Zephiro wanted to leave this island, this disgusting muggy, swampland, but he had no idea where he’d go or what he’d do after leaving.

He often wondered why he wasn’t already dead, as he was incredibly objective when met with something he disapproved of, which was unexpected and shunned in a society that hated him for something he could not control.

While others walked around with fantastic tattoos adorning their person, Zephiro’s skin was a bare, untouched canvas. The Latril Islanders had a strange caste system that was defined by tattoos, and since Zephiro had none, he was set on one of the lowest rungs of the ladder that was meant to be stepped on constantly.

He never liked to admit that he was doing much better off than the other tattoo-less citizens, but he supposed his strength was what kept him from being trounced upon more frequently than others. Zephiro refused to bow down. He refused to let someone throw stones at him without throwing punches in retaliation.

After a while, people learned not to cross him. He heard whispers that carried curses whenever he happened to walk by, but that was usually the most that happened nowadays and that could have been ignored easily.

Even through all of the criticism and unnecessary punishments, Zephiro was able to enhance his way of living by becoming a royal guard, thanks to his strength and dexterity.

Today, Zephiro walked into the Palace guard room like he did every morning, where he saw a few of his colleagues leaning against walls or sharpening their weapons. Nothing usually ever threatened the lives of the royal family, but in the event that something did, they were ready to defend them. Though today, there were fewer men standing around than there usually were and Zephiro was a bit curious as to why.

“What’s going on today?” He asked.

“An execution,” one of the others replied. “The Prince was being seduced by one of the Demons.”

Zephiro wondered if it would have been for the best if he hadn’t asked such information, as he already had a deep, critical opinion about his tribe’s government and complaining would probably result in him being the next to be killed.

So, all he said in regards to the execution was, “That’s sad.”

One of the younger guards piped up with, “How is it sad? Are you sympathizing with a Demon?”

He knew that he was going to be met with disagreement, but he could have said worse things. He turned back to the rookie guard and asked, “Why does it matter?”

“Figures. A bastard like you would side with those people.”

The jeering did not bother Zephiro, but what did anger him was how the newcomer pushed his finger against Zephiro’s chest, as if prodding him like an animal would help him make things clear.

Zephiro looked down at the man and said, “Don’t touch me.”

“Why? Do you have a disease? Did you catch it from your whore of a mother?”

One of the other guards shook his head and piped up, “Kid, you need to back off.”

Zephiro calmly ran a hand through his short, snow-white hair. The others had just given the greenhorn a fair warning. If he didn’t take it, there’d be nothing to stop Zephiro from beating the breath out of him.

He said nothing, but rested the tips of his fingers on the handle of his knife. The younger man noticed this, laughed and poked at Zephiro with the blunt end of his spear.

“What’s wrong? Are you mad?”

“I’ll show you how mad I am.”

Zephiro snatched the spear out of the man’s hands and swung it sideways into his face with great force. There was a crack, followed by a muffled groan of anguish from the rookie as he covered his face. Blood was dripping from the spaces between his fingers, making it evident that his nose was broken.

Many would have thought that this was more than enough punishment, but not Zephiro. He tossed the spear back, immediately drew out his knife, and proceeded to pin the ignorant youth against the wall. Zephiro would have loved to do something, but he instead chose to warn him again.

“Do you really want to fight me?” Zephiro whispered menacingly into his ear. “I have no problem with being hanged if it means I get to kill you.”

Zephiro couldn’t tell if he was grinning or sneering at this point, but he was sure both would be equally unsettling to see since he was so close. When his offender only whimpered in response, he let go, stepped back and looked to the other men as they watched in silence.

“I hope that taught this man not to mess with me and reminded some of you as to why you shouldn’t.”

The man shuffled to the side and, in a voice that sounded more like a growl than anything, muttered, “You son of a bitch… I’ll fucking kill you.”

Zephiro narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips. Clearly his message hadn’t hit home. He rested the spine of his knife in his hand and said, “It’s going to be very hard to kill someone when you don’t have fingers.”

Before he could put action behind his threat, the door opened and another guard came in, looking incredibly anxious and panicked. Everyone turned their heads to the door and none of them were prepared for what the frantic fellow was about to say.

“King Jovan is dead!”

Another one of the guards, in disbelief, asked, “What?”

“Something is wrong with the Prince.”

“What do you mean there’s something wrong?”

“I don’t have time to explain! You need to come now!”

The bleeding greenhorn’s gaze shifted to Zephiro as he vehemently hissed, “What about this vappa?”

Relinquent eum. He’ll have his day.”

Quickly, the guards ran off and left the room empty, but Zephiro remained there. Even though it was his duty to go when he was called upon, he couldn’t bring himself to work alongside these men right now. The brief fight left a sour taste in his mouth and he was sure that more than enough people were handling the situation and his presence would only be mocked as usual.

So he sat down with his back against a wall and closed his eyes. Even though he had just riled himself up from a previously groggy state by shaking up the new guard, he still wanted to relax and disperse the anger from his mind.

Or he would have been doing just that if he hadn’t started to smell smoke moments after everyone left. He opened his eyes, stood back up and walked out of the guard room to see that smoke filled the area. It wasn’t hard to see — at least not yet — so Zephiro took this opportunity to try to escape.

He didn’t understand how fire could have spread so suddenly and so quickly. He didn’t hear anyone screaming about it until he set foot outside of the guard room. Royal chefs and servants were stampeding through the halls, murmuring to one another about something that Zephiro didn’t bother to catch.

He was pushed aside by those who happened to run into him as they muttered various obscenities under their breath. Zephiro ignored them as he went on, but then he heard screaming in one of the rooms he was advancing towards.

It was a familiar scream that Zephiro heard on many occasions, and usually a sniveling servant would be seen crying subsequently after hearing it. He would have kept going, knowing that if he helped, he’d still be tossed aside and spat at.

His conscience wouldn’t allow him to walk away, so he walked in and looked around to see the Queen crying in the middle of the room.

“Queen Adora? Your Majesty, we need to leave at once.”

Oh meus deus!” She shouted as she looked around frantically. “My husband — where is Jovan?”

Zephiro didn’t have the heart to tell her that the King was dead, but he knew that if he did, it’d be impossible to get her to leave with him.

So he lied.

“He’s outside with everyone else,” he said as he held his hand out to the Queen. She took his hand and he quickly pulled her out of the way just before a cracking slab of wood could swing down and hit her.

Adora let out a sigh of relief and kissed Zephiro’s hand out of gratitude, but then she pulled back with a rather perplexed look on her face.

Qui estis?” She asked. “Where are your marks? Who is your family?”

“I have no marks, mea regina.”

Adora let go of his hand and shook her head slowly. “I will not be seen with someone like you!”

Zephiro was incredulous. “Is this honestly the time to be prejudice, Your Majesty? Your life is in danger!”

“My dignity would be in danger if I allowed this to happen!”

“So you’re saying that you’d rather die?”

“I’d rather be smothered by smoke and consumed by flames.”

As much as Zephiro wanted to just run off and escape with his life, he knew that if anyone had ever discovered that he let Adora stay in the palace, no one would let him live it down… or let him live at all, for that matter.

The Queen began screaming about how she was going to have Zephiro’s head mounted above her bed, but his attention was turned to the amorphous black plumes that proceeded to billow into the room, making it hard for Zephiro to see and breathe. The fire had already spread so quickly.

They needed to leave right then and there, so he grabbed Adora by her wrist and started towards the door, but she tore herself out of Zephiro’s grasp and shouted, “How dare you!”

His eyebrows furrowed. “How dare I save your life?”

“How are you even a Palace Guard? A bastard child, trusted to protect royalty? A joke if I’ve never heard one!”

“Look, you can tell me how unworthy and terrible I am later, Your Majesty, but we need to get out of here before we both end up roasting.”

Adora backed away slowly to the entrance to the hallway, rested one of her hands on the jamb of the door, and pointed a single finger at Zephiro. “You’ll be roasting in the pits of Hell!”

With that, she ran off into the fiery hallway. Once Adora was gone, Zephiro knew that was going to be the last time he saw her. He began to chase after her, but the threat of smoke and fire had overpowered his desire to save her life.

Moments later, he could hear the Queen screaming in absolute horror. She had probably gotten herself surrounded by the fire and was now paying the price for being so foolish.

This was unfortunate, but in more ways than one. If Adora left through the hallway and was now a victim of the flames — and so quickly — meant that there was absolutely no way for Zephiro to escape.

He was trapped. There were no windows for him to squeeze his way through and the only way out was into a smoke-filled hallway, where he knew that he wouldn’t be able to see or breathe.

Zephiro screamed in futility for help, hoping someone would be able to save him from death. Minutes of shouting commenced until he started to cough and gag. He could feel smoke sneaking in and invading his lungs. Breathing had quickly become difficult as ash claimed his respiratory system.

He didn’t want to die. He didn’t have very much planned in his life thus far, but this certainly wasn’t how he wanted to die. It was slow and painful and he could feel life drifting away from him, as if it was being pulled from his very lips by the God of Death, much like colorful, knotted ribbons from a magician’s hat.

Zephiro couldn’t help but cry and whine as he slumped against a wall. He asked himself why this had happened to him and wondered what he had done wrong to deserve this. He started to close his eyes and realized that there was nothing he could do but accept his fate.

But, before he did, he could all of a sudden see someone walking through the hellish scene, calmly, as if they were completely oblivious to the surrounding inferno. They were walking towards him, and Zephiro could see a small glimmer of hope. He kneaded the ground helplessly and turned his head up. His eyes met with the other’s and it was hard to make out most of their features, but Zephiro could definitely see that this was a man.

Ut non moriamur,” Zephiro whispered, his voice threaded with desperation. “Please. Please.”

The man coolly said, “I’ll help you. But I need you to make a deal with me.”

He knew that he wasn’t in a situation where he could refuse something, so he gasped once to catch his breath and said, “Anything. Just name it.”

The mysterious man stared down at him with a gaze that held a nature that Zephiro couldn’t quite discern. Disdain? Pity? An unfortunate combination of both?

Soon, the man turned away and Zephiro started to whine, pathetically begging for him to come back. He returned a few seconds later and seemed to be dragging something along in one hand – Zephiro could briefly notice that it was a body. There was a bright light emanating from the man’s other hand and he slowly reached for Zephiro.

White was all he saw before he lost consciousness.


Hours later, Zephiro woke up in a cold sweat, lying on a pallet in a dilapidated shack. His eyes snapped open and he saw a series of skulls hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. He recognized a few as animal skulls — some of crocodiles and others of small swamp mammals — but he cringed slightly when he saw craniums that resembled a human’s.

Zephiro closed his eyes again, hoping that he was hallucinating, but when they opened again, it was all still there. He turned over on his side and saw a man, probably the same man who saved him, sitting about a yard away from him with his back against the wall. He was silently carving intricate shapes into a thick wooden pole and didn’t seem to pose any threats, aside from being a collector of bones.

“Where am I?” Zephiro asked. “I’m not dead?”


“Nothing hurts, though.”


“Was I dreaming?”

Again, he said, “No.”

Zephiro’s questions were being answered, but in a concise way. Too concise. He needed more than what was being given to him and he didn’t like the lack of information at all.

He sighed heavily and rested his hand on his chest. “You saved my life, then.”

“That I did.”

“I’m glad that ‘no’ isn’t the only word you know.”

The man turned around and gave Zephiro a stare that clearly told him that he was offended or, at the very least, annoyed, but then his attention was turned back to the pole he was whittling.

Mihi nomen est Roux,” he said without looking at Zephiro.

“That’s a strange name.”

Roux asked, “Is yours any better?”

“It’s Zephiro,” he said as he sat upright. “Thank you for saving my life.”

His savior sneered. “Beginning to wish I hadn’t. You talk too much.”

“I just have so much to say and ask right now.”

“Then ask. Just make sure the questions you have aren’t stupid or I’ll be rather cross with you.”

“Did a lot of people make it out safely?”

Roux stood up and stroked the brow of one of his skulls. “I wouldn’t know. But a lot of people died.”

Zephiro swallowed hard. “You mean it wasn’t just the Palace that was on fire?”

The strange man nodded once as he removed the skull from the wall to study it clearer. “The whole village. I normally don’t interfere with the tribe’s affairs, but I had to step in to dowse the fire.”

“You said a lot of people died, but how many is a lot?”

Roux said nothing, leaving Zephiro to assume the worst. He tilted his head and asked, “Were there anysurvivors?”

“There were… a few. They’re back at the village, trying to scrounge up the dregs of their broken society. I already know that nothing will come of it.”

Zephiro was in shock. When he woke up that morning, he imagined that the day would go on just as every other day did, ending with him hating the tribe a little more than he did in days prior. There were a lot of things running through his mind, but as he sat, quietly mulling over things, he sprang up with something that he was admittedly ashamed of himself for not thinking of sooner.

“My mother… I need to make sure she’s alright.”

“I wouldn’t recommend it. You won’t like what you’ll see.”

“I don’t care. I need to see for myself.”

Roux shrugged. “Very well then. I won’t stop you.”

Zephiro got to his feet and ran out of the old shack. The surroundings were unfamiliar to him, but the smell of ash was still thick in the air. He followed it warily, unsure if fire was still present in the village. He couldn’t see smoke, so he assumed that perhaps the smell simply lingered as a piece of the aftermath.

It didn’t take very long for him to find the village and when he did, he suddenly felt like he should have listened to Roux. Homes were either charred to the point where living in them was impossible or they were gone altogether. There were bodies on the ground, most burned beyond recognition. Zephiro was strong, but this was getting harder and harder to stomach as he continued on.

Zephiro expected worse things when he came upon his own home. He thought it would have been a pile of ashes on the ground, but the damage made to it was surprisingly minimal.

Seeing this was a blessing and he figured his mother would be inside, crying and scared, but still very much alive. However, his attention was brought to the ground, where he saw a body lying there.

Like a stone in water, his heart sunk. He ran to the body and as he got closer and closer, he came to the unfortunate realization that this wasn’t some random corpse sprawled out in front of his home.

It was his mother. Zephiro dropped to his knees and cradled her burned and battered body in his arms. Blood from her wounds had already coagulated. With the way her body looked, Zephiro could ascertain that she died from a combination of burns and smoke inhalation.

He cradled her ash-coated face in his hand, fruitlessly hoping that she’d open her eyes, but it was painfully obvious that such a miracle wouldn’t come true. Zephiro held back tears and took deep breaths as he brushed stray hairs from her face and kissed her forehead.

Roux walked up behind Zephiro and stood there. With how quickly he’d caught up, Roux almost seemed to be omnipresent and it was incredibly eerie.

He stared down at Zephiro and asked, “Is this your mother?”

Zephiro nodded once.

“A shame. She looked like she was a lovely woman, even if she was a whore. Growing up like that must have been hard.”

Zephiro had heard worse things, but Roux’s comment cut a bit deeper than most, considering he was holding his dead mother in his arms. His only reaction was a silent, visceral one. He was angry, but he didn’t have the energy to express it, nor did he feel that he had the right to. He gently set his mother’s body back down on the ground and stood up.

“What are you going to do?” Roux asked.

“Have a funeral,” Zephiro muttered. “All we had was each other.”

“That is unfortunate. I’ll leave you to do this, then.”

Zephiro listened as Roux walked away. He had hoped, for a split second, that the older man would be empathetic to how he was feeling and offer his assistance, but Roux didn’t seem to be very emotionally attached to things. It was sad that Zephiro could make such an observation when they hadn’t even known each other for more than an hour.

He shrugged and started preparing a small funeral for his mother. It was a very lonely process and Zephiro cried a lot during it. He cried when he was wrapping his mother’s body in a fine cloth, when he was gathering the few ceremonial flowers that hadn’t perished in the disaster, and when he took her body out to the beach for cremation. He hoped that the seaside winds would remain placid to keep the fire from going out and to keep his mother’s ashes from blowing away.

Strangely enough, there was no wind when Zephiro started the fire and flames’ growth was not hindered by a sudden breeze in the slightest. They burned brightly and he sat with his knees pulled to his chest and waited for the blaze to consume his mother’s body.

Roux appeared not too long after the fire started. The strange man kept his distance, but Zephiro was well aware of him.

The waves, coupled with the soft crackling from the flames, provided a soothing melody that started to lull Zephiro to sleep, but Roux interrupted the moment of silence.

“Do you know who did this?”

“No,” Zephiro said as his eyes cracked open slightly. “I’m not sure I want to know.”

“Your Prince.”

His interest was suddenly stirred. “Prince Scaevus? I’ve never met him personally, but—”

“I need him dead. And I imagine that you’ll want him dead since he is the reason your mother is no longer here.”

“I don’t know what I want to do and I don’t understand how he could have done this. I don’t think he orchestrated a massive assault on the village. I would have known beforehand.”

“Scaevus is the Fire God. This was his work and his work alone.”

Zephiro’s jaw dropped as he said, “What?”

“He needs to be killed, so as a part of the deal I wanted to make, I want you to help me do just that.”

“I don’t under—”

“I gave you a new life, so in return, you’re going to help me take him down. What’s not to understand?”

Zephiro looked down. He wasn’t sure if Roux was utterly insane or not. It was more than reasonable for him to be skeptical of what was going on, but there was a certain mystery to Roux that he felt was quixotic in nature and couldn’t be discerned by someone who was thinking inside of the box.

So Zephiro chose to believe him, but he knew that he’d need more of an explanation than the ones Roux was so haphazardly tossing out.

“I’ll help you, but I’m not sure what good I’ll do, considering that I almost died in a fire and he just so happens to control it.”

“That’s why you’re the new Wind God.”

The corner of Zephiro’s lips tugged upward. This started to sound more and more like a trick each time Roux said something, but he didn’t exactly seem like the kind of person to joke around. His expression was stiff and didn’t look like it was about to change anytime soon.

“I believe in the Gods, but,” Zephiro paused and looked down at his hands. “I couldn’t be one.”

“That’s what I thought when I first became the Water God. But that is how the system works. I’ve been holding onto the former Wind God’s essence for a while now, but I’ve passed it on to you.”

This suddenly explained why Zephiro woke up without feeling any pain, but only created new questions. He turned his head back up to Roux and asked, “Why? Why would you give it to me, of all people?”

“It was the only way to save you and the only way for me to gain an ally.”

It wasn’t as if Zephiro had a choice in the matter. Roux saved his life, and he was unsure of how to feel about the proposition, but he couldn’t turn it down. Zephiro was definitely not against taking someone’s life, considering that he was a royal guard, but everything had been dropped down on him all of a sudden and he couldn’t tell which way was up.

“I have no idea how you want me to even begin to make use of this.”

“You’ll have to figure things out on your own, but I’ll try to help get you started.”


Just as Roux predicted, the tribe was unable to rebuild itself. Zephiro walked through the village every now and then, noticing that the survivors were in a state of complete disarray. He saw people crying most of the time, and if they weren’t doing that, they were fighting senselessly amongst each other. Instead of having a government based on ridiculous laws and meaningless hate, there wasn’t a government at all – at least not one that Zephiro could see.

Their King had died in the disaster. Apparently, he was the very first to die, from what he happened to overhear from the miserable lot. Zephiro wasn’t sure why the Prince had done this, but considering that the massacre occurred on the same day as a scheduled execution, he could narrow the reasons down to a few things.

He watched for years as the islanders tried and tried to reconstruct what had been lost, and nothing had ever come of it. Roux tended to keep away from the tribe and wasn’t interested in helping them in anyway, which led Zephiro to assume that he had been outcasted long ago. He would have pitied them, but he couldn’t bring himself to feel anything other than disgust for the people who had treated him terribly his entire life.

Years passed before the people realized that the possibility of rebuilding their home had either vanished or had never existed to begin with. When the last islander left on their waterlogged rowboat in search of a new land to call home, the only ones that remained on the island were Zephiro and Roux.

Roux’s presence was bearable, but he wasn’t someone Zephiro wanted to wake up to every morning. He never seemed to sleep, as evident from the dark circles that gathered beneath his eyes and his perpetually terrible mood. Roux didn’t do very much, but he actually tended to be more active during the evening when Zephiro was trying to get some rest, often resulting in the Wind God being as sleepless as his auburn-haired progenitor.

Their relationship was a strange one. It could be defined as something similar to the relationship of a father and his son, but there was no love behind it. Roux would tell Zephiro what to do at times, usually chores, but during the winter, the two collaborated to conjure up disastrous blizzards.

Zephiro would do as told without any complaints. He didn’t think that he had any right to complain to someone who had saved his life. He genuinely did try to bond with Roux, but the older man was terse and cold. Most of whatever Zephiro said was met with a snide or sarcastic remark, so after a while, most interactions were simply made because they lived together.

They went to the Tellurian mainland together at least once a month, but never stayed long. This was the first time that Zephiro had seen the world past Latril Isle. It was strange, yet beautiful. In comparison to the island, the people of Tellurius had advanced in ways that Zephiro could never imagine. Passing glimpses of the outside world piqued his interest and each visit did nothing to satiate his curiosity.

He had always hated the island. The minute that he was capable of having an independent thought process he hated it. Aside from the years of abuse and ridicule, Zephiro hated having to trudge through thick mud and turbid water, potentially disrupting the home of a snake or crocodile. He was sure that there were different dangers and inconveniences on the mainland, but they’d be interesting and new to challenge.

So one night, he decided that he was going to leave. Not long after the sun retreated beyond the horizon for the night, Zephiro emerged from the swampy area of the island and made his way toward the beach.

The small rowboat that he and Roux used to get to the mainland was sitting a good distance from the shore, as they were too lazy to drag it along with them back to their shack whenever they returned from journeying across the ocean. The tide never got too wild, thanks to Roux, so the boat was never carried off to the sea.

Zephiro shoved the boat to the water, climbed in, and pushed himself further from the shore with the oar. Once he rowed himself a good distance away from the shore, he waved his hands to use the winds to assist him in traveling across the ocean. The summoned gales propelled him across the water for a few meters until out of nowhere, the boat stopped in place. The water was completely still and even when Zephiro tried to apply manual labor, nothing happened.

This was not good. Zephiro groaned when he saw a figure swimming beside the boat. A dark hand gripped the hull and Roux’s head emerged from the blue abyss and his deep yellow eyes had taken on a lunar luminescence.

In a voice as frigid as ice, Roux hissed, “Where do you think you’re going, Zephiro?”

Hesitantly, the Wind God said, “To the mainland.”

“For what reason?”

Zephiro looked off in the distance. The Tellurian mainland was in clear view and the distance between him and dry land wasn’t very far at all.

He said nothing and looked back to Roux, who seemed to clearly read his mind.

In protest, Roux said firmly, “You’re not leaving.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Don’t you remember the deal we made?”

“You said you wanted me to help you kill Scaevus. We have been wasting years here on this dead island, and all we’ve been doing is stirring up fancy storms to hit the mainland to weed him out. I could have tracked him down right after I learned how to control the winds, but you wouldn’t allow it.”

“I need to keep an eye on you and I don’t want to be absent from the island for too long.”

Zephiro felt insulted. After years of doing whatever Roux wanted him to, how could he not trust him? He never let Roux down — or at least if he did without knowing, he never meant to.

“Why do you need to keep an eye on me? I’m not a child, so I don’t need to be babysat. This isn’t fair!”

Roux was quiet, which made Zephiro a bit curious, but all he wanted to do was leave. He didn’t want to ask anymore questions or fight or argue. He just wanted to go and never look back.

“I’ll bring back the bastard’s head for you to hang in your home with all of your other weird skulls. Then you can keep me on this stupid island for the rest of my life, if that’s what you want.”

Roux seemed to be tacitly contemplating things. He stared up at Zephiro, fatigue and sadness very apparent in his eyes. This was the first time Zephiro could say that he had seen some emotion in Roux that wasn’t primarily fueled by anger. He didn’t know what to think of it.

The Water God blinked once and the emotion faded when he said, “If you disappoint me, I have no problems with killing you and your head would be hanging in my home alongside his.”

Zephiro was unnerved by the Water God’s threat, but he was glad to see that he was being given permission to step outside of Latril Isle. As soon as Roux disappeared back into the sea, Zephiro summoned the winds again to carry him to the mainland, where he hoped better things were in store for him.