They came like lightning, from the west, leaving only death and devastation in their passing. United under their faith in the great god Yaldabord, the Rusitanians were an unstoppable force, bent on converting the heathen populace of the neighboring kingdoms and forging one great empire from their disparate lands.
In the year 320, the country of Maruyam fell to their power, and her royal family executed. The only survivor of the massacre was the blind princess Ilina, who managed to escape on ship, along with most of the remaining knights. Having established their control over one country, the Rusitanians continued onward, concentrating upon the nation of Pars, to the east. The conquest of Pars would not be as easy for the Rusitanians as had Maruyam, for the legendary Parsian cavalry were known to be undefeated. Yet, with the treachery of the Baron Marshal Kharlan, the assistance of the enigmatic man known only as Silvermask, and a magical fog raised by an even more mysterious sorcerer, the Rusitanians were able to rout the Parsian army and press on to the capital city of Ekubatana. The man known as Silvermask was also able to capture the Parsian king, Andragoras, after slaying General Vaphreze with one blow. All was not lost, as the heir to the throne, Prince Arslan, was able to escape with the help of the former Baron Marshal, Darun. Together, they were able to enlist the aid of Narcasse, a brilliant strategist and the former Royal Historian, and his slave and ward, Eram, in the cause of regaining Pars from the Rusitanians by promising the former the position of Royal Artist when Arslan ascended to the throne.
Meanwhile, the Rusitanians managed to conquer Ekubatana after a short but bloody siege, and a price was placed upon Prince Arslan's head. Stricken by the beauty of Queen Tahamenay, the Rusitanian king, King Inokentis VII, not only spared her life, but began to court her and declared that she was to be his bride. King Andragoras was not so fortunate, and all that awaited him in Ekubatana was a dark cell. There, Silvermask removed his namesake mask to reveal a face half-scared by fire and charged Andragoras with having killed his brother and the former king, Osiris. Furthermore, Silvermask revealed himself to be King Osiris's son and the true heir to the throne, Prince Hirumes, and accused Andragoras of setting the fire that had scarred him for life. To these charges, King Andragoras had no response but to laugh.
Under the orders of Silvermask, the traitor Kharlan led one thousand Rusitanian soldiers and Parsian mercenaries to find and to slay the crown prince. Fortunately for Arslan, Narcasse had come up with a brilliant trap, and with the arrival of the warrior-priestess Farangis and the wandering minstrel Guibu, they were able to send the soldiers fleeing. After being cornered by Arslan's small band, Kharlan chose to commit suicide by leaping off of a wooden bridge, but not before revealing to Darun that Arslan was not the true heir to the throne.
Pursued by an even greater force led by Silvermask himself, the heroes found themselves with no recourse but to scatter, with the castle of Peshawal set as their meeting place. This separation went largely without incident, save for on the part of Narcasse, who happened upon a fight between Silvermask and a young girl. Seeking vengeance for the death of her father, the chieftain of the Zogt clan, Arfurido attacked Prince Hirumes and would have been slain except for the timely intervention of Narcasse, with whom she immediately fell in love.
Reaching Castle Peshawal, the seven were met with a warm welcome from Lord Quishward and set about planning the defeat of the Rusitanians and the recovery of Ekubatana. In fact, the only person who seemed unhappy to see the Crown Prince seemed to be his childhood teacher, General Bachman, who had recently become greatly disturbed after receiving a letter from the late General Vaphreze. That night, Silvermask secretly entered the castle, appeared before Bachman, declared himself to be Prince Hirumes, and appealed for the general's aid. Confronted by the reality of what was contained within the letter, the general fled onto the outer wall of the castle, while Hirumes gave chase. Prince Arslan, who had been sitting upon the ramparts, saw his old mentor in trouble and ran to his aid; Silvermask, noticing the arrival of Andragoras's son, immediately attacked Arslan, and Bachman was helpless to stop the duel between the two princes. Although Hirumes was more skilled, his fear of fire and the timely arrival of Darun and Quishward brought the fight to an end. Outnumbered, Silvermask made his escape by leaping off of the ramparts into the river below, but not before Bachman was mortally wounded in his defense, and begging Prince Arslan's forgiveness for "the weakness of an old man", the general died without confirming or denying Silvermask's claim.
The Parsians had not the time to mourn, however, as trouble was brewing upon the eastern border. A civil war had erupted in the neighboring country of Shindra as the king fell ill and his two sons, Lajendra and Gardeep, each sought to become the next king. Attempting to gain his father's favor through the conquest of new lands, Lajendra attacked Peshawal castle in what was doomed to be an abysmal failure. Captured and brought before Prince Arslan, Lajendra was convinced to sign an alliance with Pars and offered the support of Arslan's army in defeating his half-brother and in gaining the Shindran throne. The battle against Gardeep's forces was not long in the coming, but it was aborted with the arrival of a royal messenger, bringing the king's dying request: that the two Shindran princes settle the issue of succession by a duel between champions chosen from each side. Prince Lajendra begged Arslan to allow Darun to serve as his champion, a choice that Prince Arslan hesitantly accepted. The time of the battle arrived, and Darun's opponent was revealed to be a monster of a man named Ba-Hador. Although both his sword and shield were shattered, Darun eventually triumphed over Ba-Hador, and Gardeep was killed by his own champion after refusing the decision of the gods. In addition to this, impressed by the loyalty shown by Arslan to his followers, the Shindran Caswent chose to disobey the orders of Prince Gardeep and instead of assassinating Arslan, begged to enter into his service.
With the Shindran border secured and an alliance established, the Parsian army was now ready to challenge the Rusitanians once more. Having gathered together one hundred thousand men, Prince Arslan and his followers marched from Castle Peshawal towards Ekubatana, with one notable loss. In the night before the departure, Guibu bid his farewells to Prince Arslan, after a bloodless duel with one of the commanding officers.
It was around this time that the refugee ship of Maruyam arrived at the port of Dairam, carrying the blind princess Ilina. Unfortunately, Dairam had already fallen under the control of the Rusitanians, but the sudden appearance of the former Baron Marshal Kubard and the Zogt warrior Melain saved the Maruyam survivors from the awaiting ambush. Princess Ilina was searching for Prince Hirumes of Pars, who she had met ten years before and found to be kind. Touched by the plight of the blind princess, Melain set aside his own search for his sister, Arfurido, and agreed to guide Princess Ilina to Ekubatana. Kubard, however, was on his way to Peshawal to aid Prince Arslan, not knowing that he had already left, and so the two warriors separated.
While the Parsians had been gathering their forces and dealing with the Shindran threat, the Rusitanians had been faced with problems of their own. As King Inokentis VII was a stupid and inept man, only concerned with wooing Queen Tahamenay, his brother Giskarl had been left with all of the real concerns of governing the kingdom, particularly that of the growing power of the fanatical priest Jon Bodan. In an effort to weaken Bodan, Giskarl sent Silvermask and the Parsian army he had gathered to Castle Zable, the stronghold of the priest and his soldiers. Along the route, Silvermask came across the company of the Princess Ilina, but when the princess recognized his voice and called him Hirumes, he denied being the man she was looking for and tried to warn her away from Ekubatana. The two parties soon parted, and a disappointed Princess Ilina and her party continued on toward the Parsian capital while Silvermask went on to battle and defeated Jon Bodan.
The Parsian offensive met with little challenge as they marched towards Ekubatana, and many castles were retaken with little difficulty. In fact, matters were so successful that when they reached Castle Sammanuel, Narcasse suggested that the army hold a hunting feast to thank the gods and to hold a demonstration for the Rusitanians. Warned of the Parsian strength by Prince Giskarl, Count Valcacion sent a scouting party to watch the Parsians, but matters came to a head as the scouting party was discovered and hastily retreated toward the castle. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the Parsians pressed forward and managed to enter the castle before the Rusitanians could close the gates. Of the members in the scouting party, one was a young female knight named Etoile, who returned to the castle only to find the battle over. Although the Parsians had gained control of the castle, the inner keep was still held by the Rusitanians, and it was from here that the Count and the women of the castle leapt to their deaths, while an anguished Prince Arslan tried to get them to stop.
Taken captive by the Parsians, Etoile was surprised to learn that the barbarians were not as barbaric as she had believed. In particular, she was particularly struck by Arslan's request to hold the funeral ceremony for the Rusitanian dead so that they might go to the afterworld in the manner of their religion. As the Parsians prepared to set out once again, Arslan decided to bring the Rusitanians wounded with them to Ekubatana so as to offer them protection from wild beasts, and he entrusted them to Etoile's care. And as the Parsians set out once again, Ekubatana and the goal of regaining Pars from the Rusitanians seemed closer than ever. Little did they know that a dark shadow was rising over the horizon.