Every family known to our time has a legacy, great or small. Some choose to embrace it while others strive to change it. It was the weight of such a burdensome heritage that fell on the dirty, tattered shoulders of Finnian Alastar. As a young boy, work ethic and respect were ground into his bones. In Kalken, a small farming community to the south of Illo’ras, sons’ and daughter’s hands grew callous and rough at an early age. There was little time for a childhood in Kalken, and Finnian’s family was no exception.
Finnian could barely remember his father Dale. The last memory he had of him was a large, rough hand ruffling his hair and then watching his father, clad in armor, riding away into the dust. He had vivid memories of his return however, wrapped in cloth and on his shield. The mourning was brief and was buried as quickly as the spring crops. At the age of 10 his eldest brother Coilin donned his father’s armor and shield and picked up where Dale had left off. The ongoing wars of Tera would see another of Finnian’s bloodline returned on the shield his father had boar. The second oldest, Finnian’s elder sister Molly, would be next to pick up the Alastar family banner in battle. Finnian had been a mere six years old when he helped bury his father in the east field. At eleven he placed Coilin in the north and as his lineage would prove, Molly would soon come home on the same cursed shield and be buried in the west when he was twelve. Finnian had once asked his mother Kerry why they couldn’t burry them together. “They’ll provide nutrients to the soil my dear. It would be a waste to place them all in the same field.” A simple, rational response that Finnian understood. There was no questioning his mother, no wondering about the morality of treating his family as fertilizer, no hesitation at all. Like most children in Kalken, Finnian had to grow up fast to survive.
Coilin and Molly had always been helpful around this community and had been even more so as they got older, so they spent less and less time about the farm. Being eight and six years older than him respectively, Finnian hadn’t been extremely close with either. While he grew stronger and more adept in this failing world, he noticed each death in the family more through his mother than anything. Kerry herself as well as her family had always been a symbol of hope and strength, but like the desert winds of Tantalas blowing against the mountainsides, each loss wore her down. Her resolve only remained for her sons and daughters; Finnian’s brother Reily who was only two years his elder, Finnian himself and lastly his younger twin sisters Ciara and Claire, jokingly referred to by Kerry as a parting gift to her from their father. These five turned their farm into the most prosperous in the region and by the fourth year since Dale’s shield had taken its place once again above the family mantle, Finnian noticed a calm about his mother he hadn’t seen in a long time. If he had his way, Finnian would have kept that moment and guarded it for all time, but sadly it would not be so.
Unlike the rest of the Alastar family, Reily sought work elsewhere and would often help some of the traveling merchants guard their caravans on their way to and from Illo’ras. In these travels he noticed what seemed to escape the simple people of Kalken; they were an oddity. Humans were becoming more and more rare. He saw almost none in his travels and never got an answer as to why. It was late one fine fall night on Finnian’s 16th birthday that Reily shared this with him. The two brothers had always been close and held nothing from each other. It was through their combined strength that they had survived this long through every loss and every hardship their family had seen.
“Something’s wrong in the world Fin.” Reily whispered. Finnian hated being called Fin, and only Reily had ever had the privilege to do so. Finnian gave him an inquisitive look and waited for Reily to explain.
“People are vanishing…as you know I’ve just come from Illo’ras… and there are no beggars, no performers, no peasants and no royalty. No humans at all. I’ve always wondered what Coilin, Molly and Da fought and died for…and I think I’m starting to realize why.” Finnian’s look shifted from curious to concerned. Reily didn’t talk like this. He shared stories from the road, tales merchants weaved and how big the world was outside their farm., but he didn’t mention their lost and neither did Finnian. It was a silent pact the two brothers had come to out of necessity. Leave the past buried to grow the future anew.
“Whatever is happening isn’t here yet..somehow…and I don’t know that I want to wait quietly until it is. Ma what won’t have it, so that’s why I’m leaving toni-“ Reily hushed as Finnian stood abruptly, fists clenched and anger in his eyes.
“Fin! Come on you know it’s true! I’m telling you because I need you to know why…I couldn’t just leave without you knowing! I’m taking Da’s shield. Somehow I think it’s worse to keep it here. I’ve already said goodbye to the girls..but they think it’s just another trip. Fin…I don’t expect you to be ok with this…but for me…please…tell Ma I love her won’t you?” Finnian was shaking, trying very hard not to let anything out; anger, sadness, fear. He didn’t know whether to hug his brother goodbye or knock him out and tell his mother what he planned. He could only stand there and watch as Reily gathered his things and quietly slid the shield off the wall above the mantle. Reily strapped the shield on first and his pack over that as he looked back at Finnian.
“We can change things Fin.” Reily pleaded, wishing Finnian to not be angry with him. “Watch over them for me…and I promise we’ll see each other again.” Finnian stood stunned as Reily slipped away into the quiet of the darkness. Kerry had a rare moment of fury the next morning when she saw the blank space above the mantel at breakfast and the twins woke to a scream and the breaking of glass. Finnian however had been awake all night, sitting on his bed at a loss. Later, when Kerry confronted him about the shield and his brother, Finnian could do nothing but hug his mother and get to work outside. The Alastars made do. The loss was unexpected and the first in years, but they had each other. About two years later, things had just begun to settle in Kalken. Finnian was harvesting, listening to his sisters scare the chickens, when he saw riders on the horizon. The Lilinith’rin army crest was waving on their banners in the autumn breeze. Finnian’s heart sank as they turned down the dirt road toward their farm. They stopped and the lead rider dismounted. He approached Finnian and bluntly questioned “Alastar?” Finnian nodded slowly, fearing the all too familiar sight to come. The lead rider pulled a solitary bundle off his horse. As the cloth fell, Finnian stared at his father’s glimmering shield. His eyes darted to the other horses, wondering where his brother’s body was. “That was all we found. No body.” And with that the lead rider mounted and the battalion turned and rode away. As Finnian stood shield in hand, unsure of what to think or feel, his mother came up beside him.
“Go.” Kerry said, full of assurance and sadness. “Bring him home to us so our family can be whole again.” Finnian, astonished, turned to see his mother and two sisters. His mother placed her hand atop his, still holding the shield, and kissed his cheek. He knelt and hugged Ciara and Claire at once. Before Finnian yelled for the riders, he turned back to his mother. “Ma…what if he’s..” Kerry held up a hand to silence him. “Regardless Finnian, bring him home to me.” And with one last look at all he ever knew, Finnian Alastar ran after the guards, Dale’s shield slung on his back, shining in the setting sun.