The Eleventh Tome - Chapter V, written by Tim Law at

The Eleventh Tome – Chapter V

The Prophecies of Andrapaal

The Eleventh Tome

Chapter V

written by: Tim Law


Year 513 of the Kingdom of Thuraen

Fredrickson the Third is King

Vladimir the Young is Chief Sage


Walking away from the arena in Andrapaal, Raven could not understand how his father could have fallen so far from grace, and was further confused as to how he, just a mere teen at the time could have possibly been responsible for such a fall. He traveled with Gregory in his wake, marching with determination first towards the city barracks, then to the home of Anton, finally deciding on heading for the palace and hoping for a meeting with Chief Sage Vladimir when the truth keeper realized that Anton had already once refused to answer the questions that burned in his mind.
“Raven, please wait for me! I cannot keep up this pace if you plan to walk every street of this great city,” cried Gregory.
“Gregory when I was out there hunting for sage Morthos I knew in my head and in my heart that I was doing what the kingdom needed me to do! I was doing what the young sage needed me to do! I was doing the right thing,” Raven replied.
“And now, do you doubt your actions now?” puffed the blacksmith.
“Blacksmith I spent three years walking back and forth across the northern border of our kingdom and beyond. Each lead I followed after ended up being false,” explained Raven.
Gregory nodded, listening intently.
“I returned time and again to the site of the farm where the vorsurk attacked us, until the place was swarming with the monsters and I had to stay away. The first time I followed the trail of the lupine warriors I traveled as deep into the desert as I dared to venture. Year after year I grew in confidence or foolishness and searched further and further into our enemies’ lands. I asked at every farm I stumbled across, every inn that had mushroomed out of the harsh desert sand… Nothing! The savages had been seen but there was no mention of a young boy sage,” Raven continued to explain.
“Every path you followed ended in no sign? How frustrating that must have been,” said Gregory.
“More frustrating than anything I have ever experienced before. After years of searching everywhere throughout the kingdom and in places beyond it… I could not search anymore. I needed to rediscover who I was, remember where I had come from. I needed to know that I was not just the missing sage I was searching for, as important as even one missing sage is…”
“Have you rediscovered who Raven is?” Gregory enquired.
“I have discovered that I should have been dead… That my father would prefer that I was and according to the hallowed words of our chief of all sages I already am,” replied the truth keeper.
“Not what you expected?” asked the blacksmith.
“I expected to return to a city I knew, to people who I thought would be happy to see me alive, safe…” explained Raven.
“I am happy to see you truth keeper. I am overjoyed that you currently stay at my forge, in my home. For me and for many other residents of Andrapaal, or even across the Kingdom of Thuraen this is considered a great honour,” Gregory replied.
“Am I truly a truth keeper, blacksmith? Or have I lost that chance in hunting for a boy sage that cannot be found? Maybe I could learn my letters like Bear-Heart did…” stated Raven.
“According to law a truth keeper is ever a truth keeper! When they are learning the ways of the sword and the chants taught only to the novices of the blade! When they trudge across the desert sands of the kingdom and beyond as the fearless defenders of this great kingdom! Even when they survive so many years of protective duty and return in glory to friends and family and are officially citizens of the kingdom once again!” announced Gregory, reciting and paraphrasing from memory the rules and regulations that governed the truth keepers.
“So wise man of the hammer and forge which am I? Am I an ancient novice that you speak of? Or am I a truth keeper who should be facing the dangers of the border desert? In either case, I must be very lost… ” replied Raven.
“Come, Raven, let’s return to the forge. Anton has offered to take you back into the fold,” Gregory stated, “Tomorrow morning we can speak with him as I am sure that he will know exactly where to fit you in the whole tapestry of the truth keeper brotherhood!”
“Yes, let us return to your home, blacksmith,” replied Raven. “It will give me a chance to see if Paechra has awoken. I feel I require her wisdom once again.”
With that said Raven took the next side street that lead towards the slums district of the city. This time Gregory kept pace with the truth keeper, not once needing to correct Raven as the truth keeper navigated the streets of this district of Andrapaal with confidence.


“Where is the city beneath?” asked Paechra, as Raven and Gregory returned to the forge.
“Where is the where?” asked Raven. Gregory just gave the sylva a blank look, wordlessly stating that he too did not understand.
“Raven I spent last night up at the palace. There are so many things I need to tell you,” stated Paechra, taking her friend by the hand and leading him outside.
“What caused you to decide to go back to the palace?” asked Raven.
“The prophecy, of course!” laughed Paechra. “The grandeur of such a fascinating river of words created by numerous streams of language all combining seamlessly together to create the whole.”
Standing in the doorway of his home, listening, Gregory nodded.
“Our wall of prophecy is indeed impressive fair one,” the blacksmith stated with a smile of pride evident upon his face.
“So when I returned last night to see the prophecy again I was approached by a number of people who were queuing to record their business. I had been recognized as a druid and was asked for a blessing,” the sylva explained. “I almost did not get to view the wonderful words again! The one known as Vladimir had me escorted away.”
“What do you mean by blessing, Paechra?” asked Gregory.
“Paechra! I thought we agreed that there was to be no magic… no blessings… no mention of the three gods,” murmured Raven.
“But Raven! I did see the prophecy and it spoke to me!” announced Paechra, excited.
“The prophecy spoke to you?” asked Gregory. “This is too much! If you need me I will be at the forge… Swords I can understand. Talking words on walls I must admit are beyond the understanding of a blacksmith.”
Raven waited until he heard loudly the crackle of the forge fire before he spoke again.
“What did the prophecy tell you?” he asked, giving his sylva friend his complete attention.
“The voices in my mind keep warning me of the dangers of staying here in your city. I worry for my father, Raven I fear he is imprisoned by vorsurk sorcery,” stated Paechra.
“You sense the use of magic here?” asked Raven. “If it were anyone else who told me this I would dismiss such an idea immediately.”
“It gladdens my heart that for me you would make such an exception,” replied Paechra.
“So what else did the writing upon the great wall tell you?” Raven continued.
“The voices instruct me to search the city beneath. I also have received a vision of my father encircled in red and hidden in a tunnel somewhere beneath this city. It is almost as if below Andrapaal is another city, though I do not know why there would be such,” stated the sylva.
“Come then, Paechra,” urged the truth keeper. “Show me where it is you saw such a vision.”
Without another word, Paechra took Raven by the hand and led him away from the forge. As the pair left there could be heard the distinct sound of a hammer on steel as Gregory began again the toil of the blacksmith.

Paechra spent the remainder of that day frantically searching the streets of the city with Raven beside her, desperately trying to relocate where it was in the city that she had sighted the vision of her father. The sun set as the establishment of Sarah the Seamstress came into view, an exhausted Paechra unsure if she could face the happiness of that human again at that very moment.
“Come Raven; let us return to the forge. Perhaps my dreams tonight will reveal further clues as to where this city beneath can be found,” said Paechra sadly.
“It must be a sign that you are supposed to find him,” replied Raven, “Such strange dreams and visions…”
“The druids’ blessing, the druids’ curse,” murmured Paechra as she allowed Raven to lead her, back along the streets which the pair had searched and searched again for some way of gaining access to the tunnels below the city.


Andrapaal’s tower bells rang out the ninth hour of the evening as Michael Stormsong left the arena and headed toward the nearest tower of knowledge. When he reached the tower he knocked quietly upon the door and was immediately ushered in by one of the sages dressed in red.
“Please read to me from the book of Vladimir the Young,” requested Michael.
“I know who you are and I know what passage you require,” announced the sage.
As the red robed figure climbed the stairs in search of the tome which was required, Michael settled himself into one of the available chairs. It had been a long day in the arena. Raven’s return had rattled his father and as a result the weapons trainer of the student truth keepers had been harder on his pupils than usual. Many of the students of the blade would be soaking sore muscles or treating flesh wounds and bruises this evening. Michael had scored numerous hits with his hammer, too many of them far heavier than they should have been. The inmates of the cells beneath the arena had also felt the moodiness of Michael Stormsong, having been given less rations at mealtimes, in fact missing completely the midday meal. It had become the responsibility of Michael to be the friend of the imprisoned of Andrapaal since Vladimir had orchestrated his fall from grace, and Michael knew from the pieces written by the sage and heard by the people that it was indeed the words of Vladimir that had caused the once Lord Michael Stormsong to be removed from his home and given the tasks that he now had to do. After a few years of such tasks as feeding and caring for the prisoners before they were sent into the arena Michael discovered he actually enjoyed his new role.
“Here is the tome where in which is written the passage you desire to hear, your lordship… I mean sir… Mister Stormsong!” announced the sage as he came down the tower stairwell carrying a two thousand paged leather bound book, a task made easy by the number of times each day that sages repeated this activity.
“The night is already late knowledgeable one, my curfew draws near. Please find the answers that I seek and quickly,” growled Michael.
“I only have the words Mister Stormsong. What answers you can discover from the tome of truth are up to you to find,” the sage replied.
Michael Stormsong laughed dryly at such a comment and relaxed in his seat as the sage lifted the tome reverently onto a desk and carefully turned the multitude of pages until he located the passage that he was looking for.
“Read from the book of Vladimir the Young. The year is the five hundred and fourth of the Kingdom of Thuraen. The memory pains me to recall. So long have I returned to the safety of the city and her protective walls, and yet the betrayal of the young truth keeper haunts me still. I was accompanied by truth keeper Johannas Stormsong, youngest member of the Dove House, he escourting myself and others of his calling, brother truth keepers of various experience. As the senior of our expedition it was my decision to rest a time at the farming homestead of the clan of the Wolf. Johannas must have known of my connection with such a clan as when we arrived he announced with a low whistle the sign to attack. Vorsurk unhorsed me in the emanating chaos that erupted as the wolf-pack of seasoned, skillful warriors burst forth from the homestead and sheds that made up the layout of the inner farm,” read the sage, his voice emotionless, wearing a deadpan expression.
“Enough!” interrupted Michael. “I have heard enough, thank you knowledgeable sage.”
“I do hope that you have found the answers that you seek,” the sage replied, gently closing the tome and lifting it gracefully up from the desk.
Soundlessly Michael rose from where he sat and let himself out from the great tower. The walk back to his home was a long one. Hearing the words of Vladimir again troubled Michael Stormsong, in both his heart and his head. The passage did not produce answers, only questions, so many damned questions.


The first hour of the morning was classed by some as the thirteenth hour of the night. It was then that Vladimir, dressed officially in his blue robe of office and wearing the silver sash, chose to enter the cellar of Thomas the butcher, member of the citizen’s eleven of Andrapaal. All the members were present, as they had always been, ever since Vladimir had created this group. The words inscribed in the book of Vladimir the Young did state that: …the selected eleven of the city did first gather on the command of Vladimir the Young to discuss in privacy, without the possibility of gossip and falseness the urgent news and debates of the city of Andrapaal…
One member of each of what the chief sage had classed as the important roles within Andrapaal’s lower classes, had been personally selected by Vladimir himself and given the title of citizen’s eleven, in a ceremony that some of the city had called embarrassingly over pompous. Of course, the version of the ceremony that was written in the book of Vladimir the Young certainly did not refer to it as such, and therefore the written version was believed and those same people of the city for whom pompous was a commonly used term, did find themselves visited by Vladimir himself. It was written that such a visit was quite an honour. What was never recorded however was the fact that ‘pompous’ was a term that never crossed the thoughts nor lips of these people ever again. Vladimir made certain of this.

“Welcome all. Once more do we swear ourselves to secrecy and prepare ourselves to speak openly about problems that have arisen throughout this month,” Vladimir began. He paced about the cellar, standing within the perfect circle created by the eleven wooden chairs, that at each was seated a member of his chosen eleven. Vladimir frowned as he narrowly avoided a pool of fresh sheep’s blood. Thomas had been late in bleeding his kills this week and had just managed to remove all of his latest stock of carcasses before the night of this meeting had come about. It irritated Vladimir greatly that such a disorganized citizen should sit upon his council, but the sage reminded himself that other butchers were looking to join his council. A simple reminder to Thomas of just how honoured he had been would suffice to see change, Vladimir was sure of it.
“We do swear to discuss in private the matters that Andrapaal asks of us to discuss for her. For the truth and for the city of truth,” eleven voices stated, in a rhythmic and solemn chant.
Vladimir nodded in satisfaction. It was as he had written first, those ten years ago, and as he always planned for it to be. The citizens spent the evening putting forth to the sage, secrets that they had heard and issues that had come up which, if left unchecked could disrupt the harmony of the city and kingdom both. Vladimir listened, chose what could be presented to King Fredrickson for judgment and what could not, what would be recorded as history and what would be kept as secret for now, what was business for Anton and his soldiers to deal with, and what required a little bit of magic. Anton was Vladimir’s favorite option, as the truth keeper was the head of the kingdom’s army, a position that Vladimir had thought to grant the old man. For who was in a better position to deal with the people’s problems than Anton?

As the meeting drew to a close Vladimir caught the eye of Sarah the seamstress and Thomas the butcher. The other eleven shuffled out from the cellar one by one, Gregory the blacksmith being the last of all, still beaming about the address he had given, thanking Vladimir for the honour of playing host to the truth keeper and sylva visitors.
“I have a task for you both,” Vladimir began; the two remaining members of the eleven were like frightened rabbits in the sage’s presence.
“We are honoured to have been chosen, as Gregory was chosen,” Thomas mumbled as he lowered his head. The butcher had noticed the occasional scowl from Vladimir as the meeting had worn on. Vladimir decided there and then that a task such as what he had planned would be punishment enough. Sarah too did not wish to meet Vladimir’s gaze. Wisely she had forgotten, it seemed, to mention anything of her time spent with Paechra while she was amongst the eleven. Vladimir had noticed however that each time the sylva was mentioned the seamstress blushed and lowered her head. He fought the sudden impulse to grasp her by the temples and punish her there, force her to reveal all the intimate secrets she dared to hide from him and leave an empty, memory-less shell. But Vladimir had other ways of finding out his information. Ways that did not leave him drained and feeling old. Ways that the citizen’s eleven did not know of and that Vladimir would never tell. Vladimir wondered if it was the tome that made him sense that Sarah hid things from him. The sage determined to interrogate the magic book and see if such a thing were possible
“Lastly I must stress… The Entrance Hall is to be off limits. Last night the palace was a realm of chaos thanks to the arrival of the sylva girl. The pair of visitors must not set foot there tomorrow night or any other time they remain in our fair city!”
“It shall be as you wish,” Thomas and Sarah chorused together.
Satisfied that his will would be followed to the very last letter, Vladimir took one last look at the cellar where the meeting had ceased, before rushing off back to his chamber to see what little sleep the dark thoughts would allow him to have. The day had just begun but the chief sage was already so tired.


After three fretful hours of tossing and turning, the sage rose and was up for the second time that day before the sun had even thought of rising. There would be another awake, someone that he had to see. The meeting had been the wrong time to speak, but Vladimir knew that now was the time right for such a conversation.

“How fair your visitors, blacksmith?”
“Your Wiseness. What a great honor, and a great surprise.”
“Once again you must know this is an unofficial visit. I am just curious as to how the two guests of Andrapaal are enjoying our fine city.”
“I can wake Raven if you wish, master and he will be able to tell you what I’ve shown them, where we have been.”
“No my friend, that will not be necessary. I sent them to you because I knew you would show them the city that you know. However, you cannot let having a Truth Keeper in your home become a distraction. Remember your duty to this fine city, my son. We need thirty more blades created in the newest design before the graduation of this year’s truth keeper recruits. The change of season is not far away.”
“Yes… yes, master. Of course master, it will be as you have requested. I was going to wait until Raven awoke before starting upon the next blade, but if it is your will, I can begin now.”
“Gregory, do not worry so. Precious and dedicated son of this fine city… I have arranged for two others from the city’s eleven, chosen by the sages to watch over our two guests today. Speak with them if you so wish, and arrange for other days of rest from the role as host. You have far greater skill in the heat of the forge, than in the heat of the social arena.”
“Thank you, my master. Your wisdom always saves us from our own foolishness.”
“Thank you Gregory that will be all. Work with haste, and receive this blessing. May your blades ring true in battle’s heat, and may your heart beat true with every beat.”
“As it is written, so shall it be.”
“True minds speak truer thoughts. Have a busy and productive day, Gregory the blacksmith. Andrapaal counts upon it.”
“Thank you, master.”

Raven awoke to Paechra standing over him.
“Ah!” he exclaimed in surprise.
“No time for that…” Paechra began in a hurried sprawl of words. It was as the girl continued that Raven could see the look the sylva gave as one of urgency and not one of annoyance directed at him.
“I woke up early with Gregory and snuck out behind him and then I heard him talking and do you know what he…?”
“Slow down Paechra! I cannot understand you at the best of times,” Raven interrupted, attempting to stem the tidal wave of words that Paechra attacked him with.
“Vladimir! Raven, Gregory spoke to Vladimir. Right here he was, right under our noses.”
“In the name of the truth!” Raven cursed.
“I know you keep mumbling his name in your sleep,” Paechra accused.
“I do no such thing! I just want to meet the man who seems to know so much about us…” Raven countered, dropping his gaze from Paechra though as he spoke the lie.
Luckily for Raven, the blacksmith entered interrupting, causing Paechra to miss the subtle look of guilt.
“Seems we must change our plans for the day…” Gregory began; the regret was obvious in his tone.
“See,” Paechra said with a mere look.
The blacksmith ignored her and continued to speak, eyes only for the truth keeper.
“It seems two others of this fine city, good friends of mine will be showing you the city today. I’ve lots of work to do and can’t be running about the city with you both. Already I’m at least eight blades behind my quota and as you well know Raven, a truth keeper without a sword won’t be protecting much.”
With a haughty laugh, the blacksmith then left his two guests alone and strode out to tend the forge fire.
“Good!” said Raven to himself forcibly after Gregory was out of earshot. “This may yet be my chance to get to the very bottom of what has happened to my city…”
Paechra waited for her friend to explain more, but as before, Raven fell into a thoughtful silence and added naught. In the truth keeper’s mind though, a storm of confusion raged, bordering on anger. The boy of Raven’s memories ran ahead of him, down a side street where exotic children of far traveled merchants played strange games and sang even stranger songs. Where had such colourful lives gone? The parts of the city that Gregory had chosen to show Raven and Paechra had seemed to the truth keeper to be void of the simple things that Raven clung to as childhood memories. Raven was sure that any sign of these wonders from his past would let him know he was where he belonged, home where everything was safe and sure and as it should have been. Now Gregory had shown with pride that where a tavern from Raven’s childhood had stood there was now a shrine to Vladimir the Young. For all that Raven knew the barkeeper had been crushed and remade along with the place the barkeeper had called home. It saddened Raven that he could not recall the old man’s name. So many memories vanished, so much certainty and stability gone. It was like a part of Raven had been cut away, or as if a part of him had got lost, but no matter how hard or how long he looked, that part of him was gone forever. Andrapaal, the city that Raven felt was a part of him, was no longer the city that he knew so well. Gregory’s tours had shown this in part. The absence of Raven’s father had explained the rest.

Vladimir set the seals and felt his weary body cry out for the sleep it craved. He set alight the kindling in the fireplace but felt no comfort from the heat that soon erupted into life. Thoughts of the sylva Paechra, so obviously to him the lioness referred to in the prophecy, clouded his usually clear and sharp mind. The coming heir too played havoc with what feeble plans the sage had formed. With a sigh of frustration, a sound very much like Morthos once made when he struggled with his letters, the old sage Vladimir left his exhausted body to walk its own path; cursing once again the day he let the book into his life to steal his youth. The book! It was open and he was sitting before it at his desk. How did that happen? And then he was lost, caught by the pain and the probing questions.

Anton hurried up the stairway that led to the second floor of the library. He had no time for the intricate pattern carved into the stonework, art that he had glanced over millions of times before as he raced up these stairs to do his master’s bidding.
“One… two… three…” the silver-sashed truth keeper counted as he strode purposefully down the corridor. His boots kept time with his count echoing each foot fall, until Anton stopped in front of the fourth door that he came to. It was marked with the symbol of a sash of silver. He raised his fist to knock, but then paused, for a moment uncertain.

Beyond the door, Vladimir sat with the black tome wide open upon his desk. His fire had died and he shivered where he sat. His eyes glowed with a strange blue, the same blue that adorned his portal with vorsurk symbols of protection. Wrinkled hands, palm down, pressed firmly upon the pages.
“Yes… of… course…” Vladimir whimpered.
To the chief of all the sages, his office had ceased to exist. Eyes wide open; all that Vladimir could see was an empty void of pure darkness. Ears shut off from the real world; the only sound the sage could hear was the howl of the winds of the void. Then the endless howl would become a booming voice, filling the void with its demanding questions.
“No… no… the girl… one of the… the sylva race…” Vladimir answered quickly, his face contorted into a look that mirrored the feeling of pain that consumed him as his mind was bombarded with yet another probing question.
The symbols of vorsurk magic traced upon the door, flashed brilliantly once, like a dying star, and then vanished. At this, Anton began to thump loudly upon the door. On the third blow the door swung open. In a flurry of pages the tome flapped together and the great book snapped shut.
Standing in the open doorway, Anton noticed with a suppressed smile of pride that his master was old, but was in no way slow to react.
“Master Vladimir, am I interrupting something?”
“Of course you are Anton! Yet what is done has been done.”
“If you would like… I could return…”
“Anton, since you are here that will not be necessary. Please, just make your report. I am truly quite busy.”
“As you wish, Your Wisdom.”
“Actually Anton, let me put this to you…” the sage began, pausing to catch the truth keeper’s eye. When Anton looked quizzically his way, the sage smiled kindly.
“Poor young Anton, I believe you have rushed to my side to tell me urgently of an event that occurred late yesterday evening. Did this event occur in the slums perhaps?”
Anton nodded slowly in agreement. As he did so the smile of the sage evaporated.
“Where were your men?! A stranger to this city cast magic in its streets and all who witnessed it were civilians! There were no truth keepers!! No officials!!!”
Anton began to notice just how cold it was in the sage’s chamber. He doubted if the lack of fire were the only reason.
“Master… please let me explain…” Anton begged, not yet sure of what it was he was going to say.
“Do not trouble yourself, Anton. My only request now is that you leave the matter in my hands. When I ask you to act you will act, without thought or hesitation.”
“It shall be as you wish, Master.”

Only a quarter of an hour after Gregory had started his rhythmic hammering upon the latest of his deadly creations, did the promised two guides arrive. Paechra was pleased to see that Sarah the seamstress she had met was one of them. The sylva smiled at the seamstress in her friendliest manner and was pleased to see the girl smiled in return.
“And this is my sylva companion, Paechra,” Raven stated, causing Paechra to focus herself upon the conversation. It was difficult to concentrate with the constant hammering. Paechra thought for a moment that if she were home, the harshest noise her ears would be forced to bear would be a strong wind through the oak branches or the hoot of a night owl and the baying of a wolf. She nodded to the burley and tall man who looked similar to Raven, as the truth keeper stood next to him.
“Great to meet you, Paechra. They call me Thomas the butcher, but you may just call me Thomas,” the burly figure said with enthusiasm, his hand thrusting forward to eclipse Paechra’s delicate elven one. The butcher was easy to understand as he mouthed his words clearly because of the blacksmith’s ear piercing hammering.
Raven beamed with a look of relief in his eyes that Paechra pretended not to notice.
“Well, where shall you be taking us today?” Paechra asked between hammer blows.
“Anywhere away from here!” Sarah said with the great gusto that Paechra already associated with the seamstress.
“No more taverns, please!” Raven said with a smile.
“Whose been taking you to taverns?” Sarah asked with a laugh, her eyes looking back towards the forge as she shouted the question.
Paechra thought to herself that perhaps finally she might get some idea of just where her father had got to, and discover whom it was that held him captive.
Sarah proudly showed the truth keeper and sylva her place of work, causing Raven to blush and Thomas and the two girls to laugh, as the soldier of Truth was surrounded by more young women than he had ever seen. At the introduction by Sarah, the girls began a chorus of flirty giggling as they dropped the clothing they were working on simultaneously and came running up to crowd around the new arrivals. Paechra and Raven spent a good hour chatting with the young ladies, speaking of travel beyond the city, something that none, not even Sarah had ever experienced. The girls showed a great interest in Paechra, someone exotic and unusual, in their eyes, someone to envy but to befriend. The sylva maiden was happier when their attention was drawn to the truth keeper instead. Sarah and Thomas held back while the girls chatted, showing Paechra the fine clothing they were skillfully sewing, telling Raven just how pretty his friend would look if only he would buy a dress or coat.
“That’s enough of that, ladies!” Sarah announced, causing a flutter as the girls groaned, almost in unison and made their ways back to their tasks. “And I expect that as the greatest seamstresses in Andrapaal that I’d not be needed here to keep you at your jobs. Let none distract you, not even the very Truth itself, should it ever turn into a man. Like the day will ever arrive when that be happening,” Sarah stated, straight faced and serious, murmuring her apology to the only two men in the large open floored room. Both Thomas and Raven bit back laughs and bowed politely to the head seamstress.
“None taken Sarah, you know me better than that,” Thomas stated with a face of innocence.
“The same goes with me, gracious hostess,” Raven replied.
With their goodbyes said the tour of the city continued.
“Those garments were formed from such harsh fabrics,” Paechra murmured to Raven as they left.
“It ain’t all leaves and branches here with a few feathers on top,” Sarah explained. “We grow our fabrics, be it wool or cotton or such as this… Perhaps later ye would like to try a few items on, to see just how comfortable they’d be to wear?”
“Perhaps I will,” Paechra said in reply, a thoughtful look in her eyes as a faint smile appeared upon her face.

The smile left Paechra soon after however. Thomas demanded that after a visit to the kingdom of nymphs, as he referred to the seamstresses, it was time to see the place that kept Andrapaal fed. The slaughter house where Thomas was head butcher was the most frightening and disturbing place that Paechra had ever seen. Life snuffed out of existence every few moments and the sounds of distress the animals made, brought silent tears to the sylva’s eyes. Raven quickly urged that perhaps the party should move on. They left soon after their arrival to a chorus of catcalls and bawdy laughter. Raven rubbed the shoulders of his companion as she tried to block the fresh images of bulky men coloured red from fingertip to shoulder, with freshly carved carcasses artistically displayed in front of them.
“Where next then..?” Thomas asked as Sarah shook her head beside him.


As the bells of Andrapaal rang out the eight, stating that a quarter of the day was already passed Vladimir tossed in fitful sleep. From his dry lips, flecked with spittle he cried out a long, loud, ghastly moan. He dreamed of his past, of a time when he was Morthos and his mother’s love was all that protected him from the fury of the world. The news that the sage Sammeal had delivered was not new, it was merely a reminder of what a dangerous and horrific path he, Vladimir… No Morthos, he who had chosen the path, had in fact chosen a hard and harsh journey. The plain, black tome had sucked from him what remained of sanity when it demanded more and more spells be cast. Now as the chief sage pondered upon what to tell his king, his thoughts had spiraled to the past.

Damon, Morthos’ father had been a drunk and very violent man. He was the head blacksmith of Hidden-Vale, a small village along The Path of Truth, many, many days travel from the fine city of Andrapaal. Amanda, his wife, and Morthos’ mother, was a serving girl at the house of one of the rich farmers. When Morthos was bullied by the village boys, his father advised to fight back.
“Hit ‘em hard me boy. Hard and quick and in all the soft places,” Damon had said with a laugh at his son’s injuries and Amanda’s looks of sympathy.
Morthos tried as his father suggested, though he had always been of a scholarly build. His attempts at fighting back only caused himself and his mother more pain, and in the end to weep openly and publicly whenever any one of the villagers came by. Damon felt shame from this and gave Morthos character building punishment to strengthen him, preparing him to become a smithy too. Young, confused and afraid he would anger his father more, Morthos ran to the sages. While the blacksmith’s son learnt of the power of letters, it was Amanda who felt the wrath of the blacksmith’s hand.

Morthos spent the next few months of his life learning to form letter and scribe laws. When he learnt from one of the village boys about the death of his mother, at Damon’s hands, Morthos still felt helpless. He vowed, on that very day, he would be powerful. That what he lacked in physical strength, he would more than amply compensate for in both position and knowledge. The day his father hanged for a crime of violence, Morthos watched with a grim smile. He had written that law, with the very man Damon in mind. Still, this was not enough though. The words alone did not fulfill Morthos his vow.


The bells of the city rang out the eighth hour as Raven sighed, contented as the tower that was the first branch of the tree of knowledge loomed into view. Of the four branches of the Tree of Knowledge that could be found within Andrapaal’s walls, the first branch was the closest to the forge of the blacksmith.
“I cannot believe it is still standing, as tall as it were the day I was born. Just as tall as it was the day I left this city all those years ago,” Raven stated in complete awe, beckoning to Paechra to come with him for a closer look. To Paechra the tower looked like any other of the lifeless stone structures that cluttered the streets of this city, but in respect of her friend’s obvious happiness she took his hand and allowed herself to be led.
Sarah and Thomas watched them go a few steps and shared a smile, before they made after their guests and joined them in entering the tower. Surely the master would be pleased with a tour to this part of the city. The instructions to keep the pair away from the palace rang as loudly as any of Gregory’s hammer blows in the ears of both the seamstress and the butcher. This tower of knowledge would surely interest the sylva whose father was so intrigued by the tomes filled with words. Surely too would it remind the truth keeper Raven of his vow to protect the very words of Truth themselves and the people who created them. Finally, the chief sage would be obeyed, the most important aspect of the plan.

Even in the more common, poorer part of the city, the tower, a part of the extending Tree of Knowledge, was kept in pristine condition. In fact the whole of the Knowledge Tree, spanning across the entire Kingdom of Thuraen was free of all blemishes, signs of dust, dirt, and grime. The Library, the gardens, and the palace, known collectively as The Fruitful Tree, were the most glorious parts of Andrapaal. Not only did the scrawled prophecy found in the Entrance Hall attract visitors to Andrapaal, the gardens full of color and scent that bloomed all year round, the polished oak and golden architecture of the palace and library, and the mountains of scrolls, tomes and parchments ordered and organized by dates, times and subject, all had a great number of visitors throughout the year. The street that ran from the southern gate, The Merchant’s Gate, all the way through the city to the most northern gate, The People’s Gate was titled, The Path of Knowledge. Even in the market square, this city street was kept clear of muck and mud both day and night throughout the entire year. The steps that ran up to the palace and library were known as The Steps to Enlightenment. These too, like the street, were kept clean, clear and in the best repair. All four of the towers, branches of the Tree of Knowledge where the people of the city could go when seeking information, were bejeweled and constructed of the finest materials. From tower to tower thin bridges of fine white stone enabled sages to cautiously move above the common citizens. From out of the towers sparrows flew back and forth, carrying the important scribing, the most precious written word from the heart of the kingdom to her outer limits and back again.

Thus it was that the bronze knocker shaped as a wise knowledge keeper busily recording history that Raven reached for, shone dazzlingly in the summer sunlight. The truth keeper knew what he was expecting as the door was swung inward. Echoes of childhood memories showed him blue robed sages filling the multitude of floors, madly copying, rewriting, and transcribing old, decrepit books of history so that they could still be used by the kingdom for guidance and education. Citizens were milling about watching this process with awe and respect for the skills that the sages showed. Other citizens spoke earnestly with sages, seeking knowledge from the stored tomes of information and the sages were only happy to oblige, hunting high and low amongst the thousands of titles that filled the neat and tidy shelving that surrounded the outer circle of the tower, every level and all the way up to the top. At each arched doorless entrance point Raven expected to see a pair of brother paladins dressed in the chain armor of their kind and with the blade that represented their faith and duty, drawn and ready, should any citizen decide foolishly to cause trouble in a Branch of the Tree of Knowledge.

As the door was opened Raven saw that the citizens were present, seeking knowledge as he had expected, the sages too ran about the tower hunting for snippets of history. The tower though was a shambles of fallen shelves, cracked stonework, stairwells that housed dicing truth keepers…
“What were you hoping to find here?” Paechra asked innocently, Raven offered her a glimpse into his thoughts with an icy stare. Paechra continued to smile her knowing smile, but did not say any more.
“Please could you find me a sage that is free, I’ve many questions I want answered,” Raven said looking intently about the chaotic room.
“Find one yourself if you are so eager,” replied the sylva.
Even amongst the madness, a sage was found quite quickly who was willing to speak with them. The unfortunate man was bombarded instantly by an angry Raven.
“What is the meaning of this?! How can you sages dream of fulfilling your duty to the city, to the kingdom, in mess like this?! Are all the towers like this?! Surely they cannot be!”
Paechra and Sarah both looked on amused as the sage, at least twice Raven’s age, began backing away with each accusation, a complete contradiction to the eagerness that reflected in his face when he had first appeared.
“So many tourists visit our outer tower, truth keeper,” explained the sage. “There is so much fresh and new knowledge, moments of historic significance that is not reported to the palace and falls to us of the towers to record. Then there is the task of keeping the outside of the tower gleaming like a jewel… Citizens to organize to make certain that the walls are white rain, hail and definitely during times of sunshine.”
“Raven…” Thomas growled, causing the truth keeper to stop short of his next accusation. “I suppose it is the truest of truths that such tasks do not just happen,” replied Raven.
“We are sorry, Your Wisdom,” Sarah apologized as Raven flushed red.
“Yes, quite sorry…” the truth keeper murmured.
“We were just trying to show our exotic guest the wonderful towers of scrolls,” Thomas explained.
“Of course, come follow me this way. I can show you the tower but it is best to begin at the very top and work down. Makes more sense of the chaos that way,” the sage nodded as his eagerness returned. And with that he marched off, forcing the other four to follow.


Vladimir could just hear the sound of the midday bells as he stood in the grand hall, it transforming before him to become a sea of his brother sages all dressed in blue. It seemed to him this day to be like an ocean wave threatening to flow over him and doom him to a watery grave. It was the raven and his wench that so distracted Vladimir and left him feeling drained, curse them. The tome warned him of their coming, but the cards had fallen separately as the old hands of Vladimir had cast them so that Morthos’ young greedy mind could read them and eagerly translate them. Curse the raven and curse the sparrow that brought his picture to Vladimir’s attention. He, Vladimir had great plans for the returned son of the disgraced Lord Stormsong. The boy was to discover in the few days which had passed, a love for the new city. He was to be Vladimir’s new champion for Vladimir’s new city. Just how the boy had escaped the wretched farm and then each and every other vorsurk skirmish that Vladimir had sent against him, had convinced the sage that this boy was blessed or cursed, but either way just as tangled in the fate of Andrapaal as he was destined to be.
‘It will be my city, Andrapaal!’ Vladimir reminded himself, the city and the very kingdom that Vladimir would rule, alone. Anton, his faithful puppet had only half managed to assist Vladimir in his plans. That old warrior’s fate was not the new kingdom. Neither would the sage allow his precious tomes of knowledge fall to the vorsurk from where they had been taken. Their black book was a means to an ends just like Anton’s service, the service of the city’s eleven…
A question came from the sea of blue, searing Vladimir’s thoughts and drawing his attention instantly to a pink faced old man wedged tightly within a crowd of pink faced old men.
“I must apologize to you, my brother. The acoustics of this hall…” Vladimir, chief of all sages of Andrapaal explained with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Let me state again then, Master. I, Jefferson of the Blue robes did, only a day or so prior to this moment meet with a returned soldier of the faith and one sylva girl. Your own personal soldier, Anton who bears the silver sash of your office did interrupt me as I spoke with the truth keeper and his friend…”
“I implore you, Brother Jefferson! The truth keepers are soldiers of the people. Whether they wear silver sashes or blue, red, yellow, black, these men still serve Andrapaal as its defenders, helpers and guardians. If a returned citizen seemed lost then of course it was Anton’s role, or the role of any other of the army of truth keepers to see a brother in need and tend to his aid. It is written in the book of many, a great and knowledgeable brother of our kind, that such is how it was done and is so then how we too must do.”
A great wave avoided, Vladimir congratulated himself.
“This is a point that I do not deny Master. Your predecessor wrote and spoke many a time about the great role that the defenders of the written truth play within our city walls. What concerns me though Master is why the newly returned truth keeper has not yet come before us? A truth keeper like Anton, especially like Anton whom is one that has served the city well for many years, returned to service after retirement and elevated to the role of first ever leader of the truth keepers, would have immediately, at your suggestion arranged for a private audience between the sages and this mysterious Raven and his exotic companion, surely?”
“You are correct Brother Jefferson. Surely such an error could not have occurred. What is to say that such an error did occur?”
Vladimir focused upon the old man that questioned him so, wishing for the feeling of the black leather tome in his hands.
Oblivious to the fact that he verbally fought with the chief of all sages, Brother Jefferson of the Blue robes smiled a broad smile and continued as he felt he had been bidden.
“The sylva caught my boyish curiosity. I understand the foolishness of it at our age, but the girl reminded me of that linguist sylva we have not heard from for many a council gathering now. Been weeks since we have had any recognizable contribution from the fellow and it was nice to see a sylva presence amongst our citizens again,” Jefferson jovially explained.
At the mention of his captive, Vladimir flinched. He was glad that his brother sages had not drawn near enough to see.
‘Surely it had only been a week. Perhaps two weeks at the most?’ Vladimir thought to himself, deeply shocked.
‘No, if what Jefferson was saying rings true, the sylva Lightheart has been in the city for longer than a whole year. That means too, Lightheart has been my captive for almost two months of that time. No wonder the creature looks as poorly as he does,’ thought Vladimir.
“The way I read the runes, the prophecy never told us any of this,” he then mumbled quietly to himself. “The tome never gave knowledge that this was the path events were to follow.”
“I’d checked the scrolls that evening, just to see what such a great being was doing, traveling so far from her kindred,” smiling Jefferson continued “I was wondering if it were a relation perhaps that she sought. My thinking even considered she may have sought a father figure?”
Around the boundary of the huge hall, yellow robed figures, students of the way of Truth scribbled madly the words that Jefferson chortled.
“What business was recorded?” asked another blue dressed figure.
“None!” called back Jefferson, enjoying his moment.
Vladimir frowned at the murmuring sounds of surprise that emanated from the crowd of his brothers that huddled before him.
“Is it then possible, Brother Jefferson, that the sylva had no business here and it was only the truth keeper that recorded his name?” Vladimir asked, elegance dripping from his tongue, a tongue that longed to speak the foreign words that the tome had taught it. At that very moment, the crypt like voice that Vladimir knew to be the very same tome entered his mind, commanding him with an urgency and fever that was difficult to ignore.
Speak the words and silence this ancient fool!
“I searched for that too but, what record there was of a truth keeper returning to the city was so brief as to be almost nonexistent…” Jefferson added.
Vladimir tried to recall what he had recorded that evening when Johannas came to him in the hall of records. He stammered as he felt the first of the harsh vorsurk syllables form on his tongue, all memories from that past evening refusing to form in his mind. He had to say anything, anything but those strange words of power the tome forced up from the closed vaults of his memory.
“Perhaps the head sage was recording the scrolls then!” laughed another sage, a voice that Vladimir dimly recognized. “Have you yet been granted time to view my report, Your Wisdom?” this sage continued.
With that comment said, Vladimir instantly recalled who this new heckler was, and remembered guiltily that pile of scrolls he had used to kindle his fire. The chatter amongst the sages grew suddenly loud at this outburst. It was just too much for Vladimir to handle.
“Enough! This evening has collapsed into a child’s game of name calling. I end this meeting with you my brothers before it turns into a display of commoners and fist-a-cuffs,” Vladimir huffed, dismissing the other sages and watching them slowly turn and leave as a gossiping rabble instead of the sages of great wisdom and power over the citizens of the kingdom that they were supposed to be. The men could not have moved quickly enough.
Not tempted to try the ill-fated cards for new knowledge, Vladimir still needed guidance. There was the tome to press for information, true. Firstly, though, checking the health of the captive he held beneath that very hall was more important knowledge that he required. In addition to this, the sylva may still have some information himself to give his master.
“Master… Perhaps tomorrow night we can hear from the truth keeper returned? Even the sylva girl?” asked a faint voice. It was one of the students of the yellow robes. A boy nearing the age Morthos was when he first obtained the black tome.
“Of course… Run to Brother Jefferson boy, and ask of him to arrange such an event,” Vladimir stated calmly. As the boy ran away and the hall stood empty, Vladimir smiled thinly and without happiness. He would need to find out much that night, and the hours left before dawn were few.

By the time Raven, Paechra, Sarah and Thomas were allowed to leave the tower and the chaos that it held, the sage had feverishly explained to Paechra the great history of the place, down to the story behind the laying of the very last stone. She discovered, with Raven nodding knowingly beside her that the races of the world were to be categorized as either human from the elemental parent of earth, the gracious, celestial sylva born from the sky to bring the art of writing and recording the truth, or the warrior beast the vorsurk, who had been birthed from the forge fire, to bring pain and suffering across the lands of the kingdom. The sylva bit back a cry and a laugh, both of disbelief that welled up within her as she heard what historic ‘truths’ the sage proudly stated, with Raven happily nodding in agreement.
The sylva could hold in her disbelief no longer as the sage explained the origins of the kingdom’s illiteracy.
“None untrained and unblessed may carve the words held sacred. Thus did say Wilhelm the Knowledgeable. The trained shall guard the history of our people, to guide them and teach them the importance of what we have written today,” the sage quoted proudly. “This was the very first written words of our people, recorded just after your people taught us the way of writing.”
“So why then were only the sages taught the skills required to read and write?” Paechra asked. “Surely if your kind truly took inspiration from the sylva race you would be encouraging even the smallest and youngest of your citizens to learn the joys of reading and writing? Leaving most of your kingdom illiterate is surely creating of them servants, making a second class or even a third class of citizenry where such a class is unnecessary?”
Even in the chaos, the sylva could easily hear the sounds of astonishment emanating from the sage, as much as from Sarah, Thomas, and even Raven.
“Your people gave us the skills to record our history. Having anyone write down precious information would have resulted in anything being believed. My dear girl, could you imagine, the ramifications if a blacksmith, or a seamstress, or even a begrudged truth keeper wrote something false about the king or any ruler of the kingdom? The word had to be kept pure. The lessons of history are the foundation upon what we build our future. That was a quote, and thus a truth, from Wilhelm again.”
“What truth do you hold within this tower concerning the city beneath?” asked Paechra.
“I recall very little, it is not a common term,” replied the sage, “But if you return tomorrow I am certain that the indexes of the tomes of knowledge cross referenced should uncover any passages if such a term has been spoken, and recorded…”
“And what of the arrival of Vladimir the Young to the role of silver sashed sage?” asked Raven.
“Interesting you should mention that,” stated the sage. “There is listed that a Michael Stormsong requested to hear such a passage, or more accurately the time before Vladimir became…”
“Your father?” asked Paechra.
“Yes, my father,” replied Raven. “Not that he embraced me as his son…”
“Perhaps we should leave the sage to his work,” suggested Thomas.
“Yes, it seems our sylva guest has given the man quite a task,” added Sarah.
“Good day to you and thanks for your precious time,” said Raven. “Paechra and I shall return tomorrow at this time.”
“Perhaps you can give both Raven and I the answers we seek,” the sylva added with a hopeful smile.
“The trust in truth sets us free,” stated the sage.
“The free are the true keepers of truth,” Raven, Thomas and Sarah all replied.

As they left the tower, Raven still not able to comprehend the disorganisation they had found within, Paechra decided that she needed to contact home again.
“The bards of my homeland would surely know a truer account of the so called historical event,” announced Paechra, but her comment was interrupted by Thomas and Raven.
“I can accept the possibility of poor funding leaving the tower in such a state of disarray. A Tower of Knowledge, a branch of the very Tree of Knowledge, certainly should not remain unguarded though. And even a butcher must admit that those truth keepers were more interested in the pretty little treasures sitting in their tiny heaps than the whole wealth they supposedly kept safe,” Raven argued.
“Copper coins pay for war, Raven. They all pay for the swords, the armour, the travel, and the food that truth keepers need to continue fighting for our freedom. None of it is free. Copper coins become silver when enough is raised. Silver becomes gold. The facts are simple; that a tower becomes untidy is a bit of a bad thing. If the dice stop rolling though, the copper coins stop coming,” Thomas answered smugly. “Those lads were just doing their bit…”
Raven shook his head in disagreement.
Paechra tuned out the conversation and left the arguing men to Sarah to deal with. This was something the seamstress was more than capable of doing. More important thoughts troubled the sylva’s mind.
‘Did we teach these humans their language? Did we also teach them to guard it so?’ the sylva continued to ask, even after they had reached the forge again and Thomas and Sarah had bid them good day.
The sylva impatiently waited for the afternoon and evening to pass by. When Paechra was certain that Raven and Gregory both were in deep slumber, she drew from the energy of the weeds surrounding the forge and felt the presence of her sister druids nearby.
“Good evening sisters. I have much news to give you, and many questions to ask you…”

As the moon stepped aside and allowed the sunrise to herald the new day, Paechra released her magic back to the earth and stifled a humungous yawn. Her body yearned for rest, but Paechra could not afford to sleep. The song of Devon, her people’s bard, and a keeper of histories far older than the entirety of the written words of the Kingdom of Thuraen had told Paechra much about the humans that she walked amongst. Some of the things Devon’s tale had told her, Paechra had already guessed. Other aspects of the human people she’d had no hope of discovering herself. Paechra vowed though, that upon her return to her own lands and her own people she would pen some verses of her own to this bard song. The knowledge of the sylva dwelt in the past. It granted Paechra a clearer picture of what had actually happened, a memory and not a retelling, since Devon was so old he had actually personally played a part in the freeing of the human kind from slavery. What such a memory lacked though was the truth of the present day. The harsh reality of the now, something which Paechra hoped her father would know so much about. It seemed to the sylva maiden that now more than ever it was important that her father be found. Paechra promised, a whispered promise, but one full of hope and determination, the passageway to the city beneath would be located soon.


During the time of war, the wood spirits known as the sylva battled the vorsurk warriors and sorcerers. They fought to defend what lands the vorsurk were taking from them, and to punish the barbaric creatures for deaths that the sylva had suffered from the strange, dull, metal weapons the warriors wielded and the sorcerers enchanted. The wolf-like race sought other races to mix their blood with; females of their kind had become almost nonexistent. The vicious creatures were a people born of the harsh and unforgiving spirit of fire. The sylva from the forests took their life from the whimsical spirit of air. Through the atrocities and horrors of this war, a new species was born. This new species was mothered by the captured sylva girls taken as prizes of victory, and sired by the brute vorsurk males that lead the victorious hordes. The sylva called these children Human, translated in their melodic tongue as half-self. To the vorsurk this new species had no title, for slaves were not named, they were owned. The sylva taught the first humans to speak, write, and learn. The vorsurk slave masters taught the new species resentment and the harsh lessons of suffering.

The vorsurk incentive for the war changed entirely when they learnt that children sired from their slaves produced either more slaves or, beyond their wildest hopes, more of their own kind. The lupine race fought harder and with more determination, to claim more land and extend their species. For the forest dwelling sylva then the war became one where they strove to vindicate the Human species and teach them the joys of freedom.

As this long period of war drew to an end, the Humankind began their history, and over five hundred years of independence. The two races of sylva and human allied to push back the barbaric vorsurk. The lands reclaimed that once were teeming with sylva were now given as a gift to their half-selves. In return the humans promised to keep at bay the vicious slaver vorsurk, to watch the borders, to beat back one parent to ensure the peace and safety of the other. Thus it was that the world stood with vorsurk on the left, sylva on the right and the humans, commoners as they called themselves, caught in the middle.


Thurzuk thought about the history of his people and the great loss that they had suffered. He laughed a harsh, throaty laugh. It was his great destiny to bring glory back to his people. What amused the would-be sorcerer the most was the signs he constantly saw in the strange humans that they were more a reflection of his own kind then what was known of the sylva. Eleven seemed a prominent number in both of their societies. Violence too seemed to come easily to the humans. Unlike his own kind, Thurzuk noted that violence did not come easy to all humans though. To those draped in robes like sorcerers, they could not even raise a knife for any meaningful defense.
“Would I be a fool to presume that there are eleven towers? Eleven wasteful buildings full of books and words?” Thurzuk laughed. In one of his hands he held aloft a blazing torch. In the other was his serrated short blade, bloody, heavy and yet still unendingly sharp.
The red robed sage backed away from his desk, turning instantly to the caged bird that was within his reach.
“Fool, I give you the chance to run, to strike. I stalk you like a hunter shadows his prey and yet all that you worry about is a sparrow’s freedom,” the vorsurk growled, doubting whether the human could understand him.
The sage’s shaking fingers had no hope of releasing the bird from its prison. As Thurzuk’s sword crashed down on the cane contraption it splintered instantly, releasing the small brown bird in a shower of splinters. It flew from the room, seeking the freedom of the cool, predawn air.
The red robed sage longingly watched it go, wishing himself far away from the tower and the vorsurk with the mighty sword. Thurzuk wasted no more time and in the same swing of the blow that destroyed the cage he casually cleaved the sage in two.
Then, as he had on eight occasions before, Thurzuk dropped his torch and set the tower alight. He knew that the city was close. So too was the tome, and the success of his quest.

The dying sage, Redmond Grey-fox mumbled with his final breath the words of prophecy that he had dedicated his life to translate. What had been recorded by the great sage Vladimir himself was wrong. Redmond had managed to further translate what was accepted as the true telling of the prophetic words.
“Hear ye all the coming of the blackbirds. The grains of your labour all put to the torch. To dismiss such a cry shall herald the coming of chaos. Darkness and Death will be its names. They shall eat from that which they seek. They shall feed from the bounty of the kingdom,” stated the sage with his last ounce of strength.
As the sage felt death claim him, his greatest regret was that all his hard work, the dire warning that could save his people, would be lost.


In the cool darkness of the thirteenth hour Thurzuk wandered the boundary of one of the farm plots. The fires had died, leaving the smell of destruction on the wind. The sorcerer took up a great handful of dark soil and brought it to his snout. As he inhaled the scent deeply a great laugh erupted from his warrior like girth and a smile appeared across his fanged maw. His mind drifted to thoughts about just how easy it had been to leave the harsh lands of his childhood.

Just like a swarm of locusts, the vorsurk of long ago would arrive in great numbers, kill all who opposed them and then stay until the land was stripped clean. Once all was consumed, incinerated, or in some other way destroyed the clan would wordlessly agree to move on to the next settlement and strike again. As one mass they would leave the bare land empty for those who had fled at their arrival, allowing time for those weak races to rebuild, become a flourishing community worthy of plunder before the locust plague visited again. For so many centuries that it seemed destined to be an infinite pattern, this was the way of the vorsurk kind. As each year’s seasons passed by the sylva communities recovered from these vorsurk attacks at a slower pace. With sylva and human slaves joining these barbaric hordes there were more mouths to feed, greater desires for glory to gain greater rewards, and new leaders demanding far greater destruction. All of these things and more led to greater damage to the land, greater losses amongst the defenders, and thus less members of a community returning to heal it. In the end the uprising of the forest dwelling sylva, coming together under the banner of saving the humankind as well as themselves was inevitable. Pushed back to the deserts of the latest lands they had picked clean the vorsurk race discovered a new way of life, one where there was not plenty to be taken from the weak and divided amongst the victorious. Instead, it was a life where not only the human and sylva slaves worked, a harsher life, the life of the defeated; it was the life of those shameful of their loss.
Thurzuk had been born two whole decades after this fateful loss of his people. Throughout his childhood he had been conditioned to hate those beneath him in rank, to grudgingly respect those above his class, and to loath with contempt any race that was not his own. Thurzuk’s first two decades of life had been filled with stories of how the glories of the vorsurk would come again. The next twenty years of his life had shown him how his people had forgotten to strive to see this dream come true. Now he laughed as he thought of all his kindred still struggling behind that border while he stood upon fertile farmland that he could claim as spoils of victory. It was he, Thurzuk, part sorcerer and part warrior that was making the mere dreams of his people his own reality.


Jefferson pondered over a passage that he had found in a great red leather bound tome. The crimson cover stated that within its two thousand pages the words spoken by the citizens of the Kingdom of Thuraen had been dutifully recorded. This tome had been numbered eight hundred and twenty-four, so the gossip of the marketplace and palace halls were only a number of years old. The people of Andrapaal and beyond suspected that only the words they wished to state as history were scribed and held within the libraries of the kingdom. The sages realised early on that the words the people spoke when they thought the sages were not listening were the words that rang the loudest and most precious of truths. It was these words that sage Jefferson of the blue robes drank in now.

The passages concerning sage Vladimir rang with consistency until the day that he was to be collected by a band of truth keepers and a yellow robed sage listed as being named Morthos. From the last recording of sage Vladimir traveling with the truth keepers protecting him the sage suddenly vanished, to appear almost a few weeks later both unharmed and unphased at the gates of the holy city. Jefferson’s inquisitive mind began to seek information about the yellow robed Morthos then. The passages that discussed the student sage were few and far between. What Jefferson did find worried him. In one tome it was recorded that ‘the arrogance of the boy Morthos goes so against the image of a student sage that the words of truth I have heard have led me to expect,’ one merchant from afar was quoted as saying. Similar passages of complaint appeared as Jefferson flipped forward a chunk of pages. Each of the documented disgruntlements towards the student sage were minor in nature and poorly documented, telling Jefferson his brother sages had only caught a little part of the session of gossip, or that Morthos as a whole was not a highly discussed topic. Jefferson discovered as he read on that when the student sage left the city, the gossips grew bolder. There were many versions of the story of why Morthos had disappeared. Jefferson read ‘I hear he has gone to frolic with the lypine vorsurk. They play more to his rules… I’ll take what is yours and make it mine.’ ‘I heard he’d been snatched by the fey. He’ll be a better man when he returns.’ ‘Time amongst the soldiers on the border will knock some sense into the boy.’ None seemed to officially know what had happened to Morthos, not that gossips could always be counted on for fact.

Jefferson had learnt to translate patterns of the marketplace banter and spot actual pieces of a puzzle from obvious fantasies. As a red robed sage, many years before, he had been able to steer the decisions of a young king in going against the guidance of history, avoiding a market revolt and thus fulfilling his vow, the vow that each and every sage made to help guide the kingdom.


Vladimir felt, rather than saw the sparrow enter into his office. He could tell by the foam that flecked the wings of the poor bird, that it had flown a great distance. This feat from such a tiny beast was rare, but not unheard of amongst the sages. When a message of great urgency and importance was sent from one sage to another, birds trained especially for the task were used in the stead of regular messenger birds.
Vladimir glanced up again as the little bird shook itself noisily. Realizing that to ignore such a bird would be useless, the great sage silently placed a bookmark in the tome he had been scrutinizing. Reaching gently for the creature, he untied the tiny piece of parchment wound around the sparrow’s leg. Once the message had been delivered, the creature took flight again. This time only a short distance, to land on the sill of the window, tuck its head under its wing and drift quickly to sleep. Vladimir knew that the bird would silently await a response, his note flying directly back to the sparrow’s home.
The message revealed in the short, small scribbles made Vladimir catch his breath. It was signed from the sage Redmond of the Grey-fox family, a red robed sage that lived only a day and a half ride from the city. He was keeper of the seventh branch of the Tree of Knowledge, the eyes and ears of the sages in the township of Wheatfield, an important grain providing township of peasant farmers. It seemed the township, and the tower with it had fallen to a vorsurk raiding party.
“How? How had they traveled so far?” Vladimir stammered.
The images came to him immediately. The smell of burning, the crop, near harvesting, burning to the charred earth. The figures out in the fields, at first seeming like scarecrows, blowing in the breeze, until one screamed. Then there was the brutal wolfish warrior standing before it all with his mane of blood splattered hair clinging to his grinning face.
“A sign of our arrival!” the beast yelled and the offensive sound echoed in Vladimir’s mind, as clearly as if the creature had stood truly before him. The moment the image arrived to explode in his mind it vanished, leaving the old sage drained. Vladimir wished for Morthos’ youth then, but found none of the comfort, none of the release and relief that he sought. Shuffling, part with age, part with the tears that flecked his eyes, Vladimir moved towards the open window where the sparrow slept and gently closed it, his hands shaking slightly. There would be no need to send the sparrow on another journey. Wheatfield and sage Redmond no longer existed. Vladimir fell to his boney knees and let the tears flow.

The hairy beast shook its head to clear the feeling of fuzziness. It was only an apprentice, not even close to being the master of sorcery that it pretended to be. That was why the magic left it that way, left the vorsurk beast with a mind full of mist. Empty, and yet full, completely of nothingness. What the power did show the vorsurk, was the true power of words. To Thurzuk this was a very useful weapon indeed.
“Good. They know we are close. Perhaps the fear will madden them… Or perhaps they will make a stand. So far, these humans seem an easy prey,” Thurzuk growled, a fanged smile crossing his heavily scarred face.

“My lady Queen Catherine, you must remain at rest!” declared Margareet, one of Catherine’s favoured servants. Margareet was an elderly lady that should have been at rest herself, but for her stubborn determination to fuss over the queen at every opportunity.
“Nonsense Miss Margareet, the people must see their queen, and I am not nearly far enough along that the child shall show,” Catherine replied quietly, giving all three servants a playful wink.
Margareet rolled her eyes and sighed, causing the three younger women to giggle. Sarra covered her small mouth as she laughed, trying to hold it in, and blushed rose-red at the cheeks with embarrassment. The queen and Becka both laughed freely. Catherine laughed still like a miller’s daughter, carefree and with a touch of cheeky mischievousness. Becka laughed in silent animation, eyes shut tight and mouth opened wide, showing she had so far retained all her teeth.
“Now still I don’t see what is so funny about what I say. Heads together all of you, we are just arrived at the market. Heads together I say,” panicked Margareet.
“It is naught what you say Margareet, and it be us as always that owe you apologies. Come ladies, we must seek out the finest of fruits for this evening’s meal,” Queen Catherine commanded as the coach that carried her and the three serving girls pulled to a stop and the coachman revealed the midday sun through the opened carriage door.
The Queen daily took the dutiful trip into the city to see over the servant’s business, as the wives of the kings before her had. As the lady of the palace, it was Catherine’s task to meet the citizens greeting them all graciously and regularly. The servants with whom Catherine was always surrounded did the negotiation of price and quality, the ground work of the interaction. Catherine’s role was to make the final choice, and then to commend the citizen on the fine produce they sold, or the exceptional and much necessary role that they played in the community. Within the palace walls the role of queen did deviate little from that of out amongst the citizenry. Within palace and library, Catherine retained a light touch on all that went on. The servants who cleaned the enormous palace took basic morning instructions from her. The palace chefs explained in brief the meals they planned to prepare, the ingredients they needed from the markets, the simple but pleasant dishes they planned to create for the elder sages, and the banquets they planned to construct for the royalty and guests. Catherine’s days were always full, and ever enjoyable with her father’s lessons ringing constantly in her ears. The queen respected her citizens, and the citizens loved their queen.


Wrapped in the thin blanket Gregory had given him for modesty, not for warmth, during the warm summer nights, Raven turned in his sleep.

Johannas awoke to the feeling of the heat of a dying fire, with the stench of half cooked flesh attacking his nostrils. There was a heavy weight on top of him, and his own metallic armour felt as though it were crushing his chest. Using the strength and determination of youth, the truth keeper managed to crawl free of the weight that pinned him. Here, standing again, surveying the carnage that was the farm, it began to dawn on the boy, just what had taken place. He cried out loudly in surprise and dismay as he looked down at the headless corpse that had covered him and protected him from the worst of the heat. His own sword was still sheathed in its shiny and new scabbard. His brothers were all dead, all had their blades drawn and in hand. Near where some had fallen was a sign, a claw or a jagged spear, evidence of the vorsurk monsters that had killed the farming family and then ambushed the small party of truth keepers, as Vladimir of the blue robes and Morthos of the yellow had visited the farm, searching for rest in their long journey.

Raven murmured in great distress as the visions, the sickening sights and smells of that fateful day, came back again to haunt him.

Stripped of his metal cage and with his hands wrapped in the rags of his surcoat, Johannas began to dig the shallow graves that would be the final place of rest for his companions. Through silent tears he tried to match each truth keeper to their ensigned blade, mumbling a quiet, half remembered prayer as he covered the bodies up again. Deep in shock, he ignored the blackbirds that squawked in irritation as he interrupted their meals. Only when it came to burying the form of Vladimir did Johannas think to shoo the birds away. The sage was strangely naked and half charred with a yellow robe covering his face.
“Savages! Savage barbarians!” Johannas screamed as he hacked and slashed at the nomads’ tent that had been erected at the scene of such an unfair battle. Distinct tracks led away from the battle scene, back towards the border. The beasts had fled, thinking all were vanquished. To the young truth keeper it seemed as though the vorsurk had claimed a prize as well. The sage Morthos had been taken, without his yellow robe and with only one soldier of truth left to follow the monsters’ trail. Drawing his sword quick and easily from its sheath, Johannas looked one last time upon the scene of chaos.
“Until I free the sage, or gain revenge for the deaths I see here before me, I am not worthy to call myself a truth keeper. I am Raven. So shall it be written, so shall it be truth,” the young boy stated coldly. To his satisfaction the birds, scavenging for vorsurk scraps around him, lifted their bloodied, dark, feathered heads and cried out in agreement.

The next ten years for Raven were difficult ones. His young shoulders were heavily burdened by the guilt that, in his opinion it had been his voice which had not sounded the alarm, his eyes which had not spotted the vorsurk monsters soon enough, and his actions which had led their small party into such an ambush. Equally heavy was the burden of his vow. That Raven had sworn to avenge his brothers and the fact he had promised to free a helpless sage became less a quest and more a plague upon his mind, body and very core of self-belief as year after year his mission remained unfulfilled. Every vorsurk that felt the bite of his sword blade felt less and less like revenge, when none of the blood he had spilled brought his brothers back from the realm Raven felt he had sent them. Trained to fight and protect, to accept orders and obey, alone Raven knew little about tracking a foe, gathering information, what had been taught to Raven and the other truth keepers in the training arena were useless in such a wasteland. Raven had only his wits and his blade as tools to use to enable him to remain alive. As the truth keeper traveled back into the lands of the kingdom what he did manage to discover in the villages made his task seem even more impossible, another reminder of just how lonely his task had become. When Raven stumbled upon Paechra and her journey to Andrapaal, Raven saw it as a sign that this quest for vengeance and redemption was beyond him. As he had vowed, he would turn in his blade, he would cease to be his identity, a truth keeper, and become just another citizen. It was to be in the city of truth though, that the truth of that fateful day was to be revealed. The last vision that flooded Raven’s thoughts before he awoke was that of a vorsurk warrior bursting forth from the farm house of the clan of the wolf, spear whistling past Johannas’ ear and burying into the steed that sage Morthos sat upon.


Paechra burst into the room as Raven stirred.
“Raven!” Paechra cried out, eager to tell her friend her news.
Instantly, Raven was up from his straw mattress with his sword drawn forth from its sheath and ready in his hand.
The lightning speed at which Raven went from slumber to battle ready surprised the sylva, something about her friend that she had never seen before.
“I don’t know whether to be afraid or amazed,” Paechra exclaimed, tapping the point of her friend’s blade away as it hovered an inch or so from her chest before Raven sheathed his weapon again.
“Bad dream,” the truth keeper mumbled.
“Remind me to knock perhaps next time and determine if you are in better spirits then,” replied the sylva.
“What is it that I may help you with, my friend?” Raven said sourly, rubbing his face with his hands, trying to erase the signs of a poor night.
“Last night, while you were spending time dreaming badly…” continued Paechra.
“Go on…” said Raven.
“I contacted my friends and spoke to them about my father,” stated the sylva druid.
“Paechra, my friend I know you feel the need to use your… abilities…” said Raven, slowly stating the last word, testing it in his mind and his mouth and deciding it was the most suitable title for what Paechra could do.
“Well I only wish I could use all the powers of the mother druid. Nothing would remain hidden long from her, not even a gnome,” Paechra replied, frustrated and worried that her father seemed so close and yet he still could not be found.
Raven looked at his friend intently, his dream forgotten, for that moment at least.
“Paechra, I am certain that the sage we spoke to will have the pieces to the puzzle we need,” the truth keeper said with a nod of certainty.
“I am sure you are right,” replied the sylva.
“Raven, my friend, there is a sage at my door. He wishes to speak with you… You and the sylva… Ah there you both are,” Gregory said to the truth keeper as he came into the room.
“Lead us to him please Gregory,” Raven replied, beside him Paechra eagerly wondered if it was the sage with news that would guide her to her father.

Sage Jefferson smiled as he met Raven and Paechra just outside Gregory’s forge.
“So it is here that my brother, Knowledge Keeper Vladimir has hidden you,” stated the old sage.
“Many would be honoured to reside within the home of one of the chosen eleven,” replied Raven.
“Of course!” agreed the sage, shaking Raven by the hand and then shaking the hand of Paechra.
“What is more, the hospitality offered by Gregory the blacksmith has far exceeded what welcome I have received from my father,” added the truth keeper.
“Is this why you both have come? Seeking your fathers?” asked Jefferson, surprised.
“Of course,” said Raven. “I was tired of seeking someone I could not find and was hoping to find myself again with my father, my friends, in a city I thought I knew.”
“Strange…” stated the old sage, the word slowly seeping from his lips as he scratched his head.
“What is so mystifying?” asked Paechra, massaging her fingers as the sage completed his handshake.
“Well I know for a fact that a citizen or a truth keeper would report to the palace upon arrival to the city,” began Jefferson.
“As I did,” replied Raven.
“He spoke on behalf of both of us, with my blessing,” added Paechra.
Jefferson nodded in reply.
“What seems to be the problem, Your Wisdom?” asked Gregory, appearing in the doorway to his forge.
“It seems that the sage you spoke to was very light on the detail of your reason for coming to Andrapaal,” the blue robed sage explained. “In fact your sylva friend was not at all mentioned and there was almost a misspelling of your name, truth keeper.”
“The sage I spoke to directly bore a silver sash across his chest over his robes of blue,” replied Raven.
“If such a sage could not be trusted to record the most accurate of truths then indeed we are headed for dark days,” Gregory said.
“Indeed,” agreed Jefferson.
“So what is our required duty to your fair kingdom?” asked Paechra.
“I must request that Raven attend an audience with a number of my brother sages. It is a necessity that we ratify the poor recording in the great tome of history. Such a pitiful passage just will not do…” replied sage Jefferson.
“I shall speak with Paechra today to make certain the information I bring to the hall this evening is both current and accurate,” stated Raven.
“Excellent!” shouted Jefferson, shaking Raven’s, then Paechra’s and finally Gregory’s hand eagerly before shuffling back towards the palace. Only the blacksmith was unaffected by the parting gesture.
“I look forward to recording your tale myself,” the sage called over his shoulder as he left.
At that very moment Thomas and Sarah appeared.
“And so our tour of the fine city of Andrapaal continues,” announced Paechra.
“Indeed,” replied Raven, “Farewell Gregory and happy hammering.”


The two companions sat outside the home of Gregory the blacksmith the day’s tour with Thomas and Sarah ending abruptly. Not long after midday, Thomas had been called away to an abattoir emergency. As the color had drained from the butcher’s face Raven thought for a moment that he was glad he had not overheard what the laborer had murmured in Thomas’ ear. It seemed Sarah had not overheard either, judging by the confusion on her face. Paechra though, had heard every word.
“Lead the way. I know I can help,” the sylva stated calmly, but with a force that was difficult to resist. In the midday light, Raven hoped that he was the only one that had noticed the blue hew that had begun to surround the sylva. Having been away for a decade of years the truth keeper was unsure of how the citizens would react to a use of magic, even the healing magic of a sylva druid.
“Paechra, your eagerness to assist is wonderful to see,” stated Raven. “I need you to remember the reaction of my people to your… abilities.”
“Understood Raven,” Paechra replied, letting the magic flow back out of her. “I ask that you trust me and consider my so called abilities go beyond that which saved your life all those months ago.”
Thomas and Sarah looked at each other.
“What has happened and how will reading and writing and living with the trees help in any way?” asked the head seamstress.
“Your offer of assistance is a gracious one, Paechra,” said Thomas, “But I believe this is something that I will need to solve myself.”
“Good luck then, Thomas the master butcher,” the sylva replied, offering some herbs and a roll of cloth. “Take this and I hope that it can aid you.”
The tour of the palace gardens was then postponed as the butcher hurried away and Sarah decided to return to the forge.

Alone for the moment while the blacksmith worked Paechra took the opportunity to speak with Raven about his meeting with the sages scheduled for that night.
“Here, Raven do you see the curve of the R? It is the beginning letter of your name and of the rose that we saw in bloom,” Paechra explained. The truth keeper squirmed beside the sylva companion that sat beside him, scratching figures in the dirt as she spoke excitedly.
“Truly Paechra, I cannot be seeing these things!” Raven exclaimed, averting his eyes from the lettering that Paechra had drawn. The truth keeper timed his responses with the loud clang of the hammer blow as Gregory worked, beating metal into the strange wide blades. Raven feared what would happen if the blacksmith overheard Paechra’s attempt to teach him letters. Now Sarah was speaking with Gregory between hammer falls, while Paechra was trying to teach Raven to write.
“If you wish to relate my business with any truth to your sages, it is imperative to me that you can read this scroll,” Paechra stated. She smiled at the way that Raven turned his eyes away from the marks she made in the dust of the road while he still attempted to politely listen to everything she said as she patiently explained what those very marks represented.
“Can’t you just tell me what the words say?” asked Raven, hopeful.
Paechra smiled that knowing smile and laughed then.
“Are all humans as humorous as you?” asked Paechra, teasing.
“You know… Never mind! I’ll just tell the sages that you are a difficult sylva, come to argue with her father about forest business…” Raven stated smugly.
“Actually Raven, you are probably not wrong,” the sylva replied mystically.

Fredrickson, the king, waited eagerly for the red robe beside him, witnessing the older of the two men sign off the ledger in the large tome of law. It felt eerie being in such a position of power, though still bound by the lessons of history. Every day Fredrickson gave judgment on the important issues. Every day the lengths of argument etched in the history of his people, grew that little bit longer. It had bothered the king for many a year that the name of the king was scribed at the bottom of every entry, as if it were he, King Fredrickson who had decided the fate of so many. In reality, it had been the kings before, or in truth the historians and what it was that had been recorded which swayed the decisions that the king was recorded as making. This was regularly the source of argument between himself and Vladimir the Young, when both of them had just come into their positions of power.
“I do not see why each decision must be based upon the last?” Fredrickson would say.
“My king,” Vladimir would begin in reply. “How can we trust in the feeble minds of humanity, when we have the very strength of TRUTH to guide us?”
“Those same feeble minds of today are not so different from those of yesterday, last year, a ten year ago,” the king would then argue.
“My king, our entire kingdom is based upon the preciousness of truth. Had those decisions dedicated to the kings of the past not been the correct ones for the moment then the kingdom would surely have crumbled…” Vladimir would always reply.
“Your Wisdom, to have another scrawl my name at the bottom of a page does not make the decisions truly mine,” the young king would then reply.
“No Fredrickson, but it does make them right,” Vladimir would say. That would be the end of the discussion. Now though, with his wife bearing the heir that secured the rulership of the kingdom in his family’s name, it had felt less important to the king that he try force a way against tradition, try and find his own voice in the running of the kingdom.
It was something that had pleased Vladimir greatly.
“Another day finished and a success at that,” the red robe said with a satisfied nod. The king noted the age of the man, a few years his senior, and yet someone that acted and spoke in a similar manner to the king’s confidant and friend, Vladimir. The king noted to himself, on the next occasion that he and the head of the kingdom’s sages sat to a goblet of fine wine and a game of cards, he would question the sage on his true age. History spoke little of Vladimir the Young, what it did say was clouded in uncertainty. Still, the kingdom continued to run, history continued to be recorded, and the length of rules and regulations that made this so continued to grow.
As he bid the sage good day, the king decided that the day was too far gone to fuss over such things. He had a queen and mother to be who he missed and longed to see. What moments he got to spend with Queen Catherine were too few for the kingdom never seemed to truly finish with its king. There would be something that night which would interrupt his slumber, there always was.


“Clear the tents, brothers of fleas and pigs mated!!” Thurzuk roared. The beasts under his command grumbled as they obeyed.
“What are your next orders, oh sorcerer?” the most ugly and scarred of the warriors asked graciously, approaching and bowing with his head lowered.
Thurzuk smiled a sharped fanged smile.
“Leave my own tent standing ‘til last. I have one last spell to cast before we move on to the next village.”
“But when, oh sorcerer, do we attack a real target? We are warriors! A race of fighting men! The women you offer us, the food we gather, the treasures are awful.”
“No sorcerer… I would not be so foolish!”
“Then wait. Soon you shall fill your pockets with jewels. You shall have your slaves, more than your ranks allow. Our race shall begin to breed again. Our legend shall be real again. This I promise you.”

In the dark tent Thurzuk settled himself before an unrolled parchment and a small staff, blue in color, marked in golden runes.
“Vladimir! Vladimir! I call to you… Open your mind… Open your mind…” Thurzuk chanted in the common tongue. He felt the fuzziness fill his mind again and allowed the dark magic to take him, hoping that the dark forces would not totally consume him. How the actual vorsurk masters of sorcery controlled the magic was beyond the Thurzuk. All that he understood was that the magic worked. For now he was able to use what his master had taught him and what the tome he hunted gave to him. Once they reached the heart of the slave kingdom Thurzuk knew that this would not be enough to keep his band of warriors controlled and to take the ultimate prize. It was there that Thurzuk hoped the eleventh tome would give him more.

Vladimir awoke with a gasp. The images filled his mind, horrid images of betrayal. Behind them all, the sage could feel the power of the tome. It was the dark power of the vorsurk-kind. It was the same lupine faced warrior from almost eleven years ago that had destroyed the village of Wheatfield, and they were drawing ever nearer.

Raven ran his feet through the dust where he and Paechra had sat that afternoon. Paechra had retired to bed, but the letters she had scratched into the dust, the symbols she had tried to teach to Raven, remained, glaring at the truth keeper, urging him to learn them.
‘The power of words, the forbidden power of words…’ Raven thought to himself.
He fiddled with the pommel of his sword that as always hung at his hip.
“It has happened before…” Raven justified to himself absent-mindedly. The parts of thoughts that floated about in his mind came together as an argument.
‘Did not the great sage Bear-heart once bare the blade of truth and faith?’ ‘Yes… but he was a hero… Not some failure, like you…’
A sudden idea came to Raven, causing him to break his thoughts. Had he, in truth returned to Andrapaal to serve as a truth keeper, or, as seemed more probable, had he returned home to give back the symbol that weighed so heavily at his hip? The question hung over Raven as strangely as a dark storm cloud in the middle of that hot summer night.
“Raven?” Gregory asked, approaching the truth keeper with a stealth that was amazing for his bulk. “Are you still awake?”
“Yes Gregory, I am, but not for much longer. Retire my friend. I have one last thing to tend to and then I too shall let sleep take me. It has been another long and full day for both of us.”
“If you were not a truth keeper Raven, you could be a sage with wisdom like that,” said the blacksmith with a laugh.
Raven smirked.
“You are too kind Gregory,” he replied, sharing the humorous moment.
And with that said, Raven ran his foot over the letters erasing them and rose from where he had been sitting. He had a promise to keep, and this one, compared with the one he made to his fallen comrades, would be almost as tough to complete.

Paechra sat illuminated by the faint blue light. Her eyes were closed, searching for the sources of life around her. This casting was the greatest she had ever attempted. She slowly sapped more and more power, asking the plants and the animals that she borrowed life force from in a silent prayer, stopping her suction from one source as it told her it was enough, drawing then, a little at a time, the power she needed from the next. When Paechra felt she had enough of the raw energy she needed she turned her mind towards making contact. This time though it was not her sisters of the druid order that she sought. Her friend Raven was a troubled soul. He needed guidance, friendship that the stubborn human would not seek from Paechra, or even Gregory. The sylva thought it time to take matters into her own hands.
‘Thur… Thur, spirit of the air… Aiera… Aiera, spirit of the light. I call to thee…’ Paechra chanted silently in her head, adding more and more of her reservations of power as she projected her thoughts away from her body and out into the heavens of space.
Paechra smiled, unafraid, as the ancient consciousness of Thur the air spirit returned her call. Paechra knew this spirit to be often childish in nature, but happy to assist those with a just cause. Aiera, the more parental and judgmental of the two powerful spirits had not responded yet. Paechra had time to speak with Thur, explain her genuine worries she had for Raven, her friend.
‘You do a sister of the earth and air a great service by your being here, wondrous Thur. There is one whom I do name as friend, his thoughts are troubled and I sense that a great choice does loom before him,’ Paechra stated elegantly in her mind. Her smiling features were beaming with pleasure as she felt, rather than saw the spirit’s presence.
‘I do know him only as Raven. His hair is dark and short, strange. He is not of my kind. Raven is a human, like the thousands of others that do inhabit this city,’ Paechra explained, suddenly becoming serious. It was at that moment she wished it were the other, less childish Aiera with whom she conversed.
‘So you will seek him out though? You will help him? I do fear for him, for he seems on the verge of greatness or failure. Raven’s thoughts, his dreams seemed like nightmares now. The wisdom of great spirits will guide him back to the right path. The great spirits are wise and wondrous. To them naught seems impossible,’ Paechra urged, knowing that it would take more flatteries to keep such a sporadic spirit on task.
‘Thank you, Thur,’ Paechra murmured as she cancelled the spell, releasing all the stored life force and allowing it to flow back to its sources. As she did so, the sylva received the strange sensations of a dragon forming, a flash of a vision from the future something that may have come from channeling the powerful spirit. Exhausted by such activity, the sylva struggled for only a moment to remain awake, before deep, dreamless sleep claimed her.

Sarah the seamstress sat up listening to the call of the truth keepers for all citizens to leave the streets and return to their homes. She ignored the call, since she was already safe and home. Instead, she fumed as only a seamstress could.
“That foolish, stupid man…” she seethed to herself over and over again. With each rendition the white knuckled grip she had upon her bed sheet grew even tighter.
Sarah thought again over what she had heard come forth like polluted waters from out of the mouth of Gregory the blacksmith.
“Who is this Paechra? Yes a guest to our city, but what else do we know?” he had asked first when Sarah had asked why he treated the sylva seemingly with less respect than his truth keeper guest.
“She seeks her father… From what I can gather, a wise man if ever there was one,” Sarah had explained, though why she had even opened her mouth to speak was beyond her knowledge now. The blacksmith had rudely grunted something and begun his hammering again. She was speaking with Gregory, a man that she’d grown up with, shared summers with as a youth and shared ciders with as a much older woman. This so called friend, someone who was also her equal as one of the esteemed citizen’s eleven, now snubbed her as she spoke with him.
“So you do not deny that you treat Paechra poorly?” Sarah, beginning to feel her anger build, suddenly said, accusing Gregory. The blacksmith did not even flinch. In fact he chuckled, a subdued version of his usual belly laugh, but a laugh none-the-less.
“This was a quest granted you by the great sage Vladimir the Young. You laugh at it Gregory, as if it were naught!” Sarah continued, her cheeks flushing red with frustration.
The blacksmith’s eyes still sparkled with laughter but the chuckle vanished.
“Sweet Sarah, you speak falsely,” replied the blacksmith. “It was Vladimir’s words that spoke; Take under your wing the truth keeper that I send you, Gregory. He has lost his way, and we must help him find The Path of The Holy Truth again. Keep him safe and show him the city that you know and love. I repeated them time and again in my head to make sure I did not forget them.”
“Obvious to me Gregory, you neglect to follow the law of Gregory the Passionate; welcoming a friend of a friend is the sign of a true host. Only the vorsurk, beast of evil would bar its door with one hand as it welcomed in only one guest with the other… That was quoted from the book of passion. It was a passage they used only a few days ago in some ruling or another,” argued Sarah, her hands upon her hips.
“You do not need to quote to me my role as a host. I gave the sylva my home didn’t I?” stated Gregory in reply.
That had been the final straw for Sarah. She repeated the very words again in a voice that mocked the blacksmith; “I gave the sylva my home… didn’t I?” the seamstress sang. She laughed at just how amusing it sounded to her.
“If the blacksmith of the eleven will not show Paechra proper Andrapaal hospitality, it will be a task for the seamstress then,” vowed Sarah, matter-of-factly.

Series Navigation<< The Eleventh Tome – Chapter IV
Latest posts by Tim Law (see all)
This publication is part 6 of 6 in the series The Eleventh Tome