SEVEN YEARS BEFORE THIS STORY TAKES PLACE:
A five-year-old Rohan lay in his small cot, listening to the crickets singing and the quiet breathing of Luke, his blue fox-spirit. It was the perfect spring evening, until Rohan heard the slam of a door and heavy footsteps stomping into the tiny house. He rolled off his cot and crawled to the door. Luke woke up and followed him, and they crouched on the rickety wooden floor and peeked through the tiny space between the door and the wall.
A gruff voice whose owner Rohan couldn't see said, "You haven't been paying your taxes. You know what this means. Come along, you two!"
Rohan's father held up his hands. "Take us, but don't punish our son for our mistakes! Please!"
The gruff voice spoke again. "Very well. I will overlook the fact that you have a son, who would normally be put in prison with you, and he will have to make his own living. Now hurry up."
A younger guard stepped into view and ushered Rohan's parents to the door. They stepped outside into the dark streets, and the gruff-voiced guard followed, casually throwing a log from the wood basket into the small stove that pretended to heat the little house. He slammed the door, and the night was suddenly quiet. Rohan couldn't hear the crickets anymore.
"M-mama?" he whispered into the quiet house, but there was no answer.
Luke sniffed the air. "Something's burning!" Luke's voice echoed in Rohan's head, inaudible to anyone else.
Rohan pushed the door further open, and Luke darted forward into the room. The log the guard had thrown had scattered coals across the floor, and already flames were beginning to lick the walls with hungry orange tongues.
"What do we do, Rohan?" Luke ran in circles, looking for a way through the flames. Rohan looked for the rusty watering can that usually sat beside the stove, but it had been knocked over. The flames got bigger, and Luke returned to Rohan, huddling up against him to get away from the fire.They were doomed.
Suddenly, a hand reached down through the fire and grabbed the collar of Rohan's shirt. Rohan hugged Luke to him, and together they were pulled out of the fire and into the cold night streets. Rohan and Luke looked up at the man who had saved them. It was the younger of the two guards.