Chapter 1 — Untitled Story
“She would never say where she came from, (break) while the sun is bright, or in the darkest night, no one knows where she comes and goes,” — Ruby Tuesday (Rolling Stones)
“The stars are coming out,” said the small girl looking up at her older brother. Normally, on any other night, he would have chased her to bed. There would be a shipment of wool coming in from the highlands and the family needed to be up early to get to the market to pick out the choicest pieces bags of wool.
“You know we have to get up early, cheese girl,” said her older brother.
“STOP calling me that!” she yelled as she slugged her brother in his arm. “You know I don’t like that.” She was supposed to be betrothed to the local cheese maker’s son. So, as a result, he called his sister cheesehead as often as he could. She would just retort by either punching him in the arm or teasing him about not being able to find a bride without resorting to going to the local matchmaker. Although he was good 15-years-old he still had a few more years left before he would be considered too old to marry. Even though he was the son a tailor he had a stocky build because his father was getting on in years and it was getting more and more difficult to move the wool and cotton bales needed for cloth spinning. He pushed his black unkempt and unwashed hair from his face. His sister with her bright emerald green eyes licked her hand and wiped a smudge of dirt from his face. The same green eyes, the trademark of his family, looked back at her as if he would never see his sister’s soft features again.
“You still belong to this family, and you are not married yet,” he said to her. She gave him a small smile as they turned around to go inside. The sky became illuminated glowing bright red. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a crimson streak shoot through the sky and strike the commons. The ground shook as if something slammed a fist into the earth. They both felt the initial shock-wave of the impact.
“Go get father!” he shouted to his sister. Without concern for his personal safety, he ran towards the source of the impact. His breathing picked up as he tore through the fields getting closer to commons. As he cleared the tree line he saw the cause of the disruption in the still summer’s night. He moved as close as he dared to the crater which glowed a deep crimson. The heat became overwhelming as he tried to move closer. Normally he would have waited for his father or other villagers, though there was something different, something the forced his flight instincts down into the deep core of his body. His skin felt like it was being melted off his face, but he moved closer to the edge of the crater. Before he could get there he saw something stir at the base.
A woman stood up from the deep hole, and she seemed unaffected by the heat. Her clothes were nothing like he had ever seen before. The dress at first glance looked black, except that the glow of the melted rock revealed it to be a deep purple. It showed off her hourglass figure though it showed no flesh except for her face and hands. It opened up at the bottom with a wide slit crisscrossed with a black shiny material and pure white ruffle type of material. If she would have jewelry on he could have sworn she was some sort of noble. He dismissed the idea because nobles always wore some kind of jewelry that signified their station, or so he had heard from the stories they would tell. To add to his confusion, what would a noble be doing in the middle of a hole, in the middle of the commons, and in the middle of the night? This was too confusing for his peasant mind to handle. She pushed a lock of her white hair out of her face. Her purple eyes didn’t seem to miss the fact he was standing there trying to remain as inconspicuous as a field mouse near a hunting tomcat.
“Identify yourself,” she said in a commanding voice.
“I uhh,” was the only thing he could manage to squeak out.
“I uhh? What an unusual name. So does this land have a name?” she asked. He felt his heart thump inside his chest. He wanted to find out who she was, why she was in a hole and ask her a thousand other questions, but something was compelling him to answer her questions first.
“This uh place doesn’t really have a name, and is ruled by the Book Binder’s Guild,” he said as if he was commanded to do so. She slowly turned her head as if she was trying to sniff out the truth. Her eyes locked on his and studied him with some sort of feral gaze. Then shaking her head as if annoyed she jumped out of the deep hole and without a sound landed next to him. He froze in place not knowing if he should run away or beg for his life. Even the best jumper in his village couldn’t have made a running jump as high as the hole was deep, and this woman made a standing jump as if she would have stepped over a small stone.
“Forgive me rudeness,” she said smiling at him and then slightly lowering her head in a half-bow. Her presence completely changed, and somehow he was no longer terrified of her. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Estelle, heir to the House” she paused, “heir to nothing at the moment.” The sound of crickets and buzzing night insects filled the night.
“I am Nigel the Tailor.” He said. He returned the head bow, not really sure if that was the proper response.
“Looks like your parents are almost here,” she said quietly. Looking at her with surprise and what appeared to be an eternity he then heard his father and mother call out to him from across the field. He spun around and desperately attempted to isolate the exact location of his parents.
Smiling slyly, she walked off as if she knew where they were. It was only after a few moments of following her Nigel was able to locate them. He stumbled a few times and almost twisted his ankle in a gopher hole. This late at night and having little moonlight the difficulty of spotting the holes increased. Estelle flowed like water as she moved, not faltering or slipping once. When Estelle and Nigel caught up to his parents they hugged him and asked if he was all right. It took him a few minutes to reassure them he was ok. Then his father turned the bull’s-eye lantern toward Estelle and she replied with a cat like-hiss.
“Oh, father, mother this is Estelle, she,” he tried to say. They both took one long look at her and fell to their knees; both of the faces were cast downward in the dirt. Nigel looked confused as Estelle appeared to be slightly vexed.
“Forgive our ignorant son, he knows not of the traditions and how to give proper respect to a noble such as yourself.” Said his father.
“Mom, dad, what are you doing?” he asked them.
“Don’t you remember the stories we told you as a child? If you were to gaze upon someone of noble birth without their permission they could have you beaten to death!” said the father.
“Get up, you are embarrassing me! She’s not a noble; she doesn’t have the jewelry like you told me in the stories.” He said bending down trying to pick up his mother and father as they both refused to stand up. The mother looked up at her for a brief moment, only to bury her face back into the dirt.
“She is wearing the gold, Albert.” The mother said. The father looked up only for a second look into the dirt again, her body shaking.
“You are right, Abigail. She wears the gold!” replied the father. Nigel looked at Estelle again, straining his eyes against the blackness of night trying to see if he somehow missed any of the jewelry she was wearing.
“I see you have the Witch sight,” Estelle said amusingly. Witch sight, the woman in glowing craters unseen gold what was going on? Nigel started to feel lightheaded as his head started to spin. His legs gave way as he looked down at his parents and then to Estelle, who seemed to be surrounded in a golden light. The night sky was no longer black but a shade of white. The stars were black and he could see a trail behind them as if they were somehow moving across the sky. All the trees were somehow surrounded by a green light. Before he lost consciousness he saw Estelle looking down at him with her purple golden glow. The last thing he could recall was her saying something about him waking up.
“If I am fainting, how can I be waking up?” he tried to ask himself. Nigel wasn’t sure if he said this or thought this.
Trying to shake himself awake he attempted to stand up, but where was up? His body felt weightless there was no up or down. His heart was beating in his chest again; he could feel in trying to leap into his throat.
Am I in a dream, he asked himself. A dream within a dream came the reply. Then what did she mean by I am awake? There is more than one way to wake up my child. Wait, what are you talking about? What do you think it means? I don’t know if I knew I wouldn’t be asking. Out of the darkness, he could see an orange striped tabby cat with glowing eyes looking at him; it was only a short distance away. Why was everything so different? You will learn that in time, young Task Mage. Mage, who, me? Do you really think you are a son of a simple tailor? Mages don’t exist, that’s just a story parents tell their kids to get them to sleep at night! If you think you are a simple tailor, then that’s all you will ever be. How can that be? Seek out the truth of your past in order to discover your future and your destiny. The cat licked its paw and wiped behind his ear. Who are you? That is for you and you alone to discover, now wake up, your village is about to fall prey to a goblin attack.
Nigel shot up from his bed, like a bird jumping into the sky to take flight. Quickly looking around it looked as if he was in his room. It was a room he shared with his sister and she was nowhere to be seen. Jumping out of bed he desperately called out for his family. No reply came. He searched his mind for ideas; did that Estelle take them away to be killed? His thoughts cleared up with a flash of insight. Today was the day when the wool merchants would be bringing the wool from the highlands to sell to the tailors and cloth makers. His family would be there trying to be the first there to get the best deals. He jumped out the window and ran towards the marketplace; while he pushed his raven black hair out of his face. He ran as if his life depended on it. Jumping over the fence he landed in a hog pen. The hog looked up at him irritated that his breakfast of slop was interrupted by this uninvited interloper. Staring at the hog he said a quick apology and jumped the fence again before the hog could defend his territory and launch an attack.
Nigel finally reached the marketplace. His heart punching against his chest as he finally caught sight of his family. His father looking irritated towards a merchant, who was trying to overcharge him. His father had his hands on his hips and was tapping his foot. This was a clear sign his father and the merchant would be about to start their shouting match, this happened every time. Nigel told himself that it was just a nightmare. He wiped the sweat from his face as he tried to slow his breathing down. His mother was as irritated as his father. Her arms were crossed across her large bosom. Her long black hair was done up in a top knot and was stubborn enough not to even sway even as the wind picked up. He again looked around, his tunnel vision wearing off. The guards, which were employed by the guild to ensure thieves would remain away, seemed to be bored. His sister turned around trying to stifle a giggle from the scene the parents were causing when she saw her brother. Her face lit up as she waved at him. He smiled back at her and slowly walked towards her. “Funny, that Estelle from last night doesn’t seem to be around,” he thought to himself.
“So big brother, I see YOU were the one who decided to sleep late!” she said tauntingly. He gave her a dirty look, but his expression changed as she smiled at him. Warming up, knowing his family was safe he move closer to hug her. Seeing this she extended her hands to hug him back. Nigel saw his sister move in slow motion as the world started to slow down. The birds in the air flew as if moving through some sort of thick syrup. Confused he tried to say something to his sister, to warn her something was wrong. His mouth opened, but he couldn’t force the words out, even as a spear flew through the air and stuck his sister in the neck. The bright red arterial blood shot out of her neck as the spear tip went through the other side. Without thinking her hand came up, trying to stop the bleeding. The light in her green eyes faded away as she fell to the ground. Nigel stood there as he locked up, unable to move. His fingers shook as the incoming rain of spears hit the people of his village. The guard’s warrior instincts triggered spurring them into action. Both of the armored guards spun around on the balls of their feet as several spears hit arms, legs, and chest. One spear hit a guard’s arm making a cracking sound as the bone was being shattered by the impact. Neither of the guards had an opportunity to let out a cry of pain as more spears made kill shots quickly dispatching them.
Nigel’s hands covered his face as he tried to scream but instead froze in place. All he could do is watch as the spears with their deadly accuracy began battering the villagers and visiting merchants. Nigel dug his fingernails into his cheeks trying to comprehend the horror that was unfolding before his eyes. He drew blood as his hands slowly moved down his face. Then, as if some unknown force that slowed down time, speed it up. The sun moved quickly above his head, goblins speed through the blood stained marketplace looting anything that seemed of use. Nigel stood in place unable to move. The sun moved directly over his head, and the attackers were gone while flames were fast forwarded gutting the buildings and shops apart. The sun now was going down behind the trees. Carrion crows and flies took advantage of the fresh carrion and filled the air. Finally, night came. The embers were still glowing as the stars were spinning as the day was consumed by the night. Nigel finally was able to gain control of his senses as he saw two wild dogs fighting over the corpse that was his sister. He let out a scream that finally halted his time travel experience. All the color drained from his face as he hit the ground exhausted. All his life force began retreating from the recesses of his body. He was dizzy, lightheaded, and wanted to throw up. His heart was pounding in his chest desperately trying to pump something that was no longer there. His breathing tried to pick up, the short frantic pants were not enough to oxygenate what little blood he had left. Nigel was dying, and he could hear the distant calls of his family. His eyelids were nothing but heavy curtains, closing for the final act of a sick little play he had just witnessed. Death is a release was his last thought.
“WE GOT A LIVE ONE HERE!” a voice yelled out. Nigel opened his eyes; his fingers had clawed the ground leaving deep grooves in the dirt. He saw an iron boot before him. He tried to turn his head, but his body refused to obey his mind. His whole being ached as if he had been on the losing end of a fight against an angry bull.
“I’m going to sit you up and you need to try to sip some water, kid,” said a calming female voice. Nigel’s eyes were still unable to focus; every image was still a blur.
“So, kid, what’s your name?” she asked.
“Daryl,” he muttered quietly. He paused for a moment trying to regain his senses. “Daryl? That’s not my name, why did I tell her that?” he asked himself.
“Ok, Daryl, I’m going to need to do a quick exam, this isn’t going to hurt. I need to ask you a series of questions,” she said to him as she started to paw and poke him. “I’m going to give you a series of words and I need you repeat them back to me: apple, saddle, carpet, bubble and elbow.”
“Saddle, what’s a saddle?” he asked, as his vision began to focus on the woman pushed against his arm. It felt like she was trying to break it in half.
“What’s a saddle?” she asked in surprise. The expression on her face turned from confusion to laughter, “It’s like a harness, forget the saddle, just say the words I just told you, silly peasant” she told him. She moved her hands down to his leg trying to break them as well. Before she could snap his ankle off, she was pushed aside by someone he was still blurry. Nigel, now Daryl, eyes were only able to focus only on objects a few feet from him. The newcomer’s accent was different as he began speaking a thick accent. Daryl, aka Nigel, couldn’t place it. The guy began to manhandle him while saying something he couldn’t understand. His head was turned to one side, then to the other like some sort of doll being tossed around by a 3-year-old girl. The female rolled her eyes and got up.
“If he is injured any further, it’s not MY (said in a snooty tone) fault,” she said walking away, then giving a nervous laugh. Daryl looked at the man who was looking him over like a prize rooster; his clothes were made of fine silks and deep purples. The man’s leggings were pure white without a trace of dirt on it. A trace of something shinny caught his eye as he noticed the gold chain around his neck catching the morning sunlight. Daryl locked on to the medallion around the man’s fat neck, the symbol carved onto it. Before Daryl could even think about it, his body took over and he bowed down, his face in the dirt. His muscles trembled and cried out in pain, but somehow he couldn’t move from the submissive position.
“Get up peasant and answer me (the nobles often slur and combine words, we have provided best translation as possible)” the nobleman said. Daryl looked up at the guy as if somehow he was able to control his body’s movement.
“Was your hair always looking like blood?” the man in with the stone gray eyes and a sharp beak-like nose asked. The nobleman took a step back, as two heavily armed guards took up flanking positions around the man. It took a few seconds for Daryl comprehend what he was being asked of him. “My hair isn’t red,” he thought. He took a lock of hair in his hand and looked at it. His hair was indeed the color of bright red blood. He scooped up water in his hands from the bucket left by the female doctor, and it revealed to him that his eyes were the same shade of red. He gazed as the nobleman and noticed the extra chins and prominent belly. This guy, whoever he is, has not missed a few meals, Daryl thought to himself. The nobleman ranked his right hand through his hair as if frustrated.
“Uh, it was like different before. I don’t recall it being any different, really,” Daryl said. He just lied to this guy and if he found out that he lied he would be joining his family really soon. What compelled me to lie to this guy?
“Guard, he at least thinks he’s telling the truth, because it’s impossible to lie to royalty” said the nobleman with a smile of satisfaction on his face. Daryl continued to stare at this guy. His face was sharp and angular and yet he was chubby, his mind couldn’t comprehend this strange contradiction.
“Loud him up on da vague (wagon?) make sure theTASK MAGE is bound up in irons,” he said in a commanding voice. The guards scrambled around without any hesitation. Two husky guards picked up Daryl and carried him over to a caged wagon. They threw him in and locked him up with an iron collar. Inside were other villagers who were on the verge of dying, regardless of being bandaged up by the female doctor.