The Legend of Valcorn

A folk story from a novelization of Snow White

By

Catherine Ann Napoletano

Elizabeth Napoletano

Megan Griffith

Page 1

A long time ago there was a small village called Valcorn that resided deep in the forests, hidden by trees and hills. It was a mysterious place which no one really knew the exact location, and anyone that did never breathed a word, so as not to disturb the peace of the people that resided there. Valcorn was a village of magic, and most members of the community used it in some form or another. There were artesian that plied their trade by day, using what the miners found in the caverns that lay on the far outskirts of the village. Some said that the villagers had such amazing skills that men would try to find a way to replicate their wares, but most failed in making items as amazing as those of the artist of Valcorn.

Everyone who lived there was happy, the people enjoyed each-others company. The land was plentiful, and the water that bubbled up into the lake from a spring deep below was cool, crisp and clean. The people had little to worry about, and those with problems would bring their complaints to the Seven Elders, the leaders of Valcorn.

The Seven Elders were chosen by seven magical orbs that enhanced the owner's with abilities. The abilities that were bestowed were based upon the characteristics of the owner. Sometimes the gift was useful to the person that gained it, other times it was not as useful as it first appeared to be. These orbs had been passed down since the creation of the village, when seven men discovered them in the forest right where the village was founded. These first Elders had taken the orbs and sworn to protect them so that they did not fall into the wrong hands. They feared that if these gifts were abused then only sadness would fall upon the village, and so they hid them away from the eyes of the people, and kept them on themselves in secret spots.

Word eventually spread about the Seven Elders who were becoming known for their knowledge. Each generation would tell tales of the Elders skills and talents. Those that heard the tales would then pass them on to others and soon word of the wisdom of the Seven Elders reached far off lands and the ears of many that would use the Elders gifts for their own nefarious advantages.

Fearing that one with the wrong intentions could cause a great calamity should they gather the orbs together, the Elders decided to create a special place where the orbs could be placed should a danger arise. The Elders swore to protect the orbs with their very lives if there ever came a time that the village was threatened, but no one in the village seriously believed that such a threat would come about. After all, it was rare for men from other kingdoms to find Valcorn and the people of the village felt that they were safe because of the wisdom of the Seven Elders.

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One day a man entered the village. He was dressed in peasant clothing and had a hooded cloak over his head so that no one could see his face. He limped slowly as he walked and was clearly in need of help. So a group of men from the village aided the young man and brought him to the inn where he rested. The young man thanked them and told them that he had come from far away desperately seeking help from the Elders of the Village of Valcorn.

"I have heard they are the wisest of men," the young stranger spoke in a charming voice. "They say that they have the ability to make miracles and save lives."

The town's folk laughed at this and the young man looked at them curiously.

"Is this not true?" He asked them politely, "Surely the stories that I have heard are not fabrications of the true nature of this village. I heard that the people are peaceful and loving; that they welcome all that come here and that many travel days to visit this town, and some stay because of the kindness they receive, or so I am told. I have also heard that the Elders are men of their word, and will do all that they can to help those in need when they come here to see them. Is this true?"

The people in the inn smiled and nodded at the young man as an elderly gentleman hobbled over on a cane to look at him.

"It's true," he said, his voice as withered as the skin on his face. "We are peaceful and welcome men who wish us no harm. But, what reasons have you to see the Elders? You are young and fit, why have you come out here to speak with them?"

"I have come from my village to seek from them advice, and wish for their aid in a matter that is most dire. My village is in danger and I need their wisdom to guide me to the best course of action. Please can you show me to them?" he asked standing slowly. The elderly man nodded and lead the young man from the inn to the large stone home of the Seven Elders.

The young man was awed by the council chamber. It was a magnificent room that had hard wood floors and wood carvings along the ceiling depicting the Elders from each generation that had sat as one of the seven. Behind were large wooden doors that he had entered with his guide. To his left was a large fireplace that cast a warm glow about the room with large comfy chairs to sit in before it on cold winter days and to his right was an arch way that was decorated in beautifully carved animals which ran up towards the top center where a lake was the center piece of the lovingly carved display.

The stranger's attention was caught when the old man cleared his throat and pointed out a long simple rectangular table before him. Sitting at this table were seven men of different ages, each was dressed in an outfit that represented their profession. The stranger knew at once that these were the Seven Elders of Valcorn, he got on one knee and bowed to them.

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The Elders at the table eyed the stranger and the eldest looking of them, a grumpy carpenter, motioned to the elderly guide to leave as they wanted to speak to the young man alone. The older man gave a polite nod with his head, turned, and hobbled to the door, giving the young stranger a look that wished him luck, before exiting the room with the large wooden doors shutting behind him.

Once alone, the Elder dressed as a baker looked over at the Stranger who was still bowing to the Elders and smiled, "You do not need to bow to us like that, young man. You can stand up. We are not royalty."

"Thank you," the young man appeared embarrassed as he stood up pulling his cloak closer to show humility, "but you are the wisest of men in this country. I am but a humble young man that seeks a request of your audience so that I may have your advice."

The Elders looked at one another, they were not sure if this young man was being serious or sarcastic. It was then that the eldest of the Elder spoke, "So then what advice do you seek? You have traveled far from your home to see us, what help can we give to you?"

"I wish to ask a request," the young man smiled from beneath his hood. There was a slight shiver that coursed through the group.

"And that is?" asked the Elder that was covered in paint, as he took out a tissue to blow his nose. The young man's smile grew more excited as he dared to look up at the Seven Elders.

"I ask that I may have the orbs that grant you your powers."

A surprised murmur ran through the Elders. They knew that many had heard of their skills and their wisdom, but outside of the village, and even in the village itself, there were only a select few that knew of the Orbs. This made them suspicious of the young man that stood before them. The eldest Elder asked, clearly distrusting the stranger. "What reason do you have need of our gifts?"

"My village is a small one, like yours," the stranger pouted trying to seem innocent, "We have lived quietly for many, many seasons. However, only recently we have been hounded and attacked by a monster, a beast that our rangers have never encountered before. The creature comes from a legend; it has the body of half a wolf and half a dragon. It spits venom that burns holes in the ground, and sets fire to our roofs. Our most skilled fighters and huntsmen can do little to abate its destruction. Our Leaders discovered that the beast could speak, and asked it what would appease it, the beast has asked for the Orbs of the Seven Elders of Valcorn. I was sent to bring these Orbs back, once he got them the beast said he would leave our village alone. Oh Elders please, I need your help. Please to save my home let me have the Orbs that you found here at the creation of your village."

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The Elders listened quietly to the story. As they did three were clearly moved by the story. The Elders seemed certain that this young stranger was in need of their aid, and one even reached to pull out his orb, when the oldest and the wisest of the Elders spoke up yet again.

"You are lying, young man;" He looked down at the stranger, furiously, "Your village is not being attacked. You do not even have a village that you call home. Truly if the Legendary Beast had attacked your village he would not have given you any time to find Valcorn and bring back the orbs. Your village would not be standing. The Beast does not show mercy."

"He is right," spoke the youngest, a teacher, as he fixed his glasses and peered at the young man. "You did not name your village, nor have you shown your village seal. You would have had to pass through many kingdoms to come here and you do not have traveling papers."

"H-How can you see that! How can you even tell that I do not carry papers or a seal?!" the stranger demanded heatedly. His body began to tremble as if trying to calm his rage.

"Because if you had you would have presented them too us, told us your name, and the name of your village," the teacher calmly pointed out. The stranger was surprised; he had forgotten that he needed to present papers and a seal but he tried to keep up the act of being insulted.

"I –I was in a rush to get here! How dare you insinuate that I am lying, how do you know for certain that the Legendary Beast is not already attacking my unfortunate village as we speak? How dare you accuse me of such lies!"

"But you are lying," the second oldest Elder explained watching the young man with his owlish eyes. "If you were telling us the truth then you wouldn't have forgotten such important items. Even those in a hurry will remember something as important as their village seal and traveling papers. You cannot go anywhere in the country without them."

The Stranger lowered his head, clearly impressed by the men that sat before him. He let out a low chuckle as he spoke, "How do you know that my village is not being attacked?"

" We know this because the Beast is not there," the second Eldest said as he wet his lips, visibly nervous and looked at the stranger who glared up at the group of seven from under his hood, his stance changing before the Elders who seemed slightly worried, "because you are the beast that you say is attacking the village. You are the true Legendary Beast."

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"You think that I am…" the young man was shocked and tried to look disappointed at their accusations. He was a pitiful sight and most might have been moved by his look of desperation. However the Elders were not moved, nor were they impressed by the Stranger's acting.

"How can you think that I am the beast that so many fear? I am dressed as you are, I speak in your tongue, and I stand before you a man. I have neither fur nor teeth to attack you," he said and held up his hands to show the Elders his hands. "See there are no claws or talons upon my hands. So why to you accuse me of such things. Where is your proof?"

The Stranger gazed at each man from under his hood as he spoke, "Surely you can not seriously believe that a humble man, like myself, could truly be such a heinous monster? Is it that fathomable to men like you, who have gifts that most others can not truly understand? I am but a humble servant to this world, and you are its guiding force. Can you not aid me in my time of need?"

"Stop," barked the third oldest Elder, "Enough with your lies. We know who you are, so stop digging yourself deeper into a hole that you can not come out of. We do not believe your fabrications of stories of woe. If you were truly as humble as you say you are, you would not be bestowing such gratitude on men such as us. You would be bestowing it upon the leaders of your own town. Now show your true self, if you can, Stranger. If you do not, we shall force you to reveal what you really are."

The Young man stared at them, then lowered his head below his hood and began to chuckle. The Elders watched, tensely, as the wind in the room slowly kicked up and the flames of the fire were sucked from the fireplace, sending the room cascading into gloomy darkness. The flames whirled around the Stranger as his chuckle turned to peals of roaring laughter. Before the amazed eyes of the Elders, the Stranger vanished and in his place was a handsome young man with long braided hair as silver as the moon, dressed in elegant refined clothing of ebony black that only a king could wear. His eyes were a piercing ruby red that lingered in the shadowy darkness which enveloped the Elders. Standing there, as if in triumph, with a malicious smirk upon his pale lips, the Stranger brushed his bangs out of his eyes so he could peer directly at the Elders as he crossed his arms to taunt them.

"I guess the rumors are true, the people of Valcorn do contain magic beyond their years. Clearly you are no ordinary men if you could see through my disguise. How disappointing for me. Tell me old men; do you honestly think you are up to the task of dealing with me? Or would you dare to tell your favored families in this village the truth? That they allowed the one they have been long warned against into their homes, to eat from their plates, why to even talk too and touch their children?"

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The Elders felt cold shivers run down their spines as the Beast tossed the long silver braid back over his shoulder, waiting for them to make a move. The Elders knew that they were dealing with a dangerous creature of ancient magic. They knew of the ancient tale. How he had once been a great guardian of the land who strove to protect treasures that were created by man-kind. But, in time he began to feel greedy and wanted the magic for himself. He coveted the magic that the humans had gained, and felt that they should not be raised to his level. So his fellow guardians turned him into a hideous beast, but left him a human form so that he could wander the lands and learn to be humble for his mistakes. But the guardian became more envious and started to take the magic from the people. It was because of this that he was considered a monster and his beast form shifted into something terrifying.

"Why have you come here, Legendary Beast?" the youngest Elder asked fixing his glasses. "Since you are the Legendary Beast, you have to be here for a reason. Am I not right? You did not trouble yourself to come all this way to see us just to see us."

"Isn't it obvious what I've come here for," Snorting softly the Beast walked forward, then in one leap jumped and landed atop the table before the Elders. Crouching he grinned at them in a cruel way, "or has age evaporated your minds so much that you can't grasp the gravity of the situation?"

The Elders gazed back at him, nary a one dared to blink, as the Beast casually waved his hand before them creating the image of seven floating marbles that rested in his palm.

"I'm here for the Orbs," he told them in a calm voice. "If you give them to me I will spare your entire village. If you do not then I will crush Valcorn as easily as I can crush each of your soft heads."

The Elders glanced at one another, the Beast thought the had them beat. After all who would dare to defy one who had the power to destroy them? It was then, to his utter surprise, that the youngest cleared his throat and sighed some, as if resigned to the fact that he would perish once he had spoken.

"No." he stated, and waited for the hit to occur. It did not come for the Beast was slightly amused by this comment. He noticed that the others were nodding in agreement. The Legendary Beast let out a laugh at this, shaking his head.

"No?" he asked and smirked, finding the whole thing utterly amusing. "Are you serious? Truly you are idiots."

"We are not idiots," said the Baker as he folded his hands before him. "It is you who are a fool, Beast. We will never hand over our Orbs to you. We know what you can do and what could happen if you were to attain our Orbs. We will not hand them over to you."

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The Beast stood up slowly as his face contorted into one of hate and rage. The Elders, he could see in their faces, were going to be stubborn about this and would not relent in their determination to keep the Orbs away from him. With fist clenched he snarled at them in a deep growl.

"Very well, if you don't believe I mean what I say, I am a patient man. I will give you one week to change your mind. When I return in that week's time, if you are still insistent upon not surrendering the Orbs to me at that time then Valcorn will be nothing but a memory, and all that will remain of this village is a lake of blood and the wooden bones of burnt out houses."

Before the Elders could speak, the Beast vanished in an explosion of fire, leaving only the smallest wisp of a smoke plume behind. The Elders were worried about what had happened, but felt that the threat would not come to pass. In their minds they felt that the Beast would soon find some other item with power that he wished to possess.

Feeling that the village was safe the Elders went about their business as if nothing had changed. So the people in the village felt it was safe to go about their normal lives. In the village there were seven men that each held a different job and fate would soon draw these seven men together.

The first was the local doctor. He was a man of wisdom and wit, who had years ago worked under the oldest Elders, and was known, for his thoughtful kind nature. The second was a carpenter who was a father of three children. Though thought to be a bit brisk with how he treated clients, he was none-the-less a good man to his children, and held a special place in his heart for his eldest daughter. The third was a baker whose food was known for being the best in all Valcorn, who was very picky about his creations. The fourth was a painter who was enjoyed wandering out in nature to capture its beauty. He would spend hours lost in the woods near the village and wouldn't appear to long after sunset.

The fifth was a writer who longed for inspiration to create poems for his beloved. He'd been having trouble discovering a way to tell her the many ways he loved her. The sixth was a florist who desired nothing more then to give the people of Valcorn beautiful works with flowers. He was known for knowing just what sort of flower would work for an occasion, and was proud of the creations that he made with his flowers. The seventh and last was a young man who still was trying to find his way in the world. He had no idea what he was going to be in life and wanted to learn many things. People called him lazy and felt that he would never amount to anything. But his younger sister would brag about him, and if anything she was the one bright spot in his life. She made him feel proud and he happily would do anything for her.

This was how life was in the village of Valcorn, the Elders felt certain that things would be alright and that the Beast would never return again.

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A week past and the Elders did not worry the town's folk about the Beast's threat. The younger Elders believed he wouldn't come back, however the three oldest Elders felt that there was a chance that the Legendary Beast would return. Fearing that there could be trouble on the horizon, the trio secretly made a plan should the Beast return and attack the village, they would secure the Orbs in a place where the Legendary Beast would be unable to find them, and only those whom the Orbs chose as the rightful successor could discover their location.

It was during this week that the local Doctor left to gather more herbs for the medicines. He seemed intent on making sure that there were enough aloe and chamomile to go around, as it was the season of itching. It was also during this week that the Father went to the dress makers in a town which was a two day journey from Valcorn. He had ordered a dress for his eldest daughter's birthday and was going to pick it up as a gift. The Baker during that week realized that he was out of the special flour he used for his lightest cakes. So he too journeyed from Valcorn to the farm where he had the flour custom made.

The Painter, while out walking one afternoon, had spotted a river of exceptional beauty and had gone to capture it in paint. He was certain that the Elders would be impressed enough to place it in their hall. On the same day as the Painter had departed, the Writer also left to find some inspiration by traveling around the local valley, hoping to gain enough images to write the most loving poem he had ever thought of. It was two days later that the florist had to leave to deliver an order to a wedding in a village that was three days away. He left with a hurry and promised his workers that he would be back as soon as he could. The last day of that week, the brother discovered that his sister had lost her favorite toy in a meadow that was outside the village, and so had gone to retrieve it for her.

Talk of the Beast was kept low and the people seemed to have forgotten about the Stranger. Life in Valcorn was as it always had been, at least on the surface it was. In the quiet of the night the three Elders met in the center of town with the box that would be used to lock up the Orbs. They were surprised when the five younger Elders came upon them.

"Do you three honestly think that this is the best course of actions?" the youngest asked the oldest. "What if he never comes back? Then how will we defend our village should he return?"

"We believe this is the only way, if the Beast is to make good on his threat, then we will need to protect the people of this country. Even if it means ending our lives, we must keep these Orbs from his grasp."

The five younger Elders realized what the oldest Elder spoke was true; they needed to keep the Beast from getting the Orbs. So they too placed their Orbs in the box for safe keeping.

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A week passed and the Elders were certain that the beast was not going to act upon his threat. The Elders spent the last day of the week working on their own matters. They seemed too at least let their guard down and laugh over how worried they had been. But they soon realized that they were being foolish indeed, as their belief that the Beast would not return proved to be very wrong indeed.

It was late in the afternoon when the clouds began to darken and the wind picked up. The Villagers were surprised by this sudden turn in the weather and began to wonder what was going on.

"Didn't read anything about a storm coming up," insisted some who were standing outside watching the gathering darkness. The Elders came from their hall to see what was going on and to their shock they discovered that the ground was starting to tremble. Screams of "earthquake" echoed around the village as the Elders tried to calm the people of Valcorn. Even as they were calming the people there was a shout from one of the farmers who had rushed down to the town center.

"Elders there's something coming from the woods!" he related to them. "It's as big as the biggest building and surrounded by smoke and flame. It's coming for the village. What shall we do?"

The Elders knew what this was and hurried to the edge of the woods with a group of the bravest men in Valcorn. Standing at the edge of the woods, they watched in terror as a monstrous creature lumbered from the darkness. Its body was long and reptile like, with skin of dark mottled green. Even in the darkness, the men could see that its hind legs were that of an enormous wolf and the front legs were of a dragon. Its long furry tale slashed the trees and smashed the ground, sending a rumble through the earth. The head was thick and huge, a wolf's snout, eyes, and ears greeted the men. Black wings were folded upon the beast's back and it seemed to smirk at the men.

The men were terrorized and watched as the beast suddenly changed before their eyes into a handsome young man. He looked to the Elders who stood defiant before him. Though they were scared of his monster form, they would not yield to the Beast. He smirked some at them, "I see that you are here to greet me, how cleaver of you to show up. I've come for the Orbs. Hand them over to me and I will spare this humble little village pain it shall never recover from. Defy me and I will destroy it, and everyone within it, so that there is nothing left but a legend."

The Elders stared back at the Beast; he was no longer sure that they would comply with his request, and snarled when the Elders simply told him in unison, "No, we shall not hand over the Orbs to you, Beast. They are safe and will never be used by those of evil like you."

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"Very well," the Beast smiled. In the blink of an eye the man that had been standing there vanished and once more became the monster that had first appeared at the edge of the village. Before the brave man could scream the Beast launched his attack by swiping most of them away with one hit of his massive claw. The Elders were spirited away by the remaining men, but the Beast was not done. He charged at the Elders blowing fire through his nose and took down houses in the way burning them to nothing more than their skeletal frames. He created wind gusts with his massive wings that tossed the people, carts, and animals as if they were play things, and trampled those that got in the way of his mighty feet.

The villagers clamored to leave knowing their fate might be sealed if they stayed. As they tried to make an escape, the Beast blocked their way by knocking down a house, or a tree, causing them to scatter. Most were killed directly by the Beast as they tried to evade his horrendous attacks. As they tried to flee some were burned to death by the fire engulfing their homes and the roads out of town. Some were crushed by falling timbers and others tried to get away via the lake, but discovered that the Beast caused a tidal wave to swell up and drown them. Those that saw the boats being tossed around rushed back for the shore, even as a small few made if away from the crashing waves, they were halted and forced back in as an on rush of people from the Village came into the lake causing those trapped in the middle to be stamped and drowned.

The scene was chaotic as the Elders tried to fight off the Beast with their gifts. The Beast was stronger then they first realized and not having the Orbs on them made it easier for him to defeat them. One by one they fell to the Beast's claws, teeth, and magic. The Villagers were frightened as they watched their beloved Elders be crushed by the Beast. Fear spread like fire as the people tried their best to protect their children and families.

The Legendary Beast roared to the remaining Elders, "Where are the Orbs old men! I want the magic! Your village can still be saved if you hand over the Orbs."

"We shall not!" cried out the oldest Elder who was still alive and willing to fight. "Even with our last breath, we shall fight you to protect the world. Your evil shall never attain the powers of the Orbs, nor will you ever find them. They are hidden from your eyes and you shall always be blind to them."

The Beast smirked at him and laughed, "Is that so? Well those are fine words coming from a dead man."

"You will not pass this dead man, I will not allow you to harm anymore in this village," the Elder told him and the Beast let out a laugh as he kicked up more wind, sending the oldest Elder into a wall killing him.

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"You were saying?" The Beast chuckled as he continued his rampage. He trashed the hall of the Elders where he first met them, and ignored the many arrows that were launched at his hide. Fearing that there might not be a village left, the last two Elders quickly came up with a plan to at least delay the inevitable. They used the remainder of their magic to create magic ropes, which they hoped would hold down the beast and force him to revert to his human form. Giving this to the remaining archers of Valcorn, the Elders launched their last attack upon the Beast.

"Fire!" the Elders cried out when the archers had taken their mark from upon the last remaining homes of the village. The archers let loose sending a volley of arrows at the Beast, surprising him, and causing him to land with a crash to the ground. Rage filled the Beast's eyes as the few villagers that were still alive celebrated. They truly believed they had won.

"We did it!" shouted a young man who was dancing around. "He's down, there's no way he's going to get out of those bindings."

"You would think so," muttered the old man that had lead the Stranger the week before to the town hall. A shiver ran down his old spine as he realized that they were looking at the end of their village. "But his power is stronger then that of a simple spell. Look."

The villagers turned to see the Beast snarl and gnaw at the ropes, there was a sickly snapping sound as the ropes gave way and the Beast rose from his prison. The people screamed that it couldn't be, and gasped in terror as the Beast made his way for them.

"This is the end," the old man mumbled as he looked into the deep red of the Beasts eyes look into his. "Be resigned to our fate, and know that we die so that others may live in peace."

Far off in the neighboring towns, the people heard a ghastly howl, then nothing but silence. Within minutes the entire village and people that once inhabited Valcorn were no more. The Beast sifted through the rubble and found no sight or sign of the Orbs. He growled at the limp lifeless bodies of the Elders and sniffed at them to see if there was anything that remained on their person.

Annoyed he transformed back to his weaker human form and began to dig well into the next dawn. When he at last realized that he could not find the location of the Orbs he thought back to what the old Elder had told him. That he would always be blind to the location of the Orbs. Enraged he left the broken Village in search for a power just as great as the Orbs. If he could not have them, then surely they probably did not exist in the first place.

As he left the decimated village the Beast felt just a tad bit of remorse for the people there. Had the Elders been intelligent, in his opinion, they would have done well to have created more of a defense to ward off his attack. Truly, he felt, they were either very brave, or stupid.

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It was just after the dawn that, the Doctor returned from his journey to with the herbs he had located, the Father rushed home happily with his gift thinking of the smile upon his daughter's face when she saw her dress, the Baker lugged back his sacks of flour from the farm, the Writer was running back inspired by all the wonders he had seen, the Painter was satisfied with his painting and was returning to sell it to the Elders, the Florist was counting the seeds he had purchased for new flowers for his shop, and the Brother had managed to locate the missing toy. Each returned home ready to greet their family only to discover that while they had been away something truly horrific had happened in their absence.

The Brother rushed to what remained of his house to find his family, as the Father tried to seek out his daughter in the bodies that littered the streets. The others slowly looked for survivors trying to figure out if they were truly the last ones left in Valcorn. As they sifted through the rubble looking for any signs of life the Writer found a small a small metal safe, hidden in what remained of the town's fountain.

"Here I found this," he told the others who were curious and upset at the destruction around them. Carefully they opened it and found a letter addressed to anyone that discovered the box. This was the safe that the Elders had hid the Orbs in. The letter instructed that, for the Orbs to be safe, the ones that discovered the box would have to keep the Orbs on them for all time. Thus it was decided by these seven men that they would swallow the Orbs as a precaution.

Hesitating some, each made a vow that they would not forget the village; each man took up an Orb in hand and held it tightly. They decided for the safety of these items, and too honor the Elders they would swallow the Orbs and keep them always within them. The Orbs were as small as marbles, but contained so much power that they seemed to radiate it even as they held them in their hands. The seven survivors looked at each other, and then swallowed the tiny Orbs. From that day on they promised to continue the tradition of their village, even as the world changed around them.