Skies of Dolton
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Over the rolling hills of the Dolton country, on a springtime afternoon, dark, churning clouds frowned upon every blade of lemongrass that covered the land. A young boy in a cloak stared at them on his own hill, one that was taller than the rest.

"Why do our people always despair like the clouds…" The young boy asked, "…When there is so much to do, to believe in?" He pulled the dark purple cloak he was wearing closer around his thin body. He was neither tall nor short, but rather of a build that suggested a baker's son. The burned crumbs on his clothing strengthened the impression that he had just left the furnace after a morning's workload.

"Why would they not?" An elderly woman creeped a few meters behind him, off to his right and out of sight. She was garbed in the blue robes typical of a Dolton historian, a common profession in the Rolling Hills. She had a strong voice, gained from a long life of guiding people on tours where if you look to the left, you'll see our famous Maloon City Tribute Graveyard, and no, you cannot use our graveyards for necromancy rituals, do not waste the Office's time with such inquiries. The boy spun around as the woman continued. "The fields are overgrown, the recipes are many lost, and the chefs that made them have left long before. Our food is now as tasteless as a sack of flour mixed with raw egg in a pan, and that alone is enough to despair for."

Denial still rang in the boy's desperate mind. "But we can still improve! What of Grenalia's baking academy?!" he cried. His voice cracked unexpectedly, much to his chagrin. Grenalia was the last remaining culinary instructor — one of the last to not believe in the powers of flash-heating everything "if it tastes too dry", at least — and she had the sole mission of preparing the next generation to improve Dolton's reputation by teaching them how to properly prepare the annual harvest. It was a tough mission, to say the least, but it was the only north star in a dark sky full of charred bread, wasted ingredients, and no culinary career options. The blue-walled academy rested in Maloon, the capital of Dolton.

The oldie, as they are known in Dolton, looked grave. "The academy is failing. You know this yourself. Your brother was part of the last graduating batch and they couldn't even decently toast a slice of bread if they tried. But of course you still want to enroll yourself and join the ranks of the disciples of a lost teaching. You have another year before you have to set your mind on a school of profession. Choose wisely." Thunder clapped overhead.

The boy used the loud sound as an excuse to stare off into the grassy distance. There were hills and fields as far as he could see, completely devoid of people. No guided tours today. The oldie took advantage of the boy's momentary lapse and approached nearer. "Take my advice and leave. Leave while you can and take on some apprenticeship far, far away. Don't keep yourself in Maloon." She brandished the distant view with a gloved hand, and slowly brought her hand near the boy's face. The back of her hand sported a blue and black symbol, the mark of a chronicler. "There are always places for historians, in this day and age," she added.

"No," he replied, "I won't; I have to stay…" he trailed off. He never could admit why he felt obligated to stay—even to the friends he could always depend on, Donya and Caleb. Caleb personally thought that he was into baking because of the "strong ladies", while Donya thought that his father was forcing him because he wanted to keep the bakery. He never had the heart to tell them otherwise. "It's just…Being a baker is something I've always wanted. I've always wanted to be famous one day for my bread and show the world what a Doltonian can do. It's not fair that everyone else in Elra gets to have something they can be known for, while Dolton gets all the scraps. We need someone to prove that Grandia didn't take all of Dolton's glean when it left!" Lightning flashed, and thunder quickly followed. This time, however, Gerbier stood still.

"And you think that you can fulfill that role? That you yourself have enough skill to bring back glory to Dolton? Do not deceive yourself," Madame Clooma admonished without mercy. "Your family needs you to succeed, to survive. Would your mother be proud if she learned that her son threw his life into the dying flames of a baking oven?"

She was met with silence, and pushed through with frustration. Her wild eyes and straight nose were made sharper by the lightning as her mouth carefully pulled up and down to leave a final message to the boy. "…Fine, stay quiet and 'principled'. But I will not leave you like this. I know that you remember me still, even barely—enough for me to arrive in a dream mixed in a memory—and that is enough to give me hope that you have remembered more besides. Wake up. And watch the clouds. For the next few days, stay alert, because you will have a chance to do as you must…"

Gerbier's vision jumps to him sitting in his bed, his orange eyes snapping open, his chestnut hair itching, and his breath slowly becoming faster as his mind tries to process what it had just seen. He looks up at the ceiling and sees the small mirror he installed. I always want to know how I look when I'm in bed, before and after, he thinks. Eh, maybe not right now; I look like a total mess. Let me see if I can find my comb and some fresh water…Oh, the time! I'll save my dream—vision?—for later, when I stare off into space, at the sky.

His view had swept over his bell clock, which read 9 hours and 10 minutes—in the morning, unfortunately. Time to get to work… He can already smell the furnace and the crumbs.

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