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"My name is Zen Issola Weren. My place in the Chain of Knowledge will soon be undone. Another must take my place. It may yet be you."

"I offer you this invitation to be a Thameshal apprentice. You may believe this to be a trick. I assure you it is not. You have undoubtedly been raised on stories of the mythic Thameshal as sung by bards in taverns aplenty. We are no myth. We do exist. Fewer than we have ever been but no less determined to see our purpose completed - to rid our world of the influence of the Ravagers once and for all."

"Ravagers did thrive in times ancient. Defeating the monstrous abominations cost the Thameshal and our world dearly. As battles raged across forests, deserts and seas, Mawlpeak was left scarred and forever changed. The Deepwells of the Solstice Reefs yet swirl with a ferocity that swallow men whole. Mawl, our highest peak, no longer bless the Lowlands with pure, mountain water. The geysers of Abyssos now scorch a man dead in the blink of an eye. The lands beneath the sky-reaching spire towns of Glaven ofttimes still shudder for no true reason or warning. There is no denying that the Ravagers have left their mark."

"The Thameshal sacrificed their strongest and wisest, and their home amongst the clouds. The youngest generations were left alone to survive in exile. Without guidance and true hope, many fell to fatal despair. Today, only one enclave remain. I have found solace and a life's work within the House of Scribes."

"We work to rediscover, learn and master the lost knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors. A few scribes wander seeking those who possess the ability and desire to learn the Thameshal Way. Never do we forget our sacred charge - to heal the wounds left by the Ravagers upon our world."

"As few as our number is, no invitation is granted without good purpose. You have the abilities of mind and body deemed essential. Only you know if you have the spirit and courage to forge an uncertain future. I know nothing of you or you of me. Still, I owe you honesty."

"The Thameshal Way is not easy to learn, to adapt to or to practice. There will be frustration, anger and tears. Years of learning and adventure have brought me both reward and grief. I would say that I have few regrets."

"Every Thameshal apprentice pursues their own path. Will you be a Thameshal Mage, Dawn Mage or Twilight Mage? As the owner of a blue pearl and a scribe, it is your right to accept or refuse. If you choose to accept, inform the ship captain of your decision."

"I know not if my words have swayed you to fulfill your potential. Or if they have left the taste of a venture best ignored and forgotten. No matter your choice, depart without shame or doubt. You have my gratitude and best wishes."

"My own destiny beckons me. Soon I shall become a Thameshal Sentinel. I shall leave no legacy, no family, no mark upon the ground, no less a grave. No one will know of my deeds. The only trace of my being will be the words I heal and the souls I save. I am content with what was and what will be."

"I say farewell, never goodbye. The future is uncertain for all. Perhaps, we shall meet in the Mists in some far off time. May Fortune favor you always."


 

Dr. Theodora Solon turned the microphone off. "I think I've got it right this time. Convert and playback please, Frosty."

Petite of stature with a Colossus-sized intellect, Theodora is a walking and talking contradiction. Born in Manila and discovered to be an astounding mathematical savant, her life collides with world history on a regular basis. As head of the world-renowned Solon Institute for Learning, she's inundated with applicants. Instead of wading through letters of qualifications, she invites them to play through her role-playing game Lands of Legends. Those finishing certain quests qualify for a personal interview.

For her at least, it was a most efficient system. Besides, she and the Institute staff enjoyed playing Mawlpeak during off hours. So what if the inexperienced players needed a lot of help escaping from rabid animals or needed healing from an unintended jinx? The more players involved, the better the experience.

"Playback in four seconds or less," said Frosty in a mechanical voice high on personality and devoid of monotone tendencies. Frosty was Theodora's AI assistant. She had designed it to be reasonably cheerful with a unique interface style. "Less actually."

Theodora's voice blare out from the speakers positioned all around the laboratory. "My name is Zen Issola Weren ..."

Theodora listened with her brown eyes closed imagining she was a prospective applicant hearing it for the first time. She nodded in satisfaction as the playback ended. "Definitely better than the last script. Frosty, please finalize the audio file and assign to production immediately."

"It will be my pleasure, Theo," said Frosty.

A gravelly masculine voice came from the doorway. "Are the desired effects supposed to be intimidation, excitement and anxiety?"

"I want mice with the heart of lions, the brains of elephants and the empathy of primates. That's a tall order. The invitation is the first test," said Theodora.

"Sometimes, to be the best, one has to be a cunning hyena not a mouse," replied Dr. Hector Vajinsky. Flashlight in hand, he walked inside. His fluent English was marked with a distinctive British accent. His wavy light brown hair, six foot frame, and last name came from long ago White Russian ancestors who settled in the Philippines.

"Opportunistic guile and predatory instinct have their place in the game. But I've found them generally incompatible with the scribe character type." Theodora released her long black hair from its daily prison - a tight and very professional bun.

"I don't know how you can deny that scribes are your favorites after this change. They get the highest positions. The rest get the scraps."

"You can be so dramatic. The scribes have the longest journey cycle so they need to have the best rewards. All the other types get fair rewards. Your own favorite Rangers are the sole catalyst agents in the entire game. Isn't that special enough?"

"But we can't wield real magic like scribes can. I want to hurl fireballs and paralyze my opponents!"

"You can buy cursed objects that do damage like everyone else does." Theodora removed her lab coat and hung it on a hook on the wall. She retrieved her purse and slung it over her shoulder. "Have I ever mentioned that I find whining unattractive?"

Hector grinned. "No game talk during dinner then."

"Fine with me," said Theodora. "What do you think about the Solar Harvester Satellite? Will it launch on time?"

At that moment, the primary lights powered off throughout the Institute. Weak emergency beacons flickered to life in the hallways. Obviously, the Institute was down to its last energy credits for the day. Hector turned on his flashlight. Theodora checked that her own small torch was clipped to her purse.

Similar to nearly every person in the year 2177, their dinner date would be a candlelit affair. Hand in hand, the scientists left the lab and the workday behind.

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A note from Maria Hern

I hope you enjoyed your first peek into Mawlpeak and its creator's mind and world. Next chapter: Meet Reeve Geary - analytical Revelator for hire and dutiful citizen. He has no idea his normal, manageable life and career are about to hit mach speed.


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About the author

Maria Hern

Bio: Former IT rat race refugee now caregiving for parents. Writing passes the time and keeps me out of mischief. I write to entertain not to preach or advance agendas. I like to dabble in different genres and even mix a few in one story.

I write SciFi, Fantasy and Dystopian stories. Constructive criticism is welcome and appreciated.

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