Chapter 1: A Soldier
The skies grow dark, clouds gathering and obscuring the sun in an instant. Dark strands dance around in the heavy mist, engulfing the legs of a tall man. He stands in a small clearing, the rocks under his feet eroded and cracked with age; a single upright stone stands in the centre of the area, darkness streaming from it. The man is looking down, so that his leather hat obscures his stern face. He wears a battered long coat and padded boots, each covered with buckles and straps, with no apparent purpose. An aura of loneliness surrounds him, as the strands climb his legs, grappling and reaching for his waist. They rise slowly, consuming him in pure darkness, his arms limp at his sides.
As the black smoke reaches his neck, the man's head jerks back, revealing his corroded features. He has a large scar cutting across his left eye and cheek, raised above his pale, wrinkled skin, which clings to his face as if it has been there for generations. He does not appear old in age, but aged by experience and loss. It is clear that this man has been a soldier; his belt holds an ornate scabbard, which contains a tired sword, its handle worn and damaged. But the soldier is a broken man, no sense of hope or purpose in his eyes. His spirit has been crushed.
As the darkness consumes his face, his thin lips part in a scream. His eyes begin to glow, white light streaming out, pursued by the smoke. He spreads his arms to the sky as he is enveloped in hatred. The last of the light is replaced, a shudder passes through his body, the tendrils of darkness release him and re-join the cloud that surrounds the man.
He falls to his knees, lifts his head and smiles to the sky, he draws his sword and uses it to lever himself from the ground. He turns and leaves the clearing, stepping into the cover of the trees.
A soldier leaned against the worn bricks of the strongest fort in Ssynov, his back aching from many hours of staring across the valley for any hint of danger. Every guard knew there was no chance of attack, there hadn’t been so much as a sighting for well over a decade – since the fall of the Galertine Empire. But still their watch continued, to reassure the citizens of a great city that they were still safe. Shifting his weight off his still-unused sword, he stood up, still looking across the valley. He turned to return to his post, but caught a glimpse of something in the corner of his eye. He couldn’t be sure so looked again – nothing, just his tired eyes playing tricks on him. He turned and walked back to his post.
As he arrived, he found Commander Vurl waiting for him, sword unsheathed. He seemed concerned, twitching, constantly glancing around as if surrounded. The soldier snapped his heels together and brought his arm to his head in a salute.
"We don't have time for this Stenar, we're under attack! Get that sword ready and hold this post, you know the protoco-"
"What?" His voice raised, showing the tension that had built within Vurl's mind. "You are wasting my time, prepare yourself!"
"But who is attacking, Sir?"
"How the hell should I know Stenar? Why does it matter? Get on with your job and let me do mine."
"Yes, Sir." Stenar submitted as Vurl barged past him and jogged towards the next post.