“Let the Fight Continue! The Last Hope’s New Fighting Force”
Darvic had written that all down yesterday before retiring to exhaustion. Waking up, he draws his katana as usual, ready to fight. The leaves that make up his bed disperse and he observes the trees around him. Bushes cover his position well; he had done that intentionally. Being the last freedom-fighter, he cannot afford to get himself killed, having cheated death two times already, and they always say three’s the charm. Ati’s agents—he knows—are all over the world, so if one was in the forest and found him while he was sleeping, it would be over. Darvic has no intention of finding out if that is true, however. Seeing no one in the immediate facility and sensing no evil presence, he sheaths his customized katana. A true masterpiece, it has a guard that is twenty inches thick. It has been customized even further with a vine design starting there, and wrapping around to end at the bottom of the hilt. The vines sometimes even glow green when the sword is in use, and anyone glancing at it might think it is a Nature-element sword.
Though that isn’t the case. It has no element. However, through a Rune carved into the blade, Darvic is capable of enchanting it to glow red and to emit a red flame, if he so chooses. Just when Darvic is calmed down, however, he feels a heat wave coming from nearby and decides to take a look. In this heavily dense forest, it would be impossible to use his custom bow, so he draws his katana in one hand and wields a small tube in the other. The tube is an invention of his that can shoot projectiles—lethal or not—or can transform into a deadly dagger, with Ice Runes running down the slightly curved, half-serrated, double-edged blade.
He ignores the scenery around him. The humidity in the air is meaningless, the smell of a marsh nearby bothers him not, and the buzzing of insects in his ears he ignores as if they were nothing. He is focusing on the heat he feels on his skin and the proximity which he is detecting. The growth may hide much, but they cannot hide a human for long. The green underbrush tries to give Darvic resistance, but his mastery of stealth prevents them from giving him away. The heat begins to cause him to sweat and he notices his heart rate has increased. He pushes that feeling away, normalizing his heart rate. But as suddenly as the wave of heat now engulfing him had appeared, it disappears. Of course, he is puzzled by the sudden disappearance of the massive heat.
Whoever it is, it must have the ability to control a massive amount of flame. But Darvic hates how he can’t seem to locate the source. He theorizes that whoever this person is, it has the ability to suppress the massive power he just felt, and that alone is impressive. To hide when an expert is trying to locate you is no easy task. Suddenly, a woman sends a fireball out of her hand right behind Darvic, who quickly chants “Pyrsho!” creating a fire shield.
“So, you have skills in the Fire defense? Interesting. You even chose a Fire shield, which takes some spirit magic as well. In addition, you were able to get this close to me. I was afraid that I would be noticed by you. Quite impressive. The rumors I heard about you must be true,” she comments, showing a slight hint of admiration.
“You say it’s about me. Almost everything you’ve heard about me that does not involve me being a weak coward running away from the ‘great empire’ is likely true. I assume that you know my name, so I’m at a disadvantage.”
“Hard not to know the name Darvic, last of the ‘rebels’. But in truth, no matter how much you deny it, you’re not alone. Why do you think I was training my Fire skills out here? It’s dangerous to use the skills you learned while in a great alliance,” she replies, smiling as she tosses a fireball up and down, before closing her fists with the fire inside. While she fails to answer the question about her name, her answer is something which Darvic wishes to learn about more.
Darvic is impressed, as he asks, “What alliance are…were you from?”
“The Blazing Infernos. I was lucky enough to get out before that famous incident. Retired from the job after I had mastered my power.” Darvic is even more impressed now, and is, in fact, shocked by this revelation.
“You got out before the battle of Eros? I thought the whole alliance, the most powerful pyromancers, pyrotechnics, and Fire Warrior alliance in existence, was wiped out!”
“And so does Ati. But I survived and I’m here today, ready to fight.”
Darvic walks away, simply stating, “I need no help. Ati is my responsibility, no one else’s. Go away into hiding, and live out your life freely until I manage to kill Ati.” The woman angrily clenches her fists. Fists glowing red with rage, she shoots a blast of orange flame, which Darvic barely blocks.
“Perhaps you didn’t hear me, Darvic! I am here, and I want to fight! You can’t beat Ati alone, can you? You need help!”
Darvic sighs, and states, “Every time I have gotten close to someone, they have died terrible deaths. And it’s all because of Ati.”
“Then it isn’t your fault!”
“Ati was my friend once. I treated him like an equal, taught him everything I knew, and back then, I could have stopped him. It wouldn’t have been that hard to detect that he had evil intentions, but I trusted him. He betrayed me. He would have killed my entire city, all of my men, the day he left, but he wanted to build an army first. Just to make sure. I failed, and the cost was everything I loved. I even failed to stop him when my new comrades died one by one or joined him. I must stop him alone, as you will just get yourself killed.”
“Darvic, that was a long time ago. You have to change. With my help, you can rebuild what was lost. I am not a weak fighter. I was always one of the strongest members of the order. Out of the thousands in this alliance—the second-largest in the world—I could beat nearly every one of them. I only chose to remain at a low rank, though I could have easily been on par with the elite. I have only grown stronger since then, and I want vengeance almost as much as you do. Please, let me help you. My name is Aria.”
Clad in light armor—mostly leather with the occasional metal plate—she holds her fist to Darvic, causing the pure red gauntlet on her right hand to shine brightly. “My left fist casts strong Fire magic. My right casts even stronger spirit fire magic. My shield can block any attack. I wield a sword that has been customized by me. I can even shoot a Fire Arrow or Bolt enhanced with my own spirit. I am strong, Darvic. Would you like me to prove it to you in a fight, or will you believe me?”
Darvic takes note of what she has said. Her right hand contains a gauntlet that has flames seemingly dancing out from it, creating powerful spikes for close combat. It could also theoretically use her spirit’s power, so she wasn’t lying there. Her sword is shaped like a living flame, similarly colored a fierce red. The guard is the simplest part of the blade; it appears to be a standard longsword’s guard, except for the spikes shaped like Fire sticking out at both ends. The hilt isn’t visible from Darvic’s angle, but he can tell it is complicated. Every single edge resembles a piece of a Fire. The blade is even more spectacular; it is only about six inches shorter than Aria is, being Five feet long. Such a long blade with the Fire patterns dancing to life reminds him of the power he had faced in a spar and lost to a long time ago on his travels.
It just hangs on her belt. Her belt also contains several arrows and bolts; she obviously wasn’t lying about that, either. Though he is puzzled by the blade. Obviously, the sword is one-handed, but the weight normally would be too great. How, in the name of the spirits, would she be able to wield it in only one hand? The handle only contains enough room for a single hand. Darvic touches the blade, his instincts from the past informing him that it is three times lighter than he expected. Aria notices his puzzled look and grins a little at his curiosity.
“The Runes on the hilt make it much lighter to wield, but make it five times harder on impact. I can wield it more skillfully than any normal person can wield their own weapon,” she explains, as Darvic continues to observe her. Darvic notices that on her back, there is a small square shield, but it is clear it has been compressed. Aria decides to demonstrate the shield by pulling it out, as it instantly becomes a large shield nearly her size. “A Goblin Fire Shield, yet it was forged by Elves. They must have gotten the design in the days of peace. It is as old as you can get, but it is powerful. With a little repair, this thing can withstand any impact thrown at it. And even without Runes, it still weighs very little. With compression Runes, I can fit it on my back easily, the weight Runes helping greatly,” Aria states, as she waves it around for a while. She then sticks the two spikes on the bottom of the shield into the ground to keep it in place, showing how it can hold like a tower hit with sticks.
Before putting away the shield, Aria lets Darvic notice that, on her back, she also wields a crossbow and longbow. The bolts, arrows, and darts are, by the looks of things, not only for throwing, Darvic thinks to himself. On her belt, he notices she has a small serrated knife, as well as a dagger closely resembling her sword. She even carries a foldable fire axe. Impressive arsenal.
She is equipped for any situation that is thrown at her, but Darvic still doesn’t want to bring her. “I still can’t have you travel with me…you’d understand if you’ve seen what I have.”
“Then show me! That is, if you can. It is well-known about your eyes, Darvic. Your eyes once had visors over them. You didn’t want the visors—they interfered with your activities as a Ranger—yet you wanted the advantages that you had become so used to. You had a surgery, didn’t you? The mini-computer on you right eye might help me see why you won’t take me with you.” Darvic, by now, is not shocked by her ability to observe little details like that, since everything she said was true. Her knowledge and sharp eye are something which is on par with his own, so he can’t deny her request.
“Very well…I’ll show you just why I simply can’t take you with me.” Darvic removes a metal piece from his eye without harm; it was designed to be removed when needed. Arian can clearly observe that it is a half cylinder, apparently colored blue. A few seconds later and it is being held in the very center of his right palm, one of its purposes about to be used. He presses the little hole at the top of the cylinder with his right finger, temporarily covering the whole hole. Aria begins to think about what’s going on. I’ve heard of this ability. So he really posses it. The six ‘blades’, as he calls them, on all sides will start to glow, and a projection of a bunch of information will come up. Sure enough, the six edges on the cylinder glow and a projection comes up. Wasting no time, Darvic starts to move all of his four right fingers, as if typing in a search. However, only he can understand the gibberish being shown. A minute or so later, Darvic proclaims, “Ah! Here it is!” He presses the top again. The whole cylinder flips over, revealing the empty inside. As he shifts his grip into a fist, the six ‘blades’ dig into his index finger and thumb. Waving his left hand over the whole thing, the screen becomes much bigger, and is easily as tall as an average man, as well as twice as wide.
The screen then projects the image which Darvic had been playing through his head so many times—the day of the massacre. The screen shows the Cobra massacre, having happened the day before. It skips a few frames, and then shows what appear to be Darvic’s hands holding his dead leader and friend. Darvic pauses it for a second, explaining to Aria, “I had gone away on a trip for a special Rune to help my student Rangers. It took me close to the Cobras, who I was still a member of. I decided that there would be enough time for me to pay a visit, maybe go on a mission or two. I found all my friends there dead. All I could see was a few stray troops which I recognized as soldiers under Ati’s command, scavenging the remains of battle. I knew instantly what had happened. I killed them, but was too distraught to continue. I cried until the night, moving on.
“When I was about a mile from my city, I could go no further and had to rest. I would report the tragedy in the morning. From what I could hear from the scavengers, Ati’s army was heading away from my city. But in all likelihood, they were left there by Ati and given false orders as to where they would be headed—Ati probably knew I was there, listening. So he made me believe that my city was safe. The direction he was supposedly going was away from any village; were it true, there would be at least two days to the next target, ample time to warn them.”
He then continues the recording, skipping to the next day. It shows smoke rising from above the hill and Darvic running frantically. Once on the hill, it gives a nice enough vision to see the city a mile away. Aria can imagine that, from his perch, Darvic could see everything. The city was not burning, but the fields outside were. Again, Darvic pauses the recording. “It took me half an hour for me to run all the way to the city. Instantly, I ran to the front lines. It might have been years since I was the leader of the village, but the soldiers recognized me and needed a hero to help command them. I helped, and we managed to somewhat hold off their troops. But nonetheless, we had to evacuate the farms and they had almost reached the city gates. My good friend, the mayor of the city, updated me on the situation. Ati’s troops had attacked full-force. He knew it was only a matter of time. I summoned my Rangers by my side to help fight. By night, we had only had a few casualties and a couple hundred losses of normal soldiers. We had massacred thousands, but they finally reached the gate.
“I had kept the force together. But then Ati showed himself. He inspired his own troops—or made them fear, more accurately—and used his power to blast a hole through the gate. Helios had the best gates ever build, Aria, and he blasted through them as if they were nothing. Not to mention, the technological shield protecting the city instantly was drained of power. That is a feat of strength that I don’t think I could do even today. He had some assistance back then; I am sure of it. Whatever it was, he doesn’t have it anymore. But his power is still greater than it was before.”
Once again he resumes the recording; it shows a brief clash with Ati. The recording blacks out for a second and it is obvious that Darvic is in pain. When the recording continues, it shows the city on fire. Ati is shown right in front of the recording—a side view revealing how Darvic was still lying down, nearly dead—holding the dead body of a woman with a bow in her hand. That type of bow, Aria knows, is the type that only a Ranger uses. From the recording, she can tell it is an exact match to the type that Darvic uses. And Darvic’s bow—from the stories told—is modified slightly to be more powerful. From this, she can guess that the woman is someone Darvic cared greatly for. Bodies lay everywhere in the recording, only illuminated in the night by the city’s burning. The smoke clogs out the sky and the recording begins to fade. A few bodies around Ati seem to show significance; several of them hold bows and one of them seems to be wearing a battle uniform suggesting importance. Aria has one guess: the mayor of the city. They had all been massacred in a few minutes by Ati’s power.
“Ati defeated me with ease. My falling was quite the morale blow, but we were tough people. They must have fought on to the very end. But with the gates breached, the only things keeping them out were my Rangers and the Mayor, the toughest fighters in the world. Ati killed them as well; my fiancé was the last to fall. I watched everything I knew go up in flames in a few hours. When I woke up, only ashes remained of everything I held dear. I couldn’t protect them back then. I can’t allow others to be killed for something that is my responsibility. Ati would be dead if not for my foolishness and carelessness. And now, he’s the tyrant over most of the known world. That is why I cannot allow you to come with me. You’ve hidden yourself so far; you should continue doing so.”
“Ati’s eyes are everywhere; you know that as well as I do. I will only be able to hide myself for so long before I am caught. I’d rather die fighting for a cause than run like a mouse from a cat to eventually get killed anyway. I’ve heard of you. You want the same thing as I do. You should let me go with you.”
Darvic is about to speak up again, before a voice interrupts his thoughts. He was going to say, ‘I can help you hide, but not fight. I cannot have you fight with me; you will just die again. I can kill Ati.’ But a laugh from within his mind, his very spirit, interrupts him. “Ranger, don’t even bother saying that. You know that’s a lie as much as I do. Like it or not, you didn’t lose me then; I’m here, eternally pestering you. You’re more powerful than you were then, but you’re still not strong enough. Even if you were to miraculously clear through all of Ati’s troops without harm, Ati would be too much of a fight. You need help, Ranger.”
“I told you not to call me that.”
Darvic’s vision of the real world begins to fade away, replaced by the blackness of his own mind. It is empty because of his concentration, except for a figure standing in front of him. “I’d be somewhat annoying to call you ‘Darvic’, now, wouldn’t it? Darvic’s the name of our dragon friend, the one who you seem to borrow strength from the most. I can’t call you ‘Visor’ because Visor is also living in here. And you really hate it when I call you your real name, don’t you? So I’ll call you Ranger.”
“But still…I don’t want to take her. I’m not strong enough to protect myself, yet alone another.”
A few other figures stop hiding in the shadows of Darvic’s mind; a dragon, a human, and a giant snake reveal themselves along with the woman. The snake speaks first, stating, “I disagree. You should not stay with her. You’re better in solitude.”
The man nods his head in agreement, but is met with resistance from the dragon. “Shut up, Cizor. You wish for nothing more than solitude.”
“Visor agreed with me.”
“And who do you think was type one spirit merged with you? I do recall that Visor had your spirit. And I’m actually shocked he agreed with you.”
Visor speaks up, breaking his silence. “My reasons for agreeing are my own. I’d like to, but I cannot simply disagree with Cizor because of my dislike for him.”
“I did nothing wrong, Visor. You were dieing and I had to leave.”
“I was dieing because YOU left me to die! I would have won that fight if I had your strength! But, no, you just HAD to leave me before I got hit! You’re nothing but a coward!”
“I am not a coward, Visor. I just had to leave you because I didn’t want to be permanently bonded with you—upon your death, had I still been within you, we would have been permanently merged into a type two bond. Neither one of us wanted that; we’re both still individual minds.”
“Still, I’m not going to forgive you—”
Darvic interrupts the conversation, shouting, “Will you two just SHUT UP!”
Both apologize for their argument, the dragon laughing. “What’s so funny, Darvic?” Cizor asks, angry at the dragon’s response. “Darvic, answer!”
“Oh, you’re talking to me! I thought you meant our host over there,” the dragon taunts.
“You still haven’t answ—”
The human Darvic stares at Cizor’s eyes, telling him to stop without speaking.
“Nonetheless, the vote’s three to two, and one of those opinions counts as ten votes. I’d like to say that vote is mine, but I’m not that arrogant,” Visor says, finishing with, “She shouldn’t come with you. You’re not strong enough yet.”
Darvic the dragon speaks up, directing his comment at his host. “Darvic, one of the reasons you’re not as strong as you could be is that you are using me too often—my name, my powers, and the memories associated with the Dragons of Wrath. We know for a fact that the Eagle Spirit has a type two spirit bond with you—that is your true strength. If you use it, your power will be much greater than it is now.”
“I can’t do that, Darvic. I can’t let go of the things that happened back then. It is what keeps me fighting. Without that knowledge of what Ati did, I can’t fight him. I have no purpose without that knowledge.”
“Ranger, please, at least try to train your inner soul. And if not, then you should bring someone along with you to help you. Aria’s strength is great, Ranger.”
“Besides, she’s cute, isn’t she?”
“Hey! Don’t say that!”
“Darvic, she’s pulling your leg,” the dragon comments.
“You’re such an easy target, Ranger.”
Darvic shrugs at this, and then finally comments, “I guess she can come with me.”
With that, the black world of his inner thoughts dissipates and he returns to the real world, facing a puzzled Aria. “Hey! Daydreamer! Answer me already! Wake up you—”
Darvic grins a little at her reaction—she probably doesn’t have any type one spirit bonds with anyone and likewise, no knowledge of how it works. “Sorry. Just a bit of inner thought,” he answers, avoiding a punch that Aria threw to try and wake him up. “You can come with me, Aria. I could use the assistance. You’re power is great. But where do we go from here?”
“I know of a village to the West—it is small, but the inhabitants there dislike Ati. You want help, right? Two-man armies are not my idea of help, no matter the power. We need an army to fight Ati’s own forces, and I think we can find some old veterans-in-hiding there as well.”
Darvic almost opens his mouth again, words of objection about to form. Then he realizes how it would just cause another debate and shrugs in agreement. “Well, to the West, then.”