Chapter 1

"I guess it all started a few weeks ago," the man on the couch began uneasily. He shuffled around on the hard, dusty couch-pillow, feeling prickly and uncomfortable in the musty confines of the small room. The room was cramped, dusty, hot as the sun, and looked very much like a closet. It was packed with a manner of objects, ranging from strangely-formed pieces of wood to boxes upon boxes of scrolls. A tattered brown rug, too large for the room, lay underfoot. A dirty window with a cracked pane hung from the wall above the man, and next to him sat a psychiatrist on a high stool. The man wanted desperately to open the window, but feared to ask.

"I got this…urge. This urge to go off and conquer uncharted regions, to enlighten undiscovered peoples, to make something of my life," he continued, falling into the same dialogue he had used to describe his curious urges to his family and friends. "I mean… what is it? Is this…normal?"

The psychiatrist, for that was what the sign outside the house had presented the other man as, looked down at his notes. He hadn't said a word the entire session, despite the fact that it had been going on for at least an hour. His eyes darted from his notes, to the man on his couch, and back to the notes again with apparent distaste. "It's called suppressed egomania," he said flatly, his voice devoid of all emotion.

The man on the couch waited politely for the psychiatrist to elaborate, or prescribe some sort of medicine or activity. The other man merely sat on his stool, staring down as if he thought everything was over with, and the patient should be leaving.

"Well…is there anything I can do about it?" the man asked finally.

The psychiatrist grunted and scribbled on his notepad. When he placed it on his lap to address his patient, it became apparent that he had been doodling archaic symbols, instead of taking notes. "No."

Again, the patient waited, and again, the psychiatrist looked ready to kick him out and go on with his life.

"Are you sure?"


"Can't you…y'know…give me some advice?"

The psychiatrist sighed, rubbing his eyes. It was still daytime, and he didn't like to be out in the daytime much. He certainly didn't like to be bothered during the daytime much. The light hurt his eyes, and the people hurt his head. "That's what an advisor is for," he said.

"But isn't a psychiatrist a little like an advisor?"


"I want my money back."

The man left the little house in a huff, slamming the door behind him and stomping off down the road back to the kingdom. The psychiatrist followed behind, re-opened the door, descended his staircase, and made his way to a sign he'd posted in his yard. It read "Ethan Zeaner's Psychiatry." He pulled it up and turned it around, revealing a new sign that read "Ethan Zeaner's Herbs and Potions. Some Are Poisonous." He had added the last bit only several days ago, trying to detour would-be customers.

Ethan Zeaner hated one thing: everyone. And everyone seemed to want one thing or another from him. He frowned angrily, his black and white eyes slanting in aversion, wondering why he felt the need to interact with people. There were plenty of other ways to make money, but stealing was the best he could come up with. He'd need to steal money from people.

He sat down on the ground in front of his sign, contemplating his lot in life. He did this by staring at a tree. It was a big, tall tree, a serious tree, with all its branches up at the top. It was autumn, so its leaves had taken on a brilliantly yellow hue. Ethan liked trees. They didn't talk much. He thought of himself as a kind of tree. He was a tall, thin, serious tree, not a tall, thin, serious man. His hair fell around his face in a relatively symmetrical, short, scraggly, straw blond mess, and on top of his hair sat a dark-colored hat. His eyes had an uncomplicated pattern about them; they were white, with black irises, and white pupils. His arms and hands were covered with black, archaic tattoos that helped him with the sort of work that he did. True, trees didn't normally have tattoos, but he didn't have bark, so he called it a fifty-fifty.

Ethan's eyes had been trained on his tree for some time, when a voice suddenly asked, "Y'knoo thas baad fer yoo?"

He looked up at a squirrel sitting on the roof of his house. It was staring back at him with a sort of concerned curiosity.

"Go away," he grunted and went back to looking at his tree.

"Jus saayin'," the squirrel snipped huffily. It took off into the trees without another word.

Ethan disliked animals too, though not so much as people. He didn't dislike them because they got into his chimney, or routed up his herbs, but because they talked to him. They could tell who he was better than anyone, and that often left them in a chatty mood. It wasn't very often that they got a chance to talk to a human, and a human mage at that.

Ethan Zeaner stood up, stretched his long limbs, scratched his straw-colored hair, repositioned his hat, and turned to survey his house. It was a tiny house, built up on stilts, with a narrow staircase running up to its door. There was a garden with various herbs and plants to one side, and a patch of dry, burned earth on the other. The burned patch was where he tried out most of his new spells, because he didn't want to be bothered to make up another house. He noticed his sloppily shingled roof was caving in again, and made a mental note to fix it when the opportunity presented itself.

He was the kind of person who thought in circles, so his turned back to the subject of money as he reentered his house. He needed money. Badly. The whole psychiatry thing hadn't been working, mostly because he couldn't stand listening to other people whine. The idea had seemed a sound one when it had first occurred to him, but now that he was being forced to interact with countless hormonally ravaged teenagers and fretful hypochondriacs, he was mentally punching his own head. Ethan was a mind-mage, after all. He had figured people would pay to have their traumatic memories erased, and nicer, less-severe memories installed. That was what he did for a living. Unfortunately, the people who came to see him more often than not wanted someone who could be made to listen to their pitiful excuses as to why their lives weren't going as planned. They wanted success, significant others, a new house, a new outlook on life, and they wanted Ethan to tell them why they were so depressed. The mage often needed to suppress a strong urge to tell them they were too stupid or lazy to figure it out on their own.

So, he had decided psychiatry would be a side job, mostly because it was still making money. He turned his attentions back to something he was interested in: potions and herbs. He could still make them, still occupy his time with them, and merely sell them off to people. But then, people began knocking on his door (even with a clearly posted sign stating, in bright bold letters, "GO AWAY") and asking for specific herbs and potions. They wanted love potions, anti-impotency potions, baby-making potions, anti-depressant potions, and they wanted him to make them. He often had to suppress a strong urge to tell them all to crawl under a rock and die.

Ethan walked into his little bed-room and lay down on his bed. The room was almost as large as his "psychiatry" closet, and the rickety old bed took up half the space. The rest of the space was taken up by a large crate that served as his only dresser, and a side-table with a giant book of spells on it. He picked up the book and began writing in it. This was his life's work, his own, authored book, that held all the spells, incantations, and cooking recipes he had ever created. He jotted down the archaic symbols he had come up with during his "session" with a satisfied smile, and carefully replaced the book on the table.

It was only two in the afternoon, but he was already tired. Ethan was a relatively nocturnal person, for reasons he didn't like to discuss, and he had been up all last night as well. He took off his boots, belt and hat, folded them, put them in his crate, and fished out a spotty, moth-eaten bedspread. There would be another opportunity to make money later in the night, so he set his internal clock for eight and curled up underneath the blanket.

I'm just starting out with this one, so be nice. It's my Urf hiatus, because I still don't like how book two is going. If you want to see a picture of Ethan, go here: ?id385416