Near the east edge of the kingdom of Litrios, lies the small village of Julip. It is nestled between the sea to the east, the Prodigious mountains to the west and the meeting of those borders in the north. The only viable paths into the central area of the kingdom is to the far south following the mountain range until it wanes and circling back north once cleared. On a cool day in late autumn two brothers explore the forest between the village and the mountains. The boys were sent to collect firewood by their mother, she had given them ample time to unwind before completing their task. Bryan and Daniel each held a stick in his hand and faced the other. Daniel let out a grunt and thrust his mock sword toward his brother but Bryan side stepped to his left and swatted it to the right with his own stick. Daniel overbalanced and toppled, sprawling on the ground with a thud. "Good thrust" Brian remarked, "make sure you don’t over commit or you’ll leave yourself open to a counter attack." Daniel sat up and nodded, rubbing his right shoulder.

The brothers had been practicing in the forest since their father was called to defend the kingdom and never returned, around four years ago. Though Bryan had many fond memories of their father, Daniel had fewer, only being 6 years old at the time. He adjusted as well as any 10 year old could, watching over his brother and passing on the techniques his father had taught him. Before he left, their father told Bryan to protect his mother and brother while he was gone and he would be back soon. A few months later his mother was told that his fathers entire squad had been lost on a mission into enemy territory. His mother never told them but he was eavesdropping when the soldiers informed her. So he did everything possible to help his mother and learned as much as he could from other people in the village to prepare himself for anything that may come. "Time to go," Bryan said offering his brother a hand and pulling him up.

"What’s for dinner, Bryan?" Daniel whined as they picked up their bundles of firewood and began to walk back to where they had entered the forest, "I’m hungry."

"Whatever it is, it will be cold unless we get this wood home soon" Bryan replied, nudging his brother along.

They continued on the trail toward the village, chatting about their practice and improvement they could make, enjoying the late autumn day. It wasn’t until they cleared the last few large clusterd of trees approaching the village that they could see the smoke and hear the screams.

Bryan cast aside the firewood and sprinted down the dirt road, Daniel following his lead. He could smell smoke from burning houses and hear the sounds of women screaming, children crying and the ringing of steel on steel as men of the village fought the unkempt looking invaders. The villagers proved to be outmatched by their attackers, made evident by the increasing dead and injured falling to the ground. Bryan ran through the turmoil avoiding the clashes focusing on finding his mother only slowing for an instant to snatch a sword near a fallen villager.

"Stay here, out of the doorway" Bryan ordered, glancing at Daniel, who had again mimicked his brother and procured a sword of his own. The door was hanging open and he approached slowly, gripping the sword tightly. His mother was inside, three men grabbing at her as she struggled to get away. "Let go of my mother!"

The men turned to look at him with pure malice in their eyes. "What are you going to do about it, boy?" chuckled one of the men. Bryan buried his overwhelming fear and started to walk into the room, the sword suddenly feeling heavier in his hand.

His mother seized the opportunity and freed her right arm, scratching one of the men across the face partially gouging his eye. She kicked the groin of another with all her strength and screamed "Run, Bryan! Take Daniel and ru…” Her words were cut short by the blade of the third man as it ran across her throat.

Bryan watched in terror as his mother’s body fell to the floor and the two men she attacked began to recover and move toward him. His terror turned to rage, like none he had ever felt before. He let out a primal roar "NOOOOOO!!!" and there was nothing but a blinding white light.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1