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  • Writer's pictureCal W

Chapter I

A Strange New World

Quiet was the night of Midsummer’s Day on the 400th year of the first millennium of Nanum Imperium as Prince Quinn of the Line of Eilianther sat atop a rock face staring out across the Northern Woods of Brittanni, north of The Mountains of Titus which were visible in the distance. He was a handsome creature, tall and broad, unlike the usually slight elves of Sherwood - adorned in the white garbs of nobility fortified with Lightsteel armour. Hidden in part by his shoulder length white hair, his porcelain complexion was tarnished at the neck by black which creeped over his jawline. The night sky was clouded by storms, as heavy downpours had plagued most of Brittanni for almost two weeks and showed no sign of letting up. The only light in the sky was the dull glow of the moonlight and the occasional flash of lightning through rolling cumulonimbi as they drifted through the atmosphere. The Elf Prince was north of Titus gathering intelligence on the movements of The Dwarf Empire of Lochnagar as they supposedly prepared for their invasion of The Elven Sovereignty of Sherwood far to the South of Brittanni - but the well of information had long since run dry. Now, Quinn was content with spending his days tracking and hunting Dwarf patrols and enacting swift justice upon them for their parts in the conquest of the fallen, human led Kingdom of Brittanni. He had been a part of a hunting party of fellow Elven warriors - alas the others had all reached their end at the hands of the Dwarves. But not Quinn - Quinn was far better trained and far more resilient than his lower-born companions - and so lived to continue the bloody work of Dwarf Hunting. In the corner of his eye he saw it first - and then fully into view it came. Hurtling through the sky roaring as it came was a bright flash of emerald green flames. As fast as it crossed the night sky, it landed with a great crash among the trees in the distance. The Elf Prince sighed and slowly got to his feet, dusting himself off - It was time.

Before long, Quinn reached a break in the Northern Woodlands - wherein a shallow crater had been borne - littered with small, dancing green flames which were cold to the touch. At the center of the crater lay a tall, broad human with long dark and silver hair - a short beard and some kind of tribal war paint. The man’s clothes seemed strange also as he was adorned in a long black robe, a few pieces of fur lined leather armour at the shoulders, lower leg and wrists and an amulet set with a large purple gemstone which had been cracked down the middle. Quinn, having no recollection of having ever seen this man or one of his likeness anywhere in Brittanni before, approached with caution - his curved Elven Lightsteel blade drawn. As he drew closer however, the man suddenly sat up - gasping for air as if returned from the grasp of death itself.

‘I…I’m alive…’ The man uttered in sheer disbelief. Quinn, close enough now to see the wounds upon the man’s face, placed the flat edge of his blade against the throat of the stranger.

‘For now…’ The Elf Prince suspiciously quipped.

‘Lower your steel, bard…’ The man uttered shakily.

‘Its me, your friend…Whiteacre…’ There was a silence until Quinn let out an offended chuckle.

‘Bard?! I am no Bard…I am the Crowned Elven prince - ‘ He turned his blade so that the sharp edge now pressed gently just below the jaw of the stranger. ‘ - and I’ve never seen you before in my life…’ There was a crash of lightning overhead as the rain continued to bore down on the crash site. Then, with the tip of his sword, Quinn guided Whiteacre to stand to his feet. The man rose and kept his hands raised at the level of his eye in submission.

‘You are making a mistake here, Elf.’ Whiteacre calmly warned. ‘Do not make me do this…’ There was a standoff, the two brave warriors staring at one another before Whiteacre grunted and gestured with his hands towards the Elf. Silence persisted as Whiteacre looked on in shocked realisation - but before the Elf could say anything - Whiteacre turned on his heel and dashed into the woods. With a deep sigh, the Elf Prince began to pursue.

Both Whiteacre and Quinn raced through the thick Northern Woods, wet leaves slapping and sharp bristles catching their faces - but with each scratch Quinn’s skin healed immediately and his determination grew. Whiteacre began to panic - his arcane powers were gone and he knew he could never outrun the physically superior Elf - and so he dived into a shrubbery and lay prone on the forest floor. Quinn reached the area, realising that his would-be-captive had hidden himself.

‘You can’t hide, nomad.’ He roared, the dense rains crashing down upon him, his pauldrons singing a gentle rhythmic patter. ‘I can hear your breathing…I can smell your matted fur…’ The Elf scanned the area slowly. Whiteacre held his breath and crawled away slowly, never rising from the wet forest ground.He paused for a moment, looking upon the Elf Prince from a distance. Suddenly, a flash of lightning illuminated the woods and - catching the reflection of Whiteacre’s panicked eyes - Quinn smirked and ran in pursuit once more. Whiteacre cursed and leapt to his feet, running straight in the direction opposite his stalker. His lack of perception would however catch him off guard, for when the moment came where he would finally turn his head to face forward - his head was met with a thick, low hanging branch. With a sharp grunt and a great thud, the two connected. Whiteacre dropped straight backwards, his head splitting open above his left eye - and as he drifted off into unconsciousness, the last thing he saw through the solid downpour was the shape of the Elven Prince bearing down upon him.

A few hours went by, and the rain finally subsided for the most part. The Elven Prince sat beside a small campfire running a whetstone along the length of his curved sword as it glowed with the reflection of the flames. Passed out on the other side of the flame, bound at the hands and feet, was the man who called himself Whiteacre - who, with a murmur, began to stir. He groggily sat up, feeling at his head and noticing that it was wrapped in a rag and wet to the touch above his right eye.

‘Oh good, you are awake.’ said Quinn, who was now setting down his sword and the whetstone, picking up instead a long wooden smoking pipe. ‘I trust you slept well? You took quite a beating from that tree.’ He smirked, pushing tobacco into the pipe. Whiteacre grumbled, noticing his bindings, and sat up against the stump in front of which he had slept.

‘I’ve had less embarrassing defeats, I must admit.’ He chuckled. ‘Would you care to tell me where I am?’ He questioned. Quinn lit the pipe and took a long draw.

‘You are in the land of Brittanni - The Imperial land of The Dwarf Empire of Lochnagar.’ Quinn revealed with false pride. Whiteacre was struck immediately - “Dwarf Empire of Lochnagar?” He thought. “Could there be another version of Thorumm Mackintosh the Fallen Dwarf King here?” His question was immediately answered by the Elf Prince. ‘Ruled by the iron fist of The Immortal Emperor Thorumm III!’ Whiteacre remained silent. ‘And I am Prince Quinn of The Line of Eilianther - Crowned Prince of the Elven Sovereignty of Sherwood.’ Quinn proudly declared before pointing the mouthpiece of the pipe towards his captive. ‘And you said you are…’

‘I am Whiteacre the M-’ Whiteacre went to proudly declare before remembering the recent loss of his magical prowess. ‘- My name is Whiteacre. And I'm wondering where my companions are. Horace, My Quinn Eilianther...’ There was a moment's pause before the Elf Prince spoke again.

‘You weren’t the first - ‘ The Elf Prince muttered, taking a long draw on his pipe. ‘ - Ten days passed, a ball of orange flame crashed about a mile from here. I gathered what remains I could -’ he said, examining the oddly charred pipe ‘- the passenger didn’t make it’ He gestured over to a nearby tree with the long tip of said pipe. Whiteacre turned to look over at the tree and at it’s base he saw a mound of dirt recently disturbed – a grave - and at the top plunged into the earth was a basket hilted sword wrapped in a familiar red coat. Whiteacre sighed with sad realisation and returned his gaze to the glow of the campfire. ‘These others of which you speak - the other Quinn Eilianther -’

‘He looks and sounds just like you, only he is less…’

‘Noble?’ The Elf Prince proudly interrupted.

‘... of a prick.’ Whiteacre chuckled, half rolling his eyes. The Elf Prince smiled wryly and took another draw from the dead man’s pipe.

‘And these brave and noble heroes, how did you come to be separated?’

‘We were fighting a great evil.’ Whiteacre calmly explained. ‘A darkness beyond all comprehension of the unlearned folk of the multiverse.’

‘Oh, the MULTIVERSE!’ Quinn interrupted again. ‘The magical tree of distant realities. I seem to recall hearing of this wondrous concept in tales recalled at bedtime by my wet-nurse!’ The Elf let out a sarcastic chuckle, shaking his head.

‘The multiverse is real, your highness, and it was under great threat!’ Whiteacre snapped.

‘Oh, my apologies brave warrior. Pray tell, what was the name of this dastardly beast?’

‘Bôl-Saïx.’ In an instant, Quinns already porcelain skin seemed to grow a shade paler.

‘What did you just say?’ He asked quietly.

‘Bôl-Saïx the Decimator’ Whiteacre confidently retorted. ‘An ancient eldritch terror from beyond the veil of all realities. Father of Thought and seeker of knowledge.’ Horror grew more upon the face of the Elven Prince. ‘A writhing mass of eyes and tentacles.’ The Prince was silent for a moment before regaining his composure.

‘How did you come to be in conflict with Bôl-Saïx?’ He pressed.

‘Many thousands of years ago, I was on the verge of death. A hired sword tasked with disposing of my king’s enemies - sometimes for less than noble purposes.’ Whiteacre shifted uncomfortably, a lump in his throat forming. ‘The Decimator came to me in a beautiful form - a regal lord of light offering me an impossibly long life and mystical arcane knowledge in exchange for servitude.’ He continued. ‘Of course, I took the offer, and immediately was sent to bring to him the greatest minds from throughout many universes. I was told that he would seek council with those i brought forth - but instead they were murdered and their knowledge stolen.’ Whiteacre paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. ‘And so, around 10,000 years ago - I discovered a way of sealing the great evil away in a cosmic prison between realities. I was free, for a time, until my party and I were thrust into a journey across the multiverse. Our unwelcome presence in these many worlds damaged the integrity of the multiverse - and so, Bôl-Saïx The Decimator broke free once more.’ He looked fondly at the elf prince. ‘My party and I fought valiantly - your counterpart included - and I sacrificed all of my magical warlock energy to land a decisive death blow upon the vile beast. And the next thing I can recall is waking up here in Brittanni.’ Quinn was silent still until, after a deep sigh, he stood and approached Whiteacre. He reached down and cut Whiteacre's wrist bindings with a short dagger before addressing the leg bindings.

‘You won’t try to run away again, will you? That would be an inconvenience.’ He asked.

‘I wouldn’t have a clue where to run to, elf.’ Whiteacre scoffed with a smirk. Quinn paused and then set about cutting the binds around Whiteacre’s ankles.

‘Fortunately, I know exactly where we should go.’ He returned to his seat on the other side of the campfire, setting down his dagger and offering Whiteacre a flask and some bread. ‘Eat and get some rest, we move at sunrise.’

The two had been hiking for hours in near silence as the sun began to set the following evening. The adverse weather had finally come to a complete stop and was replaced by a slight - low hanging mist which curled throughout the trees like some phantom embrace. Whiteacre was struggling to keep up with the Elf, and had abandoned any hope of conversation a good mile and a half back.

‘Where are we actually going, Elf’ Whiteacre pressed. ‘It has been hours without stopping and I have no idea where we are headed?’

‘Hold your tongue, nomad, we will be there soon enough.’ The Elf quipped. ‘And the preferred way to address me is “Your Grace”, just for future reference.’ Whiteacre rolled his eyes at the pompous attitude of this new Quinn - who suddenly came to a halt, his fist raised by his head.

‘In there, quick.’ The Elf urged toward a thick bush over to the right. The two had come slightly close to the main road a number of times, taking care to never actually travel in the open along the roads themselves. But now, as the two hid, two separate parties approached one another on the nearby road - The most notable of which being a group of five Dwarves clad in golden battle armour and deep red capes bearing the Imperial Sigil of a Bear and war axes.

‘Stop there, state your purpose.’ The middle dwarf exclaimed as the other party - A small trade wagon manned by one human. The man seated at the helm of the wagon removed his hood reluctantly and looked upon the Dwarves, the middle one speaking once again. ‘...And what is a Hume like you doing this far from Titus?.’ He commanded. The Man, voice shaking spoke up:

‘I am Halarin, my lord. I am but a humble trader…’

‘Do I look like a lord, Hume?’ The dwarf scoffed before taking another step forward. ‘No - I am Tharagrund, captain of the 4th division of The Imperial Northern Guard - and you, my friend, are trespassing.’

‘Begging your pardon, captain.’ the man uttered in panic. ‘I am but a simple merchant offering goods to your kin in the Northern Work Colonies.’

‘Oh aye?’ Tharagrund scoffed. ‘And how did you come to be THIS far North of Titus with that wagon of your’s?’ There was a pause before Halarin spoke again.

‘It was the toll gate, sir.’ He uttered. ‘Sometimes - the guards let me through in exchange for fresh food and other amenities.’ His voice was shaking now, realizing the trouble he had just caused with that revelation.

‘Is that so?’ Tharagrund asked. ‘Well then I suppose a world shall have to be had with the border guards about this act of treason.’

‘Treason my lord?!’ Halarin exclaimed. ‘All I have done is tried to make enough coin to feed my wife and daughter!’

‘What you have done, Hume, is disrespect the Empire by setting foot in the north without written permission from The Emperor himself.’ He lifted his disproportionately large battle axe. ‘And you have stolen money from the Dwarves trading in the North - by way of stealing their business.’ With a gesture of Tharagrund’s head, two of the other Dwarfs stepped forth and pulled the trader from his wagon as he screamed in fear. ‘And so, Halarin - human trader - I hereby sentence you in the name of The Mighty Dwarf Emperor Thorumm III, to die.’ Halarin screamed and pleaded for mercy - but the justice of The Empire was swift. Tharagrund swung his great war axe down and with a single motion, and a cheer from the rest of the company, the trader’s head separated from his body and rolled into the nearby bushes where Quinn and Whiteacre were hidden. Whiteacre, unwilling to let such a horrific injustice go unpunished tried to rise - but was stopped by Quinn’s firm grip upon his shoulder. But the rustling of leaves was noticed by the Dwarf captain.

‘Search the wagon - see what we can keep.’ He commanded as he walked slowly towards the shrubs. Quinn and Whiteacre remained deathly still, holding their breath as the violent Dwarf Guardsman approached, sniffing at the air. He almost leapt out of his skin, however, when a hare raced out of the bushes past him, off into the darkness of the woods. He sighed and chuckled, cursing the small creature and returning to his company. ‘ Anything worthwhile?’ He inquired.

‘All his meat has spoiled, Captain, and we found a small purse on his corpse.’ One of the dwarves reported.

‘Very well -’ Tharagrund sighed in frustration. ‘Burn it all.’

Quinn and Whiteacre watched on in horror as the dwarves dragged the corpse and threw it onto the wagon - before setting it alight and leaving it to burn in the middle of the road. After another twenty minutes of silence, Quinn stood and sighed.

‘Come, we haven’t much further to go.’

The sun was finally rising once more across the dense canopy of the Northern woods. The rain had cleared and the sharp hiss of its downpour on the overhead leaves had been replaced by the sound of birdsong on the cold breeze pushing through the forest. Before long, the pair came across what seemed to be a dead end; a thick wall of branches all interlocking and blocking any passage beyond.

‘A dead end? Did we go the wrong way?’ Whiteacre tiredly asked, rubbing the sleep from his weary eyes.

‘Of course not.’ Quinn snapped, removing a glove and slowly placing his hand upon the wall of branches. Whiteacre noticed the dark markings seen on the Elf’s skin present on the majority of the length of the Elf’s fingers and traveling up along his wrist. He began to whisper something, a strange and ancient sounding language which Whiteacre had not heard in many thousands of years - Eterniâlléa. Glowing veins began to appear in the branches as the wood yawned and untangled - slowly revealing an archway opening. As the branches cleared, the sight was wondrous - a tall, ancient looking tower reaching into the sky, which was once more black as night illuminated by an unnaturally low hanging moon. ‘The Tower of Horatus.’ Quinn uttered, sensing Whiteacre’s amazement. ‘All of Brittanni knows it lies in these woods - but it’s precise location is a secret to those who have not had the dream of it’s whereabouts.’ The two stepped forward into the open space of The Towers gardens as the branches behind them rejoined themselves and sealed the secret doorway off - before Quinn stopped The Nomad in his tracks. ‘I must warn you.’ He whispered. ‘The Tower is grand and mystical…but it’s occupant is unusual.’ He glanced at the door. ‘We must remain cautious.’ Whiteacre nodded in acknowledgement, and they approached The Tower’s large wooden doors. Quinn took a deep breath, and knocked firmly on the door. Within a couple of seconds, a small viewing window at the top of the door, high above the pair’s heads, opened and a familiar face poked through - Horace the Alchemist - except it was not him. This face was much older and weathered, bearing a beard filled with twigs and leaves and mud. The familiar eyes bore down upon the two and then he spoke.

‘WHO DARES ENTER MY SACRED DOMAIN UNANNOUNCED?!’ The voice was shrill, unhinged, and absolutely not how Whiteacre remembered the long lost voice of his Alchemist companion.

‘Let us in, Hermit. It is I, Prince Quinn of the Line of Eilianther; Crowned Pri-’

‘I HAVE EYEBALLS BOY, I CAN SEE WHO YOU ARE.’ The Hermit interrupted, before turning his wild eyes towards Whiteacre. ‘And THIS one…you are…?’

‘Whiteacre, a Nomad.’ Whiteacre calmly stated.

‘Hmmmm -’ The Hermit grumbled. ‘I’ve never seen your face in this universe before…could it be -’

‘Yes.’ Quinn interrupted. ‘The Emerald Sun. Arrived on the eve of Midsummer’s day. He has the blood-’

‘That will open the gate…’ The wild eyed Hermit whispered. He paused for a moment before retreating inside and slamming the window shut, leaving silence.

‘Is that it?’ Whiteacre asked. The silence continued.

‘Come, this was a mistake.’ Quinn snarled, turning from the door as suddenly the sound of many locks and sliding chains were heard. The door then flew open inwards, pulled open by the visage of an older aged man in colourful, baggy, tattered clothing, a mushroom shaped hat and a gnarled wooden staff - standing much closer to the ground than either Quinn or Whiteacre.

‘Well, come on then? Get out of this rain!’ The Hermit shrieked. Whiteacre was puzzled.

‘It…Isn’t rai-’ and at that exact moment, the heavens opened and rain began to pour from the moonlit sky. Magical.


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