Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 10/5/991; Time: 22nd hour
The Blades of Malice had sustained crippling wounds from the previous battle. They lost 4,000 of their troops; this was an unpredictable outcome. Dios had underestimated King Janus and his royal knights. Gamma was not so easily conquered; the great city was dealt a mighty blow, but it was not enough to topple it. It would be years before the Blades could fully recover from this loss; they had overextended their reach. Complete conquest of Ethos was now impossible. Dios was less than happy about this outcome.
The troops had fled to the Pure Woods and were now deciding the next course of action. "You lost the Emerald?! How dare you return empty-handed?!" screamed Dios at Nia.
"The enemy was quite powerful, Dios. You were not very successful in your venture either, Dios. There's no need to yell at the girl, " replied Addas.
"Allow the girl to speak for herself, Addas. You failed your mission as well; you have no right to lecture me!" retorted Dios.
"Yes. We all failed because we underestimated our enemies. King Janus and his Royal knights are not human; I now understand why Gamma has never fallen after all these centuries," responded Addas in a humble tone.
"My apologies, Dios. I was too weak to defend the Emerald," replied Nia meekly.
"These blunders must be fixed! If we cannot have Gamma then we will conquer those lands which we can!" declared Dios.
"So where do we start? We lost the Golden City as well as both of our stones. Perhaps we should start with a smaller city? One that does not require a large army or ancient relics? Perhaps Ramah?" asked Addas.
"Ramah is just a cesspool of privileged aristocrats; we can conquer them at any time. Instead, we will head to our base in the Wyrm Highlands south of here. We will train our men and bide our time. I will send men into Gamma and Isles to search for the Emerald; perhaps it can be recovered. Naki is trailing the man who defeated Jill and stole the Topaz. I will have some of our men search and scour the lands for the remaining stones. Speaking of which, now would be a good time to seize the Ruby. Our alliance with Servio has served its purpose; we will burn Fire Keep down to the ground with its own national treasure!" replied Dios.
"And what of Eris and Nyr?" asked Nia.
"The fate of those fools is none of our concern. Our alliance with them has served its purpose; they were of no help at all when we needed them. We still lost the battle," answered Dios in an irritated voice.
"So they were just stepping stones?" asked Addas.
"Of course! We can never have a real alliance with the nobility. The government of the new world cannot allow those that have ruined Ethos to stay in power! You are commanders in our forces, shouldn't this be obvious to you?!" cackled Dios.
"Certainly, Commander Dios. We cannot accept them into our own ranks," replied Addas with a smile.
"Yes, all hope is not lost yet! Gaea shall be our next conquest!" exclaimed Dios.
"What is your decision in regards to Dart? Will you send aid?" asked Addas.
"Dart has done well; he managed to take over Shima with little resources. He should be commended for his work, but unfortunately I cannot send any men to aid him. He will have to solidify his position with what he has. But Dart has given us hope; the Blades of Malice will rise once more!" declared Dios. He laughed maniacally for several seconds without pausing.
"Let us conclude this meeting. We set out for the Wyrm Highlands in two days!" Nia and Addas bowed and left the tent that they were in, while Dios continued to laugh egotistically.
The night passed and a new day began. Nia was in her tent, staring at her breakfast at the table; she was deep in thought. Dios' words did not sit well with her; there was going to be more bloodshed. "When would it all end? Was the end result worth the lives of so many thousands of innocent people?" she thought to herself. Nia was tormented by such thoughts and had lost her appetite.
She had lost her way and did not know what to do next, but it was at times like these that a brand new path presented itself. Nia got up and was about to leave the table; it was at this moment that Addas came up behind her and hugged her. She was startled at first, but then blushed out of embarrassment.
"Addas, stop. What if someone walks in right now?" said Nia in a shy voice.
"Let them. I promise I won't be here for very long, Nia. Allow me to stay here with you." said Addas.
"Okay. I'm actually glad that you are here with me, Addas. I don't know what to do," said Nia.
"Don't worry about that Nia. Your days of torment are over. I almost lost you in Gamma; if we continue to serve that madman, then your life will be put in danger again. I cannot allow that to happen," said Addas, as he hugged Nia tighter.
"But we can't escape. Traitors are always found and executed; some of our friends suffered that fate already," said Nia in a bitter voice.
"The Blades of Malice has stolen much from us; Dios' promises to us were empty. His path will only lead to more destruction and suffering. He is a formidable foe, but right now he is at his weakest. The Blades have been dealt a heavy blow; the time to flee is now! Do not worry, Nia; we are not alone. Many others are getting ready to leave tonight, some of which are illusionists. We can hide our presence and make our escape," said Addas in a hopeful voice.
"Where would we flee to? We are probably marked as criminals in every kingdom by now. We don't even have a home to return to!" replied Nia in a concerned voice.
"Do not fear, Nia. We will return to Minas, a land far away from all of these conflicts. Our part in this war is done," replied Addas.
"Minas? But how do we even know if that is our true home? Our memories have been tampered with by Dios; how do we even know what's real or fantasy anymore?!" declared Nia.
"Dios is a vile man incapable of feeling love. It is true that we might never find out the truth, but Dios only instills fear and other negative emotions. This love I feel is real, it is not imaginary. Let us leave this place together, Nia. I cannot bear to watch you suffer any longer. I should have killed Dios when I had the chance; I have allowed evil to run amok," said Addas bitterly.
Nia turned around and hugged Addas from the front this time. She was on the verge of tears and said, "You're right. We should have left long ago! The dead can never be brought back! How do I even begin to atone?"
"I… don't know. But staying here will only allow these tragedies to repeat themselves. If we live on, we can find a meaning in life elsewhere and possibly atone for these crimes. I will come for you at nightfall; we mustn't tarry too long," said Addas in a hopeful voice.
Nia had calmed down and was finally able to form a smile. They were both excited, yet nervous about the journey that awaited them. "Of course, I will go wherever you go," replied Nia confidently.
They said their farewells and met at nightfall as agreed. There were almost 100 deserters, but they had decided to split up and travel in groups of five. The destination did not matter for many of them; they only wished freedom from the shackles that were in. The previous battle had caused many to doubt the Blades' leadership. It was ironic that two of the organization's highest ranking members were fleeing as well.
Dios was a master of mental manipulation; he could remove and alter memories. However, his powers were limited; it was beyond his abilities to read minds and he was not very observant. He did not realize until the following morning that he had just lost two of his Commanders. Dios was too focused on conquest and spent little time thinking about problems brewing within the organization. Because of his poor leadership, the only Commander left, besides himself, was Dart. Replacing the missing positions was going to be a challenge.
The groups said one last goodbye to each other before departing; many decided to go westward, but a few chose to stay in Charon and departed east. After traveling for over an entire hex westward, they spent the night in the woods. Addas kept watch throughout the night, but no pursuers came; Dios was oblivious to their absence. In the morning, they ate and continued their journey.
Once they got out of the forest, Nia asked in a concerned voice, "Where do we go now?"
"We'll only be safe in unaffiliated territories; Charlo is to the north. But if we go any farther north, we'll be in Gaea's lands. If we ever want to make it to Minas, we'll have to travel through the mountains of Valis. Maybe we'll even run into some Kildar in the Brave Mountains," replied Addas.
"If that is our only option, then so be it. There are now fewer decisions for us to make," responded Nia in a confident voice. She had faith that Addas would lead them down the correct path.
Before they set off once more, Nia took off her brown bracelet. She looked at the giant eight-legged horse in front of her and smiled. Wotan had been traveling with them as well; he went wherever she went. But Nia did not want her feelings to be forced upon him. She held up the bracelet and destroyed it with her wind magic. Wotan was now a free horse.
"Dios may have manipulated you in the past, but we will not. We are free and you are now as well. Go, my friend, return to your homeland," said Nia in a reluctant voice.
"Are you sure about this? He'll cut down on our traveling time," asked Addas.
"Yes, I am sure. He is also a victim of Dios' sorcery," replied Nia.
Addas and Nia began to walk away, but heard a loud neighing sound behind them; Wotan was walking after them. The horse came up to Nia and stared at her intently.
"It seems your friend wants to stay. And nobody is forcing him this time," said Addas.
Nia almost cried and said, "Welcome back, Wotan". The three of them continued their journey westward. After making a brief stop in Charlo and gathering necessary materials, they passed through the Dusk Mountains. They traveled through mountainous regions for the next two months and had an encounter along the way that forever changed their path of destiny.