“If you're dead, and I'm no longer in the real world, does that mean that I'm dead too?”
Triud lifted his head and stared absently toward the ceiling, as if seeking something.
“New webs everyday,” he said. “Hmmm ... and that's a rather large spider, too.” Then he returned his attention to Mordrigan. “Do you feel dead? You are holding that book ... but considering it is one of Sithaen's books, well, you never do know with those.
“Interesting indeed. There are shamans in Targelon who can separate their spirits from their bodies, and then join them again. But in your case, there is no separation. You simply exist in another reality.”
“If I'm not dead, then how do I get back? And if I'm not dead, then that must mean you're a ghost or something.”
“Aye, a ghost I am, to your reality anyway,” said Triud sadly. “I believe the only way back is for you to put yourself back. How to do that I don't know. The powers of wizards are far too personal to fit into any known procedures. Learning to use them is usually very frustrating at first.”
“And where is this place ... no, I mean what is this place?”
“This is the library at Goerbest. Though I don't suppose it's quite the same library that you came from. You do see a library here don't you?”
“Are there any others like you,” Mordrigan asked, “or me for that matter?”'
“I imagine there are quite a few ghosts,” said Triud, “but I've never met any of them. I've been stuck here in this library since I died. And I've never met or even heard of anyone who can do what you've done, but my experiences aren't infinite.”
“Can I go anywhere in this `reality' other than this library?” asked Mordrigan. Triud returned only a glazed look.
“Can I affect or be affected by anything in the other `reality'? I guess I can at least transport things, like this book to this `reality'.”
Triud Triunt shrugged without an answer. He shimmered slightly and for an instant Mordrigan saw the features of a younger man. Then, as he came back into focus, the walls of the library shifted into a sea of green waters, swirling past trees and houses. Then the walls appeared as before, slightly hazy. Then Triud Triunt spoke again, and his voice became an anchor for Mordrigan's mind to focus upon.
“I'm not a genius, I don't have all the answers. You're the wizard, and I'm just a ghost. If you want to find answers to questions like those ...” Triud sighs. “Oh I don't know. Experiment.”
Triud paused briefly as if thinking, then said: “But I do think the book is more than it appears.”
“Thank you for your help and advice,” said Mordrigan as he left to explore the library.
For the most part the books were the same. There were gaps which faded in and out of existence. There were books there, and then there were not. Mordrigan found it difficult to touch anything. On mounting the stairs he found himself walking through them and into the stone foundation. Then he flet himself squeezed upward like a bubble, finally to emerge at ground level.
That level of the library was occupied, but no one noticed Mordrigan. There were numerous altars on the upper floors of the main tower, shrines which held relics of various deified figures. But Mordrigan could not ascend the stairs as hard as he tried. Even as he surveyed the library and saw faces he had never seen before, his surroundings faded.
Mordrigan hurried back to the library and returned to the cubicle. Again visualizing the eye (but mirrored), he found focusing difficult. And yet, somehow the image remained clear, swallowing up his consciousness. He felt himself falling....
Mordrigan opened his eyes and found himself viewing a spectacular sight. He was sitting on a rock in the midst of a green sea, beneath a strangely flickering blue-grey sky. Looking into the waters he could see swirling mud and debris. He realized the sea was only a few feet deep. As he watched, the waters subsided, leaving behind a marsh.
He sat still, transfixed. Everything around him was moving rapidly. Mordrigan watched as plants grew, animals migrated through, and bestial men rose, all completely oblivious of his presence. Then these beastmen built a community not far from where Goerbest should have stood. The young wizard watched them as in what seemed like minutes to him, they built a shrine to some dark god, whose symbol was a human skull. Then an army of men — barbarians in saurian hide armor and wielding crude axes — overran the village of beastmen and smashed the skull into pieces.
Inexorably, Mordrigan felt himself being dragged down: not physically or mentally, but temporally. Suddenly there were spirits of a score of beastmen surrounding him, aware of him. They were all the beastmen he had just witnessed being slaughtered. Looks of fear were on their faces.
“Warlock,” one of them said.
Mordrigan wracked his brain for any myths or folktales he knew that mentioned such events happening. Beastmen and raids.... The only stories even remotely resembling such a thing are the legends of Angorn:
Stories differ regarding the Great War and the heroes of Angorn. The best known stories have the Madorings fighting the Cromirlonians when Angorn was at its peak. However, the scholarly education Mordrigan had received tended to date Angorn several centuries after the Great War.
But according to folktales, when Man first came to Madoria, Suron-Dur was their king. It was he who led them against the Cromirlonian armies of the god Eimragh. Creatures fitting the term 'beastman' served in Eimragh's armies alongside the Cromirlonians. Suron-Dur was wounded in the First Battle and retired his kingship to (hmmm ... Mordrigan couldn't remember his name...) a mongrel, half-beastman, half-human. This beastly king was a despot and the Madorings suffered under his rule.
Romach rose from among the Madorings to champion their cause. He drove out the bad king with the aid of his sword Fallanfer. Romach ruled wisely and invented the sacred writing.
After this story, such creatures as beastmen occured only rarely and almost always singly.
Mordrigan pictured the eye again. However, this time he tried “pushing” it at one of the beastman spirits. Alas, he found that he was too fatigued to concentrate enough to bring the eye into focus. Various images drifted through his brain, but eventually all he saw were beastman faces — almost human, scaly brownish-green skin, quill-like hair, and dark eyes. They formed a ring around him and then performed primitive rites he had never seen before; the display was a hideous dancing circle. Though their feet did not touch the ground, a faerie circle sprouted where they would be stepping. Mordrigan couldn't help but look down at his own feet. All the water had subsided at last, but at his feet was the skull of a beastman, with a strange symbol etched on the crown.
Mordrigan tried to kick the skull, but his foot passed straight through it. As he started moving, the beastmen parted to allow him through, then followed him as he ran toward the humans. Mordrigan noticed that some time had passed between the raid and the appearance of the beastmanly spirits. Already the humans had built a tiny village of wattle-and-daub huts; but as he approached them they gradually came to be running in the same time frame as he.
The faerie ring generated by the beastman rites did not go unnoticed by the humans, who had gathered some distance away. There was an assembly of Saerish-looking folk, brown hair and eyes, strong, bearded men and bold women standing beside them. They had astonished looks on their faces, were making signs in the air and murmuring amongst themselves. The language they spoke sounded like a garbled form of Saerish. Mordrigan was certain they saw neither him nor the beastmen, but instead were pointing at the skull.
A bent figure made its way through the crowd, and paused a few feet from him. It was an elderly woman with white hair and straight teeth, bearing a cane carved with Romang letters, and holding her left hand out. She did not look straight at Mordrigan, but he was almost certain she could feel his presence.
When she spoke, her words were clear — not in a form of Saerish Mordrigan understood, but the meaning came to Mordrigan's mind perfectly nonetheless:
“Who are you? Why have you come?”
“I am Mordrigan of Stade. I don't know exactly how I got here, and I'm just trying to get back at this point. I don't know why these beastmen have an interest in me, and I certainly don't have any interest in them. Can you help me?”
“Mord?” she said. Fear swept over her and she backed away. “Beastmen?”
The men behind her drew swords, and the women made signs in the air.
“Hoy baynis Worlock!” said one man, who carried himself like a leader. “Woy ackis bellan'hoyn a scath!”
The old woman brandished a symbol in her previously empty left hand. When she waved it before Mordrigan a shock of pain overwhelmed him. He retreated. But he found the book still in his hands, its pages flipping in a sudden wind. A light bursts from the book and surrounded him.
“Relax,” said in a voice with a strange, stiff accent.
This was no problem; Mordrigan found himself too exhausted to do much else. There was a force emanating from the direction of the voice that pulled on his body. He was floating. The book twisted in his hands.
“You really must let go of that book. Here, give it to me.”
Suddenly Mordrigan found himself someplace else. He was on a stone bench in what was probably a tower, judging by the curvature of the walls. The man before him was pale, but with dark, short hair under a skullcap. He was short, thin, dressed in a simple long blue muegran tunic trimmed with a multi-colored pattern. His eyes were strangely difficult to focus upon, and have no apparent color. They were like shifting shadows.
“I don't know your name, but I know what you are,” he said. “Please, let us introduce ourselves. I am Ietome.”
“I am Mordrigan of Stade. How did you get here?” He looked down and discovered that he was still holding the book.
Ietome smiled. “The question you should be asking is: how did you get here?”
The tower was very solid and Mordrigan had no difficulty focusing on any of the objects in the tower, except perhaps for the strange shadow behind Ietome. The man with the strange eyes paced briefly, hands behind his back.
“Being a wizard can attract a lot of attention. Particularly from those who have the vision. You are back in your own time, though I have translocated you somewhat.”
Ietome gestured to the window. “Take a look,” he said. “This is the city of Tirreter, hundreds of miles from Goerbest; the 20th of Glant, E.E. 1990. Don't worry, you'll get back home. It's just that the master requested I find you and bring you to the correct time stream; I had to do what I did.”
He paused. “It was easy finding you and getting you back from the past — you never really belonged there — but I had help translocating you here.”
Ietome gestured to the shadow behind him. It looked like an ink blot in the shape of winged, bird-headed man. The only details visible within the shadow was an occasional ripple of lesser darkness, which exposed details of wings and beak. Two glowing lights appeared where the eyes should have been.
“It is a Yaranu, a race of shadow,” Ietome explained. “They're good at getting around, and occasionally serve our master.”
“Our master,” he said.
“Yes. Every wizard has a mentor, though this is not common knowledge. The only beings capable of mentoring wizards are the gods, and they usually like to keep their activities beyond the ken of ordinary men. The god I serve has decided to be your mentor.”
“Very well, then by what name should I call our master, and when do I start my lessons?”
“His name would mean nothing to you,” said Ietome. “And he does not wish to be called anything except master. However, to allay any suspicions you might have, I will tell you what his name is. Your people do not know his name, but the folk of Gedringale call him Rolkinform. It's a bit peculiar, I know, but then the Dalings are a peculiar folk. It comes from being so isolated.”
Ietome drew an amulet from underneath his tunic. It was a perfect disc of bronze encircling three pieces of colored glass. Each piece looked like a third-slice of a pie: there was a red slice, a yellow slice, and a blue slice. A rivulet of bronze ran between each slice.
“This is his symbol. It holds many secrets for those who understand its meaning. Each color represents an aspect of reality. But I am not here to teach you theurgical science, rather you must be guided in the control of your powers. You were born with a gift given to you by the gods and it is up to you to choose which god you serve. Of course, accepting the mentoring of Rolkinform will put you in debt to him. You must understand this before accepting, else the Celestial Law may be offended, and disaster will result.”
Ietome covered the symbol with his hand and and faced Mordrigan directly. Though he could not truly see the man's eyes, Mordrigan felt them penetrating him.
“Do you understand what I have said?” he asked.
“Yes I understand. Mastering my powers is the most important thing to me right now, and I am willing to pay whatever price I must pay to do that.
“I accept Rolkinform's tutelage and the debt that goes along with it.”
“Excellent,” said Ietome.
“We will conduct a series of tests, so that I may determine the nature of your powers.”
The first test Ietome simply asked about Mordrigan's experiences with his powers so far.
“Ah, yes,” he remarked. “There are different ways to focus power. Using symbols is very common, though only wizards can manifest them in their minds. You have it easy, I assure you.”
For the second test, Ietome commanded a servant (dressed in solemn robes) to fetch a set of scrolls. Ietome showed Mordrigan the scrolls and watched the young wizard's reactions. Printed on the scrolls were symbols, colorfully illuminated. Some Mordrigan had seen, some were new. Ietome continued to display each scroll, setting each one aside to his left or right, apparently randomly. At least, the pattern he used didn't seem to match Mordrigan's recognition of the images.
With the last scroll set aside, Ietome collected the pile on his left side and set them between Mordrigan and himself.
For the third test, Ietome directed Mordrigan to close his eyes and relax.
“I will teach you the proper method of meditation for a wizard. Something the monks at Goerbest are not likely to know. But your mind is exhausted now from careless use of your energy. So for now, I will produce some images in your mind. Allow them to appear, do not concentrate on them, but allow them engulf your mind.”
Mordrigan closed his eyes and relaxed. This was something that was very easy to do. Unbidden thoughts intrude — memories of places and people — which Mordrigan fought to exclude.
“Relax,” said Ietome. Mordrigan heard the rustle of fabric.
A symbol appeared in his mind. It looked like a crown, but also resembled a manacle. A gilt chain encircled it. It was strange, because this symbol did not appear on any of the scrolls and Mordrigan had never seen it before. Relaxing as Ietome instructed, he allowed the image of the crown to fill his mind. Then it disappeared. He heard the rustling of parchment and feel a slight breeze.
After a brief pause, another image came into his mind. Again he followed the same procedure, repeating it for several more images.
“Good,” said Ietome. “It is getting late now. My servant will bring you food and then you may relax as you wish. There is a chamber for you to sleep in upstairs. Do not go beyond that chamber or this room. There are magical protections in place to keep you safe.”
Ietome departed but left the selected pile of scrolls in the room. The Yaranu had already gone.
Mordrigan browsed through the scrolls while waiting for the food. They were:
- The Manacle-Crown
- Old Man on a Mountain
- A Skull in a Boat at Sea
- Three Black Birds
- The Door Ajar
- The Flower Nymph
- A Coiled Serpent
Mordrigan then had a light meal. He went up the narrow stairwell, found the bed, and went to sleep.
In the morning he awoke to a female servant, dressed in a revealing gossamer gown, who offered to dress him and escort him downstairs to the dining area.
The dining area was an alcove on the side of a courtyard. The chill morning air, with a hint of the sea, made Mordrigan feel only like returning to bed. The benches and table were little more than stone blocks rising from the flagstone floor. Already there were people there, including Ietome at the head, and two men on either side.
“Good morning,” said the host, and offered the young wizard a seat.
The meal was a round loaf of bread, some cheese, small round fruit, and a sweetened, diluted and slightly alcoholic beverage you've never tasted before, but which compliments the food nicely.
“So this is the wizard, eh?” said one of the men. His kind Mordrigan had never seen before. His skin was bronze and his hair was straight, but also shaggy, black and unkempt. He wore a tight-fitting white tunic over a well-muscled frame. “He doesn't look too much like a wizard.”
“Well,” said the other man, “he doesn't compare to some of the ones we've faced, but a wizard must start somewhere.” This man looked like a giant. Even bigger than the other man, with steel blue eyes and blond hair, he wore a black cloak that looked more comfortable than the flimsy garments Mordrigan and the others were wearing.
“Indeed,” said Ietome in response. He looked at Mordrigan. “I hope you are well-rested. Let me introduce you to my associates here: Giun (nods to the shaggy-haired man) is a thoroughly unscrupulous man from Rashan, but good to have on your side in a fight; and Maloska of Velbrask, whose skills are ... useful.”
“Maloska is a headman and a torturer,” said Giun, grinning with his crooked teeth. “Occasionally useful skills.”
“And Giun is the biggest thief you'll ever meet,” replied Maloska.
“You are not giving our guest a very good first impression, gentlemen,” said Ietome.
“If you want us to impress him, let us have our way with him,” said Maloska.
Giun burst out laughing and leered at Maloska. Ietome was not impressed. He grasped the color wheel amulet with one hand and drew a symbol on the table with the other. Suddenly the dining area was very quiet. The mouths of Giun and Maloska moved, but they made no noise.
“Pardon the manners of my associates,” said Ietome with a smirk. “They have a crude sense of humor. Actually, it's their way of indoctrinating you into their company. You see, they are not too sure of their manhood.
“I will be showing you some meditation exercises shortly; but I'm afraid I will have to return you to Goerbest before the day is over. I will give you instructions at that time as to how you will proceed.”
“Very well, I'll wait in my room until you're ready to show me back to Goerbest. Once there, I'll just go about my routine and wait for instructions.”
Mordrigan returned to his room. An hour later Ietome showed up. “You are patient. Good. Now I will teach you.”
Throughout the morning, Ietome showed him techniques in meditation. These varied slightly from what Mordrigan had learned from the hierophants at Goerbest, and included some physical gestures.
They took a break for lunch. Giun and Maloska were nowhere to be seen, nor had Mordrigan seen the Yaranu. After lunch, Ietome showed him to a chamber in another, larger tower. Within was a huge collection of mystical paraphernalia: nothing gruesome, just lots of candles, mirrors, jewels, scrolls, and colorful tapestries. A large empty area in the center of the chamber bore a pentacle drawn on the floor.
“I have already determined that your ability to concentrate is already adequate to wield considerable power,” Ietome said. “What you need are the keys to unlocking that power.
“The symbols on the scrolls will associate themselves to one of your powers. One of the things you should practice daily is meditation on the symbols. Eventually the ability to use them will practically fall into your lap. With experience, you will learn which symbols do what, and how you can manipulate them. The exercises I showed you will provide the clues you need.
“Another thing I must teach you before you leave is the ritual of attunement. All objects have a tendency to carry the residual aura of beings that touch them. Through the ritual of attunement you can bind the object to your spirit and use it to store energy — either your own or that of others — and then configure it to your own ends. Common objects can be used, but even better are items which are associated with powerful events. For example, in the Main Tower of Goerbest are relics of heroes and famous beings. They have been attuned to Malladun and store energy for his return. Getting your hands on these and attuning them to yourself will produce interesting results.”
Through the afternoon of the 21st of Glant, Ietome taught Mordrigan the ritual of attunement. The young wizard practiced on a small color wheel medallion until Ietome was satisfied with the results. He let Mordrigan keep the medallion and told him to fetch his belongings from his room. While Mordrigan did this, Ietome began the process of summoning the Yaranu.
After getting his things, Mordrigan returned to the summoning chamber to find the Yaranu hovering over the pentacle. He followed the shifting shadow through the arched gate it created. After falling through the purplish mist, Mordrigan ended up in a dark cave. At one end was daylight. At the other was an arched magical gate, now vanishing into a wall.