In a small three-bedroom house of the 3rd ward, a mother is reading to her daughter.
“…the Phrae queen asked the little girl, who stumbled upon the forest of the Phraes.”
“Ish shi a gud garl?” the little girl asked, tilting her head back to look at her mother.
“Yes. She’s a very good girl.”
“Like Anish?” Anise asked her mother.
Smiling, Adalina looked at her daughter. “Yes. A very good girl, just like Anise.” she replied back.
“Ehehehe” the little girl giggled triumphantly, before turning back to look at the picture book in front of her.
They were sitting in the living room. Adalina had just finished doing chores around the house and was taking time to read to Anise before preparing for Lunch.
“My mommy is sick. Please help her. Said the little girl.” Adalina read.
On the book was an illustration of a little girl kneeling before a floating woman.
“Hur momy shick?” Anise interrupted.
“Yea. Her mommy is sick.”
“Ish hur tummy hurting?” Anise asked with worry in her face.
“Yes, but she’s going to be fine.” Adalina reassured. Anise’s face beamed at the reassurance and refocused on the book in front of her.
“I cannot help you, but you can save your mother. The queen told the little girl. There is a fruit from inside the forest. You will have to get it yourself.”
A picture of a curved white fruit was illustrated on the page.
“UHN!” Anise acknowledged.
“Only by having her eat it, can you save your-”
*knock* *knock* *knock*
Interrupted by someone at the door, Adalina stop and placed a marker onto the page.
‘Who could that be?’ she thought to herself as she lifted Anise off her lap and stood up to get the door.
“Wha abow the momy?” Anise asked her quizzically.
“She’ll be fine. Let mommy get the door first.” Adalina replied as she walked to the door. Anise followed behind.
Opening the door, her face perked up. “Welcome home.” Adalina spoke. A gentle loving tone in her voice.
“GAI!!” Anise cried out happily as she rushed forward to hug her big brother.
Seeing his baby sister and mother, Kaidus’ face lit up into a smile.
The agitation of the previous day prevailed on his mind.
With a lack of distraction on the carriage ride home, his thoughts kept reminding him of what he almost became.
Despotic people were what he hated the most. To have stepped into their shoes—even for a single moment—was an outcry against all that he is, and what he had fought so hard to not become ever since being reborn.
Memories he thought lost to him while in the void resurfaced.
-The incorrigible Emperor sauntering unannounced into their home in Andarg.
-His mother and father doing everything they could to appease the nobles of the Capital.
-His eldest brother’s unjust and concealed execution for defeating the Crown Prince during the Emperor’s games.
-His parent’s intense cries of agony.
-The constant fear under the Emperor’s heels.
-Too young and powerless to do anything.
Fragmented echoes of an age immemorial, a time before the darkness took him…
In the carriage, he wept silently as the memories overwhelmed him.
Upon seeing Adalina’s gentle smile and Anise’s joyous greeting, their light extinguished the fog that was his troubled mind.
He greeted them with a smile.
“…held hands as they walked home. The End.” Kaidus read to Anise.
A picture of a mother and daughter walking towards the sunset was on the last page.
“YAY!!” Anise cheered.
Having given him a hug upon his return, Adalina was now currently in the kitchen preparing an early lunch, and he had taken it upon himself to finish the children’s book for Anise.
“Are you well?” Adalina asked, coming back to the living room.
“Yes. I’m fine.”
“Are the other students treating you alright?” she pestered.
“I’m fine mother. Sorry for worrying you.” A genial reply to quell his mother’s worries.
“It’s a little early, but how about lunch?” She asked.
“Lanch eet Gai. Lanch!” Anise called beside him.
“That would be great.”
Over lunch, he heard from Adalina about the packed lunch that Troyle had brought him on his way to Lord Varath’s, but was stopped at the gates by a creature. Unable to get in and not wanting to intrude, Troyle had given up and left.
“That is probably Zeeke. The Gate Seer of the academy.” He told her, imagining what would have happened if Troyle had attempted to force his way in.
“Gate seer?” Adalina asked.
“A Nature guardian spirit. Everyone who wants entry into the academy needs an enchantment of admission or else Zeeke would attack them.” Kaidus replied, holding up his hand for her to see.
“Ish he Niesh?” Anise spoke up from her side of the table.
“He’s very nice. But only if you have this.” Kaidus pointed to the enchanted symbol on his hand.
“Waaa…” Anise gazed at it in awe.
The majority of the day consisted of him excitedly listening to Anise’s stories about what she has been doing for the past couple of days, and answering Adalina’s questions about the academy while just taking in the coziness of home.
He went along with Adalina and Anise to the market district to procure ingredients for dinner, and gave her a hand with the preparations.
Although shopping with Adalina was something of a usual routine, this time, he noticed many gazes towards their direction.
Troyle came home later that day and excitedly asked him about how he’s been doing at school during dinner.
Reiterating his stories for Troyle, the family stayed in the living room making small talk until night. Anise, unwilling to fall asleep in case her brother disappears again.
On his bed on the second floor, Kaidus slept soundly. His mind, serene.
Hasen’s ring never making a sound.
As if a lifetime ago, with the shackles of being around the nobles untethered, he was freely running through the shopping district of the 3rd ward.
The familiarity of the paved roads, the familiar faces as he passed by, the joyous shouts of greetings and haggling in the morning market rush. The smell of raw ingredients freshly butchered or picked, the fragrance of freshly cooked snacks in vendor stalls, and aromas of flavors intertwining as they wafted out of inns to entice those walking about.
Kaidus took them all in as he made his way to ‘Tales Corner’.
As he ran, he detected stares from those he passed.
Unlike the aggressive ones of the academy or the scorns of those of the villagers, it was a look of surprise and delight.
“Welcome, young master.” The shop owner greeted him with a grin.
“Good morning, Mister Larson. And please, just Kaidus is fine.” He replied back.
He was there for a book, as he was unwilling to suffer through the ride back as he did on the way home.
“No can do, young one. Word has gotten around, people are talking. You, young master, are the pride of the 3rd ward’s shopping district.” The man Larson replied back with a proud smile.
“?” Kaidus gave a look of confusion.
“We’ve all heard. You are currently a member of the esteemed Zorin Academy, and the boy who all the guards had been searching for. Our 3rd wards own little wonder.” The shopkeeper explained with an enormous grin on his face.
“Ha… Please don’t mock me Mister Larson.” Kaidus replied.
“HAHAHAHAH! It is not mocking boy! I am honestly honored to have you patronize my humble shop. Ask anyone, and they’ll say the same.” Larson asserted jovially.
“…thank you very much.” He replied, barely able to thank the shop owner properly.
“Well, take your time then.” Larson added.
Kaidus went straight towards one of the shelves and picked up a book he had glimpsed the last time he was here.
Kargalls: Lords of the Skies. By Atrozius Ferna Violius.
He had read plenty of books depicting and describing Drakalls so he had not chosen the book before, but having a limited selection, it was the one that played on his interest the most.
“Ah, a great choice. The sheer depths that Master Violius goes into on the Kargalls is eye opening. Truly a great source of information.” The shop owner spoke as he assessed the book. “Will this be all for today?”
“That will be eight Erns even.” Larson spoke without looking at the price.
“Mister Larson, the book is marked for sixteen and three.” Kaidus answered back.
“For you, it is eight even.”
“There is no greater cause for me, than to see bright one’s such as yourself claw themselves out of humble beginnings and into greatness. I hope that you will one day remember my shop fondly, when you have turned into a great man.” The shop owner spoke passionately. “That being the case, I would not be able to run my business much longer if I start giving you books for free. So, we’ll call it eight even.” The shop owner added to his passionate speech with a teething grin on his face.
“Thank you very much for your consideration.” Kaidus gave the man an appreciative bow.
On his way home, he caught more of the shop owners looking at him with smiles on their faces. He knew the reasons why.
“… Master …” the ring sounded in his mind. A tone uncertain if worried or surprised to see the change in its master.
“Did you get a new book?” Adalina asked, as he returned home.
“Yes. One about Kargalls.” Kaidus replied happily to his mother.
“Can you please look after Anise while I clean up?” she asked him.
“Gai! Whoosh wooosh!” Anise told him, indicating something.
His fingers twitched, a single thought, and magic manifested.
A wind swirled around them both, gently and slowly.
The breeze swam about between Anise’s hairs, moving from strand to strand.
Anise started laughing happily as the breeze tickled her.
With another thought, the breeze slithered in between them both, then started looping in a small circle.
He put his hand in the loop, catching a nice draft of warm air.
Anise followed with her own tiny hand, giggling at the phenomenon in front of her.
As Adalina busied herself with chores, he sat and entertained his little sister with magic.
By evening, they were sitting around the dinner table.
Troyle was talking about what had occurred earlier in the day, and was finishing up his recounts about the process of clearing out the Korgas that were infesting the fields. With an abrupt end to what he was saying, “Kaidus. Would you come with me to Lord Varath’s Manor tomorrow?” Troyle asked.
“Hm?” he gave Troyle a puzzled look.
“The lord mentioned that he wanted to meet you.” Troyle answered.
“What is the occasion?” Kaidus replied back.
“You remember Larant, Lord Varath’s son? He is to attend Zorin next term. I stopped training him in swords because he awoke to his magic last Rinol. He’s been learning and developing his magic with an instructor at home.” Troyle spoke fastidiously.
‘?’ He was confused how it had anything to do with him.
“We were talking, and Lord Varath excitedly mentioned hearing rumors of a boy from the 3rd ward being sponsored into Zorin, asking me if I knew anything. When I told him I knew the boy, and that you were my son… well, the lord had excitedly asked for me to see if I could bring you along sometime.” Troyle explained with a smile on his face.
“It is perfectly fine to refuse Kaidus. I can always tell him you are still at Zorin.” Troyle aided with an excuse.
“…No. I’ll go. I should meet Lord Varath.” He replied, having made up his mind.
The next morning.
The Manor was not as far as the Ravon’s estate, and was situated toward the center of the 11th ward—where the bulk of the nobles resided.
They stopped in front of a large manor and Kaidus and Troyle both got off.
Though much smaller than the Ravon Manor, it had a cordial atmosphere about it. Lacking a gate and walls, there were two guards posted out in front of the door.
As they walked by, the guards greeted Troyle and Kaidus before opening the door for them.
“That’s him. That’s the kid they had been searching for.” One of the guard whispered as the doors closed behind them.
Following Troyle, they headed to the Lord’s study.
“Lord Varath, Troyle is here.” a servant announced, knocking on the door.
“Please come in.” A masculine voice answered.
Opening the door, Kaidus saw an immaculately dressed man. The man looked to be a few years younger than Lord Huin and had a slender physique. His short dark blue hair—almost black—were neatly combed back, and he sported a nicely trimmed beard on his chin, giving his already tall stature a handsome appearance.
“Good morning Troyle.” The Lord greeted as the door closed behind them.
“That must be your son, Kaidus.” A twinkle of delight and surprise surfaced in his eyes for an instant.
“Yes, My lord.”
“Welcome to my humble abode, young Kaidus.” Lord Varath spoke with a wide grin.
“Thank you for inviting me, my Lord.” Kaidus replied, adding a bow of gratitude.
“I should be the one thanking you for your visit.” The lord answered, giving a nod in return.
“Lord Varath, about the matters we discussed yesterday.” Troyle spoke, his voice resolute.
“Yes of course, I will not bring it up. I just wanted to confirm something for myself.” The Lord eased Troyle’s mind. Assessing Kaidus, “Do you know what a noble’s favorite past time is, young man?” Lord Varath questioned, his tone grim and threatening.
‘…Master…’ Hasen echoed.
‘Control yourself.’ He ordered the ring in his mind.
“I’m afraid I do not, my Lord.” Kaidus replied, his voice calm yet unconvincing.
“Take a guess.” The Lord requested with an imposing gaze.
“Reading.” He instantly replied back.
“GYAHAHAHA!” Lord Varath burst out in laughter. The former intensity all but gone. “It is exactly as you said Troyle. It’s as if he can see right through you!”
Having calmed down, Lord Varath started again. “Well, while I do like a good story here and there, it is discussing the decisions of those around them. The movements of their rivals, the glory of their neighbors, the games of the nobility. But… I’m sure an intelligent boy like you already know that, don’t you?” Lord Varath answered his own question.
“Rumors of the noble’s court does not interest me.” Kaidus replied nonchalantly.
“HAHAHAHAH!! You really are something! I had thought Troyle’s praises were all but to indulge himself on his son, clearly I am mistaken.” The Lord said with a wide smile.
“Lord Varath, not in front of my son…” Troyle chided, trying to hide his embarrassment
“The ‘rumors of the noble’s court’ says that you have awoken to your magic? That Lord Ravon, upon witnessing your powers, stole you away from your family and entered you into the prestigious Zorin Academy?” An abrupt question.
“Although some of those facts are exaggerated, yes.” He replied, understanding what would be coming next.
“Can you show me?” The Lord entreated.
Exactly what he was expecting…
Looking around the room, papers were scattered all over—scraps of crumpled papers, and blank pages.
Slivers of light streaked through his hair for an instant. Suddenly a gust of wind fluttered through the room. Crumpled papers flew into a basket in the corner, as the blank usable pages aligned themselves into a pile on the Lord’s desk.
After the display of magic was finished, Lord Varath wordlessly rang a tiny bell on his desk.
Moments later, someone answered from the other side of the door, “Yes, my lord?”
“Please go bring Sylvia and her mother.” Lord Varath instructed.
Soon, a beautiful woman in a gorgeous blue dress walked into the study. On the hems of her dress, clutched a girl also in a blue dress, around his age.
“This is my wife, Reanne.” Lord Varath Gestured to his wife.
“And this, is my daughter Sylvia. She had just turned 6.” Lord Varath pulled the girl away from her mother to give him a better look. “Although she is like this now, I’m sure she’ll grow up to be a beautiful young lady one day. How would you like to marry her?”
“Wha-..?” Kaidus eked out a surprise as he lost his tongue.