"A Warm Welcome"

Azifar Sev'Lenus
Great trees swayed in full autumn bloom flaring reds and oranges surrounded the ancient Combine Era Wizard Spire with its familiar four tines soared into the sky. The wood elf had to blink several times as the blinding light of the powerful sorcery that bought them here slowly dimmed and vanished from sight. Gasping in the great vastness of the land, Azifar shuddered as the cold air bit his skin and stung his breath. These lands were most definitely a foreign place as the trees were unrecognizable in comparison to the vast forests of Greater Faydark or any of the others encountered in his many travels of Norrath.

"So this is Kunark...", Azifar said softly while taking in the many of strange smells and scenes surrounding us. A loud squawking sound broke the silence as a strange-legged bird raced towards the gathering with amazing speed. The bird seemed to have lost the ability of flight but raced wings spread in a landlocked glide.

"I doubt this creature wishes to greet us a warm welcoming Ranco perhaps we should deal with it swiftly", drawing the two ancient Short Swords of the Ykesha from the sheaths on his hips and stepping up to confront the strange beast. The twin blades began glowing an angry red aura feeding off the anticipation of battle. The ancient blades claimed from the foul Ghoul Lord during the great Syndicate battles in the depths of Guk were not yet familiar to the hands of the ranger nor the intense feels that washed over him whenever he drew them from their runed sheathes.

Azifar was initially wary of these ancient enchanted blades claimed during the great raid the Syndicate commenced in acquiring the last of the great Manastones. After great studies by the Archmages of the Syndicate they believed the ancient sorceries that created the swords were not inherently evil. Though the foul aura of the Ghoul Lord had tainted the Short Swords of the Ykesha the blades themselves were simply an extension of their user.

The strange bird did not slow but instead increased its speed as it cleared the distance and the ranger quickly believed that the creature intended on trampling lowered his weight preparing to dodge and strike at the creature from behind. Just as the bird drew within ten paces it instead leaped into the air using its razor like talons on its feet slashing out in a ferocious attack. Even preparing for this tactic Azifar was amazed at the agility of the beast and how it used its wings to glide it in mid flight striking the ranger fully in the shoulder blasting the elf to the ground.

With refined reflexes Azifar rolled and came back to his feet in one fluid motion but the bird with startling speed was already striking out with its hooked beak cutting another slash into Azifar's arm and leg. Spinning, rolling and dodging Azifar danced but could not gain his footing or balance under the ferocity of the attacks. In a daring move Azifar turned, feigned and instead leaped into the air grabbing the bird's head pummeling it with the hilt of his blade.

Dazed the bird let out an agonizing squawk backing up again with speed astonishing the ranger and began its charge anew. Again the bird leaped into the air talons striking out like daggers but Azifar instead dove forward rolling under the bird's charge and came up directly behind the bird! The confused bird dimly turned about catching the blade of Azifar's sword squarely in the face. Blood and feathers flew as the bird squawked taking several steps back stunned by the blow.

Unwilling to let the creature gain any ground the wood elf whirled around slashing instead at the bird's legs cutting deep into the joint. With a sickening pop the bird flipped over itself landing on its back legs flailing in the air. Just as the ranger moved in to finish the crippled bird a burst of fire engulfed the figure quickly turning its flesh to ash.

"Glad you're here to help wizard...", Azifar grumbled sheathing his blades and stepping back from the charred remains of the strange bird.

"Now, now Azifar had I struck down the bird prematurely you would not have learned anything from the encounter", Ranco said in that snobbish high elven tone that always sounded as if spoken to a child.

"Perhaps the next encounter we face I can take the leisure to learn at your expense", Azifar chuckled knowing this war of words had been played out an infinite number of times. Ranco's powers were truly awe-inspiring.

Though the ranger loved to taunt the wizard he had a true respect for this man. There were many other "finger wigglers", as Azifar often called them, that controlled devastating power and little wisdom what to do with it. The ranger could not even recall how many wizards boasting incredible arcane fell dead from their own arrogance. Ranco constantly displayed wisdom, understand and respect for the arcane powers he possessed. Such a rare trait for the often power hungry and blinded wizards Azifar had encountered over the many years.

Indeed it was these very traits that drew Lord Dragons to enlist the young apprentice into the folds of the Syndicate. Many people opposed this mere boy's status feeling the he was hardly worthy to be studying among the powerful wizards and magicians of the guild. Though the opposition was great Lord Dragons was adamant in his decision, which lead too much scorn by his arcane advisors. These same advisors were also Ranco's teachers in the magical arts, which made life for the young wizard very difficult indeed.

Though many other power hungry peers raced through the many lessons seeking deeper arcane knowledge, Ranco contained an almost unnatural persistence learned all of the lessons taught to him. Though life for the young wizard was never easy his perseverance and stamina were indomitable. The same teachers who were opposed to Ranco's enlistment were also scorned from his many successes plotted a special test for the young wizard. Though many details of the test were bounded by oaths of silence the rumors still remains that the crafty and resourceful Ranco completed each of the tasks set by his envious teachers. When one of his own teachers seething with frustration confronted the young apprentice in an arcane duel, the young Ranco defeated him.

The many stories shrouded in secrecy followed the event, including even Dragons himself testing Ranco. The young apprentice continued his rise through the arcane council of the Syndicate and now stands among the elite of wizards in all of Norrath.

Azifar again turned his gaze outward staring into the vast land, the ranger felt a great calling to explore this vast frontier. The wood elf's heart raced wondering just what was over the next ridge or behind the vast mountain peaks that stretched along a distant horizon. Already the sun began to dip behind the many peaks of the mountain's ridge flooding the valley in a crimson light. The many woodland animals began scurrying around preparing for the night. The bitterly cold wind rushed down again chilling the breath of the ranger.

"Well my old friend what a grand adventure we are setting out upon", Azifar shouted sprinting down the rolling hillside.

Long Live the Syndicate,
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