Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 8/10/991; Time: 20th hour
Gin and Ranos traveled in haste; only stopping when necessary. They tried to track down Jill, but could not find any sign of her or of Ryu. They could only hope that the city was still standing when they got there. After many days of travel by horseback, they finally arrived at the golden gates of East Valis' capital. The least they could do was to speak to the king in person.
The Golden City was appropriately named; many buildings were ornately decorated, and had golden roofs. This pompous display was only present on the houses of the nobility. The majority were too poor to afford such luxuries. The city had almost completely recovered from the war 10 years earlier, but many of the slums were still in ruins.
Two sections of the city stood out above all others, Valis Castle, and the Golden Citadel. Valis Castle was where King Theodore resided, along with the rest of his vassals. It was a great architectural accomplishment, perhaps 5 skars in height, and had plenty of embellishments on its various towers. The castle overlooked the "Sea of Traitors" to its north. It was a beautiful sea, although not a safe one; it was swarming with pirates ready to profit off merchants headed towards Brywood or Shima.
The Golden Citadel was the city's center of knowledge and learning. They had plenty of ancient texts for the curious scholar. It was also where the Magical Academy was located. East Valis was well-known for producing exemplary mages. The Citadel and the Castle were East Valis' hallmarks of achievement.
The guards stopped them at the golden gates. "Identify yourself. It is not every day that we see a man accompanied by a Neko," said one of the guards in a gruff voice. The men were wearing golden armor, and each of them had a lance and a purple shield. The shield had a golden lion pictured on it. The lion was the sigil of East Valis, representing the virtues of courage and boldness.
"I am Gin and this is my friend, Ranos. The king should be expecting our arrival. We come with dire tidings," replied the giant white-haired man. Gin's large stature was enough to strike fear into the guards, although he was unarmed and spoke calmly.
The guards began muttering amongst themselves. One of them left and came back with another man in golden armor after several minutes. "You have been cleared for passage. King Theodore has been expecting you," said the man that had just arrived. "Open the gates!" the man yelled.
The golden gates had finally opened and the two travelers were permitted to enter. A few guards walked with them and escorted them through the city. It was a city several times larger than the Caleah that Gin had grown accustomed to. East Valis' capital was the 3rd largest city in all of Ethos. According to the last census, there were 325,000 people living inside the Golden City. And every single one of these lives was in danger. The Blades of Malice could strike at any moment.
Gin and Ranos continued to walk through the city, brooding the entire time. Gin's olive skin matched the complexion of those in the city, helping him blend in and stay inconspicuous. Ranos stuck out like a sore thumb, and caused many heads to turn. "Other" races were generally not welcome in large cities. They usually lived in segregated communities, and were often someone's servant or slave. It was for this reason that most of them lived in the Nihil Alliance, east of Charon. Ranos did not have time to ponder the plight of his people. He was fighting for all of Ethos.
They finally arrived at Valis Castle and were greeted by yet more golden-armored guards. Another several minutes of discussion occurred, and they were finally allowed to set foot inside the castle. Upon entering, they were struck by a dazzling display of gold. There was gold on everything: portraits, handrails, carpets, statues, and everything else. They put at least a few specks of gold on anything that had value. It was a mystery where they obtained all of this gold.
Two statues stood in the front, greeting the visitors. On the right was a golden mage casting a golden bolt of lightning at the statue to his left. The statue on the left was that of a headless knight kneeling towards the mage. It was made of stone and was painted black; it was one of the few things in the room that was not covered in gold. The statues told the story of the long history of animosity between the two nations of Valis. East Valis was mocking the western half in a grotesque way.
Gin and Ranos ignored the statues and followed the guards to the 4th floor, where the king resided. They entered the throne room; an audience had been granted. The king sat upon his golden throne, and looked down upon all that came to him for aid. Gin and Ranos respectfully kneeled before him.
King Theodore had short brown hair, hazel eyes, and was in his early 40s. His normally haughty expression had turned into a serious one. Despite his belief in East Valis' superiority in everything, he understood that the Blades of Malice were a real threat. "So… you have arrived. I did not believe your letter at first… but word of Caleah's calamity reached my ears yesterday," said the king, speaking slowly and distinctly.
Gin stood up and said, "There is little time to act… King Theodore, if it is within your power, the Blades of Malice need to be located before they reach the city. The Topaz must be seized before it can be used against you!"
The king, sighed, looked away, and replied, "I have already sent out my men, but I have yet to hear back from them. We are fortifying the city in case the worst comes to pass… It is hard to believe that a mere stone can cause such mayhem. To think that our vaults held such a power all these years and we never knew it…" The king got lost deep in thought, but after a moment of silence, he spoke, "That will be all for today. Show the men to their quarters. They are allies of East Valis, even the young Neko lad over there. I never thought I'd see the day a non-human would come to our aid."
Ranos stood up, and replied, "We fight for all of Ethos. The lands cry out in pain every time the stones are used."
"Is that so? I don't claim to be an expert on these matters so I'll take your word for it," replied King Theodore, speaking slowly as usual. He dismissed everyone in the room. There was nothing left to discuss, but to prepare for the coming battle.
An evacuation order had been issued the previous day, and many had begun fleeing the city even prior to Gin's arrival. The Sea of Traitors was not a safe place for regular civilians, but it was a safer option than remaining in the city. Many started sailing towards Brywood, and the nearby islands. There was mass panic in the city, as many tried to hurriedly board ships. Others gave up on the idea of getting on a ship, and fled south towards the oncoming army, in hopes of avoiding them along the way.
The Blades of Malice finally arrived, late in the night, on the following day. It was too late to stop them, they could only brace for impact. There were some that never fled the city; they did not wish to subscribe to conspiracy theories about giant earthquakes splitting the ground wide open and killing thousands. These stubborn people, many of them aristocrats not wanting to part with their riches, needed to see these things with their own eyes before they would believe. They got their first-hand experience, and it was fatal for many of them.
Gin and Ranos were awake, and were watching the enemy from afar, trying to see any signs of Jill or Ryu. Kami was flying around doing the same. Finally, a hovering green serpent arose from their midst, and approached the city. Jill was standing on top of Ryu's head, with her sword pointed towards the city.
All attempts at stealing the Topaz before it reached the city failed. The Blades of Malice had done a good job hiding themselves. Gin, and the others, could only hold their breath in anticipation, as Jill lifted the stone, and allowed the rays of Ethos' light to pour through it. Earth mana was at its strongest in the 8th month, a fact that all knew well. Jill held the glowing and pulsating Topaz, and cackled maniacally. It was the misfortune of the Golden City that such unbridled power belonged to someone so sadistic.
Jill moved closer to the Sea of Traitors, still riding her hovering serpent. She looked down at the golden houses of the nobility; some were now looking up at her in shock. Then she looked to the right and saw the Castle of Valis, standing perfectly upright. Finally, she looked beyond the castle and saw the Sea of Traitors, along with all of the ships that had yet to leave the castle. Jill smiled; she had found the perfect epicenter for the Topaz. She lifted up the stone with glee and began chanting. The Blades of Malice had predicted the evacuation order; Gin and the others fell into their trap.
The city began to shake and the ground split. Had Jill waited for the stone to be fully charged, the city might have been buried underground, but they were spared that day. The damage was still catastrophic; the nobles suffered the greatest. Jill had been targeting them specifically. There was no place for aristocrats in their new world.
The ornate houses fell apart and gold could be found lying everywhere; many were buried underneath their houses. The castle was sturdy, but was still toppled within moments. More than half the castle was now a pile of rubble. That alone was more than enough damage to match what occurred during the Valian Civil War. But the worst part was what followed afterwards: The earthquake had triggered tidal waves in the Sea of Traitors. Many ships were still near the city, and were swallowed up by the sea. It is unknown how many drowned that day. Those on board had nowhere to run when the massive waves hit.
East Valis' navy was dealt a similar fate; many of their finest ships were destroyed, and sunk to the bottom of the sea. The tidal waves did not stop there; they proceeded to rampage around the city. Many parts of the city were flooding at a rapid rate. Gin and everyone else still in the city tried desperately to find higher ground. The castle was no longer the highest point in the city.
The tidal waves subsided after a few minutes and a sudden silence fell upon the city. This did not last very long; the silence was broken by the sound of an incoming horde rushing towards the city. The yells began to intensify and the city walls were breached before anyone had time to recover from the previous chaos. The Topaz had served its purpose, but the real battle was just beginning. The city could still be defended from the Blades of Malice.
Gin and Ranos immediate goal was to find Jill. While they were doing this, the Golden City knights and the Blades of Malice began to clash in various locations throughout the city. Gin finally spotted Kami flying towards Jill; she was not too far away from them. The impulsive bird began firing off blasts of wind at the woman, serving only to irritate her.
"Die you stupid bird!" said Jill as she kept swinging her sword at Kami. Ryu snarled, and tried to bite the hawk.
Ranos had reached them first, and threw a few ice daggers at Jill. She was caught off-guard, and got knocked off Ryu, after getting hit in her left foot. She plummeted towards a nearby pile of rubble. Ryu swooped down and caught her before she could hit the ground. The serpent slowly hovered towards the ground below him. Jill was now aware of her assailants' presence.
"Ow! That hurt!" exclaimed Jill.
Ranos held out his sharp claws, and snarled at her. Gin walked over and held his hammer with one arm. He stared at Jill in a menacing manner. Kami screeched loudly. None of them were interested in starting a conversation with her.
Jill replied, "I see… looks like I have a lot of admirers…" Then she spoke angrily, "Thank you for coming to see me. Saves me the trouble of having to find you… I haven't quite recovered from last time. Time for my revenge!"
She proceeded to stab her sword into the ground in an attempt to blast away her enemies. But she was too late; Gin had already swung his hammer into the ground, causing her to lose her balance, and Ranos jumped in an engaged her in melee combat. Long range attacks were not very effective in their previous battle, so he needed a new strategy. He managed to scratch her beautiful face, before she finally warded him off.
"You bastard!" she screamed, as she held her right hand over her left cheek. Jill continued to yell and swing her sword violently. She was more aggressive than the previous time that they fought her.
In the meantime, Gin and Kami were busy keeping Ryu distracted and separated from Jill. His attacks patterns of wind magic and tail whip were predictable, but deadly. Kami temporarily engaged him in a wind magic duel, but was quickly overpowered. The serpent's strength was abnormal. Gin ran towards him and threw his hammer; Kami kept dodging, but eventually got hit on the head. Ryu's eyes flared as he breathed out wind strong enough to throw them a good distance away.
Jill was still focused on Ranos and conjured a few earthen spikes from the ground, but he backflipped out of the way. It was difficult for him to get any hits in. When the opportunity arose, he rushed in and began to scratch her furiously. She angrily swung her petrifying blade, but missed. Ranos knew that parrying was not an option. During a rare opening, Ranos did a backflip and slashed her with his tail. He had been clutching a short sword with it. The blow landed on her right arm, causing her to drop her sword. The black cat was beginning to get on her nerves. But he did not know about all of her moves yet. Jill's right hand began to glow with an amber aura and she lunged out with it and touched Ranos' right arm.
The arm began to petrify instantly, and he fell back. Jill's magic was problematic to deal with. Ranos did not have Tala with him to heal the wound; he was going to have to fight with one arm. Jill smiled mischievously at him; she was enjoying herself. "How did such a young woman become so twisted?" thought Ranos to himself, as he took a defensive stance.
Gin noticed that his comrade was in trouble and ran over to aid him. He threw his hammer as a diversion, which Jill had no trouble dodging. The red-haired woman jumped on top of Ryu and looked down at the three beings on the ground below her. They were like ants in her sight, pesky weaklings that needed to be crushed beneath her heel.
"I grow tired of this," said Jill, as she sheathed her sword, and surrounded her body in an amber aura.
"She's a madwoman. Is there no way of stopping her?" said Ranos, as he looked at Gin.
Gin responded hesitantly, "I don't know…" He had never faced anyone as strong as this duo in his entire life.
Jill spoke to Ryu, "You can go first, my friend." The serpent obeyed his master and lunged forward, aiming for Gin. This wasn't the usual wind attack, Ryu's mouth was wide open. His fangs pierced through Gin's body, causing him to gasp for air. His vital organs had been missed, but at least one rib was broken, and there was some internal bleeding. A normal human would have been fatally wounded. The serpent pounded Gin's body into the ground several times; this assault was almost enough to knock him unconscious. It was then that Jill said, "That's enough. I'm finishing this!" The serpent let go of Gin, and let him fall to the ground.
Jill jumped off Ryu's head and held out both her arms as she fell towards the fallen Gin; she was still surrounded by the amber aura. Just moments before she touched Gin's chest, Ranos tackled her out of the way, and smacked her into a nearby wall.
Gin's eyesight was blurry, and he could barely make out anything that he saw. He could see Ryu chasing after Ranos and Jill in the distance. And he could see Kami glowing green and flying towards him at a rapid speed; these were the last things that he saw before he passed out.