The Nightsong

 “Most people are afraid of the dark.  You can see it in the way they move at night; always searching for movement, always looking over their shoulders, and jumping at every noise.  It is like they see figures in every shadow and hobgoblins under every bush or box.  Others would scold them for their ignorance, but those same people do it to.  What do I say to those people?  That is, what would I say to those people if I cared?  That they should beware of the night and they should run from the shadows.  For I know above most men, what lurks in those debts; and it scares me too. “ 

Bastious Nightsong

I will make my tale short, for I am a musician and not a storyteller.  I will try to spin this story as well as I can, without too much obfuscation.  My name is Bastious Nightsong; but I have been called many things, some not quite names and others mostly masks.  But of those names, I was Derrek Fistoss, Asial Fifner, Len Tarrock, and finally my birthright; Kesurt of House Duskwood.  I am noble born and breed, the 5th child of Edis and Patreece Duskwood.  Ahead of me in the birth order, was my oldest brother Boron, whom loved books and scholarly ideals.  The twins Landon and Derdin were next in line; and both pursuing a life that would keep a sword in their hands as much as possible.  My big sister Elistre, with her high ideals and stern demeanor was closest in ages to me, not but two years older and many more in spirit.  She was my closet kin, and rival after a fashion.

My sister and I inherited our families’ talent for magic, though as I say this I scold myself.  Let me explain…  My grandparents, rest their souls were great masters of the arts of magic.  Their four children became masters of the arts as well; my father Edis was the oldest of those siblings.  Yet, of his children and too his dismay, only we two had shown that inherent ability.  My sister, had that inheritance, but while she had a bright mind and quick wit, she worked ten times harder for every scrap learned, then I.  And she cared with a deep passion for it as well.  While in respect, I had the talent!  But not a hint the passion was in me, at least not for magic.  When the spark came to me, magic wise, I pulled off tasks that she herself had worked months on, in only days or hours.   And while they tried to mold me, I was too carefree.  But isn’t that only natural?  I was a child of only six at the time.

While as bright and clever as my sister, I enjoyed my youth and found my passion within music.  Being of a wealthy house within the high nobility made bards and other musicians easy at hand.  My mother loved to sponsor such people, and she bore a gift for music as well.  I marveled in those things and found a talent for that growing in me as well.  My young soul was wealthy!  I had a family full of love, privilege, and power.  I had a talent for magic and music; and for getting into trouble I must say.  Being the youngest did have its privileges and I abused such thing.  For many years after I became an adult, looking back at those days would bring tears to my eyes.  Those were the days of my youth, and a month after my ninth birthdays I became an adult.

You ask how I could be an adult at only nine.  That was very easy, for when we are young, we live in the moment and think nothing of the future.  But on the day we begin to think about the future and our own safety, we become an adult.  From that moment on, our childhood is shattered to the wind and can never be brought back.  Our eyes become opened, and our minds scream for its loss; and all is changed forever.

Every summer we went into the country to live away from smell and heat of the city.  It was only when things began to cool that we would move back and joins the pleasantry of court once again.  But that was typical of many families with our means.  But on the summer of my ninth year, I woke one night to loud noises.  Looking back, and remembering from the eyes and ears of a child.  Those noses came from every direction, and the walls of the house shook; I sure I imaged monsters around every corner, breathing fire and lightning, and eating bad children like me.  At least, that is how I saw it then.  Though now I look at it more rationally; quite simply my families’ estate was being attacked by a large force that had the aid of destructive magic.  That would account for my monsters, and did from what I had learned in later years.

At some point that night my sister Elistre rushed into my room, fully dressed for travel; with a pack at hand.  Elistre was always well together, 11 years then and more than 30 in spirit.  She helped me dress and rushed me into our families lower wine cellars; a place I had played hunter and prey on more than one occasion.  Yet she opened a door I did not know about and lead me into darkness.  I can only remember now, that the darkness was ever so peaceful from the chaos that engulfed the house upstairs and I found comfort in it.  That was the first time I realized, that even in the darkest depths of shadows one could find beauty and protection.  We must have spent an hour in that tunnel.  Do not get me wrong, it was scary and I was terrified; but I do not think it was because of the darkness, it was in not knowing where we were headed and what we were leaving behind.

Sometime later, we left the tunnel and found ourselves within a thick forest.  The moonlight on that night shined through the trees casting an eerie glow upon the land; but only in patches every here and there.  I remember how cold my sister was that night, and our brisk conversation.

“Where aw we going sissy,” I asked.

“Safety,” she answered while walking with a staunch determination.  She held my hand like an iron vice, and it pained me.  Elistre glanced briefly at me, without breaking stride and said, “Grandmother told me where to go, just before she was killed.”

“Mammy was k… ki… killed!” I screamed, too shocked to think of our situation and the peril we might had been in.

That is when I found myself on the ground, dizzy, with a pain on my head.  My sister had struck me down, and was then glaring down at me.  No love touched her features, and not only a little hate.  Then she spoke to me softly, and with a terrible tinge to her voice; “You shut your fat mouth, our whole family is dead or dying… we might have people after us right now.  So you shut your mouth or I’ll leave you for them!  You will not talk, cry, or do anything other than nod your understanding to me!”

That was it, I did understand her in some way, and I was afraid.  I walked silently at her side through the woods and we stopped a few times to rest or hide I believe.  Though I was in a daze and remember very little I am embarrassed to say.  I do not know if it was a couple days or even a week later when we finally reached the city; perhaps it was even hours.  I can remember expecting to see our compound around every corner, but it never came.  Elistre told me our new names were Lisu and Len Tarrock if anyone asked.  She of course told me that she would speak for us, and I was to keep silent.  But she did continue to drum those names into me while we walked, and I believe that training might had even started on those days in the woods.  Again, I remember little.

Once in the city we stopped at many compounds, I remember that they were places I had been when I was younger.  They were friends of our family, and I believe Lisu hoped to find protection with those that had called themselves friends to House Duskwood.  But word of our families fall had preceded us, and those… noble people seemed to want nothing to do with the pair of us.  So the children of House Duskwood were now shunned, ignored, and in some cases chased away by those noble peoples.  Whether out of fear or hate, I have never found out.  But my families’ enemy must have had an iron reach.

We visited a dozen houses that night, and soon after Lisu believed we were being followed.  It took me even longer to hear the noises behind us; both footfalls and metal rubbing against itself.  Dangerous sounds, especially at night, when you are young, unarmed, and scared out of your wits.  We ran, with all the vigor of youth; and those footfalls pursued us for many streets.  But before I knew what was happening, I was dragged into the darkness by strong arms.  Those arms held me hostage and covered my mouth until I was completely immobile.  Not seconds later, I heard those sounds from our hunters drawing nearer, and then they passed wearing all the livery of the royal guards; there was at least a full dozen of them.  Darkness had protected me again, and I lost consciousness to its sweet embrace.

Two years later found me and my sister fully intergraded into one of the city’s largest thief guilds.  We had taken on new names again, I was now Asial and Lisu was now Sara; we had remained siblings with the last name Fifner; since we looked so much alike.  I believe we had grown closer in those years, but I am not sure if it was out of a sense of mutual protection, the fact that we were all that was left of our family, or that I had changed so much.  I had hardened and shred the skin of my youth, I let go of my innocent, my ignorance, and my arrogance.  In all respects, I was just like Sara then.

The guild took us in and taught us their trade.  And while it seemed that there were large bounties on our heads, Lacindra, the master of the guild took pride in the fact that she owned us and hide us under their noses.  You heard me right, she owned us and we put our tallies towards a debt that she long ago told us would be the cost for our salvation.  Sara’s star rose in the guild, her sharp intellect and calculated actions allowed her to run her own crew, and all knew of her temper.  That temper was when her magic flared to life and broke like a river breaking free from a dam.  At least that was the rumors at the time, I suspect it was not always that bad, but kids will express things and bolster them to a greater degree.  It was those displays that soon found her sold off to a wizard whom happened to view one of those moods.  From what I know, Lacindra made a good deal and she soon found herself with other business deals with that very same wizard was well.   After that, my sister and I saw little of each other, but she would come to visit on occasion.  And I found out that she was free and no longer property; and how I envied that freedom.

My path was quite different in respect, I started out a teaser; which meant I would distract others while the crews I was assigned too pulled off their tasks.  In those first two years, I grew a lot and eventually was larger than most of the boys in my age group.  Those were dark days for my soul; I had lost my talent, it hid itself deep within my memories and behind some wall that blocked it all away.  Anytime I heard music I would shy away from it, and the only thing that seemed to bring me any passion were my fists.  I slowly grew to have a short temper, and I got into many fights.  To my embarrassment, I also had a cruel streak.  When my sister left me, I felt alone, and abandoned by the last person whom I expected; by the last person that knew truly who I was.  I passed through many crews in those years, not many enjoyed the mean boy I had become.

When I was 13, Mistress Lacindra gave me to a weapons master named Karn.  I believe she hoped to focus my temper and my fighting spirit, and perhaps to beat the meanness out of me.  It worked, and I was reined in; in the most violent manner of a strict teacher.  I spent three years living in Karn’s school and training with other students that he was given.  I learned the art of fighting, and tactics from his hand and other teachers at the school.  But eventually Lacindra wanted me back.  You see, I was an investment and she had been my benefactor in those years of training.  I now owed her more than I had before.  I would also like to point out, that I trained alongside many of the youth born from noble families and merchants alike.  Those people and other wealthy families who did not have their own trainers went to Karn for his experience and reputation from battles past.  I have always thought Lacindra had a gift for irony, hidden in plain sight I shined for all to see.  For Karn regularly held sparring events for the families to view their children’s progress and I won many such tourneys.

Oh yes, I was brought back into the folds of the guild.  But now, I was taller, lean muscled, and appeared much different than I had once been known to be.  She herself gave me my new name before I returned; I was then called Derrek Fistk.  I was now in control and focused; and within a few months I came to lead a crew of heavy hander’s.  We would bully and push vendors for protection; and we would handle other business as well for the guild.  Coming into my own was a new experience, and I reveled in that!  The gap between my skills and others around me was self evident; maybe it was worse that I knew it.  But I do not believe I was arrogant or underestimating of anyone.  I just knew myself well, but perhaps that was only an illusion.  For I was still a shade of what I could become.

But this chapter in my life was soon over, in the most dramatic way!  I guess I just gave part of my story away; a big change came to me when I was 19.  Lacindra assigned three crews to protect her daughter Elendra, on a trip between cities.  My crew was placed under the command of one of the guilds most experienced leaders, a man by the name of Gerin.  I had sparred almost daily with Gerin, and he had my full respect.  Elendra was Lacindra pride and joy; she had been training in the next city for some years.  It would be our job to escort her home.  The trip was quite fun actually, we had gone early to enjoy a bizarre that entered that city every fall.  That was Gerin’s idea, and the crews loved him for it.  He was ever beloved for his generosity.

As an escort mission, all was quiet and we made it back to our city without issue.  We were making it through the streets of our city, back to Lacindra’s estate when we were attacked by a rival guild.  The battle was too quick; they did have the numbers and surprise on their side.  They also had magic at their command.  All others were killed, but for Elendra and myself.  I would have been too, but I believe I appeared to be dead and maybe should have by most accounts.  Elendra though, was beaten and raped, and left amidst the other bodies of her escort.  She was a message, and the greatest insult they could had made to Lacindra.

Lacindra blamed me, and I was used as another message, not only to our guild, but to all other guilds.  I was beaten even further, and I was tortured; then I was burned alive at the end, in the middle of a city park.  That was a night of fire and blood; when guilds warred, guards ran, and the cities populous coward behind their walls preying to any power that would listen…  hail the night of blood, and the week of shadows; where the kin ruled the city.  That was my deathday! My deathright!

Wrapped in darkness I woke falling with no body, my mind was beaten, and I could feel the fires still burning like a phantom clinging to my essence.  I believe some time passed in that darkness; maybe it was weeks, months, years, or just a few seconds.  A whisper of a voice called my given name.  That voice was like a whiplash to my consciousness, and suddenly I remember being fully alert.  It then spoke again, and that whisper tore at my soul and shredded my mind; the voice was pure power.  This voice said many things, it offered to let me live again, and break the walls that I had put up so many years ago.  I grasped at that chance and even begged for it.  I wanted to live, pure and simple.  But that voice asked if I was willing to pay the price; a larger price.  I would have given up anything and everything for it, I had nothing and I knew it.  So I agreed to pay whatever I could.  And so I was remade, through darkness, shadows, and a fire that would burn your very soul to ash.

I woke, though it could had been years later for all I knew.  My body felt warm, and as I looked at it, I found it was not what I had remembered it being like.  I looked and felt… foreign in many ways.  Though I could not really point out how exactly.  But before I could adjust, a voice as smooth as silk spoke to the side of me.  It said to me, “I have been told of your choice…” I could then see who was speaking, it was the shadowy figure of a man, and he walked between pillars that were just at the edge of my vision.  “I am now your master, to train you and prepare you to leave this…” as the figure passed behind the next pillar, it was now a woman and she continued on without stopping.  “Sanctuary, we are in the veil of shadows between…”  As she passed the next pillar, still circling me, she stepped out as a child of about eight years of age.  “Worlds and nobody can breech this place…” the child began to walk towards me, wearing what appeared to be a black robe that seemed to move on its own, or perhaps the shadows played tricks on my eyes.  “For this is a holy temple, to him the Raven, to him the Shadow that Searched for Wronged Souls, and in this divine place, you will learn your talents again, for some have been taken from you, and others have been given back.  If you learn quickly, you might enjoy your time here, if you do not… you will see brutality…” the child came into view and stole my breath.  It was a young girl, that had no eyes, and yet her gaze was unmistakable, and her smiled would chill a fire.  “But when you leave here, maybe years from this time, you will thank me for each act that I put upon you.”  The girl stopped in front of me, “and then you will be free to live in your world once again.  To stalk the nights, and hide in the shadows embrace; for they have always been there to protect you Kesurt.  You are shadow blessed; my name is Zeo and let us begins.”

After spending years in that place, I stepped out of the shadows and entered the world once again.  I took the name Bastious Nightsong as my own, and I was a new man; body, mind, spirit, heart, and soul.  I had my talent back, both music and magic; and I had a new talent.  That new talent had taken me years to learn.  It allows me harness, the very shadows of this world.  For they are a gift from another realm, and a sign that shows that realms dominance over our own.  So I sought out a new life… and that is the start of my tale.

shadowcast

Written by TJ Winter

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Choices for the Future

College has ever been the one thing that I had trouble giving up. Though I do not condemn myself for those thoughts, because while failure happens, it should not stop someone from moving forward in life. So perhaps I should say that not going to college had held me back in a profound way. And knowing that, troubles me to this day. Not the fact that it did happen, but the fact that I allowed it to be so.

Four and a half years ago, I recovered from a surgery that helped me on the path to weight loss. That recovery allowed me to review my life, and I judged it wanting. At the time I was on disability for many health issues, and with that came a great deal of time. It was then when I made the decision that going back to college had finally become an option within my reach.

As I have said, college has long been far from my thoughts. When I first went to college I choose Engineering to be my major; and I also had given a great deal of thought in changing it to Architecture. It seemed to be the natural path for me, yet now I wonder if I was more pushed into that choice by high school counselors and advisors. I remember telling them that I wanted to do something that involved the environment and of course with my technical drawing classes, and my Math grades they assumed Civil Engineering a fine choice for me. At the time, I did not give much thought to what possible jobs were out there. So I took up their thoughts as they were my own. But with only a year or two removed from my first year of college I began to think of another field of study; leaving engineering behind me.

My next thoughts went towards computer science. I had long had a passion for computers, and a knack with them. It soon became known that knowledge of hardware, software, programming, networking, and all things involving computers could gain a person a good job; even without a degree. While I do not believe that condition lasts as well today as it did then, it was true enough for those years. So I learned as much as I could, strived for ever increasing gains, but progressed little to my misfortune.

There were other options that touched my mind as well. But I am a dreamer and idol thoughts come common to me. I had hopes to study Archeology, and travel the world seeking the mysteries of the past. Learning how to paint, draw, or take the perfect photograph found their ways into my head as well. I even considered business and management skills worthy enough for bring my fortunes high. Though none of these options touched my passions enough to make me deem them worthy to grace the halls of my hopes.

Beyond all others, or maybe entwined between them has always been one other. It came with my dream to be a writer one day and to achieve a degree that would further that cause. Maybe in English Literature major, Creative Writing, or maybe even in Journalism. I believed that those types of study would gain me the confidence I had lost, and would allow me to gain proper habits again. Gaining those things is still something I strive for today.

All of these past ambitions were still with me on the day I decided to start my education again. That day I have written about often over the past four years. I believe it gained me a scholarship, and was offered up to any that pursued it. They need only ask a simple question and it was one that many professors did; why did you choose your major? Such a simple question, but a profound one in many ways. I do not believe that many are able to answer this question so thoroughly at the young age when most college students grace those academic halls. Oh they might believe themselves wise enough to, but one must only look out at the majority of college graduates to see that many of them are not in the same fields as their degrees.

So what happened on that day? Actually I can break my decision down to the time it took to drive fifteen minutes from my home to a local community college. Before that drive I was completely confident on my choice to study creative writing; and finally work towards my dream. But foreign thoughts entered my mind during that trip. What would I become after gaining a degree in creative writing? With an English degree? An easy answer, I would become a writer… would it not be so? Actually, it would not be so. To become a writer, or perhaps to become a published writer would take time, effort, and dedication to the craft. One does not just get a degree and find themselves welcome to the club.

But if I could not become a writer right away, what possible paths would I find with that degree? I believe the few choices that came to me were a teacher, a journalist, an editor, and maybe a few more. But none of those options appealed to me. None were my dream! But without that what would I do? I considered a few things then. First that many authors do not have degrees in writing, for that matter some do not have degrees at all. Next was that while in college I would be writing a great deal; in papers, reports, essays, homework, and more. So would I need a degree in a writing field? I believed not.

So with all of this considered, what course of action did I have? I began to think about what I wanted out of a degree. What I would want is a career that I could thrive in. No, more then that I wanted a job that could bring me happiness, day in and day out. Over the years I had worked with many people that hated their jobs. When you consider that your working life takes up a great majority of your time over the years, would it not be important to find your way into a career that you have passion for? I believed so, and I set myself to the task of considering what could love. What type of employment would bring my passions to bare?

What passions did I still possess? Could I get a degree in role playing; would that be an acting degree? Maybe I could get a degree in computers; did I still care that much for them? Or maybe other past thoughts could again be considered? All of these did come to mind when I thought about them, but sometime tickled in the back of my head. I remembered with longing, all of my childhood activities in scouting or with family; camping, hiking, canoeing, the ocean, and my love of the outdoors. But being obese had kept me from those things, so I had grown past them.

Those activities were almost forgotten to me. Like dreams from the past, almost fairytales. But could I recapture some of what was lost to me? Surely by just losing more weight I would be given the opportunity to do those activities again. Though it seemed to me that I could have more if I desired. If I were to find a life, a career that allowed me access to work with the environment; then perhaps I could find happiness.

I found resolution in that comforting thought. Upon arriving at the community college, I found a rack that held pamphlets of all of the majors that were offered. Two of those peaked my interest and filled the requirements that I had sought. The first was a degree in Environmental Science. Though that degree had a few problems for me. Largest of those was the fact that it required a great deal of chemistry; a field of study that has ever been my enemy in schooling. The second degree that I found favorable was in Natural Resource Studies. In that major I found much less chemistry and a more hands on approach; much better for me then just laboratory work.

From that moment on I devoted my time and energy to my studies. I started that summer and began by taking two classes to ready myself for a full semester in the fall. A starting English Comprehension class, and a class in Computer Applications. The first was a great help to gauge how I had grown in my writing ability. And the next was little to no help at all; but later when I transferred to a four year school it took the place of an advanced math requirement… somehow. The end of the semester gave me my first A’s and helped to drive my confidence for the next few years.

The semesters flew past and I continued to keep a perfect grade point average. I quickly found that I could soak up the knowledge that was given to me fast. Soon enough I had spent a year and a half there, and had completed all my credit requirements. Greed for more learning overcame me and I looked toward a four year college. But the option now was before me, what path should I walk into a university following?

There were two things that appealed to me most, a major in wildlife conservation and one in forestry. Above all I had found a true passion in my classes in Zoology and Botany, though neither had been prominent in my mind. It was not an easy decision to make and it took me some time to choose. But in the end I believed that forestry was the right one for me and over in time at the university I found that it had been true.

At the university I found much of the same passions. I soaked in knowledge, studied like crazy, and bore good grades. Though I had relaxed some from my time at the community college and perfection was not now my goal. I gave way to interest and whim, and still ended up with a grade point average of 3.6. I was delighted at how many of the professors treated me more as an equal then as a student. Perhaps it was my age (32 then) compared to normal students, but I gained their respect none the less.

Again my time there went fast, and I completed a bachelor’s degree in just two more years. I grew to know my field as a student and a professional. But again greed overtook me, and I wanted more still. Over the years as a forestry student I found one other passion that allied closely to that field of study; and that was water resources.

It is now that I must admit that, while I have been so driven to accomplish my degrees. I have forced myself at a pace faster then I should had. I gained an associate’s degree in a year and a half; when it should had taken me two and a half years by the curriculum. Then I finished my bachelor’s degree in two years, when it should had taken me at least two and a half years. I was driven by my age and my desire to finish my degree quick enough to begin work again.

So when it came to my choice to continue on with my studies towards a master’s degree, I had mixed feelings. My drive and passion demanded more! But my practical side, knew I might not be able to afford more. Bills and credit have mounted during that time, and I needed to begin to work again. I worried that my age and weight might complicate entry into the work force. With those worries I have finally made my decision, I will continue on to gain my masters; and hopefully obtain position soon after.

I chose a compromise for these desires. The university I attended had newly offered a master’s program in Water Sustainability and Climate Change, and that degree was offered in an accelerated time frame. That type of program would only take one year to complete. I believe it would be no burden to one such as me, whom has only taken an extreme course load in the past. After a great deal of contemplation, I had decided that it was an opportunity that I could not deny myself. So I set my sights on this achievement, and hope that it will find me not wanting.

In a months’ time, I will begin…