This is the Prologue to what will eventually by three novels.
"Return to Amar"
Life can often be a harsh taskmaster, seeming intent on throwing us down, even unto death. It often places formidable obstacles in our paths, forcing us to deal with such painful experiences as betrayal, injustice and loss. Sometimes it hardly seems worth the effort to strive and survive; and often it might seem easier to just pack it in, to find a hole to hide in, to curl up in the fetal position and just wait for death to come. However there are two things within each of us which are designed to help us find the courage to carry on: hope and love. This story is filled with examples of betrayal, and injustice, and even loss, but through it all there can be found both hope and love, and many examples of the courage and strength that flow from them.
It began on a world known as Amar, tens of thousands of years ago and ended on a world known by the same name, though that world existed in another place entirely. The first Amar was a place of beauty, wonder and magic. It was ruled by five beings who, while not gods, had so grown in knowledge and power as to rival that of a god. They were wizards of immense power, immortal, and strong beyond the conception of most mortals.
These wizards had reached a point in their existence where life had become dull and almost pointless, for they had progressed as far as they thought possible, and there seemed nothing more to strive for, no more challenges to make them grow. Then, two of the five were delivered of twin sons, and hope for the future returned. It quickly became apparent that in these two young males there existed the spark of something greater, as beyond them as the mortals they ruled. It put new meaning into their lives, and all of the five devoted themselves to the task of raising the twins, preparing them to become whatever it was they were meant to be. Thus began the conflict that would span millenia, and result in the death of the first world of two known by the name Amar.
The twins were as different as it is possible to be for two beings spawned of the same seed, born in the same womb. Ravek, the second born, was dark and strong and filled with passion and fire. Leigh was of a lighter countenance and was given to introspection, a peaceful young man with a gentle nature. Though it was known to none, Ravek was born with the seed of evil in his brain, while Leigh was strong with the force called good. Now it seemed to the Five that both of their progeny were good, for Ravek was canny enough to conceal the darkness in his nature. But the fates had selected these two to enact yet another struggle between the forces of good and evil, as had happened since time began, and no doubt will until the universe ends.
Ravek studied the arts of his parents with a passion which pleased them, though it was for reasons of his own. He grew in power at a much faster rate than his sibling, for he had developed a plan, and at least enough patience to wait for the achievement of his desires. Leigh studied and learned as well, but without the intensity of his brother, for he was immortal and in no great hurry to do anything specific. Unfortunately, he was not guided by the same sense of purpose which guided the actions of his brother Ravek.
Finally, the time came when Ravek was ready to implement his plan, and he did not hesitate. The only thing to mar his plans may or may not have been due to the machinations of fate, but it was responsible for the ages long conflict between the twins. Ravek had waited long for the opportunity to initiate his plans, and it came in the form of a discovery. In his wanderings across the face of Amar, ostensibly for the purpose of furthering his understanding of the world, but due more to his restless desire to begin his master plan, he found an ancient item of power which predated even his sires: The Chains of Binding! It was all he needed and had been waiting for, as the chains were powerful enough to bind even gods, and it was his intention to use them for that very purpose.
His plan was to wait until his sibling and the five wizards who were his elders to be gathered together at one time, and then to bind them all, leaving only himself to rule Amar. It was only chance which prevented his compete success. The time he had chosen was at his own birthday celebration, where all would be gathered to celebrate. The time came, and all were gathered, and with amazing ease he used the chains to bind them inside the mountain which rested beneath their home. What he did not know, was the the being he took as his brother, was not. A mortal wizard, hoping to further his power and ambitions, had assumed the form of Leigh. He had engineered a disaster far away which he knew would occupy Leigh for a long while, as he had informed the young mage of it himself. None at the celebration, including Ravek, suspected his deception....for who would dare such a thing? Thus it was a mortal wizard, and not Leigh, who was bound inside the mountain with the Five.
Ravek began his reign of evil unaware that there yet remained a challenge to his rule. Evil feeds on the pain and suffering of the mortals it despises, and Ravek was no exception. His atrocities began immediately, and when he'd tired of playing with his mortal toys, he would consume their very souls to feed his evil hunger. Amar would now enter an unprecedented age of terror, and he was content.
Leigh had been long on the other side of the world, helping the people there to recover from the disaster engineered by the wizard who had unknowingly saved his life. As Ravek was in no great hurry to press his domination of Amar (for what was there to stop him?), he had not expanded his world conquest very far. Leigh was so far away, that when the time came to return he was completely unaware of what had transpired at home. As he neared the mountain palace which had always been his home, he began to hear disturbing tales filled with accounts of the atrocities perpetrated by his brother. He returned home as quickly as possible to confront Ravek, and to discover the truth about what he had heard.
As he neared his home, and the horrible truth of the tales became evident in the sorrowful destruction of the surrounding lands, he slowed his approach and moved more cautiously. He slipped into the palace unobtrusively, afraid of what he would find, and discovered that his worst imaginings paled in comparison to the reality. Ravek, unaware that Leigh had escaped his trap, was his completely evil self when Leigh arrived. Leigh watched silently from the balconies of the throne room, and was appalled by what he saw. He watch Ravek torturing the hapless mortals of Amar, and when he saw his brother actually consume the soul of one, his rage got the best of him.
He attacked Ravek with every bit of power he possessed, and having caught his brother off guard, nearly slew him. But Ravek had always been the more powerful of the two, and though Leigh was able to maim him horribly, he survived the initial onslaught of his brothers rage, and retaliated. They battled for long days and nights, and the mountain shook with the fury of their combat, but Ravek was far stronger, and Leigh began to know fear for the first time in his life.
Leigh possessed courage in abundance, but as he began to weaken, and it became evident that he was losing, he knew that he must escape if there were ever to be a chance of stopping his evil twin. Waiting for the proper moment, he threw all his strength into one savage attack, and then ran. He spent the next hundred years in constant flight, doing all he could to marshall the forces of good to fight Ravek's evil, but he was fighting a losing battle. In the end, knowing he could do no more, he escaped from Amar with only a few survivors of each race to accompany him, and fled, abandoning Amar to his brother. For the first time in his existence he now knew the bitter taste of defeat.
Travelling through the inky depths of space in a ship of his own design, he fled his homeworld in search of a suitable place to begin again. After a journey of epic length, he finally found a world which was suitable. There were already sentient creatures there, but it was a world in it's infancy with plenty of room for more, as well as virgin land to settle and begin again. In honor of his homeworld, he took it's name as his own and became Amar. He did what he could to help the surviving mortals to begin their lives on a new world. When he saw that they were well settled in, he began to plan for their future survival. He knew the wasteful nature of evil, and was certain that Ravek would use up the first Amar unto it's death, so he also knew that a time would come when his brother would have to search for a new world to conquor. Somehow, he also knew that things were not over between he and his brother, and he was certain that someday Ravek would come here, to the new Amar. He vowed to devote his existence to finding a way to win that battle, and to protect the mortals he had come to love as his own children.
He spent many hundreds of years in study, and the search for more knowledge and power. He created a new race of beings, the Elves, who existed primarily for the purpose of studying and finding some magic with which they could defeat Ravek, should he come. He knew their quest would be long so he granted them near immortality. They would someday expire, but their existence would henceforth be measured in millenia rather than decades. To the twelve humans who were the only survivors of their race, he gave gems in the shape of a five pointed star, which were imbedded into the flesh of their foreheads, and which would allow them to channel more power than any mortal was meant to bear without harm. He charged them with the responsibility of guarding and guiding the peoples of Amar. He also created the Chrysa; a race of magical beings who were tied to the earth and the forces of nature.
In the course of time Amar/Leigh progressed to a state that was equal to godhood. He suspected that the same had occurred to his brother, and later it was found that he was correct. It was then that he implemented his final plan, for now he knew that there would be new rules to the game. Even gods are constrained to follow certain rules of the universe, and now he knew his children would have a chance, for Ravek would now be forced to exist under the same conditions as himself. Part of his final plan involved a sort of self-sacrifice, wherein he would surrender his identity to merge with the earth itself, which would result in an increase in the magical essence of the planet. He was taking a chance, for in doing so it would limit severely his ability to personally interact with his children. Fortunately, it would also strengthen their ability to fend for themselves, and he believed they were worthy of his sacrifice.
Ravek would be somewhat less constrained than himself, but he knew that, as any parent must, he would have to allow his children to grow and evolve into what they were to become on their own. After leaving final instructions with the Chrysa, the Elves and the Star-mages, he took his leave of them, making his final descent into the earth. He was well satisfied that he had done all he could, and was content to leave the rest to the fates.
Not long after his assimiliation, Ravek arrived, though he was now forced by the constraints of godhood to deal primarily with the inhabitants of Amar through others. He took as his headquarters Black Mountain, which was the tallest peak on Amar, and far to the north of the kingdom founded by his brother. Black Mountain lay very near the lands of the planet's indiginous peoples, who were called Ogres and Trolls by the people of Amar. Having grown in power, and having defeated his brother once before, he was perhaps overconfident, and did not plan for his conquest as carefully as he had before. He subverted the Ogres and Trolls to his purpose, making them his own creatures. He then created the Talons, who could use magic, and who were his chief lieutenants. The first war of new Amar, known later as the Race Wars, was begun.
At first, the war went badly for the children of Amar. The Talons were immensely powerful, taking their power from Ravek himself, and far outnumbered the Star-Mages and the Chrysa....who were the only ones capable of matching their expertise in magic. The Elves were not yet ready to attain such a level, though they approached it. It was also a fact that the Ogres and Trolls greatly outnumbered the children of Amar. Aware that they were losing, the Star-mages conceived a desperate plan and gathered what forces they could into a direct attack on Black Mountain. Just south of there commenced the battle that would decide the war once and for all. The unexpectedness of their attack helped at first, but the superior numbers of the enemy, and the abilities of the Talons, began to tell. The children of Amar were in imminent danger of losing.
It was then that a hero emerged from the ranks of the Star-Mages. His name was Leigh, the same as had once been Amar's. With the exception of his brother Kaelin (known simply as-The Guide), Leigh was the oldest and the wisest of those who wore the Star-Gems. He knew that extraordinary measures would have to be taken or all was lost, and saw clearly what must be done. During a lull in the battle he went forth to face the enemy horde alone, without the knowledge of those he championed. He had prayed to Amar for guidance before he acted, and received it, though what remained of Amar's consciousness grieved for what was to come.
The Star-gems allowed those who possessed them to draw unimaginable amounts of power from the earth, but it was known that there were limits, and none had ever approached them before.....until that day. Leigh absorbed so much power that he lost control, as more and more power flooded through him, and in one cataclysmic burst of power,which moved the earth for a thousand miles around, he let loose all the power he had absorbed. The resulting explosion totally obliterated the armies of Ravek, destroying every living member of that force, including the Talons. So much magic had been sucked from the earth that it was all taken, leaving the ground thereabouts devoid of magic. This area later became known as the Ruined Lands, which was an area 500 miles in diameter, and was covered inches deep in sterile ashe for all that distance. His heroic deed was the salvation of Amar's children, but the channeling of so much force through his body, destroyed him as well, leaving nothing but a burned out shell. None who saw it would ever forget his sacrifice, though many would bear the scars of what they had seen for the rest of their lives. In honor of that sacrifice, the lands just south of the battle site were thereafter called the Leigh Forrest, and Amar changed all the trees of that forrest into magical creations that were of a hardness which reflected his will. The wood harvested from these trees became known as Ironwood, and served many purposes for Amar's children from that time on.
A part of Amar's final plan which never manifested in that first war, was a seed he had planted in the genes of the Star-mages. As they were immortal, they seldom bred, but they had never been sterile. The seed he had planted within them would result in a new type of magic user; one that could deal with increased amounts of power, but without the need of a Star-gem. This was good, for the children of Amar would have need of it later. Ravek had been defeated, yet he still lived, waiting patiently within the bowels of Black Mountain for his chance to return. He plotted and planned, preparing his return much more carefully this time, for he was unprepared for the taste of defeat, which he had never before tasted, and that taste was bitter in his mouth.
Somehow, in the following years, he learned of Amar's seed, and made plans to end the threat it presented. Leigh's brother Kaelin had fathered a child, who became the Star-mage known as Matthew. Matthew still required a Star-gem to manifest his power, but he in turn entered into marriage with another Star-mage called Lorna, and it was their child which would bear the fruit of Amar's planning.
Meanwhile, Ravek made plans of his own in that time. One of them was to plant his own seed in the womb of a mortal woman, which would result in the birth of his own son, and a demi-god would be born. He named his son Taarock Pain, and devoted much time and energy into training his son to be his most powerful disciple. The first test he gave his son was the destruction of Matthew and Lorna's child. He went forth from Black Mountain, intent on the destruction of Amar's planted seed, and came to the capitol city of Dawn to accomplish it.
Lorna was away at the time, leaving Matthew to guard his namesake, and it was he who faced Taarock Pain as he came to murder his son. By chance, Matthew was visiting his son in the palace nursery when Taarock Pain attacked. No Star-Mage was strong enough to withstand the demi-god alone, and as soon as the attack began, he knew that he and his son were going to die. Silently, he beseeched the aid of Amar, and surpisingly received it, but the help he received was not exactly what he had hoped for. There was little time to respond to the threat, and Amar did the only thing he could which would save them. He opened an interdimensional rift at the exact moment of the explosion meant to kill the Star-mage and his son, and moved them through it into a foreign world. Taarock Pain saw nothing of this, and thought he had succeeded in his task, so he returned triumphantly to Black Mountain to report his success.
Matthew found himself and his son on a world known by its inhabitants as Earth.
It was a world that had once possessed magic, but one where almost all the magic was gone, for its people had succumbed to the lure of science and no longer believed. He was still able to cast spells of small power, but there was not enough magic left on Earth to power the spell which would return them home. Amar was aware of this, and could have retrieved them at any time, but decided to leave them where they would be safe, until they were needed. Matthew was forced to raise his son alone, on a foreign world, without the benefit of the magic he had depended on for his entire life. It was a harsh task, but he performed it as best he could, raising his son with full knowledge of his heritage, and an awareness of what the future might hold should they ever be able to return. He told his son as much as he could, but was unable to instruct him in the uses of magic, for there was not enough power left on Earth to allow him to practice. He used what little there was to ensure their life on Earth was comfortable, but that was all.
The life he was forced to live was hard on Matthew. He was forced to keep his heritage and origins secret, or be thought mad by the inhabitants of the world he must live on. It was a terrible burden which often left him feeling alone. He grew into a quiet man, a loner who had little in common with the people who surrounded him. He had few friends, except his father, and kept to himself for the most part, not even daring when he was old enough, to love. He was afraid that if he loved, that he would be forced to leave that love behind if the day ever came when he could return to Amar. There were times when he resented his heritage, but then he would feel ashamed for feeling what he couldn't help feeling. He was a very unhappy man by the time he reached adulthood.
It became even harder in the later years, for his father had contracted an Earth ailment that would become fatal in time. He was forced to watch helplessly as the cancer ate at his father, sapping his vitality away, and turning him into a shadow of his former self. The worry he felt for the only person he could afford to love ate at him like the cancer that consumed his father. Matthew the elder, aware that it might be long before they returned, finally encouraged his son to seek love in a woman of Earth, wishing for him to know at least some happiness. Matthew the younger met, fell in love with, and then married a beautiful woman, and married her at his fathers urging. For a time he was happy, and when they conceived a child, he finally began to lose some of his bitterness at his fate. It was a shortlived peace.
The land they had been forced to live in was called the United States of America. For the most part, he liked it there, though it never truly felt like home. Six months after the birth of his daughter he was conscripted into the army of that land, and was forced to fight in a war that he found questionable in it's purpose, and which never should have been fought. It was in a land called Vietnam, and was a war unlike any other ever fought on Earth. He saw much there which scarred him, and when he finally left, he felt unclean because of what he had experienced. He returned to find that his father had died.
In his grief, he turned to the only ones he could with is grief: his wife and child. Sometimes his love for them frightened him. He was afraid of what it might lead to, for he would be lost without them. Six months later they were both killed in an automobile accident, leaving him alone on an alien world, with nobody around to share his grief, to make it easier. This story truly begins after the deaths of his wife and daughter, as Kaelin, his grandfather, arrives to return him to Amar and his destiny.