"Good day, my lords." This was the only phrase that brought the end of the silence to the brothers. Percival turned from the tower to see who greeted him, only to realize that the elf that stood before him seemed to give his brother more attention. Percival was all to used to it. Not again, he said to himself. It always seem to be like that. Percival sighed and closed his eyes, enjoying the light breeze. It calmed him down a bit. That was until another made themselves known. It was a dwarf, a cheeky one too.
"Hello there, you don't happen to know where I left my stilts, do you?"
"Can't say I have seen them," Percival said with a smile. He liked this one. Less awkward than the elf at least.
A loud, screeching creak came from behind the gathered as the large iron door cracked open revealing an average sized and plump bald human wearing opulent brightly colored robes. Percival recognized the man's profession immediately. He was an apprentice of the great monks of Ekilore, dedicating his entire life to their surface often in the pursuit of knowledge. There was often a trade off however, and one had to look no further than their title to discover the sacrifice. These men were called the Eunuchs. For generations, men would come to Ekilore and pledge themselves to the monks, revel in their teachings and then perform whatever was requested of them. Some stayed in the tower. Others were planted in the courts of the various kingdoms.
"Greetings my lords," the eunuch began as he made eye contact with everyone, before gawking at the dwarf ever so slightly before smiling. "And lady," he said with a bow, before preceding to open the door further. As he did, a rush of cold air (thought a Highmen of Vanaheim would likely such a rush a summer breeze) swept through Percival, though he tried to rub off the chill as soon as he could. He didn't want to show weakness, especially in front of Roland. His brother didn't need another excuse to chastise him. "Come in. The lord monks have been expecting you for some time. I do fear a few of them become oh so impatient." Percival led the way through the great iron door, hoping the others would follow in suit.
Percival stepped into the tower, with his footsteps producing a slight echo. As the rest of his gathered peers came into the tower, the Eunuch closed the door creating a thunderous 'clank' that reverberated throughout the base of the tower. "Welcome to the Oculus Tower," he said as he took a position as the leader of the group. The group found themselves at the base of the tower, standing near the middle of a large circular room build around a golden platform squarely in the middle. The room was fairly well lit, at least well enough for the group to behold what many called the "Grand Library." It was Astrum to any person who considered themselves a scholar would call it Astrum, as the greatest written works called this library their home. The bookcases that housed these works ascended deep into the dark abyss above them. If the matter of the monks was not a priority, Percival would love to spend a few weeks in this tower.
Works of art were scattered about, often lying on the blank walls between the oversized bookcases. There were paintings on the walls depicting characters, emotions, events in histories and some harsh realities in the world. Feasts were balanced by famines, health to pestilence, peace to war and life to death. Glorious moments in history were immortalized, as were some more subdued moments. However, the most thought provoking pieces of art were pieces of art with interesting characters as the subjects. There was a prince appearing to sleep on his throne, a woman enjoying men drooling over her beauty and a man bathing himself in his gold and riches. Percival could not recognize such figures, though some bore a resemblance to figures he recalled studying. Percival wanted to ask about them, but the Eunuch seemed far too focused on leading the gathered up the small metal staircase onto the golden platform.
When the gathered took their respective positions on the platform, Percival became breathless for a moment as his eyes were set on a mural. He couldn't understand what captivated him so, but he was lost in its details and majestic design. The mural towered over the gathered at well over two meters tall, and about one meter wide. The frame surrounded the painting in a bright golden color, with decorative streaks of texture across it, as if to further demonstrate the significance of the image within. The painting itself utilized bright, beaming colors, the likes of which could produce a feeling of euphoria in even the greatest artists. The style of painting involved unusual brush strokes and indistinct lines and shapes, giving it a rather mystifying sensation, probably done purposefully by the creator. The mural itself contained at the foreground a gathering of men and women, their knees bent as if they were praying, or perhaps worshipping. They faced the direction of a lone figure on top of the painting, positioned on the hill. The figure’s arms are stretched outward, as if acknowledging their prayers, or perhaps forcing them down to the ground. The image is so vague that multiple interpretations could be given. Perhaps that was also purposefully done by the creator.
Above the mural was another set piece that quite literally gazed into Percival's being. Another rendition of the monks' symbolic eye loomed over the base level of the library. It was as massive as the one on the tower, with a seemingly glowing red eye that pulsed in the soft light provided by the torches. The other Eunuchs at the base did not seem to be bothered by the gaze of the red eye, minding their own business whether it be cleaning, organizing, reading or studying various novels and works. Some were appearing to write as well, while others were simply minding their own business. Regardless, there was a certain peaceful serenity about everything. Percival enjoyed the view. It was a far cry from what was happening on the mainland.
Roland approached the mural and observed it intently, as if to decipher its meaning. The eunuch walked over and stood beside him, as if sensing that the knight has questions.
“I am not familiar with this artwork. By whom was it painted?” Roland inquired at the eunuch.
“It is unknown who painted the mural of Ekilore, as it unknown the origin of many of the other books and paintings displayed here.”
“I see.” Roland said, continuing to admire the mural. “I am unfamiliar with this style of artwork. I have been educated in all manner of art known through the lands, but this style…eludes me. It is as if the painter purposefully distorted the images.”
“An excellent observation, my lord.” The eunuch replied. “Have you any conjecture as to why this was done?”
A smug look of narcissism seemed to appear on Roland’s face, as if with every word he spoke, he was educating the eunuch more than vice versa. Roland’s edification was obviously great, but the praise might have gone a bit to his head. “Well…under normal circumstance, this would be a simple depiction of a group of folk, perhaps servants, bowing to this other.” He said, pointing at the figure in the mural above, with his arms extended. “Yet the way the artist blurred every figure, including the one standing above the populace, it appears as though they intended to present the possibility that this isn’t exactly as it seems.”
“What are you implying, my lord?”
“Observe here.” Roland said, pointing over to the hand of the figure on the hill. “Notice how he holds his hand out. On one hand, it would appear that he shepards the people from harm and is their savior, and they, in turn, show their gratitude by bowing to the figure. But because of the distortion, it could easily appear that this figure is the harbinger of their destruction, and the people bend their knees in plead of mercy and compassion. The only real question is what the true account is.”
The eunuch smiled and nodded. “Perhaps we will never know.”
The Eunuch turned to the others then, having finished with Roland. "Now my lords and lady, do stay on the platform. Hold on to the railings if you feel like as though you will fall off," the Eunuch said, before pulling a small lever. The platform shook violently before suddenly moving. Percival lost his footing before catching himself on the railing, holding on to dear life. The Eunuch smiled and stood still, clearly used to the sensation of the moving platform. "We shall be there shortly," he nodded. Percival adjusted slowly, eventually being able to stand up at one point. The platform ascended up the tower at a fair speed, fast enough to make modest progress but slow enough that the gathered could see the bookcases ascended high into the tower, at the various paintings decorated on the wall. Percival could of sworn he saw the characters from before continue to be the subject matter of various works of art, as if part of a series chronicling various lives. A story was being told, but he failed to make sense of it.
The platform came to a stop in a dimly lit stone room free of the opulence of the base of the tower, with a small iron door leading out of the room. It was rather depressing in comparison, but clearly it was a room that saw little idle use. "Come this way," the Eunuch said continuing to lead the way before pausing at the door. "I must warn you. The climb up the next of stairs is quite perilous. Stay close to the wall and you shall be fine."
"What do you mean 'perilous'? Percival asked, crossing his arms in skepticism.
"Oh, you will see," the Eunuch replied opening the door, only to once again unleash strong gust of wind upon them. The Eunuch walked through the door with the gathered into, showing another sight to the group. This one was received by a mixture of intimidation and awe from Percival. Intimidation in that Percival feared for his own well being. Awe in that he could see the world of Hyrus from his vantage point. From the kingdoms of Ethora, to the snow capped mountains of Vanaheim, to the sands of Rastra, to the islands of Rolsten and Shinguo to the coast of Falke Percival could see from this own two eyes through the thin white clouds of the blue sky. Never before would he see such a sight and tried his best to etch into his mind. He didn't imagine it would be too hard in the end.
Over the gusts of wind, Percival could not hear anything the Eunuch said, only capturing a few words here and there. Nothing really made any sense, but he did heed his advice and practically hugged the wall with his life in the balance. The Eunuch lead them all the stairs, making their way around the door until they appeared to be behind the door. The view of the world that made Percival feel like a small child in a dream world was obscured by the room that only myths told of: the observatory of the monks of Ekilore. It appeared that the monks admired the view as much as anyone else as the observatory had every wall crafted by pure glass. Only the sold stone foundation and the pointed marble roof were exceptions, though the iron door and marble archway the gathered stood underneath (with marble walls on each side to protect them from elements) that stood before them could mentioned in the same sentence.
"We are finally here," the Eunuch said, this time being clearly heard by Percival. "Now we must wait for the monks to receive you. It should not be long."