another to hide.
Kacper turned, mid-sentence, and opened the Algorithm, blasting out at his opponent with a heavy charm meant to ensnare his victim’s mind and…
…of course it did not work. But the desired result was successful.
The body of “Faarlung” fell away and in its place stood a wizard, also wizened and ancient, but no longer living.
Kacper spoke. “Master Vigho Vazrathz.”
The Archlich stood tall, calm, and unaffected by spell or magic from this youthful source. The decay and rot, cold and necrotic energy pouring forth caused Kacper to take a step back in precaution.
He knew that if this undead man wished him dead he would stand no chance. So, he chose the only viable course: treat him as an equal and ignore the fear.
Vigho sighed, an action he did not have to take with his lack of life. It was affected. Meant to show boredom, or disinterest, or…disappointment.
“It took you many days, Master Arne. So long that I thought I had chosen poorly.” Vigho said.
“You know as well as I that I understood you were not the wizard Faarlung upon the very first day. Coincidence was too outrageous.” Kacper said.
“Yes, be that as it may, now that we have dispensed with illusion…” Vigho turned his back to look out over the Chaos.
Kacper walked up, careful not to enter the dangerous aura from the lich, and listened.
“What grand goal do you seek, Master Arne?” The lich narrowed his eyes and looked up, high into the sky.
“I have the greatest interest of the world, of all these worlds, at heart. Even now, ancient gods and titans, creatures of enormous power, all try to do what I am doing. But their greed and desire threatens the fabric of reality whereas I seek nothing but stability. Control over the randomness. Surely you must see that my way is better…that my way is right. I will allow you to bind to me and take command once I am gone of this Chosen of Worlds. You shall become its God, your allies its Avatars, and you will ensure that life and peace is maintained.”
Vigho turned to look into the young wizard’s eyes.
“I offer peace to a friend. I offer you a way to remove the petty tyrants, the Duke and the Golden One and any others who rise up to put down the common person. Through me, through you! This World of Worlds will be a perfect place lacking pain. Lacking suffering.”
Vigho stopped, watching Kacper’s eyes shift away out over the looming Chaos.
“You have to open the Portal once Piranoth is gone. You must open the way. I cannot kill you and I cannot make you because my tie to the Aether and your own demand that it must be so. But you know that with each twist of that Algorithm, the Aether shifts. With each piece of the puzzle found out, the greater universe changes to match your whim. You must open the portal…for your sake, as well as mine.”
Vigho sighed, the affectation repeated. He turned his back upon the Chaos.
“Argent is yours, now. Deal with the Titan and find the Banner. Then, open the way. Do it, or the world will falter and fail. Refuse me…and even though I may not kill you myself, I can control the agents of evil and chaos to destroy you. Choose wisely, Master Arne.”
With that, Vigho vanished. No fanfare. No explosions of light and power. Simply an effective use of magic.
Kacper listened and, in the darkness of the alcove, Takara Orren did as well.