It began with a fire. As cold as ice, hard as rock and bright as flame. It stood in the middle of the void for many long years before shattering. First stepped out the elves, their long legs dancing gracefully over the unrefined silk of the universe. They waited patiently as the White Dragon, Evenrelvis emerged, her long wings already torn and aged from battles she was yet to fight. Her large eyes twinkled and she gave birth to three dragons.
First born was Theecrose. In a single slam of his foot he pulled up the large continent that most life inhabits and the two great islands for the elves and the White one. He thundered slowly from the south leaving large mountains and stone arches where ever he walked. As he reached the tip of his land he let loose a large breath and spilled a massive dessert across the land. He dug a deep tunnel deep under the world and kept himself busy with his people, the dwarfs.
Second born was his lover, Kanza. Her blue scales icy and hard but not quite as cold as the ice she breathed onto the land. She flew down from the north, creating great frozen mountains and masses of ice that flowed from her mouth. Fractals and shattered ice dusted the land. Her wings collided with the air and oceans fell from the sky as solid chunks of ice. She made a home in the mountains to watch over the vast ice lands so that she may save those who won her favor and were worthy of her rescue and freeze those who did not.
Merrick, the youngest rushed over the oceans and the heat from his wings alone melted the ice. He assaulted the continent in the middle breathing fire into the land on massive circles. To the south he grazed the dessert and made a large belt of glass. Each revolution would melt more sand, his massive wings cooling the glass and letting is fall down as more sand settled on top, only to be melted. It was said that if you stood on this mass of glass and looked down you could see the life core of the world spinning far below you. The glass itself held such great powers that any blow from a weapon forged from it would cause the skin to burn away and leave rock in its place.
His fire also hit the great ice planes in his seven revolutions. Each blast would melt the ice and hit the earth causing quakes so powerful that massive ore faced cliffs would shoot from the ground. His fires hit so purely that when he was done there were five large, mirror faced cliffs that had veins of multicolored metals. Each tempered to a different strength and any weapon made from these cliffs would cause ones skin to ignite in a frozen fire.
In the very center of the continent, the heat from Merrick’s fires caused the ground to crumble into rich soil The elves pulled the plants and nature from this soil, knitting great forests and stitching each blade of grass in the vast savannahs that cover the lands. North, middle and South.
Silvia listened to the lesson as she looked out a small window. As her mother dolled on she watched the dead tree branches wave in the clouded sky. Then something caught her her eye; a small group of hooded figures, the Keepers, were going into the long house next to hers. She wondered what the looked like under their dark grey hoods. She watched them until they disapeared into the longhouse and she went back to staring at the dead trees and clouded sky.
The trees grew in the distance, past the fences and the houses. Any farther was only darkness. Brisk autumn air shook the tree branches and howled through the hairline cracks of the window; this was her second window to the world. She could stand there and watch it change for hours. The sky would sometimes show small specks of light and other times a bright orb, the moon, would light up the snow that always covered the ground.
Always changing over and over, the moons her only friends to help show her the way.
Every now and then there would be a keeper who would walk from house to house. Sometimes they would just to look inside for a few seconds, other times they would bring a burlap sack filled with food.
She liked it when they brought food.
The little girl sometimes wished she was a keeper so that she could see the world past her window. She would love it if she could wear the boots of the keepers over her bare feet.
“Silvia! Are you listening?” The woman asked, hovering over the small child. “You need to pay attention. These stories have been passed down for thousands of years.”
Silvia looked away from the window and took her mother’s hand. Older faces watched her with fondness as she was led to the small circle of children waiting for story time to continue. The house wasn't as full as it could be with only eleven people. Usually there were more bodies, at least twenty, to huddle together for warmth during the long winter nights. But there would be more soon: Three of the woman wrapped their arms around large bellies that would soon yield babies who would fill the empty cots.
The woman sat back down, her belly flat, and Silvia snuggled into her lap; her mother’s lap. This was her first window into the world. It wasn’t always her favorite, but she still loved the tales her mother would weave.
Silvia’s brothers and sister sat around her mother looking at her expectantly. Silvia was the youngest of the five of them at only four years old. Her oldest brother leaned back against his cot mimicking their leader.
"Please continue, Liv." Their leader said from his bed, his green eyes sparkling with a smile. He had a long, gnarly beard that grew over most of his face. He wore the same burlap smock as everyone else in the long house.
“Of course,” she took a deep breath and breathed out to clear the air. She brushed her red-blonde hair out of her face and closed her bright blue eyes. Then she began.
"After the lands were made Enerevlis took the fire that she and Elves came from and planted it deep into the world, at the very center and let it dissolve and become the soul stream. From the stream she pulled out life. Every animal was pulled out, including the humans.
"Us." She waited as the children murmured for a moment. Then continued. "The Elves took their homes to the East in a large forest island and kept to themselves. They only left their home at Evenrelvis' request. Evenrelvis took her home in the West on a large island that was connected to the continent by a giant ice bridge. She welcomed any and all into her kingdom. It was said that her scales could cure any illness and calm any sickness. Any who approached her felt the warmth of pure, unharnessed life.
"While the dragons and elves' blood was rich with magic, humans had barely a drop. But that didn't stop some from aspiring to learn and these few became the white wizards. The white wizards were Enerevlis' right hand men. They lived on her mountain with her learning from her and she would learn from them."
"Wait," Pip, the eldest boy, interrupted, "What could Enerevlis, the creator of the creators, learn from humans?"
Liv smiled, "She could learn that each living thing had a special gift that could help or hinder the world."
"How could humans hinder?" Pip asked. "We're always caged up and taken care of."
"Well, things weren't always like this. We used to roam free, finding food for ourselves and living or dying depending on our own choices.Then came the day of the first thief." She paused to see if Pip would interject again but he was quiet. Silvia, cuddled in close to her mother, hardly noticed when the leader and one of the small bellied ladies went into the back room. "It was a stormy night and no one expected a thing. Vlad, for that was his name, climbed up to the mountain top where Enerevlis slept and, using a metal thorn, pricked her tail stealing a single drop of the great dragon's blood.” The children gasped and shuddered. Silvia's mother paused to let the idea take hold before continuing, “He took this drop back to his home, a cave in Enerevlis's very mountain, and drank her blood.”
"They say that his screams could be heard across the lands for three long nights. Once he emerged from his cave on a new moon's night, he was pale and different. He was no longer a human, but he wasn't a wizard, nor a dragon, nor an elf nor anything else that had been known. He shunned the bright light and kept to the shadows. Above all he had a burning hunger and only one thing in mind to eat.
"He wanted more blood.
"Evenrelvis knew what Vlad had done so she took him up to her mountain before he could steal blood from anyone else. She didn't kill him. She knew everything happened for a reason and accepted him for what he was.
But she did curse him making his nose so sensitive that the most pungent smells would repel him and anyone who held tight to their ideals could send him away with the symbol of their faith. She made it so he would always go to sleep before the bright light lit up the world. His wings were stripped from him and was given one gift.
"He was the first to be able to change into something he was not, but only one thing. A bat.
"She also helped him find the ability to change humans into thieves like him. But she warned him that he couldn't change everyone, and long after the youngest child died of old age, he would still live in his cave preying on those Evenrelvis deemed worthy of him to eat. She turned him into her harbinger, her reaper. He brought death to those who killed unnecessarily, those who stole what was not their's to take. And, he was in charge of guarding the mountain while everyone else slept. He accepted these terms because he had the power he wanted. He spread his gift to three others and they kept watch over the dragons and culled evil, abrasive humans from the world.
"Then came the second thief," Liv smiled down at the children and kissed Silvia on the forehead, "Vlad slept every bright light, as did his sons. So the thief easily found his way through the cave and pricked Vlad with the very same metal thorn that had pricked Evenrevlis and stole an entire flask of his blood. The thief quickly escaped and left the mountains. But his absence was noticed. He had been one of the white wizards.”
The children gasped.
“Why? I thought they were good and powerful!” One of the kids piped.
Liv nodded. “Oh, they were. But they weren't immortal. The second thief wanted to live forever and took the cursed blood far away and drank it all. He remained hidden for several years. Those who had been babies of the day he took the blood had had babies of their own when he finally returned. Unlike Vlad, the first thief, the second thief could walk in the bright light. He could control the elements and his wings were intact. This time Evenrevlis wasn't as forgiving as before. She knew that none who started as a human should ever have so much power and took a deep breath to remove him from the world.
“He avoided most of her attack, losing only one very important thing. He lost his name.”
“Mommy Liv,” One of the boys started, “How is a name important?”
“It holds who we are and gives us a purpose in life and connects us to the soul stream. When he lost his name, he lost his soul's essence and had nothing to hold him to who he was. He probably had plans to use his prize, but he lost all his ambitions, his dreams and desires when he lost his name. He was a shell, empty and lost. He searched to fill this shell far from the land of the dragons, he found nothing he wanted other than revenge and desired for more power. Soon he was full of darkness, a yearning for nothing less than possessing the world. They say that if you ever looked him in the eyes, his black soul would carve out your heart and leave you empty, just as Evenrevlis had done to him.
“Having no name, people started calling him Black Cloak for the cloak he wore when he challenged Evenrevlis. That day was a dark-”
“Is that smoke?” One of the large bellied ladies interrupted, sniffing at the air.
Three other girls rushed to the windows and one gasped, “There's fire! The keepers are searching.”
Liv's grip on Silvia tightened, “Do you think they are looking for her?”
“I think so.”
A scream pierced the once peaceful night and was quickly followed by another.
It began with a fire.