October 31, 1224 J.R.
Friedmann Rickert knew himself to be an adept of modest talents but a scholar of the first order. It was precisely these talents that had led the Sons of Trismegiston to appoint him Chief Archivist. The position was everything that he had hoped it would be, filled with long days and endless nights translating and cataloging the texts that flowed into the Archive from all the Earth. His brothers in the Sons would say that most of these texts were dross, composed of documents like inventories of long-lost armories or commentaries on philosophical texts that were themselves lost in the mists of time. Not Friedmann, though – his mind seemed made to sort these documents into frameworks that illuminated a shadowy past.
These thoughts and others flitted through his head as he toiled over a scroll from the Eastern Caliphate that was either a collection of children's stories or a record of the names of the Ifrit; it was too early to tell. Blowing gently on the last few lines he had written, he stood up and knuckled the aching small of his back. The candles on his table had burned low and he found himself hunching over the faded vellum that composed the whatever-it-was that he was reading.
Arching his back, he felt the satisfying crack that seemed like it must be so loud as to rattle the shelves. It took a moment before he realized that the shelves had indeed rattled, and that it was not his back at all. Focusing his senses outward, he could feel the powers at work – the Citadel was under attack. He scooped up his component pouch and ran from the Archive.
Hyssumar stood with his brethren, facing down the so-called Sons of Trismegiston. Though they had some strong adepts, they were poorly trained for this kind of battle. Coruscating lights and balls of fire and bolts of lightning assailed him, deflected by his carefully constructed ward of transferred opposition; summoned creatures of earth and fire and wind beat their fists ineffectually against his pattern of the secret pact.
The Sons were not so skilled at deflecting the attacks of Hyssumar's circle. Vanguti resorted not to coarse evocations, but to devilishly subtle invocations, with Sons suddenly freezing and then burning without the forewarning of evoked fire or ice. Ezre the Unweaver used her evanescent dissipator to destroy their wards in a blinding backlash of magical energy. Thoun the Binder wielded the befuddling consumption the way an attacking army wields a battering ram, splintering the minds and the gifts of those who opposed them.
As a result, the Sons' superior numbers availed them not – 11 adepts became 9 became 5, and their attacks slackened as they desperately sought to shore up their defenses against the Circle. Another graybeard arrived on the walls and joined the battle.
Friedmann left the calmness of the Archive and strode into a nightmare. The Strength of the Sons standing on the low Citadel wall. Gerold and Johann and Stinswich were obviously dead, victims of powerful energy attacks; Ingeborg was babbling nonsense words, rocking on the ground; Amalia and Reinhold's eyes were wide, their mouths open in silent screams.
Friedmann shifted his vision into the magical spectrum and saw the truth. There were only four attackers, but the air was already heavy with residual magic, and none of their enemies was so much as seriously injured. They were protected by wards of infernal complexity, thwarting both attacking spells and summoned minions. The woman was probing at the last-ditch defenses of the Sons, looking for a point to unravel, while one of the men was in the midst of a calling of great spirit of wind. The swarthy man wearing an eastern headdress of some kind was practically cackling the words that maintained those wards. He looked at the fourth man, saw what he was weaving, and cried “Run!” Too late.
Vanguti watched with satisfaction as he unleashed his most deadly spell, the sanguinous perforation. The remaining Sons didn't even have time to scream before they were torn apart by the invisible iron razors that slashed to and fro in the defined area of effect.
It was a good day – a rival was destroyed and the Archive was theirs.