Mankind rests at the bottom of an elaborate food chain. The Entity, the Maker of All Things, rests divided into several deities. The King, the Knight, the Scribe to name a few. The King, most powerful of such deities, finds enjoyment in the struggles of Man. His brother, the Scribe, writes the pitiful beings into existence, into a mad, cruel world. But there exists one immortal that sees into the good of Man, the Illuminated Lady. It is through her guidance, her light, her Lanterns that Man may live. When the light dies, so does Man. --- This story begins with the birth of a Savior, a child blessed by the Illuminated Lady in abundance. She is born to a band of stragglers fleeing from the destruction of their village, a handful of battered survivors vow to escort her safely to the Grand Library, the one and only vestige of accumulated human knowledge in known existence. Though their purpose is unclear, undefined, it leaves them each with a sense of hope. And the spark of hope can leave burning a flame brighter than the most powerful Lantern. Long Dark Night "In their faces there came to be a brooding peace that is seen most often in the faces of the sorrowful or the wise, but still they wandered this world in search of their better selves." The camp was motionless this late into the evening, rather 'evening' as used to refer to what was the time of the day when the survivors could move no further without rest. Without a sun to guide the passage of the day, time was a meaningless luxury as the world itself was cast into an eternal shroud of night. Overhead, the grey outline of clouds moved swiftly through the darkened sky, blotting out the sickly green light from the moon above known as the Eternal Lantern. There were no stars to gauge direction, nor did even the moon shift from its overhead perch among the clouds. The only lights to grace the encampment came from the dimly glowing Lanterns collected around its perimeter. Tilheor had awoken early for his watch, taking position where the worn trail met the clearing his group had taken to camp in. Around him, in a loose circle around tents made of spare hide, leaves, and fallen branches, stood Lanterns upon poles fashioned from carved wood, each with an armed man or woman standing by it. In the center of the encampment rested wagons stacked with spare furs, scraps of food, and weapons. Their lifeline. At Tilheor's gentle tap to the shoulder, the man on watch, Ames, jolted. For a brief instant he glared at Tilheor, wooden spear at the ready, knuckles white with strain. Recognizing the man, Ames lowered his weapon and nodded, slamming the tip of his spear into the earth below with a deep thunk. Tilheor grunted something that Ames took for assent, and the previous watchman left his post and wandered to the nearest tent, disappearing inside. With considerable strain - he hadn't eaten properly in days - Tilheor wrenched the spear free from the ground and propped his back against the Lantern pole. Allowing himself to slide to the ground, Tilheor rested the butt of the spear against the ground and shifted his attention to the path ahead. Though he had the light of a Lantern to see by, without the moon or reliable night vision (he had just been awoken from slumber), the dwindling trail blended seamlessly into the woods around it until both tree and ground converged into a single black mass. Then he heard the noise. A rustling of leaves and branches. Gripping his spear in a tighter grip, Tilheor mustered the strength to rise, wresting the spear upwards as he did so, tip pointed into the darkness before him. The rustling ceased. Tilheor took a cautious step towards the source of the noise, weapon at the ready. Though the clearing was chill, and a slight wind blew from the trail, Tilheor could feel the first drops of sweat forming across his brow. Would he be able to call for help if the thing in the thicket darted forth? He was at the edge of the Lantern's glow now, right at the mouth of the trail where stamped dirt met grassy clearing. The rustling sounded again to his left. Tilheor wheeled around, creeping towards the source of the noise hunched low. "Don't kill me!" Tilheor shot up at the sound of the voice. "I've been wandering here and I saw the lights and-" the man cut the voice off. "Shut up," Tilheor grunted. "No, you can't send me back out there. I'll die!" "Step out." There was a pause. "Step out," he repeated. As the figure emerged from the woods, Tilheor stepped back, breaching the gap between himself and the hunched form before him with his spear. A young man stood, hands raised above his head, clad in plain cloth and hefting a dead Lantern over his shoulders with considerable effort. His cheeks were sunken and already sores were forming from malnutrition. A walking corpse more than a human at this point. "Who are you?" Tilheor snarled, gesturing towards the young man with his spear tip. "I'm nobody," the young man rasped. "Why are you here?" "To survive." "Nothing we can do for you," Tilheor's eyes looked the man over, searching for a weapon. None. The young man stammered and allowed his Lantern to fall into the soft earth of the trail. "I'll die," he stated plainly. "Other people I know'll die," Tilheor retorted bluntly. The young man suddenly shot forward in a blur of motion, a glimmer of steel in his hands flashing as he sprung towards Tilheor. In an instant, Tilheor's spear was cast aside and the weight of the young man came crashing down on to him, sending both of them careening into the ground. Tilheor looked up to see the steel in the man's hands come hurtling down towards his face. Synapses fired and his arm shot up to block the blow, trapping the two in a gridlock for a split second before Tilheor heaved and flung the man over, sending him an arm's length to the left. At the sound of the conflict, others around the camp had come to assist Tilheor, only to find him locked in melee once more with the man. Tilheor's fist slammed into the man's gut, driving the air from the prone figure. Coughing and spluttering, the man attempted to reach feebly for his knife, which had been flung just out of arm's reach to his left. "Leave," Tilheor boomed, plucking the knife from the ground and standing from the man's chest, unpinning him. The man shot to his feet, gasping for breath. Cautiously, he grabbed his Lantern and hoisted it over his shoulders, backing away from Tilheor, who merely pointed towards the trail with the stolen knife. "Leave," he repeated. So the young man did, and the camp became motionless once more.