Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 9/19/991; Time: 15th hour
Beowulf continued his mundane life at New Karsi; most days he just stood guard and watched as an archaeologist spent hours searching for ancient pottery and trinkets. During the night he would get some much needed exercise by fighting thugs near bars. Sometimes a bounty hunter would come after him and fail miserably. Periodically, he would check up on Korin and interrogate him. The old scholar continued to translate Jala's notebooks, but most of what he uncovered were just the ramblings of a genius inventor.
However, Korin did glean some new information: the remaining five "Golden Doors" each represented one element of Ethos and could be opened by a powerful mage of the correct type. It was not going to be an easy feat to accomplish and Beowulf would certainly never allow it to happen. Korin also found several useful diary entries that hinted at the circumstances surrounding Karsi's demise.
"10/15/475, the town is flourishing! They're calling me a savior! It feels good to be appreciated for once in my life. I have turned our humble village into a rapidly- growing nation! People are flooding in from all over the world to have a look at Karsi, the city of the future!"
"12/9/476, ambassadors from the eastern kingdom of Mol have arrived to take a look at the Golden Doors that power the city. A scholar named Nergal was particularly interested in the stones and asked me many questions. He must have been jealous! The secret behind the creation of the stones is mine alone!"
"6/24/478, I feel like I'm being watched like a hawk. My research needs to be hidden from the eyes of mortal men. It has come to my attention that there are those that wish to use my stones for evil. This must never happen! I shall hide my work deep underground where it can never be found."
"3/27/479, the Stones of Ethos have been stolen and used against us! The country of Mol used it to rain fire on us from above! It was a horrific sight; I never imagined my inventions could be used for such evil. I must hide the remaining gems; my other stones must never be uncovered or Ethos will be in danger! Such power was never meant for man. What have I done?!"
"2/4/480, the war with Mol has lasted for almost an entire year. They keep destroying our lands, but we keep rebuilding. Our people will not give up! Mol is a danger to all of Ethos and must be eliminated!"
"5/19/481, our lands have taken too much of a beating already. The people have been demoralized. Mol has stolen all the Karsite from the mines. Nergal plans on making more stones, but without my research he'll never be able to do it. I have already destroyed the "Light Channeler". I can rest in peace; the stones will break eventually and Mol's tyranny will end. I think I'm just going to go outside and enjoy the rain; perhaps it can wash away my sins."
That was the most recent diary entry that Korin found; Beowulf had to coerce all of this information out of him. It was now abundantly clear to both of them that the stones were dangerous and to be left alone.
"Your research is done, Korin. If you keep digging up more information, you might not be able to undo the damage. Jala's writings cannot fall into the wrong hands. What if someone decided to create another Light Channeler and make more Karsite stones? And there could be more of these stones hidden in that cave! As an enforcer I cannot allow you to bring the people to harm!" said Beowulf, after having learned all of this several days earlier.
The old man, Korin, did not argue this time. He had finally realized the magnitude of the information that he had in his possession. Just as Jala did shortly before he died, Korin came to the conclusion that Ethos did not need the Stones to insure its prosperity.
But not everyone had come to this conclusion; it was only a matter of time before curious individuals stumbled upon Jala's cave, just as Beowulf and Korin had three months earlier. They did not do a very good job of sealing the cave and this negligence had grave consequences. Being in possession of the books was the other fatal mistake.
The incident occurred in the afternoon, as Beowulf was taking his daily stroll through the streets, when he heard a scream from the inn that Korin was staying at. Beowulf immediately rushed in and headed towards the sound of the screaming. He went up to the second floor, and saw a maid standing, too shocked to speak, outside Korin's room. Beowulf had only now realized his folly; there were others interested in the ancient texts as well. Their desires for this knowledge were strong enough to warrant murder.
He walked inside Korin's room and saw his dead body on the ground. The old man had a dagger in his chest; it was a quick death, but Korin's face showed his disbelief at what was happening. It was too sudden. Beowulf had grown complacent in Karsi; he had forgotten that danger could strike at any moment. He felt guilty at failing in his duties as an enforcer.
He looked around the room; it was in disarray and missing a few key objects: the ancient texts. This only confirmed Beowulf's suspicions; he needed to move quickly. The murder was committed within the past few hours; there was still time to catch the culprits. Beowulf ran outside as fast as he could and got on his horse, Allaron.
Unfortunately, Beowulf did not possess the tracking abilities of his old friend, Alaron, after whom the horse was named after. Although Beowulf was not a ranger, he did have his own way of pursuing enemies; he could detect the presence of evil. It was a necessary ability for paladins, the defenders of all that is good and righteous. He began to concentrate and after a minute he finally sensed the evil presence; it was a few hours away to the south. The greater the evil, the easier it was to sense. Catching a murderer was not difficult for Beowulf. He immediately rode out of town and in the direction of Cana. His enemies were fast, but he was faster still. It didn't matter if they tried to hide their trail because Beowulf could sense the stench of blood on them from over a hex away. They were within eyesight a few hours later.
"Halt!" said Beowulf as he got close to them. The two men did not stop and kept riding away. It was starting to get dark and Beowulf was losing his patience. "I said stop!" he yelled as he swung his sword and knocked both of them off their horses with a wave of light.
The two men groaned as they tried to get up. Their horses had already fled; the men had nowhere else to go. Beowulf approached them and pulled out his "Eternal Glory" broadsword; the white blade illuminated the darkness and allowed the frightened men to see their assailant. Beowulf wore the golden armor and purple cape of a Valian Paladin, but his countenance was of a man not willing to give them a fair trial. His black eyepatch, gray left-eye, and scraggly golden beard produced the look of a war criminal or a pirate.
"Spare us!" stammered one of the thugs. He had black hair and wore leather clothing. The man was leaning against a nearby tree; he only had the strength to crawl. He wasn't going anywhere.
"Where are the tomes that you stole!? After you return them we can discuss the possibility of me sparing your lives," replied Beowulf in a stern voice.
"We don't have them anymore! We gave them to another group already. They're on their way to our client as we speak," said the other thug. He had brown hair and was the elder of the two.
"That's unfortunate. I guess you're both useless to me then. Okay… it's time for you to die," said Beowulf, as he drew closer to the men.
"We'll talk! Just spare us!" pleaded the black-haired thug.
"Tell me everything you know and I promise to deal fairly with you," said Beowulf.
"We were hired by Taramis. They didn't tell us much, but there's supposed to be some kind of secret in that cave and those books might have the answer. I promise that's all I know!" said the frightened black-haired thug.
"So there were people spying on us after all… Thank you for your assistance," said Beowulf. He then began to eye the two men intently, as if trying to figure something out. "It's you," he said, while plunging his sword into the heart of the brown-haired thug. The man did not have time to realize what was happening and died with a confused look on his face.
The other thug looked on in shock. "You said we can go free!" he stammered.
"I said that I will deal fairly with you. This man had the stench of blood on him; he killed Korin. He got what he deserved," said Beowulf. Then he smiled, and said, "You can go free. But if you keep living like this, you'll die. That's guaranteed. Be sure that your sin will seek you out. Go and sin no more."
The man started crawling away as fast as he could. He was going north; far away from Agra. They would only kill him if he returned.
Beowulf sighed and looked around him; the forest around him was calm, but the world of man was turbulent and chaotic. It was at times like these that he wished he could just run away from all of it. "Let mankind take care of its own problems," he thought to himself. But he could not give up; he was an Enforcer. It was his job to handle the corruption that was beyond the reach of the law.
Taramis was the ruler of Taramor, the second largest city in West Valis. He was the man that hired Korin to search New Karsi for ancient relics. But when Korin refused to give up his findings, Taramis had no qualms about killing an old man. Beowulf had no idea what Taramis had in mind, but he wasn't going to wait to find out.
10 years had passed since he last visited Taramor; Beowulf tried to avoid entering West Valis when traveling abroad. The entire kingdom held unpleasant memories for him. His wife, daughter, and best friend all perished there. But Beowulf decided that it was time to face his past and pay West Valis a visit.
He rode south for two days and crossed the Azure River. It was time to pay an old friend a visit. Beowulf rode into the nearby town of Cana and went to speak with Kylos. Several months had passed since he first met the old man; since then he had visited him twice to get his armor polished and to hear the latest news.
Beowulf saw him working at the forge as usual, and greeted him, "Hi, Kylos. Long time no see."
The old man turned around and greeted Beowulf as well. "I haven't seen you in a while. Does your armor need to be polished? Did the bounty hunters give you trouble again?" asked Kylos with a wry smile on his face.
"No, not this time, Kylos. There are more urgent matters; I have some business to take care of in Taramor. Did you hear about any travelers passing through here that were going there?" asked Beowulf.
"No. But there is plenty of talk about the Blades of Malice. Their impact on Ethos can no longer be ignored. Perhaps you have heard of what they have done in Balassar and the Golden City?" asked Kylos in a grave voice.
"I know about the scuffles that have been going on in Balassar, but this is the first I've heard of the Golden City being involved. We don't get news from abroad very often in New Karsi," replied Beowulf.
"The Blades of Malice captured the capital, but were ousted in less than a month. The reigns of power have been reclaimed, but the aftermath was horrifying. King Theodore was beheaded and the Blades "summoned an earthquake". It was more catastrophic than the one that hit Agra 10 years ago. The Blades possess the strength to eventually conquer all of Ethos. It is truly frightening," whispered Kylos. He did not want to draw unnecessary attention to their conversation.
Beowulf was silent for many seconds. The news about King Theodore's beheading should have delighted him; the king was the one that stripped Beowulf of his Paladin rank. But there was something else that Kylos said that was a cause for concern. He had finally put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. "Did you just say that it was more powerful than the earthquake that hit Agra? Everything makes sense now…" said Beowulf.
"What makes sense?" asked the puzzled Kylos.
"It was the Stone of Ethos! Nothing else can cause that much destruction! It was used on Agra 10 years ago by King Theodore, no doubt! And now, it was used against him and the Golden City! The calamities from 500 years ago are going to repeat themselves!" exclaimed Beowulf.
Kylos found Beowulf's proclamation staggering; he did not know what to make of it. "Please, elaborate further,"said Kylos.
Beowulf told him everything that he knew. He mentioned the ancient texts hidden in Jala's cave, the results of Korin's translation, and the purpose of his mission to Taramor. "I must not allow Taramis to learn any more than he already has; West Valis will surely try to create their own Karsite Stones and maybe even manufacture something far more dangerous!" declared Beowulf.
Kylos replied, "Do what you must. I only wish that I could assist you in some way."
"There is no need for that, Kylos. Your knowledge has already been a great blessing. I now realize the great import of those texts. We should have burned them months ago!" exclaimed Beowulf. He continued to speak, "Alas, the past cannot be undone. It is time for me to go, Kylos."
Beowulf bid the old man goodbye and immediately rode to the southeast, in the direction of the Cana Jungle. It was there that a chance encounter forever changed the path that he was on.