I would confidently say that I’m not someone easily surprised. The past few days have proven me wrong and today was no different.
Having barely an hour to pack my belongings as soon as I was released from confinement, I only managed to grab the bare essentials and my travel cloak before running down to the lab to grab the crystal sample. Meeting Garrick by the main lobby, I was introduced to my companion from the Spellblade Order.
Slender with a well built figure, with hands on her hips, she stood tall and proud in her purple and gold travel cloak and light runic armor. Twin runic blades sprouted out of scabbards on her waist, complimented by an array of pockets possibly containing magical artifacts of her own. Taking off her hood, brown hair tinged with white streaks tied loosely in a braid complimented a slightly tanned oval face. Dilated pupils framed by green irises poked out from under close-set eyes, and her thin lips were open in an unmistakable sign of surprise.
She may have white streaks in her hair, a line of small runic tattoos running down her left cheek, but otherwise was the very splitting image of her mother, Dina.
Eyes like mine stared at each other, an awkward few seconds of silence passing between us. I don’t know ho to put it, but my mind went blank at that moment. Stepping forward, she embraced me tightly; 8 years apart was a long time for a daughter to be away from her father.
Pleasantries were exchanged with Garrick, and without further ado, we set off for the Anaya town square. Turns out, it was her first time in Anaya so I took the pleasure of showing her around. From the arcane statue in the middle of town to my favorite restaurant in town, we settled in there and talked over Anayan chicken stew.
Ana left home with Dina at 16, and spent 4 years completing her studies while working to support her mother, who had contracted magiseptsis* a year after our divorce. While I moved over to Lanthara to conduct more research, she was already moving up in the world of magic as Dina’s apprentice. 3 years after she left home, Dina passed away and Ana chose to join the Spellblade Order after the funeral. Not long after that, she passed the trials and became a full-fledged Spellblade herself, her first mission being the take-down of an illegal arms smuggling ring in Yarmathia. Taking on several more assignments with her team, her last mission was the containment of the beast that caused a disaster in Surtnar, and now she’s here to accompany me on my research trip to Vanar.
I didn’t know how to properly process it all. She had been through so much, and I wasn’t there for her. I think of the letters from Dina in the first two years that I never opened due to my obsession with my work, and the stream of letters that slowly trickled to none after the second year. Had I been that selfish, refusing to reach out to my ex-wife when she needed me the most? I feel worthless, sacrificing everything that had ever loved me to achieve recognition in the pursuit of knowledge. I don’t deserve my beautiful daughter, and no matter how much I may try, a part of me will always feel guilty for ignoring my family. For the first time in a long time, I cried.
Now in a room in the inn above, I look at Ana as she sleeps. She’s so beautiful, and it feels like I’m staring at Dina again. A gentle lamp illuminates the room and I’m left alone with my thoughts. Retirement thoughts, starting over in Surtnar, maybe even opening my own research institution? Not sure how I can go about doing it, but if anything would make it possible, it would be the crystal sample in my bag. I think I’m gonna study Garrick’s scryfer, then work on a few more experiments myself. If my research proves right, and that crystal allows me to play God with matter, then it IS the key to my redemption. With it, I will make the greatest scientific and magical breakthrough the world has ever seen, and finally have a chance make amends with the family that I left behind.
Sleep can wait.
Study notes from Garrick’s scryfer (Historical)
- The history of magic has been a poorly documented one. Humans have learnt how to wield magic by the end of the third age, and with the present day being the fourth age, we as a species are still relatively young to magic.
- As far as the first documented use of magic goes, a nomadic people from Surtnar were the first to demonstrate some form of control over magic. The first magic users may have originated in the aftermath of the Sundering**, but the records are sketchy at best.
- With the rise of the Magyron Empire in south-east Surtnar towards the end of the Third Age, the rate of development of magic was at an all-time high, albeit unchecked. The rampant use of unchecked magic led to conflict with the other nations in east; Surtnar, Zuerta, and Tianzeia as they sought to dominate their neighbors. An internal power struggle between the mages coincided with an attempted coup resulted in a masssive civil war between the dictatorship and those who opposed them in the Magryon Empire.
- The civil war, combined with the war against Surtnar and Zuerta, resulted in the downfall of the Magryon Empire. Facing two foes and fighting on the inside, the Magryon Empire shrunk to a quarter of what it was, and eventually being driven towards Mount Minomato***. Before the combined forces of Surtnar, Tianzeia, and Zuerta could approach them to negotiate surrender terms with the Magryon dictatorship, the rebels struck first, resulting in the destruction of Mount Minomato and the last of the Magryon dictatorship.
- In the aftermath of the Magryon war, the mages of Surtnar, Tianzeia and Zuerta banded together and formed the Grand Council of Mages, a governing body to make sure that magic does not run unchecked. Following that, elite mage-warriors from Tianzeia and Zuerta banded together to form the Spellblade Order under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Council.
- Where the Grand Council oversees the use of magic throughout the world and research on the latest developments, the Spellblade Order acts as a neutral, independent faction in itself until the time the Grand Council has need of their services. Both are based in Deka, and are their own sovereign city state in the Confederacy of Surtnar, but are minimally involved in politics.
- Despite being 45 years old, some of the notable feats of the Spellblade Order include diplomatic/humanitarian efforts in the north of Yarmathia and Jalantis, and assassination of arcane terrorist Rava the Shifter****. Their most recent endeavor was the imprisonment of a mysterious beast that broke free and wrecked havoc in western Surtnar, and according to official sources the best is currently under study in Deka.
- The last I heard of the Spellblade Order, they were leading humanitarian efforts in the free lands of Midnor, who happen to be caught in between the warring nations of Vanar and Zuerta.
*Magiseptsis: According to Ana, magiseptsis is also known as ‘Mage’s bane’ in the magic community. It is an extremely rare, incurable disease that attacks the nervous system of a mage, causing excruciating pain whenever they move or cast a spell. Symptoms include fatigue, mana (the mage’s word for energy) burns, extreme fatigue, brittle bones, nausea, vomiting, muscle atrophy, and eventual paralysis in the long run. As far as patients are concerned, there is no known cause and cure for magiseptsis, and treatment only delays the inevitable. The fact that Dina lived for up to two years with magiseptsis is nothing short of miraculous, as normal patients tend to die within a year when diagnosed.
**The Sundering: A cataclysm of unparalleled proportions that tore the continent of Surtnar in half. While records of that time are few and far between, the results of the Sundering can be seen on maps today. The scar left on the world is a massive, continent-wide chasm that supposedly leads into the heart of Evryn known as the Rift, but no one knows for sure. What is known for sure is that the plant life surrounding the edges of the Rift have demonstrated quasi-magical properties, and the area is a well-known mining powerhouse, producing some of the strongest metals the world has seen.
***Mount Minomato: A small mountain that used to exist towards the east of Surtnar and north of where Zuerta is today. The fall of the Magryon empire caused the destruction of the mountain, and today the main bastion of the Zuertan empire rests on top of where the mountain used to be.
****Rava the Shifter: An arcane terrorist that came to power 10 years ago. A former member of the Grand Council of Mages, he left the council and began his acts of terror across Evryn, most notably liquification of entire populations by napalm to prove a point. His claim was that the Grand Council was corrupt and that Surtnar was being corrupted from the inside out, but no one has ever been able to prove it. He was assassinated the night before he was about to liquify the people of Deka. As his name suggests, he was an expert pyromancer, fluids expert, and shapeshifter.