On the day that Damien Vale nearly brought about the end of the world, his mother made pancakes. This was, of course, something of a problem. You see, Damien wasn’t hungry. However, if he left any food on the table, his mother would have known something was wrong.
Normally, Damien wouldn’t have found that an issue. I can imagine there were a great number of things that could cause a young boy to lose his appetite. Rune drawing practice, bullying, contemplating the insignificance of one’s mere mortal existance, and girls.
None of these things had even crossed Damien’s mind on this day. Well, he might have thought about one particular mortal with long raven dark hair and sparkling brown eyes once or twice, but that was it.
Damien’s homework had been completed the night before and stuffed under his bed where his mother wouldn’t find it, and he counted himself lucky to have no issues with bullies. In fact, he was proud of his ability to blend in with the background, watching life pass him by.
Until today. Today was a fateful day, and Damien was taking no chances. If his mother suspected the slightest thing was wrong, she might have watched him a little closer. She could have noticed how his untrained gaze kept flicking to the giant wooden cabinet covered with runes.
She may have even realized that Damien had memorized the password when she’d hastily whispered it that morning in order to get the gold to pay the tax collector. Unfortunately, she saw none of this.
“Mom, when do I get to summon my companion?” Damien asked, tugging on her sleeve as he stuffed the last piece of pancake into his mouth. It tasted as delicious as ever – light and fluffy, with a rich sugary syrup that coated the inside of his mouth. Damien had to keep himself from throwing up.
“In four years, Damien,” Hilla vale said, sighing. “It’s no different than the last time you asked me. You’re too young to have a summon, and I won’t have you romping around the Ashfall Academy this early! Just because other kids have done it doesn’t mean it’s safe! You could die!”
“I could still die when I’m seventeen!”
“Then you’ll die more mature. And don’t you even THINK of bringing up your father. He was a special case and was lucky to survive. Not to mention – look where it got him! He hasn’t been home in months because the Queen has him traipsing around the Warfront and hunting monsters,” Hilla said, her brow furrowing with anger.
Damien wisely chose this moment to nod mutely. This wasn’t the first time he’d had this argument – they occurred on a daily basis. In fact, on this particular day, Damien wanted to do nothing more than pretend that summoning didn’t exist. That wasn’t an option. His mother would have noticed if their morning argument had passed, and he couldn’t have that.
The two of them finished their meal at the wooden table meant for three. Damien helped his mother move the dishes to the sink. She sighed and shook her head, ruffling her son’s hair with a wry smile.
“Trust me, Damien. You’ll get your summon soon enough. It feels like a long time to you, but three years is nothing. With a powerful summon, you might not even have to worry about aging. Just enjoy your childhood while you can. You can make carefree and stupid decisions without ending your life. If you become an adventurer, that privilege is gone. I won’t deny it can be exciting, but it can also be deadly,” Hilla said.
It was the most she’d spoken on the subject in a long time. Damien jerked his head towards her, wondering if he’d been discovered. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, for him, she’d turned her attention to washing the dishes in front of her. She didn’t seem any wiser of the boy’s plans.
“I’ve got a meeting I have to attend with Mayor Leo in a few minutes. I’ll be gone for a few hours, and I expect your homework to be done by the time I get back,” Hilla said sternly.
“I’ll start it right away,” Damien lied. No matter what his plans were for the rest of the day, he couldn’t leave homework unfinished. After all, it was his favorite subject - Rune drawing.
Hilla rolled her eyes and dried her hands off on a towel.
“I’m sure you will. You’re welcome to go play with Jacob when you finish. I’ve left some sausage and cheese in the ice box, and there’s bread in the pantry. You two can grab some food if you get hungry.”
Damien nodded; his nerves too tense to allow him to say anything more. Hilla tossed her apron onto a hook and gave Damien a quick kiss on the forehead before she swept out of the house and gently locked the door behind her.
The young boy didn’t budge for several minutes. His breathing sped up and cold sweat trickled down the back of his neck. Slowly, he walked to the door and peered out the small window.
Hilla was nowhere to be seen. She wasn’t one to be late for anything, so there was little chance of her turning back now. That didn’t help Damien’s nerves much. Logic has this funny way of having no effect on emotion, doesn’t it?
With a nervous pit forming at the bottom of his stomach, Damien dashed over to the large wooden cabinet. It was bigger than he was, with half a dozen runes he recognized and about ten more that he didn’t.
“Lixxar, villo, antov,” Damien said, his words just barely louder than a whisper.
The cabinet didn’t budge. He swallowed and said the words again, this time with more conviction.
The doors of the cabinet popped open with a click that nearly made Damien’s heart jump out of his mouth. He could nearly hear his pulse now. The young boy reached pulled the cabinet open.
For the most highly defended object within the Vale household, the inside was rather plain. A large bag of money that Damien cared nothing about had been set on the middle shelf. The real prize was at the top.
He reached up, standing on his tiptoes, and felt his fingers brush against hardened leather. A static shock traveled down his arm as he nudged the book over the edge and grabbed it before it could fall. Damien cradled the book like a baby as he absentmindedly shut the cabinet.
“The Summoner’s Almanac,” Damien whispered.
His very short life’s greatest desire, the key to my freedom, and the beginning of what should have been the end of mankind.