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Legend of Ancient Past

By Alicia Steen

 

You are not sure why you’re here, or even how exactly you ended up in this dark round room. A bit of natural curiosity, some general direction from Sranus, and now you find yourself within Arien, Jeshrun’s ancient fortress. Arien is said to guard all secrets, but her stone walls have opened up for you.

No time to contemplate that now. You have asked to see the ancient past, and now Arien will answer. Magic of all colors swirls around you, lighting the otherwise dim room. It takes form and becomes the fields of Jeshrun, though slightly brighter than those you traveled through to get here. The image accelerates; you are flying through the green rolling hills as the magic speaks.

 

“Long ago, when the worlds were young, the Ancient of Days walked among men. In that time before darkness men knew no fear, for none stood against the Ancient of Days and his Commander. Then it came to pass that one of his four generals learned pride and sought to lay claim to the title of strongest. He deceived others of his kind, initiating a war.”

 

The image changes to a fierce battle fought on the ground, in it, and above it. Then the ground shakes horribly, becoming like a stormy sea. The waves freeze at their peak, and what once was a rolling plain is now a mountain range. The armies take notice, but not of the shaking, rather of a brilliantly glowing figure behind it.

 

“The Ancient of Days entered the battle and the heavens shook. The earth rumbled beneath his footsteps, and the proud general learned fear. The Commander cast the general from the presence of the Ancient of Days: He Who is Fear.

“The general looked where he had been cast, and saw the sons of men, beloved by the Ancient of Days. He saw they had been given free will, so that they might choose whom they will serve. ‘He Who is Fear has made an error,’ the general determined. ‘I will separate men from his presence and show that my will is strongest.’”

 

The image takes you to the highest of the mountains, where the bright figure from before stands surveying the land. You cannot see his expression, as his back is facing you, but the magic flowing around him does not seem as terrible as before.

 

“Through trickery and deceit darkness spread to cover the worlds, even the hearts of men. As evil deeds multiplied the general earned his new name: The Dark Prince. The Ancient of Days surveyed the worlds, and said, ‘If I remain here, my presence will destroy all living things, for there are none and nothing not tainted by darkness.’

“So the Ancient of Days left the worlds of men, but not before speaking a promise: one day his Commander would return and reveal to men the way out of darkness. Until then, none would see his face, but his voice would always be heard as whispers on the wind. As a sign of his promise, the Ancient of Days appointed twelve Lords of Magic to govern the creatures and represent His power to men.”

 

The figure leaves the mountain, entering the air and disappearing into the horizon. The magic surrounding him remains. You stare at the gentle glow as it scatters on the wind. The image fades along with it.

“That can’t be all,” you protest. “I still have so many questions. There’s more to tell isn’t there?” Ignoring your protest, the magic that had been the image flows back to the stone walls of the round room. Just as the last bit fades away, Arien speaks once more.

 

“It came to pass in the land of Jeshrun that some darkness took form and became shadow, an ever-thickening fog.”

 

With that lone sentence Arien returns to silence, leaving you to ponder.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Sranus

 

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Gathyra’s Heart: Defend!

By Alicia Steen

 

“Save the food!”

Wait, are you the only one worried right now? In an instant the cheer of the festival had turned into a battle ground. Shadows roam wherever you look, met by Gathyrans of every age and size. These weren’t just any shadows either. You’d fought shadows of the imp class before, and these creatures were another level entirely. But… save the food? If the Gathyrans lose here, there won’t be a Gathyra tomorrow.

Just who are these people?

 

Sranus. Festival of Scales, Gathrya.

Save the food indeed. The young man isn’t entirely incorrect, but in my centuries of life I’ve certainly heard it put more eloquently. These shadow creatures aren’t just attacking Gathyra’s people; by launching an assault on the Festival of Scales, they are striking at Gathyra itself. All the dragons in existence can’t help if a people’s heart is broken.

With that cheery thought, I move quickly for Mystery’s daycare, knocking shadows aside three and four at a time with my staff. Only when I reach her I find that my assistance is not needed. The amused black dragon has set her charges aflame with dragon fire, which is consuming not the children but the terrified shadows unlucky enough to become ‘it’ in a game of tag. Any shadows too frenzied are swiftly acquainted with Mystery’s strong claws and whipping tail.

“Sranus!” Mystery calls a moment before knocking these shadow’s sizeable leader my way.  I vaporize him within two hits of my staff, thus sending the shadows into a full rout. Their mass exodus flees right into the welcoming arms of enraged parents.

As I assist in holding the line a smile claims me. In all my travels to various lands, I’d almost forgotten the Gathyran approach to oncoming shadow. They certainly do ‘dare the shadows to fear.’ Still, an invasion of this sort is sure to have reinforcements. I wonder how Gathyra will deal with them.

 

Parkr. Festival of Scales, Gathyra.

“Looks like that’s it for the first wave.” My brothers Mykl and James and I were at thien when the shadows attacked. We’d used the skills we learned for the Scale War to halt them in their tracks. Jeske and Kyle had done some impressive combos with our barrier spell, essentially wiping out all shadows within sight. Only my senses told me we weren’t done yet.

“Parkr? Check out the second wave,” James motioned.

I look in the direction James indicates. “Okay, I think that’s what Headmaster Barr means by ‘very bad’.”

“No kidding,” Mykl echoes.

“It’s not like they will ever beat us,” Kyle said in his usual bored tone. In spite of his words, the crazy part was no one I knew would define Kyle as overconfident.

“Does dad know?” I ask James.

James nods. “He’s staring at the same problem near seah. Synrn says twen’s clear, though.”

I stare at the oncoming horde of shadow creatures. I echoed Kyle’s statement, but I’d replace ‘will’ with ‘can’t’. This must be why First King Cenryr built a wall. Against an unstoppable force, what is there to do but become an unmovable object?

The answer brings a grin to my face. An object unmovable doesn’t have to be solid. “Tell the dragons to move behind the advancing force. Get everyone to have their scales handy too.”

“A fire flood? Who’s the source?” Mykl asks.

James’ eyes grow wide, but his smile overtakes his expression. “The center flame.”

“It represents the Ancient of Days. Some say it is him.”

Now Mykl shares the grin. “I think he will,” Mykl says, quoting the familiar verse.

“So let us try,” James follows.

Kyle pushes off the post he was leaning on. “For fear will not bring might.”

 


The flame rolls past you; then floods the festival/battle area. Gathyrans everywhere toss scales in the air, creating what sounds like a chain reaction of explosions. It overtakes the terrified shadows an instant before they become nothing. You’ve never experienced such fury that now surrounds you, yet does not touch you. You don’t know quite how to react, but your first instinct is to savor the moment.

So this is why they call Gathyra the Fire Kingdom.

 

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Sranus, Three Princes

 

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Gathyra’s Heart: Uniquely Gathyran

By Alicia Steen

 

At the end of the meal, the tables are practically deserted but for scattered enthusiasts eating thirds and small groups still in conversation. The exception, which Gathyrans seemed to excel in, was the gaming table, where holoscreens and gamers minus the plates still crowded together. It looked as if they’d stay there until at least the next meal, if not longer. Sranus, however, was not among them. Not willing to be crushed by the obvious skill of the gamers, you take Sranus’s advice and simply ‘wander about’.

The festival is alive with pops and showers of color. Laughter and conversation mix in with the scales set off from every direction. The bursts of color are especially prevalent in the direction of the seah gate. If you remember right, that’s where Sranus said the more active Gathyrans gather.

You’re not quite sure where to wander next, but a voice catches your ear. You turn toward its source and see a group of middle school kids enacting the Scale War you saw the previous day. Their version has a touch of the ridiculous, which is all the more funny because it isn’t far from the truth. They add a lot of dialogue, mostly large-sounding names for attacks, but they also add in what they fighters are thinking at certain key points. The story reaches the point where Jeske, one of the few rivals of the Three Princes, comes forward.

The middle school students freeze, except for those portraying the princes. Those three proceed to haggle over who will take Jeske.

(Mykl) “James, you’re smart like he is. You take him.”

(James) “I’d rather not.”

(Parkr) “Hey, the last time I tried that he turned my vanishing blades into the planted face.”

(James) “I’m sure you’ll figure out something.”

(Mykl) “You’re taking Kyle then. I haven’t figured out how to hit the guy through all that torrential rain he throws at you.” ‘Mykl’ rubs his face. “I think he froze some rain into needles last time.”

(Parkr) “You know that means you have Synrn, right? Mr. Where-Did-That-Flame-Originate?”

(Mykl) ‘Mykl’ groans, “He is in their group, isn’t he. Well let’s do it. We have a Scale War to dominate.”

As the students resume the fight scene, through your rolling laughter you see the real princes not too far away watching the enactment. You just manage to catch what one says to the other.

“Someone hacked into our mental link.”

No way. That’s really what they were thinking? In yesterday’s scale war they looked like they jumped in without hesitation. Parkr tricked Jeske into one of Mykl’s transport traps, Mykl jumped too quickly for Synrn to keep up, and James managed to use Kyle’s freezing rain to turn a strip of dirt into sticky mud. It was the biggest turning point of the war. The princes dominated the fights from there until the end.

As the students finish their enactment, you clap loudly along with the crowd. One thought that has been nagging you since yesterday rises to the surface. How were the princes able to go all out like that, to unlock their strength so entirely? It wasn’t just the princes either; every contestant you’d watched the entire magic games was like that. Well, except for him. And them. But they’re beside the point.

You drift through the crowd, just about ready to put your question away until the next time Sranus shows himself. If he does. Another voice grabs your attention, an older voice. You recognize him as one of the top ten dragon riders from the dragon races. As he narrates, two others illustrate with an impressive three dimensional hologram.

 “Gather ‘round and listen well, for I tell of ages past

Gathyra was dark, heavy with shadow, when King Cenryr came at last


 

“His light shone bright, a beacon for shadows to plunder

 

So he built a wall to contain the light, but shadows still did gather

 

Against the wall they would not fight, rather warriors they all did sunder

 

So the cry went up, don’t leave the wall, for shadows will not come hither

 


“The days were dim, and work was plenty,

With but three good men to Gathyra’s name

Also a grandmother who rebuked the same


 

‘Why should we be afraid?

 

For we know the one who drives back shadow;

 

With him let us make an alliance.’

 


“‘Would the Ancient One care?

Would he help us in our plight?

I think he will, so let us try;

For fear will not bring might.’


 

“So three good men did topple their wall

 

And dared the shadow to fear.

 

On every side they fought for freedom

 

Their hearts once dark now clear.

 


“The dragons are coming! The dragons came!

The battle…wait, weren’t we fighting?

Their flames cleansed all, and burned our wall

The day is now for dancing.


“On the site of his greatest triumph

A school there Cenryr built

For old ones to remember

For young ones to learn

For the future of Gathyra to treasure.”

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in Sranus, Three Princes

 

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Gathyra’s Heart: Festival of Scales

By Alicia Steen

It is the seventh and final day of Gathyra’s Magic Games, and you are still wondering why Sranus brought you along. You didn’t know much about the white haired wizard, but then, neither did anyone else. He is older than anyone cares to recall, speaks with a wisdom that spins sages in circles, and carries a staff for breaking heads. The staff especially persuaded you that ignoring Sranus’s urging would not be good for healthy living.

You’d attended the dragon races, of which the obstacle race was the most inspiring. The sight of Prince Parkr weaving through the airborne rocks would not be soon forgotten. It apparently had been a significant race, but you didn’t quite understand the history behind that part. Dragons are awesome. Especially the way Prince Parkr rides them. What else was there to know?

The Scale War had been even more breathtaking. Even at your first time seeing it, you understood that a single team wasn’t supposed to defend the entire scale field from the entire student body. The intensity was strong even where you stood, and it never wavered the entire two hours. What in creation drove these teams to fight so hard so long?

A smack on the head clears your thoughts in an instant. Sranus had stopped moving, and you’d run into his staff. What was the thing made of anyway? Wait, scratch that. Sranus probably had enough magic in it to level an island. Wood absorbs magic like no other substance inexistence.

You look around at the blue-green grass surrounding you. Wasn’t this where all the events were held? There wasn’t a trace of anything now, just the school far to your back and city, or what passes for a city in Gathyra, to your left.

You almost pose a question to Sranus, who is just standing there, but he beats you too it.

“Travel far and live long, but there are no greater celebrations than Gathyra’s Festival of Scales. Not in my experience, and I’ve seen enough to consider myself an authority. The festival’s exact location in Gathyra has changed over the centuries, but the layout remains the same. A circular rope fence marks the festival grounds and each of three corners mark the entrances twen, thien, and seah.”

Sranus points beyond the grass line, but you can just barely make out the gray-brown dirt, much less the enclosure he mentions. Sranus starts walking. “All of Gathyra attends this festival, and has since Gathyra’s founding, so as a newcomer you’ll probably feel out of place at first, as if you’re the only outsider at the largest family reunion in the three worlds.

“Every Gathyran knows by long habit and tradition where the attractions are and when they happen. They are also intimately acquainted with the stories and laughs, but if you shout out your question anyone will be glad to answer. Just don’t ask for a map or a schedule. To map out and follow a schedule is to miss the heart of the festival entirely.”

Sranus’s quick pace has brought you to past the grass line. The soft quick crunch of dirt beneath your feet is bringing the roped enclosure Sranus mentioned, as well as one of the three entrances. Twen, wasn’t it? With the black dragon?

Sranus continues, “For instance, I could tell you that near entrance twen the black dragon Mystery holds a daycare so that once a year she can forget her duties to Prince Parkr and care for young ones who won’t break the order of the universe once or twice a day. I could also say the youngsters far too old to be reined in often drift toward corner thien, where games and tournaments of the card game Paladin can be found in abundance. If not there, the young fighters are likely expending energy between twen and seah in whatever the sport or bout that has spawned.

“I could tell you, and more besides, but these are merely the trappings of the festival, the results of the true reason Gathyra gathers. The meaning of the festival is locked inside the dragon scale. They become instant fireworks when tossed in the air and met with dragon fire, and due to the nature of dragon fire, there is no danger of harm or destruction. Thus dragon scales may be tossed in any direction, even at your neighbor. Mounds of scales are placed at every entrance, so Gathyrans take full advantage by grabbing pocketfuls to have fun with for the entirety of the festival.”

Your breathing is more ragged than normal, but Sranus doesn’t seem winded in the slightest, and he was talking the entire time. Following his lead you grab a handful of the dragon scales he mentioned. The scales are mostly clear, but a brilliance of color runs through them when you hold them to the light. Once past the entrance the crowd seems to be moving in the same direction, straight for the center.

You don’t have much choice but to follow the crowd. Somehow past lines of long wood and stone tables you and Sranus end up at the front of the dense pack, which has formed a ring about ten footlengths from a large pile of ore that seems to be at the very center of the festival grounds.

You open your mouth to ask a question, but yet again Sranus stops you.

“Hush now, King Json is approaching the mound.”

A wave of hushed excitement rolls through the crowd. They seem to know what’s coming and are eagerly waiting for it.

King Json takes off his crown, a silver circlet, and says, “A merry laugh keeps shadow at bay, and a glad heart will never tremble. Ancient of Days, strengthen our hands and bring joy to this festival!”

At his final words the king tosses his crown in air, followed by hundreds of dragon scales from every member of the crowd. In answer a flame thunders down, engulfing the ore and setting off every scale all at once.

It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. The warm glow, the explosion of sound, the burst of color. The sky glitters with every hue ever created, and the color hangs in the air in circles and streams before sparkling down on the crowd.

When the sky is ordinary once more, Sranus tells you, “Well you can do what you want, but I’m going to get some food.”

With that last bit of advice Sranus vanishes into the crowd, much to your consternation. Still, the crowd is again moving in the same direction – away from the huge bonfire, so you follow them. The tables you crammed past earlier are now laden with food. Pies, soups, all manner of meat, and plates with utensils crammed together in no sort of order. Every scent of food imaginable grabs your appetite.

“Better grab a plate, or it’ll all pass you by!” a man behind you says. You look around, and indeed the crowd is moving in one direction. You claim the nearest plate and take from the dishes that look closest to your favorites, as well as a few tempting ones and a hot cider drink. Now and again you catch sight of Sranus. Somehow in this thick crowd his tall white figure appears all over the place. Talk about weaving through a crowd.

Once you pass the food more tables greet you, these full of people and plates. People of a certain type seem to claim each long table. They are most obviously not divided by class – the only indication of class you’ve seen is the circlet the king tossed in the air. Rather, one table to your left is rowdy and seems to be holding a drinking contest with mugs of… no that’s root beer. Okay, next to them is an equally rowdy bunch with plates piled higher than anyone should be able to lift. Or balance. Perhaps they are magic plates?

Anyway, you look to your right and see a table of bookworms. Or scrollworms. And something in between. Quiet but active conversation is going on, most likely about favorite reads. The table next to them holds the intellectuals and the geeks. No grey-taped glasses, but plenty of awful haircuts and holographic screens and wow, that’s a word? In what language? The table after them has as many screens as there are plates. Gamers. Your eye stops at a familiar figure. Sranus? You thought he’d be at the older set’s table. You don’t see it around here, but those unmistakable tones have to be coming from somewhere.

The crowd is not nearly as thick here, so you stand and ponder your choices. There are many more tables besides these, so you walk over to the one that suits you best.

As your eating experience progresses, a thought forms. With such a beginning, what other experiences could the festival hold to possibly top it?

 

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on October 8, 2015 in Gathyra, Parkr, Three Princes

 

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The Mansion

Welcome to Mansion Stories! If you are new to the mansion, read this post first, then go to the archives page at the top of the screen. You will find all the past stories categorized there. If you are confused about characters or places, visit the dictionary page next to the archives. Previous readers will find the most recent story just below this one. As you keep reading, what will you dare to discover?


Every time you slip in, you make sure to close the gate and put the vines around the latch as though no one had been here in the hundred years since the place was closed up. You couldn’t explain why exactly. If anything, it was out of respect for this place.

You walk down a garden path, stopping every now and then to admire a flower or a tree. Though no one cares for it, this garden is far from lifeless, but neither is it entirely vibrant. Even so, this garden still surpasses all others you have seen. As you walk, the quiet crunch of your shoes on old leaves is the only noise to be heard. There is a patient silence in this garden that even the birds respect.

The path leads you to the back door. You never go in the front. Like the vines on the gate, it is an unwritten rule. The back door opens easily, though no one oils its hinges. The entire house is like this. No dust coats the furniture, and no cobwebs hang in the corners. The law of decay does not apply here.

The back door opens right into the spacious kitchen. A lingering scent of freshly baked bread excites your taste buds. You walk over to the sink and push the pump handle down. Water comes out and you wash off some sap from a pine tree you touched. This kitchen has no food in its pantry, but pots, spoons, and the wood stove stand ready to resume sustaining the daily life of the house. Wooden counters, clean and smooth, complete the impression.

You leave the kitchen reluctantly and move through the dining hall to a sitting room. The paintings, furniture, and other décor suggest wealth, but they do not make you uncomfortable. The room invites you to relax, in spite of your faded jeans and sneakers. You would linger, but your favorite room is further on.

A brass knob and a solid oak door lead to the library. It quite surprised you when you first discovered it. Though a decent size, this library did not hold as many volumes as you had expected of a house so grand. Once you started reading at the books, however, you instantly fell in love. Every volume was a treasure carefully chosen.

In a corner of the library there is a sturdy wooden desk. Like everything else in the mansion, it was probably worth a lot of money, but the desk did not flaunt that fact. You open one of the drawers, picking up the notebook inside.

It was the only part of the house that changed. The notebook itself stayed the same. The third page was creased, and the second had a brown stain in the top right corner. The story written in it, now, that was another matter. Every week these pages had something new to say, though they opened with the same warning. Will you read on, or would it be wiser to let the truth stay forgotten?

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2015 in Other Stories

 

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