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Secrets and Shadows
Secrets and Shadows
April 17, 2024
4 min

A Secret Meeting

As the first light of dawn filtered through the twisted branches of the dark forests of Umbra’kor, Drusniel crept away from the family mansion. His steps were silent, the product of years of training as an assassin, as he headed towards the secret grove where he and Annariel had practiced magic since childhood.

“You’re late,” Annariel chided, but a playful smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. A tongue of fire danced on her palm, casting flickering shadows over her angular features.

Drusniel rolled his eyes. “By a minute, at most. Besides, I had to make sure Shyntara wasn’t following me. She’s been watching me like a hawk lately.”

“She’s just worried about you,” said Annariel, letting the flame dissipate. “The Veil Trial is no joke. If the examiners suspect you’re dabbling in magic without Venomora’s blessing…”

“I know, I know.” Drusniel waved a hand dismissively. “But that’s why we practice here, away from prying eyes. Now, let’s get to work. I want to try that mind-reading technique again.”

For hours, they practiced, with Annariel conjuring increasingly complex illusions for Drusniel to unravel with his psychic probes. Sweat beaded Drusniel’s brow as he strained to penetrate the veil of magic, to tear the truth from Annariel’s thoughts. Sometimes, he caught flashes - a burst of emotion, a half-formed image - but it was like trying to grasp smoke.

Rumors of Wyrmreach

As the moon rose higher, they paused to rest, leaning against the gnarled trunk of a shadowy oak. “I heard a rumor yesterday,” said Annariel, her voice low. “About Wyrmreach.”

“Oh?” Drusniel’s ears perked up.

“They say a scouting party ventured beyond the barrier. Only one returned, babbling about storms and thunder and lightning beyond imagination. Deviances that warped the very fabric of reality.”

A shiver ran down Drusniel’s spine, but he forced a laugh. “You don’t really believe those old stories, do you? I bet Wyrmreach is just a land like any other, with people trying to live their lives. The elves probably spread those tales to keep us in line.”

“Don’t let anyone else hear you say that,” Annariel shot him a sharp look. “Questioning the purpose of the barrier is practically treason.”

Drusniel raised his hands in mock surrender. “Easy, I was just joking. Besides, you know Shyntara. She wants to go west and command a clan of assassins in the human territories, to manipulate them from the inside and in the shadows.”

Annariel laughed. “Crazy, that Shyntara. I’m sure she’ll accomplish that and more. She’s the most skilled assassin I’ve ever seen! But humans… Why would anyone want to mingle with those chaotic and highly erratic creatures who keep messing up? We are fortunate that their lives are short and they can’t cause trouble for too long.”

“It’s true,” Drusniel agreed. “But speaking of time, we need to get back to practice. The Veil Trial is no joke, especially for those of us trying to join the Arcane Saber. You only have six months to prepare, and I have two weeks on you, old friend.” He winked, a playful grin tugging at his lips.

Annariel laughed, shaking her head. “Two weeks. As if that makes any difference when we’ve been practicing magic together since we were children.” Her expression turned serious. “But you’re right. We need to focus. Our families may be at odds these days, always scheming and competing for Venomora’s favor, but that doesn’t change what we’ve been working towards.”

Drusniel nodded, his gaze turning introspective. In truth, he was growing increasingly disillusioned with the idea of gaining magic only through Venomora’s blessing. The ancient tomes he’d read spoke of powerful mages who commanded magic through their own will and dedication, without resorting to divine favor. It was a seductive idea, but one he knew he could never express to his parents. They had sacrificed too much, paid too high a price for the beliefs that once distinguished their family.

No, as far as his family was concerned, Drusniel was training to be a master assassin alongside Shyntara. It was a respected profession, one that brought wealth and influence from all corners of Astalor. In a world rife with conspiracy and political machinations, a clan of assassins operating in the shadows was a formidable power, as his father often reminded him.

But as Drusniel and Annariel resumed their practice, weaving illusions and probing thoughts, Drusniel couldn’t shake the feeling that his true path lay elsewhere. The dark elves might roam freely through Astalor now, respected and feared for their role in maintaining the barrier, but Drusniel felt there was more.

Questioning the Status Quo

As days turned into weeks, Drusniel and Annariel’s training intensified. They pushed themselves to the brink of exhaustion, honing their magic and mental skills until they could perform complex feats with barely a thought.

But even as his skills grew, Drusniel couldn’t shake the nagging sense that something was missing. He pored over ancient tomes, searching for any hint of knowledge about the origins of magic, about the time before Venomora’s reign. The more he read, the more convinced he became that the official stories were incomplete, that crucial pieces of the puzzle had been deliberately obscured.

His preoccupation didn’t go unnoticed. One evening, as he picked at his dinner in the great hall of the family estate, his father fixed him with a piercing stare. “You’ve been distracted lately, Drusniel. Is there something troubling you?”

Drusniel hesitated, weighing his words carefully. “Father, do you ever wonder about the time before the barrier? About how our ancestors lived?”

“Those times are long past, and dwelling on them serves no purpose. Our duty is to the present, to maintaining the barrier and serving Venomora’s will.” His father’s face hardened.

“But what if there’s more to the story?” Drusniel persisted. “What if we’re capable of more than simply being Venomora’s servants?”

Shyntara, who had been listening in silence, let out a derisive snort. “Be careful, brother. Speaking like that could be considered blasphemy.”

Drusniel bit back a retort, lowering his gaze to his plate. But later that night, as he lay in bed staring at the canopy above him, Shyntara’s words echoed in his mind. Was he blaspheming by questioning the status quo? Or was he simply seeking the truth?


#drusniel#tower of magic#dwarfs


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Table Of Contents

A Secret Meeting
Rumors of Wyrmreach
Questioning the Status Quo

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