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The Wanderer and the Whitestone (Arkene)

Legends of the lands
By: Finlandia (2009 Legend Contest Winner)

Far to the north, where the forests of the world drop away and all turns to silver ice, the land itself turns hostile to even the most daring of magi. Only the most hardy and wise can travel through the tundra unscathed, and only at the bidding of the ancient and wild creatures that dwell in this endless white realm. Such a mysterious remote landscape as this is fated to spawn myths and legends of the most fantastical kind. But this tale is no myth; passed down through the ages, whispered from parent to child, the tale of the Wanderer and the Whitestone, the Breaking of the Curse is but one thread that weaves the rich tapestry of the past...
     
      Long ago, in the heart of the First Wizard War the magi Archex, by the will of some ill wishing god or beast, was cast to wander the oceans of the world, never to find rest or home. Many and great were his adventures, but Archex always escaped, through his own quick wit and the fierceness of his white dragon, Celeste. For these two had been together for all their long years. Wherever one looked, it would be hard to have found two who loved each other more than this man and his dragon, raised to adulthood by Thordor the Hermit, that hero from the Ages of Myth. Neither war nor fear could trouble them as long as they were together. At the height of the War, Chance blew the winds north, and the grey ship of the Wanderer was cast upon the ice, in a fog so thick that it could not be turned back by Celeste's fire. The air was unbelievably cold; to fly too far above the ground would freeze even the thick hide and hot blood of a dragon. Thus, Archex and Celeste wandered, lost, the very warmth of memory stolen away. Blundering through the fog, they forgot the Keep, forgot their friends. Possessed of a strange compulsion, they headed to the furthest North. But they were not afraid. For Celeste the Fair was brave even for a dragon, and she had confidence in her fierce golden flames, and the Kyn blade of her companion. Likewise the pure heart of Archex, most just and noble of the heroes of that age, was untouched by any shadow of fear or evil. His soul was as steady and clear as his white eyes, even in this most bewildering of places.
     
      For all was not lost. The Wanderer was sheltered and hidden in the fog. No blizzard touched him, and the wild ice gryphons heeded him not, even if he wandered straight through their nests. Then, when an unnumbered count of months had passed, the end of their unwitting journey was close at hand. At the uttermost point of the north, where one can get no colder and no further, Archex and Celeste stood before an ancient beast of legend, the monarch of the ice. Like a phoenix, he was, but where there should have been fire there was ice, and he was larger than the largest of dragons. Even Celeste was humbled before this great one. The phoenix offered them freedom from their curse of wandering, and promised to send them home. One of them...
     
      What he offered came at a terrible price. He would send Celeste home, gifted with new powers and new wisdom, only if Archex the Wanderer would give his life to the ice. Because of his pure, consuming love of his dragon, the magi agreed. But who is man to decide the fate of a dragon? For Celeste, blinded by grief and wearied by toil, forced her companion aside and gave herself to the great ice phoenix. Archex cried out, stricken, but the die was cast. The earth began to rumble and shake, and the sky was filled with flocks of phoenixes, icy like their lord, but as small as their fiery cousins. Even as tears spilled from the magi’s eyes, the icy land around him began to fade, and the Keep, his home, swirled into being behind him. His tears fell onto the tundra, turned to ice as hard as diamonds, ice that would never melt. The last Archex saw of that alien world was his most beloved companion, turned into a pillar of white stone. And there she would stand ever after…
     
      The aftermath of this tale is still with us. The smaller ice phoenixes returned to the world of the magi that day, and still make companions of the worthy among them. Archex became a hero, and with his new unrivalled powers he ended the First Wizard War. But his sorrow never left him. It is said that, if a magi goes to the furthest north then they may see, rising from the mist like the prow of a white ship, a white pillar of stone, and cluster of white diamonds, glowing softly beneath the shimmering aurora of the northern sky. There, so rumours say, the shades of Celeste and Archex the Wanderer can be seen, embracing lovingly for ever more. It is said that they will appear only to the worthiest of magi, and that they will teach many secrets. Of the great ice phoenix, lord of the ice who demanded this sacrifice, no tale tells…