Alysani ran through the countless corridors, long robes billowing around her as she cradled an armful of books to her chest. Long, curling hair tumbled around her. Alys blew at the long strands hanging in her face, trying to see as men and women parted around her with sneering laughter. She ignored them. She slowed as she reached the intersection, her heels biting into the stone floor as she came to an abrupt halt.
‘I’m late,’ She shook her head before she dragged in a calming breath. ‘I’m late!’
Behind her was the drifting cruelty of laughter, a song of ill-emotion Alys knew too well and for too long. Century after century, royal blood and Men of Honor have walked these ancient halls. Knight Commanders, leaders, kings – they have all found their way into these ancient hallways for one reason or another. Alys felt the soft curl of a smile pull at her lips, a deep-seated longing filling her as her mind turned towards ancient quests for love, for honor, and for the fate of the world filled her mind.
Sometimes, when she listened to the old storytellers, she envisioned herself among the Heroes of Old. Alys made her way down another hallway as she thought of the souls that had, over the course of thousands of years, saved Eda’Mor; the young and the old, the strong and the weak – they have all been sung about, their stories preserved through word and through ink. Alys knew many of them by heart.
Shaking thoughts of quests and romance from her mind, Alys made her way into another hallway before taking the steps to the lower floor. Men and women parted for her, each knowing the books she carried were meant for someone greater than them all. Still their sneers and laughter followed, cruel smiles biting into the back of her neck as she scurried down another hallway.
It was when she was entering the Council she knew why everyone was giving her the looks they had – a meeting was in progress, the walls of the circular room filled with men and elves of great importance. She was sure she spotted a dwarf off to the left, the short man blinking, surprised, by her appearance.
Ulran, a human Elder, leveled a stern look on her. “Why have you entered this room?”
The atmosphere in the room was Frigid, dropping dramatically as a dozen different gazes landed on her. Judged her, a small part of her mind whispered. Alys drew in a breath, grip tightening on the books she held, and stepped forward. There was no room for fear in a chamber of sharks – her mother’s words, not hers.
“Forgive my intrusion, Elder Ulran,” Alys bent in a slight bow, afraid of spilling the books on the ground. She righted herself, calm on the outside as she said, “Lady Hanari sent me here with these books. She was certain they would be of use.”
The mention of Lady Hanari silenced whatever words of opposition were near to rise, a small think Alys was thankful for. While Ulran was a member of the Elders, he ranked beneath the tanned, white-haired woman. He knew that, as did Alys and everyone else in the room. As she waited for Ulran to respond, she made her way to the table by the massive, circular platform the Elders and their guests stood before. She placed the books there, carefully, and turned to give Elder Ulran her full attention.
“Thank you for bringing this to us, Alys,” Ulran stated after a moment, lips pressed into a tight white line. Alys dipped her head, knowing she was dismissed. She made her way towards the door and was about to leave when another said, “Stay, girl. I would like to hear what a woman, lowborn or no, thinks of the peril we are in.”
She could hardly believe her luck. Alys turned and looked at the men around her, all of them knowing of the Old Path in a way the rest of the world was blind to. She had heard how soul after soul rose into Senekawa, lifting aethereal limbs from solid flesh. To save the world meant the bliss of Ascension, of being remember forever and an eternity. She knew of their peril.
She stepped forward, gaze darting across the table until it landed on a dark-haired elf with clear, burning azure irises. His gaze was stern, but calm, and he gestured for her to join the Elders and their long-traveled guests at the stone circle. Alys did so with small steps, palms damp as she fisted them in the front of her shirt.
When they all gave her their undivided attention, Alys said, “From what I have heard, lowborn or no, the world is witness to an old evil awakening from its slumber. Some say you all have traveled here to discuss this evil, to speak on how to put it under…”
Though she spoke clear, her words were soft. The elf inclined his head. “You heard true.”
She could see the others were leaning in, curious lights in their eyes. A nervous tremor worked through her. Exhaling, she said, “For a century and more, noble and ancient blood has walked these halls. Men and elves, dwarves and races whose names are forgotten. There are stories, here. Some light, others dark. I think the ancient force awakening deep within the lands of this kingdom is a foe whose story, be the ending good or bad, be sung about in the Hall of Heroes.”
“And how do you think this story will end?” Asked the dwarf.
Alys offered a soft smile. “The ending, I fear, is up to us.”