Chapter 0:

Ashes of Eden

To the Dire Ends: Bloodstained kNight


Clusters sparkling, the waves of the galaxy were painted on the black canvas of the night heavens. Innumerable stars built each and every constellation that peered down to the still earth caressed by the summer’s night breeze and the faint light of a waning moon. The trees swayed on the breath of the wind, creating a delightful ambiance as their leaves rustled gently. It was there on the soft grass atop that hill that I’d watched the starry heavens glittering.

It was all so peaceful, that night. A night that would stay so fresh in my memory that it’s as if I’d never left that hill behind but continued laying there without a care in the world. Yet although it should have been a sweet sensation, that vivid memory would leave me with little else but pain in my heart. The feeling of its peace would only serve to run my heart through with a cold, cruel blade.

When a volley of stars streamed across the sky’s obsidian backdrop, our silence had been broken.

“Did you make a wish?” An elegant, youthful voice raised itself from beside me.

Glancing, I’d met her eyes. The deep and marvelous blue eyes that had contained the twinkling light of the stars in the heavens. The tranquility and joy that rippled in their starry pools made them come alive with a beauty unparalleled.

I’d lost myself in those eyes for a brief moment but as I’d caught myself I’d voiced the exact response she had likely anticipated from me. The same kind of noncommittal response I’d always give to those kinds of fables.

“I can understand. I’d imagine anyone who could call themselves a prince wouldn’t be so quick to wager their future on a set of falling space rocks.” She’d responded to me with a cute giggle in her voice.

A blush had crept its way to my face. I’d stuttered lightly as I’d told her that I was no prince.

“That’s what you think. But I already know you’re even greater than a prince. Even if you don’t want to accept it, I know it’s the truth.”

In the face of her teasing, I couldn’t find a way to respond, so I’d just made myself busy staring out to the heavens above.

“I’d made a wish.” My gawking at the sky was cut short as she’d happened to have reclaimed my attention. “Do you want to know what I’d wished for?”

To tease her back, I’d reminded her that it was a part of her beliefs that you shouldn’t ever share your wishes. Especially those made on shooting stars. It was the best I could do to get even with her.

“You’re right. I guess I’ll have to keep it all to myself then.” She’d spoke with a slightly smug tone, attempting to rile me up again.

With how peaceful the moment was, it could have been a dozen minutes or a dozen seconds; time would lose all meaning when I was alone with her. But as her voice carried on through the warm night, my heart raced as she’d kept her eyes held to my own.

“When that wish comes true, I’ll tell you then. There’s no rules about that, is there? Then maybe you’ll remember and you’ll wish you’d made a wish too.”

I was at a loss for words once again as she’d revealed to me her lovely and invaluable smile that was a perfect fit to the feeling of a summer’s night. The delicate glimmer of elation that warmed her features would capture my heart each and every time. I couldn’t tear my eyes away, even when I would witness the horrors that would break my heart.

Sprouting from the grass beneath, curling, wrapping itself around her, thorny, green vines began to overtake her again. I could only sit and watch as they wreathed their way around her body and across her waist up to the soft skin of her neck. As they’d curved across every inch of her body, lush red began to flourish and flower. The petals of roses bloomed beautifully, slowly consuming her with their crimson color.

As she’d laid in a bed of roses, her eyes fluttered tiredly, struggling to remain open.

“I feel so sleepy.” Her face paled as she spoke those words to me. But she’d remained as beautiful as she had always been. “Promise me that you’ll meet me again someday, Hakan.”

Warm streams had already begun to cross my face as the sight of her rose covered body began to blur before my eyes. I had mustered all of the strength I’d had in my soul to force my way through the sorrow that suffocated me. With a deep, shaking breath, I’d spoken my promise to her.

“I’ll be waiting for you in our wonderland.” Her final words before she’d fallen asleep beneath the Milkyway.

The night continued on under the canopy of the starlit sky. But I was numb to all of the magnificence the heavens could offer. I could only look at her laying sound asleep with the roses that were a stunning contrast to the pale colors of her skin and her long, white hair.

The world waved and distorted around me. My head reeled almost weightlessly as my eyes opened to capture a hazy view of my surroundings. A feeling like an immense pressure of gravity laid itself down on my body, fighting me as I’d struggled to maintain the fleeting consciousness I’d managed to grasp hold of while falling through a world of dreams.

Everything was nothing but a drunken mire as my senses tentatively returned to me one by one. I had been numb, but that numbness was overtaken by a searing, unspeakable pain splitting my chest apart. A damp sensation dripping down my torso came to light and I’d began to feel a sickening cold sweat coating my skin. My stomach lurched, that sickly sensation giving me an acute, distressing nausea.

That disgusting feeling alone had nearly eclipsed my eyes with darkness but as my vision began to fail, I’d taken a deep breath and experienced a slaying pain crack through my body. Through sheer force of will alone, I’d forced my vision to clear. The filter of fatigue slowly began to lift, revealing a stonework wall tangled with vines. A scent of wet earth mixed with the metallic tinge of blood.

Why am I here? What brought me here?”

Fighting against the gravity that had forced down on me, I’d ran my hand against the origin point from where I’d felt the pain continuing to erupt forth. With a twitch, a splash of thick liquid struck my fingers before I’d pressed them against the pit that I’d soon found at the center of my chest. The feeling of bone, the wet sensation of my own skin rent open.

I’d lifted my had to witness a coat of red soaking what was once the white of my gloves. For an instance my focused vision nearly dove back into the abyss. I’d taken hold of my mind and dragged it away from the edge of the harrowing void it had danced beside.

If I’d let go now, there would be no coming back.

I remember now.” I’d taken another deep breath and let the pain I’d felt serve as my reminder. “I’d received a sword through my heart.”

The images returned to my mind. Every minute detail I’d recalled cut through me more savagely than that blade.

My right hand fell slack to the hard ground I’d rested on. Its fingers brushed against the handle of my sword. I’d gently felt its body before I’d found my resolve and tightly snapped my hand around it. Before I could lose a single iota of resolve, I’d planted its blade into the stone floor beneath me for support as I’d raised myself up from the pillar I’d leaned against. A spasm rocked me, causing my body to shudder in pain before I’d forced myself back aright.

Echoing off from the hard walls came a clashing. The sounds of clattering steps, ringing metal and grunts of force found my ears that had finally opened once more. Glancing over my shoulder to peer away from the vine laden wall I’d faced, lanterns aflame illuminated the room.

It was a large and broad space the shape of a cube. The pale tiles under foot were cracked with age and small tufts of grass and earth peeked through the openings between each. Every wall was decorated with greenery yet the leftmost sector of the room leading towards a large stone archway gradually grew more thick with vegetation the closer it came to that portal. Beyond it, fading in the misting darkness were colorful flowers and buds leading their way down the length of the hallway.

When a sharp ring dashed through the air, I’d turned to see a woman dressed in a beautiful, violet dress with armor adorning her shoulders. In one hand she braced herself with an imposing shield which made it appear as if she was carrying an entire wall. In the other was a sword she had lashed and swung, exchanging blows with the group of large, skeletal hands that clamored to breach entry into the room.

Her clear blue eyes were locked in a steadfast glare towards her opponents, unfitting to how gentle they could be. The locks of her long, hair flowed with each movement like dancing rays of golden light.

Valorith Philina was embroiled in combat and gave no inch to her enemies.

With the quiet sound of a swift cutting of the still air, my attention drew towards my right where I’d spotted a man with his back flush against another pillar upholding the mason ceiling. A bow rested in his hands, an arrow laying against its cord preparing to be nocked. His earthen toned eyes peered from behind his cover and towards the lithe and bizarre creature that was reminiscent of a large clay pot running along three legs. A gem was grasped in the rough fingers of its hand and a similar gems adorned both the front and back faces of its pot-like body. The archer ran a hand through his bronze hair as he took a breath to reforge his courage.

Engaging his target from the distance was Zenith Kanaph.

By fault of my still mending mind I had been late to notice the stunning sight that was directly before me, standing just a few steps away from what had been my own resting place. Her waist length red hair that plumed as delicately as the petals of a rose was stunning. It was a surprise to me that I’d been so lost that I hadn’t recognized her first of all. The focus and preparedness in her stance made it apparent that she had been standing guard over my dead body.

Though against all odds, she too had been caught by surprise. Noticing that I now stood behind her, her eyes which shimmered a leaf green were as sharp as a rose’s stem. Bearing their thorns, they had struck me from over her shoulder. The piercing stare she had worn had immediately softened as she’d realized I had found my footing once more.

“Hakan! You’re alive!” Relief and joy overwhelmed every word she spoke. But her gleeful expression was short lived as her attention returned to the task at hand. Gripping her lance tightly, she’d asked me one question. “Are you able to fight?”

“I’ve been through worse.” I’d responded with a hint of humor. “I’ll be fine. We can discuss it later. Right now the others need our help. Go assist Valorith. I’ll make sure this pest gets out of Zenith’s hair.”

“Understood.”

A firm nod shared between us and we were both off in a dash towards our objectives. While I’d found my start more unsteady than I’d wished, with a fortification of my mind, I’d gained my stride and locked my sights on the three legged pot. The Walker, as we had named its type.

“Zenith! Aim for its legs! I need that thing down on the ground!”

“Hakan?! You’re…” Catching himself and putting his head back into the battle, he affirmed my command. “Right. I’ll take it down for you.”

A jolt of panic was clear to tell from the Walker despite its lack of a traditional face. At once it began to sprint around in a bid to keep away from the fang of my blade. With a handling of the gem in its hand, its clear, green surface began to shimmer with light. A spire of earth came jetting out from the ground in a bid to skewer me but I was more witty than to let myself be run through for the second time in the day. With a quick dip to my right, I’d kept hot and unrelenting on its trail.

Another glimmering, another attempt to lance me. The blades of diamonds embedded in its spire had barely scraped by this time as I’d whipped my body out of the way. I’d gained on it and prepared to strike. While it had attempted to about face and flee, a whistle of the air sounded as its front leg was crushed, causing it to plant itself across the floor. Its spindly arms clawed uselessly as it could find no way to stand. Its attempts ceased when my sword slammed through its body, shattering it to pieces.

I jerked my blade out of the ground and twisted to go to the yet battling Valorith and Rozyuka. But the moment I’d faced to their skirmish, I’d met eyes with a figure standing in my way.

A tattered, black robe draping its torn edges to the floor. Scraped silver armor with violet markings twisting and linking like vines on its surface. Beyond the skeletal helm on its head, two eyes glowed like lanterns. The right lighting a bloody red and the left a shimmering white light. Its stance was opposing, rigid while it glared blades at me/ The sword clutched firmly in its hand dripped blood onto the grass of a cracked tile.

My blood.

I rose to opposition against it. We were still, the sounds of clanging blades and shuffling feet sounding from the sight of the heated battle waging behind him. I’d measured them, watching, waiting for any primal twitch. Given the look in this rogue’s glowing eyes, they had sought for any opening, any sign of weakness to tear towards me with his blade painted with my blood.

A whistle pierced the room. As quickly as a blur, the rogue had swept its head out of the path of a screaming arrow. Before it could even finish its motion, I had already sprinted full blast towards it. A sharp knell reverberated as it had caught the edge of my sword against its own. The strain of metal crushing against metal gritted my ears; a result of our now burning hot competition. I’d pressed and struggled against its blade, attempting to force it off balance, but it would give no quarter.

With a flick of its wrist, our blades fell from each other and its successive strike lurched for my body to no avail. Rebounding from my sword, a spark kicked up from metal scraping metal. Clangor sounding, skipping strikes coming one after another as tooth and nail were bore. When it had answered my repel with a lunging thrust, I’d twisted out of the way and, in the same stroke, slammed the base of its blade. Its grip failed as the sword launched into a spiral through the air, meetings its destination embedded into the stone floor.

I brandished my blade across its neck but much of my blow had been sunk into its helm which newly featured a gash across its surface. Before my sword could make its second round, the rogue dipped backwards lithely and placed its back to the wall.

Unwilling to give my opponent a single opportunity, my pursuit ended with a strong swing to remove its head from its shoulders. Yet I’d met resistance against a dark mist that streamed from one of its hands to the next. When the mist was kicked away by the force of my strike a long, black axe now rested in its hands. In response, the rogue choked up on the head of the axe and sent a quick swipe of its sharp edge towards my own neck.

I couldn’t have stepped any quicker out of its way and I could nearly feel the gash I would have suffered streaming across my skin.

“Hakan! Get back! I’m going to keep it busy! You find an opening!” Zenith called to me, now having stepped out from behind the pillar.

I’d nodded my head and did my best to disengage with fast feet pulling me back and away from my enemy. A volley of arrows began to fly and tear across the room. The rogue twisted, ducked and stepped through the hail plucking towards it. Its progress was impeded but not entirely prevented as it continued to gain on me.

“Now’s your chance! Go!”

In tandem with his word, Zenith let loose a stealthy arrow quickly behind another, having lured the rogue into a false sense of security. As it lurched to the side to dodge one arrow, a solid thud sounded when it had unwittingly maneuvered itself directly into the path of the sneaky shot. Taking advantage of its surprise, in synergy with its injury, I’d scraped through its body armor and spilled its blood from its chest.

It recoiled in pain but just as quickly lashed out its own strike I’d made to guard my body with my sword and a clamorous, waving clang fluctuated. Despite the pain I’d continued to suffer, my wits had resharpened to the point where I’d immediately noticed that my hand was feeling uncomfortably light. I’d snapped my eyes to my sword to find a short, jagged stump left where the blade once stood tall.

The rogue lifted its axe for a powerful overhead strike to slash me in two, but while it took its windup, I put all of my muscle into throwing the remnant of my sword. The handle jutted out from its torso as its fractured blade slammed into its body. The force alone caused the rogue to take a step back and drop its axe back to its defensive position.

It was do or die again. Killing time.

I’d spun to about face and began to sprint towards the enemy’s sword now looking more like King Arthur’s Excalibur with the small ray of light drifting down to it from a broken fragment of the ceiling. The racket of the rogue’s armor let me know that it was on the chase.

I met the sword and wrapped my hands around its handle with all of my strength. The clamor of its steps ceased directly behind me and I could feel that its next attack was coming in quick. With one last powerful tug, the sword came loose. Whirling the blade, spiraling with all of my might, I passed its sharp edge through the neck of the rogue as quickly and smoothly flitting through as air.

Its hands fell slack around the handle of its weapon and the sound of its edge ringing against stone came first before the rattling of its helmet as its head thumped and rolled across the floor. I’d breathed a pained sigh of relief when the rest of it crashed uselessly to the ground, assuring me that it was now an issue of the past.

It wasn’t but a few seconds later that all the sounds of war subsided. With the noise of one last body hitting the floor, the battle was won. I breathed heavily, pained as I could momentarily feel my consciousness leaving me again. But as a hand fell on my shoulder, I’d managed to be reeled back to the present. Looking up from my seated position, the blue eyes of Valorith were filled with care and concern. Once more lovely and gentle as were best for them.

“Are you alright? Can you stand?” She’d asked me with her worry apparent in her voice.

“I can… Just give me a moment and I’ll be back to my feet.”

“If you need us to carry you, we will.” Zenith’s spoke to me while laying another hand on my shoulder.

I glanced to each of them. From Rozyuka’s verdant eyes until Zenith’s own that were like fertile earth. With one more breath, one more adjustment of mind, force of will and overcoming my own body, I’d stepped up by myself.

“Thank you for your concerns. I’ll be fine to walk from here. When we return, we can do something about this injury. For now, I can tell that there isn’t much further to go. Just down that hallway and we’ll be out of here.”

I’d pointed my company towards the hall that was overcome with vines and flowers.

“If you feel faint or anything comes along, tell us. Okay?” Rozyuka then gave her own word of worry.

It was with a single nod that I’d started off and lead the charge out of the dungeon. As we’d passed by the barrier of the archway, the darkness seemed to ease up. In the distance at the end of the walk was a tiny light.

“That must be the exit.” Zenith reasoned. “I can’t wait to get back and get you looked at. I’m surprised you’d gotten back up after that. I’m glad you did.”

“I’m not going to leave all of you alone. There’s too much at stake to let myself go that quickly.”

Along the way as we walked the course of vines, tables and paintings littered the path. Whether or not it made sense, I hadn’t given it much thought. With how this world had become, it was a minor issue. It was par for the course.

Yet the further we walked, the more I’d began to notice that light dimming. What was a little ray was soon falling into a dull, distant star. As I’d passed by a mess of playing cards spilled on the floor, I’d taken notice of a small creature hopping its way down to that far off light. With two long ears and white fur all about it, it was a simple, harmless rabbit that had no place in such a dangerous place.

“What is a rabbit doing here?” I’d asked the others. Their faces turned into looks of bewilderment at my question.

“A rabbit? I don’t see any rabbits around here.” The first to answer me was Valorith.

“What do you mean? It’s right-”

Making to point, I’d found that the hallway was beginning to move. A disorienting feeling of vertigo tangled through my body like choking vines as my feet began to feel uneven on the floor.

“Hakan? Hakan, what’s wrong?!” Rozyuka asked me with fright in her voice.

What was once a simple course forward began to shift into a glance towards my feet. The hallway was now twisting on the spot, turning into a large descent into the darkness. I’d tried my best to fix my stance and to hold onto any vine I could find, but all of them retracted and played tricks on me.

Before I could warn the others, I was already falling. Descending, hearing the wind rushing past my head. Clocks and paintings lined the walls all the way down. Tables with tea pots, candles and cards floated about and I passed them by.

A mirror fell before me and kept pace with my own speed. I’d soon stared at my own face in the reflection. My uniform, the blood that now rose from the opened wound at the center of my chest which made what was once white into a sanguine red. My cape whipped behind me, tangled with the wind.

The longer I fell, the heavier my eyelids became. Each blink became more and more troubling to contest. As my eyes fluttered in a failing battle, blurring as sleep began to overcome them, I saw my reflection draw near to me. In response, with the last bit of will I had left in me, I responded and found myself drawn to that mirror image. It reached out its hands and pulled me into a warm embrace. I’d felt guilty as I’d began to stain its clothes red with my own blood.

I’d drifted off to sleep in my own arms. 

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