2,000 Years Ago…
The Academy of Leren. The gem of Utrecht.
For a little background information, this World Ship had a thriving and fairly advanced non-magical society thousands of years ago. It was known as the Besherman Empire, and it sprawled both the world above, and the world below. They harnessed the power of lightning to power their homes, they spoke to one another over massive distances, and they floated through the skies. They did this all without magic. It wasn’t until the World Ship seemingly crossed into a tear in reality that magic entered our realms.
The top Besherman scientists went to work on studying the aethereal energy that they encountered. Great minds worked day and night as they poked and prodded the tear in reality that they had found. Over time, they started to realize they could harness this power, without the use of technology. The very first Besherman magic user casts his first spell in the city of Utrecht. They built a university there to study this magic further. They harnessed it, honed it, learned how to master and control it.
As they did this, they unknowingly drew the attention of the world that existed beyond this fractured reality, a world of darkness and monsters… lurking in the unknown and paying close attention to the Besherman Empire. Each and every day the World Ship grew stronger, more powerful at controlling the aethereal energy. Until one day, when the Yunai finally revealed themselves to us.
We learned the truth. The aether that was empowering us was growing stronger because our world was drifting farther into the fractured reality. The further we traveled, the easier it became for us to travel between the two sides. As soon as the Yunai had the chance, they attacked.
Two thousand years ago. The city of Utrecht was sacked. The Academy of Leren laid to waste…
Instructor Delliana, a young and headstrong Besherman researcher, rushed through the hallways of this fine school as panicked students fled all around her. The ground rumbled as the Yunai forces assaulted the city, and horns blared as evacuations were ordered across campus.
The Academy would not survive the assault from these foul creatures, this much Delliana knew, but the knowledge in the great libraries of the school could live on. She rounded a corner and saw a student pinned beneath a stone pillar. The poor student’s leg was crushed, but they still seemed bent on finding escape. They called to Delliana, begging her to stop and assist. The researcher was torn, but she knew the young girl was already lost. She could not save the students, but she could save the books. She rushed ahead, ignoring the student’s final pleas for help.
In the great library of the Academy, no fire had yet touched the thousands of books that were proudly displayed on the shelves. Delliana went to work without hesitation, quickly swiping her wand through the air as magical energy swirled all around her. It swept up dozens of books, spinning them into orderly stacks that she could then manipulate with magic. She began shrinking them down, each book to a size so small they resembled nothing more than a grain of sand. She cast a levitation spell and quickly swept the tiny pile of literature into a satchel that she could easily carry with her. The evacuations continued while Delliana worked.
The library was large, but she moved fast. She finished the entire room after what felt like an eternity, then sealed the bag shut with a magical enchantment that make it impossible to enter the bag without the counter spell. She looked around at the empty shelves and smiled. She was a hero. Someday, they would remember her actions and praise her for it. She stood up to leave and that was when she finally paused. She realized that she heard no more blaring horns or screaming students. All she could hear was a growing sound… like a whistling… getting closer. She realized what it was a moment too late. The world exploded in a blinding light, and Instructor Delliana was no more.
2,000 Years Later…
The ruins of Utrecht looked much the same as many of the other ruins that were scattered across all of the world below. Fynn, a young paladin adventurer, had seen them numerous times during his travels with Sionis Sepher and Iliera Starfall.
The aged and cracked stones revealed beautiful craftsmanship and delicate design that had all been lost when the Yunai destroyed it all. He hadn’t learned much about the ancient war, but he often wondered what had gone so wrong that the entire world had been seemingly defeated by the Yunai. The Besherman and the survivors of the world below had stopped multiple Yunai invasions. How had they hit so hard the firs time, and never really done so again? That was a question that I wanted to get answered.
According to what little knowledge had been gleaned, this city had been utterly wiped out when one of the Yunai forces marched on an surplus of aethereal energy that the ancient researchers were collecting and storing for use as a potential power supply. The explosion itself would have been enough to leave the city in ruins, but the energy released was increased by the strong line of energy that was being channeled by other magic users trying to defend their homes. The destruction had been absolute, and it had created a unique experience for visitors to this place. A ghostly remnant of all of those souls had been captured here. Like translucent projections, these “spirits” wandered the ruins acting out their last moments as if they were living it over and over again.
Fynn had been working with my group of heroes to help secure a safe world. One thing that I knew was that the Yunai were returning. A massive army that most of the citizens referred to as the Legion. While we had beaten back the enemy before, this time it was all or nothing. We had to end this threat.
“They’re all gone,” a Highbourne spirit said to Fynn, drawing his attention as he stepped through one of the massive archways. “All gone.”
He swept his hammer through the air, passing right through the specter, and then recovered himself in a flash of embarrassment. “Ah, sorry… who has gone, spirit?”
The spirit paused, looking around for a moment. “All gone.”
He frowned. He’d run into this problem with many of the spirits that wandered the city. While some had retained their memories, their ability to interact and communicate, there were many others that had seemingly just… given up.
“All gone,” the spirit repeated.
“I get it,” Fynn grumbled. “Where did they go?”
The spirit didn’t respond, but moved forward, pushing right through his body and onward into the hallways beyond the library entrance.
Assuming it to be a lost cause, Fynn turned to leave. That was when he heard another voice, this one hidden among the bookshelves. “Come and see.”
He lifted his hammer once more, somewhat concerned at the voice’s calm tone. He had not yet been attacked by any of these spirits within the ruins, but in other areas, these kind of magical memories were not always friendly. “You seek the knowledge,” the voice said from within the empty shelves. “Come and see.”
Reluctantly, Fynn lowered his weapon and moved toward the shelves. Behind the first few rows of empty space, he found another spirit. She was not looking at him. She was knelt over a small bag, her ghostly hands pawing at it over and over again, unable to hold it in her hand.
Fynn stepped over and knelt beside her, quickly scooping up the satchel in his hands. The spirit followed his motion and stood as he did, looking only to the bag and barely acknowledging his existence.
“What is this?” he asked. “Is this what you wanted me to see?”
“A simple bag,” she replied calmly. “Within, you will discover the secrets of our civilization. A simple seed of knowledge that can grow into so much hope.”
“Knowledge that we can use against the Yunai?”
The spirit looked to him, breaking eye contact with the satchel. It was like she only now saw that he was in the room, that he was here with her, but the contact lasted for only a moment before she seemed to fade once more and returned to pawing at the ground, despite the bag no longer resting there.
Fynn tried to open the bag, but it wouldn’t budge. Not surprised by the fact that the bag was held shut with a spell, he tied the satchel to his waist and started to leave the library. The Besherman spirit remained, eternally running her hands over the spot where the bag had been.
By now, Udiria had returned to warmer climates. The city remained floating, but it had positioned itself between the world above and the world below, as a kind of midway point for the growing number of airships that moved back and forth from Stonehaven to Kennis. Fynn traveled there to find help with the spell that protected the bag he’d uncovered. The magic users only struggled with the incantation for a few minutes before they finally broke through.
What they found inside was a coarse powder.
“What is it, exactly?” a young magic user, named Syanna, asked as she stood there scratching her head.
Fynn shrugged. “A reagent of some kind?”
“Wrong!” a nearby researcher shouted, looking over the powder for a long moment before reaching into a nearby toolbox and pulling out what looked like an oversize magnifying glass. Fynn waited as the man leaned over the pile of powder, taking a much closer look before snapping a finger in satisfaction and handing the magnifying glass to the female. “It’s books.”
“An entire library worth, at least,” the man added. “I’d say they were shrunk down with some kind of magic, obviously.”
“The entire Academy library, right here in our hands,” Syanna said, sounding truly impressed.
“So what do we do with it?” Fynn asked. “Can we make them normal again?”
“Of course,” Syanna said with a smile. “I can do that, easy.”
She pulled a wand and made a quick circular motion, followed by a sharp jab at the pile. As she did that, Fynn saw the look on the researcher’s face turn from mild satisfaction to one of grave concern. “Did you just cast that on all of these books?” he asked.
Syanna smiled. “Yeah. I figured that would be best.”
With a pop and sizzle, one of the grains of sand exploded in size, making a perfectly formed tome with a beautifully etched leather cover. Another pop followed, and the first book, as well as a pinch of the other shrunken books, were thrown off the table by the force of the next book’s growth. Three more pops and suddenly Fynn’s brain realized what was happening.
“We gotta get out of here!”
He pulled hard on Syanna’s arm as he rushed away from the expanding books that were swelling up all around them. An entire library’s worth of tomes, spell books, and other scrolls grew. Each new explosion scattered more dust, more collections of books that then also grew. As the space in the room quickly filled, Fynn cut for the nearest door only to have a wave of ancient books cut him off.
“What do we do now?” Syanna asked, clearly panicked by the thought of being smothered to death by books. “I don’t want to die like this!”
“New plan,” Fynn replied. He moved close to the far wall of the building, the one which he knew opened to the outside world, and quickly summoned a blast of luminary magic. With his mighty hammer, Fynn had defeated many foes across the world, but today he struck against the stone wall of a library. The wall exploded in a burst of energy and sunlight poured inside to greet them.
A moment later they were practically propelled through the opening by the massive number of swelling books that hurled them into the streets of the magical city. Looking over his shoulder, Fynn watched as books continued to erupt from the opening while the library continued expanding.
He glanced to Syanna, who was already starting to sort through the many books with a wicked grin. “This is amazing,” she said, clearly ignoring the mistake she had made inside. “These books cover everything. This one is a cookbook. Over here we’ve got a guide to herbalism. Thank the Luminary One, think of all the things we could learn from this!”
“We’ll need to catalog it,” Fynn replied. “More importantly we’ll need to store it somewhere. Maybe there are others out there than can help us research all of this and figure out what we can and cannot be used to help us in our fight against the Legion.”
“You brought an entire Academy back,” Syanna said cheerfully. “I guess we’re the Academy now.”
“An Academy of Hope,” Fynn said, bending down to pick up one of the books that lay all around them. “Knowledge is power, and we need all the power we can get if we’re going to win this fight…”