Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 9/16/991; Time: 20th hour
The winds were strong all over Ethos during this season. The Kildar Mountain Region, to the far north, was no exception. It was one of the worst times of the year to be there; the winds only intensified the bitter cold. No humans lived in this part of the world; anyone adventurous enough to visit Kildar never came back. The mysterious snow-blanketed mountain range that spanned the entire 200 hexes of Northern Ethos remained mostly unexplored. No one knew what lay beyond those mountains.
It was on this particular night that a man riding a large flying bird that was surrounded by a light-blue aura, appeared from beyond those mountains. It looked like he flew in from beneath the ground; this man was from another world. At the time, nobody on Ethos would have believed this story. Nothing existed beyond the confines of their world; everybody knew that. No one dared to look beyond the four edges of their world and see what lies beneath them. There was no one willing to verify the truth. Soon, the Ethorians were about to learn that they were not alone.
The blue bird continued flying for a few minutes and landed on a flat plain below the mountains. The man and the bird were both exhausted and collapsed upon the ground as soon as they landed. They had been flying vertically for several hours in the bitter cold and had gone many days without food. The frozen world below Ethos was even harsher than the Kildar Mountains; they were both glad to have escaped. They had finally returned home after being gone for several months.
But there were advantages to living in the world below. The man and his bird had grown immensely in power while they were there. The potent mana of the lower world gave rise to a land filled with powerful creatures. The bird had grown twice in size over the past few months and was now large enough to carry the man on his back. His growth had been accelerated by the environment he was in.
The man picked up a few tricks of his own. He already knew how to use fire magic, but his left arm could now conjure ice magic. Wielding two elements, let alone opposing ones, was very rare in Ethos. If the man ever left the Kildar region, he would be a threat to all. Few could contend with his new powers.
After a few minutes of rest, the man and the bird both got up, and started walking aimlessly for a while. He guessed that he was in the Kildar Region, but that still meant that he was lost. It was a foreign land to him. The man used his fire magic to keep himself warm as he walked. It was the only thing that kept him from freezing.
His left eye was scarred badly, but he could still see with his right. His amber eye burned with hatred as he slowly walked through the cold and snowy plains. His artificial right leg was made of ice; the real one was a casualty of the world below. The power that he obtained did not come without sacrifices.
The two walked for several hours until they heard a noise from far away. The sound of flapping wings kept drawing nearer. The man and his bird were ready to fight. He was very weak, but put on a brave face. The man conjured magic from both hands and the bird let out a battle cry.
"Let's do this, Kurasa!" said the man. His flames illuminated his silver hair and olive skin. He had the face of a war veteran unwilling to bend.
The two watched as a group of eight winged humanoids landed in front of them. The winged creatures quickly surrounded and pointed their weapons at them. Their intentions did not seem friendly.
The man had read about these winged beings before: they were Kildar. But the ones he read about had white wings. The men in front of him had wings that were light-blue. Other than that one difference, the description matched perfectly. They looked human, had pointy ears, and were taller than the average person. The Kildar in front of him also looked paler than most humans.
The Kildar had their spears and bows pointed at the man and his pet bird, and were ready to strike at any moment. Kurasa's screeching sent chills down their spines, but they continued to hold their ground. The bird was larger than any they've seen before. "Who are you? Why are you trespassing through our lands?" asked a middle-aged and black-haired Kildar. It was safe to assume that he was the leader. His Thorian was difficult to understand; it was some old variant of the language.
"It's a long story. You might not believe me if I told you. I'm just trying to get out of here and back to civilization," said the man. The Kildar also had trouble understanding the man's Thorian. It was almost as if the two parties were speaking different languages. They would often pause to think about what the other person had said.
"Civilization? Are you from the lower lands of Ethos? How did a man make it all the way here? Asked the puzzled black-haired Kildar.
"The answer to that question is tricky: It's both yes and no. I am originally from Ethos, but I've had a bit of a crazy side trip and I'm finally back home. Can you please tell me how to get out of here?! I just need to go south," said the silver-haired man, who was starting to get irritated.
"Silence! We are the ones asking the questions here!" said a young golden- haired Kildar while pointing his spear at the man.
"If you aren't going to answer my questions then I don't need you! I'll just have Kurasa freeze you all to death and then I'll burn your corpses afterwards!" said the man as he intensified the magic in his right hand. He was not joking; Kurasa looked as if he was ready to strike at any moment.
The Kildar all got ready to attack, but were quickly interrupted by the black- haired leader. "Stop this madness immediately! Let's talk this over. No one needs to die today! Do not provoke him, Aton!" said the leader, glaring at the golden-haired youth.
All of the Kildar dropped their weapons. The man and his oversized bird calmed down as well after a few seconds.
"You have a very prudent leader. He's good at keeping you guys alive," said the man.
The black-haired Kildar replied, "I believe that we have started off on the wrong foot. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Shiba, of the Blue Kildar. Our people were exiled here over 700 years ago. We do not know anything about the outside world. Would you please enlighten us?"
"So the myths were true. They did name these mountains after you," said the silver-haired man. He paused for a moment and replied, "I am Paul, a Commander of the Blades of Malice. My story is a long one and I really don't want to freeze to death standing here. Let's make a deal: You give us a warm place to stay and some food. Then we'll talk. I have some questions for you as well."
"They'll never let him through the front gates!" exclaimed Aton.
"Do not worry, Aton. I will vouch for him. We cannot always live in the past. Perhaps, today is the day that we can take our first step forward and break free from this prison. I am willing to take that risk," replied Shiba.
None of the Blue Kildar warriors argued with their leader. They too yearned for the outside world. Shiba and the others guided Paul and Kurasa towards their village. It was a short trip of only one hour; Paul's flame helped guide their way back home. Fire was a rare commodity in these parts of the world. The Blue Kildar had long since adapted to their harsh environment and no longer needed its warmth to survive.
They arrived at the village; it was located on a hill and covered with large ice houses. The Kildar called these dwellings, "igloos". There was not much to look at in the village; it was bleak compared to the rest of Ethos. But it was still more hospitable than anywhere Paul has been in the past few months.
He was greeted with fear and hostility. The tiny village of 100 people did not know how to respond to the arrival of a human with a burning right arm and a gigantic ice bird. The guards at the gates blocked their passage.
"We have a guest. Please allow him to pass. We have much to discuss with the Elder. This man is from beyond the Great Sea," said Shiba in a calm and diplomatic voice.
The two guards looked shocked and froze for a few seconds. They glanced at the giant bird and the man and one of them replied, "Can you leave that giant thing outside? I don't think the villagers would want it inside."
Paul answered, "Fine. But he's hungry, so you better feed him. Otherwise, he'll eat you. I'm sure you wouldn't want that to happen."
The guards nodded nervously and let Paul, Shiba, and the others through the gates. As they walked, Paul got plenty of stares from the villagers. It was not surprising considering that they've never seen a human before, especially one with a frozen leg.
They walked a short distance and entered the Elder's igloo. It was cramped inside, but there was enough room for Paul, Shiba, Aton, the Elder, and two female Kildar that were with them.
The gray-headed Elder eyed Paul intently and then looked over at Shiba. "Explain the meaning of this!" said the Elder, trying to sound calm, but failing at it.
"This is Paul. He is from the outside world. I have accepted him as a guest in our home. Perhaps he can enlighten us about what lies beyond the Great Sea, " answered Shiba. Then he looked at Paul and said, "This is Thalos, our village elder."
Thalos almost had a heart attack; he had long since given up on the Kildar ever leaving their cage of ice. Before him stood a shining ray of light with an arm burning just as bright. "Yes. Please, do as you will," stammered the Elder.
"We eat first," said Paul.
"Of course. The meal comes first," replied Shiba.
The two female Kildar brought food from the pantry and put it on the frozen blue table. All the furniture in the igloo was made from ice. The food that was offered was raw meat and some herbs. Not many Blue Kildar could use Fire magic, so cooked meat was a luxury. Their bodies had gotten used to eating raw meat. They watched in awe as Paul cooked the meat with his flames. Many of them had never eaten cooked meat before. He was beginning to win them over.
After the meal, Paul talked about his long journey, and how he was injured in a fight with knights from Isles. He wandered aimlessly for several days before catastrophe struck. During the night the ground on which they slept broke off; it was then that he fell off the eastern edge of Ethos, and plummeted to the world below. Kurasa tried to save him, but he was not strong enough to carry him very far, and they both crash landed onto a nearby mountain. Their injuries were severe and they almost died. Paul broke his leg and Kurasa could not fly for weeks.
His story did not end there. Paul spoke for over an hour about his travels through the frozen wastelands and the various creatures that he met there. The world had a light, similar to the one in Ethos, but it glowed blue. The citizens of that realm called it "The Light of Lithos". The lands of Lithos had three seasons: rain, ice, and fog. Lithos was covered in seas, icy plains and mountains, and little else. The world was not meant for Ethorians to dwell in.
Paul then spent the next two hours telling them about the world of Ethos. 700 years of history was too much to cover in one sitting, especially when he didn't know most of it, so he briefly summarized current world events. He didn't care about keeping secrets anymore and told them everything about the Blades of Malice. Paul spoke of the Stones of Ethos and the Blades' plans to use them on the kingdoms of the world.
His stories were too much for the Kildar to comprehend all at once. Not only did they just learn about the entire world outside their borders, but also the existence of the frozen wastelands below them. Thalos and the others had gained more valuable knowledge in one sitting than they had accumulated during the course of their entire lives. It was far more than they had anticipated. They sat in silence for several minutes.
Shiba was the first to speak up, "Your organization, The Blades of Malice, wishes to right the wrongs of the world?"
"Yeah, but I've been gone for eight months. I don't know what's going on. But the organization won't disappear; If one Blade dies, another replaces it. They won't stop until their job is done," replied Paul with a smug look on his face.
"I did not know that the outside world was so large and wonderful. We have been denied our birthright for over 700 years!" exclaimed Aton.
"Yes. Ethos is a large and beautiful world, but it's run by some very awful people. Ethos' beauty will be tarnished as long as they remain alive," replied Paul.
"I do not know how to react to all of this. What role do we play in all of it? Or is there a part for us to play at all?" asked Elder Thalos.
"The Light of Ethos has finally shined upon these lands. Our path has been decided for us. It is time that the Kildar left these lands and rejoined the rest of the world," replied Shiba.
"But what will we do once we get there?" asked Thalos.
"Live... We will finally get to live our lives unshackled by this never-ending frost. I will gather my men and we will go to the other villages and spread the news. A new dawn has risen upon the Kildar! We will have our vengeance upon those that exiled us!" exclaimed Shiba in a manner that was out of character for him.
"I will go with you!" said Aton.
"You are free to do so. You are old enough to make your own choices," replied Shiba.
Paul spoke up and asked a question, "You said that you wanted to get vengeance? It seems like we have a lot in common. Who was it that exiled you here?"
Everyone was silent for a moment. Finally, the Elder answered the question, "It was our brethren: The white-winged Kildar. There was a civil war in the Brave Mountains… our own kind did this to us."
Paul responded, "Those are the worst wounds; the ones inflicted by your own. If you guys still want to act on a 700 year-old grudge then I won't stop you. It's none of my business."
"We only ask that you aid our people in leaving these lands. The rest is our responsibility," said Shiba.
"You have a deal; the Kildar are welcome to follow me south towards the Great Sea," said Paul, as he pulled out his hand towards Shiba, and continued to say, "This is how men make promises where I'm from." Shiba shook Paul's hand and solidified their promise.
It was getting late, so they all decided to rest for the night. Paul got to sleep indoors for once, although it was inside an icy igloo. He fell asleep instantly, but the Kildar did not. News of Paul's arrival and of his tales about the outside world spread quickly. Few could rest; some even flew to other villages and blazed the news abroad. The excitement spread like wildfire throughout the neighboring territories. Some were skeptical and some were overcome with joy, but none was indifferent. It was the biggest news in the last 700 years.
Paul awoke in the morning to the sound of loud debating. He would have slept for several more hours, but this was not going to happen under the present circumstances. He got up and exited the Elder's igloo. Paul was greeted by the sight of a large crowd waiting for him. Many traveled through the night for a chance to see the "Foreigner from beyond the Sea".
Shiba noticed Paul's confused expression and smiled. He said, "We couldn't get to all 70 villages, but we still found many that wanted to see if you were real. There are over 1000 of us that wish to come with you."
Paul looked out at the large crowd; it wasn't just men. Many were taking their entire families with them on this dangerous journey. Paul took a deep breath, and said, "I cannot guarantee your safety. The world of men has not always been kind to the Kildar."
"We don't care if we die! We're sick of this place!" exclaimed an old man from within the crowd. Many voices began confirming this sentiment.
Paul could see resolve in their eyes. He smirked; it was rare for him to find people that were as crazy as him. They would make excellent Blades of Malice members. "Ok! Let's go then!" announced Paul.
Several hours later, Paul, Shiba, Aton, Thalos, and many others set out on their exodus. The journey lasted several days, but it was cut short when they reached the Great Sea of Ethos. The endless body of water stared at them; it looked like there was nowhere else to go.
"Do you have any ideas about how to solve this predicament?" asked Shiba.
Paul replied, "We have two options: we can continue going west from here until we are just outside Shima. I don't know how long this will take; many might die along the way." He continued to speak, "The other option might be faster, but it's also very risky… we can cross the sea in front of us."
"How are we going to cross the sea?" asked Aton, sounding confused.
Paul conjured ice from his left hand and froze some of the water in front of him. Kurasa breathed out an icy mist and did likewise. "This is how we cross," replied Paul.
"Will it hold 1000 people?" asked Shiba, sounding not too thrilled with the idea. Aton and Thalos also showed doubt on their faces.
"It should. I've done it plenty of times while I was traveling through Lithos. The ice will hold for several days," answered Paul, trying to reassure those skeptical of his methods.
Paul looked out at the sea beyond him and laughed. He then said, "They probably think I'm dead. I'm going to surprise them really good when I show them my new powers!"
Kurasa and Paul led the way with their ice bridge; the Kildar always stayed a short distance behind them.. It may have been the first time in Ethos' history that anyone has tried such a feat. But Paul was the type to challenge himself and try out new things. It was his rage and confidence that helped him survive his time in Lithos. He was not ready to die; there were still things for him to do.
Their journey across the Great Sea of Ethos lasted over two weeks. Unfortunately, not all survived the long trek; over 100 Kildar perished. There were women, children, and elderly among the fallen. Some could not adapt to the warmer climate and the Light of Ethos' radiation.
Flying helped alleviate the burden of the long walk, but it was not always enough. Sometimes, they found a small island along the way and rested there for the night. A few times they came across Kali swimming in the sea; fortunately they were friendly ones. The first time, the Kildar and Kali gawked at each other for over a minute. Each of them considered the other to be some exotic creature.
On one particular day, about halfway through their journey, they ran into pirates. It was then that Paul realized that they were in the Sea of Traitors. Paul and Kurasa were quick to act, and the Kildar assisted them, but it was still a bloody battle. Keeping the women and children safe was difficult; there were a few casualties that day. But they were rewarded for their troubles. After killing all 82 of the pirates, they plundered the ship, and obtained the food and supplies that they desperately needed. Unfortunately, the ship was too small to fit everyone and too damaged to be used. The Kildar learned a little bit about the world of humans that day. Pirates and ships were only the beginning; there was plenty more for them to experience. Ethos was a beautiful land, but it was no paradise. The Kildar's safety could not be guaranteed.
The tenth month had barely begun when they finally arrived on solid ground. They landed close to Brywood; Paul was finally back in the Ethos that he loved and remembered. The Kildar were greeted by a large and bright foreign world. They were not used to all of the different colors and their various shades. All they ever saw back in their homeland was a dreary white and blue. A new Ethos was before them and the doors to a new destiny had been opened.