Ser Roland of the House of Grey adjusted one of his dark-red gauntlets onto his arm as he prepared for his ship to arrive on Ekilore. He had answered the summons of the Monks of Ekilore in representation of Hector Reigncliff, his lord and who Roland believed was the true and rightful King of Ethora. It was an honor he could not describe, but Roland couldn't help but wonder of the circumstance of the summons. He assumed it was largely due to the assassination of the Ethorian king. If that was the case, he wasn't certain if he would take much pleasure in the visit. They would no doubt seek a diplomatic solution to the problem of the empty throne, and yet Roland would prefer if they would not meddle in the affairs of the Ethorians at all. Hector was the true king, and Roland had every intention of seeing him crowned, no matter who got in his way. Whatever the monks had planned, it usually came in the form of prophecy, so no matter if Roland wished not to have foreigners meddle, it would be foolish not to at least hear them out.
Moments later, Roland was upon his horse riding through the small wooden dock of Ekilore. He looked upon no one but the large Tower of Oculus before him. Roland rode up to the entrance of the tower. His eyes was set on the enormous building the whole time he rode, even as he got off his horse at the entrance. Roland's eyes departed from the tower for one moment to see a surprising figure standing right beside him, someone he had no intention of seeing here. In fact, he had no reason he should here, unless he was representing another lord of Ethora. This made Roland livid, especially because the man was his younger brother, Percival Grey.
"You! What in Andal's name are you doing here!?" Roland demanded of him.
"Oh, it's you," Percival stated, barely acknowledging the existence of his so called brother. Percival was far too much into thought to bother in conversation with Roland. Percival was on orders from his new sworn lord, Robert of House Welm, one of the great houses of Ethora, serving the summons of the Ekilorian Monks. Having never been to the Tower of Oculus, Percival was admiring the sight before ultimately getting wrapped into what he assumed was politics and other complicated issues that while he had great experience with was aware that things often never go well for anyone.
"Don't 'oh it's you' me! Answer the damn question!"
"Same reason you are here. I am representing House Welm."
Roland's eyes were filled with anger. He had usually not let others bother him so, but his brother had time and time again tested him with his casual speech and indifferent persona.
"How dare you! Have you lost all that is left of your decency!? You are of the House of Grey, loyal to Hector Reigncliff, and yet you persist on your injudicious devotion to this feeble House with a swine for a lord! It is as if with your every breath you seek to single-handedly tarnish the reputation our family has forged over decades!"
"And what reputation would that be?" Percival said with little emotion, as if spending any emotion on the conversation was pointless. He finally met the burning eyes of his brother, though with an empty icy gaze. Roland gritted his teeth as he returned the gaze at his brother. Like many times in the past in their conversations over the years, he once again was resisting the urge to skewer Percival where he stood. Had he not held the name of Grey, he would have done so a long time ago. He stood silently, no longer interested in pursuing a conversation with his brother, but instead, more interested on the purpose of the meeting.
A tense moment of silence had begun between the brothers. Roland tried for a moment to pretend his younger brother wasn’t even there next to him, but that he was alone in front of the immense Tower of Oculus. Yet for all his effort, his brother’s face and words remained in his mind. Roland scrutinized the tower in front of him instead, trying to determine how long the monks were planning on making him wait.
And then a loud, screeching creak came from behind the brothers 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 did, a rush of cold air swept through Percival, though he tried to rub off the chill as soon as he could. "You are the first ones to arrive. Do come in. The lords above have been expecting you for some time. I do fear a few of them have become oh so impatient." Percival led the way through the great iron door, hoping his brother wouldn't mind him taking the lead.
Percival stepped into the tower, with his footsteps producing a slight echo. As Roland 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 two 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." 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 two of them up the small metal staircase onto the golden platform.
When the two 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 Roland and Percival 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.
"Now my lords, 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. Roland did much of the same, not anticipating the fast movement. 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 they 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 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 brothers, showing another sight to them. 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. Roland let go of the railing as he marveled at the view in front of him, almost forgetting where he was.
“By the gods…” Roland whispered to himself, unsure if what he was actually seeing was true. From the top of the stairs, Roland could see the eunuch addressing them, but he was too far below to hear what was being said. Roland finally snapped from the sight of the view and proceeded to the top of the stairs, still taking the occasional glimpse at the lands below.
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 they 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. "Now we must wait for the others before the monks shall receive you. It should not be long."