When I began my search for these magi that Ölrún spoke of, I thought my journey would be quick. I would find this Temple of the Moon on L’Main, ask where I can find these magi that Ölrún spoke of, and return to Ásgarðr with little time passed with an answer to Brynhildr’s question. I flew quickly over the world, assuming that when I saw the temple I would know immediately. I thought that since it was a holy place, the mana that was pooled there would jump out at me immediately. I saw several bustling cities within many different kingdoms, all with temples. I should have known better, but I was impatient and frustrated.
Brynhildr’s mission was vague at best and gave us nothing to go on. We didn’t know what we were looking for. I was beginning to feel as though we were sent out on a wild goose chase. Thinking back on it now, Ölrún’s vision was the only thing that I had. My only clue, even if it had nothing to do with what Brynhildr felt or saw when she was out collecting souls for Woden and Freyja for Ragnarök.
Kára always told me that I was impatient, and heeding her words – impatiently, I might add – I stopped and ascended to the heavens. With the world below me, I closed my eyes to keep them from focusing on the swirling clouds below and felt for the mana. I could feel it pool in certain areas, and after opening my eyes, I searched each area. Some were no more than naturally occurring pools of mana, with very few structures by the inhabitants recognizing them. Others had buildings or temples erected over them. Then I came upon Tymy, the seat of power for the Aestosi Empire.
I paused for a moment, wondering why I had overlooked it in the first place. It certainly did not meet what I had imagined a holy place or a place of power to look like. It was a bustling city with inhabitants from all over the world and from other worlds as well. I could see a gate, a structure that looked like a doorframe made from a peculiar looking stone, standing in one of the bigger courtyards of the palace. It wasn’t in use, but there were throngs of people waiting behind a line of armed guards for their chance to use it. The main portion of the palace was at the top of the plateau, overlooking the ocean and the lands surrounding it, a shining beacon for the people within the empire. Not far from it was another large structure, at odds yet complimenting the ornate structure of the palace. The two were connected by a bridge that seemed suspended in the air. I couldn’t tell if it was an older part of the palace or an addition. My interest piqued, I descended into the city and made straight for the seemingly out of place building.
I figured that it couldn’t hurt to look. For all I knew, the gate that I saw was the mana that I detected and there was nothing else here. Or the gate was pooling so much energy that it overwhelmed whatever else might be within the capital’s walls. It was hard to tell without investigating. I decided to cross the bridge, and found that there was no magic holding it up. It was purely a bridge made of white stone suspended over a deep chasm separating the palace from the building. As I touched the stonework, it felt ancient. I knew that it had been here for some time, perhaps longer than the Vilya Feya that now claimed it.
I didn’t bother with taking on mortal guise, only wanting to take a quick look around. The entire building felt ancient to me. I can’t explain it, only that it was a feeling and I was absolutely certain of it. Power seemed to resonate within the stones and to the land it was built upon and I wondered if perhaps this land had always been a place of power. Mana seemed to seep into everything, and if I concentrated hard enough I could see it clinging to the winged people that made Tymy their home.
The walls were all made of the same material, hung with tapestries to help keep the draft out. Natural light came pouring in at every opportunity, and it seemed to me that it was built to make use of it. There were hardly any blackened spots on the walls or the ceiling of torches being used, but there were tables with candles, candle holders, and flint to light them with. Everything seemed to flow in this ancient structure, and as I came upon an alcove harboring statues to Nox, Goddess of Darkness, and Melyl, Goddess of the Moon, I realized that I was in a temple. Was this the Temple of the Moon that Ölrún spoke of?
“Maiden, can I help you?”
I froze when I heard the words. I wasn’t supposed to be noticeable to anyone. I was supposed to be, for all intents and purposes, invisible. I acted as if I heard nothing, but a light touch on my shoulder halted my progress. Turning to face the speaker, I was surprised to see a woman, about middle aged, with dark brown hair, the temples starting to go grey. She wore simple pale blue loose, flowing robes, but a closer inspection showed that they were made of a rich material. Patterns were embroidered in a darker thread barely noticeable and a necklace made of silver with a blue pendant hung from her throat. She also wore a silver circlet. There were no rings or chains of office and her slippers were simple but made of silk.
She smiled at me and folded her hands within the wide sleeves of robe. “Welcome to the Temple of the Moon.”
“Thank you,” I replied uncertainly. I waited for her to continue. At the very least, I found the temple that Ölrún spoke of. All that was left was to find these magi she spoke of.
“What can I help you find, maiden?”
Despite my best efforts not to, I glanced about us. No one else was giving me the slightest bit of attention. “You can see me?”
She laughed, as if my question were a bit silly. I felt my face flush, from anger or embarrassment, I wasn’t sure.
“Others are not able to see you for what you are, but I can,” she explained. “I have been blessed by the gods with this gift.”
I wondered for a moment which gods she spoke, but said nothing of the matter. “I’m looking for something,” I began, “but I need information first.”
She nodded. “It would be my pleasure to assist an esteemed guest.”
I explained to her my situation and Ölrún’s vision, along with Brynhildr’s experience. The high priestess, for she could be nothing else but, listened intently, only interrupting me to ask for clarification on a particular point.
“Walk with me.” She gestured down a hallway leading to a small outdoor garden.
I hesitated, then decided to follow her. We walked in silence until we reached the garden, where she directed me to sit on a bench. It was a quaint garden with a modest view of the ocean. The bench was located under an arch covered in a flowering vine.
“I saw that you would be arriving at our temple and wanted to be sure that I greeted you, battle maiden. The information you seek is not in our library.”
I sighed in frustration. “Then where?”
The high priestess gave me a stern look, and I was reminded of Brynhildr when I was first learning the duties of a Valkyrie. I quieted immediately.
“I believe the ones you seek are the Aevum. I have heard tales of these people and always they are found in a desert.” She paused, collecting her thoughts. “It is said that they live in a sub-Realm different from ours. Now and again, their Realm touches ours, but always in a different place and never for very long. Their appearance is random, in times of peace and war.
“Those that have encountered the Aevum return with a great deal of knowledge. It is possible that if you are able to speak with them, your question may be answered.”
I was silent as I took in all of this information. As I thought over the high priestess’ words, I came to a realization. “I have no way of contacting them to initiate a meeting,” I said aloud. Turning to her, I asked, “What do I do? Wait for them?”
“You could or seek out Kaer Castle,” she offered.
“And where is that?”
“In this sub-Realm, on Caselien.”
“The castle is-” she floundered, looking for the right words “-it exists in several sub-Realms. Almost permanently overlapping one world in each Realm. It holds a vast library, third only to Silivrenniel and Ithilwen.” Seeing my dejected face, she added, “There are also the Black Towers.”
“I’m aware of their presence, but I confess I don’t know much about them, save that they were built by the Aevum.”
“They are places of knowledge specific to the region they are placed in,” explained the high priestess. “They were built long ago and each tower has access to the knowledge of the other towers. By magic or ancient technology, I know not. Those in the Black Towers may know of a way to contact the Aevum or have an answer.”
I nodded as I thought over my choices: wait for the Aevum – who must be the magi Ölrún spoke of – to reappear, seek out Kaer Castle, or travel to the nearest Black Tower in this region. The Black Tower seemed the obvious choice, but there was no guarantee that the answer would be there – much less a way to find the Aevum. Waiting for the Aevum to reappear could take weeks, months, or years. Kaer Castle, while a fair distance away, was probably my best chance of getting some sort of answer.
“The castle,” I said finally. “Would there be information about the Aevum there?”
“It contains a history of them and a listing of their appearances, from what I understand.”
“Have you been there?”
“Only a handful of times,” she admitted. “The emperor would prefer it to be closer, but not even the will of a single mortal can change the stars.” Her smile was rueful, yet affectionate. “Of those times, I recall a vast library with ladders and tables. Stacks of books being put away by the staff. It is, above all things, a learning center. It is a castle – a fortress – second.”
Rising from my seat, I bowed at the waist to the high priestess. “Thank you fro your help. If I were to return, who should I inquire after?”
“Oriana.” She smiled and inclined her head as well. “A runner will be sent to fetch me should you call, battle maiden. What named will you give?”
“Vaera,” I replied promptly, spelling it for her. After giving one final farewell, I rose into the sky and left L’Main and its twin moons behind.
I knew the vague direction where Caselien lay, and even knowing that it was relatively close – it was at least in the same sub-Realm – the journey there seemed much longer than I originally thought. When the world finally came into view, I was greeted by clouds and forests, settlements large and small scattered about the lands. Caselien is known for being the world that Nox, Goddess of Night and Darkness, fell to when She was banished from the Realm of the Gods. It was here that She created her children, the very ones that inspired tales of blood sucking beasts and shape shifters by the light of the full moon. Some of the tales were true. Others were gross exaggerations.
I scoured the lands, wondering in the back of my mind if I were doing the right thing. Was it foolhardy to believe in Ölrún’s vision? Was it wise to listen to the advice of a mortal high priestess? Was this nothing more than a wild goose chase?
My doubts were eased when I saw the castle. It was made of a white stone, similar to the Temple of the Moon and marbled with grey and red, at odds with its surroundings. Bright red rocks jutted up from the earth, forming a protective barrier around the castle and its lake. As I circled around, I saw many ways to enter, but only one with massive wooden gates bolted into the rock itself.
A small town was established on the main shore surrounding the island that Kaer Castle was built upon. There were scholars and merchants, travelers and priests milling about the grounds. Entry into the castle proper was open to all, it seemed. The grounds of the castle and the surrounding area were teeming with power. In my distracted state, I’m surprised I missed it earlier.
Not knowing how the people would react to my sudden appearance, I decided to remain as I was. Alighting on the path leading to the gates, I found them to be far more impressive from the ground than in the air. I wondered as I gazed up at the red stone walls and the immense wooden gates who made this place, shaped it from the rocks and trees.
I followed a scholar through the gates and met with the castle itself. I noticed I was far from the only one to stop and stare. The castle was as impressive if not more so than the rock walls and water that surrounded it, with a stone bridge leading to the tidal island it was built upon. Oriana was right that it was certainly a fortress, with its stone walls surrounding the immense courtyard. Cerulean banners emblazoned with a black, stylized eagle hung from the balconies and similarly colored pennants fluttered from the towers that at one time provided an advantage of seeing the enemy from a distance. As big as the courtyard was, the rest of the castle was far more interesting. There seemed to my eye to be levels leading up to the main part of the castle, with each level consisting of buildings that I assumed were part of the castle, perhaps stables or housing for esteemed guests; all buildings to help the castle to continue to function as learning center. The eye was drawn ever skyward to the castle’s main building, with its tallest tower. It was here that I intended to go, guessing that the library as well as the main hall was there.
I followed the crowd, and before long I found myself entering the main building, and soon after the library. It was bigger than anything I had ever seen in my life. No, not quite, but it was close. I can honestly say that never before had I seen so many books in one place before. There were rows upon rows, aisle upon aisle of books; from the floor and nearly touching the vaulted ceiling. If there was any place that contained information about the Aevum, it was surely here. But where to start? I was encouraged yet disheartened by it all. Even with the help of a scholar, there was no way of knowing if I could find the right information. I could spend years in here and not find what I needed.
Heaving a sigh, I left the library, found an empty alcove, relatively hidden from the activities of the gathered crowd, and took on mortal form. I chose clothes from my homeworld, donning the familiar clothes of a shieldmaiden save the spear, helm, and shield. Reentering the library, I watched to see who was actively reading and researching, and who seemed to be the help.
I decided upon a young man on a ladder putting books away. He looked down when I called his attention and directed me to where I needed to be. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of my research and try to be brief.
The Aevum were one of the ancient races and originally from L’Main. They are thought to be the creators of the Black Towers and the gate system between many of the Realms and sub-Realms. The technology they left behind has yet to be duplicated. Some of it is still in use, but no one knows why these systems are still working or how.
At some point in history, they left their cities and disappeared. Now and again, reports came in of seeing these mysterious people. Always their appearance is random and hardly in the same place. Those that have met the Aevum are never the same. Some never return.
Theories abound as to where the Aevum went, but the most compelling was that they left most of the sub-Realms of Man for a much smaller one after seeing their knowledge and technology abused, taking most of it with them.
There appeared to be a connection between them and places of power on each of the worlds within this sub-Realm. The city of Tymy once belonged to them before the Vilya Feya, the winged race related to the Laskandians and supposedly descended of the fabled phoenix, claimed it. Long before Kaer Castle was built, the lands that it now rests on were thought to be holy ground by the Aevum.
There were many such places and I wrote every single one of them down, taking care to mark the ones where the Aevum seemed to appear the most. As I scrutinized the list, every sub-Realm was listed save for Lyonesse. Something seemed important about that, so I wrote it down and underscored it for good measure. After double checking all of my information, I decided that Lyonesse was worth investigating despite the faint echo uncertainty that I thought was welling up within me. I settled on the world Ys as the first world I would search within the sub-Realm.
And then something else caught my eye. It was about Kaer Castle itself, listed in the sparse known history of the Aevum. The castle was considered the depository of all knowledge on different worlds in many Realms and it was thought that Kaer Castle was originally built by the Aevum. There were technologies present within many of the buildings and on the tidal island that were unexplainable and bore markings consistent with that belonging to the Aevum. I decided that it would be best to not only start in Lyonesse, but to also look for Kaer Castle’s echo, for lack of a better term, in the sub-Realm. If the information was correct, the Aevum would be close by.
The journey to Lyonesse was long but uneventful. When I arrived on Ys, I was surprised by what I saw. I was expecting a desert with the Aevum involved. Instead, I was greeted by a near paradise. The waters here were clear in the riverbeds and the ocean was blue near the land and green the further I looked out across the ocean. The town was a city and I was strongly reminded of Tymy. Was this where the Aevum had retreated to ages ago? Was it possible they were hiding in plain sight?
I searched the world of Ys until I came upon a castle, its likeness to Kaer Castle unmistakeable. The castle was every bit as impressive as the one on Caselien. The singular difference being the lack of the red rock that surrounded its counterpart. I believed in that moment that this castle existed on several different planes, Realms, and sub-Realms all at once. It was a feat only the Aevum were capable of.
There was nothing left for me to do but wait.