Prologue
(In the Common Year 1218)


THE LORDS OF PHENNUS WERE GONE. Mage-Lord Greon smiled darkly to himself as he raised both arms to the heavens, embracing his triumph. Gone. And so easily, too. Images of his past colleagues falling, one by one over the months, flashed across Greon’s vision. Such pitiful, nearsighted fools. None could stand against me, he thought, drawing a deep breath, reveling in the strength and youth restored to him by the newfound ability to steal life energies. Channeling the weave would no longer posed a problem for him.
     As Greon gazed skyward, the future showed him Phennus as the capital of a vast empire, one ruled by the might and intellect of magic. He would be the Mage-Lord who had mastered its secrets. At Greon’s hands, Phennus would be more than the center of culture; it would head a renaissance and change the face of Atla forever. It was a bold vision, even for the Mage-Lord, but the sheer temerity involved in trying to enter the magical weave did not daunt him.
     And then, ever so slightly, Greon faltered in summoning the magical weave. The grand vision changed. He saw his schemes to rule all of Atla scatter as though a flower torn asunder by heavy winds, for his draw upon the magical weave of Atla was too great.
     The weave itself suddenly tore through the heavens, disrupting the vision and forcing Greon to blink in astonishment. The strand was invisible to the common eye, but Greon saw with the ability of a Mage-Lord, and he knew its significance even as it hurtled downward toward him. He had beckoned it, and now the weave was coming.
     Greon’s face slackened in defeat for one imperceptible moment. “Damn the Dark One,” he muttered. Then, the steely resolve returned as both hands wove ancient sigils in the air. “My body is gone, but I will live.” The words faded as the negative strand of the weave struck Greon’s tower.
     The gray strand expanded outward, covering the city in a gray nothingness, a moving haze of negative energy. One by one, the inhabitants of Phennus were caught, their souls diminished by the negative energy. The part of humanity that yearns to live and love was annihilated in an instant. What remained was the part of humanity that needed to feed.
     When the pulse ceased, the negative strand of the weave remained, feeding the Blighted land; and all across the once beautiful desert city, cries of despair and hunger sounded, but none so loud as the Lord of the Blight.