Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 1
Once upon a time, atop the deserted snowy peaks of the Sing Mountains, a meteor roughly the size of a bale of hay arrived from the sky to make contact with the surface.
The impact shattered the jagged spires, lodging the mass deep within the earth. Isolated, the event could have gone completely unnoticed, were it not for the infinitesimally brief moment of the objecting emitting an immeasurable burst of pure celestial energy.
Around the continent, those even marginally attuned to the magical forces may have felt the slightest of tingles up their spine and through the cells moving single-file through the capillaries at the tips of their fingers.
Those who recognized the significance of the sensation they had just experienced immediately began to pack their bags in order to set out and find the source. Almost overnight, communities of magical folk seemed to have picked up and left their abodes behind, leaving many a town without their healers, defenders, and magicians. The headmaster of a certain school of sorcery quickly departed from his post, goading some of his teachers and misguided students into doing the same. Though the exact location wasn’t clear, the building congregation in towns on either side of the mountain range told that the hopeful adventurers were close.
By that time, however, the heavy winter snowfall had already covered the upper elevations and blocked off any of the passes that would be able to take anyone deeper into the range. Even the most powerful of magi found that they stood no chance against the unforgiving elements. Resting in wait, tensions grew as talk of what one might do should they find the source of the power first.
At the first signs that the snowfall had stopped and that the cold winds had lost their edge, people began to trudge up the treacherous mountains and crags in order to find any signs of the fallen rock. Months of searching followed, but as the melting snows revealed more of the bare rock underneath, little more than bits of rubble seemed to remain on the surface. Those lacking confidence or perseverance took the long discouraging road home. Others returned home in hopes to persuade their countrymen to come and join their efforts and dig into the hard rock of the mountain and unearth the magical object.
It wasn’t long before the governing powers of several nearby provinces took notice of the search for the still mysterious yet promisingly powerful artifact. With heavy tools in hand, small legions of working men marched on the mountain, setting up townships and mining camps from which to start. Guided by their fellow wizards, they begun their digging into the hard rock of the mountainside, hoping to eventually unearth the object. As men from various other kingdoms began to descend upon them to dig their own tunnels, tensions rose.
The slow, back-breaking work took the men deeper only inches a day, while their eyes remained fixed over their shoulder to monitor the progress of the others on either side. The first blood to be spilled occurred at the happenstance meeting of two tunnels; one belonging to workers from the Kingdom of Xiandol, and the other dug by men from the Arkyan province. Mining picks, shovels, and steel buckets became their weapons, each blindly attacking at the outrage that the other was attempting to encroach on their territory. At the end, the tired men of Arkyan, exhausted and of fewer numbers, fell to the Xiandolians.
News of the event spread around the region. With each passing message, distrust for one another grew, wondering when the next conflict might arise. Kings and Governors sent out armed troops to provide protection for their workers, but as each force added to their regiments, others reacted with their own set of protections. With the growing number of people inhabiting the foothills of the Sing Mountains, more and more supplies began to come their way, supply lines stretching all the way from the far shorelines. From the huts and barracks, sturdier buildings grew, constructed from the stone that had come out of the many deepening tunnels inside the mountains. Women found their way out to the growing settlements to reunite with their husbands; eventually to grow, harvest, and cook food as well.
Inside the mines, the men dug tirelessly, feeling as if one day the might find the magical object that still eluded the masses. With each meter deeper, the mountain seemed to rumble more vigorously and more often. Cave-ins were frequent, but never enough to dissuade the fixed-eyes of the men and their tools.
Walls eventually went up around the settlements to protect the growing infrastructure, as hostility was in no short supply. Without fail, the cold unforgiving winters would bring hardship, which would lead to stealing of crops, supplies. Hunting parties would often be found traversing tentative borders in order to find game, sometimes running into enemy forces instead. As landholdings became closer and closer, attacks became bolder and fiercer, each side ready to pounce for open space.
The first of the battlemages was brought in by Tulefore, a Kingdom known for it’s rich legacy of folk with mage blood. Any attacks by a opposing force were brought to their knees by the magi’s unequaled power. Other provinces quickly hired their own forces of witches and wizards trained in magic of the destructive kind, able to harness the powers of the four elements, as well as others deemed unholy by some in the magic community.
With the introduction of such power, the body count rose quickly, and many more men were funneled in as a result in order to supply a proper defense. Many of the smaller neighboring land claims took allegiance with the bigger kingdoms for safety. At the tipping point, more men were focused on fighting than digging at the mountain, hoping that they would eventually gain the entire system of tunnels to themselves. Historians would come to dub this period of time The Sing War, with the two participating kingdoms; Xiandol and Tulefore, fighting back and forth almost endlessly.
Bounties were soon places on the heads of opposing magi- any soldier that could remove one from the battlefield would be granted great honor and a title of ‘Magekiller.’ Despite their great power, many magic found themselves being singled out and hunted down by both soldiers of sword and axe, as well as other magi. The battles ebbed and flowed for months, with both sides losing man and mage alike. On the third winter, an envoy from
Tulefore went forth to the Xiandolan forces to propose a deal. The magical folk had become dissatisfied with their role as weapons in the hands of normal men, and they wished for no more blood to be spilled by their intervention. The meeting of two magical ambassadors from either side some time later forged a lasting agreement. Such agreement stated that magi could only fulfill the role of noncombatant, furthermore declaring that any further involvment would be considered as a crime of war.
Following the pact and the forthcoming spring thaw, both sides prepared for more fighting and digging ever deeper into the mountain. Swords and other martial weapons remained at sides for some time as the men knew that fighting in the fashion that they once did would be both more arduous and less fruitful overall.
It was one winter day inside the dark, damp labyrinthine tunnels under the mountain that the magical energy suddenly disappeared. The magical folk of both sides, unable to sense the object’s power, had to assume that it had been unearthed and taken away by the opposing force. Before word could hardly return to either side’s home, fingers were being pointed back and forth, each force unsure of the other’s role in the disappearance of the energy. Armies stood, blood boiling, as they awaited the first signs of news that they could unsheathe their weapons.