Chapter 0:


Ethereal: the Thief and the Knight in the Shadow of Tyranny

He paced around the room, giggling as if he was a child given a present. An expression of glee had spread across his haggard face, which concerned his cabinet all the more.

“Your majesty,” one of the seated men spoke, his voice slightly shaky. “If you could just calm down-”

“Aransect!” He slapped the man across the face, instantly setting him ablaze. The man’s agonized shrieks were drowned by unhinged laughter. “You! All of you!” The king shoved the flaming man through a window, shattering both the window and the man’s chance of survival as he fell like a meteor to the ground below. A sickening thud echoed from outside the window-turned-balcony, and other members of the cabinets started backing away in fear.

“H-Have it your way, sire…”

“All of you! How many days have I performed the revival?” One member counted on his fingers for a second before looking back up to the king.

“170 times, Your Majesty. Including today.”

“And how many times has it succeeded?” He giggled to himself eerily.

“Um, Your Highness-”

“ANSWER ME!” The king’s bellow nearly deafened the men standing closest to him.

“...Zero. Zero times, Your Highness.”

“Then tell me…” He grabbed a spell book from his pocket, a royal version which had spells no mere mortal could conjure or fathom. He flipped to a page which contained all of the information needed to cast a revival spell. “Is the reason my son is still dead me? Is my magic, the strongest in history, defective? Or is it… something else? Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s the cabinet who conjured this defunct spell. Does that sound right? I think it does.”

By the time the cabinet realized what was happening, it was too late. The king wrote a word on a desk near him with his vial of ink, and as it solidified, he picked up the dot of the i and threw it at his cabinet. The first explosion killed one, maybe two members- when the drinking glass exploded too, they knew it was the end. One by one, the members exploded from the inside-out, smearing blood across the ceiling like scarlet paint. Organs splattered against the wall, and bone shards shot around like bullets. By the end of it, nineteen pairs of legs were strewn across the floor. The king was not satisfied.

“Who’s left?” He tried to peer through the red mist, but couldn’t see anyone. He knew he had 20 cabinet members, and all of them were present. Did one of them not drink the spell?

“William van Mareaux.” A raspy voice rang from the ground- the king glared in that direction and spotted the last man, bleeding mortally on the white marble floor. “You’re a traitor. You’re the reason this country is so full of filth. You’re scum.” The king didn’t know what to say. Not once in his life had he ever been slandered at all, much less this vehemently. He would take the highest pleasure in killing this man- his prophet- known only as The Ethereal One.

“Your life is entirely pointless,” van Mareaux said, his voice scalding and improper. “You lived and died as a thorn to your country, only delivering useless prophecies that did nothing but trouble your noble and graceful king with senseless worry!”

“You asked for the prophecies! What does that say about you? I-” The Ethereal One jolted, and suddenly his body was still. Was he dead? The king would be sad if so- he wanted to be the one to choke his pitiful life from his body. But his eyes flashed open, glowing green, and suddenly the king wished he had bled out.

“Beware the enemy- they number two
They will try to take the garments from you
And if they do- let’s suppose that they do
They’ll take the entire kingdom from you
Protect them well
Only time will tell
If you end up letting your guard down
And if you do- suppose you do
Those two will finish you and take up your crown.”

William van Mareaux quickly crushed the Ethereal One’s skull with his boot. “No more,” he whispered to himself. “No more prophecies. No more cabinet. No more obstacles in the way of reviving my dear son.”

As rolling crashes of thunder ricocheted off of the valley’s walls, the normally relaxing torrent of water pouring onto the roof seemed all too distressful. An unfamiliar sense of unease washed over eight-year old Kana, who by all accounts should have been able to sleep through this storm. She lived in Platinum Ridge, after all- she should be akin to the weather in which she herself grew up. But something was off.

Kana sat up in her cot and focused her blurry eyes on the ceiling. Nothing seemed to be leaking, which should’ve been obvious, since the homes in Platinum Valley were the strongest in the world. She wiped her eyelids and twirled a lock of hair in her fingers- it wasn’t static, so she wasn’t going to be struck. It had happened many times- due to the tin roof, her family’s home was often the target of the gods’ mighty thunder. Thankfully, the house stood strong, though no one knew how.

Sure now that she had just startled herself awake in some sort of nightmare, Kana stretched her legs and stood up. She couldn’t tell through her window the time of night, but she suspected close to daybreak. Pulling her nightgown down, she slowly creeped towards her door, not meaning to disturb her family’s slumber. On her way to the exit she accidentally stepped on a wooden doll, and she covered her mouth to prevent herself from yelling in pain. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes, but she wiped them away- she was going to be a big girl.

As she cracked the door open, she heard the echo of rustling and whispering downstairs. Did her parents wake up early like she did? She tiptoed down the spruce wood steps and peeked her head around the corner, eyes scanning for life.

She locked eyes with a grizzled old man, covered in matte black armor, who held a bloodstained knife and a box of riches.

The man next to him held her lifeless younger brother, and the other two men carried each of her parents, both with dark red water oozing from slits in their necks. The man holding the knife placed the box down on the living room table and lunged at her, baring his teeth like a wolf. Kana couldn’t move- her entire body was frozen in shock, not even allowing her to run up the stairs, dodge out of the way, or even take one step. The knife flashed a glimmer of white into her eyes before plunging into her chest.

Kana screeched in agony, but no sound came out. The pain of the wound stung not unlike a bad paper cut, but she was unable to breathe. As she fell to her knees, the man wretched the knife from out of her chest, and something akin to red wine spewed out of her sternum. She could all of the sudden breathe again, but when she took in air, the pain immediately infested the rest of her chest cavity, radiating out like a drop of juice in water. The paper cut that once was now felt like someone had reached into her rib cage and began pulling her ribs apart. Every moment was agony- quickly her breathing turned into coughing up that same red wine. Soon she couldn’t take in air at all.

Despite only being eight, Kana knew what this was- death. She had hunted deer with her father, and they had oozed this same substance as they twitched on the forest soil, breathing their last. Everything added up in her head. She was being killed. Her parents and brother had already been killed. And it was all because of the men with the black armor.

The little girl tried to think of happy thoughts of seeing her family in heaven, but the pain was so intense she couldn’t focus. Her hands and feet had gone numb, and she was fading out, but the pain in her chest remained. She normally enjoyed being alive, but now, living was a curse- unadulterated torture. She prayed to her god that she could just go to heaven already, and escape from her current vexatious reality. And as her vision went dark, she silently cried, hoping to see her family soon.

She was finally going to die.