This short story was written while I was putting together the world of Ilandrior. It is based approximately 200 years prior to the events of The Folly of Wizards, during the golden age of the Argantin Empire. Some of the content discusses points that have not yet been addresses in what’s been posted on the novel.
At this point, this is all that’s been written. I plan to eventually finish it, but most of my time is focused on working on The Folly of Wizards.
The centers of the great Argantin Empire filled to overflowing, rich with aromas of exotic foods, drinks, and perfumes, its merchants rich from their wares, its nobles refined and elegant, its rulers, the powerful wizards, respected by all the World. Its artists were renowned in the distant lands – Kal’Kural, Bentuil, even Kâlíria. Its poets, playwrights, singers, and writers traveled everywhere and anywhere, free to tell their tales and spin their stories. Truly, no other nation in all the history of mankind was as glorious or majestic as the Argantin Empire.
Kalin wanted none of it. He lived in a small cottage, about twenty miles beyond the walls of Arhals, the capital of this most majestic kingdom. There, he planted and raised his own crops, not relying on the merchants or the farmers from distant lands. He’d go into town every other week for things he couldn’t do for himself – a tool needed an enchantment, or materials for new clothes – but as much as Kalin could do for himself, he did.
The cottage was nothing special, but it had a place in Kalin’s heart. It had been built by his grandfather as a vacation home of sorts. While it was by no means a very scenic location, when you live in a city with so much going on, any brief taste of nature is better than none. As a child, Kalin’s father had brought him here often, to play in the stream or climb the trees. After his father’s passing, Kalin had come here, to this place, to feel his presence and remember. Eventually, the city and its wonders no longer held his attention, and so Kalin left Arhals, and dwelt solely in the little, old cottage. No people, no noise, just himself, his few animals, and nature. Just how he liked it.
Kalin had awoken relaxed today. Generally, he got up early for a walk and to feed his animals, but yesterday he had returned from Arhals after a grueling week in the capital city. Images of the parades and banners filled his dreams as he slept, and the ringing of horns trumpeting had remained in his ears. Sleep, he determined, was more pressing than routine. The animals had food aplenty, he had made sure of that last night. He dressed methodically, went to his kitchen, and found an apple to eat for breakfast.
Munching to the ringing of the Heralds of Argantin in his ears, he made his way to the library. Of course, it wasn’t as complete as the Great Library of Arhals, or even the Royal Library of Alden, in the Juralen Valley, but it was his. Here, there were none of the romances, or comedies, or stagecrafts that filled those regal establishments. No, his library contained the history of the World, as seen by those brave souls that dared to live outside the boundaries, who saw things as they really were. Also here were the myths, the legends, the tales told by the old to the young to make sense of the brutality and savagery in the World.
Kalin took another bite from his apple as he perused his collection. Sitting on a small wooden table were stacks of parchment, his quill in its case next to them. A book sat open on the desk as well. The Writings of Prince Ilthain Juralen, it was called. One of those old holy books the Ilandri revered, from before the Empire had brought order to the human lands. It spoke of the Light, and the Gods of Creation, and all sorts of angels and other beings. Nonsense, of course, but it did have important history to be saved.
That was Kalin’s task: Remove the fantasies from the history books, leaving only the facts. Take away the fanciful, the spectacular, the façade, and keep the people themselves, the events that took place around them.
Today was not for completing his life’s work, however. Today’s goal was relaxation. Taking another bite, he reached up to the shelf, carefully removing a worn, red leather book, its title, once golden along the spine, now little more than an indentation. Kalin needed no title to know which book it was. A gift from his father for his 20th birthday, after his coming of age celebration at the cottage, it was forbidden as heresy within the walls of Arhals. It was simply titled Thêvan – The Law of the Light.
Kalin sat down at the table, and opened, his eyes landing on the first page. It had been old when Kalin’s father gave it to him, but even so he had written a special message down on the cover page.
“My dear son, I know that a gift such as this may seem odd, but I know that once, long ago, these things were known by our people. This book contains the promises of the Light to its children. Study it, and see for yourself what potential there is within us.”
Kalin turned the page, and began to read. It began with the Void, and how the Light came from nowhere, and then the Gods of Creation came from nowhere and created the World from nothing, because it had all been Void. Then they fell asleep, which led to other gods being created from nothing, which leads to both groups fighting, and the creation of mortals. And on, and on…
Kalin knew the story well enough, he only ready it because he found it so humorous. The wizards taught that the first god was Argantin, and that he taught others how to ascend to godhood, then those he taught rebelled against him and cursed him by removing his physical form and imprisoning him beyond the Heavens he had discovered. Two different stories, from two deities, and that doesn’t include the shaman, or the druids, or the races farther east that still worship the so-called fallen gods. If all these deities couldn’t at least agree on the creation of the World, how could their legends and myths be any more than fantasy?
A knock at the door awoke Kalin from his thoughts. He had been staring at the same page for some time now, so he couldn’t tell whether he had dozed off or not. Perhaps he had imagined the sound. He set down the book, and as he did the knock came again from the door. This time there was no mistaking it. Kalin stood, and cautiously went to the door and opened it. No one ever came to his house unexpected.
Standing calmly at the door was the most unexpected visitor Kalin had ever seen. If it had been family (his brother did still live in Arhals), or soldiers, or wizards, or elves, it would have been more understandable. He was an old man, with a short white beard, and well-trimmed hair, as white as the snows in Tha’Haral. His face, while worn from the years, remained warm and friendly, his smile calming. He wore white robes, with a blue pattern along the shoulders, sleeves, waist, and sides that Kalin immediately recognized as runes, far more ancient than those adorning the walls of Arhals. His feet were clad in simple sandals, made of leather. In his hand was a wooden walking stick; under his arm, a book. In every way, the appearance of the old man before him shouted that something was certainly wrong with him.
If his appearance wasn’t enough to overwhelm Kalin, his greeting pushed him over. “Good morning, brother! The Light directed me this way to find shelter from my long journey. Would you by chance allow me to rest my weary feet under your roof?”
Kalin stared. This was not the relaxing morning he had anticipated. “Of… of course, noble sir,” he replied, unsure how to address the visitor.
The old man walked through the door as Kalin stepped back. “Noble sir? By the Light, I may be elderly, but I am no noble.” Upon crossing the threshold, he raised his hands, palms not quite touching, and in a language Kalin did not recognize, uttered what could only have been a prayer. After a moment of awkward silence, the old man turned again to Kalin. “Now, where is a place for this servant to sit?”
Kalin hurriedly ushered him into his library, the only room in the house with two chairs. He sat down gingerly at the desk, while Kalin sat in the other, by the window. He leaned his walking stick against the desk, and as he did so noticed the old book. “Ah, studying the words of the gods, I see. Very good.” He picked up the worn volume gently, clearly respecting it. He began to read, “And the children of Ilandrior were scattered across the land by the hand of the Destroyer, and the gods of the east. They were scattered northward, and eastward, and southward, until they were subjected by all manner of kingdoms. But as they obeyed the laws of the Light, and remembered the blessings they had received, they were blessed, for they were given peace and strength.”
He smiled, nodding at the passage, as he set the book back down as he had found it. “Now, brother, what is your name? I regret that I have not yet asked, for my body’s weakness led me to request aid first.”
“Kalin, son of Galdin, of the city of Arhals,” he responded. The traditional introduction seemed foreign to the old man. “What is your name?”
“I am called Brother Ilthanden Lightborn, but before my called to the priesthood, I was Ilthanden Juralen.”
Kalin started. The old man smiled calmly, as if he had commented on the weather. His features were worn, true, but surely not that old. For a human, that would be impossible. Kalin had never even heard of an elf of such age. “You aren’t serious,” he said bluntly, although he felt ashamed at his brashness. “You mean to tell me that your father was Ilthain Juralen, prince in exile of the kingdom of Juralen?”
Ilthanden nodded calm and slow, as would be done for a small child. “Yes, that is correct. Although my father is no longer with us, of course. His spirit has long departed this forsaken world to return to the heavens.” He smiled, his eyes shining. “Why, have you heard of him this far west?”
Kalin rose from the chair, picked up the other book from the table, and handed it to the old man. His eyes, though old, darted across the cover. He opened to the middle, and read for a moment. “Why, this is astonishing! I had no idea my works had already come this far.” Wonder spread across his face as he looked up. “Good brother, where did you get this? Surely you do not treat the words of a prophet so lightly. This book is very worn.”
“It was left by my grandfather after his passing, some fifteen years ago,” Kalin responded. Gesturing towards the rest of the volumes, he added, “This was all his.”
“Fifteen years…” Ilthanden rose, leaning heavily on his staff. He shuffled to the window, and looked out at the land. Kalin enjoyed much the same activity. It brought memories back of his childhood, before his grandfather’s death. Before his body had betrayed him, and his life had faded away, the light in his eyes never to return.
“What year is it, brother?” Ilthanden finally asked, breaking the silence. “When I left, it was the year 273 of the new age. How long have I traveled?”