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The Mage Rises Epilogue . Epilogue to Rise of the Mage . It is three weeks since the attack on the Imperial city took place. The city of Preslaff has undergone a tremendous transformation. The fires that scorched its residential districts have been put out, and in their place bustling reconstruction reigns supreme. Timber piles, carts full of rock, glass and thatch roll through the city. Mournful black banners hang from every building; honoring the thousands of dead left by the attack. While the memory of the nightmarish attack is still fresh in the memories of the citizenry, today is a day for celebration. Children run through the streets with colorful banners and cheerful outfits. Street musicians perform, and fanfare can be heard from one corner of the city to the other. The reason for this celebration is the arrival of the world’s nobility to castle Leon. They have come from all over to witness the coronation of the new emperor; Emperor Jason the First of Leon, and to celebrate his marriage to his new wife. The Imperial Palace is the focal point of all of this commotion. In the Imperial Throne room the nobles and heroes gather, dressed in celebratory garments. As Prince Jason steps into the room, followed by his bride Loki, the whole room applauds and cheers for them. A wizard in green garments, a man by the name of Caruso (the Head of Leon’s premier school of magic) leads the coronation ceremony; a tradition that dates back to the foundation of Leon. Caruso: “Welcome all, to the coronation of his Majesty Prince Jason of Leon. It is my honor to bestow the crown upon our new monarch. Prince Jason, please stand.” Jason stands at the head of the room before the Imperial throne. Caruso picks up the crown, and slowly places it on the head of the Prince. Caruso: “Rise Emperor Jason I of Leon. May you rule with wisdom, compassion and an unyielding hand. Long live the Emperor!” Guests: “Long live the Emperor!” Caruso: “His majesty will now address the gathered.” (He steps down, and Jason rises to the podium. Loki stands by his side as he speaks. Emperor Jason: “My friends, my loyal, loyal friends! How my heart is split between joy and sorrow this glorious day. I stand before you a happy ruler, having found the love of my life in the face of my lovely Empress Loki, and yet I stand not three weeks after the greatest tragedy to ever strike our city unfolded. We have mourned the lost, and we have begun to rebuild, but the sorrow and chilling regret that fill me are still prevalent. It was my father’s dying wish that I do not make the same mistakes he made, and today I vow to you that whilst I rule, Leon will be the shining example of the world. No longer shall we be known as conquerors, no longer shall we be the dividing force that pries nations apart. No longer will an elf, a dwarf or an Orc be looked at as inferior to a human. Through our combined struggle we beat back the greatest evil on this earth, and together we can shape our world for the better and mutually benefit. May the gods and words of trusted advisers guide my hand! Long live the monarchy!” Guests: “Long live the Monarchy!” Emperor Jason: “I would not be standing before you today if it wasn’t for an incredible group of heroes! One man in particular must be given credit. Sir Asparuh, please step forward. Asparuh, dressed in his most lavish garments steps forward, uncertainly. Emperor Jason: This man recognized the danger we were in from the very start! He followed his instinct and prepared us for the onslaught! Without him, we will be doomed this day! I declare him my Minister, my first adviser, and head of Leon’s armed forces. The gods know that there is no man more-capable than he for the job.” Jason places a golden medallion around Asparuh’s neck. He turns to the crowd and shouts. “Long live Sir Asparuh!” The crowd echoes the statement. Caruso: “With this we conclude the ceremony; the guests may line up and express their wishes to the Emperor.” Emperor Jason: “Asparuh, please stay with me a while, I must address the guests. I want you to be present.” Asparuh: “Of course your majesty.” Liarah: “Congratulations your majesty. May you rule be long and prosperous. You’ve already made my daughter incredibly happy. Thank you for inviting the elves to the ceremony.” Jason: “Matriarch Liarah, I would not dream of excluding your people. Thank you for coming!” Loki: “Father, it looks like you finally made it into the politics of court.” Asparuh: “Don’t remind me. I like to think of it as good old-fashioned wisdom. You look stunning Loki, just like your mother when she was your age. Liarah, I hear you’ll be coming back to the city? Now that our daughter is Empress, and you are envoy to the Elven clans, Preslaff will be your new residence, am I correct?” Liarah: “That you are.” Asparuh: “Perhaps... Well if you get the time… We could talk for a bit someday soon.” Liarah: “I’d like that.” Loki: “Don’t let him off easy mother.” Liarah: “We shall see dear, but we mustn’t take up any more of his majesty’s time, there are other people he must greet. Your Majesty, Asparuh. (They take their leave) A tall Northern man dressed in black coat and King Vanek Irongut approach the Emperor. Jarl Nibelung: “Well, your majesty, you certainly seem to have come a long way since we last spoke. May you rule with wisdom and strength for many years.” Emperor Jason: “ Jarl Nibelung, thank you for coming. Your soldiers were crucial in our defeat of the vampiri stronghold! I trust you were pleased with the new terms of the Feldberg treaty.” Jarl Nibelung: “I am honored your majesty. Granting Mitgardia independence is a generous and noble deed. You can count on your Northern allies for life!” Vanek: “I too am happy about the treaty, majesty! We have cast more steel in the last three weeks than we did in over a year under the old terms! I trust our engeneers are helpiung with the reconstruction efforts?” Asaparuh: “Yes, the dwarves have been an invaluable asset to us during rebuilding.” Emperor Jason: “We will be I contact soon my friends; there are many plans in the works!” (They bow and move along) A woman in a black dress apporaches the Emperor. Emperor Jason: “Ah, lady Bandrik! What a pleasure it is to see you! Are you enjoying the festivities?” Lady Bandrik: “Long life to you my lord. I came here to thank you for granting Avalonia its independence. My late husband went to dire methods in the search for freedom. I like to think that you honor his spirit with your generous creed. From the bottom of my heart, and the people of Avalonia, I thank you.” Emperor Jason: “Your husband died in pursuit of freedom Lady Bandrik; that should never be forgotten. Steer your people towards progress, and know the Empire has your back.” (She bows and moves on) War Minister Servius: “Long live the Emperor! Thank you for giving me another chance my lord! I will not fail you!” Emperor Jason: “I trust you will not. General Tervel, I was happy to review your report. Your men fought valiantly and rescued hundreds of citizens. A monument is in the works.” General Tervel: “No need your majesty; I’m just happy a lot of my boys survived the battle. Sir Asparuh, I’m honored to have control of our military in your capable hands.” (The bow and depart) Asparuh: “You gave the war minister another chance? I would have tossed him off the high tower if I could have!” Emperor Jason: “Oh, he has a special assignment. He will be our envoy to a remote mountain tribe in northern Mitgardia. ‘So cold, even the snow bears won’t go there’, were the Jarl’s exact words I believe.” Asparuh: “Devious, but I like it.” Emperor Jason: “Now you must excuse me Asparuh, as I see Loki is calling me over. We will speak again soon.” Asparuh: “Of course your majesty.” (Jason departs) Him: “Well, well. If they give you any more ribbons they’ll have to lift you with a pulley.” Asparuh: “Ah there you are “Him”! How’s the leg? I was worried.” Him: “It’s better; you didn’t think that all it took to end me would be some measly dragon did you?” Asparuh: “I would not dream of it! Who is this?” Him: “You remember Edrin’s old servant Roger? He and I have a bit of a plan; we’re heading down to Pliska and pacifying Edrin’s old tower lest some poor soul stumbles onto it. And..of course… He may have a few things I want.” Asparuh: “You’re plundering Edrin’s tower?” Roger: “It’s not like that Ser knight. It’s just that… Pliska is such a nice little town. We don’t need the trouble that the artifacts in the tower may cause.” Him: “That’s right. Roger here has half a mind to start himself a little farm. Now, we must be on our way if we are to make it before sundown. “ Asparuh: “Let me walk you to the edge of town. All of this fanfare is getting to my head.” --------------------- Asparuh, “Him” and Roger walk through the bustling city streets. The group pauses near a construction site as Asparuh looks at his Orcish friend. Asparuh: “I wonder what happened to the mage. Nobody dares speak of him. You’d think they’ve forgotten that he was part of this. Him: “People don’t like to face up to reality if that reality is scarier than the fabrication they make to replace it. It’s human nature.” Asparuh: “But he’s the one who killed Vlad! He’s the one who closed the gate! Nobody seems to want to know why.” Him: “He’s also the one who opened it. You see my friend; you’re dealing with a strange character here. He’s not easy to define, or write poems about. No definitive dark side, from what Roger tells me, and no obvious light side from what we’ve seen in his actions. He’s an elaborate mosaic of both; a shade of gray. It’s hard to write songs about something as temperate as gray.” Asparuh: “I suppose you are right. I just wonder… Whatever became of him?” Him: “it’s hard to say. He entered the realm of the dead through a hell gate; no mortal has ever returned from such a trip. Even if he made it, he may be trapped in the void forever. It does no good to dwell on such things. Goodbye for now my friend, take care of young Jason.” Asparuh: “Good by my fiend thank you for everything.” “Him” and Roger depart while Asparuh looks around at the fresh greenery that grows from out of the scorched ground. He seems to consider something. He speaks to himself under his breath: “Trapped in the void forever? That’s a hell of a fate.” He turns around and returns for the palace. ---------------------------------- Somewhere outside of the earthy conventions of space and time, a great gate rises out of the pitch blackness of the underworld. A lone guardian stands before it, clad in dark, yielding a silver staff. He looks out into the distance and stands on guard as he notes two figures approaching the gate. Simara: “Who goes there? Are you lost souls or escaped demons? This is the gate into Erebus, and none who shall pass through without legitimacy.” Out of the gloom, the figures of Ispolin, and Kaloyan appear. Ispolin approaches the gate keeper. Ispolin: “Simara it is me! After a millennium of waiting I’ve been liberated by this mage.” Simara: “Ispolin! I never thought I’d see you again. Why have you brought this mortal here with you! You know his kind is not allowed.” Ispolin: “He helped me escape and brought the unruly one down with him.” Simara: “You mean you have?” Ispolin: “Yes, Vladika the Unruly has finally exhausted his chances. I brought him down. He rots with the sinners now.” Simara: “I see. This is a great deed the mortal has accomplished.” Ispolin: “Now we must decide what to do with you. Your deeds deserve a reward. But you cannot return to the surface world; not like this anyways.” Simara: “Yes, he’s been tainted. I feel his reluctance to return already. But what can we do? Is his deed great enough to allow him passage into Erebus?” Ispolin: It is not for me to say. But he must be rewarded. Speak mage; make your choice. Step into Erebus or attempt to make your way back.” Kaloyan: “There’s nothing more for me on the surface world. I’m ready to give my soul to Erebus.” Simara: “You cannot give your soul, mortal, as you are not dead. This has happened before. The demon queen should be consulted. Ispolin: “Very well. Beware mage; once you set foot into Erebus in your current form, it will be impossible for you to leave.” Kaloyan: “I am at peace with the idea.” Simara: “So be it!” The guardian approaches the gate and touches his staff to its seal. The gate momentarily begins to move with a sound like solid stone moving against wet pavement. As it opens, crimson light spills out, and illuminates the mage. Simara: “Welcome to Erebus mage. Is it what you thought it would be?” Kaloyan: “It’s beyond beautiful Simara… Is.. is that what I think it is?” Ispolin: “Yes, and there are many more inside. Let us step through.” Kaloyan: “You know what Simara? I think I’m gonna be just fine.” He steps through, as the gate closes shut behind him. ------------------- ------------------- THE END From the author: I hope you enjoyed reading Rise of the Mage as much as I did writing, building and photographing it. Thank you dedicated readers and thank you critics for keeping me in check. If you’ve liked the series, please let me know what you thought about it, and whether or not you’d like to see more stories like this in the future. It’s been a pleasure; hope to entertain you again soon! -AP


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