Afeclin sat in a wooden rowboat looking out toward the coast of Marrapassa. The woods were thick with untouched trees making it hard to see very far inside.
He was sure he had made it past the elvin borders of Tebelligan without having been seen. He had been careful to leave under the cover of the morning mist so that he would not attract attention from the coast guard high in his tower. He had wanted to keep his leaving a secret. Even though Tebelligan City was built beside the ocean, fishing was left for the farming and fishing communities in the west of Tebelligan, therefore all boats in the vicinity of the city’s coast were treated as suspicious unless prior arrangement with the coast guard was made and Afeclin had made no such arrangement.
He now scanned the coastline in hopes that he might find the little town of his birth. He rowed closer to the shore to make a keener observation.
It should not be far now, he thought to himself as he rowed further on, heaving the paddles through the water with great effort and strain.
The tiny rowboat was just big enough to hold the tall human as he sat with his knees almost to his chest. Afeclin was used to things being a little too small for him. Growing up in an all elf kingdom, things were never quite his size.
Rounding a corner, that jutted out from the coast a short distance, he put what little energy he had left into rowing on the still waters.
Once around the corner, he stopped, putting down the wide paddles, to rest for a moment before continuing on.
Hunched over, he let his aching muscles relax as he dropped his head feeling immense fatigue. When he lifted his head again he was surprised and relieved by what he saw.
Just beyond the calm beach were the remnants of a little village nestled in a small valley which was surrounded by thick vegetation.
Afeclin paddled to the shore with renewed excitement and allowed the boat to slide up on the bank. He jumped out onto the wet sand and pulled the boat further up the beach out of the water.
The afternoon was hot and sunny and the sweat poured from him profusely. Mopping his brow with his shirt sleeve, he began to explore the town.
It was a poor but humble village. Built from the timber cut down from the valley and fortified with the clay found in the ground, the crudely erected cottages were small and boxy.
The little nameless town that was hidden away from the rest of the world was now nothing more than a graveyard.
He wandered around the wide gravel streets that were more an expanse between the houses than designed roads. The place was quiet and lifeless, but not peacefully so. There was not a breeze to be felt in the valley and not a sound to be heard anywhere in the sky or on the ground. The only sounds Afeclin could hear were those he made himself as he shuffled his long black boots through the gravel.
Afeclin undid the lace on the front of his off white shirt and rolled up his sleeves attempting to cool himself a little.
He felt an intense heat which was strange, even for time of year. The hot season brought a lot of strong heat and sudden rainstorms, but this place had a different kind of hotness.
It is so hot here, it’s as if the fire still rages.
Traipsing from one cottage to the next, Afeclin examined the interior of each house with due respect.
The insides were empty. What little furniture once filled them had been incinerated under extreme heat. The wooden floors had also disappeared leaving a hole through to the ground.
It was sad to see the ashen walls of the black, soot stained buildings that crumbled with decay and ruin.
While the walls still stood, to some extent due to the clay that had rendered and protected them, the rooves had been completely consumed when the fires raged.
Afeclin stopped still in the middle of the village patting his short chin hair in thought.
It seemed such an out of the way place. It was deep within the Woods of Devan just beyond the border of Tebelligan, hidden away.
Why should anyone attack it? What purpose did it serve?
It didn’t make the least bit of sense to him. Whether as a tactical manoeuvre during the war or as some kind of random attack at the end, it seemed nonsensical. The villagers were mere peasants, ignorant of the bloodshed going on around them and weaponless; unable to fight. Why attack them?
He closed his eyes trying hard to understand.
When he opened them again, his eyes fell upon a small humble abode on the edge of the village close to a steep incline. There was something unusual about it, something that drew his attention to it.
As he took steps toward the little cottage, he noticed that unlike the other houses, this one did not seem to be burned in its entirety. There was a section in the middle of the house that was completely unaffected by the fire. The walls and even the roof were still intact.
Afeclin walked with nervousness to the entry of the cottage, not sure about how he was going to feel. He held his breath as he passed over the threshold.
The inside of the cottage was somewhat dark compared to the others he had seen. Even though daylight streamed through the missing sections of roof, the undamaged thatched area darkened the cottage significantly.
A section of floor was also still intact and it held the infamous cradle that Afeclin had heard about from his adoptee father, the Elf King of Tebelligan.
A little cradle, the only piece of furniture left in the building.
Afeclin examined the crib closely. The finely carved bed was made of strong bankoi wood and apart from being a little dirty and dusty, the cradle seemed to be in as good of a condition as it ever had been.
So this is where they found me.
Afeclin touched the cradle delicately with one finger.
All of a sudden he fell backward onto the floor as an image of the fire burst into his mind.
He had seen a horrified face that screamed amongst red hot flames.
Afeclin looked with cautiousness around the room. There was nothing there and all was still as before.
He stared at the fine piece of woodwork suspiciously.
It is the crib.
He touched the cradle again with more force and held tight to the sides. This time an image came into his mind and stayed there corrupting his thoughts and hurting his brain. Despite the pain he felt, he did not lift his hands.
He saw a woman’s face of ashen white. She was screaming in terror. A man of a tall large stature had his arms wrapped around the hysterical woman trying to pull her away from the blazing fire that was surrounding them. The woman tried in desperation to reach out for something on the other side of the flames and the man was doing all he could to stop her.
Through the thick glass window, many other people could be seen running about and screaming. There were some that tried to run buckets of water from the beach to their house but to no avail. One by one the people outside were hit by burning embers or what looked like fireballs aimed at them and they were killed; smothered to death in murderous flames.
Inside the house the man tried in vain to smash the window with his elbow. The thick glass would not be broken and with his elbow bleeding and torn he started to give in to the smoke that had engulfed the house and was beginning to choke his lungs.
There was a cry from a baby and the woman dashed through the fire to try and get to him. At the same time her flowing dress was caught by the blaze and she found herself being consumed by the flames. Her long golden tresses were burnt to her scalp. She could do nothing to help her crying son in his crib.
There was a last glance before she burned to death. She had a look of relief on her face as she realised the baby was safe from harm.
No smoke, no burning embers or flames touched the child. He seemed to be protected by an eerie blue energy force that emanated from a rock that had been hung above his cradle.
The man mourned only a brief moment over his lost love. He fell to the floor having been strangled to death by the thick smoke and then he too was devoured by the fire.
Afeclin ripped himself away from the crib, his hands were shaking and his legs felt weak and unstable. He felt the need to sit down and he did so, quavering upon what was left of the timber flooring. Thoughts exploded through his mind as he tried to come to grips with the event he had just witnessed.
My mother died trying to save me.
Tears welled in his eyes. He tried to pull back the emotion he was feeling.
Why? Why destroy such poor innocent people?
The scene kept playing over and over in his head and before long he was crying with convulsions upon the ground.
It doesn’t make sense, what kind of people would do such a thing?
The raging fires had killed everyone in that quiet, out of the way village except for one lonely survivor, a baby in a cradle… himself.
They didn’t even stand a chance, he whimpered into his long bony hands. They had nothing of value. They were not any kind of threat and they were out of the way… so why bother with them?
Afeclin could not get his head around the attack. The more he thought about it the more puzzled he became and before long he was no longer crying but sitting on his knees in the dirt trying to figure it out.
They were hit with balls of fire. What kind of weapon was that?
The only people Afeclin knew that could produce fireballs were wizards. But could a wizard have done this? The more he thought it out the more probable it seemed, yet he was still unable to understand why anyone would do such a thing.
He got to his feet, sweeping his fingers through his long, black, sweat soaked hair.
He was determined more than ever to leave Tebelligan and follow his desire to become a wizard. He knew he had a gift but he had to learn how to use it properly and grow it to its full potential.
I was protected that day. Maybe it was for a special purpose.