Quest of the Seal Bearers - Book 1: The Warriors Return by awgcoleman | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil
Grandmaster awgcoleman
A. W. G. Coleman

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Legacy of War - Part 1 Chapter 2: Suburban Secrets - Part 1 Chapter 3: Legacy of War - Part 2 Chapter 4: Suburban Secrets - Part 2 Chapter 5: Legacy of War - Part 3 Chapter 6: Suburban Secrets - Part 3 Chapter 7: Suburban Secrets - Part 4 Chapter 8: Legacy of War - Part 4 Chapter 9: Destiny of the Descendants - Part 1 Chapter 10: Destiny of the Descendants - Part 2 Chapter 11: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 1 Chapter 12: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 2 Chapter 13: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 3 Chapter 14: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 4 Chapter 15: The Displacement - Part 1 Chapter 16: The Displacement - Part 2 Chapter 17: The Displacement - Part 3 Chapter 18: The Displacement - Part 4 Chapter 19: The Displacement - Part 5 Chapter 20: The Displacement - Part 6 Chapter 21: The Displacement - Part 7 Chapter 22: The Displacement - Part 8 Chapter 23: The Quickener Prodigy - Part 1 Chapter 24: A Mother’s Mission - Part 1 Chapter 25: Search for the Summoner - Part 1 Chapter 26: A Mother’s Mission - Part 2 Chapter 27: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 1 Chapter 28: Into the Desert - Part 1 Chapter 29: Search for the Summoner - Part 2 Chapter 30: Search for the Summoner - Part 3 Chapter 31: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 2 Chapter 32: Search for the Summoner – Part 4 Chapter 33: A Mother’s Mission – Part 3 Chapter 34: Into the Desert – Part 2 Chapter 35: The Quickener Prodigy – Part 2 Chapter 36: The Weather Master - Part 1 Chapter 37: Search for the Summoner – Part 5 Chapter 38: The Weather Master – Part 2 Chapter 39: Into the Desert - Part 3 Chapter 40: Into the Desert – Part 4 Chapter 41: Late Night Revelations – Part 1 Chapter 42: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 3 Chapter 43: The Weather Master – Part 3 Chapter 44: Late Night Revelations - Part 2 Chapter 45: Late Night Revelations – Part 3 Chapter 46: Late Night Revelations - Part 4 Chapter 47: Late Night Revelations - Part 5 Chapter 48: Siege of the Valley - Part 1 Chapter 49: Siege of the Valley - Part 2 Chapter 50: Guardman, Guardian, & Gilmore - Part 1 Chapter 51: Siege of the Valley - Part 3 Chapter 52: Sunnin, Sensant, & Stokenshire - Part 1 Chapter 53: Sunnin, Sensant, & Stokenshire - Part 2 Chapter 54: Siege of the Valley - Part 4 Chapter 55: Siege of the Valley – Part 5 Chapter 56: Guardman, Guardian, & Gilmore - Part 2 Chapter 57: Siege of the Valley - Part 6 Chapter 58: Sunnin, Sensant, & Stokenshire - Part 3 Chapter 59: The Quickener Prodigy - Part 3 Chapter 60: Sunnin, Sensant, & Stokenshire – Part 4 Chapter 61: Guardman, Guardian, & Gilmore - Part 3 Chapter 62: Sunnin, Sensant, & Stokenshire - Part 5 Chapter 63: Sunnin, Sensant, & Stokenshire - Part 6 Chapter 64: Siege of the Valley - Part 8

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Chapter 1: Legacy of War - Part 1

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Chapter 1


* Fantasmal Mountain *

The sun slowly rose in the east, bathing Fantasmal Mountain in a warm golden light. This mountain was easily the largest on the small planet of Mendala. It stood on a slim isthmus between the southern continent of Candovia and the northern continent, Lumaria. Its ragged terrain had a faint purple tint, a sign that there was quartz in the rock. The mountain was home to many things including the bustling city of Teedmount; the Fantasmal Libraries, the largest library in the world; and most importantly, the global governing body known as the Fantasmal Government, headed by a man referred to only by his rank, the Fantasma.

There was only one physical entrance to the mountain which was at the base on its north side. It was manned by two highly trained guards at all times, but it was hardly ever used since there were more efficient ways of entering and exiting the mountain. This was the main reason why the sentries currently standing at the threshold were completely caught off guard when someone emerged from the interior of the mountain. He was an aged man with deep brown skin and long black hair that had only the beginnings of grey. He seemed to be in a rush, not even pausing as he passed the guards.

“Oh, um, morning, Chief.” The tall, blonde male guard to the right of the entrance was the first to snap to attention. He gave a sharp salute.

The man gave a distracted wave as he walked purposefully into the expansive plains. The long, hooded blue robe he wore over his clothes fluttered at his ankles as he quickened his pace.

The red-headed female guard was slower to respond and by the time she gave a feeble salute, the man had already turned away. “Who was that?”

Her companion gave her an incredulous look. “That was Chief Stokenshire. You’ve never seen him before?”

The woman did a double take as she looked from the blonde guard to the retreating, blue-robed figure. “Are you serious? That was Franklin Stokenshire, as in the chief of the Fantasmal Libraries? It can’t be. What’s he doing down here?”

The male guard shrugged. “It looks like he’s headed to the northern marker.”

It was the woman’s turn to give an incredulous look. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would a high-ranking chief use the visitor entrance?”

The blonde-haired sentry shrugged again. “Who knows. I heard Chief Stokenshire can be a bit eccentric, but he’s the greatest scholar in the world, so I’m sure it makes sense to him.”

The female guard nodded slowly. “Yeah, I guess it’s best not to question it. Still, I wish I could’ve met him properly. It’s not often we get a chance to meet anyone important.”

The two sentries continued to banter as they watched the retreating figure of Franklin Stokenshire until he was completely out of sight. However, before the chief librarian could make it halfway across the vast grasslands, another person appeared in front of him, as if from nowhere.

The young, short, fair-skinned woman now standing in his path had long flowing brown hair and emerald-green eyes that shone with intelligence and mischief. She wore a blue robe similar to Franklin’s, but hers had a purple belt around the waist, whereas Franklin’s belt was white. In addition, she held a tall, ornately carved wooden staff that was curved in a hook at the top. This staff was a clear sign that she was a quickener: a person who could teleport instantly with the aid of their staff, which was a skill known as quickening.

“Hey Frank, what are you doing out here?” the girl said cheerily as she glanced around the empty plains.

Despite her abrupt appearance, Franklin wasn’t jarred in the slightest by the newcomer. “I’m in the middle of something, Sharanel,” he said evasively. “I wasn’t expecting anyone to come looking for me. What do you need?”

She gave him a curious look, but Franklin’s expression remained impassive. “Fantasma’s looking for you,” she said finally. “He wants to talk before he meets with General Rockwall.”

“Sorry, but I can’t meet with Fantasma right now; I have an errand that I must attend to. It’s of the highest importance.”

Sharanel raised an eyebrow at this, clearly confused. “What’s more important than meeting with the Fantasma? Where are you even going?”

  "If you must know, I’m headed to the northern marker to meet my nephew. I needed a family quickener, and he was happy to oblige."

Sharanel’s expression went from confused to indignant. “What? There are hundreds of quickeners in the mountain that you can call for, including me.” She shook her staff for emphasis. “Even if I couldn’t quicken you where you needed to go, I could have another quickener here in an instant. I am the chief quickener after all,” she added with a proud and slightly playful smile.

Franklin’s frustration melted at the young girl’s smile, and he patted her shoulder affectionately. “Indeed you are, and of course I would have come to you if I could, but these are extraordinary circumstances. Sorry, but I must go.” He sidestepped the quickener and continued on his way, leaving her momentarily stunned.

Sharanel found his secretive behavior intriguing, but she set aside her curiosity as she rushed after him. “Wait, Fantasma is meeting with General Rockwall about the monster attacks. I’m sure he wants your insight. Can’t you come see him before you leave?”

Franklin shook his head. “That’s the whole reason I’m going. I may have a critical lead about these mysterious monsters appearing all over the world. If I’m right, then…well I have to be sure first.”

“Well, what am I supposed to tell Fantasma?” Sharanel said. “I can’t just go back to him with nothing.”

“Tell him that this trip concerns my highest duty as a Stokenshire; he’ll understand.” Franklin quickened his pace. “I’ll be back soon; I promise.”

Sharanel gave a huff of annoyance but didn’t follow. She tapped her staff on the ground and vanished in an instant, leaving Franklin on his solo trek across the plains.



* Gibano Mountains *

Far south of Fantasmal Mountain, in the Gibano mountain range, another man was making his way up a steep, narrow mountain path. This man had dark-brown skin, similar to Franklin’s, but was far younger than the aged librarian. He had short black hair and golden-yellow eyes that matched the gold hoop in his right ear. He also wore a long purple robe tied with a silver belt.

Like most robes, the color combination was not a matter of style, but instead marked his official rank. Anyone looking at him would be able to immediately tell that this man, Karmandrian Jorbedus, was a guardian.

Guardians were highly regarded throughout the world; even a king would be excused for bowing his head to a member of this elite class who had powers that outmatched all but a handful of people. The rank, and the abilities it came with, could only be granted by the Fantasma, and once a person was promoted to guardian, they served the Fantasma from then on. Their roles throughout the world varied, but they used their extraordinary powers primarily for public service.

Karmandrian, who had only held the position of guardian for less than a year, was assigned to an area of the northern Gibano Mountains. He patrolled the towns that dotted the region and served in a myriad of capacities including law enforcement, political advisor, magistrate, and more, depending on the situation.

Though he enjoyed the power and privilege granted by his rank, Karmandrian was not particularly happy with his assignment in the mountains. He’d hoped for a far more prestigious post, or perhaps one that allowed him to stay in the comfort of Fantasmal Mountain. Being posted deep in the mountains meant constant travel from town to town, and accommodations that were far less luxurious than those offered by Fantasmal Mountain or even a large city.

What was worse, because of all of the quartz in the mountains, travel by quickener wasn’t an option, which meant he was forced to walk everywhere he went. This was something he found very degrading despite the fact that, as a guardian, he could walk nearly all day without even a hint of fatigue.

The morning sun peeking between the tall mountains to illuminate the beautiful scenery that surrounded the narrow path did nothing to improve Karmandrian’s sour mood. He’d risen earlier than he’d have liked in order to give his monthly report to the supervising guardian of the region, Jason Yasil, who was stationed in the mining town of Peedersburg.       

For the last two hours, the young guardian had been wracking his brains to figure out a way to convince Yasil to alter his assignment, even if just slightly.

“Maybe I could ask him to let me cover the forest towns instead,” he muttered to himself. “Though it probably wouldn’t be much better down there. If I could just get assigned to Eddingsburg, that would be perfect…but there’s just no way.”

Karmandrian shook his head in frustration. Guardian assignments were typically twenty years in length. Though this could be considered a relatively short stint since a guardian’s lifespan was over three-hundred years, he still didn’t want to spend that long in the Gibano Mountains shuffling about from town to town. Just as he was trying to think of a new tactic to gain reassignment, his nose caught a whiff of something strange.

“Is that…fire?” Though miles away from Peedersburg, Karmandrian’s enhanced sense of smell could still detect what he knew had to be a raging fire in the direction of the small town.

Alarm bells went off in his head; something was definitely wrong. Even with his better than average agility, it would still take a while to reach Peedersburg, so he decided to temporarily boost his speed beyond the normal limits of a guardian. For this, he would need to use mandamus, a skill that only guardians and certain others could use.

“Mentenus Speed,” he called in a deep, authoritative voice. With that, he took off down the trail with lightning speed.




“What in Alaman’s name…”

Karmandrian was dumbstruck as he looked down at Peedersburg. From his position at the top of the mountain path that led down into the town, he could see multiple buildings on fire. It was a mix of red and blue flames. The blue flames were especially troubling as it was a clear indicator that someone had used mentus to create the fire and purposefully set the city ablaze.

Unlike mandamus, nearly everyone could use mentus, so Karmandrian’s first thought was that the nearby town of Hiddlesbee had attacked. This wouldn’t be uncommon as the two towns were fighting over the rights to the plentiful mines in the area. The conflict had been going on for over a century, and it was only recently that they were even willing to consider a compromise. This was one of the reasons Yasil was currently stationed there, to help broker a peace agreement.

Of course, that was easier said than done, and people from the two towns had continued to attack one another. If that was what had happened, then there was nothing Karmandrian could do. He had incredible power as a guardian, enough to tip the scales of battle in either direction, but guardians were forbidden from participating in conflicts or wars between domains. He could, at most, protect any non-combatants trying to escape the battlefield.

However, as he continued to observe the mountain town, Karmandrian soon realized that this was no typical battle. From his high vantage point, he could easily scan the area, seeing everything clearly, not just using his natural eyes, but also by using his mind’s eye to see far more than his physical vision could show him. He was looking at the scene through the mentant realm, and because of this he could easily sense much of what was going on throughout the town.

Hundreds of people lay dead. It looked like almost the entire population of Peedersburg had been slain, and it wasn’t hard to find the culprits. Lumbering down every street of the small town were large, pig-faced creatures. There were dozens of them. Each looked to be over six feet tall with hooved feet, pudgy hands, pig snouts, and beady eyes. They all wore thick leather armor and wielded various weapons including swords, maces, and spears.

Karmandrian had never seen a monster before. He’d heard stories, of course. There were creatures who sometimes made their way out from deep within the mountains to terrorize small towns, but these were few and far between. A monster hoard of this size was unprecedented.

Just as he was trying to determine if there were any survivors, Karmandrian heard a yell in the distance. He focused his attention on where the sound had come from and saw a fair-skinned, purple-robed man being beaten down by over a dozen of the pig creatures. The green hair was unmistakable; it was Yasil.

Karmandrian hesitated for only a half second before once again using mandamus to enhance his own speed. “Mentenus Speed.”

Boosting his speed a second time right after doing it to reach the town would be draining, but it was for a much shorter distance and Karmandrian knew the situation was dire. In an instant, the blur that was the guardian flew down the mountain trail and weaved expertly between the small buildings to reach his comrade on the far side of town. Just as he was closing in, however, several monsters moved to block him. He skidded to a halt, intending to find another path to avoid the creatures, but quickly realized that he’d been surrounded.

“These things are fast,” Karmandrian muttered. They weren’t as fast as him, but they moved far quicker than their huge bodies would suggest.

Undaunted, Karmandrian decided to take out these obstacles. If it was a fight they wanted, he’d give it to them.

“Summonous Sword,” Karmandrian commanded in the same deep voice. Immediately the sword of the pig-faced creature in front of him flew from its hands and toward the guardian, who caught it expertly.

Guardians never carried weapons but were trained to be highly skilled fighters. Sword in hand, Karmandrian didn’t hesitate to leap forward and slash at his now-unarmed opponent. Despite the force of his attack, the monster barely moved, and the sword strike did no damage.

“What?” Karmandrian checked the blade of his weapon as he jumped back, making sure it was actually sharp, but in that moment, two more creatures moved to attack him, one with a spear, the other a mace.

Karmandrian easily dodged both strikes, contorting his body to miss the spear thrust while batting the mace away with his borrowed sword. He went back on the offensive, slashing out at the two creatures, but again his weapon did no damage.

Karmandrian quickly put distance between himself and his attackers. “What are these things?” he grunted. He concentrated on his connection to the mentant realm, hoping he could glean more information from the monsters.

Now that he was closer, he could see that each of the creatures emitted an oppressively black aura only visible in the mentant realm. Not only that, but each of them had something etched on its forehead; again, only visible in the mentant realm. It was a star-shaped design with eleven points. At the apex of each point was an indecipherable symbol.

Karmandrian had no idea what he was looking at. Even after all his years of guardian training, he’d never encountered or studied anything like this. Somewhere, deep inside of him, a strange uneasiness welled up, completely unbidden. The more he stared at the dark aura, the more he felt it, until a single word seemed to force itself into his head.


He had no idea how he knew, but he now understood the pig-faced creatures in front of him were called pogs. He could also tell that the pogs were foot-soldiers, speedy and powerful.

Before he could contemplate how he knew this or figure out another way to deal with the monsters that were quickly closing in on him, he heard another yell.

“Augh!” It was Yasil.

He’d wasted too much time fighting the pogs. He had to help Yasil. “Mandamus Wind!” he commanded. Immediately a powerful gust of wind blasted the monster directly in front of him into the air. This gave him the opening he needed. Karmandrian raced forward, once again trying to reach his comrade.

He didn’t boost his speed, but he could still move quickly with his normal guardian-enhanced agility. He parried any weapon that tried to strike at him as he dodged and weaved his way toward Yasil, who was lying on the ground, bruised and bloodied. Several pogs were standing over the fallen guardian, repeatedly stabbing him with spears.

Even with the abnormally high healing factor of a guardian, there was no way Yasil could recover fast enough. Karmandrian could see that his wounds weren’t healing, and it was easy to tell that the battered guardian was drained of energy since he wasn’t using any mentus or mandamus. How long had he been fighting that he was in such a weakened state?

If I can just reach him, I can use mandamus to boost his healing and save him, Karmandrian thought frantically as he redoubled his efforts, but as if they could read his mind, even more pogs surrounded him and he was once again cut off.

“Curse the rocks!” Karmandrian screamed in frustration.

Before he could act, the guardian was struck by a mace and sent flying into the stone wall of a nearby house. Though he was slightly dazed, he managed to pick himself up quickly. “Yasil!” he shouted.

The green-haired guardian turned at the sound of his voice. “Karmandrian,” he called weakly, coughing up blood. “Run…they can’t…be killed.” Another spear was thrust into his chest before he could say any more.

Karmandrian saw the life leaving his comrades eyes before he was once again surrounded by over a dozen pogs. His mind was racing, trying to figure out what to do.

“Another guardian?” came a soft voice that nevertheless carried. “Perhaps he’ll be smarter than his comrade.”

Karmandrian looked around for the source of the voice but saw nothing but pogs. He couldn’t tell if it was one of them that had spoken or if there was an actual person hiding in their midst. He didn’t have time to do a thorough scan of the mentant realm; he had to run.

“Mandamus Wind.” Once again Karmandrian used mandamus to blow open a path, but even as two pogs were thrown backward, more surged in to surround him.

“You’re not going anywhere, guardian,” called the unseen enemy. “Surrender, and I might let you live.”

Though he knew he risked draining himself to dangerous levels, Karmandrian had no choice but to make a break for it as fast as he could. He closed his eyes briefly before summoning all his resolve and calling for a more powerful version of his speed boosting command. “Mittius Mentenus Speed!” The ground cracked beneath his feet as he shot forward at blinding speed, intent on forcing his way through.



* Fantasmal Mountain *

Inside a small conference room near the top of Fantasmal Mountain, a man sat at the head of a rectangular table. He had dark-brown skin, short, black hair, and wore a long purple robe similar to what guardians wore. However, where guardian robes were tied with a silver belt, this man’s robe had a golden belt wrapped around its middle. It was one of a kind and indicated that he was the Fantasma, the leader of Mendala’s global governing body.

The word “Fantasma” didn’t just refer to his rank and position. Ever since swearing the oath to protect and serve the planet and people of Mendala, it also became his official name, essentially erasing his old identity. As Fantasma, he was one of the most powerful people in the world both politically and also in regards to his incredible abilities, which were far above guardian level.

Despite all this, Fantasma currently found himself stymied. He’d spent his entire morning in meetings and none of them had netted any fruitful results. It was extremely frustrating.

 “Uh, sir, did you hear me?” A concerned voice cut through his thoughts.

The only other person in the room was a fair-skinned man clad in a blue robe with a silver belt. He looked far older than Fantasma, especially with his silvery-grey hair, but his bright blue eyes were still sharp. Aside from the small ledger he was using as a reference, the man also held a golden scepter with a clear crystal at its tip.

His name was Honsmordin Pornabus, and both his robe and his scepter indicated that he held the rank of mind mage. This meant that he was highly skilled, though far less powerful than a guardian. However, Honsmordin was not just any mind mage, he was Fantasma’s chief of staff, a position known as the Fantasmal Mind Mage. This meant that he was one of only a few people who reported directly to the Fantasma.

Fantasma turned to Honsmordin, who was seated to his right. He had a tired look on his face. “I’m sorry; I can’t really focus on staffing issues; I’m still thinking about this morning’s meetings.”

Honsmordin nodded. “I understand, sir. These monster attacks are truly a mystery. No one has been able to give much information, so we’re really in the dark. We don’t even know what they look like, and they’re popping up all over the four continents. At least General Rockwall has discovered a pattern; that’s a step in the right direction.”

Fantasma shook his head. “That’s what makes it worse. They’re attacking small remote towns, and they seem to only be going after places that are in wars or conflicts with neighboring towns. That description fits more than eighty percent of all small towns around the world, and what if it spreads to bigger cities, or countries. If the defining link is domains that are in conflict, that puts almost all but the major powers at risk.”

Honsmordin nodded. “I know its daunting, but all reports suggest that it’s still early. This has only been happening over the last few months. I suspect we still have time before it gets out of hand. We’ll figure something out. In fact,” Honsmordin turned to the double doors that led to the hallway, “I sense Franklin’s approach. Perhaps he has good news.”

Honsmordin had spotted the librarian in the mentant realm. Though people couldn’t use the mentant realm to see into the private meeting space, the specially synthesized quartz in the walls allowed him to freely see out.

Within a few seconds of Honsmordin’s announcement, Franklin burst into the room, looking as if he’d run the width of the mountain to reach them. “Fantasma, I’m sorry for not meeting with you earlier, but I was able to uncover pertinent information about these monster attacks that you need to know.”

Franklin was holding a small black book that looked to be almost falling apart. He marched quickly to the table and slid the book over to Fantasma, already open to a specific section.

As Fantasma scanned the page, his brown eyes grew wide. “No, this can’t be. Where did you even get this book?”

“It was stored in a private collection,” Franklin said, though his answer sounded evasive.

Fantasma pushed the book away as if refusing it. “No, this simply can’t be!”

Honsmordin took the book and started to read, and his eyes also went wide. “Franklin, you can’t think that—”

“I’m going to need more than some old diary to substantiate this kind of claim,” Fantasma interrupted, folding his arms almost stubbornly.

“I know that,” Franklin said calmly. “I wouldn’t have come to you if I didn’t think this could be proven. Did you hear that there was another attack early this morning in Peedersburg?”

“What?” Fantasma was taken aback by this news. “How am I just now finding out about this?”

“It takes time for things to reach the top of the mountain,” Franklin said sagely. “I actually learned about it by happenstance a short while ago from my nephew who’s visiting Eddingsburg. Apparently, there was a survivor, and even better, it was a guardian. I’ve already asked Sharanel to arrange for his transport as quickly as possible.”




“Thanks Trinity,” Sharanel said brightly after another quickener appeared in front of her with Karmandrian at her side.

The trio were in a large manmade cavern specifically designed to allow authorized quickeners to transport in and out of Fantasmal Mountain.

“Of course, Chief; let me know if you need anything else.” The raven-haired quickener gave a brief bow before tapping her staff on the ground and disappearing.

The haggard looking Karmandrian stared at Sharanel with a dim sort of curiosity. “Chief?”

Sharanel nodded, her tone formal. “Correct, I’m Sharanel Quicksilver, the Fantasmal Quickener. Nice to meet you, Elder Jorbedus. I had Trinity retrieve you because Chief Stokenshire and the Fantasma want to speak with you immediately. I’ll take you now.”  She didn’t wait for the stunned guardian to respond before heading for the door.

“Uh, okay,” Karmandrian said, still slightly confused. “How is she the Fantasmal Quickener?” he added with a mutter.

Sharanel pretended not to hear the comment as she led him down the wide, brightly lit corridor that was beyond the manmade cave. She’d heard similar remarks dozens of times ever since receiving the position of Fantasmal Quickener, which was one of the highest-ranking positions in government, reporting directly to the Fantasma.

At seventeen, she was not just young for her position, but as a quickener in general. It was unheard of to be fully qualified at her age, but Sharanel was a prodigy and one of the top quickeners in the world, a status she earned through years of hard work.

She waited to see if Karmandrian would say anything more, but he seemed lost in his own thoughts. After a few minutes of walking in complete silence, Sharanel started to feel awkward and cast around for something to talk about. Every few seconds, she’d glance in his direction, trying to think of something to say, but she couldn’t come up with anything.

He's young too, she thought to herself.

Though guardians aged slowly, she could tell that he was right around thirty years old, which meant he was recently appointed to the rank. The gold hoop in his right ear also intrigued her. It seemed out of place for the normally rigid and uniform guardians.

This made him seem more approachable, and Sharanel was tempted to ask him more about himself, but in the end, her nerves beat out her curiosity. She liked to maintain a professional front around staff she didn’t know personally. She wanted to be seen as mature and worthy of her role, especially to someone with the rank of guardian.

Karmandrian’s brain was a jumbled mess of conflicting thoughts, so he didn’t notice Sharanel’s occasional glances. His gaze was clouded, and he seemed to be walking automatically as his mind replayed the events of the past few hours. After escaping Peedersburg, he’d made his way to Eddingsburg, which was at the edge of the Gibano Mountains, and managed to tell the town’s sentries about the monster attack before collapsing from fatigue. He’d used all of his energy to run at top speed down the mountain path.

When he woke up an hour later, he was lying on a bed in a small inn, and by then Trinity, had come for him. The fact that the Fantasma had already found out and called for him surely meant that the situation was grave. As he followed Sharanel, the guardian wondered what would happen next.

Because of all the quartz throughout Fantasmal Mountain, Sharanel couldn’t just teleport them directly to Fantasma. Instead, they used the myriad of hallways and built-in transporters to reach their destination. This still only took a few minutes, and soon, she was pushing open the double doors to the conference room with Karmandrian close behind, still looking worn out.

“Thank you Sharanel,” Fantasma said. “Karmandrian, I’m glad to see you’re well. I heard about your encounter in Peedersburg.”

The guardian gave a brief bow. “Yes sir; I would have reported sooner, but it took all I had just to reach Eddingsburg and I needed to rest before I made my way back to the mountain.” It was clear that he thought he was in some sort of trouble.

Fantasma waved away the apology. “It’s fine. We summoned you because these monster attacks are an urgent matter and you’re the first person who may be able to give us an accurate account of what’s happening. You can give your official report to Sorinson later, but for now, have a seat; we want to hear everything.”

Both Sharanel and Karmandrian took seats at the conference table, and Karmandrian relayed his tale, describing the destruction and carnage he saw once he reached Peedersburg. “I barely managed to make it out alive,” he said in conclusion. “I’m sorry; there was just no way I could rescue Yasil.”

Fantasma could see the pain and distress in the young guardian’s eyes. It was clear he’d been through a lot. “I understand; there was nothing you could do.” he said as he patted Karmandrian on the shoulder. “I know this has been a harrowing experience, but we need as much information as you can give. Can you describe these creatures you saw?”

Karmandrian put his hand on the wooden table and closed his eyes to concentrate. “Mittius Mandamus Wood.” A small figure rose from the depths of the wood. It was a pudgy, pig-faced beast that looked slimy despite the medium it was being created from. It had a large pig’s snout, hooved feet, fat hands, and beady eyes.

“Such a thing,” Fantasma said with mixed fascination and disgust. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“It’s called a pog,” Karmandrian said, “and there were dozens of them.”

This seemed to spark Franklin’s curiosity. “How did you know what it was?”

“It’s hard to explain. When I looked at the creatures in the mentant realm, they had a strange dark aura I’ve never seen before. It was like they were all linked to some external source of energy I couldn’t see. When I focused on that aura, I was able to understand what the creature was. I could even discern some of its abilities. It was similar to looking at a person in the mentant realm and reading their adimus signature, only the information seemed more detailed, and it felt almost like it was forced into my brain.”

Everyone stared in shock at this. It was normal to be able to see someone’s adimus signature in the mentant realm, which manifested as a type of colored aura, but what Karmandrian was describing sounded distinctly different.

Honsmordin, in particular, looked pale. He pulled the small black book closer and started reading intently, a move that didn’t go unnoticed by Franklin, but before he could comment, Karmandrian spoke again.

“There’s more. Every creature had something etched on its forehead; again, it could only be seen in the mentant realm. It was a strange star with eleven points, and at each of the points there was a different symbol.”

“Sir, I think you need to see this.” Honsmordin slid the aged book back to Fantasma and pointed furiously at something on one if its pages.

Fantasma took the book again and he immediately understood. “I can’t believe it,” he said breathlessly. “This can’t be happening.”

“I’m afraid it is though,” Franklin said gravely. “The young guardian’s testimony confirms it. Fantasma, as much as I hate to say this, it appears the Book of War has returned.”

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