[0.0] - Before
~ Before ~
City of Talaos, Arzula
The year 2009 post bellum
Dust stung the boy’s eyes as he threaded through the bustling crowds of the market.
Wooden stalls lined the dusty dirt roads, beady eyes watched the small boy as he nimbly dodged the people. His eyes were bright and lively, darting around for a vendor who was not looking after his stock. Dirty, ragged fabric wrapped his head to keep out the sweltering heat and the dust that still tickled the back of his throat.
A stall full of shiny red apples caught his eye, the vendor was occupied, trying to woo a lady.
The boy slowed down and crept cautiously towards the apples. A quick, subtle look around ensured no one nearby was watching him, the ones that were would be too far away once he got his hands on the apples.
His grimy fingers reached out, grabbing onto the smooth, waxed surface of the apple and stuffing it under his shirt. As he reached out to grab another, however, a startled cry rose from the vendor. “Hey! Thief!”
With that warning, the boy reluctantly took off running, slipping out of the reaching hands that were open to grab him.
The vendor would not follow, there were too many thieves around for him to leave his stall for even a second, too many hungry mouths.
A single apple was not worth it.
The boy’s tattered clothes flapped in the wind as he sprinted barefoot down the road, the dust caking on to the soles of his feet.
Some men up ahead were carrying a luxurious palanquin, one that probably belonged to a nobleman.
The boy prepared himself and skidded through the legs of the horses, which created a temporary obstacle for the beady eyes of the market-goers. It also created just enough time for him to turn left into an alleyway.
His fingers clamped tightly onto the wooden beams sticking out of the walls, pulling himself higher and higher. He shifted his body and tucked himself into an open window, tumbling into a dark, abandoned attic.
The boy took out his apple, the juicy, sweet treat that was so rare since the war started.
He’d have to ration it, he couldn’t eat it yet. The boy frowned and put it back into his pocket. His ears pricked and his head flicked towards the back of the room. A flutter of movement could be faintly discerned through the dark.
Despite his uneasiness, the boy crept closer. A small cage rattled as the bird inside became more frantic. The boy weaved past various objects to stand in front of the cage, delighted at finding such an adorable thing.
The rattling stopped. The bird froze, standing unnaturally still, its beady eyes trained on the boy, tracking his movements. He felt nauseous. The hair on the back of his neck stood up as the bird continued to watch him, something dark and ancient enshrouded in its eyes.
The bird cocked its head, startling the boy. He nervously adjusted his clothes and looked back at the window, preparing to leave, until something brushed its cold fingers against his mind.
The boy yelped, his hands grabbing his head as the mist continued to caress his thoughts. Objects crashed and scattered as the boy stumbled back, tripping over a box and laying in a whimpering heap on the ground.
Something brushed against his mind once again. He could hear a soft feathery voice humming. It was in his mind! “Get out, get out!” The boy clawed at his head.
“Take me to the General, boy.” The voice was soft, encouraging, ancient. “Find the prince, find the girl.”
The boy whimpered, his heart beating so hard against his chest that he felt sick. “What prince, what girl?” He said fearfully, squeezing his eyes shut and wishing someone to save him.
“Come and pick me up, boy.”
The boy kept his eyes shut, a half-sob wrenched itself from his lips.
“Pick me up.”
Getting up with a strength that wasn’t his own, the boy’s treacherous fingers reached for bird cage.
“No, no. I don’t want to, just leave me alone, please,” the boy sobbed, trying to pry his fingers off the cold metal.
“In the morrow, three tolls after dawn,
The mortal queen shall be born.”
As the faint, veiled words blurred over the boy’s mind, his resolve strengthened and an understanding bloomed somewhere in his soul. He looked at the bird, the crimson bird, and stared into its dark, knowing eyes. The voice continued, entrancing and silvery.
“Al be that shadows paint the killing fields,
’till one blood-bound finally yields.”
The boy took one last breath to quell his fear and picked up the cage. And far across the realm and its kingdoms, the silent war drums continued to hum.
But, one special mynglass alerted the attention of a certain dark-haired prince, one who lounged on his throne, sipping ambrosia, a drink of golden starlight with his circlet of golden leaves around his head.
A prince whose ambrosia covered lips curved into a wicked, slow smile as he curiously watched the sands in the mynglass that haven’t moved in centuries, start to fall.