Preface – The Truth

Ian Kabra delicately unfolded the piece of parchment he'd found in his pocket that evening. He studied it with a careful eye, trying to remember why he had it. It was a professional-looking letter with small wrinkles and folds across its white surface. The bottom of the paper was crumbling from a burn, and he wondered how it'd found its way to the letter. He couldn't remember ever being so close to a fire. The writing was smeared but still legible. The Lucian crest was elegantly stamped at the bottom.

Ian scanned the writing, and, recognizing the signature at the end of the letter, he quickly smoothed out the edges with his palms and began to analyze the crinkled message.

My children,

You are about to step into a world full of wonder and full of cruelty. Nothing is safe even when you feel secure. You must trust no one, yet you must learn to gain others' trust.

Heed my words. This is a dangerous realm that not every person is forced to enter. You have been chosen for a reason.

Everything that happens will happen for a reason.

Everyone you meet will think twice about assisting you, but nobody will hesitate to kill you. There are some people who have the capability of serving as friends and some who will stop at nothing to bring you down. Be able to tell the difference or you will come to your own foolish demises.

If you fail, the Lucian branch will not hesitate to bring you down.
If you fail, I will not hesitate to bring you down.
If you fail, you will be an embarrassment to your family and everything they stand for.
Does this give you enough incentive for success?

Remember that you are Kabras, and Kabras never lose.
We never lose under any circumstances.

Isabel Kabra

This had all been too true.

Ian could remember reading every sentence of the letter about two months ago. Time had flown by, and it seemed like only yesterday he had been on a flight to Kyrgyzstan. It seemed like yesterday that he had left his cousins for dead in Korea. Yet somehow, it simultaneously felt like a million years ago. The memories were fresh in his mind, but the emotions attached to them were long gone. He was a different person.

A few weeks ago, he had come to learn the meaning of this note and regretted every move he'd made. Even surviving with his guilt, he had succeeded. He had not come to a foolish demise. Still, success had a burden that took an unimaginable toll on his life.

He had been at the mercy of bystanders, worthless peasants. He'd made a questionable alliance and was still unsure whether or not he regretted his choice. He had come face to face with an instant but painful death. His life could have ended… right then and there.

He had made an ally with someone who had none, and he wondered if they could have ever been more than that. He had been on the edge of death for days and yet survived, only to watch that ally sacrifice their life for his. He had witnessed a friend sacrifice their life for his.

Never again would he grow that close to someone. It was too painful to lose them, and nobody would ever feel the pain of losing the only person who understood them. The memories were too agonizing to recall. Despite the tough outer shell Ian put on for others, he was still much too vulnerable.

Ian glanced down at the paper as his memoirs drowned from his mind and faded into dust. He wished he had followed his mother's advice more closely. Every word of Isabel's letter had been all too true. His mother did not understand the truth in her own words. She still had yet to learn the consequences of her actions.

She still had yet to learn the price of victory.

Next chapter: Unsurpassable Guilt