My life flashes before my eyes. The siege has worn on for weeks now, and it has become apparent that win or lose, this will be the final battle. As yet another wave of werewolves and vampires advances, my mind takes me back to when I left home…
My father looked me in the eye and handed me my very first longsword. I got my red hair from him, and behind all the years of his career as a rogue I could see something almost unrecognizable in his eyes. It was the last time I ever saw him. I thought of all the practice duels leading up to this point, all the swordplay lessons and wilderness survival tips, and I feel tears stinging my eyes, trying to leak out. I blink them back, smile, and look to my mother. From her I got my green eyes, and in hers I see an overwhelming love before I’m pulled down into a hug, tight and desperate. In my ear, she quietly whispered something that I did not fully understand for years: “Choose love, always…” As my mother released me from her hug she gave me a pat on the shoulder, sending me on my way. I didn’t look back as I walked away to Battleon, my father having told me to always choose the blade, and my mother to always choose love.
“Sir! I see his banner!” I’m pulled back down into the battle, and look over to Edward. He is one of the vampires that moved in to my estate after the War of the Fangs, and has been one of my lieutenants during this small war and siege around my estate. Following his outstretched finger, my eyes flit over the horizon, and I identify the banner of Donovan, who has declared himself Lord of Darkovia. The memories of the meeting that led to this siege rush back to me in an instant.
“It seems Donovan’s already made his way to the table.” Says Pierre, shading his eyes with his hand.
“How should I announce you?” Asks Ambrose, the bags under his eyes standing out.
“Use all of my titles.”
“All of them?”
“All of them.”
Ambrose looks wary of my decision, but clears his throat and turns towards the table. “Hear ye, hear ye! Presenting Ser Uskius the Holy Paladin, First of his Name, Slayer of of Akriloth, Carnax, Chillax, Drakkonan, Nightbane, Omega- well, kinda- ...sorry, this goes on a while… here we go- ahem- Guardian of Creativity, Survivor of the Scary, Protector of Presents, He Who Laughed Last- four years running- Luckier than a Leprechaun, voted Most Likely to Survive a Class G.R.R.M. Apocalypse, and… apparently a ‘D00D’ with Awesome Penguin Throwing Skills, the Kingdom Breaker, Time Keeper, Omni Knight, Legendary Guardian, Essence of the Wind, High Cleric of the Chicken, Ace Detective, Tinkerer, Witness to Greatness, Essence of the Energy, Champion of Light, Slayer of Beasts, and Holder of DOOM!” Donovan, as well as the vampire and werewolf contingents, look thoroughly annoyed and unimpressed as I make my way to the table in the middle of the field.
“Why don’t you just call yourself king and spare us the boredom?” Donovan says.
“My penguin throwing skills need to be known and respected,” I say as I take a seat. “But, about being king…” I say, looking pointedly at Donovan and Xander and Victor. Donovan glances at Victor, who produces a scroll and hands it to me. Inside it are the terms Donovan is willing to accept for the end of the conflict. Chief among them are my renunciation of my protection of Barrenford and the nearby villages, myself and my wife Marna drinking a vial of The Cure, the dissolution of the small band of forces I’ve recruited, and a vast reduction in the size of my hunting grounds.
“I think you’ll find those terms more than fair,” Xander says. “They’re a small price for you to pay in return for slaying Constantin-”
“For the last time, I did not kill him!”
“There’s no one to prove that!” Xander yells. “You were the last person to see him before he disappeared during the vampire raid on our lair!”
“But more than that, you have no right to assume the duties you have,” Victor added. “You may be a Chosen, but that is all you are. I’ve known of you since your first full moon as a vampire, and all you have ever been is a sniveling mongrel with delusions of grandeur. I honestly don’t know what my queen ever saw in you. How could you possibly rule, Uskius, when you cannot even keep a firm hold on yourself?”
“...What she saw in me, Victor, was a young version of herself. For a long while I didn’t understand it either. Before she was queen, before there was Darkovia, before she was even a vampire she was only a human, and it’s the Safiria of Luminovia that I fought for and remain loyal to.”
“Quite noble, but that Safiria and her childish dreams are as dead as yesterday,” Donovan says. “Darkovia has long since evolved into a place where only the strong survive, and what you are offering Darkovia and Barrenford and the surrounding lands, Uskius, is not a safe haven or position of strength. Look around this table: allied with me against you are the servants of a king you killed, a queen you betrayed- on multiple occasions, I might add- and the forces of the only man capable of quieting Darkovia. To put it simply, you are caught in the middle of a war that you cannot-”
I hold up the scroll, using a small fire magic to reduce it to ashes. Silence falls over the table, thick and heavy. “Here are my terms: you stay away from Barrenford, and keep your forces out of my hunting grounds. If anyone in Barrenford and Greenguard Forest and the area of Darkovia around my estate want protection from a place where only the strong survive, they will have it.”
Donovan holds my stare. “I reject your terms.”
I stand. “Then may Lorithia have mercy on your soul.” I turn and leave, not looking back.
“Uskius?” I look to my right, and see my wife Marna, concern and worry in her dark eyes. I swallow.
“I think I’m almost ready to cast it,” I say to Edward. Pierre and Jakob, a werewolf who came in with Edward and the others, nod. “Sound the horns and head down to the battlefield in just a minute.” Pierre and Jakob blow three long notes on the horns they brought with them, and Edward quickly raises a golden yellow flag on the flagpole. Using a small teleportation magic, I swap my dented, stained and scored armor for my ornate Angelic Robes. They’re the ideal thing to wear if you work with light spells, and it is one mammoth light spell that I intend to cast in a few moments.
It was the work of months to prepare Dawn on Nine Horizons. There was the rewording of the language of my spell circle, which had last been used in a rite to empower my dracopyric state; there was the marking of hundreds and thousands of points around my estate and hunting grounds with the glyph the spell would emanate from and dozens upon dozens of mana drawing circles to help power it; there were the protection glyphs that had to be applied to all my estate workers and the small army I’ve been able to bring together. Since the end of the War of Fangs, I’ve known I would need something like Dawn on Nine Horizons in place to help protect my estate- like Donovan said, I’m outnumbered and caught in the middle of war I have no hope of winning.
I take a moment to use a small spell, anointing Pierre and Edward and Jakob with the glyph that will protect them from Dawn on Nine Horizons. Edward nods, and leads the others back down to my estate. Marna is last, and my hand trembles slightly as I speak the spell, the glyph appearing as my finger touches her forehead. I remember the words of my father and mother when I left to become an adventurer, and how I tried to choose love despite the sword being the only option consistently given to me. Marna looks at me, a slight breeze blowing her dark hair in her face for a moment. “Do you need me to leave while you cast it?”
“No! Please, please stay here with me.” She gives me a small smile, and I briefly kiss her forehead. It takes everything I have to turn back towards my estate and the battle. I stretch out my hand, and from out near my mana collectors a glowing chain of runes snakes through the air towards me, weaving around until it reaches the top of my mansion’s turret and binds itself to my wrist. This is my connection to my spell circle, and in my other hand I call up my fragment of the Blood Orb, which will help empower my magic. I calm my breathing, filling my mind with the purpose of the spell and the ancient word that will activate it. I let it resonate and grow within me, until it has my full and absolute focus, and I shout the word from the top of my lungs.
Dawn on Nine Horizons springs up in the blink of an eye, drowning everything in an intense pure white light. After a moment the drain of the spell gets to me, as most magic does when I extend a spell past its natural duration. My teeth begin to rattle and a headache grows, and my heart starts to beat fast and irregularly at the point my natural mana reserves are used up. I’m now drawing upon the store in my mana collectors, the dazzling brilliance of Dawn on Nine Horizons still exploding out. I hear sharp screams echo up to me, and something wet dribbles down from my nose and over my lips. I get lost in the spell, my body seeming to fade as my mind fills up with light, but before long my body begins to shudder and the last of the mana in my collectors is gone. Faintly, I can feel the mana in the circles I prepared being used up, and suddenly the light from the spell fades. I drop to my knees and double over, coughing fiercely for a second. “Uskius!”
“I’m okay,” I lie, gritting my teeth and standing back up. “Theh zpleh-” My jaw and tongue aren’t cooperating with me right now, and I need a moment to gather myself. “The spell isn’t the end of this. We need to take on our dracopyre forms and get down there into the battle…”
“Not you,” Marna says. “You need to rest.”
“No! I’m not sending you down there alone, and I need to be seen on the battlefield again.” I pick up my sword Gyrfang from where it rests against the turret, and take a deep breath. I focus and call up an ancient sword from the locked chest in our room, the memory surfacing as I turn towards Marna…
The leopardzard walks up beside me, a deep and mysterious look in its eyes as it gazes towards The Door. “Go ahead, walk up to it. Touch it.” The voice startled me, and I look over my shoulder to the The Door’s guardian smiling at me. I sigh and take their suggestion, walking through the tall grass of the flowering meadow towards it. The simple design of the ancient stone should be out of place here, but it simply is, as if it was always meant to be in this exact spot in the meadow.
“Would she be there on the other side if I open it?”
“I don’t know.” The only answer I’d gotten to the numerous times I’d asked anything about the other side of The Door since I got here a few days ago. There’s something vaguely parental in the look The Door’s guardian gives me, and I sit down against The Door, closing my eyes for a moment. The Door’s guardian sits down beside me. “I don’t know, Uskius, but I’m sure that you’ll see her again.”
“It’s my fault. She was the reason we went down into Azeru’s tomb, and I wasn’t able to do anything to-”
“If you weren’t able to do anything to stop Azeru, why do you still blame yourself?” I rub my eyes and look over at The Door’s guardian.
“...I’m not sure when, but I’d made a promise somewhere inside me to always protect her. And I failed.”
The Door’s guardian fell silent for a while. “We all fail. It’s just a question of whether we decide to give up or not.” The Door’s guardian stands, and offers me their hand. I take it, and pull myself up. “You haven’t given up, Uskius, so don’t be afraid to keep going.”
“But I’m not enough! When it really matters, I never have been…” Off to the side, a sparkle catches my eye- it’s the light reflecting off of a crystalline blade. On an impulse I make the decision and begin walking towards it.
“Uskius?” I ignore The Door’s guardian, and keep walking over to the stone. Lodged in its top and chained to the ground around it is the Celestial Sunflash, a sword from the primordial wars between light demons and darkness angels. Though countless millennia old, its black leather handle and golden hilt still look as though they were just made and fitted to the blade. “Uskius.” The guardian’s tone is more warning now. “The Sunflash was chained here for a very good reason. You know that.”
“If there’s anything in existence that could slay Azeru and free Marna’s soul from his grip, it’s this. I am going to take it.”
“Those chains are pure shivernium and anchored dozens of feet underground. What makes you think you could pull it out?!”
I look over my shoulder at The Door’s guardian. “Marna. I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing it for her. This sword will belong to her...” I transform into a dracopyre, and get situated on the rock beside the Celestial Sunflash…
“Uskius…?!” Marna’s eyes are glued to the Celestial Sunflash.
“This is yours now. You’ve always wanted to be the ‘blinding might of lords, strident sharpened ray’, so take it.” I hand it to Marna, and my spirit trembles as I feel its full power begin to awaken in her hands. It starts to glow, lighting up Marna’s awestruck and terrified face. The Celestial Sunflash’s radiance makes Gyrfang, a sword forged of starmetal, with a puissant handle and fire ore hilt, look like a crudely drawn toy in comparison. I take my dracopyre form, shaking out my red mane and flapping my wings. “Are you ready?”
Marna gulps, nodding. “Y-yes, I’m ready…” She takes her dracopyre form, slender and ferocious and with a dark mane. I step to the edge of the turret and loose my very loudest roar, the sound echoing over the battle. I jump off and fly, Marna beside me, winging my way over to the field where I saw Donovan’s banner.
The battle is still going strong. Many bodies lie still and broken in the midst of the clash, Donovan’s forces past them and pushing towards my estate. I land on the front line, bisecting two of Donovan’s soldiers with a swing of Gyrfang and downing another with a thrust. “For Barrenford!” I shout, raising Gyrfang high. I hear thumping sounds off in the distance, but before I can focus on them I turn back to the battle at hand. Working on pure adrenaline, I go into a frenzy, tearing deep into the opposing forces. The thumping sounds are louder now, and I can hear Marna shouting off to the side. After cleaving through yet another transformed werewolf, I look up and see the source of the thumping noises: a behemoth, pulling a massive chariot that’s more like a small tower. My instincts prick up at the sight of it, and I know that Donovan is somewhere inside it. I look back at my army- villagers and nomads, mostly from Barrenford and the surrounding area- ordinary people who’ve sought what protection I could offer them, who are fighting with me and for and and some of whom have died doing so. I think it’s time I took the lead and fought for them. “With me!” I shout, raising Gyrfang and pointing at the gigantic tower chariot. I fight back towards my army, and once with them, begin to sing as we advance.
“I am just a man,
And a hero to none
But should I join a cause
I will end what has begun!”
I hear those behind me begin to join as I start the second verse, and then off to the side an eye-wateringly bright crescent of light slices through one of the behemoth’s front legs and into the ground below it! As it bellows and falls forwards Marna flies to it, catching the beast by the neck. She lands, and then with a mighty heave, the behemoth is lifted up into the air, the chariot being lifted up before the ropes snap and the behemoth falls behind Marna. The chariot is on its way down, and quickly inhaling a let out a bolt of my energy breath, the streak of livid purple lightning connecting with the center of an immense wheel and bursting it apart. It splintered with a loud crunch as the chariot came landed, and the large structure’s top tier broke off and came crashing down. The battle has paused for a moment, but I refocus and start the push towards the chariot. “FORWARDS!”
The push goes rapidly. There’s been a shift in the momentum of the battle, and we all can feel it. I demolish the fallen top tier of the chariot with another blast of energy breath and turn to the remaining portion of it, before getting mauled off my feet by a streaking black shape. We roll around for a moment, exchanging slashes and bites, before getting back to our feet. My opponent is either a dracopyre who was turned by Donovan, or the man himself. They have the quick reflexes typical of his kind, and back before the rite that empowered my dracopyric form I definitely wouldn’t have been able to keep up with them.
They feint towards my left, but I can see the move for what it is, and call Gyrfang back into my hand as they move in. It catches them off guard and scores a shallow slash to their gut, but they back away quickly and breathe out a bright lance of their own energy breath, pushing me back several feet. Our eyes meet, and in the moment I recognize that I’m facing Donovan. I let the tip of my sword waver side to side, half-committing to a thrust as Donovan lunges in, pivoting to sweep his legs out with my tail. He’s rolling away as I turn, and I fire my energy breath towards him, the beam connecting with his back and sending him tumbling away. “PULL BACK YOUR FORCES!” I demand, stalking forwards. Donovan is slow to get to his knees, and I decide to dart in for one final blow. Just before Gyrfang connects, Donovan flings a handful of dirt into my eyes, and Gyrfang bites into the ground. I’m knocked onto my back, and take a slash dangerously close to my throat. I keep Donovan close, my claws sinking into him as I roll over and shake the dirt out of my eyes; Donovan rolls over and we separate, back up and lunging at each other in a heartbeat. As we tear at each other my adrenaline rush fades, and the strain of the earlier battles and casting Dawn on Nine Horizons settles deep into my bones and begins to creep outwards.
Our eyes meet again, and I understand Donovan is determined to leave this battle one of two ways. In an instant as Donovan crouches down to spring forwards, a glow swiftly appears behind him, and my sword Gyrfang is held across his throat. “Kneel.” His eyes full of hatred and fury, Donovan obeys Marna. She tosses the Celestial Sunflash towards me, and without thinking, I catch it. My heart shivers, and my soul exults at the light illuminating it. I look at the sword; truly, this is a weapon not meant to wielded by mere mortals.
I look back to Donovan, who is still staring at me. “Do you know why I took the name MoonBiter?” No answer. “Because whatever darkness crosses my path or haunts me, I will devour it. No evil or evildoer will escape my bite, no matter-”
“Just. Do it.”
“What…?” Donovan looks up at me, confused.
“I will not kill you, Donovan, because I know that if there is one thing you’d hate more than losing, it’s losing and having to live with it for the rest of your life. You will pull your forces away from Barrenford, and my estate and hunting grounds. Understood?” Donovan stays silent, his gaze hard and determined again. I snarl and bring the full power of my dracopyric curse upon him. “Give the order to retreat, now.”
His lips pulled back to reveal his fangs, Donovan spits out, “...Retreat.”
Donovan roars. “Everyone, retreat!” Slowly, Donovan’s forces start to move away, and when Marna releases him they get up to marching speed. Only when they’re well towards the horizon do I look away, and hand the Celestial Sunflash back to Marna. She’s shifted back into her human form, and I do so, too.
Marna looks at me, a wry smile on her face. “For a man who doesn’t want to be a king, you sure looked an awful lot like one today.”
I shrug. “That’s just what happens when you’re as good at throwing penguins as I am.” I turn to what remains of my army, and do my best to smile for them. “Let’s head back to the estate and get rested up before coming back out here, alright?” There’s a chorus of “Yes, sir!”, and I begin walking back home.
I’m in the hammock out in my orchard, eyes closed as the breeze gently rocks me side to side. It’s been a little over two weeks since the battle that broke the siege. Today is the first real day I’ve had to rest, as I’ve been digging graves and trading for supplies and helping in general to get things back in order around my estate up until now. The mass funeral in Barrenford a few days ago was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Throughout the service I could feel the villager’s eyes on me, silent questions and judgements and accusations digging into my back.
Some time around now, it’ll have been ten years since I set out to be an adventurer. How on Lore did I get to be where I’m at now? Me, Uskius Landarine, son of a rogue and a priestess of the Light Lord, how did I end up being what Ambrose and a few others have called a king? And why in Lorithia’s name am I a Chosen? Chosen to do what, exactly?
Off to my left, I hear someone approaching- I open my eyes and turn to look, and it’s Marna. “Mind if I join you?”
“No, come on over.” I sit up and swing my legs over the side, and Marna sits down next to me.
She glances at me briefly, then looks back down at the ground. “They still haven’t found Ambrose…”
“And he didn’t say anything before he disappeared?”
“Pierre said there was a scrap of paper on his bed that said ‘whispers’, but that’s it.”
I sigh, looking out through my orchard towards my estate. “Sooner or later we’ll have to find those whispers. If they got to Ambrose they could affect other vampires, too...” Marna looks like she’s about to say something, but she bites her lip and silently puts her arm around me. I do the same, and lean over to kiss her temple. “I love you,” I say quietly.
“Love you too…” Marna replies, resting her head on my shoulder. The silence stretches out, only broken by the wind rustling through the canopy. “Uskius…” Marna says, so softly I almost don’t hear her.
“What is it?”
Link to discussion thread: Link!
< Message edited by Uskius -- 8/13/2015 4:15:53 >