The Wizardwar

Тема

Аннотация: Defeat breeds anger. Hatred breeds revenge.

Once again, the counselors of Halruaa have beaten back an attack by the wizard Akhlaur. Once more, the kingdom has been saved from its enemies.

But victory comes at a terrible price. The aged king is weakened, his powers diminished. His chief counselor Matteo is torn between his duty and his heart. Tzigone, the hero of the battle of Akhlaur's Swamp, has been hurled into a dark world from which she may never escape. And at the edge of time, Akhlaur and his ally, the Magehound, plot their final revenge.

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Elaine Cunningham

Counselors and Kings Trilogy

Book 3

Entered

into The King's Lorebook,

on this the 22nd day of the Redtide Moon,

in the 73rd year of Zalathorm's Reign.

If cattle were bards, butchers would be villains. This jordaini proverb reminds us that every tale is shaped by the teller. I am Matteo, King Zalathorm's newly appointed counselor, a jordain sworn to the service of truth, and Halruaa, and the wizardlords who rule.

Once, not long ago, I would have said these three masters speak with one voice. Now a hundred voices call my name, all of them compelling, many of them contradictory. Be that as it may. This is no time for introspection or philosophy-too many tasks lie before me. I will present my tale in straightforward fashion.

Halruaa's history begins in Netheril, an ancient northern realm famous for extravagant magic. Before Netheril's glory become her downfall, a group of wizards left their homeland and traveled far south, settling in a beautiful haven protected by mountains and sea. In this, our Halruaa, we have avoided the excesses of lost Netheril through elaborate laws and protocols, and through a series of safeguards. The jordaini, counselors to the wizard-lords, provide one of these safeguards.

We are an order of warrior sages, strong of mind and body, vessels destined to remain forever empty of Mystra's Art. The Lady of Magic has granted us no arcane talent whatsoever but rather has imbued us with a strong resistance to magic. Jordaini are identified before birth, taken from our families, and raised to know the art of warfare and the lore of our land. Lacking magic, we can advise our wizard patrons but can never coerce them. Nor can any wizard compel us. The secrets entrusted to us cannot be stolen or altered through magical means.

Additional laws and customs ensure the jordaini's faithful service. Ambition cannot tempt us, for we possess neither land nor title. We are forbidden indulgences that cloud the mind and discouraged from forming personal ties that might bias our judgment. Among the most powerful guardians of jordaini purity are the magehounds, wizards who serve as Inquisitors in the church of Azuth, Lord of Wizards.

Magehounds are granted spells and magical items powerful enough to pierce even a jordain's resistance. If a magehound declares a jordain unfit to serve, that jordain's service is over. If a magehound claims that a jordain is tainted by magic, this pronouncement is a sentence of death. Harsh indeed, but the trust between wizard and counselor demands absolute certainty.

Last spring a magehound, an elf woman known as Kiva, visited the Jordaini College. She passed judgment on Andris, the most promising student in recent memory. His "death" was carried out on the spot. Kiva, though, proved false. She spirited Andris away and used her position to secretly gather an army of magic-resistant warriors. She led them into the Swamp of Akhlaur, so named for the infamous necromancer who disappeared there two centuries past. Here lurked the laraken, a monster that fed upon magic. In my opinion, Kiva's intention was not to destroy the laraken but to unleash it upon the land. Her purpose, insofar as I can ascertain, was to wreak havoc upon Halruaa's wizards.

Kiva might have succeeded but for a young woman named Tzigone, a street waif untrained in magical arts. Tzigone possessed a powerful raw talent for evocation. Her voice was the lure intended to draw the laraken away from its magical sustenance: a bubbling spring originating in a leak from the Elemental Plane of Water. Where Tzigone is concerned, however, things seldom go according to expectations!

Tzigone called the laraken and held it in her sway while we fighters attacked. We might have destroyed the monster, but it escaped through the gate leading into the Plane of Water just before Kiva moved this gate to some unknown place. This effort was greater than Kiva's strength, and by battle's end she clung to life by the thinnest of threads. I myself delivered her to the fastness of Azuth's temple, hoping the priests might revive her and learn the gate's secret location.

Kiva revived indeed. She escaped and gathered allies for a renewed attack upon Halruaa. She and the elves of the Mhair Jungle raided the Lady's Mirror, an Azuthan shrine and a treasury of rare spellbooks and artifacts. Other magical treasures were collected for her by a band of Crinti raiders-the "shadow amazons" of Dambrath, female warriors descended from human barbarians and drow elves.

Although it pains me to write this, Kiva's allies also included Andris, who learned of his distant elven heritage shortly after the battle of Akhlaur's Swamp. We jordaini know no family, and Andris was overwhelmed by the prospect of kinship. This, perhaps, led him to see honor in Kiva's actions where nothing of the sort existed.

Kiva must have had contact with wizards in neighboring lands, for her plans moved in concert with theirs. Though I hesitate to suggest Halruaan wizards were also in collusion with her, the actions of Dhamari Exchelsor, a wizard who befriended Tzigone, undoubtedly added to the chaos. (Let it be noted that Azuth's Inquisitors have examined Dhamari and have found him not guilty of conspiracy with Kiva.)

While these diverse events were unfolding, I searched for Kiva, fearing that the elf woman might open the gate and unleash the laraken. Andris, who awaits trial for treason, insists that Kiva's purpose was to destroy the ancient necromancer Akhlaur. She followed him into the Plane of Water expecting to prevail but not to return.

So Andris swears. I wish I could believe him. To Andris, Kiva was a hero who sacrificed her life to destroy every vestige of Akhlaur's dark reign. I have seen Kiva at work, and I do not believe anything good can be born of such hatred, such evil.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the former magehound was defeated. Once again, Tzigone thwarted Kiva's designs.

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