Faber Quade stood motionless. He frowned befuddled, peering into the darkness surrounding him. A cold wind rasped in his neck and he shuddered at the cool chill running down his spine.
Silence reached out to him and awoke the dormant fear he thought he had cast away so long ago. A sense of emptiness filled his being.
He was all alone.
Loneliness wrapped itself around his torso like a slithering snake. Loneliness grasped his throat with icy fingers. And loneliness pierced his heart with a sharp sword.
Faber Quade stood motionless. He waited. He waited to disappear; he waited to fade away into darkness – when all of a sudden, a comforting warmth radiated against his back.
Turning around, his eyes registered a dim light flickering in the distance. The darkness was aglow with the mysterious light growing brighter.
Not knowing where he was or why he found himself in this beclouded place, he stepped forward. It was as if the light beckoned him forward – willing him closer. And with every step he took, the thought of loneliness melted away.
And as he drew near, the light slowly morphed into the vague outline of a ghostly figure with outstretched arms and long hair coasting in the darkness. Two ethereal blue eyes formed: two burning beacons amid the luminous white.
Faber couldn’t help staring, gawking – delving into the bafflingly beautiful blue eyes. He could hear his heart drumming in his ears and he could feel the anxiety rising in his being.
Faber…A mysterious voice spoke, distant and soft.
“Faber!” erupted a loud and unannounced shout.
Faber suddenly awoke in a fright, frowning at the familiar white ceiling above his head. He slowly sat upright in his bed, inhaling a deep breath to calm his nerves. Closing his eyes, he felt the cool sensation of a drop of sweat trickling down his temple.
“Faber?” echoed a voice through his head.
“What?!” he shouted annoyed, staring at his sister who stood at his bedside.
She cleared her throat with a soft cough and sat down at the foot of his bed.
“Another dream?” she asked, arching a brow.
“The same as always.” he remarked, using the back of his hand to brush the sleep from his eyes.
“The blue-eyed ghost?” she asked casually, knowing the answer to her question before he even spoke it.
“What else?” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
A moment of silence passed between them.
“Is there something I can help you with?” asked Faber, frowning at his sister’s nonchalant expression.
“Oh I just wanted to wish you good luck.” she said, a crooked smile playing across her lips.
“And why is that?” he asked suspiciously.
“The trial, what else?” she said, smirking in disbelief.
“No, forget about it!” he protested, pulling the blankets aside to get out of bed and head for the door.
“Faber, you can’t keep running away!” she called after him, following him through the house.
“Who’s running? I’m walking.” he said determined, grabbing his brown jacket that was hanging against the wall.
“You’re a coward!” she shouted frustrated.
“Oh thank you so much for noticing.” Faber said as he pulled the door open and headed outside into the cool morning air.
The deep forest of Meldea: Trees towered into the pale-blue sky and a blanket of rich mud covered the earth. Bugs chattered loudly and perched birds sang enlivening songs to greet the sun. The dense canopy filtered the sun’s rays until only thin streaks of light, golden dust, drifted through the air. A cool breeze fanned the treetops, leaving a flurry of leaves fluttering in its wake.
A mysterious young man trudged along the muddy forest path. He focused his gaze overhead, searching the trees suspiciously. His dark blue eye peered from the pitch black strands of hair hanging in his face; a brown leather eye patch covering his other eye.
His name was Nolan Daegun and he had one quest in life: to find what he sought. He had searched for almost five years and yet there was no trace of her. It was as if she had vanished into thin air: the person whom he holds the dearest of all.
Stopping in his tracks, he purveyed the surrounding area cautiously. The forest’s flow of aura was stable; there was no hint of anger or distress. It was a sign that the forest creatures had yet to grow wary of him. He was safe for the time being.
He placed a hand over his grumbling stomach. He hadn’t eaten in nearly three days and as a result he could feel himself getting weaker.
It was time to eat.
Nolan pulled the wooden bow loose from his back and ventured deeper into the forest to hunt.
The palace of Raeven: a marvelous structure that touched the very fabric of the heavens. A throng of clouds slowly rolled across the sky, changing into different shapes and sizes as time ticked by in soundless moments.
“Princess!” shouted Blake Earon as he chased after the tall girl running down the hallway.
“Leave me alone!” she shouted over her shoulder.
Blake sighed hopelessly. He was tired of chasing the princess through the palace at all hours of the day. It had become a daily occurrence. She would run away from her tutors and then he, being her bodyguard, had to take her back.
The princess came to an abrupt halt, staring at the dead end ahead. There was a window, but it was too high to reach.
“Princess, please go back to your classes.” pleaded Blake, trying to catch his breath.
“I’ll go back-”
“Really?” he asked overjoyed.
“But on one condition.” she said sternly.
“A condition?” he asked suspiciously.
“I want to go on an outing.” she said determined, folding her arms.
“That’s too dangerous-”
“No it’s not; you’ll be there to protect me.”
“I don’t know Princess-”
“If you do this for me, I promise to behave from now on.”
“Is that a promise?”
Listeron: the city of Crimson mountains. A place of great renown: not only because of the Listeronian protectors that are known to be the greatest warriors of the Realm but also because of the rumours that Listeron is blessed by the Ancients.
And it was here that Faber Quade found himself dreading the thought of being a Listeronian. He hated Listeron, he hated everything about it: the quant houses, the people and most of all the traditions.
Sitting on a rock at the edge of the city, he wondered if his life would’ve been different if he hadn’t run away from home. If he hadn’t told his parents that he hated them. If he hadn’t tricked his little sister into coming with him. For that now, he found himself in a very frightful predicament. A predicament he couldn’t escape.
“Hey Faber!” called a familiar voice from behind him.
He gritted his teeth at the familiar hand grasping his shoulder.
“Why so glum, there’s only a big chance you’ll die today – that is if you actually show up.” said Kuper Grey with a hysterical chuckle, clapping Faber on his back.
“Kuper, how very wonderful to see you.” said Faber with a forced smile.
“What flowers would you like at your funeral?”
“I’m just kidding man; you won’t have a funeral because you’re too scared to even show up.”
“Well, see you later Faber. That is if by some miracle you become brave in the next fifteen minutes.” said Kuper, landing a final clap on Faber’s back before walking away.
Faber heaved a deep sigh, brushing a hand through his dark brown curls. His topaz grey eyes shifted towards the setting sun slowly sinking behind the mountains, an ocean of warm colours tinting the sky.
It was time for the trial: the trial of the Ancients. And Faber had no intention of showing up, yet he knew that if he didn’t – he would just be postponing the inevitable.
Two wild boars plodded along the forest path, snorting loudly. Their dark pelts glistened in the sun and the beat of their heavy hooves were synchronized.
A few paces away stood an enormous tree that reached high into the heavens, a halo of clouds enshrouding the top. And just beyond the curtains of leaves was Nolan Daegun hunched on a branch.
He eyed the approaching boars, clutching his wooden bow in a firm grip. Pulling out an arrow from the quiver strapped to his back, he noticed a sudden change in the air.
One of the boars had stopped in its tracks, raising its snout heavenward to take a whiff of the surrounding area. Its nostrils flared at an unfamiliar scent. The other boar called its companion closer with an unannounced snort.
Nolan hooked the arrow against the string and slowly pulled it back, arching his bow forward to aim at the nearby boar.
“I wanted to go on an outing and this is where you take me?” asked the princess in disbelief, playing with her long golden blonde braid that hung over her shoulder.
Sitting on a horse, she glanced around her and frowned at her surroundings.
“Princess, it’s too dangerous to go any farther away from Raeven.” said Blake, leading the horse forward by its reins.
“But this is just a forest!” she shouted annoyed.
“It’s Meldea, one of the most beautiful forests in the whole Realm.”
“I don’t care!”
Blake couldn’t understand it. He had been the princess’s bodyguard for a few years now and yet he’s still not used to her childish and conceited ways. She’s fifteen years of age, a child - and a spoiled one at that.
Faber hurried along the steep pathway leading up into the mountains. It was there that the trial would begin; it was there that he would finally face his fears.
After ten minutes of arduous climbing, he finally reached the sacred stone platform – the Ancients’ platform. There was a crowd of Listeronians encircling a stone pedestal that stood in the very centre of the platform.
He slowly made his way around the crowd to find a place next to Gillian, a short and quiet boy who didn’t even blink at Faber’s approach.
Faber searched the masses until he saw his sister standing beside the High Wielder: a gangly man wearing a white robe with silver patterns on. He had long starlight silver hair tied into a loose pony and his eyes were dark red like two sparkling embers.
It wasn’t out of the ordinary to see his sister next to the High Wielder. After all, she wasn’t your everyday Listeronian.
Ayul Quade: a girl of fourteen. She has short dark brown hair curling at her shoulders and her eyes were a dark hazel. Contrary to her ordinary appearance, Ayul had an extraordinary gift – a unique gift. And as a result, she was the High Healer of Listeron.
The High Wielder suddenly stepped forward, facing the crowd with a wide smile and open arms.
“Listeronians, the trial of the Ancients have dawned upon us once more. It is a timely tradition that our young ones are to be judged upon this very pedestal. Stepping under the almighty eyes of the Ancients, they will wait to be struck by lightning.” he explained, his deep booming voice rolling over the crowd’s soft whispers.
He then stepped towards the row of young men gathered at the side – the entrants. His smile widened even more, his dark eyes sweeping over every face. Faber quickly looked away, his stomach churning at the thought of the High Wielder’s eyes.
“When you are struck by the lightning, the pain will be excruciating. But if you withstand the pain and live to tell the tale; then that means that the Ancients choose you to be a mighty protector of Listeron and possibly even a wielder of lightning. If you die trying, we will mourn your death and you will be known as a noble and brave hero of Listeron.”
Faber gulped, swallowing the lump of anxiety rising in his throat.
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