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Chapter 15


“So, who were and what happened to the Tyrants you ask? I’m afraid the answer is that we don’t know. Or at least we don’t in a way that is truly representative of them all. We know that they were Ascendants, incredibly powerful ones, and that they were rulers of the realm, or at least of their own fiefdoms within it. We also know that a great many of them died during the Desolation. But beyond that? Little else.”

Collections on the Desolation, Goric Strent, The Golden Age 4869

The answer as it turned out was seven. 

Though if Vincent was to get technical, he was cheating a little a bit with that count, not that he truly thought anyone would split too fine a hair when it came to being able to both write and speak a language. Regardless, however anyone decided to count it, he had made truly astounding progress when it came to reestablishing his linguistic foundations having fully relearned the ancient and modern versions of Oresian, Tulian, and Imyarian, both written and spoken when it came to the older dialects. For the more modern variants he was unfortunately limited to just a written mastery, needing actual practical exposure to the spoken half for his Insight to piece the other halves of the languages together.

Beyond those, and perhaps most importantly, given that it was the primary language that the majority of the texts in the archives were written in, he also managed to learn the written half of Aventine, even if his journey doing so had been incredibly roundabout. But again, he doubted that anyone in the world cared if his understanding of the language had started first with his memories of the ancient variant of Oresian, then the modern dialect, then from there into Aventine.

Not that I would even try to even begin to explain such a thing to anyone after what I accidentally did to that poor boy, Vincent thought with a mental wince as he reshelved the last of his dictionaries, this one an advanced grammar guide to Aventine, particularly those relevant to scholarly work. Tomorrow I think I’ll try and get here early enough to find a private room. That way I shouldn’t accidentally…unnerve anyone who might happen to be around me.

Breathing a sigh at the memories that the thought brought on, Vincent couldn’t help but fully recall the young, blue haired student’s wide eyed expression once he’d gotten to work, something which admittedly he could have maybe been more subtle in. But in his eagerness to get started and learning, Vincent had leaned fully upon his Insight and simply started his study by flipping pages of the dictionary he’d chosen, his soulmeld memorizing their contents without him needing to actively read them. It was a process that at first went completely unnoticed by them, who Vincent imagined simply thought he was looking for specific page. 

However by the time Vincent had finished absorbing the book, and thereby the memories that it had unlocked, he had begun to attract more than casual glances. Then, by the time he finished his second book, which had been little over a thousand pages a half hour later, he was being openly stared at. Catching on at that point, Vincent’s first thought had been that he had borrowed a book that the other student had needed, offering the two dictionaries he’d just read and explaining that he was now finished with them.

In hindsight, that was probably where I should have noticed that things were wrong, Vincent said to himself as he walked along a towering set of shelves, pausing occasionally to check the brass engraved labels that indicated their contents and making sure he was heading in the right direction. Or if nothing else, maybe I should have checked to see that he was already studying the same dictionary.

Regardless, the offer prompted the young man to utter an exceptionally high pitched “n-no thank you!” before practically burying his face into his work, leaving Vincent to shrug and find his next set of tomes and resume his study. However, that wasn’t the end of things, or so Vincent discovered when he finished learning Tulian, once again catching the student openly staring and asking again if he needed the book now that he was finished with it. Unfortunately, as innocent as the question was intended to be, it was enough to cause the now very clearly fragile student to start to cry, and not just in a gentle, easily soothed way. 

No, it ended up being a complete nervous breakdown that required the intervention of a senior archivist, who also happened to be an a kind hearted Ascendant, and two other junior pages, who helped carry the student out after their fervent hysterics caused them to abruptly pass out. Yet for dramatic and somewhat unnerving the entire situation had been from Vincent’s perspective, if at least at first, it was apparently completely rote for the trio, with the Ascendant archivist simply commenting “and that’s number nine. Not bad for this late in the term.” Then he gave Vincent a voucher good for a sandwich and a bottle of juice from the café in the atrium, which was apparently the custom when someone sharing a table with others ‘succumbed to the rigors of academia’.

It ended up being quite a good sandwich too.

All right, we should finally be getting close to the ancient history section if I haven’t gotten myself lost, Vincent said mentally as he ended his wandering thoughts and forced himself to focus on his surroundings and the brass plaques that labeled each of the stacks contents. Up until now the section he’d been following contained more modern history, which in turn was intermixed with countless autobiographical accounts or treatises. Ah, there’s a new plaque over there…what does it say? Ancient History! Finally, I’m here!

However as fast the initial burst of arrival excitement hit him, it was just as quickly quenched. For unlike any of the other sections or stacks that he has passed by before, the Ancient History section had not only been relegated to barely more than single length of shelving, but barely had any content upon it at all.

Wait, is that it? Vincent wondered as he nearly raced towards the all too thin books on the shelves, promptly grabbing hold of the biggest and largest tome upon it, its size enough that he had to pin it against his body before lowering it with his good arm. However as he brought it down and turned over to read its cover, he soon found himself disappointed. 

This is a… ‘Speaking of Greens and their…Purpose?’ Hang on, this isn’t a history book, it’s been mis shelved, Vincent continued, feeling his heart begin to sink as he carefully maneuvered the tome so that he could open and flip through several pages, discovering that it was an incredibly poorly Tulian translation of a herbology book. Letting out a growl at the deception, Vincent promptly dumped the book on a nearby cart for eventual reshelving before returning to the section and taking a second look at the other texts that remained, eventually finding another, much thinner one, that caught his eye.

“Collections on the Desolation,” he whispered as he parsed the title, it alone prompting him to snatch it easily from the shelf and crack it open, discovering that it was written in not only perfect modern Oreivian, but at a glance actually seemed related to history. Feeling excited by the discovery, he flipped to the tome’s preface and began to read, hoping to gain a sense of just what it contained. 

It is difficult to even begin to speculate what has been lost since the Desolation struck our realm, heralding what us scholars have since named the Age of Desolation. The few records that have managed to be preserved through that turbulent Age, and the Ages that followed it, have yet to be recovered and fully understood. Many of them are still jealously guarded by their keepers, kept locked away in forbidden vaults, lest their contents somehow disrupt the world they had made for themselves. In other, more unfortunate cases, it isn’t the availability of the texts that is a problem, but rather that they been rendered indecipherable due to the forgetting of the languages they were scribed in, Vincent read, a finger moving across the text to keep his place as he carefully parsed the writing. But for the records that have survived, and that I have managed to study, they all paint a time when beings known as the Tyrants ruled our realm, often with an iron fist. That is until the Day of Desolation. The day that the Tyrants and all else were consumed by the storms that brought havoc upon the world. As such it is within in this work that I set out to collate all that I have been able to discover about this lost era of history before civilization was cast down into darkness. Understand however that while I have worked as tirelessly as possible to verify the sources that I have used for this work, that some may be suspect regardless. Either because of their changing to suit the whims of the rulers of the time, or rendered vague through countless translations and—

Ugh, it just keeps going on and on like this, Vincent thought, briefly rolling his eyes before skimming ahead through the parts of the preface’s contents and finding that it waxed onwards for six more pages of the already all too thin tome. But despite the author’s penchant for wordiness, the mere mention of civilization falling into darkness and the fall of the Tyrants had been more than enough to catch his interest.

And to also cause a seed of dread to form in the pit of his stomach. 

This makes it sound like the realm came to an end while I was gone, he thought anxiously, his blood suddenly going cold as he considered what he’d read, specifically the mention of the Tyrants. It wasn’t an unfamiliar term to him, yet even so he came just short of any meaningful recollection of just what exactly they had been. I remember that Malvis was a Tyrant. But that he was also one of many. Though if I was up against him…what was I? Was I a Tyrant too? And Zera? Who was she?

It was a question that Vincent wasn’t sure if he wanted an answer to, for some reason finding himself worried about what he might discover, even if he couldn’t exactly articulate why. Fortunately the feeling only lasted a moment before he was able to crush and banish it to the corner of his mind. This book was exactly what he’d been looking for and he wasn’t about to waste his time diving into his own thoughts. So after a quick glance at the shelf to ensure that there wasn’t another text more appealing, he left to make his way back to his table, all while continuing to read.

Despite my best efforts and all the records I have pursued over the years, it is unknown how or why the Desolation occurred, save that it did so suddenly and without warning. Vincent read, half holding his breath as his eyes drank in the words before him. In some writings it was thought that a war between the Tyrants was responsible for the destruction, while others insist that it was the manifestations of our sins coming back to enact vengeance upon us. Regardless, whatever the true cause, it forever changed the workings of our realm in ways that even almost a millennia later, we are still only beginning to comprehend. Yet for the purposes of this tome we must begin our study somewhere, and there is no place better than the Day of Desolation.

It is said that on that day a vast and vicious tear appeared in the sky above our realm with such force and power that it caused the very ground to upheave itself in response. The tear then unleashed an explosion of mana unlike any ever thought possible, one that all but immediately coalesced into incredible manastorms which began to ravage the world without reprieve, devastating all they touched. 

In all the accounts that I have studied of that era, it is said that fire, ice, and wind ravaged the sky for weeks on end, all while the ground beneath trembled with unbridled fury as it threatened to shake itself apart. Cities were wiped away, mountains rose and fell, oceans were made and lost as the world endured an elemental fury unlike any other. Yet even as these colossal primal storms raged from above, lesser ones traversed the lands below, each of them bathing all caught in their paths with every aspect of mana imaginable and leaving vast swaths of dark mana in their wake. Such an event was widely thought to be the end of our realm, until one fateful day whatever was fueling the manastorms abruptly ended as the tear from which they gained their power from was sealed.

But by that point however, the face of our realm had been changed forever. For where once the bastions, cities, and nations ruled by the Tyrants and rulers of old once stood, now lay unclaimed swaths of wilderness, their masters, and people, be they elf, human, or dwarf, either scattered to the winds, or killed where they had taken shelter. Where once sparkling cities thrived with tens of thousands of inhabitants within its walls, now rested storm beaten necropolises, some of them completely enveloped by dark mana, or worse, corrupted by foul magic beyond our understanding, and thus filled with still lingering vestiges of the people that once inhabited them. Where the light of civilization had once spread out to fill every crack the realm, now only shone the smallest of specks, the few places that had steadfastly endured the Desolation, refusing to be extinguished.

It was then from these scattered specks and the survivors that inhabited them that all that we know now arose from yet again in the years that followed, many of them growing into—

“Ah, there you are Vincent!” A voice suddenly interrupted Vincent’s reading, prompting him to look up from his book and suddenly find himself staring at Theo who was standing right by his table, all while his heart thundered wildly in his chest over what he’d just read. “How did your day go? Are you ready to head back home?”

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