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In this Prologue, you will be introduced to a secretive world nestled in a large valley. This world has been in a state of blissful ignorance for ages, but a prophesy threatens to upset the balance and disturb the peace. At this point, you won't be introduced to the female heroine, as she has some growing up to do.
There are times in life that we"re not always certain of the outcome regarding some events. Some days come and go with ease, while others surprise us with things we"d chosen to forget. Those times, and all of the ones in between, are those worth living and dying for.
In a place like Ketlanna, people enjoyed comfortable lives. The vast city was the trading hub for the entire valley; the flow of exotic spices and riches pumped life into the territory for centuries. Many became rich from trade.
Within the city walls, there was no visible class distinction in many parts of the city. There were people with family wealth, and there were the working class merchants. Those employed in menial tasks lived below the city streets completely out of sight - even still, the lower city was vast. Most above ground had no regard for the others, simply because they couldn"t be seen.
It had been this way for generations, and people had learned not to ask questions. Stories were told to children about people that inquired to deeply into the decisions of the Minister regarding such matters. They were stories of mysterious disappearances in silent stillness of night. They were stories of people being taken by an indescribable force. Without warning, and without prejudice, it would strike.
The Minister was the highest ranking official in the city, and his decisions often effected everyone within the valley. Though there were advisors and representatives from the guilds, it seemed that the final decision often didn"t reflect the opinions voiced. For some years, it had been whispered that the Minister was corrupt, even though no one could place why or from where.
Whispers were a good way to disappear.
Every so often, someone would publicly mock policy in disbelief, and that person would never again be found. Such thoughts were best kept to ones self, and it had become a matter of extreme secrecy until quite recently.
Word began to spread through the cobblestone city streets about a mysterious woman draped with flowing clothes. The woman was a dissheveled mess of tangled cloth and beaded sashs. The few times her hair blew back from her face, people swore her eyes were pale - blind. Yet, she claimed to see beyond the thin veil of this physical world.
She was heard for only a day, speaking of an infant not yet born. The child would end the rule of ignorance and blindness the people had become accustomed to. No longer would they live in fear of the unknown, for this little one would be the end of their opressor on the mountain.
The words of this Seer spread like a plague through the city, and reached far into the small communities in the valley. It was difficult to find someone untouched, but it was harder to find someone to reiterate what they"d heard. Ever since that day, the clouds over the distant peaks darkened ominously, and most of the people did their best to forget.
Fear was a powerful force in this world. The majority remained obstinate.
The following weeks tested the citizens, and select few began to break free of their shells despite the mysterious reppercussions. As blind as they"d become, the disappearance of new borns was impossible for many to ignore.
Moonlight flickered through the leaves above, but the ground below wass barely illuminated. Newly fallen leaves danced briskly between the trunks of the trees, rustling among the lower flora. Shadows cast by thickening clouds offer a fair warning of things to come.
Owls called out to the night to herald the forest creatures. Rodents scuttled hurriedly across the forest floor to escape the careful gaze of predators and the coming of Mother Nature"s wrath. The wolves, estranged by paranoia, cast mournful gazes to the moon before disappearing into the shadows.
No being could be heard for many acres, because that night, an unworldly creature prowled through the forest. The coming of clouds and rain did nothing to hinder it, for its purpose was clear. With a decided goal, it drifted through the heavy undergrowth without so much as upsetting a single leaf.
Beyond the trees, it could see the destination - a small hovel in the distance. Nestled within a clearing, the smoke plumes were clearly visible. The glow of fire warmed the hearts of most creatures, but the Souless only saw the goal. It only saw a poorly hidden location for a target of such importance.
Where others had failed so miserably, it would certainly succeed.
"A storm starts towards the hills, and the forest ceases to speak this night." However melodic, the female voice was grave. Arms crossed and lips pursed, she cast her gaze towards her husband and the baby. "You look a perfect pair despite the conditions Belar." Though resigned, the delicate female reclined into a chair next to the fire and gazed out the window behind her husband.
Circumstances surrounding their predicament didn"t rest well with her, and she rarely let her partner forget that fact. Knowingly, he displayed a dashing grin to hide his own apprehensions. "Syra, my sister had little choice in the matter. Few others besides Xetzl know enough about these woods to stay hidden for long. Fewer still know how to find him." The baby shifted in his arms and sighed contently. "That"d be us, and you wouldn"t let us go alone my darling."
She took a sharp breath and turned her eyes to her toes. Several moments pause fell between them before she found the nerve to speak her mind. "The child is a curse, surely the past weeks is evidence enough. Truth Seer or not, escaping the authorities in Ketlanna thanks to that friend of yours was sufficient." Belar nodded and fondly touched the baby"s nose, and Syra stood with herarms free to express her words. "Several days running from their hounds was horrid. Hiding like peasants in the slums was miraculously worse. To think, that we, upstanding citizens, would be cast out thanks to one adorable little girl."
At though worn out, she knelt beside her Husband and took one of the baby"s tiny hands. "Has the Minister been so wrong these many years?"
At that instant, Belar straightened and stern. "Don"t forget your eyes so quickly. You saw their ruthlessness first hand - or was the slaughter of newborns insufficient to sway you?"
Her head dropped in an instant, and a whimper escaped her lips before she bit them firmly. "We don"t know they were slaughtered... They were just gone." There weren"t things she could unsee, but she certainly wished that she could. So many likely wished the same, but she knew it was worse to have been blind for so long.
Part of her still struggled, but she wouldn"t stuggle for long.
Outside, the storm grew in force. Rain fell with no regard for the ground below - cold and harsh. Icicles may as well have been crashing against the roof. The abrupt noise was startling inside the small abode, and it unsettled the pair even further than their shattered world.
The baby awoke in a panic with starling black eyes. Though silent, the infant was clearly distressed.
Belar rose sharply and laid the baby on the chair, while his wife reached for a small blade. Her husband scrambled towards the fireplace, and grasped his broad sword before turning to face the door. Stricken by fear, they attempted to steady their hands and nerves with little luck. They"d almost thought themselves safe in the forest - hidden. Days had passed with no pursuit, and neither was prepared for the coming evil.
Each time danger approached, they were granted a brief warning by the child"s eyes. They were told that the child could sense the forces of darkness, and those coal black eyes were often the only thing that saved them.
This time, no amount of warning would have sufficed.
The door burst open with deafening force which knocked Syra back towards the silenced flames. She fell harshly onto one knee as Belar stood firmly braced against the wind, sword clasped tightly in both hands. However prepared, his bravery was faced by nothing except wind, rain, and darkness. Their eyes, accute with the sense of danger, saw nothing beyond the threshold, yet something had to be there.
With a pale face, they watched as the shadows grew around the frame and crept into the hovel. Unhindered and without form it grew in mass to the bewilderment of the pair. Awestruck, they saw no target. They were beset by nothing, though they both felt a chill within their souls with which they weren"t familiar.
Nothing could be done.
As the darkness crept closer, Belar felt a chill on his fingers. To his horror, his hands began to wrinkle and age. It progressed along his arm, shoulders, face, and chest until his body fell as an old man to the floor.
Syra could neither move nor breathe.
The clearing errupted with brief cries and ended only with the sound of falling rain. There was no pain. There was no safety from death this night for the virtuous. There was no peace for the true of heart. This was a night fit only for swift relentless death.
Within the frigid hovel, the creature gathered slowly into a human form from the surrounding shadows. Through the mist, appeared tall dark man. He seemed to consider his work with a remorseless curiosity as he peered down past long tangled locks of charcoal hair. Unbothered by the onslaught of the elements, his gaze turned to the blankets on the chair; his grin curled in anticipation of one final kill.
With one gloved hand, he wrapped his fingers around the blankets. His thin lips parted in disbelief, and his eyes widened as he pressed his hand into the empty folds. "No..." The word passed his lips with only the slightest hint of disappointment.
With desolate eyes, he glared into the distant trees through the now open window behind the chair.
|(02) Whispers in the Dark - Fond Rememberings|