When the men of Karletto look back on their lives, when they are just cobwebs clinging to a bed, they all remember their trial in the forest. They feel cold because they will never know that warmth again. That fever. A burning, as powerful as an earthquake and as dangerous as a demon confounded. It was locked away long ago.
You’ve probably passed through Karletto, you didn’t take any notice because, well, why would you? Just a small village, a way-station for travellers from the bustling metropolis of Jahrad, the southern port, on their way to Meerith-Tal, the capital of the nation, the shining jewel. And this village, just a link in the dull chain that connects these gems of life and interest. Just a small village, sat on the edge of Razor’s Whim, a dark-waste forest. You probably shivered when you looked up at the towering jet-ash trees, their dark branches clawing the sky.
Why would anyone live so close to such a forest? You thought to yourself. But then again, those who live here probably don’t have a choice. Despite your comfortable night in the inn, the hearty meal you enjoyed, you are shivering within your soul. You shrug this place off your shoulders and walk on.
Young Benjamin Thorn lives in the village of Karletto, and will for all his life. All he knows is the little wooden houses, the mill sitting astride the stream, the tavern, where people come and go, come and go. His face glows as he trots along the village’s only street, health in his legs, the strength of youth in this back. The grand old maids watch him, smiling as they sit in their doorways; sewing the magic threads onto the cloth of the scrolls they sell in the marketplace.
Sweet boy, they are saying, but behind their wrinkles and grey hair lies a fear. They know that if he catches one more snowflake he’ll be crushed under the weight of his own innocence.
Benjamin survived however, living a normal life until his fourteenth birthday. It is tradition in Karletto for the boys of this age to be sent out into the woods for three days and three nights, facing the elements, living in the wild. They would return as men, but none of them ever said why. Benjamin was actually the first youngster to take the trial. No-one knows why his father, a tall, rough man with eyes that flashed, blinking moonlight, decided to send his son into the forest. Some say he had made a bargain with dark powers, some say he thought the boy would benefit from the harsh life, and some say he doesn’t even know himself. But from that time onwards, all the boys from Karletto take the trail into the forest.