Entares closed the tome in front of him and got up to get his fur cloak. He didn’t need the warmth of it, the orb hidden in his robes saw to that, but the weight of the heavy pelt felt good wrapped around his shoulders. The wizard had rigged up an armor stand behind his chair that the bison skull could sit on while still allowing him to drape the dense hide over his large shoulders.
Entares collected a few other items from around the room before gathering up his cloak; a new log book, another mug of ale, a couple loose sheets of parchment and a large wedge of stale cheese. The Dwarves were generous and Entares appreciated everything they had provided. Even the quarters, while certainly austere, were large and just the right level of uncomfortable to discourage sleep. Entares had thought that things would be silent as well, given the thick rock walls, but somehow the constant drunken yelling and arguing coming from the next room over was able to penetrate the stone. Still, the room was more than Entares could have asked for, and he had no wish to try and tell the king of the Dwarves to be quiet within his own halls… even if they were prison halls. Besides a little drinking and merriment would be good for Yolo and Fletcher. Entares thought fondly of the night of drinking he had with the frost giants. Yes, they had turned on him, but it wasn’t unexpected and he wasn’t going to let that sour the very enjoyable night he’d had around the fire listening to giant histories.
Entares continued to muse about the giants as he found the last of his items and placed them on the large oak table he’s been sitting at. Each item was just far enough away as to not be clutter, but close enough that they could be reached from sitting. Setting a desk, Entares had discovered, was an art form. One he intended to master. The work sucked him in, allowing him to focus and ignore the weird counting game that the two warriors were yelling out next door. Entares wondered if they were purposely playing the loudest games they knew just to try and disturb him, then dismissed the thought and reassured himself that of course that would be their goal. It mattered little, the will of Entares’ mind to learn was as fierce as Gladyr’s will to gather treasure.
Returning to his desk with the bison cloak, Entares placed the skull upon the stand and slowly edged the stand and chair forward. Carefully Entares sidled into his chair again and pulled out his log book and a fresh quill from his robes. There was still a lot of this text to go and Entares wanted to get through at least another few hundred pages before he lay down for the evening.
Entares opened the tome again, flipped the pages to the marker, took a gulp of his ale, took a moment to listen to the ruckus next door, dipped his quill in his ink and looked to the tome, ready to begin amassing knowledge.
Entares stopped. He looked to his left where the noise had been coming from. Nothing.
Entares’ brow furrowed for a moment. The lack of noise was now almost worse. What twisted game were they playing now? Or had they drunk themselves silly and passed out? No. Not Yolo, he’d still have hours to go.
“You look distressed.” A voice penetrated the silence.
Started, Entares’ eyes snapped forward half expecting to see a dwarf, half expecting to see Talib.
Instead was a man, about six foot tall, in blue and white robes with a metallic grey trim, and a gold scaled cloak gathered behind his back. The man was human, wore a longsword at his side and had a familiar look. It took a moment for Entares to take it all in before he realized who the man was.
“Father?” Entares was stunned, unable to say much.
“My son. It makes me happy to hear you call me that.” Duncan shifted from a military stance into a more casual demeanor.
“What else would I call you?” Entares was still holding his quill awkwardly over his ink pot. Realizing this, he pull it back awkwardly, still holding it in his hand unsure of where to put it down.
“Whatever you wish, I suppose. It’s not like I’ve earned the title.” Duncan moved across the room to an armchair, “Do you mind if I sit down?” Duncan gestured to the table.
Entares stared for a second and managed to stammer out a few words as he lay the quill down on a piece of parchment “N-no. Please”.
“Thank you,” the senior mage picked up the heavy armchair with one hand and brought it over to the table, careful not to let it scape on the stone.
Entares watched the motion, aware that his father must have comparable strength to his own. The act was very different than how Calista, Talib or even Obsidian would have presented. Calista might have summoned a chair from the rock itself displaying raw magical power, Talib would have somehow found himself in Entares chair, with his feet on the desk mud soaking into his tome, and Obsidian might have just conjured a phantom chair. Each was a presentation of power and Duncan’s act was no different, it was just more… natural.
“Yes?” Duncan’s voice broke Entares’ thoughts.
“I’m sorry, pardon?”
“I was just asking if I could grab a mug of stout?” Duncan pointed to the large stone pitcher on the nearby food table.
“Yes,” Replied Entares, “of course.”
“Thank you.” Duncan walked over to the table, and began pouring himself a drink. “You know. I’ve always had a taste for Dwarven beer. Even before I actually tasted it. Somehow I knew I would like it.” Duncan finished pouring and walked back over to Entares’ desk and sat down. “It took me a little while to get used to the strength, for sure, but even still.”
Entares just stared at his father unsure of what to say. The man was nothing like Talib, yet very clearly his son.
“I want to start off by stating the obvious. I’ve not been a great father to you, and for that I am deeply sorry. I once swore that I would never fail to be a father to a child I sired. You think I would have made sure of that when I realized who my true father was, but I have my excuses and for good or ill, they are what they are and I leave my efforts in your hands to judge.” Duncan took a deep drink from his mug before continuing.
“I come to you now give you three things. The first is my apology. I have tried to do everything I could to keep you safe and ensure that you would at least have a childhood of peace and comfort and the ability to make your own choices and follow your own goals. I had wished that perhaps you might inherit my ability with Runaic magic, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead you have developed yourself according to your own interests within magic, and upon seeing that… I am happier. You remind me of your mother. A wonderful quality.”
“My second and third purpose can wait a sec. I have placed us in a powerful time stasis field. It isn’t true temporal magic, which means the world itself will continue to change, but this immediate area is paused.”
Entares’ brows furrowed as he began to delve into magical theory and what the implications of such a spell would mean. Before he could get too mired in arcane theory Duncan again broke his thoughts.
“Essentially, everything will catch up, time will run a little faster for a little while. Don’t worry, it’s all relative, no one will notice. Not even you, well maybe, if you really focus. Anyway, that’s not the point.” Duncan’s free hand waived distractedly. “The point is that we have some time to discuss… things. I am leaving the plane. And soon.”
Entares felt his chest tighten. He barely knew this man, finally got the chance to talk, and now he was leaving the plane. Entares spoke quietly but in control, “Where are you going?”
“I’m not sure yet. Likely a plane or demi-plane eventually, although I imagine there’ll be a bit of trouble for the first little while before I get there. We’ll get to that.” Duncan took a swig of the dark Dwarven draught.
Entares wasn’t sure what to say or feel. He considered being angry. Duncan had neglected to come to him before and now he put a time limit on the time they had with talk of leaving the plane. This wasn’t really an option. Its not like Duncan had abandoned him. He knew that Duncan had secretly been protecting Oaken Glenn. He knew that there had been plans to take him to a library and learn, all paid for by Duncan. Entares considered he could be angry about the lack of a father that he had endured, but Lord Anderson had been gracious and kind. There were hurt feelings all the same, but embracing those would only cloud the discussions he hoped to have with his father.
Entares looked up to see his father sitting and waiting patiently. “Well. I suppose I’d like to know a little more about you.”
“That’s fair,” Duncan took a deep drink from his mug. “I suppose you want to know about the real me as well, not what the world says of me…”
Entares knew the question was rhetorical but nodded slowly all the same.
“Well, I suppose I’ll start at the beginning, which is surprisingly easy I suppose. I’m not from Argyle. I was brought here by Obsidian in order to help slay Talib.”
Entares shuffled uncomfortably in his seat.
“Don’t worry, he hasn’t been able to spy on me since before you were born. Anyway, he’s busy at the moment.”
Entares logically had known this to be true, but old habits were hard to break and the mention of the name still shook Entares. “So, where are you from?” Entares inquired trying to change the subject.
“Well, that’s a little harder to answer. It doesn’t really have a name, more of a designation. Nothing that would help to identify it, so it really isn’t important. They call it Earth, although I theorize you might find dozens of realms named after their primary element, although ironically enough Earth’s primary element is water, which of course isn’t really an element, well not there anyway.” Duncan continued thinking in his head while he took a drink of his stout.
“It’s really not important” Duncan interrupted over his own thoughts. “The point is, I’m not from here. This plane has been made my home plane through binding magic facilitated by Obsidian. There were others as well, but most of them have died since, or left the plane, or ascended away from it. One of the temprolists was one of us. Used to be a really nice guy. Always a bit out there, but – well, that’s also not important. The point is that this place was new to me once upon a time, and that our line is one that has been heavily influenced and manipulated since before my arrival. That trend isn’t likely to change.”
Entares sighed out of relief and grief at the same time,
“That’s one of the reasons I tried to create a barrier between you and I. I knew that the temprolists would figure it out, although I thought it might take a little longer. I could have guessed that Talib would have been able to figure it out, but I was hoping he’d never get the chance.”
“I’m sorry, father, I thought…” Entares felt an overwhelming sense of shame. Lord Anderson had never really ever rebuked him for anything. He’d never really had cause. The worst thing Entares had been guilty of was being too studious or too absent-minded. Now that he was thinking about it, Entares could place a few times where his adoptive father had visibly looked uncomfortable when reprimanding him. Scolding the son of such a powerful mage would be a daunting task.
“I’m no better, son. I too was fooled by Talib in my youth. It’s not a proud moment of my life, and I succumbed far deeper than you. You owe me no apologies.”
“I had heard that you had worked with him for a time.”
“For him,” Duncan corrected with a smile, “I was not at all in control of the situation, despite what I thought at the time.”
“You eventually resisted him though. Made sense of his lies?” Entares was starting to feel more at ease, interested in the similarities of his father to himself.
“No. Actually.” Duncan’s mood noticeably shifted as he put down his mug, “I was given a second chance.” Duncan paused for a long moment. “Gabriel saw something in me and decided to give me a second chance. I’m not certain I deserved it, but the world must have needed me pretty badly and Gabriel gambled. He was right of course. And I‘m grateful that he was. But I will pass on a piece of wisdom that you should always keep close. Corruption is like an addiction. The further you go, the harder it is to break, and after a certain point the taint of the matter never leaves you. You can be completely free of the drug for a lifetime and a single step down that path and you may find yourself lost in a wilderness of fear and doubt.” Duncan let the words hang in the air, keeping a concerned gaze locked on his son.
“You know of this, and I can tell by your eyes that we have an understanding that needs no more words.” Duncan got up, pushing his chair back and picking up his mug. “You wanted to know about me,” Duncan continued as he went and refiled his mug, “the lore around my name is only a vague reflection of the true me. The real me is much like any other person.”
Duncan finished filling his mug, took a swig and walked back to his seat. “I like music. Actually, that’s one thing about me that I’ve managed to hold on to from the reality I came from. Here, listen! I’ve always enjoyed witnessing the reactions of those who’ve never heard music from my world. I’m even more interested to know your opinion.”
Duncan waved a few fingers and spoke an incantation and suddenly sounds burst forth into the world around Entares. These were sounds like he had never heard before. No instrument on Argyle could make such a sound. Entares doubted there were beasts on Argyle that could make such sounds. Maybe a choir of a hundred dragons could double these sounds. There were different depths, rhythms, tempos, all moving together, weaving in and out, complimenting each other. The mathematics of the sounds were breath taking. The way time and meter were measured, balanced, and moved. It was like watching magical equations dance with a life of their own. Entares swore he could almost see the symbols weaving in between themselves in a glorious cascade of harmony. It was all he could do to not cry out from the beauty of the sounds. Entares tried to just absorb everything that flowed through the stone room. The music felt like it would last forever, a perfect existence of equilibrium that wove with increasing speed and severity. The sounds were growing louder, more fierce. Entares started to feel as though the magic would overwhelm him, like he would be lost to this music, never to find his world again, unsure if he even wanted to.
Then it stopped.
Entares sat. His eyes closed. Duncan said nothing, and Entares savoured the silence as the echoes of the music played in his memory. As the memory clouded away and reality seeped back into the room, Entares could feel chilled lines down his cheek. He opened his eyes to a blurry world and raised his hand to his face. Crying. He had been crying.
Quickly Entares brought his sleeve to his face, desperate to hide the incriminating evidence. The sound of Duncan’s burst of low chuckle affronted Entares raw feelings. His eyes shot up to meet Duncan’s across the large table.
“Don’t worry,” Duncan began “You should have seen the reaction I got from the High Thane!” Duncan smiled at his son waiting for the idea to sink in.
Entares thought about it for a second and let slip a slow chuckle. Duncan smiled a great closed mouth grin, trying pointlessly to hold in a burst of laughter that sprang forth almost as loud as the music had been. Entares broke right after him; his laughter came spilling forth like an ocean over a broken dyke, his cries of joy matching Duncan’s as the two descended into giggle fits.
The two wizards had to muster all the composure they had to get over their euphoria. It had taken some time before they were able to move on to other matters. Eventually they were able to speak, now more openly and at ease. Entares spoke with his father like he had only ever spoken to Aduin. He hid nothing, asked questions that came to mind without considering every last detail of their importance, and expressed what he felt, not what he thought. The two spoke of music, histories, other worlds, and of life on Argyle. Always Entares had thoughts of his mother on his mind, but the topic kept being waylaid and rather than bring it up inappropriately he continued with the conversation.
The conversation lasted almost two hours before Duncan became aware of the cost of his magic and decided it was time to bring the conversation to an end.
“There are changes coming,” he began after a long comfortable moment of silence.
“Changes that I cannot, at this time, predict. One curiosity you will learn as you grow in power; the power you have, the less you are able to alter. Your best bet is to try and recognize the important things. They aren’t always the big things either.”
Entares, suddenly sobered by his father’s change of topic took up his pen and readied it.
Duncan looked quizzically at his son, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can tell you that is really worth writing down. What I can tell you is this: The pantheon of gods is going to change; drastically. If all goes well Gabriel and Talib will take up major places in the new pantheon. They will be held in balance with each other, with a little help” Duncan’s face showed the slightest signs of doubt. “In the interim, there are beings that exist on Argyle called primordial –“
Entares’ nodded in agreement showing he understood. Duncan, obviously paying attention, picked up on it right away. Entares continued to write everything down, even after being told there’d be no worth in it. Duncan continued anyway.
“Good. You know of them. They are fickle creatures; jealous and bitter. That’s not to say that they don’t have good reason to be. Treat them with respect. They rule the very elements around you and without them, life on Argyle would be all but impossible. They are ancient beings and a second age of their reign is about to begin. Ally yourself with them now while they are eager for support. Remember that they, like the gods of yesterday, fight within themselves. Never compare them to the old gods though, they will not take kindly to such observations. Just be careful of which you make an ally. There will be equal wroth from their counterpart.
“Next. Never trust Talib, except to continue being Talib. He’s only made one mistake in the time I’ve known him. That was becoming a god. That being said, he’ll have a whole new level to learn and master tricks. I do not look forward to this challenge.
“On to family matters. Your true surname, should you choose to take it, is Johnstone. I admit, I tell you this only for my own vanity. I don’t expect you will take it, but I wanted you to know it. You have a half-brother. I told him of you. If he wishes to find you, he will. Do not search for him, you won’t find him and it will put both your lives at risk.”
Entares had put down his ink pen as soon as Duncan had begun talking of Talib. It had not been new knowledge. Entares didn’t quite understand why becoming a god was a mistake, but he would think more on it later. His father’s talk of family now held his whole attention. The mention of a half-brother was incredible, but it did not sway him in his determination to hear about his mother. When Duncan finally breached the subject, Entares’ mind nearly stalled.
“I know you want me to talk of your mother. I admit, I don’t know what to say. Relationships with dragons is a new world for me. I know you are middle aged by human standards, but by dragon standards, you are still a child. Do not worry, your lifespan will be much longer than a human’s. How long, I cannot say. When you have reached adulthood, I expect your mother will seek you out. Know that adulthood will not be based on the years you have spent on this plane, but rather your growth and knowledge of the world around you. Do not pine for it, simply accept that it is inevitable and continue to live. I’m sorry. It wasn’t the answer you were hoping for, I know.
“Lastly, I will be paying attention to Argyle. When I leave this plane, I will be giving up many of my ties to it. I will be less present than ever before. That does not mean that my presence will not be felt. I only leave the plane so I may better serve it. Remember, my name carries weight. If you choose to use it, be careful. It will save you pain almost as often as it will cause it. The Crymeery, for example may believe I have chosen to abandon them. If you have the ability and the will, I ask you to look out for those simple folk, they are too good for this world. To help you I leave you my tower in the village. The top floor contains several items that may be of use to you, including a gift that I placed there that I hope you will enjoy.
“My time is running short. I am nearly out of mana. If you should meet the temprolist again and you can convince him that he ought to make amends, tell him he can pay you the debt he owes me.”
“Lastly. Your name is not from this plane, nor is it, strictly speaking, from my home plane. It is from the language of the Protoss people and means In Honour Of. It was in thought of my grandfather that I named you. A simple, wise and flawed human man. He was the greatest person I ever knew. He would be proud of you. Live well, my son.”
Duncan stood from his seat, gathered his robes around him and looked toward his son again.
“Father?” Entares began.
“Yes?” Duncan replied with a smile.
“Will we meet again?”
“I hope so, Entares. I hope so.”
With those last words, he was gone.