Victor Deus: Prologue
The night seemed exceptionally dark to the man
dodging in and out of the shadows of the buildings in the Civilian Sector of
Safeharbor. He was not the average citizen one would normally find in this part
of town, nor was his mission the usual type that involved swiftly and silently
traversing these streets. In fact, one could go so far as to say that these
streets had never seen such a man with such an important objective.
Anyone skilled enough to notice him would note that he was tall and lithe, his steps seeming to not even disturb the dirt that inhabited many of the shadows. Those rare few gifted enough to catch a glimpse inside his cowl would notice the sharp, angular lines of his face—lines that were usually a sure indication of elven blood. Whether it was due to the confident manner in which he moved through the shadows or the determined look on his face, the seedier elements of the city steered clear this night. That decision saved many lives.
For Lagelion Daystar was not just any elf. He was a member of the High Elven Guard and reputed to be the best warrior their ranks had ever produced. Unfortunately, as happens to many a man, his life had changed when he’d met a woman. In and of itself, this is usually no cause for concern. However, this woman was human.
The people of Terroval all knew how the High Elven Court looked down upon the other races, a large portion going so far as to say the other races were inferior, which brings us to the crux of the problem: as often occurs when a man meets a woman and falls in love, they had brought a new life into the world.
Half-elves were not shunned by the peoples of the Protectorate, but the High Elven Court had a kill on sight policy towards what many of them referred to as “half-breeds.” A member of the High Elven Guard having such a child was tantamount to treason in many of their eyes. It did not matter that the mother of the child was Analya Theromvore, niece to the human's King. If anything, this actually raised the danger level for the child. Not only would he have to be wary of elven Assassins, but he would have to beware those of the humans and Dracair, as well. The only way Lagelion could keep his beloved wife and son alive was to find a place for the child to be raised, hidden from those who would do him harm. All must believe the boy had died at birth if any of them were to have any peace.
As morning steadily approached, heralding the time he would be expected to be seen with his grieving wife, Lagelion's mind raced through all of the options available to him. Perhaps the boy could be taken farther out, maybe to the country. He could be raised as a farmer or a woodsman. He would be safer with some poor farmer and his wife. They might not find the boy…my boy…Victor.
“No!” His aggravation and helplessness at the situation he found himself in broke through his usually stoic demeanor. He wrapped himself and his precious bundle a little more tightly into his cloak as if it could protect both of them from what was to come. Any that heard the outburst were startled long enough to lose track of the elf as he bolted around a corner and lost himself in the darkness of the streets and his thoughts.
There is no time for any of that. I cannot leave her alone long enough to reach such a place. There is no telling what they might do to her if I'm not there to protect her. Finding that Mystic is my only chance of making this work.
He once again wondered about anyone of power who chose to live in the rat infested, poor quarter of Safeharbor that was the Civilian Sector. The main part of the Civilian Sector was fairly nice. However, the closer you came to the Docks District, the worse the conditions were. The person he was looking for was said to live in the ramshackle buildings just inside where the Civilian Sector met the Docks District. Over the past ten months, he had held so much hope for his unborn son, but as the time of his birth came nearer, it became apparent that the High Elven Court would never allow such a child to exist.
He had spoken to his unborn son about his hopes and dreams, much as he now whispered them to the infant he cradled in his arms as he raced through the streets. No matter how many times he apologized in advance to the boy for not being there to see him grow, the pain would not relent. He would not see his first steps, hear his first word. He might never know if Victor would take after himself and become a warrior, or if he would take after his mother and use his will to shape the world around him as a Mage. Perhaps he will forge his own path. He knew that the boy would—if he could survive long enough to do so.
Lagelion noticed that the quality of the craftsmanship put into the buildings around him was getting worse, and knew he was getting close to the part of town he was looking for. There were no nice houses with carriages in front of them here. The City Watch was not present in the same numbers as they were in the more influential neighborhoods, either. There were drunks and others who had not found a roof for the night curled up wherever they could best keep out the cool, night air.
Is this the kind of place he was to leave his son? Nothing but poverty and violence could be found on these streets. But looking down at the sleeping child in his arms, he was suddenly, oddly optimistic.
“You are the son of a former Captain of the High Elven Court,” Lagelion whispered. “If anyone can survive, or even thrive, in such a place, it will be you. This is one of the few places where you might be safe from those who would harm you.”
As he turned another corner, he noticed the horizon was beginning to fight back the dark of night and knew he did not have much longer. If he didn't find the Mystic now, he would have to find some young couple to take care of his boy. Thieves and scoundrels made up the majority of the people in this part of town, but he knew there were those who were simply down on their luck here as well. I may have to abandon you, my son, but I would die before I left you with some common criminal.
As he looked about himself, he knew that finding an honest couple in this part of town would be like trying to find an honest man in a merchants’ guild. They were here, but you would more than likely lose quite a bit of coin before you found them. He could sense more people becoming aware of his presence and knew it would become even more dangerous the nearer it was to morning.
Everyone knew about the Mystic who helped the people living near the Docks District, but no one knew exactly where he lived. If you had someone who was sick and your need was great enough, he would show up and heal them if it was within his power. The elite of the city referred to the Mystic as “A shepherd amongst a flock of sheep that should have been put down for sickness a long time ago.” He had heard more than one of the City Watch say they would like to know who the Mystic was so they could buy the man a drink for saving their sorry behinds. Some in the Mages’ Guild or amongst the clergy called him a rogue. But the most interesting speculation he had heard—what had given him the most hope—was that the Mystic was a half-elf.
As the seconds began ticking loudly through his head, his mind once again turned to the matter at hand. How do you find someone powerful who seems not to want to be found? Of course, this question has been asked a thousand times in every generation by every sentient race since the beginning of time. It was all unfolding like a fireside tale, one of those stories in which the orphan is raised by the cranky, old wise man and becomes the hero of the land. He knew some of those stories were based on events that had actually happened, so it was not unheard of. Yet Lagelion also knew how cruel and dangerous a place the world could be, so the only thing he hoped for was his son’s mere survival.
Again, his mind turned to the fact that he wouldn't be there to tell his son these kinds of stories, to watch the wonder in his eyes as he discovered champions like Alexander Dalton and Tyrdra the Red. His son’s fate rested in the hands of a Mystic he had never met, and who very well might not exist. It would not be the first time the downtrodden had invented a bright, shining hero of the people just to raise their spirits; someone to give them the hope that, if things became desperate, a hand might come out of the darkness to set them back on the right path.
Sunrays were starting to break through the horizon, and he could feel his faith begin to drain.
Ok, since this is unfolding like a folk legend or a traveler's tale, I should think like a storyteller. In these stories, the wise man usually knows more about the traveler who comes to him for help than the traveler himself even knows. So, the Mystic would know that I am seeking him. If that is the case, he's probably looking through some magic device or hiding in a dark corner, waiting for the most dramatic moment to show himself.
He turned right at the next corner and ran through a set of alleys, trying to get away from the people waking up to start their work for the day. “Hello?” Yelling like this in the middle of an alley made him feel like a fool, but he had been around enough Mages to know the games they could play. “Please, I don't have much time. If you are watching, Mystic, please help my son and me.” He knew it was nothing more than a desperate plea from a desperate man. The effort it took to say it aloud felt like it sapped all of the energy he had seemed so full of just moments before, and he fell to his knees in defeat. The silence deepened around him. He felt his skin prickle, as if the universe had been awaiting his plea for uncounted millennia.
“Your son does not ask for my help, guardsman. It is you and the human female you call wife who seek my aid.”
The voice that spoke held none of the arrogance he was used to hearing from the Mages of his own race. Instead, it reminded him of his wife’s—strong and assured yet compassionate. The power and wisdom of age was obvious to anyone who had lived long enough to recognize such things. He had not expected the Mystic to be a woman, but he was not surprised by it, either.
“Please, I implore you on behalf of myself and my wife. Our son will die if I do not give him to someone who can watch over him as he needs.” There was a catch in his throat as he spoke. He knew he was approaching his emotional breaking point.
“What you say is true, but why is it that you and your wife cannot give this child the love and attention that he deserves? You could both run away, take the boy out of reach of those who would do him harm. Not only this, but you come to me, a person you have never met before, and presume to ask if I will do what you are unwilling or unable to do. What if this is a burden that I have never taken on myself? What would make you think that I would want that responsibility thrust upon me by some stranger?” The last came out as a whisper tinged with just a touch of annoyance.
“We could not run far enough to get away from those who would do him harm. If I felt we could keep him safe, I would take Victor and Analya and run, but even with my prowess and her strength of will, we would never be able to protect him from a concerted effort by those wishing him dead. We just want what is best for our boy. Right now, the best thing for him is to stay alive long enough to be able to defend himself from the ones who would seek to harm him or exploit his gifts. Will you help us? Or shall I leave the boy with one of these vagabonds so that he may be raised a criminal?” Anger broke through before he could bite it back, and tears began to fall down cheeks that had not seen the like in over three hundred years.
“You say you do not want him to be abused for his gifts? This boy has been marked. Not once, but thrice! His future will hold danger no matter what direction it goes from here. He may be beyond all mortal protection. Yet fear not, noble warrior. I agree with you that the safest place for him now is with me. Think not, however, that I take on this responsibility simply because you have asked and that I require no recompense. This event has been in development for longer than you or I have been alive. The gods are taking the first steps towards all-encompassing war, and the Year of the Shadow approaches. I will now do my part to fulfill an agreement made when man took their first steps upon this world.”
He looked up as she drew near, feeling like he had seen this beautiful woman somewhere before. But before he could complete that thought, he found himself nearly back to the Castle Ward, the sun having risen fully over the horizon.
Lagelion could not remember what had happened, but he knew deep down that his son was safe, and the sun shining down on the sea touched on a memory of sea-green eyes that promised hope. His wife needed him now, though. She was still weak from the delivery, and they would have to play the part of the grieving parents. As he took one last look back towards the Docks District, he knew it wouldn't be a difficult role to play. He said a prayer to whichever gods would listen, asking them to look over his family and protect them from harm.
The Mystic, who now went by the name of Shaylyn Arasmé, stood in the alley that the elven warrior had left through one of her portals moments before. In her arms, she held a baby boy who had just seen his first sunrise. He was the only one to hear her say, “You have the power to do great things one day, Victor. Great and terrible things. Life will be hard, but if you live through all that will come, you will have the power to change the face of this world and many others. I do not envy you.”
Much farther away, on another plane of existence, three figures were watching the night’s events transpire. Two of them stood over a large well, discussing the course of things, while the third listened from the shadows.
“Shaylyn Arasmé has him now, dearest sister. It is unfolding just as the dragons foretold.”
“Yes, my brother, but remember that we are not allowed to interfere anymore. Only because of Thom’s actions did we even dare to do what we did. He must use the gifts we have given him to survive into his adult years before we can be of aid to him again, and he of aid to us.”
“Yes, of course I know that, Cypheria, but…the dragons did say this would be the age of heroes.”
“Yes, Ragnós, and there wouldn't be a need for so many heroes if there wasn't so much evil loose upon the world. War may be your domain, and you may be happy to wage it, but I cannot help but feel sorry for those that will fall. Who is to say that this one boy will be enough to tip the scale in justice's favor, or even that he won't tip it the other way?”
“I do not enjoy death, either. That is Thom's domain, and he can keep it. But war is a useful tool. Not only does it make people stronger, but it keeps populations in check. If not for war, there would be more people than there is food.”
“I know, brother. You do not need to explain it to me again, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.”
“Of course you don't. Only a mad person would like war. But it is a necessity for the development of culture and, paradoxically, sometimes the only way to achieve peace. All we can do is sit back and watch the boy as he is pushed in one direction and pulled in another.”
“You are right, of course, and what do we have but time…”
The voices trailed off into an uneasy laughter as the sun heralded a new day and, perhaps more importantly to most, a new year.
The third entity watching the events unfold was not laughing. The shadows disappeared, unnoticed, as he moved his attention away from the two fools laughing as if they had pulled off something special. Thom was pleased with himself for taking the initiative with the lad to ensure that he was equipped for what he wanted him to do. He was, however, not pleased in the least that Cypheria and Ragnós had found out about his plan and taken measures to lessen his hold on the boy. They would learn that no one interferes with the god of death when he is choosing his champion.