8 to Wakening Sun, Inalis, 43 days remaining
As we descended the stairs to the next room, Father asked Sokrates if anyone else had ever been able to do these puzzles. Sokrates admitted that everyone else who attempted to enter the Endless Archive in the past had perished, notably mostly on the next floor: the Bestiary. We steeled ourselves for a fight.
…and instead found ourselves in an absolutely lovely exhibit of strange creatures! There were two rooms of note in the Bestiary. The first was an exhibit of skeletons of many strange and exotic beasts, most of which I had never even heard of. One of them was what looked like just a giant skull with a slot for a singular eye. It was marked “Beholder” and that sounds so cute! A big ol’ eyeball guy! I bet they’re super friendly.
The other room was a sort of open aviary with a great number of pseudodragons in all shapes and sizes. Briar and Zirconis went to see them, and Zirconis said they were playing a very invigorating game of tag. But Zirconis also mentioned that some of them were a little cross as they had scales removed in the past.
As we searched around, we found various clues to help us figure out how to move on. The only hint Sokrates gave was that we had to mix a potion to see an invisible door. The other adventures he mentioned to Shadow on our way down could be found here, all dead and bony after many years. They left notes to help us, which was helpful. The potion required two ingredients, and we learned what not to make based on the notes. In the end, Theo figured out the solution. The potion required an organic material (leaves) and a skeletal material (a small skull). Torag thought the mixture smelled fine – rather, he said it smelled of candy – and drank it, much to Briar’s chagrin. He didn’t die, fortunately, and decided to walk about and see if he could find the exit. A few minutes later, he called to us that he found the door to the next floor. Clio mused, “That was lucky. Let’s go!”
The cartography room was probably the strangest one. We found a large map of the Emerald Isles with colored tokens on them. The solution to this puzzle was to place them on the proper countries. But which ones were correct? Shadow actually figured this one out. He found another map in an old book about war that had five locations circled: the Obsidian Sierras, Talys, the Heartlands, Isle of the Sleepy Drake, and Novarra. When we placed the tokens on these places, the door to the next floor appeared.
Before we left, we found an interesting novel. It was blank until Shadow wrote in it, similar to the magic book that attracted Clio to this library in the first place. It was a sort of adventure book, and we had to write responses to it. The story went as follows: the warrior Drakios had to fight an evil sorceress named Hekate by storming her castle and blocking her fireball spell with a bullwark shield. He gave her mercy by putting her in prison. By getting the story right, we got the fourth key and a little glass gem that I pocketed.
The last room had us nervous. It was the Violet Study, a room of many objects upon a great desk. Our images appeared in mirrors, each with a riddle on what item from the desk to present to it. We presented a glove, a candle, a ring, fire in a glass jar, and an anchor, and the door appeared to get us out of here. The only real problem here was that the item I was presenting to my mirrored image was the anchor. It was a little too heavy for me, so everyone had to listen to an awful scraping sound as I dragged it across the floor.
Before we left, Shadow found a small chest with a new riddle. We had four keys; it had four locks. Each lock had a different animal emblazoned above it. The trick was to put the key into the lock with the animal whose name in common had the same number of teeth as the key. For example, the bat was given the key with three teeth. We found many different treasures inside, and Sokrates assured us that we were allowed to take them.
We finally arrived in the Endless Archive, a room with a seemingly bottomless pit. The pit was lined with bookshelves, all filled with lore, knowledge, and all manner of information of the Emerald Isles. Its caretaker stood before us, someone Shadow and I recognized immediately. We knew him as the Stranger, the one who gave me my seraph skins in exchange for my oath to serve him sometime in the future.
The Stranger said that he guarded knowledge from the Twin Titans and sought to aid us in overthrowing them to protect that knowledge. This knowledge he would give to us freely now if we only asked. Father stepped forward first. He asked him, “Tell me, please, what happened that night?” At that, the Stranger said that the answers lie on the Scaled Book of the Dead. Then he fell over the edge of the pit.
Clio and I approached Shadow. Clio told him to prepare his heart as I hugged him. The Book of the Dead had the names of those that perished in the Emerald Isles. If the Stranger needed the Book to show Father what happened, then we already knew what that meant…
What rose from the pit stunned us all. A large and ancient dragon, pale white and silver with markings all across his scales, appeared and hovered mid-air. He proclaimed himself as the caretaker, no longer known to us as the Stranger but as Vanadon-Necroth, and he himself was the Scaled Book of the Dead in living form. Vanadon told us the tale of Shadow’s past: a prophecy was made that Khar’shan would be destroyed by the general of Ellandyr. She did not take the prophecy well and set herself personally to see it not come to pass. She barged into Shadow’s home and slew his family and servants with her crystal scythe. She came upon Shadow last, but Kiora’s light appeared and protected him at the last moment. Kiora caused the memory of Shadow, his family, and the prophecy to disappear from the minds of the people so that Khar’shan would forget it and leave Shadow alone. The souls of River and Rare are now in her scythe, locked away and trapped.
Father was dead silent, tears slowly falling, and I held onto him trying to muffle my own sobbing. Vanadon said, his voice now softer, “If you wish to save their souls, the crystal scythe must be shattered.” So there’s a way we can still save them! Father nodded and vowed that the Lady of Dreams would die by his hand.
Vanadon turned to Clio next, and Clio only asked hesitantly, “Why me?” Vanadon said that Khar’shan’s obsession with Clio was a personal one. She herself is like the titans in a way, but vastly different. Amalj’aa and Khar’shan were born of the earth and blood of U’atu, but Clio was born of the Heart of Eos. In her veins is divine blood, and a prophecy was made about her as well: Clio was to be the downfall of the Lady of Dreams. But through the Fates on this very island, Khar’shan wrote a new prophecy, that Clio would die thrice before Khar’shan would be satisfied, torturing her for her entire life until then. Clio looked absolutely stunned at this, and I grabbed her hand to let her know she wasn’t alone. Briar and the others came over to us, too. I told her that wee’re together. We’re a family, and Khar’shan will never take that away. We’ll fight with her.
But like Shadow, Clio was given a path forward. To protect herself, she could craft an item from the Fates’ loom. But only the Fates could use the loom, and the three hags on this island were not likely to help. Vanadon said, “If the Fates do not comply, replace them.” Only those with divine blood could take their place. Versi the Oracle was the daughter of Amalj’aa, and Rhea (Versi’s acquaintance back in Ellandyr) had titan blood, too. A third fate was needed: Clio herself. Clio had divine blood, being born of Eos’s Heart.
I don’t know if Clio needed any convincing, or objectivity, or encouragement, but I found myself excitedly talking to her. She could become one of the Fates and bring hope to people! With Clio (as head Fate obviously) and Versi and Rhea taking fate into their own hands, I think we can do a lot of good for the Emerald Isles. I’m not sure how Clio feels about this, so I’ll have to ask her later. I’m going to make a new and incredibly elaborate flower crown for her as soon as we deal with the hags.
Briar asked rather timidly if the names of everyone in the Emerald Isles would be written on Vanadon’s scales, and he assured her that was the case. In the Foxtail holds, the names of those that passed on were written in the center of the hold. But her parents were not, as per the curse on her family. Vanadon sensed this and unfurled a wing, showing the names Telon and Irica. Briar smiled, pleased that they would be remembered.
I’m surprised that the Scaled Book of the Dead spoke to me next. I didn’t have any connection to the Emerald Isles at all, but perhaps that was why this task was given to me through my oath to the Stranger. Vanadon said what we had already known – that the Emerald Isles will return to Xerender with the death of the Twin Titans, and the elder gods of Xerender will wage war against U’atu for his past crimes. But I can prevent that! I need to find the Book of Life. The wretched man on the Gjallarhorn has seen it. Briar and I will work to cure his madness, and then my mission will be to find the Book of Life. Once we have that, I can find a way to protect the Emerald Isles.
We learned many other things that I’ll summarize.
- Clio’s tree, as all Dryads have, is the Golden Heart itself, and not some tree in Novarra like she originally thought.
- Vanadon explained what happened to the siblings of the Twin Titans. Most of their souls are trapped in Khar’shan’s scythe, too.
- Damon the lich is my ancestor! I had kind of figured that already, but now it’s confirmed. I need to speak to him.
- Selesnya’s death created the Five Immortals by a trick she played during the Game of Twenty Squares with Amalj’aa. Khar’shan, furious that Amalj’aa was losing the game, poured her divine essence into the pieces to turn the game in her husband’s favor, but Selesnya knew this would happen and she slew herself to absorb these essences. The Royal Game was covered in her blood and the divine magic in the pieces, and the essences became the Five Immortals. Khar’shan and Amalj’aa played themselves.
We have more to discuss, but I need to contact Actaeon and have him bring Versi and Rhea here as quickly as possible. Rendu is speaking to the Scaled Book of the Dead now, and after that, Vanadon says that he can curve time for us. When we leave the Endless Archive, days will have passed in the outside world and Actaeon will be here. We will be ready to parlay with the Fates, and perhaps overthrow them.