THE CHRONICLES OF KLANE OMENDETH
A young man, with almost-black locks falling over a creased brow, a jawbone slightly shaded with dark beard, and narrowed green eyes, stood at the shore. The night wind rustled the generous foliage that shaded him from uncanny eyes and the white moonlight beamed upon the water he contemplated. At his right stood a crudely-fashioned canoe, a bundle upon its seat, and an oar.
The young man put his hand to his belt, fingering the brightly colored sheath of the knife he carried there. He remembered when he had been given that knife. How could he forget? It was on his fourteenth birthday, when he became a man of the Othle tribe. His father, the chief of their tribe, had presented him with the dagger, the weapon of the Othles, and the sign of manhood. The Othles were famous for their skill with daggers. He had looked upon it with awe and eagerness, for prior to receiving it he had wielded only a bow and arrow. After he received the dagger he had been given the customary tunic of the Othle men, and his left ear was pierced at the top with a square-shaped black ring.
"Klane Enomendeth, son of our tribal chief and heir to his dignity," the old sages had called him, and there was feasting and dancing. But Klane had felt discontent lurking even in the midst of that splendor; discontentment that had haunted him even since he was a youngling of eight or nine. In those days he was rather anti-social, as he was now, always running off to the woods to play by himself, his only companion his own black shadow. For in the village, the children were shy of him, not only because of the sullen black expression that habitually clouded his face, but also because he was the son of the chief, and thus commanding of their respect. And so Klane grew up with the woodbine and forest glades serving as his comrades. There in the clandestine solitude he would practice his skill with the bow and arrow and sometime feign a swordfight with an imaginary opponent. He was full of life and eagerness then, discontent to stay as he was and impatient to grow up. But even as he grew, his discontent was not satisfied. He used to confide in his sister, a black-haired girl named Kelna, who was three or four years younger than he. She was his only friend, and shared in all his secret plans and dreams…until now.
Now Klane Enomendeth stood at the edge of the parapet, at the mouth of the cave, wondering whether to plunge and enter in or stay and stifle his desires. For four years he had trained with the Othle men, learning to become a warrior in their tribe. He had seen all their practices first-hand, learned the arts of their hunt and the skills in their plunders of the smaller isles surrounding them. He had been given a thorough propagandizing against the Great Island that lay west to them in the ocean, a place of culture and government. In that land the mystical creatures of old still flourished and the people were a governed, a civil body. In that land had dwelt in the days of old the race of the immortal Eynglendians, who had once tricked and cajoled the leaders of the Othle tribes. The Great Island held sway against all the Eastern Isles; it thought itself too bright and prosperous; it was too powerful, and yet its warriors were not half as skilled as the Othles, who had been in existence far longer. Thus the half-envious hate of the Othles was directed towards the Great Island of Ilenthia. And Ilenthia returned the favor. Was it not the Othles who had plundered their shores and stolen their women and children long ago? Was it not the Othles who had taken the bribes of the sorcerer Halvier to make attack upon Ilenthia's borders? Was it not the Othles who had barred all other islanders from hunting on their island during the great famine? Was it not the Othles who now refused to help in the crisis that brought all of the military of the Eastern islands to the shores of Mezedona? All this had turned the uncultured Othles ill in Ilenthia's favor, and the two islands shared a mutual distaste for each other.
But Klane spat upon the Othles' words against Ilenthia. By now, Klane considered himself a man, and a man of free will and free thought. He had learned through his eighteen years that men, who slaughtered, raped and pillaged for their own benefit, were not to be trusted in matters of right or wrong, but rather that instinct of light, that glimpse of immortality that lives within each men, stronger in some than in others. In Klane this light glimmered brightly, and he, finding no sanctuary upon which to call for advice, followed it with all his might and will. His soul rebelled against the brazen and cruel practices of his people, and yearned secretly towards the bright shores of the Great Island. There dwelt a people, free and happy within the structure of a discerning government. There dwelt warriors of great renown, descendants of the great nobles of old, who were fighting now for the protection of a budding civilization in Mezedona. There dwelt the immortals which had long since been driven from the Othle island. And there dwelt undiscovered things in the Western side – an unexplored region laden with legends and folktales. To the young Klane all this called with the attraction of adventure and goodness, and urged him to turn traitor to his family and join the forces of Ilenthia.
Klane's heart beat quickly, jolting him out of his reverie. He must leave now. The moon was full, and if he rowed steadily he might reach Ilenthia by noon the next day. At any rate, he must go before he was discovered. The thought of leaving in stealth, like a thief in the night, filled his senses with shame; but if he declared his intentions openly to the tribe, or even to his father, he would be killed at once. With this in mind, he knelt by the canoe, and moved it towards the water.
The sound of rustling in the leaves brought Klane back to his feet suddenly. Perhaps it was only a creature of the night – but no risks could be taken. Spinning around, his hand went to his dagger. His eyes, however, beheld no winged beast or crawling creature, but a young girl wrapped in a fine leather tunic, her dark hair streaming down her back. She rushed forward as he lowered his hand and grasped his arm.
"Klane, what – " she began, but he put his hand over her mouth quickly.
"Speak in an undertone," he told her softly. "You will give me away." Her eyes spoke obedience, and he released his grip.
"Where are you going, brother?" she asked when freed. "What are you doing?"
He looked at her in the darkness, sadly contemplating the fearful look in her eyes. For a moment words failed him, and then he spoke.
"I am leaving, Kelna," he said. "I am betraying the tribe."
Kelna's breath seemed to have gone.
"I should have known," she murmured softly, brokenly. "I could have guessed. You never felt pride in the Othle traditions. You always were…different. But why…why did you not tell me you were going? I saw you leave and followed you here. Would you have gone without saying goodbye?"
"It was the safest way, dear one," he replied, putting his hand upon her shoulder. "If our father knew I was leaving, he would kill me rather than permit me to go."
"But why must you go? Why must you leave our island?"
"Kelna, Mezedona is in crisis. The free lands are helping there, as well as the military of the Great Island. Ilenthia is a place full of opportunities. I want to join its military and do something of renown in this world. You must understand that I cannot stay in this mercenary tribe any longer."
Kelna, seeing that she could not turn him, began to weep and lament.
"Perhaps you are right, brother," she said, "perhaps you are wise, but you cannot go off and leave me here. You know if you do I will never see you again." Her dark lashes grew wet with her tears and they gave a wild frame to her big hazel eyes. Her limbs shuddered in dread as she clung to him. Klane kissed her wet cheek softly.
"Don't cry, Kelna. Let me go. You will have a good life here. You are a woman now, and you will soon be married. Your husband will protect you then, and you will not need me."
"I will always need you," she insisted. "Don't you see, Klane? You are everything to me – friend, brother, father. I don't want a husband."
"Kelna. Listen to me. Our paths must separate. I must go and live my life. You must live yours. Even if I stayed here, that would have to happen." Klane's green eyes pierced Kelna's gaze and his words were gentle but firm, never betraying his heart that ached in the knowledge that he would never see her again. As he embraced his sister for the last time, his eyes filled with tears and one trickled down into her long dark hair.
Then he turned from her and set off in the canoe towards Ilenthia and a new life.
Klane's arm was strong and his burden light; thus, his canoe reached the Great Island by noon the next day. Taking up his small burden and selling his canoe to local natives, he traveled towards the nearest place of civilization. Upon reaching the coastal village of Clovertine, he at once sought out a military base. There he applied for a job. He introduced himself as Klane Omendeth, omitting the first syllable of his surname in an attempt to change the association with his family. The major on duty looked at him askance. His name, his accent, his clothing, all betrayed him to be one of the hated Othle tribe.
"Why would an Othle want to join the Ilenthian army?" the major demanded.
"Former Othle, sir," Klane corrected. "I have been disowned by my family." This was true, for even as soon as his disappearance had been discovered and Kelna had admitted where he had gone, his parents had disowned him and refused to utter his name again. "And my only knowledge, sir," he continued, "is of warfare. Therefore allow me to join your forces."
"Let us see your skill," said the major. After a demonstration of the young man's skill in swordsmanship, lancing, and arts of the dagger, the major was compelled by the rules of the Ilenthian army to allow Klane to join. He was an exceedingly skillful warrior, and his heritage was no obstacle, as Ilenthia was in need of men for its military and open to all who would fight in its name. Klane was given the uniform of the Ilenthian army, and sent to a base in another village where the troops would soon be transferred to Mezedona.
Before traveling towards his base, Klane stopped at an inn and donned his uniform. It was a simple uniform: leather hose and white cotton jerkin beneath chain mail; metal-capped boots and leg armor, and upon his wrist a cheaply-made gauntlet. The Ilenthian garments looked strange upon his broad brown shoulders. Klane stood thoughtfully for a moment, and then took off the earring he wore, for it was a wild and uncouth symbol to the Ilenthians and signified his relations to the Othle tribe. He threw it, along with his bundle of clothing, into the fire. Then he took in hand his dagger, and stroked the sheath. It was a brightly painted sheath with a brass top and bottom. How he had loved that sheath when he first was given it. The dagger itself was crafted from copper stone, and it was bright and sharp. It had saved Klane many times in the wood from the wild beasts that roamed there. It had been his first introduction into manhood.
Klane gazed at it for a moment, and then put it in its sheath, and left it at his belt. He would keep his dagger, for it had served him well. His skill, like his weapon, he owed to the Othle. But now, in all but that, he was an Ilenthian.
And thus begins the story of Klane Omendeth.