Chapter 1: The Lonelander

Cylas stared ahead with an expressionless face. He sat alone on a bench by the Docks. Despite the low amount of action that the Docks of Loneland entertained, Cylas enjoyed going there from time to time to do nothing but sit and watch the scene that lay before him. It might seem obscure for a 17-year-old boy to do such a thing that often, yet he had his reasons.

The setting was not particularly easy on the eyes. Instead of a soft beach at the water's edge, the shore was lined with deadly rocks that had claimed many ships. The air was foggy and cold and the cloudy sky allowed no sunlight through. Incidentally, it was rather rare that ships made the voyage to the isle of Loneland in the first place. Luckily, Cylas didn't mind this weather much.

He had lived in Loneland almost all of his life, ever since he was less than a year old. He had never known his parents, or anyone in his family for that matter. They came from a place called Cestany, a country far to the east. By definition, Cylas was in fact an "orphan." You may now be thinking that this will be one of those stories about an orphan discovering where he comes from and what he is destined to become. Or he may find out that he is the heir to some great legacy. I must tell you, that is not the case with Cylas's story. In fact, he had no interest at all in learning who his parents were. He was to never learn why he was left in Loneland, nor would he ever care to find out. Cylas made a point of avoiding the topic of his family whenever it came up, and for the rest of his life it would remain a mystery, just as he wanted it to.

It had been about twenty days since a ship had appeared in the distance. The only sounds that could now be heard were of the waves crashing into the rocks and the cold wind ripping at the trees. Snow began to fall lightly. Cylas pulled his hood over his head so that his hair wouldn't get covered in snow. He felt weary and exasperated as he stared forward. None of this was new to him. His head began to tilt forward as his eyelids drooped, and he gave up on another day of useless sitting.

"Cylas?" called a not too distant voice. Cylas leaned back quickly as he awoke, unsure of what was happening. He hadn't heard the footsteps crunching through the snow towards him while in his deep sleep. Turning, he saw a figure coming down the road wearing a black jacket. Cylas dusted the snow off of himself and sat up straighter. He recognized who it was now that he was more awake; it was of course his best and practically only close friend, Elijas Byrem.

The boy sat down on the bench, waiting for Cylas to acknowledge him.

"What?" asked Cylas groggily.

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing really."

"How can you just sit here all day?"

"Jass," as he was commonly known, "Don't worry about it. I just had to get some thinking done."

"Well it didn't seem like you were. I've been looking all over for you! I only just remembered you come here sometimes. Come on, let's go back."

"I don't feel like it. There's nothing to do anyway."

"Stop being lazy!"

Cylas didn't answer, but shot his friend an agitated glare. Wordlessly he stood up and began walking back towards town. Jass followed with a smirk on his face. They trudged along the small dirt road, covered in the thin layer of snow it always was. It was a while before either of them spoke, but at last Jass asked, "Any ships come today?"

"No," Cylas answered blankly.

Soon the small wooden houses of the city came into view. There were very few large buildings in all of Loneland, mostly old shacks with occasional stores here and there. Several thousand people lived there, yet most of them were old and antisocial. Loneland was a remote island that had limited access to electricity and an unimpressive level of technological advancements, which the Collapse had only made worse. There were very few interesting things to do there. It was a few hour boat-ride to the mainland, Mizela, a vast country to the north which Loneland technically was a part of. However, there was not much interaction between the two places.

"So what did you do today?" Cylas asked.

"Nothing much, but I did see Cyndra on my way over to the Docks."

"Oh really?" Cyndra Staltem was, without question, the most attractive girl their age in Loneland.

"Yea, down by the gully with Alestra." Alestra Telbim was her almost equally good-looking friend.

"And did you talk to them?" asked Cylas with a laugh.

Jass murmured, "Well I said hi, but other than that-"

"Doesn't surprise me."

"Shut up! I had nothing to say." Jass and Cylas hadn't been unpopular back in school; in reality they were friends with nearly everyone, to some extent. Nonetheless, they both seemed to lack the delicate ability to be smooth around girls. Cylas could never really figure them out. One would assume that they desire some suave guy with good looks, yet in Cylas's experience he found them to be more attracted to the big stupid ones that had no redeeming qualities, quite the opposite of him. He hoped it was only that way on the island.

Their aimless meanderings had led them in the direction of the would-be center of town. Cylas began to realize how late it was as the sun dipped out of sight. "Listen the wind's picking up, I think I'm gonna head back home. You can come if you want."

Jass thought for a moment and said, "I think I'll head back too, we'll catch up tomorrow." And with that he turned in the direction of his house, leaving Cylas alone once more.

Cylas didn't live in some grungy orphanage as you would expect. His home was the large inn owned by a man named Mr. Rotland, who was his guardian. There was no orphanage on the island, and the old man gladly took in any children and raised them. Mr. Rotland was ridiculously rich, though no one quite knew how. Cylas didn't talk to him much nowadays, as he had become relatively independent and mostly interested in moving on with his life.

Cylas ducked inside the front door, pulled off his black gloves, and made his way to the little café on the first floor. Many people went to the inn just to grab a bite to eat there. Upon entering the doorway, he was instantly bombarded with greetings such as "Hey, Cylas!" "Good afternoon, Cylas!" "How are you, Mr. Trelm?" and so on. Though he didn't show it, Cylas loved making an entrance.

Perhaps I have left out a key detail about the boy. Nearly everyone in Loneland knew Cylas's name. He was extremely well-liked and his appearance couldn't be mistaken by anyone. His dark Cestanese hair (which was quite unique as almost every Lonelander had blonde or light brown hair), along with his iconic dark green coat that he nearly always wore, made him unmistakable. The year before, he had graduated from the High School top of his class. According to the teachers, he was without a doubt the most brilliant student ever to come out of Loneland. In addition, he had set the school sprinting record. He was a dominant cheverball player, the only sport played in those parts. Cylas was the most well-known person in school, and on the island for that matter. He had even beaten Mr. Stone, the oldest and wisest man on the island, in chess. Everyone knew Cylas, and everyone loved him.

"The usual?" asked the bartender.

"No thanks, Henry. Not today." Cylas sat down in his corner and disregarded any further remarks that assailed him. He wasn't in the mood to talk to Jass and certainly did not want to converse with any of the people in there. He only felt like being alone with his thoughts.

"It's been a beautiful day here in downtown Altine. The sky is partly cloudy but it's still fairly sunny and warming up."

The newscaster's voice from a nearby radio caught Cylas's attention. The broadcast came from Mizela, Altine was its capitol. The Mizelans didn't pay much attention to Loneland, though it was a private territory of Mizela. They had an ancient alliance, and with all the war spread across the world, friendships were relied heavily upon. It had been quite an ordeal rigging up radio connection to Loneland all the way from Altine.

"Not much for news today, folks. Jesse Crowe, member of the notorious criminal gang Sigghaf Borni, was captured yesterday. Their leader, Jerrono Metames, remains at large. He is still thought to be living in his homeland of Cestany after he escaped Mizela two years ago. Now on to the topic of politics."

Cylas stopped listening. Politics never interested him much, especially in a land he wasn't from. His attention was diverted to a man that was walking towards him.

"How are you, Cylas?"

"I'm alright. How are you?" Cylas had no idea what the man's name was, though he remembered meeting him before.

"I can't complain," replied the man in a cheery tone. "What have you been up to lately? I haven't heard about you in a while."

Cylas opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came to his mind. What had he been up to? The answer was nothing. However, he had an impressive reputation to keep up.

"Oh, you know me. The same old."

The man laughed. "I believe it! Well don't overwork yourself. I know you're a busy young man. I need to be on my way, but hopefully I'll talk to you soon!"

"Have a good night," Cylas called after him. Once he was alone again, he frowned as he came to a realization. He had been up to nothing, and that was not normal. He always had things to do, places to be, people to talk to. That was no longer the case. He wasn't himself. He was losing touch.

Cylas sat up straight and stared down at the table.

"As for what's going on in the world, it was reported that there was a massive explosion at a power plant in an uninhabited region of Congelatia. Though no one was living there, the number of known casualties is over 100. Most deaths were of soldiers and workers nearby. The Congelatian government is refusing aid from any country."

Cylas ran his hands through his hair. What am I going to do with my life? I can't just sit here in Loneland forever. I'm Cylas Trelm.

Now that he was out of school, he had nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no career to make. There was nothing for a young man of Cylas's caliber in Loneland, and he knew it. It was clear to him now that if he wished to live a normal and happy life, he could not do so while staying on the island.

"I have to get out of here," he whispered to himself.

Mizela seemed to be the lone place to go. Loneland and Mizela were the only two lands in the world that spoke Mizelan, with the exception of a small population in the Zhouan Hinterlands. Cylas had known of many men that had made the trip, and it seemed like a reasonable idea to try. The question was how he would find his way. And, when he arrived, what would he do? Sometimes he felt as though the answer would simply present itself to him. Perhaps that was why he found himself spending an increasing amount of time sitting by the Docks.

These thoughts ran through Cylas's head as he went back to his room. He had made up his mind that the next time a ship arrived he would hitch a ride and take it from there. It shouldn't be a long wait, either. Once a year, for as long as he could remember, a ship would arrive at the Docks and only a single man would come out. He was apparently friends with Mr. Rotland, because they would go and sit at the bar and talk for long hours. This was surprising to Cylas, for there was a vast age difference between the two men. Either way, the man was evidently from Mizela, and he could provide a ride over.

That time of the year, near the end of Allunum (one of the seasons), had come around once again and there was still no sign of the man. Cylas decided to take matters into his own hands before all hope was lost and consult Mr. Rotland about it. He might even have some good advice about what to do if the plan wasn't going to work. Before going to his room, Cylas stopped by the office.

"Mr. Rotland. I was wondering if we could discuss something when you have a moment."

The innkeeper looked up from his papers and over the brim of his glasses. "Ah, something substantial must be happening. That is the only way you would come talk to me anymore. I'm sorry, Cylas. But I am a bit busy at the instant. My friend should be arriving from Mizela any day now. Do you remember Mr. Chaverse?"

"Oh. Yes," sputtered Cylas, a bit taken off guard.

"Well I need to get some paperwork done before his arrival. I won't have time to talk until after he leaves. Is that alright with you?"

Cylas had heard all he needed to. "Yes that's fine." He was about to leave the room when he noticed a peculiar symbol on the document Mr. Rotland was reading. It was a golden eagle, and nearly every paper on the desk had it displayed at the top. The paperweight that was always on the desk was of the same bird perched on a rock, and it had never fazed Cylas before. "What is that eagle for?"

"Oh it's just the logo of a company."

"What company?"

"Don't ask so many questions, Cylas!" Anger spread across his face, an unusual occurrence. "Now get out of here I have work to do!"

Cylas had heard all he needed to. "Alright then."

He ate a quick dinner and finally made it to his room a little while later. It bothered him that Mr. Rotland had reacted so abruptly to such a simple question. He turned the knob on his bedside lamp, shutting off the small incandescent bulb that was his only source of light. He had decided to go to sleep early that night; there were things he needed to figure out in the morning.

As soon as daylight woke him, Cylas rolled out of bed and headed for the library; it was about a ten minute walk from the inn. Upon stepping inside, he realized how long it had been since his last visit. There were a few surprised people sitting at tables near the entrance that exclaimed, "Cylas good to see you! What are you up to?"

"Hello, I have something to find. Can't talk at the moment." Without breaking stride he made his way to the back and sat down at one of the computers. There weren't many of them on the island, especially since the Collapse. The ones at the library were the only public computers in all of Loneland. He pressed the button to turn it on and instantly the screen lit up. A set of icons were at the bottom, but the "Command Bar," which was a typing space that prompted the computer to do or search anything, was all Cylas needed. He typed in golden eagle and hit enter. A list of hundreds of results came across the screen. They were all regarding a species of bird found in the north. He added company logo to his entry and tried again. This time there were considerably less results. He scrolled through them in an attempt to find something useful. After around twenty minutes of reading about countless stupid corporations that had an eagle as their logo, he found one that merited some interest. The article showed five pictures of different animals surrounded by a blue wreath. Words written in some ancient language encircled them. The animals in the picture were a black wolf with grey eyes, an enormous tree with maroon leaves, a white bear with bright blue eyes, a great maned lion with green eyes, and a golden eagle with its wings outstretched almost exactly like the one he had seen the night before. The description underneath read: This depiction of the Five Companies dates back nearly a century. It is doubtful that any members of the elite Affected still exist. Cylas sat back in his chair. He knew a great deal of things about the world, but the Affected was a term he had never come across. A flame of interest was sparked inside of him as a smile spread across his face.

Things had finally begun to fall into place. The Mizelan man, Mr. Chaverse as he was called, would be there soon. He belonged to this apparently elite company of which Cylas would simply go talk to him about a job. He would undeniably get it, and be on his way to a new life soon enough. Even if the job was not to Cylas's liking, he would no longer be stuck in Loneland, and a world of new opportunities would be lying ahead. But there was no uncertainty as to whether or not Cylas would be given the job; he was the best at everything he had ever done. Cylas was not worried. He never found any trouble getting what he wanted.