I never know quite where the Muse will take me when I begin to write but today we went back to Ancient times and Eistoria, who you meet at the very beginning of City of the Wiccad Episode 1: Beginnings. (Small plug here, go and buy it and read it if you haven’t already and all things will make even more sense.) But for now, enjoy this ancient story.
She Who Seeks
He lived in a cave, which in these times was nothing so unusual. He lived there to be away from people. They called him the Hermit but he never turned away a traveller who climbed his mountain and came to him seeking knowledge.
He had much to share.
Most thought him just a crazy old man, but as Eistoria climbed the mountain she knew he was more than that. He was like her, a keeper of stories. A keeper of truths.
In the first part of this journey, Eistoria had travelled to the temple where the oracle Asteria waited. In raptured bliss, Asteria had given Eistoria the vision she sought. To change the High Story she had to find the old Wise Man and he would tell her how.
“Is it today then, the day that I die?” The old man asked as Eistoria crested the cliff to stand on the flat before his cave. He seemed calm but sad, so very sad like his heart had been broken in ways that could never be fixed.
Eistoria wondered what he had lost. But she was not here for his story.
“No, this is not your last day, far from it,” Eistoria said, trying to reassure the ancient man. He was not reassured but he did not look unhappy that he thought he was to die. “My soul shall find yours again, it has been seen by the priestess Asteria. And as you draw your last breath my life shall truly begin.”
“Then it is not today?”
“I am sorry, it is not.”
“I had hoped.”
“I am sorry, Ki’Enel.”
“No more, I am Kien now. I shine no more.”
The old man walked into the cave and Eistoria quickly followed. She had never been in the presence of an Ancient before and for all he said he did not shine, his soul was bright yet.
He gestured for Eistoria to sit and she found a place on a pile of soft furs near the small fire. It burned without smoke or touching the wood. A magic that was rarely seen in any realm now.
But she was not here for that story.
“The First Age will end and magic will wane. The veils between the realms will firm up and danger will stalk the world as it has the realms. I have been called…”
“The Wiccad rise again,” Kien said. He smiled and it was so sad.
“They have risen before? I have no stories…”
“The Wiccad began to rise and were defeated before they could act. In her memory, I will aid you, however I might.”
“Please, tell me what happened.”
“You are not here for that story,” Kien reprimanded her gently.
Eistoria sighed. It was true. “I am here for the story now. I must change it and I fear I am not so powerful as to change so many stories and blur the truth of history. A weight falls on me and I fear it will crush me and the Wiccad will be lost before they begin.”
“You are strong enough. In her memory, I will aid you.”
Eistoria knew who he spoke of. The Daughter of the Dragon Queens that he, and many others, had once loved before tragedy took her. How Eistoria longed to hear the story from his lips. He who was there. He, the greatest of the Bards.
But she was not here for that story.
“Together we can weave the magic to change the story. It will take much from me and when we are done you must leave this place and never look back. Do not tend to me, simply leave and go to your library.” Kien rose from his seat and went to one of many wooden trunks that ran along the west wall. From inside it, he drew out a small pouch made of soft goat hide. He moved back to his seat and reached toward Eistoria.
Eistoria took the bag from his open hand and immediately began to loosen the strings.
“Before you open it, let me tell you what will happen when you place that stone in your hand.”
Eistoria paused and waited.
“The stone will feel as though it burns you. Your skin will not blister but a mark will be left on your skin. It will not be a pleasant sensation. But all magic comes with a cost and this shall be part of the cost for the change that you wish to make.”
Eistoria looked at the pouch and then back up at Kien. She knew that there would be a cost, and this seemed like one she would be willing to pay. “I am willing.”
“You have visited an oracle. Do you know much else of the cost?”
“I do know the cost. Not just of the magic I seek to control but the cost of the end of the Age, and the cost of the Wiccad.”
“And my soul will see yours again, though I shall no longer be as I am.”
He nodded and gave Eistoria a sad smile.
“Often the cost of greatness in the world is the lives of those who will stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. When we are done, take this stone to your library and you will find a place to hide it away. Within this stone will be the truths that have been hidden and lost to the fog of time. So long as the stone remains hidden the stories will be protected.
“So be it.”
Eistoria took the stone from the pouch and felt the heat immediately. A flame danced in the heart of the red stone. Eistoria had never seen a gem like this before.
“Hold it tight and we will begin. All you need do is pour your will into the stone. Tell it the stories that must become truth. When we are done, you leave and do not remain. Give me your word.”
“I swear on my soul and the stories of the Wiccad. I shall do as you say.”
“Then we shall begin.”
Kien placed his hands on Eistoria’s and closed them around the stone. The pain flared like flames were dancing around her hands. Kien’s eyes changed colour and became as a beast.
Eistoria tried not to be afraid, but it took long and painful minutes before she could begin to speak. Her words were stuttered, to begin with, fear and pain clouding her mind but soon she found the power beyond the pain. She closed her eyes and she began to speak.
“Mnemosyne the Mother of the Muses had only nine daughters. History shall not know of Eistoria, not as the Librarian of Athens. Not as the Keeper of the Stage. Eistoria shall be struck from the High Story and be known no more. Megea, sister of Medea, Megea of the Magissa and chosen first of the Wiccad, Megea shall slip from the High Story and may her story be scattered among the truth of others who remain known. May the memory of her never be truly forgotten, hidden in the Mythos of the High Story but her name shall be removed except for when it falls from her own mouth and those bound to the Wiccad…”
The new stories were woven in the flame lit cave and it took hours for Eistoria to speak the words she was guided to say. Her mouth dried and her throat ached but she kept speaking until her voice was a hoarse whisper and then she was finally finished.
She opened her eyes and looked at Kian. He looked haggard and far more ancient than he had when she had met him at the cave entrance. He slumped, his hands slid from hers and she reached for him.
His command was barely audible and Eistoria was reluctant to leave him. It seemed he had paid the greater cost of this magic they had woven between them. But she had promised that she would leave and her duty was to the Wiccad now. She had sworn on the stories of the Wiccad and she would not cause this to have been for nothing.
The stone still ached in her hand but it did not burn as much. When Eistoria moved it she saw the mark that she had been left with. A circle shape upon her palm with a flame in the centre. The lines looked like tiny writing all linked together.
But she could not dwell on that now.
“Thank you, my soul shall see you once more, I hope on that day you forgive me for what must happen.”
Kien did not reply and Eistoria was certain he was no longer conscious but she could not stay and tend to him. She had sworn it.
So, the keeper of the stories made her way back down the mountain. She fell more times than she could count in her exhaustion but she kept going.
At the bottom, a horse and cart waited. One of the Kyrdian’s of Hermenes, a man named Damanos, waited in it. He was tender with her and still grumbling that she had not let him assist her at all in her endeavours. He drove them back across the land to reach the library. The trip took weeks and Eistoria found herself with fever for much of the time. In her delirium, she repeated the words of the stories she had changed. Her guardian protected her and cared for her the whole journey.
When they reached the library Eistoria was too weak to even climb the stairs so Damanos carried her.
“Take me to the centre of the library where the statue of Owl rests.”
He carried her there and then helped her open a long-forgotten space in the base of the statue. It had been made many years ago, and yet fit the stone and pouch perfectly.
“And now I take you to the healer. Our tasks are not yet done, my little bard,” Damanos said, the great fighter touching her face so gently. “You must not die yet, Ria.”
Eistoria nodded, her end was not yet. Though she had seen it would come very similar to now, Damanos would hold her in his arms and tell her that they were not done yet.
On that day she would be, but that day was not yet and she had much work still left to her with the Wiccad, just as Damanos had much to do with the Kyrdian, as they worked to keep the world from darkness as the First Age ended.
“Take me to the healer and find Megea, please. Tell her it is done. The narrative has been changed.”