One: Discovery (Malskorn Arc)
It had been three days since builders expanding the sewer network of Aeredos had uncovered a strange wall of black stone seemingly buried underneath the city. The discovery was passed up the chain of command until it found its way to Vaesilokh Ilhara, who ordered a young scholar from Veon Aevirath named Esala to take a few earth mages and crack open the wall to see what was inside.
Esala found themself standing knee deep in the musty water of the sewers while two elves channeled umber energy into the ancient bricks. It took several minutes before anything happened, but eventually purple runes began to glow brightly on the face of each brick before flickering out. The second the runes faded the bricks crumbled to dust from the onslaught of magic.
“What was that resistance?” Esala asked the mages
“Those bricks were warded, and individually as well, against anything penetrating them. The stones were older than any brick I've felt in the city.”
“At least we were able to get through, it must not have been a very strong ward.”
“They were strong once, who knows how long they have been down here. Whatever was feeding those wards must have run out a long time ago, they were barely holding on.”
“Time to find out what our ancestors were keeping down here then.” Esala stated, before tossing a faintly glowing silver ball into the dusty hole in the dark wall.
The lit sphere fell a few feet before bouncing off of a floor made of the same black bricks. It kept rolling, only lighting up a few feet around it in the dark interior of whatever structure the elves had discovered. Esala muttered a word under their breath, and the sphere suddenly grew much brighter, revealing a massive room, filled with shelves and tables. In the center of the room, a large golden cage stood, surrounding a massive hunk of green amber, inside of which the three Anaetyne could just make out a a dark shape. To the left of the cage stood a large marble statue, shaped like a person. The left have possessed what, in other races, would be called feminine features, and the right half possessed masculine ones. The hands and feet of the statue were stained red, as if with fresh blood.
Piles of books, scrolls and loose papers were strewn about the room, and tables and glass cases contained all manner of items. Esala and the two mages walked slowly around the room, careful not to disturb anything where possible, and examined what they had found.
Amongst piles of ancient arms, armor and clothing, doubtless priceless in historical value but relatively useless in practical ways, Esala found something. Something they had read about years and years ago, while training, an artifact long since dismissed as legend.
A golden crown, shaped with nine points rising from interwoven bands of gold forming the ring base of the object, each with an empty depression shaped like a teardrop. Well, almost all empty, the point at the front of the crown held a faintly glowing violet gem, carved with a circle in the center.
Esala reached out to touch the crown, and just as their fingertips made contact with the cold metal, the violet gem burst into brilliant light.
Hours later, Esala found themselves standing in a large wooden room around a stone table, covered with maps. Also in the room where several nobles, members of the Ourandour, mages, and the Vaesilokh themself, Ilhara.
The Malskorn, still shining light, was resting on the table. Small multicolered shapes and pinpoints of light sparkled on the table, dancing across the maps.
After reading a few letters while the others in the room stood silently, Ilhara finally spoke.
“Esala, for the benefit of anyone in this room who doesn’t know, can you explain exactly what this crown is.”
Esala swallowed, and nodded.
“The Malskorn, is an ancient artifact from well before history we can be sure of. It's more legend than fact, at least until today. The legends all say that the completed crown strengthened our bond with Maltaehn (Magic), and was responsible for the strength of our mages, and the amount of them being born. Supposedly, once it was lost, our magic has been slowly waning. Less and less mages are born every year, and we cannot perform magic as powerful as we could in the past. Most of our historians thought that the crown was just a myth, an explanation from why the feats of power in our stories were so much stronger than they are now.”
One of the Ourandour spoke up, “Even though you found this crown, how do you know it is the object you think it is, are you sure it possesses the power it's does in the stories”
Esala opened their mouth to speak, but Ilhara cut them off “I can feel the energy radiating off the stone, though I’m the only Ivaehn in Anaetyr that can use the pure violet magic”
Ilhara then gestured for Esala to continue.
“Yes, the violet gem’s power would only really benefit our Vaesilokh, but if we can find the other eight gems, they should strengthen the power and frequency of our mages of the respective Stocha.”
“Why aren’t the other stones in the crown in the first place” Said a noble, sitting on a chair in the corner of the room.”
“The legends say that the crown was stolen, by a foreign theif named Guran the Bold, who separated the gems and fled, travelling around the world to hide them from us.”
“So we need to find eight gems that were supposedly hidden from us so long ago we didn't even think the whole event was real, scattered who knows how far away. Do the legends say where the theif took them, or are we just supposed to figure it out.”
Esala sighed, “We have no idea where the other gems are, we have no stories, records or anything else to even suggest where the other gems would be.”
A silence fell over the room. Looks were exchanged between Ilhara and their advisors, before the Vaesilokh opened their mouth to speak.
“Well, with no information on where to find the rest of the crown, there’s little point in wasting any..”
Esala, staring at the lights dancing across the map, suddenly realized something.
“Wait!” they interrupted, startling Ilhara.
“Look at the lights!”
Esala gestured at one of the lights, an outline of two irregular shapes in purple light. The scholar furiously started moving the maps on the table around, until they grabbed a very large map of the known bounds of Candarion. They shifted the crown until the two shaped settled on the map.
“Those lines, I knew I recognized them. Those are the old borders of Aevantyr. These lights aren’t just lights, they are a map!”
Everyone gathered around the map, and saw that indeed, the two purple shaped lined up on the landmasses that were once the extent of Aevantyr, long before it became Anaetyr. It then became apparent that the other lights projected by the crown were eight individual dots, in different colors, corresponding to each of the missing gems.
“There we have it, then” said Ilhara “The crown must know where it's missing pieces lie. And if i’m not mistaken, most of these lie in realms we have contact with. Derain, I want you to assemble a small group and take a ship from Veon Tydal, you are to acquire these gems by whatever means necessary.”
“Yes, Vaesilokh.” replied one of the Ourandor, a tall, lithe elf with a scar on their right eye, and bright blond hair.
“Oh, and take Esala with you, they found this relic, they’ll see it through.”
Esala, startled, started to speak “But Vaesilokh, im just a scholar, not a…”
“I don’t recall asking. You leave in three days. Be ready.”
Three days later, Esala apprehensively stood at the bow of the Hadakyma, the ship commandeered for this mission. Sailors milled about, and Derain was pouring over the maps. They pointed to one of the marks that had been made,
“This is where we will sail to first. This is going to be a long journey, some of these locations are very far from home, and on opposite ends of Candarion. I hope you wrapped up everything at home you needed to.”
Esala just silently stared off into the waves, the docks of Aeredos fading behind the ship as the distance grew longer.
The voyage had begun