“In the days of the Empyrean, slavery and blood sacrifice were tolerated and even encouraged taints on Gaia. The mage lords, corrupted by greed and blood magic, reigned with iron fists and punished with torture in the headsman’s stead. The people were plunged into chaos for three hundred terrible years.
“Then… a light of hope appeared in the darkness. Young Kalehvar Trynt led a vast Rebellion alongside his cohorts Lady Sylanna and Sir Baylen Khyl, rallying the oppressed people against the cruelty of the Empyrean. With the aid of the ancient and mysterious winged serpents, the wyverns, Kalehvar Trynt rode at the Rebellion’s front lines and triumphed in battle after battle, taking back lands from the Empyrean’s throttling grasp. He beheaded the mage Lord Talabars Oalthe himself, and ordered the lesser mage lords and their magic weaving kinsmen hanged. The Rebellion was victorious.
“It was then that Gaia was divided into the Three Nations and its city-states: Kalehvar went on to become king of Toryn, where the first mage University was constructed; Lady Sylanna, her surname forgotten to protect her family during the Rebellion, was raised as Empress of Raena, where honest mages were permitted to live as equals; and Sir Baylen became King Khyl of the Aristead Empire, where justice is swift on all and warriors are raised from the cradle of every household. The Celtic Lands city-state evolved on its island across the strait of Whittler’s Pass in the north, while the dwarven city-state, the only such one, of Jactatus grew wealthy beneath the Celeste Mountains on its industrial revolutions. Other governments sprang up as well, of course, but those two city-states and the Three are the largest and by far the most influential.
“As always, however, peace did not last. Toryn’s people were distrustful of the mages, and with the assassination of Kalehvar’s son Alamar, Doric Weirmyn rose to power and had all mages hunted and imprisoned in Trynt University by the Creator’s own hounds, the Order of Cavelers. The Cavelers—devout to the Creator, his Word, and the hunt for wild mages—spread their numbers and influence across Gaia with uncanny speed. Raena, though it had enforced laws upon its new Moranna University and created the test of Judgment for mages aspiring to live among other Raenans, had fallen to corruption despite Empress Kynnah’s efforts, and was ripe for the Cavelers’ eager roots. Across the Leanne Ocean in the Aristead Empire, order had been severely and justly maintained since King Khyl’s reign. Cavelers still guard Khyl University, but they have little to accomplish here beneath King Shallon Vaelle’s grim watch. The Celtic Lands harbor only a few Cavelers, and those open minded and nothing like those of the mainland mage hunters. Jactatus only has one company of Cavelers at its disposal, as its mostly dwarven population are unable to weave magic with their lack of the ability to touch the Beyond, the realm where all souls go to dream when asleep or after death, the realm where the demons roam.
“Thus has the world evolved, thus has it been recorded, and thus has this Age, the Third, unfolded.”
—Brother Kaylle Marathahl of Toryn, speech to the Divine Father of Raena at the dawning of the Third Age
Amidst the towering bookshelves that nearly scraped the high vaulted ceiling of exposed beams and limestone Salovrin Ironhande sat. A crooked finger brushed an invisible trail beneath the elvish words of dark ink written on the paltry parchment of the thick volume, his dark eyes drinking in the tale they told. The frail gold light tarnishing the monastery’s library illuminated the dancing dust particles, but Salovrin took no notice this day.
Such pious passion this Llewellyn—the humble shepherd elf that hailed from the Keenian Wilds, one C. Tourmaline, who dictated his determination of a need for rebellion—evokes on these pages, Salovrin mused as he read, a riveting section now snagging his attention:
“‘Wealthy and fat grows our so-called king on our livelihood, slaughtering our herds and reaping our grain for his greasy table, oily with the greed of him and his court. Not even a king has rights to tax his people so! Our hogs hold a brighter future on Zirruk’s plate than do we beneath his will. Listeners, we are not the hounds begging for his crusty scraps, the meek curs of the alleys! We are a diversity of races, a single entity of flesh and bone and blood, unified in the ever-spinning wheel of Life by threads woven, not by our monarchs, but by us ourselves. Our forefathers would weep at the corruption spreading throughout the land like a viper’s poison! There is no…’”
On and on the reveling speech prompted, an enlightening insight into a very possible rebellion against the reigning dwarven king of Toryn, Zirruk Shieldbasher. However futile the renegade may be, the vigorous wont to expression, freedom, and liberty from the “wealthy and fat” Zirruk was a tribute to the scholars of this Age, the third in Gaia’s history.
Abruptly, an immense blaze fractured the half-elf’s thoughts, erupting from the back of his head like a volcano. Salovrin grasped the enflamed spot with a calloused hand, squeezing his eyes shut against the pain until it had passed. Relaxing his tensed body several minutes later, Salovrin messaged a temple as he thought, The pain is getting worse. It must be time to see the abbey again.
He marked his page with the gold silk ribbon sewn to the top of the book’s binding, shut the volume, and stood with a habitual glance out a nearby window. Colors burst forth from the sinking orb of fire, casting magenta and shadow across the sky and land. Time had flown by for Salovrin, but that was not unusual anymore; Salovrin frequently lost track of time nowadays.
Hiding the book, Foundations Prepared, in the folds of his black robe, Salovrin walked calmly through the labyrinthine library to the exit, passing the monastery’s librarian monk with a casual nod and friendly smile, to which the librarian returned the favor and then took up his work again. The thievery did not bother Salovrin’s conscience a whit. Foundations Prepared, the only book to have been published by C. Tourmaline and likely the only copy left in Toryn, was crucial to the fate of this Age, to the fates of mages and ordinary people alike. Elves, humans, and dwarves would all weep if they knew just how much this one little book would mean—and cost.
The great fascination Salovrin held for Foundations Prepared was his own secret, one he had not even told the abbey in all his many false confessions. There were words, whole paragraphs that hinted at something greater than the mere documentary the book had been published as. And, over a period of time and many visits to the monastery library, Salovrin had pieced together some of these clues into a form of map—not a geographic drawing, but words that fit with this or that phrase, or vice versa—that revealed something spectacular for this Age.