A dirt road ran through the middle of a grassy field. Nestled in the grass were slabs of granite and white marble with gray veins. Once part of a city, the stone lay crumbled all around, buried in the prairie like a hidden monument to the devastation of an old metropolis.
To the west, hunks of granite and wedges of marble blocked the road at random spots. To the east, the road was clear and hard-packed earth, dried and cracked from the sun.
A slow rumble began out of the east, sounding like thunder and scaring nearby birds out of their nests. A column of sand became visible along the road as if a dust storm was lumbering westward. The dust rose into the bright blue sky and stood out sharply against the azure firmament. A light breeze caught the specks and whirled them higher into the air until they blended with the streak of small round clouds that looked like an army of cotton swabs marching in uneven rows. Along the edges of the column, each nimbus appeared frayed, as if the cotton was dissolving into the air.
Suddenly the thunder stopped, but the cloud of grit and dirt intensified and approached the ruins. As it neared, the dust cloud dissipated leaving only a ring of silence and settling motes to descend upon the area. Evan Pierce and his host of a hundred reined in their horses. Evan, a priest of the Order of St. Michael and a demon hunter, surveyed the broken road that lay ahead. The fifty swordsmen and fifty archers with him were knights of the Order; they sat awaiting his commands, their breastplates of polished metal emblazoned with silver swords that reflected the glaring sun.
"Why are we stopping?" asked Evan's friend and captain of the Michaeline soldiers, Sir Lan Falconhead.
"For a mission briefing," said Evan. "Remember the message I got from His Grace a few days ago?"
"Yes, of course. You said we had new orders and we set off for these ruins."
"Right," said Evan taking a parchment scroll from under his belt. He handed it to Lan.
Lan opened the scroll and began reading:
Several of my informants have sent word that necromancers are planning to camp in the Mirean ruins. Their exact purpose is unknown, but is a matter of concern. By the time you receive this dispatch, they will no doubt have established themselves.
Of particular concern is the death mage called Jormundan. He has been known to summon demons, raise the dead for zombies, associate with vampires, and give aid to other forms of undead. Based on the reports I've received, he is now allied with thieves in order to steal magical gems or jewelry of great power. The precise details are conflicting. Some sources say the gems are yellow pearls. Others report it is an amber necklace. Regardless, I suspect he is leading the necromancers in the Mirean ruins.
You are ordered to proceed to the ruins. Capture or kill the necromancers, I care not which, and destroy any preparations they may have made. If possible, apprehend Jormundan for questioning.
Lan handed the parchment back to Evan. "All right," said Lan.