6 years later…..

Sso who is Usifan if you don’t mean the present heir to the duchy?” Asked the orphan quizzically, his voice crackling in a sign he had eventually embarked on the path to manhood. His lips were lined with soft fuzz, though of course he couldn’t see it. The teacher answered patiently: “Tales say the original Usifan was one of the sons of the banished Qin “Mann”.”

“Who is Mann?” Asked the orphan “Mann is a Qin, son of Luna, Qin of Darkness, and Ao, Qin of life. According to the Qindred, he was banished from Haven. All who inhabit Elyria are said to be his descendants but the sons of the original Usifan are his direct descendants.”

“Why was he banished?” Asked the orphan The teacher sighed softly and said, “We don’t know why he was banished. But after being banished from Haven, he was no longer immortal and eventually perished like all the living in Elyria. Hence we “descendants of Mann” all carry a part of his soul in us and, as such, our souls are valuable.”

“Why do we never talk about the Qin Daemon?” Asked the orphan, his voice quivering in sorrow. The teacher placed a hand on the orphan, pity in his eyes. He said in a voice not much louder than a whisper, “The priests of the Qin Daemon believed that feeding the descendants of the Qin Mann—us—to the fires would somehow summon Daemon and engender his return. It took many years and many a warrior’s life, before we were able to uproot the hidden priesthood, executing many and banishing the practices from the land.”

The boy opened his mouth to ask another question, but the teacher said firmly, “Now stop asking me all these questions and go have lunch before class starts again.”

The boy stood up, his walking stick by his side. The empty pits where eyes should have been stared down at the teacher.

“Master please… one last question….Can I join the Order of the Grand Flock?” Asked the blind orphan, determination etched on his pale features.

The teacher bent forward in sorrow, as he loved the young boy very much and knew that a fine mind lay in that skull. But the child could neither fight nor read, and so had no role within the Order. “No son!” he at last said, “You have to be a chosen one and the Flock will seek you once you have proven your worth to the brave defenders of Usifan. Now, if you could master the art of the sword, perhaps. But I feel there is another path for you and your destiny lies elsewhere.”

The wise woman was shaken out of her reverie as she heard Sam’uel reach the end of the tale, once again inspiring the faith and love of the people in Usifan and his father Mahmold. For it was the old duke who had saved him and paid for his care and education and the old storyteller had never forgotten the man.

Part II

Alum tenderly gathered up his sleepy son, along with the others, preparing to tuck the child in for the night. He smiled at the old storyteller and compiled the report he would send to the Grand Flock in his head. Sam’uel had been gone so long, even Usifan himself had become worried about what had happened to the old man.

He tucked his young son into bed, kissed his wife goodnight and then went deep into the forest, where he entered a cave hidden from all. It was where he trained with the sword, spear, scythe and javelin, keeping his skills sharp. For all of the Grand Flock knew that they may be called at any moment to defend their village and people from raiders and the mad priests of Daemon, who had begun to make their presence felt. Alum would lead the defense of the village while a message would be sent to the member of the Grand Flock in the next village and another sent to the temple itself. In this way, it was hoped that the people would be better protected than the last time the priests had travelled through the land, wreaking carnage on the populace.

He entered his cave, letting his mind quieten as he searched for any signs it had had visitors. Finding nothing, he relaxed, lighting a candle. He went to the back of the cave and dislodged a stone from the natural wall, reaching inside with one hand to pull out a scroll tied with a red ribbon. A smile lit his face as he recalled the day he received it. He knew the contents by heart, but still, he opened it to read the familiar words once more:

“Descendant of Mann… you’ve been marked as a feather and you’ll complete the flock. Together we’ll seek our cause, repudiate all our fears and keep the peace in these lands. Like we have united the nomads before, we will keep the unity of our blessed people. Traditions of the heart lights our path, though liberal we remain, for that is how we united these divided lands. Your Qin is your protector. And ours is Angelica. Should you choose to join this path, we’ll have you with open arms. You will be a protector and be protected. Meet your masters at the Academy to start your training.

Where we can, where we should be, and where there is need for presence, we have been, we are now, and will always be foremost for you.

Duke Usifan.”

Alum placed the scroll back in its hidden place and began to train.