Prologue: The Fallen
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Rhiwyn just barely pulled his head up from the soft feather pillow, met by an orange and red sunrise just peeping up from its hiding place. As if a sunrise could really had fixed what had happened. 'A long night it has been,' he thought as he let his head fall back. A very long night, in fact; the enemy had not let up. But they had fought. Oh, yes, they had fought.
The problem was not that Monnyn was defenseless, but that the enemy had come at an unexpected time. A riot had emerged from the northern part of the city, near the palace; as far as Rhiwyn knew, they still had not sought out what had caused it. Queen Maena had sent nearly a fourth of her guards to quell it. It was then that the beasts came, and they weren’t Dragonolls, as was expected; they were unknown, and where they had come from was still an uncertain matter.
He had never seen the Queen so tense. Not that he had seen her very much, anyway; usually he simply caught a glance of her when he was near the palace for any reason. But her face was worried, last time he saw her. It was as if she had expected the attacks. That could not be so.
It seemed a rage always took him whenever death reached his ears. Ever since his father had died, it had been that way. It engulfed him and made him partially insane. Rarely any other emotions could surpass it.
He forced himself out of bed, despite the tugging of tiredness. Slipping into his dirty breeches from yesterday, he threw his once-white shirt—now stained with dirt from helping in any way he could from the attacks—over his shoulder and opened his door, being met by the smells of breakfast in his family’s inn. The Silver Cup was a small inn, with only a handful of rooms, yet they were all kept clean, and it was famous ‘round the city for the good service. All in all, it was a popular inn.
He descended the creaking stairs, using the dusty rail as a guide so that he did not stumble down the stairs in his sleepiness. His eyes turned the corner went to the empty fireplace, causing him to sigh; he hated going out in the cold to get wood. He hated working, for that fact. His interest was in the Guard. Since his father had died, fighting had been his hobby, it seemed. It often got him into trouble, but most of the time it wasn’t even his fault—that rage would take over him, make him temporarily insane.
Usually his mother or occasionally his sister would have gotten the wood for him already, but when they didn’t, he knew not to complain. Laziness, his mother called it.
Rhiwyn exited the small common room and went out the back door, pulling his shirt over him in the process. Being met by the thick, gray fog and the blast of autumn air made him wish he had his coat. As he pulled it over his head, he ran into his sister; giving a start, she dropped the wood she was carrying.
“Sorry,” he muttered to Ceni, his sister, younger by three years.
She sighed. “It’s all right.”
Inside, Rhiwyn smiled, despite being so tired. His sister was like that; so understanding, and so positive, too. He wished he could be that, a lot of times; he was quite the opposite, a fierce arguer and almost never one to say sorry, save a few select times when he knew he did something he shouldn’t have done or he made a mistake.
As he bent over to pick up the wood, he caught the smell of herbs and soap, the smell that always followed his sister. She was an herbalist, after all. She hated magic, too, when it came to healing; she claimed that it was ‘far too dangerous’, or that a person could go insane with magic in their body.
“Is there any news?” Rhiwyn asked. “Have they figure out what caused the attack?”
“No,” replied Ceni. “None except they have wiped out all of the enemy, or so they think.”
Rhiwyn helped his sister pile up the rest of the wood, then watched her disappear into the fog, muttering something about Nutmeg. He shook his head. Ceni and her herbs.
* * *
Captain Adraed strolled back and forth on top of the North Gate. To any man he would appear easy, or relaxed, but the man’s senses were on guard, sharper than ever since the day be fore’s attack. He fingered his sword at his side absent mindedly. It had been his father’s sword, given to him when his father had been killed in duty to the Queen. He did not intend to die for the Queen, however; he meant to live for her, yes, and fight for her, but never die; he felt that that was a form of…disrespect. It seemed it would be as if he hadn’t fought hard enough for her.
His hard black eyes showed only the smallest bit of emotions; anger, which they always openly displayed, and maybe a little surprise from last night’s attack. But what they were missing was trust. He trusted no one. He had been betrayed far too many times to even want to trust anyone. In fact—
The beast came out of nowhere, seeming to blend into the fog, and it tackled Adraed to the coarse stone. Desperately the man fumbled for a dagger. As he shoved the monster off of him with his free hand, a cry of alarm rose from somewhere in the yard below. He turned back towards his foe, finally getting a decent glimpse at it.
The monster’s head and body seemed to blend together as one. It was gray, with a seemingly bent forward, with nothing but claws and teeth for weapons. Two beady black stones sat in its head. They seemed…lost, staring into nothing. Yet the Captain knew it was looking right at him.
It leapt for him, but seemed mindless; he let a dagger fly. It hit it square in the chest. Leaping away from it, he turned see what the problem in the courtyard was - but felt a searing pain in his shoulder. The monster was still alive.
He whirled around with another dagger, but the monster was not there; he felt the wind knocked out of him as it battered at him with its head. Desperately he tried to twist around, but caught the edge of the gate.
Adraed barely managed, but he did, and he ducked and threw the monster over his head and down into the courtyard. It landed with a sickening crunch.
He looked down to see what the problem was...
And drew his sword immediately.
Pain ripped through Rhiwyn’s back like a storm, and he fell to the ground with a yelp of surprise. His vision blurred for a moment, but the young man quickly came to his senses, and grabbed the biggest block of wood he could get his hands on; twisting around, he hit his assailant in the face.
He heard a grunt of pain, and then spotted a grayish body fall to the pavement. Scrambling up on the stones, he strained to see through the fog; he was only met by silence, and no movement caught his eye. Slowly he backed away towards the inn. Then, muttering curses, he turned to run for it, despite the fire in his back.
The back door began to form through the fog, but the pain in his spine caused him to slow down. His ears still picked up the sound of his enemy behind him. The thought drove him from not stopping altogether; he had seen what had happened to men who had been killed by these monsters. They were merciless, and as far as they knew, without weakness.
Groping forward for the knob, he began to twist it, but he felt the door shatter, and splinters flew in ever direction. He flinched and ran forward. Somehow, the beast had jumped over him and torn apart the strong wooden door; he hoped it would not get in to the common room where his sister waited. If that beast harmed her…
Ceni looked up from her reading and gasped. Her gaze was not on him, but over his head; looking up, he saw the beast clinging to the wall, a gray mass of slime and claws and teeth, and he dodged out of the way as it fell to where he had been standing.
His anger began to take control of him, and what was not really him was taking over. He fumbled the axe above the fireplace into his hands, then hacked wildly at the enemy figure; taken by surprise, it barely missed being chopped in half, but tried to regain its ground. Instead, Rhiwyn kicked out, nailing it in the stomach. It staggered back a little and he cut deep into its neck.
He could feel the rage inside of him taking over, could feel the wings of insanity begin to wrap around him. He hated violence, yet loved it; it was violence that had killed his father, but without it, he could never get revenge. Desperately he battled the insanity that threatened to overtake him, and it vanished so quickly that Rhiwyn gave a start and nearly fell.
But all of a sudden, as the rage and the memories of his father left him, pain came. He fell to the floor, writhing and working his mouth, yet the screams somehow seemed to escape him. Voices reached his ears, frantic voices, but he barely out what they spoke.
* * *
Adraed ran the first monster through with his sword quite easily; though the beasts were strong, they were stupid. Couldn’t even defend themselves properly, they just hacked wildly at you. But if you weren’t careful, one of those claws could hit home and tear you to pieces. Continuing across the top of the gate, he sliced through another, not quite killing it, and kicked it over the side. His face was streaked with blood, sweat rolled down like a waterfall, his arms ached—but he took no notice. He had learned to become used to it when going through battle.
Hearing another cry from the yard under, and spotting twenty or so men fighting off incredible odds, the man leapt down the stairs to help. It was as if the beasts had materialized out of the air itself; the gates were still closed, and no one had spotted them until they were on top of the city.
He was beginning to feel the heat of battle again, and he loved that feeling, but his breaths came in gasps; he was getting too old for this. For twenty two years he had been Captain of the Guard, and he had never thought about the day he would retire. He shoved it out of his mind; Now was not the time to worry about such things.
He had downed three when he heard a screech from above, and he looked up, to be met by another of the monsters jumping down towards one of the guards. Rolling out of the way of the other gray creatures, he tackled the man to the stone, and the monster’s claws ripped through nothing but air. The man leaped to his feet along with the Captain; they fought against the enemy back-to back.
“Your name?” Captain Adraed asked loudly.
“Jalen,” the man replied. “Jalen Salahar.”
Adraed’s sword clashed with the long talons of one of the gray beings, lopping two of them in half. He stabbed into the throat of the beast. “You must be new,” he shouted above the commotion.
“Yes sir,” he replied. “My father—”
An explosion rocked the ground, and Captain Adraed reached out a hand to steady himself…
The North Gate was not there.
A tiny spark of panic, which he was not used to, streaked through his old body. “They’ve breached the North Gate!” He cried as loud as his voice would allow him to. “Fall back!”
There were a few more rings of steel on claw, and then the scuffle of boots as the men backed up along the widely paved roads. Adraed slew another and looked up. The dust was barely beginning to waver, and what lay past it did not look good; more were coming in. They had to hold them back.
* * *
Adraed shook his head. He could sense so much fear in his men, he could see it in their eyes, see it in the way they fought. These were not the same men that were fighting for him, they couldn’t be. The men he knew where courageous, noble, fighting…
The sea of enemies parted, and a huge figure, twenty or so feet tall, rumbled forward. A troll. Adraed watched in silent horror as it raised a massive club. Men scattered everywhere, but some not quick enough; the Captain caught a few sprays of his own guards’ blood on his face.
“Stand your ground!” Adraed shouted. Men continued to run in different directions. “It can’t get every blasted one of us! Stand your bloody—”
He was cut short as the club of the giant troll sent one of his own men’s bodies hurtling on top of him. He hit the street with a cry of dismay, but he had no time to even think about pain. These men needed him. Shoving it off of him, he got up in a daze; it seemed there were less men now, and they were still running.
“I’m getting too bloody old for this sort of thing,” he muttered. Running forward, he dodged between men and monster until reaching the feet of the troll. For an instant it had its club raised above his head. It seemed…surprised. The Captain of the Guard hurled himself forward.
* * *
Rhiwyn woke to pain, but it had dulled to a low whimper. His sister’s herbs had helped the pain, at least. He was on a sturdy oak table in the center of the common room, lying on his stomach, with his sister and his mother, Alayda, standing on either side of him. Someone was shaking him awake.
“We thought you were gone,” Alayda said through her tears, “But as much as I am glad to see you again, we have to leave.” Her voice was frantic, and she looked tired, with bags under her eyes and strands of her hair sticking out in every direction. But that was not what had bothered Rhiwyn; what bothered him was that her dress was torn, and she had a large bandage around her hand.
He motioned to her hand.
She drew it back, and her eyes flashed surprise and sadness at the same time, but she quickly regained her confident look. She was not afraid to tell him the truth. “They’re here. They’ve breached through the North Gate, and…well, we have to leave. We hardly have any time to get any of our belongings.”
Rhiwyn grimaced. Bloody monsters. Why can’t they keep their blasted hands to themselves? he asked himself. Shaking his head, he slowly slid off of the table, trying to use his mother’s shoulder as a guideline; he laughed inside when he remembered how short she was. Struggling to keep the pain at bay, he loped forward towards the stairs. Everything was happening so quickly.
As he reached his room to grab his sword, he paused. Something was in there. His heart quickened as he slowly drew his sword out, but a minute passed before he heard another sound. It was coming from under his bed, a sort of whine, followed by a scratching noise. Slowly he crept forward…
And leapt to the ceiling when a dog bounded out.
“What in bloody blazes—”
The world exploded in fire.
* * *
He hit the ground and rolled for what had to have been twenty or so feet, and struggled to find air. Everywhere the houses were burning, people were fleeing, running on horses away from the beasts…or being killed. Death was everywhere, along with screams. He scrambled up with his sword, then turned around…
The inn was on fire.
Rage instantly swept him up, and he became the other him. He had to save them! The touch of insanity drove him on through pain as he leapt into the flames. Throwing off his cloak, which was now on fire, he dove under a falling beam and into the common room. Smoke was everywhere.
“Ceni!” he cried. “Mother!”
He overturned tables and chairs, finding nothing. They had to be here somewhere. They had to have been upstairs, in their own rooms. Or the kitchen, but he hated to think that; the room was in total flames. That meant there was one last place to look, and that was their own rooms, up the stairs.
He was halfway up when the entire left wall fell.
Rhiwyn could not even think of any curses terrible enough when the rooms collapsed, falling over to the left, a full story down. It wasn’t so much that the rooms were falling, but he caught a glimpse of two bodies…
* * *
Adraed leapt up onto the troll’s leg, barely missing the spike-covered club. Swinging around to the other side, he stabbed upwards and into its back; it swayed, bellowing, but then attempted to shake him off. He managed to stay on. Cursing under his breath about his old age, he somehow managed to put his sword away and draw two daggers; taking a deep breath, he stabbed, then used it for a handhold, then climbed up.
Stabbing in with the other, he repeated. He had to get to the head.
But he missed the third time, and didn’t stab deep enough; he cried out as he fell and sliced a huge gash in the troll’s back. His eyes widened when he saw the massive body falling back on him, but he managed to get out of the way. Mostly, at least. He yelled out in pain as his leg was crushed by the huge creature.
One of his men saw him, and yelled out for help. A few of them gathered around, attempting to free his leg, but it was no use. They had to have more. But just as they were about to beckon for some others…
A giant club swung through the air and swiped them in every direction.
* * *
What stopped Rhiwyn from sticking himself with his sword, he did not know, but it was as if an unseen power stopped him. Not so much stopped him, but all of a sudden the rage was gone, or at least mostly; it was pushed into the back of his head, along with his grief. He gave a grunt and his eyes widened. What was doing this?
Whatever it was, it was telling him to get out of that city.
Bloody magic, he thought. Somebody had to cast a spell on me.
He ran towards the stables, somehow keeping away from the monsters and people that flooded the street. All save one. It caught one glimpse of him and charged, claws out in front, and Rhiwyn jumped into a near alleyway. It followed him.
Somehow he managed to jump high enough to grab a hold of a rooftop. I’ve never jumped that bloody high before, he thought. No matter. He had to get away; those claws were long enough to where the animal did not need to jump very high to tear him down. Hoisting himself up, he ran across the rooftops in the direction of the stable.
It wasn’t far, and he was glad it hadn’t been raided. He spotted his horse and leapt down right next to it.
Rhiwyn saddled Gal and hopped up. He could sense her fear. “You don’t want to go out there,” muttered Rhiwyn, “and neither do I.” He heeled her forward.
He almost didn’t make it out of the stable, but the beast that leapt for him only met his blade. That had been close. He could feel that something guiding him, that unseen power; something did not want him to find death. In the distance, inside his mind, he wanted to lay down and weep and die; but something else was telling him not to. It was comforting him, making him stronger, pushing the memories of his family out of his mind and guiding him. Towards what?
He rounded the corner and the street became much wider, but it seemed just as small with all the crowded people, fleeing or getting ready too, but he ignored them. Instead he heeled his horse down the center, watching people dive out of the way, hearing them curse at him, seeing fear in all of their eyes. He paid no mind. What am I doing? he asked himself. He had no idea where he was going, just that he was headed north. Towards the enemy. Something was pushing him forward.
He eventually came upon a terrible sight: the very soldiers that were supposed to be defending were fleeing. Cowards. He did take note a few, a group of four or five, gathered around a mass of…A bloody troll! They were trying to lift it, it seemed. But whatever was guiding him nudged at him again—he galloped forward towards them.
The enemy had flooded the city, and now the North Gate—or at least where it once was—was near empty. He went forward to see why the men were gathered.
His heart stopped when he saw another troll enter in the gate, then rumble forward and send the men flying through the air.
The world flashed in white.
Rhiwyn saw a man, a man in a soldier’s uniform, pinned. Pinned by something. The Captain. The Captain of the Guard, it had to be. He had the three stars on his chest.
It flashed back to normal, and Rhiwyn spurred Gal right towards him. Where was he going, and what was that all about?
To save the Captain, yes, must save the Captain.
He frowned. That voice wasn’t his. No matter, he was already there at where the Gate once stood. And the Captain was there, pinned beneath the giant. Rhiwyn hopped off of the horse to help him, but how would he do so? Had the hand guided him here for nothing, had the voice in his head not meant anything? The Captain groaned, and the thoughts exited his head.
He knelt down beside the Captain as he muttered something.
“What, good sir? Repeat, and I will serve.”
A huge mass of fire came flying from beyond the walls, and Rhiwyn barely leapt out of the way before it came smashing into where the man was laying. Rhiwyn barely caught Gal from bounding off into the city. Leaping on, he galloped away from the area. Of course. He had to warn the city of Addraedyn of the attacks, or the last great city would fall. This city had fallen. Running towards the West Gate, he felt that strange power guide his horse’s every step.
* * *
Borandal the Magician bounded down the stairs of the Tower, using a torch to light the way. No one had been down here in years, but all the magicians in the Tower had sensed the Sword. But he had to reach it first. They did not understand that it had to be hidden until the right time came.
Borandal entered the room and gave a start. The blade of the Sword was glowing bright red, but through the color he could clearly see a young man, riding a horse hard towards the West. The magic artifact was linked to him, somehow. It was guiding him. Slowly he picked up the Sword, on its pillow, and began to exit the room. He hoped no one found him.
He went into the next room, a room where a crystal lay; it sat there, dark and dead. But it was one of the most important artifacts in the history of magic. He carefully removed it from its case and put it in his pocket. If they did catch him here, he would be as dead as a door nail.
Borandal leapt out of the room and descended some more stairs, eventually coming to a hidden passage. He carefully moved his hands over the stone until he found the one. Pushing forward, he watched the wall spin half a turn; one last glance over his shoulder assured him that no one was there. He entered the room and lay the sword on a large pillow. No one could find it here, especially if he sealed it with magic.
As he watched the wall close back, he closed his eyes and laid his hands on the stone. A bright wall of white flashed before it, then disappeared as soon as it had come. Sealed with magic.
“What are you doing?”
He whirled around to see Achendar, a magic worker much older than him, but it didn’t matter. Borandal quickly disappeared in a whirlwind of green and white.
* * *
Rhiwyn was nearly sent hurtling off of his horse when Gal leapt out of the way as a pillar of green and white shot up from the ground. He looked aside and saw a magician standing there, hand outstretched, and the man grabbed onto Rhiwyn’s saddle. He began to battle him off.
The magician ignored it and leapt up behind Rhiwyn. The young man was about to pull Gal to a stop, but it was too late. Rhiwyn cried out when he believed them to hit the closed gate—yet when he opened his eyes, it had been drawn up, and they blew out of the City.
“Who are you?” Rhiwyn demanded as they galloped across the plains.
“Never mind that,” the man told him. “But know that the Sword is linked to you! Take this!”
He handed him the crystal.
“What is this?” Rhiwyn shouted.
He managed a look back, but the man was gone.
* * *
Finally, the city of Addraedyn came into sight. It had been a whole night of running, but he had made it. He just had to get inside and warn them that Monnyn had fallen. He was their only chance.
I’m here, he thought. I’m bloody here.
...And they did shake the world with battle.