In the book with a red leather cover and black grimace - “The beginning of all days” - stories about the origin of the world Tehadon are written down, including “About the night man Kiraman”, “About the downfall of Al’tjemen” and “About the Wanderer’s words”. These tales are set in the Third Age, especially at its beginning. Although the New Order had banned the book, Leila, a woman from the countryside could keep it for all of her life. Then Leif Fergusson VII bought it around the year 200 N.O. from her, before it fell into the hands of guardsman Jack, who discovered a secret passage in Leif’s house through it and found the Druya in his town (“Aarhems Guard”). “About the Wanderer’s words” tells the story of the thief Darius, who entered the realm of the gods and unintentionally gave magic to mankind. Thus began the Third Age.
"Read to me…“, Leila hesitated for a brief moment when she swept over the book spines with her little index finger. "Read to me from that book!“ And from the shelf she grabbed an old tome bound in red leather, from whose back an ugly grinning visage stared back at her.
'The beginning of all days' it said on the first page in large, tangled letters.
"Are you sure, my child?“, the grandfather asked smiling. "Those stories are pretty scary.“
"I’m not afraid. You are with me.“, Leila said and climbed quickly into her soft bed, pulled the covers up to her chin and smiled at her grandfather expectantly.
„Okay, but if it is too scary for you -“, the old man began, before he was suddenly interrupted.
„Oh, I’m sorry, so here we go…“ He opened the book and flipped a bit through the parchment pages, whispered now and then some titles to himself like „About the downfall of Al’tjemen“ or „About the night man Kiraman“ until he found what he was looking for.
“‘About the Wanderer’s words’, a story about magic and how it came into our world. Does that sound good?”
The little girl clapped in her hands under the blanket and nodded eagerly.
“Once upon a time, long ago, when the old empires of the West still flourished…“
…there was a thief named Darius, a master of his craft, albeit a little greedy. Many times he had been in Tanhem’s prison, if he had taken a too big risk in his greed for even the last gold coin, but just as often he managed to escape again.
His greed was fatal for him this time as well. When Darius broke into the hut of the village bailiff in order to feast on his valuables, he saw a necklace with a small but finely cut diamond, which he absolutely had to have. Unfortunately, it was on the neck of the sleeping house owner. Just that Darius held it in his hands, the bailiff woke up and called the guards. Even among thieves there is decency - he didn’t kill anybody -, and so our rogue soon ended up back in the wet dungeons of the city.
They threw him in a cell with an old man, whose skin looked like dark, old leather, and who quietly chuckled to himself. Darius didn’t care about him, waited for a while until the guard finally seemed to have dozed off and set out to crack the three locks on the door.
‘Is this a life for you?’, it croaked from the corner. The thief turned around and was about to release a cutting remark until he looked into the steely eyes of the old. He hesitated.
‘A master like you as a small town robber in the province? Don’t you think you’re destined for something higher?’ The old man showed his toothless grin. ‘In the north, where I come from, there is a story…’
Darius sat down and listened spellbound to the words of the stranger. Of snow and ice and ancient temples and abandoned caves and gigantic mountains where the gods lived. And of magic. Of the power of the gods.
‘The power of the gods…’, the greedy thief whispered, when the old man had ended. With a cold smile on his lips and fingers trembling from excitement, he opened the door in an instant and sneaked outside.
„A few days later Darius and his donkey reached the slopes of the northern mountains. With shining eyes-“
„What happened to the old man?“ Leila asked in childish curiosity.
The grandfather smiled. „This is a story that I read to you another time, perhaps.“
The girl thought for a moment until she asked: „Was there no magic yet?“
„No, no, that’s the point of the story. The magic once only belonged to the gods. So where were we? With shining eyes…“
…he stared at the jagged peaks up in the cloudy sky, where the gods lived. He had barely enough food for his climb with him, but who had the power of the gods didn’t need food any longer. So he set out on the narrow ridges up to the highest peak of the mountains. Days and nights died in the cold snow, until he reached an old cave that led into the depths of the mountain. His donkey was already dead, only his greed kept Darius alive, when he stepped into the darkness and followed the old tunnel. After a while he came to a staircase that led him upstais. In the darkness of the mountain it seemed to him that he followed the stairs for endless weeks. But then he saw a light and when he stepped through the ornate archway with narrowed eyes, it almost took his breath away. A fruitful green valley stretched between the steep mountains, thousands and thousands of feet above the sea. But Darius knew his destination. The imposing palace, enthroned in the midst of the valley. He crept by blooming gardens, over the marble paths, past magnificent images of the gods, and into the glittering beauty of the palace. With each step he did in this wonderful realm, his desire to create such things, to have such power, grew even more.
“There were no guards…”
“Grandfather, why are there always gods? Father Abreus says there is only one god and that is Aman!”
What a smart girl his granddaughter was. He smiled lovingly. „In those days people believed in the many false gods. And it’s just a story!“
Leila thought for a moment. „Please read further“, she finally said.
“There were no guards…”
…in the palace, because who on this earth would dare to deceive the gods? And so Darius got into the innermost chamber without trouble. It was circular and in it’s center was a likewise circular altar, on which lay a black stone, barely bigger than the palm of a man. A twisted symbol burned on it and Darius heard whispering voices. He looked around full of fear. Since nobody was in sight for miles around, Darius grabbed it, tormented by desire. But when he touched the rune stone and its power fulfilled every part of his body, he realised what he had done. His tongue writhed in his mouth, out of control, his fingers were glued to the cold and burning stone. He understood the essence of magic and spoke words that were unknown to him when he summoned flames and ice and winds and rocks. He fell on his knees when the god’s might itself was unleashed and found it’s way to the minds of the people.
“From then on, magic was given to mankind.“ The grandfather looked up and in the face of the girl which was rept with tension. “Do you want me to read further? Because now it’s getting really creepy.“
“Please, please read on!”
“Well, if you really want. Then the frightened gods rushed…“
…into the palace and found the helpless and screaming man to whom all the world’s knowledge was being given and flowed from his lips.
The oldest of them teared the rune out of Darius’ hands and looked at the now immovable symbol that was burnt on it. ‘It’s power is…exhausted.’ he told the others with an expressionless voice.
‘We need to punish him!’ shouthed another.
And another said: ‘Let us banish this man for his greed!’
And another: ‘Where’s the magic gone?’
And a big dispute began. Meanwhile the oldest stared silently at the motionless body at his feet, before he demanded silence with a rumbling voice.
‘We can’t take the tongue that speaks magic from all people. Many will, now that they have tasted the power, fight back. But we can’t allow that all of the people’s fantasies will come true.’
And he sent the messengers of the gods in all directions, to take their new powers from the people. But it was hardly possible for them to take the black tongue from the mortals. And so the people of the Druya was born.
The oldest god now lifted Darius up and punished him with eternal unlife, as a warning to all mortals who would dare to deceive the gods. The soul of the man’s body, which was weakened by the long journey, went into the realm of the dead and was doomed to look at our world forever. Thus began the Third Age. To date, the damned soul, which is called the Wanderer, thirsts for life. He can always watch us through the protecting net of magic, which separates both worlds. Through the dead land he wanders, looking for a hole in the veil through which he can return.
“For he seeks revenge.” The grandfather quietly closed the book and looked at his granddaughter with worry.
“That wasn’t even that creepy” she said, although he noticed that she was shuddering.
“It’s just a story. Don’t be afraid…”
“I’m not afraid!”, Leila said angrily.
The old man smiled. “Now then you will sleep well for sure and have a wonderful dream. Good night, my dear!” And he put the book down, leaned down to her, kissed her on the forehead and left the small room with the candle stub in hand, which had given him light during reading.
Leila snuggled into her pillow and fell asleep a little later in the dark of the night.
She dreamed about a skinny old man in a gown who reached after her through a shimmering net with empty eyes. She shivered when it got colder in her room.
(Short story by Ar-Zimrathon, translation by ravenhearth)