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Remnants of the Second Age
Book 1 of The Cycle of Ages
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-174-0
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 359 Pages
Published: September 2004
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

The first age was the Age of Arrival, at the end of which the Spirits were banished from the world and the First Gods vanished.

The second age was the Age of Growth, and the rise of the New Gods. They are ten, and their names are:

Thaal, the summer sun, Bringer of Light and Life; Nedereth, the moon, Wrath of the gods; Sendras, the winter sun; Ladaq, the dark of night; Sarid, the mountains; Vathnar, the storms of thunder and lightning; Galen-Forg, Howling Chaos of cyclonic destruction; Dereliath, the seas and rivers; Donath of Law and Justice; and Feldereth, the Healer.

But this age, too, ended in war: a war between the gods of the new faiths and their peoples; and the New Gods, too, left the world, though their Temples remained.

Yet I, older than the New Gods, remained while my Temples fell.

Now a third age begins and it will be an Age of Kings. But it, too, will pass, ending once more in war.

And the fourth age will be an Age of Peace, where all will be united, though in harmony or extinction, I cannot foresee.

Remnants of the Second Age (Excerpt)


Remnants of the Second Age

Book 1 of
The Cycle of Ages
A yarn




The first age was the Age of Arrival, at the end of which the Spirits were banished from the world and the First Gods vanished.

The second age was the Age of Growth, and the rise of the New Gods. They are ten, and their names are:

Thaal, the summer sun, Bringer of Light and Life; Nedereth, the moon, Wrath of the gods; Sendras, the winter sun; Ladaq, the dark of night; Sarid, the mountains; Vathnar, the storms of thunder and lightning; Galen-Forg, Howling Chaos of cyclonic destruction; Dereliath, the seas and rivers; Donath of Law and Justice; and Feldereth, the Healer.

But this age, too, ended in war: a war between the gods of the new faiths and their peoples; and the New Gods, too, left the world, though their Temples remained.

Yet I, older than the New Gods, remained while my Temples fell.

Now a third age begins and it will be an Age of Kings. But it, too, will pass, ending once more in war.

And the fourth age will be an Age of Peace, where all will be united, though in harmony or extinction, I cannot foresee.

- From The Book of Prophecies and Truths


Prologue



Sing down through the Cycle of Ages, let the tale be told.

- From The Book of Prophecies and Truths

The Teller settled back. The chair was old but comfortable; generations of use had seen its seat and back polished smooth. Yes, a good chair for a long night. And this promised to be a long night.

Looking around the roundhouse, he saw the faces of strangers, though he read their desire. They would want the Tale of the Cycle Of Ages and they would settle for nothing else. He laced his fingers across his chest. All was well, though, for the Cycle Of Ages was a good lesson in the history of the gods. All of them: the First Gods, the ten New Gods who replaced them and also the False Gods. He smiled. And Andrioch, and his great book, Prophecies And Truths.

The crowd -- men and women of all ages, children and a few dogs -- began to fall silent, their attention subtly shifting towards him, but for now, he ignored them, basking in the glow and warmth of the fire. It was a cold night, and dark, with the winds hooting and whistling around the longhouse, like spirits, eager to gain entry, or the breath of Vathnar, or the screams of Galen-Forg, the Howling Chaos?

It was a long and complex tale, but he expected that the audience would keep up. All was silent now, save for the winds without and the flames within, and all eyes were turned towards him. Without indicating that he was going to, the Teller, old but with a strong voice, began to speak.

"There have been many great events throughout the four Ages," he began. "The Arrival, the Great War, the War Of Faiths, the Third War? and many great entities tied up with these events. There are the gods and their own tales, as well as the stories of those who followed and those who opposed them. But there is only one tale that speaks of all these things? the Cycle Of Ages?" and here he trailed off, looking around at the crowd and sensing their approval. They all knew the basics of the tale but few of them would have heard it from a Teller.

"None can truly say when or where the tale began but for us this night, it began only some fifty years ago, on a night much like this, in the last days of the Third Age. On that night, too, the Spirits clamoured around, rattling doors and windows and calling out to any who would hear. But they could not enter, for a man -- a powerful sorcerer -- kept them at bay?"

The night was dark and cold, with clouds -- the Ships of Vathnar -- racing across the sky: black shapes moving across a black background; and, buried behind layers of these clouds, was Nedereth, the Moon, bulging and full. Her glow waxed and waned as the depth of scudding cloud varied and she tried to peer down upon the world.

The man on the balcony looked down to the small town below. Faint lights could be seen dancing behind closed curtains in many of the houses and, across town, about six hundred cubits away and down by the waters edge, a few lanterns -- their writhing flames brighter for being outside -- illuminated the small fleet of fishing boats. Some rocked in the small waves but most were drawn up onto the shore, their crews preparing nets for the following dawn. Weird shadows danced and played around the fishermen as their lanterns rocked and swayed in the chill wind blowing in off the bay. In this light, thought the man, they look like giant spiders performing strange rituals with their webs.

He turned to look into the room as a woman’s voice, raised in the pain of labour, floated out from deeper within. As he turned, the light from his study played over his features, showing him to be about forty years of age and with greying hair, a close cropped beard -- also peppered with grey -- and a sternness which never fully left his face. His appearance was deceptive, though, as he had looked about forty when he had first arrived in the town some twenty years earlier; it was widely accepted that, somehow, his sorcerous arts helped him stave off the rigours of aging.

They were an accepting lot here.

The cries subsided, and so he turned again to his contemplation of the town.

Hold out ?til dawn, he thought, looking up at the full moon riding high above and now only looking out from behind the thickening clouds in quick peeks. Night is not the best time to bring such a child into the world. And this night more than others. The spirits were close, aware of the coming babe. The chill wind and scuttling clouds themselves were a reaction to what was set to unfold.

In time and with the proper guidance, this child would grow to a man of powerful sorcery and he, along with the Westerner, the Priest and the Warrior-Maid, would bring down the kings of this age -- city rulers, high priests and? others, throwing the world into war and signalling the end of the Third Age.

His normally grim visage deepened. Another war. The third since the Arrival of mortals to this world, nearly four thousand years earlier. But it was promised to be the last great war, with peace between spirit, god and mortal when the killing finally stopped.

But it was also to be the bloodiest.

This much he knew, for he had been told, long ago, by the last of the First Gods that it would be so.

The cries of the woman came again, breaking him out of his reverie, but this time he did not turn, and in a moment the cries again subsided to gasped pants of exertion.

The dawn was now only about an hour away, and a softening grey in the east heralded the approach of Sendras, the smaller of the two suns: the Winter Sun. Neither the spirits nor the moon seemed concerned by the inevitability of the dawn, and the old man believed that they would be responding differently if it were summer and Thaal was instead awakening the horizon with his red warmth.

Another round of scream-cries came from within, and the man knew that the child would arrive before the dawn. Mere moments later, the cries again subsided to be replaced with the indignant yells of a newborn. His shoulders slumped a little at this sound as if in relief or resignation, or both, while the wind picked up and probed the house with increased urgency, seemingly responding to the cries of the child as a call, and seeking some way to observe the caller.

Not yet. You will meet him in time, offered the sorcerer silently to the impatient gusts. Within a moment a midwife spoke from the doorway:

"It is a boy, sir. A healthy boy."

"I know," he nodded and dismissed her with a flick of his hand. Looking up at Nedereth, now broken through the cloud and into a patch of clear sky, he shivered, not with the chill breeze which ran across his skin but with a chill from within, caused by a partial knowledge of what was to come and the full knowledge that it was he who had started this stone rolling. And so it is begun, he pondered, quickly adding, in chiding self-recrimination, Foolish thought. It began three thousand years ago. I should be thinking ?And so it can begin to end?? He fully understood that the outcome, years away, could be disastrous -- for himself, the child and the world -- if not close to the one he had planned for. The greatest of gambles? He turned and walked into the room, rubbing his hands. It was time to introduce himself to the child.