16th Day of Kuldakast
You only truly know life when you have known death. When you have felt Death reach icy hands inside your chest and settle round your heart. When death has knocked on your door, beckoning, “Come, brother.”
I should have died by now.
My disease eats away at the body, taking bits and pieces day after day. The Maker’s fever, as they call it, is a curious ailment. Unpredictable. Unfathomable in its destruction.Virtually unheard of. There are only a few known cases of Maker’s fever in hundreds of years of our race. The same magic that prolongs my meager life – destroyed it. Normally, extreme fatigue or unconsciousness will occur before someone reaches the point I did. But I went beyond the reach of my powers; farther than anyone I’ve ever know. Reaching for energy that was not there. So now I lay dying.
The healers speculate thirty more days at best. Hopefully I’ll make it till Bolvadur; I would dearly like to see the earth come alive once more. A year would be miraculous. By Maker’s chance I could be dead tomorrow. I’ve decided to write you, my dearest Erylie, as much as I can, for as long as I can. Maybe I can earn your forgiveness. I hope the most for your understanding. Understanding of my decisions. Understanding of how I became this man you claimed not to recognize. This husk. Empty shell. A slave to my power and my king.
I will not start at the beginning – there is little to be achieved by that. Let me start instead, at the beginning of the end.
It was a beautiful night, considering it was mid-Kuldakast. A full moon.Clear purple-black sky. Our breath frosted in the air around us. We stood on the top of a ridge, Kostadin virtually hopping with his excitement and anticipation. He turned to me with a big, childish grin, eyes bright with the fervor of our discovery. Even now, when I think of Kos, this is the image I see. Him: young, strong, sharply intelligent, carefree. Impetuous. Foolish. Oh so foolish. But then again, we both were.
The valley before us was covered in a thick blanket of fog – nothing was visible, not even the tops of the trees. I can still feel the strange pressure on my chest – pushing me back – when I wandered too close to the edge. Danger! My mind screamed. My legs itched to flee. Kos clasped my arm briefly before plunging fearlessly into the unknown.
The preternatural miasma clung to my limbs and clothes, dragging me down. I struggled to keep up with Kos’s labored breathing, since I could no longer see him. Quite suddenly – almost as if it had been swept away by unseen hands – the fog cleared. We were in an unusual circular depression in the ground. Trees and snow-covered underbrush surrounded us, but at our feet the land was resolutely brown and hard. The most curious aspect of the clearing was the five large towers, equidistance apart, forming a circle. They were not true towers, more like colossal obelisks that reached further into the sky than I could see. Thicker around than four men. They were glossy black and smooth, cracked through with a dark orange crystal that glittered like fire.
It was incredible, the feeling of standing there, the call of power. I could feel it on my skin, taste it in the air. Only a coward would resist the pull of such magic.
Kostadin felt it too; his hand was trembling as he reached out and laid a palm against one of the black towers. His face a mask of unbridled joy and triumph. We were standing in the annals of history. We had found what other claimed existed only in memory, or legend. We had found the place where the Consort had landed, after falling from the Maker’s arms. We had found the Rewengärd; the gateway to death.