I hate magic. Magic has taken everything from me. My parents, my uncle, what was to be my short but painless life. Everyone I loved, and everyone who loved me. Still, I go on, what other choice do I have?
My story actually starts many years before I was born. While the story changes, depending on which relative tells it, several generations ago, one of my great-great grandmothers petitioned a fertility goddess to give her a child, as she had always been barren. Apparently, the goddess was impressed with her plea, as she soon found herself pregnant. She gave birth to identical twins. These children both had identical twins also, as has every generation in our family since.
Then some 15 summers before I was born, my father, Gerbald, and his identical twin brother, Joben, ran away together from their boring family farm to the Oracle of Felsooth. They petitioned the Oracle as to their future. The Oracle told them that they would become great warriors, and would found a great family of the realms. Based upon this divination, and with determination born of their certainty in the Oracle's unerring portents, the boys immediately joined the Felsooth martial academy. Here, they both excelled in their physical and martial training, but for the first time in their young lives, their differences also began to show. While Joben was able to excel at almost everything he learned, no one, not even the masters could match Gerbald's skill with the bastard sword. Yet, his skill with other weapons and techniques suffered as compared to Joben. While this difference dictated that Gerbald would focus on becoming a Weapon Master, while Joben continued on in his training as a Man-at-arms, this was the only separation that came between them, (though apparently they argued incessantly as to which fighting style was superior).
After serving their required terms of service in the Felsooth Army, Gerbald and Joben worked their way together around the realms as guards and mercenaries. Through their many adventures and travels, they did become great warriors as the Oracle had predicted. One of their most dangerous adventures, was rescuing a noble's daughter from a band of kidnappers. While bloodied and bruised, they were successful. Unlike most story tales, however, it was not the noble's daughter that caught my father's eye, it was her hand-maiden, Sarah.
While I never really understood this part, apparently, Sarah was so fair and beautiful, that the Noble's daughter forbade her from going without a veil. Joben said it was hard to determine what was more enchanting, her smile or her beauty, (though he also commented on the overwhelming fear she could cause in a household when things were not up to her standards). He described her as being "breathtaking" to behold, yet the fairest and kindest hearted woman you could ever know. He once admitted to me, while drunk on fine wine, that he too fell in love with her at first sight, yet, without reproach, she made it clear to him that while they would be the closest of family, that Gerbald was the man foretold in her dreams.
Yes dreams, my mother apparently had lots of dreams. She could predict the weather, my father's luck on hunting excursions, and when the villager's they encountered needed medical attention. Unfortunately, such dreams, and her ability to heal the sick, and cure their animals, once known among simple townsfolk, also become the blame for a cow's milk going sour and other tragedies, both real and imagined that befell the locals. It would not take long for rumors of witchcraft to start being whispered. So it was that the three of them slowly made their way yet again across the realms, in search of a place where they could settle down in peace. Sarah kept telling them that she would know when they reached the right place, as she dreamed of it almost every night. As they had always done, the brothers would sign on as mercenaries and guards to earn their keep, and to move safely cross the frontiers they came across. Now, they had Sarah to accompany them, who made their travels and battle wounds all the better with her fine cooking, soothing herbs and poultices.
Finally, they came upon a small valley, with good soil and few neighbors, that they helped a local lord "cut" from the wilderness. During some of the fighting, the lord received a small wound that became infected. Being as remote as this area was, Sarah was the best healer available, and she successfully treated the wounds and nursed the lord back to health. In thanks, both for her kindness and wanting to keep a strong militia in place to protect his gains, the lord offered them the first choice of lands and a title for Sarah as the Lord's personal healer. Upon seeing the valley for the first time, Sarah exclaimed that it was as she had seen in her visions. She marched both Gerbald and Joben to the far end of the valley, where the cold and fast moving stream left the forest and entered the valley and said that is where they would build their farms, as it had the purest water, the richest soil and the best hunting.
So the brothers settled down to a life of farming and hunting. Gerbald and Joben built two large homes, (one on each side of the creek), each with 4 bedrooms, (which they said was going to be needed for their children. It did not take long before Sarah announced that she was pregnant, and that she was carrying identical twin boys. Apparently she dreamt about us a lot while she was pregnant. She described to my father and uncle how we would both combine my father's physical prowess with her beauty and presence to make two of the most handsome and charming boys ever born. She also described for them how my brother and I would follow very different paths in spirit. One was to be a strong and capable warrior who would combine the strength of both body and mind to make a most formidable foe, (I presume that was me), while the other would inherit her family's gift of the arcane, and become a strong manipulator of energy and magic.
In the weeks leading up to our birth, my uncle would tell me that once in a while he would catch Sarah staring off into space, with a sad look on her face. When asked, she would immediately dismiss any concern, but to him she appeared to be somewhat melancholy. Given the events that followed, Joben thereafter felt that Sarah had probably seen some of what was to transpire in her dreams, but as she always said, "The future is what it is, you best get prepared for it", and knew that there was little she could do to prevent it. Besides which, even if she had said anything, all it would have done is increase the grief and pain that my family was about to suffer.
So finally it was time for us to be born. As with everything else in my life, it appears that portents were abounding. It was the night of the Summer Solstice with a very full moon turning night into twilight. Mother, being the midwife and healer of the area, told the few women about to stay home. She told father to stay at Joben's house, across the stream, until he heard the cries of his new baby boys. She made him swear that he would not come before he heard their cries, and Joben to restrain him with physical force if necessary.
Later that night, (most likely at the Witching hour of 3 am), my brother and I were born. Thankfully, I have no memory of that process. From what Joben told me, it was not a sight for man or beast. Upon hearing our first cries, Gerbald sprang across the wooden bridge separating the two farms and burst in to find Sarah's dead body cradling the two of us in her bloodstained arms. Gerbald immediately went into shock and revulsion. Then when he pulled back the blanket to see his crying boys, he fainted.
Joben said that he had never seen such a thing happen to his brother before, but I guess the sight of your dead and bloody wife, having obviously cut her children out of her own womb, and then seeing your "two" sons that, are actually conjoined twins, that are connected from hip to shoulder with each other, was more than his mind could take. It was Joben that first picked us up, wiping the blood and gore from our bodies. From the top of our butts, to the tip of the shoulder blade, we were connected, my right side, his left. No woman could have given birth to such a monster. Nor should she have. Such births are very rare, and always of evil portents. We were not meant to survive.
My uncle, after wiping us down and placing us in a warm blanket, saw to cleaning up Sarah before his brother awoke. While doing so, he found a note that Sarah had written.
I am so sorry for having to leave you, but it was the only way to save our precious boys. I know you will not understand this, but it was a price I was glad to pay.
Ger, brace yourself, there is more to be done this night. Our boys are precious, and they can be saved. You need to saddle the horse and take our boys through the forest to the ancient standing stone I showed you several weeks ago. It must be done tonight, before first light. Trust me in this Ger. Please, I beg of you.
All of my love, I will be waiting for you on the other side,
Father started to come around, but was overcome with grief. It took Joben quite a while to settle him down enough to get him to read the note. When he could finally understand it, Father apparently screamed in pain and agony about what was left to save, and cursed my brother and I. Slowly, over the next couple of hours, Father came back into reason, but could not figure out how my brother and I could be "saved", given that such births were never allowed to survive.
He finally told Joben, "I don't know what good it can do, but at this point I don't know what harm. So he saddled the horse, and taking us from Joben, carried us out into the forest.
.... There is more of this story ...