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RashE (IrashiHeart)

Of Mage and Men

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Of Mage and Men

Icarus’ dimly lit study was still echoing with the voice of the translucent mage who claimed to me Wizard Marolot. The two of them were working together towards uncovering the location of Alfrety of Lletya. Rubbing his temples, King Icarus said, “We’ve been looking for him for months, from the ruins of Solis to the coasts of the Gold Sea, and we haven’t found a single dusty page.”

Marolot stroked his ethereal beard, the study’s walls finally relinquishing the last reverberations of his voice. Silence reigned only a moment before he said, “Alfrety lives if that is what you’re suggesting. Each time he invoked the Eye I can sense it. Just hours ago he peered into its unholy depths… As far as finding him, you know how I-”

“No.” the King interrupted, “as I’ve told you a hundred times before, we’re not going to unleash that corruption back into Kingstone so that you can play detective, even if we did find Fredrick, the risk of losing Kin-”

Now it was his turn to be interrupted. The Shade had lazily leaned off the beam she had recently made her home. Thudding onto the floor behind him, the ghost jumped in surprise. The Shade’s voice was slow as she tried to convince him, “Ike… we’ve tried everything. You said it yourself, we’ve looked everywhere… and Marolot seems like he knows what he’s doing. At least we’d have a chance.”

More silence. Icarus forced himself to be objective. To ignore the rage building at the thought of bringing the long-dead Lich back to life again for a hint at Fredrick’s location. The Shade was right, there were no other leads, and the old spirit in front of him was obviously sure of himself, and knew a surprising amount of the old Headmaster of the Wizards’ Tower. The old member of the Kingsglaive.

“Fine. We’ll evacuate the Industrial District, and what few wizarding students remain along with Alana will hold the perimeter. I’m trusting in your word. I want to find Fredrick more than anyone, but if anyone dies in the pursuit of forbidden magic, it’s on your head.”


For the first time since his arrival, a youthful glint illuminated the man's otherwise jaded eyes. "I assure you," Marolot swished the vast sleeve of his loose robe, sending a small hieroglyph-runed bronze katar falling into his other hand. "It won't be my first waltz with desert shadow magic." He said with a wink, turning toward the door to exit with the jar of sand.

---

The next morning the Industrial District was evacuated into the Great Hall of Kingstone Castle, the officers living in the Wheat Gate’s towers followed them. The mages were standing together, ready to assist Marolot in the isolating and purifying of the Lich’s cursed soil.

With a nod of his head, Icarus signaled for the ghastly mage to begin his work.

As soon as the jar's lid was lifted, the smell of death and decay crawled into the morning air. Marolot raised both arms to the jar, and an energized hum began to tune forth from the glass. The ghost's glow intensified and reached forth from his outstretched arms to the sand in the jar as he began his incantation: "Emitte ... tu vester ... Origo!" As soon as his mouth formed the final word, the glass loyally shattered, shrapnel cutting across the fair face of a student. All fell silent as the sand seeped and fell, revealing a small form at the bottom. It was watched intensely until the parting sand no longer obscured it; the Mage Eye was sat before all on the pedestal.

Bewildered, the King furrowed his brow. “Fredrick’s in the Eye?”

Marolot's face flattened with contemplation, ignoring the yelping student clutching her cheek. "No, no... At least, I hope not." Marolot strode toward the pedestal and lifted the verdant Eye expectantly. "The incantation I used; A common one for curse investigation; it essentially commands: "Reveal your source". The Eye's presence here means that it must have been the origin of this curse. Or, at least..." The old mage trailed off, pacing in a circle still staring at the artifact.

“Doesn’t surprise me, despite all the good it’s done us, that daemonic oculus haunts my dreams.” Relaxing his tensed shoulders, Ike continued, “But what does it mean for us? Fredrick isn’t here to seek its counsel.”

Marolot whipped his head around, seemingly forgetting he was not alone. "Yes, well..." He seemed to struggle greatly with his thought path before suddenly chuckling once and continuing, "Oh, the mundane and foolish!" He laughed and straightened his face to explain, "You must have thought Alfrety was the only one who could divine with it, I take it." He held the Eye in front of him curiously, "No, indeed anyone could. Now, a weak man would be easily deceived and instantly killed by it, but... Anyone could." Toloram finally turned his gaze from the eye, scanning the crowd, lingering on the King.

Icarus recoiled, “Even Fredrick would’ve been killed long ago had it not been for the protective lens that separated them, and it seems your spell conveniently left us without one. Now if you’d like to look into the abyss without that assurance, be my guest, but if you were hoping that I would blindly walk into a tragic death at the hand of my own ignorance, you’re to be disappointed.

"That won't be necessary," Marolot said dismissively, stopping just a few paces in front of Icarus. "The lens he had was really nothing more than a black piece of glass, enchanted only to be more durable. Other than that, it was entirely mundane. The purpose is to obscure ones' vision: the less you see, the less you risk; and vice versa. Simplicity itself." The old wizard sighed deeply, uncomfortably balancing the Mage Eye between his fingers. "In any other circumstance, I would do it myself, but...I have long lost all I could leverage with this eye. Only those of flesh may convene with it." He locked eyes with Icarus, speaking slowly and gravely, "I can produce a lens fine enough to protect you just enough, but the task of actually looking through it... Falls to you."

The next hours stretched seemingly endlessly until the glassmith emerged from a dark room, followed by Marolot carrying an onyx-black lens, still channeling some energy into it. "...There," He concluded, withdrawing a small stream of lights from the channeling, "Now even if he drops it like a fuc-" Marolot glanced up, jumping at the sight of Icarus already waiting outside of the door. "k-rha! Whe, It's ready, ahem, your majesty!" He blundered, awkwardly thrusting the lens and Eye to Icarus.

Taking the Eye into his cupped hands, Icarus expected it would be warm with life, but was shocked to find it was cold as death. What other surprises do you have in store for me? He thought silently. Placing the cloudy glass lens against the Mage Eye, Icarus closed both eyes hard, exhaled and then poured his attention into the abyss.
 

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     An overwhelming silence bombarded every corner of Icarus' mind for an unknown amount of time, broken only by a daemonic voice:

     And so the Pawn King finally stands before me himself. Icarus could almost hear a devilish smile behind the voice, as taunting as it was arrogant. Are you mad, or was the elf simply sick of you?

     He thought he was ready to hear the voice of a demon, since a god’s couldn’t scar him. But even Loden’s voice paled in comparison. Even now Ike couldn’t help himself, “I just figured I should talk to you myself, see if all the rumors are true. So how does this work? Take a crown, leave a crown?"

     The smile, invisible as it was, vanished. If I wanted your coin, even the most disfigured beggar would be of use. The voice was accompanied by a vision now, slowly fading into view was a chamber: clearly underground, and almost pitch-black save for a single verdant light shining against a wall. The air of arrogance returned as Icarus realized what he was seeing was Alfrety, buried alive somewhere, ravenously devouring a barely-cooked rat.
      But money isn't why you're here, is it?

    Straight to the point then. “Where is he?” Icarus conveyed more anger then he meant, and bit his tongue in penance.

    You understand our dilemma, then. Of course, I could show you where he is; you just can't... Icarus' sight of Alfrety faded and darkened quite... Alfrety drew further away, until only a faint glimpse remained see it. With Alfrety completely faded away, all that remained was a perfectly crisp view of the lens through which he viewed now.
    Now, where is he? Where, where, I wonder. Nhar, hm. Tip. Of. My. Tongue.

    Ike swiped a thumb against the lens, moving it slightly off center and secured it back quickly, “Not nearly as stupid as I look. No, I think you want Fredrick out of that prison as much as I do. Besides, now that he’s gone we’ve got no reason not to lock you away forever, deep under the ground with no one to share these little chats with.”

    The void returned to an unbearable, palpable silence. Seconds turned into painful minutes, and Icarus began to fear the Eye was finished negotiating entirely. Just before he would pull the eye from his face, it spoke once more, in an unnaturally cool tone.
    Indeed... Perhaps you are more valuable than our poor old friend let on. Very interesting... Icarus could no longer tell if the Eye jested with him or not. Without giving him time to consider it, the eye again gave Icarus visions of places and flashing landscapes. Go to the deserts to the north-east. There you will find where Grandiere slept: The Pyramid of Nharr'zal. The visions shifted to a collapsed ruin, which sand almost completely buried. He is within this pyramid, nearly starved. It is a weeks' travel, even on your Boris, so make haste.
    Once again, Icarus could not ignore the overwhelming presence of a mad god, smiling an infinite and twisted grin. We will speak again, I am sure.

Edited by Alfrety
corrections

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Pulling away from the terrible relic, Ike handed the Eye of Guthix back to Marolot. Still puzzling over the daemon’s last words and the implication of its seemingly prophetic abilities, Icarus noticed they were all staring at him. The first person he addressed was the ghost. “Pyramid of Nharr’zal. A week's flight away from here, Northeast. You heard of it?” Ike couldn’t help but glance back at the eye in Marolot's hands. It seemed to look different, now that he had spoken to it. For the first time Ike wanted to fling himself into it willingly.

Marolot's tense shoulders relaxed, and he tilted his head in recollection. "Yes," He thought for a moment, "Nharr'zal... Alfrety has entire shelves dedicated to it in the headmaster's wing of his tower." Marolot's face panged with a hundred realizations. "IDIOT! FOOL AND IGNORAMUS! " Marolot raised both hands to the sides of his head in panic, shouting "Get everything you need to excavate a mountain and let's go! Time is of the ESSENCE here!"

---

Now that Valland had surrendered, the Industrial district had returned to producing food and forks for the good people of Kingstone. Instead of shields, shovels were requested by the King as he announced he was putting together an excavation force. And so, the professional soldiers of the Northkeep would stand their watch alone as a long chain of wagons brought supplies from the Capital of Kingstone to the scorching desert that held their long lost friend.

The journey there had taken a fortnight, and their trek through the ruins of Solis was uneventful. Ike knew had they arrived when he saw the ruins. Great sandstone pillars and what could’ve once been beautiful effigies sprung from the abandoned pyramid of Nharr’zal. The way was blocked by more than sand, and even the cold stone seemed bent on preventing passage. But with bluesteel picks and tireless hours the entrance was dug out. Long before they had made it through the tunnel they had heard the mage yelling, pleading to be heard and saved.

The moment there was a gap wide enough for the mage, he quickly vaulted out of the sedimentary prison. Despite their often cold relationship, Ike couldn’t help but embrace the Mage. “Should’ve guessed you’d be fuckin’ around with sand,” he laughed into the elf’s ear, sparing his friend the truth of how they actually found him. The heat had evaporated any hint at tears before he shed them.

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     Älfrety jumped back and his face paled, his face assuming the hollow position of having seen a ghost; but the fact of the matter was, he had.

     "Wizard Toloram!? Is..." Älfrety fell to one knee, and clutched his head with one hand. "No... I-, the... It can't... Really be-"

     “Toloram?” for a moment King Icarus looked surprised, betrayed, and then he smiled as he realized his mistake. He chuckled quietly and repeated, “Marolot.”

     Wizard Toloram stepped forward, his cerulean glow almost invisible under the desert sun. "It worked, my student. You got a parcel to me; and you got me here." The old man stopped himself and chuckled lightly, "Well, half of me, anyway. The term 'Animus' refers to the spirit, you know. The 'essence' of someone. Not their *entire* person."

     Älfrety's face shallowed as he realized what he had done. "I-, I'm so sorry, I had-"

     Toloram raised a single hand, almost as dismissive as it was comforting. "My body would never have survived the journey between worlds. I still have no idea how yours did."

      Älfrety could only offer a tearful smile. Wiping his eyes on his tattered and dirty sleeve, he stood, shakily saying "It almost didn't. It's ... a long story. You-! Old fool," Älfrety rose completely, uncharacteristically emotional, rushing to the ghost of Toloram, and clasping him in his arms.

     Toloram laughed heartily, his voice echoing its usual way, hanging his joy in the air for seconds after he'd finished. "Come now," Toloram spoke with a smile, "We can discuss it all on the way back. I don't think any of your friends like the sand as much as you do, and I'm the only one not getting any older here."

     “You heard the man. To Kingstone! We’re going home.” the King announced.

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Spoiler

We hoped you enjoyed this story of Fredrick's return. This was the result of a few late night hours of collaboration between my little brother alfretyuu and myself.

We'd ask that you keep all responses either within a spoiler like this message or at least in the OOC (out-of-character) double parentheses (( like this )) since the narrative is complete. This, as well as all my previous Kingstone narratives, can be found in the Kingstone Lore Library

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