Secluded: part one

Helen Huang, Staff Reporter

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In the heartland of a vast empire called Balva, there exists a little secluded village by the name of Mira. At least, that is what its villagefolk refer to it as, since few travellers trod on the narrow dirt path that wounds around the outskirts of the place–and without strange visitors, there are no strange languages spoken and no strange words to call Mira anything other than Mira.

The village is a curiosity, to be sure. It is different from the Balvan mountain-cities of the north, east, west, and south that the peoples from other lands have grown used to hearing about. They have heard of Nida the capital, its delicate array of veined marble and silver, said to be a haven of glowing white light on the side of a lone mountain. They know of Rimisa, their preferred trading port and a wild coastal beauty, adorned with scraggly olive trees and the tangled grapevines from which the famed Balvan wine is produced. And they acknowledge the unbreakable might of Queen Emuria, whose ships and soldiers prowl the length of the empire’s borders. But small, dusty, unwelcoming Mira? No taverns or guesthouses rise above the scrambled wooden shacks of its inhabitants; no trinket shops exist where belts and mirrors and charming little chimes can be bought, as is the custom in those faraway mountain-cities. No, Mira has in all its history been the home of no more than sixty people at a time–although the record scrolls shelved in its dingy rat-infested temple do indicate that once, many many centuries ago, there was a sixty-first. They say no more than that.

Some say the mysterious villager was no villager at all, but a visitor, a man who became lost in the harsh granite hills that shield Mira from the rest of the world, and who discovered the shacks and befriended their ancestors. Others contend that it was an enemy from the loud and chaotic mountain-cities, sent as a spy by those who wished them ill will. Yet others claim that it was only a blemish on the parchment papers, perhaps a stray dash of ink that added a 1 to 60. Whatever it was, it was unimportant, as all shrugged it off as a mere myth, or a mere mistake.

And that is where they are wrong. For you see, my friend, the record scrolls are correct: there did exist a sixty-first person in Mira one past era ago. But he was neither villager nor visitor there–and he was definitely not a human man.

Instead, he was a friend. An outcast. A rebel.

An assassin.

He was called the Serpent.