Chapter 1: "Freezing Night"
The kingdom of Grief, the most populated kingdom amongst the three sees a story of a man that was born from harsh cold weather conditions, far north where ice covers the mountains stands the city of Lye known for its export of ice that contains a special property that allows it to last year’s even in the warmest condition, the most basic use is to conserve food, the city was semi-industrial as it supplied the ice needed throughout the three kingdoms.
The city of Lye has two separate sectors, the upper sector (Amun) where the ice is harvested and the lower sector (Inim) where they sell and distribute their goods. The lower sector is more inhabitable for the people for the freezing temperature was a lot stronger in the upper sector (Amun).
The worker at the upper sector of Lye would harvest huge ice blocks compartmentalized by steel frames, some harvested opted to use the land itself, they would suspend the blocks so when they break it off, it would just fall off, it was easy freezing and creating the ice but harvesting it and living on the upper sector is challenging in every sense, it produced uninhabitable coldness but it also produced their top export.
Because of the heaviness and lack of available transport for the ice to be delivered for the lower section, they built a system of slides to transport ice from different distances on the upper sector to the lower sector of the mountain.
The kingdom of Grief has a very different political hierarchy than the kingdom of Eden, they don’t have Vanguards that stand above the ruling household of the city.
They have something different, a force that is said to be an equivalent military power position that is known as harbingers’.
They collect taxes and reap rewards but they don’t own nor rule the city, unlike their vanguard counterpart.
In the kingdom of Eden, they have exactly 12 vanguards, for each city with different families owning lands and villages in between.
However in the kingdom of grief, they don’t have a fixed number of harbingers’, these harbingers are equipped with their own personal army, making them more dangerous and unpredictable.
The city of Lye, has no harbingers despite its strong income and taxation from the kingdom of Grief, they are proud people that lived in coldness, living in the city is almost unbearable unless you are raised in the city, invasion and militarization is also tricky as the ground they stood on often has a thin layer of ice and mountain path makes it harder for them to sustain a charge, hence their neutrality comes from the money they produced and the amount of effort needed to conquer a city that is already giving a sufficient amount of contribution for the kingdom of Grief.
The mountain trails are hard, those who are foreign often stumble and fall on the slippery ice, they can’t handle the climb and lack the equipment needed for them to travel efficiently, however, locals have no hard time traveling in and out of the mountain, they are adapted in wearing metal blades on the sole of their shoes when the path is too slippery and even making an incline upward with wearing shoes that are equipped with steel frame they used to drive and walk on the snow, making travel easier for them and also making it harder for invaders and foreigners to fight them on even ground.
In the near future, this city will also produce one of the strongest exalted being that would change the political landscape of the king of Grief.
Years before the Birth of Eden or now known as the Vanguard Summit.
There was once a man and woman, who fell in love with the idea of travel, born in the kingdom of grief, majority of the population which originated in the early days were nomads, or people who lived freely and traveled everywhere as the land is bountiful, animal grew as fast as fishes and fishes populated faster, the land also provided a good amount of fruits and vegetable alike.
It was said that the Gods blessed every living thing to live to their utmost potential and to live as long as they can.
The man and woman came from small villages and shared the same goal of seeing the world beauty as they have settled for most of their lives, once they got married they got a cart and traveled the entirety of the kingdom of Grief, it took them almost all of their youth to complete the travel of the kingdom of Grief and with youth comes love.
The two shared a bed and bored their firstborn male child, a child they named “Marvin Stale”, as expected both were happy with the child at first but as soon as it cries became unbearable and the stress of raising it showed its ugly head then it became a burden as their love was tested.
The amount of money they made was barely enough to sustain them both and this young child will only add to the expenses.
The woman’s attitude toward the child turned hostile, the once two loaves of bread she ate, turned into one while they bought more things for their child as soap and such, she began hating the child, day by day, the father’s love however grew fonder for the child as it looked like him.
Traveling for so long and not having a good amount of income meant there were days they had to eat only once, it also did not help that they were robbed on occasion by the infamous tribe of “Ongol” and some other bandits on several occasions.
As the first child grew older throughout the year, they bore another one, a female baby, which looked beautiful; it was identical to the beauty of her mother which they named “Lindsey Stale”
If the father loved their first because it looked like him, the mother hated that the 2nd child because it looked like her.
This really took them to re-evaluate their decisions in life, they both agreed and planned to settle down as it would benefit the children.
The woman agreed at first but her past life she had settled for a long time, she was not ready to return to that life again, she wanted to travel; she did not want to be in the same place for a long period of time.
This created dispute among the two lovers, occasionally with the smallest matter but they eventually settled on a city near the capital of Grief.
As any young love, once they are tested, it immediately showed how separate their identities were, they bickered more and fought day in and out, sometimes the children were the audience of such fights, from food supply to their limited travel dues to caring for their children, it was until one day the woman just left her family, the children, and her husband without a warning or notice.
This broke the man’s heart and the shock drove him into depression so he left the capital of Grief where they built a small living space that they settle in for quite some time.
He sold that place and headed north as far north can travel and soon after arriving at the doorstep of the city of Lye.
They lived on the lower level of the city, known as Inim, the footstep of lye, the money he earned was just enough for their travels, raising two children and feeding horses were not an easy task.
They settled on a tent with the remaining money left, the father then worked at the top sector of Lye, where the ice is being created.
Marvin would stay in their home and take care of his sister, they would often play games and with the little money that they were left with by the father.
The father would be gone for days working and the money he left was not enough to last them for the time period, even if they tried to lower their food consumption they would still fall short of funds, in the following days this will also affect their playtime as they would have little energy to play or even move but they accompanied and cheered each other as the two would often share stories of their journey.
“Where is mommy” Lindsey would often ask when they shared stories, Marvin would be silent and unable to answer, he also didn’t know what happened to their mother.
His father never bothered to explain and Marvin only knew fragments about her leaving but that was about it.
The two tried to survive the cold weather, as bad as it seems the cold did help them not feel as hungry as they should, Marvin saw his little sister trying her best to not complain and endure their situation, “We can’t keep living like this” he thought when he decided to earn a living.
“What can I do?” he asked himself trying to see how he could earn some money; he knew he was a young boy with no experience in any job that would be available; this did not stop him though.
Marvin was observant lad, he once remembered when he saw a boy picking up sticks to trade for money, “he was younger than me” he presumed as he saw the boy’s body smaller than him.
“I will go gather some wood” he convinced himself and then he went out in the cold environment and proceeded to gather sticks and wood to sell or trade.
“I can only carry so much” he thought after he gathered enough sticks that he could carry. “This would not make that much copper” he thought, just then a brilliant idea popped into his head. “What if I use that thing that father made for me when to play on the ice” he thought.
Marvin left the sticks and wood to get his sledge then placed them all there, the sledge help him gather more than he could carry and it was even lighter to carry than if he had carried them all by his hand.
The first time he exchanged the sticks and wood he gathered near the big marketplace, he got a good deal, though for him, he didn’t know this as he was happy just to earn some copper to spend.
The first money he earned, he immediately bought her little sister favorite drink, goat milk, its warm and it was also nutritious.
This would go on for years, the happiest moment for Marvin are plenty despite their condition, his father would often come home with a loaf of bread, too hard to eat, sometimes it was okay, soft as it was baked but it didn’t matter, the family he was with were enough, Marvin father would often sleep in when he gets home, the pain in his face was still there when they were abandoned by their mother.
Marvin once tried to chaperone his father before he went to work on the upper sector of lye, he saw this big building and you can see there was this pulley elevator they needed to operate that incline onto the top of the city, Marvin could still remember it clearly, the temperature was colder than he expected and when he entered the building it was warm for a bit, there were many men that gathered there, the atmosphere felt dead as they were forced to work there, and when he approached the elevator, it made clicking sound and opening the door that the elevator would pass through, brought more ice and snowmaking the surrounding colder and colder. “How could anyone survive or work in this coldness” Marvin recalled his thought and asked how would anyone survive.
His father just said with a few words that he spoke to him “You are not cut out to be here” then he left and went to the elevator with the other men and that was the last time Marvin saw his father.
The day he went back to the tent, his father never returned, they have waited for him and waited but he was not coming back.
In their tent, the little money Marvin was making was barely enough.
His little sister Lindsey was sleeping in their little material possession, they were kept warm by the pelt they have bought prior to arriving in Lye. “I’m should be glad to at least feel warm”
“How many days has it been?” Marvin asked himself as he could not count the days he slept with an empty belly while trying to feed her little sister.
“I’ll be back with food” he woke her little sister informing her on where he would go, he didn’t want it to be like his father and just leave without any trace.
That breaking dawn, Marvin tried collecting wood, it was still plenty but his hunger made him weak, it took all morning and he was barely alive, he felt there was no more warmth in his body, when he arrived at the usual stand where he would sell his collected wood.
The store owner would ask “what happened to you?” seeing Marvin gloaming and barely keeping up.
“Nothing sir, I’m just tired” Marvin replied, despite his condition he didn’t want to be a burden to anyone, so he suffered alone.
“There is a hot meal in the orphanage nearby, you should go there and get some food” the store owner suggested as he gave Marvin a bit extra for his trouble.
“Food?” Marvin immediately thought and went into the building while the information was still fresh in his mind.
There were a ton of people there, they all had trays in their hands, Marvin smelled the aroma of the hot porridge, something he had not tasted for years.
So he stood in line, wanting to eat something, to do something for himself.
Marvin was then spotted by a young boy, maybe the same age as him “Hey you!’ he spoke as it gave Marvin some anxiety. “Would he kick me out? Am I even allowed here?”
The boy approached and said to him “You don’t have to wait in line for this, we have our own table” the boy said as he took Marvin by the hand and escorted him to another side of the building.
This side had the same porridge but this time the children were all seated and the porridge was being brought to them inside, in their table, there were also some foods that were not present in the previous one.
Marvin could not help but tear up; he has never seen an atmosphere this happy for a while now.
The boy noticed this and immediately deduced “you are not from here”
Marvin decided not to lie as he knew he was not a good talker “I’m not from here but I would like to eat” he responded while he looked down.
“You know, you could blend in as an older man” the boy joked seeing Marvin white hair.
“Why is that white?” The boy asked as he touched the hair.
“I don’t know, it helps me feel not as cold when I’m outside.”
“I knew it, you’re the branch picking boy the orphanage had been talking about” the boy laughed as he concluded his own inquiries.
“What do you mean?” Marvin asked in confusion, “they say there is this person that wakes up early every morning to gather wood to keep his family warm or something, but the man was short and had the body of us, little children” the boy replied with the urban that Marvin created for himself
“So they see me” Marvin said in a sorrowful tone as he felt no one cared, because his mother didn’t
“Yup, it was also said that you should not be disturbed or you will cast a curse on them or something” The boy added.
The food came and immediately Marvin ate whatever was in front of him, having not eaten for a while, this was expected.
The boy just stared at Marvin seeing him eat like this brought him back to the days he was also the same.
“Where is your family at?” The boy asked but Marvin was too busy eating, the boy then gave his portion to Marvin seeing that the initial portion was almost finished.
“I live just outside of Lye, the tent area” Marvin answered to show his gratitude toward the boy.
“So your father is a mercenary?” the boy asked. “No, he’s an ice harvester for the upper sector of lye” Marvin replied.
The boy could not help but stop in silence, there was an accident recently on the harvesting site, the snow got too thick, no one predicted it and every one of those harvesters died.
“Did your father come back?” the boy asked thinking of the worst scenario.
“He hasn’t been back for weeks now” Marvin answered as he continued to eat.
The boy began talking and then Marvin was hit the harsh reality, one that he did not want to face.
It took a while, as most of the children and adults have cleaned and left the area, Marvin and the boy that brought him there sat, Marvin wanted to cry but he couldn’t he felt nothing anymore.
“You said you had a little sister.” The boy said as he recalled some of the things Marvin shared while they were waiting there for hours.
“Why don’t you bring her here, we have sufficient food for everyone” the boy proposed as Marvin still was in shock.
Marvin then remembered with his belly full, his sister wasn’t “I must go” but the boy stopped him and insisted on the proposal.
“Okay I’ll bring her here” Marvin responded, thinking that he wanted to make her sister feel what he felt when he had that delicious meal.
“What is your name kind stranger?” Marvin asked the boy and the boy answered “Brent the 3rd”
“You have a number after your name?” Marvin asked as he was slowly getting back to it.
“Yup, named after my great father and his great father” he bragged as he followed up “I’ll wait for you two here okay?”
Before Marvin left the building, Brent gave him a loft of bread; it was soft as it was just freshly baked. “Please, for both your safety”
Marvin nodded and headed back home, he saw that his sister was still sleeping, fearing that she would not wake up, he shook her “LINDSEY LINDSEY” he yelled and to his relief, she had woken up.
“Big brother, welcome home” she spoke with weak voice, Marvin smiled and handed her the food he was given along with the milk he had bought.
“Wow” she said in delight as she could not contain herself from joy, when she was eating, she tried giving Marvin some of the food but he rejected it, different from how he acted earlier when he ate the portion given to him by Brent.
“Brother, please eat” Lindsey pleaded as Marvin quickly replied “I know a place that could give us that, it where I already ate Lindsey” he replied, Lindsey was excited as she began eating as Marvin did, enjoying the food.
“Aren’t you worried about where we will go?” he asked as her face showed no hesitation.
“As long as you’re with me big brother, I’m okay” she answered as she continued to consume the meal.
Marvin felt that telling her the story about their parents especially their father would serve no purpose so he left it in silent.
They gathered their things and went to the building where Brent said to go and they were welcomed with open arms.