Mysteries of Alterra
Alphonse was born to a notable Magister of Eastmarch by the name of Cornelius Bruum. His growing up was swift; full of dignitaries, heavy topics, and big words that little Al understood far too early. His going out with his family was full of all the pomp and circumstance an elected figurehead might be assumed to have. He was always meeting new people, shaking hands, getting his (carefully combed) hair ruffled by heavy hands who looked down on him as an ordinary child.
But Al was not an ordinary child. His mother and father would have noticed it from a very early age. His mind was precocious, and devoured anything and everything related to the world outside their bustling city of Fiorza. While other children were playing with sticks, Alphonse Bruum was discovering gaps in history which most scholars had taken for granted. At the ripe age of 10, Alphonse acquired adventuring and digging gear from a less-than-reputable merchant and disappeared into the wild outside of Fiorza to test one of his theories.
There was a town, very near to where Fiorza stood, that was on maps dating back several centuries. This town was no longer on any maps, and hadn’t been for some hundreds of years. In it’s place the ground rose far above water level, not quite to the size of a mountain, but much bigger than a hill. To most traveling in the area, in fact, it seemed no different from any other raised point of land that the continent of Elden had to offer. But that missing town bothered Alphonse. He tracked the gap in the maps to a period in history wherein a great magical upheaval had devastated several areas of the world.
Worn wares in hand, the boy set to his excavation. He went in the early evening, before dinner, but while his father was taking care of important business. He ought to have been in bed, so his nurses didn’t miss him either. Into the evening he dug, little by little, until one day his work paid off. He hit a shell or rock, and with a little well-placed explosion (don’t ask, he won’t tell) cracked through the surface. What he found beneath was an ancient city, completely encased in a stone dome, upon which the silt and dirt had accumulated into land as any other. The entire city, mostly preserved, was devoid of life, and smelled sweet, rather than musty.
The energy of the place begged Alphonse to delve deeper. So he hid his discovery, and returned to the place for several nights, detailing his experiences in a small, paper-bound volume. Alphonse, a student of observation, acquired the skills of art at a very young age, and made illustrations of his findings as best he could, and while not an accomplished or refined scholar, his depictions would herald later explorers to delve into the same city with equal fervor.
Perhaps the most amazing thing that Al discovered inside the city was an object he called “The Cornerstone,” after it’s notable location at the base of a great arched building in the city square. The large, round stone, sat like a ball-joint in a socket carved into the structure, and upon being touched by the hand, spun around in a glowing display. Alphonse asked the obvious question “What in Alterra is this thing?” He was immediately shown a vision of the enchantment of the sphere, and it’s placement in town as a guide to visitors and statesmen alike.
The orb was an Asking Stone, and answered questions by way of sometimes clear, sometimes vague, visions of the past. Hungry for knowledge, Alphonse became obsessed with the stone. He would ask it questions about the city, then go off to investigate those parts. As time passed, he started asking questions about other things. Things he had no business asking. Politics, wars, powerful magic. Some answers were too vague to use, others were scary in their accuracy. He decided fairly quickly that his newfound “friend” was dangerous. It was both a boon, and a curse. So he stopped using the device. In fact, Alphonse removed the stone from it’s socket completely, and placed it in his own satchel, so that others who might stumble upon the place would not use it for other purposes.
Two years Alphonse spent exploring the ruins, seeking answers, finding relics. All unbeknownst to his father. Sure, the man surely had his questions about some of the young sire’s more ill-hidden possessions, but he did well in his studies and had grown a certain charm with matters of social accord. Everything changed when Al met a certain man at one of his father’s Election Gala. His father was running for the Magister Magnus again, and this time his policies for change seemed to be striking a cord with the people, as well as the other Magisters. While the boy was proud for his father, he was also wary of the political games he knew were involved. He acted much as the 12 year old boy he was expected to be, but his interaction with the Asking Stone had given him insight into people and the world that few children his age were aware of, much less ready for.
The man who entered the place was old, weathered-looking. His name was Gallus Eustace Pennyworth III, and if his name wasn’t enough to entice you, then his tall stature and the great pocketed cloak, covered with soot and dust and stains from a thousand untold stories, would definitely do the trick. The man was an emissary from Hohenhold, from the great Royal Explorer’s greathouse that was stationed there. The man had many a fascinating story to tell, and while Cornelius had little time for the silly old man, Alphonse was enraptured by his intellect and experiences. Towards the end of the Gala, Alphonse showed led the old man to his chambers, and showed him the (by now several volumes) of notes, sketches, and musings about the underground civilization that he had found.
It was Gallus’s turn to be enraptured. The man was not used to being outdone, and while he had seen many a sight, the fact that this child had discovered something he himself had never even considered confounded and intrigued him in profound ways.
Alphonse’s life would never be the same after that. Gallus actively hounded the Magister, now freshly crowned Magister Magnus, to allow Alphonse to become his own personal stewart – to learn the ways of lore and exploration. It took much promising and a little coercion, but eventually the man came around. He’d been looking for a more advanced place for the boy to learn abroad in any event, and there were few places better than the scholars of the capital. It was decided that Alphonse would apprentice with Gallus only if during the regular season, he attended the highest academy of learning in Palatine.
Alphonse was now thirteen years old, a budding scholar, and a feckless youth. Gallus had spent some time in Fiorza, helping Alphonse compile his many studies and tomes into a single volume which he called a “Codex” This Codex was published in limited edition, making Alphonse the youngest published scholar in this history of the printing press (which granted was not an extensive period). This notoriety, and the story surrounding it, is what gave Alphonse the name “Impossible Al.”
Alphonse learned everything he could from the academy of learning, but his outings with Gallus were by far his favored activity. Sometimes stealing him from classes, the two would strike out -mainly to places Gallus or other royal explorer’s had already discovered – to teach Alphonse about the pitfalls and essentials of the craft that he had chosen. They were both aware of Cornelius’s desire for Alphonse to become a Magister in his time, and both knew that it was not going to happen. It was a pretty simple equation. Alphonse was not a citizen of one city, but of the world. Gallus explained that this was not a fault, but a strength very few possessed. Al would learn much about many things, that he would feel comfortable everywhere, but never truly at home anywhere. It was the great curse of the explorer. One that Alphonse could easily take in stride – at least in his youth. The idea of home meant the same sights every day. It was so boring, compared to the world outside.
Years passed, and Alphonse’s classes, as well as his apprenticeship, became even more taxing. Despite his lively personality, Alphonse’s existence had been largely solitary. He’d made a few acquaintances, but few friends. Alphonse had taken himself to holing up in his room, reading tomes of history and war, legends and heroes, and findings of explorers much like himself. He felt cramped in the city of Palatine, and longed to strike out on his own, making discoveries all his own. His and Gallus’ adventures were safe and close – calculated. Alphonse’s growing state of restlessness required risk.
And so he did so. Making the second leap of faith in his life, Alphonse joined up with an adventuring group. A couple of joy-seeking alumni from Palatine’s academy – a few years Al’s senior – were searching for fellow wayfarers to set out on an expedition of sorts. The two were all about fighting and plundering, and Al thought he could bring an element of candor and preservation to their expedition – if you could even call it that. Looking back, Al always thought it was perhaps a mistake, but Al doesn’t believe in regret – only learning from a past that is intrinsically flawed.
There was another who joined this haphazard mission. An elf maiden by the name of Wyneth. She was strong-hearted, but kind, and healing was her craft. She was in training to become a healer of the king’s army, and thought keeping these two fool brothers alive would be perfect practical experience for her. None of the would-be adventures had the knowledge or the blessing of their caretakers, but they decided it wasn’t necessary. They were taking their learning into their own hands.
Their destination was – of course, one that few even believed existed. They were searching for the ruins of Orthica: a supposed city that was at the heart of a certain magical cataclysm several years before the rise of the current regime – it was the same magical cataclysm that had created the city he’d spent his youth investigating. According to Legend, Orthica was a city at the center of one of the largest magical cataclysms ever seen. But history has little to say about this period, oddly enough. Alphonse was secretly hoping to uncover something that would prove some of the hypotheses he’d formed about his findings at Durren Mileu.
Orthica was supposedly nestled in the high mountains at the northern crest of Aquitaine, yet none had ever found it. Few had even ventured to do so, for whatever reason. It was a mystery worth solving! And Alphonse, at the very least, intended to do so.
The Ride into Aquitaine was longer and harder than any in the group could anticipate. They had been attacked on the road more than once, and their resources were running thin. They were forced to find work along the way, and pick up skills such as sewing, cooking, hunting, and gathering. They taught each other as well. The brothers taught Wyneth and Alphonse the art of fighting, Wyneth taught the boys about healing and medicine, and Alphonse did what he could to pound history and literature into the brother’s thick skulls. Wyneth and Alphonse connected on the concept of history, trading tid bits from their own cultures. Al learned a lot about Albion that he’d only guessed at from his texts, and Wyneth seemed to enjoy hearing from the wealth of information that Alphonse possessed.
Their bonding came to an end, however, when they finally found themselves inside the mountain reaches of Aquitaine. The northern mountains were cold, and desolate. The last bit of sentient contact they had encountered was miles behind them. Before them, the danger and silence of the mountains. With few leads, the adventurer’s did their best to leave no stone unturned, but the found very little, and the weather was working against them. Wyneth’s magic was enough to keep them warm and alive through the ordeal, but their nerves and their resolves were growing thin. It was then that Alphonse found it. Climbing a particularly large peak, he slid down into a snow-laden basin. His party hastened to meet him there, and as they did so, they heard voices emanating from the walls and empty buildings around them.
The next memory Alphonse had was laying in the snow. The basin was now a crater, devoid of snow, or buildings for that matter. It was completely empty. The city had vanished. In it’s place was a single statue. No, not a statue, a figure – His friend Wyneth, turned to stone. She looked like she was in the middle of casting a spell, her cloaks eternally cascading around her thin elvin form. The Lutwic brothers were nowhere to be found. It was just Al, good old Impossible Al, sitting alone in the middle of a crater. Alone in the cold.
Al was 17 when he finally returned to Palatine. The journey had been hard, and disappointing, and down right depressing. And he had nothing to show but his journals – which had quite an important gap in them. His story was not well received. The elves who had been responsible for Wyneth held Alphonse responsible for her state, and the Lutwic family was devastated. Gallus, he was disappointed. Al spent the next few years doing his best to keep his head down and finish his studies, all the while researching ways to restore a petrified person to life. He’d return to that place – now dubbed the Empty Crater – And bring Wyneth back to life.