This is a story. It is a story about the past of Pannithor. It is even a re-interpretation of a well-known story. But is it true? Well, I’ll leave that to you, the reader, to decide.
The story is set in the past, a time so long ago that it is almost lost beyond memory. A time when deeds now considered impossible, were commonplace.
It was December 2019 and my Aunt Ada had come to stay with us for Christmas (a truly remarkable deed I think you’ll agree, that is almost impossible to conceive now). With a house full for the festivities, we had given our second spare bedroom over to our visitor, who was happy to share it with my hobby supplies.
Aunt Ada joined us for breakfast on the first morning of her visit and I asked how she had slept.
“Very well thank you.” she replied. “Although I woke rather early and spent the time reading one of your murder mystery novels.”
“Oh, which one?”
“The one about the Fenulian Mirror in that big green hardback you have. The one with the strange title: Kings of War.”
“I’m not sure that that’s a murder mystery, Aunt,” I said, somewhat taken aback.
“Oh, don’t be silly, of course it is. I mean the story is very well crafted but the author has left some cunning clues for us readers.”
“Yes, of course. You remember the story?”
“Well yes, of course, but why don’t you remind me,” I suggested, still very confused.
“Alright. The story centres on Calisor, the most brilliant Elf who ever trod the land of Pannithor. Calisor resided at the palace of Therennia Adar, when a new human envoy arrived at the court. The envoy was accompanied by his family, including his daughter, Elinathora, a remarkable and strong willed woman, who had taken care of her father and siblings since the death of her mother.
“Calisor fell in love at first sight with Elinathora but she rejected his advances. In his misery, Calisor then fell in with Oskan, a ‘Celestian’ or semi-ethereal being. Oskan was evil through and through but disguised his true nature and offered to help Calisor. Oskan suggested that Calisor prepare a powerful magical artefact, the Fenulian Mirror, which he said would beguile Elinathora and make her accept his advances.
“For several years, Calisor ploughed all of his effort, and huge resources, into collecting the magical ingredients needed, and then set about making the mirror, under Oskan’s guidance. Oskan explained that Calisor must get Elinathora to look into the mirror, but that he must not allow her to look into the mirror once a golden bird had started to sing.
“Having completed the mirror, Calisor persuaded Elinathora to look into the mirror. On looking into the mirror, Elinathora was persuaded to return Calisor’s love, but he was so enraptured by achieving his heart’s desire that he failed to hear the golden bird singing. The images in the mirror then changed and Elinathora reacted with horror at the new visions, screaming out, and Calisor realised that he had lost his love. Elinathora lashed out with her fist, smashed the mirror, and fell to the floor, dead, with a shard of the mirror embedded in her heart.
“But the real mischief had only just begun. The twisted magical energies released from Oskan’s design, led to the destruction or splitting apart of the Celestians and to the God War in which many of the benevolent Celestians, the Shining Ones, were killed. When the success of the Wicked Ones seemed assured, only Domivar stood between Oskan and final success. Oskan sensed victory, but unknown to him, Domivar wielded the sword of his father, Mescator, which had embedded within it a fragment of the Fenulian Mirror. None knew from where the fragment came, but when the shard scratched Oskan’s skin, his power left him and Domivar was able to triumph, seize Oskan’s axe and use it to cleave a mighty pit in the ground. Even as Domivar fell dead from the exertion, the pit widened and sucked all of the Wicked Ones into the Abyss.
“It seemed that peace would endure once the Wicked Ones were trapped. But then the cold came. The evil one called Winter, reputed to be the Ice Maiden Shakara, a Wicked One that had escaped from the Abyss, unleashed her freezing weather across the world. Pannithor was once more plunged into war, which only ended when Winter was defeated by Valandor.”
“Yes, I know all this, but I don’t see where the murder mystery comes in,” I said.
“Surely, you noticed the inconsistences and clues that the author has spread within the account?” asked Aunt Ava.
“Firstly, consider the character of Elinathora. We are told that she is strong willed and independent, yet she appears to be content to remain in her father’s household to look after him and her siblings, even when her father’s position would have allowed him to appoint retainers to this role. This is not the act of the strong willed and independent woman that she is reputed to be.
“Secondly, the actions of Calisor on first meeting Elinathora are highly suspect. We are told that she was strong willed, loyal and independent but we are nowhere told that she was beautiful or even attractive. How is it therefore that Calisor fell in love with her from the moment that he first saw her? She was an unremarkable woman from a different race. We might imagine him falling in love after getting to know her, but love at first sight? I don’t think so.
“Next, if it was Oskan’s intent to unleash the power of the Mirror, why did he warn Calisor not to let Elinathora watch beyond the singing of the golden bird? The book’s author even helpfully points out this inconsistency in the text, suggesting that it baffles those who study the tale.
“And then, we come to the shattering of the mirror. Have you ever seen a mirror break? Elinathora strikes the mirror with her fist. All of the energy in the blow is directed away from her and yet we are meant to believe that a shard of glass flew backwards towards the source of the blow with sufficient force to pierce her heart. This is clearly impossible as it breaks the law of the conservation of momentum and is one of the clearest clues left to help us.
“Next we have another clue very helpfully pointed out to us by the author. We are told that none knew where the fragment of the mirror came from that was embedded within Domivar’s weapon. It would have been very easy to have simply come up with a plausible explanation for its origin but, I think, the author is keen to engage us in the mystery and gifts us this clue.
“And finally, once the God War is over and all of the Wicked Ones confined in the Abyss, one somehow escapes to become Winter. This is surely unbelievable. How is it that one is able to escape and not the others? If it was possible, surely the author would have included greater detail about this miraculous event. The paucity of such detail suggests that the author means for us to question the event’s veracity.”
“Wow,” I said. “So, if it’s a murder mystery, who dunnit?”
“Well, for that we will have to go right back to the beginning of the story and question the motives of the key individuals.
“We are told elsewhere in the book that the race of men were aware of their mortality and its grim grip on their destiny and that they were driven hard to escape the embrace of death. Elinathora, of course, would have been faced with her own mortality when her mother died while she was young. This will surely have been a motivation to try to escape her inevitable future. I suspect that this initiated her interest in magical resurrection and rejuvenation. This also perhaps explains her continuing to act as the matriarch of her father’s household when surely her independent nature would have rebelled against this constraint. The routine nature of this undemanding role would have given her the time she wanted to indulge her magical research. How she must have delighted when her father was appointed as envoy to the Elves, those beings possessing both long life and great magical knowledge.
“Elinathora will have heard, of course, of Calisor, the most brilliant Elf. Doubtless, she saw in him an opportunity to expand her own magical knowledge and considered how best to approach him. Her magical studies will have assisted her in this regard and I imagine that it was some form of befuddling or love spell that she used on the unsuspecting Elf in order to make him fall in love with her at first sight. This is surely the only reasonable explanation for this otherwise inexplicable event?
“But, at this stage, the evil Oskan intervened. He saw in Calisor’s besotted state an opportunity to advance his own designs. He approached Elinathora and proposed an arrangement to benefit them both. Oskan would assist Elinathora in her magical research if she would assist him by rejecting Calisor. This was an uneasy alliance at best and Oskan had no intention of keeping his side of the bargain, considering Elinathora expendable after her usefulness had expired.
“The plan went beautifully to plan. Rejected by Elinathora, Calisor readily agreed to Oskan’s plan to build the Fenulian Mirror, harnessing both his skill and vast resources, that would have been well-beyond Oskan’s reach, in the process. Meanwhile, Elinathora had been expanding her magical knowledge and had prepared her own addition to the magical process that would deliver her great power and long life. We can only speculate on how she convinced Oskan to modify the spell to include her addition, but, in any event, Oskan had no intention of allowing her to succeed.
“When the Mirror had been completed, all was set for the final chapter of the saga. Oskan told Calisor how to proceed but intended to halt the magical process once his aim had been achieved and before Elinathora’s addition could be enacted. To that end, he inserted a warning in the form of a song from a golden bird into the spell and instructed Calisor to prevent Elinathora from viewing beyond that point. This, of course, explains his otherwise inexplicable warning to Calisor.
“Unfortunately for Oskan, he had underestimated Elinathora and she had foreseen and prepared for his treachery. As the spell progressed, she pretended to fall in love with Calisor. He was, naturally, overcome with emotion and in his excitement failed to heed the call of the golden bird, thus allowing the spell to continue to the benefit of Elinathora, who screamed, not in despair but in triumph.
“With the spell complete, Oskan would learn that he had been deceived and Elinathora, although now blessed with great magical power, would be no match for him. She therefore faked her own death using a previously-concealed shard of glass and pig’s blood. In his distraught state, Calisor was easily convinced of her death and failed to notice the complete physical impossibility of a shard from the Mirror having sufficient energy to penetrate her heart.
“Oskan might have guessed the truth, given time, but he was immediately engaged in the God War and as time went by and there was no sign of Elinathora, he presumed that she really had perished. In fact, Elinathora used the time of the God War to good effect, lying low and learning how to control her new power. It suited her purpose to have the Celestians destroy each other. However, as the war progressed, it began to appear that the Wicked Ones, led by Oskan, might triumph, and this did not suit her plans. She therefore planted a shard from the Fenulian Mirror, that she had secreted all those years before, in the blade gifted by Mercator to Domivar. Her scheme worked beyond her wildest dream as, not only was Oskan destroyed by Domivar, but the Abyss was created and swallowed all of the remaining Wicked Ones. And so you see, it was Elinathora who was ultimately responsible for the death of Oskan, and countless others.
“With the Wicked Ones incarcerated and the Shining Ones greatly weakened, Elinathora was at last able to reveal herself in her new guise as Winter. Unaware that she had survived all of these years, an alternative explanation for Winter’s appearance was needed, and thus the unlikely story was born of the escape of Shakara from the Abyss. Elinathora, in the guise of Winter, nearly succeeded in enslaving the world in her glaciers, only finally being destroyed by Valandor.
“So, you can see that it really was an epic mystery story but the author kindly left us several clues to unravel the truth which explains all of the little anomalies in the tale.”
I have to say that my Aunt’s explanation amazed me, but as I thought about it more and more, it made great sense. It also made me keen to re-read other parts of the Kings of War core rulebook. After we had said goodbye to Aunt Ada at the end of the holidays, I got the book out again. You know what? The story of the origin of the Abyssal Dwarfs had always seemed a bit odd to me and now I began to understand why, but the tale of the Zarak and Diew Deception will have to wait for another time.