Runic - Aeonian Overture

The realms float about in the neon cosmos of mystic forces long thought to be extinct, a universe known as Ambright where mana and technology can transform entire cities into prosperous empires. However, war has left many with a past haunted by those who lost their lives, as such the case with Glave Octus. He, a veterans's child of the same war that took his sister away, embarks on a journey to rediscover his bloodline. It will be a long trek that will take him deep into the underworld dungeons and lawless cities of Grove, the urban realm where he was born.

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1. Chapter 1 - Providence



Copyright © Crimsos





This fairytale is about how two people get trapped within their own circumstances.

  Then they realize, it was all a fantasy to begin with.  









"...For the longest living memory, the dungeon gate has always stood at the heart of the old wood. Its doorway leads to infinite possibility, to subterranean lands fabled in stories and myths.....Many adventures have passed over that ancient threshold. Some to find fame, glory, and wealth beyond telling, and others never to return. The realm of Grove has forever been the safe haven at the dungeon's mouth, a watering hole and resting place for weary adventurers...Here, great tales are told by the Inn's fire. Journeys are planned, and legacies are made. Minstrels sing of the great feats of heroes long gone, and statues ring the square, a testament to their deeds..."

-Drauntian Parables lV-


The greater population of Forktown snake-walked through life unaware of the abyss beneath their feet, the town long renown for the many clever bloats conjuring up impossible machines, birthing a plethora of mechanical prosperity. It was this world Glave called home, and it was among the few places within the realm of Grove that prospered with a fresh industrial age. Cogs and pistons fueled this upticking economy of every species from across the universe, a melting pot, as some called it, a proliferate, metropolitan world to spend one's life. Truly, it was a wild yet purposefully organized slab of cityscape that seemed to stretch on to infinity, with high rising buildings of latticed steel daring to touch the clouds.

However, beyond this estate of steel and progress, there existed a layer underneath where the most horrifying seeds of enigma rooted down at the grand construct and grew all throughout history. The dungeon, a world where civilization rested its hands to a very strange and mysterious underworld. That was where he really wanted to venture.

Now, it was time for him to take action.

Crowds buzzing, birds landing atop shopping stands - none of them caught an eye at Glave as he heaved himself from the gash in the library rooftop. In his hand nursed a book that glinted its silver encrusted spine against the light. Dropping it would be an utter disaster, as he was elevated a sheer thirty feet above the ever moving sea of creatures of all haphazard shapes and sizes, all species big and small. Kneeling on the slanted tiles, he scanned the clamorous activity below. A merchant's voice rang over the crowds, waving his arms like he was trying to swat away invisible swamp flies. Around the merchant others also passed by, joining the raucous that was the sun stained afternoon. With Orcs, Elves, Avens, Humans, Nekos, this massive city had the whole flue of travelers and those who made home in this urban word. The noise filled his ears like a frictionless engine, rattling his brain to think faster.

Yes, the streets were packed today, but none looked up. Perfect. Glave fumbled over to the backside of the roof where the library touched sides with a taller building. Placing his fingertips between the stone bricks, he climbed up with presteine ease. Finding good footing on this inclined rooftop was difficult, but he had done this many times before, and had grown confidence in his abilities. He stepped lightly up and over the next summit and slid down the other side, pressing his leading foot onto the parapet to avoid toppling down onto the cobbles below. Below, the tumult continued, unaware of his near silent movements above. One misstep meant broken bones that could splinter organs as his body would ragdoll down and land with a thud, then a crackle. Up here, above everyone's eyes, there was no such thing as a second chance. It was important to coordinate each intake of air with another foot forward, then exhale, releasing all the stress. Making sure a proper center balance was achieved came first, a centerpiece to a dangerous performance.

Glave stilled a gaze across to the next platform, and took a pause to bend his knees. Not looking down, he readied himself to jump.

Breathe in. And jump. The rooftop opposite flew up to greet him, pressing the air from his lungs and constricting them like rubber pockets. His hands flung out to grasp at the tiles. They were smooth and had no cracks to cling to. His body slipped backwards, closer to the edge. His feet flailed against empty air and it was seconds before he would fall. With one last, desperate scrabble, his fingers found a long crevice that stretched across a few of the tiles. He clung to it and sliding slowed to a halt. Breathe out. Next time he would be more careful.

A crow landed lightly on a chimney above. It cocked its head to watch the boy's struggle back up. He had a feeling that it was mocking him.

"Oh scruff off," he said, flicking a hand at the bird. His voice was husky like a draft of cold frosty air during a morning tide. It was the same kind of distinguishable tone that stood in people's minds longer the normal. The crow shook its feathers and took to the air wheeling great circles in the sky. He watched it soar over a distance of town, before flying beyond into the hills sitting past the stone towers. From this taller rooftop, he could faintly view the ribbon of Wynding River snaking peacefully through the valley beyond Forktown's boundary. He remembered his sister Milos taking him there as a child. Glave had just turned six then.

Those days were gone.

He snapped himself to attention before the memory had a chance to live longer, pulling the splinter out. Between him and the river laid acres of upland littered with fresh industry. Rumors that bandits still roamed the eastern alleys circled through people's mouths, lying in wait to attack passing merchants or noble men. But he had to remain on task. Right now he had to get the book home. He jumped across a few more spaces between buildings soaked in sunlight with his feet sliding along the gutter pipes, all the while keeping his senses peeled and making sure the book never left his arm.

There were always reminders of winter's bite as he went along. Gusts of frigid wind nipped at his face, but he kept his thoughts on the warm chimney fire waiting for him at Aylward's shop. There, he would devote all the time needed into studying the book stashed carefully in his grasp. The book would tell him where the underworld districts were, and more importantly, reveal where the dungeon's gate was located. The shop was still a good distance away and there were a few more stops to make before that, but the next few rooftops were relatively easier. These buildings were closer together and he only had to step between them. But soon came the part he had been dreading: two buildings separated by an entire street, not just an alleyway like before, and this one was crowded. A few stalls spilled out from the market area onto the nearby roads. If he fell now, broken bones would be the least of his worries. He would be taken by the town guard, who had almost caught him stealing a map scroll from the same library from whilst he just came. They had taken chase, but thankfully he had given them the slip by jumping down a ground hole that led to the under city pipeworks. Few knew Forktown as well as Glave did, a rarity among young souls. However, those who latticed their minds through a place this complex were bound for trouble.

From the market square that sat in the exact center of this sector, the rest of the city sprawled out like water seeping out cracked earth. The three major roads, heading north to Andur, east to Dunnland and south to the rest of Forktown, all joined at this spot, a spot where everyone mixed together in a loud turmoil of voices. He waited a spell in silence watching for the perfect time to move again, a break between the crowds, or even a tide of bodies to could hide in. It was almost impossible to spot two people that looked the same, or even similar ears for that matter. Some had human ears like his own, while others had cat ears, ears that were pointed, or mechanical audio receptors in place of ears. Their faces varied from fins and fangs to fabulous feathers and frail skin.

Another minute brushed by with nothing but waiting, then at last, there was a break in eyes looking his direction. Glave dropped down. His legs were barely able to absorb the shock of impact and he almost had to roll shoulder first to dodge a broken leg. It wasn't silent, but the town's normal commotion dampened the noise of his ungraceful landing.

He carefully began to cross the open space casually keeping both eyes up like ocular spotlights. Forktown guards, or any law attendant in Grove, wore pure plaster masked that housed two rectangular eye sockets to see. It was widely known this was to prevent the common man from identifying a specific face. Even so, dread still chipped in when they looked his way and he couldn't actually tell where their eyes were veering. Like now, when one of them swiveled their white gaze towards his position. Glave froze, but realized soon the guard was glancing at the clock tower close beside him.

He let a passing crowd carry him beyond a few more of these guards standing on their lookout post. Shadows cast by the towers and buildings hid him from law's eyes for a good while. Around him, noises the throng made were the likes of, "Fresh apples! Better than Farrow used to make them!" or "A new invention strikes the water? Come read our paper!" All of it was the regular talk of new inventions and economical success.

As cold as it was, there was still one more stop to make before heading home to study the book. It was a pilgrimage taken every day, like visiting someone's gravestone.

The foster home's roof was bright and blue compared to the dull buildings that flanked it. An elegant porch with glass tables and latticed flower vines greeted him before his feet kissed the first front step. It was always well kempt. Above the porch, clean windows looked down, stone blocks surrounding them, and through their faces, children were moving about with some peering down back at him. They had complexions ranging from Nyiad to Nymph.

He stepped in, the front door's tiny bell chiming away. This main room was wide, with bright carpeting over the floorboards, and stained glass windows letting gold radiance permeate through them. In here, the chatter from outside was pleasantly muffled to a soft rumble, but there was a new source of noise. Children littered the floor, playing with toys while others chased each other around, laughing. This was a place that always brought fond memories of the early days, always a source of nostalgia that would enter his inner mind with a smile, understanding the heat beneath.

Then, he noticed something near the window sill, or rather, on it, sitting idly. He was too far away from whatever it was, but knew from this distance that it had wings, and a tail. He crossed the room swiftly. None of the others look up, too preoccupied with their coloring and talking. In closer view, he saw it.

The bird was a mythical phenomenon basking in the afternoon glow, and at a closer look, Glave knew what name to call it, a Phoenix. It sat looking out, eyes fixed on the street of fast movement, its eyes spanning before the world and silently accusing everything that happened to drift by. It didn't turn its neck to look at him even when the boy inched a few more steps. The bird wasn't made of fire, but its feathers were condensed in an orange soothing wash of afterglow, with a yellow tail, a pair black feet and a beak made from smooth charcoal. But the fact that it wasn't condensed in flames wasn't the amazing part. It gave just enough gloom that one might mistake it as an animal-shaped glow stick. One of the children, another human, looked not at the bird, but at Glave. Then another. Soon, four more had their attention averted to him. They did not speak or utter a peep. Their muttnes spoke for them.

"I never seen somebody take so long deciding if they want to open a window."

Glave looked over and saw an Aven all feathered and beaked. The house caretaker, Jin, stood near him smiling as she pointed her cane saying, "I think we'll leave it shut. Don't want everyone getting too chilly."

"You don't see it?" A whisper passed Glave's mouth. He was about to repeat it louder so that Jin could hear, but stopped midday. Jin was already losing her hearing as it had succumbed to age. The phoenix was still there, not averting its attention anywhere else, but there was no use in staying near its presence if no one else could see it. The boy turned away and went on, looking back every step and stride only to realize that the ominous creature was still there, watching the world go by from beyond the glass pane, ignoring everything else as if the universe was completely irrelevant. Perhaps it was some illusion after all, a good joke played by life just to have fun.

Turning his attention back, Glave went up the stairs leading to the second story, walking beneath beams of tawny rays and feeling their slight warmth through the colder air. This part of the foster home was just a long hallway lined with doors and pictures of those long gone. All of it was remembered well, the memories came again of spending hours helping Milos carry books to and from the shelf, dozing off in the creaking bunk beds, and learning how to say "Can I have this?" or "Yes mam."

Then the blood happened.

Jin saw that Glave was lingering at the front door, on the verge of leaving but unable to do so. She smiled and limped over to him. "You don't need to return here every day," she said in an old rasp. "I'm sorry about what happened, but she will not come back." Her hand cupped his shoulder, and squeezed lightly. "You have a real home now. Aylward is probably waiting for you there."

The boy nodded once, and went out into the cold. Another spec went by. It was silently accused.

His home, Aylward's shop, was located in a mostly vacant alleyway between two abandoned structures. Glave was looking for the billboard with the ruby that was nailed to the opening door, that was the shop's logo. The inside was small, but it was infinitely better than that foster home he grew up in. It wasn't just its inside appearance that was better, rather, It was the location. The foster home had turned into a sanctuary of gold shining windows where his sister died during the last Etherian war. Armed men in cloaks had stormed in and she was taken along with others. She was the oldest, a prompt seventeen when her death became seared on the back of his brain. It was liberating to finally move away from there even if Jin's welcoming complexion could be found nowhere else.

He stopped to make sure the book wasn't damaged before he opened the front door of the shop, as the scent of smoldering wood coated his nose. He ran in shivering, quickly heading near the fire.

A bearded man with glasses veered his dull brown eyes up from his newspaper. "You made it just in time. Look, it just started snowing ."

Glave looked to see a thin white blanket had already coated the streets. Aylward smiled widely and helped him with his jacket. "Another study material, huh. A bit late don't ya think?" His hands traced the outline of the book.

"I found it." Glave said. "The book of maps to the lower district. I found it."

Aylward leaned back regarding the boy. "You stole them."

"I always put them back. Mabie not in the right places, but I always return them."

"That book must have been on the top level where there's lots of people. How did you get it?" Aylward closed the front door to black out the cold drafts pouring in, and they both sat at the table. Glave put the rather thick book between them.

Glave put the rather thick book between them. "I used the rooftops again," he finally replied in a near whisper. Aylward had a concerning look on his face that had to be asking. "Did the guards spot you?"

"No guards. Nobody saw me."

The man adjusted his eyepiece. "The book must be important then. Is it another traveler's log?"

"Oh no. This one's actually full of maps." Glave fiddled through and stopped at a random page. "See? He said pointing, "This is the east shopping corner, and over here..." His finger was at the edge. "....that's the library, the one I just came from."

The pause that followed was long, with the two sharing a break in words.

"I stopped by the foster home on the way here." Glave spoke just as the short snowfall subsided. Winter at Grove was always a white one. Sometimes it rose high enough that the entire street closed and everyone was forced indoors.

"Is it still the same?" Aylward was very careful when he asked the question. He already knew where this conversation was heading.

"It's the same. I guess that place is still a graveyard to me. Now It happens whenever a stop by. All I see is this red and white lump on the floor, my big sister, just laying there." Glave's eyes and posture wavered in unison. "Milos should've never died that young."

The man's complexion smoothed out. "So, the memories are still tied there, or rather, tied to you. I never got to know your sister, but I wish everything that I had. Otherwise, I'm afraid that whatever advice I can give would just come from a man who never knows what it's like to, you know, lose someone that close in the family."

"It keeps getting worse anyway I think about it. I show up, maybe talk to Jin a little, then leave, every single day. Like some idiot."

"You're no idiot!" Aylward inserted with haste. "Calling yourself that won't help the cause."

"Well, I still come," he whispered

"What was Jin talking about today?"

Glave took some time to remember. "Nothing new really. She went on about how I shouldn't be visiting her foster home anymore. She thinks doing so will only remind me of what happened to Milos."

"I'll leave that decision up to you." Aylward looked away, then back. "But maybe it will do you good to be away from there for a while."

"I suppose. There were many types of people there today. I even saw a Phoenix sitting on the window seal."

The man's complexion rippled. "A Phoenix! Oh now, I wouldn't go and say that so casually."

"You don't believe me?"

"Trust has nothing to do with it." Aylward adopted a teacher's tone. "It's quite a common fact that the Phoenix race died out way back when, back even before the botanists gifted the realms with the invention of kerosene."

"Maybe it's still true," Glave said in equal parts wonder and remembrance. "After all, they say that somewhere among the realms of Ambright, everything's a true story."

The fireplace crackled

"I tried going over to the window seal and talking to it," he continued, "but it wouldn't even look at me. I wasn't sure if the bird could even speak at all. Do you think it's strange? I thought the Aven species loved to talk."

Another crackle.

"I also heard they also like to get the best of people's pockets," Aylward said, "so be careful out there tomorrow."

Then, everything changed. As if by natural effect, the subject of tomorrow manifested a silence that laid a veil between them. Perhaps it was best to bring it up a different way, to introduce the topic so that it could be digested into smaller bits. It was apparent from the moment he walked in that Glave had a lot on his mind. Aylward could tell by how the boy's eyes were sharper than normal, and how he held the book he stole as if he was carrying a precious block of diamond. Up until now, their conversation had been mostly devoted to daily routines and repetitive antiques. And during their exchange, the boy had brought up his deceased sister as if it was just another blatant fact, which was troubling. There was a weight that needed lifting. Talking about tomorrow had to come sooner or later.

"Hear me child." Aylward spoke carefully. "We've been discussing our days for long enough now, and I know what you really want to talk about. Now, speaking of tomorrow - The book, I take it will be the last one you'll study, the last one before your expedition."

A long pause.

"It is," Glave replied with even volume. "And you're right, I wanted to visit Jin's foster home one last time before my expedition next sunrise. The evidence I found so far convinces me that the dungeon is the lead way into the lost city of Farrow, and perhaps even the last place my mother Wilva traveled to after she vanished."

"Forktown's underworld," Aylward said. "That the name they call it, although few have ever ventured down there, and to discover a place excluded for centuries no doubt. " His tone rattled. "And even fewer have done so at your age."

"I've already explored every inch of Forktown." Glave's reply was immediate. "This is the last frontier, as they say. Maybe I'll come back empty handed, I don't know, but it's a big place down there. Surely I'll find something, a clue, anything."

"So, you're really going tomorrow then."

"Of course I am, and I'm not coming back without a clear pathway to Farrow, or my mother's location. I've made all the preparations. Right now, this is my only chance to find out whatever happened to her." He laughed awkwardly. "I mean, she's the last one left who even shares my last name. I want to find out why all this happened, why she's gone, why my sister died. All of it."

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