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Overlooking the Realm, a pantheon of deities resides in the Aether. These powerful beings covet the worship of their terrestrial followers. To this end, they proselytize the masses, promising power, or a better life in the next world. Although remarkable, these gods are not omnipotent; they may not enter the counter dimension where their followers reside; they must exert influence indirectly, commanding from a distance. Fierce competition fuels them. Alliances and sympathies allow for their positioning along a political landscape. Good versus Evil. The two categories offer a relative distinction with polarizing ideologies. For millennia they have battled, locked in a stalemate … until now.
The Nameless One, a supreme being of unfathomable power, has chosen this moment to reveal itself. Its children, the deities who epitomize a range of emotions, from greed and anger to kindness and love, are summoned against their will for an audience with their creator. For eons, the Nameless One has waited, watching the brutal battles, a necessary part of the selection process. When thousands became few, it cast down its gauntlet, announcing the start of a mandatory contest.
At the dawn of time, the Nameless One wished to explore its complex personality. Such a desire led to vexing questions: Is it better to be Good or Evil? How are these ideals related to Justice? How can one act with reason without understanding the nature of Justice? Such questions required careful analysis, so the Nameless One devised an experiment. It fractured its personality and allowed the pieces to develop, ignorant of their origin. Some entities held features in common. Others were diametrically opposed. Those that survived the selection process became the gods of today. With the current stalemate between Good and Evil, the Nameless One sets into motion its master plan—a plan that would decide which personality is best and, in the process, offer a better understanding of Justice.
The Contest is born!
A prophecy serves as a guide to help the contestants search for stones hidden throughout the Realm. The stakes are high, as the winner will be granted absolute power. The gods will forge pacts. Agreements will be made. Many broken. Of paramount importance are their followers. They will play a crucial role, as the gods are forbidden to cross into the Realm. The winner will be the god whose followers possess the greatest number of stones at Endgame.
Enter the Stoneseekers.
Wolf Kantwohner, estranged royal member of the Kriegenschwert Dynasty, is asked by Seydor, God of Man, to lead his effort in the Realm and confront the forces of Evil. All simian races, and all of life itself, is at risk of extinction if he fails; the Dark Lords must not succeed. Wolf accepts the daunting task and makes his way to the ancient capital of Malden where the first stone is hidden.
The Stonequest has begun!
Evil and Good face off for the final battle. The ironic twist is that the gods must rely on their followers. It is their devotion and fanaticism that will determine the fate of all. Will the winning god bring peace and love, or fear and hate?
"Duane Culbertson has taken Tolkein into the twenty-first century."
"A fun, fast-paced adventure. An exploration into the nature of Justice and a look at the eternal struggle of Good and Evil."
The Etrurian Chronicle
"Who are you? And why are you in my office?"
George R. R. Martin
Fictional Dream circa 2017
"A gripping page-turner, a genuinely fun read. Carefully wrought, this is not a story one can easily put down."
The Malden Obelisk
Despite the apparent destruction of the Forbidden Documents, Alcuin managed to piece together the charred remains to rescue the Prophecy from obscurity. Extrapolation of the missing lines was accomplished using his keen intellect along with notes left by the Great Sage in his grimoire. Multiple copies are being transcribed in secrecy at the Scriptorium in Toures as a precaution against further treachery. While the burnt pages chronicled the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the enemy, it is the understanding of the Prophecy that is critical, since its lines describe where the stones are hidden throughout the Realm.
Humanity still has a chance!
Duane Culbertson would like to challenge the Reader to a Contest within the Contest. Multiple hidden messages exist within the lines of the Prophecy. Be the first to solve the Stonequest and earn the ultimate victory position on the Wall of Honor with a chance to win $500! A raffle will take place for those who succeed in solving the Prophecy. Odds of winning depend on the number of people who give the correct answer.
In addition, be one of the first ten people in your state to impress the author with your knowledge of the Prophecy and earn a place on the Wall of Honor. Such individuals will be entered into a second raffle where ten people will earn $50.
If anyone posts a solution to the hidden message buried within the Prophecy, the "Contest within the Contest" shall be declared null and void. Discussing the meaning and significance of particular lines, however, is encouraged.
The Wall of Honor will be updated periodically. The first person to solve the Prophecy will appear on the wall too, but his or her identity will not be revealed until after the Contest is over. Raffle entries will be weighted depending upon the order received. (Correct answers submitted first have a better chance at winning the raffle.) Send your solutions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners may be invited to talk with Duane Culbertson via video and asked to validate their statehood with a driver's license. Furnishing meaningful information concerning the Prophecy and contacting the author may earn you a spot on the Wall of Honor regardless of having the correct solution, so feel free to share your thoughts. The Ultimate Winner will be announced July 4th, 2025. Good luck! And let the best One win!
The story takes place in a parallel universe in a world similar to our own. Often names from history are adopted to add flavor to the story. For example, the Parthians were a Persian people who came to power after Alexander the Great. The Empire of Etruria is a mixture of influences, although the primary source is ancient Rome.
The people populating this world live in a pre-industrial age where magic and science compete for attention. Education is a luxury reserved for the wealthy, and the main focus is war and agriculture. Physicians, lawyers, magistrates, skilled-craftsmen, and scriveners are quite common and easily found in any large city.
The humanoid races are based on the tradition of Tolkien, because the world he has created is understood and appreciated by many. The silicon-based race known as the Oultek is my creation, the musings of a twelve year-old boy.
The philosophical interpretations of Justice as pondered by the Nameless One at the start of the story are taken from Plato's Republic, and the ideas of Socrates are sprinkled throughout the novel. Specifically, the reader will find references to the Allegory of the Cave and the Myth of the Metals.
The gods reside in the dimension of the Aether, while the animals, plants and people inhabit the terrestrial Realm. Rather than make the gods all-powerful, it was more interesting to have them rely on their followers to win the Contest.
I hope readers will enjoy the story I created. If you have ideas about how to make it better, please feel free to contact me.