A different beginning that fits the story better.
| Sawel Brodick stared at the ruins of the Elven city once known as Omar Garradah. He remembered it when it stood as a beacon to the civilized world. Flowers bloomed on every corner, enchanted statues, wooden citadels, and schools, bustling with children.
He inhaled deep, the smell of burnt wood and flesh hung in the air, even after fifty years. He remembered the night the Orques came, on their flying carriages of death, and the giant iron armor. The Orque army turned into a juggernaut crushing all before them. The elves, dwarves, and goblins opted to live and hid from the invaders.
His father died in the evacuation effort, not before he entrusted something to Sawel. "This amulet represents the hope of the world. Return here fifty years from now, to claim it. Worry not, the path will be made clear. The necklace will show you the way once you're close enough. The constabulary..." Bloody hands pressed the necklace into Sawels. To this day, the young elf could still smell iron and feel the crimson liquid drip onto his shoes.
The amulet didn't replace the countless hours of conversations, stories, and teachable moments left in the wake of Gideon Brodrick's death. Sawel's mother died of a broken heart shortly after. The thought of life without Gideon was too much. Sawel tried to give her reasons to live, but on the third morning of his father's death, he found Thalia asleep in her gossamer wedding gown, a bottle of poison in hand.
He found the constables station, unblemished by the destruction and decay of the Orquish attacks. Lights, Sawel remembered the death lights. The elven forces were no match for the shrieks of the bladeless swords. "Why did this building survive?" Sawel had heard about the Giants March through the city. Giants burst through walls like paper, with fists capable of breaking stone, and giant boots crushed people like ants. They broke off their attack after two-thirds of the city lay in ruin.
It was impossible to tell what was holding the constabulary up or what magical traps lay within. It seemed appropriate to find hope on the day Gideon died. Leather boots touched the ironwood stairs without a sound. Sawel reached into his pouch and drew a handful of smooth crystal pebbles.
"Dì-armachadh ribean," he shouted. A soft glow emitted from the pebbles. Each one drifted to a seemingly harmless spot and set off a trap field like no other. Bolts of electricity, clouds of toxic gas, grapple root, and a few other classics went off like dominoes. "Nobody would lay that many traps to protect nothing." Sawel waited patiently for the chain reaction to end before he dared take another step further.
One hand clutched the amulet tightly, his legs shook, and his knees knocked together as he took one step beyond the first. Beads of sweat and ragged breath followed each footfall, and a sigh of relief added for good measure.
He prodded the ground with a long stick in the event someone decided to pepper in non-magical traps. The ironwood doors wouldn't yield to him. "Of course, the amulet." He lifted the heavy gold chain over his head and pressed the gold and crystal disc against the door. Nothing happened.
"I should've known better than to put faith in rainbows and moonbeams." He threw the necklace on the ground, and it rolled off to the side. Perhaps the disc proved useless here, but it was still a gift from his father, the last one to be exact.
In a flash, Sawel's hand closed around the disc. "Sorry, father." He noticed the gold peeling on the edges. "Gold leaf?" Calloused hands removed the paper-thin metal off the amulets back. Words in ancient Elven stared at him.
"Filleann a feall ar a bhfeallaire. Bad deeds return to the doer?" It was something every man, woman, and child learned at their parent's knees. He marched up to the sealed doors of the constabulary and spoke the phrase in front of them, nothing. "This had better be worth the trouble."
looked up at the sky. The pink clouds and chill in the air meant night would fall soon. A small circle of trees provided a little cover and allowed for a small fire and tent. In minutes a stew with thick chunks of meat and vegetables simmered over the fire, a few natural herbs and spices gave it a spicy aroma. Sawel's stomach growled while he made fireside bread. "Maybe hope is an illusion...Of course, the book."
Gideon Brodick was an expert on illusion magic. Chances were, Gideon used a spell of his design to protect whatever he wanted to hide. Sawel opened the knapsack and drew the battered leather-bound tome from it. "The Encyclopedia Illusium" was embossed on the cover with gold leaf. "I owe you a drink in the afterlife. You said I would read this book with intense interest one day. I hate it when you're right."
Sawel opened the old tome and gingerly turned the vellum pages. "Okay, dad, what spell did you use?" The smell of stew caused a deep rumble of hunger to come from his stomach. He filled a wooden bowl and grabbed a chunk of the bread.
The stew may have smelled tasty, but tasted an awful lot like goblin feet. Sawel gobbled it down fast enough to avoid the horrid flavor. The bread was lighter than a cloud and tasted like mana from heaven. Sawel nibbled on it as he paged through the book.
Gideon wrote each page with care and artistry. "Presentation counts, Sawel. The basics of spell construction can put someone to sleep. A little drawing here and there keeps the reader focused."
He wasn't wrong. The Encyclopedia Illusium was one of the most read spell tomes in history. Sawel knew his father wouldn't use an auditory or visual illusion. He reached the "Physical illusions and their applications" and found the whole section was missing. Instead, a personal letter to Sawel sat in its place.
"Dear Sawel, I am pleased you finally paged through my book. It also means you have fulfilled the promise you made fifty years ago. Anyway, there is no time to catch up on things. You're not supposed to be in Omar Garradah. The Orques decreed it was illegal to return to the ruins.
Your amulet is the key to a special vault and the map to it. Hold it up to the moon and wait for the path to reveal itself. Unfortunately, the Orquish instruments will detect the energy, and you will have but a few precious minutes to open the vault and get safely behind their doors. Everything will be clear once you find it. I promise you, the danger is worth it all."
looked up at the stars and decided to get on with his quest. He aimed the amulet at the moon. The disc amplified the light passing through the crystal lens in the center and kissed the root laden road. Runic letters glowed in the center.
"Maybe the Orquish detection instruments broke down," Sawel said as he followed the glowing symbols. A hundred yards into the next leg of his journey, and a loud alarm echoed across the ruins. "Why am I always wrong about these things.
The orques had all sorts of technological annoyances. One of which was the harpy drone MKII. The Orques designed them to capture fugitives. They looked like dragonflies, with their two sets of wings. They sounded like griffons diving in for the kill when in flight. The shrieking noise made children wet their beds in fear. Their metal stingers carried a sleeping potion, and no one has resisted the effects.
Sawel began to weave through alleys and ruined buildings. The harpy's only weakness was their big turning radius. Tight turns saw them crash into objects. Sawel made sure to keep the glowing symbols in view. The familiar screech of the drones caused cold beads of sweat to form on his brow. There seemed to be no end to the luminescent letters.
A sharp turn and sound of stinger hitting wood caused Sawel's bowels to fill with liquid. He came out of the alley into the open. No sign of the drone or the glowing letters. "Not good." Sawel dove back into the alleyway, desperate to find the path again.
The shriek of the drone was next to his ear. Sawel went prone on the ground. Something grazed his ear on the way down. The metal stinger drove into the charred earth between Sawels spread out fingers. The harpy crashed into a wall made of ironwood and fell to the ground, with a Clank.
"Yes, Now..." three more griffon-like shrieks pierced the air. "Please tell me I am close," Sawel said. His eye caught the lettering again. They were starting to fade. His side and legs began to cramp, but he pushed onward through the marred metropolis.
The glowing script ended at a sewer grate. A circular space sat in the middle of a metal plate. The drones were still in the alley and banged into walls. In a flash, the amulet was in Sawel's hands, just in time to see the drones burst through a building made of pine.
Sawel pressed the amulet to the metal plate. Whirs and clicks came from beneath it like a hundred doors were between him and the finish line. He kept his eyes on the grate and waited for it to open. It had to happen in the next minute because the drones and their stingers would be in range.
High pitched whines of the drone pierced nearly burst his eardrum. The sewer grate swung open and revealed a ladder. It was unfortunate Sawel caught a stinger in the leg and rolled into the hole. "Better to be dead than in the clutches of the Orques."
The door closed behind him. Sawel was frantic to get as low to the ground before the sleeping potion took him. Twenty feet from the bottom, his vision blurred, and the hands refused to any sort of direction. He made it to ten feet before he fell into darkness.