BEYOND THE RIFT

A SANTHARIAN MYSTERY TALE

 
The Tales of Monsonius   
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Introduction. This parable written down by the Manthrian poet Monsonius is said to be a retelling of an ancient elven tale of the Aellenrhim. Whether the events actually took place remains unclear, but the story supposedly was once used to introduce young elves to deal with the seemingly contradictory decisions that are made within the Dream that the elves say is the world. It is the story about an anomalous magical phenomenon which is discovered by dwarves deep down in the bowels of a mountain. Dwarves, elves and humans are challenged alike by the fact of its mere existence - and their interpretations on its meaning and ramifications are irreconcilable and split along racial lines. When the call for action comes, the question arises: Who will make the right choice and which one is it?

 

orth of the Bolder Forest, in a part of the mountain range the Aellenrhim elves call the Urna'cey and the men of Vardnn the Warnaka, an Erpheronian markgraven once decided to mine for ore. To this end he commissioned the help of several dozens Thrumgolz dwarves, who came all the way from the Fores to make his ambitious endeavour happen. The invitation was mainly due to the conviction of the markgraven that the Thergerim could cope best with the tough uruyantan veins these mountains were so well-known for - at any rate much better than the local men. And undoubtedly the dwarves didn't fall short of his expectations, as within months they had already created long shafts going deep down into the bowels of the earth below said mountain range.

However, the first major discovery the dwarves made one day was not ore of any kind. In the very heart of the mountain they found something fascinating, and for the dwarves themselves it was nothing less than disturbing. The Thergerim even have their own name for it: They found an AkotUozil.

When one of the younger dwarves encountered the phenomenon, he ran to the elders, and they followed him back into the shaft to see what had been uncovered. There it was: In the midst of a natural tunnel which they had accessed the other day, a bright greenish-red wall of pure magic blocked the way. When they looked at it more closely it changed its form from time to time, appeared more like a pulsating orb of light, hovering in wisp-like fashion, then bent back into a straight wall again, always shifting and turning. And while it seemed to be in harmony with the force within itself for a while, it began to violently throw weird rays at the walls of the tunnel, distorting the surroundings as if it were to swallow them anytime into its constantly changing maw. Moments later it reverted back to a display of peace and quiet.

One of the younger dwarves stood in awe, his mouth was agap, but he stretched his hand as if hypnotized towards that... thing.

 

"Keep away from the AkotUozil, son!" One of the elders grabbed the young dwarf and pulled him back immediately. "This void in the earth is malicious and not the mountain's true face. It is an opening of evil, of which our ancestors have warned us in many of their writings. Unformed and vague it is, struggling with itself, striving to turn solid, a dangerous apparition that can do no good. The AkotUozil is a wound of the world, chaos and randomness are bleeding out of it - don't go closer, it might be your certain death!"

"But is it not a creation of Trum-Baroll as well?" the young dwarf wanted to know. "Just as he created the mountains with all their treasures - the gold, the silver, all those shiny adamants and so many other beautiful gemstones? He must also have created the AkotUozil! Or hasn't he? After all it is a part of the mountain like everything else, imperfect compared to the earth, the ore, the gems and all those other treasures that lie buried therein, but still..."

"You are right of course," the elder said. "They must have sprung from the Forgelord's will in a way, no doubt about that. It might not have been Trum-Baroll's volition to create such chaotic gaping holes in the earth, but with beauty comes the ugly, and then again, by looking at the flaws comes what we recognize as perfection. However, regardless how the AkotUozil came into existence, its purpose clearly is different from all the other things He created, and this we have to accept. See the AkotUozil as a sign of warning not to venture any further into this part of the earth, even though the Forgelord's reasons may be unclear to you at this moment. Maybe they will reveal themselves to you one day."

"Look!" the young dwarf suddenly exclaimed and pointed at the tunnel behind the unwaveringly flashing phenomenon. Through the greenish-red of the magical sphere a vein of glittering minerals became visible. Indeed, now that everyone tried to ignore the AkotUozil's demeanor and focused on seeing what was on the other side, it was right there in front of everyone's eyes, impossible to miss. The vein seemed to just wait to be mined.

The young dwarf desperately threw his pickaxe to the ground. "How could Trum-Baroll put a gift like this behind an abomination like the AkotUozil, preventing His children from collecting these gems?"

The elder dwarf saw the temptingly sparkling minerals and stroked his beard, working on a thought. "The ways of the Rock-Father may appear rather strange at times," he finally answered. "Remember that sometimes He also puts us to the test to prove our convictions and unfaltering belief in Him and makes us aware that they are more important than anything else. Maybe that's what you should take away from here. But let's go now."

"And leave these inviting gems in the custody of the AkotUozil?" the younger one wailed.

"This we should do," the elder advised. "It has been tradition among our ancestors to honour the implications of Trum-Baroll's will and seal off tunnels that are infested by AkotUozilErons. In fact this might be the reason why we've come here for in the first place: to serve as the Forgelord's tool in his greater plan and make unaccessible what was never supposed to be uncovered by anyone. He chose us for this task - to contribute in completing his creation. Be thankful, my son."

Thus the issue was settled and preparations for sealing off the tunnel began that very evening. But soon afterwards something else happened that would change everything.

The dwarven workers were sitting together at the mine entrance eating their meal. The large tunnel they sat in was of course all abuzz with the topic of the day's extraordinary discovery, the AkotUozil, and how to deal with it. The consensus was that the sooner they could eliminate the phenomenon's presence from the eyes and minds, the better. Which was why some elders suggested to go right ahead with it, put in a night shift and finish the job of sealing the tunnel at the same day it had been discovered and thus please the Forgelord. Everybody nodded in agreement.

It was then when a piercing shriek echoed through the shafts, emerging from down below.

The vivid discussions ceased instantly, some dwarves froze on the spot, others jumped up, grabbed their pickaxes and headed for the origin of the sound. A sense of foreboding accompanied the miners as they hurried down the series of shafts, straight towards the tunnel where they had uncovered the AkotUozil earlier that day. Somehow everybody knew that the shriek must have come from there. Indeed it had.
The young dwarf who had discovered the evil presence of the AkotUozil was standing in the tunnel. He pointed at the glowing orb which pulsated with magical energy, spreading out to the tunnel walls, then retracting, changing colours and spewing rays in the process.

But there was more to it this time: The longer one looked into the eye of the phenomenon the clearer distinct shapes stood out against the background. They were humanoid shadow forms, two, three, maybe four people appeared to be standing right at the center of the AkotUozil's swirling embrace.

"There's someone in there!" the young dwarf exclaimed. "The AkotUozil... it must have... devoured them!"
"But no-one was in here, except you!" another dwarf exclaimed.

"I... I didn't do anything!" the young dwarf complained, fearing that he'd be made responsible.
"Who would those people be? How could this have happened? Is it possible?" more voices of arriving mine workers began to fill the tunnel. Speculation spread like a wildfire.

One of the dwarves, an earth guide, stepped closer, curiously gazing at the shapes. As the magical energies flowed within the translucent orb one could get the impression that the humanoids were actually dancing. But they could as well be just standing there, their shapes at the mercy of the orb's whim, following its twists and turns. Or were the shapes just a mere illusion?

Suddenly the earth guide shrunk back. There! Clearly one of the shapes inside the ball of light had become aware of him and approached... Yet it stopped at a certain point, unable to continue. The shape fell to its knees, even stretched a hand in the dwarfs direction - as if the figure was hoping that the dwarf would grab it and pull him out...

A curse came over the dwarf's lips as he tumbled backwards in shock. "By the UnSthommerons' holy beards! Wherever they have come from, only Trum-Baroll knows. But there are people in there," the dwarf gasped. "Either they found their way intentionally through one of these abominations and try to lure us now into opening a path for them, so that they can - who knows? - assault us, infiltrate? Or they've gotten themselves trapped in there, whatever the reason!"

Helplessness and perplexity spread over the faces of the gathered miners, even the elders looked puzzled or lost in thought, at any rate unsure how to proceed.

Finally one of the elders raised his voice and declared: "Stay back for now, my friends, as this is not a matter where to act precipitately. We respect the will of the Forgelord, yet He needs to give us time to contemplate this difficult task he is imposing on us. We'll withdraw for now to seek guidance on this test of faith. And this only the Denirim can provide."

The next day the dwarven clan priest arrived. However, the Denirim was not the only one, who had come to inspect the notorious AkotUozil. With him were representatives of the Aellenrhim elves, a scholar and his scribe to be precise, who had followed the invitation of the priest. The markgraven had also heard of the standstill in his mine in the meantime and thus a wind mage working in his service was also among the guests, along with a couple of adventurous mercenaries - this just in case the situation might get out of hand.

The Denirim and the company he had brought first listened to what his tribal brothers could tell him about the incident. But before he gave his own opinion he approached the elven scholar and asked him about his point of view.

The scholar said: "That, which you named he AkotUozil we know as the Vl'syy, or simply the Syy, 'that which breaks the Dream'. I am aware, though, that the humans don't have a proper word for the Syy, at least not the way we interpret it.

But maybe it's best described as a 'wrinkle' if you want to put it in a single word. The Syy is like a mark you can observe at people who grow older and change, become something else, until they die and are reborn. The Syy is one such a mark. Or better perhaps you might call it a 'scar' if that seems more familiar to your way of thinking: A scar changes a person, but only for a while and the person forgets the scar as it lives on - and yet that particular scar has helped to make that person what she is.

Others might say it's more like a 'pocket' - if we look at the universal side of things - a pocket, a bend in the fabric of the Dream that is dreamt by Av the One, Av the Beautiful. A bend to another place or time, a gateway some say to the unknown, even to future or past, but always a bend that folds back onto itself - it is there as it has its reason to be there, but it comes from the Dream and returns to the Dream."

"I hear you, my elven friend, and appreciate your broad scholarly view despite our differences in belief," the Denirim answered. He didn't seem quite satisfied with the approach nevertheless. "But what would you suggest that should be done now regarding the matter at hand?"

The elf looked at him surprised. "Why, nothing of course," he replied flatly to make things clearer.
"Nothing? What about those shadowy figures, these phantoms we can see moving within the magical orb? What about them? What does your belief tell you about them?"

"They are part of the Dream, like you and I," the elven scholar replied, and his scribe nodded affirmatively. "The Syy is one way of how the Dream becomes aware of what it is, renews itself. It has its reasons to be there, only it is temporary, just like aging and death are mere ephemeral states of existence of a single being. The emergences of the Syeyn are signs of change for all of us. We don't fear them, we don't welcome them, but we accept them, and thus we..."

"A fine way that is, not to get involved," a booming voice cut off the elf. The cause for the interruption was a muscular human, apparently one of the a mercenaries in the markgraven's service. He leaned on his sword while he spat out. "That won't get you anywhere in this day and age."

"I concur," the mage that stood next to him said. "Don't take this the wrong way, but we humans rarely share the same views with elves, especially not when philosophical questions are concerned, and what we've got here I consider a matter of principle."

"No offense taken," the elf said calmly. "We've come to hear everyone's opinion, aren't we? So give us your take on it if you so please!"

"Indeed," the Denirim agreed. "Go on!"

The mage approached the flashing phenomenon and pointed at what now seemed like a wobbling bubble, in which the shadowy figures reflected clearly. It looked almost as if they were listening to the discussions going on in front of them, as if they were curious about the outcome, even more so - it was as if they were waiting upon someone to decide upon their fate.

"In fact we humans do have a word for what we experience here," the mage went on. "This, my friends, as every archmage of the Ximaxian Academy will confirm to you, is a rift. It is cr'll, or magical aura, which has formed into something that allows the most unlikely things to happen in Caelereth. You have described it quite well already, elf, but you don't seem to recognize that these cracks in the fabric of existence offer the unique opportunity to pass through them to end up at another place or in another time - if you dare to make such an unbelievable experience. This here appears to be a dormant rift, as we can see through to the other side, yet our access to that unknown place is still closed. But this must be the challenge here the Gods offer us: They invite us deeper into their creation by walking those rifts if we find ways to open them in full."

"Some might have tried exactly what you suggest," the Denirim interjected. "And perhaps got trapped while doing so." He pointed at the shadowy figures.

"Well, do you know for sure?" the mercenary threw back at him. "If we're not trying to save them, we'll never know. Has anyone ever touched that thing? You're all standing there like the kyrattin bull in front of the gate, which someone dared to paint green the other day. You stand and stare and can't decide what move to make, not even if you're ever going to make a move at all." He shook his head.

"Mountains where Thergerim are commissioned for work are dwarven mountains for the time of commission. That's how the contracts are written, this is how it works," the Denirim explained, frowning at the mercenarys impatience. "The AkotUozil was found in our tunnels, so it is dwarven choosing how to handle it, and we've chosen to hear your suggestions."

The mercenary growled. "And yet when I hear you talking to the elves it's like the deaf asking the blind for advice."

"Listen..."

But the rest of the words of the Denirim drowned in a sudden crescendo of noise. There was a shaking and trembling, a whirring and droning, a buzzing and fizzling. It was accompanied by a flash of light, culminating in a final boom, sparks flying everywhere.

Pretty much everyone in the cave shrunk back and all eyes were focused now on the magical phenomenon from where wafts of smoke were rising. When the fog cleared, the AkotUozil was still there, as was the mage, who stood in front of it. While the AkotUozil appeared unchanged, with the shadowy figures still clearly visible, the mage's robe was singed and the staff in his hand was split in multiple separate parts dangling from his hand as if hit by lightning.

The mage signified with a gesture that he was fine, but the Denirim demanded an instant explanation.

"Well, someone needed to do something," the mage justified himself. "You can talk all day, but we have to try to open the gateway for a number of reasons. Ideally before that pocket closes itself and the opportunity is gone forever! For one these people might need help, maybe they indeed got trapped in there involuntarily. Or they could have tried to flee from somewhere. They might have even tried to reach us coming from another place, or time. They..."

"And if they'd intend to do us harm?" the Denirim intejected.

"What do we know? If we don't act now, we will never find out... We need to break that magic seal!" The magical orb stubbornly hummed next to him, as if defying his attempt.

"So you took it into your own hands and tried to penetrate the barrier without consulting any of us? The attempt might have killed you, or sucked you into the magical prison yourself! And us as well!" The dwarf called out. "Guards! Seize him and make sure he doesn't get another chance to put us in further danger!"

Immediately a couple of dwarves emerged from the rows of bystanders and took care of executing the order.

"Don't worry, dwarf-priest," the mage said and let the guards grab him without resisting. "I have some expertise on rifts and know it when I see one. Already I regret that I've missed opening a dormant rift on one occasion quite a while ago down in Thalambath. The rift retracted into nothingness before we could open it in full. We cannot let that opportunity elude us now. Such things happen only once every century - it's a miracle that I can witness it twice in one lifetime! But be it as it is: We need to act!"

"So why then has your attempt to open it failed now?" the Denirim wanted to know. "As you claim to be quite the expert?"

"It is heavily sealed, a time gate perhaps," the mage explained. "It needs powerful magic to counter it, even some combination with physical force I assume - and I don't have the necessary reagents at hand. But I could see to get what I need in town and with the right magical means and some strong people's help..." - he nodded towards the mercenaries - "I could try to pry..."

The Denirim interrupted him. "You humans really believe that dabbling with powerful spells that try to forcefully pry open time rifts and pass through them won't lead to even more disaster?"

"You have no understanding whatsoever of rifts," the mage shouted at the dwarf. "You only see your..."

"Enough!" the Denirim cut him off once again with a loud shout and within instances the tunnel was filled with silence.

"I don't need to hear any further. This is leading nowhere. It is clear that there needs to be some middle ground between those who don't want to act at all and those who cannot wait to do questionable experiments with the AkotUozil, which may put all our lives in danger. We've heard you both, elves and humans, and thank you for your opinions, but ultimately it is us, the dwarves, who have to decide.
Thus I recommend to the council that - based on the things we've heard and our own convictions as dwarves - we take on the challenge of the Forgelord to examine the AkotUozil and try to break through its shell, but not without considerable precautions. It is our best guess that people got trapped in it, and as long as there is a chance to free them, we'll try to accomplish just that."

Murmurs filled the tunnel.

"The human mage has proven that the AkotUozil resists when targeted, but that he himself remained unharmed - a sign that gives us hope. Therefore physical and dwarven magical means must be used cautiously in order not to further unbalance the AkotUozil, but just to try to save the ones trapped in there and then close the gate again, seal the tunnel. This will require further research and might prove to be an arduous task, and its outcome is entirely unclear. But rash and impetuous attempts we've just witnessed in order to breach the barrier are uncalled for. Until then we need to exert patience and pray that our efforts will be rewarded. We will start to contemplate our next steps within the hour."

The words of the Denirim were greeted with approval from the dwarves, only the elven sage smiled a bit, but bowed politely when his eyes met the Denirim's. The mage on the other hand cursed as he was ushered out, and one of the mercenaries murmured something about stubborn dwarves, who just put up a show, but wouldn't ever listen to good advice.

"We'll find out who is right," the Denirim said to the elven scholar as he was leaving.
The scholar bowed again as he bid his farewell and answered: "This we will. The Dream already knows the answer, but in time we'll learn as well."

How exactly the dwarves progressed to achieve their goals remained vastly unclear to the outside world, only that they tried in all seriousness over the next weeks, this was for sure.

There were rumours in town about ViijanErons, dwarven earth mages, arriving from various different clans to investigate the magical phenomenon and cast spells on it. Occasional reports of a drunken dwarf who couldn't hold his mouth shut in the local tavern, seemed to confirm that the dwarves tried physical as well as magical force, but it was to no avail. The Denirim and the elders apparently prayed all day to support those engaged with the phenomenon - no success. The AkotUozil seemed to resist all kinds of attempts like uruyant refused to be treated by a pickaxe. But the general consensus among the clan elders appeared to be based on the saying that constant dripping wears away the stone: If a method didn't work right now, it might have an impact if it was tried again and again and again and also in combination with other things that might weaken the magical shell. Some say that the procedures turned into whole rituals after a while, when all the things that the elders had thought about were exhausted and there was no other option anymore than to repeat them. But the AkotUozil wouldn't yield, and the shadowy figures remained in their magical prison.

Until that day, more than three weeks later. The dwarf who was in charge of guarding the tunnel was found lying in the shaft leading into it, unconscious. But when the miners looked into the tunnel they were in for a real surprise: The magical orb had gone altogether without leaving any trace. And at the end of the tunnel all those precious gems glittered, inaccessible until then, now just waiting to be mined.

A couple of days later the elven scholar was sitting in the Aellenrhim arboreum, reading in an ancient tome, when his scribe entered.

"Dan artanh," the scribe greeted the older elf and bowed.

"Dan artanh," the scholar replied, looking up. "Have you been in the human town, checking what I asked for?"

"Indeed, my sage, I have done so, and am here to report."

"I assume the affair in the dwarven mine has come to its conclusion?"

"Yes, it is over by now. The dwarf who guarded the tunnel and was found unconscious has recovered already, though to the displeasure of his fellow miners he cannot remember a thing. Well, and after the Syy disappeared into nothingness, the dwarves continued to work in that tunnel. They finally got access to the vein which the Syy had blocked. And now they are celebrating the breakthrough to these treasures like a victory."

The sage put his book away and poured a glass of fresh water from a jug. "So, as the guard cannot give an account... - what do the dwarves believe happened that night?"

"They say that the AkotUozil has finally yielded to their unwavering efforts of trying to free the trapped ones," the scribe explained. "They are adamant that they passed the test the Forgelord put before them and that the chimera they saw - as that's what the shadowy figures must have been according to them - were part of the test to prove their persistence. The magic all came apart in a loud explosion, they say. Of this there are at least ear witnesses, and it must have knocked the guard out."

"I see..." the sage commented with a smile, enjoying a sip of water. "Thus, in conclusion, the dwarves see themselves confirmed in the way they approached the matter. Isn't that right?"

"Yes, indeed," the scribe went on. "The Denirim told me himself that he considers everything that happened as proof, because clearly their efforts were rewarded, just as he had hoped they would be. They certainly claim to be the ones who were right."

The elven sage nodded. "Then again we elves didn't do anything, as we advised them, and the Syy folded itself back into the Dream. All without our interfering, as mysteriously as it had appeared. It seems we were right as well."

"I told that to the Denirim, sage," the scribe said. "He wanted to hear none of it."

"It would have surprised me if it were otherwise..." the scholar chuckled. But then his tone become serious again. "Say, have you asked around in the local inns as I instructed?"

The Elven Scholar

View picture in full size Picture description. The elven scholar contemplating the Dream and its consequences for the races who live it. Image drawn by Bard Judith.

"Yes, and it turned out precisely the way you suspected. The mercenaries and the mage have stayed in town until recently, there's no doubt about that. I even know for sure that the mage has tried to acquire some powerful potions and rare reagents in a Ximaxian subsidiary, but left with empty hands as the owner couldn't provide the material. He asked specifically for kaechymanthrium and echelryn. These are substances Daran gnomes are capable of making, used in risky time and space distorting experiments. The Academy by the way is considering at the moment to prohibit the selling of any of these reagents. Well, the mage might have found another source, though.

A few days back then I've lost their trace. But they left the inn they had stayed in at midday on the same day the phenomenon in the mine disappeared."

"I guess we know the rest," the sage concluded and let the thought hang in the air for a while.

The scribe looked at the elder elf and said nothing.

Eventually the scholar broke the silence and added: "The humans were right as well, wouldn't you say? They got rid of the problem and have achieved what they've come for - entering the Syy to make history."

The scribe nodded. "Yes, I guess you could say they were as right as dwarves and elves in what they did, in what they thought they had to do. Each one of us followed their beliefs and convictions."

"And thats what it is. All the races have to play their different roles in the Dream," the sage concluded. "Though we can trust that they are reconciled in the grander scheme of things. Oftentimes however we only see the differences, those things that separate us in our everyday business when we are dealing with the other races.

The sage took a deep breath, then opened his book again, intent on continuing his read which he had suspended for the talk.

"Sage?"

"Yes?" The elf looked up again, surprised that his scribe still hadn't left.

The younger elf pulled a parchment out of his pocket. "Please forgive my asking, but theres still one question that bothers me. I... I found this document on the subject of the Syeyn in the library. It has much more information on the phenomenon than you told the Denirim, and there is even debate that it perhaps might have been a part of the great 'dosa, the Everlasting Book, therefore what is written on that scroll must have some credence to it. I assume you are aware of this document."

"Yes, I am," the sage replied. "What did you learn from it?"

"Well, I found one passage especially interesting which refers to 'unusual occurences' within such a naturally formed magical orb, in particular when they appear all of a sudden, out of nowhere as if they were a reaction to something."

The sage listened intently to the words of his scribe. "Go on..."

"These shadowy figures that suddenly appeared a while after the dwarves had discovered the Syy - I think this is such a circumstance the parchment is talking about."

"And what else does the parchment say about these occurences?"

"It is somewhat cryptic, I have to admit: That their cause and end are one and the same. That their cause and end are known to terminate the Syy itself. It also says that cause and end of these occurences lie close together, in time and in space, because through them the Syy bends and folds back onto itself, as it was destined to do. Almost as if the Syy has accomplished what it was there for in the first place.

Sage, I thought long and hard about it and can't say that I have a full grasp on what the text tries to convey, but somehow when I read it, your reaction back then when you talked to the Denirim came to mind. It seems to me that you already knew the outcome beforehand. You recognized the figures inside the orb - not their faces, but who they must be."

The scribe was silent for while, then eventually answered. "There are those that have to chase their own shadows, I fear, it lies in their very nature, they are their reason and doom. It is what they are, they do what they deem to be right. You cannot alter their destiny, but you can learn to understand. What you must learn is that there's truth in every race's approach, and you shouldnt question it. Contradictory as this all may seem, it has to be that way - it is the way the Dream becomes aware of itself. Call it fate, the Gods' will, Av facing Cor. But it is there, buried deeply in the fabric of the Dream, and it needs your trust - that, which lies beyond all rifts."

 


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 Date of last edit 26th Passing Clouds 1671 a.S.

Mystery Tale written by by Artimidor Federkiel View Profile