He rubbed his eyes in a futile attempt to dispel the numbing tiredness creeping over him. Dim candlelight failed to hold back the encroaching shadows as he crouched low over the ancient text, the characters both familiar and strange blurring into one continuous stream of babble. The other Runescribes had long since departed, even the most dedicated of the dwindling number of Runepriests would by now have retired to the dormitories for the night. But despite having spent much of the day occupied in the forge repairing and honing tools in anticipation of the harvest festival, only now was weariness getting the better of Ultan. He found the mental weariness of his work in the temple a refreshing counterpoint to the physically exhausting and repetitive chores assigned to him by Oldan, the town’s ageing blacksmith.
He had never deeply pondered the odd juxtaposition of his dual roles in the town; indeed he always believed they complemented each other. Long hours in a library, while sharpening the mind, could make one’s body soft and weak, and he would need to be strong when at last he ventured out into the world. And venture out he would. While his companions in the temple appeared happy to remain cloistered here with their crumbling books and monotonous rituals, Ultan had long desired to expand his world beyond the increasingly claustrophobic town of Oakfield. Enraptured by tales of foreign lands and great heroes he longed to carve a place for himself in the world, just as he had learned to carve the runes in metal and stone.
Finally admitting defeat, he closed the dusty text he had been attempting to decipher, and carefully returned it to its place in the archives. He had been excited to discover the book some days before, a treatise on the uses of runes in the forging of armour, a subject of great interest to Ultan as he advanced his talents as a blacksmith. However, it had proved a frustratingly theoretical diatribe, heavy on ritualistic terms unfamiliar to him. Perhaps one of the local spellcasters would be able to shed some light on the multitude of arcane terms contained in the text, much as it pained Ultan to resort to seeking the assistance of such primitive hexers.
A devout believer in the tenets of Erathis, Ultan placed his faith in metal and stone, the materials on which civilisation was founded. Strong as metal, ageless as stone; these were the mantras he used to calm himself in tims of emotional turmoil. As much as he tried to suppress such feelings, on occasion he could not contain the frustration that threatened to overwhelm him. He was not sure what had caused the change of late; for many years his work in the forge and the temple had been more than adequate to satisfy his physical and mental needs. But recently he had begun to develop a sense of claustrophobia in the small town, a sense that there was so much to learn outside Oakfield.
The local innkeeper, and his daughter Isabella, had a part to play in this. Ultan did not know all the details, but while Isabella was a native of Oakfield, her parents had arrived from outside the town. If Isabella was to believed, much of their life before their arrival had been spent battling dragons and saving kingdoms from marauding hordes of goblins. While she was prone to exaggeration, Ultan got the sense that there was more to the innkeeper than met the eye, and that the respect with which he was held in the town was based on more than just the quality of his ale.
Fireside tales in the inn of great cities inspired Ultan. Images of soaring buildings of metal and stone, of labyrinthine libriaries choked with undiscovered knowledge, filled his mind aft tales. It pained him to be deprived of such majestic surroundings, and as much as he had to be thankful for in his life in Oakfield, he was eager to explore the world, to travel untold distances, meet strange and exotic creatures, discover powerful and exciting new runes. And the arrival of the Eladrin mage to the village would finally present the opprtunity he had craved.