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The man looked out the cell window at the driving rain. Appropriate weather for an execution. But why did they condemn him? How could She let this happen?
It had started when he was quite young. One day, he had been playing with his friends in the woods near his house when he met Her.
He had thought it was a dream, or a hallucination, but it was quite real. His friends asserted that he had indeed vanished.
But none of them knew, he thought grimly. They didn't know then and they don't know now.
She was strange, he had thought, with Her hair like ropes and Her body nonexistent. A statue's head on a pedestal.
He didn't dare tell the others about Her. In fact, on one else knew for over a year.
Sighing, Freedan thought about that unfortunate incident. In his youthful innocence, he did not know the true consequences of his actions.
Four years old. Religion class. Teacher had assigned the students to draw a picture of God. Freedan drew Gaia. His reward was a sharp whipping with a yardstick in front of the class. Gaia told him later that others did not believe in Her. It was their choice. But some are quite protective of their beliefs, She had said, especially those who are in doubt.
Freedan tried not to speak of Gaia, but his faith often required it. People thought him mad, but harmless.
Until his tenth year. He found in that year that he could move things with his mind. His friends found out and demanded that her perform this 'parlour trick' for them. His parents did not take the same lighthearted view, however, and beat him every time he used his 'evil powers'.
Thinking that he needed more discipline, his family gave him to the military on his twelfth birthday. He never saw them again.
Five years passed. Freedan was now a renowned soldier, serving crown and county boldly. But he knew that others did not trust him; maybe even feared him. His suspicions were confirmed on the battle field.
The nearby kingdom of Dannlis attacked in the middle of the night. Freedan was the first to charge the field, but was struck with an arrow almost instantly. Gaia appeared and healed him, and asked if he had ever met Shadow. Before he could respond, his mind clouded, and he lost all awareness.
When he awoke, he was in a prison cell. His first thought was that he had been captured, but the silent guard who brought him dinner was in the uniform of Freedan's own country.
Gradually, he learned what had happened. Other soldiers reported that Freedan's body had changed form, to that of a strange being, and he had destroyed all enemy forces. Many, the king included, believed this creature of light was a demon, and that Freedan was possessed.
The priests who examined the young warrior confirmed the king's fears. Exorcism was not possible, they said. Freedan had to renounce Gaia--who they referred to as the evil idol goddess--and all her powers...
Or he would be executed.
Freedan was returned to his cell to consider his options. He did not expect to sleep that night, but weariness touched him anyway. In his dreams, he saw a young boy, maybe thirteen, with sandy blonde hair and a purple flute. This boy was on a quest--what it was, Freedan did not know, but it was obviously of great importance. He saw the boy kneeling before Gaia in the Dark Space where She resided. On either side of her were statues. To her left was Shadow--Freedan knew it to be--and to her right...
To her right was Freedan. In full armor, wielding a blade that caught the darkness and made it light.
This was no ordinary dream. Freedan knew it to be a prophesy. When he awoke, he made his decision. He would never forsake Gaia. If he did, the world would end. The boy he had seen was fated to save the world, but would perish without assistance.
"I would rather die," he told the magistrate, "then ever betray Gaia."
The magistrate was silent. "Are you sure?" he said at last. "A young man like you, throwing your life away for some demon?"
"Gaia is not a demon!" Freedan demanded. "She is the Earth Spirit. All life comes from her!"
"So you believe. Very well. You shall be executed in three days time."
The clank of the cell door brought Freedan back to the present time. In just a few minutes, he would be no more.
Armed guards led the silent man outside the prison to a riser. A tall headsman stood with a sharp axe. When the sight met Freedan's eyes, he was gripped with fright. He didn't want to die, not yet, not so young...
But Gaia needed him.
The future needed him.
With a few determined steps, Freedan was on the block. His parents were in the crowd, all waiting eagerly for the heathen to die.
"Have ye any last words, pagan scum?" the Magistrate asked.
"None, but to say that Gaia--"
He never finished. The axe flew clean, he felt no pain. Nor did he hear the crowd's cheers give way to screaming a moment later when the world was lost in a consuming light.
You have done well. You were fated to die today, and I am glad that you made it on your own terms. The boy in your dream will need your help. You and he will be great heroes.
Lady, where is this boy?
He will not be born for a very long time. But you, he, and Shadow will save the world. And save me. People in his time will be more tolerant.
Don't speak, Freedan. Say no more.
Eight hundred years later, Freedan awoke.
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