Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 7/30/991; Time: 12th hour
The mountains of Caleah benefited greatly from the season of the forest, as did all of the surrounding areas; the harvest was good this year. The citizens of East Valis would not go hungry anytime soon. Their immediate concerns were taken care of. But the future held many dark portents.
It was on this day that Gin was training himself near his mountain hut. He preferred this hermit's life; any news from abroad was presented to him through the eyes of Kami. He already knew about the battle at Balassar and many of the other events happening all across Ethos. It was these events that he was supposed to discuss with two of his friends later in the day.
Gin was obligated to stay strong. Despite being a very tall and muscular man, he understood that there was still room for growth. He kept swinging his hammer for a few more minutes and then stopped. Gin continued his daily routine, ate his breakfast, and read some ancient texts, still finding nothing that he didn't already know about the Stones of Ethos.
A few hours later he received a knock on his door; one of his friends had finally arrived. Gin opened the door and was greeted by a young Neko man, almost as tall as Gin himself. It was Ranos, his acquaintance from the Nihil Alliance. He had met him two years ago while searching for the stones. It was through him that he found out Vinz of the Fang possessed the Onyx stone.
The green-eyed Neko respectfully bowed, and greeted Gin. "It has been a while since we've last seen each other, Master Gin," said Ramos, in the typical soft-spoken accent of the Neko, akin to the sound of hissing.
Gin bowed, and responded, "Greetings, Ranos. I hope your journey was a pleasant one. There is much to speak of… the Blades have been on the move lately. Shima was attacked." The two went outside to continue the conversation.
"That is not the only concern. A wild man leading a horde of the gray tribes came to visit the Nekowood recently. He was trying to sway our people into joining his cause. The man claimed to fight for the freedom of the "other" races of Ethos. Harkin and the other leaders respectfully declined his invitation. He is dangerous… the Fang and Kali might join him in the near future," said Ranos, with fear in his voice.
Gin had a look of amazement on his face; Kami's gaze was not all-seeing. He had missed an important event that had occurred. "A man seeking to aid the "others" and fight humans? This does not sound like the work of the Blades of Malice," said Gin
"The man did not seem to be their ally. He was surrounded by a dark aura, and was accompanied by a black panther that walked on all fours. Both the man and the panther spoke Baal, and claimed to be from outside of Ethos. The panther claimed that the Neko and the Fang both came from their world originally. He said that our powers had weakened because of the mana of Ethos. His words would have sounded like lies, but his malicious intent and the aura emanating from him was unlike any I've felt before. It would be no exaggeration to say that he was among the strongest in all of Ethos," said Ranos, in an excited voice. The man and his allies left a lasting impression.
Gin had lived for a very long time, but he had never heard a story like this before. If Ranos' story was true, then this man could potentially pose an even greater threat than the Blades of Malice. He could not be allowed to possess the Stones of Ethos. Perhaps it truly was the time of the end. There were many foes and few heroes to stand in their way. Ethos died with each passing day and nobody noticed.
"Does Vinz know? The Onyx must be protected from that man," replied Gin.
"Our relations have never been the best. He would not listen to us. Perhaps you could persuade him to listen? The man might persuade the Fang to fight alongside him. Most in the Nihil Alliance hate humans, but few are willing to start a war. There are those among the Fang that would be willing to risk their lives for worldwide independence," answered Ranos, pleading with Gin.
"I will do my best… but I do not think I have much clout with him. His hatred for humans runs deep," replied Gin, in a grave manner of voice.
Ranos and Gin continued to speak for the space of a half-hour, until they heard the sound of flapping wings drawing near from the south. They both looked and saw a majestic figure with two white wings flying towards them; birds were not the only ones that could fly. This was a Kildar woman flying towards them. As she approached the mountaintop, she started to slow down, and landed in front of them.
Kildar, unlike most of the "other" sentient races of Ethos, looked almost exactly like humans. The differences were that they were slightly taller, had pointy ears, and had white wings protruding from the back. This last feature was very hard to miss. These were only the obvious differences. Kildar had much longer life expectancies and were all taught magic from a young age. These "angels" preferred to live in secrecy; few Kildar ventured outside of the Brave Mountains, located to the south of West Valis. It is said that the Kildar libraries possessed tomes with knowledge unknown to the rest of the world.
The woman bowed to the others, but did not change her stern expression. Kildar were not known for their sense of humor; they were serious to a fault. She was an attractive woman that appeared to be in her late 20s, at least by human standards. She was tall, had short and curly blonde hair, and light blue eyes. Her robe was a beautiful white; it was the Kildar's favorite color.
"I see you have finally arrived, Tala. Do you have news from abroad?" said Gin.
"The Pearl is still safe with us. I do not think many humans would dare venture to where we live. Are the humans still bickering amongst themselves? I say that we leave them alone and wait till a victor arises. No need to concern ourselves with the kingdoms of men," said Tala, in a haughty tone. Kildar did not like humans and preferred to not concern themselves with the lives of such "inferior creatures". Tala did not bother hiding her true feelings when speaking.
"But this matter concerns all of Ethos… even some of the Elm have begun to take action. The Stones of Ethos are draining the remaining life force. The "Light" will go out in the near future. Even though I am a Guardian of Ethos, I do not know the consequences of such an event taking place," replied Gin.
"So the humans aren't satisfied with killing each other; they must involve us in their childish bickering," retorted Tala, in bitter voice.
"It isn't just the Blades of Malice; other forces are at work as well. Some of them claim to be from outside Ethos. I have seen such men… they are not to be trifled with," responded Ranos.
Tala raised her eyebrows; it was not easy to bewilder a Kildar. They thought that they knew everything. "Outside of… Ethos? Surely you jest?" replied Tala, in a meeker tone than usual.
"It is true. The future of Ethos is bleak… there might be enemies we are not aware of yet," said Gin.
Just as he had finished speaking, a sound came from inside the hut. It was the sound of an intruder rummaging through a house. Gin and the others ran inside to find a table overturned and some tomes tossed around the room. At that moment, a window broke and a slender woman jumped out. They ran outside and were greeted by the sight of a woman in a red cloak standing next to a large green serpent with amber eyes.
She was short and had dark red-hair and brown eyes. Her clothing beneath the cloak was elegant and she wore silk gloves that matched the outfit. She appeared to be in her early 20s. The girl smiled mischievously, as she held out an amber stone in her left hand.
The green serpent next to her must have been 3 skars in length. It was a mystery how he managed to stay hidden and go undetected. He slithered around hissed at Gin and his allies. The enemies had arrived.
Gin and his allies needed a few moments to regain their composure. Gin grabbed his hammer and watched the red-haired girl intently with his slanted eyes. Tala began drawing her daggers, preparing to throw them. Ranos pulled out his claws; he didn't need a metal weapon.
"You guys are really hasty. Don't you want to know why I'm here?" said the girl, motioning them to stop.
"You can talk all you want after we tie you up and you give me back the Topaz. Expect no sympathy from us," said Gin, in a rage.
"Okay. That's fine. My name is Jill. Nice to meet you. I'll be going now," said the girl. She bowed, got on the serpent, and proceeded to slither away down the mountain.
Gin threw the hammer at the serpent's head where Jill was sitting and narrowly missed them both. The hammer did not stop there; it hovered and flew back into Gin's hand. The "Lawbreaker" was a special hammer that only Gin could wield. It always returned to its owner.
The red-haired girl looked angry; she jumped off the serpent, and yelled, "Fine! Have it your way!" She pulled out an ornate sword with a golden hilt from her equally ornate golden scabbard. The serpent turned around and hissed; he was ready to fight as well. "You even made Ryu angry now… we'll silence you for good!" exclaimed Jill.
Gin had succeeded in provoking the intruders; now it was time to reclaim the Topaz. Tala started throwing her daggers and Ranos ran out with his sharp claws, ready to strike. Perhaps the two were a bit overzealous because they did not assess the assailants abilities before launching an offensive.
Jill dodged Tala's daggers and waved her sword back at the woman with wings. The sword created a golden wave of light that hit Tala's left wing. At the same time Ryu took a deep breath, and breathed out a gust of wind at Ranos, knocking him on his back before he could get very far.
Tala's wing appeared unharmed, but that was only a temporary illusion. In a few seconds, her left wing started to petrify. Within moments, Half of Tala's wing was covered in gray stone. Only the most adept earth mages knew how to petrify, and Jill was among that elite group.
Gin and Ranos looked at Tala in horror, while Jill laughed hysterically. "I don't think you can fly very far like that! Stay still. Maybe I can take home a Kildar statue," she said, mockingly.
Tala didn't seem particularly worried, and after a moment of silence, pulled out her right hand, and began chanting. The wing quickly healed and returned to its normal form. Kildar were great healers and users of the holy arts. Petrification could always be undone.
"So… what were you saying?" replied Tala, mocking Jill in retaliation.
Jill's mouth was wide-open; she was speechless. She stamped her foot on the ground and began to randomly throw out petrification slashes. "Try healing from all of this!" screamed the red-haired girl.
Gin and Ranos decided not to interfere in the fight between the girls and turned their gaze towards the large serpent. They were going to have to keep their distance. Ryu was not the type to let them get close. Gin threw his hammer, and Ranos conjured ice daggers to hurl at the serpent. His claws were not his only weapon.
The large serpent was an easy target and had a hard time dodging. Ranos' daggers had landed several times and Gin's hammer was dealing some damage as well. Ryu had gotten annoyed and was now thrashing about with his tail. He swung his tail far enough away to hit both Ranos and Gin. Ryu's attack range extended farther than theirs. He did not give them time to recover and began to spin around quickly, forming a small tornado; it was now headed for Gin and the others. Gin could not dodge in time, and tried to blast it back with his hammer, but was only thrown further back.
The girls' battle was not faring too well either. Tala was dodging, but had little opportunity to utilize her holy magic. Her occasional "beams of light" were slashed away by Jill.
The red-haired girl was getting bored. She ran towards Ryu and got on top of its head. She looked down at the three enemies before her, as if she was their overseer. She pouted, and said, "I really need to get going. They're waiting for me in the Golden City…. I'm going to have to end this… and I think I just figured out how to do it!" Jill reached into her pocket and pulled out the Topaz. She held it up in her right hand, and watched it gleam in the Light of Ethos. "They told me not to use it too early, but I really wanna see what it does! I get to be the first to do it!" she said ecstatically.
Gin, Ranos, and Tala could do nothing but watch in horror. Gin had learned through his studies that the Topaz resonated strongest during the 7th and 8th months and its power could only be drawn out by a powerful earth mage. Both of these conditions were met; a catastrophe was imminent.
The Topaz glistened in the sky and shined brightly. The Light of Ethos began to flow into the stone; an aura started to form around it. Jill's hand began to shake; it was difficult to control such energy. She held it with both hands, trying to keep the power contained. After about a minute, she whispered, "It's enough. I can feel it." Jill looked down at Ryu and said, "We need to get off the ground." Ryu used his wind magic to levitate them a short distance off the ground. The mischievous girl was up to something. "Prepare to be decimated!" she said. Jill held out the pulsating amber stone and began to chant. Nothing happened for several seconds.
Suddenly, the ground began to quake and split in several locations. It was a display of power not possible through regular means. Nobody on Ethos possessed strength on such a wide scale. The mountain where Gin lived began to crumble, and started a rockslide that was on its way to Caleah. The entire city of Caleah was shaking from the earthquake caused by Jill, and even the town of Zahar that was 5 hexes away could feel some of the shockwaves rippling across the ground.
Jill had tapped into a power not meant for mortals. A young woman, although a commander in the Blades of Malice, had summoned the very powers of nature. She had usurped the throne of the Light of Ethos for that brief moment. Jill had temporarily become a god.
If the rockslide did not decimate the town, then surely the earthquake itself did. Caleah had never seen such a catastrophe in its history. After the dust settled, it was reported that 6,000 had died; this was approximately one-tenth of the whole city, The citizens never found out why on this particular day the Light of Ethos decided to punish its children in such an unprecedented manner. The wailings and screams could be heard for days; almost everyone lost a family member.
Gin's home and the mountain which he had lived on were gone now. His tomes were lost forever and all the knowledge contained within them. But this was the least of his worries at the present moment. He and his allies had fallen quite a distance through a split in the ground. They could still move, but were heavily injured. Gin started to climb up over the rocks; he was in a dark hole, but he could see a faint glimmer of light. He was far from finished; the Topaz would return to him. Tala and Ranos did not fair too much better. Tala injured her left wing and could not fly out. She was making slow progress. Ranos broke his right arm, but managed to climb up using ice spikes that he created.
Jill could have easily escaped by the time they got out. But not all hope was lost; the girl's hubris prevented her from leaving too early. It was necessary to boast. Ryu slowly landed back on the ground; it took a while because "ground level" was much lower now than it was a few minutes earlier. Jill jumped off Ryu's head and looked around. They were surrounded by rubble and rocks on all sides, and the occasional gash in the ground. Caleah now had a giant line dividing the city in half.
Jill cackled loudly, "I didn't know it had this much power! Amazing! And that wasn't even its full potential… so this is why we're searching for them." She was ecstatic. Jill wanted to use it again immediately. But limitless power doesn't exist, at least not for mortals. She held up the stone again, but it was a bleak gray color now, drained of its power. "Great! It's useless now… how long is it going to take to charge it back to full strength? I messed up! I hope Dios doesn't find out about this," said Jill, as she spoke all of her thoughts out loud. She put the Topaz back in her pocket, sighed, and said, "I'll worry about it later." She got on Ryu again and they started to slither away towards the north, in the direction of the Golden City.
Gin had just crawled out of his hole and was about to hurl his hammer at Jill, but he was too weak to throw it that far. This did not prevent him from attempting the feat; the hammer missed her, but managed to hit Ryu's tail. This caused the serpent to turn around, and hiss at his attacker. Jill looked amused to see that Gin had survived. Although, he was covered in blood, and could barely walk, his green eyes remained as fierce as ever.
Jill laughed mockingly at the battered man standing before her, and said, "Still alive? I recommend you go back into that hole before things get really ugly for you."
Gin threw his hammer one more time at her, but Ryu's tail whipped it away. His attacks had become too weak. Jill and Ryu had only sustained minor wounds so far; they had plenty of energy left.
Ryu blew a gust of wind and knocked Gin over. Jill prepared her sword, and was about to petrify the fallen Gin, when she got blown off Ryu's head by a gust of wind. Another wind user had joined the battle; it was Gin's hawk, Kami. He had arrived just in time to save his master. The bird continued his assault by pecking Ryu several times on the head; it was not very effective, but it annoyed the serpent.
Ryu attempted to swallow the hawk whole, but kept missing the agile bird. Kami dodged every tail whip that came his way as well. Gin had used this opportunity to get up and reclaim his hammer; Jill was now up as well.
Jill once again tried to fire her petrification attack, but was interrupted by a blast of light that hit her in the back. She lost her balance and fell over. The attacker was Tala; she was limping, but had managed to crawl out of the hole that she was in, and she was not ready to quit fighting.
The red-haired girl was getting irritated; she decided to try a more direct approach. Jill stabbed her sword into the ground and started creating shockwaves that rippled throughout the area. It paled in comparison to the Topaz' display of power, but it was impressive for a human. Gin put his hammer on the ground, and used it for balance to keep from falling. Tala had dodged Jill's attack as well.
Gin and Tala used this opportunity to get in some long range attacks. Ryu began to grow annoyed with the hawk, and ran to his master's rescue. Gin noticed the serpent approaching and decided it was time to use a new strategy. "Tala, get off the ground!" he yelled. The woman nodded, flew slightly off the ground, and grabbed a nearby tree. Gin then said, "You're not the only one that can split the ground." He swung "Lawbreaker", and split the ground wide open. Jill did not have time to escape, but Ryu evaded just in time. He began to spin and create a tornado, but was stopped when several ice daggers pierced him. Ranos had just rejoined the party. The serpent shrieked; his wounds were starting to take their hold on him.
Jill had climbed out of the hole, but was immediately greeted by a 4-way assault of a hammer, ice daggers, light shockwave, and wind magic. They did not hold back on the mana consumption. The hammer landed on her chest, the daggers pierced her body in several places, and the magic knocked her to the ground, and made sure she didn't get up. She had broken at least one rib, and possibly some other bones. The girl was starting to lose consciousness. Jill had been overexerting herself and it was only now starting to show.
Ryu was too slow to stop the assault, but he still had the opportunity to save her. He thrashed around and knocked everyone out of the way; they no longer had the strength to fight back. Ryu grabbed the bleeding Jill with his tongue and put her in his mouth. He began to slither away as soon as possible. Gin tried to throw his hammer again, but passed out this time. The others were in no condition to give chase.
Gin woke up several hours later. He was almost completely recovered; Tala had been healing them with whatever powers she had left. Ranos' arm was starting to look better as well.
"You're awake, Gin. We're all thankful to be alive, but the girl got away with the Topaz," said Ranos, in a somber voice.
"Are you planning to go after her? Do you even know where she is headed?" responded Tala
"She's headed for the Golden City… they're planning another attack," said Gin, shuddering at the thought. The others didn't say anything, but they didn't need to. There was fear in their eyes.
"My people need to know of what happened here. I must go and tell them to protect the Pearl. As for the world below our mountains, the humans can have it. Let them destroy it if they so please. The Kildar will take no part in this," said Tala in a bitter voice.
"You can only hide for so long, Tala. Eventually, they will come for your people as well." said Ranos. Tala said nothing and walked away.
Gin interrupted the silence and announced, "Let's get some sleep. Tomorrow we will decide how to proceed." They all slept outside that night; at least they attempted to fall asleep.
In the morning, Gin rummaged near the ruins of his house and found some parchment. He wrote two letters, one was for the King of East Valis, and the other for Vinz of the Fang. The letters were warnings about the dangers of the Topaz, and its destructive powers. The King of East Valis was warned about Jill's attack in the near future and Vinz was told to keep the Onyx safe and to never use its powers. Kami flew to East Valis to deliver the first letter. The second letter was delivered by one of Gin's other messenger hawks. They had flown away during the earthquake, but were now starting to return home.
Tala bid them farewell and left shortly after breakfast. Her wings had fully healed and she flew towards the Brave Mountains to the south. It was now Gin and Ranos' turn to leave Caleah.
"Are you sure? It's going to be dangerous," said Gin.
"Yes. Let me come with you. I will fight for the future of Ethos," replied Ranos.
"Thank you, my friend. Let us be off then," responded Gin. The guardian of Ethos and the Neko warrior were going to travel north to the Golden City. There was a battle more devastating than the one in Caleah awaiting them there.