A Tale of the Second Lichaf
Of the Life of Eudo the Wanderer
Beneath my feet, the stone floor seemed even colder than usual. Louder, too. I shook slightly and remembered that I was following someone. I glanced up at Lord Yaro just in front of me, walking as one who is master of the very ground beneath him, leading me to some unknown place. I glanced down again, fearful that I might catch his gaze. I was still in disbelief.
“Do you know why I asked for you?”
I was unsure what to do. I, not yet a Master, would never be allowed to address a Lord except in the most formal of exchanges.
“Never mind the protocols, Eudo. I asked you a question.”
My heart skipped a beat. “I…I do not know, sir.”
“Surely you must have some idea.”
I did, but I had no notion of what he intended to do with me.
“Because of my outburst, sir. I don’t know what came over me, truly I-”
He stopped and turned rapidly.
“But you do, Eudo. You know quite well what happened.”
His eyes were fierce yet smirking. Part of me wished he would turn away. Part of me demanded it.
“You were angry at him, weren’t you? You’re angry at all of them. Tell me, how long have you harbored resentment for your superiors?”
What was he saying? Was he teasing me? Did I stand a chance at forgiveness? I tried to apologize.
“Resentment can be a powerful force, Eudo. You’re stronger than you realize.”
I stood agape. He turned back again and continued walking towards a strange circular doorway.
“But strength must be channeled toward a greater goal, or else you are merely an animal. Do you understand?”
I nodded dumbly.
“Good. Leave your staf here, then.”
“Do as I command.”
Slowly I placed my staf near the door. I felt strange. Not because I had neglected my staf, but because I had been ordered to.
“You have broken a chain that binds you” said Yaro.
He raised his own staf and muttered a word. The staf glowed and the door responded. It rolled sideways into the wall as Lord Yaro turned toward me again.
“Come. There is much for you to learn.”
In the room beyond, the light from Lord Yaro’s staf served to guide us through an endless sea of darkness. He spoke again. “You have learned to hate the Federation. Why?”
He started again before I could answer.
“You’re too cowardly to answer truthfully, so I’ll tell you. Eudo, you hate the Federation because it controls you. You hate how most of your adolescence was spent as a lowly harowin, how when you became a sorcerer you were still constrained. How even now, almost a Master, they still have you on the tightest leash they can find. Is that not so?”
He didn’t look at me but continued walking. I thought about my desires. My instincts told me to deny them, to lie as I had for years. But something in his voice compelled me. And deep inside, I felt a force, something that told me that my obedience was nearing an end. I was frightened, but finally I answered “Yes, it is so.”
We stopped. I began to notice faint lights penetrating the darkness beyond. Yaro spoke.
“Then you are very lucky to have me as your protector.” He leaned close to me and whispered “They know, Eudo. They know much more than you realize.”
It was impossible. No, I thought, no! No one has ever discovered it. If they had, I would be dead already. I decided to keep quiet. He continued.
“When I asked if you harbored resentment toward the Federation, Eudo, it was very much a rhetorical question. I have seen your secret journal.”
“No!” I stammered, “it, it wasn’t mine, I was just-“ I stopped. What was I saying? Could I deny my secret powers anymore. Should I?! The old rage from minutes ago started to reawaken. I cursed myself for my cowardice. Yaro continued again.
“One of my subordinates found it in a secret search of your quarters. I know of your experiments. Your power over…what did you call them? Oh yes, shinons.”
My body felt cold as I resigned myself to my fate. Surely now he meant to condemn me. And those lights around us. They must be guards, come to take me to my cell.
“Show me” he whispered, “I order you.”
“Very well” I replied, “I hide it no longer.”
Slowly I raised a shaking hand. I had practiced many hidden hours, so that by now my powers felt almost routine. Except that this was anything but a routine situation. I said nothing, only concentrated. I felt a jolt of energy, as always, and suddenly a bright, yellow spark appeared at my fingertips. I removed my hand and the spark remained motionless in the air. Then my thoughts combined with small motions to guide it back and forth, and for that one moment I was lost in my own creation.
“Excellent” said Yaro.
His voice brought me back to my senses. The shinon vanished as I retracted. I felt ashamed and worried. And then angry at my own sense of shame, at my inability to control my emotions. I felt confused.
“I warn you” said Lord Yaro, “never show that to anyone else. You realize you’ve just committed an extremely grave offence.”
He smiled. “And that is your redemption.”
I jerked my heard upward to meet his gaze. “What do you mean?”
“The world is full of beasts, Eudo. Your Masters, your classmates, almost everyone you know is merely a beast, powerful and yet mindless. They are conquered.”
I didn’t understand his tone of voice.
“b- by whom?”
“By whom?!” he bellowed, “Can you not admit that which you already know?! The superiors! Your Lords and your Masters and your Hierarchs! Whomever is above you wishes to enslave you. Is that not what you have discovered?”
His words echoed everywhere, like the rapids of a river. Then he lowered his voice.
“They’re afraid of you, of anyone who is Gifted. But you especially, because you are powerful. And you have begun see through their lies.”
What did he mean?
“I observed your Ascending Trials, Eudo, and the Lords who decided your fate. You wondered, perhaps, why you did not earn the rank of Master? It was because you think, Eudo. You realize their follies. They know your thoughts. They have seen the fire as I have seen it. Thus, they deny you authority.”
“And now, they’re finally done with you. You will die.”
“Keep up, boy, or I’ll leave you behind. Did you not hear me when I said they knew everything? I am not the only one who has seen your secret journal.”
I froze. “You mean-“
“They have it, Eudo. For some time now they have discussed your fate. Some thought you might be broken. But I’m sure your outburst today was too much for them. Even as we speak, the journal is being fetched from your quarters. It is being delivered as evidence for your trial. By morning you will be summoned before a council of Lords, and then even I cannot protect you from your fate.”
My muscles were aching from the simple strain of life. “Then….I will die.” I said unto the silence.
“Unless…” he hissed, “we do something about it.”
He struck his staf upon the ground and it glowed fiercely. Soon it was joined by 7 more lights around us. I spun to see we were surrounded by 7 mysterious sorcerers. Each face was hidden beneath the shadow of a cloak.
“These” said Yaro, “are my shadows, my loyal extensions. And this…” he turned to a wall and tapped it with his staf, “is the outside world.”
From the point of contact the stone wall groaned and deformed, till a great ripple pulsed slowly across it. At Yaro’s urging the ripples increased in speed and intensity, so that the entire wall was like some sickening liquid. Then suddenly it vanished entirely. And I saw the outside world.
In a great cacophony of force and sensation, worlds poured forth before me. Things forgotten since childhood came flooding into my consciousness. Grass, and wind, and sky! Dark sky, I noticed. Brooding, storming, filled with rage. But not raining. Lightning crashed as Yaro’s loyal shadows stepped out with him. I followed bewildered and Yaro spoke again. “Take heed, Eudo” he shouted over the thunder “we are at the center of Morentoff. And you are within my power.”
I remembered the staf I had left behind. Perhaps it was a test. If I followed him, then I trusted him not to harm me. But my thoughts were swept away with another gust of wind. I felt tears on my face without understanding them. A shadow returned leading- horses! How long had it been since I had seen one!
“Mount up!” shouted Yaro. His shadows obeyed readily and I scrambled to mimic them. “Tonight, a courier travels across this field carrying Eudo’s secret journal, among other things. We will intercept this courier and remove him from our concern. Are you ready, Eudo?”
Remove him? Could he mean-
“Are you leaving us, Eudo? Do you doubt my words? Or are you simply too frightened to defy the ones who enslave you?”
Frightened? No, I couldn’t be, I couldn’t allow myself. But still my heart was aching.
He approached. “For years now you have criticized Masters in your heart, but you were too cowardly to admit it. But today I saw something in you. I saw the fire within. You are no beast. Join me, and you will be slave no longer. We shall be the conquerors, and they shall be the slaves!”
He expected some answer from me, but I faltered.
“Think about it. For now…” he turned to address his shadows, “we ride!”
9 horses thundered forward like the very lightning that lit their path. Tightly I gripped the great mass below me, knowing not what to think. Or how to think. My dreams, my dreams of freedom, my passion for it, was all that to be satisfied? But, but what Lord Yaro said. About being the master rather than the slave. Somehow I didn’t like it. And somehow, I was still angry.
A shadow raised his staf high above him, and then thrust it forward to fire a beam of light. It stuck the ground and I caught a glimpse of our quarry. “There!” Yaro shouted. Soon all 7 of the shadows were firing rapidly, and the courier’s horse flailed about as we surrounded him. He fell to the ground with a bone-cracking thud and screamed in pain. Lord Yaro raised a hand and the firing ceased. Then he dismounted and motioned for me to follow. As I obeyed I noticed the courier frantically scramble in place, unable to stand and fearful of moving. I didn’t like this. I didn’t like it at all. He held up a paper as Lord Yaro slowly approached.
“Let me pass!” he squealed, “I have orders from the Hierarchs!”
The thunder continued. He seemed so young…
Lord Yaro spoke softly, “I have no interest in the opinions of the hierarchs.” He swatted the symbol aside, then turned to the courier’s bag lying at his feet. First he removed several papers and hid them in his cloak. Then he tossed me a most familiar book.
“I believe that is yours” he said. I looked down at what I held. It was, indeed, my secret journal. So Lord Yaro had been right all along. But what had he meant by “remove him?” I heard something. Suddenly the courier lunged- he wasn’t crippled at all! A blade flashed in his hand as he vaulted toward Lord Yaro-
-but it was not to be. Lord Yaro dodged and struck viciously with his staf. The courier fell to the ground again, this time seriously wounded. His knife flew though the air and stabbed through the ground near my feet. Yaro spoke to him.
“I’m afraid, young courier, that according to the official records, you weren’t scheduled to deliver this package.”
The courier looked deeply frightened. Yaro continued without pausing “Therefore, you are trespassing on these grounds. And I have no choice but to kill you.”
“Kill him?!” I blurted “but he-“
“I have already explained myself” snapped Yaro “And you had best respect that.” His staf began to glow again. “Besides, he is a lowly harowin. No one will miss him.”
Time froze. No one moved. No one breathed. For me there was nothing but the thunder. Thunder, and the pounding of my heartbeat. I felt my muscles changing as I crouched down, and I knew what I would do even before I knew why. This anger, this world, was there no escape from anything? Lord Yaro was my hope, my salvation for that short hour, as he embraced my rebelliousness, and promised me freedom in return for my obedience. But now I saw. He was nothing more than another Lord, another beast in this madhouse of control. And now he would kill this “lowly harowin” simply to satisfy his own designs. My hand reached down toward its target. My legs prepared to do their part. Lord Yaro’s staf glowed mightily red with fire, gloating above the helpless courier, and a swirling red mass of power surrounded them entirely. My hands felt cold steel. They gripped the handle of the knife which had fallen before me. I began my cry of anguish. Time started once more.
I leapt toward my enemy, slammed into his body, and knocked him to the ground below me. Suddenly I was glaring down at him, knife raised above his throat, ready kill the Lord Yaro and his web of lies, kill him in vengeance for all I had lost, for all they had taken, all of them! Shinons burst forth madly all about me. And I stopped. And I was horrified.
“Young fool” he whispered.
I had known from the beginning that I could not kill him. Now I faced the pain for my actions. Seven stafs of seven loyal shadows fired upon me, and a breaking occurred within. They had cursed my body, and I held no staf as protection. I was lost.
I don’t remember much after that, only coldness. I don’t know how long they kept me jailed, but after some time they brought me to trial. I was bound by many chains, and separated from my staf by dozens of guards. I held no fire anymore, only ashes. There were many people about me, but little light to see them. And high above me was a great impenetrable shadow. At its center was a Hierarch, whom no one was allowed to see. Much was said, but I didn’t hear it, until I realized they had asked me a question. “We say again, criminal, what do you expect as your punishment?”
Spark. It lit within me again, the old flame. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t right, none of this was right. “The graying.” I replied. “To see my staf dispirited. To be branded as a Derelict, To lose my power over magic. To wither and die within a day.” Inside I battled with myself, to contain my emotions but I was sick of being contained! After all my years of obedience, this was my only reward. I was tired, and I was angry, and I was everything. I just wanted freedom. Freedom from this madness they had bestowed upon me.
Spark spark. Light touched upon my eyes. Shinons lit within my hands, and I saw the way. “Eudo the Sorcerer” they bellowed, “trained by the grace of Morentoff, you are sentenced to-”
“AARGH!” I poured forth with power! Shinons blazed about me, and I ran for the exit. None of them flinched, for they knew I could not escape their judgment. “Begone!” I screamed, “Begone!” I ran through the halls, up to the surface, over the outer walls. It was at that moment my staf was dispirited by the red lightning of the Lords. I felt it in my soul, and my shinons left me, and I fell.
I remember well the sadness I felt as I, in that jungle beyond the boundaries of Morentoff, wept at the sight of my hands, my body, as the rain began to pour. I was turning gray. The gray mark. Now they would not bother to find me, for I would be dead soon. No sorcerer can live long without his magic. And no magic can survive without a powered staf. And mine was lost. I reached out to touch a flower. It withered and died in response. I wept again.