525 B.C.
Telaro City (Warrior’s City)
Credaino Mountain Range (now Basque)

Zathall sat inside a small cave, far from his village and let out a long sigh. He was tired, wanting desperately to rest, and he would, but not yet. He could not. Yet. The lives of his people, though immortal, were at risk. A bargain would have to be made. He would see it through to ensure their safety. When the balance between good and evil was once again secure, he would seek his bed, and lay there until the heavens brought forth a new moon. He stoked the fire that provided both warmth and light. Again, he felt anger that he had been summoned here, against his will.

A moment later, he felt the presence of the unclean darkness. Several moments passed before the being stepped into his view. The Summoner, Mindon, of the Dark Infinite.

"Zathall," the being said softly, his voice barely more than a whisper, "your warriors have discovered the last of the five dark worlds. Were you not told to stay away?"

"Aye," Zathall said, letting his eyes close. "We were told."

Five of them, then. Simroo, Toth, Nexum, Syndall, and Sadaar. The last one, Toth, they had discovered quite by accident. A place where Dark magic was welcome, Toth was home to many an exiled sorcerer. Those who practiced the ancient dark art of Shyalla Nar.

"And yet, here you are, summoned by me for the trespasses of your warriors, for knowledge that was not yours to gain." Mindon turned. Long spikes of black bone ran down the center of his back, becoming small, like scales, covering a long, whipping tail. "They must be punished."

Zathall brushed tendrils of black hair from his face. He shivered as he contemplated what they had learned. Dark art did not begin to describe Shyalla Nar, for it was darker than that, darker than anything he had ever seen. Darker than the most vile of demons. Nay, he had now looked into the face of perfect evil and knew its most intimate secrets.

His thoughts disintegrated as the foul stench of the being’s breath wafted to him.

Mindon spun again to face Zathall. "Know you how easily I could lay to waste your entire species?"

"Aye, I know," he said, exhaling. The air was cool this night. His breath billowed in soft clouds before him. "What seek you, Mindon? What punishment makes right of what they have done?"

"Death." Mindon took in a deep breath of night air. Exhaled. "I require the life of one of your warriors."

Zathall looked into the fire for a long moment. "You may have mine."

"Nay. You shall remain in this world. I will take another."

"It is my right to choose—"

"Nay. The dark worlds are mine, Zathall. Mine alone. I created them and set forth the conditions upon which they may be entered. Your warriors came, unbidden and unwelcome, and they saw…" Mindon paused, inhaled as if to calm himself. "They saw worlds never meant for them. For what you have done, I will take your strongest warrior. His death will serve as a reminder that my worlds are forbidden, now and for all time."

"We knew not they were your worlds. Once we learned how to use the Stones--"

"What Stones are these?" Mindon asked.

"We have learned we are not the only living beings in these stars. A very long time ago, we were visited by others who were not the same as us. They were not of this world. I killed one, and it was then I found three Stones of great power. I took them all, and as time passed, we learned they could transport us to faraway worlds we could never have imagined." Zathall paused to take in a deep breath. "We stayed away from the worlds we knew were yours, but found nothing to tell us Toth was also yours, and thus forbidden. And now you demand a death as payment for what we knew not."

"And where are these Stones now?"

"They are in Nexum, in the palace of the ruler. They are safe."

"Very well," Mindon said. "You will never speak of my worlds. You will never enter. If you or your warriors trespass again, I will demand the death of your finest warrior and the second finest as well."

"I understand. We shall not trespass."

"I will be watching." Mindon said, casually lifting a dark brow.

At that, Mindon vanished, leaving Zathall alone in the cave. Only moments later, he left, ready for the downhill walk to his village. The breeze caught his robes, and it was only then that Zathall saw his hair had gone completely white.