“For the light had shone too long, the world had lost and forgotten the history which otherwise would have haunted them for eons. The dream ended, the sun blocked, the dark clouds rose and with them, the fate began to twirl in peril. It was in the winter of Hoinbo, the year 1230 that the long forgotten powers moved and with them, the world will willingly or unwillingly move.”

Prelude to The Arcane Archives:

“Is there anyone left Jack?” Colt’s cold voice rang out in the charred, smoke filled remains of what had been a slave caravan.

Jack shook his head as he checked a tent and moved forward to check another. Colt sighed. It was a slaughter. Although there were signs of struggle, it was obviously a one sided battle. Merciless, cruel and fast, everything pointed to the Cimmerian tribes.

Colt gazed at the northern skies. Far away, they were a shade of dark blue and occasional lightning crackled in those clouds, and he could smell the rain from the earth. He sighed again as he commanded, “Clean up, there is nothing here. It’s going to rain soon; we need to ride south before the river floods.”

Dozens of mercenaries nodded their heads and began to move the bodies. Pits were dug, and bodies were buried after brief rituals. Times were tough, and they were no relatives, giving a proper burial was already being kind. Within minutes, the remains of the battle were cleared, and everything was either burned or salvaged.

Jack moved with the efficiency of a dozen men, commanding, cleaning and burning the tents. Colt sat on his great war horse, Nelly, looking past the men towards the north. His brows furrowed as he seemed to remember something.

Jack appeared by his side at some point with a tired expression. “Colt, I saw a few stab wounds, but they were mostly blunt injuries. It was a battle of strengths, and the enemy had enough power to crush skulls with bare hands. I reckon Basker tribe is known for their brutal warriors….”

“It doesn’t matter Jack; the Cimmerians are breaking the treaty by entering the Theodran empire. Our work is to report this matter to the capital. What happens afterward is none of our concern.” Colt said. His glanced at the dark clouds and ordered, “Let’s move.”

Jack wasn’t pleased, but he didn’t question any further. “Commander,” a mercenary called out. Colt glanced at Jack and nudged Nelly. Down the road, a giant beast fell to its death on the path nearly fifty meters away from the camp. The mercenaries were struggling to move the almost three-ton beast when Colt arrived.

Sighing helplessly, he got down and caught the beast. The mercenaries smiled to themselves and took a step back. Jack, who followed Colt, laughed as he saw his arched back. There was a weird excitement in the air as Colt watched them all and took a deep breath, the air around his feet swirled mysteriously as his stretched muscles bulged and the next second, the giant mammoth was cleanly lifted off the ground.

The mercenaries cheered while Jack smiled. They’d all seen Colt’s strength numerous times, but it never ceased to amaze them. He could lift a mammoth single-handedly while a dozen grown up men couldn’t nudge it. It was the strength of the man who commanded the Black Colt mercenaries.

Colt also had a pleasant smile on his face as he listened to the cheers. They were his people, his family, so he naturally felt happy when they cheered for him. But, his smile froze as he saw what was underneath the beast. Eyes which were scared, scarred and frozen in fear stared back at him. A ditch underneath had protected the boy from the beast and saved his life, but it had been almost three days since the attack, and Colt couldn’t imagine how the boy no more than ten survived the darkness.

Jack reacted quickly to the change in Colt’s expression. He rushed forward and pulled the boy out before Colt dropped the beast back on the ground. The mercenaries quieted down as their commander and deputy commander stared mutely at the kid.

Jack tried to question him but was nudged to stop by Colt, who stared at the boy carefully. His face was tired, probably due to lack of sleep and starvation, his left arm had blue bruises indicating infection, but he was healthy. His nails were torn, bloody and virtually nonexistent. He’d scratched, shouted and screamed at the beast and the earthen walls for days.

Fear was evident in his eyes but also exhaustion. He looked ready to collapse and was only hanging on with determination. Colt sighed in his heart, although the boy looked weak and lacked any strength, he could sense the feral nature of his will. He survived the darkness, the fear and wasn’t willing to sleep because he wanted to live, to survive.

It was akin to a wild beast’s instincts; he didn’t know the boy nor did he have any obligation to help him but he was drawn in, consumed and rekindled with hope after seeing his will to live. Pointing his finger at himself, Colt said, “I’m Colt. You are?”

The boy frowned slightly and said, “Ragnar.” As if the exhaustion of three days had assaulted him all at once, he soon slipped into a deep sleep. Colt sighed and carried him in his arms as he thought, Ragnar.

*****

Author note: And thus begins our journey.

Chapter 1 – Black Colt Mercenaries 

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