Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 10/5/991; Time: 21st hour
Athena awoke from her sleep and began to scream loudly. She had been having nightmares for the past few days, but remained asleep the entire time. Athena relived the night of her parents' death many times and it was not until now that she was finally able to break free from the endless cycle of torment. She was sweating and gasping for air; a maid went to go get her some water.
Despite Athena's loud and abrupt awakening, the people gathered by her side were overjoyed to finally see their ruler wake up. They had feared for the worst; it was difficult to predict the extent of Dios' sorcery. Gerdo had tried healing Athena multiple times, but was only able to come to the conclusion that Dios' magic had splintered her soul even further than last time. It was a miracle that she still had a sense of self. Gerdo and the others were happy to see her awake, but he was afraid to witness the consequences of what was done to her.
Lloyd, Gerdo, Dari, and Sam were all waiting in anticipation for her to speak. After screaming and flailing her arms for almost a minute, Athena was ready to speak. "Where are my parents?! I dreamt that they died at the hands of some dark-cloaked man!" asked Athena.
All four members of her council had a difficult time hiding their disbelief. "Lady Ordalia... " stammered Lloyd.
But he was quickly interrupted by Gerdo, who asked in a calm and soothing voice, "It seems that you have recently hit your head. Can you please tell us what your name is? We are just trying to make sure that you are okay and that your memories are intact."
Athena looked puzzled, but replied, "I am Lady Athena of House Isles and I don't think it would be that easy for me to lose my memories, Gerdo. You still didn't answer my question. Where are my parents?"
Gerdo hesitated for a moment, but replied, "Your parents just got back from a long journey and are resting. They will see you in the morning. Please rest, Lady Athena. I pray that you have better dreams this time."
Athena smiled and said, "Okay, Gerdo. I'll take your word for it." She quickly fell asleep after saying this. Athena had not yet fully regained her strength.
The four members of the council quietly left the room. Once they were outside, Lloyd asked the gray-haired Gerdo, "Why did you lie to her? Shouldn't we tell her the truth?"
"I needed to ascertain a few things; it seems that she retained at least one of the original personalities. We won't know the full extent of the damage until a few days from now; there might be new personalities that we are unaware of. If we told her the truth now she most likely wouldn't remember anything tomorrow. We shall speak to her again in the morning. It is not a discussion I am looking forward to," replied Gerdo.
The four council members agreed to this course of action and went to bed; they all had trouble sleeping that night. Athena slept peacefully; she was blissfully unaware of the truth.
She awoke in the morning and stretched out her arms. Her hair was still copper and her eyes were still bright-brown, but something was different about her face. It was the face of a naive and innocent child. Neither Ordalia nor Athena ever looked that innocent; it was not the countenance of a wise ruler.
A maid knocked on her door and was allowed to enter; the woman noticed something odd about the Lady of Isles, but paid it no heed. She escorted the lady to the dining room and waited for her to finish her breakfast before allowing the council members to see her.
Gerdo and the others greeted her and sat around the table; they were all nervous and did not know how to start the discussion. Dari was the first to notice the change in the lady's appearance and whispered her concerns to the others. "Something happened overnight," said Dari, a woman in her early 30s with short red hair and blue eyes.
Gerdo took a closer look at the young girl before him and agreed that something was not right. He had not seen her look this way since she was a child. He asked her, "Did you sleep well, Lady Ordalia?" He had assumed that if she was Athena yesterday, then today she would be Ordalia. But this was not the case.
The girl looked back at Gerdo with a puzzled expression on her face and said, "Ordalia? I am Lady Elena of House Isles. Are you going senile, Gerdo? And where are my parents? Is Will with them?" She laughed innocently and continued to stare at the council members, waiting for what they had to say.
None of them could hide their amazement. "There is at least one new personality?! Elena must be the embodiment of Ordalia's innocence and childhood," thought Gerdo to himself. His hands shook out of fear; he looked at Elena and knew that he had no choice but to tell her the truth. It hurt him deeply to make her relive her past. Gerdo looked at the others for confirmation and they all nodded.
What followed was a discussion that lasted several hours. Gerdo inquired and found out that Elena had no memories of the past two years and no recollection of her parents' murder or her brother's whereabouts. The council members all took turns filling her in on the events of the past two years. They told her about how Dios' had splintered her soul twice already and the battle that took place a few days earlier as well. At first she cried, but as the discussion went on she learned to accept the truth as reality.
"So, I won't remember anything tomorrow?" asked Elena in a concerned voice. Her voice was meek, unlike the tone of Ordalia and Athena.
"There is a partial remedy to this predicament. Inside your room there are several black journals; they hold the memories of Ordalia and Athena within them. If you desire you may read through all of them and gain a better understanding of your other selves. It is the only way that the two souls have been able to communicate for the past two years. But now there is at least three of you… I recommend that you continue writing down what you have learned to prevent severe gaps in your memory, Lady Elena," replied Gerdo.
"I understand," said Elena with a confident look on her face. She was trying to look brave and hopeful.
"Take this time to rest. We will try to assist you as best as we can during these hard times. We will find a cure! You have my word!" said Lloyd as he clenched his fist.
"Thank you for your concern, everyone. I'm honored to have such friends, " said Elena with a smile on her face.
The council members pardoned themselves and left the room; they were on the verge of tears. They regained their composure and agreed to reconvene in a few hours inside the council room.
The four of them met up to discuss the current state of affairs. "She can't be seen in public like this," said Dari.
"I am afraid that you are right; it was a mistake to allow her to go unto the battlefield. I have failed her," said Lloyd in a bitter voice.
"We had no way of knowing that the culprit was the leader of the Blades of Malice and you know that our lady was not about to take "no" for an answer. Once she set her eyes on the Emerald, nobody could have stopped her from going. The past cannot be undone; we must try to remedy the situation. What is the current state of affairs in the kingdom?" asked Gerdo trying to sound calm.
"Gamma has started rebuilding; the damages are extensive and it will take several months to restore the city to a decent condition. The death toll was 12,000 civilians and 10,000 soldiers, including a few hundred mercenaries and Elm. The death toll for the Blades of Malice is unknown, but it is safe to say that they lost several thousand," replied Dari.
"To think that Elm would fight alongside humans; these are strange times that we live in. And it is unfortunate that 12,000 civilians had to die. It seems that not everyone took the evacuation order seriously," said Lloyd with a grimace.
"Unfortunately, that will always be the case. But what of the king? Has he recovered?" asked Gerdo.
"Yes. He awoke yesterday morning and has recovered from his injuries. He is already making decisions regarding the future of the kingdom. Some of these decisions are rather drastic," said Dari hesitantly.
"And what are these drastic measures?" asked Gerdo.
"Dios was not lying; House Eris and Nyr retreated before the tornadoes began. It was not just a rumor; they have formed an alliance with the Blades of Malice. Once the city recovers a little, King Janus seeks to execute justice upon the traitors. Any soldier that surrenders will be pardoned, but those that remain loyal to Eris or Nyr will be given no quarter. Both house leaders have been stripped of all titles and land," said Dari in a somber voice.
Everyone was silent for several seconds. Finally, Lloyd spoke up, "It was an unwise gamble on their part. It is at times like these that I am proud to serve House Isles. Whatever her faults may be, Lady Ordalia would never work together with such a corrupt organization that has no regard for human life."
"Agreed," said Dari.
"But this will heavily weaken the kingdom of Charon. Causing internal discord may have been the Blades' true motive. This will affect us for years to come," said Gerdo with concern in his voice.
"Perhaps it will stunt the kingdom's growth, but it is necessary to cut out the rot sometimes. This war has exposed the traitors and shown the king who his true allies are," said Lloyd in a confident tone.
"Are there any other pertinent matters that we need to know about?" asked Gerdo.
" You may have already heard about the pirate attacks that started several days ago? Ships leaving and approaching Gamma and Isles have been attacked on numerous occasions. The culprits have finally been identified: They are Kali," said Dari hesitantly.
"Kali?! But we're outside their territory. Why would they attack our ships? Rami's war was almost a century ago. Why bring up old grudges now?" replied Lloyd.
"Maybe they are just renegades that the tribal elders have no control over?" said the meek Sam, who had been quiet thus far. He was a short and stocky young man with brown hair.
"I hope you are right, Sam. But I fear that they are not mere renegades; there is a larger evil at work here. The timing of these attacks is no coincidence," said Gerdo.
"Do you think the Kali are working with the Blades of Malice?" asked Lloyd.
"It seems unlikely, but that could be the case. But it could also be some other powerful force that we are unaware of. There may be another organization out there that is determined to destroy Charon," said Gerdo in an ominous voice.
"I really hope that you're wrong about that, Gerdo. We have enough problems to deal with as it is. The coffers aren't looking too good are they, Sam?" asked Dari.
"We have enough for a few more months; raising taxes again is inevitable. This recent battle only made matters worse. If the situation is not brought under control, we may start to see rioting in the streets," answered Sam in a hesitant voice.
"This is just great! Isles has survived for so long! How can we lose our lands now?" replied Dari sounding irritated.
"Let us not be so pessimistic, Dari. It is best to take care of problems one day at a time. Is there anything that needs to be taken care of today?" asked Lloyd.
"The Brywood Seven are getting ready to leave later today; we should have a formal audience and bid them farewell," said Sam.
"Of course. They are our honored guests; the Brywood Seven saved Lady Ordalia," said Gerdo.
A few hours later, they all met each other in the throne room. Lady Elena, her 4 advisors, and the Brywood Seven were all present. The two members that were not there for the fight with Dios were present at this meeting..
The first was Tim, a man that dual-wielded short swords. He had short brown hair and light-brown eyes. The other was Orkus, a Fang warrior that specialized in using swords and axes. He had silver fur and amber eyes. He was very old; his age exceeded the boundaries of what was normal for a human. Nonetheless, Orkus towered above everyone in the room and did not look like he was going to be dying any time soon. It was a mystery why a Fang joined an Advent mercenary group. Most Fang did not possess enough intelligence to learn basic Thorian and they generally hated humans with intense animosity.
The Brywood Seven were an odd bunch. Lloyd was already acquainted with them, but the others had difficulty hiding their surprise.
"Thank you for honoring us with your presence. You have our eternal gratitude for saving the lady. Allow us to give you this gold as compensation for your services," said Lloyd as he walked up to Scythe with a leather bag.
"We have failed," said Scythe, refusing to take the bag.
"Nonsense. You all fought bravely against the leader of the Blades of Malice; what happened to the lady was not your fault," said Lloyd.
Karst walked up to Lloyd and took the bag. "We will take the gold, but allow us to make up for this blunder. The Brywood Seven wish to keep our reputation untarnished," she said as she looked at Lady Elena very carefully. Karst was studying her.
"How do you wish to help us?" asked Lloyd, sounding puzzled.
"It may be presumptuous of me to say this, but I do not believe the lady has fully recovered. Surely, Advisor Gerdo has noticed some abnormalities within the soul of Lady Ordalia," said Karst.
Elena and all of her advisors started to look worried; they could no longer hide the secret. "It is impossible to hide such things from a Kildar," chuckled Gerdo.
"I may have some knowledge that can aid the lady," said Karst.
The advisors and Elena all looked at each other and quietly came to an agreement. "Very well. We can no longer keep this a secret from the world; what you are about to hear must never leave the room. It is a matter of national importance that we have hid for the past two years," said Gerdo.
"Wait, if we are going to be telling them the truth, then we should invite Miri and Amalia as well. I believe they have earned our trust," interrupted Lloyd.
"Very well. We shall wait for the two girls. Call Miri and Amalia!" said Gerdo.
A maid went and brought the girls; they were both surprised to be summoned so suddenly. The girls didn't know what to expect from the meeting. Miri was even more bewildered than Amalia; she never expected to see familiar faces from her hometown. The Brywood Seven were the reason Miri became a mercenary; the tales of their journeys inspired her to leave the village and go on her own adventure. Miri was naive; she had not yet realized at the time that fulfilling her dreams came at a price. Miri wished to be like the beautiful Karst; she was always Miri's role model. Miri wanted to talk to her, but understood that now was not the time.
Once everyone was gathered, Gerdo began to speak, "We are gathered here today to discuss the event that occurred two years ago that has led us to our current predicament."
He told everyone present the abridged version of what he told Elena that morning. Miri had been wary of Ordalia, but now started to feel some compassion towards her. She started to understand Ordalia's erratic behavior and her quest for power. The Lady of Isles was in a position where she was not allowed to show weakness.
"So now you know the whole truth. Do you have any remedies for such a powerful curse, Lady Karst?" asked Gerdo in a hopeful voice.
"I'm no lady, only a common mercenary," laughed Karst. She continued to speak, "However, there might be a way if you travel to the Brave Mountains. The Kildar's knowledge of holy magic far exceeds that of mortal men."
The four advisors all looked perplexed. "Must the lady go on such a perilous journey? Surely there must be another way?" asked Lloyd, sounding very worried.
"Unfortunately, even if you go, success is not guaranteed. The Kildar will not allow you to pass through their lands so easily. It will take a certain amount of convincing to get them to help you," said Karst.
"Would they be more willing to accept us if one of their own kind was with us?" asked Dari.
Karst laughed sarcastically, and said, "If I went with you, they would definitely never let you in. I was exiled from the day I was born. You're better off without me."
"Allow me to go; I wish to redeem my honor. It was my fault that Dios escaped and cursed Lady Ordalia," said Syldor in a confident voice.
"I will go as well; Dios was my responsibility and I let him get away. In addition, my healing magic will prove useful on this journey. No party should ever be without a healer," said Anna.
"Are you sure you don't just want to spend more time with Syldor?" said Karst in a jesting tone of voice.
Anna blushed and glared at Karst; Syldor merely laughed at the remark.
"I am honored that you all wish to aid our lady, but this journey is too dangerous," said Lloyd.
"I will go. I must regain my lost memories and sealed powers at any cost. There must be some dark secret hidden away that Dios did not want uncovered. And that is not the only reason… I grow tired of living like this; I wish to be whole again. How can I rule Isles in this pitiful condition?" said Elena. Her eyes were starting to tear up.
The four advisors looked at Elena and agreed to let her go; It was not an easy decision. "If the lady wishes it, then we will allow it. I pray that your long journey will be prosperous. It may be several months before we see each other again," said Gerdo.
"I shall accompany my lady on this journey," said Lloyd.
"No, Lloyd. You must stay and protect the castle; I need all four of you to run the castle while I'm gone. I promise to return a worthy heiress to the throne of Isles. Our kingdom's days of prosperity shall return. Fear not, I shall have 10 of our best knights accompany me; I will be well-protected," interrupted Elena.
Lloyd could not say "no" when he saw her beaming smile; Elena had filled his heart with hope. He decided to trust her.
"Two members of the Brywood Seven and ten knights? Will that be enough for this arduous journey?" asked Dari.
"The lady will be safe with us; you have nothing to fear," declared Syldor.
Lloyd looked around the room and his gaze fell upon Miri. He spoke up and said, "Miri and Amalia, would you like to join them? Your presence would be welcome."
Miri averted her eyes from Lloyd and replied hesitantly, "I would be honored to go, but right now is the best time. It has been over a year since I left my hometown. I feel that it is time for me to return to Brywood. Please forgive my selfish request, Sir Lloyd. I will not be able to assist you in your time of greatest need."
"You are free to do as you please, Miri. Castle Isles will always be your home," replied Lloyd.
"Thank you, Sir Lloyd and Advisor Gerdo for your help these past few months. You have helped me become a better warrior," said Miri while kneeling.
"I will go wherever Miri goes," said Amalia, also kneeling.
"Then the traveling party has been decided. Lady Elena, Syldor, and Anna, you may set out whenever you are ready, but you should rest here tonight," said Gerdo.
As soon as the meeting was over, Miri went over to speak with Karst. "I did not expect to meet someone from Brywood all the way out here. It's a shame that we must meet under such circumstances, but such are the times we live in," said Karst.
"I am honored to meet you, Karst. The stories of your journeys to far off lands, as well as those of my parents, prompted me to set off on a quest of my own," said Miri.
"I'm flattered to hear that, but I hope that you were the only one that inspired. The mercenary's life is not an easy one, as I am sure that you have found out on your own. Your eyes are those of someone who has stared death directly in the face," replied Karst.
"It is as you say, which is why I am returning home. I feel that my presence here is no longer necessary; I have fulfilled my duty towards my fallen friend," replied Miri.
"May your journey be peaceful then," said Karst. The two said their farewells and left the throne room.
There was a banquet that night to celebrate Lady Ordalia, Athena, and Elena's departure. Her vassals and friends no longer knew what to call her anymore. The occasion was joyous, but it was forced. Elena's advisors could not help but worry about her safety. The delicious food was hard to enjoy under the present circumstances.
In the morning, everyone saw her off. Gerdo instructed her traveling companions to keep a watchful eye on her and told Lady Ordalia to keep a log of her travels to avoid the risk of forgetting important information.
"Dios' curse has drained her completely of all her former powers. I do not sense any mana within her and I am afraid that her physical abilities have been sapped as well," said Gerdo.
Ordalia looked at her rapier and tried to enchant it several times; she was unable to do so. Gerdo was correct; she was a regular fragile woman now. There was no way for her to defend herself. It was up to her allies to keep her alive; she would need to learn to trust them. Ordalia grimaced; she hated this feeling of weakness. "I understand," replied Ordalia.
She was deep in thought for several seconds, and finally said, "I wonder why he left me alive? He could have easily killed me… why go through the trouble of muddling my memories?" asked Ordalia.
"We have discussed this in the council meetings among ourselves, but it was difficult to come to a conclusion. I have a few theories of my own on the matter. Dios is master of mental manipulation; perhaps we have only seen a fraction of his power. It is possible that he may be able to even alter memories and create new ones. If this is true, then he could potentially infiltrate people's minds and make them into his slaves. It is a frightening hypothesis, but it would explain why their members are so devoted to their cause. Dios wanted to use you so that he could control Isles; he wanted your parents, but failed. So you became his next target," answered Gerdo.
Ordalia and the others opened their eyes wide open when they heard the revelation. "If this is true, then I may be a danger to those around me. We must get to the Brave Mountains at once," said Ordalia in a concerned voice.
"Do not worry, Lady Ordalia. This type of magic preys on the weak of mind. I do not believe Dios could control someone of your mental fortitude," replied Gerdo.
"Thank you for the kind words, Gerdo. Farewell, everyone. I am honored to have such dedicated vassals," said Ordalia as she waved her arm.
Everyone wished her farewell and then she departed along with Syldor, Anna, and her knights. It would be a long time before she ever saw Isles again.