Ages of Dawn: A Minstrel's Song

There was a time long ago, When across the land, eras of darkness smothered and Shadow Guardians roamed, when the great hero's conquered and mighty champions rose. There were ages of darkness and dawns of light, When wild Thorns blossomed and the Draccons took flight.

I am but a solitary wanderer, a witness, a messenger, a poet, if you will. I've bathed the corners in tale and rhyme, and saturated the Midlands in legends lost to time.

Now behold the untold, the lore which lurks in shadow and wonder, a tale to whisk you through the folds of surreal and even further yonder. 

I give to you now, but my humble verse, the tales which shaped, the expanse of our universe.

The Flight of Apus
Some envy my lifestyle, some not so much. Some say I have a gift, others would say it's a curse. One thing we can't argue on, is that I have been around. I've seen many things, heard many songs, tasted much exotic food; and some lovely ladies along the way.  

The meeting of the First Gods is the moment that forged the bond between life and death. It is the moment that brought man to Aldaffar and the spirits to Aldahnnab. Almack and Suuhal collided with an unwavering explosion of energy and matter.

The First Great Darkness
The sun still rose in the mornings, however, it burned a deep blood red which cast a shadowy veil across the landscape. Plants and animals that once thrived on sunlight were wiped out and only vegetation that drank in the pale beams of light from the pastel moon during the nights survived the crippling age.

© Sarah O’Regan

A Minstrel's Song, The Flight of Apus

Some envy my lifestyle, some not so much. Some say I have a gift, others would say it's a curse. One thing we can't argue on, is that I have been around. I've seen many things, heard many songs, tasted much exotic food; and some lovely ladies along the way. 

Some would say I've been handed down the knowledge of this great kingdom of Albaldah from my grandfathers before me, whereas some would tell you that I've existed forever, they tell me I'm older than the Great Tree itself, Some even say I witnessed it's birth and hold the key to its origins. 

Modesty was never a trait of mine and I hold no qualms in telling you that I am the greatest musician, poet and lover that this Kingdom will ever know. There's a reason why my loyal worshipers travel to the ends of the world to hear my golden, honey voice. Not only do you get the pleasure of soaking yourself in my song but I can promise it will be a tale that you've never heard before. 

Now I know at the mention of King Apus, you will roll your eyes to the heavens. You've heard every story about King Apus, you say? You know he was a valiant hero and a charismatic diplomat; what if I also mention that the Great Tree is involved in this one? Aha, I have your attention now, don't I? I did make you a promise after all. 

 As you already know, King Apus was considered the greatest King of the new reign and, some argued, was the greatest lover the kingdom could ever know. I always held him highly as a contender for that title and only one woman could name either of us victor, alas, my silver petal is no longer in the Realm of the Living to settle matters but that's another story for another day. 

People know Apus as fierce, courageous and considerate. Though he was born a warrior, he never particularly enjoyed battle, Not like your standard hero. That's not to say he would shy away from it when duty called but he always preferred a more diplomatic route instead. Apus' rule began from the remanent of great war, so too did his death dawn a new era of darkness. However, again, that tale is best saved for another day. 

Under the great King's rule we saw nothing but peace, joy and prosperity. What isn't well known about Apus is that he didn't believe in the six Gods and no, he didn't worship the first Gods either. Apus was a no-good heathen, which I know, is diabolical for a king. He kept it secret though, which is why you're only hearing about it now. Don't get me wrong, Apus wasn't a fool, he realised that the Gods existed but he had been scorned deeply by them and the king chose to ignore them. He refused to connect with the Gods and was unable to summon their power; not even I have stories about Apus the Grand Mage. 

I suppose it's best that I start at beginning. It was an enchanting, magical night in the Dracona Palace garden as the rain came thundering down. Just inside a miniscule cave, King Alfardh grasped his tree trunk arm around his fragile wife as she released another distressing groan. 

The heavily pregnant queen had decided to seek solace in the reverent gardens that capped the pristine marble palace, when she became incapacitated. By the time she reached the narrow winding staircase that was carved into the cliff face, she knew it was too late. She knew she could not risk the climb back down. At this stage a misty drizzle had begun and the heavens were on the precipice of opening. Knowing the ins and outs of the garden coherently, the lumbering queen sought refuge in a shallow cave near by. 

Like some sort of sheer instinct, King Alfardh shot out of bed in one forceful movement. Without needing to, the king glanced at where his wife should have been slumbering and without thinking, was driven towards the glass door hidden among the extravagant window. He strode across the Great Balcony and darted up the treacherous stairs. As the gardens drew nearer, so too did Queen Narliss' anguished screams. The rain began to pelt down as a roaring roll of thunder, followed by an electric white fork of lightening pierced the sky. The king vaulted over the last few steps and stumbled blindly towards the screams until he found Narliss

The Queen's labour was not easy, though she and her newborn son, Prince Apus, rose to see the dawning sun, Narliss had been left severely weakened and vulnerable to sickness by the birth. Little Apus on the other hand was far from little. Alfardh thought as he gazed upon his son; a natural born warrior. 

From a young age, Queen Narliss ensured that Apus followed the teachings of the Gods. Though he was obviously made to fight, the queen,was overcome with joy to find that he was naturally fluent with the Gods as well. Being completely devout to the gods herself, Narliss made the ritualistic journey to Otium Temple the morning after Apus' birth, where the Great Oracle blessed him and welcomed him to her spiritual domain. 

When Apus reached his sixth year of his birth, as it was with every child of the kingdom, it came time for his cleansing ceremony. After six years of teaching, Apus decided to devote himself to the God of Light. The morning of his birth date, he was greeted by the Oracle at the temple. There, she went into a deep trance to summon the God of Light and within his realm, she forged a connection between the great entity and the young prince. A massive orb of light engulfed she and Apus while the Gods mark burned into his flesh, just above his heart. Little Apus didn't sniffle once during the ritual. 

The God of Light, Kaffradh, has always been the prominent choice within the kingdom as Kaffradh's essence is the most unreserved to harvest; light is everywhere. The God of Nurturing, Urbatt, or God of Death, Almack wouldn't be far behind but you can bet very few practice magic harnessed from the God of Darkness, Lesathe. For one reason fear stops people, fear of becoming corrupted by the darkness and transforming into something evil; poppycock. It is known that, yes, some of the most rotten and callous rulers more often than not used magic summoned by dark energy as it is the most effective method to control shadow beasts, however how the energy is used is completely up to the caster. 

I knew the greatest hero once. Little did the world know that she was adept in the art of dark magic. This hero vanquished the legendary Shadow Guardians and brought on the Age of Eternal Light; Another one for another day. 

When Apus reached his seventh year, his military training with Swordmaster Bootes began. He took to the regime with ease and thoroughly enjoyed rolling around in the muck and dirt. Between the ages of seven and ten, Apus split his time evenly between church, combat and study. He was shaping up to be a well rounded future king until during a particularly harsh winter, Queen Narliss was struck with another illnes. 

Apus was used to his mother falling sick, however usually with a bit of bed rest and care from the matron, she would be back on her feet in a couple of weeks. This occasion was different however. The queen and her hand, Madame Spica had been strolling through the royal gardens when Narliss suddenly become faint. Being deceptively strong and agile, Madame Spica rushed the queen to her matron. However after a few days of treatment, there was no improvement in her condition and the Great Oracle was summoned. 

Tragically, the Oracle was unable to reach her and the delicate queen slowly slipped away to the Realm of the Dead, Aldahnnab, in a matter of weeks. This was a turning point for Apus. 

While his mother had been sick, he had abandoned his training and studying in favour of prayer. He spent every waking moment praying either at his mother's bedside or within the sanctuary of Otium Temple. His prayers, however, fell on deaf ears it would seem. In his grief stricken state at his mother's passing, young Apus swore to never seek guidance from the Gods again and cast off his title. He put some essential belongings together and ran off into the night. He didn't even witness Queen Narliss' burial and it would be five years before he would return to reclaim his title. 

We must bare in mind, however, that Apus was ten at the time and his perception of distance came with some misgivings. His little legs took him as far as Otium Park, just a stone's throw from the palace, however the park was sufficiently vast to hide in. He spent his first night there basking in a full moon, precariously sleeping on a low hanging branch of the Great Tree. Saying that, what would be considered a low branch on this mighty tree, could also said to be at a potentially fatal height. 

It is said the great tree has always existed. People believe it is the first thing to have ever grown. Judging by its mile long circumstances and it's unreachable height, the tree has indeed graced our realm for centuries but who really knows?... 

If Prince Apus had known the restless images that would come to him that night, I am sure he would have chosen the floor for a bed. As the young prince fell into a deep slumber a chilling voice rattled around his dreams. 

"The Gods play with you... The Gods control... man is not free... their gifts are tainted... refuse to accept... free man..." 

With the voice, came chilling visions of bloody rivers, eternal darkness and Shadow Guardians. 

Apus lurched from his nightmare and plummeted towards the ground, which seemed to slow it's pace as it came hurtling towards him. With little else to do, he rammed his eyes shut and braced himself for impact but the impact, never came. 

In surprise, he pried one open to find that he was soaring towards the tree tops. Looking down at his waist, he spotted a slender yet firm arm wrapped around, securing the young boy to a winged stranger. Apus jerked his head up and spied the creatures pointed, narrow chin. He looked somewhat human but bizarrely bird-like as well. He was thin-lipped and his upper lip protruded out, forming into a sharp and hardened beak. He didn't have a nose, just two slits on either side of his mouth-beak. His ears were pointed and his eyes, were that similar to those of a hawk. As his powerful wings carried them upwards, Apus noticed through the broken canopy, that there was a green hue to the creature's skin. 

As they broke through the thick of the foliage, Apus simply couldn't believe his eyes... but they could not be mistaken. As he neared the top of the ancient tree, the young prince was humbled to find hundreds of these creatures, perched along the branches all awaiting Prince Apus. 

"Tree Men.." Apus gasped. 

Apus knew of the Tree Men from his studies. They were believed to be the first intelligent beings to have cultivated the land. They were once substantial in numbers and tribes could be found all along the realm of Aldaffar, however with the arrival of Man, disease, greed and war, the Tree Men grew to become extinct... or so it was believed. 

Apus was the first human to set eyes on these wondrous beings in centuries. Though they didn't speak a common tongue, some unbeknown force humbly forged a connection between Apus and these mythical creatures and he called the Great Tree his home for a number of years. They taught Apus how to listen and communicate with nature as well as leaving him proficiently skilled in the acrobatic arts; Apus didn't have the natural advantage of a pair of wings to guide him through the treetops. The Prince spent five years with the Tree Men, until one night, while deep in slumber, that rattling voice visited his dreams once more. 

Return home... The dead will rise... darkness will fall... They are coming." 

Again anguished scenes of mangled corpses and ghostly beings manifested before Apus. Apus woke with a start but far less frightened than he had been the first time. He knew what was to be done. 

Reluctantly, the rugged yet dapper prince said goodbye to the Tree Men, with a promise to keep their race secret. 

King Alfardh always knew his son would one day return. Rather than cause a panic, he led his kingdom to believe that Prince Apus had become grief stricken with his mother's untimely passing and had opted to take refuge with the necromancers deep north, where he cold focus on his studies. 

News of Apus' return spread like wildfire and the prince returned to a barrage of celebration that lasted for weeks, the people of Albaldah do enjoy a good celebration.  

So there it is my friends, a story lost to the ages, once again ignited. Perhaps the next time we meet I shall digress on King Apus' rise to power or perhaps you would care to hear more tales of the Gods and ancient times? In any case, may our paths cross again soon." 


© Sarah O’Regan

A Minstrel's Song, Rising

No, surely not, it can't be, my eyes must be deceiving me. Come a little closer my friend, Ive summoned the Gods and conjured this fire, it would be a waste not to share it's warmth. 

How amusing that we've come across each other so soon; it could take me the better part of three years to travel this kingdom, but here were are, not a fortnight later, once again recuperating at the same rest post. If these posts could talk, they would have some tales to tell. 

I believe this calls for celebration, wouldn't you agree? And what better way to welcome good times than with a story? I noticed the last time that we spoke, I left you hungry for more, who am I to deny you the pleasure of my silken song? I sense something special in you though; I know my reputation for having a golden tongue precedes me, however, I mean that in all sincerity. I don't think our crossing is coincidence, only time will tell for certain... 

In light of the enormity of your importance, I believe that you are capable of hearing some truths. Indeed, I have the perfect tale in mind for you this star speckled night. I'm going to take you back, back before King Apus, back before the Ancient Kings, back before the First Great Darkness even. I'm going to take you back to the First Gods and recount the second best love story ever told; I believe you recall me telling you the first time that we met that I'm the greatest lover this kingdom will ever know, perhaps on our next encounter I shall oblige you with a tale of my own conquests. 

Before the era of the six Gods and before the Age of the Ancient Kings, before the birth of man and before the dawn of the kingdom, existed only Aldaffar and Aldahnnab, more commonly know as The Realm of the Living and The Realm of the Dead. These two realms hosted only a single entity each and these entities began as nothing more than a miniscule spec among an endless vacuum however, they had complete control over their vast nothingness. 

The dweller of Aldaffar named herself Suuhal and the ruler of Aldahnnab named himself Almack. Each of these entities blissfully existed independently, completely unaware of each other for eternities. 

As the eternities grew, so too did each realm. As you can imagine, the landscapes of Aldaffar developed into something warm, bright and colourful and it pulsed with an energy that would soon give way to a multitude of life. Water began to fill the realm and soon shaped the oceans, lakes, rivers and coastlines. Grasslands sprung up and wild, lush vegetation inhabited the vast horizons. It was in Aldaffar that the energies of light, nurturing and life stemmed from. 

Aldahnnab on the other hand, transformed into something cold, dark and grey. Water, grass and vegetation came to the realm, however, it lacked the underlying energy that engulfed Aldaffar. There was no colour in Aldahnnab. The monochrome horizon was only broken by sultry shades of grey, enhanced by the pale, misty sunlight. Aldahnnab gave birth to the energies of darkness, forces and death. 

As you may have guessed, theses six energies housed within the two realms; light, nurturing, life, darkness, force and death manifested into the Six Gods; that is a tale to come back to. 

Upon the arrival of simple, biological life, Suuhal was captivated. She spent most of her time as a brilliant orb of energy and whizzed about her domain, soaking in her wonders. As she soared from the heavens to the depths of the oceans on one of her usual escapades, she sensed a new and vibrant energy radiating through the realm. She followed the alluring trail until she came across a sapling shooting from a particularly fertile spot. On closer inspection, she noticed a tiny spore growing. 

Though the spore was a thousand times smaller than the largest tree within the realm, it pulsed with a gargantuan energy. Mimicking the humble spore, Suuhal, transformed herself into a spongy matter and firmly nestled herself upon the sapling. For centuries Suuhal held her position alongside the spore and over the ages, the sapling grew and the two entities thriving off of the beastly tree developed while more spores sprung up. Eventually Suuhal and her companion broke free of the tree and formed sturdy legs, rigid arms, powerful wings and striking faces. Soon after, the rest of the spores followed suit and so dawned the arrival of the Tree Men. 

Suuhal and her people thrived amongst the rich landscapes of Aldaffar. Each generation grew five feet taller and lived a hundred years longer. They communicated with each other and with the world around them through a telekinetic bond which stemmed at the beginning and flows through everything since. They were at one with each other and nature. They both cultivated and cherished their world and held a deep respect for the very soil that birthed their race. 

When they outlived their physical bodies they went back to the earth from whence they came and the whole process started over, where they would be reborn as miniscule spores. 

Again, the ages passed and Suuhal lived in harmony with the Tree men. when it happened one day in paradise that she sensed a new presence. A very distant presence, yet a much stronger presence than that that birthed the Tree Men. Following the trail, she dived deep under the sea and glided into a cavernous cave that housed the roots of the tree that she once inhabited. Right at the molten core of Aldaffar, she discovered a rip in the very fabric that made up her world. Never coming into contact with danger before this, she proceeded without caution, in a whisp of misty silver, through the miniscule gap. 

After his centuries of solitude, Almack was suddenly ripped from the confines of his vast grey horizons by an unfamiliar force, full of zealous and energy. Mesmerised, the smoky cloud billowed onward, in search of the vibrant presence. 

The meeting of the First Gods is the moment that forged the bond between life and death. It is the moment that brought man to Aldaffar and the spirits to Aldahnnab. Almack and Suuhal collided with an unwavering explosion of energy and matter; the intensity of which was only matched by their all consuming passion. In the eternal second of that unity, ignited a bond which had always been, a bond rooted deep at their beginning. The two entwined and embraced each other and their worlds. The realms of Aldaffar and Aldahnnab transformed significantly after that. 

Almack brought nocturnal life and natural forces to Aldaffar and offered sanctuary to the life-forces of the deceased. Suuhal brought hazy, pastel light and lush vegetation to Aldahnnab and bridged the gap between the living and the dead. The two eternal beings meandered through their worlds, always entwined within each other. They graced the realms with peace, serenity and unity. However, as life progressed in Aldaffar, Suuhal's fascination with her wonders increased. 

She would visit the tree men from time to time through the centuries but they preferred to be left to their own devises. Her focus instead, had firmly shifted onto the other two legged creatures that roamed the planes, man. They had come along since their early days of slinging rocks and living in caves; with Almack's introduction of the force of fire, man had thrived. They weren't as statuesque as the towering Tree Men and they weren't as in tune with the natural world, however over the ages, they had developed a skill for communicating with the mystical world by harnessing energy radiating from Suuhal and Almack; which would develop into the elegant magical arts as we know it today. Back then though, it was a little crude, more often than not, a conjurer would end up burning their entire village down. 

Suuhal found Man's inquisitive nature endearing and she noted that over time they had relied more on brain over brawn to create a significant mark on Aldaffar. Suuhal enjoyed their poetry, songs and art along with their carefree spirit. They seemed to understand that she and Almack played a part in their existence; man referred to them as Gods. The God of the Living spent less time engrossed with Almack between the fabrics and more time disguised as a mortal, soaking in the culture of man. When, one night, one man in particular knocked her off her feet. 

Though not a poet by trade, he spoke sweetly and was gentle in nature. When she first glanced into the depths of his crystal blue eyes, she knew there would be no escape. She showed him the world like he had never seen and he showed her a tenderness she had never felt. 

She took him to Aldahnnab and led him through the sultry forests, with every step, a whirlwind of colour lit up the hazy path and led him to a steely pond where a multitude of charcoal fish playfully swam. As she dipped her finger into the pond, an eruption if colour soaked into the steely depths, as jeweled fish shimmered and sparkled under the turquoise surface. She promised him herself for all eternity and in a flair of passion, he hungrily accepted. Under the dreamy moon, the two lovers entwined, giving themselves over to eternal love. 

Without hesitation, she fled from Almack that night, unaware that she was already pregnant. 

One moon after Suuhal gave birth, Almack finally hunted them down. Sensing the God was searching for them, she left her newborn in the care of the Tree Men and plead for her lover to flee. There is no escape from the God of Death. The poet stayed with her, as promised. 

During the dead of night, Almack found them deep within a mystical garden that was nestled among an array of cliffs, which looked upon a borderless ocean. The hurt of abandonment and rejection had sent Almack into a scorn fueled fury. He had no mercy to embellish when he found the pair. Suuhal tried to muster enough energy to better Almack, however in his natural element of sheer darkness, she was no match for the mighty God as he slung her from tree trunk to tree trunk, without so much as lifting a finger. Unable to even open an eyelid, Suuhal pleaded for death. 

"Why would I kill you? The towering, rotting shadow rasped. "How would you suffer in death? I curse you both to live for eternity in separation with ever changing faces and fleeting memories. Search as you may, you will never find your love again. It is lost to the ages, as is mine." 

With that, Almack snatched both of them in either hand and thrust them to opposite ends of Aldaffar where they remained, lost to each other. As soon as the God of Life disappeared into the ether, all chaos consumed both realms. The energies were too much for Almack to control alone and the realms bled into each other. The dead spirits and shadow beasts roamed the realm of the Living and The first Great Darkness dawned. Man called out to Almack and Suuhal to dawn the sun again but the darkness consumed for hundreds of years, until the rise of the Ancient King's. 

There we have it, the very essence of passion. Don't look so glum, I told you it was one of the greatest love stories, not the happiest. 

Unfortunately, my friend the day is beginning to dawn and I have an audience awaiting my arrival in the next village. I must be on my way for now, however, I feel this is not our last encounter, not by the Six Gods. Until then you valiant wanderer, take care.


© Sarah O’Regan

A Minstrel's Song, The First Great Darkness

Without needing to peek my head out of this carriage, I know the very reason why we have halted. We aren't just picking up any old passengers. Get in here, you mysterious wanderer. 

How could I possibly know that was you? The Gods like to play, don't they? 

I am delighted to once again meet your acquaintance, I can't remember when last my smile reached from ear to ear. 

Here, it's strawberry wine, the sweetest in the region. Let's see... oh yes, the last time we spoke, we reminisced on our origins, very philosophical indeed. I don't see why we shouldn't carry on from there. I believe I ended on a rather glum note, didn't I; eternal darkness and all that. Well, as you know the darkness didn't last forever, we saw the sun rise once again... eventually. 

As we know, there were three ages of the Great Darkness, each, followed by an Age of Dawn. 

Though the Third Darkness didn't last as long as the first two, there was something far more sinister and rotten about it, something that hit on a personal note of honour and redemption. 

The Second Great Darkness was a result of the greed and corruption of man, it came about on man's own folly and selfish nature. 

The First Great Darkness was out of the hands of man completely. The God of Living, Suuhal had been cursed and banished by the God of the Dead, Almack and as a result, chaos had ensued. The energies within the two realms; life, light, nurturing, death, darkness and force, were too much for Almack to control alone and the borders between the realms vanished. It wasn't long after the God of Life had been banished, that a noticeable effect overcame the realms of Aldaffar and Aldahnnab. 

Life had once been so balanced and within a matter of seconds the boundaries between the realms began to break down. At this point in history, man had only been practicing magic harnessed from the Gods for only a few million years or so and because they had existed in harmony with the Gods since their birth, they had never faced hardship or danger. They had never really needed to use their power for defence or attack, more for practical living. 

Man also wasn't as orderly and the realm was dominated by tribes and chieftains. Each tribe developed their settlements into villages and towns over the years, complete with its own set of laws and rules. No one man called himself king and once the barriers crumbled, it took man hundreds of years to unite; right to the point of complete devastation. 

The sun still rose in the mornings, however, it burned a deep blood red which cast a shadowy veil across the landscape. Plants and animals that once thrived on sunlight were wiped out and only vegetation that drank in the pale beams cast from the pastel moon during the nights survived the crippling age. Man came to the point of near extinction as giant, smoky creatures, that bared broad, wolf-like muzzles; adorning sharp, jagged teeth, prowled the wildlands and settlements with sharp and quick movements reminiscent of a large cat. They would stalk their prey silently through endless, scarlet eyes and would rip through flesh with their steel talons; Shadow Beasts, they were dubbed. 

Man did the only thing they could think of, pray, however, no salvation came. As their numbers dwindled they sought refuge among the treetops with the tall, winged, green creatures known as the Tree Men. Being compassionate in nature, the Tree Men aided, however, not even the salvation of the very top of The Great Tree could save neither Tree Men nor man from the giant winged serpents that infested the blackened skies. The realm of Aldaffar was lost to the prowling shadow beasts and soaring draacons. 

Man took refuge underground with the Tree men and over the years, man learned from them how to harness the mystical energies that surrounded them. Eventually the realm divided into five distinguishable groups. 

The dwellers in the once lush and tropical south were able to conjure power from light, which they harnessed through a tiny crack in their cavernous, stone sky. Over time, they had amplified the tiny beam and it carried it's power through the underground labyrinth. The Southerners had developed the once tiny cave into a thriving metropolis, complete with lush gardens. They had used the powerful light to place a shimmering barrier along their border; inside the Cavern, they were safe from the shadow beasts, who would disintegrate on impact. 

The people in the North, had mastered the art of darkness. They had used the energy to beat the beasts at their own game; by harnessing the overwhelming darkness that consumed them, they were able to gain control over the dead creatures. The Northerners freely roamed the open planes and survived on the plants and animals that came alive at night. 

The people of the wild and rocky East grew adept in the arts of Nurturing. They were able to harness the energy that resonated from natural growing life-forms. By connecting with the natural world, they were able to grow giant barriers from tiny saplings in a blink of an eye. They eventually abandoned their underground home and constructed wondrous settlements from the forests that proudly populated the mountains. 

In the once scorching west, people harnessed their power from the natural forces around them. They began by drawing energy from the molten pits that dominated the planes or from the vivacious thunderstorms which cascaded upon them, however as the years progressed, even the slightest change in atmospheric pressure would register with them. They grew the ability to summon blasts of sheer energy to defeat the shadow creatures; who were their main source of nutrition, Shadow beast is an aquired taste, to say the least. 

The final group were known as the Wandering Necromancers. They were a people that, despite the fact that Almack was clearly disinterested with man, were able to enter the realm of Aldahnnab at will. Within the realm, they could control, tame or kill the shadow beasts. Over time they developed the skill for summoning or banishing creatures from either realm. They roamed the planes of both worlds, attempting to restore order. 

As the centuries played out, Almack grew tired of his lonesome existence. His fury had worn off in time, and he now lamented the days of old. He had noticed some shift in the energies that flaired around the realms, there was some sort of order seeping through. Curious, Almack spied down upon the realm of Aldaffar. 

He was impressed that man had grasped their world so well and noted the diversity in their abilities. For each race, one man would stand out. A notion hit the God. Perhaps these mortals would cure his loneliness. Perhaps they were worthy of thrones next to his? It would take some time but perhaps man could better the chaos, however, Almack felt he had been patient enough and was not willing to wait any longer for balance to ensue. He decided he would contact these humble mortals but man had lost their faith in him, reconnecting with them would not be an easy task. Almack noted that there was one group of people who still had a strong belief in him; the Wandering Necromancers, he knew theses people were the key. Almack studied these necromancers and concluded that one individual in particular had a strong connection with the realms. She towered above most of man with skin that was the palest white imaginable and she had a mane of long, silken, silver hair. She was well renowned among the necromancers and many sough out the fair Nashira to guide the souls of their loved ones safely into Aldahnnab. 

As Nashira meditated near a once turquoise pond within the Realm of the Dead, the mighty God, taking on a smoky human form, came to her. Without an introduction, the Silver Lady knew who Almack was. She beamed up at her God. 

"I knew you had not forsaken us." She whispered 

"Order to the realms must be restored," Almack croaked."I have selected four mortals to bring about balance. You must seek them out. Unite them and we shall speak again." 

With that, a blood red sun hovering above, began to burn brighter. Nashira rammed her eyes shut as the blaring light consumed her. When the intensity died down, she reopened her eyes and out of nothing, four godly figures manifested before her. When the Silver Lady awoke from her trance, she immediately set our on her grueling journey. 

She travelled North first, to seek out Lesathe, he was as strong as an ox and was almost as wide as he was tall. He had wild, ferocious black hair and untameable beard and was tattooed from head to toe, each illustration, represented another vanquished shadow creature. As Lesathe and his people summoned the energy of darkness, which stemmed from Almack's realm, The Silver Lady reasoned that perhaps, he would be more willing than the others to listen to her. With at least one on her side, maybe the others could be easier swayed. 

Though the journey was treacherous, the Silver Lady trekked on to the Deep North until she reached the edges of the world and found the Master of Darkness. Lesathe was very much a man that believed in respect by merit. The fact that the fragile looking Silver Lady had survived the journey alone, warranted an audience with the mighty warrior. Being a lover of history and myth, he sat, completely captivated by Nashira's mystic tale. He could see no malice in the near translucent lady and took her at her word, as fantastical as it was. 

Together, they set course for the forest people of the East. The duo were met with caution as they neared the woodland kingdom; the guards of the East hung from the trees, spear in hand, ready. As they approached the gates, they were greeted by Urbatt. She was soft spoken and gentle, yet there was a silent fire burning deep within her. She towered upward and had adorned her green hair with pink and yellow flowers. It took some contemplation to allow The Silver Lady and her companion into the city and a few days more for Urbatt to reach a decision, however by the end, she agreed to take on the quest. 

Together, the trio travelled South. The renowned gentle hero of the South Caverns, Kaffradh, welcomed the elegant ladies and the brutish warrior with a welcoming embrace. It had been centuries since an outsider had crossed the glowing barrier without immediately disintegrating; the Southerns weren't even sure if man still roamed the landscapes of Aldaffar. The eloquent Swordmaster proclaimed to the underground settlement that salvation was upon them, in the form of the three heroic strangers. Word travelled quickly and by the evening, the entire labyrinth, which spread underneath the whole south were celebrating. The Southerners had faired well with the trickle of light that broken into the caverns, however nothing could beat the real thing, or fresh air for that matter, or so the Southerns imagined. 

Carrying uneasy stomachs and tender heads, Kaffradh and the party marched West the following morning, in hopes of negotiating with Elakrabb of the wild forces casters. Traversing the West was almost as dangerous as entering a shadow beast's lair. From the moment the party crossed the border, they were pelted with fireballs, electric bolts and blasts of invisible energy, stemming from an unknown source. From nothing, Urbatt, conjured an array of saplings around them, which grew an entwined with each other to form a sturdy shelter. From within the shelter, Kaffradh summoned a concentrated beam of light, which reinforced the sound structure. Lesathe, took to the cloak of darkness and disappeared into a billowing shadow while he hunted the source of the attack. Nashira, on the other hand, entered the realm of Aldahnnab underneath the protective, timber shield. 

Within the realm, she took hold of a common foraging bribat and sensed out the energy which had been pelting them in Aldaffar. Just as Lesathe saught the attacker, so too did Nashira from within Aldahnnab. She released herself from the bribat and callef out to the tiny, dark haired figure. 

"Do not be alarmed Elakrabb" The Silver Lady whispered "We come on the behalf of the great God Almack" 

Just as Elakrabb prepared to launch another fireball, a sing-song whisper in her head halts her. Suddenly, a gargantuan, beaming brute materialises before her. 

"Lesathe," The whisper continued. "He, just as you have, has been called by Almack to restore order to the realms of Albaldah. Will you join us?" 

Lesathe shrugged his shoulders, cocked his to one side and stretched his grin as far as it went. A crooked smirk spread across Elakrabb's war-paint face and she extended one rigid arm for the brute. 

The four champions and the devine messenger journeyed the middle of the planes of Aldaffar, where they came to a sheer cliff, which looked upon an endless ocean. Unbeknownst to them, above them rested a spectacular garden, which had somehow survived the Great Darkness. Across an inlet, stood the Great Tree, which had also survived, it certainly had seen better days, however it still stood. 

High atop the cliff, the four joined hands, while the Silver Lady stood in the centre and summoned Almack. After a moment of meditation, Nashira reopened her eyes and in place of the usual ice blue orbs, was nothing more than sheer blackness. She grew a few feet taller and a shimmer of black and silver mist resonated from her. When she spoke, she mustered a husky croak. 

   "You are my four champions" She boomed. "Together, we shall restore order. I shall bestow on each of you, complete control over the energies that consume Albaldah. Upon this mortal world, you shall be named king, on entering the realm of Aldahnnab, you shall be named God. "Lesathe; God of Darkness, Urbatt; God of Nurturing, Kaffradh; God of Light, Elakrabb; God of Forces" 
    The Silver Lady held out her arm and opened up her palm to reveal a brilliant, multicoloured glowing orb. The orb split itself into four smaller balls, each a different colour. Nashira lowered her hand and the orbs hovered a moment, before gracefully floating towards each of the champions. The Green sought Urbatt, the blue to Elakrabb, the white to Kaffradh and the black to Lesathe. As the orbs entered into each of the champions' chests, they each began to glow, when suddenly an eruption shook the very foundations of Aldaffar. From the circle where the champions stood, a mix of white and black light plunged to the sky, shortly followed by an array of sparks and fire, when trees shot up and spiralled around the awesome display. The energies combine and plummeted back to Aldaffar where they doused the land. As the wave of energies submerged the planes, plants sprung up as light and nurturing washed over the realm. 

Behind the champions, the mix of energies cooled and solidified and formed into a wondrous, multicoloured, shimmering structure. From across the inlet, the Great Tree sprung up another hundred feet. For miles around, alarmed and curious dwellers began to swarm to the source of the unadulterated power. above the throngs, a hazy blue sky, drenched in clear, pristine light began to peek through, however as the gap grew, the distant horizons became blacker as a rumble from afar alerted to the march of the shadow creatures. Within hours, the skies were enthralled in battle as the shadow creatures moved closer, however, man had heard Almack's call and they had flocked in their masses to the middle of Aldaffar. As their champions battled the skies, the Northerners, Southerners, Easterners, Westerners, Tree Men and Necromancers took to the ground, harnessing the pure energies seeping from the Gods-to-be. 

The battle carried out for days, however the champions never left their hold on the skies. As the shadow creatures wavered, a pure, clear hue began to radiate from the heavens. It was nearing dawn as the Silver Lady raised her head to reveal her bright eyes. 

As she gazed at her Gods, their strength began to waver as the bright glow resonating from them dimmed. As they lowered their arms, the tiny quarque of energy which had unleashed their strength, floated back out. Nashira grasped them in her hand and returned them to Almack. 

"Your quarque will await you in Aldahnnab," The Silver Lady whispered "Along with your throne." 

A deafening wave of applause and praise overcame the kingdom as the champions scanned their surroundings. Citizens had climbed atop the newly formed multicoloured structure and in the wake of the destruction, steps had been carved into the cliff face, which allowed others to climb the stairs and take position in the enchanted woods, while others had posted themselves near or on the Great Tee. 

"Your Kings" The silver Lady bellowed, to which was met with another defeating eruption of celebration. 

The noise quickly died down when a unified gasp overcame every living being. Across the horizon, where the endless ocean met the sky, a soft, bright, comforting shimmer illuminated the border. The kingdom held its breath, fearful to hope, when the glow grew stronger and they watched in unified awe and silence as the sun rose once more. 

The champions went on to rule the lands where they came from and when each of them had outlived their mortal lives, Almack greeted them at the gates of Aldahnnab. There, he took their imperfect, human qualities, such as greed and vengeance, and thrust them into the depths of Lake Obrisque. He presented the Ancient Kings with their quarques and offered them thrones next to his. 

The day that the sun rose, marked the first Great Dawn Festival, the kingdoms spent the following weeks in festive celebration and the tradition was carried on and refined through the ages. 

The newly formed structure was designated a temple, in which citizens could study the magical arts and pay homage to their Gods. 

The realm of Aldaffar lived under the reign of the four Ancient Kings, where North, South, East and west were ruled by the blood lines of the Gods, and the Tree Men were free to inhabited the tree tops, while the necromancers settled at the centre of Aldaffar, that is, until the uprising and the Age of the Second Great Darkness... 

So my friend, the only reason that were are here and able to enjoy this glorious afternoon, is because Almack felt lonesome. If he had decided that eternal solitude suited him, he would never have interfered with the ways of Aldaffar. Sorrowfully, I must jump ship at this upcoming crossroad. You may finish the wine, I'll get the flask back the next time that we cross paths. Until then my friend, may the Gods keep you. 


© Sarah O’Regan


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