Betrayal's Lesson

by Rune Lai

I don't usually waste time being introspective. I mean, what's there is there, right? Whether I deny or admit what I am, it won't change me, though I must say that caused more than a few jokes to be made about the size and use of my ego. Hot air indeed! I suppose confidence is not always a good thing, and I have been wrong before. I know that now.

My name's Nash, and when I was seventeen you couldn't find a prouder student in the entire floating city of Vane. After all, I was apprentice to the great sage, Ghaleon, and everyone knew I was his star pupil. Now how many magicians my age could lay claim to something as great as that? The fact that one of the legendary Four Heroes thought I was good stuff clearly showed I was leagues above everyone else. He even allowed me to run errands, grooming me for future positions in the guild's hierarchy. Would I one day be premier myself? I could only wonder. If I knew one thing, it was that only an idiot would refuse an offer like that. But unfortunately it was an idiot who accepted it.

Ghaleon fooled everyone, including me, but I wish that I could have seen something, anything, ahead of time so that I would have known what danger I was committing. I keep thinking I should have known better, that his request was too strange, too odd, even for someone such as him.

"Nash," he said one day, in that dry tone of his, "I want you to perform a task for me. It will involve a lot of travel and you may be gone for well over a month, but I believe it will be vital towards your training not just as a magician, but as an administrator."

I nodded, halting my task in the study where he had me pouring over long forgotten tomes in search of specific elements he would use in devising a new spell. Back then, it gave me endless pride in knowing that Ghaleon was counting on me. He said the spell would be the most powerful magic the world had ever seen, and in my ignorance I could only believe that a good thing. Ghaleon would revolutionize the world! I imagined thousands pouring towards Vane in homage towards him and his wisdom--with of course a deep nod in acknowledgement towards me for my help. After all, Ghaleon was awesome, but he couldn't be everywhere at once.

I lifted my head, practically bursting with star struck excitement. For a moment I thought I would surely shoot through the ceiling before I could even reply. I said, "Sure! What do you want?"

The premier of Vane was a tall man, with catlike eyes and pointed ears. I didn't doubt for a moment that he wasn't human, and when he looked at me, scrutinizing with those lavender eyes, I could feel him sizing me up for the job. I approached anything he suggested with enthusiasm, even those tasks I probably wasn't qualified for. He usually let me try what I wanted, to learn my limits I suppose, but I quickly discovered that if I failed he had something to resolve the matter anyway. If he couldn't count on me he always had a plan. This time though, I think he found exactly what he wanted.

"I want you to go to Caldor Isle and look for something."

At this point I think my enthusiasm might have diminished. I know I was thrilled about the opportunity to travel, but backwater Caldor? True, nearly every place besides Vane and Meribia was pretty ratty, and Caldor did have the added bonus that everyone knew it was the home of the great Dragonmaster Dyne. But Caldor? Only farmers and hicks lived there--though thankfully nowhere near as base as the variety to be found in Meryod to the southeast. I imagined it would be quaint, but fairly boring. Unless of course the premier had something interesting for me to do.

"A rare herb? Feathers of a local bird?" I knew such things were useful for magical talismans and potions. Those might help me learn more about starting my own research when I got older.

He shook his head. "No. Something more... enchanting." His slit eyes dilated ever so slightly with the word. "I want you to look for a singer. She should about your age and have a beautiful voice. Don't bother learning about anyone who sounds less than the best singer in Vane and report to me what you find. Comb the island thoroughly now. I know of at least two villages there, but that doesn't mean the singer might not be somewhere else."

"Why do you need a singer?" I asked. I rarely questioned anything Ghaleon assigned me, but the peculiarity of the request begged me to inquire.

"I don't need her here in front of me," he replied. "I only want to know if there is one over there better than the ones in Vane."

And I left the conversation at that. Though Ghaleon rarely changed his expression by so much as a twitch, after being around him so long one could begin to discover what moods he allowed others to perceive. Right now he was becoming annoyed. I assured him I would do my best and that I would make arrangements to leave the following day. He was pleased, and gave me a crystal sphere with which to keep in contact with him. It was small enough I could easily conceal it in the pockets of my sleeve.

After a quick bid in farewell to my family and leaving a notice to all my other instructors at the magic guild, I set off for Meribia, the largest port city on the coast. The guild took care of booking my passage on a merchant vessel due for the town of Saith, the central trading center on Caldor Isle, but I would have to arrange my own return. I was given enough silver to cover that and my living expenses for several weeks, so I embarked with confidence. When I did arrive on Caldor Isle, I was confident that nothing would stop me.

Naturally, something did.

I was robbed. Pure and simple, the elite student of the magic guild of Vane was out several hundred silver and I had only a few spare coins in my pocket, Ghaleon's crystal hidden in my sleeve, and two canes I had taken from the guild as a means of defending myself. To this day I don't know who stole it, but I hope whoever snuck into my room at the inn that night dies a horrible demeaning death.

Furious at having been robbed, and angered by the fact I could not carry out the mission Ghaleon had entrusted to me, I decided that the only thing I really could do was go back to Vane. Surely Ghaleon would understand that if I worked among these peasants for the money I needed to stay here I would scarcely have the time to search the isle for this singer of his. Besides, talents such as mind would be better placed elsewhere. So in my typical fashion, I covered up my problem with a lot of talk. I needed to get back to Vane and I had a plan. I would need the help of a few of those peasants, but after all, one of them dared to rob from me, an elite student of Ghaleon! It was only natural they should help out.

After a good deal of discussion, I finally found a captain willing to take me back to Meribia on the guild's credit--Ghaleon wasn't very happy about that when he found out--but I soon discovered that the stupid guy lost his map in a game of blackjack! And not only that, but he said the only place to get a replacement was from a witch in the forests on the northwestern part of the island. Fat lot of good that'd do. From the amount of exaggeration everyone told me, I didn't know if I would meet Guildmaster Lemia's equal or a deranged maniac with fireworks. Just when I decided that fate had conspired against me, two boys and a girl entered the portmaster's office, where I was trying to rally up a crowd of people to go with me to the witch's place. After all, with a magician of Vane at your side, anything's possible.

The three kids, Alex, Ramus, and Luna, were scarcely even my age, but they were the only ones to take me up on my magnanimous offer, and the four of us journeyed to the witch's home with the intent to trade one of my magic canes for the map. On the way I had ample opportunity to learn about my backward companions, and girl, Luna, was quite attractive, especially considering where she grew up. It was a stroke of luck, though perhaps not a good one, that I met her. She sang frequently as we traveled, and to this day I have never heard a voice as lovely as hers. I had hardly known her for any length of time, yet her words sang me in my sleep, and I would awake much refreshed, as though the music itself had rejuvenated me. I could see why Ghaleon would express an interest in such a voice.

So one night, as we returned to Saith with the map we had so painstakingly obtained, I contacted Ghaleon with the crystal I kept. He appeared to me in its glowing light as I hid from my companions where they slept by our camp. I told him what I had found, and how I had felt when I had heard the music of Luna's voice. He almost smiled, I knew he was pleased.

"Very well," he told me. "Keep monitoring her for as long as you can. You don't know how important this is."

"Yes, sir."

The light to the globe went out, and I was pleased that my assignment went well. I couldn't have known then what was going to happen to us all. In the coming weeks many thoughts weighed on me--some good, some bad--and I've made choices that I will live with for the rest of my life. But that first betrayal of trust, that trust of friends so easily gained, nearly cost Lunar its freedom. I said nothing of what I was doing, gave no regard to the fact Luna might have wanted to know what I was doing, and before all this was over I would betray again and again. I trusted as well, trusted that Ghaleon was doing the right thing, that he would not transform Luna into the Goddess Althena to rain hell on our world. I have betrayed, have been betrayed, and I no longer expect to be forgiven. I am the link that caused all of this to happen, and if not for Alex, Lunar might have been gone forever. Even now I still try to fix the damage I have caused. I have learned the hard way the difficult lessons of betrayal.

Back to the Library of Vane.

Back to the Shrine to Ghaleon.