Avrilar inhaled the freezing air of the city, tasting the sweet tang of death upon the air. From his position atop a ruined watchtower he could see for miles across the southern quarter of Folstad, or Frostgrave as it was now known, miles upon miles of ice and ruin amidst which wizards fought one another for long-buried mysteries. The necromancer smiled cruelly as he thought of so many he had buried under the snowdrifts and of the many who had shortly risen to fight for him; the secrets on their pale lips his long-sought prizes.
He had been in the city a few months now plying his bloody trade in search of the power he desired and the cure he craved. Scorning the practice so common amongst his peers of hiring mercenaries to do their dirty work for him, Avrilar had brought a company of half-wights with him; their half-living flesh and pliable minds proving more reliable than greed-driven mortals. His only living companions were his champion: Vortigrin the Dreadknight and his apprentice Elthiria of Valacre.
Vortigrin had served Avrilar for many years, a man with a talent for murder who wished only to continue his gory work in both this life and the next. Elthiria had been apprenticed to the necromancer for many years now though he remained ever wary of her. He had heard far too many stories of wizards killed in their sleep by impatient or power-hungry pupils and he wished not to feature in any such future cautionary tales. She remained dutiful and willing to serve her master, something that seemed only to make Avrilar more paranoid though he would not send her to her grave, not yet anyway: he still had uses for her.
She had taken no issue with coming to Frostgrave, indeed she had relished the opportunity to explore the thawing myth. To Avrilar’s surprise it had been Vortigrin who had been least pleased, the northman remembering fell tales of those ancient ruins. Promises of power however had swayed him quickly enough and the necromancer had not been forced to call upon old oaths of fealty. Certainly he had not wanted to force the issue least either of them uncover his true intentions nor did he want to reveal much about his dealings with the Cabal who were sponsoring this venture. Vortigrin would have called him a fool and Elthiria would have no doubt begun plotting to supplant him should he say too much. The Cabal had approached him with an offer he couldn't refuse and little did his companions know that every day he was getting more and more desperate.
Thankfully the Cabal had not forced him to endure the presence of one of their own agents and give the game away. His shadowy benefactors had been surprisingly flexible and willing to grant him a great deal of autonomy. In return they asked only for several choice artefacts and the death of a few certain individuals, all of which was little trouble for the necromancer who had already found two of the artefacts in question and had slain some nobody illusionist the Cabal apparently had taken issue with. The artefacts puzzled him somewhat, seemingly random and inconsequential he couldn't see what possible use the Cabal could have for them. He had entertained the notion of keeping them for himself in order to unravel their secrets, but he was no fool and thought better than to cross the people keeping his operation afloat.
A representative of the Cabal had come to collect the first artefact shortly after he had acquired it. The demon had worn the guise of a traveller robed in black but overall presented an unconvincing figure as the mouth of it’s disguise failed to move as the creature spoke. It took the artefact, a rusted albeit jewel-encrusted sword, in one gloved hand and gave Avrilar a heavy purse in exchange with the other. They also exchanged rumours of happenings in the outside world and in the city before the demon warned Avrilar that the Cabal was sponsoring other wizards yet to come to the city, amongst them a chronomancer who could prove a powerful ally or a dangerous foe. The demon’s stolen skin managed a smile as the creature left and Avirilar was anticipating seeing it again any day now since he had recovered the second artefact: a bent and battered sceptre taken from the hands of an overconfident elementals riding high on her most recent find.
Avrilar had had little trouble against the other wizards in this part of the city thus far barring a random encounter with a particularly tricksy enchanter. Recent news however had proven somewhat unsettling. The day previously he had heard rumours that a Sanctifier had set up a base somewhere in the southern quarter and had gold to spare for any mercenary willing to help reclaim relics of the Light. Avrilar had then spent a fair bit of coin to confirm his suspicions and the news his spies returned with unsettle him further: Tyriak Lecter had come to Frostgrave. Avrilar had crossed paths with the fanatical thaumaturge before; the encounter costing him an arm. In return Tyriak’s left eye had fallen to the necromancer’s scythe and both parties had sworn vengeance upon the other. Avrilar doubted that his presence alone had drawn the cleric to the frozen city though he knew it wouldn't be long until Tyriak learnt of his presence. Avrilar was fairly well known to certain circles within Frostgrave. Circles Tyriak would certainly be seeking to cleanse soon enough.
Some good might come out of this news at least, he mused. Tyriak could very well eliminate some of the competition for him and might even put an end to the summoner that had been troubling him in recent weeks. The self-proclaimed Corpse-Bane and his imps had been playing havoc with the necromancers of the city for about a month now. Appearing out of the storm and slaying any who offer any resistance; he had been ritually executing necromancers and their apprentices whenever he managed to capture them. Avrilar’s spies had brought back little useful information thus far: the summoner never seems to hire the same mercenaries twice, never for more than one job and pays them well enough that no questions are asked.
Vortigrin had also collected rumours about a savage soothsayer and a genius engineer coming to the city though he had learnt little more from the camps he had visited under the guise of a northern mercenary. Elthiria had been managing his correspondences with a few of the other wizards in the quarter and she had managed to form some agreements between him and a select group of others. Pacts he fully intended on breaking when the time was right but vital for now if he wanted to keep track of the competition. His spies brought in daily reports of occurrences across the entire city yet many of his objectives remained elusive.
Fulfilling the terms of his contract with the Cabal was going well, though the thoughts of them sending other agents to the city perturbed him. However his own plans were going less well, his agents were yet to locate the true resting place of Curalimil the Alchemist. Raids on two other tombs had been met with stiff resistance from strange cultists and neither had contained what he sought though they had enriched his operations.
Avrilar was soon disturbed from his thoughts as Elthiria came to stand next him, he turned to regard her noting the specks of blood around her eyes so poorly wiped away in haste. Necromancy was taking its toll on the young elf, something that mildly amused the elder wizard though he just hoped it wouldn't damage her too much before he had need of her. She held out a scroll which he took with his artificial arm and opened before him. Another report, it seems that another necromancer in the southern quarter was looking for Curalmil the Alchemist’s Tomb as well. He certainly couldn't allow that. Avrilar held out his hand and one of his demi-wights obediently handed over his rusted scythe. He grinned to himself beneath his respiratory mask as he raise the blood-encrusted edge to the light; another day, another death and another chance for the power he craved...