Chapter 1 - I am the fuel.

"Long ago there was a very kind king, one who ruled his people with much love. He went with less riches to spoil his beloved followers with fine food and linen until they sang praise for him. This fine man had no magic in his heart save for logic and kindness. A happy life his people lived, until one day lightning crashed down to the land and destroyed the people's homes. From the ashes of the destroyed town rose a frightful man who could wield fire and lightning from his hand. With this power he burned the wonderful king on his throne and took it for his own. Ever since that day the magic ones have stomped on our peoples wills and pushed them into poverty and slavery."

My mother used to whisper strange stories with sad endings to me. Whispering softy for if the master had heard her he would surely punish her, perhaps even cut out her deceitful tongue. I became paranoid to be near her as she grew crazy with revolution. I remember the day she disappeared, I was nearing ten years and when I cried and asked the master of her whereabouts he cracked me on the side of the head with his cane, telling me to leave him at once. Now it was I who cleaned for him, cooked for him, and ran his bath water.

I was curious about my father and had asked my lord once of him. he grew suddenly angry, emptying his hot pipe on my palm and dismissing me. I'd learned quickly not to question him, and to be glad he was kind enough to feed me. My daily chores I did quietly and diligently, a kinder master may have thought me a good slave, my master thought very little of me. I'd lost interest in speaking to the old bitter man at all.

My lord was an old sorcerer named General Bastian, a stern nobleman who used to lead the kings army to battle. His skin still glowed with the color of the god sorcerers, tan as though he'd bathed for hours in the sun, his hair had been white as long as I'd known him but old portraits showed him young with bright yellow hair. The towns people and slaves were pale skinned with dark hair, like my mother and myself. I was fascinated by his past, most of which he would not share with me. He taught me chess and told me a few things about war strategy. His friends dwindled as they also grew old and many had passed or become bedridden. I almost think a small part of him enjoyed my company, but if it was so he did not show it.

I felt I too grew more bitter in his presence, as he became sick with age he took to drinking more and more to fill his spare time, and enjoyed abusing me in this state. These days he would laugh as he became rough with me and when I winced he would tell me through the cackle that he would toughen me up, after all when he died I may find myself at a more cruel master's hand.

The lord overwhelmed me with work, trying to teach me many skills, doing less and less himself. "you're a terrible cook, Ant." Lord Bastian reminded me as he had on several occasions.

"Forgive me sir, mother never taught me."

He brought his cane down upon my foot before replying, with a grimace, "That idiot girl brought flames to everything she cooked!"

When my foot was released I bowed quickly, "Forgive me, my Lord" My voice was rushed. I set his coffee tray on the table and ran out.

I stepped into the washroom to rinse my face and looked groggily up to the mirror. "You must learn to hold your tongue." I spoke to my reflection. "Surely that's why mother is gone, her speech of late would have had us both killed." Dead, she had to be. Had Bastion killed her? Had someone else done the dirty work? It did not bother me the way it should have, things here had grown more peaceful without her.

I ran down to the door step, as I did every morning after breakfast, to collect the master's mail. The pile had grown much smaller as Lord Bastian became less active in the military. I nudged the small bell by his study door to alert him I was to enter, he rather disliked people sneaking up on him.

"My lord, your mail." I stood before him, clutching the envelopes.

"Who are they from?" He looked as if he could care less, as he glanced lazily out the window.

"This is from …" I hesitated as reading was a difficult task for me. "Bor.. Borodate', a charity to re-build the river dam, sir." I opened the letter carefully and scanned over it, taking in the words I knew. "They're asking for money, I think."

"In the fire!" He sounded amused, waving his hand in the air, a smile on his face.

"The second has a palace seal… should I open it?"

"Yes please, read it fully for me." He finally looked to me, grinning wickedly. He knew I found reading to be a chore.

I broke the seal, hoping the letter was a short one. "General Bastion, It would be an honor if you would atte…" I paused a moment, "attend Prince Aradus the first's Sixteenth birthday. My youngest son will soon become a man, a sorcerer. It would not be the same without you there." I looked up at my master, his smile had faded. "There's a date and a signature at the bottom, it says it will be in three months time."

The old man stared silently at me, I grew nervous. "Are you going to go, sir?"

"That's none of your business. Throw it in the fire." He sunk into his chair and began to stare out the window again. "Leave me."

"Yes, sir." I left the lord's study to wash the linens, sweep the entry way, and begin to prepare lunch for him. My stomach grumbled, I had forgotten breakfast this morning. I didn't have time to run off now, I would be late with lunch.

The sun was hot and my clothes stuck to my back as I ran the laundry through the ringer. Just as I was finishing up I felt like feinting, I was dizzy from the heat and my thirst.

I stuck my hands under the faucet in the kitchen for a drink and to cool my face before I began washing and cutting vegetables. I snuck a piece every now and then to settle my growling stomach. I threw the cut vegetables in a pan with some fish and fried it up quick while I made some tea.

I rang the bell before stepping into the study. He no longer enjoyed dinning at the kitchen table for whatever reason. I dragged a small table to sit in front of Lord Bastian and placed the food tray on it, he was still staring out that same window. "Your lunch sir."

My lord leaned over to remove his tea cup from it saucer and scooped a small pile of food from his plate onto it, setting the teaspoon next to it. "Eat with me, Ant." It was not a question, I sat down obediently and began to slowly eat what he'd given me. Usually I ate in the kitchen alone, so naturally I was a bit frightened.

"Boy, I want you to ask me one question about your mother and one question about your father, besides his name. I will answer both truthfully if you promise me to never mention either of them again."

I was shocked, the two subjects I would surely get punished for asking. I had to think of something good to ask. One question… "What happened to mother?"

He chuckled, taking a sip from his tea. "I'm not really sure, one day she ran off and I never saw her again. Left you here though, what kind of a mother…" He smiled, I frowned. I had been… abandoned? "Excellent question, Ant."

"My father…" I thought for a moment, "where is he?"

"Here, in this town. He lives in his house, a miserable slob, barely living if you ask me."

"I want to see him!" I exclaimed, I had not spoken out of turn in a while and if felt excellent.

"Absolutely not, get out of here, I don't want to see you again tonight." He said this calmly.

"What about dinner, sir?"

"I'll go without, leave."

"Yes, sir."