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 are in the service to the Warlord’s clan in his mission to restore order to the Realm. Ask daily for your payments. You travel with a woman named Anthea. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.
* * *
I’m ashamed of you, Carth. You’re supposed to read this every day. Do you know how long it’s been since Sanctum? Can you even imagine the breadth of what you’ve done these past few days?
I suppose you’ll find out soon enough.
Be careful as you wake. First, because the roots and rocks you lie upon are as comfortable as a bed of knuckles, and second, because the roots and rock you lie upon are a valley.
There was trouble, you see. I don’t have time to explain it. I write this by the moonlight as I watch soldiers from the north splash through the shallows in the gorge below, torchlight casting flickering orange islands about them. They wear bronze breastplates and hold iron spears. But you must be careful if you wish to confront them. They’ve got a short sword and their shields are twice as wide as a man’s chest.
There will be a woman with you when you wake. She is smothered in linen laced with cloth-of-gold, and she has amber-colored eyes. Do not be afraid of her. She is a friend.
She helped you last night, as you listened intently to the northern soldiers arguing below. The gorge carried their voices as they splashed through. “Less noise, winesops!” their leader shouted. “We’re not looking for a deaf man.”
“Why are we looking for him, ser?” you heard another ask. “It’s late, and the soldiers miss their featherbeds.”
“Our city has their allies,” their leader told his soldiers. “And if we do not wish to be ransacked, we will come to their aid when someone steals a holy relic.”
Even I do not profess to know what holy relic you stole, Carth. If any. I’ve checked your satchel, but the only thing in there is your index.
You heard someone say something like, “Doubtless miles from the border by now,” when the woman tsked at you, at when she saw she had your attention, held your eyes in her amber. She put a finger to her lips, summoning silence. You hoped there were lips under all that linen. You couldn’t tell, for a scrap of it covered all but those amber eyes. You heard her muttering to herself as she paced back and forth.
“I saw the fullness of you and couldn’t conceive it,” she said, sandaled feet whispering through the bed of grass atop the rocks. “But I will conceive it. I will remember it. I promised.”
“What did you promise?” you asked. “Who did you promise to?” Her hands went to something at her hip–for a moment you thought she was reaching for a sword. You saw a light at her hip, and realized she had her hands cupped around a bright spell dribbling between her fingers. She had her hands cupped around it, adjusting her grip to keep it from falling.
“Where did you get that?” you asked her. You’ve been asking her a lot of questions. She hasn’t answered any of them. I doubt she’ll answer any for you after you read this. “Who are you?” you tried to ask her. “How do I know you?”
“I have told you already,” she said, her voice muffled. “I will not say again.”
“What is…?” The light of the spell reflected in your pupils.
She followed your gaze to the spell she held. “It’s not the relic, if that’s what you’re asking. Just a spell I wrought from the earth in one of the Great Conflict’s battlefields.”
“What does it do?”
“This,” she said, and the spell sifted between her fingers, running rivers into the rocks below, setting every crack and crevice alike.
“I don’t understand,” you said.
She did not answer. You felt a gloved hand seized your collar as she hauled you back. You made a choking sound that the rocks themselves seemed to echo as they crackled, sparks spitting into the darkness as they ground down the length of each other, crumbling in on itself. You heard a soldier below cry out as a boulder caught him square on the chest and he crumpled beneath its weight. One by one, the orange islands winked out beneath the rock and sand and dust.
As you heard the rocks clatter to a halt their cacophony was replaced by scattered shrieks and shouts from the soldiers below as the cleft of rock crumbled, roiling in on itself and grumbling down the into the gorge, cutting a cleft into its side.
The dust settled in a gray film over your face. It choked down your lungs and your retched up your last meal (it tasted like crushed scorpions, in case you were curious)
“What was that?” you hissed, still struggling to be heard over the wails and calls for quarter, mother, and mercy below. “Why did you do that?“
She regarded you seriously. “Do you have any idea the gravity of the situation you’re under? The sheer magnitude of the crimes you have committed these past few days?” You knit your eyebrows together into a V, and her gaze seemed to soften. “You weren’t kidding yesterday,” she marveled. “You really don’t remember, do you?”
“Should I?” you asked.
“How could I have overlooked this?” You were not sure if she spoke to you. “I’ve seen how this will end. I told you how this would end. I was hasty. Foolish. I thought you were exaggerating when you said you would forget.” she opened her mouth to say more, and then her teeth came down hard on her bottom lip. “I will explain,” she told you, “in the morning. You and I have already been through a great deal together. You must rest. And heal.”
“That’s what I said, yes.”
“I can write,” you whispered. The screams sounded distant, now. In the dark you could forget the suffering below you. You hoped they deserved this (They did, Carth. You must believe me). “Just tell me who you are, at least.”
“Carth,” she told you. “I’m your Mother.”
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