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Daybreak slowly pushed darkness from the shoulders of Silver Lake's towers and walls. A deeply reverent silence followed the advent of a new day that none in Kar-Neloth dared anticipate but all welcomed with awe. It was a celebration of the soul so profound that no words passed the lips of those greeting the light. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people had crept soundlessly to where they could witness the sun climb over the mountains and smile down upon the open shutters of the high towers of New Castle.
Those shutters had been sealed for almost four centuries, but now they stood open, and such a simple thing thrilled the hearts of all those staring at them. The events that brought this new day to Kar-Neloth seemed to have passed like a flash of lightning, though it had been more than a year since Prince Randoll rode into Silver Lake with the news that Empress Suzanne had been found. Indeed, it had been a year since Emperor Nathan arose from his mystic sleep and set in motion the events that brought Suzanne back to Silver Lake. In that year the will and faith of many had been tested. War had come, and Kar-Neloth rose to meet Grapland's armies when, suspecting that the massive preparations to recover Suzanne were a threat, they attacked the empire and sought its destruction. Grapland failed. Suzanne was delivered safely to Nathan's hand.
It was dizzying to think of all that had transpired. Perhaps that provided much of the motivation for the quietness of the early morning. Some mothers and fathers with young children carried their little ones to benches, stones or lawns to sit and observe the first dawn after the return of Empress Suzanne to Silver Lake. The first hour of daylight passed in total silence, then, quietly, in whispers so low and compelling that even the youngest children did not stir, parents bowed close to small ears and said, "Up there, dear one . . . way up in that tower, do you see? Can you see the open windows above the balconies? They are home! Emperor Nathan and Empress Suzanne are right there. Watch carefully. You may see one of them at a window."
Thus the stories were told again that bright morning. Young ones were settled on laps and knees, and with delicate reverence their parents told the story of Nathan and Suzanne. All listened to how Suzanne had been kidnapped four centuries past by agents of an evil wizard, the Lord of Dhuon-Poth, though it was strange to tell the stories with many details revealed by recent history. They heard how Nathan, having failed to recover Suzanne by desperate battle, cast a spell provided by the Greyhairs that caused a preserving sleep to fall on both himself and the empress. And so they slept; Nathan under the very towers they looked upon; Suzanne in some place unknown until Prince Randoll returned from his search.
They now knew that the land where Suzanne had slept so long was called Bieulith, a distant land of people who unknowingly shared in the history of Kar-Neloth. There, in a village of priestesses called Mari, Suzanne was guarded and adored, served with devotion by women with powers similar to the magic of the Greyhairs. It was there that King Jeremy, Queen Anne, Prince Randoll, Princess Brenna, and other names of fame and power brought the scepter of Kar-Neloth so that Emperor Nathan could call Suzanne from her sleep.
Nathan issued the call, and Suzanne rose, as it were, from the mists of time and the grave itself. She sailed across a hitherto uncharted ocean accompanied by those who survived the perilous mission, and just the evening before this dawn, having stepped once again upon the shores of Kar-Neloth, she entered the gates of City Silver Lake. It was as if time now stood still. No heart could imagine any higher sense of fulfillment or satisfaction than what stood before them in clear, bright morning sunshine: open windows in the towers of New Castle.
Among the citizens and crowded visitors to the city, King Jeremy and Queen Anne also stood speechless in the morning light, gazing at the towers of New Castle. They had accompanied Empress Suzanne on her journey back from Bieulith, and they too awoke for the first time in many months within the walls of their own home. Their thoughts, though, were not on the relief of being home but on the wonder before them. From their balcony that faced south across King's Gardens, they could see a bit more of the windows than those who looked from the streets. They could see delicate curtains moving in the breeze, and like everyone else around them, they hoped to see some glimpse of the emperor and empress before the day called them to other duties. The thought of other duties, in truth, was distant and seemed quite appropriate to relegate to some time far from the exquisitely ethereal present moment.
A sudden flash, and for a few seconds Jeremy and Anne dropped their gaze to the sad reminder of a newly built tomb in the garden between them and New Castle. The sun had glinted off its polished marble and caught their attention. It was the monument to Philip, King of Sliin, and the pain of Philip's loss stung them deeply. In the late hours of the previous evening, after arriving in the city from Calissia Port, they had accompanied Queen Maari, Philip's wife; King D'vin, his son; and Lady Quelyn, D'vin's bride-to-be, to the tomb. It was a poignant grief that cast a mournful shadow on Suzanne's return to Silver Lake. Philip had fallen in a desperate battle with a Sheenj warrior sent to assassinate Emperor Nathan. In the light of the new day, the stark reminder of the cost of their realized dreams deepened their reverence. The king and queen of Silver Lake looked into each other's eyes, joined hands and returned their gaze to New Castle.
In the lower quarter of the city the peaceful surface of the lake itself displayed the source of its name. The western shore was a favorite place at dawn since the sun lit the glassy water as if from beneath its transparent depths. The view from the eastern shores was inspiring with its mix of deep gold and dark blue reflections, but the western view left one breathless. More perfect than any mirror, the rising sun turned the lake into inverted mountains, clouds, tall trees, beautiful buildings, and mighty, majestic towers. Yet where the sky would be in that luminous vision, what seemed to be purest polished silver gleamed and stunned the observer. Silver Lake, in all its glory, greeted this day with what seemed to be the same anticipation as those who stood about her shores transfixed, mesmerized.
A lone fisherman, having launched his skiff long before dawn, sat still as stone two hundred yards from the northernmost western pier. Eager to watch the sun ascend between the shoulders of Mount Cal-Tore, he had silently rowed out and dropped anchor, then methodically mended a net without looking at what he was doing. His gaze was fastened on New Castle. When the sun lit the stone of the tower, he slowly lowered the net across his knees, unaware his hands had ceased their labor. He noted that this morning was one the artisans of Silver Lake would surely capture on canvas, so brilliant was the dawn and so still the reverence of the air itself. He turned to the shore and noted with a smile dozens of smock-draped artists busily poised over canvas and parchment.
The fisherman suddenly flushed with embarrassment. His eyes widened, sweeping across the lake as he realized that his boat was the only vessel afloat, lying he knew not where amid the reflection of New Castle. He trembled, terrified that his enthusiasm had ended in a blemish on an otherwise perfect representation of the new day in Kar-Neloth. His first thought was to draw in hastily his anchor and pull hard for the marina, and then he realized that any movement would ruin the surface of the lake. Ashamed and shuddering, he lowered his face to his hands, groaning. He was not aware for many months afterward that his posture, instead of marring the fragile image, was captured by a score of Silver Lake's artists as a powerful attitude of prayer and veneration, defining one of the empire's most inspiring images of its new age. Though unknown to most, he was ever afterward one of the city's most admired and envied citizens, a model of devotion and humility.