Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Date: 3/8/991; Time: 2nd hour
William arrived at the Castle Isles estate at dusk. Isles was a castle that had stood the test of time, standing firm for over 700 years, withstanding many tragedies. William Isles was finally returning home after traveling around the world for the past two years. He was a bit hesitant to return, but he felt that he was finally ready to face his past.
He got off his ship and stood there looking at the large haunting castle before him. William walked near the front gate and was immediately stopped by the guards, holding their swords.
"What business have you at Castle Isles, young man?" said the short guard with a scruffy beard.
"I have come home," announced William in a playful tone as he stretched out his arms.
The tall guard yelled at the one with the scruffy beard, "It's Lord William Isles, you moron! Let him through!"
William smirked as he walked through the gate that they had just opened for him. He walked up to his room on the 3rd floor and stepped inside. It had remained unchanged for the most part. The maids kept the room tidy, always waiting for the young lord to return home. He walked up to his bed, laid down and quickly fell asleep from exhaustion. His travels had taken their toll.
In the morning, he awoke from his sleep and looked around the room. His eyes noticed a golden-framed portrait hanging on the wall. He walked over and stared at it intently with his dark green eyes. What William saw was the likeness of his family: father, mother, sister, and himself. It was an old painting that was made 7 years ago. He was but a youth at the time, knowing nothing of the political intrigue that plagued the capital.
He then walked over to the mirror and looked at himself. William was a tall and attractive silver-haired man but had lost some weight over the past two years. He was not quite as muscular and fit as he once was. The life of a bard was not one that generally required one to perform anything strenuous. He had traded in his sword for a lute, and his armor for gaudy and bright clothing. He wondered what his deceased parents would say about this turn of events.
He had graduated with top honors from Gamma's military academy and enlisted immediately to quell the uprising in the west. Nicknamed "Mars" by his peers for his fearlessness, he quickly rose through the ranks in just one year. However, it was all short lived, for he began to loathe the very blade that he used. William became disenchanted with the state, the military, the nobility and his proud lineage. The cause no longer seemed so righteous to him anymore. Not knowing what to do, William ran away from it all.
During his travels as a bard, he learned how to play the fool. He was an entertainer for the very nobles which he had come to despise so fiercely. William was after their pocketbook, gaining their trust was necessary for that to happen. The gold earned was not for himself; it was for the people. William's ultimate goal was to do good, and that was simply not possible if he was part of the very evil that drowned out the hopes and aspirations of the common folk. He became a regular citizen and learned to live among them. He finally felt free, unshackled by the expectations of nobility.
At this time, a blonde-haired maid walked in and said, "Lord Isles! It is so good to see you after all these years! You must be famished from your long journey. Breakfast is ready downstairs."
William turned around, smiled at her and said, "Thank you, dear. I will be down shortly."
Breakfast was more exquisite than what he had become accustomed to. There were all sorts of rare meats, cheeses, desserts, and other delicacies. William had grown unaccustomed to such a display of pomp and had started to prefer the bread and soup at the village taverns. There was a certain beauty to its simplicity. However, he still ate the food that was before him and even enjoyed it.
He got up and asked the butler nearby, "Where is my sister?"
The tall butler replied, "She is in her study, young master. I'm sure she'd be glad to see you after all this time."
William looked across the long and ornate brown table, and thought to himself, "I am not so certain about that." He laughed when he imagined her irate expression. The tall bard, William of house Isles, thanked the butler for the food and exited the room.
He walked through the long hallways, admiring the portraits of various woodlands and plains. The faces of his ancestors were of less interest to him, for they reminded William of the archaic system that had been in place for centuries. As he kept walking, he eventually reached his sister's study and opened the large wooden door.
There sat in front of him, behind a large mahogany desk, his sister. She was Ordalia, of house Isles, and first of her name. She was wearing a blue dress and had a pink ribbon in her auburn hair. She ignored him and kept reading the torn green book in front of her. William decided to look around the room. It was truly a library worthy of a noblewoman, lined with books of the left and right sides.
After another minute of pretending not to see him, she looked up and said mockingly, "The prodigal son has returned at last!" Ordalia then proceeded to scan him from head to toe, "This attire does not suit you, brother. Why do you choose to dress like some town fool?" she said in an irritated tone.
Ordalia spoke in the Siril tongue, native to Charon. She could have chosen Thorian or Aegean as the means for berating her younger brother, but the mother tongue was certainly more appropriate. The two siblings were fluent in all three of Ethos' primary languages, and this made for some truly unique conversations.
Ordalia got up and glared at him with her brown eyes. "Why did you come back?" she said inquisitively.
"Today is a special day. I thought that they might want to see me," said William, looking Ordalia straight in the face.
"Perhaps they do," replied Ordalia as she looked away.
The two siblings talked for about an hour, describing in detail the highlights of the previous two years. William spoke of his exploits, traveling through towns, earning a living as a bard, and winning the hearts of the people. He had become quite well-known in many parts of Eastern Ethos. Ordalia took over the estate after their parents' deaths and made sure things ran smoothly. Most of her work involved keeping the other noble houses of Gamma in check. It was dirty work and Ordalia could never truly relax. There was always some scheme, either an effort to elevate one's house or to diminish another. She got the shorter end of the stick among the two siblings and she despised her brother for it.
"We needed you here, brother. Why did you leave me all alone?" asked Ordalia bitterly.
"These halls reek with the stench of the corrupt. It took me all this time just to stomach being here. Authority and power, they have but they do nothing!" said William sternly. William was a gentle man most of the time, but his distaste for the upper echelons of society was not something he could easily hide.
"Silence! Do not dishonor our kin! You show no gratitude to those that raised you. While you were off galivanting across the world, without a care in the world, I was busy trying to keep our legacy alive!" said Ordalia enraged.
Then William said calmly in his peaceful voice, "Is our legacy really worth fighting for? How are we better than those peasants that you lord yourself over? Ethos' light shines upon all. Doesn't it bless all of us equally?"
"We are better, and because of that, we are held to a higher standard. It is our responsibility to guide the people. A responsibility that you shirked because you were afraid to do what was necessary!" Ordalia said as she got up and stamped her foot on the ground.
"I can do more for the people out there than I can sitting here and eating cake every day," said William without losing his composure.
"Without power you can do nothing! Power is everything. Without it you would not have been able to defend yourself in combat. Without it, you cannot defend the ones you love. Our lack of power cost us our parents," said Ordalia as she sat down and slumped in her chair.
The two remained silent for quite some time before Ordalia finally spoke. "Today is the two-year anniversary of their deaths. It feels like only yesterday, yet so much has changed."
"Did you ever find out who was the culprit?" said William.
"My memories of that night vanished into thin air. The court healers said that it must have been the shock, but surely by now I'd have remembered," said Ordalia somberly.
"It's in the past…I simply wanted to honor them by visiting them today," said William
"Very well. It's the least we can do today," said Ordalia.
They ended their conversation and William left the room. The two siblings met up an hour later behind the castle, in front of their parents' graves. They looked on at the two gravestones that read the following: "Theodore Isles, 5/10/937 - 3/8/991" and "Yulia Isles, 9/8/946 - 3/8/991".
Their parents' murderer was never found and no clues were left behind. Ordalia suspected it was a hired killer by one of the other houses, but there was no concrete evidence. They continued to stare in silence.
"What do you think they would say about us now? Would they be proud?" said Ordalia.
"No idea. I'm no longer the soldier father was happy to call his son. You, on the other hand, are the sly and crafty politician that keeps Isles Castle from going bankrupt. Their legacy is being preserved by you alone," said William as he chuckled.
Ordalia looked at William bewildered as she raised her eyebrows, "That is surprisingly kind coming from you or is that mockery I hear in your tone?" she asked inquisitively.
William said nothing and just smiled. They continued to stand there in silence for a while. Ordalia then broke the silence by speaking, "I have a present for you, brother. One that I believe you will find useful."
This time it was William's turn to be surprised, "A present? I cannot believe what I am hearing," he laughed.
"I'm being serious. I'll have a guard deliver it to your room. You can thank me later," she said sternly.
"Ok. I accept your gift," said William.
They continued to stand there in silence before they both left, without saying a word to each other. William went back to the castle to get his lute. He had no intention of overstaying his visit. It was a beautiful day outside, but he could always enjoy it elsewhere.
He opened the door to his room and was greeted by a large white cloth lying on his bed. William uncovered it and saw an item he had not seen since he left the Isles Estate two years ago. It was a large black two-handed sword and "Nemesis" was its name. William or "Mars", to be more accurate, wielded the blade for the crown of Charon. Many had been slain with this blade throughout the years, for it was a family heirloom of house Isles. If it were not for William renouncing the blade, there would be myriads more at this very moment. Suddenly Ordalia walked through the door.
William turned around and screamed at her, "Is this some kind of sick joke?! I swore off this blade! No more shall I be led astray by the whims of the elite!"
"Then don't. Fight for yourself," said Ordalia without hesitation.
"What do you mean?" stammered William. He was caught off guard, which was a rare occurrence.
"You are young, little brother. Perhaps you have seen a bit of combat, but you still know nothing of the ways of the world. Power is everything," said Ordalia in a condescending tone. "You cannot enforce your ideals without power. No matter what path you choose: good, evil, or the middle ground, without power your vision will not come to pass."
"I'm a bard, what use do I have for a sword? I vowed to never touch that cursed piece of steel ever again," he said with hatred in his voice as his eyes darkened.
"Trust my intuition brother; the world is changing for the worse. There are forces at work called the Blades of Malice, that seek to overthrow the kingdoms of Ethos. Soon, it won't be safe anywhere and you need to protect yourself," Ordalia said pleadingly.
"Great! Maybe they'll clean up the mess that exists now. Ethos could use some new guys in charge!" exclaimed William.
Ordalia was fighting back the urge to slap him after that remark. After taking a deep breath, she merely said, "Fine! You can keep hating nobles all your life and stay bitter till the end if you want! But at the very least don't die alone in some ditch. Take the sword to protect those common folk you love so much, and most importantly, protect yourself. I beg of you," Ordalia said on the verge of tears.
William Isles had no response to such an earnest request. He could only nod quietly and reply, "Okay. I'll take it. But I'm not going to use it."
"I pray that the day you unsheathe that blade never comes," she said solemnly.
They both said goodbye to each other and Ordalia left. William only took his lute, Nemesis and some food with him. He traveled light and unfortunately, the sword was now going to be a burden to him. William's lightweight red vest and white pants were in stark contrast to the black scabbard of Nemesis. It was an odd sight and one that left William looking quite disgusted as he looked at himself in the mirror. He got tired of his reflection and looked away. It was time to leave.
He left the estate after saying goodbye to the maids, butlers, and other vassals, of Isles. All were sad to see him leave and begged him to stay but he, of course, declined respectfully. The ship to Samara was waiting for him outside. Samara, in the republic of Ramah, was a beautiful and peaceful city of 35,000, one with many patrons for the arts. It was a good city to retire in and live out the rest of one's days, so William could easily find someone in need of his talents there. He got on the wooden ship and traveled east for eight days, finally arriving at his destination.