If you are reading this, then I am either dead or you have somehow managed to pilfer from me without my knowledge, for it is nigh inconceivable that you would have been able to break my meticulous encryption before I tracked you down and destroyed you. Whatever the particulars of your making it this far, I salute you; it could not have been accomplished without facing dire peril. Still, my respect for your feat comes with a warning: Know you this, dear reader, you have not yet exceeded my grasp.
As you likely already know, I am called Lyather, or as the common tongue would have it: Wolf of Winter, and this journal shall serve as a record of my deeds. In my childhood, I was a small, quiet and weak boy. Born some six months later in the year than most of my peers, I was always the smallest, always behind them in development. Children are cruel things by their nature, and well before they could run, or hope to understand the lesser social status I would carry until my apprenticeship began, they understood that I was weaker and therefore able to be dominated. I do not begrudge any of them, it is merely the way of things, and I would have done the same to them had our roles been reversed. There is a saying amongst my people, one that has come to define the very core of my being; Vae Victis: Woe to the Vanquished. I would be a hypocrite to think it did not also apply to me. But enough of my own generation for now, our deeds will be known well enough in the years to come. Instead let me speak of those who have returned to the shadows and dust.
Of those who ran before, there is but one whom I can say that I truly knew, but as you will come to understand, even this claim is dubious. He was called Sar’kaash, which in the glib tongue of man might be understood as the Seeker of Fate, and he was our tribe’s Kâhin before me. It was well known among our people that it was he who selected me as his student and instructed me in the ways of magic. It is also common knowledge that I was a mere foundling, an abandoned child, possibly even from another tribe and not of the high breeding that such tutelage normally demands. Perhaps less well known is the fact that it was Sar’kaash himself who found me as a discarded and unwanted infant.
It is quite possible that things were just as Sar’kaash told me; that I was discarded by a mother who could not endure the social stigma of bearing a child so late in the season, in a time of the year that was long ago known as winter. Our people tend to breed only during a select pair of months in the year, so that all the women who carry children may carry them at the same time, and the tribe as a whole can still run. It is during the hottest months, when the blazing sun is at its zenith and the two moons are spread furthest from one another in the sky, when there is never any reprieve from the heat that the tribes will settle in somewhere for a time and allow their women to birth and recuperate before they must run again with an ever-growing weight upon their backs.
However, it is just as likely that this was merely another in a long line of Sar’kaash’s lies. Perhaps he stole me from another tribe for reasons known only to him, or murdered my mother so that he might mold me in his image without interference. Whatever the truth of the matter may be, he took it with him when he left this world. There can be no doubt that this was not the only secret he carried to his shallow grave, though he must also have realized that the grave would not shield him from me for long. I will have my answers from him yet.
My master also told me once when I was young, in a tone of reverence and awe that was unbecoming of him, that on the day I was born, The Messenger, a brilliant comet which streaks through the sky only once every forty five years, cut its path across both moons just as each of them moved to blot out the crimson sun and plunge all of Athas into absolute darkness. He then hardened his expression once more and warned me on pain of death never to speak of this to anyone, and he himself never mentioned it again. I can still remember how special that story made me feel. Regardless of the taunting and torments of the other children, the scolding looks I found in every eye I met, it was as though the world and the heavens themselves wanted and embraced me.
It was a charming story that saw me through some of the darker days of my adolescence, and might have remained so had he never elected to teach me how to track the movements of the heavens. Instead his little fable only served to teach me that I could trust no one, not even him; but perhaps that was his intent all along. I have done the calculations countless times, always with the same result. The unprecedented cosmic event he spoke of did indeed occur, and it did indeed come to pass on the day of my birth… the only discrepancy is that it happened exactly ten years before I was born.
So it was with every lesson Sar’kaash ever taught me; each being harder-won than the last. He would set before me nearly impossible tasks which I suspect that even he himself could not accomplish. It was obvious enough that he took great pleasure in berating me when I failed, and with his help I failed often; but curiously, he derived even greater pleasure from the rare occasion when I would succeed. I do not profess to understand his madness, though I cannot help but feel as though every little thing he ever did was planned out days and months in advance, perhaps even up to and including his own demise.