by Chip Dunning
Gregory was a stranger in a very strange land. Brought east by his father across the great plains when the family was forced to flee a very angry noble — he had known little more than terror for most of his life. His father, Nicandous, was a practitioner in the art of summoning and binding demons to his will. Once villagers would discover this fact, they would be again forced to flee for their lives. It was like that many years ago when they left behind his mother and two sisters in the grasp of a righteous mob.
Though the times were getting harder, his father still never had time for Gregory. The constant moving left him with little skills. Years ago he and his father had discovered that Gregory had no talent for wizardry. It was at that time that Nicandous lost all interest in his only remaining child. Since then, he simply took the boy along because he could work the fields well enough to keep food on the table.
This was how Gregory found himself in a small town called Waters Edge. Settled mostly be fishermen, loners, and the occasional smuggler the town was small collection of brick houses stretched along the shore. Two small piers jutted out into the sea where the fishing and “trading” ships would dock. Still, it wasn’t the simple life that currently had Gregory standing on the edge of the dock that night. Instead, it was his father.
Just the previous spring Gregory, his body more mature from working the nets and tending the fields, had caught the eye of a young girl name Callie. Callie was a simple girl who tended house for her family while they fished along the shore. She had brown hair with soft gentle curls, sea-green eyes, and a smile that seemed to stop Gregory’s heart. While they had smiled often in passing, her uncle was a ship owner and he was only a deckhand.
Still, they say that love is written in the stars and avoiding one’s fate is only the path to emptiness. So, it was that Gregory approached Callie during a town dance and set his foot upon a different path. Instead of hanging around the house with his father at nights, the couple would met on her porch or talk aboard the ship — each time under the watchful gaze of her father or uncles, but Gregory didn’t mind their looks.
For two years they grew ever closer and Callie’s father often rewarded Gregory’s work by allowing him to master the ship when the seas were calm. He grew to like the sea and just before the fall festival asked Callie’s father for permission to marry his daughter. When the accepting embrace between father and son-in-law ended, Gregory rushed off to make Callie a bridal wreath that he could present to her at the fall dance. With bits and peices he put together what he judged was beautiful and headed home for the night.
What he found at home was every nightmare he had ever had wrapped into one large demon from the lowest pits of the underworld. His father, in dark robes and surrounded by fat candles, was chanting over and over while the demon was ravaging Callie’s body. In a maddening beserk rush, Gregory brushed past his father and threw himself atop the demon. However, the demon only noticed that Gregory had upset Nicandous’s circle.
Never a true study of magic, Gregory didn’t understand that the demon could only be bound by protective circles. When he broke his father’s circle the demon was free. Tearing Callie in two, the demon hurled himself at Nicandous before the mage could escape. As the demon held his father aloft, Gregory could only curl around Callie’s torso and cry. He never knew when the demon returned to the underworld or cared about the shrilling cries of his father — the world for Gregory was over. He overturned their belongings and made their entire house into a funeral pyre for his beloved, while he walked covered in her blood and carrying the bridal wreath towards the docks.
So, that is how Gregory came to be standing on the edge of the docks at the town of Waters Edge. His hopes and dreams washed away as the easily as the dirt that was pulled into the ocean’s depths. Love and happiness was no match for the evil of his father and his corrupting touch. As the bridal wreath he planned to give Callie fell from his fingers into the sea, Gregory lost all hope. As his body plunged into the waters and was swept far out to sea — he sought peace in the empty darkness.
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