Chapter 0:


The Chronicles of Krarshe: The Hearts of Men, Volume 1

The old man rubbed his brow, massaging away his fatigue. The wisps of mystical light twisted and wound through the air around him in an endless tangle, flowing through the empty study, bathing the otherwise dark room in a pale blue glow. "There must be at least one..." he said. "There MUST be." He took off his spectacles and cleaned them with a corner of his robe. As he set them back in place, he said again with renewed vigor, "I KNOW there must be someone."

The wisps of light continued to dance around the old wizard as he caught one in his fingers. His eyes became unfocused, reflecting the events the strand of light contained as it wriggled its way through his gentle grasp. "No, not him," he said after a few minutes, releasing his grip. He caught another, repeating the process again and again. The same way he had done countless times.

"Ah, this is hopeless!" he shouted, flopping down into a chair that materialized behind him. "Maybe there isn't any- No, NO! You can't speak this way. No, there must be someone. I know it!" He looked over by the door. "Don't give me that look, Wilfred!" he said, pointing a thin, bony finger toward the figure by the door. "You KNOW I hate when you look at me like that!"

The doll sat there on the floor, staring lifelessly at the wizard with its button eyes.

A moment passed.

"You're right. I must keep trying. There is no other option." The wizard stood up, his chair vanishing into the ether. He caught another luminescent strand. "You know, Wilfred, there are times when-" He stopped. "... This... This is it! Aha!" The wizard danced around as the mystical lights all faded away, leaving him standing in the middle of the now-furnished study, a single wisp in hand. "I knew it! It was just a few months! ... Or was it a few millennia?" He thought for a moment. "Bah! Doesn't matter! We found him, Wilfred! I told you I wasn't crazy!" he shouted, eyes wide, pointing at the doll once again.

The doll slowly tipped over before flopping onto the book it sat upon.

"Ahh... A wondrous find, in all of the different times and paths." The wizard sat at his desk, laying the mystical wisp of light upon it. "Now, let's see... Hmm..." He traced his fingers over its length more slowly than he had previously and his eyes unfocused again. "Bit tumultuous, this one. Hmm... There is some trouble for us, but it's unavoidable." The wizard came out of his trance and turned to the doll. "Yes, Wilfred, I'm certain. I know it- err, will know it later. Why do you never trust me?" he asked, exasperated. With a sigh, he returned to his investigation. "Mmm... Without a doubt, this is our best opportunity. I have found and will find no better options. Or so I will discover. Okay!" He released the mystical wisp and walked over to the table littered with books and stood before the doll. "Bring the other two. There is much to discuss. Or, is being discussed? Nevermind. Just summon them here so we can begin! I need to fabricate the talisman. I'll clean the room."

The old wizard turned and looked around the room, now cleared of books and other equipment. An ornate table sat in the middle of the room with three fine chairs around it. "Good. I hate cleaning. Hmm? You haven't summoned them yet, Wilfred?"

The doll sat upright in one of the chairs, motionless.

"Fine, I'll just do EVERYTHING around here. Or, have done everything..." he thought for a moment before waving, dismissively. He stared down at the doll. "Oh, you're right! His name. Hmm." He appeared at his desk once more, tracing his fingers along the glowing strand. "His name... Mmm... That one's a bit tricky. It seems his name is..."


"Don't be foolish, Krarshe!" His father's voice shook the walls as it echoed down the stone halls.

"I'm not being foolish, do'a!" Krarshe retorted. "You are being closed minded! Or perhaps just a coward!" He glared at his father, his vibrant blue eyes shone with rage.

"Krarshe, please try to understand. There is nothing to gain from living amongst them," his mother said as she tried to calm Krarshe and his father.

"It is pointless," his father said sharply. "Listen to me when I say you will only be met with hate and disgust. At best, they would simply fear you!"

"You don't know that for certain!"

"Krarshe..." his mother started.

"I have lived long enough to see their treachery and malice!" his father interjected.

Krarshe could see the same fierce blue-eyed anger in his father’s eyes; there was no getting through to him. Krarshe was out of arguments, or too weary of fighting to think more on it. It was clear no amount of reasoning was going to get through to his parents. He turned away from them and inhaled deeply, too frustrated to say any more.

There was a long silence.

Their home had been filled with bickering and quarreling for the better part of an hour. The sudden quiet was unsettling. Krarshe expected his father to shatter the quiet with either his voice or a blow, but it never came.

His father spoke softly, with indignation. "Fine. Do as you wish. If you will not listen to reason, then there is nothing left to say."

Krarshe relaxed, realizing the confrontation was over. He thought about how to respond. It wasn't the reaction he expected, so anything he had prepared would just incite another argument. "I will be all right, do'a," assured Krarshe finally. It was the only thing he could come up with.

Another pause. "... I know, do'e. I have no doubt that you will survive out there," said his father quietly. His voice was hoarse from their yelling match. "Wisdom with you, Krarshe." He turned and retreated into his chambers.

Krarshe just nodded toward his father and turned to his mother.

"He's just worried about you," she explained. "Not physically, but your heart. Remember, your do'mro lived among them for a time too, and he was told all of the stories growing up. I worry too, Krarshe," she said gently as she pressed her forehead against his affectionately.

Krarshe smiled, closed his eyes, and focused on his mother's embrace. It was warm. Loving. "I know."

Krarshe, too, had heard his grandfather's tales growing up in his infrequent visits. Tales of the vast hills of sand and stone beyond the mountains to the east, where the sand crawled with enormous, subterranean beasts. Tales of huge trees in forests to the south, their boughs twisted and tough, a fortress for the elves. His grandfather's stories were endless and the results of a lifetime of exploration. The world seemed so large in his stories, so full of adventure. Adventure that Krarshe now sought.

His mother released him from her embrace to look him in the eyes. "My do'e is too kind and gentle of heart." She smiled at him. "We'll be here if you decide to return."

Krarshe nodded.

"You should take those little metal pieces your do'mro brought back."

"Okay," said Krarshe.

"Oh, and bring back a souvenir when you do. I'm sure it'll cheer up your do'a."

Krarshe chuckled. "If I can find something. You know how picky he is."

"And me one of those pieces of cloth... A 'dress', I believe it's called? You know how much I find those interesting," said his mother. Krarshe looked back to see a wide grin on her face.

He shook his head, exasperated. "Yes, yes, I know."

"And what of Ari? Did you let her know?"

"No. If I did, she'd want to come too. You know how she is." Krarshe paused for a moment, thinking on it more. "... She'll be fine."

"That habit of yours..." she sighed, shaking her head.

Krarshe stepped outside and looked over the mountainous landscape. The sun was well past its apex, now near the horizon. The shadows of the hills and mountains were beginning to stretch and reach across the valleys. He breathed deeply the mountain air, the cool sensation filling his lungs, making him even more eager to start his journey. His mind was a whirlwind of thoughts. Where should he go first? To the coast, to try the seaside cuisine his grandfather spoke of? To the deep forests, to seek out the fae? To the action in a big city? His options seemed limitless.

He was pulled from his thoughts by his mother's soft, soothing voice. "Go with Wisdom, do'e."

Krarshe looked back. The joyous smile on his mother's face was gone, replaced with a lonely one burdened by sadness. Or was it concern? Krarshe wasn't entirely sure. But loneliness was part of any journey, for both of them. He had already accepted that and her lonesome expression would not deter him.

"I'm off, fusu'a."