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The First in the Malderobirch Chronicles
The Border of Fire shimmered on the evening horizon, forbidding and distant to the people of the City of the Crow. Like most nights, it shone like a bright gold thread, but unlike most nights, a ripple burst out on the northern end of the thread, causing the entire Border to flicker unexpectedly.
Loren stopped patrolling the city walls, distracted by this disturbance in the peaceful twilight. Reaching into his haversack, he drew out a spyglass. He ignored the usual orders, which were to report any odd happenings. Lifting the brass scope to his eye, he scanned the Border until he reached a spot in the flames that were darker than the land surrounding it.
“What in the name of Malderobirch?” he muttered as he watched the flames turn black before his eyes. Without warning, the rest of the Border flared up, brightening the surrounding lands like the sun on a clear summer afternoon.
Loren reached for his horn just as other patrolmen’s trumpets sounded, blaring out over the plains. When he put the cold brass to his lips, however, darkness swept over the land again. The Border of Fire was no longer visible upon the horizon, save for a faint blue glow emanating from the base of the flames.
The next morning, Loren visited the barracks in search of news. It wasn’t hard to find, as the main hall was buzzing with rumors and sightings of the strange occurrence of the Black Fire.
“I witnessed it meself,” one of the rookies was boasting to his friends, “It was all aquiverin’ ov’r, like those winds from that Desert o’ Tyme were atryin’ to blow â€˜em owt!”
Loren suppressed a chuckle. The young ones were always taking rumors seriously and inventing ones of their own. By the time news finished cycling through the barracks, it was simply tall tales.
He turned toward a doorway on the right wall. The door was open, and he walked down the stairs. A bitter smell smacked him in the face as he descended. Unfortunately, few soldiers ever managed to leave the barracks to serve the Parliament. The quarters were so unkempt that one could not only smell the rat droppings, but even see them piled up in neat little rows along the corners and edges of the steps.
At the first landing, the young soldier turned to a large iron door embedded in the stone wall. The armory was always under lock and key, and only two people carried the keys to such forbidden rooms: the Head of Parliament, and the weapons caretaker. Such a lock didn’t stop Loren, however. He possessed a rare gift of telekinesis. Grasping the lock with his mind, he willed the pins to align themselves and turn.
“You should try not to do that too often, Loren,” Qwicko scolded as he entered the room.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think you were sporting any company this afternoon.”
“Very funny.” Qwicko shuffled to a small closet and lifted out a pail. Turning, he said, “Since you’re here, why don’t you help me sharpen these axes.”
Qwicko walked back to a wooden table where the swords and axes were laid out next to a whetstone. As he walked, vapors lifted up from the floor and gathered in the pail, leaving behind a dry and crumbling path. By the time he reached the table, the pail was full of water.
Both Qwicko and Loren were endangered by the anti-witchcraft laws of the Parliament. They bore natural talents that others were in fear of. Keeping each other’s powers secret, they managed to become close friends.
A long grating sound rang throughout the room as Qwicko began sharpening the first axe. He was a short, slender man who was unusually strong and bore a pair of very keen eyes. Having the gift of aqua kinesis, he was never dehydrated, but he had zero tolerance for water. This left him moody when it came time to sharpen weaponry with the whetstone.
“Have you heard about the Black Fire yet?” Loren questioned politely.
The grating stopped mid stroke. “Black Fire?”
Loren sat next to the table and nodded calmly. “I saw it happen myself from the very beginning.” Without standing up or lifting a finger, he closed the door from across the room and locked it. “It was exactly as you had said. There was a flicker, a ripple, a flare, and then the Fire itself!”
“What is with the gay mood this afternoon? Why do you take prophesies so lightly?”
“Because you are obsessed with this prophecy for one, which I may remind you was banned by Parliament as heresy, and for two, I know it will be difficult. We might as well be happy while we can.”
“Loren… we can’t consider this so light a task. Come, I have set something aside for you.”