It was a land no one travels to anymore. Not for almost a thousand years had anyone bothered to make the trek. It's possible that the people of this forgotten Kingdom didn't exist anymore, having died out as a result of war or plague.
It was a long journey, even by horse, and a dangerous one through barren wilderness. Even merchants gave up attempting the journey many centuries ago, after all the people of that land were fearful, suspicious, even hostile of strangers. At least, that's what the stories said. I'm sure there were none alive who could remember back a millennium.
It was mostly for this reason though, that I wanted to make the trip. I wanted to explore this forgotten portion of the world, seek out its long lost people and learn how their culture has evolved, disconnected as they are from the rest of the world, and of course seeing their art, learning their songs and their poetry. My mind was delightfully occupied with the notion of adventure and discovery. It distracted me momentarily from the other main reason to make the trip, to get away from the embarrassment that was my father.
My mother died when I was five. Some accident up north. My father never talked about it much. There weren't many people who knew what happened, but from what I had gathered it involved some research that she was working on.
I only have the vaguest memories of mother. Images mostly. Like paintings through a frost covered window. I remember she was pretty. I remember her nose pressing against mine and the warmth of her hug that made me feel safe. I remember a shower of her kisses all over my face. While people frequently soften their memories of the past, I believe in my heart that she was a good mother.
The night that the government representative came to the door, I had no idea what was going on but I knew it was enough to make father collapse, sobbing in the doorway. The days that followed were very confusing to me. I knew little beyond what I heard that night and what father had told me. Mother wasn't coming home. There was an accident and she died.
My father's behavior in the days after that night was upsetting and confusing to my five year old mind. He would not look at me. When he did, it was a faraway stare. If he spoke to me he couldn't get three words without choking up, or worse, bursting into sobs. I wondered what I had done wrong, and if somehow, I was responsible for my mother's death. He never said it was so, but I was convinced of it. Or at least, that he blamed me for it.
It was only four months later when I was accepted into the Skalde Academy of the Arts in the City of Lhen. I never remember even having an instrument in our home much less discussing with father anything about applying to this school. Although, at five years old how much of a discussion could I have had about the issue, I don't know. It just needs to be said that...