The Yunai are coming for you. Stay safe and out of sight. This missive contains a magical link to my location. Use it. We’ll talk soon.
The letter slipped out of a magical portal, one that was no bigger than my hand, and landed atop the table where I was eating my late morning brunch. I flipped it open, and I was immediately confused. I read it once. I read it again. I hadn’t heard from Kaellax in years. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure she was still alive, yet here it was…
We were just one day out from our assault on Spirehand Foundry.
I heard the sound of metal armor and turned to see Iliera stepping inside the tavern. She looked as determined as always, but when she saw me, her face warmed and she offered me a smile. She posed for me, and I realized she was wearing her new armor, crafted by the finest blacksmiths from Ember’s Light village. It was made of enchanted metal, and contained power crystals that had been passed down through her family for ages. It was a great pride for her to wear it now as she fought.
“How does it look?” she asked. “Will I strike fear into the hearts of my enemies?”
“They won’t know what hit them,” I replied.
“I assume you will wear your standard battle armor?” she asked.
I thought of my old Stonehaven regalia, and I wondered if I might retire it for something more modern, though honestly my wardrobe wasn’t the most important thing on my mind right now.
Iliera seemed to detect that. Her smile faded and she came to my table. “What is it?”
“An unexpected call from an old friend,” I said. “I’m not sure what to do about it.”
Iliera scanned over the letter, looking at it carefully for a long moment, then handing it back to me with a confused look. “You must go.”
“She is an old friend?”
I nodded. “She was.”
“Do you know of this Yunai she speaks about?”
Iliera frowned. “Yes. You must go.”
“Taking a Traveler from this World Ship back home would take too long,” I explained. “If I go, I’ll have to use a lot of magical energy to travel through the aether from here to there. I don’t know how much it will drain me. I don’t even know if I can come back.”
“Shall I come with you?” she asked.
“And give up your opportunity to make the Spirehands pay? I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“If you return fast enough we can still make them pay… together.”
I nodded. “Then let us hope for a fast resolution.”
I made my way to the stable, found Surfal, and climbed atop the horse. He bucked ever so slightly, still uncomfortable in his new metallic prison, but I soothed the creature for a moment and then held the missive and activated the magic within. It began to spark and shake, and I felt the aethereal magic of a teleportation spell pulling me in. I held my horse close, and we zipped through the portal with me realizing I had no idea where I’d end up. I fueled the fire with my own magical power, and hoped for the best.
The arid winds of the Arrid Desert were unmistakable. I knew I was somewhere in the world above, far to the west of where Vers had once stood. I could see a Stonehaven fort in the distance, so I spurred Surfal on and we headed there right away.
“Welcome to Fort Trident, hero,” a young soldier greeted me as I approached. “That’s a mighty fine looking… animal you got there. Is that a machine?”
“Long story,” I replied. “I’m looking for someone named Kaellax.”
“Check the inn,” the soldier replied. “Everyone passes through there.”
I made my way past two crumbling stone towers and realized the fort wasn’t as impressive as the name suggested. I recognized some old Vers flags still flying high above, completely tattered now, and I momentarily thought of my past.
The inn wasn’t in the worst shape, so I headed inside, and what I found there was almost shocking. The interior of the place was spotless. The wood floors were polished to a shine, and the air was cool, too cool to be natural. A beautiful blue fire burned in the fireplace, emitting a frosty air rather than heat. I was impressed, to be sure, but even a nice frost-fire hearth couldn’t distract me from my main mission.
“You there at the entrance, you a magic user?” a voice asked.
I looked up to see the bartender, a welcoming old man, smiling right at me. “Come on in and have a drink, will you?” he asked. “I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of people come through here lately.”
I stepped over to the bar, not wanting to seem unkind. “What are you serving?”
“Firewater,” the bartender replied. “It’s crafted by the Besherman folk. It’s damn strong.”
“Thanks,” I replied with a grin. “Maybe just a water for me.”
“Ah, well if you want to be boring, I suppose.”
Taking the glass of water, I leaned back in my chair and looked around. There were a few patrons, but none of them looked like my old friend. I glanced at the bartender, and he was just happily wiping glasses.
“How’d you get the frost-fire?” I asked, gesturing to the hearth.
“A buddy of mine keeps it going,” the bartender replied.
“I think so too.”
“You been here long?”
“Longer than most,” the bartender replied. “I helped establish Fort Trident.”
“Good to hear. I’m looking for someone…”
“I know a lot of people,” the bartender replied bluntly. “I’m not keen to sell them out.”
“Oh, it’s nothing like that,” I assured him. “I’m looking for a woman named Kaellax.”
The bartender stopped what he was doing and looked me over for a moment. I could tell that his opinion of me had turned negative in the blink of an eye. “Why?”
“She asked for my help,” I answered.
“Aye, I know her. She and her paladin friend got up to a few shenanigans out here.”
“Are they still here?”
“Just passed through yesterday,” he said. “The pair went down to work on some kind of archaeologist project if I’m recalling correctly. They were always on about old World Ship technology and stuff like that.”
“Do you know where that might be?”
“South of here,” he answered. “There was some ancient city, something special. The Besherman were all about it.”
I was in luck. I had visited the ancient ruins of this land, years and years ago. I thanked the bartender and started to head out of the inn, but then I twisted back and asked him one last question. “The paladin. What was their name?”
“Fynn,” the bartender replied.
I nodded, thanked him again, and headed out.
I still wasn’t sure what to make of Kaellax’s letter, but the name Fynn rang a bell. After my “death” following the Shattered Calamity, Christine and I went to work on helping others. I saved her life not long after I was rescued by the time manipulating Yunai, and then she went on to save others too. It was the ripple effect that the creature had told me about… all part of the plan to help ward off his own kind long before they arrived in our reality.
Fynn had been a young paladin recruited by Christine. He stayed to train with her, opting out of a trip home to Vers. As a result, he missed the devastating destruction of the city, and the ripple continued. Thinking about this, I wondered if that was the Yunai that had come for me. Alternatively, maybe the enemy had finally figured out the plan…
Of course, the only way to find out the truth to any of this would be to find Kaellax and have her explain it in person. I gathered my things and climbed back on Surfal, fairly certain that the ruins of the abandoned city was only a half day ride to the south. With any luck, I would be asking my old friend about her mysterious missive by dinnertime.
As I pulled on Surfal’s reins, I couldn’t help wonder if I had made a mistake not bringing Iliera with me. I wondered if this was part of Lady Sonea’s untold plan. I decided not to dwell on it. The answers to my questions loomed on the horizon.