Chapter 1 – High Wizard of Silvinesh Message from the Past The fire within the hearth of the ancient library flickers brightly casting its warmth and twinkling light outward, breaking through the shadows along the endless rows of dusty old tomes. Alone in the very centre of the ancient library, a tall, slender figure with flowing white robes, which have been lovingly lined with silvery glowing trim embossed with magical elvin runes, sits quietly while he leafs through several curled scrolls upon a small oval oak table. William Silverblade sits silently concentrating with all of his focus upon the ancient elvin text. He had studied with his grandfather, centuries before, learning all the different languages of the Silvinesh people, but it had been a very long time, almost an age, since he had read this extremely old dialect. In the beginning, seven races of elves had been born into the old world that now made up the whole of Silvinesh, but like so many things, the history and origins of those early beginnings were mostly lost to the passage of time. As the old wizard tries his best to decipher, the many carefully scribed elvin symbols, the light becomes far too dim for him to continue on, and he stops for a moment to rub his tired, pale blue eyes. The old wizard turns away from the yellowed parchment, and stares into the blazing fire of the hearth, pondering the meanings of the words he has been able to extract so far. William realizes beyond a shadow of a doubt that some hope may come from what is yet to be revealed within the final passages of the ancient message. It was only days before, when William’s oldest, and dearest friend, Steven, first discovered these worn parchments on the shambled remains of a lost elvin messenger. Within a perfectly sealed scroll case hanging around the skeleton’s neck, the once ivory pages remained safe, and lay waiting for nearly three centuries within a cave in the northern forest of Silvinesh. The important message had been protected from the ravages of time within the sealed ornate scroll case that was originally meant to reach the White Tower. Tragically, the mortally wounded elvin messenger attempting to return home so long ago, had fallen. Alone in the wilds, far off the main road, this poor lost soul had lain undisturbed until the fateful day Steven had come across him. What had happened is still unclear, but he had no doubt suffered grievously, as evidence gruesomely suggested from the many long unnatural gouges through his weathered elvish armor. The old White Wizard slowly turns back to the writings, but finds the light far too dim for him to continue on. William reaches out his hand, and draws his long wooden staff towards him. The magical staff suddenly shimmers with a faint blue glow, and floats through the air from where it has been quietly resting upright against the cold white marble wall of the White Tower Library. Originally carved long ago from a solid straight piece of fallen white pine, it was crafted into a six-foot long walking stick for the old wizard to use for both practicality, and as a deadly magical weapon, when necessary. Atop the smooth white staff, made from the hands of the most skilled elvin craftsman in Silvinesh, rests the source of its power, a faintly glowing blue orb. The length of the staff shimmers with an aura of magical blue light, and the crystal orb flickers with crackling electrical energy, hinting at its awesome power just waiting to be unleashed. William draws the staff telepathically into his outstretched hand, and grasps it tightly. He whispers to the staff, like one would talk to an old friend, and utters the command to bring forth its inner light. “Illuminaetus!” the old wizard softly speaks, as he has spoken so many times before, and the room fills with the warm glow of the blue crystal orb. “There!” he says to himself, and continues his study of the ancient elvin text. The wizard reads on, and finds that this once lost message refers directly to the Crystal Mountain Fortress far to the north of Silvinesh. It speaks of a power within that was beyond the control of a group of White Wizards working there. The message pleads for the High Wizard of Silvinesh to send help immediately, or all would be lost. The message also warned of a deadly prisoner that had somehow escaped his magical bindings, and was running rampant within the mountain tunnels. William searches his memories, and recalls the stories he had studied when he was but a young novice of the White Tower. These vague excerpts hinted at the magical workings that went on within the dark depths of the mountain citadel, but never directly confirmed anything. The Crystal Mountain Fortress was created centuries before William’s own birth, and was where this message had originated. It is a topic of heated debate, and secrecy amongst the older White Wizards. William could remember his grandfather’s reluctance in confirming his early suspicions of what was truly going on in the northern citadel, and the old elf’s silence spoke volumes of the risks that may have been taken there. William knew in his heart that the White Wizards of old must have delved far too deep in their search for magical knowledge, and brought into the mountain something that was beyond their control. In all his studies, William had found little information about the Crystal Mountains other then the design of the tunnels, nothing of the true workings within, nothing specific, only shadowy clues of what may have been. William knew his predecessors left such information out of the Silvinesh history intentionally because of both their pride, and the shame such things could bring to the White Tower. The elvin wizards were too blind to see when they were wrong, and too stubborn to not admit when they knew they were. Three hundred years had passed since the White Wizards had used the Crystal Mountain Fortress, and none had returned home alive who were sent to investigate the missing mages. A few mortally wounded elves sent on these treacherous missions had managed to describe the horrors they faced at the foothills of the Crystal Mountains before they died of their grievous wounds; not unlike the dead messenger Steven had come across. From these few tales that had been recorded through the hundreds of years since that time, William had pieced together enough clues as to what this beast may be that had attacked them all, and no doubt still guarded the entrance of the mountain citadel. The old wizard turns back to the yellowed parchments upon the tiny oval oak table with the glowing warm blue light of his staff to continue reading the last of the tragic message. Several hours of study continue on into the early morning hours as William completes the translation of the ancient elvin text. It is as he had suspected all along, since first seeing the curled yellowed parchments, the glimmer of hope for both Silvinesh and Thelentia, but to reach such a power will prove more difficult than he could have ever imagined. The device he will be seeking, is a creation forged by the Creator herself, and within the mountain is where it waits, behind protective shields, or at least this is what William hopes is still the case. He had learned from the desperate message that the White Wizards of the Crystal Mountain were attempting to fight off a powerful creature sent seeking retribution for some wrong they failed to mention in the letter. Whatever had happened, the terrified wizards were calling for the aid of the High Wizard, and Council of Nine to come immediately. What terrible things had happened to those poor lost souls trapped in the northern fortress remained a mystery, but one thing is certain, help had never come to them. With the creature loose within the mountain citadel, their fate was surely a gruesome death beyond imagination. They had made some kind of fatal error, and it cost them all dearly with the most precious thing they had, their own lives. After carefully rolling the yellowed parchments into a tight mass, the old wizard slowly slides the whole into the ornate scroll case that had originally kept it safe for three centuries. With a sigh, he breathes, from both the exhaustion he feels, and the sense of dread weighing on his heart because of what now lay ahead of him, William slowly begins to make his way over to the library’s massive window. The rays from the rising sun, streaking across the eastern horizon, have just started to light the land, and call out in all its glory, the beginning of a new day. Looking out through the clear sections of the painstakingly crafted panes of glass resting between two stain glass depictions of White Wizards standing guard over the White Tower Library, William admires the garden below him, with the rays of golden sunlight shining through the pale green leaves of the giant oak trees all around. The old wizard smiles, as he remembers times long ago with his lost love Katrina. They had only been married for two years, when William had tragically lost her. Katrina had loved the garden, and spent countless hours sitting under these same great oak trees surrounding the beautiful greenery, and fountain area within the garden’s centre. William smiles even more, while thinking back to that precious time long ago, and how he loved Katrina, with all of his heart. That same old heart now aches for her, and all that has been taken from him with her untimely passing. William sighs once again, and hangs his head low for a moment, swallowing back the heartache. He holds himself up with the aid of his long wooden staff, his age weighs heavily on him now, and he doesn’t know how he will be able to complete the task he has in mind to accomplish. It will be a risk he knows that he has to take, and one he will need help from both family, and close friends, if any chance of success will even be possible. So many preparations have to be completed before the journey can begin, but so little time is on his side. The siege to come in Thelentia will be rapidly approaching, and little hope remains for his human brethren to defend the walls that lay between the White Tower of Silvinesh, and the advancing army of darkness. Both William’s elvin and human brethren will need his help before this clash is over, and acquiring the power from the Crystal Mountain Fortress, must be successful, if all he holds dear to his heart will have any chance of survival. A tear runs down the old wizard’s cheek, and his head begins to ache from all the many thoughts of what lay ahead. “Just a little longer old wizard and you can finally rest for all eternity,” he whispers as comfort to himself. William slowly turns from the view of the garden Katrina had loved, and makes his way to his bedroom down the long dimly lit hallway exiting the library. A few hours of sleep will be all he will have before the others call upon him. The meeting with his fellow White Wizards, known as the Council of Nine, is scheduled for later this same morning to discuss the fate of Thelentia, and also to review William’s findings from the ancient message. He knows he will have to be well rested before facing his Council brothers to reveal what he has learned, and the plan he hopes above all else, may help save them all. Chapter 2 – The Message Revealed A steady hollow sound, resonating upon the tall oak door of William’s bedroom, finally jars him to his senses from out of his deep sleep. The sun shines midway in the late morning blue sky, and William knows that it must be time to meet with the Council of Nine. A soft familiar elvin voice calls to him from outside his room, and warms the old wizard’s heart. “Grandfather, the Council is starting to assemble within the Great Hall. You must get up before they begin without you!” William slowly sits up, and holds his head in his trembling hands. A feeling of nausea washes over the old wizard, and he realizes that it is caused by the lack of sleep he had that night. William breathes in a deep breath, and lets the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach slowly fade away. His head begins to clear from the haze of his dreams, and he collects what little strength he can. Several more insistent knocks sound on the thick wooden door, and he hears the sweet elvin voice call out a second time. William smiles, and knows that his granddaughter must not have heard him sit up on his soft warm bed. “Grandfather, you must hurry. Dymond seems far angrier with you than he normally is. Please get up!” William reaches out with his hand, and draws his magical staff into his grasp from the corner of the room. He pushes his weight up upon the long wooden shaft, and parts his long white hair. “I am up my dear Alentia. Give me but a moment, and I will be ready.” The soft knocking on the door quiets, and the young elvin girl can be heard sighing with relief, to have finally woken the sleeping wizard. William looks into the silver framed mirror upon the wall across from his bed, and gazes at the image of his tired old face that wearily stares back. Although his elvin heritage had brought to him many life times more than any normal mortal man, his human beginnings still shine through the elvin features, and have caused him to age into the old wizard who now stands before him. Elves themselves were nearly immortal, in the eyes of men, and never seemed to age past their early adulthood. They lived for close to five hundred years, and then would simply become ill one day, and be gone the next. Some speculated it was simply the light of their white wizardry finally extinguishing, but in all their long years of life, they would never show any sign of their true age. William thought it was the natural cycle of life, in that all things had a beginning, and that all things also had to have an end. Nothing lasts forever, and change is the only constant he knows of. With all the differences he has with his elvin brothers, getting old is the one William wishes he had never inherited from his human side. William was born out of the union of Elysian, the daughter of the White Tower, and Lord Gorian, the King of Thelentia. He was the first half-elf known to have been born out of such a marriage, but was not without those who had bitterly objected to such a thing happening. In all the history of the Silvinesh elves, there had been no other joining of the two species ever recorded. Some accepted it as a necessary evolution of both man and elf, but some, like his mother’s cousin Dymond, had viewed it as an outrage, and a tainting of elvinkind, forever. William catches his balance before toppling over, and realizes he has been drifting off into the shadows of his mind. He knows that he has little time for such daydreaming, and that he must reveal his message to the Council of Nine. The Council will not patiently wait for him much longer, and will go about the business of planning for the battle of Thelentia in his absence. His people, both elvin, and mankind, all needed this one chance to save their world, and without it, he fears that they will all eventually fall into darkness at the hands of their common enemy. William slowly wipes his wrinkled face with a soft white towel after splashing some cold water from the cream coloured washbasin sitting upon his nightstand. The water awakens him further, and sparks some additional energy into his tired old body. He slips on his flowing white robes, and wraps his silvery belt, embossed with the magical elvin runes, around his waist. A faint whisper comes from the opposite side of the door, and William smiles a second time, knowing Alentia still patiently waits for him. “Are you ready now grandfather?” A metallic click from the metal lock on the tall oak door breaks the silence as William works the latch. He slowly opens the door, and his heart lifts, as a set of enchanting violet eyes meet his. A smile lights the face of the young elvin girl who has patiently waited for her grandfather. Alentia is nearly fifty years of age, but looks like a teenager to the eyes of any ordinary man. Her outward appearance has all the mystical qualities of any elvin girl, but she also possesses that sparkle of her human heritage, that shines through in her passionate personality. Alentia loves, and cherishes life dearly, as well as everything it has to offer her. She reveals in so many ways, her free will, and often times has gone against the grain of how an elf should act in the eyes of the Silvinesh people. Alentia’s soul is human, but her heart is elvin, would be how William thought could best describe her. Like William, Alentia would sometimes upset the elders with her radical ideas, and simple human nature. Change is not what the elves are about. They have done things the same way for thousands of years, and hold fast to their idealistic ways of life. Both William, and Alentia, shake this stability, and not everyone has accepted it in good faith. As the door swings completely open, William can see Alentia boiling with anticipation to learn what he has discovered, within the yellowed pages of the ancient message. She can read his thoughts, as well as William can read hers, if they wished to share them, but in this, he has blocked her prying mind for the time being. Along with the human spark, Alentia had also inherited from William’s unique bloodline, an equally rare gift from their shared elvin linage. The power of the Mind’s Eye, as the White Wizards know it, is common amongst the elves, but only a select few can control it in the way both William and Alentia are able to. It is a telepathic connection they have in common with one another, but also allows them to sense things around them, and in the hearts of others. The beautiful elf’s long blond hair flows down each of her pale white shoulders, and down her slender shapely elvin frame. She wears a light blue dress, made from the finest silks, given to her as a gift by William after her successful completion of the trials in becoming a White Wizard of Silvinesh. None before Alentia had ever done as much as she had in so many short years. She had amazed even William with her determination, and stubbornness in not giving up when she faced the final trials. Alentia gracefully moves across the pale grey granite floors, and takes her grandfather’s free arm in hers. William pats her soft snow-white hand in thanks for being here for him. The old wizard knows in his heart that her love for him is absolute, and that he will need her youthful strength to face the many challenges that lay ahead. Alentia gently squeezes William’s hand in silent reassurance, as they begin to walk down the quiet passages towards the main meeting room known as the Great Hall. Alentia looks over at her grandfather and smiles at him in that special way she has always done since she was a little child. She finally asks what has been gnawing at her since he had first appeared from out of his bedroom. “So, are you going to tell me what was in the message, or do I have to wait like everyone else?” The old wizard stops, and looks into Alentia’s pale violet eyes. He smiles back at his curious granddaughter, and winks. “Did I ever tell you that you have your grandmother’s eyes?” Alentia lets out a sigh while shaking her head, and smiles. She silently continues walking with her grandfather towards the Great Hall, knowing he is trying to avoid having to answer her question. The two White Wizards walk on, and soon reach a set of large golden doors. On each door, gold leaf has been lovingly gilded onto the carved images of elves, and creatures, mingling together in the harmony of nature. Alentia runs a finger over an image of a beautiful female elvin warrior, with a small bird resting within her tiny palm. “Grandfather, please tell me, before we meet with the others. I want to be able to help you with this.” This time, William is the one who sighs, when he realizes Alentia is right. “I suppose if I am going to first share this with anyone, it will have to be you my dear Alentia.” A smile crosses her thin pink lips, and she looks away from the golden doors, and back to her grandfather, to hear what she has so desperately been waiting the past few days to learn. “The message was meant for the High Wizard, and the Council of Nine.” William begins. Alentia is puzzled at first with this initial fact, and twirls the end of her long golden hair around one finger, trying to make sense out of how this can possibly be true. “It was sent to you grandfather? I don’t understand. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I thought the message was really old.” William begins to chuckle, and then goes on to explain. “No, no my child, it was meant for the High Wizard, just not this High Wizard. The message is very old, just as you’ve said, and was sent when I was but a child. My own grandfather was the High Wizard this message was supposed to reach, but tragically, never did.” William grins, and can see Alentia realizing her error, and the truth of it. “Yes, that makes much more sense now, but what is in the message, and is there anything that can be of any use to us now?” Alentia had suspected from the very start that there was something important hidden in the sealed scroll case. She had a way of feeling such things, and was the one who brought the message to William as soon as it reached the White Tower. She had been right all along, and now William will share the truth of it, before revealing it to the others. “The message was sent from the head of the White Wizard order within the Crystal Mountains.” Alentia’s pale violet eyes suddenly grow wider with anticipation, but she remains quiet while William tells her the rest. “They requested that help be sent to them because a creature of ice, as they called it, was loose in the mountain tunnels, and was killing them off, one by one. To make matters worse, something else far darker was there, and had come for some sort of retribution, as they called it. I fear the White Wizards went too far in their quest for power, and were simply overcome by these evil creatures.” Alentia could not imagine the horror of such things being free, and the helplessness the elvin wizards must have felt. She knew from her studies that the White Wizards of the Crystal Mountains were handpicked for their unique abilities. They were the best that the White Tower had ever trained, but even they were calling for help. The foes they faced must have been powerful indeed to request the High Wizard, and Council of Nine to come to their aid. “Grandfather, they all must have surely fallen because no help ever came to them, did it?” William, with a grim look on his wrinkled face, simply nods to Alentia, confirming her suspicions. “I fear that in the end, they were all overcome by these two deadly enemies. Tragically, they knew they had the power in their possession to defeat these enemies, but none of the wizards were able to wield it. They must have needed my grandfather for this task, but the message, as we both know, never reached his ear.” Alentia absorbs what William has just told her. More questions are all she has, and she can almost guess at what her grandfather’s answers will be. William reads Alentia’s racing thoughts, and knows he has to further explain what he plans to do, and continues his explanation. “We need this power they spoke of Alentia, and I intend to reclaim it!” A look of dread crosses the young elvin girl’s snow-white face. She had feared this is what he would suggest, but couldn’t understand how it will even be possible. “None have ever come back alive from the Crystal Mountains. The heroes you send will surely perish grandfather!” William’s expression becomes one of dead seriousness. He understands the risk, better than anyone does, but this could be the only chance they might ever have of stopping the enemy approaching Thelentia. “I believe we have a chance Alentia, however slim it might be. We have a chance to reclaim what waits in the quiet of the mountain. Without this power to aid us, all will surely be lost in Thelentia, and then soon after, here in Silvinesh. I fear we simply don’t have the numbers to battle against the evil hordes marching our way from out of the south. We will all fall if we cannot reach this power. I see no other way.” It is what Alentia knew in her heart, William would suggest. She also knows that he is right. “But grandfather, do you know anything about this power we will be seeking?” William smiles, and instead of trying to explain what it is, he sends Alentia an image of the magical device he suspects to be the one the ancient message is hinting at. Alentia gasps, and looks deep into William’s pale blue eyes. “Are you sure of this grandfather?” Alentia can’t understand how it is even possible. “I have followed the clues, and know it has to be it. The message more than hints at what I suspect, and they actually were begging my grandfather to bring the key to unlock its power.” Alentia begins running her fingers through her long golden hair. Her hand, shakes uneasily from both anticipation and a sense of dread. What her grandfather is suggesting, could be a miracle, and would be a light, capable of aiding in the fight with the army of darkness. It very well could turn the tide, and save Silvinesh and Thelentia. A terrible thought suddenly comes over Alentia, and she blurts out her concern. “What of this key grandfather? I have never heard of such a thing until now?” William smiles, and looks at Alentia with his right index finger turned up in the air. “Ahh … not to worry my dear, you’re looking at it!” A puzzled expression crosses the young elvin wizard’s face. She didn’t understand what William could possibly be talking about. She saw no key upon him. All he carries is his magical staff, flowing white robes, and nothing more. William grins, and points his finger towards his chest and taps it. “It’s me. I am the key. At first, I didn’t understand the meaning of it, until I read this letter. I’ll try to explain it as best as I can. The clue to what I now believe came from just before my grandfather passed from our world. He had told me that I was a key, but didn’t explain what he meant by saying this. He said I would understand when the time had finally come, but in all the years that passed since that time, I had dismissed it as nothing more than a dying elf’s fading mind. After reading the passages within the message, I finally understood what my grandfather was trying to tell me. So you see, I am the key, and have to reclaim what was lost, to save our people.” Alentia knows from the many stories William told her as a child that her great, great grandfather had the power of foresight, and saw glimpses of the future through his dreams. It has always been frowned upon, to speak of such things aloud, for fear of losing the choice to follow one’s own destiny. In the past, such things nearly brought ruin upon the elves of Silvinesh, and since that time, it has always been taught to avoid sharing such knowledge amongst one another, or record prophecy, for fear of contaminating the future, and the free will of those involved. For the old wizard to risk such a thing with her grandfather must have meant it was of the utmost importance. The dying High Wizard must have seen in his dreams, the coming darkness they are now facing, as well as the only way to counter it. “We must tell the others!” Alentia, with youthful enthusiasm, reaches to open the doors, but stops suddenly when William gently grasps her shoulder. “Wait Alentia …” The young elvin girl pauses, as William gently squeezes her shoulder, and she slowly releases the door’s golden handle, and turns back towards him with a troubled look upon her snow-white face. “Whatever happens inside the Great Hall today with the Council of Nine, you must not reveal what I have just told you.” Alentia looks at William, and feels the fear within his heart. “They won’t understand will they grandfather?” William shakes his head in confirmation. “No, I fear they will undoubtedly dismiss what I am going to tell them. They place too much of their faith on the old ways, and will not understand why we want to risk such a journey. They do not believe in hope, or possibility, but in things that are absolute. They fear to fail, and will choose to let fate run its course.” Alentia cannot disagree with her grandfather. It is likely that the Council of Nine will dismiss this idea as foolishness, and will not take the chance, as William has put it. “Just promise me one thing Alentia. Promise me that you will remain quiet during this discussion, even if it comes to harsh words from the Council of Nine. Just know that I plan on going ahead with this, with, or without them!” A smile lights Alentia’s snow-white face, and she nods in agreement. “Let’s go my dear Alentia. I can hear Dymond’s voice bantering off once again. They must have already started without me, as usual!” Alentia giggles while opening the tall set of golden doors, and escorts William into the Great Hall. Chapter 3 - Meeting with the Council of Nine A long white table dominates the centre floor of the Great Hall. Its gleaming white finish radiates an aura of white magic, not unlike the staff in William’s frail right hand. Nine elvin White Wizards sit quietly whispering amongst themselves, where only moments earlier, they were speaking in loud angry voices until each noticed William, and Alentia appearing through the golden entryway. Paintings line the lengths of the two main walls of the Great Hall. These portraits depict each of the nine White Wizards sitting around the table in the centre of the room, as well as William himself, and all the predecessors who made up the Council of Nine, and their High Wizards who have led Silvinesh throughout the ages. The lifelike paintings seem to shimmer, and move with a magical life of their very own. Alentia had always found it eerie how the eyes seemed to follow her whenever she was alone in the Great Hall, and it made her skin turn to gooseflesh each time she came through this large room by herself. If she didn’t know any better, she would have thought that the twinkling pale blue eyes were looking into her very soul when they stared down upon her. Both Alentia and William can tell that the conversation, happening only moments before their arrival, was undoubtedly about the two of them. They can feel the tension, and apprehension crackling through the air at their approach. It is especially evident from Dymond, with his cold blue hateful eyes fixed upon them. Alentia sweeps her gaze down upon the nine wizards, and can feel the heat on her cheeks starting to build with each footstep she takes towards them. At that very moment, she felt like giving them all a piece of her mind, but instead, she cools her growing anger, and restrains herself. She knows that it will be best, to save her words for another day, when she can tell them all what she thinks of their schemes, and idealistic elvin ways. As William reaches his chair at the head of the table, the nine White Wizards all stand to officially greet their leader, as Silvinesh tradition dictated. Although the Council did not agree with William’s appointment as the High Wizard, they were each bound by the same tradition to accept him, and remain his loyal Council of Nine until he is either removed by challenge, or when death has finally taken him. The faces are as they always have been since William first arrived in Silvinesh, unreadable, with a sense of betrayal somewhere just beneath the surface. Many of these same White Wizards, had once served under William’s grandfather, but each were so easily swayed by Dymond to not follow William’s wishes unless absolutely necessary, and aligned with their own agendas. It had been difficult to begin what needed to be done within the White Tower. The opposition he faced from his Council brothers was unprecedented, but through subtle approvals without the nine’s direct knowledge, or intervention, William was able to begin the process they so greatly disagreed with, the process of change. All nine White Wizards graciously bow, and then take their seats before William, and Alentia. The old half-elvin wizard with the aid of his granddaughter, and wooden staff, slowly lowers his frail elvin frame into the high back ornate wooden chair, signifying the High Wizard of the White Tower. The room remains deathly silent for a few tense moments, until at last, Dymond cannot bear it any longer, and blurts out what the others would have liked to say, but chose not to. “Go on. Tell us what you’ve learned from the message William!” Alentia looks down at her grandfather, but remains standing quietly beside him. William turns, and looks deep into Dymond’s hateful blue eyes, and then answers to all what they have come to learn. “The message is quite old my Council brothers, and was originally intended to reach my grandfather. What is truly shocking is the fact that the message originated from the Crystal Mountain Fortress nearly three hundred years ago.” Wide eyes upon almost every White Wizard, reveals to him their utter surprise, every one of the nine, except Dymond. William finds this fact rather odd, but with Dymond, one can never tell where his thoughts truly lay. “And what did this message say … half-elf?” William swallows, and grips his staff tighter, trying to contain his rising anger. Dymond had always disrespected him from the start, and not once over the past two hundred years would refer to him as the High Wizard of Silvinesh. It was either William, or half-elf, as a constant petty strike at who he is, just to ensure Dymond’s feelings are clear, and always known to anyone who is listening. The hate in Dymond’s eyes could say it all, as could the bitterness in his voice every time he spoke to William. Alentia’s intense stare could have cut through Dymond like a hot knife through butter. Although she can sense her face growing red, she maintains her silence, and stands by her grandfather’s side. One day, Dymond will pay for his constant disrespect towards her grandfather, but for the time being, it is something they both have to endure. Putting aside Dymond’s obvious lack of respect, William simply continues, and answers his question. “The message called for help, which we all know had never come to them. The trapped White Wizards were pleading for assistance from my grandfather the High Wizard, and you my Council brothers, to help release the power within the Crystal Mountains to aid them. Some unknown evil had come for retribution on the White Wizards, and a second creature almost as deadly, was already loose in the mountain citadel, and had started killing them off, one by one.” The faces on every one of the White Wizards including Dymond, suddenly grows sickly pale. They are no doubt taken back from this last revelation William has shared with them, and many know exactly what their High Wizard is referring to. None of the elves speak a word, for a very long time, and instead, each, look back and forth at one another with bitter guilt within their pale blue elvin eyes. A sense of silent understanding is on each of their pale elvin faces, and also, the lines of unbridled terror. William had been hoping for such a reaction, and now knew with certainty that the nine White Wizards have secret knowledge of the Crystal Mountain Fortress. The room remains deathly quiet for a few more excruciatingly long moments. Not one person wanting to be the first to speak, but William knows there is so much more that must be said. William finally takes the lead to break the deafening silence within the Great Hall. “You must share with me what you know my Council brothers. This is important to each and every one of us!” Samuel, with some reluctance, is the first of the nine to begin sharing a portion of a truth William had long believed to be the case about the fabled Crystal Mountain Fortress. “It was a very long time ago High Wizard, and we had not fully considered the implications of our actions when we opened the ancient gateway.” William has a startling revelation, and realizes the importance of what Samuel is beginning to share with him. Although there are many different magical gates and portals referred to in the numerous tomes and scrolls within the White Tower, one in particular is recorded within the Tome of White Wizardry. This one book has in it, every spell and device, created by the Silvinesh elves, throughout the ages. It is said that the ancient tome was constructed by the Creator herself, and then was passed onto the Silvinesh elves to record into it their own magical creations. William knows this tome intimately, and has spent countless hours absorbing the limitless knowledge it held. William will now test this knowledge about the gateway that Samuel has mentioned. “So the Crystal Mountain White Wizards were traveling the planes of creation, weren’t they?” A simple nod from many of the Council of Nine confirms what William has stated. Dymond sits quietly for once, and reflects on his own failures that happened so many long years before. It is beginning to make more and more sense to William, how creatures could have entered the secure isolated northern citadel. The gate was the path that led these two evil creatures into this beautiful world where neither of them truly belonged. “We were seeking knowledge and a way to…” Samuel is suddenly silenced by the magical will of Dymond. The Council Wizard had bolted from his chair in what clearly seemed like desperation, suddenly raising his hand and white magic against his fellow Council brother to quiet him before he revealed anymore to William and Alentia. “That is enough Samuel! We are sworn to secrecy, and have an oath to never discuss the workings of the Crystal Mountains. Speak not another word to the half-elves, or suffer the consequences!”Such bold arrogance is the way Dymond commands himself. William cannot sit idly by while such a display of utter disrespect went on amongst the Council of Nine. “Stop this at once Dymond! Whether you like it, or not, I am the High Wizard, and you must reveal what it is that you know of this matter. It is the first rule of our order that nothing be hidden from the High Wizard upon my appointment, so release Samuel from your magic, or I’ll have to make you release him!” Dymond, knowing very well that William’s threat is no bluff, bitterly lowers his hands, and clinches each into a fist at his side. Dymond knows, as well as everyone present that William is right. They have to tell him all they know, as the rules of their order so clearly dictates. “It is as you say William, but as for your granddaughter, she will have to leave. This is Council business, and not for her to hear. Make the young one leave us at once!” Alentia’s pale violet eyes remain fixed on Dymond. She knows that without her presence, her grandfather stands alone with these narrow-minded elvin wizards. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to change this, and before William has to tell her to, she silently leaves his side, and makes her way to the golden doors of the Great Hall. “I am sorry my dear Alentia …” William mentally whispers through the gift of the Mind’s Eye as the beautiful elvin girl walks away from him in silence. There is really no need for any apology between them, because it is not William’s decision that forces her to go. Dymond had wanted her to leave from the very beginning, and this is simply the first opportunity he saw to ensure that she did. Together, Alentia and William are a force to be reckoned with, but when they are alone, they can be much weaker against the combined will of the Council of Nine. As the golden doors click together, signalling their closure, the echo ominously hammers off the walls of the Great Hall. William knows at that moment, he will have to be even stronger to face what may be coming next. Dymond, without any hesitation, begins where Samuel had abruptly been forced to leave off. “You no doubt have learned of the power we were working on, and now know that we were traveling the planes of creation. What we were actively seeking was a magic that could be joined with the device to rekindle its inner light. Within the Plane of Fire we found such a thing, and were successful in safely bringing it back, or so we thought. As the message suggests, something went terribly wrong within the mountain citadel, and all our brothers must have fallen at the hands of an enemy sent to avenge what we had done.” William considers for a moment why all this secrecy is even necessary? What is Dymond really hiding from him? The old wizard leans back in his high back chair, and looks at each of the Council Wizards. Fear is painted on each of their faces. Even Dymond seems to be a bit weary. They all know something that they aren’t telling him, and William has to be part of that secret. “What is this power you speak of? It wouldn’t be the treasure our Creator left for our people, would it?” Dymond stands stone still. He dares not even blink. It takes all of his effort to swallow, and then finally, after collecting his thoughts, he continues. “We were able to transfer some of the power into it, many years before the fall of the Crystal Mountains, but were not able to use it for ourselves. That very problem was what the Crystal Mountain White Wizards were working on before their tragedy took hold. It was a failure for all of us, and now we finally know the truth of what happened to our fellow White Wizards. William, you can archive your findings within the history of Silvinesh, and you will be best to forget about the Crystal Mountain Fortress. It is lost to us forever, as is the power we were forced to leave behind.” William looks around at the nine terrified wizards, something still wasn’t right. He quietly ponders what Dymond has just told him, and glances up at the walls around the Great Hall. He gazes lovingly at the portrait of his grandfather. Something isn’t right with what Dymond is saying, and he knows it, in his very soul. His grandfather was very specific, when the time was right he would know he was the key, and now had to be that time! William sensed Dymond’s apprehension to reveal anything further. “So what you are saying Dymond, is that this power from the Creator cannot help us, even now?” William gazes into each of the nine sets of pale blue elvin eyes, looking for one who may yet reveal more than Dymond had already done. Each wizard can only look away from William with silent guilt. Their failure is as plain as day, and none will speak any further about the Crystal Mountains. Dymond stands waiting for a moment, and then answers for all of them. “No William, it cannot be wielded by any of the Council of Nine, or save us, if that is your thought. Don’t go against your Council brothers this time. Your efforts will be in vain to seek out the Crystal Mountain Fortress, and the power that is lost. Only death awaits anyone foolish enough to go there.” It is finished then. William will have no help from the Council of Nine, and surely they will be furious when they discover that he has set out against their wishes. William feels he must change the mood, and not linger any further for fear the Council will realize he truly means to go through with his plans. “Any word from Thelentia?” Dymond visibly relaxes, and seems genuinely relieved that William pushes no further on the subject of the Crystal Mountains. He secretly didn’t want William to foolishly send valuable resources out on a mission doomed for failure. Worse yet, Dymond fears what could happen, if William should somehow be successful, and retrieve what was lost, learning yet another secret that could jeopardize his plans. As Dymond slumps down into his seat, another of the Council Wizards stands to answer William’s question about Thelentia. Erin, a short, but very muscular elf, had spent his early years battling the orc hordes far to the south of Thelentia, and became both a fearsome and legendary White Wizard Warrior. His knowledge of battle, and how to win one, had made him a worthy candidate as one of the Council of Nine advisors. William’s grandfather had personally appointed Erin to the Council of Nine, and was always a trusted friend throughout his long elvin life. Erin, much like Dymond, still failed to accept William for whom he was, and had as narrow-minded a view even though he had been a close friend to his grandfather. This in the end had hurt the old wizard’s heart greatly, but even so, he ignored both Dymond and Erin’s objections, and went ahead with naming his grandson William as the next High Wizard to replace him after he was gone. “William, both your son Warren, and daughter in-law Jacqueline are now in Thelentia preparing the White Wizards, and Silvinesh Rangers to help the humans in their fight with the army marching up from the south.” William cringes at the way Erin had said humans, as if it is a disease to be one. He lets this remark slide, as he had always done with such things in the past, to simply keep the peace between the Council. “Have you any reports on the numbers we may be facing at the walls of Thelentia?” Erin scratches his chin, and then speaks, “At least ten thousand orcs by our early reports, and several hundred Bloodstone Wizards who follow them under the cover of darkness. I have also heard rumours that speak of their leader being amongst this force, and carrying his dark power along to the battle, to ensure a swift victory over the humans.” It is as William has foreseen in his nightmares. The great army of darkness sent from the depths of the Ever Night Realm, coming to destroy them all, in a terrifying clash at the walls of Thelentia. Once the great walls are put asunder, the White Tower in Silvinesh will surely fall, soon after. Even the Council of Nine knows that this fact is true, and was why they agreed to help the human kingdom of Thelentia before it is too late. William also knows that had the threat only been to Thelentia, the Council would have left his father’s people to their doom. This fact disturbed William greatly, and is part of what he has faced his entire life, amongst these selfish elvin wizards. The racist attitudes of the mightier than thou Silvinesh elves had made him, on more than one occasion, wish he had turned his back on them. Although this attitude was ever present throughout his life, it is the strength of those other elvinkind who have seen past William’s genealogy, and see in him, the person he truly is, and made him believe that some chance for change can one day still occur. William has to clear his mind of his personal thoughts, and focus on the problems at hand. “How much time do we have before the army reaches Thelentia?” William hoped against all hope that he had enough time before it is too late. The clock is ticking, and soon, the chimes will signal the start of a bloody war for the survival of his people, both human and elvinkind. Erin grimly answers William’s question. “At most, they will reach the gates within the week. Their numbers are great High Wizard, and they travel under the cover of darkness. We still have some time to prepare, but I fear there simply won’t be enough of us to defeat this vast enemy. Silvinesh has already sent over half of our White Wizards, and Silvinesh Rangers. We number only three thousand at best, and the Thelentian forces have only another fifteen hundred to add to that. We are outnumbered more than two to one, and if our enemy unleashes the power of darkness upon us we are surely doomed.” Erin slumps down into his chair feeling crushed, and filling quickly with despair. It is truly overwhelming to all in the room, but in some ways very ironic. All their lives these elvin wizards have fought change in any shape, or form, but now, whether they will accept it or not, nothing will be the same for any of them, ever again. The winds of change are upon them, just as the last warmth of summer’s light is fading. Nothing will be the same as it has ever been for Silvinesh. The withering of autumn’s chill breath has finally come.