The hour of twilight was among the trio as they trekked through the thickness of the forest being lead by Destin. This surprised him more than anything, that due to his vision he felt like this was second nature to him. The path he walked in that vision, lasting only seconds, was as vivid and real like he had walked this path for years.

The amount of daylight left gave some uneasiness to Goddar and Destin seeing that they were walking blindly towards a so called vision with the orcs still lurking. “Oye Atyri girl, is it true what they say? That when the dual moons are new your senses are weakest.”

Aurella glared back with her amber eyes piercing into his soul, “First, name is Aurella. Second…” she hesitated a moment, slightly off put for some reason, “Yes… we are strongest when the two moons are full. Night vision, heightened senses and reactions, and foresight.” She picked up her pace some, passing up Destin.

Goddar’s was astonished, “I never knew you had such an advantage in the moonlight, foresight?”

They were beginning to clear the treeline and overlook the valley below, the sunlight hit her face, “Foresight in the sense of a few seconds ahead is all. Allows us to better predict how you will attack us, and allows us to defend. Which is why you never take on the Atyri in the wake of the full moons.”

Destin and Goddar climbed up the hill reaching Aurella, rising above the treeline. They followed the bend of Mount Eznor as it wrapped around to the grand waterfall emptying into the crystal clear lake below, the vibrancy of life flowed everywhere like it's own hidden Eden. This was the place.

Goddar finally crossed around the bend himself but was caught by something else entirely. For the first time in years he was able to witness the sun setting over the horizon. For a single moment he stopped in his tracks and just watched the colors change as the sun slowly fell behind the mountain range. The sun drowned behind the mountains, it's rays reaching into the darkness of the clouds, the first crimson moon peaked above the stars reaching into the sky.

Destin peered back at the dwarf to see what was holding him up to see Goddar with a bright smile across his aging face. Looking where the dwarf was, he gently smiled, and walked back to join his friend for a moment. They both rested on a rock, viewing the sunset. Of all the magic they had witnessed, this indeed was the most spectacular.

Speechless, no words escaped from each other, they only watched. Peace swept over him and for a moment the world and it's calamities melted away. Nothing else would measure up to these few moments he was able to share. Nothing prepared him for such a moment, dreams, the constant thoughts of the outside world. “Twenty years…” he let out quietly, “I haven’t seen a sunset in twenty years…”

Aurella looked at Destin and Goddar, then the sunset, and back at the two throwing her hands up in the air in disbelief. “So what! You’re holding us up for a..”

She was abruptly cut off by Goddar’s hush. “Shhhhh….” his hand raised to emphasize the needed silence, yet his gaze never broke from the horizon. “Little longer.” He begged.

The dusk sky intensified, igniting into a sky of fire, welcoming the Gods of the night, bidding them adieu as they watched over Alluvion below. Their faces aglow with the colors of the evening. They stayed lost in the moment a little while longer.

She obeyed without speaking a word. For two people who have just been through an actual hell to see them sit for a moment to see something so simple somewhat bewildered her. Aurella calmed down with the let out of a sign, allowing herself a moment's peace walking over to Goddar and Destin to sit next to him.

“This is everything I imagined and so much more.” Goddar couldn’t help but allow a tear to fall down his face as he stealthily wiped it away in hopes the boy didn’t see. He had seen many sunsets in his days, still none were as rewarding as this one. The sunset sparked a new sense of freedom and purpose like things were about to change forever.

The cool breeze quietly brushed against the trio, Destin’s blonde hair waving slightly to the cool breeze. He closed his eyes to breathe it in slowly, holding the smell of the pines for a moment before sighing silently among his peers. It was the simple things that he had forgotten, the small moments he never cherished, until now.

The sun finally hid behind the mountainside the rays still reaching into the skies as the colors became darker greeting the new stars. Destin looked behind at Mt. Eznor and the supposed it was time for the climb. The vision never quite determined where to go from here.

He scratched his head trying to discover where to go from here. “So, this is the place but I thought, maybe something or someone would actually be here.” He checked behind a bush before he threw his hands up, “Who knows.”

Goddar laughed at Destin’s turmoil, “Ah yes… same thing happened to me boy, when I too listened to the voices in my head!” He let out a hearty laugh, “Woke up the next morning married to a gnome named Lilfyx. I was a tad furious to be married to that short one, but nothing topped the fury she had towards me!” Stormed out she did!”

In light of the moment Destin could help but join in the laughter, while Aurella rolled her eyes at the bewilderment of these two, “You two are pure halfwits!” She carried a straight face through the entire conversation. “What did you see? Focus for five second! It's a miracle you even escaped!

She had that correct, though she meant it entirely different. Destin cleared his head a moment to look around for clues, this was where he was meant to be, but why. He kicked a rock or two into the water. The falls had to have something to do with it. “Goddar, I’m checking behind the falls, possibility of a cave?”

“Oye, good guess indeed. Check away, it looks like this stump here may have some clues. I will plant myself here and check with extreme precision.” He marched over to a nicely sized log, a rather thick branch sticking out looking like a fine backrest. He sat back, getting comfortable, closing his eyes, “So far nothing! But imma keep lookin’”

Aurella scaled the wall of the falls like a seasoned professional while Destin looked behind the falls. He was getting soaked by the spray, but peering behind the falls there was nothing more but the cliff side. Not a single nook or cranny for a cave, nothing.

“I’m saying this boy, maybe the Gods threw ya a vision to this place to relax and enjoy yerself a moment, heaven’s know ye need it.” Which he had a valid point, but the vision felt more than that, like a key to his past that had always been lost had been found. He just needed to turn the key to discover the truth.

“Wait…” Destin walked around the lake back to where they entered the falls. “A key, a key…. Something hidden?” Sounding a lot like gibberish, he was more so thinking out loud more than anything, hoping to spark an idea.

Aurella shouted from the peak of the falls, “The moss cover, the ground!” She began to climb down in anticipation when Destin ran over the the head of the lake. To his amazement, it wasn’t the ground he expected such as dirt and rock, it was… stone! He observed the moss cover on the ground, thick from years of growing, seeing a slight indent. A marking?

He knelt to the ground removing the moss discovering a curved carving into the ground below him. “Now what is this?” He wondered continuing to uncover more of the moss, scooting around seeing the symbol grow in size. The edge was found, and he began to work his way down. The symbol curved into itself with three circles of equal size in the exact middle. “That's peculiar.”

Finishing the climb down, she leaped onto the solid ground, running to help uncover the overgrow with Destin, “Hey, lazy dwarf, you going to come help?”

Daring not to open his eyes, he lazily lifted a finger into the air, “I believe I found a clue here on the log, do not disturb me from my work!”

She steamed over the sarcastic wit of the dwarf, responding with a swift throw of a rock which nailed him on the forehead. He shot up shouting curses and accusations at the atyri, “What dwarf? Need to watch out, these waterfalls toss all kinds of things over the cliff side.”

He glared a fearsome glare rubbing the bump on his head continuing to whisper curses at here. He turned slowly over to sleep on his side, away from them in hopes of protection from further items falling from the “waterfall.”

The stone ground was uncovered completely and now the question remained, what to do with the symbol? Destin had a few ideas, but it was such a design that he had never seen it before. Aurella confessed that it was nothing from her kind either, and he feared if there happened to be any words needing to be spoken to open a passage, he would be at a loss. Then again, you would think the voice in his head would say such a thing… right?

“We can see if trying to activating it as a Highborn does anything?” He said trying to sound sure of himself, but still questioning his thought process. “Alright, here goes nothing.” He rested his hands together, closing his eyes to bring focus to the fire inside. It felt far spent, but he knew there was an ember which remained, and it was all he needed.

Destin pointed two fingers into the air when a white orb materialized, hovering above his hands. He guided it carefully down to the center of the symbol in the stone, leading it to the ground while it absorbed into the stone. He ceased his ability, and stood back up waiting for some kind of sign.

The three circles in the center began to light up sending a surge of energy to the rest of the stone, the curve of the symbol lighting up. The three took a hesitant step back while the mysterious symbol lifted into the air before moving to the falls, spellbinding to the cliff side. The symbol flashed a blinding light, which caused the three to cover their eyes.

Destin viewed the waterfall with a sudden glance of disillusion, the waterfall was still flowing, yet it ceased to fall over a newly formed cave that had not been there previously. Instead, the falls flowed across the river in a pathway towards them as if to make a bridge.

Goddar shoved Destin towards the newly formed bridge, “You go first.” He moved to the back of the line, “I’m just saying even a lake for children is deep for me as an adult. Test it!”

Hesitant, to say the least, he moved forward to the edge of the lake where the water bridge began. He stuck a foot forward to test the strength, and if it would withstand his weight. Goddar tossed a rock, narrowly missing Destin’s head, it rolling on the water bridge. To Destin’s bewilderment, it rolled as if the surface was solid and smooth.

“Taking to long lad.” Goddar pressed, pushing Destin onto the bridge while he stumbled across, half way terrified he was going to fall through seeing the lake below. A glare was shot back at the dwarf, but regardless, the boy was fine. He walked across still holding onto the grudge when Goddar and Aurella crossed.

A man walked around the wall of the cave to greet them from their bridge. He stood proud, arms behind his back, patiently waiting. Destin felt the voice in his head from the vision perfectly matched up with how the man appeared. He was rugged, weathered, but still seemed younger, unlike Goddar. The scars across his face concealed the sincereness of his emerald eyes.

Once Destin set foot inside the cave the man greeted them, “Welcome Highborn” His deep raspy voice said, “I am Gideon. Highborn of Aeroguard, last of the Magi Syndicate. You are?”

Destin had hoped that Gideon had not seen the madness of Goddar on the crossing of the bridge. He brushed the thought and responded, “I’m Destin.” Instantly, he blanked on what else to say, remembering his appearance was rightfully pathetic with his pale skin and bones, his clothes practically being held together by single threads. “From Davenport up north. Just escaped from Vertrock if you’ve heard of it.”

A small disappointed sigh escaped, and for some reason he studied the rest of the party, “I have not Destin, it does, however, appear like the dwarf too traveled with you in Vertrock.” He noticed Aurella, “Greeting Atyri.” He gestured with welcomed bow, “Tell me, what year is it?”

Aurella greeted him back, “Highborn, it is 306 A.E. in reference for what you would know, it has been three hundred years since the great Battle of Arthemis.”

Gideon turned away for a moment appearing distraught, though Destin didn’t quite know what it meant considering this great battle that took place three hundred years prior, let alone what that meant for Gideon. Still, it weighed on him, greater than it seemed to weigh on the slaves of Vertrock. He sympathized with Gideon seeing the pain of time lost.

The ancient Highborn turned to face them, “So long a time… and how? My slumber was to be awakened after a great release of energy from a new Highborn, why so long?” It took him a moment to gain his bearings on the situation. “I calculated at most twenty-five years to sense the magic of a new Highborn… not three hundred.” A surge of anger and disappointment swelled within him, though it quickly subsided with his regain of control.

The silence held for a few more moments until Gideon offered, “Then, I believe we have a need to exchange information” He plainly put. By this point the day had turned to night, the moonlight shining down. Gideon studied the stars in the night sky, “Come in, I’m afraid we will need to remain in hiding for a moment longer.” He offered stretching forth his hand gesturing them into the cave.

Unsure of how everyone else felt, Destin debated on if he should trust this complete stranger. At this point he knew that Gideon was a Highborn, yet to be proven, but knew of Aurella’s kind, the Atyri. The information and emotions that he displayed felt genuine and real, and in Destin’s heart he felt no immediate danger. It felt like Gideon was sensing a great danger in the general vicinity.

He lifted his hand up, after the group had entered safely into the cave, and with his hand and eyes glowing green quickly maneuvered his hands to activate the earth around him. The discarded moss and dirt crawled back into the place it had previously rested, covering up the symbol Destin discovered. The stone then sank level onto the ground floor, the symbol vanishing from the stone with no signs of even the smallest scratch.

The water which connected the land to the cave collapsed into the lake below, the waterfall returning to its full strength, the cave fading it's doorway to the outside world, ceasing to exist. Anyone walking by would see it as nothing more than a sanctuary from the dangers of the outside world. A mere resting point with no sense of the mysteries that lurked within Mount Eznor.


A note from Jordan Stufflebeam

Finally a shorter chapter, things are calming down for a moment as we are now able to open up the world more and explore with the gang. The main point of this chapter was to show more of who each of the characters were as people. What are they more like when they are finally out of a near death experience and able to finally not survive, even for just a moment and enjoy the little things.

Next chapter we do break away and dive into the villians and who the High King is... Origionally that was this chapter but I didn't want to pull away in the middle of the scenes until a much better stopping point, now we venture over to the High King and the motives he hides.

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About the author

Jordan Stufflebeam

  • United States

Bio: Storytelling is my passion. From when I was little I always found myself telling stories in any way that I could. I continuously entered writing contests, would create little animation booklets (Which for a six year old was horrendous looking.) and would draw to the best of my ability stick man comics. However I could write, I would.

I will forever be grateful to my father who helped develop this passion of mine. He from the very beginning helped me learn and grow while always encouraging me to story tell any way I could imagine.

From Utah to Louisiana, Arizona, Nebraska and Iowa, I found myself in vastly different areas meeting countless types of people who I have grown and love. I cannot wait to see what stories unfold as I sit here and write late into the night.

The audience I reach is what gets me excited, especially seeing something I created take them on an emotional journey with my main characters as they learn and grow together, and in the end become better because of it. They are why I write. Its one grand adventure that the world can share in!

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