Rakah stood and stared out over the city of Eranos, the last of the faint lights fading as the people gave in to the night. He studied the last outlines as the moons high in the sky disappeared behind clouds, sinking the area into a deeper darkness. He turned, walked over to a bare table, and dragged a chair across the timber floor. The sound echoed through the almost empty chamber and a thin smile spread across his lips as he stepped around and slid into it. An uneasy chill filled the room, and the young man sitting opposite him had clearly lost his nerve. He shifted uneasily in his seat, not daring to take his eyes away from the man before him.
"So you wish to know my story?" Rakah wisped, his mouth barely moving as the sound escaped his lips. The room grew cold as the noise faded away. The young man dared not make a sound, and slowly nodded. Rakah allowed a brief laugh and smiled at him. "There is no reason to fear me. I am now old and frail, a fragment of what I once was."
Rakah stretched his bony fingers from within his robes and held them before him as if to study them. The smile on his face was replaced with sadness. "Alas, I can barely keep myself alive now," he said airily. He sighed and allowed his hands to be hidden amongst his robes once more.
"So I expect you shall want to know my entire story. But where shall I begin? Should I start with when I took up my position in council?" He frowned. "No, that is clearly forgetting much of what I have been through. No, I feel I must start at the beginning." The young man flinched, coming out of a daze, and quickly drew his quill and parchment close, eager to take notes. Rakah watched curiously as the man carefully etched the introduction of his story.
"It is now the year 2631, and it pains me to say this, almost three hundred years after my birth. I was raised in this very city, Eranos, to a young couple in their early twenties. Rolaeis was my mother. She was a simple woman, a loving wife and a caring mother. My father, Tahres, was the image of a man. He worked on the docks, managing his own fishery business. Finally, my elder brother, Theuris. I did not know him well in my youth, as he had left the city at a young age, travelling the lands to, as he would say, find himself."
"There is really very little to be said of my younger years. I was a typical boy, and at a young age I had decided that I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps, as most boys do. Many days were spent working the docks with him, even accompanying him on fishing trips into the harbour and beyond. The smells, the sights, the sounds, they accompany me to this day."
"When I returned to this once magnificent city not long ago, my memories flooded back. The salty air of the ocean, the caws of the birds high above, everything brought back memories of my youth." He spent a period in silence, smiling to himself, gazing into the past. After a moment, his face changed, and the scratching sounds of quill to parchment ceased. Rakah's voice changed. It became deeper, more serious.
"But of course, as with all stories, my life was not without conflict. There were what I shall call bandits that would regularly attack the city. For much of my youth, until I was well into my teens, the assaults had been few and far between. They would occasionally raid some of the bordering houses, stealing from the poorest and least prepared, and would disappear before they were discovered. The only indication of their presence was the distinct lack of belongings."
"This cycle of relatively harmless theft changed, however. They started becoming more and more intrusive, brave if you will. By my sixteenth birthday, they were finding their way deeper and deeper into the city, robbing from the wealthy, and even murdering those that would attempt to stay them. On several occasions, I remember that they would take a hostage in order to ensure their safe getaway. I am unsure whether these hostages lived, though I never heard of any returning."
The young man seemed to find himself and was now enthralled with Rakah's story, so much so that he had stopped writing and was watching him with a mixed look of fear and awe. Rakah smiled and tapped the table lightly. The man, dazed, quickly got back to taking his notes. After a moment, he stopped and looked back up, eager to continue with the story. "I am yet to know your name, or indeed anything about you," Rakah said.
He hesitated for a moment. "My name is Pheras," he stammered. Rakah smiled to him. "Pheras, and what is it that you do?"
"I... I have been charged with seeking those who remain from the great war and to learn from them their story. The historical library in Me'Thora wishes to have all accounts of the period, both for..." Rakah cut him off. "Yes, yes, the library wants to be able to point fingers and place blame, as they have always wanted." Pheras blushed and seemed somewhat withdrawn once more. Rakah smiled as warmly as he could.
"I am sorry. They have been seeking me for some time, and it is not fair for me to place my frustration with you. They have finally caught up with me, and I feel that they deserve their reward." Pheras relaxed a little and managed a slight smile. "And please, if you have any questions, I would rather you ask them now. I don't quite feel like having them track me again." Pheras laughed nervously and gave a weak smile.
"So where was I?" He frowned for a moment, and started again with a flash of realisation. "Ah! The bandits. Yes, they did prove quite an issue as time grew on. As their numbers increased, so did their courage, and soon they were staging attacks on the city rather than the occasional occupant. There were several times that I can remember that resulted in many deaths. Thankfully, with my father working on the docks, me and my family were well away from the trouble, as they were mainly attacking from inland."
Pheras finally interjected. "Surely you did not stay in the city?" He asked, his voice weak. Rakah frowned and looked down at the table as he thought. Finally, he spoke. "Yes, that would appear to be the best approach, looking back at the situation now. However, we had a lot of money invested in the city, in its fisheries and trade, and my father could not afford to walk away from such an investment. As you point out, it was clearly not worth staying for, but as you will see, the decision was eventually made for me."
"I was about eighteen years old. I cannot remember for sure, as the next years were very confusing indeed. The city had sustained increasing damage from the attacks. The bandits were now associating themselves with the vampires and werewolves of lore, so much so that they were taking up residence in the outlying structures, effectively trapping us within the city walls. My mother was understandably terrified, and my father had finally had enough and decided to sell his business and attempt to escape."
"All the arrangements had been made. We kept one vessel and sold the rest, mainly to those wishing to leave the city themselves, and decided it was best to abandon the remainder of our property. It was my father's fear that if we were too conspicuous, our plans may be discovered, so he decided to take the financial loss. Unfortunately, several nights before we were planning to leave, the bandits attacked again. They were in greater numbers than ever before. As I recall, they had decided to employ the strength of vampires over werewolves, as they were more suited to the narrow streets and alleys that a city would offer."
"The vampires appeared as if from the shadows themselves, and it did not take long before many of those that remained in the city were slain. Me and my parents had managed to hide in a hidden chamber inside one of our warehouses, but it was in vain. The attack had been so strong that they were now in control of the city in its entirety. We attempted on several occasions to make our escape, but each time we were met with a group of bandits in our way. We did, however, manage to make our way back to our hold without being seen."
"This lasted for some time, how long, I cannot be sure. We had many supplies stored for just this kind of situation, but we had not planned on being trapped for so long. Desperation finally took over, and we made a final attempt to flee. We waited until nightfall, when the streets would be darkest, and we slipped from our hiding place one last time. As we stepped out onto the docks, we found to our dismay that the boats had all been destroyed. Some set alight, others simply sunk, but none were left seaworthy. We had been left with one option; to depart on foot."
"It took most of the night, but we had managed to make our way through the streets and to the borders of the city where we were faced with yet another problem. The night was clear, and the moons shone bright enough that we would easily be seen. My father told me to remain with my mother, to protect her if we were discovered, and he slipped away. He was gone for some time while we hid in a small opening in the side of a collapsed barn."
"Upon his return, we discovered that he had managed to acquire a horse. He proudly lead the beast to us and instructed me and my mother to mount it. We did as we were told, but it was clear what he was intending to do. The last words I ever heard from my father were simple. Ride. Do not stop until you see daylight. He then drew a sword and handed it to me. I looked down at him as I set the weapon safely in a loop in my belt. I could not help but weep as he ushered the horse to the border. He gave it a nip with his remaining blade and it took off."
"I never looked back, never saw my father's image again. Shouts and screams sounded behind me, and it was not long before arrows flew around us, yet still we rode. I don't know how long we ran, or how long we were followed, but it was well into the next day before our exhausted horse finally gave out and collapsed to the ground."
Excerpted from "Rakah L'Sterah (The Immortal Tales: Origins)" by S. J. Vellenga. Copyright © 2012 by S. J. Vellenga. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.