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Despite the devastation wrought after 196 years of battling trolls – killing two-thirds of the Commonwealth – the united army of Liraehne cleared the lands. The great Fanaal Emperor Tian’Tal pushed the trolls to the edge of the Frontier, making a stand at the outpost of Tarn, but it was the leadership of Queen Kalynn Wytestarr who led the final victory within the Crax. Of those who went to war, many would never return home, some not because death claimed them but because their wounds made travel impossible, and the outpost swelled into a city.

As Tarn grew, with farmers and families restoring a sense of normal after so much loss, the great heroes and leaders began to pass into legend and new powers began to arise to fill the voids left behind. 

This is the story of one of them.

Author Chuck Sperati Writing Distracted Logo
Onvical
Cariss Mesila
Torgin

Part Thirty-Seven: Akenun

“We’re not looking for a fight,” Cariss began, lowering the point of her drawn blade as the figure moved towards them, “but we will defend our—”

A small scream slipped past her lips as he passed through her and continued down the hall.

Stifling a laugh, Onvical stepped towards the wall, allowing the wizard to pass.

“Ghost?” Torgin shouted the question, causing the warrior woman to jump again.

Pushing her lips together and grinding her teeth, she turned on the Magis. “What is going on here?”

Sweeping an arm over the smashed bowl slowly putting itself back together, he pointed at the figure moving down the hallway. “That, I believe, is Caraklin heading off to join the Troll War. As for the rest of this,” his eyes returned to the statue that continued to fall back together, “I have no clue.”

Not trying to disguise her annoyance, Cariss took a step towards him. “Don’t be foolish.”

“I’m quite serious.”

“That wasn’t a ghost or a spirit going off to join a war long since ended.”

“You misunderstand. That was an echo of the man. A piece of the past that you can no more interact with than words in a text.”

Raising the point of her sword, the warrior woman cocked her head. “This is magic. All of it. And that is your domain.”

“It is not magic, at least, not a magic of which I am familiar.” Turning from the statue, Onvical glanced at the point of the blade aimed at his torso and then found her eyes. “But if you can refrain from running me through, I think there may be answers through that door.”

Following his gaze to the door at the end of the hall, Cariss studied it a moment before turning back to him, eyes narrowed and blade rising a bit. “Why that door?”

“Don’t pretend you didn’t see it.”

“Things changing!” Torgin announced.

“I saw it,” she acknowledged, lowering the point of the blade. Whether color, shape, or texture, every piece of decoration at that end of the hall cycled through a series of subtle changes. The mesmerizing way the appearance of individual items altered impelled her to watch but taken as a whole, she found the scene disorienting. And though she would never admit it, a little frightening.

“But first, I suggest we go to the other door,” he said, motioning to the opposite end of the hall.

The urge to question him died on her lips as she saw that things on that end of the hall did not change. Not wanting to explore the feelings that killed her need to question the Magis, she started down the hall, doing her best not to look at the decorations on either side. But when a pre-Commonwealth suit of Rylin armor seemed to fall forward, Cariss raised her sword and crouched defensively.

A snicker from behind sent her pulse beating hard in her ears as she awkwardly stood and continued forward.

“Empty!” Torgin barked, swinging a meaty fist into the dwarven suit, causing parts to fall away and clatter to the ground. An echo of that clattering sounded a moment before the pieces jumped back into place.

“I strongly suggest you not touch anything,” Onvical advised.

“Just tricks!” the Braidon replied, swatting at a tapestry ruffling in a nonexistent wind.

Like most other items in the hall, the tapestry predated the Commonwealth. It depicted an image of the Krigzehr, a prophesized battlelord who would build an expansive empire upon the bones of the other races. The ill-defined figure on the tapestry had been artistically rendered anonymous, standing upon broken bones, wearing gleaming white armor speckled, stained, and dripping with blood. Although Onvical felt that the Fanaal placed far too much faith in the prophet Sechallinoh, something about the figure on the tapestry made him uneasy.

Seeing it reach off the silk threads and grab the Braidon’s hand caused his eyes to go wide and breath to catch in his chest.

With no apparent effort, it lifted the stunned barbarian and drew him towards the tapestry.

But under that full helm, yellow eyes bore into Onvical. The memory of that day in the woods, seeing Tualla for the first time, filled his mind. The same fear that left him unable to flee that day overcame any thought or instinct. In the tapestry, images shifted. An ivory tower grew out of the bones. A gray hood rose over the helm, shadowing all but two golden pinpoints of light as eyes and a hint of jawline.

Between blinks, his perspective changed. Stretched flesh, mottled with decay, stretched out before him, holding Torgin by the throat. All around, chained spirits sang their suffering, feeding his power. As that chorus reached a dynamic crescendo, the light in the hall split into colors as if through a prism. Within each color moved a vibrating line of gray that waited for him, but before he could reach for it, a blade cut through flesh and bone, freeing the Braidon.

Before him, in the coalescing light, stood a skeletal figure in black armor. A semitransparent shadowy body surrounded the bones, giving it form and weight. Severed threads began to unravel at the stump of his arm. Opening his mouth to scream, a long, high-pitched laugh began to roll out.

“Onvical!”

Pain lanced through his mind, his cheek stinging from a strike that caused blood to dribble from his nose. Blinking through the tears, the skeletal figure remained a moment longer before shifting back to the warrior woman, her hand raised to deliver another slap.

Taking a breath and trying hard to relax his features into a neutral countenance, the Magis wiped the blood away from his nose. “While I have no doubt you enjoyed it, I do not require another slap.”

Lifting one corner of her mouth in a mimicking grin that felt a little more comfortable this time, she leaned forward. “A shame. I did enjoy it. A lot. You okay, Torg,” she asked, glancing over at the Braidon pushing himself up off the ground.

“I touch nothing!” he shouted. Seeing an unraveling piece of tapestry that had been cut away slithering around on the ground, he scrambled back, nearly crashing into a statue.

While Cariss watched the Braidon turn in circles, trying to avoid touching everything in the hallway at once, Onvical’s eyes went back to the tapestry. Standing in the foreground, the ill-defined figure stared off, presumably positioned that way to appear as overlooking a vast kingdom. A section of the tapestry around the right arm showed the carved brickwork pattern behind, but the exposed threads waved around like worms struggling in mud.  

A thought regarding that prophecy had been planted in his mind and began to take root.

“Can we go? I’m about done being in this creepy hallway.” Cariss stood a short distance away, her sword still pointed towards his abdomen.

Looking into her eyes, one corner of his mouth turned up in a grin. She stood in a ready stance, always on guard and prepared for combat. One time he’d explained that he didn’t require her to be breathing to utilize her services, noting it as a mere preference. But in the visage of that skeletal warrior, he found a new preference. “By your lead.”

Before they started moving, Torgin already stood at the door at the end of the hall, waiting, arms crossed and hands grasping his elbows. For the first time since they’d met, the Braidon looked small. Scared. Ambyr stood that way often when wracked by indecision. Onvical wondered if he’d picked it up from her.

Reaching the end of the hall, Cariss stepped to one side while Torgin stepped to the other. More of that carved brickwork surrounded the doorframe. Strong lines gave an impression of depth in construction, each artistically cut to distinguish the framework from the surrounding wall. Stained brown wood, reinforced with black iron, rising to a rounded top well above Torgin’s head, the door could readily admit all of them at once.

Taking the black iron ring that served as a handle, both corners of his mouth turned up in a grin. “Let us see what Caraklin keeps behind this door.” Lifting it, an audible metallic click vibrated through the door as the latch disengaged, slowly pulling the ring away from him. Letting it go, the door swung slowly inward, revealing a roughly hewn cavern lit in a bright white light.

Without hesitation, the Magis stepped inside.

Glancing at one another, Cariss and Torgin waited a moment to see if anything happened to him. Seeing him continue forward, they stepped into the doorway and glanced around.

“Empty room!” Torgin announced.

Glancing back, the white light lit one side of Onvical’s face, plunging the other into darkness. “It’s hardly empty, my friend.”

“What is that,” Cariss asked, moving into the room and pointing at the shimmering curtain of light surrounded by deep, vicious cracks in the stone. The two steps she had taken towards it felt like two too many.

The Magis said nothing, turning back into the light.

Looking into that light should have been blinding, creating blue and black bursts in her vision, but she felt no discomfort in gazing at it. Ahead of her, the strength of the light blurred Onvical’s form, seeming to obscure every detail about him.”

“Caraklin found an Akenun,” his voice floated to them.

“A what?”

“It is a line of pure magic.”

“What does that even mean?” No answer came. Instead, the Magis disappeared into the light as if consumed by it. Wanting to step forward to see what became of him, her eyes went to those cracks in the stone. They felt like a warning to stay away.

“There are different sources of magic,” a cold voice whispered in her ear. Stepping away and turning, she saw only a wisp of shadow. Around her, his voice continued to explain. “Arcane, fire, water, life, death, and others. Each is shaped by its source. We call them the backlands.”

Stepping out of the shadow, again backlit by the curtain of light, he spread his arms towards it. “But this is all of them together.”

“And?” Torgin bellowed, shrugging his shoulders and holding his arms up.

“In deference to you, let me put this in simple terms. Think of the backlands as the rainbow of colors you see in a spray of water. We casters can channel one, maybe two of those colors. But there is one caster, the Isiliyin—a master of magic who can touch them all.”

“So Caraklin was this Isiliyin?” Cariss asked, growing uncomfortable with the direction of this situation.

“No,” Onvical stated, shaking his head. Turning back to them, one corner of his mouth turned up in a grin. “But my guess is that everything in that hallway is the result of him trying.”

Maps
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