There is a storm coming, and everyone knows it. Everyone always knows in this town. They have to, or they lose everything. The town is built on the back of a craggy beast, the size of a mountain, and predicting the beast's travel is imperative to the town's survival. Last time the high priest failed to predict its motions, the beast dove into a valley and almost half the town, including the temple to the beast, was crushed.
They call the beast Leviathan, because it is, at once, the benefactor and the tyrant of the town. The priesthood receives commands from the beast in a monstrous and ancient language, interprets them, and repeats those commands to the common people. There is an element of power in this for the priests; they can make themselves rich and greedy from the people's fear; nobody would dare challenge them for fear of their threats of doom being correct. Many of the people are unhappy with their lives, toiling away in servitude for a greedy, starving beast and for a greedy, megalomaniacal priesthood – but what are their other choices? They don't have any. The beast dominates their lives to such an extent, such a diabolical extent, that without the beast they would all die. They would be cast out into the vast infertile plains that the beast wanders through, and they would never be heard from again. Nobody would regret casting them out. The many are more important than the one.
The streets are filled with stalls and their shopkeepers, who are packing away in apprehension of the gathering storm. Most of the customers have fled to their homes; a few stragglers are scurrying through the street, but they are, themselves, heading back to the security of their respective habitations. A young boy sits alone in a shop above the town centre, wrapped in a duvet, shivering, staring down at the street below, and wondering where his parents are. As the sky grows darker and still darker and there's no trace of their return, he sinks below the sheets and weeps to himself. The storm hasn't even begun yet, he tells himself. There's no need to be scared. But he knows that mummy and daddy won't be coming home. Not tonight, not ever.
He is an orphan. Orphans always hold significance in stories like this – the lack of ties to their homeland and the lack of parental restraint allow them to play almost any role, in addition to the obvious mystery inherent in who their parents are. So you, dear reader, are already expecting this boy, now age eight, to become a hero. Let me tell you what happened to him.
The boy became an orphan at age eight; along with around thirty other citizens of the town who were unfortunate enough not to reach shelter before the storm (more a tempest) came and blew them away, his parents died. He was made to live with his only relatives, an aunt and uncle, who treated him well and with sympathy. Their kindness, however, did nothing to curb his anger and frustration at losing his parents so young, and he became drawn to violence and impotent acts of criminality. When the boy was eleven, his uncle passed away due to illness, and soon afterwards his aunt killed herself from grief. The boy ended up on the street, struggling to survive, until he was picked up by a small-time crime boss, who lodged him and taught him to pick pockets. The boy proved quite successful at this, and continued to do so until his benefactor was arrested when the boy was fifteen. The boy, out of mercy, was released by the city authorities and told to try to find respectable work. Given his criminal history, however, no shopkeeper or tradesman would take him on, and he was forced to become a petty thief, mugging people to survive and drowning his sorrows as often as he could afford. One night, after he had been drinking for hours at a tavern, one of his ex-victims spotted him. In his drunken stupor, the boy, more a young man now, went with him, whereupon the victim set about him with a knife and some friends. They left him for dead, covered in bruises, blood, and filth. He bled to death in a gutter.
He did not become a hero. This is not that sort of story.