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Darkness Reign: Rebirth

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1/24/2011 12:04:19   

Darkness Reign
By Mastin (AKA RB2)

In the world filled with Darkness, a single man has seen it all, from every viewpoint he can. He's watched the suffering the Reign of terror has caused, having failed to stop it before. This man has no name to call his own, having had too many names to go by over the years. But what would happen if he were to try again? Maybe his timing before was off. Perhaps it is time for him to allow himself to become the hero he once was. His name had faded away into legend, a myth everyone knows but few believe.
"The man behind the myth is not as great as he is made out to be."
But...what if...what if he could be? No, what if...what if he was actually greater than anything which had been told of him?

He's sick of hiding. He will face his rebirth, and become what he was meant to be:
The messenger from the heavens, sent to stop the Devil known only as Ati.

Comment Thread.

< Message edited by mastin2 -- 1/24/2011 12:42:35 >
Post #: 1
1/24/2011 12:25:37   

A Myth Reawakens

My tale is not happy.
Do you really want to know me?
I’ve lived through countless tragedies.
My failures keep me from being free.
In fact, I’m rather absorbed in misery.

Lying on the icy-cold dewy grass, a man awakes from what he wishes would have been a far longer slumber. As he lets out a moan, he rubs his hand through his short brown hair, trying to get up. Slowly, he reaches for the vine-engraved hilt of his custom nodachi. His left hand wraps around the leaf-like pommel and pushes his right hand to be directly below the red cross-guard. The dragon engraving within comes to life and the vines glow as he draws the bright crimson blade, emitting a flash of red flames to enlighten the still-dark clearing he is within. The acidic green snake engraving down the center of the blade calls for blood, but once again, there is none to be had.

Those days were over long ago. I…I’m dead.

He sighs, letting the leaves once masking his presence fall away. Observing the area around him, he can see no threat in the surrounding bush. He sheathes his blade, finding nothing a threat. Closing his eyes and scanning the area for any evil auras to double check, he eases up when none are found. And then, he bursts into tears.

I almost wish there had been. What’s good being the last freedom fighter, when there’s no hope of striking back, anymore? I’ve died twice before; I don’t want to face death a third time. If I die, it’s all over; all those memories will be lost forever. But…is what I have even resemble what I can call life?

A voice inside him reassures him that he’s done nothing wrong, and again, he lets out a sigh. I suppose so. I’ll keep on living. That was the task I was entrusted to do, and if it’s all I can do, then it’s what I will do.

Suddenly, a wave of heat washes over his red plate metal. A burst of pain overwhelms him, bringing him back to his knees, the impact lessened by the black leather armor acting as padding. His right hand clasps the armor on a dragon emblem, where his heart is. His left arm mirrors the action on the other side, with a flame insignia etched in.

Seems I spoke too soon. That’s some mighty strong control of flame magic. I don’t think it was cast by Runes, either. Nor do I sense a spirit, so it couldn’t have been spirit magic. Traditional Fire Magic…I haven’t seen anyone this capable of using it since the pyromancer guild was destroyed.

As suddenly as the wave of heat now engulfing him had appeared, it disappears. Something beginning so quickly ceases to exist. He smiles. Calling to memory the warmth he felt on his skin, he tries to think of the proximity of the blast.

His heart rate had instantly shot through the roof, and he was already sweating in the brief amount of time the wave existed. The massive amount of heat required for someone skilled in the arts of flame to feel such pressure…that’s an incredible amount of power to control. And to silence it so quickly…that ability to suppress their trail is impressive. Whoever this is, they’re not going to be tracked by magic. I guess it’s up to the old-fashioned way.

He activates a Rune on his armor. Slowly, it begins to blend in with the morning forest. The brilliant red becomes a dull green. The golden trim fades to brown. The green shoulder plates each become shaded, with the red engravings of two fangs on the left and an intertwined snake on the right become an equal shade of brown. The armor on his lower half takes on the same color as the brown trims. At last, he pulls a hood over his face to conceal him further.

Ah, how the remnants of my past can be so useful…the Camouflage Rune is probably the second-hardest Rune to use on an armor of this caliber, second only to the Reduce-Weight Rune I had built into the armor to make it super-light so I could still run like I used to. But both have saved my lives so many times, I wouldn’t have it any other way. They make the hunt far more pleasurable.

He considers his weapon choice. At first, he reaches for the bow hanging on his back, but reconsiders with the tight nature of the terrain ahead. He frowns, as he thinks about that also limiting his use of his sword. Instead, he removes a blue tube from his belt. Loading it with some tranquilizer darts, he heads into the deep brush.

He pushes aside the humidity in the air; it would pass in the later hours of the morning, but his prey would be gone by then. He filters out the smell of the marsh, trying to pick up on the scent of another human. Ignoring the buzzing of insects in his ears as if it was nothing, his ears try to pick up on any sound a human not trained in stealth would make, either when fleeing or preparing to attack.

I no longer have an equal in stealth. No matter how well the growth might mask my goal, it cannot hide them forever. Especially when they use Fire in a forest—the plants around them tend to not forgive. As it is, I’m quite amazed already—to hide from an expert for even this length of time is no easy task, particularly if you don’t know they are trying to track you. But they cannot hide forever…there.

He picks up on a trail from the fleeing individual and picks up his pace. Breezing over the green underbrush, he doesn’t make so much as a single sound, relying on his training to get through undetected. The trail is reaching its end. He double-checks to make sure his own magical presence is masked, and when he is satisfied, he moves in for the kill.

But his target is not moving. They’ve stopped. And have turned around to face him. A woman stands before him, a fireball ready to launch in her left hand, eager to fight her pursuer. With a mighty toss, she throws it at her target, directly at the poorly-guarded man. Only in the last second does he shout a defense: “Pyrsho!”

A fire shield surrounds him, allowing the fireball to dissipate on impact. The chant only lasts for a few seconds, before fading away. The man launches a dart from his tube, but finds his target is too quick to be hit so easily.

“You are skilled in the arts of Fire defense. Intriguing. More than that, you cast Fire shield, which requires some spirit magic. You managed to track me, despite my best efforts to mask my trail. It’s quite impressive, but let’s see if you can handle this!”

This time, her right hand—covered in a bright red gauntlet with spikes made of flame seemingly dancing out of the joints—begins to shine, and the man can sense something coming from it. Spirit magic?!? But I didn’t sense that before! She can use both?!?

This time, he has to dodge the blast coming from the skilled pyromancer. However, she doesn’t stick to just magic. She draws a small dagger shaped like living fire in one hand, wielding a serrated knife in the other, and charges. “I’m quite interested…Are you skilled in combat as well, I wonder?”

The man quickly gives his tube a magical boost, transforming it into a slightly curved dagger with a small serration on the back side. He then reaches for his belt, removing another one of four there. The first one, he activates a Rune on, giving it a chilled feeling.

The two exchange blows in a dagger fight. The woman gets in a few early strikes, only stopped by the man’s heavy strength armor. Soon, however, the tides are turned. The flame dagger is countered by the Ice Rune contained within the first dagger. When she realizes her current arsenal will most likely get her killed against the skilled close quarter combat expert, she sheathes her knife and replaces it with a flame hatchet, swinging it at the man to bring it to a slightly greater, mid-range fight.

“An Ice Rune on a magic dagger which was moments before a…a blowgun, I suppose. Yet you used Fire spirit magic. You do like variety, I take it. But what do you have against me at this range?”

The man draws out a wristblade on his right arm, slashing at the axe. A green trail follows the strike, and the woman is forced to jump back, when she realizes that the blade is not only enhanced by Fire Runes, but also by acid Runes. She smiles as the man retracts his wristblade, drawing his long katana in one hand and keeping the sheathe in his other.

“And a wristblade containing two very different styles of Runes. And a long, fancy katana. Plus plate armor which changed color and is too light to be produced naturally, yet is strong enough to take a strike from a dagger. You have five tubes which can transform into daggers, and one of them had an Ice Rune, so presumably the other four are of the different elements. You’re a skilled tracker, who uses at least Fire spirit magic. You’re an excellent close-quarter combat fighter, and do decently at mid-range. You use an assassin’s weapon, too. I thought it was you. You’re Darvic, aren’t you?”

She knows my name…well, one of them, anyway.

“And if I were, what would that mean?”

“That the rumors about you must be true, that the last ‘great rebel’ still lives.”

“And what of him? Darvic is a weak coward, who ran away from the ‘great empire’.”

“Maybe so, but I know it’s you. You stood up against Ati. That is an impressive feat, an inspiration to everyone though most dare not speak of it. Even though you failed, you’re still a forbidden topic. It’s hard not to know of you. You do realize that you’re not alone, anymore, right? That others still wish to fight, just lack the courage to do so? That many just need one push, from a leader, from a hero? I mean, why do you think I was practicing my Fire skills out here? Was it just an occasional stroll? No, Darvic, I am also supposed to be dead, hunted by any who know I’m alive. Skills learned in the time spent as a member of a great alliance are rather dangerous.”

She smiles, tossing a fireball up and down in her palm. Closing her fist with the fire within, she lets the small inferno dissipate, still looking at the man she identified as Darvic with admiration.

“What alliance a—” He pauses. “…were you from?”

“The Blazing Infernos, believe it or not. I retired from the job after I felt I had mastered my power to the best of my ability. Never took one of those higher positions I was more than eligible for, though I suppose it’s a good thing I wasn’t.”

“They were the first to die in the battle of Eros. The whole alliance there, consisting of the best pyromancers, pyrotechnics, and Fire Warriors, wiped out of existence in a single day. Either that, or joined the enemy. My alliance was the only group which ever got Fire users close to that level again.”

“Even those who were retired were targeted. Ati thinks I’m dead, because if he thought I was alive, I wouldn’t be for long. But, I still live, and have plenty of fight left in me if I get the chance. A lot like you in that regard, I suppose.” The man identified as Darvic bites his lip, painful memories coming to mind. “What’s wrong, Darvic?”

“…Nothing. It’s just…Ati. I know his true name. I was there, for almost all of the war. I saw it all, how everything good in the world was destroyed over and over again. It’s been five years. I…I haven’t heard anyone even call me by the name Darvic in so many years. I’ve…I’ve missed it. Yet…it still brings up…so many painful memories……”

“Well, then, tell me all about it. Let me separate the truth from the myth about you, Darvic. I want to know the real you, want to know if you’re really who they say you are.”

< Message edited by mastin2 -- 1/24/2011 12:28:55 >
Post #: 2
1/25/2011 14:58:38   

Part One:
The Hero Is Born

“I’m not sure if I can help you, anymore.”

“And why not?”

“You…you’d understand if you’ve seen what I have.”

“All the more reason I need to learn the truth. Please tell me.”

“I’ll do better than that. I can show you.”

Darvic reaches into his right eye. With a touch of magic, he removes a blue half-sphere metal piece from there, grabbing it in his hand. “When I was a member of the Cobras, I had a Visor which greatly enhanced my vision. My right eye got injured, and when I decided to move on from active Cobra duty, I wanted the advantages of that Visor. After I suffered through a painful surgery, I had a cybernetic eye implanted in me, fixing the eye injury and granting me a great gift. This mini-computer can be detached from it without harm and is meant to show people like you my tale when needed.”

When he places the sphere in his palm, he presses the small sphere on the top of the dome with his left index finger. Six blades pop out of the dome and form a projection. “Courtesy of years in training with technology.” Darvic’s fingers begin moving, hovering just above the screen. As if he is typing, they move, the screen constantly changing, apparent gibberish which he understands.

“The device only began recording after it was installed, but I can still create a projection of my memory which is almost as accurate as the recording. It just takes a little longer to find in a search.” A minute or so later, he smiles. “Ah! Here it is.” Again, he presses the top of the dome. The whole semi-sphere flips over to the empty side, the spikes now digging into his index finger and thumb. Waving his left hand over the new projection, it is enlarged enough to be easily his height, while being twice as wide as he is. He widens it some more, and places it on the ground.

“I’m old, so I have a lot of years to share with you. But if you’re serious, then you really do need to hear it all. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. You can see it all, from the beginning. I’m warning you, though, it won’t be what you expect. You’re wanting this grand hero who is capable of saving the universe. I might have been born as that man, but I doubt I still am. My history definitely has the elements of a true legend, so I can understand how my name has survived, but this hero—while born destined for greatness—has simply lost all his drive. Witness the birth and death of that man…”

So, you really want to know me? Well, I’ll tell you how it all started. Needless to say, if I said that I have had a pleasant run in life, I would be blatantly lying to you. It didn’t start well, and it certainly didn’t end well, either. Oh, I’ve had plenty of moments resembling for—just a split second—anything resembling joy. But these all have proven to be false hopes, shattered into a million shards by the piercing clutches of reality.

I have forgotten what my name was, originally. I am nearing an age where most men would be retiring, and at that age, I’ve got lifetimes of experiences which come and go with the flow of my mind. I’m not exactly an old man…but I’m far from the adventurer I used to be. Those days…passed long ago.

The name I have gone by has varied through time, and my early life explains that. I’m not even sure you were taught about our history. They stopped doing that when Ati became a real threat. When was that, ten years ago? I unfortunately don’t know the exact date, because I regrettably only tried to stop him when he made things personal. And by then, it was too late.

Our world has always been such a complex place to be. There were three lifestyles from which to live; I am one of the fortunate few to have experienced all of them. I’m not sure if you still have the ability to be them, nowadays, but I’ve lived as a commoner—I was, when young, an orphaned boy with nothing but his name to go by. Funny, how that changed over time.

Still, I was always a bit special. I grew to be a leader—a ruler, even. It always starts small, from a small gang, up to an entire empire under your command—it is not as easy as it sounds; you learn to make difficult decisions over time which will be with you for the rest of your life—well, until you’ve just experienced too much bad to remember any single incident forever.

The third is the one you probably know the best—that of the adventurer. Groups consisting of heroes and villains, the ones who do a great deal of work helping out the kingdoms they give their loyalty to—and it is here where the greatest bonds of all time can be forged…
Or shattered.

“You know, most people I’ve seen recently tend to be commoners. Any adventurers are now soldiers of Ati, and while kingdoms exist not under his control, they are far and few between. Still, people like me live.”

I know. It’s hard to kill us entirely, after all. We had a golden age, at a time. I lived through it, before we plummeted into the dark ages. And, believe me; I know what it is like to feel every kind of emotion possible for a human. They suck, to say the least. I may not look that old, and can pass for being in my twenties, maybe early thirties…but in truth, I have forty-five years of anguish to remember. I’m at the age where most men retire. Though in a way, I suppose I already have. Most heroes retire victorious. I do not share their fortune.

Obviously, though, adventuring was my favored lifestyle for a significant number of years, but you should know it was not always the case; adventuring actually only makes up about half of my life. Believe it or not, I’ve been happy as all three.

It’d probably be more interesting if I had lived through a stereotypical adventure, where a little kid goes off to become a warrior and kill the great evil. This is real life, where things don’t always go your way. I thought they had, finally, but…it wasn’t to last.

Oh, yes. It did start that way, or so I thought. Looking at my early life, you can see how everything points to how things do look like they’re all good. This all started nearly half a century ago—okay, ten years under a half a century, but it’s close enough.

Do you know the name Helios?

“Yeah, everyone does. It’s your home city, isn’t it?”

City, nothing. When I was just a boy, my little town of Helios was simple, a meager village, not the grand metropolis you knew it as. As I mentioned before, I was a simple orphaned peasant. This early life reflected my failures later on: I survived day to day, trying to make a living in the desolate trashcan I called my hometown. My life had already been sad by that point, but…needless to say, when things started to ascend in my path on life, I thought they’d never come crashing down on the other side of the roller coaster. After what happened…I thought I’d have a good life.

An image comes up of the World Map. On it, Helios is shown, but it is not a huge star. Instead, it is the tiniest dot on the map. When zooming in, the small village is revealed as the poor town it really was. An image of Darvic is shown as a boy.

It began when I entered into a competition—specifically, how I stole my pass into it, mugged my way past the pathetic guards, and slammed my opponents with every dirty trick I had. It was an impressive display, to say the least, but I’m not exactly that proud of breaking nearly a dozen laws. That’s just how bad life was.

There was no single man in the group who was impressed with me—rather, there were rather some number; almost all of them were. A court is shown, made up of the local tribesmen and watched over by a feudal lord of the area. While I went on trial for my ‘crimes’, I managed to—with the help of a more bold supporter I had gained—not only convince them I was innocent, but also manage to sucker my way into politics.

After my display of skill, it didn’t take long for things to look up for me. By the age of fifteen, I was leading our village. In ten years, I had gone from scrapping my living off of the rocks in the road, to ruling an entire town—now, that length might not seem impressive, but keep in mind, Helios was a very tight community, very reluctant for new political blood, where the quickest recorded rise in position they had previous to me took eleven years, from someone who was twenty years old at the time they started.

Never had someone done it so fast…from such a young age. I would not be like my predecessors. And I would prove myself there like no other. It was I who put Helios on the map. Under my tutelage, the village began to thrive. Ah, how glorious the ages of gold and silver were…

With my leadership, we grew in power and soon, I was the lord, the person putting people on trial for whatever crimes they were accused of. We were becoming such a force that we had to dabble in the religious arts. You’re familiar with the old religions, correct? Every city—even most alliances—tended to worship one.

“Yeah, the Yunds, Veles, Nilbos, and Avians. I am familiar with them. Most aren’t, anymore—all I see is Ati this, Ati that.”

I figured as much. It was my job as the leader to choose which one we would worship. We needed to celebrate one of them if we wanted to grow, because the people really did believe in them each having a distinct advantage. Some even said it was an unspoken, unwoven rule of magic unseen by all, yet unknown to none. The great races of old, our myths, each had traits we associated with them.

The Avians which we humans are descended from, the Angels of All, those worshipping the great Eagle God, Calast of the Air, said to bring wealth and good fortune to all—probably should’ve gone with them, but I didn’t think it was important at the time.

The Nilbos of the swamp worshipped the great Earth Snake Deity, Cizor, said to be a vicious beast whose ruthlessness was unmatched. This probably fit best with my personality, but it wasn’t what I chose, because I thought aggression—while fun—should not be the basis of a powerful nation. If I had gone with my instincts, we might’ve been stronger when…when we needed it the most.

Alternatively, we might’ve defended ourselves better if I had chosen the Veles of the forest, known for their outstanding capabilities to ward off foreign attacks. They worshipped the noble Ice Tiger, whose grace and beauty was said to be rivaled only by its fierce territorial instinct.

But, no, we chose the Yunds, the immigrants, the unnaturals. I thought it was necessary to worship those known for their growth, because logically, it’d be the best way to grown as a nation. They did, after all, worship the most ancient God, the Great Fire Dragon. And we did expand. Our population flourished, our influence in other countries was vast, and our propaganda was making us into one of the mightiest nations around.

An image is shown of Darvic in battle. He is shown along a group of close comrades, all friends from the village. They are his advisors, of his royal court, and he is fighting one of the few enemies Helios had.

It took years more of effort on my part, but I would have what I wanted.

No great empire would be small, so I never regretted choosing the Yunds. The results of an impatient man made us noticeable within a few years. I was twenty-one before real results showed…but eventually, I succeeded. Helios expanded into an empire, well on its way to becoming one of the greatest nations around. And I was proud to be its leader. And so, in my great nation, I had earned a new name, at last: I would be known as King.

An image of the last battle Helios had against a rival nation is shown. In it, Darvic is wearing a grand suit of armor. The steel plate armor enveloping his whole body shines as if they are silver, and is trimmed with the same gold on his current armor. The helmet he wore had the crown of Helios—Darvic’s crown—merged to it. Charging towards the enemy troops in the front lines, he lets out a battle cry while holding the royal sword of Helios high in the air. The silver blade makes contact with enemy flesh, as he begins to seek out the leader of the enemy troops.

He bashes the solid emerald pommel into the eyes of an unfortunate enemy combatant blocking his view, while catching the blade of another on the black cross-guard of his longsword. He shines the ruby gem into the eyes of the soldier, blinding him temporarily. It does not take long for Darvic to dispatch of a few more.

Soon, Darvic’s eyes are focused on a particular person, hiding near the back of the force. Darvic shield-bashes a few more enemies, impaling them on the black spikes of the Yund Nations. Helios’s golden skull emblem is barely stained by the splatters of blood now covering the round shield.

As Darvic finishes off the enemy he had his eyes on, the army surrenders; it had been their leader he was targeting. Darvic looks back at his companions. The Pyromancer recognizes most of them as being important political figures in Helios, but not all of them are familiar.

When the last force opposing us or our allies was defeated, we became well-respected and well-known. You might not recognize a few, but those that you don’t, all left for a reason. Most of those that left were because I didn’t stay in the royal life. I had earned the name King, but did not want to keep it forever. I was a ruler of rulers. Sounds nice, particularly at such a young age, but I was only human; I did have weaknesses. In particular, my helmet didn’t cover my eyes. An arrow hit me in the right eye, and it left me permanently scarred.

With such a wound, I decided it best to retire from the political life I had built. It wasn’t as exciting as it used to be, and this was the perfect excuse to move on to another lifestyle. My best friend and trusted advisor took over for me. An image is shown of Darvic kneeling before the more well-known King of Helios, handing the sword over to him. He inherited everything I had—sword, armor, shield, and most importantly, the kingdom. I thanked all of my friends for their services and support, and just walked out the door. I thought my glory days were already over. In truth, they had just begun.
Post #: 3
1/28/2011 13:59:18   

Part Two:
The Antihero Takes Over

For a while, I briefly went into the quiet life, living as a commoner once again, despite the many offers of wealth from my now-royal friends. It was what I had known, but not surprisingly, I now felt out-of-place. Once you taste that greatness, it’s hard to let it go.

I was yet again nameless. I had no clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I pursued a more formal education and got introduced to technology. I dabbled in archery, despite only having one eye. I went traveling around a little bit and learned to best use my disability as a new superpower, effectively, but it wasn’t a true trade; I missed that eye.

It was a start, but to really begin the adventuring career, you needed a contact in an alliance, as you should know. I got mine from a familiar face. One day, I came face to face with someone who knew me not as a ruler, but as that little boy who had cheated on that faithful day so many years ago. In fact, he was the individual who had defended me.

He explained his motivation: I was a great fighter, or—at least—what he considered the obvious definition of a great fighter, even at such a young age. In other words, he saw my potential as a combatant even then, how I would be a great adventurer if I wished to be. Now retired, I had nothing else to do, and he offered me the chance to live out a new life.

I was mesmerized by his offer, gladly surrendering my services, if he was willing to deal with my handicap. He introduced himself as the veteran leader of a name I knew fairly well—The CObRa G, a band of ruthless mercenaries, living for combat, lusting for war. While not exactly the most pleasant folks to be around, they certainly are the most efficient at what they do, and anyone who calls themselves a Cobra will be recognized as being one of the best warriors in the world. They had fighting specialties of all kind—amongst them, the last things you’d expect from somewhat-crazy maniacs who just want to kill: Martial arts, arts meant primarily to disable an opponent, not decapitate them, and superb training in herbs, meaning they were also great healers, medics.

Of course, they were masters of swords as well, and also dabbled quite some bit into technology, but I had particular interest in mastering the type of weapon which caused by injury: ranged weapons. I was still expected to become an expert in all of them—and I knew I would, of course—but I wanted to have ranged weapons as my focus.

What surprised me the most, however, was actually that they weren’t just physical warriors. These masters of combat were very well-versed in magic, balanced enough to have good control over spirit magic, summoning snake spirits of the earth.

It did not take long for them to fix my eye. “How?” They used a piece from the red gem in my original sword to outfit my right eye with a patch, capable of being tied into a visor-type helmet.

“Wait, wasn’t your sword passed on to the next King of Helios?”

It was, but he gave me a piece of the sword as a favor. He might’ve been a King, but he was an honorable one; he wouldn’t have had that position without me, so naturally, he decided to help me. Besides, we were good friends and he felt terrible for the accident.

Anyway, as my old name had become outdated, I needed a new alias. Having no name of my own wasn’t a problem when I was just traveling around the world. When you’re actively working as a team with someone, you need one. As I had none to give, I needed to be assigned a new one.

These people being assassins and not exactly the most creative bunch, they used what they had available. A green jumpsuit is shown, with reinforced brown leather armor on his torso. He is shown using a single dagger, but using it well in a fight. The only feature distinguishing him from the other junior members of the COR is his helmet.

Understandably, I quickly became known for the fact that I was always wearing that helmet, with that red visor covering both eyes. It amplified my sight far beyond my normal limits, to say the least. However, I couldn’t yet be called Visor—that name could only be granted to me when I achieved a higher rank. For a while, I was simply V.

I was—as Sir Ed Cobra claimed—a natural, though, and I was anxious to learn why the name had been denied to me. I worked hard at the arts, and in only two years, I was ready for my final step in climbing the ladder: discarding my green jumpsuit and brown leather armor, getting rid of that blasted dagger, for the custom armor of a true COR leader—that of my choice.

I had aced their tests for advancement, faster than any other. In a simple two years and after that final test, I had achieved something which took any other three to seven years to accomplish. I had risen to the rank of Viper—an advisor rank to Sir Ed Cobra himself. While a low position in his inner sanctum, it was still a rare honor held by less than a dozen others in an organization consisting of hundreds. Only then was I granted my name, along with the ability to customize my outfit.

‘Visor’ became my new name, and it was apparently a great honor for that—CObRa G’s ancestors, the Cobra Order, had a second-in-command with that name, rumored to have the spirit of the Zolm Cobra in it—the spirit representing the earth, Cizor the great white Zolm Serpent.

My natural talent was attributed to the name, truly worthy to have it, and fully living up to the expectations there. So, having earned the name, I decided that I would have a suit like no other. I still have it, actually, stored away in a safe location. It looked like this.

The armor is shown in full, as ‘Visor’ charges a foe. The foe is launching arrows, but they bounce harmlessly off of black plate armor covering his torso. When his target realizes the arrows aren’t working, he focuses on the arms, but green leather armor protects his upper limbs.

“Green leather armor?!?”

Yeah, don’t ask me how they did it; they just did. The armor was also underneath the plate armor. My leggings were still a normal brown leather armor, and for a helmet, well…I was already covered in that area. The main thing which I upgraded was my weaponry, though, and I upgraded it big time.

The projection resumes, showing the incredibly fast Visor close the gap between him and the target in only a few split milliseconds. One of my main specialties was speed. I was one of the fastest, nimblest, and most accurate ranged combatant we had, though because I was so good at ranged attacks, I preferred to use melee, simply for the practice.

Visor draws two customized dual katanas from his back, slashing the target into four pieces. You probably know already how hard it is to dual-wield something. It’s truly a fine art, even with small weapons like daggers and knives. But dual-wielding a weapon which is meant to be two-handed? That was yet another sign of how unusual I was; the strength and dexterity required for that was superhuman. These weren’t wakizashis; they really were full-fledged katanas.

The recording shows him sheathing the two katanas and moving on. The fight is rewound a bit further, before Visor charged. In the recording, he launches three knives from one hand and three from another. The first set hits three men near the original target, and the second set misses the target only due to a last-second roll.

Like I said, I liked ranged weapons. I had a lot of daggers and knives—over three-dozen.

“How did you move?!?”

Little bit of magic, little bit of raw training, little bit of these being the finest-crafted weapons you’d ever find. Without weight runes, most of them were fairly light. The only ones which weren’t light were the ones we needed to be heavier, for the extra power the weight brings. Those we used weight runes on, obviously. But all of them were incredibly strong blades, and most of them were quite flexible. Nothing weighed me down; I was an assassin, after all.

A profile is shown of Visor. Visor reaches down to his black boots. He draws two blades in each hand from a single boot, stands up, and throws it at a group of bandits approaching him. They intentionally miss. He reaches down to reveal in plain sight that his other boot has an equal amount strapped to it. The bandits flee.

Not shown in that image is the fact that I actually kept two—one in each—blades inside my boots as well. The ones on the outside were for show, to remind people of who I was, and how prepared I’d be to fight. Not to mention, each of the boots had a retractable blade actually built into the tip of the boots.

“How come you had so many?!?”

What can I say? I was in COR; we thrived on overkill. But, hey, to some extent, it was justified: as a member of the Cobras, we obviously did a lot of fighting, sometimes, in rather prolonged battles, even full-blown wars. We often lost equipment. But, you’re right—the average-day assassination almost certainly didn’t need all of that; if we did need, that meant we weren’t doing our jobs well enough.

An image is shown of Visor’s arm-guards extending, revealing a wristblade in each of them, simultaneously slashing the throats of three people on each side of him. The right one—being slightly longer—then thrusts, impaling the true target of the hit.

Insurance policy if I lost my katanas was to use those so I could still dual-wield. The right one I still have. Darvic points to his armguard. It’s received some upgrades since my Cobra days, but you probably still felt its presence.

“Acid Runes?”

Yeah, that. Most Poison Runes work too slowly, so Acid was used, instead. I personally disliked using poison at all, though I learned how in case I needed to counter poison. Like most assassins, I much preferred my blades. Most of my weapons were in my shirt, under my leather armor. Seven on each side, plus seven knives on my belt. Those were actually for throwing; I actually only had two daggers on my belt, which was later increased to the five you know me as having. The predecessors to my tubes being able to launch most smaller projectiles were a set of two guns—one a silver revolver, the other a golden pistol. The pistol was a classic single-shot; the revolver was an experimental five-shot. Remember, the Cobras were quite good with technology.

“Quite the arsenal you had.”

All part of the job; as proper assassins and soldiers, we were supposed to be prepared for any situation. Add to that my high rank, and it was pretty much a requirement. Most high-ranked Cobras actually had more than I did. Sure, there were definitely some with less, but still, I did use every single one of my weapons, and there were situations where I used up all forty-one and had to resort to my hand-to-hand combat training.

As you can tell by the images, I had acquired a reputation as a ruthless killer in my time as Visor. It’s probably a good thing I had a new name and that none of my friends knew about me, because they would only know the myth about the heartless murderers Cobras were known to be. In truth, though, the ruthless killer was just a mask. We were trained to hide emotions, not suppress them. My job might’ve been to kill people, but I still had that king’s heart, that sense of nobility. I just never let it get in way of the task at hand.

“Do you regret your time as a Cobra?”

Nah. It taught me so much about myself, after all. It got me in touch with my childhood self again, both the good and the bad, and I’m happy it did. It improved my life.

Besides, Cobras weren’t merciless killers. COR did have rules of conduct. A type of mercenaries’ contract. We were actually quite selective of our targets; I was even more so. We tended to stay away from huge targets, and tried not to upset the balance of power that much. That said, I tended to take missions which had me assassinate people who deserved it, like a bandit group raiding villagers, a small-time overlord who was trying to overthrow Helios, contracts like that.

When I felt I had grown as much as I could physically, it was time to expand my horizons spiritually. It was the most I could hope to accomplish in their organization, the last thing I’d be able to do to expand my potential to its maximum. I was among the best of the best, but there was one more great trial I could undergo, for the true power of a Cobra:

My last test in the CObRa would be to awaken my full power, to summon the spirit held within me permanently—something which, if any assassin succeeds at, will grant them the highest rank possible. Unsurprisingly, I summoned the original man to have gone by the title ‘Visor’, his spirit having been adrift for hundreds of years before entering me. And in tow with him, Cizor, chained by a thread to his former host.

“Wait, you have one of the Great Gods as a spirit?!?”

How did you think I knew Cizor’s name?

“From research as a King?”

It’s not exactly common knowledge, even to their worshipers, what their deity is actually named. They’re mostly known by titles and nicknames, aliases and avatars. No, I learned his name in person, when I awoke him with Cizor. Long story, that is; they still argue about it even today.

“Huh? What did you just say?”

Oh, nothing. The important thing is, when I contacted Visor, he allowed me to continue using his name as I had before, considering I still had none to go by, myself. I learned a great deal of the spirit world in my time there, was taught in the art of spirit magic more in-depth than ever before, and in general, learned about a lot of things I had not learned, before. Having someone so ancient teaches you a few tricks, both for fighting and magic.

I had gone from commoner, to King, back to commoner, to an adventurer specializing in combat, to a ‘hero’ of many talents. Still, though, I had learned all I could from COR by the time I was twenty-five. I really had nothing left to do. Despite the rank offered, I turned it down. I kept my ties with my mentors in COR, still officially a member, but it was time for me to move on, do what I wanted to do.

The life of an assassin was nice, but it wasn’t the full heroic adventure I had originally envisioned. It was fun, but I still had a lot I could do better, and maybe I’d do it in a slightly more accepted way. I wanted to be a Hero, a real one.
Post #: 4
2/2/2011 19:51:24   

Part Three:
Gold Turns To Lead

I left for the woods to master my skills there. I reestablished the old contacts I had before my Cobra days, when I still had my eye injury, and began teaching myself in their arts. Soon after this, the replacement to my visor was made, the eye I have right now.

“What happened to the armor?”

It’s still around, in a location only I know of. If I ever wished to become one with the earth, become a mindless killing machine again, I could always dig it up. But I don’t want that, and I didn’t want it then, either. A good deal of the weapons were recycled into my next outfit, and from there, into my current outfit, though.

From here, I became a bit of a wanderer, traveling throughout almost the entire world. I traveled through many terrains. I learned from roaming nomads, I learned from tribes of forgotten natives pre-dating my own culture, I learned from mountain-men, I learned from frontiersmen, I learned from woodsmen, I learned from everyone about the arts of the land for another five years. I trained in herbs further; I even received lessons from witch doctors. I dabbled with priests and monks, I expanded my horizons elsewhere…I did pretty much everything I felt like, living a completely natural lifestyle, free from a care in the world. Not quite a commoner, but not quite an adventurer.

They were all skills I felt I needed. I was preparing myself for what I had planned ahead. Now a master of herbs, the arts involving wood, mastery of nature, and even archery, I decided that it was time to return to my home of Helios—still thriving. I rekindled many of my contacts with friends. It was time for me to use everything I had learned, and begin to pass it on. Yes… Now, I set out to start an organization of adventurers myself. I named our new order after our specialty—the Rangers, masters of ranged combat.

“Were they really as good as they were said to be?”

In all likelihood, they were actually better than the rumors. I trained my men well, after all. It wasn’t just bows and arrows they had to learn. An image is shown of a map, with men positioned on it. The students are being taught by Darvic how to use the pincer maneuver. Later, they are taught how to think about the battle from multiple perspectives. We learned battle tactics for armies. Nobody was a true master, but we didn’t need to be; being among the best—even if you’re not the best—is still an honor we had.

A similar setup is repeated, but instead of many men on it, there are only a few on each side. Combat strategies for smaller groups. An image is shown of synchronized palm strikes, with a loud yell from each student. Some more projections are shown, of them learning grappling techniques, and strength training for every part of the body, both to toughen their endurance, and increase the strength of their attacks. Darvic smiles in the recording. “Good, we’ve made progress in those areas, but we still need speed, accuracy, and technique!” We trained in martial arts. We might not have been the best at them, but we certainly were close.

Staff fights are displayed, shifting to various forms of close quarter combat weapons, from as small as a knife to as large as a broadsword. I made sure my Rangers knew how to use pretty much any melee weapon they’d encounter.

A student is shown creating a fireball, with Darvic smiling… We did dabble into the arts of magic, but despite me having more knowledge than most people in the art of spirit magic, my teaching skills in traditional magic left something to be desired. …And then the fireball blowing up in the student’s face, covering both the student and Darvic in a layer of soot. “Oops?”

Still, I did teach them, and some even got to know how to use spirit magic, which I could help them better in. But primarily, we were more of a tech-based alliance. While we all knew some level of magic, we’d be massacred by pretty much any other magic-based alliance, so we decided to focus greatly on technology. And we were masters of it, too. We were capable of dealing with new technologies we had never seen before; we invented a few ourselves…

An image of a musket is shown, firing a pointed bullet spinning, instead of flying wildly, with a label above the projection saying “rifle”. We used whatever we could get our hands on, and guns were required training. I’m sure there were people who out-did us technologically, but they were far and few between; we were still pretty darn good.

I made sure my students had at least some medical knowledge, although we mainly focused on a specific area of medicine: herbs. Our knowledge of survival in the forest was a particular area I quite prided myself in. I use those skills I taught back then to survive every day out here. We became masters of the woods, to levels no others I ever found could match. Some came close, and I imagine if we stuck around long enough, we’d find equals, but I don’t think anyone would ever surpass us.

But our true strength was in ranged combat—mainly, archery, of course, but not exclusively. I insisted that everyone be at least marksmen in bows and crossbows and have training in every other form of projectile, but many pursued these other forms of weaponry willingly, to become masters of them.

We had marksmen using knives, daggers, and guns just as well, for example. Like me, due to my Cobra days. People could throw spears, rocks, or any kind of projectile and be good at it; I made sure that my Rangers were better than great at them all. Many were perfect. We had a reputation well-earned for being able to master any ranged weapon we came across.
But still, bows and arrows—and, occasionally, crossbows—were our strength. That was the one thing which we were the undoubted masters of…archery, where not a man in the world could match our talent.

And that made me proud. There is a reason that it was at this time that I began to develop a new name. It was at this stage in my life, when I formed the Rangers, that I earned the title I wanted to use for the rest of my life: The alias of Ranger. I deserved it.

I could have mass-recruited every person I came across. Instead, my group remained small. I knew every single soldier by name, I knew each of their stories, I knew their history, their relatives, their beliefs, and I knew everything.

We were just that close. Those who completed their journey under my tutelage and eventually left for their own paths generally tended to keep in contact with me. I was very selective with those to call Rangers, those to call friends.

Some were life-long friends—perhaps not as extremely talented as other groups, but I had known one of my Rangers since my days as an orphan and I wanted to help them no matter what. Others, I came to know when I went by King. An image is shown; all the faces not recognizable as being major figures in Helios politics that had been shown before were there. Some I met when I was a COR, some when in the woods. Others were completely new.

I saw them all as extremely gifted and trained them, like Sir Ed Cobra had seen me all those years ago. All in all, our group never exceeded fifty men at any given time. Unlike great alliances of hundreds or even thousands, we were going to stay a close community, working together without flaw, not very loosely because we had no choice. We were small, but elite, and once you became a Ranger…you never lost that knowledge.

For seven years, I lived that life. Things could not have been better. I had earned my perfect stay in life. I was regarded as one of the greatest rulers of our age before I retired into the life of adventure, where I became one of the greatest heroes in the world, training a group so elite that no other could defeat them.

Now flashing on the screen is an image of Darvic in battle. He shoots a few arrows, but lets his opponent close in on him, instead of vice-versa. When they get closer, he lets loose fifteen bolts from a crossbow. After running out of ammo in that, he deploys the knives he kept from COR. After shooting a volley from his guns, he draws a longsword. Blending into the scenery around him, it takes a while for the survivors of his ambushers to find him, but when they do, he only receives a small scratch to his light leather armor; he dispatches them before they have time to deal more, in only a few strikes.

I had good, life-long friends. An image is shown. Many of the faces are of those from Helios, some were shown when Darvic was training in the Cobras. Still others are new. Darvic is shown in the center of them, wearing a black robe. But of them all, the recording focuses on a single one, a woman, who had been there since almost the very first image shown on the device.

She was the closest someone could ever come to me. No other friend could be that close. Do you understand? The image zooms in even further, focusing on her left hand. There, a familiar red gem shines on a well-known color ring.

And I was truly happy, for so long, living that way…until it all came crashing down.

It was only in one day.
I could not keep evil at bay.
No, forces of darkness would have their way.
When all was done, I had nothing left to say.
It all came down…in that single day…

An unseen plague had fallen upon the land, recently. It was nothing new, but this was not going to go away. This disease spreading across the land destroyed everything in its path, but for so long, remained hidden. Yes, I think you catch the drift…


You got it. He is the biggest threat I’ve ever seen to this land. Presumably, he continues to destroy everything to this day. Whereas before he was too small to be seen, now he is so large that only pockets of resistance remain. Am I correct?

“You are. Nowadays, we’re used to his destruction reining chaos upon the land.”

I know, but back then, could you have thought about the horrors? Perhaps, but certainly not to that scale! Back then, it was a shock. People just couldn’t believe tales of such blackness in a land bathed in golden light. It was thought he was just a rumor, a legend, a myth meant to scare people. I mean, there were a few tales of alleged survivors, but surely, there would be more if it were anything but a fairy tale?

We just couldn’t comprehend that he really was that dangerous, that he was capable of so much damage, because his join-us-or-die policy was so effective. Not only that, but sticking to smaller targets as he grew in strength meant that nobody could accurately pin him down. Everyone thought his early deeds were the handiwork of some bandit, or rival nation plundering.

But he was all too real. He wasn’t a fake. Everything said about him was true. We rejected the idea that such evil could possibly exist…but he did, slowly gaining strength due to our ignorance—and perhaps, a bit of arrogance. He stuck to taking down only targets he knew he could get away with, and everyone knew that part of the story.

So imagine my horror when I learned of his next target. I was among the first to do it—while others had survived before me, it was still a rare feat, one almost never duplicated. I was a first-hand witness to his destruction. I was there when it happened. It was bound to happen eventually, but…I never truly recovered from it.

“None of us did. How could we? Was there any way we’d have known?”

In theory? Yes, we could have. In reality? You’re right. There was simply no way that I had a way of knowing for sure, until it was too late to stop him. I was visiting a contact far away from Helios, an old friend from my woodsman days, for a new Rune my Rangers could use. He warned me that Ati was real, and gave me proof of it.

A recording is shown, of a man wearing a mask and a village burning in the background. He is holding a group of men hostage in front of their families. “That’s only a tenth of the village; Ati already had killed the rest.” The recording of Ati speaks up. “Join me, or you all die—women, children, all of them.”

The men, having been beaten already, surrender to his demands. When he has them under control, separated from the rest, he gives the cruel order. “The same applies to you women, too. Those who do not serve, die. It’s as simple as that.” Those women who show signs of resistance are silenced, to the cries of the men already subdued. The boys too young to have fought for the village are carried away, leaving only young girls behind.

Everyone had to fight for him, or die. Women and children included, though he wanted the girls to survive, almost certainly intentionally, to let them tell the tale. It was too horrifying for me to believe. If it had been anyone else other than a good friend, I wouldn’t have believed him. I took it with some skepticism, but accepted that—at the very least—he believed in Ati’s threat.

But what he said next convinced me. Either Ati had to be a complete lie, or was really that insane, that delusional, that much of a threat. It really threw me into a panic to hear what he said next. No, it wasn’t some small village, or even a little nation. It was far, far worse. I was informed he had grown far stronger than anything the rumors had previously given, and it had made him bold. He knew he was practically invincible, and he wanted to take advantage of it. So, the hearsay placed his next target, as by far his most ambitious, never to be matched by any following. He had a growing army under his command, and power beyond imagining. And he was going to use it to destroy the sun of our world. No, my friend would never joke about something like that. Nobody would, because everyone was well-aware of the meaning behind those words. Nobody would spread such a false rumor, about the beacon of light being destroyed.

I knew what that meant.

“Wait, do you mean it was…”

Yes. It was. There could be no doubt, now. Helios. The place I had built up since childhood, from a town to an empire. He was going to destroy it, along with any in his path. I simply couldn’t bring myself to think that everything I had known could leave me, forever. So, I ran. I almost left behind my bow and arrows in my rush.

An image is shown, of Darvic taking off at a sprint. His black cloak was parallel to the ground due to his speed. Dropping everything he didn’t need, Darvic jumped onto his horse—cutting off extra baggage—and pushed his steed to its limit, in the direction of Helios. Even without a single moment to rest, a solid ride would take days. But I needed to get home. My horse was one of the fastest in the land; Rangers were built for speed.

It just wasn’t enough. But even if it had been, I’m not sure my presence would’ve helped.

It was too long to wait, but I maintained hope that I’d arrive in time. I found signs of carnage along the way, trails of death and destruction obscuring the path before me. I shook my head at the time in disbelief.

Bodies are shown stretched across the roadway, fires from villages just now beginning to die out. Birds circle above, but dare not land yet out of fear. The stench barely registers, as Darvic doesn’t slow down.

Was Ati really capable of such acts of barbarism? Was he truly such a monster, capable of such gruesome brutality I came across on the road? Who else could do such a thing, so constantly? They…weren’t lying when they said that Ati would destroy anything which got in his way—in reality, that meant anything on the pathway to his goal. In other words, everything on the straight road…to Helios.

It was far worse than anyone could have thought. He had stopped trying to cover his tracks. He wanted to be known, and that meant he was confident he could win. And I knew it, but was hoping he was overconfident. I was hoping we stood a chance.

One day later, I saw a sight I couldn’t believe. It just couldn’t have been possible! But…it was. There, before my eyes, I saw Ati’s unleashed wrath on those who I had known for a very long time. COR had been completely and totally obliterated.

Many corpses are strewn across the battlefield before Darvic. Hundreds of dead men, all wearing the snake insignia. The earth was completely shaken, with large pillars of uprooted earth just now beginning to collapse back to the earth. Walls of earth spikes have been shattered already. The fires still burn. Darvic holds the body of Ed.

Of all the current CObRa G members, I could only find the corpses of about 2 out of every 3. I figured that the rest must have been mangled beyond recognition. “Were they?” I imagine not. In truth…COR was a military organization, with some of the members having questionable work ethnics. You can see where I’m going with this; let’s just say…even if true…that’d still make me the only survivor.

One man, surviving out of an organization consisting of hundreds, an alliance which practically built me into who I am today. This was the first atrocity I witnessed, but I knew that there were many before. Just Ati covered his tracks, back then. The fact that he didn’t meant that there were far more to come.

Surely, the COR would have massacred millions before falling, right? We were trained to take on any number, no matter how large, no matter how small, we were a fighting force so good, nothing would’ve stopped us other than sheer numbers?

I was still in disbelief. Hundreds of cities and towns, dozens of alliances, captured by his claws, and yet, I could only now see the results? How could nobody have gotten out? And how could he have gotten an army so large?

He really is that ruthless; any who don’t join his ranks perish with terrible torture I dare not describe. What you saw me replay was just the tip of the iceberg. He did far worse things, and—yes—I saw them. The village was merciful compared to what he did later.

He had grown strong, and could truly conquer the land if allowed to continue. I redoubled my pace to Helios, hoping to catch up with him. He had a vast army; he couldn’t march that quickly, so maybe, if I caught him, I could do something…so, I left them behind. I wanted to do more, but I couldn’t.

I was joined by some other Cobras, who weren’t fighting due to a mission. They witnessed the destruction themselves. Indeed, the COR members put up a fight, with even their most junior members scoring a ten to one kill ratio. Then, Ati stepped in. He killed Sir Ed, taking out the leadership first, a tactic Cobras were known to employ, ironically. From there, he killed any who got in his way, as he marched out, letting his troops finish the job. The Cobras had killed a few hundred thousand, but Ati’s army was a couple million strong.

The nation of Helios itself had an equal number, but it’d take time to assemble them to a single location, time Ati knew we didn’t have. Helios itself only had a few hundred thousand to defend it, though those few hundred thousand really were the best troops in the world. Even a regular soldier was well-trained, and we had the Rangers.

It just…wasn’t enough.

When I arrived, I saw Helios aflame. Not the city itself, fortunately—though maybe it would have been better that way—but the area around it was. It was so painful to watch even then, though, because…that area, burning, very well could have been a place like my own village, part of a larger territory, one day destined to be immortalized.

Nope, not anymore. Ati’s forces were destroying it. We were discovered, and the Cobras around me sacrificed their lives to get me to my men, knowing if I rejoined my hometown, I might stand a chance of avenging the death of the other Cobras. That worked out well…

After coming into the scene, I took command immediately, leading along side my friends and comrades, new and old. I had been gone from leading for so many years, but everyone there recognized me, knew my former stance as the Hero of Helios, and to have me assisting them…they thought with me, they’d be invincible, that me helping to command them would be all they needed to win.

I was briefed on the situation by my friend, the King. Ati’s forces had come at them full-strength, with no warning arriving before-hand. He feared it was only a matter of time until they were defeated, but we all knew that all we had to do is fight for as long as possible, stall for as much time as we could.

Everyone was there. More were coming, too. We were going to hold them off for as long as we could. And for the most part—even in open combat—we were succeeding. One by one, however, we began to fall, out in open combat. Our casualties were low—don’t get me wrong; even among the normal soldiers, we had only lost a few hundred—but still, every death hurt. We’d killed thousands—if not tens or hundreds of thousands—but we were still being pushed back. By nightfall, we had bought the time for all remaining citizens to get inside the city, but despite our efforts, they were almost to the walls. And worse…When Ati was spotted approaching, a retreat inside the walls was ordered.

I decided to buy my friends the time they needed to get inside to the safety of Helios’s fortress. I knew they only needed to hold off the army until reinforcements came. Besides, I was undefeated; I might be able to end the fight by killing Ati. Either way, I would get the time I needed.

I killed many, until Ati worked up the courage to face me instead of letting his goons take care of me. His very presence inspired his troops. More accurately, I should say they feared retribution and fought harder. So, I knew I needed to take him down, or die trying. Unfortunately, he…he was just too strong for me. I first engaged him in magic, but he somehow countered my every move.

It was like he knew what I was thinking. Yet he was no mind-reader; how could he be that good? When I engaged him with my ranged weaponry, I was expecting to at least have an edge. He managed to dodge or deflect everything I threw at him—from bow, to bolt, to bullet, he kept on slipping through. None of my shots should have missed, yet he never got hit, not even as he was closing the distance between us.

I tried using my arsenal of knives, but he saw every one of them coming, blocking even a barrage of multiple daggers at the same time. The reflexes to do what he did were just unbelievable. I had never met anyone capable of matching my speed, and yet, here Ati was, doing exactly that.

As he closed the gap, I pulled out my longsword to engage him in melee. He had countered every move of mine as a magician. He had managed to match my reflexes at ranged combat. So, surely, he wouldn’t also be able to match me in combat? Nobody could be that good without having gone through everything I, myself, had been through.

…He was. I recognized his combat style, but not where it was from. I didn’t have the time to figure that out. He shattered my blade in only a few strikes. I had two long daggers to replace it, but I barely had the ability to block a few times, yet alone, counter-attack. He was overwhelming me with equal speed and superior strength. It didn’t take long for him to get a single slash in, from my right hip to my left shoulder.

I collapsed, in a state near-death, and could only watch the horror to come. Helios’s walls were made of an anti-magic material, but that doesn’t protect against spirit magic. When I built them, I anticipated that, so I had them also built with a spirit-magic resistant material.

Unfortunately—while the anti-magic material remains the same strength no matter what—the spirit magic is proportional to the mass of the material. And as you can imagine, the city’s gate is a lot thinner than a wall.

Even Ati would never be able to break into the city walls, not with any siege engine, not with any form of magic. And with conventional means, he might be able to get through the gate, or overrun the walls, but not before reinforcements arrived—they already were beginning to trickle in.

So, he used Spirit Magic, on the one spot which the spirit magic had the greatest chance of working. And—much to the horror of the defenders—it worked. An image is shown, of the gate shattering into a million pieces of shrapnel, and when it clears, a single figure is standing in front of the gate, eyes shining brightly. Helios had the strongest gates ever built—I made sure of it. They were shielded by more than just the magical barriers. We had a shield from a power generator—Helios was the place where most new technology was invented, after all; we defended it well. But he managed to beat even that.

He had to have had some assistance. In later battles, I never saw that kind of strength. Whatever he used, it was a one-shot deal, but it worked, with horrifying results. It did not take long after that before his forces rushed in. But first…

I was the inspiration for my side. I had kept my forces together. When I fell, they became discouraged, but still had many leaders among them to help. While morale was low, we’re a tough people, and I knew that so long as a single friend of mine was alive, the citizens would be fine. We’d fight until the very end.

But Ati knew Helios. Ati personally challenged them all, and they did even worse than me. My Rangers were there, defending the front, as was the current King of Helios, my good friend, and Helios’s most elite troops.

Now, a recording is shown, of Ati holding up a man in golden armor, snapping his neck. As he falls to the ground, dead, the men charge. With a blast of magic, he kills all of the elite troops, except the commanders and the Rangers. He forms a shield, destroying all the arrows coming in on him, and one by one, kills the leaders of the great city. The Rangers engage Ati in close-quarters, but even working together, even outnumbering him, even with their training, they die.

The last image shown is of a woman, holding her bow in her hand weakly, having the life slowly sucked out of her, strangled by Ati in the air. Both Ati and the woman are staring straight at the recording. As the woman closes her eyes, she tries to form a weak smile, but fails. Ati’s face is mostly covered by a mask, but his teeth show a wicked grin.

Pay attention to the bow in the recording. What does it look like?

“It’s the same as yours.”

Exactly. You’ll note the city had started to burn, by then. With our forces decimated, our leaders dead, and our defenses breached, we didn’t stand a chance, especially not with me on the ground, slowly waiting for death to come. The recording can give you a basic idea of what it was like, but it can’t capture everything. It doesn’t show you the feelings I had, despite being unable to talk. It can’t show you the traumatic sounds I heard that night.

They all…just……died. Everything I had left was…gone. The best of the best in the world, powerless to stop one man and his army. If we had our forces at full strength, then we could have stopped him, even if he himself was more powerful than any individual. Without the strength in numbers and the element of surprise, we would have outclassed him, defeated his army, and with his army gone, a single man wouldn’t stand a chance against an army such as ours. But we didn’t, so we couldn’t, and he got through.

I was powerless to do anything. The hero had melted away, crushed by the force of an enemy too strong for anyone else to face. The greatest hero in the land, crushed by a villain so bad he was thought to be a mere myth. All my strength was worthless, all my resolve did nothing.

All I could do is watch the horrific scene play out. In my weakened state, I had let every piece of my life I had ever known burn, let everyone I ever knew die, be murdered by Ati. I’m sure there were a few survivors who escaped, but for the most part, it was a massacre. All that I had, my men, my friends, my Rangers, everything I cherished…dead.

I felt the heat of the flames consume everything around me. I saw many dead bodies only illuminated by the fires around them, scattered everywhere, most of them people I had known. The screams of people being killed, the shrieks of pain as death consumed the city. The smoke clogged the sky. Everything I had known was being eaten up by the inferno of doom. Feeling for the first time hopeless, I began to fade away.

As the world crashed down in front of me, burning to ashes and cinder, I had nothing left for which to truly cherish. My friends, my kingdom, my comrades, students, my life…all gone. I closed my eyes. I really wanted to die, that day, fearing not that I would never wake, but that my iron-hard will would persevere over death. Part of me wanted to live, to get revenge, but in truth, I wanted to die. With the realities I faced that day, after all, death would have been a blessing I would’ve welcomed with open arms.

Yet my suffering was far from over, yet.
Post #: 5
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