The storm outside has abated, and night has fallen. In the distance I can hear the sorrowful calls of the wolves as they stalk the Eastern Woodlands seeking out their prey. In many ways, I was like the proud wolf that stands alone against the night. Never running with the pack but always seeking out that elusive prey. But I digress, and in doing so waste away my precious stock of candles I have gathered for this sole purpose. My name is Klaudaryn Armagh, and this is my story…
I was born in the northern port city of Abel, and the nights were often accompanied by biting winds, which claimed many a life every winter. My earliest memories are those of cold nights spent in front of a warm fireplace in the arms of my mother. Sadly, I cannot even remember that dear woman’s face now, let alone her name. She had passed on to the Blessed Isle too early in my life, and the memories of those soft arms protecting me from the cold are all I have left of her. My father was, or so people later told me, a merchant and occasionally when the fire rose in him, an explorer. Some even say he had the commission of the Court of Loures, though I find it very hard to put much faith into those claims. To me, the man was a coward.
The year my mother died, Father changed. I was too young to understand then, the look in his eyes every time he looked at me. Now I know better. He blamed me for the death of my beloved mother, and finally when he could not bear it any longer, he left. Waking late that autumn morning, my 6-year-old mind could not comprehend the strange emptiness I felt when I searched through our small house looking him. It was only 11 years later that I found him.
Hunger and my instinct for survival gradually forced me out of the house and left me roaming the streets of Abel picking up whatever scraps I could find to eat. In retrospect, I am amazed that I survived through those early gutter years, for Abel was not a city known for its kind folk. Six long years, I spent as a gutter urchin, begging for a living from the myriad array of travellers who passed through that Cityport. There were some others like me, which was not surprising in Abel, and together, we crawled through the pile of filth we called life. They are lost to me now, those few souls I called brothers, and I know not what became of them.
My twelfth year was when she first appeared to me. Like a Faerie in human form, I saw her in my fevered dreams one night. At first, I thought nothing of it, dismissing it as another one of my hunger induced hallucinations, but after the third such dream I began to wonder if there was something more to this figment of my imagination.
Still, survival was foremost in my daily thoughts and actions. Though these tender dreams were a welcome respite from a day’s scavenging, I was always brought back to the grim reality of life with the dawning of each new morn.
By chance, that summer, I came into favour of a travelling merchantman who took pity on me and brought me under his wing. Until then, I knew myself only as Klaudaryn or as my friends would call me, ‘BlindSnake’. All those years of being on my own had forced out even the slightest memory of the life I lived prior to them. I did not know my ancestral name, nor did I even care. The merchant, a kindly old man by the name of Dughan was from a neighbouring town called Mileth. To me though, the only place of significance other than Abel was Loures and I cared not then at the mention of that small town. Still, he seemed much kinder than anyone I had ever met in Abel did, and I started wondering if there was a way out – another way of life other than that which I had so bitterly become comfortable with. I agreed to serve Dughan as his servant-boy, attending to menial chores like cooking and washing and carrying the heavy bolts of cloth which he traded in. In return, he provided me with food and shelter, as well as an education. For the first time in my life, I learned to read. The quiet town of Mileth had become my home for the time being.
Still, throughout those three years, the dreams did not diminish. If anything, they grew more frequent, and I found myself haunted by that strange beauty. She spoke to me often, in my dreams, but when I awoke I found that the only things I could remember from the night before were her soft eyes and gentle smile. But still, when the dreams came, I welcomed them gladly, my only true moments of happiness in those early years.
When I was 15, my wanderlust had peaked. I had heard many tales from Dughan’s occasional visitors- of the wonders and sights of the City of Loures; of dark and ancient tombs where darker creatures lurked; of great treasures just waiting to be rescued from their shadowy depths. At last, when I could not take it anymore, I told Dughan of my plan to venture to the great city and seek my fortune there. He protested but even he could see that once I had my mind made up, nothing would be able to change it. That very night, I left Mileth with Dughan's gifts – a small dagger and a pouch of gold. But the greatest gift I received, which took me years to realise, was a name. Dughan Armagh had named Klaudaryn 'BlindSnake' the cloth trader. I was now Klaudaryn Armagh of Mileth.
Loures was a disappointment, sadly. As with all big cities, its people were hardened by the times. I found none of the warm hospitality of Mileth, and by comparison, even Abel felt more welcoming. In a short fortnight, I had squandered my meagre sum of gold and once again was forced to rediscover the trade and lifestyle of squalor and thievery, which I had once lived. I thought often of returning to Mileth, to kind Dughan, but in addition to all that Dughan had given me, he also gave me my pride. Alas, it was this very gift which prevented me from leaving Loures and returning home.
Two long years I struggled in Loures, but old habits die hard, and I was becoming quite adept at avoiding the guards. It was just when I was getting comfortable again when I saw him.
Danigg Koreval. The name flashed back into my memory like a long burning ember suddenly given the breath of life’s air. The name which I had abandoned so long ago. My father. I never thought I would recognise him, but somehow I did. My path was decided the moment I watched him walk out of that seedy brothel on the edge of the Slums. I followed him for two hours before announcing my presence. He did not recognise me at first, taking me for a brigand after his purse. The sneer of disdain on my face must have at last rekindled his memory, for the brief second before I slid my dagger between his ribs, he cried and called out my name. Another dead body in the dark alleyways of Loures would not attract much attention. With the deed I had been planning in my mind for years done, I felt strangely calm... and empty.
Restless sleep followed for the next two weeks, and She no longer appeared to me. I often cried late into the night, longing for the Dream to overcome me, to find myself in her arms again, but to no avail.
I languished in my self-imposed torment for many months, growing gaunt and pale. Even beggars would not share my table, whispering of demons and spirits. Then, as suddenly as She had left, I found her in my dreams again. This time, I knew what I had to do. To seek the healing I so badly needed, I would have to go home. I would have to return to Mileth.
My return to Mileth was bittersweet for as happy as I was to be back at last, I found that Dughan was dead and as he had no heirs, his house had fallen to ruin. I took it then upon myself to restore the place, and honour the name of the man who had given the chance I so badly needed.
She once again began to frequent my dreams, and once again, I learnt to smile.
Then one autumn, not too long ago, I woke with my heart pounding in my chest. The air seemed different as if charged with the magick of the Faeries. Compelled to my feet, I dressed quickly and as soon as I could, made my way up to the temple just outside Mileth.
I waited there in the shadow of the great oak, not entirely sure of what I was waiting for, but somehow knowing. And as she walked up, I stepped out and watched her. Every bit as radiant as I had dreamt, and even more so in life, I stood dumbfounded, staring at the woman before me. With a knowing smile on my lips, I met her gaze and took her hand. The Enchantress simply laughed and I laughed along with her. In the time to come, she would be the one to lead me down my path to my destiny. I never thought I would have the tenacity or will to study the Magick Arts, but she proved me wrong.
Now, my final candle is nearing the end of its life. The night predators have retreated to the safety of their dens. It is the hour of the wolf, the time between past-midnight and dawn. In a few hours, the first rays of daylight will pierce the darkness and I will have to depart on my quest. Slightly fearful and worried I may be, but as I look upon her serene sleeping form, I know that we will prevail. Our legend is only beginning.