I had a couple of ideas on what to produce for Lilith’s short story prompt pertaining to the mysterious island but, alas, time is no friend of mine and I am struggling at present not to relapse in to lazy and procrastinating ways (tiredness being my new excuse, human frailties enrage me!). I have an island in The archipelago of Kira (within my mythological world of Cyralost) called ‘Island of Mystery, which I thought to write something about for this prompt as I was feeling most inspired, but I got sidetracked and no amount of caffine could have kept me awake any longer last night.
I desperately wanted to share SOMETHING on this topic as it has been eating at me, so I decided to share a small piece from my forthcoming book, The Chronicles of Tarkus: Dungeons of the Deep, where something similar to Lilith’s mysterious island appearing like the re-emmergance of Atlantis occurs. I hope you like it (and pray to Gary Gygax that you’ll like the book when its published).
Here’s my Mysterious Island interpretatuion:
From Chapter Eight, The Rise of Mytharia Illidure
The waves were choppy, the ocean vast and surprisingly colourful with blues and greens treating the eye to an aquatic Panorama, the salty smell was fresh and the breeze was pleasant, lifting the spirits as much as the sails. The Sun Star Sextant gave an explosion of light that momentarily blinded everyone, announcing they had arrived at their destination.
“All stop, Mr Grim!” Hollered The Dread Pirate Daev, who began pacing and switching his gaze from the ocean to the sky, where The Blue Star hovered.
“This should be interesting.” Said Shyb as The Blue Star came to a halt, bobbing up and down slightly as if waiting restlessly for something. From this distance, the crew of The Volunteer could see the strange apparition for what it was, a great sphere of azure that looked like a constant cascade of perfect water, rushing round and round thunderously whilst it spun continuously. The sphere was caged in chains of lightning that flashed and crackled with green fire. The jade coloured electric bonds lashed out like magic bullwhips and struck anything that came close, exploding birds that plummeted to the ocean (which now began to move).
There was no loud silence as that terrible cost had been paid two hundred years ago. The ‘star’ thrummed, the millennia of its passage echoing distantly in everyone’s mind. The pirates stood transfixed, Tark and his companions surrounded by the former slaves and all hypnotized by the strange beauty of the magical anomaly, the sphere emitted a powerful vibe of destiny and many sensed a warning in that feeling; the magicians in particular.
The glare from the beam of light projected by The Sun Star Sextant winked out suddenly and it dropped to the deck as if someone had pushed it from the pedestal. The Dread Pirate Daev remembered to breathe and scooped up the priceless instrument, desperately excited as The Blue star’s arrival rang something in the empyrean, the sky turned grey, though not like a dark change in the weather; it was more ominous in feeling as if the heavens had been swapped with something sinister from the void.
The ocean began to move as if caught in a storm without rain, there was no wind either, but the ocean still swelled, great waves rising; causing the crew to become animated and work at keeping the vessel safe.
“Look!” Cried Gooscar, pointing at the area that churned like a maelstrom, sinking in to the ocean and creating an inverted whirlpool that spun without spray, magically caged and thankfully so as the unnatural thing looked frightful! It ceased almost as soon as it started, though in truth it was burrowing down through the ocean, out of sight of those above sea-level and sinking to the ocean floor where it began to pull at and propel the sunken city.
The ocean appeared calm once more, everyone looking around, unsure what to say or do, their initial panic over and the ship still in the all-calm. The Blue Star throbbed, the cascade rushing round faster and faster to pull energy from somewhere to drag its quandary closer. The seas parted, great curtains of ocean water thundering in on themselves, the Star’s green lightning striking intermittently at something colossal that was rising from the deep.
The boat began to tremble as if something was hammering on the deck, a sudden jerk causing everyone to stumble and grip the rails. The pointed roof of a great tower rose above sea-level, announcing the arrival of Tenera’s former capitol. Covered in seaweed and kelp, the detritus of the ocean floor clung to the wet stone, marble and slate of a city two centuries below the waves.
The turrets of the imperial palace could be made out now, followed by a high bridge (which Shyb was reliably informed was called The Bridge of Time, a great span of stone and mythore used for experimental magic involving travel across the planes and even time though tales of this were suspected to be myth, legend or fairytale). Domes and roofs, spires and the tops of tall buildings preceded the rise of the ruined city proper, Mytharia Illidure was a wonder to behold, even in this tragic state of decay, some areas seemed untouched, somehow magically preserved (which they were).
A giant skeleton clung to the side of the imperial palace, impaled on a flag pole and hanging limply to one side, the mammoth remains echoing the history of the almighty battle that culminated in Mytharia Illidure’s demise and removal from the known world.
Tark could almost see the Oark horde besieging the walls and the Giant of Norsengar attacking. His history was a little rusty though and he could not recollect how the colossal being had been felled, maybe he should ask Doren. The city kept rising, the lower parts coming in to view and the hills levelling out but stopping suddenly and dropping a dozen feet or so before the ground angled down at a slant like it had been hacked by some ungodly jagged knife.
Rock hewn from its natural environment, showed where the ground had literally been torn before the incredible upheaval and consequent levitation. Up and up it went, the city’s foundations evident in parts and tunnels wide open to expose areas of labyrinth secreted within.
The Blue Star slowed to a soft roll and then dropped from its suspension to circumnavigate the city, flying round twice before returning to its previous position. Mytharia Illidure sank slightly as the curtains of water closed, the rocky promontory resting on the waves and sitting there as if the island had been there all along.
The crew stared in wonder, silent and shocked, still unable to assimilate what had just happened.
Aaron Jacobs was born and raised on Tarkus, in the village of Elwyn where he worked with his father, uncle and older brother, Daedric as a carpenter and furniture maker; happy in the family business which prospered due to the hard work and fine craftsmanship the four of them put in.
Aaron was fortunate enough to have been schooled in the imperial college and even attended classes with the young emperor, Jarnark Elspar though he can’t really claim to have been friends with the ruler and to be honest, tried his best to avoid him where possible due to the emperor’s quick temper and seemingly split personality.
It was ‘Old Badger’, his tutor (and famous tutor to many great and aspiring individuals) who recognised ‘the spark’ and encouraged Mr Jacobs to explore his magical potential. Against his father’s wishes, Aaron travelled to sorcerer’s Isle, off the coast of Tenera, to study with the wizards there and learn how to best spend the cost of mana fuelled endeavours and educate himself in the various schools of magic. Aaron left Sorcerer’s Isle at the age of twenty nine, having spent a decade immersed in myth-lore and magic books and proving himself to be a powerful wizard with great patience and restraint.
Though Aaron had become proficient in most schools of magic he excelled in transmutation spells and even wrote a couple of volumes regarding these (both of which are highly valued and still used to teach today).
Returning to Tarkus after a difficult voyage that involved a diversion to Urvasinia and an adventure in the ruins of a wytch king’s castle, Aaron Jacobs was welcomed home by his uncle only to find out that his father and brother had been sent to the imperial dungeons for some imagined crime perceived by the mad king. Seeking justice, Jarnark agreed to release the imprisoned family but no one could remember where in the dungeons the Jacobs had been incarcerated so Aaron had to venture in to the nightmarish labyrinth of terrors to recover them (see appendices for Bead Meadow and Imperial Dungeons).
Fortunately, the ‘Probation of Paladins’ was under was so Aaron managed to enlist the help of a brave warrior. Aaron managed to save his father (who forgave him after Aaron’s magic saved them) and brother, though Daedric lost an arm in the ordeal and returned his family to Elwyn, harbouring a grudge against the mad king ever after.
After six months nursing his brother back to health and acquiring contracts for the family to improve the business after the hammering it took from the loss of the imperial contract and subsequent imprisonment of his father and beloved sibling; Aaron moved to the south-east of the island where he built himself a tower to live, study and practice magic in peace.
Aaron’s studies brought him to the realisation that the lost university of Mytharia Illidure (and its incredible wealth of magical artefacts and spell books) may be intact and protected by magic below the waves. Further investigation led to the discovery of the anomaly in the magic surrounding Mytharia Illidure that would cause the sunken city to rise from the depths for a limited time and Aaron spent a year working out its rough location and looking for a magical artefact called The Sun Star Sextant that could possibly lead him to it.
Mr Jacobs then set about trying to find a crew brave enough and greedy enough to take him to it, which is where we come to the part of his life when he fell in with The Dread Pirate Daev.
Bryn Gurner was raised in an orphanage on Calastria, not far from the Dwarven city of Jorthram. He had been abandoned at the doorstep, left wrapped in a dirty sheet with nothing to give a link to his identity, no note, no possessions and nothing to mark him other than his black skin which suggested he came from Bexter Island.
The carers of the orphanage, run by the monks of Maigen (the goddess who blessed and favoured children and the Smallfolk) raised him until he was about nine years old and then apprenticed him to Grey Gurner, a cook of some repute, who had catered for kings.
Bryn’s childhood was a happy one, never neglected and never wanting for anything. It was a humble upbringing; Bryn learnt humility and patience and never took anything for granted. The boy was hard working and always kept himself busy, loving to be creative and easily inspired.
Grey Gurner was an excellent teacher, a father to young Bryn and a strict disciplinarian who ensured his apprentice (who was more like an adopted son, and later took Grey’s name) learnt quickly by hitting him with the rolling pin if he got something wrong.
Bryn got in to trouble all the time when not under the strict supervision of the cook and often saw the inside of a cell wherever they travelled. Bryn grew to be big, a giant of a man like his adopted father, through a healthy diet and great exercise.
Grey Gurner lost his life during a Hoblin raid and Bryn (who was incarcerated at the time) was left alone in the world again. At the age of twenty five, Mr Gurner kept his father’s business running for a while; living off his father’s reputation but soon realised he could make a better living as a mercenary and so sold his sword to whoever would pay the most.
Bryn worked as a sword for hire for five years, fighting in the Dwarf Dale War and then for various gangs and guilds as a bully or bodyguard until falling in with Grim and The Dread Pirate Daev.
The Blue Star
Every two hundred years,
The Blue Star doth appear,
Foretold by prophet, teller, seer,
Through the sky, The Blue Star steers.
From the Fable of Fallen Mytharia Illidure.
Widely believed to be a comet that arrives regularly, every two centuries, The Blue Star is in-fact a sphere of unknown substance that is filled with and emits an incredible amount of mana. By appearance, the sphere appears to be an illuminated ball of water as it is wet (though none have ever touched it to prove it), has the sound of running water (though none have been close enough to hear it) and looks like a constant stream of silver and blue, azure and sea-green, forever cascading but rolling round and round as the sphere moves so fast even if its course is sometimes fairly slow.
Around the sphere is an ever present electrical cage, like lightning encasing it. If ever someone or something came close to The Blue Star, a charge would shoot out like a powerful lightning spell and strike the curious creature. The star has felled Gryphons and Dragons.
There are only two survivors of the sphere’s presence, one of which is Darquelle, who used the power of the sphere to move the city of Mytharia Illidure (though his mount, a terrifying Dragon called Inkarcitar was almost slain and took a debilitating wound to the shoulder that made its left wing useless and so permanently grounded the monster) and the Dragon King, Asithanazaeroun who is no longer with us but survived the sphere’s attack.
No one knows what is inside the sphere (though there are a great many theories including that which suggests it is a prison, a cage that holds the singers) but it is fabled to land and open like curtains of water to emit whoever or whatever resides within. This is just hearsay, nothing has been recorded, it may well be some sort of star.
The Blue Star travels around the universe at a phenomenal speed, coming to Cyralost every two hundred years where it slows its travel and moves through the world at a stately pace, passing through anything in its way, leaving empty spherical space where it passed. There is a mountain in The Peaks of Ravensky (on Calastria) where The Blue Star passed and left a perfectly round tunnel, the sides of which are glassy and static.
The Fiddle of Fealty
This marvellous, mischievous and magical musical instrument was discovered on the Bridge of Time in Mytharia Illidure with the body of a drowned and dripping man who had either tried to escape or been forced across the bridge in the future (as the fiddle is unique and it will be centuries before its like will be crafted!). The musician had gone back in time to a period where the fabled fallen city was still beneath the waves, before the Bridge of Time sent him back to a time during Mytharia Illidure’s prime.
The fiddle itself was a polished piece of walnut tree, with strings made of Harpy Hair and the bow appeared much the same. It was discovered that when a sound was played on the instrument, those around the musician suddenly found them charming and attractive, becoming completely besotted (even those of the same sex) and whether they were a baker or a king, they found themselves willing to do anything to please the fiddler.
Fortunately, the spell only lasts a couple of hours (though continued exposure to the fiddle’s music will eventually have an influence on one’s subconscious and the victim will genuinely start falling for the player – though not to the point of doing anything unless directly under the spell).
It is believed that the fiddle of fealty remains in Mytharia Illidure but since its discovery, other instruments have been imbued with a similar spell as inspired by the fiddle. Tales of the ‘Lute of Love’ and the ‘Flute of the Faithful’ have been heard across Tenera and Urvasinia boasts a ‘Lyre of Loyalty’.
The Loud Silence
The loud silence is the feeling everyone gets before magic occurs (felt slightly more strongly by practitioners of magic and beings that are naturally magical such as the Fae). It usually occurs as a magic spell is being cast and the stronger or more powerful the magic, then the stronger the feeling (or the louder the silence so-to-speak).
When magic happens, mana is absorbed in to the spell-caster, artefact or magical creature/phenomenon from which the spell will flow and it is the movement of mana, the drawing of energies from various elements (wherever the cost is being taken from) that causes the loud silence before taking the cost of that magic from its source.
Very few people are known to be ‘deaf’ to the loud silence (not feeling the mana flow) and these are very rare individuals who should be avoided at all costs as they are unnatural and are detrimental to the soul of the world. Those who are ‘deaf’ to the loud silence are prophesised to be the ones who will bring an end to all the known universes (in this plane of existence).
The Mace of Mastery
Three feet long, made up mostly of an iron shaft inlaid with runes of melted mythore, the slender handle is barely wider than a wizard’s wand, perhaps as round in girth as a female Unicorn’s horn. It is Unicorn’s horns that make this misery making masterpiece so malign.
The foot of the shaft is a loop of nondescript leather, used to hook or attach the weapon to a saddle or satchel strap as necessary. The mace itself is a thick cylinder of bone, thought to be a Troll’s thigh bone (though no exact record of the mace’s maker or its creation exists). Protruding from the skeletal cylinder are a dozen sharp shards of ivory which are in-fact the sawn off horns of Unicorns, ground and shaped to fit the weapon.
In a talented magic user’s grip, the mace can deliver a powerful blow that will not only harm the defender physically (wounds that can result in crippling or even death due to the weight of the weapon) but can send the victim in to a fit of depression and despair, making them suicidal because of the overwhelming sadness and grief of the tortured Unicorns’ magic.
If the wielder of the Mace of Mastery speaks the command word inscribed in the runes on the haft, the mace will explode whatever it hits on impact, whether it be a wall or a living being (which makes a disgusting mess). Those who use the Mace of Mastery are usually evil in alignment; those who are good or pure of heart have difficulty wielding the woeful weapon and usually succumb to depression soon after using it.
The Mace of Mastery was last known to be secured in the temple of Valen in Mytharia Illidure when clerics of that faith were able to wrestle the awful weapon from a barbarian in a skirmish preceding the War of the Wizards.
Sam Whitegate is about as honourable as one can be as a pirate, brought up in a strict environment under the fiery temper of his father and the honest morals instilled in him by his mother (whom he loves dearly). Sam’s youth was not unhappy, despite the absurd discipline expected of him and the beatings he received for the slightest mistake.
In his teens, he tried to get his mother to leave her husband and for the pair of them to run away as his father descended in to an alcoholic oblivion that was only interrupted by the violence he dished out to his wife and child. Sam was not the most handsome of boys and the beatings took their toll on his face, his nose broken so many times it now stood at a most bizarre angle and his other features left a face that only a mother a mother could love.
The beatings only served to harden the young man, who learned to accept pain and injury and earned his keep by fighting in the gambling dens; his ability to take a punch allowing him an advantage to learn another’s moves and eventually win most bouts.
He also learned to move quickly and climb trees and walls to escape his drunken father’s temper. Young Sam’s heart broke a little every time he heard his mother cry and one evening, coming home from one fight, he walked in on another. Sam’s mother was crying on the floor and her husband was kicking her, swearing and cursing like a maniac. Soon, unconscious from the severe beating, Sam’s mother suffered her last at the hands of her monstrous spouse and the last thing Sam’s father saw was the moonlight shining off the blade of Sam’s sword as he killed him.
Mr Whitegate dragged the body to the local jail; ready to hand himself in for murder when he thought about his poor mother and how she would be alone in the world. Leaving the body in the street, Sam returned home, got his mother in to bed and wrote her a letter explaining that he had to go away on business and that his father could not hurt her anymore.
He promised to keep her safe and left over half the money he had won betting on himself in the fighting pits to keep her comfortable until he could earn some more. Sam Whitegate left town, never to return (even though he desperately wanted to see his beloved mother) and made a small living fighting in the gambling dens throughout the archipelago of Kira until one day, when he was twenty four summers old; a man named Grim watched one of his bouts.
Grim explained that he was hiring a crew for the Dread Pirate Daev, a notorious pirate, and thought that Sam had the makings of a useful crew member. Eleven years later, now sailing in a boat called The Volunteer but still in the company of Grim and the Dread Pirate, Sam Whitegate had earned a healthy share of various riches, becoming one of the most reliable and dependable men the captain had known.
Acrobatic in the rigging, Sam was capable of impressive manoeuvres as a height that proved useful when sails came loose in a storm and he was most handy in a fight too. He was good humoured and hard working; Sam soon became one of the most formidable pirates in all Cyralost and still writes home to his mother, sending small fortunes to make her even more comfortable.
His delighted parent believes her son to be a courier, of whom she was immensely proud of and was never to discover that what he delivered was highly illegal or that he was a wanted man on no less than twelve islands in the archipelago of Kira.
The Sylvan Scene in the Myradorn Room,
Imperial Palace, Mytharia Illidure (Former Capitol of Tenera)
In one of the more antiquated rooms of the imperial palace of Mytharia Illidure is a council chamber where lords, dukes, kings and emperors would gather to forge laws, form governments and hold court around a large table before the Myradorn, who would advise the better route of action to take, if possible; by revealing past mistakes and present events as they unfold.
Surrounding the table are twelve mighty statues of heroes that have been enspelled to defend the council and Myradorn if danger lurks near and were later made to attack any unwelcome visitors who could not answer three riddles; in the hope of deterring simple folk from using the Myradorn unnecessarily or dangerously (see The Chronicles of Tarkus or appendices for Sarin Elqar, Faye Hart, Jade Greymeadow, Urien Cook, Bajhaar Killsong, Ryker Dragonbane, Bryn Battlehammer, Gorda, Hapdrid Paintar, Nidri Harper; Sir George Wilson and Cage Sunspell [the broken statue]).
The council room is beautifully decorated with fluted columns that support a great domed ceiling that is painted with a spectacular sylvan scene, where a handsome king with a red beard and beautiful crown sits upon a mighty white war-horse; bedecked in the trappings of the Kingdom of Davix (one of the four kingdoms that were unified by the Emperor to make Tenera a single country).
The Davian King is hunting in the Vork Forest (which makes no sense as it is far from his own lands and would likely have caused a war if discovered, it is widely believed that this is down to artistic license on the painter’s part) and is closing in on a beautiful lady Centaur, who is depicted as enjoying the chase; though the legends suggest it was a grim ordeal.
The artist has neglected the fact that the Centaur was carrying the king’s daughter as she (the Centaur) was saving the princess from her father who had been told a prophecy foretold his death at the hands of his grandson and so was going to murder his daughter before she had the chance to fall in love. If anyone is interested, the Centaur managed to save the princess and the king was indeed slain by his grandson (the son of an illegitimate son he sired in his youth whilst gallivanting abroad).
The picture shows the king wearing the Davian crown, a magnificent circlet of mythore that has a large garnet mounted at the front. There are two small wings (one either side of the crown that rest above the ears) forged out of the same piece of precious metal that resemble tiny Angel wings, the feathers marked out in meticulous detail.
There are rumours in abundance that the circlet has magical powers, some tales claiming it casts a spell of swiftness whilst other stories suggesting it can summon birds or even Angels (let us hope that does not include you know who if this is true).
The Davian crown was lost during the hunt depicted in this sylvan scene and many have searched the Vork forest in hope of finding it, treasure hunters and Davian patriots have hunted throughout the area but even those with magical divination powers or even clerics with divine influence have failed to locate the crown thus far (they were, of course, all looking in the wrong place as it was not the Vork Forest that the hunt took place in).
There are many theories, but the truth of the matter is that the young princess (not shown in the picture) returned to the woodland with her Centaur companion and found the crown which she had a farrier melt down and form horse shoes which were applied to her friend’s hooves. The farrier was paid with the garnet which made him wealthy and he used the excess fortune to fund a series of schools which became the arts, crafts and smiths’ community known today as ‘The Forge’.
The Centaur (who was called Myth) used the magical horseshoes to canter on the backs of many birds without hurting them as they flew over the sea to the island of Plor, where Aria (the princess) discovered the pirate caves and the hordes of treasure therein. Among the treasure was a great crystal figurine that turned in to a boy when she touched it. The boy was handsome and wise and the pair fell in love immediately. Myth carried Aria and her future husband, Illidure, back to Tenera, calling forth Angels to carry the wealth that would forge a nation.
Fever-Fell, also known as ‘The Hateful Hammer’ is a great war-hammer of relatively simple design, a four foot haft of smooth; polished ironbark imbued with a strength spell to make it practically unbreakable and a good sized block of steel (the size of a Gnome) capped with a hammer head of mythore on each side.
The shaft is inscribed with runes of silver that shine against the black wood and hide the secret glyphs beneath that hold the hidden spells, many of which remain to be discovered. The hammer’s head was forged in the fire of a dying Phoenix and washed in the tears of a Dragon, a rare occurrence that makes bitter-sweet magic of phenomenal capabilities.
The Hateful Hammer is a magnificent weapon in its own right, dangerous in strong hands (and it would take someone of impressive build to actually lift Fever-Fell) and its magic makes the barer very powerful, a terrible foe indeed. It was Fever-Fell that smashed the foot of the Giant from Norsengar during the siege of Mytharia Illidure, causing the behemoth to fall and impale itself when disorientated by the Sky Rangers.
The Hateful Hammer, Fever-Fell was lost in that war and has not been seen since, though it is believed to have been spirited away by an Oark of Hoblin so is likely to have remained somewhere in Tenera.