CHAPTER ONE

7.3K 283 294
                                              

Avos hated the rain. Perched on the peak of a cliff that hung 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. Wildflowers 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 bristlecone 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 a 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'.

As the clouds settled above the farm, darkness seeped in everywhere. He made haste for the stables. No doubt he'd get an earful from his mother, whose light he saw within.

"Afternoon, Avos." His mother greeted him as he entered the stables, shaking off his wet cloak. She was brushing down the golden-red beauty, Chariot, Avos's mare of choice between the two they owned. "You know I don't like seeing you sopping wet. You're going to catch your death."

 Avos stood before her drenched to the bone. His clothes smelled like wet fur and his long brown hair was matted against his cheeks. His mother sighed and tugged him closer to her, motioning him to give her his cloak.

"I know, Ma. Just trying to make heads or tails of this rain." Avos removed and handed over his dripping cloak.

"Get inside and dry off. The sheep are fine and won't need the likes of you until the rain lets up." She waved him towards the back gate. She hung up his cloak by the small fire she'd started, it kept the moisture out of the stables and then continued brushing Chariot.

"Ok, Ma. But, doesn't it seem like it's never gonna let up? What is this, the fourth storm this week?"

"Aye. Rain is rain." She rubbed Chariot's nose, not really wanting to talk about the weather.

"It wasn't just the rain, Ma. I thought I saw..."

"You saw what? What did you see?" Avos thought she suddenly seemed too interested in what he saw. He was uncertain of what it was himself.

Avos shrugged. "Just the lightning, it... it was nothing. I'll be inside." He turned and took his leave. There was no sense bringing his fears up to his mother. Rain is rain, he felt childish thinking he was anything but thankful for it. The lightning could have been some sort of natural phenomenon he'd yet to learn about.

His mother stopped brushing the mare and watched him pass as he left. Her gaze stayed on him until the last bit of his sleeve was around the corner and out of sight. She had noticed him through the stable gateway as he watched the storm roll in. She sighed. There was a reason why Avos reacted to the storm the way he did and she knew it. She hoped bringing him here from Endure would keep his true nature at bay. It had worked for the last sixteen years. If the time came, she prayed he'd understand why they had to keep it from him. For now, she continued on as if nothing was out of the ordinary, as she always had. All his life she watched him stare into the darkening skies and wished now that there would be one, maybe two years yet, before he must leave the estate. She pleaded with the Light, 'not yet, don't take my baby yet.'

Avos shivered as he walked out of the stables and back into the rain. It felt like there was something else he should be doing. Was something strange afoot? He scanned the yard and scooted up past the back garden and entered the kitchen doors. They'd been left open a crack to let some heat escape. He made his way directly to the hot kiln to warm up. His father had left some hops drying to make beer for trade, but he was nowhere to be seen. Their table had been set for lunch, a lamb stew lightly boiled on the hearth, releasing an aroma of basil and thyme.

He took a deep breath and licked his lips, savoring the thought of a later meal. He slipped through the corridor and up the stairs to his attic quarters. He took off his wet shirt and hung it up by the window to bake on the sun's arrival if it arrived at all. By the looks of it outside, the chances were slim. The rain still came down hard, and there was no stopping it. First, it only pattered but soon it pounded viciously on the windows and rooftop and made Avos seek the comfort of his bed.

He jumped in and lay there listening to its rhythmic beating. His fear returned as he thought of the faceless people in his dreams and he wondered who they might be and why they sent the rain to torment him. He seethed because he knew that it was wrong to want to hide under his blanket. Yet he refused to quiver. Somehow, he sensed he could stop the rain. Little did he know, he could make or break the rain with a single uttered word.

 Little did he know, he could make or break the rain with a single uttered word

Oops! This image does not follow our content guidelines. To continue publishing, please remove it or upload a different image.
ValterraWhere stories live. Discover now