This was an attempt to get some momentum going for another novel set in the same world as my completed (and as of this writing, still untitled) novel. Where Susan’s tale is the story of the fall of their world and the subsequent return of something one could call “magic,” the Scion’s story was to be one set much later. I was trying to play with the sorts of communities that would spring up after such an event. It has been long enough for memories of the “Before Times” has begun to fade into myths and legends. I did manage to finish this first chapter, but I lost almost all steam after that point and two years later this is still all there is…
“You stand here, before the eyes of gods and men, accused of the highest crime of man, the dreaded art of Mancy.”
I stood alone, bound in chains of cold and biting iron. Above, the gray skies grumbled angrily, threatening to unleash its rage upon the land. Below, a sea of faces staring out from a sea of black cloth, betraying the admonishments of the people within. Faces full of wrath, full of disappointment, containing no sympathy or compassion, glared up at me. Standing before me, riding the crest of the wave of the sea of shadows and faces, stood my accusers. These three men, the fathers and leaders of the village known as the Judges, stood before me as a wedge, bedecked in the village”s best black linens. At the front of this triumvirate was the High Judge, leader of all, staring into my soul. He was coldly reciting to me my trial.
“In this late summer in the seventy-seventh year after the End of All, it was brought before the Judges, proof of your crimes against Harmony. Three marks have been levied against your soul, chaining you to your dark fate.”
He pulled out a small tablet, a broad and thin stone upon which records were written and rewritten during these trials before being chiseled into the lengthy records of our community.
“Upon the evening of one week ago, you were witnessed sneaking over the Wall after dark by an anonymous informant.” I could not hold back a bitter smirk. I knew exactly who had reported me to the Judges. A nosy old man, living nearest the Wall, he was always watching everyone in the village, trusting no one but the Judges themselves. “Upon questioning, your won mother has confessed that you have been fleeing the village after dark for over a month, returning only shortly before day break each morning. You know, as all citizens know, that leaving the village after the gates have closed for the day is a terrible crime in itself.”
I stared ahead at my accuser, saying nothing, knowing that no argument would be heard by his or any other ears. Instead, my mind turned to the very act that had condemned me. I had certainly done such a treason, leaping the Wall each night for months now, seeking truths that have been outlawed by the Judges of my home. Underneath the stars, hidden in the ruins far from the protected walls of the village, there are things to be explored and experienced that I had never imagined in my youth. I found objects that defied my language to describe them, met the very creatures that Wall was built to keep away. It was outside the Wall, underneath the pale moon that my curiosity had turned to wonder and desire to touch the joy of my world, and had also led me to my very damnation.
“Upon accusation, the Judges sought proof of further corruption upon your soul. While you were taken in chains to the prison in our Hall, we found proof that you had hidden from pious eyes beneath your bed linens.
I turned my head slightly to watch the left most Judge as he stepped forward, pulling back the dark cloth that had thus far concealed a small rectangular black box. The box, made of a strange black material with the strength of stone, but the lightness of a feather, whose polished face shimmered in the dim light of the fading sun as a crack of thunder cried out in the distance.
“This device, outlawed by the full Council of Judges could only be found outside the walls of this community. You stand accused of bringing this corrupt and foul artifact of the dark times before the End. Worse yet, this device has been charged with the energies of the Year of Chaos, giving it a dark life.” The High Judge signaled for the bearer to bring the device closer to me. “It”s taint cannot be spread, but proof must be presented before the eyes of all citizens. Take it, foul one, take it and prove your guilt.”
Calmly, and with all of my dignity, I reached out and took the device from the nervously clothed hands of the Judge. In that brief moment, I could not help but recall where I had found it, nestled beneath a collapsed shop in the ruins of some strange and immense village from the Before Times. It had seemed so important, clutched in the desperate hands of a miserably shattered skeleton. I could not refuse its pull, if this screaming and broken person had turned to it in its darkest hour, I knew it must hold some great value. I can never be certain what it did before the chaotic and mystic energies of the Chaos permeated its very existence, but if it did anything akin to what it did now, I know why it was so precious to those Before.
My mind returned dimly to the present, where my very touch brought my prize of so long ago once more to life. As soon as my flesh touched the device, with a flash of light its strange black flesh crackled back to wakefulness. Small arcs of lightning flashed around the edge of its polished face, which shimmered and changed, once more revealing some strange and far off place. It showed a strange image of a young man and an old woman in some far away swamp, who paused after a moment. They glanced around in momentary confusion, as if detecting some hidden observer in the brief seconds before the Judge on my right smacked the device from my grasp with a brutal strike against my arm. The attack was so jarring, leaving me so certain of a broken bone, that it was clearly borne as much of fear as duty. Behind him, the crowd gasped in shared fear, prompting the High Judge to narrow his dark eyes in a cold glare before he yelled out, “See citizens! See how the wild Chaos has tainted his man, who brought its corruptive touch to this village, tempting us with these images of far off people and places! By laying these vile lies to our very doorstep we have been put at great risk.”
He paused, taking a deep breath and clearing his throat, composing himself before continuing his accusations. I merely stood there, ignoring the biting pain in my arm and silently facing my accuser and the dark roiling sea behind him.
“Upon imprisonment, awaiting your trial, you were held in the Halls of Judgment. You were kept in one of the small cells which we designed to hold you and your kind. However, fearingg our righteousness, you attempted to escape from you bonds. You invoked the names of the Nine Demon Lords and chanted in their foul language. Your chains recoiled from you, as if snakes ablaze and the door of your prison cell swung wide. If not for the Judges timely intervention, you would surely have escaped your Judgment and fled.”
I glanced skyward, trying to place my mind in any place but where I was being held. The ominous clouds, once standing watch at the edges of the village, had now moved into the village, hovering about the heads of the crowd. They hung low, heavy with moisture and promise of a terrible deluge. Thunder grumbled once again, breaking the momentary silence as the High Judge paused for breath, yet the crowd did not seem to notice, intent on watching the spectacle before them.
“For these crimes, you have been found guilty by the Judges and by the Gods themselves.” Lightning crashed between the clouds, cracking the sky open in the very instant that the High Judge spoke, nearly drowning him out completely. The ran began to fall, pouring water as pure and clean as the Judges thought themselves to be, it poured over them much as my accuser poured condemnations upon me.
“You shall be cast out of this community, banished for all time to the wastelands beyond our borders. Condemned to wander the wilds in a state of eternal damnation. Your name is forever stricken from you, condemned by your vile actions to never be uttered by men again, leaving you adrift in the weakened reality that your kind has wrought upon the innocents of this world. You shall be removed from all histories of this society, as you now only exist as the scar you have left upon this community, left as we purged ourselves of your taint through excision. You have now placed the heavy burden of familial honor, the cleansing of your late father”s noble name, upon your mother and sister.”
I stared out into the crowd, seeking sight of my now former kin. My birth sister, a proud and pure snowflake in the darkness was lost amongst the waves of the seas of disapproval and rage. There, towards the back, I spotted the tired woman who birthed me, so recently my mother. Her face crested the waves of righteousness, and for a moment ay naive hope entered my heart, only to be dashed upon the rocks of reality. She clearly wore a mask of shame and terror, I allowed myself the delusion of believing there was some small glimmer of regret in her as well. We locked eyes for the briefest of seconds, my face as stoic and dead as my very identity had become and her”s hardening to an expression appropriate offense and derision. I worried for them both, this now strange woman and her only child, as their lives would be difficult now that they had lost both a father and a now unborn son. Taking care to reveal none of the pain which weighed heavy upon my heart, I turned my face once more to the heavens. I breathed in deeply, letting the tumult above me reflect my now roiling fate. I witnessed a flash and roar from the sky above, allowing it to drive out my regrets from my mind as the rain washed away my fear of what was to come next. No doubt, my accusers took this as a sort of prayer to some dark god, further cementing my role as their man of straw. In my distraction, I almost allowed myself to forget where I was, only returning to my chained reality when the most dreaded of words were uttered aloud.
“And, before being cast from this community, you shall be branded with the mark of a Mancer, so that all you meet shall bear witness to your terrible crimes.” He paused, a smug grin painted grimly upon his face, however his position facing only me hid his dark expression from everyone but me, creating a strange sort of connection between us. I knew I would suffer, before his “eyes of gods and men,Ó and he was going to enjoy every second of my pain. He made a small gesture to his judgmental companions and time seemed to me as if it had slowed to a crawl.
One of the men marched forward excruciatingly slowly, determined to grab me and hold me fast. I did not even try to resist, and I was enveloped in his stony grip and forced to my knees. Roughly, he grabbed my head and held my face forward in a vice like grip. The other man walked forward, a sinisterly curved blade withdrawing from within his robes in slow motion. He stepped forward, momentarily blocking out his master”s grinning maw. The blade reached out for my face, seeming to sing a terrible whining tune as it flew through the air towards my face. Slice! The cold and biting steel dug through my flesh, drawing a thick red line across my forehead, seeming to bisect my very thoughts. Slice! The blade narrowly missed my right eye before digging a crimson trench down to my lip. Slice! It tore once more an excruciating track across my face. As the blade retreated, and its bearer with it, the blood flowed freely from my newly christened face, tricking down over my and past my eyes as if bloody tears.
“You now bear physical proof of your dark master”s marks upon your soul, and though you are now to be released from the chains which hold you to this court and its Judgments, you now bear them upon your very flesh.” He gestured to my handler, who drug me to my feet and unlocked my shackles. I fought back the urge to reach out and touch my new face, but I could not prevent my terrible trembling. I felt a hand upon my shoulder, intending to lead me back to the edge of the village, but I could feel the faintest and subtlest hint of support in that firm hand, keeping my struggling legs from collapsing beneath me. I was directed to move toward the crow, which parted to allow me and the Judges passage. As I walked past my formerly forever friends and neighbors, they each, in turn, turned their backs to me, creating a slowly progressing walls leading me towards the gates. Even my mother did not hesitate, pulling my young sister away, hiding her child”s purity away from this corrupting stranger behind the walls of her noble neighbors. When the gates loomed high above me, I was forced to pause, to listen once more to the High Judge.
“This is the end for you, monster. Once this gate closes behind you here this night, you shall cease to exist. You shall never be mentioned again in this place and you will fade from all memories. Know that if you are ever seen near this place ever again, by any citizen, you will not live to see another sunrise. Now begone, foul creature.
I was then thrown harshly to the ground just outside the gate, I glanced back only long enough to see the High Judges cold and self-satisfied grin one last time before his compatriots slammed the gates shut behind me. My death knell coming with a loud and dull thud as the door was barred against me, leaving me alone with the rain, thunder and mud.