The Elfstone Door
From the open-source wiki-novel "Paradox Quest"
The Temple of Wik rose into the sky like a monument of glory, the top of which was only visible above the clouds. It’s sacred stones testified of the immortal power from which it was made, for there was not a sign of age upon them. As smooth and glossy as pure crystal, the surface of the monument reflected a thousand colors, and it’s translucence reflected the transparency of those who have dedicated themselves to its purpose.
The Old Wizard climbed the steps to the precipice alone, as was the tradition. He paused after each step to reflect upon the mistakes he had made during his prior journey, vowing not to repeat them. It was no small endeavor, to empty ones soul of all it’s knowledge, trusting only in the power of Wik to teach it to him anew. Though he would have much aid, there were still so many circumstances left to depend on faith alone. Any soul would have just cause to fear the outcome of such a trip.
But he had taken the first step. There was no turning back, now. As he continued the climb, the air became thinner, but his resolve only thickened. He reminded himself that, shortly after his departure, a very good friend would follow along this same path; and they would see each other again in dimension earth. Even more reassuring was his foreknowledge of the others, the souls who would join him once his earthly ministry began anew. It was for them he pressed on.
His thoughts strayed for a moment at the recollection of his friend’s question. “Do you think they will remember,” he had said. The old wizard couldn’t help but doubt. He had been watching events play out upon the earth for over two thousand years, and they have consistently turned from bad to worse. If only the Architects had allowed him to return earlier, he reflected, perhaps things would have been different. But he had made a fatal mistake. He fell weak to the powerful urges of the flesh in which he was clothed, and he had went the way of so many fallen men before him…
“Bah!” cried the Wizard aloud. “It shall not be so again!” As he released this inner rebuke, his voice resounded into the clouds and echoed in the rarest clarity, calling back towards him from the air. An admonition from the Masters, he decided. No. It shall not be so again.
As he reached the crest of the temple, the bright golden flame of life began to dance in solemn magnificence. Here we are… again, the Wizard mused. Once, more, he would set out to save this flame from those who would destroy it. There was no greater cause, as far as he was concerned. Life, in all it’s glorious imperfections, must go on thriving. If it dies in one dimension, it dies in all. If any souls be enslaved, the effect ripples throughout the multitude of universes. No, it must go on!
The Wizard of Wik paused for a brief moment, fell to one knee before the towering flame, and leaned upon his staff.
As he drew a deep breath, he prepared his soul for the journey, then invoked what would be his final spell for a very long time…
“I am the Great and Powerful Guardian of the Sovereign Flame of Wik. My name may not be spake aloud, lest it be profaned by mortal lips.”
As the incantation resounded, the entire temple came to life, casting beams of colorful light in all directions. The great flame atop the temple, where the wizard stood, now soared high into the sky like a giant volcano, spewing it’s blue fire in all directions.
As the Wizard stepped into the flame, a mighty voice from the sky echoed seven thunders…
“Where am I?”
It was unsettling — the lack of knowing. But then the more important question came –“WHO am I?”
He could feel his legs, but he could not move them. His arms, too, were paralyzed. He could barely feel himself breathing. He could barely feel anything at all. There was no concept of time and no perception of place, only an internal fear that something was wrong.
The Wizard remained in this comatose state for quite some time, until, finally, hours later, the warmth of the sun began to shine upon his skin, kindling life and memories. But he was not supposed to have memories. And at this thought, his muscles came to life. He reached for his head and felt long, knotty locks, which were not supposed to be there.
As he rolled into his side and braced himself up, his eyes opened slowly and carefully as they adjusted to the light. He was in a strange place, a foggy and mysterious mountainous land, but something was wrong. As he glanced up towards the two sunsets, it became obvious that he was definitely not in dimension earth.
“What kind of tricks are you playing?” he shouted. As his words echoed into the surrounding landscape, his eyes immediately searched the ground by where he lay. With a gasp of relief at discovering what he was looking for, he reached for his staff, held it aloft for a moment, inspecting it thoroughly, then used it to brace himself to his feet.
He had been laying in the crest of a large rock formation, about twenty yards or so from the edge of a cliff. The fog was so thick he could barely see thirty feet away, but he could tell he was on the edge of a deep canyon. The sound of running water behind him made him turn towards a small pool in the center of the rocks, where a tiny waterfall emptied into a natural cistern.
As he approached the pool, he leaned his staff against a rock and bent down to scoop some of the cool water onto his face. It felt refreshing as he splashed and drank, enjoying the essence of the water. The Wizard could discern much about a land by tasting it’s water. This was a clean land, unpolluted from the machinations of dimension earth. But there was something strange causing his senses to tingle. Something was amiss in this strange land. There was a cold chill in the air… coupled with a foul smell. Glancing around, he could tell even the critters of this world were uneasy. He could hear them scurrying to their hidden fortresses, and their deep tunnels. Such musings caused the wizard to search deep within himself for the answer to this strange riddle; for there was indeed a time, not that long ago, when all those in dimension earth hid in such manner… from the dragons…
“Bah!” Said the wizard. “I’m just paranoid in my old years.”
“Talking to yourself again ?”
The voice startled him as he turned back to see an armed soldier walking up the hill. The early evening sun blinded his vision, but he immediately recognized the man, with his stalky walk, and heavy broadsword attached to his belt…”Bruth? Bruth of Og, is that you?”
“Who else would it be? Have you brought the mead?” A chill rippled through the old Wizard as he recalled a memory from years ago. He then noticed the scene before him in a familiar light. It was during his last trip to the ancient elven world, a mission which he had miserably failed. He and Bruth of Og had finally tracked down David Elfstone, the lost heir of the ancient Alarian Kings. But they were too late. The boy, who knew not who he truly was, had committed suicide with his own dagger when he was unable to save the women he loved from the fire. “Am I being given another chance,” he asked. Just as this thought occurred, it was confirmed. He glanced at the sky. What day was it? The scene around him had changed as well. There was a fire and a campsite. About twenty yards to his left, Bruth’s war-horse was tethered to a tree next to his own ponied wagon.
“All the townsfolk are gathered,” said the soldier. “They have sent word to the fort… requesting aid from the knights.”
“Hmm… Yes, well, that was expected.” The wizard’s gaze was focussed on the fire, but his thoughts were distant. Memories of darkness and destruction… and fear. After the boy’s death, the darkness of Zarwik had spread throughout all dimensions. This is it, he thought, I have been given another chance. Could he possibly succeed this time? He had to try. But there was no time to waste… “What of the boy,” he asked.
“Gone. Nobody knows where. I feigned that I was his uncle; but I think they knew better. There may be a young girl.”
“Ahh, yes.” The girl, thought the wizard. “We must find her as well. Perhaps she is still alive!”
“Why wouldn’t she be,” asked Bruth.
“Nevermind,” the wizard replied. “Come, let us make straight for Lumbass!”
“Lumbass? I thought we were going to take a break and have some mead?”
“If we do that, they both will die! Come!”
The soldier from Og rode the fearless Ogden Moore, a well-trained stallion who never shied from battle, while the Wizard held the reins of his ponied wagon.
The road to Lumbass followed the Blue River, passing through the Market Towns all the way to the Forgotten Lands, where no man dwells. Lumbass was a small village of brewers and sourdoughs which lay just beyond the border, a cesspool of vagabonds and misfits who at some point in their life acquired a desire to avoid the authorities. Despite the questionable character of the natives, the local brothels always housed a few sellswords hoping to lent their services to gullible travellers with a need to cross the danger zone. It was one of these same sellswords who had informed the wizard of the witch-burning all those years ago. But they had arrived too late.
The Wizard grunted, hoping they could prevent her death as well. Everything was coming back to him, now. He drew a deep breath as he felt his staff with his free hand. He always attempted stealth and guile before force, but he was prepared to summon any weapon necessary to ensure the safety of the unrecognized Heir of Alar. What the only son of the ancient Anukian line was ever doing in this strange dimension was a mystery yet to be solved.
“You know what ‘Lumbass’ means, don’t you,” said the Wizard. ‘No Pass’ — It is an idiom carried over from the time of the Elven King’s alliance with the Anuks, when they first learned the existence of other worlds. There is an ancient monument in the center of the village, the purpose of which is unknown to most who dwell in these parts. It is an ancient portal. When the war started, the elves left this world to join with the Anuks in battle. They closed the portal to ensure no trace of their passage, leaving only an ancient stone in its place. The locals who witnessed the event inscribed the runes on the stone which gave the village it’s name.”
“You think the boy is after something there?”
“I’m certain of it. He is coming of age. No doubt his instincts are drawing him to his origins.”
The companions carried on in silence for some time, until, finally, the black smoke from the chimneys of Lumbass could be seen on the horizon. The suns were preparing for their nightly rest, lingering just above the village, casting beams of orange, violet, and blue through the smoke clouds in the evening sky.
As they drew near the village, the smoke and the light began to take the shape of a large Anukian skull, peering down at them from the infinite horizon with fiery eyes.
And with this, the wizard knew they were too late. “Make speed,” he shouted. “Now!”
As they reached the village, they could see a large crowd gathered around a fire, where the remnants of a steak and burnt chains told a dark story. But there was also a shimmer of hope. Kneeling before the fire, with a dagger pressed to his chest, was David Elfstone.
David was still in tears when he heard the footsteps, then the voice of an old man. “An old friend once told me,” the Wizard said…” No greater curse can be laid upon the soul of a man than the ability to see and know all things.”
“Who are you?”
“It is a great burden that you bare, I know.”
“What do you know about me, and answer me! Who are you?”
“Son, I come from a place you cannot fathom right now. But I am your friend, believe me when I tell you. I know how hurt you are because of what they did to that poor girl. And, even worse, because they did it to her because of the things you see.
“The boy glanced sharply at the old Wizard now. “Who ARE you?”
“David, right now you can only see things about the people who are connected to you. Come with me, and I will show you how to connect with everything! It won’t be easy, and it will not ease your pain. In fact, it will multiply it; but it will at least give you vengeance.”
At this, a man in the crowd rushed off. David noticed this, and turned back toward the Wizard. “You are that old magician who was asking about me in my village! They are going to burn you, now.”
The Wizard ignored this as his eyes focussed on a distant spot in the sky. Just over the horizon, he could see the shape of an Anuchian Sentinel coming in their direction. No doubt, an agent of Zarwik, coming to make sure Elfstone dies. They were out of time. The Wizard looked the boy in his eyes as he continued..
“I know you, David. I have watched you since the day you were born. I watched you grow up, admiring how much of your father is in you. I cried when your dog died of heartworms. I wanted to come to you then, but I held back with painful perseverance as you buried him behind the old willow. But do not fret, my boy. Death was not the end for him. Neither shall it be for thine lady.” As the Wizard spoke, David Elfstone’s grip on the dagger pressed against his own heart began to loosen. The subtle hint of a tear formed, and he gasped, “How do you know all this?”
“David, there are things I can tell you now and some that I cannot. But know this! Everything you have ever felt wrong with the world is part of who you are, your destiny! You were not born in this world, and in this world, if I can help it, you shall not remain. There was an evil purpose for hiding you here, and I have sought you out diligently ever since.”
A chill ran down the young man’s spine as the he perceived the sincerity in the old man’s voice. This was no mentally ill conger, as his friends had said. Everything the Wizard was saying touched him somewhere deep inside. “Is this to do with my dreams?”
“Ahh,” the Wizard replied. “My desperate attempt to communicate with you during my imprisonment, but not enough, I’m afraid.” As his eyes moved towards David’s dagger, the old man slowly lifted his hand and dismissed the blade, releasing it from the young man’s grasp. David allowed this as he studied The Wizard in more detail, taking note of his peculiar garb. But the respite was shortly over.
“None of this changes the fact that she is dead! I could not save her, the only person I cared about in the entire world!”
David lunged to retrieve his dagger, but his attempt to grip the old man’s arm produced nothing save a swipe through clean air. He stepped back in astonishment as his mind attempted to fathom what had just happened. The Wizard, perceiving David’s thoughts, seized the moment and lifted his staff. With one clean, crisp swipe, the end of the staff ignited with a brilliant blue, causing David’s eyes and all those around them to widen as they beheld it. Even the guards, who had arrived to arrest them, watched in astonishment as the Wizard welded the outline of an archway into the air, then filled it with a white, sparkling haze. As the Wizard returned the bunt of his staff to the ground, a brilliant blue and white doorway stood before the two men, burning brightly as the pressure of the air intensified.
David fell to his knees as the Wizard of Wik’s voice echoed from every direction, seeming to penetrate his soul from the fathoms of time and space. “This is it, David Elfstone… Son of Alar… Rightful Heir to the Everlasting Dynasty of the Seven Worlds of the Anukian Wik! Everything you are meant to be is through this door! Everything you have ever lost is behind you! All you have to do is decide. Rise, David Elfstone! We no longer have time to banter with doubt and foolishness! Rise, and become everything you know, deep down, you are meant to be! On the other side of this door is a journey to your destiny, a multitude of worlds waiting eagerly for your arrival! All you have to do is walk through it!”
As the wizard and the boy stepped through the portal, the crowd scattered with fear as a mighty voice from the sky echoed seven thunders.