A possible discourse between Mordochai and Lieutenant Nathans. This takes place on their journey toward the Frozen Gate in the northern reaches of Trias. It will appear in the volume detailing the struggle of those still on the Planet of Legends against what horrors might emerge from the Shroud.
To some he was Darkens’ the Sky, redeemed Storm Scalla from the Dusk of Dawns. To others their arch-nemesis, known only as Mordochai. Ancient dragon that he was, Darkens the Sky remembered a time before the corruption of the northern part of Trias. Now called the Northern Wastes, they remained bleak reminder of the horrors the dragons (Scalla) inflicted upon the Planet during the Second Dragon War (Dusk of Dawns).
He cast his eyes about the bleak landscape, and memories crept back to him. “Ah, I remember this land…” He fell silent, and then added. “This is my fault.”
Astride the horse next to him, Lieutenant Nathans shifted his gaze. His helmet’s plumage bobbed in the breeze. Brows lifted in surprise, the lieutenant blurted out his question. “Why do you say this, sir?”
Around them the small army clattered and jingled. Wheels groaned over the rough terrain. Scouts tested ahead to ensure a path strong enough to bear the weight of laden wagons.
“I could have stopped it. The strength of the power we generated… something so close to the Gate.” He frowned, his thick brows nestled together, the longer edges near his forehead.
The bay mare he rode snorted. Her tail lashed and her ears lay against her head. She was not pleased to carry a dragon.
Placing a steadily hand on his mount, Nathans peered at the leader of the expedition. He felt something greater settle around them, a thin mist of momentous. Though he did not understand it, the lieutenant sensed he should remain silent. This was the most the other spoke continuously in their entire journey together. He dared not interrupt Mordochai.
Several moments of silence passed between them. Ice drifts flowed across the fractured landscape. Swirls of frigid wind slithered through the thickest of cloaks.
“I am familiar with the Sunlit’s territory.” A bitter taste flooded his mouth as he spoke the word ‘Sunlit’. Mordochai continued to speak, his tone faraway as he reminisced. “As we flew across the Black Mountains I realized where we were, within the Sunlit’s realm. In those times their territory extended from the White Mountains, across the Black and to furthest reaches of northern Trias. This was before the Monteguish Moors existed. A great city port existed at the apex of the bay.”
The reason for this unburdening still unknown to Nathans, the lycanthrope listened to the dragon’s tale in rapt silence.
“Verdant fields lush with blossoms in rainbow hue, a cascade of colors that washed the hills in spring’s first splendor. Flying above it, it appeared a tapestry of blurs, painted for my pleasure. However, the reason for my mission was dark. Five dragons cast black shadows on the land that day. Gothalor and I two of those shadows. The others, the we chased - Râthamyn, the Frost Scalla known as Ages and Tsar’Lena. Gothalor meant to destroy them. The moment of realization about our location created doubt in my mind. From whence the doubt came, this thought that we should not continue our mission, I surmise it to be my knowledge of the Gate.”
Mordochai shook his head. Though his eyes saw the snow-coated lands of their journey, his gaze turned inward as his mind replayed the events of the past. “That was a bleak day for Scalla. The Tsar died that day, twice. So determined to be the Tsar of the Sunlit, Gothalor meant to achieve the title even if it meant he killed the rest of his species. Naught but a few hours prior, he took pleasure in poisoning Lena’s sire, Tsar’Gosen. Now he sought to destroy Lena. Though why he desired such a thing and why I thought it a good idea to follow him, I now wonder. His reasoning was clear to me at the time, yet his words have dulled as the years passed. So many things changed since then….”
The wagons continued to creep along the ground, the weight of the supplies and of the passengers pressed their wheels deep into the snow.
“We all knew the stories of the Shroud, of the Sunlit who gave his life to protect and guard the Gate to the Shroud. Though the exact location of the Gate was lost, all the Scalla knew it lay off the northern coast of Trias. When we flew over the Black Mountains, I knew we were close to the Gate. Why Tsar’Lena chose to fly that way, I do not know. Perhaps, one day, I shall ask.”
Finally Nathans broke his self-imposed silence. A question burned his mind. He said, “What is the Shroud, sir? Tsar’Lena spoke of it as the realm of Corruption. Can such a place exist?” Fear edged his words.
“It can, and it does. The Shroud is a realm of Corruption. Between the whispers of night, the empty moments where silence rules, exists the Shroud. Within the bowels of this place, lurk Halls of Oblivion. This place of madness, temptation and fear. It is a place that leaves a scar upon the soul. The depth of the scar….” Mordochai shook his head. “I know of only one who has returned from the Shroud.”
“Gothalor?” Even as he spoke, Nathans realized his question was rhetoric. The very real possibility of meeting the Shrouded Scalla caused him to shiver. Though a stout knight, the lieutenant was not above fear. “He is the only one who has returned.”
Mordochai did not reply.
Nathans swallowed and grit his teeth. He recalled the stories of Gothalor’s attempt to break through the Kaleidoscope Gate. So great the dragon’s presence, only his head fit through the hole between realms. “He is insane. A place like that is where Lieu… Ambassador Márinvalle and the others have gone?”
The Storm Scalla remained silent still, his dark gaze unblinking. Flecks of snow gathered in his tapered goatee. His fur-lined cloak swayed in the wind. Unlike any of the others, Mordochai was not affected by the cold. Those closest to him found a gentle swirling of warm air surrounded him and followed, if briefly, in his wake. This advantage in the freezing land might have made him popular to stand near, had it not been for the underlying sense of foreboding that also lingered around the dragon. Human he may appear in form and feature, but human he was not.
Lieutenant Nathans exhaled and rolled his shoulders back. He looked across the frozen tundra and treacherous ravines. What would the Lieute….er Ambassador do? Still new to his promotion, he sought to discern what Elias might do in any given situation, for the Kêrath was Nathans mentor, even from his childhood. He would learn everything he could, glean information from all sources prior to attacking a foe of this magnitude. Not for the first time, Nathans prayed he was worthy of a task of such epic proportions. He hoped he was ready to guard all of Trias from the Shroud, and possibly face Gothalor. “Tell me more, if you would, sir. What more do we know about our foe? About the environment?”
If Mordochai heard Nathans’ request, he did not acknowledge it. However, he did start speaking again. “Gothalor succeeded in wounding Lena. Enough to make her fall from the sky. When Gothalor felled the last of the Sunlit, the world felt it. This act so foul it wracked the fabric of the Planet and caused the same corruptive force that occurred in Gramera’ger to crack the seal surrounding the Gate.”
“What do you mean?” The lieutenant’s mouth curled at the edges as he frowned. Faint lines creased his forehead, the first tell tale signs of age. Tsar’Lena spoke to him about how the Gates were formed, counseling him on what to expect. Even her thoughts about expectations were not completely accurate. There was simply too little known about the Shroud or what lived in it.
“Whatever force or entity, if such a thing exists, creates the Gates to the Shroud from the Planet was affected that day. The deed Gothalor did earlier in the day was enough to create an entirely new Gate into the Shroud – where now the Temple of Many Colors and the so called Kaleidoscope Gate exist. I do not know exactly how the Northern Gate of Trias cracked. Perhaps in an attempt to save the Tsar, the Sunlit guardian attempted to break free of the grip time had upon him? Whatever the reason, the backlash of the Time sphere cracking washed through Trias. Everyone and everything north of the Black Mountains was affected.”
Nathans’ emerald eyes widened at the immensity of the event. At the mention of ‘Time’, a tendril of thought wandered through his mind. The majority of his attention remained affixed to Mordochai’s words. Though I know Rylian is meant to be Time, I yet have trouble with it. This same Álfr that drew us from Castle Torana will ascend to become the essence itself? A remarkable fate indeed. He felt both in awe and honored to be so blessed by Illynallah that she allowed him to participate in this journey.
Unaware of the lycanthrope’s thoughts, the dragon continued. “Upon sensing the great wave rolling toward us, I fled. I warned Ages, but the fool went back to rescue his allies. Perhaps in time, he will forgive me for not turning back. I wonder if he will call me a ‘coward’ again when next we meet…” Mordochai sighed and then snorted, a shadow of scorn passed across his features. “Too tired to use other means of escape, I flew south. Even my wings were weary. It did not matter. In the end, the wave caught me. I sensed the spiraling wash of distortion before it drown me in its vortex of power.”
Nathans shuddered again.
“Somehow, Tsar’Lena’s life was spared and she frozen in the depths of the lands, waiting her awakening. As for Trias …” He flipped his gloved hand toward the landscape, bleak and dismal. Far to the north, their destination lay trapped under years of glacial flows. “Who guards the Gate, I do not know. I know he was once a Sunlit. If he is Corrupted, I do not know. The Gate is additionally sealed with time… out of sync with Trias. If any of the crack still exists, Time may not be on our side…”