One -- Introduction to Despair
world without time, host to a war with no end... Men bear witness and
frolic in the blood of the fallen. The age of prophecies foretelling
a future of peace and prosperity has long since been divested. But in
this world, our present, the roads are wide and the paths are many.
Destinies can be forged; fates can be broken."
world was one of vibrant colors and wonderful aromas, though their
source seemed so far away to the child. The village of Tevan had
always been an exciting place to visit on the first day of Autumn,
and today was no exception. A festival of breathtaking proportions
had just gotten underway, and people had gathered from all across the
kingdom of Autrin to take part. To the small boy burning with
anticipation, it seemed as though everyone was there, everyone except
“Mother, the whole kingdom is already there by now! If
I don't hurry, I'll miss everything!” Váli crowed, running his
hands along the smooth oak surrounding the kitchen window. “We're
on the outskirts of the village, and it will take last of the
sunlight just to get there. Why must I wait?”
“You think I
would let your sister walk to the festival by herself at night? Shame
on you, Váli,” the woman replied, ruffling her son's head. “I
have agreed to watch Mr. Hade until his wife returns from the market,
and you know Eisha wants to have fun just as much as you do.”
shuffled his feet impatiently, peering out of the kitchen. The small
hallway was empty, as it was the last time he had checked, and the
time before that.
“Why must she put on such foolish clothes?
Women should just wear rinewool tunics like everyone else!” he
said, making sure he was loud enough for a certain someone to
“Child, stop this nonsense and leave your sister
alone. This event only happens on the first day of every Autumn, so
let the girl wear whatever she wishes. While you wait, take this to
Mr. Hade. It will serve to pass the time,” Váli's mother sighed,
handing him a basket of fresh apples and grapes.
young, already had the makings of a strong man and had no trouble
toting the large, finely woven basket. His shoulders were broad, and
many of the villagers had told him that he would grow to have strong
carpenter's hands. Sometimes, he would even be asked to help the
fishermen with casting the nets, receiving ten copper coins for his
labors each time. Váli did not care about things like that though.
He was more interested in games and festivals, especially the Autumn
In a flash, the boy charged out of the front door of the
small house, basket in tow. Normally, Váli would have taken a bit of
the delicious fruit for himself, but the smell of roasting meat and
fresh bread wafting from the center of the village seemed so much
more appealing. He would have liked to be traveling in the opposite
direction so much, but unfortunately the Hade house was one of the
few homes farther out than his own. Váli's feet unwillingly slowed
to a brisk walk as the soft sanded road beneath him became a mess of
rocky gravel and twisted grass roots. He was almost there; the house
was just past the worship shrines.
Walking past the large,
flat, one-story buildings, Váli wondered why the old man would
choose to put his home in such a place. Only the intensely devoted
would travel to the outskirts of the village to worship the many Gods
that ruled this world. Everyone else would just pray to small
figurines or ornaments ordained by the priests, everyone except Mr.
Hade. In the short while Váli had known the man, not once had he
spoken of God or faith. Even when he fell ill just two days ago, the
Hade household had not been heard praying for good health. The other
villagers thus estranged themselves from them. No one besides Váli's
own family, the Rosses, ever even considered visiting the old man and
A gentle breeze swept through the rolling, grassy
hills surrounding the city. Váli's jet black hair fluttered,
uncurling for a brief moment, only to fall limp once more over his
dark green eyes. He didn't mind, however; in fact, he saw trying to
avoid the pointed stones beneath him without looking as a challenge.
The native and visiting priests who were not at the festival smiled
at the carefree child, falling over an assortment of rocks and tree
stumps as he passed.
By the time Váli had arrived at his
destination, the basket hardly had a third of what he had been sent
“Hello, Mr. Hade,” the boy said nearing the
one-room hut which housed the elderly couple. “I have some fruit
from my mother I was sent to give to you.”
There was a faint
shuffling, followed by a series of coughs and groans.
very kind of Rinda. Give her my deepest thanks, child,” a voice
replied. “Please, leave it at the door if you wish. I would expect
you to be at the festival by now.”
“I will, sir. Goodbye!”
Váli yelled, setting the fruit down where instructed and taking off
Looking back at the old hut, the boy felt a tinge
of regret. The straw thatching on the roof had thinned, and the wood
lining of the walls was dry and splintered. He could have done more
to help; the whole village could. Váli would have turned back to
take the fruits to Mr. Hade himself had he not seen the soft golden
light suddenly come to life in the old man's window. The damage had
“Getting up one more time won't kill him,” Váli
mumbled, continuing on his way.
The return trip was a quick
one, down the sloping hills, past the worship shrines, and off into
the wild bushes just outside his house. It was there that Váli
peeled off the bits of grape and apple that had plastered themselves
onto his scraped legs. By the time he had returned home, the sun was
only flickering on the horizon.
“Hurry up Váli!” Eisha
called out to her brother as he appeared over the last hill. “The
festival will be over by the time we get there!”
up? I was the one waiting for you for half the day!” Váli
retorted, jogging up to her. “Well, if mother and father aren't
coming, let's go.”
“Mother said to take this and have fun
at the festival. She went to fetch some candles and water for Mr.
Hade,” Eisha said, handing her brother a small leather
“Odd, Mr. Hade had a light going when I came by, so I
don't know why he would need candles. Maybe he was almost out,”
Váli mumbled, shaking the pouch beside his ear. The coins inside
gave a low, grinding jingle as they were tossed about. “Only
copper,” Váli muttered, fastening one of the pouch strings around
his waist sash, which was of course, loosely woven rinewool.
do you always do that? Why don't you just look inside like normal
people would?” Eisha asked, a quizzical expression on her
“What would be the fun in that?” Váli replied,
walking past his sister and towards the festivities awaiting
The walk towards the center of Tevan was almost more
agonizing for Váli than the wait before. He would constantly urge
his sister to keep up with him, but in the bright blue dress she was
wearing, it was next to impossible. Slowing down, Váli was plagued
by the piercing rattle of the sea shells that had been sewn on with
little care. It had gotten to the point where he could tell what
shell made what noise quite easily. The high pitched snap was the
blue as it collided with the brown, the deafening scraping was the
brown with another brown, and so on. He had gotten so good at it, in
fact, that he had almost forgotten how much the sounds had irritated
The scenery changed from farmland to houses soon enough,
and shortly after nightfall the two found themselves in the midst of
the gargantuan celebrations. The village of Tevan had originally been
a religious pilgrimage point, and because of this, most of the houses
were simple one-story buildings made of wood and stone, with straw
covering the roof tiles. The decorations adorned upon them tonight,
however, made them look fit for royalty. Golden chains hung from
rooftops, roses and dandelions filled the streets, and the whole
village smelled of roasted meats and buttered breads.
were most spectacular, as they were some of the only two- and
three-story buildings around and served as platforms for the fire
dancers. The jolly men laughed and sang, twirling massive flaming
clubs to and fro. Only light silken trousers covered their well-built
frames, causing the show to be a hit with most of the young women, as
well as the children.
The straw had been removed from each of
the inn's rooftops, letting light from the flaming sticks illuminate
the dark clay below. The barren clay let off a heart-warming aura in
return, that lifted the spirits of all who viewed the spectacle. Once
a man had taken part in a Tevan Autumn festival, he would surely not
forget it for the rest of his days.
Both Váli and Eisha had
been brought to the event every autumn since they had been born,
eight including this one for the boy and two less for his sister.
Each time brought a new excitement and joy for the village children,
though. Be it disc throwing or height jumping, whatever was the new
thrill most taken up by the youth of the village was amplified
tenfold at the festival. This year, it was gambling. Anything that
could be bet on was a source of great interest for the children of
Tevan. From street wrestling to whose family would buy the fattest
pig from the markets, nothing was off limits.
into the pouch along his waist for the first time while nearing the
butcher's corner and meat vendors of Tevan. He was neither surprised
nor relieved to find twenty copper coins nestled inside. He had
guessed they were copper and had approximated their number earlier;
it was just as expected. After buying himself and his sister some of
the spitted roast chicken from one of the many vendors, Váli began
to look for a gathering of boys, a sign that something interesting
was about to take place.
“Come on, this way!” Váli said
to his sister, taking her hand as he made his way through the thick
crowd of spectators and the pickpockets they incurred.
just where he would find what he was looking for, if memory served
him correctly. It took Váli only a few moments to make his way to
the western side of the city. There, the inns were filled with
foreign customers, cheering upwards from their windows and the ground
below, towards the fire dancers. One of the dancers smiled, tossing
his stick as high as he could manage and catching it on the heel of
his foot flawlessly. The crowds went wild, all except Váli, for this
was not what he was searching for.
“Váli, I'm tired. Let's
watch the dancers for a while,” Eisha suggested, though it was of
Váli was only focused on one thing - the crowd of
young boys that had just gathered near a busy inn. He knew there
would be something happening here if nowhere else. Everyone had been
talking about it for days now. As he strolled up to the other boys
confidently, one of the group held out his hand, grinning
“Today or not today, and how much will ya put
on it?” the boy said.
“I'll say...” Váli started,
looking at two cloaked men on the side of the road in particular.
“Today, and I'll put seven copper pieces.”
this?” Eisha asked her brother, while he gave half of their
remaining money to the boy before them.
“It's a bet of
course!” another child chimed in. “See those two men on the road
over there? Well, they haven't moved none since they got there, and
it's been two days! We checked an' they're still breathing, but they
haven't eaten or drunk anything. Thomas over there thinks they won't
last till the morning, but I think they'll make it at least until the
next full moon tomorrow!”
A light breeze made its presence
known, whisking through the city and stirring the dark clouds forming
It was then that the two men both rose, letting the
collected dirt and dust fall from their worn cloaks.
“Weapons! They carry weapons! Call
the guard!” a man yelled, sending the masses into chaos.
of the men, a head or two taller than the other, raised a pointed
object and began to speak. Váli could not tell what he was saying
due to the screaming crowd brushing by him, but soon enough, the
streets were clear, all except for the small group of frightened
children, and the armed men. Now able to see clearly, Váli could
tell that the object the larger man held was a trident. It was an
incredible weapon, with a bronze coating and tips of what seemed to
be real gold. The other man held a simple iron sword, but looked no
“Let's go! I don't want to be here
anymore!” Eisha said panicked, trying to pull her brother away from
the chaos that was sure to begin.
Váli was motionless. He
felt the pull of his sister, but he was captivated by the sight
The man with the trident was the first to move,
raising his weapon and beginning to breathe heavily. The sky,
darkened further than the deepest of nights could conjure, let out a
hellish cry. A massive column of water followed, smashing into the
opposing sword wielder. The crowds jumped back in awe as the street
started to flood uncontrollably. Váli continued to watch in
amazement while worried mothers ushered him, and the rest of the
children, into the nearby inn.
The boy was not even aware of
the water splashing at his feet, for his eyes were locked upon the
massive torrent that continued to fall from the sky. He had heard of
different magics, and had even seen some of them preformed in town
once, but this seemed completely different. Lighting a torch or
breaking a piece of wood using one's mind wasn't even comparable to
what he was witnessing.
The other man, not even able to stand
against the tons of water rushing upon him, raised his sword as best
he could, and pointed it at his adversary. All around the larger
warrior, the sky began to rain small pebbles. The pebbles soon turned
to rocks and from rocks to boulders as they fell. The first man's
trident waved from left to right, forwards and back, moving his
torrent of water at the same time, a look of fear and agitation on
his tanned face. The streets rumbled with a vengeance under the
crushing power of the sword wielder's fearsome attack. One of the
boulders landed in a neighboring inn, bringing the whole structure
crashing down in a matter of seconds. There were no screams or moans;
not even a whisper echoed from the building's residents. Váli could
only tremble in panic, while pools of blood began to mix with the
The rocks kept coming, and so did the
water. Not just one torrent, but three, then five; eight, then ten.
Water flooded into surrounding homes and buildings, while others were
simply torn apart by the plummeting masses of solid earth. A salty
gust of wind swept through the land, drowning out the countless
screams in the town below. Váli held his sister as tightly as he
could, though he knew it would do little good. The waters kept
rising, the roof and left wall of the inn were crushed by falling
rocks, Váli could do nothing to stop these things happening all
around him. He could hear more than he had ever thought possible.
Every agonizing scream, every grinding bone. It was more than the
child could bear, but he had to in order to protect his sister. In a
matter of moments the water had surpassed his head, forcing Váli to
hold his breath and hope for a miracle.