Book One

Chapter 1

The Summer Rite

It was common knowledge that the ritual that all thirteen year olds had to go through. It was thought that the gods of the great Marlino Empire would come down every year and force the young kids to fight each other to the death. This rite should that they loved the gods and don't want that kind of stuff to happen again.

Now it was coming to that event, kids had to prepare their forgiving speech, which was a poem owing themselves to the gods and their well being. They also state that they will protect the gods at all cost, even if it was glorious death. To do this, they must give up their family's most gifted thing, which was usually a sword or a cup. Sometimes, they would kill a cow or something, to please the gods, because they did not have any other things to give. Sometimes they would kill a family member, but this was illegal now, so no one did it.

It was also have to fast for a week before hand, so that their minds were straight, so that they could do everything properly, without any kind of mistakes. Any mistakes were punishable to death, as it is an insult to the gods of the great Marlino Empire.

And so it was, three thirteen-year-old boys sat at a pond. They were throwing stones into the lake. Yesterday, they swam in it, but today it was too cold. They would do it tomorrow, but it was the summer rite, which they had to go to, or they would be wiped.

"What are we going to do?" asked one of them. His name was Kenneth, and was a bit fat. He tried to go on a diet but it never worked.

"No idea", said the other one. He was called Daniel, but he preferred to be known as Dan. He was tall, and had blond and spiky hair. His blue eyes gleamed out for miles away.

"We go to come up with something, or they will get us", said Kenneth. "You know what they do to guys like us in prison. They will slaughter us".

"Just shut up", yelled Daniel. He was stressed out, and he didn't want Kenneth to hassle him anymore.

"You cannot ignore it", yelled Kenneth. He was just as stressed out as Daniel. They had to do something. "We need to declare of our birthrights. And to do that, we need to know our parents".

"I know that", said Daniel. "I don't need you tell me how to suck eggs".

"Well Dan, what do you think we should do", said Kenneth. "Declare that Mr Gaza is our father?"

"For starters, the court officials will not believe us, second of all, would he agree to do such an act. Keeping us hidden was dangerous enough", Daniel replied.

"Yeah, and do you have any other great ideas up your brains of yours?" asked Kenneth.

"Well…"

"I rest my case", Kenneth butted in. "Hey, what about you Finn?"

The other boy was quiet up to this point. His unruly curly hair made people think that he was a trouble make. But the truth was, this was not true. He had a habit for not talking for long periods of time. This annoyed a lot of people in the village, but his friends were used to it.

"Runaway?" he asked them. Kenneth and Daniel looked at each other. This was their last resort.

"We could", said Daniel. The look on his showed that he was not all that convinced. "But they will chase after us.

"Hey", said Kenneth, "why are we asking him anyway? He already has a way out of it".

Despite its demise, the sword that his great, great, great grandfather once took into battle was his only answer out. It might be an old sword, which the empire would over look; it did have some history behind it.

"Yeah, but what about you guys", said Finn. "I don't want to see you guys thrown into that place".

"Why don't we find during the festival", said Kenneth. He was coming onto something.

"Go on", said Daniel.

"What if we run", Kenneth was more thinking then saying, yet it was coming out aloud. "The tree folk will most likely take us on. There is a long history of them taking in runaways".

"That's is in good", said Daniel, "but those tales are those before the empire came".

"But the tree folk still keeps to themselves. You never know. They might take allowance for us".

"Allowance?" Daniel laughed. "For us? No way".

"Well it is at least a try".

Finn was now starting to daydream. All this talking made him drowsy. From all that noise, heard someone yelling. Someone was looking for them.

"We better be going", Finn suggested. "They'll be worrying to death". Both Kenneth and Daniel agreed. And with that, they left.

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Petico was a small village in the Dalea district. On the outskirts of the empire, not many people notice them. There were more important things to worry about then them. Deep in the west, Kalik was suffering from a revolution. Being the centre of the Marlino Empire, it was prime place for protestors appear. Not many people agreed with the Empire. Jimin was threatening to leave. And dark powers being rumoured to building their force in the Far East, the empire didn't want to have large chunks to leave. But all Finn cared about now was the ritual. It was coming very soon and it didn't make him feel that comfortable. No, not one bit.

He lived on the outskirts of Peico, along with Kenneth and Daniel. Mr Gaza looked after them. Not many realised, but he was not their father. None of their parents were still alive. Keeping it a secret form the Empire, Mr Gaza brought them up like his own. Along with his own son, that is. However, his son was in another town, mining, so that they could get some money. He was older by about two years. Only Daniel was as tall as him.

Today, however, there was no money. The mines were closed down for next few months. So, there weren't any money coming in. So they all had to deal with only leftover bread from the past few days.

Mr Gaza had been on some adventures many years before hands. However the money had not lasted like he wished it could have. The empire was always raising its taxes. They said it was for the better of the empire, but everyone new it was because of the war that was happening in Kalik. War was a messy game, and everyone suffered.

However, they received news that an old friend of Mr Gaza was coming. Quentin was an old senator for the empire. He had left, yet they still took advice from him every now and then. He was in his hundreds or so, yet he could move like any young boy. He was good at healing, so every time he comes, the people of Petico insisted one getting him to heal the sick, wherever possible.

He would never talk about political as he always believed that his time for talking about that stuff was at a near. He also has been known to say that no one would listen to him anyway.

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"Hey Quentin", yelled Finn this time. Daniel and Kenneth were not with him this time. They were at home, helping around the place for his arrival. Finn was pretty messy and got distracted very easy. So they got him top great Quentin. This was good for him, as Finn didn't mind Quentin. And the same thing goes for Quentin. He would always show Finn a magic trick every time he came. However, since Finn has gotten older, these tricks didn't work as well as it used to.

"Hello my child", he said with a cheerful tone. "I have heard about the ritual. I know that you will do your best there".

Finn wasn't there glad about that. "What about Kenneth and Daniel"

"That is why I have came", he said. "So will you be able to take me to Mr Gaza. I have some stuff very important to tell him". So Finn took him back to his house, while talking about what has been going on in the outside world. Finn had always dreamed of exploring the world.

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Quentin stared at Mr Gaza. "So what are you going to do about these children", he asked the man.

"That is the problem", Mr Gaza didn't want to admit this, but he had to, "I don't know. That is the reason why I summoned you here. Please help me".

"Maybe I can talk to the Emperor about this. All I can tell you is to send them out of the town tonight. Send them to the Tree Folk. I have a few in the Yelman Forest City that would take care of them. And once Finn has down his Ritual he can either join the miners in Jipore. I heard they are taking a new patch in".

"Yes", said Mr Gaza, "but he talent is being wasted. He needs to stay here and look after the house".

"But that is well and good, but aren't you going to looking after this place". After he had said that, Mr Gaza refused to speak anymore. Because of this, Quentin knew that there was something going to happening. Something was wrong.

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By the next day, everything was prepared. The tents were up. The local priest was there to accept the gifts that were about to be given to the gods. He was also there to make sure that the kids were who they say they were. He had the rights to arrest any liars and put them in prison, under the watchful eyes of the Empire. An official of the Emperor was there too, so that no funny business would happen.

By now, Kenneth and Daniel were out of the village, most like hiding in a bush. After all the houses were searched, they could return. However, they were to hide for some time, before they could begin their journey to the Tree Folk.

And so, along with his sword, Finn lined up to give up his sword. By the time that they got him, there was a large pile of swords, cups, and many other forms of metal. Most of this would be melted down to make newer swords for the empire.

The priest said, "Declare your Birthright". This was more of a demand. So Finn gave him it.

"My name is Finn of Blaneborn the sixth, son of Finn of Blaneborn the seventh. My parents are dead, yet I have my great, great, great grandfathers sword, Finn of Blaneborn the first, who fought and died in the name of the empire. I hope this gift will serve the empire fittingly, and that it will wash away my sins, just as my father before did". His was voice was shaky, but it worked. A man there, who could tell if someone was lying, accepted that what he said was true. Then Finn dropped the Sword at the priest's feet. He looked at it, and then bowed. It was accepted. And so Finn made quick prayer:

Thank you my lord
Fro you have saved me from me
I have given my sword
And let the path of war be

Hope in the gods of our world
I believe to be true
Let it all be know down the road
To all that is good that they will rule

After he spoken that, he bowed to the priest and then walked off. For another two hours, he watched as other kids did the same, giving up things of great importance for the greater of the empire.

And so things had past and the Ritual was over. And the official of the Emperor stood up, and said, "Thank you for what has been a great outcome. Before I start my speech, I would like to thank the Emperor for giving us the right to live and breath. Without him, we would all be dead.

"I would like to say one behalf of all that has died, we will defeat them. The Master of Kalik has mentioned that a revolution is punishable to death. In a case of a village, it is everyone, no matter if you had a part in it, or not. Man, woman, children, will be all executed under the watchful eye of the empire. Let the Emperor live on and on.

"And to finish off my speech, if is expected every family to send two people to join the army, no matter of their ages. Young and old must fight to save the empire. Next weeks will be the sign ups. Fail to do this, and it is punishable yet again, by death. This is a new law, but it must be followed. Anyone under the age, will be still have to go, and they will be train, so that when they are old enough, they will fight and die for greatness of the empire".

And with that, he sat down. After that, there were many other speeches, from all the important people of the village. The official wasn't really noticing any of it. All he cared about was all the gold he had just been able to get.

And then Mr Gaza walked up. "It has been some time since I have spoken to you all. I might not be the wises of the wise, but as I can see, there is a lot of greed happening lately. This is for the empire, your days are numbered. Soon you will be no more.

"In the Far East, powers are stirring. They will not rest. I will go on another quest to save this world from both evils. I have a power to destroy the empire, and bring all the lands back to their proper kingdoms, and bring back their former glories.

"I decree this, this will the last summer rite I will let happen. Next year will be a new one. No more pointless wars. None of it. I have written a trust that gives all the money that I hold to my late friend's son, Finn of Blaneborn the sixth, and the house also. It also states that the empire to leave it alone, or the gods will lay hunted eyes off them.

"And as a I leave, Lord of Magik, keep a watchful eye on him. So farewell to you all". And he disappeared into a flame. No one could tell were he went.

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As quick as he could, Mr Gaza summoned himself back in his house. The magik that he learnt many years ago, while he was on adventures, had come to use. However, he didn't expect this. He was not alone.

"Leaving are you", a voice said.

"Quentin?" he asked. "You know very well what I am going to be doing. The elemental stone calls for its home, and I know very well that it is to be me that have to undertake this quest. Don't you stop me".

Quentin was amused by his speech. "You old fool. You know could not do such a thing again. You are so old; you will not even last the journey. Give the stone to Finn. Let him take the journey".

"What about the house?" Mr Gaza asked. "We cannot just leave it".

"Sam, it is only a house. It can be sold. The stone is the most important thing of all. Give the stone to me and I will give it to Finn".

"No!" he snapped. "Never. Its power is mine. I will be more powerful then the rest".

"Sam, what has overcome you?"

"Sorry old friend. I didn't mean to say that", Mr Gaza said. He was shaking now. He didn't know what to do. He was now weak, and would do what ever Quentin told him to do.

"Do what is best. Give the quest to Finn". And with that, Mr Gaza gave the stone to Quentin.

"So I better be going to, shouldn't I?" he replied. "Tell Finn I'm sorry". After saying that, he searched for his bag of belongings, opened the door, and left. He walked down the stairs, making sure that no one was looking, and left. In the nearby distance, Tree Folk were waiting for him. The journey for him was near at an end. The last adventure, he thought to himself.

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Finn arrived back at his house. The only person in there was Quentin. He was alone, yet it felt like there was someone missing. Someone who had just left.

"This is your house. I have paid the official some of your money that was given to you by Mr Gaza. I paid a little bit more, so that they will not bother you again. That is for a while. Kenneth and Daniel can come back here. The priest as left long with the Official to Jikil. He will not be back for some time.

"Everything here is yours. You can sell any of it, other then the stone that is in the corner. Do not touch and do not look at it. Other than that, I will be leaving now. I will be back in a fortnight. Until then, be safe".

And after saying, he left the house, allowing Finn to be alone for a while. After an hour or so, he went and looked for his friends, for were hiding in a bush. They went back to the house and he told them of what had just happened. And with that, they went to sleep.