Chapter 3 - Fate's
by nature a vessel of greed and desire. Grasping far past the
infinite possibilities of his own destiny, he will take hold of
countless lives unseen. Thus with the rising and falling within his
own realm of being, crests and troughs will form throughout the
entirety of mankind. This is why destinies are altered; this is why
fates are changed."
Váli opened his left eye
as he sat motionless on the forest floor, for blood was running
freely from the right side of his head. There stood another boy, a
few years older than himself. His clothes were filthy beyond
recognition, and he was panting frantically. In his left arm a
bloodied, broken staff was held firmly. Váli could tell the boy was
in great pain without even having to look at the smoldering mass of
flesh that was his right arm. He smelled of fear. Clawing splinters
of broken wood from his temple, Váli stared at the newcomer, waiting
for him to make a move.
The other boy quickly raised his
broken staff, drawing not even a flinch from his target, and threw
the weapon to the ground. Gripping his right arm and falling to his
knees, the child let out one scream of anguish and pain after
another. Váli remained still, a million thoughts racing through his
“It's ok. Go ahead and do it.”
attacked you first didn't he?”
“No one will blame you for
“He drew first blood. You're only acting
in self defense, and besides...”
“It'll feel so
It was coming back to him. That urge, that
lust, that euphoric sensation was surging all over Váli's body. His
right arm grew hot, and Váli could feel every trace of the deadly
stone as it throbbed intensely. The child's mouth began to water, and
his eyes fought desperately to keep from rolling back into oblivion;
“Run,” Váli coughed, spraying spittle in
every direction. His mouth was now foaming profusely.
other child stopped screaming, though his left arm still grappled his
right. The mixed look of fear and pain had not changed.
Follow the river,” Váli moaned. Control over his body was
slipping, and the boy began to rise.
The newcomer took one
step backward, then another, and went into a wild sprint toward the
faint sound of flowing water.
Váli's body started to calm
itself, and breathed a sigh of relief. Shuffling the shells that Mr.
Hade gave him, he was glad that they hadn't broken in the confusion.
He had a feeling he'd be needing them in the near future. The burning
in his arm had only gotten worse since he'd calmed down, and the
night was unusually quiet. Speckled bits of light illuminated the
child's face, and Váli quickly looked about him. That man was
“Why, if it isn't my favorite little God in
training,” a voice boomed from behind a nearby bush.
started to slowly back away from the direction of the sound. To his
relief, the noise of rushing water grew more and more intense. He was
almost there, almost to the ridge.
“I don't... sense the
pieces of the covenant I gave you. You know, those stones.”
voice had moved, and quickly. The stranger was to his right now. Váli
kept backing toward the river, paying no attention to his pursuer's
location. Sweat was pouring from every pore in the child's body. He
could feel the eyes of the stranger, and they were piercing. Like the
eyes of a wild animal, they felt like they could sear his flesh if
they got any hotter, any more dangerous. A faint rustle of leaves
drew the boy's attention to his left, and by the time he regained his
concentration, the presence of the stranger had completely
For a brief second, Váli could feel the
moonlight force its way through the dense layer of forest above him,
and the leaves near his feet grew thinner and thinner the further
backward he traveled. He was coming up on a clearing. Suddenly, a
wave of bushes and leaves raged before the boy, followed by a large
Váli noticed the irregularity of the figure's
movements well before he could see it. There were no definite
footsteps, only a uniform moving mass. It was a decoy.
are they, boy?” a voice from behind whispered.
already in motion before the stranger had said a word. Breaking the
two shells in his right hand, the boy shoved the objects and their
contents into the stranger's chest, pushing with all his might. The
smell of the broken shell was horrid. It felt as though he had just
inhaled acid, and Váli's balance was affected for a brief
The man gave way, and Váli rushed past him into the
cool embrace of the silver moonlight. His escape was short lived, for
only a stone's throw away the earth jutted into the sky, while the
river faithfully leapt off its surface into the darkness below.
test my patience, runt,” the man said, stepping into the
Váli's stomach knotted. The stranger's arm and
torso were a mix of raw pink and charred brown. All of it was covered
in swelling mounds of flesh, constantly rupturing and dripping before
the boy's very eyes. What was left of the dark cloak he wore
fluttered carelessly in the wind.
“Show me the stones, or
tell me where they are. I have no time for your games!” the
stranger said, now walking briskly toward Váli. “Don't tell me you
gave them to that little page boy. I'll kill both of you here and now
if you did.”
“N..No,” Váli muttered, looking at the
oily substance the shells had contained now running along the
stranger's burnt cloak and barely visible pants. Nothing was
happening. His heart was about to leap out of his chest.
at least you aren't as stupid as I thought you were,” the man said,
a devilish sneer forming over his face. “That reminds me...”
stranger stopped, and raised his left hand.
“Power of the
Gods, I grow weary of the hunt. Grant me the power of Asgard so that
I may strike down the one who defiles your name, spear of Odin.”
air grew hot, and a shaft of white lightning illuminated the sky. For
a brief moment, Váli cold see the pool of water below him, and the
rest of the river's trail as it veered from the edge of the forest.
Moments later, the world was dark again, except for the slowly
growing flames near the river bank below.
“Oh, how I love
being a God.” the man chuckled. “The power of thunder, the sacred
art. I can kill anything and everything in sight whenever I please.
Granted a little time must pass as with all spells of course. I do
wish I could have seen that little page boy reduced to ashes though.
It would have been...”
Suddenly, the stranger's left eye
ruptured, spewing blood in every direction.
see that coming,” he said, poking at the bloodied mass hanging from
his face. “It'll grow back soon enough though.”
couldn't take it anymore. Staying where he was meant certain death.
Even if he somehow managed to survive a jump from the ridge, he'd be
in plain sight, so the boy turned to his right in an attempt to make
a sprint for the tree line. Even before he started running, Váli
knew it was hopeless. It didn't surprise him in the least to see the
figure of the stranger overtake and place itself in front of him.
Bracing himself for the worst, Váli lowered his head and continued
to charge headlong.
His forward motion was halted abruptly,
and the first thing the boy noticed was the warmth of the fur against
his face. Next were the countless teeth that buried themselves into
his right hand. Váli opened his eyes to find himself entangled with
a white wolf, its eyes squared on his now bleeding hand. The stranger
stood a few paces ahead of him, his large frame weighed down by two
more of the same deadly hunters.
The beast gnawed and wrestled
with the boy furiously, it's eyes bloodshot. Váli placed both of his
feet into the belly of the frenzied animal, and forced it off of his
tethered hand with all of his might. The boy stood, his back against
the warm night air rising from the base of the ridge, and watched the
wolf closely. There were five or six in total, with all but one
focused on the struggling stranger. The wolf cornering Váli lifted
its head in the air, and suddenly turned its body to face the other
man as well.
The boy took the opportunity given to him and
continued running. He had not taken more than a step, when an iron
blade cut through the body of the nearest wolf, and rested mere
inches from his neck.
“Get back here,” The man hissed,
blood spurting from his torn neck and tattered shoulder.
wolves had all but engulfed the man, with only his face, legs, and
outstretched arm showing as he fell to his knees under the onslaught
of his aggressors. Váli quickly regained his sense of urgency, and
kept running past the him into the wet tree line. The child bounded
along the closest downward path, and came to the base of the ridge in
a matter of seconds. A torrent of flames rose from the top of the
path, and Váli continued to run with all his might along the river.
He didn't even stop to look at the smoldering ashes opposite to him
as he passed the aftermath of the lightning. The boy he had met was
the least of his worries.
The river bent to the right, and
Váli kept straight ahead, crashing against the thick forest brush.
The Trail of Martyrs would be in sight soon enough, the child thought
to himself. Sure enough, the firm feel of the dirt underneath his
sandals told the boy that he had found what he was searching for.
Keeping his break-neck pace, Váli was relieved to find the trees
thinning and an open field before him. He just had to make it to the
Matthias ran as fast as he could.
boy, no, that monster. He had to be with him. They're still coming
after me,” he muttered aloud.
His right arm had been
unbearable earlier, but now it seemed to have gone numb as well as
having swollen up to almost three times its normal size. The smell of
hot, cooking meat had drawn out countless creatures of the night, who
were never more than an arm's length away. They had been following
him ever since he had entered the forest and were just waiting for
him to run out of breath, waiting for him to close his eyes for even
a second. A sudden flash of light caught Matthias' attention.
was a lantern, three of them actually. They had come out of nowhere
as far as the boy was concerned, and were so close. Matthias turned
and ran as fast as he could toward the center of the river, but the
sounds of footsteps were quickly gaining on him. The boy picked up a
fist-sized rock with his left hand and desperately swung it to and
fro in the direction of his assailants.
“Calm yourself,” a
voice boomed from the body of what he had thought to be merely a
The solid steel breastplate with two upright swords,
the insignia of Autrin's royal guard, was perhaps the happiest sight
the boy had ever seen in his entire life. Falling into the knee high
currents of the river, Matthias burst into tears.
a boy, a page at that,” one of the figures said in wonder. “It's
a miracle that he came to be the lone survivor.”
a heavy voice roared from the darkness. “Do you feel
“Impossible. Everyone, Scatter! Magic is
Matthias was quickly lifted into the air, and
found himself face to face with the owner of the royal armor. An
older man, with straight, peppered hair held him securely with one
arm, while the other fished out a small blue stone from his
waistline. Throwing the stone to the ground, the man stepped on it
and closed his eyes.
Matthias could feel what the men were so
afraid of at this point. An incredible energy, hidden in the huddled
mass of swirling clouds above, was manifesting at a terrifying rate.
The only magic said to have such power was thunder, an element no
human had ever been able to cast. But with all of the impossible
things the boy had seen so far, the idea didn't seem so
“I call upon the realm of darkness. Child of
the desert grace us with your presence,” the royal guardsman
A large lizard, about the size of Matthias,
appeared in a flash. Its beady eyes glanced at its summoner with a
look of utter indifference. The aging soldier then tossed the injured
page onto the back of the creature, and started to
Before Matthias had even noticed a
command had been given, the smooth back of the reptile began to grow
hot, and its black eyes glowed a mischievous green. The boy felt his
body begin to sink, and looking underneath the beast, found that the
forest floor had turned to sand. Matthias barely had time to take in
a breath before the lizard dove underneath the earth with its luggage
in tow. The rough sand nipped and burned the boy as it passed.
Matthias' arm was screaming in agony, and his face felt as though it
were about to tear off. The sand above him then grew even hotter than
the back of the desert child he was hanging on to, and a great force
shook the earth.
In an instant, everything was over. Matthias'
body soared through the air, and he found himself flat on his back
and surrounded by flames. The trees were charred and broken, and all
of the leaves that once blanketed the forest floor flew up in a fury
as if trying to escape their inevitable demise. A soldier lay not too
far from the edge of the chaos, his entire body sizzling. It was not
the old man, Yel, the boy noted. In less than a quarter moon, the
child had seen so many burning corpses that this one did not seem to
phase him. He heard the lizard hissing furiously, but by the time he
turned around to thank his scaly friend, it had disappeared.
then, my little page,” Yel started, breaking through the thick
layer of flames surrounding Matthias. “I think it's about time we
got out of here. That arm should be looked at right away. There might
be a chance for it yet.”
Lifting the boy up into his arms,
the royal guard loosed a silver horn from his belt and released two
pitches, one high and the second a bit lower. The sand burned, and
every inch of Matthias' frame was wracked in pain. The last thing the
child managed to glimpse was the figure of a green dragon before he
fainted. He felt secure though, for the arms of the man who held him
were the arms of a man who knew the value a life; at least the boy
thought as much.
Váli's vision was starting to blur,
for his wounds had grown numerous and were still flowing freely. The
ground beneath him had turned hard and rocky, for he was at the base
of the Pan Mountains. They were the second largest mountain range in
Morsque, and one of the more treacherous from what he had been told
in his lessons. It was here that he would find the lady Pandora and
his questions would be answered.
As old man Hade had told him
before, the tingling in Váli's right arm grew more and more intense
with every step he took up the rugged path. It pointed the boy toward
his destination by the strength of its pull, regardless of the
direction of the trails. The mountain range was a deep clay red at
its base, with more solid rocks speckled about its surface. Having to
cut in and out of the designated trails was a risky endeavor, but the
boy's only option. The tops of the monstrous spires were coated with
ice, hardly any snow, and vegetation was sparse throughout most of
the country of Morsque, its mountains included. If he were to be
spotted while taking his time up the mountain, there would be no
escape for him.
Further below, Váli heard the violent chorus
of tumbling rock, and a wicked symphony of howls filled the now early
morning air. Wolves drew closer. Váli was frightened, but
speculative at the same time. Could they have devoured such a
powerful man, and afterward still have the courage to track him down
as well? Why come so far out of the forest for one boy? Was it really
wolves he had heard and not the wind playing tricks on him?
down as the sun began to peek over the fringes of the forest, the
child was terrified to see several shaggy, white specks slowly
growing larger beneath him. It was then that Váli remembered that
after he crushed the shells, he was to go through the river, not run
beside it. Looking down as his gouged hand, it became clear to the
boy that they were tracking the smell of the shells. It had driven
the wolves mad before, and it would more than likely keep doing so
until he washed it off. It didn't matter where he went, for Váli was
upwind from the forest and any pack of wolves, perhaps other
creatures as well, would be able to pick up his scent.
cursing his carelessness, increased his speed, forcing his battered
body over one jagged rock at a time. Stopping for a brief moment, he
looked about his surroundings for a place to lose his pursuers. A
narrow, uneven path with steep slopes and fine gravel in the distance
was just what the boy had been looking for. His destination would
have to take a backseat in his current situation. The path connected
the mountain he was currently on with another, smaller one, which was
quite a distance away. The wolves would be able to cut his lead by at
least half by the time he made it there, but there was no other
option. Meeting up with another of the numerous mountain paths
surrounding him, Váli broke out into a sprint toward the west end of
the mountain. His body was no longer aching, but instead the child
found his strength was starting to give. His limbs felt as though
they weren't connected to his body, as if he were a puppet
controlling his own strings. It frustrated the boy, for he knew he
could run faster. At this pace, his life was already forfeit.
The howls grew closer with each of
Váli’s awkward steps. The voices of the wolves were rabid and
hungry, but worst of all confident. They knew their prey was weak and
defenseless, and that they would catch it. Váli tried his best to
follow the narrow mountain paths, but it seemed as if his legs were
moving to the side faster than forwards. One after the other, the boy
fell from slope to slope along the side of the mountain. His vision
kept fading in and out, and his breathing was growing weaker. Looking
to his left, Váli was terrified to see two shaggy white coats
running along a nearby peak. Bloodshot eyes glared with deep hunger
and anticipation. They were going to cut him off.
Váli was almost to the point of tears
when his feet came across the first of the fine gravel and stone he’d
been seeking. The left edge of the connecting path was right in front
of him. It’s steep slopes ran all the way to the base of the
mountain ridge. Quickly scurrying to the top of the path, the boy
looked carefully for the wolves. The two he had seen earlier had just
disappeared, most likely rounding a peak in order to come at him from
the front. With the coast clear, Váli started on his escape plan.
Taking off his shirt, he wiped as much of his sweat and blood onto it
as possible. The sting of the coarse rinewool over his open wounds
was hardly noticeable. Next, taking apart some of the sleeve weaving,
the boy tied two stones, near even in size, at different lengths.
Wrapping the creation into a ball, with the stones facing outward and
a few extras placed inside for added weight, Váli checked each side
of the narrow path.
To his left, there were less trees, and
they were a little further down the mountain than the right side.
Váli shook his head though, for the wind was blowing away from the
left side, as opposed to the right. Taking the ball of cloth and
rock, he carefully retraced his steps back to the right side of the
path, and let it tumble to its delight. The two rocks pounded into
the earth repeatedly, creating almost perfect footprints. With his
scent now hurtling down one side of the mountain, there was only one
thing to do. Váli noticed the closest of the trees, directly in
front of him on the left side of the path. He didn’t know if he
could leap such a distance, and even if he did he was sure he
wouldn’t come out unharmed. There was no other choice though, he
couldn’t afford to touch the ground in his escape, or his fake
tracks would be quickly forgotten. Removing his pants, Váli laid
them ahead of his last footprints in order to get a running leap.
Taking off his sandals, the boy cursed himself, for they would have
made much better tracks than the rocks on his decoy. It was too late
to worry about such things now however.
Stepping two sets of footprints
backwards, Váli gathered his courage. The sound of a nearby howl set
him off like a wild animal, and the boy took step after step. The
moment his feet hit the course fabric of his pant leg, Váli lowered
his body first, to steady his wobbling legs, then leapt with
everything he had. He felt weightless at first, and the ground
beneath him quickly lost focus. The wind grew cold and fierce almost
instantly, and in the distance, it seemed a tree was approaching.
Váli put his feet together, and spread his arms in preparation for
his hopeful contact with its wooden trunk. The boy recognized the
scent of the conifer before his vision could come into focus on it.
From what he’d been told, they were supposed to be a rather soft
tree. The thought of a tree being soft would forever vanish from
Váli’s mind the moment his bare body made contact. The sharp
bristles quickly gave way to his approach, and he soon found the base
of the tree to greet his landing. The bark was rough, and it ripped
into his chest like butter. The impact of with the tree left his
lungs flattened, and several cracks and pops echoed through his dazed
mind. Váli had passed out well before he could realize if he had
landed in the tree, or would simply slide off of its massive trunk.
The boy awoke to a grizzly pain. His
stomach slumped over one of the lower branches of the conifer, Váli
was glad he’d at least managed to stay inside of his target.
Loosing himself from his bloodied rest bed, the boy was not fully
aware of his injuries until a large, purple foot came into contact
with the hard earth below. Váli’s scream could be heard for miles.
It was not just his foot, but most of his left leg and lower stomach
had turned the same painful tint. Not able to support his own weight
for even a second, Váli’s body crashed into the hard mountain soil
with a thud. It was there that the boy laid for countless lengths of
sun. The wolves had not returned, there were no howls, and his wounds
had clotted for the most part, so Váli figured it was as good a time
as any for some rest. Laying with nothing on but a thin pair of
trousers, the last night seemed like an eternity ago. He’d murdered
his family, almost been murdered in return by a boy half burned to
death, as well as a pack of wolves, and jumped off the side of a
mountain. Add that to being almost killed by a God, twice, and Váli
thought it made for a wonderful fantasy, something to make a play out
of at least. There was one problem though - all of this was real, and
it was happening to him. He was a wretched soul, it was something he
knew all too well since the death of his father, but even so it
wasn’t fair. His family didn’t have to get caught up in his own
misfortunes. In all of his complaining though, the boy knew he was at
fault. Death followed him like flies to a corpse, yet until now he
refused to accept it.
Looking at the vanishing sun, Váli
took note of his surroundings. He had no idea where to go from his
current position, and he’d forgotten the instructions Mr. Hade gave
him. The land was barren, aside from the sparse trees jutting out
from the mountain side. Any falling debris was quickly swept away
with the rest of the loose soil at the first hint of wind. Even if he
could manage to somehow light an entire tree with nearby stones, he’d
probably be burned to death or eaten well before anyone would notice.
It was then that the course feel of rinewool swept across the boy’s
face. Váli recognized his pants instantly. Crumpling them slightly,
he tossed the worn down fabric as high as he could into the tree he
had fallen from. The clothing snagged onto an upper branch, and
swayed smoothly in the wind. Whoever managed to find him first could
have their way with him, Váli thought, closing his eyes again. Night
would come soon, and he doubted he’d survive being so exposed in
the wilderness, especially seeing as his entire body was speckled
with dried blood. With that thought, the boy slept as if he hadn’t
a care in the world.