The Gauntlet


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Book I, Chapter I: Origins

“The past is set in stone, but the future is a road where you lay the stones.”


Zack walked down the busy street. Horse drawn carriages passed on both his left and right, heading in their respective directions. Despite the fact that it was wensday, it was actually Zacks day off, and a very special occasion. Although he hadn’t decided how to spend the day yet, he knew that whatever he chose to do would get him indoors and out of the 40 degree weather. So he carried on, wandering the busy streets of Loucra. 

He first considered going to the public pool, but they didn’t accept his type their, especially without an escort. He didn’t want to spend his birthday being pelted with stones. He thought about getting a sweet cake from the tavern, but decided against it as he didn’t want to waste the few coins in his pocket on something that trivial. Plus, if he spent it all in one place, the store owner would likely suspect him of thievery, as no foreigner could possibly scrape together a measly four silvers bits and two bronze coins. 

Unfortunately for Zack, being two shades of white darker than those around him, earned him the right to the ‘rock test.’ The kids of Loucra would pelt rocks at him, and all other to see if they matched his skin color. A stone hit him square in the head, causing him to fall on his knees, he turned his head to look at his assailant, which turned out to be the second mistake of the day (the first, of course, was getting out of bed). Another rock flew and hit him in the cheek, followed by another to the forehead. The latter was thrown much harder than the rest, causing Zack to collapse completely and pull into a ball in order to protect his head. 

For a short second he saw his attacker, which actually turned out to be three attackers, including the towns infamous bully, Otho. Otho’s impressive magical abilities earned him a lot of praise, and the fact that his family was rich didn’t help. Otho’s magical talent was basic levitation, allowing him to pick up and move small, non-living objects. Rocks, are normally pretty small, and hard- as Zack had just re-learned. 

Zack felt a tear crawl it’s way forward, and his left-eye grew hot. His pathetic magical ability of an eye that had the ability to turn from green to yellow really made him extremely easy for the high and mighty Otho to single him out. His ability was so useless, in fact, that it was triggered involuntarily whenever he got hurt or angry, had no purpose, and it drew energy from his almost non-exist mana pool. Not only did it eat through his magical energy quickly, it exhausted him. It’s only upside being that his eye grows hot whenever it activates, allowing him time to hide it before it becomes obvious that he’s flustered. 

Fighting back the tear, Zack got up, pushed his way through the crowd and into a random nearby building. Luckily for Zack, he had subconsciously walked towards Fe’s bar. Knowing that he was now safe from the bullies in empty bar, he sat down, and closed his eyes. Just as the heat began to fade from his eye, he heard the sound of a glass being set in front of him. Zack opened his eyes to a large glass of cold water, two precious ice cubes floating delicately close. 

Before Zack could say anything, Mr.Fe, who worked as the bartender, said “on the house, happy birthday.” Zack laughed nervously, considering the price of ice at a time like this, and responded “Thanks, it means alot...” 

A few minutes later, Zack turned to leave, leaving one bronze coin on the counter for a tip. But just before he left, a man entered the building loudly. The man ignored Zack, but Zack got a long enough look over his shoulder to see Otho waiting for him. Zack recosidered leaving.

Sitting back down, he ordered one sweet roll. Whatever he did with his money, it would be him enjoying it. Not Otho. But even a request like this, was to much for a lowly Lyrian like him to make. Once more the door opened, and once more, Zack remember the hardness of rocks.

“There is no action without hope. There is no hope without action”


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Book I, Chapter II: Past

 “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can stir war” 


When Zack finally departed the bar hours later, Otho was no where to be seen, and the sun began to bathe the calming town in shades of red. In his pocket remained two silver bits and one bronze coin. Fe had given him a huge discount on the sweet roll, refusing to take more money. He claimed it was the least he could do. 

Zack didn’t quite understand how much a discount of two silver bits would change his life.

Zack turned his head, to see his least favorite bimonthly parade begin. The slave traders came through on the first wensday, and last thursday of the month. He grit his teeth, daring to look up into the soulless green eyes of the slaves marching by. Those were people. His people. 

He felt his eye grow hot as they continued their march. Two, single files lines of people. One line of women, another of men. The slaves were organized by age, oldest in the front, youngest in the back. Zack had to fight back tears when he watched  chained six year olds walk by him.

 If it wasn’t bad enough, Otho returned just at the right time. He began to pick up rocks, his two friends  mimicking his behavior. Powerless to stop them, he watched the slaves get pelted. With each rock Otho threw, Zacks eye grew hotter, the lump in his throat heavier, and his conscience louder. It screamed for justice.

Eventually, the slavers stopped him, claiming he was cutting into their profit margin. By that time, the heat in Zacks eye had built up enough to the point were he thought it would burst. So he walked home, climbed in through the window to avoid his parents, and shoved his head into his pillow. He spent the rest of his 18th birthday begging every god in existence for power. For vengeance. For justice.

“Everyone is known by their actions. Chose yours carefully”


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Book I, Chapter III: The Box

 “Everything made by man, will be broken by man”


“What is it you want?” A voice muttered. Zack was afloat in an ocean of blue, nothing but blue. Every direction was blue. The question seemed imposing. Impossible. He knew his answer must be one word. What did he want? Money? Power? 

Before his mind was made up, a force began choking him. He lost the ability to breath. His left eye grew hotter rapidly, his heart accelerated. He felt like he was being squeezed, a force trying to pry the answer from him, his eye on fire. And just as he felt like he was about it implode, he fell out of bed.

Sitting up groggily, he looked around. A few rays of light made it through the small window and into the room. Not much had changed in Zack’s half room. Roto was out already, his bed still unmade. Zack stood, unable to go back to sleep after fuzzy memories of a nightmare began returning to him. 

Walking out of his room, he was greeted by Roto, “Yo, I was on my way to get you up, come on, dad wanted you and me to go out and get some more clay. We’re almost out, and we need some for the pots Mom wants.” As Roto relayed his message, he and Zack began putting on their sandals and prepared for their trip. “Alright, I’m gunna bring the rest of my money, so I’ll swing by one of the stores and pick up somethin’ for my box.” Zack said while tightening the straps of his sandals. 

He glanced over to his bed, where the edge of a small brown box peeked out from beneath the bed. Per tradition, it was a box he received from his blood parent. Tradition also stated that there should be something of high monetary value in their for each year of his life. His parents were to place an item in the box every year, until Zack was eighteen, to give him a financial boost as he became an adult. But his real parents left him, with his box, on the doorstep of an orphanage. Zack had done his best to continue the tradition by putting in the box himself, but as he didn’t work the best he could do was smooth a stone and polish it. As Zack was to young to understand, the first four years of his life saw no contribution to his box. In total, he had thirteen stones and the item his parents left him.

“No stone this year?” Roto replied “I was gunna sit down and polish it with you.” Roto finished with a grin. “It’s my last item, I wanna make it worth more than pocket change.” Zack replied, considering the amount his box would get him. “Honestly at this point, the box itself is worth more than what’s in it...” Roto grinned “I guess you’ll just be stuck worken with me till the day you die” Zack rolled his eyes, stood, and said “I’d rather die”


As the sun began to set that day, Roto and Zack made one last stop at a local store, picking up some food items for Roto’s mother. As Zack finished loading the food into the cart, he noticed a caravan marching down the road. He choked on the air in his lungs. A horse trotted down the road, a knight, dressed in an assortment of steel an iron armor, sat in it. In his hands was a rope, the rope lead down to the neck of a young slave girl. The girl was being dragged behind the horse, close enough to be hit in the head every time the horse took a step. The girl desperately tried to protect her head and prevent herself from choking at the same time. 

The horse stopped at the town square, and summoned the people with a mighty shout. “Hear me, people of Loucra! I, a knight of the holy Rothin Empire, I have been insulted by this lowly garbage. Does anyone step forward to claim her? Or pay the fine for such a atrocity? If not, she will hang, a message, any who dare deface the Rothin Empire, or its knights, will receive divine retribution!”

 By the time he finished, most of the townsfolk had gathered into the streets. The slave looked desperately across the crowd for a savior. Whilst she never made eye contact, Zack got a good enough look at her face to see her eyes. Her green eyes. Only the people of Verca had green eyes. Zack's left eye began to bother Zack. The girl, no older than sixteen, looked out over the crowd, and spoke, with a broken voice, from a broken mouth, one word. “Please” she managed to choked out before the knight yanked on the rope, lifting her from the road, and suffocating her. 

Zack’s eye was hotter than it had ever been before. For the first time, it actually began to change his vision, it became for accurate, details popping, colors fading. Unable to stop himself, he shouted “Enough! Tell me, what crime has this child committed, what atrocity has she committed deserving to be hanged?” As challenging a knight was unheard of, it surprised the knight enough that he let the girl slip back onto the road, allowing her to catch her breath. 

A familiar voice spoke into Zack’s head. “What? What is it you want?” Zack grit his teeth, and muttered one word under his breath. “Justice”

“Justice knows not what man knows. It sees only good and evil and makes it’s decision based on that alone.”

- Contradiction

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Book I, Chapter IV: Justice

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