“So where do we begin?”
“We have already begun.”
“But when will I learn about The Order of the Candlestone, those ancient killers of kings? And the Crusade into the New World. And the—”
“Are you more interested in Candlestone’s history than learning how they used the sword?”
“I know how to use a sword, master Arasemis. I want to know about ancient secrets.”
Arasemis chuckled. “I presumed my students would prefer to learn warfare. The original peoples of Pemonia and The Order had a peculiar way of fighting, you know.”
“I do want to know about their warfare. But I want to understand them, too. The nuggets of truth that lie in all the old tales. Knowledge…” The young man spread his arms wide, gesturing to the bookshelves that lined the walls of the library in Thorendor Castle.
“Alright, Marlan. We will begin there.” Arasemis stroked his long, red beard. “We must start with Rildning. You can’t understand Candlestone if you don’t understand Rildning and his struggles.” Arasemis leaned forward in the chair, steadying himself with his one arm. “Have you ever been to the southern coasts of Pemonia, where the modern kingdoms of Donovan and Cambria meet?
“Yes, once. The white beaches and tidal marshes of Aggarwal. Nothing of importance ever happens there.”
“Actually, it was there under the sandy dune fields that I dug up an old wooden chest and found two ancient books within.”
“Ancient secrets! But how did you…?”
“I still had my right arm back then.” Arasemis patted his shoulder nub. “It was before my tussle with the king’s men.”
“What was in the books?”
“They were written back when Brintilian colonists and crusaders from the Old World had scarcely delved into the deep forested heart of the New World of Pemonia. They were buried for safekeeping, hidden for ages. In my twenty-five years as a scholar of the period, I’ve never seen anything quite like them. They are unique.”
Arasemis paused for effect until Marlan grew impatient.
“The first of these books was Rildning’s journal, who was a famous knight of New Lorin colony. He was tasked by the governor of New Lorin to be part of an expedition into the ‘heathen-infested’ interior of wild Gallerlandia, the heart of the continent of Pemonia, to find allies among the natives. Rildning was previously celebrated for his courageous victories over several native tribes. The second book, written by a man named Enildir sometime after Rildning’s death, is about Rildning’s later adventures.”
“Who is this Enildir?” Marlan asked.
“Don’t be concerned about him right now. Focus on Rildning.”
“How did you know where to dig?”
“My grandfather knew a thing or two about it, and that will suffice for now. Do you want to listen or chirp on?”
Arasemis pushed out of his chair with his good arm and walked over to his candle-lit table. He riffled through the jumble of scrolls, quills, books, and various curiosities of foreign origin until he picked out the tattered book.
“This is Rildning’s journal,” Arasemis said, reseating himself. He gave his pupil the book. “Be careful, it’s nearly eight hundred years old.”
“I never imagined something like this could be here in Wallevet.”
“There is much in these lands you’ve been ignorant of, like nearly everyone else. Open it.” Marlan gingerly flipped the cover, exposing a map. “This map is a copy of Rildning’s original. You see there, Gallerlandia? It was a vast tribal realm that once spanned across much of our Donovan Kingdom. Gallerlandia, here under our feet, is where Rildning’s story takes place.”
Marlan scanned the map with his eyes then turned the pages. “I can’t read this script. And many pages are torn, smeared, or burned. This one is ruined with mold.”
“The script is Old Brintilian. Some of the latter parts are ancient Gali, the language of the Gallerlander natives. You will learn both of these languages and others before your training is complete.”
“Why do I have t—?”
“It’s what you’ve signed up for, Marlan. If you want to be part of my revival of Candlestone, you need to know it all and understand it. Everything from the beginning to today. For now, I will read it to you. Every day you dwell here in Thorendor, you will train in dead languages, unusual swordsmanship, various branches of alchemy and other disciplines, with readings in between.”
“And the second book?”
“It is completely Gali. That will come later once you’ve earned it.”
“Forgive my eagerness. But, for once in my life, I can finally direct my energies toward something I believe in, not guard duty at the Lord Minister’s castle.”
“I understand your enthusiasm, as Candlestone has ever been my passion. Rildning’s myth-shrouded life has inspired and terrified generations. You’ll learn the truth, Marlan, but you’ll need my guidance to harness it. Reviving Candlestone will be dangerous, as kings prefer that it remain forgotten. You must sharpen your wits, harden your heart, and, above all, maintain discipline.”
“I’m honored to be your first apprentice, master Arasemis.”
“Then let us begin by having a look at Rildning for who he really was, in his own words. Let us have a taste of that vast verdant wilderness into which he cast himself headlong…”
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