The March of the Rose
The Dragon Tooth Mountains on Andor, where time is not reckoned by the movement of mortals.
A doorway slid open in the very fabric of time, revealing a dark starry night framed by a bright sunny day. A moment later two entities stepped through, one man and one woman. The doorway slid shut revealing a lovely glen in the background and a pathway leading upward, and ending at a blank cliff wall.
"It feels good to be home," Karith exclaimed, breathing deeply.
"You know you have never actually been here before, right?" Mann chuckled and then kissed her cheek.
A memory filled his thoughts and he frowned. A frown that was not lost on Karith.
"Fine! I have memories of this being home," Karith countered, and then added. "What is wrong?"
"I thought that once we had returned that I would feel the link with Dana, but I do not."
"How could you? That bond died when she died. Remember you are the you of the future, the you that outlived Dana by only the gods know how long."
"And yet our link did not die," Mann countered, pointing back and forth between them. "Even before you assimilated Tanith there was something there."
"As I have always told you, Wyrms mate once and death is not an end, merely an obstacle," Karith reminded him, stroking his cheek. "An obstacle that we overcame."
"I know, it is just regret and remorse, I will get over it."
"Good, come, there are things I want to show you," Karith declared moving up the path.
"Should we not wait for Reg?" Mann asked, continuing to process the feelings of loss.
"Yes, I suppose you are right," Karith conceded, and stopped before returning to his side. "We have waited this long a few more moments will not matter."
They waited a good part of an hour, measured by the movement of the sun across the sky. He was starting to get worried when Caledor interrupted his thought.
"My Lord, TimeKeeper comes," Caledor declared.
Both Karith and Mann turned to see a different doorway slide open in the very same fabric of time, revealing a dark starry night framed by the same bright sunny day. A moment later a man stepped through, and the doorway slid shut revealing the lovely glen in the background and the pathway that Mann and Karith were standing on.
"Mann, wait!" Reg exclaimed, stepping forward and holding his hand out palm forward in the universal sign to stop. "TimeKeeper says that we need to move forward in time three years. That something important is happening, or will happen, to change the time-line and that we need to move to that time. Somehow your arrival has triggered changes in the flow of time."
"Caledor?" Mann asked, grasping the sword's hilt.
"My Lord, TimeKeeper is correct, there are changing events that will undoubtedly require our intervention in the future. I can sense the scales beginning to move out of balance and yet they should not be. They have not moved enough to be an issue now but perhaps they will be in the future. We should do as TimeKeeper requests."
"All right Reg, we will follow you forward," Mann announced. "Will you open a gate?"
"Mann, you and Karith go ahead, there are things TimeKeeper wishes to show me. I will meet you here, three years from now."
Mann nodded and had Caledor open a gateway that he and Karith then stepped through. The gateway closed behind them, leaving Reg standing on the pathway.
"My Lord, Lord DeathBringer requests an audience," Timekeeper announced.
"Did he happen to mention why?"
"No, My Lord."
"All right, let us go visit."
Reg had TimeKeeper open a gateway for them and then he entered as well. The gateway closed behind him leaving the path empty.
Somewhere in the Northern Wastelands, where the passage of time ceased to matter.
The Northern Wastelands were once lush plains, beautiful vales, and clear crisp streams before the Great War between Tarran and Elfen forces desecrated it. Truth be told, most of the desecration was at the hands of the Tarran's allies, the Thangdaemons. Now the land was dead, burnt black from great battles and tainted by the spilled blood of both sides. Not much grew there, nothing healthy or nourishing for sure. Farther north from the mountains the land was not nearly as devastated, although there the land was more tundra and permafrost and supported few species.
The shrill cry of a winged reptilian hunter pierced the silence of the landscape as a small wyvernling spied a scrawny rabbit near a small mound. The stricken rabbit tried to flee but its snared leg prevented it from finding shelter. The young wyvern circled the rabbit once before tucking in its wings and diving down, talons outstretched in preparation of snagging the meal. As the talons sunk into flesh a thick staff swung upward, out from the mound of earth, striking the reptile across the neck, snapping its spine and killing it instantly. Silence returned to the area as the mound shifted and a cloaked, bipedal form rose up and swung the staff again for good measure.
The cloaked shape made short work of field dressing the wyvernling and wrapped the meat before packing it in a nearby rucksack. The figure picked up the scrawny carcass of the dead rabbit and packed it away as well. Hoisting the pack up by the straps, he slipped it on, retrieved his staff, and began the long trek back to the hovel he called home.
When Tsor Shadowheart, late goblin lord and wizard, was dropped into the harsh environment of the wastelands he did not expect to live the day. Fortune favored him however, in that the location was close to a land drop or land rise, depending on which side of the cliff a person found themselves on. In Tsor's case he was not far from the rise and within the rocky terrain he found several caves, of which one was uninhabited. The cave had a natural overhang, providing shelter from the weather as well as any predators looking for a nesting area. Over the past year Tsor had made the best of a terrible situation. Bereft of his powers and isolated from any semblance of civilization, he nevertheless thrived by using his wits and the skills he learned as a young goblin. In all of his endeavors one guiding principle drove him: revenge!
Tsor finally made it back to his cave, using a circular route to confuse any predators looking for an easy meal. He moved the animal skin covering the entrance to his lair aside and entered the cave. His living accommodations were simple, but he made the most of them. A central area were a fire pit had been erected in a spot were he found a small fissure in the ceiling that he had painstakingly enlarged to allow the smoke to escape. A small alcove, also covered by a fur drape housed his wood-framed bed and a mattress stuffed with whatever grasses and vegetation he could find. In the back of the cave was an area that he had also cordoned off where his meat hung as well as edible root vegetables that he had gathered during the warmer seasons.
He stowed his latest kill and using a flint knife, he had fashioned, sliced off a large section of another piece of hanging meat and took it over to where his fire was banked. He hung the meat over a spit, stretched over the fire and added some wood to feed the flames. Returning to his cupboard he removed several large tubers that he then placed in the outer portion of the fire to heat through. He slowly turned the spit as his meat cooked and reflected on the strange direction his life had turned.
"Is this what your life has become?" a voice echoed throughout the cave, startling him.
Tsor jumped back away from the fire, into the deepening shadows of the cave, and drew his flint knife. He quickly scanned the cave for the source of the voice but could see nothing that could have spoken.
"Where are you?" Tsor hesitantly asked, still searching the cave for the source of the voice.
"Everywhere and nowhere," the disembodied voice replied. "Why do you live in this ... in this squalor?"
"I have been stripped of my powers and banished to this gods forsaken place with no hope of ever returning," Tsor replied and shrugged. "Where else would I live?"
"And if you had your powers restored?" the voice asked.
"Retribution!" Tsor replied with vehemence.
"Well then, you should have your powers back," the voice chuckled. "Come, stand before the fire."
Tsor looked around one more time before making the decision to move. He slowly approached the fire and watched in awe as the flames turned golden and then leaped out of the fire ring, engulfing him within the golden flames. Tsor felt no discomfort from the flames, no heat at all. After several moments the flames died down and were sucked back into the fire which in turn went out. The cave was instantly shrouded in darkness. Tsor, still possessing goblin-sight, scanned the area for the source of the voice but was still unable to discern were it originated from.
"Where are you?" Tsor asked.
"Why do you care where the source of your gift comes from?" the voice asked.
"I wish to know to whom I am beholden to," Tsor replied, and tentatively reached out searching for the power contained in the rocks.
Power flowed from the rocks and filled the goblin wizard, which he then used to light the cave. Using his goblin-sight enhanced with power he still was unable to determine the location of the source of the voice.
"Show yourself!" Tsor called out.
Little motes of golden light began to appear in the cave above the fire pit. The motes began to come together, joining in a swirling mass of golden light, increasing in size until the entire cave was bathed in golden light. The mass began to condense and intensify, contracting until it was the size of a wagon wheel, pulsing as it rapidly expanded and contracted chaotically.
"You are beholden to no one, Goblin Wizard," the voice coming out of the writhing mass of golden energy decreed. "You are free to do what you will."
"Why would you aid me?" Tsor asked, trying to understand.
"It furthers my designs to do so," the mass replied.
Before Tsor could comment further the mass began spinning faster and faster as it expanded outward like a hurricane breaking apart. Motes of golden light were flung outward and dissipated until nothing was left of the swirling mass.
"Go forth and do your desire," the voice commanded, fading away.
"Now, my dear Lord Blackmoon, or Whiterune, or whatever you are calling yourself, it is personal," Tsor announced, looking around one last time before stamping his staff to the ground and disappearing in a flash.
The Dragon Tooth Mountains on Andor, three years later.
A doorway slid open in the very fabric of time, revealing a dark starry night framed by a bright sunny day. A moment later two entities stepped through, one man and one woman. The doorway slid shut revealing a lovely glen in the background and a pathway leading upward, and ending at a blank cliff wall.
"I wonder why Reg wanted us to come to this time?" Karith asked, looking around.
"I do not know, but if it was at TimeKeeper's request it must be important," Mann replied. "Caledor thinks that the scales are being manipulated."
"My Lord, Timekeeper comes," Caledor declared.
Both Karith and Mann turned to see a different doorway slide open in the very fabric of time, revealing a dark starry night framed by a bright sunny day. A moment later two entities stepped through, one man and one woman. The doorway slid shut revealing the lovely glen in the background and the pathway that Mann and Karith were standing on.
"Reg?" Mann asked, his hand dropping to the hilt of his sword when he spied Melvina standing next to Reg.
"Be at peace, Herald," Melvina, the Handmaiden replied, holding her hands out non-threatening. "I asked to come, to speak to you specifically."
"Mann, she is my lady love," Reg added. "She wanted to meet you, and explain some things."
"Mann, may I call you Mann?" Melvina asked and then continued when she received a nod from Mann. "I wish to apologize for my part in what was perpetrated against you. I allowed loyalty to cloud my judgment and in the process I not only hurt you but hurt Reginald as well. I know that our crossed paths have not gone well in the past and I hope that we can change that now."
"It is more than that, Mistress Melvina," Mann countered, the growl in his voice obvious to all. "You also took from me the opportunity to see my child grow."
"It was not done maliciously, I assure you," Melvina tried to explain. "A Goddess would be in no position to raise a child and normally gives them up for adoption. But in the end it does not matter; this is a horrible way to have to learn this, but she did not carry the child to term. I am so sorry to have to be the one to tell you."
"Wait! What?" Mann exclaimed in shock, taking a step back. "You prophesied over the child. Rannath told me that you said that the child would grow, live in a foster home, and one day draw DeathBringer. How could your foresight be so wrong?"
"That is part of why we came forward," Reg interjected, with Melvina nodding in agreement. "The time-line has been changed, but further discussion should wait until we are inside."
"I guess you are right that in the end it does not matter," Mann replied, sorrow in his voice. "How is Lady Rannath?"
"She has withdrawn, which is her right," Melvina replied. "I know we have had our issues, including some you do not even realize, but I have tried to make amends."
"Mann, it was Melvina that told me what had happened to you in the Hall of Kings and after," Reg added. "That knowledge gave me hope of finding you."
"Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?" Melvina asked.
"You are Reg's lady love," Mann smiled, removing his hand from the sword's hilt. "There is nothing to forgive, besides I only actually remember one time that we met and even that was in a dream. The rest is just water under the bridge. Allow me to introduce my own lady love. Mistress Melvina, this is the Lady Karith de Savoy."
"Lady Karith, my pleasure," Melvina stepped forward and then cocked her head while holding her hand out. "Have we met before?"
"Yes, a long time ago under different circumstances," Karith replied and gently took the offered hand.
"Aar-Mann. Gods, it is hard to think of you as anything other than Aaron," Reg declared, shaking his head.
"I know what you mean," Mann nodded, waving his left arm back and forth. "Now more than ever. Being here brings back more of my memories as Aaron and it is slightly disturbing."
"Then go back to being Aaron Blackmoon or Whiterune for that matter," Karith replied and shrugged.
"You do not mind? After all, you gave me that name."
"As a means to identity yourself when you could not remember your own, which is now no longer the case. Whether you call yourself Aaron or Mann does not matter to me. I know you as both, and really, you are you no matter what you call yourself. Think of it as an alias that you no longer need."
"Well, that settles it," Reg chuckled. "Welcome back Aaron."
"Come, with that life altering matter dealt with, I wish to show you my home," Karith declared and smiled. "And then we can discuss why this time was so important."
"I have been here before," Aaron countered. "To your lair, I mean."
"Yes, but I have not," Karith replied and grinned.
The two couples, led by Karith, ascended the path toward the blank wall, where she stopped and placed her hand, palm out, on the wall and closed her eyes. A few moments later she opened her eyes, frowned, and turned back toward Aaron.
"Aaron ... I must say I do like the sound of that," Karith started and then went on. "Anyway, I cannot remove my wards. Something is wrong."
"Could it be because you set them as Tanith?" Aaron asked, stepping closer and reaching out with his power. "No, these were not crafted by Wyrm, whether Karith or Tanith for that matter. This Eldritch is strange, almost a mingling of Wyrm and ... And me?"
"Tanith? The platinum Wyrm?" Melvina asked, interrupting Aaron's description. "I know of her. You are she?"
"Yes, in a matter of speaking," Karith replied. "I think the explanation could wait until this is resolved. Aaron, can you gain entrance?"
"Yes, I can defeat them, but we must be careful," Aaron warned them. "We do not know what or who is on the other side."
"I do," Karith replied and sighed. "This was not how I wished to tell you, but circumstances force me to do it here and now. It would seem that Mistress Melvina is not the only one dropping important news on you. We have children, Aaron - Wyrm children."
"What? How?" Aaron asked, obviously shocked. "I do not understand."
"Tanith clutched two eggs four years ago in this time-line," Karith explained. "She ... I ... we never got an opportunity to tell you. It was right before what happened on Tarra."
"Four years ago?" Aaron asked, obviously confused. "I understand why we are here now, but why did you want to return a year after and not before they hatched?"
"Can that also wait until we get inside? If we can get in."
"So, you think one of our children has re-warded the opening?"
"Very likely," Karith replied. "We will need to act cautiously; they will be wary of anyone entering the lair."
"All right, how about this? I will remove the wards and you will lead us into the lair and alert them to our presence."
"I am fairly sure we are already alerted to your presence, Father," a voice rang out from above them. "A wyvern would have been alerted to all the noise being made out here."
Both Aaron and Reg drew their Runeswords, as all looked up to see a small platinum Wyrmling above them on a ledge. Well, small being relative since the Wyrmling was about the size of a full grown elephant.
"I am called Elswith, and they are my wards, Mother," the platinum Wyrmling announced. "My brother, your son, is called Manarn, and he is waiting just inside in case you turned out to be enemies."
Elswith dropped down to the base of the path and shifted to a young girl, about 12 years old or so. She was a small wisp of a thing, no taller than four feet, her hair so light it looked translucent but it was blonde, unbound and flowing in the wind. Skin so pale that the blue of veins showed through. Eyes, not the color of her mother's, but the green of emeralds and flecked with gold like her father's. And power! By the Gods, she was powerful! It radiated off her in an almost palpable way. For all of that, she was dressed in a simple platinum shift and barefoot.
"Shall we?" Elswith asked, placing her hand palm out on the blank wall.
Runes appeared, outlined in an unfamiliar color, not silver but more like white-gold, a mixture of Wyrm and Goyle. The runes flashed and faded as an opening appeared in the otherwise blank wall. Elswith stepped through the opening and disappeared into the shadows of the cavern.
"Manarn, it is Mother and Father, and they have brought guests," Elswith called out as she disappeared.
"Did you see the color of her runes?" Reg asked Melvina. "What do you make of that?"
"I am not sure," Melvina replied. "I would have figured that between Karith and Aaron their children would manifest silver."
"Really? Aaron does not manifest silver, but gold," Reg announced. "I do not think I have ever seen you use Eldritch. What do you manifest?"
"The silver of pure Eldritch," Melvina replied with a shake and shrug. "All Immortals manifest silver."
"Than what is gold?" Reg asked.
"I am not sure. I have never seen gold before," Melvina replied.
"Gold is what Goyles manifest," Aaron interjected matter-of-factly. "It is an enhanced Eldritch. Come, Karith is already inside."
The three hurried up as Karith led the procession into the mouth of her lair and down an incline to a large cavern where a young male Wyrmling of poly-metallic hues stood. The Wyrmling was platinum but depending on the light there were bronze, silver, brass, and gold hues as well. He shifted to mortal form and revealed a young man around the age of Elswith, although taller, with shoulder length brown hair and the eyes the color of blue, but not the blue of crystal like his Mother's; no, more the color of a high mountain lake, deep and refreshing. His power also fairly radiated off of him. He wore a simple tunic of brown and was likewise barefoot.
"Mother, Father," Manarn bowed, addressing his parents.
"Remarkable!" Reg gushed, looking at the children. "Simply remarkable. I see both of you in them."
"Perhaps a more intimate setting is in order," Karith stated and swooshed her hands back and forth.
The large cavern transformed into a central sitting room with several doors on each of the four walls. A small fireplace with lit fire and several cushioned couches, settees, and chairs dominated the space. Beautiful paintings and rare works of art were strategically placed to enhance the decor.
"Nice, very nice," Reg remarked, looking around trying to take everything in. "You have excellent taste."
"Thank you," Karith replied. "It is taste honed over many years."
"Mother, why have you returned?" Manarn asked, eyeing the others warily.
"To check on you," Karith replied, and then turned to the others. "Please, sit, there is much to discuss."
"I feel like an intruder," Melvina stated. "Perhaps I should go."
"No, please stay," Aaron replied. "I do not wish there to be any uneasiness between us, and who knows, perhaps you can be of aid."
"How so?" Melvina asked in reply.
"I will answer that in due time. Please stay?" Aaron replied with a gentle plea. "But first, introductions are in order."
Aaron introduced his children, that word would take some time to get used to, to both Reg and Melvina. After the introductions everyone sat and Aaron took drink orders before moving over to a sideboard to prepare them. He noticed that, while Elswith chose to sit near Karith, Manarn picked a spot as far away from the others as possible. After delivering the requested refreshments Aaron sat on the arm of the chair that Manarn was sitting in.
"First, it was never your father nor my intention to leave you alone," Karith started, while wringing her hands, and looking at Elswith. "You must understand that. This is the first time in a millennia, on Andor at least, that children have been born to a Wyrm. An event we would not dream of missing. Unfortunately, your father and I were delayed for some time and just now have been able to return."
"Karith, let us not downplay this," Aaron interrupted, and then turned toward Manarn. "Your mother was slain by another Wyrm, whom I then slew. I was later kidnapped, had my mind wiped, and then traveled the multiverse until I found her again, for as I am sure you know, Wyrms mate forever and not even death can change that."
"There are many things that we need to do moving forward but we hope that you can forgive us for not being here at the time of your birth," Aaron concluded.
"Father, there is nothing to forgive," Manarn stated, smiling for the first time since meeting the others. "It is not abnormal for Wyrmlings to hatch without their parents in attendance. Mother imprinted information for us to access as we grow, but it will be nice to have both of you near."
"We will be here as long as we can," Aaron replied. "I have requirements that may take us away from time to time, but we will always return."
"And that is exactly why I chose a time after their hatching," Karith interjected. "I thought that if you saw them as independent entities then you would be less hesitant when we both have to leave. Wyrmlings are truly independent and can make it on their own without parental involvement, and some do. I do not want you to leave me when you are next tasked by Caledor."
"I understand that," Aaron replied. "However, as long as we are able to, we will make our residence here and be with them. I wish for my children to know me."
"Ah, speaking of that," Reg interjected. "These are not your only children. This may come as a shock, but Dana was with child at the time of your abduction."
"What?" Aaron exclaimed, leaping to his feet. "I have a daughter? Tarra has a future queen?"
"No, Aaron," Reg smiled. "You have a son, Tarra has a future king."
"I do not understand," Aaron replied. "I thought that was not possible."
"You were the catalyst that broke the covenant as well as corrected a flaw in the Tarran makeup," Melvina added. "My flaw, I might add."
"Remarkable," Aaron replied, falling back to his seat.
"I knew as well, and thought that a time after the birth would also provide you the opportunity to meet your son," Karith added. "We will visit as soon as we are settled here, I promise."
"Yes, you wanted to retrieve a sword, or was that just a ruse to bring us to this timeline?"
"No, I do wish to retrieve one of the weapons in my, well, our hoard. A special sword."
"Special? A Runesword?" Aaron asked.
"No, Beloved, there are swords of power other than Runeswords," Karith replied. "They are more relic than runic artifact."
"But none as powerful," Melivna interjected. "I know of the ones you speak, though."
"These were unique, singularly purposed swords," Karith clarified. "During the height of the last great war between Wyrm and Guthard, the Guthards commissioned the making of five swords that were to be used to slay powerful entities. They based their idea of a fantastic sword after the Runeswords and commissioned the world's greatest swordsmith, a dwarven weaponsmaker by the name of Vulcon, to forge them. They decided on five, one each for the five greatest Guthard clans. Each clan chose their best warrior to represent them on a mission to slay the royal Wyrm family and end the war."
"Why does this sound all too familiar?" Aaron mused.
"The swords were forged from Aurchelium, or Hellstone, brought forth from the bowels of the earth by magic and power. The swords were identical, the metal being black, and each one named. Power was infused within them and they have a certain primitive sentience, an empathic essence, if you will. Collectively they were known as, 'The Gods Slayers'."
"Tanith was there when her aunt was slain, as well as a clutch-sister and two other siblings from a different clutch. She, I, well, we barely escaped and vowed to avenge our family," Karith explained and then stopped. "This is ridiculous, I sound like some queen using the royal we."
"It can get confusing," Reg replied while nodding. "Just use what is comfortable."
"Later, I searched and recovered three of them: Avendar, the sword of vengeance, Dirgeblade, the sword of lamentations, and Bane, the slayer," Karith continued, after nodding to Reg.
"What happened to the other two?" Reg asked.
"Darksoul, the black sword, became the royal sword of the Thangdaemon King. After his death during the Elfen Wars the sword disappeared. Later I noticed it belted to Velen's hip when we fought Lord Devlin. The fifth sword, Nemesis, the sword of righteous retribution, was lost."
"So, you have three?" Aaron asked.
"Two, actually. Per your request I gave Anastasia one, Avendar. I thought of all the swords it was the least likely to corrupt or usurp her."
"Why would Tanith..." Aaron asked and paused at the look on Karith's face.
"Fine! Why would you give her something so dangerous?" Aaron asked, slightly alarmed.
"Because I weighed the sword's abilities against its peculiarities and determined that Anastasia could control the sword. With both of us gone Avendar was the best choice to protect her."
"Wait, I am beginning to understand," Melvina interjected. "Karith, are you both yourself and Tanith?"
"Yes, I am her resurrected," Karith explained. "Aaron awoke it in me and Tanith and I became one."
"Amazing," Melvina exclaimed. "It is not without precedence, you know."
"Yes, I have collective memory of it happening at least once before," Karith nodded.
"Greatness normally stems from it," Melvina stated ominously.
"Yes, that is known to me, as well," Karith replied.
"Is the sword interned with Tanith's old body one of the five?" Reg asked, curiously, in an attempt to get the discussion back on track.
"Gods no," Karith replied, and shook her head. "In that time-line she would have had nothing to do with them because of her history with them. I, on the other hand, am not intimately familiar with them and therefore do not have the same aversion. I realized that traveling with Aaron has the potential of putting me in harm's way, and I could make good use of a weapon that could kill a god."
"Which one are you thinking of carrying?" Aaron asked.
"Bane," Karith replied, matter-of-factly. "The slayer would be useful no matter where we go, while Dirgeblade requires a stronger hand."
"Would not a Runesword be better?" Melvina asked. "There are several that come to mind that would serve you well."
"No, I am not interested in bearing a Runesword," Karith shook her head. "I thank you for the offer, though."
"Let us get back to the children," Aaron stated, steering the discussion. "I am not familiar with the particulars of Wyrmlings, so I am curious about your powers."
"Ask away," Elswith replied, and smiled.
"Will you both show me?" Aaron asked. "Perhaps a ball?
Elswith nodded, stood up, and held her hand out, palm out and concentrated. A small white-gold ball of Eldritch appeared in her hand, pulsing and throbbing as it slowly rotated above her palm. Manarn followed her lead and held his own hand out. A hush fell over the room as nothing appeared in Manarn's hand, but all could feel the power emanating from his palm. If they concentrated and looked closely they could see some type of disturbance in the air, pulsing and throbbing, slowly rotating in Manarn's palm. The siblings looked at their parents and then dismissed their balls.
"It is achromatic," Melvina whispered. "All of the colors in one, making it almost invisible to the naked eye. Dao will want to see this."
"No! Do not bring him into this," Aaron declared forcibly.
"I understand and sympathize with your position concerning him, but this is truly a wonder," Melvina explained, pointing at Manarn's hand. "This is a completely new manifestation of Eldritch and he would want to see it."
"Not right now," Aaron replied. "Perhaps when Manarn is older and makes his own choice, after knowing the possible ramifications of his interaction with The Creator. But that also brings me to one of the reasons I asked you to stay."
"Yes," Melvina replied, and smiled.
"There will be times when Karith and I will have to be gone and I hoped that perhaps you would undertake their instruction in Eldritch."
"Yes," Melvina replied again, with a smile. "I would be honored."
"Father, I know you are very powerful, for I can feel it," Elswith asked. "Why can you not teach us?"
"It is true that I am powerful, and yet for all my power I still use Eldritch as a club. I overwhelm my opponents and use too much power for any given situation. I would like you and your brother to learn skill, finesse, and control."
"That I can do," Melvina replied. "I may have to confer with Dao though, would that pose a problem?"
"No, as long as he has no direct contact with them, I have no problem with you discussing their powers."
"Father, we would like you to teach us the way of the sword," Manarn announced. "Mother has several exceptionally crafted swords in the hoard and Elswith and I wish to learn from the best."
"We can start in the morning with blanks," Aaron replied, with a touch of pride in his voice.
"Karith, I thought you said that Wyrms do not usually take another shape until much later in adolescence," Reg remarked.
"That is true, but then we were discussing Wyrms," Karith replied. "Even when a Wyrm bred with another, the other was a second-born or later species, the Wyrm exhibiting normal behavior. Aaron may have started out as a Tarran, but he has evolved into something else, entirely. Which means, that empirical knowledge of Wyrm development is null and void."
"So, we do not know how they will mature?" Aaron asked, concern evident in his voice.
"Father, do not fret," Elswith stated, walking over and patting his hand. "Manarn and I had already realize within days of our hatchin that we will be trailblazers, forging new traditions and memories."
"We are the best of both of you," Manarn added sitting by Karith. "We have Mother's foresight and knowledge and your strength and power. We will breed that into later generations and change the course of Wyrm development. As we mature we will be able to watch over the things you hold dear while you are away."
"We also intend to seek out Anastasia and name her our sister," Elwsith added. "That plan was made before you returned, after we investigated her. We will be fine, Father, now that you and Mother have returned we will be so much the better."
"Reg, speaking of Anastasia, how is she doing?" Aaron asked, turning toward Reg.
"She has reached the age of majority and taken control of her house," Reg started. "On this current time-line she will become very successful and lead a long full life, achieving all that you had started."
"What do you mean, 'this current time-line'?" Aaron asked, standing.
"Events have happened to change this time-line and that future is no longer a certainty," Reg replied, trying to explain. "Seemingly random events, but Mel and I believe they are interwoven somehow."
"Is Anastasia in danger?" Aaron asked forcibly. "What of Rac-Nur?"
"I cannot guarantee that they are not or will not be, Aaron," Reg replied. "There are events happening that might affect them. This time-line has been changed."
"By whom?" Aaron asked.
"We do not know, but certainly powerful enough to be able to affect the time-line, even Melvina's time-line," Reg concluded. "We believe that someone changed time so that there would be no one to take up DeathBringer now or anytime in the future. We do not know who or why. TimeKeeper can feel the manipulations but not the source."
"Beloved, why do you not tell him a story?" Melvina asked with a smile. "His friends' story. It might help to make him understand."
"Yes, a story," Karith replied in agreement. "I love a good story, but first, Aaron why do you not freshen everyone's drink? There is also a small surprise for you in the drawer below the sideboard."
"I agree, a story might help him to understand better," Reg replied. "Now the first part will be merely backstory, it will explain why certain characters did what they did. Aaron did you ever wonder why Prince Velen was brought back and more importantly the reason for the exact way he was brought back?"
"Exact way?" Aaron asked in confusion, getting up to replenish everyone's drink. "I am not sure that I understand."
"Yes, why he was brought back, not as a thrall to Lord Devlin as the knights were, but restored to his former self," Reg replied.
"I assumed Lord Belial had some ulterior motive, but I never knew what that motive was, and from what I understood neither did Velen," Aaron replied as he opened the drawer and found several long stem pipes and a pouch of pipe weed.
"Also, someone or something has restored the power of the goblin wizard, Tsor Shadowheart, but again, I do not know who," Reg added. "And the wizard is looking for retribution against you."
"I knew I should have killed him," Aaron replied vehemently. "Anything else?"
"There is also a scene that was given to me by DeathBringer," Reg added. "It happened within the Hall of Kings."
"DeathBringer was forthcoming with information?" Aaron asked skeptically. "That is strange and a touch worrisome coupled with everything else."
"Yes, although I believe that DeathBringer has its own agenda," Reg replied. "Or perhaps Death's agenda and I believe it centers around you, Aaron."
"What do you mean?" Karith asked.
"Aaron, you are the Balance's Herald, and in a way I am Time's," Reg began his explanation. "I believe that due to DeathBringer's lack of constraints and ability to act independently, it sees itself as Death's Herald."
"So you believe Death is running a game?" Aaron asked from where he stood by the sideboard.
"No, I believe that there is something afoot and Death is trying to affect the Balance to ultimately force your involvement. I have spoken to TimeKeeper and we believe that things are not as they seem, that your recent interventions were not against the real source of the shifts in power."
"Who?" Aaron asked, stepping away from the sideboard and approaching Reg. "Is this the same who you think that has changed this timeline?"
"We are not sure but believe so," Reg replied. "I am fairly confident, however, that Dao did not seed that bar of archanite, like we supposed."
"What makes you say that?" Karith asked. "That is the logical conclusion."
"Because he jealously guarded them, and still does, and would not have allowed it," Melvina interjected. "There is no way he would have allowed even a single bar to leave his possession."
"I told Melvina of our last adventure and specifically asked about the bar of metal," Reg added. "I also thought it strange that he would allow something so powerful and precious to leave his possession."
"Well that certainly changes things," Aaron concluded before making his way back to the sideboard. "And with everything else you have said, leads me to believe that one of the 'Abstracts' is not being as pragmatic, or as harmonious as I was led to believe by them."
Aaron refilled Reg's glass with some excellent Gnomish, while Karith and Melvina were drinking elvish wine. The children were both drinking small amounts of mead and after their drinks were freshened Aaron sat down next to Karith and started fixing his pipe.
"Do you remember this, Karith?" Aaron asked, pausing to light his pipe until he had her attention.
He snapped the fingers of his right hand above the pipe bowl and a small spark of golden light jumped down and ignited the weed. Drawing deeply from the pipe Aaron began shooting smoke rings into the air. She smiled at the recollection and nodded.
"Now, how about that story?" Aaron stated, smiling while placing his arm behind Karith and lightly holding her shoulder. "You have my interest, and I will need all of the information at my disposal if what you think is happening is true."
"The story begins in the hall of the dwarven god, Griminar Soulforger, years before we met..."