Book of Enlightment 1,2 & 3

By Raul

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“Wake up, Artemus” a voice whispered.

The voice didn’t belong to anyone Artemus knew. It was soft and soothing as if it were caressing his face while it gently slipped into his ears and alerted his senses to the presence of a stranger.

“Wake up.” The voice repeated, this time firmer in its tone.

Artemus opened his eyes. They were made of lead. Artemus hadn’t managed a good night’s rest in several days. He had been tracking a small pack of wolves that had been ravaging the local cattle in his home town of Lunnon, a rural community on the outskirts of the northern realm of Pintat. His eyelids collapsed and his head nodded forward succumbing to the weight of his dreary eyes.

“Wake up!” The voice yelled.

Artemus, now fully alert, rose to his feet. His left hand comes up to guard his face and his right hand grasps the hunter’s knife holstered onto his belt. His right leg drags backwards to support his weight as Artemus squats into a fighting stance, prepared to fight off any rogue thief looking to plunder his weapons and purse.

His hands fall and shoulders relax. Artemus is surprised to find that he is surrounded by a deep, white mist. He can barely see anything further than an arm’s length in front of him.

“What is this?” He mutters to himself.

“Wake up, Artemus.” The voice reappears. It is a woman’s voice.

The mist surrounding Artemus slowly recedes revealing a woman cloaked in pearl-white robes, lined with gold. Her hood covers her face and eyes. Artemus can only make out her pale skin and pressed lips. She is holding a large silver key emitting a glimmering blue light in her hands.

“Who are you?” He demanded.

The mist returned, this time engulfing him completely. He was blinded by the white haze, unable to determine up from down or left from right.

“WAKE UP!” the voice screamed. Artemus felt the grasp of two hands on his shoulders, aggressively shaking him back and forth. This time he was unable to react or move his body. He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. The shaking stopped.

When he opened his eyes he was surprised to find that he was lying on a cabin floor. His best friend, Xedho, was leaning over him with a concerned look on his face.

“You alright there, champ?” Xedho asked.

“The woman in the mist.” Artemus groaned, swiftly sitting himself up “Where-”

“Woah!” Xedho cut him off. “The old lady’s herbs must be taking effect.” He gestured for Artemus to lay back down.

“Lay back down, Artemus. You’ve been sleeping for three days. You shouldn’t make any sudden movements. You’re still healing.”

Artemus notices his arms and midsection wrapped in bandages.

“Those are fresh. Did it myself this morning. You’re lucky to be alive. How did you manage to kill an entire pack of wolves anyways? There must have been at least a dozen of them.”

Artemus furrows his brow. He doesn’t remember ever finding the pack, let alone killing them and making it back to the village.

“You don’t have to answer that. You can tell me over a drink later. For now, get some rest. I got a new job for you when you’re ready. You owe me for staining my floors.”

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{The Book of Enlightenment Chapter 2: A Flash in the Sky}

Artemus enjoyed gazing at the moon. It gave him a sense of peace. Amongst a lonely sea of darkness, the moon dares to shine and be seen. He envied the moon. Part of the reason he devotes his life to hunting is to avoid being seen. He spent more time in the mountains or amongst the trees than with his fellow villagers. A village can’t judge a man they do not see.

The air was particularly still that night. The only sound was the distant crashing of waves on the coastal cliffs. The emptiness of the night made space for the thought demons to gnaw away at Artemus’ mind. It had been weeks since he dreamt of the lady in the mist. He knew it was a dream, but it didn’t seem like an ordinary dream. It was as vivid as any memory. It was also the first time Artemus could recollect having a dream. As bizarre as it was, the part that puzzled Artemus the most was the feeling it gave him. A feeling that hasn’t escaped him since that night. A sense of imminent danger.

Xedho noticed his friend sitting under the spruce tree outside staring aimlessly at the night sky. He had just finished making some tea and walked outside with two cups in his hand.

“How are you feeling?” Xedho called out from the cabin.

“I’m fine.” Artemus replied, still staring at the moon.

"Glad to hear it.” Xedho walked towards his distracted friend. Artemus had never had an amnesic episode before as far as he knew. Xedho understood it must be taking quite a toll on his mental state.

“Hey, I appreciate all of your help with the bakery. My family enjoys having you around and the new oven you built has given us the space to make twice as many batches than before." Xedho gave a reluctant smile. “Care for some tea?”

“Do you ever get bored?” Artemus replied, apathetic of Xedho’s gratitude.

“Bored?” Xedho asks with his wonted jovial curiosity.

“With the bakery. Don’t you think there’s more to life than just making bread?” Artemus turns his body towards Xedho, directly looking at his eyes. “Why do you do it? For what purpose?”

Xedho chuckles, perplexed by Artemus’ odd behavior. He raises an eyebrow and smirks. “I like the way it smells. I love the way it tastes. But most importantly, I love the face my children make when they take a bite into a fresh morning loaf.” Xedho extends his arm to hand Artemus the cup of tea. “What has gotten into you, Artemus? You haven’t been yourself since that night.”

“I said I’m fine.” Artemus retorted. Artemus slaps Xedho’s hand away, spilling the tea onto the ground, and starts walking back towards the cabin. Xedho lowers his head in defeat. For the first time in a long time, he didn’t know what to say.

Suddenly a glowing orb flashed in the sky, bathing the village in a violet light. Artemus and Xedho raise their arms to shield their eyes from the luminous glow. Above the woods just north of the village appeared a peculiar oval shaped orb of light, squirming like a worm in the sky.

“Divine’s sake, what is that thing?” Xedho exclaimed. Xedho and Artemus both felt an unease in their gut. Neither had seen anything like this. “It looks like some sort of doorway to the underworld!”

Almost as quickly as the orb had appeared, it vanished. Artemus pulled his hunter’s knife from its holster and began walking towards the woods where the strange portal appeared.

“Wait, you’re not actually going out there are you?” Xedho asked, despite knowing the answer. “What if there’s some sort of monster out there?”

“I bet it bleeds.” Artemus replied as he continued walking forward. He felt pulled towards the source of the portal. Something was waiting for him there. Perhaps it was the very answers he was seeking.

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{The Book of Enlightenment Chapter 3: The Fear of Loss}

Artemus was no stranger to these woods. He had been hunting since he was a child. His father was a master hunter and taught him everything he knew. Most of the hunters in Lunnon traveled in groups of ten to twelve men with their hounds and their fancy hunting horns. Artemus’ father believed that a real hunter must surrender himself to the environment and truly become one with nature. The two would spend many early mornings swimming in rivers capturing fish with their bare hands. They would often put on wolf’s fur and crawl around in the forest brush, stalking a herd of elk grazing in the fields. The villagers thought they were lunatics, but they respected his father for his skill. In Artmus’ eyes, his father was the greatest hunter in all the realms.

On the day Artemus turned 16 years old, a strange group of men wearing colorful garments and adorned in armor came to the village in search of his father. They had requested his help with a special hunting expedition. His father told him that the mission was too dangerous for him to come along. The hunting knife Artemus carries was a gift from his father on that day. He instructed Artemus to watch over it until he returned. Twelve winters had passed since that day. His father never made it home.

Artemus had recently spent the morning setting up rope snares along the forest trails. Artemus saw traps as a lesser form of hunting. Real hunting, as his father would call it, requires knowing your target and developing a strategy for delivering a quick kill whilst minimizing suffering. Trapping was indiscriminate and cruel. However, the snares were useful for capturing fur bearing animals. This method of capture ensured the thickest part of the fur remained pristine. The winter was fast approaching and furriers were paying bountifully for high quality materials to make their cloaks, scarves, boots and gloves.

The trails seemed just as they did in the morning. Nothing was out of place as far as Artemus could tell and many of his snares were still intact. From the position of where the quivering orb of light had appeared in the sky, Artemus gathered that his destination was somewhere near the western edge of the copper mines. Perhaps the Village Guard had seen something as well. They had an outpost near the entrance to the mines they used for training new recruits. He had been walking for at least an hour so he knew he was close.

As he approached the outpost he noticed some felled trees near the gate. The beech trees in this area of the forest were exceptionally tall and thick. The foresters and woodsmen used them for lumber and chopping down just one required the effort of several men. However, the trees in Artemus’ path appeared to have been cleanly sliced like one of Xedho’s loaves of bread. As far as Artemus knew, there is nothing in this world that can do such a thing.

Just beyond the pile of felled trees, Artemus noticed a raccoon dragging something with its mouth. As he approached, the sound of branches breaking scared the raccoon causing it to drop its prize and run off into the forest brush. When Artemus saw the abandoned meal he jumped back in astonishment and a chill ran down his spine. His eyes widened and face grew pale. Laying before him was a severed arm, cut clean at the shoulder. He recognized the chainmail sleeve and thick green cloth as that of the village guard’s. Bright red blood was still seeping from the detached limb.

He sprung forward running towards the outpost. The Village Guard were a formidable group of men sworn to protect Lunnon from any foreign or domestic threat. After his father disappeared, Artemus and Xedho had joined the Village Guard for some time. The training was rigorous, and the men were the toughest he knew, second only to his father. Their reputation as the most capable of men was well earned. Whatever resulted in one of these men losing a limb wasn’t caused by an animal or unfortunate accident. This was an attack.

When he arrived at the outpost, his worst fears had been realized. Artemus counted seven dead bodies scattered in front of the gate. Many of the guardsmen had been split open, guts spilling out of their abdomens. Some bodies were missing limbs, others decapitated. Of the heads that Artemus could see, the guards had burn marks around their eye sockets. It appeared as if their eyes had caught fire and disintegrated in their skulls, melting away their eyelids.

A hunter was no stranger to the inner constitutions of living creatures, but the way these bodies were mutilated horrified Artemus. Artemus saw one guard missing a right arm, lying lifeless on the ground. That was Dunstan. They used to play together as kids. Beside him was Virgil. Artemus would always bring home boar tusks for Virgil’s children to make necklaces out of. He saw one guard impaled into the wall with a flagpole. His long silver hair floated in the wind like curtains over his blackened eye sockets. That was Ivar, the leader of the Village Guard. Ivar took Artemus under his wing after his father disappeared. Ivar was a ruthless leader who demanded excellence from all of his men. However, beneath his rough exterior was a kind soul. He deserved a more noble end than this.

A rush of emotions flooded Artemus. He collapsed to his knees, holding back a violent wretch. He pounded the ground in anger, tears streaming down his face. He tried to scream but no sound could escape the knot in his throat. He felt the way he did in his dream – helpless, powerless and paralyzed by fear.

Artemus heard a loud scream from the south. It pierced through the trees like an arrow. What was someone doing in the middle of the woods at a time like this? Could it be a trap? Could it be the same group that attacked the Village Guard?


Artemus felt his heart stop and his stomach twist. A look of utter disbelief fell across his face. He recognized that voice. It was the only voice he could think about for the past several weeks. It was the woman from his dream. Despite his own fear and uncertainty, Artemus’ legs started toward the scream.