While I was preparing for this next release, I recalled reading this very short story in Vance’s boxes. I am happy to share it with you here...as it has some relevance to the release that I have not shared before.
that this was my last encounter with my friend, Vance. His funeral was three months ago and I still have a hard time believing that there can be no answer if I call him. Loss is funny like that. It sneaks up at odd moments and tangles up your thoughts in a net of sorrow.
Much had happened of late that helped keep my mind off Vance, and my grief at his death. I lost my job as part of a sweeping layoff due to the bad economy, and was frantically trying to find work to pay the bills. Christmas was fast approaching. During that time, in accordance with Vance’s last wishes, I created a “Module” for a game called
“Mount&Blade” as a way to bring Vance’s story to life.
Vance’s story, and my approach to it as a game, has been well received. I felt that my work on Vance’s legacy was done.
Then, Vance’s sister, Jenny, knocked at my door and dropped a small bombshell on me. Jenny was the executor of her brother’s estate, and, while she was clearing out the house preparatory to selling the property, came across several boxes of notes, interviews, half written manuscripts and drawings. She decided that Vance would want me to have them, and brought them over. I numbly accepted them, said a few lame words of condolence and, after several awkward moments, we said goodbye to one another.
It upset me a bit that Vance had obviously done an amazing amount of work on this project but had never even mentioned it to me. Vance and I were very different in temperament, even though we were good friends. He liked to live in the moment, and was “people smart,” whereas I was what he called “book smart”. I suppose I was berating myself for not knowing my friend as well as I thought I had, and was saddened at knowing him better after his death.
There was a time a few years ago, when Vance disappeared on a business trip for about six months. We never discussed it. He rarely talked about his life, and I had a feeling that he liked to live on the edge, perhaps even a tad nefariously. Even though he often vanished for a week at a time, that extended hiatus, with 20-20 hindsight, sticks in my mind as a turning point. Vance was different after that journey. He seemed slightly more introspective and just "different” after that particular trip. After he returned, I saw him more often.
Recalling my wife’s allergies to mold and her probable reaction to having our living area turned into a storage facility, I began exploring the boxes with an eye to organizing them. In one of the very first boxes I inspected, I found a very thick book with old, cracked leather bindings. The pages were hand hand-written, and very fragile, and reeked of mold. It struck me as interesting, so I opened it and began to read.
I was not prepared for what I found. Pendor was not Vance’s invention. I spent the next two hours reading and re-reading this journal dated 1888, transcribed by someone named Jonas. The more I read, the more confused I became. Jonas had received it from an ex-Benedictine monk, who lived as a hermit in Landes, France.
Jonas had apparently met this hermit regularly, both before and after he left his Order, and had received the story of Pendor, bit by bit, over several years’ time. The initial notes were in French, which Jonas had translated into English. In one entry Jonas wrote that the monk was convinced that he had been “directed” to go to Landes, and to dictate his knowledge to Jonas.
The story itself was fascinating, but seeing my own last name in the journal more than a hundred times set me reeling. I did not know if it was coincidental, but it was certainly unsettling. Where had Vance acquired this journal?
Why did I end up with it? A prudent man would have taken the boxes, unopened, to the dump without delay, but curiosity overcame my caution.
I put the journal aside, and went through the rest of the boxes, to see what I had. I found maps, drawings and many stories, tantalizing snippets, disjointed pieces of a very large puzzle. I stored all the boxes in my garage, where I spent a great deal of time over the next several weeks. I began piecing the jigsaw puzzle into a time line, using the unfinished manuscript, which Vance had given me. Had Vance shown me the entire collection at once, I would have thought him insane, and told him so on the spot.
Vance had done a good job on Pendor, and his transcription served me well to determine that most of these manuscripts dealt with events before and after the time line of the Pendor manuscript. I became more and more drawn to the story of Pendor and want to share with you what I know. I warn you, some of it is unsettling.
I have pieced together only part of the puzzle of love, life, tragedy and sacrifice that made up the history of Pendor, altogether human stories, but alien in many ways. Because of its “other-ness,” some parts of it are difficult to understand. I have transcribed less than half of the story, concentrating on the earliest parts, with an eye to relating the story in a logical progression.
Many years before an event the Pendorian Historians call “The War of the Titans”, humans were organized into tribes and clans, living as hunter/gatherers. There were several elder races, the most prominent being a race that today we call “Elves”. I found vague references to the fact that these beings had come from “elsewhere,” but those references are obscure at best. Apparently, they inhabited a fairly large island far to the Southeast of the lands now called Pendor.
There were other races native to Pendor, Giants, Trolls, Dragons, Furies and Gryphons. These races did not use tools, and their artifacts did not endure as long as those of the Elven race, but they were strong, somehow magical, and very long-lived. Extreme longevity and the use of magic seemed to be the hallmarks of all the elder races. The stories examine the “Elves” to a much greater degree than the other races are described.
These beings lived on an island called Gwythdarian. Their society was organized into Houses, which were ruled by Lords and their families. These houses were both social and political entities; there were five major houses and many minor houses. Their social structure was interesting, as it was divided into distinct social classes. Class was determined early in an elf’s life by a demonstration of personal power, what we would term “Magic.” Elves who demonstrated and could maintain a high level of personal power were called Sindari, and those who failed to do so were called Noldor. The latter lost status in their respective houses and became a servant class. Often members of minor houses would align themselves with the greater houses to provide services and receive a measure of preference. The greater houses were fairly competitive, both amongst themselves and with the lesser houses.
Of particular note is the fact that Elves had children infrequently, so when someone gave birth, the entire House celebrated. For the most part, Elves were scholars and explorers of the use of personal power. Elves did not bother with the race of men, because men did not use Magic, and thus were deemed of lesser status even than the Noldor. This is of interest, as the Sindari often referred to the Noldor as the “invisibles”.
Most of the stories began on Gwythdarian, where there was a disagreement between one of the major Elven Houses, and the rest of the Elven nation. Whilst the event is not explicitly described in my papers and stories, apparently the Sindari of one house did something forbidden with magic power.
At this point, the stories become more detailed. I have paraphrased the hundreds of pages of dialogue and descriptions, which I have uncovered thus far.
The story begins with two young elves born twins, which was exceedingly rare in Elven births. The twins, a boy and a girl, Avaldain and his sister Althea, were unfortunately destined to become Noldor. The Sindari Lord of their house, Lord Gaelrandir crafted a sailing ship and embarked upon a quest to find a reclusive “Oracle” living in the far north. His goal was to seek help to counter the renegade Sindari who were bending their power towards forbidden ends. The twins stowed away on the ship to be close to their father, who was House Under-Steward in the service of Lord Gaelrandir.
After many trials and tribulations they found the “Oracle” and tragically, along the way, the twins’ father, the Under-Steward, died. What happened next is where the story takes strange turns.
At first it seemed that the Oracle was a small Dragon, as this was the form in which the Oracle appeared in its first meeting with Lord Gaelrandir. Later, however, it becomes evident that the Oracle is something altogether different. It lives somewhere else and manifests itself through a pool of water on the island. The Oracle takes control of a nearby willing “host,” which allows the Oracle direct interaction with Pendor. One of its favorite hosts is a small Dragon, which has a general disdain for Elves and an appetite for small white rabbits.
The Oracle decided to help Lord Gaelrandir, but stipulated a steep price for his aid: Althea would have to stay on the island and serve the Oracle for her entire life. Even worse, the Oracle would wipe away all memory of Althea so that no Elf would remember that she had ever existed. There was a heartbreaking account of the good-byes between Avaldain and Althea at the conclusion of this part of the story.
It is also not clear what help, if any, the Oracle gave to Gaelrandir, yet the Elven Lord seemed satisfied and returned to Gwythdarian.
Unknown to Lord Gaelrandir, the Oracle had put Avaldain under a compulsion. He was under a “geas” to return to Gwythdarian, gather together what Noldor he could, and leave Gwythdarian forever.
When the expedition returned to Gwythdarian, the situation had worsened to virtually open warfare. There had been bloodshed, and tensions were strong. No longer was Gwythdarian a haven for the learned, with sweet music floating on the cool breeze. It was a solemn place without sound and the air was heavy with foreboding. Lord Gaelrandir hastened to organize a concerted effort to stop the renegade noble house. He called together the heads of many other houses and held a grand council. He and his allied Sindari were so involved in the struggle before them that they did not notice that Avaldain had gathered several thousand Noldor and sailed for the mainland.
When the Sindari conflict reached its full pinnacle, the fury of magic that was unleashed caused the entire island to sink beneath the sea, killing all the Sindari and forever destroying the magic used by the other elder races. This event led to the eventual extinction of the elder races.
The surviving Noldor roamed Pendor for several months, then finally settled down and built a city next to a lake. Avaldain cloaked the city, having apparently some control over magic, (perhaps granted him by the Oracle, as Noldor had no powers of their own), so that no one could ever find it.
A recurrent theme in the stories is Avaldain’s feeling that something important was missing in his life, and his search for that elusive “something”. Althea often watched Avaldain in his struggles by using the power of the Oracle to scry him. In fact, many of the stories were from the Althea’s perspective and told how she watched her brother’s children, and their children’s children throughout their lives, helping them upon occasion, with no one ever aware she had done so.
Whatever it was that the Sindari had done, a forbidden “something” survived the sinking of Gwythdarian. There were very lengthy dialogues between Althea and the Oracle about countering and defeating this influence in the world and about the sons of Avaldain, who, being part Elf and part Human, had a chance to ultimately put an end to the Sindari influence on the world of Pendor. Further, their victory would ensure that many others, in “other places” would be spared great suffering if the sons of Avaldain were successful. These dialogues gave the general sense that whatever those rogue Sindari had done threatened the existence of the Oracle itself. Additionally, the Kingdom of Pendor was center stage to that conflict. Uniting the Pendorian Kingdom was a prerequisite to countering the remaining Sindari threat.
Madigan, a Prophet of Pendor, who may have been part Elf, made a prophecy recorded by the Pendorian Historians, predicting the coming of a great Warrior/Defender to Pendor. I have found what I think may be the Prophecy, written in Latin by the ex-monk, and never translated.
Verba de futuro:
Multis post annis, ex cearulo, Defensor veho a equus et Pendor sub secreto et sub selentio, fortes et liber. Defensor cognoso non est ad astra mollis e terra via. Defensor insisto quo fas et gloria docunt. Defensor laboro est arduum sane munus. Amicus certus in re incerta cernitor, quod latet anguis in herba.Quam terribilis est haec hora! Vae victis! Nil desperandum, forsan miseros meliora sequentur, pax et bonum, vinculum unitatis. Finis coronat opus, et in hoc signo vincis.
In other stories and recorded conversations between the Oracle and Althea, a very different version of reality was presented to her. I am still digesting the ramifications of these conversations and piecing them together with some of the conversations between the ex-Benedictine Monk and the Oracle that shine an enlightening and disturbing light on our reality.
Here are three short conversations and explanations, between the Oracle and Althea where the former is lecturing to the latter. These conversations I thought interesting enough to share with you, to wit:
“There is order in the universe, from the rotation of galaxies around a central core to the structure of the smallest particles with charged bits of power orbiting their center. There are definable laws governing how everything interacts. These laws govern speed, weight, resistance, attraction, repulsion, temperature and many other concepts too difficult to explain right now. Everything has a natural law that defines what it is, how it works… except life. Life is only partially governed by natural laws.”
“Elves and Humans, have the spark of creation within them. We have talked about this in the past, and the decisions made to yield that spark to them. Higher orders can reproduce themselves, explore, think, and, most importantly, exercise free will. Free will allows them to dream, to bring incongruent facts together and create something new. That spark of creation reverberates through the weave and unfolds countless alternate possibilities. It is from these possibilities that stepping-stones, where we may walk, are created.“
“Infinity is a concept, not a number, too large to define, beyond the realm of what human and elven minds can hope to comprehend. They thus attempt to define that which cannot be defined, creating a “definition’ that is much more than the definition could be. They scoop up a flagon full of water and call it an ocean. Yes it is a liquid, yes there are similarities, but does it encapsulate the immensity of an ocean? It falls woefully short does it not?”
There were many other stories, not dealing with Althea, which are narrow windows into the world of Pendor. I will share those with you as time permits.
What becomes really confusing in several of these stories, as transcribed by Jonas, is that the unnamed ex-Benedictine monk often had direct conversations with the “Oracle”, about our own world. For example: Jonas recorded one such conversation where the Oracle discusses with the Monk the importance of building the Eiffel Tower.
Another disturbing reference is to the name of the Elven Island, Gwythdarian, and how its name was wiped away from the “weave.” The term “weave” is often used by the Oracle to describe the nature of his existence. I thought this odd so I decided to run a search on the Internet for “Gwythdarian” using various search engines. To my dismay I could not find any reference to that name at all. Nor could I find substantial references to the name “Gaelrandir”. (The only reference was a player who named his character Gaelrandir in Lord of the Rings Online in December 2007. I wonder why these words are so elusive.)
As I continue piecing the Pendorian puzzle together, it has transformed into an enormous tapestry. In my subsequent accounts of its history, more of Pendor and its fascinating inhabitants will unfold before you.
The storm raged against the cold stone walls of the castle.
Echoes of thunder rumbled down cheerless corridors and into the great hall, where reveling shadows danced across rough stone walls to the silent music of flickering torches.
Althea sat alone beside the pool, clutching a finely-patterned wool shawl to ward off the damp chill.
“I hear you, Qualis,” she said simply. She looked up into the high rafters where the shadows deepened, untouched by the torchlight.
Above her, the snap and whirr of leathery wings announced the descent of a small dragon. It touched down beside her, its sharp, curved claws scraping against the flagstones.
“Why do you not rest?” rasped Qualis.
“The storm keeps me wakeful. It reminds me of the night we lost our father, my brother and I,” said Althea, as she turned her gaze from the dragon back to the still water of the pool.
The meredragon regarded her silently, as she drifted into memories of her past. The pain of her sacrifice was still fresh, and as she thought back on all she'd given up, a solitary tear slid down her cheek.
The dragon watched her grief in bewilderment. He had lived with this elf-woman for years and still she remained an enigma. He could not comprehend her strong ties to her own kind, particularly her unbreakable link to her hatch-brother. He knew of the mysteries and the will. He understood the loose kinship of his kind, love of the hunt, the need every twenty winters to seek out a mate, but Althea's behavior was inexplicable.
He wondered, and not for the first time, if she was mentally defective or had a disease which caused a sickness of spirit.
He felt a familiar touch upon his mind then, a gentle shifting of perception, and knew that the Oracle was again coming to inhabit his consciousness. He had long ago ceased fighting this inner interloper. For centuries he had struggled against this possession, and always in vain. The futility of this resistance was at last borne upon him, and he discovered that cooperation was of mutual benefit.
Now, out of habit, he simply relaxed and cleared his mind.
“Althea, you are in pain,” rasped the Oracle through Qualis.
Althea started, as she always did when the Oracle took control of the dragon’s body without warning.
“Yes, “ she began, “I suppose I am. The storm has brought back so many sorrowful memories.”
“I know that it is still difficult for you, however willingly your choice was made. Yet poor Qualis does not understand, and is disturbed by your grief,” the Oracle said.
She felt the warm, familiar touch in her mind, and let the Oracle enter her consciousness. The room began to fade around her, and she slipped peacefully into the black.
When she opened her eyes again, it was morning. The storm had passed, and brilliant sunlight had banished the torch shadows from the great hall. The air smelled fresh and clean, with a hint of the rain still lingering.
Sitting on his haunches and surrounded by glittering, sapphire-hued gems was Qualis, perched with wings folded back and forearms resting upon his knees. “I am going release Qualis to himself now. Please be gentle with him, as he is deeply distressed.” said the Oracle.
Althea looked at the Oracle-Qualis in confusion. “Why is he distressed? And what are these?” she asked, as she indicated the dozens of glowing gems, scattered like shimmering raindrops about the room.
“I allowed Qualis to experience your sorrow, Althea. Dragons, even clever meredragons, are incapable of understanding elven emotion. Their needs are simple, and they lack the emotive expression of your kind. These gems are the tears that Qualis shed when he experienced your pain.
Still confused, Althea said, “Dragons feel no sorrow, nor do they shed tears!”
“Do not and can not are worlds apart, my dear. For last night, this little dragon did. Once Qualis is more composed, he will undoubtedly slink off to sulk, so please pick up this litter of gems. I believe that they just may be useful one day.”