Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 10/11/991; Time: 4th hour
Will's excitement was preventing him from falling asleep; today was going to be a big day for him. He could hardly wait to see Namira once again. He eventually fell asleep, but not without a struggle.
In the morning he promptly left his living quarters and took a stroll about the city, visiting and greeting his friends in town. By now, there was not a soul in Samara that did not know about Will and his skill with the lute. It was hard for him to pass through the city without being noticed.
Eventually, he made his way to the orphanage on the outskirts of the city and climbed up the hill that it was on. He was greeted by the sight of children playing and Namira running around trying to keep them from getting too rowdy; it was a typical day for her. She stopped once she saw Wil, as did the kids. Everyone ran over to greet him and wanted to hear about Wil's life as a court musician; he told them the usual tales about the parties that he went to and exaggerated a few details here and there for entertainment value.
Will wanted to spend some time alone with Namira, but never got the chance. The kids kept pestering him for over an hour; it was at this point that some uninvited guests came knocking at their front door. Will opened the door and was greeted by two thug-like men. One was middle-aged and the other was in his late 20s; both had short brown hair. They did not look like the kind of men that were bringing good news. Will and Namira had seen these men before; it was not the first time they were coming to pester them and the kids.
"The mayor wants you out! This is your last warning!" said the middle-aged man in a grumpy voice.
"This land was donated by the previous mayor so that an orphanage could be built upon it," declared Will in a confident tone.
"That was 30 years ago; nobody cares about promises made by the deceased. This land belongs to the city of Samara and it is the mayor's authority to do with it as he pleases," retorted the middle-aged man.
"Then where will the children go?" asked Namira in a concerned voice.
"That's not our concern; such an establishment is a sore sight to look upon. It mars the beauty of the city. The children can go wherever they wish as long as they get off this land," replied the younger of the two thugs.
Will was infuriated; he had to try hard to restrain himself. He almost punched the man who had uttered those callous words. Namira noticed Will's anger and decided to end the conversation before things got out of hand. "Please give us some time to consider your proposal," replied Namira.
"There's nothing to consider; you have one full day to get out. There will be no more negotiating. The mayor is tired of waiting; this decrepit orphanage needs to be replaced with a luxurious mansion as soon as possible," said the younger thug.
Will was just seconds away from swinging his fist when the older thug said, "Let's get going. We've wasted enough time here already; there's no need to waste our time on these paupers and their spoony bard." The two thugs smirked mockingly at William and left the premises of the orphanage.
Namira tried to console Will, but it proved futile. He was angry at himself for not being able to protect those that he loved. Will thought hard, but could not find a solution to the predicament that they were in. He wanted to spend the day with Namira, but he could no longer remember what it was that he wanted to say to her. Will's day had been ruined and he passed the next few hours in complete silence. Namira and the kids were worried; they had never seen the Bard of Samara act this way before.
"It will be alright, Will. We've survived thus far; we'll think of something," said Namira as Will was about to leave.
"I hope you're right, Namira," replied Will. He certainly had misgivings about the prospect of "fortune smiling down on them". He ran away from Isles to avoid the stifling stench of aristocracy, but it seemed to follow him everywhere he went.
Will left shortly before nightfall; he had a concert to play at the mansion of Niro Loire. His playing was uninspired that night; Will made careless mistakes on several occasions. His playing was aggressive and at times chaotic; most of the listeners did not notice anything peculiar, but those that frequently listened to Will's playing could tell that something was wrong that night.
"So even the joyful bard of Samara has things that grieve his soul," said Niro Loire after the concert. Niro was a tall man with golden hair and blue eyes; he was not only charismatic and perceptive, but he was also the Lord of house Loire and Will's patron. He was only in his early 30s and still a bachelor. Unlike many of the aristocrats living in Samara, Niro was actually tolerable to be around. Even Will had grown to like him and almost treated him like a friend at times.
Will didn't answer; he was still deep in thought. Niro responded after a few seconds, "What ails you, my friend. Perhaps I can be of assistance."
Will woke up from his trance and realized that he was being spoken to, and said, "It's just one of those days; I do not feel the same inspiration that I normally do, Lord Niro."
"I see. But if you change your mind, remember that I am always ready to help if it is within my power to do so," replied Niro.
Will debated whether or not to tell Niro about the orphanage's closure; he was tempted to ask for his assistance, but ultimately decided against it. Perhaps it was Will's pride, but he wanted to solve his own problems without the privileges of nobility. It was not that he doubted Niro's sincerity or ability to help; the man could probably pull a few strings and reach some kind of agreement with the mayor. But he hated the thought of being a weak puppet in the hands of the elite, easily manipulated and depending on them for his sustenance. Even working for Niro was compromising his ideals of independence and freedom. But he had no alternatives for employment.
He almost spoke up, but immediately stopped himself. After organizing his thoughts, he responded, "Thank you for worrying about me, Lord Niro. I will keep your offer into consideration. But I will be okay; it is time I got some rest. I shall see you in the morning. Goodnight."
"I pray that tomorrow the bard will be back to his former self! Goodnight, William," declared Niro.
Will went to his room and fell on top of his bed; he was exhausted for several reasons. His mind could not stop wandering and he eventually got up and started walking around his room. Will's eye caught a glimpse of a long white piece of cloth; the candle illuminated it. Beneath the cloth lay an object that Will had no use for; at least that was the case until now.
He went over and uncovered the black sword that lay beneath the cloth. "Nemesis" was a beautiful broadsword that had taken many lives in the past. The blade had now become a temptation; Will desired its power. He stood there and contemplated what to do for several minutes. Finally, he covered up the blade again and said, "Never again. My hands must never shed blood ever again." "Then why have you not thrown away the blade yet?" he thought to himself. There was a part of him that could not get rid of it.
In the morning he went to the orphanage as soon as possible; he avoided contact with anyone that tried to speak with him. Will was not in the mood for small talk or pleasantries today. He met Namira at the top of the hill and noticed her worried expression.
One of the brown-haired boys went up to him and asked, "Are we going to be okay? Those bad men said that they would burn this place to the ground. You won't let them do that will you, Mr. Bard?"
"Of course not, little Wil. I'll protect you from harm. Go and tell all the children to go inside that house closest to the cliff and play there," answered Will. The little boy that shared his name looked up to Will as a father figure. He could not let him down; Will sent the kids far away just in case things got ugly when the thugs came.
Namira asked Will, "Do you have a plan?"
Will said, "I'm not sure of what to do. We can only wait for them to show up." Both Will and Namira were nervous; time seemed to flow slowly. But it was only an hour later that the thugs finally arrived; this time there were 10 of them. Will began to breathe heavily; he had not anticipated that they would send this many men.
The thugs were mostly younger guys with a few that were middle-aged; none of them looked friendly. Will and Namira feared for the worst; negotiating was not going to work.
"Time's up! It's time all of you got out of here!" said one of the black-haired men in a grumpy voice; he was presumably the leader of the group.
"Yeah! Get out or we'll make you move!" said one of the others.
Will took a deep breath and said, "I am afraid that I cannot do that. This land means too much to all of us; we will not move." Will brought out a piece of cloth and held it in front of him.
"Are you going to sing us a ballad, Mr. Bard? Your lute won't get you out of this mess! The land will be ours," said one of the thugs.
Will was not hiding his lute beneath the cloth, but a far more dangerous object. He took it off and revealed a black sword; Will thrust it into the ground and stood there waiting for their reactions.
Most of the men were taken aback; they had not considered the possibility that Will might be armed.
"How did a lowly peasant such as yourself get his hands on a rare blade like this one?" asked the black-haired leader of the group.
"That is not something that you need to know. But you should know that it is not a mere accessory for me; I have no qualms about using it if necessary," replied Will. He was hoping that they wouldn't notice his shaking hands as he clutched the handle of the blade. Will was bluffing; he was not mentally prepared to use the sword.
Namira had yet to catch on and wondered if he was really going to resort to violence. She was frightened; this was a new side of Will's personality that she had never seen before. Namira did not know what to expect.
The thugs started murmuring among themselves; they did not know what to do next. "What are you waiting for, you weaklings?! He's just a bard, how well do you think he can use a sword? There are ten of us; how can we lose?" said the leader in a confident tone. The leader had brought up a good point; Will was vastly outnumbered and Namira was a liability in such a situation.
"Your sword will fetch us a pretty penny at the Black Market; you should give it to someone else that actually knows how to use it," said the thug leader. His eyes lit up from excitement and he lunged forward with a dagger that he had just pulled out; a peaceful resolution was no longer possible.
Will was somewhat sluggish, but his instincts were coming back to him. Despite his apprehension and indecisiveness, he picked up the blade and blocked the incoming attack. Several more of the man's lackeys joined in and tried to stab him. Will was using the blade as a shield and kept guarding against their attacks. Despite their superior numbers, the men had no formal battle training; Will's rusty skills were enough to hold his ground. But one cannot simply defend without taking a single swing and win a fight.
"Why aren't you attacking, you spoony bard! Is running away all you know how to do?" said the thug leader as his attack was blocked once more.
Namira could only watch in horror and pray that no one got hurt. "Will! Be careful!" she yelled.
"Run away, Namira. It's not safe here!" yelled Will back to her. Namira had no intention of running away and this made her an easy target. One of the thugs grabbed her and put a knife to her throat; the fight came to an abrupt end.
"Enough already! Put down the oversized sword that you can only use as a shield and leave! Take your girl and your kids and never come back! Stop giving us trouble!" said the thug that grabbed her.
Will dropped his sword and stared in shock; the thug was holding Namira, the love of his life, and he was powerless to save her. It was dangerous to act and inaction could produce tragic results as well; he did not know what to do.
"It looks like we finally convinced you to stop this foolishness. But we still need to teach you a lesson," smirked the thug leader. He and his minions all ran up to Will and started to pummel him to the ground. They continued to kick and beat him for almost a minute. Will had no power to retaliate; his willpower was gone.
"I think that's enough, boys. Hopefully he's learned his lesson. Let's cash off the goods before coming back here and torching the place; today's haul is the best we've had so far. That sword will fetch us a large sum of money," said the leader. Then the man looked over at Namira and scanned her body from head to toe. He then said, "Take the girl; we can probably get some good money for her." His allies began to jeer and make lewd comments.
The horrified Namira was taken away by the thugs; she screamed for help, but Will could only watch as he lay on the ground. He was too bloody and bruised to get up. He feared that it was going to be the last time that he ever saw her face; Namira's copper hair and blue eyes were nowhere to be seen. She was being taken further and further away from him.
"I thought you said that you would let her go!" stammered Will.
"We never promised you anything, bard. And even if we did, there are no reasons to keep a promise made to a beggar. Rest assured, she will not go hungry where she's going. Her new master can do a lot more for her than you ever could. Blame your powerlessness for this situation; the weak have no rights," said the thug leader.
"He's right, I relinquished my rights the moment I put down the sword. It seems like I can't escape destiny; the blade continues to follow me everywhere. Even in Samara I cannot hide from the stench of corruption," thought Will to himself. He looked downhill; the thugs and Namira could barely be seen at this point. Only the thug leader remained to mock him.
"I was foolish; the path that I have chosen has led to my ruin. Joy and happiness are but fleeting emotions if I cannot save that which I love. If that is the way of the world, then so be it; I will give into the darkness once more!" thought Will to himself as his eyes began to glow red.
It was at this moment that the thug leader walked over and attempted to pick up "Nemesis". But the blade was bound to Will; it would not let just any stranger pick it up. A black aura surrounded the hilt and burned the leader's hand; he recoiled and screamed in agony. Before he could fully comprehend what had just happened, Will got up and grabbed the sword.
His eyes were filled with hatred and were now an unnatural crimson color. The thug leader looked very puzzled, but quickly changed his expression after the following sequence of events.
"Let her go!" bellowed Will; his voice sent chills down the leader's spine. In the next moment Will swung his blade and emitted a black wave. The wave turned into a fist and punched the thug leader; the attack sent him tumbling down the hill. His comrades turned around when they heard his screams and were very puzzled when his body knocked over two of them.
Will had snapped; "Nemesis" was a cursed blade that amplified the user's rage and gave form to his thoughts. The punch inflicted upon the thug leader was only a fraction of the sword's powers. The blade's abilities were similar to telekinesis.
Will ran down the hill and held out his right arm; a black flame began to form around his fist. The flame divided into 10 smaller flames that quickly extended outwards and grabbed the thugs by their necks. Will clenched his fist and the flames tightened; the thugs began gasping for air. Will's eyes seethed with hatred. "Nemesis" always desired more blood; it was never satisfied.
He could have very easily snapped all of their necks in that instant if Namira had not stopped him. She ran up to him and hugged him; "It's okay, Will! I'm safe now. You can let them go!" she said on the verge of tears.
Namira's voice was heard; Will snapped out of his trance and regained consciousness. He put his hand down and let the men go free. Nemesis' had freed Will from its bloodlust. Will looked down at the sobbing Namira and almost began crying himself. He started looking around and noticed that the thugs were shaking and staring at him in horror. In just a few seconds, Will's unbridled rage produced such powerful results.
Even Will was scared of himself now; he finally remembered why he feared his own sword. "Nemesis" was not a sword for the weak of heart; two years of inaction proved to be Will's undoing. He was not strong enough to use the sword without it corrupting him. Even when he served in the Isles' military it was not easy to control the sword.
A cautious man would have avoided such a dangerous weapon, but the Will Isles of old was a reckless youth; he desired power and prestige above all else. It was these expectations that he placed upon himself that eventually led to his hatred of the position that he was born into. The events that had just taken place were a stark reminder of why "Nemesis" was to remain untouched. But it was this dark power that allowed Will to save Namira from whatever those thugs had in store for her. He learned a valuable lesson from the thug leader that day: "The weak have no rights." Will could no longer allow himself to be weak, not if he wanted to guarantee Namira's safety or protect anyone close to him.
The 10 thugs looked on in fear, still confused at what had just occurred. "You monster!" screamed one of the thugs.
The leader looked at his injured men and then said to Will, "You aren't just some regular bard are you? We'll leave for now, but this isn't the last time you'll hear from us." He and his allies hurried down the hill and hoped that Will would not come after them again. The present calamity had been avoided; the orphanage had been spared, but no one knew for how much longer.
"I'm sorry for scaring you, Namira. I was just so scared to lose you and was overwhelmed with rage," said Will as he hugged her.
"I know, Will. Thank you for rescuing me. But where did you get that sword? Its powers are frightening!" asked Namira who was still shook up.
"It's a relic from the past, back when I was a warrior in the service of Isles. I swore to never pick it up again, but there was a part of me that did not want to let it go. It was as if I knew that there would come a day when I would need it again. I still loathe that blade, but I have no regrets about using it today, Namira. The situation called for it," declared Will confidently.
Namira continued to hug Will and nodded in agreement. They stood like that for over a minute before finally deciding to leave; they started walking back up the hill and were surprised to see several children staring back at them. Will had hoped to keep the children safe from harm; he succeeded, but based on the expressions on their faces, he could tell that they had seen his horrifying transformation. The "Bard of Samara" had turned into a violent warrior; he was going to have a hard time explaining himself to them.
As he walked up the hill with Namira, he noticed that not all of the children were frightened. Some had looks of admiration on their faces; Little Wil was especially excited. "That was really cool, Mr. Bard! I didn't know that you could fight like that!" he said in an ecstatic voice.
Will walked up to the children and said, "There is nothing to fear; those men will no longer bother you. For now, let us go inside and rest. It has been a long day for all of us." After a lot of convincing from Namira and Will, the children finally left them alone and went to go play.
Will and Namira went inside and sat across from each other at a table; they just sat there in silence for several minutes, not knowing what to say or do next.
"I'm staying here tonight; we don't know when they will return, " said Will.
Namira looked a bit surprised and asked, "Won't they require your presence at the court tonight?"
"This is an emergency. I am sure Niro will forgive my absence for just one night," replied Will.
"What do you think they'll do?" asked Namira in a concerned tone.
"They'll come back with more men. They have the support of the mayor; it won't be that easy to shake them off. This whole town is corrupt; morality won't win. No one will defend us; we're on our own," answered Will.
"But what about the contract that proves the land belongs to us? Surely the mayor has some dignity left," asked Namira as she held up a scroll sealed by the previous mayor of the town.
"That document means little when greed and lucre are present; they'll just rip it up and deny it ever existed. Honesty is not a common trait among the aristocracy," replied Will casually.
"Are you going to use that sword again?" asked Namira hesitantly as she put her hand on his arm.
Will was in deep thought for a moment and responded, "I will find an alternative solution, one where I am in control of the situation."
"I trust you, Will. I know that you'll get us through this," she said, trying to sound cheerful. Will and Namira sat there and tried to make small talk for the next hour, but it was difficult for either of them to stay focused; there was simply too much on their minds at the moment.
Eventually, Will excused himself and said that he was going to run some errands in town and notify Niro of his absence. As he walked through the city he noticed many people were staring at him; he was used to it by now. Will was the "Bard of Samara" after all, famous throughout the whole city. But he noticed something different about the glances he was receiving; there was a hint of fear in them. The rumors of the "Demon Bard" had begun circulating throughout the city. Some people began to pester him and ask questions; he ignored all inquiries and continued to walk hastily back home to the Loire Mansion.
Once inside, Will began to hurriedly search for his patron. He found him inside his study room. It was an elegant room with plenty of marble furniture. Niro was writing a letter and looked up when he saw Will approaching.
"Ah, if it isn't the Bard of Samara. How can I help you today? You look a bit flustered; is everything alright?" asked Niro. He had never seen Will look this way before; he suspected that it had something to do with Will's poor mood from the previous day.
"Lord Niro, I ask your permission to take a few days leave. There is a matter that concerns the orphanage that I must attend to promptly. I cannot delay," replied Will in a humble tone while bowing.
Niro was taken aback. "What prompted this? Please give me the details," asked Niro.
Will began to relay to him the events of the previous two days and about their current predicament. He left out the part about him being overtaken by "Nemesis" and just commented that he fended them off with a dagger.
Niro could tell Will was hiding some details, but did not press the matter. "Very well, take off as much time as you need. Are you sure that you don't need my assistance? I could pull a few strings with the mayor," asked Niro.
The offer was tempting, but Will did not want to involve more people than was necessary into his affairs. "I do not wish for you to damage your reputation, Lord Niro. Assisting a commoner in such a manner might be frowned upon," replied Will.
"Nonsense! My vassals are my responsibility; anyone that comes under my roof is my responsibility. Allow me to aid you in getting rid of unwanted guests," replied Niro in a confident and bold tone.
Niro Loire was a generous man, but he was far nobler than Will gave him credit for. The real reason Will did not want Niro's help was because his pride would not allow it, but today was the day Will swallowed his pride. He decided to accept help from a nobleman. If peace could be obtained without drawing a blade, then Will was willing to give it a try. Namira and the children meant too much to him; he would not allow his principles to get in the way of their safety.
After a long pause, Will responded, "Please help me, Lord Loire. Your assistance would definitely be appreciated." Niro smiled and the two shook hands.
Will left the mansion and headed back into the city. His reunion with his sword that day had set his path towards a new destiny. He had yet to know what awaited him on the other side.