Sven Dewrichie trudged along the dirt path of his village, staring eyes following his every move from each house he passed, and murmured whispers came along with their stares. Today was the dreadful day. His palms were wet with a thick, slick sweat, and his stomach was so tightly coiled inside of him that he wondered if he would ever be able to eat again.
“I cannot do this!” He exclaimed and turned around, only wishing to run into the safety of the forest near his house.
But alas, his family had other plans. “I told you, boy. You are doing this, and I do not care if you faint dead on the floor afterwards! Death would be a better, more honorable circumstance for all of us than continuing on how it has been, you coward.” His mother practically spat in his face.
“Mother! Please! I will do whatever you wish, I will even kill the animals I catch, mother, please! Anything but this!” Sven cried as she grabbed his ear and pulled him along.
It might have been a comical sight, if it was not filled with such a harsh tension, a robust, but rather small woman pulling along a giant. Sven stood at a great height, and had very broad shoulders, yet still, one touch from his mother rendered him no more powerful than a small child.
“Too little, too late, boy.” She gave a firm tug on his ear, and he let out a squeal rivaling that of a pig’s. “Besides, what I wish is for you to be cleansed, rid of this terror that renders you a hysterical coward. I am done with you as you are, Sven. It is time for the honor to return to the Dewrichie name, for it to be synonymous once more with greatness, bravery, strength and power. You will shame us no more, boy.”
There were many things Sven was fearful of; darkness, most animals, crowds of people, fire, magic, (foolish boy! Magic does not even exist!), ghosts (Ha! You are quite right on that account, boy, if I was our ancestors, I would come back haunting in order to kill you and be rid of the dishonor that has been placed on our great family name!), goblins, fairies (Sven is afraid of a magical girl! Sven is afraid of a magical girl!), his older brothers that were constantly taunting him, of course his mother, any sort of illness or bodily affliction, Mallory Billa (a tough village girl whom held the title of best trapper in the village, only due to Sven refusing to kill the animals his perfectly-built traps caught since he was terrified of death and animals alike), the nightmares that haunted him nightly, any sort of weapons or things that could be made into weapons, most people, but there were two things above any other that petrified him. Two things that make his entire body shake in terror, cry out in horror, and run as fast as his long legs could handle.
The Dark Castle, which was an old, crumbling edifice on the outskirts of his village, rumored to be haunted, most likely (in Sven’s imaginings, anyway) filled with unspeakable horrors,such as murdering ghosts, bloodthirsty goblins, terrible witches, evil fairies, wild, raging beasts, serial killers and the like. To make matters worse, the castle lay on the border between the safety of Sven’s beautiful home country, that is Aramorelli, and the dangerous, terrible lawless land, Krajarion, which was filled with bandits, killers, and the like. It was the home for the outlaws. Everyone was slightly fearful of it, but of course, none more than Sven. That castle was right there, so close to the edge, the border between the two lands...A terrible landmark, and to Sven, it represented everything evil and bad in the world. Every day, he thought of the horrors that could be lurking about that awful place, and each time it came into his mind, he thought up another terrifying scenario, conjuring up another new and horrible monster that must call the castle its lair. He could see the blood, smell the gore, feel its talons gripping into his soft flesh…
Then, of course, there was the priests and priestesses of old, often called the Ancient Ones. Most of them lived in Luiven where they ruled, but most villages had one whom lived in their village temple in order to lead and guide them, a practice which was ordered by one of the original Chosen Ones (I will explain in a moment more on this particular topic), who was called Brukommer Draugs. (if you said such a sentence to poor, fearful Sven, his entire body would give a great, involuntary shudder)
The Chosen Ones led the Order of the Ancient Ones. They were once the commonfolk, but were then, you may have guessed it, chosen by Melagis Retepns (the god of the Ancient Ones) to rule in his absence. There could be a range from one to five chosen ones at any given time, but there was still a hierarchy. The leader, who was above all others, was also called Melagis’ Champion. The most well-known champion was named Brukommer Draugs, and it was his era they currently resided in. He ruled for five years before he disappeared, causing quite the stir in the world. But before he went, he decreed a new way for all villages under his power; a village temple with a priest or priestess to lead them. The people took this as a great blessing, full of mercy and compassion. Of course, there were those who argued against them, but they were swiftly ostracized, and some even received The Walking Death, a sort of exile or death sentence, considered worse than actual death. They were sent to a horrific place called Dead Man’s Graveyard, where no one would ever wish to venture to... Thus, people who felt differently quickly learned to keep their opinions to themselves. The temples were beautifully built, their owner’s wishes strongly imposed in the villages in which they were built, and no one asked any questions.
This, my friend, was where Sven’s weary mother was dragging him, by the ear, to: their local temple.
She had secretly planned it for many months now, setting the date with their temple’s priestess, buying all the necessary supplies for a cleansing ritual (as was required by the Ancient Ones decree), planning just how to bring Sven to the temple.
The path ahead curved sharply, and Sven let a boyish sob emit out of his quivering lips. He knew what happened next, what lay right around the curve, the one he avoided at all costs…
A golden temple appeared once they rounded the corner, sparkling in the sunlight. “See? It is a nice and shiny place, Sven. Not so bad, right?” His mother made an attempt to console him, but he only whimpered in response, causing her to give a great huff of annoyance.
“You are a silly boy, but let us hope the beautiful priestess will fix that.” She tugged harder on his tender ear.
You see, Sven was rather...normal. The land he lived in was a frightening one, and, although a beautiful scenery, it was rather harsh on its inhabitants. Yes, people frequently died in the dark, fire often consumed entire crops and villages, not to mention lives. Animals were often dangerous, attacking not just a few folks in the past few months. The Ancient Ones were known for beheading people when they felt like it, and no one had returned from venturing into the Dark Castle as of yet. It would not be hard to think of even more sinister, secret things in a land such as this, like goblins, wicked magic, evil fairies, trolls and the like.
And death...Well, poor Sven had seen so much of it since he was so young, no one in their right mind would blame him for fearing it. His father, his eldest brother (the only one of his siblings who had ever cared for little Sven), his uncle, aunt, three cousins, two friends, one nephew, and a fellow villager. Of these eleven lost souls, six had died right in front of him. So, do you think him so cowardly after all? Even if you do, I am sure one could not blame him for it. It would seem he had a very good reason for being so fearful.
One could argue that, unlike the others in his land, he actually was intelligent enough to acknowledge the truth, and the others were just living in denial. Some might even call his fear caution.
Yes, I quite think Sven Dewrichie was a normal, average lad. You might quirk your eyebrow up at that, wondering, then, why he was treated in the formidable way that he was. Well, the thing is, in this strange, foreign land, average was simply unacceptable. Normal was never a celebrated trait, it is a word spoken with a disgusted face, like one would have when you spoke awful words such as vomit, or diarrhea or perhaps even prune juice.
This is most likely due to the fact that the average person has flaws. They do possess strengths, but likewise have weaknesses to balance out the person so that they are, simply said, average. Not exceptionally bad, not exceptionally good, simply not exceptional; period.
Yes, the youngest Dewrichie boy; that is, Sven, had his pros balance out his many cons until he was only exceptional at one particular thing: being exceptionally boring.
His mother dragged him all the way up stone steps, about a hundred of them, before knocking on the enormous, shining marble doors with its designated knocker, which was made of a shiny sort of metal. The knock seemed to vibrate the entire door, the sound of it louder and deeper than expected, making Sven shrink down, cowering.
Mother let go of his ear, instead looping her arm through his, thus tightly locking him in. His entire body shook with fear, and feeling his arm trembling beneath hers, his mother sighed loudly, rolling her eyes with such a passion that they nearly became stuck in the back of her head.
All was still and silent for a moment, and a shining ray of hope appeared his Sven’s mind, a glimmering thought that perhaps none were present within, and thus they would have to leave this looming place.
But alas, a beautiful, tall woman took his candle of hope, grasped her hand around its fading flame, and vanquished it altogether as she appeared in the doorway.
“Ah, Sven Dewrichie, we have been expecting you.” Those were not kind words to hear for Sven’s red, burning ears. “Come.” The woman beckoned slowly with her pristine hand.
His mother strode forward, her head held high, thus pulling Sven along with her. He was pulled down due to the height difference, making it difficult for the boy not to stumble all over his own feet. He looked like an extreme, fumbling mess in that moment. He was still shaking, all the color was drained from his large face, his ears were red and visibly sore, he was tripping over himself as he was being dragged by a tiny woman. Again, an onlooker might find humor in the sight, if only they had no idea the grave nature of the poor young man’s circumstance.
“Stop.” The woman spoke cooly as she stood like a stone statue in the doorway, holding up her hand as she looked beyond the clumsy couple, refusing to glance at the two.
Mother blinked in shock, waiting for the woman’s explanation expectantly. She did not like it when it came.
“We have no need for any insolent mothers. The coward must complete the purification process on his own, he cannot be dragged into it.” The woman, whom Sven identified as the village priestess, rolled her jaw in annoyance, her tone filled with a condescending venom.
“Bu-But…” Mother started in protest, but the priestess cut her off with a sigh.
“Very well. Be gone from my sight, the both of you. I have no time for a controlling fool that will not heed an order.” The woman, with a perfect posture, quickly spun on her heels, returning back into the temple. “Close the door.” She barked the order to a nearby guard within the temple, who immediately jumped to fulfill the command.
“No! Please! I will leave him, I shall! I will listen, please! Forgive me for my foolish transgressions!” Mother wailed in her plead, falling to her knees. This action nearly yanked Sven’s arm out of its socket, as it was still gripped in hers, but mother paid no mind.
The woman stopped abruptly in her stride, but did not turn around. “You should have considered the outcome before committing your sin of arguing with one of greater substance, old woman.”
“I know, I know! It is because I am so lowly, so menial, such a trifle compared to your greatness...It was out of my dullness that I acted so sinfully, forgive me for my wretchedness.” Sven had never seen his mother act in such a way, her usual manner of haughtiness and pride abruptly vanished.
“It is as you have said it, deadening creature. But nevermind you, I wish not to ever think of one such as you again. You have come for the redemption of this...boy? However unlikely?” Her coldness sent a shiver up Sven’s spine, but it seemed to him that she already knew the answer, but simply wanted it repeated.
“Y-yes, oh great and wonderful priestess. All will shout your praise when you have fixed my cowardly son.” It was rather difficult for mother to detach herself from her extreme emotions enough to answer through her fierce sobbing.
The woman scoffed harshly. “Nevermind that. They will shout my praises regardless. And fixing an ugly, fat coward such as this one will be no easy task, however, I will embark on fixing this irksome matter, because I am merciful. Although it is not to you I am merciful, you blunted, sluggish, tiresome, foul…”
The woman sighed loudly and flicked her hand dismissively. “Be gone. I grow weary of your sobs and babbling.” She said all of this without ever turning around once more to face the two of them.
Then she spoke to the nearby guard, who was soon joined by two more tall, strong men in strange, grey uniforms. “Bring the boy in. Do not bother to treat him like a fragile, porcelain doll. We shall be breaking him anyways.”
~ * ~
Sven was in woodland, tall, green trees stood all around him. The fragrance of pine, water and earth held strongly in the refreshing air, and he could not help but breath deeply. He soon noticed a nearby creek flowing softly, and he dashed toward it, stooping down, cupping his hands before drinking deeply of its sweet, crisp waters.
“Sven.” A beautiful voice echoed from a distance. Sven stood up and spun around with great haste, searching the forest for the origin of the voice.
“Sven.” It echoed out from behind him now, and he spun on his heels, but no one was there.
“Sven.” This time it was a solid voice, no longer a whispery echo. It sounded like it came right behind him, directly spoken into his ear…
He turned to behold a beautiful maiden standing an arm’s length away. She was dressed in a simply, yet lovely pink gown, which had lace on her neckline as well as her arms. Her hair was silver, and she peered at him with azure eyes.
She smiled at him, two dimples then appearing as she did so. “Hello again.”
He could not help but smile, it was his dream girl. “Hello Isabell.”
She took a step forward, her soft hand grasping his large, calloused one. “I have missed you.”
“And I you.” He tucked a strand of shiny, silver hair behind her ear gently.
“Remember, Sven. Remember who you truly are.”