Tessa walked into the room. A figurine strapped to her waist. She looked around, everyone was clinging to their little idol charms like it was life or death, and it truly was, for the idols are linked to the lifeforce of their owner. In return the figurines provide mystical and sometimes unruly powers. The more common abilities include the command over fire or water. Some people can manage moving objects with their mind. Others could shape the earth, create force fields or compel plants to grow. Everyone stared at each other. A few old friends had gathered in their own groups and talked about their recent experiences. One such experience was the ritual of binding. It is the reason for them being here. That was when the idol became bound to their soul and body. This is to be their first class. To learn what their powers are, how to control them and eventually to go off and fight. Adding to these young people’s burdens, there is a war that has been ongoing for the last ten years.
After a short wait, the professor entered the room. Everyone settled down at their desks. “Welcome”, he said while scanning the room. “I see many of you have started to familiarize themselves with your newfound power. In this class you will do more than just that. First off, some introductions. My name is Kristoff. I am one of the few Elder Bound, those of us who were the first to undergo the ritual. As you can see, my idol has changed greatly since the day it was bound to me. All of the idols begin as yours. A small, claylike figurine. The material itself is a mystery. It is resilient, but not indestructible. Always, and I emphasize, always keep it in mind. It is bound to your very life and you will die if anything happens to it.”. Many looked to each other, as if gauging each other’s potential for survival. Kristoff continued, “Now, as I call you, please come forward and show the power you hold. Some of you may not have tapped into the potential of the power yet, this is nothing to worry about. We will discover it soon enough. When we are done here, the class will move to the courtyard.”
Everyone here was around seventeen years old. A small few in their twenties. Those had somehow avoided the draft when the war seemed to be proceeding favorably. To Tessa this all felt pointless. The nation was now in a heavy slump, losing the war. Faranthir had been a relatively peaceful country. The advances in medical and transportation technology caught the attention of its neighbors. There was great pressure from the governing party to take action. To make an ally of one nation and then defend against the others. It was the only way they thought could help us survive. For a time, the strategy was successful. Geographically our nation is wedged between three great powers and the sea. To the west is the vast Oriallan Ocean. A route used to trade with our southern ally was established many years ago. It persists to this day. This ally, the nation Orial, has helped Faranthir through the ages. Thus, it was natural to remain close to them. In the past, Faranthir was a region that belonged to Lor’Kastas. The northland they command as their territory is rich in ores, but Faranthir possesses the valleys and rivers. We have the fertile land that fed the miners. Without Faranthir, Lor’Kastas was forced to rely on the third nation, Tal’Vir. This nation also controls a vast expanse of valleys. Their lands are just as rich for farming as Faranthir, but their produce lacks the qualities that matter to the people of Lor’Kastas. This strained the relations between the nations. When they learned of the technologies being developed in Faranthir, they questioned why these were not freely shared for all to enjoy. The government of Faranthir knew that the tools being developed could also be altered to become weapons. Problems continued to escalate from there. A new tax on imports here, minor conflicts at the borders and then full on skirmishes. Orial was forced to increase their military presence in the borders of Faranthir. This provoked both Lor’Kastas and Tal’Vir. They wanted Faranthir for themselves. War broke out with the first declaration from the government of Lor’Kastas. It was to be a war fought on multiple fronts. Tal’Vir refused to ally themselves with their northern neighbor. This was their opportunity to control all of the food production to force both Orial and Lor’Kastas to negotiate. All of this at the cost of Faranthir’s surrender, loss of identity and independence.
Delving deep into ancient traditions led to uncovering the ritual of binding. When the first bound were sent their incredible powers caught everyone by surprise. They were able to quickly turn the tide of battle. At that point, none of the first bound had any idea of the weakness they carried with them. The sudden death of one of the members led to an investigation. While the investigation was ongoing many others were lost. When they finally discovered the reason they were in shock. The toll for having incredible power was that they needed to guard their figurine at all cost. Many mysteries accompanied the ritual of binding. Not everything was clear about them, but one thing everyone knew going forward. The powerful and mystical figurine not only holds great power, it is also tightly bound to the person’s spirit. Some speculate that this is the reason for the great manifestation of power, and also why they are often unique. Sadly, the enemies of Faranthir caught on, and began to systematically target the bound’s figurines. New methods of protecting them had to be developed. The vulnerability also led some of those first bound to leave the front lines. Suddenly, Faranthir had lost some of its greatest defenders. Thus it reached this point. Losing a war and now relying on younger volunteers to try and turn the tide once again.
The courtyard was a battered piece of land behind the school. It is what remained suitable for training after years of slowly losing territory to Lor’Kastas and Tal’Vir. Many of the much desired fertile lands had gone to waste. In this setting the training started. Kristoff ordered everyone to form rows and to focus their power on the palm of their hand. Those with elemental power quickly gathered the energy. Small flames, water bubbles, sands coalescing into stone and the occasional electric crackle could be seen. Much as she tried Tessa could not form anything on her palm.
Days passed, then months and eventually a few years. The war had reached a new high. The forces of the invading nations finally made their push against the capital of Faranthir. Tessa walked the streets of the city, looking at broken carriages and houses. The army of Lor’Kastas was ruthless. They had abandoned all semblance of civilization and replaced it with an insatiable bloodlust. A month ago, Kristoff was sent to the frontlines. He did not return. This left the students to fend for themselves as the leadership crumbled. In the city, people did what they could to barricade and guard what was left. For Tessa, time did not pass by in vain. Her power surfaced in combat. It was a great and overwhelming shadow that could consume almost anything given enough time. She could also mimic the power of idols close to her. Eventually she could master such powers and permanently add them to her own. They did have one particular trait. The flames she commanded had a purple and black tinge to them. It was as if the mimicry still contained the very essence of her idol’s power. The enemy knew to fear her. Now, she was at the capital, ready to stand against the invaders. Despite the dire situation and her preference to work alone, she managed to make friends. Linus and Thalia, two very talented soldiers, stuck close to Tessa. Thalia had the unique ability to cast force fields and she made it her top priority to keep one over their figurines. Tessa was still trying to master this trait, so that she could one day relieve the burden from her friend. She knew that Thalia would never forgive herself if any of their figurines was destroyed.
The third successful attempt at defending the capital forced Tal’Vir to retreat. Tessa and her friends now command an elite unit of mixed troops. Some were bound to idols, others were common soldiers with more traditional weapons. During these times, rifles had replaced the old bow and arrow. The horse-drawn carriage was replaced by steam engines and soon with electric engines. This last development was the great discovery made by Faranthir that eventually incited the war.
Tessa’s unit pushed Tal’Vir nearly to the border. Along the way she encountered some of the fallen. Her idol reacted to the broken pieces. A new power surged within her. She figured out she could rebuild the broken idols and claim their power. Visions of the owner, now long dead, could be seen, providing some insight that would prove invaluable. Her skill became feared by both Tal’Vir and Lor’Kastas soldiers. The great advances made by her eventually made the Tal’Vir government to cease their ambitions. Within a few months a peace treaty was signed.
Much damage had been done at this point. The fertile lands had been destroyed by war. Despite this, Lor’Kastas continues to attack. Their bloodlust had reached a point where even their government could do nothing. News reached Faranthir that the capital of Lor’Kastas had fallen. An internal uprising by the military pushed the government to either resign or be killed. Those who refused were executed on the spot. Fear and rage drove the nation to implode. Few towns remained. Tessa’s mission after being so long at war was to hunt down the military leaders and free Lor’Kastas.
Within the span of a few months the elite unit did precisely what it intended. Stability in Lor’Kastas was returning with the help of some of the bound and aid from Orial. One target remained. His name is Girghiram. The last remaining general of the Lor’Kastas army who had not surrendered yet and was somewhere in Faranthir hiding away. When Tessa finally found him, he was preparing a ritual of binding for himself. After dealing with his defenders she saw as the ritual completed and the old general gained his own idol. To the general’s dismay he saw as this little clay doll shattered within seconds and drained his life away. In his mind the great power of the idol would help him gain the upper hand. By this point no one knew the extent of control Tessa had on her power. She could easily destroy any idols near her as much as she could mend them and even repair ones that were damaged in battle, saving the lives of the people whom she had grown to care for. With the fall of the general peace would soon arrive for Faranthir.
The bound whose powers were tied to the earth and the plants, slowly fixed the valleys to support farmlands once again. Lor’Kastas proved that Faranthir’s reluctance to share technology was warranted. Tessa, along with Linus and Thalia, volunteered to fix the capital of Faranthir. They were hailed as heroes. Statues of them were built in the city. Eventually Tessa left Faranthir to journey around the world, never to be seen again. Her parting gift to her friends was giving their idols the ability to regenerate and to heal any around them.