Achara, Ghing, and Katima stared a Jorn lying in the ravine then glared at Camon. Camon tossed his sword aside and went and knelt at Jorn’s side. He rolled Jorn over and checked his vitals. He felt breath come from Jorn and sighed with relief. He propped up Jorn on his leg. He then reached into his pocket and removed a blue stone and started chanting over Jorn. Jorn’s eyes twitched a little bit, then they shot open, and he coughed up blood, then gasped for air as Camon continued to chant for a moment longer. Camon then stopped.
Jorn sat up and looked around, “What happened?”
“Yeah, what happened?” Achara scorned looking at Camon.
“Hard to say, but I unleashed you,” Camon said to Jorn.
“Unleashed me? Unleashed me from what?” Jorn enquired
“You did all this,” Camon said, pointing down the ravine. The bodies of the creatures all lay motionless. The smoke and the smell of burnt flesh permeated the atmosphere about them.
“I did that?” Jorn said. “How?”
“Well, it wasn’t exactly you, rather something that is inside of you that has laid dormant for quite some time.”
“I don’t understand,” Jorn exclaimed.
“Neither did I until yesterday. When I was probing for this place, I also noticed something odd. I noticed a presence that I had seen before but didn’t know what to make of it. And when I realized that it was with me, I knew it was you, more specifically, something inside you. It was the presence of magic, not unlike what is bound up in this place. Tell me, have you ever been captured, or are you aware of any time in your life when something was done to you that seemed odd?”
“I don’t recall,” Jorn recollected. “But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
“Because someone or something has imbued you with some kind of enchantment. It’s dreadfully powerful magic, perhaps even more powerful than my own.”
“Magic? Enchantments? But how?”
“That’s what I would like to know, but it was done in a way that either you don’t recall, or it’s something you’ve been hiding from us.”
“I swear on my mother’s grave that I had no idea.”
“Achara?” Camon asked. Achara closed her eyes for a few seconds.
“There’s no deceit in him,” she said.
“Wait? She can read minds?” Ghing gasped.
“Not exactly,” Achara said. “I can read intent. I can tell if somebody is lying or not.”
“I can only imagine that it was imbued on you either long before you met us or by the one who hired you to kill me,” Camon said.
“He was hired to kill you?” Ghing exclaimed.
“Yes,” Camon said.
“You need to tell us the whole story,” Ghing entreated. “And he did try to kill you at the end of his rampage.”
“That’s a good point,” Camon noted.
“How did you awaken this magic?” Achara asked.
“To Ghing’s point, I used my magic, more specifically, my more offensive magic on Jorn, and it triggered it. Once Jorn was out of danger, he attacked me, but the healing magic seemed not to affect it,” Camon surmised.
“So, the one who was behind the assassination was expecting you to use your magic on me, which would, in turn, cause me to go ballistic on you,” Jorn summarized.
“It’s a reasonable theory,” Camon said.
“But how did you know what it would do?” Jorn asked.
“I didn’t. It was a risk I knew I had to take, though. All I knew was that whatever was bottled up inside of you was something incredibly powerful and that when unleashed, would wreak havoc.”
Jorn looked shocked, “I could have killed you and everyone else too.”
“There was no other way. There were simply too many of those things, even for me. It was either unleash you or die trying to fight our way out of this. It was exactly as I feared. But this turn of events reveals something about the perpetrator.” He stood and extended his hand to Jorn and helped him to his feet.
“What has been revealed then?” Achara asked.
“Whatever magic is behind this is elven,” Camon said, stroking his chin.
Achara contorted her face, “How so?”
“Back in Rahtneua, when I talked to Behar, he showed me an elven coin in origin. The description of the man, however, was not elven. I suspect that was an agent who was paid in elven coin. That was the first clue. It was the same man that hired Jorn. Well, at least the description matched. But I suspect that before they unleashed Jorn, they imbued him with this enchantment to kill me even though Jorn had no idea that they did it. They want you alive, and they want me dead, but the enchantment itself wreaks of elven origin. I know of no human, past or present, that could do such a thing. With notable exceptions, human magic focuses on short-term outcomes, while elven magic focuses on long-term enchantments.”
A concerned look came to Jorn’s face, “Is this going to harm me?”
“I doubt it. It would have probably killed you by now if it was going to harm you,” Camon suggested.
“So, my next question then is, can it be changed to something that I could use or control?”
Camon stroked his chin, then raised his eyebrows. “That, I don’t know. But now that we’re aware of it, I do believe it might be possible. It’s a part of you now, just like the magic in this place is a part of it.”
“Bout that. What are those things?” Katima asked.
Camon breathed deep, then exhaled, “Those…are undead.”
“Undead what?” Katima asked.
“There is no ‘what’ when it comes to undead. Undead are the reanimated remains of creatures that were once alive. They are neither living nor dead. Magic can’t bring back the dead, but it can be used to animate things that resemble the living.”
“How is that possible?” Achara asked.
“Again, more elven magic at play. Except this magic would be even more ancient than the magic in this place.”
“You mean the old myths from creation,” Ghing said. “I know this story.”
“Go ahead. Tell it,” Camon urged.
“Well, there’s an old myth from before the Time of Legend, as we like to call it, that talks about a great war between the orcs and elves before the creation of humans. As it goes, the elves were losing the war badly and were on the brink of utter ruin. So, they cursed the earth with a powerful enchantment to call on the dead to rise and fight in a desperate move. The dead did rise to fight as undead. The enchantment worked…too well perhaps. The elves thought they could control the undead, but they were mistaken. But neither could the orcs because undead can have no masters. The orcs had to turn their attention to fighting the undead, which did save the elves from ruin. The undead did overwhelm the orcs, and they were defeated. This forced the orcs to retreat deep underground to hold out like the elves had been doing in their city. But the defeat of the orcs by the undead did not put an end to the undead. Instead, they turned on each other. The war of the undead ravaged the earth for a millennium or more. The elves were held up in a single city, unable to leave and the orcs underground. Eventually, the curse faded, and the world returned to its natural state, allowing the elves and orcs to return to the world from hiding.
Consequentially though places where magic is strong like it is here, the curse can still be dredged up from the ancient past and reanimate the dead.”
Camon then added, “Undead take on a human-like form, but retain some of the essences of what was animated. I am guessing these were all once birds that fell in this place. Other animals likely don’t set foot on this ground here.”
“What were they protecting here?” Jorn asked. “You mentioned that they were guarding something during the battle.”
“My guess? The magic in this place. It’s centered in this ravine somewhere. Undead are creatures of magic, and therefore need magic to survive like demons do. The main difference is that demons are living things, unlike the undead.”
“And if we can find this center, that might prove the legend is true,” Ghing stated.
“Exactly,” Camon said.
“So how do we do that,” Jorn asked.
“By scrying,” Camon said.
“Crying?” Jorn said
“No, scrying. We can use magic to pinpoint other magical things over an area. I can do it, but it’s crude. I’m probably accurate to within a yard or so over small areas. Expert practitioners can do it across entire continents. Let me show you.” Camon took the stones out of his pocket. He had five left. He paced off an area from the north end of the ravine to the south end of the ravine, placing four stones along the way evenly spaced. He then took out his notebook, drew a rough sketch of the area, and put dots on the page roughly correlating to each of the stones. He then climbed out of the ravine along with the others and paced off a distance, and he placed a dot on the sketch, roughly indicating where they were standing. Next, he sat down on the ground cross-legged, and he took the remaining stone in his left hand. He then held his quill in his right hand over the paper and then closed his eyes. He whispered words nobody could understand, moving his right hand left to right over the page. He repeated this several times, and then he started drawing X’s on the page with his eyes closed. He then stopped whispering, and he opened his eyes. “X marks the spot. These are the places where we should probably turn over the ground and see what is down there.”
“You should teach that trick to the archaeologists at the university and save them a lot of time,” Ghing said.
“It’s not that simple,” Camon said. “And it only works for finding items that have magical properties about them. Given that the battle in question was between elves and humans against orcs and demons, there should be some leftover artifacts from orcs and elves. They imbue magic into weapons and armor when they are forged to keep them from corroding, among many other things.”
“I see,” Ghing said. “Let’s get digging.”
“We’ll have to remove the corpses of the undead for some of these, though,” Camon said.
“Nothing like a fresh battle site that becomes an archaeological dig in the same day,” Ghing commented.
The party went back to the ravine and paced off where Camon had put the X’s relative to the stones he had placed and placed markers. They then started removing the corpses and using whatever they had to dig with: swords, knives, rocks, and sticks. At the first site, they dug down a few inches and uncovered a large chunk of dark metal. They dug down about two feet into the ground at the second site and uncovered an almost perfectly preserved scimitar with a gold hilt and a silvery blade. It was still sharp, with only minor scuffs on the gold. They barely had to turn over any dirt at the third spot until they started uncovering shards of earthenware. They rummaged around the area for a time and found several more pieces. They were able to piece them together enough to deduce that they had found some kind of vase. The last place they dug took the longest. About three feet under the dirt, they uncovered a plain gold circlet that was pretty scuffed up.
Camon and Ghing both examined each of the artifacts closely. “It’s too early to draw conclusions, but I can tell you that the scimitar is of elven origin and that the chunk of metal is orcish in origin, probably orcish armor of some kind. The vase and circlet, I’m not sure about.” Camon said.
“The archaeologist at the university should be able to help provide insight there,” Ghing said. “But based on what we do know, you can say that there was a battle here. Orcs, elves, and powerful magic were all present. If that’s not proof enough for the story, then I don’t know what is.”
“The scimitar should be inscribed,” Camon said. “Elven blades usually are. The language is probably older than anything I can read.”
Ghing examined the blade more closely, “You’re right, he said. It’s tiny, but there is an inscription amid the carvings on the hilt. Prawadi can probably read it.”
“Analysis of the writing and the carvings should be able to date it, and maybe learn who possessed that blade. If the annals contain any mention of the blade’s owner, it would certainly peg this blade to actual history.”
“This is the find of a lifetime!” Ghing shrilled. “You don’t realize what this means.”
“Yes, I do,” Camon exclaimed. “Altogether too well. For you and me. For all of us, for that matter. I’ve been chasing this confirmation and these revelations now for almost a year. Much has been brought to light today because of today’s battle and discovery. I am sure that your colleagues at the university will be able to learn much more from it than what I can say about it here, but all this marks a major milestone in my search for answers.”
“Answers about what?” Ghing asked.
“The whole story now,” Camon said. He retold everything in its detail to Ghing and the others telling about the demon, Ratana, Rune, The Inquisitors, there escape sojourn at the monastery, the journey west through the Gypsies domain, the incident with Jorn at West Watch coming to the library, the battle with the amphiptere, Achara’s rescue, the discovery of the legend, the Heavenly Way, the rescue of the Gypsy girls and the journey to Rahttaay. “It’s all on the table now.”
“One thing remains. We still haven’t found the center of the magic, though,” Achara noted.
“I was saving that,” Camon said.
“Last,” Camon remarked. He walked over to an ordinary-looking tree growing into the ravine’s side with several of its roots exposed. He ducked down and looked under the roots of the tree, clearing away dirt and debris. After some time, he found something, and he gently removed it. He brushed off the dirt and debris from it and revealed a perfectly preserved, plain, steel dagger with a broken tip. The hilt was barely enough for Camon’s hand to wrap around, and the blade was not much more than four inches long.
“A plain dagger? That’s the center of the magic here?” Achara said.
“This little dagger is the blade that the girl used to slay the demon lord if I had to guess. All her power was channeled through this little knife. It destroyed the demon and shaped everything you see around here. It changed the course of human history.”
“How can you be so sure?” Achara asked.
Camon smirked and cocked his head towards Jorn, “Because that is exactly what the legend says happened.”