Here's the first installment, "The Azure Pool", in a series I'm titling "Clouds of War". Hope you enjoy it!

Prologue

In the beginning, they were one.

One body of land, and one continent comprised of many countries, countries of which peace and civility reigned in. Never had Earth seen such goodwill and charity offered from one people to the next. Race, age and nationality mattered not. All were respected; all gave respect.

But the lust for power intervened.

Eventually that lust rose to the surface of one man's evil heart, and he rose and became the first despot to awaken the lust for power, lying dormant in men's hearts. And more despots emerged in the shadows of what had once been a united continent. But even more disturbing, commoners accepted these madmen and rejoiced when they began to conquer other countries and betray former allies and friends.

Countries were vanquished in the wake of their deceiving neighbors whom they had trusted. Families living in separate countries became enemies and turned on each other, and wars broke out.

For nearly five hundred years the countries warred and inflicted pain on each other, mutilating and destroying each other in the conquest for power. None were spared from pain, either emotional or physical, and so in those dark times, Awente changed.

The rulers of these countries became suspicious and unwilling to trust others, branching away from the unity and respect that had become their trademark. Even after the wars, people rarely left their countries, and none considered anyone from any other countries trustworthy.

Only three millennia later did countries begin to trust others again, and only selective countries in their region. So the continent Awente became divided into two parts: East and West. Where East met West there was a great river, the span of which there was no other to compare, and this river, the Yurayth River, had created a great canyon over the millennia, the canyon that forevermore served as a boundary between the two divided regions, which refused to trust each other.

These two regions were furthermore divided into four parts: in the East, NorthEast and SouthEast. In the West, NorthWest and SouthWest. Within the borders of these four regions, the populace traveled freely, but outside of their region, all were most hesitant to wander. For they had been betrayed once, and the wounds inflicted by friends are tenfold more difficult to heal than the wounds inflicted by an enemy. Even their way of marking time had been changed, and a new era, called the Severance Period, began after the division of the countries.

While the other regions lived in relative peace, the SouthEast quarreled. They became infamous for their never-ceasing clashes and disagreements, but these disputes never seemed to last.

Or at least not until in the coastal country of Hewtis, a king became as hard and bloodthirsty as the first king, three millennia before, had been, and the consequences were no less dire.

In fact, they were more so.

This king, this Chares of Hewtis, conquered the entire SouthEast. He pillaged their homes, murdered their armies, enslaved their people. Some resisted, but few were powerful enough to even flee the East to the sanctuary of the West.

So all of the countries of the SouthEast fell to the tyranny of the diabolical Chares.

All except for one.

In the North, past the wilds of Lanot, past the plains of Tian, past the mines of √Ďastar, and past the mountains of Andapo, there lay the unconquered enigma of Varwae, a brooding land surrounded by mountain and inhabited by savage, ruthless beings. This single country was left alone, for not even Chares, with his army of thousands, dared to cross the mountains into the mystery of Varwae, which had been rumored to have inexplicable military might and unfathomable power beyond human contention. There were also whispers of an extreme dictator whom none could defeat or even contest against.

Perhaps that bears no importance and does not pertain to our story, which concerns West and Chares.

But perhaps it does, for the first tyrant to rule in Awente hailed from Varwae.

**

Okay, if I could, I would post a map with this story, because it would no doubt make things a lot clearer for you, but since I can't, I'll just explain about certain places as I go along.

This story is about a continent called Awente (AH-went-tay), which is divided into four regions, the NorthEast, SouthEast, NorthWest, and SouthWest. Right down the middle of this continent is a canyon, the Yurayth Canyon. Still with me? Okay, so in the SouthEast, there are usually about ten separate countries, but there aren't anymore because Hewtis has conquered them all.

Hewtis is right on the eastern coast of Awente, by the Persic Ocean, and directly north of it is the country that used to be Jatdin but is now occupied by Hewtis. You got that? That is important to the story later- Jatdin is the country directly north of Hewtis.

Then directly north of Jatdin is Varwae, just over a long mountain range. *That* is important.

Sorry for the long explanation- I know they're annoying to read and it won't happen again, I promise.

Please review.