Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Date: 1/18/991; Time: Midnight
A new day had dawned and Beowulf woke up in his usual drunken stupor, he couldn’t sleep tonight for some reason. He got up, took a walk through the woods, stopping in front of the Sardis river and began to reminisce about the past. There were many memories, most of them bitter. He took another drink of his ale and returned to his tiny hut in the woods to warm himself by the fire he just started.
He looked solemnly into the fire with his left gray-hued eye, the other covered with an eyepatch after losing it ten years ago during the war. Back then, he was in his prime as a strong and gallant young man. That all ended when the Kingdom of Valis was split into Western and Eastern kingdoms. Now, he was a weathered war veteran with golden hair and a scraggly beard, a face that looked older than it was supposed to be at his age.
Beowulf was born into an upper-class family, not nobility, but wealthy, nonetheless. As was common among men of his upbringing in Valis, he entered the Golden Citadel’s Paladin academy at the age of 10 and graduated at 15, as was expected of him. He was an upstanding citizen, chivalrous, and loyal to the crown. However, he was naive back in those days and did not see the trouble brewing behind the scenes.
He only thought of how to defend the crown and his family; he failed both of them. His wife and daughter died in the fire that engulfed the Golden Citadel and his best friend was never found either. Beowulf held onto hope for a long time but eventually accepted the reality that he was never going to see them again.
The Valis Civil War waged on for a year, it was a miserable ordeal for many, not knowing which side to join. For the “righteous protectors of justice” such as Beowulf, there was no easy answer. Some tried to mediate the conflict but failed. The golden-armored Beowulf never had to choose though, the Paladin Academy stripped him of his rank and branded him a traitor to the crown of East Valis. The reasoning was simple: Beowulf was born in West Valis, and therefore untrustworthy. Upon surviving an assassination attempt, He fled the capital, with one eye less than he would have preferred.
All of this was depressing, but Beowulf learned much from this ordeal. He never trusted an aristocrat or politician ever again. His definition of good had changed, “good” was whatever he believed was best. He was his own law. No longer was he chained to the whims of the corrupt nobility that brought the war upon the innocents: he was a free man. He joined an organization that did just that. The monarchs called them “vigilantes” and “rebels”, fearing and hating them; others loved and admired them. These outlaws liked to stir up trouble wherever they went and make a mess of things.
Beowulf was an “enforcer” in this notorious organization founded only 32 years ago. There 30,000 members on record, but that didn’t mean they all did something. The eight enforcers were the highest ranked, taking on the most difficult jobs, at least in theory. Given the fickle nature of the organization’s members, they mostly did whatever they fancied at the time.
Beowulf was no different from the rest in this regard. Back in his paladin days, he had a few skirmishes with these “misfits”; ironically, he ended up becoming one of them. The organization lived by only one rule: “Slay Evil.” Anyone, including members of the organization, that found themselves on the side of evil, might find an enforcer coming after them. It was this structure of organized chaos that kept the nobility cursing under their breath.
Beowulf fell asleep eventually and woke up in the morning. The title “morning” may have been implying that it was bright outside, but once again, it was not. The miserable season of darkness was still in effect. The man got up and took a drink of his ale, a normal thing to do for him at all times of the day. As a Paladin, he took an oath of temperance, but that no longer mattered. The sanctity of those vows became defiled by the very country he served. He was cast out as an undesirable by the very king he had trusted. Beowulf no longer played by any rules, except the one law that the organization lived by.
Beowulf looked at his pantry and searched all over the house, and after finally finding some meat and potatoes, he cooked them. He was no vegetarian, but a carnivore. After eating, he finally felt content and then began to think about his next destination. The entire world was at his disposal, minus a few very hostile territories but then he remembered that it was hostile everywhere that he went, so it didn’t really matter after all. Beowulf chuckled to himself, remembering that he had a bounty on his head in 5 of the 7 main kingdoms, 70 gold pieces to be exact. It was a very tempting offer. A hard-working laborer might earn only 3 Gold in one year. He was quite the high-profile “criminal” in the eyes of the world system.
Suddenly, he remembered that there was an ancient city, uncovered only 3 years ago, far to the northwest of his location. The city of Karsi fell into ruin around 500 years ago for reasons unknown. It now attracted scholars, archaeologists, thieves and adventurers. Some were fascinated by the history and the ancient relics while others were looking to line their pockets with gold. It was an area outside the jurisdiction of any kingdom, which meant that it could use some law enforcement. There were probably plenty of spectacled researchers needing protection from the local thugs. Beowulf had finally decided on a location. It was going to be a very long journey, but he stopped caring about time 10 years ago.
He pulled out his travel-worn map and looked at it intently. Traveling north and then west was dangerous, he would have to go through Gaea, and both kingdoms of Valis, crossing through populous areas near the capitals. It was not the ideal course of action. The other option was to go through the mountains, which was both faster and safer than the alternative route. If he continued to travel northwest through the mountain ranges in Valis, he would eventually find the Azure River. If his sources were correct, another two days travel by horse in the northern direction would lead him to New Karsi.
He put on his rusted golden armor, purple cape, and packed all the provisions that he had. There was no reason to leave anything; he may never return to his house by the Sardis River. Beowulf went over to his brown horse, Allaron, and pet him. He was a noble steed, that stood by him in many battles. Beowulf tried to get on the horse but failed multiple times because had grown fat over the years and developed a beer gut. It was hardly surprising considering his lifestyle all these years. Allaron was starting to grow irritated with him. Beowulf finally climbed on after a few more attempts and breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily for Beowulf, Allaron was mighty and stout so the paladin’s fatness did not hinder him.
Beowulf looked out in front of him and set out on his long journey, making stops in towns along the way to replenish his supplies. Most days passed by uneventfully, no one seemed to recognize him based on his wanted poster. Perhaps they did and just ignored him out of fear; it was hard to tell. On day 11, he finally made it to the Balta mountains just south of Fire Keep, the capital of Gaea. This was one of the more dangerous legs of the journey and he needed to cross the border over to East Valis without raising suspicion.
The mountains’ peaks were quite high, but they still came far short of the menacing Brave Mountains farther to the southwest. The legal way to cross was through the Balta Gate manned by guards on both sides: East Valis on the west and Gaea on the east. For a man of Beowulf’s notoriety, this was not an option. He took the longer route around the guards, hoping not to be spotted and had not managed to get very far before he was stopped by a group of nine guards with lances.
“Halt!” one of them yelled in Aegean as the red and orange uniformed guards surrounded Beowulf. Allaron remained calm, indicating his resolve to fight.
Beowulf raised his hands in the air and chuckled. “Don’t you have better things to be doing right now like collecting taxes or gambling? And do any of you speak Thorian? I don’t speak that Aegean language of yours,” he said in Thorian.
One of the guards responded in Thorian with an accent. “Hold your tongue, knave! If you do not wish to be mauled, you’d best choose your words wisely.”
Beowulf continued to keep his hands up, after slowly putting his torch on the ground. “This is your last chance guys. Walk away and pretend you never saw me. I’m not the swordsman I once was but I can still take out all of you in the bat of an eyelash,” he said calmly in his gruff voice.
“I know this man! He has a 70-gold bounty on his head!” announced one of the men, as he lunged forward with both hands on his lance.
“You’re going to regret this,” said Beowulf as he pulled out his white blade and let out a flash of light. The sword was a large two-handed weapon with a golden hilt, adorned with gems. It was a magical blade that shot out beams of lights and illuminated the darkness surrounding them. “Eternal Glory” was its name and quite pretentious indeed. It was an appropriate name for a sword owned by a brainwashed zealous paladin. Beowulf never bothered to rechristen it because he liked the absurdity behind the name.
Beowulf may have been an ex-paladin, but he still had the tools of the trade. His very appearance was an insult to the lords of East Valis and their knights. His golden armor and purple cape were the same ones that he donned when he was 15 at his graduation from the Golden Academy. It was now rusted, worn, and barely fit him but he still wore it. Beowulf was the anti-paladin, maybe even a “dark paladin”. He embraced his past and made sure Valis never forgot theirs.
The beam of light knocked back the impulsive guard that just ran towards him. Eternal Glory was an excellent mid-ranged weapon and helpful in fighting off large groups of enemies. The other guards all charged at Beowulf in a blind rage after getting over their initial shock. The guards were fortunate; they did not realize that the sword’s power was weakened due to the opposing element of Ethos currently in play - darkness. Beowulf’s sword of light had its power suppressed. Otherwise, they might not have survived their encounter with the dark paladin.
Beowulf swung his sword sideways and let out a wave of light, knocking back 3 more guards. He started to breathe heavily and wondered when the last time was that he got any physical exercise.
The guards stabbed at him with their spears, he dodged most of them, but one managed to make a dent in his armor. Beowulf got scared for a moment, but then remembered that this armor had saved him plenty of times in the past.
“Your weapons are too weak,” laughed Beowulf as he jumped out the way and avoided a few more strikes. The guards glared at him and started to aim for cracks in his armor.
Beowulf continued to sluggishly dodge attacks while trying to find the best time to attack. He stabbed his sword into the ground and sent out a shockwave of light, knocking back all five assailants. That last attack had taken a lot of energy from him, and he gasped for breath.
“Obesity is no joke,” wheezed Beowulf.
Some of the guards, were starting to get up again and held out their weapons. Then, a loud neigh was heard and the galloping of hooves. Allaron, forgotten by everyone, leaped out at the men and kicked several of them in the head. They were probably not going to be getting up for a while.
Beowulf looked at Allaron, a tad bewildered and said, “At least one of us is working out.”
He got on Allaron and they rode away into the darkness, with only his shining blade illuminating the path before them. After a few minutes, he put the sword away while waiting inside a dark cave, waiting for his assailants to come looking for him. They never did and he was able to rest that night in peace.
In the morning he set off once more in the direction of New Karsi. He still had a long road ahead and it took an entire 13 days to get through the Balta mountains. His previous encounter with the guards reminded him of his fatness and motivated him to do some light training every day. The way things stood right now, Allaron may have been stronger than him. The Balta Mountains were not a nice road to be on, especially on horseback. The duo pressed on and made it over the mountains. They were now in East Valis, the land of Beowulf’s most hated enemies. He continued northwest across the Willow Jungle and the Rin River that ran through it.
It was an exotic jungle with rare animals living in it, but nothing that Beowulf couldn’t handle. The Rin River was also a landmark of great import. This long river that ran southward became the border between West and East Valis. Many battles were waged here between the two sides before a treaty was reached. It has since been known as the “Blood River”. Most Ethorians or dwellers of Ethos, were a very superstitious people. Some believed that the ghosts of the dead haunted the Willow Jungle were the fighting was at its worst. Beowulf, not one to believe in such things, rode through it without incident. They were nearing the final leg of their journey.
Beowulf ran into trouble once more as he started to approach the Azure River. He had stopped by the quiet nearby town of Cana, just outside a forest with the same name, to buy supplies. He was starting to run low on Gold and hoping to find work soon. Fortunately, the season had just changed and everyone was in good spirits.
It was now the 3rd month of the year and for the next 60 days, the weather would get progressively hotter until it culminated into an intense heatwave at the end of the 4th month. That was a problem for the future though. For now, the weather was nice, and the darkness did not last 16-20 hours every day anymore. Beowulf took this opportunity to rest at the inn and eat some good food. In just 2 more days, he would be in New Karsi.
As he was walking around outside, he noticed five hoodlums beating up an old man, and then running away with his money. He unsheathed his sword from its scabbard, and quickly fired off a ball of light at the right leg of the one carrying the bag of money, spilling the coins all over the ground. The punk writhed in agony, bleeding, as his buddies could only watch in horror. Not knowing what to do, they ran away as fast as they could.
Beowulf went over and collected the money; there were 20 gold pieces in total and guessed that this man was not just some measly peasant; he was probably a local business owner. Beowulf walked over and handed the old gray-headed man the money.
“Here you go, old man! Better keep your riches hidden away next time,” said Beowulf in his usual gruff voice.
“Thank you!” said the old man almost crying, as he took the money.
Beowulf walked over to the hoodlum, smiled directly at him and pulled out his arm as if he was about to cast a spell.
“Stay away! I’m sorry, I’ll never steal again!” shrieked the thin brown-haired lad as he was about to run away.
“Stay still,” Beowulf replied as his hand started emanating healing magic. The thief’s wound began to mend and his leg was brought back to normal.
The thief looked on in disbelief and muttered, “Thank you,” under his breath.
“Now go and sin no more child,” smirked Beowulf.
The thief nodded meekly and scampered away.
“So you’re a paladin, young man. Thank you for your assistance,” said the gray-haired man that just got his money back.
Beowulf laughed. “You need to get your glasses checked, old man. I look almost as old as you.”
The old man chuckled and said, “Is there any way I can repay you, good sir? Perhaps I can fix up that armor of yours? It looks rather old, probably won’t hold up for very long.”
“You can do that?” replied Beowulf as he raised his eyebrows.
“I’m a blacksmith by trade. My shop is just down the road. Follow me,” said the old man.
As they walked, they began to talk. “What’s your name, old man? I’m Beowulf.”
“My name is Kylos,” said the man. “So, what brings you here to Cana? Are you here to see Karsi, like so many others that came before you? I didn’t think paladins fancied such places.”
“I’m only a former paladin… it’s a long story. There are reasons for why I am here,” said Beowulf sternly.
“I see,” replied the old man. “Very well. It is none of my business.”
When they reached the shop, they opened the wooden door into Kylos’ workshop. As the old man worked with his hammer for the next few hours, they talked. He spoke of his children, grandchildren and other family members. Besides his work, they were his only other joy.
“You must have some of your own by now, I suppose,” said Kylos questioningly.
Beowulf looked away, grew silent and only said “10 years ago…” before Kylos interrupted him.
“Say no more. Few have escaped the scars of that war,” Kylos replied.
By now he had finished mending the golden armor and polished it like new. “Here you go, Beowulf. Your armor is ready.”
Beowulf put it on and looked at his reflection in the mirror. Nostalgia was a powerful emotion and his memories flooded back to him. Seventeen years had passed since the day that the first tried it on. He was just as tall, but everything else had changed. His countenance was much brighter in the past but now it was one of deep sadness. He paused for a moment, looked over at Kylos, and thanked him.
“I’ll make sure to come visit you sometimes, old man.” Beowulf said as he waved his hand back at him.
His new and refined armor would prove useful to him in the future and perhaps save his life. The old man had done him a great kindness. Beowulf felt like he had been reborn as he walked back to the inn in a jolly mood.
He stayed the night and left the next morning, arriving at New Karsi two days later. What he saw was pandemonium. Everyone was running around doing something. Many were examining the ground and using their gold-digging tools but Beowulf was not surprised in the least. What he saw before his eyes was the same description given to him by his associates. He decided to walk around, examine the streets of the city, and talk to a few locals. It was a city of 25,000 that had exploded onto the scene in just three years. The promise of riches was certainly a great motivator in attracting people.
Beowulf came here mostly out of curiosity, but perhaps he could earn some money himself. Surely someone would want a bodyguard in this lawless town. He spent the next few months in New Karsi doing various jobs, most of which involved beating up riff-raff. Beowulf had become notorious in New Karsi, so it was only a matter of time before something bad happened.