Before it All Began...

It was the perfect day. Sol was shining, brighter and more vibrant than ever before. He sits in his perfect blue and purple sky like a pendant with no clouds to disrupt the beauty he would bestow, no unpleasant interruptions to guard against. The wind through the trees that brush so gently against the skin and the hushed sound of the calm flowing river lend their compliments to him, praising his light that warms them and his sacrifice that created them. It was truly a shining day for all in the kingdom of Joro, one that should not be squandered. 

Wesley stands overlooking the long road ahead. His dark red hair unkempt, his face drawn. He was the only blemish to be found on this particular perfect day. With his pack slung over his shoulder, he tries to feel as the river and flow as free as the wind, but his mind is troubled. He was off to abandon his life and begin anew in a place farther than he had ever traveled before.

The Dragon Guard offered all the prestige and rank a common man could ask for. It makes the poorest of the poor rich and the richest even richer. They were men, trained and bred for a single purpose, to defend the great kingdom of Joro against its most dangerous adversary, the ancient dragons of old, the Drakarians. They were both teacher and guardians of this earth. Once worshiped as Gods before man became too hungry for their own good. Wars were fought against them and peace was found with them, but after 200 years something changed. All trust was broken and words could do nothing against the sword.  King Ulfrick, whose family ruled over Joro for 200 years, decreed that all dragons be hunted for their crimes against humanity. Thus, the Dragon Guard was created. After years of strife and bloodshed, very few Drakarians remain against the onslaught set by the king. Most men joined his ranks for the honor to protect their kingdom and its people.  They are chosen for their bravery, honor or other admirable qualities, but Wesley possessed nothing that would abide by such specifications. He was not honorable nor brave. He did not care for the riches it would bring. There was only one thing that possessed him to leave everything behind, revenge.

An old man, gray but strong, stands closeby in the foreground of this perfect day. Horace was a far better man then he could ever hope to be. After the death of his daughter, Wesley’s wife and mother to his children, Horace did not hesitate to take the reigns and help raise his grandchildren. All their care would fall on him now. Every cry, every worry and every happy moment they would bring would be his to experience. Horace would be their father now...not him. It pained him so much knowing this truth and yet he was willing to carry it with him, knowing it was his decision to make. There was a far stronger force governing his life for some time now. The dragon beast that killed his wife, that took everything away from him, that caused him to question everything and everyone...he would find him.
"I don’t agree with this Wesley."
"I never asked for your approval. This is something I must do."
"For yourself, you do this only for yourself. What about your children..."
"They’re better off with you."
"You made a promise to her to protect them. Yer runnin’ away. Killing that dragon won’t bring her back. Even if he’s still out there ... you’re chasing a ghost for no one but yourself."

Horace was right as he always was. She would have wanted him to stay and be a good father to their children, but he couldn’t. He was sorry he could not keep his promise. He tried to forget but it’s hard to ignore such remorse when it stares you in the face day after day.
"These last few years...have been hard."
"They’ve been hard on all of us."
"I can’t even look at her anymore. Knowing what we know..I cannot..." To speak it aloud would only break him apart. He could not speak of it or dare think of it.
"You think you’re the only one that suffers from the truth? You’re a damn fool, Wesley. A damn selfish fool." He disappointment echoes within each word spoken.

Little footsteps draw their eyes away. There they were, each hand in hand. Elra, his eldest, looking angry and reluctant holds onto her little brother Arthur who holds on to their little sister...
They look so perfect on this already perfect day.
Horace walks to them, placing a hand on Elra’s shoulder. They all stand together, judging their father in their own way. He still had to say goodbye or at least try to. If they believed he would be back one day it might be easier for them. It might leave them with some hope that everything will be all right; that his decision was just. The little ones would be easy to convince, but Elra did not seem so easy to sway. Most children whose fathers and mothers were in the dragon guard seldom heard or saw them ever again. It was an occupation wrought with danger and death. Bragging rites aside, the once you joined the Dragon Guard you were a Guard for life. No mercy came to those who chose to abandon their standing. The only fate left for them was the ax.

Wesley bends down to face them properly. First to his eldest. Elra was angry and would not look at him. Her long plain brown hair hangs in her face like a protective wall. He pushes it behind her ears so he can get a proper look at her disgruntled disposition. She was stubborn just like her mother was.

"I am sorry I must go."
"No you’re not," she pulls away from him, "You want to leave us."
"You are angry and I understand that, but I will see you again."
"You’re lying, but I don’t care if you ever come back," she lets go of her brother’s hand and walks away. Wesley reaches for her but stops. She would never forgive him. Even before he has a chance to go, he already lost a child.
"Let her go," Horace speaks,  "Let her deal with this in her own way."
Wesley closes his eyes in acceptance. It hurt to see it but it could not be helped. It was better that she hated him now and not later, that she forget everything about him and never think of him again. Arthur, his only son, tugs on his arm, "She’ll be ok papa." He was so young but already responsible and caring. This brought warmth to his heart. Wesley ruffles his son’s dark hair, "You are the man of this family now my son. You must promise to protect everything that is smaller than you."

Arthur clutches onto his little sister’s hand tightly, "I promise papa." His eyes matched his own, but Arthur’s eyes possessed something his did not. They possessed hope. Wesley looks down to his son’s little hands clutching the other. There she was, the youngest and most precious. Named for her mother, Amalya resembled no one but her. Her skin was fair with rosy round cheeks and an infectious smile.  Only her strawberry red hair, which matched his own, was out of place. It was her eyes, those unnatural golden eyes, that always reminded him of the horrible truth he could no longer bear. They always saw him, always haunted him even in his dreams. Here was the constant reminder of his past. They carried nothing but pain for him. That is why he must go, so he can look at her and never be afraid to face the truth again.
A few stray tears escape him that he could not bear to hold back.  He wipes his hand across his face and takes a deep breath to gain his bearings. This may be the last time he will ever be with her again. Was it wrong that part of him was glad of it? Her tiny face sneaks into view, "Why are you crying, papa?"
"Because," looking up once again, "I am leaving you."
"You fight big horrible dragons! I want to fight them too!"
She was innocent and full of dreams on this perfect day. "You are still much too little my dear."
"When I grow up, I want to fight dragons just like you."
"If you are good and listen to your grandfather ... maybe one day you will."

She throws her little arms around him. Arthur follows her lead nudging in beside her. They squeeze his neck tightly. He holds them to him. It was brief but it was what he needed. How could he leave them? How could he willingly let this go? He was so selfish in his reasonings. They were reasons nonetheless and as much as he wished they could be easily set aside, it was impossible for him to let go. They were more important than anything now, even more, important than his innocent children he now holds in his arms. What kind of father would he be once this journey was at an end? ’Not a father at all, nothing at all.’
"Take care of your sister Arthur."
"I will papa, I promise."
"Who will I take care of?" Amalya frowns. Wesley brushes his thumb against her cheeks. He kisses her forehead and pulls himself away. He does not look at them again. If he did, he does not think he could leave them. Truthfully he was already gone. Horace steps in close behind him as he steps away from them,
"She is a treasure that must never be found, never be discovered."
"You don’t think I know that," Horace whispers abruptly, "I know the risks."
"I am sorry," Wesley turns to him, "For giving you this burden to carry alone."
"I don’t think you are." Despite his position, Horace holds out his hand to him. Wesley did not feel he deserved any respect from his father in law.  As much as it was true,  he extends his hand and they briefly exchange farewells.
"Take care of yourself out there. If not for yourself then for them."
"You will be a better father to them than I could ever be."
"I know that, though I wish it weren’t true."

"Thank you." Wesley turns away for the last time. He walks on to his new life, the life he chose for himself and no one else. Wesley takes a deep breath, looking up at the perfect sky. Sol was still there, watching over everything that was done and listening to all the words that were said. If the emptiness of the sky and the warmth from Sol was all he remembered ever again...surely it would be glorious and perfect. For the rest of his days, he would hunt for the creature that drove him to this. The dragon has cost him everything. Killing him has become the only comfort he had left in this world, the only thing that gave his life purpose.
"I am sorry my dear Amalya," he closes his eyes so he can see the face of his lost love behind closed eyes, "I am sorry I cannot keep my promise to you."

She was staring back at him looking as beautiful as he remembered. The memories of her voice and her face, even the way she stands, were all so perfectly burned into his mind. He never wanted to open his eyes again if he could look at her forever. It was not long before her green eyes begin to fizzle away to remind him of what he wanted to forget. They were his eyes now, daring Wesley to find him. Those eyes that shine like the sun and burn like the fires deep within the mountains of Eldur. Wesley escapes from them, though they still lingered in the dark. He would never be rid of it. They would haunt him forever until he stabbed them out himself. He must put an end to this once and for all. It was his only chance at a normal life again; it was the only way he could bear to look at her.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1: 15 Years Later