Wisps of Fate

by Wayne Pierce

Jardok pulled up on the reigns of his horse, waiting for the guard to challenge his entry. After several minutes had passed the guard looked up and asked lazily, "May I help you?"

"Yes, good sir. I seek the library of sages." replied Jardok.

"Library of Sages? Is that what they call this place these days? Take the road ahead and turn left at the first crossing, you can leave your horse at the stable." With that the guard went back to reading his book.

Jardok gave quick thanks and started his horse in motion toward the library, after all this time he was finally getting close to some real answers. In a few days he would have the knowledge to begin his revenge.

At the crossing Jardok turned left to the stables, it was a fairly well kept building with several empty stalls. A young boy was brushing a mare when Jardok pulled on the reigns to stop his horse. The whinnies from Jardok's horse having alerted him to company, the boy dropped his brush and raced over.

Skidding to a halt just out of nipping range from Jardok's horse the young man extended his hand for the reigns. Jardok stepped down from the saddle, handing the reigns and a coin to the boy. "Be careful, he bites" Jardok added as he turned and started walking toward the library.

When the building came into sight Jardok was overwhelmed with grief. Somewhere he had to have made a mistake or taken a wrong turn, there was no way THIS could be the greatest library in the known world. In all of his travels, he'd imagined it would be bigger, more commanding...or at least defended. Taking a deep breath Jardok squared his shoulders and slowly walked up to the building, trying to keep both his confusion and apprehension in check. As he approached the doorway to the library he noticed there were no locks, or any type of deterrent to prevent someone from stealing one of the tomes.

Opening the door Jardok took a step into the building and was overcome by a sense of dizziness and disorientation. Once the sensation passed Jardok continued forward into the library. As he was about to turn and examine the door he was greeted from across the entryway.

Directly in front of Jardok sat a large wooden desk nearly concealing an elderly man sitting behind it. As Jardok entered he stood up speaking in a clear voice, "Welcome, I am Geral. Leave your weapons at the front desk, you may pick them up on your way out."

He was dressed in a simple white hooded robe. His face showed signs of age; however, a full snow colored beard covered most of it and joining mustache that hung just below the shoulders. Aside from the balding scalp and wrinkles Jardok would never have guessed him to be over midlife.

Reluctantly, Jardok removed the sheath from his side. As much as he disliked parting with his sword, he needed the answers. His was a simple but practical long sword, designed to be effective rather than pretty. After a moment of hesitation Jardok handed the sheath, hilt first, to Geral. Who in turn placed it under the desk for safekeeping. Jardok then passed his belt of throwing knives and boot dagger to Geral, who placed them with the sword.

After receiving Jardok's weapons Geral said, "If you wish to enter the library, you must know the rules."

"There is to be no fighting, under any circumstances. Do not remove any items from the library. Above all, do not destroy or damage any of the books. If you violate any of these rules you will answer to the Lore Master."

"Who is this Lore Master" Jardok replied.

"I am." replied Geral in a voice that left no doubt as to his intention of enforcing the rules. "There are those among us who have spent their entire lives protecting this library, I will not allow it to be desecrated."

Jardok only nodded, then entered the main body of the library.

Off to both his left and right were huge glass windows lining each wall, each perhaps 25 feet tall. Each window was created from stained glass that constantly shifted patterns. The windows directed light into the central area, where an impossibly large number of bookshelves lined the floors in a labyrinth of wood and parchment. Around the outer edges of the library stood various statues, each of which could have easily been mistaken for a real person had they been alive.

Jardok found himself staring at one of the nearby statues, admiring the detail. It almost appeared as if the statue was too life-like not to have once been alive.

"Impressive aren't they?" a voice next to him asked.

Without turning, Jardok replied, "Who made them? They would have to be worth a fortune, yet they are unguarded?"

"My apologies, I forgot to introduce my self. My name is Kintal, Lore Master Geral has instructed me to assist you in your research." Kintal said.

For the first time Jardok turned and looked at Kintal. He was in his mid teens, dressed in a tan hood-less robe and leather sandals. He measured up to Jardok's shoulder with a thin wire frame body.

While Jardok was sizing up the young man, Kintal continued to speak, "Nobody knows for certain who created them, except for the Lore Master perhaps. As to their safety, legend says that in times of crisis they can be called upon to defend the library."

Still examining the statue Jardok asked, "Are they all different?"

"I have been told that there is one statue for each of the known races, a champion if you will." replied Kintal.

When Jardok realized that people were watching him examine the statues he quickly backed away and started walking toward the labyrinth. "Where would I find books on vampires?" he asked Kintal while trying not to draw attention to himself.

Kintal lead Jardok down several long columns where at one point they were forced to make a sudden turn, due to a sporadic pilling of books. As Jardok went around the corner he nearly ran into a creature flying down the corridor in the opposite direction.

The creature that emerged from the passageway looked as if she came straight out of a fairytale. She was approximately two hand lengths tall with glossimer wings and finely chiseled features. She wore a sparkling suit of what appeared to be miniature chainmail, where each piece of mail was created from various types of jewels. Every movement caused the clothing to twinkle with a thousand tiny lights, drawing the unsuspecting into their sparkling depths.

Jardok, mesmerized by the suit of armor, had no recollection of nearly being flown into by the creature. It took a few moments after she passed for Jardok to clear the image of the dancing lights from his mind.

"A faerie" Kintal stated, anticipating the question, "and you really shouldn't look directly at their armor, it can be....distracting."

As Kintal resumed walking down the corridor, Jardok found himself looking back over his shoulder to catch a glimpse of the faerie. A few minutes later Kintal stopped before a circular bookshelf thrice as high as Jardok.

"Here you are, all the lore concerning Necromancy. We'll have to search a little for any vampire specific books though" Kintal informed Jardok. "There is one book in particular you might want to start with, a journal really. It's a transcription of the oldest record we have about vampires."

When Jardok appeared surprised that the Necromancy lore was openly available Kintal replied, "It is the use of knowledge, not the knowledge itself that is good or evil. Like your sword, it doesn't decide how it will be used, so it is neither good nor evil."

Accepting this analogy Jardok decided to find a nearby desk to use, while Kintal went and searched for the journal. A few minutes later he returned with a couple of books, both were in good condition. The first book was some type of journal; it had a leather binding that was worn with age. The pages inside looked like they had once been made of a high quality paper, but showed signs of having been exposed to moisture evident where the ink had ran down the length of the pages.

"What's the name of this one?" asked Jardok.

"Nobody really knows, the beginning of the book is missing and it stopped abruptly. However, this book appears to continue where that left off, explaining some of the missing details." Kintal said while pointing to another book. The second book was similar to the first, except for the symbol of Enkiel emblazoned on the cover.

As Jardok opened the cover of the journal Kintal began to speak, "While there is no shortage of folk lore, not much is know about the first vampire. According to legend, he has roamed the world longer than our recorded history. While nothing is completely certain about such creatures, that journal is the earliest record we have of them. Even this might have been another vampire, nobody truly knows."

As Jardok flipped through the book a loose slip of paper fell out with the words, "This is the remains of a journal that was discovered, it is believed to have been written by a soldier in the pre-Cambrian war. Regrettably a large portion of the journal is missing, without which we have no complete indication of who wrote it."

2nd Day of Mulwan, 150 TP

When I woke this morning I couldn't help but feel that something was wrong. Everything was different...I don't know how to explain it, but it's not a feeling I like. Walking the guard quarters I can tell that others feel it too by the looks on their faces. Everyone is behaving closed, guarded even.

3rd Day of Mulwan, 150 TP

They attacked again. It's only a matter of time before they overwhelm our forces, by sheer numbers if necessary.

The vultures have been slowly increasing; not even the pale lethargy that has spread over the battlefield keeps them away. I spoke with a priest this morning; they believe what we are feeling is a spell cast by the invaders to lower our morale.

4th Day of Mulwan, 150 TP

A fog has concealed the battlefield this morning; not even the sun could penetrate its murky depths. A few scouts were sent into the fog, but none have returned.

The priests say this fog is from Enkiel to protect us from the invaders, but it doesn't feel right. It's almost as if the fog is a physical manifestation of the lethargy everyone has been experiencing.

5th Day of Mulwan, 150 TP

The fog remains. I don't know where it came from, but I feel necessary to thank someone....we haven't been attacked since it first appeared.

6th Day of Mulwan, 150 TP

Last night I awoke several times, I would have sworn that someone was speaking to me yet when I awoke I was alone in my quarters. Another day passes without attack.

7th Day of Mulwan, 150 TP

I had a dream last night that I entered the fog and died. I wasn't slain by an invader, I just died. Normally a dream wouldn't bother me, but I've been having this one for several nights now, always the same. I now find myself constantly looking at that thing, wondering if it's waiting for me.

8th Day of Mulwan, 150 TP

The dream came back, again. This time it was different than usual. When I entered the fog there was another man there; I was unable to get a good look at him due to his clothing and the shifting fog. Every time I tried to move to get a better view the fog appeared to move and block my view of the stranger.

After what seemed like an eternity, he spoke to me. I could barely hear his words yet I could feel that they carried immense power.

He said he could help us win the war, for a price. His price was blood. He said I would have to collect the blood of our invaders for him. Terrified, I attempted to run yet before I could get away he struck out and cut open my forearm. All in less time than it took to blink. I took off running into the mist, trying to find my way back to the fort....when I awoke.

After convincing myself it was just a dream I realized a slight pain in my arm.

The scar remained.

3rd Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

Weeks after the fogs arrival the invaders found us. They came pouring out of the fog as if they were running from it, rather than charging us. Their unrelenting and desperate charge nearly won the battle for them; our losses are so heavy I doubt we could repel an invading army of squirrels.

7th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

The dream returned again, it has been several days since it last occurred, yet I've never forgotten for a moment. The encounter was different this time.

When I found the stranger I told him that I would accept his help, better that the invaders should die than my own people. At once he broke into laughter that was felt more than heard; laughter, which was echoed by the fog on a breeze that, smelled of the grave.

Gathering what was left of my wits I asked him when he would start helping us, he only replied that we hadn't finished the deal. Before I could respond he was beside me...I don't remember anything else about that encounter.

I awoke in my rack, surrounded by medical personnel. They informed me that I had been unconscious for several days and was almost given up as dead at one point. Apparently I had been found in this condition on my rack. The doctors told me they could find no reason for my condition, except perhaps for the two marks on my neck they found during examination.

They believed some sort of poisonous creature, a spider maybe, caused the mark. I don't know who, or what, caused those marks but it was no spider.

8th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

The fog has lifted a little this morning. Too bad we can't afford to send out scouts or we might have been able to set some traps. The doctor told me that they couldn't afford to have anyone on light duty so I am to return to my watch. He did recommend that I get more sunlight, as I have been very pale since the "accident".

I was informed later that I was transferred to the morning shift, doctor's orders.

9th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

Something odd started happening when I awoke this morning, I am certain I heard the conversation of two other guards that were whispering about 10 ballista bolts away.

10th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

I awoke to the sound of the church bell this morning, something I haven't heard since the fighting started. Grabbing my sword I ran out to the battlements, to find the fog...and invaders, both gone. Not a trace remained of either.

The sun was abnormally bright to my eyes, perhaps it's the fog being gone its presence surely darkened things.

11th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

The priests have been preaching about Enkiel's salvation, but I know the fog was no creation of the Goddess.

During the ceremony in the open courtyard, I'm certain I heard the stranger laughing. Once when the breeze picked up I swore I heard his voice mocking the ignorance of the priests. Strangely enough, I almost did the same.

As people were leaving I finally noticed how few of us remain. All but a few junior members of the priest hood, a handful of guards, some servants, and a few score of townspeople were slain. It'll take us a long time to rebuild.

12th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

It has been several days since the fog disappeared and although I thought I'd be glad when it was gone, I feel as though I've lost part of myself with its departure.

These past few days have been unbearable. I have this new craving, yet nothing I eat will satisfy it. I know military food is awful, but it's never caused discomfort like this before. I don't know how, but I think this and all the other strange events are related to my encounter with that stranger.

13th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

I had another dream last night with the stranger. He told me I would have to drink the blood of a living creature to nourish the craving, if I didn't it would only get worse. When I adamantly refused he merely waved his hand and I woke up hearing his laughter followed by the words "You will learn."

14th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

I was nearly too weak to get out of the rack this morning, the doctors think I have the wasting sickness and have all but dug my grave.

The priests insist that I repent for my sins in life, just incase I die in my sleep. One of the whelps attempted to cast an enchantment on me to offer protection from the spirits of the deceased who have been haunting my dreams. I don't know where they find these people at, but I think the fool cast the wrong spell...when he placed his hand on my forehead the pain was unbearable! The fool burnt me!

He even had the gall to proclaim that it was an indication of Enkiel's disfavor. Never in my life has anyone been so disrespectful, had I the strength I would have thrown the pompous windbag out the window onto the battlements!

14th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

The stranger returned again offering me another chance to hunt, again I refused.

15th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

I had another visit from that arrogant self-righteous priest, I believe his name is Daoen. He insists that I repent all my sins before it's too late. I asked him if it was a sin to run a priest through...I don't think he liked the prospect as he turned a few shades lighter before leaving.

15th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

Apparently it took my priestly friend less time to regain his composure than I had expected. He returned this evening, surprisingly he only asked me once to repent then left.

I think he suspects something.

16th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

This is, perhaps, the last entry I will make in this journal. From my rack I can hear the sounds of battle, I'm not certain what forces we now face. But it won't take much to defeat us.

16th Day of Trisdor, 150 TP

Once again the stranger visited me, this time he didn't offer to go hunting. He merely placed a bowl with a red liquid on my table. Even from the distance I could smell it to be blood.

Before I could gain control of myself I was scrambling across the room toward the bowl...into the hands of the stranger. As he hoisted me off the floor with less effort than a thought I saw the reflection in the bowl change to the battlefields outside. The ground was littered with the bodies of the fallen from both sides while small skirmishes continued to play out. As I watched one after another the invaders struck down my kinsmen.

As much as I wish to deny it, I know their only chance of survival is this stranger's gift.

As Jardok put the book down he realized that the library looked no different than it had several hours before. Noticing his confusion Kintal said, "Magic. It's difficult to explain, but the library never really stays in one place, which is why there are no guards and the constant light. When you first entered you should have felt a little disoriented or dizzy? That was when you were crossing between."

Jardok, not wanting to be confused even more, merely nodded his head in acceptance. "What happened to the soldier in the journal?" he asked.

"If this book is true," Kintal said as he passed the book with Enkiel's symbol on the cover to Jardok, "then Hanuk, the soldier, was discovered to have made a pact with evil. Vicar Daoen, the priest, blamed the death of his kinsmen on Hanuk's pact and spent the rest of his life hunting vampires in the name of Enkiel."

"The first vampire hunter." Jardok said softly as he carefully picked up the book. It felt warm in his hands although the room was kept relatively cool to prevent damage to the books.

Opening the cover Jardok could see that the book had been re-bound at least once in its lifetime.

While Jardok began to read the book Kintal continued looking for anything related to vampirism, stacking the books, scrolls and tomes in a pile by the desk.

The beginning of the book read, "In the name of the Goddess Enkiel, I, Daoen, Vicar of Enkiel, vow to rid the world of the demons that have infested this region. In this book I will document all that I discover, so that should I fall any man with the conviction to follow in my footsteps shall be prepared."

...to be continued...