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THE ORACLE

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Summary

The kingdom of Arcaedi and Itos have found a peace agreement in the midst of war that plagued all of the hemispheres. On the horizon is a New World waiting to be conquered, while the current has collapsed by ages of disarray. The findings have the nations clamoring to find their mark. Decius and Falana are born with gifts that can bend the outcome of the future of their allied nations. However, can they overcome the grip of gluttony and greed? Truth from lies? Does war, really change people?

Genre:
Fantasy / Other
Author:
Empatheticus
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
6
Rating:
5.0 1 review
Age Rating:
18+

PROLOGUE I

Claustrophobia affected many denizens scattered on land, however, none quite felt the whirring anxieties of a stifled flame like Decius. With his panic attacks, each wall condensed, then expanded like the cobble and wood could breathe, and he could not.

The air could be severed by a serrated blade it was dense enough, leaving the air between the aging blacksmith and his apprentice enclosed. Heat from the open-pit smoldered through the open archways, between street and shop, and created discomfort physically for the blacksmith outside of the emotional storm looming above.

His apprentice, Decius, felt no ailment with the overwhelming heat—not in the traditional way. Hawke looked away; the blacksmith made an attempt to alter his face but the mood did not change.

Sold, sir?” Decius sawed at the tension, repeating the question he’d asked not but a handful of minutes ago. Hawke maneuvered the bits of metal remaining in the melting bucket, eyes cast deep past the molten elements and straight into the dirt below. His equal. Hawke tried to stay in-tuned with the forge’s eternal heat to simper the oncoming waves of confusion and guilt.

Years of being near the fire had made the old man’s eyes wrinkled and worn, his arms mirroring a taught, weathered leather. Decius had all but been the shadow to Hawke’s stiff, experienced craftsmanship and the threat of change shook the foundation built by both parties.

Aye.” Hawke said, briefly glancing near his shoulder but not directly toward Decius in fear of showing remorse. “They’ll be comin′ for ya’ before ya will be able ta’ do yer chores this time around.” Hawke’s thick Northern accent clouded his ability to keep his expression calm, Decius knew the blacksmith well enough to decipher the accent facing his back. An unspoken word of thumb that Decius may not live with Hawke forever; the boy asked one upon a time, when he couldn’t even hold a sword up, why his own skin matched dry soil and his fathers’ face was rosy-white and calloused so easily by the sun.

What they discussed that night rewound in his head from adolescence to his young adulthood—time would tell what any of it could mean for the boy back then. Decius physically expressed distress, unable to process the betrayal and pain that swelled in his chest from such words, presented lackadaisically, like he were nothing more than a tool at the disposal of Hawke.

Before Decius could utter a single word, Hawke stood without regard for his seat and began shuffling through compartments nearby the forge. Schematics, charcoal, dust, dried metal, it all tossed this way and that as the other seemingly searched for an item.

“Is it because of my... origin, isn’t it?” Decius asked through nearly-grit teeth. He was different from those that lived in the Hemlock. The blacksmith told him never to think about it, to work through every unanswered question. “I am not Arcaedi,” he continued, desperate to combat the silence. “So I must be a slave, it’s the logical end—”

Quiet, boy.” Hawke said, not to insult, but with good-natured intent; he had any time Decius’ mind raced to absurdities related to his belonging to Hawke. It annoyed the blacksmith that he had to deal with Decius’ fluctuating persona at times yes, a young adult with the bubbling gut of a lad twice his size, but regardless, Decius had been with him for nearly twenty years.

The bite settled the air and left the young man confused as he watched the other continue his search. After time passed, Hawke pulled out a small letter, written in foreign glyphs that he could not recognize. Parchment so stained, so frail, Decius did not reach out and take it. He glanced over it uneasily. Hesitant.

“You may not be Arcaedian, n’ you landed yer’ bottom in my home ta’ learn you a’ trade, but you got yerself a bigger life ta’ live than tearin′ down my house with yer’ blubberin’.” Hawke shook the paper, signaling Decius to take it, to which he slowly would. Unraveling it, the same strange letters marked in fine black ink, untouched by time, held out a message long-winded, the ending entry translated to Arcae.

Before he could read it aloud, his adoptive father took it from his hand, just as the footfalls of clamoring residents scurried apon the dirt and cobbled paths outside. His face has lost its stubborn edge, the wrinkles worn by fire now plagued by misery.

I had no choice,” both of his hands settled on the rise of his son’s strong shoulders while air whisked his words like a cowering foal, “I wrestled with it, thinkin′ this was yer destiny, that the king would come an’ take ya’ ta’ work someday, but I can’t accept what might happen if ya’ leave ta’ be in their hands.” his grip tightened, just as constrictive as the walls of wood and smoke had been all afternoon. “The war is changin′ people.”

Chatter descended over the natural ambiance of the town. Obviously, Decius knew, that though his father supposedly wrestled with this decision, he waited until the final moments to free himself of eternal self-flagellation. Even now, as his hands that once made him feel safe as a boy, currently engulfed him with dissonance as a newfound man.

“What could happen to me that would change? If they need me, is it not more promising to go peacefully?” He’d never ran from a fight before; even if he was treated less than equal. A freak of the Hemlock’s chain-cities. Never one to garner the attention of anything ordinary, from women to fate, and he believed even his end would be abnormal. Often he’d been punished, and those punishments were enough to keep him mindful of the now. “The Kingsmen could blame you for my disappearance.”

Nevertheless, those nights Hawke thought he’d spend time repenting those courses of action, and fate determined, the climax could come to a close. Justly, he started to shove Decius to the back of the smithy, to the back of the warehouse, and near the small trapdoor used to herd in their guard hounds and supply.

Startled, Decius made no real attempt to fight off his adoptive father, not only for his father’s protection but because he thought he’d gone incensed.

“Ya’ know I ain’t a man who runs. I taught ya’ all yer life to stick up for ya’ when it was right, to keep yer head on straight. Never give up, back down. Don’t believe in it, don’t trust anyone who gives up on themselves..” finally, he looked into Decius’ eyes, golden and pained, while Hawke’s were beady and tired.

Genuine fear, love, emotions his son had never witnessed on his face before, came to a crescendo. A father’s instinct? Paternal bond? Hopeful terms pinned neatly on his worn clothes, words not said, not quite, but treated as a gift never forgotten. With all, less fruitful than the reality, where Decius escaped to live his life, no matter at the cost to himself Hawke provided and cared. His feelings were mixed.

“Go now, before they come ta’ the workshop. I will stall ‘em for as long as I can. Run ta’ the river, swim across the current like I know ya’ve been doin′ despite my telling ya’ the dangers of it. They can’t keep up with ya’ on foot, an’ they sure as Abaddon can’t keep up with ya’ in the sea.”

The idea seemed ruinous, he was being pushed to the end of the foxhole with no supplies, nothing to prepare him for a life on the run. Erratic, but hopeful, if a wanton need for freedom suited his blood. Decius, for his entire life, did not know if life beyond the smelters was for him.


Gaunt, the people of Arcaedi looked, the farther he traversed to the backroads of the city. Like the sewage of the wealthy flowed into their homes and infected their blood.

Each stain, a grim, gut-wrenching reminder of decline in a supposedly great nation. Alliances, assassinations, wars—it all passed in his and those around him’s lifetime. The haze of being forced out after learning life-changing news made his stupor unmemorable. Life, the brick and wooden walls, it all passed him by in a sole pass of his shaken, suffocated breath.

His tunic was stained with sweat from a thousand swords crafted and a hundred bolts steadied, and now, his journey only made it all the more incriminating as he made it to the edge of town. Avoiding eyes was not an easy feat, and by the time he’d reached the end and gazed into the meadow that lead to the nearby trails, he hesitated, craning his neck to take in one final look of his home.

Was this truly it? Would he run now, run forever? He was about to twist back on his heel, to trek into the wilds, when a familiar smell wafted through the filth of downtown. Golden eyes sought the source, thinking of fireplaces and spitfires in the center of town, when he focused on the brittle embers leering over his familial corner. Where Hawke was, his dogs, his history.

A fire that burned brighter than the magma they used to once mend their kingdom’s broken steel.

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