It was a cold afternoon. The crimson and golden leaves fell from the heavy arms of the trees with a rhythm only the wind could count. The birds that covered the skies were fewer now, some having decided to head elsewhere, in search of food and more suitable weather. Cyndr sat in his rocking chair, knife in hand, witling away the unnecessary chunks of what would be a fantastic ivory sculpture. It didn’t look right now, Cyndr thought. The arms were out of proportion. Perhaps if the legs were longer…
Cyndr‘s hand fell from the sculpture as he heard the faint sound of footsteps approaching from the distance. From his porch, Cyndr could see twenty paces into the dense forest through which the dirt path emerged. The figure that rounded the bend in the path was on foot. “Strange,” Cyndr thought, “it’s quite a walk from the nearest village. He must have left his horse further down the path.” The figure, clad entirely in black approached the house. They said nothing to Cyndr, their soft, velvety robes swirled around the obviously frail shoulders as the figure walked to stand some distance from him.
Without a word, the figure raised its arms, and from the cold ground emerged a rack of dirt-covered bone, a skeleton, standing upright and attentive. Struck with fear, Cyndr turned to run. But right behind him, another skeleton stood in his path, arms raised, walking slowly towards him. Cyndr had heard of things like this before. He gripped his knife tighter in his palm and swung at the skeleton. Missing, the skeleton struck him in the back, dropping Cyndr to his knees. Without so much as a sword to help him, Cyndr slashed and struck at the skeletons who stared through him with their empty, glowing red eyes.
It was over quickly. Cyndr was beaten. Having smashed two of the skeletons, he lost count of how many more rose up out of the ground to join the assault. As he lay there, staring up at the crimson sky, Cyndr watched the skeletons draw back, pulling away from delivering their last blow. His vision was fogged and blood was stinging his eyes, but Cyndr watched as the figure in black approached. The figure bent down to look at Cyndr‘s face, their own shrouded completely in the darkness of their hood, and whispered words into his ear:
“You were the last… and now I finish what was started so long ago.” With that, the figure reached forward and placed his hand on Cyndr‘s bloody tunic, right above his chest. Immense pain filled Cyndr‘s body as the figure mumbled incoherent words to the dying elf. Cyndr could feel himself losing his strength, he felt himself being drained of his life force.
All that Cyndr knew was that this mysterious figure emerged from the forest and was trying to kill him, but he could do nothing but stare into the sky. The pain coursed through his veins, his vision became more and more blurred. “Why?” Cyndr thought, but no words left his blood-stained lips. “What did I do?” Cyndr felt, but no answers came to his throbbing head. No other sound came from the figure shrouded in black, nothing but the pain…
Cyndr stood on a vast plain. Grass, as high as Cyndr‘s knee swayed in the warm, gentle breeze that wafted over him like a blanket. The air was warm, but no sun shone in the late fall sky. In fact, no moon cast its light, either. There were no sounds of animals, no chirping of birds in the sky. Nothing but the sound of the wind rustling the long stalks of grass around him.
Cyndr looked down at himself, clothed in the most brilliant of white tunics he had ever seen, but no blood stained it. His temples did not hurt, and his muscles were not sore. “What is going on?”
In the distance, he heard a faint voice, a yell, or a scream; he could not tell. Carried on the wind, it came from behind him. When he turned, all he saw were more of the rolling hills that surrounded him, but as he listened, he heard it again. Cyndr walked cautiously in the direction of the sound, and as he walked further, he heard more of them. Not screams this time, but yells – tiny yells… of… laughter?
As he reached the summit of the first hill, Cyndr came upon a startling sight. Below him, among a huge valley of rolling hills and blooming flowers, a dozen children were running in circles – playing, jumping, and seemingly completely oblivious to him. Cyndr stood and watched as the boys and girls laughed and played games Cyndr had long since forgotten. Among the sounds of joy that rose to meet his ears, he distinctly heard his name called out from below.
Shaken, Cyndr looked around for the parent that must have called to him, but he saw no one. Again: “Cyndr! Come over here!” Cyndr looked over the faces of the children, and though far away, Cyndr saw a small girl walk out of the ringlet and stare up at him. “Cyndr, come down here!”
He did not know what to expect. Cautiously, he walked down the steep embankment into the valley, towards the young girl who beckoned to him. How did she know him? He did not know. How had he arrived in this strange place? He did not know that either. He decided he would ask this little girl where her parents were and if there was someone he could talk to.
The little girl was sitting in the grass, and as Cyndr approached, she patted her hand on the ground motioning him to sit. She was a small child, maybe 6 human years old. Her dark brown hair hung loosely around her petite shoulders, and a small tussle of hair curled in front of her deep, brown eyes. She wore a similar tunic to Cyndr‘s as did many of the children nearby. Hers was dirty though, her cuffs and knees were discolored as if she had been playing in the dirt.
“Are you okay?” came the small voice from a girl sitting across from him.
“I am fine, little one. What is this place?” Cyndr asked. His sitting position made him feel uncomfortable, but he did not want to stand and intimidate the girl.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” The girl asked as she smiled and looked around her. Her smile seemed to calm Cyndr, and he watched her in mild admiration.
A child’s life is so simple. Cyndr thought to himself. Not a care in the world, their whole lives stretched before them. His envy of her was despite him being considered very young among the elves of his kind.
“It’s not as easy as you think, to be young like us.” said the girl as she returned her attention to Cyndr. Startled at her response, Cyndr immediately looked around him and instinctively grabbed for a sword that he did not have at his side.
“Why did you say that to me?” Cyndr demanded, his tone now stern and authoritative. “… ’cause that’s what you asked me, silly.” came the girl’s reply. “I know lots of stuff that you don’t know Cyndr. You came here for a reason. You’re here because you’re you. You’re safe from that bad guy ’cause you’re supposed to live for a long, long time. I’ve been waiting and waiting, and I don’t like to wait.” The girl stopped then, and stared at Cyndr. She stared at him so hard, she almost stared through him. Cyndr thought that if he could feel her stare it would really hurt.
“You must tell me where I can find your parents,” Cyndr said, now his look of menace turned to puzzlement and confusion. What was this girl talking about? “Tell me what you know. You must tell me what you know.”
The girl’s face took on a serious visage. Her brows furrowed, the smile on her cheeks faded and disappeared completely. Her stare was diverted to her hands, her arms, and the tunic she wore. “Cyndr, I brought you here.” The girl’s voice now did not flutter like before. Now the voice was stern, serious. “Perhaps an explanation. Countless generations ago your ancestors lived in the most beautiful city ever known to your world. They were a very powerful people, and were completely content to live by themselves in what they called The City of the Summer Stars.”
I know this story,” Cyndr interrupted. “My father taught me of my long heritage. I know who I am.” His look of puzzlement continued and he quieted himself again.
“Then you know of the Ur-Flannae.” The small girl continued. “Well, the Ur-Flannae posed a very real threat to the Flanaess before, and still today they struggle to regain the grip they once had. There are those of their ancestors who have not forgotten this legacy, and like you, wish to recapture the glory and power held ages ago.”
Cyndr, realizing that this child was offering more than an explanation, asked: “Who are you and what do you want with me?” His expression turned from curiosity back to insistence, and he stood up on the grassy hill in front of the small girl.
Cyndr, I am what you cannot possibly imagine. I existed when your race was created, and I will exist after your race and all those you know are gone forever. I have watched civilizations come and go, and I have witnessed the beginning and the end of entire planets. I have never been looked upon by your world, but you may now know me… as Kralana.
“Then you’re a god?! Cyndr asked, his mouth unconsciously open. “But the gods have abandoned us!?
“This, I cannot comment on, Cyndr. Conjecture has reduced the real facts to little more than bedtime stories for you to console yourselves with. You need to know only that we have watched you for a very long time. Points in your history have never been influenced by us, but now we must make ourselves known.”
“Why do you only reveal yourself to the world now?” Cyndr asked.
“Because now is the time when you need us most, Cyndr.”
“Then there are more of you? Are all of these children gods and goddesses?!” Cyndr turned his head as he spoke and squinted in the light to get a better look at the children who continued to dance and play throughout his conversation. “Why do you choose to appear to me as a child if you have watched us for so long?”
“What you see is the birth of a new pantheon, Cyndr. The trees are still saplings, and the stars have yet to reach us, for I am yet unknown to those of Oerth, so I appear to you as a child, as we all do. This is done to signify the birth of a new era. This is the beginning of a new age in the history of Oerth, and the wrongs will be righted. But you must be my first.”
The girl smiled an angelic smile. Her words sunk deeply into Cyndr‘s chest and he struggled for air. The warm breeze brought welcome relief to him as he slowly digested all of the things this girl bombarded him with.
The little one continued, “You have had your first taste of what lies before you now. Your life will forever be changed, grey elf. You will be safe from now on. I will take care of you and keep you safe. I am very protective of my possessions.” The look on this girl’s face turned almost to a scowl and then lifted from her again.
“You see from now on, you belong to me. Whoever you were before, whatever you knew, that life is gone. Those you knew, you will continue to know. That which you could do, you may still perform. You will not be different except in purpose and ability. You will learn faster than you ever have before, and you will be more powerful than anyone you know, both in mind and in spirit. I give you new life Cyndr of the Summer Stars, as my chosen.”
And with that, the small girl in front of Cyndr clapped her hands together and a brilliant ray of light burst forth from the ashen sky and immersed Cyndr in golden radiance. He squinted in the light and covered his eyes with his hand to look again at the girl who stared at him intently. “Do you understand?” she inquired.
Cyndr didn’t know what to say… just told that everything he knew would change… that he was eternally in the service of this small girl?! “Why me?” is all that he could muster in a sheepish tone.
“Because you are the last. You are the last of the Elves of the Summer Stars, and you have something that no other grey elf on Oerth has, Cyndr. You have a secret ability that not even I can show you how to use. You have power growing inside you right now. You do not know how to focus it properly yet, but that is why I employ your services now.”
“Truthfully, Cyndr. You are the one who may best be able to aid me in my battle against evil. I bring light, justice, and retribution. I bring virtue, goodness, and truth. However, there are those who oppose me in my endeavors, and they must be dealt with. Many serve my purposes, though they know it not. Many have sacrificed, though they did not choose to, and there will be more. My army of light will reign victorious over the forces of darkness that plague the land, but you must be the first to take a stand in my name.”
Cyndr stood there, amidst the warm breeze, his brilliant tunic reflecting the glow that immersed him as he stood, beguiled.
“If you do not find these things reason enough to lead my army, know this. Years ago you thought yourself unfortunate to lose your father to the tumultuous seas of the Sea Barons. You in fact were not that fortunate. Your father was stolen from you, Cyndr, stolen not by nature or accident, but by the murderous beings who stalk the land in the name of my nemesis: Thasmudyan, Lord of the Undead.”
Cyndr stood motionless as the girl finished her sentence. Her stare was meaningful, laced with seriousness, tinged with hate upon utterance of her last words. Cyndr felt weak, his head hurt from the sunlight, and his stomach was unsettled by the barrage of news this little one brought to him. Not even now, amidst the flowers and trees, under the endless sky, before a goddess did he know what was happening. It all seemed a dream now, but a dream from which he could not wake.
But in this dream, Cyndr knew what he felt. Rage. Rage at those who would dare take the only thing Cyndr had in his life away from him. His father. Hatred, like a hatred he had never felt before quelled up within him and burned at his temples. He thought of the figure that approached him at his home. He thought of the last time he saw his father before his life was taken from him. He thought of the countless nights he had spent with his father, learning as much as he could about his ancient past, and those responsible for his present.
And he wanted revenge. A personal vendetta had been established in the blink of an eye. And so, too did rage and anger burn within Cyndr with as much intensity as the light he stood in. He would vanquish the Ur-Flannae from this plane. They would come to fear the light. They would fear Kralana and her chosen.
Then something happened. All his life, Cyndr had thought little of the long-term issues. He cared nothing for planning, organization, and laws. But as quickly as darkness shies away from the light, Cyndr knew that his life now was not his own. Without a word, he lowered his head to the little girl. He knelt in the tall grass that still swayed around him and said, “I am yours, Kralana. I will lead your army and destroy those that would defy the might of your hand.”
The little girl stepped towards Cyndr; he kept his head lowered as though looking at the girl now would be disrespectful. The girl placed one hand on Cyndr‘s head, and another on his chest. Softly, amidst the whisper of the wind and the hush of the grass around them, the girl leaned towards Cyndr and said, “Then together we may begin an era of light.”
There was a blinding flash. Cyndr‘s eyes were closed, but the light shone directly into his eyes, directly into his soul. It was white, burning, pure, and divine. And as the light in his head faded and ceased, Cyndr opened his eyes, but the little girl and the rest of the children were gone.