Chapter 45:

Fire Keep

Reverie's End: Blades of Malice

Day: 9/20/991; Time: 23rd hourBookmark here

Gin arrived at Fire Keep in the middle of the night and was stopped by a few guards at the gate. His large frame made him look suspicious and they refused to let him enter during the night. Being reserved and not wanting to start any problems, Gin resolved himself to spend the night outside the gates.Bookmark here

He finally made it to the capital of Gaea and was hoping that his journey was not in vain. Gin had already sent Kami in advance to let the queen know of his arrival. It was best to not arrive unannounced when making deals with monarchs. Gin needed the Ruby's current location and access to the Fire Keep's royal library. Those were his reasons for the visit. There was a third reason, but it was going to require the use of ancient magic. Gin wished to recover his lost memories; perhaps they held secrets of great importance. Someone sealed his memories over 70 years ago and there was a good reason for it.Bookmark here

In the morning, he approached the gates again and was greeted in a much more friendly manner. During the day, Fire Keep was a beautiful and diverse city with almost half a million residents. It was a vibrantly-colored metropolis where buildings could be found in every color imaginable. All were welcome to enter the gates; Gaeans were generally relaxed individuals. Every day was a party in Fire Keep; there was always a parade or festival going on somewhere in the city. Torches could be found all over the city; they were symbolic of the passion that Gaeans were known for. The people of Gaea tried not to stress over the small details and just enjoy what life had to offer. Many of them lived without a care in the world.Bookmark here

Unfortunately, there was a war brewing outside Gaea's borders; the Blades of Malice would one day come to conquer Fire Keep as well. It was only a matter of time. Gin continued to walk through the various mazes in the city and slowly made his way to the Fire Keep itself. He saw all kinds of people along the way; it was an ethnic melting pot. There were even Neko and Elm that freely walked through the city without fear of being harassed.Bookmark here

After getting lost for several hours, Gin finally made it to the Fire Keep. It was a large fortress made of red brick that was surrounded by mountains on three sides. It was a good location in case a war ever broke out, but so far no one has bothered to attack the Keep. Gaea did not involve itself in world politics and stayed neutral unless it was an emergency. The kingdom of Gaea had been at peace for over 300 years.Bookmark here

Gin looked up at the Fire Keep in awe; unlike the rest of the city, it was surprisingly modest. The gaudy red and orange banners were the only things that stood out. The banners depicted a red flame on an orange background; it was a perfect description of Gaean cultural values. Bookmark here

He approached the front gates and introduced himself to the guards. After a few minutes of waiting, he was allowed to enter the red building where the queen resided; an audience had been granted. Gin was escorted up to the 3rd floor; it was a longer walk than he expected. Although the building's exterior was simple, the interior was just as gaudy and lavish as he expected it to be. Torches, bronze statues, paintings, and lots of orange and red ornaments, were only some of the things that he saw. His head was starting to hurt from the sensory overload caused by all of the bright colors.Bookmark here

After arriving on the 3rd floor, Gin was brought to a centrally located room. Beyond the golden doors was the throne room of Queen Tio, ruler of the second most populous nation in Ethos. The Queen sat upon her regal throne made of bronze. She had a striking appearance; her hair was long and black and her eyes were a dark green color. She was slender and her skin was olive-colored like the majority of Gaea's people. Her dress was just as vibrantly red and orange as the rest of the Fire Keep's ornaments; she held a red fan in her right hand. The queen looked to be in her early 30s and was considered attractive by many. Had Gin been a mortal man, he probably have been smitten by her at first glance. But Gin was a Guardian of Ethos; his heart was not so easily moved.Bookmark here

There were many guards in the room, each of them wielding a bronze lance. In addition, she had six additional vassals by her side; probably advisors and nobility. Gin walked forward and bowed before Queen Tio.Bookmark here

"There is no need for such behavior, Sir Gin. Words of your exploits and bravery have reached our ears already. All of Ethos will soon know about the dangers that are drawing near. Everyone is preparing to fight the Blades of Malice," said the queen in a serious tone of voice. Her voice was sweet, yet confident. Despite her fragile appearance, she was a wise and competent ruler. One of the reasons Gaea was at peace was because the queen and her advisors eliminated threats before they could even begin to take root. Tio had her eyes and ears all over Ethos; she was rarely ill-informed.Bookmark here

Gin got up, and said, "That saves me a lot of time having to explain everything. I am sure that you have received my letter already. What are your thoughts?"Bookmark here

The queen hesitated for a few seconds and glanced around the room. Finally, she answered, "Everyone please leave the room. Servio and Erik, you may stay. I wish to discuss these things with Sir Gin in private." Some of the advisors almost started to argue, but refrained themselves. The guards and advisors all walked out of the throne room. The only two men that stood beside the queen were the ones that she trusted the most.Bookmark here

Servio was a tall man with blonde hair and blue eyes. He was wearing expensive silk clothing. The man was smiling and had a charismatic charm about him. Erik, on the other hand, was a stern man. He was a royal knight of Gaea, and Queen Tio's personal bodyguard. His sword and armor were made of bronze that had a reddish tint. Erik was muscular, had golden hair, blue eyes, and was tall just like Servio. The two looked related to each other; perhaps they were cousins or even brothers.Bookmark here

Once the room was clear the queen led them to an adjoining room that had a small bronze table in the middle. It was the council room; and appropriate location for their discussion. After they were all seated, the queen began to speak, "Few know about the existence of the Ruby. The key to the vault has been passed down from generation to generation. I received it from my mother after I ascended to the throne. It will be kept safe from the Blades; you have my word."Bookmark here

"It is good to hear that it remains in your possession, but if it were possible I wish that the Ruby could be destroyed. Alas, I do not believe such a method exists. I must thank you and your ancestors for keeping the stone safe all these centuries and not using its powers," said Gin.Bookmark here

"Unlike the rest of the world, we have not forgotten about the war that erupted 500 years ago over the stones. Our library has several books on the topic; the monarchs of Gaea never forgot their history and swore to never use the powers of the Ruby. Perhaps you would like to see these records for yourself?" asked the queen.Bookmark here

"Yes, thank you. That was my other reason for coming here; I wish to learn more about the stones. Their existence is a threat to Ethos itself," said Gin.Bookmark here

Servio and Erik did not say anything, but it was obvious that they were wary of Gin. He was an outsider that knew too much about their country's national secrets.Bookmark here

"I guess the meeting is adjourned. May you find that which you seek, Sir Gin. Gaea fights for peace on Ethos; come to me if you are ever in need of anything," said the queen.Bookmark here

Gin thanked the queen, bowed, and left the room. His next destination was the Royal Library. It was not too far away from the Keep.Bookmark here

He read the texts for hours and filled some gaps in his knowledge. He learned of the war between Karsi and Mol and the effects of the aftermath. But he learned nothing about the Sapphire or Emerald's locations. Gin was at an impasse; he did not know what his next destination should be. Gin decided to use this time to study up on another topic: memory loss.Bookmark here

He found a few books on the topic and learned about the existence of powerful dark magic spells that could erase and alter memories. This was probably what happened to Gin, but he could not remember his attacker's identity. Unless there was some way for him to permanently reunite with Kami, his memories might never return.Bookmark here

Gin continued to read for several more hours and learned about Kildarian holy magic; it was far stronger than anything that humans could cast. Suddenly, he remembered Tala's "Softening" magic that undid her petrified wing. If the Kildar could undo petrification, then perhaps they were capable of even greater feats such as memory and soul restoration. Gin was encouraged by this, although the journey ahead was going to be a long one.Bookmark here

The Kildar lived atop the Brave Mountains far to the southwest of Fire Keep; few humans ever ventured there and even fewer ever returned to give any kind of useful information about the lives of the Kildar that lived there. All that was known was that they did not like humans trespassing on their lands. Gin was willing to make the trip despite all of the challenges.Bookmark here

The following day, he scheduled another audience with Queen Tio and let her know his plans. She supplied him with anything that he needed and bid him farewell. Gin did not feel comfortable leaving Ethos unattended for so long, but he was left with no other choice. He hoped that humanity would not destroy themselves during his long absence. Bookmark here

Gin started his long trek the same day and headed south. After journeying for a few days, he came across the Balta Gate. It was heavily guarded by Gaean troops, but he had no trouble getting through. The queen had given him a traveling pass; he passed through the large gate without incident. He continued traveling west for a few days over the mountains. Eventually, he was in the southern plains of East Valis, but this did not last long. Gin's next leg of the journey was going to be the most arduous yet. The Brave Mountains were the tallest in Ethos; some even claimed that they touched the "ceiling".Bookmark here

He continued his journey westward and occasionally fused with Kami so that he could levitate over short distances and cut down on travel time. It was also a great opportunity to practice his new powers and extend his time limit. Gin wanted to be ready for his next encounter with the Blades of Malice.Bookmark here

The mountains kept growing steeper and the elevation kept increasing. After traveling in such harsh conditions for over a month, Gin finally arrived in the holy city of the Kildar. He had yet to hear the news about what had transpired at Gamma.Bookmark here

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