"Where are you, Thenez?"
the sun hung low in a blood red sky above the forest of Sharne,
tainting the leaves and the ground with crimson. There were no animals
and no birds, in fact, there were no signs of life at all, except the
trees and even they appeared unreal and lifeless, as though the trees
themselves were strangers to one another, incongruous to such a dismal
There were however, two living creatures in this forest at this moment.
Two humans; one hiding and one seeking. The seeker was a young girl of
sixteen, with flame red hair, walking slowly through the quiet forest,
in search of her brother. It was a game that they had played as
children, along with their other brothers and sisters- there were five
of them in total, all a year apart in age, all orphaned. It was a game
that they had enjoyed immensely back then; the thrill of staying in one
place, holding their breaths, trying not to make a sound- such
Now, two of them were back, many years later to this forest, no longer
friendly and bright, but empty and frightening. The oldest sibling, a
brother and the youngest, a sister.
Thenez hid, holding his breath, tying not to make a sound, desperate
not to be caught, just as he had done as a child, only now it was not
fun. It was not a game.
"There really is no point in hiding from me, Thenez. I will find you.
If you give yourself up, it will be easier for you. You have already
lost, I know you dropped your phial- I have it here in my hand."
Her voice was sweet, like bells chiming, but there was a dangerous edge
to it, like one in posession of a great power.
She was playing with him, and Thenez knew it. It was only a matter of
time before he was caught and she did kill him. Foolishly, he had
dropped his crystal phial, a gift from the Grace, giving him eternal
protection. When his sister found him- and it was a question of when
because she would find him- he would die. He had the disadvantage as
she still had her phial. His knees were beginning to hurt him, he had
been crouching for so long and he came to the decision to himself up
freely- if he was going to die, he may as well stand with courage
"Over here, Xele!" He called, standing up.
Xele soon appeared, a broad smile on her lips.
"So you've decided to fight," she stated nodding. "Brave of
"Save the speech," he said through gritted teeth. "You are not
superior to me. You will win because you have the protection of the
Grace on your side, not because you are more skillful than I. Just kill
me, since that is all you ultimately intend to do. Or, you could throw
down your phial and fight me on equal terms," he added.
"Nice try, Thenez," she said. "But I am not foolish. Do you think I
care if this is fair, so long as I am victor? Of course, I know that
you are a better fighter than I am, with six years more experience, how
could you not be? So imagine how delighted I was when I discovered that
you'd dropped the phial from the Grace. Do you think that I am going to
throw my advantage away in the name of fairness?"
She drew out of her pocket a small cross with a tiny arrow on each
point and as she held it in her hand it began to grow, expanding in
every direction until it was twenty times its original size.
"Well?" She said, sounding half amused.
Thenez drew his sword, the golden blade catching the light of the dying
sun and he stood, facing his sister in erect pride, prepared for
"You can't hurt me with that, Thenez. I will give you one last chance-
you can assist me or you will die now."
"I would never help you, Xele," thenex said calmly. "You can kill me
now, nut I will return. The Grace made us five and there will always be
five. Even if you do succeed in getting the others to join you, the
Grace will send me back. Eventually the balance will become so
disturbed that there will be no alternative."
Xele twirled the cross playfully in her hands.
"You are forgetting, Thenez, that the Grace do not just send you back.
You could not return until the next millennium and by then it will be
too late; even the Grace themselves will fear me."
Thenez snarled and emitted a short laugh.
"You are foolish, Xele, betrayer. Your lust for power has blinded you,
delusional one. The Grace cannot be overpowered, especially by someone
as weak and as narrow-minded as you have become, though were not always
so. Do you remember, when we were children, you driven not by power,
but your desire to do well. Once so free-spirited, although perhaps
somewhat over-curious, you have been deluded, you have become nothing.
Xele held the cross over her head.
"You have made your choice."
Thenez raised his sword and lunged forward, as Xele spun the cross
rapidly and it hurled towards him. He ducked and ran towarsd his
sister, but she was too quick for him. He trust his sword deep into the
tree directly behind her, spearing the bark and passing through it. He
gripped the handle even tighter and pulled with all his might, but it
would not come free. It felt as though a tremendous force was pulling
the sword deeper and deeper into the very heart of the Oak itself. He
turned instantly towards Xele, and saw the look of conentration in her
fierce brown eyes that could only mean one thing: she was using the
sylmistry to control the tree, forcing it to pull in Thenez' sword. Was
this going to be a battle of wills after all?
He shut his eyes and tried to block his sister's trick, but it was no
good. She had an extroadinary hold upon the tree and he could not make
it let go. He released his grip and watched as the golden blade and the
shiny white handle, disappeared. His only treasure and his only
material weaopn, lost.
Then heturned back to Xele- she had not given up, she was still
channelling. She had not finished. Before Thenez had time to wonder, or
even begin to block what happened next, the gnarled roots of the tree
rose up out of the ground and formed a cage around him. Two of the huge
roots grabbed him like two twisted arms, each with the strength of a
thousand men. Thenez tried desperately to defeat Xele, but she was too
strong, more confident, and she was winning. He concentrated with every
ounce of effort he could, crying out in frustration as he tried to
break free, but although the tree did relax a little, it was not
"Xele..." Thenez cried hoarsely, "Xele, you cannot win. You can kill
me but you will not gain anything from my death. Iwill return,
stronger, my power will reside in another, born as soon as possible at
the turn of the millennium- you cannot win!"
"Shut up!" Xele cried. She looked slightly tired from the battle she
had been having against Thenez' will. But Thenez began to
wonder...perhaps she hadn't been bluffing after all, perhaps she really
had become all powerful... but then, she could no longer keep it up.
She gasped, clutched her head and chest, before falling to the ground.
The tree roots relaxed, but soon tightened again, as Xele stumbled to
her feet and regained control.
"Your words are empty. my brother, I will win. I am winning, and you
As she finished speaking, Thenez heard a noise that sounded like
spinning. Through the trees, hurling towards him he saw Xele's cross,
each sharp arrow cutting through the cool mid-summer air.
It hit him.
He could harldy hear his scream; the pain was so intense, it was
(to be continued in the second part of the prologue, coming