The outcast - By Simon Hawke Page 0,1

her vows aloud into the morning wind.

“I, Lyra Al’Kali, daughter of Tyra Al’Kali of the Ringing Mountains, do hereby take my solemn vows and acknowledge the purpose of my life, as every son and daughter of the pyreen has done before me, and shall do after me, until Athas once again grows green. I vow to follow the Path of the Preserver, using my powers to protect and restore the land, and to foil and slay defilers who would steal its life for their own perverted gain. I vow allegiance to the elders, and to the Eldest Elder, Alar Ch’Aranol, Peace-Bringer, Teacher, Preserver, Dragonslayer. I herewith dedicate my life to follow in his noble path, and pledge my soul to the service of the Druid Way and the rebirth of the land. So do I vow, so shall it be.”

Her words were lost upon the wind as the light from the dark sun flooded the desert landscape far below her. Just as all our dreams may be lost upon the wind, she thought. Perhaps there would never come a time when Athas would be green again, not so long as the sorcerer-kings still lived and drained the planet of its life to fuel their spells, and not so long as dragons walked the world, leaving waste and desolation in their wake. The Eldest Elder had vowed death to the dragons of Athas, but alone he was no match for their magic. Even all the pyreen together could not stand against them. For as long as Lyra had been alive.

Ch’Aranol had been seeking to overcome the dragons who had once walked as men, but preserver magic had never been as strong as that of defilers, and no defiler was as powerful as a fully metamorphosed dragon.

Many adventurers had met their deaths in trying to do combat with the dragon, and many more would die if the sorcerer-kings continued to grow in power. Each of them had already embarked upon the path of metamorphosis that would transform them into dragons. The process was a slow, and painful one, requiring powerful enchantments, spells that drained the earth of life and sapped the souls of unfortunates who fell under the sorcerer-kings’ dominion.

The Path of the Preserver called for restraint and purity in use of magic, with the spellcaster either drawing on his or her own life energy, or merely “borrowing” life energy from plants and the earth, taking only small amounts so that the plants would be able to recover and the earth would not be left forever barren where the spellcaster had passed. Defilers, on the other hand, eschewed respect for living things and were motivated solely by greed and lust for power. Defilers cast spells that killed off all the vegetation in the area, left animals dropping and writhing in their tracks, and leeched all nutrients from the earth, so that nothing more would ever grow there. Nor did defilers stop at that. Those with enough magical might would not hesitate to drain power from sentient life-forms, be they elves or halflings, dwarves or thri-kreen, or any of the humanoid races of Athas—or even the pyreen.

There was madness in defiler magic, Lyra thought, especially in the devastating spells cast by the sorcerer-kings in their lust to metamorphose into dragons. If she lived another thousand years, she would never understand it. What did it profit them to gain such incalculable power if all that was left for them to rule would be a barren world, devoid of life? Where, then, would they turn to seek the enormous amounts of energy that full-fledged dragons needed to survive? They would kill off everyone and everything, and then, like the maddened beasts they were, they would him upon each other until there would be only one left, and that one would hold dominion over a drained husk of planet. As it gazed out on the ruined world of Athas, that last dragon would have the brief satisfaction of knowing that its power was unchallenged and supreme—before it slowly starved.

How, thought Lyra, as she sadly gazed out over the parched landscape, could they not see it? How could the defilers fail to comprehend where it all would lead? The only possible explanation was that the sorcerer-kings were insane, driven mad by their lust for power, living only to feed that lust. As their powers increased, their appetites grew. There had to be a way to stop them, but the only way to do that would be to

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