Nypre tossed and turned in his bed. The room was dark. Not a single ray of light peered through the window. He had woken up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. He knew he would need his energy for today, but the anticipation was too much for him. He finally gave in and climbed from his bed knowing there’d be no way to sleep now.
Nypre sneaked slowly outside of the home like he had done many times in the past. He needed to calm his mind, and the best way to do that was to wear it out using magic. He slowly opened the front door of the house and peered outside. It was a beautiful clear night. Stars shined in the distance lightly illuminating the grassy fields. He closed the door behind him before walking to the edge of the hill. Nypre made sure not to look back at the house as he sat down. Wonik always kept it hidden during the night. Walking out of it when it was invisible messed with Nypre’s head usually resulting in dizziness.
“Can’t sleep either?” Nypre jumped at Deren’s voice. He turned to see his brother leaning against the invisible home, completely unaffected by dealing with invisible objects.
“Glad I’m not the only one,” Nypre responded. Deren made his way to Nypre, sitting down next to him.
“Just think, we’ll be leaving tomorrow. The only place we’ve even been to is the town.”
“We’re just escorting some guy to Lumin and then we’ll be back again. It’s not even that far. Yet it’s still fun to Imagine if we were doing something really important,” Nypre mused.
“Hey, I’ll take it. Who knows, something important could happen on the trip. We could meet some attractive girls in trouble and we’ll have to rescue them!” Deren laughed.
“To be honest I’m still a little worried about the rescuing them part. What if we get into trouble ourselves? This is serious stuff,” Nypre groaned
“Relax, with your magic and my sword we’ll have no problem. The worst thing that could happen is being attacked by bandits and once they see you’re a mage they’ll start running. Not that we have anything worth stealing anyway.” Deren seemed calm with the thought of fighting. “Being confident is the key to success. It’s something the sword master taught me.”
“You’re right. My magic is powered by the mind. I shouldn’t just assume that everyone out there is stronger than me.” Nypre felt reassured. “I wonder what it will be like in Lumin.”
“According to my research Lumin is on top of the mountain. It’s covered in snow, but remains warm. It’s said to be paradise in comparison to the ten territories, but only devout worshipers of Ana are allowed to live there,” Deren spoke as if he was reading a book out loud. “I find it odd that they worship Ana but don’t care about what happens down here.”
“Oh, they care,” Nypre countered. “You know they’re always interfering, trying to kill mages and guardians. I’m just glad they haven’t found mom.”
“I’m sure our mother is fully capable of defending herself.”
“I know. I meant glad for them they haven’t found her. She’s scary when she gets angry!” Nypre laughed.
“Still, they are said to have the strongest army in the world, especially when it comes to killing mages. We both have to be careful!” Deren mocked his mother’s warnings sarcastically.
“It’s not like I’m going to go around shooting lightning at buildings or anything!” Nypre responded.
“Speaking of shooting lightning, we really should get some sleep.”
“What does sleep have to do with shooting lightning?”
“Don’t argue with me! Go to sleep young man!”
The two boys argued playfully for a bit longer before finally returning to their rooms. Despite helping each other to rest they were still tired when they were awakened by a knock on the door. The house was invisible still, how could someone knock on the door? Nypre grabbed his sword quickly and rushed into the main room where he saw an equally sleepy Deren doing the same. Their mother was also there and put herself between them and the front door. She signaled them to be quiet and opened the door quickly, ready to strike should it be necessary.
“Hello.” It was Ryan on the other side of the door. He was smiling like he had done nothing wrong. “I figured it would make more sense if I stopped by here since you live on the edge of Tawarln’s territory.” He walked in without an invitation.
“I keep this house hidden for a reason,” Wonik grunted annoyed as his appearance. She did a quick wave of her arms and dispelled the invisibility like she did every morning.
“How did he find us?” Deren asked, refusing to let go of his sword.
“I guess you can say it is part of Ryan’s gift. He has a knack of knowing things he shouldn’t,” Wonik explained.
“Yes, I’m terribly sorry to intrude. I figured after a quick breakfast we could be going.” Ryan explained himself.
“So you just barge in here and expect me to cook you breakfast?” Wonik nearly yelled.
“If you don’t mind.” Ryan had never stopped smiling. He sat down at the table as if he were a guest of honor. Wonik growled and Nypre saw a little of the anger he had talked about last night. She started gathering some eggs and started preparing breakfast.
“So, Ryan. Why don’t you tell us about yourself since we’re going to be traveling with you?” Deren sat down at the table with him, finally relinquishing the grip on his sword.
“Oh yes. I am a wanderer. I wander through countries, cities, and towns, visiting places in ways beyond your thoughts. I can be anywhere at any time and I usually am,” he said
“Ignore him. He says that to everyone,” Wonik mocked.
“So you’re an experienced traveler then? Have you been to all of the ten territories?” Nypre asked, taking the seat next to his brother.
“I regret to say that I haven’t,” Ryan admitted. “There is one territory that yet eludes me.”
“Probably the tenth territory, or at least that’s what everyone calls it. Nobody knows where that is,” Deren assumed. “Either that or the Night Land.”
“Why are you going to Lumin, and what brings you here?” Nypre was curious at this point.
“I’d guess you could call it business. I’m meeting up with an old friend in Lumin and I prefer not to travel alone especially since we’ll be going through Falkner’s territory, which is at war with the elves. Falkner has also recently declared war with Aqnis which is where I’ve come from. I fear if it’s found out that I’ve been there recently they may detain me to gain information,” Ryan explained.
“Wait Aqnis? Falkner’s been obsessed with the forest forever, why would he go to war with Aqnis?” Wonik was the one who asked this time.
“To be honest, I’m not sure. Aqnis does border the forest on the other side, so it is possible he’s trying to gain a flank on the elves,” Ryan replied.
“I doubt Meni will let that happen. The only way to get to Aqnis, other than through the forest, is by sea. Falkner won’t stand a chance against the Aqnis Navy even if Meni chooses to stay out of it.” Wonik seemed to be calming down with discussion.
“I wouldn’t say that. Falkner is aligned with Telkis which seems to be supplying him with steel. Falkner himself is highly intelligent and is building some new war machines. It wouldn’t surprise me if he came here to try to take this territory,” Ryan said with worry now.
“Falkner, attack here? This is Tawarln’s territory. We supply food to just about everyone! No one attacks us unless they want to starve themselves! He also knows I protect this land.”
“He knows Meni protects Aqnis, yet he still went to war with them.”
The two continued talking about all of the different lands. It was very hard to follow. Deren leaned over to Nypre.
“You following any of this?” he whispered. Nypre shook his head but continued staring at the two in awe as they argued about this and that. Finally, breakfast was done. Wonik didn’t join them for breakfast and instead chose this time to gather supplies for the boys from throughout the house. Nypre, Deren, and Ryan all ate quietly. Nypre wanted to ask more about Ryan, but couldn’t figure out how to bring it up. He didn’t feel too worried about missing out since he’d be traveling with him for a while. After the long silence ended, it was time to go. Wonik had the boys’ stuff all packed up in bags, ready for them to carry.
“Nypre, Deren. Please be careful,” Wonik said quietly. She hugged them both, fighting to hold back her tears. It was the first time they’d be without her protection.
“Don’t worry. We’ll be back before you know it,” Deren said confidently trying to reassure her.
“Remember what we just talked about please Wonik. Be on the lookout for any strange activity as Falkner may advance his army here,” Ryan said standing up.
“I will,” she sighed. “You three be careful too. You’re going to be traveling through his territory after all.” She looked at her two boys. “I love you both.”
“We love you too mom,” they both replied in sync with each other.
There were no roads outside of the towns in Tawarln’s territory. The boys were used to walking through the fields, using stones and hills as landmarks. Deren was far better at navigating than Nypre, so Ryan allowed him to lead the way for a while. Deren was quick to climb the hills and look over the fields, pointing in different directions. He climbed rocks like they were mountains, declaring himself king of the Tawarln fields. After only a couple of hours of travel, the boys finally reached the point beyond which they had never traveled
.“This is as far as we’ve been,” Deren stated plainly, jumping down from a stone he had climbed. “Remember Nypre?”
“Yes, when we ran away when mother wouldn’t teach us magic that one time. We made it this far before she found us. I didn’t even notice until you mentioned it.” Nypre responded.
“I really wanted to explore more too,” Deren pouted jokingly.
“Your mother is very protective of you two,” Ryan observed out loud.
“She really is. We got in so much trouble. This is just when things get interesting too. The fields start really getting rocky here, and if you look off in the distance you can see trees.” Deren was excited.
“There’s something else too. Look.” Nypre pointed towards the sky. The sunlit afternoon cut off unnaturally into blackness.“I noticed it awhile back. It must be the Night Land.”
“Indeed it is Nypre. We will be staying far away from it, so don’t worry. The eternal night that covers the land is spreading slowly. Each day it claims more land,” Ryan explained.
“Yeah, and those who wander inside never return,” Deren laughed. “It doesn’t make sense though. I bet we could take a step inside with no problem.”
“Absolutely not! Not even at the very edge,” Ryan snapped seriously.
“Whoa, calm down Ryan. It was just a joke,” Deren was taken aback.
“Your mother would kill me if anything should happen to you two. Come, let’s head further east to avoid this terrible sight.” Ryan smiled as if it was nothing, before walking off and taking over as lead. Deren stayed back with Nypre.
“I wonder what that was all about,” Deren pondered quietly.
“I don’t know. I’m curious about the Night Land too, but let’s just stay away from it for now,” Nypre told him.
“Well, when I’m an all powerful mage and you the best sword master in the world, there should be nothing to fear,” Nypre grinned. Deren nodded at that idea, sharing the grin.
The three continued through the stony field moving northeast. It was very unsettling seeing the night sky come closer, especially during the day. It became even more unsettling as the normal sky became darker to match it. They were only able to tell the eternal night from the regular night because the Night Land had no starlight. This made Nypre believe that eternal night was more of a shadow than anything else. He looked up in the sky in fear of this thought. What could make a shadow that large?
“I’m exhausted,” Nypre groaned. Deren was in better shape but was also feeling weary.
“We’ll be arriving in Dustin soon. It is the closest town to the edge of Falkner’s Territory,” Ryan reassured them.
“Wait, we’re already in Falkner’s Territory?” Deren was surprised.
“Of course. It’s a very small world. It will take a day to cross his territory on foot and another half day to scale the mountain to Lumin,” Ryan explained. “That is assuming we head straight there without stopping. I’m in no rush, if you two wish to explore the territory further we can.”
“We should!” Deren suggested.
“I can’t wait to see another territory!” Nypre agreed. Even with all the talks of war earlier in the morning Nypre wanted to see everything. He also really wanted to see the forest’s edge. The elves intrigued him
After walking a little longer they arrived in Dustin. Immediately Nypre and Deren saw differences in culture from home. For one thing, there was a small stone path through the center of the town. People rode horses down this path. The houses were made of a darker wood than those in Tawarln and had stone foundations. The town itself was huge, consisting of multiple districts.
“This place is huge!” Nypre said with delight
“Actually it’s still a small town,” Ryan explained. “Not as small as Tawarln’s towns usually are, but still small for Falkner’s territory.”
“Is anyone going to greet us?” Deren asked, looking at the people. The people avoided eye contact and continued on their own way.
“Of course not! They all have their own business to attend to. They get travelers here all the time,” Ryan couldn’t help but be amused at how sheltered these two were. “We’ll have to find an inn ourselves. We can find a room to sleep in there.”
Thankfully it didn’t take long to find an inn. Nypre and Deren were beat after such a long journey. The inn was fancier than they were used to. A large animal skin rug decorated the lobby. There was also a cobblestone fireplace creating a cozy atmosphere. They paid for two rooms with money Wonik had given them with their supplies. Nypre and Deren would share a room, while Ryan would get his own. The room was on the second story of the inn. It had two large separate beds, another smaller wolf skin rug, and a large glass window that took up the entire back wall, with crimson red curtains. Normally the boys would have taken the time to admire the room, but despite their excitement they were quick to fall asleep in the most comfortable beds they had ever slept in.