The cold wind seemed to cut his face as fifteen years' worth of memories flooded his mind ceaselessly. He desperately tried to push them away, considering the fact that he would leave these cold mountains soon. The mountains were the place that housed him since his birth, the only home he ever knew.
The next day, he would set out for the capital city of the Open Lands, where the winds were a little less inhospitable, food was available aplenty, and there would be other humans to keep him company in place of the solitude of the mountains. But are the Lands really as open as they're named? thought Alexander, the last surviving scientist.
About a hundred years ago, there was a great war between the common folk and the scientists; the leaders of the former were a group of twelve of their wisest people they revered as the Elders. Through strategy and cunning, the Elders had won the war and had subsequently taken control of the people, and renamed their lands as the Open Lands. They also banished the remaining scientists to live in the inhuman conditions of the cold mountains where food was scarce and survival was merely a question of probability. Many of the scientists lost their sanity due to the cold and met their end in a terrible chill - all for the name of science. However, the few who did manage to survive gave way to further generations, who were more resistant and stronger than their predecessors. Alexander's parents, Luke and Mary Forester were born, brought up and wed in the cold. Needless to say, they were accustomed to it. Being their child and the fifth generation of the scientists, Alexander was used to it too, one could even perhaps say that he loved it.
The Elders had kept the option of letting the scientists enter the city open, but they placed a condition. A scientist, in order to be considered repentant for the sins his or her kind inflicted upon the world ages ago, had to let go of all thoughts of revenge against the Elders and the common folk. But that, alone, did not suffice. They also had to forgo their knowledge of science; after all, there was no need for it in the Open Lands. If they would ever be caught practising science, they would be hanged outside the city gates for everyone to see what happened if the vow was broken. A few of the scientists were broken into accepting these conditions, for, anything was better to them than meeting a horrible death in the mountains where their corpses would lie nameless for ages, awaiting their liberation.
The other scientists, the more honourable ones, refused to accept a life without science and lived with whatever little they had or could find in the mountains or the forests beyond them. The furthest the Elders allowed them to venture was to the end of the forests where the city gates began, a ten day non-stop trek from the mountains. Alexander, his parents, and the other old scientists often went to the forests in the winters when the cold was much too unbearable. His mother and his father had often stared at the city gates and the supposedly hallowed hill that stood just beyond them. He could sense, in those moments, that his mother had tears in her eyes. He never, however, dared to ask her why. He had assumed the tears were recollections of all the tortures the Elders had so kindly bestowed upon them. And then, one day, when he was ten years of age, and there was still a long time for winter to arrive, his parents had collected all their belonging and set out unexpectedly without even saying goodbye.
As soon as Alexander returned home, he found a note telling him to stay in the mountains for ten more years and then go to the city, where he could give up his scientific knowledge and enter the gates to be reunited with his family. Till then, he was told to learn all the secrets science had to offer, further beyond what his parents had taught him. He was terribly confused.
Being a curious little boy, he secretly set out to find his parents and ask them why they decided to leave. And as he reached the city gates ten days later after an arduous journey, he saw his father's severed head being mounted on a tall spike behind the gates, and his mother's bloody corpse being dragged across the snow, leaving behind a red trail that haunted his dreams for years since.
From that day, Alexander had taken personal enmity with the Elders. He vowed to return ten years later as his parents told him, for the sake of revenge and devoted himself to learning as much as he could from the old scientists, learning all that they could teach him. Over the course of ten years, as the notches on his cave wall grew, all of the others died. Even survival became more difficult as he had to fend for himself. He resorted to things he never thought he could do; he even let the wildness of the mountains dominate the majority of the decisions he made. But the spark in his heart, the desperate yearning for revenge, made absolutely sure that he would never forget his ultimate goal.
The hopes and dreams of all true scientists rested solely on his shoulders. The rebellion that his father and mother had been planning now depended on him for its execution. Science, the only true Light of the world depended on Alexander to be given back to the people as a gift, as the promise of a new life, a new beginning. Justice had to be done against all the hate crimes the Elders had committed against the scientists and also for their denial of the right to scientific education to their own people. Justice had to be done, he thought, and justice would be done.
And on the day when he would bring the Light back to the world, all the crimes he had previously committed would be forgiven. And so, he smiled to himself as he cut the final notch on the mossy wall of the cave, huddled by the small fire he had made. That day was the final day he would spend there.
The next day, he would begin his journey to the city gates, his long journey towards his ultimate destination.
He would bring science back to the world.
- - -
The girl awoke before the crack of dawn as the Elders had taught her to, perhaps before anyone else in the city woke up. She looked out of the window, staring at the city that stood beside her hill; the city that had been named after the only father she ever knew, Jana the Elder. Another normal day, she mused and sat there silently for a while, until the sun rose. She then walked to her bath chambers. By that time, Nila, a servant of the Light, would have woken up and heated water for her. The girl would bathe in scalding hot water in the summers and freezing cold water in the winters. The temperature of the water never seemed to hurt her. People considered this to be something truly divine about her, but she never herself admitted it. In her view, she was only human, just like any other.
Post her bath, she dressed in a simple robe and went to her personal ritual chamber, where she would sit for five hours every day in the midst of the seven elements, the gift of the Light and Darkness - water, fire, earth, incense to signify air, sandalwood to signify the plant, tigerskin to signify the animal, and a special mineral poison to signify inorganic material - meditating, with nothing but her skin and a simple, rough cloth between the elements and her soul.
After her meditation, she adorned herself and put on her usual olive robes and went around the Temple to check on its activities. When she was done with that, she would retreat to her chambers where she would remain for the rest of the day lest there were other matters to attend to. She would spend the rest of the day reading books and ancient scrolls. She felt it was her duty to do so; after all, she was the basis for the survival of the one true Way, the Way of the Light that Outshone the Darkness and the Darkness that Consumed the Light. But today was a little different.
The servant girl, Nila, who seldom ever talked to her, told her that in the midst of her meditation - two and a half hours into it, judging by the number of twigs she had burnt - her eyes had flown open, irises missing, and a sound, very unlike her voice, deep and hoarse, had come out of her lips.
"Let him in, the man." She had said.
The Mother of the Open Lands, as people referred to the girl, had a keen and observant eye. She noticed how Nila's voice tried and failed to mask the worry and the fright in her heart. The Mother laid her hand on Nila's shoulders.
"Things like these do happen during meditation sometimes. Now, we must make sure to prepare for a guest. A man is coming soon, I believe." She said smilingly and left.
- - -
I'd love to hear what you think about this first chapter!