It was yet another wintry morning for young Alexander. Fifteen years has journeyed with him to the humdrum climate of the century – the cold, bitter skies and the frozen-dry northern winds blustering in the paper spruce forests of the Kingdom of Pencillvania of the country of Wealton. He yearns for a new beginning but was hindered by the gusty winds of the day. And all that he has was his dream unforgotten.
He was just sitting at the edge of his wooden bedroom window waiting for his father who has not arrived yet from his evening shift. His father worked for one of the masonry guilds of the town, the Tapferis. Hard-earned monets were their daily source of living. And his duty for it was to produce weaponry for the sadist King Zerstor who hankers much to destroy all the kingdoms of Wealton to gain power for himself. His family and the rest of the people under his control were lost, and they surrendered to his forceful splendor.
Poor Xander had his dreams slowly crushed by the unwavering agony of the kingdom he is living. His unknown future, hidden beneath the shadows of despair, was something that he never expected. But that never stopped him from believing.
Xander’s dream was to be a famous painter – one that was utterly forbidden in the kingdom. Art of any kind was not allowed. Once reprimanded, the sentence was banishment into the Ominous Woods inhabited by six-toed wolves called Scoulves (death, in other words, unless you can outsmart them with your tactics perhaps). He has never seen one and had no time to wonder what they looked like. Thus, he decided for now not to pursue it.
But sometimes at night, while everyone was asleep, he paints his imagination with a paper and his paintbrush enchanted by the mysterious mage of the kingdom. No one knows, not even Xander, who he was. But nonetheless, he treasures it with all his heart. He uses it on spruce paper under the oil lamp by his bedroom window. And the results matched up to the ones in his textbooks about art (He also kept them hidden in his chest).
His heart, though heavy, was bright inward. When he thinks of the world outside him, he finds his inner peace and joy. That is where he knows he is very much alive.
“Xander, come down, let us sup,” his mother called out for breakfast.
“But Father’s not here yet!” yelled out young Xander.
“Your father will arrive soon. We have to eat now before the porridge shivers from the winter cold.”
“Yes, Mother.” Xander responded with submission. Despite the bitterness of the winter, he finds obedience just as sweet.
They feasted on swine porridge, wheat wafers, and goat milk from their livestock. That was all that they could afford while the king feasted on roasted chalkenfer and Charlwood cocoa imported from the Kingdom of Prach – an ally of their kingdom.
Xander did not mind the bleakness of mealtime though his father who has not arrived yet somehow made him suspicious. He usually comes home before breakfast.
“Where could Father be?” Xander’s first question sprung from his inquisitive mind.
“I really don’t know, son. But I’m pretty sure he is from the guild making the last of the weapons for the king.”
Then a silence was heard from across their wooden dinner table. It was even more silent knowing that the seat for Xander’s father was unoccupied.
Then a thought came to Xander.
“Mother, can I work for the guild?”
His mother gently lowered her next serving of the porridge. “Son, you know you’re still too young for the guild.”
“But I want to work extra for us. We’re suffering.”
His mother inhaled some air, and thought of not beating up his son once again.
“It’s dangerous, son. We already have enough. And I believe your father worked harder this time which is probably why he’s a little late for breakfast.”
Xander, knowing he can’t push his anger aside, stood up.
“Mother, don’t be so blind about everything. We are getting nothing. And Father’s too sick for the guild. He is scrawnier by the minute –”
“Are you saying your father’s already too weak for the guild?”
“Yes…!” Xander yelled while punching his fist on the bare wooden table.
His mother exhaled. “Son, I believe you don’t know much about the law so I have to tell you this.”
“Yesterday, your father reported to me a new decree issued by the kingdom. The decree stated that only one from every household has to work for the king. Unless that one member who worked dies, as long as he is alive whether sickly or not, no more than one can work for the king.”
“The same chastisement for ones who are violating this decree – death.”
“I see.” And Xander sat down, lowering his pride once again.
Xander’s mother gently got up from her seat and hugged his son and said, “I am aware of how much you care for your father. I do care for him too. But we are still under the law and there is nothing we can do about it.”
Xander was a little perplexed about it. He wonders why there was a law to follow for a very ludicrous reason most especially that their ruler was covetous about everything and wealth.
He supped up the last of his porridge, ate his wafers, and gulped goat milk. They were finished with breakfast. But Father has not yet arrived home. And both of them were relentlessly wondering.
Xander fixed the dinner table and washed the dishes while Mother swept the floorboards. After which, Xander got back up to his dusty bedroom, and shut the door behind him. He contemplated on their life’s mundane and slumbered on his bed by the large wooden casement. He wasn’t in the mood to make another painting and it was daylight.
After a few minutes, a large bang on the door was heard. A voice was heard.
“Your family should know that you have committed a crime.”
“Christofer!” his mother cried out as she recklessly swung the door open down below.
Xander got up from the dusty sheets of his sleeping quarters and knocked himself out of the bedroom to the door of the house. His mother was lying next to a slumbering corpse bathed in blood by the doorstep. It was his father!
Tears emerged from his hazelnut eyes.
Father died of a very perverse reason. As told by his co-guilders, he was accused by the king of stealing the fortune from the king himself. He was slayed incessantly by the king’s warriors and his gory corpse was brought and thrown towards their doorstep. Rumor has it told that the king wishes to accuse anyone from assault, theft, to murder, though the accused was found innocent. And their “punishment” was death. Father was not a thief, Xander thought.
Truly the king was a tyrannical leader.
This was a picture of how Xander’s people were reluctantly submissive to the law. The word justice was not defined as fair treatment for everyone; it was defined as fair treatment for only the king. Thus it was not in the dictionary of the kinsmen.
It was quite a cruel world for young Alexander.
After four bitter years, Xander grew in the knowledge of his life but was still trapped in the world of the dystopian kingdom. His mother died of a heart disease a few weeks before he turned nineteen though he worked hard long enough in the masonry guild to keep his mother alive with what he thought of as useless medication. There were no skilled medics in the kingdom for King Zerstor had perished them all.
He lived in anguish thoughts but what kept him gritty was a look on his works of art. Though dabbed on mere spruce paper from the spruce wood forests, he valued them as much. He sometimes read textbooks of art and learned from the eminent painters and artists like Caesar Isaac and William Sebastian. Both were from Transa, a neighboring country.
Somehow, he felt the prisoner in him. Probably, everyone in the kingdom felt the same. But to him, he is trapped in a world where no light could escape. He longed for a sign from the skies to hear his plead. He suffered long enough, emotionally. His heart still crying out for liberty.
It was then the fourth day of the second month – three weeks after he was orphaned by the bereavement of his parents. And it was the seventh hour in the morning. Xander rose up to a ravaging blizzard with the temperature of the entire household comparable to the end poles of the world. Northern winter winds were gustier than the day he knew his father died. It is probably a sign, he thought.
The fireplace by the dining table was almost out of fuel and its warmth was not enough to warm up the entire spruce wood chalet of a home. He decided to lop off more wood from the branches of the dead spruce trees across his abode. He allowed the storm to pass by first. So he sulked in the couch from what he usually sees in the morning wake – a white and gray scenery.
While the winds were still in constant turmoil, he recalled his life when he was at his highest. Probably his eighth birthday. His father brought home some chalkenfer for dinner and also bought cow’s milk from the Trade. And probably the time where holidays were issued for workers throughout the entire year so his father had to stay home. It was in those days King Bacher of Pencillvania, father of the wicked King Zerstor, ruled over the entire kingdom. When he died, his son, inattentive to the needs of his people, ruled over the land. Death threats were thrown at Zerstor but he has a powerful and acquiescent militia. They were submissive to his father so they had to be submissive to him as well. Otherwise, they would all die by force.
But Xander soon realized that he moped of his father’s cruel death. He loved him so much. And it shows. But to him, there was nothing he could do to bring him back. So he sulked in again in his mourning.
A couple of hours have passed and the storm grew with lesser tremor this time. The fire’s orange glow evanesced and it was time for him to gather more wood before evening would settle in. He went back up to his bedroom and put on his parka and a soft cap out of scoulve hide. He sprinted down the stairs, grabbed from behind the cupboard of the kitchen a silver hatchet, and left the house with leather boots out of neatherbeast hide.
The surroundings were hoary white. With his hatchet, he advanced towards the dead spruce tree and chopped off its branches. Minutes after, he bundled up the spruce wood and brought it all home. He lobbed the bundle by the fireplace and ignited fire with the starter. As the orange glow reappeared, he tossed all of the wood. It was a lot warmer.
Though the glow was quite a vista, it was still dark outside. For nearly a century, the kingdom has suffered a long winter. A tale roamed about the village that the century whiteout was one of the signs of the End of Times. Xander, skeptical to trust in mere stories, wondered what this winter had to bring.
He never had breakfast and luncheon for the day. Though he ate Wealtonian cow’s cheese and gulped goat milk for supper, his diet was not the way he used to have. With the low income and the ravaging storm, his condition could have been worse. But that was not what he had in mind.
His conjecture led him to a disturbing siesta at the sixth hour of the evening. As he slumbered by his bedroom window, mysterious visions revolved about his mind.
A man with unruly hair and a grimy red tunic was yelling outside his window bellowing the strangest of things. His actions were full of insanity. But one thing interests him – his recurring message.
“Repent! Repent! For the end is near!
The prophecy of the frozen plagues is clear.
A great winter storm shall wipe out
All of mankind from here and out!”
He saw his neighboring folk catapulting stones at the man yelling and leaping about singing his song. They thought of it as foolishness and one called out for the guards to bring him to the Ominous Woods. But after he sang his song, a thunderstorm formed in the heavens and lightning flashes destroyed the entire village. Homes were set on fire and some of the villagers died from its strikes.
He then woke up to a hullabaloo just outside his chateau. The skies were a darker gray tone. Déjà vu, he thought this time.
The same man indeed was yelling the same chant. He roamed round and about pleading the people to listen to him but he was flung with stones and bruises covered his entire body.
Xander then managed to run towards the door and defend the man. He ran towards the man merely standing at the middle of the irate mob flinging stones at him.
“I order you all to stop this!” Xander pleaded, “I dreamt of the same man that you are throwing your stones at right now. And indeed his words are true!”
One of his neighbors said, “Why do we have to believe a fool?”
“I dreamt of it! I dreamt of it, I say. After this man’s prophecy, a great storm appeared from the heavens and destroyed our village. I plead with you all, please believe him!” he replied with .
Another one from them motioned, “Why, you’re just as insane as this man. A mere dream cannot prove such ‘prophecy’.”
“And why do we have to believe the words of the son of a thief?” a lean man rebutted with eyes of no truce.
And pungent laughter was heard from the crowd. “He is not a thief,” Xander retorted. But no one listened to him.
“Let’s chuck stones at both of ‘em!” one declared.
And indeed, stones were flung at Xander and the man. Blood was shed from the man and Xander fell from the excruciating pain. While stones were flung, the man whispered in a hoarse tone, “Thank you, son.”
“There’s no need to thank for, sir. I never defended you.”
“But you believed me.”
Xander was hesitant by then. Did I trust words from a lunatic? Am I insane as well?
But this mysterious man heard his thoughts.
“I know your thoughts, son. But I tell you this. Trust me.”
Xander’s mind fell silent. After which, the mob fled. Despite his skin covered in contusions, the man grabbed from behind his tunic a rare azure crystal. He offered it to Xander.
“Good sir, I can’t accept this,” Xander responded in modesty.
The man’s wringing hand with the azure shine of the crystal held it out to Xander. With inducement in his eyes, he somehow pleaded him to accept it saying, “Lo, son. This crystal is no ordinary crystal. You are chosen. And this crystal shall be a reward for your sympathy towards me. Please do take it.”
Xander, still wary of the actions of the man, accepted the crystal. Another treasure, he considered.
As he accepted the crystal, the man vanished. And this held him in great suspicion. He is probably a forbidden mage.
Alas, the heavens churned to a mighty thunderstorm and destroyed the village homes. People fled from their homes and indeed some were vanquished by the arbitrary strikes. And Xander’s abode, to his dismay, was set on fire. The gargantuan flames hindered him from taking another step inside the home tendered for nineteen years. All his memoirs, his works of art, and his comfort were all vanished in a wisp.
So he ran and he ran. Far away from the village he used to live as possible.
But he had nowhere to go.