Introduction of Niven As the son of a charcoal burner, Niven spent much of his formative youth in the wilderness. He learned a love of nature and appreciation of the balance and harmony of the wilderness. His mother was a witch (traditional, not the ones on the brooms) and was delighted with Niven's ability to quickly learn herbology. When it became aparent that his abilities would far surpass her own she managed to foster him to the Karbala (witch doctor) of the village nearby. Although he despised the corrupt old man Niven learned much from him in a handful of years. That time was also the first in his life when there were many people around him and definitely the first time he was with any people his own age. He was astounded to discover himself to be both garallous and outgoing. His intellect and quick thinking made him popular with his peers and his deferential and respectful nature (beaten into him by his mentor) made him just as popular with his elders. Just before his fourteenth birthday he completed his rights of manhood and became a Karbala in his own right. He was then forced to leave the village as his mentor (who increasingly was becoming his enemy) would not permit a challenge to his authority. He was home for only a few days when he was struck by a portent of doom. He immediately sent his mother to the village and went into the woods to find his father. As he neared the clearing where he knew his father was cutting he heard harsh gutteral laughter and a scream of pain. He burst through the undergrowth and screamed at the top of his voice when he saw what was revealed. Eight barbarians surrounded the prostrate form of his father. They were slowly stabbing him to death with long stakes and laughing at his attempts to crawl away. When they saw a Karbala leap into the clearing and scream like a demon the barbarians fell atop each other trying to escape the frightening countenance. As the barbarians ran off into the underbrush Niven approached and knelt by his father. He immediately saw that the older man was beyond his abilities to heal. Blood soaked the ground and his father had been pierced in both kidneys as well as the stomach. Niven did what he could to make his passage peaceful. He put his leg under his father's head and then placed some leaves and ground root from his belt pouch into his father's mouth. After a few moments the older man's groans and cries ceased and he looked up at Niven. Niven could see the light in his eyes slowly fading. His father grabbed at the ground and tore up a piece of turf. He reached across and rubbed it on Niven's chest. "Remember" he said "this is life. Not that (pointing in the direction of the village). Never that." With those parting words he died. Niven was heartbroken but he did not have time to grieve. He raced through the wilderness to the village. The battle with the barbarians was over by that time. He found his mother and brought her back to say goodbye to his father. Together they applied the herbs and berries that would help his spirit escape the husk of his body. There was already a good amount of peat and wood cut from is father's work so it was a matter of only a few hours for Niven to construct a pyre. On the third day after his death, Niven's father's spirit was released as his body was given to the winds.