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|Chapter 2 of my unpublished book Sins of the Fathers||
CH2 STARLESS NIGHTS
“Over here!” Amiston shouted through the woods. The children’s squirrel hunt, had produced its first victim of the day. Amiston had one trapped at the top of a small sapling. His innocently sinister excitement was almost bubbling over. Strago knew this dream too well. It frequented his nights, gripping his memory and haunting his days as well. Try as he always did, he never could escape from the final outcome. The memories of what had happened were too strong to be changed as they repeated in the dream.
“You got one!” Strago shouted. The young Strago ran through the brush to his friend. It was Strago’s tenth birthday, and his parents had granted him a day off from the usual farm chores to have fun with his childhood friend Amiston. It felt like a rather momentous number to the young boy. Ten years old, no longer a child.
“Yeah!” The squirrel’s entire body quivered in panic, but the merciless play of the children heeded no such emotions. The squirrel bobbed in the air with the branch it was trapped on at the top of the sapling that was barely higher than the boy was tall. Eventually the panic overwhelmed the helpless animal, rendering it paralyzed. The tiny eyes reflected an intelligence that was beyond the understanding of youth. The small animal understood that there would be no escape from the cruelty of childhood curiosity.
“Let me get my sling shot!” Strago shouted, as he neared the little animal. Grabbing a rock out of his pouch, Strago took aim. The Squirrel would at least die quickly. Strago never missed a shot. He could see the squirrel in the sights of his slingshot. Behind the squirrel was the blurred silhouette of trees against a blue sky. It seemed to Strago that the sky behind the squirrel was darkening. My eyes are just a bit blurred.
“Strago!” Amiston shouted in shock. The rock strayed to the left, missing the squirrel.
“You made me miss!”
“Look!” Amiston stood as still as a statue, pointing through the trees.
It wasn’t the blur of Strago’s eyes that had made the sky darken. Thick black clouds of billowing smoke could be seen through the trees. This was no fire from the farmers burning weeds, but something much bigger. No words were exchanged; they just ran through the woods, frantic to get home. What happened? Are mom and dad okay? He could see the edge of the forest ahead of him, only this time the light streaming through the trees had an orange tint to it.
He reached the edge of the clearing only in time to see the massive beast depart. A beast of horrific proportions; it must have stood about twenty feet tall, but walked in a slouch resting on its front limbs as it ran. The silver hide reflected the tones of red and orange from the fires that surrounded it. Wings spanned at least thirty feet. Strago had learned to fear the word, but never believed it would happen to him. Always the word “dragon” had been one of those things that happens to other people. It was all too real, and horrifying as the terrible beast collided with his personal reality. Strago broke through the trees only in time to see the beast take to a sprint and fly off over the mountains.
Amiston was a few strides behind him, but had missed the dreadful sight.
“What happened?” he asked in shock as he scanned the scene.
“Dragon,” was all Strago could say. Before him lay a scene of destruction more horrendous than the darkest nightmares. The fields were scorched and the crop was lost. The entire village was in flames. Bodies were strewn in the streets. Mom! Strago took to a sprint. All he could think of was his family. He ran through the fields heedless to the flames and the heat. He could see the smoke billowing from what was left of his small home.
“Mom! Dad!” Strago shouted. He broke into a sprint as he neared his home. Sprawled on the ground in front of the door lay a body. Unrecognizably scorched, this one had made it to the door before falling. A few steps behind lay the other body. The scent of burnt flesh permeated the air. No tears came to Strago’s eyes. The shock was too much for tears. Dazed, he looked turned around him. All that he had ever known was in flames. A few houses down, Strago heard the piercing cry of Amiston discovering a similar fate for his parents and three brothers. The boy felt he would merely wake up and find it all a dream. Strago knew he would wake up from the dreadful dream only to live in the world created by the consequences of that day. Nothing remained of the village. Not a house was standing, but the heaviest blow was what lay before him in an unrecognizable blackened form. Ten years was a true landmark age. He was no longer a child.
Cold beads of sweat dribbled down Strago’s face as he woke with a start. He never could escape that dream. Every time the details repeated perfectly. The day was indelibly imprinted in his memory. That day marked the end of his childhood. All that he was now was due to that day. He had successfully rid the world of that threat and thus assured that no other childhood would be so viciously snatched from an innocent child’s grasp in such a cruel way. Strago climbed out of his bed. Shaken as always by the dream he so longed to escape. He slipped into his clothes and prepared to go about his daily business. It was always a struggle to regain his composure before leaving his room. Nobody ever knew of the dreams that haunted Strago’s nights on a regular basis. I hope Amiston has escaped the curse of reliving that horrid day.
Strago meticulously observed Darwin’s behavior, and disturbing patterns began to emerge. The more upset Darwin became, the more violent and dramatic the change that overtook him would be. Being an introverted, calm child by nature, a morphing as drastic as the first one never was repeated; but Strago was anxious to never have such a terrifying reoccurrence. The decision seemed obvious-- train the child to be a master of his emotions. Such discipline was hard to teach a child, but always entailed a greater mastery over the elements as well.
Strago was subtle in the ways that he developed and presented the material so that Darwin was unaware of the training. Small comments dropped, a slight change in the way he addressed the child, and other small almost intangible changes accumulated as more than a sum of their parts. By the time that Darwin was the age to begin his studies, his emotions were calm enough to never see any physical changes. It was said among his early peers that he was an odd boy, but he was not bothered by their comments. The frequent bullying that resulted from his being different never produced an outburst. The bullies soon began to fear his unusual strength, agility, and fire, so they found other easier victims. Little by little Strago’s fears were assuaged, and his different nature almost fell out of Strago’s daily thoughts. Had it not been for the boy’s amazing talents with magic, Strago would have forgotten completely, but such talent was a constant reminder to him of the young boy’s hidden nature.
The evenness of Darwin’s emotions was like a pond on a windless day. The jokes of the children did little to arouse even a smile from Darwin. The boys in the Academy quickly expelled Darwin from their circle of friends, so he resorted to his studies as his only friend, aside from the companion flame he always had dancing in figures and formations through his fingers. Studies of arithmetic, reading, writing and history became the only pastime Darwin ever knew. History fascinated Darwin. Not the recent history about the long years of peace and prosperity, Darwin preferred to study the days before the overthrow of a great evil in the land; strange tales about elves, dwarves, shape shifters and even dragons. The teachers in the Academy recognized Darwin’s potential, but scoffed at his interest in such petty legends and wives’ tails. They preferred to focus on the heroic virtues of Caidon who liberated them from the barbaric ways of the past. No written history could even verify the existence of the elves. The teachers merely presented them as inventions by the men of darker days to amuse the mind and distract them from their troubles. Dwarves died off soon after the elves faded from memories. Even Strago’s diligent delvings into the oldest books in the Academy produced only vague hints and references to these mythical creatures. Indeed, only the cursed race known as dragons had even had any contact with man in known history. After Caidon successfully liberated the world from a threat so dark it escaped their understanding, the dragons were the last plague for the human race. Pillaging and destroying entire villages, they soon grew to be so feared that the word “dragon” aroused fear even a century after Strago destroyed the last one. With his great victory, the need for battle magic and even battle skill was lost. Humanity was poised to walk the long and peaceful road they were now on. The history from those days on is what most bored Darwin. How he wished that the teachers would talk more about the old legends.
Darwin excelled in his schoolings, but had few real friends. With his unwarily acquired self-control, Darwin surpassed all expectations of even Strago when it came to magic. It was not uncommon to see him walking around with a little figure of fire whisking around and through his fingers like a small snake. Such displays of his talent only widened the wedge between him and his classmates, but Darwin wasn’t concerned. Darwin’s only friends in the whole Academy were his father Strago and Amiston. Darwin preferred to spend time with his father. They often would talk about a wide variety of things.
“Tell me about the elves, father.” Darwin inquired one evening as they conversed by the fire.
“I don’t remember much about the elves.”
“I know, father, but I want to hear about the elves.”
“Oh. all right, I will see what I can remember.” The fire changed to a dark red tone as Darwin’s gaze turned towards it. Such things bothered Strago at first, but he soon learned to appreciate the insight they gave him into Darwin’s emotions. While emotions were almost imperceptible in Darwin’s body, the flames he toyed with always revealed them to Strago.
“It was said to have been 2000 years ago that the last elf was seen. Long enough ago that nobody accepts the existence of elves in traditional circles. They are only a legend, they say, but others would have it differently. It was said that the elves were a very different race. Elves of two kinds existed, the devious and the friendly. Are you listening?” asked Strago, perturbed at seeing Darwin directing several different fireballs of varying colors dancing around and through his robes.
“Yes dad, I am listening intently.”
“Such feats with fire require the greatest concentration on the parts of most, so they don’t burn themselves or their cloths.”
“You were talking about the two different elves and how nobody believes in them anymore.”
“Humph! Just don’t burn yourself.”
“Of course not, father,” Darwin said, chuckling. It seemed that the only thing that could bring a smile to Darwin’s face so easily was a comment about his prowess with fire.
“The elves again. Anyway, little is known about the actual appearance of the elves. It is said that their powers were in the control of light and shadow or perception. Most elves delighted in light and made great efforts to keep their places well lit. They didn’t need sleep, so darkness was of little use to them. The friendly elves loved the light and would often help lost travelers by guiding a beacon of light along the path to help them find their way. The devious elves, on the other hand, seemed to love the darkness as intensely as the others adored light. They often made alliances with thieves and vagabonds. They would cloak them in a shroud of darkness so thick that human light sources couldn’t penetrate it. The thieves would take advantage of this cover to escape from pursuit after a heist. Pretty soon the light elves were recruited to protect villages against such attacks, because they seemed to be the only ones who could pierce their cover. A wedge opened between the elves. Those who delighted in deception and darkness escaped into the wilderness. To the other’s dismay, many from their own ranks would slip off from time to time to join the thieves and deceivers. The light elves, as they came to be known, had a dream. They had the ability to postpone darkness or even eliminate it entirely in small areas. They dreamed of a time when they could harness their abilities and extend them to the whole world.
For a long time the two forces were dynamically opposed. Then a great light elf Lunar had a triumph. It is said to be the greatest triumph of their race. The shroud of darkness that was night was permanently penetrated, or so it seemed. The light elves had managed to join all their forces to put a new light in the heavens. Not as bright as the sun, but strong enough to penetrate the darkness that the stars couldn’t pierce.”
“Stars? What are stars, Dad?” Even the flames that danced around Darwin paused, gazing inquisitively at Strago.
“We have never seen the stars, but they were small lights in the heavens. They didn’t shed much light, it is said, but they were said to be beautiful. Most have never even heard the word now, and if they have they laugh at such a notion. The legends say that they were beautiful and the light elves loved them. Dark elves, on the other hand, despised any indication of light in their precious darkness. The light elves had created a light greater than the stars and hung it in the night sky. In honor of the great elf who made it possible, they named the light Lunar, or in our tongue Moon.”
“The dark elves were outraged by the new and bright light in the night, and weren’t powerless to resist. Plans were set in motion by them to darken the sun forever. Their leaders laughed at the audacity of Lunar to create such a light. for they found an opportunity to darken the sun. Their leader Oscuro noticed that the new light would move in the heavens, and they set out to learn how to control its course. Soon mastery was gained. The light elves were unaware of their plans. Only a young boy named Eclipse saved the sun from permanent obscurity. One day he noticed the moon to be moving in an unusual way. He feared that it was going to crash into the sun. Nobody paid much attention to him, but he persisted. Pretty soon Lunar heard what the boy Eclipse was saying. Ever cautious, he investigated the claim.”
“Just as the dark elves were covering the sun up with the very instrument claimed to be the light elves greatest triumph, Lunar gave the great lamp one last push. The great orb covered the sun and the dark elves rejoiced, but to their dismay, it was carried by Lunar’s last push. and soon the sun was back and shining. The people were so grateful to the young boy Eclipse that they named the day after him and declared his name to mean aversion of darkness.”
“In later centuries the dark elves would attempt the same trick many times, but the light elves had learned the way to stop the crisis. Each time they did they celebrated the little boy Eclipse. The dark elves were determined to reclaim what was theirs and were outraged that the light of day seemed so impenetrable to them. To all it appeared that the light elves were gaining the advantage, but a betrayer was in their midst. It seemed that the dark elves had lost some advantage over the day and night, but they had made great advances in the art of deception. Their treachery reached up to Lunar himself. One day Lunar found the countryside to be in a shroud of darkness that worried him. Even the sun seemed to be darkening. The dark elves were working their most treacherous scheme yet. Unknown to all, Lunar’s top aid had been replaced. Later he was found dead in the woods. In his place was Oscuro himself. After having mastered the magic of light from the master Lunar himself, he had twisted it with his own brewery of magic and was dimming the sun, moon and stars forever. Already the stars were lost and the moon was fading quickly. Lunar barely stopped him in time to save the sun. That is the only part of the legend that has remained intact. Little is known about how they disappeared or even when. No history can be found about the disappearance of the elves. It is mostly for that reason that nobody believes the story. Most find it too preposterous an idea to imagine the sun disappearing, or lights in the night sky.”
“I wish I could see the stars and the moon.” Darwin said wistfully as he hurled multiple little fireballs into the sky, temporarily granting his wish.
“ I don’t know if they ever existed. I too am inclined to feel that the elves were merely a legend. You had best get some rest Darwin. You have a long day of classes tomorrow.” Yet as he said it, Strago knew that none of the classes that could be found provided any challenge for Darwin. The time for his test would be coming soon.
“Good night Dad, and thanks.” Darwin stood up and left the room along with his fiery companion dancing and weaving around his legs and hands. I wish I could see the stars. I wonder what they look like. As he crossed the courtyard, the night sky seemed an oppressive and impenetrable black. Could he ever remember it any other way?
|Dragon's Bane Part I||Dragon's Bane Part II|
|Dragon's Bane Part III||Sins of the Fathers Chapter 1 Forgotten Adoption|