Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
Oko was led through the pristine white gates of the mountain fortress, followed by eyes that seemed to emerge all around him. The air was filled with anticipation at what the High Command would decide about the warrior who had been deemed ‘Magefriend’.
He was a sight to marvel at, the chained black-skinned giant. His blade, a highly unusual instrument of death, was carried by his captor. Its jagged edge was inlaid with the hardest steel, the elephant tusk it was made from treated so it resembled the unbreakable quality of diamond. Banes were required to craft their own weapons, but never had the order seen such a remarkable blade. To Oko it was merely a reminder of the ancient savannahs he stemmed from. In his dreams he still hunted the mighty lions, the cunning hyenas and the trampling elephants, his brother Tse by his side. Tse who had been slain by those Oko had regarded as companions.
The brothers had come before the order after their people had been assaulted by a Wielder from another tribe. They wished to become Banes, mighty warriors bearing techniques that repelled magic, so that they could protect their homeland and those of others. The High Command had accepted them both, and especially Oko had proven to be a swift learner. In a matter of months he had been risen as a full member, allowed to craft his own blade and prove himself by defeating the evil that still tormented his family. In the two years that followed he rose to greatness, while his younger brother lingered in his shadow, never deemed ready for the test that would put him side by side with Oko again. As his frustration grew, so did the powers sleeping within him. And that was when it all changed.
The High Command, fueled by the wishes of a radical new King, finally achieved approval for that which they had wished for years. All magic was to be eradicated from the land, all Wielders to be placed in a coffin. It meant civil war of the worst kind. Opposing the regime meant death, and spies were everywhere. No one was to be trusted. Skirmishes between Banes and Wielders destroyed entire villages. They were darker times than the land had ever seen.
In the midst of it stood Oko and Tse, the two brothers who had recently discovered that magic ran in their family as well. Oko had opposed the High Command’s decision from the beginning, and swore to protect his brother and any Wielder of good nature who crossed his path. It meant they had to vanish, and soon they were among the hunted. Vanishing in a land full of spies was no easy task, however, and after months of evasion they found themselves surrounded by their former comrades. Tse was brought down before Oko’s bare eyes. The blind rage this put him in saw two Banes gravely injured, even though they had chained him firmly.
“Oko! Magefriend! You stand before the High Command today on charges of treachery and assault of two members of the order. What do you say to that?”
The watery eyes of the old man regarded Oko with an obvious distaste. Speaking would not resolve anything. Words had no power anymore. The warrior would simply await judgment.
“Very well. Then hear our verdict, and hear it well. Effective immediately, you are banished from the order. You are to be removed from the fortress and executed. Men, lead him away.”
It was no surprise to Oko, and he offered no resistance as the same men who lead him in grasped his arms and pulled him towards what they thought would be his end. Oko knew better. He had sworn an oath to protect those who had not done any harm. He had a brother to avenge. His oath had not been fulfilled.
His time of resistance would come.