A/N: I owe huge apology to all those who've read the first prologue I posted and are now going to have to re-read it. I had originally posted the prologue against my better judgement at the urging of family and friends, which is something I really regret because it was awful. So now I have something much better and more comprehensive for you to enjoy.
1. The opinions and/or ideologies in this work do not represent in any way that of the author or anyone directly or indirectly involved with the making of this fiction. They are not intended to promote or demote, or criticize anyone else's opinions or ideologies.
2. Not all events that have been or may be mentioned in this fiction are historically accurate to our reality.
3. Insinuations of violence, racism, and discrimination will be mentioned in this fiction as it reflects an —unfortunate— reality.
That is all. Enjoy.
The burning logs popped, spraying sparks over the boisterous teens encircling the fire, roasting the odd marshmallow or hotdog, and happily chatting amongst themselves; they were waiting for their teacher to come back with his highly anticipated surprise.
"Jar! Stop flying over the fire like that, you're going to light up your wings or something worse," someone called suddenly, cutting through the din of laughter and shouts. Stepping into the firelight, their teacher continued to scold the foolhardy fae amongst poorly hidden snickers and laughter. "I don't let anyone else run around the fire, I'm not about to let you fly around it either. I don't need any of your parents coming after me for negligence or the extra paper work that comes with it."
"Aite..." The boy relented, drifting down into a space friends had created for him. "And it's pronounced Y-are, not J-air!" He added, smugly.
"I'll pronounce your name right when you follow the few rules I actually have when it comes to you all," the teacher shot back.
"O T! Where's our surprise?" Someone else called out, riling up a round of excited Ya!'s. Shaking his head, their teacher stepped over to where he'd been seated earlier, motioning for the students who had filled the spot to move over.
"You remember we were talking about thePeriod of Inquisitionin class last, right?" He asked excitedly, looking around their campfire to see everyone nodding. "You also remember all those "maybe's" and theories about how everything happened? Your favorite was the one about the Senator who'd been possessed by demons to create the Were CT Bill..."
The teacher trailed off amongst some laughter from a shout of "Zombie man!" and Jar imitating an undead as he drifted in his spot by the fire. Motioning with his hands, the man managed to calm his students enough to talk.
"I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine," He continued. "He's an expert on the Inquisition —he was actually there for it, researching and chronicling. He actually lived through it, and is here to tell us what really happened back then."
"Ye'no, if he lived through it and all that, then why didn't he tell all those historians when they were asking around? No one knows what happened. They wiped it all out! Hell, the UN even admitted it themselves: it's the biggest not secret there is!" Laughter followed, through which a gravelly voice broke through.
"The "cover-up" to which you are referring was necessary to protect those involved." The laughter died down abruptly as the owner of the voice stepped up into the fire's light. Their teacher couldn't blame them really; he'd had a similar reaction the first time they'd met. The...man —he still wasn't sure what his friend was— always dressed in darker earth tones and cloak-like clothes that seemed like they'd come right out of a fairy tale featuring the stereotypical hermit. The slightly haggard look, long silvery beard, and Brazen Head that always hung on a hemp chord around his neck only helped to reinforce the thought, while his overly tall, almost overbearing stature, seemed to draw about as much attention. While he had a chance, the teacher stood up next to his friend.
"This is Mi'r, a chronicler," he introduced. His students all broke into quiet awed and excited whispers all at once. He was sure he heard "one of the Old One's" passed around the fire a few times. Banging a short staff, or walking stick, that had suddenly appeared in his hand on the ground, Mi'r managed to settle the group again. The teacher, convinced his friend had everything well in-hand, happily sat back down on his section of log and let Mi'r's natural story-telling talent take over.
"So," He started, sweeping his gaze about, looking at each of his audience's eyes individually, "I'm told you want to hear about the Period of Inquisition, particularly about The Guardian and The Devil's Kin and how they all came about." Seeing the students settling themselves more firmly and nodding eagerly, Mi'r continued, "then first of all, I want to make something very clear. Your Guardian wasn't an angel sent by God, nor will she be coming back from the dead for this rumored 'Third Coming'." He said briskly, stunning his audience. He knew a few of them were devout believers and might not take this well. He noticed his friend trying to hide a look of surprise, covering it up with his natural curiosity.
"So you're saying God doesn't exist then?" One student challenged in a derisive voice while he stood up, crossing his arms. Mi'r could see the other students murmuring to each other quietly, confused and questioning more than anything. Good, Mi'r decided with a nod.
"I said no such thing," He cut in when he noticed the student about to say something more. "Whether you believe in a God or Allah or some such is your prerogative. That is something even my knowledge can neither prove nor disprove, that one is."
Pulling a flask from his sleeve, Mi'r took a sip, eyeing the student who'd called the challenge. The boy seemed to be thinking over what he'd said. It wasn't until the fae he'd heard called Jar pulled him back down that Mi'r spoke again, suddenly changing direction.
"How much do you all know about The Willow Wolf?" He asked, looking around the fire again. It was a girl near the boy from before who had answered.
"She was a famous painter from the twenty-first century who made her name in history when she came out to the public with the weres. The werewolves then used her gentle nature as a way to help ease the public's fears. She later became a renowned diplomat for the UN during the Inquisition. After the Phoenixes were formed, she was assigned as their liaison. She worked with them for almost 50 years before she disappeared on the way back from her last successful negotiation, were she managed to convince the Balkan states to renege their preternatural conscription laws before the UN had to start taking military action. She was considered one of the hero's of her age, along next to the Guardian, even if they hated each other," the girl concluded proudly.
Mi'r looked at her thoughtfully a moment, smoothing down his beard with a gnarled hand before speaking again.
"You seem to know a lot about her," he commented, watching her reaction closely.
"My four-times great grand parents were weres that worked with her while she was in the forces. My father used to tell me bedtime stories about her and the Guardian that they'd passed down from generation to generation." She answered with a mulish smile. "They never said anything about the Guardian being an angel, but I know she wasn't a fae or a were either, and some of the things they said she'd done are impossible for a human."
"Ah," Mi'r replied, smiling behind his beard. "And that brings us back to the crux of the matter."
He paused as a few hands flew into the air. He gestured to one of the students to go ahead and ask.
"What's a crux?" The boy asked, blinking at him owlishly, making Mi'r pause. "And what did you mean when you said 'the crux of the matter'?"
Stroking his beard thoughtfully, Mi'r had a moment's frustration as he considered how to explain an outdated idiom. Deciding against using another, more common expression, to explain it, he turned back to the boy, loosely clasping his hands.
"Loosely, it refers to the primary issue or debate of the topic one is currently discussing. For us, that would be my contestation—" and seeing the confused stares amended "my challenging the rumor that the Guardian was an angel or heavenly being sent to bring us out of the darkness we'd descended into during the Inquisition.
"Now," he continued when the rest of the hands went down, "the reason I brought up the Willow Wolf. What you said is pleasingly accurate, young one. I also noticed you left out all those allegations that she'd been involved in some of the Phoenix's most top secret black ops." Mi'r added, an amused glint in his eye. He took another sip from his flask before continuing though.
"I didn't know her personally until much later in her career. Ironically, it was through my association with your Guardian that we were first introduced."
"No!" Mi'r listened as the students digested this. He had always found it interesting how historians had been so adamant that the entities of the Willow Wolf and the Guardian never knew each other, only knew of each other, and insisted that they likely hated each other. True, their methods had been very different, and had often conflicted, but that didn't mean much as far as he was concerned.
"The history books all say your Guardian and The Willow hated each other," he said with a smile, "But you know better, don't you clever girl." When the girl simply sat back, smiling triumphantly, he knew he had been right. Unfortunately, it also brought on a bout of shouts from the rest of the teens, and a fair few calls of "Troll's beard," a newer expression he never quite understood.
"Alright, settle down, settle down," he called, waving his hands around a bit for emphasis. He wasn't used to dealing with so much energy anymore.
"Now, forget everything the history books ever told you about what happened during the Inquisition. And I'll tell you why," he added quickly when he saw mouths opening for more questions. Such a boisterous group they were.
"Now I don't know if there are any conspiracy theorists in your group here—" He paused, seeing a few hands shoot up, making him let loose a rough laugh, "—never been so lucky. You're going to have a field day— a lot of fun— with this one then."
He paused to let the laughs they let out quiet down before continuing.
"The reason the books were changed, the reason everything was kept so quiet, like I said before, was to protect the people involved. You can all gather a bit of what it was like back then from what the history books do say truly, but it was even worse than that. There were two sides to the war: the one everyone knew about, and the one very few knew about that took place in the shadows. It was the War of Shadows that became the most lethal; any bit of information, something even so small as a name, could have been used against you. Family, loved ones, even complete strangers were used as leverage against those in power. And that, is why you have names like Devil's Kin and The Murderer," he added, referencing some of the colloquial terms the most notable historical characters had been given. A hand shot up again, the girl from before.
"I have two questions, sir." He hummed in acknowledgment and gestured for her to continue.
"If all the records were changed to protect everyone like you said, then is that why they have all these weird names? And if it was so important to keep everything a secret, then why are you telling us all this?" She asked, while her peers nodded. Clever girl indeed.
"Good questions. I'll start with why I'm here. First, because your instructor, Jaron, asked so kindly; secondly, because it's ridiculous to keep trying to insist what the government officially announced and promotes is true when there are so many holes and contradictions in their story —and because of how utterly ridiculous it was to begin with— thirdly, because by now, anyone who might have been in danger, and anyone who might have been a danger, are all long gone, swallowed in time. And finally," he finished loudly, pausing for effect. He could see some of the students craning forward in their seats. Such a curious crowd of students, he thought, smiling inwardly.
"It's about time this story was told," he finished quietly, reaching into his robes and throwing a handful of crystalline powder onto the fire. As it burst and turned various colors, he stepped closer, murmuring a few words, the students watching on so silently it was eerie for a group so loud and energetic only moments before. As he gestured and whispered nearly inaudible enchantments, the color from the flames rose higher and higher until they separated from the fire and hovered above it. The students scrutinized the curious phenomenon as shapes, then figures, started to form.
"This story actually starts long before the start of the Inquisition, nearly two decades before, with events that revolved around two young girls." As he said this, the shapes cleared until they showed two teenage girls. Both were thin and athletic, one more solidly built than the other, with her hair down, a flower tucked in the corner by her ear. The soft blouse and colorful skirt she wore fluttered with the flames in the small breeze whispering through the campers' clearing. As the students looked on, her expressionless face softened into a sad smile as she turned to look at her counterpart. In contrast, the other girl's features were narrow and sharp, with a naturally lighter build. She wore an expression of wicked amusement as she looked at the girl with the flower in her hair, hands on her jeans-covered hips almost arrogantly challenging.
"At the time they were known simply as Mara Willows," at this the girl with a flower in her hair dipped into a shy curtsey, "and Sabine with no last name." The other girl looked around at the enraptured campers and gave a curt nod before both disappeared into the flames again.
"Both girls had been ostracized by society in their own ways. Miss Willows was changed early in life, at the young age of twelve." While he said this, a rangy were, foaming at the mouth, slowly stalked the figures of a twelve year old Mara, happily walking along hand-in-hand with an older gentleman, appeared over the flames again, animating what Mi'r was saying. He saw the students flinch when the wolf pounced amidst the girl's silent screams.
"As a result, her control was poor, so she was kept away from other children her age and schooled at home by a private tutor." Once again, the scene changed to show Mara sitting in a window nook, watching some other children freely run around, playing on the street.
"In addition, these problems were only exacerbated by her alpha, an older wolf, traditionalist in nature, who greatly disapproved of Mara and made no effort to hide it."
The eager teens all seemed to frown at once as the scene changed to that of an older man looking on, disgusted, as a slightly older Mara shuffled away, trying to hide the tears gathering at the corners of her eyes.
"But what about her parents!" One of the students yelled out, interrupting. Mi'r waved abruptly and the images blended. Gesturing again, it wasn't long before another scene arose. This time Mara was younger and had bandages poking out of the borders of the long, black dress she wore, standing in front of a grave. She cried quietly with a woman who looked very much like her on one side, and her frowning, stone-faced alpha standing slightly back and to the side, looking on.
"Her father was killed in the attack that changed Mara. Her mother never fully recovered, but tried her best despite everything else. Unfortunately, not much can be said to change a dominant wolf's mind, especially from an increasingly frail human." When no one else spoke out, Mi'r gestured sharply again, making the image dissolve and resolve into an image of a preteen-aged Sabine.
"In contrast, a young Sabine had been orphaned at an early age. Official records of her existence didn't start until she'd been found half dead on what used to be the United States-Canadian border, with no recollection of who she was outside her first name and an insistence that she was Canadian. She was treated in hospital for nearly three months before being placed in the Canadian foster system." The image changed to a heavily bandaged Sabine in a white-walled room trying to talk to what looked like a police officer and a doctor through swollen and bloody lips, barely able to open her eyes.
"There she moved from house to house, unable to find a place to call home because of an unusual magnetism to trouble." As Mi'r spoke, image after image of Sabine with various people in various states of unhappiness flashed by. "She actually came close to setting the record for how many homes she had been shuffled through. That is, until she finally settled with their last resort: the Family of Sheryl and Robert Hanson, who resided in the rural parts of the Metropolitan area of Edmonton, Alberta."
The scenes suddenly stopped at an image of an older couple and a set of twin boys. The man, tall and spritely, had his arms around a younger, slightly plumper, woman. They both had laugh lines around their eyes and mouths, and soft smiles on their faces as they watched the twins, athletic and energetic, shove each other playfully.
"Though having already "retired" from the system, these fostering veterans were known to be able to tame even the wildest of spirits and turn them into productive members of society, and so had made a special exception for this particularly troubled child. The "miracle workers" of the system would open their doors this last time, and in it would only find the upheaval and turmoil that seemed to follow Sabine.
"At that time, she'd only been a regular —or perhaps not so regular— girl, one whose intellectual and athletic prowess, and natural modesty, had won the hearts of all who knew her —or knew of her— while simultaneously hiding from the limelight they would have had no greater pleasure than bestowing upon her." Here Mi'r gestured again and Sabine was seen walking alone along a street, waving at the people she passed as they shouted out a silent greeting.
"Means she should've been famous, dolt," Mi'r heard someone whisper. Ignoring the surprisingly astute comment, he continued.
"Despite her popularity within the community, Sabine made few true friends, none of which were particularly close to her, or close enough that she might confide in. In essence, they were more like her "crowd" than anything else. And so a solitary life she had. She was adored, but unreachable. An enigma. And one whose abilities were outside that of any normal human's, and therefore drawing far too much attention for those who had preferred to remain under the radar to be comfortable with." The scene changed again to a smiling Sabine taking notes while she sat in the back of a classroom, unnatural glowing eyes and grasping hands poking out of the corners and exaggerated shadows around her.
"After much debate within the preternatural community, it was decided she could only be a werewolf, so naturally it was the weres' responsibility to deal with her, their responsibility to silence the "rogue" who could expose a community that had no intention of revealing themselves to the paranoid —and then oblivious— humans." Here Mi'r changed the images back to the two of a teenaged Sabine and Mara Willows standing side-by-side.
"So they emdikayed her?" Someone shouted in disbelief before Mi'r could continue.
"He means killed," the girl from before added, noticing Mi'r's confusion. He nodded to her from across the fire in thanks.
"Shut it, idiot!" Another student berated. "They didn't have any of the rogue laws we've got back then." Eyes crinkling in amusement, Mi'r cut in before a debate could arise.
"That is true, there had been no laws for things of that nature." Mi'r explained, washing out the images of the two girls again and replacing them with that of a well-known historical figure.
"It was the decision of the first Marrok, one Bran Cornick," Mi'r said, gesturing to the latest image, "to try a more… unusual approach…."
A/N: Reviews are like Christmas all over again. Just saying.