Chapter One

Sunlight crept in through the small slit of a window, causing the slumbering figure to awaken slowly. Blinking away the last vestiges of sleep from his crystal blue eyes, the figure arose. His long black hair fell into a messy ponytail over his broad shoulders. As he reached for his dirty and tattered work clothes, he noticed a note pinned to the bed's headrest.

Selder,

Master had to leave immediately to see the Kler'dacth this morning. He allowed you to sleep later than usual because he has a long list of things for you to do before he returns. You'll find the list in the usual spot.

Melia

Selder grinned as he donned his work clothes. Melia was so thoughtful. He wouldn't be surprised if she had already started on some of her daily duties. He quickly left his quarters, grabbing the list of duties from its space. If only I wasn't a slave, he thought. Then I'd be the master of this place. He checked the list. Most of the duties were to be expected, but there was one that caught him off guard. Stable duty. That's Kliran's job, not mine. Why was I asked to do this? He pondered. Best not to dwell on it. Master asked me to do it, and I will do it. I've been on the receiving end of his wrath far too often.

Selder went to the stables, wanting to tackle each job in reverse order, as he usually did. When he reached the stables, he noticed that the back gate was open, giving him the opportunity to escape. He did not take it, no matter how much he wanted his freedom, he would not leave his friends behind. Selder filled the water trough for the horses, and washed out each stall. After that task was completed, Selder headed back into the house, where he met Melia in the kitchens.

Melia smiled as she saw Selder approaching. Her short blond hair and green eyes endeared many men. Meila radiated a sense of hope and tranquillity that belied here status as a slave. She was the heart of the household, despite the fact that all the slaves endured harsh beatings for the simplest of errors.

"Selder, I take it you saw the note?"

"It's not like I could have missed it, Melia, it was in a pretty obvious spot."

"True enough."

"I take it you've already started on your tasks? How long do you think it will be before Master returns?"

"Of course I've already started, Selder, I'm not some lazy fool. Master said he'd be back by mid-afternoon, and it's mid-morning now, so we have plenty of time to get our tasks done."

"Ah. Well, I need to get back to work. I'll meet up with you later."

Selder left the kitchens and proceeded to the guest chambers, where he was required to clean everything, and prepare for any surprise guests that may come. No guests ever came here though, his master was known for his ruthlessness, both with slaves, and his own kind. He'd heard tales from other slaves in the area that his master had killed his own brother for speaking his mind. He knew himself that the tales were not exaggerated, because he himself had encountered that ruthlessness himself. The only reason he'd still alive is for Melia and Kliran.

His master was one of the Ler'dac elite. The Ler'dac were the opposites of man in every way. Where man is tall and graceful, the Ler'dac are squat and hunched over. Any Ler'dac has the strength of five men, but lacks the grace that men have. Where man is noble and proud, the Ler'dac are selfish and arrogant. The Ler'dac came from the south centuries ago, and overthrew the Old Empire, enslaving its people and starting a new age of darkness. However, they could not eliminate the hope that man had, for a prophecy was given which spelled doom for the Ler'dac oppressors. Selder was glad for what he knew of the prophecy, and often wondered if it would be fulfilled in his lifetime.

Selder entered the guest chambers, and proceeded to clean everything in sight. He had been beaten before for even the slightest hint of dust, so he took diligent care in his work. Just to be cautious, Selder cleaned everything twice, in order to be thorough.

Selder finished cleaning the room, and proceeded to his masters library, where he needed to take an inventory of the collection contained within, and dust off the study desk. Selder was very grateful for having the library within his appointed tasks. Whenever Selder had the chance, he read whatever he could get his hands on, practicing the knowledge from them. He took great care to insure that his master did not find out, for he would surely be punished with death. As a result of his readings, Selder had much more knowledge than a slave was allowed. He knew that he faced great punishment for his actions, but he'd continue anyway, because he had such a strong thirst for knowledge.

Selder entered the library, and found the one book he had been reading for the past three weeks. He sat down and started reading, finding himself quickly engrossed in the knowledge within. After reading a chapter of the book, he returned it to its proper place, and proceeded to work. As he was working, his eyes fell onto a book left open on his masters study desk. He's never left books out before. Why now? Selder thought.

Unable to restrain his curiosity, Selder took the book and looked at the title. It caught his attention, The book was titled Interpretations of the Lightbringer Prophecy. Becoming even more curious, Selder started to read.

'It is a common belief among the slave population that this prophecy is referring to a heroic figure rescuing them from their enslavement. All evidence we have managed to find, however, indicates that there is a missing portion beyond that of which we have knowledge. The portion which we have appears to be an encouragement to the so-called 'Lightbringer' telling him or her where to find the power needed to oppose us. We suspect that this missing portion will detail the qualities of this 'Lightbringer' beyond even the 'humble beginnings'. In order to contain the hope that this prophecy brings, it is best that we increase the workload upon them, and institute harsher punishment. Then, and only then, will we have continued dominion over the whole of Crad're.'

Selder was so engrossed in his reading that he did not here the door of the library creak open. Nor did he here the footsteps approaching him. A hand on his shoulder made him jump up with a shout.

"Easy, Selder, my friend. It is I, Kliran."

Selder turned. "Well, you certainly know how to frighten a guy, Kliran."

"It is not my fault that you make it so easy, my friend. Now hurry, Master has returned early, and you know the punishment you face for this."

"He's back early? By the Light, I'm in trouble. I've only got my work half finished."

"Come, my friend, We must make haste from here!"

Kliran and Selder left the library and rushed to complete their work. As they were nearing the kitchen though, they were stopped by an ear-splitting scream. Melia, Selder thought. It has to be.

"Come on, Kliran. We have to check that out."

"Are you sure that is a good idea, my friend? Master is probably punishing her for something."

"That's precisely why we have to check it out. Come on!"

Selder and Kliran charged into the kitchen, only to hear their Master's shouting.

"Foolish wench! I should have sold you when I had the chance. This is the third time this week that you've failed to have my lunch ready. It's time you learned your last lesson, girl."

The Master ominously approached Melia, drawing his ornamental sword. He's going to kill her! Selder thought. I can't let that happen, not after everything she's done for me. But what can I do? I'm only a slave!

"Selder, my friend, We need to do something!" Kliran hissed.

"I know, but what can we do?" Selder whispered back.

Kliran said nothing, but merely grabbed a nearby knife and threw it with all his strength at the Master, missing widely, but gaining his attention.

"So, you show your true colours at last, slaves. I guess it is time to get rid of you all. Even that silly prophecy of yours can't save you."

Selder glanced at Melia, and then at Kliran. Then he grinned.

"The prophecy may not save us, but that does not mean that we cannot save ourselves. You are outnumbered, Master." Selder spat the last word with all of the hate he had gathered in his 20 years of life.

"Pah, you think three slaves can defeat me? Lexak Speriansk? Champion of the Kler'dacth? Try it. I welcome your foolishness."

"Very well. Take this!" Selder grabbed a handful of flour and tossed it at his Master's eye.

"Augh!" Lecak's hands went to his eyes, rubbing them to clear out the flour. As he was doing this, he missed Selder grabbing another knife, and pressing it to his throat.

"Vengeance is mine. Justice is served. It is time you pay for the injustices you have inflicted on my people." Selder hissed with spite.

"You are a fool, slave. You may kill me if you wish, but you will not escape. The eyes of the Ler'dac are everywhere."

With a grimace, Selder struck the killing blow, ridding the world of the evil that was Lexak Speriansk.

"You…. You killed him!" Melia spoke with shock and awe.

"Most of the books I read in the library dealt with combat and battle. I practised the techniques in my room. Now come, let's take what we need, and get out of the city. Once the body is found, the guards will be out in force." Selder replied. Seeing the shocked looks on the faces of his friends, he added, "I did not wish to kill him, but it became necessary. If I were to spare his life he would have come after us, or placed a price on our heads."

The three of them exploded into a flurry of activity. Selder removed the sword from his masters hand, and picked up his coin purse. Melia gathered the food they would need for the journey, and Kliran grabbed anything else that could be of use.

After they had gathered what they needed, the party proceeded to the stables, where they saddled the horses, and made preparation to leave.

"Kliran, Why was it that I was on stable duty this morning? Isn't that your job?" Selder asked.

"Yes, my friend, it is. I had left the gate open since I had planned to escape this day. However, in order to cover my tracks, I pretended to be ill so that Master would pass my duties on to you. I sneaked out after he left and opened the gate. I had planned to take you with me, my friend, but I guess fate had a different plan."

"Since when could you do that?" Selder asked

"I always did his book work, so I have had prolonged exposure to his handwriting. I stole a sample months ago and spent some time copying it in my room. If you were to give me a few days with any handwriting, my friends, I would likely be able to forge it." Kliran answered.

"Hmm, sounds like a useful ability. It might come in handy down the line. Well, let's be off." Selder mounted his horse and rode it out into the daylight. The sword at his side glinted in the sun.

"Wait, Selder! I don't know how to ride a horse. I'm just a kitchen girl!" Melia complained.

Selder laughed. "Of course, I'd be a fool if I forgot that. Kliran, if you would be so kind as to help our lady companion?" Selder then rode off.

Kliran, did a mock bow and with exaggerated formality said, "Of course, my dear lady, I, Kliran, would be honoured to help you."

Melia rolled her eyes. "Quit clowning around. We need to get out of here. In case you've forgotten, we're escaped slaves." With Kliran's help, she mounted her horse, and waited for Kliran to mount his. Together, the two followed after Selder.

None of them, however, noticed the figure hiding in the shadows. The figure watched their departing forms for a moment, and then left muttering to itself. "So, a slave dares to oppose the Ler'dac? The Kler'dacth must be informed at once."

"What do you mean, Lexak Speriansk is dead? There is no way he could have been defeated by mere humans. There is a reason they are slaves, no matter what the prophecy says, they are still inferior to us. One of us has the strength of any five of them, and yet you dare to tell me that Lexak, My Champion, is dead?"

"My dear Kler'dacth, I speak the truth. I saw his body myself. The slaves killed him through trickery and deceit. The two males that killed him did so because he was about to punish their female companion with the proper sentence."

"You saw his body yourself? Tell me, was his sword with him, or did those wretched humans steal it?"

"My master, I did not see the sword. The humans must have taken it. They also stole his finest horses, and were headed west towards the Wastes. It would take several days to find them, even with 100 of our finest troops."

"You have done well. Rise, Herin Frenskag, I now make you my new Champion. The Blooded Thousand are yours to command. They are my finest legion, and they will find these escaped slaves. We cannot allow them to find the Sage. He alone holds the whole prophecy, and there is no doubt that he will teach it to them."

"We made it guys! We're free. We're our own masters now."

"Selder, my friend, do not be so hasty. He was a Ler'dac of rather high standing. His body will be found eventually, and traced back to us."

"Kliran, do you really think that they can follow us? We've been riding for days. I don't see how they could find us."

"Would you two be quiet? We've run out of food, and we're stuck in the Wastes, and it's the middle of the night… If we were going to be attacked, no would be the time to strike. Shouldn't we find some place to hide and make our camp there?"

"Melia, We've never been here before. How could we find shelter if we are unused to this environment?"

A voice spoke from the shadows. "I can help you with that, young ones, but are you willing to trust that which you cannot see?"

Kliran, Selder and Melia turned towards the voice. Nothing.

The voice spoke again, this time from the opposite side of their camp. "Will you trust me? I can lead you to shelter, and protect you from those who would harm you."

The three glanced at each other. Selder drew the sword from its sheath, and lowered it towards the voice "Who are you? Step out of the shadows and reveal yourself!"

The sword fell out of Selder's hand with a loud clatter.

"I will not reveal myself to you. I ask again, will you trust me to lead you to the shelter you seek?"

Selder sighed, resigned to circumstance. "If I must, I will follow."

"I as well will follow you to shelter."

"Me too."

"Excellent. You three have chosen wisely. Follow my voice, quickly! I promise I will reveal myself to you once we reach shelter, but not until then."

The three walked forward, following the mysterious voice, filled with apprehension.

The sword lay forgotten on the ground, glinting in the moonlight.