“The Vault is like many things. Wars 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 two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
This is another entry for this months
BLOGBATTLE prompt word Eschaton
DRAGON STONE: THE VAULT
The three Key Masters convened an hour before the summons of the Assassins Guild Master, Lord Cresswell.
“Jeremiah, have you learned anything about the crow prophecy?” The Amanuensis added flame to candles on a large table inside the Vault’s antechamber.
“Nothing at all exists in the Guild libraries I’ve visited thus far. No written word or hearsay. Blank looks return each question upon the subject.” The scribe never felt less in awe at the enormity of the rooms within the Vault. It gave him anxiety. Why build something on such a scale for people? Were the Elder Mages giants? And if so, how would they gain entry through the door? Even the antechamber was carved in immense detail. Much of it was dragon based, suggesting once they were common and enmeshed with the Elders.
The Arch Mage looked from one to the other. A slow glance as he read each aura. They had gained access so must all be in the same temporal phase. Either that or the Vault was now safeguarding such fluxes. “And what about here? Have you searched the known archives within yet?”
“No,” Delalande replied, “that will take time we do not have unless there is a way to narrow the scale down.”
“My own explorations suggest there may be. There are scrolls describing how scholars once searched the archive with ease. There is a mechanism enabling speech and modified scrying orbs to locate information. We are but novices even now.”
“Then how do you know of changes in history?” Jeremiah aimed this at the Amanuensis.
“A side effect of my tenure. If it occurs alarms sound in the Time Library. I’m am instantly aware of when and where to search the outside archives for the transgression. These provide the coordinates required to dispatch the Monks to redress the interference.”
“I still find this principle of operation beyond my understanding. A library that knows all history, writes it as it occurs and monitors its own archive for changes invoked through chronomantic interference. Outside of this place it’s bordering absurd.”
Mortain half smiled. “That is why you are the scholar and the Amanuensis is the librarian, for want of a better term. Personally I think you grasp more than you reveal Jeremiah.”
“Caution is never to be underestimated if ones ambition is not to be proven a fool.” Delalande let his hand flow across some relief carvings. There was an immediate side effect.
Information fled into his mind as if conscious thought spoke to him through the wood. Dragons were dying by the score. Dökkálfar and men closing into the base of a cliff. None took flight save for a mighty beast hewn in black spewing fire across the hordes below. On they came like a raging inferno blown by the winds. These were the sacred grounds where dragon kind came to die. The Black was the keeper and inflamed by wrath at the intrusion. Melted flesh drooled across the fields and still they came. Riders hacked from their wyverns as arrows fell like rain. If only they had taken flight then the massacre would be to the intruders. But they refused. Not here, this was the ground of their ancestors. Upon their dead bones did these serpents cast away life. Corralled against the cliffs that had stood for millennia.
The Black soared in circles until exhaustion crippled it’s flight. From a watch den high upon the cliff wall did it witness it’s own kind butchered. The blood of dragons flowing like water. The Elder Mages fleeing to a portal resting at the base of the mountain. Too few remained to make a difference now. Delalande felt eyes rest upon him. The Black knew of him. They come scribe.
Jeremiah staggered backwards. Matters escalated in his mind. “The Vault is sentient.”
“Say again,” said the Arch Mage.
“The Vault is aware. It has shown me the meaning of these carvings. I was touched by the past as if it were the present.”
“Your demeanour suggest the insight was unpleasant,” observed the Amanuensis. “However, the conclusion is something more disturbing.”
The Arch Mage nodded. “To suggest the Vault is sentient changes matters. All these decades being blissfully unaware, discussing openly in secret when a new entity is potentially listening to all.”
“Is there a reporting structure do you think?” The Arch Mage had a tendency to slip straight to the point.
Jeremiah still felt faint. Was sentient the right word? What had really happened? The touch was more a memory of an event and yet those eyes had seen him. Swirling and hypnotic. The images of death haunted his waking mind. So much gore. Fortunately the sound was missing so he’d escaped the noise of battle and death. Thankfully so was the smell. The most haunting feeling was loss. Had he really witnessed the end of a species save for the great black wyvern? Why had it not grounded and died with the rest of it’s kin? Did it still even now hold vigil in this foreign time.”
“I sense there is more to tell Jeremiah,” the Arch Mage spoke softly.
“There was a battle, the end of species, a genocide. Men and elves united to exterminate dragon kind. They all fell save one. A mighty beast, exhausted as it tried to protect a sacred graveyard of dragons. It spoke to me.”
The Amanuensis came closer. “What did it say?”
Delalande looked up at him, “They come scribe.”
Both Arch Mage and librarian exchanged a glance. This was more than a transfer of memory. Delalande was not prone to fabrication. If this was his interpretation then there was nothing suggesting he was not being honest.
“Arch Mage, a word if you please.”
Both Amanuensis and Arch Mage moved deeper into the chamber. Sconces flickered as they approached another doorway. Neither had considered how the illumination appeared as they walked until now. They left the scribe where he was. A nod from his shaken body indicating understanding before he turned back to the carvings. This time touching it with his eyes and keeping his hands well clear.
Beyond the second oak door was what might have passed as a reception chamber. From it there were two other doors. One leading to a descending stairwell and the other to a recreation room lined with scrolls. Marble topped stone tables sat where they always had. Once scholars might have used these for extended research in solitude. The Amanuensis had examined many of them already and made copies of those he needed to spend time pondering and place in his own library. Others Delalande had read. It struck him that neither had really shared their labours properly. Part time, and part scale of the chambers contents.
“I fear all we now know is about to fade Arch Mage.”
Mortain let his hand pass over one of the table surfaces. Hard and polished, but tinged with a faint heat that appeared at his touch. Another mystery they glossed over and simply accepted.
“We have guarded this place too tightly Amanuensis. It was designed to be used and we have misunderstood things.”
“A culture of somnambulism I fear. Moving through time expecting all to continue unabated. Underestimating what they had, not learning to use resources well and failing to see the future despite warnings.” He stared at the scroll banks. “So little have these been explored. This is but one room, there are hundreds, if not thousands, as one descends into deeper levels. How could we be so foolish?”
“A statement reiterated throughout eternity Amanuensis. Has any civilisation expected the end? Sooner or later this discussion loops as the realisation that yesterday is gone and a new dawn brings another dark age.”
“Aye, and here we are, but I sense this philosophical debate is not why you called me aside.”
The Arch Mage sighed. “Jeremiah is distracted. I sense his research is far deeper than he lets on. That might have already been at great cost. Has he often wandered through the Vault alone?”
The Amanuensis gave this some thought. “It is his nature to seek out what went before. To try and pass the lore onto acolytes in some vain hope that history won’t repeat itself. There is growing fear amongst Guild Masters that elder artefacts are to be shunned. That they created their own downfall by wandering too far from the path through which life flows.”
“Gods and ignorance. Whatever collapsed the old ways was not a result of knowledge, more likely poor dispatch of its teachings. After what just happened I believe there is now more seer in our scribe. If what he was shown has any significance then this place can search through history and allow one to commune with its players.” The Arch Mage glanced up through the rim of his spectacles. If his idea is correct then there may well be a way to change events from far in the future.
Time was now a precious commodity.
Creswell inhaled the cold night air, satisfied his live dream had not yet come into being. It was a relief. There was still time to unlock the puzzle before an eschaton entered this reality. He pondered this on the way back into his chambers. This reality or all realities? Could the release of the crow really undo all history and set up a new timeline where darkness ruled?
Again he considered his trade. Not for the first time did he suspect this could be the ultimate assassination. A re-writing of history across all planes of existence. Everything in the now simply ceasing to be.
Then there was his role in things. Was he here by some grander design or not? The live dream had given him food for thought. Had he always been here or traversed a temporal flip that had written him into this worlds lore? If so, why? Did the key masters know, or accepted he was of this place? Maybe he was and the live dream was a false flag luring him into creating that which might cause the fall of everything. In this he could only trust in facts, of which there were few. The dream spoke of a fallen keep and a terrain of ice. The Vault incomplete with its tower missing. He was not known for prophetic dispositions.
“The crow,” he spoke aloud. It conferred decision and self belief. A purpose. If time was about to collapse then he needed to find out what exactly the prophesy related to and whom. His eyes scanned the room. Despite his attention to detail there was always a chance of overlooking something. He was certain of all the Keeps rooms this one was secure from spying holes. A by product of being Assassin Guild Master. Longevity was rare. This did not happen by accident.
Blacksmith, have you calmed your mind?
Wayland stared into the darkness. He could smell wood rot and decay. Time didn’t matter. He should be dead. Had they not buried him and performed the last rites? Or was that some ancient dream? He remembered the sensation of dream walking. A cliff where a large beast circled overhead. A place where he held an enchanted sword and a stone of obsidian looking glass. An intense black. In his hand it felt ice cold, but as his palm closed a pulsating energy passed up his arm.
That and a daisy that rotted below his boot had all gone unnoticed until it was too late. Which world had that been in? There had been a girl too. She meant more, he was certain.
Fool, have you forgotten everything?
The voice again, resonating deep in his skull. It sounded familiar.
“You’re not real,” he replied.
The voice receded. He could still feel it watching though. Blood red eyes boring into his mind. Blood, he thought. He could smell that in the priest who declared him dead. Visualise the pump that drove it round a body of flesh.
A sensation rippled up his arm. The first he had felt since the day he was cast down the slope as his world atrophied. The cold he remembered now, and the pulsating throb.
Impressive blacksmith, despite everything you have summoned the stone at last.
“What do you mean wyvern?”
The memories will return now the madness has passed.
His arm felt warm. “How long Dragon?”
“And this stone, what is it?”
Mine, what you hold is the Black Dragon Stone.