Episode 2: Start at the Beginning

      I don’t know much about my family’s origins beyond my mother and father. The Sepher family included several prominent figures from what I was told, though my grandfather, Ciganis Sepher, was the last of the great names before the First Invasion of Azirin. It’s hard to find much information out of the Southern Kingdoms from before the Yunai arrived. When I was older, I learned that my father, Almendor Sepher, grew up in a wonderful mansion and lived the good life thanks to the magical prowess of Ciganis. My grandfather had been a wielder of magic, most importantly the power of the flame itself. His power was rare and valuable, and many in Stonehaven paid for the services he could provide. My father had no such gift, but history says he was still a brave man. When the Yunai came it was all over for that way of life. My grandfather was killed in battle against a foe that no one really understood back then, and my father barely escaped as Stonehaven was utterly destroyed by the monsters that came to Azirim.

      In a strange sense, I might not have existed if the Yunai hadn’t come here. It was on a small ship, fleeing to the Northern Kingdom of Lederan, that my father met my mother, Lilia. In the wake of the destruction they had both endured, my parents found refuge in one another. They fell in love, bought a small farm in the foothills of Monbreath, and settled down to start a family. They, like everyone else in Azirim, feared the lingering threat of the Yunai invaders, but they heard nothing for several years, and they had lost so much. I can’t blame them for trying to ignore the looming destruction.

      Unfortunately, the Yunai didn’t ignore them forever. When I was only five, the Second Invasion of Azirim began. The Yunai had bolstered their numbers at the infamous Dark Door, and they were ready to finish what they had started in the Southern Kingdoms. Our farm had been highly profitable selling crops to the growing armies of Lederan. They had tried to make it work. They had a plan to avoid the conflict when it started again, but they still didn’t understand their foe, or what they planned.

      The Second Invasion took them by surprise. The Yunai arrived in force, in greater numbers that anyone had anticipated, and they revealed terrifying monstrosities made of metal and powered by charged crystals that we had never seen on our world before. They had changed the game, and we weren’t prepared.

      My father, brave and intent on protecting his family, marched to the South with the Lederan army. I can’t imagine what it was like for him. By then, the rumors of the Yunai had spread like wildfire. They weren’t like us, in so many ways, and even the question about if we really could kill them was floating around. He was likely terrified as he walked away from the farm. I sometimes wonder if he knew he wasn’t coming back…

     Meanwhile, my mother was left with a young boy and a farmland that needed tending. She hired some older boys to harvest the crops and things seemed normal for a few months. Then, the war came to the foothills. We fled, running away from everything we knew just as my mother had been forced to do six years before.

      She very nearly made it too. Perhaps, if she had not been slowed down by me, she would have survived. She had decided, since I was young and she was exhausted carrying me when I was tired, to stay grouped up with some other survivors that also had children, or injured, or elderly. We were all attempting to flee to the powerful city of Udiria. It was a city of magic, free from being controlled by any one Kingdom, and welcoming to all of those that sought shelter within its protective walls, both physical and magical.

      Unfortunately, before we reached the city gates, our group was ambushed by a single Yunai. We all witnessed the creature’s dark magic that night, when it possessed one of the survivors, a kindly old woman, and as she wept and fought, she attacked and killed several of the refugees. My mother, who rushed to help the possessed woman, was stabbed in the gut, right in front of me. I remember that one moment so clear in my mind’s eye. She looked sad, like she felt worse for the old woman’s situation than her own. I remember her looking at me, her face strong and resolute. She urged me to flee. She demanded it.

      “I love you, Sionis. Now Run!”

      Those were her last words. I listened to them. I obeyed them. I cried as I ran, but I ran as she instructed. I didn’t have any hope of escaping. I was just a boy and these were evil creatures here to kill anyone they could. I made it about fifty feet before one of them caught me across the neck and sent me rolling to the ground. I saw it wasn’t a creature of flesh and blood, but some kind of machine. I screamed at it in a mixture of my own terror and rage. I don’t really recall what happened next, other than the fact that this mechanical creature hesitated to kill me. It seemed to overcome that hesitation quickly enough, but just as it went for the killing blow, the whole monstrosity was hurled away.

      The sudden arrival of the Udirian soldiers, magic users trained in physical and magical combat, turned the tide of the fight that night. The machine was systematically ripped apart, and after the old woman was contained, the Yunai seemingly abandoned her body, slipping into the night and leaving a devastated refugee weeping with the blood of her victims all over her.

      The Udirian gathered us up and quickly moved us to Udiria’s safety. As the others were given food and wine, I was ushered off to another part of the city. Here in this magic city, my grandfather’s name was revered by powerful teachers and students alike. They ushered me to a lavish environment, eager to care for the son of a cultural elite, even if he was dead now. My childhood was over, as much as one as I had anyway, and the weight of growing up had arrived at my doorstep with a resounding slam.


TO BE CONTINUED!

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