Prelude - Ruins The gates of a once great city hung from rusted hinges larger than the height of a man. Alone in the shadows of a once bustling marketplace a traveler stood overwhelmed by nostalgia and dread. This marketplace had once represented the beating heart of a society that was never meant to exist, the descendants of exiles who had forged a home for themselves in a hostile land. Now it lay desolate, grand store fronts reduced to rubble and dust, empty and devoid of life even the rats had found a new home as dust clouds span like tumbleweeds across the expansive cracked streets. Adjusting his shredded leather gloves the man reached for a sign laying abandoned among the rubble, '-Ack Market', the sign stated in beautiful decaying cursive, a light flickered behind dull blue eyes before fading back to a passive blank stare, the sign was quickly discarded. The travelers face was fraught with scars and wrinkles, his clothing lined with rudimentary metal plating and each step he took accompanied with a faint limp and even fainter grimace. The great gates of Arkijah loomed as the traveler approached, debris stirring from each step as his left leg dragged slightly behind his right. The piercing silence was palpable, a low humming of his own blood pumping inter cut with the scraping of worn out leather on rough stone was all he could hear as he drew closer to the iconic city entrance. The gates were splintered and charred, almost certainly from battle, a large hole stretched up from the ground towards the center, more than large enough for the frail frame of the limping traveler. Squeezing through the gap his cloak caught on the jagged edges of the wood and a loud ripping sound filled the air. Another grimace, the man was trying his best to remain undetected, an act seemingly redundant given the eerie stillness of his surroundings. Bony fingers wrapped softly around the caught fabric, freeing it but at the cost of his balance. Slipping, he stumbled out into the city, elbows clattering against the floor in a failed attempt to ease his fall. Wiping the dust from his face the battle-worn traveler clambered to his feet, taking in the wreckage that lay before him. The travelers left leg gave way as emotion swept over him. Dropping to one knee he ran a gloved hand through thin matted hair. Even with his vision limited from the darkness he could make out the rows upon rows of houses that lay collapsed or gutted from flames and the silhouettes of human shaped outlines spread randomly along the crumbling city walls, harrowing remnants of a long forgotten war. The travelers gaze was drawn north towards his next destination, the 'stairway to heaven'. "Welcome home" a deep voice echoed from the shadows. Spinning on his bad knee the traveler gripped at his belt, removing a dagger and rolling backwards away from the direction of the voice. All signs of his limp removed as adrenaline coursed through his frail body. Staring into the dimly lit alleyways, his mind screaming questions for the faceless voice but his lips remaining disciplined and silent. Reaching slowly into his belt once more his fingertips gripped onto a thin silver blade, weighted perfectly for throwing. The traveler maintained his position, eyes closed as he waited for the disembodied voice to reveal itself. A clink of metal upon stone and the traveler span towards the direction of the sound, his hand rapidly drawing the blade from his belt and preparing to release. As his fingers opened a flash of white exploded from the alleyway and before he could react his arm was sent clattering back into the wall, pinning him in place as white hot pain shot down his body, his dagger bouncing playfully out of reach. Another grimace, Ice magic. The travelers arm was frozen solid to the wall, he wiggled his fingers, they still worked at least, though that was the least of his problems right now. The sound of metal footsteps was becoming clearer and the calm pacing of each step did nothing to steady the travelers nerves. Digging at the ice with his remaining dagger he positioned his legs against the wall, desperately trying to free himself as his elbow bent unnaturally against his request. Cracks began to form in the ice as the footsteps drew closer. Sweat pouring from his forehead he could feel his shoulder dislocating as he wrenched against the crackling ice. With one final pull the ice shattered and the traveler gripped his dagger and span, spinning straight into the staff of his assailant. The light from the tip of the staff inch's from his face, he raised his hands in surrender, eyes struggling to adjust to the glow of the icy rod. His assailant took a step back and lowered his weapon, the light dimming responsively. The rapid contrast between brightness and dark leaving the traveler temporarily blinded. He began to lower his surrendering arms and as they passed head height he thrust his right hand into the jaw of his shadowed attacker, quickly adjusting the dagger in his left hand he sliced across, meeting nothing but air, his vision still adjusting to the light. A swooping sound rushed past his ears and suddenly his legs were swept from under him crashing painfully onto the floor with the staff held to his throat. "Now now" the voice stated, "is that anyway to greet an old friend?" The travelers vision began to clear slowly and he stared up at a face recognisable even beneath the beard that now covered chin to nose. "Dane?" The traveler muttered, straining against the darkness "Dane Lector? You fat Bastard!" "Welcome home Collector" Dane stated as his staff clattered against the skull of the traveler knocking him immediately unconscious.