Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 9/3/991; Time: 18th hour
The people that returned to the city after the Blades of Malice took it did not have enough time to acclimate to Jill's form of government. Once again, power shifted hands, and they hoped it was for good this time. King Theodore may have had his shortcomings, but it was Jill who destroyed the city, and then gave them nothing in return. They would have gladly taken back their old king.
Gin woke up in Doctor Sid's office yet again; he had been brought in by a knight during the battle. The doctor notified him of the Golden Knights' victory and that he had been summoned to a council meeting by General Marko; East Valis' elders wished to speak with Gin about the outcome of the battle. He agreed to meet with them, and was getting ready to leave.
"Doctor Sid… please tell no one. The Guardians of Ethos are a secret that few know of; it is best left that way," said Gin.
"You have my word, Gin. Go in peace," replied the Doctor.
Gin walked out the door, and headed towards the Golden Citadel. Unlike the castle, it had suffered only minimal damage. For the time being, all council meetings were to be held in the Citadel's tower. The Prince and all of his vassals had temporarily relocated there as well. The Citadel's buildings were now the only thing left in the city that reminded its citizens of the former glory of East Valis. As Gin walked towards the tower, he saw the Valian Magical Academy. It was made of marble, and surrounded by golden statues of famous mages that had attended it in the past. Its students were fortunate enough to not lose their home.
It was a long flight of stairs, but Gin made it to the top of the tower, and entered the room. There were many gathered around the large and ornate rectangular table. General Marko and Prince Alen sat at the head of the table. To their left and right, sat six elders per side. They wore gray robes, and most were advanced in age. All 14 gathered there looked at Gin when he entered the room. It was time for the meeting to begin. Gin walked over to the table, and sat across from the general and the prince.
"We are glad to see you, Gin. Word is spreading quickly… the people are calling you the "Savior of East Valis". You have our eternal gratitude for slaying the tyrant Jill," said the gray-haired General Marko in a cheerful voice. He appeared to be in his late 50s.
"I only defeated one woman. It was your men that retook the city and restored order," replied Gin.
"No need to be so humble. Your courage motivated our men to fight back. Once the Blades of Malice lost their commander, they no longer had the will to fight and fled the city," responded General Marko. He paused for a brief moment, and then questioned, "Do you know of what happened to the stone?"
Gin revealed the Topaz that was in his right hand, and everyone stared at the gray stone in awe. "It is cracked and should not be a cause for concern. However, I believe it will be in everyone's best interest if it stays with me," asserted Gin, as he looked around the room. He was not willing to negotiate the terms.
The elders began deliberating whether it was wise to leave the stone to an outsider, but were quickly interrupted by the general. "I think the prince, and everyone gathered here would agree that the stone has only brought ruin to our lands. The Topaz is a cursed stone, but it shall be safe in the hands of this man. It is he that saved the Golden City in its darkest hour," said the general, while glaring at the elders.
The elders quieted down and agreed with the general's proposal. General Marko then began to speak, "I have been appointed Hand of the King… my days on the battlefield are numbered. Our kingdom needs a suitable replacement for the position of General. Gin, would you do us the honor of leading our troops? You have proven your valor in battle… We have no better candidate than you."
The elders began deliberating again, and one of the youngest, Zelas spoke up, "We have just met this man! How can we trust him with the defense of the kingdom?!"
Zelas was one of the more passionate members of the council, and would often voice the others' opinions.
"At present, our kingdom is weak and will be easily taken over again. It is at times like these that strong leaders are needed… the people need hope," answered the general.
Gin interrupted the heated debate, and said, "I thank you for the offer, General Marko, but I must respectfully decline. My place is not with you or with this kingdom. I am on a mission to wrest the stones from the Blades of Malice. The lands of Ethos will bleed as long as they are used for evil."
The men gathered grew silent after hearing Gin's words; they did not realize his mission was so great. "So… there are other stones out there? Then, Ethos is truly in danger. Do you know of the other stones' locations?" asked the golden-haired Prince Alen.
The prince had been silent thus far. He was still getting accustomed to being the king. His coronation was only three weeks away, and he was already burdened with the fate of an entire kingdom. His father had not prepared him; it was General Marko's job to do that now.
"Unfortunately, I do not know if the Blades possess any others. But I must protect the ones that I can find. Would you permit me to use the Citadel's library? There may be something that I can glean from your texts," said Gin.
"Of course. We will gladly share with you the wealth of our library. But can you read Aegean and Karsi? Many of the tomes are not in the Thorian tongue," asked Prince Alen. The young man was a scholar and often read in the library.
"That will not be a problem. I am fluent in both Aegean and Karsi," replied Gin. The elders in the room were surprised. The large and muscular Gin did not have the appearance of a learned linguist.
"Your mission is too great for us to keep you here; I can see why you declined my offer. Should you ever return to the Golden City, you are welcome to lodge at the castle. We will make sure it is rebuilt before your next visit," said General Marko.
"Thank you for your kindness and cooperation. I will now excuse myself," said Gin. He bowed and then left the room.
Gin went to the library and began to search for anything related to the stones. He only found a 3-volume series titled "History of Ancient Karsi" written by an unknown scholar. Most of it was information that he already knew. He had learned much about the stones' origins over the past two years. Gin already knew about Jala of Karsi and how he had created six magical stones from Karsite using the Light of Ethos. But he was never able to find information about how Karsi fell 500 years ago or the current whereabouts of the stones.
The texts always mentioned that the Karsite stones were used for "good". Jala would use them to bring prosperity to his city. The Blades of Malice only sought the stones for their powers of destruction. Gin was puzzled by this; the stones themselves were not evil, but it was the wielder's will that controlled the outcome. The stones that Jala created could have switched many hands over the last few centuries. There were many opportunities for them to be used for both good and evil. However, as a Guardian of Ethos, he could not accept the good nor the evil. Each use of the stone shortened the world's lifespan.
Finally, he got to the end of the last book in the trilogy, and noticed that some pages were ripped out, and that some of the text was blotted out. Gin had found some vital information. The only parts which he could read were as follows:
"The Onyx was given to the leader of the Fang to be kept safe in his fortress..." and "The Ruby was given to the Lord of Fire Keep. Let its flame burn forever…". The next few lines were blurred, but the line at the very bottom of the page read, "May this history never be forgotten by man. Let these words be a warning to all future generations…"
The locations of all six stones were written on the page, but someone wanted them to be kept a secret. However, Gin did not despair; he had the one clue that he needed to continue his journey. He had learned the location of the Ruby. There was no guarantee that its location had not changed in the last 500 years, but at least he knew where to start looking. The Royal Library of Fire Keep could potentially serve as a treasure trove of knowledge if he needed some leads. This was assuming that the Queen of Gaea was gracious enough to grant him permission to access it.
Gin closed the book and left the Citadel's library. He was going to leave for Fire Keep as soon as possible. He said farewell to all of the friends that he had made during his short stay in the Golden City.
He wrote a letter before he left; this time it was written to the Queen of Gaea. Kami was the messenger sent to deliver it; Gin thought it best to warn her immediately about the Ruby's powers.
Gin had one last thing to do before he left. He and Doctor Sid went to the ruins of the castle, and walked inside. They returned to the very room where Gin had his long battle with Jill, and stood there for a while. Gin examined the few stone statues that had not been destroyed, and noticed that Ranos had been knocked down. He picked up the statue and stood it upright. Ranos had suffered some chipping, but was still in good condition.
Gin looked back at the doctor, and asked, "Is there anything that you can do?"
Sid looked at Ranos and the other statues scattered about the room, and replied, "I am afraid that this is beyond my abilities, Gin. Perhaps the mages at the academy could give it a try, but only the best healers can undo petrification."
"I know of one such healer… but she is too far away to be of help right now," said Gin. After a brief silence, he spoke again, "Do not worry yourself, doctor. I am sure a solution can be found. There are over 100 people waiting to be cured of this ailment. The academy will put forth its best effort to see that they are healed. Farewell, Doctor Sid. I must be off now." Gin bowed and left the ruins of the castle.
He left the Golden City and traveled south for many days, before he finally arrived at Fire Keep, the Capital of Gaea.