Is this... consciousness? Where did it come from...?
Darkness... I can't see a thing.
No, not darkness. Not even darkness could exist here.
This is -- I feel so empty....
No, now it's changing. Something else is here.
A person? A child... young, he's so young. Five years old? Six? His eyes, so bright and clear. Green eyes.... He's happy. He wants to be a knight, like his father. He's laughing, running... I'm running, also. Trying to catch him? No, that's not right... that can't be right. I am him. How did this happen? No time to think... have to concentrate on running. Something's in my hand? A wooden sword. I'll be strong enough to use a real sword soon. I'm going to be a great knight, like my father.
Darkness? Emptiness? No, that can't be. I've been practicing swordplay in the field all day. I'm showing improvement. My father will be proud. I have to get home soon, or I'll miss supper. Running again... or had I ever stopped? It doesn't matter, I'll be home soon.
Why do I feel funny? There should be people here. Other people should be on this road. Where are my friends? I'm scared. I have to run faster. I have to get home.
Why am I on the ground? I tripped. I can't wait here, I have to run. I have to keep running, no matter what. There's light. No, not light. Fire. My home is on fire. Everybody's homes are on fire. I want to find my father. I'm scared, why can't I find him? Tears, behind my eyes. Tears, I'm running as fast as I can. The heat is growing, surrounding me. There are people here... enemies. There are so many enemies....
A bad dream. I'm having a nightmare. When am I going to wake up? Nowhere left to run... this has to be a dream. But I can hear them. I can smell them. I can feel....
A blade? It's dull, rusted. It's being pulled out of me. Out of me? The pain.... I've never felt anything like this pain. On my hands and knees. Why can't I stand? The ground is slippery. It's wet with my blood. I can't cry anymore. Why can't I cry? Barbs, inside of me. Wicked weapons, tearing at me. Have I died yet? A face. A body, below mine. My mother, she's not moving. I want to shake her. Why is she disappearing? I can't move. I don't understand what's happening. Why can't I wake up?
Koda's eyes opened slowly, though amidst the permeating, ambient blackness, it was to no effect.
Silence. It was as if his senses had been muted; existence among nothingness.
It took only a short moment for Koda to rouse himself from this void. Tossing his blanket aside, the young man sat up, letting his legs hang from the edge of his bed as his mind resumed its ability to process conscious thought.
He'd had another dream? This had been drastically different from his last, however it unsettled him nonetheless.
'So this is what it has come to?' He wondered silently, shifting his weight forward to rest his elbows upon his legs. His gaze was cast downwards, though considering the darkness, any direction would have served his purpose equally.
A very long time passed before Koda offered his next movement.
Allowing a playful smirk to cross his lips, Koda reached his hand in the direction he knew his cloak to be. 'No. I didn't make those promises in vain.' The tips of his fingers grazed thin fabric and he slid quietly to his feet.
'I wonder what time it is. I need a drink.'
The night hung heavy, a warm stillness penetrating Naerlan's streets and alleys. The torches that lined the ways seemed stifled and subdued by a thick quiet that the city's walls could not repel. Doors had closed early, and even the typically lively guardsmen went about their shifts in silence. It was a night in which a sharp ring of steel would fall flat, and every footstep from those few that were about was inexplicably more uncomfortable than the last. A small handful of taverns in the Northern district saw their usual routine. Their windows glowed faintly, containing modest bustles which struggled to deny the oppressive outside. A patron could lose themselves in a drink and a song - could find a comfortable lull and beautifully believe that nothing beyond those walls was of any matter.
Koda found himself in such a place that night. In truth, he had spent the better part of the afternoon and evening propped easily against the oak table with a mug that was always a simple gesture from capacity. His green eyes slowly scanned the circle of men seated about the table. The dice rolled easily, belongingly in his nimble hand. He enjoyed the dull sensation, the unheard clacking in his palm. The dice poured over one another; it was a ritual that foretold an impending confrontation with luck and fate. In those creeping moments after a throw, before the dice settled, destiny was both unknown and imminent. On the edge of a tumbling die, Koda found a reflection of his own life.
The confident smirk that played across his lips was a sharp contrast to the scowls of the other men. He had been playing at the table all night, and few remained to roll against his stack of winnings. Those that were left were visibly losing patience, and although the word "cheat" had been heard on more than one occasion, none so far had truly pushed the accusation. Behind a calm, unmoving expression, Koda's mind whirled inwards. What was he really doing here? Why, for that matter, had he returned to the city? He had no explicit purpose, and just as many remaining acquaintances. No answer would be forthcoming, he knew. His mind stood still for that last moment and the perpetual rolling of his hand was all that belied the perfect stillness of his features and posture. At length, one man across the table began to rise with a protest, but a twitch from Koda's smile cut the table's festering quiet first and proved the more potent.
He nodded faintly to himself and with a sharp, practiced assault, put the two cubes high into the air. The sound resonated heavily in his mind as they landed hard atop the smooth oak, rebounding and launching into a wild roll. "Another toss of the dice," he decided under his breath.
Every day I come closer to discovering absolute balance. It is intangible, yet evident. The gods are underway, and in the shadow of their mighty designs I have turned inward. I have come to temper the balance within myself and recognize it within all natural aspects of our world and environment. It permeates everything around us and exists on the most minute scale as well as the grandest. An act of balance is infinite-fold with each in synchronous harmony. I can feel this because I first learned to perceive it. I can follow Vyrul's judgement with all swiftness and confidence, because it is his reflection that my own lessons and experiences have shown me.
I discovered the concept of balance through movement and combat. If a person exists within the body, mind, and spirit, then physical balance is the easiest to identify and obtain. Never did I feel more in control of myself and my surroundings than when I ran freely, or when I became engaged in combat. From a young age I was aware of my own agility and ability to perform feats of intricate coordination with ease. However, it wasn't until I learned to perceive balance and rhythm that I truly discovered my own physical potential. Everything in nature - life and energy itself - has its own rhythm while existing as a part of a larger one.
It has taken many lessons, but as I refine my style of fighting, I learn to attune my mind to the forces at work around me: the will and power of the gods - a perfect harmony and a perpetual conflict. When I draw my blades, my mind falls inward towards that greatest of symphonies, which then leads my own rhythm in combat. I draw upon both good and evil, for it is both that make up a spirit and the capacity for either will always be within all reasoning beings. History has seen the most devout saints fall to darkness and the most heartless of killers find redemption. I have heard some claim that balance is inconsistent, like leaves in the wind. Rather, I know balance as the anchor. It is the point upon which the forces of good and evil have forever tilted and swayed.