The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.
Remember this if you can:
Your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy.
You travel with a woman named Aos and a man named Desmon. Do not concern yourself with the torn patch of boiled leather on you breast, nor the ones on your companions’, nor the looks that the empty patch may garner. You travel with an amber-eyed woman. Ask her daily for information. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.
* * *
Your Mother led to some lost civilization whose broken remnants litter the ground in the wake of the Great Conflict. You tried to keep your gaze on her robes during the march over there. They were always flowing. Shimmering, almost.
You did not want to look at what lay between the rocks on your way down into the gorge. You thought you saw the glint of metal against the morning sun between clefts in the rock, and more often than not you saw glimmering out of the corner of your eye, but it was only dewdrops. Nothing more.
(Try not to think about it.)
The gate to the ruins was cracked in such a way that you wondered if your Mother had dug up the spell she used last night to facilitate the rockslide. Had it seeped into the dirt here, long ago? Was this why she brought you here?
Your Mother wrapped her hands, white knuckled, around the gates to the city. Leaves of red rust peeled away at her touch.
“Mother,” you began.
She massaged her temples. “Carth,” she spoke slowly as if she did not expect you would understand, “I told you, call me Anthea.”
“Yes,” she sighed. “Write it down.”
“Where are we going?” you asked.
“We have no time. We have lingered too long already. I’ve explained too many times. I need you to trust me,” she told you (I must say I sympathize. After all, I need you to trust me. I can understand what she’s going through, telling you the same thing every day). “We’re going inside,” she explained. “Just follow.”
She pulled a glittering band of dribbling green light out of her satchel and smeared it along the rust. Motes of the light filtered up into the sky, the band shined brighter as it ate through the layers of rust, scattering to the wind like so many leaves.
You stopped to marvel at her magic as she stepped through what remained of the gate. “Where did you get these spells?”
“I’ve seen my share of Conflict-grounds in my time,” she explained.
You had consulted with your index earlier that day, and told her, “Magic is forbidden. There are only so many spells you can pry from a Conflict-ground. How do you know where to find the spells that do what you want? It’s not like you can wright new ones.”
She shifted the weight of her pack, spells humming softly in her rucksack. “I was there,” she explained. “I saw the battles. I know what spells were used, and where.”
“What did I tell you?” She snapped. And then her countenance softened, and she offered you her hand. “Come,” she told you. “We’re going to make you well.”
Anthea led you through the ruins, all basalt. Do not mistake me. This is not an exaggeration. The whole city looks to be carved from a single slab of rock, grafted with gates and the chewed-up remains of gemstones and amethysts in the richer parts of town. Every stone had a different number. The richer parts of town had one or two numbers. But the poorer ruins were all three numbers or above.
The poorer districts were plainer, with fewer leaves of dried paint to mark what remained of murals depicting great, forgotten things.
You found no sign of life, however. No scattered beds or markets or houses. No bones or clothes or food. You wondered how long this place had been standing that nobody had squirreled themselves away in its husk. This place was run down to be sure, but it could be fortified quicker than most deadcivs. After all, it takes more work to make a city from the ground up than it does to plaster over some ruins.
But if it hadn’t yet been overtaken, what happened to its citizens?
You wanted to ask Anthea, but decided against it. She spent the better part of a day dragging you around the city, sharply turning back the way she had come, sometimes kneeling to inspect a disturbance in the sand. Sifting it through her fingers. More than once her hands whispered against something round and smooth and heavy tugging at the constraints of her satchel. It looked heavy.
She took odd angles, and sometimes walked you around the same block up to three times. Mayhaps four. One time you lost count.
As the air grew colder, and the sky was colored in pinks and purples, you heard her whisper, “Carth?” And you saw the linen over her mouth ripple as her mouth tightened. She was rigid all over.
You approached hesitantly. “Anthea?” you asked.
“We’re being followed.”
Your hand went to your sword, but Anthea’s linens snapped against your wrist and stayed it.
“Don’t,” she said. There was an urgency to her voice, barely sheathed.
“Who follows us?” you whispered.
“The guard captain. He’s been following us for three days.”
You wondered how long it had been since the rockslide.
“I don’t have time to explain,” she told you, “But I will stand guard to make time for you to write.”
You asked her why.
“I need to you to remember to find me here, in the marketplace, by the stone marked twenty-two. In case the guard-captain separates us. We need to reconvene here.”
“The deadciv has buried something under the ground here. I’ve spent the better part of today making sure we have the right place.”
“How do you know this?” you asked her.
“I have seen it in the fullness of your creation. The same way I saw all those battles. And you.” Her hand went to the thing in her satchel, knuckles white as bleached bone.
“I need you to remember. Carth, my son–” she said, “I’m going to fix your mind. And mine.”
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