Heart of the Sword Chapter 1

The Call To War

By Lia Strife

Snow fell silently on the country of Ivalice that night, blanketing the Tingel residence with a colorless mantle. A young man trekked through the snow and up to the doorway of the huge manor, his breath coming out in white puffs of steam that floated away into the air and vanished. He gazed at the snow-covered mansion with a mixture of awe and fear and wrapped his thin gray coat more tightly around himself before reaching up to grab the frost-covered knocker that hung on the huge oak doors. He knocked once, twice, three times before one of the massive doors was opened by a stern-looking man.

“What do you want?” He asked gruffly, leering down at the young man.

“P-please, sir, I was directed to mail this letter to the Tingel residence…” he replied, teeth chattering in the frigid air. He pulled a slightly bent envelope from inside of his worn out coat and held it up to the man.

“Cousin Izlude, who is it?” A voice from inside asked. Seconds later, a golden-haired youth no older than the age of twenty appeared at the doorway and his eyes widened at the sight of the young messenger standing out in the cold. “For goodness’ sake, come in and warm up! It must be freezing out there!” The young messenger nearly dropped the letter in his hand at the offer. A noble, a real, live, noble was asking him to come in! The gold-haired noble simply chuckled good-naturedly and gestured for him to come inside. The older man from before frowned contemptuously, looking at his cousin like he had just invited a filthy animal into their home. He stalked off without another word. The pleasant young noble rolled his eyes and walked inside, the messenger boy following nervously after him.

The inside of the manor looked like it had come out of a fairy tale to the messenger. The main hall that they had just stepped into had a high, vaulted ceiling with polished wooden floors and a grand staircase leading to the second floor, and not one thing was left without some detailed pattern or a sculpted shape. A cheery fire crackled in a large stone fireplace surrounded by high backed, padded chairs, and a squat, gilded table served as a centerpiece. A framed map hung over the fireplace, showing details of Ivalice and the surrounding countries of Zelamonia, Ordallia, and Romanda. All of the chairs were occupied at the moment, and the sound of warm laughter echoed throughout the room.

“Father, a letter has come for you!” the golden-haired noble called towards the group of people. A middle-aged man with heavily gray-streaked hair stood up from an armchair and strolled unconcernedly towards him. The still-trembling messenger boy held the letter in an outstretched arm, cringing as if he was almost expecting a blow for his insolence, and due to the contents of the letter, he could hardly be blamed. The man, simply known amongst the people of Ivalice as “Lord Tingel” for his unflinching and regal mannerisms, simply snatched the letter and waved the messenger away with a brief flourish of his hand. The messenger bowed deeply and made haste towards the doorway. The young noble stopped him with an outstretched arm and pointed towards two double doors on the side of the room.

“Go through those doors on the side there. Tell the cook Kraros sent you, and she’ll get you something warm to eat.” He said, smiling warmly. The messenger almost fell over himself bowing, and walked quickly to the doors and vanished through them. Kraros chuckled quietly and turned towards the fireplace and the rest of his family. Something's wrong... He deduced instantly, the smile on his face quickly fading. The room was eerily silent, the only sound being the crackling of the fire, and to Kraros’ ultimate dismay, the sound of quiet crying. He walked furtively across the floor, trying to avoid attention from the middle-aged noble, who, despite his aging frame and non-impressive stature, seemed to tower over him even when sitting down. It was to no avail. It seemed as if every face swung to look at him, and he didn’t see one smile on any of them. It was if it was a funeral, instead of the joyous party that it had been but a few moments ago. Lord Tingel sighed and shook his head.

“Kraros, come here a minute. There is something you must see.” He held out the letter that the messenger had brought, and Kraros took it delicately from him. All of the eyes in the room seemed to find something else to look at the second it left Lord Tingel’s grasp. Kraros opened the envelope with trembling fingers, praying that it wasn’t what he thought it was. He carefully extracted the slightly crumpled parchment and read.

To whom it may concern:

Due to the recent declaration of war, it has become necessary that the Ivalian Military ask for support from the civilians and nobles of Ivalice. To assure the proper defense of your country, all those in good health or without a handicap of any kind between the ages of eighteen to thirty-five are asked to report to the nearest recruiting station for further direction.

“A draft, Kraros. We’re two months into this wretched war and they need drafted soldiers.” Lord Tingel said angrily, pounding his fist on the table. No one else dared speak, and even the crackling of the fire seemed distant and quiet. Kraros could only stare at the damning letter with an empty feeling threatening to swallow him whole. Kraros’ mother gasped and began to sob, unable to restrain the flood of tears any longer.

“Father…That means I have to go, don’t I? And my cousins, as well?” Kraros said quietly. Izlude is turning twenty-nine next month and Christian turned eighteen last summer… maybe he’ll be spared this. Kraros prayed inwardly. Kraro’s father nodded grimly but didn’t say a word. Kraros felt the rest of the world disappear around him. There was only him, the letter, and the reality that things would never be the same again, not for him, and not for the rest of his family.

“He can’t go! He’ll be killed!” Kraros’ mother wailed, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“He’ll be fine. He’s a Tingel, remember. I’ll be damned if that doesn’t strike some fear into those Ordallian cowards. Kraros, go pack your things. I’ll take you, Izlude, and Christian into town first thing tomorrow morning.” Lord Tingel snapped, though the pain he was so desperately trying to hide leaked through to those who knew him. Kraros closed his eyes and breathed deeply to steady himself. When he opened them again, his emerald green eyes shone with a zealous flame.

“I won’t let you down, father. I swear it. The family name shall be upheld through my blade!” He promised softly, an edge in his voice as sharp as steel. Attempt to sound brave...I have honor to uphold, he instructed himself, trying not to break under the pressure. This was apparently too much for his mother, who slid off her chair, sobbing uncontrollably. Another one of Kraros’ relatives helped her up the stairs to her room. I’m sorry, Mother. I have no choice… Kraros thought sorrowfully. Lord Tingel nodded approvingly, fixing his son with an iron gaze.

“Good. There is no one I trust more with upholding the family name than you, Kraros…don’t let me down.” With that last statement, Kraros bowed his head in respect and walked with a robotic composure up the staircase to his chambers, his every step a measured stride. Once inside his chambers, Kraros shut the door quietly and leaned, spent, on the wall. He slid down the side of the wall and crouched in a heap, biting back tears.


“War floats on the simplest of breezes, while peace struggles against a hurricane.”
- Unknown

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