I. The Bearer of Evil News
A stiff breeze swept through the valley and forest that surrounded SwordHaven. It threatened to throw off my satin-threaded cowl as I sat upon a lonesome boulder not too far from the forest’s edge. The mid-afternoon was serene, perhaps too serene. I sought such isolation like a person in mourning, feeling sorry for myself and also feeling completely silly for feeling sorry for myself. It was the day after Red’s departure. He had been tasked to go intervene in the sudden warfare that had sprung up between the Archfiend Overlord, Nulgath, and his once-soul-bound apprentice, Dage the Evil - to venture to places both known and unknown.
There was a bout of bitterness that could not be settled within the depths of my stomach at the thought of how we parted, almost as if we had been strangers again. I even experienced moments when I wish I’d never met him. I pulled at my cowl, slowly bowing my head as tears threatened to burst from my eyes. Then suddenly, a luminous white light appeared before me - a small bright circle at first, which gradually expanded, and out from it stepped a beautiful being and a very familiar one.
“Hello there, Jaelle. I hope all is well…” The being of light had an unearthly voice that sounded like it was on the verge of singing, then it gently placed a hand on one of my shoulders. It was a gesture of comfort, but I didn’t feel anything as there was nothing really there to feel. This was a mere projection after all. I did, however, appreciate the kind sentiment behind it.
While it took me a moment to wipe the traces of sadness from my eyes, I did eventually gaze up at the angelic face that greeted me and smiled. “Yes, Tamar. All is well…” My voice trailed into silence, and I’m sure there was also a touch of sadness in the smile I tried to present to my mentor. She knew me well enough to see past any facades.
She shared an empathetic smile in return and cooed, “There, there, Blessed Child. The melancholy you hide sings out to me. The pains of love are not easy to heal, but they will in time…” All I could muster was a miserable nod.
When I looked at her again, curiosity began to get the better of me. “Why have you summoned your glorious presence here? Is something wrong?”
Withdrawing her hands and folding them in a graceful manner, she stood silent for a moment with eyes panning over the valleys and forests as though she wished to be certain that we were alone. Then she finally answered, “I am sure you’ve heard of the great clash of the Evil hordes that plague parts of Lore. Dage the Evil and Nulgath the Archfiend are determined to see an end to each other with very little regard to whatever stands in their way. It is most…” She paused for a brief moment, attempting to choose her next few words carefully,” ...most troubling to say the least. However, what is more disturbing is that Aranx seems to have gotten himself involved for unstated reasons. In fact, he has sided with and currently fights alongside Dage. Others, myself included, are perplexed by this. We are...in the dark, so to speak.”
My eyes widened at the news. “What? Really? H-has he fallen to Evil too?”
“Well, of that I am not certain,” she hummed. “I just thought you should know...Your father also wished you to be informed and alerted.”
“Ah, I see,” I replied and then after a quiet, thoughtful moment, I stated, “I want to know more. I think-” I hesitated, not sure how the rest of what I planned to say would go over with my rather sensitive mentor. But I pressed on, regardless. “I think I’ll find out for myself and travel to the war camps of Evil.”
As I predicted, Tamar turned a sharp gaze on me and advised crisply, “Child, you do not know what you are saying. To be in the presence of great Evil is no trifling matter, even for us Celestials. Have I not lectured you enough about the times of old when five of the twelve greatest angels that ever came to be fell to the folly of Evil? I would greatly advise against such a foolish course of action.”
Her counsel was harsh, but still, I felt determination welling up inside me as I tried to reconsider it. “I know, and I understand that but, I feel I must try. There must be some reason behind it, and perhaps it is a sign that the Evil warlords can be reasoned with, maybe even be talked some sense into?”
She shook her head slowly and sighed. “No, Jaelle. You don’t fully understand. In fact, none of us do. There is a reason Aranx has earned his reputation as the Archangel of Mystery. However, I sense that you’re going to disregard my advice anyway so…” Another heavy sigh escaped the bright projection of Tamar. “I’ll give you another piece of advice instead, to help you with this quest you wish to go on. At least, I hope that it helps. May your father forgive me…”
“I’m listening,” I replied with a faint grin, grateful for any help at that point.
Tamar then instructed, “Go to the outskirts of the Citadel where you will find a certain cave. Go through this cave and travel inside as deeply as you can. Eventually, you will come across a portal. Go through it bravely, Child, and on the other side you must then follow these next steps very closely…” She continued laying out the details of her directions, and I did my absolute best to memorize them all.
Afterwhich, she concluded, “Do not deviate from these instructions, Jaelle, and always be wary. The labyrinth of caverns underneath the Citadel’s foundation is very treacherous, and the creatures that inhabit them much more so. Well, all except one. If you do exactly as I have just told you, you will find him easily enough.”
I nodded, confident that I could do just that, then asked, “Who am I looking for? And when I do find this person, what do I say to them?”
An amused smile stretched Tamar’s lips and she replied, “His name is Polish. Mention my name and ask him for an amulet of purification. He will grant it to you. Then you may be on your way to the camps of Evil, though I cannot guarantee that the way will be any safer because of it.”
“Very well. I’ll make the best of it! Thank you, Tamar. I’m very grateful for your help. Really.”
Tamar did not appear pleased at all, but she bowed her head gracefully in acknowledgment of my thanks. “Of course. It is my solemn duty to watch over you, and so I must do all I can to prepare you for your unfortunate descent into the lairs of Evil, though I wish you wouldn’t go at all…” She paused, then with a faint smile added, “I suppose, in a sense, I am like your Guardian Angel, Jaelle.”
I chuckled softly. “I suppose so. I couldn’t ask for a better one than you, Tamar.” I then hopped down from my rocky perch, dipping into a respectful bow. When I arose again, the being had disappeared and the pulsing, bright light was fading.
“I bid you safe travels, Child. Just remember all I have told you and may the heavens watch over you.” These were the last words of Tamar I heard on that stirring afternoon before the light of her aura blinked out and there was no more sign of her.
And so, I quickly returned to SwordHaven castle to begin the preparations for my new quest.