Artist: Carlos Alvarez
The birds dancing in the wind made way for a small Pickenheart that quickly flew towards them and with a few quick chirps scattered them off. The bird, white in colour, sported a blue crest with a gold crown, it flew towards the biggest building it could see known as the School of Heroes.
The building, ancient in colour, was magnificent, decorated in the statues of various Gods and famous men. Smaller forms of these praised figures guarded a small open window, seemingly inviting the bird to rest in the grand house. The bird quickly decided to accept the invitation and flew in, spotting the human it had wanted to talk to.
The teacher not at all surprised by this intrusion glanced around to make sure no one was nearby, he then walked over to the door and locked it.
The room that the two were in was a classroom filled with many books covering various subjects from the history of battle and the art of war to mystical sciences and natural magic.
“You can come down now, my prince” the man said, whilst proceeding to bow.
The bird hopped off the window and gracefully flew to the floor, but before touching the wooden floorboards the creature formed two arms, legs and a very human looking head. Although looking human, the prince had a reddish crown situated on his nose, confirming the fact that the prince was actually one of the bird people or Aurea aves cael i of the land.
"Lord Thash," the man spoke, his voice sounded old in comparison to his young face.
The prince made a stiff bow, almost nervous like to the other man still bowing.
“You can relax my friend, no formalities are needed between us, we have other matters to discuss.”
The prince made his way to one of the desks and sat down, unfazed by the commonly used wooden furniture.
“The forces of Madrack are near and they possess numbers far greater than any tale of the ancients!”
The Prince cradled his head in his hands and closed his eyes. He had travelled a long way and was tired from the journey. With a poor attempt to stifle a yawn, he looked back up at the man, still nervous and fearful.
“Be still cousin, there is no need to worry” the man, seemingly relaxed leaned against one of the desks, “I will send word to Regeva and Agin, so that they may assist us. There is also no need to lose hope, the Warriors of Faronite are expected to arrive here sometime today.”
At this news the prince calmed down, he looked into the teachers eye and nodded, the message perceived loud and clear. Without any further words, the prince turned into his former shape and took off, leaving the teacher quite nervous. He already knew that no help would come from those two regions and contacting them would be most unwise. He was in deep thought, having heard many stories that passed down in the last few months.
The countries already in the path of Madrack's current war campaign couldn't be trusted anymore.
The teacher took a deep breath and began to continue his daily tasks as a nearby bell sounded, letting the nearby village know that class would begin in a few minutes. The man looked at his Derutian clock on his table and frowned, he put his hand on a bell shaped cog and turned it until he was happy with the result.
He then walked over towards the door, unlocked it and invited in the pupils that were already waiting outside. Pushing all thoughts aside about the previous conversation the teacher greeted his class with a feigned smile.
“Welcome students, please be seated quickly.”
The student’s walked in carrying various objects that carried magical properties. Staffs and wands were carried by the future wizards and healers of the land, books containing ancient languages were carried by Clerics in training and weapons were carried by the young souls who would later advance to Knight Classes offered by this school. Other pupils would sometimes carry sacred items that would also hold some influence into what faction of school they would advance to.
“Welcome class, today we will study the Battle of Brothan” Mr. Thash spoke to the class with fake enthusiasm.
The class quickly perked up after sitting down, paying more attention than usual, the Battle of Brothan was one of the most famous battles known to man or creature. It is especially known for the appearance of the elite warriors of Faronite,
as they were the ones who helped turn the tide of battle in favour of the Brotherhood Nations and freed the first slave capital of the Nethas.
“Who can tell me what formation the Nethas region held on the first day throughout their infantry units?” Mr. Thash asked his class.
He began drawing on a blackboard, crafting a mock bird’s eye view of the battle, without filling in the areas where the infantry were.
Most of the class remained silent unsure of the answer, so they were not surprised when one student sitting on the far side of the room put her hand up. At 14 years of age, Oliha was a student at the School of Heroes.
Her choice of clothing would never change, always seen wearing a simple light blue tunic that had a white trim. She would also wear a brown belt that was lined with pockets which strapped across her chest, these were often filled with unique charms and magical objects that the she found when wandering about.
On her desk sat an old book, handed down by generations of her family, contained spells and secrets of the art of shadow manipulation. This was lost to all but the order her family came from. Known throughout many kingdoms, that order was a group of intellectual beings that possessed rarer power than that of any common witch, wizard or even the mighty warlocks of the underworld. A power that normal humans could only dream of obtaining.
Her parents were never gifted in the shadow arts and her distant family never saw eye to eye with her parents. Because of all this Oliha was only an apprentice, who went to visit the local wizard three times a week for training, usually during the afternoons when she finished school. But while at school, she was always called a know-it-all or sometimes names worse than what she thought she deserved to be called.
The teacher, some-what pleased that at least one student in his class knew the answer, gestured towards Oliha and asked her to explain her answer.
“Well Mr. Thash, the Nethas infantry held a Tyrak formation along the first 6 lines, so that the remaining 14 lines could be put in an interceptor curve round the back sides.”
The teacher pleased that he didn’t have to explain himself, started to mark out exactly what Oliha had described.
“Geek,” someone whispered out, gaining a few sniggers from pupils around him.
Mr. Thash paid no attention to this and carried on with the lesson with fake enthusiasm.
“Yes! That’s exactly how the infantry were lined up. But can anyone else tell me why this strategy was a vital mistake?”
Some of the brighter kids had answers to this question and decided they would start adding their own contributions to the lesson. Mr. Thash now occupied in the discussions of the class paid no attention to Oliha who had already started staring out of the window.
The discussion between Mr. Thash and his students carried on until the class became very quiet, when they couldn’t answer any other questions. Mr. Thash unsure of how to lead his class, decided to start the next topic of the day.
“All right class, today we will be learning how to manipulate the ions in metal so that infantry will be unable to use their weapons.”
Mr. Thash wrote a formula on the blackboard and picked up a pair of white gloves.
“Faro, I need you to collect 5 pounds of Therma Ore, 1.7 Ounces of Dracoma Acid and....Faro?” As Mr. Thash turned towards the corner of the room, a puzzled expression formed on the teachers face as he stared at the empty desk set by the side of the classroom, his assistant, usually the punctual type, was strangely not in the room. He looked over at the class for a second before taking a step towards his desk. “Oliha, you usually talk with Faro? Do you by any chance know where he could be?"
Near the village a young boy, quite tanned in colour, woke up in a poorly constructed cruck house, by the edge of a small lake. He stretched his arms and looked at the childish drawn picture of his mother nailed to the wooden wall by his bed. In moments Faro Hounding was ready to start another day of labour, working at the School of Heroes.
He cursed quietly as he stepped outside his small home, noticing the sun had already risen past dawn. He was sure that he would be fired today, even if he rushed to the school now.
The thought of that place troubled him. Not only was he not approved to study at the school, but he was not even accepted as a citizen of Trecha. Angered that by the thought he picked up a rock and threw it into the lake, scaring a few ducks which had decided to go for a morning swim. As the water rippled, Faro admired his reflection, most notably his facial features.
“Why am I so different?” the thought escaped his mouth, quiet like the wind around him.
This wasn’t the first time that Faro had questioned his past. Once before he visited the town’s historians and even they were not able to answer some of his questions. They said no one had ever come across a race such as his, that his mother could have possibly been an escaped slave from the accursed lands of Mrinthuania. Of course Faro, didn’t believe this, he had no scar, let alone a mark on his body showing he ever belonged to the tyrant ruler of that land. The distance between Mrinthuania and Trecha was too great for a single person to make alone.
Faro looked up at the sky, towards the west where dark clouds were slowly rolling in. A cold, dreadful feeling lingered inside his bones causing him to drop the satchel he was carrying.
A couple of Hazingers, flying freely in the wind suddenly dropped out the sky as if they hit an invisible wall. These rough, ugly birds hit the ground with a bone crunching impact. Faro ran towards the birds, trying to inspect the damage and come to a conclusion as to how and why they suddenly died.
The birds never graceful, even in death, started to let out a repulsive odour that attacked Faro’s senses. He got up and staggered only to remember his bag that he left on the ground. As he turned around to pick it up a fist came out of nowhere and knocked the boy down to the ground.
Faro was dazed for a few moments, but came to his senses quickly, he remembered the times that he had watched Mr. Thash teach at the school and rolled himself onto his feet in a fighting stance, so that he could enact his revenge on the attacker.
However to Faro’s amazement no one was in sight, and even worse, his bag had been stolen. Looking around desperately Faro saw some movement in some nearby bushes and without hesitating he leapt after the thief, running in whatever direction he heard footsteps coming from.
The plants snagging against Faro’s legs were full of thorns, scratching against his bare legs yet Faro did not back down, instead sprinting faster than he had ever done before. It wasn’t long before Faro noticed he was climbing up hill, the chase becoming harder than he had expected as his assailant always managed to stay out of sight whenever he ran around a corner.
Faro broke out into a clearing with a view high above the small village, the Plateau featured an alcove of tree’s hiding away a small river with such purity and cleanliness that this part of the world could only be natures best kept secret. Faro walked towards the middle of the clearing where his bag was neatly laid on a barefaced rock, no sign of the attacker could be seen.
The only other way off the plateau was by trekking back through one of the mountainous paths or jumping off the cliff edge, Faro had no doubt that any normal being wouldn’t be able to survive that kind of fall. The mountain was tall, visible from any floor within the School he worked at. With a puzzled look on his face, Faro approached his bag when he saw smoke in the distance coming from the village, the School of Heroes was on fire.
Faro picked up his satchel and ran towards the cliff edge, wary of the impending drop before him. He came as close as he dared to the edge and stared out towards the school. The red curdling flames were noticeable from the heights the mountain offered. As it was the tallest building in the village, the flames acted as a beacon to the army that was currently heading towards the town square.
The sound of clashing swords travelled in the wind, it echoed throughout the range of mountains behind Faro speaking of the one outcome of the battle at hand, death. Even from up here Faro could see that many young warriors were getting easily outnumbered by the vast forces that he assumed could only belong to Madrack.
His thoughts went to those who were currently fighting and will soon lose their lives, how they went through their everyday lives mocking Faro, just because he was different from them.
“Serves them right” Faro said, almost at a whisper. He cared for no one except.....Oliha!
Faro’s eyes darted back towards the school, trying to pick out the shape of his blue haired friend. That girl had been the only friend Faro had made since he had arrived in the Trecha Province. The crystal-blue eyed girl always looked out for him and if it weren’t for her, he would have never even got a job at the school in the first place.
Faro wanted to jump off the cliff face and fly to Oliha’s rescue, however a thought occurred to him, Oliha wasn’t just academically smart, her abilities as a tactician bested all that attended the esteemed school and rivalled those who have been in military service for years. Without a doubt Faro believed that she could predict the actions of King’s many years to come without failure, in his mind she must have made it out in time. However the worry on his face only heightened when he turned towards the east.
In the distance, a group of farmers where being used as target practice by what Faro recognised as the armour for Aginian Horseback Archers, the fact that all the men and women were getting killed without any mercy didn’t faze Faro at all, what did worry him was when the group of 20 or so soldiers started slowly coming in his direction.
Without a seconds thought Faro carted off, back into the foliage and started clawing deep into the dense foliage of the mountain range. The sound of hooves became distinct, indicating to Faro that the Soldiers had reached the Plateau and had definitely seen Faro. They were not going to take risks and kill any possible survivor they find, Faro only hoped that Oliha’s fate had been better then what was occurring to him now.
The horses were powerful Thetras that made the bush around him look like an empty field and had no trouble going after Faro. This only made Faro pick up the pace, especially as the sound of hooves began to draw closer with each passing moment. As he took a sharp turn as soon as he heard the sound of an arrow hit a tree. “Well, they’re definitely Aginian, only that barbaric lot could miss a shot like that.” he spoke aloud, thankful that the aim of the lead archer was off.
Faro paid no attention to his surroundings as he started to descend the other side of the mountain. He remembered something Oliha had told him once, how the valley between these two mountains was called Tchika Pyion Feli or The valley of Immortal Damnation.
His thoughts went back to a time when she had said that once ago all immortal beings who committed terrible crimes were sentenced to a prison, deep within its bowels, never to see the light of day again.
Faro had shuddered when he heard that and he shuddered now, he was running towards a prison, for what, to die?
Pushing all the negative thoughts out of his head, Faro focused on the road ahead of him, he had run out of breath a long time ago but had to stay on his feet, at least to spend another day alive.
Even though Faro paid no attention to his surroundings, something about the place reminded him of his parents. The foliage started to clear, giving way to tougher trees, the soil, originally hard and compact turned from a rich brown to burnt charcoal sand, cover was becoming harder to find which was not what Faro needed right now.
With a quick decision, Faro turned again just as another arrow whizzed by his head, this part of the landscape was as densely thick as before yet maintained a certain dead quality to it.
As Faro turned his head back, he could almost feel the horses wanting to disobey their masters, turn head and gallop off, yet the harsh whip of the Aginian’s kept them in place. Something was certainly not right here, however Faro needed to keep his head in the right place, lest he ran into a tree or do something worse and run off a cliff. All it took was one second of no concentration for Faro to take the wrong step and trip over a vine. Faster than the horses chasing him, Faro dropped head first into a hole made by an uprooted tree.
Many thoughts went through Faro’s head. He knew for a fact that he had played here when he was younger, which brought him to question what kind of responsible adult would allow a child to play in such a dangerous and desolate area.
Regardless of what Faro was thinking, there was one other thing going through his mind as he fell, he was supposed to be here. Not knowing why or what he was meant to do, the feeling of importance didn’t leave him as he fell.
Faro put out his hands trying slow his descent but it made no effect what so ever, rocks and sharp roots tore at his hands making copious slashes around his fingers. Faro dared not scream in pain otherwise the horsemen would find his location and kill him, if they hadn’t seen him fall already.
A large rock jutting out from one of the sides of the dirt tunnel gave Faro a big enough target to try and latch on to, however as soon as Faro’s hand had touched the large rock, it loosened and gave way for a barrage of smaller rocks. These had all been wedged in together and as they fall apart pushed Faro in such as way that he continued to tumble at a dangerous angle.
Quickly seeing what was ahead Faro tried to brace himself as he approached the ground, or rather wooden floor, not wanting land in a fatal way or be crush by the rocks above him.
Reaching the floor, Faro tensed himself and tried to come off the floor into a roll. This would have worked if it weren’t for the one rock that smashed against the side of Faro’s head. Blood started flowing down the side of Faro’s face as he made a half-hearted attempt to block the remaining rocks from assaulting his body.
Faro imagined that if the rocks didn’t kill him, then the sound they made would surely alert the horsemen after him to do the job.
A moment passed, then another.
After several long seconds the sound of hooves started to fade away in the distance, it seemed that Faro had fell much further than he had anticipated, so far that the sound of the falling rocks would be overshadowed by the noise of the Aginian's horses.
Struggling to remain conscious, the last thought that went through Faro’s head as he slowly blacked out was that he was out of harm's way but he also questioned whether he would ever wake up again.
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