Your choice made, you begin to read through the huge tome. Turning to the first page of chapter 1, you make a surprising discovery! Right before chapter 1 begins is a page that you don’t remember seeing when you first scanned through the book… either it wasn’t there before or the pain and lack of sleep are finally getting to you.
The page is empty except for three short sentences, centered horizontally and vertically on the page. The letters are gilded, and their size and placement are unique for this book. All of this serves to draw your attention, and though you notice all these details peripherally, their importance stamps itself indelibly on your mind.
The Chosen must choose carefully.
To choose in opposition means to choose nothing.
A choice made in solidarity will bind the hands of God.
After rereading the words a few times, they become no clearer to you than the first time you read them. Based on what Harold told you earlier, you suspect that “Chosen” refers to you and Benziah, but the bits about chosing in opposition and solidarity all seem like crypic gibberish. The book is in English, but you find yourself wishing that someone had informed the authors of that fact.
Gaining no ground with the introduction, you turn the page and begin reading Chapter 1. The first page, as you noticed before, is merely a picture of a king sitting on a throne with one hand clasping a bejeweled goblet. The image of a king and a cup reminds you a bit of the masquerade you attended, although the king in this picture is not masked. Below the picture is the symbol of a snake eating it’s own tail — an ancient symbol of balance, earthiness, or the status quo.
The chapter begins with a story — a kind of fable. It tells of a shepherd who, by overcoming various trials and tribulations, ascended to the throne of a kingdom formerly ruled by a vicious and evil ogre. The new king, at first a wise and benevolent ruler, was soon corrupted by court life and the temptations that his new position brought with it. It ends with the new king, every bit as foul and corrupt as the old, being overthrown once again by a shepherd boy.
The sections following the story, which seem to have been penned in many different hands, all seek to bring some kind of meaning to the story. One account points out that the story’s cyclical nature is indicative of one important aspect of balance — that of renewal. The rebirth and constant recreation of the cycle is what is important to maintain balance. Another points out that the story’s beginning in innocence and end in evil is the way of all things. Good intentions, it says, ever decay in the face of temptation — and a searing, cleansing fire (bringing with it a return to that innocence) is needed from time to time to keep the overall balance from swinging in any particular direction.
You’re on the last page of the chapter when you hear a noise that sounds like far-off thunder. You glance up and look out the window to see the first few drops of rain hit the stone ground outside.
The chapter concludes with these words:
A choice for balance, either through agreement or disagreement on the part of the Chosen, is a choice for a cleansing fire. It is a choice for the destruction of the evil, chaotic forces of decay along with the nurturing, ever-renewing forces of good and order. From pure void, then, the world can be made anew again and again until the end of time — and neither order nor chaos shall prevail.
A flash of lightning illuminates the room, casting strange shadows on the walls. A few seconds later, a peal of thunder rolls through the room — causing bits of sone on the floor to vibrate and move slightly across the room.
A storm is coming. You have the awful feeling that you might have taken too long in getting to this shelter — that perhaps dragging Harold along with you has cost you too much time.
With that in mind, you choose the next chapter carefully… fearing you may not have time to read the third.
The contest was VERY close this time around. 40% of the votes went to Chapter 1: The King, but the other two were tied for 30%. Very interesting. I wonder how it would have turned out with more voters… At any rate, it’ll be interesting to see how this next one turns out.
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If you’re getting into this late, here’s an explanation of the concept behind Ward32.