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In a dark crypt usually inhabited by skeletal Ratous and scrawny Arachnees, a tall man dressed in black was walking in circles. The room was poorly lit and damp, with silk webs fluttering in one of the many freezing air currents flowing throughout the space…

A thick layer of dust had built up on the ground, disrupted only by the indifferent pacing of the person roaming the place. His face, both stern and sensitive, was lit up by the faltering light of candles of differing heights stuck onto the nooks and crannies on the side of the stone wall, where wax had run down to the ground.

His long cloak moved in time with his footsteps. He turned around, revealing one bandaged eye covered by his long, jet-black hair. With his jaw wedged between his fingers, the character seemed to be lost deep in thought. His about-face had exposed him to a light very different from that of the candles – far sallower and stronger. The man squinted his single eye, but was this due to the sudden brightness that assailed him?

With a measured pace, he approached the light source that was so carefully and delicately placed on a purple velvet cushion on one of the stone tombs that seemed to serve as a table. The emanation was so strong that it was practically impossible to make out the outlines of the item found there. The man's gloved hands floated around the glimmer, which seemed to cause fluctuations in the ambient brightness, until the thing placed there started to beat. Pulsations from the heart of the whiteness flooded the room, pushed the dust back to the walls, and blew out many of the candles.

The man could not hold back a chuckle of excitement and satisfaction, and drew his limbs in under his cloak, while the light went back to its initial state. He abruptly turn away from it and, mumbling, took hold of a scepter embellished with a skull leaning against one of the funerary collars.

"We are going to do great things, you and I," he whispered while caressing the bone that had been polished by time. Then, he hung it from a strap on his belt.

The individual headed toward an umpteenth stone table covered with papers, quills, inks, and writings of all sorts. Taking a tall stool from the corner, he sat down and prepared to write. With his shadow masking almost all of the workspace, he took his scepter with a sigh and intimated "come back".

Timidly, the candles' flames reawakened, spreading their warm glow across the cover of the book in front of him. The individual opened the imposing, bound work, revealing the first page with its title handwritten in dark ink.

"Raval's Research"

His gaze wandered across the lines of the book with a mixture of pride and tenderness, before opening the volume to a blank page. He took a reed pen made from bone, dipped it in a stained inkwell, and started to write.

"Note of the year 711, the month of Novamaire, 28th day.

Agony the Necromancer has succeeded in creating powerful artifacts for the Brotherhood. If they weren't destined to make an army, I'd have liked to study all four of them, in order to understand the influence of the White Fire on the Black Fire inside them.

They are called the 'livid hearts'.

Unlike a classic act of necromancy, the hearts can be used without consuming a necromancer's energy. The Veriun Dead are therefore virtually indestructible, if not for that damned Necronyx, which does not even affect the heart itself!

The alliance of opposite energies interests me, and it seems to have great potential; not forgetting the fact that the hearts take all souls, irrespective of their kind. We should explore the possibility of calling the soul of a living being, and then…"

Raval's writing was interrupted by a tremor that shook the entire room. Bits of dust fell from the low ceiling, the bare bones clinked in their caskets, and the quill squealed on the paper. After a few moments of reprieve, another tremor occurred, more clearly identifiable as coming from the crypt's entrance. The Protector of the Month of Septangel was taken aback, as if stunned by these signs of intrusion. The shocks continued to shake the room, upturning pots and alembics, blowing the candles out, and saturating the atmosphere with opaque particles.

Finally, the unpleasant sound of stone rubbing against stone could be heard, and sunlight lit the ground in the shape of the door frame. A floating silhouette slowly came down the steps, with its mechanical eyes gleaming against the backlight. Raval, still perched on his stool, was dumbstruck.

"Oropo!"

He got to his feet, and faced the intruder. Instinctively, his hand grabbed his scepter, whose skull now gleamed with a discreet, bluish glow.

Suddenly, Raval contorted, the arm holding his weapon twisted behind his back. Surprised, he dropped the staff.

"What is this!?"

The optical camouflage then faded, revealing a Sram holding him in an armlock, with a poison dart pointed at his throat. She spoke in a hissing voice.

"Oh no… I don't think you'll be able to use that."

On the necromancer's face, disbelief gave way to rage.

"Toxine," he shouted out through gritted teeth.

"I should have known all this was because of you, traitor!"

The one called Toxine chuckled.

"Be careful: Master Oropo is very angry because of what you've done."

Oropo did not say a word during the two antagonists' exchange; his eyes scanned the environment, coming to rest on the livid heart radiating in the middle of the room. He then moved slightly aside, revealing a third person. Without turning around, he spoke to him.

"Harebourg, help me put an end to this. I don't want to hear another word about it."

"No! You can't do that!" Raval struggled. "I was ousted from your decision-making, and now you're sticking your nose into mine!?"

Oropo's eyes narrowed, until they were nothing but minuscule points of light.

"When did I ask for your opinion, Raval? You've been up to a lot of mischief, so you must understand that my trust in you has… faltered. I'm now wondering how I could have believed that a person such as you – not even a demigod – could have served our interests."

Oropo approached the heart, making Raval shudder.

"But since you brought up the subject, so be it. For your insubordination, I hereby banish you from the Brotherhood. But that does not change the fact that you cannot save this heart."

Silos came out from under Oropo's cloak, teleporting Raval and Toxine out of the crypt and opposite the discreet, isolated mausoleum that contained its entrance. Harebourg and Oropo followed, arriving in front of the structure. Oropo took out the Eliacube and concentrated his power on it. The Xelor held out his hand without a word, lending his strength to the leader of the Brotherhood. In the space of a few minutes, the crypt was sealed, taken out of the grip of time.

Raval had collapsed, his plans reduced to rubble yet again…

"I'll get you for this, Toxine. You're no better than Sram; you're exactly the same."

The sneaky one looked at him cheerfully before releasing him from her hold. She joined Harebourg and Oropo, and then all three disappeared.

The necromancer remained motionless, as if frozen in place while the cold wind shook his cloak. Finally, he stood up and started walking. In which direction? He did not know. Going where? He had no idea. But in the depths of his only visible eye, vengeance burned like a flame, brighter than ever, and it would guide him for the centuries to come.

Category: Background