The Silver Knight

Story written by Silvarian on Thursday 7, February 2019

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A threat from the past and a man from their future, will be be the one to save them from that which threatens to destroy them?

Overall Rating: Not Rated

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The Silver Knight
There it stood, like an image of some nightmarish apocalypse, a creature from another world the size of a double decker bus. It’s gruesome visage coupled with its rancid odour was enough to turn even the most iron of stomachs, I’m not afraid to admit that I too succumbed to the creatures repulsiveness and emptied my guts into the street before running for my life as the horrid creature swung its massive tendril in a wide arc that tore through buildings and people like a hot knife through butter, I barely managed to faceplant the pavement before I too was made several feet shorter. I lay there longer than any sane person would have, even as other survivors got up and sped past me like their asses were on fire still I lay there the scent of smoke and blood smothering my nostrils, screaming and burning was all there was to be heard, I could hear the monster tearing through building after building and the occupants of each either screaming in terror or yelling their death songs, still I lay there praying to a deity I didn’t even believe in for salvation. That was when I heard it, a sound like a sonic boom but with something else mixed in but I couldn’t place it. Next came footsteps, not running in fear this time but calm walking footsteps that were coming closer, though terrified I managed to look up just slightly, enough to see a pair of metal boots that almost seemed to be glowing silver, it was at that moment that a deafening roar that could only have come from the monster ripped through me and I was forced to cover my ears to hide from the painful sound. As I struggled to recover I managed to pull my eyes open just enough to look where I had previously seen the silver boots but they were no longer there, I suddenly realised that the monster was not roaring anymore and against my better judgment I turned to look. It was then that I saw something unbelievable, a man dressed in metal draconic armour which was glowing silver but the most incredible thing to be witnessed was how the man moved, it was almost as though he was unaffected by the Earth’s gravity. He floated from place to place with such grace that even the greatest of ballerinas would be envious but this grace was deceptive for the force he struck the monster with was audibly phenomenal, each impact sounded like a small meteor impact leaving the monster reeling each and every time. I had never seen anything like it, I was mesmerized even as the monster crashed into the few buildings left I still stared in dumbfounded awe. The battle lasted no more than a few minutes but when it was done the monster began to incinerate in silver flames and the armoured man landed softly like a leaf kisses the water, in his right hand was a sword I hadn’t seen earlier, I blinked and the sword was gone, the man turned, rubble grinding beneath his feet, gravity had taken hold of him again, his helmet melted into his armour and I caught a glimpse of his face and puzzled is too small a word to describe my feelings at that moment for what I saw was my face, a little older but still my face I sat dumbfounded as I watched myself getting closer and closer. The older me stopped in front of me and reached down, his armour still glowing silver, though it had dimmed slightly since his fight, and grabbed me by the collar and hoisted me off the ground as though I weighed naught but a bag of flour. I stared into the eyes of this man who looked like me and saw my own staring back at me but his had a fire within them that threatened to engulf everything in their gaze, I felt him slip something into my pocket before he threw me back and I closed my eyes awaiting the impact with the ground. When I landed everything was different, the air was free of smoke and ash, the smell of blood and death was replaced with the fresh scent of oak trees and wild grass while birds were singing nearby. However he had done it I was no longer in the city, in fact I had no idea where I was, I sat while I let everything sink in allowing the tranquillity of my surroundings to calm my chaotic mind. I remembered the something that my older self-had slipped into my pocket before sending me wherever I was, reaching into my pocket I pulled out a note that said Forget Nothing! Trust only those who share your Fate, but above all remember that the Universe Is Cyclical and you are where you are because you are needed. Before long my solitude was disturbed by the arrival of a young girl who came stumbling out of the treeline, if I didn’t know better I would’ve said she looked like a peasant girl from a medieval re-enactment society, her clothes were all torn up and barely hanging onto her slender frame when she saw me she immediately started to run to one side vanishing behind a large bush shortly before six men dressed in peasant rags came charging out of the treeline where the girl had emerged moments before, all huffing and puffing they were and one was sporting a fantastic set of scratch marks to the face, upon spotting me they all approached attempting to seem intimidating it was then that I saw that three of them were wielding axes two had hunting knives while the sixth held a sword, the one with the sword stood opposite me while the others formed a semicircle, any normal man would’ve been terrified by the sight of these six burly men bearing down on them brandishing weapons but not I, it was odd I’d normally be pissing myself but for some reason I wasn’t, the one with the sword spoke, I assumed he was their leader. “Oi you! You see a girl come this way?” he said in an unpleasant manner spitting as he spoke. With the utmost calm I replied, “I have not seen anyone but you guys however I did hear something a minute ago from that direction,” I pointed down the treeline a ways to what I assumed to be the east, “perhaps this girl you are searching for went that way.” “Thanks.” one of the axe wielders said abruptly before taking a swing at my head, I quickly ducked feeling the axe blade as it passed through my hair, without thinking I retaliated with a punch to his groin, he fell to the dirt as the rest of the group sprang into action hacking and slashing at me, amazingly I dodged all of their attacks, I guess those kickboxing lessons paid off after all, one by one I took them down some in worse condition than others but all incapacitated or unconscious. It took a minute to catch my breath but when I was ready I turned to where the girl was hiding and found her standing, rather shakily, before me holding her dress up with one hand while extending the other in gratitude. “What’s your name?” I ask her as I take her hand. “Sarah,” she says in a weak voice, “Sarah Winefeld, thank you for saving me, my lord.” she tries to give a curtsy but was too weak and collapsed but I was still holding her hand so I kept her from falling all the way but she reflexively let go of her dress to brace for the fall and it then fell down revealing her supple young breasts, I immediately averted my eyes whilst still holding her hand to help her up but her legs gave way beneath her and she fell again, I gently let her down and release her hand in order to remove my jacket and place it around her naked form, she drew comfort and strength from the remnant warmth of it, I knelt before her, the hard earth painfully pressed against my knee, and I offered to take her home if she would show me the way, she agrees but says “I’d be greatly in your debt but I’m afraid I’m too tired to make the trip.” “Then I shall carry you until you are recovered, if that’s alright with you that is?” “I suppose we can’t just wait here in case they wake up, very well my lord I greatly appreciate your assistance.” I placed one hand around her waist and the other under her knees while she locked hers behind my neck and I gently lifted her off the ground taking great care not to open my jacket and expose her nakedness, being a virgin however made this task difficult to bear and my eyes occasionally slipped a glimpse at her, if the weather hadn’t been so warm she would no doubt have been a lot worse for wear and this journey would have been less pleasant. We travelled for about forty five minutes before finally finding the road, Sarah was now able to walk on her own and we chatted all the way, she told me what life was like in her village and how she hoped to get out of it someday and become a famous Noble woman, since I didn’t know where or perhaps when I was I chose to divulge little information about my home, when she inquired deeper we found ourselves at a crossroads, I inspected the sign and it read “North: Wing-blade Pass South: Jager’s Point East: Mount Grego West: Median” before we could take our pick of roads the ground began to rumble and I heard horses galloping towards us, I grabbed Sarah and directed her behind me placing myself between the oncoming riders and her, again I felt no fear just a calm sense of purpose, the riders came closer and closer I estimated their numbers being somewhere in the 30’s, once they were within range they began swirling around us, for a moment it made me think of the point in Lord of the Rings when the same thing happened to Aragorn Legolas and Gimli, and just like in the film the riders all pointed their spears at me once they had us encircled and the rider in charge addressed me asking me to state my name and business in this realm. When I told him about Sarah he accused me of being her kidnapper and, due to her nakedness and ragged appearance and the bruises on her body and my hands, her rapist. I vehemently denied these accusations even as Sarah made her pleas with the man attempting to clarify the situation but the man was having none of it and I was clamped in iron manacles and dragged away while Sarah continued to protest my arrest. With Sarah and I separated the guards roughly dragged me down the road a few meters before throwing me into a caged carriage, my shoulder struck the wall with a loud thud which hurt quite a bit and also caused the chains hanging from the walls to rattle. The last thing I saw of Sarah was the Guard throwing my jacket aside and wrapping her in his cape. The door shut with a loud slam that shook the carriage a little bit and caused me to lose my balance. I decided to remain seated for the time being and we set off shortly afterwards. The creak of the wheels and the vibration of the carriage was almost a type of torture and it seemed to go on for hours. Eventually the carriage stopped so I naturally assumed we had arrived at our destination, when the carriage door was finally opened the sun had set and I was dragged outside into a castle courtyard, from what I could see from the limited torchlight, yes they were using medieval torches and braziers not lightbulbs like we have, I thought to myself if this is a re-enactment society then they definitely went to a lot of effort to make it all so realistic. The guards bound my hands in coarse rope that dug into my skin and lead me down a flight of stone steps that led into the dungeon, unafraid I went with them without incident and let them seal me in a cell, after they unbound my hands of course. I looked around my cell and found it to be very unpleasant, the stench of urine was so pungent that I had no appetite when they brought me some food a couple hours later, I decided that I would take this time to run through everything that had happened up to now. 2 days passed, I had remembered the object my future self-gave me but couldn’t find it on my person which left me to believe that it was in the jacket I had left with Sarah, but I had no idea if I’d ever see her again so I left it alone and tried to gather information from any source I could find, the other prisoners were quite helpful in this regard and I learned that I was in fact in a different time than I had been before. On the third day the guards came and with my hands bound again took me from the dingy cell with its straw bed on the cold hard stone floor, everything was just as I had envisioned a medieval dungeon to be. We ascended the staircase once again emerging into the sunlight which was absolutely blinding after being inside for so long, I was led across the courtyard and through a large red door ornately decorated with twin lion heads made of brass and a floral pattern around the edges. Inside was a large chamber with beautiful stained glass windows lining the walls, a deep burgundy carpet ran down the middle of the room and at the other end lay three thrones, one grander than the others and more predominant and atop that throne sat an elderly man dressed in royal robes and with a golden crown atop his head, his left hand was grasping the sheath of a sword that looked brand new. I immediately assumed this to be the King and so prepared myself for a Royal inquisition, I was brought to the foot of the steps leading to the thrones and made to kneel with a swift kick to the back of my knees, I glared at the guard that kicked me before turning to face the King, his voice boomed down from the throne like thunder “Enough!!” and I saw the guards bow their heads as he rose from the throne. The King sat forward on his throne and stared into my eyes as I stared into his, he must have seen something that proved my innocence because he gave me a Royal pardon and ordered my release with his very next sentence, a moment of utter disbelief later and I heard it, the voice of an angel, calling down from the top of the spiral staircase behind the thrones. A couple seconds later she descended those very steps and I had my first glimpse of true beauty. She ran from the steps and leapt into her father's arms and gave him a hug, I couldn’t take my eyes off her I mean she was breath-taking, I’ve seen pretty women before but she was on a whole other level, it wasn’t just physical beauty, though she had that by the boatload, there was something deeper and far more stunning about her and when I looked into her eyes, God those eyes, those sky blue luminescent eyes that shone like the stars above, I felt as though time had stopped and all the world just melted away leaving just us, never before had I felt so whole as I did in that very moment, it truly was love at first sight and despite me probably looking like some street urchin she still smiled at me, ohh that smile... what I wouldn’t give to see that smile again. My perfect moment of happiness was shattered when the guards dragged me from the throne room and out into the courtyard, the whole time though my eyes were transfixed on hers, right up until the moment the doors slammed shut and took her from me, I asked the guards who she was and they said to me “That was Princess Jen this Kingdom’s greatest treasure.” the look of sheer admiration on his face told me that I wasn’t the only one to see how beautiful she was. With that the guards gave me back my belongings with a little reparation money to help me get by and sent me on my way, of course I had nowhere to go so I pocketed the money and walked around the town for a while, the dark rustic colours of the brickwork and the cobbled streets gave me a sense of truly being back in medieval times but above all it was the smell, that pungent smell of urine and manure that seemed so thick it was as though walking through a dense mist the smell seemed to stick to everything, several people tried to talk to me but I was too lost in thought to pay them any mind and thus kept walking, the pungent stench of an open latrine snapped me back to reality, whatever that was now. I found myself on the outskirts of town next to a fountain in a small square, the air seemed a little bit cleaner here, there was no-one else around as twilight was falling, having nowhere to go I sat against the fountain and began thinking of what to do next, when a small boy approached he asked me “Hey Mister, what’s the matter? You lost or something?” “In a way.” I answered, the boy surprised me by offering to let me stay at his for the night, the boy lead me to his family home which turned out to be a local blacksmith, the father greeted us at the door, his muscular frame and the callousness of his hands when he shook my hand denoting the years he had poured into his craft. The boy’s mother came from the kitchen a tray of homemade bread in one hand and a rolling pin in the other, her apron covered in flour and her hair tied in a bun. The boy explained my presence to his parents who simply took it on the chin and welcomed me into their home. That night I sat with them for dinner and we traded questions, I asked about the kingdom while they asked about how I had come here and where I was from, after a while I remembered something I noticed when I was walking through the town and questioned the family about it, as politely as possible I asked “If you don’t mind my asking where are the rest of the children?” I had noticed during my stroll through that town that there were no children running about causing mischief like one would expect in a town such as this, the sudden change in atmosphere gave the impression that this was not a topic discussed lightly or without consequence, the cheery laughter that had previously filled the room had died abruptly as though some force had sucked them from the world leaving a deathly silence broken only by the soft crackle of the wood burning in the fireplace. It was several seconds before anyone spoke again. The father was the first to speak “There is a...Thing... up on the mountain that demands the children be sent to it or else it will level the town and everyone in it, we were lucky Nathaniel was too old for the tribute but...the others weren’t so lucky.” I could tell this was difficult for him so I listened patiently and let him take all the time he needed, “Every year the guards come and take any child between the ages of 3 and 9, many people have tried hiding their kids when it came time for the Harvest as they call it, but none have managed to succeed, every parent here has suffered terribly because of this Thing in the mountain, the King tried to save us once, he sent the whole army to kill it when it first appeared, 800 men went up that mountain but only 12 came back. Since then everyone’s just given up like they’ve lost hope, they are just shadows of their former selves. I HATE IT!!!” he screamed as he slammed his fists against the table, the plates bounced from the impact and landed with a clatter. “I’m sorry you had to see that but it just burns me up to see everyone so hopeless.” “I understand.” I said trying to sound as comforting as possible. “If only the legends were true.” chimed the mother. “What legends?” I asked curiously. “The legends of the Knights of Light, surely you know the tale?” I shook my head genuinely confused which lead to them regaling me with the stories of 100 years ago that tell of a group of Knights who supposedly found an ancient temple of some kind, within that temple there was a room and inside that room was 5 different stones, a Golden one, a Silver one, a Bronze one, a Copper one and an Iron one. The moment the Knights picked up the stones they were transformed into something far more than human, each obtained strength enough to shatter mountains with a single blow, nothing could defeat them, but soon after their return to the Realm things changed, monsters grew more powerful seemingly overnight and were increasingly more aggressive to humans, it was eventually learned that a vast evil power had awoken when they took the stones and was on a rampage, fuelling the monsters to use as his army. The knights fought valiantly until only a couple remained to face the great evil. “The tales tell that it was the Silver Knight and the Golden Knight that stood heroically against the evil tide unleashed by the great darkness and that they were able to seal the darkness back where it came from but at the cost of their lives, the only thing left of them was the stones that gave them their powers. Since then thousands of men and women have gone in search of those stones so that they too might wield their power but none have managed to find them.” “Interesting.” I said, after all it all seemed a little farfetched and probably exaggerated as most legends and stories are, was my reasoning at the time but now… The next day I volunteered to help out around the forge so I could learn some blacksmith techniques and hopefully forge my own sword and armour because I had a sense I was going to be needing them. The day was long and exhausting, the heat from the forge was almost overwhelming and everything was heavier than I thought it would be from the hammers to the molten metal used in the sword molds. Several times I splashed a little metal onto my skin which hurt like a son of a bitch but I wasn’t willing to let that stop me. By days end I was more tired than I had been in my whole life but I felt good about it, the work kept my mind from wandering and lately it had begun to do that frequently whenever I was alone for any length of time and my wanderings would almost always lead me back to that moment with the Princess, how that smile of hers just made my spirit soar and how those eyes just speared deep into my soul. 3 weeks passed and I had learned most everything the blacksmith had to teach and thus began work on my own sword and on making the armour. Making my sword was an arduous process, selecting the finest quality ore was among the challenges but I was determined to finish, and so once I had the ore and everything else I was going to need I set to work melting it down and forging it into my sword, I spent 8 days secretly forging my weapon and raiments so as not to arouse the family’s suspicions, I decided I would use a broadsword with a hand and a half hilt so that I could switch between 1 and 2 handed wielding in case I needed to use a shield or something alongside it. It was the next day when the smith and I set to work for the last time, with my weapon and armour ready I decided it was time to ascend the mountain and slay the Thing that lay in wait up there or die trying. I was ready I was in the best shape of my life, I’d gained a ton of muscle working in the forge and my body seemed stronger, I assumed it was due to the increased purity of the air in this time after all my body had acclimatised to breathing the heavily polluted air of my industrialised time. The family was surprisingly understanding when I told them that I would be leaving them, though I didn’t tell them why, they simply gave me a hug and wished me luck and good fortune and that was it, the journey to the base of the mountain was less difficult than I had imagined but the ascent was torture, the wind was arctic and stung like a million needles into my flesh and the stones themselves seemed to possess an ominous persona that gave the whole mountain an evil vibe, my ascent was trying to say the least as the higher I went the thinner the air became, I took shelter in a cavern I found on the western slope, inside was the remnants of what I assumed to be the campsite from the Royal Army but when I examined the fire pit it was warm and embers still glowed faintly in the dark. I drew my sword wary as to what else was in the cavern, I carefully lit a torch and the darkness retracted its veil revealing nothing but an empty campsite. I sheathed my sword and relit the fire pit basking in the comforting warmth of the flame. The time seemed to blur past as I stared into the flame I’ve no idea how much time passed before I realised that I wasn’t alone anymore but when I turned away I found myself face to face with an almost skeletal visage of a man, I guessed he was in his early twenties but judging by the sunken nature of his skin and lack of muscle he seemed severely malnourished but despite this he was perfectly polite. I shared my food with the man and made preparations to move on when the man grabbed me by the arm and said something I’ll never forget, he said “Truth has many faces, all of which are false in the eyes of another.” he then let me go and was swallowed up by the darkness again. The sun rose on a new day and I was on my way once more. The wind was gentler this time but the ominous feeling that seemed to emanate from the mountain itself felt stronger, as I climbed higher I found the tattered remains of clothing, I followed the remnants into a clearing that was unnervingly circular the rocks that lined the area were jagged and reminded me of the open maw of some great beast. The floor was littered with bones like some mass grave it was enough to make most men sick, I bent down to examine some of the bones little did I realise that the sun was setting, once the sun had fallen below the rim an almost magical reaction occurred, the whole area began to glow with an iridescent pale blue hue, that was when I saw it. It stood about 10 feet high its scaly skin rippling as it moved, its 8 inch claws glimmering from the light, its thick reptilian tail lazily trailed along the ground, it was a Reptile Demon not dissimilar to an alligator only much, much larger. It came at me. I barely managed to jump aside before it would have had me in its jaws, I rolled to my feet and drew my sword which felt heavier now, I was afraid, this thing was going to kill me but I refused to make it easy for him, If I’m going to die then I’m taking you with me!! I thought trying to bolster my resolve. The tail came next. I ducked under it taking a swing with my sword in the process, I felt it bite into something and then heard the Demon roar, HA! So you can be hurt, you fucking Bastard!! I got to my feet and leapt onto the Demon’s back aiming to plunge my sword into its back. The Demon must have anticipated my move because it rolled over trying to crush me beneath it, I almost didn’t make the jump in time. I was still in mid-air when the Demon kicked its feet and slammed me with its foot, I hit the wall hard. Blood came pouring from my shoulder, the warmth running down my arm, but I refused to give up so I staggered to my feet that was when I noticed another presence in the basin, I looked over to see the skeletal man from earlier. I shouted out to him “Get the fuck out of here!!!” but he ignored me and walked straight towards the demon, I tried desperately to intercept and save him, what happened next was not something I could have foreseen in a hundred years. The man transformed. There was a flash of green light and sound like what I heard when my Silver self-showed up, and the skeletal man was now clad in green armour that glimmered with its own aura, he was no longer bone thin either, like an inflated balloon his muscles had grown exponentially to rival my own. The demon instantly began to assault the green-clad man with such ferocity that made the fight with me seem tame by comparison, it swiped and bit and slashed at him with ferocity that would’ve put the most vicious animal to shame, the man however was not once overcome by the demons attacks, he moved with the agility of a cat. I was so dumbstruck by what I was watching that I was caught completely unaware when it happened. I was struck in the back by something that felt white hot, I could feel it burning its way through me until it melted around my bones, I felt enormous power building inside me as whatever it was spread over my whole skeleton and into every cell in my body, so much so that I thought I was going to explode. Next thing I knew I was waking up in the basin, alone. Both the green knight and the demon were nowhere to be seen and the landscape seemed different somehow. The pale glow had vanished now and it was so dark and cold, so cold, I had never been so cold before, as though I had been buried in ice for a year. I looked up to see a star filled sky, so many stars littered the black canvas of the sky that I thought I was dead, that was when I heard it, the voice, words that I didn’t recognise. I struggled to sit up and the sight that greeted my efforts is difficult to describe. A single candle sat in front of me, it was a perfectly ordinary looking candle in every aspect except that it’s flame was silver, I reached to pick it up to examine it but the moment my fingers touched the candle the flame exploded to envelope me completely, the heat was so intense that I felt like I was melting. I opened my eyes again. This time I wasn’t in the basin anymore, I was back in the cave I’d sat in before. The green knight from earlier was gone and in his place was the skeletal man again. He looked at me with a concerned look in his eyes and I could tell something was different, but I was still groggy both from the bizarre dream and the loss of blood which was why my arm felt numb. I asked the man what happened and he told me that his name was Stolon and the tale of how he had become the Copper Knight, he was once a small peasant boy in a small village on the outskirts of the continent, the village was not a pleasant place, the constant threat of attack from local bandits and foreign raiders seeking to make a foothold meant the people were always on edge, until one day when a band of monsters bound to a warlord were sent to destroy the village and claim it’s populace as slaves, the attack was swift and brutal, as a kid he was able to hide in small places and avoid detection but the rest of the villagers weren’t as fortunate, those that resisted were cut down by the savage monsters and the rest were hauled off to the warlord’s castle up in the mountains to the west. He said he stayed there for almost 2 days before the local lords knights came and found him as the only survivor but nothing was done to either save or avenge the rest of the villagers. Several years later he had worked his way up to become a squire to one of the lord’s knights, that same knight was assigned to an expedition to explore a newly discovered ancient ruin, the knight however didn’t survive the treacherous journey as there were numerous traps and other obstacles in the way, by the time they reached their destination, the central tower of the ruins, there was only 6 of them left 4 knights, himself and 1 other squire, having found no more traps they decided to set up camp outside the huge door at the base of the tower before going in. The next day they spent hours trying to open the door because it was too heavy and made of some metal substance that was unlike anything they had seen before. Eventually though the door was opened enough to allow them passage, the inside was miraculous, while the rest of whatever this place was had fallen to ruin and debris this tower was pristine and unlike anything seen before, the walls were coated in a crystal-like substance that seemed to pulsate with white light at regular intervals like a heartbeat, there were images upon the walls and a massive mural on the floor their meaning was indecipherable to the group but they moved on nonetheless. There was what seemed like a doorway of some sort on the wall, when one of them touched the symbol next to the doorway the wall melted away revealing a descending staircase, down and down they went, for what seemed like hours and for miles, finally the staircase ended and they were standing at the entrance to another grand chamber with more of the strange symbols on the doors. Intrigued they went for it believing that vast treasures lay inside, what awaited them was something vastly different. When the door/wall melted away like the previous one they were immediately bathed in blinding white light, a minute or so later the light receded and they could see again, what they saw was not what they were expecting, instead of treasures beyond belief there was an empty room made of crystal and in the centre was an altar of some kind, they all went in. the knights went to examine the altar while the squires were told to wait by the door. They watched as the knights touched, pulled, hit and examined all over the pentagonal altar until one of the knights called him over for a cup of water, he brought it obediently and got a better look at the altar, it was split into 5 segments each a different colour, a gold one, a silver one, a bronze one, a green one and a red one. Each segment had a fist sized stone embedded in it to match the segment colour, he’d watch the knights try to pull the stones one at a time and all at once, he remembered something the palace mage had taught him during his tutelage regarding seals, he commented on it and the knights tried it again this time with him to assist, they each stood at a segment and placed a hand on the stone simultaneously. The whole room lit up in a cascade of the five colours and they were suddenly somewhere else. They had no way of knowing that it wasn’t just the room that lit up but the whole tower which sent a beam of light into the sky. Not knowing how long they were unconscious for they awoke back in the room now dimly lit and the stones on the altar gone, each had experienced a similar dream in which they were swallowed up by a coloured flame, the same colour as the stone they’d been holding. The squire who was left behind was frantically jibbering by the doorway when the others awoke and instantly fell to his knees to praise God for their recovery, he told them they’d been unconscious for several hours and that during that time something weird had happened to their bodies, for some time they were encased in some sort of metallic chrysalis but they looked no different when the chrysalis opened. They all ascended the tower only to find that things were different, the main chamber was now silent and dark save for the sunlight beaming through the open doorway, the light pulses had stopped and everything felt dead, just like the rest of the ruins. The campsite was just how they’d left it, the firepit still ready and awaiting new fuel and their bedrolls still arranged in a semi-circular pattern around the firepit. Something was different though they could feel it, after a night's sleep they awoke to find themselves bound and hanging from branches which were being carried by muscular tribesmen, though they didn’t recognise the tribal markings. They were all carried through the forest for what seemed like miles before they arrived at the tribesman's destination, their village. The collection of wooden huts seemed to blend seamlessly into the trees, the group was placed with a thud on the ground before the largest hut and the tribesmen called out something in their language “Zuriah” or something like that, before they all fell to their knees in reverence as the one they called emerged from the hut. A tall dark skinned woman covered from head to toe in the markings of her tribe came striding out of the aperture that was the entrance to her hut, they could tell she was covered in tattoos because she emerged from the hut stark naked save for the bone necklace and leather waist cord she wore. The woman “Zuriah” stared down at the group, concern blanketing her features before she spoke in the language of her tribe, apparently asking the hunters who brought them here why they had done so and where they had brought them from, the hunters answered immediately with the kind of obedience that indicated that this “Zuriah” was a religious figure of significant rank in their society. What they told her only deepened her concern as she returned to her hut for a couple minutes before re-emerging with a piece of bark covered in palm leaves that served as a tray of sorts, she descended the few steps that lead up to her hut and the group was hoisted up again only to be placed in a semi-circle around the woman as she placed the makeshift tray on the ground. Upon the tray sat 5 pieces of metal, each different than the last, there was; gold, silver, bronze, iron and copper. “Zuriah” began chanting in her tribe’s language, if circumstances were different then they would have found the chant beautifully melodic but at the time it was eerie and frightening, as she chanted the metals began to hum and vibrate in accordance to the tune she chanted, then something miraculous occurred, the metals levitated off the tray and began to float around each other in mid-air. “Zuriah’s” chant grew fainter as something reacted in the group in fact the world seemed to fade away around them as they watched the metals floating in the air, they had no idea what was actually happening, according to the other squire, the one who didn’t touch the stones, the metals drifted over to them and they somehow resonated with the metals humming, their eyes glowed the same colour as the stones they had touched and an aura had begun to surround them. “Zuriah” stopped chanting then and the whole scene abruptly ended, the metals fell from the air and landed on the group’s chests. The group was cut free from their bonds at the direction of “Zuriah” and directed to follow her as she returned to her hut. With their freedom returned their minds began to reason clearly again and they pursued “Zuriah” up into her hut, the smell of incense and other odorous agents permeated the air inside her hut, the tribesmen dispersed and they were left alone with the mysterious woman save the pair of guards outside her door. Once inside they were greeted by a soft and seductive voice “Welcome Knights of Lethurial”, shocked wouldn’t describe the level of surprise the group felt when “Zuriah” began speaking their language like she’d been raised with it. “I welcome you to my abode, my name is Layla.” she stood there with a smile on her face even though she was still completely naked amongst a group of young men. The Knight, later named Bronze Knight, spoke up first “Excuse me Miss Layla but you addressed us as Knights of Lethurial, would be so kind as to elaborate? What exactly is Lethurial? And what does it have to do with us?” Layla looked a little confused at the questions “You mean you don’t know!? Hmm well in that case listen well, there was once a great empire that spanned the entirety of the world, that empire was called Zirconia and it was a place of great wealth and prosperity for all its people because the Emperor was a wise and generous man but as is always the case for those in power there will always be those that desire that power for themselves. Zirconia was so great in the magical arts that it was rumoured that its mages could tear open the veil of time and peer into the future, but despite this ability, or perhaps because of it, a dark force emerged and swept across the land wiping out Zirconian colonies and outposts all over the world, it is said that the capital was able to withstand the initial assault and combat the dark force, 5 knights capable of wielding the light went to battle the darkness, however the battle was catastrophic and Zirconia was obliterated, the darkness was defeated and sealed away at the cost of the lives of the original Knights. This was 10,000 years ago and those ruins you disturbed were the final resting place of those very same Knights and it would seem that you have been deemed worthy of inheriting their powers.” That was when it all began, the hellish “Training” to master their powers and the war against the darkness that was released when they took those stones. I had listened to his whole story with avid curiosity but the lack of detail on the training and the war was disappointing. We decided to stay in the cave for the night before returning to town. The next morning we descended the rest of the mountain in silence, the trip was much easier than going up was, when we finally reached the woods outside of town he stopped me, handed me a scroll and said to “use it when the time was right”. We then went our separate ways. I made my way back to the blacksmith’s house to share the news of the demons defeat but instead of finding a pleasant greeting from the family I turned the corner to find a squadron of the King’s men waiting for me. They grabbed me as soon as they saw me and once again I was clapped in irons and brought before the King. The Palace was just as impressive as it had been the last time I was there, but this time there was a lot more people in the throne room than there was last time, I assumed it was the King’s entire Royal Court. I was thrown on the floor at the base of the steps leading up to the throne, when I looked up I saw the King in all his Majesty the same as he was before, beside him was a woman of incredible beauty dressed in a dark blue silk dress with a smaller golden crown upon her head, the Queen I guessed, on the other side was the heavenly angelic image of Princess Jen her white dress fitting perfectly around her perfect frame. She was even more beautiful than the last time I saw her, my eyes were transfixed on hers for several minutes, while the King’s adjutant read out the reasons for my arrest. By the time I was directly questioned by the adjutant to give my account of the occurrences on the mountain I barely registered that he was speaking. After a couple seconds to gather my composure I began to regale them with the majority of the details of my trip up the mountain, how I had found the Copper Knight in a cave on the mountain, though I didn’t know it was him at the time, how I had confronted the demon in the basin at the summit, how I had managed to injure it before the demon gained the upper hand and almost killed me, how the Copper Knight had appeared to my rescue, I neglected however to include the burning sensation that overcame me or the conversation the Copper Knight and I had before we descended the mountain. It was after I had given my report that the adjutant called forth a woman dressed in leather armour in varying hues of green and brown. “Sergeant Lisa please give your report.” “Yes sir, it was a routine observation of the demon and it’s behaviours when this man,” she gestured at me “entered the basin, which the demon had made its lair, he chose to remain and fight the demon rather than fleeing and seeking a safer vantage point, I was watching from the outer rim of the basin and saw how he managed to evade the demons first few attacks as well as how he caused injury to the demon by slashing through the underside of its tail, he then tried to run along the demons back in order to stab it in the head however the demon rolled and knocked him from its back then kicked him, sending him flying into the wall, I saw him stagger forward before falling to his knees. That was when the second man entered the fray, he was almost skeletal when he entered but a flash of green light changed him into the Copper Knight of legend, he began to combat the demon, during the fight there was an enormous flash of white light which carried with it such heat that had I not sought shelter behind the rocks then I would have melted. I fail to see how this man was not incinerated. When the light faded I looked back to find the basin was now a large crucible of molten rocks. There was no sign of either the Copper Knight or this man. I then returned here to give my report when this man was seen entering the town again.” “Her report is accurate to a point but I have no recollection of this explosion she talks of, I lost consciousness during Copper Knight’s fight with the demon and when I awoke he had taken me to the shelter of a cave further down the mountain, we stayed there for a time, while I regained my strength, before returning to town, although we parted ways in the woods outside of town.” I said. The King and his court took some time to process this information meanwhile I was still captivated by the beauty of the princess. Once the King and his court returned from their deliberations they summoned the blacksmith’s family I had been staying with and asked them for their assessment of my character, I was surprised by the flurry of compliments they gave me since I didn’t think that I hadn’t left that big of an impression on them. After their glowing testimony of my character the family were permitted to return to their home while I was sentenced to joining the King’s army after attending his Military academy, where I would be trained to fight with a variety of weapons, magical basics, and etiquette, I graciously accepted the King’s sentence and a few days later I was enrolled in the Luminatus Academy of Knighthood and Arcanistry. The Academy was a large complex comprised of 3 towers of different sizes and training grounds for each tower, the first had the smallest outward appearance but was in fact the mage tower which had massive underground chambers for student mages to practise spellcasting, there was also a huge library in this tower. The second tower was where I would be spending most of my time, this had the second largest outward appearance, and the underground chambers were split between storage units and prison cells for those students who broke the rules. The final tower was the largest and was where the staff and academy guards lived, students were only allowed in under special circumstances or by summons from a teacher. Student life was not much different than it was in my time, there was segregation between the different classes, the Knights thinking themselves superior to the mages and would always bully them whenever they had the chance, there seemed to be a stereotype with each class, Knights were always more athletically built while mages were smaller and, to use a more modern term, more gothic their robes were always varying shades of dark blue or black while the Knights would either strut around in their armour or in lighter shades of clothing, one day I came across an altercation between a group of Knight prospects and a couple of female mage students, I could tell the girls were new to the Academy just like I was, they were sitting on the floor library books scattered about and the Knights towering over them shouting at them, I could already tell what had happened, the girls were heading back from the Library with a stack of books each weren’t looking where they were going and crashed into the Knights who were now bullying them for an apology or possibly something more, I intervened when one of the “Knights” raised a hand to strike one of the girls. “Enough!” I said as I caught the guy’s fist in my hand, “Leave these women alone!” “Or what?” the leader of their little group asked threateningly “What are you gonna do, huh!?” “Then I shall be forced to put a stop to your beastly behaviour.” and with that the leader of this little band of idiots threw a punch at my face, I easily dodged it and threw my knee into his gut which sent him crumpling to the floor, the other two then turned to fight me as well, I broke the arm of the guy who’s punch I had caught before turning to deal with the others, the first was a large bloke his armour tight around his bulging belly so I ducked under his sweeping arm and kicked his legs out from under him, he fell to the floor with a loud clatter as the metal of his armour crashed with the stone floor. The second was a smaller man who I could tell was very quick, so quick that he managed to get a hit on me but it was too weak to leave any damage under my leather armour, I grabbed his arm that he used to punch me and threw him over my shoulder so that he landed on his back which knocked the wind out of him. While my back was turned the leader of the group had staggered to his feet and drawn his sword, his strike was blocked by a teacher who had come upon the commotion moments before. The teacher was one of the highest ranked Knights in service, her name was Lady Jasmine. She had stopped his blade with hers before giving him a kick to the gut that rendered him unconscious. Lady Jasmine was furious at us all for our use of force and insisted on an explanation, I helped the mage girls to their feet and gather their books after thanking Lady Jasmine for her assistance before I told her what had transpired prior to her intervention. A few hours later I received summons from the Teacher’s tower so I went, I was greeted outside the tower by a Knight and Mage master who escorted me inside, the interior of the tower was a stark contrast to the student’s towers, this was lined with opulent tapestries and paintings while ours were barren and empty save for what little decorations we were permitted in our rooms, there was a deep red carpet covering the floor whereas we had regular stone flooring. I was lead up three flights of stairs until we reached a large wooden door with a golden plaque nailed to it, it read “Ruling Council”, Shit! I thought when I read the sign, we went inside and I found I was not alone in my summons the group of Knight Prospects and the two mage girls were already there. The council consisted of 3 members, the Head of the Knight course sat in the middle, he wore his armour which as always looked freshly polished, the archmage sat to the left with his dark green robe covering him from the neck down and his dark hair and beard deceiving his true age, on the right sat Lady Knight Jasmin with her slender armour built for speed and agility. A look of judgmental concern sat upon the faces of all those present as I walked in. The others all stepped aside as I was lead to the middle of the room, the council began to question me about the incident but the strange thing was that their questions focused more on how I fought rather than the cause of the incident. After I explained to them the details of the way I fought they insisted on a demonstration, “I refuse.” I told them. “Explain.” the Head Knight demanded. “I only fight for the defence of others or in self defense, not for the entertainment of another. Putting my skills on display for you now would serve no purpose other than to put myself at a disadvantage in the event of another confrontation with any of those present.” “I see your point,” the Archmage chimed in “knowledge is power after all but in the interest of teamwork it is important that all the team members know and understand each other's abilities.” “I see, so that’s how it is.” I looked around at the others who were summoned, the 4 3rd year Knight students and the 2 1st year mages all looked confused so I knew that they had no idea what was happening, “They plan to team us up for the Star Arena.” and with that, realisation dawned on them all. Surprised by my conclusion the council looked to each other to try and determine who spilled the beans, none of them had I had simply deduced their meaning by combining their comment about teamwork with the research I had done a few days earlier, I’d found a book that detailed the special events of the country that occurred annually and noticed that the Star Arena was coming up. Teams of 8 from all over the country come together to battle it out for the chance to get their hands on a Star Shard which is said to grant the holder enormous power, any organisation that puts forth a team also gets 10 million gold if their team wins. “So who’s our 8th member?” I asked. “Well that’s undecided at the moment. There’s the choice of 2nd year Knight Walter Fin, 2nd year Mage Harriet Miolo and 3rd year Mage Julian Swestan.” “May I meet the prospects?” “Yes, it shall be arranged.” “No I’d like to meet them on my own terms and assess their skills in my own way, what say the rest of you?” “The Mages would make things a bit easier for us and plus we could learn from them during the competition. That being said we’d follow your judgement on the matter my Lord… I just realised we don’t even know your name.” The Mage girls spoke first. “Oh that’s right,” I straightened my posture and introduced myself, I didn’t think it wise to give my real name to anyone in this time so had used an alias “Neri Mesocon Knight prospect 1st year at your service.” the other Knight prospects murmured amongst themselves for a few moments before speaking up. “Neri Mesocon you say, you mean you're the one who got in on recommendation from the King?” I simply nodded to them which caused another fuss amongst them “Is it true that you fought the demon on Fallowheap mountain and survived?!” “I’d rather not talk about that if you don’t mind.” The mage girls began to chat about me to each other as well which was not helping us move things along, so I interrupted and pushed for an answer, the girls again deferred to my judgement and the Knights also acquiesced to my decision despite their seniority. “The Arena opens in 3 months, you’ve got until then to choose your 8th member and to train together, now get to it.” the Head Knight said before we were ushered out again. As it was getting to dusk we parted ways back to our accommodations with plans to meet again in 3 days so I’d have time to find and assess our 8th member prospects. My sleep was restless because my dreams were of the silver flames again this time they were bigger than a candle, they had grown to a bonfire and I began to sense a presence emanating from the flames, every time I would wake with a cold sweat. The next day I went in search of the first prospect, since we were both Knight prospects I decided to visit Walter Fin first. I found him in the training yard showing off to a group of girls that seemed to hang on his every word, made me think of the groupies you normally see hanging around Rock stars. Walter himself was a rather handsome young man which explained the following of girls but I could see that his skills didn’t lie with the sword, nevertheless I approached him and asked my questions, he only passed a couple of them but I knew that there was more to a person’s skills than words, after I was finished talking he asked if he had passed but then countermanded himself by challenging me to a duel where the prize was the place on the team. We went to the courtyard duelling ring where a crowd soon gathered due mainly in part to Walter’s reputation, with our wooden swords in hand we took our positions. Walter was the first to attack, a heavy swing from above, I side-stepped to avoid the blow and didn’t counter despite the enormous opening he left, his next attack came from the side which I blocked with my sword, the obvious sound of wood striking wood bounded across the courtyard and the crowd began to cheer in Walter’s favour, I could see in his eyes as well as the way he moved that he wasn’t nearly as skilled as me, what counted against him most was his need to win, I could tell he wasn’t fighting for the place but for his own pride. I decided that he wasn’t a good fit for the team and ended the duel with a pommel strike to the helm which sent him staggering back, I held my wooden sword to his neck and made him yield. The crowd changed their attitude at that point, but I didn’t care so I walked away ignoring the cries and condemnations of the crowds. I spent the rest of the day doing my usual classes while attempting to contemplate a suitable test for the next prospects. The next day after another restless night I went in search of the next prospects, Julian Swestan was the first to be found followed a few minutes later by Harriet Miolo, when they both found out that they were both candidates for the Star Arena team Julian was furious to be placed in the same running as a 2nd year, his arrogance beaming through like a lighthouse in the night. He was positively fuming when he learned that the rest of the team comprised 3 1st years, and that one of those first years was in charge of choosing whether he was on the team or not, Harriet meanwhile was far more open minded. I proposed a competition between them to determine who the more suitable candidate was. They agreed and so we came to an agreement on what the challenge should be, a magical crafting challenge, both of them would take a weapon and enchant it to increase its power and the winner would be whoever created the best item. I gave them until the end of the next day to produce their items and return to me, and I spent that time reading in the library or sparring with the other Knight prospects. When night fell I noticed that I was being followed, my stalker didn’t seem too adept at concealment and thus was easily detectable, I’d never had a stalker before so I decided to indulge them by pretending not to notice. My stalker finally revealed them-self when I was standing outside my bedroom door, I turned to find a young girl standing behind me, she was about 5”3 with flame coloured hair, emerald green eyes her outfit was a tight fit around her slender frame leather plates across her vulnerable areas, the standard sparring outfit for a woman, she was obviously a member of the Knight course, she was trembling a little as she reached out her hand to give me a letter she’d written. As soon as I took the letter she ran off with a giddy gleeful giggle bursting from her lips. I opened the big wooden door to my room which I shared with 3 other Knight prospects, there were 2 sets of bunk beds at the edges of the room and a seating area at the far end next to the window, I ignored the others and went to bed despite their queries about the letter in my hand. As I sat in bed I carefully opened the letter and read its contents, the handwriting was exquisite, it read Dear Neri I know we haven’t spoken before but I’ve been observing you for some time now and I’ve seen how strong you are, that strength has inspired me to strive for more than what I thought I was capable of. I know you probably won’t think anything of it but I’ve been growing more and more fond of you as I watch you in class and on the sparring field, I think I’m falling in love with you. I saw how you defended those Mage girls and it showed me what a true Knight is supposed to be, for that I thank you, I’d like to show my appreciation to you so meet me in the eastern woods outside of the academy at dusk tomorrow look for the thunderbolt in the tree. With deep affection Moira I was naturally curious about the reference to “appreciation” but I was tired so I put the matter aside and went to sleep. Again the silver flames were there in my dreams, and again I tried to reach out to them and was engulfed, this time there was a word roaring through the flames as they consumed me, “DANGER!!” I awoke with a start as the room rocked from some kind of impact, everyone was out of bed in an instant grabbing gear and rushing out the door into a flood of students all attempting to flee from whatever it was that had attacked the academy, I however stayed behind for a few minutes to look out the now shattered window to get a glimpse of our attacker. There, in the courtyard stood a huge demon, it looked similar to a gorilla but much bigger, it looked like it had smashed through the wall and was now hurling the rocks at the towers. I saw the teachers scurrying about to combat it while ensuring the safety of the fleeing students, as I watched several teachers were batted away by the demons massive hands leaving them bloodied smears on the walls, I leapt through the shattered window and landed with a thud and a roll into the courtyard below, it wasn’t too far of a fall but it still hurt a little. Once I had gathered my strength again I took the sword from one of the fallen teachers and joined the defense line surrounding the demon much to the surprise of the teachers beside me. As I stared down the demon I could feel a strength unlike any I had ever felt well up inside me it was pre-dawn so there wasn’t much light to see by but the horizon was growing brighter meaning the Sun was going to be rising soon, Lady Jasmin was to my left and the Archmage to my right, I briefly studied the demon to find its weaknesses after which I called out to the teachers on either side of me with a battle plan, once they nodded their agreement we began. The Archmage began with a barrage of fireballs which impacted the demon’s side drawing its attention, Lady Jasmin followed up with a speed slash to its legs meant to bring it to its knees allowing me to go for a finishing blow to the head, the Archmage continued the barrage which wasn’t strong enough to hurt the demon but was good enough to act as a smokescreen blinding it while Lady Jasmin made her attack run, this demon however was anticipating that and clipped Lady Jasmin’s arm as she made her run, her speed was incredible for if she’d been hit fully then she’d have been killed by the demon’s powerful hand, the demon then stomped its foot which sent a shockwave through the ground which knocked the Archmage off his feet and made him bang his head on the ground rendering him unconscious I was momentarily knocked off balance by the shockwave, the demon turned its attention to me then, the remaining teachers rushing to my aid but not fast enough as the demon threw a full power punch at me, that was when the strength that had been welling up within me reached an apex and I blocked the demon’s punch with my sword. The demon’s fist was stopped dead and a pair of drag marks on the ground were the only indication that it had had any effect, the punch had pushed me back a few feet but I was otherwise unharmed. I gave myself up to the strength that had grown within me and went on the offensive, the teachers were all stunned by my miraculous survival that they all just stood there perplexed. I felt myself moving but didn’t remember telling myself to move, I was dodging all the demon’s attacks and slicing into it’s flesh with such ease that it didn’t even feel like I was the one doing it, the demon’s roars of pain as my sword cut deep made the remaining glass windows rattle, I dashed between its legs and slashed where our Achilles tendon would be and sent the demon tumbling to the ground, in an instant I was dashing across its black furry back dragging my sword through it’s flesh until I reached its neck where I jumped and plunged my sword hilt deep into its skull killing it instantly. The Demon hit the ground in a lifeless heap causing the very ground to shake with the sound of thunder, I was thrown from its back but I don’t recall what happened next, what I do remember is waking up in the academy infirmary 2 days later, which seemed to cause quite the stir among the nurses as they hurried about the place trying to find the teachers. The first to arrive was the Head Knight who came bursting through the wooden door like a boulder tearing down a mountain, his usually flawlessly polished armour was now tarnished with dirt and dust and blood, he came right up to the end of my bed and slammed his fists upon it yelling “What are you!? There’s no way a normal human could have beaten that demon alone, so I demand that you tell me now, just who are you exactly?!?” “I can’t tell you that yet besides even if I could I doubt you’d understand or believe me if I did.” “Don’t give me that crap!!” he roared the anger clearly visible on his reddening face as the veins began bulging in his temples and around his neck. It was at this point that the Archmage arrived accompanied by Lady Jasmin who had been injured in the attack and was now on crutches. “Now, now there’s no need for so much aggression Theo, calm down and we’ll let the man speak, now then what can you tell us?” the Archmage said in as diplomatic a tone as possible while helping Lady Jasmin to a seat beside my bed before taking one himself. The three of them looked at me with varying types of scrutiny, the Head Knight still seemed to be seething but he had taken a seat as well, the Archmage simply stared in curiosity as though I was a subject to be observed whereas Lady Jasmin seemed to show genuine concern for my wellbeing above all else. “Well then where to begin…” I spent the next few hours trying to explain that while was still human I was also more than human and that I was still in the process of discovering everything myself, I told them that my physical abilities are so much greater than others because my body had adapted to climates and conditions far less hospitable for humankind and my coming here had strengthened my body in ways I couldn’t imagine. What I kept out though was that I was from another Time and everything that Copper Knight had told me, both about himself and what had happened on that mountain. “Well seeing as you don’t know everything yourself we’ll just have to be patient until you do and of course we’ll offer any support you may need.” the Archmage finally said breaking the silence following my explanation. The others also seemed to accept this and began to leave, the Head Knight lingered however. “I still expect you to participate in the Star arena for us only now I expect you to win.” and with that he left allowing me no chance for a rebuttal. I was allowed no further visitors until my release the next day. After my release everyone in the academy treated me differently many of them had seen me take down the demon as they fled, the rest had heard the rumours, they all kept their distance from me and refused to talk or train with me, my bunk mates all requested transfers to other rooms leaving me alone in the room. I felt like the academy’s pariah. A week passed and as usual I sat on the hill and watched as the other knights sparred with each other, watched as they attempted to counter the other’s moves and failing, the damage to the academy was almost completely repaired now, I lay back to watch the clouds drift by and try and find shapes within them when someone sat next to me, I looked to see Lady Jasmin had joined me in cloud watching this seemed to cause quite the stir among the others as they all seemed to take in a collective gasping breath at the scene, pathetic wretches I thought. Lady Jasmin whispered to me “How’s it going? You still preparing for the star arena?” “Can’t exactly train when nobody will come within 10 feet of me.” I said in an aggravated tone, “even the team want nothing to do with me so I don’t see how we’ll be ready for the Arena.” “Well then…” Lady Jasmin said as she got back up to her feet and brushed the blades of grass off herself, “shall we have a little sparring match then?” I was taken aback I hadn’t expected to have anyone to spar with and now Lady Jasmin wants to spar with me, according to the intel I’d gathered on her, before nobody would speak to me, she’d never sparred with anyone since she came to academy 5 years ago. With a smirk on my face I took her up on her offer and we headed down to the training ground. The knight pair who were using it at the time immediately stepped off as Lady Jasmin waved them away, the class didn’t leave however they all were far too anxious to see this match. Lady Jasmin and I both took a wooden sword but no shield or armour for that matter, we took our positions and readied ourselves, I let her make the first move, she lunged at me with incredible speed making it hard to dodge but I managed to avoid the strike by twisting my body which left her sword gliding past, she was so fast however that my strike was blocked by her returning sword, I could tell she was an incredible fighter but there was something that was bothering me about her fighting style. She and I were quite evenly matched in terms of skill this made for a long match, a large crowd had gathered very quickly once our match had begun but neither of us cared about that we were solely focused on the match and trying to beat the other. Each time one of us managed to get the upper hand the other would somehow reverse it and we’d be left at a stalemate, our sparring match then turned into an endurance match whoever ran out of steam first would lose. I don’t know how much time passed by the end but we were both exhausted and the match ended in a draw. For some reason after that the rest of the students began to trust me again, the team even asked to move into my room with me so we could strategize and work on our teamwork. In the end we chose Harriet Miolo to join us because her creation was not only of better quality but it also gave a better indication of what she was capable of whereas Julian’s showed a lack of fluidity in his way of thinking and imagination. The team and I spent a lot of time together in preparation for the Arena, the Knight’s, Jake, Rupert, David, Balthazar and I would spar whilst also teaching each other new techniques, the Mages, Julie, Phoebe and Harriet would train to strengthen and widen their spell repertoire as well as linking their spells together with our skills, it was amazing how close we’d all become even after everything that went down before. I was feeling confident about our chances at the Arena, that was until we got there and saw our competition. 12 teams in total had gathered for the Star Arena challenge and many of them were specialists in their fields, there was a team of assassins from the southern wildlands, a team of barbarians from the western mountains, 2 teams from our Academy’s biggest rival: Blade and Wands school of combat and magic, the other teams were comprised of ordinary citizens. Our team was the youngest and this made the rest of the team feel a little insecure but once the opening ceremonies were over and we were taken to our chambers I tried to ease their unease. Turns out I didn’t need to as it was all an act to deceive the opponents. The lots were revealed the next morning, our first opponents were going to be the team of citizens from the city of Nu-Grune, we didn’t have much information to go on about them since Nu-Grune is such a xenophobic state refusing to trade or engage in negotiations with other countries or kingdoms. Since the Nu-Grunians were the visitors they had the choice of match type, there were 4 categories to choose from; Solo, Paired, Group or Team. The Nu-Grune team chose a Paired match which involved a series of 2 on 2 fights, I held back with Harriet to watch and analyse the opponents during the other’s matches. The arena was shaped like a pentacle to resemble the Star upon which it is named, the crowds were roaring overhead on all five sides as the first members of each team stepped out into to the arena, it was almost deafening but the matches went on unabated, there wasn’t long to wait before it was mine and Harriet’s turn our team having only won 1 of our matches leaving it up to us to tie or we’d be out of the competition in the first stage. Harriet and I stepped out into the arena the sandstone floor was rough under foot and the sun blazed down on us, I felt sorry for Harriet in her dark robes for she must have been utterly boiling in there, but before the match started she surprised me by throwing off her robe like a cloak revealing a form fitting dress of sorts, I assumed she’d used magic to somehow weave together the fabric into a kind of suit of armour but would also be fashionable enough to be worn outside, however she did it she looked good in it and obviously ready to fight. I turned to assess our opponents, one was a muscular guy wielding a pair of Tonfa while the other seemed to be unarmed but I could sense the magic swirling around her, she was a mage like Harriet and I suspected that she would play a similar role as Harriet in this fight. It was going to come down to me and the Tonfa guy while the mages augmented us with enchantments, Harriet and I had a plan for this scenario. I charged their line drawing the attention of the Tonfa wielder who leapt to the defense of the mage but I ducked under his block to kick some sand at the mage which put her off balance long enough for Harriet to cast a magical binding spell on her effectively taking her out of the equation, the Tonfa wielder swung at my head which I just managed to duck under taking a sweeping kick at his legs to counter, unfortunately his reaction speed was faster than I had hoped and he jumped over my attack, whilst in mid-air he used a secret weapon built into his tonfa that fired a projectile at Harriet which exploded in a cloud of black smoke, Harriet screamed as the poison flooded her lungs before falling unconscious, a brief flash of rage rose up within me but I fought it back. With Harriet down her binding spell wore off and the mage was back in action, the odds were not in my favour 2 on 1 would be enough to make anyone concerned but I was determined to win so I muttered the secret spell that Harriet and the other girls taught me which activated the enchantments on my armour, a glyph glowed on my bracers, boots and helmet, my strength and agility were boosted tapping into the power that helped me to kill the demon back at the academy. I surged forward leaving a cloud of dust behind, my speed was too much for the pair of Nu-Grunians as I punched them in the guts which sent them flying out of the ring making us the victors tying our overall score with theirs. Due to the tie a tie-breaker match was needed to decide which team would proceed to the next round a solo match between the team captains was chosen, since I was team captain I was up once again, their team captain was a sword fighter from the second round, I’d seen his skill from the sidelines and it was impressive. Going up against him was both exhilarating and terrifying my heart was pounding in my chest as I picked up one of the three swords I had forged for this, its silver inlay flowed from the yellow gemstone set in the pommel through the hilt and into the cloud shaped guard. It was a sword of standard length with a hand and a half hilt allowing me to use it with 1 or 2 hands, I chose to not to use a shield this time as it would have gotten in the way for what I had planned. I stepped back out into the arena with sword sheathed at my waist and was greeted by a tumultuous roar of exhilaration from the crowd, they were clearly looking forward to this, I walked over to the combat area and greeted my opponent with the customary bow to which he responded in kind before we both took up our positions, he was a large muscular man wielding a large broadsword, his armour left his muscular arms exposed which allowed for greater ease of movement, his face was covered by his helmet except for his eyes which were a fierce shade of green. The battle was fierce from the get go as the Nu-Grunian charged straight at me with sword level for a lunge at my chest, I spun left and deflected his sword at the same time, we continued to exchange blows like that for a while but I could tell his aim was to drive me back so I’d step out of the combat area and be disqualified, I wasn’t about to allow that but I waited until I was almost at the edge before I unleashed my secret weapon, the magic stored in the gem of my sword. My next block caused my opponent to retreat a couple steps because the blade of my sword was now charged with lightning that conducted through his when they connected, it was now my turn to go on the offensive, my sword hissed through the air as the lightning discharged slightly leaving a white contrail with each sword swing, it wasn’t long before I’d sent the Nu-Grunian’s sword flying from his grip and had my sword at his throat leaving him no choice but to surrender. The first round of the competition was ours, we’d made it through the first day but our celebrations were to be short lived. Later that evening the team and I were out at one of the local bars sharing celebratory drinks and joking about how each other did in the competition several people in the bar were also impressed with our performance and congratulated us by buying us a drink or 2, the bar slowly emptied as the night wore on until one of the other teams burst in roaring in celebrations of their own, we decided to allow them to celebrate in peace and left the bar to return to the arena’s sponsored Inn where we had rooms booked for our stay. Something felt amiss on the journey back, like there was a presence following us or stalking us, I seemed to be the only one who noticed and so I sent the others ahead while I confronted whatever it was that was tailing us. I didn’t tell them the true reason for sending them ahead instead choosing to give some stupid excuse about leaving my money pouch at the bar, once the others were far enough out of sight and earshot I threw off my cloak ready for a confrontation. I looked around but saw nothing but empty streets and closed shops, suddenly there was a flash of movement and the presence took on a new tone filled with bloodlust which let me sense where the first attack was going to come from, I spun around just in time to block a slash at my neck as the assassin came flying at me from the rooftops, the darkness of the street was an ally to the assassin as they blended into the shadows between each attack, they were swift, able to attack from different angles with only a couple seconds in between. The fight seemed to be one of attrition as the assassin attempted to wear me down with swift but weak attacks from multiple angles, I was just about to launch a counter attack when “Hey...Captain! What’s taking so long??” came ringing through the darkness as Harriet came trotting back down the street towards me, I sensed the shift in the assassin’s bloodlust as they targeted Harriet and knew I had to move fast or else. I powered up my glyphs and sped to Harriet’s aid just in time to take the hit for her, the dagger was sharp and went deep into my back “GAH YOU BASTARD!!” I roared as the pain of the blade was suddenly augmented by the poison, to her credit Harriet was quick to react and spouted spell after spell which flurried into a stream of attacks that made the assassin flee, my consciousness was fading as Harriet called for the rest of the team who came running, I don’t remember much about what happened next but I do remember panicked voices and lots of pain, when my consciousness faded to black I found myself in the clearing, the silver flames had once again altered their form. I was now staring at a humanoid form made of silver flame this time I could hear its words far more clearly and it spoke with such a commanding authoritative voice that I felt compelled to obey when it said “Sit”. this must have been a deep level of my subconscious as the pain seemed far less severe but that didn’t last as the poison continued to spread through my body, “I see you have been poisoned how unfortunate, fortunately you have me too bad you’ve been ignorant of the power inside you, now we have time to talk.” said the flame man. “Who are you and what do you mean? You mean you can save me from this poison? If that’s so then do it.” “Not so fast, you and I need to discuss the abuse of my power you’ve been facilitating up to now, I’m not happy with the way you’ve been using my power, I bonded with you because there was a trait in your soul that is extremely rare but you’ve become reliant on the magic of others which is extremely rude to one such as me, you need training on how to use my power properly. Not only that but you need to find the others especially since you’ve wasted so much time playing at knighthood, if He shows up before you’re ready then everything is over.” “What do you mean? Who’s He? And what do you mean use your power properly?” “Up to now you’ve been using basic enhancements to strengthen your body but there’s so much more you can do with my power if you know how, you’ll need these powers and others if you hope to face what’s coming. Now let’s sort that poison out shall we.” “Wait who are you?” “Oh right I’m the Silver Spirit of Lethurial - Silvarian.” My consciousness returned to reality and I no longer felt the poison corrupting my insides instead there was a dull ache in my lower back where the knife had pierced me, I found myself laid out face down and shirtless on someone’s dining table, several exhausted people were strewn around the table, apparently they’d been restraining me while the doctor worked but it hadn’t been an easy task, I tried to move and was rewarded with a sharp pain in my back for my efforts however it wasn’t enough to stop me but my efforts had awoken those around me and they leapt to my aid, there was the guys from the team as well as our teams healing mage Julie, they helped me off the table and onto a stool, they were all rather concerned when they looked at me or it might have been fear or some combination of the two for I could see in their eyes that something had happened and they didn’t understand it. I asked Julie what happened and she told me that after Harriet had driven the assassin away they had all come running to my rescue only to find me dying from the poison, they carried me to the nearest doctors and watched as the doctor tried medicine after medicine all to no avail, Julie helped out with every healing spell she knew but nothing seemed to work every attempt caused intense seizures and it took the help of all the guys to hold me down, she and the doctor tried everything but nothing they did worked and soon my heart stopped and I apparently died, that was hard to swallow I mean nobody wants to hear that they died on the operating table but what’s most surprising was she told me next, she said that after my heart stopped and they couldn’t save me a strange symbol appeared on my chest and from it came a kind of energy fabric which cocooned me, the fabric looked like silver but stung like lightning when they tried to touch it, I was only in the cocoon for a couple minutes before it disintegrated and the symbol disappeared, leaving me completely healed with barely even a scar that was when I’d woken up as if from a dream. Hearing her story made me think that there was more to this bond with Silvarian than Copper Knight had lead me to believe, regardless there wasn’t much time. The Sun had risen and we were needed at the arena for the next round of the tournament we decided to keep everything quiet and asked the Doctor to do the same. The rush through the streets back to the arena was painful on my weakened body and we got some strange looks from people we passed as the whole team rushed past with me still being shirtless, there were several ladies however that seemed to enjoy the look at my muscular physique. We made it back to the arena just in time for the opening ceremony and the selection of match types, our opponents this time were the barbarians from the western mountains, since both teams were from the same country the decision as to which team picks the type of match was left to a coin toss, unfortunately we lost the coin toss but fortunately the barbarians chose one on one matches which gave me the time I needed to rest up and recover my strength. By the time my match was up we’d only lost 1 round the barbarians were vicious but undisciplined losing their cool over small things which gave my team all the openings they needed to win except for poor Phoebe she was unlucky that the glare from the sun reflected off the barbarians axe and momentarily blinded her which caused the spell she was casting to misfire and blow her out of bounds. Since the barbarians had no mages among them they were practically defenceless against ours which gave us 2 easy wins, the knights were also able to win their matches though with somewhat more difficulty, finally my round was up and I was recovered enough to participate, as I stepped out into the arena the crowd roared in delight hoping for another display of my fantastical power, the battle began and right away something was off, my sword felt too light in my hand and my attacks kept going wide, fortunately my reflexes were fast enough to dodge the counter attacks but I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this up so I leapt back to create some space between us and tossed my sword aside, to everyone’s surprise the barbarian also tossed his weapon, he told me later that it went against his honour to fight an unarmed opponent with a weapon, our fight continued fist on fist the barbarians bulging muscles gave him the edge in strength but I was faster, despite this my blows were seemingly having little to no effect on the larger man, I ducked under his sweeping arm and spin kicked his legs out from under him and he fell hard on to his backside I stood fists raised and ready to continue the fight but for some reason the barbarian surrendered. The crowd erupted in a tumultuous roar as the announcer declared me the victor. Our team had made it to the semi-finals and we celebrated hard but no-one could foresee what was coming. There were 4 teams left for the semi-finals; mine, the assassins, and both teams from our rival academy, when we stepped out into the arena for the day’s opening ceremony the announcer declared that today was special as we were to be observed by 2 very special guests, the King of Median and the Iron Knight. The King wore quite the opulent regal outfit of blue silks with the golden symbol of Median embossed upon it, Iron Knight however was wearing his armour which was a dull blue almost black but it was covered in intricate runic symbols that blended into the metal so that it looked like they were part of the metal itself. We were asked to line up for them as they walked around us all inspecting us for something, we didn’t know what. Iron Knight stopped on me and gave me a stern look, I could see his eyes behind his helmet and they showed such contempt that it made me angry, I wanted to lash out but decided against it when the King called over to him asking if he’d found anything, Iron Knight took a second to stare at me some more before answering in a deep voice “No, nothing conclusive. Let them continue.” and with that the king and Iron Knight removed themselves from the field and disappeared into the crowds. Since 2 of the remaining teams were from the same school it was decided that each would face off against 1 of the other remaining teams, I had hoped to face the assassin team because I suspected that it was one of them who had poisoned me a couple of days earlier, but it was not to be. With only our 4 teams remaining the arena underwent a shift and the combat floor was split in 2 so that both matches could be held simultaneously. Each team took their positions at either end of their assigned field and made final preparations for combat. As we stepped out for our team on team battle there was a huge impact on the other field that caused a huge dust cloud to cover the entire arena, I remember the sting in my eyes as the dust washed over me, all of a sudden a deep voice resounded through the entire arena “EVERYBODY OUT RIGHT NOW!!!!” a shadow appeared in the dust cloud and a low rumbling growl made my bones vibrate, suddenly the air was filled with deafening screams of terror as the crowds ran for their lives, the dust cleared enough for me to see what had crashed and it wasn’t a meteorite, it was a Felinus demon Tiger-like in appearance but the size of a bus, it’s barbed scythe-like tail whipped back and forth, it’s powerful claws gouging into the ground, it’s savage fangs bared and already bloody from a fresh kill, but the most terrifying part about this demon were its eyes, a fierce yellow-gold colour that glowed slightly with bloodlust and pure animalistic rage. The teams from our rival academy were frozen in fear when one of them from my side screamed in horror as she saw who the demon had murdered on impact the captain of the other team and, as I later found out, her lover. That scream was more than enough to shake me out of whatever grip my own fears held me in and I leapt into action, I called out to my team and shouted out a series of orders for them to follow which helped to pull them out of their own fear trances, “Rupert... Take Julie and Phoebe and help protect the civilians while they escape, Harriet cast as many defensive wards as you can around that thing while Jake David Balthazar and I keep it distracted.” to their credit my team leapt to action without complaint, the other team however were far less capable. “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t fight that thing! We have to run!” called out the captain of Blade and Wands Team B nicknamed the Bulwarks, I picked up my red and yellow magic swords and strapped them to my back they still felt a little light but I had nothing else so they would have to do. “What do you think I’m doing!? I’m going to keep that thing distracted until the crowds have made it out because that’s what a Knight is supposed to do!! What the fuck are you gonna do leave your friends to die because you were too busy shitting yourself!!? Not me. I refuse to allow people to suffer and die when I know I could do something to prevent it. Now if you’re done wasting time either fuck off or help us!!” I shouted back at them making sure that I made myself heard by their whole team and my own. With my team ready we cleared the gap that separated the combat fields and entered the fray, the assassin team had gotten away but the blade and wands team A were still scattered around the field shaking in fear or crying out for someone to save them, with all my enchantments powered up I sped as fast as I could to the aid of the nearest person just in time to deflect a savage attack from the demons tail that would have cleaved them in two “RUN!!” I yelled at the them while blocking another tail swing, Iron Knight arrived a few seconds later wielding a massive hammer that looked unwieldy for a normal human, he also told us to run but I refused as I dashed to the next person in trouble sweeping her up in my arms as her leg was injured, fortunately by this time the Bulwarks had gathered their courage and joined the fray, their mages had erected barriers to shield the wounded while their only healer worked on plying her craft, their knights had joined the fray by helping to escort the wounded and any other unfortunate soul caught in the crossfire out to safety, Harriet was doing an excellent job laying wards down that would keep the demon contained however her power wasn’t strong enough to keep it contained for long. Balthazar got hit and was flung across the gap fortunately his armour took the brunt of the damage and he was left with only a cut across his back, the mages got him to the “safe-zone” for lack of a better word, the battle seemed to go on and on, Iron Knight had managed to shatter many of the demons claws with his huge hammer. The demons howls were almost ear shattering and in the daze it caused it managed to take out Jake and Iron Knight, I released the magic in my swords which caused them to flow with their assigned elemental property, one sword erupted in flame while the other sparked with lightning, seemingly drawn by the magic the demon began to focus its attention on me, thanks to my enchantments I was fast enough to keep dodging or blocking its attacks, David tried to cut at its legs while I kept it distracted but it’s hide was too dense that his sword broke on impact, a swift kick later and David was down for the count, once again it was down to me and the demon, Harriet tried to rush over to our side of the arena to help but I yelled at her not to, instead I yelled one of our code words the team and I planned up for different attack strategies, “FLASHBANG!!” immediately Harriet stopped in her tracks and aimed both hands at the demon's head muttering a spell as a ball of white light formed in her hands, she then fired that ball at the demon while I simultaneously poured all my strength into my legs and jumped, with my enchantments I was able to leap 20 feet into the air, the ball of light then exploded in a blinding white flash which made the demon whimper as its senses were momentarily crippled a moment later I came crashing down on the demon’s head and I plunged my swords into its eyes and emptying all the magic within to fry and cook it’s brain which resulted in a piercing scream of agony from the demon before it slumped to the ground dead. The use of so much magical energy left me drained and I fell from the demons corpse only to be caught by Iron Knight who had recovered enough to move again, he propped me up against the demon’s leg and I allowed myself to relax which is when the smells and pain washed over me, the smell of blood was heavy on the air and my whole body sang out in agony from the vast usage of my magical energy, I knew that with enough rest the pain would subside and I was happy to take as much time as necessary. The others that weren’t still undergoing healing in the protective bubble began to crowd around me to show their awe and appreciation, Iron Knight stepped between us and demanded a private chat with me, in my agonised state I was in no position to escape and so the others grudgingly departed to check on their injured comrades, Harriet lingered the longest and muttered a prayer of thanks, though I know not which deity she prayed to, before she too left me and Iron Knight alone. There were very few times I’d felt intimidated in my time in this world but being alone with Iron Knight as he glowered down at me with those fierce brown eyes of his still showing such contempt that it made a twinge of anger rise in my heart, “Tell me, how is it you knew how to take down a Felinus demon, one of the top five strongest demons, so easily?” he asked, his voice showing a hint of anger as he says the word “you”. “I know a thing or two about anatomy and I could see that our attacks were having little to no effect on its hide so I went for the only place that had softer tissue which also connected to its brain and by destroying the brain I also destroyed the demon.” “There are only a few Knights that can also use magic but none can use it to the degree that you just did, so it leads me to believe that you are indeed the one I came here to see. Tell me which spirit lies within you?” Sighing I answered him “Silvarian, and am I to assume that a similar spirit dwells within you also? The Iron spirit of Lethurial?” “Ironargos, yes. What form does Silvarian take when you encounter him?” “Form? He takes the form of silver fire in the shape of a man, I suspect it to be a remnant of the previous Silver Knight’s image that he holds on to, or it could be that he chooses this form to ease the attempts at communication.” “Now tell me, where are you from? You speak as though you were a well-educated mage or lord and yet there is no lordly presence about you and neither a mage nor lord would put themselves in harm’s way the way you do, so I wish to know where you are from and why it is that you show traits not seen in these lands for many years. And how it was that you were able to awaken Silvarian from his slumber when countless others have tried and failed” “That’s because I’m not from these lands, possibly not even from this world, I have yet to determine that fact yet, but where I’m from is somewhere I doubt you could imagine, we call it Earth and the year when I left was 2143, our knowledge was so vast that we were able to build cities that spanned thousands of miles and reached hundreds of thousands of feet into the sky, we were so advanced in our technology that we were reaching to the stars as our next great step for humanity, however the industry that drove us through our advancements had left in its wake a polluted form of air that was slowly weakening us. When I first arrived here in this world I was overwhelmed at the purity of the air because my body had adapted to the polluted air of my homeworld that’s why even without training or weaponry I was stronger than most people here. I still haven’t worked out how it was I came here but since I am here there must be a way for me to return home, which is what I was hoping the Star Shard of this arena would allow me to do but now all this happened and I doubt I’ll find out now.” “So you claim to be from some other world and that is what allowed you to break the seal on the slumbering Silvarian?” “I claim nothing but the truth, as to this “breaking the seal on Silvarian” stuff you keep spouting I have no idea, I was in the middle of a battle with a demon when something struck me and bonded with me on such a deep level that it goes beyond what I can describe though from what Copper Knight told me afterwards that was most likely when Silvarian and I became one.” “Copper Knight!! When was this!?” “About a year ago he was the one who saved me from the demon after I took a hard hit and was injured. He told me how he and the rest of you became what you are though he left out certain details like your identities and what actually happened during the Dark war.” “I cannot tell you much more than he did but I can tell you that my name is Gregor and I stand as guardian over this world and its people. I fought in the Dark war and offer you my aid should the time come, take this,” he handed me a chunk of his Iron which felt almost fluid in my hand, almost like a water balloon, “this will allow you to contact me over great distances. Now I would suggest you get some training in how to use Silvarian’s power properly after all he was the second most powerful of us, you should also go see Layla she’ll be able to help teach you. Let’s see, around this time of year her people should be somewhere on the western side of the Garathan riverlands look there and tell the guards that Ironargos sends you to see Zuriah.” his eyes and posture lightened up all throughout our conversation and I had a feeling that what I’d read as contempt was actually something very different. “Can you give me a second…? HARRIET!!!” at my shout a cry of shock and pain came from the nearby collection of people, Harriet came over with a guilty expression and mannerisms indicating that she had been eavesdropping on us using a magic device and spell. She muttered an apology but quickly put more force into it when Gregor reprimanded her but I admired her curiosity and her gall at trying to eavesdrop on someone as famous as Iron Knight. What she’d heard obviously affected her as well though not in the way I would’ve expected in fact it seemed to increase her already blooming infatuation with me, she looked at me with such awe in her eyes that they seemed to glisten as though she were gazing upon a personal idol, it felt very uncomfortable. “Harriet you do know what the term “private” means right?” she nodded “then what would lead you to believe that eavesdropping on us was a wise decision?” she shuffled and squirmed under my and Gregor’s combined scrutiny but gave no answer other than that she was sorry, with a heavy sigh I said “as long as you tell no one of what you heard then I might be willing to overlook this incident but be warned against doing anything like it again, understood!?” she gave one final enthusiastic nod before escaping. The King was the next to approach us demanding a report on what happened and how many we lost, taking a long look at the pink glowing bubble of healing energy enveloping the injured. I could feel myself slipping into unconsciousness as Gregor recounted the events of the battle, I battled the urge to sleep until we were done with the King but it was proving more and more difficult as the report went on and I collapsed when Gregor was mid-sentence. I found myself standing in the crater once again this time lined by silver flames, Silvarian was waiting for me in the centre of the crater. “Ironargos is right in the fact that you need more training in wielding my power,” Silvarian said in his deep rumbling voice which carried a hint of affection “but what they don't know is that I was never sealed away, I was wondering the world with my mind in search of a worthy candidate to become my vessel and grant my powers to.” “So you dragged me here just to tell me that! I was in the middle of a report to the King and you pulled me into this dreamscape to tell me that Iron Knight was wrong on 1 aspect of our conversation!? That's not ok you know, if you need to speak with me then do so at a more appropriate time!” I said my annoyance plain in my voice. “Well perhaps if you weren't so guarded all the time then I wouldn't have to bring you here by force, we could contact each other in the waking world if you weren't so blocked off and stubborn!” Silvarian’s flames became larger and more intense as the anger in his voice grew. “Go ahead! Attack me but we both know that you need me in order to live, you said it yourself you were searching for a compatible host and since that search lasted 100 years and only came to fruition when I arrived in this world means that you didn't have any other options for 'worthy’ candidates and based on the way you bonded with me it's not something easily reversible, which means that you and I are stuck with each other so I suggest you stop trying to control me or you'll find out that I'm not anything like those you bonded with before!” My outburst seemed to have shocked Silvarian into obedience and he returned to his original size and intensity. “Fine.” and with that I was ejected from the dreamscape and returned to the conscious world. What I found on my return was a circle of the Kings soldiers surrounding me with weapons pointed at me and Gregor shielding the King behind the line of soldiers. “What's going on?” I asked feeling the tension in the air as the soldiers tightened their grips on their spears at every one of my movements. Seeing that I was genuinely confused Gregor approached me but I noted his readiness to leap away at the first sign of danger. “You fell unconscious and then your power started to become unstable and almost killed the King, the soldiers came to restrain you but by the time they arrived you were stable again, what happened? Why did Silvarian lash out?” “He dragged me into his realm while we were reporting to the King to correct one of your statements from our last conversation, I took offense to that action and he lashed out attempted to frighten me with his powers, I fought him down and then he kicked me back here. I sincerely apologise for any harm I caused.” “I take it that you are another Knight like Iron Knight correct?” the regal voice of the King came ringing through the air as he emerged from the protective line of soldiers, all of whom raised their spears in an instant. “If that is the case then I would greatly desire your employ, as incentive I would be willing to offer you a Lordship and significant sums of gold as payment for your services. What say you?” After taking a few moments to consider the offer I said “My apologies your Majesty but I cannot accept such an offer at this time, as you no doubt witnessed I have incomplete control over my power and as such cannot enter the employ of any monarch or other dignitary for risk of endangering them, their families or the citizens should I lose control again. I intend to seek out those that can offer me sufficient training to control this power and once that is complete then I may seek a benefactor, if I come before you again at such a time I may be willing to take you up on such an offer but as it stands now I dare not.” The King understood but the disappointment was plain in his eyes, he simply said “Then I wish you well in your training.” before he and the soldiers left the arena and disappeared. After spending a couple days recovering my strength and gathering supplies I was ready to begin my journey, but before I left the Inn the organiser of the arena came to me and told me that due to our actions during the demon attack our team was deemed the victor and thus offered the Star Shard, he handed me a small ornate box decorated with a star symbol of pure gold on the lid, however when I opened it contained within was the shattered remains of a star shaped ruby, if it ever held any magical power then it was long since lost, I thanked him before handing the box back to him and asked him to give it to the one of the others as I was going on a journey. It was a sunny morning as I left the arena town, the birds were chirping in the trees and the breeze was gentle, according to the map I purchased from the innkeeper it was a 2 week trek on foot to the Huteran Mountains and a further week trek from there to the Garathan riverlands. The first week passed without incident until I passed the village of Juvis. The night was dark and cold as I finished preparing my campsite, my tent was up and I was about to light the fire when the peace of the cold night air was disrupted by the scream of a maiden in distress, I leapt into action the moment I heard it, running in the direction it came from, I felt the ground soften and the brush whip at my skin. The brush gave way and I charged out into a grassy clearing where a young girl, mid to late teens at first glance, was tied to a post surrounded by a group of violet robed cultists chanting a spell of some sort as there was a dimly glowing spell circle surrounding the group, I could tell by the seeming use of human sacrifice and the colour of the circle that this was not a good kind of spell, in fact if I had to guess I would say that it was a dark summoning ritual. I charged at the group just as the ritual leader was pulling the ritual knife from its sheath but before he could use it he was met with my fist in his face. The surprise radiated through the cultists like a pulse wave as they got to their feet and began to charge at me seeking revenge for my disruption of their ritual, one by one I knocked them down until they were all lying on the ground, it had been some time since I had been that physical and it left me quite tired but I still had work to do. I freed the girl from the bonds that held her but rather than showing gratitude she attacked me then fled into the woods. I made my way back to my campsite but it was slow going in the dark since I couldn’t see where I was putting my feet, more than once did I trip and stumble, what took a mere minute or so to traverse in the urgency of my attempt at rescue took almost 20 minutes to retrace at a more leisurely pace. As I approached my campsite the darkness was disrupted by the warm glow of a fire which I definitely hadn’t lit before I’d left, I drew my sword, a simple piece of iron that I’d bought before I departed on this adventure since my magic ones were either broken or lost in the confusion of the demon attack at the arena, as quietly as possible I crept towards the edge of the trees, my heart beat a little faster as I got closer to the light that almost poured through the great oak trees that were my cover, my grip tightened as I reached the last tree to hide behind and peaked out to see who was at my campsite, at first I saw no one but then there was movement from my tent and I leapt from my concealment shouting with sword raised, “OI ASSHOLE!! COME HERE!!!” and my unwanted guest emerged from the tent with a startled look on her face, her auburn hair was a mess from trekking through the countryside, her jade eyes were wide with fear and surprise and the basket she carried hit the floor with a thud spilling all my dirty clothes into the dirt. “Dammit Harriet! What the hell are you doing here!?” “W-well my lord…” she stammered as she bent to pick up my laundry as I sheathed my sword, “After the arena incident and your departure were reported to the academy it was determined that someone had to find and accompany you in order to document your journey and to provide escort, I was the one chosen to come. I’ve been tracking you for 4 days now.” “Ok, now tell me the real reason you’re here.” “But-” “The real reason Harriet.” I said staring straight into her eyes, judging every comment she made. “Because… because you saved us all when you took down those demons at the academy and the arena, and while I may have been of some slight help with that last one I still owe you, because of you my friend was saved and we were able to stay together.” “So how long have you and Julie been an item?” “Wha-how did you know!!? I mean we’re not! What gave you that idea!?” “I’ve known for some time and so has the rest of the team, you’re not exactly subtle in your affections towards her, but if you feel so strongly about her why did you come all this way alone?” “Remember what I overheard at the arena? The part about you being from another world, well my research project at the academy was on the existence of otherworldly beings like you and for you to actually exist here in the flesh was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, after all I’ve spent years on this project. Julie understood for she too has a project she’s spent years working on.” I'd forgotten how dedicated to their projects mages were, they were true academics. I chose not to inquire about Julie's project and gave up on trying to convince Harriet to go back to the academy without me, I let myself rest in the warm glow of the fire she had set and eventually found comfort in the embrace of sleep. I awoke early and saw that Harriet had fallen asleep sometime after me because the dirty laundry was now dry and the fire had died down to mere embers softly glowing in the twilight of sunrise, I got up and did my morning exercises far enough away from camp so as to allow Harriet to rest undisturbed, as I finished my last cool down stretches I could see Harriet standing against a nearby tree with her gaze fixed on me, with my shirt hanging from a branch nearby she had a full view of my muscular chest along with the scars I'd earned from all my battles and from training both at the academy and elsewhere, but what drew her attention most was the symbol tattooed onto my chest, the vertical line down my sternum encompassed by two concentric rings of black and white, the symbol that marked me as a host of a spirit of Lethurial, specifically the silver spirit Silvarian. The symbol first appeared after the fight in the arena or more specifically my argument with Silvarian, but I already knew it for what it was, I can't explain how I knew, it was instinctual like how you know instinctively how to breathe. Harriet stood watching as I put my shirt back on, the chill in the air was starting to bite at my skin, it wasn't until I got closer to her that I found she'd been writing notes the whole time but she refused to allow me reading privileges, leaving the matter alone we returned to camp and packed up to continue on our journey. That afternoon we came across a rundown village that looked like it should have been abandoned but we saw recent signs of activity, we approached the main gate where Harriet was repelled by a magical barrier of some sort but I was able to pass through unhindered, a wall of yellow light blocked every one of Harriet's attempts to pass. Harriet explained that a barrier of this magnitude had to have a source nearby so I went off in search of it, the buildings were all in such sorry states of disrepair that they gave off a menacing presence, burnt out wrecks of walls and crumbling shacks littered the overgrown paths of this dilapidated husk of a village, a blur of movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention and I swung around just in time to deflect a knife thrown at my chest, before the knife hit the ground a dozen or so beings leapt from the crumbling ruins, they wore masks made of wood and bone and wore tattered rags and straw clothes, they carried an array of tools fashioned into weapons. They charged to surround me screaming battle wails and flailing their makeshift weapons at me, a sharpened hoe came hurtling down towards my shoulder which I twisted to avoid before thrusting my fist into its wielder's chest leaving him wincing and crumpled on the ground, a shovel came swinging at my legs, I jumped over the attack and scissor kicked the attacker along with another beside him. As soon as I landed I was struck by another attacker with a plank of wood, lucky shot in my opinion because it caught me on the back of the head disorienting me just long enough for the rest of them to swamp me disarm me and bind my hands and feet before rendering me unconscious. When I awoke I was in a large open chamber with dozens of people who were seemingly praying, a rhythmic chanting in a low monotone was resonating through the cavernous chamber as the dozens of people knelt and worshipped the object in the centre of the chamber. I turned my head and saw the object of their worship, a stone lantern the size of a small car, contained within was a bright yellow flame that flared brightly as the chant continued. It was fairly obvious that this was the power source Harriet mentioned, but I could sense something else about it, it was vague like looking through fog but I could see that the flame within the lantern was not normal. A few moments later several of the worshippers grasped me and lead me to alter where the lantern stood and the one that was leading the ritual awaited. He was wearing a cloak made of long grass and his mask was engraved with numerous markings, his remaining attire consisted of a loincloth and a leather strap across his chest which held a ritualistic dagger, I stood before him as he spoke to the congregation in the unusual language that seemed to be the norm here, once he had finished speaking he took the dagger and cut open my shirt and in the same motion turned back to the gathering who were collectively holding their breath at the sight of the symbol on my chest, however the leader panicked and pushed me away which lead me to fall back into the opening of the lantern, I was engulfed in the yellow flames and thought Shit! I can’t die here can I?! It took a couple seconds before I realised that the flames weren’t burning me, rather I was floating in them like I would in the sea, that was when I felt it, a consciousness reaching desperately to mine, there was no words passed between us but this entity was crying for my help, I could just feel it. I’ve no idea how long I floated in the flames but I was eventually ejected and returned to the cavernous chamber full of worshippers, judging by their confused demeanours it must have been no more than a minute and that nobody else had ever survived entering the flames. I grabbed the nearest weapon, since my hands were no longer bound because the ropes binding them had burned away in the flames, what could best be described as a sledge hammer, the crowd gasped and began moving to stop me from bludgeoning the priest to death, tempted as it was to do just that my target was something else, the lantern. I struck the lantern with enough force that would have shattered the bones of any person unfortunate enough to get in the way, the stonework of the lantern cracked and the flames grew agitated. I struck it a further 2 times before the crowds bundled me trying to stop me, with each strike the flames grew brighter and more intense, the crowd was too late for the damage had been done, the lantern exploded leaving a mass of flames that threatened to lash out at anyone nearby. The crowd fled several yards away but didn’t flee completely, the flame began to coalesce into a more solid mass until it transformed into a young girl, she was garbed in a red and orange petticoat with brown shorts, her hair was a stunning cacophony of vibrant reds and yellows that gave the same appearance of the fire that she had been moments before, protruding from her hair was a pair of fox ears coupled with a fox’s tail protruding from her lower back, they seemed real by the way they moved as she did. Her eyes were a brilliant hue of gold and she stared intently at the crowd of her former captors. I was shocked by her appearance that I stood there motionless as she slowly walked over to the crowd her yellow flames beginning to swirl around her arms, a few seconds later I realised what she was about to do and as much as I thought it justified I still had to stop her, I reached out and placed my hand on her shoulder and she whipped her head round to stare at me but despite the anger in her eyes she began to calm down and the radiance in her eyes dimmed. Despite her human appearance it was plain to see, by her powers and animalistic features that she was definitely not human. Of all the people I'd met in my time here I’d never seen another being like her, once she'd calmed down we walked hand in hand to the exit, the cultists, for want of a better word, didn't take that very well and tried to stop us, at that moment a bolt of lightning arced its way over our heads and divided to shock all of the front row of the crowd of pursuers, we turned to see Harriet in the cave tunnel wielding her mage staff, an old oaken branch inscribed with numerous runes with a large amber jewel set in the head, her hand outstretched in channelling the spell “Run!” she called so I hoisted the girl into my arms and sprinted down the tunnel, Harriet wiped her hand across the gap before her and a wall of flame blocked off the tunnel entrance, I knew it wouldn’t last since barrier spells like that one cost more magical energy the further away the caster gets. Our footsteps echoed around the tunnel walls as we charged further and further through this dank abyss illuminated only by the sparse torches that lined the walls at uneven intervals. The added weight of the girl slowed me down but not by much but Harriet soon caught us up and the three of us eventually emerged into the ruins of the village again, the twilight sun was warm on my skin and as I looked down to see if the girl was alright I saw her hair shimmer and glow with the light of the setting sun, it was a beautiful sight and not one that I can put into words very easily. Our escape wasn’t over yet however, as the villagers were hot on our heels trying to reclaim their prize. We managed to give them the slip once the sun went down, after that we all got as far as we could from there. The moonlight helped us find our way to a small grove with a small river running by it, we stopped there and made camp, we didn’t make a fire because we were all too tired and didn’t want to draw unwanted attention, the night air was bone chilling but we fortunately had plenty of sheets for us all. I awoke the next morning with both Harriet and the girl cuddled up against me, in other circumstances it would have been enjoyable, I got up as quietly as possible so as not to disturb them and once I was up I looked back at them to make sure they were still sleeping but something was off. The girl had looked to be about 12 when she emerged from the fire but now she looked to be in her early twenties, her magic must be incredibly strong to be able to affect her like that, I could see that her hair was now long enough to touch her buttocks and her body had matured very nicely, she had a Model’s figure which would make any man lust for her, as I watched her sleep Silvarian stirred within me for the first time since the arena, I reached out to him in my mind but no answer came. I got the feeling that Silvarian knew who this girl was but was unwilling to share. I picked up my sword and went to stand watch as the ladies slept. The fallen tree a few yards away served as a bench for me to sit and think on whilst I kept watch on the perimeter. My thoughts were disrupted when the Girl appeared behind me and spoke, surprisingly in the same language as us and not that of the villagers, “What are you doing all the way out here, when there’s a perfectly good bed with not 1 but 2 attractive women in it?” I turned at her words but had to turn away immediately as she was stark naked, how she wasn’t shivering I don’t know unless she was shielding herself with magic, “I’m keeping watch in case someone tries to sneak into camp. Anyway who are you? You looked like a little girl last night, how come you look older now?” “Oh that’s easy, I can alter my appearance to whatever would most please the person I’m bonded with. My last partner preferred me to look like a child and that’s how I remained until you freed me, now I’m bonded to you and according to your dream self this is the form you find most attractive. You can call me whatever you want.” she said before she draped herself over my shoulders her large breasts pressing into my back as she ran her hands across my chest, if we weren’t potentially in peril I’d find it irresistible, she was right, she was in the form I found most attractive. She then whispered in my ear “I know who you are, and I want you and I almost always get what I want.” she started kissing my neck and working her hands down to my nether regions. Her seductions were cut short as a blast of magic slammed into her back and pinned her face first into the ground, I turned to find Harriet standing with both hands outstretched, barely dressed she started hurling accusations and questions in a frenzied slew of red faced embarrassment and anger. I tried to explain what the girl now a woman had said and that they were the same person, but Harriet was deaf to my words, I grabbed her hands pulling them to the sides breaking the spell and forcing her to focus on me, I held her until she calmed down enough to listen rationally. The three of us sat together, everybody now fully clothed, and talking in a peaceful manner as we each explained and listened to each other, we talked about who we were and how we’d come to be here, during the discussion I came up with a name for the newest member of our group, Jesselica, Jess for short, she seemed to like it. After we packed up we continued on our journey and in spite of Jess’s near constant flirtations we made much progress and made it to the Huteran Mountains by nightfall, we camped at the foot of the mountains for the night before setting off along the mountain paths in the morning. The paths through this mountain range were originally nothing more than animal trails but years of use and weather erosion had made them even more treacherous, we spent 2 days crossing the mountains, sleeping in caves and dining on whatever we could find, water was our biggest issue since we started running out after the first day. Eventually we crossed the mountains and entered the territory of the Dahlbruh Empire, an agricultural superpower, there was more farmland in this country than there was people living in it, a further day and we encountered a small farmhouse whose owner was kind enough to allow us safe harbour for the night and fresh water for our travels. It wasn’t much but it was enough to rest our weary souls. When morning came we were all ready to go when the farmer’s daughter came to see us, tears streaming down her face and sobs robbing her of fluent speech, and her dress torn across the shoulder. After calming her down a little she told us that a group of bandits had moved into the area and were preying on the farmers and their families. They came for her in the early hours of the morning but her father had fought them they took him in her place, the nearest garrison of soldiers was a day away, by which time the farmer would be killed. I didn’t even need to consult my companions for I knew they felt the same as me, we took up our arms and went in search of the bandits ourselves. After a couple hours ride we found their hideout, an abandoned mine shaft that lead into Kolgrath Mountain, the only other mountain in southern Dahlbruh. We hid in the surrounding woods and observed them, they had a lot of defences set up, archer roosts, a few Ballistae and more than a dozen guards patrolling the area, if we wanted to save the farmer and anyone else they held captive then we needed a plan. Reluctantly I decided to use Jess’s flirtatious nature to our advantage, though I hated putting her in danger like that, the plan was that she would approach the guards posing as the daughter of one the farmers trying to free her father, she’d demand to talk with the boss, using her seductive ways to distract and incapacitate him while Harriet and I sneak in through a side entrance and free the prisoners, hopefully we’d be in and out before they even realised we were there. But of course the plan backfired. Jess got in alright, but as their prisoner, they took her to their makeshift barracks and kept her there. When I found her again she was naked her clothes ripped to shreds and she was covered in bruises and from the look on her face they’d done what I was afraid they’d do, rape her over and over again. I hadn’t felt anger and hatred like I felt at that moment before in my life, something in me snapped, when I emerged from the base an hour or so later there was an deafening silence that would make your heart tremble. We took the farmer's back to their homes and were thanked by them and their families, though I didn’t feel like I deserved their thanks, so I declined their gifts of appreciation. That night we camped by a waterfall but I couldn’t sleep and so left the girls to their slumber and sat beneath the waterfall letting the heavy torrent of water beat against me. Jess came and found me later on that night and sat and watched me in silence, I was ready to deny her advances like I did every night but this time she didn't make any attempts to seduce me she just sat with me until I finished in the waterfall, then she wrapped her arms around me and refused to let go, I could feel her body pressing into mine and she gripped me tighter, fearful to be alone, she was incredibly warm despite the cold night air but her trembling had nothing to do with the chill, we spent the rest of the night just sharing each other’s company, she was always so warm like a gentle fire burning nearby, having her around was comforting. I was still awake when the sun rose but she had fallen asleep in my arms, her long hair was a mess that covered much of her face but I thought she'd never been more beautiful, I brushed her hair from her face and gently kissed her forehead before carefully slipping away from our embrace so as not to disturb her sleep, Harriet was still asleep as well, she must have been exhausted from using so much magic over the past couple days because she didn't even stir when I walked past her sleeping form. I packed up my belongings in silence before taking the last Slecturhn, a spherical crystal half the size of my palm used for recording messages. I recorded a farewell message for the two of them with instructions to return home and not come looking for me. I left the Slecturhn by Harriet's bed and after a moment to check the perimeter I left, disappearing into the rising sunlight. The sunlight came filtered through the trees, the cold hard ground was uncomfortable as I lay there spent from the day's hiking and making sure that I wasn't being tracked either by physical or magical means, I knew that what I needed to do had to be done alone, especially after what happened at the bandit hideout. It was 2 days since I left Harriet and Jess by the waterfall and I'd managed to put some considerable distance between us since then, I was now only a few miles away from the Garathan riverlands, my eyelids were growing heavier as I lay in the grass beneath a great oak tree. The exhaustion of the journey was finally catching up to me so I took the time to rest and felt the refreshing embrace of sleep wash over me. When I awoke I was no longer beneath the oak tree nor was I alone, just like the Copper Knight’s tale I was dangling from a branch with my hands and feet bound to said branch, which was being carried by a pair of muscular men with dark skin and a number of tattoos and bone ornaments around their necks. It seemed as though Gregor was correct that Zuriah’s tribe were in fact near the Garathan riverlands. They carried me back to their camp still bound despite my protestations and despite saying that Ironargos sent me, we passed several tributaries and riverbanks before finally arriving at their camp, the wooden huts were just as Copper Knight had described them however this time they weren’t blending into trees but rather the very earth itself, how they did still eludes me, I was brought before the largest of the structures and placed on the ground as they called out to Zuriah, she emerged from the shelter with no clothing covering her well-endowed body, her curves would put many women into an envious state, her dark skin was covered in similar tribal markings to those of the rest of the tribesmen but also a couple shades lighter than the rest of her tribe, she still wore the bone necklace and leather waist cord Copper Knight described but now also wore a pair of bracelets and anklets of jade with a choker of vermillion silk, Zuriah sung a short phrase in an ancient language and the symbol on my chest burned and glowed with silver light visibly through my shirt and breastplate, the ground was no less hard when they dropped me and my back crashed hard on the cold hard earth. Somehow the bonds that held me shattered with almost no effort and I got to my feet my chest still glowing with silver light, all but Layla backed away from me and began muttering wardings in their language, I turned to Layla and she met my gaze with her forest green eyes, we stared into each other's eyes for several seconds before she bade me enter her hut. Her curvaceous body bounced as she walked seductively into her hut, had I been of a different mind-set I’d have found the sight most appealing, even so I could still feel a warmth growing in my loins at the sight of her curvaceous body moving in such a way. Layla’s hut smelt of incense and burning herbs, the walls were lined with numerous varieties of plants and animal skins, there was a circular fire pit in the middle of the hut and 3 rooms leading off from the main chamber, one of which was her bedroom, she bade me sit by the fire pit and gave me a drink of what smelled like chamomile tea, I drank of the brew and allowed myself to relax in the warmth of the hut. I felt a compulsion to close my eyes despite not feeling tired, when I awoke Layla had taken the liberty of removing the majority of my clothes leaving my undergarments on and she was closely examining the symbol on my chest. At such close proximity I could smell her fragrance, a scent of wildflowers filled my nostrils. A shuffle of movement from the edge of the room drew my attention away from Layla’s sensual and intense scrutiny, I saw at the edge of the room a small child freeze in his tracks, he couldn’t have been more than 5 years old, his skin was lighter than the rest of the tribe but darker than those outside of it. Layla agreed to train me once I’d explained everything to her, she stepped outside and called out to one of her tribesmen and a minute later she returned with a muscular man with dark skin and darker hair, his physique was that of a fighter, Layla said his name was Hoyio and that he was the finest swordsman in the whole tribe, he would teach me swordsmanship and Layla would teach me how to channel and properly use my magic. The next day I woke before the dawn, my thoughts were jumbled but kept returning to a certain person I’d hoped to see again, as well how Harriet and Jess were faring since my departure, I returned my focus to the here and now as I sensed the presence of another. I turned to find Layla standing only a few feet away, she looked lovely in the twilight of pre-dawn her nakedness no longer making me feel uncomfortable, though I was surprised that she wasn’t freezing in the chill of night. Layla took my hand and lead me to the shore of the nearby lake where she had laid out a large silver bowl and a series of herbs and oils, there was also a large pewter jug sitting next to the bowl which was empty. Layla took the herbs and oils and blended them together in the bowl forming an herbal oily ointment of some sort, she then lay down on the grass, the sun barely half risen by this point, her beautiful body on full display. She told me to rub the ointment onto my chest so I did, as soon as the ointment touched my skin the symbol on my chest began to glow with faint silver light, I could feel a hot force flowing through me as the symbol glowed, my chest was getting hotter and hotter and my mind was growing more and more unfocused, I was vaguely aware of Layla saying something to me but I couldn’t make out the words, suddenly I was standing before Silvarian whose silver flames had taken on a more liquid-like appearance, he kind of looked like he was made of molten silver. I looked over to Layla but she was frozen in mid speech, as I looked around I could see that everything was frozen, not ice frozen but as though time had stopped for everyone but me, the waters of the lake had stopped in mid wave, the birds that were flying overhead hung motionless as though they had been glued to the sky, even the clouds had halted their endless journey across the boundless sky. Silvarian and I sat and talked, “why have you been rejecting me?” I asked “I haven’t been rejecting you as such, our bond cannot be undone so easily, I have been learning about you, you are...different from my previous hosts and every other human I have observed, I needed time to study you, your mind is far more powerful than the others of your kind.” Silvarian said. “And how may I ask have you been accomplishing that?” “I studied your memories, the place you call home is vastly different from anything I have seen, how do the buildings get so tall and what drives those metal carriages you travel around in? What happened to allow your people to become so advanced?” “First of all what do you mean you studied my memories!? Which memories did you study?” “I strolled through your memories and watched them play out as though watching a crowd pass by in the street, and I studied almost all of your memories, there were ones that I couldn’t access because you subconsciously shielded them to such a high degree that I dared not try to break them.” “How dare you just stroll through my memories without my permission! Did it occur to you that some of those memories were private and that I might not want you intruding in them!?” Silvarian’s flames quivered and his voice took on an apologetic tone, “I didn’t see why it would be an issue, we are linked after all but I apologise for encroaching on private matters.” he gave a bow as he apologised which looked really weird with his flaming body. Allowing my irritation to fade I moved the conversation along “So what is it that we are supposed to be doing here? Do we have to do some sort of ritual or what?” “That depends on what the desired outcome of this meeting was, did you want to chat or train?” “Well at first I wanted to talk but now I think it’s time we trained a little, after all I still don’t know how to use your power properly. The most I’ve done is channel your raw power into my body to strengthen my muscles to give me enhanced strength and speed.” “There are two ways to proceed from here, manipulation and creation, we should start with manipulation. I’m going to teach you how to use my power to manipulate the forces around you and within you.” For what felt like hours Silvarian and I practiced trying to make fireballs in my hands, we called it a day when I was able to finally make a small candle’s worth of flame appear in both hands. “Keep practicing and call me again when you are able to form a full fireball in each hand.” Silvarian placed his burning hand upon my chest and disappeared within me once again, crashing like a tidal wave the flow of time was restored and the sounds and sensations of its passage flooded over me, Layla finished the sentence she was speaking “...before you.” she then noticed the sweat upon my brow and knew that what was supposed to happen had already happened. I spent the next week spending the days sparring with Hoyio and it was true that he was a highly skilled swordsman, he was a difficult adversary even with my previous training, he fought with a bladed staff of sorts, similar to a spear but there were blades at both ends, fortunately he didn’t use it during our sparring matches instead he saved it for the hunting missions he took me on, you see the tribe travelled the lands battling monsters and demons using both swordsmanship and magic, they used nature magic to manipulate the flow of nature around them, I assumed that was how they built the amazing huts that seemed to sprout from nature wherever they settled. At night I would spend hours practising the manipulation that Silvarian taught me under the watchful supervision of Layla, sometimes though I would sneak away from camp and find relief from the training by finding a quiet place to sit and think, think about those I’d lost or left behind in both worlds, most often though I would fall asleep in the shade of a sycamore tree. By the end of the first week of training I was now able to fully form silver fireballs at will and I was able to keep up with Hoyio’s intermediate level of attacks. Layla and I performed the ritual to summon Silvarian once again, and just like before time froze when he emerged. I showed him how far I’d come in manipulation and I could tell that if he had a face then he’d have been smiling, Silvarian placed his hands on mine and a searing pain roared through my hands, when Silvarian pulled away there were new symbols etched into my flesh, not like a scar or a brand but more like a tattoo but not the kind done with ink, it was as though the symbols were part of my hands, three symbols in total now adorned my hands, the two on my palms were the same while the one on the back of my right hand was different to both the one on my palms and the one on the back of my left hand, the way Silvarian explained it was that these symbols were foci for the manipulation of energies both cosmic and internal. The one on my right hand was to channel destructive energy in other words and attack rune, while the one on my left was for defensive energies, a shield rune, the ones on my palms were both and neither of those, these runes served to manipulate whatever energy I chose to give them, I could choose destructive or defensive energies or something else entirely, I could use these runes to heal another which is exactly what I did but more on that later, Silvarian’s next task was to teach me creation, the art of willing an object into existence, he taught me the basic concepts but this was a difficult skill to learn. After I had a handle on the basics Silvarian returned to me and time washed over me again. Mastering creation took considerably longer than manipulation almost a month before I was able to call forth a useable sword, every other attempt up to then resulted in either a substandard sword that shattered on impact or something more along the lines of a cutlery knife, each creation attempt was exhausting but as time went by and I practised more and more it became less draining. I spoke with Silvarian again then and he gave me a book the contents of which was a symbolic encyclopaedia of magic runes used only by the Knights of Lethurial. In the book I found a rune labelled “Storage” the description said that this rune could be used to store up to five items for later use, that sounded like a useful rune especially if it allowed for more than one item to be stored which I could make great use of along my journey. Since I knew that battle was going to be an inevitable part of my future I thought having a weapon always available would come in handy so I decided to make a sword and store that. It took a week of asking and begging the tribe’s blacksmith to let me use his forge before he finally relented on the condition that I help him with his work as well. So for the next couple weeks I worked with the blacksmith mending horseshoes and broken blades whilst all the while making slow progress on my own sword. I wanted to infuse my sword with some magic that would strengthen the blade and also give it special powers, a magic sword like in the legends of King Arthur and Excalibur. Unfortunately none of the metals on offer allowed for such manipulation, whilst I was hammering a horseshoe back into workable shape I saw a hunting party return carrying two bodies the same way they had carried me when I first arrived only these bodies were masked. They were brought before Layla’s hut and unmasked but the crowd was too dense for me to see their faces, I could hear Layla as she passed judgment on the intruders, her tribe weren’t overly fond of outsiders after all, I heard her declare them to be executed, I’d managed to learn quite a lot of their language during my stay which is how I knew what Layla was saying. Suddenly a scream came from the crowd, I recognised that voice and immediately leapt over the whole crowd and landed between Layla and the prisoners, Harriet and Jess. The crowd was obviously surprised by my interference and all took a couple steps back Layla however wasn’t fazed in the least, she stood in the entrance to her hut and stared down at me, her eyes showed no emotion whatsoever, I assumed that was something she had learned from her years of being chieftain of the tribe, the weight of command or so they say. I pleaded my case to her that she spare the prisoners, she agreed, instead of execution they would be placed under my care until my time in the village ended. I translated to Harriet and Jess and saw the relief wash over their faces. Both girls rushed to hug me when their bonds were cut then both slapped me for abandoning them. We spent the night trading stories of what transpired since we went our separate ways, how I had spent the time training to harness Silvarian’s power to its full extent and how they had tried to track me down again. The next day I went to continue my training with Hoyio before going to work with the blacksmith, it was a couple more days before I let Harriet and Jess try to help out. By weeks end they were rather popular among the tribes youngsters, Jess especially, since she was so beautiful and flirty, I’d discussed with Harriet my ideas for forging a magic sword that could be used to amplify my powers and she had several suggestions all of which however proved to be too difficult to implement, that night in my sleep Silvarian and I reconnected in my dreamscape, the crater had evolved into a pit furnace, the walls were molten silver and the rim was ablaze with four or five meter high silver flames, only the base of the crater seemed to remain solid. Even though it was a dreamscape it felt hot enough to be real, I could feel the heat pouring out of the walls against my skin, sitting in the middle of the crater was a solidified Silvarian, his silver body looked solid enough to be easily mistaken for a statue but still allowed movement for as I approached he stood up and faced me, his face was clearer now and I could make out the lines and shapes of his eyes and mouth and nose, he looked almost human except for the whole being made of silver thing. We sat and spoke about all the things that we had missed the chance to before, I asked him to tell me exactly what he was to which he answered by telling me a story. “At the dawn of time there were 12 True Gods, these Gods were so powerful that the universe bowed to their will, as the millennia passed the True Gods grew tired of this universe having made and done all that they could here they departed for a new universe, all but four left. The four that remained were Jeracule, Omeida, Nazgira and Lethurial. These four remained to watch over their creations and to maintain order in the universe, three of the Gods were content in their role one was not, Nazgira grew more arrogant over the centuries seeking to use his Godly powers to reshape the universe for the betterment of those he thought worthy, when the other Gods stepped in and forbade him from interfering with the lower planes he sought to prove his worth again by attempting to vanquish the Darkness that dwelled in the emptiness surrounding the universe, Nazgira was powerful but his arrogance proved to be his undoing, he ventured into the heart of Darkness, where all evil intent lives, and was corrupted by it. He later returned and slew the other Gods one by one, Lethurial was the last to stand against him, she was no match for him with his Godly powers being bolstered by the Darkness, she fled their last encounter wounded, her last act was to split her essence, her soul for want of a better word, into five pieces that she sent to the human realm where they bonded with human hosts, those hosts were the first Knights of Lethurial hailing from the Zirconian Empire, Koper told you of it didn’t he, anyway they battled Nazgira using both their own light and the powers of their Lethurial shards, those shards took on their own forms and identities once they bonded to their hosts, thus I was born, my first host was a man named Hilgrant, he was a great man. Together the five Knights were evenly matched against Nazgira but weren’t able to destroy him instead they sacrificed themselves to seal him away in another realm an empty realm where his dark influence could reach no one. A thousand years later the seal was found and broken by those who became the second Knights of Lethurial, and the battle began again, however this time Nazgira was ready for our powers, he corrupted Goldrin’s host into betraying us, Brunzel’s host was killed holding back a demon horde while Ironargos and Koper were pinned down by even more demons, only I remained to face the treachery of Goldrin, my host at the time was a woman by the name of Gisellina and she was the bravest woman I have ever known, she fought Goldrin and sacrificed herself completely to seal Nazgira away again, there was nothing left of her save me and my memories of her. Now the seal is weakening and Nazgira’s influence is spreading once again, I need your help to stop him again, will you help me?” I didn’t even stop to think about it I just agreed straight away, I’d always dreamt of being something more than I was, something heroic and here was my chance. I told Silvarian about my plans for a magic sword and he came up with the idea of magically forming a composite alloy out of different metals and if we put some silver into the mix then he could assist. I took the idea quite seriously as it seemed the best option available, otherwise it meant a trip to a demon infested mine in a mountain three countries away to get the magical ore needed for most magical weapons. I woke up the next morning and told Harriet what Silvarian had told me about the sword making process, she hadn’t heard of anything like it before but thought it worth a try. That afternoon Harriet, Jess, the blacksmith and I gathered at the forge, six metals were gathered here, my old Iron sword, Silver, Magnesium, Copper, Tungsten and Mercury, some were placed into the forge to melt, others were left as is, Harriet and Jess were magically helping to melt the metals whilst giving each a magical boost, the Blacksmith and I filled the sword mold with each metal in turn before Harriet, Jess and I along with Silvarian’s help poured as much magic into the sword as we could helping the different metals to fuse at the atomic level into an entirely new alloy, one that was filled with magic. The molten metal blazed almost as bright as the sun. The sword took 3 days to cool and then a further 4 to shape and sharpen but once it was finished it was unbreakable, I tested it in the woods and with a single swing it felled a tree and cut a boulder in half, this was clearly the most powerful sword in the world but also the most dangerous. I knew that if word got out about the power of this sword then everyone would seek to claim it for themselves, so I kept the sword a secret by hiding it within the storage rune I drew on my shoulder, the sword disappeared into the rune and would only return if I willed it out, Silvarian agreed with my decision and said I showed wisdom in doing so. I decided that I would only use that sword when the need was dire, so I used some of the blacksmiths leftover metal scraps to forge a less powerful sword which would be my primary weapon. Harriet was growing restless in the tribes village camp, I decided to leave and head back to the Kingdom the next day, it was fully winter time by this point, outside of the camp the ground was layered in thick snow, our breath froze in the air in puffs of cloud, surprisingly though I didn’t feel cold and neither did Jess but that wasn’t all that surprising since I learned she was a half fire elemental, which is why she had flame coloured hair and was so attuned to fire magic. Harriet however was very much human, she needed several layers of skins to keep warm in, despite that though she still felt the need to complain that she was cold, a lot. We’d gone about 10 kilometres from the tribe’s camp when a blizzard stopped us in our tracks and we had to make camp, Harriet and Jess’s magic kept the storm out enough for us to sleep but it couldn’t let us keep moving. We rested as well as we could but the howling storm kept us awake, suddenly there was a disturbance at the perimeter of our camp and we stood ready for action, the shadow of the intruder appeared at the magical boundary and from it emerged Layla, wrapped in clothes of sheep’s wool and leather, it was strange seeing her clothed for the first time but as we were outside the safety of the tribe it made sense for her to be covered up. We relaxed a little while, we asked Layla why she had come, she said “I have come because of a vision in the waters foretold of great tragedy on your journey and I wish to chronicle your exploits. You are the Silver Knight after all, there aren’t many tales of your previous incarnations deeds, I seek to change that.” she said with her eyes taking in every detail of her surroundings, I added historian to my list of her titles. She sat close to the fire I made in the middle of camp, obviously unaccustomed to the chill of the open winter air, I wrapped my cloak around her shoulders and sat against the only natural protection available, a large stone. We waited for a couple hours for the storm to dissipate before setting off again, our pace slowed by the snow and terrain, we eventually made it to a small town where we were able to find proper shelter and arrange transportation back to the Kingdom. A trade caravan was heading out the next morning carrying spices and wine to the Castle in the Kingdom of Median. We caught a ride trading our services for passage with them, I offered my services as a warrior, Harriet as a mage and Jess as a dancer. The sun struggled to break through the thick clouds overhead as we left the small town behind, the caravan made smooth progress through the countryside all the way to the border, the border gate however was not so smooth sailing. We arrived on the early morning of the winter solstice, the ground was thick with snow and the wind cut through our clothes like a rain of ice daggers. As we approached the gate I sensed something was wrong, there was a tension in the air that pulled at the hairs on the back of my neck. I walked out in front of the caravan and met the guardsman at the gate alongside the head merchant, he was a balloon of a man, no doubt from spending all his profits on food and opulence, his green and gold robes concealed by the heavy fur cloak he surrounded his flabby form with. The guard who met us seemed different from other soldiers I’d met from the kingdom, he didn’t carry himself in the same way, in fact none of the guards looked very guard-like. It wasn’t until I took a closer look at their uniforms. In an instant I drew the sword I’d taken to carrying with me and held it to the guards throat, “Who are you and where are the Guards?!” I stared into the man’s eyes with fury burning in mine, the rest of the Guards came running to help their comrade but stopped when I shouted, “Halt or I’ll kill him!”, I would have done it too, my time in that world had changed me to the point where killing no longer proved to be beyond my capabilities. The fake guards stopped but held their stolen weapons ready, “Do you know what you are doing sir? I am a member of the Royal army of Median and-” “Wrong! You are liar and thief! Those uniforms you wear belong to the real men and women of this Guard post, and you are not them. They wouldn’t have cuts in the cloth consistent with a stab wound to the gut, now answer my Fucking QUESTION!!!! Who are you and where are the REAL Guards!?” I poked the tip of my sword into the soft tissue of his neck enough to draw blood but not kill him. The fake guard gasped out and then cried out “We’re villagers, the Guard post was empty and the Guards were dead when we came here, we buried them out back and took their uniforms to keep the kingdom and our families safe from the bandits that would no doubt seek to use this place to launch attacks on our villages. Especially since the Kingdom abandoned us.” I lowered my sword and allowed him to get back up to his feet, he wiped the blood from his neck as I sheathed my sword, the rest of the villagers followed suit. “Tell me what you mean by that.” “I meant exactly what I said, the Kingdom has abandoned us common folk to die out here. All the troops stationed in or around our villages were ordered to return to the capital a month ago, and with them gone we were easy pickings for the raiders and slavers that rose up in their wake, I lost my wife and both my daughters in the last raid. And when we tried asking the King for help we were turned away at the gates.” “I see, well if you insist on continuing this farce then I’d better teach you a few things.” so I taught them a few basics of swordplay just enough to keep them from making a complete ass of themselves in their next encounter, after that we entered the Kingdom, it’s rolling hills and plains were pure white with snow and everywhere we looked there was almost no sign of human interference, nature in its most pure form. Eventually we made our way all the way to the capital city, there were crowds of people both rich and poor vying for the better deals in the marketplace, Harriet said her goodbyes to us here and went back to the mages district where Julie awaited her return, Harriet’s steps carried a distinct hint of eager glee that I could imagine what she hoped to do upon her return. Jess and Layla and I parted ways from the merchant caravan to make our way through the city towards the castle, everywhere I looked though there were the faces of people who were suffering from hunger or poverty, we reached the town square where a large crowd had gathered, a podium was erected in the middle of the square upon which stood a nobleman spouting stuff about taxes and stuff, I didn’t pay much attention at first but then the man stood aside and a new speaker stepped up to the podium, the Princess. Her dress was a brilliant blend of blues that mimicked the summer sky and her hair was down in a ponytail that dangled over her shoulder. I stopped in my tracks, mesmerized by her, the same sensation that took hold the first time we met took hold again, she was pleading with the crowd for their forgiveness over the rise in taxes and forced conscription, many in the crowd nodded or voiced their approval but, shortly after the whole crowd were swayed by the negative opinion of a few outspoken individuals and the whole atmosphere shifted, the crowd began to move closer to the podium. I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t feel myself move but I did feel the rock as it struck my back, reacting without thought I had flung myself with all my strength and speed to protect the Princess, she huddled beneath me cowering from the attack, the crowd who had been moving with intent to do harm suddenly froze, at the sight of me towering over the princess shielding her from harm. Next came another stone flung from further back in the crowd, I turned to catch the stone in one hand and it crumbled in my grip, the crowd gasped and stepped backwards, “Now you will listen to ME! I refuse to stand by and allow meaningless acts of violence to occur before me. The Princess here was pleading for your forgiveness, not for her own actions but those of her father the King, I haven’t been here very long so I haven’t suffered as you have but to vent that suffering upon another, serves no purpose other than the temporary satisfaction of causing harm, so let me ask you this if you harm the Princess like this will it end your suffering?” I asked the crowd which caused a shift in atmosphere again, there was no more malice in the air but instead there was confusion and trepidation. “NO! It won’t it will only make your suffering worse as the royal family will most likely take vengeance against you all for this act of violence against their daughter, is that what you want!? Go home and think it over.” I helped the Princess up, her hands were soft and warm, several armed palace guards appeared to escort her back to the palace as the crowd dispersed, she looked back at me as she left and mouthed thank you which made me feel good because it meant I had left an impression. After the incident at the square I was summoned to the palace to meet with the King, Jess accompanied me there, he was just like I remembered him only older, there were many more wrinkles on his face than there used to be, there were also many more guards around the palace, something was off about him though when we finally got to see him, his speech and mannerisms showed signs of extreme paranoia. We’d only managed to say a few words before the King ordered us away, Jess snuck off to explore the Castle while I slowly made my way back outside while trying to talk things out with Silvarian, it was during my wanderings while I was distracted with a particular theory Silvarian and I were discussing that I bumped into the Princess again, and quite literally at that. I'd turned a corner and crashed into the Princess knocking her onto her ass, she looked up at me and I could see fear in her eyes, whether that fear was of me or not I couldn't yet tell, I offered her my hand to help her up and apologized for knocking her down. After getting to her feet she asked if I would accompany her, I wasn't one to refuse a beautiful woman let alone a Princess so I went with her, we walked through the castle and the gardens all the while she would ask me questions about myself and where I came from, I didn't want to tell her too much so I limited the details to derivatives of “far away” and “don't know” I could tell this wasn't enough for her but she respected my privacy and didn't push for more. We came to the far edge of the gardens and it was now my turn for some questions, “tell me Princess, who is it you're running from? And why use me as the repellent?” She was surprised by the accuracy of my questions so I explained “since we started this stroll you've been scanning the area at regular intervals, not only that but someone has been following us since we met and presumably before that as well, the way you walk says that you are anxious and worried that something bad will happen, also we've passed more than 2 dozen guards that would be more than happy to escort you which leaves me to suspect that you don't trust their loyalty. So tell me who is it that has you so scared in your own castle?” “Fine, ever since my father took on a new adviser of magical affairs I've been feeling like there's someone watching me all the time, sometimes are worse than others like at night when I'm alone, I tried asking the guards to look into it but nothing came of it, some of them simply laughed at me saying that I was being a silly girl but I swear that I'm telling the truth.” “And you suspect this adviser to be the one following you?” “No I'm pretty sure it's Lord Molbern, he's always been a bit too friendly towards me.” “Hmm I see, well in that case…” I turned to face where I knew the stalker was hiding and used a little of Silvarian’s power to project terror at the stalker, a moment later there was a scream from the rose bush I was staring at, the fat form of Lord Molbern went wobbling away as fast as his chubby legs would carry him screaming his apologies as he went. The Princess was unsure what just happened but nevertheless hugged me in gratitude, I gently returned her embrace but the moment was interrupted when I sensed a new and ominous presence, I turned my head abruptly to where I felt the presence but it was gone, concerned the Princess tried to ask what was wrong but I dismissed it and took her back to the castle. The next few days were spent investigating what had happened in my absence, turns out that the King had been diagnosed with a terminal illness that the doctors couldn’t cure and in his desperation to live he sought out help from magical means, that was when the new advisor showed up, his name was Freigrik and he was a mage that specialized in the more restricted types of magic. Using one of these spells he was able to cure the king of his illness but there was a price to pay, apparently he requested the Princess become his bride before the spell be cast, to everyone’s surprise the King accepted without hesitation, that was when everything started to change. The King grew increasingly paranoid and pulled the army back to protect the capital from enemies that weren’t there. I spoke with the Queen who told me much of what I just explained, but my other sources filled in other details as well as corroborated the whole story. I decided that my next course of action should be to meet this Freigrik and assess how much of a threat he really posed. I needed more information first though so I went to visit the mage tower and see Harriet and Julie who would be the most likely to be able to help me. The Mage Tower was quite the sight to behold, the marble bricks glimmered in the late afternoon sunlight and the way the bricks seemed to meld together and show runes made from the light was a testament to the magical power used in its construction and the magical energy gathered within since. The wooden door was a stark contrast to the majestic beauty that surrounded it, a rumbling echo sounded as I knocked on the door, I was greeted a few moments later by a withered looking old woman who wore a black woollen robe, I told her I was there to see Harriet and Julie, my friends, and that our business was private and I was let in without any fuss. I’m sure she could sense the power residing within me because of how she looked at me, a mix of fear and admiration in her eyes. I left the old woman at the gate and met with Harriet and Julie in the mage library, it was the largest collection of books and scrolls I’d ever seen, even by modern standards this was one hell of a library, there were shelves of books and scrolls covering the walls for at least 8 stories with yet more shelves interspersed throughout the floor and floating around the space above us as well. I could see that things were going well between Harriet and Julie because they were more open with their relationship, they would hold hands for long periods and more than once I found them kissing between the aisles, time flew by as we read book after book on lost or ancient magic’s that might be used to influence the mind of another, eventually we found records of a ritual that granted someone the ability to see the spirits around them. It occurred to me that if that were performed on an unsuspecting individual then it would be quite disturbing to say the least, unfortunately there was no information on a way to reverse the effects. Having spent hours in the library I decided that it would be a good idea to get some rest before continuing, that night was when everything changed. I woke at first light and bells were already sounding, something had happened at the castle, the people were already beginning to fill the streets by the time I wormed my way free from Jess’ slumbering embrace and got dressed, I asked the first person I found what had happened and he told me that the King was dead, the guards were in a frantic rush about the castle trying to keep people from intruding. I saw the Princess across the courtyard and when our eyes met I could see the sorrow she felt but also the fear of what was going to happen next. I tried to go to her and was intercepted by a couple of guards but at the urging of the Princess they let me through, I accompanied the Princess for the rest of the day listening to her complaints about life and generally offering a supportive shoulder to cry on, the Queen must've seen or heard about it because the next day she assigned me to being the Princess’s personal Guard a role I was all too happy to accept. 3 years went by, after the King's death the Queen had assumed the throne and was constantly busy trying to undo the mess the late King had left in his madness, the advisor that had stirred such misgivings had been exiled shortly after the Queen took the throne, that left the Princess free to do as she pleased which was, more often than not, causing mischief. Dozens of noble and royal suitors came to the palace hoping to earn the Princess's hand in marriage but each and every one was turned down, even those arranged by the Queen were turned down, after my three years of loyal service the Queen as saw fit to reward me with a title and a plot of land which I kindly refused, I had done much during those three years, stopped a war or two, foiled several assassination and kidnapping attempts on both the Princess and the Queen. It was a warm spring day when the Queen asked me to accompany her for a meeting with the merchant's guilds as her bodyguard, during the meeting the Princess left the castle to visit a friend who lived near the western border of the Kingdom, she left with a contingent of guards and several handmaidens. The meeting was perfectly civil to begin with but quickly devolved into a shouting match when one wine merchant objected to something put forward by some other merchant who retaliated by shouting obscenities and insults. The meeting was adjourned until the next day, late that afternoon I was sitting atop the wall around the town watching the clouds roll by when I saw a horse galloping towards the gates, there was no rider but when the guards and I brought it in the poor thing was terrified, it belonged to the entourage that went with the Princess but it was all beat up, it’s hooves were worn out from the constant run back home there were cuts and bruises all over its flanks and neck, it was as though it had been in a battle. Lost in my anger I mounted my own horse, a grey charger with mottled patches of white, I shouted to the guards on duty to assemble a pursuit unit and catch up to me before Slephnir and I charged off out the gates, Slephnir was the name of my horse by the way. Slephnir and I galloped down the road for a couple dozen miles following the route they’d have taken through the forest until we eventually found the remains of a horse-drawn carriage, smashed wood lay strewn about and the main husk was burned down to cinders, the bodies of the guardsmen were piled to the side and set ablaze also, by the footprints and other signs laying around the area I deduced that the carriage had been ambushed by a band of raiders, the lack of raider corpses either pointed to them taking the guardsmen unaware and overwhelming them or that they took their injured with them. I soon found tracks leading away from the site and back into the forest, following the tracks lead me to their hideout, an abandoned mining pit from some long ago excavation. Peering over the ledge I could see a couple large cages at the bottom of the pit, left out in the open and full of people, too far away to make out any specifics but from the attire they looked to be women, surrounding the cages at varying intervals were a dozen or so bandit raiders and probably more in the surrounding caves, I could hear screams echoing up from the pit as the women were taken one by one into the old mining cabin, a small trail of smoke coming from the small chimney, the screams seemed to be coming from there, I dreaded to think what they were doing in there but I wasn’t going to just sit there and wait, as I was looking for a way down I heard a familiar voice cry out “STOP!!” from the cages I saw a brilliant but small hue of blue that could only have been her dress, the Princess! Driven by instinct I was in mid-air before I even knew it, I’d jumped. Using my superior strength I had propelled myself from the edge of the pit to almost fly over to the centre of it, I fell for at least 20 feet and landed with a heavy impact right in front of the cages in a cloud of dust and dirt, surprisingly I was unhurt, but I felt angry, very angry. What happened next is a bit of a blur but I remember that I was overcome with rage and that I was fighting, I don’t know how long it lasted but by the end all the raiders were either dead or injured and I was left with a couple dozen terrified women, some had been stripped naked and branded with a slaver’s seal, that must’ve been what was going on inside the mining cabin when they were screaming, I used my bloodied sword to slash through the locks on the cages but the women were too terrified to come out, it wasn’t until the Princess spoke up and vouched for me that they began to emerge, I took whatever clothing I could find for the naked women to wear while the Princess filled me in on the details of what had happened. I also used the runes on my palms to heal the branded women. After all the naked women had been re-clothed I lead them all out of the mine and back to the road, the Princess sat astride my horse while I walked with the rest of the women, we were walking for about 20 minutes when the other guardsmen arrived, I filled them in on what happened and had them escort the other women back to their homes, the Princess chose to stay with me and we took a rather leisurely stroll back to the castle, along the way we stopped at a small estuary where I washed the blood from my armour, as I knelt by the riverside the Princess nestled herself against my back and thanked me for rescuing her, I’d only seen this emotional side of her once before back when her father died and I comforted her while she cried. Regardless of anything else that might’ve happened this moment was a critical turning point between us. After that incident the Princess changed her ways, no more mischievous shenanigans but she and I would have secret rendezvous’ at night and enjoy each other’s company, it wasn’t until several weeks into it that she asked to lay with me. That was the first time either of us had been with another on that sort of level and it marked a shift in our relationship paradigm, we couldn’t help but be more openly expressive about our feelings for each other after that not that anyone tried to stop us anyway, even the Queen seemed to approve of it since she never made any motions against us being close though I’m sure she was just glad to see her daughter was finally happy with someone again. Three months later we received reports of a band of outlaws terrorising villages along the southern edge of the kingdom I was sent to investigate and deal with the problem, during my absence however was when the It happened. I arrived at the first town reported to have been raided but found nothing out of the ordinary, no burned out wrecks no loss of life nothing to indicate the presence of raiders at all. I decided to go back to the capital when my investigation turned up nothing but the sight that greeted me as I crested the hill was one of fire and death, the capital had been attacked and fires burned brightly across the town, the sky darkened by the smoke billowing from the carnage, the lack of an army outside made me think that the siege was over and the capital was taken. I dreaded to think what had happened to the Princess and with her in my mind I charged towards the devastation. The smoke was thick and stung my eyes, embers flew about on the wind from the burning buildings, I rushed through the dying remains of the town towards the castle praying that she was safe. I reached the castle or what remained of it and saw the claw marks gouged into the stone, the great wooden doors were shattered and left dangling from the hinges, the bloodstains that coated the halls were evidence of a struggle. As I made my way deeper into the castle the signs of battle worsened as more and more of the lavender carpets and assorted tapestries were coated in blood, the smell of death and decay was heavy on the air and only got worse the closer I came to the throne room. I could hear sinister laughter but also monstrous growls and other noises coming from the throne room, I peeked inside and saw a mass of demons crowding the assembly area, there was a man standing by the throne seemingly addressing the mass of demons. Something struck me from behind and I fell into the room where the demons were on me in milliseconds surprisingly though they didn't try to kill me, they dragged me before the throne and one of the one of the heavier demons pinned me down by standing on my back. Looking up I saw the lifeless face of the Queen as she lay at the foot of the throne, that alone made me angry enough to try and lash out but the demon simply pressed harder to pin me down, the man I'd seen began to address me directly “Ah you must be the one that got away. The knight who seduced my wife right?” I knew from his voice that he was the exiled advisor, I could feel my anger building as he talked, gloated would be a more accurate term, and the continued sight of the Queens bloodied corpse only added to my anger, Silvarian tried to warn me to calm down inside my head but that proved to be increasingly difficult, even now I still burn with rage at that moment, the demon pressing down on my back felt like a boulder pinning me to the floor, “hmm? What have we here?” the advisor said seeing the mark on my shoulder, he tried to touch it but was greeted by a jolt of electricity, “Interesting,” he said “tell me Knight how did you come by such an intriguing mark?” when I refused to answer his demon stomped on my leg and I felt the bones shatter, the pain was intense and I was forced to cry out, but still I refused to surrender, what happened next is my greatest sin which I carry with me to this day. With my leg crushed I was in no position to put up much of a fight so the demon pinning me released me which was a great relief as I felt the air fill my lungs again coupled with the sharp pain of several broken ribs, I coughed up some blood as I tried to breathe too deeply for my bruised lungs to handle, I was finally able to look up enough to see the man’s face but what stopped me was not the man but what I saw behind him, the Princess was bound and gagged to what remained of the spiral staircase her dress was torn to pieces leaving her barely covered but the look in her eyes was what chilled me to the core, those sapphire eyes were filled with tears and sorrow but also regret, she’d seen everything and it broke her spirit, not only that but the unconscious and battered bodies of Layla and Jess lay strewn beside the Princess, Freigrik caught our exchange and turned it against us, he pulled a knife from his belt and held it at the Princess’s throat, I cried out for him to stop but he answered “Tell me what I want to know and I’ll spare her life!” I caved I told him that the rune was part of the ancient language of the Knights of Lethurial and that I was one of those Knights. True to his word he pulled his knife away from the Princess but then one of the scorpion-like demons stung her with its stinger injecting her with its deadly venom. “I promised I’d spare her, I didn’t say they would.” he began to laugh maniacally, the look in her eyes before they closed for good still haunts me to this day. Surprisingly both Freigrik and the demons allowed me to crawl over to her, the lack of use of my leg made it slow and painful going but I reached her nonetheless, I reached out to touch her hand hoping to use my healing powers to save her but it was too late she was gone, her warmth was already gone, never again was I destined to hear her angelic laugh, to gaze into those majestic sapphire eyes and lose myself in the warmth of her embrace, the sorrow, the rage, the hatred, the despair that I felt in that moment felt like I was drowning, I felt like time had stopped and I was trapped in that moment for lifetimes making all the emotions grow exponentially, it that state of despair and rage I fully embraced all of Silvarian’s power at once, for a brief couple of seconds my body began to glow bright white, I wished that the light would erase the world that took her from me and because of that wish the entire capital and surrounding landscape were obliterated. When I came too I was in the middle of a huge crater, well to be precise a ten meter or so plateau in the middle of the crater, nothing remained except me, the Princess’s body still laying lifeless in my arms, Layla and Jess also lay unconscious beside us. I destroyed the entire city, killed fuck knows how many people all because I lost the woman I loved. I sat there cradling the woman I’d loved for I don’t know how long before Layla and Jess regained consciousness, they were stunned by the devastation that greeted them and when I told them how it had happened they were both in awe and terror of my power, and how could I blame them I’d just erased a city from existence, nobody should wield that kind of power. After my outburst of power my body was repaired so I was fully mobile again, After an hour or so we made our way to the craters edge I carried the Princess’ body with me until we could bury her properly, at the edge of the forest that ran along the northern edge of what used to be the capital I clawed at the earth trying to dig a grave for the Princess, it took hours but eventually the three of us had managed to dig a suitable grave and I placed her body within, Layla sung the song of departed souls while we covered her body with the earth again, all that remained was the makeshift gravestone we made from the bark of a nearby tree. I tried to say my farewells but I couldn’t find the words, I’d failed her and felt like I didn’t have the right to say anything. We turned to leave and found that the Iron and Copper Knights were waiting for us. They didn’t need to ask what had happened the truth was written on our faces or so they claimed, they insisted we join up with them and together left the lands once held by the Kingdom and travelled far to the north to a forgotten land, along the way Jess and Layla kept trying to console me and find ways to make me smile, I appreciated their efforts however it was a long time before their attempts bore fruit. We finally reached the forgotten lands beyond the Minyet Mountain range and stood in awe of the stark contrast between the two lands on either side, where we came from was green and verdant and where we were going was a barren dry wasteland the only visible landmark other than the ring of mountains that surrounded the wasteland was a single structure in the middle of the arid wasteland, “What’s that?” I asked the other Knights “Our destination.” was their response, Jess and Layla however stood dumbfounded “What’s what??” Layla asked “All I can see is an empty wasteland.” “Same here.” Jess affirmed. “You mean you can’t see it? That strange structure in the middle of the wasteland?” they took a few moments to stare at the spot I’d indicated but shook their heads, interesting I thought, turning to the other Knights I queried with them about the structure being invisible to the others to which they said “The Byzantium is shielded from the vision of others, only we Knights and a select few others can see it, but only we can use it.” “Use it? What do you mean use it? What is it?” “You’ll see soon enough.” It was a tough trek to the Byzantium, the hot dry air consumed any moisture in an instant like a starving animal ravages a meal, our lungs felt as dry as the dirt on which we walked. The land was hard and sharp, the heat seemed to come from everywhere, the only one who seemed unaffected by the heat was Jess, though I suppose that had something to do with her being part fire elemental. I think Layla struggled the most as she wasn’t used to such difficult terrain, the silk clothing she wore was clearly drenched in sweat and practically see through before we were even half way there. Eventually we reached the Byzantium, a strange black mound of what looked like obsidian with a single door made of a metal that resembled titanium. “Are we there yet?” Layla moaned as the sweat continued to pour down her body and evaporate on the ground in a small hiss. Copper Knight placed his hands upon the door and pushed it open, a rush of cool air washed over us as we entered what, to Layla and Jess, must’ve looked like a hole in the air, we were then in a corridor made of obsidian lined metal, it made me think of a submarine, or a fallout shelter. We made our way down the corridor and eventually into a great open space at least a hundred meters in diameter, a small glow appeared on a tile in the centre of the room, I went to investigate and found an imprint of a hand scanner with a flashing silver light at its core. I placed my hand on the scanner and the floor lit up with Silverlight, a line of light flowed like water from the hand scanner along the floor to the wall behind me, the same symbol that I bore on my chest began to glow brightly on that same wall, looking around I saw four other handprint readers start flashing, Iron and Copper Knights stood at two of them and placed their hand upon their scanners and the same occurred for them, their symbols glowed brightly on the walls behind them, the remaining two walls remained empty even when Jess and Layla did as we did and placed their hands on the scanners but still nothing happened. “Thank you Silver, now we can start to make a difference.” Iron Knight said as we took a step back. “What do you mean? What just happened?” “We powered up the Byzantium, our base of operations. It takes at least three Knights to power it up enough to give us what we need.” “And what might that be?” “Our Gateway keys. Each Knight gets one, it allows us to open a portal between here and anywhere else, the more Knights that connect the more power the Byzantium has and the more we can do with it, for example if I were the only Knight to connect here then I’d only be able to observe distant lands, but when Copper and I connect then we can observe distant lands and project our images to those lands, now with you here we can use the gateways to go to those distant lands in the flesh whenever we want, well sort of.” “Explain. “ “Well as I said the more Knights connected the more power at our disposal, with only three of us there’s a limit to how many gateways we can use at a time, for example if you used a gateway to go back to the Kingdom then there would be a time limit before we could use a gateway again.” “So it’s a recharge time, if we use a gateway then we have to wait for it to recharge before using it again.” “Exactly, I must say you’re grasping this a lot easier than I did.” “You said the more Knights connected the more power we have, what about the Bronze and Gold Knights?” “Bronze was… lost in the last Great battle his crystal was never found, and Gold… well Gold hasn’t woken up yet and it doesn’t look likely that he will anytime soon.” Take me to her. Silvarian says in my head, “Silvarian wishes to see Gold.” “Sure, follow me” Copper Knight leads me down another corridor into what looked like living quarters, beyond them was a room inside of which was a pedestal upon which sat a golden crystal nestled on a scarlet silk cushion, the crystal wasn’t smooth and round like I thought it would be instead it was sort of three dimensional star shaped with spines that shot off in all directions from a central cube. That cube was pitch black at its core but the rest of the crystal continued to shine albeit rather faintly, pick it up. Silvarian whispered in my head, I asked him why but he didn’t answer, so I picked up the crystal, it flashed brightly in my hand before I was suddenly somewhere else, the ground was cracked and split in every direction much like the wasteland outside the Byzantium only there wasn’t the oppressive heat and dryness in the air, the ground rumbled and a sound like thunder sounded to my left I looked over and saw a giant blazing bird made of golden fire, it seemed to be battling an equally large black copy of itself, the clashes of the two birds caused bursts of wind pressure to rush over the entire area almost blowing me away, an explosion to the other side of the area caught my attention and I turned my head to see what caused it, there was a huge silver dragon bursting forth from a mountain sending rock and dust everywhere, somehow I knew that was Silvarian. The dragon roared a deafening roar that caused both birds to break away from their entanglement, a stream of silver fire rushed overhead and hit the dark bird square in the breast incinerating everything it touched, the black firebird didn’t die however but the golden firebird launched a golden fireball that combined with the dragons silver fire engulfed the black firebird completely and destroyed it leaving no trace, the golden firebird landed on the mountain to my left while the dragon towered over the mountain to my right whilst I was stuck in the middle of these two titanic creatures as they stared each other down, suddenly a small flame from each creature landed in the area beside me and coalesced into a human shape, the Silver flame became what I’d grown used to seeing Silvarian as but the Gold flame took on a distinctly female form. The humanoid flames approached me and immediately began arguing, “Sil! How dare you show up after all this time!?” Goldrin cursed “Especially after what happened last time!” “I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to Gol.” The familiar voice of Silvarian came to answer the gold’s retort. “Then why are you here? It can't be just a social call, you want something, and who is that!?” The gold flame woman pointed a fiery appendage at me, one that burned with such heat that I could feel it even from over a meter away. I tried to introduce myself but Silvarian interrupted “He’s my new host, though I believe he wishes to changes that after what happened recently, however there's no time for that now, the darkness has begun to move again.” Silvarian's statement caused a visible reaction in the gold flamed woman her flames reduced in intensity and she almost seemed to quiver as though afraid “are you absolutely certain about that?” Silvarian nodded “Dammit then I had better find a new host and soon.” And with that we were ejected from Goldrin’s psycho-space and I was back in the chamber on the Byzantium with the Golden crystal still in my hand, however the black blob in the centre was gone and now a gentle white glow emanated from it. I put the crystal down and walked away, Copper Knight tried to chase me down for details but I turned into one of the living quarters and locked the door behind me, I was too depressed to talk to anyone. A day or two passed and I stayed in the room I chose to commandeer, it wasn't until Jess and Layla came bursting in that I finally left the room. They practically dragged me to a place they'd found in the Byzantium that I quote “had to be seen to be believed.” I followed them down several corridors and through a number of metal doors and arrived in a spectacular garden, the grass was green and stretched out for at least an acre with trees of practically every kind all over the place and all kinds of other plant life littered the garden. “So what do you think?” Layla asked me seeing how the majesty of the place had seemingly no effect on me. “It’s...nice.” “Nice?? That’s it? Nothing else to say about this wondrous place?” said Jess “Not really, no. Look girls I’m sorry but I’m not really feeling like taking a stroll through the grass.” “Then what do you feel like doing? Tell us something at least, you can’t keep everything bottled up inside, you have to let it out somehow.” “What do you know about it!?” I snapped back at them feeling the anger I’d suppressed since my love’s death beginning to bubble up again, “You think you know who I am and what I’m going through! When was the last time you got the person you loved killed and murdered a whole city because of it!?!” The girls tried to comfort me with kind words but it only made me feel worse, I tried to storm off but they kept getting in my way, then Layla said something that made me snap “To think the Princess would go for a guy like you.” “DON’T YOU DARE TALK ABOUT HER LIKE THAT!!!” and with that I pulled my sword from my shoulder and in one motion swung it in a horizontal slash that sent a wave of wind pressure soaring through the garden knocking Layla and Jess off their feet and sending flower petals and blades of grass into the air. That was when the fire first appeared in my eyes, it was also the first time I’d used the actual sword I’d made, I saw Layla do something when she hit the ground though I couldn’t see what but afterwards a strange green mist appeared and then I saw the one thing that could ever stop me in my tracks, the love of my life Princess Jen, or her image at least. The Princess stepped out of the mist and placed her slender hand on my shoulder but there was no warmth to her touch, she wasn’t really there, she didn’t say anything but she didn’t have to, the look in her eyes was all I needed to see, she didn’t blame me for her death she loved me more in those final moments than she ever did before. I broke down, dropped the sword I used moments before which promptly turned to light and returned to my shoulder rune before I fell to my knees fighting back the tears until I could hold out no longer, I let out a roar into which I poured all my sadness and guilt over her death and Silvarian added a touch of his own pain which made the sound resonate throughout the Byzantium. I returned to the main chamber some time later and was greeted by Copper Knight who gave me hug saying that he was sorry about what happened. I told him I'd rather get back to work and asked him to tell me what I could do to help, he said that there was a final stage of training I would need to complete before I was ready to face the true darkness that awaited, he called it Fusion training. Apparently it involved me and Silvarian merging as one on the physical plane which would allow me to take on the form you see me in now, but it wasn't going to be so easy to accomplish. Copper Knight took me to a room deep within the Byzantium used for training the previous generations of Knights, the room was all but empty save for a series of weapon racks along one of the walls, the floor was marked with a series of circles that grew smaller the closer to the middle you got Copper Knight told me sit in the middle circle, once I sat down I felt a strange force at work and the outermost circle erupted in silver flames, Copper Knight told me “These circles represent your link with Silvarian the closer the rings get to you the closer you are to being able to merge with Silvarian, now the rest is up to you and Silvarian.” And with that he left. It took a while but I finally got the flames to move to the next circle and after that first step it got easier to move the flames until they were at the last circle before mine, that was when it got a lot more difficult, I tried and tried but couldn't get the flames to move closer. Silvarian was able to appear with ease now, so he showed up to tell me that the final step was the most difficult because it involved letting go of being me and fully embrace being a Knight of Lethurial and to do that it meant letting go of my memories of the Princess. That was something I just couldn't do, as I wrestled with the concept on the way back to my room an alarm sounded, a shrill tone that rose and fell in pitch, Copper Knight rushed past me on his way to the main chamber, I followed him and found a series of hovering crystal orbs displaying images of the rest of the world, one crystal was pulsating red light and showed images of destruction caused by what looked like a demon however this demon was more humanoid than the rest I'd encountered also it seemed to be partially covered in metal plates, as I looked at the images my chest began to glow and almost in answer to some unheard call a symbol also glowed on the demon's chest it wasn't the same as my symbol but it was definitely one of the Lethurial signs. Another Knight had appeared, this one was different though, it was almost as though the crystal had tried to merge with a demon but that wasn't supposed to be possible, something told me there was more to this than what it looked like so when Iron Knight tried to use a Gateway to go there and slay it I intercepted him and went in his place, the Gateway felt familiar to me like I'd encountered it or something like it before, when I emerged I realized why, the sound of the Gateway was what I heard back before I got sent to this other world to begin with the sonic boom mixed with a sort of crackling of lightning. The scene that awaited me was one of pain and suffering, the trees had either been uprooted or torn apart, the rocks were shattered and turned to dust small fires burned all around the area. I found the demon in the middle of the mess, it wasn't difficult because of all the racket it was making, I approached carefully so as not to antagonise it since I sensed something different about it which only grew stronger the closer I got, my chest symbol grew brighter as did the demon's which made me think that something else was happening. As I drew closer I could see that the darkness that seemed to make up its body was shifting and squirming over something else, then I saw a it, a patch of human skin, I drew my sword from my shoulder rune and like I did before used wind pressure to blast away the demon, as I did I saw that there was a person under all the shadow, I managed to blow away enough darkness to see that it was a woman underneath and that the symbol that was resonating with my own was in fact on her chest, however the darkness quickly returned as the wind pressure dropped, the woman lunged at me but I managed to sidestep out of the way, I kept dodging the woman’s attacks while at the same time consulting with Silvarian for a strategy to help save her, a claw came dangerously close to my face when Silvarian finally thought of something. Using the runes on my hands I channelled some of Silvarian’s flames into my hands and after a rather clumsy dodge plunged those flames into the woman’s chest, the darkness that surrounded her began to incinerate revealing the woman beneath, a bright flash of purple light and the darkness vanished leaving only the naked form of the woman it tried to possess who promptly collapsed to the ground, I covered her up with my shirt and finally got a good look at her face and I was so shocked that I staggered back a couple steps, it was Julie her light brown hair was exactly the same as I remember it and her body was covered in a sheen of sweat from the fight against the demon. It was a while until Julie came to, by that time Iron Knight had arrived via Gateway and was in the middle of trying to scold me when Julie woke up feeling confused. I rushed to her side and helped her to her feet making sure that she remained covered, as I held her the symbols on both of our chests gave off a faint glow, mine glowed silver while hers glowed a deep purple, the symbol on Iron Knight’s chest also began to glow a dark blue, a similar colour to his armour, something was happening. I spoke with Julie alone while Iron Knight patrolled the perimeter, I broke the bad news to her that her beloved Harriet and everyone else from the Capital was gone, I chose to omit that I was the cause, which at first she refused to believe but after an outburst of tears and bunch of punches to my chest she finally broke down and collapsed into my arms, I held her close trying to offer as much comfort as I could, Julie’s presence made the guilt I felt over the destruction of the Capital and the loss of the Princess exponentially worse and of course I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I was the one responsible. After the recharge time past we used a Gateway to return to the Byzantium with Julie in tow, upon arrival Copper and Iron Knights had her connect to the system almost immediately, she placed her hand on the designated palm reader and just like before her chest glowed and a line of liquid light flowed to an identical symbol on the wall behind her, a rumble reverberated from deep within the Byzantium and one of the un-symbolled walls slid away revealing 5 coloured crystal cubes set into the wall each emblazoned with similar runes to the one on my shoulder each a different colour corresponding to our Knightly colours, as in silver for me, blue for Iron Knight, purple for Julie, green for Copper Knight and gold for the eventual arrival of the Gold Knight. “Ah the Vaults are open at last.” Iron Knight said when the Crystal wall appeared, “You’ll like this I think Silver since you use a similar rune, these allow the storage of anything you want to keep, and they’re not as limited as yours is, you can store different weapons or trophies or pretty much whatever takes your fancy, and it will remain safe for as long as you live, only the Knight whose spirit matches can access it so it’s the most secure storage facility in the world.” and with that he reached into the blue cube and pulled out a leather pouch that jangled with gold coins. With nothing to store I escorted Julie to the living quarters where I gave her a room to get some rest while Jess and Layla got her some better clothes, she’d been holding my hand since before we passed through the Gateway and refused to let go even now, at least until she fell asleep, in fact she begged me to stay by her side until she did just that and so I did. Unable to bear the guilt any longer I left the sleeping Julie and went to my own room to get some rest of my own. The next morning I found Julie in the garden sitting with Layla and Jess discussing whatever it was ladies discussed in private, I left them alone and returned to the training room where as usual I sat trying to bring the ring of flames closer and perform Fusion with Silvarian. The silver flames remained just beyond the circle upon which I sat and refused to budge no matter how hard I tried to draw them in, I don’t know how long I was at it before Julie came in but she saw me sitting in a ring of fire and assumed that I was in danger so she cast a spell that doused the area in water drenching me from head to toe, I was a little perturbed but I couldn’t blame her, after all she didn’t know anything about being one of the Knights of Lethurial outside of what she read in the texts in the library. I explained to her that I was in no danger and that I was in fact training, I tried to excuse myself but she grabbed my hand and stopped me, “I know.” She said “what happened to you now, the girls filled me in, I'm so sorry, I know how much she meant to you and how that loss must be eating at you. I just want you to know that I'm here if you want to talk about it.” “I appreciate that Julie but it's more complicated than that.” “Then talk to me, maybe I can help uncomplicate it.” “I don't think that will work.” “Why? Come on talk to me it’ll make you feel better.” “Because I killed them all!!” I snapped back “I watched as the woman I loved died in front of me and I destroyed the city in my anguish! No amount of talking is going to change that fact. I did it and I have to live with it, nothing you can say or do will change that.” My outburst shocked her and the truth made her drop to her knees and let go of my hand, I left her alone with that revelation and went to my room, the anger and remorse still burned inside me and to try and quell them I punched the wall which caused the metal to buckle and fold around my fist, I pulled my fist free and watched as silver flames burned from the cuts and the damaged flesh regenerated. A week of raids against demons passed and I still couldn't pull off a proper Fusion whereas Julie was getting better and better with every aspect of her training she was not as strong at hand to hand combat as the rest of us were and I doubted that she ever would be since she lacked both our previous training and our aptitude, she was a mage to begin with after all, however her skills at magic manipulation grew dramatically after bonding with the Bronze Spirit of Lethurial Boranzium. Goldrin had still to find a host despite the efforts of Iron Knight and the rest of us, I spent my time split between training with Silvarian and battling with demons that began to rampage across the continent, several times there were multiple demon attacks which meant that we had to split our efforts but because the Gateways were still only partially operational we still had a recharge time before sending the next person, of course we couldn’t send Julie alone because she wasn’t trained enough to fight full-fledged demons, instead she spent her time working on ways to support the rest of us in combat, then one night what felt like an earthquake came ripping through the Byzantium knocking all of us from our feet and knocking down everything that wasn’t nailed down. After a brief period of confusion we gathered in the main chamber where the crystals that had floated around the room now lay shattered on the floor, the scent of burning metal wafted through the chamber indicating that a fire burned somewhere nearby, Julie and I rushed off to find the fire and keep it contained while Iron and Copper Knights stayed behind to assess the damage. The heat was intense as we rounded the bend and were met with a literal wall of flame that blocked the corridor, the flames scorched the walls black as night and caused the metal to bubble and blister, Julie uttered a series of spell phrases and a deluge of water erupted from her hands like a fire hose from a fire truck, the corridor filled with steam as the fire tried to repel the hydrating onslaught, in an instant the corridor felt like a steam room at a spa, the hot water vapour stung as it was sucked into my lungs with every breath. Once the fire was out we went to check for any more fires, we found several smaller fires in all the corridors that lead to the eastern edge of the Byzantium and then we found it, a gaping hole in the wall through which moonlight and outside air poured, the ground was both scorched and moist though not from the water used to put the fires out there was a kind of slime that spread across the floor in a pool of shimmering blackness, the slime continued in one direction down a corridor and I knew it was a trail like one left by a slug or snail, I helped Julie to plug the hole in the wall before following the trail at as much speed as the slippery slime allowed. What awaited us at the end of the slime trail was a demon who had made it to the main chamber and was now engaged in battle with Iron and Copper Knights, however this demon was proving more difficult than they hoped, neither of their weapons were able to damage the demon because it's body was similar to that of a slug, an array of sharp spines lined the demon's sides and back and these spines were fully mobile which provided a formidable defence as well as offensive capability, not only that but, as I found out after when I engaged the creature, they were also able to secrete a type of acidic compound that could melt through our armour and weapons, Copper Knight got thrown against the wall and struggled to get back up, I sped over to his aid just in time to block a trio of spines from perforating his chest and abdomen, unfortunately I got grazed by a splash of the acid which seared a gash in between a pair of my ribs, the pain was intense, like my nerves were aflame, as the flesh melted away leaving a hole in my side, Silvarian used his healing flames to neutralise the acid and began regenerating the damage but the sensitive nature of the area meant it would take some time to heal properly, a flash of lightning snapped my attention back to the battle, Julie had thrown a ball of lightning at the demon to try and save us but it just seemed to make it mad. The demon turned it’s spines on Julie as she threw spell after spell at it trying to find something that would stop it, I pleaded with Silvarian to hurry the healing along but he told me that any further hurrying would make the healing incomplete and leave a nasty looking scar “I DON’T CARE!!” I yelled at him in frustration and the flames pulsed in intensity for a second before going out leaving a fresh scar that looked more like a cauterized cut than anything else, in one fluid motion I dashed over to Julie whilst also reaching to my shoulder rune and pulling out the original sword I made, the metal gave off a faint glow in my hand as I pulled it from my shoulder, I shoulder charged Julie out of the way and used my sword to block a downward swipe from the demon’s spines, six of its spines clashed against the blade of my sword and the acid began to pour forth from the spines, however this time the acid had no effect, it dripped from my sword onto the ground with a hissing as it still burned through the stone floor but there was not so much as a blemish on the sword, taking this opportunity I spun on the ball of my left foot and cut through all six spines like they were sticks which caused a bizarre howl to emanate from the demon, it was clearly hurting and I intended to finish it off. Grasping my sword in both hands I prepared to strike, the demon responded by sending a veritable wall of spines to stop me, Silvarian joined me more closely at this point and together we made our way closer to the demon, with Silvarian helping me on this level the sword we had forged together erupted in silver flames, undeterred we continued on cutting through spine after spine until the demon had no spines left to send against us, from what the others told me afterwards at that moment I had more presence than anything they had felt before, the demon almost seemed to cower before me as I raised my sword to deliver the finishing blow, I plunged my blazing blade into the demon’s soft and pliant hide piercing through and setting the creature ablaze with silver fire. After that battle Copper Knight was laid up in bed while his injuries healed, Iron Knight was busy with repairs to the Byzantium which left Julie and me to stand guard in the main chamber and watch for danger. It proved to be a rather dull task since all the observation spheres were broken, so I took to looking through the Vault to see what the previous Silver Knights had left behind, there wasn’t much to find since there was only a total of seven items, I was expecting more but each item seemed to be unique, there were some that I could identify from the books I’d read before but others that were a complete mystery, Julie eventually surrendered to her boredom and joined me in trying to work out what the items were. We determined that one was the lost stone of Pereen said to have driven the king of an old Kingdom insane enough to destroy his own Kingdom, another was the Rod of Jayburn an old mage staff of the highest order which was once lost in an explosion during an experiment, another was the ancient codex of Leymain a text that was said to contain the secrets of an ancient civilisation and it’s magic, the rest left us stumped there was a red crystal sphere that looked like a flame trapped in ruby, a large seed of some sort that didn’t look any seed either of us had encountered before, then there was a pouch of some sort of dust that was pale blue in colour and shimmered in the light like water, finally there was a metal cylinder with a series of wires protruding from each end, that struck me as the oddest of the collection after all it didn’t track with the level of technology that this world seemed to possess. Julie took this opportunity while I was distracted with the artefacts to thank me for saving her earlier and to blindside me with an apology, “I’m sorry.” she said “Sorry that you had to go through what you did back then, it wasn’t your fault, I felt the same when you told me Harriet was gone…” “I don’t think so, you didn’t watch her die, hold her lifeless body in your arms knowing that you were too late to save her, knowing that you failed her.” for the first time I could talk of the Princess without feeling the rage and anger over her death boiling within me. “You’re right, I didn’t go through that but the sense of loss is the same, I loved Harriet just like you loved the Princess and we lost them both. It’s as though a piece of your soul has been ripped from you.” “More than just my soul, half my very existence was lost that day, she was more than just my lover she was...words can’t even describe what she meant to me.” “I understand, nobody really understands what it’s like to love someone the way we did and have that love taken away until it happens to them, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t blame you for what happened, it wasn’t your fault.” I could see the tears welling up in her eyes as she spoke and after that last sentence she left and must have crossed paths with Jess and Layla who were seemingly inseparable nowadays because they came storming in hurling accusations at me for why Julie seemed to be crying. After defusing the situation I tried employing Jess and Layla’s expertise to help identify the final items from the Vault, Layla knelt beside me, her silk outfit fluttering from the movement, and picked up the dust pouch. Opening it she took one look at the pale blue powder within and quickly sealed the pouch again, she handed it back to me with great care as if she was offended by the mere presence of it, “That is the bone dust of an Ash’klio, a beast of legend that once hunted my people to the point of extinction until one day it just vanished, it was never clear what happened to make it stop coming after us but one day it was feasting on the flesh of my ancestors then the next day it was gone leaving only the mounds of their discarded gnawed bones behind.” I put the dust back into the Vault which seemed to put Layla more at ease as she reached for the next item, the metal cylinder, “This is alien to me. Never have I seen anything like this before but it seems like it is missing pieces of whatever it is, Kelnora!” she gasps slipping into her native language as her eyes find the seed and she reaches for it with lightning speed, “Could it be!? A Melnock seed! I haven’t seen one of these in over a century.” “Wait what? A century? Umm Layla how old are you?” I asked genuinely confused. “Not a very polite question to ask a lady sir but if you must know I am 385 years old.” a look of utter shock and amazement washed over both mine and Jess’ faces neither of us had any idea. “No wonder you know so much.” I managed to utter after several seconds of stunned silence. Trying to change the subject Layla moved on to the final object, the flame trapped in ruby. “Now this…” she says as she rolls it around in her hands looking at it from every angle “...I’m not entirely sure about, what do you think Jess?” Layla asks holding it up for Jess to get a look but Jess was seemingly transfixed by the object, her gaze had been locked on it the entire time Layla had been examining it, “umm Jess are you alright?” she didn’t respond, instead her eyes began to glow amber and the area around her began getting hotter, the gemstone began to glow a fierce crimson like a raging inferno and still Jess remained transfixed on the stone, Layla pulled away and the stone remained in mid-air hovering on a cushion of hot air, Layla and I rushed to our feet. The room began heating up like a sauna and Layla quickly began sweating but my temperature resistance was a lot higher thanks to my union with Silvarian, suddenly the orb glowed far more brightly and the sound of a heartbeat began pounding through the air, as though in a trance Jess rose on her knees, her arms open wide her face a mixture of longing and contentment, the orb drifted closer to Jess’ chest her clothes incinerating as it got closer, the orb accelerated and collided with Jess’ chest and a burst of heat and red light slammed into us knocking Layla back at least three feet while I weathered the impact like a stone in a river and watched as Jess transformed, her fiery red hair turned into actual fire and her tail turned to fire as well also multiplied into three flaming fox-like tails her fox ears were more prominent as she began to become more flame-like once again, her skin took on a more tanned hue which was now the only part of her body not blazing with orange-yellow fire, not only that but an intricate tattoo wove itself across her naked chest with the spot where the gemstone had touched her at the centre, the tattoo spread all across her breasts and chest like vines entwining themselves around a plant. The whole process took no more than a minute and when it was done Jess looked more like a fire elemental than a human, her hair and tail remained ablaze and would likely remain so for the rest of her life, her eyes also changed, they were no longer their beautiful green colour but were now burning bright white. Once the process had stopped and the area around Jess had cooled enough for us to approach, well Layla at least I could have approached at any time due to my immunity to fire, we found that she still retained her own mind, the transformation seemed to only change her physically, though we had no way of knowing if that was the full extent of the transformation or if it was in a reprieve. Jess didn’t even try to cover herself when Gregor, the Iron Knight, walked in having sensed the magical activity, she never was one for modesty after all, Gregor looked Jess up and down checking her out both physically and magically, turns out she was a Mylurian, an ancient race of beings that were able to fuse with elemental forces to become elemental warriors, they were in high demand a few centuries or so ago before they were hunted to near extinction, in fact it was highly likely that Jess was the last Mylurian in the world, once bonded to an individual then that Mylurian was that person’s property until either one died, Mylurian’s may have had longer lifespans than humans but the need for powerful warriors back then saw most Mylurians forced into virtual slavery and used as weapons of war. Hearing all this would normally put anyone ill at ease however Jess seemed as normal as ever, it was only over the next couple days that we learned that she had undergone more than just the physical changes, her flirtatious nature seemed to have been kicked into overdrive as she seemed to constantly crave intimacy on a physical level, she insisted on sharing my bed and her flirtations were endless, however her sexual advances were now no longer confined to the opposite sex as I found out when I once found her and Layla engaged in a lip lock that made all others seem half-hearted, now normally I wouldn’t have minded the advances of a beautiful woman or seeing said woman partake in the pleasures of her own gender but her desires grew to be a hindering distraction which if left unchecked would cost lives in the field. I took Jess to my/our chamber and discussed with her about trying to control her urges, however the discussion soon dissolved into carnal actions that made us both forget what we were discussing for a time. Eventually we managed to get Jess’s appetites under control and with renewed vigour returned to the task of hunting demons, until one day when Copper Knight returned from a mission and went to check on the Gold Knight crystal, only to return a moment’s later saying that the crystal was gone. Everyone mobilised to search the Byzantium for the missing crystal, Iron Knight took the training room while Copper Knight searched the sleeping areas, Jess, Layla and myself took the Garden and the main chamber, however the crystal was nowhere to be found however I did learn just how magnificent the Byzantium really was in my explorations, the sheer scope of it was unlike anything I had seen before. With nothing left to do Iron Knight, Jess and I went to battle a trio of demons that were tormenting a village in the southernmost area of the continent. When we arrived we each took on one demon. Iron Knight, who was the group’s combat specialist, dispatched his demon with ease and in record time, however when he did my demon seemed to become twice as fierce and twice as strong, I was able to slay it but it took longer than I had hoped, as soon as my demon’s corpse hit the ground a scream to my left caught my attention, it was Jess, she was struggling with her demon which was now three times larger than it was originally. Pulling my sword free from the incinerating remains of my demon I sped to her side, I was mere steps away when I saw the demon’s claw cut a deep gash into Jess’s back, Jess’s blood was no longer what we would consider normal it now looked like lava, it was just as hot as the molten rock that would spew forth from a volcano but as it flowed from her wound the light of her flaming body began to dim, at that moment I was reminded of Jen, how I was forced to watch her die helpless to do anything to stop it, NOT AGAIN!!!! I thought though the thought was not mine alone, Silvarian was thinking the same thing I was, neither of us was willing to allow anyone we cared about die in front of us again and that desire in that moment was enough to bring us together on a closer level, a bright flash of white light burst forth from my chest and I was suddenly clad in silver armour that radiated with Silverlight, I gripped my sword in both hands and it ignited with silver flames, I felt enormous amounts power running through every cell in my body, more than ever before and it felt incredible, I looked at the demon a gangly creature whose limbs looked like sticks but it’s claw-like hands were long and sharp, it’s pitch black body was thin and it’s skin appeared to resemble rubber or a rubber-like substance, there were two lines of spikes running down it’s back and by the way they were arranged they had to have some special property. The demon reared and let out a near deafening howl before sparks of electricity ran between the spikes on its back, opening it’s maw it let out a breath of lightning that fried everything in its path. I would not be stopped however. I took my sword and used it to redirect the flow of the lightning mixing it with my flames back at the demon which promptly erupted in flames and spasmed as though being electrocuted. Once the battle was done I rushed to Jess’s side, my armour now fading back into my chest symbol. I tried to use my healing powers to mend the wound on her back but it was a stopgap measure at best, the wound went deep and she lost a lot of lava-blood. She was going to need a lot of rest and regular healing sessions back at the Byzantium, things weren’t going to be that easy however. The ground began to shake as though something beneath was trying to break through, an eruption of a wall of flame and molten rock stretched across the horizon and spread in multiple directions and reached high into the sky, the ground around us cracked and split into islands floating on rivers of lava, the heat was intense even for me who with Silvarian’s help was almost immune to heat. Jess and I were on one island while Iron Knight was floating away on another, I called out to him before he got too far away to hear “Get back to the Byzantium and find out what’s going on, I’ll see what I can do from here.” he nodded and Gateway-ed away. Jess was getting worse her wound kept leaking her molten blood burning a hole into the ground that separated us from the lava flow around us, she grew colder by the second and my healing powers were only slowing the bleeding not stopping it, if something wasn’t done soon she was going to die and I couldn’t allow that, not again. Jess managed to regain consciousness just long enough to give me a clue that gave me an idea on how to save her, she was a Mylurian of fire so fire would have no damaging effects to her, I tested this theory by allowing her long flaming hair to touch the molten lava surrounding us and like I thought she was unharmed in fact the point where she touched turned to rock again as lava does when it cools, I hypothesised that Jess’ body must have absorbed the heat from the lava turning it back into rock, I reequipped my armour before I picked her up, her molten blood gliding over the metal of my gauntlets, and lowered her into the lava flow which promptly turned dark and solid as she regained colour and life from the heat she absorbed, I was so relieved when she woke up again and stood up alive and well again, I hugged her feeling her heat through my armour as we held each other tightly. The ground shook again and we fell on top of each other, there was another explosion on the horizon and more molten rock was thrown into the air as a huge fist the size of a mountain punched through the earth into the air, it was black as night except for the lava flowing down it which gave off a red light in thin streams, the ground continued to shake and rumble as the fist rose higher into the air revealing more of its owner. A deafening roar flooded the air as the head of the biggest demon anyone had ever dared to imagine emerged from the ocean of lava it’s fist had left when it punched through the earth, it was almost human in features except for the crown of horns that ringed it’s head and that lined it’s jawline, and of course the fact that it was at least 300 ft. tall, as we saw when it finally climbed out of the earth. Its body was pitch black and muscular, its eyes were blazing red as though they were suns in the night sky. I felt anxious and terrified and excited all at the same time when I looked at the monstrous demon, not all of which were my feelings, in fusion mode Silvarian and I were linked so closely that we were virtually the same being, feeling what the other felt like it was our own feeling, I could tell that the being facing us was the evil god we sought but I knew that no matter how excited Silvarian felt we were not ready to face off against it. Despite Silvarian’s protests I took Jess and retreated back through the Gateway just before a blast of fire enveloped the area where we stood, the blast wave followed us through the Gateway propelling us several feet into the air on arrival. After the ringing in my ears died down I noticed that the Byzantium looked different, what was once metal and stone was now crystal and light, the control spheres that floated around were now merged into a single massive orb of luminous crystal that flooded the whole room with white light. Something felt different about the Byzantium as well, I could tell Silvarian felt it too as though something was resonating with the power of SIlvarian’s Godly essence. The symbol on my chest shone more intensely than ever before and I felt a pressure in the air, something was coming closer. The massive crystal orb began to cause vibrations through the crystal structure that was the current form of the Byzantium’s control room, the vibrations caused the air to hum with a resonant hum, on the face of the crystal orb nearest to me I saw the same symbol that shone on my chest, I can’t explain why but I felt compelled to reach out and touch the symbol on the orb, and I wasn’t the only one, I could see from the corner of my eyes that the other Knights were doing the same. A flash of light occurred on the other side of the crystal orb which blocked my vision of what it was, suddenly I felt myself being pulled into the crystal along with the others, and in an instant we were floating in a void of pure light. I saw the others floating around with me however we seemed to have gained one, someone wearing golden armour floated across from me, but before I could process that we were assaulted by a voice that seemed to emanate from all around and within us, even though I knew the language it spoke was completely alien to me I could understand it like I’d been raised speaking it my whole life, “Voljom Kilry Hetoj Jomur Crafek Somon Lethurial” Welcome Knights of Lethurial to my heart. “Luthonus Kupolos Neomuron Nelos Brefingus Sdulos Anneshen Grosheun Wollong Muaness Omeida” I am all that remains of the God Omeida and I offer all the power that I possess in your fight against the Dark One. and with that our collective armours shone with their respective colours and morphed into a new configuration and our weapons morphed also, my already extremely powerful broadsword morphed into a more powerful longsword, Iron’s great axe morphed into stronger axe and chain, Copper’s hammer morphed into mighty maul with a detachable head on a chain, Julie’s staff morphed into a scythe topped with a huge amethyst from which the blade emerged, the Golden Knights weapon was originally a short sword and shield but now morphed into a larger shield with a more Phoenix-like shape to it and a bastard sword with a similar shaped guard and hilt. Our armour took on more characteristics of the beasts that dwelled with us, so mine became more Draconic, Gold’s became more Avian, Iron’s became more like a Rhino, Copper’s showed more similarities with an Elephant while Julie’s armour took on the appearance of a Wolf. With our transformations complete we felt a sudden rush as the voice boomed out one last phrase before we were deposited back in the control room of the Byzantium.“Jovo Nem Secu” The rest is up to you. We each drew our new weapons and pointed them at the Golden Knight who had suddenly joined us “Who are you!?” we demanded, the Golden Knight lowered their weapons and knelt before us and removed their helmet, time became as slow as cold treacle as the knight’s face was slowly revealed and my heart stopped once I saw their face...Princess Jen. I could no longer hold my sword and it crashed to the ground with a loud clatter of metal on stone, my legs lost all strength and I fell to my knees, I felt as though all the blood had left my body all at once and I was left stunned, the woman I loved, who had died in front of me, whose lifeless body I held in my arms, who I had buried with my own two hands, was now kneeling before me alive again and not only that but she was now one of us, a Knight of Lethurial. My emotions must have been overwhelming for Silvarian because the instant my knees hit the floor my armour vanished showing the disruption of our link. A warmth appeared on my shoulder and I looked to Julie had placed her hand on my shoulder, she too had shed her armour, “It’s good to see you again Princess, I see you have also been chosen, is that how you were able to return to us?” Julie asked. “You speak as though we know each other, who are you people? And why do you call me Princess?” was Jen’s response. Hearing her voice again was more than I’d ever dreamed of but the look in her eyes and the words she spoke shattered my heart, she may look like my love but her memories, her essence were gone and that felt like watching her die a second time. She didn’t know me or any of us for that matter, I couldn’t bear that and I had to leave before I could no longer suppress the tears. I fled to the garden where after a brief glance to make sure I was alone I let it all out, my cries were those of agony and heartbreak and the tears flowed like a broken river regardless of any attempts I might have made to halt them, I was vaguely aware of Silvarian trying to reach out and comfort me but I was inconsolable. I don’t know how long I languished for but by the time I returned to my senses Jess, Layla and Julie had gathered around me and were embracing me, their warmth helping to keep my heart from crumbling to dust. Once I was calm enough I let Julie explain what Jen told her after I left, apparently Jen’s first memory is of a bright golden light calling to her before waking up atop the grave I had dug for her, from then she communed with Goldrin, the Golden Phoenix spirit dwelling within her, who taught her how to use some of her newfound powers including a Gold Knight exclusive ability, short range teleportation, which is how she arrived at the Byzantium when Omeida awoke and summoned us all but of her life before then she remembers nothing save for momentary flashes and sensations. Having heard everything from Julie I needed time to myself to process so I returned to my room. As I lay there on my bed, my thoughts a whirlwind inside my mind, I could hear the others walking about outside. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on one thing at a time but after only a few minutes my solitude was disrupted when Jen walked in, just the sight of her again put my heart in a vice and filled me with sadness and joy, I couldn’t look her in the eyes because they held no love for me anymore so I avoided her gaze as much as possible, “umm I’d like to apologise if I’ve offended you somehow, but may I ask you something?” she said with that voice I once would have done anything to hear again. “It’s... nothing you’ve done but go ahead.” “Was there ever something between us? I mean the way you reacted to seeing me and this feeling I get when I look at you tell me that there was something between us but I don’t know what it was, would you please tell me, what were we?” “It’s difficult to explain so I think it best that you try to remember on your own, until then please leave me be.” “But…” I turned my back on her and I couldn’t help but feel like I was abandoning her as she slammed the door on her way out in a huff, “I’m sorry my love” I whispered under my breath, the sadness was becoming unbearable but fortunately Jess and Layla were nearby for me to confide in. With Jen’s arrival the Byzantium was now fully operational, the Gateways were no longer restricted in their usage and the scanning range of the crystal orbs was extended to worldwide. Strangely there was no sign of the Dark God since his emergence from the depths of the earth, it was as though he was no longer on the planet at all. As the days went by with still no sign of Nazgira, Jen’s memories slowly started returning though fragmented and jumbled she was remembering times from before her revival as the Gold Knight, unfortunately none of them was of our time together, she remembered times from her childhood mostly with the occasional fragment from before I arrived at the castle. Despite the lack of Nazgira’s appearance there remained a splattering of demon attacks all over the continent which we had to thwart. Taking shifts 2 of us were always on duty to react to any demon attacks while also searching for signs of Nazgira, eventually Jen and I were working the same shift but I couldn’t bring myself to look at her so every time a demon attack occurred I would take combat duty whilst Jen stayed behind to watch for any other attacks or signs of Nazgira. Even when there were quiet periods of no demon attacks where Jen and I would be left alone in the sphere room I couldn’t bring myself to speak with her, Jen would try to initiate conversation with me but I couldn’t give anything but the simplest of responses, I wish I had taken the opportunity to tell her then who we were to each other and how I felt but I couldn’t find the words. A red flash broke the silence between us, a demon was attacking the town of Durrow, before I even had time to think my Gateway was open and I was stepping through, in an instant the silence of the sphere room gave way to the cacophony of screams and cries of the townsfolk and roars of both the demon and the fires spreading through the town, the air tasted like sulphur and smoke, the demon had worked fast, torn its way through the southern part of town before the alarm had gone off in the Byzantium, I sensed it’s darkness ahead but before I could give chase a woman grabbed my ankle, she was half buried in the fallen debris of the house over her, she pleaded with me to save her child, she pulled her arm aside to reveal a bundle of rags shielded from the carnage by her body, inside was a tiny infant, couldn’t have been more than a few days old, I took the child carefully from her care and promised to take him from this place. The woman collapsed at my words as her remaining life force expired, true to my word I removed the child from the battlefield by opening a Gateway and passing the child through holding him through until Jen took him from me, as soon as the child was safe I pulled my arm back and drew my sword and chased after the demon. The demon was about to chow down on a pair of teenagers that thought it a good idea to try and fight off the demon themselves when I caught up, arriving just in time to slash and sever the demon’s arms at the elbows before the kids were cut to ribbons, this demon looked like a komodo dragon only more humanoid, it’s black blood poured forth from its stumps staining the earth black and instantly killing the surrounding vegetation, the teenagers ran for their lives now that the demon wasn’t about to chow down on their heads. The demon took a deep breath and then spewed a torrent of yellow flame at me which I promptly dodged, the flame blast struck the building behind me which rapidly began to crumble and incinerate, I tried to rush the demon again but it flicked its tail with enough force to cause some not inconsequential damage had I not used my sword to block the muscular mass of scaled flesh from clobbering my head. Drawing on the power Silvarian and I shared I ignited my sword, the silver flames roaring into existence around the white hot blade, I readied myself for a final blow, the muscles of my legs coiled and ready to spring into action, both hands firmly grasping my sword, the demon rushed me it’s fang filled maw open wide for a final bite, the instant the demon came in range I brought my sword down in a powerful swing, the demon rushed past me on both sides my strike having sliced it in half down the middle, the sound of a body hitting the floor came from behind me before the demon’s remains were incinerated in silver flames. I stayed to help the townsfolk get the fires under control, however once that was done the town Mayer came up to me and demanded that I leave immediately and not return again, he and the towns upper echelon blamed me for the demon’s arrival and the devastation it caused. I tried to tell him about the child I’d saved by sending him to the Byzantium but they refused to hear me out in their hysteria so I left, stepped through my Gateway and disappeared from their town. Back in the Byzantium Jen was sitting against the wall holding the bundle containing the baby boy that I had passed through the Gateway, she looked up at me and for an instant she looked exactly like woman I loved again, “So, now what?” she asked referring to the child nestled in her arms. “Well the townsfolk want nothing to do with us and refused to accept the child back since his mother died in the demon attack, our only option now I suppose is to find someone else willing to adopt him.” Jen looked appalled at the option but she handed the child over before storming off, the child stirred in my arms so I held him close to my chest. As soon as the opportunity presented itself I took the child to the garden where I was almost guaranteed to find Layla since she rarely left the place, and unsurprisingly I found her without much effort resting against a pine tree, her scant clothing laying in a pile beside her, her butt naked body on full display which she made no attempts to conceal as I approached, having seen her naked many times before I didn’t feel uneasy about her being naked now, as I got closer I noticed that patches of the already soft grassy ground were moist leading to the spot where Layla lay resting, and the fact that her skin glistened a little as the light struck it through the tree canopy, evidently she had just or very recently been for a swim in the small lake nearby. I got to where she lay and sure enough her hair and the rest of her body were still wet, “Hey Layla, good swim?” I asked unfazed by her nakedness. “Mmm, it was. Somehow the water here feels different, more relaxing. It must have some sort of magical properties that affect the body.” the child stirred in my arms and at that she opened her eyes and sat up in an instant at the sight of the tiny infant nestled in my arms, “where may I ask did he come from?” “The town I just saved refused to take him back after his mother died when the demon attacked, I was hoping you could look after him until we find someone to adopt him, is that alright with you?” “Of course, children are precious after all.” her eyes lit up in a way that I hadn’t seen before as she took hold of the child and nestled him against her heaving breasts. I could tell the child was in good hands, I also felt that there may have been a story behind the look in her eyes when I offered her the child but Layla wasn’t very forthcoming with details about her personal past so I chose not to pursue the matter. Before I left Layla asked me what the child’s name was, in all the confusion I hadn’t even thought about it, “Umm I don’t know,” I said sheepishly “what do you think we should call him?” “Hmm how about Darius?” she asked. “Sounds fine by me, Darius it is. Take good care of him Layla and thank you.” and with that I turned and left but not before hearing Layla talking to Darius like a mother talks to her child, all coochie coo and such, it brought a smile to my lips as I left the artificial sunlight of the garden for the relative darkness of the hallway. A week later and we had no leads on Nazgira’s whereabouts, I was on shift with Julie aka Bronze Knight when I had a thought, I asked Julie, who was more versed in magical matters than I was, “How does the Byzantium know where a demon attack is happening?” to which she answered that in order to assess an area as large as the whole world the Byzantium must be using an ancient magical object known as the eyes of Gaia's Heart to observe the world from the heavens, meaning that there had to be a satellite or series of satellites in high orbit around the planet which would also allow me to determine if this was still my world or another world entirely, with a little instruction from Julie I placed my hand upon the crystal orb that floated in the middle of the control room and asked the Byzantium to show me the planet. The images in the orb faded and were replaced with a model of the planet, most of the planet’s surface was water except for one giant landmass that covered a third of the planet’s surface, it wasn’t enough to tell me if this was earth so I asked it to show me the solar system, Julie was utterly perplexed by my questions and by what she was seeing in the crystal orb. The images changed into one that I could recognise a map of the solar system, the sun in the middle and the 9 planets orbiting around it, the blue one from the previous image was the third planet from the sun, this was earth only a much earlier version of it, “Well crap.” I said “I guess that means this is Pangaea.” “Pangaea? What’s that? And what did you do to the map?” Julie asked. “It's a long story, I'll tell you about it some other time, but right now do you see that?” I asked as I pointed to a section of the star map between Earth and Mars, where the space seemed to be twisting on itself, it looked something like a piece of shattered glass or rather like something had punched a hole in the fabric of reality. “What is that?” Julie asked utterly perplexed, just then Copper Knight and Iron Knight walked in, “What's what?” Asked Copper Knight then he saw the map I'd brought up on the crystal orb. “What the hell have you done the map!?” I spent the next hour or so trying to explain what I'd figured out, that I'd been sent back in time many millions of years to the time of the supercontinent of Pangaea, and that the one who had sent me back was my future self, and that I believe that Nazgira was now hiding in a pocket dimension of his own creation with the entrance being outside this planet's atmosphere. It took more time to explain the concept of planets and the universe to them but eventually they were able to grasp the basic concept. Our next course of action was to devise a way of reaching Nazgira and his hiding place, after much discussion we couldn't think of anything that would allow us to get there after all Gateways had a limited range of planet wide they could not reach into the depths of space, so we decided to take a break. Iron and Copper took over monitoring duty while me and Julie went to rest, she went to her room while I went to the garden, I fancied a dip in the lake to recharge myself, the bright lights of the artificial sunlight were painful at first but my eyes soon adjusted and I made my way to the lake in the far right corner, once I got close I heard the distinct sound of splashing water, there was almost no plant life around the lake save the grass that strangely never grew longer than a few inches tall, as I stood by the edge of the lake there appeared to be no one around until from below the surface emerged the beautiful figure of the Princess, the sight reminded me of how much I loved her, her stunning figure was on full display; her long brown hair with highlights of gold hung drenched down her slender back, her beautiful lightly tanned skin, her slightly muscular body that accentuated her perfect curves, her young and large breasts that held between them the star symbol of her rank as Gold Knight, but the part that I loved most about her was her hypnotically beautiful sapphire eyes that pulled at my soul. Those eyes now looked at me again but not in the same way as they used to, before they looked on me with love and admiration and the sparkle that caused was to die for but now they looked on me with cold uncaring disdain and in this instance a little hate, I turned away so as not to offend her and allowed her to exit the lake with her dignity intact, as she stepped past me her armour coated her naked body like liquid gold and she left without a word. Feeling more crestfallen than usual I shed my armour and clothes and strode into the cool waters of the lake, I lay in the refreshing waters for a while trying to wrestle with my thoughts when the deep rumbling voice of Silvarian pounded through my subconscious, closing my eyes I entered into the dreamscape that Silvarian dwelled in, for a while now Silvarian always appeared in his true dragon form, “There is something I must tell you.” Silvarian said, his voice rumbling the ground. “What is it?” “This may not be a comfortable subject but do you remember when the Princess died?” As if I could ever forget, I'd watched on helplessly as the woman I loved was killed before my very eyes, I was never the same after that. “As if I could forget.” “Well you may not remember what happened next but the destruction that wiped out the kingdom was caused by us.” “I figured as much.” “Well that was caused by you making direct contact with the Godly shard at the core of my being but the untamed nature of the power was too much to handle and it fed upon your painful emotions resulting in the wave of energy that annihilated the kingdom. I believe that if properly harnessed that power could be what we need to reach Nazgira.” “Are you mad!? That power destroyed the kingdom and everyone in it, I'll not see it used again.” “Don't be so stubborn. Think about it, how else are you going to reach Nazgira? Do you have a plan?” Feeling a bit deflated I resigned to the fact that there was no other way, “Fine, what do you have in mind?” Silvarian rose up onto his haunches and displayed his burning chest, the blazing liquid fire began to part down the middle revealing a blinding white light, once my eyes adjusted a little I could see an orb of white energy at the core of the light. “Now reach out with you thoughts and feelings and touch the shard.” I did so and felt the chaotic mass of energy, the slightest touch was too much to handle as it felt like the shard was trying to consume my mind, I pulled away instinctively “No! You have to embrace the power, let it flow through your entire body.” “It's too wild I can't control it. It's like trying to hold a tornado in my bare hands.” “It responds to the mental and emotional states of one that tries to bond with it, if you are in turmoil then it reflects that, remember it's a part of me and I'm a part of you, so whether you admit it or not you are in turmoil.” “Oh really, and pray tell what am I in turmoil about?” “It's obvious to anyone that knows you, you’re torn up over seeing Jen again only to find she doesn't remember you.” As much as I hate to admit it, he was right no matter how hard I tried to hide it seeing Jen again did make me happy but knowing that she didn't know who I was and what we shared tore me up inside. “What do you suggest, that I forget about her as well and everything we shared!?” “I would not ask that of you or anyone for I know what that love meant to you, I only suggest that you find some way of coming to terms with it. Unfortunately I cannot help you in this matter for I don't know how, human hearts are complicated. We'll take a break for now, let's try again tomorrow.” And with that his chest sealed up and returned to the molten metal look, I opened my eyes again feeling the cool water against my skin. I got out of the lake the soft grass crunching underfoot, with no towel to dry myself I used a trick I borrowed from Jess where I exhale deeply and coat myself in heat which causes the water to turn to steam and evaporate off my body. Once I was dry I picked up the clothing I had left behind and used my armour as covering until I got back to my chambers, I passed Layla on the way Darius nestled in her arms sound asleep I tried not to disturb them. My chambers were just as I'd left them my bed was unmade and the walls remained devoid of decoration, Jess still lay curled up on my bed her flaming hair and tail dimmed as she slept, I removed my armour feeling no anxiety about being naked in Jess’ presence, I put some underwear on anyway and sat against the wall feeling the cold metal against my back, eventually sleep managed to wrap me in it’s comforting embrace. The next day saw very little progress towards bonding with the Godly shard and not much activity on the demon front either. It wasn't until the late evening that something of import occurred, I'd been struggling with the Godly shard for some time to no avail when Layla came to see me. She told me that she sensed something happening the past few hours, she said “It felt like an enormous wave of raw power crashed over me then disappeared in an instant. What is going on?” I told her about what Silvarian and I spoke about, after all Layla was one of the only people I knew I could confide in and trust to keep my secrets, I told her about the Godly shard that Silvarian was trying to get me to bond with and how much difficulty I was having in doing so. She sat down beside me, her sensual frame mere inches from mine and she wrapped her arms around me cushioning my head between her huge breasts. Despite the fact that I was getting smothered by her flesh mounds a sense of calm began to wash over me as her scent and her warmth enveloped me. She told me that whenever she feels sad or upset she tries to think of her happiest memories, also in magic the emotions of the caster can have a drastic effect on the spells they cast, for example according to her, a mage casting a fire spell during a fit of anger could turn a simple spark into a blazing inferno or if cast during a bout of depression the most powerful fire spell could be as weak as a candle flame. Taking from this lesson she explained that if I try to bond while thinking of the thing that makes me happiest or the calmest might have a better effect. I took Layla’s advice on board for the next day and when Silvarian and I tried the bonding again I focused my thoughts on the one thing that still gave me a sense of calm happiness, being with Jen before she lost her memories, specifically the nights we would spend laying atop the palace roof watching the stars together. With that memory occupying the foremost of my mind I reached out to touch the shard again, this time I felt nothing when my fingers touched the mass of energy, a few seconds passed before I felt a change, I opened my eyes and watched as the white mass of energy coiled around my arm like a slithering serpent, it crawled all the way up my arm until it was at the level of my shoulder where the end of the energy tentacle rose up like a snake about to strike and thrust itself into my chest where my chest symbol began to shine and turn silver, the surge of power was too intense for words, I cried out in agony as my body burned from the overdose of power. The pain was over in a few seconds but it left me on my knees feeling weak, I looked to Silvarian for advice but as I turned my head to face him I saw his flames begin to dim, “Well done my friend, you are now the true Silver Knight of Lethurial and my time has come to an end, farewell... my friend.” “What!? Silvarian wait what’s going on!? Don’t leave me” I cried out and I’m fairly certain I called that out loud in the real world as well. “You would say that we Spirit Beasts act as a filter of sorts to accessing the power of the shard we carry, but that process limits the amount of power you can access so by bonding with the shard directly you now have full access to its vast power and knowledge without going through me, so I’m rather superfluous now and I would only serve to hinder you. Thus I will simply fade away until the next Knight is needed. Goodbye my Friend.” and with that Silvarian and his silver flames disappeared from the dreamscape, and I haven’t seen him again since. With its occupant gone the psychospace that was Silvarian’s dwelling crumbled and I was suddenly ejected back into the land of the conscious, in the training room. All the circles of flame were now lit and three times higher than they were before. I stood and the flames died down in response, I looked down at the symbol on my chest which no longer looked like a tattoo of black ink but like my skin itself had turned to silver. I felt a deep sense of sorrow at the loss of Silvarian but I wasn’t going to let his sacrifice be in vain. After taking a few minutes to mourn and compose myself I left the training room, Jess and Layla were rushing in my direction as I emerged from the training room, they must have been in a rush as Jess looked fresh out of bed and Layla was topless her heaving bosom rising and falling with her heavy breathing. “I felt the change in the power wavelengths did you do it?” Layla asked as her breath returned to her. “Master, what happened? I felt your sadness even in my sleep.” “Yes I did bond with the shard Layla but Silvarian is gone which is why I was upset Jess, he didn’t tell me that if bonded with the shard directly then he would fade away? Anyway there will be time to mourn later we have work to do, I know what we need to reach Nazgira.” Taking the lead I marched to the control room and called for everyone to gather there, once everyone had arrived I answered some of the barrage of questions regarding my new look and power level also why I’d called this meeting. “I know how we can reach Nazgira…” this was met with a series of “What” and “How” questions, “...the Gateway System.” I walked over to the crystal wall that housed the Vaults and reached into the Silver symbol, the wall lit up at my touch and my hand passed into the crystal a few seconds later I pulled my hand back now holding the object I sought, the metal cylinder. “Search your Vaults for anything similar to this.” the other Knights did as I asked and one by one they pulled out item after item that had even the slightest resemblance to the cylinder I held. It wasn’t until Jen pulled out a sphere of the same metal with a single wire stemming from the base, that things started to pick up. I took the sphere and examined it feeling the smoothness of the metal and checking the length of the wire, it was a match to one of the wires from the cylinder, I held the two pieces of wire together and using a drop of my newfound power fused the wires together the sphere now sat fixed to one end of the cylinder, now we just needed one last piece. Everyone scoured their Vaults for the final piece going through every single item to check for any semblance, some had much more in their Vault than others, Julie had the most, the previous Bronze Knight’s must have been quite the hoarders. Finally Copper Knight pulled out a cube that just like the sphere had a single wire that protruded from a single side, after taking the cube and affixing it to the other end of the cylinder I fused the wires again and a pulse of energy burst forth from the device, the sphere began to fill with flashing lights from within its very core as though tiny explosions were occurring inside it, the cylinder turned transparent and a single line of orange light streaked through the core of it while the cube turned into a solid mass of orange light reminiscent of the light of the sun. The device was now complete. Once the device was completed a receptacle opened up on the crystal orb in the middle of the room that looked very much like a keyhole for one of those old fashioned keys, I took the device and inserted into the keyhole and the crystal orb burst into bright blazing golden light, it was almost like our own miniaturized sun had appeared in the middle of the room, it took a while for our eyes to adjust enough to the bright light now flooding the room for us to notice that our symbols were now glowing as well. I stood before the archway that corresponded to my personal Gateway and opened it, this time the shimmering pool of light that would normally appear turned into a swirling vortex of light and energy, it was now more of a Wormhole than Gateway. I turned back to the others who watched on with stunned or confused faces at what I had just done. “We may now go to Nazgira’s new dimension and finally put an end to all this once and for all! Armour up Knights and follow me.” I said before jumping through the Wormhole and vanishing from the face of the earth only to reappear in high orbit around Mars a split second later, followed shortly after by Iron, Copper, Bronze and Gold Knights, they were all shocked by the lack of air and gravity but I reached out with my new powers and created a bubble of atmosphere for everyone to breathe in, I then had Julie cast a rope spell around everyone so that I could tow them along with me when I pushed off, I must admit that being in space with everyone like that was probably the most terrifying experiences of my life, I mean if my concentration slipped then the atmosphere bubble could have broken and they could have suffocated, it was a humbling experience to hold their lives in my hands like that but the fact that they trusted me enough to do so gave me some solace. Once we were all tethered together with Julie’s violet rope of light I let off a blast of silver fire from the base of my feet essentially turning myself into a human rocket dragging the others along for the ride, their screams of terror and elation were drowned out by the roar of my fire. The folded space was in front of us and the anticipation was building as we got closer, with each second the fold got bigger and my heart beat a little faster until finally, WHAM!! We hit the fold like a comet and our rope instantly disintegrated, the emptiness of space was instantly replaced with the heavy weight of gravity and air before suddenly the pain of face-planting solid ground. I managed to pick myself up pretty quickly but soon found that we had all been separated, the purplish black sky and twisted trees that dotted the floating rocks that littered the void I found myself in were proof that we were in an alternate dimensional space, fortunately my subconscious knew enough to continue generating a protective bubble of normal atmosphere around me but I feared for the others since they were without such protection and I couldn’t tell if the atmosphere here was compatible for them as well. I quickly scanned my surroundings for any sign of where they might have landed and saw 4 impact craters on other floating rocks around mine, acting on instinct I flung my arms open and expanded my atmosphere bubble to encompass their rocks as well, everyone soon after began making their way over to me jumping from rock to rock until we were all reunited on my floating rock which was the largest of them all. Having scoured my newfound knowledge from the Godly Shard I found a Rune that would protect the others in my stead, I began inscribing it into their armour however our presence had not gone undetected and soon an army of clay demons descended upon us and the longest and toughest fight of our lives began. The ability to move freely, thanks to my atmosphere runes, made all the difference in fighting the demons however it was down to those who I’d given the rune to do battle until I had finished inscribing someone else, the sounds of metal clashing and the growls and howls of the demons was very distracting but I managed to inscribe the runes on Copper and Iron Knights, so while they were doing their best to keep as many demons away from my bubble as possible I got to work inscribing Julie’s back with the rune while Jen dealt with any demons that got inside the bubble, a few minutes later and Julie was free to join the battle, her scythe swinging and cutting down whole swathes of demons who fell to dust each time they were slain. Next was Jen’s turn this would leave us defenceless if any demons made it inside the bubble, Jen was slightly apprehensive about letting me inscribe her but since it was the only way for her to join the battle she submitted and knelt in front of me, I placed my hand on her back and she jerked as though struck with a bolt electricity, if only I’d known it’s significance then. Her inscription was done just in time for me to block a cleave from a demon who had gotten past the others, I sent the weapon flying from its hand and severed its torso from its abdomen and it crumbled to dust. Jen took a couple moments to get back to her feet, she looked a little dazed and confused but shook it off quickly and charged at the remaining army of demons cutting down one after another, I followed moments later my sword in hand and blazing with its silver flames. The army of demons seemed infinite for every time we cut down one another would take its place, until suddenly the army froze and the titanic form of Nazgira rose up from the void, he still oozed magma from his forearms but was now more human looking in his features, he appeared only a few shades lighter than the blackness of the void, like a low contrast radiograph, his burning red eyes and the magma in his veins were what made him stand out. We all froze uncertain of our next move, we were still surrounded by a horde of clay demons and now Nazgira stood looming over us, sudden realisation dawned on me and I cried out to everyone “SCATTER!!” just in time as the rock we stood upon exploded in the centre as Nazgira’s foot burst forth from underneath, the entire floating island shattered and we were all scattered to different smaller islands, mine was little more than a stepping stone for it only allowed me to stand in one spot, I looked around and the others were all in equally precarious situations, Iron Knight was balancing between a rock and a tree, Copper Knight was dangling from a tree branch, Bronze Knight had managed to tether herself with some magic ropes to a larger rock, Gold Knight was stuck between a pair of rocks that were grinding past each other. We weren’t given time to save ourselves either as we were quickly beset by the clay demons once again, I was leaping from stone to stone cutting down any demon that dared to get in my way, Iron Copper and Bronze Knights were busy with their own battalions of demons and Jen, Gold Knight, was pinned between the rocks. I was making my way to her as fast as I could and I got pretty close, just a couple more jumps away, before a demon found her and pulled it’s cleaver over its head ready to execute her. “NNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!” I roared and threw my sword like a javelin and impaled the demon straight through the chest, the demon crumpled to dust and my sword was left stuck in the ground. I landed on the same rock that Jen was trapped on and a group of about 30 demons were waiting for me, with my weapon gone they must have thought they had a chance to kill me easily, boy did I prove them wrong. They all charged me at once and I used my hand to hand skills to beat them all into the ground, the first was met with a jump kick to the face with the 2 on either side getting a fist to the face, the rest of the demons met a similar fate, it felt like a fight from that TV show Power Rangers. Once all the demons were dust I rushed to Gold Knight’s aid and freed her from the rocks that confined her, as soon as she was free she hugged me, the way she used to which made my heart quake at what it meant for her to do such an act. As quickly as it had begun our embrace was over and we were back in the thick of battle once again, I picked up my sword and fought back to back with Gold Knight again, demon after demon falling under our blades. None of us noticed at first but we were slowly getting weaker. After the majority of clay demons were annihilated I turned to Nazgira and my vision momentarily blurred causing me to stumble slightly, I managed to catch myself on a rock outcropping but I realised then that we were being drained of our power. In that instant where my vision blurred I saw a string of light too small to see normally or deliberately concealed by some magic art that we hadn’t come across before, either way I saw that the string was slowly sapping my power, like a tapestry being unravelled by pulling on a single string, a quick look at Gold Knight with magically enhanced eyesight revealed that she too had a string attached to her chest seemingly sapping her power, with her help we pulled on those strings and a huge spider-like entity flew up in the middle of the rocky area. The spider demon was grotesque, it’s eight pairs of eyes looking in twice as many directions and it’s mandibles clicking and snarling even from where we were, the body of this spider-like demon was layered with shiny crystal-like scales which allowed it to camouflage itself, if it hadn’t been for the single stroke of luck of me finding the strings it attached to us to drain us of our power then we most likely wouldn’t have found it at all. With Iron Knight Copper Knight and Bronze Knight busy dealing with large swathes of clay demons it was down to Gold Knight and I to deal with this spider demon, we both rushed it trying to catch it in a pincer attack, I rushed for its front while Gold Knight rushed it’s back, I was using my sword to block swipe after swipe from its razor sharp legs while taking any opportunity to counterattack and deal whatever damage I could, meanwhile Gold Knight was charging the demon’s rear but was met with a flood of the demon’s spider silk which she couldn’t dodge in time and wound up captured and cocooned in the spider silk like a fly in a trap. My instincts and rage took over at this point and I entered into a kind of trance that apparently was extremely impressive, I held my sword in a two-handed grip and began to walk towards the spider demon, the demon lunged it’s legs at me trying to impale me or cut me to shreds but each attempt was met with the same result, me dodging the attack and countering severing the demons legs with my flaming sword, this happened three times before the demon wised up a bit and tried something different, it leapt into the air with its remaining limbs and tried to squash me with its body, I was unfazed by the demon’s attempt and I used an overhead slash to split the demon in half. The demon’s blood rained down around me as I continued to walk to the aid of Gold Knight. I cut the spider silk that cocooned her, helped her to her feet and together we progressed closer to Nazgira. We were a dozen or so meters from the edge of the floating rocks where Nazgira stood towering over us silently watching like some ominous statue when suddenly there was a blast of pressure that knocked us all off our feet, and finally Nazgira spoke, it was the same ancient language that Omeida spoke in when we encountered his essence in the Byzantium, “Nuva Juno Plusi Kliostio Madoi Histroe Maxi Nefol.” You fight well for lowly Humans, but it ends here. Now you must face my champion. And with that a column of flame erupted from the ground in front of Nazgira and from that column stepped forth someone I remembered well, and hated more than anyone, Freigrik the former advisor to the late King of Median and the man who caused Jen’s death. He was wearing black armour similar to ours and carried a sword of evil design, the maniacal smile on his face pissed me off immensely and my rage flared but before I could take a step a golden flash occurred beside me and Golden Knight was attacking Freigrik who had blocked her first strike, their swords sending sparks into the air as they clashed and from the opposing energies contained within them. I took a step to help her but she yelled back “Not this time! This time it’s my turn to protect you...my love.” she hadn’t called me that since she returned from death as the Golden Knight, I knew then that her memory had finally returned and she remembered our last moments together. Her rage was equal to my own but her skills in close quarters combat were not, nor as it proved were they equal to Freigrik’s as he blocked each and every one of her strikes with an almost playful ease that cursed smile never once leaving his scarred face. “Freigrik!” I called out, “How is it that you live when so many others more deserving of life are dead!?” “Well,” he said as he delivered a kick to Jen’s mid-section and sent her flying into a tree rendering her temporarily incapacitated, “after the Princess here was stuck with the poison from the Scorpio demon, and you lost your mind watching her die, your power went crazy with you, the Master here pulled me to him but not fast enough to completely avoid the blast you caused that destroyed the entire kingdom, as you can see by the scars on my face.” Jen froze as he said this, learning at last that her home had been obliterated by the very man she loved. “I wouldn’t expect someone like you to understand the torment I felt at that moment and every day since, I’m haunted by the memory of that day every time I close my eyes. But I swore that I wouldn’t let that hold me back from doing what I was meant to do!” and with that I leapt into action, my sword blazing with fury more intense than ever before, I came in high with an overhead slash and smashed his sword down to the ground and then came in with a punch to his face before spinning to slash sideways into his gut, unfortunately he was fast enough to recover and block my final slash, he began his counterattack with a series of fast and light slashes to the sides which I blocked sending sparks into the air as our swords clashed, we seemed evenly matched in terms of swordplay though I think I had the slight edge in offensive power but his guard was formidable. I felt the power of the God Shard welling up within me driving me onwards, we kept trading blows for what seemed like an age but in the end I managed to weaken his guard enough to deliver a mortal blow across his chest, blood spurted from the wound and he fell onto his back his blood pooling around him. I stood over him to watch him die when suddenly a pressure wave hit me and I was sent flying into a cliff 30 or so meters away, the pressure didn’t let up and I was pinned against the stone but I wasn’t the only one, the rest of the Knights were also pinned against the cliff, a rumbling sound reverberated through the ground and the air, I looked up and Nazgira had moved, he had placed his hand over the site where Freigrik lay dying hovering it over him as streams of lava-like energy oozed from his hand and flowed into Freigrik, screams of agony were resounding from Freigrik but I suspected what was really going on, Nazgira was infusing Freigrik with some of his essence, the same way we were infused with the essence of Lethurial. A flash of dark light and Freigrik stood once again his wound gone and his armour seeming to absorb the light around it, his eyes glowed with a similar light to Nazgira’s, the pressure disappeared and we fell to the ground, most of us landed on our feet but Julie, Bronze Knight, landed face first. Iron Knight helped her to her feet and we all readied our weapons. Freigrik was now like us and this was going to be a tough fight. We all attacked Freigrik but he was now so powerful that he was able to block and counter all our attacks with ease, we kept attacking and he kept knocking us all away, Julie tried casting numerous spells to try and slow him down or hinder him in some way, but he countered them all as well. Everyone lay scattered around battered and beaten unable to continue fighting, I barely managed to remain standing leaning on my sword for support, Freigrik went over to Jen and lifted her up by the neck choking her a little, as soon as he touched her I tried to stop him but stumbled and fell to my knees, “Now then, let’s see if that power of yours is a match for me now.” he said before readying his sword for a thrust through Jen’s chest, everything went into slow motion, his blade creeping closer to Jen’s chest looked like it was barely moving but I knew I wasn’t strong enough to stop him again, I needed more power, I prayed for more power, enough to stop him and save everyone. As though in response to my prayer a new sense of power exploded within me, the God Shard had evolved. A huge flash of silver light hid the dust cloud of my super speed dash and in an instant I slammed into Freigrik and caught Jen, placing her down I kissed her forehead, since her helmet had been broken during the fight as had most of ours, my armour and body were now fully restored, and I felt far more powerful than ever before, I turned to face Freigrik once again with the intent to kill him more intense than before, my sword blazing with silver fire and now crackled with white lightning as well. An epic battle ensued between me and Freigrik as we both hacked and slashed at each other, each trying to kill the other, sparks and light flashing each time our swords clashed. I’ve no idea how long we battled but it must have been quite the sight to behold because when it was over and Freigrik lay dead at my feet the others were all up and staring in awe, mouths agape in astonishment. But there was no time for idle gawking, there was still Nazgira to deal with. The main problem with trying to fight Nazgira was the fact that he was the size of a skyscraper, and the pitch black tint of his skin against the dark void of the empty space around us made him difficult to see, his lava-like blood which glowed through his body helped but it was like looking as a circulatory system with no other layers of the body, no bones no muscle no fat no skin. I stood looking up at Nazgira as my comrades lay strewn around the ground, too battered and exhausted to continue the fight, Freigrik’s defeated corpse lying beside me. As I contemplated methods of combating such an enormous foe Copper Knight grabbed my ankle, and said as I knelt beside him, “It’s time, we’ve done what we could but now... the rest...is up... to you.” and with that he plunged his hand into his chest symbol and pulled out something that was glowing like a green sun in his hand, beams of light shining through his fingers like when the sun breaks through storm clouds, he immediately began struggling to breath but before he drew his last he thrust the green sun-like object into my chest, there was a blinding surge of light and power flooded through me, the same as when I first bonded with Silvarian, the surge left me winded and when I recovered Copper Knight, Stelon, lay dead before me, a profound sadness filled me but then Iron Knight had managed to stagger over to me and placed his hand on my shoulder, he said “I knew this day would come eventually, you are our best chance to pull this off.” and with that he too thrust his hand into his chest and pulled out a blue star-like object and plunged it into my chest, the power surge was immense and again left me winded, when I looked up Gregor lay face up dead with a content smile on his face and just like Stelon his armour was gone, next Julie knelt in front of me as I felt like crying at the death of my friends, she held my head up and smiled at me, “No Julie not you too.” I practically sobbed. ”I forgive you.” she said before plunging her violet star into my chest as well the resulting power surge blinded me for a few moments and when my vision returned Julie lay dead at my feet as well. Fearing what was going to happen next I wrapped my arms around Jen hoping to stop her from following the others example, she kissed me like she used to and tears streamed from both our eyes, she pushed me away just enough to create the space for her to reach into her chest, as she plunged her golden star into my chest she whispered into my ear “I’ll always love you.” I was overcome by sadness and rage at the sacrifice of all my comrades but Jen’s was the one that hurt the most, I’d only just got her back after all. I let out a roar of rage and sadness and frustration as I held Jen’s lifeless body in my arms for the second time. With my power now amplified by the God Shards of all the other Knights my roar carried with it enough power to shatter the surrounding floating islands, not only that but the wind pressure sent the shattered fragments clear into the void, erasing them from existence. Nazgira took notice of my power up now and moved to attack me, I caught his building sized fist and stopped it with one hand, my rage serving to fuel and focus my power and exponentially ramp up my strength I was now essentially a human God. I gently laid Jen down and got to my feet still holding back Nazgira’s planetary punch with my left hand, I then pushed his fist away and embraced every drop of my rage and sadness and fury, turning it all into focused power. That power flowed through me like a raging supernova, my eyes were burning with silver fire and I was suddenly enveloped in a sphere of silver-white light and I found myself floating off the ground and able to move under my own power. In a fit of rage and fury I pulled my original sword from my shoulder symbol which blazed like a sun in my hand, my light illuminated the entire pocket dimension that Nazgira had made, and I could finally see how ugly and disfigured he truly was, I propelled myself at him and like a comet, I collided with him causing much damage to his shoulder joint. I continued to attack him using my vastly powerful sword and body to beat and slash away at him until he was more than just beaten, I wanted to make him suffer before I killed him, after I broke his body as much as I could I launched myself straight for his heart, my sword ready to pierce through and snuff out his very existence. I tore through his flesh like a bullet and destroyed his heart, his lava-like blood oozed forth from the gaping hole in his chest for a few seconds before it lost its heat and turned as black as his flesh, I watched, rage still burning like a supernova within me, as he fell into the emptiness of the void around his pocket dimension, watched as his body was devoured by the void. As soon as his body was gone however the pocket dimension began to collapse, there wasn’t enough time to retrieve everyone’s bodies, so I said my goodbyes and flew straight for the portal that we came in through as it too was closing and getting smaller, I remember thinking I’m not going to make it as the portal got smaller and smaller and the remnants of the scenery blurred past me, but fortunately my flight was unaffected by gravity and I zoomed through the portal a full second before it closed for good. Floating in empty space I let the reality of the events of the last few minutes sink in, and I cried, a lot, and of course in space no one can hear you scream or my case bawl your eyes out. I don’t know how long I floated there in my bubble of light but eventually I gathered enough fortitude to try and make my way back, I opened up my Gateway but something was off, it looked different, distorted or inverted somehow, so I closed it and tried to open it again. Every time I opened a Gateway it looked different than it used to, so I assumed it must have had something to do with my absorbing the powers of the other Knights, so I stepped through and as usual found myself back in the Byzantium, only it was different. There were no lights on and the crystal orb in the middle of the control room sat in the floor inert, the doorways were covered in cobwebs, and dust covered everything. I logged in by placing my hand on the floor handprint and all the symbols on the wall lit up, which made sense since I now had all the shards of Lethurial within me, the hum of powering up rang through the room and the rest of the Byzantium, the orb filled with images, familiar images, towering skyscrapers in huge cities of concrete and metal, cars driving through them, people everywhere wearing facemasks to protect from the pollution, I was back in my own time. Having returned to my own time I used the orb to check up on current events and find out exactly when I had returned to, having determined that I was at least 4 hours earlier than when I was sent back I thought I should have a look around the Byzantium and see what else had changed in the billions of years since I was last here, other than the vast accumulation of dust and cobwebs only one thing had changed, there were drawings on most of the walls along the corridors, most depicted the Knights of Lethurial, myself included, and some of our exploits while others showed a woman and child at various stages of the child’s growth. I heard footsteps and voices back in the direction of the control room, I went back and found a pair of cloaked figures standing in awe of the room, when I confronted them one of them leapt at me with arms wide open screaming “Master!!” as they flew towards me their hood fell back and revealed that it was Jess, her flaming hair and tails somehow not setting the cloak alight, but I embraced her all the same. The other figure removed their hood and revealed that it was Layla, a little bit older looking but only by about 10 years or so, considering she looked in her 30’s when I last saw her she still looked good even though she was a lot older than what she looked. Jess refused to stop hugging me and so I was left standing there with Jess wrapped around me while Layla started explaining what had happened, “After you and the other Knights went through the Gateway to face Nazgira we saw on the viewing orb a white light emerge from the portal before it closed, that light stayed still for a couple days before suddenly disappearing through what looked like a Gateway but no one came back here, when it vanished everything here in the Byzantium shut down, and even Jess here went into a kind of coma until a few minutes ago, that’s when everything else came to life again. I presume that was you’re doing? During the billions of years since you and the others disappeared I kept and nurtured Darius until he was old enough to go out into the world and live his own life, I never saw him or anyone else after that other than Jess here, though I’m sure you can imagine that she wasn’t very good for conversation in that state. I used my magic and some seeds I’d brought with me from my village to grow a couple plants that would keep me alive for the majority of your absence, I grew Lumosi flowers that give off light when they bloom, and I grew a Hiorio plant that has a cocoon that can keep its occupant alive in a deep sleep for many years, and in the time between slumbers I would draw and document everything I’d seen regarding your journeys. I can’t tell you how many times I almost lost hope that any of you survived...” Layla’s story was cut short by the alarm of a demon attack, I pried myself free from Jess and opened up the attack site on the viewing orb and saw that the world within it had changed, no longer was it the single huge landmass known as Pangea but the multiple continents that I had grown up knowing. A new feature of the viewing orb flashed up saying the location of the attack, Location London, England. This was it I thought this is when I got sent back in time. Before heading out I took the time to write a little note for my past self with some helpful advice, and then opened a Gateway to London, the Gateway looked normal this time and it took me exactly where I wanted to go, everything was exactly how I remembered it, the smell of the burning buildings and bodies, the stench of the monster and just as I remembered I saw myself lying face down cowering from the monster’s howl, seeing the monster again reminded me of Nazgira because it was just as ugly as he was, that similarity was enough to trigger my rage again and I lit up and flew into the attack, I used my fists and feet to pound the monster a dozen or so times before drawing my sword and plunging it into the monster’s skull killing it instantly. Leaving the monster to incinerate I went over to my younger self and just like before I picked him up called forth a Gateway behind him, again the Gateway looked different as though it was inverted, I slipped the note into his pocket and dropped him through the Gateway, which closed immediately afterwards. And so the cycle began again. Unlike most superheroes you read about in comics I stuck around to help with the clean-up and to rescue people trapped in rubble, along with the firefighters and police, and then the reporters showed up, reporters like yourself Gina. Now if you don’t mind I’d like to ask you a question, why do you think I’m giving you this exclusive interview and not one of the hundred or so other reporters who came before you? “Because of my charm and personality?” No, not quite, the reason I chose to tell you my story is because you are almost identical to her. The only woman I’ve ever loved beyond all comparison, Princess Jen of Median. Now if you’ll excuse me there’s more work to be done and I should be getting back to the Byzantium soon, farewell Gina, and tell your readers that I’ll be waiting should I be needed again. The End
   

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    good work but as for me your characters don't come to life when i read about them.