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Chapter 1: Bring the world home.


The knock at the door dampened the cushion of silence Loran had surrounded himself with. He lifted his head up from his desk, and closed the book he had been using as a pillow. He ran a hand through his long brown hair, smoothing it back, and rubbed his bleary eyes. He looked to the window, eyeing the position of the sun. He decided he did not fall asleep for long, and frowned at the thought. That meant he still had so much longer to wait until dinner. At least then he would have something to do.

As he stood up to open the door, he heard a soft growl behind him. He turned to the bed against the opposite wall, away from the window. The small green dragon lying on the bed twitched in his sleep, his paws flexing as though grasping for something in his dreams.

“Find something tasty, Keereth?” Loran said softly, smiling in spite of himself. He turned back to the door, reaching out for the latch.

“Loran, are you in there?” called a voice from the other side, it was shrill and feminine, with an edge of irritation to it.

Loran grimaced, as though he had been stuck in the hand with a fork. He was not sure he wanted to open the door anymore. Delyra was always so cross with him. But if he didn’t answer, she would be even worse to deal with later.

“Be right there,” he called back, the hesitation in his voice barely disguised. He flicked open the latch and drew the door back. Standing in its frame was a woman of angled features and sharp eyes, a pair of half moon spectacles resting on the razor sharp bridge of her nose. Her hands rested disapprovingly on her waist, her sharp fingers drumming on her blouse.

“What took you so long?” she said, thrusting her face into his. “I’ve been waiting!”

“Sorry, I …” he looked back to his desk, where his book and his cap still sat.

“Oh! Were you actually reading for once?” she said, surprised. Her face softened somewhat. “In that case, you are excused. It’s good to see you taking your studies seriously for once.”

He was just about to argue with her that it made a better pillow than a teacher, but figured if it made her happy she could believe what she wanted.

“You are summoned to Loremaster Klask’s quarters,” she said tersely. “But if you wish I’ll tell him that you are studying, and that you will see him when you are done.”

He bit back a sharp retort, instead saying, “My studies will wait for the Loremaster, Miss Gravidae. Did he say what for?”

She sniffed at his apparent dismissal of education. “He is planning the next expedition, and wants your opinion on the details.”

Loran’s eyes widened. “The next expedition!” he said, feeling his blood move again. “That’s all I need to hear!”

She frowned darkly. “I thought you had changed, seen reason. You should keep yourself here this time. All this field work is not conducive to your education. It’s a job for ruffians and hirelings. You could become a more productive member of the Society if you focused on the studies here at the Hall, or perhaps enrolled at the Academy of Magi.”

“We are the Harkenal Explorer’s Society, aren’t we?” Loran said. “Exploring is what we are supposed to do. I’m here because that’s what I want to do.”

“After what happened to your last team, even?” she asked, much more concerned now, and casting an eye to the drowsy dragon on his bed.

Loran frowned. “If Loremaster Klask wants to see me now, I’ll be going. Thank you, Miss Gravidae.”

She scowled at him. “We haven’t finished this conversation, Loran. You will see reason one day, I swear.” She spun on her heel and exited, slamming the door behind her.

“Grr!” snarled Keereth, snapping awake, his silver eyes lighting up. “What!”

Loran shook his head. “It’s only Delyra, Kee.”

Keereth blinked twice, then set his head back down on the bunched up sheets he was using as a pillow, but never closed his eyes. He glared at the door, as if he expected her to come back in.

“Since you’re awake, let’s go for a walk,” Loran said. “Loremaster Klask is waiting for us.”

“Klask!” The little dragon leapt from the bed, trotting over to the door and looking expectantly at Loran. “More food, too!”

It was Loran’s turn to blink. “You already want more food? It was just lunch a short time ago!”

“More!” Keereth insisted, his tail swaying back and forth.

Loran sighed. “Fine, but only after we meet the Loremaster.” He opened the door, and his little dragon brother gleefully scampered out into the hall of the dorms. “Hopefully we’re out of here soon, and you can eat all you want out in the wild.”

“Birds and bunnies! Yum!” the dragon squealed mirthfully.

Loran guided his eager friend down the hall to the stairs leading to the main hall. The massive hall divided the Headquarters of the Society, the front from the back. It was meant as a gathering hall, and served as a sort of trophy room. It was true that the purpose of the society was to make contact with other cultures and create maps of unexplored regions, but it was also true that the Harkers were founded by adventurers. Many of the Harkers, Loran included, indulged in the more fanciful side of exploring, seeking out ruins and places distant in the world just to see what is there, or perhaps drawing on folklore and legends to find some secret portion of the world never seen in this age. The hall had all kinds of treasures won on the treks made by the members, from gifts given by locals to samples of ore and plants taken for study, and even a few more exotic items, including the preserved hand of a rakshasa and the broken horn of a demon.

Loran made his way quickly to the other side, to the front half of the Headquarters where the business of the Society was handled. The main part of the business quarter, the offices, was normally very busy this time of day, but now his footsteps and the clatter of Keereth’s claws on the floor were deafening in the quiet. His gait became slower as he felt very conscious of his solitude in the silence. This seemed to affect Keereth as well, and the dragon’s normally energetic pace became very measured and timid. Even as he came to stand in front of the Loremaster’s office door, a nervous energy ran through him. Shaking his head to rid himself of the nerves, he rapped against the Loremaster’s door.

“Yes?” came the swift reply, the voice of Loremaster Klask firm and somewhat anxious.

“Loran, sir,” the young man said. “Keereth is with me.”

“A timely arrival!” came the exclamation from within. “Enter, please!”

Loran opened the door, bolstered somewhat by the words of his master and teacher. Within, the tall, spindly form of Gregory Klask, Head Loremaster of the Harkenal Explorer Society, stood hunched over his desk, which was plastered with a map larger than the surface of Loran’s own desk. Several markers were placed on its surface, tiny statuettes that resembled different figures. Loran had seen them several times before, and knew they were consistent with the areas currently being explored by different teams. He noticed that there were many more figures on the table than was normal.

“Delyra told me you wanted my input for an expedition?” Loran asked, joining the Loremaster at his desk.

“Well, she misinformed you,” Klask said dryly. “Your opinion is valued to me, of course. But you and I both know your skills are wasted on forethought and planning. Your mind is sharp and quick, broadened by your experience, but you become sluggish and dull when kept still for too long.” He smiled. “It seems your companion is also stifled being kept in quarters.”

Loran looked down at his side, where Keereth stood up on his hind legs, his forepaws planted firmly on the desk and scanning the map. He looked up when he was mentioned long enough to give the old man a draconic smile. Loran petted his young friend’s head, trying to fathom what was going through the dragon’s mind.

“I’ve made you wait for two weeks, and I am thoroughly surprised you both haven’t gone stir crazy.” The Loremaster sat back down. “No matter, I have distinct need for the both of you on an upcoming expedition.”

“Where to?” Loran asked, always eager to be on his way. His home was the Headquarters, but his heart belonged to the road.
The Loremaster appeared hesitant. “You may very well end up somewhere far from where I send you first. This might be the most important thing you ever do for the Harkers, Loran.”

Loran’s eagerness was dimmed somewhat by the Loremaster’s tone. Normally Loremaster Klask was all too eager to give Loran the details of his mission, almost as though he wished he could follow. Now, he seemed darkly thoughtful, as though discussing funerary rites.

“You were not my first choice. I would prefer someone like Norgas or Wendal for a task like this. But I see now that it is only you that I can trust for such an undertaking.”

“What are you talking about, sir?” Loran grabbed a stool and sat down. “What would you have of me?”

The Loremaster grimaced. “I have it on good authority that you are neglectful of your studies at the academy. That is, save for one instance. You don’t own many books, do you Loran?”

“No, sir.”

“You do own some. I’ve seen them.”



Loran was shaken by the question.

“That is not how you like to learn, my boy. What could be in a book that is not out in the world for you to see? What have you found that a collection of paper and inks can teach you that the realms of Arkyneth cannot?”

Loran lowered his eyes. “It’s nothing, sir. Just a hobby.”

“What is it, Loran? It is most peculiar for you, so it must be important somehow.”

“Back on my expedition to Joredell several years ago, I ran into someone. A historian of sorts, who collected legend lore and analyzed it. She told me about the Myth of Arkyn.”

“Tell me what you have learned,” Loremaster Klask leaned forward, his fingers steepled.

Loran scratched his head unsure of where to begin. “I found several sources that site the myth, but only a few that discuss it directly, and they were very old. The myth is that there were a people before us; perhaps they became the first gods of Arkyneth. They were supposedly responsible for creating all the races, even the dragons, and establishing the very laws of nature. Magic, in this myth, originated from their emotions. It was their love for their creation, and their contempt for our foolishness.

“Anyway, I asked her where I could find the evidence, and she told me there was never any trace, only stories.”

“Stories can be evidence,” the Loremaster put forth.

“Only if those stories have some proof,” Loran shot back. “You taught me that. But I was curious, so I decided to find out what other scholars thought of this tale. It turns out that the only people who knew much of anything about it are dead now. So instead of giving up, I decided to do my own research. All the books I own are the only sources I’ve found that site anything about the myth.”

“If these other researchers couldn’t find the evidence, why did you press on?”

Loran thought about that question much longer. He looked down at Keereth, who was staring at him curiously. “Because … despite the fact that there is no real evidence, I don’t think a tale that big can be entirely false. If not, where did we come from, and why are we here? There are so many answers to that question; any culture will tell you a different story, and some of them also relate in some way to the Arkyn. I want to know more about them.”

Loran looked up, and saw the Loremaster smiling. “You sound very much like me when I was your age. Always in pursuit of truth.”
“Facts, sir,” Loran corrected. “Truth is for priests and philosophers. I want only the facts.”

“Truth, young man, is where the stories and the facts meet,” Klask said. “You have more knowledge on this subject than any other Scripter at the Headquarters. That is why I want to trust you with this search.”

“A search?” Loran said, his excitement renewing. “What for?”

Loremaster Klask became reverent in his posture. “The Orygos. Have you read about this as well?”

Loran’s mind raced. He had heard the name before, but it did not come to mind.

“It is no surprise that you have not. The Orygos could be anything, a place, an object, or even a person. Whatever it is, it may well be the evidence you are looking for.”

Loran’s heart leapt.

“It is never disclosed what it truly is, but many arcane journals speak of the Orygos as something beyond all knowledge, and it has many names throughout the realms of Arkyneth. There are some who say it is the beginning of all things. Until recently, there was no link to it from the Myth of the Arkyn. But if it is real, don’t you think that the beginning of all things would be linked to these supposed forerunners of the universe?” Loremaster Klask fixed his gaze on Loran’s eyes. “I want to find out if that is … well, the truth.”

“And you want me for this?” Loran could not believe his ears. To be chosen for such a monumental task was unbelievable to him.

“I must warn you,” the Loremaster said sharply, in a harsh, hushed voice, “this is going to be very dangerous. The Nightbringers are an organization that also seeks this thing. They are supplicants of the plane of shadows, and seek to extend its reach into our world. With something like the Orygos, should all the tales be real, we could all be slaves to the Shadow Dragons or worse. Let’s not forget that the Trust could also be after the same goal; they have made it apparent in their seizure of Kalithos that they are capable of much already, if they learned of this it is not unimaginable that they would want its power. We need to discover the veracity of this mighty thing, before it can be used for such wanton purposes.”

Loran steadied himself against the desk. The Nightbringers! The dreaded Trust! The beginning of everything! The end of the world! What was he getting into?

“Must go!” Keereth shouted. Loran blinked at the startling words, and the little green dragon trotted to the door. “Go now, Loran! Must go!”

The Loremaster chuckled, setting Loran at ease somewhat. “You are noble, little one. Brave and noble. Loran, you may still refuse my request. This is not something I can demand of you in the normal course of your duty.”

Loran straightened up, standing from his stool. “I would be honored to make this expedition, Loremaster.”

A grandfatherly smile passed over Klask’s face. “You make us all proud, boy. Every Scripter at the hall should do well to follow your lead, and you honor the memory of your comrades with your willingness to return to danger.

“You need to know that I cannot give you aid past what knowledge I have. From the moment you begin this journey, you are doing this on your own; the Society cannot support you on this trek.”

“Even if I must do it alone, I cannot pass up this chance at finding out this one great thing,” Loran answered.

“Alone?” Loremaster Klask scoffed. “Heavens no. I have arranged a few allies for you and Keereth in this venture, Loran. No one else from the Society of course, but I have found you allies with similar interests.”

“You mean I’ll be working with adventurers?” Excitement edged its way back into Loran’s voice.

Klask nodded. “You’ll meet them in Praidus, two at the Gray Horizon tavern, and one at the temple of Ioun. I hired them for your guidance and protection. They will know you for who you are on sight, I assure you.” He made a sidelong glance at the green dragon waiting impatiently by the door, assuring Loran of what he meant. “They are the only ones who will know you are from the Harkers. Do not tell anyone else you are working for us.”

“But why?”

“If word got out that a Harker Scripter was in search of the Orygos, we would have the Trust and the Nightbringers assaulting our Headquarters relentlessly for word on is whereabouts. Even though they would not find much, I cannot risk it for the sake of the Society.”

“I understand,” Loran said.

“You are to go here first,” he said, pointing to a mark on the map well east of Harkenal, at the outskirts of the Shay Desert, at the northern foot of a chain of mountains Loran knew as the Dry Fangs. “The Dry Fang Mountains are said to have a canyon that breaches deep into the earth, below the desert sands. The cave network that is carved into the sides of the canyon is said to be reachable from the caverns of the Dreyvari, and was considered holy ground for the Lost Elves until a dragon made its home there. We have no confirmation that this is still the case, but no one, not a deep elf or otherwise, has seen what is there for ages. What is known is that a temple to a forgotten god may still stand there. The old Dreyvari temple is said to be home to an incredible repository of knowledge, among other things. If there was anything that could hold the whereabouts of the Orygos, it would be in this archive.”

Loran absorbed all the information, and nodded. “When shall I be off?”

The Loremaster closed his eyes. “Take all the time you need. You may not see your family for some time to come. Maybe you should see them before you leave Harkenal.”

Loran shook his head. “I told them I’d come back when I was ready to stay for good. I’ll not make them worry now.”

The Loremaster grimaced, as though he was struck. “Then at least send a letter home every now and then. You can even tell yourself that you are only sending it to them to give to me. But I’ve spoken with your father recently, and we both agree that you and Keereth are all too eager to be anywhere but home.”

Loran smiled meekly. “You misunderstand me, Loremaster. I don’t want to leave them behind. You know about my sister’s condition, right?”

The Loremaster nodded. “She will never be able to walk, the priests said.”

“I can’t bear the thought of living like that, so I keep her in mind wherever I go.” Loran turned around to leave. “When I come home for good, I’ll make sure I have a little bit of everywhere to bring back to her.”

The Loremaster nodded. “Then go, boy. Bring her the world.”

Loran nodded as he left, Keereth hot on his heels.

Here is your chance to contribute to the story, and guide Loran to his next destination.

For contributions totaling $5 or less, Loran will leave immediately for Praidus and head first to the Gray Horizon Tavern.

For reaching the next goal of $10, Loran will instead stop at the temple first upon reaching Praidus.

If the final goal of $15 is reached or surpassed, Loran makes a stop before leaving and meets someone he did not expect!


For this episode, there will be no Projected Individual Donation, or a gift for milestones or certain amounts for that matter. Once we have a way to work out who donated how much we’ll begin offering the special gifts for donations. We’ll probably have this figured out for next month, so stay tuned to find out more!

Treasure Hunters is a copyright of darkfiregraphics.com and Tyler Clapp, All rights reserved. October 1, 2010