In the earliest known days, the world of Drakan was a place of chaos and strife. The many tribes and races were scattered, and warred amongst one another in an endless cycle of death and retribution. The two greatest races, the elder breed of Dragons and the younger tribes of Humanity, struggled bitterly against one another wherever they met. Where mankind encroached on the nesting grounds of Dragons, the great beasts razed their villages and scorched their crops, while stealthy bands of men would trap and kill lone Dragons, and enter their lairs to destroy the precious clutches of eggs.
Across the world, this madness raged for centuries, until at last, one small bastion of reason shone forth. High in the central mountains of the great continent, one lone tribe of men found an uneasy compromise with the neighboring Dragons, and each allowed the other to live unharmed. In time, a common sense of trust developed, and the two races began to cooperate more fully. The strength of this alliance gradually spread to the neighboring regions, and the seeds of the first great civilization were sown. As a symbol of the greatest virtues of this society, the two races agreed upon the pact known as The Bond. Through the magic of an artifact known as the Dragonstone, the bravest and noblest of men would join their life essence to that of a single Dragon, linking the two forever as one. These Bonded formed a loose alliance known as The Order Of The Flame, serving as roaming protectors and arbitrators, and embodying the ideals of brotherhood and cooperation upon which their society was built.
Led by the gleaming example of the Bonded, the Order of the Flame rapidly spread its influence and philosophy throughout the continent, gathering the warring races and petty kingdoms into a single great nation. For generations, this peace held. Freed from the constant threat of warfare their scholars turned to the study of magic, devising potent spells to alter the land around them and mold it to their needs. Nothing, it seemed, was unattainable.
Still, there remained those who few desires for individual power could never be satisfied in a society of equals. Secret societies and subversive groups began to appear, gradually building an invisible network of those who opposed to the Order. The most powerful, and most secretive, of those these groups would come to be known as the Dark Union, an alliance of the strongest and most influential of the Order's foes.
At last, it was a man named Narvros who would bring about the end of this golden age. A War Mage of tremendous power, and a highly celebrated member of the Order, Narvros was in truth a member of the Dark Union's inner council. Under Narvros's direction, the Dark Union's agents had been exploring terrifying experiments in genetics and forbidden magic, deep in the trackless wild lands of the eastern frontier. The discoveries made in these desolate lands were kept secret from the world, until at last Narvros felt the time was right. A meeting of the inner council was called, and Narvros, through quick and destructive decision, crowned himself as supreme leader of the Dark Union. Immediately, he set into motion his plan for the downfall of the Order of the Flame. Mounting his ancient Dragon, Kaeros, he delivered instructions to each of his lieutenants, then disappeared into the eastern waste, not to be seen again for another ten years.
Narvros' brothers within the Order, unaware of his betrayal or true nature, had mourned his disappearance, and many had searched for him in vain. It was with great joy that he was welcomed, when, after ten years, he appeared on the steps of the great Dragon Temple in the capital of Drakan. A meeting of the local Order was hurriedly arranged, so that all could hear his story and welcome his return. Narvros stood silently until the last of his brothers and sisters were seated. Then, with a grim smile, he uttered a Word of Power not spoken in six hundred years, and destruction ripped through the hall.
Outside, a dense fog had risen, blanketing the streets in a dismal mist. Blinding flashes of light rippled across the city, and streams of dark, hulking shapes poured from the alleys, laying about them with blood-clotted axes and great butcher's blades. Within minutes, the streets were choked with smoke, and the air resounded with the screams of the dying and the brutal roars of Narvros's monstrous servants. By nightfall, the city was in ruins, and the brightest minds of the Order lay sealed in the smoldering rubble of the Dragon Temple. The Dark Wars had begun.
THE ARMIES GATHER
As word of Narvros's treachery spread, the remaining cities rose up against him, and a massive war engulfed the world. Everywhere, the agents of the Dark Union streamed to Narvros' side, cutting a swath of treachery and murder. Among them were mainly of the Order's greatest mages, and many of the Bonded. Spells of unimaginable annihilation raged across the world, leveling cities and armies on both sides.One by one, the great achievements and marvels of Order's golden age were ground into dust, until all that remained were the two powerful armies, battling across the charred and devastated landscape of the once fertile land. In his years of waste, Narvros had amassed a nightmare army, strengthened by magic of his own design. The elder race of Giants, long driven into the wild lands and forgotten, had reemerged under the Dark Union's banner. From the creatures of the wilderness, Narvros’s magic had produced legions of twisted and vile monsters, which crawled and hopped at his command. Most disturbing of all were the Dark Union's shock troops, the Wartoks. Never a true part of the Order, the Wartoks had always been a primitive and shy race, distant from the world of men, but they had never been evil. Under the dark Union's sorcerer’s influence, the Wartoks had grown more bestial, and their minds were clouded with blood-lust. It was the Wartoks, in wave after wave, which drove back the forces of the Order, until it appeared as if all might be lost. Narvros' dark sorcery had brought great changes on himself, as well. In a foul destruction of the ancient bonding ritual, he devoured his Dragon, Kaeros, and drew the Dragon's powers and appearance into his own body. Now, more beast than man, Narvros stood as the single most powerful force in all Drakan, riding at the front of his troops to sow destruction and death.
THE LAST STAND
An emergency council was called and desperate measures were taken. A final onslaught was cast against the Dark Union, in a final effort to obliterate it. The great warrior Heron, wielder of the Runeblade, opened a temporal rift through which he and his mount, Arokh, managed to cast Narvros.
Heron died of wounds sustained in that last battle, while Arokh, with the bond broken, turned to stone in his lair, in eternal sleep. Most of the other Dragons of the Order followed him. In that final stand it appeared that both the Dark Union and the Order of the Flame had been broken. Centuries later, it would be discovered that neither would be the case. But for now, only the legends remain......
“I’m sick of this fairy tale shit! Dragons?”
Five men were huddled in the stone cave, trying their best to ignore their companions’ whining. Chester tetchily kicked a pebble into the small fire. “I swear you’re obsessed Joe-” he tapped his head. “Nuts.”
“It’s an ancient legend.” Joe retorted, lobbing another chunk of wood into the blaze.
“Damn right it’s ancient! I mean, at least if you’re gonna tell a story tell a decent one.”
“I thought it was pretty good.” Brad poked his head forward. His shaved head was a little burnt from the scorching weather. But at night, this place seemed to have another side. It almost dropped sub-zero, and Mike was often told to make a fire, poor guy. The blue-haired emcee yawned. It seemed a hell of a long time since any records were made. Instead, the band was ‘relaxing’ on a quiet English country ‘pack trip’. That was what they’d been told, anyway.
“The first thing I noticed about English cops was they don’t eat doughnuts.” Rob piped up, trying to brighten the atmosphere. Groans broke out from all corners of the rock cave. “Mention anything-” Phoenix pleaded. “-But food. Please, for the love of god! Anyway, when we got to the airport I noticed they were-” “SHUT UP!” Phoenix sharply rotated his head in Chester’s direction. “The airport is miles away. If it weren’t for the fact our dumb tour guide didn’t actually know where he was going, we would know where we were.” All eyes turned to Joe. “I, um, had the map the wrong way up.” “We fucking well know that!” Chester snarled, wrenching away the desire to strangle the DJ. The anger boiled up inside him furiously, causing him to go a flushed scarlet. “Whoa…chill dude.” Mike offered kindly, handing him a spare rug. His mood getting the better of him, Chester ruthlessly snatched the thick cloth off him.
“It’s just a tantrum.” Mike had assured them. “Chester’s just letting his toddler traits show.” “Like Joe?” Rob asked innocently, only to receiver a hard smack across the ear. “See, didn’t I tell you?” Joe grinned sheepishly then began to stare vacantly at the cave’s entrance. Hmm. The thick mist was starting to clear... “We’ve been waiting two days for them to find us. They’re really gonna find us here, huh?” In response to Brad’s doubt, Mike sighed and poked the flames again. “Let me put it this way. D’you think those dozens of gigs coming up are seriously going to be cancelled just ‘cos some fatass tour manager couldn’t be pissed to get a search party together?” “A lake!” Joe bounded up excitedly, almost making everybody jump in alarm. The fog only remained in partial swirls, and his sharp eyesight could make out a deep blue mass of water. “Yes, water, you clever pric...wait, did you say water?” Phoenix blinked unbelievably. The cave was shading most of his facial features, but nobody could fail to see the expression of incredulity across it. “Fish!” Joe hollered. Brad punched the air in victory. After a brief hesitation, Rob was the first to speak. His voice was hoarse and crackled from hunger, and he shoved Mike gently at the same time. “Right, out you go, Mike. I’m sure you could make a net of some-” “Uh huh. I don’t think so. Joe’s always sat on his lazy ass.” “Hey! My ass is the best.” “No, it’s the biggest.” Phoenix chipped in unhelpfully. “What are doing looking at my ass anyway? What are you, some kind of sicko?” “No, dude.” Phoenix replied quickly, stifling his laughter. “Nobody can help BUT look at it.” “Exactly.” “Joe, shut up and get outside.” Mike ordered, waving distractedly. Grabbing hold of the Koreans’ shoulders, he swiftly thrust him into the bitter coldness of the brute weather. A few blankets were hurled out with him, prompting Joe to hurriedly wrap around his body. Muttering irately, he took his first few steps on the rough land. The full moon was beaming vividly onto the lake, showing up every ripple on the surface. The dark forest trees around him seemed to tower over the clearing, blocking any view from the outside world. Joe almost dropped his blankets in exhilaration. Then, breaking into a run, he stumbled clumsily over his shoelaces and thumped down by the edge of the water. He smiled. Then, extending his shaking hand gently scooped a small frog into his palm. “You’re Kermit.” He declared, temporarily forgetting his blankets as they slid off Joe’s back. But the frog had other ideas. Hoping idly, it made its way to Joe’s fingers. “No, Kermit. Don’t-” A tiny splash followed by a huge frenzied one occurred as the creature dived in, only to be pursued by the dim 25-year-old. Not thinking for his safety, Joe had hurdled straight into the freezing depths of Ice Lake.
“That sounded like a ton of bricks. Should I check, just to see if Joe’s OK?” Four pairs of eyes stared weirdly at Brad Delson as he shifted uncomfortably on the floor of the cave. “I think he can catch some fish, Brad. He’s not that dumb, however he looks.” “You’d be surprised.” Chester mumbled, in reply to Mike’s statement. “Surely he can’t be dumb enough to dive into that water?” Phoenix chirped, shuffling closer to the fire. “Hell that would kill ya dead in three seconds!”
As soon as the water touched his body, Joe froze to the bone. The water soaked him from head to toe, and when he surfaced, he struggled for oxygen. That water was so overpowering, like it was suffocating your lungs as soon as you went under. The sub-zero temperature halted his swimming. Joe could barely move a few strokes. Worst of all to him, no Kermit was in sight. “Hey, what the..?” Joe wondered aloud, peering below in the clear liquid. There were swirling shadows collecting at the bottom of the lake, which he could just about make out. A huge piercing scream broke the peace of the night when Joe felt a massive force pull him below the waters.
Now the five of them were frantically racing towards the lake, pushing aside the regretful comments they’d made earlier. Mike especially was full of guilt. As soon as he’d heard the awful screech, the emcee practically bolted straight out of the grotto into the night. Phoenix, Rob and Brad had chased after him almost instantly. Only Chester grumbled and dragged his feet along. “It sounded like a girl.” Brad frowned. “No.” Chester snapped. “That’s what his scream always sounds like.” “Shut up!” Mike hissed, almost yanking Chester forward by his shirt. “If you weren’t so god damn preoccupied with yourself-” Mike’s sentence was interrupted by another cry of panic, and the group hurtled towards the lake, where they saw a struggling figure battle weakly with what seemed an incredibly strong current. Twice it attempted to pull him under, and Mike, panic-stricken, leapt forward, and plummeted into the stormy lagoon.
Joe let out another shrill yelp as it jerked him forcefully. He didn’t know what it was, but nothing had hold of his legs, except maybe a force. Eyes wide with fear, he attempted to grab hold of Mike’s outstretched arm. Narrowly missing, he howled once more as the force hauled him stronger. As Mike waded forwarded, the emcee suddenly lunged as he saw Joe’s upper body sink. But it was too late. The DJ had been totally wrenched beneath the waves. As the few bubbles rose and popped at the surface, like coke, Mike inhaled a deep breath and plunged below. Rob, looking like he was about burst into frustrated tears, took a soaring leap into the waves, spreading his arms in front of his head and hit the water like a bomb.
The water underneath was making Mike’s eyes sting like hell, and when joined by Rob, the pair began poking the floor. The deeper they got, Mike discovered, the murkier it became. The current, strangely enough, had gone. The calm waves were lapping gently against the banks, and everything seemed normal. Another shudder edged down Mike’s spine. Sharks? A giant clam nesting at the bottom, ready to snap any suspecting victim up? He shook his head. A shark would mean blood, and you’d definitely see the fish anyway. And a clam? Nah. His hands came into contact with something round and smooth. Tossing the pebbles aside, he realised that his lungs were straining and he felt the alarm rise in his body, urging him to surface. Obeying his pressing instincts, he kicked his legs furiously and found himself looking up to the surface, with the moonbeams glowing eerily.
Three other shadows collided into the waves, and soon Phoenix, Brad and Chester were swimming past him, giving him nervous looks. It seemed hours until Mike could finally break free of the lake’s suffocating grasp. As he surfaced, he painfully realised how biting the temperature was. He’d been so absorbed in Joe’s search he’d lost all thought on the cold. He feebly began to push his way towards the banks, and in each step he fought exhaustion. Mike’s legs were wobbling, as if he would give way. Keeping his gaze locked on the banks of the lake strengthened his willpower, but most of the time his main desire insisted he rest.
The fire was gradually dying down. The five of them stared blankly into space. Losing a good friend was like having a chunk of flesh taken away from your body.
Chester’s mind was infested with guilt, a shameful hate that couldn’t dissolve. If only he hadn’t been so bitter towards him, perhaps none of this would ever have happened. “We haven’t just lost one person.” Mike had stated, spreading his hands. “But two. Remy went down with him. Both people had qualities that I looked up to. Joe had a undeniable faith in us all, and not only was he the guy we picked on when he came back from the hairdressers, or the person that we told to go into the local Macy D’s and get us some doughnuts, but he was part of us. Joe brought his personality, uh, I mean personalities, together. I mean face it, Joe was the person who you could rely on. He’d be there for you. He’d kick us outta bed in the morning. He’d make us a big pancake breakfast. He’d…..” Mike broke off, swallowing deeply. Almost on the point of tears, he clumsily sat down.
If Joe had heard any of that, he probably would have freaked out. But the amphibian-obsessed DJ was unconscious. He began to awake when he felt the waves lap gently against his forehead. “Argh.” The dazzling lights were painful as he forced his eyelids open. Sand? “What the hell is this? Am I in heaven?” Murmuring, he tilted his head upwards. What happened to the sun, if this was the beach? There were just giant purple crystals sparkling impressively from the ceiling. A very high ceiling. Weakly moving his hand, he clasped two fingers on his other arm and pinched hard. “Nope. It feels real enough.” He wondered aloud. Snarls of laughter erupted above him. “Hey, this sure doesn’t look like-” Three pairs of hands grabbed hold of him and dragged him through the sand. “Uh, I think the exit is over there…” He nodded frantically over the water where’d he obviously washed up on. “Fellas?” The pig-like creatures sneered as Joe, slanting his head up, observed three Orcs hauling him. His mouth fell into an open gape. “HOLY SHIT! What are you?” The three beasts abruptly dropped him and, swivelling round, glared fiercely. Joe began to stammer, and hurriedly racked his brains for an answer. “I mean, uh, who are you?” “We take you to Dark One.” One of them grunted, seeming to be the only one that spoke little English. Oh crap. The three dwarf-like things were surprisingly strong. They were all totally covered in armour, apart from their heads which resembled a cross between a wild boar and apes. Two long front teeth poked out cruelly from their bottom jaw, and jutted up until they reached the creatures’ small nose. “Listen, dudes, we could, you know...sort this out. C’mon!” Then on a firmer tone, he pulled a serious face. “I’m warning you. I’m a black belt in judo. I could tear you from limb to limb.” When the small troop once again turned round to face him, this time with two-edged swords, he rapidly switched plans. “On second thoughts, perhaps not.” He mumbled under his breath.
“You can’t perform without him!” Brad furiously shoved the manager aside and turned over on his first-class plane bed. The other four stared angrily at this man. Didn’t he understand? “Our choice is final.” Chester spoke softly. “All gigs are cancelled for a month. At least.” “Then you leave me no choice but you fire you.” The man pursed his lips. Four of them held their breath. Brad bolted up. Only Mike remained straight-faced. “Don’t talk out of your ass!” He barked, his usual gentle voice rising to a loud retort. “You wouldn’t be able to afford it. They’d be plenty of people who’d back us up. And not just ordinary people. I’m talking about other bands and their companies. So, now, I have the pleasure of telling you, Mr. Hawthorne, to go to hell!” Mike watched with some satisfaction and amusement as the middle-aged businessman turned a vibrant crimson, then, fuming, burst out of the room. There was unsure silence, and then Phoenix bravely found his tongue. “You put it as exactly as I would have, but better.” Brad buried his face in his hands. “If only Joe was here.” The muffled voice came. “His funerals’ in two days time.” Rob reminded them. He hadn’t spoken to anybody for about day. It had hit him hard, and he was blaming himself for failing to rescue Joe in time. Every time he saw those turntables stored away in Joe’s own special box, he felt an extra stab of shame, even though Sam, Chester’s other half, had rightly mentioned that the death of their friend was no one’s fault. ‘Time and un-foreseen occurrence.’ Damn that phrase! Chester trembled inwardly whenever his mind referred back to it. Rob couldn’t face the others. He rushed out the room and stumbled into the bathroom. Slamming and bolting the door, he awkwardly sat on the edge of the bath. Then finally, the tears of guilt, frustration and grief poured out.
PART 2 COMING SOON