446b100e6863168295c513511ac6827bThe fire was still going by the time that the food had been eaten. Traveller was sitting on one of the bigger logs as he finished off a tankard and the put it to one side. He cleared the kids off of the log he was using and then stood up on it and cleared his throat.

“Well, now that we are all fed and watered, and comfortable, I feel that I should regal you all with a story.”

“Adventure to the West. Adventure to the West!” Evan called out to him.

“King of the Broken Spire!” Someone else called out from the other side of the fire.

“Sorry young uns, but I’ve got a tale in mind that I want to tell you all. And I hoping that it’ll be a really special performance, but I will need a helper.” He jumped off the log and half pranced, half jumped over the Rana and grabbed her hand and pulled her up.

“Wait, what? But you’re the story teller.”

“Yes, but you can make the story come to life!”

Rana gave him this confused look. “What?”

He bent down and whispered into her ear. “I want you to create illusions. I’ll tell the story, and you can create the story in images. You can do illusions, right?”

“I’m okay at them, I guess.”

He gave her a grin. And then they were back at the log and Traveller jumped on the log. “You all know Rana, we’re going to show you what she has been learning at that fancy school up in the city. See if we can’t bring a bit of life to the tale ‘Lights in the North’”

He threw out his hands to the audience, some of whom cheered, whereas others murmured, and the children frowned as they didn’t recognise the title. But all of the audience fell silent as the Traveller crouched and brought his fingers to his lips.

“Ages ago, even before our grandfathers, grandfathers, grandfathers time, this land was divided into the seven kingdoms. Six of those kingdoms are the kingdoms that we know today, although their fair lands have changed in that time.”

Rana sat standing just behind him on the log, and moved her hands. Garth said it was a failing that she preferred to do her illusions with her hands. She believed that it made controlling them easier. She created the images of time running backwards, over the fire so that everyone could see it.

People’s mouths opened. The children seemed delighted with the images playing out over the fire as it shifted from the sands of time into the map of the kingdoms that Rana remembered from one of the many books in Garth’s office. It only had six kingdoms on it, as the maps she had seen all ended at the mountain range in the north. However there were murmurs and side glances from the older people. She spotted her parents beaming at her and that made her glow inside a little.

Traveller continued in the low carrying voice that he had started in. “But the seventh kingdom, the seventh kingdom that is no more now, used to be filled with people. The lands were fair, as fair as those of our dear Cilion today. The days were long, and their harvest plentiful. They lived off the lands and worked with it in perfect harmony.”

Images of farmers and work and bountiful harvest came easily from Rana’s imagination. The better the imagination of the caster, the better the illusions which came out.

“The greatest treasure of this kingdom, was not the fruits that they produce, nor was it gold or gems which gleam and steal the eyes of the greedy. It was the lights which lit up the sky at night which the greatest sight that a man could see. The dark night sky would be torn asunder with the green of the new trees, the most royal of the purples, and azure of the balmy sea. It was not every night that this happened, but when it did, all the citizens would sit out the night under the stars, and fall asleep to the music of the universe.”

This was more difficult, but she realised that Traveller descriptions were very specific, and so she could make very good approximations. People were too enthralled by the story and the images presented to them to question how accurate they were.

“Life for them was like a dream. But like all dreams, they come to an end. This end came in the whispers, creeping along in the dark corners, bubbling in the streams. From the darkest edges of life came the end of life: A deadly plague.

“It started small, a few coughs, a few sniffles. Just another winter cold. But then everyone was coughing, everyone was hot with a fever. The medicine rooms were overstretched as village after village just fell ill, one after the other. Even the medicine men and women began to fall ill, dropping into the sick beds just like everyone else.”

Rana was beginning to enjoy creating all the illusions for the story. It wasn’t one that she had heard before either, but it was a very interesting tale.

“And it didn’t stop at the people. All the animals on the farms fell sick as well, and it wasn’t long before even the land itself got sick as the crops wilted and died, and it spread to the trees, the hedges, even the grass. Nothing escaped from the touch. It was the first, and only plague that our green earth has ever seen.”

“Nothing survived its touch, and it wasn’t long before the bodies started to pile up, and pile up high. Even the earth seemed to cry. It’s said, that all throughout the pandemic, even though it was winter, and winter was the best season for the lights, not once did they light up the night sky with their brilliance.”

“People tried to go up to help them, but the people of the nation were wise, and they knew that they could not let the plague spread to any other nation, so they built a great barrier of their wagons across the pass into the land, and put up signs to warn others of the devastation. Even so, people tried to cross the barrier, tried to go into the kingdom.”

“And the land itself rebelled against them. Earthquakes started to shake the land as the earth seem to split in two and the great mountains rose out of the earth to split the sickened kingdom off from the rest of the land.”

“People that lived in the North could do nothing except watch the sky, but the northern lights never showed again, and people mourned.”

“It took people a decade to find a path through the deep mountains, covered in snow and treacherous as they were. But eventually they came into the place which had once been the kingdom. Nothing remained there but a wasteland. Everything seemed to reek of death and all the colour had leaked out of the place. It was as if the entire place had been covered in grey snow, and so it was named Ashfall, and whatever name that the kingdom had before fell into dust and memories, and thus the dead kingdom came to be, and the lights of the North disappeared into memory as well.”

Rana let her last illusion fade into nothingness over the fire as silence descended over the village.

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