Tyrel had been their only son, well loved and dutifully cared for; he knew his parents thought him a good son because he overheard them say it, and so he tried to stay that way, but he was just a boy.
“Don’t go too far,” his mother said. But the woods always caught him up, and he wandered for hours, patiently waiting as he watched the creatures go about their daily routines.
Over time, he’d earned a position of trust among them, and was even able to feed some of them from his hand.
This one day, his legs tired, and his own food supply gone, he walked back home along the small path he used when he wasn’t exploring. He’d be late for dinner and likely scolded, but his father always winked at him when his mother was done, and nothing ever really came of it.
He suspected his mother knew, but chose to ignore his father’s insolence. She liked watching Tyrel eat, but she also scolded him about eating too fast. His father didn’t wink at that, so he slowed down and tried to exhibit more restraint.
As he neared the edge of the treeline, his home in view, the screams and sounds of shouting were faint, but there. Strange horses were outside. Light colored things that didn’t quite look like horses, but he had no other name for them.
The hunger gone, his stomach full of new, unpleasant feelings, tiredness forgotten, he ran faster than he ever had, not thinking, screaming for his parents as he took the small steps in a single flight and saw their bodies on the floor, eyes open.
His father’s neck was red, his mother’s at an odd angle. Their eyes were open, facing him, a large man with an oiled black beard and bejeweled appendices standing over them.
There were two more men behind him.
Growing careless, Tyrel charged them, roaring his rage.
But he was just a boy.
Tyrel woke up in the back of a wagon that jounced along a rutted road.
His hands were bound, and his body encased in a burlap sack.
The large man who killed his family was watching him, and gave him a smile. “You’ve a fire in you, boy. Sorry we had to do that, but the Slavers Market’s about to start, and we didn’t have any bodies to bring.
“Ranged outside of our usual territory, we did. You put up a good fight for one no thicker than a swamp reed. We had quite a time with you, but the numbers…”
His smile widened as he shrugged.
Tyrel’s throat was burning. “Water?”
“Sure, son.” He ladled some into Tyrel’s mouth.
“You’re selling me as a slave?”
“They take a liking to you, it could be a nice life.”
“They take a liking to me, and I’m going to find you, and kill you.”
To his surprise, the large man laughed. “I look forward to the day, boy.”
He knocked Tyrel out again.
Water was splashed, and Tyrel woke up again still confined and bound. They pulled him out, not caring if the worn wood splintered him, or where. He was taken to a fragrant, lush garden and forced to his knees, still in the sack, before a towering man in white robes.
Tyrel’s anger rekindled as the slaver introduced him. “This here’s Master Gregory. He runs the Black Temple and supplies the Slave Market. He’s going to price you for me.”
Just to be defiant, Tyrel looked up at Master Gregory, who bent over and looked Tyrel in the face, seeing the anger in the eye that was still open, the one the slaver didn’t close with a hammering fist. The bloody lips set in a defiant grimace in his battered face.
Master Gregory looked at the slaver holding Tyrel’s leather wrist bindings in his hand.
“He has suffered greatly,” Master Gregory said. “Yet the rage has not burned out of him. His shoulders don’t slump in defeat, and he looks at me through one eye that shines with his murderous thoughts.
“I will pay you for him, but I will not make a slave of him. We shall train him as a Canceller.”
For Tyrel, time disappeared; he only noticed its passing in the change of seasons.
He used the tough, demanding training as kindling, setting his nervous fears on fire as the dark beings and familiars he was learning to summon and control twisted and writhed in ethereal coils about him, engulfed in clouds of foul smoke and rancid mist, and burned with the sparks and tongues of unnatural flames.
His Master’s gold and scarlet eyes held hard-won approval, his small smile leaving his verbal praise unspoken; he’d been right to train this one.
“Now, toss your soul into the Void, my son. When they rush to seize it, seal them inside.”
“What happens to my soul?”
“It will be returned to you when the Void is sated on demon flesh. It pulls them apart, as when a man is drawn and quartered. Their dying screams are a symphony to us.
“You’ll feel the very earth itself grow lighter when we sever the ancient cords of long dead, forgotten magic that still holds her in thrall.”
Tyrel could feel no such thing, but if his Master said so, he would not gainsay the man.
He was just a boy