Chapter 1: The Beginning
Five years ago
A wonderful school. Everyone smiled so kindly at her. The teacher patted her head. Sunshine was streaming in through the spotless windows. Her new classmates looked so friendly. So bright. Their faces melted into the shiny white light aimed at her face. So bright that she had to close her eyes.
Suddenly Rivola found herself hugging the mud. Her clothes were dripping wet and the wind chilled her bones. The rain was pattering down noisily as if saying, Out of my way human! Rivola smiled at that but immediately flinched. Her stomach was aching with hunger. When was the last time she ate her lunch? Two days ago. A morsel of stale bread with a bottle-cap full of water.
She sighed and tried to drag herself up. But her little arms couldn’t support her weight. She started heaving when a voice said,
‘Rise.’ The voice was clear and resonating with certain grandness fixed into it. She lifted her eyes and used her remaining strength to sit up. Through the blur of greys and blacks, a figure stood before her.
It was a tall man. He had platinum blonde hair falling in mid-back length. His eyes were kind and pleasant in a warm shade of honey-gold. He had an aquiline nose with high cheekbones and he looked about forty or so but he still regained his good-looks. He was wearing a long ankle-length purple cloak that reflected purple lights as he moved. But the strangest thing about him was that he was not getting wet in the rain. The water drops were simple bouncing off him.
‘Who are you?’ she asked, ‘A foreign Missionary? If you are, let me tell you, I want nothing of religion. I can’t get a proper meal for days and you want me to spend time for church?’ Her voice was rising. The man simply chuckled. He said,
‘I am not a foreign Missionary. Rise, Rivola Lumnisca, rise and embrace your destiny. Let me offer my help to you. Let me offer you something worth living for. All I want in return is your trust.’ He said. She looked at him wearily. Mixing with the rain, tears came flooding out. She didn’t know why she was crying. But she swore it would be her last. She was almost eight now just a few months more.
The man said nothing. He simply stood there with his hand towards her. Rivola looked at him through her blurred tears and said,
‘You are n-not a kidnapper are you? Because, you won’t get anything from me. I have no money. No father and no…mother.’ The man chuckled to himself again,
‘I cannot fathom why you are crying. But I do see a degree of trust in your eyes. I can see the relief in them. I understand that you are sick and tired of this world. Accept my offer and you will be welcomed into my world.’ He said looking solemnly at her. She tried her best to wipe her eyes and took his hand. His hand was warm against her cold. He held to her and whispered,
A fine, sweet smell was floating in the air and she felt her knees collapse and her eyes rolled back into her head. Once again, she found herself in that wonderful school she had been dreaming about before. The teacher smiled at her. A girl passed her a ring with a smile. The teacher praised her and the others had all their attention towards her.
But, Rivola was getting confused. Which was real? Who was that man? Why did he offer help? But most of all she was wondering what her destiny was. How could a little girl of eight have a destiny? She felt herself sinking and the scene vanished into darkness.
Siva walked out of the temple. It was a large temple with circular boundary decorated in bright golden. Everything about the temple was golden. He had been inside praying fervently to the goddess of seers and prophecies, Fortha.
‘Don’t worry, Siva.’ A voice said. The voice was beautiful like the sounds of a silver bell. The girl walked beside him. She was a beautiful creature. She had a slender fairy-like figure. Her ivory forehead was framed by delicate dark curls that decorated her shoulders. She had thin crimson-lined lips and a beautiful aquiline nose. She was wearing a sleeveless chiton belted at her waist reaching her mid-shins. Simple white shoes adorned her feet.
‘I can’t help worrying Lana.’ He said. If his life was filled with darkness Lana was the only bright spot. He felt energized each time he talked to her. His damp spirits would lift up as soon as he looked at her radiant face.
‘What are you worrying for?’ she asked with a dazzling smile.
‘Your safety.’ Siva said quite unabashed. ‘We’re best friends right?’
Lana’s cheeks turned slightly pink like she’d been expecting some other answer. She smiled and said, ‘I will definitely be safe on my own Siva. Besides it has always been my dream to visit the Center and learn my trade there. Why can’t you go with me?’
‘I have something else to do.’ He said. ‘The Center will disrupt my progress.’ He sighed and looked at the western sky.
The sun was setting with streaks of orange and red. It would be the last sunset he would share with Lana.
‘I hope we’ll meet again Siva.’ She said.
‘I hope so too.’ He said moodily.
‘I know you long for revenge. I know that you seek to uproot the king from the throne. I will definitely pray for your success Siva.’ She said, ‘If you remain along the path of The League of Gods and the Creator, you will find peace.’ She leaned in and kissed his cheek before she skipped away.
Siva felt strangely elated. It wasn’t even a proper good luck wish but he knew that she really wanted him to succeed whatever mission he had on mind. And the mission he had on mind was really dangerous.
Roy’s room was warm and small and cozy. A small corner was allotted for the bed with the walls filled with stacks of books reaching the ceiling most of which he had yet to read. A large window stood by his bed facing the east allowing abundance of warm summer sunshine flood in.
Roy stood over his trunk picking up the things and arranging them. Everything was simple and neatly arranged. He pulled up the top and was about to lock it when there was a tap on the door.
‘You’re up and ready?’ a voice asked. Roy recognized it instantly. It was after all the only feminine voice in the house, his grandmother’s.
‘Yes, Grandmother.’ Roy said opening the door.
His Grandmother walked in uneasily. She wore a high-collared brown dress that swept the floor as she walked. Her luxurious grey hair was tied in a tight bun at the base of her neck. Her small hazel eyes were sharp and shrewd as usual. She looked at him reading every feature on his face. Her eyes drifted to his clothes searching every inch of him. She nodded and said,
‘Good enough.’ She reached into the folds of her dress and pulled out a small glass phial holding a glowing red liquid. ‘Take it. Whenever you feel the pain take only one-tenth of this. Even a drop more can kill you.’
Roy’s eyes widened, ’But what is it?’
‘It is a very dangerous poison but when used in the right amount can save the lives of many. But I warn you Roy, never use it during combat. It’ll make you fall asleep for at least three hours.’ Grandmother said.
‘Thank you Grandmother. I am grateful.’ Roy said placing the phial in his shoulder bag. His Grandmother fixed him those sharp eyes of hers and said,
‘Roy, I sincerely hope, you live. None of the Crimsonelves have failed so far. I trust your blood and flesh but not your health. You are too weak to be making this journey.’ Grandmother said. She stooped down and kissed his cheek. Never had she shown any such affection for any of her spawn. Roy wondered if she was the only one who was partial to him.
After she left the room wishing him luck, he turned to his bookshelves. He would really miss their company. He had always loved books. They were the only ones who didn’t seem to shun him or be ashamed that he belonged to this family. Whenever his brothers tormented him, he turned to the books for solace. He was thinking thus when the door opened silently.
‘Roy, I would like to talk to you for a sec.’ a voice announced.
Roy turned around. It was Haze, his eldest, most favorite brother. Haze never had teased him. Never blamed him. Never hit him. Haze smiled and said warmly,
‘I wish you luck Roy.’
‘We’ll see if the goddess of luck loves me or not.’ Roy said.
‘Yeah…I wanted to ask you a favor Roy.’ Haze said hesitantly.
‘Roy, I won’t be coming this year because, I’ve graduated and all that. I just wanted to ask if you’d take care of Aila.’ Haze said.
The roads were decorated completely in red and white. Red and white balloons, streamers, banners and items. Every shop had red and white items on their shopping windows. Aila gazed in wonder as she got down from the train. Shepyt’s capital, Claropolis was beautiful.
‘It’s beautiful.’ Aila said. She looked up at the woman holding her hand. Her mother was beautiful. Silky auburn hair and green eyes with a bronze complexion all tall and beautiful nothing like the unruly way Aila looked.
‘Mom, why did you leave this place?’ Aila asked. Her mother’s pleasant look turned to stone. Her features stilled into hatred. But that passed and she turned pleasant again,
‘I longed to be free from the pressure of a husband.’ She said in a honey-sweet voice.
‘But you had six sons already. Why did you abandon them?’ Aila mused.
‘I…longed for a girl…’ her eyes fell on Aila with a look of such tenderness and love that Aila’s heart melted. She stopped her stupid mouth from asking more questions. Her mother grasped her hand more tightly than ever as she led her along the streets alien to Aila painful to herself.