Continued from Part II… or Start from the beginning…
I awoke what seemed like seconds later. Nothing had changed, except for my little companions. The children were spread out in the field around me. Some of them were playing games: cards, something similar to chess, and some strange game that I hadn’t seen before that involved little glass beads and wooden figurines. Others of the group were lounging in the sun and talking about many things. I looked up and saw that the sun was still in the same place.
The leader, when he saw that I was stirring, came over and asked how my sleep was. I replied that it was quite refreshing, then I paused. The children were now speaking in whispers and the games had ceased entirely. I heard a faint noise in the distance, from where I had entered the wood. “Come with me,” the leader said, in a grave tone. We headed back down the path, towards the bridge and river. The noise grew in ferocity as we neared the entrance of the wood. A storm was raging on the other side of the river! The wind was howling and the water was roaring under the bridge. The trees on the Eastern bank of the river were being ripped and torn from their bases. The rain fell in massive torrential sheets as the river raged down its path. The Eastern bank, however, was completely still. We stood under the sun, which still hadn’t moved, and watched the storm unfold on the other bank. The rain came no further than the halfway point of the river, and even the mad waves of the river did not wet the nearest half of the bridge. The child king motioned for me to follow him back through the wood.
“You have, unknown to yourself, committed a grievous misdeed,” he said, once we had arrived back in the field. “You have angered the river, and he does not lightly forgive the misdeeds of those he does not love.”
Forgetting for a moment that many strange things happen in this land, I was exceedingly perplexed. I had yet to upset any of the local spirits, so this was an odd concept to me. Questioning the leader, he explained that it would be better to tell me about this land, so that I would better understand the situation. This is the story, as he told it.
“I was once a king, a powerful lord of great lands. These, my people, only children to your eyes, are the remainder of my subjects. Our kingdom was but a smaller part of one great king’s realm. He had three sons, Tharen, Faren, and one whose name is no longer remembered in our stories. Our kingdoms were mighty, and peace was the only conflict we knew. I am Tharen, the eldest of the sons of the high king. Our father was of the pure council that purged the world in the beginning of our time, yet they did not cast out all of the darkness, for fell creatures still lurk and the spirits are still swayed to the accomplishment of evil.
In the 73rd year of the reckoning of man we, as a trio of brothers, were deemed fit to rule our own lands. Our father gave to each of us an equal share of land and subjects–each realm matching the character of its new lord. To Faren he gave the great plateaus and flat lands bordering the seas, for Faren loved harnessing nature and the power contained within. He could always be found on a horse or in a boat, wrestling with an unbroken stallion or fighting to master the wind and currents in his favorite vessels.
The mountains and wide bodies of water to the East he gave to his other son; his name we no longer speak. He was fond of dark places and mighty structures and also of books. The caverns and ancient fortresses were the places in which he was to be found. He meddled in areas in which he should never have meddled, and he trespassed in areas that should have never been found by men. We were quick to trust and too easily blinded by our own faith. Even my father was caught in the snare that was drawn around our land.
To me was given the wooded areas and wide fields that rimmed the grand castle of my father. The love of the forests and animals of the field was strong in my heart. I spent all of my time wandering through the woods, making music and speaking with the keepers of the forest. The guardians of the wood were my friends, they taught me all that they knew of the wilderness and the wild.
My father was pleased with counseling his children, for he was now growing old, and his wisdom was very great. The high king of our land he became, and the Two Kingdoms of Tharen and Faren grew very mighty, yet the third kingdom to the East was quiet and small. The people moved underground and into the mountains, and seldom did we interact with the Easterners. Peace we still had from the conquests of our father, and war was a foreign concept to us. Strong armies and many soldiers we had, but our focus poured into the building of grandeur and show. At this time the guardians of the wood came into our lands and spoke with our people, the Faren made a pact with the people of the water, and great pearls and mighty blocks of coral were exchanged for our best instruments of stone and rare metals. Our kingdoms were mighty, and peace was the only conflict we knew. Shadows, however, are most dangerous when they are cast by those whom we trust.”