The Keeper's Sons
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For two thousand years, the elves of Sirraven have lived in peace with their brothers of the woods, and of the mountains, until a new presence arrives on the continent, with a sharp eye for resources, wealth, and cheap labor. The elves must either band together, and shed this latest menace from their homeland, or become but the latest of nations and peoples crushed beneath it.
Chapter 1, Prologue: Time
Time changes all things.
Sometimes it changes them for the better, sometimes it changes them for the worse. The strings of time were many, and their many varying paths stretched out endlessly, for miles upon miles, century upon century. They would intersect with each other, and then upon changing their course would intersect with new strings, new places, new lives. Time was more, though, than a patchwork, helter-skelter sheet; truly, time itself had an artistic quality to it in its repetition, and in the themes its divine artist left exposed, unmasked and bare before the eyes of the world. Such a masterpiece had never been crafted, and could never be crafted again, and would never be. Time never stops, time never ends.
One would think, after two thousand years, that the races of the world would have learned, with such a spectacle laid down before them, through the gifts of chronicle and antiquity, the patterns and the signs. One would think that they would learn the course before it was plotted, learn to change their course and their lives lest the worst, jagged, torn sections of the pattern repeat themselves, forced to scar the sacred work forever. The races of the world, though, failed to anticipate, and failed to learn from their mistakes. Time and time again.
The Keeper had watched over the world for as long as he could remember, and longer, even, than he could now recall. A simple ball of glass was the eye through which he watched the world, its hopes, its dreams, and its triumphs. As of late, however, the glass had shown him only the pain, suffering, and devastation caused by those without name in his chosen tongue, the ones who, for two thousand years, he had prayed to the creators of this world to deliver him from.
He had prayed their redemption, their destruction, their rebirth, their extinction, thousands of prayers on thousands of occasions, to gods that he was fairly certain were there. He simply couldn't remember the gods' names, or how to reach them. It had, after all, been a very long time since he'd barred the doors, shut himself inside this place, barricaded the inner sanctum, locked himself away from the world with his devices and his orb.
Of all the crafts that he had made, the greatest was the centerpiece of the room, laid in its center, the stony, chiselled room curving down around it like a great cradle. The Keeper descended the steps, his unkempt black robes scratching along the ground behind him as he moved. The stairs were, themselves, eroded beneath two thousand years of pacing, of worry, of concern, of watchfulness and vigilance.
The Keeper had created this device in a time of great sadness, a time of death and decimation of all things good, wild, and wonderful in the world. He had been so certain, at the time, that this device and its operation were without flaw, its machinations the work of both gods and men. It had been so splendid, so grand when first he'd turned its great crank, and breathed the arcane life into it that was his specialty.
That had been a very, very long time ago. Time changes all things.
He had been meddling with powers he did not understand, nor could he ever understand. He had passed two thousand years by hiding frightened children behind a glamer, keeping them safe from the rest of the globe by pretending that it didn't exist. This machine, their salvation, which once had glowed with life, the crystals and gears on its face shining and turning brightly, was now dim, all the life out of it, hardly enough power remaining within it to keep the barriers on the southern shores.
The Keeper watched the machine, tears thick in his eyes, blinding him and causing him to raise a hand to his face.
"Spirits," he whispered, imploring the divine one last, futile time in a simple request, "Why do you let these things happen? Do you not know what you have wrought upon them?" His blindness carried over to the rage that took hold of him, as he reflected and imagined all the wretched things that awaited his children, his sons and daughters, and his beloved woods so green. He angrily lashed out, weakly kicking against the machine, grunting sharply. He stormed up to the altar he had erected to Chandis, that sacred goddess who made all things live, and from it he tore the sash that covered it, and broke the icon of the goddess Sarah in two. He wept bitterly, dropping to his knees at the altar's foot, his hoary, white beard almost touching the ground. His fingertips sifted through the cobwebs on the floor, and the dust which for hundreds of years had covered these ancient surfaces around him. Surfaces still not as old as he.
"Oh, spirits!" he wept, laughing half-madly as he did, "Were that I were this altar! That contraption! The orb! Were that I had not the mind, nor the heart to understand these things, or their consequences! Were that I had not lived to see these times come to pass!"
The tapestry was jagged, crooked, coming unmade. The strings that he had so long tended and cultivated were falling astray, and falling apart, their culling at the hands of strings unknown painfully imminent.
"Spirits!" he called, opening his eyes wide, brushing the tears aside, into his long, dishevelled hair, and his beard-hairs which were bunched and stiff like straw, "Let not these things happen! Let not my children, gentle and innocent, be ravaged before me by such a means! Let not these things happen!"
His pleas fell upon deaf ears, and he knew that they did. The gods either no longer dwelt above, or they simply would not hear him any longer. So long ago, they had granted a selfish, horrid request, one that had cost him everything. Now, why should they hear his pleas, simply because he had finally made amends? The glowing orb beckoned.
The glass shone, its light like that of a summer's sky. In it was the reflection of the water, a deep, dark ocean. Upon the shore were jagged stones and metal, smoke and fire, where once trees and mountains and all things beauteous had once thrived. At its edge were docks, and at these docks were stationed three great ships. The fools crowded around them cheered, waving fond farewells and wishes of long life and happiness to those on the boat, the adventurous few. And with that, the ships of that race, without name, set sail, on their trek towards a place they had not touched in millenia.
He watched their advance, knowing well the suffering their arrival would, at last, bring. So long he had fought to prevent these days, and now they had come to pass. The gods, truly, were punishing him for his transgressions, striking his works down to erase his foolish pride. He'd thought himself invincible; now, cobwebs and rust were all remained of his once-proud works.
Days passed. Entire days, as he watched the approach of those three ships. The Keeper wept, and wept, and wept.
Time changes all things.
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