Chapter 1 - Departure
A dream. It reminded me of a time before I had met my new family. I was playing in the grassy field while my father and mother watched me. They had the biggest smiles on their faces when they looked at me. It seemed to me that if they were given the option to wish for anything in the world, it would be for the life they had now. They were satisfied with their lives. And I believe I was too. My family didn’t ask for anything more, and yet, we lost everything.
There was the smell of burnt houses, the look of terror as people tried to desperately run, and the feeling of blood. The chaos before me raged and seemingly had no end. My parents carried me and tried to find a place to hide, but the fire was spreading. And before I could see the fire engulf my parents, I was awoken.
“Zeff, it’s time to eat,” I heard from a voice I assumed to be my mother.
Opening my eyes, I could see that it was around sunset. It seemed that I had fallen asleep under the shade of the tree. I guess the breeze proved to be too gentle.
“Mom, you don’t have to go out to call me. Just ask Wes to come and get me. You know how frail your body is,” I said, worried for my mother’s health.
“I know but, I just wanted to come and get you like I used to, back when you were younger. At least, before you leave tomorrow,” she said with a smile, but a smile that tried to hide away her worry.
“Don’t worry mom, I’ll be fine. Before you know it, I’ll be back at the village as usual,” I said, trying to ease her worries.
The reason for my departure from the village was because I had to attend the academy. The Academy of Festel. It was a place regarded with much respect and esteem. Normally, it would be hard to get into this academy as they only enroll students through merit. Their standards were high and out of those who tried to attend the school, not many were accepted. But, there was an exception to this. I had to enroll into the academy not because of merit, but because of the gray wing that was on the back of my right hand.
“Well, are you going to come or continue laying down? The fo-” my mom couldn’t finish her sentence before she started to cough vehemently. She had her hands covering her mouth and seemed to have trouble standing up.
“Mom, are you okay?” Quickly getting up, I was going over to her to support her, “That’s why you should let Wes-”
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” My mom quickly recovered and was laughing, “I guess you care about me more than your rest. I’ll make my way back to the house now. Also, you can stay here for a while because I’m sure you’re going to miss your tree, but not for too long. The food doesn’t taste good when it’s cold after all.”
“You don’t need me to help you walk back?”
“I’ll be fine on my own.”
With that, my mother turned around and started walking; the occasional sound of laughter coming from her direction.
For an adult, she does act childish sometimes. Not that I’m any better though. But as usual, she knew that I wanted to stay for a bit longer. I don’t know how she does it, but sometimes she’s able to know what I’m thinking. Actually, it’s kind of scary the more I think about it.
I stood beside the tree and gazed upon the village. Lights started to illuminate as it got darker and I could see people still outside, chatting amongst each other. As I looked at the village, I couldn’t help but smile as I reminisced about my time here. That smile faded however, as I brought up my right hand in front of my eyes.
On my right hand is a crest. These crests are something everyone was born with and consists of two parts; the core and the wings. The core is the center of the crest and usually has the shape of a diamond which is colored gray. Besides the core are the wings which is a rare sight to see on anyone’s crest. These wings hold power within them and the more wings someone has on their crest, the stronger he or she could become. But, I’m not interested in power. Despite some people even risking their lives in order to attain a wing, I don’t want it. I’m afraid of what would happen if the power within the wing is released. Because I know very well, these wings are not powers without consequence.
The sight of children running around, people talking amongst each other, and laborers doing their jobs was a natural sight to see in the village. Even in the night the village was still full of energy and filled with a lively atmosphere.
Entering the village, I was greeted by the mischievous smiles of children.
“Hey Zeff, do you want to play a quick game with us?” One of the children said, his face full of confidence.
It was quite clear that they were planning something. They’ve been trying to beat me at their games since I could remember, but to no avail. They were however, persistent and creative.
“Sure, what game did you guys come up with this time?”
One of the kids pulled out a deck of cards and shuffled them. The kid who I assumed I would be playing with sat down and I sat down across from him. There were eight cards placed in a circle and one card placed in the center of the circle. The kid shuffling the cards gave me two cards and the kid across from me two cards.
“The game doesn’t have a name yet but...”
Not too long after he explained the game I had won. As expected, the kids had come up with something new and quite fun to play.
“I guess I win again. Well I’ll be on my way now since I’m going to go eat,” I said.
“Can you play one more time? Just one more time?” the children pleaded.
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to keep my family waiting for long. Maybe next time?”
“But you won’t be here tomorrow,” one of the children said, tears welling up in their eyes.
I’m really going to miss these kids. I always played with them in my spare time and whenever I got bored, these kids were always willing to let me join in on their fun.
“Don’t worry, I promise I’ll play as much as you want when I get back. Till then, I hope you all grow up and finally beat me at one of your games,” I said as I ruffled each one’s hair.
As I waved goodbye to the children, I made my way back home.
When I opened the doors, the smell of my favorite dish permeated the house. Walking in I found my brother and mother at the table waiting for me.
“Sorry it took me a while. The kids wanted to play a quick game with me,” I said as I took a seat at the table.
“It’s ok, I don’t mind. They’ll probably miss you too,” said my mom.
“So how long will you be gone Zeff,” said my brother, Wes, whose mouth was already stuffed with food.
“I don’t know but, I’ll try to return as soon as possible. Maybe I can even be the village guard when I get back,” I said.
“Will you be stronger than the village guards here?” Wes asked.
“Umm, I don’t know about that but, I’ll try to be strong enough to protect you, mom, the children, and the village,” I said.
“I’m sure you’ll be strong enough, I have faith in you,” said my mom in order to reassure me, “Besides, even if you don’t think you’ll be strong enough, I have faith that the memories you will awaken from your gray wing will be that of a legendary hero,”
“That may be troublesome. If I do awaken as a legendary hero I might end up with more responsibilities,” I said with a chuckle.
“But, it is better than resting all the time,” my mom remarked.
After finishing the meal, my family went to bed since I would be leaving early in the morning the next day and they wanted to see me off.
“You won’t do that again?” asked my brother who was laying in the bed beside mine.
The thing he was referring to was something I did some time ago when the gray wing appeared on my crest. It was something I still regret doing and is probably something I’ll never do again.
“No, I won’t. I’m sorry for making you worry,” I said.
“It’s just...you haven’t seemed like yourself since you got that wing. I missed watching you practice magic and hearing you tell stories of heroes,” my brother said in a somber tone.
“I know but, I wanted to protect this village. I don’t know when I might awaken the memories from the wing and if I turn out to be a bad person, I don’t think I can forgive myself for any harm that might happen.”
“Will you be okay after the academy?”
“I...don’t know. But don’t worry. Your brother has a plan. After the academy maybe then I can show you some magic and share some more stories, but we’ll have to wait,” I said, trying to reassure my brother.
With that, my brother fell silent and went to sleep.
I wanted to be confident that I would return from the academy. But the truth is I wasn’t. I wanted to reassure them and, in doing so, I may have given them a false hope. Maybe...maybe it was a bad idea to tell them things even I couldn’t believe. It hadn’t been that long since I said those words and I already regret it.
The morning sunlight was covered by the drifting clouds whilst I stood in the center of the village roundabout with the other adolescents who wanted to attend the academy. Surrounding the prospective students and I were fellow villagers and parents who wanted to bid farewell; my family was no exception. Standing amongst the crowd of people was my mother and brother. My mom looked at me with an encouraging smile while my brother who was beside her tried to hold in his tears.
Out in the distance was the sound of horses and carriages approaching the village. Passing through the village entrance was a caravan of six carriages which were escorted by several guards on horseback. Of the six carriages, there were two that stood out because of their design. Both were well decorated but, what set them apart was the different symbols engraved onto the carriages. The symbols denoted the owner or occupant of the carriage to be from a noble house. However, I could not tell the name of the house they belonged to because I wasn’t too familiar with noble houses. Once the carriages and escorts had reached the roundabout, the atmosphere in the village went silent for a while.
From one of the well decorated carriages emerged a man. The man was wearing a robe with a symbol that matched the one on the carriage. Aside from the symbol, there was a badge of gold pinned on his robe which signified him a representative of the Academy of Festel.
“Greetings from the academy and what a fine morning it is today. I am Lloyd Erifborn and I will be in charge of proctoring the exams for the enrollees when we arrive at the academy. I look forward to seeing you as an official student and hope we get along well in the future,” he said in a polite and optimistic manner. He then bowed and took out a scroll from his robe, holding it in his hands. “This was the scroll given to us by this village and written in it are the names of those who want to attend the academy. If you have changed your mind, please say so now. If not, I will read the names on this list and the guards will help you onto the carriages,”
After a moment of silence Lloyd then clapped his hands and some guards got off their horses and stood by Lloyd. Lloyd then unscrolled the scroll and began calling the names on the parchment. Lloyd was casting magic as he created fire to mark off the names of the enrollees on the scroll. As each person was called, a stroke of fire could be seen slashing the scroll and was controlled well enough that the scroll wasn’t engulfed in flames. The fire that was casted was quickly snuffed after each slash.
After all the names were called I was the last one left waiting. Lloyd rolled the scroll in his hands and tucked it away in his robe and then took out another scroll.
“So you must be the eternum. I hope to aid you as you attend the academy as well as guide you through a new time. Also, if I may ask, the scroll doesn’t have your family name written. Was that intentional or just a small mistake,” he asked.
“It’s intentional. I became an orphan at a young age and I don’t remember the family name I would inherit at the time.”
“That is unfortunate.”
Lloyd then casted fire once again and then held out his hand and I shook it.
“Pleasure to meet you Zeff. I wish you the best of luck at the academy. May your wing bring you glory,” he said.
The guards then escorted me to the carriages, but instead of going to the other carriages that the other enrollees went to, I was taken to a different carriage.
I gave my family one last look. My brother was now bawling, face pushed against my mother’s side. I looked at my mother, and my mother seemed to be mouthing “I have faith in you.”
I smiled back and mouthed back, “I know,” and then entered the carriage.