After a voyage across the northern seas of Mareos, Mirrortac lands on a desolate and strange beach from where he is transported into another dimension through the work of an ominous mist. The name of this astral “world” is Hopocus, where deception is the norm. He first encounters the Enchanted Blue Forest — a fir forest at the edge of a coastline where trees are blue, casting orange shadows, and birds fly upside down. A misted landscape leads from this forest to Fog Peak and the Castle of Hopocus that is inhabited by a sorcerer and sorceress, and their many prisoners, among them a wizard and his assistant.
Lying between the castle and the depths of Raven’s Chasm is the Wood of Forgetfulness where the souls of the dead roam in their eternal circles, having lost their minds and any sense of direction. The wood’s other denizens — deva-hogs — are creatures to avoid. Mirrortac’s mission is to cross these woods to reach the Well of Lost Memories, but how can he succeed if soon after entering the woods, he loses all memory of his purpose? How can he survive being attacked by the deva-hogs? Or joining the souls of the dead in their march of despair?
The flaming fires of Vulcan’s Moat further prevents any escape to a higher astral plane where things are a lot better for souls and those still in body such as the erfin and his friends.
Chapter 1: Yidrogh ― land of bogs
The stench was unbearable. Mirrortac’s paws were tied behind his back and he was up to his neck in it – a muddy cold green slime. What a way to treat a distant cousin, although there was the small matter of the theft of these people’s most treasured and sacred object – the Werdstone. But he blamed Phantac for that. It was he who set him on another mission without fully explaining the consequences of such an action. It had all seemed an easy matter from the First Heaven where the hard realities of life in the physical plane were mere abstractions. In the here and now, hardly able to move in a bog hole, and nauseous from inhaling the smell of the putrid plant matter, the First Heaven was fast fading into dreamland.
The First Heaven – the gateway of the river of light. Mirrortac thought he was dead when he saw Phantac amid the mists and changing rainbow of colours that surrounded him. He had only just arrived after leading many souls across from Hopocus where he had triumphed over the sorceress, Helok, and her partner, the sorcerer, Krak. Hopocus was a lower astral realm – closest to all physical worlds. Mirrortac’s people, the erfins – a furry race of cat-like people – knew Hopocus as the Netherworld where demons and all creatures and beings of darkness dwelt. The erfins had believed that this world was beyond the great mountain that guarded their valley. But it took the courage and curiosity of one erfin to prove that they were wrong. Mirrortac never knew then that the journey would eventually lead him through many worlds where he would encounter various races of people and come into contact with beings of both darkness and light. And all the while, he was inevitably drawn towards Hopocus where he completed the prophesy of an ancient legend wherein it said: A great warrior will return from the outer world, bringing with him his sacred silver staff – the Staff of Thaum – which he will use to conquer the dark rulers of Hopocus and lead many out of slavery into a new life.
Phantac had seemed like something out of a dream – his fur was a dazzling white, and yet he was clearly an erfin. His eyes were like brilliant emeralds, glistening. There was an immense air of calm about him as one came to expect of such spiritual beings, but it was no longer just a sense, but a palpable feeling. When he smiled, it lit up his whole being, and his voice was gentle and strangely familiar. Then there was the First Heaven itself.
Mirrortac struggled with the memories of what he had seen. How does anyone describe something that is always changing? Landscapes were in a constant state of flux – transforming themselves from vast fields of yellow flowers to deep valleys dotted with fir trees and populated with herds of strange animals. Feeding into this was an immense river of golden light, glistening with millions of tiny flecks as it tumbled out in a curtain from a gateway above. The river broke up into hundreds of streams that in turn split into hundreds and thousands more. And each one of the streams was tendered by god-like beings who shone with the brilliance of suns, dipping their hands into the golden soup and directing threads of it into the vast reaches of the Greater Sky where suns and worlds bathed in the void.
It was during their discussions surrounded by all this beauty that Phantac revealed this new mission. ‘What? Can I nought stay here?’ Mirrortac had pleaded.
Then Phantac smiled with that peaceful, patient expression. ‘An incarnate being can nought remain in a spiritual domain. This is nought your time to give up the body,’ he explained.
‘I wish to return then to my kin in the Faug Forest. Have I nought done with my mission? Send another!’ Mirrortac retorted.
‘You will have help on this mission, but you are the only one who can begin …’ Phantac cut short what he was about to say. ‘It is your tasking.’
Mirrortac sighed with resignation as he acknowledged the responsibility.
‘Then what task must I do?’
Phantac waved his paws in the air and opened them, revealing three strangely marked stones.
‘These three stones are in the likeness of three stones of great power – one for each of the Greater worlds that are linked in energies and empowered from a fourth stone – the crystal Werdstone.’
Mirrortac’s brows lifted. ‘Werdstone? The Werd has a stone named for it?’
‘Yea, the name of the Werd is lost in your erfin past. You shall soon re-discover this lost past and the great controlling power of this crystal stone. It is filled with the Werd – the secret knowledge of the Ancients. You must take this stone, but you shall face a great enemy who assumes the mask of god to your ancestors. It will be your task to protect the stone and find the other three stones of destiny, and destroy them with the controlling Werdstone. The three stones are each named Oashu – the keeper stone of the Greater world of Mareos; Einuk – keeper of Nerthule; and Darm – keeper of Thenigmas. Only when you have all three and the Werdstone can they be destroyed and the task completed.’
‘And why must these stones be destroyed? What matter to the worlds are such stones?’ Mirrortac queried.
Phantac struggled with the burden of explaining. ‘The secret knowledge of the Ancients includes much of the lesser and higher magics that are dangerous in the hands of the unwise. When the stones are destroyed all the spells shall be broken, and your erfin descendants trapped in the bodies of animals on Nerthule shall be released and allowed to continue their lives in Eol. If the spells are not broken then they will soon be forever trapped in the animal closest to erfin likeness, and many more will be bound from all the worlds.’