March 15, 67 BW
The rain slowly started to fall, plump droplets of pure water that spattered loudly on the tilled earth. The sky seemed oddly muted, for no thunder or lightning came from the black clouds. Indeed, it seemed that the sky was quietly weeping along with the girl and the man sitting by the patch of upturned brown dirt.
They were silent, both kneeling in the rain. The girl was only twelve, already mature and beautiful. A single bracelet of beaten silver lay on her wrist, already shining wetly from the rain. A large hooded robe covered her slender form, topped with her apple-red locks pinched back in a bun. The man was also clothed in the fabric of farmers and peasants, though his garments were more worn along the edges. There they sat for hours, not moving at all. One passing would have thought them statues, or priests praying for hope. But no one passed by in the inky night.
With infinite care and sadness, the girl slowly reached under her the folds of her robe, and brought from her bosom a single ruby rose in her pale fingers. The rain beat at it immediately, the petals whispering against each other like the harmony of faerie's songs or the tears of doves. She lowered her hand and planted the rose firmly in the bed of earth, letting it stand alone. The color of its petals shone like a beacon against the cold mist.
Drops of water fell onto the earth, but they were not rain.
* * *
"Ewan, I won't let you do it. You could get killed. Is that what Father would have wanted?"
"Father would have wanted me to take a stand against this!"
It was years later. The girl, now a painfully thin young woman, and the man, now scarred from years of labor in the fields and the shame of toiling endlessly for little money, stood in the old wooden hovel their father had left them. Only one chair was left, the others having been burned long ago for firewood. The only decorations on the walls were an engraving of the names of the three Goddesses in ancient Hylian, and a crude painting of a woman who was now dead. The man was pulling on a long brown overcoat, shoving his arms angrily through the sleeves.
"Lord Felan already has us working day and night just for a few scraps. If he's really going to lower the prices, we'll starve!"
"And if you go off to protest this, you could die! I can't run the farm by myself!"
Ewan stopped putting on his coat. He walked over to the woman and lifted her chin gently in his hand.
"I don't want to do this either," he said softly. "But we can't live on ten rupees a week. Something's got to change."
She roughly pulled her chin away from her brother's hand and turned away, her arms folded over her chest. "You're right...something has to change." She shook her head. "But it won't be Felan. Julis is his village, and he's stubborn as a pig. If he wants to lower the prices, he will." She looked back at Ewan, her eyes wet. "I don't want you to die," she said, her voice thick. "You're the only person I've got left."
Ewan sighed and scratched the back of his head. "I have to," he said almost pleadingly. "I have to." He leaned over and kissed the girl on her forehead. He opened the door and ran out into the dark. The girl stretched out a hand after him and made for the door, then slowed and stopped. Her hand lowered slowly to her side.
* * *
The group had already been growing by the time Ewan got there. The huge mansion dominated the clearing, driving back the forest that surrounded it. Hundreds of people were there gathered in front of it, carrying not weapons but lanterns, shining light on their lord's domain. Some threw rocks at the windows of the stone building, trying to shatter them. Some shouted, some chanted, some sang hymns to the Goddesses. Guards surrounded the doors, keeping away the protesters. Ewan moved his way into the crowd and began shouting with them.
And behind him, the woman hid in the forest, watching this spectacle. She had not wanted to let Ewan go alone, but now that he was actually here, she was unsure if she could go further. The rage these people felt was almost solid, almost something you could touch if you reached out a hand. The woman sensed the atmosphere and shrank back, afraid.
As she watched, the crowd's mood slowly grew stronger, as though it were an animal driven into a rage by a hunter with a stick. The shouts grew louder, the rocks flew with more force. Finally, one flew with more accuracy behind it and smashed one of the decorative windows. The crowd let out a collective roar, and more people dived for any scattered pebbles to follow the man's example.
And then the doors partly opened, and Lord Felan walked out, resplendent in his crimson coat and golden finery. Two of his bodyguards followed him out, trying hard to be inconspicuous and failing. They both carried broadswords, and one carried a bow on his back. Felan raised his hands for silence.
"People of Julis Village," he called out into the night. "What brings you here on such a cold night?"
"You know well enough, Felan," someone cried out from the crowd. "You're tightening the grip you've got on our necks to line your own pockets!"
"We're working all day and all night, and still my kids can't eat!"
The crowd started shouting again, and Felan raised his hands again. Reluctantly the shouting died down. Felan sighed, and coughed into his hand.
"I have no control over the price of your vegetables, good people. They are controlled by the Crown, and-"
"You don't fool us, Felan." Now it was Ewan speaking. The girl in the brush gasped as she heard her brother's voice. "The Crown lets their lords regulate prices in the market. We're farmers-we're not stupid. If you let this go any further, you may find yourself in the middle of a revolution."
"Then I will have to prevent a revolution?" Felan smiled wickedly. "Consider it done." He snapped his fingers, and every single guard brought up his bow and started firing at random into the crowd.
It was not a battle by any stretch of the imagination. It was a slaughter. Felan had caught them completely off guard, and dozens of people had died before the others even realized what was going on. By then it was too late, and the guards had taken out their swords and spears. The girl's eyes widened with fear at the screams of the dead and dying. She called her brother's name again and again into the melee, but no one responded.
Ewan was one of the last to die, and the only one that actually injured Felan. He cried his father's name as he lunged at the overweight lord with a pitchfork taken from the hand of a dead man, only to be shot aside by an arrow through his side. It carried him twenty feet, to send him with a thump right in front of his sister's hiding place. The girl saw him lying there, and knew he was dead.
With the tears coming down in streams, she fled the massacre, fled north into the swamps. She ran without direction without caring, for everyone she knew was dead, and she fled all that she had ever known gratefully.
* * *
Ten days later, Lord Felan of Julis Village sent a courier to the castle, informing them of the horrible moblin attack that had killed over three hundred people. He noted that many homes had also been destroyed, and asked for money to help cover the loss in production. The castle sent it without questioning his word, for what reason would he have to lie about such a tragedy?
In case anyone came around to check, Lord Felan had the homes of those he'd killed destroyed. His soldiers threw barrels of ale over the walls and lit them aflame, burning everything inside. One of the burned houses held nothing but an engraving of the names of the Goddesses, and a picture of a woman now dead.
Felan received his money a day later. A few people came from the castle with the courier, to see if they could help repair the damage the moblins had inflicted. They walked through the scorched ruins, crumbling stone and wood into dust. One of the men happened to lift up a fallen timber from the ruins of one hovel, and he saw a piece of parchment half-covered in ashes underneath. Curious, he pulled it out and looked at it.
It was a portrait, the image of a dead woman.
* * *
The woman, after walking for days, finally stopped in the Midoro Mountains. She was exhausted, half-dead, and thin as a bone after living off only what she could scrape together in the Swamp. Finally, she collapsed, her body spreading limp across the rocks. She could hear the hungry cries of scavenger birds high above her. She knew she would be dead in an hour, but she didn't care. What did she have left in this world?
Suddenly, as though a curtain had been pulled across, a gargantuan tower appeared in front of her. It nearly blocked out the sun, made of some gray stone she didn't know. There was one window, high up near the very top, and no door. The girl weakly pushed herself up onto her elbows.
A crack appeared in the stone at the bottom of the tower, widening and stretching until it formed the shape of a door. The door swung open, and a small, mouse-like man stepped out.
The first thing the girl noticed was how short the man was. If she'd been standing, he would've only come up to her shoulder. His black hair stuck in every direction, as did his unkempt beard. He wore a dirty green robe that had seen many years. But despite the rough appearance, the man had a strange quality-an aura, almost, of power. This man was more than he seemed. He peered down into the girl's eyes.
"Greetings," he said in a deep voice. "I am Nagul. Are you lost?"
The girl could do nothing but nod. Nagul clapped his hands, excited.
"Good! I have been needing an apprentice, and you will do fine. Come with me, into my tower." He extended an arm, and the girl took ahold of it. She pulled herself up, and walked with Nagul into the tower, leaning heavily on his shoulder. After the door sealed behind them, the tower vanished again, leaving no trace of the world's most powerful sorcerer.
My thanks to Juliet A. Singleton for the generous loan of her characters and set-up in her stories. E-mail me at GlnnMiller@aol.com.
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