Updated: Mar 27, 2021
Ahren rubbed her eyes. The sun orbs were nearly out which signified the hour was late. It was likely just a few hours before dawn.
She felt goosebumps forming as her bare feet touched the cold stone. It helped to chase the grogginess she felt away, but her body still yearned for sleep and the comfort of a warm bed. Yet sleep was being elusive.
She continued down the long corridor, passing by several doors. Each was where some of the Great Library’s Custodians and their families lived. It truth, everyone in the library was like family. Some of the families had been here for generations.
She passed by the door leading into the Hall of Memories. It was here portraits of the Loremasters from ages past were hung. Mama had told her about them, of their great finds and of the dangerous relics they had recovered from a time before The Invasion and after The Fall.
Mama had said that it was their duty to keep such things locked away from a world who would misuse their power or to prevent people from inviting things long forgotten back into Elanthar. Ahren shuddered when she thought about such things. Loremaster Mken had disciplined her for looking into some of those forbidden books.
The pictures of the monsters she found were terrifying and almost lifelike. It was as if the artist wanted to express the horror of what such creatures were. If that were so, then their intent was a success.
She stopped and reached for the door at the end of the corridor. It hummed softly before an audible click sounded. Ahren turned the knob and stepped into the Great Library itself. The door was enchanted in order to protect the Custodians and Loremasters. Only those who were family could pass.
The library was gloomy, save for the eerie glow from the eyes of the guardian statues. They had been created centuries ago to protect the library, the Custodians and the Loremasters. Ahren walked toward the railing and peered down to the floors below then looked toward the floors above. It was there the soft glow of candlelight caught her eye.
Mama must be up late reading.
Quietly she crept up the spiral stairs nearby, making her way to the upper floors. Ahren gripped the railing and looked down. The distance between floors always made her nervous. The stairs started on the ground level and wound their way up to the sixteenth floor.
The glow of the candlelight steadily grew brighter with her ascent. Once she rounded the last curve of the stairs, Ahren saw her mother sitting quietly at one of the many tables surrounded by books.
Ahren smiled. She looks so happy. Her blonde hair was draped around her shoulders and her face seemed much softer, the candlelight hiding the age lines Ahren knew were there.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed little one?”
Ahren paused as she passed by one of the tables as her mother looked up from her book and turned toward her.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
Her mother smiled warmly. “Come here, dear,” she said, sliding over on the bench to make room for her.
Ahren ran up and slid next to her. Her mother pulled her close in response and Ahren rested her head against her. “What are you reading mama?”
“Oh it’s an old, old story, little one,” she replied. “I have found other stories similar to it, so what do you think that means?”
Ahren furrowed her brow, then glanced at the dozen or so books scattered open on the table. “That while some parts may be em…emb…belished, it doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth to them?”
The proud smile on her mother’s face filled her with delight. Mama was always teaching things. Sometimes it was annoying, but Ahren knew if she wanted to be a custodian, then she needed to learn everything she could. Mama’s focus was history and piecing together the truth of the past.
“That’s my girl!” her mother replied squeezing her cheeks softly.
Her mother gently pulled her in closer. “Don’t fuss, Ahren,” she said.
Ahren turned to the books. One of them was written in orcish, while another was written in Daesin, the language of the Centaur.
“Why these books mama?”
Her mother’s brown eyes lit up in the candlelight. “Because it isn’t often that their stories connect with other cultures. The centaur tribes of the plains are a reclusive lot.”
Ahren looked at the books again. She was still a long way from understanding either language but knew both had distinct characters that made them easy to identify what they were. “So what is the story, mama?”
“I’ll only tell you if you promise to go back to bed,” her mother replied.
Ahren nodded and snuggled up against her. “I promise.”
“Good, now close your eyes and listen.”
Ahren closed her eyes as her mother’s voice filled her ears.
“A long time ago, before The Invasion and before the Ten Kingdoms two children were born. Their names were Aluna and Narune. Though the stories differ on what race they were, I believe they were human.
Aluna and Narune were twins, but not identical. They are what we call fraternal twins. However, their parents could tell that even at birth they were incredibly gifted with magic. The stories say that you could sense it just by being near them.
Aluna and Narune’s parents were fearful at first, but chose to push past their fears and raise them as best as they knew. So they retreated from civilized culture and learned to live a quiet life away from others in the wilderness.
As the twins grew their parents noticed they almost never spoke to each other but seemed to work together seamlessly. They also saw that things had begun to happen simply by the twins willing it to be.
If crops died, they were somehow revitalized and made strong. If rain never came after several days, a storm would brew out of nowhere overnight. The twin's mother soon grew afraid and began to wonder what it might mean. While she loved her children dearly, she knew enough about magic to know this was unnatural.”
“Were they sorcerers, mama? Like people who don’t need words to use lots of words and gestures to focus their power?”
Her mother smiled softly. “They were much more than that,” she replied.
“Were they at least good kids?”
“Oh, they were. Narune grew strong and brave. He was always protecting Aluna from the dangers in the forest. Aluna was kind and gentle. She was always cautious about her powers, even when she was little it seemed as if she understood how dangerous they could be. “
“What about their father, what happened to him? You only mentioned him a couple of times.”
“The twin's father, Menous, is one of the many sad things about their story. One day, when he was out hunting, Menous encountered a saberquill in the forest. In those days the beasts were more common than they are now.
The beast attacked, protecting its territory and mortally wounded Menous. He died shortly after in their home because of its poisonous spines.
The twins became so distraught that in their anguish, they unintentionally summoned a powerful storm. The storm devastated the forest and with the loss of her husband, their mother could no longer maintain her resolve.”
“She sounds like a bad mother, mama.”
“Shh, she was afraid little one, people do things they often regret when they fear something.”
Ahren gently squeezed her mother. “Mama, I don’t know if I like this story.”
She felt her softly run her fingers through her hair. “I would never leave you, Dear One,” she replied as if reading her mind. “Do you want to stop.”
Ahren shook her head. “No, I want to know what happened.”
“Very well. Shrea fled into the night, taking everything she needed for her journey while the twins slept. She never made it very far when she reached the road, however. A man, or at least she thought it was, clad in black metal armor stopped her.
“Who was he, mama?”
“His name was, Arkhan Therash, and he was no man,” she replied. “He was one of the Forgotten, a demon from a darker age who had managed to hide himself among mortals. Therash had sensed the twin's power and wanted it for himself. He forced Shrea to lead him back to her home and to the twins.
“Bring your children,” he commanded Shrea.
But somehow, Shrea found her courage and was reminded of the love she held for the twins. She bravely walked toward their small home and as soon as she stepped across the threshold, she screamed.
“Run my babies! Flee! A monster has come!”
Narune awoke to see a dark vapor envelope his mother and turn her into a lifeless husk. Anger filled the young boy’s heart and without thinking, he rushed toward the door only to be covered in her ashes.
When he looked up, he saw the demon in black armor, who eyes glowed with a sinister light through the visor of its helm. Narune in his fury screamed and Arkhan was send hurtling through the air into the forest. Aluna rushed to him in the next moment as he passed out from exhaustion.
Ahren wiped her eyes. It was so sad, they had lost their parents. “What happened next.”
“In the coming years, Arkhan pursued them relentlessly, like Shaylin hound. The twins were on the run and always careful about using their powers. Somehow though, he always seemed to know when they had used them too much.”
“So he was stronger than the twins?”
“No, but he was old and well versed in demonic magic. The twins were young, and while powerful lacked the training to properly stand against him. Most of the time, they barely escaped with their lives.
“So they ran forever and ever?”
“No, eventually, they ended up having nowhere else to run. Arkhan had set a trap.”
Ahren frowned. “What kind of trap?”
“The kind that ensnares the desperate,” her mother replied. “He let a rumor circulate about an ancient place in the mountains where dark beings could be sealed away for eternity. In truth, it was an altar he had constructed to steal the twin's power.
The twins soon found themselves cornered deep inside the cavern and a desperate fight soon followed. Narune always stood in front of his sister protecting her from the worst of the demon’s magic. Aluna, in turn, protected her brother with her power.
The legend says that the battle lasted for days, with the twins gradually weakening. They were mortal after all and mortal bodies are fragile things compared to a demon in the flesh. While Arkhan’s power wasn’t limitless, he would outlast them in the end.”
“I grow tired of this game, children. Surrender and I will make this quick!” the demon shouted.
“If we die, your hope dies with us, demon!” Narune shouted.
Arkhan smiled. “One of you is better than none,” he replied.
It was then that Narune looked behind him. Aluna had fallen. The toll of channeling so much magic put too great a strain on her body. Narune fell to his knees, ignoring the clomp of Arkhan’s metal boots drawing closer.
Her voice was so quiet in his mind, barely a whisper. He felt the tears fall down his cheeks. They had lost so much already.
Isn’t there anyone who can save us? He asked. When will it stop? Please, someone, help us…
“Did someone save them, mama?”
Her mother nodded. “Sharena…” she replied.
Ahren stared at her mother, eyes wide. “But people say the Immortals are forbidden to intervene.”
Her mother smiled. “People don’t know what we do dear,” she replied. “They aren’t meant to for their own sakes.”
“So how did she save them?”
“The story goes that Sharena bathed the room in a blinding light. A light so brilliant and powerful that it burned away Arkhan’s evil, leaving only his armor and cursed sword behind. When the light vanished, Narune and Aluna were gone.”
Ahren pulled away gently and looked into her mother’s brown eyes. “Where did she take them?”
Her mother leaned forward, kissing her on the forehead and slid away from the table to her feet. “Come with me,” she said holding out her hand.
Ahren slid from the table and took her hand, allowing her mother to lead her to the window.
“Look up little one, tell me what you see,” she said.
Ahren reached for a stool nearby and pulled herself up to the window. “I see the stars and the moon.”
“Just one moon?” her mother asked.
“That is Narune little one,” she said. "With so mcuh time spent running, he never got to see the world he dreamed of. Now, he sees everything."
Ahren suddenly felt silly that she hadn’t thought about Alanthar’s moon having the same name as the boy in her mother’s story. She smiled. “You made it up.”
“Did I?” her mother asked. “Now why would I do that?”
Ahren yawned. “To make me more tired.”
“Perhaps, or maybe I told you what I have been researching,” her mother responded.
Ahren glanced back up at the night sky. “Well, if that’s Narune,” she said. “Where is Aluna?”
“Hiding safely behind him,” her mother replied. “Some believe that she only shows herself to those who need her help the most. Others say that she sometimes looks down to encourage those who she thinks are truly special.”
Ahren smiled. “You tell me I’m special all the time, mama.”
Her mother knelt and cupped her face gently in her hands. “You are special to me, little one,” she said, kissing her cheek. “Now you promised if I told you a story you’d run off to bed.”
Ahren nodded. “I know, but now I want to see if I can find Aluna.”
Her mother shook her head and laughed. “Five minutes you,” she replied.
Ahren smiled and leaned forward hugging her tightly. “Five minutes.”
She quickly tuned, gazing out into the great city of Shyre and then up into the sky. Ahren narrowed her eyes, hoping to catch just a peek of Aluna. Hours seemed to pass, but there was nothing. She frowned, just as her mother called out.
Ahren sighed. “Okay, mama.” Stepped off the stool and then glanced up at the window one last time. Her heart jumped as she saw a sliver of something just behind Narune. The sliver slowly grew until it was just enough to be distinct.
Ahren smiled. “It’s okay Aluna, I’m shy too.”