In a dimmed room with a gloomy light, behind the wooden table, sat a commander. With drapes down blocking the views of the window, the only light source in the room is a few candleholders lit up and a small oil lantern on the desk. There is also a messy stack of papers. Commander sits in a leather chair, flicking his quill. He was lost in his thoughts.
"Man, these financial reports are such a pain." he thought to himself. "Why don't they copy the previous one? It's not like much has been happening lately. The federation is stable, and kingdom governments handle the internal issues, so the last few years have been a neverending holiday. Even the soldiers are getting rusty."
And just as he thought about how monotonous his duty was, a hard-knocking broke his train of thought.
"Enter," he said in a loud formal voice. The door slowly creaked as a soldier was trying to enter the room. "I really need to get a handyman to fix that creaking." he thought as he twitched to the sound.
"Sir, I'm sorry for the interruption, but I'm here to deliver the news of great urgency." said the soldier as he lined up to receive further instruction.
"Well, don't just stand around then. Give me the report, soldier," he said. "Sir, there has been an incident in a village on the outskirts of Himnariki kingdom. Kapehu issued a mandate for our corps to start preparations and head out. I'm also to brief you on the report from the village."
"Why is a village incident a matter of federation jurisdictions. I think local town militia could have handled it rather than have us travel hundreds of kilometers." the commander protested.
"I don't know, sir. But it is important enough that Kapehu gave the order himself. Let me brief you on the correspondence we've received from the local enforcement." he said and proceeded to read the report.
A small village called Levamentum, counting less than 2000 people, was known for their local medicine, and people traveled from across the land to purchase rare potions made there. A merchant one day arrived at the village only to discover heinous horror. He ran away and after coming to our town has reported the situation and we've dispatched a small scouting party. What they've found was disturbing. Upon entering the village, they've discovered corpses of people on the ground. The entire place smelled of foul stench, yet there were no signs of a fight. It seemed like people were running from something. The ground was covered with soot and ash. There was no blood, corpses had holes on their bodies as if something stabbed through them, but instead of bleeding, there were dark marks around the holes as if something just burned the insides. Following the trail of bodies, a pattern indicated they were running away from the local temple. The surrounding infrastructure, as far we could tell, was not damaged. There were holes in the ground throughout the path to the temple. We assume whatever attacked these people came from those holes.
We've entered the temple. The room for mass and altar were damaged as cracks could be seen in both furniture and on walls. The weird thing found were traces of permafrost in some of the gaps; we suspect someone was using crystals to create ice, as to why we couldn't find the answer. The door to the room behind the altar was broken. As we entered the room, a mattress was ripped to shreds, a ceiling lamp still lit, and the shelf completely destroyed. All point out that there were signs of struggle. Behind the wrecked door, on the floor, there was a dismembered hand, but no corpse was found in the proximity. And on the wall above the hand, a message was written with blackened blood from soot. Besides the message, there were handprints as well. The message said: "My dearest Icarus, I finally found it, but I lost everything. Please do not try to find me."
We now go back 25 years before Levamentum massacre to the village on the other side of the federation. Haugstad is a small fishing and water supply village located in the kingdom of Divinium. The village has around 5000 residents. Its infrastructure consists of buildings mostly made out of wood, with their foundations having stones joint by mud and tar. The village resides along the river on its left side and wheat fields on the right, two mills that produce flour for the residents. The only notable structures are the market hall used for welcoming traders and customers, the assembly hall where villages participate in social events of the village, and the local temple where faith known as "harmony" is worshiped.
A young boy named Heron lives in this village, being raised by his father, Haran. Heron has short dark brown wavy hair, and black eyes. He is a small kid with 1.2m in height and a slim body.
Haran was a former adventurer doing quests and errands for the kingdom of Divinium and its citizens. It is on these quests that he met his future wife. By law, both being adventurers, they couldn't settle down until they gathered enough money to buy a citizen certificate, so for the next few years, they worked tirelessly to earn money. And just as they were close to the goal, she became pregnant with Heron. As the birth due was coming, they found themselves near the city of Reitag. They've decided to have her give birth there. And services of a hospital were high since it was expected of adventurers to be giving birth before becoming citizens first. But they used some of the gathered money to pay the medical bills, and thus when the day came, the delivery was a success. And little baby boy they named Heron was brought to the world. But the joy of having a son was short-lived as Heron's mother died shortly after. Haran, now having spent the money, had a choice - abandon his son and have him the same childhood at the training camps or take chances with the baby on the road and hope he'll get accepted in some village and hope that he won't have a warrant for abandoning the service. So he decided to raise his son in a village, or if taken that someone would take in his son, so he wouldn't be raised in a camp.
After some tries and failures, he got lucky and found himself in the village of Haugstad. At first, there was concern among some villagers as there was a threat of them being sanctioned for providing shelter. Still, as a few years went by, Haran and his son became full members of the village, with Haran being elected the youngest chief after the previous one passed away.
As for Heron, he doesn't know much about his father's past. Haran chose not to reveal details from the past, fearing that the boy might tell someone who could cause them trouble. So as far as Heron knows, his father was a former adventurer that, after his mother's death, retired to the village. Haran vowed to make a peaceful life for Heron in the village on the dying bed of his wife, so ever since Heron could walk, Haran started teaching him skills required to be a proper contributor to the village.
And so Heron first started doing easy chores like cleaning and dishwashing, and moved up to doing small gardening choirs and even recently was taught how to use a knife to clean caught fish. As for fishing, Heron was too young. One of the issues Haugstad, and for that matter, other villages, had was sea creatures that would occasionally attack the fisherman.
But life in the village was not all work. There were occasional festivities like ceremonial fires featuring alchemists that would animate faces of wildlife in the ceremonial fire, food festivals, and wedding ceremonies.
This would seem like a beautiful life to live for those in the dark. At least so, Heron thought. But there were things set in motion that would break the illusion of harmony.
When Heron was eleven years old, it was the year when a drought had hit the kingdom, and many of the resources started being scarce in the towns. And so one day, a noble came with four guards who were his security. He stood at the entrance gate of the village, awaiting for the chief to arrive. Haran, who was with Heron at the fields, got notified and took leave, and Heron followed him.
Heron has never seen a noble. People of the cities, even the ordinary folk, don't interact with villagers.
This noble had a nice red wool coat, buttoned up with golden buttons, with decorations made with golden silk. In addition, he wore nice black wool pants and boots that seemed like they never touched an inch of the dirt roads. As for his physical appearance, the noble was of tall stature, had short black hair, trimmed black beard, and red eyes. In other words, he was wealthy enough to take care of himself, so he must have been an important person. And he was. He was a noble who served as a secretary to a local lord running the town of Reitag, which Haugstad was supplying with resources.
"I assume that you are the chief of this village," he said, sounding formal. "Yes, your grace, I'm Haran of Haugstad. To what do we own the honor of having you rejoice us with your presence?" he asked, trying to sound as humble as possible.
"I'm here to inform you that the Lord of Reitag has requested that you double the number of vegetables and the fish you have been providing."
Haran stood frozen and uneased. Heron has not seen his father like this. The sweat started to drip slowly, and Haran did his best to clean it off before proceeding to respond.
"I'm sorry, your grace, but what we sent to the town was already at our maximum capacity; the villagers would start starving if we increased it. Are there not other villages that can provide their output? I'm sure this drought will pass, and we'll be able to provide you with enough resources soon."
"Is it not by the law of harmony that villages will be the lifeline of the towns and metropolises?" the noble asked, with his tone being more hostile.
"Well, yes, but..."
"We'll then there is nothing further to discuss. You've been given orders."
Haran felt powerless and fell on his feet, hoping that begging would make a difference.
"My grace, please... If people starve, there will be a lack of labor to supply the town. So please consider at least lowering the rate."
The noble now looked annoyed, and as moments passed, he got angrier.
"You low-life trash question decisions of the lord. I see that this drought was sent from the gods for a reason. It is there to remind you where your place is even as the times get dire."
He looked up at the sky and pointed to a cross-shaped grid that stretched across the sky.
"We sacrificed so much because of you people. That up there is all your fault. We are stuck in this prison and have been for two thousand star cycles (years), and I don't see an end to it. So as we pay this penance, it would be best if you remembered that before asking anything of us. Or maybe you think you can provide the savior that will bring it down?"
Haran lowered his head as replying would surely make the noble even angrier.
"I thought so. And though your lives are of little value, your deaths would be a nuisance. So to appease the gods and protect the harmony, I shall grant you mercy in their name. So instead of doubling, you'll provide a third more."
"Thank you! Oh, thank you so much, your grace." Haran cheered from the ground.
"Ew, your gratitude disgusts me," he said and turned to the guards. "We are leaving."
As the noble left, with Haran still kneeled on the ground having a hard time getting himself to stand up. Heron ran to his dad.
"Don't worry, dad, next time, I will beat that noble up. I will protect you." Heron said confidently. But Haran got petrified and yelled, "No!" so loud that Heron froze, and tears had started flowing down his cheeks.
Then, seeing his action, Haran composed himself and tried to talk with a more calming voice.
"My son, please, whatever you do, do not confront any noble. The moment you do, your life will be over. Nobles are not forgiving for anyone even talking back to them, let alone attacking them. They string you up between poles and leave you rotting, just to make an example. Remember, to them, we are subhumans. They blame us for events that transpired a long time ago, and so until a mage of seven spirit gems is born, we are to serve his people. Promise me that you will politely behave if he comes back."
"I...I promise," said Heron while wiping the tears.
"Good, now let's go home," he said and took Heron up in his arms as they walked away. Unfortunately for Haran, villagers who were also present for the event wouldn't be calmed so easily. Unrest among the villagers started to brew, and things escalated in the following days.
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