Garland had found it…

The Warded Grove.

Trekking through the woods all day and evading the watchful gaze of the Mages had finally paid off. He was now standing in the most forbidden of forbidden places, breaking one of the oldest laws in village memory.

I… don't see what's the big deal? There's nothing here 'cept for… That. Whatever the hell it is…

A strange looking stone, half his height, stood in a secluded glade surrounded by trees.

It was as if some force bigger than imagination had drawn a huge line right there, straight through the forest. On one side the trees shown a brilliant, misty green, draped with leaves and vines that radiated life and care. Just on the other side of the stone, a brittle line of brown shivered in decay, trees and grasses seared by a harsh wind and pounding sun.

There was a thin, invisible wall between the two sides. When you were on the green side, you could easily see out. But if you were on the brown side, all you could see inside was more dried and dead trees. A massive illusion. One that kept their village sheltered away from the rest of the world. It was hard to imagine that it was all part of the same forest.

But it was.

I wonder why this place is forbidden…

There were very few rules in the Black Mage Village. Most of them made little sense to Garland. Like not allowing anyone to come here. The boy had been told time and time again that the Warded Grove was strictly off limits. But when he asked why, no one seemed to have an answer.

I always get somethin' like.. 'that's just the way it's always been.' Well to hell with that shit. I wanna know what's here. And why-come we can't go up here.

Garland took another slow look around.

Only thing special is this rock… wonder what is written on it?

Strange glyphs were scrawled in a wobbly script upon the rough stone surface, runes of some magical property. That he could tell. He had seen those sort of runes on some of the things back in the village. The Mages were able to read them, and often used them in their own sort of glyphical writing.

It was a foreign language to him.

So… this thing must be somethin' created by the Mages? I wonder what it's here for?

The boy squinted at it. It was actually kinda boring.

Dammit. This place sucks.

How disappointing. He kicked at the ground with the toe of his boot. Then he flopped down carelessly, sprawling out on the ground.

If I'm gonna get in trouble over this, might as well stay here for a little while. Make it worth it.

Besides, he had to walk so far to get here. He was a bit tired.

Following the path of curiosity always made him tired.

Garland rolled over to lay on his stomach, staring over the strange writing on the stone. His thoughts drifted to the village of Mages only a little ways away.

It had been nearly one and a half months since he had come to live there. one and a half months since he could first begin to remember things. It was an odd feeling. Not remembering. Especially since he couldn't shake the pressing feeling that he had existed with a life long before his present one in the village. He sometimes wondered where he came from. Who he might have been.

And how come I wasn't with the other Genomes when… that planet.. what's-it's-name-- Torra… Turra… no.. Terra… yeah.. when Terra was destroyed? How come I was separated? And how come they have full memories of their lives there… and none of them know me at all? Why don't I remember Terra…?

"Damn confusing.." He told the stone, resting his chin on folded arms.

Forget about it. It's not worth the effort. It doesn't matter anyway. Terra's ancient history now. Too bad I can't remember the destruction. From what I heard.. it was pretty cool.

Fire everywhere. Explosions. The power of insanity at its finest.

Yeah…too bad… that had to be awesome!

Garland tilted his head, lifting a finger toward the silent marked stone. He traced the outline of one of the strange symbols first in the air, then across the rugged surface. The moment his finger touched the stone, a strange pulsing droned in the back of his mind, a surge of tingling energy rushing through ever inch of his body.

The boy withdrew his hand. And stared.

What was that?

Garland rolled up on his knees.

THAT was interesting!

Slowly, the boy extended his hand again. As if it was waiting for such a gesture, energy leapt from the stone, even before Garland's hand was close to its surface, a sizzling silver glow. Like a miniature lightning storm, it danced between his fingers, slipping over the strange runes, illuminating them one by one.

Something was reacting. Between him and the stone. It was like a confirmation. Garland felt something… something odd… unlike anything he could remember feeling before.

What… what's… happenin'?

The runes upon the stone all flickered eagerly in unison. Then the light between his fingers turned black. So black it was like light eating light.. the death of light. Garland felt a calm, almost causal acceptance within him. It greeted the death.

A sudden piercing pain seared his vision, a crack shattering his thoughts. He felt himself thrown by the force.


Simply nothing…

But the darkness.

All around.

~Chapter 1~