Right, right, I had written a song in case anyone came to listen to my story!

Arcturus, an adult dragon of massive size, lies curled up with the listener on the tip of his curled tail.
This is a story...
About my friends!
And all of the great things they did,
but met... their... end!

I'm wishing,
keep wishing,
it won't come true.
What can I do?
I'll always miss them...

I loved and cherished them...
But they're all gone!
And time's arrow, it marches on,
and takes... my... friends!

I'm wishing,
keep wishing,
it won't come true.
So what I do is,
Tell others of them...

His voice reverberates around the cavern he dwells in.
You aren't sure where the sound of the pipe organ is coming from.
You assume it must be magic, or maybe a tape recorder hidden somewhere.
The lyrics strike you as a bit cheesy and perhaps overly dramatic.
Of course, you knew he was like this.
He pulls out a small pile of parchment papers after he's done singing.

Curiosity is a good thing.
Seeking answers, asking questions, accumulating pieces so you can assemble the picture.
It is one of the great joys in life.
I will tell you how the world came to be this way.
After the conclusion of the adventure of our heroes, the world entered an era of peace and
prosperity for thirty years. These three decades became known as the "Golden Age" of Mersia.
This period is, of course, when Addie was born. It is the Mersia she knew.
It is the Mersia she expected to see upon her return aboard her ship.
But the world wasn't like that, not yet. There was an undercurrent of strife and
unease beneath the image of stability and comfort. Evils both above and below.
Here are some drawings that I made.

He hands you the stack of parchment papers and clears his throat.

"Wait. If you're blind, how did you draw these?"

I was not always blind... Though I was when I drew these.

"Why did you draw these if you're blind and alone?"

So I could show a visitor my memories while they were fresh.

"But you've been projecting full-color drawings into the air this whole time..."

Do you want to look at my drawings or not?
You think I drew those for fun? I drew them because I had no other option.
I didn't learn how to project images into the air until thousands of years later.
By then my drawings wouldn't have been nearly as accurate.
"But then... Why are these full-color projections so detailed and accurate?"
"Why can't you do the same thing for these?"

Arcturus's face twists in confusion, as he lowers his head closer to you.

How would you know whether they're accurate?

And it's a moot point, I already drew those. What should I do with them if not show you?
Would you rather I burn them? So ungrateful.

He scoffs, turning away from you.

"I'll look at the drawings."

His expression softens.

To answer your other question, it's because I have a book under my right hand that has all of the images in it.
I'm taking their essence from within the book and projecting it into the air so that you can see it.
"How do you know it's working?"

What, is it not working?
"No, it's working."

Then, there you go. That's how I know it's working.
I have gotten so side-tracked! It's a good thing we have eternity.
Where was I... Ah, yes.
Let me tell you about what came after the Golden Age.
I am quite old. I was there for all of this, you see.
I will not delve into who her parents were, but at the end of the Golden Age, a woman was born.
A woman who was named Diane.
Diane spent the first century of her life in relative isolation...
Yes, I said first century.
Diane lived an extraordinarily long life because of a set of unique circumstances I will explain later.
The world declined during this century,
with vast swathes of the land and oceans falling to an absolute evil known as Void...
Void can be described as a forced helplessness.
An entrained vulnerability, an erosion of confidence and self-worth until no point can be seen to continuing.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of a historical figure called Diane, with geometric, curved wings holding up a staff which ends in a shepherds hook and has a gear tooth at every 60 degree increment. There are two thin rods crossing the shepherds hook. The staff terminates in a three pronged stand which rests on the ground. Diane wears a white dress with four diagonal stripes under her right breast and over her left thigh, under which is a mesh net covering her legs. She has a halo with four vertical spikes through it.
But Diane was the antithesis of Void. Her presence inspired people.
She brought out the best in those she spent time with. Despite the vast power she held, she remained humble.
To speak with her would be like speaking with any wise person who wished to leave you better than she found you.
She instilled neither doubt nor submission nor despair in those with whom she spoke.
Her presence was invigorating. And people rallied around her. There is a force in this world...
Or, was, called the folkmore.
The Folkmore is a manifestation of the beliefs of the many.
It is like an unconscious group spell cast on a person or place.
If a place is believed widely enough to have healing properties,
the will of those who believe this will manifest in that place healing those who visit it,
even if the one visiting it does not believe it themselves.
Those who followed Diane believed that she could face Void itself and triumph.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of a historical figure called Diane attacking a large figure called void.
Because they... Because we believed she could defeat Void... She was able to do so.
She was able to clear a field many miles wide where Void could not even set foot.
And the people rejoiced as they never had in their lives.
The only ones who remembered what that sort of joy felt like were those who were
around to see the beginning of the golden age...
And by this point, there were no Sapes remaining who had seen that moment and yet lived.
But there were dragons who remembered. We joined the Sapes in following Diane.
This would have been unthinkable even two hundred years prior,
but Diane had earned our earnest support and fellowship.
Together, we, the ones who remained,founded a city.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of a city called Neo Tolikra, with Diane sitting atop a throne in the far background.
We called this city Neo Tolikra... For it was in this place the Old Tolikra once stood.
This place was home not to one but two "Tolikra"'s. Of course neither of them remain still.
This was many thousands of years ago. Do not ask me how many, I do not know. I lost count.
But our life all together in that city, Neo Tolikra,
where four million souls resided under the banner of protection afforded by Diane's life...
If the era of peace after our heroes had finished their journey could be called the "Golden Age",
then our lives in that city could be called the "Silver Age".
The Silver Age was not without conflict of course...
And the rest of the world was hardly universally unlivable. There were pockets of stability.
The Disciples of The Mirror was one such group with whom Neo Tolikra often traded.
How they and others survived outside of Diane's protection, I can only guess.
However, I digress. There's always an "and then" after the good times...
And then, Diane passed away.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of a historical figure called Diane on her funeral bed, with a very long line of people waiting to pay their respects to her. Arcturus, the dragon, rests sadly in the background. Mage, as a young man, stands before the funeral bed clenching his fist.
Diane, you see, was not only our hero, but a mother as well...
It turned out that, near the end of her life, she had a child.
I shall not tell you his name, but he is the Mage who had sent Addie to the past.
The weeks-long funeral was the only time I had seen him shed tears.
I knew him growing up, of course. I was a close friend to Diane.
But for all the centuries I had known her, since even her own infancy,
she chose to share her last moments with her child alone.
He was at the time barely 18 years old. Far too young to lose his mother, his only kin.
I was the only thing like a friend that the Mage had, back then.
After his mother's death, he shut himself away for a while.
I offered to be an ear for his grief, to share with him stories of his mother's life,
but he would have nothing to do with my attempts at consolation.
What else could I do?
I respected his wish for solitude,
and after reminding him I was always there for him,
I let him be.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of a small chapel with a massive statue of Diane behind the pulpit. A preacher speaks to a congregation of nine people.
In the absence of their protector, the people turned to intense, fervent prayer.
They prayed to images of Diane, in the hopes that she would protect them from void,
in the hopes that her spirit yet dwelled within the city.
And for a while, it was enough.
The silver age had definitively ended with the death of Diane,
but the collapse wasn't immediate.
The Folkmore which had once granted Diane power now granted the land itself power.
Because the people believed Void could not set foot near the city,
because the people believed Diane's spirit yet protected the land,
the city remained safe from void's attack.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of The Mage, who holds out his palm over Neo Tolikra, as it burns.
But not from him. The Mage.
The Mage was not content with this, and believed in his own power so strongly,
so absolutely, that he chose to challenge Void like his mother had,
but without the support of a folkmore, unlike his mother.
And, unfortunately, he was even stronger than he believed he was
I tried to talk him out of it.
I did. I really did. I loved that city, I loved the people in it.
He didn't listen to me! I swear, I did everything I could do!
Where Diane had only succeeded in repelling Void from a small area,
the Mage had attacked Void with such ferocity,
the air itself warmed with the aggression of his attack.
The oceans boiled. The land dried up. And the people died of thirst.
Only ten thousand sapes yet remained. But the situation was not beyond salvaging.
They could have rebuilt civilization. It would rain again, soon,
and the people would once again have water to drink.
But to the Mage, we may as well have been zero.
He did not care that so few survived.
He did not care that it was enough for civilization to continue.
He was done with us.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of The Mage enveloping Mersia in his giant wings, and destroying everything on the planet.
He chose to pull up the planet's ley lines as though he were uprooting a tree,
and he then consumed the world's magic.
I tried to stop him. But he was already far too strong.
It was like I was a pebble trying to stop a river. I am not a fighter.
Especially not now that I am old and blind. But I was in my prime, back then.
I was not weak by any stretch of the imagination.
A dragon nearly a thousand years old, my body was brimming with power.
But I may as well have been nothing before him.
The only thing I succeeded at was earning his ire.
And he repaid me with eternal life, against my will.
Void was gone. He had "succeeded". But everybody else was gone, too.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of Arcturus alone in his cave, surrounded by ghosts with light streaming from above.
I hate him. More than words can express, I hate him.
Were he not immortal, I would wish him eternal torment in the flames of hell.
But he will never go there, or anywhere like the afterlife.
The mage. The bringer of ruin. An insult to everything my friends once stood for.
Destroyer of everything his mother built. A mockery of her values.
When Addie first told me, in my youth, that her master had read my work and greatly enjoyed it,
I felt elated as any aspiring author might,
when confronted with evidence that their efforts would one day pay off.
But as the years wore on and I eventually faced this mage in his own youth,
my elation was twisted into unquenchable fury.
How dare he enjoy my work after what he did to us?
Cursed to live for eternity as an ever-present teller of tales,
without even an audience to hear them.
This is not a life. I am barely alive anymore.

A charcoal drawing on parchment of Arcturus alone in his cave, surrounded by ghosts with light streaming from above.
Can you understand my sorrow?
I told stories because I loved it,
but my passion has turned me into little more than a living monument,
a speck of life among this endless sprawling ruined land,
trapped in isolation, denied even death. I can no longer move.
But I shall live on for yet thousands more years,
my end is not even in sight.
His sole instruction to me, to tell any future visitor to this planet of his great deeds...
It is out of pure hatred for him that I refuse to give his name,
or mention where he went after he destroyed us.
He will remain nameless for as long as I draw breath.
It is the only act of defiance left to me, and if I lose that,
I will lose the last piece of myself that I have any pride in.
Just as I cannot express my hatred for him...
The one who did this to me, the one who did this to the world,
I cannot express my gratitude for your arrival either.
At long last, someone to listen to me again. New ears, new ears that haven't yet heard my story...
I know not how you arrived here, and I dare not ask.
I too take great pleasure in experiencing the unknown,
and in having truths revealed to me gradually over time.
I am happy, dear listener...
After millennia of lonesome misery, I am happy again.
May you sate your curiosity to your heart's content!

Addie, wearing a long pink shirt over a blue tank top and black tights, walks along the back of the bus stop bench like a balance beam.
I apologize for that diversion from the story.
Addie had changed into a less unusual outfit and crossed the street to the bus stop.
I believe the only good thing the mage ever did was send Addie to us.
Such a bright and cheerful lady. I was lucky to know her. We all were.
She teetered atop the back of the bench.
She had a habit of standing on things she wasn't supposed to stand on.
This, combined with her appearance, tended to make her the center of attention.

It's like I'm in a history book!
With this outfit, I'll blend right in!
I wonder if the bus is horse-drawn? I didn't think to ask!
I wonder if anyone will challenge me to a sword duel?
Maybe I'll meet a pirate! This is a coastal city, isn't it?
Ah! No, I can go steal a pirate ship later. I have to find Marcel first!

Even in Addie's own idyllic time, people usually stared after her.
A woman of her height, who preferred to wear high heels,
and whose hair was usually some bright dyed shade or another,
she was the antithesis of subtlety.
The only thing that had changed between her late adolescence in the future she knew,
and her early adulthood in the past she was currently unfamiliar with,
was an awareness of when she was being looked at.
One might try to argue that she invited staring by dressing this way,
but I would emphatically disagree!
She was not dressing this way to attract attention from others,
for their amusement or interest, but because she liked to look this way.
She did it for herself, and she would have done it whether anyone was there to see or not.
But let us return to the cafe for now.
A chain of events had been set in motion by Cae's decision to douse Rimas with a fire extinguisher.