January 1st, 1080
The city of Alexandria lay shrouded beneath a veil of gloom. The sea rolled violently under the dark, moonless sky. Waves crashed against the high, rocky shores of Phobos island. And rising up out of the dark ground were the ruins of the great lighthouse, still towering over the sleeping port city.
For years, the lighthouse had stood forsaken by the rulers of Alexandria and Egypt, a barren, ruined remnant of a brighter past. The light which had guided countless vessels to safety over the centuries had been snuffed out. It was now just an empty, lonely shell of memories and crumbling stone.
But tonight, the Lighthouse had visitors.
Two Germans, seeking refuge from the harsh wind that came off the sea, sat huddled around a small, fading campfire at the base of the ruins.
Adalbert von Goseck shivered as the wind blew against his back and scowled into the fire as he rubbed his hands together over the flames. "I hear the Italians have taken Jerusalem," he grumbled through his thick, unshaven beard.
"Then it is a glorious time for all of Christendom," Herman the monk, dressed in plain brown robes, replied cheerily. "We should be rejoicing with our brothers in the city."
Adalbert snorted and nodded insincerely. "I did not sell the estate my family has lived and died on for generations and travel to the ends of the earth to conquer lands for a king who seems to care nothing for the Holy Land just over the horizon."
"The king was wise to free the realm of Egypt," Herman said with an insufferably pleased smile, unphased by Adalbert's cynicism. "Jerusalem is only the beginning of the liberation of the whole of the Holy Land."
Adalbert was about to open his mouth to offer a retort when a glimmer in the corner of his eye caught his attention. Craning his neck back, he looked up at the peak of the decrepit lighthouse, German following suit in curiosity.
A strange flickering light played against the stone structure above. The German Crusaders exchanged looks, and without another word, prepared to journey up into the ancient structure.
Their climb up the long, seemingly endless flights of stairs was uneventful, the climb made easy with no fear of slipping to a long fall from the dry, dusty steps. The wind whistled through the many cracks and holes in the edifice, echoing up and down the tower.
The pair reached the top, stepping cautiously out onto the roof of the structure. Years of neglect and erosion and wiped out all but a few remnants of the wall that had once been the great cuppala that had housed the lighthouse's beacon. There was nothing there, save for bits of rubble and a heavy layer of dust.
"Strange things are afoot," Herman intoned gravely as they inspected the surroundings cautiously. Adalbert nodded warily, hand clasped on his sheathed sword hilt as the two began stepping back toward the stairs.
Suddenly, the chamber exploded in a kaleidoscope of light and noise. An eerie blue glow bathed the surroundings as a rift materialized at the center of the roof, wreathed in steams of coiling electrical energy. Voices, whispering in incomprehensible tongues, howled out through the vortex, along with terrible noises worse than any tortured cries of plague victims or dying soldiers on the field of battle.
The Germans stood rooted where they stood, eyes bulging wide and faces contorted in horror as if the very gates of hell had opened before their before their eyes.
Once more, the Lighthouse of Alexandria had a beacon.
The swirling portal vanished just as abruptly as it had arrived. Once more, the roof was shrouded in darkness. Where it had been only seconds before now stood a lone man, hidden by the night. Adalbert and Herman stared mesmerized stared mesmerized as the man surveyed his surroundings.
Finally, the man slowly turned around, facing them with slow deliberateness. Without realizing it, Herman hastily made a sign of the cross. The man laughed, his booming voice carrying far and resonating deep within both men, causing them to shiver involuntarily.
The man stepped toward them. The moon shone brightly through a break in the clouds, illuminating the man's face.
Herman was the first to speak. "W-w-who are y-you?" he stammered, barely able to force the words out of his mouth.
"My name," he answered, "Is Alexei Stukov."