As if in a dream, I wandered the village alone for hours, but could find no solace in its familiarity. If Ragg had managed to overpower and destroy his master, how could I, a mere wizard's apprentice, hope to defeat him? The pouch of powders Fith bestowed upon me along with a few words of enchantment might ease my way, but I had far too little expeience with the sword, and my knowledge of the magics was finite. I had no clue what these sparks were he spoke of. And how much power did this blue crystal truly hold? Fith wouln't let me go if he didn't believe I could succeed, would he? I had truly hoped Jink would have agreed to come, for he was strong and quick with his wits. I could use his help, but I was all alone in this quest of madness and the pangs of indecision I felt gnawed like an ulcer at my gut.
When I finally forced myself to return home, Kael sat alone in the inglenook. He frowned Father's frown as he watched me enter.
"Where's Father?" I asked, trying to ignore Kael's geck.
"Gone to Fead on king's business. He'll be gone a sennight." Kael paused. "He bade me tell you to stay home. Become a wizard. Drink at the pub. Consort with the whore. Do whatever you wish, but don't throw your life away to Ragg. Stay in Avar."
I had to laugh.
"What's so funny?"
I shook my head. "I already am a wizard. I already do drink at the pub and nub the whore. I already do what I want. What permission is Father granting me if I stay in Avar? To remain in the shadow of Kael?"
He leapt to his feet. "He is granting you the opportunity to stay alive! Perhaps you don't need his permission to destroy yourself, but it would be to your advantage to heed his counsel. Our father happens to be a very wise man."
"Can't you see that I'll never measure up to you in his eyes? He wants me to be another Kael, but I am not Kael. I am only Fane, and Fane is a disappointment."
"How could you possibly believe that?"
"Because it's true. Because I am not a warrior. I am less than a man in his eyes because I am not a warrior."
"Not every man can be a warrior, Fane. Father knows that."
"No. He only knows that I am not what he wants me to be. It matters not to him what I want or who I am. All he sees when he looks at me is a failure. An embarrassment. And you--you grow more like him every day."
"I don't see anything wrong with that." His tone was defensive. I had the upper hand. Yes, Kael had taught me that. It worked as well with words as it did with swords.
But I had no desire to hurt my brother. I sighed deeply before speaking again, drawing strength from that breath. "I am going to do what I have to do, Kael. For Fane. And for our kingdom."
"There is no wealth in the world worth risking the wrath of Ragg!"
"It is not wealth I seek, Kael. It is life."
"No. To seek the treasure of Skur is to seek death. You don't have to give yourself up to Ragg in order to prove to Father that you're a man."
"But to die in the King's Service would?"
"There is honor in dying as a warrior, Fane. What honor is it to walk into the arms of a demon while trying to take a fortune that may not even exist?"
"The treasure is there. it exists. It's as real as Ragg is, and it takes far more courage to face a demon in battle than to face a man!"
"At least in battle with a man you have the chance to win."
"I'm going," I said. "And that's all there is to it." I knew there was no arguing with him. In his own simple way, Kael was fulfilled. A part of me wished I could be so easily satisfied, but my dreams were much bigger and bigger dreams required a grander sense of completion...
...I had no way of knowing I would never see home again.
Excerpt from Chapter Three of Part One, The Pathways of Darkness and Light