The evening bells tolled and I looked out my apartment window, hoping to catch sight of Tarik. The setting sun reflected off the roof of Castle Glass, the Duke of Arvon’s familial palace, and though beautiful, I missed the Three Suns of my youth.
For more than three millennia, I’d wandered Sangrar without home or roots, a dirty vagabond living hand to mouth, blissfully ignorant of my past, until Tarik found me and lifted the Herald’s curse.
When I first understood what the Ancient One had done, I’d been livid, but over time, I’d accepted that it was as much a blessing as a curse. After all, I have been and always shall be, a historian, and the Herald had chosen me to chronicle yet another turning of the ages, a gift my peers at the University of Colcester would have killed for. The charge the Herald had laid upon me was not yet done. Someday, I’d tell Tirel’s story for those who followed.
I suppose I shall never be certain whether I lost my memories because of the Herald or despite him. When I wrote the preface to this work centuries ago, I was of the opinion that the few memories I retained were a gift from the Herald. I had seen things mortal man was not meant to see and believed that if not for him, I’d have forgotten everything. But, as Tarik has reminded me, I am no longer mortal – no one living as long as I can claim that. He is certain that the Herald cursed me and I believe him. Tarik lifted the curse, so if anyone could discern its source, it would be him.
How Tarik retains his power, now that the Spires are no more, is a mystery I’ve often pondered. There’s no logical reason for it, but I learned long ago that the things most worth knowing often defy logic. I’ve asked on occasion, but he’ll only answer with a wink and a smile, as if expecting me to divine the answer myself.
The Sangrar upon which the sons of Irontree founded the Kingdom of Tirel bears little resemblance to the Sangrar of the Primals. The ruination brought about by the Reckoning of the Planes was as nothing before the Cataclysm of the Long Night. When the Prophecies were fulfilled, the Balance recast Sangrar and all traces of the ancient world faded. The Three Suns, the Towers of Sorcery, even the gods were no more.
If not for The Tale of Ages, I might have believed it all a dream, but The Tale was too real, too vivid, to have been produced by my imagination. And, of course, there was Tarik. His existence proved that I was not mad. He validated everything I’d written.
I spied Tarik strolling down the street, heading towards my dingy apartment wearing the same blue robes he’d worn since inheriting the Grove a world ago. In this age, he’d adopted the name Gerard, and the folk of Arvon thought him a simple spellbinder from the school founded by Weyland the White in the Vale of Ferengali.
We’d taken to dining together and our meals were the highlights of my week. We’d recall the legends of the old world, laugh at the antics of the gods, and wax philosophical on the Balance, the Prophecies and the Necessity.
Our favorite pastime was to compare and contrast this world to the old one. In all of Sangrar, there was no one else that I could talk to, no one else who remembered the glory of yesteryear. To be sure there were other survivors – Aurora, Bartholomew and those of the Van Halen clan, but they were relative upstarts, with no knowledge of Sangrar’s ancient history. Only Tarik, who had learned on the laps of his parents, and I, who had learned from Kandol Elf Lord, could truly appreciate how much the world had changed.
A knock sounded on the door. “Come in,” I shouted. “It’s open.”
The wizard let himself in and sat in his customary chair, a well-worn leather one with soft cushions. “Good evening, Jerilyn. I’ve been looking forward to this evening.” He sniffed. “That smells good.”
I stirred the stew simmering in the copper kettle over the fire. “As have I, Tarik. I’m trying a new venison recipe from Zerina at the Bounding Hart. I think you’ll like it.” I poured him a glass of his favorite brandy to accompany the pipe he’d filled.
“Jerilyn,” he chuckled. “Haven’t you learned? I don’t come here for the food. If that was my reason, I’d have stopped visiting long ago.”
I had to laugh. Culinary expertise was not one of my gifts, though I tried. “You’re more than welcome to try your hand,” I offered, knowing that the wizard would not take me up. We went through this ritual every time. Tarik was incapable of preparing a meal without resorting to magik.
“No thank you. I’m sure it will taste wonderful.” Tarik took a sip from his snifter. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask.”
“You’ve never been shy, ask away.”
“Your memories have all returned, haven’t they?”
“Most of them, yes. The time immediately following the Long Night is still blurry – I think that’s the Herald’s influence.” I ladled the stew over heaps of steamed rice and handed a plate to Tarik.
“Then, why haven’t you changed the prefaces in The Tale of Ages? Some of what you wrote was wrong, particularly with respect to the Herald. Now that you know better, why don’t you update your work?”
Tarik wasn’t asking anything I hadn’t asked myself. In fact, I had rewritten the prefaces, several times, but thrown the drafts away. “I can’t, Tarik. I tried, but I can’t.”
“They remind me how I felt just after the Long Night. When I wrote them, every word was true, or so I believed. Only now that the Herald’s curse is undone do I see the truth.”
“My point exactly,” Tarik said between bites of stew.
I sighed, struggling for the words to explain. “Have you ever written anything?”
Tarik shook his head. “Nothing to speak of. Why?”
“If you had, you might understand. Whenever I read something I’ve written, I see ways to improve it. As far as I’m concerned, a book is never done, it simply reaches a point where it’s good enough to share. One of the greatest challenges a writer faces is to stop tinkering and leave well enough alone, and the prefaces are no different. I wrote The Tale with the speed of a Grush on saddaka leaves. When I read the prefaces, I remember how I felt back then. I could easily change them to reflect the truth as I now know it, but if I did, I’d forget how I felt when the world changed. I’ve forgotten too much, Tarik. Thanks to you, much has been restored, but I did forget and I don’t ever want to forget again. Not anything. Not ever.”