The Last Wanderer
DescriptionThe Crimson Valley is perhaps one of the most feared places in Saelia.
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“Your Honour, I have come to seek your favour.” A voice spoke, a deep, echoing hum. A favour. Then, a raspy breath. What favour can I grant that cannot be granted by any other? I have traveled for months to get to this place. I pushed through endless tests, with mud in my hair and thorns in my side. Even the feared legend of the man-eating boars has been reduced to blood and bones. The Jagged Rocks are jagged no more. The Lightless Ocean, charted and finally voyaged. Beasts were fallen, pirates were sunk, villains slaughtered and curses destroyed. All for this single moment. And is a riddle my reward for my longsuffering? So I said, “Vengeance, your Majesty. I seek vengeance and wrath.” My voice punctuated the air and the cavern boomed with sound. I narrowed my eyes, scowling as the silver threads vibrated up above and shook between the icy pillars. A reverberance. Yet silence took its place. I set my hand on the pommel of my blade, as I willed every ounce of my mind to keep quiet. My lips still parted, but I bit my tongue just as quickly, growling to myself. A sudden gust of wind whooshed into the cavern, sending a shiver across my neck, followed by an inferno of anger within my chest. My breath staggered, and I fought to keep still, as I clenched my fist and grit my teeth in silent, seething rage. The wind diminished, and quiet flooded the room once more. How much longer must I wait? The world was laid in ruins. They plundered our cities and ripped them of form, struck down our heroes and robbed us of light, greeted with fire and plagued us with storm. They darkened the oceans and cursed us in night. You intrigue me, Wanderer. Her voice rumbled to the very depths of my core, yet creaked like the poorly-hinged doors of the ancient Library, now in ashes and ruin. And what makes you deserving of wielding Vengeance while others do not? Oh, no. No, no, no. Not again. After my journey to this twilight, after a lifetime spent in perpetual night, after decades of my people’s oppression in the darkness… is this the answer to life? Just questions? They didn’t tell me anything about this. I just did what I was told. Trotting on every path, overcoming every obstacle, I slew all those creatures, visited sorcerers with divine power, and scoured the land and the seas for this very place. And now that I have reached it, is the Queen not even willing to show me her face? “I departed my home with eighteen, my liege,” I spat, with an edge in my voice, “We devoted our lives to your service. Over the mountains and through stormy seas we ventured, and suffer we did until we stumbled upon death’s door.” A sudden draft of icy breath as strong as an ocean gale powered through the cave again, encrusting the tips of my beard and the fringes of my overcoat in white frost. The howls continued even as the wind ceased, repeating itself one after another, even as the first sound faded. It was carried across the ancient walls, in between the icicles and out into the vastness of the Crimson Valley below. Then all was quiet, all but the soft ringing in my ears. A resonance. You depart with eighteen, yet you arrive as one. I don’t understand. The corner of my eye twitched, and my cheekbones tightened into an obvious scowl. I muttered something foul under my breath, and looked up toward the empty sky, my hand wrapped tightly around the hilt of my sword. I swallowed, drawing in a deep breath. “Alas, they did perish, my Queen. Every single one did but me. I survived the punishment of nature and my quest for vengeance alone is reason that I am in your presence today.” I looked ahead to my left, and watched as one of the silken strands woven intricately in the cavern suddenly snapped as if it was a cord pulled taut. It swayed in the wind, before the other end came loose and the entire string floated towards the ground. I heard another crack, and a multitude of other similar sounds from above, as more strands fell to the ground. I unsheathed my sword, the polished iron clanging against its sheath. An inhumane shriek deafened my ears, followed by a heavier, dry breathing emanating throughout the enormous space. Are you going to take Vengeance for your own by challenging Vengeance herself? Who are you to do such a thing? I dared not look up as I readied myself for a duel to the death, the blood boiling to life in my veins. A throaty laugh escaped my lips, each accent driven by the pulsing fury of my heart. I could almost hear the large, spindly appendages lower themselves into the chamber from above. “Who are you,” I screamed in manic excitement, “to look down upon me with such pride?” She simply chuckled, and I was swallowed by darkness. An echo.