Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Date: 6/2/991; Time: 7th hour
The rain intensified with each passing day, but this did not stop the many opportunists gathered at New Karsi. The dream of earning a quick fortune was very enticing, but few succeeded in having it granted. However, the will of man was not so easily deterred.
Beowulf had grown accustomed to life here; he enjoyed the freedom and his clients paid well. He was making his living being a bodyguard for archaeologists excavating ruins and caves in the area. Some wealthy nobles in West Valis were funding the whole operation. He didn't really understand the value in analyzing decrepit junk, but he was not paid to ask questions.
His current client's name was Korin, a scholar from Taramis of West Valis. He was being funded by the royal museum, which was quite an honor indeed. Unbeknownst to them, Korin had hired an ex-paladin, a "traitor" to both sides of Valis, as a bodyguard.
Today, Beowulf and Korin were going to investigate a cave that was just uncovered the previous day. Beowulf ate his usual carnivorous breakfast, packed his ale, and other belongings, and left the inn he was staying at. He met Korin an hour later at the intended location, close to the center of the city.
Korin was an elderly gentleman with white hair, and brown eyes covered by spectacles. His eyes were getting dimmer with each passing day and he used a cane to walk. Nonetheless, his fascination with ancient history never waned. Nothing could impede him.
"Good morning, Sir Beowulf," said Korin cheerfully.
"Good morning to you as well, Korin. However, I am no sir. My paladin days are long gone," replied Beowulf.
"If you say so but I do sense a certain sense of chivalry in you that remains to this day," said Korin confidently.
Beowulf could only laugh at this compliment. "Let's get going," he said, as he started walking into the cave.
The two walked in the dark cave for the space of 30 minutes. Beowulf held the torch, illuminating only bats, rats, and stalagmites. They did not see anything suspicious or interesting yet. They continued down the meandering paths that branched off into several others, some even looping. It was difficult to keep track of where they were; Korin was creating a map for future visits. Eventually, they reached a dead end, at least what appeared to be one.
In front of them was a golden door encased in rock; their search had paid off. Korin exclaimed with ecstasy, "Yes! The riches of ancient Karsi lay beyond!"
Beowulf was actually quite interested himself; he pulled out a pickaxe and began to work. It would be a while before the door would be uncovered.
"Perhaps, we should get some more muscle for this," said Beowulf, as he began to sweat. He had lost some weight, but he was still lacking in energy for such work. The years did not serve him kindly.
"I'm afraid that's not possible," replied Korin with displeasure.
Beowulf already knew the answer to his own question. There was no one else that Korin could hire; Beowulf was the only one to have earned his trust. There were plenty in New Karsi that would have used the opportunity to steal everything behind the door and kill the witnesses.
Beowulf continued to dig, making some progress. "This might take a few days," he remarked.
"Very well. We'll bring better tools tomorrow," replied Korin.
They left and returned to town for the remainder of the day. Beowulf met Korin the following day, this time with better tools and a map that saved them some time. Beowulf continued to dig for three more days before they finally released the door from its earthen tomb.
"I'm done! The door can be opened!" panted Beowulf.
Korin attempted to jump up while raising his cane in the air, but ultimately failed and injured himself.
"Be careful, old man. Don't croak before you get what you came here for," chuckled Beowulf.
Korin helped himself up from off the ground, "I won't! Now, open that door for me!" he announced.
Beowulf took a deep breath and rested for a bit, before finally attempting the feat. He pushed on the door with all his might, but it wouldn't budge.
"It's not moving and I don't think it ever will. I'm no expert, but maybe it's one of those 'magical doors'? There has to be a trick to it," Beowulf said, vocalizing his musings.
"Perhaps, you are right, Beowulf! Let me take a look. I did study a bit of magic in my youth at the Golden Citadel," exclaimed Korin.
Korin went over and examined the door for several minutes, intently observing the ruin patterns and symbols. Finally, he noticed a palm-sized indentation in the middle of the door. "I think you need some sort of magical item to open it! The technology of the Karsi was impressive indeed!" Korin said as he maintained an overjoyed expression.
"It's so impressive that we can't even open it. Are you telling me I dug for all this time just so we could get a better look at the door, but never go inside?!" Beowulf stated in an irritated tone of voice.
Korin thought for a moment, examined the door once more, and said, "Beowulf, you said that this door is 'magical.' Perhaps magic is the key to the mystery," he mumbled while being deep in thought. He looked over at Beowulf, "Try channeling magic through that indentation. I don't have any better ideas right now," he said, with hope in his voice.
Beowulf walked over to the door, pulled out his arm, and channeled holy magic through it for a few seconds. There was a loud creaking sound, and the door opened up a little. The two men looked at each other in amazement. It really was a door powered by magic.
Beowulf took a deep breath and continued to channel energy through the door for a solid minute. The door had finally swung wide open, but Beowulf was completely drained of his magic.
"Hurrah!" exclaimed the old man.
The two looked on in amazement, peered beyond the door and saw what appeared to be a research laboratory, although completely trashed and covered by rocks. Beowulf grabbed his torch and ventured inside with Korin.
The old man could hardly restrain himself from jumping up and down; his expression was that of a child with candy. Beowulf set his torch in a corner of the room and started removing the rubble to get a better look at what was in front of them. This continued for about an hour, but they had a clear picture of what was in the room now.
To the left of Beowulf was a golden table with many tattered tomes on it and various pouches with herbs in them. There were also several tomes scattered throughout the room, in various states of decay. Further down, there was a bookshelf that had fallen over, also with various tomes. Even further down the corridor were several branching paths, five of which led to golden doors that were covered in rubble.
The two men had a lot to process in their minds; this was certainly a unique discovery. Even Korin, who was an expert in his field, did not know what to make of it. After staring in shock for several minutes, Korin had finally decided to speak. "The books… I need to see the books." He was shaking in excitement.
Beowulf and Korin gathered all the books together, but most had deteriorated too much and were illegible. They only salvaged ten tomes, and none had been completely preserved.
"Alas, so much knowledge all gone and never to be found again," Korin lamented. "But we must cherish what we have!" he said with joy.
"I don't mean to burst your bubble, but can you even read those tomes?" asked Beowulf in a worried tone.
Korin carefully scanned the pages of several of the tomes and replied, "Yes… I think I can! They are in Old Karsi, so it will be difficult and take time. I will need my lexicon with me."
Beowulf said, "Good, let's go then. I'm burned out from all the work I've done today."
"What about the golden doors?!" exclaimed Korin.
"Those can wait… we have enough to work with as it is," replied Beowulf, who was already slightly annoyed.
The two took the tomes, packed their belongings, and exited out of the cave. It was finally time to go home. Korin stayed up all night with his lexicon, translating the tomes into Thorian. He couldn't stop; there was a gold mine of information waiting to be discovered.
Beowulf got up early in the morning and went to Korin's room at the inn to find out if he had found anything noteworthy. He opened the door and saw Korin furiously transcribing what he was reading. Korin was entranced by the knowledge of Ancient Karsi.
Beowulf beckoned to him, "Korin, did you find anything?"
Korin turned around with a creepy smile on his face and announced loudly "Yes! It's marvelous! The find of the century!"
Beowulf looked around and saw that no one was nearby, went inside and closed the door. "You need to keep this a secret for now. We can't let the people living here know. What have you found out?" whispered Beowulf.
Korin replied, "I'll read you some excerpts:"
"1/7/473, Over the past year, I've tried various metals to store the energy of Ethos' light, but they have all failed thus far. They call me a mad man, but I will succeed."
"5/27/473, After extensive research, I believe that I have found the perfect material to absorb the light's energy: Karsite. It was right in front of my eyes the whole time! The very material that gives us wealth is the key to an even greater power!"
"7/29/473, I have perfected my "Light Channeler" machine. It can gather immense amounts of light and channel it onto the karsite. I pray my experiment works."
"8/3/473, It's a success! The karsite has a golden hue now! I'm going to call it a "Topaz". I need to continue creating more stones and look for variations in my data."
"9/8/473, The karsite created this month has a green-tinge! This "Emerald" was created from the power of the wind that Ethos supplies. It is just as I surmised; the seasons impact the type of stone!"
"6/29/474, I have all six types of stones accessible to me now. It is time for the 2nd phase of my project, "The Golden Doors". It's a device that can harness the power of mana and power our village!"
Beowulf looked at Korin with his one eye wide open. "Did he just say golden doors?" he said
"Yes! We have stumbled upon ancient technology more advanced than what we have today! This could be used to benefit mankind!" said Korin, overjoyed at the thought of such future outcomes.
Beowulf had reservations about the use of this technology. The stones seemed vaguely familiar to him, almost evil even. However, he did not know what to make of it, but knew it was best to leave the tomes, stones and all such technological power alone. On the other hand, Beowulf was certainly curious; he wanted to explore the caves and see it all with his own eyes. He needed to know where this path leads.
The ex-paladin said after much deliberation, "Let's get going then." Korin nodded in agreement with the idea. The two met at the cave an hour later and walked to the five golden doors.
"Let's get started," said Beowulf. He worked for a while and uncovered one of the doors. He stared at it, puzzled. "According to your books, this door is actually a power source? How does that even work?" he remarked with confusion shown on his face.
Korin walked over and put his hand on the indentation in the center. "It's here! This is where the karsite stone goes!" he proclaimed ecstatically.
"At least that's a start. We don't have any stones though so we'll never find out the full extent of its power. But it does respond to magic. I'll try opening it again," said Beowulf as he pulled out both arms this time and began channeling magical energy. A minute passed, but the door didn't budge. Beowulf put down his arms and looked surprised.
Korin looked over at Beowulf, and said in a somber tone, "It is as I thought, there are six doors, one for each element. We were fortunate to have stumbled upon the door of light, the only one you could have opened. The other five will have to remain closed for now."
"How about you Korin? Know any magic?" said Beowulf.
"I trained in Wind magic, but I doubt my powers are strong enough to fully open that door. One must have skills of a rather high level to get these doors to open. They are designed to ward off thieves and random passersby. It begs the question: How did you get so strong, Beowulf?" replied Korin, looking at Beowulf with admiration.
Beowulf chuckled and said, "I had good teachers; you should thank them."
Korin laughed and replied, "So, how are we going to open these doors? Do you know any powerful magic users that could help us?"
Beowulf replied, "None that are around these parts and we certainly can't trust the locals with something this important."
"Do we really have a choice?" asked Korin.
"Yes...we do have a choice," stated Beowulf. He continued, "What lies beyond those doors may cause more harm than good and I have seen such tragedies play out in the past. This leads me to an important matter I must address: are you going to give those tomes over to the Royal Library for further study?" Beowulf looked at Korin cautiously and with suspicion.
"Of course, think of all the good that can be done if the contents are translated. Humanity can relive those days of glory!" Korin said with great gusto.
"Days of glory? How do you know they were glorious? Ancient Karsi is gone; wiped off the map. Why? Can you be certain it wasn't those stones that toppled Karsi? Can you be certain West Valis will not meet the same fate?" Beowulf replied, interrogating Korin.
"There has been much speculation regarding the causes of Karsi's demise," remarked Korin sheepishly.
"Exactly. Doesn't this all sound suspicious? If they were so magnificent, why are they relics of the past today? Something happened in this city 500 years ago, maybe even in this very room we stand in," said Beowulf, theorizing.
"We may never know unless I translate these books," said Korin in a humble tone.
"Very well. Translate those tomes. Find out the truth and if the truth is evil, burn them, so no city meets the same fate. Those nobles in Taramis that are funding you are up to something. I don't like it. They know something about this place that we don't," Beowulf said, firing off every thought that came to mind.
Beowulf took his sword and shook it at Korin. "The tomes must never fall into the hands of the monarchy. If you cannot promise me this right now, then I will take them and burn them and if you lie to me, then I will hunt you down. My allegiance is not with West Valis; it is with all the realms of men. I will slay evil whenever it catches my gaze," said Beowulf, glaring at Korin.
Korin was taken aback by such fierce words and could only hesitantly nod in agreement in response to the threat. They both left the room and walked back in silence, deep in thought the whole time.
Beowulf and Korin walked their separate ways upon exiting the cave. Korin continued his work back at the inn, being very meticulous in his translation of the tomes. Meanwhile, Beowulf found other jobs to keep him occupied while paying a visit to Korin periodically to check up on him.
They managed to keep the tomes hidden, but they could not hide an entire cave from the eyes of the locals. It was only a matter of time before people started asking questions.