Before I begin the final phase of the prologue, I'd like to thank everyone that has taken the time to read these posts.
If you missed either of the first two parts, you can find links to them here:
Without further ado, Part 3!
Helyan’s father, Avuran Brightfoal, was a tall, intimidating-looking man who had spent the better part of his life adventuring around the world with a mercenary band, fighting beasts and bandits alike and making the world a safer place with each passing day. As a young, worldly man earning treasures and winning wars, it was expected that he would attract the attention of many a lovely lady, and it was only a matter of time before he fell in love and started a family.
Helyan’s mother, Cleryse, had been one of the best people ever to grace Nea’K’Oxa. She was strong-willed, smart, courteous, and beautiful to boot, grabbing Avuran’s attention and refusing to let go.
When Helyan was born, his father refused to settle down, continuing to live a life of adventure while Cleryse tended to their son. Avuran earned enough as a well-respected mercenary to ensure the family was well looked after, and he was home often enough to keep his wife content. Life was everything they had dreamed it would be, until Avuran became mixed up with the Necromancer.
For years the nation of Somberworth had been living in a state of fear and submission, cowed by the presence of the royal family’s personal sorcerer. Known only as the Necromancer, she was given complete autonomy to operate within the country as she saw fit, using the people of Somberworth as test subjects for her twisted experiments.
The rest of Nea’K’Oxa looked on in disgust and fear at the evil things she was rumored to be creating: soldiers who felt no pain, children created in a lab instead of conceived through natural means, armies of the undead. Though all were clear regarding how they felt about the Necromancer of Somberworth, none were willing to do anything about it. She had royal protection.
When the King of Somberworth passed suddenly during Helyan’s sixth year, Avuran felt obliged to put an end to the evil within the country. Operating without the help of his band of mercenaries, Avuran was overpowered by the Necromancer and forced to flee.
The Necromancer didn’t look kindly upon the opportunistic vigilante, following Avuran to his family home and bringing death to those he held most dear. Their barn was set ablaze with Helyan trapped inside. Cleryse went in to rescue her child but was taken by the flames, her screams piercing the night and Avuran’s heart as he was forced to choose between saving her or his son.
By the time Avuran had dragged the child out of the barn, Helyan wasn’t breathing. Avuran managed to put some of his combat medical training to use and revive his son, but things had never been the same.
That was the first time Helyan had a vision. In the barn with the flames all around him, he watched his mother burn, her screams cutting as deeply into his soul as they did the darkness. In the pain and confusion, his mind found an escape. He slipped into unconsciousness, only to find the monsters waiting for him there, wandering around on a strange planet with too many moons filling the bright sky and unfamiliar plants underfoot.
Since that first night, each new vision had grown more intense, with one occurring every couple of weeks, eventually culminating in his most recent dream. It was the first time that the monsters had seemed aware of his presence, standing over his bed watching him, the glowing eyes that had haunted his nightmares for the last decade mere inches from his face.
Helyan let out an involuntary shiver.
Avuran walked down the stairs and approached Tala’s desk, leaning in to speak with her, ignoring Helyan in the most polite way possible.
Probably talking about taxes or something stupid when the world is about to fall apart around us, Helyan thought.
“We can’t waste time like this, Father! Every moment we hesitate could be our last.”
Letting out a sigh, Avuran finally turned to him, sadness in his eyes. “Alright, let’s go, son. Time to get this over with.” Without waiting for a response, he went back up the stairs, turning into his office on the right-hand side on the second floor.
Helyan knew his father blamed himself for everything that had gone wrong. Avuran feared his selfish desire to continue living like a young man was the reason his family had been taken from him—his wife lost to the flames and Helyan lost to his own thoughts.
Whether blame could be placed on anyone or not, Avuran was wrong about one thing: Helyan’s mind was not damaged, and he was not lost within his head. He just had priorities that only he could truly understand.
I’m not damaged no matter what anyone thinks. These visions are not a sign of impairment. They’re proof of enlightenment.
“I’m not lost. I’m aware.”
Dammit, I didn’t mean to say that out loud. I need to pay better attention when I’m with my father. I need him to believe what I saw this time. He’s the key to Mulden’s safety. With him behind me, everything else will fall into line.
Avuran sat behind a desk far bigger than Tala’s, made of solid oak and hand carved by the elves of Arrowwren. The desk was imposing enough; it could make anyone look intimidating sitting behind it. With Avuran though it didn’t have to. His demeanor and presence did all the work.
Sitting tall in his chair, Avuran looked his son up and down, subconsciously weighing and measuring with eyes honed by years of combat experience to determine the inner thoughts of a man with a mere glance. Without warning, Avuran’s entire demeanor shifted. Letting out a deep sigh, the intensity faded from his face, replaced by an aura of sadness.
Not a good start.
“What is it, son? What’s got you so worked up that you had to alarm the good people downstairs?”
Helyan let the comment slide, choosing to focus instead on what was important—the message. “Father, I know what’s going to happen. It’s an invasion. The monsters will be coming from the sky to destroy Visfirth, setting it ablaze and laughing while it burns to the ground. We need to do something. Once they take Visfirth, they’ll come for us; I know it. Wherever they’re from, they’re trained fighters. We won’t be able to stop them unless we prepare in advance. We need to call for help!”
“Helyan, we’ve talked about this.” Avuran leaned forward, resting his chin on his fist. He had begun to pull away from the conversation already. Helyan recognized the slightly glazed look in his eye. “Your visions aren’t real. It’s just your mind trying to trick you. I know the urge to believe them may be strong, but it’s just an illusion. Why don’t you stop worrying yourself over this and head down to the docks? I’ve heard a lot of the ships have already started to arrive for the festival this weekend. Go enjoy the view, be a kid, and have fun. Kalkod knows how long it’s been since you last relaxed.”
“They are not tricks or illusions, Father! These visions are real. They’re a warning from the gods to keep us safe! For years I’ve been having visions, dealing with constant pity from everyone I know—when I’m not being avoided like a leper. And it’s all been for this, to save our people! You have to believe me. Visfirth is in danger, and we’re the only ones who can do anything about it!”
“Stop it, Helyan! Please, just stop this stubborn insistence. You aren’t having visions of monsters from another world. You’re just sick! You need to accept reality!” Frustrated, Avuran threw a stack of papers off his desk, then got up and started to pace. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for this today. Just go down to the docks, and look at the ships. Or go walk through the gardens. Something, anything! I just can’t have you here right now.”
Hearing his father dismiss him like that, making it clear he wasn’t worth even the time it took to be political, when all Helyan wanted was to save lives, killed him inside.
I needed him to believe me. The only one who can make a difference—my own father—is so convinced I’m unstable that he won’t even listen to what I have to say.
Disheartened, Helyan let his head drop and slipped out of his father’s office without another word. His mind was clouded by the sadness of being so utterly rejected. He had known it was a possibility, but in his heart he had believed his father would trust him, that he would understand the urgency of Helyan’s message and at least look into it. In a haze, he walked back to his house.
I need to prepare him for this whether he believes me or not. If my words aren’t enough, I’ll have to find proof. I’ll travel to Visfirth myself and capture one of the monsters. Then he’ll have to believe me.
Helyan sat at his desk and pulled out his notepad. If he were going to find proof for his father, it would take time. Each moment he wasted raised the possibility that they could be attacked, completely unaware. Picking up his pen, he began to write, detailing what he knew of the invasion and what Mulden needed to do to survive. The last thing he wrote was a letter to his father. He knew what he was about to do was risky. If he didn’t return, he needed his father to understand . . .
Mulden’s waterfront was beautiful, a source of pride for the locals. Tall buildings overlooked the bay, each one a different color and design. Vibrant smatterings of red, yellow, and blue, even designs like plaid and stripes, created a skyline unlike any other in the world.
Viab’Xexos was the southernmost continent of Nea’K’Oxa, covered in almost constant snow, but the temperature was usually quite mild compared to the northern pole. Despite the mild weather, it was still too cold to grow crops, so the Viab’Xexos people had developed massive greenhouses where the sun helped create an artificial environment. They were set up outside the city walls, keeping the city flush with food despite the cold temperatures.
Viab’Xexos’s greenhouses were famous. They employed a system used nowhere else, and many outsiders disputed their existence, finding the idea of a farm inside a building preposterous. Not only was it possible, in many cases it was more effective than growing in a standard field. The controlled climate and protection from critters made the greenhouses so productive that they could feed the entire continent, if needed.
Mulden’s farmers’ worked in the greenhouses because it’s what they loved to do; it was their passion. Everyone who lived in Viab’Xexos did so because it was where they wanted to be. It was a country of peace and prosperity, separated from the rest of the world by the Tauran Ocean, arguably the most dangerous waterway in Nea’K’Oxa.
Helyan noticed none of this as he walked toward his father’s offices. The problem with one’s father being in charge of the country was Helyan never got a moment alone to talk with him without making an appointment. It was frustrating. He felt like he never saw his father anymore. He was always busy with one task or another. Helyan understood that what his father did was important and that he needed to be available for everyone, dedicating his time and effort to making the country an even better place to live. But what Helyan was trying to do was important too. Without him, these people would be dead in days.
Being the Lord of Viab’Xexos was a full-time job, as his father’s assistant, Tala, insisted on reminding Helyan.
Helyan understood busyness, but often it felt like that response was just a default dismissal. Visions of a pending invasion could really screw up a wellplanned schedule. They didn’t have time for anything like that.
“Good morning, Helyan! How’s your father doing?” It was the call of a passerby trying to be friendly, but all Helyan noticed was the person’s complete lack of awareness.
“The end is on us! We’re all going to die if we don’t smarten up and defend ourselves. The monsters are coming!”
“Yes, yes, of course. Have a good day, Helyan. Be sure to tell your old man I was asking about him.”
What’s wrong with everyone? They just ignore me! Don’t they understand that it’s them I’m looking out for?
There was only so much he could do if they weren’t willing to help themselves, but despite the jokes he knew they made behind his back, he still cared about these people. They were his friends and neighbors. He couldn’t let them
die without at least trying to help.
When Helyan walked into his father’s office, Tala was sitting at her desk across from the door. She looked up, and when she saw it was Helyan, she let out a deep sigh and set the paper she had been reading on the pile in front of her. “What’s the problem this time, Helyan? Let’s hear it.”
“An invasion, Tala. Please, I need to warn him. This is what everything has been building toward. I know it. The night sky was as bright as the sun, illuminating enough trained soldiers to kill us all. It’s starting, and if we don’t do something soon, the world as we know it will end in a sea of blood.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “I’m sure it will. If you’ll just wait here for a couple of minutes, your father is currently indisposed.”
She thinks I’m just wasting everyone’s time, that I’m some damaged kid who can’t tell the difference between a nightmare and a warning from above. If these were just normal dreams, why would each one build off the last, constantly growing and evolving with months in between? To dismiss it so casually is more dangerous than believing could ever be.
Helyan breathed deeply, his voice filled with passion as he spoke. “I’m not broken, you know. The monsters are going to come from the sky, and Visfirth is going to burn. I’ve seen it. Viab’Xexos has lived too long in peace. Someone has noticed and decided it’s time to make us pay for it. I don’t know who they are, and I don’t know why they want to hurt us, but just because I don’t have answers doesn’t mean the visions aren’t true.”
“I never said you were broken, Helyan. I just said you had to wait for your father to get here.”
“My visions are messages from the heavens, given to me to save us from the gruesome fate they foretell. But they can’t save us if we continue to ignore them like the deranged ramblings of a madman. Do you really want to sit by and
watch as everyone you know and love is raised on a pyre and set aflame like a living sacrifice to alien gods? The time has finally come to act before there’s no one left to protect.”
Tala didn’t answer, just turned back to her work, letting silence hang in the air.
Helyan realized his voice had risen as he spoke, and by the end he was almost shouting and sending out a proclamation to everyone within earshot of the terror that would befall them. Unfortunately, instead of the worry and fear that should have come with such an announcement, everyone looked at him
with pity and sadness. They took his warning as confirmation that he was as
damaged as they had heard.
He dropped into one of the guest chairs at Tala’s desk, contemplating the sad reality that people only believed what they wanted to, not what was true.
The final tweaks have been submitted to FriesenPress, meaning A Light from Below is well on its way to completion! I have decided that, to celebrate this exciting time, I will be sharing the prologue of the book: Visions. This will be spread over three blog posts, so please be sure to keep your eye out for parts 2 & 3!
The monster looked down on Helyan, its eyes glowing like stars in the night as it stood beside his bed in the darkness.
Outside the window, twinkling lights appeared and disappeared in the sky, each one a portal to the monster’s world, releasing more monsters and their evil. Thousands were spread out on the ground in well-rehearsed military formations. Behind them a city lay in flames.
Visfirth will burn. The invasion has begun.
Screaming, Helyan’s eyes flew open. He was covered in sweat and shaking uncontrollably. The pain that came after a vision left him temporarily paralyzed as his body convulsed, each breath like a bolt of lightning.
He tried to make sense of what he’d seen, hoping to remember every detail, needing to remember the warning.
The city was Visfirth; he’d recognized that, but all those monsters on the ground . . .
It has begun, hasn’t it? The invasion is here.
He’d been dreaming of the monsters for years, visions he felt were warnings from the gods of something dangerous to come, but he had never experienced anything as concrete as what he’d just seen.
Please, I need more time. They still think I’m broken. No one will believe me if I try to warn them.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” he reassured himself out loud, which always made Helyan feel better.
It was lonely being the only one who cared, the only one who believed him and didn’t silently judge. Sadly, that was the only life he knew these days. His father was too busy for him, too busy for a son who had supposedly gone insane long ago, leaving only mad ramblings and impossible tales of woe.
This time things would have to be different. His father would have to believe him. He had a location, something real that they could test and prove! Never before had a vision been so specific, showing him the monsters’ plan. Every other vision had taken place in a strange world with unfamiliar creatures and plant life in the background as the monsters trained and prepared. Helyan had no idea why it had taken so long for them to attack, but he couldn’t let them get away with it.
His internal seizing began to subside, and he was able to sit up in bed, gasping for air and wiping the sweat from his face with his bedsheet. He allowed himself a few moments to catch his breath before getting up and going to his desk. It was still late at night, making his room almost pitch black. The thick wool hanging over his window kept out even the brightest moonlight, but he had no issues getting from his bed to his desk. He knew the room well and had taken the same blind, late-night steps many times, seeking to immortalize what he had seen in case it was needed later.
He lit the small lamp on his desk, and the flickering flame burst to life, illuminating the pages lining his walls. They were visions, warnings of the threat the monsters were to his world. He had cataloged each one, keeping track of when it occurred and capturing every detail he could remember, despite the painful flashbacks looking at them caused. The smallest piece could make the difference between his people living and dying.
He pulled out a well-worn sketchpad thicker than his wrist, the pages identical to those lining the walls, and prepared to record his latest vision, as he had the rest. He needed no time to prepare. After almost ten years of visions, he knew which details would fade first and which would stay with him forever, turning his once-peaceful dreams into the nightmares they had become.
Helyan had never been an artist. When he was younger, his lack of talent had been a source of amusement for his friends. Archiving his visions was easier than breathing though, some details virtually jumping onto the page.
The eyes, they never leave me.
He pushed on after a shudder, trying to grasp the vastness of the creatures’ numbers. He knew the lights he’d seen in the sky would be important. He didn’t know why or how, only that they would be.
The monsters were unlike anything he’d ever seen or heard of before. They resembled a cross between an elf and a goblin, unusually tall and slim compared to either of the other races though, with small, corded muscles that made it impossible to call them anything but lanky. Their hairless skin was a yellowgreen color that made them appear perpetually sick. Their bodies were covered with piercings and tattoos of symbols and animals that he didn’t recognize, which he assumed represented their hierarchy. From what Helyan could tell, the more complicated the tattoos, the more authority a monster had.
Their eyes glowed a deep yellow that refused to leave him. Everywhere he turned, he could see those eyes watching him, taunting him. The creatures’ ears had distinct points, some drooping at the top and others rigid. Their weapons bore unusual glyphs and runes which, unlike the tattoos, seemed to have no connection to rank, perhaps representing personal preferences. He had heard snippets of conversation in his visions, but try as he might, he had never found a language expert who could make sense of it.
“Maybe that’s why no one believes me.”
A stupid reason.
Either way, it wasn’t something he could worry about at the moment. Why people didn’t believe him wasn’t nearly as important as convincing them that this time, they had to.
Helyan spent the next few hours working on his sketch, careful not to miss any details. He finished before dawn and started to prepare what he would say, how he could express the urgency of what was coming, passing the time until morning when he could warn his father and save the world.