Dirty faced and clad in rough, misshapen sackcloth shifts two children of about ten years sit atop the outcropping beside a fork in the road. They are about a mile outside of the wall that separates the outskirts of the town of Great Harbor from the outlying lands. A road stretches eastward through a mostly barren, but not entirely inhospitable, landscape characterized by hills of rocky sandy soil dotted with short scrub-brush pine trees. To the west lie two well-traveled roads to Great Harbor.
The children sit in the shade of the low trees, the beady early morning sun on the horizon. One amuses himself by scratching images in the dust at his feet with a sharpened stick. The other sits cross legged on a rock as though he sits on a throne, greedily picking his nose.
The wind hums slowly through the quietly creaking trees and carries a song sung in an unfamiliar tongue. The two simultaneously hear the odd song on the wind and look at each other excitedly. They scramble up the sloped embankment fumbling, each quickly selecting and scooping up a rock about the size of a fist as they go.
They see the stranger who is singing. He is uncommonly tall and hunches over an intricately carved wooden staff used like a crutch. He wears a heavy embroidered deep blue cloak. Under his hood the boys can easily see that the stranger has thick woven bandages wrapped around his head that cover his eyes. Men never travel the road to Great Harbor without horses, and usually they come in wagons loaded down with supplies and goods to sell or trade. The first youth drops his rock and his jaw at the sight of this odd-looking and mysterious character.
“You boy, the stranger said abruptly. “Which road is the more direct path to the Hall of Tung, Overlord and Master of Great Harbor?”
The first boy shuffled uncomfortably and seemingly surprised himself when he raised his pointed finger towards the north road.
“Thank you kindly,” the stranger said.
With that the odd man adjusted his robe and resumed his song but broke off suddenly.
“You know boy it isn’t kind to throw rocks at passing caravans,” the stranger said with disgust lingering on his lips.
“We weren’t,” protested the youth… “honest, we…”
“Don’t lie to me, by The Light I know what you two are up to and about and hmmpth,” the man stammered sternly. “It isn’t kind to lie to strangers either.”
The two youths stood in place as though they were carved wooden statues and stared struck dumb. The man paused a moment more, shrugged, and then continued to walk towards the town slowly scraping his staff on the ground, now once again singing his song. The second youth freed from the strangers spell frowned with hatred, gripped the rock he still held tighter, and threw it with a grunt at the stranger. The well-aimed rock sailed swiftly through the air towards the man’s head.
The stranger raised a single finger and stopped the rock in midair only a foot from his face. The rock floated and turned end over end in the air. The strangers twisting digit appeared to be keeping it in place.
The boys starred in solemn disbelieving.
A grin spread slowly across the strangers face. “I fear you have tried my patience,” the stranger said in a mocking tone. “Pity.”
He casually flicked his finger in the direction of the youth on the hill and the rock burst into blue flame and took flight towards the boy that had thrown it.
The rocks path curved upward before it slammed solidly into the boy’s head splashing gelatinous bits of seared grey matter onto the other boy’s face and hands.
The recently standing body, folded and crumpled to the earth. The remaining boy screamed a blood-curdling scream, turned, stumbled and scrambled into a run away from the scene.
The strangers grin twisted into a hearty laugh. His head rocked back, his whole body now shaking violently his cavernous toothy mouth emitting the blood-curdling laughter. He began his song again, now in a hearty and vigorous tone.