CHAPTER ONE

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Avos hated the rain. Perched on the peak of a cliff hanging over the Silver Sea, he anticipated its arrival once again. For weeks it had soaked the earth and chased him in his sleep at night. He grew tired of its mercilessness. His endless dreams about slopping around in the muck and being chased by faceless men and women had worn his nerves thin. Since waking, a trepidation began seeping in his bones. He couldn't shake the feeling there was someone searching for him.

As he stood and watched the clouds roll towards him, the same ominous presence consumed him. Like an urge to escape the coming storm, to run and never look back, it nipped at his feet, but he stood firm. The wind picked up.  The scent of fresh clam from the shore filled the air. As drizzle whipped against his face, he remained unaware of the true dangers surrounding him, or what lay around the corner of his dreams.

He thought perhaps it was the cliff that spoke to him, warning him to flee. He knew the Light spoke in mysterious ways and the cliff overlooking the sea had been a spot of solace for most of his youth. Every time his father refused to let him tag along on his trips up North Road to sell their wares, he'd run up the cliff, to the edge of his world, and curse the wheels of his father's cart.

On brighter occasions, when his chores were done and all his sheep were accounted for, he'd lay in the shaggy grass of the cliff, daydreaming, wondering what was out there in the world beyond his reach. He hoped one day he'd get to see a real castle and Knights of Arms, instead of only hearing tales about them.

So maybe it was the Light. He chuckled under his breath. But why would the Light guide me here, away from tending my herd? He swayed. He felt the pull of the storm. He squinted up again into the sky and saw the clouds light up with electricity. He awaited the smack of thunder, but it never came. He watched the light move through the clouds like it was dancing on air. It shone and pulsated directly ahead of him and he could have sworn it was moving towards him. It trickled and webbed out into the sky and tried to reach out for him. Every muscle urged him to flee, yet he stood firm and waited for the Light to touch him.

Then it began to pour.

Avos lifted the hood of his woolen cloak and searched the sky with his zaffre eyes. The Light was gone.

Perplexed, he trudged back down the hilltop towards his family's farmland. He didn't want to slop around in the muck if he didn't have to. Besides, it was just lightning. It rained more here in the South than any other place in Valterra, so he was told; he must have let the storm get to him. He tried to look at the positives to the rain; it helped their crops and livestock for the most part and it filled his family's farm with fresh organic scents. He took a deep breath and sniffed in the country air and tried to exhale his worries.

He plodded towards their log house which stood between a lush green field for herding sheep and a smaller, muddy piece of land for cultivation. He checked in on their tilled and sowed acres - the rain these last few weeks had threatened to kill off their sprouts. He inspected the new trenches he and his father had dug earlier that week. They had saved their fields from flooding more than once already and he didn't want today to be the day it failed.

Satisfied, he glanced up and glimpsed the rolling meadows beyond the crops which they left untouched. On dry days they were perfect for strolling in and losing his worries. Wild flowers scattered and peeked through the tall grass leaving hints of violet, pink and gold sprinkles in the wet green. He yearned to be among them and feel the sun's sweet kiss.

Beyond the meadows, their acreage was thick with trees. The local forests were mostly bristle-cone pines and yew trees which would soon sprout their luscious red berries from their ferns. Avos had often wondered how long some of the majestic looking trees had stood, reaching for the skies. They seemed ancient, all knowing. It was legend in Valterra that the trees would speak to you if you cared to listen, but he had lived here for as long as he could remember and not once had he ever had the privilege of carrying on a conversation with a tree. Though sometimes on his walks through the forests, he imagined the wind flowing through the leaves was the breeze trying to whisper a soft 'hello'.

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