Discover the 700 year old secret millions died to protect.
An ancient puzzle box.
Fourteen mysterious letters.
A Council of Whispers.
…and a clerk.
My Beloved Ethany,
I am sorry it has taken so long to send you news. Please don’t worry, for I am safe. Thankfully, I received word from Aiden that you all had, indeed, arrived unharmed, which comforted me. I pray your travels went well and that the girls believe this to be nothing more than a family excursion.
The six days and nights past have been much occupied in deep council. A neuvo-kuisa they call it. To my surprise, in this grand body gathered by High King Gaston and Queen Älodiä, more than just the human race is represented. I recognized Kimmeldell the Bold of the Kutollum, the Evolu, the Iskäri and even the reclusive Nocturi.…and one other.
Of all the people to find, Charles is here. Just when you think you know your friend. He is blessed to claim the confidence of the crown and I soon discovered it was he that recommended me for this task. He shared my blighted history with the council even though the others of our Order scowl at me. No doubt they seek vengeance for my sacrilege against magic.
Ethany, things are so much worse than I have imagined. I did not see the shadow that hovers over the entire world. The Kingdom, our allies, the very world…is on the brink of ruin. Mahan has challenged every nation of light. Countless have died. Spies report that the Dark Lord is now gathering his forces to wage his greatest campaign of bloodshed against Andilain. The hills of Äsä-Illäriu are aflame, the Holy City of Väthinerä invaded and even now the Evolu and Nocturi flee to our lands for safety. No race can hope to stand alone against the crushing blows of the enemy. The Kutollum to the north and our own people remain free…for now.
The Kings are fierce and we have been enlisted by none other that the Hero, himself. This evil must be stopped. But it will take great sacrifice. Not of money, but of life. What they ask has never been done and it seems impossible.
As I first feared, the Council is aware of my experiments in the halls of magic and that is why I am here.
Ethany, it is at this time I miss you most dearly. You’ve always encouraged me and been a strength through the years. Your wisdom, your gentle counsel would be of precious value to me right now. But here I must decide what is best for my family alone…and this is a most difficult decision. This isn’t about the country, or the land, or the King’s wishes. This is about you, my beloved. This is about Saffron and Melody and keeping you each safe from the evil that is approaching us. The evil that will surely find us if it cannot be stopped.
I can help. They do not know what I have been working on, but you do. They don’t realize the progress I have made in secret and how much can be accomplished with the right assistance and tools. They need me, Ethany. The war could be turned by the skills of a simple mägo clerk. So, I pray for your patience and understanding.
I could not protect you if I were to come home. We could run for a time, but the tide of war will speedily find us, I am sure of it, as it devours the lands, and then what? Where would we go? How would we live when all we knew has been ravaged by darkness and ceased to be?
A royal guard will be dispatched to you within a fortnight. They will escort you to our home that you may collect our belongings. There is a stronghold in the East, in Bailish. You will be safe there. The Queen has vowed to me that she will keep you and the girls safe. Safer than you would be with me. This war will soon bring bloodshed to our doorsteps, my love. Only upon her solemn vow did I consent.
My dear, I also informed the Queen that you have experience tutoring in the House of Lords so that you may have means of support until I can return for you.
Listen carefully, Ethany—remove the floorboards under my chair by the fire and the second red cornerstone of the hearth. You will find my journals and rune scrolls. Give them to the Captain and he will bring them to me.
Be brave, my love. I know it is a great sacrifice but this is the only way. I promise to work with haste and diligence and to be with you before the snow falls next season.
Hug the girls for me. Tell them that Papa loves them and not to grow too much before I come home. Pray for me as I will for you.
All my love,
My first clue. High King Gaston and Queen Älodiä were two of the greatest rulers in human history. Gaston being the son of a human and Älodiä being the noble daughter of the Evolu. I have a time frame. 5871s-6017s. These letters are at least 700 years old.
Few records exist from this point in history. The documents concerning the great conflicts of the nations against the Dark Lord are written with bias favoring the race of the writer.
Also, it was a focused tactic in times of war to cripple the future generations of an enemy by destroying their records when found. Journals, histories, church records, genealogies, anything that gives a people solid roots to build on and pass onto the next generation. Because if you lack the accurate history of your people to draw upon, seeds can be planted and a nation can not only be polluted, it can be undone.
Which makes these letters invaluable.
It’s so hard to discern the truth until you can isolate common patterns.
However, there is one prevailing pattern in all the scattered histories of the races concerning this time period. Every nation of the world was in turmoil. Mahan was doing a sweep of the globe to either dominate or exterminate. His forces had become so numerous, he could dominate the field of battle by numbers alone—the war of Sharu, against the Nocturi, spoke of an army so vast, it outnumbered their own 300 to 1. In fleeing the field, scribes recorded the terrifying sight of the enemy falling upon the dead, rending them with their teeth and consuming them as food.
I read the letter again, my eyes halting when I saw ‘rune scrolls’. I didn’t know what to make of this at first and was actually disappointed. Really? Rune scrolls? rune lore is folklore. I must say that I believe all lore is probably based on a truth somewhere. I think that’s why I’m good at my job. Believe everything until you prove it otherwise. Anyway. Anything I have found throughout my career has been little more than children playing pretend with magic drawings or decrepit old bards singing songs of Runelords who all died of a debilitating disease. I mean, come on.
The dwarves do tell more interesting stories of warriors who wore the runes and were so fierce and powerful that a single armored titan could bring down an enemy’s army unaided. Or that placing runes on their swords or axes would make it so they could slice through stone unhindered. Or their enchanted armor would allow them to walk through dragon’s fire without singeing a single hair of their beard. Poppycock, I know. But they sure do make the stories entertaining.
There’s also been the odd heretic throughout history claiming rune lore is real but somehow all record of them disappears…or never existed in the first place…and therein lies the tales of rune lore being a dark and evil magic. Nobody really knows. Nobody really understands.
And neuvo-kuisa? I wasn’t familiar with that term and nothing came up on the Fishis Archive Database (F.A.D.), so I would have to dig deeper. Maybe hunt for the language roots.
This Eamon was at the center of that time, in ‘deep council’ with the greatest minds and leaders of that generation. Setting runes aside, it still lends credit to him. Which makes me curious about what experiments a mägo clerk was performing in secret—especially ones that would get the disapproval of his Order? One of the heretics?
…or just a clever loon?
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