Darkness enveloped the sky. A great storm was unleashed upon Kyördev. The thunder roared, accompanied by brilliant strikes of lightning, which struck the earth in such powerful blows that a tremulous movement expelled from it. The tall trees blew in the howling wind, their leaves rustling noisily along the broad branches. A distinctive light protruded from a clearing immersed within Skaén Forest. It appeared to be a calm fire that, after the intensity of the lightning upon its surroundings, sparked a flourish of orange and red and yellow flames, which intertwined and illuminated a rather large section of the clearing. The flames leapt towards the trees, licking at the lowest branches, yet never setting them ablaze. As the fire continued to crackle, a deep humming sounded. It was a combination of voices, variations of majestic and pure sound near to the clearing. The fire began to blaze heavily, with smoke billowing, drowning out the light and obscuring all possible vision. The voices continued to hum, and as they grew louder it was apparent that they were significantly closer. The thunder roared again, as if announcing the voices. This timea heavy downpour of rain joined the thunder. The fire gradually died down, until nothing but a single ember remained, glowing amongst the charred wood. The voices were further empowered and hummed constantly, until it was discernible that it was in truth, a chant. Meticulously and harmoniously, the words were spoken, and could not possibly be mistaken.
’Toúrseÿsakrö! Gyieneÿrahnév! Laiökeÿsujré! Jahëirkruyín!’ (In the ancient Kyördavese language this means; Pour your blood! Give your soul! Face your fears! Unite and rise!)
The chant continued, boldly, without hesitation or shame. Once more darkness penetrated the sky, and abruptly the chant came to a halt. For a moment in time, for a brief, but precious moment, there was pure, delicate, peaceful silence. The forest appeared lifeless. The storm had passed, the rain fallen, and the winds ceased. Shadows surrounded the burnt out fire. They stood motionless, as still as statues, ten in total. They encircled the dead fire within the clearing, without making a sound, as if they were communicating telepathically. Suddenly, one of the shadows advanced slowly, without a sound, and knelt down beside the site of the fire. Without disruption, the shadow placed its hand over the wood, and stood up. In a matter of seconds, the shadow retraced its steps and stood in the circle. For a minute, nothing happened. Not a noise, nor a spoken word, escaped the shadows. Then, unexpectedly, an ember sprung from the wood, and spread rapidly, rekindling the fire. The flames leapt high into the black night, passing the trees, yet still not burning them. The clearing was alight again, and the shadows became visible through the light of the fire. The shadows were nords (a word referring to humans), as their features revealed. Together, in unison, they chanted again, until the dark, baleful clouds were separated. The seven moons of Kyördev flashed streaks of exuberant, bright colours of light, setting a shining haze to encapsulate the forest. Instantaneously, the men yelled out as one:
‘Here I stand, in darkness. Here I will stand, in light. I am one of Blood Legion, for eternity. Not even death will halt me from my journey!’
The men stepped forward and placed their right hands through the blazing fire, and frantically drew them out. With puzzled faces, the men looked at their hands, with no scar, nor burn on them. They hurried out of the clearing, chanting forcefully, satisfied, but shocked at the night’s success. The rain began to fall momentarily, and the fire was extinguished. The intensity of the wind drove out the remains of the burnt wood into the mysterious and darkened forest.
Skaén Forest, as it was known, had never been a place to wander or explore. Many had ventured through its vastness, fighting the horrors within, but not one of them had ever returned. It was widely regarded as a forest of mystery, magic, and inevitably, death. Furthermore, no man ever proclaimed any intention of investigating the forest, not to rescue possible survivors, nor for pride. The forest attained a scandalous and eerie name for itself. Skaén, in the ancient Kyördavese language, means ‘grim,’ and therefore refers to the forest undoubtedly. Ten men boldly marched deep into the forestand somehow managed to return without a scratch, a cut, or burn on their bodies. Kyördev had produced many unusual, frightening things, but never something quite as spectacularly strange as this. It would surely be deemed logical to assume the fate of these men, ensnared in an enchanted and haunting forest forever. The emergence of the men from the forest within the hour was therefore quite surprising to their sole onlooker.
It puzzled the man, viewing from his house, not 200 metres from the forest. He sat there, watching, and waiting. The men had exited unexpectedly, and walked away, hidden by the darkness of the night. He was intrigued, curious, but terribly afraid of the forest. He vowed to explore it, one day. The night was stormy, so the man waited and continued to watch under the cover of his roof, on the front steps of his house. A drop of water formed upon the edge of the roof, and froze momentarily, before falling silently to the cold, damp floor. Through the black, smoky haze of the night, a streak of light shone straight through the branches of a tree, and came to rest upon a woman’s face. This woman was the man’s neighbour, and happened to come outside to sit on her front steps at precisely the time the men exited the forest and walked away. Her eyes sparkled, golden rays reflecting off them, bearing straight into the man’s very soul. As it appeared, her shining, bright green eyes twinkled due to sorrow, rather than a momentous joy. She let her eyelids fall over her eyes, hiding the pain and the sadness, ever so slowly, as she drifted temporarily into a place of peace, comfort and love. Her head tilted, resting against her own shoulder. It was as if the man could feel her discomfort, as he sat there and grimaced at the sight of the poor, young woman, with a face revealing only isolation, disempowerment, and grief. Immediately, a light patter of rain against the roof was sounded. The coolness of the early morning, in combination with the rain, caused the woman to shiver, and as she failed to remain asleep, she opened her eyes. When she woke, however, she was not alone. Whether out of compassion, guilt, or love, no one could say, but something had pulled the man to her. He sat silently, without bothering to speak a greeting, next to the woman. Her face produced a puzzled expression, and she opened her mouth to say something, but thought better of it, and closed it again. She recognised his face instantly, and smiled. The recognition she revealed allowed the man to nod, and gently, she lowered her head onto his shoulder, and feel asleep momentarily. For an hour or so, the woman slept peacefully for the first time in weeks, in the knowledge that she was safe with her kind neighbour. Although any sustainability of life for her would come only with a change of perspective and lifestyle, and an ability to retain her true identity again, her frustrated attempts at sleep had finally been successful. She was a charming, elegant woman, 24 years of age, with a blend of light brown and blonde hair, bright green eyes and a lovely smile. She had a small and rounded nose, and petite, yet full lips. The woman was insecure about how she looked, and the treatment she received from her abusive father unfortunately affected how she perceived life, and who she chose to be. Sitting alone, the woman would cry for hours, praying for an answer, for a better life. Nothing came. Ever. She was suspended in a life with destruction, with pain, with tremendous grief, and with people. People were her downfall. The woman knew this and consequently refused to chase after handsome men, or young knights, or even gossip with the ladies of the town. She refrained from meddling in normal town business, and feared any close relationships would deteriorate until she was left with nothing but a broken heart and mind. Sadly, she already was. The man was the only person she could really call ‘friend,’ and they only spoke on the rare occasion. Most nights she sat, sorrowful, on the front steps of her house, with her father inside calming down after his last episode. He raged at the slightest of things, and as of yet, the woman had not learnt how to calm him from his anger. Her name was Laéla, meaning ‘star’ in the ancient Kyördavese language. She was a clouded star, hidden by the suffering she experienced, unable to shine her light upon the town, and form close friendships. She was naive, and did not realise that the man truly loved her, that he sat and watched her cry every day, striving to find the courage to walk over and comfort her. Her ignorance and his insecurity had resulted in long days of crying, of pain, of discomfort, as neither felt truly happy, or accepted within their community. However, today, when ten men entered and soon after exited the grim, dark, abandoned and mysterious forest, the man had found enough courage to go and comfort her, to express how much he had always cared. She slept comfortably on his shoulder, and he was relieved to know he was capable of helping, of caring, of loving, in a way no one had ever loved her. The moment she woke, her eyes darted around as if scared she had been left alone, unprotected, unloved, but as her body felt the man’s arm around her, and as her eyes found his, she smiled and whispered;
The man thought a moment, as if rehearsing the words in his head.
‘I have always been here. I have always cared.’
He smiled at her, but before she could speak again, he continued.
‘I know I haven’t shown that, ever. For some reason though, I feel different tonight. Something has changed. It’s a feeling deep within me. Sorry, I just can’t explain it.’
She frowned, as if asking him, ‘Why have you not helped when I’ve needed you?’ Then she realised that now he did care, that didn’t matter. She rested on his shoulder again and replied,
‘I understand. Just don’t lose your courage. Ever.’
He nodded, assuring her that he would never lose it. He had never lived with the purpose, the motivation and the courageous spirit that many others had. The people of the town despised cowardice, but unlike the woman, the man had friends. Not many, but a few, and that was enough. His perspective on life, his moral attitudes, and his entire lifestyle, had been transformed through the influence of his friends. Although they shaped him, creating a greater respected and capable human every day, his individuality shone through. He kept to himself, for the majority of the time, training his mind, and his body, in all aspects of life. One day, he would be someone great, someone heroic, or so he dreamed. He had come to the realisation on this dark and stormy night that maybe becoming a hero was not everything. Rather, perhaps showing compassion, and loving the woman sitting right next to him, would be enough. The possibility of an insecure, incompetent, and ignorant man changing the town, but more specifically, the woman’s perspective on life, was not to be ignored. As the man thought all this over, however, he came to a completely different conclusion. Ten men, one night, a mysterious forest. He was curious, and wanted desperately to find out who these people were, and what had gone on within the forest. Laéla had agreed that he was courageous. He understood, with a complete sense of clarity, that he must continuously portray his true self, his courage, his compassion, and his passionate drive to stand up for himself, and for the things he believed in. Laéla needed him, and therefore, the man assured himself that being courageous, especially with her, would help her to finally open herself up to the world, and take on the many challenges that she would be faced with. Her father was physically and mentally abusive, punishing her for no reason at all. For once, Laéla deserved a peaceful night, free of pain, grief and weeping, and that would only come as a result of the man’s complete devotion and courage.
They sat together, watching the seven moons of Ïstarr (the known world), that lit up the sky, and brought upon the world an early sunrise. The great star Jverán flashed its magnificent rays of golden light upon Kyördev, bringing dawn, and a new beginning, to the lives of two people.
Sweat trickled slowly down his brow, stinging his eyes and obscuring his vision. His rough, bloodied hands shook uncontrollably, staining his clean, white shirt. His head drooped abnormally low, to such a point that he did not require the strength, nor energy, to lift it again, and gradually slipped onto one knee. The tingling sensation felt deep within was fading away, only to be replaced with sharp jolts of pain that he now noticed throughout his body. Repeatedly he attempted to concentrate, clearing his mind of the pain, anger, and intense grief. The man set his aching body to the immensely strange, yet wonderful task that lay ahead. In a defiant struggle for success, the man raised his arm, gathering every emotion he could muster, and poured them into the mysterious magic flowing deep within his soul. He screamed out in pure agony, thrashing about as if his body were on fire, opening his heart and soul to the darkest, but most exuberant magic possible, being involuntarily controlled by it. Much to the man’s dismay, it would not surface, and although he frantically forced a release, the magic was stranded within the depths of his being, trapped by a horrific past. Consequently, the man took a prolonged breath, wiped the sweat off his brow with his forearm, and slowly lowered the other arm to his side. He sat on his haunches, struggling to grasp a clarity of mind. His vision became blurred, and he felt the heat radiating intensely from Jverán. A sense of failure punctured his mind and the forces battling him took complete control of it. The man clasped his head, swayed gently, and crumbled to the side.
Silence. Complete, pure silence. Not a movement was made. The man lay on the ground, appearing dead. There was not a sound heard, nor a person seen. This area of Kyördev was quite simply, lifeless. A barren wasteland, with two tree stumps in sight, and a man. Discounting the man, it was an ordinary picture, but as it was, there lay a man, with blood splattered over his shirt, pants, and covering his hands, in the middle of a Tvesüe, a word meaning desert. Nothing present could explain the scene, not truthfully, nor logically. Gradually the day wore on, and the heat was blazing furiously, so that there was no possibility that the man could still be alive. Strangely, a drop of water fell from the sky, or so it seemed, and landed upon the man’s face. Momentarily, he stood up and walked towards the main town, slowly, as if hindered by injuries and sleep deprivation, but nevertheless, walked onwards, without resting even once. The man gradually made his way into the town, and slipped into the backstreets and alleyways to avoid being noticed. Dusk was upon Kyördev, as the man hurried through the streets, passing all strangers of the night, stealthily, and came to a gate. It was rusty, black, and appeared to be made of the metal Çrejnö, common in this area of Kyördev. The gate stretched a few metres high, and almost eleven metres long. A large keyhole was at the centre of it, and on the opposite side of the gate, a man sat silently, with a silver key in hand. He looked up and spoke sternly to the visitor.
’What yadoin’ here mate? Come to the wrong place?’
He grinned mischievously, but after his visitor put out his hand, the man frowned. Suddenly, realisation struck his face, and he opened up the gate, exclaiming;
’Continue, but maybe give yourself a clean first aye? Can’t have yawalkin’ around like that, Ramosian won’t be happy.’
He chuckled to himself happily, and as the man walked through, blood dripping everywhere, he closed the gate with a slam.
The man walked up to a large oak door, and knocked three times. Instantly, a deep voice sounded.
’About time Nazkehl.’
The door creaked as it was pulled open, and a tall man stepped out. He had black hair, with streaks of grey beginning to appear subtly. His face was rough, eyes dark brown, his nose crooked, and a small scar stretched over his right cheek. He stuck out his hand, and the man he called Nazkehl shook it. He muttered something in their native language, and allowed Nazkehl to enter inside, before closing the large door, causing a resounding echo throughout the house. Nazkehl scanned his eyes around, noticing nothing out of the ordinary. Large paintings covered the walls, small tables with flowers and weird yet wonderful sculptures were spread out across the room. As they made their way into a room directly to their left, Nazkehl observed a drop of dried blood that was upon the window sill right outside the room they were entering. Before he was able to give any thought to it, Ramosian appeared in his view, and smiled deviously.
‘Welcome, my friend,’ he pronounced, shaking Nazkehl’s hand.
Nazkehl finally decided to speak, saying in a matter of fact tone,
‘We had not spoken as of yet... Sir. I believe us to be acquaintances and that is all. I make no friends.’ He looked plainly at Ramosian, not completely certain of his own decision. Ramosian raised an eyebrow and chuckled.
‘Well, my boy, you have much to learn…’
Nazkehl cut him off, replying sarcastically, ‘Is that so?’
‘If you continue in that tone, I am almost sure that your stay here will be quick. Very quick. As you will soon figure out, I am not a patient man, and will not tolerate that. In the slight chance that you have to change your attitude, and quickly, I will continue to explain the reasoning behind what I just said.’
Nazkehl shrugged his shoulders and nodded slowly.
‘Good. Now, as I was saying, you have much to learn. Making friends in this business is crucial. You will not get yourself anywhere without friends, especially with that attitude of yours. Understand?’
‘Understood,’ Nazkehl replied.
’Good. Now, the man standing here with us is Mesk. He will follow your every footstep, but will never intrude upon your daily life. You may come and go here as you please, but remember who you work for. We will always be watching. Sryäen.’ (Sryäen is a farewell or way of saying goodbye in the ancient Kyördavese language.)
Nazkehl replied, ’Sryäen,’ and exited the room, following Mesk to a spare room upstairs that would now be his to use as he pleased. The young man kicked off his shoes and fell back upon the bed. He closed his eyes and wondered what the following days would entail. That night, he slept peacefully for the first night in a long time, and saw a peculiar vision…
A young man, strong in character, mind and body, stood at the brink of a dark, mysterious forest, before deciding to venture through it. The man was not seen or heard from for months, and rumours speculating said he had fallen to the same fate as every man before him. A beautiful young woman sat at the steps of the man’s house every day, hoping one day he would return. After a long while, the man reappeared, but he was not alone. Although he was mentally beaten and bruised, he was now much stronger. The woman, strangely, had disappeared the day he returned, moments before he arrived at her front door, desperate to explain everything to her. After much deliberation, he decided to explore the forest for answers, afraid that she may be gone forever. The people that he had brought back to Kyördev with him were strange, yet intriguing. Summoning a magic more powerful than Kyördev had ever seen, the people followed the young man into the forest. Instantaneously, six of the seven moons of Ïstarr burst into spectacular particles of tangible light, showering the earth. The Skaén Forest burst into flames, and gradually, the people exited it, with the man and the woman. Strangely, none of them had any injuries, nor burn marks. The forest blazed with the intense heat, and the flames encompassed its entirety, but the trees were not burnt down, nor charred. Seven days later, the young man and woman disappeared again, and momentarily after their departure, the great fire was extinguished, and the forest retained its original state. The people ventured to the capital of Kyördev, called Reznökávic. There they pleaded with the King to allow a gradual migration process in which their people would share valuable resources and information in return for land ownership throughout Kyördev. Eventually, Nazkehl heard a scream sound, and woke instantly. He frantically searched the room, and listened intently for any sound throughout the house. Remembering what he had just witnessed, Nazkehl wondered whether the scream was from this peculiar vision or not, and was puzzled over what it might mean. He realised that it was still the early hours of the morning, so he closed his eyes and hoped to receive a few more hours of sleep. What the young man did not know, was that darkness had come like a shifting shadow, and escaped with its prize. The scream filled his subconsciousness as he attempted to sleep again, but to no avail. Dusk was slowly approaching, and Nazkehl would have to learn quickly that in this business, in this city, that was named Gjëvrýn, horrific things happened in the stillness of night.