I was a child when they first appeared in the night’s sky. At first there were three distinct lights. Not quite the brightest in the sky, but they were bright enough. My mother told me that they were a sign from the Gods, that the world was about to change. She had a sense for these types of things. A long line of women in my mother’s family were Oracles. Written on one of the many tablets in the Great Halls of King Grimlaey, is the story of my Great-Grandmother, the Royal Court’s Regent Oracle, and how she foretold the rise of the Undying during the Great War.
As the days grew to months, and months into years, the lights in the night’s sky grew in number. The priests in the temples began to refer to the lights as Harbingers. Upon my graduation from the Master Stonecutters University, the lights numbered 16. Each passing month, the lights grew in brightness and size.
It didn’t take long for things to change in Dünheim. Families that I had grown up with, began to move away from the city in the heart of the Mountain. Travelers became less common, and temple services were filled every day with new converts seeking answers about the Harbingers and what they meant. My mother wanted to leave the city as well, but my father wouldn’t hear it. His auction house is what kept food on the table, and my brothers were both in the Council Guard. There was no way my father was going to be seen leaving the mountain. Honor and respect meant more than life itself, and my father had great pride in my brothers. Despite my mother’s persistence to leave the city, we stayed.
Life went on, as normal as it could. Day by day, the Harbingers loomed overhead, eventually visible in the day’s sky. A constant reminder of the future that would befall Verra. The greatest scribes of our time could not find any references to this phenomena in our ancient manuscripts. The High Priests and Oracles of all the major temples across the Dünzenkell kingdom were summoned to the great Capital City, Dünthol.
Days before the Great Council meeting was set to begin, King Brühnir was stricken with a mysterious illness. My mother, who was a part of the delegation from Dünheim, wrote to me describing the King’s haggard appearance. King Brühnir stood to deliver his address to the delegates and collapsed at the start of the blessing ceremony. What was meant to be a meeting of the Great Council, became a coronation ceremony. At the pronouncement of his death, King Brühnir’s eldest daughter Vilga became the Queen of the Dünzenkell Kingdom, and protector of the Dwarven people.
My mother returned a different woman from Dünthol, with a sort of terror in her eyes. My father and her stayed in their room the entire night. The next morning was the first time I saw my father paralyzed with fear, as if he had seen a ghost. We began to pack immediately, planning to head to my uncle’s mine inside the Aelan Empire. My brothers were told that our Uncle Godin had died from a cave-in, and we were to attend his funeral. It was the only time my parents had told my brothers and I a lie. We spent the next day preparing for the 3-day journey. Once packed, we began to follow the road out of the mountain.
The road into Dünheim was a long tunnel that begins at the Great Gates of the mountain. Several miles in length, it was the only entrance into the mountain. Normally, this passage was filled with traders and travelers from across Verra. But in the recent years, the world had changed, and with it so had the lifeline into Dünheim.
We were just an hour or so from the Grand Gates of the mountain when it happened. A loud boom reverberated across the ground, and along the walls. It sounded as if the mountain itself had been split apart. Followed several seconds later by a shaking that nearly caused the rams carrying our supplies to fall to the ground. I could see my father’s mouth moving as he screamed at me. But I couldn’t hear anything other than the loud ringing that filled my head. It was at this moment I felt something wet falling down my neck. I lifted my hand to feel what it was… I guess the shock of the whole thing, prevented me from understanding what had just happened. My fingers were covered in blood. The shaking stopped almost as soon as it began, behind the sight of my father calling to me I saw my brothers struggling to lift the cart which had collapsed. It was then that I noticed a hand from beneath the collapsed axel of the wooden cart. I immediately ran to the cart and began to push with all my might.
The frame of the wooden vehicle collapsed into itself, revealing my mother’s mangled body. She laid lifeless amidst the debris, as my brothers and I stood in shock. Our father frantically searched through my mother’s bags, while we watched for the slightest hint of movement.
“Where is it?” my father asked, as he tore through books and clothing in the various bags that were thrown to the road when the cart collapsed.
“Where’s what?” I said to him, despite his complete attention devoted to his searching.
My mind began to fill with memories of my mother. I saw both my brothers were already overcome with emotion, and just as despair began to take its grasp I heard my father shout out. “Got it!”
He rushed to my mother and standing over her recited a phrase I did not understand. A blinding flash of white light erupted from my father’s hand. A curled and tangled wand fell from his hands. I then watched as my mother began coughing, tightly in my father’s arms. My brothers and I rushed to them both.
“We need to get out of the mountain, Bron” She said to my father as he held her.
“Helgun, Thargud, quickly! Help me grab the food and supplies.” He told my brothers. Looking at me he asked “Dillia, watch your mother while I help your brothers.”
As I sat with my mother, watching my father and brothers tie what supplies they could recover to the ram’s saddle, she turned to me.
“Dillia, there is something you must know.” She said.
“I love you, more than life itself… my only daughter. You are the light of my life and I would do anything to keep you safe.” Her eyes began to flutter.
“But the darkness has come.”