In a quiet castle on the top of a grassy knoll, a man paced back and forth across the smooth stone floor, awaiting news of the birth of his new child. It was taking a long time, longer than the last time, and he was getting worried. What if something went wrong? He shook the thought away. He could not think that way. This child was a surprise, his wife now much older than what was normal for childbirth age, but she was healthy and strong. His concern still ate away at him. He was so caught up in his worry that he almost missed the small brown haired boy peeking at him from behind the curtains hanging on the doorway. He stopped pacing and looked over at his son, whose small brow was furrowed watching his father pace like a nervous dog. He smiled at his son to belay his anxiety. He was too young still to have to worry about such things. He would grow up and become his successor soon enough, but for now, he should be able to be a boy.
“Come here, my son,” the king said, motioning to the plump cheeked boy trying to keep himself hidden behind the curtains.
The boy came out and approached his father’s side. King Randor Breslin took his son’s hand and walked him over to the bench along the far wall, where people waited for an audience with their king. He sat down on the bench and patted the place beside him. His son took his place beside his father and looked up at him.
“Why are you so worried, father?” his son asked him, frowning.
“What makes you think I’m worried about anything, Kevaan?”
“You only pace like that when you’re distressed, father.”
The king smiled at his son’s intuitiveness.
“I’m a bit worried about your mother and your new sibling that is on the way; that’s all.”
“Because it’s been more hours than normal, and I have heard no news.”
“Mother will be fine, father. So will the baby.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because I asked God for a brother to play with. I’m lonely. He won’t let me down.”
“There are plenty of children in the castle for you to play with. What about Fredrick and Rory?”
“They’re fine, but I want a playmate that I can teach things to, someone I can protect. I want to be a big brother.”
The king laughed heartily now. “I see. Well I guess you’re going to get your wish. I just hope it’s soon.”
“Be patient, father, these things take time.”
He looked at his son with even more admiration.
“How is it that you are so wise at ten years old? You’re telling me things I should be telling you.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m just repeating what mother said. She said she knew you would be anxious. She sent me to tell you that you need to be calm, that things will be alright.”
The king really laughed now, slapping his son gently on the back. “I get the message, son. Tell your mother I’m fine now.”
The boy got up from his place at his father’s side and skipped across the sitting room and through the curtained doorway. King Randor smiled now and shook his head. His wife knew him all too well, and she knew how to calm him when he was anxious, even when she wasn’t in the room. She was his rock, his calm during the storm. He loved her deeply, and, if she wasn’t worried, he knew he shouldn’t be either. Instead of rising to continue his harried pacing, he stood and went to the window and looked out over the peaceful countryside. Spring was almost in full bloom, the trees budding, the many colored flowers dotting the lush green landscape. The fresh afternoon breeze blew through the open window and touched his face. It calmed him more, refreshed his soul. He took in a deep breath and let it out. Soon he would have another child.
His peace was interrupted by a servant who slid through the doorway, breathing hard. The king heard him enter and turned to him.
“Your Majesty,” he said bowing low, “your wife is requesting your presence.”
“Is everything alright, Kaleb?”
“Yes. You have a daughter, Sire.”
He smiled. “A daughter?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. She is nice and healthy. Baby and the queen are just fine.”
He pulled himself out of his distraction and followed the servant from the room.
In a high mountain pass in the Indriahs, a stooped over woman led a small boy through the zig-zagging trails of ice and slow melting snow, to a stone fortress hidden by a ridge. The boy was tired and dragging his feet, yawning in the waning daylight, the old woman pulling him along and berating him for his tarrying.
When they reached the road that led into the fortress they picked up their pace, scuffling faster up the cobbled lane. The main door was large with a depiction of a sorcerer’s dual carved into the wood grain. There was a bell pull near the entrance, and the old woman rang it, shivering in the frigid air of the mountains.
The door opened a few minutes later, and a man stood there. He motioned for them to step inside, and they did, the door closing loudly behind them, the echo bouncing off the stone walls.
The boy used the advantage of waiting, to look around at his environment. The walls and floor were stone; the floor, however, was polished shiny, and he could see his reflection in it. The walls were rough hewn stone and they looked cold, but the roaring fire in the large hearth warmed him, and he started to feel his hands again. There was uncomfortable furniture all over the room and the hallway and ornately carved wood cabinets and shelving lining the walls. There were large gold sconces along all the walls, casting eerie shadows of light from the flames into the room, and he danced around, smiling at his reflection as it moved on the floor. There were some tapestries and paintings on the walls but none that caught his attention enough to investigate further. What did was a bookcase that lined the entire back wall of the room, with leather bound books and tomes of every color and thickness. As the woman stood waiting for their host, shaking the numbness out of her frozen limbs, he went over to it and looked wide eyed at all the treasures. He loved books. His mother and father were lowland land owners and were not part of the king’s court, but they prided themselves on making sure they were well read, and in doing so, their child as well. He was only ten years old, but his appetite for reading was insatiable, and he wanted to take in all that he could. It didn’t matter what the book was about; he didn’t care, as long as the words on the pages filled his mind with knowledge.
He dragged his hand across the leather bound spines, looking at all the titles that jumped out at him. History, science, adventure, magic. He stopped in his tracks and stared at the last one he had touched. “The Fundamentals of Magic” was the title, and he touched that one again with his pointing finger. The spine of the book was warm to the touch, and when he reached out to pull it from the shelf, he felt a sensation run up his finger, all the way to his head. He pulled back from it in surprise, but his curiosity prevailed. He touched it again, tried to grab it and pull it from its resting place. The sensation shot through him again, and he felt a stirring in his soul. A voice behind him caused him to jump, and he pushed the book back in and turned.
A man was standing there, looking down at him with pale gray eyes which were behind small round spectacles resting precariously on his long thin nose. He was not scowling at him but rather studying him with an amused half grin. The boy looked up at him and tried to smile but was afraid he had done something wrong, and smiling would make the stranger mad, just like a dog thought you were snarling if you smiled at him.
The man continued looking down on him, then did smile, the firelight dancing in his eyes. He placed a gentle hand on the boy’s head and patted it. The man seemed to know what he was thinking, because he winked at him.
“Knowledge is never a subject that should get you into trouble. Knowledge is power. The more you know the more power you obtain. And magical knowledge is the most powerful of them all.”
The boy did not respond but continued to look up at the older man with the kind eyes. The man finally looked away and went over to the old woman, who was just now feeling warm by the raging fire. The boy followed him.
“We appreciate you bringing him up here. I realize it was a long and treacherous walk for you. It would not have been wise for any of us to make the trek down the mountain into the city, you understand.”
“I do. Does this mean you will take the boy in?”
“Yes, of course. He has his father’s eyes and his mother’s curiosity. He will learn much from us, and one day he will be ready to go out into the world and conquer it.” He smiled down at the boy again.
The old lady ruffled the boy’s hair and smiled at him through crooked teeth. “This will be your new home, Fallon. Your mother and father wished it to be so if anything happened to them. They will take good care of you, and you will learn many things. This is Cephus, he will be your father now. Learn all you can and make your life count.”
The boy started to cry a little. He had been with the old lady for almost a year now and was starting to grow found of her, even though she was crooked and smelled of cabbage.
“Why must I stay here? Why can’t I stay with you?”
“I am too old to raise a child until manhood. I will be gone from this world before that. It is best for you to be with people who can care for you, give you everything you need, and who will teach you the things you need to know to make your way in this world.”
“But I don’t want to stay up here; it’s cold and dark.”
The man looked kindly at him and touched his shoulder. “Tis not always dark and cold on the mountain. When spring arrives, you will see the splendor of colors the flowers make as they grow out of the cliffs.”
Fallon sniffed. He had been angry that his parents left him, until he was told by the old lady that they had been killed by the king’s guards that pillaged the town and killed those that opposed the king’s rules. He vowed that when he got older he would get revenge, but, after time had gone by, his plan of revenge waned. Now, looking around this room at the shelf full of books, especially ones that spoke of magic, he was starting to think those thoughts again. Perhaps with the right teaching, he could very well learn things and grow up to dispense the justice for the wrongs done to his parents and his home.
He looked up at the man again, whose gray eyes were watching him intently, and said, “Will you teach me magic?”
The man continued looking at him then laughed. “If you show promise in all your other studies, perhaps magic will be in your weekly lessons.” He leaned over and whispered in the boy’s ear. “Did that book speak to you, young Fallon?”
Fallon swallowed, then answered, “Yes, sir. I felt a tingling in my fingers when I touched the spine, then when I tried to pull it out to look at it, the tingling grew stronger. I felt it was speaking to me. What does that mean?”
The man rubbed his chin, his gray eyes sparkling in the dancing light of the fire. “It means that you have great potential, young Fallon. Stay with us, and your want for knowledge will never go unfulfilled. Learn what we have to teach, and you will see the full potential you have to be great.”
The boy stood up straighter as if trying to show his bravery. “Okay, I will live here with you. I want to show the world what kind of man I can be.”
“And you shall, young Fallon, you shall.”
They spent the next few hours eating and talking. He fell asleep several hours later by the fire, a book on his lap. The servants took the boy up to his new room and put him to bed. In the morning, he would say good-bye to his old caregiver and say hello to his new life. A life filled with reading and knowledge, a life that he would embrace with enthusiasm and fervor. A life that would someday bring him ultimate power.
A horse and rider rode through the Dark Woods as fast as the wind. The rider sat low in the saddle, leaning forward so that his face was practically touching the pommel. He weaved through the trees as if he knew the forest by heart, every turn, every stump. He wore pants and shirt of a natural fiber, and his homespun cape flew behind him in the wind. His long black hair was pulled back with a cord, and his hood was pulled over his head, but his pointed ears poked through, the tips noticeable every time the wind caught his hood. He raced through the forest until he came to a waterfall cascading down the side of a sheer cliff. Tomaz Faolin dismounted and led his horse across a rocky outcropping and went in behind the falls. When he emerged out the other side, he was in a small clearing. He mounted again and raced across the glen and into a hidden forest. As he got deeper in, small houses built into the trees started to become evident and oil lanterns lined the paths through a village. A thatch-roofed hut sat in the center of the village, a fire burning just outside the doorway. He dismounted and gave the reins to a boy, who took his horse to drink and food after the long hard journey.
The rider entered the hut and stopped in front of three men who sat cross legged inside, then bowed. They were bare on top, with bright paint covering their chests and faces in intricate patterns and wore only light homespun pants. The men looked up at him and nodded.
“What news do you bring to us, Tomaz?”
“The prophecy is true, Pyramus, the baby has been born.”
“And did you present our gift, the Elvin sword?”
“Then the time for the Dark One to rise is near. This boy will grow and save Aelethia before the darkness overtakes the land.”
“Yes, but there is something you should know, Pyramus. The Chosen One is a girl.”
The three men looked at one another in surprise. Pyramus looked back to his messenger. “A female?”
“Yes, Pyramus, and it is the Princess.”
“And you are sure she is the one?”
“When I laid eyes on her and presented her parents with Tanith, I felt it. There was no mistake in the sword’s song, and there was no mistaking the aura around her. She is indeed the one we have waited for. It seems your intuition was right about her. She is indeed the legacy we have waited for. The Tanith Prophecy has begun.”
“I was hoping I was not right, but fate cannot be altered. I do not know how she can do what needs to be done. The road will be long and hard, and a girl could not possibly be strong enough do what will be needed to rid this world of the evil that will come.”
“There was no mistaking the power that emanated from her. She has the power within her. She is just born, perhaps we should give it time.”
“We cannot interfere until the time is right,” Pyramus said.
“No, but when the time comes we will know it. There will be many years before the time she is needed. By then, we will be ready, and if she is not, we will know what to do.”
“You are wise, Tomaz Faolin. Keep a watchful eye on her. Do not make yourself known but keep her safe. She is our hope, the savior of Vallis, the savior of Aelethia’s future.”
Tomaz bowed to the elders. “I will do what is asked.” He turned from them and left the hut.
Many years later….
In a room only illuminated by ten candles in a old rusted candelabra, two figures moved about, casting powder into a large cauldron. One was young, with a muscled torso, black hair and matching goatee, with the dark eyes of someone who had seen more than he should have. The other old and grizzled, with gray hair hanging to his waist, and an even longer matching colored beard. His eyes were gray and wizened, his body stooped, but still spry.
Water bubbled from the pot in the center of the room, and there was an acrid smell that permeated the walls. The younger man was standing with his arms raised over the pot, eyes closed, chanting a spell in a language no one had spoken for centuries.
As he spoke, the gray haired man looked on, smiling proudly as he watched his apprentice perform the spell he had waited many years to teach him. The final lesson in his years of training.
The wizard was proud of his apprentice, so adept at the arts, almost more so than himself, and he could not wait to see what the world thought about their new nemesis.
The sorcerers had been cast out, sent away into hiding, never being able to show themselves to the world. And it had been that way for nearly five hundred years. The kings of the past decided the magic was too dangerous for the simple people, so they exiled the sorcerers to the far reaches of the land, never being allowed to join civilized society.
He was the last real sorcerer left, save for Sol, but he was of no consequence. All of the others like himself had died off or been killed by those who thought they knew better. They would suffer for their arrogance. He would have an apprentice that was more skilled than any that had come before him, an apprentice who could take over the world and avenge his teachers.
The younger man put down his hands and opened his eyes, now glazed over in a trance. He danced around the pot and the bubbles roiled higher.
Suddenly there was a glare of light so bright, they had to shield their faces against it. Then a tremor rocked the room, which shook the walls and caused some of the dirt and debris to loosen from the floors above. A crack appeared on one wall and moved quickly up and across the ceiling. The room shuddered again, and then a dark hole, encompassing almost the entire room, opened up. The pot fell through the floor, and then there was silence.
The two men, young and old, peered over the edge of the hole, looking down into the depths. There was light there, a reddish hued light that gave the room an eerie muted glow. There were noises coming from below, voices in a language that was undecipherable to a human ear. The old man smiled at his apprentice and placed a proud hand on his shoulder.
“You have done well, my son. You have brought the darkness to light. The pact with the Dark One is almost complete. You must now offer a sacrifice in order to obtain the full use of your new power.”
The younger man smiled back at his mentor, placing his hand on the old man’s shoulder. His lips split into a sneer, and his eyes turned darker.
“There is only need for one master in this world. I will be the one to avenge the dark sorcerers who were cast out of this land. I will take it where you left off and be the most powerful in history. Me and me alone. I thank you for your instruction and guidance, Cephus, but there can only be one master. I’m master now.”
He gave the old man a shove and pushed him into the dark hole. The ground shook again and the room rumbled. Debris fell from the ceiling again. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. A voice spoke from the depths, gargled and deep, like someone speaking through a mouthful of something sticky. “What is it you ask of me?”
The man knelt in front of the hole and hung his head. “I wish to be the ruler of this land, the ruler over all its people. I will avenge my dead brothers and take back what should have been theirs.”
“You have done well. For bringing me back into the light, I will reward you as you ask. You will need help to do so, and I will provide. Soon, I will tell you what you need to do in order to accomplish your goal. Do you pledge your eternal allegiance to me, Fallon Tab Rommel?”
“Yes. I will do as you command.”
“Good. Then prepare yourself as you have been instructed. Soon I will reveal all to you. Your soul is no longer your own. It belongs to me.”
“I hear you. It shall be as you instruct.”
There was laughter from somewhere below, shaking the walls and the earth under the man’s feet.
It was done. His deal with the Dark One was made. He would enlist the people of this kingdom to join him, and if they refused, they would perish. This world belonged to him now and everything in it as well. It was time for the reign of man to end, and the reign of gods to begin.