A man draped in a cloak tossed a torch into the barn that joined the guest and servants’ cottages. He entered the main house and looted the library of books before setting the house ablaze. Afterwards, he released the livestock before they perished in the flames. This dastardly fiend committed robbery and murder, while the family dwelling within slumbered quietly through the night. A raging fire erupted, engulfing the house in minutes, leaving young Jatara and her family to die in a swirling inferno.

Jatara awoke to the sounds of agonized shrieks coming from her parents’ room, followed by deafening cries for help. “Mama, Papa… where are you? I’m scared!” she wailed to the empty room.

As she opened the door and entered the hallway leading from her room, an enormous heat wave pushed her down the staircase. Jatara’s small five-year-old frame rolled and tumbled to the front door. She pleaded once more for her loved ones to come out from that furnace of death. “Mama! Papa! Help me! It’s hot and I can’t breathe… Please, Papa! I’m scared!”

In that moment, the arsonist burst through the door, grabbed Jatara and carried her away from the house in the instants before it collapsed. “Come on, girl! You’re no use to me dead! A heifer like you will make a great slave that will serve me well.”

He dropped her on the ground and took off on foot before the villagers who had seen the flames had time to arrive. She shivered in the mud, wet and afraid, as feelings of despair and abandonment consumed her. Jatara was petrified, knowing that her loving family had just been destroyed.

She could see nothing but sorrow and vengeance in the future to come.

The approaching villagers would decide the orphan’s fate. Egor and his companion, Zorka, the family’s ex-servants, were the first to arrive.

They found Jatara on the ground and stood her up. Egor and his wife had accumulated a great deal of wealth working for the child’s parents.

Egor was also the first parasite to initiate conversation. “Child, where are our masters? Have they been incinerated in that treacherous fire? Answer me, girl… what have you done? Were you playing with the oil lamp?” Jatara humbly submitted herself to Egor’s inquisition, and tried to answer honestly.

Lord Egor, I do not know what has happen to my mama and papa. I woke up to their screams.”

Did they make it out with you? How did you survive?”

I didn’t see them… someone pulled me out by the arm and dropped me in the road.”

The village elders came forward to cast judgment regarding who would be assigned to care for Jatara. Jonas, the head elder, spoke to the crowd that had assembled in front of the smoldering cottage. “Jatara’s parents are dead. They were ravished by the fire, which means that all their knowledge and protection that they gave to this village has gone up in smoke. Her father, Econ, and her mother, Shabella, provided our tribe with shelter against thousands of invading forces. Our crops flourished under their watch and supervision. If it weren’t for them, we would be nothing. Econ and Shabella were our leaders… as well as masters of sorcery. The powers they bestowed upon us will never be seen again, nor forgotten in our lifetime. What will become of us is unknown; nevertheless, the truth must be told. Jatara, your family obliterated our enemies, and fed us with an abundance of nourishment. They saved our lives. Remember, child… life is what you make it, and the past is in the future. You come from greatness, and where you start is where you will return. Brethren, I fear that a scandal has occurred here. Whoever started this fire has sealed their doom.”

Egor, standing amongst the crowd, relished the thought of silencing Jonas forever; he couldn’t contain himself any longer. It was time for him to speak out. “l have potions that can enhance our crops. Why is it that you suspect foul play? What is the reason behind these accusatory statements that you continue to spew, suggesting that someone must have murdered Jatara’s family? Anything is possible… the child could have knocked over an oil lamp. Lightning could’ve struck the house, or this simply could have been an accident!”

Jonas replied in an authoritative manner. “Egor, why is it that you have answers about an event that you know nothing about? Or rather, do you know about this event, and are now trying to cover your tracks? But where do they lead? Did someone help you assassinate Econ and Shabella? Why shouldn’t I suspect you? If I really step back and look at your life, you have more motive than anyone to want them dead.

You failed as a sorcerer and were ousted from their home for reading forbidden texts and stealing sorcery manuscripts from their library. You say you will protect us, but who will protect us from you and your sinister wife? Egor, you have said that Zorka will nourish us and replenish our crops. That is the same whore that Shabella found lying with your brother, Markal, on numerous occasions in the pigsty, roiling amongst dirt and dung. Your magic is mediocre and lacks passion. You will never be as powerful as the ones you took those powers from. Your spells were stolen, and not given, so they lack instruction. You operate on assumptions, devoid of knowledge. You question my relationship with this family?

I was an apprentice and royal guard for Econ’s father, who sacrificed his life force to save humanity. I was entrusted to protect Shabella and Econ, appointed by his distinguished family, who once ruled over Egypt, the Middle East and all of Africa. My life was entwined with theirs before you even existed. Do with me as you please. Egor, lord you are not. You aren’t worthy of that title. Only a traumatized child would call you that, for they lack the knowledge through desperation and fear. You are not fit to command this tribe.”

Egor imploded, as the fury that had been building during the speech finally rolled over the edges. “Jonas, you accuse me of murder and the intent to commit treason. I should drop you where you stand! Your time shall expire soon; you are old and senile, full of lofty suspicions and paranoid delusions. I must lead through actions, not words. Jatara will live at my estate, until she is of age to entertain suitors. Child, do you object?” Her silence means no.” Jatara offered minimum resistance, and said nothing. She knew that if Egor’s request was denied, Jonas, her godfather, could be executed. Seeing her mouth remain shut, Egor continued, “Her silence shall be taken as a no.”

Jonas interrupted, “My child, you can stay with me. I will protect you from this heathen.” In a second, Egor was in front of Jonas. He knocked him down with a flurry of punches, drawing blood from his head, ears, nose, and mouth. Jatara, weeping, yelled out, “Lord Egor, please let him go. I want to serve you. Have mercy on him, master!” She pleaded for Jonas’ life, knowing that if he died, Jatara would lose irreplaceable knowledge about her family’s past and their royal lineages.

Egor articulated over Jonas’ bloody and bruised body. “Old man, I will spare you this time. The girl has seen enough death for one day. However, if I ever feel that you deserve to be struck again, you will not see another dawn emerge on the horizon.”

Jonas lifted his frail, battered frame off the ground, extending his hand out to Jatara. “Come here, child, your bravery has not gone unnoticed. Truly, I say to you, Jatara, true strength comes from within. Force is not always the solution to defeat one’s adversary; nevertheless, being able to conquer someone’s mind, and learning the ability to barter their soul for dominion over them… that is of greater precedence. Take my hand… see? You can feel the energy coursing through my being, but this is nothing compared to what your parents possessed. Your force shall be tenfold, far greater than Econ and Shabella. Egor may have damaged a three hundred and fifty-year-old body, but I felt no pain. Know that I had the strength and power within my vessel to smite him and that harlot beside him. I could have eradicated both of them, ending their worthless marriage and existence.

Instead, I chose to teach you a lesson. Sovereignty doesn’t come from brute force, but through strategic execution of one’s enemy through mental manipulation. The mind is the gateway to the soul. What I declare to you, no one else can understand. Only you and I, Jatara. It is the language of sorcery… called kabar. Jatara, you can already feel it. This power is in the core of your essence, this innate inheritance of discernment, just waiting for revitalization. You can bring this gift to life. It has been utilized for centuries within your expansive lineage of sorcerers and sorceresses. My journey is coming to an end, Jatara, but yours has just begun. The key to discovering the secrets of your ancestors lies within the books in Econ’s library. These books will open your doors to unbridled power, along with unimaginable knowledge and endless life.”

Zorka’s patience had run out. She was tired of hearing Jonas drone on in a language that she could not comprehend. “Egor, silence this babbling fool. I want him out of the village. Cast him out into the wilderness. Let the vultures feed upon his decomposing flesh while he still breathes. This satchel of dust defamed my name. Show no mercy, my love. Eliminate him.”

Egor began to approach Jonas again. “Old man, you speak incoherent riddles. You say words that mean nothing. Your tongue is loose and what I can decipher from your words is nothing more than arrogance. Jonas, you are henceforth banished from this village, and are never to return, doomed to live in exile for the rest of your days.”

Jonas said nothing. He was prepared to die. He rose slowly to his feet and walked to the center of the town, to his home, to collect his belongings. He knew that there were people following him; he could hear rapid footsteps behind him. After entering his cottage, he peered out the shutters into an oasis of darkness, for the sun had yet to appear.

Have they sent mercenaries to end my life? he pondered for a brief moment. They have come to kill the wrong man.

No matter how dire that situation was, his reconciliation would be inflicting carnage with a vengeance, ravaging his assailants, which would give him some solace.

Jonas heard the men approaching the latched door. If they were going to act, the time was now. He spoke softly in kabar, with his arms extended forward and his fists clenched. A metamorphosis was taking place. As he ranted under his breath, Jonas began to change colors, turning from a brilliant orange to a fiery hue. The incantation ended, and he was Jonas no more.

His body was reincarnated into a lethal entity, bent on retribution, fueled with an insatiable desire to spill his enemies’ life force. He unclenched his fists and a powerful burst of energy with the force of a hurricane struck the front door, disintegrating it into splintered projectiles, which struck four of the men in its path, leaving a bloody trail of destruction. They were swiftly exterminated, their bodies torn into hundreds of jagged pieces that landed on the remaining conspirators in front of the house.

Shrieks of terror rang out from the band of assassins. They could only hope that their demise would be as swift as the shredded men now littering the ground, and many immediately attempted to retreat.

From a few blocks away, Jatara had all but been forgotten, but she wondered what had happened to Jonas. Was he okay? Why were people following him? What was all the yelling about?

Her curiosity was overwhelming, so she climbed up a tree to see where everyone had dispersed. To her astonishment, she was witnessing a massacre. Jonas, or a fiery beast that looked like him, approached the crowd, and with surgical precision, he began opening their body cavities like pieces of candy, leaving a trail of organs scattered across the ground. His hands were instruments of death, hacking and tearing through men and anyone else foolish enough to contest him.

He pushed his arms through opponents’ chests like a flaming sword through sheepskin, squeezing their hearts until they burst. A second surge of energy came from his hands once again, hitting six assailants, decapitating them instantaneously.

Jonas had been consumed by rage and thought blindly to himself, “Their death will not be in vain, for I taught them well.”

Many of the attackers had been his own soldiers from the town’s militia, which he had commanded for Econ. Jonas sarcastically reasoned that their foolish suicidal crusade was a sacrificial offering to Egor and Zorka, which he would gladly help them achieve, making certain that their blood would nourish the flies and their flesh would feed the wolves.

He methodically slayed his enemies, leaving them no chance of survival. The bloodbath continued across the village square; screams of pain and agony echoed from the dismembered fallen. Jatara viewed the devastation that Jonas inflicted with little emotion. She felt safe knowing that he was still alive, and acting as a force of retribution.

What she didn’t know is that his survival would be short-lived. Jonas was deteriorating quickly.

Jatara climbed down the tree and ran towards him, knowing that he would keep her safe. Her honey-blonde hair shimmered as the sun rose above the horizon. The white tulips under her feet were covered with blood; body parts adorned the bushes and trees, where birds were already flocking to feast on the bounty.

She was elated to see him, and the thought of escaping with Jonas was overwhelming. “Jonas, let’s leave here now! Please, take me away from this place. You’re the only one who can protect me now.”

He was touched by her declaration and began to reassure the frightened prodigy. “My child, you don’t need my protection or help. Everything you need can be found within yourself. Just as I, a helpless old man, was able to transform into a vessel of vengeful anarchy, you shall also be transfigured when the time is right. Your powers will be unleashed on this world… there is no doubt about that.

Jatara, it would be a honor for me to raise you, but that honor cannot be mine. I am dying, young one. I used the rest of my life force to vanquish those men, but that was a deadly choice. I knew the risk… either way I would die, and it is better to expire with honor. I chose to slaughter my enemies before they slaughtered me.” Jatara’s eyes began to fill with tears, but before she could cry out, Jonas continued.

Jatara, do not be sad about my passing. There is nothing you can do now. Listen to me. You have to develop mentally and physically in order to fend for yourself and become a great sorceress. After what I did here today, Egor and Zorka will fear you, and will certainly not try to harm you. However, his brother, Markal, is beyond reasoning… a monstrous psychopath. They have wronged you, and your parents, but that will be avenged later, in a world where you are judge, jury, and executioner. Your existence has been prophesied, Jatara, and foretold thousands of years ago. My child, don’t be afraid… be courageous. You will live to see all those who rise against you fall at your feet. Remember, I was a servant of your grandparents.

Unlike Egor, I excelled at casting spells and speaking in kabar. I became a part of your family. I’ve told you about your past, as well as your future to come. My loving debt has been rendered. I can now perish in peace. Jatara, the secrets of your gift lie within two books in your family’s library. Be steadfast and unyielding when you are faced with difficulties… there will be many. Good fortune favors the brave.”

After delivering his speech, Jonas dropped to his knees and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. Jatara’s mouth dropped open as he began to dematerialize into a heap of gray powder that crumbled to dust. An unexpected gust of warm spring wind blew it away before she could comprehend what had happened.

Allowing the tears to roll down her face, Jatara walked away in shock, towards a creek near the village. She began looking for crayfish and frogs for dinner, something she had often done in the past. She gathered mushrooms, berries and wildflowers that she knew were safe to eat. This was something that she had done with her mother every day.

Sitting on the riverbank, she fashioned a crude spear to hunt wild rabbits and other small game. Jatara and her father used to hunt those creatures together. In an emotional daze, she foraged all morning, gathering a large stock of fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

Jatara wondered if Egor and Zorka would return to look for her, and whether succumbing to their capture would be wise. Could she survive without adults, especially those who were most likely responsible for her parents’ death? Jatara began to think aloud, “I’m not able to live on my own right now, obviously. I also need the books that were stolen from my parents’ home. I have no choice… I must go back to those who wish to control me, and gain the knowledge that will guide the rest of my life. I will recover what is mine, while building my strength to inflict pain on those who have taken so much from me.”

Egor and Zorka had watched the entire scene from the safety of their house. They watched Jonas pass away and finally felt that it was safe to exit. Both were on edge, not knowing if Jatara had the same power as Jonas or her parents, or whether she had any idea how to control it.

Approaching Jatara as she re-entered the main square, Egor called out in a cowardly manner, “Jatara, are you harmed? Did that ogre hurt you? We came back to help you.”

When Jatara didn’t reply, Zorka spoke timidly, “My child, we’ll feed you, clothe you, and keep you safe. I promise.”

Jatara dropped the sack of food she had foraged and laid it before them. “I don’t need you to eat, since I can light a fire, nor do I need you for clothing… I know how to weave. I’m only in need of shelter, so… I will stay with you.”

Egor was infuriated at Jatara’s disregard for the false gesture of hospitality. “You ungrateful little heathen… I should leave you to the bears and let the ravens feed on your carcass.”

Jatara interrupted his tirade with a confident tone. “Egor, you should watch what you say and do to me. The same manna that Jonas possessed lies within me, only far greater. Do not provoke me. I can bring death upon you in a moment. My parents were burned alive tonight, and my lifelong guardian just disintegrated before my eyes. Do you understand what I’m saying to you? I am holding your life in my fingers, and my patience is nearly gone.”

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