After a day of recovery, Camon went right to work in the library. He found a desk in one of the skylit rooms and went to the stacks to start his search. He started with histories. He read accounts from the east from the days before the Second Reformation and the Empire’s founding. They were mostly court annals talking about the feats of the kings of the Four Kingdoms. On top of that, he read many anthologies and summaries that attempted to reconstruct a prehistory to the Empire to align people, places, and events in a harmonious story that removed the sectarian apologies from the works. Camon found that the anthologies, though, were no less apologetic, depending on the author. Much of the history Camon had already studied, as most of this information, was widely available in the east’s libraries and was taught to students as the official history of the Empire. Camon made detailed notes in his notebook on anything that he thought might be relevant, including any mention or an allusion to an ancient event that might fit Satda’s descriptions and reference to the southeast.
Most of the histories though, did not go back as far as Camon would have liked them to. He noticed that if they did, most of the matters of anything before the First Reformation were summarized at a high level. It laid the groundwork for the events leading up to the First Reformation. The official annals of the Church began at this point, so other histories and anthologies started at this point too. They considered it to be the beginning of reliably recorded history.
Camon worked on reading histories for the better part of a week. Having gotten little useful information related to his inquiry concerning what Satda had told him, Camon switched to a less reliable topic, demonology. When Camon found the sections dealing with this topic, there were less than ten volumes on the subject, which Camon quickly went through. He discovered a lot of discrepancies in the descriptions and origins of demons. Some had attempted to create taxonomies for demons while others talked about the subject from the perspective of a Dark art. It was in the Dark arts, though, that Camon found something useful. One volume discussing demon and demon conjuration talked about how to get demons’ qualities that would be useful for one’s bidding. The book covered spells needed to get a demon and then how to breed them. Camon noted these things in his notebook.
When Camon had exhausted these resources, he had been researching for a week, and he paused to review his notes and gather his thoughts. He went to Laoren, who was tending to a garden of vegetables.
“Did you discover anything?” Laoren asked as Camon approached.
“Nothing solid,” Camon said. “The histories I’ve read were pretty much the same as the official Imperial histories, but I did learn a great deal more about demons from a source I didn’t expect. There’s a book in there written by some ‘sorcerer’ as he called himself about demons and demon conjuration. I would have dismissed it if I hadn’t already known something about this matter.”
“Do tell,” Laoren said, standing up.
“I think it’s fairly common knowledge that demons are the offspring of corruption,” he noted. “What this text was teaching, though, was more or less demon husbandry. What I didn’t know is that demons could be bred. He claims that demons could be made docile enough through magic so they could be bred or crossbred with other demons to get specific traits, much like breeding cattle. He says that demons carry some of the essences of whatever they formed from, which gives them their shape and features, but they are all the same species regardless of their origin. He then describes a process of using an elven chrysalis to fuse the essence of parent demons into what he calls a ‘protodemon.’ This is some sort of goo that was formed from some kind of corrupted algae. Once the essences are introduced into the chrysalis through a sacrificial ritual of the parent demons, the ‘protodemon’ takes on the characteristics in the way that traits are passed from one generation to the next.”
“That sounds like it could be used to make some nasty creatures,” Laoren said.
“It might explain how the demon I encountered was made, but it doesn’t answer anything about who did it or why,” Camon said.
“The girl it corrupted – you said she was a seer, and she was pregnant?” Laoren asked.
“Yes,” Camon replied.
“Yet the entire time, Achara was with you when you tracked it, so it follows that it wasn’t after her because she was a seer.”
“I’ve been over that in my head a thousand times since I learned that Ratana was a seer,” Camon rebutted. “It could be because she was pregnant and a seer, or maybe it was something unique about her pregnancy. I don’t know.”
“What did Satda say?” Laoren asked.
“It’s hard to remember everything,” Camon said. “He rambled on about prophecy being in the past. That’s why I was reading through the histories looking for clues. But I’ve found nothing.”
“Maybe it’s not the histories that we’re accustomed to,” Laoren said. “Satda had a way of seeing history not has a historian records it, rather as a storyteller would express it.”
“Storyteller?” Camon asked.
“Satda went on and on about prophecy, correct?” Laoren pressed.
“Yes,” Camon said. “And a lot of other things about knowledge giving way to understanding. He encouraged me to know before I understood, which is what I’m trying to do.”
“But what else did he tell you?” Laoren asked.
“Well, he did show me two artifacts,” Camon recalled. “One was a piece of orcish armor, and the other was an ancient elven dagger.”
“What was the purpose of this?” Laoren asked.
“It was an object lesson, I think. I didn’t recognize the orcish armor because I’d never seen a piece of it before or even read about its description. But I immediately recognized the elven dagger because I’ve seen these many times. But then he asked me to take a closer look, and that’s when I realized it was older than I originally thought. He said it was because my existing knowledge blinded me to what I didn’t see. He basically told me to slow down and examine things with an open mind as if I had never done so before. That’s why I’ve been reading the histories again and from sources I’ve never used before.”
“Was there not something else?” Laoren asked.
Camon thought for a moment, “There was something he said about the orcish armor. I don’t recall the details, but I told him I didn’t know when or where it was until he told me so. When he did, I said that the histories from before the First Reformation were unreliable. But his point was that old doesn’t imply unreliable. But that’s the problem – the histories don’t go back that far because the conventional wisdom is that anything before that time is generally unknown or legendary.”
“So, it would seem to me then,” Laoren said, “you’ve been looking in the wrong place.”
“I don’t follow,” Camon said.
“You said it was unknown or legendary, right?”
“Well, if it is unknown, then you are not going to find anything there,” Laoren remarked. “But if it is legendary, then perhaps you need to look at legends instead.”
“Legends?” Camon asked incredulously.
“How much stuff did you read about orcs in the annals of history?” Laoren asked.
“Nothing,” Camon said.
“Yet you held in your hand a piece of orcish armor. While the histories say nothing of orcs, I think you will find that legend’s stories do.”
“But what does this have to do with storytelling?”
“A historian tries to present history as a series of events and talk about the people and places as a matter of fact,” Laoren explained. “A storyteller presents history as a story to teach us something from the past. Facts in this mode are secondary to the principles and may even be embellished for the sake of dramatic presentation or suspense.”
“How do you separate embellishments from what actually happened then?” Camon asked.
“That’s not what you’re looking for,” Laoren said. “You’re looking for something that resonates with your difficulty. The motifs, characters, and events are the things you are looking for.”
“I’ve never studied mythology before,” Camon said. “I’m not even sure where to start.”
“Pick up a primer,” Laoren said. “We have plenty of them. Come. I’ll show you where.” Laoren led Camon from the garden back through the tunnels into the stacks to another room entirely away from the histories that Camon had been reading. He found a book and handed it to him, “When the Empire was purging the libraries, books that spoke to the world’s fantastic nature were some of the many books stricken, especially legends. Fortunately, many of those books ended up here.”
“There are as many books on legends as there are on history here!” Camon exclaimed, gazing at the shelves.
“Not everything labeled ‘legend’ should be seen through the conventional wisdom on the matter,” Laoren said. “I think you’ll also find a lot of ‘history’ here as well. Try to see it as Satda did.”
Camon took a deep breath and held it in for a while, then exhaled. “Where do I start?” he asked.
Laoren ran his hand over the shelves and stopped on a massive tome, “Ah, here we go.” He pulled it off the shelf and handed it to Camon. It was a hardbound book with an ornate silk cover with a red and gold pattern on it. Camon opened the book and found it was hand etched and colorful. “This one is an anthology. It contains many of the folk stories from the early kingdoms before the First Reformation, and many I think you will find similar to the ones we tell our children, with slight cultural variations, of course. I think you will enjoy it.”
“It looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. But when have I ever been one not to want to read a good book?”
“That’s more like you. Good luck.”
“Thanks,” he said. Camon took the book back to his table and started reading the anthology. It started with creation myths about the world then went into how the elves and orcs came to be. He then read about some of the great battles and ancient struggles between the elves and orcs. He was eager to write down notes about this, recalling that Satda had said something about battles between orcs and elves. Even so, the stories had great details naming the heroes and villains and talked about geography and events. After reading about the creation myths of elves and orcs, he read about how man came to be an offshoot of the elves. They had shorter lives but were given the “gift of men,” which, according to the stories, was freewill and the ability to love. This reading took up the rest of Camon’s day, and he was well into the next day when he finally finished these stories.
He continued reading about the exploits of men. The book had many stories and epics of ancient heroes going on adventures facing challenges, and performing superhuman feats. The motifs struck a chord within him. He almost laughed at himself when he thought about how often people thought of him when they learned that he was a Paladin. He continued reading these accounts for the remainder of the day, and some of them started to sound familiar to him in regards to the hero stories he had been told about Imperial legends. He surmised that the Empire had appropriated the legends to their own ends, replacing the kings with emperors and the heroes with Imperial generals. But all in all, the plot elements were all there.
The next morning, he was nearing the end of the book when he read a story that made him stand straight up in his chair. He grabbed the book and ran back to the stacks and started pulling books off the shelf, finding any version of the story he could find. If he found one, he added it to a stack of books. When the stack had reached a dozen books in height, he carried them back to his table and went back for more. By the time his search was done, he had almost fifty books on the table. He spent the next two days combing over the books. As he read the story from each one of the books in their own telling, he wrote down the details of each and crafted a narrative of common elements, making notes of the differences. By midafternoon on the second day, Laoren stopped by the table to check in on his work and was wide-eyed at the sprawl of books Camon had on the table. “Apparently, something got your attention.”
“Yes, I think I found what Satda was trying to tell me!” Camon declared. “And so I’ve tried to read it in as many accounts as I can find, and there were many.”
“So, what did you find?” Laoren asked.
Camon explained the story, “It’s the last legendary battle between demonic forces and humans and elves. The story tells of how the battle was going badly for the elves and humans as they fought against endless hordes of demons. In the act of desperation, a young human girl confronted their leader, who was born of a woman but is described as being a sentient demon. The young girl, seemingly unintimidating, made her way through the battle lines. When she came to the lord, she unleashed a torrent of magic that twisted the lord’s essence into a mishappen creature that devoured itself and everything around it. With their leader destroyed, the demon hoards turned on each other, and the humans and elves withdrew as the demonic forces consumed one another and scattered. The girl was celebrated as a hero. It supposedly was the battle that marked a turning point in history when the elves decided that humans had matured enough to govern themselves.”
“So, how does this help you?” Laoren asked.
“The sentient demon, that is the demon lord is what I think this is all about. I never considered it a possibility because I’d never heard of a sentient demon before. The demon that hunted Ratana was looking for a host to create a demon lord by corrupting a human who would then give birth to a demon of human origin. If the demon takes on the essence of its corrupted parent, then it follows that a demon from a human host could be sentient as well. Such a demon was never mentioned in any of the works on demons I read, but it makes sense. All accounts that I have read describe this creature as having the power to control massive hordes of demons too. I think this is important because this would be a seer’s trait that would be passed as part of the parent’s essence.”
Camon continued, “The prophetic voice of this all is what Satda was getting at. His basic premise behind prophecy boils down to if it has happened before, then it can happen again. It may not happen in the exact same way, but the events building up to the battle could produce another such demon. I think this is what the one behind the demon is trying to do and that what happened in Neuasut was no random event. The demon there was bred with the express purpose of finding one who could birth such a potential creature as a demon lord, and Ratana fit the bill. She is a naturally gifted seer who was pregnant at the time of the attack. Whoever bred that demon wants to do something malevolent on such a scale that I don’t think the world is ready for…”
Laoren clapped, “Well done, bravo…”