Lotian, City of Light
Franklin sits on a bench outside Mithra’s house, observing the small houses that compose the equally small city; he is able to see the end while standing on the opposite side. Mithra said this was a capital, but it is só small… except for one thing, he thinks, moving his gaze towards the large sand colored building at the end of the city.
Orim comes outside and approaches Franklin, sitting besides him, what does he want now? Franklin thinks. Orim sighs, fine, will bite it.
“What is it Orim?” Franklin says in a sarcastic tone.
“You know, it’s almost time.”
Orim nods, they both stay silent for a while.
“Dix is not fine.”
“We need to find this Cyne guy.” Franklin says, still looking to the distance.
“He is allied with our enemies, finding him should be easier, the problem is that he has access to much more resources.” Orim looks to the ground, “not a good trade if you ask me.”
They remain sitting without sharing any further words, until Mithra appears to call them.
“Come inside, there’s not much time.” She says.
Inside, they find the clothes they were wearing, now clean and properly stitched, along with some food.
“Eat quickly, we don’t have much time.”
They devour the contents of the table as fast as possible, if this is going to be my last meal, i’ll be sure to enjoy it, Orim thinks. Soon, the contents of the table begin to dwindle, the two now full, walk away from the table to collect their clothes and equipment and the servants hurriedly take away all the food.
Not even thirty seconds pass, and Dix appears from one of the doors, a different one than the one that leads to the guest rooms or the servants.
“Sorry, i overslept.” She says.
Franklin takes a good look at her, from head to toe, noticing thorn pieces of cloth in her shirt and pants as well as some dirt stains. In her hair there are still a noticeable amount of specks of dust, the same goes for her face, haven’t they given her a bath?
“Dix, are you alright?” Franklin asks.
“I... ” she looks to the side in the direction of Mithra’s feet, then back at the ground, “i’m fine, really.”
“Can you bring her some food?” Orim asks some of the servants still in the room.
“Unfortunately, we have to get going, we already wasted too much time.”
Mithra goes in the direction of the door, followed by Orim and Dix, Franklin stays behind and approaches one of the servants.
“Hey, what’s behind that door?” He asks in a hushed voice, pointing in the direction from which Dix came from.
“The stables.” The servant replies absentmindedly.
“I see.” Franklin nods, haven’t seen any horses around.
“Please don’t tell master Mithra that i said anything.” The servant implores upon realization.
“Don’t worry, i won’t say anything to her.” Franklin jogs to catch up to the rest of the group.
“Franklin, you’ll have to leave your sword behind.”
“Sure.” Franklin shrugs and leaves the sword leaning against the wall.
Mithra nods, “let’s go already.”
They make their way to the sand-colored building, inside, they are forced to wait a thousand taks before they are able to proceed, according to the receptionist, they arrived early. Mithra leads them through the hallways until they reach a large white marble room with an open view to the sky. On the side walls there are six pillars with six figures sculpted in each of them, opposite to the entrance there is a single pillar with a single figure represented on it, different from the other six represented early.
In the center of the room there is a circular pool of water that although glassy clear, none of them are able to see the bottom when they are dragged closer to it. five guards positioned on each side of the room and one positioned opposite to the three. Mithra leaves the room and three guards take her place.
“We will now begin the Trial of Light, let it be known by all that are present in this room, that each one of us shall serve as witness to it’s proper execution, overseered by me; Otho captain of the guard, and will vow to properly report and testify for the results despite our personal views and opinions. Do any of the candidates wish to say anything before we start?” The guard in the middle says.
Dix, Franklin and Orim shake their heads in unison.
“Good,” Otho says, “we shall begin.”
The three guards behind push them into the water.
They hit the water and a cold chill runs up their spines, despite not being tied or having their movements restricted by any means, they begin to sink. Orim and Dix wave their hands trying to swim up, Franklin looks around, desperately searching for water wisps, yet they continue to sink lower and lower, faster and faster. Doesn’t take long for Orim to reach the limit of his breath and begin to drown, Dix follows soon after, Franklin tries to swim to them, but the water behaves as if they were on air.
The ever present light makes it difficult to see how far they sunk or how long until the end, if there is an end. As they get deeper in the water the light gets brighter as Franklin’s vision gets darker, as the end of his life gets nearer, he starts to see small specks of blue light. He holds out till the last sliver of his breath and his life, and then.
They reach a strong wall of water hitting it with the full force of a human body in terminal velocity, crashing through it, but instead of painting it with red paste, what was down suddenly becomes up and they find themselves in an endless bright plain made entirely of winter still water with a crow black sky above. Dix and Orim begin to cough, though no water comes out of their mouths, Franklin rushes to Dix’s help.
“Hey, i was drowning longer than her.” Orim complains between gasps, Franklin doesn’t react to it.
Dix gestures to Franklin that she is fine and to give her some space, the three stand up to look at the surrounding landscape, and six stars begin to shine in the sky close to each end of the horizon line.
The stars expand and explode with light, heat and power, encompassing all of their surroundings, filling all of reality with their presence. The three scream as they burn, feeling their flesh skin and bones turn rapidly to ash and then burning the ashes to nothingness, Franklin can feel the heat reach even the deepest parts of his soul.
“FOOLISH MORTALS!!!” The voice thunders in their ears and minds encompassing the entire world they are in, making reality itself tremble and prostrate itself from its passage. “THOU SHALL BURN FOR SUCH INSOLENCE!!!”
Throats too burned to even scream.
“THIS SHALL BE THY FIRST AND LAST MISTAKE TOWARDS THE PARLIAMENT OF OLD GODS OF Rel Jorgun!!!” Comes another voice equally as powerful and all encompassing as the first one, carrying such weight that the three minds border on madness.
“NOW, THY BODIES MINDS AND SOULS SHALL BE SMITED DOWN FOR THIS!!!” If only they could not listen to them.
A voice interjects, making the light spheres that surrounded them a moment before, retreat to their own corners in the sky, now as big as the sun that appears on the illusory skies of Lotian. The three are returned to their original state and are still able to feel the power even from such a distance, and a seventh light appears directly upward from where they stand.
“Sorry kids, they got a bit carried away with the act, i put you all back the way you were.”
“We’re really sorry,” comes one of the voices, “we weren’t expecting someone from one of the lower realms to come here.”
“See Aren? told you your trial was too easy. Even regular humans can clear it.”
“It wasn’t meant to be hard.”
“But come on Aren, you could have made it a little bit harder.” A third voice interjects from yet another direction, Franklin, Orim and Dix become dizzy by the omnidirectional booming sounds, reaching the point of almost fainting.
“You all don’t understand the first thing about managing expectations,” the voice called Aren retorts, “i bet that right now they are ready and shaking with fear for the deadly challenges that await them ahead. Anyway, it’s your turn Borodor.”
“Ahem...” the sound of the voice clearing its throat almost deafens the three. “Sooo… since Aren’s trial was a bust, let's begin this properly.”
“Hey!!” Aren complains in the distance.
“Splendid, let’s go to the ghost woods and turn into toys for some crazy gods or something.” Franklin screams between the loud sounds of the voices.
“This was as much your idea as it was my own.” Orim replies.
“We are now going to do the next three trials simultaneously.”
The water moves, and wide pillars of stone appear from under them, sending waves in all directions. A large stone structure rises in succession, creating a tall wall of water that comes crashing down on Franklin, Dix and Orim. They put their hands up to shield their faces, upon recovering, each of the three notices they are in a different portion of the large stone structure.
Franklin looks around, hands bound together by chains, a second long chain bounds his waist to the center of the circular arena, limiting his movement to a small stone circle a dozen meters in diameter. The rest of the ground is made out of sand that stretches for a few hundred meters to all sides until ending in tall walls with no exits, no escape route unless i climb the wall, the notes to himself.
A man wearing a formal tuxedo and a top hat appears in front of Franklin, carrying a cane made of pure gold, his lead colored skin immediately strikes an impression that puts Franklin on guard. The man circles the stone ground with nonchalant steps while spinning his cane, a smoky after image is left behind as the man walks.
“Welcome mortal, am i right to assume you are here to see us?” The man says, although his voice doesn’t carry the same strength from before, Franklin still recognizes him as one of the stars in the black sky.
“Where are Orim and Dix?” Franklin asks.
“Patience, you must first clear this trial before you are able to see them, but fret not, they will be in fact helping you. My colleagues should be explaining their respective tasks to them at this very moment.”
“We came here to--”
Franklin cuts himself off when the man’s eyes turn in his direction, as if noticing Franklin for the first time. The man’s presence changes from nonchalant to oppressive and although he wears the appearance of a regular man, for a moment, Franklin perceives a glimmer of it’s true self, stretching beyond eternity and into oblivion itself, what am i saying? I’m in no position to make demands, he could crush me like an ant, he might do it without even noticing, he begins to sweat profusely and his breath becomes heavy in his lungs.
“Good,” the man said, “Let me explain then.”
Franklin manages to focus his mind once again and look at the man.
“You will fight, until there are no enemies left in this arena.” He makes an expansive gesture with open arms, “also, no sword allowed.”
Franklin's sword disappears from his back.
Franklin turns his head back to see the man executing a courteous bow while disappearing into a mist of palpable darkness. When the mist fades he can see a red skeletal looking beast appear from the sand in front of him, taller than a human if it were to stand up. An eye, iris the same color of it’s body, that opens itself into a mouth full of sharp teeth, forms it's whole head .
Dix looks up, she is alone on a platform high above the water surface, lying down facing the sky that despite the blackness appears to be just at arms reach. To her sides, she sees six blue flames circling the platform.
A loud noise of something making it’s way up the pillar that she is on comes, Dix immediately springs into action, hitting her head high against the sky and becoming dizzy for a few taks.
“Sorry!” A voice comes from no direction in particular, “let me fix this.”
The whole sky above her moves upward, allowing her to stand up, moving to the edge of the platform, she sees the water below reflecting an inexistent light, creating the illusion of a white floor. In her mind, around her, she can see numerous ways she can somehow fall down to her death, a strong and sudden gust of wind, slipping on a somehow wet floor, stepping on a loose stone.
“Alright,” A now more distinct female voice comes from behind her, “now that that’s been dealt with, we can proceed to your trial.”
Dix turns around to see a tall woman, a quarter taller than Franklin, voluptuous body with iridescent colored hair, fair skin and black eye sockets. Wearing what Dix recognizes as the previous wispshapers uniform designs, but instead of white, it is the same green as the sky of the ghost woods with any other detail being black including a pair of gloves and thigh high boots.
Upon setting her eyes on the woman, she is able to perceive her true presence, or at least a fraction of it, too small to be deemed relevant. The woman in front of Dix explodes with light streaming from all directions, leading her down through an iridescent tunnel, and beyond that, she arrives at despair, every single vision from every single point in time coming back to her at the same time. But as her mind proves itself insufficiently able to endure and begins to collapse into itself, the visions vanish.
“I’m so sorry child,” Dix feels the arms of the woman around her, like the whole of creation came around her in a gentle embrace, “it’s been so long since i seen one of you poor souls.”
The tears on Dix's eyes and the blood running down her nose stain the woman’s uniform, Dix prepares herself for the woman’s anger. When nothing comes, Dix relaxes for a bit, her arms begin to rise up and make their way to embrace the woman as well, but she cuts herself off.
“I can’t do anything about your situation, it’s beyond my abilities, but i promise you will not feel the same thing from me again.”
Dix gets released, stumbling a bit before regaining her balance, she begins looking at the woman’s feet, making her way up to the stain of blood and tears on her torso, and no vision comes. Just to test, she looks to the side, only to see the image of her stumbling to her death.
“Allow me to explain how we will now proceed with your trial.” The woman claps her hands twice, but the sound comes from all around Dix.
Reality distorts much like when Franklin’s servant sent them to North Whisper, multiple sets of walkways, pieces of rooms, walls, castle towers and much more appear floating in the black sky held in place by an invisible force.
“You have quite a simple task in premisse, though it might be more than that during execution,” The woman says, “Cross the shifting maze and reach the golden bell at the end. Ring it to mark your success and also help your companion.”
“My companion?” Dix asks.
The woman extends her hand to the side, a mirror forms out of misted air, showing the image of Franklin, arms and waist bound by chains being attacked by a skeletal monster wearing a top hat.
“If you clear your trial, he will receive a small boon.”
Dix nods and positions herself facing the maze.
When she takes a step forward, one of the rooms gets displaced, appearing at another point in the maze, the other rooms quickly adopt the same behaviour, soon the maze loses all clear path of progression, in the middle, a golden light reflected by her goal. She stills herself and runs forward.
When the wave passes, Orim notices that he is all alone in the water landscape while a large tower rises high in the sky, have they been transported there? Why am i alone then? A pillar of fire bursts out of the water, from it, a man surrounded by volcanic stone, veins of magma pulsing with heat as if the armor was alive. As he walks towards Orim, hundreds of fiery feathered wings appear and disappear all around him, creating a fire aura around.
“So… a god came to punish the heretic steel mage?” Orim puts his hands on his hips, striking a nonchalant pose, please let me be wrong.
“I am indeed a god,” the man says, fuck, Orim thinks to himself, “though, not quite the one you are imagining, the true gods of Lotian are a much grander existence.”
He releases a short sigh of relief, he doesn’t seem to want to exert any divine punishment, i should be fine, Orim thinks, the god continues.
“Now on to the trial shall we?” Orim nods, “quite simple, just walk through this door.”
The god extends his hands in front of him, where a door made out of light appears floating in the air, Orim takes a casual step forward, pushes the door open and enters. He appears in the same watery landscape, the god manifests at his side and begins to laugh profusely as three doors appear in front of Orim.
“You’re not gonna ask me about the catch?” The man in stone armor teleports in front of him.
“Why would i? I’ve already won.” Orim responds, giving a casual shrug.
“You gave clear instructions, if i pass through the door i win right?”
“But there are more doors ahead?” The gods point to the three doors in front of them.
“Irrelevant, you only told me to walk through that one,” Orim points his thumb to the space behind him, “doesn’t matter if there happens to be more doors i refuse to continue. I claim that the winner has already been decided, it’s my victory.”
The god is speechless, and for a moment Orim is able to feel the cold anger crawling up his spine, freezing the entire world several times over in a single instant, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, Orim thinks. Then everything comes back to normal, the god sighs and Orim sees in it’s eyes the spark of an idea.
“Fine, you won,” he says to Orim then facing the sky above, “Umar, give me your turn.”
“WHAT!?” The voice referred to as Umar replies with the question, Orim almost faints by the sudden stress on his mind.
“Give me your turn so that i can continue with my trial.”
“NO WAY! YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE, Irah!” Orim stumbles, but manages to remain standing.
“I’ll give you anything later, and lower your voice.” Irah proposes.
“Fine, i’ll also give you my turn during the next time someone comes.”
“Deal.” Umar says in agreement.
Irah faces Orim once more.
“Now we can continue,” he says, “you will have to pass some more stages, each with progressively more doors. If you are successful in finding the right door, your companion will be rewarded, if you fail, your companion will be punished.”
“Which companion?” Orim asks.
Irah extends his hand forward, and a mirror forms out of mist, showing Franklin fighting a skeletal monster with his hands and waist bound by chains.
“Now… choose wisely.”
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