July 21, 1861
Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C.
“Ég hata spádómur… (I hate prophecies…)”
-Bjorn Gunnarson, upon receiving Orist’s Last Prophecy
“President Lincoln, I need an Ainaparma.”
“You-I-wha-No! Not until you tell me what the hell just happened!”
“To be honest, Mr. President, I have absolutely no idea.”
“The-no-what? No idea? How?”
“Well, I got struck by lightning.”
President Lincoln muttered, “I was wondering what that smell was.”
“Then stabbed. Ceapaim a bit less than 30 times?”
The President blinked. Genuine concern showed upon his face. “How did- you’re going to be ok, right?”
“Sin an rud. I have no idea. I think so.”
“How did that happen. How are you-”
“Alive? I’m not certain. However, I think…”
July 21, 1861
Mizgom Cuzh, Nessus
The man returned to his game. His opponent looked inquisitively at him.
“My apologies. I wished simply to prevent a murder.”
“A single murder? Ha! There are plenty of mortals you can use as pawns,” advised the devil, as one of the aforementioned pieces was taken.
The human sighed. “Perhaps that is true, but if this murder was allowed to continue, it would be a lie.”
The devil shrugged. “And you could recreate humanity as you desire. I know for a fact you’ve considered destroying Earth before.”
“Many times have I told you to refrain from mentioning that… incident.”
“Many times? Once. One time.”
“I suppose. That does not give you freedom to remind me of my-”
“‘Failure?’ No! I was proud of you when you did!”
“That, my friend, is not a good thing.”
Mizgomuth made a noncommittal noise. “Did I say it was?”
“I suppose not.”
“But still, anything that makes the Men Upstairs quake in their self-righteous boots is fine by me.”
A slight mischievous smile on his face, the other man asked, “Even the Hooded One? The ‘Wrong,’ as you call him? Is he ‘fine by you?’”
Smoke emitted from the devil until he realized the other man was joking. “Good heavens, no pun intended, no!”
“Where is the line you’ve drawn, then? What is acceptable and what is reprehensible?”
“Do you really want to do this?”
The human remained poker-faced, despite the fact that they were playing chess instead of poker.
Mizgomuth made a noise that would have intimidated even the bravest, caused most people to flee, and turned Bill Stewart, if he were there, into, effectively, a mirror. However, his opponent had already exasperated him many times, and knew that the sound was a combination of a groan and a sigh.
“Fallen angels, fine! I won’t work with angels, demons, or the Wrong itself.”
“And yet you have texts here that are from all three. How did you retrieve them?”
“An unwillingness to work with somebody doesn’t mean I think they know nothing. I just employed… other means to get them.”
“Ah, I presume that is why I encountered you and your servants for the first time?”
“In Venice, right?”
“Yes. In the September of 1307, was it not?”
“Yeah. That was… interesting.”
September 24, 1307
Coalimpë Lomba/Vignal Segreta, Venezsia, República de Venezsia.
Guido Avonal led his student down the staircase. The vine-covered cobblestone walls shimmered with the ancient Elven magics used to hide the room, which had later become a tavern and a winery, from an ancient foe. The student, who had given his name as Vincent Dryman (though this was quite obviously fake) followed him in.
They walked quickly to the bar as the second man scanned the room, first using mortal eyes, then Peering into the Astral Plane.
A Core was visible within most of the patrons. The many colors of human magic, and the shining silver of Elven magic, and from one, a hooded “man” in the back corner, something… different, and yet familiar. He looked away, and towards his instructor, who began speaking, Romanesco accent slithering through his English words.
“Now, ‘Vincent,’” He pronounced the name in a way that made his knowledge of its falseness obvious. “Shall I order for you or do you wish to attempt?”
“I shall try.”
“Bene. Go ahead.”
“Signore, vorrei un bicchiere di vino, per favore,” he said shakily.
Guido smiled. “Molto bene, well done!”
The bartender, a short Toscano, nodded and poured a cup of wine. The student took the cup and sipped it.
“Now. Padre Avonal, why was it you wished to bring me here? Besides the wine – if I am not mistaken, it is a Mirybingaer – which is quite good, that is.”
“Ah. Well, studente mio, you wanted to see the centers of magic in each nation. This is Venezia’s.”
“I presume that this room is not the whole community, then?”
“Oh, no, but it is the common center. See those halls?” He pointed to several hallways off to the sides. “Those lead to the rest of Cóvolo de Stregon soto Vali, the town here.”
“Only a town?”
“Bene, we can’t hide cities under cities.”
Before much more could happen, a man in his early fifties walked into the tavern. He had a black beard, flecked with gray. Almost all conversation stopped. “Vincent” tensed up, worried about what this man would do.
That turned out to be: look around, meeting the eyes of the student, and walk over to them. Well, he would have, were it not for a man, about ten years younger, who walked up to him and shouted, in Italian (“Vincent” cast a translation spell, causing several people to look at him), “Mr. Polo! Please, tell me more of your voyage!”
Polo smiled. “Dante, please. Give me a moment.”
The man who had been called Dante frowned. “I just wanted to-“
“Hear about it? Yes, I understand, but I have already told you everything.”
Dante sighed, and muttered something under his breath. Several people were able to hear him saying “Someday I’ll go on a journey like that, and then he’ll be the one begging me for stories…”
The hooded “man” in the corner chuckled at this, and looked at Dante. In a voice like flame, he uttered, “You seek a journey? An adventure?”
Dante turned to look back at him. “Yes. I do.”
“So, would you take any chance to go on a journey?”
Dante thought for a moment. “I suppose I would, yes.”
The “man” held out a stone, engraved with a magical rune. “Take this. When you are prepared, stare into its center for one minute, and say, ‘Divina Commedia.’”
Dante couldn’t disguise his excitement. More accurately, he could, but he didn’t. He grabbed the stone and ran off.
“Vincent” looked at the hooded “man.” “So what did that truthfully do?”
“Exactly what I said it’d do.”
“Really? What was the diabolic magic I sensed upon it for?”
“I never said where he’d be sent. Which, as it happens, is Hell.”
This caused an uproar from those who heard it. “You’ve killed him!” somebody shouted.
“No. In fact, he’ll be under my protection there.”
“But in Hell!”
“I’ve arranged for a guide. A Roman poet, by the name of… Virgil, I believe.”
Nobody had a response for this.
July 21, 1861
Mizgom Cuzh, Nessus
“What did end up happening to him?” asked the human.
“After he died, he became an Emissary. He wrote a poem about his journey, as you may know.”
“And I think he’s around here somewhere. I haven’t seen him for a while…” Mizgomuth stopped.
“What?” asked the human.
“Oh, I was just thinking about something.”
“Hm.” The human moved his pawn forward.
July 21, 1861
Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C.
“Am I supposed to care?”
“Uh… well, I was expecting you would.”
Estrella blinked. “You ‘expected I would’? I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Johnson, but I have slightly more pressing issues, like-”
“Like stomping around on the roof?”
“…I guess, yes.”
“Why are you doing that, then?”
“Because Vernon is going to get himself killed.”
“I don’t think so. I’ve met him, and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
“Even against Amos?”
Estrella felt strangely relieved by this. “Fine. What do you want, Mr. Johnson?”
“Well, I’d had a few questions about you people.”
“‘You people?’ And what exactly do you mean by that?” Estrella asked threateningly.
“I mean wizards. Nothing else,” Johnson clarified with a speed that would have surprised most people.
“Sure. What are these ‘questions?’”
“Well, first of all, I was wondering what the different types of wizards are.”
“Oh geez, let me think.” Estrella thought. “There’s the Istari, who taught their magic to the modern wizards, who also sometimes use the name Istari. Then there’s the sorcerers, who have magic powers from birth, somehow. I think they probably have Istari ancestors. And there are also the…” She paused and shook her head. “There’re the Merlinics, who do magic using focuses. They’re like a combination of Istari, sorcerers, and… turtles, I guess.”
“Live a long time, don’t change, like to hide.”
“Ah. I presume you’re one of the Istari, of the second type?”
“All four of us are except for Vernon. He was a Merlinic by birth, but our father found him before they could.”
“‘They?’” he repeated.
“Yeah, the Merlinic governments, throughout the world, take in children who develop Merlinic powers, sometimes by force.”
“Wow. Is there any other type of magic?”
“As far as I know, that’s it. Though I think there’s some way to do magic using souls. I’m not sure how it works, though.”
Johnson blinked. “Souls?”
“You know the Mittarneldë?”
“I think so. Body, mind, soul?”
“Yes. Soul magic, I’m pretty sure, requires a sacrifice to use, but it’s usually the same as normal Arcane magic.”
Seemingly not paying attention, Estrella mused, “Then there’s all the weird Outer magics, like holy and diabolic…”
“By the way,” interrupted Johnson, “where’s the President?”
July 21, 1861
Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C.
“Ok, why do you want an Ainaparma?”
“Well, when I was fighting Amos, I heard somebody saying ‘Samblarsen 7:1’”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Well, find a Quantarénë, then.”
“Well, when I was in Hérosto last, I was told that the Quantaréni were all in Pîn Tolost for some reason.”
“They are?” He paused. “Huh. I wonder who authorized that…” he added sarcastically.
“They aren’t all government employees, Mr. President. And with all due respect, they don’t work for you.”
Lincoln blinked. “Wow. Well, Vernon, maybe people – elves, I guess, – with that kind of knowledge should be, you know, watched at least. And now they’re gone? That is cool.”
Vernon sighed. “Why are ye like this? Why should they be watched?”
“Didn’t I just tell you?” asked Lincoln, steadily getting angrier.
“Yes, but I don’t agree with it.”
“Well, I’m not asking you to.”
“Well, uh, why’d you bring it up, then?”
“I think you did.”
“Never mind! I mean, why’d you say it?”
“It’s true! They know enough to be a threat to national security.”
“By memorizing scripture and histories?”
“Histories and scripture that hold the key to most magic!”
“And the normal human Bible is less dangerous?”
“No, it’s not!”
“Then why don’t you keep watch over every priest in the country?”
“Because there are more of them!”
“There’s more humans than elves, does that mean you shouldn’t take censuses?”
“That logic doesn’t make sense!”
“It makes perfect sense, President Lincoln.”
“It really doesn’t.”
“Fine. I don’t want to argue with you anymore.” Vernon was gone.
July 21, 1861
Cardhithryn, Washington, D.C.
Vernon walked through the doors of the house in which he had grown up. He climbed the wooden staircase to the second floor landing, and opened the library doors. Searching through the books, he immediately realized something was off. From one of the aisles, fog poured throughout the room. Surprisingly, it hadn’t reached Vernon yet.
Seconds later, the previous sentence was a falsehood. Vernon Peered into the Astral Plane, finding a… presence, whose Core was crimson. It slowly grew, and, with a rush, Vernon realized it was coming towards him.
The fog now completely filled the library. Vernon tried and failed to wave it away. He felt the fog filling even his Astral… well, whatever he was using to Peer. It wasn’t his eyes, and it wasn’t any of the other four senses. He couldn’t find the presence.
Suddenly, he could. More accurately, it found him. Vernon felt a stabbing pain near his stomach, and then another, slightly lower. He swore loudly.
He spun, trying to catch a glimpse of his attacker. He saw a face, reminiscent of a porcelain mask in the home of one who smokes, smiling a menacing smile, with shining white teeth, looking down at him. Glowing crimson eyes stared at him, then blinked, and the… thing vanished.
Vernon ran, trying to get out of the fog. He found what he thought was the door and tried to open it. The door was locked, but the lock behaved like the ice cream machine at a certain fast food chain which would not be founded for another 94 years, which is to say, it was easily broken.
Vernon walked down a staircase, one which he thought he recognized. It felt a little off, though. The fog thinned as the downward spiral continued. Suddenly, the gray-masked attacker threw its harpoon at Vernon, lodging itself in his left arm. Seconds later, Vernon felt the point being removed. He swore again. From his right arm came a disorienting blast which hit the thing in its mask.
The thing stopped moving and growled, though still smiling. It dropped its harpoon and drew a pistol, firing three shots at Vernon. Two missed, as it was disoriented, but one hit his right hand. He shouted, and continued running down the stairs. After what felt like eternity (but was likely no more than 30 seconds), he reached another doorway, flanked by suits of armor. As he ran in, he heard, in his mind, Enter carefully, Vernon Hislop…
Vernon noticed several things about this new room. One: he’d never been there before, despite having lived in that house for most of his life. Two: the room was almost completely empty. Three: the “almost” came from the fact that the far wall of the room was filled with a large rectangular frame, made from a material Vernon didn’t recognize.
Vernon walked up to the frame. He placed his hand on one side of said frame. Inside his mind, he heard, what do you seek?
Vernon responded, “Well, right now, I want to get away from that… thing.”
The mist seeped into the room. “Well, I guess I don’t really have a choice, do I?” Vernon walked to the frame, which flashed, and the room vanished.
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Vernon stepped out of nothing. He looked around. He was in a city, built on what looked like Greek ruins. The newer buildings somehow looked like they were… grown, somehow, but not like plants. No, they reminded Vernon of the skin of an octopus. But the buildings still looked alive. Oh, and also, the whole thing was underwater. Vernon wasn’t drowning, though. He looked around.
V̴̧̨̨̡̨̨̨̛̛̛̘̦̭̝̙̜̩̙̥̲̦͙̪͍̤̝̻͖̖͇̣͚̗̦̳̟͔̱̩͓̠̹̤̤̥̼͙̝̳͉͓̯̦͎̫̽͐͑̄̓̀̅̓͒͋̊̾̉̅̑̉̓͑̔͒̎͆̏̎̆̒̀̾̓͗̅̋̈̏̾̏͂̊̂̄͗̎̈͂̇̅͒̓̉̅̇̃̆̅͘̕̕͜͜͝͝͝ͅe̴̡̧̨̧̧̨̪͍͓̲̪̯͎͕̥̣̼͇̜̮̺͕̣̜̪̗̲̼͇͖̲̰̼̘̜̬̹̮̤͚̻͍̗̝͍̻͍̞̮̝̳̜̬̲͖̙̤̞̩̗̺̺̟̯̳̲̘̝͕̝̻̤̲͉̝͙̋̂̀̎̔͆́̎̐̄̍̓̑̉̉̀̍͌̄͆̆̀͋́̊̄̃͋̓̓̽̎̂̂̕͘͘͜͜͜͜͜͠͠ͅͅͅŗ̷̡̨̧̡̧̡̡̯͔̰͇̟͕̦͉͎̦͚̥̜̜͚̫͍͚͖̥̠̱̥͈͇̺͇̗̘͇̤͔̫̗̖͎͕͕͕̠̹̪̲̲̣̹͔̝̠͕̬̯̗̲͓̭̟̯͇͇̲͖͎͔̟̭̋͋̈́̽̉̍̑̇͊̆̔̏͑̿̓̏̈̾͠͝ͅͅn̴̨̢̫͇̺̙̥͍͍̘̠̼͙̯̖̖̭̪̻̯̪͕̲̦̣̲͈̪͓̠̻̱̟͓̹͍̼͈̱̠̳̺̭̣̬͉̅̑́̾͒̈́̽͂̉̉̅͆̌̿͗̕͜o̷̡̨̡̨̡̧̧̭͚͖̥͖͖̖̻͍̦̠̪̦͉̼͈͕͓̥̠̬̤̹̳̲̹͍͚̪͓̹̦̩̰͓͈͉͈̹͔̮͖̬̮͕͔̝̯̪̰̖̱̪̩͖̪͓̠̹͙̯̙̳̫̣̖͇͖̼̣̳̺̳̪̱͖̰͒̈͂̿͑͌̀̐̅̈̈͑̓̍͌͂̎̏̓̀͂̓̔̑̃̇͌̓͆̂̃͊͂̆̏͊̔̈͋̕̕͜͜͝ͅͅͅͅņ̵̧̧̧̡̢̛̻͇̘̪̣͎̠̦̪͔̩͔̩̤̥͈̱̠̝̝͔̠͙̹̲͙̯̔̌̌̒͒͆̂̔̂̌͛̎͌́̒͌̆̅͛̐͋͗̽̐̃̐̇̍͌̈́͑̈́͌̒̍̑́̆̂̈́̕̕̕͜͝͝ ̸̨̨̡̜̺̹̩̤͍̤̱͚͓̘̻͔̝̫͖̜̣̖̯̬͉͇̠̥̪̝̞̖̻͕̭͉͉͙̭͕̯̞̱̠̠̙̟̺̯̞̥̲̹͎̼͙̙̼̩̤̲̺̹̥͕͉̫̟̣̲̘̦͍͍̠̯͉̻͖̘̫̈́̀̌ͅͅͅͅͅf̴̢̧̨̢̨̧̛̠͉̝͉͈͚͇̞̟͍̞̦̤̥̼̼̲̼͙̦̺͓̯͇̜̝̤̠͈͖̭̟̘̳̪̝̤͎͍̦̲̱̺͇̠̪̪͎̠̮͎͉͖̱̠̯̭̓̈́̉̾̈̋̔̅̽̍̅̂̓̂́́͝͠ẽ̴̢̧̨̪̱̣̰̬̺̦̤͚̭͎̪̮̣̣̠̲̪̺͔͔͇͖̠̭̝̰̝̼͎̱͇̳̜̙̤͉͈̲̹̦̝͔̗̞̰͉͎͍̳̹̬̤͍̭̫͓̬̝̄͐͂̒̀́͐̏̊̄͛̋̇͋̽̇͊͜͜͠͝ͅͅͅl̴̡̧̨̡̛̛̛͇͇̠̲͙̻̙̥̭̹̞̣̞͓͕͖̹̮̖̱͇̪̯͎̦̣̫̼͎͙̙̟͔̗̪͔͎̲̜̭͖͔̗̯̜̤̯͔̟̗̝̰̱͚͕̘͍͚͈͖̬̘͓͙̰͚͍̙̫̮͕̣͖̙̫̦͓͉͚͔̺͙̘͎̻͕̠̤̯̘̪̩̠̟̟̟̙̞̟̀̄̍̍̂͋̑́̎̇͌͛̍͌̒͗͌̃̒̄͂̓̃̇̄̔͆̈́̋̍͊͊͑̒́̋̄͑̊̐̄̅͛̐̽͗͌̈́̆̈́̈̋̿͂̀̑̚̕͘͜͜͜͝͠͝͠ͅͅţ̷̨̨̧̛̛̟̥̦͇̹͖̮̰̙͖̭̰̣̺̲̻̲̬̹̞̠͕͚̹̬̹̙̗͚̗̺̻̬̳̱̗͍͔̳̝̬̻͚̇̾̓̂̏́̌̃̀̀͑̆̑̔́̀̈́̊̅͂͗̃̓̔́̀̏́̊͗̆̾̀͆̍͐̾̈́̒̎̂͆́̉̈͒̿͗̿̎̈̌̂̂͗̂̏̈́̈͛̈́̃̽͑̏̔̓̿͊͒́̐̈́̃͆͗̾̾̈̽̎̾̈́͋͊̏̍̅̈̂͂͋̌̀̆̚͘͘͜͠͠͠͝ͅ ̸̢̛̻̱̦̱̯̙̣͉̦̝̫̹̙̹̦̖͖̺̼͚̰̱̮͔̝͚̻͖̦̖̝̪̣̤̲̰̦̮͉̪̫̤̮̤̟̬̯̖͉̼͔͓̯̔̅̇̒̒̾͑̒̇̒͑̒͂̆̉́́͗͊̐̐̒͑̐̅̌͌̆̏͌͐̒̓̉̾̈́́͛̈̔̀̈́̓̓̈͐́̑͂͌͛́͋̓̏̀͗̄̑̚̚̚͝͝ͅh̴̡̡̡̨̧̡̧̛̛̙͎̝̜͓̯͇̞̬̖͇̝̠̩̭͖̤͚̦͓̗͚̹̳̪̞͍͕͉̟̰̜̦̖̙̖͙̙̲̫̜̟͇̘͔̲̥̥͔̞̬͍̥̰̫̜̯̼͙̫̤̲̙͎̫̺̼̣͚̝̳̺̦͙̠̠̠̳̼̦̞́̅̊̔̿̐̑̑͋́̓̇͂̇͋̄̏̿̀͌͊̓̌̏̈́̎̉̈́̿́̽̑̇͊̐̊́͌̀̽̈́͆͋̆͛̉͑́̃̏͗͒̈́̀̃͂̋̓̒͊͒̏̍͗̐̐͆̈̕͘̚̚͜͠͝͝͠͠͠͠͝ͅͅͅį̸̨̨̛͓̠̹̣͚̣̞̮̰̦̤̤͈͙̲͔̞̗̻͖̩̖̝̺̳͖͖̜̟̠̹̳̲̞̺̹͍͕͇͉̘̩͇̻̬̼̝̹͓̳̹̺͚̦̲͔̤̤̣̫͕̟̘̘̟͓͇͕̻̙̿̑͐̇̀͐̽̎̓̇͆͐̆̈̋͐̊̒͘͘͜͝ͅͅͅm̶̨̡̧̢̡̢͓̳̞̺̻̝̰͈̤͚̖̼̠̺͓̱͕͎͈̯͔̞̠̯̠͕͈͙̩̰̪̗̥͖͎̱̹͔͙̯̝̥̮͍̰͉̪̪̘̖̬̗̟͇͖̖̘̳͙̻̱̙̰̭̹͇̮͎̹̫͚̹͍̻̣̠͓̯̺̌͌͒̐͆͑̓̂̓͗͂̚̚͜͝͝ͅͅs̸̡̡̧̧͔̹̲̻͖̳̭͔͍̭͕͍̣̤͇̟̮̟͇̙̪̖͓̭̾̐͊͛́̃͐̈́̾̍̕͜͜͜͜ͅḝ̵̛̩̬̩̹̣̗͇̻̩̩̙͓̯̱͚̈́̄͐̈̊̔̓̾͋̊̌̆̆͐̈́̑͆̍̈́͒͂̀̅̂͒̌͗̿͗͐͋̒̂̅͗̈́̑̑̎̋̌̊̎͊̈́̾̃́̅̆͐̅̈́̂̀̀́̔̀͌͘̚͘̕̚͝͝͝͝͝͠͝͝͠͠ͅl̴̨̛̪͕̞̟͖͓̟̈́͋̍̉͒̽́̉̌͋̍̈́͐̍͊̅̈̿̓͋̓͂͆͗̓̏̈̓̍̽͒̃̃̊̌̒́̄̏͗̎̒͗̔̈́̔͆̏͊̏̈́͊̀̄͂̇͋̒̂̀̊́͑̕͘̚̚͜͝͠͝͝͠͝f̸̢̡̧̢̡̛̛͙̲̲̪̦̪̜̭̤̜̟̦̟̺̬̝̼͚̲͕̪̲͔͇͍̝̻̯̠̲̬̱̬͔͖̯̝̱͍̙͇̮̦̙̖͉̩̦͒̀̽̑̅̀̆͆̇̆̍̈́͛͂̓͗̌͜͝͠ͅ b̸̨̨̛̗̯͈̪̭̞̖̝͚̻̥̫̱͓̰̝͚̖̖̠͚͎̳̣̬̝̫̮̖̫̟̠͍̥̻̤̙̪͎̜͓̦̥̈̈́̉̊̄̾͌̈́̎͋́̇̄͐͐̚͘ͅę̴̨̧̡̢̛̛̛͔͚͇̞͖̹̼̹͚̮̲̭͉͎͖̲̣̪̟̪̰̻̹̥̮̭͔̎͋̏̃͑͛̆̊̓̽̂́̌̽̇͐́̔͊͊̈́̎̽̂̀͘͘̚͜͜͝͠͝i̴̢̢̨̖͍̥̦͓͙̰̝̰͈̼̮̪͇̝̥̲͔̖̘̙̘̜͍̻̖̰̣̼͚͙̫̣̬͓̫͑̒͊̾̊̀̓́̂̊̽̿̀̑̈͊̃̈͗͗̓́̍͊͐̕͜͝͝ņ̶̨̡̨̠͔̗̘̥̮̺͓̥̟̺̺̭̯̬̼̞̗̳̗̣̫̲̠̰͖̝͙̣̮̞͙̄͑̈g̸̡̨̛̮̭̫͉̠̰͖͍͇͇͚͙̘̝͎̞̜͇̹̲̥͙̭̞̿͐͛̍̋̾̊̍̅̽̍̃̆̍̈̍̈̀̈́̔̀̒̄̔̑̅̌̒̕̚̕͜͝͝͝͝͠ͅͅ ̷̨̢̢̢̡̨̱̲͍̲̹̝̰͚͖̘̳͇̳̘̭̳̫̘̬̙̼̙̥͖͇̭͎̦̝̪̣̼̲̝̏͌̍̈̽̉̃̔̈́͂̐̃̈́̈́͒̓͊̐̎͑̒̏͊͐͗̕͜͝͠ͅͅṗ̸̡̢̛̻͔̮̳̭̭͚̮̩̫̽u̸̡͕̞̦̝̣̲̗̬̜̲̳̖̺͖͓̭̘̱̥̟̣̹͔̭͙̦̠̹̮̭̝͍͕̳͚͉̹̯͛̌͜͜ͅl̵̢̡̩̠͎̭̱̗̫̱͍̣̰̖̩̱̦͖͙̲͈͔̠͇̪̞̰̦͚̦͉̱͇̘͍̈́̌͊͒l̸̨̢͍̼̬̩̮̟̦̥̳̠̰̫̪̪͔͚̙̮̰̺̜̱̩̤̗̗̩̱̜̪̳̥̆̌̊̈́̾́̄͋̐͋̆̑͂̐͛̃̀͋͛̓͊̄́̊̋̉̀́̚̚͘̚̚͘͜͝͝ȩ̴̙͈̫̮̟͂̈̈́d̴̨̛̛̛̛̯̗̻̠͔̳̖̱͇̂̊̅̀̾̾̄̿̿̽͗͌̓̌͗̆̔̇̾̇͆̂̀̄̇̈́̃̈͐͗͜͝͝͝͝͝ a̶w̸a̵y̸.̴ He pried his eyes away from
the thing in the distance, to look at his rescuer. Said rescuer was a man in a hooded grey robe, which covered his eyes. He held an open book, which had something attached to its cover. He appeared to be looking at Vernon.
In the voice of one who knew much, he uttered, “Vernon Daniel Hislop, I know of your quest. However, your current path shall not take you where you wish to go.” He waved his hand.
June 13, 840
Partassë, Tol Partassë
Vernon and the other man appeared in a snow-dusted city made of marble. Vernon noticed that his wounds were healed.
“Welcome to a memory, one lost to all but myself and several others. Though time itself is not part of my domain, at the same time, I have some command over images of the past.” The man waved his hand again. They began following a man who looked old, but not yet ancient. He walked to a large structure of painted marble and opened a door of the same.
Past the door was a hall, adorned like nothing Vernon had ever seen. The floors were covered in fur from many large animals, and the walls were adorned with tapestries showing scenes of, among other things, an elven army defeating what looked like blue giants wearing masks in the shape of a mastodon’s face. The room had a grand rotunda, with a stained-glass image of the elvish creation myth, and a balcony with archways, in each of which an archer stood. Torches levitated through the air. Against the far wall was a throne. The elf sitting on the throne was tall, even for an elf. His skin was pale, as pale as the marble would have been if it weren’t painted, and his hair was as black as a thing that was fairly black, but not quite jet black. His eyes were hazel, and, in typical Elvish fashion, his eyebrows were shaved in two. He wore thick fur robes, a cloak of the same, and a crown of a silvery metal. His face was one of worry, though he hid it very well.
The man walked in, and shouted something in a language Vernon didn’t recognize. Then, his words… shifted, somehow… and he shouted, in Irish, “All right, Warm-bringer! I’ve brought you my end of the deal, my finest warriors and strongest sailors, and the victors of the Heiðurmót! Now, for your end. Is she ready?”
The elf sighed. “Patience, Land’s-father. The Lokeyðileggingar has been ready to sail for weeks. I was simply waiting for your foolish tournament to finish.”
“Bah, you never think any of my ideas have worth. Before we go, what do the Norns tell you?”
The elf closed his eyes, and opened them a moment later. They began to glow with a white mist. “The Seventh, once slain, returns to rule once more. The second death shall be a farce, but the third will last if the Prophesied One faces her foe. She will be the daughter of a man of power, and she herself will have greater power. If alone she goes, she shall fail, but with allies she shall prevail. The fate of all existence shall be at stake, but after many tribulations she defeats her foe.” Vernon noticed that the man who had saved him was whispering the words that the elf said.
The other human muttered, “I hate prophecies.”
Then the elf looked straight at Vernon. “Somebody is watching.” He stood up and pulled out a heavy-looking indigo staff. Vernon gulped.
His savior assured him, “It is not you he sees.” His expression changed. “But in reality, they never saw- ah!” He was unable to finish his sentence, as he was hit squarely in the head with a bolt of shadow.
Vernon turned around to see a small army of hooded elves and humans, all of whom had dark energy swirling around them. One, who, judging by the fanciness of his robes, shouted, “This world is a lie! You shall be made to embrace the Blissful Nothingness!”
The hooded savior stood up slowly. “I did not foresee this… Never mind. Vernon, shall we fight them?”
Vernon nodded. “I guess we’re gonna have to.”
“You’re not alone, strangers,” assured the Land’s-father.
“My forces stand with you,” added the elf.
And so they fought. Vernon fired disorienting bolts at the attackers, his rescuer used his book like a flail, as it had a chain attached to it, the archers above loosed volley after volley at the hooded invaders, the elf made use of his not inconsiderable arcane power, and the human… well, he transformed. He was, for a moment no longer a man, just a force of pure rage.
Finally, after several minutes, only one cultist remained. “You think you have won, when in truth, you have only lost. This world is a lie, and I shall show you!” He made a motion similar to tearing paper, and then the memory… broke apart.
July 22, 1861
Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C.
Vernon and the hooded bookkeeper tumbled to the ground, as did the cultist. Estrella turned around in shock.
“Vernon!” she gasped, “Where the hell have you been? What happened?”
The cultist stood up. “This… is not what I anticipated…” A fireball from Estrella put an end to his confusion.
“I don’t know, Estrella,” Vernon said, “but I’m pretty sure this isn’t good.”