1st of Cylus Afternoon 719
The last few seasons felt as if a cat of nine had beaten the dust out of Rakvald’s hide. From Ildred’s treason, to his treatment at the hands of that Zealot. From his business falling apart at the fringes, to losing several of his prized pigs. Things were looking grim, and Rakvald needed a fresh perspective. If only Tobol was here to advise him. His old master had always been quick with an encouraging word to bring Rakvald’s spirits back up to snuff.
Hadn’t he mentioned troubles occurring to them before? In his previous incarnation? Rakvald thought on it for a few moments as he cleaned his shack, which’d fallen into a state. To be frank, it was a pig pen. He got it into his head to search for his old master’s journal. The master kept very meticulous records of every harvest and culling, of every farrowing and gelding. At least from what Rakvald could recall.
If he could figure out how they pulled themselves out of a rut in the past, perhaps it could shed some light on his current problems. Perhaps even add a bit of inspiration.
So as he was cleaning, he kept an eye out for any of the master’s old journals. He knew he had more than one, quite a few actually. And some turned up from a hidden compartment in the hut every now and again. These journals Rakvald had set aside for a rainy day, rainy days which rarely came to the Plenty. But that was just a turn of phrase. There was always too much to do and not enough time left for reading. Perhaps it was time he cracked one of those old journals.
So with a sigh, and setting his broom aside, he went back into his sleeping room. Once there, he cracked open several of the books. He flipped through them, scanning the pages for more than just mundane recordings of herd size, of Rakvald’s growth and development (which Rakvald was oddly touched by, that the man he held as his father thought of him as a son as well.)
He kept an eye on the pages for more than just these mundane passages of data, for something more substantial. Finally, after flipping through a few of the journals, he came to one that was quite unlike the others.
Inside it, were blank pages. He flipped through them, and eventually hit on something he could read. It was written in a spidery hand in Vahanic:
Rakvald’s herd is failing. There’s little we can do for the pigs, between the two of us. I’ve tried using regenerative runes and replacement organs, but nothing has taken. Our herd is on the verge of collapse.
There may be a ray of hope, however. Rakvald, the master of our herd, has decided it is time to risk the initiation into Hone. I’ve already granted him skill in graft, at which he has proven greatly adept. I can only hope the Hone spark will take to him equally as easily. But I have my doubts.
Graft is one thing. My friend Rakvald has great strength of stomach, and is able to keep down even rancid meats that would turn even a crocodile’s stomach. Yet Hone requires more than a strong constitution. He requires a keen and ready mind, an acuity beyond the normal. I’m not sure if he’s ready.
Rakvald flipped to the last passage, and found the next page devoid of words once more. Growling in consternation as he prowled his cabin, pacing, he flipped a few more pages, to find another passage.
The Lothar didn’t know what it was, but he suddenly felt drawn to the passages within that book. As he read the words, his memories came to life before him…
Zi’Da 54th 690
Rakvald laughed at Tobol, his white beard shaking. ”What have we to lose, old friend?”
His hands were on his hips, as he regarded Tobol. The man was far too cautious, especially when the stakes were high. But really, Rakvald was about at the end of his cycle. Sooner or later, he would be reborn. What matter, if he died in battle against the raging forces of ether, or in a fight against a beast of the depths?
Tobol was not so optimistic, nor reckless. As always, he was the voice of reason to temper Rakvald’s fire. ”You might not be reborn, for one. You might just become a Felwright. A wraith-like creature bent on corrupting the world and consuming ether. If that happens, you may never be reborn. So there’s that at stake. Then you might die, and I’m not all that interested in raising a squalling Lothar in the middle of my gray old age.”
”Ahah! And do you think I have any intention of creeping and crawling until my muscles are reduced to bone and my heart devoured by worms? This is going to happen, whether you like or not. You may as well give me what I want.”
Tobol sighed. His journal relayed that he was not happy about this, yet he knew how hopeless it was to argue against Rakvald when he had his mind set on a thing. Rakvald smiled as he read these passages. To read about his forebear was an great novelty. He wished to learn more. And wondered idly why the spark of Hone hadn’t stayed with him into his next incarnation.
He read on:
Thus Tobol began carving the runes along several points of Rakvald’s body. His hands, his feet, his head, his chest. And finally, one on his throat, between his the rune on his head and the one on his chest.
On his hands, dual runes of touch to bolster his tactile sensations. On his feet, were runes of strength, to hold up his massive frame. On his head, a rune of Focus, from the Lucis dialect. On his chest, a rune of Savoring, to compliment the Lotharro’s great appetite for all the good things in life. Finally, he came to the final rune, which would serve as his name. To this, his throat, he gave a specially carved rune around the base of sound.
All that done, and he described and explained each rune to Rakvald in turn, he began the process of the etheric transfer.
Here Rakvald’s memory went uncharacteristically fuzzy as he read. He didn’t remember any of this? Why not? He read on:
The etheric transfer went quickly. Too quickly. The energies entered evenly and cleanly, but there was something awry. Rakvald’s body began to glow from the infusion of runic magics. The runes glowed, burning with the heat of a star. Rakvald, cried out, in his memory and as he read, ”Ah! Ah! Tobol what have you done?!”
Within moments, Rakvald disintegrated, and the lights of his runes went dim. And from his body, arose a new Lothar.
I will give this new Lothar a home, and shield him from the knowledge of this terrible accident. I suppose I can bear raising him, after all Rakvald has done for me. But for this young Lotharro, as he grows in both knowledge and memory… I can bear the wrath of my old friend when he learns he did not die in battle. What I cannot bear, is the shame he will feel when he learns that he may be one of what his kind refer to as, the Hollow Men. So, Rakvald will not learn the arts of the Runewright. I will shield these pages from his eyes.
Only a Runewright bearing his blood will be capable of reading the blank passages, as I hide them along with this very text I write here. It will mean that Rakvald may never learn of how he passed, but that I can accept. I will do what I can to save our flokke in the meantime. Until he grows to his full measure, and saves our legacy.
Rakvald began to see on those formerly blank pages, as well as the passage he just read, sigils in a language he was not familiar with. Yet, somehow they called to him with their meanings. They were as cattlebrands, defining designations and gradations.
He shut the book with a forceful thud, and set it aside, trying to make sense of what he just read. Was he truly a Hollow Man? Cursed by Thetros? No, he didn’t feel so. Tobol was silly, he should have told him earlier.
Yet the seed of doubt had been planted in the back of Rakvald’s mind. And he couldn’t shake that old superstition, coming up again and again.
When next he looked in the twisted bronze mirror on his wall, he saw glowing runes on his neck, displaying his true name in the absence of a rune signifying sound.