Etar'Das. Unexplainable to scholars and twice as confounding on the eyes.
Dravas recalled his headmasters words as he made his way up a winding unkempt path strewn with boulders, moss and ferns that lead towards the jagged summit of a mountain that loomed semi shrouded in mist overhead. The deteriorated state of the trail its self betrayed for how many centuries it had been untraveled or cared for.
"Hurry up Kath'ire, dusk will be soon. Best be inside by then." The cloaked figure ahead of him said as he briefly turned around to check on his students ascent.
Dravas wished he had thought ahead and worn a heavy cloak like his mentor. The cold bite of late autumn floated through the breeze and was as unsettling as the curious surroundings of the footpath.
Vaulting himself up a small embankment, he noticed how smooth the stone was under his fingertips. The ground seemed melted somehow. His impressions were that something unnatural occurred here a long, long time ago. A shiver ran through him. This was the work of a deeply powerful and incomprehensible magic.
The legend of Ber'Odin. Everything around him evidence of the great arcanist and his business with this since averted mountain. Enigmatic ruins littered the area that were avoided by locals and only examined by the most attained masters of the university. If any of them had any findings regarding Ber'odin and what happened here at Etar'Das, it was a secret they guarded closely.
A hand appeared in front of him and he grasped for it. He smiled up at Tagoth whos own smile was the only thing that penetrated the shadows of his hood, and hoisted himself up the last rocky outcropping onto a grassy landing crowded with gnarled tortured looking trees.
Dravas glanced around at the maligned, warped and sickly vegetation before panning around at the course behind them. The ascent was further than he had thought, the trail winded down and disappeared into the thick forest of the valley below.
Several span away the outline of the village Emire crested the ridgeline, the slopes of its snow dusted alpine roofs shimmered the orange and rose colours of the setting sun invitingly. Just beyond the town, a plume of dark smoke drifted lazily into the horizon. The workshops of the university.
Dravas would have preferred to be in the comfort of his quarters with the other Kath'ire or junior students at the University. Perhaps content by one the hearths that warmed the dormitories. By now his friends Kerric and Chad were both likely merry and full of drink at any one of the taverns in town, listening to the night minstrels and unsuccessfully chasing tavern women. Dravas envied their position and wished his obligations hadn't dragged him out into the wilderness tonight.
"Dravas. When we enter disturb nothing. Everything inside including the dirt its self is priceless." Tagoth reminded him.
Looking over the cryptic carvings the ancient Altir'Das had left around the entrance Dravas felt somehow repulsed by them. There was something grotesque and estranged from all his worldly understanding about them.
"Don't worry about that." He said as he followed his mentor through the gaping opening and into the mountain.
Dravas shuffled forward in the dark until he sensed Tagoth had stopped and halted himself. If not for the scant trace of moonlight that barely shone this depth into the cave, he would not have been able to devine any details around him. As it was he could barely see the figure standing just ahead of him except for where the pale exposed skin on his arms caught the faintest of the moons rays. The air here was still, damp and with the sickly sweet scent of rot. His nose crinkled disapprovingly.
"Give me a few moments Kath'ire." Tagoth said. The room suddenly felt heavy and cold. As if whatever life that was in it was being syphoned away.
He knew having observed it many times before. A simple magic but far beyond the abilities of untrained Kath'ire like himself.
A frost of ice started to crawl across his arms as both of their body heat was stolen, transfered and focused until a set of torches ignited along the walls in front of them. The flames grew brighter and the room flooded with light revealing the corpses of dead deer and other smaller animals scattered around the room.
Dravas wasn't sure if it was the power of the room its self that drew the animals in to their deaths or if they simply ventured into the cavern on their own accord either trying to stay warm or escape the cruel winters on this mountain. But it did explain the smell of rot he detected moments earlier.
"Here take this." Tagoth said placing his cloak around Dravas, who was now shivering from the effects of the magic and his lowered body temperature.
"What about you? Aren't you cold too?" He said nodding thankfully as he wrapped the cloak around his body savouring the warmth it brought to his bones.
"Me? No. When you attain El'Tras you'll be largely resilient to such simple bindings yourself." Tagoth said dismissively. "You'll understand in a semester or two."
Both of them explored the far end of the chamber and found a small bronze plated door that refused to budge when either one of them tried their weight against it. Tagoth stood there for a minute stroking his beard pondering the obstacle before them. Davas always thought the mans closely groomed beard which came to a point below his chin made him look like a classic villain in the old Degarian plays he had watched as a kid.
"Behind this door resides Ber'Odin's guarded mechinations and doings." Tagoth said as he ran his fingers across the engravings and cabalistic scrawlings that lined the frame of the door. "What he did, or what his interests in the ancient Altir were has been a subject that has mystified the greatest scholars of the university for centuries. But tonight perhaps we will come to an understanding they hadn't. The final piece to my senior thesis."
"That looks like some sort of outdated Cavan"Dor invocation script" Dravas said tracing his fingers over one of the rune like carvings. Powerful markings that carried a magic all their own and probably were what kept the door sealed.
"That it does. Very good young Kath'ire." Tagoth beamed at his students cleverness. "Now to see if we can invoke its meanings." He said and began murmuring magic in a language he didn't recognize.
A loud crack echoed through the cavern and the door began to crumble inexplicably away. Dravas peered through the entrance and witnessed a long hallway with walls that glowed softly blue. Just beyond it, a large cavern with oddly flickering lights and a cool breeze that carried the sound of flowing water hinted at an extensive complex within.
The realm of Ber'Odin and the mysterious civilization of the Fae of Altir'Das.
Short fantasy based off the prompt "mystified" as presented by @mariannewest in the Freewriters Community.
Originally a five minute freewrite the story expanded into something a bit longer.
Hope you enjoyed reading it.
Pictures supplied by pixabay.com