If you’re an avid reader of The Tale of Ages, you doubtless have questions about Tarik. By now, you’ve heard his name several times and that of his alter ego, the Wizard of the Blue Lagoon many more. To clear the air, of ridicule mostly, Tarik didn’t choose that pseudonym after watching the cheesy flick from the ‘80s. He never saw that film or any other. The lagoon was blue, really.
Tarik came to Tyrnavalle, and the lagoon forever associated with him, at the end of his “dark period” (that’s what he called it), a time when he craved anonymity. For Tarik, anonymity was an impossible dream. Sooner or later, people notice someone with power and Tarik stuck out like a sore thumb. The folks in the neighborhood had to call him something and, lacking any formal introduction, they came up with the Wizard of the Blue Lagoon, which Tarik didn’t like, but it stuck. He’d have preferred no name. If they’d asked me, I’d have suggested grumpy old man.
Tarik is featured in the Interludes (in which he and I reminisce about the good old days … and the bad ones) and at the top of many chapters. As long as I’m bringing up the chapter quotes, I might as well clarify the timing. The quotes from Kandol are from my stay at Pel Aesylle, a decade or two before the end. The ones from the Wizard of the Blue Lagoon came during those first few years after the Long Night, while I was racing against time to pen The Tale before my memories faded completely. My quotes are from either of those two time periods. The context should make clear which.
After reading so many cute little Tarik snippets, I suspect you might want to know more seeing as I’ve spent precious little ink on him through the first two volumes of Scales over Sangrithar. In The Warrior Revealed, I wrote about his introduction to the world and his part in the end of the Elder Days, but until that prequel hits the streets, this will have to suffice.
Tarik was a strange bird, I’ll grant you that. Strange and I loved him. He was my link to the past, the only kindred spirit in Tirel. If not for him, I might never have remembered who I was and where I came from. For that, and so much more, I owed him a debt I could never repay. Those dinners in my Arvon apartment remain among my fondest memories. I wouldn’t trade them for the world though it would have been nice if he’d cooked once in a while without resorting to wizardry.
As I’ve said elsewhere, I blame Tarik’s … peculiarities on his upbringing. It wasn’t the Harnae’s fault. They tried to raise him right, but with their lifestyle, come on! How could they expect Tarik to grow up normal by any standard when they raised him in the equivalent of a closet? A nice closet and a big one, I’ll grant you that – the Grove was a little slice of Heaven, literally – but still a closet. During Tarik’s first millennia in the Grove, he didn’t take a single field trip to the great world beyond. It must have been like a dog living inside the perimeter of an invisible fence.
In case you forgot, or haven’t read up on the Harnae, Tarik was an only child and a miracle child at that. Deridean’s plan for the Elder Races didn’t include the Harnae, but Harnor plunged ahead without the Councilor’s approval and whipped up the Harnae in the Pool of Life. Golden Finbardin let it slide, but there were consequences. Lillandra and Aerdran withheld their gifts, making the Harnae barren and deaf to earthsong. After the BUN, Lillandra granted them one drink from the well of parenthood, which resulted in Tarik. The Harnae kept his birth secret, except for Kandol, who was in the Grove when Lillandra bestowed her gift. Using his patented “promise move”, Kandol swore not to tell and kept the secret a thousand years, until the Harnae emerged from the Grove on the millennial anniversary of the BUN. After introducing Tarik to the world, Atar, Nim and Harrah departed for the Outermost Heavens to live with Harnor beside the Spires of Thought. How’s that for an exciting finale!
Tarik wanted friends, but didn’t know how to go about making them. A warm, friendly smile and firm handshake just wasn’t his style. He was always trying to impress, even when he didn’t have to, causing others to think him arrogant. It wasn’t arrogance, it was insecurity. Tarik never developed a proper set of social skills. Throughout his overly long childhood and beyond, his favorite list included only his mother, father and other father.
In manner, temperament and physical appearance, he most closely resembled raven-haired Atar, sharing Dad number one’s narrow face and high cheekbones which Tarik refused to hide with a classic wizard’s beard. After the Reckoning, two stripes, white like a skunk’s, colored his hair, which was a wild, mangy mess most days. If you want to picture what he looked like back then, check John Glover’s picture on IMDB, the one from that terrible Batman & Robin movie. He played Dr. Jason Woodrue, some sort of plant guy, and was a dead ringer for Tarik back in the day. When I knew Tarik in Tirel, time had caught up with him. His hair, a longer, wilder, mangier mess, had turned white as snow. He still kept his face clean-shaven.
Tarik described his first father as a proud man, the proudest of his three parents and the most suspicious. If the Harnae had a leader, it was Atar, who inherited the lion’s share of Harnor’s mistrust for the Seeress. When Nim made the deal with her, Atar was none too happy about it. Always prone to snap judgments, Atar’s acid tongue cut sharply and when he acted, he did so quickly and explosively. He specialized in elemental magik and called upon spirits of the slumbering Elemenes to work miracles. Tarik proved an apt student. Before he could even walk, Tarik was tossing fireballs with deadly accuracy.
In the Grove of the Silver Birch, no earthsong murmured, at least that’s what the Harnae thought. Later, Kandol told them that Spirit’s song did echo in the grove but, they could not hear it thanks to Aerdran’s withholding. Atar inherited his father’s disdain for Spirit’s “cheap magik” and made sure to pass that prejudice on to his son. I used to accuse Tarik of small-minded jealousy, saying that if he’d heard earthsong, he wouldn’t have felt that way. I, of course, had never heard earthsong, having been born too late and of the wrong race, but Kandol had prattled on and on about it, making me a true believer. Sometimes, Tarik would tell me to shut up and stop talking about things I knew nothing about. Whenever he took that tactic, I knew I was ahead in the debate of the day.
He denied my claim almost too vigorously. Tarik could be a fair man about most things, but not earthsong. Nothing I said could convince him that Spirit’s magik was worth a damn and I lay that entirely at Atar’s feet. None of the Harnae had a soft spot for Spirit’s magik, but of the three, Atar was the worst bigot.
According to Tarik, his mother, Nim, was quite the lighthearted flirt. In hindsight, she may have been acting out from loneliness. Tarik claimed that Nammoran always had a crush on his mother and Kandol’s version of family history backed him up. It couldn’t have been easy for Nim, getting all dolled up with no place to go.
She deserves some credit for how Tarik turned out. One glance and you might write her off as a dumb blonde (she favored wearing sheer, slutty nightgowns). A flirt? Sure, but dumb? Not even close. It could have gone terribly wrong, the four of them cooped up in the Grove together. Tarik never even hinted that Nim ever acted inappropriately, but he still suffered from mommy issues. Wouldn’t you if you were in his shoes? Isolation from the rest of the world was just icing on the cake. Think about it. He lived in an age when fooling around with someone of a different race was verboten and the only female of his kind was his mother. That’s bound to cause problems. If you add to that Nim’s proclivity for flirting, we should be grateful that Tarik didn’t end up starring in an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Instead, he grew into a man with a mere handful of neurotic tendencies, like the rest of us, not a full bore sociopath.
Mommy dearest taught Tarik the ins and outs of enchanting. From her, Tarik learned how to charm the birds into chirping his favorite songs, to ensorcel the forest surrounding the grove, and to bend others to his will, though a lack of willing test subjects did limit progress on this particular skill.
Dad number two, bald Harrah, was the calmest, most pragmatic of the three and an expert in shapechanging, wards and protective magiks, disciplines he taught Tarik to master. A thoughtful person, Harrah provided a necessary counter-balance Atar’s severity and Nim’s playfulness. Children have an innate ability to know when to ask Mom and when to ask Dad. The only difference with Tarik was that he had two Dads. When he needed balanced, unbiased advice, he asked Harrah. Contempt and arrogance colored Atar’s counsel, just as the need to nurture and protect shaded Nim’s. From ever practical Harrah, Tarik could expect truth and sound judgment. Sigh. If only he’d paid a teensy bit more attention to Dad number two.
When his parents flew the coop, Tarik experienced mixed emotions. He would miss them. They were the only company he’d known for a thousand years outside of a visit or two from Kandol. He couldn’t imagine life without mom, dad and dad at his side, but he was also excited to be out from under their wing. Better late than never!
Tarik was tired of his parents’ isolationist practices and almost desperate for company. When Kandol arrived at the Grove with Aeris and Valdarag in tow, Tarik rolled out the red carpet for them, the first of what he hoped would be many visitors. He even built a small tower in the Grove, a prototype for the Tower of Renk, and invited them in. The visit got off to a great start, but everything went south when they gazed into the Grove’s scrying pool and the Seeress appeared. Tarik, who had inherited his parent’s attitude towards her, went ballistic and accused her of manipulating every fact to suit her own purposes. Tarik wasn’t all wrong, but he wasn’t right either. The Seeress always had an agenda – moving the Prophecies towards fulfillment – but in this instance her goals and the heroes’ were well aligned.
Unfortunately, prejudice impeded progress, on both sides of the fence. The Seeress called Tarik “the misbegotten offspring of Harnor’s arrogance, a boon born of pity.” When it was Tarik’s turn, he let Kandol, Aeris and Tarik in on the extensive conspiracy theories he’d developed concerning Aux’s mistress. It’s a shame, really. When cooperation was needed to rescue Ilnaya, these two titans were reduced to acting like kindergartners.
After the heroic threesome departed the Grove, Tarik set about making his home more hospitable for the guests he anticipated in the future. He furnished the tower – decorating in high style is very affordable when you can conjure up whatever you need – prettied up the Grove and was working on invitations for the grand opening when he heard Kandol’s call from the Darkhold.
Since leaving the Grove, Kandol and the other two went on a series of adventures that ultimately led them to the Traitor’s Redoubt. With the might of the Darkhold arrayed against them, Kandol needed help and he looked to Tarik. The son of the Harnae far traveled from the Grove, buying Kandol enough time to restore the Stones and pull down the world. That last part, pulling down the world, Tarik hadn’t anticipated, and it put a major wrinkle in his plans. The newly decorated Grove crumbled away with the rest of the world.
Tarik survived the Reckoning. As child of the Harnae, he was eligible for the Path of the Reborn, but there was no way in hell Tarik was going to take up the Primals’ offer. After spending millennia in the Grove, he was finally free to wander the world, and by the Spires, he planned on doing just that, even if the world had been Remade.
He was a bit of a lost soul. He’d lost his home, his mom and both dads. Everyone, everything he knew was gone forever. Still, Tarik was an opportunist and newly awakened Mankind offered him a golden opportunity – an entire race with which he could forge new friendships. Like a man in the desert finding an oasis, Tarik binged by taking an extended world tour that saw him to Shurlind, Kandagard, Tyrnavalle and lastly Fanar, where most of the action was.
He journeyed from sea to shining sea, from the Dael Vyrnyn to the eastern shores and the lands known in later time as Jeheris, Loris and Orland. Along the way, Tarik met many people and stayed in many villages, but never stayed anywhere too long. Why? Because sooner or later he wore out his invitation. Later, when Mankind became more civilized, Tarik stayed in cities where he lasted longer but eventually someone knocked on his door with a polite request to move along. Tarik lived long enough, and covered enough ground, to get the boot from the same place more than once.
No matter where he went, Tarik didn’t fit in with the natives. Still, except for that crazy striped hair, he looked human enough. He ought to have blended in better. Nothing gave his non-human status away at a glance. The differences were all internal. Tarik didn’t even radiate an aura like other sorcerers of the Elder Days. He told me once that he used to have one but didn’t like glowing so he kept it dampened. Too bad. It would have been warned people he was coming, like a cowbell. Maybe if he’d pretended to be mute … nah. He’d still have gotten into trouble. Tarik just didn’t know how to behave around people.
Tarik didn’t know squat about manners or social graces back then. He was rude, arrogant and grated on people like nails on a chalkboard. He didn’t try to get under your skin, it was just his way. It gets back to how he was raised. In the Grove, the Harnae used magik for everything and so did Tarik. He conjured food, clothes, whatever he needed with the snap of his fingers. Invisible servants opened doors and lit the way for him. When it rained, the drops never touched him. Everything came easy to him, a fact he took completely for granted and others found completely and utterly not endearing.
To Tarik, his tiny miracles were perfectly normal, but to everyone else Tarik was a marvel, a walking, talking wonder of wizardry. As he made his way across Fanar, he called village after village home. Invariably, they’d gawk and welcome him on day one. By day two, they were begging him for parlor tricks. Tarik adored their adulation. He basked in their praise and grew accustomed to it. That’s when he would start showing off. He’d try to impress them and it came out wrong.
Tarik didn’t act like a jerk on purpose. His only goal was making friends, but he didn’t know how to go about it and failed miserably. Before Tarik’s surprise birth, the Harnae had been reconciled to a life without children. Imagine how badly three highly magikal, over-indulging parents can spoil a miracle baby? It was even worse than that. Tarik grew up pampered, self-centered and catered to. Think Paris Hilton, but not hot, definitely not hot, with the power of the Spires at her fingertips. Bingo! Actually, that’s a decent analogy. Tarik was brilliant and yet sometimes, the obvious gave him fits. Say what you want about Paris, she was smart enough to make hundreds of millions.
Tarik and his sparkling personality made the rounds at every burgeoning wizard guild on Fanar, and there were quite a few. Over the next three millennia or so, when human wizardry was coming into its own, dozens of guildssprang up across the continent with flamboyant names. The Wizards of White Castle (nothing to do with burgers), the Black Staves (not as tough as they sounded), the Endiron Conglomerate (these hard bargain driving wizards fancied themselves merchants), the Marbury Mages (eastern wizards named for the guild founder) and the Spire Lords (a pretentious lot, with whom Tarik lasted longer than usual) represent just a partial list.
Every wizard at each and every one of these establishments knew Tarik, by reputation if not personally. He was the most famous wizard in the world, by far. While Kandol Elf Lord hid in his tower atop Pel Aesylle, content to spend his days in relaxing contemplation, Tarik was putting on displays like some Fourth of July fireworks show. His name spread like wildfire from coast to coast, becoming legend.
During one of several stopovers in Endiron, Tarik helped Algerin Bluefist discover the principles behind duel arcane. This would have been twenty-five hundred years into the age, or seven hundred years after Thar who was Umbar fell from Heaven. This wizard, Algerin stumbled upon the secret once, purely by accident, and then spent years trying unsuccessfully to recreate his success. Once Tarik arrived, the pace of his progress improved significantly. With his help, Algerin learned to harness the power of the Spires directly, bypassing the Towers of Sorcery, and to erect a shield that protected him against Spire burnout.
Fame and fortune didn’t cure Tarik of his … social disorder. That took time, centuries in fact, and a personal crisis. By the third millennia, Tarik was a celebrated household name. People everywhere knew of him and celebrated his name. He was hailed as the world’s greatest wizard, a slayer of dragons, a humbler of demons, as a virtual demi-god walking the world. That one made Annumbra’s ears burn, even in far-off Belecontar. Did all that success cure Tarik of his super-sized ego? Of course not, it only swelled his already ginormous head.
Now, Tarik had never been much of a lady’s man. The Grove was no place to practice pick-up lines and besides, he was the ultimate mama’s boy and the only member of his race. Luckily for him, Lillandra rescinded her Ban after the Reckoning, leaving Tarik free to plunder treasure from any woman he could convince. Well, that was easier said than done.
To begin with, for all his pride and bluster, Tarik was a blithering idiot around women. All his confidence flew right out the window the minute he confronted a beautiful woman. Instead of soothing, poetic words to win the heart, he was reduced to incoherent muttering in the face of beauty. Furthermore, let’s face it, his attitude was a major turn-off. He made it with a magik groupie now and then – they flocked to him like Mick Jagger on tour, but Tarik was hard to take on a long term basis and none ever stayed past Aeriel’s morning victory.
There was one woman who could look past his faults. Lady Marguerite of Fortenoy, a small kingdom in the northeast where Jeheris would one day rise. She first met Tarik the day he visited the Thaumatist’s Tower outside the capitol. The Thaumatist, a wizard with a flashier name than his mediocre talent deserved, had opened a school for nascent spell casters. The Lady Marguerite was one of his first applicants and by the time Tarik appeared at the guild’s front door, her training had stalled, having apparently reached the limits of the Thaumatist’s instruction.
Tarik took her under his wing and taught her spells the Thaumatist couldn’t even recite, let alone master. The Lady Marguerite was … effusive … in her thanks and Tarik fell for her hook line and sinker. In all his years, she was the first woman to ever show him real affection. Not knowing how to respond, he did so in the worst way possible – by smothering her with attention and conjured gifts. She could barely turn around without Tarik giving her jewelry or a bouquet of roses or a dress fit for a queen. It was all too much for her. She bolted from Tarik and his puppy love.
Well, it’s not easy to run from a wizard, especially one as determined as Tarik. He tracked Marguerite down and found her in a nearby cave, naked and sweaty with the Thaumatist of all people. That Thaumatist! When it came to magik, he didn’t have all that much going for him, but he had other skills to make the ladies quite happy and Tarik madder than a hornet.
Tarik let the Thaumatist have it. No, he didn’t kill him. Even in his anger, he was smart enough to know that wouldn’t win him the Lady Marguerite’s love. He did, however, turn him into a butterfly, a pretty one with neon colors that would have looked great under a black light. The Lady begged him to change the Thaumatist back, but Tarik only laughed and said she ought to be glad he hadn’t turned the Thaumatist into a slug.
Poor Tarik. He just didn’t know how to score points. If he’d only taken his foot off the gas, the Lady Marguerite might have really fallen for him. She just needed a little space, but Tarik couldn’t see that. He only knew one way to act, full speed ahead. He thought his little polymorphic display would win back Marguerite’s love, but instead it hardened her against him. She said terrible things to Tarik and asked him to leave and never come back. He was used to this sort of reaction. He’d been shown the door hundreds of times before, but coming from her, it really hurt.
For Tarik, this was the last straw. He’d spent thousands of years trying to curry Mankind’s favor (yes, I know, that was part of the problem) and all he had to show for it were bruises on his behind where he’d been given the boot. He was done, finished. He didn’t care whether he ever saw another soul. He would have packed his bags if he had any, but he didn’t and so he simply disappeared with just his staff and the clothes on his back (don’t feel too sorry for him, he could conjure up anything he needed).
Tarik far traveled (that’s what they called teleportation on Sangrar, only a few knew the trick) to Tyrnavalle. He’d had it up to his eyeballs with Mankind. Life had been simpler and easier in the Grove. Maybe companionship wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, Tarik thought. He’d given it a shot, he’d tried cultivating friendships with the younger race and every attempt had backfired, especially with the Lady Marguerite. Wanting nothing more to do with Mankind, he headed for the hills.
More accurately, he took to the plains and settled in the middle of the sub-continent, on the shores of the beautiful blue lagoon from which he earned his nickname. This would have been twelve hundred years after the time of Thar, putting his relocation to Tyrnavalle thirty-five hundred years before Hali’s immigration. For nearly three millennia, until the Shurlinders arrived to settle Azmerath on the southern shore, Tarik got his wish. Tyrnavalle was a wilderness back then, with no population centers of significance, meaning he had the entire sub-continent virtually to himself. There weren’t many pesky humans around to make him feel inadequate, only a few nomads who steered clear of the lagoon. The Fair Folk hunkered down in the Quendi Forest left him alone, as did their cousins on the southern islands. Tarik returned the favor.
But all good things shall come to pass and so it was with Tarik and the limitless expanse he called his backyard. Eventually neighbors did come a calling, lured by tales of the strange hermit inhabiting the lagoon’s shores. After years reflecting on his failings on Fanar, Tarik was willing to give humanity another turn at bat. Testing new social skills honed in the virtual isolation of the lagoon, he welcomed his visitors with open arms and a seriously toned down attitude. Imagine his joy when they didn’t turn tail and run.
Based on these limited successes with the local transients, Tarik decided he was ready to hit the big time. In the year 450 RT, after four thousand years on Tyrnavalle, he moved out of the sticks to give Renk, the greatest city on the sub-continent (Halitai had fallen thirty-two years earlier), a try.
Old habits die hard though, especially in one as stubborn and hard headed as Tarik. He didn’t come off quite as arrogant, having practiced unnecessary (in his view) courtesies like “please” and “thank you”, but he couldn’t repress his need to impress. Most people in his position would have come before the city council on bended knee (okay, that may be taking it too far, but a dash of humility would have helped) and offered service. Not Tarik. A puff of smoke, trumpets blaring and invisible clapping hands announced his arrival, which was definitely showing off. Far traveling’s basic package did involve a small, almost instantaneous flash of light, visible only if you paid close attention. Everything else was purely special effects on Tarik’s part.
His showy entrance, however, was just the beginning. Right after arriving in Renk, Tarik decided that he needed a proper wizard’s tower to conduct business. He claimed later that it was on trend, that human wizards preferred towers to Groves or lagoons and he was just trying to fit in. I’ll buy half of it. As for the rest, I’m still convinced he did it to show-off. He completed the tower in thirteen days and thirteen nights, with loads of magikal assistance. Remember those elemental spirits dad number one (Atar) taught him to command ages earlier in the grove? They had a real workout over those thirteen days.
When the smoke cleared, Tarik unveiled the Tower of Renk, as it was called, and declared himself ready to move in. Whether by design or accident I’m not sure, but Tarik had neglected to tell the people of Renk his name. He’d jumped right into building the tower and once work began, no one in their right mind would have gone near the construction zone, not with all the smoke and spirits flitting about.
I think he held back his name on purpose, fearful that his old reputation would catch up with him, but he swore that it just slipped his mind. When he unveiled the tower at the end of the thirteenth day, by popular acclaim the people named him the Wizard of Renk. Since Tarik would occupy the Tower of Renk, it seemed to fit just fine. Tarik, in a never before seen display of social versatility, did not bellow, demand or otherwise object. This was a new, mellower Tarik, one determined to prove he could go with the flow. Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but with four thousand years and inexhaustible patience, you could teach an old wizard.
Tarik remained installed as the tower wizard until the year 750 RT, when he suddenly and inexplicably resigned. One day he was in the tower, the next day he was not. All he offered in the way of explanation was a short note instructing the city council that the red crystal ring he left behind should be given to the next Wizard of Renk. I cornered Tarik on this subject several times and he proved slippery as an eel.
He swore up and down and sideways that he didn’t have an ulterior motive, that he had just grown tired of city life. He said he missed the solitude of the blue lagoon, but I never believed him. Something else played into his decision, but even thousands of years later in Tirel, he refused to tell me. If you ask me, I think it just became too hard on him. That old dog hadn’t learned new tricks. He’d just learned to mask his inadequacies better. The title Wizard of Renk came with many expectations. Those pertaining to the wizardly part of the job, Tarik could handle just fine, but the public relations aspects of the job were a nightmare.
Tarik naively thought he could stay bottled up in the tower, researching spells, brewing potions, and lending a helping hand to city officials when the occasion arose. He never considered that such a prestigious title would, in fact, include a set of civic responsibilities – public appearances on holidays, ribbon cutting ceremonies, award and medal presentations for meritorious service and the like. Those activities were definitely not in Tarik’s wheelhouse. When it became apparent that these obligations were eating up most of his time, he called it quits.
I used to tell him that he was a coward, that a real man would have stayed put in Renk and seen it through, to which he’d angrily retort that he wasn’t a man, he was the child of the Harnae. To me, that proved Tarik hadn’t changed all that much. He’d learned to cope, but underneath it all he was the same irreverent, arrogant, bigoted, curious and occasionally funny child that grew up in the Grove of the Silver Birch with mom, dad, and his other dad as his only companions.
When push came to shove, Tarik was an introvert. Not a Merriam-Webster introvert (defined as “to concentrate or direct upon oneself”), a Meyers-Briggs introvert. The MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator) is a personality assessment instrument. One dimension it measures is the introvert-extrovert scale, which in this context refers to where your batteries get charged. Extroverts go to parties and mingle when they’re low on energy. Introverts need time alone to gather themselves. Tarik was a classic MBTI introvert and the blue lagoon was his recharger.
That doesn’t mean Tarik was shy, quiet, or otherwise reserved. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He was showy, blustery, full of himself and all too willing to inform you of his superior expertise an all matters arcane. But, it took a lot out of him. Serving in the Tower in Renk for three centuries depleted him.
Back at the lagoon, Tarik quickly settled back into his old existence. As a first step, he moved his living quarters beneath the lagoon, to cut down on unwanted visitors. For most people, that would be an impossible proposition, but not for Tarik. For a wizard of his talent, moving his abode beneath the lagoon was almost trivial.
To start, he built an arch, like the one over St. Louis, to mark the lagoon. I asked him why, if all he wanted was privacy, he built a beacon on the shores of his home. He said that he thought he owed the intrepid few making it that far a sign they’d come to the right place. You should have seen that arch. Seventy feet across and more than a hundred feet high, the shiny, steel arch was quite a feat of engineering, or would have been if it had been man-made. Tarik conjured it, like he always did. You could count on him to take the easy way.
Two lines of stones beginning on the beach and leading into the lagoon’s deeps formed the enchanted walkway to the front door, which lay flat against the bottom. If you believed (or even if you didn’t, but non-believers were too afraid to try), you could simply walk all the way to the door in the bottom. Breathing wasn’t a problem, not with Tarik’s magik lending a helping hand.
His sanctum was large, in an extra-dimensional sort of way. If you didn’t know where you were going, you could wander the halls forever trying to find a way out. When that happened, your best bet was trying one of the many unmarked doors. Some led to rooms in the complex under the lagoon, others led to places you’d never expect – a closet in Gloryngael, the corner booth at Renk’s Mithral Golem (they served villgrass salad to die for), or the thirteenth level of the Deg dungeon.
Deg was Tarik’s guilty pleasure and primary distraction after returning to the Lagoon. By then, the population on Tyrnavalle was exploding. Though Halitai had fallen, Renk, Pylos, Carrack and Uves were all flourishing and numerous villages were springing up. As you’d expect, many brave adventurers flocked to the Tyrnavalle, drawn by the lure of fame and fortune. The way Tarik explained it, Deg was a proving ground for these hardy souls. A labyrinthine maze of tricks, traps, puzzles, and rooms populated with Dark Ones awaited adventurers in Deg. Many proved insufficient to the challenge and their corpses littered the dungeon. Those able to withstand Deg’s rigors were rewarded with riches and treasure undreamt of.
The ultimate prize was a private meeting with Tarik. Adventurers could reach the wizard’s abode in the Blue Lagoon by stepping through a special door (red and blue crystal, like the Spires) found on Deg’s thirteenth and last level. For their trouble, Tarik immortalized these exceptional adventurers by transforming them into magikal implements. The first to meet Tarik’s challenge were the three brothers, Vort, Celevort and Curuvort. When they made it to the winner’s circle, Tarik thanked them by turning them into swords. Intelligent, talking swords with other powers, but swords nonetheless. Me, I’d have declined. I’m sure being a sword has some advantages, but it’s not for me.
The fall of the Towers of Sorcery signaled the beginning of Sangrar’s end. All told, twenty-two years passed between that infamous day and the start of the Long Night, twenty-two years for nearly every wizard on the face of Sangrar to go mad and lose power. Nearly every wizard except Tarik, that is. The fall of the Towers meant nothing to the child of the Harnae, as well it shouldn’t. His power derived from the Spires, like all wizards, but unlike human wizards, he didn’t go through the Towers. He tapped the Spires directly, without the Towers to buffer him. Being made of sterner stuff, direct exposure to the Spires didn’t threaten Tarik’s safety. To him, drinking energy from the Spires was like sipping the nectar of the gods.
But, and this is a big one, when the Spires toppled, that should have spelled the end of Tarik’s power. The fulfillment of the Prophecies erased the universe of the Primals in its entirety. All of it – the Girdle, Sangrar, Esel, the Heavens, the gods – was gone. The world rising afterwards, Tirel, was no successor to Sangrar except in the fading memories of the survivors. For all intent and purposes, and in the eyes of the Balance (it didn’t really have eyes, but it sure could see), Tirel was a brave new world with one sun and no Spires of Thought.
In the face of the end of everything, Tarik somehow retained power. How he managed to accomplish this is one of my bigger unsolved mysteries. I tried to get him to open up about it, believe me I tried, but that crusty old fart wouldn’t budge. Payback, he’d say, for leaving him in the dark about the Greater Realm. It defied all logic. It was impossible. The Spires were the source of his magik. Without them, Tarik having wizardry in Tirel was like a light bulb shining bright in a world without electricity.
I’m not saying magik was impossible in Tirel, far from it. There were plenty of folks who could sling spells, with fancy titles no less (Crusaders, Spellbinders and Mystics, oh my!), all based on entirely different principles than Sangrarian magik. There were even a handful of wizards who held off the madness and survived the Long Night. Aurora and Bartholomew lived through the tumult, as did one or two of the Van Halens, but they had to start over and learn magik anew, according to the laws of nature governing Tirel.
Not Tarik. From one age to the next, he didn’t miss a beat. Before the Long Night, it was like, snap! and afterwards in Tirel, snap! still did the trick. His retention of power astounded me. Tarik pretended it was nothing special, but that was just his way of playing it cool. Underneath his calm exterior, he was fiercely proud. To his credit, he’d finally learned a modicum of humility. It only took him eight thousand years.
Having Tarik at my side those first few years, when my memories were failing, made all the difference. When daylight came to the new world, I met Tarik in the lands that would one day form the Duchy of Nimas. We were both wandering, still dazed and confused from the Long Night. I recognized him though we’d never met. The two skunk stripes in his hair preceded his reputation. At the time, I thought it coincidence, but I’ve reconsidered. I was a newly anointed servant of the Balance then, just returned from my first sojourn in the Greater Realm where I observed the fulfillment of the Prophecies and the events immediately following. I did not yet have an appreciation for how long a view the Balance took or the subtle manipulation it was capable of.
We hit it off well right from the start. On my part, the fascination stemmed from Tarik’s role in history. I was walking side by side with a living legend. What more could a simple historian ask for? As for Tarik, I can’t really say why he desired my companionship. As you know from reading this far, enjoying the company of others was never something Tarik grew comfortable with. He thought that’s what he wanted, but deep down, I don’t think so. Conflicting desires always trapped Tarik.
Whether it was sheer happenstance or a plot hatched by the Balance, I’ll never know, but I’m glad we crossed paths regardless. Without him, I don’t know if I’d have survived those early years in Tirel and I certainly wouldn’t have found time to pen The Tale. Tarik provided food, shelter, safety and most importantly, companionship. In all the world, he was the only person I could confide in. Kandol, my colleagues in Colcester, everyone I knew, had vanished in the fall of the world, as had every familiar landmark. The great Temple of Deridean in Renk, the Pearl Throne, and my alma mater at Colcester had all been utterly destroyed. In the new world, no one would remember them. Only I could preserve those memories.
It took me seven years to complete The Tale. Half that time, I spent with Tarik. Midway through my writing, he departed with a promise that we’d meet again. He left to check out a [false] rumor that one of the Towers of Sorcery had survived the Long Night. If his trip had gone according to plan, he’d have been back within the month. Neither he nor I would have guessed he’d take thirty-five hundred years to make good on his word.
It wasn’t all his fault (though he could have looked a little harder). After he left, my memory worsened. It was like he’d been my anchor to the old world and without him, I drifted in a sea of memories fading in and out like the tide. It was all I could do to keep my pen hand steady and my mind focused on The Tale. I had nothing left for Tarik. By the time I finished The Tale, I was so far gone that I didn’t even remember my own name, let alone his.
For the next thirty-five hundred years, I wandered the world without knowing who I was or where I’d come from. I could only remember ten years back. If I tried going back farther, my head split with excruciating pain. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the Herald’s curse at work.
If Tarik hadn’t spotted me that day in the market, I might have wandered on another thirty-five hundred years. But he did spot me. He broke the Herald’s curse and restored my memories. Everything I’d done for the past thirty-five hundred years came rushing back. I knew my name. I was Jerilyn Haligar, Professor Emeritus of History (and department chair!) of the University at Colcester. I had sat beside Kandol Elf Lord in his tower atop Pel Aesylle and heard The Tale of Ages. I had watched the fulfillment of the Prophecies from the Greater Realm, standing side by side with Bayonell the Herald, the Ancient One, he who watched over the Flame. And I remembered every moment.
I don’t believe I’ve ever been as grateful to anyone as I was at that moment to Tarik. You can’t imagine what it felt like. One moment, I’m an amnesiac nomad with no roots. The next, I’m Jerilyn the Chronicler, a historian of the Greater Realm. I gave Tarik a hug that would have made the Lady Marguerite jealous!
If I explained what the Herald had done to me, most people would say that I’d been cursed, me included. Still, I can’t help but think that maybe in addition to cursing me, the Herald blessed me too, strange as that sounds. I never would have chosen to forget, but the Herald didn’t give me a choice. He made sure I wouldn’t remember and to this day, I cling to the belief that he did it to protect me from my exposure to the Greater Realm. That place was not meant for mortal man and without the Herald’s help, it would have swallowed me. Maybe forgetting made the sadness tolerable. Tarik had to live with his memories all those years.
He cautioned me not to call him Tarik, not because that name had baggage, but because the name Tarik was unknown to the Tirellians. Instead, he went [primarily] by the name Gerard and belonged to a school of spellbinders (a Tirellian form of magecraft) in the Vale of Ferengali. I was only happy to oblige. If he’d wanted, I’d have called him Ishmael.
I was proud of Tarik. He’d come a long way. The old Tarik, the one that had wandered Fanar in the early days of the Age of Mankind could never have played such a humble role. Tarik kept his true abilities hidden. No one at the school, not even Weyland the headmaster, ever suspected how powerful Tarik was in the ways of sorcery. He was still the same old Tarik – prideful of his talent, bigoted in his opinions, irreverent in attitude and funny (he had a wonderful, dry sense of humor) – yet he’d learned to keep the … less desirable aspects of his larger than life personality out of the public eye. Now, they only came out during spirited dinner conversations in my apartment.
Those dinners became the highlight of my week. My best dish, and Tarik’s favorite, was the venison stew using Zerina’s recipe, but the food wasn’t what made those meals so memorable. It was the conversation. When the two of got together it was like Sangrar came to life again, in my living room. We laughed, we cried and we argued together into the wee hours of the morning, discussing subjects no one else in the world could. Tarik’s supposed master, Weyland, was a wise and fair, well-schooled man, yet when it came to the BUN or the Reckoning or the Prophecies, he had as much to say as Shavrakar (a mute Ravir, if you haven’t yet read Madness Ascendant).
In some respects, Tarik still acted like the spoiled brat from the Grove. When he didn’t get his way, or when my logic overruled his impassioned but not well thought out counter-arguments, he’d act hurt and sometimes storm away, but he always came back. We couldn’t stay mad at one another. We were brothers, linked by more than blood. No matter what was said, no matter how red in the face, that bond kept us strong. I loved him and he loved me, even if he’d never admit to it.
Since he passed, I’ve lived years uncounted, chronicled the rise and fall of worlds, and I miss him still. By the Spires, remember him fondly. I do.