Sequel: Return to Emanon
Status: Because of classes, updates may be a tad slow and infrequent, but I will try to be as constant as I can with new chapters!

Children of the Beacon

Chapter Two: All was Silent, All was Well

All was silent, all was well.

The falling snow coated the Ulverwood in a new blanket of white, layering over melting slush from the night before. The glowing, pearl of a moon shone overhead, casting its radiant aura on the snow and frost through the twisting branches of the towering trees, illuminating everything it touched. There was a sheen of tranquility that shrouded the taiga. However, the veil of silence suddenly tore as the sound of paws and hooves pounding against the earth echoed through the woods and bounced off the tree trunks.

A large moose barrelled through the forest, eyes wide with panic as it tried to outrun the pack of snarling wolves that wanted to devour him as soon as possible. There were eight of them, each one equally ferocious with the exception of one. At the head of the pack was a large, bulky wolf with hair as black as the night. He was far more intimidating than the other seven, his dagger-like teeth aching to sink into the moose’s flesh. They herded the moose into a small clearing.

Standing all around the edges of the clearing were more wolves. Opposite from the way in which the moose came stood a boy, no older than twenty or so rings. The moose stopped dead in his tracks, trying to back up. However, when his ankles met with the teeth of several wolves, he jumped in shock and fear and remained completely still. His eyes met the boy’s. The boy’s crimson gaze was laced with sympathy and sorrow. His coal-black hair danced slightly in the wind as he tightened his grip on his sword.

It was an odd-looking sword. The blade itself was on the shorter side, its tip splitting into two like the tongue of a serpent. The grip of the hilt was wrapped in a strip of crimson leather. The pommel was encrusted with a large, black stone. The rainguard had carvings of bizarre, little symbols. It was an odd sword, yes, but also rather beautiful and immensely strong.

The boy raised the sword, angling it so that the forked tip was aimed directly at the moose. He began to chant odd words, not of the Emanonian language, but of the lost Ulverian dialect. The inscribed symbols on his sword began to glow in a deep shade of scarlet, just like the aura that radiated from his crimson eyes. The condensation that poured from his lips in the sharp fangs of the winter air also began to gleam red. A short while into the incantation, a beam of black shot out from the center of the sword’s inverted point, striking the moose in a blur.

The hooved beast toppled to the ground. It’s eyes shut and its heart stopped the moment he collided with the snow. The boy knelt in front of the moose and placed his hand on the animal’s forehead. He closed his eyes and bowed his head.

“Thank you,” he whispered, now in Emanian. “I wish there was another way, but your death is not in vain, for it gives my family another day to live.”

He stood back up and looked at the wolves. They were all still tense, waiting for their next command. The boy raised his right hand, his middle, ring, and little finger the only ones extended. The wolves then relaxed and happily trotted over to the moose. A few ran over to the boy, nuzzling him in appreciation and affection. He laughed as one began to lick his cheek. The large, black wolf then appeared in front of him and bowed his head in gratitude. The boy then used his sword to skin the beast and cut it into pieces.

Each wolf carried a portion of the moose on their way to the den. The large cavern was full of even more wolves. A few pups began to yelp in glee at the sight of the returning members of their pack. One pup, smaller than the rest and stark white in color, dashed forward headbutted the black wolf. The black wolf looked down at the pup, mouth still full of moose flesh, his usually-harsh gaze softening. He walked towards the back of the cave, the white pup following suit and wagging his tail.

The boy watched as the black wolf set down his hunk of meat in front of his mate and the pup.The boy felt something tug at his heart. Was it joy? Melancholy? Envy? The boy did not know. The two began to eat and the black wolf walked back to the boy to say goodbye for the night. The boy knelt down and gave him a light scratch behind his ears before getting up and heading home.

The walk back to his small cottage was brisk in both senses. The air made his cheeks and the tip of his nose flush twenty different shades of red. His tattered, old boots had begun to absorb the snowmelt, the cold wetness numbing his toes. His arms and hands were kept warm as he carried the moose pelt back, though, so he did not have to worry about his fingers becoming frostbitten this time. His race may have adapted to the harsh winter of northern Dagrun over the ages, but the boy still loathed them. He longed for spring.

After about fifteen minutes or so of trudging through the slush, the boy found himself in front of a small cottage. He walked up to the cracked, wooden door and placed a hand on the brass knob that was beginning to turn green at the edges. He hissed at the freezing metal and winced as he turned the knob. The moment he stepped inside, he was not met with the usual envelopment of warmth. The entire cottage was plunged in darkness. It almost seemed colder and darker than the forest outside.

He quirked a brow and craned his neck to look at the fireplace. It was not dancing with flames like usual. A trembling bundle of blankets sat in front of the hearth. The boy felt his heart race with worry as he rushed over to the pile. Removing the blankets, he felt his heart sink at the sight of his baby sister, paler than ever, shivering and whimpering in the cold. He silently cursed his mother.

“Orion!” he exclaimed.

The girl’s eyes opened, revealing crimson eyes filled with fear. However, the fear melted away as she flung herself into her brother’s arms.

“Aries, where were you?” she asked. “It got so cold.”

“I was hunting with Obsidian and his pack,” he said as he looked around. “Where did Cloven run off to? He was supposed to watch the fire.”

“We had no wood,” Orion explained. “Clove went out to go get some.”

“When did he leave?”

“A while after you left.”

“Do you feel sick?”

“Nuh-uh,” she said and Aries felt his sister shake her head against his shoulder. “Just cold. I can’t feel my fingers.”

Aries pulled away from Orion’s embrace and placed her small hands in his. He rubbed them, trying to build up as much heat as he could muster. Unfortunately, the only heat-generating spells he knew would cook his sister alive. He then cupped his hands and brought them up to his face. He let out a few breaths of hot air and continued to rub Orion’s hands.

“Do you feel better?” he asked.

“A little,” she said. “Thanks, Aries.”

“You musn’t thank me for taking care of you,” he said, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “Someone has to.”

He ruffled his sister’s hair, earning a giggle in response. At that moment, the door flung open and in trudged a boy who looked just like Aries, but younger by a few rings. His arms cradled a small bundle of branches and twigs. He waddled over and dropped them in the fireplace. He went back outside and came back in a few seconds later, this time with a medium-sized log in tow. He placed it on top of the branches and sticks and reached for the holster that was strapped to his thigh. He grabbed a thin stick of oak and pointed it at the hearth. He chanted a phrase in Ulverian, much like Aries had done with the moose. The spell was not nearly as demanding as Aries’s, so he did not glow red. However, in an instant, the fireplace was ignited with a large tongue of fire.

“Thank you, Cloven,” Aries said, pulling off his boots and placing his numb feet in front of the flame.

“Did you get any food?” Cloven asked, sitting down on the floor.

“We were only able to track down a single moose,” Aries sighed. “And you know the rules when the pups are still young. They always get the first catch.”

“Unbelievable,” Cloven said with a slight snarl. “Mother’s going to flay you alive when she gets home.”

Aries shrugged. “Nothing I haven’t been through before. Besides, I still have the pelt. Perhaps we can scrape some bits of meat off of that.”

Cloven scoffed. Orion looked at the two with wide eyes. Aries unraveled the pelt, fur-side on the wooden floor. His eyes widened as they locked onto a large hunk of meat. He sighed.

“Obsidian must’ve slipped it in there when I wasn’t looking,” he muttered. “They needed this….”

“Oh, and we don’t?” Cloven asked, quirking a brow.

Aries rolled his eyes. “They have pups, Clove. Besides, as part of the Ulverian clan, it’s our duty to guard the Ulverwood and all of its creatures.”

“Oh, do we? Then please, tell me what spell you used to kill this moose,” Cloven sneered.

“His sacrifice saved an entire pack of wolves,” Aries argued. “The need of many lives outweigh that of one.”

“But somehow you don’t take our lives into consideration?”

“It’s not that, Clove! They need our help to live! We can still go into Snowbelle and buy food, they cannot!”

“You know that going into Snowbelle is a giant risk,” growled Cloven. “Or do you forget why I’m the one who has to go there now?”

Aries froze. His breathing grew heavy. His eyes narrowed, shooting daggers at his brother.

“You better watch your tongue, Clove,” he snarled, “unless you want me to rip it out of your damned throat.”

“Save the empty threats for the children, Aries,” Cloven spat. “I just want to know why you’re letting your family starve when you’re supposedly the most powerful warlock Emanon’s ever seen. Nothing’s too difficult for the Aries of the Ulverwood, right?”

“Look, Cloven, I really cannot comprehend why you are so distraught about this. We will not go hungry tonight and we still have other options. The wolves do not and with the humans hunting now that their harvest is over, they need my help to find meat without getting hurt by the humans,” Aries explained. “But that will all be over soon, I swear it.”

“Oh, do you?” asked Cloven mockingly. “Tell me, how could someone like you, who can’t even save his family, be expected to save us from the humans?”

“That is none of your concern, Cloven,” Aries said.

“Right, because you’re the hero, the savior, the legendary warrior who will bring peace to the Mystics! And what are Orion and I? The leftovers, your responsibilities that you can’t even care for properly!”

“You leave Orion out of this!” snarled Aries, raising his voice so much that Orion cowered into his side and Cloven even jolted in surprise. “I want you to drop this. Now.”

The two brothers stared at each other, eyes narrowed. Eventually, Cloven let out a growl of frustration and stormed into the bedroom the children all shared. He slammed the door shut, causing a booming thud to echo throughout the rickety cabin, even shaking the walls the slightest bit. Aries’s face softened and he sighed, rubbing his temples. Orion hugged him.

“Why do you and Clove fight so much?” Orion asked after a brief moment of silence.

Aries sighed and looked down at his sister. “I wish I could give you a simple answer, Ri. I feel awful that you have to see it. I truly am sorry.”

There was no answer. Aries’s heart sank. He then looked down and noticed that Orion was staring longingly at the hunk of meat Obsidian had left for them. He smirked and looked at the little girl.

“Hungry?” he asked.

Orion nodded. Aries ruffled her hair and grabbed a metal skewer. He pierced the chunk of flesh with it and placed the skewer above the fire. It crackled as the smell of cooking meat filled the cabin. The two both had saliva beginning to pool in their mouths as Aries rotated the skewer, ensuring that the moose would cook properly. The flesh changed from a bright, imperial red to a warm brown.

“Orion, grab the dishes,” Aries ordered, removing the skewer from the fire.

Orion grabbed a stack of four plates. All of them were cracked in some areas and chipped in others, littered with scratches. She held one out to Aries. He held the skewer vertically in one hand, perpendicular to the dish, and his sword in the other. Using its razor-sharp blade, Aries sliced a thick chunk and it landed on the plate.

“Bring that one to Clove,” Aries said, voice flat.

Orion nodded and took the dish to the bedroom. Orion set out the other three plates on the floor and sliced off more meat. Some was still leftover on the skewer so he slid it off on to one of the plates. Orion came back from the room, her small, pale hands now empty. She sat on the floor besides Aries and he slid the plate with the extra meat over to her. The two ate at a rather slow pace, savoring the gamey flavor.

“When’s Mother coming home?” asked Orion.

“Soon,” Aries replied. “She went to visit the Norma clan.”

“Why?” Orion asked.

“She wants their spellbook,” he said. “I doubt they would actually give it to her, though.”

“Because of Papa?” she asked.

Aries nodded.

A short while passed. The two finished their meal and placed their plates in the sink, albeit it no longer ran. Just then, the door opened with a slam, causing both Aries and Orion to jump. A figure stood in the doorway, adorned in a hooded cloak, casting a dark shadow on its face. A bony, white hand reached up to remove it as a foot in black, heeled shoes kicked the door shut, revealing an equally bony, white face and a wild, black mane. Blood-shaded lips were twisted into a satisfied smirk underneath a pointed nose. The lips matched the sunken, sharp, crimson eyes.

“Hello, children,” woman said.

“Hello, Mother,” Aries and Orion replied in unison.

She smiled at the two and waved her other hand up in the air. It clutched a large book bound in purple-stained leather. She laughed.

“We have it!” she exclaimed, her voice similar to that of a banshee.

Aries looked at the book with wide eyes. “How?”

Estrella walked further into the cottage. She smiled a wicked grin at her eldest son.

“As it turns out, the filthy humans are posing a threat to their clan as of the end of their harvest,” she cackled. “Bloody imps are fishing so much, it’s rare the Norma fishermen can even catch guppies for dinner now!”

She handed the book to Aries. “Go on, read it.”

Aries held the book. Normanic runes were etched into its cover. He ran its fingers over them, feeling the dips and roughness of where they had been carved. He looked back up at Estrella.

“Father had learnt out of this book, no?” he asked.

“Indeed he did, son,” she said. “He was only but a few years younger than yourself.”

She turned to Orion, voice suddenly turning cold. “Head into your room, Orion. Your brother and I have important matters to discuss.”

Orion nodded and scampered to the bedroom. Aries set the book down on the top shelf of the wooden bookcase and Estrella turned back to her son. She then saw the plate of meat awaiting her. She sat down in the chair and nodded towards it.

“Bring that to me,” she demanded.

Aries nodded and promptly followed her orders. She took the plate, rested it on her lap, and looked at it, furrowing her brow.

“Moose…,” she muttered. “Less than usual. Why?”

Aries immediately began to stutter, his mind racing. If Cloven had gotten so upset about it before, he could not even begin to fathom his mother’s potential anger. She simply looked at the boy. As he became a bumbling mess.

“W-well, I thought that― they j-just had pups after all and―”

“Now, son!” Estrella barked.

“The wolves have pups,” he finally managed to spew out. “We made a deal. They get the first catch. There was only one moose because of the humans’ hunts. Still, Obsidian gave us some meat. I am so sorry, Mother. Please, though, understand that they need to take care of their young and as Ulverian witches, it is our job to protect all of the creatures of the Ulverwood, especially the ones after which it was named.”

Estrella merely looked at her son for a few moments, then out into space. Her ruby eyes flashed with myriads of emotions. Aries could not tell whether or not they were positive or negative ones. Eventually she smirked, looking back up at her son.

“I completely understand, Aries,” she chuckled. “The pups are still growing, they need the food.”

She then abruptly stood up, the plate flying to the floor and shattering. She grabbed at her necklace which was made of a bunch of twigs strung together and glared at Aries. Suddenly, Aries felt an odd pressure crushing his neck. He gasped for air, but could not manage to draw even the smallest of breaths. He grabbed at his neck, trying to pry the invisible force off of it.

“However, son,” she said, voice growing deeper and more sinister, “we need it more. We are the saviors of this island, after all. Besides, are your siblings not also still growing? What kind of monster would let their family starve?”

Her grasp became tighter and her knuckles went from an already sickly shade of white to a deathly translucent. Her veins bulged across her inner forearm. Aries’s face was turning purple and his eyes began to roll back. Estrella could feel her son weakening. Then, just before he reached the point of going limp, she let go. Aries collapsed to the ground. He was a sweating, heaving mess. His face went from a grotesque violet back to his normal, healthy alabaster. He looked up at his mother through his now-disheveled hair, panting.

His eyebrows knitted up and Estrella froze, swearing she saw a ripple of silver flash through his wide, distressed eyes underneath his messy, black hair. However, she blinked a few times and saw that they were indeed still crimson. She let out a quiet sigh of relief.

Estrella sat back down in her chair. “Now, did you practice the tracking spell?”

“Yes, Mother,” Aries said, voice weak. “I used it on the hunt tonight.”

“And?”

“It worked well, I suppose.”

“You suppose?”

“We only found one moose,” he said, now regaining his voice.

“Well, there will be something in the Norma book that will help,” she said. “Or, I at least hope that there will be. Ideally, it will be ready for the next Guild meeting. You will make sure it does. I will not have you embarrass me in front of them.”

“How do we even know the children are still alive?” he asked. “It has been years at this point and we still cannot locate them.”

“Foalan was too weak to kill children,” she chortled. “She was too weak to kill anyone, really.”

Aries nodded, shifting awkwardly on the floor as he tried to repress the thoughts. “Are there any places we have yet to check?”

“A few,” she said. “There are some locations we cannot access unless we have the blessing of the race’s leader. There’s the Sangilatka’s cave up in Amaruq, but we do not even know if it still exists. The Tower of Pyre is one, but all of the Phoenixes are dead thanks to Queen Andromeda, so it’s simply just not possible. The Ejder Islet is only accessible by Dragonlords, but Ladon claims that it would be too dangerous to hide children and that he has never given his blessing to anyone.”

Aries nodded. He remembered Ladon. He had met him once long ago when Estrella had brought him along to the Guild meeting, way back when he was nothing more than a small child. He was a kind man, despite his rugged appearance.

“Mother, what exactly does the Guild know about me?” he asked.

“They know that I made you the strongest warlock to ever set foot on Emanonian soil, that you will be the one to lead our attack on humankind, that you will save us all,” she said, kneeling down and cradling his chin in her bony hand. “You best live up to the expectations. Though you often make mistakes, you are our savior, my sweet Aries. I have faith in you.”

Aries nodded, not even trying to force the faintest of grins to appear upon his lips. “Thank you, Mother.”

The witch gave a sympathetic smile in return. “You are going to be the pride of the Mystics.”

There was a pause for a moment. Estrella then craned her neck and looked at the book. She rose back up, walked over and picked it up off of the count. She tried to open it, but the book stayed shut despite her efforts.

“Just as I thought,” she sighed. “Well, at least you have Norma blood.”

She handed the book to Aries. With ease, he opened it. Estrella looked pleased at this.

“At least your father was good for one thing,” she muttered, voice barely above a whisper.

Aries decided that it would be his better judgement to ignore her bitter remark.

“Is there anything of use in there?” she asked.

“I…, I cannot read this, Mother,” he said. “These are Normanic runes; I never learned them.”

Estrella’s eyes narrowed. She scoffed.

“Of course,” she spat, venom dripping from her tongue. “Even I know Normanic runes, Aries. Give me the book.”

Aries handed her the book, but the moment it touched her skeletal hands, it snapped shut. Estrella let out a growl of frustration.

“I suppose I can teach you Normanic,” she said, clearly agitated at the new inconvenience, though she tried to appear patient. “Work on the tracking spell some more and we will start learning tomorrow at dawn. Now, I need sleep.”

Estrella began to walk to her bedroom but stepped on a shard of broken ceramic, hearing the crunch beneath her heeled shoe. She looked down at the mess that she had made before: the shattered shards of the plate and the now-cold moose meat on the floor. She looked back up at her son.

“Clean this up,” she ordered.

She turned on her heel and made her way to her bedroom. She then looked back, eyes sharp as daggers.

“Oh, and Aries?” she called out, voice almost echoing in the space between them. “The next time you give our food to those beasts, you will suffer much worse than you did tonight.”

Aries nodded, heart racing just the slightest bit. There was a brief pause between the mother and son. Estrella’s grin then reappeared.

“I am glad it is understood, then. Goodnight, my cub,” she said, voice now softer. “Get rest. We will start learning the Normanic runes at sunup.”

She strided back to her room, still holding the book. The door slammed shut, leaving Aries all alone. And so, he cleaned up the mess. He was debating quickly wolfing down the last bit of moose until he saw some of the plate shards lodged in the meat. As he finished picking up the jagged, sharp fragments of ceramic, one of them got lodged in his palm. Aries hissed in pain and looked at his right. He dug out the shard and finished cleaning. He then noticed blood. He let out a sigh and went to the washroom.

Aries looked at his reflection in the dirty mirror. He was ashamed. All he saw was a monster.

'Monster,' a vile, bitter voice in the back of his head snarled. 'That is all you will ever be, Aries.'

He was disgusted with the jagged hair darker than coal, the red eyes that made him look permanently restless and resentful, and the wolf-like face that resembled the creatures his kind was bonded to since they first came to the Ulverwood. He was disgusted with the sharp canines that made him scared to smile around anyone outside of his family. He was disgusted with his physique: the odd combination toned muscle from all of the excessive training he had endured and visible bones from the lack of food in the Ulverwood, the long limbs, and the protruding veins that made him appear to be more of a beast than a person.

He was also disgusted with the fresh bruises on his neck in the shape of skeletal hands.

'You deserve it. You know you do.'

Shame rushed through the young warlock's veins as he let out a quiet groan. He placed his hand on his neck and winced as his long, slim fingers brushed against the bruises. The purple skin was quite tender and he knew the pain would only worsen when they would start to heal. He sighed and left the bathroom, unable to stand the sight anymore as tears filled his eyes.

'Weak.'

'Pathetic.'

'You mustn't let Mother see....'


Aries left the washroom before he could attack his own reflection. He entered his bedroom where Orion and Cloven were asleep on the large bed. On the nightstand, the last plate sat, licked clean. Aries then got underneath the covers. Orion snuggled into him, desperate for more warmth.

Aries looked up at night sky through the hole in the ceiling that had been there for years now. A single moonbeam hit his face. He saw the twisting tops of the trees and the dazzling stars. The snow had fortunately stopped falling, leaving his view clear and pristine. Despite all the beauty, he could not keep his mind off of the horrors to come and plague the island. He found himself struggling not to sob. Covering his mouth, his chest heaved as Orion snuggled closer into his side. The tears welled in his eyes, but he did not let them fall. He could not let them fall.

Images of spilt blood, torn flesh, and offensive magic rippling through the air flashed in his mind. Only a few of these images were actually products of his own imagination. Feeling his sister snuggle closer to him, Aries's mind then drifted to Rowan. He thought of the boy's goofy smile and freckled face. He then thought of his wide, innocent eyes.

'I doubt they are still so innocent, not after what you did. And think of how they will look when he finally learns the truth.'

'Do you actually believe that it will work? Even if it works, you cannot hide him forever.'

'You will only hurt them. You have to know that.'

Unease settled in the warlock's stomach. He feared that the little voice in his head was telling the truth. He pulled Orion even closer to his side as he clenched his jaw.

All was silent, but all was not well.
♠ ♠ ♠
Hey all! Sorry it has been a while. Between the holidays, finals week, and personal matters, I have had my hands quite full. I actually posted this chapter two weeks ago, but upon reviewing it later on, I wasn't all too happy with some things and wanted to add a bit more. I also painted up an old sketch I did of the Tower of Pyre for a cover image, so now it's not just blank on the stories page! I hope you enjoy this chapter and chapter three is almost done! Also, thank you to those who have subscribed and recommended my story, as well as those who are just reading! I appreciate it so much!