By Aarron Mondello
PENNED BY THE HAND OF FREGOR LANDSON, WANDERING SCRIBE AND POET.
I have spent a good portion of my many years traversing the back and forgotten roads of Galdenya, away from the cities of man.
A long and tiresome journey it has been yet I have relished in the discovery of it.
From the edge of The Frozen Wastes in the south and into the trees that make the beginning of the Taltyri Forrest many months travel to the north. Around to the Great Ocean in the east and through to the Mountains of La’Tail in the west, that no man in recorded history has seen beyond.
Many times I have made this journey via differing paths and routes and I would not be at all surprised to find that I have seen more of my beloved Galdenya than any who came before me.
I was much surprised to find, during my last visit to the Frozen Waste that there was water lapping the white shores proceeding the ice. Indeed, it appeared as though the ice is, for the first time in living memory, thawing. Though I could still see the blue expanse of it beginning a bare stones throw away from where I stood. But that is not a tale for the here and now.
Here in these pages I will attempt to organise and arrange my findings and adventures as I travelled the Lonely Roads of Galdenya.
I was born to a small farming family just about two hours walk to the east of Galdawn, the shining sun of Galdenya and capital of the land.
From a young age I was “taken by flights of fancy and had not a head for the land”, as my da was fond of saying.
He loved me dearly, as did mama, but I was not built for farm life and caused them plenty of grief with my imaginative ways.
So much so that when came my 14th birthday and I announced to them, my two sisters and my four brothers that I wished to seek apprenticeship with the librarians in Galdawn they heartily agreed that would be for the best.
A week later came the day I would make the trip to the city and beg my place amongst the apprentices.
There were tears from mama, firm handshakes from da and my brothers and teasing from my sisters who believed I would return in less than a month with my tail between my legs.
They were very wrong.
I spent the customary three day period begging the Masters of Lore to allow me to join their ranks as apprentice.
On the third evening, as night fell, so too did my final hope. I would have to try again next year, but unless some accident or ill fortune culled the apprentices, I would not be accepted then either.
The sun was just a golden line above the horizon, the masters and Beggars alike had all left save for me. I stayed in the street on my knees and cursed my bad luck.
With barely a half of an hour remaining before night fell and my time was up I became aware of a presence standing behind me.
I turned and was surprised to see an old man bent heavily over a walking cane with wisps of white hair clinging to his scalp. The real surprise was the silver chain around his neck with a thin thread of gold running up to his earlobe and joining a crystal stud pierced there.
This proclaimed him a Lore Master, but the poor cut of his white robes showed he did not fair well in his trade.
I began to stand, already deciding I would prefer the life of a farmer over serving a failed master in his dotage.
“Kneel boy!” he snapped in a tone that commanded obedience at once and I fell heavily back to my knees.
I stared up at him and he smiled down at me.
“Much better,” his voice had softened to something much more kindly. “What do you Beg here?”
“A-a-apprenticeship, Master,” I stammered, “with the the Lore Masters, the librarians.”
“Very well, apprenticeship you shall have. And your first task will be to help me home. My body tires and I’m not entirely certain I can make it unaided. Indeed, I almost missed the Begging due to this old body.”
“Forgive me master, but I wish apprenticeship with the libraries.”
“And so you shall have it, if you quit your prattling and follow, though maybe not in the library you choose.”
And with that he turned away and began to hobble up the road.
I stayed where I was, stunned and unsure what to do.
He made no more than a dozen steps when he tottered and fell hard on his bottom.
I leaped up and ran to him. He was laughing quietly when I reached him.
“There see, I knew you would listen, though slow to start. We’ll get that out of you yet,” he chuckled as I helped him to his feet.
There followed the longest walk I ever had. It felt longer even than all the miles I traversed alone through Galdenya in following years.
We made our way slowly through the streets of Galdawn. Fast emptying now the sun had set on the city. Which was to my liking. Helping the old man was a task in itself, crowds would only make it worse jostling us about as they no doubt would.
After more than an hour of frequent stops to let him rest and more than one occasion of him losing his balance and nearly falling we came finally to a large building of white marble. Unadorned in any way save for the great bronze door carved to look like a book and fashioned so expertly that when opened it appeared as though a large book was indeed being opened for a giant to read.
This I knew, by descriptions I had heard, was the Royal Library. The place where all matters pertaining to the royal bloodline were stored.
I feared the sanity of the old man was gone and opened my mouth to speak. Before I could the door was flung open and tall, stern faced woman came striding out.
Her dark hair hung loose about her shoulders and bobbed with each step. She stopped before the bent old man and inclined her head. He bowed as deeply as he could manage and then scowled at me when I didn’t follow his example.
Too late I noticed the royal crown embroidered down her sleeves and across the collar of her extravagant cold and blue gown.
“Master Gayle,” she spoke in a voice accustomed to command. “The hour is late and long have I waited here for your return.” She raised an eyebrow at me and I hastily fetched a bow, remaining bent in the hopes of undoing any offence I had caused.
“You highness, my queen, had I known you sought me I would have left a message. But as today was the last day of the Begging I had need to be in the city. My services are now at your disposal, highness.” Master Gayle spoke in a way that suggested he was familiar with the queen and she with him.
“Nay, I have found what I sought. I am glad to see you are unharmed, friend.”
“Unharmed save for the ravages of time, my lady,” Master Gayle chuckled, “and with an apprentice to boot!”
I felt the queen turn her gaze on me and quailed under her scrutiny.
“That is well, and past time. You do not grow younger Gayle,”
To my surprise she bent then and kissed the old man on his wrinkled forehead before sweeping past us followed by guards I had not noticed as they stood within library’s vast door.
Master Gayle turned to me and smiled, “Come lad. We shall get acquainted, you and I,” and he shuffled unaided into the cool interior of the Royal Library.
Here I shall skip many months that remain vivid in my memory and heart, though they do not bare over much on the tale of my travels. It was one full year and a half that I served under Master Gayle in the Royal Library, and many strange tales I read there.
Tales of creation and the Vor’Dalee, that fabled race who held the favour of the gods and yet were, in the end, spurned by them.
The tale of the Upstart Prince who murdered his father to claim a throne and then one day inexplicably denounced his claim and fled the kingdom. That one, according to dates, happened not many years before my birth and is a true accounting that I will not tell in full here. And many more besides.
Master Gayle and I became fast friends and even, forgive me da, built a relationship not unlike the closeness of father and son.
Many nights we spent awake till early hours, sitting by the fireplace and talking. Mostly I listened as he taught me the ways of the library or told me tales I had not yet read.
I grew to love the old Master and I am certain he loved me too.
Then, at the end of my first year under him, he fell very ill. He developed a fever one night though he showed no signs of sickness leading up to it. For 9 days I tended him until the fever broke and he spoke to me then of his family and the home he left in favour of the library. The scorn of a wife for leaving and fellow apprentices for being so much older than they, and a brother who disowned him and cared for Master Gayle’s family in his absence.
He spoke of his childhood and we laughed as it was revealed that his life was very much like mine.
The weight fell off his body and within two months he could no longer rise from bed.
I went to check on him one morning, half a year after his fever and found him sitting up in bed, a lap table laid across his knees holding quill, ink, parchment and a small vial of sand.
“Fregor,” he spoke to me in a hoarse whisper, “I will leave this life soon. I feel it in every bone, in every aching muscle. My time is coming.”
“Master Gayle,” I began but he cut me off with a sharp wave of his hand. “I wish I had not wasted my life away with these books of dead men and their tales. This library cost me everything.”
“I thought you loved the library, Master Gayle,” I said to him.
“I do, lad. But now I am at the end of my days and see it was poorly traded when I took these books and scrolls over all the things I loved and could have loved, had I given myself the life to experience them.”
I did not know how to respond to that and so we sat in silence for a time. Eventually he dipped his quill and began to write, I took my leave.
Three days later, before midday, as I was organising my writing equipment in my pack there came a knock at my door.
“Come,” I called out and a woman named Elis opened my door.
Her eyes were puffy and red and she held a linen handkerchief bunched in one hand.
“Fregor, Master Gayle has passed,” straight to the point and it was a point that rocked me.
The world spun and I believe I blacked out for I have no recollection of how I came to be on my bed or where Elis had gone.
My mind was blank and my heart was sore.
I’m not entirely sure how but before lunch had come I was outside the city standing on the west bound highway.
I think even then I knew I would seek out Master Gayle’s estranged family.
This is a work on progress and a very rough draft, though I hope you enjoy it despite its (probable) many mistakes, bad grammar and poor layout. I would love to know your thoughts.
Welcome to Galdenya.