Chronicled by: Hyperion
Fifty years had passed since the last sighting. Time had mulled it into a lull of a legend, and it began approaching the realm of myth. Often case, at least a hundred or so years would need to pass for that to happen, but it would seem the people wanted to keep it as hush as it could be. History has a way of bending memory and truth together, regardless of their ability to truly coincide. However, whether public knowledge would become aware it’s movements or the cloud of the quiet would shroud it once more, the Iniquitous Tome had been turned once again, and the pages had begotten a lust from a newly ensnared reader. Its beauty and blood had enticed many before now, and would surely continue to do so. While clandestine, the Iniquitous Tome had begotten an entirely wretched wrath of its own, unique to that of any other of the Oracles of Balance. Countless hands held it, fingers had flipped through the pages, and eyes had dried in its grip, and every soul to be touched by its grandeur had been left marked, scarred, or shattered entirely. Fifty years had passed, yet now it seemed only yesterday since bridges burned and cities fell at its command. It seemed effortless how its grip had twisted readers into a submissive daze. Love or loss, the Iniquitous Tome left all its captives changed.
In a time universally devoid of the luxuries of a first world, Harken Fall floated upon the clearest of dark waters. Like a favored captive, she, though crippled, was stronger than any other vestige of remotely prosperous civilization. While staunch in her foundation, one could lay reasonable claim to feeling the structures sway. Truly an unideal place to fortify a colony, but she had no other suiters. Exiled from any other form of sanctuary, the eerie, listless, and nearly pitch black waters now offered the illusion of security. To provide a clear picture of the land, imagine a quiet, often cloudy forest, oddly filled with both evergreen and deciduous trees. A cliff above the shoreline of at least thirty feet at its lowest point stretched from the far north to the south until it wrapped eastward toward Harken, and as the coast began to turn east, it gradually sloped down into a shoreline. This shoreline cut inland for a ways, perhaps two or three miles, then turned south and then west, creating a bay. The north-east-most part of the bay was fed by a river that flowed from the mountains, always topped with snow. As this shoreline headed toward the north-south shoreline aforementioned, its elevation drastically increased, to the point where, only a quarter to half a mile across the bay from Harken, it was at least five hundred feet risen… risen, because this was no hill or mountain, but like the north-south coast, was a sheer rock face with the occasional crooked tree trying to make something for itself. Monstrous mountains surrounded the bay and its land toward the north, wrapping southward in the east, and trailing south. These mountains scraped the skies so high, it could be said that, in certain times of the year, the sun would not be seen until nearly ten o’clock in the morning. The land’s beauty was staggering, a sight truly to behold. To all, it appeared to be the land of a dream, unending in its splendor… but how tragic it was, this glory was not to last.
For now, though, some history may suffice to the questions that have inevitably been aroused. The foothills of the mountains nearby to the north had once held host to peaceful existence. Roanoke Adept, a fortuitous colony with a thriving economy, guarded well by the stone walls and towers around it. Harken Adept was a port of trade, not more than ten miles or so directly South-East of Roanoke Adept. Harken was located on the shore of what used to be called the Golden Gulf, a bay where the aforementioned colonies and more attempted to create a great world. And great it was, for many, many years. The road built between Roanoke and Harken was most likely the greatest declaration of friendship and prosperity for more than just the two. While they were the largest of the societal developments, there were many smaller colonies and gatherings nearby. Most even cut and crafter their own paths to meet with the road. Trade had made Roanoke and Harken flourish in the passing of mere weeks, it was only wise to join in. Harken, as a port, held host to the trades with the ever blissful islands to the west. Fish and eventually lumber for currency (this currency was controversial of origin but legitimate in value, therefore the questions of origin were never asked). Roanoke would supply Harken with mined resources, Harken would supply Roanoke with fish. Upon a convergence of colony leaders, strengths and weaknesses were evaluated between them and a decision was reach regarding their trades, determining which colonies would supply the others with certain goods. Roanoke supplied the goods of the earth, such as gems and stone and building materials, Harken the sea and her bounty, other towns would supply livestock and farmed goods, lumber, and items of small craft. Trade was good, peace resided, and life thrived here.
Not long after the solidification of their civilization, these colonies sent forth some of their brightest, most trusted men and women to form a council. Nine in total, this council would have many duties, but their chief objective was the triumph of their colonies, the thriving of the people. They called themselves The Court. With such a powerful common goal and nothing to disturb the peace, this dream was not unobtainable. One day, the Court unanimously decided to build a stronghold, a tower to reside atop the high side of the southern bay. This stronghold was purposed to watch over the land, house the gatherings of the Court, and serve as a symbol to the unity of the colonies. These three purposes it served well after its four years of construction. In its entirety, the tower reached another two hundred and fifty feet atop the five hundred the cliff already stood from the bay. The highest structure in the land, one could see the road between Harken and Roanoke from the highest chamber, an room with no walls pillars reaching to the heavens. Crafted with the purest stones and earths of Roanoke and the mightiest timbers of Antioch, the tower was the finest creation of man most had ever beheld. The Court declared the tower to be given the name of Knossos, monument to their greatness. It could be said that the Knossos tower was the beginning of the decline, the beginning of the darkness, but the darkness had seething roots long before.
Not long after the Knossos began to host the Court, the Court began to establish law for the land. While wickedness had been minimal in capacity, it was supposed that law would promote further peace in already somewhat harmonious communities. One member of the Court of the Haven colony submitted that the Court pursue the wisdom of the Higher to give them law and structure. Ages of skepticism and doubt had shrouded the subject of the Higher, but after numerous attempts to fashion their own law upon society, the Court deduced that perfection could only be met supernaturally. While many of the Court agreed, some did not, yet regardless of their stance, the pursuit of social unity and peace was far greater than their own volitions. It had been believed that sacrifice of blood was required to commune with the Higher, but a sacrifice had not been made for many generations, and the knowledge of such acts were lost. The Haven member of the Court offered himself to the Court to be the sacrifice, believing that communion with the Higher was worth his life. After much deliberation, the Court reluctantly agreed.
The sacrifice happened one midnight on the highest chamber of Knossos. Most of this lackluster ceremony was guesswork, as none of the Court was knowledgable in sacrifice. Robed in white, the sacrifice knelt in the center of the open chamber facing north. The other eight of the court were dressed in black, covering their faces, not speaking a word. None of them wanted to commit the act, so they each anonymously drew straws. The winner claimed the sword and approached the sacrifice, bitterly ready to make communion with the Higher. The sacrifice lowered its head and spoke, saying it was ready. The sword was raised with two hands on the hilt, the end of the blade facing downward, as though to drive the sword through the sacrifice from behind the head into the body. Thunder in the distance and a gentle breeze, the sacrifice smiled, knowing its deeds would reward the people. The sword bearer began to drive the sword downward, and though it may have only taken seconds to reach the sacrifice, it felt like and eternity for all ten of them. As the sword neared the sacrifice’s skin, time froze.
Seamlessly, the Court was sitting in a circle, looking inward to each other. The place was white with no walls, the seats were comfortable, and the air was still. Light filled the place, and darkness was nowhere to be found. All nine were robed in gray, including The Haven member of the Court, who was alive and well. One who was sitting furthest from the Haven member of the Court had their hands in their lap, shaking uncontrollably with tears streaming down their face. The Haven member of the Court rose from his seat, as did the member in distress, and they walked toward one another, embracing in the quiet.
The sound of footsteps could be heard gently approaching, and a warm and calming voice could be heard saying, “I have missed each of you so dearly.” They each stood and turned around; to their shock and confusion they saw an immensely bright figure standing with its arms at its side. They could not clearly see a face or any attributes of the figure. The light was too much for their eyes, and they each squinted, covered their eyes, or turned away. One of them asked who the figure was, to which it responded, “You have been looking for me.” Rather quickly, those who had not pieced together the identity of their host already concluded that the figure was the Higher. How they had come to this place, or exactly what was this place was remained still a mystery.
“Normally, I would not bring you here to simply reveal my presence, but the joy I have in your desire to return to me, albeit with drastically incorrect methods and measures,” the Higher spoke with a tinge of humor in his now obviously male voice, “fills me.” He paused for a moment, then spoke again, “Your age has forgotten and abandon Me entirely, and although you see good in your society, there is a lurking darkness. Here, now, I make myself known to you, your Higher, and hold and desire for greatness for you. I send you back to Knossos, and charge you to remind them all who their Higher is.” Suddenly appearing from a fade into form next to the Higher, five tomes He gave to them, saying, “These are an extension of Myself, and I beckon you to consult them for My wisdom.”
The place began to dim, the Higher began to fade, and the sound of thunder could be heard in the distance. As He was about to fade out entirely, the Higher spoke one last time, saying, “I am with you…” In an instant, the Court was atop Knossos, returned to the exact moment before the sword struck the sacrifice.
It was too late, the sword bearer could not take the motion back, their movement was unstoppable, they had no time to pull back. The Court could not see Him, but at the very moment, the Higher stepped between the sword and the sacrifice, as though to take its place. The sword struck the Higher in the chest and shattered on impact. Its broken pieces held firm, unmoving after shattering. A sound louder than thunder had laid claim to echoed through the land. A burst of wind and power knocked the Court off their feet, and the pillars broke apart, yet their debris was held in the surrounding fifty or so feet, suspending freely above the earth, free from the toils of gravity. The folk in Harken Adept and even Roanoke Adept looked to find where the thunderous noise had cascaded from to see the pillars break. A violet hue dimly shone from the top of Knossos, and the heavens unleashed their rains and bolts of lightning. It was a beautiful, terrifying storm.
As the Court returned to their feet, the Higher spoke to them directly one last time, finishing his sentence, “Always.”
The Oracles of Balance were kept in a safe place within Knossos. Light thrived in the land for a short while, but it was not to last. They were studied, preached, and accepted through most of the land, but as is the case with beautiful freewill, not all accept the truth. One such individual was a particularly evil darkling, claiming the darkness as the Dark One claimed him. Thinking himself all-powerful, this darkling, through a series of vastly dark and wicked blood sacrifices and with the whispers of the Dark One himself, beget the Iniquitous Tome. Unlike the first five Oracles of Balance, the Iniquitous Tome was the first tangible extension of the Dark One into the world. More than whispers now, the Dark One could directly supply its reader with a craft of darkness, giving the illusion of power. This darkling was was the first to unleash the Iniquitous Tome’s full potential. His wickedness was merely a grain of sand in the tumultuous evil of the Dark One, yet he invoked more darkness upon himself for darkness’ sake.
His sins begot the fall of Harken Adept, forcing it from the land to atop the bay, where it sits now as Harken Fall. The dangerous evils he awoke in the forest forced most, if not all from their homes and to the coast, on small shanty villages atop the water. While unleashing the evils of the deep created new threats in the sea, they seemed to be dormant. The sea had been scarred black by the wickedness, the trees lost much of their color, and many innocent lives were taken. One man, one book, one whisper. After the darkling was struck down, many rejoiced thinking that his Iniquitous Tome was lost with him. Oh, how unfortunately far from the truth they were.
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