This story was created due to the never ending problems a lot of the people in my country, and some others, experience. No matter how advanced the world is today, there are still lives that are being left behind.
All because of greedy ambitions, they fail to see the laughter of such innocence. Some may have tried, but as always it never lasts. If others tried, there are always sharks along the way and will be the cause of grave disasters.
No matter how much one believes, where no wealth lies then there will never be advancements. Where a good hand was extended, pigs will mow it down until not a single trace is left. If a ray of gold has shown, it will be easily kept until it becomes a last resort.
There are hungry and desperate souls left to die without ever fighting. Trying will make them end up in chains. Bars have always separated equality. Mere presentation will fall in a line of judgmental assaults. Names were called, but none seemed to answer.
All these things fell and have been corrupted by a storm of raging thoughts. In the end, if justice is blind then the scales will never be balanced.
We all live in this land of confusion.
Please note that this novel was written as such because like all other authors, each one have a unique way of portraying a painting into words. Which is why I hope you will bare with it for the way things were presented for there's always a reason why things were done the way they are.
The term 'Wastelanders' does not exist in the dictionary. It was a term that I have decided to call the dwellers of the Wastelands, though some earlier authors have also decided to label these people so.
On how to pronounce characters' names. Others not listed here are pronounced as is:
Ciryh - /sər/
Dyie - /di/
Kerxis - /kərsis/
Lyté - /litā/
Regh - /re/
Saihme - /sām/
Sirus - /saɪrus/
Stoel - /stōwel/
Vellojah - /'velōjä/
Prologue: Fallen World
Fires. They spread.
Screams. They echo.
Swords. They clash.
Blood is everywhere.
Countless lives were taken.
The great halls grew quiet.
The forsaken were banished and they promised never to return or pledge to the King ever again.
Those who seek justice fled into corruption.
When all laughter fades, no one was there to help.
And all the memories of such great city fades as it fell to the hands of the unrighteous for the heart who wielded it was as cold as ice.
Eleven Years Later
From a distance he heard a sound. A cry for help. He followed its direction until he found a clearing out of the dead forest. He hid behind one of the trunks while taking a peek at what was there. There were two men and a girl who was about his age. The girl struggled to free her bounds as she was being dragged. The men appear to be slavers.
"Help!" A desperate call. It was the only thing that came out of the girl.
Driven by nothing but the responsibility of being a witness, he had to help her. He held tightly onto his spearblade before hurling it towards one of the slavers. It barely missed and slit open a wound on one of the men. The injured one let go of the girl and found himself looking around for the one who threw the weapon that landed in front of them.
The boy emerged from his spot and charged holding a dagger. The man braced for the attack expecting the boy to tackle him. It was just a boy, he knew he could take the rascal out.
When the boy drew closer, he threw his dagger at the man. The man soon found the dagger between his eyes which protruded at the back of his head, bloodstained. He fell to the ground lifeless.
His companion pushed the girl furiously until her back met the ground. He drew his sword and attacked the boy who was just about to pull his dagger off the dead man. The surviving slaver pierced the boy on his shoulder. The boy flinched and took a step back. He had to take a hold on either his dagger or the spearblade.
He looked at the spearblade stuck on the ground a distance away from him. He held onto his injury before making a run for his weapon. The slaver struck the boy on his feet that made him stumble forward. But he was persistent on taking a hold of his weapon.
Either he was to die there or he kill the man first. There was nothing else to think about when death was staring right at them.
Lifting himself, he made one last run towards the spearblade and pulled it off the ground before swinging it towards the direction of the slaver. The man was soon torn in two. A sound of metal against soil was what he could hear for a moment. He realized he just killed two people.
When he was about to help the girl, he never saw fear imbued eyes staring back at him. Her face was struck with an emotion he must have seen before. He just couldn't remember.
He knelt beside her and untied her bounds, ignoring her reaction. When he made sure she was safe, he plucked out his dagger from the slaver and attached it to the other side of his spearblade. He was just about to leave by then.
"Wait." The girl called out.
He stopped and looked over her from his injured shoulder. She approached him, and saw that her eyes were no longer dyed with the expression he saw earlier. She held his injured shoulder and soon a green glow escaped her hand. When she withdrew her hand, his injury was no longer there.
"You're a..." The boy's voice trailed.
The girl shook her head. "I'm not. But I could do this as long as I can remember."
The boy said nothing more and diverted his gaze to the ground.
The girl observed him for a moment. "You look like you're not used to people." She saw the boy's hand twitch and his face was warming up a bit. It must be true, and he might be embarrassed. "Do you have a name?"
The boy hesitated. "I...don't."
He looked lost. The girl wondered what caused it. "Do you have anywhere to go?"
He needed to polish his communication skills. It was what she thought."Well then, do you know where you came from? Maybe you could go back the same way?"
The boy looked around, his eyes appeared to be wandering on their own. "I don't remember...anything."
She was quite surprised. For someone who can't remember anything, he sure can fight or remembers how to fight. "Caltha. That's my name."
The boy looked at her, confused. "C-Calla?"
"You mispronounce, it's Cal-tha." She said.
"Calla." He insisted. It was easier for him to say that.
She didn't know what else to say and simply smiled. 'Calla' wasn't a bad nickname anyway. "If you want, we can go to where I live, perhaps someone knows you there."
"O-okay." The boy sounded hesitant, but he soon found himself following behind Caltha.
They soon stood at a mountain path that overlooked a city almost covered in fog. Caltha could see the astonishment in the boy's eyes like he's never seen a civilization before. "You've never been here before?"
The boy shook his head.
"Is it okay if I give you a name that people can call you?" Caltha asked.
"I don't mind." The boy said, unsure of his answer. He waited for Caltha to call him a name. He watched as her purple eyes looked around the dead forest, the mountains, then the sky.
"Astrum! That will be your name." Caltha said. Not sure whether he wants it or not, her eyes widened as she looked him. He was smiling at her.
"Okay." Astrum said, accepting his new identity.
Caltha smiled back at his answer before leading him further. "And one more thing, don't tell anyone I can heal, okay? Let's keep it a secret between just the two of us."
As they stood at the entrance of the city, she noticed Astrum grew motionless and stood behind her a few feet away. "What's wrong?" She didn't need an answer. His expression told her that he was not ready.
Caltha heard a familiar voice. When she turned to look, her guardian was already making his way towards them with worry filled eyes. "Crolis!"
"Thank Vellojah you're alright. What did they do to you? Are you hurt anywhere? How did you escape?"
Caltha pointed at Astrum. "It's all thanks to him. He has nowhere to go, can he stay with us for the mean time?"
Crolis was staring at the boy for quite a while. His soft look slowly turned into a frown while eyeing Astrum. Caltha didn't like the atmosphere that Crolis was building. There was something in his gaze that wasn't right. "Crolis?"
"We can't take him with us. He better find someone else to take him in." Crolis said before looking at the boy. "I don't know who you are, but I appreciate you helping her." He dragged Caltha with him.
Caltha looked at Astrum from her shoulder while she followed Crolis. "Thank you for your help!" With that, they were nowhere to be seen as they walked further away.
Stranded in a foreign place, Astrum held his spearblade tightly and pressed himself on the wall of the nearest stone building. He was eyeing the people passing by. He's never seen a lot of people before and his eyes watched in amazement.
But that amazement quickly shifted when he saw a group of people fighting and arguing over the last stock of food for the day on a market stall. The one who was holding onto the item was being beaten by a few people, asking him to surrender it or he'll regret it. Another slapped the one kicking the poor man, she needed it more to feed it to her children. Another man was trying to grab the item form the beaten one.
Astrum wondered why people treated each other that way. Was the outside world that dismal? He didn't know. In fact, he didn't know anything of the outside.
He took a step back and hid behind the stone building. He observed his surroundings and it was getting dark. The streets were damp and he couldn't sleep outside. He wondered what his mentor would do in a time like that. Then he found himself taking a look back at the commotion by the nearby stall. He wanted to see how things would conclude.
But before the conclusion was met, he felt a warm hand on his shoulder and was soon being offered a home to stay in exchange for his service. He couldn't remember how the fight at the market ended, but he found a place to stay as the prize.
"Somehow, I will try to regain back everything that once belonged to the people."
There was no hesitation in his heart when he said those words since it was only the beginning when he smiled with only a young boy as his witness.
1: Friend and Foe
The Wet City
The Wasteland was not a fair sight to be seen. Not the houses built of rubble, thin bamboo and thatch roofs, not the smelly streets and bridges, and not even the ones living there. Most of these places are dry and barren where water was scarce, but not this Wasteland where it seemed like an abandoned city on a muddy mountain side that bear no food nor clean water to drink. Not even the rivers that run off the mountains could provide them with a decent cup of potable water, it was in fact only good for bathing.
Only a few of the people who dwelt there maintained their decency. These few are what most call the Execs who do the businesses with merchants and smugglers to sustain their survival in the vast expanse of the wet and barren Wastelands. But everyone knows that most of them are as corrupt as the new Superior King of the Mainland.
They despised the former King, and they hated this one too. For no words can express the hatred they have to the line of Kings who have wielded such power that could destroy homes and ruin lives.
For as long as the King does not lay a hand upon them they are at peace, but they are also trapped in this terrible place they called home for many years. Though not all peace are considered quiet for there are always people that would seek and feel the waves of freedom once again.
"Where in Vellojah's name has that rascal gone to?"
Angry was the voice who demanded it. Several people answered as Crolis passed by but none gave a decent answer as to where his target was.
It was a pleasant morning when the day started, but not too pleasant for him the moment he knew his belongings were robbed. Robbed by the very person whom he took in, clothed and fed all these years.
It was a belonging that was given to him by his long gone brother. The feeling of betrayal was not new to him and he would give the right punishment to those who have done wrong.
"Nence, are you sure about this? I don't think Crolis will be very pleased with what you're thinking right now, I fear the worst about this."
Prominence could have almost rolled his eyes at his friend's whining. He did not ask for Kofi's opinion of what Crolis would do. His friend just kept reminding him that taking a peek on women while bathing was not a good idea in the early morning.
"I told you earlier that if you're not interested you can just walk away like a coward, and go cower to wherever hole you came from." Prominence had his nasty ways of convincing his innocent friend in participating to his schemes. Being just a boy, he wanted to take part of many things no matter what it was.
"You even stole Crolis' telescope." Kofi said while looking to and fro for any signs of his worst fear. The grasses were muddy and tall and he could only see them swaying as the wind blew past them.
In the not so distant river, they heard women's laughter. Prominence positioned himself down on the ground while placing the telescope on his eyes. Despite the fog that almost covered the view, there was nothing stopping him from doing so. And before he could even see anything, the vision he saw was all but black. He thought that the lenses just zoomed too much that what he could see was one of the women's dark clothing. "Crolis' telescope just isn't working right. I can see nothing wherever I move it."
"Ugh, Nence?" Kofi said with a hint of fear in his voice.
"Why? Do you know how to fix this?" And without any idea, the telescope was snatched from his hands. From the ground where he lay, he knew who the person in front of him was just by feeling the man's presence. He was relieved that it wasn't Crolis.
"I don't know how to fix this, but I know how to make trash out of it." Astrum said while he pulled the boy on his feet.
"You won't be telling Crolis, won't you?" Prominence said with a look on his face as if begging the man to say yes. He knew this man and what he does around the Wet City and he was someone whom Prominence favors so much.
"I can't really tell. Crolis was really mad this morning and was searching rampant for you around the city. Besides, isn't this his most favored possession?" As if trying to threaten the child, Astrum added a smile as he shook his shoulders.
Prominence was relieved at that. The moment he saw Astrum smile, he knew he was saved. Whatever he does to try and count the number of times he was saved by this man, he just always failed to do so. Trouble has never befallen him the moment he met him when Astrum was new to the city and that was why he favors him more than Crolis, his own guardian.
Astrum lead them both back to the city where news of Crolis trying to find Prominence came rushing like an avalanche. Prominence worried about that since Crolis was not in good terms with Astrum since the day they met. Crolis always suspected something was not right with that man who just suddenly came into their city one day and had no name and any background of himself to share. In fact, Astrum was the name given to him by the lady whom he had saved as he ventured through the wilderness trying to save her from some wicked Barren Wasteland slavers who knew nothing but to wreak havoc amongst their fellow Wastelanders.
He hated Astrum more when he became a servant of one of the Execs, and he just kept on lingering here and there whenever he wanted and does the Exec's dirty work not knowing that many of the people are plotting things to ruin his superior.
Although Crolis was considered an Exec by many, his authority was nothing compared to those who have lead the people with fear. That was why some of his followers have abandoned him and served the other party instead.
Being a leader, it was hard to sustain the good health of the people especially their loyalty. Those who have turned their back on him have experienced a life of luxury, but it was the type of luxury where the unjust rules and they take for granted the weak. For where there is power, an immoral value always lies.
Prominence could feel the hateful gazes of the people as they passed by. It was not directed to him, but to Astrum. He heard a lot of negative side comments about him. If only they could see the good side of this man. And when he can no longer stand the insults, he picked up a stone and held on to it fiercely and turned to face the people. "How could anyone of you say such things? You don't even know what kind of man Astrum is!"
Astrum looked behind him in surprise the moment he heard Prominence. If only the boy hadn't done that then there won't be a crowd gathering out of curiosity as to what the commotion was all about. The boy just caught more attention.
"And how could you, a child in the house of Lady Caltha, do such things as following this Exec servant? Do you not know that he could just be using you to get to Crolis and might just murder him in his sleep?" An elderly woman spoke out of the thickening crowd.
Kofi grabbed Astrum's shirt from behind, afraid that the crowd might devour him if he got separated from him.
Prominence stood his ground while gripping firmly onto the stone, and he did not notice that he was already grinding his teeth out of the infuriation. Anyone of you are the same, don't you people know that the one who really does-"
Astrum held Prominence's shoulder allowing him to stop saying anymore and he took the stone from his hand while offering a small smile. "That's enough."
He did not look to anyone among the crowd, he just lead the two children away quietly. Neither Prominence nor Kofi said a single thing after then. They even saw someone spat on Astrum's shoe and eyed him with hate. But the man did not flinch or do anything violent. He just walked past them knowing that he was never welcome in these streets or this city.
When they were clear of the crowd, Prominence couldn't help but say things. "Why did you do that? Or why did you not do anything? You could have just told them."
"Nence, keep it down." Kofi said in a small voice.
When Astrum did not answer, Prominence positioned himself in front of him. "How can you allow yourself to be treated that way by the very people you try to sustain?"
Astrum sighed heavily and knelt in front of the boy. "There are just a lot of things that people don't understand, including you. That is why I need you to keep it a secret. If you continue to do the same I would greatly appreciate it because sometimes you don't have to say it, you only have to do it."
Convincing a young boy was pretty hard, especially one as hard headed as Prominence. But as he was looking at those dark crimson eyes of the boy he knew that he also wanted justice for his own. For the first time, Astrum was amazed at Crolis for keeping up with that kind of behavior.
As they are closing the house where Prominence was being cared, Astrum told Kofi to return to his home right ahead and asked Prominence to keep silent and that he let him do the talking because he knew that no one in that house would listen to the reasoning of a child, except for one person.
"What do you think you're doing here?"
They knew who owns that voice without even looking. They saw Crolis approaching out of the gate that stretched to the length of the house. That thing he said wasn't directed to anyone but Astrum alone. And when he was close to them the tension only grew more terrible that even the servants wandering about the yard did not want to lay witness and started scurrying inside the house although some wanted to see what the tension could bring about.
Astrum offered a smile to Crolis. Not a kind smile, but one that threw insults. "Crolis, I thought you were running errands for your followers today. How has it been?"
"I did not ask a question to be answered by another question. What are you doing here?" Crolis shifted his angry gaze to Prominence whose head was lowered as he was trying to hide behind Astrum.
Astrum held the telescope freely on one hand to distract Crolis from looking at the boy. And when he succeeded, he only saw more anger in those green eyes of the man.
"You...What did you do to him?" Crolis was referring to Prominence.
Astrum feigned innocence in his voice as he spoke. "What, this boy? I thought I could make him useful as my assistant and let him sneak around your house for some tradable items." He lifted the telescope as if examining it. "I heard this was your most valuable possession so I asked this boy to take it to see if it could be traded with the merchants. Unfortunately they found its value worth nothing."
That's a lie.
Prominence couldn't do anything but keep silent like what Astrum asked. He couldn't do anymore than just stand there because of his stupidity for stealing something that was not even important and let all the blame befall the man whom he have always trusted.
Crolis began to approach and grabbed Astrum by the collar of his shirt as rage filled his mood for the insult he gave at his brother's gift. "How dare you use him as a tool to your detrimental schemes. People like you make me sick to the core of my being."
Astrum's smile widened sideways. He always heard things such as those almost every time the people see him walking freely in the city. "I also hate ignorant fools like you to the core of my being." He noticed people are gathering around them. "I see you want to make a bad impression of yourself as an Exec."
Crolis let go of Astrum's shirt and glanced a bit at the gathering crowd before looking at him in the eye again. The man was holding freely of the telescope as if reaching it out to him. Without a word, he snatched it off him before turning his back away and headed to the house as he called Prominence's attention. When the boy did not even flinch, his voice was like thunder. "Nence!"
Prominence's grip on Astrum was tighter as he feared his guardian would harm him. But then he always knew that Caltha would not allow that to happen.
"You better go." Astrum whispered to the boy behind him and Prominence obeyed despite his fear. Then he called Crolis' attention before the man could disappear into the house. "Give my regards to Lady Caltha."
If only the crowd did not start to emerge, Crolis could have drawn his blade and make good slashing of that man. His blood was boiling and although it was colder than any other day, he could feel the rise of temperature in his body. The fool even asked him to send his regards to the Lady of the house. He swore to himself that the next time that happens it might just be a battle field.
When he saw Prominence enter with such gloom on his face, he stormed towards him and grabbed his shoulders to face him. "You, what do you think you're doing dealing with a man such as he?"
Prominence knew he had to fight his way out of this and protect Astrum's reputation. "He did that to get me out of harm's way." He did not intentionally mean that harm was Crolis, but some other dire consequences had Astrum not stop him from doing what he did earlier with the telescope.
"Harm? That man knows nothing but harm. For once could you just listen to me and stay away from him. From now on you are not to linger the grounds outside of these walls without supervision." Crolis began to step away and made his way toward the guest's hall when he heard Prominence say something.
"That doesn't seem to be fair." The boy argued.
"At least you are not restricted to go outside, don't you think?" Then he was gone from the boy's sight. When he entered the hall, he noticed the Lady of the house stood there who probably heard everything he said. He bowed a little and greeted her politely before apologizing for the noise he must have caused while reasoning out with the boy.
Not that he feared Caltha would be mad at him, she was always gentle and he would do anything not to spoil her light mood for there was never a day when he saw her angry but only kind words came out of her. And the greatest wish he had for her was to see her smile for once because no one in the house ever saw her do so.
Dressed in a flowing purple one-piece that reached just above her knees, Caltha approached him. "I heard Astrum was here a moment ago. Whatever was his business here?"
Crolis noticed the slightest sound of joy when Caltha mentioned Astrum's name and he was not very happy about it. "Caltha, that man must have saved you a time ago, but you should not act so fondly of him."
"Why not? If it wasn't for him, you know I would be a slave across the country by now."
That might be true, but still for Crolis he was never convinced and he always felt something was not right about that man whom Caltha bestowed the name Astrum. His thoughts were arguing with each other as to why seeing the man seemed like a familiar feeling from long ago where his memories couldn't reach.
It was as if there was something tugging him to remember, but he convinced himself that it was only the famous phrase of déjà vu visiting him. Of all persons to experience it with, he wondered why it had to be that good for nothing Exec servant. But there are still things wanting to be seen.