He sat alone upon the thatch roof of the tiny cottage that sat alone in the middle of the valley. The cold morning wind swept through the area sweeping away the thick layer of fog that covered the earth. He sat still watching the sky above the tree line as it began to change from a dark navy to a subtle red orange. He didn't move a single muscle until he saw the sun rise just above the trees.
He slid his way down the roof and landed quietly upon his feet just outside the front door. There was no one else who lived in the area, at least not for the first 30 or so miles, so the only sounds that were heard were the sounds of waking birds and the wind whistling through the newly budding trees. He stepped inside the house for a moment and reemerged a moment later with a bulging satchel and a bow and quiver around his shoulders. He took one last look at the solitary cottage, even in its emptiness it seemed more warm and inviting then where he was heading. He forced himself to look away and then turned his feet south.
It was a long walk to Luapa, the capital city of the land. It was here that the High Lord Obelix would hold a once a year gathering of men from all corners of his territory to make the ones who were deemed worthy into knights. Only a few were chosen each year, and this year he was determined to be among them. It was his goal to become a knight of the realm as his father had been and he had decided that this year he would not take no for an answer.
It took most of the day, but he was able to reach the city gates before night fell. It was a well-known rule that one did not travel at after dark for fear of the Hauils, a horrible bird like creature that only emerged at night and would attack anything that stirred outside the city walls. It had been one of these creatures that had gotten his older brother almost three years ago. The city, however, was well protected against attacks from the creatures of the night. As he stepped inside the city it became clear why. The whole wall was lined with Frendon stones, these formed connections between each other of gathered sunlight and created a mesh like covering that would appear at night to protect the people.
He made his way through the city streets that were packed with people from every corner of the known world. They had all gathered together to witness the Night of Knights, men seeking the rank of knight would gather before Lord Obelix and he would call upon the man who would judge them to be nights or mere men. He walked towards the palace where he was directed towards a sort of registration table. He told them his name and homeland and in exchange was handed a wooden card to hang around his neck. He put it on and flipped it to read what it said. Burned into the single piece of wood was his name, Adrian Crowfoot. He smiled to himself and walked on into the palace courtyard to await the High Lord.
Adrian watched as more and more men arrived. Most of them were twice his size and wielded swords; however, he did not let it shake his confidence. As night fell and the Frendon stones created their mesh of sunlight, the High Lord took his place before them. Every man fell to one knee before him. He made a gesture towards one of the large oak doors with golden designs and as he did it swung open. Out walked a very tall, and ancient man, he was dressed in richly ornamented robe and out of his head of thick gray hair came a set of amazing antlers that branched off in a spectacular display. The old man's name was Wapiti, and he was what was known as a Stray, they were humans who had bonded with animal spirits and had taken on their characteristics.
Wapiti took his seat beside the High Lord and as each man's name was called he would go up to the High Lord and then to Wapiti to discover if he was worthy of becoming a knight. No one was sure how the men were judged so there was no way to be prepared for the test. Adrian watched as men walked away disappointed or even angry and Adrian thought that most of them would have made fine knights since they seemed very strong and capable or handling a sword. But still there were other men who walked away with smiles on their faces and a symbol burned into their wooden name plaques.
Finally Adrian's name was called and for the first time he felt nervous and shaken. He wondered if his skill with a bow would be enough to get him in or if they would simply tell him he was too young to be useful. However, he held his head high and walked boldly to the High Lord and Wapiti. The High Lord smiled at him like a father would at a small child trying to wear his father's armor, but Wapiti looked stern and fixed in his manner. Adrian stood right in front of them and as he waited for their answer he noticed that the eyes of Wapiti were clouded, the old man was blind, but somehow when he looked at him it felt like the man was looking into his very soul.
Wapiti's stare lingered for a while. Adrian wasn't sure if he should stare back or just look at the ground. Slowly, Wapiti leaned back into his chair and turned to the High Lord. He began to speak to him in a dialect that Adrian was not at all familiar with. However, the High Lord apparently understood it very well and a grave look was spreading over his face. He turned back to Adrian and released a deep sigh. He rose to his feet and strode over to the boy.
Adrian had not realized just how tall the High Lord was. He was definitely over seven feet tall and his piercing violet eyes seemed to be judging him. The High Lord looked back at Wapiti as if to ask him if he was sure, but Wapiti simply waved his hand at him. The High Lord let out one more long sigh and looked back at Adrian, this time however, there was a kind of great sadness in his eyes. Then he did something that no one had ever seen the High Lord do.
He bent down so has to be eye level with Adrian. He wore a weak smile on his face and somehow he seemed to have aged in his decent. "Adrian Crowfoot, I must ask you if you are certain that you want to do this." Adrian stared back just as steady and sure as he had been when he walked in. "Yes. I want to be a knight." He responded. The High Lord's head dropped slightly, a great sadness taking over his face as he rose back to his full height.
"Master Wapiti has spoken, you, Adrian Crowfoot of the Luapian Valley, have the outward strength required for a knight." Adrian's face lit up as the high Lord spoke these words. "However, you have a great plague on your spirit. Master Wapiti has decreed that you must travel to the very heart of the Forgotten Forest and return with a Fire Tree flower." There was a gasp from the gathered crowd and Adrian could feel his heart sinking into his shoes. But the High Lord was not finished. "It is our hope that you will discover your own soul along this journey. If you accept this quest please say so."
Adrian froze for a minute. All he wanted was to be a knight and now he was being told that he needed to go on a quest that could claim his life. He looked up into the High Lord's eyes, they were pleading with him to say no. For a second everything when quiet and every part of Adrian's body including his mouth yelled, "I accept." The High Lord closed his eyes as if in pain and the rest of the people gasped, but old master Wapiti smiled and nodded at Adrian. The High Lord gathered himself once more and motioned for silence. "You shall begin your journey tomorrow at first light. For now rest and make yourself ready. This is not a journey is not for those who lack heart."
Adrian nodded and turned away from the High Lord. He walked down from the platform and past the crowds of people. He walked out of the palace gates and into the village. People whispered as he passed, some smiled weakly at him while others simply shook their heads. Adrian walked on not noticing anyone or anything until he reached the city gates. He looked up at the large oak doors and he realized just how deadly what he had agreed to do was.