The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie
Interlude - The First



Lan Aldorian was having another sleepless night. After tossing and turning he’d given up, risen from his bed, slipped on the large and heavy robe laying draped across the chair in front of his wife’s nightstand, and made his way to the small library adjacent the bedroom. The house was quiet as the rest of his family slept, and while Lan was a man who enjoyed quiet and solitude, he almost wished the household was awake. At least the bustling activity that swirled about it on a busy day might act as a distraction to him.

After entering the library, he dropped into one of the two large chairs that sat opposite each other in front of the fireplace. The fire his son Seth had made earlier in the day was by now burned out, and while the ashes still had a touch of warmth in them, it certainly wasn’t enough to heat the room. But although the library was cold and drafty, the temperature of the room was the last thing on Lan’s mind. Resting his head against the soft padding that covered the back of the chair, Lan Aldorian stared straight ahead and looked across the open space of the library toward his desk. 

A meticulous and orderly man, Lan’s desk always mirrored the personality of its owner – presenting to anyone who might enter the library a neat and organized surface. The only times it was in even the slightest disarray was if something was on his mind, or some issue or problem troubled him. Then, in a similar fashion, the desk would mimic Lan’s own emotional state, offering up an appearance of disarray and disorganization – this was one of those times. 

At the moment, the desk was piled high with books, papers, charts, and rolls of parchment – some of the larger rolls were even scattered on the floor around it. On top of one of the piles of manuscripts lay a small but heavy metal bar. Although the fire had died out hours ago and he’d lit not a single candle, neither was necessary for him to clearly see it, since the strange piece of metal was giving off a glow strong enough to bathe the entire room in a light so bright he could easily have read the words in a book, had he been holding one in his lap. 

Placing an elbow on the arm of the soft, over-stuffed chair he sat in, he lowered his head and rested his chin on the cupped palm of his hand, never taking his eyes from the object of his regard. As his brow furrowed, drawing his eyebrows together into a single dark tilde, he pondered what it all might mean. Of course, he had his suspicions; that was, after all, the purpose of the rigorous training he’d undergone. 

Years of study at his fathers knee, being taught and lectured until he could recite the old stories by heart, supplemented by long hours of reading and research. But everything he’d studied happened so long ago, and as he grew older, there were days he wondered if any part of what he learned from his days as a small boy was even remotely true, or if it would all turn out to be empty legends. 

Yes, he had been faithful and steadfast. He made sure that he carried on all the ancient traditions. Even now he followed his sworn oaths, having brought Seth into the circle. Every day for the past five years the boy studied at his feet just as Lan had learned the ancient tales in this very library, when his father sat at the desk he now occupied. Staring at the glowing metal bar, his restless mind darted from thought to thought. 

The strange piece of metal had been in the library for as long as he could remember. It belonged to his father, and his grandfather before him. In fact, as far as he knew, it had been in the possession of the Aldorian clan for hundreds of years. About a foot in length and an inch square on all four of its sides, it had delicate and highly detailed carvings etched across every surface. The patterns were not figures or even designs Lan recognized, but were instead strange swirling loops, bits of curves and an occasional half circle. On one end of the bar a large hole had been drilled into it. The hole had been tapped to form threads as if something were meant to be screwed into it so that it could be affixed to some larger object. 

After his father died and he took possession of the ancestral home, he made note of it as part of the clan inventory just as he catalogued the countless other objects in his family’s possession. Occasionally he would take it in his hands and closely examine the intricate patterns inscribed on it. Even as a child he remembered hefting it, feeling its weight and asking his father about it. 

He was told that it was simply something that had been in the family for ages, and while no one knew its actual use, it was clearly an object someone fashioned for a purpose – either as a device to perform a task or an object of art – maybe both. And since the clan collected and saved countless unknown objects over the years, this was one of many in a collection of hundreds. Although why this particular one had made its way onto one of the library shelves in a place of prominence was something he never understood. 

The Aldorian clan was old. In fact, it was oldest of all the clans. Their bloodline stretched back through centuries. And because of that honor, they had been made the archivists and record keepers among the Kalorian League. Charged with preserving the history and traditions of the past, the family spent eons carefully collecting, cataloging, archiving and preserving anything they could get their hands on. Yet it was a task the clan relished. It was rare for someone to be born into the family who didn’t have an inquisitive mind and curious nature. Yes, there were a few, but the Aldorian clan had been given a task, and it was a task that they preformed as resolutely and faithfully as possible, always striving to remain true to their original mandate. 

Lan’s older brother Koran was Chief Speaker, his younger brother Sed had been Prime Finder, and the families many sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins were in charge of the myriad collections in the grand depository that had been amassed over two thousand years. Lan himself had taken his father’s place as First Historian. But none of that was on Lan’s mind as he sat staring at the glowing metal bar.   

Ten days previously, Lan Aldorian had entered the library an hour before sunrise. It was his usual habit to begin his day in the early hours just before dawn. Those precious hours afforded him time for reading, studying, writing, and most importantly, thinking before the activities of the day foisted its responsibilities on his shoulders. Too soon the sun would arise, and his day would be filled with his required duties and responsibilities. That is why the early morning was precious and sacred to him. 

On the morning of his discovery, as was his custom for many years, Lan awoke and made his way to the kitchen to brew a pot of Darroot tea. It not only served to wake him up, but also warmed him on those chilly mornings before Seth got up to build a fire for his father so they would both be warm during their long days of study. After putting a generous measure of Darroot powder in the teapot, pouring in the hot water, and swirling around the contents, he reached up to the shelf, picked up his favorite cup – one that his brother had found during one of his expeditions – and made his way to the library. 

Trudging back up the stairs as quietly as possible, while the rest of the house slept around him, Lan approached the door and was surprised to see light pouring through the gaps in the doorframe. Upon opening it, he was amazed to see the room bathed in a soft yellow glow. At first he thought it odd that the fire hadn’t burned itself out, wondering if Seth had added more wood to it before going off to bed, but when he looked to the fireplace he found it cold and dark. Then chiding himself for risking a fire by failing to extinguish one of the candles before he’d gone to bed, he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and blinked when he realized the source of the mysterious light. The sight shocked him so much that he almost dropped the teapot. Recovering quickly, he set it and the teacup down on the desk. Then for a few seconds he just stood there, staring. 

Finally gathering his wits about himself, he walked over to the shelf, and looked down at the metal bar in disbelief. Reaching out his hand to pick it up, he hesitated, but then continued when he felt no heat radiating from it. Once in his hands, he turned it over again and again, as if he could discover the source of the light, but other than the fact that it seemed to be coming from inside the still cold, lifeless bar, he could see nothing that would cause the strange phenomenon to occur. For the longest time he stood holding it in his hand, staring at it. 

It was Seth, who came bounding into the room, ready to clean out the fireplace and prepare it for a new fire, who roused him. Having lost track of time, he hadn’t heard the rest of his family waking up throughout the house. Quickly, he shoved the glowing object in the drawer of his desk and locked it. All that day his eyes kept wandering to the locked drawer as he listened to Seth’s narration of the Journey of Travail. His son had just started studying the saga and while Lan was surprised at how well he’d already mastered the tale, he ended their daily session earlier then usual because he kept losing his concentration. After he dismissed Seth, he went to the drawer, unlocked it and peered down at the metal bar. He carefully removed it, placing it gently on the desktop. And from that day on he hadn’t one good night’s sleep. 

The first time he examined it, he’d been so surprised by its glow that he neglected to notice anything else. By the third night, he realized that while the whole bar glowed, some of the delicate designs reflected a brighter light of their own. And although he didn’t recognize any of the markings, he thought with some research, he might discover some meaning in them. 

During the day, he continued to work with Seth on his lessons. During the evening he would conduct research. For seven nights he scoured the books of the library for an explanation, and finding none, he started requesting some of the old volumes from the depository that no one had examined in ages, but without success. The more he met with failure, the more determined he became in his quest. 

The previous evening, his long hours of work had yielded no success, but still he looked. Finally, eyes heavy from lack of sleep he went to bed, placing the bar on his desk. Lan had been so exhausted, he forgot to return it to and lock it in the desk drawer. Now he sat across the room from it, watching it glow atop his desk while searching his brain for an explanation. 

It was then that Chiara, the family cat, came into the room, casually strolled around the furniture, rubbed her body against Lan’s legs and then leaped into his lap. So lost in through that he hadn’t noticed her, Chiara’s sudden leap startled him and he jumped in surprise. Lan’s sudden and unexpected change of position caused Chiara to lose her balance, and in an attempt to secure her footing, she madly dug her claws into Lan’s upper leg. Lan jumped and cursed the instant the sharp claws pierced the soft flesh of his upper thigh. Chiara flew in to the air bawling loudly, landed on the desk and knocked over a large stack of books Lan had piled there the night before – all discarded volumes from his fruitless search. Skittering out of the room with a loud and indignant meow, Chiara scampered off to a quieter and safer area of the house, leaving Lan to clean up the mess. 

“Cats,” he muttered to himself. “If she weren’t such a good mouser I’d skin her alive.” 

Still muttering to himself he bent down to pick up the books, when he noticed something odd. One of the older volumes had fallen open and the pages displayed before him caught his attention. Picking up the book he began to examine some of the writing and symbols on the page. Excitedly he moved to his desk, and picked up the metal bar. Holding the book in his other hand he scanned the pages. For a few minutes Lan eyes darted back and forth from the bar to the book and back again. With a surprised look on his face, he dropped into his desk chair, leaned back, and shook his head in total amazement.