In the Brightness of the Sunrise…

(A.Y. 999 ~ 137th Year of the Dahrian [1] Republic)

It was early morning in the Llor Flatlands: the western frontier of the Dahrian Republic. The sun was up: high enough to be seen over the distant boundary of mountains to the west, but low enough to still overwhelm the eyes if you tried to look to that horizon. The land spread out beneath the sky, undulating softly—rising and lowering in gentle hills and valleys, spread out between stretches of flatland—and all of it submerged under an endless sea of tall, tall grass. In the rising sunshine, the grass sparkled green and brown and yellow—bedecked with pearls of the morning dew. The fertility of these lands was a monument to the constant labors of the peasantry of the Gaddeonese States. It had to be—as farmers, their fate and the land's were inextricably linked.

An attentive mind could see something approaching from afar. It was a carriage, storming over the dirt roads between the vast expanses of farmland like a stray thunderclap. Four fine horses pulled it—though, they were easier to hear than to see. The vehicle whizzed by in a blur, bringing in its approach the echoing sounds of pounding hooves and rolling wheels, only to leave them behind, just as quickly. The subtle blue glow of the horses' shoes gave away the reason for their impossible speed: magical runes and powerful field geometries had been engraved into the metal, enhancing the animals' speed almost ten-fold; the work of a journeyman enchanter from Drexel Province, far to the east—his first, no less.

Not counting the ever-diligent driver, two people rode in the carriage. One was a little girl—maybe six or seven; she slept comfortably and quietly in the cozy hold of the seat-cushion. The other was Gridge MocYorrin—bureaucrat, age forty-eight. Unlike the girl, MocYorrin hadn't the fortune of comfort: his back still ached from having fallen asleep atop the book he'd been reading the night before, and, the carriage's occasional jerking had a really annoying habit of slamming his head against the wooden rim of door at his right. Worse, in spite of the concussions, MocYorrin couldn't shake his feeling of drowsiness; his eyelids felt ready to crash close.

{Ugh…} he thought. Having to wake up earlier than the sun did not mix well with MocYorrin's nasty case of traveler's lag, or with the on-and-off insomnia that was the product of his high-strung personality—but… what could he do? It was his job, after all.

MocYorrin wrapped his left arm around the large satchel resting on his lap. Under no circumstances would he allow the magicked crystals it contained to fracture—and not just because that that would incur a demotion the very instant that MocYorrin returned to his office back in Drexel. Compounding matters were the three wooden crates stacked on the floor right in front of him. MocYorrin had had to splay his legs out to either of the stack just to fit into his seat; on top of that, MocYorrin had to use his right forearm to keep the three wooden crates that were stacked in front of him from collapsing down atop him and shattering the crystals—not to mention a bone or two. The large bump on the right side of his head throbbed with pain as he thought about these things—a painful reminder of what would happen if he failed to keep his vigil. MocYorrin was thankful that, earlier this morning, when the carriage was being loaded up—did that even count as morning?—he had made sure that that boulder-sized rune-covered lodestone was placed in the bottom-most crate.

MocYorrin turned his head to look at the girl sleeping beside him. Her name was Mina. Her skin was relatively light—not yet tanned and roughened by a lifetime of farm labor—and, her brown hair was all curly, the bangs bobbing gently against her forehead with the motions of the carriage. With an immense sense of gratitude and satisfaction, MocYorrin reflected on the extraordinary—and, by his standards, the highly unusual—stroke of luck that had led him to her, and—as if that wasn't enough—had somehow convinced Mina's parents to agree to part with their daughter for a few days, so that she could help MocYorrin win over the rest of the villages in the county.

The peasant village of Molan, his destination, was the largest community on the lands owned by the local Mage Lord, Dan [2] Norilla. There was little doubt that, like most rural folk, the inhabitants of Molan would be highly superstitious, and deeply attached to their traditional beliefs and values—most of all their obligatory servitude toward their lord, and their fear of magic as a from of supernatural retribution. Being from a family of recovering peasants himself, Gridge knew just how important it was that all of the demonstrations worked perfectly. Getting people to understand that almost everything they thought they knew about the world was a lie was difficult under any circumstances—and peasants were the most stubborn of them all. The crates and the crystals, they were just samples of what magic really was, and of what it could be; of how, using magic, people everywhere could make their lives—and others'—better.

Yet—and this was the problem—to use magic on their own as a way to solve their day-to-day troubles—that was something the likes of which had never before been seen by the peasantry of Gaddeon. Indeed, what magicks they did experience were their Mage lords' all-too-frequent displays of power—demonstrations made under the pretense that such gifts were divinely-ordained symbols of the Mage's right to rule. A Mage might call down plentiful rains for a village when he was pleased, only to change the falling waters to fiery lightning in order that the farmers might not forget their place in life. Common was the tale of the beautiful merchant's daughter, summoned to the Mage's manor to be turned to stone so that the Mage might have an attractive centerpiece for their new garden. Then there were the ceremonies, where peasants were made to watch, awed, as the Mage would rise into the air and cast spells of flame and smoke, attempting to justify their claim of a union of purpose with the will of the divine.

But, as MocYorrin knew so well, they were charlatans, the whole lot of them. The only thing that kept the Mage lords of Gaddeon out of the deepest, darkest dungeon in the land was their high birth, their landholdings, and human corruptibility—they had succeeded in turning the Gaddeonese monarchy into their plaything; a puppet, ready and waiting to satisfy each and every whim of the puppeteer. Although, yes, it was true that in recent years—within Gridge's lifetime in fact—the Gaddeonese Mage had become far more humane than their ancestors—they were still abusing magic; still using it to 'coerce' their subjects into submission.

While wandering through his thoughts, by and by, the bureaucrat drifted back to contemplate his youth—his life, back on the farm in Kelda—the cold, desolate moorlands far, far to the Northeast. In some ways, his life had parallels to those of the Gaddeonese peasants he was soon to meet: like them, MocYorrin remembered how, like these farmers, his grandparents had been dependent upon the goodwill of the local noble: Count Etkinsine. Despite the fact that he'd barely been Mina's age at the time, he could never—nor would ever—forget the suffering that Etkinsine's ruthless conduct had caused for his parents and grandparents. But the Keldane nobility—even the worst of them… they were angels in comparison with the scoundrels that Gaddeonese society had designated as 'the nobility.' At least in Kelda, magic was restricted for the use of the clergy—and then, only during religious services, pilgrimages, and healings; even the nobility respected the sanctity of magic. Not so for the Gaddeonese.

He turned to look at little Mina once more: not at her soft cheeks, nor at he darling, stubby nose, but at the bandages wrapped around her right forearm. He couldn't help but think of the fresh, isosceles-triangle scar that it covered.

{Barbarians! Torturers! Searing someone with a branding iron! How could you do that to anyone—least of all a little girl?! And just because—} but fortune interrupted MocYorrin's angry thoughts:

"Sir, we will arrive at the village, Molan, in approximately five minutes." The voice of the carriage-drive poured out the small Amplifying Horn installed in the upper corner of the cabin.

MocYorrin tried his best to perk himself up, and wake himself up—he had to. There was work to be done.

{Yes,} he thought, {life here can be horrendous… but that's about to change. Today will be the first day of their freedom—and I'll be there to see them through to the other side…}

It was a strangely invigorating feeling—being excited and happy about the futures of a group of complete strangers. A new age was about to begin—here, in the lands where the sun rose. But as to how it would play out… MocYorrin could only guess… and hope. He hoped that the crystals—and for that matter, his skull—wouldn't be broken; he hoped that the rune-stone hadn't been broken, he hoped that the statue had been properly installed in the village square, as per regulation, and—by the Griffin! [3]—he hoped that Mina would be awake by the time they arrived.

Yes: MocYorrin had to hope—for Mina's sake, and for the villagers' sakes, as much as for his own.

[1] Vyra Dahr established the Dahrian Republic in AY (Aurhìm Year) 862; subsequently she was appointed as Arbiter—the chief executive of the Republic—by a nearly unanimous vote in both Congress, and, among the general electorate; not a single time during her administration was there ever a political force or faction strong enough, or large enough, to mount a recall election. When, in her old age, Vyra chose to abdicate her son, Edgar, was elected (and kept in office) as Arbiter in a similar landslide—and, not surprisingly, so was his son, Yorvam—the current Arbiter of the Dahrian Republic. This political dynasty is not due to corruption, nor to a lazy electorate. Indeed, the elections themselves were all highly dynamic, especially later in Edgar's administration. Rather, the Dahrians (the family) are just that effective as Arbiters—and are utterly beloved by the people.

[2] "Dan" is a Gaddeonese honorific—compare to "Duke," "Maharaja," or "Bürgermeister". It indicates that the individual is a member of the hereditary nobility.

[3] During his youth, Edgar became one of the only human beings in recorded history to establish a deep, and profound friendship with a Griffin. Though the lesser informed would say that this is a relationship between master and pet, both Edgar and Ishnyechh (the Griffin) would—and, in Ishnyechh's case, still would—have vehemently disagreed with such a shallow assessment. Edgar became known almost world-wide as Edgar Griffinrider—a title both he and Ishnyechh were extremely proud of. Though Edgar recently died peacefully in old age, Ishnyechh survives, playing an important role in Dahrian society, government, and culture to this day; Ishnyechh's fame is such that people use him as an expletive in place of more intense language. Variants include: "the Griffin", "Ishnyechh", "Ishny", "Echh" "girf", "grif", and even "feathers".