Year 3630, the Sixth Age, the Sixtieth day of Autumn
Vhindr let his breath out slowly through his nose, so slowly and so controlled that he could not feel the air leave him or drift over his three day growth. With his eyes closed he stood as still as a statue, all of his thoughts and focus inwards as he tried to strengthen his connection to the Fog and his magicks which had so suddenly vanished.
It had been over several days now when that wave of Fog had rushed across the lands and everyone quickly realised their magicks had all but disappeared.
After Vhindr had returned to Port Na’brath to see his brother Vythe, who had been long thought dead, his father put him to work strengthening connections throughout the cities hierarchy. Vhindr had been willing to aid the cause, because after all the Grand Magi Cardonian had just been assassinated and war seemed likely to eventuate. And indeed a war between Sesserrech and Krnōrel resulted and for the past two months or so Vhindr had stayed with his family to try and solidify their standing within the city.
Now that the war was over and a treaty between the two rulers along with the Nevāranciens and the Elder Races being formed things had become even more interesting. The most of which had been at the moment when the Nevāranciens had arrived in a great craft that plummeted from the sky to crash down just north of the city. All the soldiers, guards, and Magi who remained in the city rushed to the battlements in full expectation of a fight.
As Vhindr had watched the advance of the Nevārancien warriors from their strange craft he believed it would indeed be a bloody battle. But then the wave of Fog had come, knocking everyone to the ground, as well as some poor souls from the top of the battlements. The wave of Fog had also destroyed the Nevārancien ship, throwing it to the ground in a myriad of explosions. Everyone had gathered themselves slowly and Vhindr had expected the warriors from Nevārance to continue their assault, but nothing had eventuated and the Nevāranciens lingered around their broken craft.
A salty breeze swiftly blew in from the west causing Vhindr to sway and shiver to its cool touch. The wind’s gentle touch pushed against him and filtered through his shoulder length hair.
“Happy New Age, it would seem,” came a remark from behind Vhindr which broke his meditation.
Opening his eyes Vhindr turned and hopped down from the railing of the westerly tower of the Varrintine manor, which sat in the southern end of Port Na’brath in the area known as the Land of Lords. Casually standing at the entrance to the descending staircase, as usual with a book in his hands, was his father.
“What?” Vhindr asked curiously.
“A New Age has begun, apparently,” Lord Varrintine explained, “We are now in the Sixth Age according to the scholars of the land. The Age of New Beginnings.”
Vhindr smirked and shook his head in amusement.
“Did you speak with the Nevāranciens?” asked Lord Varrintine.
“I did,” nodded Vhindr, “They were not too impressed with our family linage to the Nevārancien Lord Tharadain. Apparently he was a traitor to his own people. But they heard what I had to say none the less.”
“They agreed to the truce?” Lord Varrintine asked and Vhindr nodded.
“I told them they would be allowed free access into the city and its goods and services,” Vhindr said, “For the standard price of course. And also that they should come and see you directly if there were any concerns.”
His father raised an eyebrow, “You did not have to do that. There are enough problems on my plate as it is.”
“I doubt they will come and see you with their problems,” Vhindr smiled, “They do not seem the type to seek aid readily.”
“Good,” Lord Varrintine nodded absently and looked intently at his son, “How fairs your connection to the Fog?”
“Well enough,” Vhindr replied and looked to the west, and to the sea, “Meditating helps, I should like to try some other exercises as well, like Ethience or Exo-Convulsion, but I doubt I shall find any clouds of Fog easily.”
“Be careful meditating amid the clouds of Fog, son,” his father said gravely, “I fear magicks have become very unstable.”
Vhindr nodded and rested his hands upon the grey stone railing.
“Something on your mind, Vhindr?” Lord Varrintine asked as he came to stand beside him.
“Just thinking of the case in Pentra,” Vhindr said distantly.
“The girl Fay’s murder,” his father nodded, “From what you have told me it seems a troubling one indeed.”
“I have not heard any word from Arell recently either,” remarked Vhindr offhandedly.
“You like her,” Lord Varrintine stated and Vhindr looked to his father curiously.
“She is a good person,” Vhindr replied, causing his father to laugh lightly.
“You like her,” Lord Varrintine stated again with a smile and Vhindr looked away.
“Perhaps,” replied Vhindr honestly, “And I am concerned I have not had any more news of her investigations.”
“With the magicks of the Fog dissipating letters will now need to be carried the old fashioned way by horse and courier,” Lord Varrintine said seriously, “Such communications will take weeks now, perhaps even months.”
“I suppose,” Vhindr sighed and looked back to the west and to Inüer who had started to drop below the horizon.
“Come,” Lord Varrintine said, “It is almost time for dinner.”
Vhindr nodded absently and followed his father down the tower and into the house and dining room. The meal passed with pleasant conversation between the family members. Only a few of his brothers were there along with his parents and of course his younger sister. They talked of many things including the disappearance of the Fog, what their brother Vythe was doing, as they had no word from him recently, and they spoke in depth about how to go about securing their following within the city.
When the meal had finished all went about their own business and Vhindr retired to his quarters to ponder the many things he had going at this time. Moving into his room Vhindr headed for his work desk where many pieces of parchment were stacked. With a touch of his finger the white crystal above his desk began to glow and emanate a bright light that he may go about looking over his work. Although the magicks had greatly vanished throughout the land, runes were still very much operational, so many things like crystal lights, running water, and enchanted items were still functional.
With a sigh Vhindr went about gathering the files and placing them in an orderly fashion. Suddenly Vhindr retracted his hand with a gasp of pain and gnashed his teeth as he saw a spot of blood swell at the tip of his finger. With an annoyed growl he stuck his finger in his mouth and carefully looked through the papers to see what had stabbed him. As he moved aside one parchment Vhindr saw the offending object and with a slight smile he picked up the beaded necklace on which a beautifully crafted star pendant made from scrimshaw hung.
“Fay Mareen’s necklace,” Vhindr mused, “Arell was right the points are sharp.”
Vhindr’s voice trailed away as a realisation struck him.
“Of course,” he breathed and slapped his forehead, “How could I have been so blind?”
A glimmer of excitement came to Vhindr’s black eyes as he pocketed the necklace and dropped the files back on the desk. Hurriedly he moved to gather his other possessions and get himself ready for a ride back to Pentra.
The next morning Vhindr was up early, quickly going to the manor stables and went about saddling a horse.
“Vhindr,” Lord Varrintine called as he came into the stables, “Must you leave now? There is still much work to be done here.”
“I cannot let this lead go dry, father,” Vhindr replied quickly as he continued to ready himself and the horse, “And I fear it might already be too late.”
“It is hardly much to go on from what you have briefly said,” his father shook his head.
“Do not worry,” Vhindr smiled and turned to his father, “My brothers are more than capable of helping here.”
“They are young Vhindr,” Lord Varrintine replied seriously, “They lack the experience and the judgement that comes with that experience. I worry for them sometimes.”
“You worry too much,” Vhindr laughed, “Hopefully I shall be done with this business in Pentra soon, and then I shall return. You have my word.”
Lord Varrintine sighed heavily and nodded, “I know I cannot force you to stay. So I bid you good luck with your case, and might it be too much to hope that you bring a bride back with you?”
Vhindr laughed awkwardly and quickly led his black gelding from the stables.
“Ride carefully son,” Lord Varrintine said seriously, “The roads are more dangerous these days.”
Vhindr winked to his father and smiled, “I am always careful. Give my love to my mother and sister.”
With that Vhindr mounted his steed and quickly cantered from the mansion compound and into the Land of Lords heading for the south gates and Pentra beyond.
* * * *
“Why is everyone so depressed?” Legin asked with a laugh and sat down in front of the fire, looking to the breakfast that was cooking in the pan. “Well, everyone except Pip, I know he has a reason to be, sorry bro.”
Pip did not reply and continued eating his meal despondently.
“But what of you two?” Legin looked to Kōrrin and Aurora.
“You know damn well what me problem is,” the dwarf grumbled and waved his stump of a right hand at Legin.
“So you don’t have a hand,” Legin waved away the issue, “At least you didn’t die, right?”
“It’s me axe hand,” Kōrrin snapped, “How am I supposed to fight without holdin’ an axe?”
“You could always get a hook, or something,” Legin suggested with a shrug.
“How am I supposed to fight with a hook you idiot?” Kōrrin yelled back.
“Well I don’t know,” Legin replied in exasperation, “You’re a dwarf craft something that would work.”
“What do you know about it?” grumbled Kōrrin, “Nothin’ that’s what.”
Legin left the issue there and turned his attention to the yineth who had hardly said anything since they had left Lancer and they were well into Forest Rancorn now, already beginning the climb up to the Yineth Plateau.
“What about you Aurora?” Legin asked with a smile, “I thought you would be happy to be returning home?”
“It is more complicated than that,” the Yineth replied calmly as she adjusted her traveling attire around the bust.
Along with many other items Legin had stolen in Lancer, travelling clothes for Aurora to change into and out of her customary gown she worn in the Prison had been a priority. He had also found some sturdy boots for Kōrrin and some battle leathers. In truth he had been quite pleased with his thefts in Lancer, but none of the others had congratulated his skills.
“You don’t like the gear I found you?” Legin asked with his mouth full as he pointed to Aurora’s clothes.
A surprised look came to the yineth before a slight smile came to her face.
“I am surprised you got my size correct,” she smirked, “But I like the clothes well enough. Although they are slightly restrictive I find.”
“Walk around in your underwear than,” Kōrrin snorted and Legin laughed.
“I am sure you would approve of that,” Aurora glared at the dwarf.
“Nah,” Kōrrin shook his head, “You ain’t got enough hair on ya chin.”
Legin laughed all the louder and even Pip smiled slightly.
“Let us be on the move, shall we?” Aurora remarked dismissively, as she stood up and gathered her pack.
Stuffing the rest of his breakfast in his mouth Legin was quick to jump to his feet and gather his things as were the other two and in no time they were making their slow way up the steep incline. The Forest of Rancorn was thick and the ground sloped steeply upwards causing their trek to be slow and rather painful.
Although Legin found the trip fairly fun and easy-going as he jumped off large rocks and swung from tree to tree before scrambling up a fallen log. Pip could keep up with him most of the time but constantly Legin had to stop and wait for his friends to reach him. But he did not mind and he always waited calmly listening to the wildlife and smiling as he squatted on a mossy rock.
“Don’t ye ever stop runnin’ about?” Kōrrin grumbled as he clambered over a rock to reach Legin’s position.
“Sure I do,” Legin smiled as he jumped to his feet, “When I’m eating or waiting for you to catch up. Or when I’m sleeping, of course. Sleeping is good.”
With a laugh he headed off again, launching of a rock with one foot and scaling a small cliff face quickly. Many times they came across much larger cliff faces and were forced to find another rout because Kōrrin refused to climb the sheer face of the rock with only one hand.
“Should’ve stolen a grappling hook and rope,” Legin lamented as they turned away from yet another cliff.
“You always need rope bro,” Pip quipped, “I can’t believe you forgot it.”
“Well I was doing it all by myself remember,” Legin pouted, “Hey, Kōrrin, you’re a dwarf can’t you just dig a tunnel up to the top.”
The dwarf narrowed his eyes at Legin angrily.
“Even if I did ‘ave me other hand it’d take ages you daft git,” Kōrrin grumbled and stomped off in another direction.
Many days later the ground finally began to even out and the trees began to lesson until one morning they emerged from the foliage to gaze upon the flat expanse of the Yineth Plateau. This land was also known as the Yineth Grasslands and Legin was filled with wonder as he looked across the sea of flowing green grass. The sky was blue above him and Inüer’s warm rays shown in his blue eyes, causing the green, yellow and pink fleck to shimmer.
“This place is amazing,” Legin remarked as he skipped out into the waist high grass.
“This damn grass is worse than the trees,” Kōrrin grumbled loudly.
Legin burst out laughing when he looked at the dwarf to see that the long grass ended just below Kōrrin’s nose and caused him to look like half a head bobbing through the green blades.
Legin turned to Aurora thinking to ask her a question, but stopped himself as he noticed the yineth standing still with her eyes closed as she breathed deep the crisp air. The wind picked up through the grass cause the green sea to roll hypnotically and to blow through Aurora’s blonde hair, which fell loosely around her shoulders.
The yineth then opened her eyes and smiled when she noticed Legin looking at her.
“I am home,” she smiled widely, “It is better than I remember. Though I cannot hear the voice of the land yet, my ears have grown dull it would seem.”
Legin smiled slightly and looked away, “I wonder what that would feel like?” he mused quietly, “To have a home, a place you belong with a people like you.”
Legin sighed and began walking towards the mountains across the plain to the south.
“I will know one day,” Legin nodded to himself and firmed his jaw, “If any know who and what I am it is the Yineth.”
“Do not put all your hopes in one dream, Legin,” Aurora said softly as she walked close beside him.
Legin turned in surprise to the yineth who laughed lightly in response.
“These ears are not just for show,” Aurora said with a smile, “They work better than any Elf’s I assure you.”
Legin smiled awkwardly, “You don’t think the Yineth can help?”
“I am not sure,” Aurora shrugged, “I hope they can, truly I do, but like I said: do not be too disappointed if they do not.”
Legin nodded slightly and looked to his path ahead.
For the next two days they wandered across the grassy plains, all the while the mountains in the distance not seeming to get any closer. But the trip was pleasant enough and the weather was clear and perhaps even a bit hot despite the year moving into the cold month of Winter. This was because to the south of the Yineth Plateau lay the hot sands of Anastarā, the Crimson Wasteland, and the fabled Sand Sea. Even though the days were a bit warm the cool breeze kept them from sweltering under Inüer.
Having grown in Pentra though, Legin did not mind the heat and he walked happily along whistling a tune until he was told to stop by Kōrrin, who did not seem to be having fun.
“Shut that damn tune, boy,” Kōrrin grumbled as Legin began to whistle again.
“Come one Kōrrin show some enjoyment of this beautiful land,” Legin smiled back.
“If I could see it I might,” the dwarf snapped back as his head bobbed just above the grass.
Legin was about to reply when suddenly the green grass around them exploded with motion and caused all to jump in surprise as a dozen dog sized rabbits thundered away from them.
“Check that out Pip,” Legin exclaimed with excitement and his friend nodded enthusiastically.
“We could feed off one of those for a week,” Pip remarked and drew forth his bow.
“No, don’t Pip,” Legin stopped his friend, “Don’t shoot them. We have plenty of food. We don’t need to do that yet.”
“Wouldn’t be botherin’ tryin’ to kill one of them,” Kōrrin remarked as he stood on tip-toes to see, “Not much meat on them at all.”
They continued on without shooting any of the large rabbits and the next day Aurora turned their path more towards the east and to the massive forest of fleshy looking trees on the horizon.