Huddled under his cloak against the early mornings chill wind, the beggar slowly paced the street as the last depressing tones of the funeral dirge was carried away on the fleeting shadows of dawns arrival.
A strange time for a funeral the beggar thought. He had not been able to remain asleep once the unsettling and sorrowful music had begun. Why? he thought, why is the music unsettling? He had heard funeral music often enough after surviving, by the will of the gods, the last plague that had ravaged the city in whose alleys he had slept for many a year now. Why? The thought came again to his mind.
"Because it was a death of a man who carried fate with him." A high pitched and grating voice answered his unspoken question.
Startled the beggar jumped and turned to face the source of the voice. The wrinkled face of an old woman, with eyes as green as spring meadows met his sight. "Wh-who are you?" He stammered, stumbling over his words.
Instead of answering his question she continued. "As we all do. Though he had been a man of great fate, a fate he had not fulfilled." She stopped and shook her head. "A great darkness will come. Of that be certain, and you beggar Ganlin have a fate much larger than you may believe."
Taken aback that the old woman knew his name the beggar eyed her suspiciously and asked again. "Who are you?"
Once again ignoring the mans question the woman bade the man open his hand with a gesture much like that he used when asking for a few coins from the people of the city. He did and found his hand much heavier as the woman dropped a considerably large and full coinpurse into the his hand.
"I am of no importance anymore." The woman said turning away from Ganlin. "I have preformed fates last task for me, I ask that you keep yourself well Ganlin, for your purpose is not yet fulfilled."
She began to walk as he opened his mouth to speak more, but the city was awakening and she was soon lost in the bustle of merchants and others preparing for the coming day. He had awakened disturbed and uneasy but in less time than a bells chime Ganlin had become a much more wealthy man than his beggar status. With the money in the coinpurse He could live as a respectable commoner.
A boy of ten winters set in the sun of a bright spring day, under a flourishing oak tree. Gently the wind blew revealing the child's deep gray eyes. A smile played at the edges of his lips as he let small insects crawl along his arms. Standing he carefully brushed the small creatures off of him and began walking to the farm he called home.
A man of more than 70 winters stood looking out on his land grinning as he stroked his flowing white beard, and remembering a kindly and mysterious old woman, who was likely as old then as he was now, who gave him a life off of the streets and alleys of the dark and dank city. Fondly and wonderingly he recalled that encounter and his path to his present. As he stared out on his land he saw a glint of sunlight off the light brown hair of his only son.
His mother had died in childbirth being too old to sustain the blood loss. He had been very amazed indeed when he had learned his wife of 50 ,with him being 64 at the time, had even been able to conceive a child. It was tragic that his wife had died, but he loved the boy dearly and had enjoyed having a son to teach and play with, even though in his old age he wasn't up for much activity. He could not remember a time in his life where he had been so fulfilled. Ganlin was a very happy old man.
"Father!" The joyous cry escaped from the boys smiling lips as he lunged into a hug from his father. The two fell and laughed as they embraced.
"What have you been up to today my boy?" Ganlin asked the last bit of laughter trailing his words.
"Just sitting under the trees father. " he said still smiling. "It's nice out today isn't it father?"
"Yes, yes it is child." In fact the weather had been remarkably good for the early fall, usually during this time this part of the countryside was racked with storms, and was usually much colder than it was now. "Perhaps we will be granted a mild winter this year my boy." He smiled down at the boy climbing up to his feet again. "Let us prepare for dinner, I got us a nice bit of meat from the last trader that moved through."
Dinner was eaten and both sat happily at the table stomachs full to bursting. The house was modestly decorated with hides and wooden furniture, but the home was comfortable and well lived in. It was apparent that it had been some time since a woman had lived here.
"Well my son dusk is upon us and we must get to the field early, harvest is soon and we have need of the money for winter." Ganlin said putting a hand on the boy's head.
"Okay father." He said with a smile pure as spring water. Moving to one of the the beds he laid down and pulled the hide and fur cover up to his chest. "Good night father."
"Good night my boy. Good night my sweet Aegeus." Ganlin said to him as he shut his eyes. Ganlin too laid to rest his weary bones.
Dark complete and seemingly infinite fell across Aegeus' vision as his eyelids closed, and soon he was asleep. The darkness outside the quaint cottage was nearly as imposing and became even more so as a mist more black than the places between the stars, flowed across land much too quickly to be anything natural. With it came the metallic clanking of dozens of steel clad feet. Unconsciously aware of this Aegeus' eyes stirred beneath his lids, but to him it was no more than a dream. It was not until a loud crash, a terrible sound of splintering wood and creaking iron exploded in his ears that his heavy eyes opened to a scene frightening and incomprehensible to his young mind.
"Grab the boy!" A man in blackened armor and with a plumed helm shouted. One of the well armed soldiers began to advance upon the very frightened boy.
"Noooo!" Ganlin shot up from his bed with an axe used for fire aimed for the soldier moving towards his son. The axe skipped off of the inside of the pauldron and slipped under the mans helm slicing into the mans neck with a sickening sound of tearing skin and cracking bone as his neck snapped at unexpected force of the blow. The man crumpled to the floor with the axe still stuck in his neck. Surprised the remaining men looked at the old man who had felled their companion. "You will not take my son from me!"
Aegeus sat cowered under his cover as far away as possible from the grisly scene that was unfolding before him.
"Kill the old man!" The soldier in the plumed helm ordered harshly. "Her queenship wants this young man and all others in this area rounded up as 'servants', this old man must not stand in the way."
The soldier now closest to the old man leveled a pike with his stomach as Ganlin struggled to free his axe, his only weapon, to defend his son. One swift movement by the soldier and Ganlin was skewered by the weapon. Aegeus' eyes were wide with horror as his father stared down at the pike extruding from his chest. The soldier just as swiftly removed the spike of the pole-arm leaving the bloody gash open and pouring blood.
"Aegeus..." The name was more gurgled than spoken as his lungs began to fill with his own life's blood. Aegeus ran to his side sobbing. "My boy... I love... you... you... must escape these... men... however... you can!" The words were trailed with blood and tears as the man struggled for breath.
"Father! Father!" Aegeus cried into his fathers chest covered in his blood. Weakly Ganlin placed his hand on the boys head, then it fell away. "Father!"
"By the gods I thought that would never end!" The plume-helmed soldier said in exasperation. "Grab the boy! We have many miles to go yet. Make sure to get rid of our comrades body and gag the boy I don't want to hear that incessant sobbing all the way back to the keep. Oh and I would disregard your fathers advice... It will only get you killed as he was." A cruel and heartless laugh issued from behind that helmet.
Another loud crack and a burning pain made Aegeus aware of the men around him one again. One of the men had produced a whip and it tore across Aegeus' back. Another scream breached the boys lips this time one a mix of mental and physical anguish. He was roughly scooped up by another one of the soldiers and a scrap of clothing was ripped from his shirt an shoved in his mouth. The taste of his own fathers blood was now in his mouth and he gagged against it still calling out for his dead father.
Another whip crack jolted him awake. Pain and tears blurred his sight as he weakly opened his eyes. The dream that was his fondest remembrance of his father and his worst nightmare all at once, had once again pervaded into his mind as he slept. Now he was back in reality at least the reality of now, and the taste of his fathers blood was still thick in his mouth. Another day he had to live in slavery, another day of stolen freedom.