Day 68, Year 1605, Age of the Monkey Ascendant.
"You don't need to keep the child, of course. We have spells and drugs that would abort the fetus quickly and painlessly. Such is the usual procedure in cases like this."
The mother looked aghast at the doctor. "What? Kill my child? I would never!"
"You must understand," the doctor said consolingly. "The child is horribly deformed. The normal procedure in such cases is to simply abort the fetus and try again for a healthy child."
"No!" the mother said firmly. "This is my child, and I don't care if he's a... a... a mutant! You said he was perfectly healthy, just a little bit unusual."
The doctor sighed, touching a data crystal to add a note to the mother's records. "Yes, you are correct. Aside from the child's defects, he is a perfectly healthy baby boy. But I would not classify him as fully elven."
"What do you mean?" the mother said, placing a hand protectively over her belly.
"He won't be considered a person and will not have the same rights as an elf," the doctor explained to her calmly. "You will need to register him as a pet."
"A pet?" the mother shrieked. "This is outrageous! This is not some animal, this is my son we're talking about!"
"It would, of course, be easier to simply abort the fetus and be done with the procedure," the doctor continued. "Approximately one in one thousand pregnancies results in deformations such as these. The offspring are almost always aborted, and they rarely live to adulthood even in the cases of sentimental mothers who refuse to do so."
"Absolutely not," the mother said vehemently, storming out of the office and slamming the door behind her.
Day 170, Year 1605, Age of the Monkey Ascendant.
"Do you think Sirin kept the child just because of her husband?" a young blonde woman asked her companion.
"I suppose it's possible," replied her dark-haired friend. "This will be the only child they will ever have together, after all."
"It's a pity about Finaro," the blonde-haired woman commented. "They were so gorgeous together! And then he had that terrible accident."
"Poor Sirin," the brunette said. "She's so young to be left a widow. She hasn't even reached her third century yet."
"Plenty of time to make up for it and find another mate, though," the blonde replied.
From the next room, there came the sound of a baby's cries. The two women rushed into the room to look upon Sirin's newborn son. As they gazed at the infant, three misty gray eyes blinked back up at them. The blonde cupped a hand to her mouth as she gasped in horror at the mutated child. The brunette shrieked and ran from the chamber.
"Oh my goodness, Sirin!" the blonde said.
Sirin cradled the babe in her arms, ignoring their protests. "He is my son. If you don't like it, you can leave my chambers now."
The blonde woman stuttered, at a loss for words as she stared at the child's third eye in the middle of his forehead. The mutant stared right back at her in an unnerving manner.
"He--He's beautiful, Sirin," she choked out. "He has his father's... eyes."
Sirin smirked at the woman, and smiled down at the boy, cooing at him softly. "I believe I will name you Vistri. Yes. Vistri Lenoreth Antaves."
"It is a fitting name," the blonde said. "He will bring great honor to the House Antaves."
"Yes, my dear Vistri," Sirin said, ignoring the woman and addressing the baby. "I felt your power even within the womb. You will be a great wizard, one day. And then... then they will learn to see beyond what you look like on the outside, and to see your strength of will, and the power of your soul within."
The boy looked up at her with triumvirate eyes, making small noises back at her.
Day 147, Year 1612, Age of the Monkey Ascendant.
"I don't know about this."
"If it bothers you so much, think of it as training a pet to do tricks," Sirin said impatiently. "The boy is almost five years old, and he already knows his letters and numbers. You should not have any trouble with him. He learns quickly."
The tutor sighed. "Fine, a job's a job. What do you want me to teach him?"
"Oh, the basic stuff. History, mathematics, Divination and other basic magic," Sirin said. "He has a lot of potential, and I won't have it going to waste untrained."
"Why are you so insistent on having that... creature... trained?" the tutor asked. "It's not like he'll ever be able to get a real job or go to a public school."
"That 'creature' is my son," Sirin snapped. "And you'd better remember that if you're going to be working for me."
"Alright, alright," the tutor said reluctantly. "I still say no good can come of it, but I'll do it."
The boy came into the room then, holding a pink crystal in his hand. He cocked his head at the stranger and peered at her with his triple gaze. "Hello," he said politely as he approached. "My name is Vistri Lenoreth Antaves." He gave the woman a small, polite bow.
The tutor cleared her throat uncomfortably and said, "The sun smiles upon our meeting, young Vistri. I am Lantara Minthor Enores. I will be your tutor for this next little while."
"What is a 'tutor', Mother?" Vistri asked, turning to Sirin.
"You can ask me your questions, Vistri," Lantara said. "That's what a tutor does. I will teach you useful things and answer your questions."
"Oh," Vistri said. He held up the pink crystal in his hand, and a jangle of bells emanated from it. "Do you like music?" He fingered the crystal delicately, and a simple tune echoed out from the stone.
"That's very pretty, Vistri," Sirin said.
Lantara stood up, and said, "I must depart for now. I will return to teach as agreed upon following the anniversary of the child's birth."
"The sun awaits our next meeting, Lantara," Sirin said. She glanced to Vistri and nudged him gently. "Say farewell to our guest, Vistri."
Vistri parroted, "The sun awaits our next meeting."
Lantara smiled nervously at him, gave a bow, and left the chamber a little too quickly. Vistri stared after her as she went, then glanced up at his mother curiously.
"She will teach you much, son," Sirin said.
"Why was she so scared of me?" Vistri asked.
"Oh, I wouldn't say she was scared precisely," Sirin replied. "Nervous, uncomfortable perhaps. She doesn't understand you, because you're different from the other children. You're special, and they fear what is different. They fear what they do not understand."
"Why is that, Mother?"
Sirin sighed softly, and said, "For all their advancements and skill with magic and technology, the Til'dari are not without their faults. They are slow to learn, and slower yet to understand. They are arrogant and distrustful of those who are different, often to the point of even failing to see this flaw. But you and I--We are still trueborn Til'dari, regardless of our opinions or appearances. They may not agree with what I say and think, but they can do nothing to me for it. Such is the way it is."
Day 209, Year 1612, Age of the Monkey Ascendant.
"Your mother was right, Vistri," Lantara told him. "You do learn very quickly."
"What are we going to learn today?" Vistri wondered.
"Today, I think we will take a bit of a diversion and talk a little bit about the history and geography of Til'raine."
"Oh. Like what?"
Lantara touched a light crystal and an image of the planet Til'raine appeared shimmering in the air above the crystal. It was a swirl of blue, gray, and green, and orbited by a multitude of tiny moons which were little more than rocks. "This is a holographic representation of the planet Til'raine," Lantara explained.
Vistri stared at the image in fascination, squinting at it with his three eyes. "What keeps the rocks from falling into the planet?"
"For the most part, the orbits of the moons are stable," Lantara said. "They tend to drift a bit over the ages, but a consortium of moon wizards are assigned to the task of keeping them in orbit, so that they don't fly off into open space or crash into the planet."
"Oh, I see," Vistri said, poking at finger at one of the little moons. His finger passed through the hologram harmlessly.
"Elves have been on Til'raine for millions of years," Lantara explained. "Untold ages beyond the scope of recorded history."
"Where did they come from?" Vistri asked.
"We elves were born of raw mana taken physical form," Lantara replied. "A pure, perfect form for the use of great magic. Til'raine is not at the physical center of the galaxy; more importantly, it is at the ethereal center of the universe. Nowhere else in the known universe is anywhere with magic as strong as there is upon Til'raine. When we explored the galaxy, we found many other worlds, but though they had plants and breathable air, they were as barren rocks next to the lush magical center that is Til'raine."
Vistri looked at her, then peered at the slowly rotating sphere again. "So what happened with the other worlds?"
"They weren't totally useless, of course. We could mine them for raw materials and farm them for food, but most people did not wish to give up their birthright as Til'dari. A number of younger males went offworld for shifts of no more than a decade to work before returning home. There were a few, however, who turned their backs on the planet of their birth and left their homeworld forever."
"What happened to them?"
"They became the Exiles, the Forsaken," Lantara explained. "They call themselves the El'dari, the People of the Stars, and it is a fitting name for them, because they have rejected the light of the sun to live among the pale stars."
"Why did they leave?" Vistri wondered.
"Oh, any number of reasons," Lantara said. "Some were dissatisfied with the government. Others were criminals who went into exile to escape a harsher punishment, or to escape capture in the first place. Hermits, rogues, rebels, and vagabonds: Those were the scum who took to living amongst the stars. But even living in exile would not take away their birthright as Til'dari. It was their children who they damned, for their children are born as El'dari, and have no rights or status upon this world should they dare to come here again."
"Why is that?" Vistri asked. "Could they not earn their way?"
Lantara shook her head. "Where you are born is very important. It is also important who your parents are. You, Vistri, are lucky that your mother is a daughter of one of the highest-ranking houses on Til'raine. Otherwise, you would not have me here to teach you, and you probably would not even be alive now."
Vistri looked at her in confusion. "Why would I not be alive? I have never been sick or hurt..."
Lantara paused for a moment, carefully wording her reply. "There are many who do not... appreciate... your 'differences'. Take warning, young Vistri, for once you begin to venture beyond the walls of the Antaves Estate, you may find your welcome somewhat less sunny."
Day 225, Year 1625, Age of the Monkey Ascendant.
Antaves Estate had been decorated gaily in celebration of the coming New Year. Yellow tassels, mirrors, and candles lined the corridors. The New Year fell upon the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and at nightfall, the candles would be lit in windows all over Til'raine. It was the one day of the year in which night is said to never fall.
"You are twenty years old this year, Vistri," Sirin told her son. "This year, I shall grant you the honor of lighting the candles at dusk."
Vistri gave her a polite bow. "I am honored, Mother. This night, I shall make sure that the night will not fall upon Antaves Estate."
When the sun touched the horizon, Vistri began to work his way through the house, touching each magical candle and igniting the wick with a spark of Light Magic. One by one, the candles were lit, and the mirrors reflected their light and brightened the house to the peak of daylight, shining in resplendent radiance.
As he was lighting the last few candles in the back of the house, he heard a sound from outside. Frowning slightly, he finished lighting the candles hastily and peered out the window, his three eyes darting about for any sign of what might have made the noise. He heard it again, a cry from the darkness where the light of a thousand candles did not reach.
Glancing left and right to make sure no one was watching, Vistri climbed out the window and dropped lightly into the alley below. He glanced about, his sharp eyes quickly adjusting to the sudden change from light to darkness. Following the sounds of crying, he crept along beneath the overhangs and came around a corner. Just around the corner, there was a rubbish bin with the lid knocked off, and the crying sound was emanating from inside it.
Without hesitation, Vistri climbed up onto the trash bin and rummaged around inside, finding and pulling free a crying, naked baby. It grew silent and gazed at Vistri as he pulled it out of the bin. Vistri wondered what kind of person could leave a child in a rubbish bin like that, and scrambled back toward Antaves Estate.
"Let's get you inside," Vistri said, cradling the infant in his arms and looking back up toward the window he had jumped down from. It was just a bit too high to climb back up into with his arms full. He would have to go around to the back door and hope no one spotted him.
As he crept through the alley, he felt a jab against his leg and noticed for the first time that the infant babe had a set of cloven hooves where there should have been feet. He's a mutant like me, thought Vistri. He gripped the child tighter and hurried to the door.
When he opened the door, however, he found his mother inside waiting for him. "There you are," she said. "I was wondering where you had gotten yourself off to. Now what do we have here?" She peered at the child in Vistri's arms, her eyes flicking down to his hooves.
"I found him outside in a rubbish bin," Vistri explained.
"Your honor does you justice, my son," Sirin said. "Come, let us get him cleaned up."
As they bathed the infant and cleansed the filth from him, Sirin said to Vistri, "You found him. What shall we call him?"
Vistri thought for a long moment, looking at the babe's cloven hooves and his fang-filled grin. "Korren," he finally said. "His name shall be Korren."
Sirin nodded. "It is a fitting name, a strong name. He has no house, but he has a secondname. Since he was born on Til'dari in the year 1625, his secondname is Bienir."
"Korren Bienir," Vistri repeated. "A person's secondname denotes the year in which they were born. Everyone born in the same year has the same secondname."
"Correct," Sirin said. "I see Lantara has been teaching you well." Sirin dried off the babe and wrapped him in a warm blanket. "The rules for mutants have not really changed since your birth. I will need to register him as a 'pet'."
Vistri, carrying the infant, followed her out into the brightly-lit sitting room. Had it not been the New Year, it would have been the dead of night, but it was taboo to sleep on New Year while the candles were lit. Vistri cast a quick Mind Magic weave to dispel his weariness. It would catch up to him later, as he would need to sleep more than ever the next night, but for the moment, it would keep him awake. Sirin went to get something to feed the babe, and Vistri sat down, looking into Korren's big amber eyes.
"You have fallen upon me from the depths of oblivion, young Korren," Vistri whispered. "But great things lie in your future. We will change the world together, you and I. We are not the first, and we will not be the last. Others will come. They will come, and they will not be able to deny us or ignore us."
Day 82, Year 1643, Age of the Monkey Ascendant.
"Where is Sirin?" Korren asked, licking a bit of blood off his fingers as he finished his meat.
Vistri looked out the kitchen window. The sun was starting to set. "She went to the palace around noon. She said she would be back in a few hours. Maybe she got held up by something."
"Should we go look for her?" Korren was fourteen years old now, and had never fully come to understand his true status as a houseless mutant.
Vistri, however, was thirty-eight, and while he was still considered a child by elven standards, the facts of his life were starting to become painfully clear to him. "No, I'm sure she'll be back soon." Something in his voice indicated his uncertainty about that, however. He tried to put it out of his mind. He flicked his finger absently to clean the dishes and stack them neatly in the cupboard.
"You should let me do that," Korren protested. "I need the practice more than you."
"If I did, you'd also get plenty of practice in repairing broken dishes, as well."
"Well, I suppose I need practice with that too," Korren said, smirking.
"Try practicing Telekinetics on things that are not breakable instead," Vistri suggested distractedly, glancing out the window again as if expecting his mother to appear at any moment. It was unusual, although not unheard of, for the superstitious Til'dari to be out after dark. Sometimes it was unavoidable, but he could not shake the sense of forboding.