The young mage charges forth through a town market; his eyes, squinting in the sunlight, flit from left to right with unease, whilst he pushes through the crowd, very aware of the chaotic battle unfolding in front of him. He is focused not on this event, but of the rumor that an old nemesis, of whom the young man has trailed here after a grueling search, is behind it. Siden, the young man is called: a name which echoes that of his great grandfather, Sirun, a powerful sorcerer and sword maker. Siden himself has been blessed with the same talents as his ancestor, which have helped the boy numerous times over the past five years, in his quest for recognition and knowledge of the world outside the quaint village he was born in.
But whilst the young explorer meanders through the crowded market, a much younger boy, is about to undergo a cruel, yet integral challenge. Sitting upon a grassy knoll near the southern edge of town, Hiro Fyrein looks towards a stone monument, inscribed with a curious message, deftly carved into the structure itself, foreign and unknowable to a 9-year old.
But as Hiro stares on, bewildered, his eyes are drawn towards something else in the distance, another few children about his age, playing near the hill. But as he makes to approach them, they rush away as though the boy was afflicted with a sickness they were afraid of contracting. Dismayed, Hiro jumps down from his perch, but stumbles and falls several feet to the ground below. Brushing himself off, he notices something he didn't before.
The sun has moved further west, and its radiant light beams over the quiet plain. The lurker has been thwarted, the sunlight exposing his hiding place, his presence now known to the brat.
"How much like his grandfather he looks," the stranger thinks.
"That scum's bloodline ends up here
his descendant is the son of a worthless, peasant blacksmith," the lurker sneers. "How the great one will enjoy hearing such irony..." he wonders aloud. A clarion call in the distance breaks him from his reverie, and he spins about on his heel, running in the opposite direction towards the town, through alleys and climbing, over myriad obstacles, leaving his master's enemy to gaze, wide-eyed, at the speed and expertise he displays in his movements.
At almost at the same time, young Hiro Fyrein pitches forward, crawling forward on his hands and knees, clumsily managing to get to his feet, running toward the home he shares with his aging father, the town blacksmith. Hiro rushes through stone ruins that lay over the boundaries of his beloved town, remaining wary. After navigating the labyrinthine roads he comes to the more modern structures, awestruck at the scene before him.
Out of the corner of his eye, the warrior sees what he has sought for so long, clearly visible amid the fighters and running peasants. Siden runs headlong into the fray, a blade in hand, slashing through thick armor; his feet, clad in leather made boots, hit the ground almost silently. His quarry spots the young man across the square and at the sight of his pursuer, the enemy leader flees over the cracked and bloody cobblestone, kicking up dust and rock in his wake. Siden, angered at the sight of this, sends up an uproar, seizing a nearby fighter. Upon stripping this unlucky foe of his weapon, Siden finishes him with a swift shoulder throw, still trying to move through the other enemy fighters. Another falls, and another, and yet another one of Siden's adversaries feels his wrath.
Bloodied and bruised, Siden finally approaches the edge of the town square, not bothering to look over his shoulder at the carnage that lay behind. Some fifty or so yards away, Hiro is running out of steam, having run nearly a mile. He has reached the square, dodging numerous invaders and weaves through the mayhem, striking out at several individuals along the way, having a modicum of training in the local fighting styles. The boy keeps moving through the din, colliding with another young man much greater in age than he--Siden.
Scrambling forth, Hiro keeps running across the way, not caring enough to look back. He leaps over fallen bodies, landing just as a stream of fire soars over his head, setting buildings ablaze. The young man he had previously overtaken catches up; seemingly he cast the fire via some kind of spell.
The spell caster has caught up to his target, and calls upon his skill once more, felling two of his prey's cronies. But his enemies too, are able to use this peculiar talent, and the shadows up ahead shift ever so slightly. Two shapes spring forth, wild and emaciated, four legged creatures somewhat lion like in appearance--fell beasts, as the town elders call them. Before they can reach Siden, he draws his blade, and it slashes the air, slicing, apparently, through empty space. Rolling aside, Siden sends two spheres of light forth from a scepter in his left hand, which engulfs the street in light, as the spheres streak into the sky, and hover above the area. The fell beasts are obliterated by the sudden burst, their one weakness. At last, the enemy conjurer's efforts are abated, and the two foes that remain continue their advance once more.
After a few more minutes of running, the two reach their leader, and several of their comrades, who have escaped the battle in the town square; the group stands in an open area, at the edge of a grove of trees, the glow from the sun illuminating a nearby two-story house, owned by Hiro's father. The soldiers and their leader are spread in a semi-circle formation before the aging blacksmith, his brow streaked with sweat, on his knees, a sword at his side.
Finally, Hiro and Siden have reached the clearing themselves, both wielding swords, Siden with that curious scepter in one hand, a short bladed knife in the other. The enemy soldiers, distracted by this sudden intrusion, do not notice the blacksmith getting to his feet. He picks up his sword, attempts to attack his captors, and manages to slay one of them; but the enemy commander is no common foot soldier, and parries the blacksmith's strikes with relative ease. Siden and Hiro clash with the other soldiers, and though young, Hiro does shed much enemy blood, but soon the heavy sword is too much to bear. Hiro's adversary swings his blade through the air, but it is blocked by Siden's own, and the spell caster takes over for his weakened ally. The enemy is furious at being denied his victory over tthat impertinent little brat, thinking he is a worthy foe for his master's great champions
Hiro, tired out, looks between the two groups: Siden battling three soldiers, and his own father, well past his prime, facing off against a much younger, powerful warrior. His eyes are drawn suddenly to the right, as the enemy commander gains the upper hand, slashing his axe at the blacksmith, cutting into his forearm; the man drops, clutching his wounded wrist, and he cries out in agony.
"CRITIAS!" he snarls aggressively, "You dreadful bastard; you'll never find what you seek, it's already been found, the war has already been won, the relics have long since been destroyed."
"Really, I think
not," Critias calls back, as the commander reaches for a curious pendant; a white, opaque stone, set with an unusual shape at its center, and hanging from a sliver of leather cord, which dangles, ominously, from around his own neck.
Critias releases the chain and slashes again, his blade hitting the blacksmith across his chest, easily cutting through the man's thin armor. The blacksmith falls backward, hitting the ground with a thud. At this moment, Hiro is seized by a fit of rage, and jumps to his feet. Rushing forward he tries to take on Critias by himself, wildly thrashing about, the sword in his hand only striking air. His adversary laughs at the sight of this young child, the son of that foolish artisan, trying to avenge his father, not even having to parry the brat's futile assault.
"That's it, then, that is the best the almighty Fyrein clan's heir can do
"So much for his great legacy," the warrior Critias calls out, his voice strained with laughter. "How could I ever defeat you, boy, with all of your talents...?"
"Enough playing around, let us end this nonsense!" Critias says, his voice foreboding, filled with malice.
Siden is not doing much better, but has at least slain three of his opponents. He knocks his last adversary aside, shocked to see more of the opposing army approaching the clearing. He finally realizes what he must do next. Pointing the scepter at the sky, Siden gathers his thoughts, concentrating with all his might, and unleashes a power his enemies would all kill to possess. A bolt of white hot light streaks towards the sky, and sends out a shockwave of energy.
Critias' scream of pain is unheard by his allies; his resolve fails him as he flees into the safety of the forest, unarmed; his weapon disintegrated by Siden's spell. The entire field is engulfed in a bright white light, and after a few moments, when it fades, only Hiro and Siden are left alive, with Siden looking harried, knees buckling. Hiro starts forward, but he trips over something, and lands face-first. Upon getting up, and investigating his immediate surroundings, Hiro notices the cause of his fall: Critias' pendant.
Six hours later, Hiro lies in the infirmary, surrounded by other wounded militia men. Traumatized and heartbroken, he absentmindedly looks over the pendant hanging from his neck; to him, it is the proof of his victory over that murderous fiend. He cannot remember the name or face of his adversary. Vaguely, he sees two figures in the distant shadows, whispering, talking about him:
"So wretched what happened, don't you agree? But they were after Hiro. Shouldn't he be allowed to know why?
"No, Siden. He has already been through enough. And they were not after him. It's complicated. Take him east."
"You think that's a good idea, Kira?" asks Siden.
"Yes. That's all I can think of, and he'll be safe. For now, at least, he will be. The councilor will take good care of young Hiro," replies Kira. "But there's no rush, he still needs time to recover." The figure begins to walk down the center hall of the infirmary; a man of about 50, his auburn hair tied back, and his body encased in armor. Just then, another man enters through the door, dressed in similar fashion. He is much younger, and sounds kinder than the first, as he approaches Siden.
"You are the mage Siden, correct? I was told I could find you here. I regret that I was not able to help you against that heathen, Critias. Was he captured? I'm to take him into custody," he says.
"No one is certain. The forest has been searched, but no trace of him has been found yet, I'm afraid," Siden announces sheepishly.
The other man sighs audibly. "So the coward ran away again. Damn it. Very well, I'll just keep looking then." He reaches out, offering his hand to Siden. "I'm Ragna Lieren, of the Tribe of the Phoenix Pyre. Call me Ren."
"Yes...of course, sir." Siden finishes, clasping hands with Ren, his eye on the knight's badge, which gleams on Ren's shoulder. "So Critias is well known to you also. One day, perhaps we'll find that bastard, and make him pay for his crimes."
"Indeed. And there's no need to call me sir," Ren laughs, "I'm not much older than you, I think. Besides, this badge is practically worthless outside my domain.
"So, this is the boy who tried to take him on, is it? Brave child, can't say I blame him for that."
"Of course not, Critias murdered his father. In front of the boy, no less. And tried to kill him as well," says Siden matter-of-factly. "He might as well have. Hiro's too damned traumatized to remember much."
"Pity, that. So, will you do as Aliin says? Take him to the City of Stone? There's a caravan leaving tomorrow at noon," Ren inquires.
"Aliin...Elder Kira, you mean? Yes. I'm escorting Hiro there personally. He'll be staying with Councilor Aoki, and his family. I can't wait to see the City of Stone myself, I have never been. But yes, Hiro will be protected, and he'll have children of his own age to associate with."
"Ah. Yes, as well. A lot of people are leaving here tomorrow. And you'll have one more companion; I'm riding along, I've got several extra horses in the stable house, you're welcome to them, you and the boy."
"Thank you, Ren. That'll be all for now, I suppose I'll turn in for the evening. I'm staying at the inn nearby The keeper hates latecomers."
Darkness falls quickly, and Siden, having reached his destination, nods off to sleep, thinking of his upcoming adventures, his first foray into the lands of his ancestors, his bloodline having been wiped out, two generations ago by that horrid extremist, Critias. Several buildings away, Hiro lies in bed himself, the dark, star strewn sky overhead. Excitement and trepidation overcome him as he falls into slumber.
So much was lost, but there is much more to gain, so much more out there in the world, and destiny has no concern for time, so it waits dormant, for Hiro to grow and become a worthy champion. Time will pass, with the City of Stone a new home of sorts for Hiro, his new friends, and many fellow refugees. Someday a new battle will come, but for now, life in its splendor, endures, and the world is at peace, sleeping beneath the night sky.