The Hall of Alaric Prepares
Deeply buried underground, the dark chamber suddenly became illuminated. Shadowy figures with whispering voices crept along the rough, blackened stone walls. A roaring fire igniting on the massive hearth drove out the musty dampness. A gust of wind swept away years of dust from the walls, ceiling, and floor. Symbols long forgotten were suddenly revealed on the floor. The shape of a twelve pointed star filled the floor in the center of the hall. Around the star at the tip of each point were symbols. One represented humankind, their figures engraved into the grey stone as they went about their daily task of surviving. More figures at the points of the star represented elves and dwarves. Birds, wolves, bears, and other creatures occupied other points. At the top of the star, most prominently were figures that represented the Enlightened Immortals. Destiny gave them only a moment of an eternity as living beings, but forever they lingered as ghosts. Those perpetual souls were the Tomares, or inhabitants of Timare.
The Mosaic Star
The entombed castle once stood proudly looking out over the harbor. But with the passing of an age lasting thousands of years, the castle had vanished from view. A city had grown up over and around the castle. The thick stone walls had merely become the foundation for many buildings. Once even a fort stood above the castle, but that fortress too was destroyed eons ago. Later, new towers were built as the castle’s stones were strong and deeply entrenched in the ground. Even those towers fell eventually. Ordinary people carried off the old stone to build their hovels. Then those hovels were replaced with a new castle. This castle stood tall and like the early castle, it looked out over the harbor. A view of the Pillars of Ganeth could be seen from the only windows high up in the towers. That castle stood for hundreds of years before it too was abandoned. Then a nobleman purchased the property to build the School of Arts and Letters. Only those wealthy enough could attend. After serving many generations, that school was decrepit. Now the School of Arts and Letters was considered second best to other find boarding academies in the City of Cres. Soon, the school would be moving to a far more modern castle where the Board of Directors aspired to making a fresh start.
The Pillars of Ganeth
But the old and decrepit school covered up a great secret. Deep under the ground, the Great Hall of Alaric was expecting visitors. As old as the Great Hall of Alaric was, it was new by comparison to what lurked beneath. An even older stronghold that few would dare enter, the Temple of Eudoxia.
First to arrive in the Great Hall of Alaric was a tall, but very thin man. His elf ears were hidden under a tall top hat. Next arrived another elf, and like the first, he stood unusually tall. The elf greeted the other elf with a warm handshake and brotherly hug. With a popping sound, several more guests appeared. The ghosts quickly mingling were renewing old friendships and waiting patiently for the last member of the Order to arrive. Announced by the roar of two beasts, the Throne of King Hassium arrived, and was ceremoniously placed at the very top of the star. Then with boisterous laughter, King Hassium appeared on his throne with a loud pop. Older than the Hall of Alaric itself, King Hassium made his presence known with a witty jest. His beasts roared for silence while the other guests took their places around the star.
King Hassium was melancholy as he listened to the opening remarks of a silver robed ghost.
“The time is upon us,” the silver robed ghost spoke in a deep and compelling manner. He turned and faced each member of the Order looking for agreement. “The signs have been seen!”
“Yet there are no Mortal Heralds!” A member of the Order pointed out.
“Not as yet!” Another countered.
“We are watching One,” the silver robed ghosts stated loudly.
“Where is he?” A demanding ghost of a dwarf stepped out.
“The name of the One?”
“He has been exiled,” the silver robed ghost stated evasively not revealing the name of the One.
The bickering among the members of the Order began, each having their own notions of what the future held.
“The Name of the One?” A ghost stepped forward and demanded again.
“The name shall not be revealed!” A white robed ghost taking sides with the ghost in the center of the star proclaimed. “Treachery may be among us!”
“Who do you accuse of treachery?” An angry voice spat.
“Any of you,” the white robed ghost stated coldly.
“Until we are certain of the identity of the One, let us agree to maintain our silence,” the very tall man who wore the top hat stepped forward. His brother took his side and together the two oddly tall members of the Order stared down at the dissenters. The Order divided into a rift, some still demanding the name of the One. Distrust across the rift grew and the secret meeting was deteriorating into a shouting match of accusations.
A voice rose above the rumble. Bellowing loudly, the voice either in treachery or in simple lack of concern blurted out. “He is the son of a peasant King!”
“A peasant King?”
The two brothers stepped forward again and glared at the one that betrayed the secret.
“By what madness do we entrust our entire civilization to the son of a peasant?” A voice shouted.
“Tell me that you are mistaken!”
The silver robed ghost in the middle glared angrily, particularly at the betrayer and his supporters.
“An oath of secrecy shall be sworn, for if you do not swear it, then you will not leave this chamber!” The silver robed ghost demanded.
King Hassium leaned forward in his throne to listen to the opposing perspectives. Then growing bored he drifted off into his memories. He was thousands of years old. Once while he bore the burden of the flesh, he was impatient and demanding. With a greater sense of worth than is justified, he ruled a mighty Kingdom with a fist of iron. Humbled by failures, harsh lessons, and eons of immortality, King Hassium was much different now. Some even considered him patient and kindly. As the arguments grew with different members of the Order taking opposing sides, King Hassium recalled his most foolish days some six thousand years ago.
The Castle of Timare
The Castle of Timare stood in a basin surrounded by ragged, rock strewn mountains inhabited by dragons. Armies of men marched from the white castle through the few passes under the watchful eyes of the wicked dragons. The dragons too, had been conquered by Timare, but the dragons’ allegiance was suspect. Beyond one pass a wide road paved with white stones led to the western coast. From there, ships under the command of the King of Timare maintained a firm grip over the Kingdom’s distant lands.
The domination of the Kingdom of Timare had been hard earned as it spread across an entire continent. Forces clashed as Deities wrestled for territories. Dragons had been a menace to be reckoned with. Elves and Dwarves carved out vast regions and accused Timare of greed in endless border disputes. Enemies to Timare, the elves were to the south while the dwarves were in the highlands of the east. Ruled with an iron fist, the Kingdom of Timare struggled to maintain its grasp. Wars, some between the Deities, some between men, others between dragons, elves, and dwarves reshaped the map frequently.
The Tower of Aria
The Tomares, or people of Timare were known for great magic, mighty stones of power, and an ability to withstand the onslaught of tumultuous changes. The Tomares built a grand civilization that spread from the cold and mountainous regions of the North to the sea in the far South. One of the great wonders of the world, the Pillars of Ganeth stood watchfully over the southern harbor. A white tower rose near the pillars and that was home to Eudoxia, the Esteemed One. A Deity who demanded the allegiance of Timare, she protected the land in return. Eudoxia was vigilant and invaders from the sea were few. To the east, the Kingdom of Timare crossed great expanses of land before culminating at the rugged fjords and whirlpools of the eastern seaboard. Another temple stood on the very top of a ragged mountain. Turned to face westward, Aria, the Deity of Song incessantly spread her influence against her rival sister, Eudoxia with a sweet but deceptive song. In spite, Aria empowered the dwarves to thwart the Kingdom of Timare. To the North in the rugged snow-covered mountains was their brother, Entrophious, the Deity of Disorder. Entrophious created the constant, barbaric battles to maintain dominion over a vulnerable pass from the North.
Entrophious, Deity of Disorder
The Castle of Timare was built of white stone harvested from quarries in the nearby mountains. Surrounded by a city with high, white walls, the civilization was far advanced for its time. Temples, pillars, and statuary stood to either side of a wide avenue that led to the very center of the city. Here, the great castle opened upon a wide plaza. The fortress standing high over the city was guarded by thousands of warriors.
King Hassium in his recollection could still see the events clearly. On that day more than six thousand years ago, lookouts from the city walls heard the trumpeting sounds of an approaching army. Marching from the North, through the Pass of Rime, the great army of Timare was returning triumphantly. Entrophious’ ceaseless demands to battle the barbarians of the North were the bane of the people’s existence. The Tomares had long been cursed by the Deity of Disorder. The sound of drums and trumpets grew louder as the host of more than ten thousand marched. Dragons infuriated by the upheaval blasted the skies high over the mountains with angry fire. But it was not just the victorious return of the great army that marked the day in history. For just ahead of the army, a single man cloaked in a gray robe slipped through the Gates of Timare. Wrapped in leather, he carried a bundle that was beyond the sight of any that dared take notice. With a flash in his eyes, the man quickly made his way along the wide avenue to the castle. Nobody dared challenge him.
Petitioning the council of King Hassium, the man was shown in through the mighty doors of the white fortress. Inside, a Court rose two stories to a vaulted ceiling adorned with a mosaic that testified to Timare’s greatness. On the balcony stood the Council while the King’s throne was in the back of the Court. Raised on a platform, King Hassium towered over his Court. Behind pillars, daring not to show their faces, various members of the Court stood, some scheming with their own intentions. The man approached the Throne of King Hassium cautiously while taking glances at the shrouded white-robed men hiding in the shadows of the pillars. Hearing the sound of metal clinking on the marble floor, he stopped to glare at one who threatened him. His eyes flared with rage and the Court was silenced. The man continued his slow march to the throne. Two beasts to either side of the King rose up and snarled.
“Approach the Throne, Emirdore!” King Hassium’s voice bellowed.
Emirdore bowed and then he held out the leather bundle for the King’s approval.
“You have delivered what I have demanded!” King Hassium looked pleased. He rose from his throne and looked with greed in his eyes at what Emirdore was holding.
“I have searched the far east,” Emirdore spoke loudly with determination. Turning, he stared down the doubters hiding behind the white pillars. “I have battled dragons and dwarves! I return victorious!”
King Hassium’s beasts roared. The Council in the balcony refuted Emirdore’s claim with blatant insults. Emirdore turned and glared angrily at the mob. Then King Hassium’s beasts roared even louder and the sounds far out in the city were silenced. A hoard of guards marched through doors and stood facing the mob with lowered spears. King Hassium’s eyes flared as his beasts glared over the dissenters.
The King’s Vatic stepped forward and read prophecies from an ancient book. Her fingers were moving nervously as she followed the words.
“The Sage of Cent Fois!” the Vatic proclaimed. “A fitting tribute Emirdore presents to King Hassium!”
“Allow me to see it,” King Hassium demanded. His eyes were betraying his greed, even as his voice appeared calm.
A servant in white robes stepped forward and presented a burgundy pillow piped with gold trim and tassels. Emirdore reluctantly unwrapped the leather bundle.
The Vatic stepped forward and read the prophecies from the Great Book of Prophecies.
“The Third Age shalt commence and conclude on the fires of dragon’s foul breath,” the Vatic spoke while King Hassium ignored her words. It was the Sage about to be presented to him that captured his desire.
“The Third Age shalt be glorious, but will pass,” the Vatic continued even as King Hassium’s beasts roared for silence again. “A great Court will stand watch. Four will be born. Immortality will be granted upon their victory, but in failure all will be lost in perpetuity.”
“Then the four shall not fail! So I command!” King Hassium roar was punctuated by his beasts that filled the great Court with such a roar that the distant mountains quaked.
“Your Proclamation is Just,” the Vatic declared with a trembling bow.
“The Sage of Cent Fois!” Emirdore bowed as he set the egg-shaped orb on the burgundy pillow. Inside two black eyes blinked.
King Hassium stared with greed.
The Sage of Cent Fois
“Show me the Third Age!” King Hassium arrogantly demanded of the Sage.
The Sage neither intimidated nor impressed by the rude manners of the mighty King, blinked and remained silent.
“Speak!” King Hassium demanded.
Slowly, the Court began to fill with the murky vision of the future. Great armies marched over the land and Timare was victorious. The Kingdom of Timare would flourish for all of the Third Age while King Hassium would be held in the highest esteem. Silently the King’s Vatic read the Great Book of Prophecy and knew that the vision was a fraud. The Sage was flawed! She spoke out, but the King refused to hear the Vatic’s doubting words. Instead, the King basked in the vision of his own greatness and immortality.
Thousands of years had passed and now while the Order argued over the names of the One. King Hassium considered how the Age had passed. Entrophious was defeated and driven into the sea. Eudoxia was captured and confined to a temple where she was forgotten. Aria, amid a bitter battle against her army of goblins was captured and imprisoned in a cave high up Mount Aria. And with the end of the Age of Deities came the fall of Timare. The future was not the one predicted by the Sage, but the one seen by the Vatic in the Great Book of Prophecy.
The influence of ancient Timare had survived time. The land, once all the Kingdom of Timare became divided. New Kingdoms rose up, but all shared a common heritage, that of the ancient Tomares. Like the eternal volatility of the mighty seas, borders of the Kingdoms changed frequently. But throughout the upheavals, the people had flourished. The Tomares mixing their blood with the common mortals gave rise to the wizards who shared many of the traits of the old race. Thousands of years after the Sage fell into the grasp of King Hassium there were many Kingdoms, but all of them shared a common destiny. For the Third Age would be the last age of the wizards, elves, dragons, and dwarves. The people would survive the end of the Third Age as people always succeed in some way, but the Fourth Age would bring irrevocable changes and in the end, even the people would not survive the last age.
King Hassium snapped his attention back on the arguments of the Order. He had made his mistakes and was determined this time to not be the one that would be humbled so decisively.
Even as the silver robed ghost stared down his opposition, he knew the One would be returning from exile. A ship was being prepared in the nearby harbor. Loaded with provisions for a long journey, the ship was awaiting its passengers. Called the Star Flyer, the ship was the fastest sailing ship in the Kingdom’s fleet. Captain Tarr, a short, staunch man awaited the arrival of Madam Ka’ and Tommes the Third. As soon as they were aboard, the ship would set sail and travel across the oceans with a special and highly secret mission. Having received word that Madam Ka’ was delayed and with growing impatience, Captain Tarr reviewed the preparations.
“It is written. A dragon seeks to devour the One,” the Vatic whispered in King Hassium’s ear. The King nodded but kept the revelation secret.