Red Leaves and the Living Token - By Benjamin David Burrell

Alone in his private study, the School Master leaned closer to a large, worn book laying open on his desk. His features, sunken with old age, echoed the handsomeness of his youth. The room around him was true to its purpose, a place for quiet, peaceful, study.

Books, neatly shelved by size and theme, spiraled up the walls, separated every few feet by the dark stained trim of a book case, all washed in the warm glow of a small oil lamp sitting on his reading desk.

He shifted position on the hard, unforgiving, bench. This wasn't his usual place to read; his sore body reminded him. But then, this wasn't his usual book. And he liked the idea that reading it required a bit of discomfort. Its large size and fragile condition prevented him from taking it to his soft chair across the room. He turned an ancient and heavily worn page.

It was the ‘Journal of the Reds’ after all. He should pay something for the privilege of reading it. Shouldn't he? He wasn't sure how many copies remained, but doubted it was more than a handful.

It was something he studied on occasion when he had the time. At this moment, however, he didn't have time. His schedule was already overflowing with meetings and lectures which he was entirely unprepared for as it was. And yet here he sat, reading something totally unrelated.

About a week ago, a feeling of dread had settled over him. It was as though he was suddenly aware of a critical responsibility regarding the Token that had gone unfulfilled. As though there was something in its purpose that he did not fully understand, and had thus left neglected. But the question of what or why now? He could not answer.

The feeling had brought his mind back to a question he had struggled to answer for many, many years. The question was central to his understanding of his duty towards the Token. And he felt a degree of shame at the void of knowledge regarding something so core to his own self identity. He was the keeper of the Token. He should not lack knowledge concerning it. Perhaps answering one question would help answer the other, he thought.

Once again, as the week rolled on, he'd found himself lost in the chaos of his administrative duties, so much so that he was surprised that his questions did not altogether slip his mind. Yet, there they sat at the top of his thoughts, a nagging reminder at the end of each day that there was something of profound importance that he did not understand. Something that, as the School Master, he should know. But he did not. So here he was digging into this journal, hoping somewhere in its pages he'd find the answer.

His ancient question concerned the Reds themselves. It'd been over a thousand years since the last page had been written in the journal. It'd been over a thousand years since any of the Reds had been seen. A thousand years! So much time, he could scarcely comprehend. He struggled putting the figure into context. More than ten of his own life times.

Of course, he knew why the pages had stopped. That wasn't the question. There had been a war, a horribly devastating war, that tore the world into three.

As a historian, he spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand such pivotal moments, where hours end up defining entire centuries.

Before, there was no distinction between them. They were brothers and sisters, united under one Crown. Physically there were differences, sure. But they did not define themselves by them. Not before.

The idea fascinated him, especially in light of the current political environment. Each of the three held the other two at fault historically for the inciting the division. There was probably a legitimate argument from each side; he supposed. As a historian, he tried looking at the past without his national Zoen bias. He tried, but some historical events, such as this war, that carried such personal significance, made that difficult if not completely impossible.

The war started with the murder of the last living Red. An act from which the world had not yet recovered. And that was at the heart of his question.

The Petra attacked first. Out of jealously, the Botann said. Out of revenge, the Zo argued. They came in the night without warning, a rumbling storm of rock tearing through the center of the city. They bore down on the Botann with a wrath the