This is the tale of perhaps the greatest sorceress ever to set foot in the land of Arda, a young swordsman, and an old wizard, who travel to the Forest of Eridor.
The question is, where to begin. I could start at the beginning of time. There are so many stories that I could go on for pages before coming within five thousand years of the story I’m about to tell.
Well, I suppose it starts in a small village, high in the mountains. It’s the home of an old man named Gul, whose talents lie in the art of sorcery. His grandchildren love the tricks he plays, wishing they could wrap the elements around each other to form flowers and butterflies. He seems sad that none of them have inherited his powers, but secretly he’s glad, for he knows that magic has a darker, more dangerous side than tricks of illusion and bursts of different coloured lights.
A long time ago there had been a great war between the magicians who abided by the laws of nature and the ones who didn’t. It lasted one hundred years and many lives were lost. Finally the common people rose up and called for peace. They decreed that there was never to be a ruler with magic again.
The old man remembered the war well. His brother had been killed along with so many other friends and family members. He and his wife had been in the same company. That was how they met, age sixteen. They had run away after his brother was killed, and came to live in the mountain village. She’d been one of the most powerful healers in the province.
Years passed and Gul’s wife became ill. Even her healing skills couldn’t save her. Gul tried every spell he knew, but none of his magic was powerful enough and she died soon after.
Gul couldn’t live with the pain and went to live as a shepherd in a small hut, higher in the mountain. There he lived for many years, until a young girl and her twin brother arrived.
They’d been sent to learn how to control the magic that was spilling out of them. Their parents had tried to teach them, but having no magical talent themselves, had no idea where to start. Finally, after an incident where half a field of grain had been destroyed, the elders of the village decide that, for the good of all, they would have to learn magic elsewhere.
The boy, Hoth, was a quick learner and had control over his magical powers within a matter of weeks. The girl, Meleth, was making little progress, even though she seemed to have far greater powers than her brother.
Hoth soon showed great talent at healing and Gul sent him off to the city of Ankh, to train under the most highly gifted healers in the twelve kingdoms.
Meleth, on the other hand, seemed to be getting worse at controlling her magic and better at destroying things. Gul taught her some simple spells, and she wanted to learn, but after she almost destroyed the house, Gul decided he needed some help.
He sold his sheep and they caught a ride in a farmer’s wagon to the closest town. They booked a room at the inn, before settling down to eat at a table nestled in a corner.
They hadn’t been seated long before the door burst open and in marched a mean looking man, dragging a younger man by the collar of his shirt.
“Look who I found lurking out back!” he boomed, thrusting the younger man at the barman, “Megil was poking things with that needle of his again!” He announced to the room. A couple of people laughed.
Megil wriggled free and said indignantly, “It’s a sword! Not a needle. And I wasn’t poking things. I was practicing.”
“For what?” The man sneered, “To fight imaginary dragons?”
“I wouldn’t expect a man who doesn’t know the difference between a cow and a sheep to understand,” the boy replied sharply.
The man growled and lifted his hand.
“Now, now. No fighting in my bar. Megil, apologise.” The barman interrupted.
“But why should I?” Megil asked, sullenly.
The barman sent him a hard glare.
“Ok, ok. I’m sorry that the truth may have caused you insult, but you really have to face up to the fact you’re an idiot.”
“Megil, out!” The barman spoke firmly, still glaring at him.
Megil stalked out of the door, and slammed it behind him. The room was quiet for a while, then the usual chatter and clatter picked up again.
Meleth left Gul to the tankard of ale he was in the proceeds of drinking, and crept out into the night, after the boy.
She found him round the back, taking his anger out on a bale of hay. She watched him for a few minutes, hidden in the gloom, until he seemed to have calmed down and was dancing this way and that, fighting the shadows.
“Megil?” she whispered. He jumped and spun round, sword still in hand.
“Who are you? What do you want?” he asked, looking round wildly.
She stepped out into the light,
“I’m Meleth. I saw what happened in the inn. Who was the man?” she asked.
“That was Cabor, Lant the barman’s brother. He doesn’t like me.”
She laughed, “I can tell!”
He looked at her, and said, “What’s someone like you doing in a rundown town like this?”
“Oh, just passing through. We’re leaving tomorrow.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Really? I’ve always wanted to go on an adventure, but I’m stuck here with old Cabor.” He sighed.
She looked at him thoughtfully, “Maybe you could come with us, if you wanted? We could use a good swordsman.”
“Are you sure?” He asked. She smiled, nodding. “I’d love to, anything to get away from here!” He grinned.
“Meet us at the Goodman’s stables at noon, and we’ll see how good you really are with that sword.”