At the border of the great valley called Grüner Platz, Torm Brogan forced his body into a standing position, wincing as he tried to straighten his back. His muscles were sore and stiff, and he heard a few cracks and pops emanate from his protesting spine as he drew himself up to his full height. Most of his morning had been spent in his fields, hoe in hand, hilling up mounds of dirt along the long and even rows of poireau. The vegetable – known for its creamy, white tips – developed its distinctive color and mild taste only by being kept from the light of the sun. This was accomplished by periodically mounding dirt against the plants as they grew, thus allowing the stems to blanch and not take on the dark green color of the tops.
Looking across the field he could see three of his sons and his one daughter working at the same task, and was grateful that they were old enough to help. He’d been blessed with eight children. One had died a few months after birth, but the remaining seven – four boys and three girls – were healthy. The four oldest had grown enough to help in the fields, and that was an even greater blessing.
Back at the farmhouse, his wife – minding their three youngest children – would soon be ringing the dinner bell, and they’d leave the fields to eat a hearty, farmer’s mid-day meal. Then they’d trek back and resume their work while the sun finished its trek toward the horizon and the day’s light faded from the sky.
Although farming was hard work, Torm was happy with his life. He loved the peaceful existence he and his family enjoyed. Other farmers had larger tracts of land, some even more fertile than his, but this had been the land of his ancestors, and when he trod the rich loamy soil of his fields day after day while tending his crops, he felt a connection with all the Brogans who’d held, nurtured, and tended the land before him.
Here at the very frontier of the valley, life was quiet and simple. He and his family could always journey into the small village of Grünerval – and they often did during summer market days, or the Harvest Festival. But for the most part they lived a calm existence in what some might call the hinterlands. Yet they were still citizens of the Kingdom of Vorhalla and subjects of the king – god bless and preserve him – and enjoyed the protections of his throne and army.
Torm was a god-fearing man, honest and forthright. He followed the teachings of the prophet, although he and his family didn’t attend church as often as they should – Fallowday, after all, was their only day to rest. At least once every month or so, he and his wife would gather up their family, make the hour long journey to the small church at Giest’s Crossing and attend services. And although their best clothes were a bit worn and might not be judged very fine in the great capital of Wrenstatten, they were nonetheless clean, well mannered, and devout. Torm and his wife Angna were always proud to take one of the front pews.
Torm knew that some murmured against the church, while others openly rebelled, and although he wasn’t happy to lose a son or daughter, he would have relinquished one to the church, if it so demanded. Torm understood that the church provided the necessary stability, morality, and code of living that society needed. Without this, there could be only anarchy.
Leaning a bit more on his hoe, Torm surveyed both his fields and his children, and smiled. The land was hauntingly beautiful here, near the foothills of the Sirenese mountains. Further off in the distance the rolling hills gave way to the great mountain range that marked the border between the Kingdom of Vorhalla, and Kalas. The sky was a bright blue, with only a few clouds dotted here and there across its expansive vault. Off in the distance he could barely make out Sheppard’s Pass – one of the principle routes in and out of Grüner Platz. Staring up toward the pass, he thought he could see movement, so he stood and continued to look in the direction of the far off pass.
At first he thought maybe it was the heat of the day, or just his eyes playing tricks on him, but the more he squinted into the distance, the more he was convinced that a great flock of birds had come out of the pass. Watching intently, he saw them advancing into the valley. They looked large – like eagles – but he was perplexed, since he knew that eagles didn’t fly in such great flocks.
Mesmerized by what he was seeing, he continued to stand and watch as the flock grew closer. By now, one of his sons – seeing Torm standing motionless, staring toward the pass – stopped his work and also stared. Calling out to his two brothers and one sister and pointing, he turned their attention to the unusual sight, and they looked toward the pass as well.
The large flock drew closer and as they did, Torm’s eyes widened. What his eyes told his brain he was seeing his brain couldn’t comprehend, for instead of a flock of birds, it looked like beings – man-like beings with wings, descending from the sky. As they drew closer, Torm could see that was indeed what they were. What’s more, they were large, muscular, and wore armor. In their hands they brandished swords or spears, and carried shields. And they were headed right towards the four of them.
Dropping his hoe, Torm shouted to his children “RUN!” and headed toward the farmhouse. His sons and daughter did the same, but they only got a few feet when a scream halted the farmer in his tracks, and Torm turned in horror to see his daughter’s body impaled on a large spear and lifted off the ground by one of the winged creatures. Alive and still screaming, she dangled on the spear as the creature carried her high in the air, then slid her off the spear and let her body hurtle to the ground. From the height of her fall and the thud her body made when it hit the ground, Tor knew she was dead.
Screaming for his sons – paralyzed at seeing the death of their sister – to keep moving, Torm watched as two of the mighty, winged beasts swooped down and struck the heads from the shoulders of two of his boys whilst a third, bearing a spear, did the same thing to his third son that the first creature had done to his daughter.
Running to grab one of the hoes, Torm wildly swung it around his head, trying to keep the creatures at bay, but the exercise was futile. He looked upward in despair as three of the beings bore down on him, their swords drawn, and wild looks on their faces. It was the last sight he ever saw.