The Angel of Death was dead. Not dead in the sense that that was how he carried out his job, but dead as in unable to do his job. This did not mean instant immortality for everyone. People would still die it was what happened afterwards that would be a problem. The consciousness would still leave the body but without the Angel of Death the body would still contain its energy. Until someone could fill the role of the Angel of Death, there were going to be a lot of angry ghosts and hungry zombies.
The land of Cathalia had its backside to the Crescent Range, and most of Cathalia was foothills. It was nestled between the nations of Garadar, Montreyo and Cylia. Cylia was a peaceful kingdom, full of magic and wonder. Montreyo was a kingdom of traders and businessmen. They had little interest in the other kingdoms unless they could sell something to them. Garadar was a poor, dirty, ugly kingdom ruled by a warlord who has unsuccessfully tried on several occasions to conquer its neighbors. It was poor in currency and men, after years of warring there were barely any men left between the ages of sixteen and sixty.
Cathalia had no king, it was ruled by Cathal, the god of fire. He was the son of the sun god, and god of gods, Timoceles, and Aluna the moon goddess. He was good to his people. They did not want for anything. Cathal made sure their crops, livestock, and babies were healthy. Unlike the other gods or spirits Cathal could be seen among his people, helping them in the fields, building or repairing buildings. His people loved him and it showed in the architecture of his grand temple. When Garadar attacked, Cathal was on the front lines, when Montreyo came to trade, he got the best bargains. Cathalia was as close to paradise as Cathal could it make it for his people. He never knew that treachery would come from within his own temple.
The Fire Temple was constantly under construction. The people of Cathalia were either making it larger or adding more adornments. It contained large apartments for Cathal’s six high priests, larger rooms for Cathal himself, quarters for Cathalia’s elite guards, training grounds, kennels, stables, inner courtyards, outer courtyards, kitchens, dining halls. It had all the qualities of a castle, but looked like a tall domed temple. In the spire above the dome burned the Everfire, a cauldron of flame that never needed refueling, and could never be extinguished. The people of Cathalia believed that as long as the Everfire burned, their god was with them.
A coach looking fit for a king, followed by an escort of the guard, their armor gold plated with tabards of red with an orange flame upon the chest, stopped in front of the temple’s main entrance. A footman stepped down and opened the door of the coach, placing a step stool below the door. A sandaled foot stepped onto the stool, followed by the rest of the man in belonged to. He was dressed in robes of red and gold, his head shaved, but a long silver beard covered most of his chest. As he entered the inner temple, an acolyte in a hooded robe of faded orange, held the door. Other acolytes were doing various tasks, dusting, sweeping, lighting candles, running errands.
The temple was mostly open for anyone to come and go as they pleased. The grounds had no walls, and most of the doors had no locks. The inner sanctum was off limits to everyone, except Cathal’s high priests. A guard stepped aside from the doors as the high priest approached. Behind the heavy oak door were spiral stairs leading down. The stairs were lit by a pale blue glow from baubles hanging from the ceiling. The high priest closed the door securely behind himself. It was believed that Cathal did not only have the ability to manifest himself from any flame, no matter how tiny, but he could also hear and see what was said around the flames. Fire was not allowed in the inner sanctum. The lighting was a type of nature magic, borrowed from the elves of the Rashilon Jungles to the south. The high priest pushed through a set of double doors into a large chamber. Sitting around a table, drinking tea, were the other five high priests.
“Welcome back, Brother Nema, what news do you bring of Garadar?” Spoke the oldest looking of the priests, Asgar. His beard was completely white.
“They refuse to attack us,” Nema said, sitting in the empty chair. He poured himself a cup of tea and picked up a small cookie from the tray in the center of the table.
“Did you offer them more money?” Asked another from the table. He was the youngest looking of the priests. His beard was mostly black but streaked with gray and cut rather short compared to the other old men at the table.
“Yes, Greco,” replied Nema in a voice he usually reserved for talking to the acolytes who were no more than over glorified servants. Greco was the youngest and newest member of the high priests. His predecessor had met with a fatal accident. The high priests had been prolonging their lives by siphoning off Cathal’s power, but they hadn’t been able to cheat death completely. Nema was not worried by the fact that Greco would turn traitor to them and warn Cathal of their plans. What worried Nema was Greco seemed more sinister than all of the other high priests combined. The high priests wanted to be kings. Greco wanted godhood.
“Did you meet with Nix?” Asked Asgar.
“He told me that Cathal’s power is linked to the Everfire. Control the Everfire and we’ll control Cathal,” stated Nema nibbling on the cookie.
“No one can go near it without being turned to ash,” spoke a priest opposite of the table as Greco.
“No human can,” Nema stated. “Nix has offered us the power we’ve always imagined if we summon him to the Everfire.”