<center> ~ Prologue ~ </center> The little girl stepped tentatively into the room. Her eyes, nearly as dark as the raven black hair touching her shoulders, darted around the open dome. This was her master’s chamber; from here, the top floor of the tower, Mondain had launched his campaign against the scum of Sosaria. Here, Mondain had come within an inch of success. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest; she was afraid. In the middle of the vast empty chamber stood a pedestal. On it rested the Gem of Immortality. The enormous stone shimmered, dazzling the eyes. The girl walked closer, nearly tripping over the hem of her skirts. As she drew near, she looked into the Gem. Rotating inside the clear stone was an image of Sosaria. The four continents slowly moved past: Kedalith, Sigoan, Qaedia, and Britannia…. One by one they had fallen. All but Britannia. Britannia remained a stubborn obstacle to enlightenment and understanding. “Minax, come over here,” Mondain called from one of the balconies. His voice sounded tired, wearier than she had ever before heard. The girl didn’t move for a moment as she looked at him. Her master was standing on the balcony, looking off into the distance. His intricately designed robes ruffled only the slightest bit in the breeze. His hands were clasped behind his back. The light of both moons, Trammel and Felucca, was reflected by his head. Snapping out of her reverie, the young girl started jogging over to him. “Yes, mast-“ she began before she stepped on the hem of her skirts and fell sprawling on the cold stones. Immediately, she heard the swish of his robes against the floor, and then his hands lifted her up. “Are you alright, child?” Mondain asked, concern in his eyes. She nodded, still embarrassed. His eyes took in her clothes, and he said, “I’m sorry, my pupil. I’d planned to give you these when you turned fifteen. I should have thought that they’d be too large.” Fifteen? That was years away. “But…” Mondain winced and pulled on one of his moustaches. “Come with me, child.” He stood up and walked over to one of the walls. With a whispered incantation, the wall opened to reveal a small chamber. They stepped inside, and she tugged on his sleeve. “Master, why did you call me up here? I should be down below, to protect you, Master. Why do you keep hiding me from this traveler?” “Minax, I do it to protect you.” “Besides you, I’m the only person in all Sosaria who can wield magic! I’m invincible! I could have dealt with Britannia’s champion any number of times if you would have just given me the chance!” “No!” Mondain shouted, stunning her. Her master had never before raised his voice to her. “You are not invincible.” His voice quieted. “No one is.” The girl pointed out toward where the Gem rested. “But you are. You’re immortal!” He seemed to ignore that, and looked off at nothing. “Do you realize, child, that not a single person has ever followed me? All of Sosaria opposes me. They oppose what I stand for. My only followers are my constructs, and even they have no comprehension of what it is I intend to bring to the world. “I wonder now: is it a lost cause? Am I mistaken for trying? “Must I destroy everything and begin the world anew?” The child stared blankly, unsure how to respond to that. Mondain looked down, into her eyes. “He comes.” She gritted her teeth and lifted her tiny fist as her dark eyes flared with rage. “Then I shall deal with him!” she said, her voice filled with ice and malice, somehow more chilling coming from such an innocent visage. Mondain let out a heavy sigh. “When one has power, one has to use it wisely… and sometimes, one must sacrifice parts of themselves for the betterment of the whole…but the strength it takes to stay the course through the pain is a rarity. “I believe I see that strength in you, my student. Let that strength be your guide. You have the potential to influence the future. Be sure the future you aim for is the right one, my dear.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Forgive me,” he whispered. Abruptly, Mondain stood straight and began crying out words of power. The girl found herself unable to move, and when she tried to cry out, she could not. Mondain kept speaking incantations. The hidden door closed behind them then became transparent as glass. Mondain teleported outside the room, continuing to cast spells, though she could no longer hear them. Why? was all she could think to ask. Mondain had been the only person to ever care for her. He had taken her in when she had no one. He had taught her almost everything she knew. Why would he do this? The answer smashed in the door she had entered through moments earlier. The child felt a burgeoning hatred as she saw the man enter the room: he wanted to hurt her mentor. The traveler from the stars wore a white tunic embroidered with a silver serpent, the Serpent Crest. It was Lord British’s family crest. He brandished his sword at Mondain, shouting words she could not hear. Enraged by the sight of him, she tried everything she knew to undo the paralysis field that held her in place. She was shocked to realize to what extent her master had gone to keep her there. Flashes of light from outside drew her attention from the field. Master, she thought, why wouldn’t you let me stand beside you? As she watched the battle, she mentally frowned. Her master’s magic was not working as it should have. The spells were not tracking the target well, and the man was skilled at dodging the blasts. She understood, then, why Mondain feared for her: without her magic, she was nothing more than a little girl. But, she thought, without his magic, he’s just an old man. Even as she thought that, the man dove forward, thrusting his sword into Mondain. She tried to scream, but no sound came forth. She railed against her bindings, yet again to no avail. She was bound the silent witness to a great man’s murder. The traveler stood over Mondain, then turned toward the Gem. The girl’s eyes widened when she saw Mondain stand back up. She mentally cried out joyfully: in the heat of the moment, she’d forgotten the power of the Gem of Immortality. No matter what the traveler did, he could not stop her master. The man turned to face Mondain, looking confused. He began ducking and weaving to avoid Mondain’s renewed attack. She saw him look at the Gem in realization. He then did something she never would have expected. As her master continued firing bolts of lightning and pillars of flame, the traveler leaped toward the Gem, taking a wild swing at it. No, she thought, no… There was a sound, like shattering glass. She could hear it clear as day, though everything up to that point had been silence. In that brief second, it was as if the entire fabric of reality ripped. The Gem of Immortality broke, showering shards across the floor. In the next second, the man swung again, leaving a deep gash in Mondain’s chest. No! the little girl cried out silently. This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, she told herself. But it was. Mondain looked down at the wound in his chest, and pulled away a hand covered in blood. He fell to his knees, then over onto his side. She stared in disbelief, then looked away. When she did so, she saw one of the shattered remnants of the jewel right outside the hidden door. Through her tears she could see that the shard showed a perfect likeness of Sosaria, even though it was broken. She looked back up, at Mondain lying on the floor. He was looking at her. Her master seemed to wince in pain, and then he said something he had never before said aloud. The image was burned into her mind. The door became opaque and she collapsed to the floor. She began sobbing uncontrollably, because she knew it then, without a doubt. Her master, her mentor, her only friend, her only family…Mondain was dead. The girl just lay there crying, alone. Alone in the tiny room. Alone in the world.