|First printing||April 2001|
Blurb[edit | edit source]
The battle for Bryce has begun.
The city of Bryce is being watched by unfriendly eyes. A mysterious prophecy, a desperate wizard, and an extraordinary tiger man are somehow caught up in the city's destiny. One man must race against time to understand how—and why—or risky the enslavement of his people.
Summary[edit | edit source]
The aging wizard Hazezon Tamar, governor of Bryce is travelling in the Sukurvian Desert when he stumbles upon a senseless strange being: this stranger resembles a cross between a man and a tiger. Hazezon, believing the encounter to be an omen, decides to bring him to his city. On the way, a traveling druid, seeing the tiger man, reveals to Hazezon the prophecy on None, One and Two: when None and One clashes, only Two shall remains. Now Hazezon and his guest are bound by destiny.
When Hazezon arrives in Bryce, he found the city under attack by the forces of Tirras, a mountain city ruled by the tyrant Johan. When Hazezon is surrounded by enemies, the tiger man - Jaeger - comes to his rescue. In order to mount a resistance against the Tirrans, Hazezon summons his sand warriors. After a succesfull fight, a Tirran mage, Xira Arien the Glass Mountain, summons Stone-Throwing devils, finding out that sand warriors hit by stones are instantly destroyed. Nevertheless, Jaeger is an incredible warrior, and lead by him the militia of Bryce repells the invaders, albeit at great cost.
Understanding that this attack wasn't a simple raid, but a declaration of war, Hazezon decides that in order to fight Johan on fair ground, he will need help from other city-states, in particular from Palmyra, that lies near the River Toloron and on the road from Tirras to Bryce. The major of Palmyra is Adira Strongheart, Hazezon's ex-wife and leader of the Robaran Mercenaries, who wants to mantain the famous neutrality of her city and refuses to help Bryce. The two leaders, however, are ambushed by nightstalkers sent by Johan to kidnap them. The ambush fails, but this changes Adira's mind and she decides that Palmyra will help Bryce. She leaves Hazezon to reinforce the city and contact other leaders, while she, with her Robaran Mercenaries and Jaeger, will scour the Sea of Serenity in order to finance the war effort.
In the war between Princess Lucrezia and the sha of Fysmatan, the latter offers the best deal, so the Robaran Mercenaries starts attacking Lucrezian ships. After capturing one, they find a map to a secret island, far to the south. When they reach it, they discover that the Lucrezian marines have enslaved a tribe of islanders and are making them build a new fleet of warship. Amira allies with the islanders and, together, the two forces overthrow the marines, capturing the warships and selling them to Fysmatan for a great sum.
With their purse full and news of Johan's advancing army, the Robarans return to Palmyra, now a fortified city, surrounded by a newly formed lake thanks to a dam. However, they find out that have been strange disappearance of people. While patrolling the docks overnight, they discover that the assailant are merfolk. Following the rumors of a Sunken Sea beneath the desert, Hazezon, Adira, Jaeger and the Robarans reach an underground sea, in order to stop the merfolk attacks: they are instead captured by the merfolk, who reveal that, with the construction of the dam, the reproduction routes of the fish have changed, preventing them from feeding. So, they started kidnapping and eating palmyrans. Hazezon is able to seal a pact with Beckoner, shaman of the tribe Born of the Beck. The merfolk will stop their attack, and the city will provide them with fish and other tools.
Meanwhile, Johan's army has finally reached Palmyra, only to be stopped by the new dam. While Johan sends boats full of soldiers to dismantle the dam, the Tirrans are ambushed by the merfolk, who starts sinking their ships. Johan responds by casting a spell on the lake, heating its water and boiling the merfolk. Without other meaningful resistance from the Palmyrans, Johan summons an earthquake that destroy the dam, freeing the river road down to Bryce.
In the open desert, Hazezon army tries to halt Johan's march, while Adira and the Robarans wage a guerrilla war behind the enemy lines. However, Johan's army can still travel by river and, whenever the resistance on the land is too strong, he simply order his troops to get on board and continue by ships. To stop this, Hazezon, Adira, Jaeger and the mercenaries descend once again in the Sunken Sea, asking help to Beckoner in stopping Johan's army. After agreeing to help, the shaman reveals that this is the last time the humans will see her people, before disappearing in the underground water. Returning on the surface, the Robarans hear Beckoner's magic and see that the River Toloron is reversing its current, running towards the mountains. When the chant stops, the river is dry, absorbed by the Sunken Sea. Without means to transport supplies, Johan's army cannot reach Bryce by land, and is forced to return north. Johan decides to get revenge on Palmyra, which stopped his advance.
In order to save the city, Hazezon travels in the deep of the desert, asking the spirits to grant him all of their blessings. After days of prayers, exhausted, he is rescued by Jaeger. The two travels to Palmyra, which is sieged by the Tirrans. Hazezon's magic, powered by the desert mana, summons thousands of sand warriors. However, their weakness to stone has been revealed and they are quickly dispatched. The sand warriors were only a diversion, though: the real magic summoned by Hazezon is a huge sandstorm, which starts hammering soldiers and city alike, just when Hazezon and Jaeger reach the safety of Palmira.
Six days later, the fury of the sandstorm finally dies out. Palmyra has survived, albeit with great loss, while Johan's army, caught in the open, has been utterly destroyed. Jaeger, realizing that the evil tyrant is still alive, decides it is time to stop him. He reveals to be the None of the prophecy, since he is a stranger, and that Johan is the One; when they will die, the Two will remains, Hazezon and Adira. Johan is in the middle of the desert, trying to return to Tirras on the back of a drake, when Jaeger finds him. While the two are fighting, a sand worm leaps out and devours Jaeger. Johan believes to have understood the prophecy, and that the remaining Two are him and the continent of Jamuraa. With his last words, the tiger man has let slip that in the east there are other like him, and Johan, clatching in his hand Jaeger's family heirloom, intends to make them part of his new army.