The Chosen Ones

LONG AGO, WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG, a young woman lived in a poor village on the edge of a vast, dark forest. The face she saw in the reflecting pool was glorious in its splendor, and all the men of the village competed for her favors, desiring her as their wife.

She declared she would take only a man whose magnificence matched her own, so she took the eldest son of the local lord, a lazy lad as famed for his dark, wavy hair and deep-set blue eyes as for his vanity. Together they rolled on the bed, made passionate love, and talked of the comely family they would have. Before the year was out, she grew large with child, and imagined how she would present her the lord’s son with a strapping boy who would bind him to her forever.

But in the spring, she gave birth to not one healthy male, but two scrawny, wailing, red-faced babes. Worse, on closer examination, the two babes were not like her and her lover.

They were not perfect.

The elder looked as if red wine stained him from the tips of his tiny fingertips to his bony shoulder.

The younger, a girl, had a dirty smudge in the palm of her hand which to the mother looked exactly like . . . an eye.

These children would not do.

The mother rose from her birthing bed. She took her children, the children she had brought forth from her womb, and disappeared from the village on a mission that made the midwife huddle by the fire and mutter a prayer.

She followed the trail that wound into the deepest part of the forest where, it was said, the old and hungry gods waited. There she abandoned the boy. The girl she tossed into a swiftly running stream.

At the moment when she turned away, abandoning each child without a backward glance, they were left devoid of the gift every child is given at birth — a parent’s love. In that moment, their small hearts stopped beating. They died . . .

And came back to life changed, gifted, the vacuum in their hearts filled by a new gift, one given in pity and in love.

These two children were the first Abandoned Ones.

They didn’t die, as the mother intended.

The boy-baby was picked up by a group of wanderers. With them, he grew into manhood. There he became a legend, for he created fire in the palm of his hand. That was his gift.

As he grew, he gathered around him others like him, babes who had been tossed aside like offal and in amends, had been given a special gift. They were the Chosen, seven men and women who formed a force of light in a dark world.

The girl-baby floated down the cold torrent. A woman — a witch — heard the baby’s shrieks and pulled it from the water. Disappointed by the scrawny thing, she intended to toss her back . . . until she saw the eye. She knew then that the child was special, so she took her to her home and raised her, starved her, tormented her, used her as a slave. She taught her how to hate.

On the day the girl became a woman, and her first menstrual blood flowed, she looked at the witch and in a vision, foresaw her future. In a voice warm with delight, she told the witch a horrible death awaited her.

The girl was a seer, and that was her gift.

Around her, she gathered six other abandoned children — warped, abused, and special — and they were the Others, beings who used their powers to cut like a scythe through the countryside, bringing famine and fear, anguish and death.

So through ages and eons, through low places and high, in the countryside and in the cities, through prophecies and revelations, the battle was joined between the Chosen and the Others . . . and that battle was fought for the hearts and souls of the Abandoned Ones.

That battle goes on today . . .