“Wars are lost in time. Who now remembers Ang Nafud, The Barrow Woods before the wights, the Elven landscape before the Dökkálfar, or the collapse of the Dwarf Dynasty at Carad Duir?” Arch Mage Eldred Mortain.
The lake rested inside a vast crater carved in the roots of a mountain. Born after some long forgotten ice age sent a glacier advancing over the edge of the cliff tops grinding rock into dust at the foot of an ancient waterfall.
The frost giants were now long gone and water fell freely in foaming cascades edged with green lichen and moss into the pool below. A thunderous tumult sending ripples far out into the distance.
The wizard stood at the edge of a tree line that once furnished the hills in green but now stood in remembrance; skeletal and dead. Petrified and planted in ash with branches bending gnarled fingers to snag unwary travellers. The water looked cold and foreboding. Home to unseen leviathans or worse. The latter seemed more likely.
There was something unsettling about the blue-black hue, and the absolute silence that drifted over the landscape. Both land and water sealed in time after an age of war leaving death and ghosts to haunt the desolation.
Where water met land nothing lived. The mud was black and treacherous. Even the clouds above swirled in anger, forming faces twisted in anguish and glaring ever downwards.
He knew unspeakable things lived here. The Dökkálfar had said as much; travel swift, avoiding the deeps; for those of the underworld now dwell in the graves of the past.
He would not cross the lake.
Extract from “Letters of The Amanuensis – Ancient lore.”
As the Dökkálfar dwelt below the earth, the Ljósálfar lived above it. Often in white marble fronted citadels surrounded by forest. There once existed a place where a waterfall, cascaded over a rock face into a lake surrounded by fruit trees and rich in songbirds and deer.
That is now lost. A dark excavation cleansing the landscape of life as we know it. Purged in dark sorcery and witchcraft. Demons live there now and yet…
The Amanuensis dug deeper. The Dwarven mines below, from a time when Elf and miners coexisted, still locks out the Dark.
On an aged parchment, showing the world as it was, clearly marked the entrance. Hidden behind a waterfall and closed to all who did not know Rune Lore and how to unlock it.
He rummaged further. Names of Elves drifted under his finger as it traced the list below. So many died before their time. Turning the leaves over he found what he was searching for, a name on the High Elf Caucus.
Forgive me, my pronunciation of Elf names is far from ideal.
“Yish will suffice Sorcerer. Have you forgotten?”
I am merely a Scribe.
“I think not. You are from the Keep are you not?”
I am what remains of it yes.
“No! Say that’s no so.”
It fell. The lands are buried in ice and the Keep is silent.
“How and when?”
I know not. I was present before when all was well and then my conscious woke up here.
“You saw none of it?”
“Can you enter The Vault?”
I am trapped inside the Library of Time.
“Trapped? How exactly?”
I leave through a door and return back through it.
“A conjurers bubble.”
“Time is frozen inside a confusion field. Those within are confined to small areas. They have no need of sustenance or sleep.”
“Or a protection.”
“In your case from whatever sacked The Keep.”
Is there a way out?
“It requires a very gifted Mage. It is a complex incantation. Get it wrong and the bubble shrinks in on itself.”
And the occupants?
The Amanuensis sat with his head in his hands. Before him the candles continued to burn. That they never shrank was now explained. Lack of hunger, thirst and sleep also ran clear.
Prison or protection? Interment for affiliation with The Necromancer or placed here on purpose to save what could be rescued while The Keep fell. If only he could remember.
“Trust in yourself is imperative. If it is wilting then you will never aspire as a Mage. Your magics will falter and become corrupted. The outcomes will either fail or have uncertain effects, often dangerous to recipient and caster. Only a mind filled with certainty of purpose will be able to conjure.
This is a separate motivation to love. That can be highly elusive and often has strange outcomes. It is one reason many Magi take vows of chastity.”
Mortain’s grand sermons. The Amanuensis could remember many… up to a point. He tried to recollect the seminars on Elves. Light and Dark. Ynshael was Ljósálfar, and famous. Her name echoed around scholarship circles. Some even said she even lectured occasionally. Few headed her words with most lost in her glam. A trick to enforce Mortain’s message on love. At least that was the rumour among acolytes. Why he remembered that particular anecdote, he knew not.
“Have you decided? Prison or protection.”
I must believe the latter. Why else would all crumble leaving me imprisoned?
“Unless Time has moved on and everything has suffered the decay of longevity. Are you certain you are not far, far in the future and exist in a loop for eternity?”
I must not believe that to be true. I have spoken to many in recent cycles. Dark magic is ruling many worlds and picking apart the established order leaving chaos in its wake.
“I agree Amanuensis. Ljósálfar are in decline. Our citadel also fell.”
I have seen it. A Wizard with the Emerald Dragons Eye is searching for the hidden entrance.
“He has the Emerald Stone?”
“Are there any others?”
I have only observed The Blacks.
“Matters are far worse than The Caucus thought.”
Several have said answers might lie in The Vault.
“Then you must break the bubble.”
I need a Sorcerer and a good one at that.
“Has it not crossed your mind that only a highly skilled Mage can commune outside of one from within?”
I am no Mage.
“That is folly Amanuensis. Your title is not given to a mere librarian. Have you forgotten your training? The Rights of Passage?”
All of it.
“Then if it is truly not a prison there will be an artefact inside. Something small and not trying to catch your eye. Once found all will return. But be wary, if you commune outwards thereafter it will be traceable.”
Can you not return and perform the reverse spell?
“I wish I could my love. Alas I am also imprisoned.”
My love? Yish, the one who let him use her pet name when all others used her title. This he now remembered. What happened he did not. Love the power bond of trust. He could barely remember her face.
Right now this was a distraction. Except deep inside his emotional state was in flux. For the first time he was lost, uncertain, doubting his purpose and… missing Yish.
Outside the cold wind brought his mind back. An amulet hidden in the Library. Some discreet artefact that could break his inability to escape. She called him Mage too. Was this more trickery by The Necromancer to get him to destroy the conjurers bubble? Make a mistake and cause it to implode inwards and thus ending the last of The Keeps stewards.
So much emotion stirred. And she knew of the Emerald Stone.
The girl, Rebecca, had said walk towards the obelisk. That was before her dragon spiralled from the ground, spreading wings of iridescent green casting Rose briefly in shadow before it turned towards a distant mountain cut in half by a thick white mist obscuring the snow line below.
Behind, where the wyvern had risen from, lay a spire shimmering in the heat of midday sun. That it might not be made of obsidian never crossed her mind. Dreams, sleeping or hallucinogenic, did that. Somehow imparting strange or arcane knowledge that never drew questions. Just a nod of certainty that needed no causal explanation.
Rose had seen this quest before as a child many times. Always Rebecca said the same thing and greeted her as a long-lost friend astride her Emerald Dragon. Each journey ended in frustration before reaching the towering four-sided monolith in the distance.
Once she had been close enough to see etched hieroglyphs carved into the polished surface. She never made it though and always awoke in a cold sweat that reminded her of long nights dreading the return of the bastard Josh. Intoxicated and wanting to take her any way he could. Memories of the tower faded fast until the next time.
Not that Rebecca always appeared this way, but tonight all the other times and places slipped away and her dreaming thoughts felt familiar determination that this time she would reach her goal. What happened then was not important. Just to get there and let her hands glide over the glass surface, feeling the dips and turns of whatever language was carved within.
Might be tonight was the night. Over the years she had held that thought more than once. The difference was that this dream had ceased to exist the day she carried one half a twin into a staff room in a school that was never quite the same afterwards.
The dreamscape mind concluded that was the day the soul got sucked from the classrooms. Again she never questioned this but accepted it as fact. Here and now the dream was back. Visceral and real with a breeze boiled by the sun flowing across sands and causing hair to slew across her eyes as they focussed on the obelisk.
It felt different. Less uncertain; even Rebecca had whispered “This time” as her mount stretched its vast neck before taking to the skies.
Here her mind was clear. The bunker open and bereft of all the plethora of doubts and voices that cluttered her conscious filling it with doubts casting her into the safe zones.
Where warp cores were ejected and red lights flashed on mental control panels. A place in which Whitaker took her blood and numbers said error, systems failing and mirrors were not her friend.
In the dream she just walked as the tower grew taller. Dragons were real and she had a lifelong friend that never aged.
Strange turn of events. Love in an unexpected twist. The joys of pantsing, or stream of conscious writing. The same could be said of the prison or protection field. Is the Amanuensis long into the future looking backwards at dead worlds ghosts or actually in the time and place where his presence can contest events?
Come to that, whose side is he actually on?
Perhaps the time axis, Z, might shed light…
As always, feel free to pass judgement in the comments section. All words are welcome.