One week had passed since Tibicus had received the blackmail letter. A week marked by pain, violence, despair and struggle. He had done his utmost, but still, he had failed. He had scraped together almost 200,000,000 gold. Considerably more than one would have expected given the circumstances but it was still less than half the sum demanded. In his desperation Tibicus had even sold a large part of his collection significantly below price on the Market, but even this extra income was barely more than a drop in the ocean.
The time had come. There was nothing more he could do. Today was the day and he had to face the fact that he had failed. However, he had not quite given up hope and headed for the handover site with the gold.
Maybe he would be able to negotiate with the blackmailers even though he had not managed to raise the total amount. 200,000,000 gold was still quite a lot. He was not comfortable with travelling through the dangerous lands of Tibia with so much money in his backpack, but he had no other choice.
He avoided the main roads, preferring to keep to the relative safety of the woods and by so doing he managed to shun Beefo‘s bandits who terrorised the area around Thais. An encounter with them at this point would be one of the worst things that could happen to him.
It took him quite some time to make his way to the exchange site. The suns were already setting and wrapped the mild summer night in a peaceful purple-blue light.
The last rays were just dissapearing behind the huge volcano which dominated the skyline over Goroma, as Tibicus sailed by boat past the island to the meeting place. His destination was Kharos, the island on which he had once obtained his greatest treasure. A treasure he now hoped to redeem. Here, at Ferumbras' citadel.
His memories were triggered as he inhaled the chilly, salty sea air and suddenly his mind was transported back. Back to the day when he had been one of many young idealistic knights who set out to fight the evil wizard, whose return had been foretold by the legends and oracles of Tibia.
Barricaded behind the walls of his citadel, the wizard had intended to unleash fear and terror across Tibia again. Supported by an army of bloodthirsty demons and other terrible perversions, he had forged dark plans of revenge and retribution.
Countless brave Tibians had lost their lives that day.That day had started with the agony of the pride of Tibia. They had been trapped in the citadel, easy prey to the fire belched by the dragon lord which caused their armour to melt into their flesh. Tibicus‘ ears were filled with screams, his nostrils with the acrid smell of hot metal, burnt hair and burning flesh.
Many of his comrades were torn to pieces by the merciless behemoths or crushed by their bulk. Warlocks, protected by their invisibility, had crept up on the mages and paladins and cursed their souls to eternal damnation.
Demons had gouged their sharp claws deep into the knights' chests, had broken their ribs and ripped out their guts.
From the stairs leading to the upper floors whole torrents of blood streamed down and the corridors were filled with the moans of those who were not lucky enough to have died immediately.
Just a fraction of the several hundred Tibians had made it into the chambers of the Ferumbras.
The fight was unforgiving and cruel. But in the end they had made it. Only by the sacrifice of those who had given their lives that day, had it been possible to send the wizard back into the abyss and it was Tibicus who had brought the hat back to Thais as a sign of their triumph.
Tibicus snapped back to reality as the hull of his boat ran aground onto the pebbly shore with a loud crunch. It was a very long time ago that he had last visited this place. When he felt solid ground under his feet again, he realized how much his legs were shaking. He took another deep breath, checked that the gold was still in its place and then walked towards his destination.
In the meantime, darkness had fallen. Only the magic seals that kept the citadel locked up safely shed any light. Tibicus read the extortion letter again: "Take the gold to the entrance of the Ferumbras' Citadel. Put it on the ground three steps south of the entrance and the hat will return to its rightful owner."
Tibicus had placed the gold as instructed and waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing happened. Not a soul far and wide.
The longer he waited, the more impatient he became. What if no-one came? What if the hat was lost forever? Thousands of thoughts flashed through his mind and he became increasingly anxious.
He had to stay focused! He took a few steps towards the sea. A splash of cold water in his face would clear his mind.
The moon was already high in the sky and illuminated the water in front of him. The cold waves of the sea lapped rythmically around his legs giving him goose bumps. As he knelt down, his face was mirrored in the water. Looking at his reflection, he realised he was not alone.
High up on the citadel's summit perched a creature engulfed in flames, looking down at him and observing his movements. Tibicus spun around, but the flame creature had already launched itself into the air and set out on a nosedive.Before Tibicus could make a move, the bird had hurtled down to the ground, stretching its wings just before impact, snatching the backpack full of gold with its beak.
The heat emanating from that firebird was almost unbearable. As soon as the creature had caught its prey, it was back in the air and flew north with the backpack.
Tibicus remained thunderstruck in the water. With his mouth wide open, he tried to grasp the situation. He should have known that it was not going to be just a simple exchange.
You do not simply return a Ferumbras Hat. How foolish he had been to believe his ordeal would find a happy ending tonight.
Another person’s ordeal, however, was just about to begin. At first, Tibicus had not dared to believe his eyes, but now he was absolutely sure. He knew who the blackmailer was. The Emberwing’s wing had given him away…