The gloomy forest was barren. The autumn air was quiet, bereft of the sounds of life. There were no flowers or plants besides the tall trees, and those that yet lived were growing strangely, choked on their own offspring as there were no birds to carry the seeds. The grass was tall and unkempt, not having been trimmed for years on end. In all his years, Jace had only seen one other place quite like this; the heart of the Amber Plains, the capital of their people. In the years following the Reincarnation, the once-gleaming Amber Plains had become a gloomy, desolate place. Plants survived, but animals either shied away or died entirely. Caldimar had become a place shunned by the natural life of Auriga.

In the center of this forest choking on stagnation, a cluster of once-magnificent structures stood. Broken walls surrounded the village, devastated by the passing of time, conflict and neglect. Towers dotted about the wall were in various states of disrepair, but none of them functional for their purposes. Just inside the walls, small houses and workshops would be scattered about as needed, working to feed and armour the soldiers who would have been stationed here. Perhaps that could be again, Jace thought. After all, the Lords of the Amber Plains had changed, but the world around them was still a dangerous place. Soldiers would need be here again, albeit for a different purpose than when this settlement had been built. Noblemen’s houses rose above the walls, their spires reaching as high as they dared. Above it all, a turret so tall it seemed to reach the stars still stood, seemingly untouched by the decay that had struck at the rest of the village, but for one feature; the beacon was dead, the light within it shone no more.

To Jace, it looked like they had found the temple they had been searching for. As he waited for their guide to catch up, his troops marched past him, dust-metal weapons gleaming despite the pale blue light. Ordering them to keep marching till they reached the settlement’s edge, he kept to his waiting. Eventually, as more than half of his men had passed him, their hired guide stopped next to him. While in the blue light of the forest, his skin was almost a deep blue, Jace knew it would be like dark brass in more natural lighting. The man was aging but still full of vigor, a Roving Clanner who had come to Jaces Lord bearing news of a discovered settlement. The man, who had called himself Sparian, had an avid interest in the history of Jaces people, and said he had reason to believe the village was from before the Reincarnation, when the Lords of the Amber Plains had changed forever, become something different. In the wake of that change, the Lords realised that the price they would pay was even greater than they had anticipated. Where before they had been knights of great valour, protectors of order, now they were like parasites, needing to feed upon the life-essence of the world around them to even live. It was a stark choice to many. Renounce your valour and live, or perish while, at least, feeling your honour was intact. His people continued existence was evidence to their decision. Some things other than honour had been lost in the Reincarnation, so the chance to retrieve it was too good to pass up. And the power it might bestow was fast becoming a valuable currency in the capital of Calimdar.

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