Life of Alhaani (book)
The Life of Alhaani
-Onlakh Hhsrant, Saar'adu'hhssho
It is unusual that the life of one guildleader should be laid down by another, but these are unusual circumstances.
It has become clear now that Alhaani's unfortunate death did not end her time with us. Her tortured shade now lurks in the halls where the living lady once walked. We are told that the events that led to her suicide are so deeply rooted in this very tower that it would be impossible to banish her from it. It is possible that she may never be freed.
I must apologize to the reader if I seem to dwell on these things overmuch. Many tears have I shed over Pohoju'ludan Alhaani's death, for, before she... fell... she was my most revered teacher, and -- dear friend.
Never will you hear of a mage more dedicated to our art -- and this, sadly, was her undoing. That one who lived in such professional excellence as she should suffer so -- she who should have been celebrated as one of the greatest of our order -- has instead come to such tragedy, sickens the heart and fills one with a rage against fate and Hav'roth's will.
But such rage is not befitting one of my station, and be assured that I am a pious man. Perhaps, then, before relating the events surrounding my august mistress's death, I will tell of her life. It is fitting.
Even as an untried youth, Alhaani's masters saw the greatness that would be hers. It is said that she summoned her first familiar -- a huge white crow she called Dshaan -- at the tender age of ten years old. Due to the loss of so much information prior to the formation of the Empire we are unable to determine whether any had summoned a familiar at a younger age, but I would find such hard to believe.
By age fifteen Alhaani had mastered every known spell in the Fire book, having greatly idolized that comrade of the founder of this guild -- her many-times great-grandfather Hhshalhh -- the human Arhat, called the Fire Lion. I am told that she spent much time in Arhat's Garden (whose official title, as you know, is the Fire Garden, but it is said that Arhat spent much time there when visiting his friend after the creation of the southern five provinces). There, Alhaani spoke with the elementals. Whether this was what led to her later discoveries, I cannot know, but it would seem to follow.
When she turned eighteen she had mastered the Air, Earth, and Electricity books -- electricity having been only recently rediscovered at this time. The Water book she shunned, saying that one so connected with the elementals of Fire had no business mucking about in puddles. It is evident, therefore, that her relationship with the creatures of Fire was in fact quite deep.
It was during her studies in the Earth arts that she met another mage, a caretaker of the Earth garden who had made a pilgrimage from Ratha to study the Elanthian mainland, in the garden one day. Then, as now, the elementals told their tales to any who would provide them comfort, and Talhaan, as was often his wont, had become distracted by one. He stood, leaning upon a rake, listening intently. I am told that it happened this way.
"Don't listen to him, he has rocks for brains." The comment was made playfully and in passing as Alhaani moved to gather a bundle of a particular herb that Dshaan favored. Talhaan at that moment looked up, the expression of fascination still alive on his features. It captured Alhaani, as she saw in him the wonder and passion that she herself nurtured and cherished in the elemental arts.
Within a year, the two had married. Talhaan's regard for the Earth element had quite an effect on Alhaani -- she, as one with such a powerful thirst for all knowledge, was easily swayed by one whom she so respected, and it was probably due to Talhaan that she did not become a pure Fire mage as a follower of Arhat. It has been suggested that, had she so focused, she may have come to equal or even surpass the legendary Fire Lion in power.
As was expected of her, Alhaani became Guildmistress of the Muspar'i Guildhall. She and Talhaan pleased the family by producing three children, the oldest of whom showing signs of fulfilling the vast potential that was to be Alhaani's legacy to him. But there the pair's fortune ended.
After the glow and newness of a husband and family dimmed, Alhaani returned to her old restlessness and thence to her studies. She spent days on end without setting foot outside the Relic Room, having artifacts from across the world brought to her there at great expense. And all the while her husband and children made ends meet, but lived with a gaping hole in their lives that would never be healed. The children grew up without a mother, and if not for the unfaltering vigilance and love of their father, they may have drifted away into the world, destroying the hereditary legacy of the Hhsrant line of Guildmasters.
Finally, though, with his children grown and the void in his soul spreading increasingly, Talhaan could take no more. You see, the passion that he had once held for the Earth element had been transferred when he found Alhaani, into a passion for his wife -- one that would in at least one critical way always remain unrequited. To Alhaani's defense, he gave no visible sign of his distress, though all in the Tower save Alhaani knew that something -- and they were helpless to stop it -- was gravely amiss.
On the night that shattered us all, Talhaan walked quietly up to the Relic Room and said only softly, "Alhaani, please come down. I have prepared a special meal for us." Alhaani responded distractedly, though her exact words have been lost to time.
When, three anlaen later, Alhaani did descend, the damage had already been done. Talhaan, lost in his deep depression and pain, had ingested greenthorned desert rose -- a fast, deadly poison. When Alhaani found him in their quarters, he had fallen into a sleep from which there would be no awakening.
Alhaani, at that moment, seemed to awaken from a long daze. The shriek of unrelieved, spirit-rending agony she gave voice to at that moment of realization sent me running to their chambers -- but when I found the Guildmistress, she had retreated far back into herself, and could not be reached.
We tended her as best we could, but for weeks she would respond to nothing, taking food and drink perfunctorily, and it seemed not to nourish her. It was a dark time for the Tower Council, and we despaired of what to do.
It was on my watch that Alhaani finally came back to reality. Who could know that a S'Kra in her state and at her age could move so swiftly? Near sunset, she suddenly leapt upward from bed and, in eerie silence, made a mad dash for the staircase. I tried to stop her, but, Hav'roth forgive me, I was not fast enough!
I reached the Solarium, where Alhaani had fled, just in time to see her perform a series of mad gestures. With a roar of fury, a massive, angry Air elemental thundered into being. It shattered the glass of the Solarium and rocked the Tower on its foundation. For myself, I clung for dear life to the staircase as the world was ripped asunder around me.
After a few scant moments that felt like an eternity, the mad elemental swept out into the desert, carrying the Guildmistress with it. However, her spirit, ripped by elemental force from her body, remained behind. The elemental, furious and devoid of a commanding mage, fragmented -- and what remains of it, we believe, is what now causes the ferocious desert storms that roll across the sands and rearrange the dunes separating Hvaral and Muspar'i.
The guild passed into mourning, and closed the chapter of Alhaani's leadership. A search party was sent out to retrieve the body, and after some weeks scouring the desert they did in fact find it -- ravaged and pale, her once lustrous black scales dulled to a deathly grey. They set her to rest next to Talhaan in the Hall of Masters.
The rest is as you know it. Alhaani's spirit remains in this hall, seeming to pervade all we do. In time we are told that she may fade into a mere remnant, but for now it is almost as if she never left. I myself lead the guild with what meager abilities I possess, though I believe it will be some time before this stigma passes from our Tower, if it ever does.
By my hand,
Onlakh Hhsrant, Saar'adu'hhssho
Firstborn son of Alhaani and Talhaan