Authors: CJ Rutherford,Colin Rutherford
Copyright 2014 C J Rutherford
This book may not be reproduced, copied, distributed or used in whole or in part for commercial purposes, nor resold or given away to other people without the written permission of the author.
Origins of the Never
A prequel to the Tales of the Neverwar
Books in the series
Souls of the Never
Worlds of the Never
and the upcoming
War of the Never
This is a work of fiction. Here be Dragons.
Are there Dragons in your world? Look around, you may be surprised.
Laughter echoed through the air, as the two young elves climbed higher up the Tree. It had taken them most of this long day of summer to get this high, but their progress slowed as the light gave way to dusk. Both boys, while exhausted, were within reach of the swaying tips of the highest branches.
They had spent days sneaking along forbidden paths to reach the Faer Folk’s home. Countless spells guarded the Tree, and the clearing it grew in, but Olumé and Tenybris were more powerful than any other being in the Lands. Olumé was master at manipulating the subtleties of the magic flowing around them, but Tenybris possessed more ability to force these energies to follow his wishes. The boys were opposites in every possible way two beings of happiness and light could be. They loved each other as brothers did, and their powers complemented the others.
As Olumé gained a hand hold on the branch above, it twisted, threatening to cast him downward to the forest floor. There was a moment of panic as Olumé dropped, but a wave of Tenybris's hand bent the boughs below into a cradle.
“I’d watch where you put your hands, my friend.” Tenybris's laughed at his friend’s futile attempts to escape. He gained the highest branch. Victory was a few feet away.
Olumé smiled, closing his eyes. He sent a thought outwards, sensing the eager acceptance return from hundreds of small minds.
Tenybris screamed in alarm, grasping the trunk, as a flock of sparrows dived at him. They engulfed him in a cloud of feathers, distracting him just long enough for Olumé to escape the trap he had fashioned.
Olumé sped upwards, giggling as his avian friends continued their assault on Tenybris. “And I wouldn’t allow myself to grow so confident, brother. Things have a way of righting other’s wrongs.” Sensing the glee in the bird's simple minds, he sent his thanks to them as they dispersed.
Olumé clung to one side of the limb, smiling at his friend. Tenybris returned his grin, looking up at the victor.
“Maker! I almost had you,” Tenybris said, laughing. “I would have won if not for those damned birds! I will never understand how you get them to obey you like that.”
Olumé lips formed a crooked grin. “Tenybris, you will never understand, because unlike you, I don’t get them to ‘obey’ me. They are my friends, the same as you are.” He chuckled. “I thought they might enjoy a game. I was correct.”
Tenybris shook feathers from his long dark hair and grinned. “Next time, can you ask them not to play so well? I think one of them left a worm in my ear.”
Olumé laughed as Tenybris extracted a small wriggling form. He held it up, long enough for one of the flock to return for the morsel and pluck it from his fingers.
Discord from below interrupted their celebration. The denizens of the Tree saw through the spell the two friends used to cloak themselves. The leaves rustled and hundreds of the Faer flew upwards in pursuit of the interlopers.
Tenybris turned to his friend, smiling. “Maybe it's time we were somewhere else?” He watched the glowing forms speed closer by the second.
“Perhaps we should stay and explain,” Olumé said, chuckling as the mirth faded from his friend's face. “No? Well I suppose we might find it hard to explain our game, with several hundred of the Faer Folk trying to kill us. Retreat might be the most sensible way to avoid any unpleasantness.”
Both boys laughed, and joined hands as they jumped outwards away from the trunk, disappearing in a flash of light.
The corridors resounded with merriment as the two boys ran laughing through the castle. They rounded a corner, bowling over a young elf carrying a stack of scrolls. The two boys halted abruptly, concern and embarrassment obvious on their faces.
Olumé bowed. “I’m sorry Hallor. We have just returned after a most urgent, ah...errand.” He glanced sideways at Tenybris, who was red faced and clearly struggling to contain his amusement. “We were so excited to tell our news to my father, our enthusiasm caused our clumsiness. Please, let us help you.” He bent to pick up some of the rolls of parchment skittering across the floor.
Hallor returned their smiles, albeit with a suspicious look. “I have heard about this
my Lord, and I’m not sure your father would approve.” He couldn’t bring himself to disapprove, however, as the Citadel staff had held a wager on the boys’ success, and even though currency didn’t truly exist here, Hallor expected to receive several rare spells as a prize. “Now, why don’t you
along to your quarters to calm down? I will clear up this mess.” With a twitch of his index finger, the scrolls lined up and flew into a tidy stack, which hovered above his hand. Olumé jerked his head at his friend, and Tenybris followed him as they ran off, giggling hysterically.
Maker defend us when that boy comes to rule,
Hallor thought, smiling. He and all the People loved the boys, but Hallor knew Tenybris. He was his cousin, and over the years Hallor had been the brunt of many of Tenybris’s jokes. He had experienced a dark side of Tenybris few others had, but he couldn’t fault the decision of the council to join him and Olumé as bond brothers.
Olumé was the child of the King, and bearing in mind the rarity of births among the People, it was common knowledge a boy of lower birth would be chosen as his brother. Tenybris was an orphan. His father died during the dragon wars centuries earlier, and his mother had died tragically during childbirth. He was the perfect choice, so Hallor looked out the window, over the magical valley known as The Glade and sighed.
The Citadel lay at the heart of the Land of Teralia, a continent that sat alone in a world of pure azure oceans. The planet was a jewel in the heavens, as the sun reflected off the waters, but it wasn’t anything as mundane as sunlight that made it shine.
The Glade held the magic. In the mountains to the north of the Citadel lay the source, the spring of magical energy that infused this world; and through the Never, the void which linked all reality, it passed into the universe.
The Never was much more than outer space. Space is simply that; space and distance between two points. The Never is the void between space, time and reality. It contains the multiple universes brought about by chance and happenstance.
So, the magic spins its subtle web, linking all existence, but spilling from one point alone; The Glade.
As he watched, the sunlight glinted off a huge golden form as it swooped to snare a beast from the vast plain below. The herds fled, but the winged being rose into the air, a struggling bison in its grasp. Hallor watched with elven sight, as the dragon twisted the beast’s neck, ending its suffering, before flying off to its perch on the mountains far to the west of the Citadel. He turned, grasping the scrolls and walked down the corridor.
All is well,
he thought, smiling.
Lynnaria was the most beautiful creature Tenybris had ever seen. He had been in love with her from their first moment together, all those years ago. Her long, pale, golden hair flowed down to her waist. It framed her fine features, holding a pair of crystal blue eyes which seemed to reflect his love, each and every time she looked at him.
When she spoke, birds took his heart and lifted it above the clouds, toward the warmth of the sun. Tenybris would have done anything she desired, but he knew his love for her was pointless. He knew, as he stood here at the altar beside his best friend, watching the love of his life walk towards them. She was about to pledge her love and life to Olumé, and at this moment Tenybris’s emotions were a storm, roiling internally.
It wasn't as if Lynnaria had shown any indication other than friendship towards him. She and Olumé fell in love at first glimpse; on the same night she stole Tenybris’s heart.
That night, Tenybris realised his childhood was over. For centuries he and Olumé had raised merry havoc across the Lands. Their misadventures were the subject of ballads sung all across Teralia, with a quick tune and happy voice. Overnight, Tenybris found himself excluded from his friend’s presence in ever increasing amounts.
Over the long years of their courtship, Olumé and Lynnaria publicly sought to include Tenybris in everything. Both of them appeared to love him as a friend and brother, but instead of happiness, they granted him a tortured existence. His life turned from one of joy and happiness to an existence of lies and denial.
A shadow grew in his soul, and as the years passed, the darkness began to exert a subtle influence over him, as if it was whispering to his subconscious. For decades he dismissed it as idle imaginings brought on by his melancholy nature, but lately there was no mistaking it, as the voice grew in strength. Now it was shouting to him, telling him that it should be he standing in Olumé’s place, but Tenybris willed it down deep inside him. He smiled to keep up the act, even though he longed to tell Lynnaria how he loved her; but he wouldn't, because he loved his friend too much. He stood suffering in silence, willing himself to be happy for the couple, but failing abysmally.
The ceremony was perfect. Olumé and Lynnaria offered a part of each other’s soul to their new mate, as tiny shining sparks fashioned into rings they now wore on their left hands. These would bind them forever together, as their love for each other now existed in an unbreakable token.
Tenybris cried with the rest of the crowd gathered around the couple, although the emotions flowing through him were anything but joyous. The rapturous approval of everyone swept over him, taunting the love he held for her. It made him all the guiltier for feeling the opposite. He wanted to run from this torment, and as he looked around he saw his method of escape.
Gathered around were members of all the races of Teralia. Tenybris watched the gossamer winged Faer mingle with the granite skinned people of the mountains, the Dwelves. And across the room, keeping a respectful distance from everyone else, a group of beings huddled together. They looked like nothing more than a small shrubbery, as they shifted about in their obvious discomfort. The Brownies were the shyest and most elusive among the peoples of this world, choosing to inhabit the darkest, most hidden places in the woods and forests. Their unprecedented move to attend this wedding surprised everyone, but then, everyone knew they loved Olumé as they had loved his father before him.
Olumé’s bond with the Lands and the People had grown into a marriage of a different sort than the ceremony taking place today; different, but no less unbreakable.
Tenybris, however, didn’t need an inhabitant of Teralia. A few of the outsiders, known as Walkers, attended the ceremony. Olumé had discovered their world, Sanctuary, over two centuries earlier, on one of his explorations of the universe. Tenybris didn’t understand why, but his friend seemed to delight in meeting people from other worlds. Over the course of the last few centuries he had visited thousands of them.
Tenybris thought it fortunate Olumé alone possessed the ability to travel the stars. He grew weary of the frequent visitors from other worlds, who invariably wanted to use his world’s magic to further their own selfish needs and wants.
Olumé used this power to banish sickness and poverty on every world he encountered, becoming a great friend to many races. Unfortunately, some beings wanted more.
Until recently, this want would have been totally alien to Tenybris. The Lands gave everything you might wish for. Until, that was, he’d fallen for Lynnaria. Tenybris tried to deny it, but he accepted there was a hole in his heart which would never be healed by the power of the Lands.
He excused himself from the bridal party, forcing the voice to the back of his mind, and walked across the room toward a familiar figure. Or’n had been the Walker’s ambassador to Teralia for the last few decades. The Walkers were long lived, often surviving for three or four centuries. The near immortal Eldar lifespan stretched to thousands of years. Tenybris and Or’n had developed an easy friendship however, and they greeted each other warmly.
“Tenybris you old rascal,” Or’n boomed cheerfully, “come, come have a drink with your old friend, here, join me in a toast to the happy couple.” He grinned as he handed Tenybris a large tankard of Dwelvish beer. Tenybris accepted with a smile at odds with his inner turmoil. To keep up the pretence he turned to smile at the couple.
“They look happy don't they, Or’n?” said Tenybris, in the most cheerful voice he could muster.
“Happy? They should be!” Or’n said. “I’ve only read about these soul bondings in stories of your world's history. I never thought in a thousand years I’d be here to witness one. I’m quite emotional, if I must be honest.”
As Tenybris watched, a tear ran down his cheek. Or’n was more emotional than most other Walkers. Perhaps this was why he was their representative on Teralia. The People considered most of his race to be boring, but Or’n embraced the cheerful innocence of this world. His sense of humour and fun rivalled the Faer themselves, but Tenybris needed his knowledge, not his cheerful disposition.
“Or’n, I need a favour,” he said. “I need to get away for a while.” He saw the bemused expression cross Or’n’s face. Besides Olumé, none of the People ever left Teralia. They never needed to before. Or’n knew how much this world gave back to its people. The Lands gave happiness and contentment to all its inhabitants. No one here could be touched with any taint of greed or corruption because the Lands kept them pure. They literally had everything they wanted, which was why so many outsiders came here, to take advantage of their endless generosity.
“Olumé has asked me to get something for him, for Lynnaria,” Tenybris said. “It needs to be something unique, not of this world.”
Or’n relaxed. Now he understood why the xenophobic Tenybris should want to travel beyond the boundaries of his world.“Ah, so you need a wedding gift? Were the Dragons not enough, Tenybris? By the Maker! I've never seen a more magnificent display. The skies seemed on fire. How did you do that? I’ve always thought the greater Dragons were disdainful of the People. But there were no less than fifty golds in the skies tonight.”
Tenybris blushed. The Dragons had refused him when he’d asked for their help, for they were indeed disdainful and resentful of the People. The Eldar had used the Dragon horde as their tools of war ages earlier, in the time of the chaos wars. Thousands of their kind had died. Even though millennia had passed, a Dragon never gave up a grudge, so Tenybris did what he excelled at, forcing them to obey his will. It had taken little, just a threat he had no intention of acting on. They loved Olumé, and Tenybris released the eggs unharmed afterwards. His determination to impress Lynnaria overcame any regret he might have felt.
“I need something else, my friend. I’m sure Olumé and his bride appreciated my rather extravagant offering, but I need a more personal gift.”
Or'n looked at Tenybris with a bemused expression on his face. There was nothing off-world which could match the natural grace of the Peoples’ creations. Or’n imagined for a second another reason for Tenybris wanting to leave, dismissing the notion as nonsense. The three of them had planned every detail of this day together, and everyone knew Tenybris loved them both. He dismissed the thought as idle imagination.
“So where do you wish to go, Tenybris?” he asked. “I know several aboriginal worlds which might make something unique.”
Tenybris looked uncomfortable for a second, as if the prospect of leaving terrified him, but he quickly masked his expression.
“No, I doubt I need to travel any further than Sanctuary,” he replied, “I'm sure I'll be able find what I'm after there. I understand the markets are vast.”
Or’n still struggled to find a reason for Tenybris’s need to leave Teralia, but he nodded and smiled back.
“They are, my friend. Sanctuary is a centre of commerce and trade for thousands of races. I’m sure you will find something to your liking. When were you planning to leave?”
Tenybris glanced across at his friend and his new wife. “The happy couple leave for the Myaer Islands tomorrow. I will leave straight after they do.” He made a point of looking straight at Or’n. “I would be grateful if you mentioned nothing about this, my friend. I want this to be a surprise for them both.”
Or’n knew Tenybris lied. True, he’d drunk too much of the Faer folk’s ambrosia, along with a healthy amount of Dwelvish ale, but the Walkers possessed a perception beyond the people of this world. As he willed his head to clear, he sensed the giveaway tremor in Tenybris’s voice, and the quickened race of his heart. Unfortunately for him, accusing the best friend of their biggest ally of subterfuge would end his career. Especially when he had no proof any such underhanded intention existed.
Or’n couldn’t explain it. Tenybris wasn’t evil. Evil couldn’t exist on Teralia, as far as he knew. It was unique in that respect. This planet possessed a core of goodness which protected its inhabitants from any evil, either physical or spiritual.
There had been attempts by beings of ‘questionable’ nature, to persuade the innocents of this world to help them. Their goals were to further their own interests back on their own planets, through magical means. Olumé and his father devised a rather cunning way of dealing with them. The spell, fashioned into the fabric of the portal, allowed passage from Sanctuary to Teralia, but a subtle change overcame the beings passing through it. As soon as they arrived on the surface, the spell took effect, and robbed them of their ability to feel greed or avarice. They might travel with whatever corrupt plan they had in mind, but while they were here, the only thing they could ask for was food and drink. Or’n remembered overhearing several heated conversations between them after their return from an unexpected and fruitless visit to Teralia.
Now Tenybris would be the first person, besides Olumé, to travel beyond Teralia. Or’n was sure the link to this world which always kept Olumé safe from corruption would also protect Tenybris on his travels, so he nodded.
“My old friend,” he said, winking mischievously, “I will have you met when you arrive, and make sure a guide accompanies you at all times.”
Tenybris was about to object but Or’n continued, “Not for your protection, Tenybris. No one could harm a being as powerful as you, but the planet of Sanctuary is huge, and you would get lost in a heartbeat. I will also arrange accommodation fit for one of your status.”
Tenybris relaxed. “Thank you, Or’n, I hadn’t thought of that. I have been alive so long I know every inch of this world. It will be quite an experience I’m sure.”
“And one I will do my utmost to make sure you enjoy,” Or’n said, chuckling. “I mean, we wouldn’t want something to happen to one of our greatest friends now, would we?”
Tenybris laughed in return. “I leave myself in your hands then, my friend. I shall be here at noon tomorrow. Will that give you enough time?”
“Oh yes,” said Or’n, “I may even join you for a while. I just remembered an outstanding task I need to finish. It’s rather tedious, but I can mix it in with your visit, and give you a personal tour. Would this be acceptable?”
“I’d be delighted my friend,” said Tenybris, slightly shocked, but also relieved. “I have to admit, the prospect of leaving Teralia for the first time is daunting. It will be nice to have a friend along with me.”
“Well then, let’s drink to friendship,” boomed Or’n as he called for two more tankards. He intended to enjoy this party, but from now on he’d be keeping a watchful eye on his friend.