Dark Design ~ An Original Group Story
In the country of Adenasei, the land is split off into five Regions. Four of them are in great conflict and war will break out at any moment. Little do they know that amidst their selfish bickering, one Region is planning an uprising to overpower them all and take control of the entire country.
Four people will be brought together and learn that they need to set aside their differences if they are to survive and save their people. Will they have what it takes to reunite the five Regions?
My father tells me anything, and everything that the king will not allow being said to any of our villagers. My father is the General, highly admired and respected by the king and his people. He's always been known for being strong and the best among his peers; giving me a powerful reputation to live up to. Him knowing all he does about the other Regions is the only reason I have even the slightest clue what's really been happening lately.
I guess I should be scared. I should be frightened and terrified at the thought of each Region trying to take us over, but I'm not. None of them realize what kind of people we actually are; we're strong, we're loyal to our king and our people, and we'll never back down. Of course they're afraid of us, but not as they should be. They don't fear us nearly as much as they should.
And that is each one's weakness.
"They'll never understand," my father laughs next to me. "They refuse to! But that's what gives us the advantage." He looks at me and smiles as we walk throughout the village.
I let my eyes gaze back at his, admiring how confident he sounds, one of the many aspects of his I've tried replicate my entire life. I nod my head, "Ignorance makes you weak, in both intelligence and outward strength."
"Yes, but-" he continues, "-so does arrogance. A fine mix of those is something that not only they have, but one that we have, also."
His eyes drift back down to the road ahead of us.
"How could you believe that?" I start, letting my voice become stern. "We are not ignorant; we know full well what's happening. And we're not arrogant, either; we were only speaking the truth!"
"But isn't that what everyone believes?" my father speaks. "Every person of all the other Regions feel the same about themselves. They feel as if nothing is their fault, and the blame should be shifted to everyone else but them, and in doing that, they are arrogant and ignorant. So of course, why can't we be--"
"We have neither!" I yell, stopping in my tracks, with fists clenching at my sides. "We are not ignorant, nor are we arrogant! I'll admit, we don't know all that they're planning, or their real motives, but that does not instantly make us ignorant!"
My father sighs in irritation, and his eyes flick towards me. "Xander, you plainly showed what you had just said we were not. And in doing that, arrogance bled all throughout your words."
A wave of hurt washes through me and I flinch back from his harshness. A moment or two of silence passes, him glaring at me and me trying my best to not make eye contact.
"Xander," he starts again.
He takes a step closer towards me, "Think before you speak. You'll get into trouble, otherwise."
Reluctantly, I nod, "Yes... yes, Father... I'm sorry."
"Good," he says as he puts his arm around my shoulders. "Now, let's go back home. I'm sure your brother has waited long enough for you."
I don't speak as we make our way back to our home. I've strained myself my entire life to be like my father. He's a great man, noble and trustworthy. Everyone in this town expects me, his first son, to be just as skillful and magnificent as he his. It's not easy, I'll admit, but I still give it my all to be like him. Even as I am now, imperfect and making rash decisions by the day, I am praised by most in the village. Many have said that they admire me for my hard work and diligence in striving to become as great a man as my father is, although some, but few, ridicule and spite me for not choosing my own path and way in life. They dislike my father because they feel as if he hasn't given me a choice, and that he's forced me to be the way I am. But no matter how much is explained and clarified to them, they just won't believe the truth.
I chose this, my way of life. I chose to work under my father, under discipline and hours of hard work. I made this decision because I knew I could be better than what I was. I knew I could strive for something greater, and superior than the life that had originally been laid out. Because, if man does not strive and push themselves to do more than what had been initially intended... what are we? What strength do we have if we just sit back and wait for someone else to do our work and face our trials for us? I chose this life to show that the world can do better and that we need to step up and take action when no other will. I did it to show that mankind is still strong.
My father and I finally return to our home, family waiting for us outside. My six year old brother sits on the ground fiddling with something in his hands and my twenty-three year old sister bends down on her knees with him, while my mother stands and smiles as she watches them. Father kindly removes his hand from off my shoulders and reaches it out as my mother walks to his side.
"Ryder!" she speaks as she wraps her arms around my father. "Glad to see you're back! Xander!"
She smiles, "I hope you had fun!"
"Of course," I say sarcastically, rolling my eyes. "Hours of sword training and battle tactics. Who wouldn't enjoy that?"
My little brother hops up from sitting on the ground, "But I thought you liked that stuff?"
I look down at him and smile, "Yeah, I do. But it's all becoming boring. I already know most of what's being taught, so it's just too easy for me." Before my brother can reply, I take my hand set it on the top of his head, messing up his thick, brown hair and making it go in all different directions.
"Cut it out!" he yells.
I laugh at him with a smile stretched across my face as my older sister comes up behind him. "Matthew! He's just having fun! There's no need to get upset."
"I don't care!" he whines. "It's annoying!"
I let my hand fall to my side, a smile still on my face, "Shut up, Matthew! You take things too seriously!" My head turns to my mother, "Would you mind taking him? This is getting a little ridiculous."
She sighs at first, looking tired enough from taking care of him all day, but then gives me a half smile, "Sure, Xander." Reluctantly, she takes a step forward and picks up my brother, despite his insistent protesting to be let down. "Matthew... Matthew, please calm down!"
"No!" he exclaims. "Put me down!"
My father laughs as he makes it to my mother's side and looks down at his youngest son with a warm smile. "Matthew," he starts. "Do as your mother says, alright? If you do that, I promise I'll play with you tonight. Okay?"
My brother stops and stares at Father for a moment, debating with himself on what to do. He opens his mouth to speak, but before any words come out, a girl walks up behind my father and taps him on the shoulder.
He turns around and sees the young girl. "Yes, Alice?"
The girl looks at him while pushing a lock of bright red hair out of her eyes and timidly hiding her body with her elegant cloak. "The king needs to see you. He sent me to come find you, and would be more than grateful if you could come to the castle immediately."
I freeze for a moment. I know this girl. Alice Sanders, a girl who I have known since I was little. A sorceress who never quite fit in. Always shy and wanting to keep to herself. She works close to the king now, helping him for whatever he may need and following every order. She's always been soft spoken, but now, with what she had just said, she sounded urgent and stern, making me worry.
Father stares at her for a moment, him too realizing the tone of her voice. But soon after he clears his throat and speaks, "Yes, thank you." He turns to me, "Xander."
"Would you mind coming with me?" he questions. Before I can respond, he turns back to Alice. "Do you think it would be alright if I brought him with me?"
She pauses for a moment and thinks. Finally, she nods her head, "Yes, I'm sure it would be fine."
"Good," my father states. He glances over at me, "Alright then, Xander. Let's go."
I open my mouth to protest, but my sister puts a hand on my shoulder and whispers in my ear, "Just go. If he wants you there, he wants you there. Nothing else to it."
My eyes drift nervously to hers for a moment but then a sigh escapes me, "Fine then, I'll go."
"Excellent!" Father exclaims. He laughs as he takes his hand and claps me on the shoulder. I shoot him a glare but he doesn't seem to take any notice. He says goodbye to our family and thanks Alice for passing on the message to him before we leave. We don't say much to each other as we make our way to the castle. I give my father a few anxious glances, wondering if he knows what's wrong, and why the king needed him so urgently, but he stays silent as if to warn me that this isn't a joking matter. We make it the castle doors and I reach my hand out to grab the main handle, when my father stops me.
"What is it?" I question.
He takes a moment to take a deep breath in and out. "Xander, I want you to listen well to what ever the king has to say. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I do. But... Why? What's so important?" I wonder, confused.
He pauses but then smiles at me. "I want you to actually start to learn what's going on, and what to do in situations like these. It's things like this that will help you make the right decisions in the future. Alright?"
Somewhat annoyed, I roll my eyes, "Yeah, yeah, I get it."
My father stares at me, quizzically, for a moment, but then finally takes his hand and opens the castle doors. Inside I see, off the side, the king standing with a few soldiers that are gathered at a table. They seemed to be talking intensely, and firm to each other, almost as if they are in some sort of debate, until my father walks in. The king stops, and lifts his head.
"Yes," my father starts. "What's going on? Is something wrong?"
The king sighs and rubs the back of his neck. "Well... Yes. I don't mean to trouble you so much but this is something I needed to consult you with. Come," he motions for my father and I to meet with him at the table, giving me a quick and unexpected glance. For a moment a see him furrow his brows.
He doesn't want me here.
"Please, I hope it's alright if my son is here. He's very interested and could make some good points and suggestions," Father cuts in as we make it to the king's side.
"Yes," he grumbles. "I suppose it's alright."
My father nods, "Thank you. Now, what's happening?"
The king sits down in his chair, exhausted, as he rubs the temples of his head. "Remember the group of men we had sent out to Arculan for trade, and to solve some conflict we had been having with them?"
"Well," he starts. "They were ambushed, and all killed, other than Miles, here." His eyes drift to a man sitting with his elbows on the table, referring to him by his surname. "He says that it was a surprise attack while they were camping out for the night. Got them while they were sleeping apparently."
My father's eyes widen and he takes a step back out of disbelief. "What?! How could they have been beaten so easily? Weren't any of them keeping watch while the others slept?"
"No," Miles pipes up from across the table. "It was a foolish idea... None of us kept watch, and that was the reason we were beaten. I'm so sorry."
"Well you should have known better!" Father screams. "Those were five men. Five good and strong men! And now we've lost them! Has anyone even told their families yet?!"
The king shakes his head, "No. We've just barely received word of this event, otherwise Miles here wouldn't be in such poor condition."
I let my eyes glance at Miles, to take a look at his "poor condition." He looks tired, worn out, weak and frail. He seems so shaken up and disturbed... What did he see?
"Do we know who it was that ambushed them?" my father questions.
"No, Hokoda," Miles replies. "We weren't able to see what region they were from, if I had stayed any longer to find out, I'd be dead."
Father stands, frozen in place as a bead of sweat drops down his face. He swallows hard, "What do you remember?"
Miles sighs and rubs the back of his neck. "Nothing, really," he starts. "There was a lot of them, we were hopelessly outnumbered. From what I could remember it was mainly sorcerers that had attacked us, although they were a few regular soldiers. It was dark and hard to see, but from what I could tell, there were clothed in all black." Miles pauses and shakes his head, "Hokoda... This wasn't just any ambush. It was planned. I don't know how, but I'm sure of it."
My father pauses a bit longer, "Do we have any clues to who it may have been?"
I listen in horror and disbelief as they continue their talk. It feels as if I'm frozen in place, and only thoughts of fear rush through my mind. How? How could this happen to our people? Aren't we strong? Aren't we well trained? How could we be beaten without the enemy even lifting a finger?
After a long stretch of silence, the king finally begins to speak, "We have reason to suspect Drakenlore."