"The matter is serious enough to call upon Elquin?", Vitoriel asked.
The Master gripped Vitoriel's shoulder assuringly and looked her in the eyes.
"Vitoriel. I believe Elquin is vital in this matter. In the end, I believe it is he who will tip the scales of balance."
The Master left it at that, and she said no more for a while. Instead they stood there, in the silence, listening to the howls of the mountain winds, screaming their fury at these two womenfolk who dared trespass in mountains.
Aeomi passed many of the white petaled trees that were scattered on her ascent to the Falcon's Dive, the trees were somehow linked to the monestary she knew, and walking among them had always been one of the master's favorite activities.
As she emerged from the trees and made her last climb to the Falcon's Edge, she noticed the Master and Vitoriel displayed against a stunning vista. In the background she could see the Kiebral Mountain rise towards the heavens, its peak so high it was hidden in the clouds and its perilous passageway blocked by a wall of white snow.
There were other mountains too, covered in white, though they seemed diminished by the gloomy aura of the Kiebral. Aeomi, attuned to spirits and otherworldly essences, could sense the malevolence radiating from the mountain, and as always it made her shiver. She knew she was gazing upon one of the elder evils of this world, and in its presence even the Master seemed like a frail child; a porcelain doll in the path of a bull.
At a gesture of the Master's hand, her thoughts focused upon the present. The Master beamed her a warm smile, the milk in her eyes swirling for a minute, revealing that warm golden light that seemed to seep out when the Master was pleased.
"Aeomi Nebuchadessar, you made it! Thank you very much, Mistress of the Summoning Tower! We are expecting Elquin as well, but he is not one of our resident Masters, so I will begin without him", the Master said, flickering her wrist, making the loose sleeve of her white robe wrap itself around her left wrist; a habit of hers before discussing serious matters.
She turned around and looked out over the valley, and the mountains below.
"For millennia, we have resided here on the P'tuah Plateau, guarding the secrets of this world from forces that should not possess such secrets. We have been amassing lore found in obscure corners of the world, and we have functioned as a vault of knowledge, a bastion of learning"
The Master paused for a second, then sat down in a squat, brushing the grass with the palm of her right hand.
"On top of these sandstone pillars I... We... created the Ketange-Ishatal monestary, and in the ritual we bound our essence to this location, so that all that dwell herein are protected from the malign entities of this world, whether they be spirits or the dead or the zealots of the Kingdom", the Master shot a sidelong glance at Vitoriel as she mentioned the zealots of Silmar, knowing full well the Elven Mistress hatred of their kind.
"Eight months ago, I sent Dieter Sachshoff, the Bringer of Fire, on a mission into the lowlands. You all know Dieter, and his mastery of the flame is supreme. He alone could stand in the face of an army, and at the end of the day the army would be in cinders and Dieter would walk unharmed...", she beamed a brief smile, but the milk in her eyes did not part, and the golden warmth did not shine forth.
"I have not heard of Dieter since..."
She rose to her full height again, and started walking slowly at the edge of the cliff. Ten meters, then she came to a halt, and she turned around, her back to the cliff.
Last night I had a visitor. He spoke to me in my dreams, and when I awoke, the scroll he gave me rested in my left hand.
"So what's in the box, Hakros?" Elquin asked. He stood a fair distance from the plated half-giant and his Unidentified caged beast.
Hakros was silent for a few seconds, then he replied in his rumbling, baritone voice.
"That you, Elquin? I can't seem to keep track of you anymore. I pride myself in my keen senses, but you surprise me all the time, Mistwalker... I am glad we call you friend"
With that Hakros pulled a black silken sack over the cage, and the sack fluttered twice, there was a slight plopping sound, then he put the sack in his belt. It shrunk rapidly, and after ten seconds it was no larger than a belt pouch.
"It is something I think we should have kept locked down beneath the Reliquary", the half-giant replied, "but the Master ordered me to get it, and to get you as well, though by your words you already know my assignment. You have kept to the shadow for a little while I assume".
At Elquin's suggestion the pair worked their way up the stairs and out of the building. They walked across the Monestary main square, past the Spire of Flames, and out the gates. The village streets of Ishatal-Town was eerily quiet this evening. There was a troubling silence, as if the world was on the brink of something major. Some grave event yet to happen.
Working their way through the white petaled trees, the duo finally arrived at the Falcon's Dive. Hakros handed a black silken belt pouch to the Master, bowed once, then made his way back down the slope.
The Master gave Elquin a most unusual welcome. Rather than bow and acknowledge his presence, she wrapped her white robed arms around him and spoke in soft words.
"Dearest Elquin, my lost, lost child. Welcome!", she said, and the milk in her eyes parted in a marvellous display of golden warmth.
"As I explained to Mistress Vitoriel and Mistress Aeomi, I am sending the three of you on a quest to the lowlands", she kept an arm over Elquin's shoulder, like a protective mother of a bullied child.
"Before you ask any questions... Tonight I had a dream. I dreamt of an oddly featureless man in Golden Robes. He came to me in the Golden City you so often speak about, but none of us have ever seen in our dreams. Not before my dream tonight at least"
The Master removed her protective arms, and slowly opened the parchment scroll for all to see.
"He gave me this scroll... In my dream, Elquin. In my dream! And yet when I awoke, it was there. In my hands. So very real!"
They all looked at the parchment, and they gasped. On it; a perfect charcoal drawing. Master Sachshoff, the Bringer of Fire, crucified. Behind him, flames devouring an entire village.
Milky tears ran from the Master's eyes, and her wrinkled skin seemed to sag more than usual.
"I have known Dieter for over a century, for as you well know, this monestary is hallowed ground, and the ritual has granted us the gift of longevity. I knew Dieter from when he was an inexperienced apprentice, fond of fire and with such raw potential. Yet, this scroll... Somehow I know with all my heart that it is the truth. That is why I am sending you all on a quest to the lowlands. You are going to Treskenmauer, and to find out what happened to Dieter on his last quest.