Once, there was a house on a hill.
The house itself was lovingly unremarkable. The timbers it was built from were drawn from the surrounding woodlands, cut by skillful hands rather than soulless machines. The stones it sat on were quarried on that very island, carried to the place they now lay many years ago. It had housed generations and seen no violence, save that visited on brothers by brothers and fathers upon quarrelsome sons.
It had seen no violence and promised aught but that very thing, yet the Dawn had come all the same.
Booted feet stamped out a harsh metronome. The rhythm carried down the worn road and up the hill, telling the man of his visitors long before they were close enough to speak. He was old, but his senses were still sharp and his mind still quick; his limbs were tired, but his back was not yet bent. He had seen much of this world of his, and once his adventures were through, he had decided that the quiet of this place was best for a man like him. Away from the influence of Genesis. Out of the path of the Dawn.
Not far enough, he thought. Not far enough by half.
It was all the warning he needed, yet pointless all the same. When his sons had joined the fight against the all-consuming Flame, he was here. When the ragged officer had come to his door with grim news, he was here. When his grandchildren needed a home when theirs was lost, taken and shattered like glass amidst the so-called purges and purifications, he was here.
He had chosen to stay long ago. He would not go back on a promise such as that. How would he live with himself, knowing his word and intent were both worthless?
The marching men approached the house on the hill. They stopped at the foot of the walk, standing in practiced, precise formation. One approached, taking four measured steps forward before raising his voice. He told the man he knew of him from the others in the village, the secluded man on the hill they called their Elder. He bid the man leave his home, to come with them and reassure the people of the village. He asked the man if he would make this easier. Simpler. Faster.
The old man rose from his creaking chair. He took up the parcel resting next to it, gripping the curved, cloth-wrapped object in one calloused, shaking hand. The man strode to the front door, pulled it open, and he gave his reply: he would not.
The disciple of the Dawn expressed confusion. Would not what?
He would not leave his home, the old man said. He would not reassure the people of the village. He would not make this easier. He would not make this simpler. He would not make this faster, and he would certainly not make this cleaner. This home was his, and it would not be theirs while he still drew breath. He would not break that promise. He would not betray that trust.
For but a moment, there was silence. The world held it's breath. When it was broken, it was not by the roar of gunfire, or the shout of battle-hymns; it was not by the jeers of the young, calling the old man a fool for his choice. Did they see the spirit of this man, who would stand against something so inevitable as the Flame Dawn's victory? Did they understand?
The Disciple raised his wavering voice, and as one, the men marched forth.
The old man raised his stilled hand, took hold of the parcel's woven grip, and ancient steel sang once more.
"It didn't work," an irritated voice said. It watched what happened, and from so very far away. "You threw away something ancient, something powerful, and now it's in the Flame Dawn's hands. A few Initiates aren't worth --"
"It did what it had to do," a confident voice interrupted. "It sowed the seed of doubt. It was not our only tool, nor the most potent. It will come back to us."
"You had best hope so," the irritated voice snapped. It stopped. The pause was brief; too short to allow the confident one time to speak, but enough to change the topic of conversation.
"Find another Rift. There's more work to be done."