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|Posted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 11:16 pm Post subject: The History of Richard Ebonrune
The History of Richard
“The prescient lay blind claims to possible futures unfettered by personal intervention, only individual choice may lead to certainty, never the other way around.” - Richard Ebonrune
Chapter One- Shattered Lands
“Hold the lines!” the voice of a soldier boomed over the blackened skies of a moon lit battlefield.
Thousands upon thousands of bodies lay strewn across the bloodied fields of a forested area west of Minoc, soldiers clinging to life hobbled around in death trance, hoping to find eternity amongst their brethren. A lone soldier stood in the heat of the fray, black cloak and armor swirling behind him, fending off several enemies at once with inhuman vigor and fury. The lone soldier approached the front lines of the imperial army, eyeing the general of British’s Minoc regiment.
“Fight to the death! We die today rather than bring this shame upon our king, stand...!” The general’s voice cut off as a crimson blade implanted itself within his back.
The ebony soldier placed his foot upon the generals back and roughly thrust forward, releasing the general from the impaling blade.
“Then die you shall.” The ebony soldier hissed as he once again brandished his blade, effortlessly slaying several more soldiers.
The tides of battle slowly began to shift towards the side of the blackened soldiers as more of the imperial legions broke off into frantic scattering formations, some following their general’s final command, while others choosing the option of cowardice. In mere hours, five hundred darkly clad warriors had defeated the thousands strong Minoc regiment of Lord British’s army.
“High Advocate, they shall set upon us a fury of troops, we have lost far too many of our brothers tonight, we cannot possibly…” A tired soldier’s plea was cut short by a stiff glance from the high advocate.
“I have killed their general, the rest will be rounded up shortly, and the word of the defeat will not reach their ears for months. The peace which we have brought, the freedom from the king’s tyranny is worth the price. We shall meld with the populace, their chores shall be ours, their women shall be ours, and we shall survive to strike back again in very few generations.” The High Advocate grinned sadistically as his eyes wandered over the city of Minoc; the appointed governor’s mansion loomed in the distance, ready for the taking.
“I believe it is time for me to become governor of Minoc, bring me three men, we will remove the nobility of this inbred little town.” The High Advocate grinned and raised his sword to the blackened sky, slowly reaching for a cloth to remove the crimson stains from his blade. Stopping suddenly, the High Advocate dropped the cloth to the earth. “Let them see the blood of their saviors, who then will they cry out to for salvation.”
“My lady, I suggest we flee to the docks immediately, the mage council will undoubtedly burn my flesh to cinders if they learn that you have been slain by some forest dwelling rabble.” A finely dressed adjutant stood in the opulently decorated sitting room of the governor’s mansion in Minoc.
A noblewoman wearing an outrageously expensive blue dress stood up sharply, a look of extreme disgust crossed her delicate features. “We will stay here, the rabble will not dare to enter the mansion, this is not a hostile holding. If they do, they know not only the soldiers of Lord British will have their skulls mounted upon the barricades, but their souls will be burned from their flesh by the mage council. We are safe here.” The woman jarred suddenly, as sounds of commotion could be heard emanating from the lower levels of the mansion.
“Please… take me, leave my family, they have done you no harm…” The words of the governor were cut short as a crimson blade lunged through his chest, screams of servants, women, and children could be heard as a ruthless slaughter commenced.
The High Advocate worked his way up the stairs, leaving a bloody path in his wake, sparing neither child nor elderly in his dance of death. The High Advocate reached the final floor of the mansion, lifting his armored foot; he kicked through the poorly barred wooden door leading to the guest chambers. Staring with complete horror, a finely dressed noblewoman and her servant looked upon the bloodstained epitome of inhumanity that stepped through the splintered opening.
“You sir! Leave this place immediately; I am a high noblewoman of Moonglow, daughter to one of the most powerful mages in the entire realm. If you so much as get a speck of blood on my servant or I, you will be ground into dust and used as reagents for the mage council!” The noblewoman spoke in harsh defiance of the intruder, staring the adrenaline driven High Advocate in his maddened eyes.
“Such a feisty one, and with beauty to match… Come my lady, let us bathe in the blood of my newly acquired mansion; being ground to ash seems like a worthy price for indulging with a noblewoman such as yourself. The High Advocate spat the words from his blood stained face and grinned with sick perversion. “My lady, you should have proclaimed yourself a servant, perhaps then you would have been granted a swift death.”
The sounds of a woman’s screams of agony could be heard throughout the night in the crimson stained mansion of the former governor of Minoc.
Chapter Two- Baptism by Blood
“I want to die! The child is an abomination, a sick visage of its father once again defiling my body!” A woman screamed on a birthing bed as a gaggle of midwives attended to her every whim.
Time passed from minutes to hours as screams of agony and curses drifted through the room, finally ending in the sounds of a crying child. Midwives rushed from room to room gathering blankets and other necessities like frantic insects.
“My lady, it is a boy. The words struck the woman with sudden compassion as she looked upon her son. The child’s piercing blue eyes looked back at her with young innocence; the unlocked depths of knowledge contained within them an exact replica of her fathers, without signs of the brutal lineage shared with the child’s father.
“I shall name him Richard, after his grandfather.” The woman smiled and held the child close, tears streaming from her eyes as she cradled the boy softly.
“I see the wench from Moonglow finally produced that infernal child. Best that I take it before she corrupts the boy with whatever they teach those pacifist mages on that pitiful island” A man dressed in casual black leather armor barged into the room, knocking over several midwives as he approached the bedridden mother and her child.
“No! You will not have him, you have taken everything from me, without this child I am nothing, I will never permit you to do this!” The woman screamed frantically as tears streamed from her eyes.
“Then you will be nothing. I will take pity on you for giving birth to a son this day, be thankful for my mercy.” The High Advocate strayed his hands towards his sides, and drawing a dagger, accurately implanted its blade in the woman’s neck, trailing blood over the once again crying child.
“What is the child’s name, answer me or join your mistress!” The High Advocate screamed into the crowd of midwives huddled together in a fearful embrace.
“Richard my lord… his name is Richard… please, let us leave, we mean no harm to you or your family…” a midwife stuttered, looking with tear stained eyes at the figure grasping the newborn child.
“Richard… your name shall be changed upon your induction into the Way. Until then, you shall retain the weakness of your lineage.” The High Advocate spoke to the child, striding with heavy footsteps out of the small hut nestled on the outskirts of the busy city of Moonglow.
“Zealot Terangal, take this child and begin his training immediately. I want the lore of the Way read to him as bedtime stories, I want the conditioning of his mind to be complete, I want him to live and breathe the path of the sword. He is the woman’s son now, but he shall be mine soon enough.” The High Advocate screamed at one of the entourage stationed outside of the hut. “Prepare the boats before the infernal mages find out we are here, we shall sail towards the temple this evening.”
The sun began to set into golden waters as an old mage stood upon a cliff overlooking the horizon. A katana stood at his side, at conflict with the wardrobe of a scribe draped over his figure. “I shall never forget you grandson of Richard. If you are your mother’s son I shall see you again, just as she promised. If not… I pray for what I will have to do.”
Chapter Three- The Way of the Sword
The dark forest lay nestled within the western reaches of the Minoc peninsula, stretching a great distance to the west, where the mountains and ocean stopped its path. A child of no more than eight years of age stood upon a small outcropping of stone. Trees and wildlife bustled about around him; insects crawled over the child’s flesh, some biting as beads of sweat built up upon his skin. The child stood unflinching as he neared his second day of fasting and concentration, despite the horrible hunger pains and insect bites that wracked his fragile form.
“Excellent, you may be blessed with acknowledgment of my lineage yet, Richard.” A roughly dressed High Advocate spoke, releasing the child from his concentration.
“You have lasted twice as long as even the most prodigal student of our order. However, it will take much more than two days of fasting to remove the shame of your blood. You are still a disgrace by nature. Report to your sleeping area, you have one hour to bathe and eat with the rest of the students before you are prepared for combat training.” The High Advocate threw the boy to the ground, sneering as the child scampered towards his sleeping area.
“You can do better than that you worthless runt!” a darkly clad fully grown soldier barked at a blue eyed child engaging him in ruthless one on one combat. The child feigned to the right as his blade met with his attackers, sending sounds of clashing metal into the cool late afternoon air. The child stepped backwards while parrying several of the soldiers well aimed blows, and eventually in his retreat, caught the tip of a rock and fell harshly backwards. The child began to raise his sword and whimper as the soldier approached him with a gloating countenance.
“Now its time to add a scar to you for a failed lesson boy. I don’t agree with your fathers methods, but orders are orders.” The soldier raised his blade in the air and aimed a savage strike at the boy’s midsection. The boy lunged back, and with several graceful movements, took advantage of his opponents lowered defense, leaving a deep and bloody gash along the soldier’s upper torso, a hair length away from the neck.
“Never think you have defeated an opponent until you have his ashes within your hands, Eoric. The boy grinned and kept his blade readied in a defensive stance, in case of any aggression by his defeated sparring companion.
“Sometimes I swear you speak with your father’s words, Richard. You definitely fight with his sword arm.” The soldier limped away from the battle circle as the group of young trainees stood wide eyed at the defeated swords trainer and the High Advocates son.
“Keil, when you look towards the ocean, what do you see?” Two children stood upon a small hill of rock overlooking the waters of the northern seas. Blood dripped slightly from the older boy’s chest as he stood exhausted after a testing duel.
“I don’t bloody know… water?” The older boy panted and gasped for air as he spoke labored words.
“I see…so much… so much space, so peaceful, untouched by war or fear, entirely pure.”
The child stood in a serene pose, looking over the waters as the sun began to sink deep beneath the waves.
“Damnit Richard, you sit there so calm and peaceful after that horrendously long sparring session. You weren’t even trying, look at you, you’re not even sweating, you look like a blasted noble with that spotless armor of yours.” The older boy sat down to regain his breath, glaring almost comically at the younger boy staring out towards the horizon.
“Keil, you speak more than a blasted noble, shut up and catch your breath. We will go back to the sleeping quarters and catch an early rest; tomorrow I hear we will be practicing group battle tactics.” The younger boy returned the comical grin and continued to stare into the endless horizon of water and drowned sunlight.
Chapter Four- Torturous Past
“On this day, you have all passed your tests to become sword masters of the Way. Many of your friends have perished in this training, and many more of you shall perish in future engagements. Dawn your blades and begin a day of concentration, after which you will be required to fashion your own suit of armor using shadow iron mined by your own hands. Complete these simple tasks and report to the barracks when you are finished for combat orders and stationing.” A monotone Zealots voice drifted over a group of twenty teenagers assembled in a small clearing of forest. A young child of no more than 9 years stood amongst the crowd, standing more than a foot shorter than the rest of his companions.
“Richard, Keil. You two stay behind.” The voice of the Zealot was suddenly stiff and piercing as the two friends stopped in mid motion, watching the rest of their companions exit into the dense woodlands.
“Richard, your father has sent me specific orders. You are not to receive your passing ceremony, you are not finished your training yet.” The man spoke in a harsh tone directed at the child, almost grinning as he saw the shocked look on the child’s face as the announcement was made.
“Alongside these orders, he also gave me specific orders for you. He wishes you to be grateful that he has allowed you to progress upon the path of the master. He believes it will take your life, as it has every other student for the past hundred years. If by chance you pass the test, he shall greet you as his rightful son. The Zealot spoke once again in a monotone voice, as if reciting words placed in his mouth by a droning diplomat.
“Now for homage to your father… he asks that you slay your friend. He cannot have you splitting allegiance to a mere child and himself, your father must be the only one you confide in. You must draw your blade now and end his life without hesitation, anything less and I am instructed to kill you where you stand.” The Zealot spoke in an almost pleasurable tone as he fingered his blade, eyeing the shocked child and his equally shocked companion.
“For my father.” The child drew his blade in one fluid action, and thrust forward while looking into his friends pleading eyes, ending the boy’s life mercilessly.
The zealot burst into a loud roaring laughter as the older boys form slipped from the younger child’s blade. “Excellent! I expected nothing less from you Richard. Report to your sleeping quarters immediately, pack up your belongings and throw them into the sea. Where you are going there shall be no sleep, no friends, no comforting items, only yourself and death. I shall look forward to planting your ashes young one.” The Zealot turned away leaving a young boy looking down at the twisted corpse of his best friend, not seeing the tears that streamed forth from the child’s eyes as he collapsed to the ground in despair.
Chapter Five- Trial by Fire
A lone child stood faithfully in the center of a burning gauntlet, white hot fires poured fourth from the lava-like rock that lined the primordial flooring of the volcano interior.
The child stood with eyes closed, feet planted firmly upon the molten ground, shaking as sweat poured from his now tanned features. A blackened figure in the corner of the room eyed the child intensely as he muttered subtle curses, trying to thwart the young boy’s attention.
It had been two hours and already Richard began to tire. His concentration would not hold and the burning rock would melt his skin and turn his flesh to ash. His father knew this, and that is why he was here now, he was here to die. The Zealot Terangal stood in the far corner, untouched by the more intense heat, while he muttered loud curses into the fiery air, doing his best to break the child’s concentration. The test of the master was an ancient rite to determine the Way’s master swordsman, the one who would teach several generations of future soldiers in the arts of the sword. In the end it didn’t matter, Richard would die, and his father would live peacefully in the fact that his child was weak, a pup to be thrown from the litter. He couldn’t let that happen, he would remember what they did to Keil. Keil… why did he kill him? The question floundered through his thoughts as the heat of the flames began to leave sickly black patterns upon his skin.
Terangal’s voice began to rise louder, the Zealot had seen the child’s skin begin to give way to defeat, he knew it was only a matter of time before the child was consumed entirely. The heat of the volcano suddenly flared, scorching the back of the child, sending ripples of laughter surging through Terangal’s body. The Zealot began to stride with confident steps toward the now spastically shaking child, making sure not to accidentally step in the searing hot lava that waited below. Terangal hopped to a rock beside the child with surprising grace, dancing past the flames, dodging the sudden spurts of fire that shot up from the volcano. Looking straight into Richards closed eyes, Terangal began to shout louder curses, seeing the boy flinch and twitch as more of his flesh began to burn.
Richard felt on the verge of tears as the determined Zealot burned him with words, mirroring the flames which joined in with the Zealots aggressive onslaught. Thoughts of Keil flooded his mind; his friend would be watching him now and laughing, waiting to return the torture in death that Richard had inflicted upon him in life. Richard’s thoughts began to drift to the day at the ocean, the month before he had been forced to take his friends life… the ocean…so calming.... he had seen the blue of his eyes reflected back at him as his figure twisted and moved in the flowing waves. His form had changed in the illusionary watery mirror; the waves reflected a child, innocent face and glowing eyes, rustled hair and dirty clothing, not a murderer, not a monster. Richard’s eyes suddenly opened, staring at the cursing Zealot in a newfound determination. The child of his father could not live through this day… but he could, he had the strength. It did not come from endless years of training, it did not come from his father’s blood which flowed through his veins, it came from him, and he was stronger than anything they could have imagined he would be. With a quick motion, Richard brought his foot out, sweeping the Zealots shins, sending Terangal face first into the molten pool that seemed to welcome the Zealots flesh with dancing arms, locking him into a fiery embrace. Terangal screamed curses, as he tried in vain to move his now blackened flesh from the encasing molten rock, the Zealot had been undone by a child. The thought sickened him as the warm fires of death extinguished his form.
The ocean sat below him, its waves crashed upon the shores in a rhythmic tune of serenity, no flames or searing rock could touch him here, he was all alone, he was at peace. Richard sat on the same rock as he had sat before, the area looked much different in his mind as it had in reality, he preferred the black forest to be out of sight, his father’s memory did not exist to him anymore, the forest which had kept him captive was nothing. Picking up a rock, Richard tossed it in the still waters, causing the stone to skip several times, rippling the glassy surface at its passing. Richard studied himself, a peasant boys garb was draped over his form, patches of dirt and grass lay matted to the garments, speaking of a long days play. For once he did not feel the cold embrace of steel, the blade at his side did not exist anymore, for once he tasted the freedom of childhood. He was a boy again.
“Terangal, did you gather the boy’s ashes? I want a burial for him; I shall mourn the death of my wasted time, rather than for my useless offspring.” The High Advocate trudged down the stone steps of the cave, cursing as perspiration began to form on his brow.
The High Advocate reached the bottom, staring out into the heated inferno of flame; a shocked look of total surprise crossed his face, sending him stumbling back into the cave entrance.
“Father, I have passed your test and killed your Zealot. On this day I am known as a sword master of the way, the teacher of many, the defiler of pain, and the leader of your people.” The child walked over the molten flooring, gracefully dancing over the flames as the heat refused to strike his skin. The child strode forward and approached the High Advocate, the blue of his eyes overpowering the fiery light emanating from the flames.
“You… were supposed to die! This test was never meant to be passed by you! You’re a boy, a mistake, your birth was a defiance to my will, you are a testament to the weakness of humanity! You shall stay here until you die Richard, my will shall not be challenged again!” The High Advocates voice was frantic as he glared hysterically at the child, spitting his words like acid.
“No father, your will shall never again have its chance to be challenged. Step aside, my armies await me.” Richard began to stride towards the entrance, his flayed clothing matted to his burned and charred skin, reeking of death and flesh born ash.
“You are your mother’s child, Richard. It is only fitting that she be allowed to raise you now.” The High Advocate grinned as he approached the steadfast child, raising his gauntlets to the air. The High Advocate struck the child with unrelenting fury, raining blow after blow upon the fragile and burned form.
The child buckled under the force of the strikes, and blood flowed freely from his battered and beaten skull. The reign of blows did not stop, and in a short time, the child lay motionless on the cave floor. Blood stained Richard’s now crimson hair; the light of his eyes slowly fading into nothingness.
“Perhaps my next son shall be less of a disappointment.” The High Advocate spat on the boy’s body and strode out of the heated cavern in now confident footsteps.
Chapter Six- Forgotten Paths
“Richard, wake up, your home now.” The voice of an aged man dancing through the child’s consciousness resonated loudly through his thoughts. The voice floated gently, awakening him from his rest, beads of tears formed at the sides of his dull blue eyes, threatening to flow freely across his face.
“Who are you? I think I know who I am… I want to go home to bed.” The boy spoke in a now childish tone, his voice shaking as his lower lip quivered and his head wound began to throb.
“I am Zel, your uncle, Richard. You had quite the fall, we need to get you back home, your already missing your reading lessons, you should have been half way through Virtue already.” the old man chuckled as he stroked the boys forehead, gently and discretely casting a calming spell over the child, watching as he drifted back to sleep.
“Richard, you shall be a child, I shall raise you as your mother intended me too, I am glad you are my nephew, and not my enemy. It is better that you do not remember what you were, a building built upon false foundations will never rise.” The old man moved the edge of the blanket towards the boy’s chin, smiling as he looked down upon the sleeping child… his child.
“I'm the greatest warrior!” A boy yelled to a flushed dark haired child dancing around a tree, waving a swords length branch in the air.
”No, I am!” A young black haired boy of the same age yelled back at his friend.
”You can't be, your going to be a dusty old scribe, just like your father!”
”I am not; I'm gonna be the greatest warrior who ever lived! I'll... I'll... be able to lift
this entire island... and... and... crush all of Caina with it!”
”Nuh uh, Richard's gonna be a dusty old scribe!”
”No, I will! I will become a warrior, you'll see!”
The dark haired boy’s eyes began to well up, tears threatened to break through his glassy vision and stain his face. The two boys yelled back and forth while waving sticks in the air in a comical imitation of swordplay.
“Richard!” The sharp voice of an elderly man danced through the air, implanting itself firmly in Richard’s ear, as if the words themselves had been forged by magic.
“There is someone here whom you should meet, I have called him here on your behalf, return home immediately, and bring your “sword”.” The last words of the old mans sentence carried a touch of humor, as well as shock, as Richard eyed the branch in his hand. His uncle never ceased to surprise him with his magic; everything from making his garden grow at whim, to pestering the beggars with a floating coin, his uncle was full of tricks. Richard arose, and eyeing his light haired friend, who now had his tongue stuck out at him in a mocking gesture, began to head towards home, his face red with embarrassment.
Upon his arrival, Richard spotted a large and lightly armored figure standing in the entrance of the house, speaking with his uncle in humorous tones. Richard approached shyly, slowly inching his way to his uncle’s side, eyeing the soldier with awe.
“So this is the young lad eh? He looks strong enough…gods above, he definitely looks strong enough, are you sure this boy came from a mages loins?” The man laughed slightly while still eyeing the child, who stood in intense awe of the soldier he now knew to be a paladin of Lord British.
Zel looked towards Richard, and then to the paladin, grinning from ear to ear as he built up a slight tension before speaking. “Richard, this is Sir Thomas of the Silver Serpent, aide to Lord Dupre and trainer of the Royal Guard.” As noted by his title, you may have guessed why I brought him here… consider this your birthday present for the next 3 years.” The old man chuckled as he saw Richard’s jaw drop in shock, watching as the boy stared from Thomas to himself, completely speechless.
“Uncle Zel! You’re the best! I’ll show everyone that I can be the best warrior ever! You won’t be disappointed! Thank you! Thank you!” Richard spoke frantically as Thomas chuckled in the background at the boys sudden burst of energy.
“It won’t be easy Richard; training for squires is three years, a long time for a boy such as yourself.” Thomas spoke in a serious tone, eyeing the child with strict eyes that betrayed his former humor.
“I will be the best ever, you’ll see!” Richard stood upright with a childish look of seriousness on his face, causing both the old man and the paladin to break out in sudden laughter.
“By the gods above, Richard, you’ve passed one year of training in half the time. It’s like you know everything already… Has Zel been teaching you combat and fighting techniques behind my back? No no…what am I saying, Zel only battles beggars with floating coins.” Thomas chuckled and eyed Richard with a modicum of respect.
“Yes Milord! Thank you Milord!” Richard barked the words out as he continued to spar with the training dummy, every strike becoming more and more accurate.
Richard smiled at his efforts, even he himself was surprised at the rate which he had learned, he reacted out of instinct, and combat awareness seemed to flow from every fiber of his being. He had even been invited to the youth tournament being held in Jhelom, a rigorous battlefield in which the most promising warriors of the realm were pitted against each other while proud parents and teachers looked on in admiration. He had begun to train harder as of late, pushing his abilities to their peak, he wanted to impress Zel and Thomas; he wanted to make his family proud.
The dusty city of Jhelom began to fill with anxious spectators; the rough wooden stands of the Arena sagged under the tremendous weight being placed upon them. Merchant’s flooded the streets, selling wooden play swords and various trinkets brought back from less than exotic destinations. Sweat and heat could be felt by all as fifty young warriors suited up in enforced leather armor and semi-dulled swords. The crowd cheered as the children stepped out into the center of the ring, some boys petitioning the crowds in favor of themselves, while others stood silently focused on the task ahead. One by one the Tournament master pitted the boys up against each other, purposely creating uneven matches to filter out the less prominent children.
“Richard of Moonglow, you will be facing Jarrod of Britain. Step into the arena now and begin on the count of ten.” The Tournament Master watched as the two boys stepped into the Arena, focused even amongst the frantic sounds of the cheering audience.
The two boy’s eyes locked in a defiant embrace, studying each other for any noticeable weakness, making notes of each slight motion their opponents made.
“TEN!” the Tournament master shouted into the air, as a roar of cheering rose through the stands of spectators. Richard began to slowly circle his opponent, keeping his sword raised in a defensive posture, beckoning the other boy to make the first move. Jarrod slowly began to move in, taking the needed offensive against Richard, the circle between them began to slim, and eventually the boys were within swords length of each other. The blades of the children clashed with a resonating clang, sending renewed cheers up amongst the crowd, beckoning on the grand spectacle. Richard veered left, barely avoiding Jarrod’s strike, gaining a slight advantage position wise over his recovering opponent. Richard quickly came around and lunged towards Jarrod’s midsection, barely missing his target as Jarrod danced away from the strike. Richard eyed his opponent once more; the tracks of his mind began to play, piecing together information and weaknesses of Jarrod’s style. Seeing his opponent veer left several times at his strikes, Richard approached Jarrod with deathly grace, keeping the distance between them close, pushed himself to the right of Jarrod. With a sudden motion, Richard faked an attack directed to the right, and as Jarrod began to veer towards the left, rebounded with a quick strike to Jarrod’s left shoulder, causing a trickle of blood to spill, ending the short lived match.
“The winner of the match is Richard!” The tournament masters voice became repetitive as he announced the winner of the duels, seeing the dull blue eyed boy from Moonglow best even the finest bred children of the realm. As the day went on, few nobles were left in the grandstands as the final bout was ready, citizens and Moonglow townsfolk who had came with his uncle cheered loudly as a sweating and tired Richard walked into the arena once more.
“The final bout of the tournament shall be between our two most skilled competitors, send your cheers out to these boys for such determination in defeating such skilled and worthy opponents!” The crowd cheered and flailed loudly as the tournament master raised his hands once more for silence. “But as you know, only one can come out the winner, Richard of Moonglow and Vorid of Minoc, step into the arena for your final match!”
As Vorid stepped into the arena, Richard noticed a distinct familiarity in the boy, a certain aspect that stirred his mind with futile thoughts that would not surface. All that was known is Vorid was a brutal fighter, the child had killed two of his opponents during rather mysterious accidents, impaling one on his blade as he supposedly tripped, and slicing another’s jugular as his blade veered too far away from its target. Richard knew he may not live if he lost this match; the sense of dread welcomed him, as if it were a friend visiting after a long hiatus.
“TEN!” the sound of the Tournament Master once again bellowed through the arena, causing the audience to once again let out a loud booming cheer. Much like the first fight Richard was on even grounds with his opponent, dodging and parrying the hits while returning a fury of strikes. This match, unlike his first, took on a brutal sense of survival, a rushing of the blood that pushed Richard to attack viperously at his opponent, and leave no attack to chance. After the thirty minute timer rang, Richard’s limbs had grown numb, the two’s techniques matched each other in every swing and parry, as if they had been born with the same body.
Richard knew he had to win this bout, or else he would tire, and his opponent would surely attempt to kill him. Vorid suddenly came bearing down on Richard, breaking the moment of hesitation Richard had created as his mind drifted. Richard parried several blows which would have surely killed him, backing away as he began to lose his defense. Richard stepped back quickly as he dodged another strike, not seeing the sharp rock which protruded behind him. Falling over, Richard suddenly came to terms with his defeat as Vorid towered over him. The strangely familiar Vorid grinned and gloated, brandishing his weapon before the crowd, eventually raising his blade for a strike aimed at Richard’s heart. “Never think you have defeated an opponent until you have his ashes within your hands.” The words flooded into his thoughts from no apparent source, Richard suddenly reacted and lunged forward, impaling Vorid with the tip of his dulled blade. The crowd gasped as the wheezing form of Vorid slumped to the ground, his body arcing and suddenly coming to a deathly halt. The tournament masters eyes looked pleased, despite the act that had just occurred.
“May I have your attention fair Britannian’s, our winner of this years Youth Tournament of Champions is Lord Richard of Moonglow!”
The crowd broke out into a cheer as hats and other articles of clothing were strewn about the arena floor. Richard looked upwards in the stands, eyeing the form of Zel staring at him intently, a proud look crossing the old mans worn features. Richard suddenly stood still, the feel of magic wavered around him, and the voice of the old man gently found its way to Richard’s ear. “I am proud of you, Richard. You shall always be my son, despite your birthing.”
Richard smiled, and spoke into the air. “And you shall always be my father, Zel.”
Chapter Seven- Inner Fire
The years had gone by quickly. Richard was now eighteen, his reputation forged through many battles with the Lich Lathari and his sister Kyrina, acting as a squire to the famous Sir Thomas of the Royal Guard. His uncle’s death had put Richard into a deep depression, one of many such fits that had plagued him in recent months. Sir Thomas's death during the final attack on the lich twins recently had only added to his grief. The pain of the death of his mentors would never heal, although his volunteering efforts at the newly founded West Yew University helped ease his pain. Richard felt a form of comfort as he helped train children much like he once was in the skill of swordsmanship, but something inside him was empty, something that could not be grasped onto, something out of reach.
“Richard? Should I be swinging my sword like this, or like this?” A young boy dressed in peasants clothing looked up at him with admiration painted in his eyes.
“Here, let me show you, swing like this…” The child began to swing as directed, overwhelmed by the weight of the sword given to him.
“You need to swing faster! Your enemy could have killed you, married your girl, and raised a family by the time you actually finished that swing.” Richard chuckled as the child picked up the blade once again; a look of determination crossed the boy’s face, one which Richard had come to admire amongst many of the most prominent students he had trained in the past year.
“Here, go practice on that training dummy for now, I need to go to town to purchase more supplies.” Richard began to move slowly through the serene forests of Yew, walking towards the surprisingly quite city center, taking in the scents, sounds, and serenity of nature. Richard admired the peacefulness of this place, although he still longed for the shores of Moonglow Island. Walking slowly, he eyed passing bowyers, practicing their trade using various sharp edged tools, creating crossbows and bows to be sold in town at a decent price. A sudden sound suddenly caught his attention, looking around Richard noticed that the several bowyers who were carving their way through the Yew trees had suddenly vanished. Instinct bred alertness came over him as he began to unconsciously finger his blade while assessing his surroundings thoroughly.
From within the bright lit woodland, several men stepped out into the light, their guises no longer that of bowyers, but of trained soldiers caped in ebony armor. A particularly haggard solider approached Richard, his aged eyes taking on a look of surprise and enjoyment.
"So you live. The Advocate said your wretched form still haunted the plains of the living, but I never believed him." The solider sneered and discretely motioned towards his associates.
"You speak as if you know me, I would remember a brigand like you had I met you before, old one". Richard glared back at the old man, drawing his blade from its sheath.
"And he's lost his mind too, a pity, I had hoped he would recognize old Eoric, maybe give me one last smile before I sent him to see his creator." The old man chuckled wickedly, revealing a row of rotting teeth.
Richard moved back into the thicker woods, knowing he was surrounded, keeping an eye on the raving old man and his shadowy apprentices. As Richard backed into the brush, he suddenly felt a large mass fall upon him, his body now tangled in a thick web of rope. The last image that flashed through his dull blue eyes was that of the butt end of a sword crashing down onto his skull...
The blackness began to clear as pieces of a blinding checkerboard began to disassemble themselves, revealing a large man dressed in heavy black armor standing in front of a dark forested backdrop. The figure bellowed a sadistic, but yet blusterous laugh.
"The gods once again deliver you into my hands, child. How many pains must I inflict upon your worthless body before you finally succumb to death?" The armored figure sneered, once again showing signs of humor in his tone.
"I demand to know what this is about! I do not know you or your band of ruffians!" Richard barked out the words like a hardened soldier.
"You don't know who I am? Your own father? How sad. I suppose this ruins all my fun...or perhaps not. Eoric, bring out the boy."
Sounds of a struggle could be heard as the old soldier dragged a young child into the clearing, a loud thump echoed in the night air as the boy was thrown harshly to the ground. Richard immediately recognized the boy as his student from earlier in the day, a look of youthful defiance painted the boys face as he struggled to rise.
"Eoric, give Richard and the boy a sword, it's time we played a game." The armored figure barked out the order, drawing his own weapon from its sheath.
"You have the chance to save your little friend, Richard. All you need to do is get by me before Eoric quarters the whelp, sounds fair, aye?" The figure's voice remained villainously humorous, as he began brandishing his blade in pleasure.
Richard immediately jumped to his feet, acting on instinct; he grabbed the blade that was placed beside him by Eoric. Rushing towards the armored figure, he could see the old man toying with the child, grinning rottenly as he parried the boy’s attacks. Richard swung his blade low, hoping to catch the armored man off guard; however the soldier easily parried the blow, sending Richard reeling back in shock.
"Not fast enough, I taught you better than that!" The armored figure bellowed in enthusiasm.
Richard continued his assault, being turned back at every strike. Each second seemed like an eternity as he sought to pass the armored figure, trying desperately to come to the salvation of the child. Fighting back his anger, Richard watched in horror as the old man disarmed the boy with ease, pinning him to ground in preparation for a fatal strike. Richard suddenly felt a familiar sensation fall over him, as if a new world of knowledge was crashing through his thoughts. Reacting with newfound discipline, Richard gracefully struck at the armored figure, turning his strike into a seamless maneuver, disarming his opponent. Richard quickly turned towards the old man as his blade fell ominously towards the child’s form. Wheeling back quickly from his last strike, Richard flung his blade towards Eoric, the weapon slicing through the old mans ribcage, sending his bloodied form crashing to the ground.
"He is ready, do it now!" The armored figure suddenly bellowed.
Richards’s eyes quickly turned towards the treetops, as an arrow floated down silently from the heavens, sailing gently through the air into the downed child’s body. Richard screamed as the armored figure recovered his blade, approaching his now unarmed opponent.
"Look into my eyes!" the armored figure shouted. Richard's vision inadvertently rose to his assailant’s line of sight, locking eyes with the armored figure.
"Yes! Now you know, now you know!" The figure shouted with unbridled euphoria.
The memories of pain and suffering flooded back into Richard's memory, just as the crimson blade crashed through his chest, and impaled him to the forest floor.
Searing waves of molten rock rushed through his mind, burning memories, melting away the barriers that barred his secret consciousness. He writhed in agony as his body twitched and danced the death of the macabre, his mind crying out for relief from the endless barrage of physical and mental anguish. All at once his motions stopped, and in his mind, a thought of self actualization gave birth to a second consciousness. Richard stood within his own mind, unaware of his physical form, standing in front of an incoming wave of molten rock and ash. His form was that of a child, an odd garment, seemingly divided in two draped his form, the first half was that of a peasant, ragged, but yet pure, the second, tough black material, stained with blood, pain spoke from this side, almost drawing the approaching flames towards it. Richard looked away from the enigmatic garment, and faced the burning wave.
“I see…so much… so much space, so peaceful, untouched by war or fear, entirely pure.”
The words formed on his lips, and he knew he had spoken them before. Closing his eyes, he escaped into the recesses of his mind. Slowly the wave of searing flames slowed, its fires formed into beading pools of water, and the pains began to subside. Richard now stood over the same ocean he had as a child, Keil stood beside him, looking at him with a humorous glare.
"You didn't think I’d let you die did you?" Keil spoke in a hollow voice, echoing throughout the watery paradise.
"Keil... your dead...I thought..." Richard stammered childishly as he looked at his former companion.
"Of course I’m dead. I’m not even sure I’m really here right now, I could just be a figment of your imagination." Keil's eyes turned upward, as if pondering his own existence.
"Keil...I’m so sorry...I wouldn't have if I had known...if I had just..." Richard began to shake in anguish, the sorrow he had felt for his departed friend crippled his form.
"Don't talk, I forgive you. I realize what you meant now... about the ocean. I don't think it's pure because it's in its nature, but because you make it so. I've had much time to think, and regret... and I think I’ve got you figured out. I want you to do a favor for me, Rich... Step into the water, and let it wash away the pains of your past".
Richard nodded and slowly inched his way towards the endless expanse of water, feeling the cold waves caress his burned skin. The waters enveloped his form in a loving embrace, the words of his departed friend echoed in his ears and a feeling of serenity fell over him as his vision turned to black.
The forests of Yew sat peaceful, the suns rays danced in the sky like puppets under the control of an unseen puppet master, and the scent of pine flowed freely through the air. A small dove could be seen floating peacefully in the skies, its wings pushing it hastily over the Yew trees, over orcish encampments and traveling merchants, and over a small clearing, barely visible through the thick weave of canopies. The dove gently descended, finally resting itself on a tree branch overlooking the form of a fallen soldier. The dove slowly moved its head towards the bright lit sun, and as its eyes took on a look of peaceful bliss, began to sing.
Richard's eyes fluttered open; his leafy dirt covered form slowly rose from the cold morning ground. His skin felt damp, and his shredded leather armor hung loosely to his now unscathed body. Richard looked towards the dove, a smile crossing his face. Reflected in the doves vision Richard saw a young boy, a peasants garb sewn together in the middle adorned his form, his pure and innocent face alight with life, and a pair of piercing light blue eyes glistening in the morning sun.
Chapter Eight- Death of the Past
The wind whipped around the mountain peaks of Fire Island, the crimson light of flowing lava and the inhuman sounds of various daemons and creatures which roamed wild over the island haunted the night air. The darkness was pierced by two glimmering blue eyes, darting back and fourth over the mountain tops, illuminated by the moonlight which shone down from the heavens. The eyes continued to dart, sounds of exertion were heard through the night air, and the glistening of a blade intermittently caught the glare of moonlight as it flashed through the sky.
“My body is an ocean, filled with endless potential. Peaceful when looked upon, deadly when crossed.” The figure’s words floated through the night air, a silent whisper heard only by the mountains themselves. The figure darted with increased speed, the sound of metal against rock echoed in inhumanly quick succession.
The clanging of the blade began again, fragments of rock fell off the mountain as the figure chipped away at various peaks. The figure continued its blinding dance far into the night, breaking off more and more stone from already weathered mountain peaks.
The figure stopped suddenly, looking towards a dark outcropping of stone, and completed three quick successive strokes of his blade. Standing tall, he lifted the piece of stone from the ground, a smile crossed his face, and his eyes flared a haunting bright blue. Deep into the night the sounds of a hammer and forge could be heard, echoing over the deathly still mountain range.
Richard jumped from each foothold to the next, climbing his way once again up the large mountain. The moon was out in full force, highlighting his now light blue eyes. A thin suit of damascened black armor clung to his form, finely crafted, although less so than that which a trained blacksmith would have created. Richard finally reached the peak of the mountain and bore his gaze down towards the burning pools of lava, and the large Daemon Temple of Fire Island, which towered through the jungle trees. Richard withdrew his blade, letting it catch the glint of moonlight, twisting it around, sending waves of light over the tips of jungle trees. The creatures below sensing the disturbance began to yell and scream in agony, their unearthly cries nearly deafening Richard’s ears.
Richard stood tall, and looked towards the west, towards Minoc. With a mighty yell, his voice boomed over the island, resonating through the night air.
“SILENCE!” Richards’s voice sent ripples of sound over the island. The howling daemons cries suddenly ceased and the island sank into a deathly silence.
“It is time I show my father what his weak son can do; he shall not see the waves before it is too late. He shall sink beneath my will… and I shall have no mercy!” Richard’s voice boomed over the now silent island, as a sudden wind picking up from the ocean flowed through his hair, causing a slight smile to fall upon his face.
“I shall show them all my will.”
The sound of pickaxes and ore trolley’s echoed through the city of sacrifice. Miners and blacksmiths ironed out wage through hammer and shovel, the daily routine of a blue collar working town once again dominated the day’s events. Outside of the cobblestone town streets, the endowing mountains, and the melodramatic taverns, lay the governor’s mansion of Minoc. The dark grey stones of the well built mansion stood out amongst the hastily built miner shacks and gypsy tents, creating a feeling of superiority over other structures.
A lone man walked towards the mansion, dressed in dark black armor with a blade fastened to an ornate sheath. The man strode towards the mansion, passing various citizens with harsh but careful steps. Nearing the mansion the man quickly drew his blade, and in a blink of an eye, cleaved the heads from two unprepared guards. With an aggressive motion, the man kicked down the door to the governors mansion, approaching the upper floors with a quickened pace. Flashes of light moving in unearthly succession danced over the walls of the mansion as darkly clad guards slumped lifelessly to the floor. The man approached the governor’s quarters with confident strides, boastfully moving past shocked servants and screaming maids.
“Father, I have come to pay you a visit. I remember everything now. Everything.”
Richard bellowed the words, sending commotion up amongst the servants and nobles residing in the mansion.
“I see, that is fortunate. I always wish for recognition in your eyes as I put out your spark for good. However I cannot help but think... how many times must I kill this worthless runt, how many times must I prove to him that he will never be worthy of his fathers legacy of greatness?” The High Advocate sunk in his seat, keeping his fiery glare locked on his son.
“Your legacy is a group of brigands. Nothing more father. They are among the best swordsmen in the realm, but you use your knowledge and skill to pervert humanity. I have found out that I am not so unlike you… perhaps more so than you think. I believe I shall take your last name father, to remind myself that we are not so different.” Richard’s voice suddenly became calm, speaking in a mocking tone towards the High Advocate.
“You are not at all like me, you are weak and worthless. You are nothing.” The high advocate hissed, drawing the blade at his side.
“Then I will be nothing, it is more pure than what you are. I will take pity on you for giving birth to what I am, father. But I will not grant you mercy.” Richard quickly reached into his armor, and pulled out a dagger. With precise accuracy, the dagger implanted itself in his father’s neck.
“How could you know! You were only a…” The High Advocate’s voice cut off as his body slumped to the floor, lifeless.
“I am a child of Moonglow, father. The magic of a thousand mages runs through my veins. You should have never underestimated me.” Richard stood over his father’s body, phosphorescent blue eyes ablaze with unbridled fury and adrenaline.
“You are only the first to feel my will, father. All those who preach darkness shall bow before it, and like you, I shall not grant them mercy.”
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