The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.
Remember this if you can:
Your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You are in the service to the Warlord’s clan in his mission to restore order to the Realm. Ask daily for your payments. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.
* * *
You three have collected your provisions—corn, corn and more corn. You gathered in the same alley as yesterday, in between the charred husks of houses. Once you started eating, you wondered if some of the ash didn’t make it into your food. If you happen to wake up tasting it, you’ll have a small understanding of the ordeal it was to choke down that bile.
“War’s a bitch,” Anthea said, “What did they do to this food?”
“Might be the seasoning,” you suggested.
Clarissant giggled, pinkish corn-juice drooling down her chin. She wiped it away with the back of her hand. “You don’t season corn!”
“Says who?” Anthea interjected, spooning hers into her mouth with two fingers
“Might be someone thought to use a heap of soil,” You suggested as you gagged on the last mouthful. “Perhaps they needed a light garnish.”
Before Clarissant or Anthea could respond, you three noticed a boy staring at you from the other end of the alley.
He looked like a skeleton; he’d only a shadow of skin and a face that pocketed deep-sunken eyes that couldn’t remember to blink. His tunic was torn and he was caked with road-dirt and dust. One side of his yellow hair had been matted down and crusted with dried blood. Whether it belonged to him or someone else, you couldn’t say. He had only one leg and leaned on a makeshift wooden crutch for support.
You never knew people came that small.
Clarissant shouted at him; and then kept shouting until the boy hopped over to you. She tried to impress the boy with her longsword, but the one-legged boy only held out cupped hands, saying the same word over and over, as if he couldn’t hear her.
The word was foreign, though its meaning was discernible. “Food,” he was saying. “Food, food.”
So Clarissant gave up, laughed and dribbled some corn into the boy’s tiny hands.
Then Anthea called the boy over and closed his small, dirty fingers over the corn. She whispered something you didn’t understand. Then the boy hopped off, plucking the corn into his mouth.
You asked Anthea what she said, ignoring Clarissant’s rhythmic chanting of, “One leg…one leg…one leg…” as she stared blankly into space.
“I told him to be careful—made sure he knew not to let anyone see his food—” Anthea stopped to smack the back of Clarissant’s head. “Stop staring!”
“Lord of Bones, that’s a boy with one leg!” Clarissant said. She turned you then with a smile like a curved dagger. “Some poor soul must have miswung.”
You decided you’d had enough of Clarissant and went off to forget her. But she and Anthea followed you, reasoning it was dangerous to leave you alone for very long (I happen to agree). Though they bickered through the whole walk until you found a river just outside the town. It looked like the best spot to rest for a while.
You sat there and watched your reflection. You put your feet in the river and contemplated everything you’d read from me. Thoughts of a siege rattled your mind. You bunched up your cloak, as grey as the ashen streets back in the city. You wondered what might happen to Clarissant and Anthea during the siege. You thought they had been as siblings to you. Though you weren’t even sure how long or how well they knew you.
You churned through your empty head for some god to pray to, but nothing came. You reread what I told you about lightning lords long ago and you realized that you didn’t—or perhaps couldn’t—believe in such things. Gods? Fate? Comforts. Do you think this is happening for a reason?
You didn’t have time to contemplate this, for you heard Clarissant shouting and Anthea rising to her feet. You three rushed back to the ravaged town.
“The enemy is here!” Anthea breathed. From just over a hill, you saw banners snapping and metal clanking, pikes and swords peeking over the apex.
“Get ready to fight, Carth,” Anthea shoved you forward. “Move! Let’s go!”
And you did. You fought the monstrous warband. Look for their blood on your sword. And you’re using red ink—or has it dried to brown by now?
Has it taken you this long to realize you didn’t hang on to any spare berries last night? All you need is a thin stick to write with. Crude, yes, but it gets the job done.
Special thanks to my patron on Patreon, Alicia Cameron