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Chapter One – Emissary

When the doorbell rang at the manor Greynol Arowen called home, however rare, the visit could be lumped into three categories: the happenstance passerby curious about the plaque outside the door that read, Idarill House; or a merchant peddling spoons or some other ware the old man did not want or need; or perhaps a formal letter from Lord Vesgar or a noble in the city, inviting him to a proper function in Vanyor beneath the foothills where he lived. He never went. But it was a particular visit three years earlier, a messenger bearing an official letter that subtly snuffed out the last vestiges of his life’s work – the announcement of his retirement.
“On the occasion of your seventy-seventh birthday, your service to Fawarra and the Holy-Exarch will have ended. The time you have offered in service to the faith by your consecration is most appreciated. May Fasduen bless your final days.”
“Please find Idarill House a welcome retreat to live out your remaining years until a new master is selected, and our reaffirmation and commitment to Vanyor and northern Nordhiem will continue…” 
And so it went.

Greynol learned to discover solace in the simpler things in life. He felt at once abandoned and free. In the shadows of a great hall that formed the heart of the manor, he studied; the meager glow of the hearth and a candle lamp that fluttered from an unchecked draft his only light. With bent fingers, he traced the words of a dusty library of books – the scrutiny of his gaze etched lines upon his face; but otherwise, his look was vibrant and beneath his years. His mind was sharp, and here in the quietness of his retirement, time drifted from memory. But for Greynol, it felt as if something in time had waited, like a storm poised upon the horizon – something a holy man could recognize.
A noise disturbed the silence of his study as the front door flew open. Greynol made no motion as sunlight poured into the parlor – a boy stepped through.
“Good morning, Greynol. Are you home?” he called. Entering the main hall, he noticed the elder seated in his usual place within the embrace of a cushy armchair.
“I said, ‘good morning’.”
“Yes, Rhen, and a pleasant morning to you,” replied Greynol, blue eyes never straying from the Tuirowan script.
The boy glanced about, perplexed on seeing the darkness. “Sir, it is a beautiful day outside, yet you enclose yourself in shadow.”
The old man lifted his gaze. “I am well aware of the day, Rhen. I rise each day before the dawn breaks. Besides, I have seen enough fair summer days to last two lifetimes.”

Rhen paid little attention to the boast and started clearing off a cluttered table in the center of the room. “Plates, cups, silverware galore…have you been too busy to bother with simple chores, like cleaning up after yourself?” he asked, in his arms a hefty pile.
“I was reading and must have lost track of the time,” replied Greynol, putting on a less sour expression. “Anyway, it’s your job.”
Rhen stepped closer for a look.
“Which book today?”
“The Third Volume of Tuirowe,” answered Greynol with pride.
“Oh, that,” quipped Rhen, starting at once towards the eastern corridor and kitchen.
“‘Oh, that,’ indeed,” muttered Greynol, “ignorance is the plague of Nordhiem.”
His words fell on deaf ears.
Soon the hallway glowed with light as the boy pulled back curtains and opened blinds along the way. He returned to the room with a clean cloth, bowl, and pitcher of water, and set them upon the table.
     “I cannot imagine why you would want to sit in solitude for so long – it reminds me of wintertime,” said Rhen, wiping the surface clean.
     “But I am at peace with my surroundings, not in a dark dungeon. And I had company: the cats played beneath my chair; doves nested in the rafters; and spiders wove webs in the corner above the mantle. I was hardly alone.”
     “You call that company?” 
     Once finished, Rhen started for the stairs leading to the balcony that circled the main hall. “I’m going up top to get some air in here,” he said with a foot upon the step.
     Greynol nodded and relinquished his study to start the day. He stood and stretched, setting the book on a stand beside his chair. Soon sunlight began to enter the hall as one by one shutters were thrown open to expose a bright azure sky. The air stirred, warmed by the sun, and the chamber transformed from its previous gloom into a cheery summerhouse. The doves tested their wings, circling the rafters twice before flying out an open window to greet the morning. Rhen continued his work sweeping the loft and wiping the railings, and shelves, where books stood in uneven rows, he straightened and dusted. Once everything was set in order, Greynol invited him to the kitchen.

     This was Monday, the fourth of Orist, and the boy’s third visit to Idarill since late spring. The cold winds and snow had long ended and normalcy of life returned to Vanyor. Rhen welcomed another summer of assisting the old man, climbing the foothills early in the week. The pay was fair and it felt a joy to get out his cramped family home in the city. As for his earnings, Greynol never missed a payout.
     During a lunch of eggs, salted bacon, and oatcakes, a polite conversation struck up: Rhen spoke of happenings in Vanyor, the usual fill of family events and local gossip, little that concerned the old man, but he listened with regard. And Greynol, for his part, told stories of adventure and battle that he seemed to recall very well. Rhen sat wide-eyed and fully attentive of such talk, as a boy would. He often wondered if the elder, at his age, learned of these things or lived them, for he knew so many fantastic tales. But they were timeworn stories, and whether his own or no, Greynol had given up on such silly things as adventure – at least the boy thought it so.
     To Rhen, Greynol was the Sage of Idarill, a title given by some of the old-timers in the city; or Greyhood, a term used for the dress of an acolyte, which he claimed to be. Rhen understood little about these things to question him, observing what he took in during chores, or heard through their polite discussions. There appeared only an ordinary way of life: he tended his horse, milked the cow, and planted a garden – he seemed just like anybody else. But once below the surface there appeared more than the ordinary. The old man possessed odd, if not marvelous artifacts of science and nature; he prayed an awful lot, “for no good reason”; and there seemed an uncommon sense about him, at times wizened and fatherly, other times youthful and exuberant. And to his wonderment, Rhen found no explanation for the traveling clothes that sat ready beside his bed.
     “Eighty must be too old for riding,” he thought many times over. Greynol dismissed any occasion the subject came up.
     Later in the day Rhen completed his chores: he dusted the remaining rooms, tended the stable, and at last, wiped clean the old carven sign above the front door.
     “He would be proud to see you so diligent,” said Greynol, watching from the foyer.
     “Who would?”
     “Idarill, of course. This is his house.”
     “Why would he care, he’s long dead. And if it weren’t for those gravestones out back, I’d never give it another thought. No one in Vanyor has graves in his yard like you do, and I’m glad for that.”
     “He still approves,” replied Greynol with a wry grin.
     Rhen gave a shudder and a look that said, “Please change the subject.”
     Picking up his stepstool, he shut the door behind them. He and Greynol took their seats beside the fire as a breeze swept into the room and shadows lengthened across the rafters. Greynol felt expectation in the wind.

     “Well, is there anything else you need before I leave?” asked the boy. He leaned comfortably upon a soft cushioned chair, looking about the room like a young master inspecting his estate. “Seems every time I return some new problem arises. This house is older than you and I put together.”
     Greynol did not respond. He suddenly grew disconnected, as one listening to a far off conversation. His expression turned dour. Once proud eyes softened and Rhen recognized the change.
     “Sir, is something wrong? You seem different now.”
     Greynol turned his attention to the boy. He opened his mouth to speak, but found the words difficult to form. “Something comes, Rhen – an answer to a long awaited question. Now that it is here I fear to learn it,” he uttered at last.
     Rhen slunk down in his seat. “This kind of talk is strange – you are acting strange. You appeared fine only moments ago. Maybe something you have eaten, something spoiled. A bad egg, perhaps…although I feel fine.”
     “I have no intention of frightening you,” he replied, trying to muster a smile. “What I sense the end of a long drawn out chapter.”
     “The end you should expect is of the day. You do frighten me with such talk. You sound as if you expect to…”
     The boy hesitated with the last – he had not the courage to speak a foreboding word and make it come true, as his kith and kin were apt to believe. Although Nordic and a Turrar on his father’s side, Greynol held no such folklore to heart.
     “Die, Rhen. Is that what you were trying to say? Death is not the enemy at the gate, and it speaks sweeter words than these,” he replied coldly. 
     The boy, now agitated to the point of tears, pouted in the face of the unknown; he had rarely seen this side of the old man before, the mysterious Acolyte he knew nothing about. Rhen enjoyed his time with Greynol, the wise and wonderful elder with a sharp tongue and an eager smile. He brooded for a moment of uneasy expectation, finally daring to break his silence.
     “I understand little about your other ways, sir, the acolyte or greyhood they call you down below. Some say you are a wizard. I do not listen to them.”
     “People speak most when they know least. Do I seem a wizard? I have seen sorcerers in my day, and their ways are altogether different than yours or mine. Believe what you may in the talk of common folk – their advice is sound in everyday affairs. I find no deceit in their assumptions.”
     “But what of your titles: Sage, Acolyte, and Greyhood?”
     “All part of the whole, Rhen. Remember, there is more than meets the eye in most things. Your father understood as a young lad brought here by his father that the acolytes, starting with Idarill over one-hundred fifty years ago, taught more than just grammar, science, and rhetoric, but offered an altogether new teaching.”
     “Yes, something more than mere sorcery. Now straighten your shirt and press down that mop of brown you call hair – we have a visitor.”
     The boy held his breath, fearing to make a sound. He paused, and then relented.
     “Now what are you saying? What visitor? I believe your ears have flown out the window with your mind.”
     That moment came a low rapping sound upon the front door. Rhen’s heart sank.
     “What sort of trickery is this?”
     “Fret not, I am the reason for these feelings. I would never put you into danger. Now please, do as I say and answer the door while I wait here.”
     Rhen obeyed. What else could he do? Without a word of protest, he marched into the parlor. The knock came again, louder than before. Swallowing hard the boy reached for the doorknob. His head swam with fearful thoughts as the brass turned in his hand. Peering around the corner, he prepared to face some great evil; but to his surprise, it was only a man. He felt foolish to think otherwise.
     “May I help you?” asked Rhen, his senses restored, bowing to a dusty traveler.
     “I have a message for Acolyte Greynol Arowen. I am told he resides here,” answered the man, an emissary. He reached into a mud-splashed pouch and pulled out a scroll.
     “Greynol lives here – this is his residence. And I am his retainer. You may leave the message with me and I shall take it to him.”
     The man lurched back, almost frightened. “No, I must see he receives this personally – those are my orders.”
     Rhen was taken aback.

     “What keeps you boy?” called Greynol, losing patience.
     Rhen returned at once. “There is a messenger and he wishes to see you. He has a scroll of some sort.”
     “Send him in at once.”
     Greynol threw a mantle over his shoulders and stood with arms folded – he appeared most imposing in this manner. Rhen led the young man into the hall where he stood waiting. 
     “Bring our visitor some food and wine. He must be hungry after his ride,” Greynol instructed. Rhen nodded and ran back down the hallway towards the kitchen and pantry.
     “Please take a seat,” said the Acolyte, motioning a hand towards Rhen’s empty chair. The messenger complied. Weary legs overcame any fear of the Lord of Idarill.
     “Thank you for your hospitality. I am Caron, an emissary of Lord Durn of Barame,” he said, gazing awkwardly about the large room.
     “You came from Gandol? Quite a distance to travel, even for a messenger,” replied Greynol as he retook his seat.
     “I have ridden five days since leaving Barame. The border remains open, for now; otherwise, rarely would I venture so far north. Prelate Feron has advised my lord concerning the scroll and its accompanying message – my orders were to bring both directly to you. The messages arrived from Fanael; although time was lost during winter where the mountain passes grow inaccessible. There it seems the scroll sat for a time before making its way to Barame. I for one will be glad to be parted of it.”
     Caron removed a container from his pouch and handed it to Greynol who slid the scroll out and examined it. “The seal is broken,” remarked the Acolyte. “Did Feron open this?”
     “No, he left it alone. The seal was torn before arriving in Barame. You can see plainly it is the Red Dragon – the Seal of Illutar.”
     “How many know about this?”
     “That is hard to say: Lord Durn, Feron, and whoever handled it earlier.”
     “Have you read it?”
     The emissary shook his head with a sudden snap. “Indeed no, my pride goes before me. I kept its contents from my eyes and spoke to no one about it. Those were my direct orders.”
     “Yes, of course. Forgive my questioning – one finds trust fleeting these days.”
     “That is why I will gladly journey the long road home and be rid of this burden. Never before have I felt so much distress over such a thing.”
     “What troubles you?”
     Caron shrugged his shoulders in embarrassment. “The fear of what I bore overcame me – even my dreams were haunted in its care. I did not read the message, yet I felt a dread about it.”
     “Then I release you of it; now the burden is mine alone,” replied Greynol, the scroll held tightly in his grip. “You must be tired. Will you not remain the night for your trouble? There are many rooms in Idarill.”
     “No thank you. I have a place in town set aside for the evening. I hope to depart at first light.”
     “As you wish,” replied Greynol as politely as he could muster, although his eyes shown with gravity. “You mentioned a second note?”
     “Indeed, one that accompanied the scroll from Fanael. Lord Durn was careful to scrutinize it as it concerns the scroll,” replied Caron, reaching into his pocket to pull out two folded pieces of parchment. He read the message aloud:

To the Lord Acolyte of Vanyor,

     The scroll presented before you now came to me out of the forests north of Rottian found upon a man slain along the Southern Road. His name was Sahr, son of Aram, and he hailed from the city of Gunkar, where I am lord. The enemy pierced his heart with a fell sword and the scroll hung upon it as a forewarning – the Raugulon have a way with subtleties.
     The enemy is cunning, none should rejoice in receiving any gift they offer, unless that soul is a fool or traitor. I trust that you, Greynol Arowen, are neither, for an Acolyte lives under the cost of his discipline. Nordhiem is far from Ninterat and the abode of the Black Coven, but at the price of a man’s death, I warn you not to take this message lightly.
     Open war lay upon Fanael; little time can I spare upon the needs of one. My judgment is to send this scroll to you unopened and unmolested, for fell are the enchantments of the enemy. I pray it reaches you in good time. Fare well in our common struggle against the enemies of Fawarra. May many unspoiled days greet you.

Yours sincerely,
Lord Dhormal of Gunkar

     “Well, safe to say neither of his hopes came true: it arrives late and opened,” uttered Greynol, staring blankly at the scroll. The emissary looked on unsure. He folded the note and placed it into the old man’s trembling hand. The two sat in silence for a moment, long enough to reveal a clumsy spy around the corner.
     “Rhen, I hear your sniffling in the hall – come on out!”
     A shuffle of timid feet carried the boy from his hiding place in the hallway. “Yes sir, here I am. Forgive me. I did not want to disturb you while you both while you were talking…I did not hear much,” he answered, carrying a tray loaded with bread, cheese, and a carafe of wine.
     “You heard enough. It is late and time for you to go home. Come back in a week, just as always, then I will tell you what I can.”
     “Next time, Rhen,” replied Greynol, putting an end to all argument. He removed the tray from the boy’s hands and led him to the door. Rhen was hastened away and soon descended the hill into the city.

     Greynol brooded now. He looked on as the messenger devoured his meal, washing it down with wine until sated. “The robust vintage of the Central Valley has none to compare, but Nordic wine will have to do for now,” said the Acolyte in a polite voice, breaking his silence.
     “Indeed. Gandol vineyards have no equal, but never have I tasted the fruit of Nordhiem. It manages just fine,” replied Caron, finishing a second glass.
     The messenger gave a yawn and stretched his aching back. “I too am anxious to put this day to an end,” he said finally, standing to gather his things. “Thank you for your kindness. With your leave I shall go now to my bed.”
     “By all means. May Fawarra bless the road before you.”
     “Thank you, sir. Blessings come rarely these days. Farewell.”
     Caron, like Rhen before him, departed Idarill upon his steed, disappearing into the growing shadows of the Vanyor Dale. 
     Greynol regained his familiar solitude. The scroll now rested upon his knees, heavy and reeking of darkness and curse. The torn open dragon seal looked more a glob of sanguine ichor than wax; the words inked upon the scroll’s outer parchment were penned in blood. Forty years of silent waiting lay before him, but faced with the answer to the questions of his past he found fear.
     “Aram, why was your son killed, and why does his blood mingle with my grief?” muttered Greynol, his voice wavering. “Had I known…had I known so many things.”
     He unrolled the scroll; it felt weighted in his hands. The words upon it were also scrolled in blood, those of whom he would not guess. He drew a breath and began to read:

To Greynol Arowen,

     Belated greetings. My long search has borne fruit – years of toil and the labor of many servants seeking word of your whereabouts. My first name, Dariat, you knew not, but that name is now dead. I am Fauglir, leader of armies and wielder of powerful magic. I owe a great deal to you.
     This message serves as an invitation of sorts. Please heed my request for your presence is greatly desired in Asengard. It is in Asengard that I shall begin my reign – my brethren to guide me. Should you choose to remain in that bitter land of your seclusion you shall be called upon again, under less cordial terms.
     I bid you come also to Asenrael, land of the Farrian, soon to be my own. I desire your presence, a witness to my coming victory.
     I summon you by a name out of your past, Arowen, a man of courage and valor; unlike Greynol, the Acolyte who hides in the far reaches of the North – a coward in wait. Only one can prevail. With eyes that see far and wide we await your call and anticipate our first meeting.

Lord Fauglir, son of Arowen and Aliane

     The scroll fell from his hands. “My God, what has happened? What have I done?”

     Despite the warmth of a highland summer, Greynol found himself immersed in bitterness and cold. His senses were muted. He reread the words of the scroll over and again. His mind drifted from consciousness as a dark spell, like a nightmare, took hold. He took no food and drank only when necessary – water or wine for strength. He battled within, tearing at his robes, calling out a dirge seldom heard in all Turra Arrither – Tuirowan lamentations to dispel the darkness. By the sixth night after receiving the scroll, he regained much of his lost strength. True sight returned and a new vigor, but the specter of dread remained.
     He knelt beside his bed with hands clasped and arms outstretched. The scroll lay upon a table in front of the bedroom window where a candle lamp offered its mild light. A smooth round stone sat beside it and appeared to brood in anger with a deep red glow of its own.
     During the night, a storm swept down from the mountains. Lightening flashed in a brilliant display and thunder shook the foundation of Idarill itself. Greynol paid no heed until a gust of wind blew through the house slamming his bedroom door and causing the candle to flicker. Then came a second blast and the candle went out.
     “Very well then, time for bed,” he thought.

     Sleep would not come so easily. Startled by a burst of lightening just outside his window, Greynol saw two dark figures upon a crested hill opposite the house. Illuminated by the storm the silhouettes watched, each one menacing against a blackened sky. One had wings and took to the air unabated by the wind, and the second loped down the hill to the western edge of the yard near the graveyard.
     Greynol backed away from the window, lifted the stone and climbed into bed, looking like one whom just awoke from an unpleasant dream. Soon the glow of virescent eyes appeared at the window glaring back at him. Then came the sound of claws upon the roof and scratching above his head. The stone in his hands turned a bright blue against the verdant luminescence of the watcher outside the window.    
     “This is Idarill, House of Fawarra, as long as I am its keeper. Go back to your hiding!” called Greynol, but the scratching only grew louder and the walls began to pound. Dark voices bellowed outside with curses and ranting.
     “This is Idarill, House of Fawarra…” he repeated, but the noise stopped and the watcher backed away.
     Greynol hastened to the window. The two figures gathered again upon the hill, but the one on foot directed the other away. The winged creature obeyed, taking to the night skies – a flash of fire revealing its flight. The remaining creature watched for a moment, then let out an angry wail heard plainly throughout the house despite the wind and thunder. Its eyes flashed. Turning back, it ran into the wilderness for good.
     “Well, I suppose that’s over,” said Greynol, climbing back into bed. For the first time in six nights, he dreamed in peace.

     “Hello Greynol, are you home?” started another day at Idarill, the morning after that stormy night. Rhen slammed the door behind him and ran into the hall. The mood was quite different today.
     The boy entered the room, met at once by the sweet fragrance of olibanum. Smoke rose from a bowl and drifted slowly into the rafters where Greynol searched through shelves of books.
     “You are early,” he said. “Ignore the mess for now, I’ve plenty to do.”
     The Acolyte, seen in the light of the upper windows, dressed plainly in a long hooded robe of dove-gray sewn of thick highland wool with a rope belt tied about his waist. Rhen thought him noble. “Not quite the furs and golden-weave of Lord Vesgar, but certainly worthy of a bow,” he thought. And bow he did.
     “You could stand beside the Lord of Vanyor and be proud – Vesgar might grow jealous if you did,” said the boy giggling.
     “Is that so?” replied Greynol, waving off the compliment. “That would be a sight indeed. I must have needed a good cleaning up.”
     Rhen immediately saw a new energy in the old man and lightness in his step. Greynol returned below, placing a pile of clothes and books upon his favorite chair. Out of a pocket came the smooth stone that he placed on top. The boy had seen it before.
     “May I?” he asked. Greynol gave a nod.
     Rhen picked up the oval-shaped stone; it felt like a giant pebble in his hands. “Tell me the story again,” he said smiling. In an odd gesture, he held the stone to his ear as one listening.
     “Again? Well, as you know, you hold a Timlet Stone from the Island of Tuirowe; also called ‘Timlet’ by common folk these days. These stones have a unique smoothness and pearl-like luster, and if you hold them to the sun, they gleam like stained glass. There lie many such gems along the shores of Tuirowe across the Straight of Farria-Sire.”
     “You see, long ago, before men came to Turra Arrither, save the Mihtrir whom have always been here, the Farrian lived in the Farria-Sire, which is a long way from Vanyor mind you. ‘The People of the Jewels’ your folk call them without affection. These Farrian were the Blessed Race and conversed openly with Fawarra, their God, but that was a long time ago and before many things happened. In those days, common men lived in Tuirowe and could hear the voice of Fawarra as it came across the water, falling like dew upon the shore – upon these very stones. They are precious to us, a witness to the gifts of Fawarra; and it is told, if one listens closely you may hear his voice.”
     “Like a shell from the ocean?”
     “Yes Rhen, like a shell,” replied Greynol with a laugh.
     Rhen returned the stone to its resting place. “Greynol, are most Acolytes from Tuirowe? Have you been there?”
     “Also, no. No man returns there now. Its passage is closed to mortal men. Some have been told to glimpse its tall misty peaks from the sea far away. But my lineage is from Tuirowe, on my mother’s side.
     “I would like to see it one day.”
     “Only say that when you are old and quite finished with this world.”
     “If your ancestry goes back there, why do you live in Nordhiem?”
     “More questions?” asked Greynol, sorting through a rack of vials. “I am Nordic also: I began my youth here in Nordhiem, a farmer’s son, not far from this very place. Now if you do not mind, chores remain to be done, starting with the pantry. Talk will come later.”

     Rhen obeyed and ran off to the kitchen. He lifted what he could carry at one time and placed items carefully into wooden crates. Lost in his work, helped greatly by the uplifting fragrances that drifted about the house, questions swirled in his young mind. The matter that concerned him most regarded the scroll; a week had passed since the emissaries strange visit. He had not forgotten.
     He completed his chores, clearing the pantry and loading every perishable item into a wagon that waited outside the kitchen door. Following Greynol’s specific instructions he cleaned the stable and brushed Toryche, the acolyte’s aging black palfrey, gathered eggs and crated the chickens, placing them also upon the buckboard. The boy’s spirit soared light as a feather and he knew exactly what to do.
     “No breaking plates today,” he thought.
     An hour past lunch, Rhen heard the clock above the fireplace strike one and awoke as from a dream. “Questions! You have avoided my questions!” he said with a start.     
     He found himself in the kitchen with a broom in hand, as Greynol prepared a late lunch upon the stove.
     “You would have made me work all day then send me home without knowing a thing,” he cried.
     “No son, I intend on answering what I can. Thank you for working so hard; the air is light today and I fear you have been caught up in it.”
     “Indeed,” he miffed.
     Greynol wore a sympathetic grin. “Forgive me, Rhen. Now come and eat something – the bread is fresh and butter sweet.”
     They sat comfortably at table, a large oak buffet that could easily seat ten men; a remnant of busier times at Idarill. Soon the house would stand-alone. Rhen ate his fill of bread and honey, and scrambled eggs hot off the skillet. The boy had his milk and Greynol tea – the old man’s thoughts swam over a steaming cup.
     “Thank you for lunch, sir. Can I now ask you what I’ve waited so long to ask?” said the boy finally.
     “As you wish.”
     “Well, first of all there is the matter of the scroll that arrived here on my last visit, although I have seen nothing of it today. Secondly, where in the world are you going? After all, you had me load the wagon out back as one going on a long trip.”
  Greynol smiled kindly. “The wagon you will be pulling home with the cow. She can mange it. And the chickens you can take to your family too. The cats will do no good here alone – they too shall go with you.”
     Rhen’s eyes grew wide. “But where are you headed? Are you not returning?”
     “I must journey south – a long road awaits me.”
     “But what did that message say that you should leave so suddenly?” asked the boy, his shoulders sloped under the weight of the news.
     “It is an invitation to lands far away, but not so distant in my memories. It seems the terms of my former life have not ended as I once thought. Nothing more need I tell you.”
     “But you are too old to journey to some strange place. An elder cannot go on adventures.”
     Greynol smiled. “Am I so old, Rhen? It is true; I have lived a full life. But this is no foolish quest, only a path started long ago. There remain many untold things – bitter recollections I hold within, even now.”
     Rhen felt helpless, but offered his service as any good servant would. “Is there anything I can do to help?” he asked. “I don’t understand what you are saying, but I wish to assist you. I am your retainer.”
     “Thank you, Rhen. Return to your family. A boy of twelve makes a good squire, but not a fighter. Go back home and remember me in your prayers,” replied Greynol. Trembling, he reached into a pocket and pulled out a small purse.
     “For your services – give this to your parents, they will use the money wisely. This will cover your pay for the remainder of summer. Explain to your mother and father that I am leaving and your work here has finished.”
     “But what of Idarill?”
     Greynol leaned back and glanced around, filled with glad memories.
     “The House will await its new Master; that decision remains with Prelate Wetherton and his superiors to decide. I will leave a key above Toryche’s stall – come back with your father to check on things if you should journey this way. Another will take my place in good time – Vanyor will not be forsaken.”
     Rhen realized this would be their last conversation. He looked about trying to picture the home as it were; the dark stained floors many times passed over by his broom. “But when do you leave?” he asked.
     “Soon. The festival begins next month in Thalon and there I can better plan my journey. Wetherton is an old friend who is also wise; he shall be my aide. The details of my passage must be concealed and I will say no more of it – it is for your own good. Come now, let us finish what remains and get you home,” said Greynol, leading the boy outside into the bright courtyard.
     Together they secured the cow to the cart. Everything was loaded save a small amount of provisions that Greynol kept for himself. The crates were leveled and at last came two unhappy felines, placed in a basket and covered until they arrived at their new destination.
     “Very well, then. Everything is set.”
     “Greynol sir, this is a sudden goodbye. Will I ever see you again?”
     “ ‘All comes out in the wash’ I always say,” replied Greynol, placing a hand upon the boy’s brow. “All things will be known in time – every deed from every man. Recall all you have learned here: continue to work hard, fight less with your siblings, speak well of your parents, and be strong when trials come.”
     “Strong, like you right now?”
     Greynol straightened up, taken aback by the comment; in a small way, the boy understood.
     “Yes Rhen, like me right now.”
     Rhen embraced the elder who helped him to the wagon. The boy took the reins, wiping away his tears before starting away. Greynol watched as the wagon rolled down the path with its precious load, wheels creaking as it rounded the bend and out of sight for good. He turned aside hiding a tear of his own; his time at Idarill soon to end. Days later he locked the door for good, keeping a key for himself, the other he placed in the barn. He and Toryche took to the road once again, prepared for everything and nothing at once, and the scroll went with him to return to its owner.

     Quiet rumor spread throughout Vanyor, to those who cared about the Sage of Idarill and his disappearance. Speculators surmised the old man went mad and died alone and lost in the wilderness. No one dare discover for himself out of fear or superstition regarding ‘the House upon the Hill’; and so it remained in state.
     Another source of conjecture came from outsiders: travelers in the city asking questions about the Acolyte and his whereabouts, but all that could be gathered were rumors. The most reliable concerned a certain Rhen in the city. 
     “A boy knew this Greynol first hand. I had to pry his little mind to gather that the Acolyte ventures to Thalon,” spoke one in the interested company to a second hidden within his cloak.
     “Then we too prepare for Thalon,” he replied.         


Anonymous said…
awesome as usual....

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