Image by Idella Cutler
Each of the 11 months are 40 days long. The year begins at the start of spring:
The R’th rock the human man pushed in front of him at the end of a length of wood tapped a rock hidden in the autumn leaves with a muted clunk. Roue tugged the R’th rock free and walked onward.
He must have pushed this rock over a quarter of Eloshonna to date. A man of weaker mettle would have abandoned the task long ago. Would never have started. Especially with nothing to go off of but Dark Elf rumors. Some men only believe in divinity when they manifest in crashing stars, clouds of fire, and Mortal Earth-shredding thunder. Not so him. His faith maintained on the barest whisper, the thinnest breeze.
Dark Elves know everything if they have reason to talk to you. Having first gained their suspicion to get the few rumors he did, he’d recently advanced to “cautious associate” which earned him a pass to look into Dark Elf historical archives. The last several months of research brought the man this new, hopeful clue: the buried wrist cuff he’d been searching for somewhere on Eloshonna — several thousand miles of dirt he could only cover with a R’th rock only one foot across — had been buried near an ancient human town called Edencoff.
Ancient. The name did not show on even the oldest Eloshonnian maps. Determined he could connect that name to a name that showed up on a map, another few months brought him that connection: humans established Edencoff as their seat of power after Eloshonna’s War of the Fear two thousand years ago.
Now he pushed his R’th rock over the dirt along Malandore’s outskirts, looking for the very thing Nevercease had buried.
“But we want to hear more about you, Neleci.” said a young man’s voice floating through the trees on the left. “Tell us what it’s like living in the castle with your father being the current torc.”
The man stopped and looked through the trees toward the voices, seeing forks of a campfire flicker through the dark. Campers. He moved on.
Having locked down a location for the buried wrist cuff, the man’s fresh worry morphed into how deep Nevercease had buried it. According to Dark Elves, she buried it in a hurry, his best guess surmising “hurry” meant “shallow” and that she used her hands instead of a shovel. He had to believe she buried the cuff shallow. This R’th rock he pushed at the end of the wooden rod was created by the Dark Elves.
Roue spent a painstaking six months convincing the dusutri to sponsor him with enough money to fund this idiotic R’th rock.
The R’th rock, the Dark Elves explained, would glow when it came within close proximity to the buried wrist cuff that, their historical records claimed, Nevercease had formed entirely out of the R’th gas itself. However, the Dark Elves could not provide an explanation to how Nevercease, a mortal, could manipulate a substance only the gods could command. No other being, mortal or immortal, has yet to be known to create solid objects out of the R’th gas pulled from the veins of Mortal Earth.
Roue didn’t care. He just wanted to find it.
His only question was what if he crossed a R’th vein deep underground and his R’th rock responded and glowed. The Dark Elves reassured him they shaped and modified the compounds in the R’th rock — a bunch of Dark Elven scientists, if Roue could believe it — in such a way as to only respond to the R’th gas within three feet.
So far it worked as advertised because his R’th rock did not automatically light up near Yl Elyuon or Fire Forge — all capitals were built along known deep R’th veins. But a false-positive glow wasn’t the problem. A tree could have fallen over the buried cuff. Grown over it. A bush, a tumbled stone.
But today, after a decade of searching, the R’th rock glowed for the first time.
Heart beating in his stomach, he pushed the R’th rock out of the way and slammed to both knees, dizzy with hopeful anxiety. Shaking hands scrambled to pull the spade out of his bag, but suddenly-fat fingers wouldn’t grab anything so he upended the contents next to his knees.
Fisting the spade he never thought he’d use, he stabbed the tip into the hard-packed dirt, scraping and prying, pulse beating in both eyes. He loosened the dirt and dug and dug in a three foot perimeter until the tip scraped across something hard.
The spade dropped next to his knee. He dug into the hole with fingertips and nails until the top of the hard object appeared as a solid golden circle.
It is true, he thought, though he released the thought halfway through because despite the impossibility of its maker and its origins, he finally found it.
Fevered ceremony filling his head with weightless euphoria, he pulled the R’th-made wrist cuff out. Dirt didn’t even cling to it, as if this R’th-made wrist cuff had ascended from the mere inconveniences other mortal objects suffered.
A decade he’d been searching. Victory swelled in his muscles and stomach so intense nausea bubbled in his gut and filled his knees with hot water. He thrust the wrist cuff above his head as if heralding the crown soon to be his. “I found it, Nevercease! I found it!”
Denying oneself attains a sin worst than murder — the murder of your own self-worth, wearing a mask society built for you to cover up every flawed value they didn’t want to see. He now held the ability to tear those masks off all human kindred, show them they no longer had to bow to the opinions of those jealous suppressors. He would lead them and teach them how to value themselves in degrees the Kingdom has for the last eight hundred years denied them.
He slid the cuff around his wrist. Made of compressed R’th light, it retained no temperature, hot or cold. He couldn’t even place the texture — a combating mixture of hard and spongy. He had hoped to feel something upon skin contact but knew, according to the scant Dark Elven records, nothing would manifest until he dreamed tonight.
And so he waited five anxious hours at his camp, the tree shadows swallowing him until his edges blurred inseparably into the forest.
The dream opened into a dark and glass-flat landscape. He looked down at his boots. Though they stood on a solid foundation he could not see it.
“Who found me?” said a male voice coming from all directions. The frantic gasping echoed as if drowning across a great distance. The anxiety in his tone also beat inside Roue’s chest, making him jittery.
Roue’s translation ear cuff notified him it was translating with a soft ching. So this supposed Dreamer, a human, spoke an earlier language different than the rest of Eloshonna — proof already that he was the Dreamer, a man born before the Kingdom united.
Roue wanted just one more test to be sure.
Roue spun, seeing nothing but more darkness. Sensation pressed against his brain. His rushing anxiety convinced him someone was prying open his mind and cataloging all thoughts. He needed this to be the Dreamer of legend who — at one time — made humans kings over all races, but he needed, even more, to make sure he wasn’t a fake. “If you are the Dreamer, you will have already looked inside my dream and found my name.” He waited five, anxious heartbeats before the disembodied voice replied.
“You have many names and titles,” said the voice. “The most recent of which is Roue, given to you by the Dark Elves.”
Roue bent to one knee, bowing his head in humble adoration, giving thanks to both Paragons for guiding him in finding the Dreamer. “Dreamer, I’ve searched years to find you. The race of humans need your guiding hand again. The races have joined in equality inside a Kingdom, forcing humans to believe they are equal to animals. But I know we are so much more, that we are the direct offspring of the Paragons like you tried telling everyone before Nevercease killed your body and buried you.”
The black dreamscape rippled with the first quake of energy. From out of the flat foundation, black smoke coalesced, pulling fabric and form from the landscape until it built for itself an insubstantial shadow of a featureless human. “My soul has been unseated hearing that alarming declaration, Roue,” the shadow said, “but your dreams tell me it is true nonetheless. The humans are descended from the Paragons…I am weak, Roue…weak…”
Proof to the Dreamer’s weakness, the black landscape buckled in a chaotic deconstruction of form.