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 Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!

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PostSubject: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:11 pm

Arata’s Chronicles
By
Casey Ryan

Chapter 1: Tribe of the South

“Arata! Wake Up!”

Arata jolted awake as a wad of snow exploded in his face, the shock of the cold sending him flailing back onto his butt. He shook his head vigorously and leapt to his feet. He gave a harsh glare to the man lying on his stomach atop the snow drift beside him. “What the hell was that for?!”
The man brought a finger to his lips. “Shh! Get down and keep quiet, or you’ll scare it away!” The man pointed to the small hole in the ice a short distance ahead of them. Arata looked just as a small, furry head poked its way out of the darkness of the hovel. He looked apologetically at the man, settling back to his position beside him. “Dad…” Arata looked to the man beside him. His father nodded, finger against lips to once more signal silence. Arata wrapped his hood closer about his face, its fine white furs brushing his skin lightly.
A pregnant moment passed as the two waited and observed the figure that slowly emerged from the hovel. A little black nose led the way, followed by yellow eyes and a pair of large ears. Arata breathed a sigh of admiration as the animal exited its den fully. “There it is,” he whispered. A fox, fur as pure and white as the snow around it. Natural camouflage initially made it difficult to make out against the hoary backdrop. Its coat seemed to glimmer with specks of light as the sun beamed down over the tundra. Its figure was slim and lithely, with sinewy haunches crafted to sprint and leap.
As soon as it left its den, the vulpine creature stuck its nose into the air, and then to the ground, sniffing eagerly. Its nose was soon followed by its ears, stuck to the ground, listening through ice and snow. Suddenly, it stopped, its snout pointed in one direction. The two men held their breath.
Without warning, the fox leapt in the indicated direction, dashing off into the tundra in chase of some unknown prey. “Come on!” Arata’s father pulled his son to his feet, and the two of them gave chase. Arata’s feet pounded heavily behind the swift steps of his father. He could only wonder how his father kept so light on his feet in his boots. Arata proceeded still quickly, but clumsily as his own fur-lined boots sank into the snow, crunching through frozen layers with each step.
The two males pursued the fox from a distance until it stopped at a tiny outcropping of pines that stood near the base of the Silvered Ridge. The two men halted their pursuit, again taking cover behind a small snowdrift. Arata peeked over the edge, looking to the Arcterran Fox as it paced around the pine trees. His gaze drifted from his target to the overwhelming figures that produced the looming shadow of the Silvered Ridge. The Ridge was an enormous mountain range that began at the northern shoreline of Arcterra and stretched all the way to the southern shoreline, its tail trailing west and ending along the southern shore.
Arata’s father nudged him, drawing his focus back to their hunt. The fox had stopped pacing, and its attention was now drawn to a number of snow hares sitting atop the rocky ledges that jutted from the lower reaches of the mountain side. The coats of the rabbits were pure white over the face and back. Grey marked their underbellies, the tips of their ears, and the tips of their paws. The top allowed for camouflage against the snow, and the bottom camouflage against the ashen sides of the mountains. The hares simply sat, nibbling smugly on the translucent blue stalks of Permaroot that sprouted from the rocky surface. They knew the fox could not reach them.
The fox knew this as well, for its focus was diverted to the ground once more, its large bat-like ears pressed to the tundra surface. Suddenly, the body of the fox went rigid. Then, it leapt straight up into the air, diving head first into the embankment, its head buried up to its neck. The fox then yanked its head from the ground, and clamped tight in its jaws was a small snow hare. Blood stained the pristine coats of both predator and prey. The fox began to trot happily back in the direction of its den, playfully whipping around the corpse of the hare in its mouth.
Arata looked to his father. His father nodded, pulling a dagger from his belt. Arata pulled a knife from his side in turn. “Now,” his father breathed. They leapt to their feet and rushed down the slope of the snowdrift towards the fox. The fox spotted them almost instantly. The animal bolted around the pines, white powder flying in its wake. Arata’s father signaled for Arata to go to the other side of the pines, so the two men could flank the fox from either side.
Each circled the pines in opposite directions until the fox was beleaguered both in front and behind by Arata’s father and Arata respectively. The fox looked warily from side to side as both males closed in. It turned to face Arata, and Arata thought he saw a cunning gleam enter its eye. The fox whiffed loudly at Arata, startling him. The fox seized the opportunity and shot forward, slipping right through Arata’s legs and away from the mountains. Arata’s father cursed. He pulled a knife from his pocket and was getting ready to throw it, when Arata placed a hand on his arm. “I’ve got this.” Arata’s father looked at him with slightly puzzled blue eyes.
Arata moved ahead towards the fox, stopping a short distance away. He brought his hand forward and focused on the snowdrift just before the fox. He felt the snow shift in response to his will. He felt the essence of the crystallized water as he gripped it with his mind. He brought his hand back and squeezed it into a fist. Almost immediately, the snowdrift barreled towards the fox and erected itself into a solid wall of snow and ice. The fox, unable to slow itself, slid across the ground and slammed headfirst into the wall. While the fox was stumbling and disoriented, Arata’s father ran forward and grabbed the animal, ending its life by sticking his dagger in its side.
Arata moved to his father as he slung the fox’s body over his shoulder. He turned to Arata and threw him the body of the hare that the fox had caught. Arata stuck it in his hide satchel and proceeded to walk side by side with his father back in the direction of the village. His father glanced at him sideways, shaking his head slightly. Arata tilted his head a little. “What? Did I do something wrong?”
His father just sighed and shook his head. “No, no. I’m glad you were able to help catch this little bugger. I just wish you had…” He paused.
“Done it the old fashioned way?”
“Well, yeah. Hunting is all about the sport. It just seems…cheap when you use our tribe’s magic to do it. It’s less of a challenge.”
Arata sighed in return. “In all fairness, Dad, if it gives an advantage, we should use it. Arcterra gave us these powers so we could survive out here, right?”
“I suppose you’re right. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud that you’re becoming so skilled with your magic. It’s just…not my forte, really.”
Arcterra. The revered god of Arata’s clan, he was a deity worshiped as the Father of Winter, Master of the Ocean, and Lord of the South. He lorded over the seas and all that lived in them, as well as the icy regions of the South Pole. He was the tide; he was the snow and ice that covered Arata’s homeland. Legend held it that in the dawn of time, when humans were first placed upon the Earth, the gods fashioned the Mainland of legend to serve as the breeding ground for the human civilization.
But not Arcterra. He believed the other gods, by creating this lush, warm land, coddled the humans too much. They would be too soft and undisciplined. So, he created his own land mass at the southern tip of the world. His breath frosted the land over, covering it in snow and ice. His blood and soul mixed to form the oceans around it. He created a massive mountain range, splitting the continent in half. He took the oceans, formed from his essence, and combined it with his flesh, spraying it across the western half of the continent. The water solidified with Arcterra’s flesh, forming his own race of humans. The Arcterrans, as they would come to be called, each had an appearance similar to that of their creator. Each had eyes as blue and cold as ice, flesh as pale and white as snow, and most starkly, hair as dark and azure as the frigid ocean that surrounded them.
This land, upon which the Arcterran society was founded, also came to be known as Arcterra, in respect to its creator. It was a massive landmass composed almost entirely of ice and snow. It was a harsh wilderness of tundra, with little plant life and only a few species of wild animal. As a result, most of the clan’s hours were spent learning to survive from day to day. Arcterra placed his people here with the purpose of creating a sturdy race that would outlast all others. However, he still needed to ensure they would survive. Arcterra filled the southern oceans with schools of fish, so that the Arcterrans might find nourishment. He created the Arcterran Fox, his favored animal, so that the Arcterrans might have another source of food, and also a means of creating clothing and shelter. He placed snow hares as a source of food for the foxes, and grew Permaroot as a source of food for the hares. Other forms of wildlife made their homes there eventually as well.
To give them the abilities necessary to live on their own, Arcterra taught his people the art of fishing, as well as the art of hunting and skinning and crafting. Lastly, because the blood of the ocean flowed through their veins, Arcterra granted his people the ability to freely manipulate the ocean in all its forms, as water, as snow, as ice.
For Arata, this gift of water magic came as naturally as breathing. He felt his will resonate with every form of water around him, and so he had become quite skilled in recent years in manipulating it. He had heard legends of the magic used on the Mainland, where people had to say special words to use it. The Arcterrans never needed such incantation. Magic ran through their blood.
And he saw no issue in using his abilities to his advantage. However, his father was not so naturally gifted. He was a fisherman and a hunter, with very modest skill as an adept of his tribe’s magic. As a result, he preferred hunting conventionally, and took great pride in his hunting and tracking skills. Arata thought his father felt a little embarrassed that his son was better than him at magic. He felt a little sorry for his father, and so patted his back apologetically.
The two men eventually reached the small village. The sun was high in the sky as it poked through a layer of cirrus clouds. It was about midday now. Arata looked about and saw the familiar faces of his clansmen as they entered the large ring of huts that made up the village. The clansmen of Arcterra all looked similar, as each had the trademark dark blue hair, icy blue eyes, and pale skin. Groups of fishing boats floated just offshore to the north, each filled with three to four men, two hauling in the catch, the others netting it. Some women carried small amounts of wood, gathered from the sparse groupings of pine trees about the tundra, while others mashed Permaroot in stone pestles. Others still sewed together furs and skins, working with their husbands to remove the fur from the animal hides around the large fire in the center of the village.
The village itself was simply a large circle of huts, each stitched together from the skins and furs of foxes and rabbits, as was most Arcterran clothing. Arata’s own hood, boots, and gloves were lined with the fur of snow hares, as well as snow hare skin. His coat was made from fox hide and furs as well. Most huts had blocks of ice covering the outside of their furred walls, trapping the heat and keeping out the cold.
At the back of the village was a large building called the Shelter Dome. The outside was comprised of blocks of ice, which were lined on the inside with furs and skins, but also with large strips of leather, made from the hides of large beasts known as Maulers. The beasts lived out on floating glaciers further from the Arcterran continent, icy islands that floated among the treacherous reefs. Arata had only ever seen one before. His father as part of a group of men had gone out to gather more leather and came across a lone Mauler on a small chunk of ice. The animal was massive. It was a large creature thick with blubber and fat and covered in a wrinkly, durable layer of brown hide. It had four huge fins and five menacing tusks the protruded from its mouth, three on the top part of its jaw and two on the bottom. Maulers were notorious for being violent creatures, earning their name from stories of clansmen who had had their stomachs and faces gored by their curved tusks. It had taken the entire group of men to take down just the single Mauler that day.
In any case, the Shelter Dome was well insulated and protected from the elements. It served as a storehouse for surplus supplies gathered over long periods of time, which were kept fresh with ice magic. It also functioned as a sanctuary in which the clan took refuge during violent winter storms and blizzards.
Arata followed his father back into their family’s hut, and they were soon accosted by the warm embrace of his mother. “I’m so glad you two are back! You were gone a long time!” She kissed her husband and then pulled Arata into another warm embrace. As she released her son from her death grip, Arata took a moment to catch his breath, glancing about his home. There was a large rug that took up most of the floor, made of a fox with its skeleton removed. Skins lined the walls. A large stone table with smaller stone chairs around it sat in the center of the hut. A small fireplace made of the same grey rock stood at the back of the home. Strung across poles of yet the same stone were four large hammocks, made of stretched Mauler leather and lined with rabbit furs. They were set up as bunks, two top hammocks and two bottom hammocks. Blankets made up of vulpine pelts were used for warmth at night.
Arata’s father set down the fox on the stone table in the middle of the hut. Arata threw the rabbit carcass from his satchel to his father. “I’m sorry Evela. The foxes were taking their sweet time waking up this morning. Like some people I know…” Arata’s father shot Arata a taunting look.
Arata scowled. “I’m sorry, alright! I was tired!” He harrumphed and crossed his arms.
“Did you fall asleep while stalking again Arata?” A familiar voice piped up.
Arata turned to face the corner of the room by the window. Sitting there smirking at him was his snarky brother Alastor. His brother looked an odd sort. Unlike the rest of the clan, Alastor had tan skin, near violet eyes, and hair a royal purple, with streaks of silver running through it. His long, heliotrope hair was tied back into a ponytail. His brother strode up to him with that smirk still plastered to his face. “None of your business” Arata retorted, but he couldn’t help but grin. He and his brother taunted and teased each other constantly, but they were best friends. Of course, the two were not related by blood. Rather, Arata’s family had adopted Alastor when he was just a small child. They had found him floating in the ocean on a piece of driftwood by the shore, unconscious and nearly frozen to death. There was no boat wreckage to be found, and so nobody could come to claim the boy. Based on his appearance, they had guessed him to be about Arata’s age. After Arata’s family had nursed him back to health, they took him in as a permanent addition to the family. Despite his foreign origins, the Arcterran clan had come to accept Alastor as an essential part of the community.
Evela brought her hand to her forehead and shook her head. “Boys, leave each other alone. And Jerrai…” She shot a glare to her husband, who stopped laughing immediately. “Stop teasing your son! He’s got a big day ahead of him tomorrow!”
“Mom, it’s fine. It’s all in good fun.” Arata assured his mother. He swore, she could be so overprotective sometimes.
She conceded, regarding the fox carcass on the table. “Well, at least you were successful.” She took the carcass over by the fire and laid it out.
“Well, I had an excellent hunting partner.” Jerrai said, laying his hand on Arata’s shoulder. Arata smiled up at his father. “Alastor, you should come with us next time. I think you’d enjoy it.”
Alastor shook his head. “Mom needed help here. Besides, I’m not a huge fan of killing animals.”
“Well, suit yourself. But, I’d like us to spend more time together somehow. Just think about it.” Jerrai left it at that, sitting in the stone chair by the fire opposite Arata’s mother, drawing his skinning blade. With Evela’s help, he set to work on cleaving fur and hide from bone.
Arata looked to Alastor. “Wanna go for a walk, Al?” He picked up two fishing poles that were resting against the wall.
Alastor smiled. “Yeah, sure.” The two brothers started towards the door flap as Evela called to them.
“Make sure you two are back before sundown. Your father and I will be cooking up this fox tonight for a special dinner!”
Arata’s eyes grew wide. “Really?” Arata loved fox. Usually, kills were used to add to insulation or build more huts around the village. While fox was occasionally used for meals, it was only on very special occasions, since for starters, they were less prevalent than the hares and fish that the Arcterrans normally feasted on. Foxes were also considered sacred animals by Arcterra, so their use had to be either essential to survival, or for special ceremony or celebration.
“Wait,” Arata said. “What’s the big occasion?”
Evela looked at Arata quizzically. “Did you forget? Tomorrow’s the Winter Solstice, which means tonight you begin your Rite of Passage!”
Arata looked down slightly. “Oh, yeah, that…”
Alastor looked at him with a confused expression. Arata shook his head at his brother, and motioned for him to follow him outside. “Let’s go Al. We’ll be back in time Mom.”
Arata and Alastor stepped back out into the circle by the fire. As the two neared the Shelter Dome, Arata heard someone exclaim “And that’s why the tide changes, my young students!” He looked over and saw Chief Bhadra teaching a class of young children. The kids were seated in rows of three, with three rows on either side of Bhadra. Bhadra was the elder of the Arcterran Clan. He was an older man, with silvery blue hair that was swept to the back of his head. His smile wrinkled his entire face, and there was always something of a devious look in his eyes. As Arata and Alastor approached, Bhadra addressed the children again. “That’s all for today children. Be good to your parents, and I shall see you all tomorrow!”
The children leapt up immediately and scattered in all directions, screaming and playing.
A little girl with braided turquoise hair walked up to Bhadra after the other kids had dispersed. She was crying and sobbing. Tears and snot stained her fur coat. “Master B-Bhadra!” She tugged at the Elder’s robes.
Chief Bhadra bent at his knees and looked at her. “What’s the matter Linna?”
The girl continued to cry. “K-Katto stole my doll and won’t give it back!”
Chief Bhadra smiled and wiped a tear from her face. “Don’t worry, he’ll give it back.”
He looked to a boy running around a short distance away. “Katto!”
The little boy stopped in his tracks and looked at Bhadra. Bhadra beckoned him closer with his finger. Katto walked over to Linna and Bhadra, looking down at the ground with his hands behind his back. “Katto,” Bhadra began. “What is that behind your back?”
“Nothing.” Katto rubbed the snow in front of him around with his foot.
Bhadra looked at Katto warningly. “Katto, give Linna back her doll. Now. I know you have it.”
Katto sighed and held out the furry rabbit doll to Linna, looking away from her. Linna took it from Katto. “Now what do you say?” Katto mumbled something. “What was that? I didn’t hear you.” Bhadra listened intently.
“I’m sorry…Linna.” Katto said, louder this time.
“It’s okay.” Linna said, taking his hand.
Bhadra smiled and stood back to full height. “Good. Now, go play.” As Katto and Linna turned, Bhadra whipped Katto in the rear with a pine branch from the ground. Katto yelped and ran.
Arata smiled as he watched the entire situation. He and Al went up to Bhadra afterwards, who was still chuckling. “Ah, Arata! And Alastor!” He greeted the two brothers. “How are you two?”
“I’m doing well, sir.” Alastor replied, giving a slight bow.
“Pretty good, I guess…” Arata said, scratching the back of his head. “I see you’re still torturing your students,” he said smugly.
Bhadra took a crack at Arata with the pine branch, smacking him on the wrist. “Ow!” Arata yelped, rubbing the red mark that burgeoned across his skin.
“You would do well to show a little more respect Arata, like your brother here. Just because you’re no longer my student doesn’t mean I can’t still punish you!” Bhadra scolded. He soon relaxed, though. “Those kids are so innocent. It does my heart good to see them learn and grow,” he mused aloud. Arata liked Bhadra. He was strict and severe sometimes, but he had a genuine and loving heart. The clan couldn’t ask for a better leader.
Bhadra was the smartest and wisest person in the clan as well. Beyond just years of life experience, Bhadra was one of the few people in the history of the clan to ever set foot outside of Arcterra. He had been able to set foot on the mythical Mainland, miles and miles out to sea, as had the Chiefs before him. Arcterra was almost entirely isolated from the rest of the world. It was separated from the other half of the South Pole by the Silvered Ridge, and the rest of the ocean was barred from them by treacherous, rocky reefs. The jagged stone spikes tore boats and ships to pieces if one did not know how to maneuver around them, so nobody ever risked leaving, and no outsider ever risked visiting. Bhadra had gotten just lucky enough to evade them going out and coming back. In his years on the Mainland, he accumulated a large amount of books and valuables, including secrets of craft and materials and jewels not found on Arcterra.
Bhadra’s face went from one of joviality to one of scrutiny. He looked at Arata carefully. “Are you ready for tonight, Arata?”
Arata blinked, slightly taken aback. “Well…y-yeah, of course I am!” He tried his best to sound confident, but inside he was churning with anxiety.
Bhadra saw right through him. “I understand why you might be nervous. Every young man experiences the same thing before their Rite of Passage.” He placed a reassuring hand on Arata’s shoulder.
“N-nervous? Me? Never!” Arata brushed his hand aside.
Bhadra just smiled. “If you feel you need guidance, try praying at the Temple before tonight. Arcterra will guide you. I promise.”
“Yeah. Thanks, I think I will…” Arata nodded. He genuinely appreciated Bhadra’s interest, but he still felt apprehensive.
He and Alastor left the Chief for the shoreline. The two walked in silence for a moment until stopping at the edge of the frosted beach. Young men and their fathers manned fishing boats off in the distance. Arata and Alastor sat down side by side, looking out across the dark glacial waters. Arata strung up bait on both fishing poles and handed one to Alastor. The silence continued as the two boys cast their lines. Arata’s mind soon wandered from watching for a bite and soon his stare was drawn to the East, where a huge structure caught his eye. Bhadra’s words echoed in his mind. If you need guidance, try praying at the Temple before tonight. Arcterra will guide you. I promise.
Arata stared at the Temple of Torrents. The building was huge, especially compared to their small village. The largest building on the landmass, the Temple of Torrents dwarfed the Shelter Dome. It was an impressive sight. The Temple stood on the edge of the eastern side of the northern shore. It gleamed brightly in the sunlight. Legend had it that Arcterra created the structure himself just before he left his people to their own survival. It was made entirely out of ice, but its surface was as hard as diamonds. The Temple was meant to act as a chapel, where the people of the clan performed seasonal rituals to commune with Arcterra, keeping their seas abundant with fish, their land filled with rabbits and foxes, and their winters less harsh. Offerings of their “harvest” of fish as well as fox pelts were often included.
At the center of the chapel stood a statue of Arcterra with his loyal companion, a pristine white fox-beast known as Kitsuri. The most important relic of the Temple was the Torrential Katana, a blade known formally as Hokkyoku. The Katana was pure white, its blade hard as diamond and cold as ice, just like the Temple in which it lived. Its blade rested in an ice basin, filled with water that reached halfway up the blade. It was said to have been “molded from water and forged from snow” by Arcterra himself, who placed it in the center of his worship. The Katana was supposed to be a weapon of magnificent power. It was rumored to be able to cut through just about anything, and was said to be one of the great elemental weapons of the world. Of course, nobody knew if this was true, as nobody could use it. In all of Arcterran history, not a single clansman had been able to wrest Hokkyoku from its basin. The blade would not yield to one who was not chosen to wield it. And as far as anyone knew, that person had yet to exist.
Arata was jolted from his stupor as his line was yanked. Arata nearly lost his pole to the abysmal waters, but he barely managed to grip it in time. He stared into the water, seeing a bright flash of silver swim by. His line followed it. Al laughed. “Looks like you’ve got a fighter!”
Arata stood up, his knuckles white from his grip on the rod. He dug his heels into the snow, pulling with all his might. Finally, the line burst out of the water and Arata stumbled backwards, falling on his butt. Al simply stood there and guffawed while Arata got up to admire his catch.
“That’s the biggest Silverslick I’ve ever seen!” Arata looked at the fish on the end of his hook in awe. Sunlight danced across its scales as the fish flailed about in vain. Arata failed to stifle a broad grin. The Silverslick was well over a foot long! Most were three quarters of a foot at most! Arata removed his catch from the hook gingerly, setting it in the bottom of his leather satchel. He looked to the waters again as an entire school of Silverslicks swam past, a collective glimmer in the depths.
Silverslicks were the primary species of fish that made up the Arcterrans’ diet. Their name stemmed not only from their brilliantly reflective scales, but also their ability to swim quickly through the waters, and their tendency to slip off of lures and out of hands. Their bodies were so slick, that they would slide themselves straight off the hook with their flailing and jump right back into the water. Now, to prevent that, the Arcterrans carved their hooks to be barbed and jagged, preventing the fish’s escape.
The two boys recovered from their amazement and again took their seats at the water’s edge. Alastor looked at Arata with a mixture of amusement and concern. “I’m glad you caught that sucker! You looked like you could use some cheering up. Why have you been so glum?” The violet eyed boy searched his brother’s face for an answer.
Arata sighed, tracing the surface of the water with his rod. “I’m not glum…I’m just…”
“Anxious?” Al finished for him. Arata nodded. “About what? Your initiation?” He nodded again. “How come?” Al scooted a little closer to his brother, jabbing his side with his index finger.
“It’s just…I’m not sure if I can do it, you know?”
“Oh, come on. How bad could it be?”
Arata looked at his brother. “Well, it’s kind of dangerous, for one thing. People have died before…” The Rite of Passage was an ancient initiation ritual that every male of the tribe had to experience. Once a boy turned sixteen (as Arata had in the last month), the following Winter Solstice, he was required to enter the Temple of Torrents, and lay hands on the Torrential Katana. He would attempt to free Hokkyoku from its basin, yet he would never succeed. At some point, the Arcterrans realized it was unreasonable to think every male could possibly free the blade, so each individual was technically initiated once they touched it.
Normally, the Temple Chapel in which Hokkyoku rested was just straight ahead down a hall from the antechamber that the outer steps led to. But, by some Divine Workings of Arcterra himself, every year on the Winter Solstice, the interior of the Temple transmogrified into a labyrinth of icy corridors and chambers, the Chapel deep within its bowels. Not only did its insides become a labyrinth, but the Temple also somehow spawned a number of dangerous creatures and monsters. The stories ranged from being attacked by savage fish to monstrous icemen. In some years, initiates were known to have been killed by the creatures.
“So, you’re afraid to die? You don’t think you’re skilled enough?” Alastor continued to probe for an answer.
“No, no that’s not it. Not really anyway. I mean, I don’t want to die of course…It’s silly really…” Arata hesitated.
“Go on,” Alastor urged him.
“Well, I guess I’m afraid of what happens after. I mean, after this, I won’t be a boy anymore. I won’t be a kid. I’ll be a man. I’ll be joining the other adults on big hunts and climbs. I can’t go back to being a kid. To the innocence, or the ignorance. I’ll have new responsibilities, and…I’m afraid I’ll fail.” Arata looked at Alastor full in the face, frosty eyes full of uncertainty.
“Fail at what?” Alastor asked calmly.
“At everything! I’m afraid I’ll screw up and fail the other men. I’m afraid that I’ll fail Dad. I won’t fit in right.” Arata threw his gaze to his hands, looking into his palms out of embarrassment.
Alastor was quiet for a moment before giving his brother a playful slug in the shoulder. “Hey, chin up! You’ll do great. All you need to do is believe in yourself Arata. I’ve seen you. You can do anything if you set your mind to it. That’s what I’ve always admired about you.” Al turned and looked out at the horizon once more. “You won’t fail. I believe that.”
Arata smiled and embraced his brother. “Thanks.” Alastor nodded his head affirmatively.
The two brothers sat quietly for a while. Arata watched as a large bird swooped down to the surface of the water. It was a Crested Ivorite, a type of bird covered in ivory colored feathers with a plume of black marking its chest and another crest of black waving from its head. The bird plunged its large talons into the water, clutching three Silverslicks in its grip. Arata watched as it flew back to its nest at one of the peaks of the Silvered Ridge.
“Oh!” Alastor suddenly exclaimed, eyes wide. “I almost forgot! I have something I wanted to show you.”
Arata canted his head to the side. “What is it?”
Alastor looked around from side to side. The fishing boats were occupied with their catch and nobody else was nearby. Arata pushed his adoptive sibling lightly in the shoulder. “What? Come on, out with it!”
Alastor closed his eyes and smiled. He picked up a handful of snow and held it out, palm up. He opened his eyes, and suddenly the snow began to swirl in in a spiraled motion, like a small vortex. Arata went wide-eyed and bent forward, shoving his face right up to the spectacle occurring across Alastor’s palm. “Whoa! How the heck are you doing that?!” Arata paused. “Are…are you controlling the snow?” The fine white dust continued to spin as if in a tiny tornado.
Alastor shook his head and let the snow fall out of his hand. He moved his hand about and held it up to Arata’s face. Suddenly, a brief blast of air burst into his face. Arata blinked as he recovered from the sudden gust. He just stared at his brother in shock.
“It’s the wind. Arata, I don’t know how, but I’m able to control the wind!” Alastor beamed from ear to ear.
“How is that even possible?!” Arata marveled at his sibling.
Alastor had trouble suppressing his giddiness. He tried to shush Arata, but his own excitement was getting in the way. “Shhh, wait, there’s more.”
Arata tried to compose himself. “More?”
Alastor nodded. He took his fingers and snapped. As soon as the sound occurred between his fingers, a bright, purple spark of electricity flashed in between the digits as well.
“By Arcterra!” Arata couldn’t stop his jaw from dropping.
Alastor bubbled with energy. “I know! I know! It’s crazy right?!” The two brothers laughed uncontrollably with excitement. After a few incredulous minutes, Alastor tried to calm both himself and his brother down a tad.
Arata coughed to stifle his laughter, while trying not to jump up and down. “W-when did this start happening?”
Alastor smiled guiltily. “I first discovered it a few months ago, shortly after the anniversary of when you guys adopted me. I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t want to test it in front of you until I had learned to control it.”
Arata shook his head. “That’s alright. But, you didn’t use any words, like the people of the Mainland are said to do. It’s almost like our tribe’s water magic…” Curiosity filled Arata’s mind as he looked for signs of more sparks from his brother’s fingertips.
“That’s what I was thinking too…I just feel a sort of resonance with the wind. Sparks and zephyrs just seem to bend to my will alone.” Alastor snapped again, and another spark burst forth, larger and more vibrant. The air began to smell burnt.
Arata brought his hand to his chin ponderously. “Arcterra was said to have graced our blood with the ability to consign water in all its forms to our will. I wonder…wherever you’re originally from, perhaps your people received a similar gift?”
“I don’t know. But I know it’s important. It’s a clue, to my past, to my people. It’s…”
“It’s awesome!” Arata stood with his brother, embracing him again. “I think you’ll be able to do great things.”
Alastor withdrew from the embrace, holding his brother at arm’s length. “So will you. You’ll do great tonight, and from hereafter. I’m sure of it.” He released him, and turned towards the ocean. The boats were beginning to come in. One of the young fishermen waved at the two brothers.
“Arata!” He shouted. “Are you ready for tonight?” As the boat drew closer, Arata saw that it was his friend Flirin. His aquamarine cropping of hair was cut short and close to his head, which was encircled by a decorative headband, made of furs and beading.
“As ready as I’ll ever be!” Arata shouted back. Flirin exited his vessel, walking up to the siblings to pat Arata on the back.
“I’ll see you there, my friend. Don’t worry; we’ll both finish without a cinch. Plus, I have my father’s headband for good luck.” He pointed to the handmade headwear about his forehead. “Make sure you get some rest.”
Arata nodded as Flirin walked off. “You too! We’ll both need it!”
Alastor looked to the sun as it began to dip below the horizon, setting the skyline on fire in a myriad of colors. Dusk was settling. “We should probably head back home now. It’s getting late, and we told mother we’d be back for dinner. Plus, the chill is beginning to set in.” He was right. Arata could feel the temperature dropping as they stood there.
He began to follow Alastor, but looked back at the Temple of Torrents. “You go ahead, and I’ll meet you back home. I have to do something first.”
Alastor followed Arata’s gaze. He sighed. “Alright. Just do me a favor and don’t freeze to death out here.”
“Ha-ha, I won’t.” And Arata made his way towards the Temple.


Arata stopped at the steps of the Temple. They rose high above the ground, leading to a wide entrance. Pristine pillars of cerulean ice held up its frost-formed arches. Water poured from sculptures of hands at the top of the entryway, filling small pools from which the pillars rose. Arata slowly ascended the steps, and went inside.
Arata moved through the antechamber and hallway and into the Chapel. Seats crafted from ice lined the aisle that stretched down the center of the room. Endless fountains poured down the walls from small slots near the ceiling along the top of the walls. Into the walls were carved pictures depicting Arcterra’s creation of the clan’s homeland and then the clan itself. It went through his teaching the Arcterrans fishing, hunting, and magic, and to his eventual crafting of Hokkyoku and the Temple, and finally, his ultimate departure back to the realm of the Divines.
Arata walked up until he reached the basin that held Hokkyoku. The blade seemed to hum faintly, as it always did. To onlookers, the blade often seemed alive. Arata knelt at the steps before the statue of Arcterra and Kitsuri, lowering his head in reverence. He clasped his hands together and opened his mouth…but no words came out. He didn’t know what to say. He did not want to grovel before the God of the South, but he didn’t want to disrespect him either. After mulling it over in his mind, he at last found breath for words. “Lord Arcterra, I humbly pray to you. I ask that you look upon me kindly – no, favorably – tonight during my trials in your most holy temple. Please, grant me the strength to see my endeavors through to the end, and to bravely overcome all the struggles I face thereafter. In your name I pray, by the mercy of Arcterra.”
Arata crossed his arms over his chest and touched his shoulders with the opposite hands as another sign of reverence. He smiled up at the statue, and then once more looked to the Torrential Katana. “I’ll see you soon.”

**********************************************************************

Arata ducked under the door flap and stepped inside his cozy little home. Evela had placed the meal upon the table, and all three members of his family waited for him. Jerrai looked at him sternly. “Where have you been, young man?”
Arata sat across from Alastor and looked to his father apologetically. “I’m sorry I’m late. I was at the Temple, praying.”
Arata’s mother and father glanced back and forth at each other in surprise. “I never thought you to take your religion very seriously, Arata,” Jerrai commented.
Arata shrugged. “I thought I could use the support. If I’m going to ask for help in my Trials, who better to ask than Arcterra?”
Evela smiled at her son. “Well, I’m proud that you took that step. I’m sure you’ll do great tonight. Shall we eat?”
Jerrai said a small blessing over the table and the meal began.
Dinner consisted of rabbit stew, with fish mixed in. Permaroot salad was mixed in bowls. Permaroot was the only real plant life besides the sparse pines that grew on Arcterra. It was a type of vascular plant, where water traveled through the stem in pathways. The plant was a translucent sapphire. If one looked at the plant’s stem, one could see the water flowing through it. This property made it almost look as if the plant was formed from ice, as did its wet and crunchy texture. Being made mostly of water, the plant lacked any significant amount of nutrition, but it was better than nothing. Arcterrans primarily used it to add texture. Otherwise, the plants were left to be eaten by snow hares.
Arata’s favorite portion of the meal by far was the roasted fox meat. Bhadra had allowed the family to borrow some of the spices he had acquired from the Mainland, which gave the meat an exceptional amount of flavor. Arata’s mouth watered as he went to take his first bite, which turned into a fit of gorging as he tried to fit all of it into his mouth.
“Arata!” His mother cried, appalled by the globs of meat and drool about to drip from the corners of his mouth.
“Now he knows how to eat like a man!” Jerrai laughed aloud, smacking his son’s back. Arata coughed and spluttered as he struggled to get the food down.
Alastor hunched forward, rubbing his brow exasperatedly. “Oh gods, really, don’t make him choke.”

************************************************************************
Arata and Alastor climbed into their hammocks after finishing the meal. Arata’s stomach was full to bursting with meat as he fell into his leather sling. His father and mother did the same as their two sons. “Good night Arata. Rest now. You’re trials await you in a few hours.”
Alastor lay beneath his brother’s hammock. He whispered up to Arata, “You’ll do great.”
“Thanks,” Arata replied. He looked up at the ceiling of the hut. He was ready. He knew he was. And so, full and prepared, he drifted off to sleep.
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Sun Jul 21, 2013 2:57 am

FREAKING AWESOME! Seriously, write more of this! This was incredible!
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:50 pm

Haha! Glad you enjoyed it! Posting Chapter 2 now!

Chapter 2: Initiation

Arata’s slumber was broken as he was rocked back and forth, his body shaken in a hasty manner. He gradually forced himself awake after some resistance, groggily wiping away his bleary vision with his hands. He saw that the hands shaking him belonged to his mother, who stood level with his hammock. Her mouth moved, but the speech was warbled. As Arata pulled himself completely from the dredges of sleep, her words became clear. “Arata, come on now. It’s midnight now, you have to go. It’s time.”
What his mother was talking about soon became clear to him. His Rite of Passage. It was now. Arata reluctantly climbed out of his hammock, casting aside his pelt blanket. He shivered as his bare feet touched the uncovered part of the floor. He wore a light night shirt made of thin hides, which did little to insulate him from the frigid draft that blew through the open door flap. His mother moved to the corner of the room, removing the lid from a stone cask. She pulled out what Arata recognized to be his father’s old leather hunting armor. The armor was crafted from thick hides of Mauler leather, dyed blue with Permaroot paste. The chest had part of a fox’s pelt strapped over it diagonally, with a tuft of white Crested Ivorite feathers sticking out of the corner of the left shoulder. The inside was insulated with furs. The boots and gloves were made of hide, and were insulated in the same manner as the torso, and also dyed the same shade of navy.
Arata’s mother helped him into the raiment, making sure everything was snug, but flexible enough to maneuver in. She stopped to take a look at him, holding him at arm’s length. Her eyes began to well up a little. “You look just like your father did when he performed his Rite of Passage. He wore the same armor and everything. Ah, I remember that night…” She smiled as she relived the memory. “He looked so handsome and tough. I’d had my eyes on him ever since until the day we got married.”
“Mom,” Arata rolled his eyes.
“Oh, right! Sorry.” She hugged him and led him outside.
Outside waiting expectantly were Arata’s father and Alastor. Arata walked up to them with a shaky smile. His smile weakened further when he saw the two men off behind them. The two men were both standing with their arms crossed, patiently waiting for Arata to finish his business before they would escort him and his family to the Temple. The two men had ceremonial fox head pieces and coats, with necklaces decorated with the black plumage from the crest of Ivorites. At their hips were strapped curved, single edged swords. The safeguards of the Rite rarely used their weapons, but, aside from just being prepared, they were mandatory as part of the ritualistic attire.
“Arata.” Jerrai beckoned his son closer. He gave a soft, reassuring smile to Arata, patting him on the head. “You’ll be great.”
Arata recoiled slightly. “Come on, Dad. I’m not a kid.”
Jerrai laughed. “Yes you are. But after tonight, you’re right. You won’t be.” His face grew serious. “Arata, I want you to have this. It’s served me well over the years. I can only hope it will do the same for you.” His father reached into the hide sack attached to his hip, pulling out the most magnificent dagger Arata had ever seen.
His father’s special, custom made dagger was a weapon smith’s marvel. The hilt was furnished from an alloy of steel and bronze, the guard embellished on each side with beautiful sapphires. The handle was wrapped in a dark, marine cloth. This half of the weapon was a gift from Bhadra to his father, the materials gathered from the Mainland. The blade was curved to a deadly point, and shone a pristine alabaster. It was carved from the ivory of a Mauler’s tusk, as were most Arcterran weapons, including the escorts’ swords. However, this blade was especially polished, freed from the usual yellowed shade of the Mauler’s tooth. His father had used it all his life after receiving it as an initiation present. And now it was Arata’s.
Jerrai placed the weapon in his son’s pallid hands. The dagger weighed with significance in Arata’s hands. He stared at it in awe. This dagger was one of his father’s most prized possessions. And now it belonged to him. He placed the dagger in the loop of his belt, and immediately threw his arms around his father’s neck. He felt his eyes sting with wetness. “Thank you so much…Father.”
Jerrai blinked in surprise, but quickly returned the embrace, pressing his rough-haired face against his son’s cheek. “Remember, that no matter what happens, I’m proud of you, and I love you Arata.”
Arata withdrew from the embrace, and looked to Alastor. The two brothers embraced as well, Al giving a simple nod of affirmation.
Arata turned to face his mother as he stood between his sibling and father. The tears had actually overcome his mother now. She tried in vain to dry her cheeks. “I’m sorry, it’s just… Looking at you now, you really are the spitting image of your father!”
Arata and Jerrai glanced at each other, and back at Evela. Jerrai rubbed his azure stubble, shrugging. Arata self-consciously rubbed his smooth jawline. “Mom, please…” He looked down, embarrassed.
“Alright, alright.” Evela composed herself. “Let’s just go. We’ve kept them waiting long enough.”
Arata turned and joined the escorts, walking briskly for the Temple of Torrents, with his family trailing behind.

*******************************************************************************
The escorts led Arata to the base of the Temple steps, where he fell in his place in line with the other initiates. Arata craned his neck to look down the line. There were nine of them in all. He knew every single boy in the row. All of them were now sixteen years old, as he was. Each wore some sort of hide or leather raiment to help protect them in the trials that waited inside. Each boy also had some sort of weapon on him. Swords, clubs and cudgels were prohibited. An initiate’s choice was limited to either a single large dagger (as was Arata’s case) or two smaller knives.
Up the first few steps stood Chief Bhadra, in the traditional ceremonial robes. His robe was made entirely of the most untainted fox pelts, giving a look akin to permafrost. Bhadra looked on approvingly as Arata approached, and began to speak as soon as he fell in line.
“Young men – no, you are not quite yet men. Boys of Arcterra! You are gathered here, at his most holy Temple, on the infant hour of the most consecrated Winter Solstice, to prove yourselves! To be proven, not only to yourselves or our clan, but to our Father and Creator Arcterra himself! By the end of your trials, he and only he will be able to deem you worthy of entering into manhood within our clan! Only he will determine if you have what it takes to carry on his legacy, to be able confirm our race as the sturdiest throughout the world!”
Bhadra’s voice carried out in sonorous resonance. His words boomed throughout the frozen flatland, a slight echo following as his speech reverberated off the structure of the Temple. He continued in his exigent articulations.
“What awaits you inside even I cannot say. Only you can determine if you have the strength and heart necessary to overcome the obstacles that await you. In the end, your ultimate goal is to traverse the labyrinth within and reach the Chapel, where Hokkyoku stands, ready to receive your touch. Once all nine of you have laid hands upon the Torrential Blade, the path to the exit will reveal itself to you, and you will have claimed your rightful place among the men of our tribe. I won’t lie to you; the path to this reward is fraught with danger.” Some of you may die.”
Arata felt the group take a collective “gulp.”
“Should any fail and flee, you will be regarded with shame until you muster up the courage to repent and redeem yourself. Should any of you die trying, you will be buried with honor. In either case, once those that remain make contact with Hokkyoku, the way out shall appear.”
Arata looked back behind the line. Each boy’s family was gathered, waiting in eagerly. He looked for his own family. He spotted Alastor’s shock of hyacinth hair in an instant. Evela gave an earnest and encouraging smile, while his father gave a solemn nod.
Al looked right at Arata from the sidelines, putting forward a fist in the air for support. Alastor, despite being the same age as Arata, could not participate in the Rite of Passage, being an outsider. But, he still wanted to be present to support his brother every step of the way. Arata turned back as Chief Bhadra was finishing up.
Bhadra held up his hand and in response the water flowing from the Temple’s hand sculptures traveled through the air and collected in a sphere of water in his palm. As soon as the water condensed, it froze into a large globe of ice. The streams returned to their natural positions and flow. He held the wintry ball out in front of him. “In breaking this orb, I shall signal you to begin your Rite! You will race up the steps and enter the labyrinth! Prepare yourselves!”
The entire crowd, family and initiates alike, held their breath in anticipation. Then, without warning, the orb shattered with a loud CRACK!
Reacting on instinct, Arata flew up the towering flight of steps alongside his fellow initiates, the broad entryway just barely allowing them all through. The group burst into the antechamber, whose appearance had already changed. The circular room was normally decorated with fur banners marked with a water droplet insignia. Now, where each banner had been, were nine different arched entryways. Each boy picked a portal. Arata took the second one to the very left. He looked to Flirin, who was on the very end. The two males nodded at each other, and dove into their respective labyrinths.
As soon as Arata rushed through his arch, he burst from the darkness into a long corridor. The interior of the maze was extremely cold, Arata’s breath coming out in wisps of vapor. The stretch of hallway was made up of a narrow strip of ice, surrounded by crystal clear waters. On top of the water stood pillars of condensed snow, between each of which a waterfall poured. Arata looked into the pools on either side. They both contained schools of large fish that he had never seen before. Their scales were prismatic, shining like rainbows as they darted through the water.
No sooner had Arata taken his first step than when one of the fish burst from the water! It leapt right at his face, showing Arata a mouth full of razor sharp teeth! Arata barely lurched back enough for the fish to sail past his nose. Unfortunately, his weight sent his rear to the cold, hard floor. He heard something shake and clink from above. His gaze shot up. Gigantic, jagged icicles hung precariously from the ceiling. If he wasn’t careful, he could get skewered.
Arata sighed as he got to his feet. “Seriously?” He gingerly took one step forward, not wishing to slip across the thin sheet of ice that served as his bridge to salvation. If he fell, he would either cause the ceiling to come crashing down on him, or end up as fish food. Neither sounded very appealing, so Arata drew his dagger and advanced carefully forward.
Arata struggled to keep his balance while both crossing the aisle and dodging the aggressive, carnivorous fish that jumped at him from the surrounding waters. He ducked beneath one, perilously sidestepped another, and actually managed to catch one by the tail and throw it back into the pool. Suddenly, one of the hungry fish leapt right at him! If he didn’t do something, that fish was going to take huge chunk out of his face. Arata reacted quickly. He turned with his dagger pointing horizontally and sliced right through the length of the fish, cleaving it in two.
The two halves of the creature flew past him and into the opposite pool harmlessly, where the remains were gorged upon by the rest of its species. Another leapt at Arata, who leaned back and chopped it in half as well. With each fish he successfully dismembered, the other fish became taken in by the promise of a new meal.
Taking advantage of the distractions that occupied the cannibalistic animals, Arata pushed forward more urgently. Suddenly, about three fourths of the way through, Arata took a misstep, and slipped forward, falling onto his knees. The impact not only jarred his body, but sent vibrations through to the ceiling. Arata looked up just in time to see the icicles begin to plummet towards his face!
Arata threw caution to the wind and began sprinting. The massive spikes of ice crashed down behind him, destroying the bridge as he threw himself into the archway at the end. But, he didn’t land in the next room. The floor suddenly sloped downward at a steep incline! Arata slid down the frozen slope in darkness. Much to Arata’s chagrin, the sound of shattering icicles continued to follow him down the tunnel. In fact, the entire structure of the frost-formed tunnel was collapsing behind him! The terrifying race against the failing structure ensued for moments that seemed like hours, until finally a light at the end of the tunnel appeared.
The incline ended abruptly as Arata flipped and tumbled forward at high speeds into the next room. Behind him the entire tunnel collapsed, the way back up completely blocked off by a pile of snow and ice. Arata got to his feet slowly. The room around him was spinning. As everything came back into focus, he turned to face the pile of rubble behind him. “Well, I guess they won’t have to worry about me running away…” Arata shook his head free of snow and brushed the rest of the hoary powder from his body. He looked about to take in the chamber he had entered.
The room was essentially bare except for statues of women bearing pitchers of water along the walls to the left and right. Looking up at the ceiling, Arata saw of few of the sculptures projecting forth as well, containers pointed to the floor. The floor in the middle of the room was comprised of large tiles of ice. Water poured forth from the statues’ vessels into small basins carved into some of the tiles. The entry to the next part of the Temple lay on the other side. Otherwise, the room was plain and empty. That was weird. Shouldn’t there be something to challenge Arata? He shrugged and started to saunter across to the other side of the room.
Arata stepped onto one of the tiles into which a statue poured her water from above. He admired the purity of the liquid that streamed down splashing his hand through it a few times. It was relatively warm compared to the rest of the temple. Arata continued forward. However, as soon as he reached the middle of the next tile, he heard a loud crack. He looked down at his feet to see a huge split in the tile! Just as the rest of the tile began to give way, he leapt to the next tile. He tried to turn around to see where the tile had gone, but as he moved, the tile now beneath him cracked as well! He panicked leaping to another tile as it collapsed, melting into water as his feet left its surface. This continued as he leapt from tile to tile, each one threatening to pull him down with it, until he landed on another square, this one with a basin to receive another statue’s water. This one held firm.
Arata sat, leaning against the wall with the statue, trying to catch his breath. He turned over onto his knees and looked down. Below was a gigantic pit that spanned the area of the tiled floor. It was a long way down, and at the bottom, Arata could just make out a floor of jagged spikes of ice. The tiles that he had so precariously leapt from were now gone, leaving huge gaps between the remaining pieces of the floor. Arata stood and looked about the room once more. It appeared that the only safe tiles were those that received water from the statues. Those that were bare would collapse and melt right beneath his feet. He looked from one end of the chamber to the other. He was about halfway across. If he could just make it to the safe tiles…
Arata searched for a nearby safe zone. The nearest stable square was the length of two tiles away. One tile had already collapsed, and the next that lay just before the safe square would break as soon as he touched it. He would have to clear the gap and then cross the tile before it gave way beneath him. Arata took a moment to collect himself. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, the chilled air stinging his nostrils. He opened his eyes. Arata ran forward and vaulted himself across the gap, foot just sticking the landing on the tile. His weight carried him forward, allowing him to roll right onto the stable floor piece before the one behind him disintegrated.
Arata proceeded to leap across the treacherous footing, moving from one water-receiving-square to the next, narrowly avoiding the deadly fall. He at last stood at the final stable tile. The edge of the other side of the room was just before him, the length of two tiles away. However, a huge gap made up that distance. He had no choice but to jump and hope he made the ledge. Arata went to the back edge of the tile to give him distance to accelerate. He mustered up his strength and courage and sprinted forward, pushing off the edge of the tile with all his might. His chest and arms slammed into the edge of the wall. The slick, frozen surface made it difficult to keep his grip. “Gah!” Arata grunted, forcing himself over the edge and onto solid ground.
The young man lay on the cold ground, panting. He laughed and waved his arms about. “Talk about a close call…” He continued to chuckle as he hopped to his feet, delving further into the depths.

********************************************************************************

Arata continued through the maze cautiously. He found himself wandering through a long series of corridors and halls, meeting dead ends, traps, and creatures along the way. He had to leap yet more ice spike pits, outrun gigantic boulders of ice and snow, and create his own path of ice across a small lake of lethally frigid water using magic. All while trying to evade the gaze of ice elemental guardians, who swung gigantic frozen maces at anything that moved.
Arata eventually stepped into a large circular room surrounded by water. At the end of the room, his goal was in sight. Just ahead lay the Chapel and the brightly glowing weapon, Hokkyoku! Arata raced forward across the middle of the room, eager to finish this Rite. As soon as he made it to the doorway, his hope was snuffed out. A huge, square door of ice slammed down in front of him, blocking off his only route to the Chapel. Arata cursed, trying to lift the door. It wouldn’t budge. He tried to shatter and melt it using his water magic, but it wouldn’t respond to him. As he was just about to give up, he heard a noise.
A loud screech echoed through the chamber. He glanced back and forth, trying to pinpoint the source of the inhuman noise. Suddenly, something burst from the water and leapt towards the ceiling. Arata spun around in time to see a large figure drop from above. It was a humanoid creature, covered in bright, silver fish scales. Its heavily muscled figure towered over Arata as it stared him down with a pair of menacing red eyes. Its face was covered in black scales, as was its underside and hands and feet. A large dorsal fin stretched down the length of its back and head, and smaller fins protruded from its forearms and calves. Razor sharp claws replaced fingers, small penetrating spires replaced teeth. Gills along its neck opened and closed as the creature inhaled and exhaled.
The fish creature screeched again, this time in Arata’s face. Foul, odorous droplets of saliva smattered Arata’s face. Arata drew his dagger, but not before the monster grabbed his armor and through him across the floor to the room’s center. Arata quickly got back into his stance as the creature charged at him. The fish-man threw a punch at Arata, but its fist only slammed into the ground as Arata lithely dodged. Arata’s fighting lessons with his father would finally pay off. Arata sidestepped to the creature’s left flank, slashing forward. He felt his dagger bite into the creature’s side, drawing forth a stream of crimson blood. The creature hissed, leaping back from Arata.
The monster leapt back towards the wall, grabbing onto a pillar. Arata watched, trying to figure out what the monster was up to. The creature leapt from pillar to pillar all about the room, swiftly to confuse its prey. Suddenly, when it made it behind Arata, it shot itself towards him.
The creature landed on top of Arata, pinning him to the ground with its powerful grip. Its honed claws held Arata tightly, digging deep into his flesh. Arata felt his warm blood wash over the cold surface of his skin. The creature had pinned Arata’s dagger-wielding arm to the floor. He couldn’t move it.
Arata maneuvered the dagger about in his hands until he held it at an angle pointing towards the creature. He plunged the dagger into the wrist of the creature, which released him as it cried in pain. Arata rolled back away from the creature. He panted, sheathing his dagger. “Alright you scaly freak, I’ve had enough of you.” He focused on the water around him, the liquid coalescing into spirals in the air surrounding him. He froze the water immediately, and then flicked his hand forward, sending jagged spikes of ice flying towards the enemy.
The spires of ice plunged deep into the creature’s body, blood spraying from its wounds. It fell to the floor, writhing in pain until it finally lay still. As Arata looked on, the creature melted away into a puddle of liquid. Arata breathed a sigh of relief. His relief was amplified as the door barring the way to the Chapel lifted. He drew more of the water around him close, forming it around his hands and placing it on the wounds in his arms. The water seeped into the wounds, cleansing and purifying it, until the cuts closed themselves up, completely healed. Not only was Arcterra’s gift useful in battle, but it had healing purposes as well.
Now mended, Arata proceeded wearily forward.

*******************************************************************************
Arata was the last to enter the chapel area. Each of the boys had already done their part and placed their hands on Hokkyoku’s hilt. All except for one. Arata’s excitement and relief turned in to sadness as he looked on at the pair of initiates dragging in the body of one of their own. Arata approached the bloody, lacerated body of his friend Flirin. He bent down beside him, wiping the blood from his face and lucky headband. Tears welled up in his eyes. He said a prayer to Arcterra, crossing his arms and touching his shoulders, then doing the same with Flirin’s arms. He whispered quietly to his friend. “I’m sure you went down fighting, Flirin. Arcterra would be proud. I…” He couldn’t bring himself to continue. He removed himself from Flirin’s body and walked towards the basin of Hokkyoku.
Despite the loss of his friend, Arata had to continue. Everyone knew the dangers, and they had all chosen to accept it. Flirin was no different. So he proceeded towards Hokkyoku, for everyone’s sake.
As each of the initiates had done before him, Arata placed his hands on Hokkyoku’s blade. He could feel the sword resonate with energy at his touch. He looked back at all the men, who smiled at him to go ahead and try to pull it, even though they all knew he’d fail. Hokkyoku didn’t move for anyone. “Hey, maybe I’ll get lucky.” Arata chuckled, the onlookers whooping and hollering for him to go for it.
Arata tugged and pulled, without much effort. Suddenly, something broke loose! The blade jostled. Hokkyoku slid from its basin and rose in Arata’s hands, glowing brightly. And then, everything went white.
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:18 pm

Yay! Arata passes his trial! MOAR!! :p
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:30 am

Chapter 3: Tides of Fate

All Arata could hear was a cluster of warbled voices as his consciousness slowly returned to him. Everything looked blurry and sounded distorted, as though he and all around him were underwater. But, as the seconds ticked by, he realized this was not the case. Gradually, the picture came into full focus, and sensation quickly began to rush back into his body. Standing over him was a circle of familiar faces: his father, his mother, Alastor, and Chief Bhadra. Alastor looked at him with a strange blend of awe and concern, while Jerrai and Bhadra exchanged soft, enthusiastic words. Evela glanced back and forth between the two conversing men and her son anxiously, appearing unsure as to whether she should be worried or elated.
Arata felt cold seeping into his back, head, and limbs. He soon realized that he was on the cold, icy floor of the Temple of Torrents. Had he fallen? His family was around him, so it was clear he was still in the chapel, and not laying in some part of the expansive labyrinth the Temple birthed on the Solstice. His head throbbed slightly, and his body tingled all over. He craned his neck and groaned. At the sound, Jerrai’s and Bhadra’s heads immediately turned to him as they halted their exchange. Evela’s gaze also snapped to her son, sapphire eyes glistening with concern. Alastor’s face lit up at the action, and he stooped a little lower. “Arata? Are you okay?” The circle waited with bated breath.
Arata turned his head to get looks at the rest of the company, and then looked back at Alastor. He blinked, shaking his head. “What happened?”
The company breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief as Arata responded. Alastor chuckled as he gripped his brother’s hand, pulling him back up to his feet from the algid ground. Arata took a moment to regain his balance, struggling briefly against his body’s haphazard swaying. He was still a little disoriented, and his flesh still crawled with tingling sensitivity. When his equilibrium was at last reestablished, he looked to his family and Bhadra for an explanation. “I…What happened? Did I fall or something? Did I…did I finish my Rite?” He brought up his right hand to his forehead in an effort to ease the dull throb that pulsed through his skull.
“Don’t you remember?” Al responded quizzically. “You reached the chapel and completed your initiation—”
“I would say you did far more than complete your Rite of Passage, Arata,” Chief Bhadra interjected. He was beaming from ear to ear. Arata’s brow furrowed in puzzlement as Bhadra walked forward and gripped his shoulders tightly. “Don’t you see what you’re holding there, Arata?” Bhadra looked at him with joyous wonder.
Arata’s left hand squeezed. He suddenly realized that he had been gripping onto something the entire time. Bhadra stepped away as Arata lifted up his hand in front of him. Held out before him was a blade cold as ice and white as snow. In his very hand was the weapon of legend, the Torrential Katana, Hokkyoku! The weapon emitted a pale whitish-blue color, glowing warmly as he held it. It hummed a low pitch, brimming with energy. In Arata’s hands, the sword almost felt…alive.
“How…how did I…?” Arata could hardly speak. His words failed him as he gazed upon the magnificence of the katana, moving it around in the air before him, taking in every aspect. How was this even possible? Nobody had been able to free Hokkyoku in centuries! Not since the very birth of their entire society had anyone been able to claim the weapon as its rightful owner.
And for that person to finally arrive…for that person to end up being Arata himself…it was almost too much for the young man to handle.
“When you didn’t come out, we rushed inside to see if you were okay,” Jerrai explained. “When we got to you, you had already passed out. When we cleared the other boys out, we saw the sword in your hand. It took us a second to recognize you.”
Arata looked at his father with a somewhat bewildered expression. Alastor took Arata by his arms and spun him around to face the waterfall that poured from the nearest wall. “Look.”
Arata leaned forward, observing his reflection in the crystal clear fluid. He rubbed his eyes as he regarded his face. His dark, azure hair now had a prominent streak of turquoise that ran down his hairline through the centermost area of his bangs. His eyes stared at their duplicates in the downward stream intently. His irises were still a crisp beryl hue, but looking deeper into them, a strange pulsing energy radiated from the gaze. His eyes were the same, but also very different. He felt power coursing through his veins and his eyes were its subtle outlets.
Arata turned back to his family, the shock still evident in his face. Bhadra moved towards him once more, elation threatening to overtake the leader of their clan. “Hokkyoku has chosen you, Arata! You and you alone have been deemed worthy of wielding the Torrential Katana, the Glacial Edge, the Blade of Tides! You…” The Chief was practically out of breath, so profound was his awe. “You are going to be an instrument of Arcterra himself!” He looked up to the watchful statue of Arcterra and Kitsuri with reverence. His face froze in an appearance of epiphany, his eyes parting wide. His stare shot back to Arata. “You will play a major role in the future of this tribe…no, of this very world! For you now possess one of the greatest weapons to ever grace mortal existence!”
Bhadra’s praise and prophesizing did nothing to allay Arata’s shock or alleviate his anxiety. So Arata had been chosen as the sole wielder of the most revered artifact of his tribe. He alone would bear the centerpiece of his clan’s most ancient of rituals and religion. Arcterra had certainly looked upon Arata’s trial favorably. But what would he do now? What the heck was he supposed to do? This had never happened before. Arata knew of no texts or scriptures that spoke of what would and should occur once Hokkyoku had been freed. A terrible weight suddenly burdened his shoulders.
Bhadra embraced the young man tightly. “Do not fret, Arata. I will help guide you in this unprecedented hour of our history. We will see that the Wielder of Hokkyoku serves the Arcterran clan properly! You will be given the highest of honors!” Bhadra stepped away from Arata and began walking back towards the entrance of the Temple, beside himself with jubilance. He beckoned for Arata and his family to follow.
Before they joined the Chief at the entrance, Arata’s family stood before him. Jerrai beamed proudly at his son, giving him a rough squeeze. “You’ll do great things Arata. I just know you will. I couldn’t be more proud.”
As his father released him to meet up with Bhadra, his mother gently touched his arm.
“Don’t worry, we’ll figure this out. It’ll all make sense soon, I’m sure.” She gave a reassuring nod and moved on to join Arata’s father and Bhadra.
Last was Alastor. His adoptive sibling stood and looked at him, his countenance serious in nature. “Listen to me, Arata.” He hesitated, searching for the right words. “People will look at you differently. And it may not necessarily always be in a good way. You have a huge honor and responsibility now.”
Arata sighed and his shoulders sagged. “I know, stop reminding me. I…” He looked down. “I should be excited, but I’m scared too. There’s so much pressure now, and it hasn’t even been an hour…I just…”
Alastor stopped him. “I get it. There are going to be bumps along the way, for sure. Just promise me one thing. Don’t ever change who you are. In the end it doesn’t matter how much power you have, or how much people revere you. Don’t let this responsibility, with its perks or its burdens, change the way you are in here.” He poked where Arata’s heart was.
Arata smiled. “I won’t. I promise.”
Al grinned back. “Good! Now, let’s get back to the village.”

The pair joined Bhadra and their parents at the entrance of the Temple. As soon as they walked out to the top of the steps, however, their initial celebration was immediately overshadowed. Literally. The silver, glowing orb of the moon was now overtaken by foreboding blackness. Gigantic swollen storm clouds blotted out the stars and filled the once perfectly clear night sky with the looming threat of rain and lightning. A fierce wind howled and blew into the group as they stood at the top of the stairs, each of them drawing closer to one another to stave off its bite. The clouds soon made good on their threat as bloated drops began to plummet to the ground. A bright fork of electricity illuminated the sky, followed by an explosion of thunder.
Arata yelled above the wind. “What the hell is going on?!”
Bhadra’s voice rose in response. “It would appear this storm gathered while we were inside!”
“That’s impossible!” Jerrai shouted. “There wasn’t a single cloud around for miles! There were no indicators! Storms like this don’t just show up out of nowhere!”
“The Gods behave in strange ways, my friend!” Bhadra retorted.
The group descended the stairs quickly, but carefully, trying not to lose footing as each of them moved down the frosted steps. They ran toward the village a short distance away as the rain intensified. Hefty brumal droplets pelted the five as the rain moved from moderate to torrential. The four Arcterrans used their water magic to shield them from the inundating precipitation, but the waters that fell seemed to bypass their manipulations, and so managed to hinder the group all the same. Powerful gales buffeted them as they trudged through the snow, whipping and tugging left and right. Arata held onto the Torrential Katana tightly for fear of losing the magnificent blade. Streaks of lightning cut through the clouds, lighting the scene of the village as they neared the huts.
The place was frantic. Men gathered up their families and supplies, pushing for the sanctuary of the Shelter Dome. Women desperately followed their husbands out of the downpour, children and belongings in tow. Clothing, blankets, hides, weapons, and food; all of this was bundled up and dragged to the Dome in hopes of saving it. The youngest children clung to their mothers and fathers, wailing and sobbing in fear of the colossal tempest that now beset their quiet homes. Older sons helped carry supplies and essentials for their parents, while older daughters helped keep the children together with the rest of the family on the path to shelter.
Copious amounts of rain and wind battered and brutalized the huts, tearing into the hides and tossing them about like ragdolls. The sturdiest of homes barely remained anchored to the ground. Holes were ripped open in their tops as sleet and hail came to accompany rain. The wood that served as tinder for the central fire pit was strewn about, chunks of pine and piles of ashes scattered randomly around the snow. The fire itself had long been extinguished.
The company slowly progressed towards the Shelter Dome, gusts and showers fighting them in every direction, pushing and pulling in an attempt to divert them from safety. As they neared the Dome, they came across Bhadra’s home. Bhadra stopped in front of his barely intact hut. “Go on to the Dome without me! There’s something I must retrieve from my home first!” He yelled to them.
“Bhadra, it’s too dangerous out here! We need you to come with us!” Jerrai argued.
“Do not worry! I will meet you there shortly! This is of great importance!” The Chief hollered, waving the group on. He ducked beneath his door flap and disappeared.
Jerrai cursed. “Stubborn old man,” he grumbled. Arata and Alastor stood looking at their father along with Evela. He looked at them sternly. “Come on. We have to keep moving.”

The family burst through the door of the Shelter Dome and slammed it shut behind them, all four staggering into the central room and slumping against the wall to the floor. Each of them panted heavily as they tried to catch their breath. So far, the goddess of nature had done everything short of flooding the tundra to make their trek a struggle. They were all soaked from the rain and beaten by the wind. Arata heard Alastor’s teeth begin to chatter. The family clustered together, spreading their body heat between one another to mitigate the chill that gripped them all. Jerrai wrapped his meaty arms about his family, while his sons and wife all lay against his chest and pressed themselves against one another.
Arata hugged the length of the Torrential Katana protectively, glad he had managed not to lose his reward. He looked about the Dome as he reposed. Boxes and jars full of fish, fox, hare, and water lined the back walls and piled up in the storage closets at the opposite end of the room. Hides, furs, tools, and other supplies were in large stone casks or leather satchels, lined up next to the foodstuffs. Weapons were easily accessible; an assortment of ivory maces, daggers, and swords was readily available from the racks against the walls. Husbands and fathers retrieved coats, gloves, boots, and blankets from the back in order to replace those of their families, hoping to remove the chill and give warmth to their loved ones. Arata’s own leather armor was completely soaked through. The tuft of Ivorite feathers hung limp from his shoulder, and the fox fur was clumped and matted against the blue leather, so saturated with water were they.
Arata’s was the last family to arrive; everyone else was already present inside the sanctuary. He recognized each boy that had been at the initiation, as well as their families. His gaze was drawn to a large hide blanket covering a lying figure. He gave a start, almost jumping up to his feet, but his father weighed his hand on his shoulder. “What is it, Arata?” He asked, concerned.
Arata’s eyes stung with tears as he rose to up to his knees, gesturing weakly towards the covered body. Jerrai followed his motion and paused. Arata looked to his father with sadness. “It’s him Dad. Flirin’s family didn’t even get a chance to properly send him off.” Whenever someone in the clan passed away, it was Arcterran custom to furnish a cot made of fox furs and hides, supported by pine branches upon which the deceased was laid. The entire clan would then perform a ritual involving a dance of death by the maidens of the tribe, followed by a communal prayer to Arcterra for their safe passage to the depths of the afterlife. The Arcterrans would then push the cot out to sea, until the bed and body drifted out and sank to the bottom of the ocean, to return to the sea and be reclaimed by Arcterra. Arata looked once more to the draping hiding Flirin’s features. His family was concentrated around the mat he lay on, shaken and chilled to the core; first by his death, and then by this storm. They were given no rest, no time to grieve before this cataclysmic squall. It wasn’t fair. The world could be so cruel at times…
Jerrai grimaced as he watched his son. He sighed and squeezed Arata closer, pecking his temple gently. “I’m sorry, son. I know it’s hard to watch, but death is something that comes for all of us. And sometimes, we don’t always get the time we deserve, whether it be on this earth, or to grieve for those whose time has been spent.” Even though Arata was now technically a man, Jerrai saw his son still had much to learn, and still had to mature in his own way.
Arata wiped his eyes, tearing himself away from the sight of Flirin’s corpse. He nodded to his father. “I know…It’s just…” He didn’t finish, and he didn’t have to. Jerrai understood, as did Alastor and Evela. Death was cruel, and life sometimes crueler.
Suddenly, a figure emerged from the doorway of the Shelter Dome. Sopping wet, feet squishing along the floor with every step, entered Chief Bhadra. Each Arcterran watched quietly as the Chief walked to the center of the chamber. He gripped something in his hands, but from Arata’s angle, it was impossible to tell just what it was. Arata listened as he began to speak.
“My fellow Arcterrans! This storm that is upon us is a severe one! It has torn apart many of our homes and belongings. But, once this tempest has passed, we will have the resources necessary to rebuild! We have enough supplies and space in this dome to shelter and feed us for the time being while we reconstruct our dwellings. However, if we want to assure our supplies and ability to fend for ourselves, we must save our boats! Out upon the northern shore, the fishing boats are moored! If they are left upon the water in this storm, they will be completely destroyed, along with any supplies on board! I need all able-bodied men to head out there and retrieve our supplies and vessels before we lose them! And please, in the name of Arcterra, be careful! We do not want to lose any more men today!” Bhadra looked to Flirin’s family, giving them his sympathies, stating that the hearts of all the clansmen were with them.
The men of the clan, both recently initiated and longstanding adults, all filed out of the doorway, heading towards the northern shore. Bhadra moved from the center of the room and perambulated towards Arata and his family. His hands were placed behind his back, and sight of what he held continued to elude Arata. “Chief Bhadra!” Arata greeted the man. “What took you so long?”
Bhadra gave a wrinkled smile. “While I was observing the boats at the shore, I was also searching my house for a very special object.”
Arata raised an eyebrow. “What would that be?”
Bhadra lowered himself to one knee and thrust his hands forward. In his hands was the most beautiful sword sheath Arata had ever seen in his life. It was made of fine, honed leather dyed as deep blue as the Southern Ocean. The sheath was trimmed all the way around with a border of gold and silver, with matching gold and silver threading wrapped around the top. In the center of the sheath near the top was a flawless white-blue gem, embellished with a small border design of silver trimming. He held the sheath out to Arata. “For you,” he said with his head bowed.
Arata just stared at the sheath, speechless. “Chief Bhadra…I-I don’t know what to say…how did you even—”
“In my years visiting the Mainland, I met many good friends, one of whom was a smith. He specialized in leather armor and accessories, the best in his craft. I had always thought the Torrential Katana would need a new place to reside once its rightful owner was chosen, whoever it may be and whenever that day might come. I wanted no less than the best for Hokkyoku and its wielder. So, I found the necessary materials for him, and he crafted me this fine piece of art. And now, I present it to you. May it serve you well.” Bhadra pushed the sheath towards Arata a little more.
Arata gratefully accepted the gift, running his hands along the smooth length of the sheath. He slid Hokkyoku smoothly into the slot of the sheath until it clicked as the hilt of Hokkyoku touched the top. It was the perfect size! It was exactly the right length, width, and thickness for the Torrential Katana. Arata stood and hooked the sheath at his hip. Perfect.
Jerrai stood and looked to the Elder appreciatively. “Thank you so much, Chief Bhadra. It is a great honor for our family to accept such a beautiful gift.”
Bhadra held a hand up. “It is my duty to honor the wielder of Hokkyoku. It would be disrespectful to leave the blade bare to the elements.”
Suddenly, another flash blinded the chamber, followed by the loudest thunderclap yet. Alastor and Arata peered out the window-flap of the Shelter Dome. Alastor turned back to the Chief and his parents. “It’s getting worse out there. Much worse.”
Arata continued to look outside. He felt Hokkyoku thrum at his side in response to the thunderclap. The rain and winds and lightning all evoked a reaction from the mythical weapon, resonating with the blade on a primal level. Arata turned to look at Chief Bhadra. “Something about this storm seems off. It…it doesn’t seem natural to me.”
Evela exchanged a confused glance with her husband, and then turned back to Arata. “What do you mean, Arata?”
Arata shrugged slightly. “I mean, there was no sign of any storm at all heading this way all day, or all night. It didn’t show up until just after I pulled Hokkyoku from its basin. That can’t be just a coincidence.”
Bhadra rubbed his chin, deep in thought. “Yes…perhaps you may be right.” The entire family looked to Bhadra, awaiting elaboration. He gestured between the sword and the window outside. “It would seem the world is reacting to the sword’s release, and the sword is now reacting to the world. The world wants one of its great Elemental Powers out, and the sword wants to go to the world…”
Jerrai scratched his beard pensively. “Is that even possible?”
“Well, it is merely speculation and conjecture. We truly have no way of knowing. All the same, the breaking of a seal on a great elemental cornerstone is bound to have an effect on nature. At this point, our job is to minimize the consequences,” Bhadra replied.
Arata looked out once more towards the shore, seeing the men as they tried to retrieve the vessels. Even with the use of their water magic, they were struggling. The waves and winds battled them at every opportunity, pulling away the vessels just as they got within reach of the men. They needed help, and they needed it now.
Arata looked to Bhadra and his father. “I want to help then. We need to get those boats back before we lose them for good.”
Jerrai nodded affirmatively. “You’re right. They’ll need all the help they can get out there.”
“I’ll go too. I’m not sure how much help I’ll be, but I’m willing to try,” Alastor volunteered.
“Thank you very much. I know with your help, we can weather this storm yet,” Bhadra remarked, nodding with appreciation.
Evela stopped in front of the men of her family. “Hold it you three. I don’t want any of you going out there. I know I won’t be able to stop you, Jerrai…You’re the most stubborn man I’ve ever met,” Evela said. “But I won’t let my only sons go out and risk their lives like this. Leave it to the adults. I don’t want you two to get hurt.”
Arata shook his head. “Mom, I am an adult now. I can do this. I have to do this.”
Alastor moved up next to his brother. “I’m going where he’s going, and that’s that.”
Evela looked up at her sons with welled up eyes. “Boys…please,” she pleaded.
Arata took his mother by the shoulders and embraced her. Alastor joined the embrace as well. Arata whispered in his mother’s ear. “I’ll be alright, I promise. We both will. I love you, and I’ll be back.”
Evela just blew out an exasperated sigh. “You really do take after your father.”
Arata and Alastor then followed their father out of the flap and into the tempest. Evela looked on after them and whispered quietly, “Just please be careful…”

Arata and Alastor walked briskly behind Jerrai towards the northern shore. Strangely, instead of pushing against them, the combination of deluge and gale seemed to push them towards the shore instead. The three men stopped at the mooring of the boats. Several men stood at the shoreline, working their clan’s magic to pull the water, and therefore the boats, towards them; at the same time, a few especially daring men had made it into the boats and pushed the boats towards the shore with water magic. Those that were less skilled in water manipulation pulled on the ropes that tied the boats to the moorings, hoping to physically rein them back in and then carry them off the water. On all sides, the men struggled. Those using magic appeared to be having trouble bending the water to their wills, while those that pulled fought against the strength of the violent tides that now opposed them.
Arata’s father ran up to the moorings and joined the men tugging on the roping. He wrapped chiseled arms about the girth of the rope and pulled as hard as he could. Despite the force of the storm, the men were indeed making progress. It was just too slow. At this rate, the increasing waves and tides would claim the men before they managed to get the boats all the way to shore. Arata ran to his father’s side, outstretching his hands towards the chaotic waters before him. He resonated with the water and pulled back with his mind, feeling his will tug against the water. But the sea resisted his calling. The water tried its hardest to remain independent of Arata’s will, and so, to Arata’s frustration, only moved a small amount. Meanwhile, Alastor assisted in pulling along with Jerrai. Their efforts helped, but not enough. The men were being assaulted by waves that continued to increase in size with each wall of water that crashed down on them.
Jerrai yelled to Arata. “Arata! We’ve got this handled! I need you to try and break up those waves headed toward us before we’re all drowned! Hurry!”
Arata nodded to his father and ran towards the edge of the shore where the waves were most frequent. “Come on Al!” He shouted to his brother. Alastor joined up with his brother at the water’s edge, using his newfound wind manipulation abilities to deflect the gales that threatened to throw them off balance. Unfortunately, the going was rough, as with the water, the wind resisted the will of Alastor no matter how hard he tried to move it. Arata looked out towards the roiling glacial waters that lay before him. The sea frothed and foamed angrily, gigantic waves breaking further out, maelstroms and vortexes forming off in the distance. Thunderclaps regularly jarred Arata’s body, preceded by rapid flashes of lightning. Blades of energy raced across the underside of the clouds. The bolts struck into the ocean, water boiling at points of impact from which electricity then flared in webs of light.
A series of waves began to bear down on the men at the shore. Arata used sweeping motions as he bent the water to his will, forcing the waves apart enough to make them bearable instead of crippling. Arata and Alastor both had to fight to keep their footing as the winds pushed them closer and closer (despite Al’s efforts) to the depths. As Arata continued to break apart waves, frigid spray constantly exploded in his face, the water seeming to grab onto him with icy fingers as he fought the ocean. Then, Arata saw the biggest wave yet swiftly approaching. There was no way he’d be able to break up that wave in time on his own power. His hand fell to his side, brushing the sheath that held Hokkyoku.
Hokkyoku! That was it! “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that before?” Arata quickly drew the Torrential Katana, brandishing it before him, pointing it toward the sea. Arata summed up all of his energy into the sword, focusing on the wave as it drew closer. Once it reached its peak, Arata swung as hard as he could. A huge crescent of energized fluid being released from the weapon and obliterated the wave. The wave exploded at its height, spraying in all directions, now rendered harmless.
Arata punched the air. “Alright! Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Al grinned at his brother. “Nice work!”
Arata continued to use Hokkyoku against the forces of the ocean, slicing through each wave that came their way. There was no resisting Hokkyoku. Its mastery over water was apparent as it obliterated each crest that rose to meet Arata. The last wave burst into glacial spray as the men finally moved the boats a safe distance away from the shore. Jerrai looked to Alastor and Arata and nodded approvingly as he helped another man carry the fishing boat on his back.
Arata sheathed Hokkyoku and turned to his brother. “Alright, that should take care of that. Let’s head back to the Shelter Dome.” Alastor smiled and nodded, but his smile suddenly faded. Arata looked at his brother, puzzled. “What’s wrong?”
“Arata, turn around!” Alastor pointed up behind Arata.
Arata turned over his shoulder as the shadow of a gargantuan wave towered over them! Far bigger than any they had seen thus far, the colossal wave was now right on top of them. There was no time to think; only to act. Arata pivoted on his heel and grabbed his brother tightly, pulling him close as the wave crashed down upon them with all of its force, dragging them into the abysmal waters.

Arata and Alastor were tossed and thrown about as the wave carried them through the depths of the Southern Ocean, past the reefs off the shore and beyond. No matter what, though, Arata kept a vice grip on his brother’s clothing, making sure they were not separated. The raging storm produced violent eddies and vortexes that rolled and flipped their bodies mercilessly, only allowing them to explode through the surface for a brief intake of air every few minutes. The water was pitch black. Arata could see nothing; hear nothing but the raging currents. When he and Al were allowed up for precious breath, he could see nothing but roiling brine as flashes of lightning illuminated the surface of the water.
The currents pushed and carried the siblings faster than Arata thought possible. They were at the mercy of the deep for what seemed like hours. Arata had lost nearly all feeling in his body to the boreal seaways. Now he only felt a dull tingling. Suddenly, the waters grew much more ferocious. The brothers were caught in a savage maelstrom. The storm-brewed vortex sucked them down to the level of the ocean floor, spinning them around at high speeds in a spiral, chewing them up and then finally spitting them out without remorse. At breakneck speed, Arata and Alastor tumbled and fumbled along the rough ocean floor. Arata’s back scraped up against the sandy bottom, bouncing off the floor slightly. Without warning, blinding pain burst up his spine as Arata’s back was split open against the jagged edge of a reef along the seafloor. Large globules of blood streamed forth and floated in the jet black waters, mixing with cold brine and froth. Arata’s strength finally left him as he let go of Alastor’s clothing, and his consciousness faded away.

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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:36 am

Chapter 4: Terra Incognita

The corridor was almost silent. The quietude was barely disturbed, even as the man moved hastily through the halls. Hardly a sound was produced as his black boots hit the stone floor. Only the faintest echo of a rustle sounded as his cloak billowed through the air. Knights broke the silence with clattering armor as they fumbled to salute the man. He had taken the men by surprise with his legerity as he darted through the passageway. The man came to an abrupt, yet poised, halt before a large pair of oaken double doors. He looked up at the insignia above the arched doorway. Carved in relief from the stone wall was a symbol of the sun intersected by a crescent moon, as if the upper end of the moon’s curve hung from the bottom. He had been summoned by his lord, and the request had had an air of urgency about it, so the man had proceeded as expeditiously as possible. He pressed his hands against the wood and pushed forward, the pair of doors creaking loudly as he stepped forth into the room.
The cloaked figure entered an expansive circular chamber. The floors were made of a cool, dark marble; the walls, a dark grey stone. Bronze sconces clutching impressive torches lined these walls, each torch aflame with a bright, prismatic fire. Each shifted in color endlessly, a flash of the entire rainbow visible every moment the flames danced. A long strip of red carpet – trimmed with gold – stretched from where the man stood at the entrance up the steps to where his lord sat.
The man walked forward and fell to one knee halfway along the carpet, lowering his head in respect. “Emperor Gladius, you summoned me?” He spoke, his low voice echoing quietly off the walls of the vast room.
“That is correct, Azki’ir. Rise, for I have a task for you,” the voice of the Emperor rumbled, his voice reverberating with greater strength than that of his subordinate.
Azki’ir stood, throwing back the hood of his garb. The cloaked man was dressed head-to-toe in black; he wore armor crafted from atrous leather, jet black leather boots, dark gloves with the fingers open, and most visibly, a nebulous inky cloak over his back. In every crevice imaginable he held some sort of weapon. Daggers and blades lay behind his armor, hid in his sleeves, and concealed themselves in his boots. A pair of curved dual blades was strapped to his lower back, both hanging horizontally across the base of his spine. He appeared relatively young, but seasoned. Shaggy black hair fell over his face. His skin was dark and exotic; his eyes gleamed like obsidian. He would have been quite handsome were it not for a large, jagged scar that cut across his face diagonally, all the way from his left eyebrow across the bridge of his nose and down to his right cheek.
Azki’ir brought his dark eyes up to take in the intimidating figure of his Emperor. The carpet extended from his seat, a scarlet tongue beckoning prey into the mouth of a wildcat. The back and seat of his throne were hewn from dark marble, framed by pillars of gold trimmed with black. Behind his regal seat was a massive banner with the same insignia that rested above the door outside. Against the side of the throne lay a formidable sword made of an unknown metal, dark brown in hue. The edges of the blade gave off subtle, orange glow. At the Emperor’s feet lay a majestic wolf with fur of the most brilliant gold. Its head, having perked up somewhat at Azki’ir’s entrance, now lowered itself to the floor once more. The Emperor himself was clad in golden armor. Black outlined the chest plate, greaves and pauldrons. His face was young looking, not much older than Azki’ir, yet his eyes radiated wisdom and experience that few men ever came to possess. As he stood to address Azki’ir, the light of the chromatic flames danced across his armor, his chest piece seeming to blaze as though it were the sky and the sun itself set upon it. His cape flourished behind him, flickering in a fluid motion, like a candle wavering in the window. Resting upon his head was a magnificent crown studded with black opals, gems whose centers appeared to swirl with flame.
Azki’ir stood attentively as he responded to his Emperor. “A task, my lord?” Azki’ir cracked a smile. “Do you want someone eliminated?”
Emperor Gladius shook his head. “No, my assassin, not this time. Your skills of stealth will serve a different purpose. I need you to find someone. Once you identify them, I need you to bring them here, at any cost.”
Azki’ir raised an eyebrow. “Well, that’s no fun. Find who, exactly?”
Gladius’s face grew staid. “Xavier has informed me that one of ‘them’ has recently appeared.”
Azki’ir’s eyes narrowed. “One of ‘them?’ You don’t mean—”
The Emperor nodded. “A Child of the Myst.”

******************

Arata’s eyes slowly creaked open as light shone down on his face. As he came to, his surroundings gradually came into focus. Sunlight filtered through a square hole in the ceiling, warming his chilled face. He shielded his eyes from the glare, twisting his neck around to try and see the rest of the room. Walls made of planks of what looked like wood surrounded him. Windows along these walls let in the light of day further. He threw his arm out to his side. The floor seemed to be made of soft wood. Beneath him, he felt some sort of mat, and beneath his head, a small pillow. He shook his head and shot upwards from the floor to try and sit upright. Suddenly, excruciating pain burst down the length of his back, radiating from the base of his neck all the way down a line to the base of his spine.
Arata fell back to the floor immediately, screaming in agony and gasping for breath as he gritted his teeth against the pain. A cold sweat broke out across his entire body. A sickeningly warm and slick sensation spread across his flesh as blood streamed forth unabated, soaking the skin of his back. “Hahhh…ahhhh…!” He twisted about as his senses were overwhelmed by the excruciation; his vision swam, his ears seemed as though they were filled with water, and the scent and taste of blood pervaded his nostrils and coated his tongue. As he fought to maintain consciousness, he heard footsteps approach. A pair of feet appeared in the archway that led to the room, but from Arata’s position on the floor (he had flipped to his side) he could not see to whom they belonged.
“By the gods--!” He heard a girl’s voice cry. “Grandfather! He’s awake! He’s reopened his wounds!” The feet rushed out of Arata’s field of vision and moved behind him. Arata felt a pair of soft hands grip his shoulders and turn him back over on his back gingerly. “Bring fresh bandages, a rag, and some water with you!” He heard her yell out of the room.
His distorted vision began to piece itself back together as he looked up at his caretaker. She was a young girl, no older than him. She had dark brown hair tied back into a long ponytail and eyes the color of emeralds. She wore a greyish-green tunic with an undershirt and a mid-length skirt with linen pants. Her skin was very lightly tanned by the sun. She peered down at Arata, face full to bursting with worry. “That’s a lot of blood. Oh, you shouldn’t have sat up so suddenly,” she said anxiously.
Arata suddenly heard another pair of feet plod into the room, heavier and slower. Soon, Arata saw an old man stooping over him next to the girl, carrying a roll of bandages, a rag, and a bucket of water, all while leaning on a cane for support. The girl took the rag and wiped the sticky sweat from Arata’s brow. She then lifted and propped him up carefully. Arata winced, panting heavily. She grimaced. “Sorry! I know it hurts.” She placed the rag on the floor where he was lying to sop up some of the blood. She then removed the bandages that were wrapped about his torso and looked at the split down his back. Her brow furrowed in deep concern. “It hasn’t healed properly. It’s still really deep…” She unraveled the roll of fresh bandages as expeditiously as she could, drawing a new clean rag at the same time. As she moved to soak the rag, her hand accidently tipped the bucket, spilling a large volume of water all across the floor. The air smelt of salt.
“Oh, I’m such a klutz!” The girl smacked her own forehead with her hand in frustration. “I’ll need to go get a new bucket of seawater to clean it out before infection sets in!”
Arata grabbed at her wrist weakly. “No, it’s okay, I can take care of it.”
The girl appeared perplexed. “How are you going to--?” She began, but Arata had already set to work, drying the floor as the water followed his hand and left the surface of the mat. The girl looked on in awe as Arata’s will caused the liquid to coalesce into an orb. He moved it until it hovered over his back, and then he gingerly willed it to seep into and cleanse his open wound. The salt stung fiercely, sending a blaze of pain into the depths of Arata’s flesh, the gut-wrenching sensation simultaneously threatening to make him vomit or black out, whichever came first. He released the water, which slid down his back gently after most of it had been soaked up by his wound, and then gave an agonized gasp, gripping his head by his hair with one hand and pounding the ground with the other. He could feel the bile belch up into his esophagus.
The girl sat, fixated on Arata, the memory of the display still enthralling her vision. It was only Arata’s pounding and pained grunts that brought her back eventually. “Oh, dear, sorry! Here, I’ll fetch a salve to soothe the pain.” The girl moved to the table at the side of the room, grabbing a small container. She opened it and swiped two of her fingers through the milky ointment inside. She rubbed it around the edges of Arata’s wound carefully. When she finished, she wiped the creamy substance from her fingers, and resumed gawking at Arata. “I just…h-how did you do that? That was amazing!”
The elderly man who had brought the supplies admonished her. “Now, now Leyla let him gather himself before you start asking him questions. You need to finish patching him up, and then help clean him up and the rest of this mess as well. I’ll go prepare something to eat.” The man hobbled away on his cane. The girl nodded, entreating Arata apologetically as she moved again back to the table. She returned with a needle and thread of what looked like fine sinew.
“Okay, we’re almost done. I’ve just got to reclose that gash of yours.” She moved around to his back. “I know you’re uncomfortable right now, but I need you to try and sit up as straight as possible.”
Arata moaned softly, rising as gradually as possible to try and minimize the twinge-inducing wrinkling of his skin as he entered into complete upright posture. The young woman gave a few preparatory puffs of air as she looped the thread through the needle. “Hopefully that salve is starting to work, because this won’t feel good.” Arata flinched sideways as he felt the needle pierce through the flesh of his back. “I’m sorry, I know! Just please, try to sit still and tall. It’ll go much more quickly if you don’t squirm,” the girl cautioned, pulling the thread through the puncture. Arata only managed a nod, back once more erect as he steeled himself for the rest of the stitching.
The young lady worked as expediently as possible. She pulled the length of the sinew across the gaping laceration in zigzagging segments, pulling each together in small knots and sealing the fleshy chasm bit by bit. With each portion she sealed, Arata’s back screamed louder and louder. It wailed and shrieked, nearly forcing Arata to do the same as he wondered how long this procedure would take. Then, all of a sudden, the screeching died down to a whimper.
“There! Right as rain! You’re all patched up!” The girl exclaimed, regarding her handiwork with pride. However, the sutured flesh was still an angry red. “Well, as patched up as you can be until you’ve been given time to properly heal. Here.” She took another dollop of the analgesic paste and smoothed it over the newly sewn skin. Arata moaned in relief as the ointment cooled the vicious tingling down his spine, though the area was still throbbing and sensitive. The girl took a new roll of bandages and wrapped it across his body, securing it with a diagonal binding from his left shoulder. She wiped the sweat from her brow and smiled cheerfully at her patient, and then went to wiping up the crimson pools that he had bled onto the floor.
Once Arata had managed to catch his breath, he looked down at himself. He suddenly felt very self-conscious. He was unclothed except for his fur-lined undergarments. A few bandages covered his arms and legs as well, presumably hiding more minor cuts. Splotches of bruising marked various parts of his body. The most noticeable knot formed at the top right of his forehead. He touched the bump gingerly, wincing as he did so. “Ow.” He looked around the room once more. It was mostly bare, except for the bedroll in which he had been lying (and had just soiled with his blood), and a chair with a small table in the corner, the same that the girl had retrieved her tools from. He turned to the girl. “So…your name is Leyla?”
She finished sopping up the blood and rung the rag out over the empty bucket. She nodded, smiling. “Yes, it is. What’s yours?”
“Arata,” he replied.
“Arata, huh? That’s an unusual name. But, I would guess you’re not really from around here, are you? Sorry, do you mind?” She took out a handkerchief and reached out to wipe the rest of the blood, water, and sweat from his back and face.
Arata shifted to let her clean him. “No, not at all. And yeah, um…where exactly is here? How did I get here?”
Leyla finished wiping him clean and pocketed the handkerchief. “You’re in my home.”
Arata’s face scrunched up. “Uh, that’s not really what I meant…”
Leyla laughed. “I know. I’m just kidding. How about we get you dressed and fed first, though. We can answer all of your questions then. Come on.” She took his arm and helped him up. Arata stood up, a bit unsteady on his feet. Once his vestibular sense was reestablished he followed Leyla.
“Um, so how did I get to be here, Leyla?” Arata asked quietly. “Was I here with anyone else?” Alastor should have been with him, but Leyla had yet to mention him.
Leyla nodded and motioned for Arata to walk outside with her.


Arata stepped outside to the strangest place he had ever seen. The land around him was completely alien. There was no snow, no ice. His feet stepped into what looked kind of like snow, but it was soft and warm and grainy. He scrunched his feet around in it, smiling as the grains sifted between his toes. This must be what Bhadra called “sand” from his journeys on the mainland. Arata’s gaze drifted to his right. His jaw nearly dropped. The “sand” faded away into a large expanse of green, waving tendrils! He walked over and stepped in it. It was colder than the sand, and it tickled his legs! Arata smiled down at the ground.
Leyla walked up behind him and giggled. “Wow, you act like you’ve never seen grass before.”
So this was grass! Bhadra was right about that too! What else had Bhadra’s stories been true about? Arata turned and grinned out of bewilderment. “I-I haven’t! Leyla, what is this place?”
Leyla looked at him oddly. “You…you’ve never seen grass? Arata…where are you from?”
Arata opened his mouth to speak, but he was soon cut off by a familiar voice. “Arata! You’re awake!”
Arata turned to see Alastor, grinning broadly as he approached his brother. He wore a grey tunic and a pair of black breeches with leather boots. “Al!” Arata cried with relief. He raced towards his brother, squeezing him tightly. “I’m so glad you’re alright!”
Alastor squeezed him back, laughing. “You were worse off than I was! Lucky for us Leyla and her grandfather found us when they did. You would have bled out if it wasn’t for them!” Alastor released his brother and the two siblings turned again to face Leyla.
Arata looked at Leyla gratefully. “So you rescued us from the ocean?”
Leyla smiled back at Arata. “Yes, I was hanging laundry when the two of you washed up on shore. Alastor just had a few cuts and bruises. You, on the other hand, were bleeding profusely. My grandfather, Col, and I carried you both inside. I almost thought we’d never stop you from bleeding. It took a lot of bandages, but we finally staunched the blood flow. Until you woke up, that is…” She tittered.
Arata scratched his head sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry about that…” He straightened up suddenly. “Wait, how long was I out?”
“About three days,” Leyla replied.
“Three days?!” Arata exclaimed. “It was that bad?” He felt his back self-consciously.
Alastor looked at the grisly suture that held Arata’s back together. He blew a whistle. “Wow, you really did a number on yourself. You’ll have to be careful with a sensitive area like that. You got really lucky Arata.”
“Yeah, I know. My brother and I are ever in your debt, Leyla, and your grandfather as well,” Arata said, bowing slightly towards the girl. The motion tugged on the patchwork down his spine, a bolt of pain causing him to snap back upright
“Oh, no, don’t trouble yourself over it. We were happy to help,” Leyla replied. She motioned for Arata to follow her to the clothesline. From the wire hung various tunics and pants and skirts. Leyla reached into a nearby bucket, the sparkling placidity of her face breaking with regret as she faced Arata. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t save it.” She held up Arata’s leather armor that had once belonged to his father. It was heavily damaged, both by water and reef. It was torn in several places and scratched up in others. A gigantic rip opened up in the back where Arata had been pierced by the jagged rocks.
Arata sighed. “It’s okay. I’d stick out like a sore thumb anyway in that.”
Alastor laughed behind him. “You’d stick out anyway, with hair like that!”
Arata took a section of his bangs in his fingers, twiddling around a few locks of azure hair. “Oh yeah, right. People look different here.”
Leyla shook her head, smiling. “Here, this should fit you. This was my father’s tunic.”
She took down a white tunic trimmed with turquoise and tossed it at Arata, along with a pair of dusty blue breeches and a pair of leather boots. Arata just remembered that he was heavily exposed. His reddening face pulled into a simper as Leyla looked his way, and he donned the new clothing as quickly as possible, yet wary of maneuvering too quickly and straining his stitches. It was strange to him how much the clothing moved and breathed, but he liked it. He was unused to exposing himself, unaccustomed to the ambient warmth that surrounded them.
Soon the voice of Leyla’s grandfather shouted out. “I’ve got lunch ready!” As the three neared the small wooden house, Leyla’s grandfather stepped out with a pot of some unknown food. The contents of the pot steamed. The aroma was tantalizing. Arata soon realized he was drooling and wiped his mouth, embarrassed. Col chuckled. “I’m sure you’re hungry. Don’t worry, we’ll eat out here.” Col gestured to a small table sitting off to the side of the house. “Leyla! Go fetch some bowls from inside!”
“Yes, grandfather.” Leyla ran inside and soon came back out with four clay bowls and spoons. After setting up the table, Arata, Alastor, and Col sat. Leyla took the pot and poured out its contents into each of the bowls, and then sat down herself. The meal was some sort of stewed meat that Arata was unfamiliar with. He blew on it to cool it off and took a bite. It was delicious! He consumed his meal in earnest, emptying the bowl in minutes. Leyla beamed. “Well, you obviously hated it.”
Arata smiled. “Sorry, I was just so hungry. I mean, I was unconscious for three days.”
Leyla waved her hand away from him. “I know, I know. Please, eat up. You need to regain your strength, anyway.”
Once the four had finished their meals, Leyla’s questions came bubbling out. “So where are you two from? You don’t look like you’re from around here. And you two said you were brothers, right? But you look so different!”
Arata went on to explain to Leyla all about his homeland, about his family, and about how his family had adopted Alastor. Leyla’s eyes only grew wider and wider as Arata went on. “Wow! So you’re from the South Pole?! Is there a big, fat jolly man who gives out presents once a year? Or is that only in Kältheim up north?” Leyla wondered out loud.
Arata looked at her, perplexed. “Um, what?”
Leyla shook her head. “Never mind, forget what I just said. So, you’ve never seen grass, or sand, or anything like that?”
Arata shook his head. “Nope. I mean, we have plants, but it’s pretty much just pine trees and Permaroot. And our beaches are all snow.”
“What’s Permaroot?” Leyla queried.
Arata continued on about Arcterran geography and culture. As soon as he got to the Rite of Passage ceremony, he stopped. “Wait…when I washed up here, was I carrying a sword?” Arata’s insides began to churn. Nausea began to set in. What if he had lost Hokkyoku?! He would be a failure, to himself and to his people! He could only pray that it had made it with him.
Leyla thought for a moment. “Oh!” She perked up. “Yeah, you were! I took it inside!”
“Come on, follow me.”
Leyla took Arata back inside the house. He followed her past the kitchen and a few bedrooms, until they stopped in front of a locked door. Leyla pulled out a set of keys and stuck it into the lock, turning it. She turned her head towards Arata. “This is my grandfather’s old armory. He used to be part of the royal guard back in the day.” The two stepped inside. It was a small room, filled with a few weapon racks and armor mannequins. A complete set of steel plate armor stood in the center of the room. On the front of the chest plate was an insignia bearing a symbol of a sword piercing a cloud. On the left was a rack of shields. On the right was a stand that held a few swords and axes. In one of the slots stood a magnificent blue katana sheath, along with its strap.
“There it is! Thank Arcterra!” Arata grabbed the sheath and drew Hokkyoku, holding it out in front of him. The blade seemed to quiver with delight as Arata held it.
Leyla admired the pure white sword. “It really is a magnificent weapon. It’s lucky you didn’t lose it! How’d you come across it?”
Arata sheathed Hokkyoku and told Leyla about his Rite of Passage, followed by the subsequent storm that brought Al and himself here. Leyla’s jaw dropped with incredulity. “Wow. You really are something, Arata. I wish I could have an adventure like that,” Leyla said, her voice wistful.
“Oh! I almost forgot. You also had this on you.” Leyla moved over to a dagger rack and withdrew a brilliant ivory dagger.
“My father’s dagger! Oh, Leyla, thank you so much! How can I ever repay you?” Arata beamed as he took the dagger and placed it in his belt loop.
Leyla blushed and shrugged. “Oh, you don’t need to repay me. I just wanted to make sure you got these back.”
Arata smiled. “Well, it means a lot. Thank you. Really.”
Leyla nodded. “Well, let’s meet grandfather and your brother back outside.”

Arata and Leyla rejoined Alastor and Col out by the table. Alastor continued to tell Leyla about his life with Arata, while Arata moved out to the edge of the beach with Col. The young man and the elderly man stopped at the water’s edge. Arata looked out across the ocean as the sun glimmered across the surface. The waves lapped against the sand playfully; schools of small fish swam through the sunlit sea. Now this was a sight Arata recognized. He bent down and splashed the water around with his hand. It was warm and soothing. Now that was different. All his life, Arata had only ever experienced the harsh cold of the ocean; its depths meant death by freezing. The warmth and comfort he now experienced from the water was a welcome change.
He turned to the scruffy old man with the cane. “So, Col, you still haven’t answered my question. Where are we? Are we on the Mainland?” Arata suspected he knew the answer, giddiness underlying each word as he asked the question.
Col scratched his beard, laughing. “You say it so incredulously. If you’re asking if you’ve arrived on the main continent, then I suppose the answer is yes. You, my young friend, are standing on what we ‘Mainlanders’ as you might say, call Faebala.”
Arata’s icy blues grew wide with excitement. “Y-you mean…we’re really here?! We’re on the Mainland? I m-mean…F-fae—”
“Faebala. Yes, the main continent is known as Faebala,” Col stated very matter-of-factly.
Even as Col said it, Arata could hardly believe it. All the stories he had heard from Bhadra as a child were true! The Mainland was really out here! And Arata was here, standing on the sands of its very beaches! This was insane! Never in his wildest dreams had Arata ever thought he would get to see it! Yet, here he was!
Col stared at Arata, chortling. He could easily see the young man’s enthusiasm. “This must be pretty new to you, huh kid?” Arata just nodded. Col turned to look back at the ocean. “Well, if you look just up that trail there that runs north, you’ll see that you’re more specifically on the outskirts of the coastal village of Sayle.”
Arata’s gaze traced up to where a small trail formed as the sand faded into the grass. On either side it was enclosed by hills which escalated, indicating that Sayle lay in the center of a small valley. Arata’s gaze drifted towards the edge of the house, where Leyla was washing laundry, and Al was assisting by hanging it. Leyla accidently looked over at Arata as well, but whipped her head back to her laundry as soon as they made eye contact, blushing. Arata felt heat in his own cheeks as well.
Col noticed this, and grinned. “She’s a good kid. She’s been a real blessing to me, and I love her to death.” The two men began walking back to the table. Col stared at Arata intently. “This is very exciting for her as well, you know. It’s not every day you meet someone from another land, let alone from one so isolated. She’s always dreamed of adventure, but she’s had me to take care of. First I was injured and had to retire from the Guard. Then her parents died. I’m all she has left, and she’s all I have left. But I want her to have a life as well.” He sat with Arata once more at the table. “So, I want her to be able to experience something exciting as well. This means I want you to let her help you, at least a little.”
Arata nodded slowly. Col sighed. “So let me ask you this. What do you plan to do now?”
Arata blinked, taken aback. He hadn’t really thought about it. “Well,” he said. “I suppose I should try and get back home…but…” Arata found it difficult to say.
Col seemed to understand. “You want to see more of this place? You want to see what Faebala is like?”
Arata nodded quietly. He felt guilty, wanting to stay, even for just a little longer, when his family and clan were probably worried he was dead. He knew he should try and go home, but still…
“I would, yes…But, I do still have duties back home.”
Col again scratched his beard ponderously. “Well, if that’s the case, I think I may be able to help you. Here, take a look at this.” He withdrew a rolled up piece of parchment from his pocket. He unrolled it across the table. It was a map. Col’s finger landed on the coast on the southern end of the map of Faebala. “We’re here, in Sayle. This,” he said, tracing his finger along a border that stretched from Sayle to the northern and eastern reaches of the continent. “Is the country of Astoria, domain of King Auric Elander, whose home lies in the capital of Skypoint.” He placed his finger on the star-shaped dot labeled Skypoint in the middle of the country. “And here is Port Largo.” Col moved his finger due east of Skypoint to the eastern shore at a dot labeled Port Largo. “If you wish to find transport back to your home of ‘Arcterra,’ then Port Largo is your best bet. Its ships travel to the most places around the world. And Skypoint should have transportation to get you to the port without too much trouble.”
Arata brought his hand to his chin. “So, we should head to Skypoint first, and try to see if we can get back through Port Largo?”
Col grunted affirmatively. “That’s right. Skypoint is a good sixty or seventy miles away, which is several weeks on foot. You and your brother will need supplies for your journey. You can prepare in Sayle. Leyla!” Col called over to his granddaughter.
Leyla and Alastor ran over. “Yes?”
Col rolled up the map and handed it to Arata, regarding Leyla. “Arata and Alastor must leave. They have matters of getting back home to attend to. I’d like you to take them into town so they can get ready for the trip to Skypoint.”
Leyla appeared a little dismayed that Arata and Alastor had to leave so soon, but her chagrin was replaced with excitement as she heard she would be escorting them to town. “Okay!”
Alastor shook his head. “That’s very kind of you, but we really don’t need you to do that. We can get by from here. But thank you for all of your help, really.”
Col waved away Alastor’s objection. “Nonsense! Leyla, go ahead and gather up some gold so they can purchase their supplies.”
Leyla sprinted into the house and returned with a few small coin purses. She put them in her pockets. A broad display of teeth curved up across her countenance. “Let’s go!” Arata and Alastor followed Leyla around to the back of the house, where a small collection of plants grew. Strange fruits and berries and vines grew out of the ground in little rows. Leyla collected a lot of large, red fruits with seeds on the outside.
“What is this? And what are those?” Arata asked, pointing to the plants and then the fruit.
“This? Haven’t you ever seen a garden before?” Leyla said in disbelief. Arata shook his head. “Oh, right. Sorry. Well,” Leyla said, gesturing to her basket of fruit. “I love gardening. It’s sort of a hobby of mine. These are strawberries. They’re really sweet and juicy. Here, try one! They’re my favorite!” Leyla handed both Al and Arata a strawberry.
Arata bit into the fruit. Immediately, sweet and sour juice flowed over his tongue as he chewed the strawberry. It was the most flavorful thing he had ever tasted! His eyes went wide. “This…this is amazing! These are great!” Arata finished his strawberry voraciously until it was gone, staring at Leyla with surprise.
Leyla glowed with pride. “I’m glad you like them! I take them to Sayle to trade with other merchants and make a little extra gold to help take care of my grandfather. I figured I’d escort you to town on my way to trade.” Leyla hefted the rest of the fruit into the basket and walked past the boys, glancing back at them. “What are you waiting for? Let’s go!”
And the three of them set off through the valley towards Sayle.


A shadow darted from tree branch to tree branch, keeping close to the darkness of the foliage. The silhouette of a man could be made out, expertly concealed within the forest trees that lined the tops of the hills. Soon, very soon, he would reach his destination. Spears of light breached the canopy, illuminating miniscule patches in the ubiquitous shadows. He was reaching the end of the tree line, larger and more numerous shafts of sunlight shining down upon him. A lithe form of a man, covered in a cloak as dark as night, a vast array of blades lining his body, with two more prominent dual swords within the folds of his cloak. The assassin stopped at the final tree, standing out on the edge of the furthest reaching branch. He crossed his arms, looking down upon valley, his gaze drawn towards the small merchant village of Sayle.
His wandering gaze halted as he spotted a small group of three heading to the entrance of the village. One was female, the other two were males. The males caught his eye especially. One had long violet hair, tied back into a pony tail, with a tan complexion. The wind seemed to caress him with special care. The other stood out even more. A shock of azure hair covered his head, with a distinctive turquoise streak running through it. Strapped to his hip was a beautifully designed katana sheath, made of blue leather and trimmed in silver and gold. The assassin pulled a small medallion from his pocket. The star shaped trinket glowed slightly, the end floating in the direction of the group below. Xavier had told Azki’ir that his target would be one of these. But which one? The medallion was being very nonspecific. It didn’t matter really, the assassin supposed, as long as he got to one.
The assassin cracked a smile as he looked at their backs. “I’ve found you, Myst Child.”


Last edited by Arata on Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Poppy Bill

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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Mon Aug 05, 2013 1:15 pm

:o I'm really liking this rewrite so far! I can't wait to find out what happens next!
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:51 am

Guys! I posted in like, announcements or something! If you can, get in touch with me, I have plans to reunite the group!

cid_the_sloth (skype)

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john.wallace13@gmail.com
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Location : In your couch cushions.....hey, look! A quarter!

PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:01 pm

Chapter 5: The Balance Tips

Leyla stopped and turned around as the group entered the small town. “Welcome to Sayle!” She gestured with her arms out wide. The boys moved past her to see for themselves. Being a community of merchants, the largest and most active part of the town was doubtlessly the market. In the center of the market was a modest fountain out of which bubbled a stream of cool water. Children frolicked and cavorted around the centerpiece, some rough-housing, some playing a pretend game of Knights, some tossing coins of copper into the water and making a wish. Surrounding the fountain in a circle was a variety of stalls and shops open to the public, each with their own cornucopia of unique products. To the group’s far right was a stall that advertised special tinctures and fragrances; to the left was a peddler selling various balms, ointments, and salves. Another sold roasted meats, while another sold homemade bread and other treats. There was more to Sayle than just the stalls outside, though. An inn called the Country Bumpkin nestled itself away in the back of the town between a stall that displayed a rainbow of gorgeous flowers and plants and a shop from which hung a supply line of multiple types of fish. Most of the shops were set up in front of small homes which presumably belonged to the merchants that ran them. A garrison was set up on the edge of the town, where a few armored sentries kept watch. Arata looked about and saw that other soldiers were distributed intermittently about the village, keeping their eyes peeled for thieves and other sources of disruption.
“Wow.” Both Arata and Alastor glanced back and forth, unable to decide what to look at first. “Oh! Let’s go there!” The two boys both caught sight of a stall which had a plethora of pastries out on the counter. The aroma drew them like moths to a flame as they raced to the counter, Arata forcing himself to keep up with Alastor despite his injury, along with Leyla giggling to herself as she followed behind. The young men both screeched to a halt, hovering over a monstrous steaming pie. The hot scent of fruit and baked bread let loose rivers in their mouths. Arata put forward a brazen hand, only to have his wrist assaulted with the swift crack of a wooden spoon. “Ouch!” Arata recoiled, bringing the burgeoning welt on his wrist to his mouth to suck on. He looked up to see a rotund woman with an apron and cloth hat glaring at him with burning brown eyes.
“What do you think you’re doing!? You can’t just shove your face in my pastries without paying!” Her clothing constricted tightly about her figure, her bulging contours threatening to burst through the seams. A sweaty brown mole occupied the living space of a dimple on her cheek.  Her smoldering gaze shifted to Alastor, wooden spoon rising in preparation for another strike. Alastor retreated warily.
Leyla approached behind them. “Good afternoon Hilde!”
Hilde gave a broad smile to the girl. “Hello Leyla! Do you know these boys?” She pointed accusingly at the siblings with her combat spoon.
Leyla blew out a sigh. “Yes. What happened?”
“They tried to devour my food without paying!” Her irises were dedicated to setting the boys’ clothing aflame.
“Oh, I’m sorry! They were just so excited to try some of your Astoria famous starberry pie that they couldn’t help themselves! They’re probably starving…you know, growing boys and all that.” She gave an apologetic titter, trying to diffuse Hilde’s rage.
“Well, while I’m flattered by your gusto, you still have to pay first like everyone else.” The husky woman crossed her jiggling arms emphatically.
Arata and Alastor turned to Leyla in puzzlement. Arata rubbed the back of his head. “Um, Leyla…how do we pay?”
Leyla just stared. “You…don’t know how to shop? Have you never bought anything before?”
The boys shook their heads in sync. “In Arcterra, we all have to support each other, so there is no buying and selling. We all pool our resources, and if we want something from another person, we either do a job for them or trade pelt with them or something,” Arata explained.
“Oh, I see. Well, it’s really kind of the same here. Except when we trade, we all use coins for currency.” Leyla retrieved one of the coin purses she had brought along from her pocket. She opened it up. Inside was a small pile of gold, silver, and copper coins, sparkling with sunlit charm. “Gold is worth the most, then silver, and then copper.” She regarded Hilde once more. “How much for a starberry pie?”
“Twelve copper pieces.”
Leyla counted out twelve bronze colored coins and handed them to Arata. “Here, go ahead.”
Arata stared at the coins. “Are you sure? It’s your money.”
“Of course I’m sure! The money is for you to spend on your journey, which includes being well nourished before you start! Go right ahead.” She pushed him up to the counter, face to face with the militant baker.
Arata gulped. “Um, here you go.” Arata’s shaky palm unevenly spilled the money into Hilde’s beefy mitt. She counted the coins, grunted, and deposited them into her apron pocket. She handed him the still steaming pie grudgingly.
Arata took the dessert and backed away slowly. “Um, t-thank you ma’am…Bye now!” He gave a cursory dip of the head and darted to the fountain with Alastor and Leyla. The three of them sat along the stone rim of the fountain, dividing up the pie. The pie was cut into eight even segments. Leyla insisted on only having one, while the brothers each devoured three pieces with ravenous hunger. Starberries, according to Leyla, were fruit native to Astoria and named in accordance with their star-shaped bodies and glossy skin. While the pie was delicious, Arata decided he enjoyed Leyla’s strawberries more; the starberries were less sweet and more sour, though they were still bursting with flavor.
They were down to the last slice. Arata’s hand flew to grasp it, but was intercepted by the quick reflexes of Alastor. Both of them had a hand on the piece. The siblings stared one another down, Arata’s icy daggers pitted against Alastor’s stormy vortexes. They were deadlocked, neither willing to back down. Leyla glanced between the two of them. “Seriously?” Neither of them acknowledged her comment. They were too fixated on defeating each other. A trickle of sweat began to roll down Alastor’s forehead and threatened to splash into his eye. Arata wrinkled his nose to stave off the itch that plagued it.
“Can I have that, please?” A small voice suddenly piped up. The siblings broke away from their death match to look upon a brown-haired little boy, covered in dirt and grime staring up at them with wide chocolate colored orbs.
They were silent for a moment. Leyla’s head pivoted back and forth between the brothers and the child to see what would happen. “Are you going to eat that piece?” The boy pointed to the lone piece of Starberry pie. “I’ve never had it before…” The boy’s stomach produced a weak gurgle. He clutched his tummy self-consciously.
The brothers exchanged glances and sighed. Arata picked up the piece and handed it to the boy. “Here. You can have it.” The slice and Arata reluctantly parted ways as the boy’s small hands grasped it. He beamed up at Arata with a smile that had a gaping hole where a baby tooth had been.
“Thanks mister! You’re the best!” The boy dashed off back to his group of little friends, munching on the piece along the way.
Arata soughed and dropped his head. Looking out the side of his head he saw Alastor and Leyla grinning at him. “What?” He muttered.
Alastor clapped him on the back, careful to aim to the side of his spinal column. “That was pretty awesome Arata.”  
Leyla moved over and hugged him briefly. “That was so sweet Arata! You made that boy’s day, you know that?”
Arata chuckled, sitting upright. “Yeah, I guess I did, didn’t I?”
“Speaking of sweet, that reminds me…” Leyla stood, hefting her basket of fruits onto her arm. “I almost forgot to go trade these with Mirabelle!” She skipped jauntily over to the stand by the Country Bumpkin Inn, the one with a vibrant rainbow of floral commodities spilling out of its space. Arata and Alastor shrugged and followed suit, excepting the skipping. Leyla was chattering buoyantly with a small, elderly woman that was in the act of watering her livelihood. “I brought those strawberry vines that you asked for Mirabelle!”
The old woman grinned, wrinkles broadly outlining her face like the rings of a well-aged tree. “Oh thank you Leyla! You know how my customers just love your strawberries!” She took the cluster of vines and replanted them in a lengthy trough of soil.
“I’ve also got these for you!” She handed off to Mirabelle another cluster of vined fruit; one entanglement sprouted plump red fruit, another gave birth to packs of small, ovular purple ones. Lastly she passed on a single potted flower adorned with bright blue petals.
Mirabelle’s laugh was raspy but energetic. “You always know just what to bring! These plants are in prime shape! You have such a way with them!”
“Oh no, they’re nothing compared to yours!” Leyla dissented.
Mirabelle scoffed. “Nonsense! You have a gift! Your youthfulness must rub off on them! You’re pretty face puts all of my flowers to shame!”
“Oh, please..!” Leyla flushed crimson at the compliment. “Your flowers are beautiful as always Mirabelle.” She drank in the fierce hues and flamboyant figures of the plants before her. Then, a lone flower caught the corner of her eye. At the very end of the counter was a lone, diminutive white flower, drooping slightly in the harsh sun. Leyla moved to the end of the table, peering at it concernedly. “What’s wrong with this one?”
Mirabelle sighed. “That’s my Dwarf Astra flower. It’s been here for a while now, and nobody seems to want to take it home. It’s so lonely it’s starting to wither.”
Leyla’s mouth went agape, as though she were appalled by the very thought of someone not wanting the pitiful little blossom. Arata shrugged, looking down over Leyla’s shoulder at the plant. “It’s just a flower, right? It can’t feel lonely. It probably just needs water…or something…”
Leyla scowled at Arata. “Of course it can feel lonely! It’s a living thing!” She lowered herself down until her eyes drew level with the failing flower. “Just because it can’t speak like you and I doesn’t mean it’s not alive. All living things need love. It’s a part of what helps us realize we’re alive,” she spoke tenderly. Arata wasn’t sure if she was speaking to him or the flower, but he remained silent, looking at Leyla with a sort of perplexed awe. She smiled at the petite white plant. “Don’t worry,” she said as she gently caressed its corona of petals. “Somebody will take you home and care for you with all their heart. So buck up and stand tall, little flower.” Leyla rose back to her full height and bid farewell to Mirabelle, and the group went back to the fountain to sit again. As Arata looked back at the Dwarf Astra, he could swear he saw the little flower perk up.

The group continued to laugh and talk at the fountain as a small squadron of Knights passed by them. Metal plate armor clanked and jostled as the men marched on by. Most appeared to be soldiers from the town garrison, but a few bore on their chest plates and shields the insignia of a sword piercing the clouds. Arata spoke in a low voice to Leyla. “Isn’t that the same symbol that was on your grandfather’s old armor?”
“Yeah. They’re part of the Skypoint royal guard. Skypoint’s army is collectively known as the Cloud’s Host. My grandfather was part of it until his injury.”
Most of the garrison soldiers were armed with steel short swords, while strapped at the hips of most of the Skypoint guards were reinforced long swords, placed in white gold scabbards. The armor of the Cloud’s Host was white gold with yellow trimming, and the symbol of Skypoint was delineated in black and gold. The same marking on their shields was painted in black against a bold background of yellow. All of them wore sallets that covered their faces, while members of the Sayle guard wore light leather helmets that left their visages open to the air.
The group looked after them in silent wonder as they passed, leaving naught but the echo of metal boots against the ground. “Why are they here all the way from Skypoint?” Alastor mused aloud.
“There’s an outpost a few miles out from town. They live there because they’re stationed to assist with the guard here in Sayle,” Leyla answered.
“But why send men from seventy miles away if you have a guard here already?” Alastor queried.
“Your King must care a lot about his people,” Arata said.
“Not really. It’s because of the war,” was Leyla’s simple reply.
“War?” The boys both spoke in unison.
“Yes.” Leyla splashed her hand in the reflective waters of the fountain. “Astoria has locked blades in war with the people of the Marrow Fields for some time now…”
Arata furrowed his brow. “Why? And what are the Marrow Fields?”
A heavy sigh left Leyla’s lips. “The Marrow Fields are a territory to the west of Astoria, named so for the morbid nature of its lands and its people. A large portion of the Marrow Fields is said to be nothing but wasteland, with sparse outcroppings of dead trees and the scattered skeletons of ancient beasts. The sun yearns to shine there, but a thick haze perpetually bars its way. One of its most well-known, and most feared, territories is a massive forest called The Darksprawl. The Darksprawl is a labyrinth of tangled roots and dead trees. All who enter are said to be lost forever. It is also said to be home to Lycanthropes and Vampires. The people who reside in the Marrow Fields however mostly reside outside of the Darksprawl. They’re a people said to practice the forbidden art of Necromancy…”
“Necromancy?” Arata parroted. “What is that?”
“The practice of using magic to resurrect the dead.” Leyla’s face contorted in obvious disgust.
“Bringing people back to life?” The image of Flirin’s torn, lifeless body roared in Arata’s mind. He blinked away the wetness that began to emerge from his eyes. “Wouldn’t that be useful?” He imagined the look on the faces in Flirin’s family at seeing him come back to them. How could using magic to bring loved ones back be a bad thing?
Leyla shook her head vehemently. “No! It’s a desecration of nature! When people die, they’re gone from this world for good. That’s how it is, and how it’s supposed to be. And when the Necromancers of the Marrow Fields bring back the dead, they only bring back their bodies. There’s no soul, no spirit in them. That has long since departed. Though they move, they’re not living. They’re just reanimated piles of flesh and bone; nothing but empty husks.”
Arata swallowed bitterly. So much for that. The Flirin that would be brought back would be a mindless zombie, not the friend he grew up with. He would be nothing but an affront to nature.
“Atra, Empress of Shadows, leads an army of Necromancers from her castle stronghold called Nightshroud Keep. King Auric claims we’re fighting her and her people to cleanse the world of Necromancy and all the horrors it brings. Skypoint is supposed to be some divine force to put evil in its place. The Paladin’s Haven, some call it.” Leyla frowned. She looked to the brothers. “Don’t get me wrong. I hate Necromancy. But I don’t think King Auric actually feels strongly enough about it to make us fight them over it.”
“Then why would he engage them in war?” Al asked.
“Honestly? Territory,” Leyla stated flatly. “It’s all about land with Atra and Auric. Auric wanted to establish colonies in sections of The Marrow Fields and Atra retaliated, even going so far as to try and push her influence into parts of Vangloria Forest, which is Astorian territory. It’s a power struggle, not a battle over ideals.” Her gaze fell to her interlocked hands, and she was quiet for a moment. “My mother was a field cleric, a healer for soldiers. She used herbs and other remedies to help them recover. My father was her guard and escort. They died four years ago during a raid on one of the camps they were assigned to. My parents were killed because King Auric couldn’t be happy with the size of his ego.” She clenched her hands tightly.
Arata reached out and placed a hand on Leyla’s shoulder. He couldn’t imagine the agony of losing both his parents. If that had happened to him…He wasn’t sure what he would have done. The pain may have been too much. “Leyla…I’m…I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine…” He was at a loss for words.
Alastor touched her shoulder as well. “We’re here for you if you need us.”
Leyla just smiled softly. She rested her hand on those of the two brothers. “I know. Thank you, but I’m okay.” She looked up to the sky. “This war is pointless. It has to end. And I’m going to make sure it does, and prevent as many meaningless deaths as possible.” She looked into Arata’s eyes solemnly. “Make sure you do everything in your power to keep your loved ones safe. Because once they’re gone, they’re gone for good.”
Arata and Alastor exchanged glances. Arata couldn’t fathom life without his brother. The idea of him leaving brought rivers to the forefront of his eyes. He nodded at Leyla. “I will, I promise.”
“Good.” A pregnant moment ensued.
“Uh, speaking of keeping each other safe…” Alastor’s voice was the stone that shattered the placidity of the moment. “You’ve got a legendary sword to defend yourself with. I’ve got the rock that’s lodged itself in my boot. Can we think about getting me a weapon, please?” Alastor gazed longingly at the stall of weaponry across the plaza.
Arata laughed obligingly. “Alright, alright, you have a point. Let’s take a look.”

The three of them approached a large open stall with blue and white strips of fabric making up the awning that shaded it. A sign that said “Wilhelm’s Weapons” hung from a pole jutting out from one of the corners of the awning. Clustered behind the counter was rack upon rack of various weapons and instruments of violence. Glaives, long swords, spears, halberds, bows and arrows, slings, battleaxes, hammers, and everything in-between glistened in the sunlight that poked through space between the fabrics. Each ray that glanced off a weapon conducted a unique melody of death and bloodlust. On his knees was a short, balding man, feverishly scrubbing the blade of a broad sword.
Alastor cleared his throat. The man’s rag slowed to a standstill and was promptly placed back in his pocket. He turned and walked up to the counter. The man’s face was slender and aquiline; his nose was a hooked beak, his chin the pointed edge of a stiletto. Large, thick-rimmed spectacles overtook most of his face, magnifying a pair of squinty, restless eyes. He peered up at Alastor, looking the young man up and down with suspicious curiosity. The vendor licked his lips. “Can I help you find something? You need something to kill someone with? Or something to keep someone from killing you? Or maybe just something to show off to your friends, or hang above your bed? Well, what is it?” The man’s words rattled off like lightning, spilling out in rapid succession.
Alastor barely comprehended what he was saying. “Uh, yeah…I just need a…”
“A sword? Lance? Bow? Hammer? Oh, you look like a throwing-knife-sort of fellow. Well, am I right? How about it?” The man’s enormous glasses kept slipping down his hooked proboscis, each inquiry followed by a resetting of the eyewear with his sweaty hands.
Al looked back at Arata and Leyla. The two could barely stifle the laughter that threatened to burst from their sides. He rolled his eyes and turned back to the vendor. He searched past the diminutive man still babbling before him, until his eyes landed on, in his opinion, the perfect weapon. Standing alone, upright on one of the racks, was the formidable figure of a morning star. The weapon was made of immaculately polished black steel, with a black leather grip, and an engorged spherical cranium with a myriad of wicked spikes protruding from it. A black hip strap was wrapped around its shaft. “I want that!” Al pointed straight at the mace, cutting off the incessant rambling of the midget shopkeeper.
The man frowned indignantly, whipping around to look at Alastor’s object of desire. He looked at Al again, small mouth upturned in a wry grin. “You picked a real damage dealer there kid.  Not a bad eye, not a bad eye. If you think you’ve got the strength for it, I’ll sell it to you for twenty gold pieces and fifty silver pieces.”
Al looked at Leyla with bright, purple puppy-dog eyes. She sighed with a shrug. “Fine, fine, you can get it.” She handed him one of the coin purses.
He accepted the bag, the coins shaking from the energy of his giddiness. He spun around and poured out the balance into his hand, then exchanged it with the vendor. The sharp-countenanced man counted out the coins under his breath, gave a satisfied “Hmph” and removed the morning star from its seat. He laid the shaft in his hands horizontally and offered it up to Alastor. The young man looked down at the mace in awe. Sunlight gleamed magnificently along the length of the weapon. He grasped the armament in his hand reverently, and stepped back, feeling the coolness of its steel, the weight of its power. He swung it about, moving it through the air as an extension of himself. It was perfect. He attached the strap to his hip and placed the mace in it. “Thank you so much!” He gave a grateful bow to the vendor.
The shopkeeper looked at him strangely, but accepted the sign of thanks. “Uh, yes, well… Do come back anytime!”
Alastor rejoined his brother and Leyla, a broad smile plastered to his face. Arata shook his head and laughed. “Of course you picked a mace. I should’ve known you were going to go for a blunt weapon.”
Alastor shrugged, smile still threatening to split his cheeks. “Well of course! You of all people should know that!”
Leyla cocked her head. “I don’t understand.”
“Alastor and I used to spar all the time back home.” Arata cupped his chin in one hand as he thought back fondly. “We would take old pine branches and fight each other with them. We’d always come home with welts and red marks.”
Alastor nudged Leyla with his elbow. “Yeah, and this bugger would always pick the skinny, pointy ones. He’d whip me around with it, and I’d show up at home with scratches.”
“At least I didn’t pick clubs for branches!” Arata retorted. “You always took the ones with the fattest, thickest ends. I’d be next to him covered in bruises!” Arata grimaced as he rubbed the edge of his forehead. “I still remember that major bump you gave me…”
“Yeah, hah…” Al bit his lip awkwardly. “Sorry about that…”
Arata chortled and his company followed suit. The group chattered happily for a brief interim. Arata’s joviality suddenly faded, replaced by a sense of dread as he noticed a growing silence that had begun to overtake the village. Customers, merchants, children, soldiers, and all other voices trailed off and died at the same time, as an oppressive air suddenly permeated the small town. A chill swept through the plaza. Arata shivered. He looked up to the sky. The sun suddenly seemed to dim, the clouds turned a bit grayer. His gaze took in the rest of the square. The vivid colors of the day suddenly seemed muted; dullness crept into the sparkling waters of the fountain, paleness into the verdant skin of the grass. Not a sound was made, not by man, woman, child, or animal; even the fountain’s gentle splashing seemed to have been silenced. Dead air hung about them like a burial shroud.
Without warning, the voice of a soldier sliced through the viscous quietude. “Enemy soldiers from the north! All men prepare for battle!” Arata’s head snapped to source of the voice, looking past the soldier on the outlook tower to the hill behind it. He saw a billow of dust fast approaching over the crest. Behind it he could just make out the silhouette of a large regiment of armored figures, having passed the hump and now charging full speed toward the small merchant village.
Arata clasped his brother’s shoulder. “You may have to use that weapon of yours sooner than you thought.”

*****************

It was utter chaos as the unknown battalion of insurgents rushed the town. They broke past the first line of soldiers in no time, leaving the full outpost of Skypoint Guardsmen trailing behind in the dust. A frenetic clamor of people engulfed the town square, citizens running frantically without direction. A local soldier screamed above the panic. “Get all women and children inside to safety! Do not stay unless you are prepared to fight with us!” The guard rallied together a small group of men, directing them to herd the citizenry to safety. The men assented anxiously and dispersed, scooping up their families and friends and delivering them to the sanctuaries of their homes or the outside of the village.
Within the span of what seemed like seconds, the enemy was upon them. The men of the Cloud’s Host and the Sayle Garrison quickly packed themselves together into a wedge formation at the entrance to the plaza. Those men who were both assured of their family’s safety and were found brave enough of heart joined the ranks of the soldiers, their choice of arms either being that of personal possession or having been borrowed from Wilhelm’s Weapons. The balding, eagle-faced man was initially distraught at being asked give away his precious armaments, but fear for his own life proved the more powerful motivator, convincing him to relinquish his stock.
Arata barely had time to draw Hokkyoku before the mob of foes overtook the wedge. But, few actually stopped to fight through the wedge formation; some of the enemy soldiers darted about haphazardly, pushing around the perimeter; some tore through the middle of the wall of men, indifferent to the injuries they suffered or the deaths of their allies beside them; still others actually climbed over the men’s heads, falling to the ground with a clatter after clearing the block, and spastically getting back to their feet. Their only desire was to infiltrate the village and wreak havoc; dispatching the Astorian soldiers was merely a byproduct, not the end goal.
As Arata watched the ensuing bedlam, he could just make out what the enemy looked like. They were clad in armor of gridelin hue, with a massive insignia of a withered rose branded upon their chest plates. Their movements were spastic; each step was a brief convulsion, a sporadic snap of the head, a volatile twitch of another appendage. A strange murk seemed to seep from the slits of their sallets, and their weapons were wrenched in random directions, resulting in wickedly shaped blades and twisted polearms. But, the most disturbing feature was by far the frenzy of thorns that sprouted from their armor. Torturous, black vines snaked their way from the bodies of the enemy, constricting themselves around arms, legs, and torso with their spined flesh. Some of the thorns actually burst through the armor, tangling themselves with each other as they branched out over their hosts.
“Leyla! Go hide somewhere!”  Arata yelled to his friend.
“But-!” She attempted to argue.
“No ‘buts!’” Arata’s gaze hardened. “I’m not letting you get hurt!”
“You have no weapon, nor combat experience. Please, listen to him Leyla,” Alastor entreated.
“Fine. But be careful! You especially, Arata!” Leyla glanced about frantically for a place to hide. “Over here!” She heard come from the bakery stall. Hilde waved her over urgently.
“Hide under the counter! I’ll protect you.” Hilde shoved her beneath the wooden counter, moving a small cabinet full of bread in front of her and arming herself with a frying pan.
Arata had no time to relax as Hilde took care of Leyla, for a wave of frenzied warriors was soon upon him and Alastor. A soldier with a cruelly edged sword came at him out of the mob. His blade came down with swift punishment, barely missing Arata as he launched himself sideways. Arata had almost no time to recover before the next strike came flying at his midsection, forcing on him onto his butt to avoid having his belly sliced open. His sewn up wound stretched and pulled with the movement, pulsating with waves of pain as he tried to regain his feet. But the attempt was halted. He raised Hokkyoku to block a third slash as his foe towered over him. A second soldier suddenly emerged from behind Arata, ready to stick his spear into the boy’s skull. His action was interrupted though by the spiked head of Alastor’s morning star crashing into his gut. The hit jarred the bodies of both Alastor and his target, the force behind the swing crumpling the armor at the point of impact and sending the soldier stumbling backwards. Arata took the opportunity to slam his feet into the arm and body of his opponent, staggering him enough to allow Arata to roll back onto his feet. The rough ground caught at Arata’s patchwork, attempting to unravel it and tear his flesh wide open again, though he narrowly avoided reopening himself. Arata pushed through the pain. He had more pressing matters to attend to.
Arata flew forward, Hokkyoku’s argent blade clashing with the aubergine metal of his enemy’s sword. The soldier stepped back and spun with another strike. Arata barely managed to parry it, the force of the blow staggering him somewhat. It was enough. The soldier took a swipe at Arata’s shins, the tip of his sword slitting open the flesh of his legs. Bright, scarlet blood flowed freely, running with warm currents down to his feet. Arata cried out in pain, and it took all he had to remain upright against the shock of the injury. The movements of these soldiers were unpredictable, almost random, yet effectively so. To make matters worse, though Arata had sparred with his father and brother before, he had never been trained in the ways of the sword. He was used to daggers and knives. Having a legendary weapon would only help him so much if he didn’t know how to properly use it.
The soldier started forward, ready to take down his young opponent for good this time. Arata’s gaze shot toward the fountain. He threw out his hand, shaping the water to his will. The fluid propelled itself around the back-left flank of the armored figure in a sweeping arc. Arata froze it as the jet slammed into the cavity between the armor of the chest and arm, freezing the left side of his enemy in place. He leapt forward as the soldier tried in vain to break free and severed the hand that held the twisted blade. Crimson spewed from the stub, and the soldier let loose a warbled howl. Arata brought Hokkyoku back around and slashed diagonally across the torso, shattering the ice and splitting the soldier open. The armored figure fell to the ground and seized violently before laying still in a growing pool of its spent lifeblood.
Arata panted heavily, looking about the battlefield. He felt new stabs of pain, coming on in force as they gripped his aft. He felt a slow trickle of warm fluid travel down his back. Damn it. That sweeping slice he had executed, while it had allowed him to dispatch his opponent, had undone some of Leyla’s handiwork, and his gash now began to bleed anew, albeit slowly. He shook his head. He could have that tended to later.
He forced his attention from himself and to the state of the area. The men of the garrison and the Cloud’s Host had long since broken the wedge formation, now fully immersed in the battle for their fair little town. Already several had fallen, mostly the men who had volunteered, but also a few of the garrison. The men from Skypoint were holding their own, though even they, seasoned knights as they were, were having difficulties dealing with this apparently new foe.
A heavy thud sounded from behind Arata. The young man attempted to turn and create distance between him and his foe, but as he did so, the sword of this fresh new soldier came down. The edge of the blade caught exactly at the top of Arata’s spine and sliced all the way down to the base, biting into his flesh and severing the sinew that held him together. Arata’s scream pierced the air, as though they might reach the ears of whatever gods were watching the pitiful struggles of the boy. The agony was blinding, and so Arata’s vision was completely awash with white. His stomach lurched and a stream of fetid vomit flew from his mouth. While his front released bile and the meat and pie he had consumed, his back spumed volumes of blood. Arata could do nothing to resist as his brutal opponent rushed forward and kicked him full force in the abdomen, sending him flying into the side of the fountain. He attempted to lift his head, his vision clearing just enough to allow him the sight of his attacker approaching. But the brute was soon distracted by another guard, and left him as their skirmish took the dueling duo elsewhere.
Arata’s head lolled back against his shoulder uselessly. He lay on his back, which continued to pour forth his lifeblood in torrents. His upper half hung halfway into the fountain, his mop of blue hair just barely touching the surface of the water, while his legs dangled limply over the outside. He absentmindedly watched as small globules of saliva and bile seeped from the corners of his mouth and dripped into the water. A quickly dulling sense of urgency motivated him to try and get up, to fight on. So he squirmed and struggled to throw himself from his ragdoll state, but his efforts only managed to toss him completely into the fountain’s pool. He floated in the shallow water on his back, left leg barely on the fixture’s stone rim. Everything around him seemed to slow down as his life began to leave him. The sounds of battle, the flying dust that rained above him, even the bubbling spray of the spout that stood over his head. He had lost so much blood already. He glanced sideways, noting with vague interest how the carmine liquid mixed with the water, spreading out in clouds, like red smoke, or a deathly haze. How much longer before it became too much? How much longer before Arcterra reclaimed him? Would he still take him though he would not be buried at sea?
Arata blinked. He had come all this way, survived the merciless thrashings of the ocean, to be killed by men he didn’t even know, from a country he had no quarrel with. He seemed doomed to bleed out and rot in a fountain square. He felt sleepy. His lids began to grow heavy, threatening to shut out the light forever. And why shouldn’t they? Rest sounded good right about now; a nice, long nap, perhaps. He would never get to see the rest of Faebala. He would never get to see his parents again, though they could take care of themselves, in spite of their grief. But Alastor would be left alone…Alastor. No. Al would have to fend for himself. No! If this fighting continued, Al would die without Arata! NO! Arata screamed at himself over and over inside. NO,NO, NO! I won’t leave you Alastor! I…I want to live! I WANT TO LIVE!”
Arata’s eyes flew open wide. A bright flash illuminated Arata’s vision, and the water about him began to glow brightly. He felt the water begin to enter into the gaping hole in his back, soothing all pain and restoring his vitality. The fluid rose around him, moving in concert with his rising will. It entered the cuts on his shins, glowing bright as it cleansed and purified them. The clouds of murk where the blood had mixed now cleared themselves, taking on the appearance of a peculiar smoky azure that blended with the spring. The water pushed against him, allowing him to right himself to his knees in the pool. It flowed beneath his tunic, fusing with his flesh. The skin on his back began to stretch and expand as it knit back together, removing the pain and replacing it with a fierce itch. Arata groaned and yelped in confusion as the wound sealed itself completely and the water fell back, resuming its natural shape. He looked down at himself, completely at a loss as to what just took place. His hands shook and his body tingled, but he was alive. He was alive, and the pain had fled. He blew out a shaky breath, lifting the back of his now completely bloodstained tunic and craning his neck to view his injury in the reflective waters. The sutures had all fallen out, and where the nasty gash had been was now a clean, white scar that stretched down his spine. He touched it gingerly. It was still sensitive, but there was no severe pain any longer. He looked down at his shins to see that the cuts there had sealed themselves as well, though no scar remained.
Arata clambered out of the stone fountain, looking at the water and himself back and forth with endless curiosity. He knew the water magic of the Arcterrans was special and different from any other magic. But he had never known it in all of the clan’s history to have had healing properties; especially of that caliber. But he hadn’t the time to worry about such things now. Alastor and Leyla needed him. He scooped up Hokkyoku where it had fallen and looked for his companions.
“Gah!” Arata heard his brother’s voice cry out. He turned to see Alastor and a member of the Cloud’s Host being overwhelmed by a group of four thorn-covered soldiers. Al was bleeding from a cut on his shoulder, and the knight nursed a kneecap whose plating had been pounded by what Arata assumed to be the mace of one of the four soldiers. Arata rushed forward, bringing his weapon down on the shoulder of the mace wielder. Hokkyoku cut through the metal plate armor like paper, but the strength of Arata’s swing only brought him to the bone. The soldier whipped around with a roar of pain, his arm half-hanging from his partially cloven shoulder. His unarmed hand rocketed towards Arata’s face, slamming into his cheek full force. Arata fell back, but his sneak attack had provided Alastor and his companion the distraction they needed. The crippled knight shoved his long sword through the interstice of the armor around the armpit of the mace wielder. Alastor crushed the head of another with a two-handed swing of his morning star. Arata locked blades with the swordsman of the group, pushing with all his might against his foe. Suddenly, a bolt of electricity struck the soldier, sending him flying off to Arata’s right. Arata looked to his left, following the trail of seared air left behind by the lightning. Steam trailed from Alastor’s two outstretched fingers. He smirked. “Now you owe me one,” he said, looking to the fried soldier.
Arata suddenly brought another jet of water forth from the fountain, solidifying it into a spike of ice that flew past Alastor. The violet-maned boy looked behind himself to see a thorn covered man skewered by the glacial spear. Arata walked past and patted his brother’s wounded shoulder lightly, causing his sibling to wince. “Now we’re even.”

Leyla flinched every time she heard Hilde’s frying pan clang. The stout, yet powerful baker had successfully fended off a few attacks by the twitching armored men who had come their way. Early on she had beckoned a nearby garrison man to come to their aid after having rattled the sallet of one of the enemy with her pan. The young guard had showed up just in time to slay the stunned soldier, and now stood with Hilde in order to defend the baker and Leyla. The woman hardly needed defending though; she worked in tandem with the guard, stunning any stragglers from the main force with her improvised weapon, while the young man took them down in their stupor. On the last one they had brought down she poured a vat of boiling water, effectively burning his skin before the guard killed him with a blade to the neck. And then the wolves came.
The enigmatic squadron had brought with them a set of canine war beasts; large, powerful wolves, with perse, matted fur and ivory teeth unnaturally curved in shape, formidable in size, and many in number. Clusters of thorns split through the hide of their backs and undercarriages, intertwining themselves about their muscular frames, dripping with their melanic blood. Spines of ivory protruded from their backs as well, adding a sort of infernality to their silhouette. Their eyes glowed puniceous with hunger, penetrating the very hearts of men long before their teeth would be set to the task.
The pack was let loose. Five of the lupine creatures made a beeline for Hilde’s stall, quickly surrounding the young guard, the baker, and the young lady who took shelter there. Leyla quivered fearfully behind the cabinet, swallowing her panic as the sound of growling drew nearer. Hilde stared the pack down, frying pan cocked and ready to go. The young man shook, but held his ground anyway, nervously clutching his short sword. The first wolf leapt at the guard through the entrance behind the counter. He sidestepped and deftly swung his blade into the top of the beast’s neck, the destruction of its nape marking its end. Then the rest of the pack attacked. One of the wolves bounded atop the counter, drooling profusely in Hilde’s plump face. Another circled around the same route that the first had taken, and the other two slipped beneath the counter, glaring up at their prey with their purplish-red eyes.
Hilde smacked the wolf atop the counter across the jaw with the flat of her iron frying pan. The wolf yelped, but recovered quickly, latching onto the pan with its vice-like jaws. Hilde struggled to free her trusty pan, meanwhile trying to keep back another wolf by kicking at it with her feet. The young guardsman was suddenly knocked to the ground as the wolf at the side of the stall pounced upon him, biting his forearm. The wolf’s massive teeth broke through the young man’s chain mail, sinking deep into his flesh. Blood stained the mouth of the beast red with frenzy. The wolf Hilde had been attempting to keep at bay with her foot finally had the sense to catch her foot in its mouth. It too stained its mouth red with blood as it bit down into the soft, fatty skin of her foot. The woman screamed in pain as she struggled against the corrupted beasts.
Leyla covered her mouth, forcing down bile and holding back tears as she watched the guard’s arm get crunched and Hilde’s foot mangled. The spray of Hilde’s blood stained Leyla’s face as she sat there, dumbstruck by her own fear. The taste of salt and copper forced its way over Leyla’s tongue as the sanguine fluid assaulted her countenance. The remaining member of the pack turned to Leyla, slowly stalking toward her. As the beast drew level with her face she heard Hilde shout, “Leyla, RUN!”
Hilde’s voice broke Leyla from her daze and she bolted out from underneath the counter, the wolf following close behind. It pursued with insatiable lust for blood, powerful haunches carrying it toward its prey with massive leaps and bounds. Though Leyla ran as fast as she could, she could not outrun the beast that was quickly closing in upon her. She slid under the counter of another nearby stall, skidding across the ground into the corner of the shop. Looking up she realized she was in Wilhelm’s Weapons. She looked about frantically for a weapon as the wolf closed in upon her, but the racks had been emptied by the men who had initially volunteered to fight. Her hand searched in desperation for something, anything! The wolf was mere feet away now! Suddenly, her hand closed around the handle of something, but she didn’t have time to see what it was. The wolf pounced, its maw open wide to devour her. Leyla closed her eyes and thrust her hand out into its mouth. The wolf suddenly froze.
She felt sticky, hot liquid rush across her hand. She grimaced, hesitating a moment before opening her eyes. Her hand was covered in bubbling, carmine blood, pouring profusely from the roof of the wolf’s mouth. Her fingers were wrapped around the handle of a dagger! The wolf had thrown itself on the edge of the blade, which was now buried in its brain. It growled weakly, shuddered, and then fell limp. Leyla scooted back up against the weapon racks anxiously to get out from underneath the wolf’s corpse. She ripped the dagger loose from the creature’s palate, wiping it across her tunic. She gripped the weapon tightly as she made a break for the plaza toward Arata and Alastor.

Alastor battered the attacking soldier with a fierce gale, sending him toppling backwards onto the edge of Arata’s sword. Arata kicked the soldier off the edge of his blade, the blood of the enemy quickly rinsed away by the perpetual waters that flowed from Hokkyoku. Arata looked down at himself and his brother. Both were bruised nicely. Arata still bled from his shins and had acquired a fresh cut along his left flank. Alastor’s shoulder wound seeped, and he had suffered the removal of a chunk of flesh from his leg by the grazing of a pike’s head. Arata had had no time to heal either one of them, so beset by the enemy they had been. Observing the plaza, Arata saw that the defenders of Sayle were still fighting against the enemy, though the odds now appeared to be somewhat in their favor. The town was in shambles, though. Fires raged across the rooftops of homes and awnings of stalls from torches some of the enemy soldiers had carried with them. The windows of the Country Bumpkin were shattered, and its roof had been caved in by launched stones.
Out of the corner of his eye, Arata spotted Leyla running toward them. “Leyla! What are you doing?! I told you to hide!” He put his hand on her shoulder, staring in horror at the vast amounts of blood that stained her.
Leyla bent at the waist and rested her hands on her thighs. She panted heavily. “It wasn’t safe over there anymore. And don’t worry…the blood’s not mine…” She resisted the urge to look back at Hilde’s bakery, for fear of what she would see. She clutched the dagger tightly to her breast and met Arata’s eyes. “I can defend myself…I’ll stay behind you two, if it makes you feel better…” The wet shimmer in her eyes betrayed her resolve.
Arata saw the damp reflection. He saw how much this violence had shaken her. Leyla was strong, but she had never seen war or violence firsthand. She had never had to protect her own life or fight anyone before – not like this. Arata nodded. “Alright. Just, be careful, and stay near us.”
The three of them turned to face the sound of approaching boots. A fresh line of soldiers stood across the plaza from them. Tethered by chains to the largest man in front was another pack of fell wolves. The man cried something incoherently, his voice warbled by an unnamed corruption. He dropped the chains, and the wolves charged. Arata, Alastor, and Leyla all braced themselves, shifting into a stance, ready to fight.
Suddenly, one of the wolves fell. It skidded across the dirt, a knife buried in its forehead. Without warning, another knife sailed through the air and sank itself into the head of another wolf.  A third knife; a fourth, and several others rained down until all of the beasts had been felled. Arata’s head snapped up and to the left, to the source of the aerial assistance. Standing upon the roof of the inn was a lone figure, draped in a billowing black cloak. The cluster of enemy soldiers took no notice of the adolescents’ savior. Instead, they surged toward the three youths, their weapons eager to glut upon young blood. The man’s lithe form hopped from the top of the roof down to the awning of the fish shop, bouncing off the shelter and landing nimbly on his feet, immediately dashing between the opposing parties upon hitting the ground. He sprinted toward Arata and his group, turning only to throw one last knife into the force of enemy soldiers. The knife spun sideways, flying miraculously through the vision slit of a soldier’s sallet, killing him instantly.
The man flew without a sound into the midst of the three youths. Before any of them could react, the man slipped behind Arata. He grabbed Arata’s tunic with one hand and placed a strange black cloth over Arata’s lips with the other. He pressed it hard over Arata’s mouth and nose. Arata struggled for air, taking in the scent of a strange, bitter, powdery aroma. His vision swam, and all he could hear as he blacked out was “Shhhhhh.”


Last edited by Arata on Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:49 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:44 pm

Chapter 6: Departure

“Damn!” Alastor roared. His anger ran wild through his veins, until it found focus in his voice, aimed directly at the corpse of the enemy soldier at his feet. His frustration took control of his leg as he gave the dead body a heavy kick, only to jam his toe against its metal plate armor. Fury caught fire through his mind and body, magnified within the red lump of his big toe. “Damn, damn, damn, DAMN!” He clutched his foot and hopped about in a fit of ill-tempered grunting.
How could he have let this happen? He should have done something! It was all because of that man. His brother had been right there, right beside him. All Alastor could remember was a jagged scar and a nebulous cloud in their midst in one instance, and in the next, Arata was…gone. Was that man with those soldiers? Where had he come from? Why did he take Arata in the first place? He could have easily killed all three of them if he had wanted to, so why resort to kidnapping? “Aggh! None of it makes any sense!” Alastor’s head throbbed almost as much as his toe.
Leyla watched the young man piteously from a short distance. “Alastor…” She started toward him, but something rooted her foot to the earth. Regret held her in place, while Guilt quickly gnawed at her insides. This was all her fault. If she hadn’t let them dally for the sake of her gallivanting around town…if she had just sent them on their way, then Arata might still be by his brother’s side.
A labored sigh escaped her lips as she took in the remains of her hometown. Sayle was half in ruins, thanks to the raid. The Country Bumpkin’s roof had caved in, and all of its windows were shattered. Beams, rafters, shingles, and stalls had been tossed about carelessly like toys in a child’s playroom. Some of the remaining soldiers armed themselves with buckets of water to combat the small fires that blazed across refuse and rooftop, to extinguish the hungry tongues of flame that were so eager to consume the remainder of the buildings. Mirabelle’s flowers lay in tragic heaps, trampled by armored feet. The remains of Hilde’s pastries were splattered all across the perimeter of her stall’s former space, the dark berry juice striving for the hue of the blood that stained the rest of Sayle. The baker herself had survived, thanks to the combined efforts of the young man who had initially come to her rescue and the other members of the garrison. A young medicine man in training from the barracks was helping her nurse her mangled mass of a foot, applying a salve and wrapping it in gauze.
Corpses of both friend and foe littered the ground. Among their numbers was a majority of the civilians who had volunteered to fight, along with many of the garrison, as well as a handful of the Cloud’s Host’s contingency. Every single enemy, as far as anyone could tell, had been slain. The odor of iron, smoke, and stale blood filled the air. They had not yet tallied the total number of bodies, but at least thirty enemy corpses had been uncovered, not including the massive canines that had joined their masters in death. The remaining soldiers of Sayle and its slowly returning citizenry had already begun the task of carting off the bodies and disposing of them, saving those of their own people for a proper burial. This tragedy and its aftermath had all transpired in the span of mere hours.
Leyla wiped away the wetness that began to sting her eyes as Alastor hobbled over. She turned to face him reluctantly. “Al…I’m so sorry…I…” She didn’t know what else to say.
Alastor just shook his head. “How did this happen Leyla? I…We never…” He stopped. He and Arata never had anything to do with the people of this land. They never signed up for some war that wasn’t theirs. So why was this happening to them? Damn it all. He wanted to blame everyone: Leyla, Col, that man, Auric, Atra, Arcterra and the Gods. But he knew he couldn’t. He knew that none of that would bring Arata back.
The tears were coming back into Leyla’s eyes. “I’m so sorry, this is all my fault!” She cupped her mouth in her hands, trying not to sob.
Alastor put a hand on her shoulder, shushing her. “No, it’s not. You know it’s not. It’s that damned Atra and your king’s stupid war. You couldn’t have known this would happen.”
Leyla dried her face. “Then what do we do?”
Alastor set his jaw and looked Leyla hard in the face. “I’m going after him. I’m finding him. You’re staying here with Col.”
She reined herself back into an uneasy composure. “No. No, I’m coming with you, whether you like it or not. He’s my friend, and so are you Al. I won’t stand idly by while you risk your life to go save him.”
Al’s brow curved itself into an arch. “Do you even know how to handle a weapon?”
Leyla’s shoulders rose and fell in exasperation. “No, but I can learn! I know I can be useful! Please!”
“Fine, fine…” Al responded with a groan. “But don’t push it. I don’t need you getting hurt on top of all of this.”
“I promise!” Leyla gripped his hands tightly. “I know we’ll find him, Alastor.” She paused, perturbed. “Um, where do we start, though? We don’t even know where that man in black went.”
“Did you say man in black?” One of the Cloud’s Host knights stepped toward the pair, kicking aside the helm of a fallen enemy as he approached. His pristine white-gold armor was besmirched by the crimson blood of the enemy. His attire was different from those of his comrades, however; flowing from his pauldrons was a golden cape, with the emblem of Skypoint on the back, and across his breastplate was a golden sash, with the outline of swirled clouds traced along with heraldic silver bullion. Alastor regarded the decorated man apprehensively. “Did he have a large jagged scar across his face?” He spoke through his helmet, which was decorated with a radiant plume.
“Yes. Do you know something of him?”
“Only that he is wanted by all of Astoria and King Auric of Skypoint himself,” the man replied flatly.
Leyla inched closer. “What did he do?”
“He’s an assassin; a professional killer, who has practiced trading the lives of people for coin for many years. He must answer for the blood on his hands to our King.”
Alastor and Leyla exchanged nervous glances. Arata had been abducted by a professional murderer? This day just kept getting better and better.
“Do this man’s crimes really call for so much attention that you’re more concerned about him than fighting this war of yours?” Alastor inquired.
“Well, aren’t you a perceptive one? We believe he may have something to do with this attack, or at the very least, we suspect he may have information regarding this strange new breed of man Atra has chosen to send our way.”
“What makes you think he knows anything? Sir…?” Alastor quipped, scrunching his feet to ease his throbbing toe into a dull ache.
“Oh, my apologies,” the man replied. He removed his helmet, revealing a head of brown hair with silver at the temples, and a chin lined with salt and pepper stubble. “I am Captain of the one-hundred-and-first platoon of the Cloud’s Host, Captain Kieran. And to answer your question…” He placed his helm under his armpit. “Did you observe the way he fought the heathens? He’s clearly had experience with their kind before. And given his line of work, it stands to reason that he would be savvy to some less than savory information. Either way, when captured, we’ll at least be able to put him to justice.” He eyed the two of them carefully, leaning forward with a hand to his chin. “Why are you two after him?”
“He took my brother away. I will find him and get him back.” Alastor stared into the eyes of the Captain, sparks of determination dancing about his irises.
“Ha ha ha! I like your resolve boy! I saw you fighting, and you’ve certainly got skills that nobody else out there has. But,” he bent forward closer, inches from Alastor’s face. “Are you sure you can handle it? Wherever that man goes, nothing but death is left in his wake. Men who value their lives would do well to stay away from him.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Alastor retorted unflinchingly.
Kieran simply smiled. “I hoped you’d say that. And what about you?” He turned to Leyla. “Ah, I recognize you. You’re Col’s girl aren’t you?” He regarded Alastor again, taking a strand of his violet hair in his fingers. “And you’re clearly not from around here.” He looked at Leyla once more. “Do you really think it wise to leave your grandfather here to traipse about with a foreigner eager for a fight?”
“Alastor is my friend, and so is his brother Arata. I won’t just let them go through this alone! The townsfolk can take care of my grandfather while I’m away, and I can sure as hell handle myself just fine!” She glared, her emerald eyes reflecting the harsh glare of the sun.
Kieran’s laughter filled the air. “If you say so, girl.” He stepped back and rose to his full height. “I’ve received word from a scout that the man in black was seen heading north, in the direction of Skypoint and Vangloria Forest, which is precisely where we are due to make our reports of this incident. We’ve also been tasked with transporting refugees and any other witnesses to this mysterious attack to the capital by way of carriage. You’re welcome to join us if you wish, though you may not be returning for some time. Who knows?” Kieran grinned at Alastor. “You may even become a useful soldier for the King.”
Alastor crossed his arms and glared off into the evening sun. “This isn’t my war. I have no intention of joining it.”
Kieran chuckled. “You already have boy.” He pitched forward once more, stamping his boot on the body of the soldier that Alastor had injured his toe on. “Saddle up the horses and prepare the carriage! We’re moving out whenever—” Kieran was cut off as the body beneath his foot began to spasm. He hopped off and backed away from it warily. The three of them looked on in horror as the armored corpse seized, gurgling sounds coming from its mouth. The vines along its body slithered about rapidly and new strains of the thorny tendrils began to burst from its body in force until it was completely enveloped. The vines thrust themselves into the ground around it, twisting and spiraling upward until it formed a torturous bush of thorns. Alastor peered closer, watching as buds began to sprout. The bulbs rapidly burgeoned until they blossomed into a swarm of roses, black as night. Alastor looked about as the same phenomenon repeated itself with the remaining enemy corpses. Black rose bushes were beginning to form all about as the group stood watching.
Kieran muttered a curse, barking orders at his men. “Hurry up and burn these damned plants! And get that carriage ready! I’ve had enough of this place!” He jammed a finger at Alastor and Leyla. “Hurry up and get ready if you’re coming.”


Leyla quickly ran down the sandy path toward her home, leaving Alastor and their armed escort to watch from the crest of the hill. It was almost dark, the top of the sun just barely visible above the ocean horizon. A crisp sea breeze swept up small whorls of sand at Leyla’s feet. She found Col out in a chair watching the last sliver of sunlight disappear below the edge of the visible world. “Grandpa!” She shouted.
He turned in his chair as she fell to her knees at his feet, throwing her arms around his neck and burying her face in his chest. “Leyla!” He held her head to his body protectively. “Mirabelle ran and told me what happened. Thank the Gods you’re alright!” He felt a warm wetness against his chest. He looked down at his granddaughter, whose body shook with silent sobs.
Her head rose, tears streaking down her face. “I was so scared…I thought…I thought I was going to die…”
He smiled down at her, brushing a lock of hair from her face. “It’s okay. You’re alright now.” He wiped away the rivers that flooded her face, dabbing her cheeks with his sleeve. “You’re safe here, and that’s all that matters.”
“I can’t stay, grandfather…” Her gaze dropped back to his chest.
“What? Why?” Col exclaimed.
“Arata…he’s…he’s been taken! I have to go! I have to help Alastor find him! I have to…” She tried to suck in another sob. “I was so scared…but I can’t let that stop me. If I don’t go now, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life…I’ll never be able to be more than the girl with the garden…” She looked at her grandfather full in the face now. “I’m sorry. I love you, and I wish I could stay and take care of you but—”
Col held up a hand to stop her. “I know. Go. It’s time you made your own decisions, time you went out and made your own life. I’m proud of you. I want you to remember that. Just, please be careful…”
Leyla nodded and smiled ruefully. “I’ll make sure someone comes down every day to take care of you.”
Col gave a wry smile. “Just make sure it’s that cutie Mirabelle. That old gal is definitely sweet on me!”
Leyla laughed and hugged her grandfather once more. “I’ll see what I can do.” She looked back at Alastor atop the hill. He was waving. “I’ve got to go. I’ll be back as soon as I’m able. I love you!” She withdrew herself from her grandfather and searched through her house with as much celerity as possible. She retrieved her satchel, piling in it any spare provisions she could find as well as a large text of some sort. She crept into Col’s armory and grabbed a sleek silver dagger, strapping it to her thigh.
Leyla exited her planked cabin and made her way back up the hill. She stopped as soon as she reached Alastor and their escort. Their escort turned to the two of them. “Are you ready?”
The two answered in unison. “Yes.”

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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:36 pm

Yay, new chapter!
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Thu May 29, 2014 9:39 pm

Chapter 7: Kidnapped?

Arata’s dreams were of amorphous shadow, distorted light, tidal waves, thorny demons, flashing blades, bloody carnage, and jolts of motion, all blended together seamlessly in a vortex of timelessness. He had no sense of his body; he could not tell where his arms or legs lay, only that he felt heavy, smothered by a blanket of darkness that only provided brief glimpses of the world outside at sporadic intervals. He heard ghosts of conversations flitting about his head like flies, unable to make sense at all of the persistent garble.
Arata’s consciousness eventually wrenched itself from the abyss of sleep enough to get a hazy glimpse of wooden framework covered by tan tarp. His surroundings felt as though they were moving, with bumps and jostles piercing the surface beneath him into his body, though in his numbed state, they only served to intensify a feeling of pins and needles. He saw the silhouette of a man sitting before him, his features shrouded in clouds of hypnotic fever. Arata watched as the man brought a finger to his lips, and then darkness reclaimed his mind.

Sense and perception gradually began to return to Arata. His head hung, weighed down as though it were filled with lead. His sight took in the picture of his hands and feet before him, blurry and stuck together, while the ground beneath them moved at a slow yet steady pace. As his vision began to clear away the grime of intoxication, he realized that his feet and hands were not stuck together, but fastened tightly to one another by way of thick, chafing cord. The bindings constricted his limbs across sections of his legs and arms as well, and a numb sense that they were threatening to cut into his skin began to form. He moved his tongue about in his mouth, which was dry as smoked Mauler jerky. His tongue collided with a gag made of an unknown fabric, whose surface absorbed his saliva and merely served to wither Arata’s palette further. Arata tried raising his head, to make noise, but the rest of his functions took their own precious time in reuniting with him. He could not see who or what he was harnessed to, where they were, or where they were headed. He was completely helpless.
After several more minutes of listless awareness, the ground stopped moving. Arata was suddenly dropped, landing at the base of what felt like a tree. He heard footsteps move away from him and a man’s low voice began to speak. He at last mustered up the energy to pull his head up, looking in the direction of the noise. A man stood off a short distance to his right, clad in sable attire, his pitch black cloak flowing with the beckoning of a gentle breeze without so much as a rustle. A miraculous looking bird perched on his finger. Its feathers were mostly white, with the edges of its wings and tail feathers a burning gold. Across its belly black feathers appeared to swirl with specks of white. The man rolled up a small scrap of parchment and tied it to the magnificent creature. “Fly,” the man said. The bird gave a comprehending coo and took off, disappearing into the sunset beyond the tree line.
The man turned and came to face Arata. “Ah, so the sleeping beauty finally awakens!” He smirked, approaching Arata. His skin was dark and his face was marred by a jagged scar stretching the length of his face diagonally. Shaggy black hair swept down over his countenance, parted just to reveal a pair of sly dark eyes.
Arata attempted to speak, but could only groan, so dry was his mouth in addition to the gag that was in place. The man stopped, standing before him. “Be patient now, just let me get that off you.” He knelt and untied the cloth around Arata’s mouth. Arata coughed, licking his lips and swallowing to soothe his arid mouth.
“N-no…th-thanks…” he croaked.
“What’s that?” The man put a hand to his ear and leaned closer. “I couldn’t hear you.” His voice was somewhat deep and gravelly, in a strange accent that Arata didn’t recognize, different from the Astorians.
Arata tried again, but this time even less came out. All that escaped was hot, reeking breath.
The man gave a wry smile. “Oh, you must be thirsty.” He withdrew a water skin from within the folds of his clothing and held it to Arata’s cracked lips, pouring gingerly. The cool, refreshing fluid had already begun to alleviate the soreness of Arata’s throat, and to lubricate his vocal chords for use. He gulped heavily. “Slow down there, princess, take your time.” The man teased, slowing the flow of the water slightly. He eventually deposited the water skin back into his one of his elusive pockets and squatted with his arms resting on his legs, waiting for Arata to speak. “Let’s hear that one more time now.”
Arata coughed and cleared his throat once more. “I said ‘No thanks to you.’ Who the hell are you?! What did you do to me?! Where the hell are we?!” He attempted to get to his feet and confront the man, but as he rose his legs began to shake.
The man chuckled and put a gloved hand on Arata’s shoulder, lowering him back down to the ground chidingly. “Careful now kid, one thing at a time.”
Arata clenched his teeth, seething as the man rose to one knee and roughed up his hair. “Well, for starters, I go by the name Azki’ir. You’re clearly confused, and I don’t blame you, but just let me explain nice and slowly.” He drew a small vial full of white powder from his pocket. “This is a powder made from pulverized Somnus Root. A good whiff of it will put you in a deep, lengthy sleep. This stuff knocked you out for well over a week.” The scar on his face wrinkled as he smiled, putting the vial away.
Arata felt his anger bubbling again. “You drugged me?! And for a week..!”
“Ten days to be exact. I apologize for having to use it, but I didn’t really have much choice. It was either try to get you to see reason and come with me in the midst of a deadly battlefield, or drug you, rescue you, and ask questions later. I couldn’t risk having you die on me.”
Arata got to his knees, face to face with this “Azki’ir.” “Why the hell would I want to go with someone like you?” His voice was beginning to escalate to shouting level. “You drugged me and kidnapped me! You…you tore me away from my only family in this godforsaken country!!” His voice cracked, threatening to turn into a sob. “For all I know he could be dead now, because you took me away from him…you…you pile of Mauler shit!” Suddenly fatigue drained all of the rage from Arata’s body, and he fell back into a slump against the trunk of the tree.
Azki’ir gripped Arata’s face with powerful fingers, staring at him scornfully. “I told you; it’s Azki’ir, not Mauler shit, or whatever the hell it is you’re trying to say. And I prefer to call it recruiting, not kidnapping.” His scorn became smugness as he turned Arata’s face in different directions, studying the boy’s state. “It’s been ten days since you’ve eaten. You’re lucky Somnus Root slows down your body enough to let you live that long without food. But, now that you’re awake, you have no strength. I wouldn’t test me if I were you, because I’m your only source of nourishment. So, if you apologize and ask me politely, maybe I’ll get you something to eat. What do you say?”
Arata cleared his throat and spat, landing a nice glob of mucus and saliva on Azki’ir’s cheek. “Go to Hell.” Arata growled weakly.
Azki’ir simply sighed and wiped off the spit. “Fine, have it your way. Let me know if you change your mind.” He stood. “I’m going to go get some firewood. The sun has almost left us and winter nights in Astoria can be quite nippy I’m told.” He smiled coyly and strutted off into the woods.
Arata grumbled. “Believe me, the cold is the last thing I’m worried about.” A sigh escaped his lips as his stomach growled.

By the time Azki’ir had returned with his bundle of tinder, the growl in Arata’s gut had propagated into a host of shrieking banshees. But he refused to bow to his captor, to one who would so arrogantly assume the authority to assign Arata to his own devices; and so Arata restrained himself with diligence, assuming the role of a starving stalwart, even as the first sparks ignited across the heap of lumber that served as their campfire.
Azki’ir glanced towards Arata. “Are you sure you don’t want to apologize yet?”
Arata looked away, giving no response.
“Alright suit yourself.” The midnight cloaked captor responded, whistling happily to some foreign tune as he went about his preparations. He opened up a satchel, scooping out two hares he had slain on his sojourn into the woods. He skinned and gutted them, and began to roast them over the burgeoning flame.
The smell of cooking meat drifted into Arata’s nostrils, beckoning forth streams of drool despite his best attempts to block the tantalizing aroma. He looked about frantically for a distraction, observing the forest about him. The sun had set now, and, as Azki’ir had said, the temperature dropped noticeably. To some it may have been too much to bear without a fire, but as a native of Arcterra, Arata had adapted long ago to the most frigid of conditions. Still, without his furs and leathers, it was a tad cooler than what Arata had anticipated. Winter had taken to Astoria as well. Most of the trees in the forest were deciduous, having lost most of, if not all of, their leaves to the sticky fingers of the god Arcterra. The deity had already frosted the verdant ground with his breath, and the fur of the rabbits that Azki’ir was preparing had begun to take on a lighter hue to blend with the coming change in scenery.
Damn, his thoughts were being drawn back to the meat being roasted! He felt the banshees clawing and screaming to break free of his stomach. The savory smoke of the hares tortured his senses with its allure, and agitated the beasts in his belly all the more. Dammit, he had to. He coughed loudly. “Ahem! Um…Azki’ir…?” He said weakly.
The scarred man turned his head in Arata’s direction, arching a black brow. “So you do know my name! Yes, what is it then?”
“C-could I…you know…” Arata gestured toward the meat with his still bound hands.
“What are the magic words?”
“Please…?”
He shook his head, skewering one of the rabbits and waving it about in front of Arata’s face. “And what else?”
“I’m sorry…” Arata replied, straining his neck toward the food before him.
“For?” Azki’ir drew the rabbit up close to his nose and inhaled deeply. “Mmmmmm, smells good.” He moved to take a bite.
Arata groaned. “For calling you Mauler shit! I’m sorry, okay, Azki’ir?”
He stopped. “And you won’t do it again?”
“And I won’t do it again.” Arata sighed.
“Good. Here you go.” Azki’ir placed the skewer in Arata’s joined hands.
“Um, Azki’ir…”
“What?” He said as he grabbed his own rabbit-kabob. “And you can call me Azk by the way.”
“Okay, Azk…This would be easier to eat if…well, you know…” Arata gestured with his head toward his hands.
“How do I know you won’t try to escape?” Azk queried.
“I wouldn’t even have the energy to try and run away,” Arata admitted. “And even if I did, you’d probably recapture me fairly easily.”
Azk pondered this for a moment and then shrugged. “True enough.” The man drew a dagger from his thigh and sliced through the cords that constricted Arata’s body. Arata rubbed the red marks where they had once been gingerly, slowly joining Azk back by the fire. Despite Arata’s familiarity with the cold, he still appreciated the warmth and light of the fire, and so scooted closer to it. He tore into his share of rabbit ravenously, devouring his dinner within less than a minute.
Azk gave a raspy laugh, pulling out a third, and already skinned, rabbit along with some berries. “I suppose you’ll be wanting more.” He strung up the third rabbit and munched on his own speared hare and partook in some of the berries before passing them to Arata, who gobbled them without hesitation.
An awkward silence filled the clearing as Arata waited for his second helping to finish cooking. The young, pale skinned man finally broke the silence. “You never told me why.”
Azk was lying on one arm, licking his fingers from finishing his food. He paused his licking as Arata spoke. “Hm?”
Arata stared into the eyes of the dark skinned man sternly. “You never told me why you took me away from my brother. Why? Why did you do it?”
Azki’ir nodded, sitting upright once more, and giving his chops one last lick. “Because we need you.”
“‘We’? Who is ‘we’?”
“Those soldiers you fought, didn’t you notice something strange about them? Something unsettling? How they moved, how they fought, even the weapons they bore and the armor they wore. The beasts they commanded. Everything about them was…off.”
Arata nodded. “They seemed to fight without sense of purpose, only to destroy and create havoc. Not how any normal person would fight. And they came out of nowhere, too. Who are they?”
Azki’ir turned his attention to the fire, entranced by the ballet of writhing flames. “Nobody knows. Not really, anyway. There’s some speculation, but that’s about it. This isn’t the first time they’ve been spotted, not the first time they’ve attacked. We spotted a small group of them once, wandering this forest, Vangloria Forest, near the border of between Astoria and the Marrow Fields. They attacked without warning, without provocation. And when felled their corpses writhed and seized until they bloomed into ominous bushes of black roses. Only one thing can be said for certain; they are not human, not anymore.”
Arata furrowed his brow and joined Azk in attending to the dance of the flames. He removed his rabbit from the rotisserie and began chewing it slowly. “So then what are they?” He asked through a mouthful of meat.
Azk grunted. “We’re not sure. They seem to spring from the direction of the Marrow Fields, but they are unlike any of the forces Empress Atra has ever used in this war.”
“So you’re with the Astorian military then…?” Arata glanced back at the man, swallowing his bite, and then ripping into the hare for another.
A loud snort ripped through Azk’s nose. “Those pig-headed fools? Please. I wouldn’t be caught dead in their ranks. Though I’m sure they’d like to find me dead…” He mused, chuckling. “No, I’m part of a very…special group of knights. We’ve been dubbed the Twilight Knights by our Emperor. You’ve likely never heard of us. We tend to remain behind the scenes.”
“There’s a lot in this land that I know nothing about…” Arata muttered.
Azki’ir canted his head questioningly. “You certainly don’t look like an Astorian. Where are you from?”
Arata explained his origins in the land of Arcterra, telling Azk all of what transpired that landed him on the continent of Faebala in the first place.
Azk brought a hand to his chin. “Ah, interesting. I’ve never heard of Arcterra before. You’ve had quite the ordeal already, haven’t you?”
Arata nodded. “Where are you from then?”
“From the southern desert, a land that the Astorians call the Dune Tides,” was Azki’ir’s matter-of-fact reply.
“What is it like there?”
“Hot, dry, and harsh. Many live in poverty in the villages deep at the desert’s center. A fact I know all too well…”
“What do you mean?” Arata replied.
“That’s a story for another time,” Azk said evasively. “What was I saying before?
“Oh, yes. It’s our job to maintain the natural balance between the lands. Ordinarily we wouldn’t get involved in political squabbles or territory wars between nations, but this new breed of soldier is an alarming sign. If they truly are controlled by Atra, then she has gotten her hands on a power that she was never meant to have. Whatever their origins, they have caused nothing but unnecessary strife and chaos in this land, and will continue to do so if we don’t stop them.”
“So why do you need me, exactly?” Arata turned to fully face Azki’ir, discarding his now empty stick, his stomach full of rabbit.
“Let’s just say you’re a special candidate. One that’s vital if we ever want to fulfill the potential of the Twilight Knights, one that we need to win against this new foe. This is why I couldn’t risk you dying.” Azk explained vaguely.
“A candidate? What makes me so special?” Arata glanced to Hokkyoku which rested next to the rest of their provisions. Did this sword really make him such an important person? If getting involved in some war that wasn’t even his was how he was supposed to “change the future,” or some “high honor” he wasn’t sure he liked it.
“All in due time. All will be explained very soon,” Azk assured him. “It’s getting late. Try to get some sleep, and we’ll head out in the morning.”
Arata grunted, frustrated by his strange captor’s mysterious responses. Still, he could get nothing else from the man. He was still sluggish from the Somnus Root, so escape was unlikely. So he spread out his bedroll and forced himself to fall into Sleep’s embrace once more.


Arata was awoken by Azki’ir early the next day. He rubbed his eyes groggily as the dark skinned man shook him by the shoulders. “Get up! We’re moving out now.”
Arata moaned as he picked himself up and stretched. “But it’s only just now dawn!”
Azk threw Hokkyoku and a rucksack at Arata. “You’ve had ten days to sleep before this! No excuses for being tired!” And with that the man strutted off through the woods of Vangloria Forest.
Arata shook his head and sighed. “And whose fault is that I wonder?” He gave a start as he could no longer see Azk. “H-hey, wait for me!” Arata took a step in the direction of the brush through which the man vanished, but something rooted him to the spot. Why should he have to put up with this? Azki’ir said he was needed, to help fight the monstrosities the Astorians suddenly found on their doorstep. But why? Why was any of this his problem? What the thorn-covered soldiers had done was abhorrent, truly, and he saw that…but was that an excuse to make a conflict of foreigners his problem? He and Al never asked to be part of this war.
So he stood there, paralyzed, action suspended between opposite pulls; between the atrocities of Sayle and the face of his brother, beckoning him to return. He was alone, with a dangerous, dark man, in a land he barely knew, not knowing if Al was even still alive, not knowing when his own life could meet its end in this hostile place. Hell, his own parents probably thought him to be dead. Gods, he just wanted to go home. To go back to Arcterra, with Al.
The next thing he knew, Arata found himself sprinting in the opposite direction, desperate to escape from this nightmare. He threw any method of stealth to the wind, desperation obliterating prudence. His feet pounded the ground. His chest heaved in pained gasps as his body struggled to adapt to the sudden level of activity. The wintry morning air stung his nostrils and throat as he panted for breath. He barely managed to keep on his feet as he leapt and ran over stray roots and brambles. He just needed to find a main road. A main road and civilization would await him in some direction. Perhaps Fortune might smile upon him and he would stumble upon a travelling caravan who would cart him away to safety.
Suddenly, Arata felt a weight slam into his back, wrapping him in constricting black tethers which cemented his arms to his torso. His foot collided with the scornful bump of a tree’s root and he tumbled forward, rolling until he slammed into a large rock. Stars filled his dazed vision. He groaned, a throb resonating through his skull. As he lay on his side his gaze rose to see Azk’s feet strolling toward him. How had he caught up to him already? He hadn’t even heard him coming!
Arata yelped as Azk flipped him onto his back, laying a heavy knee across his chest. Without warning the man had the cold steel blade of a dagger up against Arata’s throat. “Oh Arata. Arata, Arata, Arata…Tsk tsk.” Arata grimaced as Azk pressed harder on his chest, drawing his face closer to that of Arata. “You disappoint me with your selfishness. I expected better.” He hoisted Arata to his feet and cut loose his constrictions, but held Arata’s tunic in his fist, the dagger still at his throat. The weighted tethers fell to the ground with a clunk. “Where we’re going, and for what we plan on having you do, trust is of the utmost importance. Such selfishness will not be tolerated. I warned you not to test me.” He withdrew the blade from Arata’s flesh and let go of the boy’s clothing. Arata rubbed his throat with his hand, looking at Azk sullenly. Azk took a step back, glaring. “Try it again, and I will kill you. After all…” He turned and motioned for Arata to follow. “It’s what I was trained to do.”

The two men trekked through the massive expanse of deciduous forest for the entire day, silence their ubiquitous companion. Arata refused to speak to his kidnapper, but he dared not attempt escape again. He couldn’t find Alastor if he was dead. They were in the eastern reaches of Vangloria Forest, apparently close to their destination after Azk had toted Arata’s unconscious body by foot, by way of smuggled caravan cargo, and by commandeered horse. The sun was getting low in the sky now, and Arata’s feet ached terribly. He stopped and rested his hands on his knees.
“Just a little bit further, princess.” He taunted, disappearing through the brush before them.
Arata simply smoldered into the vacant space where he had been, too angry and too tired to give a retort. He pushed past the brambles and bushes and fell in behind Azk.
“Here we are.” Azk turned to the side, looking at Arata expectantly.
Arata’s eyes grew wide, his mouth agape as he found himself before a massive archway. The arch was made of ancient grey stone, with large runes etched into its surface. A massive insignia of a sun intersected by a crescent moon stood out in relief in the middle at the top. “What the heck is this thing? And where is ‘here,’ exactly?” Arata stepped in front of the archway, looking back at Azk.
Azk just grinned. “You’ll see.”
Arata turned around fully to face him. “Okay, but before I agree to helping you and your ‘Knights,’ I have one condition.”
Azk folded his arms. “And what’s that?”
“I need to be able to look for my brother while I’m here as well. I’ll do whatever you need me to do, but I refuse to do anything if it means I can’t make my way back to him.” Arata crossed his arms adamantly.
Azk sighed. “That’s not up to me, but I’ll see what I can do. Now, pay attention.” Azk pointed Arata back towards the arch.
Arata peered past the gap in the archway through the trees to the horizon. The sun was quickly on its way down toward the horizon. Any second now it would reach it. The sky darkened to a flaming orange, and the sun’s edge touched the horizon, signaling the arrival of dusk.
The archway then burst into life. The grey stone shone radiantly with brilliant new hues of pearly white and onyx black, with accents of burning gold and sparkling silver. The runes glowed with prismatic light and the insignia lit up with shifting hues of fiery red and soothing blue. A veil of pearlescent light filled the gap of the archway, nearly blinding Arata.
“Let’s go princess!” Arata felt Azk’s hand shove him forward and he fell fast into the light.


Last edited by Arata on Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:31 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Thu May 29, 2014 11:00 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Thu Jul 10, 2014 9:04 pm

Chapter 8: A World In-between

All Arata could see was a rush of light, moving all about him, or at least what he thought was “him;” he had no definitive answer as to where his body went, just that his conscious mind was somewhere in this radiant rift. It felt as though he were speeding through a tunnel, with sporadic flashes of spectral, multicolored light bursting on all sides. Arata felt himself being pushed, pulled, compressed, and stretched all at once, for a time that was impossible to define.
The luminous transit ceased abruptly and Arata found himself helplessly tumbling forward, somersaulting over a grassy swathe head first. Azki’ir exited the rift with much aplomb, landing neatly beside the blue haired youth. A raspy laugh pierced the air as the shaggy headed man noticed his captive lying flat out on his face. “What’re you doing down there?” He asked, giving Arata a light nudge in the side with his foot.
“Mfffuhu…nrghhh...pffttt..!” was all that could be heard as Arata spoke into the ground.
Azki’ir cupped his ear and bent down slightly. “What?”
Arata pushed himself up off the ground, spitting out tufts of grass and small chunks of dirt. “I said ‘You should know!’ You’re the one who shoved me!” Arata’s face contorted at a medley of odd angles as he excavated the reaches of his oral cavity with his tongue, trying to assure himself that there was no worm within the clods of dirt that marred his teeth.
Azki’ir’s dark skin crinkled like a raisin in the sun as his grin widened. “How’s that dirt taste?”
“Oh yeah, it’s my favorite. It’s actually a delicacy where I come from.” Arata rolled his eyes and turned away from Azk, an orchestra of guttural sounds occurring as he hawked up a globule of mud and saliva, spitting it ferociously out of his mouth. “Eck, that was a chunky one.” He coughed a few more times, and once he was satisfied that all the earth had been cleared from his palate, he turned back to face Azk. The scarred man was just smiling.
“What?” Arata asked warily.
Azk took him by the shoulders and spun him around. “Welcome to the Twilight Realm my young protégé!” He swept out his arm before Arata, gesturing to the vast, surreal expanse that surrounded them.
“I’m not your—” Arata was about to retort, but he faltered as soon as he saw what Azk was showing him.
The hill they stood atop sloped down into a massive stretch of rolling plains. Acres upon acres of verdant grassland swept out beneath them, giving way to a cliff that dropped off into a bay to the north, whose waters shimmered with a dusting of golden light. A small forest lay on the eastern edge. The sky about them was a brilliant cerulean, but accentuated by clouds hued pink by the kiss of the setting (or perhaps it was the rising?), sun. A light tint of orange bloomed across the distant horizon. It was as though they sky could not decide if it was just awakening, going back to rest, or if it was striving to be in its full meridian light. Higher still in this strange land’s Firmament, above the twilit cumulus but below its capricious sun hung two other celestial bodies. Each took on the shape of a crescent moon, though their massive size indicated that they were far closer than any true lunar body. The one to the west shone a pristine alabaster, radiating a warm glow, with the inside of its crescent facing inward. Mirroring this body on the east was a twin body, only this one took on the hue of a deep ebony, radiating a similar, yet opposite aura, seeming to dim all light near it. Dotting the landscape beneath was a large village made almost entirely of wooden structures. Small farms and plantations lay to the west end of the village just outside the main circle of houses. A large, winding dirt road led east from the village, reaching for the gargantuan structure of a glorious keep. The keep’s masonry shimmered white and gold with the light of the Twilight Realm’s sky. Two proud towers reached into the heavens, one on the east end and one on the west. Around the perimeter below the towers were long walkways guarded by ramparts and palisades. Against and below these walls rose much smaller pinnacles with balconies, presumably for the quartering of soldiers, supported by arrays of flying buttresses.
Along the lengthy stretch of dirt road leading from the village to the Keep were raised outposts, small towers of wood fortified with stone. Arata could spot figures, judging by the way the light reflected, clad in armor, walking to the outposts from a building at the village’s edge that he assumed to be a garrison. Before the Keep’s courtyard was small encirclement in which figures appeared to be fighting, connected to a somewhat larger structure. Arata could only guess that it was some sort of sparring arena. Next to the miniature coliseum was a large barn and stable.
Speech failed Arata. He just stared in awe at the land that lay before his very eyes. He looked behind him as well. There was another archway, just like the one they had passed through to get here. Past it was endless plains and forest, covered in a dusky haze. He spun back to face Azki’ir. The man laughed, clapping Arata on the back. “Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Welcome to your new home.” Azk began descending the hill, beckoning Arata. “Come on now! We have to go see the Emperor!”

The duo hit the dirt path by the village, with Azk leading the way in the direction of the Keep. The soldiers at the outposts halted all activity as he passed, saluting the man without hesitation. Arata’s gaze was once again drawn overhead, and he found himself staring at the dark crescent body that floated above the land. “Hey, Azk?”
Azki’ir stopped and turned. “Yeah?”
Arata pointed up toward the twin crescents. “What are those? Moons?”
Azki’ir shook his head. “Not quite. Those are known as the Twin Lodestars. The one to the West, the white one, is called Lux, and its twin, the Eastern black one, is known as Nox.”
Arata nodded, pretending to understand. “Right, sure…So, uh, what exactly are they there for?”
“The Twilight Realm is a plane of existence dedicated to balance, order, and harmony. To create such a cohesive sense of unity and balance, this realm required a source of positive energy and a source of negative energy that would keep one another in check. The Lodestars are made of a mineral that emits energy of the human soul. Lux radiates all aspects that are positive in nature, such as happiness, earnestness, altruism, and gives it shape. Nox does the same, only with negative aspects of the soul, such as anger, conceit, sadism, and the like. Or so the legend goes.”
Arata cocked an eyebrow. “Why would you want an ultimate source of negativity? Why not just keep the good?”
Azki’ir waggled a finger at Arata. “Haven’t you been listening? Positive does not equate to good, and negative does not necessarily have to equate to bad or evil. This is a world of in-betweens, so balance is essential to everything. No matter how innately good a person may seem, they still possess negative feelings and attitudes. It is how they choose to act or not act on them, or how they suppress them that allow us to define them as good or bad, or even evil. Conversely, an individual who appears to be immoral and evil may have good characteristics. This is true of all people.” He walked up to Arata and poked at where his heart was in his chest. “We all have positive and negative aspects within ourselves. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes, and it’s okay to be angry, just as it’s fine to be generous and forgiving as well. It is the balance that we find between them, and how we choose to act upon these aspects, that allow us to be good.”
“Ah, I think I understand.” Arata spoke softly, pondering Azki’ir’s words, carefully turning them over in his mind. “So, we all have the potential to do great good, or great evil, it just depends on which aspects we act on and which we reign in?”
Azki’ir tapped Arata’s nose lightly, to the younger man’s slight annoyance. “Right on the nose my friend. And it’s the same with this place. It is like the human soul, except with Lux and Nox as its anchors, the realm is always in perfect harmony.”
Azk began moving once more in the Keep’s direction. Arata followed behind. “So…Who put them there?”
Azk glanced back. “Supposedly,” he said with a smirk. “The Goddess herself…”

The dirt road gradually became a swath of grey cobblestone leading up to the gates of the Keep. Arata looked to the right and saw he had been correct in his assumption; the circle was indeed a sparring arena, with a pair of knights currently going at it with sword against spear. Another man was currently leading a horse from the stable, coat colored white with splotches of dark brown and a mane of ivory.
As the two strode up to the dark stone of the double doors, the two knights standing guard saluted Azki’ir, and at his request, the gates parted before them. Arata found himself in a spacious vestibule, lit by daylight filtering in through stained glass windows of a multitude of colors; reds, purples, blues, yellows, greens, oranges; all of them spilled into small puddles of light across a floor of dark stone, which in turn was covered down its center by a red carpet with a brass colored trim. An unlit chandelier hung above, its shape defined by complex coils and swoops of metal. The foyer ran into a large set of stairs, with wooden doors on either side at ground level. At the top of the stairs there were doors leading off to eastern and western reaches of the keep, and a single, larger door stood in the center. It was this door that Azki’ir led Arata through.
The dark hair man kept a brisk pace through the halls, so Arata had to observe on the go. The hall he found himself in was made of the same dark marble, with high reaching ceilings, supported by vaults and buttresses that arched up from the walls. A series of clerestories spanned the length of the hall on both sides beneath the vaults, lighting the hall in the same manner of fashion as the vestibule, through similar stained glass. With adequate supply of natural light, the torches that lay ensconced along the walls were without flame. The pair passed a few doors, but Azk would not, or perhaps could not, stop and explain them to Arata. They eventually reached the end of the hall, where Azk began ascending a broad spiral staircase.
Halfway up the stairs Arata began panting. “Azk, why are we moving so quickly? Agh…”
Azk didn’t look back, but spoke. “My first priority upon arriving with you is to see His Majesty. He explicitly requested that we act as expeditiously as possible as soon as we made it back. Come on now, keep up.”
Arata groaned and followed, making his way abreast Azki’ir as they entered another similar hall. This time, about halfway through, Azki’ir took them through a door at the west wall, heading in toward the center of the keep. As they wound their way through the impressive building, they passed a number of other knights, either running some sort of errand, headed to another part of the keep, or standing guard. Some wore full plate armor, branded with an insignia of a sun and moon crossing paths across the breast plate and shield; others wore leather armor with similar design etched somewhere on its surface; others still wore no armor at all, for they were off duty or headed to the mess hall. All had one thing in common though: every single one took a moment to peer at Arata, whether with suspicious scrutiny, an expectant smile, or with faces of bewilderment, Arata felt every stare summon a fresh wave of heat to his face. He felt like an animal on display; some strange, foreign looking creature that was being led on a leash by his keeper.
After a few more doors and hallways, Arata found himself standing before a large set of oaken double doors. Above the doorway, carved in relief from the rest of the stone, was the same insignia of moon and sun that had adorned the Twilight Gate and marked many of the knights’ armors. Azki’ir gave the guards a signal and they were dismissed. “Do they all listen to you like that?”
Azki’ir chuckled. “Well yes, they’re supposed to. I’m a tad higher in the ranks than they.”
“Hmph. A tad?” Arata scoffed at the man’s apparent understatement. Azki’ir was apparently more important than he had originally thought. Perhaps he should be a bit more careful around him.
The older man’s face grew serious and he laid his hands across the smooth wooden portal, pressing forward to force them open with a slow creak. Arata followed solemnly inside.

The chamber was a circle of large diameter, with large windows all about, though each was covered by long red drapery. The primary source of light was instead the bright fires of a ring of torches, nestled in bronze sconces around the room. This would have been mundane enough for Arata, except these flames did not burn orange; they danced instead in blazes of rainbow. Together they illuminated the room with pure white light; closer to each individual, however, and they radiated an aura of ever shifting color.
From the entrance all the way to the throne was a tapestry of deep crimson and embellished with gold. From here, the throne appeared to be carved straight from nearly black marble, supported by columns of gold that were topped with sable metals. Behind it hung a banner with the moon and sun motif that had marked the entryway, as well as everything else appearing to be of this realm. Beyond that one could just make out a balcony that stretched out into the open air.
But what most commanded Arata’s attention was the figure seated in the throne itself. A man of formidable stature rested, watching Arata with deep scrutiny as he made his way further in. He was clad in armor awash in aurulent gilding. The breast plate, greaves, and pauldrons were all bordered by a shade of pitch. Atop his head sat a crown adorned with large, black opals, whose centers seemed to swirl with an inner fire. Against the side of his thrown leaned an impressive greatsword of ferruginous hue. At his feet lay a wolf of indescribably majesty; two voluminous tails sprouted from its rear, and its luteous coat scintillated in the torchlight. The two men stopped as they neared the short section of steps that led to the seat, and the wolf perked up, staring into Arata’s soul with beady eyes. At this proximity Arata saw that its predominately white underside shifted with blossoms of black space and white specks, like a capricious night sky.
Azki’ir fell to one knee, his head down, while Arata stood frozen to the spot, sudden anxiety leaving him at a loss for what to do. The wolf gave a low growl. Azk glared at him out of the side of his head and jerked it in his direction. Arata shook himself out of his dumbfounded state and imitated Azk, taking a knee with his face to the floor. A moment of asphyxiating silence followed.
“I have returned with the Child, my lord.” Azki’ir’s words pierced the shroud of quietude.
“So I see,” was the deep voiced reply. The Emperor rose from his seat and the beast beside him did so as well. He stared down at his subordinate and the thrall he had brought with him. “You may rise.”
Azki’ir stood, and Arata followed suit, slowly. Arata’s eyes met those of the Emperor. The ruler’s face and complexion suggested he was younger than Arata had anticipated; he couldn’t be far past his third decade; in fact, he may not have even reached it. And yet his eyes spoke of a mind and soul matured far beyond the youth of his countenance. Arata averted his gaze, intimidated by the intensity of the man before him. His icy blues found the cool stare of the wolf. The beast regarded him with a sort of detached curiosity; it desired to know more of this newcomer, yet it decided ambivalent observation better suited its mood.
“You said in your message you escaped with a possible candidate? What did you mean by ‘possible’?”
Azki’ir withdrew a small, star-shaped amulet from his pocket, dangling it out before him. “Xavier’s little trinket was being rather nondescript, though I narrowed down my pickings rather well. I’m fairly certain he’ll do.”
“Hmph,” was the Emperor’s gruff response.
“I’ve seen him on the battlefield. He has definite potential, whether the Myst clings to him or not.”
Arata shifted nervously, glancing between the two men. Their words meant little to him; though Azk had given him a very basic synopsis, much of their talk still flew over his head.
The Emperor gave an assenting grunt. “In any case, I’m glad to see you both made it out relatively unscathed. Our scouts reported back on Sayle’s aftermath recently; based on their descriptions and your message, it was quite sudden and high in casualties.”
“Did they win?!” Arata burst out, interrupting their exchange.
Both men adjusted their focus onto the blue haired youth. The Emperor spoke. “Yes, they either finished off or drove out the remaining forces. A majority of the civilians were said to have evacuated; most of the body count arose from the local garrison and the men who had the courage, yet unfortunately lacked the experience, to stand up to the enemy.”
A huge sigh of relief heaved its way out of Arata’s chest. So Al and Leyla were likely very much alive. The Emperor turned to better face Arata, speaking as he descended the steps. “My apologies, young man; we have not yet been introduced. I am Gladius Ignis, Emperor of Twilight, chosen by Hakama, Goddess of Twilight herself, to reign over her providence. And, who, might I ask, are you?”
Arata was surprised by the question, and for some reason found he was fumbling over his own name. “M-my name…? It’s uh…A-Arata, Your Majesty.”
Emperor Gladius chuckled at the boy’s flustered state. “I can see much of this may be a shock to you. You’re clearly not from around here, and yet you’ve found yourself into affairs you probably never dreamed of nor desired. Where do you hail from?”
Arata took time to explain the existence of Arcterra and the customs of his clan, including the Rite of Passage and release of Hokkyoku that brought him here in the first place. He then went on to explain why he and his brother were in Sayle in the first place.
Gladius rubbed his chin with a metal covered hand. “I see…I am truly sorry that we were the cause of your separation from your brother. But you must understand that the situation is dire; depending on how things go, however, I will do my best to ensure you’re ability to search for him, and even assist, if possible.”
Arata gave an appreciative smile. “Thank you, that means a lot.”
The Emperor nodded, crossing his arms. “I take it Azki’ir explained it to you?”
“Well, some…” Arata rubbed his neck, still not entirely sure what was happening.
“I told him some of the basics, but I figured a detailed explanation would be best received here, from you,” Azk clarified.
“I see. I may as well start from the beginning then.” Gladius strode across the room to one of the covered windows. He pulled on its ropes, drawing the drapes open, letting daylight filter in through unstained glass. He motioned for Arata to join him, inviting him to look outside. Arata joined his side and peered through the fenestration, drinking in the sights. From the throne room, most of Arata’s field of vision was taken up by the lower and inner reaches of the Keep. He spied stone walkways and ramparts, as well as small streets on the ground level that allowed for transportation between different sections of the Keep. Soldiers sauntered back and forth, some moving supplies, others carrying flasks from the mess hall. He could view the western tower; further west he could see the edge of the village and past the tower he saw the edge of the cliff that dropped off into the expansive bay to the north.
“This land is known as the Twilight Realm, as you no have doubt been told. It was created by the Goddess of Twilight, Hakama. The great Goddess embodies order, harmony, balance, not just in nature, but within the human soul as well. She rules the sphere of the in-between, taking steps to ensure all is in perfect equilibrium: light and darkness, good and evil, vice and virtue. To reflect all that she holds dear, she created a plane of existence that would embody and promote harmony. This plane was created from Myst, weaving together to create all you see here. She then created the Twin Lodestars, Lux and Nox, as anchors for this world to balance one another.”
Arata nodded. “Right, Azk mentioned the Lodestars.” He looked between Azki’ir and Gladius. “You keep saying Myst, and Myst Child. What is ‘Myst,’ exactly?”
“Myst is pure Twilit energy, made from the essence of Hakama’s soul. This place is made directly from the Goddess herself, making it a sacred place. As for a Myst Child…” Gladius drew the drapes shut and walked back to the center of the room standing next to his canine companion. “When Hakama created this land, she found that she could not provide the entire human race this haven. It was not realistic, nor was it her responsibility. Yet, to play her role amongst the gods and help care for this world, she sought to help keep the world at large at peace and in equilibrium. She realized she needed a champion, no, a host of champions, to quell disorder wherever it reared its ugly head. Not to vanquish “evil” though, for evil is a concept born of the mind and of erratic human perception. To make sure that no one power in this world dominated, to stop the rise of corrupted tyrants who sought to sow the seeds of the destruction.
She chose a man that she deemed worthy of her blessing, and charged him with one duty: assemble a force of men and women that strove for order within them and the world around them, and lead them, but only to act when the balance was truly in danger. This was the dawn of the Twilight Knights, centuries ago. And I am her most recent champion, blessed with the Blade of Balance, Shadikal and given the honor of leading a host in her name and mission. We keep an eye on the affairs of Faebala, of the world, with the most elite at our disposal. And now we must act…because this balance has been tipped. Because of the very atrocities you saw committed in Sayle.”
The pieces were slowly beginning to make sense in Arata’s mind, but there were still some things missing. “But, isn’t this just a move by Atra in this war? I thought you stayed out of squabbles between nations. And you still haven’t answered my question about what the heck a ‘Myst Child’ is.”
“Yes, I am getting to that.” Gladius’s tone turned grave. “It may appear that these soldiers are a part of Atra’s forces, given the timing of the war and the direction from which they have sprung. However, the nature of these forces and the methods they employ differ greatly from the military force and tactics typically used by the kingdom of the Marrow Fields. Ordinarily, they would employ Necromancers and Dread Knights to engage in combat, using reanimated corpses and other forms of ‘Death Magic’ to do battle. They generally utilize specific strategy. In the past, they prefer to whittle away defenses with waves of Undead and then send in battalions of their main forces. These soldiers don’t resemble this in the slightest; they behaved erratically and fought in an unrefined and raw form of combat. The thorns, the black rose bushes, those corrupted seeming animals…We’ve never seen anything like this. We suspect Atra has either obtained power or assistance from an outside source, or we have an entirely different group to worry about that is setting up Atra to look like she’s responsible. Either way, if this goes uninvestigated, Sayle will only be the first to suffer. Next time it will fall, and before long all of Astoria will be at risk, drastically altering the balance of power. And if the behavior of those soldiers is any indication, we do not want them to take control.
As for the Myst Children…I was visited years ago in a vision by Hakama, who told me that in the near future, we would face a grave threat to the order of the land. She said that to combat this threat, we would require the power of eight individuals to whom the Myst clings tightly, known as Myst Children. These individuals, upon their birth, had received Hakama’s blessings, and a mix of blessings by her fellow deities, in preparation for the time when this threat would surface. And I believe that threat is rearing its head, at last.” He looked at the two men solemnly, the torchlight throwing an ominous shadow across his face. “When these eight individuals are gathered, they will unlock the Seal at the depths of her domain’s stronghold, and grant access to a power that will be key in defeating the threat.” He sighed. “That was all I was told before she disappeared.”
Arata took a silent moment to process all he had just heard. So, he wasn’t just the wielder of Hokkyoku, Blade of Torrents. Perhaps he was meant to “change the future” as one of these “Myst Children.” He looked Emperor Gladius straight in the eyes. “So…you think I’m one of these Myst Children?”
Gladius and Azki’ir both nodded. “There’s only one way to know for sure though.” Finrod will have to determine for us.”
“Huh?” Arata canted his head to the side. “Who is Finrod?”
Gladius gave the wolf at his side a scratch on the head. “This is Finrod. Let us see if you truly are beholden by Hakama’s blessing.”
Arata watched as the lustrous wolf strutted toward him, dark eyes piercing his soul. Suddenly, as it closed half the distance between, Finrod’s shape morphed, spiraling in a mass of blackness, and then reforming as an extremely tall man garbed in a cloak that completely masked his face. Arata was completely dumbfounded, even as the man stopped directly in front of him, stooping to look down at him. Arata stared up into his cowl, but saw nothing but blackness. Finrod took his finger and placed it on Arata’s forehead, pressing in against the skin. A tremor shook his entire body and there was a flash of blue light. Finrod backed away, resuming his feral form.
Arata stared down at himself. Waves of blue mist roiled off of his body! No, not mist, but “Myst!” His entire body tingled, and he looked frantically at Gladius and Azki’ir both of whom exchanged broad grins. “What’s going on?!”
Gladius laughed, his mirth echoing about the entire chamber. “Well, Azki’ir it looks like you made the right decision! You, Arata, are indeed a Myst Child.”
“I am? Great! How do I…uh, make it stop?” Arata queried, unsure if he should be worried or elated about the azure vapor that fumed from his body.
“You simply will it. You should now have it under your control, as we do.” Gladius looked at Azki’ir and after a moment, there own forms of Myst began to rise from them as well. Gladius was cloaked in a cloud of gold, while jet black Myst smoked from Azki’ir.
Arata closed his eyes, and his veil of Myst disappeared. The other two men dispelled their palls as well. “You’re both Myst Children as well?”
Azki’ir nodded. “That makes you the fifth. We have three more to go.”
Gladius moved to his throne and hefted Shadikal across his shoulder. He stood before Arata. “Take a knee, Arata.”
The young man obeyed, lowering himself to the ground and bowing his head. Gladius took the flat of Shadikal and touched Arata on both soldiers. “Rise.”
Arata stood, keeping eye contact with Gladius. The Emperor smirked, placing a hand on Arata’s shoulder. “Welcome to the Twilight Knights.”


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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Thu Jul 17, 2014 9:39 pm

Chapter 9: No Rest for the Weary

Alastor felt the caravan jolt once more as it ran over a nicely sized divot in the earthen road. He grunted as he readjusted himself, watching as one of his fellow passengers adjusted a box of provisions back in line on its stack, having been knocked slightly askew. He looked at Leyla, who sat directly across from him. She met his gaze, offering a reassuring smile. “Soon,” she whispered. The boy simply sighed, opening the flap just ever so slightly so he could catch a glimpse of the world outside.
Sunlight crept in through the tan tarp’s opening as he peered outside, the pool of light illuminating a cloud of miniscule dust particles that hung lazily in the air. Outside Alastor watched their movement through the trees. They were on a dirt road, well-worn from constant travel both by cart and by foot. The trail led them north along the edge of Vangloria Forest, a path that would soon lead them straight to Skypoint, The Paladin’s Haven, capital of Astoria. The trees above them provided a constant cover of shade, with interstices of light poking through the rustling leaves at shifting intervals. The air outside felt cool on the young man’s face; it was fresh and crisp, and so Alastor took a few moments to close his eyes and simply breathe it in, to let it fill him up with its purity before letting it escape his lungs.
He let his eyelids slide open once more and stuck his head out a tad further, looking further up ahead their line of coupes and then to the very back. They were third from the back, and there were roughly fifteen coupes in all. Each held up to six, maybe seven people plus a few stacks of supplies crammed into wooden crates, filled with food, water, armaments, and other provisions. The populations of each cart were a mixture of refugees interspersed with the Astorian Military. Not all of the caravans held people, however. A few nearer to the front held only these piled boxes and barrels, and a few also only held the soldiers belonging to the one-hundred-and-first platoon of the Cloud’s Host. Captain Kieran was apparently at the front, giving orders. The band of misfits and military had been travelling for at least five days now. They were going at a decent clip; they were likely to reach Skypoint later in the day.
“You’d best get yerself back in here boy before another bump sends your ass out onto the ground,” a gruff voice murmured. Al blinked in surprise, withdrawing back into the dimness of the covered cart. “Wouldn’t want ya getting run over by the horse behind us.” The voice came from a burly looking soldier diagonally left across from Alastor. He had a thick, bushy brown beard and a nose the shape of a tenderized wad of meat. The little hair he had was swept all the way back to his neck, where it met with a bed of curly hairs that crept and coiled from his back up to the nape of his neck.
“Right, sorry.” Al grumbled half-heartedly. He wasn’t some kid that needed babysitting.
“Just makin’ sure your face stays intact. Wouldn’t want you to ruffle that fancy colored plume you’re sportin’.” Apparently the man thought he made a pretty clever joke, because as soon as he said it, he gave a boisterous guffaw, poking the soldier next to him to see if he thought so too. Apparently the soldier failed to see the humor because he just rolled his eyes and pretended to be fascinated by the crate next to him. There were six of them packed together in the cramped space. The humorless soldier and his companion across from him had remained near silent the entire trip, or spoke only to each other in whispers, apparently not too fond of the bear-like soldier they found themselves with. Next to Alastor was a young man with blond hair who had also remained relatively quiet. And then there was Leyla and Alastor to round out the pack.
“But in all seriousness, I’m pretty certain I’ve seen that look of yours somewhere before…” The hairy male groped his beard with his beefy hands, pondering rather loudly. Alastor squinted at him, suddenly curious as to what he had to say. He had seen his “look” somewhere else? What would he know about him? They had just met. “Hmmmm, yeah…I can’t quite place it, but I’m sure it was something of an unsavory nature.”
“Lay off with the racial profiling Tursin,” the blond haired man next to him piped up for the first time in a while. “Who cares where he came from? He’s here and that’s all that really matters.” The young man turned to Alastor, giving him a clearer picture of his face. He appeared very young, but he was likely at least a few years Alastor’s senior. His crest of blond hair was short and swept up lightly, just shy of becoming slightly wavy. His complexion was pallid, and his eyes were a brilliant cerulean. His gaze was soft and kind, similar to Arata’s. But where Arata’s eyes were permafrost touched by the hue of the sky, this young man’s were limpid springs of azure. “He helped us fight those things. And…” A meek smile crossed his face, dimpling slightly at the cheeks. “He saved my life.”
Alastor broke from the gaze of the male, a strange heat rising in his face. Looking down, he saw that the young soldier’s knee was kept in a splint. The splint was crafted from a pair of wooden boards held together with wrappings of gauze. He furrowed his brow, and his eyes rose to reestablish contact with the older boy, causing a peculiar jolt of anxiety to hit his chest. He stammered his words, but they got out eventually. “Y-you’re…you’re that…that soldier whose knee was smashed by the enemy’s mace!”
His smile broadened, a light chuckle escaping his lips. “Yes, that was me.” He looked to his knee regrettably, rubbing it gingerly to soothe the lingering pain. “I’m still ashamed I let him get the best of me. But luckily you were there to help me fend them off! Though I’m afraid I got us backed into a corner for a while there.” He spoke with a slight accent that Alastor couldn’t place, but could tell it was somewhat different than that of the Astorians.
Alastor shook his head. “It was nothing really. Besides, Arata was the one who distracted them long enough for us to get away.”
“Still, I’m very grateful, and I’ll have to repay you some day.”
Alastor was about to protest when Tursin interrupted. “Give the flattery a rest, Luka. You’re makin’ the boy uncomfortable. Wouldn’t want him thinking you’re some kinda pansy, now would ya?” Luka just glared. Tursin grinned smugly. “I thought the people of Kältheim were supposed to possess inhuman strength and fight with the hearts of true warriors! The cold is supposed to breed true men, isn’t it? I guess ya didn’t inherit that from your Mum’s blood, did ya?” Luka offered no rebuttal, electing to simply continue smoldering at Tursin.
The caravan suddenly slowed to a stop. After a few moments, the soldier who steered the cart came round to the back and let everyone know they could get off; the line was taking a break to allow the horses to rest and graze briefly. Alastor hopped down from the cart, giving Leyla his hand and helping her down. The girl offered her thanks and descended. Al watched as she went off a short distance and asked one of the men if she could have an apple. She then strode over to one of the horses—one that stood out because of its coat being the shade of dusty straw--and fed it the vibrant red fruit. The beast of burden gave a jubilant neigh after gobbling the treat in an instant. Leyla laughed and smiled broadly, stroking the horse and coaxing it with soothing words, as though it might understand her.
Alastor was glad to see his friend smile. She needed it, after what had happened to her home. But, somehow he knew this would not be the end of their struggles; no, they were just beginning. He felt it. So they needed to enjoy moments like this whenever they arose, and savor them. They might be few and far between on the road ahead.

“She’s from Sayle then?” Luka’s voice made Al jump. He turned and faced the flaxen crested man, his heart coming back down out of his throat.
“Gods, you scared me!”
Luka gave an apologetic titter, waving his hands in front of him. “Sorry, sorry! Didn’t mean to startle you.”
Alastor took a few deep breaths in and out. “That’s alright. And yes, in answer to your question, she is.”
“How did the two of you meet?”
Alastor glanced back over in Leyla’s direction with a half-smile. “She took me and my brother in when we washed up on the shore.”
Luka arched a brow. “Washed up on shore?”
Alastor nodded, explaining his origins and how he and Arata had come to arrive on Faebala.
“That’s quite the tale! Stranger things have happened I suppose though. So, this Arata, the one that got us out of that bind back in Sayle, he’s your adoptive brother?”
“Yes.”
“And he’s…gone, you say?”
Alastor threw his gaze to the ground, clenching his fists. “Yes. But I will get him back.”
“That’s why you’re headed to Skypoint then? To find leads on this ‘man in black?’”
Al looked at Luka, amethyst eyes sparking with determination. “Damned if I don’t. I’m going to find that man and make him regret it. If he’s done anything to my brother…” Alastor turned before the tears could well up. “He’ll pay. Dearly.”
Luka placed a hand on his shoulder at an attempt of affirmation. “You’ll find him, I know you will. I’ll do what I can to help.”
Alastor turned blinking away wet eyes. “Why? We’ve only just met.”
Luka withdrew his hand and simply smiled. “Like I said before, you saved my life. The least I can do is lend my sword. And from what I’ve heard about this man before, he’s dangerous. You’ll need help.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it.” Al walked further to the side of the road, with Luka hobbling after him. Al offered his assistance, but the older boy politely declined. The two males plopped down on a fallen tree that had landed in the small clearing. Alastor rested his arms on his legs, addressing Luka again. “So, where is Kältheim exactly?”
“It’s a country far to the north of Astoria, past the Kleinsicht Mountains. It’s a brutally cold and snow-laden land with a rocky terrain. Though I’m sure you know all about that; the brutal cold and snow part that is.”
Alastor chuckled. “Yes, I’m familiar with that.”
“My father is Astorian and my mother is Kältan. My father was formerly in the military here, but after his time of service he became an explorer. He took to the mountains and found his way to Kältheim, where he met my mother. I was eventually born and raised during my childhood in a small hamlet called Boden, my mother’s home village. We were farmers, which, as you can imagine, is difficult in that kind of climate.”
“What did you grow?”
Luka sat back and laughed ruefully. “Mostly potatoes.”
“That’s it?” Alastor replied with a faint snicker.
Luka shook his head. “Well, they’re among the hardier of our crops. But we also managed to grow some other roots and tubers as well. But yes, primarily potatoes.”
“I guess living there for your childhood would explain your faint accent. I thought you looked a little different from the Astorians.”
“Yes, the blond hair and blue eyes were given to me by my mother. It’s a common feature in the north.”
“So what brought you back here?” Alastor queried.
Luka heaved a sigh. “Well, when I was eight, Kältheim was struck with a massive blizzard. The largest and longest it had seen in many decades. It was a winter that was essentially a never ending storm, and Boden was along the strip that received the worst of it. It was a season that would come to be known as the Wenstark, or the ‘Forever Winter.’ My father refused to risk our lives by staying, so he took us through the mountains back to Astoria.” Luka sat back and looked up to the sky, letting the sun warm his face through the space between the trees. “Of course, once I was old enough, I was drafted into the military here in Astoria a few years ago, much to my parents’ chagrin.”
Alastor sat up straight, imitating Luka and sitting back, peering through the trees. “Wow…you’ve been through a lot.”
Luka gave a wry smile. “I suppose, but I think it’s for the better. I’ve learned my own limitations, and I’ve become much stronger for it as well.”
“Then why do you let people like Tursin talk to you like that?” Alastor leaned forward to look at the bearded soldier in the distance. He was solid and compact, but he had a rounded paunch and was shorter and more rotund than Alastor had initially thought.
Luka followed Al’s stare and waved a hand in that direction, dismissing the notion. “It’s not worth arguing over. It hurts sometimes, yeah…But I know what I’ve learned and that I’m capable. Words are just words, in the end; I know who I am.”
“Hm. I guess you’re right.” Alastor rested his head on his hand, ruminating on Luka’s words.
The pair suddenly heard a call from the caravans. Luka glanced over and patted Alastor on the back, standing up shakily. “Looks like we’re getting ready to start moving. Let’s go.”

The two men boarded the rickety wooden caravan with the rest of their company and the convoy began moving once more. “What took you two so long? Busy necking in the woods?” Tursin harassed. Both Alastor and Luka stared daggers at Tursin and attempted to refute, but it was Leyla who took action. Tursin’s belly laugh was choked by a yelp as Leyla took a fistful of the man’s beard in her hand, yanking him toward her.
“I think you mean to say that Al was helping Luka get back to the caravan, since Luka injured his knee. And they were further away than us, right Tursin?” The man just grunted in pain and annoyance. Leyla tightened her grip and yanked him closer so his ear was near her face, eliciting another shrill cry. “Right?”
“R-right!” He squealed.
“Good. Now say you’re sorry.”
Leyla released the man and he bounced back into his original position, slumping back against the wooden inside of the cart. He grumbled some sort of half-assed apology and glared at the girl beside him.
Alastor and Luka burst out laughing, tears nearly coming to their eyes. Luka shook his head, leaning over and smacking Tursin in the shoulder playfully. “You’ll have to be careful around this one, Tursy! She’s got a fire in her!”
Tursin just simmered, murmuring something under his breath that was probably best left inaudible. Leyla just grinned cheerily, wiping the grime from Tursin’s facial hair off on her tunic. Alastor mirrored his friend’s expression. “So those horses seem to have taken a shine to you!”
Leyla’s eyes lit up. “Oh yes! They’re truly wonderful creatures. I’d always wanted one but we could never afford one since—” Leyla stopped midsentence as an ear-splitting whinny by one of the horses ahead pierced the air.
Al threw his head outside to check. “What was that—?” He never got to finish, for as soon as he spoke the wheel of their caravan exploded without warning, sending the entire cart onto its side, careening across the side of the road. Al was thrown back inside with everyone else, the group collectively yelling in shock as they tumbled with their vehicle.
Alastor got up, rubbing the side of his head, which had made contact with the edge of a crate. He looked to Leyla, helping her up. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied, shaking off the shock of impact. The rest of the group appeared okay as well, if a little bit shaken.
Alastor crawled out from the side of the coupe, getting to his feet with everyone else close behind. As they exited, he could hear the cries of refugees and barking of orders by soldiers, amidst a chorus of strange, guttural sounds. He spotted an unknown streak of crimson staining the dirt that led to where their cart had been. He moved past the cart to get a better view of the clearing to the side, as clouds of dust had been kicked up, greatly obscuring his visibility of the other carts.
“Damn it! No!” Alastor took in the sight of a small squadron of the very same soldiers that had attacked Sayle, along with some of their corrupted wolves. Only this time, at the front, they were led by someone. It was a woman, with hair that fell just short of her shoulders, the color of miasmic smoke, though she did not appear old. Her grey hair was threaded with black thorns, which wove their way about her ear and then her neck before disappearing beneath the skin and behind her clothing. She wore naught but a scant garment of dingy white cloth stained with the brown clotting of dried blood, along with a single shoulder pad made of light metal, and some flexible leather undergarments across her chest and torso. She also wore a pair of leather sandals; from the left one another snaking vine protruded and wrapped itself about her leg. She wielded a triple-edged rapier, whose ornate hilt was also decorated with thorns. From her left forearm she bled from a long thin cut, though it did not appear as though any of the soldiers had engaged her yet.
The fourth caravan from the back, the one directly in front of theirs, had been the first to be attacked, while the other caravans all went about in confusion. Alastor could vaguely hear Captain Kieran’s voice shouting out orders. Refugees spilled out and ran for the front of the line down the road while soldiers all poured out and ran toward the back. The mysterious woman made eye contact with Alastor, giving a slight smirk. The soldiers behind her twitched and muttered unintelligible utterances. She seemed to have them under control somehow, at least for now. She took one step forward. One of the soldiers behind her tried to rush forward, but she whipped out her rapier’s blade before his face, halting him. “Not yet, dear. Not yet,” she cooed. She then returned her attention to Alastor. “What do we have here? A misfit among transients? What is a sweet little plum like you doing in a place like this?” She licked her lips unsettlingly.
Alastor’s heart raced. This woman was aligned with these fiends, but she seemed more…composed. And that frightened Al. He looked behind him as Leyla, Luka, Tursin, and the other two from his caravan walked up behind him. Leyla’s silver dagger was held in her hands, trembling ever so slightly, while Luka had armed himself with his broadsword and Tursin with a partisan. The other two soldiers wielded short swords and shields that they had retrieved from the crates. Alastor half-turned to the group. “Leyla, you need to run,” he whispered.
Leyla shook her head, whispering vehemently. “No way in hell, Al.” Beads of sweat had already begun to trickle down her forehead though, and the trembling in her hands was worsening.
Luka nodded to Al. “We’re ready, don’t worry.”
“Excuse me.” The woman’s voice drew Alastor’s attention back. “It’s rude to not pay attention when a woman is speaking to you, boy.” She sighed, scraping the ground with the edge of her blade. “I suppose I’ll have to teach you some manners.” As if on cue, the soldiers and wolves behind her rushed forward, spread out to lay waste to the caravans.
“Leyla, go!” Al yelled to her one more time, swinging on instinct as a wolf jumped toward him, his morning star colliding with the bottom part of its jaw in a swift uppercut. “At least stay near the rear!” He struck the beast at his feet full force in the skull, crushing it under the weight of the spiked metal head, whereupon a splattering of blood rose to meet him. Tursin and the two taciturn men charged in at full speed. The rotund man managed to successfully run his partisan straight into the gut of one of the spastic soldiers, but it wasn’t quite dead. It threw its arms about wildly, its sword long enough to nearly cut into the flesh of Tursin’s face. Luckily, the hefty man had the sense to lurch back, all the while lifting up on his partisan then pressing it further into the belly of his opponent, until the enemy at last lay still. The other two men were dealing with their own individual opponents, parrying with their bucklers and riposting with their blades.
Alastor ran into the fray, taking a crack at a soldier who flanked his left with the electrified head of his mace, then spinning and slamming his weapon into the stomach of a foe on his right. He summoned forth a swift, powerful gale and blew his stunned opponent into the path of one of the hysterical horses, where he was promptly trampled. The opponent whose helm he had dented and electrified still lived, though dazed and confused. He quickly put him out of his misery though, aiming a fulminous streak of lightning at his chest thereby frying him from the inside of his armor. Through the clamor he once again made eye contact with the enigmatic woman. He gritted his teeth, attempting to advance toward her.
“Don’t you think you should be worried about your friends instead of me?” She pointed the tip of her sword back toward where Al had left Leyla. He looked on in horror as a soldier accompanied by a wolf both closed in on her.
“Leyla, no!”

Leyla backed away from her attackers until her back was pressed up against the wooden frame of their toppled cart. She held her silver dagger out before her, ready to use it, but not truly confident she would have a chance do so before the beast and the man ended her. The lupine beast snarled at her, fetid drool dripping from its maw. Now this seemed familiar. She would have been less frightened if it had just been the wolf; she had dealt with that before. But now she was faced with the equally unpredictable hand of man, which currently rested on a wickedly curved scimitar intent on slicing her into pieces.
Before Leyla could act, the wolf lunged. She shut her eyes and yelled. Perhaps she would get lucky and the monster would lodge itself on her blade again. But, the bite never came. Leyla cracked open one eye, and saw Luka’s gimped form wrest his sword from the creature’s neck. “Luka!” She exclaimed.
The youthful soldier gave an ephemeral smile before twisting and slicing into the abdomen of the enemy soldier with a horizontal slice. The soldier fell, convulsing violently until he lay still. Luka wiped the sweat from his brow and faced Leyla. “Are you alright?”
She nodded, her heart still pounding. “Yes, I am. Are you…?” She asked, gesturing to his knee.
“I’ll be fine. I just need to be careful,” he assured her.
“Look out!” Leyla cried as a soldier came up behind Luka, catching the young man unawares. She threw herself forward, plunging her dagger into the belly of her opponent, the force of her weight knocking the two of them to the ground. The soldier was not dead yet though, and grabbed at Leyla’s arms, holding her there while trying to grasp at his weapon. Just in time, a glint of light across Luka’s blade flickered as it fell across the enemy’s neck, decapitating him.
Leyla pushed herself from the soldier’s body, wrenching her dagger from his abdomen. “Thanks again, ahh…Luka…” She panted, feeling sick to her stomach.
Luka shook his head. “Just repaying the favor. I wouldn’t have made it if you hadn’t thrown yourself at him.” He clasped her shoulder. “We’ll make it through Leyla, but only if we stick together. Stay close to me.”
She swallowed her way through the waves of adrenaline that threatened to make her spew. “R-right,” she said, looking into the eyes of the handsome youth. “I will.”

Alastor sighed in relief as Luka came to Leyla’s rescue. She would be safe, for now at least. He saw some of the other soldiers from further up the queue rushing down, but not nearly the amount that were there in total. Where were the rest of the reinforcements? “What did I tell you about turning your back on me?” Alastor heard the gravelly voice of the woman behind him. He turned just in time to see her upon him, thrusting her rapier forward at an impossible speed. He fell out of the way, but not before the tripled-edge of her sword grazed his side. He winced as he fell, rolling away from another stab, leaving her piercing only the dirt. He got to his feet, though as soon as he did she was on the offensive again, thrusting for his vital points. Damn she’s quick! His thoughts screamed. How was he supposed to fight her if he was constantly evading?
He summoned the force of another blast of wind, concentrated into a sphere and then bursting it between them, creating much needed distance for Al as they were blown away from each other. He threw out his hand, electricity spanning out from each of his fingers. The lightning arced from one soldier to another, until one of the fulminating tendrils struck out at the woman. She leapt nimbly out of the way though, leaving a scorch mark where she previously stood.
She landed closer to him, though the distance was still reasonably safe for Al. Between them was a skirmish between her forces and the two antisocial men he had ridden with. The two men currently stood back to back, blocking the strikes of the enemies surrounding them and countering whenever possible.
The woman regarded Alastor curiously, raising her voice over the combat between them. “So, you possess some talent after all. Would you like to see one of mine?” She grinned menacingly; taking the very tip of her rapier, she sliced open a thin line down her thigh. Carmine liquid began to ooze out. Alastor looked on in terror and disgust as the blood from the self-inflicted wound began to move of its own accord. In an instant the blood condensed itself and lashed out in strands, slicing through anything in its path. The flurry of sanguinary strikes pierced into the crowd, felling not only one of the two Astorian men, but also killing a number of her own men. Alastor dove to the side to avoid the deadly whips of blood, rolling through a somersault onto his feet, grunting in pain as the slice on his side stretched and pulled. The woman groaned softly at her failed attempt at killing the boy. She walked toward him, stopping right in front of the other Astorian soldier. The man was in shock, his frantic gaze flipping between her and the grotesque remains of his fallen comrade, who was lacerated beyond recognition. Without so much as a word, the woman’s sword was suddenly buried in the man’s suprasternal notch just above his clavicle, ending his hysteria instantly. Alastor observed in disbelief as the man’s blood left his corpse, travelling up the length of the blade and across the woman’s body into the cuts on her arm and thigh. Both injuries sewed themselves shut, and the woman withdrew her blade, again sauntering toward Alastor.
The violet haired boy tried to think desperately of a way to best this woman, or at least get away from her. He looked at the dirt road before him. That’s it! He drew in the air around him, the dust at his feet beginning to swirl in small zephyrs. He let the energy build until it threatened to burst, unleashing a massive explosion of air. The result was a thick shroud of dust and dirt, utterly obscuring the view he had of his opponent, and any visibility she may have had of him was reduced to nothing as well.
Al smirked, satisfied with his own ingenuity. Let’s see her fight through that, he thought.
He heard her voice once more through the cloud of dust. “Oh please, you’re going to hide from me? And here I thought you were going to be more of a man than that, more of a challenge,” she taunted. “Oh well. I suppose if you’re going to be a coward, I’ll just go for your girlfriend and her crippled little bodyguard.”
Alastor cursed as he watched her lithely form sprint from the pall and toward Leyla and Luka. He took off after her, running as fast as his legs would allow him and then some, nearly falling forward to the ground as he tried to intercept her.

Leyla watched the murderous woman moving toward them with incredible celerity. “Luka! We’ve got trouble!” She shouted to her companion, who turned to face this new threat.
The smog haired woman offered no banter, no words offering despair as she descended upon the pair. She appeared to only have one intent: to kill Alastor’s friends swiftly so that the stormy-eyed youth might see his mistake, and live every day from now withering with guilt and regret. She seemed particularly fixated on Leyla, as though the girl irked her in some special way. Leyla screamed as her blade plunged toward her face, staring down its length as it sought to skewer her. Suddenly, the blade halted, mere inches from Leyla’s face, right in-between her eyes. She swallowed, cross-eyed as she fixated on the point of the sword, a bead of sweat rolling down her face. The woman’s gaze was drawn down at her side, which was bleeding from the blade that had bitten into it; Luka’s blade.
She didn’t scream; she didn’t howl with pain; she didn’t even grimace. She simply stared at Luka, fires of pure hatred raging in her amber eyes. “You!” She shrieked at him. “How dare you touch me!?” She flicked her rapier away from Leyla and past Luka’s face, slicing open his cheek. “You’re going to wish you hadn’t done that,” she hissed, the tip of her sword just below Luka’s chin, ready to end his life at any moment. The crippled soldier couldn’t move away to save himself, not with his weapon lodged as it was, and not with his knee injured so.
Before the woman could make good on her promise though, she was knocked sideways and away from both Leyla and Luka, torn free from Luka’s blade. A large bruise quickly began to form on her left flank over a few now cracked ribs. She looked furiously at the direction of the blast, amber eyes landing on Alastor, who was quickly closing the distance with his arm outstretched, having struck her with a blast of pressurized air. Behind him was a small grouping of reinforcements, which soon surrounded her with swords, spears, and bows. At the lead was Captain Kieran, brandishing his officer’s blade in the direction of her chest. His rough, commanding voice pierced the air. “Who are you, and why are you here?” The woman simply chortled. He bristled, stepping closer and yelling once more. “Where did Atra gain these forces?! Why is she using these monstrosities!?”
The woman gave another hollow laugh, moving Kieran’s weapon away from her with her own sword. “Heh, Empress Atra? Well…I suppose you’ll have to ask her that yourself. But don’t worry; you’ll all have what’s coming soon.” Her head whipped around in the direction of Luka, staring at him venomously. “I’ll be sure to save something special just for you.” The blood flowing freely from her wound then began to coalesce at her feet.
“Look out!” Al shouted, fearing another massacre. But, instead of tearing them to shreds, the blood shot upward, propelling the woman into the air and allowing her to land a safe distance away, gathering the remainder of her forces behind her.
She looked between Alastor, Captain Kieran, and Leyla, and then offered one last scathing glare to Luka. “You live today. Ensure you tell your families, your friends…your King. Because next time…My hand shall not be stayed.” The woman’s blood shot forward into the dust, kicking up a thick plume of dirt and debris much as Alastor had done before. And when the cloud finally settled, she and the rest of her forces were gone.
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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:07 pm

Chapter 10: The Paladin’s Haven

Captain Kieran had everyone regrouped amidst the fallen caravans. There were only four; he had sent the rest of the queue to continue to Skypoint when the fighting broke out, keeping a majority of the military with them so the refugees would be safe the rest of the way and so they could alert King Auric. This was why it had taken so long for reinforcements from the front of the line to reach them, and why there had been far fewer than Alastor had expected. Most of the soldiers escaped the skirmish with minor injuries, but a few had been slain, members of Alastor’s carriage among them. Alastor kept replaying their deaths over in his mind, staring vacantly at the ground as soldiers hustled about him. The first had been completely and utterly mutilated, sliced to ribbons by that woman’s own blood. He couldn’t even recall what his face looked like anymore; each time he attempted to visualize it, his countenance was replaced by a mangled mass of flesh, blood, and bone; a jigsaw puzzle of carnage and brutality. The second suffered a fate less messy, but no less unsettling. He imagined the terror the man must have felt, watching his companion obliterated just before having a rapier cut off his air by sinking into his throat. He imagined what it must have felt like, as the blood rose and filled his throat and lungs; he must have felt like he was drowning inside of himself, the red tides clogging his trachea and all other means of respiration. And then the rising fluid was all sucked straight from his body, withering it like a fruit being drained of its juices, and being used as sustenance for the destructive ends of the female who started it all. All of it made Alastor feel sick inside; his stomach was tying itself in knots just thinking about it. What the hell was happening here? Bhadra had made the Mainland seem like a land of happiness and prosperity, but this was no land of dreams; this place was a nightmare.
The feeling of someone clasping his shoulder made him jolt. He turned to look over his shoulder and saw the concerned face of Luka staring down at him. He placed his hand on Luka’s and removed it gently, catching his breath, though his expression remained somber. “I’m sorry, I keep scaring you. But we should probably move, they’re setting things back up.” The young man gestured to the group of soldiers who were trying to restock the caravans and repair their spokes and axles before beginning to right them from their fallen positions.
Alastor realized they were in the way of the men trying to push the caravan back upright. He nodded absentmindedly, and followed Luka into the clearing where everyone else had gathered. The group had some time to kill as the drivers of the carts went off in search of their horses; the beasts had all turned skittish and run off in different directions through the woods once the fighting had started.
Luka jostled Alastor with a light shake on his shoulder. “Hey, are you alright?”
Alastor shook his head to clear his sullied mind, trying to free it from the weight of all he had seen transpire in the past week. “Yeah, I…No…No I guess I’m not.” The younger man sighed, pushing back strands of hair from his sweat-soaked brow. “I just…I never wanted to be a part of this, Luka. When I found out my brother and I had made it all the way to Faebala, as much as I wanted to go home, I was excited. Ecstatic, even, because nobody else in our home besides our Elder had been given the chance to visit this place. It was supposed to be amazing and new and wonderful…” He locked eyes with Luka, voice dropping to a grave murmur. “But I’ve seen more death and senseless violence in one week here than I have in my entire life among the snow. Despite how difficult it was to get by and how grueling the winter could be for our people…we all stood by each other. Even when tensions ran high, we were family. But here, fellow human beings slaughter each other like animals. And I’ll never understand it. Why, Luka? Why?”
Luka leaned back away from Alastor, watching off in the distance as a bird feathered lightly with brown landed in front of them, pecking at the ground. “There’s no easy answer Alastor. Where you’re from, everyone bands together to survive, because the clan is all anyone has. For you, you either cooperate, or you die, right?” Al nodded slowly, his gaze following Luka to small avian. “To someone like you, these people, myself included, may seem like brutal, bloodthirsty demons. We lie, we cheat, we steal, we kill, and we take advantage of those weaker than us for our own gain.” The bird before them had thrust its beak into the dirt again, yanking out a worm and devouring it. It continued to do so, until it had found another, and then another, each finding sharing the same unfortunate fate of being devoured. “But, to us, it’s necessity,” Luka continued. “We of Kältheim aren’t all that different than your people of Arcterra but with one exception: we value martial strength so highly that it is required of anyone wishing to call themselves a Kälthan man. We fight each other amidst the harsh elements because we have greater means of sustaining ourselves, and to prove we can be strong enough to provide for the village.” He looked to Alastor again. “Do you see what I’m getting at?”
Alastor furrowed his brow. “I think so…?”
Luka continued, bringing his attention back to the feeding bird. “We of Faebala fight and kill each other. War, unfortunately, is not something uncommon to us; and it happens all over the world, not just in Faebala. Humans often seem to be cruel and selfish in nature. But do you know why we fight?” He didn’t wait for Alastor to answer. “We fight because we have something to fight for.” The two men watched as the bird took flight and alighted on a nearby branch. Upon the branch rested a nest filled with its young, each straining their necks upward and crying for their mother’s attention and sustenance. The bird obliged her featherless children, giving back up what she had filled herself with to sustain her brood; when the last was fed, all chirped in joyful chorus, and the mother sat over them, protecting them watchfully. Luka gave a small trace of a smile. “Whether it’s for our ideals, our religion, ourselves, or to protect our loved ones, we fight. We fight to the last breath. Just as your people do battle with the elements and the landscape, we do battle with one another, because with more dreams and ideals and families comes more conflict and bloodshed.”
Alastor shook his head, cupping his chin with both hands and resting his elbows on his thighs. “I don’t know if that’s supposed to be beautiful or horrifying.”
Luka gave a rueful laugh. “That would be for you to decide. We fight each day to be our own people, and to do so we fight those who seek to take that away from us. Whether that is actually King Auric’s intention, I know not, but it’s why I choose to fight. To protect the ones I care for.” He stood and offered Alastor his hand. “And I do it with the hope that one day we can fight for our beliefs without doing battle with one another. I do it with the hope that, maybe some far off day, we’ll have our peace.”
Alastor smiled, taking his hand and rising. “I suppose I’ll need to do the same.”
Luka returned Alastor’s smile, nodding. “You’ve already begun. After all, you’re fighting to find your brother. And you’ve already saved me once again.”
“What? N-no, I didn’t! You handled yourself just fine, you didn’t need me!” Alastor spluttered, taken aback.
Luka rolled his eyes. “Without you I would have had my head paraded on display for all to see atop that woman’s sword. You came in at just the right time. It appears I’ll have to repay you twofold now.”
Alastor groaned, choosing not to argue the matter. Luka wouldn’t be swayed. The violet haired youth stared off into the distance, catching Leyla and Tursin amongst the other soldiers. The two males made their way toward their companions.
When they reached Leyla, the young girl smiled half-heartedly. “Are you both okay?” She asked concernedly.
“I’m well, thank you for your concern Leyla,” Luka replied.
“Alastor?” Leyla posed, turning to her friend.
“I’m fine, don’t worry,” he waved away her concern, trying not to show his exhaustion, both mental and physical.
She eyed him suspiciously, but let it go. “If you say so.”
“By the Gods, I’m starvin’!” Tursin bellyached, plodding over to the group. “Almost all the food was in the upper caravans and I ran out of Gala Nuts hours ago!” The rotund man clutched the fat of his belly melodramatically, crying out about how horrid the hunger pangs were and that he might starve if he didn’t find sustenance soon, to which the other three collectively rolled their eyes.
“Why don’t you look for some fruit? There’s bound to be something edible around here, like berries or something,” Alastor suggested, fending off Tursin’s pawing for food with his hands.
The bearded soldier nodded, scratching his facial hair. He then stopped, as if something profound had just dawned on him. “I know! I’ll search the area for food! There are probably some berries or something edible nearby!” He exclaimed sagaciously.
Alastor narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms, glancing between Luka and Leyla. “Didn’t I just say that?” The other two looked at Tursin sideways and just shrugged.
Tursin lowered himself into a squat, practically crawling as he attempted to scrounge up something to fill his abhorrently empty stomach. He nearly looked as though he were sniffing around, trying to catch a whiff of potential foodstuffs. “If there’s food nearby, I’ll find it!” He declared, continuing to scrounge about the foliage around the perimeter of the clearing. “Aha!” He stopped, pitched forward as he inspected a bush that was dotted with bright red berries. He began collecting them in his hands until the shrub was picked clean, assembling them into a small mountain in his palms. He raised the pile to his drooling mouth, ready to devour them all in one go, until Leyla screamed “STOP!”
The man halted reluctantly, glaring at Leyla with peevish eyes. “What?! What do you want, girl?!” She strutted forward and slapped his hands, sending the entire mound of berries rolling into the dirt. His entire face began to flush crimson with rage, practically matching the hue his now spoiled snack. “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT FOR?!” He roared, barely restraining himself from wringing the girl’s neck.
“I’m saving your life, you idiot!” She retorted indignantly.
“Eh, wha--? How do you figure!?” His face contorted with alternating emotions as his gaze flicked back and forth, switching between a distraught wistfulness as he glanced at his spoilt fruit and a choleric confusion as he regarded Leyla.
“Those are Rubra Berries! You know, highly poisonous? The amount you were about to eat would have surely killed you!”
“Oh really?! I think I would know deadly fruit if I saw it! Those were clearly Mara Berries! Completely harmless and supremely…” He sighed, hanging his head. “Delicious. At least they were until you ruined ‘em!” He jammed a finger at Leyla’s face, nearly jabbing her in the nose.
Leyla swatted the man’s thick digit from her face, and rifled through her rucksack until she withdrew a leather bound book. Across the book’s covering were the words “The Apothecary’s Companion: A Field Guide for Druids and Botanists.” She flipped it open until she found the page she was searching for, and held the picture up to Tursin’s sweaty face. She pointed to it, reciting the text. “Rubra Berries: A genus of fruit indigenous to the Vangloria Forests of Astoria, this type of berry is brimming with highly flavorful juices--”
“See!” Tursin injected.
“I’m not done!” Leyla growled, finishing the entry. “It is highly flavorful, ‘but also contains high levels of a toxin known to cause severe sickness in animals and people. When consumed in large enough quantities, this toxin can prove to be fatal. It is frequently confused with the Mara Berry, which, while similar, sports a shade of red that is darker and muddier than the Rubra Berry, and is safe for consumption.”
Tursin sat back on his heels. He opened his mouth for rebuttal, but nothing came out. Leyla pointed to a nearby bush, also dotted with berries, but of a deeper, richer hue. “These. These are Mara Berries.” She plucked one from its spot on the shrub and also picked one of the Rubra Berries from the ground, holding them up side by side for Tursin to see. Looking at them, the older man saw that indeed the shades were different, matching the descriptions in the book.
“I…I suppose you’re right, girl…” He grumbled, looking down away from Leyla.
She snapped the book shut, placing it back in her rucksack. “I’ll take that as an apology. And it’s Leyla, not ‘girl’.” She went and picked the rest of the Mara bush clean, handing the pile to Tursin. “Here, you should be able to eat these safely.”
The bearded man nodded and thanked her profusely, apparently forgetting his shame from mere moments ago. Leyla examined his shoulder, which had a cut that was dirty and seeping. “Oh, you’re hurt!”
Tursin briefly paused in scarfing down his fruit, mouth stained crimson with the juices of the berries. “Oh that? It’s just a scratch! Nothing the mighty Tursin can’t handle!” He dismissed her and consumed the rest of his food, licking his palms clean.
Leyla grimaced, repulsed by his eating habits but compelled to mitigate his injury. “Ugh, come here. We’ll find some Aloe Vera and make a poultice. Follow me.” She got up and began scavenging for the required plant until she discovered it nestled among the foliage. She quickly went to work creating a paste and then applying it to some gauze before tying it to Tursin’s wound. Satisfied with her work, she rejoined Alastor and Luka, both of whom had been watching from the beginning both out of amusement and curiosity.
Alastor stopped his friend, regarding her curiously. “Leyla, how did you know all of that?”
“What, about those plants?” She shrugged, smiling sheepishly. “I read about it in that book. I’ve read through the entire guide several times, so I have a decent understanding of the flora of Faebala. I even traded back in Sayle for more texts on herbology so I could learn more!”
“Really?” Alastor mused, impressed. “Where did you get the first one, the field guide, from?”
“It was my mother’s. Remember? I said she was a field cleric. She used herbs and other remedies to heal wounded soldiers both on and off the battlefield,” she answered. “Of course, until now I never really needed it for that, though it has come in handy for gardening.” She bit her lip, doing her best to remain modest. She broke into a relieved smile as the soldiers began gathering everyone up, having reclaimed the last horse from the woods. “Oh, it looks like we’re ready to head out again. Shall we?”
It took their small group of carts several more hours before they reached the gates of Skypoint, arriving at the capital city at the outset of dusk. A large wall was erected around the city for protection, but as Alastor peered out he could just see the tip of a castle’s tower peeking over the edge. They were stopped imposing wooden gates flanked on both sides by guards, both on the ground and above in the walkways. Banners of white and gold hung with a cloud pierced by a blade, the official symbol of the city. The group was at last waved through after Captain Kieran made his presence and their intentions known.
Leyla and Alastor both crammed themselves next to each other, bending forward to look out at the city as they were carried through its streets. Alastor found himself cast in the shadow of innumerable buildings. Those on the outside appeared to be constructed primarily out of rickety wood, surrounded by common people. He peered between the buildings, getting his first glimpse at the alleys of the slums, where the less fortunate leaned against their walls, covered in dirt in grime. Even at the speed they were travelling, Alastor could still catch a glimpse of the hunger in their eyes.
As they traveled further in, the buildings went from wood to structures of brick and stone and mortar. Al guess they had entered the market district, as most of these sported sign posts and flags that implied their function; there was a large sign outside of building labelled “Thelma’s Apothecaries” with a small design of a glass vial filled with some purple liquid next to the text. Further down was a bar whose labelling was attached to the upper part of the building’s face; a sign that said “The Foaming Mug,” and had a wooden cutout of a clay mug filled to the brim with white froth. There was a small pole protruding from another building that held a hanging sign reading “Elrin’s Armaments,” signifying a blacksmith’s forge, as well as another shop for textiles, and another that appeared to be some sort of mail service. Most of these buildings were one story, two at most, with the exception being an inn or two that had put together a third floor.
In this district Al could see droves of people milling about, shopping, selling, dancing about drunkenly, or trying to keep track of their pestering brood. The young man thought he spotted a youth making off with a fresh meat pie out of the corner of his eye.
They at last reached the final district, the ring of houses and buildings closest to the palace. Most were crafted from a mixture of rare, sturdy stone, and were reinforced with neat panels of metal, polished to keep a shine. According to Luka, citizens of either great affluence or relatives of members of King Auric’s court resided here. There was living space for members of the Royal Guard as well. These men served as Auric’s personal body guards and so lived in quarters separate from the rest of the Cloud’s Host. Luka described them with a slight tone of disgust, as though they thought themselves better than the rest of the men who served Astoria.
The carts suddenly came to a stop. Looking through the front, Alastor saw they were at the drawbridge of the castle. Captain Kieran stepped out of his carriage and yelled something (Alastor could not tell what it was) to the guards atop the grey stone wall surrounding the palace, who then relayed the order, until it reached the man operating the bridge. He wrenched back the lever, lowering the bridge across a moat filled with water and populated with schools of colorful fish. The walkway came down slowly, accompanied by a steady click of metal and the chains slackened and extended themselves link by link, until the wooden bridge rested on the ground with a light thud. The carts continued inside until stopping once more at the request of the soldiers inside.
Each passenger exited from their respective cart until all but those steering them remained. Alastor landed on the ground, helping Leyla out as she followed, and then Luka, who was struggling with his injured knee. The young man found himself in an expansive courtyard, the ground of which was covered in a bedding of verdant grass, dotted with patches of white flowers. Hedges with yellow and white blooms lined the walkway that led to the steps of the castle’s front entrance, which was marked by evenly cut slabs of cobblestone. Pathways of similar stone branched from the main strip to the left and right toward separate entrances into the castle. Everything in the courtyard was designed with certain symmetry in mind. On either side, between two of the rows of flowering hedges, were small fountains, releasing clear water in energetic spouts that sprayed continuously into the air. Looking back at the metal gate Alastor saw smaller pools of water jutting from the walls on either side as well, their waters streaming from a channel carved from the wall and pouring into their basins. The only thing that was asymmetrical in this set up was a small, natural pond that lay off to the right facing the castle, filled with fish similar to those in the moat. A young servant woman currently stood before it, feeding its residents with granules of fish fodder.
A handful of servants exited the castle and led the carriages away into the side entrances, presumably to unload the crates and barrels of supplies they carried. As the caravans cleared the area, one of the soldiers guarding the entrance came and led the company up the steps. Alastor hung near the rear, walking slowly with Luka and Leyla, with Tursin slightly ahead. He found himself slowing further as he drew closer to the enormous structure of the castle. He looked up apprehensively now cast in its shadow, like an ant beneath the looming darkness of a hovering boot. The building was by far the largest he had ever seen in his life, many times the size of even the Temple of Torrents. It was made entirely of white stone, with its metal window framings and the trimmings of its vaults and buttresses and tips of its pinnacles colored gold. It’s entire surface glittered brightly in the sunlight. It had many small towers and risings that reached upward in a ring around its center, which was a massive coned spire, dotted with windows and balconies. Atop this central tower was a sculpture of a crossing of swords cutting through the clouds, surrounded by a corona of light crafted from painted metal. Banners emblazoned with Skypoint’s insignia hung all about its walls. Alastor was broken from his awestruck state by Leyla’s voice. “Alastor, hurry up!”
“Sorry, I’m coming!” Alastor cried, rushing inside after them.
Luka laughed as he rejoined them. “Admiring the Heavenly Palace?”
“The what?” Alastor queried.
“That’s what the castle is known as, officially speaking.”
“That’s a little…pretentious, don’t you think?” Alastor snorted.
Luka shrugged with a wry smile. “It is. But it doesn’t matter what I think, now does it? I’m just a foot soldier.”
The group was led by Captain Kieran and the same soldier who had let them in. The foyer was carpeted with gold and white, covering a floor of white ceramic tile. The walls were built from pristine white marble, the banisters crafted from white ash wood. They were led up the steps and into the connecting halls. The halls were made of the same marble, the floors the same polished tile, and as they ascended floors, the walls became lined with large, clear windows that stretched from the top of the ceiling down to a few feet above the floor. End tables with drawers were placed intermittently throughout the hall, supporting pitchers filled with flowers that received sunlight from the oversized clerestories. In between the windows were oil paintings of members of the royal family, including previous princes, kings, queens, princesses, generals, as well as their children and families. One of them had the likeness of King Auric portrayed in various hues and shades of oil paint. In this portrait, he was drawn as a man with a regal, austere expression, exuding an air of superiority. He wore a goatee of thick brown hair and possessed eyes the color of lapis lazuli. Atop his head sat a crown of white gold, studded with imperial topaz. Alastor wondered if he still looked like that, for apparently the portrait had been commissioned well over fifteen years ago.
The group at last was led through a pair of wooden double doors stained white, with handles of polished brass. Alastor and Leyla followed the knights gingerly, stepping into the chamber that was the throne room.
Captain Kieran knelt before the King, the other soldiers following suit. Luka motioned for Leyla and Alastor to do the same. The two youths obliged, albeit grudgingly. Leyla already disliked Auric for starting this war in the first place, and in starting that war Alastor saw the ruler as part of the reason Arata was taken from him.
“Captain; perhaps you’d like to explain to me why I’m hearing reports of Sayle being nearly annihilated?” King Auric’s voice boomed in an even, yet grave tone. It was deep and sonorous, but the vaguest hint of age and tiredness lingered beneath its surface.
Alastor used his position at the back to look up slightly and catch a glimpse of the King. He looked much the same as he did in his oil portrait, only older; the same stern nobility graced his somewhat wrinkled features, and he still wore the same facial hair, only the goatee was slightly fuller and less well kempt; swirls and streaks of grey raced through his beard and hair, and the luster of his lapis lazuli irises had dulled and muted somewhat. He sat tall in his seat, crowned in the same way as the picture, and he wore a set of regal plate armor painted white and trimmed with gold much like his soldiers. However, beneath his armor was a regal silken robe sapphire in hue and again trimmed with golden luster. His throne was hewn from the same white marble as the rest of the room, but with accents of lutescent metals and its seat was padded with goldenrod cushions. On either side of him hung tapestries decorated with Skypoint’s insignia. Columns supporting the vaulting arches above the room curled at the tops and bottoms like swirls of clouds, and light shone in from a single window at behind Auric’s throne.
“If I may, your majesty, those reports are inaccurate. We successfully drove off the enemy from Sayle—”
“Barely!” Auric snapped, interrupting Kieran’s explanation. “The enemy was defeated, but not before massive casualties on the side of the garrison, and an unacceptable loss of our own men, along with massive collateral damage to all the buildings! Where do you think they’ll get the funds to rebuild, hm? They’ll come begging me! I can’t provide funds to rebuild while we’re in the middle of this war! But am I supposed to tell them that?!” He stood up suddenly, trembling with anger.
Captain Kieran swallowed hard, speaking to the ground. “N-no, I suppose not. But sire, we were faced with forces the likes of which we have never encountered before!”
Auric stopped his shaking, looking down at Kieran curiously. “Yes, the forerunners told me of soldiers ensnared in thorns, is that right? And then men who arrived here before you said you were attacked once more on the way?”
Kieran nodded. “Yes, your majesty. They fought like demons; inhuman they were. Unlike anything Atra has thrown at us before. There were no undead, no Dread Knights, just these men and their fell beasts. And a strange woman with magic the likes of which I’ve never seen.”
Auric sighed and moved to the window behind his throne, crossing his hands behind his back as he stared outside. “This is most troubling,” he muttered solemnly. “I have assured the people of my kingdom that no matter what happens in this war, they would be kept safe within Astoria’s borders. I’ve worked to ensure that we keep the fight in the Marrow Fields or along our nation’s boundaries.” He spun around, brow folding down into a glare. “How am I to tell them that I failed? That we’ve been not only attacked within our own borders, our own lands, but we were caught by surprise?!” He soughed heavily, reigning himself back in. “No, I will not tell them that. This will not happen again, do you hear me? We will send out scouts to find where these ‘demons’ as you described them are coming from and just what and who they are, and how and why Atra has them under her control. I refuse to let that witch get the best of our troops. We are sons of Matera, and we will not fall so easily to her heretical armies, whether they be undead or this new breed of man.” He looked out across the company before him. “Kieran, you and your men are dismissed. I want you sending those scouts out immediately, and report to the court wizard. See if he has any input on this.”
The soldiers all rose, with Al and Leyla following suit. “Yes sire,” Kieran replied, giving a deep bow. All of the soldiers filed out of the room, with Luka, Leyla, and Alastor following last with Kieran.
“Wait! Kieran, would you care explain to me this new company we have?” Auric’s voice rang out. The four of them stopped in their tracks. “Not you, Sir Flüsech; Just you, Captain, and that boy and girl.” He pointed to Alastor and Leyla accusingly. Luka made eye contact with his friends and nodded, assuring them it would be alright, and he exited.
Captain Kieran stood at attention. “Yes, your majesty?”
“Who are these children with you?” He gestured again to the two youths, regarding Alastor with particular suspicion, which the boy could not help but scowl back at.
“These two youths helped fight against the enemy back in Sayle, and again on the path to Skypoint. They both displayed great bravery in battle, especially young Alastor here.” Captain Kieran placed a hand on Alastor’s shoulder, drawing him abreast.
The King squinted at him in contempt. “Did he now? How so?”
“He fought with skill with the mace, taking down quite a few soldiers by himself, and he appears to wield Primal Sorcery as well,” Captain Kieran verified. “Levimancy and Aeromancy especially.”
“A primal sorcerer, with skill in armed combat as well? Very…interesting. Although, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprise, given the nature of your kind,” Auric responded cryptically.
Alastor gave a start. There it was again. His kind? What did that mean? “Excuse me…What do you mean?”
Auric continued as if he didn’t even hear Alastor. “As much as I’d prefer it to be otherwise, you seem to be a valuable asset in fighting this new enemy of ours. Perhaps you’d be interested in serving in Astoria’s military? You’d be given the opportunity to fight alongside members of the Cloud’s Host, the greatest army to grace Faebala, maybe even the world,” the King offered, staring into Alastor with a perceptive gaze. “You may be a bit young, but you clearly possess the talent for it, so I’m sure you’ll be fine. How old are you, sixteen?”
Alastor locked a fierce glare onto Astoria’s ruler. “Yes, but it doesn’t matter, because there’s no way in hell I’d join your army. I’m only here to find information on the assassin who took my brother and then track him down. I’m not fighting some war that isn’t mine. I’m not one of your subjects,” he hissed, jabbing a defiant finger at the man.
Pure fury spark in the aging ruler’s gaze, but he quickly cooled it, maintaining eye contact with Alastor. “I’ll forgive your insolence just this once, since you clearly don’t know any better, boy. I believe the man you’re looking for is who we call the ‘Silent Dagger.’ Clad in black, dark skin, with a scar on his face? Does that ring a bell?”
Alastor’s jaw set as the King described him, feeling the rage begin to boil again. “Oh, so it does! Well, I have a task force of men set to finding information and locating him so he may be brought to justice. Of course, once you join and prove yourself in training, you may join them, and become privy to their intelligence.”
Alastor hesitated at the opportunity. He knew he could use these resources to his advantage, and it would lead him closer to Arata. But, he utterly disdained the idea of fighting a war for this bigoted King, despite the prospects he offered.
The ruler spoke again after Alastor failed to respond, turning to look out the window. “Let me put it this way. Serve in my army, or I can have you locked up for all the crimes you and your people are prone to; larceny, pillaging, vandalism, rape, murder, on strong suspicion that you’ll do the same. Pick and choose.”
Alastor clenched his fists, gritting his teeth. Was he blackmailing him with discrimination? Because of his hair and eye color? Who did he think he was?! But then, what choice did Alastor have? He looked down and mumbled.
“I’m sorry; you’ll have to speak up boy. I’m getting on in my years you see…” The King smirked, turning to him and leaning forward.
Alastor swallowed hard, forcing his eyes to meet those of the aged King. “You swear you’ll make good on providing me a way to get information?”
The King grinned, his face upturned in ugly wrinkles. “But of course! I’m a man of my word…” He looked Alastor full in the face, drawing close to the younger man’s countenance. “Every word.”
Alastor simmered in the midst of the implied threat, his focus only interrupted by the voice of Leyla. “What about me? I’m not just going to sit by while my friend gets conscripted…and extorted.” Leyla stepped forward, leering at the King with disgust.
Auric shook his head. “I’m sorry, but we do not take women as soldiers, especially not ones as young as you. However, if you receive training, perhaps in a year or so you can become a field cleric if you feel so inclined. We can’t have a fragile young lady like you getting hurt, or worse.”
The irony of the statement was almost too much for Leyla to handle. She felt her hand drop dangerously close to the dagger strapped to her leg, but she composed herself, looking away to hide her bitter tears of anger.
Alastor looked between Auric and Leyla, torn in two directions, his insides churning with anxiety as indecision stretched him both ways like a rack. Auric feigned an understanding smile. “I understand this is a very important decision to make. Why don’t you think about it for a day? Sleep on it. I will provide you quarter for one night, after which you may be thrown out on the streets, depending on what you decide. Come to me when you’ve made your choice. And Alastor…” He went back to his seat in his throne, resting his cheek on his knuckles, giving a coy smile. “Choose wisely.”



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PostSubject: Re: Arata's Chronicles, Rewritten!   Thu Jul 31, 2014 9:36 pm

Chapter 11: Deliberation

Alastor paced back and forth in the dim lighting of the servant house, the floorboards beneath his feet creaking softly as he did so. He muttered to himself now and again, chin cupped in his hand and shoulders hunched forward as he tried to keep his head above the waters of his swimming thoughts. He tried his best to weigh his options, arguing for and against the ultimatum that King Auric had just issued him. The King generously allowed them to stay the night in the abode he had designated for the Palace’s help; a somewhat cramped wooden longhouse that lay outside the Heavenly Palace and was directly next to a passage that connected to a side entrance leading into the much larger structure. It was the middle of the night, and Alastor had been denied sleep by the constant pestering of his looming decision; fight for a country that wasn’t his against a threat by a ruler he already despised so that he might have a better chance at tracking down Arata, or deny the arrogant monarch and attempt to find information with far fewer resources and the danger that Auric would find some reason to imprison him.
On one side, he would be given the opportunity to join a group of men that would help him to sharpen his skills in combat, which Alastor was sure he would need if he hoped to find Arata and give the man in black his due, all while trying to survive this new enemy Astoria found itself struggling with. And, provided Auric truly was a man of his word (somehow Alastor doubted this was the case), the young man would have the resources of the Astorian military at his disposal, in that he could join up with the squad dedicated to tracking down the mystery assassin, substantially enhancing his chances of finding his quarry.
On the other side; he truly loathed King Auric. He was responsible for this war, and by extension, partially responsible for Arata’s kidnapping. In fact, Alastor wouldn’t even have the need to make this decision had it not been for the King of Astoria. Alastor wasn’t Astorian, and he never chose to come to Faebala in the first place! So why should he have to fight for the cause of a foreign people? He shouldn’t, at least not in his mind. And besides that, from Alastor’s perspective, the man was a general ass. He showed no hesitation in coercing Alastor into this situation, using racial bias as leverage to shackle the young man to his cause; a discrimination made all the more cruel by Alastor’s own void of knowledge about his origins, and thereby his people. But, if he went against the King, he could be hunted down, incarcerated, and quite possibly, executed. Even without that threat, he wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for information on his own.
“Gah, this is pointless! I’m going in circles!” He cursed and sat in the chair before him, smacking his hand on the table in front of it. The single, solitary candle that rested upon it shook, causing the dim orange glow of the room to quaver pitifully before the flame steadied itself.
A low creak sang out from the back of the room. Alastor turned in his seat to see Leyla’s concerned face peering out at him from the darkness of the staircase, her hands resting on the wooden banister as she pitched forward. “Alastor, are you alright?” She whispered.
The young man shook his head, attempting to wave her away. “I’m fine. Just go back to bed; I’m sorry I woke you.”
Leyla disregarded his request, descending the remainder of the steps in a soft chorus of creaks, pulling up a chair across from him on the same side of the table. “Don’t worry, I wasn’t really sleeping anyway. Too worked up from today’s events, I suppose.” She was covered with a plain white nightgown one of the servants had let her borrow. The girl plopped down in front of him, crossing both legs and arms as she leaned against the back of the chair. “Couldn’t sleep either then? Are you still trying to decide?”
Alastor sighed heavily, partially from exhaustion, partially from exasperation. “Well, I mean…I just can’t…yeah…” He fumbled out. He was so disoriented by the tempo of his own thoughts and that of the day’s events that he couldn’t compose himself enough to even form a complete sentence.
Leyla giggled quietly. “I understand. It’s a difficult choice. One I wish we didn’t have to make…” The girl scowled, looking out the window above the table toward the Palace, as though King Auric could feel her scathing stare.
Alastor picked his head up, regarding his friend curiously. “‘We’…?” He echoed.
Leyla took a moment before apparently deciding the King had suffered her distant wrath enough for one night, returning her emerald gaze to Alastor. “Yes, ‘we.’ I told you Al, I’m not just leaving you here to do this alone.” Alastor opened his mouth to object, but Leyla held up a hand, stopping him. “Don’t give me that ‘I don’t want to get you involved’ fodder. I’ve been involved from the beginning, willingly, and that’s not about to change. I’ve already come all this way; I’m not abandoning you now. You or Arata…” She let the candlelight set her irises ablaze, burning her resolve into Alastor’s mind.
The young man grinned tiredly, blowing out another exasperated puff of air. “Right. I get it. But, I don’t want to do this in the first place…I’d rather gouge my own eyes out than fight for that arrogant swine. But then again…” Alastor chewed his lip anxiously. “What choice do I have?”
Leyla rested her elbow on the table, supporting her chin with the butt of her hand. “I’m not sure you really have one, Al. It’s not the most ideal circumstances…” She arched her brow mid-sentence, blowing an unruly lock of brown hair from between her eyes back to the side of her head. “But if it’s the man in black and Arata we’re after, we need all the help we can get. That’s what you want…isn’t it?” She stared at Alastor straight in the face.
Alastor scrunched his brow, the candle setting off a frightening dance of shadows across his countenance. “It’s all that matters.”
“Then I’ll follow you on whatever you deem will allow us to do so.”
“But how are you supposed to stay with me? Auric said women are not conscripted unless they’re field clerics, but you’re too young,” Alastor wondered.
“I can request for the training. In the meantime, garrisons need housekeepers, right? I’ll work in the barracks so I can stay close to you, and I’ll still receive shelter,” Leyla suggested. “And just because Auric won’t make me a soldier doesn’t mean I can’t fight.” Leyla said, a defiant gleam entering her eye. “And once we rescue Arata, we don’t have to stay, desertion charges be damned.”
“You’re sure?” Alastor bent forward, hands clasped together before him.
“I’ve never been surer in my life, Al.” Leyla hunched forward as well, taking Alastor’s joined hands in hers. “We can do this.” The wavering radiance of the candle illuminated her face and set her youthful beauty ablaze, fueled by self-assurance. “I’m ready. The question is, are you?”
Alastor nodded, letting the sparks of her determination set his own heart aflame with renewed resolve. He would get Arata back, by any means. Even if it meant serving this man which he so detested. He didn’t care. All that mattered was reclaiming his brother. That was it. He whispered, exiting from the pressing darkness into the full light of the flame. “I believe we’ve reached our decision.”
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