The storms of fire and water had stopped for five days. At the top of the highest point of the plateau sat two individuals, a young man dressed in the faded clothing of a fisherman, and an old man dressed in dirty, ragged robes.
"What is to be done now?" asked Devon, breaking the silence as they stared down the cliff. "The people cannot stay here. The land is too harsh, too craggy, and the fire mushrooms have claimed many victims."
"I know, lad," said Mythran. "There is naught we can do to reclaim the land below, it is lost to the floods of the Titan's rage."
"I still fear this, life without the Titans. We have lived with them for so long, they gave us so much stability."
"Aye, but they took much also. Think of those claimed by the madness of sorcery, those lost in the initiation rites of the Theurgists and the Necromancers, and those killed by the mad Tempest, Mordea. My friend, I see we will be better off without them."
"Try telling all those people down there. They're scared," he said, as he made a sweeping gesture with his hands, indicating the crowds of people below.
"Come with me, my friend," said Mythran, as he jumped down the mountainside with remarkable agility and began striding up the path, deftly avoiding the deadly red mushrooms.
Devon, even though he was much younger, found it difficult to keep up with Mythran. For an old man with a crooked back he was indeed fast. With his staff in both hands he looked like a cripple, and many of the Pagans gave him plenty of space, almost stepping onto the mushrooms in the haste to get out of the way of this odd old man dressed in dirty brown robes.
He came to a halt outside the doorway of his home, and waited for a few second to allow Devon to hasten to his side. Then Mythran stepped in first, disappearing as he walked through the door. Devon looked about and throwing caution to the wind ran in after the old man.
Standing by the staircase in his interdimensional abode, Mythran spoke the words, "An Sanct Lor" and a chest appeared before him. Unlike the other wizards of Pagan, Mythran had not drawn power from any of the four titans. He was a thaumauturgist, a follower of the fifth element, Ether, and that element was now best represented on Pagan.
"I found this chest in a cave in the plateau, surrounded by piles of skeletons. There was a scroll with it, it was destroyed when I read it, but it said that only one man may open this chest, one who will pay a great role in Pagan's future."
"You could not open it?" said Devon.
"No," said Mythran. "But it is fairly obvious that person is you, Devon. You have great powers."
"I lost my powers..."
"Don't be a fool!" said Mythran. "Have you learned nothing? You don't need the Titans. The Titans made this place a backwater world. Now they are powerless. This is the Age of Mankind. You, Devon, have the power to shape Pagan's future... for better or worse."
Silently Devon knelt before the chest, and began to open it.
"It's a key," said Devon, as he crouched by the chest. "A very large key."
"Indeed," said Mythran, almost unconcerned.
"It has these strange glowing green runes on it."
"Yes..." said Mythran, as if he were growing tired of this conversation. "Those runes are Zealan in origin."
Just then there was a whooshing sound behind the two, and a man dressed in chain mail and wearing a blue tabard with the symbol of a gust of window appeared behind the two.
"Brother Xavier!" said Devon, "Mythran did not give thee permission to enter his domain."
"As your equal on the council, I thought it only fair that I should be present at whatever discussions you and... Mythran..." his voice lowered as he said the name, "hold. You made it no secret that you were meeting here. I heard every word you said on the plateau, the air brought it to me. Now I make no bones about my presence."
Since the move to the plateau, many of the lands leader-types had began stamping their authority. There were three who were respected or feared enough to be "elected" to the council, Xavier, now leader of the Theurgists, Devon, as Tempest of Tenebrae and Beren, as the highest ranking Sorcerer who had survived the trials of the last three weeks. The Necromancer had not been accounted for, it was presumed he had died on his "consecrated" earth.
Each of the leaders commanded an almost equal number of followers, but Devon had the majority as most of the Tenebraen people still respected his judgement but there were plenty of Sorcerers and Theurgists, and the Sorcerers still commanded a few of their powers which had been stored in talismans before the loss of the Titans. Devon seemed to spend most of his time keeping Xavier and Beren away off each other's backs.
"We have found this key," said Devon finally, "Mythran thinks it is Zealan."
"Indeed," said Xavier.
"Call Beren," said Mythran, as both Devon and Xavier gave him shocked glances. "Let your council hear what I have to say. We shall ajourn until Last Ebb."
The darkness hung over Mythran's house as a huge number of refugees began to set up camp. On the western side of the plateau the Camp of Air was set. The theurgists lay in the ragged tents and bedrolls they had saved from the floods of Argentrock Isle. They were relatively safe in a square formation which was empty of fire mushrooms. In the center of the plateau the residents of Tenebrae lit campfires and began to cook torax ribs. Their herds had been killed in the great firestorms of Pyros, and they had brought as much meat as they could carry in their great Exodus to the plateau. Then to the east on a high mountain the Sorcerers, separated from the rest of the refugees, went about their mysterious ways. The people of Tenebrae frightened children who asked too many questions with tales of the hideous rituals they speculated Beren's red robed men were concocting, hidden behind the mountain. But tonight they frightened them with tales of what the three leaders were doing in the house of the mysterious Mythran.
Inside the house, at the dinner table, Devon, Beren and Xavier sat, the Theurgist next to Devon, and the Sorcerer at the other end of the table.
"Where is that old madman?" asked Xavier impatiently. "He said be here at Last Ebb."
"I think you'll find," Beren said, "that like we sorcerers if he did not wish us here... we would not be here... alive that is."
"Not all men are as merciless as you sorcerers," said Xavier with clenched teeth.
"Nor are all men as weak and helpless as theurgists," said Beren with a wry grin on his face.
"Gentlemen!" said Devon. "Gentlemen calm down!"
Just then there was the sound of a bell ringing, and Mythran stood before them.
"You would do well to listen to Lord Devon," grinned Mythran, and he rose his staff and intoned the words, "In Mani Ylem!"
A great banquet appeared before the three leaders, a meal unlike any they had eaten since they had arrived at the plateau. There were foreign foods, exotic looking meats and strange fruits. Over to the right were cheeses, mushrooms and large torax ribs. Mythran sat down and began filling his plate with something he called "Potato Salad". Devon began slicing cheese, and Xavier helped himself to some mushrooms.
"Very impressive, wizard." said Beren, who refused to eat. "But why did you summon us here?"
"I'm sure you are aware that today Devon found a key."
"Yes," said Beren. "I've been told."
"What I have been doing," said Mythran, "is testing out a theory."
Beren, losing patience, hit the table with his fist and knocked a goblet to the ground, "Get on with it, mage. I lose all patience."
Xavier opened his mouth, but Mythran silenced him with a look, "It will unlock a great door in the plateau which leads to an unexplored part of Pagan."
"I've heard of such a door," said Devon. "Something in Bentic's books about a great valley."
"'Tis true, there is a valley behind the door." said Mythran, "A valley of great beauty which the Titans created as a demonstration of their powers. There is the purest of waters, the hottest of firewood for cooking, the purest air and solid, unspoiled earth. It is said that this was once a resting place of holy sanctuary for the Titans, where they swore to leave their arguments behind."
"A valley..." said Xavier. "If such a valley exists."
"Yes," said Mythran. "We Pagans could settle it."
Devon said, "Then tomorrow we shall try the key in the door."