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AuthorOld friends and older foes
The portal was living its final hour. All citizens of the great Empire had been notified about the exact time when the portal was going to be shut, and the final vanguards were formed to help evacuate the caravan with the Academy expedition which used every available minute to conduct research and to collect important data.
The last few vanguards had still not returned, including the one Bilir was traveling in, and Kh'Everst approached the portal, sullen with anxiety.

He had been there several times, but he disliked the place. That had nothing to do with fears of time traveling; in fact, Kh'Everst satisfied his curiosity and stepped over the threshold of ages to witness the world as it used to be, and to nurture future memories of such a unique experience.
In fact, at the very first time he came close to the portal of Time, his unique sense had its effect on him again. He clearly perceived a presence of dark, aggressive, long forgotten evil among the infinite torrents of energy flowing within the portal. His attempts to understand the nature of the source gave no result, for the sensation was tenuous, but Kh'Everst could feel it every time he came within a distance of several steps from the portal.
This fact consumed the dark elf's thoghts for the few days the wizards spent in another epoch. Time was always associated with light, with white colour, with the Holy plane in Bilir's research, and Kh'Everst could totally follow the theory behind such statements.

He approached the portal again. The portal itself was shining with luminiscent white brilliance, its thin pellicle-like essence resembling condensed, material light. Then what was it that kept awakening his senses, that dark echo that hummed through his consciousness, making him feel uncomfortable but remaining unnoticed by everyone around...
Then suddenly, an idea stroke his head. "What"?.. It was the wrong question. Yes, obviously, this was the mistake. It is "Who"! The effect, the uneasy sensation that Kh'Everst felt with his innate sense of cognition, was too targeted, too consuming to be a random natural occurence. It felt as some weak but relentless impulse of an implacable and undoubtedly darkened mind.
The dark elf rubbed his cheeks slowly, realising what his sudden thought revealed.
A masterful mind...
The last caravan arrived, Bilir beaming with joy, riding a majestic elephant. Kh'Everst understood that in a minute or two, the portal would fade and that it was his last chance to gain information on the mysterious figure. He stepped forward, but a sudden abrupt sensation made him stagger. The space seemed to have shifted for a glimpse of an eye, it felt as if his mind had become subject to a mental attack. The next second everything was normal again, the world and its inhabitants were still the same as usual. Or not?..

Kh'Everst observed how the portal faded out. Something in the world around him had changed, but what it was he could not tell. Was it a result of some of the wizards' experiments in the past? Or maybe, something or someone completely unrelated to those several days?

Unfortunately, the dark elf's ability could not explain what he sensed, and his powers and knowledge were not enough to make anything out of it. But he knew who could give him a lead, show him a path he needed to walk to answer all the questions his inquisitive mind had generated in the last week, and it was definitely not Bilir or Abu-Bakir, swallowed up in their experiments, too carried away to fully realise their possible consequences.

No. It was the being who had claimed to originate from the land where Kh'Everst and others had arrived as fugitive, the person who was no less a mystery, the only living creature whom Kh'Everst ever witnessed to split the space around him into planes of Holy and Darkness, alone, with a few shakes of his staff - a ritual whose true meaning the dark elf would probably never grasp.

He had to search for the Hermit...
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