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|the first chapter of deathblade||
Hsoj Renchek stepped out into the snowy whiteness of winter in Atlantea. White flakes swirled about his ears. The ones on the ground crunched under his boots. Never before had he seen such a thing. The winter had lasted so long, had cut so many supplies. It should be spring now. When would the sun bring salvation from the cold harshness of the winter’s fury?
He stood at medium height, and was clothed in a green cloak, now drawn tight about him. He wore light armor, with a green tunic underneath this. At his side lay a short sword, close at reach. His normal brown hair and stoic expression did not show anything special about him. Yet you could see it in his eyes. There was much more to this boy when you looked into those sparkling gray pools.
His father, Isaac, stepped out behind him, his rich black and gold cloak hiding his strong armor and his long blonde hair flying in the wind. The only visible sign that he was captain of the guard of Valetinian, capital city of Atlantea, the most prominent of the continents of Helchrana, was his long scimitar. It was beautifully inscribed and some thought it to be magical, for it was so ancient.
“Go and get Itoro and Arthur,” Isaac said. “Have them meet us at the castle. Hurry!”
Hsoj started down the path to the house of his lifelong friends to summon their father. Little did he know that this path would lead him to decide the fate Helchrana.
“We must go to the castle!” Hsoj told them as he entered the smug little home.
“Alright let’s go!” said Jacob, the son of Itoro and Hsoj’s closest friend.
“Come on,” said Itoro. Arthur was there and his daughter, Erin. So was Itoro’s other son Lucas. The four were close friends. All four followed the adults.
Itoro was tall and thin, and wore the armor of the castle guard proudly. He had a sword on his belt and a long pike across his back. Jacob and Erin were Hsoj’s age; Jacob dressed much like Hsoj, only in blue and with shorter hair and hazel eyes. Erin wore long, white robes and had blonde, shoulder length hair. Arthur wore a green cloak, and nothing else of him could be seen except his long, gray beard. Lucas was dressed as a hunter, with a cap, chain mail, and leaf-colored tunic. His hair was red, and over his back was slung a bow, a long sword at his belt.
Down the path they walked, toward the great castle looming in the distance. The rows of houses were so forlorn with people sick or starving or dying inside. This was what they were to discuss with King Haldrin. How they would save the city, perhaps the continent from the never-ending winter. As they were walking, Hsoj noticed a break in the endless blanket of white. Yellow. A flower. Finally.
“Look,” he said. “’Tis a dandelion. The flowers are coming back! Perhaps we shall be saved from an icy death in this unforgiving season.
“Perhaps,” mused Arthur.
“What is it?” asked Itoro, respecting the old wizard’s wisdom. “You believe we shall die?”
“Yes,” he replied, “and no. I believe we will survive, but I sense something sinister shall befall us. But we must not be late! Let us focus upon the present as we see and understand it now.”
And so they walked on.
At the castle entrance, they saw a man. He was covered in a long brown robe. His hood was up, and his black hair stuck out from under it, shadowing his face. Itoro called to him thinking that it was King Haldrin’s personal bodyguard, Terrane.
“Terrane, what are you doing here so late. I thought that you would be there… early!”
“You fool. I am precisely on time!” he stated in a low raspy voice. Suddenly Itoro was knocked back to the ground. Lucas drew his bow and aimed at the man, but he was gone. Just gone. And they had no recollection of what had just taken place.
Itoro got up slowly, holding his chest.
“Are you alright?” asked Erin, who was trained in the arts of healing.
“I am fine. Just a bit shaken up. What just happened? I cannot remember.” He wore an inquisitive look on his face, as if trying to remember something important.
They heard a scream. A shrill, piercing scream. It rent the night air like a thousand cruel knives, sharpened to the very point of death. Death. From the castle.
“What was that?” Itoro gasped.
“It’s coming from inside the castle,” Lucas said.
Arthur took command. “Itoro and I shall go to the castle and investigate what has happened. You children stay here and stand guard. No one passes unless under our strict personal orders.”
They disappeared inside the castle.
The castle was abuzz with people and business. There was a market, a monastery, a barracks, a school, scholars, soldiers, children, and people everywhere. The two passed right through, following the red carpet to the end of the vast chamber and then heading up the stairway.
At the landing they found a horrible sight. There were two guards, both with their throats slit and no signs of struggle. Itoro went to inspect the body on the right. Isaac was already there, standing by the body on the left. There was only a single, perfect cut from an extremely thin, fine knife, the kind only a powerful assassin could and would get his hands on.
“Isaac, what happened? Our best soldiers, throats slit without a sign of struggle. They were trained to be completely alert at all times, on their feet, undying. What happened?”
“I do not know,” Isaac responded. “What do you think, Arthur?”
“I think that we should see if Terrane knows anything on the matter.”
They proceeded into the next room, the waiting room of the king’s chambers. The room was empty of people, except an unconscious body with several sword wounds. Terrane. There were obvious sings of a fight, chairs broken, a mirror shattered, and even a crevice in the solid stone wall. Terrane had a sword sheathed and at the ready, the other lying on the ground.
“Arthur, you have a scrying mirror in the guard room correct?” asked Isaac shakily.
“Yes, sir,” replied Arthur, seemingly untouched by the disaster.
“Then summon two guards. Have Terrane’s body shackled and carried into the throne room,” He ordered. Then, as an afterthought, “Just in case.”
In minutes Terrane was shackled and semi-conscious enough to walk. They moved to the door, noticing a trail of blood that had seemingly dripped from a wound from the body to the door. Itoro opened the door and they were all shocked at what they saw.
The room’s entire center was bloody, the king’s body ripped apart on the ground, the blood going all the way to the balcony by the throne. The five men stared around in disbelief. Who? Was the one question pervading all of their minds. Who could have brought this fate to their loving, generous king?
By now, Terrane was conscious enough to know what was going on, and regaining strength every second.
“God,” he whispered, trying to find breath between the horror and the pain in his ribs. “God no…this…this is all…my…”He could not find breath to finish the sentence.
Isaac turned on him. “It was you,” he spoke, trying to deal with it. He could only find one way to erase the fact. He drew his sword.
Terrane tensed his muscles, knowing what was coming.
“You killed him. His own personal bodyguard. How? I will finish you know. I told him not to give you the position. We didn’t even know where you came from. Now you pay. For everything.”
He raised his sword to strike him down.
Suddenly the chains binding Terrane shattered. In one lightning movement he drew his sword and stabbed right then left, killing the two guards. He raised his sword to intercept his opponents, firmly holding his ground. Isaac hit with such impact that his blade shattered. Terrane slammed a kick into his ribs that sent him flying backwards, landing hard on the stone floor ten feet away.
Itoro threw his short sword so that it landed next to the semiconscious form. He charged in with his pike, seeking revenge for all the deaths this man had caused today.
Terrane easily sidestepped and drove his sword through the man’s upper leg and knee. As Itoro stumbled, he viciously slashed a gash along the width of his side. He turned and kicked the stumbling, wounded fighter into a wall.
He saw Isaac rising sword in hand. He saw Arthur beginning a deadly spell.
“Dead,” repeated Isaac. “Another death you have caused this day. The last one shall be your own!”
And so Terrane took his only chance. He ran. He ran to the balcony. Then, he leaped into the air, just as a burst of magical energy shattered the railing behind him.
Meanwhile, below the balcony, (which was just above the gate) Jacob and Hsoj had found something to keep them from being bored by sparing with each other. Lucas and Erin watched growing bored. Lucas then heard something. His instincts as a hunter told him that something was wrong.
“Everyone, up against the wall,” he whispered, thinking the best option stealth and discretion. “And don’t let yourselves be seen or heard.”
They all followed his lead, pressing their backs to the wall. Lucas drew his bow and notched an arrow. After about a minute they heard the sound of shattering glass and explosive magical energy.
“Cover your heads!” Lucas shouted over the din.
Almost a ton of broken rock, stained glass, and metal fell in front of them. The debris made a small crater in the ground as it landed with a deafening crash in a heap, the result of Terrane leaping through the glass over the balcony and Arthur’s bolt of energy.
A battered and bloodied form landed only a foot from the pile they could not tell who it was, could not know of the treacherous fight that had just occurred. They could not know it was Terrane. He got up and started running toward the city gates at an impossibly fast speed.
Lucas whispered a curse. He got off the wall and fired his arrow. It flew threw his shoulder and dug into a wooden house. Terrane stumbled and grasped his new wound a clear hole through his shoulder. Lucas set off after him as fast as he could.
The other three children stood watching, mouths wide with astonishment, for a moment. Then they set off after Lucas, though his pace was double theirs. Lucas was a hunter. He was faster and stronger than most he shouldered his bow and drew his sword. Though as fast as he could ever hope to be Terrane was still many yards ahead of him.
When he reached the gates he was hailed by the guards. One of them eyed his beaten and bloodied form, noticing the two swords in his hand and the curved knife strapped to his leg.
“Terrane, my deepest apologies to you, but I cannot let you into the forest, even so armed. It is the king’s wishes.”
Indeed, the forest beyond the gates, small though it was, was extremely dangerous, and only hunters over thirty and soldiers on official duty were allowed to enter, for orcs and goblins lived there. It was rumored some could even ride wargs and, in very rare occasions, hounds that had been set free so near the capital city of Valetinian.
“The King is dead,” Terrane replied.
“You still may not go into the forest,” said the second guard, a look of deepest lament upon his face.
“Let me pass this gate!” Terrane demanded.
His next words were cut short for his throat had been slashed through the middle by one sword, the other now sheathed. Before the other guard even recognized what had just happened, Terrane was behind him. He flipped a concealed dagger out of his left boot and stabbed the poor man in the back of the neck with it.
The guards hailed Lucas with gurgles, for they were suffocating on their own blood.
Terrane went halfway through the forest always on the path. He sheathed his other sword and drew a small, handheld crossbow with five darts loaded into it from his other boot. He went off the path and climbed the nearest tree and readied himself for the next kill that was the fault of a different man.
He watched as Lucas ran unwittingly into the forest. He aimed the crossbow ad shot with perfect, trained precision. Lucas stopped, hearing the click of the crossbow shot with his trained ears. He instinctively brought his sword up to his face. Right were the dart was aimed. The dart hit his sword and fell harmlessly to the ground. It would have only put him to sleep anyway. Four more darts were shot, four more fell to the ground, their poison having little effect on a sword. Terrane dropped from the tree and moved out onto the path to greet Lucas.
Lucas started when he saw the face of his aggressor. The king’s bodyguard was the last person he expected. “You? You… why were you running… what happened back there?”
Terrane seemed uncomfortable, puzzled, and… afraid. Lucas was surprised, for he could sense the man’s uncharacteristic fear and uneasiness. All of a sudden he seemed weak and weary, a frightened old man, always looking over his shoulder, paranoid that death would come and he would fight his final battle with it. But this was unlike him. Much to unlike him for Lucas’s liking. Much to unlike him…
He shifted on his feet stupidly, nervously. It was then that Lucas noticed all the wounds. “You were running away…”
“It’s not my fault! Not my fault do you hear me! Look… there was a fight. They thought I killed the king. I… I killed your father in the struggle. And almost Isaac.”
Lucas was shocked. He could think nothing. His mind was numb. He raised his sword to kill the person that had taken four lives today that he knew about. One of those lives had been his father’s. Lucas would kill this man.
“You… you…you… I am going to kill you,” Lucas uttered. He was having trouble breathing. He was mad with rage.
“Not yet,” said Terrane. The odds are much too uneven, I would slaughter you. It goes against all of my codes of honor that I have specially designed for myself, the laws of chivalry, and the code of the Guardians.”
“Codes… of… honor?” Lucas asked, enraged. “You mean the ones you use when you slaughtered three helpless people and my father, right? I’ll kill you like this, it’s fair enough for me.”
“Give me your sword,” Terrane commanded.
Lucas did not give him the sword, yet somehow it was in Terrane’s hand.
“Thank you. This sword was mine once. I forged it myself when I finished my Guardian training. The magic in it is weak, but can be deadly to an unskillful foe.”
“You… you were a Guardian?” Lucas was amazed. This man, this murderer… he was proof of a living legend? “Then they do exist… but you… you are a murderer!”
“How many times do I have to tell you, I am not a murderer? But you are incorrect at another point, too. I wasn’t a Guardian. I am a Guardian. I will fight you, but I will not kill you. For you and I both have a part to play in the prophecy of the Last Wars. And I would not for my life wish to carry the burden that you do,” Terrane’s voice drifted away.
“What prophecy? What are you talking about?”
“It has already started. The Dark Lord is raising an army. A small band of young people, including you and your friends, shall set out to stop him. And if you do not… you will have condemned us all. I will help you in this, for soon I shall be Master Guardian. Arthur is now… but he will die soon. If you do not want to fight me any more, I will understand.”
“No. I don’t believe it. You are lying to save your own life.”
“Very well. But know that I am the most powerful Guardian in a century. The only one more powerful is the chosen one. And he has not yet come forth. I am held in the highest esteem of the Gods.”
Terrane muttered some arcane word and Lucas’s sword became two swords. He handed them both to Lucas and drew his own swords. But the outcome of this fight, no one could ever guess.
Lucas ran straight in, swords leading. He went through half of the maneuvers he knew in less than ten minutes. Sweat was pouring down his face. He had just fought his hardest and fastest ever, more furious than he ever knew he could. Yet Terrane had blocked every move without lifting his other sword. He stabbed forward with his right, then pulled back and came in low with his left. He felt his sword hit something other than air, heard the rip of cloth. He had scored a hit.
Terrane merely winced as blood started trickling out of his side. He came in with a furious downward cut, followed by a swift upper with his other sword. Lucas rolled backwards to avoid the twin bearers of death. Then he noticed that what could have been a killing blow, would only have grazed him.
Terrane seemed to read his curious mind. “Do not worry, I shall not kill you, nor shall I let you kill me. We both have a large part yet to play in the oncoming storm. We both must aid the broken faction of the Guardians. For we are still here, but we are broken and divided. We must pull together to defeat the darkness, to have hope.”
“I don’t care about your ‘prophecy’ rubbish. I am going to kill you. Then the darkness will be dead. God I hate you, you pathetic betraying backstabber.”
“You will sacrifice yourself for me before the end!”
“I cannot do that if you are dead.”
“Do not speak of what you cannot do.”
Terrane held out his hand. It began to glow a reddish-orange color as he spoke the word Gantelaga. Lucas stood agape as fire started spiraling toward him, seemingly stemming from Terrane’s outstretched hand. It burnt into his flesh and kept going, sending him flying backwards into a tree. The fire held him there. He felt it melting his armor, singing his hair, charring his skin, and burning his flesh.
“You see,” Terrane said almost mockingly, “You cannot defeat me. You may be part of the prophecy, you may help defeat the Dark Lord and the traitor, but you will never defeat me.”
Then there was a flash of yellow light. It was seemingly in the image of a hawk. It flew into Terrane at a tremendous speed, and blood poured out of his stomach. Then the fire smoldered out, his concentration broken. Lucas fell on his feet to the ground. The golden light then came to hover above his shoulder, as would a hawk, perched on the shoulder of the hunter.
“You… can use Imagicine?” Terrane stuttered, shocked by the attack of the hawk.
“That spell… you summoned it…? Didn’t you? Was that not Hunter’s Hawk? But how… you are the fire…”
“How can I summon something and not know?” Lucas cut him short.
“You needed help, you knew this in body and soul. The essence of the Hawk came to your aid. This is a summon spell, know as Hunter’s Hawk.”
“You are crazy. Fine. If this ‘essence’ is in my command, then I command it to kill you.”
Instantly, the hawk charged Terrane three, then four, then five times before Terrane fell to the ground face-first, exhausted and wounded severely, dropping his swords. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. Nothing besides the fight in the castle. When he had fought…
An arrow pierced his back and dug halfway in. Lucas had sheathed his swords and drawn his bow, the hawk still hovering above his shoulder. No… he could not die like this… the prophecy… it had to be fulfilled. He stood up, amazingly. But then, he was quite an amazing person. Another arrow flew at him and punctured his chest. His robes did not provide much protection.
Lucas drew a third arrow and let fly, but Terrane merely grabbed it in the air and snapped it in half with his now empty hands. With a wave of his hands, he dispelled the Hunter’s Hawk back to it’s own realm. He then stood there and looked skyward. A beam of the brightest, purest light shone upon him from the heavens, illuminating the snow and casting brilliant glittering patterns. The wounds sealed, the blood stopped flowing, and Terrane seemed now more powerful and imposing, like a lesser God (which he obviously was not, being completely human).
“What… what was that? You’re not really…?” Lucas uttered in horror and denial.
“Believe what you want, but you will believe the truth soon enough,” Terrane stated coolly, his voice strong, confident, calm, and reassuring. “For you will be part of that truth.”
The light dissipated, and Lucas charged at Terrane. He brought his sword crashing down toward Terrane’s head, the man having no way to block. He simply held out his hand, fingers spread apart. The sword landed between the middle and ring fingers and stopped, nestled snugly between the two fingers, drawing not even a trickle of blood. Terrane closed his fingers and the blade shattered, pieces flying everywhere. He drew out two long, curved, golden daggers from straps on his arms and ran them through the cloth of Lucas’ tunic and chain mail, catching the mail so Lucas could not wriggle free, and pinned him to a tree.
“Geralatar!” He shouted and disappeared into thin air.
|Deathblade Chapter 3: Natural Selection||Deathblade Glossary|
|Prologue||Deathblade Chapter 2: The Guardian|