“Mum... Mummy, what are they doing to those people?” Tufts of auburn hair bobbed about between people, attempting to get a better look at the sight playing out before the crowd. A troupe Enforcers were escorting a group of people through the lower part of the city, making their way towards the church. “Why are they chained up like that?” Huffing in frustration, he turned to the slender woman quietly following him and held up his arms, bouncing on the balls of his feet impatiently. Smiling, she scooped him up and placed him on her hip so he could see better.
“Because Love, they must be kept away from normal people like us. Our people fear them, hate them because of what they are, and it’s not even their fault.” Warm hands stroked through the tangled mass of hair atop the boys head, gingerly she kissed his temple. “They are bound so thoroughly because they were blessed with a gift that has become unstable. If they are not careful, they can become dangerous. The church does not trust them, and our people loath them. So they separate us from them and treat them so horribly.”
“So where are they taking them? To the prison? If they’re so dangerous, will they take them to the Hill like Uncle Borik?” He didn’t even turn to face his mother, so enthralled by the scene, but his eyes widened nevertheless, fingers squeezing his mother’s arm.
“No Love, Uncle Borik was a terrible man, he did what he did because he wanted to.” They turned from the troupe as they began to round the corner, and she placed her son back on his feet, hands on his shoulders. “Baby, I want you to promise me something, OK?” Clear blue eyes held his amber ones, everything else seemed to just fade away for a moment, as if dulled. “Please promise me that you will never blame the Faeryn for their plight, this was never their fault, they did not chose this life. Someday, everything will be okay again, and they will be free, but you have to believe. The Mother will make things right again, I promise. Torin?” Looking up at his mother, her smile, her eyes, they were so bright, so vivid. He should be happy, should be comforted by her presence, her warm hands, loving smile, but all he could feel was sorrow, and a deep loneliness that seemed strange out of place here. “Mum?” He asked, but his words fell mute, and the world went dark, all he could see were those clear blue eyes, no longer filled with love, but pain, those eyes surrounded in flames. “Torin, Torin, run!” Her voice screamed through the fire, echoing.
Screaming, he jolted forward, his surroundings swaying back and forth as if on the sea, and everything was so dark, reaching out he grabbed for something, anything to hold onto. Clinging onto his anchor, he gasped for breath, vision swimming in his lap, he could feel bile rising in his throat. Quickly he covered his mouth and choked back the urge to vomit, forcing himself to breath slow and even through his nose. Minutes passed and Torin finally calmed, opening his eyes, he paused to let them adjust, not surprised at all to find that it was not as dark as he had first imagined. He could make out branches, and leaves, and even the other trees surrounding him in the small grove. Lifting his gaze, he could just make out the sliver of moon peeking down between branches at him. The sight put him at ease and he leaned back against the trunk of the tree, a soft sigh dropping from his lips.
“It’s been some time since you last haunted my dreams, Mum. Why now do you return to me? Is there something you wish to tell me?” Torin had long since abandoned any hope that the Mother would return to them and fix everything that had fallen to ruin in her absence. For a long time, the church had gone about as if nothing was wrong, they had given false word to the people to keep them calm and at ease, but now, with rebellion being whispered about, they had now began to call her out, plead with her, or in some cases, blame her. Even so, even without the Mother’s blessing words, Torin still believed things happened for a reason, good or bad. “Well, there’s nothing for it I guess, might as well get an early start.” He pushed himself up, and leapt from his perch to the ground below.
“Fa Dane!” Breathless and trembling, a lone Listener burst forth into the inner chambers of the chapel, chambers reserved solely for the Dane, the man's robes fell in disarray, his wire spectacles sitting askew upon his nose. Gasping for breath, his gaze strayed to Fa Dane, his face a mass of fresh angry red scars, burns mostly, but the scowl there clearly showed through. “Forgive me my Dane!” He threw he gaze, and himself to the floor at the Dane’s feet, on his hands and knees he gathered his senses and continued. “My manners seem to have abandoned me.” The Dane peered down at the elder man with contempt.
“Speaker Brother Markus, what distracts you so that you forget your place.” Fa Dane spoke with such a cold voice, it sent chills down Markus’s spine. Swallowing hard, Markus scrambled to answer him.
“One of the Oracles, the Faeryn, she has spoken, she.. she looked to me with seeing eyes. She is coherent, Fa Dane. ”
“What?” Fa Dane rose from his seat with such force the candles around him seemed to be snuffed out by it. “Coherent? Impossible. The oracles have had their wits taken from them by our 'beloved' Mother.” He spoke the word 'beloved' as if it dripped with bile. “It is because of that she may speak to us, what is more, why now would she choose to speak to us? What has our Mother to say after forsaking her children so long? Why are we now so important that she gives the effort to speak to us?” Markus sat flabbergasted, should the Dane not be relieved to hear the Mother had finally spoken? Should the news of one of their oracles gaining consciousness not intrigue him? Instead he ridiculed The Mother for her silence, and completely ignored the point of his coming here. Stunned, he fumbled for words.
“F-Fa Dane, it is a relief she has spoken to us, and through a child whom may be able to interact with us, her messa-.” The Dane cut him off.
“Silence, Listener! You have been spending to much time alone with them, you are seeing things. This message is what I am interested in, go on, what does our Mother say?” Mouth a gap he began to fumble about in his pocket to find the message, using the moment to attempt to still his trembling hands, barely able to keep his voice steady.
“ ‘Harken to me my children, for this may be my last. Foul is the air, and darkness has fallen over my realm, my power grows weaker with each passing morn. I give to you my last, a vessel, for that is all that I can offer. Precious and fragile, for your sake, protect and nurture, this vessel is your last hope. Forgive me my Orphans.’ ” Markus swallowed thickly thinking of the child that had spasmed in the throws of Speaking, her eyes, they had followed him, they held recognition to his presence. So focused on his own thoughts, he started at the Dane’s voice.
“Is that all? Even she calls us orphans now, she so obviously abandons us when we need her. When her people begin to question her she hides from us?” Fa Dane snarled and threw himself back into this seat. Rubbing his temples he watched as Markus remained, scowling he spoke dismissively. Fine! Bring me this vessel, if you think her of any actual importance. Go now, I've little time to waste on your delusions!” The venom in his tone sent Markus scrambling down the very hall he had come from, Fa Dane’s commands echoing after him. The poor man, older than most in the clergy, he had lived through the reign of two different Danes, the current one sitting upon his own appointed throne, and his predecessor, Bryn Dane. That man had been kind, had wished his brothers treat him as an equal rather than a superior, he even worked among his fellow clergymen rather than hide himself away. Bryn Dane had been a respected man, his people loved him, and he held onto that slim chance that the Mother would return, it wasn’t until Fa Dane’s rise that the Church even let the public know the Oracles had fallen silent. Without Bryn Dane's belief in the Mother, the church had weakened, had told the people of her absence. Without her voice, and with the Danes death, the clergy would have to elect a new Dane on their own. At first they had seemed to have chosen well, but now, they were not so sure. Fa Dane had been diligent in his duties, had been a joy to work with, perhaps it was the power that had changed him, it only taken a few years for him to fall so far, one would not even recognize him.
Within the church, the clergy was built around the protection, and understanding of The Mother's chosen oracles, men and woman born with no conscious to speak of, hollow vessels through which the mother communicated with her children. Physically, they were blind, deaf, and with no will to speak on their own, mute as well. Inside the Church, they had a special chamber for them, a large circular room with a high ceiling located at the very heart of the Church. Lavish with royal colors, large floor pillows, extravagant lighting, the Oracles Chambers was one of the best kept halls in the Church. When Markus pushed through the doors, upon entering, he blinked a few times, the lighting within the Chambers rivaling that of the sun outside, once his vision cleared, he grasped for the door frame, staggered from the sight before him. There, seated at the center of the Oracle’s bedings was the one whom had given him the Prophecy, the Keepers surrounding her, kissing her hands and feet, stroking her arms and legs, mumbling incoherent prayers around their severed tongues. She sat there and just stared blankly at them, confused and lost in the foreign world.
“My child! You are awake!” Bewildered Markus stumbled through the masses to get to her, her gaze snapping to him as soon as he spoke. Her eyes shone a brilliant amethyst, platinum hair falling in long tresses, bangs framing her delicate features. Faeryn were a rare birth, one being born an oracle was astronomical. Like her eyes, her Third eye glittered amethyst, she was born under the Fae of either Mind, or Spirit, both powerful and dangerous Fae. Lifting his hands, Markus touched her face, breath leaving his lungs in awe. Wide eyes blinked at him and he grimaced apologetically. “Forgive me, my child, I have so many things to ask, but I must take you to the Dane immediately. Can you stand?” He didn’t even know if she could understand him, let alone respond, gently he pushed away the remaining Keepers and lightly gripped her shoulders, pulling her up with him as he stood. As he suspected, her legs trembled and her knees buckled weakly, but he held her up. “Easy, take your time, Child.” Markus smiled grimly as he began to lead her slowly to the door, her wobbly steps keeping them at a near crawl. “Good, that’s good, come now, to the door.” The Keepers continued their garbled prayers, a younger male moving to Markus's side. Silent, he extended his arms towards the oracle, nodding slightly to Markus, swallowing, the elder of the two resigned, letting the youth lift the girl into his arms, bridal style. This way, they made their way back to Fa Dane's chambers.
As they entered the inner chambers, Fa Dane rose from his seat and slowly descended the raised platform, his gaze darting back and forth between Markus and the Oracle. “So, it was true, a conscious oracle.” He paused, showing no real interest as he stared. “This would be the vessel The Mother spoke of then? This is the last gift she is to give to us.” He circled them, inspecting the girl like a hawk, she in turn drew closer to the Keeper holding her, watching the Dane carefully. Finally he came to a stop in front of them, bending down to her level and gripped her chin in his hand, forcing her to look him in the eye. He gazed into those deep, amethyst orbs, as if peering into her soul. And then it happened, Fa Dane withdrew from the oracle suddenly and violently, jerking his hand back like he had been burned, and then striking out, slapping her across the face. She cried out and in his surprise, the Keeper dropped her, falling back to the door in shock at the Dane's accusation. “Deceiver! Charlatan!” Confused, Markus dropped to her side to help the poor girl into a sitting position, but before he could even touch her, Fa Dane was shrieking again. “Markus! Do not touch her, she will taint you! This is no gift from the Mother, but a liar, a deceiver! She is an agent of the Other!” Markus was torn! Before the Dane, he drew back, but his gaze did not leave the Oracle, the hurt in her eyes causing a pang in his chest, the tears welling made him finally look away. He just couldn’t believe this child was 'His' spawn.
“Silence!” Fa Dane seethed at Markus. “Enforcers! Take this thing to the dungeons, get it out of my sight and call the headsman, I want it executed before it poisons us all.” The guards outside the chamber doors appeared at her side and grabbed her by the arms, thrashing, they drug her out the door. Markus could only sit and watch helplessly. “And you.” Again, the Dane turned on him, his anger still present. “This never happened, speak of it to no one, and make it clear to the Keepers that if they make it known in any way, they will be executed as well. We must not cause panic among the people. Now get back to your duties, old man.” The remaining Enforcers shoved Markus out of the Dane's chambers, slamming the doors shut behind him, trembling, confused, and torn, the Listener slowly made his way down the ominous corridor.
Heavy footfalls broke the silence that had fallen over the western forest. Birds leaped from their branches, fleeing into the open sky to escape the ominous aura that crept into the air. The cause cast a hulking shadow, a mountainous ten foot creature lumbering through the trees, dragging behind it a large club fashioned out of a small tree. At it's end, secured within the twisted roots, sat a granite boulder sliding through the damp leaves and mud. Long, hooked claws scraped across gray, scaly hide, it’s skin thick like natural armor. Nasty, matted hair draped down in it’s face, obscuring it's eyes, a pair of tusks jutting from it's lower jaw. Tattered, fur rags hung off it’s awkward frame, dried blood clung to the hair making it stiff, the edges ragged as if they had been torn from the flesh and muscles of it's last kill. It was a highly aggressive creature, none too bright, and not of this realm, it's mere presence seemed to taint the air around it. It seemed to exude malevolence, and volatile as it was, it only left ruin in it's wake, already it had slaughtered two villages. Men, women, and children, even the livestock hadn't escaped. A few weeks later, traders from a nearby village found the massacre.
The poor villagers hadn’t even known how to react, a beast like this had only ever been seen along the Divide, the great mountain range separating the Kingdom from the badlands to the north. And even that could be counted on a single hand. Over the last century though, more and more sightings of creatures much like this one had been reported, slowly they were bleeding out farther into the Kingdom. Terror had spread like wildfire once the other villages found out about their neighbors, each had their own militias, but so had the first two, and they had already seen the results of that. Attacking it out right would only get more people killed. This was how Torin found himself perched, precariously in the high branches of an old oak tree downwind of the beast, observing it carefully.
Trolls, that’s what the people near the Divide called these beasts, gruesome, terrible creatures. Torin’s nose wrinkled as the stench of it was carried down by the breeze, it stunk of rotting flesh and filth, it was no wonder the wildlife fled in it’s wake. With it’s armored hide, arrows would be useless, a sword would do no better against it, that was if he could even get close to the creature. Big as it was, it was surprisingly fast with it’s ape like arms, it's razor sharp talons would slice through his skin as if he made of butter. The club it carried was not to be forgotten either, slow to swing, but deadly if it made the slightest contact. In the light of day, the creature seemed to lumber about clumsily, it’s matted hair hanging in it’s face hinting that perhaps the troll was light sensitive, and sound didn’t seem to catch it’s attention very well. But despite all that, it’s sense of smell was superb, better than any hound he had encountered, thus why he was skulking about downwind of the thing.
Suddenly and quite violently, the troll let loose a terrible sound, it’s club arcing up over it’s head and slamming into the ground in front of it with an earth-shattering crash. Startled, Torin grasped onto the branch above his head to keep from tumbling from his perch, his eyes narrowing to see what had caused the beast such an outburst. There at it’s feet, coyotes scattered in every direction, a few of their pack lay dead beneath the trolls club. They had been gnawing at scraps left from a dead bear, scavenging for what they could get, the troll going unnoticed, it's stink lost in the carcasses own rotting stench. That gave Torin an idea, a grim smile spread across his face as he waited for the troll to pass, the beast stumbling around for a moment, confused at where it’s prey had gone. Giving up, it snarled and carried on, stepping around the dead bear and continuing to drag it’s club behind. Torin slipped off his branch and landed lightly on the damp earth at the base of the tree, he then approached the dead bear. Crouching next to it, he pulled out his boot knife and began to cut away at pieces of rotting flesh, maggots crawled through the decaying meat making it easier to free what he needed.