Greece, Athens, 376 BC

    Hot Athenian air was leaving its place to bolder and bolder gusts of the evening wind. Nikander looked worried. The cemetery beyond the Dipylon Gate was not a very pleasant place for lonely strolls. One could fell a delicate smell of mustiness, citrus and vines. The silence was interrupted by cheers from the nearby gymnasium, someone in the vicinity was driving a herd of goats.     Nikander was aware of the unpleasant consequences connected with staying outside the walls, especially when dusk was falling. However, he liked the moment when he could be alone with the rhythm of his steps. It helped him forget about how hungry he was, what awaits him at home, and dream for a few relaxing moments. In the worst case somebody will kill him in the path near the cemetery, and thus make all his problems, which recently plagued him mercilessly, disappear. Athens were developing very rapidly. Seven districts filled with life seemed to be a paradise when compared to the miserable existence of the poor. This centre of culture and art, to the annoyance of the bombastic leaders advocating democracy’s splendour, was defaced by rowers and beggars. The poorest citizens didn't fit this parade of pompous supporters of the rule of the people in any respect. Nikander, son of a poor craftsman and not very intelligent daughter of a shepherd, disapproved the current regime. He didn't like the idea that so many can decide about the matters they might have no idea. While strolling in the streets he often thought that he'll become the king and take care of all the people who weren’t as lucky as him.     When Nikander was imagining the crown that he would wear during his reign, he felt a strong tug by the worn chiton and flew several ells in the air. For a very brief period of time he saw a shiny red glow, and then everything went dark.

  Nikander slowly opened his eyes. A shiver of fear shook him, because he couldn't see any clear shapes. In several places, which were at different distances from him, he saw the scarlet stains that seemed to pulsate. He began to hear whispers. First, delicate, light sound suggestion which was barely audible. Then, more and more clear words, sentences and dialogues. He didn't recognize the language, it didn't resemble any sounds Nikander had known. Despite this, he was certain what these sounds mean something. They want to tell him something. He was even more certain that the whole sounds at least sinister. And then the darkness fell again. After a brief moment he found himself in a place, which earlier he wouldn't even dare to imagine. The glade surrounded by high bushes that were similar to huge beast's tooth and covered with iridescent red colour. A figure wearing black cloak with a hood which covered its face was standing opposite to Nikander. The newcomer moved slightly and spoke.  

- Soon.
- Who are you? - Nikander could barely utter the question.
- Now I’m someone. It is not important. You wouldn't be able to to comprehend it anyway. Regardless of what you're thinking, you have to listen to what I have to say - the hooded figure bent down even more.
- Why would I listen to you? - The boy slowly regained self-assurance. - I want to know who you're, where are we and why did you take me here. It's easy to guess that it was your doing.
- The paths of faith are unknown, son. - The voice of mysterious individual was calm, but loud and clear. - If fate will somehow bind you with the events which you can't control you have two options. You either die or let destiny to be fulfil. Time is running out, so as we're talking about choosing among two options I have a suggestion. You can listen to what I have to say quietly and without asking any unnecessary questions, or I'll put these information in your mind whether you like it or not. And believe me son, even though we'll save a lot of time, it'll not be the most pleasant thing that happened in your life.
- Are you threatening me? Do you think that the threat of some abscessed old man will scare me? Remove the hood and show your face, you old...   The pain Nikander had experienced took his consciousness.

  What has happened in the next few moments Nikander will remember for the rest of his life. He woke up in the same place, in which a mysterious force knocked him down. He didn't feel any physical damage, while his head was splitting from the terrifying visions he’d experienced a moment ago. The worst of it was that, although he was aware of the danger that was obvious at the time, he couldn't exactly specify what he was dealing with. For a moment he thought about what he saw. Many individual red spots separated from each other at various distances. The areas pulsing with dark force and pure evil that made an impression of some kind of gates. Gates that somebody tries to fiercely pass. Certainly with hostile intentions.

  Nikander, who was full of questions, doubts and anxiety, began to run toward the nearest gate. He managed to go unnoticed through the breach, which has always served him to secretly leave this area of the city. He felt an irresistible need to share what he just saw with someone. He ran for several minutes before he was able to get to a small wooden cottage situated on the outskirts, near the wall, where he lived with his parents.

  - Dad, I need to tell you something! - He said breathless, while running inside.
  Nikander's father, Antyd looked at him with a mixture of hatred, contempt and boredom. After a hard day’s work he had no desire to talk to anyone, not to mention listening to strange stories of his son, who apparently had too vivid imagination.
  - Give me a break and take care of yourself - Replied his father with a hoarse voice and spat.
- But dad, I saw something. We are in danger. Everyone is in danger. I'm not entirely sure what I saw, but we have to do something. - If you're not sure what you've seen, you've seen nothing. - Antyd spat again. - I tell you, you bastard, leave me alone or I will lose my temper. Get to work, I have to work hard so that you can eat. And all you do is eat and run around the forests. What kind of a son are you?
- Dad, I met someone - Nikander trembled at the memory of the old man with a steel voice. - Some kind of a hooded figure. I don't know how it happened. I was strolling and at some point someone knocked me down. Then I saw the lights, from which something wanted to crawl. Everywhere. And there were whispers. Sinister whispers. In an incomprehensible language.
- Are you mocking me, stinkard? - Nikander's father stood up and clenched his big as loaves of bread fist. - You have nothing to do? Stop bothering me and go to sleep!
- But dad - The young one didn't give up. - We have to do something! Something has to be done or otherwise we'll die!
- You ingrate - Antyd shouted - I'll die because of you! I can't imagine how silly you're to say such nonsense.
- Dad, listen, really...
- Enough.

  Everything happened in a blink of an eye. Antyd pounced on Nikander and hit him with an open hand near his jaw. Then followed two quick blows to the abdomen, one to the solar plexus, and another with the fist right in the nose. While falling to the ground and losing consciousness for the third time, Nikander was able to think that it's the last time, that he'll never wake up again.

  Despite concerns, after some time he opened his eyes again. He woke up earlier, but didn't want to show the fact that he regained consciousness. While recalling the past event, he was afraid that someone will make him unconscious again. His eyes swept the room discreetly and deep inside he sighed with a relief. He was in the studio of Aredius, a medic. Nikander knew Aredius. The latter has been telling him many very interesting stories, and if there was a need he offered him shelter. What is more, Aredius many times pulled Nikander out of trouble.

- Your father beaten you hardly young one - Aredius sighed while emerging from behind the curtains. - Don't pretend, I see that you're awake. - The medic sat beside him on the stool and rubbed his hand on Nikander's forehead. - Tell me what happened, now. Your father said that you were raving about some kind of danger and he decided to knock some sense into you. By the way, he was so dedicated in his lesson that he almost killed you. So speak.

Nikander had doubts. Who knows what Aredius could think of him if he told him the story? But he decided to take a chance. Nikander summarized the past events in detail and waited for Aredius' reaction. He didn't notice that when he was describing the nightmarish bushy glade the medic turned pale and closed his lips.

  - Are you sure that the glade looked exactly as you say?
- Yes. I couldn't confuse it with anything else. I'll remember this sight for the rest of my life.
- Aredius lost himself in the thought, then picked up a piece of coal and drew a symbol on the wall. The symbol resembled a letter from an unknown alphabet. Nikander instantly recognized it, despite the fact that this detail escaped him earlier.
  - I recognize this symbol. I saw him later, after I looked at the scary red stains. It appeared for a short period of time and then disappeared.

  Aredius wiped the symbol and sat back, sighing heavily. For a long time he didn't say a word.

  - Aredius, what does it mean?
- I have no idea. But if you want to learn more, and I think you should, we must take care of it. This is serious.
- You start talking like this old man - Nikander wanted to threaten him with his finger, but suddenly he was dazed with pain. - Any specifics?
- It's a symbol of the ancient Ayasasho spirits. Only few know about them, and even if somebody knows anything, they are not boasting about it. These powers ensure the equilibrium in the human world. If you have seen this symbol, you can't underestimate it, because something that might unsettle this balance can happen. It seems that you were chosen to prevent it from happening, kid. - It is a great honour - but also a great danger. Especially that you have to do something.
- Meaning?
- Wait a minute.

Aredius went to another room. One could hear jangling, tapping and creaks. He began to feel the sickening smell of some kind of unknown mixture. After a while the medic returned carrying a steaming cup of some aromatic drink.

- What is this? - asked Nikander.
- Herbal brew of some sort. What is intended for you can be revealed in detail only to you. Nobody tell you exactly what you have to do now. But if you drink this, everything will become clear. But let’s make one thing clear - tell nobody about what you've seen. Even parents. Additionally, don't mention that I've shown you the symbol and gave you the brew to drink. The things you have to deal with are terrifying, like any unexplained powers. However, you must do it. Throughout my life I've met two people who saw Ayasasho rune. None of them sought reasons why the rune was revealed to them. Both of them are dead now.
- Does this mean that I can die too?

Aredius was silent.

- It does not matter. I'm not a coward. I believe you, Aredius. Let’s get to work.
  Nikander drank the brew in one breath, and then soundly went to sleep.