Chapter 1:

Everchanging Sky

Lotian, City of Light

Part 1

Franklin looks out from one of the windows of Lotian, the darkness that engulfs all doesn’t allow him to see the outside world, quite the opposite in fact. It glares at him, peeking into the insides of his soul, he can feel the hatred, the malice, the desire for vengeance, although he doesn’t know if it is directed at him.

Most people prefer not to look out the windows, least the out decides to look back at them, making their ways purposefully avoiding them, even looking downwards when they have to pass near a window. All in all, they do a great job of reminding the people what they have, what lurks beyond the city and why they have to maintain it there.

Franklin, like any other, also feels uncomfortable when looking outside, feeling the claws of madness gripping his mind, pulling him towards the darkness. But he still makes a point of making frequent visits to them, how else would he see the sky? the only light present in the murky blackness of the outside, so bright and radiant that even though the gods responsible for them are no longer in this world, it still shines on. He likes to see the corpses of the gods, forever waging war on themselves and wonder, what drove them to such a thing? To fight amongst themselves so fiercely that the battle scars the stars themselves.

“Young master,” a familiar voice calls Franklin, “you forgot this.”

Franklin turns to see Ardyn approaching him to hand him a sword. Despite the greying hair and wrinkles on his face, Ardyn still maintains a well defined build, seen even through the servant uniform, and the intense look in those sunken eyes reveals a lifetime on the battlefield.

“Thanks” Franklin says as he grabs the sword, “but i didn’t forget it, i was about to go back to retrieve my stuff.”

“Young master,” Ardyn twitches his head, “The glass has already passed ten thousand taks.”

“...” He was late. “I better run then.”

“I don’t mean to brag, but i foresaw this happening. So i took the liberty of bringing a Divine Stride with me.” Ardyn points towards a horse waiting a few meters behind him.

“You are the best, Ardyn.”

“Yes yes i know, and i know that i won’t tell your father about this little incident.”

“I owe you one.”

“No… you owe me another one.”

Franklin jumps on the horse which starts running immediately.

Part 2

Divine Strides, horses blessed by Nimon, god of beasts, once they start to run they will never slow down or tire, as long as their master wants to keep going, but once they stop, they will never run again. Franklin makes his way through the long hallway, the ceiling standing a good thirty meters upward, engraved with complex patterns which cast strange shadows as they are being illuminated by glass spheres placed along the whole length.

Franklin reaches the end of the first hallway, to a wide area, the ceiling stands much higher in those, no windows on the walls and there's also an illusory sky displaying daytime with a bright yellow sun and few clouds. green fields with fruit trees and wood houses compose part of the scenery, a stone road connects the hallways that lead to this area. On the other side, a large castle made of brown stones stands opposed to the trees with a single road leading to it.

“I have to come back to thank you guys later.” Franklin says to himself as the horse runs by the castle.

At full throttle it doesn't take long before he reaches his destination, South Whisper, the largest city of this region. A large grey stone citadel stands tall above the rest of the buildings in the city, which don’t have more than three floors each, Franklin makes his way up to half the distance to the citadel before stopping the horse.

“You’ve done enough.” He says after he dismounts, “but i can’t let you draw much attention, you can go now”

Franklin watches the horse wander off for a moment before continuing to make his way towards the Wispshapers headquarters. Most people are watching the trials, good, can’t let people see me using wisps, Franklin thinks to himself, can’t go through the front gates also.

Reaching the side walls of the citadel, he stops to consider his options, the walls are too high to climb, and there’s no wisps around. Who makes a city for Wispshapers and makes sure there are no wisps around? What wisps do i have access to?

Blood? “Too risky.”

Pain? “Useless.”

Fire? “No fire around, also useless.”

Air? “No wind blowing.”

Water? “Flowing underground.”

“Why does earth have no soul? Would be so much easier.”

As Franklin continues to think, he hears a cry for help, looking in that direction he sees a smoke pillar rising to the ceiling.

“I can work with that.” Franklin begins running toward the pleading voice.

Part 3

“What happened?” Says Franklin as he approaches a screaming man, “are there people still inside?”

“No,” answers the man “it just started burning out of nowhere.”

The alarm bells ring the fire signal.

“The Wispshapers should arrive shortly, help me control the fire” the man nods “let’s go fetch some water buckets.” Franklin Commands.

The two come back carrying a pair of buckets each, the neighbors also come to help fill buckets, at the rim of the bucket he can already see it, his target. A small water wisp sits there, drawn by the water, but before he could continue with the plan he had to help this troubled man, if he were to become a full fledged wispshaper, he would have to do this kind of job regularly.

Barely two hundred taks pass before Franklin sees the other wispshapers coming, time to move on, he thinks to himself. Franklin squats down near the bucket and stretches his finger toward the water.

“Wanna go on a short adventure?” He says to the water wisp.

Doesn’t take much to bond with a wisp, as long as they are not already bonded with another person, you can just call for them. Franklin runs around the city block while the water wisp zips around him in the air, due to the bond, his hair wavers as if he is swimming instead of running in the ground. Doesn’t take long before he reaches the other side, he straps the sword to his back and climbs a tall house that stands next to the burning one and takes a few short breaths to steady his resolve before jumping inside the burning building.

Franklin instantly feels the heat trying to burn his skin as he lands in the middle of the fire, his bond with the water wisp grants him a small resistance to the high temperatures, he should be fine as long as he didn’t touch the fire directly, but he still should worry about inhaling too much smoke.

He checks his escape route one last time and lowers his body to avoid the smoke, Franklin waits long thirty taks on the glass until he finally sees what he was waiting for. A large mass of water rises to the ceiling like a flying serpent before coming down on the burning house above him, Franklin assumes control of part of the water, separating it in six orbs about the size of a human head and runs back to the citadel walls.

The drenched clothes would prove a good source of extra water should he need it, Franklin sends four of the six orbs and forms ice handles attached to the side wall and begins his climb. turning the ice back into water and using it to form new handles, he maintains the loss of water to a minimum while making steady progress towards the top.

Franklin retrieves the orbs of water after reaching the top of the wall and takes a moment to consider his two options. If I go by alternative paths it will attract the metal eaters which would be really troublesome to deal with. The common areas are out of the question, my only option is to sneak around by the less popular paths.

He runs along the top of the wall until reaching a section which is close to a tall building with an open window, Franklin creates an ice platform to shorten the jumping distance and recovers the water in midair, losing some in the process. Inspecting the inside of the building, Franklin notices the stacks of scrolls and books.

Sneaking around in such a building could be tricky, archives were almost always full of scholars and since they worked alone, you couldn’t track them by the sound of their voices. Franklin quickly progresses through the rooms trying to reach the other side and jump to the nearest roof. Within a few taks he reaches the last room, a group of scholars are lounging in the balcony where he planned to use. Franklin clicks his tongue and hides behind a reading table to think of a plan.

As he observes the scholars, he hears footsteps coming up the stairs leading to this room, perfect, he thinks to himself when he sees a fat scholar appear carrying a heavy pile of books. Using one of the water orbs, Franklin covers the ground in the scholar’s path with ice, not long after, the fat man steps over the mischievous trap, books scatter everywhere and the loud sound of the man colliding with the floor startles the lounging scholars, who hurry to help their colleague while Franklin makes his way to the now empty balcony.

Traveling through the roofs is easy enough as long as you can run fast enough not to draw in the curiosity of people wondering what was that noise outside, and while the possibility of someone seeing him existed, it was much more safe here than down on the ground. The keep at the center is already close, he would need to cross an open section and climb the outer wall to a bathroom window, more unpredictable than he would have liked but it was the best he could do at the moment. Franklin reaches the end of the rooftops path and jumps to the grass below, hering a girlysh squeak when he falls over someone.

Part 4

“I’m so sorry.” Says Franklin to a girl on the ground. “I got stuck inside my house, só i had to jump from the roof, are you alright?”

The girl appears to be about one year younger than him with ash grey hair and eyes, the loose cloths and large pouches on her attire hide most of her body shape but she appears to have quite a slender feature, a mask that covers her nose and mouth falls, revealing her red lips.

“I’m... ” the girl responds, seeming to take long consideration on what to say “fine.”

She starts to slowly make her way to the keep, when Franklin grabs her by the hand.

“Are you sure?” I can’t let someone get hurt because of me. The moment he grabs her hand, both of them hear a metallic clak against the ground, what is this?

Both sets of eyes look down towards the origin of the sound, a small assassins dagger sits there waiting for someone to pick it up, Franklin looks at the girl with a serious expression.

“Does that belong to you?” He says, reaching for his sword.

“I think it belongs to him.” she says while looking up.

Franklin looks toward the direction indicated, the girl quickly reaches for one of the three pouches strapped to her waist and retrieves a bronze colored knuckleduster that meets Franklin’s face before he could react.

She immediately frees her hand from his and runs with all of her might towards the keep. The strong body cultivated by the wispshapers allows Franklin to withstand the blow and maintain control of the water orbs, he recovers and sets himself in a running posture with the sword pointed behind him, and using his strong legs he propels himself forward, landing in front of the girl, can’t let someone who carries this type of dagger inside the keep, plus, is a great excuse to why i’m late to the trials. He shows a malicious grin toward the girl, who takes a step back with an uncomfortable look on her face.

Franklin throws a probing slash to test her reaction, she ducks under the attack, no jumping back? You fought before but it’s not over yet. Three of the water orbs attack the girl, which jumps backwards, before the three streams collide to form a large orb. Staying in a squatting position with one hand on the ground, she waits for him to make his next move.

The water disperses and that gives her the signal, the girl pulls a string she was holding close to the ground. Franklin hears the sound of a metal pin being dislocated, his eyes make their way to look down to see a trap buried on the ground, turning the water on his clothes to ice, he prepares. The trap explodes, throwing him backwards, the damage is negated by the ice armor, though he lost one of the water orbs, she can blow an entire room with this thing.

The girl makes her way toward the dropped dagger, Franklin lunges to intercept her, sending part of two of the water orbs to slow her down, she is fast. As the projectiles approach, she sidesteps the first and jumps over the second with minimal loss of momentum and stretches her hand to grab the dagger. Guess i can’t hold back, during the next step, Franklin lowers his back and momentarily enters the soul realm, covering the distance between him and the girl. She pulls her hand as the sword slashes the ground, drawing a line separating her and the dagger.

“Last chance to surrender.” Franklin points the sword toward her.

No response. The girl throws a white dust that hangs in the air, Franklin instinctively jumps backwards, poison? five taks until the dust settles down and he sees the girl running towards one of the houses nearby. Franklin gives chase, once again stepping into the soul realm, i can only use this one more time. She ducks to avoid a slash and moves her head to the left, avoiding a trust while simultaneously hitting him with the knuckleduster and making him stumble backwards and lose a water orb, the girl changes direction and pulling a rope with a hook from one of the pouches she uses it to climb one of the buildings.

She is a better fighter, if i run out of water i will never catch her, Franklin thought to himself as he recovered to continue the chase. Using the three remaining orbs he made stepping platforms to quickly climb the sidewall of the house, as he steps on the roof, Franklin hears a familiar metallic sound, that bomb again, if i get hit now i’ll lose her. reluctantly and awkwardly, he once again steps into the soul realm and covers the distance between the two, but no attack comes this time.

“Just give up and i won’t reveal that you had an assassin’s dagger in your possession.”

No response once again. The chase continues, Franklin is faster than her and slowly reduces the distance, the girl throws a handful of white dust in his direction, Won’t work this time, he thinks and right through the cloud reducing the distance even further. Now, almost at sword range, the girl is forced to dodge streams of water sent by Franklin to slow her down.

He slashes towards her legs once he gets in range, but she makes a clear dodge by jumping, a small step backwards allows her to get out of the first water stream and moving diagonally left towards him allows her to dodge the second stream and a simultaneous upward slash which she counters with a punch to the face using the knuckleduster making him lose control of one more water orb. She is a better fighter, why is she running away when she could easily beat me?

The girl resumes her escape, they are about half way through to the outer wall of the citadel, Franklin takes a moment to recover, but continues to go after her. When he again closes the distance between them, she throws another dust cloud in front of him, again with the same trick? He enters the white dust, but is received on the other side by a knuckleduster to the face. One of the two water orbs is sent splashing on the roof, Why is it always on my face?

But she lost momentum and they still remain in the same position, is she trying to wear me out? exhaust all my resources? Franklin starts to feel the exhaustion begin to settle down, gotta finish this quickly. The girl jumps from one roof to the other and throws yet another dust cloud in Franklin’s direction, won’t work a third time. He jumps inside the cloud sword pointed forward, but then he notices, this dust has a different smell. IT’S WHITE POWDER.

On the other end of the cloud he sees a small orange light come his way, in the next moment Franklin sees himself in the middle of an explosion that sends him flying back to the previous roof and making him lose control of his last water orb.

He struggles to get to his knees, he can hear the crowd of onlookers approaching, drawn in by the thunderous sound of the explosion. Through the blurry vision he can see the girl’s silhouette making her escape, his mind wavering in and out of consciousness like a flag in the middle of a storm urges him to give up, his legs like a wet rag fail him. But as he falls to the ground, his will refuses to give, his body back on it’s feet, NO, now it’s a matter of pride.

Franklin, determined to use all the remaining energy he has, starts to run again, one more whispering step won’t kill me, he reduces the gap between him and his target and begins to feel the weakening of the bond with the water wisp. He chases her to the outer wall of the citadel, but there’s a limit to what one can accomplish with willpower alone and his legs rebel against him, trying to seize control and get some well deserved rest. The girl is already climbing the wall, but he has one last trick up his sleeve, from the house right next to the wall, he uses the remainder of his bond to form a thin water blade from his sweat and launch it towards the rope.