The diamond-shaped continent of Roduna is home to ten unique races. Humans, Elvan, Dwarven, Orc, Torus, Kobold, Goblin, Crowan, Lizardmen, and Cyclopians. Five major territories have separated the continent based on their geography. The blazing dunes of Thardala to the west, the swampy jungles of Assamar to the East, the frozen mountains of Tundrakana to the North, the fertile grasslands of Kanhuj in the center, the coconut tree-covered sea-port towns of Tarelam to the south-east, and the intimidating sea-port castle cities of Prandaval to the south-west.
Many wars have been fought over several millennia between Roduna’s many races over religion, language, resources, and trade. Fortunately, all the races in the current century have accepted a continent-wide peace treaty, a common language, and universal currency. But unfortunately, technology is limited to the pull of the horse for transport and a smith’s hammer for tools. Though magical tools have emerged that are at the cusp of revolutionizing the technological landscape…
“Val…Valgrind! Wake up!”
An elderly lady yells into the ear of a sleeping eleven-year-old boy.
“Ahhh…Grandma, Why did you wake me?”
Valgrind had been reading the Encyclopedia of Roduna in his dream.
His Grandmother sighed in frustration.
“Have you forgotten what day it is?”
Valgrind let out a tired yawn before stretching his hands to get rid of the stiffness.
“Day of blessings, right?”
“If you know what day it is, then why have you overslept?”
“What’s the hurry? It’s not like anyone will notice if I don’t reach there on time. All the attention will be on Zolgrind the entire day.”
His Grandmother shakes her head in disappointment.
“I have never seen twins despise each other the way you two behave. Can you not see the two of you are identical? It’s like hating your reflection.”
“I know you and everyone else think we should like each other just because we are identical. But the truth is we are opposites in almost everything we like and dislike.”
“Just because he excels in swordsmanship, dueling, horse riding, hand to hand…”
“Get to the point!”
“What I mean to say is that he excels at many things but so do you, Val.”
“Everyone says I am the bookworm of Candon, you know? They make fun of me for wanting to be a scholar.”
“Val, no matter how great Zolgrind is at combat, he will end up being a General at his peak. A warrior’s skill is limited to the battlefield, but a scholar’s wisdom has the ear of the realm. Even warriors seek counsel from scholars outside the battlefield.”
Valgrind perked up from hearing his Grandmother’s words. He imagined a future where his brother is kneeling and pleading for help in matters that has nothing to do with martial arts.”
“Still, all blessings given on this day have something to do with combat class or production class. Both of which won’t suit a scholar, so why bother even getting it?”
“Our All-Father is the wisest among all the deities in this world. I am sure he will bestow a blessing on you that will be compatible. Now wash up and come down to have breakfast. Unless you wish to run to the Ancient Temple with an empty stomach and smelling like an Orc’s fart.”
He grinned at his Grandmother before getting out of his bed.
An hour later.
Valgrind steps out of his family’s horse carriage. He takes in the view of the Ancient Temple that houses the All-Father. The structure resembled a Pyramid, but the material that covered it looked like Obsidian. But unlike the fragile piece of rock, this was impenetrable.
Nearby to where he stood, a family of seven is also admiring the view. A father, mother, four sons, and one daughter. They wore clothes that were not in fashion or even clean. The children are all the same age which meant the mother had given birth to five children on the same day. It is rare to come across such a family. Valgrind strained his ears to hear what they were talking about out of curiosity.
“Papa, is this the temple we came all the way to get our blessings?”
One of the boys asked.
“Yes! Isn’t it magnificent?”
“I don’t see why we couldn’t have received our blessings in Tarelam. The Ancient temple over there also has the All-Father, and it was much closer to our home.”
“I agree with our brother! What makes this temple so special?”
“It is a long-held tradition of our ancestors to make the pilgrimage here. Besides, the ancient temple in Tarelam does not allow Humans to enter.”
“Why is that? Aren’t we citizens of Tarelam?”
Another brother asked.
“We are citizens, but this is the way things have been since the time of our ancestors. The Ancient Tarelam Temple is only for the Elvan.”
The four boys looked confused. They were fatigued from travel and were all in a sour mood.
Valgrind couldn’t hold in his thoughts any longer and decided to walk over to the boys.
“Welcome to Prandaval! I am Valgrind of House Candon. I couldn’t help but overhear your queries about what makes this temple so special. If your parents don’t mind, I would be happy to explain.”
The boys were surprised by Valgrind’s sudden appearance at their side, along with his enthusiasm. He was the same age as them but dressed like a wealthy noble and arrived in a carriage that not many could dream of riding in their lives.
They looked towards their father for guidance, but he was speechless as well.
“Young lord, forgive us. I don’t think we are of high enough standing for you to waste your time on.”
The mother humbly replied.
“Nonsense! I understand that in Tarelam, the Elvan race enforces a strict social hierarchy. But here in Prandaval, there are no such restrictions. We are all equals here, regardless of our wealth. Furthermore, education about our history must not be overlooked.”
Both the parents felt relieved and then nodded to Valgrind to let him educate their children.
Valgrind smiled as he narrated out all the facts he could remember regarding the subject.
“Scholars have estimated that the Ancient Temple of Prandaval is at the very least five thousand years old. Whoever built this temple must have lived in an age of wonders. No modern stonemason can perfectly replicate its ancient architecture. Only Humans pray here since the lands of Prandaval belong to the Human Race. The other nine races across the continent of Raduna have their respective territories with their ancient temples. Each race has a unique version of the All-Father and blessings. Which is why the ten races must journey to their respective ancient temple on the day of blessings.”
“If the All-Fathers are different for each race, then why do people say he is the All-Father for everyone?”
The only daughter in the family asked a question. Up until now, she had been hiding behind her mother. Remaining silent as her family interacted with Valgrind.
“Well, everyone has their logic behind that statement, but I have my theory on it. But I think I might be boring you all at this point.”
Valgrind noticed that the brothers and their parents were losing focus and interest in the topic. But the girl was the only one paying attention and holding her gaze on him as if no one else existed.
“Please! Do share it with us.”
This was the first time Valgrind blushed in his life. No one ever asked him to keep talking and paid so much attention to his thoughts.
“I believe that the All-Father had the power to transform himself into different forms. He must have traveled around our world, helping each of the ten races build their civilizations.”
“So basically, you think a shapeshifter went around helping all the races?”
“Yes, it is a possibility.”
“But there are records of All-fathers who died of old age, got killed in battle, or just disappeared. There is the fact that some races are older than others by centuries or even millennia. The All-fathers also encouraged a mindset of hatred towards other races. How could the same individual have lived long enough to help everyone and make them hate each other?”
Valgrind was taken aback by the complexity of her question. First, he assumed no one in this family had any scholarly background. But now, he was staring at a young girl who he felt could rival his curiosity and mindset.
“That is an excellent question! It could be he was an immortal shapeshifter who helped all the races to not only develop but wished for them to compete for dominance.”
“Why would a god want to sow chaos amongst his creations? Surely a peaceful world would have been his intention?”
“You are thinking of him as something not made of flesh and emotions. I am coming at this with the assumption that he was just like you or me. But as to why he did it. For amusement, I think.”
“I am sure he might have viewed the world as his chessboard. He first set up the factions, gave them the tools to build their civilizations, and then pitted them against each other. Then sat back to see which one of his creations would prevail.”
“Young lord, forgive me, but I think that kind of theory shouldn’t be uttered so close to the seat of his power.”
The mother interrupted their conversation as temple monks approached their group.
The senior Monk among them called out.
“Young Master Valgrind of House Candon! I am the eldest Monk in this temple, Rothan Kun. Unfortunately, your Grandmother informed me that you would be arriving late. Nevertheless, I am glad that you made it in time to receive the All-father’s divine blessing.”
“I thank you for coming out to receive me, Senior Rothan. Has my brother received his blessings?”
“Yes! Zolgrind of House Candon has been blessed with a fearsome combat skill.”
“Fearsome? What did he receive?”
“We are not at liberty to divulge his blessings in public but rest assured it will not disappoint the name of House Candon. Now follow us to the inner sanctum so that we can begin the ritual for you.”
“Inner sanctum? Isn’t that area exclusive to monks?”
“Yes, but the descendants of the three great houses are permitted to receive their blessings there.”
“Alright, give me a minute.”
Valgrind turns away from the monks and looks at the girl who showed interest in his thoughts.
“It looks like we have to part ways here. But before that, may I know your name?”
“Yes, you silly!”
She became nervous all of a sudden and began to stammer.
“Well, miss Rodes! I hope we get a chance to talk more about the All-father. Can you visit my family estate and spend some time before you return to Tarelam?”
Everyone’s gaze fell on Emilia. The monks, her brothers, and her parent’s attention added an invisible weight on her mind.
She took a few steps back and hid behind her mother.
Valgrind was confused by her change in behavior.
“Forgive her, young lord. She is a shy little thing. It is rare for her to speak the way she did with you before.”
“The invitation still stands regardless. I will be going now.”
“We thank you for your time and kindness, Young Lord.”
The father said as he made a bow towards Valgrind’s departing figure.
As Valgrind and the Monks walked towards the inner sanctum of the Ancient Temple, Rothan Kun broke the silence.
“Your Grand Mother informed me that you were not interested in receiving any blessings. What made you change your mind?”
“I am only doing so to make her happy. But why does she share what I say to her in private with you?”
“She and I used to be part of the same adventurer’s party long ago. We remained good friends even after the party was disbanded.”
“I never heard about this relationship before.”
“I never leave the Ancient temple, so you would not have needed to know about me till today. But, if you don’t mind, I wish to know why you are hesitant about the blessing? Are you worried that it might be inferior to your twin?”
Valgrind gave an annoyed look to the old Monk. But then he shook his head and let out a tired sigh.
“Well, that is one reason.”
“It is perfectly normal for young brothers to compete for attention. But you should not let his success stop you from exploring your potential.”
“I don’t have the muscle to be a fighter. So I don’t see how a blessing related to combat or production class is useful to my future goals as a scholar.”
“Don’t tell me you just wish to be a simple scholar?”
“Is that a bad life to wish for?”
“You would be wasting your potential.”
“I fail to see the potential you are referring to. I am just a member of a family whose ancestors were lucky enough to be made nobility. I could have easily blended into the family I was talking to before by just changing my clothes.”
The old Monk smiled before placing his right hand on Valgrind’s shoulder.
“Follow me! There is something I think you should see.”
The disciples of Rothan went ahead into the inner sanctum while
Valgrind was guided by the old Monk through a secret maze of corridors covered in murals that depicted the ancient history of Prandaval.
“What do you make of the mural, young master?”
“It certainly is a work of art. But, are they all covered in precious gems?”
“Yes, they are! But what about the story they showcase?”
“I think I am pretty well-versed with the origin history of Prandaval. The mural will not add anything new.”
“Surely a young scholar such as yourself can admit that everything written on paper cannot be gospel?”
“I can apply the same logic to this mural?”
“What if this mural is older than all the books you have ever read about our history?”
Valgrind paused and then re-examined the mural closely.
“I can see the ancient temple we are in right now, but around it is a city… that cannot be right. There should be nothing around the temple.”
“The mural will explain.”
“Alright… A titanic monster emerged from the ocean and destroyed the ancient city with a Tsunami. But, how did the ancient temple survive? Oh, it was protected by a priest…is that the All-Father?”
“The All-Father is wielding a magical staff that stopped a tsunami. Could he have been Aqua Mage? No, it shows him wielding lightning, fire, and earth as well. This is crazy! I have never heard of a Mage being able to manipulate so many elements.”
“He was a man with many gifts. He alone defeated the nightmarish creature and saved the Human race. But the reason why I wanted you to see this is for what is shown next.”
“After slaying the creature, he helped the humans rebuild their homes. He fell in love with a maiden and sired three sons with her. Are they identical triplets?”
“I cannot be sure of that, but do you notice something familiar about them?”
“No, the story ends there. I think the rest of the mural was destroyed.”
“Look below the faces of the three sons.”
“Oh, are those their names? Hmmm… wait! Arlon, Borlo, and Candon! Those are the names of the great houses! Does that mean…”
“Yes, you are a descendant of the All-Father.”
Valgrind’s mind froze. It took him a few minutes to process this discovery.
“Is that why the three houses are given special treatment in the temple?”
“The descendants of the great houses are sometimes blessed with abilities that are far superior to those of the common folk. Those abilities have protected the Human race countless times in the past. Therefore, it is a waste if a descendant of the All-father chooses a scholar’s life and forgoes his divine birthright.”
“Why did no one tell me this before?”
“I don’t think anyone from the three great houses has seen this mural for several centuries. The history of this land stretches for thousands of years. They probably forgot their origins a long time ago.”
“Can I share it with Zolgrind? He will be the next leader of House Candon one day, so he should know.”
“Strength and skill at martial arts do not prepare one to be a good leader. Nor does it make them capable of handling responsibilities that have an impact on society. Though you both are twins, only one of you will be the next head of the House of Candon. I am certain it will be you as long as you understand the weight of the responsibility.”
“What makes you think that I will be the head? I don’t have any interest in being a leader in general.”
“The truth is, I recently received a vision from the All-Father of a great change that will sweep across our world in the coming years. The old systems will collapse, and a new world will be born. The right seeds must be nurtured to survive the collapse and rebuild our world. My instincts tell me you will be capable of leading it. That is why I decided to share it with you and you alone.”
“How will I know when the collapse begins? Is it a natural disaster?”
“The arrival of strange foreigners from a forgotten world will be the herald of the collapse. It will not happen overnight, but it will be inevitable.”
“If what you say comes to pass… would it not be better for the Monks to inform the leaders of all races and prevent their arrival.”
“As I said, the collapse cannot be stopped. But, just like how the All-Father saved the Human race and helped it rebuild, you must try to do the same for all the races when it happens.”
“Is it not your dream to become a true scholar?”
“A scholar should not be limited to his tribe. You must travel and study everything you can about the world and its history by going into the territory of all the races. Otherwise, you will be limited to the understandings of the Human race. The knowledge you acquire must be used to help everyone regardless of their race.”
“I did not consider that.”
“You are still young, and there is still a great deal of experience yet to be had before you can accomplish your goals. Receiving a blessing from the All-Father may benefit your growth instead of hindering it.”
“But what if the blessing gives me a useless ability?”
“An ability is only as powerful as the one who wields it. Do not assume having the sharpest blade in the world makes one a master swordsman.”
Valgrind thought hard on that and broke out a smile.
“You sure know how to make everything sound enlightening.”
“That is why I am a Monk!”
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