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A call to arms (open)

The Don

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The plains of the ruined kingdom of Arafel provided a perfect location to build and train an army. There was plenty of open space, grass for horses, and what people remained would not come near the army that Dagan al'Kar commanded. If they knew a tenth of what this army was, they would likely soil themselves and run to the wilderness to live what pathetic remainder of their lives remained.

He waited impatiently under the largest of the banners in the camp. The banner itself was dyed red with the blood of the villagers that had once called this area home, those that refused his offer to join him anyway. Some chose the wiser course and travelled with the army, supporting them in whatever capacity they were able. In the middle of the banner was the shape of a hand painted black. The name was his own idea. The Black Hand held the sword of the Shadow. Not all of the men that initially came with him to raze the country were Friends of the Dark, but those who began refusing orders now hung impaled in a circuit around the camp. Eventually every man here came to realize that his life now belonged to the Great Lord of the Dark.

They had grown in numbers since then. His Master wanted an army built of the faithful. With the Chosen free and the Last Battle approaching, the time for secrecy was over. Like the original Friends of the Dark in the Age of Legends, Dagan had come out of the shadows without fear. He was lent two Dreadlords strong enough to make a gateway for the purpose of actively recruiting new members. Bran had been gone most of the day, and the arrogant man seemed to take his time, even in small villages. He said that testing for a man that could channel took time, but Dagan could hardly imagine how,  Still, the man had brought nearly a dozen men back. Elin was less successful in bringing back women, apparently many of those women who could channel were already in the White Tower. None of them were officially under his command, but perhaps some day that would change. What could he do with such power in his ranks?

As if thinking of the man summoned him, a vertical line appeared and opened into a gateway. A half dozen people appeared. By the look on his face, Bran hadn't had a successful outing, at least by his standards, which meant no channelers. As the gateway closed, Bran finally spoke to the wide-eyed new recruits. "Brothers and sisters," he waved his hand out to show them the sprawling camp "welcome to General al'Kar's Black Hand."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dagan looked these Friends of the Dark up and down. One was a fighting man for sure. The three women could be here for anything, they seemed to be the least frightened. The last two men seemed like the sort of scum that lived in small cities and towns, who took the oaths as Darkfriends without fully comprehending what they meant. None seemed to know each other, but these two surely were never a part of any Cell. "Welcome Brothers and Sisters." Dagan said finally. "Our Master has finally given us leave to come out of the shadows. The Black Dawn approaches, and the time for hiding from the Light-blinded is over. You are safe here."

"Where is here?" One of the women asked. Her dark eyes had been scanning the camp since she arrived. Her gaze always seemed to slide past the impaled carcasses surrounding them. She held her composure, though.

"Where we are is not necessary for you to know. We are in the Borderlands, safely protected from prying eyes." He could not afford anyone running off and letting anyone know where an army of Darkfriends was being mustered. Not everyone felt safe here. Their bodies also littered the ground around the camp. Some corpses had arrows sticking out of their backs like pincushions, others were trampled and broken, some were only greasy smears left over in craters made by lightning. Cowardice would not be tolerated. The bodies were left as they lay as another reminder. If they knew where they would soon be heading, many more bodies would be out there. Best not to lose too many before they grow enough backbone for that. "In one month we march. Until then, I need to know how many of you are here to fight. Those who will not will now follow Dreadlord Monell to the support camp."

One of the men and the dark-eyed woman started to walk toward Bran. Dagan was a little disappointed. The woman carried herself as a Darkfriend with some rank. "Since you will not be soldiers, we will have little contact after this." He looked directly at the woman. "Just know that your rank among Darkfriends means quite little here. In my army and in my camp, rank and promotions are based on merit. The Great Master gave me orders to run this army as I see fit." Some had tried to usurp command from some of his officers, which did not turn out well for them. He did not want to waste anyone with any sort of useful skills, but he had to make examples. Those only received a flogging in the middle of camp.

He took the rest to the practice yard, where trainers were going through the paces with the main body of soldiers. Aside, three blademasters were teaching forms to some of the most promising fighters. One man surveyed it all. Matrim Bannor was a Darkfiend of the highest degree, sometimes it seemed he only obeyed Dagan as a courtesy. The man couldn't be more plain, everything about him was average, but he was the most brilliant swordsman Dagan had ever seen. He wasn't as fast or strong as any of the three blademasters, but somehow he had never lost a spar against any of the two together with any weapon. He wouldn't be surprised if Matrim could face all three and come out on top. Dagan had taken to private lessons with the man in the early morning, before even the rest of the army was awake. He was no blademaster, but the man had made him more than formidable.

As he approached Bannor, he noticed that the man was staring as if lost in the din of training. As he turned to the approaching group, the look in his eyes seemed to change, as if another person started looking at him from inside. That made him almost as uncomfortable as the eyeless gaze of Kjasic, who frequented the camp to give progress to Sammael. Between Bannor and Kjasic, sometimes it hardly seemed like he was in charge at all. "General." Was all his Blademaster said. The new look he had was almost feverish, a coiled serpent ready to strike.

Dagan grunted. "Captain." He finally remembered the others. This man was an odd one. "These are todays new recruits. I'll leave their training to you."

The man only nodded, that feverish look returned to the calm ice that was surveying the training. "Of course, General. Leave them to me." That cool look was the more unnerving. 

Edited by The Don
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