477 Light Years beyond the Burning Eye, and 600 more past the World of Water Wisps, lies the beautiful world known to Sky Scholars as Elarra. Rich with lush forests of magnificent color, sparkling golden deserts, ancient mountains hidden within the clouds, vibrant valleys and song-inspiring meadows, Elarra is home to many magical creatures, from Great Warhorn Beasts to the smallest Thissling Fairy.
Of the many lands of Elarra, few are known, much less explored, by Humans: for, in its ageless state, Elarra itself has only been visited by one Human.
Our story begins with that Human.
Doran Biggleroot was, once upon a time, a well-respected philosopher who had devoted his entire life to the preservation of a dying element he called Magika. He believed that Magika was, in the times before Mankind, a life-force to an enchanted world: one bounding with mystery, history, and the stories that gave way to fables and fairytales known today. But where had they all gone, these roots of such wonderment and fantasy? The Unicorns and great winged serpents, the gnomes and the Sirens of the sea? He believed they vanished long, long ago when the Magika withered and went dark like an extinguished flame. Skeptics and naysayers thought him mad, but he kept true to his beliefs and his research. Finally, in 1773, Doran Biggleroot set out to prove that there had indeed been – and might still be – a secret history that time had forgotten.
Departing his duties, the old Professor made his way into the forests far from civilization and took up residence in the remnants of a decrepit tower. Many years would pass during which he took pieces of the oldest trees and harvested much from the bed on the oldest streams. He carved fragments from the oldest stones and captured vials of dust in the deepest caverns. Although a near-impossible task, as one might expect, the Professor was relentless in his pursuits. Tirelessly, he traveled in search of the most remote and pristine places; places where no footprint of Man had yet been.
As age crept up on him, Professor Biggleroot felt his first pangs of defeat. Well into his ninety-first year, having remained in a self imposed exile, he wondered, for the very first time, if all of his unwavering faith had been built on dreams. Dreams no more real than the childish stories born from them. He took all of his carved rocks and shavings of ancient trees and bits of crystal, and he wrapped them in a tattered cloth. The old well in the overgrown courtyard, just at the back of the tower, would be their resting place. There, they would disappear – just as all magic and wonderment does, when a modern man sheds his imagination, sheds his beliefs worlds his eyes cannot see, in exchange for responsibility and adulthood.
With the brisk summer breeze rustling through his bristly beard, he marched toward the well solemnly, standing only at its edge for a moment as if to hesitate. He looked upon his wrinkled and knobby hands clutching such meaningless trinkets and sighed, letting go.
Turning away, he wondered what life might have been with a family. He had abandoned all the accolades and honors as a young Professor and now he wondered if he should regret it, as any sane man would. But, for reasons even unbeknownst to himself, he didn’t.
The rumbling under his feet, like a fleet of galloping horses, stopped him in his tracks. It was not loud, not by any means, but persistent, as if the soil were humming. Suddenly, without warning, a bright light, brighter than a thousand suns, knocked him to the ground. As he sat upright and adjusted his eyes, he gasped at the radiating pillar of blue and white light shooting up from the well. It cast itself so high into the afternoon sky that he could not see its end. And, as he gazed at it, he heard a susurrus as of ocean waves, and faint pings and twings as of small wind chimes. The hair on his arms raised, and his skin tingled with an unusually comfortable sensation that made him smile. The beam of light before him dimmed only for a moment, and he believed he heard voices within, too faint for his old ears to quite make out.
Then, remarkably, the pillar seemed to turn into a substance he could only describe as half-light, half-liquid, like floating water lit from within. Ever so slightly too heavy to support itself, it erupted toward the ground in iridescent waves that came washing over the edges of the well, flattening the dry courtyard grass, rushing toward him. There was not a moment to react. Just when he thought he would be swallowed and drowned, the water instead danced like rain beads on a heavy drum. Whipped lightly now, like dandelion seeds. Catching the light now, sparking like blue diamonds. It was a soft rain of electrically charged beauty. The plants around him, once long dead, sprang to life in an instant before his eyes, and the weathered cobblestone where he lay felt smooth and clean as new. He laughed aloud as a drop alit upon his fingertip. Taking out his trusty loupe and looking closer, he saw millions of glittering shards within the drop, turning and churning almost as if they were alive, yet not disturbing the smooth dome of the drop. The luminous water was raining upon his face, and Doran didn’t care; he bellowed with glee as he felt its warmth. He had found something. Something magnificent. Something with unyielding power. Something not of this plane.
For three hours, Doran watched as the waters divided and vanished into the woods around him, woods which were no longer dark and shadowy but full of life and color. When the event seemed to pass, leaving the world changed completely, he walked to the edge of the well and leaned upon its stones, bracing himself with his hands. But as his gaze fell downward, he saw they were not his hands. They were not gnarled and bent with arthritis. There were no spots, no bulging veins and ragged nails. They were young, and their flesh was taut and pink. The hands of a young gentleman. He hadn’t been a young gentleman for over half a century.
With unexpected strength, he hoisted his weight over the wall of the now-empty well. Clinging to the now-solid stones, he descended into the abyss of blue light and haze. Motes of light surrounded him like a swirling blizzard. As he descended, the stone of the well began to look different from the stone at the surface. The strange strata, the scintillating flecks, were unlike any earthly stone he’d known – and yet they were familiar. Between the rocks there grew lush, indigo colored moss, and as he neared the bottom, he had to step with care: bold pink and blue mushrooms, dimly glowing like an aurora, sprouted from the damp floor.
When his feet touched the ground, Doran looked around the blue-lit well. The strange stones showed no erosion, and they all fit together with remarkable precision – a precision that made the interruptions all the more apparent. At regular intervals around the base of the well, other stones had been placed. None rose any higher than his ankle, and all were glowing dimly beneath a thin veil of mud. Upon each one a strange symbol was carved, evident only by the mud which had pooled in the engraved lines. Kneeling down before the nearest stone, Doran wiped the mud off with his sleeve and ran his fingers over the surface. Pulling out his trusty loupe and looking close at their strange strata and scintillating flecks, Doran realized that these rocks were not unlike the ancient ones he had traveled oceans to find. To his amazement, he could hear from each one a low and pulsating hum.
He wiped the mud from every stone, occasionally having to pick up the broken pieces of one of his relics. Doran’s heart ached in a way he couldn’t explain as he looked over their fragments, an ache of regret, or even mourning. Reverently, he placed the broken pieces beneath the glowing canopy of a sunset-hued mushroom. As he rose, he realized that the blue glow had been rising. The symbols, cleared of mud, were now welling with that luminous blue water, and the rhythmic pulsing sound churned within his head. Doran covered his mouth with his hand and looked toward the top of the well, the small circle of sky. He wondered if he should try to climb out. But, with a great lurch, the stone walls of the well began to rotate counterclockwise, stone gnashing against stone. The rune-marked stones rotated with them, flinging thin trails of glowing water into the rising breeze. Soon, they moved so quickly that the runes themselves were no longer distinguishable as anything but vivid cerulean streaks. The stones spun at impossible speed, the breeze became a gale, and Doran crouched down for balance.
Seemingly from nowhere, a thin wash of blue fluid swelled up alongside the walls and hovered into the air, forming a tall, hollow column. The fluid swirled clockwise, and as more of it arose, the column began to thicken, its inner border coming ever closer to Doran. He held his breath as the liquid wrapped itself warmly around him, swirling his hair and making every inch of his skin tingle. He choked on a gasp, then realized he felt no danger of drowning. He could breathe, and did – and laughed. “I am not afraid!” he declared.
“I am not afraid!”
And then he was gone.
To Be Continued
February 10, 2015