a novella in the world of Daragoth
by Dan Bruington
A great many years ago, when the world was still young, there came to be a race of intelligent people who would forever shape the destinies of those who would dwell on the planet after them. Their faces were gentle, their speech was soft, and their words were as a river of beautiful thoughts. Elf-like ears and a variety of hair colors (anywhere from frosty silver to the gold of the sun) strikingly accented their often pale blue eyes, and their ten foot height led them to create larger works of architecture than any other race ever will. These Loreldians, as they were named, were the first to discover magic, yet theirs was a different kind than we have today.
A specific Loreldian, whose name has been lost in the sands of time, discovered the beginning workings of 'magic.' However, the word 'magic' is probably translated wrong, as it has been found now know that the said word most likely means 'fate.'
Fate is the underlying force. Fate is that mystical energy which governs time, which governs reality. Everything in the world is there because it was fated to be so. The Loreldians discovered that they themselves were nothing but an extension of this same force, and eventually learned to manipulate it. To change the very reality of our world to whatever each saw fit. If they needed fire, they fated fire. If they needed a house, they fated a house. If they needed eternal life, they fated eternal life. The Loreldians were quickly drunk with power. In a wish they created empires while others destroyed them, and it seemed that the world was being viewed in a faster time frame, as towers built themselves then crumbled to dust.
So the 'Dark Age' is explained, that period of time from which nothing Loreldian survived, and in which their mighty empires crumbled to dust at the whimsical fancies of each and all. When absolute power is achieved, absolute destruction will commence. Yet there were some, wise enough to have foreseen that the discovery and widespread manipulation of fate would lead to the destruction of the very fabric of fate itself. These great people, under the skillful guidance of their leader Pathos, eventually calmed the last surviving remnants of the once prosperous Loreldian people. Ashamed, with their lands and friends destroyed, most realized that their power was much too great to exist.
“We must all leave, it is time for our departure from this plane of existence. The power we have is too great to remain,” said Pathos to the last surviving Loreldians. A small group of Loreldians came forward, however, and spoke to him.
“I say we should rebuild this world, and make it as great as it once was. We could all be kings in this world, gods even, with people whom we create to do as we please,” they advised.
“I am against this idea. We should all banish ourselves from existence,” said another.
“Banish ourselves from existence? You sick dog, you’ll banish us all and leave the world for yourself!” shouted one of the ones who advocated ruling the world. With a glance, the protestor’s body was torn in half. Fighting broke out quickly, with the ‘rulers’ fiercely fighting with those who were in favor of banishment. However, those in favor of banishment eventually gained the upper hand, and banished the other group from existence. Now, only twenty eight remained, of a civilization once holding billions.
These last Loreldians knew that the only way they could ensure that the terrible power would not be used was to leave. To remove themselves from the mortal plane, to become beings entirely of light itself.
"And what would happen if those who were banished should attempt to return?" asked Felewyn of Pathos at the great tower of Rhaa.
"Those whom we banished must be kept from influencing the fate ever again. But how can we keep them from returning?" The cold winds bit at their skin with an icy malice. At length they debated (perhaps a fate ward?) on how this might best be accomplished (too easily broken), but after many hours they still had not decided on a course of action.
In a circle they stood, the twenty-eight, last of the Loreldians. A chorus of whispers bounced between them, and the howling wind was deafening.
"My friends.." began Pathos' gentle voice, fated to rise above the noise, "Indeed, my kin, for we are all the last of our kind. We stumbled upon great folly, and it has spelled our doom. We cannot have it spell the doom of all that will come after us, we must make sure that the cycle of life will continue." A multitude of agreements was heard.
"We must understand that we ourselves have done a horrible misdeed: We have upset the balance of fate, and nearly caused the undoing of immeasurable things. We must make sure that this may never be repeated." Once again, agreements sprang up from the others.
"I believe.." he paused, beckoning for silence, "that this may only be accomplished by Loreldian hands." Instead of a chorus of agreements, there was nothing but stunned silence.
"Are you mad?" Shouted a voice from one of the cloaked individuals, “Did we not just fight a terrible battle over that very idea?!”
"No, young Torkalath, I am not mad. Now, I see no other alternative."
"But...but you said that we are the cause of the problems in the first place! We banished the others for speaking just as you are now!" Torkalath's brother was one of those who had advocated ruling over the world, and he had been banished among the others.
"I understand your pain, Torkalath, but you must understand. I do not propose that we all should remain here, but I propose that three of us remain in astral congruence with this world." Again, silence.
"That would mean," came Urdual's voice, "that those left behind would never be able to rejoin the others. Ever."
"I am aware of this. I see no other option. I leave it for you to decide: either three remain or all will fail, and I speak not of all of us, but of the entire world."
Harsh murmurs in the crowd spoke words of ill toward Pathos. Pathos, frightened of the terrible powers which might fall upon him if the majority of the crowd decided to kill him, took a step back. At the same time, all present fell silent as a single Loreldian stepped forward and knelt in front of Pathos.
"I will stay." Urdual said. "Balance must be maintained."
All present were shocked into silence. Presently a second Loreldian stepped forward, her green hair dancing wildly in the wind.
"I will also stay." Felewyn said, and knelt before Pathos. "To protect all who will be."
And then, almost reluctantly, a third stepped forward.
"I will stay as well, but hear you this.." hissed Torkalath's voice, "I do so for my own reasons. The world shall be mine, as you have left it to be taken." He did not kneel.
All present expected Pathos to force him to leave, but instead Pathos smiled.
"Torkalath, you may be doing greater good than you realize. Very well!" Pathos turned to the rest of the Loreldians, "We leave behind three of our order: Felewyn, who shall enforce order, Torkalath, whom I gather will enforce chaos, and Urdual, whose job I deem to be the balancing of the two. And thus we leave the world in balance." A cheer rang out over the great valley, the Tower of Rhaa shook underneath their feet. And with a blinding light, all were gone.
In time, three great people appeared on Daragoth (the world in which the Loreldians had lived), after the once mighty structures of the Loreldians had nearly all crumbled to dust. Three species of intelligent people appeared, the humans, elves and dwarves. Humans, about six feet in height with dark hair, were the first to arrive. Able-bodied and minded, they quickly discovered the secret of 'magic,' a technique which they used to very slightly affect fate. Elves, taller than humans (nearly eight feet average), with long hair and pointed ears, resemble the Loreldians in many ways: in Elven history, it is said that the Elves were created by Felewyn- and in her image. Their grasp of magic was unprecedented, and their love for nature caused them to become very connected to natural powers. Dwarves, shorter and stouter than humans, live in deep caves, which they shape with their mighty hands. Masters of rock and stone, these craftsmen and warriors carved great halls and tunnels through the earth.
In the early days, however, not all was bright. The Loreldians: Felewyn, Urdual and Torkalath, fought amongst each other continuously. Felewyn's crusaders for order were met with fierce resistance by Torkalath's followers of chaos. The elves and dwarves and men slaughtered each other, fighting their guardian's wars. Powerful kingdoms rose and fell, guilds and orders for either side were destroyed by their opposition. The Astori Te Lunia (Pillars of Light) guild, which included mostly Elves, fought for many decades under Felewyn's banner. Yet there were some in the Astori Te Lunia who grew wary of fighting wars, indeed this was true of many places. As time went on, deserters left the guilds to live in peace.
Two such people were Elves of Astori Te Lunia: Karn and Delya, the two most respected warriors of light. They would not have left the fighting had it not been for Delya's pregnancy, and for the sake of their unborn child they left the battlefield and settled in a small farming community called Isana Cross, deep within the great elven forest Eswen Sylen. Their child was born: a boy, whom they named Aginor.
It was mid ran, the elvish season of spring, in the year 362 (in what would later be deemed the Age of War), and light was just falling upon the leaves of the great Sylen trees. A rowdy band of young elves were gathered in a circle, taunting a young, blonde elf that cringed in the center. Blood stained the ground beneath his feet, and the young elf's body was quivering with rage.
"Ha! Parents couldn't cut it? Deserter!" Came a shout from one of the rowdy elves, followed by harsh laughter and various stones thrown at the young elf in the middle. It was no secret who Aginor's parents were, and these types of engagements were becoming more and more frequent. The native farmer inhabitants at once seemed to dislike Aginor and his family out of a just duty: they had deserted their cause, and thus betrayed all the elves of Felewyn. A stone smacked Aginor squarely on the jaw, and suddenly he stopped moving entirely: his body was still like a snake poised for attack. Very slowly he stood up, and the others became silent, waiting.
With an unearthly speed, Aginor rushed at the boy who had last taunted him, furiously pounding his fists again and again into the elf's face. Blood poured forth, all was silent. Tears streamed from Aginor's eyes as he struck one blow after another. The boy didn't try to defend himself, just whimpered in pain as each hit struck.
Aginor's strikes slowed, stopped, and with a slight push the other boy fell down on the grass, staining the ground crimson. Aginor stepped back, and walked slowly away from the scene. The others helped the taunter back onto his feet, and as soon as the taunter had regained his wits, he shouted one last insult at Aginor's back:
"Rammata te Mal!"
The other boys looked at the taunter, shocked. This was a serious insult; no, an accusation. To accuse an elf of following the ways of chaos, of renouncing their beloved creator Felewyn, those were words that appeared in the high courts in the most important of trials. Some of them gasped in shock, others began speaking in low whispers to the taunter:
"Cristiel...you shouldn't be speaking that way."
"I don't care," came Cristiel's sobbing reply, "That one is." At this, a couple of the other taunters left the scene, ashamed they had helped Cristiel, for even though they had taunted Aginor, they would never have accused him of such a vile crime. Cristiel, blood still streaming on his face, held forward his hand, and pointed at Aginor.
"Your final days are coming! You hear me?!"
Cristiel disappeared, and even four years later he had not shown his face in the community. It was agreed that most likely the boy had run away. Cristiel's parents were dead, fallen in battle with some of Torkalath's soldiers, many years before, and Cristiel had always been something of a rogue after that. He was, however, hardly on anybody's mind, as people were busy preparing for the Festival of the Stars, a great celebration, which they held once per decade. Aginor had been in one before, but he was a very small elf then and could not remember much of it.
Likewise, he remembered little of the building of his family’s home. Karn and Delya had hollowed out a portion of a large Sylen tree when Aginor was still a very little boy, and had converted it into a fairly modest but beautifully natural home.
"So, Aginor, how was your schooling today?" asked Karn as Aginor ran in through the door to the tree. The leaves outside were slowly failing to fall’s grasp.
"Fine," said Aginor, slowing down suddenly.
"Fine? Come on, you're not an elf of little words."
"Well, we didn't really do much, seeing as how the Festival is tonight; even the teachers were so excited they didn't want to do anything remotely school related. Advanced Swordsmanship was the only class which wasn't really affected: we still did our regular tournament matches," Aginor said, sitting down at the table and slicing a piece of golden bread.
"Ahh. Still trying to get the 'Head of the class' spot?" Karn asked, as if it didn't really matter to him.
"Er..well, yeah," was Aginor's reply. He knew full well his father expected more of him: second place wasn't in Karn's mind as being an 'honorable' position. Of course, when you're up against someone like Idemark (his friend and current head of the class), Aginor reasoned that second place was quite an honorable position indeed.
Just then his mother came in, delaying Karn's response and allowing Aginor a chance to escape, which he took. Aginor hastily said goodbye and rushed at the door, eager to meet Idemark and Lilia at their secret place.
Idemark and Lilia had become friends with Aginor shortly after the incident with Cristiel: they had heard of the taunting and considered the actions to be quite low (and, in Lilia's words, 'Vile') things to do a person. They had a secret place, which Aginor had found on one of his many explorative trips. A babbling brook wound through a mossy bank, with trees dripping with moss and growth, and the sound of gentle water all around, with a small (but ancient) stone guard tower built into a hill overlooking the stream. Aginor followed the trail, now well packed by years of use but still not easy to spot, and began climbing the stone steps which led to the fortification.
Idemark was sitting alone inside the fifteen foot space, pouring over the pages of some old text-book. He was taller than Aginor, with jet black hair and piercing eyes. By his side lay his sword, a silver long sword with mysterious engravings on the blade: a family heirloom, or so Idemark always named it. Aginor suspected it was more than that, but decided not to mention it.
"Ahh, hail Aginor," came Idemark's reply. He continued looking at the book, obviously intent on whatever he was reading. Aginor moved a bit closer and examined some of the text.
"The Way of the Wand?" Aginor asked.
"Yes. It's fascinating. It explains a lot, for example, why magic works like it does. See, it's really like a lever," Idemark's voice was distant as he read.
"A lever? How's it like a lever?" Aginor asked. Idemark stood up quickly, obviously very pleased to be able to explain something he learned, to someone else. Idemark was always like that: not boastful, but eager to share knowledge. Keeping secrets wasn't his best skill.
"Well, you see, it's like this: There is a power beneath magic, a very ancient one. It's called fate. It has limitless power - magic, as we all know, has many limitations, but not fate." Wild hand gestures and waving arm motions accented his words flawlessly.
"When you work with magic, you're still affecting fate, but in an indirect way. Like if you have a two-ton stone, you can't just lift it and carry it around and do things with it, but if you wedge a lever underneath that same stone and crank on the lever, you can still move it around, just not as much."
"Whoa, whoa, slow down," Aginor pleaded, "So you're saying that magic is like a lever because it affects this 'power of fate' and is easier to use but not nearly as powerful as moving fate itself?"
"Precisely!" Idemark was happy with himself obviously.
"Well of course, there are some who can affect fate itself," came a girl's voice. Lilia dropped down from her perch in the tree which overlooked the fort to land softly, in front of Aginor. Her fiery red hair settled round her shoulders as she sat down on a stone bench.
"The Loreldians can work with fate directly. That's why they're all gone, except the three watchers. Not like we want them here anyway." Her last words would have shocked most elves, but not these three. Aginor, Idemark and Lilia had all agreed that the Loreldians were causing much more harm than good, always warring between each other. Of course, they'd never really talk evil of Felewyn, as she had proved herself countless times to be quite benevolent, bestowing great gifts to her priests and showering the forest with flowers in the spring.
"But must we stay here? The Festival will be starting in less than an hour!" Idemark exclaimed, looking at his pocket watch. They pooled the little money they had, figured out exactly what kind of treats they'd be able to buy, and marched off towards the Meeting Grove.
The entrance to the Meeting Grove was marked by two enormous Sylen trees: over twenty five feet across the base, their massive trunks slowly faded into the mist above. An archway made from golden leaves and wire had been set between the two trees, a symbol stating the protection granted by Felewyn onto the area. Great caskets of wine and other drinks were being loaded through the gate as the trio arrived. Horse drivers slowly guided the laden animals to the barrel-storage. One of those drivers, a sandy haired elf with kind eyes, walked up to them.
“Hullo you three! What sort’ve mischief are you up to today?” It was Larren Gildefor, Idemark and Aginor’s swordsmanship instructor.
“Not as much mischief as we would be in if we were in your place,” replied Idemark, pointing to the caskets on the horse’s back.
“Ah, stealing Powder-berry wine, would ye be?” Larren asked, smiling.
“Not stealing so much as taking without asking.” Powder-berry wine was the finest delicacy at the festival, and everybody from young children to the elders drank it. There was some magical property in Powder-berry which allowed it to be a drink of good spirits, to wash away all wrongs for a time, unlike Dwarven ale and liquor which was harmful and addictive.
“Well that’s just the same, and I won’t have it. Now run along you three, so-as I can take some of this wine myself.” Larren laughed as he shooed them away.
“I really like old Gildefor, there’s a good heart in him,” Idemark said, as they walked past an enormous oak table situated with various types of cakes and berries, “Yet I still don’t understand why they hired him as swordsmanship instructor. I’ve never seen him fight, but I’d reckon he’s probably too gentle for it.”
“A gentle heart makes a steady sword,” replied Aginor.
“That may be so, but a gentle body makes for broken bones,” replied Idemark, chuckling.
“Well, all I know is that he plays favorites. I mean, you, head of the class? What’s that all about?” asked Lilia, and they all laughed as they followed a fenced path around a Sylen trunk.
Through the leaves, he could see the faerie lights glinting in the meeting grove beyond. Ragged, with wild hair and missing a few teeth, a young elf sat on a branch, watching. The celebration had been on for three hours, but timing was critical, as this elf kept reminding himself.
Aginor and Lilia danced slowly, along with the music hummed by the Faerie Choir, while Idemark’s little sister tugged impatiently at his pant-leg for a dance (which, as Idemark had told her many times, she would not have).
“Aginor, what do you want to do with your life?” Lilia asked suddenly, her arms around his neck.
“I haven’t thought about it much,” Aginor replied, after a pause.
“You wouldn’t want to grow up here, would you? This place is boring, nothing ever happens. They’re safe, but where’s the life in safety?”
“Safety mustn’t always mean inactivity.” Idemark’s sister had finally convinced him to a dance, and he stood up and allowed her to put her small feet on top of his as he slowly revolved. Nearby, Lilia and Aginor were dancing. Lilia glanced over in Idemark’s direction, and remarked:
“Too much Powder-berry wine. It has caused him to forget how he‘s not talking to Iquitas after she stole his sword hilt, and is, in fact, dancing merrily with the little thief.” Aginor laughed.
In the woods beyond the grove, the wild elf stood up slowly, as if he had suddenly made up his mind. The wild elf began to move quickly from branch to branch, a flicker of steel between the trees, a mad laughter drowned out by the Faerie Choir. It leapt to up the branches of a large Sylen tree which overlooked the grove itself, hidden from the light by his height above the glowing clearing.
Fixating itself on a branch, and brandishing a stolen sword, the figure gazed down into the clearing.
Idemark tripped over, causing himself and Iquitas to tumble into the grass. She immediately started bawling, and Idemark quickly picked her up and returned to the table at which his parents were sitting.
“You’d think he’d be good on his feet, but even as the number one in swordsmanship he’s still a bit clumsy,” Aginor said, and Lilia laughed slightly. A figure in the massive tree above jumped from his branch, like a hawk descending upon its prey, sword held with both hands and pointed at the blonde elf dancing with the red haired elf. As quick as lightning his blade was deflected with a loud, reverberating clang, and all the elves stopped with a gasp.
Cristiel, hair grown wild and clothes made from animal skins, lay sprawled on the grass. His leg was bent out of position from the landing. Near them stood Aginor and Lilia, still in each-other’s arms, staring open mouthed, first at Cristiel, then at Idemark (standing right next to them), whose upraised sword had deflected the leaping attack.
Cristiel tried to get to his feet, but his broken leg cracked underneath him and he fell to the ground with a sickening sound. With all the madness of a wild animal he looked around himself at the elves, now staring intently at him. One elf moved very quickly through the otherwise motionless crowd: Larren Gildefor shoved two people out of his way and advanced on them.
“Aginor, Lilia, are you alright?” he asked quickly, eyes flaring with anxiety. His voice held a note of anger which none present had heard before.
“Yes, we’re fine,” replied Aginor, as Lilia stepped toward Cristiel, who was now whimpering pathetically. Her eyes held no sympathy.
“Heal him Lilia,” Larren said. Lilia looked quizzically at Larren, who simply shook his head and repeated, “Heal him.”
She removed a wand from her carrying pouch, pointed it at Cristiel’s broken leg, and chanted an incantation of healing. A blue light sprung forth and touched his leg, which twisted back into its normal position. Lilia collapsed on her knees from the strain of the cast.
A woman’s scream from somebody in the crowd, and many elves scattered. Pouring through the gates were a host of goblins, horrible green monsters who served the ways of Torkalath and chaos. Ravaging the tents, they set many fires and fought bitterly with the elves in the clearing. Their true intent was not to burn and kill, it seemed, but rather to retrieve Cristiel’s body. Their armor had the markings of two black eyes, separated by a vertical red line. Aginor pulled Lilia away from Cristiel, and Larren unsheathed a great sword from his belt, and held back a few goblins who attempted to get close to Aginor and Lilia. Cristiel staggered onto his feet, smiled wickedly and rushed toward the host of the goblins, who crowded around him and swiftly retreated, back into the midnight forest where even Elves would have difficulty tracking them.
Larren spat on the ground. No longer was his face gentle, but it seemed as though his face had become scarred and terrible, as of a great warrior who had fought in gruesome battles.
“Filthy creatures, and how could they invade this grove? The golden leaves of Felewyn should have prevented their coming, it is madness and pain to enter here for them, but they ran as if Torkalath himself had forced them through.” Larren turned, sheathed his sword, and walked briskly to Aginor.
“Aginor, I must speak with you,” he said quietly. Aginor looked immediately down to Lilia, exhaustedly propped against a tree.
“Idemark will care for her,” Larren explained, then pulled Aginor roughly aside.
“Aginor, those were no normal goblins. That black sword which Cristiel carried was meant for you, this you must realize. I recognize
that marking: it is the symbol of Torkalath,” Larren whispered, “And it is some mighty power that can make them breach this grove: Cristiel, I gather, was supposed to die here after he killed you, as he would not be affected by the ward and could breach it much easier than the goblins. But he failed in his task, Idemark was too fast for him, so they came and got him. Do you know what that means?”
“It means that they’re going to try again, and again. Why did you have him healed?” At this, Larren grimaced and spat on the ground.
“I had thought that we might be able to interrogate him, if he lived through his fall.”
“Interrogate? Then, you knew there were goblins here, in the forest?” Aginor asked.
“Oh yes, I’ve known of their presence for some time. Why do you think I was horse driving those caskets of wine, if not to protect them from attack?” Aginor shook his head, what difference could Larren, one elf, make? “All of that is of no matter anymore, what matters now is your safety, and the safety of this community.”
Idemark strode up to them quickly, and Lilia followed closely behind him.
“What do you mean?” asked Lilia.
“I mean that some dark power has decided that Aginor, the son of two of the greatest Warriors of Order, must be killed. This means a danger to all that are near him as well,” replied Larren. “And that means he has to leave.”
“Leave?!” cried Idemark, “How selfish! Just to protect your own skins, you would banish him?”
“I am not thinking of myself, or even the town’s matters, I am thinking only of you.” Larren retorted, pointing a finger at Aginor, “There is no safety here, we are few and we cannot hold back a tide of goblins or minotaurs or whatever demon-spawn Torkalath decides to throw at you. For your own safety, you must search for a place that is defended, not a sleepy wilderness town where no help can reach you.” Idemark glared at the ground, and Lilia began to plead with Larren. Aginor, however, simply stood up straighter, hardened his face, and asked,
“When should I leave?”
“As soon as possible,” replied Larren.
Within a week’s time, the whole community was buzzing with the news. Aginor was graduated from all classes, allowing him the title of ‘Journeyman’ if he so wished it, and the entire community was saddened (but a little relieved) at his leaving. Aginor, really, had no idea where to go, but at first he aspired to moving into Melanion. It was the night before he was to set out on his journey that his plans changed, and destiny shaped forever.
Aginor sat in silence on his bed, staring blankly at the sword which his father had given him, the blade with which he had become adept in the ways of swordsmanship.
“Whatever shall become of me?” he asked aloud, as if expecting a response. Having received none, he wrapped the sword into its bundle and placed it alongside the rest of his traveling gear. He decided to go for a walk, to breathe in some of the nature which he would soon be leaving for city.
As he passed the doorway to the attic, he remembered suddenly something which he had almost completely forgotten to get: Karn had told him, that morning, to retrieve an award which he had received as part of his ascendance in Astori Te Lunia, stored in the attic. Opening the heavy door, Aginor ascended the candle-lit staircase. Upon entering the attic, he spotted an old chest in the corner, apart from which the room was entirely bare. Aginor heaved the lid open and peered inside.
Shining dark metal, polished to perfection, with gold engravings tracing the figures of dragons and kings, wizards and swords. Metal shaped into a breastplate. Aginor lifted the armor almost effortlessly, as if it were made of cloth. Elvish words were engraved upon the chest;
When night is high
and hopes are naught
those men who fought,
For even though he’s
named “Dark Knight”
Order is his cause,
he fights for light.
Aginor recognized the words almost immediately, as he had been taught their meaning in school: The Dark Knight, valiant and fair, fights not for Chaos but for Order. The armor of the Dark Knight was rumored to have been forged by Felewyn herself, and bestowed first upon Gramelyar, who later founded the Astori Te Lunia guild. Upon his father’s death, Gramelyar’s son took the armor, and so continued the line. It was lost, however, a great many years ago, when Remmerin fell into the great lava flow beneath the bridge to Torkalath’s realm. Legend said that it had resurfaced and lay hidden, in the keeping of Astori Te Lunia, until such time as a champion worthy to wear it could be found.
Aginor was certain: This was the armor of the Dark Knight, and his father had spirited it away from Astori Te Lunia, for reasons unknown, and had meant him to find it here.
A small, hand written note was lying at the bottom of the chest, beneath the other portions of the armor plate. It stated, simply:
“An award above all others, I give to you now. Keep it well, until such time as it can be worn again. - Karn”
“Father, I know of no one to whom this title should be presented, I am too simple a country elf. The only people who might know someone to whom it should be given are the guild members of Astori Te Lunia,” he said in awe. The armor must be returned, it must be given to a champion. Now, he had a goal.
The next morning, Aginor set off down the main road, amidst cheery farewells and good lucks. Idemark and Lilia each gave him some gold, a marvelous gift from two people who had so little of it. They assured him that they would seek him in Melanion once they had graduated, which made his heart feel even gladder still. Finally, as he set to the great road, Larren strode up beside him in full armor.
“Didn’t think I’d let you travel alone through the wilderness did you?” he asked as they walked.
“The thought had occurred to me, but I must tell you now: I do not plan to go straight to Melanion, as I have an urgent errand with the Astori Te Lunia guild,” Aginor responded.
“Astori Te Lunia? Are you sure you really want to do this? Your mother and father defected from their ranks, and I am sure that they will know the name of the son of two of their greatest warriors. Karn had always intended to name his first son Aginor, and as you’ve noticed, it’s not that common of a name,” Larren said.
“I have in my keeping something which they will probably want back,” said Aginor.
“Something your parents stole?”
“Stole? Of course not!” protested Aginor. However, as he began thinking, he had no idea why it was still in his father’s keeping. It had been awarded to him, but he deserted after receiving it and took it with him? Why not simply pass it to another warrior of Order?
“Well, I’m not sure why my father had it, but I think that they will want it back,” Aginor said, after a pause.
“What is this thing?” Larren asked.
“The armor of the Dark Knight,” replied Aginor. Larren immediately stopped moving and Aginor turned to face him.
“You mean, your father has the armor?” asked Larren.
“Had the armor. I have it now,” said Aginor.
“Aginor, think very seriously about what you are doing. Do you realize why your father must’ve taken the armor with him?”
“It needs to be returned to the guild, so it can be given to someone worthy,” replied Aginor, not understanding what Larren had meant.
“That someone was meant to be you, Aginor,” Larren said. Aginor was about to ask ‘Why?’ when a rush of movement in the trees alerted the two traveler's keen elven ears. Many beings were quickly approaching the road, cutting through underbrush at an alarming rate. Suddenly they burst forth, many goblins in shining steel, swords at the ready.
Larren unsheathed his sword and fell into a combative stance as the goblins quickly advanced. Two fell to his sword with howls of pain, while Aginor unsheathed his father’s blade and joined in the fighting. A sharp blow from a goblin axe tore at the flesh of his shoulder. Larren began to throw the small goblins to and fro, slicing with one hand and tossing with the other. Without warning a volley of sharp goblin arrows rained from the sky, piercing the ground and the trees and.. Larren fell to the ground sharply, a goblin arrow protruding from his side. Aginor rushed the line of goblin archers, slashing at each in turn. With a sharp strike, the last of the fighting goblins fell to the ground, its companions retreating back into the dark woods.
Aginor rushed to Larren, who was coughing wetly on the ground. The arrow, by some stroke of fate, had pierced directly between the armor plating he was wearing, and a torrent of blood issued from it.
“Larren, what did you mean, the armor was meant for me? I am not worthy!”
“The armor was meant for you,” Larren replied with extreme difficulty. He coughed, issuing forth blood, and within seconds fell to completely limp.
Aginor dropped to his knees sharply and tore off a portion of his cloth shirt, wrapping it around the wound as he had been taught to do by his father. He picked up Larren’s body and began to march slowly home, the armor of the Dark Knight still in his carrying bag.
After some time, when the sun began its long march down the opposite end of the sky, Aginor still hadn’t covered a fifth of the distance to the gates to his homeland. He set Larren’s body down on the road and sat beside it.
“I can’t go home, not now. I must go on, and I must leave Larren’s body. No!” he said sharply, standing up, “I will not leave him to be carrion to these loathsome goblins. He must be given proper rites.”
Aginor brought his body some fifty paces into the woods, found a small compartment created by a log branching over a small alcove, and laid Larren’s body inside it. He covered the body with dirt and leaves, and set four stones to mark the spot where he was resting. Tears welled in his eyes as he said the elven Chant of Passage, and he made the sign of Order across his chest and over the area where the body lay. Then, with a deep sigh, he returned to the road. With a newfound determination, Aginor extracted the armor of the Dark Knight from his pack and silently donned it. The armor must be returned to the guild, but this task would not be accomplished without battle, and the armor would prove useful in those skirmishes. He began to tread the long miles to the guild-manor, his sword unsheathed.
A light snow fell on the training grounds, creating patches of fluffy white atop the dark-green grass of the plains of Alelori. A group of older students engaged in a massive snowball-fight, and all around the spirits were high. A bell tolled, dismissing classes, and waves of students flooded the training grounds, eager to watch the first division (always a comical bunch) doing its practice drills in the snow. Suddenly, a dull thud resounded among the grounds, and the murmur of the crowd instantly silenced. Two more thuds, in succession, followed the first. It was the gate-knock. Visitors rarely arrived at the Astori Te Lunia guild-manor, excepting the war parties from other guilds who often sought a safe place to rest on their long marches. Yet no war party was scheduled to arrive for at least another four months.
The massive gates were slowly brought open, with five men turning the great crank which operated the heavy chains. One elf stood, alone. A great mound of snow had collected on his hair and shoulders, and his eyes were distant. He was wearing black armor, laced with gold insignia, and his hair was as white as winter frost. Silent, he stepped through the gateway.
“Halt! Who are you?” asked a guard, but the elf said nothing. His eyes were distant, as if looking at some far away place.
“None may enter here without the leave of the council, now state your name and purpose!” shouted the guard once more. The elf looked at the guard, but still said nothing. He had a limp, and he painfully fought to keep a dignified stride. As he slowly advanced to the central door he collapsed onto the snowy field.
Aginor awoke slowly, with blurred vision, staring up at a wooden ceiling. Sitting up with great difficulty, he propped himself on his elbows and looked around. He was lying in some sort of white-sheeted bed, and a warm fire was blazing in the hearth nearby. The armor of the dark knight had been removed from him. Without warning, the door to the small room opened and an elderly elf-lady, with neat gray hair tied in a bun, entered the room. She looked surprised as she saw him eyeing her.
“Oh, thank Felewyn, you‘re alive,” she said in a gentle voice. She set down the tub of water beside his bed and eyed him carefully.
“I heard from the guard that you seemed to be mute, is this true?” Aginor opened his mouth to reply, but no sound issued forth. Then, with a searing pain, he remembered quick images of violent shouting, goblin screams, and the sound of metal impacting metal.
“Well, the students have begun regarding you as some kind of legend. ‘The mute who walked from the winter,’ like that old nursery rhyme says, oh how’d it go.” Then she thought for a second and began reciting the words to the slow rhythm:
Lor ethan tep tanama esa lor lan
mel remera, polymia,
e loma resduna ky lum sycant,
ago dam Lanethan elderat.
She stopped abruptly, and said, “So the students have been calling you Lanethan.”
Aginor tried to form words, but his voice seemed somehow to be blocked by a sharp pain. He cursed in frustration, but that too was silenced. The old nurse began to hum to herself while she prepared a small potion over a low stove-flame. Then, slowly, Aginor lay back, and fell asleep with the gentle humming of the old nurse in his ears.
When he again felt the strength to walk, he began to explore the grounds of the guild-manor. Always in the evenings he returned to the hospital ward, under the gentle care of Nurse Eya, as he slowly recovered from the state of shock he had arrived in. His memory of the past month returned little by little, bits and pieces of frantic running and fierce fighting. Somewhere, amidst that horrible time, he had lost the use of his speech; perhaps permanently. Not having been educated in the written language of the Akidans (though he was an Akidan himself), he was likewise unable to communicate through words until a translator could be found to interpret his Common-script.
After a week had passed, he lay silently in his hospital room, trying to incite any form of vocal noise. The door opened gently, and Nurse Eya entered the room.
“Lanethan, are you awake?” She asked in a whisper, and he nodded in reply.
“Good. The guildmaster has asked me to have you come to see him tomorrow, if you are well enough. Do you think you have the strength to meet with him?” Aside from his muteness, he felt recovered, so he nodded yes.
“That is well. I will alert him tomorrow. Now get some rest,” she said, and silently closed the door.
The following day, the appointed hour came. Nurse Eya gave him a dress robe and tunic, and led him to the central hall. Glowing with an orange radiance, the long hall was decorated with banners of war and intricate candle-stationary draped from the ceiling. An enormous wooden table spanned the length of the hall, and at its far end was set a massive throne. The guildmaster sat upon this throne, eyeing him with cautious eyes. His hair was graying, and his face was hard, as if chiseled from stone.
“You have your father’s eyes,” he said immediately, catching him off guard, “Lanethan, you are Karn’s son, then?” The only answer available was a nod.
“And you return willingly to our guild, and bring with you the armor of the dark knight?” Lanethan nodded again. The guildmaster paused, then,
“I am Arcomyr, guildmaster of Astori Te Lunia. The armor should surely be mine, yet the elders would not have it be.” What could this possibly mean? The armor of the dark knight, obviously, must be under his keeping, as was the goal from the start.
“The elders, of course, say that you should keep the armor and be immediately re-instated. I asked you to come here for one reason; to request that you give up the armor for which you have no use, and instead pass it on to me,” said Arcomyr. Lanethan, still unsure, looked to Nurse Eya, who was shaking her head.
“Old legends be damned: The armor has the same power, even if the wearer isn’t in the original blood-line, like you are. Yet you have not the skill to use the armor to its fullest potential, so that we might once again beat back Torkalath’s army!” Arcomyr stood and stepped closer to Lanethan, almost pleading with him. Original blood-line? Karn had told him little of their family history, perhaps...
“Now relinquish it!” Arcomyr grabbed Lanethan by his collar and lifted him clean off the ground. In an instant, a flash of energy and the sharp crack of wind filled the room. Arcomyr was blown backwards, and Lanethan gently dropped onto his feet. Eight cloaked mages entered the hall, each wearing a cloak of a different color. The one with the gray cloak held forth an orb, from which a sharp wind seemed to be circulating. Arcomyr scrambled back to his feet and glared at the mages.
“This is not your place, elders. Let us handle our own affairs,” snarled the guildmaster.
“Arcomyr, this affair encompasses not only your own guild, but all of the guilds. Perhaps the fate of the war rests on this young one, as the great Seer has hinted to,” said the mage in red in a strong, woman’s voice.
“I was appointed guildmaster here, and Karn ran away! The blood-line of Gramelyar means nothing!”
“Felewyn herself chose Gramelyar, and all his descendants, to wear the armor. You would interfere with her wish?” Her voice was booming now, and she held aloft an orb flickering with flames. Arcomyr instantly cringed and backed down, and he glared at both Lanethan and the mages in turn. Then, after a pause, he turned and strode quickly from the chamber. The fire mage concealed her orb within the cloak, and a mage in blue stepped forward. His face was concealed in the shadow of the cloak, but Lanethan could sometimes see hints of shape within the darkness. Realizing he was simply standing there, staring at the mage, he quickly blushed and averted his gaze.
“There are many wonders to behold, if one can acknowledge they are there,” said the blue mage in a deep yet serene voice. “What is your name?”
“They call him Lanethan,” said the mage in white, a kind and gentle man’s voice.
“Though I can definitely see that Lanethan is not his true name. Yet this will do, as his true name would best be kept hidden from those enemies of his father and all the good that they stand for,” explained the mage in black, a snake-like voice from within the folds of the robe. Nurse Eya, who had been watching, suddenly ventured a cautious statement,
“He cannot speak, yet I know that this was not always so. Perhaps your magic can heal him?” she asked, turning to look at the mage in white. The mage held aloft his orb, filled with a light which seemed to calm the soul when looked at. The mage in black hissed and turned away from the light. Slowly, the mage chanted words, an ancient rhythm which held no intellectual meaning, yet somehow the body understood. Lanethan’s throat suddenly eased, the tension which had held back his speech was lifted as if a heavy weight had been removed.
“It will take many days to completely recover,” said the Life mage, who returned the orb to its concealment within the cloak.
“Th-thank you,” Lanethan said with difficulty.
“Do not stress it too much,” said the Life mage. The mage in green stepped forward, holding a bundle wrapped in sheets of beautiful cloth. He extracted the various pieces of the armor of the dark knight from within the folds, and placed them on the table with great care.
“Lanethan,” he said, “You have been chosen by fate for a great purpose. Indeed, this choice was made long before you were born, when Felewyn first gave this armor to Gramelyar, your ancestor.”
“My ancestor?” Lanethan asked. Nurse Eya, feeling that she was in the wrong place, left the room.
“Yes, you are of the same blood-line as him. The armor is, by right and by the magic which flows in it, yours. With it, you can help us defeat Torkalath and rid the world of his foul influence,” said the green mage. The mage in black, who had held his hands over his ears and hummed an annoyed tune to himself, finally realized that the life mage had finished his casting and returned to stand amongst the others.
“Each of us,” said the fire mage, “represents a different element of fate. Fire, I am. Edra. Anger, love.” She held aloft her orb, a flame flickering from within its infinite depths.
“Water, I am. Seria. Mystery, imagination.” The mage in blue held aloft his orb, and it seemed that the orb was full of water deeper than could be viewed, a blue ocean in crystal.
“Wind, I am. Aero. Motion, breath.” The mage in grey held aloft his orb, a great wind issuing from within.
“Earth, I am. Terra. Nature, growth.” The mage in green held aloft his orb, and it seemed to be pulsing with the radiance of all living things.
“Lightning, I am. Kysar. Speed, pain.” The previously silent mage in gold held aloft his orb, and electricity crackled and arced through the air above.
“Force, I am. Lagos. Seperation, attraction.” The mage in brown held aloft her orb, which seemed to pull upon all things in the room.
“Life, I am. Lunia. Light, healing.” The mage in white held his orb up, and the gleaming light of nurturing filled the room.
“Death, I am. Necro. Cycle, ending.” The mage in black held his orb up, and it seemed to dim the room with its power.
Now, all was in a frenzy, the powers of each of the great mages were a torrent of emotion and physical sensation. Suddenly, each lowered their orb to be at arm’s length horizontally, and pointed at Lanethan. With a sharp hiss, all the energy in the room impacted him, his clothing tore in places and a deep, resounding boom sounded. The mages put away their orbs, hiding them underneath their robes. Lanethan still stood, shaking slightly. The mage of fire stepped foward,
“But these powers are nothing compared to you. Had you been a normal elf, that would have killed you. Even had you been one of your ancestors, or another of your own blood-line, that would have killed you. The seer has predicted correctly: You are somehow protected, somehow important. Tomorrow, you will enter the ranks of Astori Te Lunia as a general, on Arcomyr’s orders. We shall see where the fate will carry you.”
Rows upon rows of warriors in training formed a corridor atop the training field. At the far end, upon a raised platform, stood Arcomyr. Lanethan, who had donned the armor of the dark knight, stood at the other end of the line, slowly walking toward the platform. As he passed, the students on either side of him saluted him with their swords held high above their head. A small section of brass instruments and percussion played a slow, processional ambience.
Upon reaching the platform, all the music stopped, and the students lowered their salute.
“Lanethan, it has been decided that you are to be allowed rite of passage into the rank of ‘Armanat,’ general of the legion of Uhran,” Arcomyr announced in a booming voice, “And though this decision comes without prior example of valor or experience, we must honor the elders. Uhran, step forward!”
A group of about forty trained soldiers, in full battle gear, formed a line on the opposite side of the platform.
“Uhran, will you accept Lanethan as your Armanat?” asked Arcomyr.
“Sir, yes sir!” came the chorused reply.
“Kemen, you are current Armanat of the Uhran. Do you have any objections to serving under Lanethan as his second?”
“Sir, no sir!” shouted a tall, dark haired elf of interminant age.
“Very well then. Yet still one thing remains: I have decided to challenge the outsider to a battle of arms, my right as Luminant. Are there any objections?” The elders, seated across from the platform, exchanged harsh whispers but evidently chose not to interfere.
“Then it is settled! Lanethan, arise to the platform as Armanant, and as such we will begin.”
Lanethan, since it was he who was challenged, was given the selection of weapons. The bow and arrows he gladly picked, as he had been skilled with them since birth, and for his melee weapon he chose a simple longsword. Arcomyr, having been given the same weapons, immediately discarded the bow and drew his own sword. In a whisper, Arcomyr said,
“Prepare to die, son of Karn.”
“This fight is not to the death, or so I have been told, it is merely to first blood,” stated Lanethan.
“Accidents happen. First blood may be last blood.”
The two fighters stood at opposite corners of the square dueling field, each facing the wall as a sign of respect to the other. The wind mage, one of the elders, stood in the center of the field. With two arms raised, he gave the signal to begin the battle and vanished immediately. Arcomyr bellowed a fierce cry, turned and ran down the length of the field toward his opponent. Lanethan, unmoving, stared simply at the corner. Twenty paces to go, Arcomyr raised his sword above his head, preparing for the fatal strike. Still, Lanethan did not move. When Arcomyr was within ten paces, Lanethan quickly turned.
Arcomyr fell to the ground, an arrow protruding from his left breast. Blood issued forth from the wound, staining his armor crimson. The eight elder mages appeared in the field, slowly advancing toward the two of them. Lanethan did not nock a second arrow, but rather moved quickly to Arcomyr and removed his first. Tearing a piece of cloth from his cloak, he began to bandage the wound. With great difficulty but surprising speed, Arcomyr raised his sword and brought it down upon Lanethan.
The sword shattered upon the armor of the dark knight, small frozen splinters fell to the ground. The elder mage of water returned his orb to its concealment underneath his robe. Arcomyr fell back upon the frost-bitten grass, and there he died.
“It is decided. Lanethan, having been challenged by the Luminant himself, will now replace him in his death. Lanethan is the dark knight of old, and he has returned to us!”
“I did not wish to hurt him,” Lanethan said, yet his voice was drowned out by the voices of a thousand others; a cheer filled the air, resounding from the mighty walls of the guild-manor. It has been written that this cheer could be heard as far as the gates of Melanion.
Lilia stood alone in the clearing, wiping tears from her eyes as she ran. She had ran long, hard, when she had heard that Aginor had probably been killed, or worse. How long? She couldn’t say. Suddenly, a great flash of lightning struck the ground in front of her, knocking her from her feet. Her hair was scorched slightly as she pulled herself off the ground.
A cloaked figure stood over her, holding an orb in which lightning danced.
“I am the elder mage of Kysar,” he said in a voice which seemed to be crackling with electricity. Not knowing what she should do, she stood up and hesitantly bowed.
“You are Lilia,” he said, as a statement and not a question.
“That’s right,” she replied.
“You are needed, by the elder mages. We have foreseen a great event, something which will forever impact the fate of the world, and it can only come about with your help,” he said, again as a statement. He grabbed her hand before she could protest, and instantly they were traveling as a lightning bolt, tearing through the night sky.
When they finally arrived at their destination, she could not believe her eyes: a massive stone tower, a monolith of jade stone, atop which a great orb seemed to be spewing forth a rainbow of colors, loomed above them.
“A pillar of the moon, Astor te lor Diamed in your tongue,” said the Kysar elder. He escorted her through the massive stone gateway, and up a seemingly endless stairway.
“Why does it feel like we’re not moving?” asked Lilia.
“Because your body is not. This is a rotational device, it allows you to collect your soul and your body into almost perfect alignment. See, the soul is separate from the body, and when it is out of alignment, much power is lost.”
“Then my soul is out of alignment?” she asked, not sure whether he was joking or not.
“Yes. It is about fifteen feet to your right,” he said, chuckling.
When they had finally reached the top of the stairs, the Kysar mage announced that her soul was finally in alignment. There were other cloaked mages there, each she recognized as representing the other prime elements of balance- fire, water, earth, air, force, life and death. The roof of the room was open to the sky, and the great pearl face of the moon shown a strong light.
“Welcome, Lilia,” said the fire mage, her voice smooth as silk.
“Listen here, I want to know why I’ve been brought all this way. I have no idea who you people are, other than that you’re the ‘Elder Mages’ or whatever that means, and you’ve taken me to the top of some pillar of the moon. What is going on?!” she shouted.
“Lanethan, no wait, Aginor as you knew him, needs your help,” said the Elder of water.
“Needs my help how? He’s still alive?” she asked, her eyes flaring with enthusiasm.
“He has been destined for great things, but he will decline his opportunity without your help,” said the Elder of Force.
“Where is he? Can I see him?”
“No, that would only further complicate things. You must understand that he is destined to leave you, indeed all of his mortal life, behind, to move on to some great existence,” explained the Elder of Life.
“Then I’ll never see him again?” she asked.
“No, you shall not,” hissed the Elder of Death.
“But you can still help him. Indeed, without your help, he will never become what he is destined to be.” Lilia’s eyes showed tears, but she quickly hid them. Rapidly, she was learning to accept the hardness of life.
“What can I do?” she asked.
“Diamed, the moon, it is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?” said the Elder of Life, gazing out of the open ceiling, “It is a thing of dreams. The moon is directly related to dreams, tied to them in an intricate web of fate which we cannot ever hope to understand.”
“With the right focus, we have found that we can sometimes influence peoples’ dreams. We need you in one of his dreams, a dream which he will have on his own. We have foreseen that this great dream shall guide him, but we know that you are required to be added to it. The dream is not enough without your voice,” continued the Elder of Life. Lilia gazed up at the moon, and indeed, it’s face seemed to somehow reflect a dreamy ambience.
“This will take much time, in fact, probably forty years, to prepare you for the dream-telling. You, however, will be in limbo for all of it, no time will pass. When you wake up, your task will be done and you can continue with your life.”
“Without Aginor?” she asked.
“I’m ready,” she said, after a long pause.
“Very well then, here is what you must say,” said the Elder of Air. He whispered a phrase into her ear, then stepped back to join the other Elders. They circled her, wielding their orbs, and began to chant.
Lanethan spent many years as Luminant of Astori Te Lunia. He had accomplished his task: to return the armor to its rightful owner, even if this had been himself. Yet the armor was of little use to him. It is not the business of the Luminant to fight directly in the guild’s battles, unless it be that the entire guild was needed in the terrible war against Torkalath’s armies of darkness. Lanethan spent his time living a life which he knew not how to live: he knew how to fight, and how to live as a simple country-man with a simple life, yet a position of symbolic grandeur was completely foreign to him. His duties involved, primarily, greeting guests and saying goodbye to guests.
“I tire of this life,” he said one day, to the Elder mage of Fire, “It is not who I was meant to be. I can feel it here.” He pointed to his chest.
“Patience, Lanethan. Bide your time well, wait for a dream, as still the Seer predicts a great fate for you,” she replied.
“I wish this great fate would come swifter,” said he.
“Be careful what you wish for.”
On a particularly lonely evening, Lanethan sat alone in his great hall. The fragrance of a hearty meal wafted from the kitchens below, and the torchlight shown a pleasant golden glow, yet to Lanethan the world seemed as if lacking in life. Now a middle aged elf of sixty, his body had seemed to merely continue its youthful frame, rather than developing into a hardened warrior’s body. He spent his days practicing his marksmanship, even holding tournaments to the effect, yet still he day-dreamed of a day when things were simpler and somehow brighter in his childhood.
“The grass was greener,” he said to himself faintly, lost in memories of the old fort where he and his friends used to meet. Suddenly, with a jarring slam, he was pulled from his recollections. A young elf scout had burst in through the hall doorway, and now rapidly approached his seat.
“Sir Lanethan, I bring news from Dayamar,” he said, holding forth a sealed letter. Dayamar was a fellow guild of Order, now at war with Conrathel, the most powerful of the guilds of Chaos. Astori Te Lunia had decided not to move to open war with Conrathel since they had been defeated at the Tide-guard. Quickly, Lanethan broke the seal on the letter and extracted a hand written note. The writing was scrawled hastily, but still legible:
Most esteemed Luminant of Astori Te Lunia,
The war with Conrathel has taken a nasty turn: they have
appointed a new general, an elf-lady of immense magical power.
To think, that an elf would defect to the side of chaos!
“Not as remote a possibility as you might think,” Lanethan thought to himself,
It is terrible, she has pushed my guild back past the no man’s
land and we are now in a hasty retreat. Our Luminant, Olswey,
has been slain in battle. I, who was his second, have now taken
charge of the armies. Fear grips the men. We formally request
that Astori Te Lunia house us, and protect us in our moment of
need, and we also request that Astori Te Lunia enter the war
on their appointed side. I begin to wonder if Chaos might
win this war.
Signed, now Luminant of Dayamar, Idemark
Lanethan’s hand fell limp, and the note slowly fluttered to the floor. Then, recollecting himself, he picked it up again. Idemark wasn’t that uncommon of a name, though he himself had never met another who shared it.
The trumpets sounded as the army of Dayamar slowly advanced through the great gate, turning toward the guest-hall. All the three races were represented in this legion: dwarves, elves, and men. Their faces were dark, their armor tarnished and muddied, and it was obvious that doom was in all of their eyes. Bringing up the rear was a small flanking of officers, and finally a tall, dark haired elf in blood stained golden armor. The ranks of the Astori Te Lunia stood at one end of the field, and, as they had not been in battle for many months, they looked as of a great line of proud warriors, shining helmets and spear tips. Lanethan, standing atop the guard-wall, called down to the tall, dark haired Luminant:
“Most esteemed, I welcome you to the guild halls of Astori Te Lunia. Your request for assistance has been accepted,” at this a tremendous cheer rang from the Astori Te Lunia fighters, “And your request for safe-housing.” The Luminant stopped, and looked toward Lanethan.
“Thank you, most esteemed. Your voice stirs forth a memory,” called Idemark.
“As does yours! Come, meet me in my hall, and we shall dine with the officers of both Astori Te Lunia and Dayamar!”
“Aginor!” Shouted Idemark, for it was he, as soon as he entered the hall.
“That name is long forgotten, Idemark. Lanethan is my name now,” replied Lanethan. Idemark was shown to a seat directly aside from the Luminant’s.
“We all thought you were dead,” said Idemark.
“That may have been for the best,” replied Lanethan, at which Idemark gave a confused look. Lanethan did not elaborate, however, so the two fell to describing what happened after he had left the village. Lanethan told his story, carefully omitting the portions involving the armor of the Dark Knight: it was better that the enemy did not know that it had resurfaced.
“As for myself, when we found Larren’s grave, the village all assumed you dead. Your mother and father, who passed away about ten years ago, were stricken with grief,” said Idemark. Lanethan felt a pang of anger at himself: having never contacted them after his change of name, how were they to know?
“Lilia, too, was devastated. She ran away the night she heard, and never came back,” Lanethan simply nodded, though it was as if his heart had stopped beating.
“I left about a year after you did, after Iquitas disappeared, and eventually ended up in Dayamar.”
“Iquitas, your sister?”
“Yes. One evening, after a series of break-ins by what we assumed were goblins, she just disappeared. I’ve been looking for her ever since, but being on the front lines doesn’t grant me much time to look for her,” Idemark trailed off. Both sat in silence for a while, until the food was brought up, at which point both seemed to have forgotten about it.
“Enough of the past, now we must think of the present,” said Idemark around a mouthful of some delicious meat, “I request that you send with me at least three quarters of your army,”
“I believe that can be managed, though it leaves very little to defend the guildhall while I’m gone,” replied Lanethan.
“You’re coming too?”
“Yes, it has been too long since I have felt a need for being here. Being a Luminant has long denied me the option of fighting the war,”
“I remember a time when we all used to believe we would be better off without Felewyn, and Torkalath, and the other Loreldian,” said Idemark.
“Now, I feel nothing but the urge to defend Order. We will ride in a fortnight’s time,” said Lanethan.
At first, it felt cold, and still. Unnaturally still. He could see nothing, and he could feel nothing; not as if his body had nothing to feel, but rather as if he had no senses. Yet he felt cold. Suddenly, in front of his eyes, a coin appeared. Inscribed on its white side was a face, gentle and passionate. He felt warm now, and full of golden feeling.
Now the coin rotated, and displayed the back side, which was a blackness except for the highlights of a face. The face inscribed on this black side was mean, screaming and full of torment. Now, he felt cold, and a searing pain radiated from, where? The coin turned again, and he felt warm and good again. Now again, it turned, and the cold and pain returned.
The coin began spinning, and suddenly it seemed as if there were hundreds of reflections of that coin. Reflections reflecting, reflections reflected, and the coins that spun were a thousand. The feelings switched so quickly that he felt at once that it would become unbearable. Amidst these coins, Lilia‘s face appeared.
“Go on without me,” she said, and her face disappeared. Now, Idemark’s appeared. Blood poured from his face, and his eyes were like deep wells. Idemark’s face began to slip away, no, don’t go! He reached, reached with the hands that weren’t there, but he couldn’t stop him from going, and he couldn’t stop the coins from spinning!
Suddenly, he caught him! With the body that wasn’t there, he grabbed Idemark’s face, and he turned it around and stretched it, using it as a mask, so as to be Idemark. Then, suddenly, all the coins were spinning in unison. They spun so fast that the feeling which overcame him could not be described as good or bad. He simply didn’t feel.
He was in balance.
Lanethan awoke suddenly with a sharp cry. Instinctively, his hand has reached for the sword in the case beside his bed.
The dream repeated itself every night for the entire duration of the fortnight, and he told no one of it. News from various fronts reached them the day before their departure: the human town of Marsons had been captured by the black legion of the Conrathel, a key strategic point for holding the northeast territory. Their battle, however, would be almost certainly fought in the plains of Daragoth, as their army now slowly marched through them. Their next target, unarguably, was the Dayamar guild-manor.
“An interception, then?” asked Lanethan.
“It’s our last hope. I want only the chance to avenge Olswey, to kill that new dark general of theirs,” replied Idemark.
“Then it is settled. Tomorrow, we ride.”
“The elders will stay behind, with the last quarter of your army, to defend this grand place?” asked Idemark.
“I would that we could allow their company, but alas, they are needed here.”
Elves, dwarves, and men, marched or rode forth from the great gate. The mass of the army was so great that it took nearly an hour for all to pass through, and their journey was slow, yet sufficient to reach the army of Conrathel before it reached the guild-manor. Over fields they rode, and through forest thickets, passing an abandoned castle or deserted goblin fort here and there. They were forced to make camp, as their journey would take more than a day’s time, and the dream which had recently befallen Lanethan appeared to him again in the night. Still, he told no one of it.
The next morning, as they started moving through the plains of Daragoth, they sent scouts ahead and behind to avoid an unexpected confrontation. The first scout had not been gone more than an hour when he hastily rode back into the ranks, approaching Lanethan and Idemark on their grand horses.
“Their army,” he said, words squeezed between wheezing breath, “is beyond the second ridge. I would estimate it to be their entire division. I do not think they expect confrontation.” From being so exhausted, it seemed, he then fainted.
“Then surprise may carry us to victory. Forth, and quickly,” said Lanethan to the other generals, then he turned to Idemark.
“Didn’t we send him in the other direction?” he asked in a low whisper.
The light seemed dimmer around the area where the dark general stood, her face covered by a skull mask, hair as black as midnight cascading down her shoulders like a waterfall. Beautiful, but terrible. She stood, speaking with another, a hunched elf with dark, shifty eyes and a wicked smile. The hunched one spoke in a raspy voice, and flinched at her every movement, as if expecting to be stricken by a sudden pain.
“Why have we stopped, m’lady?” he asked timidly, cowering before her.
“Cristiel, your lack of intuition is astonishing. If any counter offensive were to be raised, it would almost certainly be here,” she replied in a rich voice, speaking slowly as if to an infant.
“Y-yes m’lady,” he replied.
“See, now, how that scout has spied us,” she said, gazing at a ridge to their right.
“What scout? I see no scout, m’lady,” said Cristiel, who was looking at the ground. She grabbed his head and wrenched it to look in the direction she had indicated. “Oh, that scout.”
She raised her hand and pointed at the scout, who suddenly stiffened, his back arching convulsively. She made a gesture as if to say, “Come here,” and the elf began to walk toward her. He fought the urge, however, often tripping over himself as half of his body turned around and the other kept walking. In five minutes, he was standing before her.
“What army do you serve?” she asked, her hand still controlling him as if with invisible marionette strings.
“I serve the army of Astori Te Lunia and Dayamar,” he replied in a monotone dribble.
“Where are they now?” she asked, making a fist with her hand. The scout started screaming, holding his head in his hands and shaking it wildly back and forth. Upon releasing her fist, he immediately stopped.
“Two ridges northward,” he replied in the same tone.
“Return to them, now!” She removed her hand, and the panicked scout began running. The dark general averted her gaze, as if looking at something in the distance that she couldn’t see. After a while, she raised her arm again, and whispered,
“Now, run to their Luminant.” She could not see the scout, but she knew he would follow her command. Then she stood up a little straighter, and began to breathe very heavily.
“Their army,” she said, words squeezed between her heavy breathing, “is beyond the second ridge. I would estimate it to be their entire division. I do not think they expect confrontation.”
Then, still holding her hand forth, she made a fist. Blood, but not her blood, poured from within her grasp.
“Now,” she said, wiping her hand on Cristiel’s torn tunic, “move one quarter of our force to the northern ravine, two ridges beyond their army. The rest will advance from here.”
“Something isn’t right here. This scout didn’t faint, he’s dead,” said a general, bent over the scout, listening for breath. There were frenzied whispers from some of the Dayamar veterans to the effect of, ’It’s that witch!’ and ’Necromancy!’
“Nevertheless, we must move forward. All troops, prepare to charge,” said Idemark. The various divisions of the great army filed into rows predetermined by their generals, some with archers forward and some with archers behind. Two great war catapults, drawn each by thirty stout dwarves, followed the central line, for their attacks would be first and most devastating. Lanethan removed his white cloak, revealing the armor of the dark knight, which gave off a radiance at once of power and order, black steel glinting in the mid-day sun. There was a fresh dew on the grass beneath their feet as they all stood, waiting for the order.
Suddenly, a cry came from one of the generals, who had just spotted a massive army approaching from behind them! Instead of turning around to face their foes, however, the main force of the army merely took the cry as the signal to charge. A move which saved them, at least for the moment, as beyond the ridge was perfect cover, an easily defendable area. The catapults roared forward, lobbing the first massive boulders into the supposed enemy stronghold, just over sight. When they crested the hill, however, they found merely a small portion of the actual army, which their troops swarmed over. Many of the rider’s steeds, including Lanethan’s, were pierced by arrows, and had to be guided from the fight so that the Life mages could begin to mend their wounds.
Still, the army flooded into the ravine, overwhelming the forces of Chaos. Lanethan charged into the world of teeth, steel, and blood, and his golden hair was a whirlwind as he spun, felling many of the evil creatures in long strokes of his silver sword. Their swords and arrows, upon striking the armor of the dark knight, often would break as if impacted themselves, or freeze and split into a million icy fragments. When the fighting was done, he stood and cheered, along with the other elves and dwarves and men of the armies of Astori Te Lunia and Dayamar.
Yet the rejoicing couldn’t hold for long. By now, most of the army was aware of the much more massive force now bearing down upon them from the southward side. The catapults were on fire, and of the brave dwarves who had manned them, most lay dead from goblin arrows. Idemark, thinking quickly, ordered the army to retreat to the security of the ravine, as now the two forces were equally matched and the ravine would surely prove an easier defense. The forces moved forward into the ravine and did an about-face.
It was as if a swarm of evil insects were pouring over the land, like locusts but not airborne. Thousands of evil creatures, including dwarves, humans, and the occasional elf, poured through the land like a tide of black water over sandy beach. Yet, just as the tide breaks, so did this swarm, as the armies of Order valiantly defied their passage, fighting in a wicked storm of yells and magical flares. Their dark general rode atop a wyvern made of black smoke, a magical creature which she no doubt had summoned for the battle, brandishing an immense black sword. Idemark, now unsheathing his sword, began to fight his way through the terrible onslaught in an attempt to reach her. When it seemed as if he would never get to her for all the bodies and the fighting between them, he saw a strange bending: the fighting between himself and her seemed to slowly drift apart, and a road was made clear between the two. He silently thanked Felewyn, and, bellowing a fierce cry, ran with all his might toward the witch. She, by another miracle of fate, did not hear this cry and did not even seem to see him approaching. Holding his sword above his head, he brought it crashing down, right into the face of the evil sorceress.
With a splitting crash, her mask split in a vertical line down the center, and fell to the ground. She was unharmed, and her face-
“Iquitas?!” shouted Idemark, who stood unmoving in a state of shock. Lanethan, suddenly appeared beside him, emerging from the fray with a terrible cut on his face.
“What know you of my name, wretch?!” she shouted, raising her great black sword and bringing it down upon his head. Lanethan parried the blow for Idemark, who was still motionless.
“Iquitas, it is I, your brother, Idemark!” She also stopped, stunned, for a moment. Then,
“Liar!” she shouted, and with a wave of her hand, she magically disappeared. The fighting was still intense, and whatever twist of fate that had allowed them this moment of undisturbed talk suddenly discontinued: the fray closed in around them, fighting and biting and the cracking of bones. Lanethan, looking around, suddenly saw Cristiel among the fighters, and Cristiel’s eyes flared with a certain insanity as he swung a terrible scythe at many of the warriors of order, often killing many of his own warriors in the process. A rage took over Lanethan, as he had felt of old when Cristiel had taunted him, and he began to throw people out of the way in an attempt to reach him.
The sky cracked with a tremendous bang, and hundreds of black clouds rushed over the sky as if in a tidal wave. The fighting stopped as all looked to the sky. A pair of eyes appeared among the clouds: terrible eyes, which it was painful to look at. Where there would normally be white, there was only a crimson red, and where there would be pupils there seemed to be black holes which reached into infinity, drowning out the light wherever they focused. A voice like lightning struck the skies,
“Kill!” it shouted, and the warriors of chaos gave a ragged cheer; their Loreldian had come, Torkalath was here.
Yet now a light shone, cracking through the barrier of blackness, a golden light which seemed to dissolve the darkness. It was like a ray of sunshine, yet more brilliant in some ways, and it dissolved half of the black clouds of death, taking over the eastern portion of the sky. It seemed, that if you looked into that light (as many were doing), you could make out the form of a woman amidst the brilliance, a tall woman with long hair, holding a sword. Yet it was painful to look at her as well, too brilliant, too radiant of light. It was blinding. Her voice came as a singing of a thousand choirs, with a power and a beauty which seemed to resound in the hearts of all there,
“Kill!” it shouted, and the warriors of order gave a bold cheer, for they too had a Loreldian on their side, Felewyn was here.
Now, between the rift of light and dark, there appeared gray clouds, which seemed to hold in them both the light and the darkness. Amidst these clouds formed a giant mouth, showing a neutral expression. These did not bring any pain, but also invoked no feeling. The lips parted, and the voice that came was like the falling of raindrops,
“These forces are equal. You should not fight.” No cheer came up, merely a kind of disappointed grumble. The brilliance of the light and the terribleness of the black clouds forced him from the sky, and both voices shouted,
The fighting continued, with lightning in the skies and the ground. Often one Loreldian would destroy an entire portion of the landscape to rid it of the warriors atop it - if there was a majority (even a slight majority) of warriors of chaos in an area, Felewyn might destroy it, and vice-versa. A mountain in the distance crumbled, and its top fell to the ground. When they saw this, none of the sides continued fighting, they all just gazed at the new battle: the battle in the heavens, the battle which would decide the fate of their world, though to have the battle would probably destroy the world in itself. Some, even, shouted curses to the Loreldians who now tore asunder the very roots of the world itself.
History was repeating, the great age of unbalance would come again.
Suddenly, everything stopped. The very air did not move, nothing moved. Time stood at a standstill, yet all present could still hear and see and feel. They were paralyzed in exactly the last position they were in, but it was not a paralyzation of themselves, but a paralyzation of everything. An earsplitting, crackling tone filled the air, and they would have covered their ears if they could move. Suddenly, in the sky, a crack formed between the light and the dark: a valley of stars, as if all barriers were removed and one could see forever through space. These stars flickered and went out, then returned again. A massive warping of space occurred, and it looked as if all the stars in the ever widening crack were being pulled toward the center. Then, a pinpoint of light appeared, and the light grew: it was a light both beautiful and ugly, a light of good and of evil. The light took the form of a giant face, and the red eyes of Torkalath and the magnificent Felewyn and the tranquil Urdual looked in awe.
The face of light had a split down the middle: the left side was evil, black, and full of hatred, while the right side was full of love and goodness. The voices of each of the Loreldians, lightning and choir and rain, rang in unison, in awe:
“Yes. I have come,” said he, in two voices: one was gentle and kind, the other fierce, demanding.
“How is this possible? You banished yourself!” cried Torkalath, whose eyes flared in a fiery rage. The Loreldians, it appeared, where the only things in the world and the sky that were not stilled in time.
“It is possible, for it must be possible,” said Pathos.
“If you can return, then so can the Lost.”
“Yes. Those Loreldians whom we banished so long ago can return, as I have proven.”
“Rubbish! Lies!” shrieked Torkalath - he had been winning his battle.
“No!” came Pathos’ terrible voice, with such a force as to shatter mountains. Torkalath’s image dimmed in submission.
“Come to my threshhold, I must speak with all of you,” said Pathos, and in an instant the Loreldians vanished, and time resumed. Elf and Human and Goblin and Beast stood, still watching the sky.
A temporary truce was called, and the two armies made camps at opposite sides of the valley. As darkness fell, an uneasy sleep entombed most of the inhabitants of these camps, aside from the watch posted on each side: an ambush in the night would be disastrous.
Lanethan lay on his side, unable to sleep, staring into the soft light of a candle which he had placed in his tent. The candle flickered and pulsed, and light danced on the flaps of the tent. And then, as if a sudden gust of wind had struck it, the candle was blown out. Yet, strangely, the light inside the tent did not diminish; no, it was in fact increased.
The light was coming from outside the tent, on all sides, a brilliance which shown through the walls. Cautiously, Lanethan got up from his bed and opened the flap, peering out into the light.
There was nothing but a brilliant white to be seen. Well, not entirely nothing: there were shadows. Shadows of trees, shadows of great towers, even shadows of people. Only their shadows.
Lanethan stepped into the radiance, and began to walk: under his feet, it felt like grass and dirt, yet he saw only white. He approached one of the shadows of a tree, and promptly ran into an invisible branch.
“What strange wonder have I found myself in?” he asked.
“You are in my threshhold,” came the rich voice of Felewyn, as if whispering over his shoulder. Lanethan whirled around, but no one was there. Then, remembering his duties, he quickly knelt.
“Your threshhold? Stories are told of the magical place where each Loreldian emits an entire world, might this be..?” he asked, still kneeling.
“Yes. I am my threshhold, and my threshhold is me.”
“But those stories also tell that any mortal who dares to attempt to enter one without the blessing of a Loreldian will perish,” he said.
“You are here with my blessing, Lanethan, for I wish to speak with you.”
Lanethan felt a slight breeze and looked up to find himself kneeling in front of a great throne, in a brilliant marble hall which stretched so far into the sky that he thought it must go on forever, and the floor below mirrored perfectly the ceiling, so it was as if he was suspended in perpetual fall in a grand hall with no ceiling and no floor; no beginning and no ending. The only thing in the hall which did not blur his senses was the throne, and sitting upon the throne was Felewyn, a shimmering Loreldian beauty with long green hair and skin which seemed to radiate a golden glow.
“Pathos has returned, he has proved the impossible. Times are to change, for now we know again our purpose,” she began.
“It has been too long since we had forgotten our true intention, the correct intention, of balancing good and evil. Too long have we warred, too long have we scarred the lands. We very nearly destroyed the world again, in our foolishness.”
“Surely, though, the fight for Order is the fight for good,” Lanethan said proudly.
“Not necessarily. Order creates unbalance, if it is not properly balanced with Chaos, and can be just as destructive. I was blind to this, but Pathos has reminded us all of our true place. If all are happy and order reigns, then there is no freedom, no individuality.”
“Yet this surely is better than having chaos!”
“Again, that is what I once believed. Yet chaos is a part of balance, just as order is. One is not better than the other.”
“The decision the Loreldians have made is a hard one. We will all follow Pathos, his rule is balanced. Pathos represents two sides of the same coin, he represents the full balance, whereas I am only one part of this coin. And, as Pathos orders, we are to not appear in the mortal plane ever again, unless it be that we must.”
“Then, how will later generations know your words? How will the world function without the Loreldians to guide them?”
“We are to chose apostles: mortal beings who will defend and enforce our ideals on the mortal plane. These apostles will be given some of our power, so as to make them immortal.”
“Yes, among many other things. The time has come for us to choose apostles. I have chosen you, Lanethan.”
The infinite vertical expanse seemed to grow larger, and Lanethan’s legs grew suddenly weak.
“You would grant me that?” he asked.
“The choice is yours. Immortality is not a gift, it takes a strong mind and a good heart to maintain ones’ sanity. I have long watched you, dark knight, and I believe that the wheels of fate have brought you here for this purpose alone,” she said in her voice, words flowing like folds of vanilla.
“For one, you must say goodbye to everyone you have known. You will no longer live, you will no longer die, you will simply be, as I have been.”
Standing in that endless, shimmering tower, Lanethan suddenly remembered his dream the night before, the dream of the shimmering coin. Two sides of the same coin, the coming of Pathos. “Go on without me,” was what Lilia had said to him.
“Then, only one more step must be performed: you must be tested, to see if you really can use the powers of fate.”
“I am ready for any test you can give me,” he replied.
“Close your eyes,” she said, and he did so, “Listen to yourself.”
“Listen to myself?” he asked.
“That’s all there is to it,” she said.
He closed his eyes again, and listened. Listened to the heart beating in his chest, listened to the blood flowing in his veins, listened to the soft whispers of thoughts.
“You are doing it wrong,” she said, “You are merely listening to your body. You must look deeper! Try again, and listen!”
Again, he closed his eyes and listened. Listened to his heart, but his heart was not what he was listening to. He focused more, intently searching himself, until he had reached a place of absolute stillness. He opened his eyes, and instead of seeing with his eyes, he saw: clouds, and the sun, and the blue sky. Looking around, he saw other people, countless other people, a shimmering sea of faces - of humans and elves and goblins. Animals too, he saw, such as the great deer of the Sylen forest, and trees and plants and rivers and valleys and hills and ravines and the sun and-
With a sudden, painful force, he was pulled back, the shock hitting him so hard as to make himself fall down. For an instant, he had forgotten there was a floor beneath his feet, and he had screamed in fear of falling into that eternity.
“You did well, Lanethan. You saw fate, and thus you may be my apostle. We must join the others now, though I am certain you were first in finding it,” Felewyn said, as he lay face down, staring into the great well. With another painful jerk, he found himself staring into space, stars stretched forth in an infinite no more terrible than the great expanse had been.
Standing, he saw that 5 other people were there, floating amidst the stars, but their faces were shadowed. Also the four Loreldians, in their actual forms, were nearby. Felewyn with her streaming green hair and massive golden armor. Gentle faced, elderly Urdual, in robes of gray. Torkalath, with his black hair and thin face, who seemed to be quite bitterly disappointed. Pathos, very elderly yet somehow dignified in robes of which shimmered from black to white.
“It’s not fair,” said Torkalath, looking at Pathos, “They get all the heroes and I’m stuck with the hunchback, sniveling little elf.”
“You chose him yourself, remember, subconsciously. I dare say you can make him powerful enough,” said Pathos, who chuckled slightly, “And now, present your apostles.”
Urdual stepped forward, and illuminated the face of one of the five present: a human, with graying hair, and shimmering gray eyes.
“Myrlance is his name, though it was not his birth name. So shall he be known, as apostle of Urdual, who shall seek unbalance and right the wrongs,” Urdual said, his voice gentle and compassionate. Myrlance bowed his head slightly, and Urdual touched his shoulder. Instantly, Myrlance seemed to glow with a blue radiance, and then they vanished.
Torkalath stepped forward, illuminating a face of the four: it was Cristiel, still bent and slightly insane.
“Cristiel is his name, but it shall now be Kurgoth, for I prefer Kurgoth to that horrible Elven name. So shall he be known, as apostle of Torkalath, who shall cause chaos wherever he feels like it, and murder and pillage. You like that, don’t you?” Torkalath said reluctantly. Kurgoth nodded his head very quickly, and Torkalath touched him on the shoulder. Kurgoth suddenly grew taller, and robes of dark red wrapped around him, forming an armor of blood. A hood covered his head, and his face was shadowed, except for the piercing red eyes which seemed to glow with hatred. In an instant, they were gone.
Felewyn stepped forward, and Lanethan felt a light pass over himself.
“Lanethan is his name, though that was also not his birth name, and he is the dark knight. His heart is pure, and his manner is swift and strong. So shall he be known, as apostle of Felewyn, who shall enforce Order and peace.” She touched his shoulder, and suddenly he disappeared as well, though he was still seeing and hearing Pathos, as he now illuminated the last two present in the stars.
“Idemark I have chosen to represent my order, the most powerful of the apostles of good. His sister, Iquitas, I have chosen to represent my chaos, the most powerful of the apostles of evil. So shall they be, apostles of Pathos, two sides of the same coin - the coin of balance.”
So passed five-hundred years in the mortal plane, and Daragoth went through a period in which all knowledge of the elves was lost, and their people hid from the world. Lanethan, watching from the threshhold of Felewyn, would often appear, disguised as a mortal, to keep the faith in Felewyn alive and the morals of ‘Order’ intact.
Now, as he had been training with Felewyn, he was adept at manipulating fate. He could look into the sea of knowledge and being that it was, and pick out an individual person or thing, and create new fated things from the old. It was dangerous, but it ultimately gave him the power he required to maintain order. Now, for example, he could fate it to be that he was holding an Asderal blade, a blade forged for the apostles of Order by Felewyn herself, and instantly it would be so.
Tonight (if there could be called a tonight in Felewyn’s hall, as no time passes), he gazed deep into the fate, and caught a glimpse of an immensely powerful fateline being created. Two human twins, Jiro and Tumbold, were being born, and both were destined to do much. Exactly what they would do was still shrouded in the web of fatelines, but he immediately began to take note of it, and to watch their lives.
“Who are these two humans, Jiro and Tumbold, and why are their fate-lines so strong?” he asked of Felewyn.
“Fate sees many things, and not always are those things to come in the direct action of the things they are bound to. One of these might create a new idea, that might take shape in the next hundred years, and eventually become some form of moral. Ideas, using fate as the vehicle, are often slow,” was all she would say. It soon became clear to Lanethan that she had no idea either, and was just as interested in their development as he was. He recorded his observations in the once small brown journal, which he often had to create more blank pages in, so that now it seemed to be hundreds of thousands of pages thick.
“You cannot support them! Not without me!” shouted the father, while the two babies lay in their crib.
“I can too support them, you terrible man! I could work in the mines too! You cannot take them with you!” screamed the woman, who picked up and held Tumbold to her protectively. The father, with intense angry, snatched Jiro up and stormed out the door. That was the last time either of the parents would see each-other again, as I have seen in their fate.
Lanethan practiced daily with his bow, having created one specifically for his use. For many years, he perfected his aim and technique, while enforcing Order in the mortal plane. Still, he watched Jiro and Tumbold. Jiro, it seemed, was becoming very disturbed, and it seemed to Lanethan that he would almost certainly follow the ways of Chaos. A frightening prospect, as it was obvious that this child was destined for some form of great power or influence.
When Jiro killed his father, Lanethan lost all hope of influencing him, having fated dreams into the child to bring him into the side of order, he had obviously failed.
Jiro, now a young man with dusty brown hair and ghastly complexion [wrote Lanethan in his journal], sat hunched over a book, reading with a fierce intensity that seemed to belong to a madman. He raised his orb, and shouted words of dreadful meaning. A hideous shape emerged from the orb, finally coalescing into some form of black vomit, yet it moved freely about and left a terrible trail of poisonous sludge in its wake. In a cage, the reanimated rat skeleton sat watching the new experiment with curiosity. The book, entitled ‘Necromancy - Your First Steps,’ still lay open to the ‘Summon Moorslug’ page.
Yet while Jiro constantly worried Lanethan, Tumbold seemed to provide much hope: he had grown into a wise man, a good man, an explorer. He had been commissioned to explore the ‘great forest,’ which Lanethan knew to be Eswen Sylen, and would certainly meet the elves there. He could think of no better way for the elven race to get back into contact with the humans than through Tumbold.
Tumbold followed the great trail which seemed to bend forever through the giant trees of the forest. It was near nightfall, but the golden sun was still filtering through the massive leaves, creating little areas of glittering golden sparks in the moist forest air.
“These trees’ roots must burrow to the center of the earth,” thought he, as he passed a fallen leaf which was nearly the size of his torso. There seemed to be an abundance of life there, a magical radiance which made the place feel timeless: young and yet old as the rivers and the mountains. Often he would pass by animals, massive bears which seemed to hold no malice to him, but was watchful the same. Indeed, it seemed as if the whole forest was watching him, not with fear or hatred, but merely excited curiosity.
Tumbold’s sharp eyes caught the sight of an almost human figure, darting among the trees. He stopped and waited, trying not to make a sound, for fear he might disturb whatever was approaching.
Then, suddenly, they crossed the path he had been following. As if in a dream, two women and a man crossed merrily along the path, their flowing white robes trailing behind them. They seemed to glow golden, and their hair reflected the colors of the trees and the sun in flowing waves. As suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone, passing deep into the southern trees. Tumbold stood rooted to the spot.
“Elves,” he said, and the sound of his own voice seemed to bring him back to consciousness. He immediately began to follow them, intent on making contact. Yet, it seemed, they moved with as much grace as they did speed, for their trail was impossible to find.
He did not have to wait long to see more, however, as he was just nearing the outskirts of Melanion, the great elven capital. He met many families of elves, none of whom could speak the common language shared by humans and dwarves, but all of whom seemed to be expecting him. They greeted him with warmth, and directed him to continue following the road (as now it was, the trail having become much wider).
He did so, and, arriving at what seemed to be a break in the trees, his eyes beheld a most beautiful sight:
A massive wall of ivory, in which the great Sylen trees grew as supports, with a gateway atop which was set a great symbol: three trees growing side by side, underneath three shining stars, with one star shining above the other three.
When he arrived inside the great city, with the ivory pedestals ringing the trunks of the massive trees, he was met by a precession, which escorted him then to the magnificent castle which lay at the heart of the shimmering city, and then directly into the throne room of the king, Peldamyr III.
“Hail, explorer Tumbold, and welcome to Melanion. I am king Peldamyr III,” he said, in the common tongue, as Tumbold approached.
“Hail, king, and thank you for your most hospitable welcome. Though I must ask: how is it that you speak the common language?”
“The learned elves can speak it,” said he.
“Then you must have known of us for some time,” Tumbold said, somewhat astonished.
“Indeed, we have been watching you, the humankind and the dwarves, for many years, and now feel the time is right to allow you to meet us,” said the king, who offered him a drink of water from a fine glass.
“I feel honored, then, for you have obviously been very selective in whom you allow to see you, and whom not,” said Tumbold.
“That is true. Let us hope this will bring together our people once again, and end the secrecy. Together, we can prosper!”
In less than two months time, Tumbold had been appointed ambassador to the elven people by the human king, and lived in peace in Melanion for many years. Jiro, oppositely, hated the elves with a passion ever since he had heard that they were supporters of Felewyn. Still, his influence over fate seemed only to grow stronger. He had finally decided what he was going to do: he wanted total dominion of the elves, the people who would condemn him.
Four years on Daragoth passed, and Lanethan watched intently over Tumbold’s progress.
“A truly remarkable human,” he said to Felewyn, “Yet his fateline is decreasing, it seems he has done what he came to do.”
“He has done much,” she agreed, “Uniting the peoples of the world. Lanethan, Pathos has requested a meeting between the Loreldians, and their apostles as well.”
“Then, let us go,” he replied.
They were standing around a great well imbedded in sand, and the stars above seemed to cast no light on any place except the immediate area around the glowing pool.
Lanethan greeted Idemark and Iquitas with enthusiasm, it had been long since they had seen each other. Myrlance, also, cordially greeted them all. Kurgoth, however, was not there, though, unmistakably, Torkalath was there, a black tiger with glowing red eyes.
“Friends, I have called you here to discuss with you a required balancing act: with the uniting of the peoples, order reigns above all else. The world is in need of more chaos if balance is to be maintained. Torkalath suggests that he find a human suitable to his liking, and give him a little bit of power,” came Pathos’ booming voice.
“I am against this,” said Idemark. Iquitas, however, smiled wickedly.
“As am I,” said Lanethan.
“I would expect no other reaction, but it will be done.”
“Kurgoth is away, finding a victim for me to use,” growled Torkalath. Felewyn, having taken the form of a lion-tamer, cracked her whip near his face, causing Torkalath to rear up on his haunches.
The poor dwarves never saw it coming. Cresting the hill over their small borderland fort came a hundred skeletons, humans mostly, carrying spears and shields and laughing wickedly. Dawn was upon them as the undead horde routed the halls, killing all the inhabitants and seizing the fort for their own.
“Have you secured the final rooms?” asked Jiro of a skeleton, who nodded in agreement. “Good. This fort is now mine.”
With a sudden flash of crimson, a bolt of what seemed to be red lightning struck the ground not ten feet from where Jiro was standing. Now, smoke rising from his body, stood a terrible shape, a horrible demon with glowing red eyes. Jiro orders his skeleton to attack it, fearing that the dwarves had summoned him as a last ditch effort, but the skeletons were neatly torn in half as they approached. Slowly, the figure approached Jiro.
“You are Jiro, the necromancer?” it said in a deep, slicing voice, but it seemed to be coming from inside Jiro’s head. The mere sound of it created a sharp, stabbing pain which shot down his spine. Blood poured from Jiro’s forehead.
“Y-yes, yes I am,” he said, cowering.
“Stop your groveling!” screamed the voice, which hurt even more. Jiro stood straight.
“I am Kurgoth, apostle of Torkalath. My master wishes to have a ‘Disciple’ on this plane, someone who will do his bidding while I am indisposed,” it said. Jiro stammered, and Kurgoth knocked him down with a fierce backhand.
“In return, much power will be given to you, so that you may enforce chaos wherever you find it.” The mention of the word ‘power’ seemed to clear Jiro’s head, who immediately stood up again.
“I accept,” he said, his eyes flashing with greed.
It was nearly at this same moment when Tumbold received a letter from his mother, which he eagerly tore open and read in his chamber in the embassy.
Son, I fear that my past is catching up with us. You
had a brother which I never talked about, a brother whom
your father took from me when we seperated. His name was
Now, upon reading the newspaper, I see that someone by the
name of Jiro has attacked and taken a dwarven fortress in
the borderlands. The dwarf who escaped described him as
I would have assumed your brother would have grown to
Tumbold, I fear that this evil man is your brother, but
I also know that you have great influence. Please, stop
the elves from attacking and killing him, try to talk
some sense into him!
~Your loving mother
Tumbold set off at once to the borderland fortress, not knowing that Jiro had torn it down and in its place built a great castle, named ‘Veldamyr’ in mockery of the elven king’s name. A great palace of evil it was, made from Jiro’s newfound power alone: black spires and a moat of lava, surrounded by fearsome demons which Torkalath had sent to him.
Yet, as Tumbold approached, the demons did not attack him. Again, it seemed, his arrival was expected. Lanethan watched as Tumbold’s fateline grew ever smaller, and, knowing what was going to occur, pleaded with Felewyn to allow him to go to the mortal plane. She refused, stating that, ‘It was the way of things.’
“Hello, brother,” hissed Jiro’s voice. Jiro sat on a throne of blackened metal, and blood red tapestries lined the walls of the great hall.
“So, you know that I am your brother,” said Tumbold cautiously, eyeing the shadows which seemed to pulse through the room. He was afraid of them, though not that he chose to be, but that they emitted fear.
“Yes, I know, and I know much else besides,”
“Then you must know why I have come here. Jiro, your evil doings with forever blacken our families’ good name,” said Tumbold forcefully, attempting to mask his fear.
“There is no need to become angry, brother. I am merely doing what I have been chosen to do,” he said.
“Chosen?” asked Tumbold.
“Chosen, hand picked by Torkalath to enforce his will in the mortal plane. I am Chosen, for once. I am not the one whom the mother did not think to protect from our evil father. I am not the one who was locked in a cage for forty days. Now, I am the chosen, and you are nothing!”
“Brother, your malice is deep, but it is unneeded! Our mother still lives, and it is because of her that I am here! She loves you still!”
“Lies! Treachery and lies!” shouted Jiro, who rose from his seat and snarled hideously. His hands were all fingers as he grabbed onto Tumbold’s face. Tumbold began a shrill, constant scream, but even that was silenced. Jiro sucked the life from Tumbold, the Elfenmet, and so ingested his soul. Then, with a horrible, vomiting retch, he produced forth a great black ooze. The putrid slime formed itself into the shape of a man, and then took on the likeness of Tumbold himself. It’s eyes, however, remained black.
“You are Beldagar now. You are my slave,” said Jiro to the horrible manifestation.
Jiro was a horribly evil man, but also frighteningly intelligent. He chose carefully his method of attack, so that he could cut off supply lines and thus trap the great capitals. Lanethan and Idemark were not allowed to interfere, as this was the plan which had been set forth: to allow Jiro to cause a lot of chaos, and then be defeated in battle by the forces of good, thus creating balance.
Winanadoa, a small human settlement on the great northeast coast, was Jiro’s first target. His army swept over it as nightfall covers the land in darkness. Beldagar, who now wore a set of armor which was colored a brilliant green, fought on the front lines. Whomever even so much as looked in his direction was stricken with a paralyzing fear, the magic of Bafflement which Jiro had bestowed upon him. With terrible efficiency, the people of the village were slaughtered.
The elves, however, were ready for him now. They formed a new army, Lor Cledsari (the watchers), to defeat Jiro and his skeleton army. They station themselves at Weldar, a seaside elven town, a place which they anticipate will be his next point of attack. When the army of darkness flooded through the hills, they met valiant resistance from nearly twice their strength in elves.
Jiro, sensing that his army would not prevail, called Beldagar back to him, a hill overlooking the town and the sea. He chanted words of terrible evil, a spell out of frustration, and the sea retreated in fear. No, not in fear, but in preparation for attack. With a thundering crash, the sea returned, but it was black as midnight. It flooded through the town and the lands about, and with its immense tidal power, dragged the entire town into the sea.
Jiro had made one fatal mistake: His army was also washed away, he was left nearly powerless. The surviving elves charged, shouting their new war cry: “Lor Malgoriand rek aleo!” which, in their tongue, means ‘The Shadowbringer must fall.” Jiro laughed (though it was the laughter of one bitter and defeated) and teleported himself and his evil green knight back to his castle. Thus, Jiro was named Lor Malgoriand, the Shadowbringer.
“Fool!” he said to himself, as he sat alone in his chambers. He banged his fist against the wall, and bloodied his knuckles. I believe I saw him crying, but his tears would not last long: Kurgoth appeared again, even more furious than he. Lor Malgoriand, though he had power, was not as powerful as an apostle.
“Fool!” said Kurgoth to Lor Malgoriand, who simply nodded his head in shameful agreement. I am sure that Lor Malgoriand hears the most dreadful voice, but I can detect within it the same scratchy voice of Cristiel, that wretch.
“I give you power to work with, and you waste it!” Kurgoth said, and advanced menacingly on the depressed figure.
“If it weren’t for my master’s generosity, I would tear you from limb to limb. Instead, Torkalath has decided to grant you one more chance.”
“With what? I have no army,” said Lor Malgoriand, his voice suddenly clearer and attentive.
“We shall make you a new army, from a new creature which my master has prepared. Look out of your window, and you shall see them awaiting your command. They are brutal, and hate all living creatures other than yourself, and their strength is much. Pray you do not waste these!” said Kurgoth, and he disappeared. I noticed that Lor Malgoriand’s fate line was ever increasing in strength, dangerously large: it nearly mimicked those of the great kings of old.
The creatures which Torkalath had given him resembled Goblins, except they were much bigger and stronger. Their skin was rough and green, their speech was mostly grunting, but they were obviously loyal to Lor Malgoriand. What terrors can he create now?
Lor Malgoriand’s next target surprised all: he intended to attack Adel, the human capital. Kurgoth, realizing that he would once again throw away his power in folly, furiously raged, taking the form of a mighty storm.
Lor Malgoriands’s power, however, was underestimated. His army flooded through Adel, slaughtering hundreds. The houses burned like torches, lit ablaze by flaming arrows, and the remnants of the once mighty dwellings of the humans toppled into themselves like so many frail sticks of wood.
The creatures which Torkalath had given to Lor Malgoriand proved too strong for the human patrols. The last remaining elves in Lor Cledsari named these creatures Orcat, the ‘scar of the world,’ and so it is that the ‘Orc’ is named today.
Beldagar stood before a small family, the father brandishing a sword with a wild look of terror in his eyes. As Beldagar approached, the fear which he generated overcame the man’s body: the father slumped to the ground lifeless, a deep slash through his ribcage pouring blood onto the stone street. The mother released her child from her protective grip and ran to the father, crying out. Beldagar mercilessly stabbed her through the heart.
The child, a young boy, silently approached his parents. His face showed no emotion, no mourn or sadness, but above all, no fear. In the child’s hand flashed a flare of silver, a dagger of fine metal, which he quickly stabbed through the breastplate of Beldagar, who howled in pain and anger. The shimmering green armor fell to the street, and the hideous black substance that he was made of spilled out, steaming with a shrill whistle, evaporating.
Even the loss of their terrible general did not stop the armies of Lor Malgoriand from destroying the rest of Adel. The houses burned into the night, and the great towers crumbled. As the child looked up at the towers falling, it seemed to him that they were not towers but memories of his parents, all crumbling to dust. Then, it seemed, he could see a woman’s face, now intently looking at him.
“Mother?” he asked.
“Torkalath has gone too far. Too much power has been given to this human, too much chaos has been achieved, the world is not in balance!” protested Felewyn, as Pathos silently agreed. Even Torkalath seemed to realize his err, as he came forward.
“This is true. Send the apostles there to stop him from continuing for a while, as I prepare to take my powers from him. Have them collect the body.”
Lor Malgoriand and his army of darkness were now marching through Eswen Sylen, thrashing trees to the ground and burning them for no apparent cause. He muttered to himself, feverishly,
“Adel has been destroyed, I have conquered the last stepping stone to capturing Melanion itself. Should I continue, or strengthen my position?” He was absent mindedly flicking his wrist, sending sharp stabs of pain to a helpless elf he had tied up and forced to march along side him. Suddenly, a bolt of crimson flame struck from the heavens, through the great canopy, fixing directly in front of Lor Malgoriand. It killed all of the Orcs within seeing distance. Kurgoth stepped out of the light.
“Lor Malgoriand, Jiro, you are ordered to retreat.”
“For what reason?!” shouted Lor Malgoriand.
“Too much chaos has been created, by my own masters fault,” said Kurgoth, regrettably.
“What if I refuse?”
“Then you shall have me to deal with,” said Idemark, appearing in a flash of light the color of the sky at dawn.
“And I,” said Iquitas, who appeared in a dark smoke.
“And all of us,” said Kurgoth, as Lanethan and Myrlance appeared in two separate lightning strikes. Lanethan took one look around and instantly recognized his surroundings: A babbling brook wound through a mossy bank, with trees dripping with moss and growth, and the sound of gentle water all around, with an ancient stone guard tower built into a hill overlooking the stream. Idemark’s eyes glanced around and his face showed a flicker of emotion for one second, an emotion which Lanethan hadn’t seen Idemark show ever since he had left Isana Cross so many years ago. He saw loneliness, the look of the home-sick.
“Ha! You do not scare me, apostles!” said Lor Malgoriand, who raised his wand menacingly. Kurgoth approached to grab the wand from his hand, but before he could reach his target, Lor Malgoriand casted a terrible flame spell to consume him.
The flames seemed afraid to touch the dark apostle, however, and Kurgoth neatly snatched the wand from Lor Malgoriand’s hands. With his free arm, Kurgoth began to strangle him.
“No, Kurgoth stop! You’ll kill him, and Torkalath won’t be able to extract his power out of him in time,” said Lanethan, who, with a forceful gesture of his hand, flung Kurgoth across the room. Lor Malgoriand coughed hoarsely, and smiled.
“So, retracting my power, is that your plan? Foolish Loreldians, I have made a deal with a much greater power than yours, Torkalath!” Lor Malgoriand shouted, shaking his fist in the direction of the sky.
Lor Malgoriand’s body convulsed. The draining of his power had begun. He stood stricken, as if in intense shock, and twice more trembled. Then he began to scream, a wretched scream which seemed to tear the air around him, and his body jerked as if being pulled in a million directions at once. Kurgoth laughed, and said,
“I want his head when it finally pops off.”
As the convulsions increased, so did the pitch of the screaming, until it seemed he was a teapot whistling steam away. Then, suddenly, his screaming ended abruptly. A kind of eerie silence filled the forest, as all sat in astonishment. Lor Malgoriand, now slumped on the ground, began to laugh. His voice was no longer human, but now a deep, resonating voice which seemed to radiate a sense of disharmony. He leapt to his feet, still laughing, and where his eyes ought to have been were two great, gaping holes of nothingness. When Lanethan focused his eyes on them, it was as if their great blackness was infinite, and he could no longer see anything until he averted his gaze.
Urdual’s voice suddenly filled the air, full of fright,
“Apostles, come here now! Get away from him! It’s the power of the Lost!”
They immediately reappeared in Pathos’ threshhold.
“The Lost? Who are the Lost?” asked Idemark, forcefully. Pathos’ great awareness turned unto the apostles, and explained.
“In the time when the Loreldians fell, there were two separate groups of survivors. The first, led by me, advocated banishment of ourselves in order to preserve balance. The second favored unbalance, saying that we should recreate the world and live as gods to all people. Their group attacked my group, attempting to kill us in order to carry out their wishes, but we had anticipated them: we banished them from this plane, just as we later banished ourselves. Felewyn, Urdual and Torkalath were left behind in order to safeguard the world in case these banished were ever to try to return.”
“And you believe its these Loreldians, the Lost, that are now giving their power to Lor Malgoriand?” asked Lanethan. He took a quick glance into fate, and noted, with extreme fear, that Lor Malgoriand’s fate-line now seemed even larger than his own.
“He must be stopped. The apostles can do it, they’re immortal,” said Torkalath. Lor Malgoriand’s army, in the meantime, was now marching toward Melanion, his Orcs thrashing through the forest.
“I agree,” said Idemark, “I say we kill this being now, before it causes even more unbalance.”
Melanion’s great wall was under siege, thousands of Orcs rushing madly up great siege engines, breaching the defenses of the great city. Lor Malgoriand, barely human, fought at the front lines with the rest of his army, cutting their way through the brave Elven warriors. Arrows, when fired at him, broke in half before they even reached him.
Amidst the fray, five figures appeared. Lanethan, among them, was wearing the armor of the Dark Knight, brandishing a golden bow.
“Lor Malgoriand of the Lost, you have betrayed all powers of good. Your body is warped beyond recognition, your mind is twisted under Their will. Prepare yourself for the merciless escape from the mortal coil we are about to impart to you,” said Idemark, who fated the fighting to recede around them.
The apostles quickly charged, weapons drawn. First, the great Dreadscythe of Kurgoth’s use, broke. Lanethan’s bow, as well, split in half. Only Idemark’s blade, the golden sword fated to exist from the ancient Loreldian city of Asderal, remained intact, though it hummed like a tuning fork from the power radiating off Lor Malgoriand. Lanethan immediately fated himself to have an Asderal blade, and so he held one. He and Idemark slashed madly at the horrible being, but each of their strikes seemed to pass through him as if he weren’t there.
“Fool,” said Lor Malgoriand, his voice like death.
The once frail necromancer grabbed Idemark by the throat, and lifted him off his feet. Lanethan charged again, but was knocked onto his back by an invisible force.
Idemark whimpered slightly as a great golden glow began to encompass his body. Slowly, this golden life force was sucked into Lor Malgoriand’s open mouth.
“Idemark!” shouted Iquitas, who was frozen in place by the terrible force.
“Farewell, Iquitas. I‘ll be gone forever, though I will be seeing you again shortly,” he said, winking to Lanethan. What could that wink mean? The life force, now, had all been sucked into Lor Malgoriand, and Idemark’s body fell limp to the ground. In a terrible flash, his body was gone.
“No! It can’t be!” shouted Lanethan, who was shedding angry tears.
“We must retreat,” said Myrlance, who helped Lanethan up. Lanethan immediately tried to charge Lor Malgoriand again, while the black creature laughed wickedly, but Myrlance held him back.
“It is not safe. We go now, back to the astral,” Myrlance whispered to him. In a flash, the remaining apostles were gone.
They watched in terror as Melanion began to blaze in places, and the elves’ bodies piled up in the streets.
“How could this have happened?” asked Iquitas.
“There are some powers which we have no comprehension of, most notably the powers of the Lost. It seems that we cannot assume immortality among them anymore,” replied Pathos’ gentle but somehow terrible voice.
“Th-then, then you mean he’s dead?” she asked.
“His soul has gone to the soul-well, where all souls go when their bodies fail.”
“And with his bodies’ failing, we too have failed? The world is now left to the Lost?” asked Lanethan.
“No, for though the power they have entrusted in Lor Malgoriand is great, that power is no match for our power. Felewyn, you may go.”
Lor Malgoriand stood in the middle of the great square, once shimmering white but now drenched in blood. With a tremendous crash, the dark clouds in the sky parted, and a great golden light seemed to fill the city. Amidst the golden light stood Felewyn, wearing great golden platemail, and holding a sword made entirely of light.
“Oh evil spawn of the lost Loreldians, your power cannot hold here! The power of harmony will overcome you, wretched creature. Begone now, forever from this world, and trouble my children no more!” said her voice, and it was like a thousand choirs singing in unison. Lor Malgoriand, cringing in fright, was lifted off the ground into the sky, and with one fell swipe of Felewyn’s mighty sword of light, his body split in half. A great black soul, like a wraiths’ shadow, emerged from the body, and the great Loreldian snatched it quickly into her hands.
The Orcs scattered in all directions, howling in pain. Soon, the once great army had dispersed into the world, never to be organized in so many numbers again. Their master had been defeated.
The wind howled with the voices of a billion people singing, harmony from the ages long past to the ages yet to come, and his black soul disintegrated amongst the singing of the words, ‘Never to enter the soul-well, never to rest!’
“I am going to the soul-well,” announced Lanethan immediately, “to bring back my friend.”
“You cannot go there,” said Pathos, “It would trap you there forever to try. Once a soul enters the soul-well, it can never return.”
“I’m going to get my friend,” said Lanethan, and he immediately disappeared.
Fating oneself to be in a place that never existed is a dangerous procedure, so he was unsure as to whether or not he had appeared at the right place. Two massive stone doorways stood in front of him, and it seemed as if they were the only things in the desolate world in which he had appeared: blackness stretched in all directions around him, though it was not the blackness created by the lack of light, but rather a genuine blackness of nothing.
The doors slid slowly open, emitting no noise. Beyond them, as far as Lanethan could see, was simply a light, a strange light which seemed to crawl out the doorway like mist.
Upon stepping beyond the doorway, he immediately found himself in a state akin to being underwater. All around was the misty light, and as far as he could see, the shadows of people, animals, and other once living creatures.
“How am I to find Idemark in this great sea of beings?” he asked himself, and immediately found himself floating in front of the shadow of Idemark, a great elf warrior with hair as black as midnight. Lanethan reached out and grabbed him.
Instantly, he found himself standing in a dark room, looking at Idemark.
“Lanethan, why are you here?” he asked calmly.
“I have come to retrieve you, to bring you back,” Lanethan replied.
“Why, my friend?” asked Idemark.
“Because it’s not right that you have to die,” Lanethan answered after a pause.
“I was fated to die that day. Idemark, as I was, is no longer needed in the world,” he stated calmly.
“You must go now, Lanethan. Idemark will not be leaving,” Idemark said. Idemark reached out and touched Lanethan’s shoulder, and Lanethan instantly found himself back in the soul-well, looking at the shadow of Idemark’s face.
“Go on without me,” said Lilia’s voice.
Lanethan suddenly remembered the dream, the dream he had so long ago: he had grabbed Idemark’s face, and wore it as a mask. What kind of help could that possibly bring? Without thinking, Lanethan immediately reached out again and grabbed Idemark, wrapping himself up in his soul.
I stared into the golden light in front of me, the light I knew to be fate itself. Who was I? I was having a hard time remembering, it was as if my head was suddenly empty. Two different voices, each of which I recognized as my own, began to sing:
I once was me
you once were you,
but now there is
My soul was one,
your soul was one,
now one and one
My memories suddenly came flooding back, the memories of Lanethan and the memories of Idemark. My hair was black, my face was fair, and the armor of the dark knight I proudly wore. I crawled slowly out the great gate of the soul-well, and I could no longer distinguish between the person I once had been and the person Idemark once had been. He decides to fate himself back to the Loreldians, and his friends.
“Idemark!” shouted Iquitas, who immediately ran up to hug me. Then, as she got closer, she suddenly realized that I was not the Idemark she had once known.
“Yes, Iquitas. I have returned. I am all that your brother once was, thus I am your brother. My name is Lanethan, as I have chosen the name which Aginor used over Idemark‘s name, as it was he who had the courage to try to save Idemark, and he without whom I would not have been. Hello, sister,” I said, and hugged her.
“I never saw this in the fate,” said Pathos, his beautiful/terrible voice booming.
“The fate itself is responsible for my being here,” I replied.
“Very well, you shall continue with the duties you once had, as Apostle of my Order,” said Pathos.
“And what of Lanethan’s duties, apostle of Felewyn?” I asked.
“I have taken the liberty to choose a new apostle, as it was foreseen to us earlier that we would be losing both Idemark and Lanethan,” said Felewyn. Standing next to her was the boy from Adel, the one who had stabbed Beldagar. The stars of the astral plane were more beautiful than before, it seemed to me, as they shined so bright in the night.
Thus is my story, or rather Lanethan’s story, the story of the person I once used to be. For now, I am something more. I am the Apostle of Pathos’ Order, and I am Iquitas’ brother Idemark, and I am the Dark Knight Lanethan. I am in the heart of all purely good mortals, and I will stand in the way of the Lost. For now, however, I will sleep, awaiting again for my time to rise.