Arch sage Thalus finds something that seems to be the only way to escape an an evil foe.
|The Gate of Urns
The man rose from his wooden chair and grabbed his scalp tightly and let out a cry. Next he took a book off the table before him and threw it against one of the book shelves in the archives knocking down a few parchments.
“Ahh! This is hopeless! It’s like trying to find a jewel in a pig pen.”
He stroked his beard and sat back down as he ran his palm down his face with an exasperating sigh.
“I am the arch sage, and I should be able to do this. There are just so many texts.”
Thalus had been searching through the kingdom archives for months for anything that would potentially save his kingdom from a heinous foe, a supernatural foe. And that was what frightened Thalus and the rest of the kingdom called Solace. Yet they were a peculiar kind of supernatural enemy. They were spiritual but not entirely. He looked around at the mountains of written material that housed many texts that foretold the coming of the evil spirit creatures. But was there anything in all this vast collection of knowledge that would show the way to deliverance? There was one thing that his records assured him of, only three days remained until they would attack.
The sage stood and walked between two shelves of books, scrolls, and other ancient written material and approached the steps leading out of the archives. He ran his hand along cold, smooth stone wall as he ascended the spiraling stairwell. The mounted torches cast a shadow of his long crimson robe on the adjacent wall. The sage entered the royal hall then a young lady in a modestly made dress spoke in a soft but anxious tone.
“Sage Thalus, what of your search?”
“I have made no progress.”
The young lady’s expression fell. “What are we to do with three days remaining until…?”
“I don’t know,” interrupted sage Thalus.
“I know that they are thought of as invincible, but what if we fought?” said the young lady.
“No mortal force can afflict harm against the power of evil spirit creatures. Although they have a physical manifestation, they are spiritual as well. It would be like fighting shadows.”
“So the Gate of Urns is our only hope. I must say, I am not quite prepared to pass into the next world just yet. It is like dying.” Then she frowned before speaking again. “If being accepted into the Gate takes a pure heart and perfection, how could we simply be magically wisped away?”
Thalus could spend all night trying to explain about the Gate of Urns and why living spiritually in the afterlife within the Gate was nothing to fear, but what she said did move him. She was right. There was no getting around it yet he still hoped. Thalus looked at the young woman with long brown hair and deep brown eyes. He saw a picture of himself in her gaze when he was young, the times when would ask the priests what the gods did for them and why he could not see the supposed deities. But being brought up as a sage, he was required to hold allegiance to the gods.
She lifted her eyes with a tinge of dissension.
“I am angry at the gods. After all our worship, and honor we give, they have never once helped or even given a sign.”
“The path of the gods is mysterious. They will show us the way.” sage Thalus spoke.
“Show us the way? Why don’t they just save us themselves?”
The arch sage put his hand her shoulder and looked down at her sparkling, innocent eyes. He sighed. “We must hold on to faith, It is all we have now.”
Thalus left her in the empty, quietness of the main hall and retired to his room down a narrow corridor to his left. He lay on his bed looking in thought at the stone ceiling. The young maid’s doubtful words provoked something within him. It was like an entirely different heart was being fed. He blinked his eyes and snapped back to his senses. Such feelings were the result of youthful, naïve sentiment.
At daybreak, the dejected sage went to King Trophimus at the usual spot. There the king leaned against a white stone border in the highest tower balcony as he overlooked the expanse of the kingdom with the sun peeling over the Northern Mountains. He heard Thalus come from behind.
“It’s beautiful, is it not? And to think, it could all be obliterated in three days,” the king said in a somber, drifting voice. “Tell me you have made progress Thalus?”
“I’m sorry my lord.”
Just as he spoke a chamberlain rushed behind them with a pale, frightened face. “Sire, I have dire news! The Western Kingdom has defected and declared war on us!”
“War!?” The king said with a baffled face and narrowed eyes. “But why?”
Thalus was at a loss for words. For what reason would a close ally for decades suddenly turn on Solace?-especially when all the kingdoms of the realm knew the spirit creatures were about to be unleashed?
The king’s eyes saddened as to say that he was hurt more than scared of the threat of the Western Kingdom. “What is it that would cause such trust and peace to be dashed to pieces?”
“You said they defected?-to whom?” Thalus said with scrutiny.
“That is the worst part; they say that they have allied themselves with the Abyssal Army.” said the chamberlain.
“Only a fool would make a pact with the spirit creatures,” Thalus said.
“Who told you this?” asked King Trophimus.
“A note with the crest of the Western Kingdom was lying at the city gate. I just found it.”
The amber sun was now in its full strength. Its beauty was bittersweet. It shone with splendid glory but it was like an hour glass with each fall and rise. Each sunset meant the invasion came closer. He then looked to the west to the stronghold of the Western Kingdom. But who could have been sent there from the Abyssal Army when they are yet to be released?
“Sire, allow me to ride to the Western Kingdom and find out how this could have come to pass.”
The king breathed in deeply and paused before he spoke. “Such a thing would only endanger your life and you are too important.”
Thalus knew that the king’s adamancy was sentimental. The way King Trophimus saw Thalus was like that of a father. His majesty had been brought up under the admonition and council of the sage when he was still a prince. Thalus admired the gold crown with a circle of emeralds and onyx stones set in it. It reminded him of the older days when he served the king’s father. Yet Thalus himself felt likewise but this concerned the life of him and the king and more importantly, the whole world of Khrine. The king’s fair face and his solemn grey eyes glistened in the sun as a light gale moved his long brown hair.
“My lord if I may be so bold as to…” Thalus stopped in his speech as something caught his eyes and he froze. King Trophimus shifted his gaze to where his sage was transfixed on.
“The Western Kingdom…what is that?” asked the king.
“A dark, scarlet pillar of light…I’ve read of this. It is a sign of the spirit creatures. My lord, we are in danger.”
“How can the light be a sign of the Abyssal Army? It is not the third day.”
“Allow me to investigate my lord. None has more knowledge of the situation than I.”
King Trophimus’ jaw trembled as he looked at the light and then at Thalus. Then he took a deep breath and poised himself. He put his hands on the shoulders of Thalus. “Very well, make haste arch Sage.”
Thalus bowed quickly them sprinted down the stairwell of the tower. His heart was beating and his imagination was conjuring fears of what might this meant. Was another force in league with the spirit creatures that has somehow freed them before their supposed day of release? When he reached the base of the tower some of the nobility surrounded him with eyes filled with fright.
“Sage Thalus, a beam of light that reaches to the sky is coming from the West. What does it mean? Is it an omen?” said a nobleman.
Immediately another addressed him abruptly. “Are we in danger?”
Thalus frowned and motioned with his palms to be silent. “I am on my way to investigate. Losing control will only serve to impede the stability of the kingdom.”
The people looked at each other and regained their composure.
“Forgive us Arch Sage. May the gods aid you in your quest,” said another nobleman.
The only nobleman that did not panic was a young person in their company. He was hardly in his late twenties and had light brown hair. His countenance was peaceful and ruddy with eyes that expressed the most about him. They were childlike, steady and calm. Despite his age Thalus knew him to be discreet and knowledgeable and not the least bit prideful. He was also very bold when the situation needed it. The only thing that kept him from being a higher nobleman was his age. He could be trusted with the truth. He stood there with his hands behind his back, quietly. When the small crowd dispersed, Thalus approached him.
“Brythan, you are one of the most faithful and prudent persons I have known. A fear burns within me and I loathe bearing it myself. The pillar of light is a sign that the spirit creatures have escaped the abyss.”
Brythan replied with a gentle yet authoritative manner. “I do believe it is a sign of the Abyssal Army, but I don’t think it means they have been released. I happened to have come across a scroll written in the dead languages of the Pyrthians in the main library. I know you are versed in the language.”
Brythan gave Thalus the book and he received it apprehensively. He ran his hand over the rough surface. He read the words with movement of his index finger.
And a mighty prince from beyond the Gate of Urns will lend his power to save the people of the planet of Khrine from the cursed ones. It will come to pass when mortals abandon the gods of old and submit to the prince’s father. He will aid the greatest kingdom of Khrine to expunge the foe of mankind. In that day the people of the world who acknowledge Him will be deemed worthy to have their urns burn with the white flame of purity and innocence. They shall then be brought by the celestial caretakers before the Gate of Urns to become spiritual beings inside the paradise beyond.
Thalus was baffled then his face paled at the latter words of the prophecy. “Could this be the answer? Yet it speaks of abandoning the gods!? We would be destroyed for such blasphemy! This cannot be right, and what of this foe of mankind?”
“I believe this prophecy has some significance since it was written in Pyrithian. It is the oldest language we know of and, as you know, very few texts are written in it.”
Thalus was once again pleased with at Brythan’s eye for the importance in obvious situations.
“I think the ‘foe of mankind’ and ‘cursed ones’ spoken of is the spirit creatures themselves,” Brythan said with a calm but assertive voice.”
“Yet I wonder how such a thing could come to pass in three days.” Thalus paused and put his fingers to his chin. In the entire world what could cause such a universal change that would take many years to teach and instill. More importantly, in what way and how long would it take to convince the people of Solace and beyond?”
“Has the king sent someone to see what the light has come from and who is responsible?”
“I will be going.”
Thalus knew he was putting his life in his own hands. But in all honesty, curiosity also drove him to ride to the Western Kingdom. He knew the ruler of the Western Kingdom and that he was an honorable man and full of integrity. Now he rode to discover if King Nethaal of the Western Kingdom was forced into submission at the threat of his people.
“If you go, permit me to go along.”
“I would have no greater company. Let us depart.”
Both of them walked towards the end of the grand hall where the entry gate was. They were stopped by the king. He looked at them both with concern. “Is see that you have chosen an aid to come along with you.”
“Forgive me my lord, I should have asked,” said Brythan.
“By all means, it is a good idea. You may need each other,” King Trophimus said as he smiled and put a hand on both of their shoulders. He nodded and sent them on their way. “You had better be moving along. Time may be against us.”
The king had always been prudent, collected soul yet Thalus aw that this situation troubled him deeply. Although he smiled, it was a mask to hide his grave demeanor.
Thalus and Brythan bowed and left the king. They spoke while they made their way to exit the castle and reach the stalls.
“In all my knowledge, there is only one way that could possibly give time to accomplish such a task. It involves an object,” Thalus put forth.
“I have come to the same conclusion. You speak of the fabled Oracle of time?”
“Indeed,” asserted Thalus.
“Nevertheless, it is a fable and an obscure one. How will we find it if it is real?” said Brythan.
“In a single record in the archives a long time ago, I came across a clue concerning the Oracle. It is written that it lay in a tower high in the White Mountains.”
Thalus pondered his own words and was sure Brythan was having such thoughts. Who conceived the Oracle of Time and why would they keep it in a cold, frozen snow land? It would seem that the Oracle was intended to be not discovered. But for what purpose would it be hidden?”
“The white Mountains are treacherous and expansive. How could we find it?” asked Brythan.
“Let us cross that bridge when we get to it. Right now we must focus on our task.”
As they left the castle and reached the stalls, they quickly mounted two horses. Thalus chose a white, fair steed with golden brown mane with a muscular back. Brythan selected a midnight black horse with moon-like eyes. They set of to the west of Solace through one of the bustling cities full of merchandise booths and others selling various meats. A few people looked up at them desperately for fear of the pillar of scarlet light that had appeared only forty minutes ago. Nevertheless, Thalus felt making conjecture would only create more fear. So they rode on and eventually they reached the beautiful outskirts of the kingdom.