What am I? I am a Twyla. Don’t know what a Twyla is? That’s fine, I can explain. We, the Twyla, ordain all magic. We are supernatural beings who live on a higher plane of existence, and it is we who decide what incantations or rituals cast which spell. We give magic order and purpose to protect the mortal realms, otherwise there would be chaos.
But this story isn’t about us. It’s about a young boy called Doelan, a mortal I’ve been observing for some time. You see we, the Twyla, try not to interfere in the affairs of mortals, but sometimes, to prevent darkness from destroying them, we have no choice. There are times when we must give mortals a fighting chance, and one of the best ways we can do that is by watching certain people whom we know have a great destiny. Whether they devote their lives to fighting evil, or just happen to be at the right place at the right time, we make certain they have everything they need to fight the good fight.
This young boy, Doelan, is one such person. You may ask what was so special about him, and why the Twyla would watch him. You might wonder what great destiny could possibly be in store for him. My answer is simple.
I do not know.
You see sometimes not all Twyla can foresee a particular future. As it stands only our esteemed queen, the greatest of all Twyla, knows exactly what this Doelan will do, or try to do. She is the queen of the Twyla, and of magic itself, and she is convinced that this boy is destined to be more legendary than any hero before him. However, there are some who would question her judgment.
Why? Well, there are a few reasons. For starters, the land Doelan has called home for the first few years of his life is Halhor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Halhor is home to the gislers, who are not considered a very strong people, owing to their eternal youth. That might not seem such a bad thing, but other races grow up big and strong while the gislers are locked in the bodies of children throughout their entire lives. They do not die of old age, but as weak as they are no one has ever wanted them as allies during wartime. War, it has been said, is the work of men, not boys.
The gislers tried many times, most notably during a council with the eagle men, who were waging a war against snake-like monsters called slefah, one of the evilest dark creatures of their world. The gislers wanted to help, but the eagle men Chieftain said, “it would be dishonorable to bring children onto the battle field. I am sorry young ones.”
At the time, the gislers were still under rule of the Ciniceros Empire, where the human emperor declared, “I understand you want to help, but you must stay under our protection. It’s for your own good.” However, some gislers at the council believed that the other races merely envied their youth, and one mayor of Halhor infamously declared, “Too bad we cannot fight against time itself, then you’d be scrambling to be our allies.”
It didn’t go over well.
Whatever the reason, most other races view the gislers as weak or in need of protection, while the gislers disagree. They view themselves as just like any other species, and this is the race that Doelan was born into, an eternally young species called the gislers, also known as the Ageless Ones.
Or so it seemed.
What Doelan saw for the first few years of his life wasn’t exactly true , you might say. However, he will not discover this for some time, so for now, let’s pretend everything he saw was as it seemed so we can focus on Doelan himself.
The second reason one might question the Twyla queen’s interest in him is quite simple.
Doelan grew up in an orphanage, the kind of place you don’t expect someone great and legendary to come from. He was raised under the care of attendants, not parents, in a stone building with many rooms for the various orphaned children. Not that Doelan knew what stone was when he was young, but the building was made of it all the same. Actually not knowing about stone caused him a bit of confusion once. Only a few months old and just learning to walk, older gislers (boys and girls who looked no older than fifteen) would pick him up and take him to the window to let him look outside. He couldn’t go there yet, but they let him look and he saw the gisler houses; richly decorated marble cottages with impressive looking columns holding up the porch roofs. They were pretty to look at, unlike the drab stone building Doelan lived in, but he didn’t really know that. Since he had never seen the exterior of his building, he naturally assumed that it looked like the marble ones on the outside.
It was when he turned one year old that he discovered the truth. By that time he was allowed to go play outside. It wasn’t so bad at first. The grass felt cool and soft beneath his feet, and he had tons of fun chasing bugs and stomping on flowers, until he noticed that his building was as unpleasant to look at on the outside as it was on the inside; just a block of stone with windows. When he saw other children playing around those shiny marble cottages, and with their parents no less, he realized he was different, but he couldn’t be certain how.
Now Doelan didn’t remember this, as he was too young. But he kept seeing those buildings and making that same conclusion, so when he did start remembering things he would look at those buildings and just know it. To him, it was as if he had always known he was different. However, it wasn’t until he started talking at five years old that he learned how. He was being tucked in by a gisler who was twenty, but of course looked fifteen, when Doelan decided to ask a few questions.
“Why do we live here and not with our parents in the marble buildings? And why are there more children here?”
“Well Doelan,” said the older gisler. “This is an orphanage. We take in children whose parents can’t take care of them.”
“Why can’t they take care of us?”
The gisler answered, but Doelan was still at that young age when older people, especially adults, felt the need to protect him from the truth. “They had to go on a journey,” he said. This of course meant they had passed away. In Doelan’s case, however, the circumstances were a little different, but he wouldn’t find out how until later…as I understand it. At this point, the older gisler just covered him up and said, “now go to sleep.”
So now he knew. He didn’t have parents to watch over him, and that’s what made him different. However, that wasn’t the end of it. You see Doelan was expected to show respect for his elders. He learned this by asking questions about people that visited Halhor. He would look out the window, see the cyclops people in their huge suits of armor and ask, “Is their armor really indestructible?” Or he’d notice the eagle men with wings on their backs and would absolutely have to know, “Can they really fly?” He also saw that the eagle men had feathers instead of hair. The only hair they had was for beards, and Doelan was tempted to ask if they had feathers in their armpits too. However, he knew he would probably just get scolded for asking rude questions, so he kept that to himself.
However, he would still ask a dozen questions and the elders would respond in one of two ways. They would either remind him of his manners, telling him to say “yes sir,” and “no sir” respectfully or they would send him off with, “Doelan, I’m busy.” But still, Doelan learned to use manners with his elders.
Now his elders were eternally young, so by human standards they looked fifteen. This didn’t bother him at first, for he knew the taller ones with deeper voices (more so than his own at least) were the ones to say “yes sir” and “no sir” to. Therefore he could always tell who was of a greater age, and with whom he should show respect. But one day, something happened. Doelan was seven by this time, and the mayor of Halhor came to the orphanage. He was said to be forty-six, but he looked like a fifteen year old, skinny blonde boy with blue eyes. His clothes were fairly regal; a sort of scarlet cloak compared to the normal brown cloaks most wore, but that was it.
Erid, the head of the orphanage, was supposed to be thirty-two years old, but of course he didn’t appear to be. Before this day he had always looked like the oldest person in the room, and acted like it as well. This day he looked like the oldest, if only by a little, but didn’t act like it. As Doelan looked back and forth between the two of them he could not tell what made the mayor older than Erid, who bowed to the mayor as if it was so. Erid was dark haired, big for a fifteen year old and even taller than the mayor. He said “yes sir” and “no sir,” the way all of the orphans were expected to, and Doelan just didn’t get it.
He went up to Erid later and tugged on his shirt, “Erid, is the mayor really older than you?”
“Of course he is Doelan. Why would you ask that?”
“He doesn’t look any older than you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Neron looks older than me, and those…um…eagle people who came here had grownups who looked old…but you don’t.”
“Oh the eagle men aren’t gislers Doelan. We stop ageing, but we really are adults.”
“How do you know?”
Erid sighed in irritation, “We just know, now please stop bothering me, I’m busy.”
Erid walked off, and speaking of Neron, that very same boy was listening. He, a dark haired and freckled boy who was seven at the time, came up to Doelan and grinned.
“You don’t like it when we stop growing up! Oh! You don’t want to stop growing up! You want to grow old!”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes you do. You want to grow old. Hey everyone! Doelan wants to grow old!”
“Stop it!” cried Doelan.
“Neron!” cried Erid from across the room, “Stop!”
Neron stuck out his tongue at Doelan and ran off; from that moment Doelan knew once again that he was different, even in the orphanage. Little did he know that it was just going to get worse.
Neron started talking to the other orphans, and wherever Doelan went they would make fun of him. Doelan hadn’t exactly made a lot of friends before this. The other orphans had always seemed more interested in playing soldier than learning about the strange visitors, so he didn’t have much in common with most of them, but they had never treated him cruelly until now.
He couldn’t walk anywhere without a child saying, “should I get a cane for when you get old?” Or “Don’t you know you’re not allowed to be older than the mayor!” And then there was the chanting, “You want to grow old! You want to grow old!” It was more than Doelan could bear.
You might not think it such an insult, but then again, you’re not a gisler. Eternal youth is what makes a gisler a gisler, so Doelan not understanding it was like a bee not understanding honey. It was almost as if he was a wasp raised in a beehive by mistake, and unfortunately for Doelan the other gislers’ words stung, just like a swarm of bees.
Eventually most of the orphans lost interest, being told off by the elders for their behavior, but Neron and a few of his friends kept tormenting Doelan. He learned to avoid them, and those boys were scolded, but for a long time Doelan had no friends while Neron continued to be a nightmare. He was the gisler who didn’t understand eternal youth, and he was alone.
Then, one day when he was ten years old, Doelan couldn’t take it anymore. As the orphans were playing outside in the gloomy evening twilight, Neron said something worse than anything he had said before, and then began chanting with his friends, “You want to grow old!” over and over. And this time Doelan snapped. He hit Neron and jumped on top of him! They attracted a crowd of children, some of which weren’t orphans, and eventually, Erid showed up.
“That’s enough!” cried Erid. “Stop!”
But he could barely be heard over the screams of children shouting, yelling and surrounding two fighting boys, one on top of the other. They were in the grass field, not far from the marble Halhor cottages, and some people among the cottages were looking towards the scene.
“Out of the way!” Erid called again. “Move!”
He seemed more like an adult now than ever before as he came up, pulling Doelan off Neron. Doelan struggled in Erid’s hands while Neron got up and made a move towards both of them.
“Enough!” cried Erid, making the boys freeze and the young crowd silent. Despite his deceptively young age, he had a commanding presence. “Neron,” he said to the boy across from him. “What is this?”
Neron had a hard scowl on his face as he spoke. “He hit me!”
“Is this true ?” Erid asked Doelan.
“He said I wasn’t a gisler,” Doelan shouted. “He said I was a freak, he...”
“That isn’t what I asked Doelan,” Erid said sternly.
Doelan didn’t answer right away, but he did, reluctantly. “Yes.”
Erid released his grip a little but Doelan didn’t run at Neron again. Instead he turned around to look at Erid, keeping his head down.
“You see,” said Neron. “He did hit me.”
“Neron,” said Erid. “Did you call him a freak?”
“Neron!” Erid looked the small child in the eye. Neron didn’t answer, but fidgeted.
“Neron, answer me.”
“He did call him that,” said another boy, about eleven years old. “And he started a chant with some other boys.”
Doelan didn’t recognize this boy, which meant he probably wasn’t an orphan.
“You heard him?”
“Yes.” The boy nodded his head quickly.
The guilty child swallowed. “Yes sir.”
Neron still hesitated. “Well he...he...he keeps going on about how the grownups here don’t look grownup. It’s...he’s just weird.”
“So? I’ve heard this. It’s a little strange maybe but hardly grounds for this kind of behavior.”
Doelan wasn’t feeling any better.
“He was teasing him sir,” said the eleven year old. “He kept saying that he didn’t belong in Halhor because he was different. He said he wasn’t a gisler, and that he was a freak.”
“Ah, that explains it.” Erid put his arms on his hips like an adult and looked at both of them. “Neron, remember when those human boys teased you about being an orphan?”
“Well, next time you want to tease someone, imagine them feeling the way you felt when you were teased.”
“As for you Doelan, you should never attack someone in anger, because one of these days that anger is going to make you do something you’ll regret, like hit someone who will hit back. I don’t care what that person has done, anger never solves anything. You know what you act like when you attack in anger?”
Doelan just gave a blank stare.
“Doelan, it’s dark creatures that act like that, and we are not dark creatures. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” said Doelan. That was one of the ways adults talked to children, no matter what race they were. They would tell them not to act like evil dark creatures, such as ogres or slefah. It made Doelan feel worse.
“Now I don’t want either of you to fight again or there will be consequences, and I want you both to apologize to each other.”
The boys looked at each other and said reluctantly, “I’m sorry.”
“Good. Now you should all be going inside. It will soon be time for bed.” Then Erid raised his voice. “And I do mean all of you, even the ones who are not under my care.”
He walked towards the stone orphanage building as the children he was responsible for followed.
Doelan walked slowly, a little ashamed that he’d been in trouble. He was the orphan, the one who didn’t get what made a gisler a gisler, and now he was a troublemaker. He was feeling more alone than ever.
As he walked a voice sounded in his ear.
“Are you alright?” asked the eleven year old that had spoken earlier.
“I’m okay,” said Doelan gloomily. “Thanks for helping me.”
“You’re welcome.” The boy smiled. “You’re name’s Doelan right?”
“Yeah.” Doelan gave a weak smile.
He kept walking, and wasn’t going to speak since he couldn’t think of anything to say, but Liri kept speaking.
“Hey…uh…did you know that the eagle men live in a nest?”
Doelan stopped, “What?”
“The eagle men live in a nest.” He grinned.
“But I’ve always heard they live in a palace.”
“They do…but it’s made of wicker…or something like wicker. Bits of wood woven together, so it looks like a nest. It’s even been called that on purpose. The nest palace.”
“How do you know?”
“My family goes on vacations…I’m not old enough to go yet, but they tell me everything. Did…did you know that their palace flies?”
Doelan was getting more interested by the minute. “It does?”
They looked over to see an older boy.
“Is that your brother?” asked Doelan.
“No that’s my father.”
“It’s okay. I gotta go, but would you like to hear more about the eagle men later?”
Doelan thought about it, “Yeah.”
“Great, you’d be the first. Well, bye.”
He ran off, and Doelan watched Liri leave with his father, a sight that still somehow seemed strange to Doelan. He knew he should at least be used to it by now, but it wouldn’t stop feeling strange. Still, he decided he didn’t care. As Liri looked back at Doelan, they waved Goodbye to each other, and for once Doelan didn’t feel quite so alone.
Well, that’s his beginning. Perhaps you still wonder why the Twyla queen would take such an interest in this boy. After all, he’s done nothing legendary yet, but then again, no one ever became a legend at the age of ten. Except maybe a few elves, but that’s a different story.
This tale has hardly begun, along with Doelan’s trials, for he still doesn’t know that our queen watches him, nor does he know the circumstances surrounding his parents, and how he came to the orphanage. Finally, he does not yet realize that things in his home, in Halhor, are not entirely what they seem.
But that is a story I cannot tell. One Twyla watching him is enough, but two will definitely be detected by his enemies. I will have to leave Doelan alone and attend to my duties regarding magic. My queen will look after him for now. My part in the telling of this tale is over. If you want the rest, you will have to observe him for yourself.
To be continued