A terrified scream ripped through the corridor, intense flames bathed it in a distorted orange glow. The sounds of battle were drawing closer, drowning out the echoing footsteps of a man sprinting down the corridor. He held a long curved blade at the ready its edges bathed in crimson. The heavy wooden door leading to the imperial apartments lay open and unprotected. The bodies of two guards lay twisted on the floor, their last trickles of life staining the cold stones.
The imperial apartments were in tatters. The corpses of the emperor and empress lay hacked and mangled in their bed. The baby prince lay crying in his crib. A black clothed assassin staring at him amidst the carnage. He wore a tattered purple scarf that no longer concealed a large spidery burn mark across most of his face and a mouth of sharpened teeth. There was a look of elation on his face as he licked the imperial blood from his serrated hand blades. The old soldier was enraged at the chaos and viciousness of the scene before him. He roared with anguish as he charged across the room. With a single deadly swing he cleaved the assassin in half. A fleeting look of surprise and amusement crossed the killers face before stillness over took him.
Not pausing to shed a tear the old soldier quickly grabbed the young prince. After a moment’s hesitation he quickly packed a small framed photo and strong box concealed within a wall safe. The sounds of destruction were growing louder, the flames of battles growing brighter. The man took one last look at the bodies of the emperor and empress his face a mask of grief and shame, before taking his precious cargo down into the darkness of the concealed stairwell.
The ceiling shook, ancient dust and mortar fell like snowflakes as repeated heavy thuds thundered above. The sounds of battle raged on. The clash of steel on steel, panicked screams and the rush of terror as men fled in the face of the terrible onslaught. The man moved quickly trying to ignore what was going above him. As the tunnel split into a maze of passages he paused to sniff the air and touch the walls. Until he found the one he sought its walls damp and narrow. It went onwards straight as an arrow for several rohecks leaving the symphony of death and destruction far behind. When at last the man emerged from the concealed tunnel at the base of the ancient aqueduct he was standing beside the cliff top river.
He held the young prince tightly, a single tear rolling down his cheek. There he sat starring at the great city in flames. A thousand years of history and culture descending into darkness. Great black clouds hung above the invading army chocking the once fertile valley and sprawling slums. By the first light of dawn the sounds of battle had subsided and the fires had begun to die. Small groups began moving away from the capital in all directions. The man stayed to watch as long as he could before finally disappearing into the fleeting darkness.
With the capital in ruins organized resistance collapsed. The relentless hordes of the Praxis Republic swept across the remains of the Elysium Empire and seized complete control within 6 months. Over the next 5 years it continued to expand its influence and cement its control over the surrounding territories from the Sapphire Coast to the frozen heights of the World’s Edge Mountains. Their Iron Army crushing all opposition with ruthless efficiency. Leaving vanquished armies and shattered fortresses in their wake. Many of the smaller towns and cities surrendered without a fight helpless against the tide. The old guard and once proud dynasties hung their head in shame unable to slow the advancing armies of Praxis.