People hate what they don't understand.
Where ... where am I? What am I doing here?
The Black Mage awoke to pain and flowers.
Am I even ... here? Where IS here? Do I even exist? What's going on?
The only signs of how he had gotten there were shattered pieces of lumber scattered through the grass. It looked like a barrel had exploded or something ... But how did he even know what a barrel was? It was all too confusing for him; the poor confused creature pushed these thoughts out of his head and looked about for help or any sign of life. Where were all the people? Shouldn't there be people??
A signpost nearby sagged at a crazy angle nearby. The little mage spotted it and stumbled over, reading it carefully.
Li ... Lindblum ...
Further on ahead, high up on a hill, the mage could see what appeared to be a huge castle of sorts
The sign is pointing that way ... maybe that's Lindblum. Maybe someone there will help me.
Adjusting his hat carefully and hitching up his pants, the black mage set out for the castle. Luck seemed to be with him; he went unmolested by man or mist monster the entire way there.
Yes, I'm sure someone will know me here. It's very pretty. And very big.
The mage approached the gates of Lindblum with a slightly more cheerful attitude. Surely someone would know who he was, and where he belonged. At the least he could rest somewhere; this nonstop walking had taken a toll on the small mage's legs, not used to the exertion of travelling so far. He passed a posted map; evidentially Lindblum was home to things called "air cabs" that would carry him to his final destination.
Passing through the gate, he noticed that the watchman gave him a funny look, staring at him fearfully. Not knowing what the expression meant, the mage gave him a timid smile and shuffled onward, towards the elevator that would take him to the upper levels and the city.
Just as the map had said, the elevator took the little black mage straight to the air docks. Other than stumbling when getting off the lift and falling flat onto his face, the trip went uneventfully. The only strange thing was that several more people had stared at him in the same way the first watchman had. Everyone seemed to want to look at him as he walked by.
That's strange. Maybe I look like someone they know.
Almost as soon as it took off the air cab halted. Stumbling slightly (but making sure not to trip this time), the black mage stepped off the cab and wandered out onto the streets of Lindblum.
At once, he was awestruck by how many people wandered about the town. There seemed to be hundreds of them, all moving at once. How would he ever find someone to help him in this din? But he had to start somewhere. Timidly he pulled at the sleeve of one important-looking man, trotting to keep up with the fellow's fast pace. "Ex-excuse me, I'm lost, and..."
The businessman didn't even look down, so absorbed was he in his own affairs. Sighing, the mage looked around for his next target. He spotted a young man sitting on a pile of bricks nearby who didn't look very busy. Sucking up all his courage, the little black mage walked up to him and began to speak timidly.
"Excuse me, sir?"
The young man looked up with an impatient expression at the mage. The expression immediately turned to horror as he realized to what he was speaking. With a bloodcurdling scream, the youth leapt up and began screaming and pointing at the black mage as if all the hounds of Hell were flanking him.
At first, when the man looked at him, the mage had thought that a breakthrough had been made. Even when the young man pointed and shrieked the little mage didn't worry; he assumed it was from recognization. But the longer the man's yelling and pointing went on, the more apprehensive the black mage became. When more people began to turn and look at him, he felt the stirrings of something deep inside. Something he had never felt before.
He was scared.
A crowd of people began to congregate around the pair. The small mage, by this time VERY apprehensive, scanned the crowd, looking for a kind face, a sympathetic onlooker -- anyone to get him out of the spotlight. Instead, all he saw were angry, bitter faces.
Why are they all so mad at me? I haven't done anything ...
The black mage opened his mouth to speak these innocent thoughts, but his words were drowned out by a yell from the crowd.
"It's one of THEM!"
That seemed to unleash the floodgates. Suddenly everyone seemed to be yelling at once.
"Monster! You killed my sister!"
"My home is in ruins because of you!"
Now the mage was petrified. He didn't know why these people were yelling so loudly at him, but it certainly couldn't be good. This had to be a case of mistaken identity. Once again he opened his mouth to explain, but his small voice was drowned out in the wilderness of angrily blazing voices.
A large stone whizzed by the brim of the mage's floppy-brimmed hat, hitting the ground with a loud crack. Then another was thrown, and another. With a whimper, the frightened creature tried to shield himself from the onslaught, but that wouldn't work for long; several people in the crowd were picking up bricks. An especially heavy chunk of stone hit the little mage square in the chest, knocking the wind out of him and toppling him to the ground. Before he could get to his feet again, someone gave him a sharp kick in the ribs.
"Monster! Heartless monster!"
"Crush its head in!"
Whimpering, the mage raised his head and looked at the crowd once again.
Wh--why are they hurting me? Don't they know what they're doing?
Fear and panic born of the pain surged through the little mage's body. Not really knowing what he was doing, the mage stumbled to his feet unsteadily and raised his arms, palms outstretched to the crowd. Before any of them could react, a ball of flame had left his raised hands and was skipping merrily over their heads. With a united screech, the angry mob scattered like a flock of dissident sheep.
Using the momentary panic to his advantage, the black mage turned and ran as fast as his aching body would carry him in the other direction. Fleeing blindly into an alleyway, the mage tripped and fell headlong into the darkness, knocking his head in the process. Everything went black.
The little mage woke to an amalgam of pains. Everything seemed to ache - his legs were sore, he had a large bump on his head, and there was a sharp pain stabbing him in the ribs every time he took a breath where the man had kicked him. Worse than that all was the anxiety he now felt. Would those people come and hunt him down? Would they hurt him again?
Why did they want to hurt me? And how did I make that stuff come from my hands?
Footsteps echoed down the alleyway; someone was coming in his direction. With a fearful whimper, the mage curled up tighter and tried not to move, hoping that whomever it was wouldn't notice the small, still figure in the shadows. A sharp pain sliced through his ribs, and the mage couldn't stifle a cry.
The passing figure stopped and turned in his direction.
"Hello? Is someone there?"
The figure walked closer, and the mage realized that it was nothing more than an old man. His hair was frosted with white, and stood out in sharp contrast to the damp darkness of the side alley. He was leaning heavily on an oaken staff, staring straight at the little mage.
"Are you alright? Do you need help?"
The mage hesitated to speak, still stunned from his ordeal, but the old man looked kind, and he was alone ...
"I- I was lost and I asked for he-help, and then they ... they hurt me..."
The old man looked puzzled and peered closely at the mage. A look of recognization passed over his face. Another emotion also seemed to pass over his features, but was quickly pushed away.
"Oh. Hrmmm. People are funny sometimes, y'know. Are you hurt?"
The little mage nodded.
"Well then, you come with me and we'll get you fixed up in no time."
By this time all doubt about this kind stranger had been wiped away. The old man was going to help him; maybe he could even help the mage recover his memories. Stumbling to his feet, trying to ignore his aching body, the black mage followed the old man out of the alleyway and down a side street.
What a nice guy! I wonder where he's taking me.
After what seemed hours to the mage, the old man stopped his plodding at a small house near the gates of the city. An equally old woman came to the door to greet him; when she saw the mage surprise and a twinge of fear crossed her face.
"Well well, I didn't know we'd have visitors tonight --" and here she glanced at the old man with a look of confusion " -- but please, do come in."
The little mage straightened his hat and smiled politely at the woman, who, although still visibly confused, managed to smile back. As the mage went on into the house, the old lady walked up to the man and hissed in his ear.
"What on EARTH do you think you're doing, bringing one of those back with you?!"
The old man turned his back on his wife and went into the house without answering, shoulders slumped.
After a delicious meal cooked by the old woman (the first he could ever remember having), the little mage was shown to a small bedroom for the night. The old man's name, he found out, was Tim. The old woman's name seemed to be Grandmother; the black mage thought it sounded odd, but he wasn't one to talk -- after all, he didn't even have a name. He had told the pair all about his troubles, and Tim had promised to help him find out where he belonged the next day. With a sigh of contentment, the little mage sank into the feather bed and drifted off to sleep.
In the storeroom next door, the two elderly residents were having a heated discussion.
"I tell you, this is too dangerous!" the old woman snarled, wringing her leathery old hands in anxiety. Tim, busy filling a sack with loose bricks, glared back at her with a manic gleam in his eyes.
"And I tell /you/, it's the same one! The same one that killed our Jason! I won't let the little bastard get away with it! Burned him bloody ALIVE, he did!"
Tears came to the old man's eyes, and he wiped them away with an impatient hand.
"No, my soul won't rest until I have revenge. For Jason -- I'll make him suffer. Now, hand me that club over there."
The old woman gave a great sigh and handed Tim a large nail-studded club, usually reserved for killing rats. Dried rust and blood were caked on the tips, giving the old weapon a sinister look in the firelight. Taking the club in one hand and the large sack in another, the old man approached the bedroom where the black mage slept.
The mage didn't wake up until it was far too late.
He woke to the feeling of movement in darkness, throbbing pain in his head, and a small space, not unlike the barrel he had been shipped in before.
Wait ... when was I in a barrel?
The small, dark space, the feeling of being moved from one place to another -- it all came back to him then.
I was in a barrel. There were lots of us all together ... couldn't move ... could hardly breathe ...
His train of thought was abruptly derailed by a sickening sensation, as if he had just been flung into space, and then a great wet smacking sound. What was going on out the--
Wh-why are my clothes wet? And why does it feel like I'm sinking?
Water began to soak through the wet burlap, rapidly filling the heavy bag on its downward descent. The small mage began to worry, ever-so-slightly.
I don't like this ... where did Tim go? Where am I? When is someone gonna come and get me out of here?
The water rapidly filled his mouth and nose. Not knowing any better, the black mage took a deep breath and began to choke, whimpering pitifully.
Why can't I breathe? I don't like this; this stuff makes me hurt. I don't like hurting.
The bag was now entirely submerged under the waves. Sinking further downwards, it finally hit the riverbed, where it stuck fast in the deep mud. Inside, the mage continued to try and breathe, filling his lungs with more and more water as he panicked and thrashed about.
Tim ... Tim didn't put me in here, did he? Why would he want to hurt me?
Why did ... why ... want to ... hurt ... me ... I never ... hurt them ...
A final flurry of bubble rose to the river's surface.