There was once a beautiful land, rich in landscape and resources. It possessed vibrant fields of green, sparkling blue waters, and rolling mountains and hills. This particular country wasn't very southwards, and one of the greatest establishments ever formed in it lay to the north, nestled in the mountains. It was from this location that all water ran through the land, bringing the people water that was sweet and pure. Seiraga is the name of this place, a community built inside of a mountain. However, Seiraga possessed a noble quarter, which was credited with the clean water dispersion through the land. The vast majority of the Seiragans lived inside of the mountain, which was comprised of earthy hallways with proportionate living quarters for all of the families that resided there.
It was from here that all the water ran through the land to the people, a place called Seiraga which had a noble quarter with direct access to the waters. It was a place that was mostly within the mountain, split into earthy hallways with proportionate living quarters assigned to all of its civilians. The common living quarters was where a vast majority of the population lie, while a select few lived in the noble quarter, with its marbled halls and direct access to the Mountain’s Drink, the highest pool of water for civilian use. The Mountain's Drink was a large circular pool that went fairly deep, so as to allow its people to practice holding their breath and underwater swimming.
Seiraga was peopled by a population that had very flexible sleep schedules and many of its civilians went to the baths late in the night for a swim. Those that had access to the royal quarter found themselves admiring a lakeside view or wading in the Mountain’s Drink. The Seiragan people had a leader, but he was becoming old and feeble. However, the people had a strong police force to depend on, a group of well-trained soldiers. These men devoted their lives to keeping the peace and protecting the people of Seiraga.
One of these soldiers was Raiji II, informally called “Rai” by the people. Rai was a strong young man with sunkissed skin and thick black hair. His eyes, however, were as bright a shade of green as a blade of untarnished grass. He was thickly muscled and athletic. It was presently midnight, and Rai was indulging in a late night shower in the soldiers’ shower room before going on a little night patrol. His shower was ended quickly, however, by a raven that decided to pop by.
Rai had just rinsed himself off and had turned to give the bird acknowledgement. That’s when he saw the bird had carried a scroll, which now lay on the sill near the shower. Rai passed through the pouring showers and wrapped himself firmly in a tattered bathrobe, drying his hands firmly on the thick robe before picking up the scroll and unrolling it. His eyes betrayed him, and the only other soldier - a man named Radker - strutted over with the confidence of a peacock.
“What is it?” Radker asked, but Rai dropped the scroll and rushed over to the window, propping himself up on the tile to peer out the small square crevasse in the wall. The cool night air gently struck his face as Radker picked up the scroll and read it hastily.
Radker was twenty-six, only slightly older than the twenty-five year old Rai. He had sharp features and dark eyes and was rather handsome in a dark way. Radker had tousled black hair, but unlike Rai, he had pale skin from constantly being out on night patrol and sleeping during the day. His face contorted with worry.
“The Nuinars are coming?” Radker asked as Rai pulled himself down from the window quickly, throwing the tattered bathrobe off and rolling it into a bundle. He strode across the shower room with a confident gait, and Radker followed at a stride.
“Indeed.” Rai said, putting on his soldier uniform. He pulled a large bag from his cabinet in the changing room area near the soldiers’ showers. Carelessly, he began throwing his clothes into the bag.
“How are we sure this is not some prank?” Radker asked. He was young, strong of mind, rebellious, and very cautious.
“The raven came from Swarr. Swarr is one of the most renowned clairvoyants in the land.” Rai reasoned, standing up. “You need to get people down to the boats. They are really coming. I can see the army.”
Radker propped himself up in the small window and withdrew from it at once, shocked. He shot a surprised glance at Rai before rolling some of his belongings in a bag. Rai immediately headed out of the room.
~ ~ ~
The water in the Mountain’s Drink was cool and comforting as two young children played in its depths. One was a boy of no older than seven, with a shock of thick black hair. He was laughing as he swirled through the cool depths with the agility and ability of a fish. With him was a slightly younger girl with crimson hair and sky-blue eyes. The boy was small for his age, but his body was strong from constantly swimming. Where water was concerned, the boy exerted an incredible amount of control over his body.
The boy, Ryraisen, had a kind of swimming ability like none of the other young kids had. Ryraisen had been mystified by the pool and by water since toddlerhood, and had enjoyed swimming in it. One of his first memories was that of his uncle, teaching him how to paddle through the pool. His swimming skills were rudimentary back then; he was now an advanced swimmer for his age.
The girl was named Julia, and she was Ryraisen’s younger sister. Ryraisen had taught her how to swim with love and passion as he did, though she was not quite a strong swimmer yet. She was only allowed down here without an adult because Ryraisen was with her, and Ryraisen's uncle was more than glad to give the young boy some responsibility.
Ryraisen swam around her playfully, smiling. The young boy loved his sister dearly and was a rather protective brother, so he had opted to go with Julia when the little girl asked if she could go out for a nighttime swim. It was not uncommon for even the children of Seiraga to go on nightly swims, so it was permitted by Ryraisen’s uncle, Sy, his only guardian.
“I want to swim like you, Ryraisen.” Julia sighed. Though only six years old, her speech was clear and flawless. While Ryraisen excelled physically, she excelled fluently. She was excellent at reading for her age, but preferred to have stories read to her out of childhood convenience.
“You’ll be able to soon!” Ryraisen replied cheerfully to his little sister. “It takes a lot of time and practice, but I’ll teach you!” He shot through the water. Here was where Ryraisen was free. Sometimes he liked to pretend the bottom of the pool was the ground and that he was soaring through the sky. Privately, he wondered if flying would feel anything like swimming.
Julia opened her mouth as though to say something more, but that’s when Sy entered the room, panting. It was obvious he had just been running, though the two children were mystified by the fact that he carried a large bag on him. From his shoulder, he secured two towels and approached rapidly.
“Out, get out of the water!” Sy demanded. Julia immediately obeyed and was swaddled in a towel. Ryraisen looked to his uncle for questions, but Sy wrapped Ryraisen in a towel and lifted him while he saw Radker ahead, carrying Julia now. Ryraisen cried out as his uncle ran down the marble hall with him, heading down towards the great lake. The Mountain’s Drink was located at the top of a steep waterfall that ran into the lake at the bottom, where they now seemed to be heading. Ryraisen could hear crying and screaming from somewhere deeper in the mountains that were Seiraga's primary living quarters as his uncle descended marble stairs, finally coming out to an opening in the rock that led in front of the lake. There were some people already here, all gathered around three boats.
“First boat’s ready!” a man named Phoenix cried. Phoenix had slicked-back hair that was dark brown and eyes that burned like fire. He looked to Rai, who was dressed in a rough tunic and a loose robe in the place of his soldier's uniform. The man gave a nod as Ryraisen looked around, puzzled.
~ ~ ~
“You’re in the first boat, Phoenix.” Rai said. "With you will be Sy, his little ones, Jack, and Trunkins.” He said this subconsciously as he eyed Sy and the children. Sy stood around the same height Radker did, with an unmistakable shock of black hair that his nephew seemed to inherit, though the boy's hair was far less unkempt. The boy had clearly taken his good looks from his uncle though, for they resembled one another greatly, with Ryraisen being the man's childhood self. The boy looked confused at the moment and he was wrapped in a towel. If the situation wasn't so dire, Rai might have laughed. The young boy, predictably enough, had been swimming. His little sister was in Radker's arms, a slightly younger girl with crimson hair. She looked scared, but the boy looked merely confused.
Rai watched as Sy took his little black-haired nephew and seated him in the back of the boat, placed beside a grumpy lavender-haired boy that he knew to be Trunkins. Trunkins made a huge fuss about being put in the boat, but finally gave in when Phoenix snapped at him to be still. Sy took little crimson-haired Julia from Radker and placed her in the middle, beside a boy with wild brown hair named Jack. Jack looked rather nervous, holding a yam tightly in his hand and refusing to speak. Sy clambered into the boat then, sitting in the front beside Phoenix. Rai eyed Sy's nephew and niece. He was one of the only people that knew Julia was not truly Ryraisen’s sister, but adopted. Sy had pleaded for him to keep the secret, feeling the truth would be devastating to Ryraisen.
Radker and some of the other men gave the first boat a light push. The boat gently made the transition from land onto the glassy lake and cruised swiftly and with ease. Sy and Phoenix smoothly steered it out into the center of the lake before straining to row to their right, where the lake water flowed down into the Resic River, a long river with branches that headed all the way to Ikoda Lake at the eastern center of the land, Ederford, while some of it flowed along the broad fields between the Reverus (where the King lived in Castle Ederford) and the southern woods known as Ravensford. In terms of escape, the river would be their only option. The children began crying, but Sy turned and spoke softly to them. Rai watched as their boat headed towards an opening in the rock, which had been established as the start of the Resic River.
Rai then set up the second boat, making sure it had the essentials packed in it like the boat before. Radker and a messy-haired man named Sinker would be heading the boat. Inside, Rai placed a brown-haired little one named Josh, along with a little kid named Steven and a small crying child named Deejay. A young woman named Aria sat in the back of the boat with Deejay, since this particular boat had smaller children than the first did on it and needed more supervision. Deejay ended up sitting in her lap out of fear, so they added a tall young boy named Barku to the boat's mix before pushing it out onto the river and watching it follow the first.
“I found Karan!” a man's voice yelled from behind. It was a big brown-haired man named Ursa. Ursa had a thick brown beard and mustache and his eyes were almost black and twinkling. In his arms, he carried a small light-haired boy that looked as though he had fallen into the water, for his clothes were drenched.
“He fell into the stream up the falls, nearly fell down them.” Ursa said in a deep and smooth voice. He lifted Karan into the last boat beside a young man named Dewey. Dewey had short black hair and eyes that were deep and dark. Presently he looked nervous, but he put on a bold face for the small boy that would be sitting with him. Ursa sat in the middle of the boat beside his wife, Elysa, who held a three year old child named Mog that currently slept. Rai took his place in the front of the boat with another young man named Rollo, who was strong of body and possessed spiky brown hair. He looked back and saw smoke rising from the mountain that was once his home. He turned and helped the others push the third and final boat out onto the water.
~ ~ ~
Ryraisen wanted to cry as he sat in the back of the boat, clad in only a big towel. The towel was a pure and snowy white and he pretended it was a robe as he sat securely in the back of the six-man boat with a lavender-haired boy of eight. This boy was Trunkins, sometimes called "Little Lieutenant" due to his interest in becoming a Seiragan soldier. Ryraisen did not know Trunkins, so he copied the boy and looked ahead solemnly. He heard Julia sniffle ahead of him and he immediately took her hand comfortingly.
The first boat hit a bit of turbulence as it went from the lake of Seiraga into a river that flowed throughout the land. Ryraisen was listening carefully to Phoenix and his Uncle Sy, but they whispered so he couldn't understand them. He looked down into the cool water that reflected the stars as they headed into the tunnel in the rock that the river rushed through. He knew the boat had a lantern in it, but his uncle and Phoenix did not light it as they headed into the tunnel.
“Where are we going, Trunkins?” Ryraisen whispered to Trunkins. “Are we going on vacation?” It was with a kind of childish naivety that Ryraisen had assumed this, and he could see at once from the look on Trunkins' face that this was not the case. Trunkins looked red-eyed from crying, and he scowled at the question.
“Of course not, dummy! We’re being evacuated.” Trunkins replied. “And don’t call me Trunkins. I’m LT.” The boy crossed his arms and harrumphed testily. They plunged into the darkness of the tunnel now, and Ryraisen shuddered a bit. The boy in the row ahead of him, beside his sister, pushed a blanket to him. Ryraisen took the blanket and wrapped it tightly around himself, covering the rest of his body with the towel.
“Evacuated?” Ryraisen asked, confused. He didn't understand what that word meant. He had never heard his uncle or anyone at Seiraga use the word, so it held no meaning for him. With the last bit of light they had, Ryraisen saw the boy that had given him the blanket. He had wild brown hair and was named Jack. Ryraisen knew him from swimming in the Mountain's Drink. Jack clutched a yam in his hand as he turned to speak to Ryraisen.
“Some very bad men attacked our home at Seiraga, so we’re going to go live somewhere else.” Jack replied kindly. Ryraisen let his head drop and felt puzzled. He didn't know what the rest of the world was like. Ryraisen turned and could see two more boats following theirs, but the end of the tunnel that led to Seiraga grew smaller and smaller.
They passed through the tunnel, one boat after another. The rapids picked the boat up and carried it along for what must have been miles. The tedium hung thick in the air, but Ryraisen busied himself with listening to the water and he drifted off at some point. The sky had lightened a bit when he came to again, and the boat left the tunnel. They passed under what looked like a natural bridge of rock. Sy and Phoenix strained to turn the boat to the left. It touched a light shore nestled within the mountains still, within a canyon. They helped the children out and Ryraisen shivered. The men pulled out bags that had been placed on the floor of the boat. Sy rummaged through one of the bags.
Ryraisen waited patiently while his uncle handed him a shirt, tunic, and pants. The boy changed into his clothes, then held a towel over his sister so she could change as well. The two of them then watched as the second boat was pushed ashore and the other children were pulled out. Ryraisen and Julia shared a large blanket and he felt warmer with his sister than he did without. It was when the third boat shored that their unofficial leader, Rai, spoke.
“My dear people, I am afraid we are the only survivors of a most terrible tragedy.” Rai began. “Our home was attacked by the Nuinars, surely out of revenge for their defeat in the war fifty years ago, before any of us were born. We are likely the sole survivors of that attack. It seems they burned and raided our home.”
There was silence, then some of the children began crying. Ryraisen put a comforting arm around Julia. He didn't like watching her cry. It always bothered him when she did, and he hugged her, bringing the blanket a little tighter around the two of them. The wind could not reach them there, so long as they were together.
“What are we to do?” Sinker asked tentatively, his thick black hair looking windblown. “Where shall we live? The Nuinars have surely taken over Seiraga. What place do we have to call home now?”
“We shall make a new home.” Rai proposed. “We will be settlers until then, always searching for a new and safer home. The gods will find a way to strike back at the Nuinars, for their sins against our people. But they must not know we are survivors, or they will want our lives as well.”
“I like the sound of that.” Radker said boldly, standing up. “We shall establish a homeland elsewhere, a village, perhaps. Others can join us, and we can have a real, thriving community.”
“But where are we to go?” Aria asked. “Where is there a safe and ideal place for us to start a home?”
“We can try near the Ardol Mountains?” Ursa suggested. Rai frowned a bit, and others murmured their disapproval.
“I do not know if that will be a suitable place. None of us are prepared for the cold, and there are very little natural resources there.” Rai replied.
“We can try the field near Shoen?” Sinker suggested. “There is plenty of land there.”
“Wide open spaces do not bode well.” Elysa said, and many agreed with her. “We need a place more secluded, where the Nuinars would have a hard time finding us.”
“How about Ravenswood?” Sy asked. Many of the others stared at him. He kept his head cool and stood with a strong and confident posture.
“Ravenswood? No one has ever tried making a settlement in Ravenswood!” Dewey cried. Many of the others nodded.
“I went camping there when I was young. There’s a wide open space near a canyon, with a little stream through it. It’s secluded and the area is rich with resources. Why not?” Sy pointed out.
The adults debated it for a while before many of them agreed it would be an ideal location and Rai made it an official goal. They all settled down with some bread Radker had snagged before they evacuated and ate. Ryraisen sat between his uncle and Aria as they ate. It was a quiet meal, so unlike the small feasts he was used to having with his uncle and the neighbors in the royal quarter. Back in the royal quarter, meals had been festive and boisterous affairs where everyone could eat as much food as they desired. There was not just bread for a meal back then, but cheeses, milk, fish, fruits, and vegetables. When dinner was over, they would bring out the cakes and rolls and other little treats that melted in the mouth. Ryraisen craved such a meal again, but knew there was no point in wishing for one right now.
When they were done eating, the adults made a fire and placed the children around it in a circle. Ryraisen was nestled between Trunkins and Julia, but he began to take notice of the others around the fire with him, starting with Karan, the apparent oldest of the children. Karan was ten years old and had developed a physique that wasn't much for a child, strictly speaking, but he was tall and more mature-looking than the others. There was a boy named Barku here too that was Trunkins’ age, but he was tall and had perhaps the messiest shock of golden hair that Ryraisen had ever seen. Then there was the boy with the yam from the boat, Jack, still clutching onto his yam. The others were all younger kids though. One was a brown-haired five year old named Josh, a little black-haired kid named Stevie, and a crying boy of four or five named Deejay. The three year old, Mog, was being held by Elysa still.
The adults took a while to discuss something, and then Ryraisen was walking with the people that had been in his boat, plus Barku. Barku had been transferred to his boat after scaring Deejay several times in the tunnel. Ryraisen noted this new character politely. The adults had decided to take the roaring Resic River down to Ikoda Lake. Barku was smiling as their boat was picked up and carried to a building. Sy talked to a woman inside and explained how the Nuinars had taken away their home and she cried and allowed them to put the first boat beside the dock. Ryraisen was seated between Barku and Trunkins, and their boat took off while the others waited.
The boat was in an inside place with a mossy roof at first, and it was like going through a watery cave. Ryraisen gasped in awe at how fast the rapids carried the boat, and Barku whooped beside him. The water jounced them upwards a bit, and then the cave had an incline and the boat headed downwards. The cave opened up over them and Ryraisen followed his uncle’s finger up through the crevasse between the rock, where they got a glimpse of each twinkling star. It was still dark out, but it wouldn't be for long. Phoenix pointed out a small falls that spilled into the rapids they traveled down from above. They passed by it, but Ryraisen followed Barku’s example and stuck his arm out of the boat and felt the cool fall water pouring over his arm. It was magical.
The sky opened up more above them, and Phoenix whooped this time as they were coming to a drop. They were going to go down a small fall themselves. Ryraisen grinned gleefully as the boat came into the opening, and he turned to peer behind him to look at the other boat. He could hear joyful cheers from the children in the second boat as they stuck their own arms out into the water. Barku then pointed out a great stone bridge that must have been one-hundred or two-hundred feet over the rapids. It was only a little bit past the fall, and Ryraisen looked ahead and saw the boat pointing straight down. They all let out little cries as the boat rushed down the falls. It was a good and thrilling feeling, and Ryraisen found himself beaming in the back of the boat with his new companions.
They headed under the great stone bridge, which Sy called the Elphrick Bridge. The children all turned their heads up to look at it as they passed under it, and Ryraisen wondered what he would look like to a little boy standing on the bridge. He smiled at the thought. They could hear the cries of the children in the second boat as they went down the falls, and Deejay seemed to be throwing a perfect fit over it.
“Tyke’s too young to appreciate nature.” Sy said with a smirk, and Trunkins laughed openly. The boat was then carried rapidly under a tunnel of rock and then under some strange wooden support beams that lined this area of the rapids. Phoenix explained to the children that they were viewing docks, and that beyond them was a set of caves that people often toured. They went down a very small falls that wasn't as exciting as the first, but Ryraisen admired the big tables and arches of rock over them. They were into a cave again, and Sy lit a lantern that came with the boat, barely illuminating the way for them.
“Bet Deejay will wet his pants here.” Trunkins said. Ryraisen and Barku giggled as they headed into the deep cave. Deejay indeed could be heard screaming at first, but he eventually grew quiet. Barku tapped Ryraisen’s shoulder and pointed behind them, and Ryraisen marveled at the sight of two little lights behind them that illuminated the faces of some of their fellow travelers. Sy let out a cheer then, and the boat turned swiftly.
It was like going down a fast water slide in a cave. Ryraisen, Barku, and Trunkins all laughed as they went down it, and they could hear amazed cries from their companions as the boats finally spun out into the open again. A falls was ahead, and the boys prepared for it happily, cheering as their boat went down a good falls. The fall had spit them out into the Ikoda Lake, and Ryraisen blinked around at his new environment, wondering how far he was from home.