Praeludium Ex Duobus:
There was no bell in the belfry of the Castle Carviliet. The rope-and-metal pulley structure in which the bell should have hung had remained vacant for more than two centuries now, and there was no record of what had become of it. For reasons unknown—idleness, perhaps—it was never replaced, and eventually, its absence was, for the most part, forgotten. The current Alt-Mage and Lady Altis of Murkintsen were unlikely ever to replace it, since it had never occurred to either of them to miss it.
But the raven remembered the bell. The raven knew why it was gone.
The raven had, after all, been present to see its removal. And what a scene that had been! Yet it mattered not…
Black wings spread in the deepening gloom of night, the formidable bird swooped in between the pillars of the empty bell tower and alighted in the rafters, just above where the bell should have been. Below, there was a long, tubular shaft, and below that, the raven knew, was the library—the library containing the all-important map. Yesss, the all-important map so cleverly hidden, hidden so that a hundred-thousand eyes could look upon it and never see it. A map so brilliantly concealed that even the brightest detective would be hard-pressed to find it. For mortals were so simple, so very unobservant…
With that map, one could find the missing bell, if one so chose. Indeed, the cost of such a journey would likely be much more than that old bell was worth, but the point remained…yesss, the all-important map would lead right to the bell, and right to so very much else. For the long-lost bell had a new home: a patchwork castle, where it waited along with the Dead Ones and the Parasite.
The raven ruffled its feathers and set its glittering black eyes upon the dark line of the horizon. There was a storm in the air, building fast. No clouds had this storm, but there would be rain. Thick, sticky, scarlet rain, a deluge that would wash the world away.
The prelude was coming to an end.
The prelude would end when the Six were united.
When the Six were united, the storm would arrive.
And then, for the first time in two hundred years would the bell toll again. Yesss, the bell would toll, and toll, and toll…first, there would be three chimes for the three queens of time…then, sometime later, six tolls for the six mortal souls…and then, finally, nine. Yesss, nine times would it ring for the end of all things.
The only bit left to be determined was whether it would be the end of all things for the Worm, or the end of all things for the Three Queens of Time.