Journey of an Arbais Mage Series
When the Kingdom Falls
“And you wonder why I don’t trust you to behave?”
In a world of multiple races, cultures, and lifespans, those words apply to almost everyone. With over a decade working with the various races and kingdoms of her world, the human Ranger Z knows this well. Even with the resurrection of the Alliance, very few kingdoms willingly work together.
Yet when a magical disaster threatens their world as a whole—a disaster that has occurred once before, and left nothing in its wake—racial differences will have to be set aside. With the tentative agreements between kingdoms to assist in these types of crises untested, Z knows it’s up to her to gather the assistance she’ll require.
Calling upon the heirs of the Allied kingdoms, the Shades of a long perished race, and the exiled, unsocial Dragon who invited himself, Z might actually succeed. If her allies can get along, if they can stop something others failed to avert before, and if she can contain the personal demons that sporadically endanger the lives of those who travel with her.
But the buildup of magic, the heart of it, is rooted in the kingdom that holds her past and the scars she’s never managed to escape.
To defeat the danger that’s brewing, Z will have to return to the kingdom that broke her, confront the man who rules there, prevent the magic building in the depths from escaping, and protect those who stand beside her, all while risking the second annihilation of their world if she falters—if any of them falter—in even the slightest way.
The Price of Survival
Homecomings are never easy.
Following months of being absent from her world, Z has returned, but she isn’t the same person she used to be. As she struggles to readjust to the people she knew, Midestol strikes at the heart of the Alliance, overthrowing the kingdoms she needs united from within.
Worse, the cost of awakening the Shades strikes, and Z finds herself out of the conflict before it’s even underway. Knowing she cannot now surrender to the magic she called to awaken the Shades, Z struggles to find a path that doesn’t end in her immediate demise. Unfortunately, the only possible escape requires a sacrifice she’s never been willing to make.
And in the distance, without her, her allies struggle to defeat Midestol’s forces in one of the few kingdoms still within its ruler’s grasp. Forbidden from joining them until her condition is stable, Z finds herself in the company of her last remaining family member, a man she never wanted to know.
The biggest danger, however, might not come from Midestol, as the Alliance is upheld by both mortal and immortal powers, not all of whom were delighted with its revival. With threats emerging from all sides, Z resigns herself to the possibility of losing more of her allies. Blood, after all, is the currency of war, and even the greatest of fighters can fall.
The Danger with Allies
Enemies are sometimes safer than allies.
Having been raised by the various immortals of her world, Z is all too aware of this. Trust has never been a luxury she’s allowed herself to experience, and her most recent injury was delivered by an ally she hadn’t considered a threat.
Eight months after she was nearly killed by two arrows, Z is on the mend, but the Alliance is struggling to regain its footing. Attempts to retake the kingdoms Midestol cleverly stole has yielded less than preferred results, and the allied forces are taking additional damages as some of their troops seem to be disappearing into thin air.
If Z cannot regain at least some of the kingdoms, the war will be lost before it comes to fruition, and the alliances she has cultivated for years will have been for naught. But a threat still lurks in the heart of those who are closest to her, and the consequences that arise could shatter the foundation upon which Z has rebuilt her life.
The immortals have a saying: “that which one cannot protect one cannot expect to hold,” and the immortals consider the lives of those that others hold dear to be fair game in the test of power.
When Forces Rise
Her world has been preparing for war since before she was born. Now the confrontation that will decide its fate and others is fast approaching. Will the Alliance be enough, or will the tentative unions that Z spent years cultivating collapse in the face of their largest challenge?
The past five years have been kind to few; the previous year brought many of the kingdoms to their knees. Still struggling to regain a few of the kingdoms Midestol overthrew, Z is also dealing with the aftermath of a betrayal, the loss of her final Guardian, and the results of surrendering her Ranger title, a title the Rangers would prefer she continued to hold.
Yet Z is aware she cannot continue to be what she was to the people who originally saved her, and pretending that she can will only weaken them in ways she cannot afford. If she is to claim any of the seats of power offered to her, she cannot have a claim in the Ranger Council no matter the pain it causes her or her people.
But the Rangers are not the only race struggling to accept the change in status of one of their own. The Dragons have summoned Nivaradros to the Isle, and Z is certain it is not to offer him apologies or commendations for his actions during the past several years. It may be time to remind the Dragons of the power of an Arbais mage and the fact that Nivaradros stands outside their race on his own.
If they can survive the Isle, if Z can unify the races into the army she requires, will they have enough power to stand against Midestol? The beginning of a battle can often predict the victor, and Z knows her losses will be high. She’ll lose allies, heirs, kingdoms, friends, and possibly more before one side is victorious. And should things progress the way Z intends, her allies will be standing on the field without her.
The Ripples From War
War is something the extremely foolish, ambitious, or desperate become entangled in. For the Alliance, the war they’ve been engaged in for over a year is strictly an act of preservation. The cost, should they lose, is something none of them will survive, and the price already extracted is exorbitant. Whole kingdoms and races have been erased from the world. And the woman the Alliance united behind left them in the hands of a Dragon only a handful trust, departing to fight a separate battle on her own. A battle that will decide the fate of their world no matter which army triumphs.
But there has been no sign or word of Z since the war began. Having dragged Midestol to a shadow land in a precarious gamble, Z afforded her allies the best chance to defeat the enemy as Midestol’s army seldom functions well without its head. Yet the sheer size of the army may make her risk futile since numbers can topple the mightiest of forces, and morale is falling within the Alliance ranks. Should they be without their own leader for too long, the Alliance could falter, and should Z perish at Midestol’s hands, any chance of victory will be lost.
Worse, even if the war is won by the Alliance, the recovery may break the survivors. Numerous kingdoms were seized, ransacked, and damaged or razed before the start of the main battle. Leaving the certainty of a home to return to a large question for many, and food scarce or nonexistent for more. There is no easy or welcome path awaiting the war’s conclusion. Allies united by desperation may seek to strengthen themselves through the harm of others, and threats lurking in the shadows may emerge feeling their time to succeed in their own goals has arrived.
If Midestol and his warriors are defeated, Z’s world will have to rebuild. Rebuild kingdoms, populations, lives, and the path the world follows. Z, if she defeats Midestol and returns alive, also has mantles of power awaiting her. Something she has never sought, and something she would still rather avoid. Survival is only the first step of many for Z’s world, and the steps that follow may be more expensive than those who endured are capable of paying.