Dust. The diffuse glow of wan sunset through clouded, high windows, the bitter-almond smell of desiccated parchment, rows and rows of circular, oak shelves rising to the apex of the tower…everything exactly as Finn Bailey remembered it—except for the dust.
The tall, raven-haired wizard turned to his stout companion. “Why wasn’t the library tower maintained?” he demanded with the most passable analogy of human angst his lilting, Eladrin voice would allow. Slater Grimmjow snorted his customary snort.
“You were the only one who ever came in here boy. After you left your father ordered the servants to stop coming all the way up these blessed stairs,” his grating rasp softened as much as it ever could…not much at all. Finn looked down into his beady, heavy-lidded eyes. “And after your father died…well—I suppose I just left well enough alone.”
Dust. “After I left? Don’t you mean after I was sent away?”
Slater turned to face him with surprising alacrity for such a dense creature, his face darkening. “Listen boy, we don’t have time for your grubbing. Time is money and right now you aren’t making me any. You want to be a part of your father’s company, his legacy? Then you need to start pulling your weight.” Slater Grimmjow stomped to the other side of the tower, puffs of dust following his heavy, Dwarven footfalls like the sonic blasts of war drums. “While you’ve been off playing magician with that green-haired ninny the world hasn’t gotten any smaller. We need this outpost in Thunderspire to produce! Results, I say!” his tyrannical beard trembling sympathetically with the rumbling of his voice, he scooped up a filthy old tome from a decrepit wooden stool and blew particles of grime off the cover. “Bah!” he harrumphed, “your father never set much store by this hogwash and you shouldn’t either. How he tolerated your incessant frivolity I’ll never understand.” As he slammed the codex down to the dusty floor, The Assorted Wanderings of The Prophet Ih’jshaiyaegh Jyuudaeioughnn, Finn Bailey caught a glimpse of the faded runes upon the cover. His throat tightened. It was his favourite book. Slater Grimmjow walked forward and reached his hand up to his young Eladrin ward’s shoulder, a grip of finality, not tenderness, and said, “I’ve put a crew together. You leave for the Seven-Pillared Hall in the morning.”
“Straight to business, that’s the Uncle Slater I know and love,” Finn’s voice dripping with the most acerbic and barely sufferable Eladrin sarcasm he could manage, he turned to regard the eminently wide dwarf starting down through the trap door to the spiral staircase of the highest tower of Bailey Manour. The latter turned on the top step and regarded Finn with one of his baleful, watery eyes. For a second Finn thought he was in for a verbal thrashing or, at the very least, a lecture about proper business practice.
Instead, after a pause, there was another snort. “Mind the halfling," he growled, "He’s already tried to rob me twice.” A swift swish of massive beard and Grimmjow was gone.
Dust. Finn gazed about the muffled chamber, his father’s library—no, his library now. Finn raised his hand in a sweeping gesture and began a muted arcane chant. But as the final syllable of the clearing spell he was about to cast passed his lips, he released the magic he had gathered. “Let the dust lay where it fell,” he muttered to himself. “Maybe my father’s house should die as well.”
Without another word he turned to follow his surly, diminutive guardian and was about to mount the steep, twisting stair when something caught his eye…the Wanderings of Ih’jshaiyaegh staring back at him forlornly from its dusty grave. Finn blinked twice in practiced concentration. A ghostly hand formed out of the dust and, with a slithering rasp, slid the ancient cracked volume over to him. He propped it up on its weathered spine and let it fall open to a random spot; a spot Finn well recognized: Ih’jshaiyaegh’s adventures in the Shadowfell. Not for the first time, Finn Bailey wondered to himself what unearthly force should compel such an eminent denizen of the Fey, especially one of such noble Eladrin lineage as Ih’jshaiyaegh’s, to journey to that dark, life-forsaken plane. Finn began to read the nearest passage, the words of the prophet Ih’jshaiyaegh’s final prophecy leaping to his mind half-remembered, as though his eyes were reading as much from the past as from the page.
“Thus spoke he to me, the great Force, ‘So shall it come to pass: The shroud of the darkened sky shall be repealed. The grey of Death’s raven pall shall yield to the light of the shining cosmos. On that day they, the deathless, shall stand on the same ground yet see different skies—shall look upon the same sky yet stand upon a different ground. When the new world crashes down upon them, on that day, a King shall be born, He who shall deliver them from their oppressors and who shall raise them from their own iniquities. When all the worlds align, He who shall be their Saviour shall spring forth, unconceived, He who shall be called the beginning and the end, He who shall be called, in the old tongue, ‘Emmanuel’, the God among us. And the Shepherds, brave wanderers from distant lands shall hear His call and follow Him and bear Him henceforth upon the flaming sky, and the wise men shall covet Him. And on that day the veil between worlds shall grow as thin as the veil between the mortal and the eternal, for He shall absolve the penitent of Death. This is my covenant to you.’”
Finn closed the book with the barest of grins. “Well,” he thought, “however insufferable these minions Slater has hired undoubtedly are, at least I don’t have to go the Shadowfell with them.” And, gathering up the book of the Prophet Isaiah with a final puff of dust, he rounded the stair and left his old haunt for what would turn out to be quite the adventure of his own.