These undead beings, more akin to the Draugr folks that live in the deepening world south of their realm, exist in both a machine nature and a spiritual nature. I personally do not know what to make of this. Why would anyone want and more to the point, how would they get it an artifact from them, is beyond me. The Noricduimn exist in the ruins to the far north and no one knows where they or their dark aligned magic comes from. But the Noricduimn are not to be trifled with. They jealousy guard their technology with ferocity that I have never seen from any other races including the orcs. I guess they fear it would bring about the end the world. Not for me to say.
As for the wizard whereabouts, I’m already sure she doesn’t know. At the time, she had no reason to keep an eye on him. How could I hold a lack of foresight against someone? I would send word of this device, but I rather find the wizard whom I’m certain is responsible. But assuredly, he has flown the coop, like the hen from the fox. Except in this case there are a great many foxes with mouths full of razor-sharp teeth. For now we’re force to seek rumor of the wizard. At this point, I will take any good news and knowing he existed has got to count for something. It adds purpose to are quest that it has surely been lacking. Knowing is half the battle, after all. I feel before now, that we’ve been wandering aimlessly.
The life of a wizard is a harsh one and I’m not ignorant to this fact. As young children, wizards feel that there is something wrong with them. Their powers manifest at random as their body begins to tap into the well spring of magic. It will be several years after the first signs of latent power before they learn to control it. During this time they attract all manner of magic seeking monsters, human exploiters, and trouble in general. God forbid they breech the veil between our world and the void. Demon possession is all too common. It’s surprising that any of them mange to survive the harsh conditions required to become a wizard, especially one so adapted to the techniques. Even as a adults, they’re mistrusted and attacked for no reason. Some wizards grow too powerful and let their abilities go to their head. They are eventually killed or consumed by the dark creatures that seem to haunt the dark recesses of the world.
Winter’s embrace, 277
There has been absent of excitement. I have seen no sign that the creatures are harmed in anyway by the biting cold, but I have a hard time to believing how peaceful winter has been is a coincidence. Earlier this week, I have received word from Advincie. The next part is taken from that letter and is Advincie’s own words taken directly from letter.
I’ve done as you have asked and continue to peruse rumors of the wizard. I’ve even contact the Wizard Asylum, Templar’s of Hawk Thorn Council, and the Order of the Blighted Robe. Despite the Blighted Robe’s uneasiness towards me, they we’re not happy to see me to say the least, they told me where they would go in his position. In their own words: They would avoid the mass of refugees fleeing north and head west towards the wilds during the commotion; more than likely taking the wheat and barley road west. The road is primarily use by farmers taking their wares into the markets and leads deeper into the wilds. I started my search in the fields between Burr’jo and Luxenberg. During the day, we asked around the nearest village. One of the local merchants remembers selling provision to someone resembling the description. Upon the cover of darkness, we contacted the rangers to the west to track him down. Even with their legendary tracking abilities, neither a score nor a sign of this wizard was found. He had seemingly vanished into thin air. A man can’t stay hidden forever. He needs food to keep his famished stomach from rumbling, water to keep up his strength, and rest to keep up his stamina. I’ve enlisted the aid of scouts and woods men to help in the pursuit. No one can hide forever.
Three days pursuit and the trails picks up out of nowhere. A decrepit hunched over elderly man wearing a cloak with a hood was seen moving with unnatural speed towards the Frost bellow’s hollow. It’s a passage that leads to accursed field, a barren place in particularly lush forest. Nothing will grow there and many theorize magic must behind it. I do not believe it’s a coincidence that he seeks this place. The rangers set up an ambush between the hollow’s exit and the accursed field. I and several guards blocked off the entrance. The man must have known about the trap because he came out to meet us and offering no resistance, almost as though he was expecting us.
His letter ended there with some truly great news. I was land locked in by Mother Nature herself. She would not rebuke for all just causes in the world. So she hammers away at are little bastion. Every gate out of town is blocked by six feet of snow. We have no idea how long we would remain stuck here. At least two feet of snow has collected in the streets. No one has seen the sun for the last couple of weeks. We’ve been force to use rubble or tear down houses for fire wood. It’s been a harsh winter’s embrace but it does provide reprieve from the attacks. We all know it’s only matter of time before they start again. Food hasn’t been scares, but some of them men still wanted to tempt fate by eating the creature. The meat under their hard-shell proves to be both nontoxic and tender, but regardless, I wouldn’t eat it.
Winter’s embrace, 291
The blizzard has parted allowing Men to be lowered over the walls by a rope and pulley system to dig out the gates. I want to personally oversee the interrogation of the wizard. I’ve had too much time to sit and think. I will not wait until spring to react.
I had road for another seven days by horseback on the gold road. After the seventh day, the weather cleared and I reached the ancient highway that leads to the road of kings, from there I went straight to the capital, Altnirianda. (altneer-ian-da) Despite the deep rooted chill, the land fell much more tolerable.
The first sight of my ancestral home is the shinning wall made from polish stone that surrounded the outskirts stretching off into the horizon. The impressive architecture is tall as a mountain and was a fair sight to my eyes. As my horse neared the walls, I didn’t slow down. I kept up hurried pace. I could see the royal guards posted outside of the city walls. Though they were on duty, many if not all of them were engaging in merriment. You could clearly see the guards were playing cards, chess, or cooking food over a campfire while drinking. Because of their ceremonial nature, we weren’t too strict on what they did during their shift. The guards were wearing the traditional royal outfit: dull grey steel plate mail covered by a bright red overcoat and over lapping draperies. The first soldier who saw me approaching nearly dropped his mead. With an embarrass look across his face partially hidden behind his helmet, he stands at attention as I pass him. I regret not returning a gesture of gratitude, but I was in a hurry.
The man I found inside the holding cell had a ghastly skeletal face that made his prominent cheek bones seem even larger. He had a square jawline formed from a very thin jaw connecting to a broad chin with patches of scraggly hair. His eyes seem to swivel around in his head. There wasn’t a single man who didn’t know my name in all of Altimier. Yet this man acted as if he didn’t know me. I started talking with an even tone trying to quickly gain control of situation, “Can you tell me your name?”
“Names? What names?We have no need for name.” His answer right away took away any momentum and put me off balanced. He simply was either a master of deflection or was so mentally deficient that he was unable to maintain the current topic. Regardless, the man avoided the conversation. What did he mean saying he had no need for names? It made no sense to me.
“We,” I said still surprised by the sudden shift in the conversation but still trying to keep conversation on the topic.
“Yes,” the man replied. He was sitting quietly on the bed in the cell and was directly paying attention to me. I must admit it was little infuriating.
I saw an opportunity to out think my opponent, “How do you tell him apart without a name?” The man seems to stop and think about this.
“I never needed to introduce him.” He points to the person he was referring to. The only problem is the person didn’t exist and he was pointing to empty part of the cell. “He is the great instructor. I wanted to be ballerina but ended up an engineer.”
“I never feel like you should give up on your dreams. What stopped you from perusing the musical arts?” The man turns his head and it seem like it would snap.
“Father says men don’t peruse the performing arts, that’s a woman’s job. No son of his would be dancer. He would be a disgrace to the family.” The wizard snickers, “Mom agrees with me, but only behind his back.” Of all the topics, this is the one he is comfortable talking about. I had to chuckle in my head. “It didn’t matter, weird stuff starts happening and father sends him away.”
“Did he help you to become the engineer? Is that how you built the spheres?”
“The mouth of madness infinitely couldn’t be understood, extrapolated from a sea of ignorance. I was an apprentice engineer following faltering lines of reason. Did I make any big discoveries? No he did not. I failed papa again. Then the instructor comes and takes all the sanity away. Then I build the device and I’m famous. Papa not mad anymore.”
“So papa liked these spheres?”
“No,” in a hushed voice suddenly sounding sad and far away “papa is dead. Big nasty take him away.”
“Does the big nasty like the sphere,” I ask trying to force the issue?
“No, no,” he says “Not like that. The music and tempo is all wrong. Big nasty come through the door and eat mama and papa. The world can’t sing without the pulse of a quickening heart and the world can’t be so bold when it’s so cold. You feel so alone, that one last old bone. You’re so far away and that is where you’ll stay. No, no, keeps those away.”
“I ran into such a strange thing. It’s a large glowing circular sphere, have you seen it?”
For once the man seems to focus and stares at me with great intensity, peering beyond his bushy eyebrows. “Rufus made those. The old ones warned him that something is coming and showed him how to build it.”
“Who was Rufus,” I ask, but already knowing the answer. Rufus was the instructor, the thing that brought in his own words, the big nasty to eat his mom and dad.
“He is a loner,” he says focusing on me, “Yess, yes, maybe I can’t but why red? Left socks can’t go right.” From how intensely he was staring at me, he clearly was expecting me to understand. But I got nothing out of his words. I waited a minute before repeating my line about Rufus.
“You can only boil your sock for a week before they taste bad.” I face palmed and began rubbing my temples to ease the pain brought about by my frustration. I like to think of myself as a patient man. Every parent knows raising a child will test your patience, but this was worse. If he was faking his mental illness, he sure was doing a good job. Maybe his line about performing art was a half-truth. He could easily have been an actor. I needed a break badly and felt my patience at its breaking point. As I tried to leave the room, he grabs my sleeve and screams, “don’t let them take my socks.” How do you get mad at something that downright confusing? I was so taken back that I just stood there staring at him seemingly forgetting how to use my mouth. I was completely perplexed.
When I finally regained enough intelligence to form coherent thought in my head, I pushed him off of me. As I started leaving the room, he started chanting. Slow at first, so that he didn’t mix up the words. Once the chant was complete, he would start over. The begging went like, “Long ago in a forgotten time, long ago was a forgotten crime. A shadow once slept, now the shadow wept. The tears from pain, tears from the slain. Broken I’d known, broken I shown. Search for the shadow, you must look to the past, deep and vast. Where it lies, is deep and cold with only the memories of the old. Where the shadow lie until the old world die.”
I returned to spend a few hours saying nothing and listening to more puzzling rhymes. He seemed to be constantly mentioning a shadow long ago left behind for someone to find.
“Who to find,” I nearly screamed but managing to stop myself. “What happen to the town?”
“I worked long, I worked hard. I was bound to the schedule of lord Dyrphas who had errands to run, but ended up staying. They needed help, so he ended up using his magic to help. Once a man came a calling, but no one could acknowledge his voice because no one could hear his words or see his face. Dryphas didn’t believe because he is a religious man. The man told Dyrphas to help and at first, he didn’t listen. He fought the instruction, he fought to prevent. Then Rufus tell him something: he would have to sacrifice everything to save the mortals. I warned Dryphas not to listen. Yes, yes. The voice can’t be trusted. He was warned that no army would stand against the rising tide. I begged him to choose another.”
“Rising tide? What rising tide,” I asked? “You brought the rising tide here, you caused it.”
“No, no, not the big nasty. The rising tide of sorrow isn’t here yet. Rufus’s warriors were our only hope. But poor Dryphas was tricked. The warriors had destroyed Dryphas village and killed and ate his poor, poor family.”
“Now they move unabated, killing and destroying. They’re bringing ruination to anything that stands in their way.” I guess the man’s fragile mind could stand hearing my words because he crawls into a fetal position. Quite suddenly the man starts started screaming and crying. Something had frightened him, but I couldn’t figure out what. He starts pointing at the left corner of the cell. At this point, I was starting to feel exhausted. I’ve had enough of this endless run around. Something caught my attention, a feeling of dread I haven’t felt since the marshes. I could sense something was watching me.
The wizard was screaming, “It’s the man with no face and a voice without words.”
I grabbed his shoulder. “Look at me,” I screamed. He looks at me. “He is real. I sense him too. Don’t listen, remember the city, remember Belthore. Remember all the people killed.”
“Yes, yes, he wants us to build the bridges that would let them enter our world, but he is a trickster, false. You lied to me. You told me I’d be saving this world. So many dead!”
“Help me to stop this,” I said resting my hand on Dryphas’ shoulder.
“You can’t,” he replies between wet sobs as tears rolled down his cheek. “My knowledge, it only comes from my dreams. He comes for you, gnawing on your mind, the incessant whispers.”
“Focus,” I said sternly “how do we stop this?”
“We can’t,” he replied glumly.
I fell dead silent for a long time. I think for the first time the wizard look worried, like some part of his sanity returned. I had an idea at that exact moment, a terrible idea that came with great risk and little chance to survive. The very idea made my blood run cold and made me queasy. Every time my mind focused on the idea, I felt like I was about to vomit. Every time I encouraging myself, goat myself into going through with the idea. Time and time again, I failed. I began to speak out loud to no one, but the wizard obviously heard me. “There must be a way. We can go to the source. If it’s a bridge, it must have two ways of travel.” I got up and rushed out of the room heading to the throne room …
“Advincie send word to my men before my departure. Make ready for travel.” He gave me a discouraging look.
“What will you do?” My adviser asks with a nod making no deception to hide his concern.
“The portal is a bridge between here and somewhere else. If we can’t shut it down from our end, maybe we can shut it down from the source.”
There are so many painful memories of your mother. Me and your mother didn’t fight, we had a completely normal relationship. I never once raised a hand to her or even yelled at her. The pain comes from the amount of times that I was away from home or too busy being a great king to be a great husband. The rule of law is not without sacrifices. The ones you love are the people who get sacrificed. I pushed her away time and time again. If I was gone a year or day, it didn’t matter to her. “Honey your home,” she would say running up to hug me with the brightest smile. You’re but a baby nestled in her arms and nothing could rob that joy from her. She told me that night that I was fighting to keep you safe. It’s why she forgave me, because every time I was away, I was fighting to keep you alive. I’ve succeed time and time and time again. The amount of foes I’ve slain too numerous to count.
That night was a bitter reunion for me, because I knew how guilty I was. I might as well have been branded with a hot iron, it was so obvious. You were cooing softly trying to take neckless dangling from your mother’s out stretched hand. Everyone says your mothers has a beautiful smile, but wait until you see her really smiling. It will light up the room. It’s easy to forget the back story behind me and your mom. I fear I won’t have time for it later, but I must stay on topic. Why do I bring your mom into such tales? I want you to know how brave and how strong of a woman she was.
I took seat on a couch and sat beside her just watcher her play with you. It was just such an innocent act free of malice and deceit. It helps to forget everything that has happened up until now; whether it was the people lost or the bitter cold winter chilling very life from your blood. Eventually, she puts you in the crib and sits beside me. She looks me in the eye and asks where I was off to. I wanted to lie and hide what I was about to do. Most of all, I want to stay here, holding her in my arms. I ended up doing none of it.
“As a king, I’m asked to do things I regret. But what I regret most of all is leaving your arms. I regret taking the chance of leaving you here alone and leaving my son without a father.” I had practiced and used this speech many times. By the entire pantheon of the old gods, I wish it wasn’t true. What I have to do is ludicrous as it’s absurd. “I’m going into the portal. All this time, we have fought on our side, on our ground. Now we take the fight to them.”
She patted me on the leg saying, “Every battle you promise to come home, every battle you have come home. Scars do not count. You will return from this as well.” She was correct taking in consideration foresight. But how did she remain so strong knowing any day could be the last? I stayed with her for the rest of the night discussing the most mundane things and then left by sun rise.
Eric was waiting for me by the gate and his concern was obvious. “So what did you learn,” The Marshal was quick to ask as soon as my horse came to a stop.
“You mobilize the men?” I was so focused on the portal that I almost didn’t hear him.
“What did you learn,” he repeated. I climbed off of my horse tying the reigns to a post and set off.
“Their bridges,” I said walking past him.
“What do you mean bridges?” I barely can recall hearing him say it. But looking back I do remember.
I didn’t even break my stride but I said louder, so my voice didn’t fade, “There a bridge between this world and another. They’re created to allow the creatures to pass into our world. If they can do it, so can we.”
I could see him run up beside me out of the corner of my eye. “This is crazy. We have no idea what’s on the other side. It could be a trap for all we know.”
A familiar voice joined the conversation, “So what if it is? The creatures have shown no sign of stopping. Should we just stay here until they sack the kingdom?”
I recall completely ignoring the argument and getting strait to the point. “Are the supplies ready?” They both gave confirmation. “Then shut up, we need to crossover immediately.”
Within hour the troop were assembled and we were staring at uncertainty. Uncertainty of our success, uncertainty of our survival, uncertainty of what awaits us on the others side.
Eric gave one final warning, “Are you sure of this?” I wasn’t. In fact, I was hesitating to go inside. It was precisely these moments that made me regret being the king. When I was a boy the uncertainties kept me up at night. At first, it was coming home and finding them dead. Now it was me never coming home and leaving behind a widow and a son without a father. Will this be my last time? That weak good bye I gave to my wife, will it be the last time we’ll ever speak? Every year my mission becomes more outlandish as the stakes and the risks grow larger. In a world of magic the stakes were always high. I took a deep breath and with a single step, I was inside.296Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡOMruH6Uyhvns184.108.40.206da2