Legend had it that on the darkest night of the month, the New Moon, Undead minions – living skeletons in service to Varkolak, from the battles of old - entered cities and farm communities, stealing children, unmarried women, and the elderly from their beds, to be feasted upon.
Of course, no one in the Realm of Valdor believed such rumors, especially since Varkolak had been defeated over four-hundred and fifty years earlier; his army of Undead, mostly destroyed by fire – the only way to kill them completely. Varkolak and his remaining minions had fled into the Wilderness beyond the Dark Woods, never to be heard of or seen again.
Yet, despite the general disbelief of the old legends, all the doors and windows, save one, of Monarch City – the capital of Valdor – were shut tight on the night of the New Moon.
The one window that had been left open was set in the highest tower of the Castle, watching over Monarch City like a worried parent.
A light breeze drifted through the open window and ruffled the hair of an old man sitting at a table so covered in paper and empty ink bottles, that it was hardly recognizable as a table. He stared out into the darkness, his brow knit. Slowly he stroked his dark gray beard with a wrinkled and weather-beaten hand. Though the night was unusually warm for the time of year, the old man was wrapped tightly in a dark blue cloak.
Three chairs as plain as the table were tucked underneath it and the old man sat in the only one not covered in paper. Off in a darkened corner an ornate wooden throne stood, covered in a royal red robe, set aside in case the King came up for a chat.
The room itself was rather plain. The room held no furniture, besides the table, chairs and several large shelves which lined the walls, from floor to ceiling. Books had been crammed the space inconceivably tightly, perhaps never to come out. The shelves groaned under the weight and bent in the middle, threatening to break.
In the middle of the room was a marble pedestal. On it a large, red book laid open, a scarlet bookmark stuck in its spine. The cover, though not visible, was covered in a fancy golden script.
The room had four doors; three leading to bedchambers. The fourth followed a spiral staircase down into the rest of the palace. Suddenly that door slammed open, followed by an unladylike grunt.
“You could help me,” the owner of the voice grumbled. The old man by the window didn’t have to turn around to know who had entered the room; he always knew when Gwina was nearby. Nevertheless, he did turn to watch her wade through the mess of papers, quill pens, ink bottles, books, and other oddities which littered the floor.
Gwina was tall. Nearly as tall as the man, something she didn’t let him forget easily. She had long black hair and delicate swirls painted around her eyes. Her dress was red and had slits going up just past the knees on either side. She wore a black, sleeveless mantle that rustled when she walked.
In her hands were several more books – to join those in the rude piles on the floor – a new ink bottle, a number of scrolls, and on top of it all, a cake.
Gwina made her way over to the table and, balancing her load on one hand, swept the paper from one of the chairs to the floor and sat down with a thump. Though she tried to carefully place her handful on the table, the cake still managed to slip. She caught it just before it splatted to the floor.
“What is that for?” the old man asked, raising his eyebrows and nodding towards the rescued cake.
“It’s our birthday! I thought I’d bake us a cake in celebration. It took me a few tries… and I nearly burned the palace down, but I finally got it right! I thought to myself, ‘Gwina, a birthday cake is the one thing that has to make Master IsenGRIM smile.’ I see I was mistaken.” Gwina smirked as she looked on the stormy, and frowning, face of her teacher. “Surely you haven’t forgotten our birthday?” she asked incredulously.
“On the contrary,” said Isengrim, resuming his stare out the window, “I was contemplating our birthday the very moment you burst in. Gwina, what day is it?”
“Why, you know that Tutor! It is the night of the New Moon! The darkest night of the month! Which begs the question… why is this window open? Do you want the Undead to come in and steal us away?” Gwina laughed but Isengrim remained stolid.
“How old are we this New Moon?” Isengrim asked.
“You know that too, Tutor,” Gwina replied. “You are one-hundred and I am fifty…“ Realization hit Gwina. Her eyes opened wide and her mouth hung open in a perfect ‘O.’
“What does the Old Text say about our birthday?”
Gwina leaned back in her chair, the smile banished from her lips. “Every fifty years, on the night of the New Moon, a Wizard is born. He – or she – will be brought to the palace to be trained by the current Wizard, or Wizards – that’s you and me. The new Wizard will be taught to control his - or her - powers and defend the Realm of Valdor against evil!” Gwina’s eyes shone. “We’ll be getting a new pupil soon!”
“I don’t think so.” Isengrim’s eyes were full of foreboding and his physiognomy was troubled.
“What’s wrong, tutor?” Gwina’s usual happy-go-lucky countenance assumed a worried look. Usually, she teased Isengrim’s worries, because she knew they had no merit. This time, however…. Something was very wrong.
“I do not think we will be gaining a new apprentice any time soon,” Isengrim said.
Gwina gasped. “What? How can that be? A Wizard is always born! And always brought to the palace! It has never been otherwise, the Old Text says so! It is treason not to bring forth a new Wizard for training! It endangers the Realm!”
Isengrim didn’t answer, just stared out at Monarch City, slowly shaking his head. The gesture made Gwina’s stomach do a little flop. She no longer felt hungry for the birthday cake she had so painstakingly made. She turned to stare out the window as well, prepared for a sleepless night, watching and waiting for the inevitable.
Many miles away from Monarch City lay Brookdale Village, surrounded by its abundant farmlands. In one of the most isolated farms a baby was being born.
“I’m going to ride to Brookdale Village for the surgeon,” the father said to the mother.
“No! Imradil, please don’t leave me. It will take you hours to ride to and from the Village. The baby will be born by then. Please stay. Besides, I’m not in much pain.”
“Yet,” muttered Imradil, pulling a chair over to his wife’s bedside.
Despite Imradil’s apprehension, the birth was relatively quick and easy.
“Look at our daughter Imradil! Isn’t she beautiful?” gasped the mother.
“What’s wrong with her, Raya?” Imradil frowned, staring at his daughter.
“Nothing is wrong with her,” Raya said, disgusted. “All newborn babies look like this.”
“No, it isn’t like that. She has a mark on her wrist.” Imradil carefully took the infant’s right hand from the folds of the blanket she was wrapped in and examined it.
“It’s simply a birthmark,” Raya said, paying it no attention.
“Birthmarks don’t look like fancy red books with twisty writing on the front,” Imradil persisted grimly.
Raya took the baby’s hand from Imradil and inspected it. Sure enough, she saw a bright red book with fancy looking gold writing on the front printed on her daughter’s wrist. “Birthmark…” she whispered, trying to convince herself. Meanwhile, Imradil got to his feet and slowly walked over to the door. He unlatched it and flung it open and looked out into darkness.
“It’s New Moon,” he said absentmindedly.
“Don’t let a draft in!” Raya leaned protectively over her child.
Imradil turned to his wife. “Raya, do you know what this means?”
“What does what mean?” suddenly Raya was feeling exhausted. She just wanted to go to sleep, not try and decipher her husband’s words.
“It’s New Moon!” Imradil slammed the door and rushed over to the bed. “New Moon is the night when Wizards are born! One every fifty years, is what the rumors say. They also say the parents will always know when they have a Wizard baby by a strange mark on their child.”
“Imradil, what are you saying?” Raya whispered, fear in her big blue eyes.
“Raya, I think our daughter will be the next Wizard of Valdor.”
Raya gasped and stared down at the sleeping child in her arms. Tears replaced the fear in her eyes. “Oh Imradil…. Oh Imradil, just think! Our baby, our little daughter, will be raised in the palace! She will grow up in Monarch City! Imradil, she will learn to defend the Realm! Our little daughter - a hero!”
“No,” Imradil said quietly.
“What?” Raya asked her husband.
“I said no,” Imradil repeated darkly. “Our daughter will stay right here, with us.”
Raya gave her husband a quizzical look.
“I’m not going to give her up,” Imradil continued. “It’s stupid and unfair that those tyrants in Monarch City can take away our daughter without our consent, just because she was born a Wizard. I won’t let it happen, I tell you!” Imradil thundered, and slammed his fist against the wall.
In Raya’s arms, the baby startled awake and let out a tiny whimper.
“Look, you’ve woken her!” Raya said in an upset tone. She gently rocked the child back to sleep. “Imradil,” she said when she was sure the baby was sleeping soundly once more, “we have to give our baby up. She’ll have a much better life in Monarch City than here on the farm. And I don’t see why the King wouldn’t let us visit her every once in awhile.”
“That’s not good enough!” Imradil said angrily. Suddenly his idea came gushing out. “We will keep her here, with us. No one needs to know about her. We live miles away from anyone. We can keep her isolated…” He nodded as he spoke, as if assuring himself that his plan was fool-proof.
“Imradil, that’s treason!” Raya said, shocked. “Besides, living in isolation is no way for a child to grow up!”
Imradil fixed Raya with such an malevolent glare that she shrunk back into her pillows and put a protective arm across her baby.
“Raya, there is no way that our child is going to Monarch City,” he growled. “Don’t you dare argue with me about this. Ever. Do you hear? This child will grow up in isolation. No one will ever know about her. You won’t tell anyone, and I won’t tell anyone.”
Raya didn’t dare answer and instead looked down, in submission, to her child. Raya gently stroked her daughter’s pink cheeks.
I’m committing treason for you, Baby, she thought, shaking her head slightly. Please be worth it.
What do you think? Do you like it? Does it all make sense? (Well, it's not all supposed to make sense yet.) Any constructive criticism?
I'm still not sure if I quite like the last half of The Prologue.... It just feels like it lacks something, but that could just be me.
Sometime in the near future I will write up a synopsis and post that as well. Perhaps I'll share a few of the characters sometime as well... But since I actually have no clue about most of them we'll see about that. (I have about eight characters - because they are from the board game - and only two of them have anything like a personality.)
Live long and prosper!