Preface

Sage speaks:

In the beginning, there was only darkness.

From that darkness, light was born, and from that light, all else originated.

And though light came to be forever praised by all forms of life, darkness still had its place in the universe, and the two ruled in harmony. That is how it was, how it is, and how it should be. But balance, once found, must always struggle to remain just so, especially when outside forces conspire to weigh the scales in their favor.

I breathed my first breath during the initial attempt to tip the scales, a child born in a time of shadow and doubt. My parents were victims of a petty argument, and I was left to fend for myself at a young age. It wasn't until I reached my early teens that the wise one found me and took me in. He trained me to be the best - skilled in the deadly arts of the sword and the thought, impervious to attacks on body or mind. And while my lessons, my very existence, continued in secret, he opened his house to wanderers, lost and unwanted, rejected from their towns and countries for the unforgivable sin of being different...of having a gift that wasn't understood. He began to train them as well, and soon had many devoted followers. That group of misfits became a family, and that family became a force to be reckoned with, fighting injustice wherever they were needed. And though they came to be respected, they were unable to find acceptance.

Then whispers of an unknown evil ravaged the lands, a dark force from the north was coming, and it would rule everyone and everything. My own education complete, the wise one called to me in the dead of night, and assigned me a task to carry out. It was my duty, and mine alone, to go to the north, to live in the darkness, become one with it, and still stay true to the balance of the universe for which his team would fight. I accepted this mission, and left the family I was hidden from to join the chaos they would someday resist.

Years passed as I won the admiration of the dark ones, working my way up to a position of trust and power, until the day of the reckoning came. People of all races, colors, and creeds stood opposite the forces of the night, terrified but resolute. In reality, they had no chance. The war would have been over before it began...until the wise one and his troops arrived. The battle was long and hard, but the master of darkness was destroyed, and his followers scattered to the winds at his demise.

I alone was forced to face the judgments of man. The wise one left me to this fate, and I foolishly accepted his decision without question. I was found guilty of crimes that were not my own, and banished from the world of men. My name became a curse that, if uttered aloud, was punishable by death. My words and deeds were erased from history. As far as anyone was concerned, I never existed.

But those who were said to have been destroyed were not. Evil did not die on that field...it is far too clever to come to such an end. Instead, it concealed itself beyond the scope of human perception, waiting for an opportune time to once again rise and take what it thought rightfully belonged to it. And so it slumbered for many years.

Centuries passed. Those who had seen evil for themselves were long dead, and the stories that had been passed down from generation to generation were altered until they were so exaggerated and distorted that they were too spectacular to be believed. The evil and its quest to spread darkness became a tale told to frighten children into behaving. The few who had lived the nightmare, and were living still, were hunted down and tortured using a combination of science and sorcery until their memories were mangled beyond recognition.

Only I have survived the tests of time with my memory intact. I can recall anything and everything I have experienced, and I am sure I will be called on to serve again...for darkness shifts in its seclusion, preparing to once again lay claim on that which it wishes to possess. I recognize signs that have been forgotten, I know the time approaches when the lives of men will be challenged.

But men will not stand alone, for heroes have been born amongst their numbers once more. The long-lost race that diminished into the light has been reestablished. The gifted ones have returned to protect those who would otherwise shun and despise them. They will fight not only for the fate of men, but fate of all existence.

Even now, I feel evil stirring from its slumber...

 

Chapter 1