Kelson Hayes is a British-American author and philosopher, born on 19 October 1994 in Bedford, England. His books include Can You Hear The Awful Singing, The Art of Not Thinking, and The Aerbon Series.
Vast and full of life Where everything can fly Beneath the mirror
Infinite unknown Reaching towards eternity Does it ever end?
ATHENS, ITANIA Summer, 1E15 Tauro was a farmer in the fertile farmlands between Athens and Montego that comprised the majority of inland Itania. He grew tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, peppers, courgettes, herbs and spices. Everything he grew flourished under his care in his gardens and there were beautiful cypress and stone pine trees that decorated the immediate lands around his home. The stone pines grew naturally scattered throughout his lands whilst he’d planted the cypress trees to intentionally form a path leading to his front door. It started from the dirt road that led to the stables for his horses, serving as a sort of driveway where it turned away from the gravel road that led into the town. Taking this road, the Itanian farmer made his way along towards the city of Athens where he planned to conduct business that day with his wife’s family.
GIESSEN, GILAN Autumn, 1E193 “Father!” Princess Eaïnne exclaimed, storming into her father’s throne room in a clamorous uproar. Snapping out of his reverie, the king stared upon his daughter to find her wrathfully approaching him at his throne, though he smiled grimly after seeing that she was pursued by his men who’d attempted to stop her. “The people of Eden and Graenor beg for your aid and support, yet our halls remain silent. The heartlands are oblivious to it all as if encapsulated within a dome and the west flourishes under our ignorance! Even the elves of the Aush Wood content themselves to bury the dead whilst these eastern pleas fall upon deaf ears!”
FAEN, AENOR Autumn, 1E72 There was a light mist in the air as cool autumn rain sprinkled down on the elvish town of Faen. The sun was setting beyond the Aryan Forest that comprised their nation of Aenor, sinking on the horizon of the Aerbonean Ocean off the coast of Legion some hundreds of leagues away to the west. Sendarin guided his boat back to shore as the evening closed in upon him. He would tie it off at one of the posts that served as the town's makeshift dock so that the tide didn't carry it out to sea, rowing his ways towards the elvish longboats that lined Faen's shore. He breathed a sigh of relief as he reached the beach and took his boat to rest with its fellows after a long and peaceful day of fishing.
PROLOGUE VIŞIC, VIVEÇ Spring, 1E23 I was 9 years old when the Tekatan Empire attacked… They invaded the coastal villages in massive ships that were more liken to floating castles or fortresses than they were to the simple fishing boats of our own people. Atakebunes were what they called them in their own tongue, though we had no name for the monstrous ships where we had never seen anything like them in all our lives. Landing upon our shores, the men who disembarked from them were not men at all; they were dressed in gruesome armour with demonic faces— wielding terrifying firelances that they used to slaughter all who stood against them without effort. Their firelancers led the charge followed by the rest of the spear and scimitar-wielding horsemen who comprised the bulk of their mighty legions, hacking down all those who managed to escape their fiery wrath to futilely flee before them. Having seized the coastal towns and villages along the shoreline, they proceeded further inland, though as they fell to our town’s defenders we came to realise that their demonic faces were no more than masks designed to instill fear in the hearts of their enemies. Although it was no more than an intimidation tactic, it still proved successful where their fighting was equally as terrifying and demonic as their attire. As they charged forth from the floating castles after landing upon our shores, they rode on the backs of horses that they’d even dressed like dragons; storming into the villages and setting them ablaze one by one as they mowed down our people’s hapless defenders.
Anyone can be a father, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a dad. When I was just a kid, my parents brought me and my sister from England to America shortly before divorcing due to their differences. Growing up, I remember crying myself to sleep at night every night, wondering when my dad was going to come back. Every night I’d fall into a fitful sleep, wishing that I could just go home— back to the place where things were “normal” in my eyes. Sometimes he would call, but it was a rare occurrence and it only became less and less frequent until one day it just stopped altogether.
The Art Of Not Thinking
One of the biggest barriers to overcome in mastering the Art of Not Thinking is Fuck-Giving. The more fucks you give, the more thoughts you have, and the more things that hold you back from living the life you want to live. Where you find that Fuck-Giving is the first chapter of this guide to the Art of Not Thinking, it brings to light a rather relevant point you may find while reading this book and so I will address it once: if you find yourself offended by offensive language, YOU CAN'T QUIT GIVING A FUCK IF THE WORD FUCK HOLDS POWER OVER YOU. Or any other word for that matter. Like come the fuck on- the world is full of all types of shit you're not gonna fuck with and you're just gonna have to learn that it really isn't your fucking problem until you make it your problem. With that being said, the most predominant goal of a Fuck-Giver should be to become Unfuckwithable. That is one of the first steps to Not Thinking- you can't stop thinking if you are forced to think about the things you fear and/or desire. For example, maybe you are in a failing relationship, or a dead-end job, or perhaps your boss is an absolute cunt, or your parents have been fucking with you, or maybe your future is uncertain and you don't know how you are going to make it in the world. These are the type of thoughts that hold you back, along with many others. It seems like the logical thing, to plot what you want out of life and seek it out, but that's the trick- our oppressors would seek to profit from our thoughts and sell them back to us for profits in the consumerist society we live in. They feed into your fears and desires through the media and condition and regulate you through the propaganda on the television, ranging from the news to television sitcoms and everything in between. That doesn't even delve into the cultural and generational conditioning and indoctrination that we are all subjected to from birth onwards, or the traumas we experience along the way. You've been conditioned to believe that the way of life that you know is the correct way of life, if not the only way, and that any deviance is unacceptable socially. You don't have to overthrow the system to stop thinking about it, but not giving a fuck could lead to thoughts of this. The best slave is a blind slave, but once you open your eyes to the fact- if you come to that realization- it may seem like the only way to be truly happy is to be free yourself and overthrow our oppressors to destroy their systems of oppression and exploitation. For that reason, you may think a lack of Fuck-Giving may lead to this, but that is entirely not the case. You can be happily thoughtless and work a job cleaning toilets, just like you can be totally miserable working the same job. Your thoughts determine your mood rather than your environment- contrary to what you choose to believe. It doesn't matter what your situation or surroundings are; you have to master yourself and become independent of them- let go of whatever attachment obligates you to them. Part of Fuck-Giving is the perception of good and bad, or positivity and negativity, in every context. You have to maintain the same resonance of your vibes when things are going good as when they're going bad and separate yourself from the moment regardless where you find yourself to become the active Observer. When you can let go of control you begin to experience life as it unfolds and you can better react to things as they arise with calculated clarity. When you start to see that things generally end up playing out however they do while you remain in a constant state of flux, it becomes easier to rely on certainty in uncertainty. Death is easily escapable when you stop running from it and you will find for yourself that it enables you to breathe easier and perform better too. When you quit Fuck-Giving you'll start recieving the things you didn't realise you needed and you'll realise you don't need the things you end up losing or lacking, but if you find yourself in need you can either seek things out, let them come to you, or create them for yourself. Either way, thoughts will do nothing to help you and they will only weigh you down in the heat of the moment. So how do you quit giving a fuck? First you need to realise you have everything you need right now. Seriously. If you need it and you don't have it, you would be dead. The fact you are reading this is proof that you have everything you need because you are not dead. There may be a lot of things that you want, but don't have, but if you spend all your time worried about it you'll just be wasting the time between now and when you get what it is that you want. For example; maybe you are hungry. You aren't dead, so you just want to eat right now. Of course you need food, but it isn't imperative to your life right now- you aren't going to die yet. You want the food because you feel that your body needs it soon, but not immediately. You start to worry that you're going to starve soon and the longer you wait, the greater your fear becomes until it swallows you up. You can scavenge, or you can beg for money, you can go into a store and steal, or you can ask for help. You don't even have to beg. If you sit outside a shopping centre long enough, or a street corner, or anywhere in the town or city you live- someone will offer you food or money. It is inevitable. The closer you get to starvation, the more likely the help will come, so there's no need to worry about death by starvation. Maybe it's not food, but your housing. Sleeping rough might not be desirable, but it's not something you can't withstand. Another thing you can do is prepare yourself for everything by taking advantage of a personal survival kit before you end up in the situation, or you can go about acquiring these things if you're completely destitute. Your whole life of what you need most can fit in a backpack, "thoughtlessly" packed. You may have to let go of some of the things that serve no purpose, but there may be room for sentimental things and items you gain along your journey in life. You need to prepare by realising the things you will need that you don't want to lack. That could be clothes, a gun, ammunition, money, tools, a lightweight tent, a blanket, robe, or sleeping bag, and things of that nature that you may need to rely on. If you have a car you have greater inventory, and you can fill a house or apartment with luxuries and whatever else you may want if you can afford those things, but ultimately you should be prepared to let go of anything and everything outside of what you can immediately take with you wherever you find yourself in whatever context. If you have nothing, then fear not, for you are as free as can be. You can acquire anything you need for yourself; you have no obligations, no ties, and nothing to lose, but everything to gain. The world is your oyster and you can seek out all that you desire, but mostly likely you are not free without any possessions or ties and these are things you do not appreciate in your possession. Homeless people are a good example because some of them will wait on a street corner hoping to find someone or something that will feed them. That is a waste of time, because every other day of your life you never starved to death, and this will not be the day either. Rather than focus on your life in the present, you spent the entire time between meals worried about your next meal, to the point you won't ever enjoy the meals you eat at all for fear of what the next one will be. On top of that, the time you spend waiting or begging for food is time that you could have productively been living and potentially found what you need and more. Joblessness can be another example, because the longer you spend out of work the more hopeless you become. It has been ingrained into many people that you cannot survive without a job- that is not the case. You could either spend the duration of your unemployment miserable, or you can appreciate the freetime for what it is. Even if you can't find work, that doesn't prevent you from being productive- you don't have to be depressed and do nothing with your life just because nobody wants to employ you. You can use that time to fulfill projects and chase goals that you didn't have the time to before and spend time with people you don't usually have the time to see. You may even find opportunities there that you wouldn't have. If you truly need help you can reach out to people, but don't go into life with expectations or you'll find yourself disappointed. The less you think, the easier life becomes- the less fucks you give the happier you are. A lot of the time it would appear that life plays out how it does regardless your outlook- the only difference it makes is the way people perceive you and the vibe you give off. You have to be the same person when you're doing good and when you're struggling and a lot of the time if you can maintain constant Chillitude it makes life easier and manifestations quicker and more frequent. Your mentality is what matters most; that frees souls or keeps people trapped in their lives. If you find yourself truly alone surrounded by no one but yourself, are you free or lonely? I've been asked several times in my life, "but where will you sleep, how will you eat- what will you do?" regarding some of my life choices, jobs I quit, or places I've moved. The answer to that, is that it's a stupid question that only provokes unnecessary thoughts. It's rather early to say that in this book, but in time you will see it: some questions are just totally unnecessary. They do nothing but provoke thoughts that don't even need to be thought about. Theoretic thoughts have no use in the world of practicality. Where will I sleep? On the ground somewhere comfortable at the very least, or under better circumstances in a comfortable spot that I can call a home, whether it's a bedroom, an apartment, a house, a friend's place, a cave, a grotto, a tent, under a tree, or even in a shopping centre outlet. You don't need four walls and a roof to survive. What will I eat? That's just a question of how programmed I am to the thought that luxury equates necessity- you can survive off of juice for a while, eating nothing more than tree bark and grass if you are in a great enough need, or you could kill, cook, and devour a small animal if you have the capacity to hunt and desensitization to skin it and peel the flesh from off its body. What level of "depravity" are you willing to sink to in order to exist? Most of the time this is totally unnecessary, but if you are trapped and lost- that is what separates you from someone who is just roaming around in the wilderness. What you perceive to be lost is really just wandering- it is just how you think about it and look at it. That goes back to "what will you do" however, which between all the questions is the stupidest: I am already doing it. Another example of this would be a plane crash, or being stranded in the middle of "nowhere". Someone who was programmed to work and revolve around bills, debt, etc would be worried about how to return to their life, and they would have time constraints and worries for consequences of their detour and whatnot. If you master the Art of Not Thinking however, you would just be somewhere you could never have expected and you will simply adapt to the situation. If you are famished you can eat some grass, leaves, or tree bark. If you aren't dying of hunger, you could seek out better means of sustenance, or a more suitable location, maybe even gather your sense of directions to figure out which way you would rather go or if there are any nearby places you know of. Maybe you could even build a structure and take advantage of the situation to use it as a means of chilling off grid. if you would rather go back to society, you could try and formulate a plan of getting back, unless it is impossible, in which case a master of the Art of Not Thinking would simply accept it and let go of what is unachievable, or risk everything in the endeavour because who gives a fuck either way. A Non-Thinker is the greatest kamikaze because they either get what they want or they don't- if it doesn't destroy them then they will continue in doing whatever they see fit. The worst case scenario is death, and that is simply a release from existence. If the Non-Thinker isn't killed then they have either accomplished their goal or turned away from it, but either way they have moved on to something else. Ultimately, nothing matters beyond what you allow to matter. The only thing you have control over is yourself, so learn to let go of your attachment to everything outside and around you. As a general rule, I would say that you should not use the Art of Not Thinking to become a sociopath or an evil entity, because that will ruin you equally as much as overthinking will. The point of Not Thinking is that if you are your most genuine self, everything will fall into place better than you could ever plan it yourself, but being successfully evil requires planning, plots, calculations, and many other thoughts- lest you just fuck yourself. Evil never pays off, and overthinking kills you. You might think sociopathy and Not Thinking are connected, but you would be wrong- a true sociopath believes their own lies and has allowed their thought to justify and convince them of their lack of wrongdoing, where a Non-Thinker has already calculated and allowed for the possibility of thoughts amd perspectives and come to the conclusive decision to let go and follow the most neutral path to achieve true peace in their lifetime. The point of not thinking isn't to gain riches, fame, or power- these things only matter to people who think. As long as you think you will never acquire these things and even if you do, it won't ever be enough. Not thinking frees you from the need to hoard material things and helps you to realise what you truly want in each moment to thoughtlessly pursue it. Whether or not those things are part of your life or not is irrelevant, because your life experience is everything that matters most of all. One aspect of Not Thinking is that life is like a linear video game, but linear video games are just glorified movies that you take control over. If you let go of controlling the outcome and situations of the game and stopped trying to predict and chase after what you don't have, you will find that it falls into place and that you have everything you need as you need it, almost as if it were by design. They say you should look before you leap, so it could be misinterpreted that I imply that you should leap before you look, but this is not the case. The point is rather than contemplating the jump, to actually take account of your surroundings and realise you don't need to jump- why are you in a situation where you need to jump? The chances are likely that you don't even need to jump in the first place. Most likely, you put yourself into a situation by overthinking and rushing to the point that you made an optional path the only path and it has turned into what you perceive to be a dire life or death situation. If you find yourself pushed into a corner where your only options are to fight or run, why would you let it escalate to that point? Firstly, you don't have to push or encourage a situation to that point, but secondly- if you find yourself where those are truly your only options, why fuck it up worse by thinking? For example- if you feel like you're about to throw up while you're walking down the street, just do it. Dogs do it all the time, you don't have to think about right or wrong, but it's probably better to throw up in the grass. The rain will clean it, or maybe something will eat it, or whatever happens happens, but once it leaves your body it isn't your problem anymore, but someone might try to make it your problem. How you handle the situation is up to you, and there are an infinite amount of ways things can go, but generally you can feel what is best in any given moment. Returning to the example at hand- it seems like common sense that you don't throw up on someone's carpet- go outside or do it in a trashcan or something, but whatever you end up throwing up on don't worry, cos that thing can be cleaned, or if you gotta pay someone to clean it don't be upset- just be happy you aren't sick anymore. There's bigger things to worry about, like maybe you find your spouse cheating on you with your best friend. Some would think you need to beat the friend up, or abuse the partner for their infidelity. Nah fam; they were both never truly people who belonged in your life and that was the ultimate proof. Just let them go-you don't need them in your life, unless you truly don't care. If they still want to be with you and you love them both- what is the problem? It all depends on what you give a fuck about. If you want to share your spouse with your friend or be in an open relationship then just do it, but if you don't then let them go. If your partner leaves you for someone else then let them go- there's no point clinging to something that was never yours to begin with. People always seem to put so much emphasis into the importance of temporary things in their lives that they fear the loss on a life-or-death level, seeing everything as an ultimatum. Life goes on, and when you remove yourself from the situations as they unfold it goves you the mental immunity that gets you through it effortlessly. Threats bounce off you and fear and anxiety can't scathe you. Prolonging the thoughts only prolongs the suffering. The more genuine you are to yourself the more genuine the interest of the people you attract. People seem to put so much emphasis into being in relationships that they make themselves miserable when they aren't in one, just like when you are not happy in a relationship and you don't love them anymore- why stay and make yourselves both so miserable that you hate each other? You shouldn't have to think about how much you love someone or worry about how much they love you if it is genuine- that overthinking is what ruins the relationship. The same way that you can ruin a relationship by overthinking, you can also put yourself into a doomed relationship when you think about how to attract someone you simply desire the aesthetic beauty of without any other basis for the attraction. You plot out how to present yourself and put on a mask, but when you get comfortable the mask begins to slip and they see you for who you truly are- perceiving you as totally unlovable because that is how you thought of yourself which led to the initial mask you put on. The trick to finding a perfect partner is not to look for one- which is also good advice on how to live your life. You should ultimately live for yourself, because you'll always be trapped with yourself every waking second of your life regardless who surrounds you. The people you attract by being yourself with no ulterior motives will truly love you for who you are and there is no way of knowing the things they can help you achieve. Maybe they might offer you a job or help you find work, or become a future roommate, or maybe they will save your life one day. You never know where networking will take you in this interconnected web of souls we call life. You can't go into a situation expecting or plotting around things because life is chaos and there is no way of knowing what will happen, even one minute from this exact moment. Your job gives you a schedule set in stone that can be subject to change- maybe a terrorist organisation will target your job and they may tell you that you can't come to work that day even though you were scheduled, the same way they may call you in because someone called out. It can be nice to have a basic idea of what is probable to happen, but nothing is guaranteed and nothing should be expected. That leads to a happier life. This is especially true when you develope and hone your ability to react on the spot without thought and cease to think so heavily about all of life's infinite possibilities. This is why one of the first steps to the Art of Not Thinking is the subject of Fuck-Giving. If you can recognise all the things you give a fuck about and how none of them truly impact your life, it is a step closer you gain towards the thoughtlessly genuine reactions of a Non-Thinker. You don't need a job to survive, the same way you don't need a lover, a house, a vehicle, or anything at all- the earth literally provides everything you need to survive and if you didn't have the necessary minimum you would already be dead. If it comes down to it you could even steal from the store to survive in desperation and then what's the worst that could possibly happen? The police would arrest you and give you free food and housing, but if that's the case and that's how bad things are and you're willing to do that- there are so many other things you could do to acquire the bare minimum of money to eat a meal. You could walk around and adventure, meet people, ask them if they know anyone that needs some work or if they have some money so you can eat. Walk into stores and ask them for help, maybe even apply to a couple and tell them of your situation. You could dumpster dive, meet up with friends and hang out, maybe even ask them for help- stop being so desperate and miserable. When you can realise that and let go of the inherent need for stability and guarantees, then you are a step closer to Not Thinking. If you can't let go of those things, it's okay, this will come in time as you warp your mind and deprogram yourself to the reality and facts you were programmed to believe in. The beauty of Not Thinking is that it isn't a step-by-step process- it is the end result and let-go of all aspects at once, training your mind, bit by bit, to realise the pointlessness of reality so that you can find the meaning you originally gave it before you traded your hopes and dreams for realistic expectations in the pursuit of those things society trained and conditioned you to crave. You can survive anything as long as you do what you need to in order to survive- the more minimalistic you are the easier it becomes. How will I feed my family? Well, if you can't feed them, they will find another means. That isn't your problem, the same way they don't think how they are going to take care of you. What if my family abandons me? Well, they never truly loved you beyond your ability to take care of them. If that fact bothers you, then you should stop thinking about how shallow your situational "love" is and start doing things to make sure they don't abandon you instead of worrying and lying to yourself about the shallow nature of your life. Most of the people you will fuck only want you for your money or your genitals- the same way your attraction to them is primarily physical, unless you form the relationship through genuine vibes that can only be produced through the genuine thoughtlessness of living in the moment true to yourself. The same thing is true for friends and a job too- if you fake your experience and lie you will find yourself out of your element forced to pretend to be something you aren't, and it will leave you miserable. Even if you deny it as much and as hard as you can- you will always know the truth. So the gist of this chapter is to recognise when you find yourself getting too attached to things outside of yourself- Fuck Giving. When you can recognise yourself giving unneccesary fucks, it will make it much easier to distance yourself from such thoughts and further help you to deprogram yourself from experiencing them. This is one of the main key points of Not Thinking, though it is not the only one, or even the most important. All aspects of this book must be simultaneously combined if one is to achieve the inner peace of total thoughtlessness that can be gained from this insight, if it can be called that. So this was the breakdown and explanation of Fuck-Giving, and it can be re-read as many times as is needed until you fully grasp the shit I just spoke, and as I said before- each step is necessary, but not in any particular order. With that being the case, you may end up reading this book several times before you fully understand and implement it, or you may not finish it because you chose to reject it, or you may only read it once and take whatever you do from it in any of those possible circumstances. No matter what though, I don't give a fuck and neither should you, as is the whole message of the book.
The Iron War
GREGOV, GORGOVNA Winter, 2E8 Aleksy Zuykov Ilyich was formerly a peasant from the town of Tineşti where he struggled to get by as a farmer with his wife and two sons. The town was divided into communities by the noblemen that owned the serfs and free peasants that lived off the land. The indentured serfs lived in communal estates built on the land owned by the three Boyars that shared ownership of the town; having divvied up the township between themselves, they sold portions of the lands to the local free men and peasants that inhabited the surrounding region. Aleksy was separated from his family in 1E192 at the ripe age of 24 for national service. He served under one of First Marshall Dmitri Porfiry Yaroslavovich’s many underlings during the construction of The Iron Highway primarily as a labourer, though he was armed and outfitted as a soldier of the Voskan Army. He fought alongside his fellow countrymen, repelling a vampiric onslaught as they colonised the newfoundland beyond the inhospitable westernmost reaches of the cruel and unforgiving Iron Teeth Mountains. Sixteen years had passed since the day he’d been separated from his family and still he served under the Voskan Army in those lands, awaiting the day he could retire and return home to his family as a free man. He would receive a payment of Я1,500*(*The Rinska was the common unit of currency in Voska, established originally in 1E78 during the rule of Vladimirovich Vladyslava Ivanovna; son of Vladimir Ivanovna: the founder of Voska) as his retirement along with his freedom upon serving the mandatory minimum of 10 years servitude, with a maximum of 20 years of service in exchange for a retirement payout of Я5,000. Unfortunately, due to disciplinary action, his mandatory duty had been extended to a minimum of 18 years of service, of which he still had two years to go. His time was nearly up and Aleksy had spent the majority of it plotting out what he would do upon receiving his freedom; having set his sights on following through with a solid 20 years of service in exchange for the maximum payout. He often fantasized of buying his own plot of land and spending the short remainder of his life with his wife, Dunia, and his two sons; living off the land and passing it down to the eldest son whilst giving the monetary inheritance to the younger son when the time inevitably came. His sons, Alexei and Petyr Ilyich, were 20 and 17 years old; Alexei had just reached the minimum age of eligibility for selection into national service and his mother was worried for him. She wrote to her husband regularly over the years and they’d maintained consistent communication via post. In the last letter she wrote on Alexei’s twentieth birthday, she told her husband of the growing discontent back home in Tineşti; it was rumoured that the Voskan Army was starting to make moves to muster more troops across the country. Upon completion of the Iron Highway in 1E199, a second draft had been enacted, though their boys had been too young to serve in those days. Now however, there were rumours that yet another draft would soon spread across the nation, sweeping through the cities, town, and villages like a murder of carrion crows. Aleksy worried for his sons; the Voskan Army made national service a mandatory requirement of all men between the age of 20-25 and the minimum requirement was 5 years, though in the event of a mandatory draft all selected draftees were required to do a minimum of 10 years. The required time of service could also be extended as a result of disciplinary action or simply because a commanding officer didn’t like a particular soldier or wanted to hold onto an exceptional one. For those reasons Aleksy feared for his sons’ futures, as well as his wife’s. Petyr was still too young to be selected for duty, though it wasn’t certain when the draft would be enacted if there was any truth to the rumours. Though Aleksy hoped that neither of his sons would be snatched away from their homestead, his mind also drifted to the subconscious fears for his wife’s well-being. They were both beginning to feel their age creep up on them and she couldn’t take care of all the duties of the estate on her own. Until he could retire from the military and buy their freedom from the Boyar that owned them, Aleksy and his family were the property of Nikolai Koval Surikov. The Boyar’s brother, Vasiliy, was a notorious alcoholic and womaniser with countless accusations of rape and sexual assault against him from the peasantry, even amongst the children. Being of nobility, Vasiliy was above the law and quite often found himself taking blatant advantage of the fact. Those he couldn’t intimidate with his social standing he bought off with his money and so he never found himself in much trouble for very long at all, though his brother often berated him and was often found publicly shaming and humiliating him for his lecherous, perverted, and consumptuous ways. Aleksy did not like being so far from his wife and unable to protect her from such situations, though there was little he could do to prevent it even had he been around. Floggings were all too common a punishment for the peasantry and besides; Dunia was fully capable of handling her own against the wretched man. He hadn’t expressed any interest in her for nearly twelve years; she had made her feelings towards the abominable drunk quite clear after rejecting his advances by breaking several of Vasiliy’s toes with a swift stomp of her foot. She was entirely capable of defending herself, but still; Aleksy loved his wife and so he worried for her as well as his sons. Shaking himself out of his thoughtful reverie, the Voskan peasant-soldier brought himself back to the present; it was his turn at watch duties and everything was dead silent and still in that late hour of the night. “Privet, my friend; lost in thought?” Josef chuckled, pouring himself a glass of vodka and pouring a second for his friend. Aleksy laughed and shook it off, telling his fellow soldier of the watch that he’d just been starting to nod off, accepting the vodka that would help to renew his vigour. They drank a couple rounds and took long drags on their pipes, chatting between themselves of the Voskan current events and politics and exchanging tales of their hometowns. The pair were both from the more mountainous southwestern farming region; Josef’s hometown of Lyšça was very similar to Aleksy own hometown in many ways and the two bonded over it. They had both been farmers in their former lives as peasants, primarily growing tuber plants such as potatoes, turnips, and beets and growing barely enough to get by after the local Boyar had deducted his taxable share of the crops. So it was that they laughed and made jokes about the system they lived under, relating to one another and enjoying the semi-pessimistic camaraderie that they shared. They saw the flaws of the world in which they lived and accepted them as the immutable facts of life that they were, choosing instead to laugh about them together rather than dwell on it in a constant state of hopelessness. Josef poured a third round and Aleksy declared it to be his last, feeling the first two starting to creep up on him. Even as Josef teased him jokingly, the pair continued in their mirth and downed the drinks, taking a break to smoke their pipes as they attempted to regain their senses momentarily. A shot cracked off and startled the pair out of their routine night of watch duty, whizzing just inches from where Josef’s head had been moments ago prior to leaning back to exhale the drag he’d just taken from his pipe…
Into The Fire
There weren’t always dragons in the valley. Our town of Tal-Ulir rested in its heart. Although we weren’t rich or prosperous, we built our farmsteads on fertile lands and we had plenty of crops and livestock to get by. Everyone had a place to call their own and we had plenty of food to share with our neighbours. Money was scarce, but we didn’t have a need for it in the days before the dragons attacked. It all started when Val Ulmer set off on his fated adventure one summer night. That was the day everything changed… At first, we heralded him a hero, and rightfully so— he had brought unimaginable prosperity beyond all of our wildest dreams combined to the valley and its inhabitants. Everyone praised his name as he spread the wealth amongst everyone, regardless of age, background, or profession. Even the babies were given their own cut of the wealth. Although he had been celebrated at first, that was quick to change when we realised the curse he’d brought upon us with his return. The riches beyond measure greeted us alongside the bards who sang songs praising his glory and might leading up to the final moments of our celebration. “Val Ulmer the Dragon Slayer has brought us riches, fame, and glory beyond measure— he’s killed the Dragon Lord!” they chanted for all to hear, though their songs quickly turned to screams, curses, and cries as the dragons followed in their wake. “You fool!” the village elder shrieked as dragons descended upon our tranquil valley, razing the farmlands as the livestock fled before their wrath, “Look what you’ve done; you brought the wrath of their entire horde upon us!” “I only meant to help!” Val Ulmer cried out in response as the townsfolk fled for cover between shrieking curses at him and crying out for their loved ones to follow them to safety— if there was anywhere in the valley that could be considered safe on that unholiest of days. “You’ve damned us all! You’ve cursed our town with your greed! Damn you, you bastard!” Those were my father’s last words. I still remember that day. That was the day I’d decided to join the Couriers— Tal-Ulir’s only hope of survival in the apocalyptic wastes our homeland had become… My name is Kira Aliera, one of the few Couriers to survive more than three trips. There were only a dozen who’d managed to make a single trip in their life, though my burning hatred was what enabled me to survive thrice in these inhospitable lands. A Courier’s job was to deliver the stolen gold of the dragons to the neighbouring towns in exchange for the food and goods that were imperative to our survival. My mother and father would have told me it was no job for a woman, though thanks to Val Ulmer, I’ll never truly know their thoughts on the matter. They died the day of his return— the day the dragons attacked. Today marks a year since the fateful day of Val Ulmer’s return; ironically enough, it also marks my eighteenth birthday. The minimum age for Couriers is sixteen, and today the town chief decided to wed me to his son— the town’s greatest warrior. It had been decided that wedding the town’s most powerful warrior with the most successful Courier would be in the best interests of all, though I don’t think anyone was thinking of my interests when they made the decision. “Kira, are you alright?” Suda spoke up, snapping me out of my reverie. “Are you?” I rebutted irritably before continuing, “How do you feel about it all— have you heard the news? They’re going to marry me to Nial Shay today once I return.” “What about us!?!” Suda replied, totally appalled as a look of shock and horror spread across his face. “As if they care— the only thing they care about is what’s best for the town.” I replied scathingly as he piped back up, still not having given up hope. “Surely you have a choice in the matter! You’re their best Courier! Perhaps if you tell them you already have a lover—” he started, though I interrupted him before he could continue to get my hopes up any further. “They don’t care. It’s not as if I have a choice anyways… Either way I have no choice but to make these deliveries or we’ll starve the same as everyone else. They only care about themselves.” I softened my tones before continuing as I saw the look of despair spread across his face, “It’ll be alright— there’s plenty of fish in the sea anyways.” “Not since the dragons evaporated the waters… Besides, you were my fish.” Suda replied bleakly with tears in his eyes, “Sometimes I wish the dragons would just put us out of our missry and burn this whole place to the ground…” “And every time I make the trip I wish to myself that I’d be going back to my parents on the other side, but fate has a way of giving us the opposite of what we want. Val Ulmer is the perfect example of that.” I answered equally dismal in my tone as I grabbed my gear to depart, “They say this is going to be my last trip— a lady’s place isn’t in harm’s way after all.” “So they just expect you to breed Couriers for the rest of your days?!? What about what you want? Don’t they even care about your feeling or desires at all?” Suda snapped back helplessly. “If they cared about anyone but themselves, perhaps the dragons never would have descended upon our valley in the first place. Their greed is the source of all our misery after all— never forget that.” I answered with finality as I prepared to depart for the convoy. “I can’t believe we spent our whole lives fantasising our own marriage, just for it to be stolen from us by those who were supposed to have our best interests at heart.” Suda griped as he watched me go. “I still can’t believe one man’s greed damned our whole people.” I concluded, hopping on the back of my horse to depart from that place in rank with the other horses. Part of me didn’t even want to return, though I knew if anyone had a chance of coming back in that group, it would be me. It always was— all thanks to the violent hatred that consumed me. Three times I’d ridden off with my fellow Couriers and each time I was one of the few to return with success. The dragons patrolled the skies night and day waiting for us to reveal to them their stolen gold, and each time, I was one of the few tasked with delivering it to our neighbours who succeeded in the endeavour. For better or for worse, this would be my last time making the trip, however, though I still couldn’t figure out whether death or survival would be the better outcome. Is it better to live a miserable life in comfort, or to die happily knowing that the suffering is finally at an end? Before I could come to an answer, my fellow Couriers greeted me as I came upon the convoy even as the familiar blood-curdling shriek of our enemies roared from the skies up above us. “Dragons!” one of the Couriers cried out as the caravan’s drivers whipped the horses to charge forth, “Fly as quickly as you can!” Even as my fellow Couriers cried out, I heard the Dragon overhead as the all-too-familiar hiss that preceded its deadly jets of flame pierced each of the Couriers’ hearts in the caravan with fear before engulfing their bodies in the horrendous flames that melted their flesh before turning the bones to ash. The caravan itself had barely managed to evade the hellfire that scorched the earth its horses tred upon, however, the dragon hadn’t lost sight of its greater prize and objective either. “What are you waiting for? Hurry up and get out of here!” I shrieked at the drivers even as they turned in their seats to take aim with their longbows before turning back around to follow my command. Nocking an arrow to my own bow even as my trusty steed bounded across the valley we inhabited, I selected my mark before releasing the arrow even as the dragon reared its head back to usher forth a sea of flames to greet me. The arrow sang through the sky, whistling as it soared straight and true towards the dragon’s eye as flames rolled down to greet me like hellish rain in the night. “This one's for you, Mom and Dad—” I said aloud to myself as I shut my eyes, feeling the fire’s embrace even as my trusty steed lunged forth through the fiery wall that enveloped us in a final desperate attempt to dodge the dragon’s fury and pass through to the other side unscathed…