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Song of the Dromannion
The Book of Scars
Atlas of Arborell
The Inquisitor's Lament Version 2
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A Murder of Crows
The Prelate Donemay
When Lovar had finished he paid the Tavernkeeper and returned to the street. After the relative darkness of the tavern's interior he stood for a moment upon the cobbles and let his eyes adapt to the bright sunlight of the early afternoon. Overhead the sky was clear, only a few wisps of high cloud any indication of the weather front the Historian knew was brewing to the north and west. Clear enough, he thought, but he knew that behind the crests of the high shop frontages the clean, white anvil-heads of a storm line were hiding. After his experiences with the Treachersa he was not keen to endure another storm just yet.
Quickly he made his way back to the wharf. The Town Hall bell rang loudly as Lovar approached the Swan's Errant. Not surprisingly Lovar found the Captain in earnest conversation with the crewman who had been following him on his short mission to find something to eat.
"Find a good place for a meal Lovar?" The Captain smiled broadly, his conversation with the other man seeming to confirm the Guildsman's assertion that he was only in Chemblain to see the Prelate.
The Historian nodded in response to the question and Namawe took no time in motioning Lovar to follow him. The Captain set a brisk pace and Lovar could see Namawe wanted the visit to be over as quickly as possible.
"The Prelate Donemay lives in a cottage on the outskirts of town. He maintains a small herb garden and should be found at this time of the day working in his field."
Through the town they walked, past the main street and then out upon the main eastern road. Some ten minutes from the outskirts of Kal Chemblain, Raef Namawe came to a stop, and pointed to a small hedged field to the left of the road.
"Here is the home of the Prelate. You will find his cottage upon the northern side of the field and him probably working within his herb rows. Remember this Tak, he must not know that I pointed you in his direction, nor that he is under protection. I trust that in these matters you will be discrete."
Lovar thanked the Captain and wished him a safe voyage. Namawe looked at the darkening sky and shrugged his shoulders. Such things were always in the hands of Providence he said. Turning, he made his way back to town and was soon gone from the Historian's view.
Alone now the Historian walked beside the high hedge that surrounded the field. It was an imposing thicket of trimmed bushes that provided complete privacy for whoever may live on the other side. He discovered he could not push through its thick greenery so was forced instead to skirt its leafy borders until he found a small gate set within its eastern side. There was no name, nor sign that this was the Prelate's property, but he took Namawe at his word and opened the gate. Inside he found an open half-acre block, intensively cultivated with a myriad of herds and low bushes. To his right stood a small stone cottage and upon the western border of the field Lovar could see a hunched shape, bent low against a row of brightly coloured plants.
Carefully Lovar negotiated the small rows of herbs and vegetables, not wishing to damage anything in his passing. As he moved towards the Prelate he heard the ominous rumbling of the storm. The air had become charged and Lovar could feel the hair on his bare arm standing up in response to its energy. The Prelate himself, also heard the distant grumble and stopped his determined fork work to stare at the sky. Standing, he stretched his back, and Lovar got his first look at the mysterious Prelate; one who was supposed to be dead but was apparently as alive as himself.
He was old, almost withered to a fashion, but he still had strength in his back and arms. Dressed in a drab set of farming overalls and an old brown tunic, he looked as unremarkable as any other farm worker Lovar might have passed unnoticed upon the road. Most surprisingly his hair was still jet black, there was not a scrap of grey, and this intrigued the Historian. Too many times he had looked in the mirror and seen the steady growth of grey through his own hair, and yet he could not be more than a third the age of the old Prelate. Given a chance Lovar determined that he would ask the Prelate about this.
As Lovar moved forward, he caught the eye of the old man, who turned towards him.
"Sorry my friend, I have no produce for sale today, come back tomorrow and you may have better luck."
Lovar raised his hand in greeting, "Prelate Donemay, my name is Tak Malleus Lovar. I have come on a mission of great urgency and bring grave news of a mutual friend, the Tak Mah Horan."
At the mention of Horan's name the Prelate's demeanour changed. Moving forward he stared intently into Lovar's eyes. The Historian could feel the uncomfortable sensation of his mind opening up to a powerful external presence. He had to shake his head to clear it from his thoughts. Donemay grinned at the Historian and took him by the arm.
"If you wish to talk of Mah Horan then it may better be done indoors...away from idle ears and gossiping tongues, eh?"
With that the Prelate steered Lovar towards his modest cottage. Now that he was closer the Historian found Donemay to be an intriguing mix of paradox and mystery. He was old, Lovar could see the passage of long years mirrored in his eyes but his grip was strong, his back still straight. There was a fragility about the man though, a stiffness from joints that had worked far too long and muscles that should have found rest many years before. Lovar looked carefully at the mans face and knew that within his long years he would find the answer to all his questions.
The cottage proved to be small but comfortable, cluttered with the trappings of a farming life. Tools and wet weather clothing hung upon the walls, spades and hoes companions with a number of well-crafted paintings, most depicting local landscapes and characters. As Lovar stepped inside he was almost overpowered by the heady smell of aromatic herbs hanging from the rafters in heavy bunches, and piles of vegetables and mushrooms in large woven baskets. In the centre of the kitchen was a table, set with four heavy chairs and a large arrangement of dried flowers. In his old age the Prelate had made a comfortable home for himself.
Donemay motioned for Lovar to sit, and the Historian took a chair farthest from the door. The Prelate busied himself with a pair of mugs and a jug of sweet smelling cider.
"It has been a long time, my young friend, since anybody has come to my door and uttered the name of the Tak Mah Horan. My earnest hope is that you know of him personally, for I may be old but I am not someone who should be trifled with."
In response Lovar pulled the old Taks insignia from his vest pocket and handed it to the Prelate. Donemays forehead creased as he recognised the ornate medallion for who it belonged to. Weighing it in his hand he turned from the Historian and placed it within his robes.
"Mah Horan was one of my teachers and a good friend," continued Lovar, "and it is because of him that I find myself now talking with someone who the Guild has always maintained was dead."
Donemay smiled, "Perhaps there might be a time when I will tell you that story, but I am not one for small talk. What is your mission, and what news do you have of Mah Horan?
With mug in hand Lovar began his tale. He explained the desperation of the battle at Maenum and the decision of the Synod to send the Dwarvendim to Stoneholme. Quickly he outlined his concerns at the sending of a possible Shardarim to restore the Tellandra and the outcome of his letters to the Guild. At a number of points the Prelate interrupted Lovar with questions and observances of his own. He seemed particularly interested in anything regarding the Dwarvendim and his background.
The worst news Lovar had to leave till the end. With the disaster at Baellum and the loss of Mah Horan the Prelate was visibly shaken. It was a mood underlined by the loud rolling drumbeat of thunder outside.
The Prelate stood up and paced his small kitchen. "You bring with you grave news indeed. The death of Mah Horan is a great personal loss, he was my greatest friend and one of the few Historians who still maintained an open mind regarding the world outside of the Guild. This mission to restore the Tellandra is of much greater import however. I fear that in this circumstance the Synod may have made a serious error."
Lovar rose from his chair, he had questions that needed to be answered. "Mah Horan had followed me from Maenum. It was because of this that he was caught in the storm, and it was his final words that have led me to your door. What do you know about the mission to find the Tellandra that places the Guild in such crisis? Why was he so concerned?"
Donemay took a few deep breaths and considered Lovar. "You are a loyal and disciplined member of the Guild?"
"Yes," replied Lovar.
"Then I need not tell you that what we are about to discuss remains between us?"
"Then you'd better sit down. This is going to take a while."
The Prelate returned to his seat and a frown creased his brow, Lovar could see on his face old memories being dredged back to the surface. Some of them did not appear to be happy ones. When he began it was with another question.
"Lovar, what is the one thing the Guild desires above all else?"
For the Historian this was an easy question to answer, from his earliest days as a novice he had the answer drilled into him. "To acquire a full understanding of EarthMagic and to use its power for the common good."
The Prelate grimaced at his reply, "I thought that might be your answer. Listen carefully Tak. If you are to understand anything that I am about to say then you must believe that the main desire of the Guild since its creation has been the acquisition of power."
Lovar jumped to his feet, a protest upon his lips, but a raised hand from the Prelate silenced him before he could speak.
"I understand your need to defend the Guild but remember something, I was there, I know what we did, and I know why. Forget everything you have been taught and listen!"
The old Prelate sat quietly for a moment. Lovar could see him working hard within his memories, trying to make a complex story as straightforward as possible.
"When the Dwarvendim were conquered by Kalborea we found a treasure trove of artefacts and scrolls hidden within their Temples. None of us knew what they were for, or how they were to be used. All we knew was that somewhere within those Dwarvendim writings lay the secret to EarthMagic, and the power to make Kalborea the greatest nation of all. In those days a small number of us were given the job of interrogating the Dwarvendim LoreMasters and trying to decipher their encrypted records. We had captured all the LoreMasters at the Battle of BorkraagNol, and were sure that it would only be a matter of time before we would get everything that was necessary from them, by either interrogation or torment.
They proved to be stubborn however in their refusal to give over any hint of how they had managed to harness the power of EarthMagic. But we had their records and most of their artefacts. It was felt that it would only be a matter of time before we would have their power in our hands."
"Such was the importance given to the acquisition of this power that the LoreMages, as we now called ourselves, were given great authority. Over the years this power has grown as the people of Kalborea have been led to believe our mastery of EarthMagic has also grown."
"I will tell you now that such mastery has never been achieved. The men we thought were the Dwarvendim LoreMasters proved to be impostors, placed to keep us looking in the wrong places, delving in the wrong directions. Even now it is possible that some of the LoreMasters still live amongst us, but we have never been able to root them out. Their encrypted records have never been deciphered, and as such the sum power of the LoreMages resides in a few artefacts that we have been able to turn to our use."
"It is a hard thing to say, but the Guild had missed the point of EarthMagic from the very beginning. I only realised what was wrong after fifty years of hard work and then, when I finally approached the other members of the Synod with my findings, I was retired without explanation. They were by then more interested in maintaining the power they had built, rather than seeing that our quest for mastery of EarthMagic had been completely flawed."
"You see Lovar, EarthMagic is a life-force, not of the beasts of the earth nor of the forests. It resides deep within the Earth and flows from the very stone of the land itself. You cannot harness it, you can only guide it in the direction you want. To properly master it you must have an affinity with stone; you must understand its form, and its strength, if you are to have any chance of being able to use it. The Dwarvendim have this affinity, we do not. It is as simple and as tragic as that."
The Prelate let his words fade into silence before he continued.
"It was there for all to see from the very beginning we just chose not to look. Even when it was demonstrated before my very eyes I failed to see it for what it was. I believe that we will all soon pay dearly for that oversight."
Donemay moved in his chair, trying to find comfort for old bones.
I remember exactly the circumstances of that demonstration of true power Lovar, just as if it had occurred yesterday. The Dwarvendim had completed the Barrier Wall at Maenum, and on the evening that the final stones were being laid they approached the camp commander to hold a ceremony upon its battlements. They said at the time it was to dedicate the structure to those that had died in its construction. We allowed it to go ahead and I was there when the ceremony was conducted. Not until later did we realise the true intent of the ritual."
"It was a crystal clear night, the moons were high above and their light flooded the fortress. I was upon the High Watchtower and watched as the Dwarvendim went through an elaborate round of speeches and songweaving. As much as anyone else I was spellbound by the grace and beauty of it, and I must say that it came as a complete surprise to me when the first sun began to rise in the east. Somehow the night had passed as if I had been held within a trance. It was then that it happened. At the end of a long series of chants and intonations an old man was brought forward, holding within his closed fist a small glowing piece of blue stone. It shone brightly in the pre-dawn and I immediately shouted down to the guards to retrieve it from him. Before they could get within ten paces he placed the stone upon the wall and it quickly melded into it. From within the wall the same blue light began to glow, spreading outwards from the old man's hand and deep down into the foundations of the fortress. I swear Lovar you could hear the Barrier Wall settling down into the earth like it was being fused with the very bedrock itself. By the time the guards got to where the old man had been standing he was gone, and no amount of torment gave up any further information about him, or his powers."
Again the Prelate paused, but then continued with a firmness in his voice that belied his age.
"The point of this story is that even though the Tellandra had been lost to the Dwarvendim they still had the ability to charge the wall with EarthMagic, to harness a level of power that far exceeded in that one instant all the EarthMagic we have been able to gather in the last hundred years. That energy still holds the wall together today even as it is being assailed by the Horde. We have not come close to that sort of control, even though we have tried."
The Prelate stopped for a moment and looked deep in thought. When he again began to speak his voice was still firm but edged with fatigue and frustration.
"To cut a very long story short Lovar, it is accurate to say that our attempts to harness the EarthMagic have proved futile. But there is a greater issue at hand, one that must be brought to the attention of the Synod. I fear that your letter has stirred old memories within its members, and they may now be realising the folly of their actions. In this matter your fears are well founded Historian. If the Dwarvendim does manage to restore the pillar of stonewood then the LoreMages' Guild will fall."
Given the gravity of the Prelates words Lovars mind raced with questions and a need to understand. The Prelate had to finish his story though. He motioned the Historian to silence and continued.
"We have used EarthMagic as we were able for generations Lovar, but in the process we have corrupted its essence. Once it glowed blue as the morning sky, now it is felt as only a pale reflection of its former potency, and even in my time was shifting away, trying to evade any further use. The EarthMagic itself does not want us to control it and as soon as our link is broken, it will flee from our hands. If the Tellandra is restored its power will shift to the Dwarvendim LoreMasters and their control will be returned. Wherever they are, they will feel the shift and easily be able to take it back for themselves. If this happens then we will have nothing but the ashes of our work to sift through, no power or purpose. We will be spent."
Lovar moved uncomfortably in his seat. He knew there were dangers in the course the Synod had taken, but such consequences were unseen and unwelcome. The worst had still to be told though.
"Now we must come to the consequences of losing control of the EarthMagic." Here the Prelate became hard, there was an edge to his voice that made Lovar tense up.
"Two generations ago there grew to power a Prelate by the name of Vorell. He was a skilled manipulator of the power we had, and over time gained great favour within the Synod. At the height of his career he proclaimed that he had made a great discovery, one that shook the foundations of the Guild."
"Need it be said that our greatest enemy is the Hordim. Through our entire history they have been our most persistent bane and nemesis. Vorell declared that he had found the process by which the Hordim had been created by the ancients and, if given sufficient time, he could determine how to unmake them. This proclamation sent shockwaves through the Guild. The Synod immediately gave him the resources he required, but many of us were not convinced he knew what he was doing. Caution was urged, however the prize of removing the Hordim from Arborell once and for all was too great a temptation."
"For years Vorell and his followers attempted the unmaking of the Hordim, but they were children playing with a power they truly did not understand. It was only when Vorell was found dead, torn to pieces in his workroom, that the true nature of his experimentation became apparent."
"Rather than trying to find a way to unmake the Hordim he had been instead on the cusp of developing a weapon, one so terrible that in the end even Vorell could not control it. He had been creating creatures of his own you see, ravening monsters garnered from the depths of Hordim mythology. They were creatures that would instil terror into the minds of their victims, and which harboured a remorseless need to kill without mercy or hesitation."
"Consider this, he had been experimenting for years but had never been able to succeed. Instead he had created one failed creature after the next, and each, when it was determined to be worthless to his cause, had been bound by EarthMagic to some underground cavern. He left no records of where they were imprisoned, nor any hint of how many may have been created. All we know is that he named them 'Shadows' and felt content to let them fester in their prison, unknown to the rest of the world."
These Shadows Lovar, are tortured creatures of darkness. Not wholly real they exist upon the boundaries of the spectral world as mist and vapours that can kill as effortlessly as any Dragon. We have little with which to defend ourselves against them nor any way to control them if they ever break free. All we could do was shackle them deeper within their nameless prison and hope they faded from our world.
"Now Lovar, the Synod has sent a Shardarim to restore the Tellandra. Desperation to hold Maenum has driven them to try and harness the full power of EarthMagic, but as has been proven so many times before, we do not have the ability to do so. The Dwarvendim are unaware of the existence of the Shadows and will be ignorant of the threat they pose to every living being in the world. If your man Vesh is successful then the shackles that hold the Shadows will be released. Power will shift to the LoreMasters and we will have no further hold upon them. It will not be long before they emerge from their prison, and then we will all be prey to their malevolence. It cannot be allowed to happen."
Lovar sat aghast as he listened to the story that had unfolded. His mind was now filled with the myriad consequences of the Guild's folly, however there was no time left to waste on recrimination.
"Prelate, what must we do to avoid such a disaster?"
Donemay sat quietly for a moment then looked at the Historian earnestly. When he spoke it was with a voice as heavy as the rain-charged air outside.
"In all truth it may already be too late. If however you wish to do something then only the resources of the Guild can help. Travel to Hel'garad Lovar, make the Synod see the folly of their course and remind them of the Shadows. It is better that Maenum falls and we rely on the power of our armies to throw back the Hordim, than have to deal with a threat such as the Shadows. Stop the Dwarvendim from reaching Stoneholme, it is the only chance we have."
"But how do I reach Hel'garad? It is at least a week's travel away, too far to reach quickly. It would take a miracle to get there before the Dwarvendim enters Stoneholme."
Donemay rubbed his face and considered the Historian. He looked like he was sizing him up for a new set of clothes.
Can you ride a horse Lovar?
Yes Prelate, and quite well too, replied the Historian.
Well then there may be a chance after all!
Jumping to his feet the Prelate ran to a large chest that sat squarely in the northern corner of the cottage. Throwing open its brass strapped lid he began rummaging through its contents. Somewhere near the bottom he found what he was looking for. It was a small, palm-sized amulet, gold in colour with a large green gem set at its centre.
With this Sharyah Lovar we may have the miracle we require! Quickly now, we will need to be outside if we are to set our next course!
Without another word he rushed through the door and then disappeared into a small shed that was nestled in behind the cottage. Again Lovar heard the sounds of a search, the Prelate looking for something long buried within its gloomy depths.
Left to himself for the moment, Lovar considered the looming storm. Before him great towers and spires of cloud billowed up. Brilliant white at their pinnacles, they trailed a blanket of rain beneath them, forked blasts of lightning already attacking the ground below.
With a shout of triumph the Prelate appeared again from his shed. He was holding a harness, but it was not for any animal Lovar had ever seen.
"Do you love the Guild Lovar?" His voice was filled with urgency.
"It is my life and duty Prelate. Ask and I will do whatever it takes to save it from itself."
"Good, because you are about to go on the ride of your life."
Riding the Kreal
Holding up the amulet before him, the old Prelate began to chant. The intonation was unknown to the Historian, harsh and guttural it wafted onto the breeze and was soon lost in the rumble of the approaching storm. The Prelate stood tall and energised, suddenly a broad grin grew upon his face.
"When you get to Hel'garad my friend, you'll find more than a few raised eyebrows. By the Fates I'd give anything to be there."
Lovar moved towards the Prelate, "Why not come? Surely we can both go."
The Prelate shook his head. "Believe me, I am too old for this now, anyway your steed will only carry one. And here he comes!"
Pointing directly at the looming stormfront, the Prelate could barely contain his excitement. Lovar peered into the clouds and at first could see nothing. But then a movement caught his eye, it was wings flapping against the bright background of the cloud peaks. When he realised what it was his blood ran cold.
"A Kreal? You expect me to ride a Kreal to Hel'garad?"
The Prelate's grin grew somehow wider, he held the amulet above his head as the wind blew his loose clothing tight about his body.
"Well I said it was going to be the ride of your life. But don't worry, this Hordim Sharyah will give you complete control over the beast as long as you have it in your possession."
Dubiously Lovar watched as the great reptile approached. He had never seen one, only heard of their ferocious nature and their ability to kill with long razor-sharp talons. How could he ride such a creature, let alone direct it to Hel'garad? In his thoughts he had a vision of himself dangling from its reptilian claws. It took a moment to shake that image from his mind.
Closer the Kreal flew, its form silhouetted against the darkening sky. It was a huge flying reptile. Not as big as a Dragon, it had been determined that they were not related to those great serpents, but their long slender bodies and wide, leathered wings gave them the look of such creatures. It was only as the reptile settled to earth in front of the cottage that Lovar could see its head. There was a vacant look in its eyes, but its teeth protruded like knives from its jaw and two long horns extended backwards from its head. It was a fearsome creature.
Donemay immediately ran towards the beast and began throwing the harness over its broad back. As he tightened its strapping he rambled off a series of directions.
"All right Lovar here is a quick course in controlling a Kreal. They can be bent to any direction by pulling the reins from left to right, as you might with a horse, but be mindful of the fact that you are operating in three dimensions. To pull upon the reins together will make the Kreal climb, to pull to one side, and spur the beasts side will make it descend in that direction. To land you must spur it in both sides together. The beast will do most of the work, you need only let it know where you want it to go."
As Donemay finished a great blast of lightning hit the ground not a league to the north. Within seconds a resounding clap of thunder jarred the pair and made even the Kreal wince. There could be no further delay.
The Prelate pushed Lovar onto the creature's back. The Historian sat upon its broad saddle and took a deep breath as Donemay handed him the amulet. Ride for Helgarad. Go to the Synod and convince them of the need to stop the Dwarvendim. If you cannot reach Helgarad in time look to the emurion for our salvation. In the hands of a true Shardarim the stonewood sword is our only defence. Do not let it come to that!
Thunder rolled across the flats of Chemblain as Donemay struggled to keep standing. The Prelate caught his breath and shouted into the wind for the last time.
"Remember Lovar, the Kreal will only be under your control whilst you hold the Sharyah. Lose it and the link is broken, then you will find out how vicious these creatures truly are."
Suddenly another blast of lightning rent the sky. A squall line of wind blustered through the hedges, throwing loose debris into swirling eddies. With one final wave the Prelate slapped the beast upon its haunches and it leapt into the air. At first Lovar was caught off guard, grabbing at the reins the Kreal twisted in the wind unsure of the direction its new master wished to take it, but then the Historian regained his composure and pulled the beast up and to the left. For the moment Lovar only wanted to put distance between himself and the storm and in answer to his directions the Kreal began a slow climb southwards.
As the creature gained altitude the world opened up before Lovar. Behind him the storm sat as a wall of rushing violence, a vast dark cliff-face of cloud. Ahead of him the land was still bathed in sunlight and it was a vista he had some trouble getting used to. Below Lovar could see the Laneslem snaking off to the south-east, Miller's Crossing had disappeared beneath the storm to the north. Das Frontiere would have to be his first point of reference. It should be somewhere ahead.
With each flap of the Kreal's wings the creature rose higher and its speed increased. Carefully Lovar released the pressure he had been applying to the reins and the beast levelled out, the only sound in Lovars ears the rushing of the wind, and the regular beat of its powerful wings. The Kreal made no attempt to break itself from the power of the Sharyah. Caught within its magical bindings the creature remained docile, but it was a wild thing nonetheless. Lovar could feel its powerful muscles straining across its back as it sped through the air and he had no illusion that it would be a fearsome beast if angered. More than the Kreal however, it was the sensation of flight that took his breath away. Never had he travelled at such speed, and as he watched the landscape below he marvelled at how small everything seemed at such great height. It would be an experience he would never forget.
After a time the Historian began to relax, the Kreal kept a steady pace southwards and soon Das Frontiere slipped beneath their speeding shadow. To reach Hel'garad, which was on the outskirts of Das Nephrim to the south, would take the Kreal as least three hours. It would be time enough to reflect on the Prelate's words.
For a while Lovar watched as the ground rolled away beneath them. It was a curious sensation, covering so much distance so quickly. It gave hope to the Historian though, if he could reach the Synod before Vesh completed his mission then surely there was something that could be done. It was his hope and it was all he had. The Prelates final hurried words on the emurion were strange though. He understood the need to reach Helgarad quickly but he had not heard anyone mention the old artefact for years, and in truth did not know if it still existed. The stonewood sword had been a trophy of the battle for Kal Murda some centuries before, and it had proved a great mystery to the Guild. Its secrets had never been uncovered and it had faded from the memories of the LoreMages because of it. What use it could be was unknown to him but the Prelate was no fool. If it had a part to play in what might lay ahead then Lovar would ensure that it did. With the great creatures wings beating rhythmically about him the Historian settled back in his saddle and was soon lost to his thoughts. He could not know that Fate was about to intervene and wrest the destiny of the Guild from him.
Without warning he was jolted from his contemplation as an arc of light exploded behind the fleeting Kreal, knocking the Historian forward, almost dismounting him from the beast. Glancing back the Historians blood ran cold, the stormfront he had been fleeing now bearing down upon him. In the midst of his thoughts he had not noticed the approach of another front from the west, and in their combination the Kreal could not fly fast enough to evade them. Quickly Lovar veered eastwards, but the northern front had also spread, sending lines of cloud into the east as well. Before Lovar could alter course he was swallowed up in the storm and flung within its gales like a leaf upon the wind. Desperately the Historian pulled at the harness trying to force the creature to climb higher, his hope to ascend beyond the grasp of the storm. It was a hope that quickly faded.
The Kreal broke from its trance as a huge flash of lightning smashed through its right wing and sent it into a cascading spiral towards the ground. Lovar realised too late that the Sharyah had fallen from his grasp when he had been pitched forward. He had no control of the beast.
In that instant Lovar knew that these were his final moments. Spinning within the clouds, his senses pummelled by the onslaught of the storm, he tried to make his peace with the Fates. Disoriented and unable to control the beast he held on to the saddle's edge and hoped that if the storm did not kill him, then the Kreal would make it quick. In the maelstrom all hope had suddenly vanished.
Then he saw the ground. Below him stood a grove of Deodar trees, their wide canopy of sloping limbs spinning upon the ground as he watched them rush up towards him. Quickly he looked at the Kreal and realised that it was dead, its neck broken by the strength of the tempest. If he was going to survive then the trees below were his only chance. In one moment of desperation he threw himself from the spiralling beast, falling through the raging gales of the storm towards the spreading trees below. When he hit the upper limbs of the Deodars he felt a crushing impact upon his shoulder and then rolled uncontrollably through their branches to the ground. In this chaos of breaking timber and flailing limbs his last conscious thought was that he hoped it would not hurt when he hit ground. Then everything went black.
The Inquisitor's Lament
Lovar awoke to find himself on his back, half submerged in an icy pool of water left by the storm. At first he could not remember where he was or how he might have come to be there. The pain in his shoulder soon reminded him. It took a while but he was able to roll onto his left side and determine where he had fallen. Close at his right hand was the stand of trees that had broken his fall and apparently saved his life. Ahead of him, probably fifty metres to the south lay the crumpled remains of the Kreal. He did not feel in much better shape.
Carefully the Historian checked himself over. Apart from a ringing headache his injuries proved to be a crushed collar bone, broken ribs and a dislocated right shoulder. He knew immediately that this was more than enough to keep him down. The pain was intense, an ache that drummed within his shoulder and chest. It cleared his head though, each small movement a reminder of his fall and of his lucky escape. He could not remain where he was however. Regardless of the pain he knew he had to get upright, too long prostrate upon the saturated ground would kill him as surely as a sword blade in the back. Nearby stood a small tree, and in his hour of need it would have to be the instrument of his salvation. Carefully he edged his way over and was able to place his back against its trunk, pushing himself upright. The effort sent his head spinning and he fought to remain conscious as he recovered from the vertigo. He knew he was not going anywhere quickly, he had to accept that he may very well die out here upon the plains. At least he was sitting up, and with his right arm cradled in his left he surveyed the land about him.
Judging by his position he had fallen somewhere close to Das Nephrim. In a wide arc the landscape spread as gently rolling hills and grassy plains that extended as far as the eye could see. Only the occasional stand of trees broke the sea of green, and apart from the storm, which had now passed and was receding to the south, he was the only thing moving upon the grasslands.
In that moment of calm the Historian sat without moving. He knew his failure had been almost total, but even at such a time of desperation he was still trying to think of some way that he might be able to salvage the situation. In a fog of pain he succeeded only in realising he was thirsty and in need of food. It was then that he found his pack by his side.
Somehow his pack had survived the fall from the Kreal, strapped tightly at his waist. The shoulder straps were gone, torn off with the force of the fall through the trees, but the waist strap had held. From its interior he foraged a few biscuits and a flask of water, and with these in hand settled back to consider the hopelessness of his quest. He was stuck, well and truly stuck. With his injured shoulder and almost no provisions he would have to somehow make it to a main road and then wait for a ride to Das Nephrim. The numbing throb in his shoulder told him that he would be going nowhere until he could set his broken collar bone. He decided that before he could try that on himself he would need to rest and regain some energy.
Before him the storm continued to recede, and in its wake the afternoon suns broke through the overcast and sent shafts of yellow light through the clouds. Upon the green of the plains it was a beautiful sight, one that Lovar did not feel disposed to appreciate. Then it happened.
In that solitary place Lovar felt a change in the air. The wind died and in the calm that followed the atmosphere became charged with a strange energy. Quickly Lovar placed his water flask upon the wet ground and dug his uninjured hand deep into the moist earth. Something was happening to the EarthMagic, he could feel its energy stirring far below. Reaching out with his mind he searched the bedrock for a sense of the life-force below and found it being drawn westwards to Stoneholme. Perspiration trickled across his face as he tried to delve deeper towards the bedrock of the world, and it was then that he found himself in contact with the power of the Earth itself.
In a flash his mind was filled with a rushing parade of images, smells and colour. He saw the fall of Morgen Orncryst and the smashing of the pillar of stonewood. In a frantic kaleidoscope of shape and sound the history of Arborell crashed through his mind and then fell silent. For a second there was nothing, and then he saw a lone figure rise out of darkness and confront a huge Dragon. In a flash of violence the Dragon died and then out of the void came four words, resounding through the ground as an earthquake might ripple from its source. Naman Tor Varshem Tolluth. The Tellandra was whole again. Lovar had failed.
To the south the Historian could see in the myriad images flowing from the ground the towers of Hel'garad exploding in flame and blue light, the LoreMages of Kalborea falling as fiery embers to the ground. To the north the walls of Maenum strengthened and the Hordim recoiled as they ran from an EarthMagic born anew. And then, at the edge of the western world Lovar stumbled into a pit of darkness. In holes too deep to plumb and behind walls of magic that now crumbled away, something dark and sinister smashed its way from its prison. Hate and malevolence flowed from the entity like water from a broken dam and it rushed outwards, its mission to kill and destroy with a ruthless abandon. Too late Lovar pulled his hand from the ground, a wave of energy pounding into his senses, toppling him backwards onto the wet earth. Without any further strength to give he laid still, his mind whirling in a spiral of semi-consciousness. In pain and confusion he writhed upon the grasses and tried to escape his torment, hope now gone, his body spent. It was in this time of despair that the words of his old teacher Mah Horan came back to haunt him. It was curious that he should remember them now but it seemed strangely appropriate. It had been something that had been told to him many years before, and it rang in his ears as clearly as the day it had first been spoken. Horan had called it the Inquisitor's lament and the old Tak's words echoed in Lovar's thoughts as he fell into unconsciousness.
"Lovar", he had said, "We are blessed by providence in that we may record truth and strive to make sense of the world. Great happenings pass before us and we write them down. Great questions are asked and we quest for their answers. But Lovar, when all is said and done we are just bystanders in the world. In the end we change nothing."
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JOTUN OF THE WEST
Shards of Moonlight
A Murder of Crows
The Horns of Gorgoroth
Slaves of Creation
The Book of Scars
CHRONICLES COMPANION SERIES
The Inquisitor's Lament
Honour Amongst Thieves
The Last Stone King