Haven is set against a cataclysmic event that has repercussions across the Seven Kingdoms, which will, if left unchecked, bring about the end of humankind. Fortunately, no situation can ever quite be so desperate, and hope shines in the form of a group of adventurers who are given the unenviable task of preventing the downfall of the kingdoms of humanity.
The first member of this band has already been set upon his path, having experienced a chance encounter in a rundown bar on the planet of Amazing Grace...
- "There is no greater misery than to remember, with bitter regret, a day when you were happy."
- —Matthew Woodring Stover (via Dante)
Everything was broken. He could feel it, almost as if it were his own body that had been cracked asunder -- and if only it was. He could feel the strain on the muscle of the world, being torn this way and that, bleeding out the energy of entropy; he winced at the broken bones of reality; and worse of all, the slow, inevitable derangement of the mind of the universe that would, with no impulses to steer it elsewhere, bring down the walls of the kingdoms.
Valentyne had been tasked with keeping those walls standing. He had served as their bastion for -- oh, so very long, now. The walls had weathered army and empire, but they had been weakened. And he had not spotted the cracks.
It was still raining, and the already treacherous path through the Iota Mountains was essentially a water chute to certain death by this point, but Valentyne hardly cared. He plunged on through the tempest, cloak flapping all about, strands of hair plastered to his creased face. He had no real destination in mind. The movement, that was the important thing. The act of running itself.
He was running away. Away from the crumbling walls, from the cause of that devestation -- hell, he was running from his failed duty, and his failed life, and yeah, running from Valentyne, stupid name that it was. He'd lived with that for years, his own little banner to wave above his head and bring down trouble upon it.
He was running from himself.
And on he ran, down that lonesome road, running in fear and dread of the shadow that close behind him tread.
Chapter One: HopeEdit
- "There is no worse death than the end of hope."
It was, judging by a cursory glance out of the window, another unremarkable day, which just goes to show how little eighteen-year-olds pay attention when they are thinking about girls.
Not girls in general, however; one in particular. One specifically, and specially, who had occupied Jansen's thoughts ever since he had met her. How long had it been, now? Probably less than a week, he decided as he assessed his lacklustre wardrobe, but it felt like a year ago. And yet, the meeting was fresh in his mind, as if it had happened mere minutes ago -- which meant it would have occured while he was asleep, but Jansen had caught himself wondering if it had been a dream.
As he plumped for a nondescript blue shirt and black combats, Jansen again replayed the meeting in his mind, savouring every detail.
He had been sitting at a bar -- the aptly-named Rank, though he was loathe to admit to hanging out at that particular nemesis of sobriety -- contemplating whether to hazard one of the brightly-coloured bottles on the shelf behind the gruff old barman, when she materialized in front of him. He hadn't seen her come in, nor had he spotted her in the hour he had attempted to enjoy with Rek and Chan. Nevertheless, there she was.
Jansen had caught a flicker of green eyes and long, brown hair before his brain went to mush when she flashed a bright smile and said,
And Jansen had sat there on his stool in abject silence, mouth working like some demented faddlefin, goggling blankly at the newcomer. He'd finally managed to squeeze out an "um -- er, hi," which probably hadn't even carried over the babble of conversation in the bar. She continued gazing at him, still that beaming smile in place.
"Er, do I -- do I know you?" Jansen had gulped.
The girl cocked her head to one side. "Not yet," she replied lightly. If it was at all possible, Jansen's eyes widened further. If he had been able to attract the barman's attention yet, he would surely have coughed up a brightly-coloured drink all over himself. As it was, he was reduced to floundering for an answer.
"Ah. I see," he said blindly. The girl was still regarding him expectantly. He reached up to surreptitiously smooth back his hair. "Well, ah, I'm Jansen."
There was a pause. He smiled. She smiled back. Casting about the bar for any form of assistance, Jansen resorted to prompting the girl along. "And you are...?"
"Waiting." The smile hadn't flickered. "I saw you from across the bar, thought you looked interesting, so I came on over."
Jansen had been secretly pleased with this assesment -- for all of three seconds.
"Still waiting for you to prove my assumption, though," the girl added casually.
He wasn't entirely sure what he'd said after that -- probably nothing at all -- but the girl had obviously tired of waiting. She had hopped off the stool, and glanced back over her shoulder before disappearing into the crowd. "Trick of the light, maybe."
A trick of the light. Those had been her last words to him, before vanishing off the face of the world. Jansen had sat there, stunned, eyes locked on the place where the girl had slipped between two slightly sloshed patrons. Stupid! Stupid! He'd lost her. He would have banged his head on the bar, or perhaps brought the strip of lodelight fixed to the ceiling down over his head, but, well, he hadn't wanted to make a scene, after all.
So Jansen had stumbled out of that damn-blasted bar, and back home. It wasn't even dark when he got back and slumped into bed, though Jansen hadn't noticed. His thoughts ever since had been on the girl, whoever she was.
His mind still on that mysterious stranger, Jansen stumped downstairs to breakfast. His mother, Lana, greeted him with a smile, her curly, brown hair loose and a mug of stem in one dainty hand. "Morning," she said cheerily. "There's more stem in the pot, unless your father's used it all up already."
She indicated the man standing over the stem-pot on the kitchen counter with an exaggerated roll of her blue eyes; Jansen's father, Dane. He was taller than his wife, with lighter hair and a thin moustache forming on his upper lip. He winked over at his son. "Can't get enough of the stuff. Keeps me awake all through Rotenstein's presentations, anyway."
Jansen helped himself to a mug as his father bustled across to the network feed affixed to one wall of the lounge annex, twiddling knobs on the side in an attempt to tune the tempramental device to a local news output. "Rotten, lousy thing," he mumbled, giving the screen's thin edge a slap for good measure.
"Never mind it, dear," Lana said, taking a cushioned seat at the dining table as Jansen parked himself on one opposite. "It's all doom and gloom nowadays, anyway. All of it complete fabrication."
Dane glanced over, still fiddling about with the controls as a woman's face flickered in and out of focus on the screen. "Now, not quite. That earthquake in Penumbra wasn't exactly fabricated. Although perhaps we should just dump the spotty thing and get one of those new Network-Threes--"
"Over my dead body!" Lana cried with mock-indignation, "if you think I'm missing my docu's..."
Jansen let his parents' good-natured squabbling wash over him as he sipped at his stem and tuned his thoughts back to the night at the bar. The girl. He couldn't stop thinking about her -- perhaps he'd become obsessed? He shook his head in a futile attempt to clear away her green-eyed gaze. His mother peered at him closely.
"Tired, dear?" she asked.
"Bit," Jansen muttered, gulping down more stem in an effort to avoid further conversation. His mother seemed to accept the feeble explaination, or was at least to preoccupied with giving Jansen's father advice on how to work the network screen properly.
"You could try turning it off and on again, dear," she suggested, and offered Jansen a wink of her own as Dane gave the machine a further slap, dislodging one of its buttons.
"So, who is she?" Rek asked.
Jansen blinked. "What? Who?"
Rek nudged his friend, Chan, sitting at the desk next to his, and both turned smug grins on Jansen. "You've been staring out the window for the past quarter. And I know Dipple's lecture's glum stuff, but it can only be a girl's got you spun, right?"
"It's...nothing. Just tired, is all," Jansen replied, but the grins failed to wane. He sighed. "Well, okay, there was someone..."
"Hah, groodies! More like it!" Chan, heavyset and spikey-haired, leaned in closer, spilling onto the floor a cluster of paper balls he had planned to flick about the room. Jansen began to relate his story.
"You were there, actually," Jansen pointed out, but at that moment, Mr Dipple paused in mid-flow and cast a stern gaze up at Jansen's level from the lecture floor.
"Perhaps," he said firmly, his voice carried by magphones lining the walls, "the economic depression of the Year of Providence is not quite as pertinant to our studies as your little chin-wag, Master Tull, but I'd appreciate a mite of civility here..."
Jansen slumped into his chair, trying to avoid Mr Dipple's eye, and remained quiet. Rek and Chan's short attention spans had already propelled them to the row behind, where Gon was attempting to hack into a restricted, prurient feed on his Netlog. Jansen was left trying to catch up on the lecturer's speech ("...but of course recent events indicate a similar decline in the near future, for which forewarning is truly essential...") but he could not help dwelling on the girl. Was there anyone he could talk to?