Sweat and blood mixed together and dripped to the grassy earth below. Jalmar punched the unyielding substance of the fallen tree even after his hands were raw and bloody. He pushed through the pain, and snarled from between clenched teeth. If he were to stand up to his father, he would have to be one of the exalted as well. Fire ran in his blood, and Jalmar sought to push it into blazing forth. The secondary schools that the nobility attended pushed young men and women to their limits to provoke the power of the dragons within them, and so Jalmar would do the same. He would gain enough power to avenge his mother, and destroy the beast who had dared hurt her. At morning when the sun rose, Jalmar awoke on the forest floor. He had driven himself to exhaustion and collapsed when blood loss and fatigue had overwhelmed him. â€œI canâ€™t stay here,â€ he thought. For the young man, the pain of his birth was too sharp to endure. He wrapped himself in the comforting blanket of rage to dull the pain, but resolved to leave home until he had the revenge he sought.
With the rising sun ahead of him, Jalmar walked back to his house. No sound came from within the building as he pushed the front door open and entered the small kitchen. Tiny droplets of blood ran still from his ruptured hands, which left a bloody handprint on the front door and a trail across the kitchen floor. Silently, Jalmar grabbed a piece of parchment and wrote: â€œMother, I cannot stay here knowing what happened. I will find justice for you. Always know that I love you.â€ The writing was partially smudged by blood, but was still legible. He placed the note on the kitchen table with a wooden bowl on top to hold it down in case of a breeze. Quietly, Jalmar then walked to the door of his motherâ€™s room and cracked the door open. She was lying on her bed in the clothes she wore the day before, huddled up and clenching a pillow to her chest. Jalmar shed a single tear before turning and leaving the one story farmhouse; it was the last time he would cry for a long time.
The young man walked for days to the south. He was not ready to face his father, so he would train. Near the southern coast of the Imperial Isle, he found a river that fed into the ocean. Next to its flowing waters, Jalmar trained himself to fight. Hours were spent practicing punching and kicking into the air or at nearby trees. His hands barely had time to stop bleeding when Jalmar would begin again. At mid day a week after arriving, Jalmar kicked a tree with such force that his sandal shattered. He removed the other shoe and tossed it into the river, where it began to float lazily downstream to the sea. To eat, the young man would wade into the river and snatch fish. This improved his speed and washed his wounds clean at the same time. At night, Jalmar leaned against one of the many rocks that flanked the wide stream. No amount of discomfort could keep him from exhausted sleep, and the stones proved to be fine pillows for his purposes. This continued for well over a month, until one day.
Jalmar had pushed himself far harder over the previous few days than normal. His shirt had torn clean off when it was snagged on a tree branch and Jalmar had pulled away too sharply. The linen pants he wore had become frayed at the bottom from striking the hard bark of trees. On this day, he pushed himself even harder. Forsaking trees, Jalmar began to strike rocks with his bare fists. Splattered blood covered where his hands impacted the rough stone. Without pause Jalmar continued to slam against his target. He roared, but not in pain, and vented more of his anger. Though he couldnâ€™t hear the sound of it, he could feel the bones in his hands beginning to give and break. Even then, the ferocious Jalmar did not stop. Once his hands could no longer function, he started to kick at the rock. He struck harder and faster against the coarse stone with his feet, until even they began to crack and bleed. Before his legs cold suffer as his arms had, something changed.
Brilliant flames erupted around Jalmar as he delivered one final kick, which shattered the stone into tiny fragments that flew away from him with tremendous speed. In shock, Jalmar stopped and examined the debris he had formed. All his body felt alive, and tingled with power. The rippling flames that surrounded him continued unabated. He turned and struck at a tree with his bloody and broken hands. Miraculously, he felt no pain when the blow impacted. Instead, a chunk of the tree was ripped away by the force of his attack. â€œIâ€™ve done it! Iâ€™ve become chosen of the dragons!â€ Jalmar nearly shouted those words as he said them.
â€œNo,â€ another voice said. It was a booming and imposing voice like thunder that shook Jalmar to hear. â€œYou have become one of my chosen. You are greater than those sired by the dragons. This power I grant you to change the world.â€ With complete understanding, Jalmar looked up into the noonday sky and saw the sun shining down clearly through the brilliant golden flames that surrounded him. Realizing what he had become, Jalmar began to laugh deeply and maliciously.
It was the last time he would laugh for a long time.