Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Four: Melcarhassen (Continued)
Previously: An ancient document predicted “the Time of an End and a New Beginning” when Two Strangers would choose between salvation or destruction. Now we meet the one who possesses this document.
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The double moon glowed as if lit from within. It gave off an ivory light like an old lampshade. Its exact match could be found in the ivory-haired old man who’d left his bedchamber to meditate in the moonlight.
Melcarhassen, Prime Regent of Ismara, was thin but sturdy for someone of—well, no one really knew what age he was (he’d ruled the Ten Kingdoms for longer than anyone could recall). Of course the High Faeries knew, but few humans have even seen a High Faerie, let alone spoken to one.
A few Sheyar, the great winged beings that dwelt high in the Northern Mountains of Gerd, remembered The Time Before. Aviar, their undisputed leader, and one of Melcarhassen’s fiercest allies, remembered and nettled his feathers in anger when he did. There had been chaos and war. And before that? Well, the old Holosian god-emperors simply dropped those who disagreed with them into the mouths of thousand-toothed Hadessian dragons.
But Melcarhassen ruled with compassion and humility. He considered himself no better than the least of Ismarans, and would have died for any one of them. They all knew this and loved him for it (or nearly all), and for this reason Aviar had pledged to stand against anyone that would dare supplant Melcarhassen.
The sleepless Regent stepped into a courtyard that was a hundred feet across and filled with intricately interlaid stones in the pattern of a great triangle within a circle. He leaned against one of the magnificent Kellish rainbowwood pillars that encircled the courtyard.
Lake Zshinia, Ismara’s vast inland sea, the most beautiful body of water in the world, slept curled up six thousand feet below, the double moon reflecting perfectly on its surface. A delicate breeze blew up from its surface, stirring the edge of the old man’s tunic; despite his title, he still wore the garb of a Zshinian novitiate.
His olive skin turned bronze in the moonlight as he lifted the brittle scroll and began to read. It wasn’t age that caused his hands to shake, it was wonder, the same wonder that had awakened him deep in the night and compelled him to search the Zshinian Scrollary for the Introduction to the Anaruols, written by the revered Eudaris q’ Mizshuol himself. Melcarhassen knew what it said—he’d read it a hundred times—but he hoped it would say something different this time. Yet why hope against what must be?
He’d heard reports of a mysterious stranger who’d been spotted first in Alzun, then in Ongoltan, and most recently in the bordering Kingdom of Holos. Mysterious strangers were common, of course, and there was no reason to assume they had all been the same person.
Except that each of these was described as wearing an extraordinary helmet made from shimmering amarrildin, the enigmatic purple-gold ore that only a handful of Gerdan metalsmiths had ever mastered. Further, each of these helmets—if there really was more than one—was said to be covered in intricate etchings and overlaid with priceless Krettian fire petals. This matched perfectly the description of the Helm of Knowledge, only one of which had ever existed.
Could it be?
“Oh, Uol,” Melcarhassen began, not in the “reverent” tone most use for prayer, but in the way you speak when you’re pouring out your heart to your closest friend. He reached the center of the enormous mosaic, and sighed as he looked out on the far shores of his beloved Lake Zshinia.
“Oh, Uol, is it time?”
And then, as if in answer, and while the double moon watched…
he simply vanished.
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Thoughts: Even Jesus prayed to be spared the terrible ordeal that was before him (Matthew 26:39). Have you ever faced a trial you knew you must go through, yet hoped to find a way around?
To read The Wishing Map 18, click here!