A Tale of Five Prologues

While writing The Dreaming King Saga, I decided to tell a story with the prologues. If you read the books one at a time, you might miss that, so here are all five prologues, including the one for the yet-to-be-published final chapter, The Gates of Heaven.

Prologue One: Blade of Sorrows

From the Journal of Den, First Wizard of the Vale of Stars

The heat smote my face as I hammered on the blade. Sparks flew into my beard and hair. I poured my grief and anger into a weapon I did not want to forge. My tears sizzled on the glowing steel. I folded the metal and hammered it flat again.

For months now I have been in a nightmare. The others fight with righteous anger or cold determination, but Elutheros was my friend. How can I turn against him? How can I forge this blade to slay him? Yet he must be stopped. The stair must come down. His grief and pride have carried him so far that he will no longer listen to reason. He will no longer listen at all. Instead, the evil he is doing will outweigh the good he has done, the knowledge he gave us.

Karoc and Iara say the plan will work, but my heart doubts. They do not understand the depth of his grief and the power of his anger. Thus, I pour my soul and all he taught me into this sword. What part will it have to play in his downfall? What am I doing to my friend?

He paid a heavy price for love, a price he could not bear. I miss Nerita too. It makes no sense that she is gone. How could the Most Holy allow her to die? Elutheros is convinced his power can turn back time and fate and even death. He would sacrifice the world to ease his pain and see her again.

At first, we thought he would work through the loss. After all, how could he raise her from the dead? No one can do that. Others have lost lovers and learned to go on.

Then came the day he emerged from a gray winter dawn with ice in his hair. His eyes glowed and he seemed not to notice the chill at all. “I found it. It’s just around the corner. All you have to do is find the right corner. It’s so close. I can go get her and bring her back.” He babbled on about the stair, and a chill settled into my stomach.

I weep for him as I hold this reddened steel in my hand. First, we will destroy all we have built, and then we will face him. What will this new world we create be like?

There is more, however, to this blade. I see it far down the years, for it will not rust or lose its edge. Thus, when you who read this have true and righteous need, the Blade of Sorrows will aid you. However, it will never let you forget what it costs to use, for this sword, like its master, wants peace and quiet. I have given up on friendship and love.

Prologue Two: Changing History

From The Teacher: Writings of Calfjoro, Guardian at the Gate

What started as a conflict between friends and colleagues has escalated into a war. Twelve of us cast those first spells to bring down Elutheros’s stair before he reached the Gates of Heaven. We devised counter spells and hindrances. The first of these he swept aside like so much chaff. After such a setback, my companions and I planned and prepared for our next attempt to stop our friend’s madness. At last, after days in preparation, we tore down what he had built.

As we stood in the ruins, we pleaded with him to come away, to grieve and heal. Instead, he raged against us and attacked us. We had not attacked him, only what he had built.

Desperate and unprepared, we defended ourselves and barely escaped with our lives. Three did not survive. We asked ourselves, “What now?” We argued and debated as our friend’s construct grew once more. Now we faced war. Elutheros gathered people to him and made protective spells around his construct.

When first we gathered troops and assaulted his army, we discovered that Elutheros had changed the rules, changed what we thought was possible. Magic has been used in war for centuries. Wizards have made weapons, conjured fire and flood, and shaken the ground, but knowing all that did not prepare us for Elutheros. He stole our magic. He stole our soldiers. He used what we prepared against us.

War will never be the same.

I mulled these things in my mind during our interminable discussions about how to defeat him. Then someone mentioned blocking the magic itself, which got me thinking. I remembered an ancient scroll in the library that said something similar. To find it, I braved my friend’s growing wrath and madness to retrieve the old writing, for by then, though the school still stood, the city had been laid to waste.

The next day, I sat with my beloved Shara and read what the old scholar had written. In tears and heartache, we attempted to decide. Would the plan laid out therein work? Could we succeed? Was it right to sacrifice what we had, even our own lives, to stop what our friend had begun? In the end, I had no true choice. While Shara took the children and fled to safety, I returned with the scroll to the others. At last I convinced them, and we set about making the crystal ring.

Though they argued about the cost, I knew where it would lead me and what I had to do. What can you do if life offers you the impossible choice? For Elutheros’s war, fought by different rules, had become the bloodiest any had ever heard of. I, too, could change the rules, even more than he had. I would change the world itself. I fear I will our make our conflict bloodier still, though some of the blood may be my own. For me there waits a lonely, unmarked grave.

Prologue Three: The Sword of Light

Except from Palu’s Journey

My brother is dead. Our last battle to stop Elutheros accomplished nothing except my brother’s death.

How could my brother not see Elutheros’s evil? Perhaps the light of Elutheros’s personality, the shining sun of his power, blinded my brother.

Now, here at the Rusted Spire, I build a weapon that will draw men to it and inspire them to great deeds. It will shine as a beacon to men’s hearts so that Elutheros may not blind anyone else. Into it I pour my hopes and dreams for the future. The acolytes and apprentices pump the bellows and hold the blade while I hammer, thus their hopes also infuse the steel.

At night we work on the forging, harvesting light from moon and star to seal in with the iron and coal, for Calfjoro’s crystals are still the greater work—work of the daytime that we must hide from Elutheros. If he knew the crystals’ purpose, he would pause in his labors to kill us all. For now, he thinks us unable to stop him, mere gnats buzzing in his ear. How arrogant he is, how single-minded.

Perhaps that is why Eirlys will not speak to me anymore. Perhaps she saw the cost of love and chooses not to pay. There are women here among those working with me who have expressed interest. I could lay with one, or marry one, to relieve tension and perhaps produce progeny to carry on after me, to build the empire that must rise from civilization’s ashes. Love is not required for such things, but none can match me in game and thought as Eirlys could.

The others think our crystals will only dampen the magic so Elutheros cannot complete the stair. However, too many use live magic to hold together a soaring tower or make a carriage roll. All this will stop. Commerce will come to a halt, and knowledge will die. Thus I build a sword infused with power that will persist. Let it go down through the ages, in the hands of the wise and the strong. Perhaps, in the end, it will assuage my guilt for killing my own brother.

Prologue Four: Giang’s Final Devotion

 Give praise to Valjar even when everything in your life, in the world, goes wrong. Those who espouse such praise have never tested their faith and never faced death—not just their own death, but of loved ones, of children, the death of hope.

I have. I stood in the shambles. Around me, my army lay dead or dying. The school we’d used for cover—the school where Calfjoro taught, where Elutheros, Den, and myself trained—reduced to smoking rubble. Even after all this time, through all the fighting and all the failures, as I stood amid the stone, wood, and dust, I did not understand the world I knew had ended.

Why would mere buildings cause me such pain? So many had died, so many friends, and both of my sons, but the buildings where I’d made my life, their destruction had me standing in tears. This day, as all the days, Den fought in sorrow for his friend, Palu fought in righteous anger, and Lasa with dogged determination while Iara laughed at us all and fought harder than any.

Elutheros took my magic from me. All the power I harnessed to fight him, he pulled it from me and with it destroyed my men. I had harnessed more power than ever before, because I would need it to fight Elutheros—far more than Calfjoro had rated me for. Stealing it shouldn’t have been possible, but Elutheros did it. My own magic, tuned to me, blasted people and buildings, but could not harm me.

There I stood, covered in dust and blood while Elutheros ignored me. He knew I could do him no harm without magic. He knew I had no one else to stand beside me. He knew nothing. For by destroying the school, he proved what the others had been saying. No risk is too great to stop him.

Therefore, I am inscribing this for any who come after to find. So much magic I can muster. I know, now, what is at stake, and I will get Elutheros to notice me. I will drink the forbidden water, the Koriotoy itself, where power so pure bubbles to the surface any who drink it will die. I wonder, could Elutheros have partaken? It might be, but one thing is sure, he who drinks will not die immediately. Elutheros will notice me and thus not notice Calfjoro. Iara will help too, as will the others.

So, I offer this last devotion to go with all the others. Valjar be praised! I still believe Valjar can save us; with his power, we can prevent Elutheros’s assault on the Gates of Heaven. My faith has not waned, even with death and destruction all around. What Calfjoro says is true. We must find a way to love everyone, even Elutheros. My heart misgives. I don’t know why, but in some way Calfjoro’s plan will fail.

Prologue Five: Falling Down

From the Teachings of Eirlys, First Wizard of the Diurn Spring

From safe on my island, I watched Elutheros fall.  I watched city towers and bridges crumble. I watched civilization itself tumble into ruin and death.

It happened just as Calfjoro said it would. When he placed the last crystal and linked the power, he gave his own life, while Giang, Iara and the others gave theirs to distract Elutheros from what we did.

My scrying spell survived the result because I knew what would come. Most wizards died in the backlash from their own spells. Many, many others died in falling buildings or will soon from starvation and cold in the days to come. My guilt will not be assuaged, and yet what Elutheros attempted would have killed all, destroying heaven and earth. We should have found a better way.

We tried every other idea and spell we knew and failed. I guess we’re too stupid, and more idiotic even than Iara would have said. I will miss her acerbic wit even more than my Palu, and Palu survived. He will stay at the Rusted Spire, and I will not go to him, for I have no heart left for love. Palu does not understand and seeks to build an empire from the ashes.  Though it lasts a thousand years it will not be enough.

I must prepare, for the wizards of the Diurn Spring will have a role to play in the end. I must do it, for only I saw. When Elutheros’s construct shivered and shattered, when the magic fell apart, when all the others mourned the dead and cleaned up the mess, I watched Elutheros.

Our enemy and grieving friend dropped from the sky, back through the strange corners and bends he found to reach the gates, but he did not crash down on the hard ground.  Instead, he fell into the Koriotoy, the well itself, the center of all magic, very much alive.

That he has not emerged again I take as hopeful, but I do not think this will last.