Rand woke with a headache and an awful taste in his mouth. That had not been the first time he had gotten drunk but it had been his first hangover and he would much rather have continued semiconscious in sleep. He could not, however. The anxiety about the near future when he would find out which direction his life was to take kept him awake.

After he got out of bed he went looking for Granan, but he could not spot a trace of his friend anywhere. So Rand decided he would eat alone. He spent the whole day on his own, and by the time evening came an old woman approached him with the message that Granan had apologized for not being able to meet him that day and that he would not be able to do so for the next few days as well. Rand asked her about why that was and the old woman just shrugged her shoulders but before she left she showed him the way to a room in the barracks which contained a few books. It was not exactly a library but was enough to ensure a few hours of distraction while he waited for his friend.

This routine lasted for five days. During that time Rand was forbidden to leave the Brotherhood base and had to rely on the books to salvage him from boredom. He read plenty on the history of Algin and its families, since his interest in the subject had increased after meeting the Aleens. On the evening of the fifth day however, the same old woman came to him again and let him know that Granan would be meeting him the next day to talk.

Rand woke feeling thrilled in the next morning and after he had washed up and changed out of his pajamas, he went to the hall to breakfast and meet Granan.

When he got there he saw his friend and approached him while saying, ”Good morning! May I sit with you? ”

”Of course you can. After all, I invited you, did I not? ” answered Granan with a noticeable look of concern on his face.

”Well, I apologize for being elsewhere during all this time, but soon you will understand why that was… ” and he stopped talking when the serving ladies came with their food.

As soon as it was on the table, Granan resumed, ”I have spoken with Irwen and just as I had expected he didn oppose to you joining the Brotherhood. This is actually a good moment because we are assembling a class of recruits and you can travel with ”Where exactly is…this…training ground? ” asked Rand as he swallowed a piece of buttered bread.

”It is hidden in the mountains. You will receive our training for elite troops whereas our normal soldiers are trained in the barracks. The training program you will undergo is special and so its imperative that you go there rested because you are in for the long haul. ”

Rand was not too glad to hear that but just the thought of Valerie being there was enough for him. So he answered, ”Alright, don worry, I can handle it. How long will it last? ”

”Well that will depend on many things. Normally the training takes three to four years, but its your assigned tutors who will be deciding that. ”

Rand almost choked when he heard that: three to four years was a very long time!

”Another thing, this afternoon there will be a pronouncement at the park. Lord Aleen will address the citizens of Algin at the amphitheater. Do you want to come with me? ”

”Of course! Yes, I want to go, ” answered Rand, hoping to see Valerie again.


Soon after lunch they went to the park. Many men of the Brotherhood had gone to witness it too and Rand saw that a good portion of the city had as well. Not considering the marketplace which was less full, but full nonetheless, he didn spot anybody on the streets.

To get to the amphitheater they took a different path than the one he had taken the other day. They went further east until they arrived at an open space on one end of the park. It was ample and in the middle there was a stone platform with a shell shaped dome. Around that space a multitude had gathered to see and hear what was going on atop the platform.

Many guards were posted there and encircled the stage while the impatient crowd waited for the ceremony to begin. He and Granan were able to secure a good spot to the left of the platform, which seemed to have been reserved for them. From there he could clearly see and hear everything that went on the stage.

He saw that standing in the shadows projected by the dome were many well-dressed people and more city guards. Many were seated in couches and seemed very comfortable. He also eyed many banners blazoned with the city symbol all around.

After a brief while, the crowd grew more impatient and offensive shouts broke out, demanding that the event start. In response to this a man stepped forward and walked to the front of the platform. He stopped and made a sweeping gesture with his arms asking for silence but the noise didn die down. Then horns blew and the place was finally silent.

Rand heard the man clear his throat at length before he began.

”Alginish citizens! I, Huren Lansh, city herald in the name of the Lord of Algin thank you all for your presence to witness the pronouncement of our magnanimous leader Lord Edwin Aleen. Pronouncement which will bring forth matters of great importance that will decide the future of our city and people. That is why I ask that you all pay heed to his wise words. ”

He made a gesture of reverence in the direction of the men sitting under the dome and removed himself to give room to another man who was walking to the front of the platform. When Rand laid eyes on that man he knew that it was Valeries and Ephraims father, since the similarity was notable. He had the same light brown hair and blue eyes that they both had, and his face featured similarities with that of his children. Besides that he could see the sagacity and common strength of the siblings in the eyes of their father. But there was something more. His presence was domineering to the point that everyone fell silent when he stood by the pulpit. Even those who had remarked jokingly at the heralds announcement became quiet to hear what their leader had to say.

Edwin was garbed in a wine colored tunic with a black shroud draped over his shoulders. A black belt was hanging around his waist and his right hand grasping the symbol of the lord of the city. It was the wooden scepter of simple design that the counsel handed over to who was chosen to govern the city. The only part that caught ones eye was the red crystal which was fixated on the superior extremity of the scepter where the leader rested his hand.

Lord Aleen stood still for a moment and calmly scanned the crowd. His eyes intimidated and scrutinized them and only after he had looked at the entire audience he began, ”Alginish! I am present today to warn you of an impending threat which could compromise our glorious future, ” with his potent and steady voice, speaking calmly without changing his rhythm.

”This threat is not about our enemies in the east and their vile actions, who aim to expunge our power to take what is ours by right which is to lead the gorman people. Neither is it about the terrible news that comes from the south and the catastrophic war that is being waged between the gorlandish and mothanish. This threat arose from within our midst, a perverse treachery which favors our enemies while it causes us to bleed from the inside ”

”A few days ago I received the best news a father could hear after discovering that his two only children had been kidnapped. Thanks to the help of the Kosh Brotherhood and their commander Irwen Stold, ” and he pointed to Irwen, who was standing behind him under the dome, ”My children have been rescued from the bandits that captured them on the Road. ”

”To my surprise however this act of villainy was no ordinary attempted crime but a maneuver to get at me, and consequently, get at the city. The ones responsible for this act are men tied to the gorden sect. Thats correct; the macabre cult which we expelled from our city years ago and who has found allies in our duacinish enemies. To my astonishment, we had not been able to completely remove them from among us. ”

”After his interrogation, the gorden priest who was the instigator for the kidnapping of my children revealed the truth that propelled his actions, ” and as he said this he indicated to two guards who walked forward and dragging a man in chains.

Rand recognized the priest that had been captured at the cavern. Thin and dejected, his body displayed signs of torture and then he seemed more pathetic and pity worthy than he had been in the cavern.

When the priest came into view of the crowd there was an uproar for the first time since Aleen had stepped onto the pulpit. A wave of yells and jeers rose from them, demanding that the priest be killed. Rand saw that Aleen used that moment to fuel the raging mob and so to increase his domain over them. Aleen then gestured for them to quiet down.

”This man confessed that not only had the leaders of Duacin taken part in this vile act, but that they had the support of some who were sympathetic to their cause from own people here in Algin, ” and he indicated once again to the guards and another man was brought to the pulpit.

An older man with wavy black hair and garbed as a noble was dragged to him. Rand heard the crowd cry out in astonishment and anger followed by rising shouts of treason and demands that the traitor be killed.

Once again Aleen gave it a moment and postponed continuing his pronouncement. Finally he said, ”It is true! The leader of Djorn family was the mastermind behind the abduction of my children. It was he who warned the kidnappers of their whereabouts and conspired, with Duacin, to undermine my control of the city. He planned to make Algin surrender to them and they would rule the city in my stead. ”

There was another outcry of hate and anger from the crowd. Rand felt a bit worried to see that the guards that were positioned around the stage were having some trouble holding them back. Vegetables, rocks and rotten eggs were flung at the two prisoners, and this time Aleen did not wait long to start speaking again.

”Under these circumstances, the magistrate of the council will decree the law of the city, ” and a man dressed in black, wearing a huge hood which covered part of his face stepped forward and walked towards them. He was carrying a heavy axe.

Right behind him, an old man wearing a white and gray mantle took his place in front of them and proclaimed, in a trembling voice, ”The council has decreed that both these men are guilty of the crimes and both have been sentenced to public execution, ” and he gestured to the man wearing black, who readied himself to carry out the order.

Without the slightest hesitation, the man in black approached the priest, who had been tied to a wooden block on the ground by other men, while the magistrate made his proclamation.

The executioner made a swift movement with the axe and in a few seconds the priests head rolled onto the ground of the platform. The crowd yelled in ecstasy to see that justice had been done.

The same happened to the nobleman Djorn when his head was severed from his body. The multitude yelled in approval extensively, mingled with only a few shouts of horror and anger from the crowd, which then were drowned out.

Aleen once again asked for silence and declared, ”From this day forth Algin is at war with Duacin. I ask of you all, who is willing to win this war? ” he bellowed, raising his fist in the air.

Rand was overwhelmed by the shouts and howls of approval coming from the spectators around him. He felt himself being shoved from there and saw that Granan was dragging him away from that place. He left while still hearing the cries for war, which hollered for the destruction of Duacin and for Algins vengeance.


They got to the barracks just before nightfall. Rand was still speechless after what had happened at the park. He recalled the capturing of the priest in the cavern and the fact that he had not mentioned anything about Duacin when Irwen had queried him there. Perhaps he had revealed that piece of information later, but for the sake of curiosity he asked Granan as they both were seated at one of the tables in the refectory for supper.

”That night, in the cavern, the priest hadn said anything about Duacin being involved in the kidnapping of Eph and Valerie. Do you know if he said anything about it afterwards? ”

”Humm…you have noticed that too…, ” commented Granan, with an air of satisfaction. ”No, I don know of anything other than what we both heard back there in the cavern. Maybe he did, maybe he didn . ”

”What matters now is that Aleen is using this opportunity to spur his plan into action, ” the old soldier concluded.

”You mean to say that he planned this war? ” Rand inquired curiously.

”We will find out soon enough. ” Granan finished the topic, and though he said so with asperity, he didn seem to be annoyed.

Both were in silence after those words and then left for their own rooms after the meal. Rand could not sleep well that night, due to the declaration of war he had just heard and the anxiety it brought on the new recruits.


After he woke and left his room he saw that a message had been stuck on his door which informed that the class presentation would not happen on that day, which meant that he had the day off. Rand decided to walk around the city again, this time to see what the repercussions the declaration could have had, and for that he did not need to walk far.

When Gorland had declared war against Montha it had been very similar: the streets were filled with people coming and going to move their assets and products, or trying to leave the city. There were also those who made most of the disorder to engage in illegal and criminal activities. Rand heard of many people crying for help after they had realized that they had been robbed and there were commentaries of rapes and pillaging.

When he got to the marketplace, he noticed a rise in the prices, and the subsequent desperation of those who were looking to buy animals, food, cloths and everything else they needed for the future. As there were no guarantees that they would have easy access to those goods after the war, in case it was a prolonged one, the vendors inflated the prices as they saw fit and without hesitation.

Others complained about the gates being closed which prevented them from leaving the city and that the wardens were placing undue restrictions on people wanting to leave or enter Algin. Many of the foreign merchants from other countries and cities just wanted to flee the war zone but had to end up accepting the fact that they were stuck there along with the other residents.

Going to the market was the most that Rand could do that day. All that noise and confusion had left him feeling irritated and so he decided to head back to the barracks. He ate his lunch there and then went to his room to take a nap, When he woke up it was already evening and he went to the inner courtyard to relax for a while.

When he got there he was surprised to see there were several young people, who were about the same age as him, scattered around the place. Ever since he had arrived there he was the only youth to walk freely around the barrack grounds. It did not take long for him to see that those were to be his colleagues in the training program. It wasn a very large group; just seven youths were there, two girls and five boys. The girls were seated in the middle of the courtyard while the boys stood and talked near them. Rand watched them talking and laughing in a loud tone and wondered if it was to draw the two girls attention to themselves.

”He saw just one boy sitting in a corner, away from the others. He seemed to be nervous and Rand decided to approach him to talk.

”Hello, may I sit here? ” asked Rand, with a friendly smile.

The boy glanced at Rand rather frightened and replied, ”You may. ”

Rand observed that he was strongly built and had tanned skin and thick fingers, common features for people who usually tended the fields. His hair was dark brown and hung just over his shoulders, and his brown eyes were obfuscated by thick eyebrows which almost connected to each other above his nose. He also had a mustache in growth phase on his upper lip. The boy was a simple but potent figure which left no doubts about his peasant origins.

Rand sat and continued the conversation.

”My name is Rand, whats yours? ”

”Its Doug, ” the boy answered, and then added, ”were you also chosen? ”

”Chosen? ”

”Yes, for the training program. I was chosen at my village for being very strong and knowing how to wield an axe. ”

”Well, actually I was invited. I didn know that they had entrance tests for the Brotherhood, ” Rand replied.

”Of course they do! Its actually difficult to get in. I just wanted to be part of the group and didn expect to get into the elite group training…my mama said dat I was lucky, ” and he gave off a childish smile which contrasted with his brute appearance.

”Well if you weren invited its mean you are arr.. highborn? ” asked Doug gawky.

Rand laughed at that, which left Doug perceptively awkward. To not seem rude he said, ”I apologize for the laugh, its just I thought you were jesting. This whole highborn business is really relative, you know? I come from a noble family, unfortunately. ”

”Unfortunately…if you had been born a peasant, you wouldn say dat! ” and Rand could sense a knowing behind those words which made him prefer to stay quiet.

The boy, now more confident, said, ”Those boys over there are also all nobles sons, the girls are also from noble families, but sometimes they choose a few of the peasants children to do the kind of work dat the nobles don like, ” and he smiled once again.

”Do you know the kind of training we will receive? ” asked Rand.

”I don know, I only know what some travelers dat went through my village and other stories dat Ive heard around here. I know dat they train you to do many things. ”

Both contemplated silently for a while, before Doug spoke again.

”Have you heard about the war? ”

”I was at the park yesterday when Lord Aleen made the declaration. ”

”Wow, I wish I had been there to see those two being executed. I hate the gordens. They say dat they
e a sect, but actually are nothing more than disguised killers who attack other people. Well that is what my papa said.

Rand was not sure about that so he just nodded his head, without saying anything.

So he saw Granan and Marcus walking up to them in the courtyard with another group of young recruits. Ephraim and Valerie were among them. When he saw her, he felt a heat flush in his chest.

Granan positioned himself at the center and signaled for all of them to approach him. When they had, he said, ”Rookies! Due to recent events we will not be able to have our customary recruitment ceremony, since time has become an important factor now. Thus, I ask that you all prepare to leave tonight, with your things ready to go and awaiting the order. Go now to the refectory to eat and then to your rooms, because soon we will be summoning you all so that we can leave. ”

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