And another chapter in a day…! I’m starting to scare myself. These are not short chapters.
Chapter 18: A History of Kings
The first, most prominent and unmistakable thing Brandyé noticed about the City of White Stone is that it was built almost entirely of stone whose color was so black he could scarcely fathom it. The size of the city was equally unfathomable, stretching for what Brandyé estimated to be several miles in all directions from the base of the mountain. Its buildings rose ever higher as they approached the foot of the mountain, which was itself a monumental cliff, climbing thousands of feet into the air to a snow-capped peak. Below this, dominating the city like a towering lord of darkness was a great castle, built part into the rock itself, so that it seemed to grow from the living stone. Its spires were of a special magnificence, and he guessed that the tallest of them, a great round tower that rose to twin pointed rooftops, must have towered some eight hundred feet above the city below it.
And all of it black, black as the night. As they approached the edges of the city, Brandyé began to realize that the rock was not discolored or marked – it was black itself, had come out of the earth so, though from where he knew not – certainly the cliff that rose high over the city was not itself made of the same stuff.
The city was ringed by a great wall some miles out from the farthest buildings, and Brandyé thought it made the wall the Fortunaé had built around Daevàr’s Hut look like a garden fence. Some way before they reached it, Tharom brought them to a halt, and turned his horse to face them.
“We’re about to enter the city of Vira Weitor,” he said, “a place I’ve not been in ten years. When we approach the wall we will be greeted by ringing trumpets, but – I assure ye all is not what it seems.” He looked pointedly at Brandyé and Elven. “Ye’re outsiders here, and the law is harsh; do as I say, when I say to do it, or ye may not survive your time here.”
A shiver found its way down Brandyé’s spine, and he looked to Elỳn, whose face was grave.
“Follow me in single file,” Tharom continued, “with you—” he pointed to Tylan and Richmond “—in the rear. Do not break pace for any reason.” And he reared his horse around, and set off at a trot toward the enormous black wall.
“What does he mean, ‘the law is harsh’?” Elven whispered to Brandyé. “We’ve broken no laws!”
Looking up at the fast approaching wall and the towering gate, Brandyé said, “I have a feeling that we may be breaking a law just by being in this country.” He looked forward to Tharom. “I wonder what laws he is breaking by bringing us with him.”
True to his word, as they made the final few feet to the wall and its gate there came, loud and clear, the call of great trumpets, and without a pause in their pace the massive doors – also made of that same black stone – began ponderously to swing open. Passing through Brandyé saw they were dozens of feet high and of even greater width; a veritable army could pass easily through these gates. He wondered if at some point in the city’s history one had.
And then they were through, and the first outlying buildings – modest homes, here – began to approach them. Before long they were steering their horses onto cobblestone streets, and the buildings soon rose to tower above them. Brandyé found that the city was built on a series of ever climbing hills, and he found it curious to follow the winding streets up and down, sometimes not knowing what lay over the crest of the next hill. All around was more bustle and commotion than Brandyé could imagine, and as he passed through the city on their way inexorably toward the center he saw that there were within the town different sections, identifiable by the construct of the homes (closer now, it was apparent that not every building was made of that black stone) and the dress of the folk that inhabited them. It was clear that the poor folk took to the outskirts of the city, whilst further in, where the buildings grew tall indeed, was the realm of the rich. And through it all Tharom led them, and Brandyé wondered where in all of this magnificence a knight of the first order might live, and if they would be allowed to ascend even to the great castle that sat atop all.
As they moved on, Brandyé noticed that many of the folk stopped to watch them go by, a great curiosity on their faces, and he was gladdened to see that perhaps the misery of the southern towns had not reached as far as Vira Weitor. But as they went, a curious thing began to happen: he started to hear low voices, whisperings and mutterings, and before long he realized that among the common folk were men in leather and metal, spears and swords in hand, and these people were watching Tharom with an intense keenness.
And then, all of a sudden, Tharom came to a stop and called out to them: “Halt!”
Before them was a gate, heavy oak doors set in a wall that seemed to stretch left and right away from them through the entire town, and Brandyé realized that this was the inner city – likely a place that only the most privileged were allowed to go. He leaned out and looked forward, and saw a host of guards standing at the ready, a grim and determined look on their brows. “Who are ye, sir?” one of them called out.
“I am Tharom Hulòn, knight of the first order of the dragon,” Tharom replied, “and I have brought someone for the king to meet.”
There was a silence, and then a bout of nervous laughter went around the guards before the gate. Then the one who had called out before said, “If ye are indeed Tharom Hulòn, then ye know well what awaits ye here. Why’ve ye come back?”
“I have an introduction for the king,” Tharom repeated, “and yes – I know well what my fate is.”
“Ye’ve got nothing for the king,” the guard replied, “and I think ye’d best be getting off your horse, sir.”
From the back, Brandyé could not see what look might have crossed Tharom’s face, but a moment later he swung his leg over the horse and dropped to the ground.
“Your sword, sir,” the guard said, and to Brandyé’s surprise Tharom complied, releasing his scabbard from his belt and handing it over. The guard then looked back to the others. “Who’re they?”
“My companions,” Tharom said, “and I’d not have them share my fate.”
The guard shook his head. “Not yours to decide, sir,” he said. “Shackle them!”
Beside him, Brandyé heard Elven groan. “Again? Can’t a fellow visit a strange black city without being imprisoned?”
“I was imprisoned for years among the Cosari,” Brandyé said. “You grow to tolerate it.”
And then they were being dragged from their horses, and heavy manacles were locked around their wrists. The guards seemed taken aback by Elỳn’s stature, but they bound her hands all the same, and as one they were ushered through a small doorway in the wall beside the great gate.
Once through the wall Brandyé saw they were in a wide courtyard, a building with great stone steps leading to columned archways and doors at the far end. They were not led to this building but rather to another small doorway beside it, and from here they proceeded down a great number of stone stairways until Brandyé thought they must be below the entire city, hills or no. Lanterns and torches lit all, and he was unsurprised when they journey ended with iron bars. He was becoming used to being imprisoned by the people he met, and wondered if he would ever discover a country or land that welcomed folk openly.
He, Elven and Richmond had been placed into one cell with Elỳn and Tylan in another. Tharom was taken separately from them, and it was some time before they saw him again. Sighing, Brandyé settled himself to wait.
To his surprise, it was only a matter of hours before guards returned to their cells. “Ye,” one of them said, pointing at Elỳn, “come with me.” Another guard with a large bunch of keys unlocked her cell and beckoned her to exit. Tylan flinched, and for a moment Brandyé thought she might try to escape. The same thought clearly entered the guard’s head as well, for he put his hand to his hilt, but she made no further move and the guard locked the cell again.
Brandyé watched as Elỳn was marched off down the stone corridor and out of sight, but there were still guards remaining. One of them pointed to Elven. “Who are ye?” he asked.
Brandyé elbowed Elven and hissed, “Answer – we’ve nothing to lose!”
“My name’s Elven,” he bit out. “What’s yours?”
The guard’s eyes narrowed. “Play no games, son – ye’ll get hurt.”
“My name’s Brandyé,” said Brandyé, hoping to distract the guard. “I apologize for my friend – he’s not…feeling well.”
“He’d better start feeling better,” the guard replied. He motioned to the guard with the keys, who stepped forward and unlocked the cell door. The guard drew out his sword, and stepped inside. He held it out, tip to Elven’s throat, and said, “What’s brought ye here? We hear tell ye’re from the south.”
Elven swallowed. “We’re…we’re looking to overthrow Darkness.”
The guard laughed. “And ye think ye’ll find it here?”
“We don’t know where we’ll find it,” said Brandyé. “We don’t even know where we’re supposed to go. We were traveling with our friend, Elỳn – the woman you just took.”
The guard turned his sword on Brandyé. “That’s no woman, and ye know it. Tell me – what’re ye doing with her?”
“She rescued us,” Brandyé said. “We owe her our lives.”
Elven looked at Brandyé as he said this, but said nothing.
“And where exactly did she rescue you?”
“In the Trestaé—”
“Liar!” said the guard. “No one lives in the Trestaé.”
“My family and I lived there for over a year!” protested Elven.
The guard swung back to him. “I told ye not to play games – ye’d get hurt.” And as swift as a whip he swung the broad side of his sword against Elven’s face. Unprepared, Elven fell to the floor and cursed.
Brandyé knew better by now than to react, and Richmond seemed unperturbed, but Elven was furious. “If you do that again…”
“If I do it again, it’ll be the sharp edge,” the guard said. “Now – I’ll ask ye one more time. What brings ye to Vira Weitor?”
And then Tylan spoke, calling across the corridor: “We were hired, by Tharom Hulòn. All four of us.”
Slowly, the guard withdrew his sword from Elven, and turned to face her. “Hired by Hulòn, ye say? And where do ye live?”
“We’re from Hansel’s Foil,” Tylan replied. “It’s on the border of the Trestaé, but not in it.”
The guard grunted. “More lies, I reckon. But ye’re a better liar.” He grinned a crooked smile. “And a prettier one.”
Brandyé could hear Elven’s teeth grinding at the guard’s words, and put an arm out to restrain him. The guard noticed, and turned back to them. “Ye’re a fighter, eh? We’ll cure that.”
And he raised the sword again, but at that moment came a cry from down the hall: “Hold! They’re not to be harmed!”
The guard jerked around to see who had spoken. From down the corridor came yet another guard, panting and out of breath.
“The order comes from Dukhat himself,” the new guard said. “He’s just finished speaking to the Illuèn woman.”
The first guard’s eyes widened. “She can’t be,” he muttered. “There’s no such thing as Illuèn!”
“Nonetheless, he’s ordered the prisoners not to be harmed. He’ll be here in short order to interrogate the prisoners.”
The first guard turned back to Elven and sheathed his sword. “Play games with Lord Dukhat, and ye’ll more than get hurt,” he grinned.
Then he left, and for a while there was silence. Finally Brandyé broke it, asking to no one in particular, “Who is Lord Dukhat?”
But no one, not even Tylan or Richmond, had an answer, and Brandyé suspected he would soon enough find out.
Indeed, less than an hour later Brandyé heard a commotion from down the corridor, and suddenly a great troupe of men came into view, headed by an elderly man whom Brandyé could but assume was the aforementioned lord.
The man came to a halt before their cell, and Brandyé was caught by his dress; a tunic of green felt, on which was embroidered the same white dragon that Tharom had borne, an ornate sword at his side, and a great black cloak that billowed out behind him. Brandyé had never before laid eyes on someone who by his very appearance so deserved the title of Lord, and he was intimidated.
But when the man spoke, he voice was soft, and almost gentle. “Greetings, my fellow men. I am Lord Emilié Dukhat. You will address me as Lord Dukhat, or merely ‘sir’.”
“Why?” asked Elven, and inwardly Brandyé cringed.
Lord Dukhat fixed Elven with a potent stare. “Because it is polite,” he said. “And because I will have my guard run you through if you are disrespectful again.”
“Sir,” Brandyé said, a sudden thought occurring to him. “You are lord of the soldiers here?”
The man smiled. “Very good – so I am.”
“If I may ask – what do you fight against?”
“This is a peculiar beginning to an interrogation,” Dukhat said, “where the prisoners ask the questions.”
Brandyé bowed his head. “I meant no disrespect, sir. I am merely curious about our friend, Tharom, and his like.”
The strange, soft smile remained on Dukhat’s lips as he said, “Your friend, Tharom, has no like. He should not have come back, and he knew it. His fate now lies in the hands of the king. Your fates, however – they are mine alone.”
At this point Richmond, who had been silent all this while, broke in: “Your lordship – I’m not with these folk. I was taken against my will, and I’d gladly go home it ye’d let me.”
The old man turned on him. “You denounce your fellows, my friend,” he said. “You rode with them, you arrived with them, you are imprisoned with them. Have you no honor?”
This was a curious word to Brandyé, though he suspected its meaning from the old man’s tone of voice. Richmond looked suddenly frightened.
“I’ll leave you be this once,” the Lord Dukhat said, “but if you show disrespect again, you’ll not live to see another day.” Then he turned, and addressed Tylan and the others together. “I have spoken at length with your companion, Elỳn. She tells me she is of the Illuèn – a race that is all but myth. Yet I cannot deny her knowledge of our past is greater than almost any here, excepting perhaps our librarians. She spoke to me of kings of old, and the battles we once fought against the evils of Darkness.” He eyed each of them in turn. “She tells me one of you may be key in preventing their return.”
Brandyé shivered. Why would Elỳn have said such a thing?
“She would not tell me who – I believe she was trying to protect you. But I suspect I know which of you she spoke of.” And his eyes settled firmly on Brandyé, though he did not speak. “You should be grateful,” he addressed them all after a moment, “for her presence. The king has requested special accommodations be made for your friend, and as such you also are not to be harmed. I have truthfully but one question for you, and know that there is but one answer: you are now under the lordship of King Farathé, and will be from now until the ending of your lives. Do you swear to serve the king and his agents, and to do his bidding, whatever it may be?”
“If we refuse? Sir?” said Elven.
Dukhat smiled. “You can remain here, until the skin falls from your bones.”
“It seems we have little choice,” said Tylan. “If we agree to your terms, sir?”
Dukhat raised his eyebrows. “You may go free, within the limits of the city of Vira Weitor. Your names and countenances will be made known to the guards of the town, however – if you try to escape, you will be killed.”
There was then a long pause, during which Brandyé saw himself once more enslaved among the Cosari, or in the town of Daevàr’s Hut, hunted by constables and unable to flee. To be granted the freedom of an entire city, even with such limitations, was a freedom beyond any he was used to in his life. “I agree,” he said finally. He knew not what such a promise would ultimately entail, but he knew that he could not remain imprisoned for the rest of his life.
The Lord Dukhat smiled, and motioned to a guard, who moved forward to unlock the cell. “Good. I am sure you are anxious to be reunited with your Illuèn friend; there will be a brief swearing-in ceremony, and you will then be free to go.”
Brandyé stepped slowly from the cell, and looked about him. The guard gestured for him to continue down the passageway. As he passed Dukhat, the old mean leaned close to him. “I think you know what we fight, young man,” he said in a low voice. “I think you fight the same thing.”
And Brandyé shivered again.
Brandyé had held some secret hope that he might catch a glimpse of the king himself during the swearing-in ceremony, but it was in fact a small, short affair held in a small courtroom somewhere deep within the castle’s roots. He wondered if, now that they were to be set free, they would have their weapons returned to them – not that he was desperate for violence, but he felt guilty that Khana’s sword was no longer in his possession, and wondered about the fate of his crossbow. Weapons, however, were not permitted to civilians it seemed, as they were now deemed; they were turned loose in an open courtyard with a small sack of gold each, and the clothes on their backs. To his delight, however, Elỳn was waiting for them. She embraced Brandyé and Elven in a great hug, and bowed to Tylan and Richmond. Brandyé immediately wished to talk to Elỳn, but Elven said he was hungry, and Richmond seemed anxious to depart their immediate surroundings. “I don’t like these kingly folk,” he said grumpily.
In the end, Richmond took his leave of the group, and they were never to see him again. Brandyé had thought that Tylan would have wanted to leave also, but she seemed curiously attached to Elven, who for his part seemed unsure how to handle her attention. So it was that the three of them followed Elỳn from the castle and down into the city, and were soon lost to the bustle.
They soon found themselves in a dining hall, and over a hearty meal they discussed what their plans for the following days were to be.
“I must meet with the king,” Elỳn said. “I have had strange fortune here – all whom I have met have been willing to accept me as I am – as Illuèn.”
“Why would they not?” asked Elven.
“Did you believe in Illuèn before you met me?” Elỳn asked.
“I didn’t know such a people existed,” admitted Elven.
“So it is for most people here. If they know of the word ‘Illuèn’, it is only as a people of myth and legend. As luck would have it, the higher castes have a deeper knowledge of their country’s past, and some of them remember the old tales.”
“The same tales you and Athalya told us,” Brandyé said.
Elỳn nodded. “And more. You see, the Illuèn did not depart the world of men immediately following the great war of Darkness; we stayed, we tried to help rebuild. Unfortunately, in the wake of such disaster, the spirit of men became hard, and they resisted the aid of any they saw as outsiders.”
“I know little of the old stories,” Tylan said. “I’d love to hear more.”
“Do you read?” Elỳn asked her.
Tylan shook her head. “No need, where I live.”
“A shame. There is a place where you could learn all the history of this country your heart could desire.”
Brandyé, however, was enthralled by this idea. “Where is this?”
“Vira Weitor has, deep in the inner city, something that is as far as I know unique in all the world of men. It is a vast collection of all the writings that have been gathered over thousands of years. Some are so old they can no longer be handled, but there are scribes there that work day and night to rewrite the old scrolls. It is called a library.”
“Lord Dukhat mentioned something like that,” Brandyé said. “He said the librarians knew as much of the history of the world as you did.”
Elỳn smiled. “He flatters me, I think – they spend their lives surrounded by history. I suggest you look into it.” She looked to Tylan. “Perhaps Brandyé could read some of it to you.”
And so they did. The following day, when Elỳn had departed for her council with the king, Brandyé took Elven and Tylan deep into the inner city in search of the library. It turned out not to be difficult to find, for the great building with columned archways and enormous doors that they had spied when first entering the town was its entrance. Up the black stone steps they marched (Brandyé was slowly becoming used to the darkness of the buildings and streets), and in through one of the several open doors.
The sight that greeted their eyes took their collective breath away. As his eyes adjusted to the candlelit gloom, Brandyé saw they were standing on a balcony overlooking at least three floors of shelves, stacked floor to ceiling with scrolls, books, papers and other odds and ends. Enormous flaming chandeliers hung from the high, vaulted ceiling to varying heights, and candelabra along all walls made for ample light to read by.
And amongst the thousands and thousands of writings went to and fro hundreds of people, browsing, reading, writing or even just sitting and talking. It was unlike anything Brandyé had ever experienced in his life, and for many moments the three of them simply stood and stared, transfixed by the excessive display of history before them.
So taken was he that Brandyé hardly noticed an old woman approach them and ask, “Good morning, dears – can I help ye?”
“Are you a…” Brandyé searched for the right word. “…a librarian?”
The woman smiled. “Aye, I am! My name’s Esther. Is there a thing I can help ye find?”
Dumbfounded, Brandyé wasn’t sure what to say. “We were looking for…for anything, I suppose.” he laughed nervously. “I didn’t expect this place to be so…big!”
“We’ve never been before,” added Tylan.
Esther smiled again. “Ye came to learn something, no? What would ye learn, if ye could?”
And then a thought came to Brandyé: “Do you have anything about the old king, Daevàr?”
Esther’s eyebrows rose. “That’s a long history, ye’re asking for. D’ye want what’s known about him?”
“Yes,” said Elven, but Brandyé interrupted.
“Do you have anything written…written by him?”
The old woman gave Brandyé a sly look. “Aye – we have accounts supposedly written in his own hand. Would ye like to see?”
And so she led them through the labyrinthian building, in and out of rows upon rows of shelves, down stairs and up passageways, until finally they arrived in a small, secluded annex deep in the lower floor of the library.
“Few people concern themselves over the ancient histories,” Esther said as she pulled forth a number of small scrolls. “Ye might find these not so well cared for as they might otherwise be.” She handed one to Brandyé. “All of these date, as best as we can tell, to the time of Daevàr. The one ye’re holding is one that claims be be in the hand of the king himself. For certain it’s stamped with the royal seal, but there’s no verification of its origin, other than what the text itself reveals. I’ll leave ye to make up your own mind.”
And she turned to leave them. “Thank you!” Brandyé called after her, and she smiled back at him.
“Ye’re welcome, dear. I hope ye find what ye’re looking for.”
Elven looked at the scrolls that surrounded them, and turned to Brandyé. “What do you expect to find here?” he asked.
Brandyé shrugged. “I’m not certain. All I know is that Daevàr is the connection between this kingdom and Consolation, and he was singular in defeating Darkness before. Perhaps there is something among his writings that may leave a clue as to what we must do next.”
And so they spent the next few hours perusing the many documents and scrolls about them, Brandyé often musing to himself, while Elven tried to read things to Tylan. Soon Brandyé found he had lost track of the hours, and in the dim dungeons there was no sign of the passing of the day. Through and through he read, finding that there was an enormous quantity of material that pertained to the partitioning of resources after the war, the numbers and names of soldiers, and even the treaties between Erârün and the neighboring kingdom, Kiriün.
And then, finally, his eyes lighted upon a document entitled On the Defeat of Goroth and Darkness.
“Come here!” he called to Elven and Tylan. “Listen.” And he began to read the following:
There is little I can write about the ending of the great War of Darkness that will not be recounted by other historians beyond number. How true these histories will be remains to be seen, but I can at least in these pages attest to what I bore witness to, and the part I played in the slaying of the most demonic man to ever walk the face of Erâth. Even those closest to me do not know of my intended departure from these lands, and I would have this document stand as a record for what I have done.
I cannot hide from the shame of my deceit; nor do I seek forgiveness. I did as I thought was best for the survival of my people, and so my people survived – though many now lie dead. Had I been honest – had I not allowed Starüd of Kiriün to believe the Illuèn had agreed to come to our aid – perhaps all men under the sun would now lie dead. Or perhaps not…who can say?
I would have it known at least that I did not cower here in the towers of Vira Weitor; I rode out to meet our foe head-on, and swung my blade as earnestly as the hardiest of my soldiers. I could not know what was awaiting us – I did not know that Goroth, the master of Darkness, had brought with him beasts of a terrible nature that would slaughter our men where they stood.
It is already known to many that the battle of the Ertha-Nÿn River was a turning point in the tide of the battle; but it was no doing of Erârün that the armies of Darkness fled and retreated. Both then and at Goroth’s final defeat, it was the Dragon Lords who made Goroth’s undoing possible. I recall it now as though it were happening before me: how the great winged beast soared overhead, and was struck down by Goroth’s terrible black sword; how its rider valiantly stood his ground as Goroth approached him; how he drove his sword deep into the Demon Lord’s side even as his dragon breathed its last flame upon him. I recall: I cried out in anguish, in terror, and in hope. And when the smoke faded, Goroth was being dragged on his knees from the scene by his own soldiers.
How we cheered that night – how our soldiers celebrated. Yet I knew in my heart that Goroth was not defeated, and I felt the Darkness in his heart: he would not surrender. I allowed my men time to recover, of course; but I also urged them, wounded, exhausted and miserable, to march north to reengage the enemy. I question my decision privately every day; how many lives might I have spared had we retreated then? How many men might have returned to their families?
Yet how many families might have died, years or centuries hence, when Goroth returned? I had seen him in battle, and I knew what he was: more, and less than a man, he would not die if he were not killed. I watched his sword draw mens’ lives without a scratch. I watched him stand down a dozen good men at once. And I saw him – I saw him turn the waters of the Ertha-Nÿn black by his very touch.
So it was I spoke to the commanders of Kiriün and the Illuèn and the Dragon Lords, and it was I who convinced them to march onward, through the cold and the mountains to where Goroth had retreated: the foot of the Bridge of Aélûr.
I will admit my courage failed the day we broke the final crest and looked down upon his stronghold: surrounding that great bridge and for miles along it, there must have been twenty thousand men and beasts gathered. I knew we could not win through strength of numbers, yet I knew we also could not retreat.
So we surrounded them as best we could, and we advanced upon them as best we could, and we died as best we could. I led a party of men in the wake of dragon’s breath, and we were able to break through to the very foot of the bridge itself. Yet the enemy lines had closed behind us, and I began to know that death was now inevitable.
Some goodness looked upon us that day, though. In spite of the soldiers and fierundé and skøltär, my men stood their ground and did not flee, even when we saw the great figure of the Demon Lord in the distance approaching. He bore down upon us, his black blade gleaming in his hand, but before he could reach us – while he was still upon the foot of the bridge – a dragon came crashing down, crushing those beneath it. As the rider stood I recognized him as Scelain, the king of the Dragon Lords. And then – never did I think any mortal man could stand for so long against the Demon Lord.
For an eternity their blades clashed, and in vain I tried to make my way to them, to their aid. The Dragon Lords had come to ours unasked, and I would not let such a man die for nought. Alas, I was too late. Even as I slew the last soldier of Aélûr that stood between me and they Goroth plunged his terrible sword into Scelain’s breast, and the man died in writhing agony.
It was then that the king’s dragon rose up in its final moments, and loosed its claws and fire upon Goroth. When the thrashing had stopped and the smoke had cleared I saw to my astonishment that Goroth was on his knees – and that his sword had fallen from his hand.
What I did next, I did without thought. I was hardly conscious of lifting the dark blade, barely noticed how light it was in hand. All I knew was that this was the one, the only chance there would ever be of defeating Goroth once and for all. And so I ran him through with his own blade.
I have no recollection of what occurred after that. When I next knew the world I was in a battle tent, my arm in agony and wounded men all around. It was some time before I could hear from another the news: the armies of Darkness had fled. We had won.
A year now has passed, and my arm has poorly healed. No word of the armies of Darkness has reached my ears: no sign of evil men, or of fierundé or other beasts. The bridge to the country of Aélûr, the great crossing of the sea, is broken. The armies that live in that place – if they live still – can not cross into our land. The sea there has been poisoned, some say; it is black in color, and sickens any who touch its waters.
It seems that we are finally in a place of peace. My people are finishing their mourning, and rebuilding has begun. The ruined towers of Vira Weitor are to be rebuilt in dragonstone; black, in honor of those beasts that gave their lives for our salvation. I have heard nothing of the Dragon Lords themselves, and fear for their survival. Their king is slain, and they are a reclusive race. I hope they continue to thrive.
There are other things that trouble me, however. While the terrible creatures of Aélûr are no more, there were thousands who stood on our side of the bridge when it was broken; where they have gone to I do not know, but I fear their reappearance in time. Without the power of Goroth – without the power of Darkness – they are weakened, but they could nonetheless present a very real threat to the northern villages one day.
I also fear for the relationship between my kingdom and its neighbors. The Illuèn no longer speak to us and are departing our lands, and Kiriün has severed all ties. I know it is but what I have wrought upon us by my deceit, but I cannot help but feel my people are being punished for their own salvation.
And there is another thing that I cannot keep my mind from: the sword of Goroth. I see it in my hand even to this day, though I know not what became of it. It was as long as a man, yet its weight was no more than that of a small dagger. Its steel was a dreadful black, darker still than dragonstone, and I recall the terrible feeling I had when holding it: the sensation that I was more than myself. I could feel the life-force of hundreds flowing through my veins, and I think this was the weapon’s power: it did not just slay by hacking and cutting, but by taking the very power from the lives it ended.
It is this that troubles me more than any other thing: I used this blade to slay the Demon Lord. What terrible power must now be infused with that blade, wherever it may be? What life-force does it now possess? If the sword’s victims live on within it, then does the Demon Lord live on as well?
Why did I use that blade?
What have I done?