Author's note: Chapter 1 has been extended 8-1-05

Chapter: 1

City of Lhost, 238 post Ehan...

"Come now my fellow Lhostian! This is the day to find one's fortune! A fortunate day for the brave! For I, Isar the unbeatable have an offer of stupendous..."

As the bellowing voice of Isar the unbeatable fade among the rumbling hum of the busy market, a pair of murky jade eyes pierced through the thick crowd. Hidden under a veil of linen, they darted quickly from one sun-painted face to another, silently observing and waiting for their prey.

"Hey! You there! Are these seats taken?" The sand-scratched voice of a drunken Lhostian invaded the musky air.

Without hesitation, the linen hooded man stood up. A low gasp was heard from the drunkard as he gawked at the strange man's height. He appeared as though he could reach out and graze the glowing sun with the back of his long, slender hand. In a low exotic accented voice the slender giant replied: "I have sat here long enough. Please, sit down."

That said, with water-like grace, the giant glided away and disappeared through the gates of tea-house. Still with a look of awe upon his face, the drunkard called out ineloquently to his equally oafish companions: "Did ya see that? Where'd ya think he's from?"

Equally stunned, one of the companions spoke up loudly: "I don't know... He's no human! That's for sure!" Suddenly, silence surrounded him. Fifty plus pairs of ebony eyes congregated around the drunkards. The intense silence caused the poor outspoken fool to whimper with fright.

"What? Did y'all not see him?" cried out one of the drunkards. "He was sitting here all alone! Then he stood up and seemed to be as tall as the room! I swear! I swear!"

Seeing the situation growing more and more tense, the tea-house owner quickly cut in: "Oh good day Sirs! Please sit down and have a cup of our herbal tea! On the house! It'll cure all peculiarities that comes with the over consumption of spirits!" That being said, he quickly produced a steaming pot along with several ceramic cups for each of the staggering men. Satisfied by the tea-house owner's quick words, the rest of the guests turned their attentions away from the drunkards.

Stupid bastards! Had they persisted on the truth of what they saw, they could have caused massive panic! Dasan knew all too well of how dire the situation could have been. After all, he had been a Derthan merchant before finally deciding on settling in Lhost and entering the tea-house buisness.

Thinking back on what had happened to the poor Derthanians during the Ehan era caused cool beads of sweat to invade Dasan's aged face. "May Rahan preserve the pillars of life..." he muttered under his breath.

"Those are words of heresy around here old man!" An amused women's voice interrupted Dasan's thoughts. Quickly, he turned around to see Hoiya, his cook, leaning against the kitchen door with a load of vegetables in her arms.

"Get back to work! I'm not paying you gold for you to stand around eves dropping!" snapped back Dasan. Hoiya quickly turned around and disappeared into the kitchen leaving echoes of laughter behind.

Dasan shook his head and glanced back at the group of sobering drunkards. That Derthan giant should have been more careful! Not casting a morphing spell around those stupid oafs! Well I suppose he will come back...

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Once out of Dasan's sight, Hoiya piled the vegetables upon a well aged cutting board and began to put her skills as a knife master to work. The shiny blade sliced feverishly through its victims, transforming each leafy bundle of green into neat thin strips. While she worked, Hoiya couldn't help but think back at the strange person sitting by the balcony. If it wasn't for those stupid drunkards, she would have been able to walk pass him and get a better look. Though from behind, she could sense that he was not an ordinary human; Dasan's words would only be conformation of that fact.

Hoiya had never seen or encountered any beings from outside of Lhost. However, she had heard of plenty of fantastical stories about the land of Derthan, where mystic Gods were borne. Hoiya had always been fascinated by the great mysterious powers that thrive within this world. She had often tried to dabble in the ways of the mystics. However, it was exceptionally difficult to find any useful information since all mystic dealings were banned from the Lhost kingdom.

Several years ago, she finally decided to forgo her childish infatuations and place her energy where the gold flows. After several attempts to better herself, she finally found her calling as an apprentice to the knife master Inia. Fortunately, Inia's odd quarks and eccentric humor made her a rather amusing person to be around. Thus, within a few short months, Hoiya inherited Inia's knife master title along with a few of her quarks and was immediately hired by Dasan to work in the kitchens of the tea-house.

Though she enjoyed her work; easy pay, good working conditions and pleasant company, there was always a part of her that still ached for the enticing world of the mystics. Thus, she spent most of her evenings studying second-hand mediocre copies of mystics spells and potions hoping to unlock some of its secrets.

From what little she had studied, she was able to teach herself how to read human auras through the changes of the surrounding air. It was an especially neat skill when it came to figuring out whether or not one's being cheated at the market or if one's boss was in a good enough mood to be bothered for a little extra gold. Either way, Hoiya never expected that her aura reading would cause her to null a morphing spell casted by the Derthan giant.

Luckly, only those close to him noticed... I wonder what's a Derthan giant doing, risking being seen, in Lhost? I felt as though he was looking for something... I wonder what...

"HOIYA! The BOSS wants to speak to YOU!" The obnoxiously loud voice of the cleaning boy boomed in her ears.

"I'm not deaf! At least not yet!" snapped Hoiya as she stabbed, forcefully, her knife into the wooden block. The vertical blade flashed brightly as it caught the fading sunlight.

Briskly, Hoiya marched down the corridor and towards Dasan's quarters. The intricately carved wooden door to this room was left open. Without a word, Hoiya stepped in and found the old man hunched over a book upon his lap.

"Ah yes... Hoiya, come here for a moment." He called out to her without lifting up his head.

"What is it old man?" asked Hoiya with a twinge of annoyance in her voice.

Ignoring her rude question, Dasan simply tossed the book in her general direction.

Caught off guard, Hoiya nearly tripped over her own feet as she grappled at the fluttering pages.

"What are you doing tossing around books? You know it takes a scribe months to create..."

"Quit your yapping and read the first page!" Dasan cut in sharply.

Hoiya let out a sigh and opened the delicate parchment to the first page. Upon it were only a few short sentences. As she read them, she could feel the hairs upon her back begin to rise.

"I come not as a seeker..." muttered Hoiya softly.

"You recognize that poem don't you girl?" Dasan asked, now his keen beady eyes stared upon her like a pair of well sharpened daggers.

"Y-yes... I suppose I have read this once before..." replied Hoiya in a soft voice.

"Where did you read this?! Speak up girl!" hissed the old man. Still in shock, Hoiya stared back at Dasan and remained mute.

"Come on! I know you've seen many things in regards to the 'mystics'. What does this poem mean to you?" Dasan urged on. He had risen from his seat and began to slowly walk towards her.

Finally finding her voice, Hoiya replied in a quivering tone: "This poem is said to be... to be the last promise of the Great Derthan Mystic King Amaji who was betrayed by one of his disciples, Jafin..."

Hoiya pause for a moment before continuing: "Jafin wanted to acquire Amaji's mystic powers. However, Amaji refused to choose him as his heir. Angry at his master, Jafin used his master's trust to lead him into a trap. Not satisfied with his master's death, he set the entire Amaji palace a blaze, making sure that no soul was left alive.

"It was said that when Amaji's body was found, these world were burnt upon the ground besides him:

I come not as a seeker.

I only claim what I have forgotten.

Oppose me and you shall find,

The bitter ashes of defeat...

Paving your existence."

Dasan let out a long sigh and gently removed the book from Hoiya's hand. In a low crackling voice he said: "The Derthanian giant from the other day. He left this book beneath the chair where he sat... He was searching for something. I could feel it in his aura. You too must have felt it as well. It was as though he was calling out to someone..."

"So you knew about my... 'studies'?" asked Hoiya softly.

Dasan chuckled and said: "The banning of mystic studies in Lhost was set to cause ignorance among the Lhostians so that they are 'protected' from harm. But ultimately the world is how it is and no amount of protection is going to prevent truths from presenting themselves. I think soon, we are going to find out what all of this is about..."