The rune Master

by Philip Howe

PART ONE

Earth
The rune-Master Trilogy, parts 1, 2, and 3, are copyright © by Philip Howe 2009-2010 No part of this book may be reproduced or distributed without express written agreement by the author and/or publisher. All rights reserved. Part 2 of the rune-Master series is called The Island. Scheduled for printing 2010. Part 3 is called Vallanon. Scheduled for printing in 2010-2011. ISBN number: Library of Congress number: Printed in the United States of America, 2009 First Edition Book cover designed and illustrated by Philip Howe © 2009 Book interior illustrations and all text © 2009 by the author. This is a work of fiction. All events and characters described within these pages are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Please visit our blog via the author’s website at http://www.philiphowe.com If you are interested in prints of illustrations from this series, or the author’s Angel print series, please contact the author or visit http://www.illustratedimages.com This is an Illustrated Images book.

Prologue One

The sweater’s maker
It is a strange sensation to come across something that is invisible, yet you can hold it in your hand and guess its substance, feel its texture even though you can not see it, and all the while your mind tells you something is definitely there. But our common sense says that this is impossible to believe. It is like groping in the dark; vague images in the mind's eye trying to form before you as your hand’s deft sense of touch conveys the mystery, and you accept the reality of what is there. But for a fair-haired young woman who found an ancient treasure one early April morning of 1906 - this experience was altogether something magical and mysterious. As one of the young curators for the San Francisco Museum of Natural History, she had been sent to catalog a group of semi-precious antiquities. In this 'modern' metropolis, such things as magic and invisibility were totally unheard of and certainly not any part of the daily hustle and bustle of the townsfolk. They were far too busy building the reputation of their bay port as the new center of commerce for the west coast to consider such foolish ideas. So, when she came across a mysterious age-old trunk amongst hundreds of uninteresting collectables and discarded old junk, she was, of course, pleasantly surprised. She was standing at the center of an accumulation of freshly shipped crates, sent from the east, and now temporarily stored in the upper floor of the old library. Alone and quite content, she nibbled at a fresh red apple as she moved around the uncrated articles scattered about the hardwood floor all around her, the long white petticoat shuffling with the rhythm of her walk. It had already become hot and muggy in the upstairs room. The golden glow of sunrise sparkled here and there as it caught the shimmer of metal corners and the brass and glassware that she had partially unwrapped from the day before, a much cooler day to be sure. She thoroughly loved her work and had come in extra early to continue where she had left off. She was a naturally curious young woman, as her mother and grandmother had been, and she certainly expected her children to become, if and when she had any. In the midst of the scattered collection she recognized the strange looking blackened old trunk with its shipping labels half worn off and plastered one on top of the other like a theater showbill wall. This is what had brought her in so early, when she really could have used the sleep, having stayed up late into the night sewing clothing for some of the many immigrants who seemed to be coming in daily. After centuries of frustration from all those who had given up hope of unlocking its secrets, this unusual trunk had long traveled the world until destiny had finally placed it before the young woman. She removed her selfsewn bonnet, and placed the shiny apple in her mouth against small white teeth, holding it there as she bent over and read some of the ragged shipping stickers - Cairo, Sydney, London, on and on for what looked like decades of travel without acceptance or any record of its previous shipper. 'That’s strange,’ she thought. By some miracle, it seemed to have never been opened! The thick iron lock on its front metal brace was scratched at and scarred from heavy hits. Apparently several attempts had been made to break it, but clearly its contents were still

inside. She found the long metal crowbar that had been discarded by the burly workmen who had helped with some of the larger crates. Hefting it up, she tried jamming it into the lock face, pushing hard, but was unable to budge the oversized lock. After a minute of thinking, she took another bite from her apple, brushing off dust from the front of her white work dress. Then she tried something the shipping brutes before her had never thought of. In their attempt to force open the lock, having no key sent and none intended, they, in turn, failed to recognize the obvious- that the lock might just open if it was given a woman's touch. She secured the remainder of the apple between her teeth again and reached up for a small pin that held her reddish-brown hair in a bun. With its release, it fell all about her pale round face and she flung it back over her shoulders to stay cooler. She took the pin in her hands and began fumbling beneath the lock’s thick base, back and forth, to and fro, until it suddenly snapped open! She giggled with delight, reseating herself on her knees before the round-topped trunk. "Now, let’s just see what you have for me today," she stated aloud, heaving the great lock up and off the thick metal clasps as air escaped from the inside, a soft puff of dust floating about the rim. She strained as she pushed the curved metal top up and away to reveal its hidden contents to the daylight that had not graced it for many, many years. With a wave of her hand and a little cough, the young woman fanned away more dust and history. At the very center of the trunk’s open space she found a single cube of about eight inches square, like a gold heart floating at its core. It was tautly secured by thick metal rods on each side and still cushioned, after centuries, by a fascinating silk cloth with strange rune markings that surrounded it. Without much hesitation or thought as to why not to do it, she removed the soft cloth and revealed the small cube’s arched top that was like a miniature of the outer trunk itself. But unlike the scuffed and blackened larger trunk that held it firm, this inner box was artistically carved with delicate patterns and inlaid gold. Ornate silver decorations of unintelligible symbols were inset all along its edges. She tugged at its heart but immediately knew that she had no idea how to pull it from its trapped prison of steel rods protruding from it at every angle, except for the top. Her thin hands floated over the surface of its box form, gently working in and around the metal bars until she hit upon a hidden latch or switch of some archaic make. There was a soft snap, and she realized she had found the way in. Her curiosity, it seemed, was about to be rewarded. "Tabitha Griffith, what have you found?" she whispered, knowing there was no one in the old building to overhear her. From the large window behind her the early morning sun was now shining in at enough of an angle to show her what was inside this little coffer as she began to pull it up from its ancient prison. But she was disappointed, to say the least. This kind of adventure was uncommon for her and it was simply not fair to get this far and find nothing inside such a curious container, especially after previously sorting through all those other items that were, in her opinion, worthless. Her delicate hands hovered over the inner cube, an empty shell. She saw nothing and yet sensed more than she saw. And then she did the very thing that would change her entire life and set the pattern of her destiny, and, eventually, lead her to the edge of insanity. She reached down anyway! She touched something, not the container itself, but an object sticking up from within it, invisible but most definitely there! Startled, the apple

dropped from Tabitha’s mouth, yet her hands did not move from the carved surface of the gilded box. Her heart raced as she gingerly felt down into the narrow space. There were other items within it as well, all unseen, and each piece, each separate rectangular shape, was like touching the face of a lover for the first time or feeling a newborn baby clutching your finger- it was like touching life itself! She experienced a tingling of untapped energy coming from each item, which made her quiver from its gentle yet seductive power. The discovery of each new thin surface felt almost alive. Within a few moments she deduced what the invisible items were, or at least they felt like they were- some sort of intricate cloth. It was tricky at first deciding this, as each patch or block of material had a new and varied surface, some feeling more like leather, while others felt like the finest silk, but each one had an embossed pattern of some sort of shape that she was not at all familiar with. Yet, she knew cloth. As a seamstress she loved the feel of it and the joy of sewing for those who appreciated her craft. If she had her way, she would fill the museum up with bolts of every available fabric, from the coarsest burlap to the finest linens and silks, from every period and every nation on the Earth. But the old trustees seemed to favor paintings and sculpture and all manner of Greek and Roman antiquities. But wasn't this discovery why they sent her here, to sift through all these crates and find something worth keeping? At the bottom of the many invisible cloth pieces, she found the only other object that was different from the rest and she guessed it to be a round spool of some sort of extra fine thread. When her fingertips touched it, she saw a flaring, like one of those new holiday sparklers some of the children had run with on New Year’s Eve. But, most interesting of all, when she picked the sphere up, it revealed itself, glowing even more vivid gold in the warm sunlight. It was as if it had come to life. She lifted this marblesized ball of shimmering color completely up and out of the box. Light danced against the forms of the various pastel tinted cloth pieces and they, too, were exposed only so long as they were touching the threads. The thread and the palm-sized cloth pieces seemed to belong to each other and one could not be seen without the other. She had forgotten all about the apple by now and ignored the growing heat. Suddenly she heard noises stirring outside and then along the stairs beneath her and in that moment she knew what she must do. Hastily, she opened up her large white skirt pocket and dropped the golden ball and all the cloth squares into it. As the apple fell in, she reached inside to grab it and saw that the other items had disappeared again! When her hand found the precious ball of string it reappeared as it had before, and each cloth piece next to it, in turn. Tossing away the apple core, she turned to the window opening and heard shouting now and saw a flurry of activity below. A thick cloud of billowing smoke was rising up in the far distance, a growing gray churning mass against the soft glow of daybreak. It was only moments later, as she hastily made her way down the stairs, that the whole Earth seemed to shake. She fell back, clutching the pocket’s contents as she scrambled to button it with the flap to secure it. A horse-drawn carriage charged past, then one of those new horseless buggies swerved to avoid it and nearly ran right into Tabitha as she jumped away, stumbling for balance against the terrible shaking of the quake. Everything, it seemed, was

falling down around her and for several moments she was tossed violently as she scrambled to reach a place of safety. The buildings of that time had not been constructed to weather this mayhem, hastily built for the quick comfort of the half-million inhabitants there. Fires began to break out in each quarter of the city as screams and shouts were heard in every direction. Tabitha looked up to see where she had been just moments before. The entire building was beginning to burn and there would be no recovering the trunk or any of the items in that dusty old room. The gold and silver little coffer that was the heart of the ancient trunk would soon be consumed by the flames and melt into time, lost forever but for the mysterious contents she carried with her now. Alone but not afraid, she clasped her hands over the mysterious bundle in her deep pocket and was quickly lost in the pandemonium of the multitude of suddenly homeless people who had survived the great quake of 1906. But she would tell no one about what she had found, not for many years. In her unusually long life she would slowly grow to understand and use the precious items to recreate what they seemed to have been meant for, and bring them back into the world once again after nearly three thousand years. After all, she did have a gift for sewing things!

Prologue Two An ancient history unfolds
We sense in three-dimensional space. It is something we understand. Logic tells us this, our mind accepts it, and life continues on planet Earth much as it always has, evolving with the speed of acquired knowledge, exponentially. But before early civilized humans ventured out to think in terms beyond themselves, when they first gazed at the stars and began to wonder about the magnificence of it all, they could not begin to fathom the other dimensions that were all around them. Still today, we can only glimpse into those worlds. Our Earth logic, and the physics that determine that logic, dictate what has now become instinctual- that we alone exist in our own space and time. And so we have become blind to other ways of seeing, even though we often feel something more- a tangent to dimensional space that was once unified, and now recognized only in our dreams. Beyond the nine worlds known to the original Council of Planets, there were three additional minor wastelands considered unworthy of the effort to incorporate them. Earth was one of the three, and had been overlooked for many thousands of their years. During a very ancient time, the eyes of the leaders of those nine inner planets became aware of a common thread. For more than an age they began to see beyond logic, and science, and the math associated with them, to pass down acquired knowledge and to experience a vast energy that grew far beyond their ability to harness it. In accepting this path, they chose a better life for their people. Or so they thought.

After so many centuries, when Earth was still in its adolescence and its people had just begun their drift toward civilized beings, the nine planets of the Council had reached a critical state of evolution- when science faced the realization that each was aware of the other eight and a connection must be made. This dimensional cord was not seen, but felt, like a spider feels the subtlest tingling on its outer web. Even before they could see, they knew. With a millennium of developed awareness, they sensed the other worlds and began to explore ways to contact them. Their civilizations had reached very similar stages, an era that was only slightly advanced beyond our current Earth knowledge of today. These nine planets were in tune; they harmonized with one another, yet were dimensionally beyond any physical connection to each other. It was this cohesive balance that not only kept them aligned, in the vast majesty of the infinite cosmos, but safe in their respective positions in the multiverse. They were in sync with the very life thread of each other’s co-existence in that space and time. As they evolved to understand this, they respected this axiom for whatever fate or purpose or destiny that awaited them. For as surely as we, of Earth, now know how fragile our position is in our own small solar system- the unique distance from our Sun, the critical angle of rotation, and incredible luck to have survived several near catastrophic events- so, too, did the nine sister planets realize they were distant cousins within the finite galaxies. Over time, they began to see the power of the inner consciousness, a far greater wavelength of thought than logic and science could produce. Acceptance of this was the beginning of advanced evolution. The wisest seers of the various planets battled for centuries to gain the right to put forth this universal energy. Like gravity and the particles of space themselves, this new law of physics would become their life course. Through the dream state, the great journey had begun, and a way was found to physically transverse the boundaries of the other dimensions, creating a Portal, or bridge, that connected all nine planets. This miracle had taken great faith. The awareness of it had spread to become common knowledge within the microcosm of the known universe. But this knowledge had come at a price. Since this energy went beyond all logic and known sciences, there was no language or method in which to ensure its existence for the future. From the largest of these worlds, the mighty planet Vallanon, a gifted Seer began to instill his visions and ideas into a form of writing known now as rune-crafting. This script was a recording of the energy in a contained dimension, similar to the future Portals themselves. But no logic or science was needed to maintain their power, although science, ultimately, was the basis for its creation. From the very substance of life, and the particles of atomic energy, the great Seer began to record his knowledge through thousands of acquired threads, or ‘spells,’ each mentally written in a coded visual picture language that must be seen, felt, and spoken to reveal the energy within it. If magic exists, then this was surely its beginning. For magic, without science or the physics behind it, is pure fantasy. This was the circle of balance that was understood by the nine rune-Masters, the great spellcasters who had inherited their skills from the generations of Seers that went before them. The knowledge and power of the rune-song was handed down to them alone, shared equally among a single gifted leader from each planet. These wise and trusted runeMasters had been given the only key to the creation and the opening of the first Portals.

The energy of the rune magic was enough to allow for a concentrated connection between each parallel universe, held together now by the physics of the spells themselves. With the first Portal, the ancient rune-Masters went beyond the vibration and sensing of each sister world, beyond the subconscious thought that had long connected them with each other, to the opening of a physical path that was created with the proper alignment of the rune spells. Never before in the history of the nine known dimensions had a connection on a physical level been possible. The pure power of the combination of rune spells, their energy being the culmination of centuries of advanced thought, went well past the range of simple logic to an acceptance of a faith beyond their known existence. It had given them a near psychic ability to combine the ancient spells to form a cohesive whole, or Portal. Once the first planet had opened this doorway, their Ambassadors could step back and forth within its temporary framework, instantly appearing on the other planet's vortex step. All nine planets, and the three lesser worlds, including Earth, were similar in their physical space within their respective galaxy, and the bridge was as natural for the traveler as going from one's front door to any of the eight other inner worlds. With great jubilation, there came an age of wonder as the nine planets exchanged ideas and trade. All nine of the planets had vast differences in size, terrain, vegetation and polar climates; but the fundamental atmospheric properties, such as sunlight, air and water, and especially gravity, were essentially the same. This allowed for any human to travel freely and safely within the coalition of planets. All that was needed was a reciprocal Portal to each world. On some worlds, the advanced races of the bridge builders found they had far surpassed the dwellers there in development of their civilized states. So a universal agreement was struck, as the leaders of each world met and negotiated how best to bring further balance to all nine of the sister worlds. They disregarded the three outer planets, including the Earth, as far too primitive at this point in time to be considered worthy of such advancements. But for the nine sister worlds, a sharing of all acquired knowledge had begun and over the centuries a tranquil state reigned. All knowledge, except for the runeMaster's own individual spells, was shared. The nine Seers knew that harmony and balance must be maintained, for the power within these mental recordings, the rune-song itself, could undo all that they had fought for if the equilibrium failed. Each home planet was strengthened by the cords now running between them, providing links for the harmony and benefit of all. But this same power could also destroy them, creating an unstoppable force that could unlock the foundational physics of their existence. This thought became very real when the first signs of greed and corruption began to dictate the actions of lesser men who had attained positions of power by force and political will, undermining the reign of harmony. This self-serving evil led to a tipping of the balance of all things, and the very real threat of war, for the first time in over a millennium. This regression toward greed was inevitable, for it is often the intent of a dominant few to seek that which can be taken more easily by force, rather than acquired by knowledge, faith, and hard work.

Ultimately, one leader from each of the alliance of planets, the nine Council of Seers who were the rune-Masters themselves, met in an unprecedented secret session. These learned men decided the only possible solution to prevent interplanetary war was to place the greatest of their ancient spells into a single sourcebook, concealing them forever. A simple book was chosen from the great circular library where they had gathered on that momentous day. This empty book was not large, but thin, lightweight, and nondescript, the perfect vehicle for their final creation. It was a writing book, a journal meant to record their life’s work. A powerful spell was cast to enhance its aged, blank parchment, giving it the durability for what seemed fitting for the important rune-script it was to carry. They chose to instill in this Book the very power that, over the ages, had enabled them to create the Portals, the linking runes themselves. They then added their own individual incantations, private and unique magical crafts handed down for generations through each Wizard’s great ancestry of spellcasters. This was the language of the rune-song itself, the soft euphonious voice that called the energy of the ancient spells forth, fusing them through mind and spirit and the energy around each caster. All nine of the old rune-Masters, these faithful wizards of the ancient ways, realized this event was the only time in any of their worlds’ histories that such a gathering would ever occur. Each cherished friend accepted the burden of a heavy sadness, for they knew they would never meet again. They were kindred spirits united in peace and for the benefit of their world’s futures, committed to this secret cause to keep the federation planets from destroying each other. Only through the small, mirror-like rune-rings would they be able to see each other, to communicate and share their wisdom and ideas and philosophy. But this was a sacrifice each was willing to make. Each of these ambassadors of great knowledge had agreed to come to this secret library to help prevent their world’s certain downfall, eliminating any future threat by removing the ability to transport between each planet. Relinquishing the Portal knowledge itself was the only solution to keep each world safe from the other, for there was no other possible way to travel through those inner dimensions. In addition to the extraordinary spell of Portal creation, they each instilled within the great Book a powerful and unique symbol, or rune, that was known only to themselves, releasing the memory of its content onto the pages as they did so. From that moment forward, no one would ever be able to recreate the chant or its rune-script without studying from the Book itself. And even then, the invisible language would take the ability of a true rune-Master to see it and bring it forth. To ensure that none of them would seek to use the immeasurable power within the Book, each Wizard set upon its surface a guarded measure, sealing the spells within and locking them away forever. As this final spell was cast, the outer leather binding moved as if alive, forming an interlocking set of nine spells, their rune symbols appearing as undulating mist in the air, then merging as one, intertwining like the roots of a great tree, as each of the casters added to its impenetrable code. The Book shook violently, its edges smoldering as if it had escaped a fiery cataclysm, then lay still upon the stone table, the greatest power in the multiverse and now beyond the reach of any of the nine Seers. It lay before them a docile thing, the Book of Spells, this great volume of power and incredible

knowledge and the rune-Masters’ combined understanding of the control of an infinite energy, the very culmination of all science, faith, and magic that their worlds had acquired through the last millennium of peace. As they stood within the center of the circular library room, each of the wise old Wizards faced the immense power that was imbedded within the Book. They looked at each other and wondered just where all of this would take them, grateful for their choice of secrecy. The panic and threats from their world leaders seemed almost tame now compared to what would have been a catastrophic mistake, had they all retained the memories of those supreme spells. Behind each of the white robed figures, the glowing runes of the Portals awaited. These oval doorways would be the last Portals to be created, for once each rune-Master exited the ancient library through them, they were committing themselves to a final return to their homeland. Each wizard still retained enough of the spell crafting knowledge to continue to guide their own worlds through wisdom and applied energy, to aid those who sought them out. But the true power, the power of the ages and the greatest of these spells, the Portal creation itself, was now guarded only within the impregnable protection of the Book. After much discussion, they chose an Overseer, the purest and most gifted rune-Master to whom the other eight trusted with their lives. He achieved this status and honor by being not only a leader and great philosopher among his own planet’s citizens of Vallanon, but to all the worlds, giving to each his generous offerings of newly formulated spells and wisdom that enriched their lives and helped keep a binding peace. This was Clauuscioss, not the oldest but surely the wisest among them. He was a tall, white bearded man of whom, if there ever was a description of a classical Wizard, it was he. He guided each of his old friends across the gray stone floor to their respective Portal doorway, saying a final emotional farewell and promising each, in turn, that he would soon be in touch with them via the rune-rings, able to communicate but never to step into their home worlds again. They would all miss the others’ company and the unique qualities of their worlds, something that each had cherished with every moment they had visited those extraordinary lands. Clauuscioss cast a simple spell before them, telling each Master that this was merely a memory loss spell, a harmless charm that removed any knowledge of what they had done within the last few minutes of their being together. This was as much for their own protection as for his use, for Clauuscioss alone knew that in casting this charm, so innocent that the truth of it had gone undetected, he had also pulled to himself the memory of the last spells of all those within the room, imbedding them into his own enchanted robes, hidden beneath his outer cloak. The creation of the Book and their final moments together in their unified dream of balance and peace- all this was forever forgotten as each Seer stepped back into their home world, with the brilliant light of their Portal fading forever. Or so they assumed. The moment he found himself alone, Clauuscioss threw off his outer cape and quickly examined the rune-designs he had cleverly sewn into the inner and outer cloth of his flowing white robes. This was his own special trade, this skill to harness each chosen spell

through his inherited ability, handed down by generations of rune-crafters before him. He was able to imbed the magical language, the very symbols needed to call forth the runesong itself, sewn so skillfully within the clothing that he now wore. None of the smaller outer patterns showed any change. They had been woven into the durable material and enchanted to preserve all that he had learned and invented over his long life. These outer spells were primarily for protection and healing, defensive spells contained within the elegant cloth patches like quilted patterns, stitched along the full length of his costume. But it was the hidden symbols sewn to the inside of his robes that he studied now, the eight larger, more intricate designs that had absorbed the eight levels of rune-song used in creating every Portal. It was the order of these eight runes that directed the Portal energy to each planet and that order was safely set in alignment along the inside of the wizard’s robes. Since Clauuscioss knew he could never unlock the powerful binding of the great Spellbook, his only option to create a final Portal for himself was by secretly retaining the fragmented spell, sewn as intricate rune symbols and now embedded with the incredible energy of each of the rune-Master’s final spellcasts. These Portal runes used the vortexes, or energy voids, that naturally occurred throughout the multiverse, a necessary guiding path to complete each and every Portal journey. He needed but one vortex, however, one path, and his mind was set now as to his final destination! One by one, the rune-Masters had exited through the last of the dimensional doorways, each glowing oval port dissolving behind them, never to be recreated or called forth in any manner. Even Clauuscioss himself would keep this promise, for his intention had never been to journey back to those familiar worlds of his gifted friends, but to venture forth to a new world, one forgotten by time, where he could begin again. He would leave his beloved home world and his family, a single adult son who had abandoned him when Clauuscioss failed to show him the power he had demanded, choosing instead to place himself within the very heart of the corrupt political and military adversaries Clauuscioss was so adamantly opposed to. But he would miss Vallanon, and the fond memories within his palatial estate known as the Wintergarden, when his wife was alive, before his unnaturally long life saw her fade before his eyes. Now, those in power turned against him and destroyed everything aesthetic and spiritual and benevolent that he held dear, and his own son had disowned him, a bad seed who could not think beyond his own greed. In time, the world government would try to use Clauuscioss’ power for their immediate gains, to force him to submit to their needs rather than the needs of the people, and this he swore to prevent at all costs. He smiled, intrigued to see that all eight of his inner robe symbols now began to glow from the light and heat of the great power embedded there. Everything was complete now and he was anxious to begin his final journey. Had any of his gifted brethren suspected his plan to retain their private spells, they might have tried to stop him, but none of them would ever know he would journey to the small outer world. In this way, he would honor his agreement with them, and remove the Book containing the imbedded spells and the one source of power that could destroy everything. He did not want to use this power, it was not a plan for personal gain or profit, he did not think in such terms. He was committed to retaining the knowledge of the runes

in his own way, knowing that the history of their worlds and all his great ancestry, and the ancestry of the other rune-Masters, must not simply vanish or be buried in a single Book that would never reveal its secrets. He believed, in time, that a second age of enlightenment would come, and in this paradigm it would be up to those future spellcasters to determine their own best use of the knowledge they would inherit. Finally, alone with the great Book of Spells, Clauuscioss examined it in the simple candle light of his ancient library. He rubbed the uneven surface of the leathery covering of its small form, feeling the vibrating energy within its sealed pages. He knew the eight interlocking spells that graced its intricate cover would never yield to any man, or wizard, for there was no counter-spell. But for a brief moment, over three thousand years ago by our Earth history, he imagined what he could do with the greatest power in the universe that he had within his grasp. He could control not only this world, but all nine dimensions and possibly far beyond, where magic had not yet lived. Just as quickly, the moment passed, and the true Clauuscioss surfaced. With the federation of all nine planets’ histories that had survived to this day counting on his faith and selflessness, as had been the way of the Seers from the very beginning, how could he, a trusted rune-Master, fail them? In that moment of enlightenment, he knew what he must do. He would take the Book with him and, in time, find a way to destroy it! For no man, or wizard, or government should ever have the use of such combined mastery of the elements, not even a benevolent spirit like Clauuscioss. By now, the departed rune-Masters were wondering when he might contact them, to let them know that he had fulfilled all that they had discussed. Clauuscioss walked forward to stand before the rune-ring, its mirror face still beckoning him to look into its depths and converse with his eight friends, to ask their forgiveness and let them know his true plans. Instead, he turned the heavy stand that supported its polished viewing screen, moving it away from him, pushing it toward the circular stone wall, never to be used again. How could he predict that three millennium would pass before his own distant relative, a man consumed by pure evil, would rediscover this northern palace and find the ancient library and the energy of the rune-ring still intact! Clauuscioss’ great friends would never know what had really happened to him that fateful day. They were left to communicate only among themselves as they worked within each of their respective libraries, praying that the future of their home worlds would now have a chance to evolve in peace. The great wizard breathed deeply, and then began the long spell cast to create the final Portal. Closing his eyes, he envisioned its construction, feeling himself sway to the growing energy of the spell’s true power as he called it forth to envelop him and the great Book. The glow from the corresponding runes sewn within his inner robes intensified with a flare of light that reflected radiant color, illuminating the circular stone room with a wash of dancing phosphorescence. The runes of Time and Space, those of Journey, Speed, and Life Energy, all came into play as the spell reached a crescendo and demanded shape and purpose. A central fusion of beams of arcing golden light began forming and grew in spiraling extensions until it rose above him and discharged a static pull within the library on all its contents. Hundreds of shelved books began to shake and lean toward the source

as if snared in a magnetic web being drawn in upon itself. Even the old man's hat and beard felt the attraction as they began to tug away from him. At the outer edge of the oval ring that had materialized just a few feet above him, suspended by unseen forces, the rune symbols themselves began to take shape from wobbling, abstract, glowing phantoms of light. The intricate patterns were slowly drawn through the charged air as thin fiery rays written in the ancient rune language before the wizard’s outspread arms. These drawings curved and sparked to match the outline of the sewn runes themselves as they floated up from the reflecting gray stone floor to find their proper position within the growing arch that the wizard now commanded. Clauuscioss knew that the spell was taking! Flame, then liquid, then gaseous coils, were all spaced perfectly, one after the other, according to the quality of the chant and the experience of this most gifted spellcaster. The final runes- Dimension, Direction, and Balance- appeared upon the topmost curve of the arch as the wizard’s robe was now aglow with matching rune-light cascading all around him. It was an unbroken spectacle of brilliant glistening sparkles and magic that made the old man’s heart race from the pure wonder of it. With the completion of the Portal frame, the light within the circle began to form an image, the bridge’s destination, and a safe sign that he was nearing the end of this most difficult of all spells. His low whispered chant rose to a dramatic calling, a tradition of rune-song that had been handed down for countless generations, and he was a master at the subtle intonations that gave him control over even this most complex of all spells. With a last look around at the books he cherished and all his collected verse, the paintings, and prose, and personal writings, and especially his incredible research, he knew he would miss this life where he had once been held in such high esteem. But he could not afford for any of his accumulated knowledge to fall into evil hands. The greed of his own son and the growing authority of the militaristic state would use it to undo all the communal good that he had fought for during his long life. With a simple wave of his hand, the candle flame behind him began to grow and would soon engulf the entire room and leave no trace of its contents or any hint of the secret meeting of the nine. In time, his home world would begin to cope with the mysterious loss of their great Seer, but that was a lifetime away, a past with no purpose for him. All worlds were alone now, save for the communication devices and the sense of a future for each that was no longer united as one. But it would be over three thousand years before the lost world of Vallanon would ever be heard from again! Sure of his new calling, Clauuscioss held the Book to his chest and inhaled a last deep breath of the crisp Vallanon air. He reached up with his right arm sweeping over the translucent oval doorway as he spoke his final incantation, giving the Portal its direction and setting it toward the unfamiliar vortex. The image that showed within the elliptical port’s center was of a wavering hot sandy plain that did not look inviting. But he was committed now as he closed his eyes and took a bold step forward, his long white robes swaying and still pulsating with the rune’s magic glow. He entered into the Portal doorway that instantly closed behind him with a great whoosh, and was no more. In that one dramatic stride, Clauuscioss set in motion a future that would not only change the fate of the known sister planets of the federation but would eventually

culminate in the sensational events that his long rune-Master lineage would be forced to reconcile on present day Earth. Clauuscioss’ legs felt weak and he was momentarily dizzy from the familiar effects of the porting as he stepped upon the sandy beach at the other end of the vortex gateway, the dimensional destination to this little known world. He looked around, the hot sun bearing down on his heavy long robes, the beautiful textured markings of his rune craft covering the inner and outer cloth surfaces. To say that he had sewn these would be to suggest he had taken needle and thread and created the patterns and interweaving himself. This was, in part, truth. He had learned this craft from generations past. But combining this human skill with the energy of the runes gave him the added protection of robes that were uniquely enchanted with defenses far superior to any of the weapons on this strange archaic planet. The bearded old man lowered the great Book, placing it deep into the side pocket of his magnificent robes. He could feel its power still quivering at its core, but useless now to him or anyone he came across. The final locking spell placed upon it by all nine of the master magicians would be impossible to break, and he had no need or desire to do so, knowing that here, on this backward world, he would be quite safe with the limited power he controlled. And of the Portal creation itself- he knew that without access to the Book no future Portal could ever again exist, for his own power here was greatly diminished. He had known this in accepting his fate, for this was his full intention. His ability to create a Portal, or any other high level spell, would become a mere memory, no longer a part of his future, nor the future of anyone. He would keep the Book hidden and safe until he found a way to destroy it. It was why he had chosen this world, one of the three insignificant smaller planets outside of the federation. Clauuscioss felt a sense of peace and finality in the essential secret that no one would ever think to search for the Book here! Since he had no connection to this place, no prior bridge to this dimension, he knew its inhabitants would be, at best, only beginning the process of comprehension to an enlightened state of existence. He was surprised, as he turned away from the beach, to see architectural marvels in the distance, a series of pyramidal shapes rising up from the land, in line with what he guessed was one of the vortex tangents that had guided the Portal spell here. Without the vortexes, there could be no inner dimensional travel, for they existed as energy pulses, connecting points throughout the multiverse that were essential to make the jump. But tuning to one of these was, at best, a guess as to where the energy was centralized at each vortex core. It had taken many years for the ancient rune-Masters, long before Clauuscioss, to fine-tune their expected Portal jump locations. Finally, they were able to pinpoint where a traveler would safely port to, within the proximity and frequency that each destination held. But this new world, where Clauuscioss now stood, had never been charted. The Portal energy had pulled upon the most direct avenue during the spellcasting, searching for a vortex and guided by Clauuscioss' will toward the Earth-bound coordinates that attracted it.

Clauuscioss shaded his eyes as he scanned the sun-bleached landscape. He saw activity everywhere in the distance; from the giant ramps full of thousands of white clothed workmen jostling to finish the towering apex of a great pyramid, to other monuments being slowly rolled, here and there, into their permanent resting places within the great city streets washed in white, ocher, and red. As the old Wizard descended the high sand dune where he had first stepped into this world, he saw a primitive society of bronzeskinned people, not unlike his own coloring, who were going about their daily tasks. Closer to the river’s edge, boats of every size and variety of sail pulled up to moor along aging wooden docks where items were quickly and efficiently carried away, hauled off toward the glistening city by strangely humped creatures, the likes of which Clauuscioss had never seen. He could feel the heat building up within his tunic and he was already weak from the magic energy he had expelled, for all spells draw power as much from the caster as from the fields of energy around him. Clauuscioss was reminded, then, that he would miss the icy climate of his Vallanon homeland. But there was no merit in dwelling in the past. The nine inner worlds no longer existed for him now. Clauuscioss knew his solitary task and was committed to it for the benefit of all planets, even one as primitive as this. The runes upon his robes would protect him and perhaps help him gently guide the early civilizations here. He was determined to aid them, but would never instill upon them the same knowledge that had begun to corrupt the Council planets. Balance must be maintained, for to change the lives of this early society would only bring chaos down upon them. With another deep breath of the sweet Earth air, then so rich and pure, Clauuscioss smiled contentedly as he began walking forward to the city ahead. It was beautiful and certainly worthy of a primary vortex. But it was hot. He spoke a short phrase that contained an ancient whisper of the word for 'cool' and was instantly caressed with a gentle breeze born of a polar climate. 'Better, yes, much better,’ he thought, stroking his tapered white beard, as he made his way through the long rows of palm trees that welcomed him to this sparkling and beautiful city.

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