Chapter 0:

Prologue. And the war begins anew.

I became the Recordkeeper of the Second Holy War.

Edythe's lungs desperately grasped for air. Her whole body burned from exertion; her ears rang with the maddened cadence of her terror-stricken heart. Her mind was single-mindedly focused on running, not lingering on her lack of breath, the soreness of her muscles, or the gashes that marred her sweat-covered legs. She only thought of running, shoving the tree branches aside, and the hounds' barks, drawing ever nearby no matter how hard she tried to leave them behind.

"We are getting closer, run her down!" An anger-filled woman shouted. A muffled chorus of shouts followed, their owners ever closer. "The witch is not running away!"

In other circumstances, Edythe would have taken offense at the word 'witch’. Her survival instinct reined in her ego for long enough, but not fast enough as to avoid the rotting stump. With an undignified whimper, she crash-landed against the leaf-covered ground, landing on a stone that bruised her left thigh. She flailed around helplessly for a moment, blinded by a cloud of ricocheting foliage. Her wild locks of jet black hair flew around, worsening her predicament.

"She’s here, lieutenant!" Proclaimed a man, heralding a round of bloodthirsty cheers.

Once Edythe's field of view became clear once again, she saw the loping warhounds go for the kill, saliva cascading from their bared fangs. This was the end. It was over, she realized with newfound calm as she gently closed her eyes. It hadn't been a bad life.

Rather than hearing her own cry of pain, Edythe's ears were drowned by a shriek of agony, while her nostrils were violated by the stench of seared flesh and hide.

"By the goddess!" Came a terrified yelp right before it devolved into a cry of agony

At that moment, Edythe's eyes opened with blinding speed. This was not over, she still had a long life ahead of herself, proclaimed her mind in an act of blatant hypocrisy.

The templars that hunted her were dead, cleaved apart by the blade of a knight in black plate. Their hounds lay dead, reduced to charred husks. The dragon-like warrior, a dragonkin, that authored the deed kicked one around before turning towards Edythe and making a sardonic smile at her. Edythe was at a loss, unable to form a sentence at them. It had been five hundred years since she last saw the two of them, where could they begin?

Gyeongsun, the old dragonkin, closed the distance. He wore his favourite cuirass, a hulking set of plate lacquered with a red hue and adorned with finely cut jade and gems. It could well cost a king’s ransom. Literally, given that he had indeed kidnapped a king to pay off the cost.

“You’ve grown sloppy, Reaper,” grumbled Gyeongsun, sparks flying out of his fangs. A mocking light glinted amidst his silvery eyes for a second. “How ironic, coming from such a perfectionist.”

The dragonkin stepped further forth, the moon shining a light over him.His lustrous, golden scales were marred by scars, and over the years the ever-so-humble dragonkin had embedded a dizzying array of jewelry over the gaps. His two elk-like horns curved from the back of his skull and sported half a dozen earrings. Edythe couldn’t help but reminisce the joy Geoyngsun felt when his younger brothers became of age. She felt a pang in her heart, and almost cried when she once more realized that those earrings were all that was left.

"Little Sun," chimed the other knight, his shrill, squeaky voice at odds with the imposing figure he cut, thanks to his baroque ebon plate. "Are you still sore from those training sessions you two did so long ago?"

Gyeongsun turned at him, a low growl escaping from his throat alongside a new batch of sparks. “Don’t you dare call me that again, Murdock.” He hissed as he closed the distance between the two of them.

The other knight merely let out a rueful chuckle and took away his horned helmet. Auburn locks fell out and the gentle blue eyes met the dragonkin's. Murdock scratched his growing stubble. "I seem to recall that you loved that nickname back when you were just a hatchling this tall. "He stated with a grin as he placed a palm at waist height.

"And our Little Sun didn't mind that nickname when he was about your height, Crusader," Edythe deadpanned while she bobbled, her frame still grasping for balance and stability. Fatigue and pain had caught up to her, though. Edythe was too slow to realize this and soon she began falling once more.

“Be careful!” Shouted a startled Gyeongsun. The dragonkin sprinted forwards, dropping his blade and shield in a hurry. With great care, he clasped Edythe’s shoulders and let out a huff of release once the fugitive was safe in his armored claws.

It was Edythe’s turn to chuckle at this sudden turn of events. The dragonkin shot a hurt glare at her, and she wiped a tear that fell down her pale cheek. “And here for a second I thought you had come to resent your foster mother.”

“Ha!” Murdock covered his mouth, though he was still clearly snickering at their partner. “You should have seen him fret over so much, he sounded like a pleading maiden!”

“It’s not like that!” Cried the embarrassed warrior as he turned his head between their two companions, clearly pleading for some sort of understanding.

“I’ll reckon this is a touching reunion, but we don’t have time to spare.”

Edythe turned westwards just in time to see how a mangled corpse flew and cut through the air. It crashed against a pine, turning the trunk into a cloud of ricocheting splinters and bone shrapnel.

“Valder,” hissed Edythe. She wrinkled her nose for a moment. Rather, her whole body revulsed as she flinched at the sight of the odious being.

The elder elf strode forth. His body, chiseled under a millennia of toil and warfare and tanned by a life at sea was bathed in blood and stray fragments of body tissue. Beneath that gruesome patina, laid a patchwork of scars and tattoos dedicated to honor his ever blood hungry gods. Crowning his bald skull laid a sigil of the twin headed wolf of Hjalfarr, god-king of warriors.

Once their eyes locked, the elf made a mirthless smile, his gray and pitiless eyes crinkling ever so slightly. “It’s been so long, Reaper,” he said with a distinct lack of passion, all while he kept stroking his snow white beard.

“Not long enough for me to forget about your atrocities, butcher,” spat Edythe. She instinctively bared her teeth like a wolf bared its fangs; her whole body trembled in anger.

That, somehow, pleased Valder. He smirked, a sadistic streak marring his face. “Your anger is so beautiful, it will be a delight to see your murderous work again," he stated, his face almost wistful. "The battles to come will be art once more.”

Edythe groaned and rubbed her face with a hand. “You doddering madman, when will you understand that we lost the war? That the Crusaders won?" She shouted, sparing a brief glance at Murdock. The man just shrugged, a sad smile betraying his calm facade.

“You haven’t heard of it?” Gyeongsun gasped in surprise. He blinked, utterly astonished, reeling at the sudden turn of events.

"I have been focused on fleeing for the last year," murmured Edythe. She turned around, looking at the three men as her brow furrowed. "What is going on; I didn't want to make an issue of it, but neither of you are the type to organize a friendly reunion."

Valder sat on his haunches and cut to the point. "There is a new Demon King."

Edythe gagged at that. "The demon clans were exterminated by the Crusaders, there are none left!"

Before she could finish, a loud thump brought their argument to a screeching halt. And when Edythe turned she was almost brought to her knees once more. Just before she fell, Murdock swatted Gyeongsun away and clasped her left shoulder blade, wilfully ignorant of the dragonkin's complaint.

"They were supposed to be gone…" was all that she could utter.

Right in front of her stood a giant of a man. Nay, it was no man. His jet black wings unfolded proudly, hiding the moon and cutting a king-like silhouette. His horns curved wickedly into an iron-like crown. Hooves trampled the grass and eyes burning like coals pierced through her very soul.

"Yet they are not," triumphally proclaimed Gyeongsun. "We have a new rallying banner."

"It is time," added Valder. "A second holy war. We will settle the scores," he voice cracked with joy, his gaze gained a feverish quality.

"We, who were forsaken by the goddess and the other tribes, shall be the instruments of our own deliverance," echoed Murdock. "It begins…"