It started quiet. Maybe even a little too quiet. All he could remember was the ringing of silence in his ears as he sat up. He rubbed his eyes and slowly opened them. The room was cold, dark, and grim. Before him stood a man. A man with dark gray skin, hair as white as clouds, and a grin wider than the ocean itself. As he stood, the man helped him to his feet. He tried to speak, but all he could muster was a simple, “Wh-who a-am I?”
“You are my final heir. Your name is Artuck, and it means ‘Remembrance.’ To remember all that I have achieved. All I have done for you. You have four brothers, Artuck.” Artuck. My name? My name is Artuck. The man began to walk to a nearby table.
Artuck looked around the room. Made of stone, the room was dark, except for a small flame above the man’s head, like that of candlelight. The room was small, only about large enough for the bed Artuck awoke from, a table, with books and scrolls, and all kinds of parchment upon it, as well as another, smaller table with drawers, and an unlit lamp upon it. A tiny stool sat next to the bed. The man bent over the larger table, and began to pick and write upon a parchment there.
“And then who are you? My father?” The man chuckled to himself before turning towards Artuck.
“Sure, you could say that. But if you want the full answer, I made you, Artuck! I used my magic to-to-to create life! And you, my boy, are the perfected form! I shall help train you in the magicks I embedded within you, to become strong and powerful, like your father, and hopefully, one day, you will be powerful enough to dethrone even me! Oh, I may have gotten ahead of myself here. My name is Haldore. And you have my magic and memories within you.” Artuck cocked his head to the side.
“Memories? Why?” Haldore chuckled again, and this time, he put down the parchment and walked over to Artuck and rested a hand on his shoulder.
“So that you may perform basic tasks, such as standing, like you are now,” Haldore pointed down to Artuck’s feet, “and walking, talking, and the like. I had to teach your third brother how to walk, talk, and even eat!” Artuck looked down at the palms of his hands, before turning them over. These were his hands, and Haldore had made them for him. So that he may live.
“Alright, father, what do we do now?” Haldore removed his hand from Artuck’s shoulder and began to walk away, gesturing for him to follow. Artuck did so, and Haldore guided him to a balcony nearby, and as Artuck walked up to the railing, he took in the beautiful view that lay in front of him.
A massive lake, with the most blue water you’ve ever seen, and birds flying above it, swooping down to catch fish. And beyond the lake, a forest. A green, dark green forest. Full of life, full of color. As Artuck watched, he saw animals darting back and forth, and even some chasing others. Artuck wanted to be like these animals, to just run around and play.
All of a sudden, Artuck felt small. So very small. Artuck looked up and saw the railing now looming over him, and as Artuck went to scratch an itch on his face, he realized his small arms could not reach. And as Artuck looked down, he saw his hands were now small, little fluffy paws.
“Ahh, you are a quick learner, Artuck! Already you’ve used some of the magic I gave you to shapeshift! It took the eldest about a week to figure that out! I believe there is promise for you, Artuck. I made you so that you and your brothers may preserve the peace of Alteran, keep it stable, keep it secure.”
“ Come on now, we’ve got introductions to make.” Artuck once again found himself wishing it was easier to walk, and found himself transforming back into the original form he had. Haldore again ushered Artuck to follow, and as Haldore stepped into a new room, Artuck realized the room was very large. From what Artuck could see, the room had a very long table in it, high chandeliers, and a full wall of colorful windows.
“Percel! Marll! Krim! Totto! As promised, your brother, Artuck!” Artuck looked around but saw no one there in the hall. It was silent for a few moments, until a fly suddenly transformed into that of an elf, and stood before Artuck. The elf was very muscular, and tall. He stuck out his arm, beaming. The elven man looked to be of adult age, or at least, as a shapeshifter.
“Pehcel, bruv. Issa pleajuh tah meetcha.” Artuck slowly took his hand, and Percel immediately shook his hand with such vigor that it caught even Haldore off guard. Not a moment later, a bat came swooping down from the ceiling, before a black cloud of smoke appeared, and a dark elf dropped to the floor dramatically. Percel chuckled nervously before sticking his hands up as he backed away.
The dark elf was covered in dark clothes, complimenting that of his own body. The elf limbered over to Artuck, stuck out his hand for Artuck to shake, before immediately retracting it as if he’d changed his mind.
“Yo. Name’s Marll. Percel’s a bit over the top. And don’t point out his accent, got it? He was the first, after all. And the first is always a bit,” Marll lowered his voice to a whisper, “a bit messed up,” Artuck nodded sheepishly at Marll’s words before Marll simply followed after Percel. Percel shot a look of desperation towards Artuck before Marll slammed him into the ground, both of them laughing.
“Boys! How many times have I told you, no fighting in the grand hall?” The boys stopped laughing, and both nervously looked down at the floor, and Marll helped Percel to his feet as the third appeared. This one seemed to just pop, magically appear. The small elf stuck a hand up towards Artuck. The small figure appeared to have taken on the size of an elven child. Artuck, despite seeing the small creature, was not expecting the deep, gruff voice that would come from the small creature.
“Hi there! I’m Krim! I may not be the youngest, but everyone else seems to think so, so I’ll let them! After all, Daddy here fucked with one of my genes,” and Krim shot Haldore a menacing look, to which Haldore simply rubbed the elf’s head like a pet’s while chuckling nervously.
“Now, now, how was I supposed to know that magically splicing the genes of a rabbit was going to make you smaller than your brothers?” Krim rolled his eyes and looked away in the same manner as a stubborn toddler. Haldore opened his mouth to speak before he was interrupted by a much calmer tone.
“It’s quite alright, okay?” a gentle voice said. And yet another elf walked up. This one was lean, handsome, muscular, and from the looks of it, a bit cocky. He held his shoulders high. Very high. And the way he looked down to people made Artuck feel small. He stuck his hand out for Artuck to shake as he reached for it, the elf took him into a hug. A very tight hug, one filled with love and passion.
“Im Totto, the now second youngest. But, oh my gods, I’m so happy to have a younger brother! I was so lonely as the youngest! But now I’ll have you!” Artuck was running out of air very quickly, but the elf kept talking.
“I’ll protect you with my life, dear brother! After all, that’s why we were made! To look out for another and work together! And who better than a couple of brothers, am I right?” Finally Totto let go, and Artuck wheezed for air, bent over with his hands on his knees.
Haldore coughed, cleared his throat, and all the other brothers seemed to recognize the gesture, as they stood in a single line, shoulder to shoulder, with Artuck’s wheezing frame at the end.
“Artuck, when I clear my throat, like I just demonstrated, that means to snap to attention, as I have a task for you all. Now listen closely, you five. There’s rumor that a rebellion is starting–”
“Ageen?” Percel said.
“Again,” Haldore continued, “and I’m tasking you all to find out who is the mastermind behind it all. To find out who is their leader. Then simply capture them, and bring them to me, so that I may kill them. Insubordination will simply not be tolerated. I will destroy this rebellion, and preserve the peace I fought so hard to obtain. And you all will revel in all the spoils. Now, off you go, and Percel, Marll, you know how to reach me.” The others began to chatter amongst themselves before Totto reached around and grabbed Artuck, pulling him into the group.
“C’mon, you’re our brother. Don’t stand there awkwardly! We’ve gotten villains to chase down, after all!”
And so it went on like that, for the next fifty years. Artuck and his brothers infiltrated camp after camp to find the leaders, and extract them for ‘questioning.’ But no man who stands in the light for too long isn’t affected. And the brothers soon came to realize this, as they quickly learned that it was Haldore that had murdered hundreds of thousands of people. Innocent people, who wanted nothing more than to live a life free of oppression, to live freely without the fear of an almighty ruler.