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  • Writer's pictureCal W

Chapter II

The Valley of Vâgené

The Tower inside was warm - not a comfortable homely warm - but a dense and sweaty, moist kind of warm. The humidity was stifling, and Whiteacre wondered if he would in fact have remained drier had he remained outside in the mysteriously convenient downpour. The Prince however seemed entirely unfazed - of course owing to his drastically different and far more resilient genetics allowing him to withstand harsh environments of both hot and cold. As the three of them ascended the dimly lit spiral staircase, The Hermit was humming away to himself a jaunty tune.

‘This way gentlemen, my office is just through the door at the end of the stairs here.’ The Hermit gleefully declared. Before long, they reached an old wooden door bearing a knob shaped like a spotted mushroom. ‘Here we are!’ The Hermit continued. He hummed louder then, whilst fumbling inside his robes before pulling out an abnormally large ring bearing a single tiny key. He inserted the key into the lock of the old wooden door which Whiteacre could have sworn let out a gentle. Sensual moan.

The small, dimly lit study on the other side of the door was thick with dust, illuminated by no more than three lanterns dotted around the room. In the middle of the room was a small, round wooden table, set conveniently with three seats. Upon the table sat a number of small pots containing dirt, and a plate holding a large pile of freshly unearthed fungi.

‘Come, come’ The Hermit hurriedly urged. ‘Can I get you anything? Food? A drink? Tea? TEA!’ He roared enthusiastically, causing a full tea set to inexplicably fall from the dark space above where one might assume there would be a ceiling. It landed with a loud clatter upon the table in amongst the pots of dirt, thankfully missing the platter of mushrooms narrowly. Dumbstruck, Whiteacre and Quinn quietly and cautiously took their seats at the table. ‘Now, why have you come?’

‘The Proph-’

‘Not you, Elf!’ The Hermit interrupted, before leaning across the table, his gaze burning into Whiteacre’s eyes. ‘You… Whiteacre the once-mighty warlock…’ There was a deafening silence for a moment, before Whiteacre mustered up a word through the lump in his throat.


‘Oh yes, I know exactly who you are.’ The Hermit seemed more sinister now in the dim glow of the sparsely placed lanterns. ‘I know what you have done; the chaos, the destruction - to whom you once owed your powers.’ Silence once more echoed through the study, save for the rasp of the rain on the cracked window. ‘Why are you here, in this universe, so far from home?’

‘I don’t know…’ Whiteacre searched his memory for a name.

‘No, I haven’t told you yet. I have had many names - Ikkukalakala, Stella Artois, John - Truth be told I do not remember my true name. But here, many call me Horatus the Mushroom Wizard.’ And just like that, The Wizard’s mannerisms began to make sense.

‘Wizard… You are’

‘YES!’ Horatus screamed. ‘One of the ancient order of The Arcanni! Blessed with eternal life - plenty of time to learn the secrets of the cosmos.’

‘Enough.’ Quinn suddenly roared, slamming his gauntleted fist upon the table. ‘We are wasting time, Wizard.’ Quinn stood, circling behind Whiteacre. ‘The Prophecy is at hand, Horatus. The stranger heralded by Emerald Flame. He sits here before you.’

‘Ahh…’ The Wizard cooed, scooping a handful of dirt from one of the pots before shovelling it into his mouth. ‘Fate truly is - mmph - a funny old thing.’

‘You know what must be done.’ The Prince suggested firmly. Horatus held up his boney finger, chewing and swallowing his delicious soil before reclining in his seat.

‘I do - Alas, I cannot help.’ He held his hands up as Quinn leaned across the table.

‘And why not?’

‘It is forbidden, lad. I have kept my oath to Mamøra, The Mother of Life…’ He smirked, resting his head upon his fist. ‘Can you say the same?’ There was a moment’s pause; Quinn’s teeth ground, his jaw flexing in frustration.

‘This was a waste of time.’ He barked, turning on his heel. ‘Come, Nomad, we will find-’

‘The Valley? Alone? I think not.’ The Wizard mocked. ‘Long and perilous is that journey - Do you even know what lies within that place? It’s power? It’s history?’ Quinn grumbled and looked away. ‘No, I thought not.’ Suddenly, he grabbed another handful of dirt in one hand and a mushroom in the other, shoving both into his mouth before dusting his hands off, slapping his thighs and leaping from his chair.

‘This was a mistake.’ The Prince muttered under his breath before sighing and crossing his arms.

'Please, your highness. I must return to my brothers - they could be in great danger...' Whiteacre pleaded. Horatus returned to the table carrying a large, ancient looking tome, sealed with a lock despite many of it’s torn pages peeking out from beneath the cover. Dust flew from the book as The Wizard dropped it to the table. He reached inside his filthy beard and pulled out a small key, using it to unlock the book whilst whispering to himself. The pages yellowed with time crackled as they were carefully turned, until finally Horatus stopped.

‘Ah, here we are.’ He beckoned Whiteacre and The Prince over and the pair peered over the small Wizard’s shoulders. ‘The Valley of Vâgené.’

Eons ago, before the Land of Brittanni was ruled by Men or Dwarves a great cosmic war was fought. Seeking to control all realities and unify them as his dominion, Bôl-Saïx the Decimator had amassed a great and terrible army of Dragons and Trolls and Fallen Elves - all dedicated to his rule. The great Tree of the Multiverse was still connected as one - separate worlds and realities all still branching from one place - the original creation of Cühm - This very universe - here on Earth. This world was to be the final battleground; if Bôl-Saïx succeeded, he would hold the key to enslaving all and twisting every reality to fit his own image. All his other siblings, being his fellow ancient ones, had been beaten into submission until only one stood at the precipice of destruction - The Sword of the Universe, The Goddess Vâgené. In the skies high above this land, the flaming sword of Vâgené clashed over and over with her brother’s writhing tentacles; below an alliance of Eterniâllé (or Elves in the common tongue) and the Arcanni (ancient wizards) fought long and hard for months against wave after wave of dark twisted beasts sent forth by Bôl-Saïx. Alas, it was no use - the sheer might of the forces of darkness was too great. The lands burned, continents split asunder and the sky began to fall to pieces. Bôl-Saïx’ greatest Lieutenant - Flüffir the Storm-Wyrm, a horrifying, storm breathing, horned black dragon with a great mane - was laying waste to the Elves - forcing them into a full retreat. On the brink of defeat, Vâgené saw no other option than to desecrate her father’s original creation.

‘I banish thee, Bôl-Saïx the Decimator, to the far corners of your own twisted worlds. Forever you shall be lost - never again shall you darken the threshold of this universe - or the Citadel of Cühm - For thou art no brother of mine!’

With this declaration, Vâgené plunged her great flaming sword into the surface of The Earth, creating a great fissure in it’s surface; severing the link between all worlds for eternity. In droves the twisted beasts sent forth by Bôl-Saïx were pulled back into their own worlds clawing and screaming.

‘I SHALL NEVER FORGET THIS, SISTER. ALL REALITIES SHALL BE MINE - AND WHEN I RETURN, I WILL HAVE THINE HEAD!’ The once beautiful and fair Bôl-Saïx, now twisted by the dark forces with which he had meddled, was pulled into the unknown; cast into the blackness between time and space. And then, there was silence. Some of the dark creatures brought into the world by Bôl-Saïx escaped however - the Orcs and Trolls and Goblins and Man-Beasts scattered, escaping to far corners of The Earth to live out their lives and build societies of their own. One remained, however, who could not be allowed to escape. Abandoned by his master, Flüffir the Storm-Wyrm bowed his head before Vâgené.

‘I have vowed to serve the greatest Being in all the universes - it seems my allegiance was misplaced. Can my crimes be forgiven, and my power be used to serve purpose anew?’ The serpent’s words, Vâgené decided, were genuine.

‘You will remain here, Serpent.’ She decreed. ‘This gateway to the Multiverse is sealed - but a time will come when it may be used to bring about death and destruction to other worlds; When one comes who would Use the gate for dark purposes - you shall protect it at all costs.’ She declared, having seen the vague shapes of future events her whole life. The Dragon was silent in thought for a moment.

‘So it shall be. Until such a time, I shall rest - deep beneath the ground until that very day.’ And with that, the Storm-Wyrm was gone, never to be seen again.

There was an eerie silence in the study as Horatus’ words came to a halt.

‘You see, it is no mere valley-‘ The Wizard said with a new seriousness to his tone. ‘- it is a nexus point; a gateway to the multiverse. The Apex of magical power in this world.’ From the back of the tome he produced a leather skin, opening it to reveal a hand drawn map of Brittanni. ‘This path, should you choose to walk it, will be perilous and full of dangers. It is not likely that you shall survive it, Whiteacre.’

‘Which is why WE must accompany him, Wizard’ Quinn firmly interrupted. The Wizard chewed his bottom lip before throwing his hands up.

‘Out of the question!’ He roared. ‘Do you know how many vaguely green meteors crash into Brittanni every year? I cannot simply pursue EVERY meteorological event that occurs! No.’ He dropped once more to his seat, grabbing another mound of dirt. ‘I'm afraid this Quest is your’s alone-‘ His trail of thought was halted for a second. He stared off into the distance as if peering straight through the bewildered Prince and Nomad, very quietly muttering to himself.

‘If that is your wish, Wizard’ Quinn sighed, ‘Then we shall go alone.’

‘Hold a moment!’ Horatus chimed, waggling his mucky finger at the pair, still staring unblinkingly into the distance. ‘Are you sure? This matter requires a high level of certainty… If he is indeed the one… of course - if you so wish, my lady…’ Horatus’ trance was then broken, his stoney demeanour reverting back to that of a jester. ‘Very well - I shall join you. Over the Mountains of Titus, we will go, and through the Old Caverns of Náve. For beyond the Dark Forest of Pübiß lies the Valley of Vâgené…’

'You should get some rest, our quest begins at dawn.' The Elf prince suggested, leaning back against the headboard of his bed. Horatus had offered the pair a room with cots to sleep in for the night. It wasn't much, there was a small dimly lit fire set into the cobbled stone wall, and cots made with straw mattresses almost rock hard to the touch.

'Has he always been like that?' Whiteacre questioned, staring out at the sea which could just about be seen beyond a nearby cliff from the window.

'I wouldn't know - but for as long as I have known him, yes.'

'Must be the mushrooms.' Whiteacre quipped. 'That or the sheer amount of cosmic knowledge bumbling around in that skull.'

'Horatus is a wise man, despite his appearance. He has walked this earth longer than any Elf I have ever known. He was even considered for the council at one point so I believe.'

'The council? The Interdimensional Council of Elders?'

'Yes...' Quinn seemed surprised at The Nomad's knowledge of such a deeply kept cosmic secret. 'You know of ICE?'

'I do.' Whiteacre sighed and wandered over, taking a seat at the edge of the other bed. 'Æliána the Eternal is an old friend of mine, as is Liém the Tiny - another of the Arcanni.'

'Why do I have a feeling this relationship is somewhat strained?' The Elf asked, smirking wryly. Whiteacre paused for a moment, a flash of pain across his face.

'They were the ones who helped me betray Bôl-Saïx ten-thousand years ago.' Quinn's face turned to one of confusion. Whiteacre continued, 'Ten-Thousand years ago, after I had run around the vast multiverse illegally doing my master's bidding for long enough I could no longer in good conscience allow myself to bring him any more offerings. So, in secret, I met with the council and it was decided that we would trap The Decimator in a sub-dimensional prison for all of eternity. The caveat of that, of course, was that I would be forced to remain in one single universe and do all I could to aid the peoples of that world. So, I gave away the location of his stronghold - Testârium - and he was captured.' 'Wow.' Quinn exhaled after a long, strained pause. 'And yet it wasn't eternity, was it?' Whiteacre chuckled and stood once more, heading back over to the window.

'No, clearly not. In my world, Earth-Prime as we called it, Elves and Dwarves and other creatures of magic lived in harmony as a group known as The Æfintyr; that was until the Race of Men deemed us enemies of their newly conceived God. We were defeated in a great battle - and I was sealed away in a tomb for one-thousand years.' Quinn looked ever more confused at the drivel spilling from Whiteacre's mouth. 'Then, in 2019AD - anno domini, "the year of our lord" the humans called it - I was released by a fine young man using a mechanical excavator -'

'Sounds like the tool of a dwarf.' Quinn chimed in.

'Not unless dwarves use JCB branded digging machines, I'm afraid.' Whiteacre chuckled. 'I used a forbidden form of Semen Necromancy to bring-'

'Semen Necromancy?' The Prince roared. 'Meaning you-'

'Yes, Quinn. All over the ground where they were buried. Moments later, they returned - as if death had never taken it's hold. This betrayal of the natural order of time ripped open a rift in reality - through which my party was sucked off. We bounced between universes, involuntarily witnessing great battles and world ending events - until finally we came face to face with Bôl-Saïx the Decimator once more; our destabilising of the multiverse causing his prison to become compromised. The rest you already know.' Whiteacre stretched and headed back over to the bed, laying down whilst groaning uncomfortably.

'So, you already know another Quinn Eilianther?' The Prince enquired.

'Oh, yes. My oldest friend. Quinn Eilianther the Elven Bard - finest minstrel in the whole entire multiverse. Absolute animal with a bow, and devilishly handsome.' Whiteacre smiled remembering his brother fondly. 'In fact, I had a Horatus, too.'

'No, surely not?' Quinn chuckled. 'Another of the Arcanni?'

'Oh, no, but he is quite brilliant. Horace the Alchemist we called him - bloody genius, ahead of his time at any given moment, although...'

'Although?' Quinn pressed.

'Come to think of it, he was pretty addled also. It was the fumes from his concoctions, you see.' He stretched once more, closing his eyes ready to sleep. 'He was short too, actually.'

Morning came and, well rested, Whiteacre and Quinn convened with Horatus in his study once more. As they did, the Wizard was singing away to himself.

‘Atop a mighty steed a hero comes, noble knight of - OH You are awake!’ The Wizard beamed with enthusiastic glee at the pair as they wandered into the study. In the light of day, the study took on an almost entirely new appearance - it was impossibly large and densely populated by plants, potions and an extensive library of presumably ancient tomes. ‘Come, sit - Nigel has been kind enough to prepare a scrumptious breakfast to prepare us for our journey!’ The round table was loaded with delicious stacks of toast, bacon, sausages, eggs and any other breakfast foods one could possibly desire. The pair glanced around the room but Nigel was clearly nowhere to be found - That or he didn’t even exist. Suddenly, Horatus popped up before the Nomad. ‘Oh dear, no that just won’t do! You can’t do a quest dressed like that - all tattered and worn and torn. Here’ The wizard tapped Whiteacre’s shoulder and for a moment a searing burning sensation washed over his flesh. But as quickly as Whiteacre could let out a pained cry it was over. ‘There we are!’ Whiteacre looked down at himself - gone was the tattered and singed robes and instead he was wearing a leather gilet fortified with studs at the lapels - his hide shoulder, wrist and leg armour was refreshed and repaired and his prized amulet was cracked no more.

‘Thank…you?’ The Nomad uttered in disbelief, before He and The Prince took their seats at the table, with still no sign of Nigel.

Breakfast consumed and inexplicably sourced horses saddled and packed, all that was left to do was the charting of a course.

‘I suggest we head towards the western side of Titus - I have a contact who can help us cross through the mountains undetected.’ Quinn proudly declared. ‘He is coarse and difficult to tolerate - but he knows the mountains like the back of his hand.’

‘Very well.’ Horatus agreed. ‘We shall head to The Golden Showers of Prestønia - then you can ride out to meet this guide. Now, Whiteacre -’ The Wizard turned to the Nomad ‘- here’ Horatus produced something long wrapped in a large bundle of material. As Whiteacre pulled away the cloth, his eyes met a longsword - unremarkable and even somewhat damaged with a single edge with minor, unintended serration. ‘This sword once served an old friend of mine - The Hero of Caerllion in fact. Keep it close, for you have no power to speak of.’ Whiteacre gulped when faced once more with the reality that, along with The Sword of Eternity, his Warlock powers were truly gone. ‘Alright!’ Horatus chimed, tapping his gnarled wooden staff on the ground enthusiastically. ‘Onwards we ride - to The Valley of Vâgené!’


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