The world had become so desperate; people everywhere were begging for food, money, water, or warmth. People could be heard praying loudly to their individual gods for reprieve. Their dirty, unwashed faces with no hope for the future looking just to survive one more day. No one had anything more to give. The more fortunate looked down, away, anywhere there wasn’t a dirt streaked face with sorrowful eyes staring back at them. They feared they too could easily become one of the Forgotten. Travelers and the fortunate venture up the Hall of the Forgotten just as desperate to keep their fragile hold on their lives. The long corridor with bridges passing over head leading all who entered up into the capital city, Vhuhmere, a place for you and me. As its name implies, the city was founded with the hope the country would stay for the people. However, this time had long since passed.
The path up into the city wasn’t steep but the angle gradually took it’s toll on those who walked through to the upper side of the city. The sandstone walls rose high above the people. As they climbed the hill, the walls seemed to fall back welcoming those with more into a place of comforts, as long as they ignored everyone and everything they passed on the way up. The greyed stone arches above their head gave at least a little comfort from the hot prairie sun beating down on them all.
The upper city was where those who could afford more lived. The ‘upper class’ literally looming over the impoverished people. The Forgotten only needed help getting back on their feet. Instead, they sat, lay, and wandered the Walkway. Others looked the other way as the forgotten were spit on, hit, kicked, and beaten into the dust. Those of noble society had even found it fun to dump refuse and muck down into the ‘Hall of the Forgotten’ in between the bridges onto the downtrodden. All of this, ignored by the Heroes Order.
Nearly at the end of the Hall, a woman knelt in her dull brown, ripped dress holding up a small child barely into her toddler years wrapped in a dirty, discarded cloth. She lifted the babe at anyone who passed.
“Please!” She begged. “Take my baby! Please!” She sobbed tears rolling down her cheeks. Everyone walked by pretending to be interested in something else. No one risked adding to their already tenuous hold on life. The woman bowed her head into her arm to cover her eyes crying into her soot stained sleeve. Her arm held close the only thing left in the world that mattered to her. She had lost everything. There was so little food even for her; she had lost her milk and had nothing left for her baby. She hoped, prayed, begged for someone who would take her. For her baby’s own sake. Maybe she might live a better life or she might actually live.
A soft hand touched her shoulder. It was gentle almost not there. Looking up with red, swollen eyes, she stared at a beautiful noblewoman in her vibrant powder blue dress. Her brown hair was pinned back with silver in a bun, curls dangling from it. The corner of her blue eyes dotted with gems, as per fashion. The mother didn’t know how to respond. Rarely did anyone in the Hall, especially nobles, stop for anyone,. No one had stopped for a child, or anything, that she could ever remember.
The noblewoman didn’t say anything understanding this was hard enough on the young mother. Instead, she lifted the babe onto her hip. The little girl gazed wide eyed at the woman unsure what to make of everything. Her red brown hair in messy curling waves. Her impossibly green eyes gazing into the noble’s face. Lifting her tiny fist, she put her knuckles in her mouth sucking on them. It had been her only comfort when her mother couldn’t give her suckle.
Smiling down at her, the noblewoman soothed her. “You will be alright, Little One.” Tiny hands clutching at her dress to hang on. The mother focused her attention solely on her not wanting her baby to go, but also not able to keep her. Her sobbing started back up causing her breath to hitch.
“Take heart, Woman.” She spoke a voice as soft as the clothing she wore.Her jeweled eyes turned back. “Your babe will be well taken care of, well educated, and well loved. You have done well raising her.” She dropped to a knee momentarily in front of the mother touching her shoulder once again. “You have done your best up to this point. It is hard knowing what is best for your children, but you have made the right decision. Take comfort. Your babe will do more than anyone will ever imagine.” The mother nodded unsure how to respond to such a statement as this. Her emotions which had been tremulous were calmed. Taking out a paper, the noblewoman scrawled in elegant script handing it to the mother. It simply told her where she could go to find a specific place where they served food. She would ensure she got what she needed there.
Not wanting to draw the attention of the guard, she pulled back checking to see if any paid them any attention. Standing back up and straightening her clothes, the noblewoman turned once again staring straight ahead. Not able to look into any other eyes. Not able to give them anything. It wouldn’t solve the problem. The Order would still end up with all of it. And she would be without any means to assist them any longer. She made donations where she could. There were several soup kitchens, shelters, and safe places because she ordered them built. It still wasn’t enough. The Hall was still overpopulated with more adding to it daily. She promised she would change this. All of this would end. By the babe on her hip.
Halle ran through the corridor darting around a guard to a hidden closet. Her emerald green dress made so much noise. She tried to keep it out of the way, but the layers of cloth made it difficult. Pushing inside to the back, she crouched with her arms over her head waiting. Her breath came in heavy pants. She hoped of all things her breathing wouldn’t be the thing to give her away. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. Her breathing stopped as footsteps drew near. Tightening her eyes shut, she wrapped her arms around her tighter trying to use magic. If she had just been able to understand her lessons this wouldn’t be happening.
The sound of a bell drew her head up. An intricate circle blossomed in front of her glowing turquoise. Her body stopped responding. The circle sent out blue strings wobbly and unsure, but there. They wrapped around her making difficult, if not impossible without magic, to move.
“Got you!” The little boy chanted pointing a pudgy finger at her. He laughed dropping his hand the circle falling with it. Halle felt the binding fall off of her. “You’re the easiest to find.” He taunted as he rushed off to get the others his half cape fluttering behind him.
Halle pulled herself up and out of the closet frowning. She had tried. The game needed her to use magic to conceal herself but she couldn’t ever do any. It was as if she didn’t belong in this world of magic. Sniffing, she wiped a tear from her cheek. A heavy hand dropped on her head.
She looked up with giant green eyes the hand sliding off the back of her head. The soldier who stood guard in the hallway pushed up the oval metal plate covering his face. His scarred but handsome face looking down at her. He was an older man, but one she knew from around the castle. He had become somewhat of a friend to her when the other children didn’t want to have anything to do with her. It was enough that she knew she wasn’t of noble birth like the others. It had been worse since the other children had found out.
“Don’t worry, Miss Halle.” He whispered. He wasn’t supposed to move or speak, though they all did it. For Halle. “When your magic comes in, I’m sure it will be as beautiful as you are.” The little girl grinned at him nodding with a thank you before rushing off. She made a mental note to pick some flowers from the courtyard for him. The soldier smiled putting the metal plate back in front of his face. His eyes trailing after her as she ran off. It was hard for him to stand by when she was picked on. Halle was like them. Normal. Down to earth. Caring and compassionate. Not like the other noble children who took whatever they could grab not caring who got hurt.
That evening the children stood in a loose line. Five of them grinning at each other. Only, Halle was nervous as she smiled back, even if they didn’t look at her. They were all so happy for their Naming Ceremony. Of course, each of them had displayed magic at some point. Halle had yet to show any potential. Was this the day she was kicked out of the Heroes’ Academy and told she couldn’t study here anymore? Shaking her head to get the thoughts out, she looked up at the men and women in cloaks striding across the room.
Tapestries depicting Heroes of old adorned the walls with gold and silver tassels on the bottoms. Though they held still, the images seemed to move as they told the stories of long forgotten men and women who had once saved them all. New candles stood flickering their light from the walls into the small circular room. The stone of the walls, and floor made the room uncomfortably cold, but added an otherworldly feel to everything. That might have been one of the reasons Halle felt so nervous. She felt out of place here in this world of magic and splendor. Like she was meant to be something or someone else.
The parents beamed down at them so proud as they took their places. Her mother looked back as kind as always though Halle hadn’t done any magic. How could she get her Name if she didn’t even know her magic?
The adults stood waiting around a small circular dais just big enough for one person. They left enough room for movement around the raised platform, but close enough to be a part of the Ceremony. Another woman in robes the color of milk came in from the door behind everyone at the back of the room. While the other adults were dressed in simple robes according to what type of Hero they were, this woman had iridescent swirling designs on the edges of her robes. The cloth opened in front revealing the cotton tunic underneath. It was nothing like the poor of the city wore. Even from a distance one could see its quality. She was also the only one wearing jewelry. A large jewel rest on her chest shining the way a well polished stone does. To Halle, this woman looked like the type to preen and strut. The type that would be severe. The type that would screech to everyone Halle’s lack of magic. The other children eagerly watched the elderly lady make her way slowly towards everyone.
“Come on…” One of the boys groaned under his breath. “I want to get my Name!” He complained. Halle was tempted to say something, but with her nerves twisting around her throat she doubted she could speak. Her hands opened and closed over and over as she tried to calm herself. The elder looked their way smiling, except when she looked at the boy who spoke. She raised an eyebrow at him, making the boy freeze, before continuing her long journey to the dais.
“You have come here.” The elder spoke loud and clear despite her age. “Expecting your Name. The Name defining who you and what you are and…” She paused for effect looking around. “Most importantly giving your magic true breath.” The children shifted around eagerly. Except Halle. “This is a difficult process for many. Not everyone wishes to go through with it. Some find the ember of magic with them dies with the ceremony.” A few gulped. Of course, it wasn’t exactly true, but the children didn’t know that. “But those special ones who have their magic grow, expand , transform inside them.” She smiled at them as she made a grand gesture. “They will be the true Heroes.”
Halle felt her stomach drop. She didn’t even have an ember of magic. There had been no gentle burning. No cooling. No…whatever words they used to describe it. Tears formed in her eyes as she tried to stay posture perfect in front of her mother preparing for when the elder told her she had no magic. That there had been a mistake.
“Trevor.” A little boy to the very left of her walked over and stepped up onto the dias trembling. The elder set a hand on his head closing her eyes. He stared at her for a moment before he too closed his eyes. There was a brief moment of warmth before his body wouldn’t move any more. He felt cold. So cold.
‘Trevor! Trevor! Where are you!?’
He wanted to lift his head to see who it was calling him. In the bottom of his stomach, he knew. He would forever remember that voice. The way it sounded that night. That horrible night his father died. Snow drifted around him obscuring his vision. Turning around, he tried finding him.
‘DAD!’ He screamed his small fists clenched. His whole body shivered violently. He couldn’t move. Everything was so…cold. Closing his eyes, he wrapped his arms around himself tighter tucking his head down. He wanted to cry, but the tears had long passed. He wasn’t sure how long he sat underneath the tree. His mind felt so muddled. Something brushed his cheek. Warmth flooded his body as he was lifted from the ground. Trevor wanted to scream at his dad to go back home, to run as fast as he could, but his mouth wouldn’t work. The sound of his father’s scream snapped his eyes open.
He breathed heavily for a moment looking around him. His eyes stopping on the elder before him.
She paused for a moment longer. “Artaxiad.” Her hand pulled back letting the boy look up better. Glancing around, he focused on his mother. She was staring at him. Smiling at him. He looked down at himself his eyes widening.
Wind rushed from beneath him glowing white. His body shone brighter and brighter until it matched the wind around him. Within the next second, it disappeared. Trevor Artaxiad stood breathing hard a shocked look on his face. His previously dirty blonde hair had turned an incandescent white blonde. He turned around to the other children grinning. His hands constantly had a white flame surrounding them. He lifted them as if to show everyone what had happened, even if it was clear. The memory that had played became a distant memory as he rushing toward his mother.
Trevor’s mother stepped from around the dais with him. They walked off to the side where they could watch but be out of the way. She knelt to give him a hug talking quietly to not interrupt the other Namings.
The elder once more turned to the group of now four children. “Emilie.” A young girl skipped up grinning at her. Looking down at her, the woman put a hand on her head. Their eyes closed almost at the same time.
A familiar sense of fear jumped into her throat. The wind whipped through her hair as her heart beat so hard she thought she would break. Her wide eyes searched for anywhere she could hide. The laughter behind her dropped her stomach further down and her heart into her throat. Tears burned her eyes. Her body hurt from the adrenaline pulsing through her veins. She needed to get away! If only her legs were strong enough. If only she were older. If only things were different. They were getting louder. Her feet pounded the forest floor as she looked for anything. Anything! She spotted a swampy pond. A rotting log. Shifting that way, she ran over crawling inside the hollow log clamping her hands over her mouth as bugs scurried around her. Even still, she kept herself in place, silent as the footsteps ran passed. The voices so loud in her ears. Her eyes closed tighter. Her bottom lip trembled as she begged for no one to find her. The next thing she heard opened her eyes.
“Temujiin.” The elder removed her hand once more. Emilie looked up at the elder woman. Within those eyes, the memory faded to the background once more. She took a deep breath trying to calm herself down.
Looking down at her hands, she flexing them. Her magic wasn’t as dramatic as Trevor’s had been. It was less visible. Strength seemed to course through her. Lifting her head, she felt the ground shake for a second. A smirk popped up on her face. Somehow, this had been exactly what she had hoped for without knowing it was what she wanted. The girl spun around running for her parents who drew her close before heading over to where Trevor was standing with his mother. Her parents held her whispering about how impressed they were.
Halle frowned staring and watching. Sadness overwhelmed her as she stood. She didn’t know it would be like this. She should have stayed hidden. Her eyes remained forward as each child was called forward and named. Each of them had magic. Each of them had been given a Name. Her place was at the end. Probably because she hadn’t displayed magic. They didn’t want to ruin the Naming Ceremony for everyone else when she didn’t get her Name. Her mother even stood there watching her with sad eyes. She knew she wouldn’t get her Name.
“Halle?” She turned her head blinking at the elder who was beckoning her over. Slowly with lead feet, she trod over. Her eyes didn’t close as she felt the weight of the woman’s hand on her head. She didn’t expect anything. This was the moment she had been dreading. They would tell her to leave. Her mother would be so disappointed. After all, her mother had some of the strongest magic in Ivesa. When the woman didn’t speak, she looked up. The woman was watching her. Slowly, she let her eyes close.
Halle wanted to look up out of the blackness that instantly surrounded her. Within her mind, strange memories flit about. A man slamming the door. A woman sobbing. She didn’t stop sobbing. She wouldn’t stop sobbing! It grew louder and louder in her ears. Her hands snapped up to cover them, but it didn’t help. It was so loud she didn’t hear anything. The wailing turned into a howling wind. A scorching heat. A scream welled up from within her exploding out of her without a sound. Everything. She could feel everything. The energy pulsing around her. She felt like nothing. Her body curled before something solid hit her square in the back. The heavy weight pushed her over, crushing her to the floor. Pain grew as the weight pressed her against the floor. Halle cried out for her mother but no sound came out. She wanted to run. Hide! Anything to stop the pain from consuming her. *Megei’liet*
“Halle!…Halle!” She heard a voice calling her. It was hard to pull herself out of…whatever dark place she had fallen into. When she managed to open her eyes, she saw her mother kneeling over her. She was crying like her birth mother had done. Why was she crying? Why was she making everyone cry?
“Oh, thank the gods!” Her mother pulled her into a tight hug. “You scared me, My Dear One.” Halle blinked rubbing her eyes with her free hand.
“What..?” She pulled back enough to look around at the scorched room. The curtains which had been strung on the walls with beautiful paintings and weaving now lay in tatters on the stone floor. The carved white wood dias now lay black starting from where Halle had been. Everyone who had come in with her stood out in the hallway looking in with wide eyes and soot-stained faces. All the beautiful tapestries and paintings that had been on the walls lay crumbled on the floor. Smoke curled at the ceiling taking on an ethereal feel by the light in the center swung slowly in a circle. “What happened?” She breathed. Her mother smiled a wobbly sort of smile.
“Your magic came to life.”