Chapter 1 : Blood Red Snow White
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It is a land that gives birth to monsters more often than heroes; where it easier to be selfish than good.
There was a pause as the grandfather, hair still as golden as his wifeís, waited for his grandson to stop fidgeting. He would not tell his story to a disrespectful audience and the boy knew that. When there was once again stillness in the room, the grandfatherís words broke the silence that had begun to weigh heavily in the darkness.
Its seas and rivers have bled red and its trees have been sharpened into stakes and spears. It is home to a barren landscape, one whose resources have been whittled away in wars for supremacy. Its species have dwindled, their abilities powerless against the strength of furless creatures with flimsy claws and weak teeth, who hide behind the rocks they have stolen from the ground.
The grandfatherís voice halted momentarily, his eyes watching the boy in front of him.
My little one, I know that I have painted a grave picture, of world without hope, without light.
The boy, whose eyes had grown wide through the narration, shook his head fiercely from side to side. He held no fear, not when his grandfather sat so close, not in his own bed with the covers there to shield him. The grandfather gave a small smile and continued, his words painting new pictures for the boy to see.
It was dark, I cannot deny that, but never forget it is from the hardest pasts that heroes are forged.
Let me tell you the story of this land, my little one, for all that is broken was once whole; all that is ugly was once beautiful. And beautiful this land was, with dense woodlands stretching for kilometers and rushing rivers dividing the land into smaller pieces. There was no true king of the land, for each beast knew its place and none tried to become more than it was.
But, as it often happens when there is diversity and struggle, when all one can see is the battle to defend oneself against death, one race developed better tools. It no longer needed to hide itself in the shadows, fearful of the abilities of the other races, and grew arrogant with this newfound knowledge. It grew and grew, free from the dangers that had weighed it down before, spreading throughout the land.
This race, these hairless creatures that cringed from both light and dark, that feared both the known and the unknown, dominated the land. When it had erased differences in the living world, eliminating fearsome animals with striped skin, sharp claws and broad wings, it turned inwards on itself, dividing itself where it should have found no differences.
Creature attacked creature; one became master over the other, though neither was superior in truth, and those with abilities very similar to yours hid themselves away, away from the carnage and violence that plagued the others.
Do you know why they did that, little one?
The little boy shook his head and his grandfather chuckled, patting the bed covers fondly.
They did it so they could escape the creatures who reviled them, even though they were still of the same race. No one wants to stay where they are unwanted and these hidden creatures were no different.
So they created their own world, apart from the rivers and fields and forests the non-hidden ones owned, and grew their own culture, their own civilization, where they and only they reigned supreme.
The grandfather paused and the boy protested, saying that this was not at all a proper ending to the story; that where was the fighting and the quests for glory? It was a cowardly ending and he despised those. The grandfather interrupted the boyís indignant words, stating that the story had merely begun and would never reach its conclusion if the boy continued on with his prattling. The boy quieted immediately, previous experience with his grandfatherís tone making him wary, and the grandfather continued.
But as generations passed, the hidden society fell prey to the problem that had broken other civilizations: forgetfulness. Those who remembered the atrocities of the past grew fewer and the edges separating the hidden world from the other creatures grew frayed and fragile. The rules that had kept them safe for centuries faded from memory and the hidden creatures began to integrate themselves again with the others.
They were careful this time, at least, cautious of the tools the others had developed in the period of their separation, and were quick to recoil when the others showed hostility.
However, though they were cautious, they were too interested in re-integrating themselves that they failed to notice the danger they were in. For you see, my little one, though the others had grown since their separation, they still retained their childlike mentalityóthey still feared that which they did not have.
They were envious, too, desiring the abilities that they could not possess, and their desire made them all the more dangerous.
Fortunately, though, fortunately not all of the hidden were blinded by a yearning that was impossible to realize, and though they were labeled as cruel and prejudiced and were marginalized by society, the ones who remembered, who recognized the danger Ė the wiseópersevered.
Those who brought the othersí taint into their world were discouraged from staying Ė it would be too easy for them to uncover the hidden world to the others. They held too many ties to the others and not enough to the hidden. They were a risk that wasnít worth taking.
But the efforts of the wise were diminished, destroyed by naÔve hidden ones who could only see their actions as harsh.
And all the while the hidden world was coming closer and closer to being discovered.
The grandfather paused again and was pleased to see the look of dismay on his grandsonís face. He couldnít reassure the boy that the story would have a happy ending like he desired for happy endings occurred only in unrealistic stories and this tale held more truth than his grandson knew.
The wise ones knew they needed to unite, to form a common front, but they were missing a leader, the one who could lead the hidden to safety, beyond the range of the others.
Many stepped forward, but they were all missing a vital quality. Some lacked vision, the ability to push the group to succeed. Others lacked charisma and scared away those they needed to court. Even more lacked the knowledge, the necessary cunning, to lead them to victory.
Finally, though, finally someone arrived who was capable of succeeding in their mission. He emerged during a time of conflict, when the others were tearing themselves and the land apart with weapons more deadly than had ever been seen before, and promised them a world where all that threatened their existence didnít exist.
Though the man was young, the wise flocked to him, pledging their allegiance and their aid. His following spread throughout the hidden world, his ideas giving them hope they hadnít had before.
Unfortunately, some of the hidden refused to see the danger they were in, refused to see that the others didnít deserve their pity but rather their contempt. They refused to see the destruction the others had wrought on the land around them; they couldnít imagine the pain the others could cause them.
And so the wise and their leader set out to protect them without their knowledge and without their consent. My little one, before you give me a righteous glare, you must remember that not everyone knows what is best for themselves and that sometimes they must be cared for by those wiser than them, for their own safety. If even the fools were allowed to control the destiny of the world, then everything would be consumed in flames.
The boy settled back into the bed, his thoughts quieted by his grandfatherís wisdom.
The wise could not use the same tactics as before, their leader knew this well, for the methods of the past were too soft, too gentle to have the necessary effect on the othersí civilization. If they were to rid themselves of the harmful nature of the others, their actions would need to be as big as their cause.
So the wise, under the banner of their hope, their dream, killed the others and those tainted by the others, and watched happily as their culture became more secluded. Their attacks were disguised by the chaos that ran rampant through the othersí world and with each passing day they grew closer to their goal.
But just as the naÔve had fallen prey to forgetfulness before, so they became ill with the thought that they knew best, that they ought to protect the others. They defended those who would have harmed them had the situations been reversed. They did this without thanks, without gratification and continued to struggle long past the point where they ought to have surrendered. You see, my little one, the trait of survival was still strong even after years of separation from the wilderness. The others couldnít realize the importance of the land, but the hidden could.
Still the wise, led by their leader, triumphed as the naÔve grew fewer in numbers. They grew closer to success, to creating a land free of the others. They dreamed bigger, enacted larger plans. And the naÔve grew more desperate and the wise grew more confident until the two traits met in a violent clash that lit up the night sky.
Though the death toll was small, the consequences of that night rippled throughout the land and changed the course of the hidden. The leader of the wise disappeared, rumored to be dead at the hands of a young boy. The organization of the wise crumbled as no one rose to take the position of leader and the naÔve rejoiced in their ill-chosen victory.
The world of the others was at peace too, for a time, and the hidden continued to merge with them. No one heeded the worries of the remaining wise, choosing instead to call them Ďsickí and Ďrevoltingí and forcing them to flee into the woods or be locked away.
The one who had killed the leader grew to be a young man, worshipped by the naÔve, and he held with their views. Though the wise who had weaseled themselves back into the world of the hidden tried to warn him, he ignored their words.
All was not yet lost, though, for the leader of the wise had not gone to the afterlife as had been feared and, with the help of his followers, returned to life. Without any worry for the risk he placed himself in once again, he reconvened the wise and restarted the movement against the others. The naÔve, though, had found a rallying point in the young boy and refused to see the error in their ways. They fought the wise as fiercely as the others would have fought them and never backed down, never backed away.
The wise were weakened, fighting two wars as they were, and the leader decided to force the naÔve into submission before continuing with their original mission. Rallying his followers, he challenged the stronghold of the naÔve.
The naÔve had been cunning in choosing their stronghold, though, for within its walls it housed the children of the naÔve and wise alike and many had not yet been taught the history of the hiddenís interactions with the others; they had not yet chosen a side. Even worse, by attacking the stronghold there was a chance the wise would harm their own children and so when they moved on the stronghold it was with heavy hearts and careful casting.
You can see the problem here, canít you my little one? The naÔve fought with misinformed children Ė they used unjust methods to further their wrongful cause.
The leader of the wise tried to strike down the young boy, knowing that if he fell so too would the hopes of the naÔve, but the boy was protected by mysterious magic that prevented him from dying, no matter what spell the leader cast at him. Unable to be harmed by the spells the leader cast at him, the boy shouted a spell that would reflect the weapons of the leader back upon himself.
However, the leader was unaware of this when he cast the deadliest of spells, determined to win the battle for the sake of the wise and the hidden as a whole. Everyone had frozen when they heard the words being cast and so both the wise and the naÔve alike witnessed the death of the leader by his own hand.
And though the naÔve rejoiced on that day, and for many days after that, they werenít rejoicing when the others razed the land, destroying the landscape in a desperate search for liquid. And though they continued with their hope of re-integration, they eventually realized that the others could not accept those different from themselves, especially not those whose abilities they desired but were unable to possess.
The grandfather looked at his grandson, looked into his pale eyes that were wide awake even though the boy was tired, and finished his tale:
Beyond the sunrise, half way to the moon, and so very close it would make your eyes weep to think about it, lies a land vast in size and deep in sadness. It is not beyond repair yet, though, and all it needs is one more brave soul who will take up the challenge to save it. And that brave soul can be anyone who has the intelligence to learn from the mistakes of the past and the courage to face the difficulties of the future without surrendering.
It will just take one young man to make this land blossom again, to return it to what it was before the others ruined it. The naÔve have grown old and passed on and there is a new generation, one that is ready to see the light.
Just one man.
That is all that is needed.
The little boy, hands clenching his bed covers firmly, returned his grandfatherís gaze with determined eyes and nodded. The grandfather smiled and, patting his hand, left the room.
There was hope for the future for there were those who remembered and those with the abilities to act on those memories. There was hope for a rebirth.
The others had won the battle but not the war.
A/N: The beautiful first sentence (as well as the title) was taken from the novel "'Blood Red Snow White" by Marcus Sedgwick. I altered it slightly later in the story but the claim still goes to him for it.
I really enjoyed writing this piece and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.