It's a sunny day in the peaceful village of Arkvale, Lore. Thanks to the hunters, deadly monsters are rarely seen around there - except if one is foolish or daring enough to venture into the forest. And Arkvale itself is home of some good hunters, as well as peasant militias - peasants are quite adequately trained to defend themselves from the dangers from outside, organized neatly with the village chief's leadership. No monsters in the meadows near the village either, only common beasts and cattle pasture from the lush, green pastures. We can also see oak, willow and elm trees in the woods not far from there.
The image of the peaceful meadow is made complete with two small kids, a ten-year old blonde boy and an eight-year old girl playing joyfully at the meadow. The boy is playing a tune with his pan flute, and the girl is singing and dancing, following the tune.
O' heavenly acorns of peace,
Come down to us from the Living Tree
'Cause we're making a song for thee,
For the hope of the happy and free
O' will the joy last forever true,
In a beautiful life we're going through
O' will the joy can never spent,
The Springs Of Love flowing without end
O' sweet love, sweet love,
Giving life joy, warmth and peace
O' sweet love, sweet love,
Nothing compares the greatness of love
The Ballad of Love and Peace
- by Keith Arnûviel, Elf Bard, The Loremaker
A simple song they just learnt from the wandering bard that just came five days ago in the village. The song was made to make people think, can love cause peace? Or must there be peace first, and then the seeds love can grow? They are surely relevant to each other – but remember even in the time of war true love can be seen. Of course peace is the situation – the fertile ground where love can bloom and grow. But yes, in a certain way, love can cause peace. The love for the country and the loved ones makes one does everything he can to defend them : to try to coexist with others, or if others refuse to coexist and try to destroy everything that is dear to one’s heart, one may choose to fight and die for it, for love’s sake.
The kids’ simple, childish minds certainly can’t understand the meaning of this tune completely, but as the tune gives them joy, they keep on dancing, singing and playing music until they are tired and they lie on the grass, staring at the sky above them.
‘Er… Laetitia?’ says the boy.
The girl, Laetitia answers, ‘Yes?’
‘You sang very well, just like the bard’.
‘Well, thank you, Robert.’
And Laetitia gives Robert a friendly kiss as thanks for the compliment.
They pause for a while. Then Laetitia comments,
‘Er, Robert, are you sure this is alright? I mean, us playing in the meadows far from the village?’
‘That’s all right, Tisha (Laetitia’s nickname). My mom has given me permisson.’
‘Hey, she gave you permission to PLAY with me only – not to go to this place.’
‘But she didn’t mention that we shouldn’t play HERE, right? Anyway I heard Mrs. Jameson said that this village and the surroundings are monster-free now. No need to worry at all.’
‘Ew… I trust your word more than Mrs. Jameson’s. She’s only a loudmouth.’
‘Okay, okay, whatever you say. Now we’re already here, and all we can do is be more careful.’
‘If monsters come, will you run or will you fight them?’
‘Hey hey, I’m still a little kid. Of course I will run.’
‘But if the monsters catch you?’
‘Naah, they can’t. I can run as fast as a deer.’
Laetitia makes a scary face.
‘Oh yeah? GRRRR! Here comes the monster now! Let’s see how fast you run!’
‘Wow! Scary monster! Run for your lives!’
Robert gets up, and Laetitia chases him playfully, grunting but also laughing.
‘C’mon, creepy monster! Come and get me!’
Robert blows raspberries.
And they keep playing until… they hear heavy footsteps in the forest behind them.
‘Rob, do you hear that?’
‘Footsteps, Rob! They’re coming from the forest!’
Robert tries to listen more carefully.
‘AH, you’re right, Tisha! But how can footsteps be heard in such a long distance? Unless there are many of them, running! Let’s hide! Quick!’
Robert and Laetitia run to a thicket and a big rock nearby, and hide in the thicket. They peep outside and try not to make the slightest sound. They just hug each other, shivering.
Robert whispers, ‘Monsters…’
‘Robert, I’m scared…’
‘Keep your voice down, Tisha. Until we know who they really are.’
They are getting more tensed as the footsteps draw nearer and nearer – and finally some figures come out. Robert tries to look more clearly, and he sees a band of human-like figures, but they can’t be humans. They have greenish and greyish skins, and two of their teeth stick out from their large mouths, and they wear strange armors – real different than the ones Robert ever seen before. There are about fifty of them, and they all look frightening.
Laetitia murmurs, ‘Orcs…’
Robert warns her again, ‘Sssh!’
The creatures Laetitia mentioned, the orcs are running – and now they are shouting in a strange language that sounds like grunts. Apparently it’s their warcry.
‘Ghraaak! Ghraaaaaak!!! Kraal du ega bharrooom!!’ (Charge! Charge! Death for all enemies!)
Hearing that, and seeing their actions, Robert realizes something: They are attacking
‘Moom! Daad! Please, spare them. Let them run away…!’
These words are repeating like an echo in Robert’s mind, and Laetitia is already crying.
Laetitia cries, ‘Mommy!!!’
And she gets up to go to her village – but Robert drags her back into the thicket.
An orc in the band pauses on hearing loud noises, and turns his head to the back. But he sees no one there. He grunts, turns and goes towards the village. Robert muffles Laetitia’s mouth and they keep hugging each other in the thicket, crying. Robert feels helpless.
‘If only I am stronger… I’ll rush into the village without doubt. But what can I do? I’m only a child. A helpless little boy.’ Robert thinks. He surely has a mature thinking, more mature than his age.
Minutes later, they begin to feel hot. Fearing the worst, Robert and Laetitia come out from the thicket and look towards Arkvale. The village is on fire! They also hear faint screams and cries from the village. Laetitia can’t contain herself any longer and runs towards the village hysterically, but Robert seizes her hand and draws her close to himself. Laetitia struggles to free herself from Robert’s hug, but then she cries aloud frantically and leans on Robert’s chest. Robert also cries without a sound, he is crestfallen to see all the people and things that he loves are killed and destroyed in an hour. Then Robert decides to hide in the thicket again, so he can come back later to his village to see whether his parents and Laetitia’s mother are safe. This will also save Laetitia and himself from a worse tragedy.
The screams die down about half an hour later, and it seems the orcs are not going back through the meadows. Robert still sees the fire raging in the village. Laetitia is already asleep, exhausted from too much shock. Then Robert also falls asleep.
They wake up early the next day. The fire has died down now. Laetitia murmurs…
‘Is mom safe? I have to see mom!’
‘No, Tisha! It’s not safe yet! Maybe the monsters – orcs, you say? – are still there yet, pillaging things….’
‘NO! I’ve waited long enough! I’m going now! I’m so scared! I need mommy!’
‘All right, I think the orcs have gone now. Let’s go there – maybe our parents have fled and returned to the village for any salvages.’
Both of them go to the village, the entire houses there were burnt down into ashes. As they go in, they see dead people scattered on the way. Laetitia shrieks in terror, and then runs hysterically to her house – or what used to be her house. She can’t find her mother in there or around.
Laetitia yells, ‘Mother! Mother!’
Robert pulls her hand.
‘She’s not here, Tisha. Better check my house too.’
Robert and Laetitia walk towards his house and on the way, Robert sees his father – dead. It seems that his father has put on a terrific struggle, as he sees three dead orcs lying not far from him. But the enemies were too many, and at last he met his demise at the edge of an orcish falchion. Robert’s father, Emmerich Chandler was a monster hunter, an army veteran. Robert cries at his father’s body for a while, and covers Emmerich’s body with Emmerich’s robe. Robert takes his father’s sword that lays not far from him – a kiliji – a curved sword that looks like a combination between a scimitar and a katana. Then holding the kiliji, Robert swears,
‘Father, I’ll use this sword to avenge your blood. Every orc in this world shall pay!’
After Robert ties the kiliji on his back with the rag he found nearby, Robert and Laetitia walk on to Robert’s house. He sees his sister’s corpse sprawling on the grassy way. Robert’s heart breaks into pieces. The orcs have no interest in raping humans – they just kill humans on the spot. Then Robert sees his house also burnt into ashes. He goes closer looks inside, and he sees a burnt hand sticking out from the rubbles of the fire – his mother! Robert falls on his knees, tears rolling down from his eyes. His tragedy is now complete. Trembling with sadness, Robert crawls on his knees closer to his mother’s body. And he sees his mother’s ring on her fourth finger – a simple golden ring. Still shivering, Robert takes the ring off and puts it on the fourth finger on his left hand, and he will move it to his fifth finger when he’s 14. Then he collapses to the ground and cries, as he has lost the person that cares for him most and he cares most in the world. He has lost everything.
‘Mother, I’ll wear this ring as long as I live.’
And he never takes it off again and kisses it everytime he is about to attack his target orcs as the memento of his mother that always said these words to him: ‘Never give up.’ This principle has built Robert’s advanced thinking and calm nature.
Suddenly he remembers Laetitia, he looks around and calls her…
But she’s not around. A stroke of terror comes into Robert’s mind, he has neglected to protect Laetitia while lamenting his own loss. He runs here and there, searching for her and calling her name. She must be still in the village, he thinks, she needs to find her mother – but her hysteria…
In that desperate moment he hears a faint cry.
‘A girl – it must be Tisha!’ He thinks.
Robert immediately rushes towards the source, and he finds Laetitia at last. She cries hysterically, leaning on a mangled body. It’s her mother. Robert calls from afar while running towards her.
Robert gets no response, but he keeps on calling.
Then Laetitia looks at him from afar, and gets up, still crying.
She is about to run to Robert, but she freezes. A greenish orc is already standing behind her with a sadistic smile on his face. Robert is thunderstruck and screams hysterically…
With this last word, Laetitia falls, crashing on the ground, dead. A throwing axe sticks at her back. It was all the orc’s doing. Maybe Robert can still be strong upon the death of his entire family, but seeing his best friend die – the one he should’ve been protecting… He stops – tears come from his eyes, his eyes and mouth are wide open.
‘Tisha… Pay for her blood, bastard!’
A mixture of sadness, self-disappointment, and rage accumulates into a new strength in him, and he goes berserk. He draws his Kiliji sword from his back and rushes fast towards the orc. It’s as though Robert has lost his mind.
The orc sees Robert, and throws another throwing axe at him.
‘You want to die too? Eat this!’
The throwing axe misses Robert’s body – only leaving a scratch on Robert’s left arm. Robert uses this moment before the orc realizes his axe has missed and stabs the orc right into his gut before the orc can even reach his sword. Both of them don’t move, and the orc lets out his final grunt then he dies on the spot with an expression of not believing he can be killed by a ten year old kid. The dead orc stumbles on the ground and lies there, dragging Robert and his kiliji along with him. Robert also falls, still holding his kiliji tightly. Then his sight goes blurry – everything goes dark. Bearing too much tragedy and trauma, Robert’s strength is failing him, and he falls unconscious on the dead orc’s feet, still holding his kiliji.
The Old Duke and the Silver Haired Boy
‘We’re too late.’
‘Yes, they attacked here so suddenly. The villagers didn’t even have time to call for reinforcements.’
‘At least we hunted down those blasted orcs.’
‘Ah, but there were some who fled, right? And we chase ‘em here and kill an orc or two.’
The captain interrupts,
‘Enough talking. Now go into the village, bury the victims and salvage anything you can find. We can’t expect any survivor there.’
The troops spread and begin to look for casualties. Then they collect the dead and cover them with anything they can find before burying them on the village outskirts. One of the soldiers sees something out of ordinary in the village.
‘Hey, guys! Look here!’
‘See that? A boy stabbed an orc with a heavy sword! Poor soul! What a waste, such a brave kid!’
‘And his hair – it’s all white! Was he born like that… or…?’
‘I heard a sudden, terrible trauma or catastrophe can turn your hair white in an instant.’
Rosso the soldier checks the boy – Robert by holding his arms to feel the pulse.
‘This is INCREDIBLE! He’s ALIVE! He’s still warm, and he still has the pulse too!’
The others are struck with awe, and one even comes forward and puts a finger in front of Robert’s nose.
‘Rosso’s right! He’s still breathing!’
Then they hear the sound of galloping horses and they turn around to see a man dresses like a noble and what looks like his personal guards dismounting from their horses. The man is indeed a noble – He is Duke Adamar Walthorn, lord of the Walfront region (including
The captain does a half-kneeling salute, and the soldiers nearby follow suit.
‘Captain James Hickram, reporting on duty, Sire.’
‘Captain, how’s the situation?’
‘The village is totally destroyed, sire. Burnt to ashes. And nearly no survivors. We were too late, but at least we had hunted down and annihilated the orcs.’
‘Did you receive any request of reinforcements from the village?’
‘Yes, sire, but the messenger arrived when the orcs already attacked. The messenger himself died from his wounds. Then we sent our cavaliers for a full pursuit and intercepted the orcs at the riverbank.’
‘Very well then. Continue your work.’
Then Walthorn can’t contain his grief anymore, and he himself falls on his knees. Tears rolling from his eyes as he says…
‘This village… I had fond memories from my visits here. They were nice and friendly people. No one stole from another. No crime here. This village was always clean and beautiful. What a dreadful end… my worst blunder…’
Then suddenly he realizes something, and he calls the captain.
‘Did you say “nearly” no survivors?’
‘Yes, milord. There is a survivor here. A boy.’
‘Is that true? Show him to me then!’
And Walthorn sees Robert, still lying unconscious near a dead orc. As Walthorn comes closer, Captain James Hickram explains.
‘We found him lying on top of this orc, still clutching his sword. We think he has slain the orc.’
‘What? A boy slew an orc? That’s impossible! This creature was ten times stronger than he is!’
‘That’s what we saw, milord. Let’s just wait for him to regain his consciousness and…’
‘Captain! Sir Captain! The boy’s awake!’
Walthorn and the captain rush towards Robert, and Walthorn hold him on to help him awake.
‘Wake up, boy! You’re alive!’
Robert murmurs, ‘… uggnnnhh…’
And he slowly opens his eyes, reaching up, murmuring, ‘… Ti… shaa…’
‘Brace yourself, boy! You’re safe now.’
Then Robert sees around him, still weak and exhausted from his fight with the orc. Tisha’s body is not around – the soldiers have moved her. He cries, but no tears come out from his eyes – as he has cried too much already and the tears were as though dried out.
‘Tishaaa…! Where’s Tisha?’
‘I think she’s passed away, my child. You’re the only survivor.’
‘Only?’ Robert thinks. He tries to recall, and flashes of the past events comes from his memory: Laetitia was slain in front of him, the ugly orc and his fight with the orc – how he killed the orc with only one blow from his kiliji…
Robert tries to get up and reach for his kiliji – but he’s too weak to do it. Walthorn understands at once. The sword on the orc’s body is indeed Robert’s, so Robert really killed the orc. Walthorn braces Robert and stares at him admiringly. What a brave little hero, he thinks.
Then he calls Captain James.
‘Captain, fetch that sword, clean it and bring it to me. As for the boy, put him in the cart and take him to the citadel. Let him rest, he’s still too weak.’
‘Your biddings will be done, milord.’
Walthorn speaks to Robert again.
‘What’s your name, my child?’
‘Ro… Robert, mi… lord…’
‘Oho… you’re so polite, aren’t you? And you’re very brave too. I like you. Now we’ll take you to the citadel and I’ll take care of you. I’ll train you and make you stronger. I think you can be a fine soldier someday.’
‘No buts, my child. Just take this as a token of my apology because I failed to protect your village. I know you’re sad about your family, and your friend… Tisha, I presume. And don’t worry. I’ll return your sword later, as good as new. And I will bury the villagers, one grave for one, with something to recognize them on each tomb.’
Robert faints again. Walthorn doubts whether Robert listened to his words clearly – but if he asks again, Walthorn is ready with the right answers.
Walthorn thinks. He even tried to argue with me in that state. Hmmm, he’s brave, but he’s too reckless. Maybe he should learn to control his strength – if he DOES have it. He cannot depend on luck alone.
The Citadel of Jeland
Robert wakes up three days later and finds himself in a strange room.
This looks like a castle, he thinks. Where am I?
Robert looks around, there’s a tapestry, a cupboard, a chair, a large mirror, and a table with a basin and a napkin on it. He looks at himself. He’s wearing nice, clean clothes. Feeling strong enough although a bit drowsy, Robert gets up from his bed and looks outside the window. He sees a beautiful view of a land with birds passing by and the sun – how he loves to see the sun again. And the fresh air… Robert takes a deep breath and exhales by blowing upwards to his hair – one of his habits. Then he sees a strange thing – his front hair is all white.
My hair… am I seeing wrong? Robert thinks.
He pulls his hair down a bit and takes a good look, with right eye open. An eerie thought comes in Robert’s mind.
Argh! It’s white!
Robert rushes to the mirror, and stands there, stunned in terror. His hair is silvery white all over, and a thought comes into his mind.
I’m a disappointment. I allowed the tragedy to ruin my heart, my thought and my hair. I can’t protect my family, I can’t even protect Tisha – my negligence has caused her death. I should’ve never returned there, but waited for the soldiers to show up, and beg for protection. Then Tisha might be saved. My bad! People thought I’m thinking like a grown-up, but in fact a child is a child… Oh, I understand now. These all happened because of my lack of experience, and I’m not strong enough. If only I was a grown-up man, a hunter like my father, maybe I could rally the village people to form a quick defense and fend off the orc-things.
Robert pauses for a while, and then he looks at the ring on his left ring finger and thinks,
Mom, I’m sorry I disobeyed you, though it saved my life. But maybe it’s Vadis’ will that I was spared. Maybe he has a good plan for me; maybe he wants me to be his agent to punish the orcs and monsters. Oh Vadis, please give peace for my father, mother, Tisha, her mom, and the other villagers. Give them rest from this war against monsters, aggressors and evil. Let me continue my life; make me strong so I can carry out your will.
Then Robert kisses his ring and stares at the mirror again. The thought of Vadis’ kindness cures him from his negativity and he doesn’t give up on life any longer. With this new hair, he now enters a new life. And the goal of his new life is – to punish as many orcs as possible and make that monstrous humanoid extinct in Lore – or even in Aurelia. And the first step is – to be stronger. And the lord in this castle has offered to make him stronger, so he will accept it willingly. His mind is set.
A few minutes later, the door opens. The maid comes, and her expression changes into gladness on seeing Robert is awake, fully healed and well. Robert is standing in front of the mirror, deep in thought. The maid clears her throat, and Robert realizes her coming at once.
‘Oh, you’re awake, Robert.’
‘Ah, madam! How do you know my name? What is this place? Who took me?’
‘Slow down; slow down, one question at a time. You see I’m not quite young anymore.’
‘But you still look perfect, ma’am.’
‘Haha, flattery from a smart kid works every time.’
‘Well, anyway, this place is called Jeland, citadel of the Duchy of Walfront in Varestine city. The person who took you is the Good Duke Adamar Walthorn, the lord of this citadel and region and, major of this city. And he told me your name and told me to look after you.’
A flash of Duke Walthorn’s face comes in Robert’s mind. A kind middle-aged man offered to make him stronger.
Robert sighs, ‘Ah, I wish to thank him for taking care of me.’
A voice comes from outside.
Robert and the maid glance towards the door – and there he is, Duke Walthorn, walking into the room from the doorway with the air of dignity, experience, integrity and wisdom.
‘Well, you’re awake at last, my child.’
Robert kneels to salute the duke and express his respect and gratitude.
‘Good sire, my gratitude to you upon your kindness.’
‘Well, well, you speak too well and too polite for a child – did you learn that from your parents? They must be nobles.’
‘To tell you the truth, sire, they are just simple peasants. My father Emmerich Chandler was a hunter, and my mother Klarisse was a weaver.’
‘Ah, you’re a
‘Alas, Sir, she was not spared – so were the other villagers I knew…’
Robert’s expression changes into a sallow, sad face.
‘… And one of them, my best friend was slain because of my recklessness.’
‘Now, now my child. Don’t you ever keep that thought. It was not your fault at all. Your friend should’ve been near you all the time so you two can keep an eye on each other – and she was not. And the orc raid – and the escaping orcs… It should’ve been my fault. My worst blunder during my lordship. Had I detected that danger, I would’ve sent reinforcements sooner and rouse the villagers to stay alert and perform the necessary defenses. Will you ever forgive me from an old man’s folly?’
Robert is touched, but his expression is unchanged. It seems that he just developed a new personality from this tragedy – cool and somewhat indifferent. It’s not a sign of a hopeless person, but comes from his determination to focus to his goal – to be stronger and to avenge his family and friends, and get rid to all ‘unnecessary’ feelings. From now on, he only smiles, laughs, gets angry or sad only if he can’t help it or he thinks it’s necessary.
Seeing Robert’s indifferent face, Walthorn thinks that Robert is still angry and distressed with all this tragedy. And Robert blames him from being careless. But Robert speaks in reply,
‘Good sir, but I think it’s nobody’s fault. It’s only about human nature and orc nature. I think you have done everything you can to defend your realm, but monsters are monsters. They don’t care how good your defenses are. They just attack anyway, following their wild instincts.’
Now it’s Walthorn’s turn to be touched.
‘Robert! I never expected so much understanding and wisdom from a little boy like you! Now I’m surely convinced that you can be a great general someday – and I personally will assist you to be stronger and wiser. You’re right. Now it’s not the time to regret. The right thing to do is to find solutions to minimize the risk of monster attacks – and that is to lessen their population and if necessary, make them extinct – by the service of the hunters.’
‘Yes, Robert. Hunters hunt for monsters as well as fur and game. Thanks to them, the population of monsters has been greatly declined for the past century. Anyway, our words gave me an idea. I will make hunters more proactive, to hunt monsters without waiting for jobs and targets anymore. But we will pay them for whatever monsters they killed. Of course the jobs are still necessary as they offer better pay. Ah, this idea may deplete my treasury, but it’s sure less expensive than the loss of villages and human lives.’
‘Well, I think I want to be a hunter someday.’
‘Hahaha, you do? That’s good. But you’re meant for something greater and nobler – a soldier. A general. Remember, sometimes humans are worse than monsters. Monsters kill for their basic necessities, but humans… sometimes for no reason at all.’
‘The same with orcs.’
‘Er, yes. But consider that you can defend your country better by fighting against ALL kinds of aggressors, humans and monsters alike.’
Robert thinks for a while. He prefers to be a hunter than a soldier because he will have more chances to encounters with Orcs and can kill them at will – than a soldier that kills on order – sometimes against his own will. But as Walthorn offered him to make him strong, Robert had already decided to accept that offer, and goes along the path that is available to him until he meets his destiny.
‘Very well, then. Please accept my humble service, my liege.’
‘That’s my good lad. Now kiss my ring to seal the bond between us.’
Robert takes Walthorn’s hand and kisses Walthorn’s ring on his right ring finger.
‘Now I declare you Robert the Page of The Duchy of Walfront. Keep in mind that I will repay good deeds with honor, loyalty with love, and treachery with revenge. You’ll be my student and my servant, and you’ll be stationed in the stables at all times except in your study and special tasks I will assign you. And you will also escort me in my travels as my pupil and to take care of my horse, Paeldagrin.’
Robert bows and kneels in response.
‘I’ll do my lord’s biddings.’
‘Good, good. Now you take a rest for the day. You’ll be given a briefing at the stables tomorrow by the stable master, Squire Kelba and the lessons will start the day after tomorrow at . Good day, my lad.’
‘Good day to you, my lord.’
Walthorn leaves the room. Robert however neither looks happy nor disappointed – just expressionless as usual. Then he climbs his bed and is drowned in his thoughts.
End of Chapter Two