A big, manila envelope rested against Ellen’s front door when she came back from her classes one day. Surprised she picked it up and turned it around while unlocking the door and entering her small flat.
The words “For Ellen” was all she could find on the slightly tattered surface. No sender. And more surprising: no stamp.
Curious, Ellen quickly closed the door, got rid of her shoes and jacket and walked to her room. She sat down on her bed and swiftly opened the envelope. Upon turning it around to check its contents, a neatly folded piece of paper fell out of it first thing, slipping to the ground and disappearing under her bed.
Ellen put the envelope down and went looking for what she guessed would be a cover letter for whatever was in the envelope. She fumbled around under her bed for a few seconds before she finally touched the paper and could retrieve it. A smile crossed her face as she opened it and recognized the handwriting.
Do you remember that time you visited me shortly after our endeavors in the Netherworld? I told you I was working on a story and had neither the intention nor the time to chitchat with you. It seemed like a rather straightforward way of telling you to get out of my editorial office, at least to me.
Obviously, it wasn’t straightforward enough for you, though, as instead of leaving, you even prolonged your stay at my home by making tea, pottering around the kitchenette (if memory serves right you even offered to rearrange it at some point), snooping around the flat and asking way too many questions.
As I do not intend to keep you away from your work as long as you prevented me from doing mine at that time, I’ll keep this short: enclosed you will find the article I was working on when you dropped in back then. I thought, considering your recently acquired gift of being a Messenger, you might find it an insightful read.
Ellen picked up the envelope again, reached into it and pulled out a few loose sheets.
The top sheet, probably intended as the issue’s cover picture, had the magazine’s title ‘Unknown Realms’ well placed over a very rough sketch of a hilly area with a circular arrangement of several stone pillars. Ellen couldn’t quite put her finger on what place the artist had tried to capture in the picture; but the scenery seemed familiar, yet at the same time rather obscure.
She laid the cover to the side and quickly skimmed the rest of the pages; she smiled at the old style typewriter writing - a dead giveaway that Keats was the author of the article - and also noticed that, apart from the first, introductory page, the text was broken up by a couple of photographs.
Ellen looked at the pictures, but couldn’t make out at a first glance whom or what they exactly depicted and hoped for the article to give her some hints on the people and places that were shown.
She then went back to the first first page and started reading.
Recent research brought to my attention that during ancient times (to be more precise: approximately 5 millennia ago) mankind knew no fear of death. Death was merely perceived as the final stage of our corporeal existence, while the Afterlife was seen as a second chance or a second, forever lasting life, spent in the realms of the Netherworld, freed from the shackles of an eventually becoming frail, decaying body.
Lacking the appreciation for life as a fleeting gift, given to us upon birth to be cherished for the brief period it lasted, men became reckless and acted foolishly, always keeping the idea of that ‘second chance’ in their minds. As a result, many pointless wars were fought and many lives preposterously lost.
As tragic as those losses were, I think they were not the worst thing that happened to mankind. The worst for us was probably the resulting stalemate, as instead of working together to create the foundation for a better, brighter future, men were too busy fighting petty wars as they tried to surpass each other, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. The ones who weren’t fighting, or those who survived, however, had to start over again by picking up the pieces.
From our present perspective, these times truly seem like the dark ages of history, leaving us to wonder: What happened to change this madness and the resulting stagnation about 5000 years ago? What finally brought civilization upon us?
As there are barely any records left for that era, it surely took some time to hunt down all the relevant sources and follow even the tiniest of clues to get to the bottom of this mystery. But this is exactly what ‘Unknown Realms’ is known for: Getting to the bottom of things at all cost, unveiling the most difficult of answers and revealing the best hidden truths and secrets for you, Faithful reader.
Over 5000 years ago there lived people known as the Forebears on a small, nearly forgotten island, nestled between the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and the Aran islands. Their numbers were few, and they lived their lives mostly untouched by the rest of the world.
Soon after settling down on the island and building their small village of Duilann between the gentle hills on top of the cliff, the Forebears became aware of strange occurrences in their surroundings such as voices talking from seemingly nowhere, apparitions of strange places or creatures flashing in front of their eyes, and people suddenly disappearing and reappearing again after a while.
Curious rather than afraid of these otherworldly phenomena, the Forebears set out to investigate them.
One of the first things the Forebears figured out was that children were more sensitive towards those experiences and also more likely to disappear for a short while. As the children were never injured upon returning and most of the time seemed rather excited to tell the stories about what they had seen and done while in the Netherworld, the Forebears saw no reason to abandon their new homeland for a less supernatural place.
They learned miscellaneous things about the Netherworld, its various realms and the folks that inhabited those places from the tales of their children.
However, the Forebears only learned more about the deeper interconnection between the human world and the Netherworld once they found out that there were also one or two chosen ones among the adults with the ability to travel to the Netherworld.
Unlike the children, who mostly only interacted with the Netherworld and its creatures for fun, the older travelers realized that the worlds were joined and certain events in one world would have an impact on the other. They found out that by relaying messages between both worlds and their inhabitants, they could improve life on both sides.
Due to their role as conveyors of messages, the Forebears called those travelers ‘Messengers’. They valued the messengers' efforts to keep the balance between the worlds and also started building a sanctum at the Henge.
It is difficult to tell from the sources when and in which way things changed for the worse, but it is certain that the Forebears decided at some point that it would be wise to have warriors standing at the Messengers' side. At least the last known Messenger of Yore, Livane, had a most faithful warrior at her side.
That warrior’s name was Belgae. He was chosen by the Forebears to protect Livane, and he was not only bodyguard to the young Messenger but also her advisor and confidant.
Belgae's exact age at the time he was assigned the task of guarding Livane is unknown, but he surely was older than her as he is said to have seen the Henge built.
He certainly must have had an outstanding reputation among the Forebears, especially since they were aware of their impending extinction to be caused by the other humans who had discovered their connection to the Netherworld and now sought control over it.
When the time to fight came, Belgae was one of the first to join the battle and defend their homeland as well as Livane. Soon, however, he was brought back to the Henge, badly injured. He was well aware that he most likely would not survive, but there were still a few things with which he had to entrust the young woman.
While the others returned to the battlefield, Belgae was joined by a worried Livane in the sanctum underneath the Henge. Trying to soothe a visibly distressed Livane while at the same time being well aware that his time among the living was running out, he asked the young Messenger to accept one last request: he wanted her to enter the Netherworld Core and pierce one of the Twin Trees with the Ethersword.
Livane was at first reluctant to accept Belgae’s request as she was afraid of the consequences such a drastic incision would have for mankind.
After a while, though, Belgae was able to convince her that it would be the right thing to do, that the cutting off one of the Twin Trees and the resulting mystification of death would provide mankind with a real second chance. He reasoned that while men would be devastated at the beginning, they would eventually overcome despair and finally find meaning in their life as it always should have been.
Seeing that Livane, albeit hesitantly, understood the implications of his request after he had carefully elaborated on his train of thoughts, Belgae knew his life had served its purpose, and he peacefully died in the sanctum underneath the Henge.
However, as he had expected, Belgae didn’t leave Livane alone for long though. Since the lives of Messenger and Warrior are strongly intertwined, much stronger than the young Messenger had been aware of, Belgae returned to Livane’s side as a Halflive shortly after he had died.
In his newly acquired phantasmal form, he ventured with her to the Netherworld Core, supporting her along the way with his sword and, which was probably of more value to the young Messenger, his words of guidance.
He stood by her side when she thrust the Ethersword into one of the Twin Trees and thus obscured mankind’s knowledge of death, the Afterlife and the Netherworld.
He witnessed the change men went through alongside her, from the immediate despair and disorientation to their struggle for civilization.
He stood by her side to protect the Netherworld Core and the Twin Trees for the 5000 years it took until a new Messenger and her Warrior, who were capable of protecting the gift that was given to mankind by Belgae and Livane’s sacrifices, entered the Netherworld.
As Livane’s deemed the new Messenger and her Warrior worthy successors, she disappeared. Her whereabouts are unknown. But since Belgae is still wandering the Netherworld, it is rather safe to assume that his Messenger must also be around somewhere.
Despite sharing the same premises, the Forebears clearly stood out among the humans of their age. They already had their own culture, and it is remarkable how they adapted to the peculiarities of their homeland. They were open-minded and fearless enough to not only explore a world which existed beyond their human perception, but they also tried to change things for the better once they realized that the worlds affected each other.
The effective value of the Messengers and their Warriors in this deed is hard to tell. According to the available sources the only action with a massive, discernible impact for mankind happened 5000 years ago, when the last Messenger pierced one of the Twin Trees upon her Warrior's request. Everything else is unfortunately shrouded in the darkness of that age.
The only thing with which the Forebears were probably not as astute was the title ‘Warrior’ for the Messenger's companion. Certainly, their duty was primarily to protect the Messenger. But it is not an accurate term to describe Belgae’s role in detail. Calling him merely a warrior, ironically ‘Belgae’ means ‘warrior’ in the language of the Forebears, hardly gives his functions enough credits, as he was not only Livane’s bodyguard and most loyal servant but also her guide and confidant during the most difficult times.
In the end Belgae’s guidance rather than his combat skills might have been the crucial element to bring civilization to mankind. As he went beyond the traditional understanding of his role as a warrior to fulfill his purpose, the term ‘Mentor’ is probably more fitting for a being in his position.
Messenger and Warrior it was 5000 years ago, Messenger and Mentor it is now. Will their successors continue their endeavors between the worlds? Will they protect the gift Livane and Belgae gave to men?
You might find out. Just keep eyes and ears open, watch and listen; you might be able see a glimpse of the Netherworld or hear a Halflife talking.”
Ellen stared at the last page after she had finished reading. Only Keats could come up with an article like this. Only he could have the persistence to gather the information needed to write such a story.
“There is still more to this story, Keats”, Ellen said to an empty room. “And you will hear about it, too...”