In a voluminous cavern deep under the Grimfang Mountains the Dark Lord sat high atop his newly constructed throne. The lofty seat was made from large pieces of black volcanic glass which lay scattered throughout the cavern floor. The glass stones were held together with a mortar made from the blood and bodies of hundreds of slaves. As it was being constructed the Dark Lord whispered a spell in the form of a chant he discovered in the ancient sheepskin scrolls of the Black Druids. The spell he read was a small one, just a few lines of tiny runes, barely noticeable in the margins on the sheepskin. Yet for being so small it was extremely powerful and allowed him to infuse Black Magick into every stone and every drop of blood that went into the thrones construction.
Through this seat of black glass and blood the Dark Lord felt immensely powerful as he explored its capabilities. To his surprise his dark powers rejuvenated as strong as any sacrifice he took from the stone slab. As he looked out into the nothingness of the vast cavern he could see far and away through the eyes of his Black Sorcerers who roamed the earth. Many of his small bands of Dark Stars now traveled through the swirl of the Fell Ice, each surrounded by a company of ensorcelled thralls. They made their way to the southern lands of man, on their hunt for more slaves. Some trudged west while others trekked east, but all had to find their way around the vast mountain range of the Grimfangs.
Once past the Grimfangs his minions who traveled east needed to make their way around the northern most part of the tall mountain range known as the Tallspines. Past those mountains they turned southward into warmer lands and moved through a vast grassy flatland known as the Mongol Plains. Living throughout these lands his Black Sorcerers found numerous tribes of the roving Mongol people.
The Dark Lord scanned the minds of many of his Sorcerers in the Dark Stars as they moved through the flatlands. He stayed with one of the lead Sorcerers looking through his eyes as he walked with his Star and a cluster of compelled warriors. The small group was making their way in silence and under the cover of darkness as they approached a large group of tents laid out on the plain. Before entering the encampment one of the five Sorcerers drew a five pointed pentagram with his crooked staff in the dust at the camps edge. Once it was drawn all five took a position standing at each point of the star. The Dark Lord could hear the Sorcerers begin to whisper a chant as they stood looking towards the tents. The chant was a powerful incantation building in intensity until the five let it loose putting everyone within the camp under a spell of lethargy and forgetfulness. They were then able to move through the tents unchallenged and carve out a swath of people, as many as they could handle, under their spell of compulsion. When they had their groups of men, women and children assembled they shepherded them back out into the darkness. In the early morning light those left in the camp would have no memory of what happened during the night, nor would they have the energy to look for any of the missing.
The Dark Lord marveled at the power his new throne gave him. Through this seat he could get into the heads of his followers and issue commands without ever having to leave the cavern. He could even inflict pain or kill them outright if the need arose. He was able to travel farther than he ever thought possible as he jumped from one mind to the next of his Black Sorcerers. He looked on through their eyes from a quarter of the world away as they moved ever further east collecting slaves in the lands of the Mongol plains and beyond. He watched as they came across people known as Huns and Chinamen and many others who’s names he did not care to remember.
He then turned his attention westward to the Black Sorcerers harvesting souls from the cold northern lands of the Barbarians. He much desired these people for their strength in arms and spirit, and because he hated them most for past transgressions. The Dark Lord watched, with great satisfaction, as his Sorcerers reaved through entire clan holds of the warrior Nordic and Finni, and whole villages of the meeker Svealanders.
He was pleased as his minions become more consumed by the power of the Black Magick and stronger in its use. With every grisly sacrifice they preformed on their bloody altar slabs their strength in spell casting grew. After each outing his Dark Stars returned leading ever larger throngs of men, women and children under their spells of compulsion, ever contributing more and more to his horde of slaves.
Once the the mindless rabbles were brought back to the stronghold they were placed in holding pens throughout the caverns. The Dark Lord would then walk amongst them assigning each wretched soul to their fate. As he looked into the empty heads of men, women and children he hissed his commands to a gaggle of lowly black sorcerers who followed. They would usher the newly acquired slaves away to where they would live out the rest of their lives. Most went to the labor gangs to work in digging and clearing the tunnels and caves, some went to the training caverns to be soldiers for his ever growing army, and handfuls were picked to be servants where needed. Those he found unable to do any of these things were not a waste to him. It was a small mercy, and perhaps an unintended good thing, these people were kept in an entranced state. They were unaware of their fate as they were marched towards the altar slabs in the darkest parts of the cavern, where the sacrifices were performed.
There were always a few he spied within the throngs who had within them truly dark hearts. These men, and some women, were usually leaders of a tribe or a clan, Barbarian mystics or eastern shaman, and a scattering of murderers and thieves, to name a few. They were all filled with evil intent and some even carried a light touch of the dark arts. These were brought from their trance and forced to participate in a rite of passage into the Black Sorcerers. If they passed they moved on to perform their first sacrifice and begin the transformation. If they failed they became the sacrifice, their dark souls offering a bit more power than the usual fare to those who performed it.
As the Dark Lord sat and pondered his new throne he was approached by one of his Dread Lords. “My Lord, tis time again to think upon digging thy tunnels to the South. It wilt take many lives of thine slaves to reach the East. Thine armies may grow that much greater if thine holes to the South were’t expanded,” the hulking form said from the ground below.
He ignored him as he had done many times before. He would not stop the gangs of slaves digging and clearing the caves and tunnels leading east under the mountains. He was growing tired of the buzz of the dreaded Good Magick coming from the Elves living in these mountains. He knew it would take many more turns to reach their miserable Vale, but he did not care. Nothing was more important to him than the destruction of these Elves.
Besides, the plains below the Grimfangs were full of the wolves holding the spark of the Good Magick. From his throne he could see them dimly moving about, like the lice upon one of his slaves. They were not ready to go to war against these mangy wolves, they were not near strong enough, yet.
It was mid-afternoon when the three Elves rode down into Aerith-Ellel, the city surrounding the famed Hall of Mage Lore. Katyr could not get over the size of the city, it put the small dell around the Mage House of the Western Vale to shame. Houses and buildings, archways and spires rose all around, most carved from a beautiful pink sandstone rock. The vines he had grown used to seeing were draped everywhere throughout the city, budding with flowers of every color. Katyr could see more Elves than he could count going to and fro along the cobblestone streets. They did not appear to notice the beauty around them as they walked. All seemed to be lost in thought as they moved about on some unknown business of their own.
The wolves ran on ahead of their little group and sniffed at everything along the way. Their tails gave happy wags with every little discovery they came across. The Elves of the city were too busy on their errands to take notice of the Saddlebacks in their midst. Only when Shadowback and his pack-mates stopped to bark at Solid Tundras they spied along the road did the Northern Elves take heed. Some would even stop and smile while giving a proper wolf greeting, much to the delight of the Saddlebacks.
Between the tall buildings Katyr could see over a dozen giants working off in the distance. Several worked around a small mountain of rough pale pink sandstone boulders, shaping them into rectangles with their huge hands. Others then threw the worked stones to waiting giants who stacked them as if they were bales of hay. A cloud of pink dust hung over them as they constructed buildings rising high into the sky.
“The new palace for the new High King and his family when they come to this side of the Vale to stay,” Merlara said when she saw Katyr watching the giants at work. “As if they need a bigger place to live. The old palace is over there.”
Katyr looked to where she pointed and he could see down into spacious grounds surrounded by tall walls. The grass of the grounds was a deep emerald green surrounding a complex of many buildings. Tall thin evergreen trees bordered the main cobblestone thoroughfares running throughout the grounds. At every intersection large beautifully carved marble fountains shot plumes of water high into the air. Behind the buildings Katyr could see a small forest of a variety of manicured trees growing. At the center of the grounds stood a tall circular building made of bright white marble stone. The building was the tallest standing six levels high with each level surrounded by intricately carved pillars. Vines loaded with colorful flowers spiraled around each of the pillars. From the walls and scattered throughout the buildings were tall golden spires pointing high into the sky. Katyr thought it was a beautiful sight to behold. He also thought it was big enough to house an army. He shook his head, unable to understand why any family would need a larger place to live.
“Some say the new High King Adorellan Nuala is going to make his eastern palace on a grand scale to match the House of Mage Lore,” Merlara said. “Personally, I think his old one is grand enough.”
After a ride that seemed to take forever of going up and down through twisting and turning streets the two Western Vale Elves could finally see their destination, the House of Mage Lore. It was built into the wall of the mountains surrounding the Vale and went high into the sky. The building was made of the same black stone as the mountain it rested against. The rough cut stones were dazzling as they glittered in the sunlight from the crystal veins of quartz running through them. Tall, wide tapestries hung down the sides of the huge building in the color of gray trimmed in silver. Upon them were printed large Elven runes in bright silver. They spelled out wards of protection for the land and spells that promised continued abundance.
The three Elves rode up to the steps where young Elflings awaited to take their horses to the stables. Dozens of the young boys and girls stood about all dressed in the same light gray uniforms while dozens more went running to get horses or were leading them out for someone waiting. Katyr thought is was quite a waist when they could just ride to the stables themselves.
“We go up the steps into the Grand Hall of Mages. Then we will go to the first Mage we are to see today,” Merlara said as she looked them both over, straightening here and brushing there.
“Do we bring our staffs?” Glynfiel asked, not wanting to part with it.
“Of course Glyn,” Merlara said. “You are a Battle Mage, no one can take your staff. Katyr’s will be proof that he had knowledge of the High Mage Belador. They may not like it, but I do not think they will take it away. That will be up to the High Mage of your Vale.”
The Grand Hall was spectacular as they walked in through a high peaked arch. It was vast and cavernous going far into the side of the mountain. Rows of balconies hewn from the living rock lined each side of the cavern walls. Katyr had to stop and crane his neck back to look straight up as he counted twelve levels high on both sides. Walkways ran from balcony to balcony and across the far back wall joining each side of the cavern. They could see wide stairs carved into the stone of the back wall that zigzagged up to each level of walkway.
Katyr could see tall, wide doorways all along the walkways leading into rooms chiseled from the stone. On each side of the doorways hung tapestries of every color giving a rainbow splash against the stark black stone of the Hall. Upon each tapestry were printed large golden letters in Elven script identifying the room they hung by. On every level Elves in gray gossamar robes moved about the walkways or sat at tables on the balconies. All seemed involved in conversation with each other sounding a dull rumble throughout the vast Grand Hall.
“To the left side are the Novice rooms and the Halls of Learning,” Merlara explained. “On the right side are the offices of the Mages. That is where we are going, three levels up.”
“Seems like so many rooms, do that many Elves really train here?” Katyr asked.
“All the Vales send their most promising Mages to train here. Except the Western Vale of course. The learned Mages here do not train in sea lore,” Merlara said. “The Norvale Guard, the Royal Army as well as the House Guard are required to spend time with the Mages, especially the new recruits. Every so often we have to come back, which is good, as it keeps us on good terms with the more powerful Mages.”
A troop of about twenty Elven warriors walked by. All were wearing the same light armor as Merlara, only their steel was of a golden tint. They stopped a minute to greet the Saddlebacks that ran fearlessly through their legs. Glynfiel whispered to him that these were the House Guard of the High King. All of the broad-shouldered Elves stood about a foot taller than Katyr, and he was considered tall by Elven standards. Even though they were of a different Guard they saluted Merlara with a fist to chest movement as they walked by, acknowledging her rank as First Lieutenant in the Norvale Guard.
Katyr and Glynfiel could see many Elven guards standing at various posts throughout the cavern as they climbed the stone steps. The guards wore winged great-helms and heavy armor made of strong-metal tinged in black. They held shields and long-spears of burnished silver and wore black floor length cloaks which draped from their shoulders and down their backs. Katyr could see the White Magic burning bright in each soldier, as strong as in any Mage. These were the renowned Mage Guard of the Northern Vale. Katyr could see these halls were very well protected.
The three reached a wide doorway on the third tier that was bracketed by red and white tapestries which read ‘Hall of Books and Scrolls’ in Elven script. The Tundras ran on ahead into the dark room without waiting. Just as quick they ran right back out and hugged up close to the sides of the three Elves. The hair along their backs stood high and their ears were pricked forward as they stared back into the room. With their tails tucked firmly between their legs the six big wolves gave soft whimpers and whines as they crowded close. Katyr was surprised by their reactions until he began seeing pairs of bright eyes reflecting the light of the Hall all throughout the room. He began counting the pairs of eyes but as more and more came into view he gave up. Suddenly Katyr smiled and held back a laugh when he realized the source of discomfort for Shadowback and his pack. The mighty Tundras, who had no problem facing down Dread Cats or taking on a pack of Grim Wolves, were stifled when confronted by a bunch of common house cats.
“Ah yes,” Merlara said bit sheepishly. She looked down at the wolves with a giggle. “I have forgotten about the cats. The Mages keep them so rodents do not destroy their books and scrolls. This Mage keeps an army of them.”
After giving the pack firm instructions to wait at the doorway the three Elves went into a large dark room whose walls were covered with tall wooden shelves holding thousands of books and scrolls. The room was wide and it went deep, just how deep was hard to tell as row after row of tall freestanding shelves marched back into the darkness. The front of the room was free of shelves but the floor was littered with tall stacks of books and scrolls. Merlara led them through a maze of narrow pathways that brought them to a small desk high in the air just before the rows of shelves. Bracketing the desk on one side was a messy stack of books and on the other a hap-hazard pile of scrolls. On the corner lay a fat ball of orange striped fur from which a tail hung down making ‘S’ shapes in the air. Two golden eyes stared down in boredom at the three. Barely seen sitting behind the desk, on a tall spindly stool, was a small Elf in stained gray robes. He was bent over a thick tome under the dim light of an oil lamp that hung above him. As they approached they could hear silent whispers coming from the Elf as his lips moved while he read.
“This is Mage Hagwin,” Merlara whispered as they walked up. “He deciphers the books and scrolls that come into the Mage House. He decides their importance and which room they should go to.”
“Looks like the Mage could use some help,” Glynfiel whispered back as she looked around seeing no one else about.
“Master Hagwin,” Merlara said as they got closer to the desk. “How nice to see you again, it has been too long!”
“Eh, whats that…?” the little Elf said looking up from his book and down at the floor in front of the desk. It took him a minute to focus and then a smile spread across his face. “Bless me, Merlara! It has been too long. You are every bit as lovely as I remember.” He pushed back from his desk and hopped off the stool. He seemed to be about the same height standing as he was sitting, if that was possible. Even Glynfiel towered over the little Mage. He came around to Merlara as she bent down to give him a hug.
“How is your father? Doing well I hope,” the Mage said, as he looked to Glynfiel and Katyr, not giving Merlara time to answer. “Who are these? And why do I smell wolf?”
“These are my friends from the Western Vale. This is the Battle Mage Glynfiel, friend and companion to the fallen High Mage Belador. This is Katyr, strong in the White Magic and bearer of the High Mage’s staff. They are here on an important mission Master Hagwin. Could you be so kind and hear them out?” Merlara asked the tiny Mage who was looking up at them.
“I am sorry for your loss, my lady,” Hagwin said. “I suppose I could take moment to listen. Let us go to the balcony, my weary eyes could use the rest.”
He led them through the dark, stuffy room, around stacks of books and scrolls. He grabbed a large glass bottle in a net wrapping from one of the shelves on the way. He indicated for Merlara to grab four dusty wooden mugs from the same shelf. They went out a small side door that led to a stone balcony overlooking the grand hall. Tables and chairs were set up on the patio and they could see many other Elves sitting along the balcony. Young Elves in gray uniforms were running about carrying trays of food and flagons of wine as they served the sitting Elves, but none came near the Mage Hagwin as he and the three Elves took seats around a small wooden table.
The little Mage took the wooden mugs from Merlara and began pounding them upside down on the table while blowing dust from them. He gently smacked her hand away when she tried to help. While he was cleaning the mugs the Tundras arrived and began milling around the table. They had caught the scent of their friends when they left the room and ran down the walkway to the balcony. They sniffed about looking for any food to be had. When they saw there was none they ran on to the next table of Elves. They were warmly greeted and received scraps from the friendly Elves. They then ran on down the row of tables stopping at everyone where Elves sat. Any Solid Tundras laying about watched as the Saddlebacks went from table to table, wishing they had thought of that. Of course Mid Day led the charge as they made their run on the generous Elves.
“So what is this all about,” the little Mage said while pouring some kind of strong drink from the bottle. The three Elves turned their noses at the drink only sipping it as the little Elf drank thirstily. “Ah, that hits the spot,” he said wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his robe.
“I was at the battle where General Darkath and the High Mage Belador fell,” Glynfiel said. “It was an awful foe of the Black Magic we fought against. Their powers were stronger than I have ever seen. Katyr had been tracking them and he sees their taint still.”
“Awful business that, again, I am sorry for your loss,” Hagwin said sadly. “Tell me young one,” he said looking at Katyr. “What do you see?”
Katyr took a minute as he looked towards the West. “I see a darkness beneath the mountains to the North and West, it moves about like a worm under the ground. I also see a swirl in the wall of your Vale. That darkness is different but no less threatening, like the taint of the Fell Ice.”
Mage Hagwin and Merlara both became alarmed as he looked on and they caught a glimmer of what he saw through the White Magic. Glynfiel was a bit taken back too, it was the first time Katyr’s power was strong enough to help her see.
“You are as strong in the White Magic as you appear, child,” Hagwin said, a bit unsettled. “You have the power of deep-sight, not too many are born with that, and you can also help others to see. But it is a dangerous power to have and without the proper training it can burn you out. One can see too far, and too deep.”
“You must see the High Mage,” he said curtly. “It is a long walk, but I will take you.”
He rose and they all stood with him.He went inside his dark room and came out with a short staff to match his size. He led them towards the end of the balcony walkway where they caught up with the begging wolves. Instead of going to the stairs he took them to a peaked-arch doorway and onto a platform. He said a few words and the platform began to rise. He looked back at the surprised Elves and wolves and said, “What? We have the magic, why not use it?” None of them complained as it very much beat using the stairs.
The platform took them up to the very top level. They followed the little Mage out onto a stone balcony looking out over the whole of the cavernous hall below. From here they could see all the balconies on the other side of the hall as well as the ones below as they stepped out from the top. They headed for a door at the far end against the wall of the mountain.
It was a small door they came to with no tapestries hanging down its sides. It was not the grand arched doorway they expected the High Mage to have. They walked into a well lit room whose walls were lined with shelves holding books. Towards the back of the room were three elder Elves sitting around a small table. They looked to be involved in a serious conversation as Master Hagwin led them in.
“Hagwin, what is the meaning of this! By the White! You know the proper channels!” the sternest of the Elves said loudly as he rose angrily from the table.
Merlara whispered to Glynfiel and Katyr who stood behind the little Mage, “That is the High Mage of the Vale, Ilphas, to his right is the High Mage to the King, Nardual, and to his left is the High Mage of the Towers, Orndacil. All very powerful and not to be trifled with.”
Katyr had not a thought in his mind of trifling with these Elves. He could see the White Magic swirling angrily inside them and it frightened him very much. Cautiously, he put down his fear and stepped up to the side of the little Mage. Much to the dismay of Merlara, Glynfiel and even the Tundras. The wolves had backed up to the doorway after having seen the three elder Elves and gave soft whines as Katyr stepped forward.
“Excuse me High Mage Ilphas, I Katyr, of the Western Vale, asked Mage Hagwin to bring us here.” Katyr said with less fear than he felt. “Do not be angry with him. I come with news of great danger to your Vale. The same danger that destroyed the High Mage Belador, the General Darkath, his two hundred mighty Elven warriors and fifty Saddleback Wolves of the Osprey Clan. I believe the danger comes this way.”
The High Mage stared at Katyr as Mage Hagwin said, “He is strong in the deep-sight Mage Ilphas, I have seen it. He is untrained but still he can show you much. At least let him look for you.”
The High Mage turned from looking at Katyr to Merlara and Glynfiel in the back, “I know you, First Lieutenant Merlara, but who is this with you.”
“I am Battle Mage Glynfiel, companion to Katyr here, from the Western Vale,” Glynfiel said stepping forward. “I was at the battle where the High Mage Belador and General Darkath were slain. I was in the service to the High Mage.”
“What staff is that you carry boy!” the High Mage said after looking at Glynfiel a moment. “You are not deserving of such.”
“It is the staff of the High Mage Belador!” Katyr said.
Quickly Glynfiel came to his side, “I gave it to him, my Lords. He may not have the training but he has the power and control to carry it.”
By now all three of the High Mages were standing, all still angry from being interrupted. They came from around the table and walked up to Katyr. The tall thin Elf stood at attention as if he were a soldier in the Guard. The Mages looked him over as if no one else were in the room. The whines of the wolves grew louder.
“Since you are here at Hagwin’s blessing show us what you can see. What danger lurks for the Vale, child,” the High Mage Ilphas said.
Katyr turned his sight towards the West, the stone wall in front of him fell away and a dreadful patch of the Black Magic shown through. Also showing through was a shadowy swirl of the Fell Ice within the wall of the Northern Vale. The three High Mages behind him gasped at what he showed them.
“The boy sees too much!” the High Mage Nardual said. “He sees the swirl at the wall and he has shown others.”
“So, it is true!” Mage Hagwin said angrily from behind. “You three are opening a path to the top of the world through the Vale wall.”
“Yes, Hagwin, we are,” Mage Ilphas said calmly. “Sorry you had to find out this way. We are going to destroy the soul of the Fell Ice beyond, just as Elven-kind was meant to do. Once we command the power of the Ice Wryms we can travel to its bitter kingdom and destroy the threat once and for all.”
“This is madness!” Hagwin said. “Ice Wryms are wild animals, of the old magic like the Dread Cats, only so much larger. You will never tame them. And you have weakened the wall and endangered every living soul in the Vale. The High King and the generals must know of this.” He looked deep in thought when he said the last, as he chewed on the sleeve of his robe.
The little Mage did not notice the three High Mages moving around the four of them. As habit, Merlara put her hand on the hilt of her sword, feeling threatened. The whines of the wolves turned to low growls.
“The new High King knows, and approves, Hagwin,” Orndacil, High Mage to the West said. “He was part of the planning, and many of the generals were there too. It has been many turns in the making. We will prove once and for all the Northern Vale is meant to lead all of Elven-kind!”
Katyr noticed a gleam in the eyes of the High Mage as he talked and a greedy look on his face. He looked at the other two and could see they wore the same look. He knew this was much out of place for a High Mage, they always maintained a rigid and aloof composure. Katyr knew he should have nothing to fear but still he worried.
Mage Hagwin came out of his thoughts, looked around in surprise and said, “You wouldn’t, no Mage can harm an El….” His voice became muffled and then stopped mid-word.
“What do you take us for, Hagwin!” Ilphas said, staring down at the little Elf. “Not one hair on your head nor those of your friends shall be harmed.”
Katyr felt an invisible force come around him and hold him tight. There was no pain but he could not move a muscle. Barely within his sight he could see Glynfiel, Merlara and the small Mage were held the same as he.
“We will see to the wolves,” the High Mage Nardual said to Ilphas. Katyr could hear the Saddlebacks starting to growl ferociously from the door. The wolves could see the threat coming but they could not attack an Elf, and they would not leave their friends. In seconds the wolves were quieted and Katyr hoped they were not harmed. He could not see them from where he stood to know. He was not sure if the rule of Mages doing no harm to Elves applied to the Tundras.
When the two Mages were done they returned to the side of the High Mage Ilphas. “I have just the spell to use on these four, and the wolves too I think,” Ilphas said as he walked around the frozen Elves, “none should have any memory of this. To some, it should come as a great relief.” He stared down once more at the Mage Hagwin as he shook his head from side to side. Katyr was awake the whole time the High Mage Ilphas was speaking and heard every word.
Ilphas stopped in front of Katyr and looked him in the eyes saying, “Pity for this one. He is young and so very strong in the White, it burns so very bright within him. Through us he could have learned the full potential of his power. Instead we must send him back to the Mages of the West. There he will no doubt end up as a star gazer or a wind mage, something unremarkable to be sure.”
As an afterthought before the High Mage Ilphas walked away he said, “High Mage Orndacil, would you be so kind as to relieve the boy of the staff of Belador, he will not have need of such as mighty as this. And we will make sure he has no memory of it.” Katyr’s anger flared as the staff was pulled away from him, but the invisible force held him tight and there was nothing he could do.
“What of the black taint the young one showed us?” Nardual asked. “We all could see it. Is it not possible there is something to their story? Could it have been responsible for the deaths of High Mage Belador and General Darkath? Should we at least look into it?”
“You pose too many questions Nardual and worry needlessly,” Ilphas said. “The Black Magic is all around us, as it always has been. I for one will not loose any sleep because a patch of the taint has moved into the Grimfangs. Besides, what do we have to fear behind the walls of the Northern Vale.”
“As far as the deaths of Belador and Darkath there can be only one explanation. Belador always did have a sense of grandeur about him and he was never as strong in the White as he claimed. He obviously went to the Pillars on some mission that only he could know. He went too close and was killed by minions of the Fell Ice. It is a shame to me that so many Elves and Tundras died following him in his folly.” The High Mage Ilphas looked sternly at the other two Mages making sure they understood what he was saying. Katyr heard a soft whimper of sorrow from Glynfiel as the High Mage spoke of her former mentor.
The High Mage Ilphas then went to a small desk in the corner of the room and slid open one of its many drawers. He continued talking as he dug through the contents of the drawer, “Nothing can interfere with our work on the wall north of Morfgroth Dorthore. You two must return soon as the High King will be expecting a report. Before long we all must return to put up the final wards as we break through the last section of the wall and into the lands of the top of the world. Then can we begin our work with the Ice Wyrms and the eventual destruction of the Fell Ice. I have no doubt that in time the other Vales will discover our plan, but it will not be any time soon, nor will it be from these four. Ah-ha!” Ilphas exclaimed as he held up a small ancient scroll he found in the drawer. He turned to the four Elves held suspended in a weave of the White Magic.
“Now,” Ilphas continued on, “Hagwin will be sent to the Eastern Vale, the Lore Mages of the East have been asking for an exchange of knowledge and who better than the Master of the Hall of Knowledge. Sending him for a century or two will ensure this memory will not come back to him. The First Lieutenant shall resume her duties at the Norvale Gate. She is weak in the White and the spell should stick firm with her.” He then walked in front of Katyr and Glynfiel, “These two along with the Saddlebacks shall return to their Vale. Now, let us get started.”
Katyr stared at the three High Mages trying to sound a scream that would not come. He felt the White Magic inside him stirring and awaiting his command. It was like a big ball of string slowly rolling and he needed to pull at the right thread. As he struggled the High Mage Ilphas gently unrolled the small ancient scroll. In frustration Katyr tried to grasp at the magic within but it was as slippery as a fish and he could not get a hold. The three Mages began to quietly chant as they read from the scroll. Katyr’s vision began to dim and slowly went dark. The chanting became louder little by little in his head until he could hear it no more.
The two Elves sat upon their golden mounts and looked out over the broken gray landscape of the Grimfang Mountains, behind them stood the mighty Norvale Gates. Six Saddleback Tundra Wolves sat alongside them, unusually still as they looked to the road ahead. Their pack horse Besh was behind them loaded high with plenty of supplies for the journey back to the Western Vale. As the Elves looked down the winding mountain road they thought of their time staying at the Misty Glen, and they thought of the kindness of their friend Merlara.
As the two Elves looked upon the pass that trailed through the Grimfangs they thought of questions they could not answer. The pass was clear of ice and snow, much different from when they traveled it before. Winter had been almost upon them then and now summer was just weeks away. The Elves wondered how so much time could pass with so few memories. They could only think that time moved differently in the Northern Vale. The Elves remembered making the dangerous journey to get here, but they could not recall the reason for the journey. They knew it had been important, but the memory of it would not come. As they sat upon their horses the desire to know these things faded away. It was replaced by a strong feeling of accomplishment, as if they had achieved the purpose of their quest. The two Elves looked down the winding mountain road as all these thoughts faded into the background. They only knew that the journey home would be much nicer than the one they made to get here.
The Tundras started to move around them, barking as they did. Shadowback came up to Katyr and did something he had never done before. The big wolf stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on the Elf’s thigh. He was so tall Katyr could scratch under his chin without leaning over. The wolf looked into his eyes, telling him it was time to go. He wanted to take his pack away from this place. Even with the fond memories of the Misty Glen, Shadowback had no desire to stay. He wanted to leave. With Glynfiel looking on, Katyr told the big wolf, “You are right my friend, it is time to leave. I feel it too.”
He turned to Glynfiel and saw a smile slowly come to her face as he slowly smiled too. Whatever they had gone through to get to the Vale, and whatever had happened in the Vale, it was behind them now. It was time to go home, and they were going together.