The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

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Heretic
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The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Heretic » Sat Dec 07, 2013 3:49 pm

Hoo boy. Here it is, folks. The unadulterated rough draft of the rough draft of my story. I was hoping to finish to the point where the protagonists beat a side villain and finally leave the Capital under the king's blessing to explore the land and keep the ominous threats away. This would lead to Part 2 having the heroine discover that more likely than not opposition will come from a human face, and the villains have a noble goal as well.

To get a quick idea of what it might feel like, I was originally planning to make this a light novel since we originally had the fictional universe be more of the anime and JRPG vein. But as the month went by the universe became much more complicated and my desire to slam out the 50,000 words overrode any real consistency in writing. Some of the writing is also copied from the script in RPGMAKER VX Ace, so if it sounds a bit curt and laconic, there's a reason.

This story is centered around the childhood friend/most-likely love interest of the main character in the game we are making, and you could probably see where the anime influences are. Feel free to butcher whatever part of the story you hate, I do not want to be one of those sensitive authors who explains away plot holes and such under the feeble guise of "artistic vision." I hate myself for various parts of the story, so don't hold back.

Also one of the side protagonists is a misogynist who needs a better backstory than his mother being raped by an evil earl, so keep in mind of that.

I will split it into five or six parts for easier reading. I'll post the second part tomorrow or the day after.

___________________________________________________________________________

Prologue

In the small Albeonan Village of Mountainwall, where hunting, gathering, and fishing was still a common way to gather food, there lived a young boy and a young girl.

The boy’s name was Callum. He was around the age of sixteen and worked as a fisherman to supplement the mostly lean meat-and-roots diet that Mountainwall mostly subsists on with fatty fish.

The girl’s name was Faith. She was also around 16 years old. Her father was a forester and her mother was a weaver. Faith followed her father’s path, going with him almost every day to the woods that surrounded the village to gather wood, tend the trees, and occasionally cut down a tree or two under his guidance.

“Remember, Faith,” he would say almost every day as they walked to the deeper parts of the woods, “the forest protects us from the horrors that lurk outside our village. It gives us wood for fire and houses the food we eat. We must care for her, and in turn she will care for us.”

Before every work day, Faith would go to Callum’s small, thatched cottage and wake him up, since he had no family.
Well, at least no blood family.

“Callum! Wake! Up!” Faith would usually shout as she barged through the door only to see her friend still snoring in his wooly bed.

“Hnngh…hunh?” Callum would usually reply as Faith stomped over to him and pull of the covers.

“Arghh!” Callum usually says as he got out of bed shivering and starts putting on a new tunic.

“Get up! The village needs its fishermen to go out and early and catch the fish. If I weren’t here to get your lazy arse up, Mountainwall would starve half the time!” Faith usually placed a basket of bread, eggs, fruits, and small squirrel bits on the table opposite of the bed. Sometimes if seasons or luck permit the basket would contain veal or a tight-lid container of vegetable stew.

Her back turned to Callum, who was still changing clothes.

“I’m sure John and Roverd can catch more than enough fish to feed the whole village. You don’t have to be my personal rooster.” Callum grumbled as he brushed some dirt off the skirt of his tunic, and then grabbed the fishing rod and net next to his bed.

“The village doesn’t need a useless mouth. Now grab your lunch and head out the door!” Faith’s hand pointed at said door as Callum grabbed his lunch. Along the way out, he let out a big sigh.

“Don’t give me that.” Faith hissed as she playfully punched his arm. Callum chuckled a bit.

“Wanna meet up after lunch as usual?” Callum said as they both headed out the door.

“Sure.”

And so, after hours of hard work, the two of them would beet by a small pond few knew about. There they would chat or climb trees, being childish while out of sight of society. Then, Faith would go home as the sun went down.

“See you tomorrow. You better wake up before I get over there and wake you up myself with a bucket of cold water!” Faith would say.

“Don’t want to, but I’ll try.” Callum usually replied. He stayed behind to gather some roots for dinner or swing around a stick in order to be good enough at swinging sticks to join the Mountainwall militia.

This was the usual day in the usual life of the young friends. Sometimes holidays and fairs would occur during the year, and during those times Callum and Faith would go together to browse the wares that came from far-off lands such as Bushki and even the mysterious continent of Zaiya. Occasionally they would as play puntball with the other villagers, and Callum and Faith were either an inseparable duo or fierce rivals. Sometimes, Callum might even wake up before Faith broke down the door.

And it was on one of those days when Callum woke up early that destiny decided to rear its big, ugly, cruel head on the little Village of Mountainwall.

-1-

“Faith, get up!” Her mother shouted from the kitchen. Rubbing her eyes, Faith slowly slid out of her small bedding of straw. “Faith, get up!”

“I’m up, I’m up. Ugh, so tired.” Faith stretched and scratched herself, picking up a small pouch, opened the cap, placed some thick green liquid on the palm of her hand, and started rubbing her body. “Piece of crap doesn’t keep away the fleas. I shouldn’t have bought it from that Valentian merchant during the fair.” She tossed the balm aside.

"Faith?" Her father's voice came from the end of the hall.

"Getting ready, father." She replied as she changed her dress and put on her leather shoes. Once finished changing, Faith grabbed her billhook and her axe and brushed aside the torn curtain that marked her room entrance. Across from her she saw her mother's room, her curtain up. Her father's room was to the right and was the center facing room. She could see him gathering his supplies.

Faith went to the kitchen on the left, where her mother was tending a large fire that burned lightly under a column of various pots and pans hanging from a horizontal spit.

"Good morning." Faith said as she went to one of the pans and started checking the fish that was frying on it. "I'm guessing this is Callum's brunch?"

"Yes. Three boiled eggs and two apples from the basket for him as well. That boy can eat a lot." Faith's mother Flaryd was half-Leven on her father's side, and her fair face showed it.

"That lad is growing. Soon you might need to roast a whole deer just to sate that appetite!" Faith's father's voice came from behind. She felt a rough hand ruffle her blonde messy hair.

"Father, stop!" Faith said as she brushed the hand off. Both her and her father laughed heartily; her mother was too concentrated on cooking the food to really join in.

Faith then went to the small shrine that stood in one of the corners of the house. On the small table that her father made was the holy sun symbol of the All-Maker next to the grimacing figure of Reuf, the old King of the Gods before the Touslan priests came to Albeon from Leve. The very temperamental Reuf didn't look too happy being compared next to some newcomer god, especially one that he couldn't see or physically fight in an honorable duel. In front of the sun symbol there was a small bowl of water. In front of Reuf, a small flint and steel lying next to a small bundle of straw. Black soot lay underneath the bundle.

Faith clasped her hands and bowed her head towards the shrine.

"Blessed All-Maker, may this day bear bountiful fruit from your holy world for us, your humble servants. May your angels guide us to your righteous roads so that we may partake in the rewards to come. May my mother and father be in good health, may our neighbors' farms be safe from the Winter Crone's breathe and from Pestilence's evil gaze, may I forgive my enemies and be compassionate to all. I also pray that you smite Callum with a bolt of lightning each day so that the lazy arse gets up and work without me having to be his personal rooster. I don't pray for anything drastic, simply a nudge to help him start the day. In return for all this, I shall sing lovely hymns and humbly offer the first fruits of the harvest in honor of your holy deeds that you bestow upon us. May Peace be bestowed upon us."

With that she dipped a finger in the bowl and pressed it to her lip. Then, so that Reuf doesn't get jealous and cause one of the tree spirits to fall asleep on top of her, Faith turned towards the grumpy old god and reached for the flint and steel. Striking it over the bundle, she said:

"Great Reuf, King of the Gods and Guardian of the Bridge of the Afterlife, may you grant me strength to smite all my opposition with such fury that would equal you during your duel with the Parphotheon at the Island of the Wailing Snakes. As the Ballad of Raull Wind-Whisperer spoke, the mightiest of your bards, let all who stand against the proud sons and daughters of Alvyon perish like chaff in the wind. I offer this bundle of straw, which represents the weak body and soul of my foes, to you Reuf, King of the Gods. As I burn this weak bundle with the precision and fiery passion of steel, I promise to smite my enemies with no mercy and burn with the passion of the Alvyon axe-sages of old. I promise to sing the Ballads during the cold winter days and offer the remains of our harvests to you. I promise all this and more, as long as you uphold your promise to bring good harvests and victories in battle. We ask that you remember your promise to ask your wife, The Maiden of Winter, to spare us this year so that we may be fed and content enough to win more victories in your name. And please, don’t drop a tree on my poor head. I still have much to live for. Strength and Honor be granted to us.”

With that, Faith stood up and went to the bench near the cooking pit. Her father and mother were there, already eating their bowl of stew.

“Ugh,” Faith muttered as she looked at the contents, “more thistle carrot and rabbit offal stew?”

“It’s fine.” Faith’s mother said, taking offence that her daughter would show disgust at the stew she toiled over. “I made sure to add more salt this time.”

“Your mother’s Leven side is starting to come up, Faith. They take great offense to anyone insulting their cooking, and can show more fury than a Whitelander assassin.” Her father chuckled as her mother slapped his arm.
“Sometimes I wish I can go visit Leve and Valentia and all those other lands the minstrels sing about.” Faith sighed, though she knew what her father would say.

“You know what I’m going to say.” Her father simply said.

And Faith knew. Her father would say that Mountainwall was the safest place in the world. If she went to Valentia she would be swindled into slavery, though the Valentians would call it indentured servitude. In Zepana the nobility would have their way with her, she would turn into a political pawn in the Forsaken Lands, and the Gels would probably crack her skull for some ritual sacrifice to their evil gods. Leve was probably the safest to go for an Albeon peasant to visit, but women were restricted much more there than in Albeon. It was one of the reasons her mother’s mother ran away.

“I know.” Faith mumbled as she stirred her bowl of stew. “I just wish I could see the world beyond the Great Forest.”

Her father was silent for a bit and then smiled at Faith. “I’ll take you to the Capital next year for your birthday, how about that?”

Faith’s eyes lit up as she stared at her father. “Are you serious?” She saw her father, who looked like a saint at the moment, nodded.

“I think it would do you good to see Albeon beyond our little village, shows you what else the Great Forest protects.” Both daughter and father stood up and placed their dishes in a large bucket of water on their way out the door. Faith kissed her mother’s cheek, who handed Callum’s lunch basket to her.

As Faith waited for her father, who was discussing something with her mother, she looked around at her village. The village of Mountainwall was quite tidy and ordered compared to other villages in Albeon or Leve, or so her father and mother said. The cottages were next to the clean dirt road that Old Porter sweeps every day, and the river cut in the middle of the town and drained in the local lake, providing fresh fish to a village surrounded by giant trees. The communal farm was tended with great care by the community and each year the village, with the village elder as judge, decided what to grow on that modest patch of land. This year night radishes, cabbages, and potatoes would be grown in the main farm and fireberries in the smaller patch.

Faith decided that her father and mother were having one of their deep conversations which they usually had when Faith was out of earshot. Probably discussing the weird noises coming from Peter the Carpenter’s cottage, whose family was not seen outside since the day before yesterday. Faith’s father mentioned meeting the village elder about this matter, but the elder himself seemed a bit off.

“Might as well wake up Callum and drop off his lunch.” Faith said to herself as she walked on the dirt path leading to her friend’s house. A few of the village chickens were already, moving about and looking for food. Callum’s bachelor cottage was on the other side of the river, though it was only a modest walk there. Humming, Faith could see the village starting to come to life. Families started coming out their tools, ready for today’s work.

As Faith got to Callum’s place, she felt a faint chill. It was an odd chill, since there was no wind in the air, nor was Faith necessarily cold. It felt as if her soul was exposed to something cold.

For a while, Faith just stood at the front door of Callum’s cottage, motionless. She didn’t know why she felt paralyzed. She heard of how the Alvyon Ax-Sages used to go into bizarre trances that caused the Sages to shiver and either make them to stand still in eerie revelation or go into a wild battle dance, but Axe-Sages were extinct hundreds of years ago.

After a while the chill in her soul dissipated and the young Albeonan girl felt her body under her control again. She looked around, seeing if anyone else saw her weird behavior, but everyone was too busy getting ready for work and already knew Faith’s self-proclaimed job of waking Callum up. A few chickens were looking up at her, but they were chickens and Faith paid them no mind.

“That was weird.” Faith muttered as she took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Waiting a second afterwards, she then opened the door.

Callum was awake and already dressed when Faith walked in, though he looked drowsy. Callum was tall, had brown hair, and innocent eyes. He wore a dusty old tunic, brown work pants, and dirty leather boots he bought from a merchant during a fair. His fishing rod and net were already in his hands. Faith was blonde, somewhat shorter than Callum, and her eyes, while full of life, had a more piercing view of the world.

“Faith?” Callum said as he glanced at her approach.

“Oh good! You’re already awake, Callum.” Faith’s mind was still on that strange feeling she had before she came in but managed to speak in a chirpy voice. “I was worried I would have to drag you out of bed once again.”

“I only slept a few times.” That made Faith snort a bit, though Callum didn’t seem to hear. “Faith, I don’t do it all the time...” Callum looked a bit exasperated at this daily verbal game they played, but kept with it.

“Well, everyone is already up and working. You’re supposed to be out fishing by now; won’t get any good catches at this rate.”

“Alright, I’m going!” Callum yelled. “You don’t need to come in every morning to wake me up! I’m not a child.”
Though Callum didn’t seem upset and Faith knew he was like this in the morning, his words did feel a bit hurtful, though why it did Faith did not know. She laughed, though her laugh felt hollow.

“I will stop once you can wake up on time. My family promised your parents that we would look after you.” Faith made sure not to mention the part where they made the promise while Callum’s mother and father were rotting away from plague and spoken through a door so that others do not catch it.

Callum looked a bit miffed and raised his arms up. “That was when I was little! I’m already an adult!”
“If you say so, Callum.” Why did she feel bitter about his words? He said meaner stuff to her, and she to him before, but for some reason this morning was different. Perhaps it was because she did her best to help him and he was ungrateful. Faith didn’t know.

“I have work to do and you do too. Let’s not waste any more time.” Her voice sounded a bit too blunt for her liking. When Callum simply nodded, Faith gave a little nod as well and then left the house.

Mountainwall was starting to come alive, with more people out and about. Faith didn’t see her father near their usual meeting spot near the pond, so she decided to head back to her cottage.

As she passed over the river, a large bug of a type Faith never seen before buzzed around her. While curious about it, Faith’s eyes turned toward her neighbor’s cottage. The Carpenter’s cottage door, which hasn’t been open for two days, was swung wide open. Leaning on the wall next to the door was her father’s ax and billhook.
“Did father finally deal with the matter?” Faith whispered as she went towards the Carpenter’s cottage. As she came closer, she began to notice a rancid smell; it made sense, seeing as Peter and his family was holed up in their house for almost three days for whatever reason.

As Faith approached the increasingly nasty-smelling house, she also heard rustling and some snapping noises coming from it as well.

“Father?” Faith said as she peered in the dark house.

-2-

What she saw first was her mother, or at least a good chunk of her mother, sprawled near the entrance. Next to her was Peter, or what looked like Peter if he had little hair, clusters of holes dotting his yellow, decaying, rancid skin, and grotesque bugs coming from those open pockets of his bodies. His eyes were rolled back and looked as if he was in a stupor, though he had a chilling grin as he dug into Faith’s mother’s corpse and placing chunks of flesh into his mouth for the spiders, toothed worms, and other scurrying vermin to relish. Her body also crawled with the disgusting bugs.

Her father, who was closer to the table on the other end of the cottage, was less mauled, though Faith’s terrified eyes could see that bugs started gnawing away at her father’s hard skin. His face, one eyeball already tunneled in and oozing liquids, showed terror and disgust.

Faith would have also seen that the food placed in the barrels hugging the walls or hangings on hooks on the ceiling were rotting. She would have seen furniture eaten away or smashed; she might have also seen the three sprawling skeletons, two of them quite small, in one of the dark corners of the cottage. She might have seen all this if she wasn’t frozen on the sight of her dead parents.

The sight of it made her throat get caught up and her stomach churn. She started to shake and breath faster and louder, making her head dizzy. Despite her fear and disgust, Faith could not move or avert her eyes on the macabre spectacle that was happening in front of her. Bigger bugs started crawling out of the once-Peter, making the holes in his skins bigger. They quickly scurried towards the bodies, killing and eating the smaller bugs before partaking in the bodies.

It was only when Faith felt the tingly feeling of small objects touching her neck and the annoying buzz that was felt like it was next to her ears that Faith started to react. Instinctively Faith slapped the back of her neck and felt a roundish, fuzzy thing with beating wings around the size of her palm slip away.

Then she made the mistake of looking back at the scene of her family being eaten by monstrosities.
Faith let out the contents of her stomach which was building up from viewing the horrors. As half-digested stew spilled on the dusty and dirty floor, a few of the bugs who were bullied out of partaking the fresh meat by the bigger pests, eagerly scurried towards where Faith leaned over and started filling their hungry mandibles with the organic paste.

Faith reeled back and turned around, hoping for some relief. That was when her senses came back to normality.
She first saw her village. Then she saw bugs of all sorts crawling and flying around. Her eyes then picked up villagers running and swinging tools and weapons at the multitude of crawlers and flyers, and when her mind began processing more of the scene, she saw that some of those bugs were quite big.

And they were eating some of the villagers.

These new, bigger terrors were around the size of a large dog, and had a tough looking carapace surface. All of them seem to have pincers of some sort like a crayfish, though their tails seem to hold a bulbous point that was pointy at the end. They had eight sharp legs and no head to speak of, though Faith could see black eyes dotting the front end of the beings.

Fires were also starting to break as the pandemonium ensued. The villagers that didn’t get butchered were starting to be pushed back into the deep necks of the wood by the buzzing vermin. Faith herself started to get a move on when she felt the edges of her dress getting tugged on and nibbled on by one of the bugs coming from Peter the Carpenter’s cottage. The alarm bells were sounded, but Faith knew it was too late for any to be able to do anything.
She fled towards the forest. Everyone else was, so she would to. All rational thought and problem-solving was gone, and raw instinct kicked in. She dropped her tools in order to lift up the hems of her work dress and run. She was already near the forest when suddenly one of the larger bugs intercepted her from behind one of the trees, a human hand still in between its fat chelicerae. Faith hissed and ran to the left, which led to the lake near Callum’s house.
Callum.

Faith slowed down as she got near the pond. Callum was the closest she had to family, and she was near his house anyways. Taking a deep breath, Faith looked towards the cottage where her friend lived.

Callum was standing in front of his home, looking terrified and backing away from one of the large bugs. Faith felt both relief and fear. Her friend was alive but she was quite far and the bug quite near from him. Nevertheless, Faith started sprinting, her left hand still grasping her dress up. Along the way she grabbed a thick tree branch to use as a weapon.

Please let me save at least one person! Please let me get there in time!

“Leave him alone!” Faith screamed as she came to striking distance with the creature, putting herself between it and Callum. The tree branch was swung up hard on the “chin” of the bug. Despite its carapace skin, the bludgeoning force of the club seemed to have caused it to do a backflip and squirm around.

“Faith?!” Callum gaped. Faith turned around and grabbed his arm.

“Quick Callum, we have to leave before more of these beasts appear!” Faith remembered the gradually larger bugs that were coming out of the holes in Peter’s body.

“A-alright.” Callum stuttered, still in shock from what he just saw. Faith was terrified as well, but if they didn’t get a move on it, both of them would be dead.

Faith led them on the dirt road towards the main exit from the village. While it seemed counterintuitive to go the long way out, Faith wanted to be in open ground in order to avoid getting ambushed by the bugs. As they jogged, they could see swarms of bugs surrounding both the corpses of fellow villagers and the larger bugs eating the corpses. A few got away from the swarm to examine Faith and Callum, but the two swatted them away.
When they reached a fork on the road, Faith led them to the left. She then felt Callum let go.

“The Village Elder!” Callum yelled. Faith turned around to see what a being that was once the leader of the village, now a bulbous pile of flesh. What were once arms were now elongated tubes slowly oozing out slimy transparent membranes, and inside the membranes were the large bugs that seemed to have done most of the killing.

“Callum, we don’t have time!” Faith shouted as she saw one of bugs looking at them and raising its pincers. “Run!”
She grabbed Callum’s arm and pulled, though he needed no encouragement as he started to turn and run. Both of them fled out of the village and into the long winded trail that led to other villages. They could still hear the clinks of the horrible swarms behind them.

The young terrified peasants continued jogging down the trail for some time, keeping an eye out for any potential bug ambushes. As they put some more distance between them and the invaded town, the two started to slow.
Just when Faith was about say something, she heard the crunching of twigs in the bend of the trail. Before she could react, she saw three men in chainmail armor and round iron caps with leather flaps that cover their neck. Their triangular wooden shields had stretched leather attached on the front, and she could see the Great Tree, the heraldry of the King of Albeon, painted on them.

“Capital Guards! Thank the All-Maker!” Faith exclaimed. Relief flooded her body. She stepped towards one of them, who had a very solemn face. “Our village! Monsters are attacking our village!”

The two of the soldiers gave a surprised look, but the soldier Faith was talking to simply walked up…

…And slashed at her after he quickly drew his sword.

“Ah!” Faith shouted as she jumped back, almost falling down on her behind if Callum didn’t catch her.

“Faith!” Callum screamed. His voice became filled with anger. “What the hell are you doing?”

The attacker readied his sword again as he spoke. “Under the orders of King Tyrannus, we are to exterminate any signs of corruption!”

The words gave Faith a chill. Tyrannus controlled Vlamar and most of Bushki up north. He shouldn’t be in Albeon, not without going through Leve, Gel, and the bickering Valentian states. Of course, Mountainwall was a small village that didn’t get too many visitors, so it was possible that the Tyrannian Empire already took over most of Yero.

“King Tyrannus? He’s not the king of Albeon!” Callum snarled.

“No,” the man who attacked Faith and looked to be the leader said with a smile, “but he will become ruler of all Yero soon! Under his orders, we must eliminate the threats to humanity.”

Faith saw the traitorous Capital Guard pulling his sword back slowly. She turned and pushed Callum a bit, shouting, “Callum, run!”

Callum quickly darted into a small opening in the woods to the side. She heard the snarl of the guard about to attack.

“Hold it right there!” Faith turned around fast as he said that, the tree branch she still clutched hitting the side of his head. “Ah!”

Faith quickly ran to the same direction Callum went, jumping over foliage and weaving in and out of trees. Her pursuers followed suit.

“Get them!” The injured guard shouted. Faith could hear them stomping behind her, but she managed to gradually gain some ground ahead of them.

-3-

After a while running through the trees, Faith only heard her own footsteps and slowed down. Her dress got forest debris stuck on the hems and the soles of her shoes felt worn, but Faith did not stop moving. She had to find Callum, though she couldn’t see signs of him in the dark forest of thin yet abundant trees. She slowly slid her feet in order to keep them from crunching on the twigs and dried leaves that the autumn weather brought with it. Even though she couldn't hear the guards anymore, it was best to be cautious.

Faith placed two fingers to the front of her mouth and gave a rapid succession of whistles, similar to the willowbird. She and Callum made a secret language based on the whistles and chirps when they were young children. Now it would be used to keep them alive. Scant seconds later, Faith heard three chirps in reply and started walking slowly towards them. She could see Callum in the distance, who waved his hand and was stumbling over heavy foilage.

Faith replied with a wave as well.

“Did you lose them?” Callum sounded out of air as he approached Faith, who nodded at his question. “So what do we do now?”

Faith thought about the second question. What do they do now? They had little coin, and Faith has never been out of Mountainwall’s vicinity. She didn't know where they could go.

“How about Treeton? That’s the closest village there, and we might be able to find others who escaped from the village. The King might even know what’s going on and is sending real help as we speak!” Callum proposed after Faith didn’t answer for a while.

Faith nodded. Yes, Treeton might be the best option. The people there needed to know, though Faith doubted that simply screaming their tragic tales would help matters. Of course, if there were people from Mountainwall already there, the story might have already spread; she just hoped Treeton didn’t think of Mountainwallers as doombringers. She heard tales of neighboring villages and towns killing refugees running from disaster in order to fend off both bad luck and plague away from their homes.

She also felt a bit jealous, and was quite angry that she would feel so during this time. But she couldn’t help feeling a bit of resentment that Callum, who will always be her best friend she reminded herself, was able to travel to the nearby villages with ease while Faith could not. His tales of amazing houses carved into giant trees and the weird festivals that seem to color each village made her heart yearn to see the things Callum saw with her own eyes. She sometimes wished she was born a bird, free to gaze on the world from afar.

Shaking the sentimentalities aside, Faith allowed Callum to lead the way towards Treeton. Both of them were quiet, glancing around and ready to run the first sign of danger. But all they could hear were their own footsteps crushing the wood and dried leaves underneath. The sun started to go down, and Faith suddenly realized how long they have been walking.

“We should rest for the night. We’ll get to Treeton tomorrow evening.” Callum said, slowing down to gather branches and leaves for the fire they would make. He looked at Faith’s arm. “It’s a good thing you brought my lunch basket.”

Faith looked down to see that the basket her mother prepared this morning was still hanging around her arm. Even if it looked battered and the cloth tied over the food was ripping, it was a miracle that it still hung around. Faith started laughing, tears pouring down. She could see that it was making Callum anxious, but she couldn’t help it. Her parents were eaten by her neighbor, her village destroyed, and the Capital guards they met tried to kill them, but at least she had the basket that she forgot to give Callum because she was a little bit bitter.

“I-I’m sorry.” Faith said as she slowly calmed down. “A lot has happened. I think I need to rest.”

“Yeah, it has been a long day. Let’s find a good place to start a fire but also keep it from being too obvious.”

Callum motioned towards a small ditch a yard or so away with his hand. “That looks like a good place for hiding a fire and keeping us warm.”

In a few short minutes a small firepit was built and a small fire kindled in the trough of the ditch they settled upon. Faith took one slanted side of the ditch while Callum took the other.

“You hungry, Callum?” Faith grasped the small ribbons holding the cloth that covered the basket’s top, but she made no effort to unwrap it, since she knew Callum’s answer.

“Not hungry right now.”

“Figured as much.” She replied as she put the basket aside and wrapped her arms around her tucked in knees. She decided to have small talk; anything to get her mind away from the events of the day. “So you know the way to Treeton?”

“Yeah, went there with Roverd once in order to get some special grubs for fish bait that seems to only live near their town.” Callum added some more twigs and dead leaves into the fire.

“What was it like? I don’t think I remember you talking about Treeton.” Faith rested her chin on her knees.

“There really isn’t much to say about Treeton. It’s just another village surrounded by the Great Forest, except Treeton is near the Sathgar Mountains. This allows them to have more sewing needles and door hinges, but other than that, they just cut trees like Mountainwall did.” Both of them became silent afterwards when Callum said the last part.

“Do you think we can make a difference?” Faith asked Callum, who jolted a bit.

“What do you mean?” Callum tilted his head, his eyes slightly raised.

Well, even if we manage to tell the Treeton villagers what happened and they decide to do something, will that really change anything? You haven’t seen the things I saw, Callum. I saw my parents get eaten by Peter, who was festering bugs out his body. They too started eating father and mother.” Faith clutched her hands together as she became more passionate. “There were a lot of them! Swarms! And those spider-like monsters that almost got you! They did most of the killing. And you know who birthed them? Our own village leader! The man who was supposed to be our voice and soul became a horrifying monster. Both Peter and the Village Elder were acting weird days before, but why? Why did it happen? Is this the beginning of a curse or plague? What if other villages are having the same thing happening there? What can we do against people turning into monsters and spewing out horrors that can rip out our heads or swarms that can gnaw on us to the bone? What can we do against soldiers that betray us for a faraway king? What can two young peasants do to prove to people that we aren’t mad and that these things are happening? What can we do, Callum?"

Faith did not say anything, but simply squeezed her arms harder until her knees started hurting.

She felt an arm go around her shoulder and pull her in a hug. Sniffling, Faith looked up to see Callum next to her, smiling.

“Don’t be scared. Once we get to Treeton, we’ll figure out what to do next. For now, we should be thankful that we’re alive and get some rest. So please lift your head high, Faith. Please?”

Faith gave a half-hearted smirk and punched him in the arms. “You’re the last person I want giving me a spirit-lifting speech. The way you think is so silly and childish. Thank goodness you aren’t king!” Both of them laughed. Though Callum took his arm off Faith, he continued sitting next to her.

“Let’s get some rest. If we start up early, we’ll be able to reach Treeton by the time the sun sets.” Callum said as he made a small pile of leaves over his body. The heat of the dying fire, the enclosed ditch, and the leaves would keep them warm. Faith started doing the same.

“I doubt the soldiers will find us now.” Faith mused as she looked at where Callum was laying. With the fire going down, she could barely see his body under all the leaves and branches.

“Yeah.” Callum said as they settled themselves in their respective piles.

Silence once again filled the void as the two slowly withdrew to their own thoughts. The scurrying of nocturnal rodents and the hoot of the owl were all they could hear. There was no wind, and clouds lightly covered the moon.
“Thanks for saving me back there.” Callum said suddenly, stirring Faith out of her sleep.

“Wha..” Faith mumbled as she slowly turned to look at him. The moon was clear by now, and she could see Callum give a faint smile.

“When that giant bug came to attack me, you put yourself in its path in order to save me. I just wanted to say thanks.” Callum’s smile became a littler wider. “I’m sure if you were given something better than a club, you could reclaim Mountainwall in no time.”

Faith gave a smile back. That was an idea she never thought of. The crayfish-thing was only stunned by the bludgeoning force, but the large tree branch she used did seem to have an effect. What if an ax, spear, or sword hit it? She recalled farmers and craftspeople using their tools to fend off the swarms of smaller bugs, which did seem to kill a few. It was the sudden appearance and the messy deaths of a few of the villagers that caused a panic. If the villagers were more organized, they might have been able to stop it.

The monsters could bleed and die, and that made Faith smile a little bit more.

“You couldn’t protect yourself from a dandelion if it decided to uproot itself and flail its leaves at you. It was up to me to save your sorry arse, as always. I made a promise, and I plan to keep it. Besides, family looks out for each other.” Faith ruffled Callum’s hair, who in turn winced and tried to wrestle it away. Both of them chuckled in a tone that was not heard since before that fateful morning.

As they settled down and looked up at the stars, Faith felt a little better. She started getting a better idea of what she would do once they went into Treeton. Though it would possibly upset Callum, it was something Faith had to do. She would think about it more tomorrow.

“If we don’t get any sleep now, I don’t think we’ll be able to wake up early enough to get to Treeton by tomorrow evening.” Callum moaned.

“Oh hush then and go to sleep. I’ll wake you up early, just like I always do.” Faith rebuked, though not harshly
.
“Do you think your parents will be at Treeton, looking for you?”

“Good night, Callum.”
Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
-Joseph Campbell

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Heretic
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Re: The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Heretic » Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:28 am

I didn't realize how fucking corny childhood friend relationships were in anime until I started writing one myself. The really corny parts are from the game.
_______________________


-4-
The next morning, while the mist was still under the tall, golden-leaved trees, Faith sat up. The leaves were damp and she shivered a bit. Even with the heavy clothes she and Callum wore the Winter Crone’s kiss still touched them. The firepit, whose flame was long extinguished, offered only wet ashes.

Faith rubbed her eyes and yawned.

“Mother? What’s for breakfast?” Silence was her reply. Faith opened her eyes to see that she was in a forest. When she remembered what happened the day before her heart sank. Slowly getting up and brushing off the leaves that clung to her dress, Faith gazed about. The forest was very still and very quiet, and she could hear Callum’s faint breathing.

Looking at her friend, Faith saw Callum’s fair face slightly red from being out in the cold air. Faith crouched down and brushed aside a leaf that sat on his cheek. His brown hair was ruffled, though his bangs still stayed parted. He looked so innocent and childish, a thing so fragile that a faint breeze could blow him away.

He’s dear to my heart, Faith thought as she stood up, I will protect him at all costs. He’s all I have.

“Wake up, fishhead.” Faith barked as she gave Callum a kick in the rib.

“Argh.” Callum groaned as he clutched his sides. “What was that for? You could have just pulled my sheets or something.” He glared at Faith, but then his face softened when he glanced around. “Oh. Yeah.”

Faith sat down next to him, grasping the handle of the basket that lay next to her. She untied the knots holding the cover, and glanced at the food. The fish seemed edible still, kept preserved by the cold weather. The three hard boiled eggs seemed a bit cracked and the apples a bit bruised, but other than that it seemed perfectly good enough for breakfast. She handed two of the eggs to Callum.

“Have some breakfast.” She said. Callum shook his head as he brushed off leaves from his tunic.

“Not hungry.” Callum gave a little pout.

“Oh come now, you’ll need the energy to get us to Treeton.” Faith replied as she thrust the eggs towards Callum’s chest.

“Fine.” Callum mumbled and then smiled as he took the slightly chipped eggs from Faith’s hand.

Both of them ate in silence. The fish was divided in half amongst them after the eggs were finished, and it didn't taste all that bad. The apples were tossed once it was discovered that worms got into it. Worm-ridden apples didn't bother the frugal villagers before, but after yesterday the thought of worms made both of them sick right now.
With breakfast finished, the two of them set off again towards Treeton, Callum leading the way. They decided to take a more careful approach to getting there, avoiding the roads in order to avoid any unfortunate surprises, such as bandits or more traitorous guards. They said little during the journey, concentrating on listening to any signs of danger. Years of playing around in the woods paid off as the two skillfully trudged through the thick and occasionally hazardous forest.

It was evening, as Callum predicted, when the two young villagers came to Treeton. It was more sophisticated than Mountainwall, having signs to various shops and an inn for tourists to see. The dirt streets were more orderly than the ones at Mountainwall, going in straight lines around the large houses. The clothing the villagers of Treeton were more colorful in contrast to the more work-oriented and torn clothes Faith and Callum wore.

"We made it to Treeton..." Faith gasped as she finally stopped walking. Callum was behind her, since he slowed down when they got near the village. Faith pointed at the building that had a sign of an ale mug. "Come on Callum, let's get some rest." Both of them started heading toward the door. The village folk, while glancing at the newcomers then and now, were too busy heading back to their homes for the night.

The inn from the outside looked very impressive. The door was made of good quality wood, as the slight sheen gave testament. Unlike Mountainwall cottages with their thatched roofs and bulky walls, the inn and its smaller, more residential cousins had finely tiled roofs and wider builds supported by finely carved arches. While Mountainwall had an abundance of wood, Treeton's architecture gave testament to its wealth, skill, and time. The inn was also two stories tall, which would show the more intellectual observer the time and effort given by this village to make such a thing possible. Mountainwall was too busy with surviving next winter to care much about impressing travelers, and the only building there that had a second story was the Village Elder's house, and that was little more than a small wooden canopy on the roof with a ladder going up to it.

The only other interesting thing that seemed to mark the inn was the strangely dressed man and a dog standing next to the door. The man was a little taller than Callum, having slicked back black hair and piercing blue eyes that seem to squint. He wore a traveler's cloak, but underneath showed finely-made clothing that was mostly white. The shirt even had buttons and the belt gleamed of steel. In front of his right eye a large monocle was miraculously standing, though there was a small chain attached from it leading to under his collar. His uplifted hand clutched at a necklace of small chains. Hanging on the bottom was a red gem of some sort, and the man seemed to be gazing at it with his monocled eye.

The dog next to him was a small, yellow mutt of some sort. It had a thick, smooth coat and a giant tuft of fur growing around its chest. It wore a green cape around its neck, and was sitting looking up at the monocled man patiently.

Travelers like us, Faith thought as she and Callum entered the inn, except they didn't have to face the horrors we did.

Inside the spacious inn and across from the two was the long tabletop that consisted of the bar. Behind the bald, gruff-looking man who was pouring a wooden jug into the small cup of a seemingly young traveler, lines of covered pots and the occasional bottle of Valentian wine filled with cupboards. To the right of Faith were eight tables, with a few patrons mulling over their drinks.

Faith walked towards the bartender, her hands on the small pouch tied between her dress and her belt. She had some coin, so they could get a room.

"We need a room." Faith said, trying to not feel embarrassed as the bartender and the patron that looked like a traveler gazed at their ripped and dirty clothes.

The bartender nodded. "Aye, we've got rooms. Do you have the coin?" His eyes leered a bit, though he didn't seem absolutely hostile. When Faith gave placed the few copper she had, the man gave a rough and heavy sigh.
"This is not enough, miss." He said, pushing back the coins. Faith was about to say something in order to get the man's pity when Callum spoke.

"W-we just came from Mountainwall and..." Callum stopped when Faith grabbed him and dragged him back a bit, giving a faint smile and wave to the bartender before turning her head back to Callum.

"Callum!" She hissed in low tones.

"What?" He said confused. He glanced back at the bar and then back at Faith.

"We shouldn't speak of it here." Faith knew that if the people knew what happened to Mountainwall right now, they might be tossed out, or worse, killed. Callum, on the other hand, had other thoughts.

"What? Why not?" Callum said in a defiant tone as he slowly backed away from Faith's grasp. Faith gave a sigh. Her friend was always such a naive boy.

"If we talk about it here," she said slowly, "it could cause a great panic." Callum was silent for a bit, conflicted about what to say.

'At least he understands', Faith thought, and then while bring Callum closer to her again said, "I will speak with the Village Elder, but first I need to find you a place to rest."

"Me? What about you!" Callum voice raised. He gave a look of bewilderment. Faith smiled at him.

"Don't worry about me. You come first, Callum."

Before Faith or Callum could say anything more, they heard a voice behind them.

"…Hey…" It was the traveler that the bartender was serving. He was wearing a brown traveler's cloak like the man outside the inn, but it wrapped around his body so they couldn't see his clothing underneath. He had a large fringe of hair partially covering his left eye, and a ponytail hung around his neck.

"I will pay for their lodging for the night…" The man continued. Both Faith and Callum gave a gasp. This stranger was helping them, and Faith thought it was too good to be true. Hospitality felt rare for some reason after yesterday, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with it.

"Really, mister?" Faith asked, her spirits rising. The man nodded. She then cautioned herself and said, "You don't need to pay for both of us. Just for the boy is fine, sir."

The traveler shook his head, giving a faint smile as he pulled out two silver coins and placed them on the counter. "The All-Maker has provided me with enough so that I can provide to those in need."

With that, the man stood up and walked out of the inn. His gait was very silent, even when the heavy boots that shown underneath the cloak stepped on the old wooden floor.

"May the All-Maker bless you, sir!" Faith said as she and Callum watched him leave. She knew it would be worthwhile to worship the All-Maker, though she wondered why he would destroy her life. It was a question best left to the priests.

"It seems that the All-Maker is smiling on you two. Go up the stairs, the first room and the farthest room is free." The bartender said as he swiped the coins with one hand into another.

"Thank you very much!" Faith said as she started heading towards the stairs, and then stopped. "Who is that man so that I may repay him?"

The bartender spat into one of the wooden cups and wiped it with a cloth. "A holy man. Not sure where he's from nor his name. Just came in for a drink before he continued his travels." The bartender looked up at them and gave a small smile. "All-Maker be willing, you will have a chance to repay his kindness."

Faith gave a small bow. "Thank you." And then she grabbed Callum's hand and said, "Come on, Callum. We had a long day..."

The two of them started up the stairs. When they got to the room that was most likely Callum's, Faith stopped. Callum turned around and spoke.

"What are we to do now, Faith?" Callum looked at the floor. "We can't go back to Mountainwall..."

"I'm going to speak to the leader tonight. He needs to know about our village." Faith then took a deep breath as she spoke again. "Then I’ll talk to him about a place for you here."

Callum's eyes widened and his mouth dropped a bit. "Wait, where are you planning on going?"

"Somewhere...I'm not sure yet, but I feel like I need to find out what has happened to our village." Faith lowered her head and clutched her hands in deep thought. "I think I will go to the Capital. Try to learn more about this. Our king must know something about this.."

Faith was talking more to herself than to Callum, much to his chagrin. He grasped Faith's shoulder, which made her look up from her contemplation.

"The Capital? Faith, you cannot be serious! It is so far from here." In order to make a point, he stretched one arm out and made it move to the side. Faith nodded but kept her chin high in resolution.

"Callum, I cannot just sit around and do nothing with the possibility that other villages could be attacked by those monsters." Faith bit her lip as she remembered the sight of her parents at Peter's cottage. Yes, she has to do something. She saw Callum avert his eyes a bit, sadness showing. Faith felt a bit pained at this, but she had to do it.

"I need to help, Callum." Faith whispered. Callum slowly looked at Faith and then averted his eyes again.

"Are you sure about this, Faith?" He said, slowly pulling his hands away from her shoulders. Faith felt angry at herself for what she was doing, but she kept it bottled up.

"I am." She said, looking at Callum, who nodded faintly.

"Alright." He said, his eyes lowering and his cheeks puffing a bit to give his mouth a stretched look. It was his resignation face that he used when he knew Faith was doing something that was reckless but he couldn't do anything about.

"Hey, don't make that face, Callum." Faith whispered as she gave a light punch to Callum's arm. When he didn't respond, Faith gave a small sigh. She knew this would be hard. "This is what I need to do. Best get some rest."

The silence between was longer than Faith cared for. Both of them were looking elsewhere, Callum at the wall behind her and Faith at the hinges of the door that stood in between them.

Callum then gave a sigh and looked at her. Faith in return looked at him. "Goodnight, Faith." He raised a hand but then quickly dropped it. Faith clenched her nails together. This was harder than she thought. She took a deep breath and looked at him straight in the eyes.

"Goodnight, Callum." With that said Callum turned around and walked into his room. Faith went towards her room two doors down.

"Hey Faith?" Callum's voice rang from the room. Faith stopped but did not turn around.

"Yes?"

"You will be here in the morning, right?" The way he said it, as if he needed her to be there tomorrow, made Faith wince and consider her actions, but in the end...

"Yes." Faith lied. Silence again.

"Good night." Callum faintly replied.

Faith gave a small sigh and then headed to her room. She would lie down for a bit before heading to the village elder's house. It is Albeonan tradition for the elder to be able to rise up early and go to bed later. Special concoctions made by the local herbalists helped with the process. Faith was sure that the Village Elder of Treeton would be still be awake after a light nap.

Faith's room, when she got there, was bare. It had a bed with a small chest tucked under it for storing personal belongings, and a small circular table with two stools. Faith flopped down on the bed, which was quite comfortable and warm.

She rested for what seem to be half an hour before she got up again and left the room, slightly more refreshed. As she went down the hallway, Faith looked into Callum's room, whose door was still open. He was sprawled on the floor, breathing heavily.

"Oh by the gods." Faith muttered as she went into his room and lifted him up. "At least fall on the bed if you're so dead tired. Ugh..." Faith dragged him towards the bed. Flopping him down after she pulled the bedsheets down, she adjusted his body so that he looked as if he was properly sleeping, and then pulled the sheets back up.

"Goodbye, Callum." Faith whispered as she sat at the edge of the bed and brushed his hair. "I'll protect you and everything you hold dear. Start a life here, Callum. Build a farm, use your stupid naive outlook to make friends, marry a good girl, start a family and have many children. I don't know if I'll see you again or if I'll ever make it to the Capital at all, but understand that you are all I have left. I will make sure that what happened in Mountainwall will never befall your new home. And if we ever do meet again, please forgive me for lying to you. This was for the best."

Faith stood up, looked at Callum for what might be the last time, and walked out the door. She headed towards the stairs, and as she walked down, she saw the dog with the cape slowly pushing itself up the stairs, sauce and crumbs still clinging on its beard. It looked at Faith with a content pant.

"Woof." It said as it continued stepping on one step after another.

"You look like you had a feast." Faith said as she patted the dog's head before walking down. The dog wagged its tail and then continued walking up.

I swear I will fight to protect your new life here in Treeton, Callum. I will crush anyone who tries to destroy that!

Faith came to the bar, where the bartender was still tending a few patrons. Faith placed her hands on the counter and coughed. The bartender looked up at her.

"I am going out to see the Village Leader. I forgot...that I needed to be somewhere and won't be staying tonight. Can I have my coin back? My friend is asleep, so if we wakes tell them that I met the Village Elder."

The bartender grunted and tossed her a silver coin. "Thanks." The bartender grunted again.

As Faith left the inn and into the chilly night, she let out a loud sigh and then started to tear up. She kept herself from crying when her parents died, in order to look strong for Callum, but now, for some reason, she couldn't help it. She went behind a tree where no one would see, though no villager or traveler was out at the moment, and wailed. Her eyes stung hard as the tears soiled the collar of her dress.

After a while, Faith calmed down and wiped her eyes and nose with her sleeves. She started to compose herself, not wanting to look like a wreck in front of the Village Elder of Treeton. After a few minutes wiping away the tears and trying to dry the collar and sleeves of her dress, Faith then started to walk towards the building that looked like the Village Elder's house.

I will fight for you, Callum.


-5-
"So, let me rehearse what you just said to me." The Village Elder said as he placed his spiced ale cup on the large square table. Faith was sitting across the table on one of the stools, while the Village Elder sat on what looked like a wooden throne.

"Bugs of various sorts started coming out of your neighbor and your Village Elder, which killed most of the village including your parents, and then you encountered Capital guards whose loyalties were towards King Tyrannus?" The Village Elder rubbed his forehead as he gave a wince. "I don't know what to think about that story. No one else from Mountainwall has came. While you do look like you've been through alot, Faith the Forester of Mountainwall, you and your friend that came with you might just be a couple running away from some family issue."

While that comment made Faith blush a bit, she kept a straight face. "That's why I am asking you to send a scouting party to see for yourself what has happened to Mountainwall."

The Village Elder of Treeton shook his head. "Too risky if its true and too wasteful if its false. That should be the Fireswords' jobs. They do silly heroics like that. I'm too worried about making sure trade comes in and taxes go out."

Faith perked up a bit. The Fireswords, the eyes and hands of the King. They never deem any rumor of evil as too silly, as witches and ghoulish beings do lurk in the Great Forest. They also allow women and non-nobles to join their ranks, so Faith might have a chance. Faith started to feel numb from the good luck she found.

"In that case, can you write a letter of recommendation that can allow me to enter the Palace so that I may bring my case to the king?" Faith saw that what she said made the man shake his head.

"Can't do that. Not enough proof to bring the case to the King. You can probably bring it to Earl Lodether, since he holds domain over Treeton, Mountainwall, and Lost Wind. It would be his responsibility to figure out what's going on. From what I remember he should be at the Capital." The Village Elder took another gulp of his drink, gave a sigh as he placed it down, and started scratching his beard. "But that will require much political navigating. They say anyone, even a peasant, can go to the Palace and make their case to the king, but the Earls have made a monopoly on who can see the king and who can't, and the king doesn't know. I'm not sure if you..actually, hold on."

The Village Elder turned his body around towards the kitchen, where his fatigued daughter was making tea for him and Faith.

"Annaly! Annaly, come here!" He shouted. From the kitchen entrance came a young blonde woman who had shadows under her eyes and her poinytail looking messy.

"Yes Father?" She said in a low, tired voice. Faith felt sorry for Annaly, who looked like she could collapse at any moment.

"Get that Vlamaran whose setting up the mouse traps in the cellar. I want to ask him something."
"Yes father." Annaly simply said as she turned around and went back into the kitchen. The Village Elder turned back to Faith.

"I know a man who might be able to help you navigate the political crap you'll have to go through at the Capital, even if he's Vlamaran."

Faith gave a smile. "Thank you so much for your help, sir. I don't know what I could do without it." The elder chuckled.

"Oh think nothing of it. I am always ready to help a young flower like yourself." He then concentrated on finishing his mug. "Ahh..much better. Gotta get Annaly to refill this. More?" When Faith shook her head politely, "Suit yourself."

"So, you'll let my friend Callum stay as a member of your community?" Faith said. The Village Elder, who was looking elsewhere, looked at her.

"Hmm? Come again?"

"I said will you let my friend Callum stay and live in your village?"

"Oh sure, sure," The Village Elder waved his hand, "I'll let him stay. Now where the hell is Annaly with my refill."
Faith gave as slight sigh and looked at her empty cup. She then heard footsteps from the kitchen and looked up. Following behind Annaly, who was carrying a pot of boiling tea, was the monocled man that Faith and Callum saw in front of the inn.

"Ah, Annaly, you came with my tea. Ah..um, why is he following you?" The Village Elder glanced at the man.

"You sent for me, sir." The man droned, taking off his monocle to clean it with a small cloth he pulled from one of his pockets.

"I did? Oh yes!" The man clapped and pointed an upturn hand at Faith. "This young lady would like to go to the Capital in order to make a case to Earl Lodether, and I was hoping you could help her, Sir..ermm..." The Village Elder scratched his head as he thought long and hard at what the man's name was.

"Nikola. Nikola Savante." The man's sharp eyes leered at The Villager Elder, though the Village Elder didn't seem to notice or mind.

"Yes. Nikola, I want you to take Faith the Forester of Mountainwall to the Capital and help her navigate the politics of the Palace. Her village was destroyed by monsters, and she would like to appeal to either Earl Lodether or King Filip Swordbreaker for assistance." The Elder turned to Faith and beamed at her. Faith gave a weak smile in turn.
Nikola Savante turned his piercing gaze to Faith. Faith felt a shiver creep up behind her back and went up to the nape of her neck. Faith was no shy girl, but with the elderly Village Elder's wide grinning demeanor and the seemingly young Nikola Savante's frowning gaze, she couldn't help but uncomfortable. The tired Annaly came into the large meeting room, bearing a tray of more sweets and the Village Elder's refill.

"Annaly, would you kindly prepare some sweets for Sir Nikola." The Village Elder said as Annaly's now shaking hands placed the tray and doled out the trays. Faith gave a look at Annaly and felt sorry for the poor girl.

"Yes father. Sir Nikola, what would you like?" Annaly's voice was monotone as she turned to Nikola. Nikola was still looking at Faith and continued making her feel nervous.

"Anything with honey and no nuts." Nikola's voice was also flat and aloof, not paying any heed to the poor girl.
As Annaly was about to turn around and trudge back into the kitchen, Faith tugged on her sleeve. Annaly her head to stare at the general direction.

"Thanks." Faith said. Annaly looked into Faith's eyes for a moment, and then slowly nodded.

"You're welcome, Faith of Mountainwall." Annaly then turned around and went back to her kitchen. Faith then gave a cold look at Annaly's father, who was too busy eating his meal with gusto to notice.

"Well?" Faith jumped a bit and turned to Nikola, who was still watching her. "What is it that you need when you get to the Capital?"

'Was he watching me the whole time?' Faith thought to herself as she nervously straightened herself out.

"Well, Sir Nikola, I really don't…know." Faith cursed herself for stumbling on what to say. Nikola gave a sigh and placed his hand over his mouth, his index and middle finger caressing his cheek slowly. His eyes still gazed into Faith's soul with those sharp, blue eyes.

"You don't know? Then why go to the Capital at all? Are you trying to get the earl to change something, are you hoping the king would use his kingly powers to somehow bring your village back, or is it that you think the Palace will send out a dashing hero who will slay the monsters, all because a peasant girl in dirty clothes said monsters destroyed her small village? The King and his Earls are busy and don't like it when people come without really knowing what they want. They will work for a solution, but different solutions require going through different channels. A sob story will not get anywhere."

Faith's anger flared at Nikola's condescending speech, but she kept it inside. She needed this foreigner's hep, no matter how arrogant he comes off as.

"I..." Faith bit her lip as she tried to figure out what she wanted. She was hoping Earl Lodether would do something, but what was the politics at the Capital like? She couldn't afford any delays. "I...." She had to protect Callum and others from the horrors Mountainwall faced, and realized now that sending a few patrols and tightening the security of the other Albeonan settlements wouldn't stop that. The Great Forest didn't protect Mountainwall, as the destruction came from within. Faith realized that her options were shrinking the more she thought about it. "I...
"I...want to join the Fireswords." Faith finally said and looked at Nikola straight in the eye. "I want to join the Fireswords because I hear that they specialize in fighting both the magical and the mundane. I want to join them because they investigate all manners of rumors and wives' tales in order to find and purge the evils that lurk in the dark shadows of the Great Forest, as well as those in men's souls. I want to join because I was there when my neighbor, who hasn't been seen for two days, devoured my parents while terrible bugs were spewing out from holes in his skins. I fought with a large crayfish that had a large stinger on its tail when it tried to attack my friend. I know how to fight them. I saw Capital guards attack us in the name of King Tyrannus. I fought one and managed to escape."

Faith saw Nikola's eyes grow large for a second and then went back to his indifferent gaze when she mentioned what happened to her neighbor. The fingers that were stroking his cheeks paused for a bit when she mentioned Tyrannus. The Village Elder paid no heed, concentrating on devouring a small pie. How he didn't bloat like the Village Elder in Mountainwall was a mystery to Faith, and the reminder gave her a small pain.

"Pack what you can carry and meet me by the front of the inn. We'll be leaving tonight." Nikola finally said after a while.

"What, leaving so soon?" The Village Elder looked up from his meal. Nikola turned to him and nodded.

"I think it is best we leave as soon as possible." Nikola started heading back into the kitchen, but then turned to look at Faith again. "If what you say is true, then we must hurry before Tyrannus' fingers squeeze whatever hope you have in fighting the Devourment." With that, Nikola disappeared into the kitchen.

"The..Devourment?" Faith whispered as she slowly got up. The Village Elder turned to look at Faith and shrugged.
"Well, I must be leaving, sir." Faith gave a curtsy. "I thank you for your hospitality and help."

The Village Elder gave a wave of his hand, showing that he didn't think nothing of it. "For a pretty lady like you, anything. If there's anything you need before you go, please tell me!"

Faith gave it some thought. The Capital, as far as she knows and heard, is quite far. It's would take four days to get to the Capital from Mountainwall, and even Callum didn't go there during his mini-travels with the other fishermen.
"We will need food, blankets, flint and steel..." Faith started using her fingers to mentally count what she needed. The thought that she was actually going to the Capital and being able to have a clear picture of what she needed to do there gave her confidence.

"Anything you ask for, I'll see if I can get." The Village Elder went into the kitchen. Faith followed, still slowly listing what she needed, and saw that in one corner, next to a few barrels, was an opening with ladders leading down. Annaly was at the other side of the room, looking over a small metal oven that seemed to have been built into the wall, completely oblivious that everyone was there behind her.

“...new clothes, travelling cloak, and.." Faith looked around the kitchen and saw a small wood axe lying near the barrels. “..and that axe.”

The Village Elder looked at it and simply nodded. “Of course, of course!” He said as he grabbed a small backpack and started tossing things inside.

Faith picked up the axe and bounced it in her hand.. While not light as her old axe, it fit comfortably enough in her grasp. The Village Elder came to her and handed Faith the now-stuffed backpack.

"I put in some essentials for the long trip. May Reuf guide you to your destination, Faith of Mountainwall." The Village Elder gave a bow as Faith gave another curtsy.

The Village Elder led Faith towards the door. "Remember, if you need anything, be sure to come by anytime. And don't worry about your friend Ca...erm.."

"Callum, sir."

"Yes Callum. I'll make sure he will have a place in Treeton, don't you worry. Treetoners are the nicest people in all of Albeon, and it is my duty to help any who need it." The Village Elder opened the door, and gave another bow as Faith went out.

"Thank you sir. You are most generous and I hope to repay your kindness." Faith said as she turned around. Annaly was cleaning the table in the background. Faith looked at The Village Elder and nodded. "Well, I must be going. Take care."

"You too, my fair lass." The Village Elder shouted as Faith walked off back towards the inn. "You too!"
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Heretic
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Re: The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Heretic » Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:33 pm

Ugh...I wish Word formatting carried over, because it's a pain trying to reformat on here. Also, this chapter is pretty conversation-heavy since I was so obsessed with getting my word count, so brace yourselves

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-6-
It was around midnight when Nikola came, carrying a small satchel underneath his travelling cloak.

"Let us be off." The Vlamaran said as he continued to walk, heading towards the trail leading out of Treeton.

Faith quickly followed suit. She was dressed in a red linen dress that the Village Elder placed inside her pack and which she changed into when she went back into the inn to examine the contents inside. A travelling cloak was also donned, and the axe she took hung under her belt. Faith also had in her hand a long stick that would serve as a walking stick. Her companion didn't seem to have one.

"The Capital will take three days to get there." Nikola said as they went under the golden canopy of two arching trees. "This should lead us directly to the Capital."

For a while, both of them said nothing. There wasn't much to see as they walked aside from trees, fallen autumn leaves, and the occasional brook here or there. Faith did hear bestial growls in the distance here and there, but what Faith kept an eye on was her new companion, unsure what to think of him. He didn't seem too threatening, but the way he looked at people and spoke was quite off, and to Faith's mind, obnoxious. It's like he didn't seem to notice how he acted.

As they crossed a small bridge that connected the land separated by a small stream, Faith caught something in the corner of her eye behind the bushes on the side the two of them were walking towards. The moon was shining, and its light was what gave the shine to the object Faith saw.

"Sir Nikola." Faith whispered as she got closer. Nikola continued walking.

"I see them. Bandits. Keep walking." He said, though not so quietly as Faith would have liked. He simply flicked both of his hands at the river, as if he was simply flinging some dirt off his finger. Why he did so was beyond Faith.
As the two of them reached the lip of the bridge, Faith could hear rustling coming from the bushes of both sides of the road. Her hand, hidden under the flowing green traveler cloak, quickly grasped the head of the axe, ready to be pulled out from the belt if attacked. Nikola continued to walk as if nothing was happening, not even giving a glance to the noises.

Suddenly, a loud yell erupted from Faith's left, and the whole forest came to life as a dozen men poured out from their hiding spots in the bushes and trees. Heavily adorned in furry garbs and their face marked in red paint, the bandits started to surround the two travelers. Many of their weapons were of the cruder sort, cleavers and bludgeons of all sorts being their main arsenal.

"Look what we have, boys!" The voice came from the largest of the group, a beast of man who had scars all over his bare torso. In each hand was a large spiked mace. A menacing smile was etched in his heavily-bearded face, but his eyes were those of a predator eyeing its prey. "A scrawny foreigner who looks like he's got some wealth on him, and a young lass who will serve as 'entertainment' after we rob them."

The remark, which made the rest of the bandit howl and hoot, gave Faith chills that went all over her body. Her hand pulled out the axe and grasped the handle. She moved her cloak a bit in order to mask her actions underneath from the bandits. Nikola on the other hand, kept still.

"I would advise that you move aside, scum. I am a mage and I am in no mood of dealing with the lower classes." He simply said.

The large bandit with the two maces, who seemed to be the leader of the group, gave a fiercer smile. "Oh, so we have a haughty rich mage now! Well, sir mage," that was said with mock politeness, "while you may have some fancy tricks up your sleeves, I got twelve of my boys ready to cut you down the first second you raise your hands. What can you and your girlfriend do against all of us, magic or not?"

As if to hammer in the point, the bandits gave shouts and snarls in reply. Some even inched it closer, brandishing their weapons menacingly. Nikola continued to stand still, and Faith clutched her axe harder as she faced the bandits that surrounded behind them. She then felt a cloaked hand clutch her own cloaked hand.

"That won't be necessary, Faith of Mountainwall." Nikola mumbled as he released her hand, and then, raising his voice towards the bandits, said: "While it is true that you have superior numbers and a mind-numbing willingness to throw away your lives away for a piece of copper, you made a mistake."

The bandit leader leered at Nikola and gave a harsh laugh that sounded more a like a single, raspy cough. The bandits started to shuffle closer to the two travelers.

"What do you mean, made a mistake? You're the one that's trapped two to one, a scrawny foreign mage and his bitch against all of us." He made a wide gesture, indicating the bandits.

The bandits, in turn, was tightening the circle around Faith and Callum. Faith started lifting her axe up, angry that she was called a bitch and that she was about to be killed, ravaged, or both before she could even lift a finger and accomplish her dreams. As she was about to unveil the axe that hid underneath her cloak, she saw it.

"You made the mistake of thinking there were only two of us." Nikola calmly said as he looked at the bandit's every widening eyes when he looked behind Nikola.

Faith, in turn, gave a yelp when she saw its eight legs grasp one of the bandits and sunk its mandibles into the screaming man's neck. Thick white thread was streaming from the its balloon-like abdomen of and trailing from the river. The bandits that were near their unfortunate colleague tripped backwards and scattered to get themselves away from the large spider.

"What in Reuf's beard is that?" The bandit leader gasped as he gazed stupidly at the monstrosity devouring one of his men.
"That, my short-sighted friend, is a Nil Spider. They enjoy dwelling in water and whatever liquids the Nil consists of, and usually only come out to hunt. When they come out of their bath for a prolonged period of time , they get really, really cranky. As my second friend shall demonstrate behind you.”

“What?” The bandit leader gave a confused look at Nikola, and then turned around.

Another Nil Spider, this time coming from the trees, lunged at him. The bandit leader tried to dodge to the side but it was too late. The large spider's front end pressed itself against his chest and the bandit leader, who was now trying to swing his maces at the monster, fell back. The sharp furry mandibles of this one promptly and unceremoniously ripped the large man's face off before jumping off and turning to another bandit. A few of the bandits remained, either brave or stupid enough to fight back, but most ran off into the woods.

One of the bandits threw his axe at the head of the Nil Spider that killed the leader, and a large crunch resonated from it as the weapon embedded itself above the spider's many eyes. It gave a harsh clicking noise and wobbled a bit before folding its legs in itself and collapsing. The now unarmed bandit turned to his few colleagues, four in number including himself, and shouted.

"His pets can be killed. Aim for the head!" He then pulled out a knife from a small scabbard strapped slung from his chest and started lunging towards the still-immobile Nikola.

Faith was also immobile, still watching in grim fascination as the spider that came out of the river faced off with two of the bandits, who were slowly trying to circle it on both sides and flank it. The spider's mandibles rubbed together as it moved back in order to keep itself from losing sight of one bandit or the other. One of the bandits, who was wielding two small daggers, quickly and lightly grasped the blade of one of the dagger and chucked it at the spider. The spider turned to the side equally as quick and the dagger dug into the abdomen. Green liquid of a sort trickled out from the wound and the spider's clicking mandibles increased in tempo, possibly indicating pain, but continued to walk backwards, its four rear legs already touching the moving water. Both bandits started picking up large rocks and chucking them at the spider, who seemed to be being pushed back further and further in the water. One of the rocks even snapped its left foremost leg.

I have to do something! Faith thought as she pulled out her axe from her cloak and out into the open. That spider won't hold out for much longer and then we'll be in trouble.

Faith started to slowly step towards the bandit with now only one dagger. He and his friend were getting cocky and quite sure of their victory, as they started to casually toss the stones from one hand to the other. They even seem to have forgotten that Faith and Nikola were behind them.

'How stupid can they be?' Faith couldn't believe how lucky she was. She quickly lifted the handle of her wood axe up and letting the axe head tilt back to gain some strength...

...and froze. Faith tried with all her might, but could not get her body to make the axe swing down on the bandit's head.

'Come on, Faith. Kill or be killed. They would have raped me if we were captured. You wanted to be a Firesword. They have to be killed!' Faith tried to justify it, but it came too slowly.

"Lindil, behind you!" The bandit next to the one Faith was concentrating one shouted.

Faith and the bandit she was directly behind jerked up. The dagger-user turned around and looked straight into each other's eyes for a split second, and then Faith swung the axe down. It was too late, however, as the bandit sidestepped and tried digging his small blade into Faith's stomach, but Faith also jumped back. The two opponents placed their respective weapon in front of them, and started to shuffled and weave back and forth in hopes of getting the upper hand over the other.

While Faith concentrated on defending herself from any attacks by her attacker, she saw in the corner of her eye that spider lunging at the other bandit, who for only a second turned his attention towards Faith. That second was all the spider needed to charge. Faith couldn't see much, but she did make out the fat frame of the spider toppling over the lean frame of the unfortunate, screaming bandit.

The bandit Faith was fighting seemed to have noticed what was going on behind him as he quickly lunged towards Faith, the sharp point thrusting at her neck.

"Pissing drunkards, I'll finish this up and get outta here." He snarled as he leaned forward more and let the blade do the job.

It nearly stabbed into Faith's jugular vein if she didn't twist her body to the side as fast as she did. It only simply nicked the right side of her neck, but blood started trickling down. The world suddenly slowed down a bit, Faith feeling a bit of a rush coming to her body. She quickly head-butted the bandit's unguarded shoulder, and as the man tumbled back from the force, Faith raised her axe and slammed it down. This time without hesitation.

Warm blood splattered her already red dress and on her skin as Faith gave the bandit a second blow and then a third. Her breathy was heavy and fast, and all Faith could feel was the tingly rush in her body and the

lightheartedness that was coming to her forehead. She was about to give the now gutted body a fourth strike when she caught the spider in the corner of her eye. She looked up to see it staring at her, its body over the now-butchered corpse of the other bandit.

In its mandibles rolled a dismembered and equally bloody hand, most likely from its latest victim. Faith looked at the hand and the mandibles with mad eyes. It reminded her of the crayfish monster and the hand that was held in its mandibles. Faith, still looking at the creature, raised her bloody axe with one hand. Blood was dripping from her clutched hand and the axe head, and Faith slowly crept towards the spider. The spider didn't move, simply staring at her with its disinterested, round eyes.

As Faith raised her axe to throw it at its head, a large, bright red spiral appeared in the air behind the spider. The spider began to glow until all textures and colors of it was a bright, shimmering yellowish white. The silhouette of the spider then turned into a floating ball and went inside the spiral, which disappeared as soon as it went inside.
"What?" Faith stopped and stared blankly at where the spider once was. The rush she had gradually subsided.
"...said there was no need for that." Nikola's voice entered into her mind. He walked up besides her. "Is this how Albeonans show their gratitude to those who save their lives? And now you are covered in blood. I don't think the Palace would be pleased to see a bloody peasant girl coming to their door like that."

Faith looked at Nikola, who had not a single drop of blood. Her eyes then turned to where the Vlamaran came from. She saw large circles of scorch marks on the ground, the occasional embers still glowing. Two charred husks that looked human in form lay on the ground, which was also dark. Their now melted arms reaching out to the air and their eyeless faces in expression of bewilderment.

"While you and your friend over there," Nikola looked at the gutted bandit next to Faith and quickly looked at her, "were busy dueling, I dispatched these other two. They were quite a nuisance, as my fireballs were quite slow and the bandits fast. But in the end, my analysis and their predictable evasions allowed me to catch them."
Faith's wide eyes were looking at Nikola, who calmly took off his monocle and polished it with a small kerchief he pulled out underneath his cloak.

Then, for the second time this week, she vomited. Nikola quickly jumped back and looked at her with mild disgust.

"If you must do that, please do it away from my general direction. I do not like cleaning my cloak." Nikola scoffed as he watched Faith hurl a bit more.

After that was done, Faith slowly looked at Nikola and snarled.

"That...that monster." She pointed at where the spider was standing before it disappeared.

"The Nil Spider. What of it?" Nikola glanced at where she pointed before looking at her general direction again. He was pulling out a small book and opened a page as Faith continued talking.

"I've never heard of that type of spider before. It also had the same look as the bugs that destroyed my village."
"Yes, a Nil creature." Nikola simply stated as he turned his eyes towards his book.

"How did you know it was there?" Faith slowly stood up but continued to glare at Nikola.

"I summoned it."

"How?"

"Magic." Nikola looked up to give a slight roll of his eyes before going back to his reading.

Faith stomped towards Nikola in heavy steps, and when she almost came face to face to him, Nikola quickly closed his book and looked at her.

"Yes?" He said, not showing any change in expressions.

"Don't you think it's a coincidence that around the same time you, someone who can use magic to summon these Neel creatures..." Faith was speaking through her clenched teeth as he glared at Nikola with suspicious. Her hands were almost ready to grab his collar.

"Nil." Nikola muttered as he pulled back and averted his nose.

"Whatever. Don't you think it's a coincidence that when someone like you came to neighboring Treeton, Mountainwall was destroyed around the same time? Why do you know so much about the things that attack my village? The Devourment? What is that?"

Nikola gave a sigh as his bored eyes glanced at the increasingly angry Faith. "Peasants and their simple minds. Look, I shall tell you what you need to know when we get back to heading towards the Capital and getting some distance away from this mess." He indicated towards the bodies surrounding them.

Faith grabbed his collar. "Tell me, did you have something to do with the destruction of my village? Answer me!" She was practically yelling at him.

Nikola glared at her bloody hands and promptly shoved them away. "If you want answers, peasant, then I would suggest being a bit more polite. No, I did not have anything to do with the destruction of your village, but yes, I do know what happened."

He started walking off, and Faith gave a sigh and started to walk behind him. The two covered some distance from the battle scene, and were heading back into the trail. The sun was going down when they started, but Nikola didn't seem to consider the need for setting up camp a priority. For a long while the two travelers were quiet, Nikola leading while Faith glowered behind his back.

"Well?" Faith finally said, breaking the silence. Nikola looked back at her and then faced forward again.

"What?" He simply replied. Faith felt the urge to hit him but restrained herself.

"What is the Devourment, first of all? Are they what attacked my village?" Faith saw Nikola slowly nod. She increased her pace a bit more to match up with his.

"Yes. The entities known as the Devourment are what destroyed your village and others like it." His words made Faith's spine tingle with apprehension.

'So this didn't just happen to my village.'

"The Devourment is the name given to those creatures from the Nil who crossed over to Terrageeta without a binding contract made with an entity from this reality. While the Devourment occasionally appears, a decade ago has seen them coming in more frequently, more aggressively, and in much bigger numbers.” His expression, tone, and outspreading gestures give Faith the impression of a preacher or a storyteller describing what happened to him just the other day. "The reason why the Devourment are attacking us in the numbers they do is still indeterminable due to our limited understanding of the Nil, but I have ruled out the possibility of malevolent human interaction and realm quakes. The essence grimoires and spell sigils haven't changed nor did the quantity of my summoned Nil beings increase, and my decade-long research showed that it would be impossible, even for a group of blood sorcerers. The Catalyst being the Gaspers shows that ..."

"Woah, wait. Wait. Hold up." Faith interrupted, holding her hands up quickly. "I don't know what you're talking about. Nil? Catalyst? What are those?"

Nikola stopped walking and looked at Faith with wide, blank eyes, his mouth dropping a bit. He choked a bit, and then shook his head.

"Haven't you read my Treatise on the Metaphysics of Magic and the Extra-Natural? Surely my introduction would give at least a brief guide to..." Then Nikola looked at Faith's sturdy clothing, her rough hands, and her darker skin, and lowered his shoulders with a sigh. "I forgot most peasants can't read. But don't feel so bad, I doubt your hedge witches and folk healers know about the Nil either."

Taking a deep breath, Nikola spoke more slowly. "The Nil is the place where magic comes from. It has different faces in many cultures: The Thousand Lands in Viker mythology, The Five Underworlds and Five Overworlds of Leve, the Whispering Mist of the Forsaken Lands, and the spirits that make deals with the Witches of your own folklore are different interpretations of the Nil realm; all are accurate in some way or the other. Dreams, epiphanies, and hallucinations also seem to be related to that murky underworld, giving men insight into things beyond the physical. We can only get a glimpse of the Nil in these tales and visions, but I have managed a way to deduce the nature of the pure Nil dimension from the puzzle pieces that are given."

"Why is it called the Nil?"

"Because..." Nikola paused for a bit, making a light humming sound as he thought about how to respond, " Because it does not exist in our...in our reality. I never thought it would be this hard to explain in simple terms. I'm so used to discussing it with educated scholars."

Nikola turned to the side of the dirt path to grab a small stick and then crouched down to the dirt. He sketched two circles on the dirt, and then drew a line in between them and another line scratched across both of the circles. Around this he drew a box and then looked at Faith.

"Imagine this circle as the realm we live in, which we shall call Terrageeta, and this circle as the Nil. Everything in Terrageeta and the things we do in it is mostly contained within the circle of Terrageeta. The Nil has absolutely no effect on this world; it is a non-factor in the day to day doings of our world. In turn, whatever happens in the Nil doesn't affect our world. A thousand demonic wars could happen in in that realm which could test the limits of reality and still Terrageeta would, at the very most, feel a faint breeze of the causality. The reason for this is the line that separates these two circles."

Nikola deepened the vertical line that kept the two circles separate and took another deep breath. Faith was looking at him dumb-founded but nonetheless intrigued. She knew magic came from somewhere else. In Albeonan lore the Spirits that gave the witches and folk mages their power came from a land beyond the Great Ocean, and the Spirits gave magic from bags brought from that other land.

"This line is what separates Terrageeta from the Nil, and while there are few ways to describe it, one would require intensive study in the ways magic manifests into this world. You do not have that education, so let us simply say that this line is a concept that goes beyond time and space and serves as the wall that keeps the two realms from seeing or touching each other. It is what makes the natural differentiate itself from the extra-natural; it is what gives us a sense of what is safe and normal, and what is scary and different. You may use the word supernatural, but the things that are magical are not natural for Terrageeta in any sense, and are therefore from somewhere else.
It is the concept of Us versus Them, or as some in Valentia say when dealing with the Gels, 'Imagine the swimming fish trying to communicate with the burrowed mole.' Whatever happens in Terrageeta is completely irrelevant and unnatural to Nil, and vice versa. Except..."

Nikola then pointed at the line that made a bridge between the two circles.

"This. The Catalyst. It is the dreams, the hallucinations, the visions, the spark of unnatural revelation. It is the door we open to other world by the various acts such as rituals, chants, or in the rare cases of the Nil doing so on its own. This is the small bridge that connects the two realms together. This how we get magic into this world, as almost all of it is from the Nil. This is also where we get the extra-natural beings that seem out of place in our usually boring and mundane world, such as the Leven war unicorns or the deathwolves in the Gelic lands. In return for giving this realm magic and a glimpse into the fantastical, the Nil gains energy from the Terrageetan denizens using its power.
The power that magic-users and the extra-naturals use first starts out as a metaphorical dull blob of Nil energy, but when the user channels it into a form, whether it be alchemy, enchanting, summoning, or even simply being a menacing shadow with leering eyes, that blob of Nil energy becomes something else. After being used, the energy goes back to the Nil in its new form and gives that realm some sort of boon, though I still do not know what it might be. Therefore, despite being separated by the boundaries of reality, the catalysts have allowed the two realms to interact with each other and be affected in tremendous ways."

Nikola gave a cough as he finished his long lecture and started scratching letters on the outside edges of the box that contained the map of the two realms. Faith gazed at the two circles and the two lines, her mind racing with questions and theories, as well screaming from the new and complex concepts that Nikola just taught. It didn't help that he used too many big words.

"So..." Faith slowly said. Nikola looked up at her, his stick still scratching seemingly arcane symbols, "This Devourment came from the Nil through the Catalyst..."

"A catalyst. There is more than one way in getting between the realms. I simply gave a metaphor of a single bridge to make the concept easier to understand." Nikola seemed completely oblivious to Faith's furrowed eyes.
"Alright. A catalyst. So the Devourment came from the Nil through a catalyst and into this world, but why? What made them attack my village?" Faith saw Nikola simply shrug and resumed marking the dirt.

"I do not know why the Devourment decided to choose your village. It was most likely a random chance of ill luck. What I do know is that most of the Devourment nowadays are not coming by any natural catalyst."

"What do you mean?" Faith knelt down next to him and waited for him to continue, which was took a while as Nikola drew a few more markings before standing up again and walking. "Hey!"

"Catalysts usually occur in two different ways: when the Nil accidentally displaces a part of itself, or if someone here willingly harnesses or summons part of the Nil, whether it be by dreams or magical contracts. My Nil Spider, a Devourment, needed my summoning to act as the catalyst in order to cross the gap between the normally impenetrable wall between the realities of Terrageeta and the Nil. The Nil and its inhabitants needs our permission to take a part of this world and mold it into a vessel to use. Even dreams and visions give the Nil some invitation, as those represent inner desires of the individual. By summoning the Nil Spider, I have given it the right to appear as a spider."

Faith followed behind him, a bit miffed at the way Nikola casually upped and walked. Faith began getting a picture of him as a sort of man with little skill in social interaction and preferred sticking his nose in dusty libraries like a hermit scholar in the tales she hear from wandering bards, though Faith had little idea what a library looked like.

"The other way the Nil usually manifests here is if it accidentally displaces or pushes out a part of itself. From time to time the Nil goes through some sort of upheaval that causes things there to change. These are called realm quakes, a term I made up myself, and is the reason why a spell may look and act differently from what is was one century ago. Why these realm quakes happen even I do not know, for I cannot go into the Nil itself to observe it, but when these quakes do happen it occasionally throws a Devourment or two out into our realm. Most of these beasts usually wreck a little havoc before being killed and becoming the story of a lifetime, but occasionally they survive and even prosper, breeding with similar though more mundane animals and starting a new kind of creature. ”

Nikola stopped and then turned to Faith with a frown more intense than his usual frowns. This one gave him deeper mouth lines and his blue eyes were more lowered, almost covering his pupil. It had the look a solemn man ready to share bad news. It was different from Nikola's usual indifferent and lecturing air. Faith did not like the way he looked at her and squirmed a bit.

"The Devourment we see now, the ones that come in huge numbers and deliberately kills before disappearing, doesn’t use either of those two methods. I originally thought that a cabal of sorcerers using legions of slaves for the daunting task of blood summoning were behind it, but I came to realize that blood sorcerers, no matter how insane, would waste time and precious resources on trifling hamlets and villages without any gain or pattern behind it, which the Devourment attacks had none. The slave market also didn't get any massive sales between the attacks, though refugees started becoming a common feature in auctions. The blood sorcerers and witches I did capture and interrogate were mostly clueless about the attacks, those that did know simply thought of it as another blood user doing some mindless rampaging.

I also know that while the attacks are mostly random, they are too frequent to be simple cases of the Nil accidentally displacing some of its inhabitants. When the new Devourment attacks, survivors of the unfortunate villages mention at least half a dozen grotesque creatures attacking, and one of those is usually humanoid. Do you recall how your village was attacked?"

Nikola started to walk again as Faith spoke. "The bugs started to come from my neighbor Peter, and the crayfishes I saw were being birthed by our village leader, who looked bloated and had large fleshy tubes for arms. Both were acting quite strange a few days prior to it."

Remembering what happened to her home made Faith wince and her voice cracked, as the horrors were still fresh in her mind. Nikola didn't seem to notice at all, still looking forward.

"That's what all the cases I gathered seem to have in common. An individual or two would be acting strange for a few days before suddenly becoming monstrosities called Gaspers because of the gasping noises they make. They serve as a catalyst for the Devourment to get into this world. But…”

Nikola’s voice suddenly became excited, his eyes wide and his mouth giving a faint smile as he turned his head towards Faith. “…but why? If this isn’t an accident or the nefarious doings of any evil sorcerer in this world, what caused the Devourment to start attacking en-masse almost a decade ago?”

When Faith didn't answer, he continued speaking, his walking pace growing faster and his arms making more wild motions. "I'll tell you why, Faith of Mountainwall! I'll tell you why the Devourment are destroying villages and even forts of all the lands in Terrageeta.

It is because of the Dream Eater."

"The Dream Eater?" Faith whispered. Nikola gave her a wicked smile that caused Faith to slow down and give him some space, in fear that he might suddenly attack her.

"The Dream Eater. I have learned that those unfortunate to act as Gaspers usually have bizarre, recurring nightmares that they can remember vividly when it first strikes. They act very peculiar, though what symptoms they may present differ from person to person. What stays consistent, though, are the dreams. And as the days go, the individuals start seeing fewer and fewer visual details in their dreams. The final dream on night before the transformation as a gasper usually consists of nothing but weird noises. The few witnesses who mentioned discussing with the victim about their dream prior to their transformation say that the dreams only consist of a high-pitched noise. Others mention low chittering."

Nikola went quiet for a bit as he looked up at the darkening skies. "I believe we should camp for the night. I shall continue discussing this later."

Nikola then walked into the woods before pulling out a small book from under his cloak and then started reading Faith stared at him bewildered, unsure why he left his speech at such a cliffhanger. Then realizing that he wasn't going to help her but didn't say anything in order not to offend her mentor, Faith gave a small curse and started gathering firewood.

-6-
The warm fire crackled and waved as Faith slowly fed twigs into it. Nikola was wiping his monocle with his silk cloth. Faith pulled out a loaf of dark bread from the knapsack given to her by the Village Elder of Treeton and broke it in half. She held one piece towards Nikola, who gazed at it with a wince. He in turn pulled from his satchel a small, perfectly round and white bread of sort, ignoring Faith's offer.

Faith gave a sigh as she withdrew her gesture and started eating. She felt annoyed at the callous nature of Nikola Savante of Vlamar, and at several points of his long lecture wanted to punch him for how he spoke. But he was giving an explanation to what happened to Mountainwall, so Faith managed to keep her irritation inside.
"So tell me more about the Dream Eater." Faith said with her mouth full as the two munched on their respective bread, Faith tearing pieces with her teeth and Nikola cutting into his with small and fluid bites. Nikola occasionally glanced at the way Faith ate. He swallowed and wiped his mouth with his silk cloth before speaking.

"The Gaspers, as I mentioned before, have unique nightmares that haunt them for days before they change. They then become the monstrosities you've surely seen from your neighbor and your village leader." Nikola grabbed another round cake and examined it with bored eyes.

"The Dream Eater I learned from a few seers back in Vlamar, when the notion of a cabal of sorcerers was still in my head. When I showed them the corpse of a Gasper I managed to kill by sheer luck to use as a starting point for their search, the hags started wailing and screaming. They mentioned, amidst their sounds of pain, that a dark presence hovered behind the body, devouring the dreams of the Gasper. I came to the conclusion that what they meant in their primitive and superstitious terms was that something was in the Nil, hovering on the other side of the catalyst that the Gasper served. It was most likely harnessing whatever energy it got from the dreams.

As my research took me elsewhere, I got a better idea of the Dream Eater, though many questions still persist. Every time a Gasper came to being, the Dream Eater was right behind it, consuming whatever energy it got from sending forth the Devourment and causing destruction. It came into being around ten years ago, as the first Gasper was sighted in a small hamlet in Vlamar. Perhaps a realm quake caused it to stir into being a decade ago, though that is only a theory."

Nikola then, after rotating his piece of bread while he talked, ate it in his precise and calculated motions. It irritated Faith, not only because it kept him from continuing his discussion, but it also made Faith pay attention to his slow eating. For some reason it made her cringe. In her mind food was to be quickly eaten with gusto, not look as if air was being eaten.

"The Dream Eater is also sentient." Nikola said as he wiped his mouth with the cloth again. It seemed like he did that every time each finished eating something, at least it seemed like it to Faith.

"What does sentient mean?" Faith could see Nikola give a small wince when she said that.

"It means that the Dream Eater is smart and can think like us. Well, not really like us."

Faith gave a gasp. "What? You mean it is deliberately destroying these villages, knowing it's doing it?"

"Yes." Nikola gave a nod. "It started attacking hamlets and solitary huts that no one knows about or would miss, and if people did find out they would think it would be some creature of legend. As the years went by it started going after areas that had more people. Despite this, it still stayed away from larger population bases such as cities. The Dream Eater, until very recently, also shied away from economically important centers. Nothing riles a king into action faster than finding out his coffers are having less taxes going in. With each conquest, it seems that the Dream Eater's horde of Devourment increases. Now there are reports of forts being demolished, and while the Yeronian kingdoms have now decided that this was an issue worth dealing with together, they brought their petty fears and ambitions along with them. The warring and bickering has not stopped even with the apocalypse right in front of their doors, and only the Tyrannian Empire is trying to do something about it, but I shudder thinking what that madman of a king would do to stop the Dream Eater. Something wasteful, I'm thinking."

Faith looked at the stars as she laid down on her bedroll. The apocalypse, hunh? The end of the world is coming and everyone is too busy with their own problems to do anything about it. The only people that are tried to kill me and Callum.


"Say, Nikola?" Faith turned her head to Nikola, who was on the other side of the fire and was also lying down, reading that small book of his.

"Hmm?" He said without taking his eyes of the book.

"Why didn't Mountainwall know about the Devourment? Our king would have surely told us!" The thought that their beloved king would withhold such important information made Faith feel a heavy rock in her stomach. "Maybe our king didn't know. Come to think of it, minstrels never said anything about the Devourment in their travels."

"Because they are idiots!" Nikola shouted, making Faith jump. She never heard Nikola speak in such anger before. His book was lowered and he was glaring at the stars as he spoke. "The kings and barbarian chieftains that do acknowledge the Devourment's existence have all sworn to keep it a secret, at least to the general populace of their lands. They do not want their people to panic and have them burning anyone that acts peculiar. It would cause them to lose control, and if there is one thing that rulers do not like losing, it is their power. Instead they simply say that bandits or the neighboring kingdom destroyed this or that village, or if tales of the Devourment do get through, the kings simply state that some evil monster destroyed it and they will send a heroic party to vanquish the beast. They don't send anyone though, and if they do it is usually a scouting party sent to confirm that such thing did occur. They tell the people that these things are isolated, completely unrelated incidents. It doesn't help that as word spreads, the narrative changes. That's why your minstrels don't give any accurate news about the Devourment, though they might be singing about it with tales of horrendous monsters gobbling up villages in one scoop."

"What about the Tyrannian Empire?" Faith asked. "Can't they come out and tell us what is happening?"

Nikola gave a harsh laugh. "King Tyrannus is, but the other kings snubbed him and went back to warring with each other. He views the rest of Yero as illiterate and stupid savages who couldn't see what is happening to them even if the Dream Eater decided to saunter into their palaces for supper and a bedtime story, and I agree with him. He has been sending word out to the people, and quite a few have listened. Sadly some have taken it to fanatical levels, as you have surely witnessed while escaping your village. The king also has this notion that it is a good idea to invade and slaughter the very people you're trying to convert. I told him that..."

Nikola winced as he stopped himself mid-sentence. Faith got the idea that he was involved in more things than he gives credit for, but decided not to press it. Nikola turned his back to Faith as he went to sleep. Faith stared as Nikola with suspicion..

"Tomorrow I will teach you the basics of Albeonan court politics and how to present your case to either the king or the earl, depending on how lucky you are." Nikola muttered as he pulled up the covers of his bedroll.

Faith did the same, and began thinking about what Nikola just mentioned about the secrecy of the Devourment. If she mentioned that she knew about the Dream Eater, what would King Swordbreaker do? The thought that everything was kept away from the average person, was disconcerting to Faith. If the people did know, could the tragedy that happened to Mountainwall have been prevented? Faith's mind wandered and examined all the facets of what she just learned, hoping to find some sort of solution, but gave up after a while.

Finally, Faith gave up and she shuffled herself into a comfortable position. She said a faint prayer to Reuf and the All-Maker, albeit half-halfheartedly and more out of habit. She rested her head on her elbow afterwards.
"What did that box around the circles mean when you showed me how magic and stuff worked?" Faith asked when she remembered the sketch Nikola gave. It might be important.

"Oh?" Nikola whispered as Faith heard him shuffle a bit. "That is simply the representation macrocosm that Terrageeta, the Nil, and whatever worlds still out there resides in. Beyond that I do not know nor do I care. Go ask some gibbering hermit residing in the gutters of some back alley, who already ate half his arm thinking it housed the spirit of a flying squid and drew unintelligible scribbles with his own feces. I'm a scholar of the more relevant Nil and the powers it gives us, and have no interest in Eldritch Magic. Now excuse me, I would like us to catch some sleep so that we may rise up early and quickly get to the Capital."
Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
-Joseph Campbell

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Heretic
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Re: The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Heretic » Sat Dec 21, 2013 9:52 pm

The NaNo blues are hitting me already. Already starting my edits and re-reading my story is making me feel the blues. And because of NaNoWriMo, my sentence structures and grammar skills are gone with the wind.
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-7-

It was Nikola who rose Faith up from her slumber. He gave her a rough shove in the shoulder.

“Wake up, Faith of Mountainwall. We need to get moving if we want to meet the king before King Tyrannus’ agents further complicate your goal.”

Faith grumbled as she got up and brushed her mangled blond hair, getting rid of leaves that were resting on her head. She blankly glared at Nikola, who was already placing his satchel over his shoulder. His hair, unlike Faith's, was smooth and was slicked back. The buttons of his impeccably white shirt that Faith could see under his traveling cloak were shined and polished.

"Why are you in such a hurry?" Faith muttered as she slowly rolled up her bedroll and tied it onto the top of her knapsack.

"Because as I said, if we don't get to the Capital quickly, Tyrannus's lackeys will have enough time to change public opinion against the existing government. If Tyrannus's lackeys are already near Treeton, that means he has already gotten his loathsome tendrils into Albeon; that old sea snake is starting to close in on Yero from all sides as the Devourment attacks become more frequent." Nikola was already moving back into the dirt road.

"You didn't seem too worried about the Tyrannian sympathizers lurking in the Capital yesterday." Faith mused as she followed suit. Even though Nikola walked quite fast since he had a lighter load, she managed to keep up with him despite the heavy knapsack that she lugged on her back. The years of working in the rugged outdoors paid off.

"It isn't my fault. Whenever I start discussing the Nil I become overly excited and forget about everything else." Nikola took out his book and quickly scanned a few pages.

"I don't want to sound like a traitor to my king nor make light to the fact that me and my friend were almost killed by Capital guards firmly on Tyrannus's side, but why is Tyrannus such a danger? Sure he's invading our lands and causing unrest, but from the sound of it he seems to be the only one really doing anything about the Dream Eater."

"That is true. King Tyrannus wants to stop the thing threatening our world, but if he does manage to conquer Yero, that madman will bleed it dry of resources and people all in the goal of stopping the Dream Eater. He is deaf to any other suggestions, believing that his stupid potion is the end all, be all to taking the fight to the Dream Eater."

"I see." Faith said as the two slowly stepped down a steep decline, dirt and small rocks rolling down with each step. "How do you know so much about King Tyrannus?"

For a while Nikola was quiet, and Faith had a sinking feeling she crossed him.

"Nothing much to it." Nikola finally said, and if he was crossed, he gave no indication of it. "I was lecturer at the Clematrau Academy of Magic when Tyrannus first took power in Vlamar. He came to the school then and now to discuss with the teachers possible solutions to the Dream Eater, since most of the first attacks were in Vlamar. I fled when he started to clamp down on any who disagreed with his vision."

Nikola turned to look at Faith and glanced at the sky. "Now, let us discuss how you will need to present yourself to the Palace if you want to directly meet with the king and not some lowly squire who will simply relay the message."

For the rest of the day, Nikola mentored Faith in the etiquette and mentality of the Capital. While Nikola mentioned that the Capital and its earls were much more open to its lower classes than the aloof Zepanan aristocrat too busy maneuvering themselves in the Senate or the uncaring Bushkyn princedoms fighting each other for the Czar and Czarina's approval, and especially much nicer than whatever the Forsaken Lands had, the nobles of Albeon still had procedures that people needed to go through in order to meet them in the Capital. To get the king to hear a peasant's case directly was especially hard, and required either the recommendation of an earl or if dire circumstances required it.

Nikola mentioned the Highmoot, but Faith knew about that already. In Albeon the king's decisions could be overturned by the vote of the earls and village elders, in a meeting called the Highmoot. A Highmoot is usually called if a significant number of said earls or village elders disagree with the king. Those that do come discuss and debate with each other over the issue. After a few days or even weeks, a vote is cast and the outcome enforced by the Fireswords. The earls and elders that do not come to the Highmoot simply do not get a vote. This gives many local leaders an incentive to at least send a messanger stating their view and vote.

The Highmoot could also be called if the issue is important but not enough for the king's attention, if the king's too ill or indisposed to make a decision, or even to overthrow a king. There has been two times that the king was voted out, the first being King Lorghen the Mad after the Sack of Cautinlaum and the second time with the Two Kings. The latter even caused a civil war between the Fireswords.

When night fell, Faith and Nikola set up camp behind a very ancient and very large oak that allowed them to hide their small camp fire from the road. Nikola didn't want to go too far into the woods, as he believed bandits like to be near trade routes and hid themselves in the deeper parts.

"But don't patrols keep the lanes safe?" Faith asked as she tossed twigs into the fire.

"With the Tyrannian Empire, Gelic raiders, and Devourment breathing down Albeon's neck more frequently now, many earls have hunkered down to protect their own lands. They don't patrol routes to the Capital anymore. From what I know, the Capital itself has pulled back the soldiers of neighboring outposts and most of its forts after recent Devourment attacks destroyed two forts. The Capital smartly figured that the Devourment don't attack large concentrations of potential defenders. They also fear Tyrannian incursions, whose armies have already gotten a foothold in the northern Gels. The Capital wanted to fortify their defenses at the expense of their neighboring areas."

"And the Fireswords?" Faith asked, her voice soft.

She began getting an idea on how terrible the situation was. What she didn't understand was how the kings of Yero could have managed to keep the Dream Eater a secret from their own people. Even the notion that information did change as it went from mouth to mouth couldn't have accounted for the blissful ignorance of hundreds of villages being systematically destroyed over a decade. Surely someone would have discovered a pattern other than an elitist Vlamaran mage.

Unless, of course, the nobles and those few allowed to know about the Dream Eater and its army of Devourment were actively making sure the secret didn't go out. Images of hooded figures going into the homes at night and eliminating eyewitnesses plagued Faith's mind. Would she be silenced if she told her tale? No, Nikola mentioned that when word spread of destroyed villages at the hands of terrible monsters the kingdoms would send at least some help.

'Perhaps', Faith mused as she started remembering Nikola's speech on the day before, 'the nobles simply told a good enough lie that made sense without causing panic. Ghouls, trolls, and other man-eaters do exist and it isn't a stretch to attribute disaster to them. Hell, I tried to blame it on mean sprites when I accidentally lost father's axe in the lake many summers ago.'

"...did that answer your question?" Faith suddenly popped out of her thoughts when she realized that Nikola was looking at her.

"Hunh?" Faith exclaimed as she quickly tossed a few more twigs into the fire. Nikola sighed.

"You didn't look like you were listening. Pay attention, Faith of Mountainwall! You asked a question and I replied; the least you could do is listen!" Nikola gave a deep sigh as he rubbed his forehead.

"Sorry." Faith muttered, embarrassed.

"I said that the Fireswords were spread too thin doing whatever Fireswords do to take time to give the roads anything other than a cursory glance." Nikola said with emphasis to each word as he took out one of his small pieces of white bread and examined it.

"Oh, ok." Faith simply said as she looked at the fire, still feeling a bit red.

"Tomorrow should be the last day before we reach the Capital. There you should be able to find your way to the Capital and make your case." Nikola then took one of his iconic bites, the precise and slow one that made Faith stare in maddening fascination, into the small white circle.

"What are you going to do when we go into the Capital?"

"Me? Well, there are a few things I need to gather before setting off again in search of a solution to the Dream Eater." Nikola replied, wiping his mouth with the cloth.

"I see." Faith said softly. She then opened her sack and took out another piece of bread. Tearing it apart with her teeth, Faith ate in silence.

Nikola took out his small book and started reading. Faith watched him, and after she finished her bread, examined the book from where she was standing. It was bound in some kind of brown material, though Faith could tell it wasn't leather or wood. She couldn't see any markings on the cover, and the pages from her viewpoint looked worn and creased in the corners.

"What is that book you're reading?" Faith asked.

"It's the Cunostintalas. It's one of the earliest and most comprehensive books about the Devourment, written by Karl the Blind. I think that's all you need to know about the book, as it'll do you no good since you cannot read."

Faith gave a sigh and her anger flared a bit. "What is your problem with peasants? Why do you think you can treat us like garbage and have such a condescending view on everyone but yourself?"

Nikola gave her a stare, his expressions not changing. "Pardon me?" He asked as he closed the book and placed it under his cloak.

"Ever since we traveled together, you treated me like some dumb Vlamaran serf, being all condescending and arrogant." Faith's words didn't seem to affect Nikola, who still remained expressionless.

"I simply said what was true. You didn't know the Nil despite wanting to join the Fireswords to fight its inhabitants, so I simply told you in simple words what it is." Nikola rested his back on the log behind him, a cloth covering its rough surface.

"And when the bandits attacked, you acted so cocksure of yourself."

"Because I am absolutely confident that I would not be brought down by such a lowly mob." Nikola gave a slight smile. It exasperated Faith.

"As for why I treat your kind the way I do is because you cannot comprehend my intellect." Nikola continued speaking, slowly closing his eyes. "One sign of weakness on my part, and the lower classes will take advantage of me. It is because of I stand above their pettiness that the peasants keep their distance away and show respect. They view me as a giant ready to cast judgment upon them. Little do they know that I do not have time for such things. And you should be extremely thankful, Faith of Mountainwall, it is extremely rare for someone of my level to stoop low enough in order to give away freely information that students at Clementrau would die for."

With that, Nikola turned his body and fell to sleep, completely oblivious that Faith glowered at him. She in turn laid on her bedroll and stared at the stars.

'Callum, please think of your poor friend Faith from time to time, as she tries to endure the hardships this journey brings without murdering someone. You're lucky you'll never have to deal with someone as arrogant and callous as the man I'm with now.'


-8-
When Faith woke up, she saw Nikola squatting over the dirt ground with a stick in his hand. He was sketching a map of sort as well as various words next to it.

"Morning." Faith mumbled as she rubbed her hair and brushed it a bit with her fingers. Nikola looked at her and nodded.

"I shall be leaving you soon." He said as he turned back to his sketching.

Faith blinked for a bit, not registering what he just said. Then, as she felt the cold air rush against her face, the words entered her mind again.

"Wait, what?" Faith gaped as she slowly stood up. "Aren't you heading to the Capital with me?"

"Change of plans for me. I need to head to a nearby village for..special supplies." Nikola hesitated on the last part.
"Hold on here." Faith went closer to where he was sitting and loomed over him. "Is this just a way to get rid of me because I yelled at you yesterday?"

"No, Faith of Mountainwall, I do not become emotionally distraught over what the lowly class say about me. I simply remembered that I needed to go somewhere before I head to the Capital, and believe that I need to go there alone."

Nikola stood up and picked up his satchel. "If I wanted to run away from you for whatever reason, I would have done
so long ago."

Faith couldn't believe what he was saying. "What about me? You said that bandits roamed nearby; you can't just leave a poor defensive girl like me alone, can you?" Faith tried to play the damsel in distress role, but Nikola gave her a roll of his eyes.

"I have already scouted the area, and made sure there were no dangers along your way." Nikola squinted and gazed down the road. "There will be a fork in the road a few minutes away. The road straight ahead will take you to the Capital. I shall be taking the one to the right."

"Alright." Faith resigned herself to the fact that her traveling companion was most likely obstinate on decision.
The sun was coming out which gave the orange and brown leaves that haven't already fallen a nice sheen. The leaves underneath Faith were wetter than usual though,and that made her leather travelling shoes soggy. Faith glanced down and kicked her feet a bit in order to shake off some of the moisture.

"Faith of Mountainwall." She looked up to see Nikoal stop walking and turn to her. He was standing a few few away from her, hands hidden behind the green cloak.

"Yes?" Faith wondered what he wanted. Something about his tone made her feel uneasy.

"Take out your axe and attack me."

Those words caused Faith to look at Nikola with wide eyes and an open mouth. He wanted her to attack him with a potentially lethal weapon? And the way he continued staring at her with his bored eyes showed her that he was quite serious.

A single "What" was all Faith could manage to say.

"You heard me. Take out your axe and swing it at me." When Faith still looked dumbfounded, Nikola sighed and rubbed his face with a gloved hand. "You wanted to join the Fireswords after you tell the Palace what happened, right? Let me see how well you can fight."

"But you’re a scholar, Nikola! How can you tell what makes a good fighter or not?" Faith said, feeling a little bit angry that Nikola decided to judge her even though she didn't ask for it.

"I can easily tell the difference between a professional Frost Guard in Vlamar and a militiaman that Albeon's army seems to be mostly consisting of. From what I gathered being near you, you don't even have the makings of the latter." Nikola smirked to Faith's increasing anger.

"Why do I need to show anyone, especially someone like you, how I fight? You saw how.." Faith shivered a bit and her stomach gave a small revolt when she remembered the bandit that she chopped into pieces. She forced herself to continue speaking after she quelled the urge to curl up into a ball. "..you saw how I did when the bandits attacked us back at the bridge. I can handle myself."

"You crept behind one while one of my Nil Spiders distracted them and even then failed to silently dispatch him. When you did face off with the bandit, who by the way was equally as untrained as you are, he was fighting you with a knife. And don't get me started on how you were when you acted like a feral beast, cutting apart his dead corpse with what seemed like revel. If your dead parents saw you right now, they would most surely die a second time in shame. I would even take a ga-"

Faith didn't hear anything else as the emotions boiling underneath snapped out. Faith's hand reached for the axe tucked under her belt and pulled it out. With one fell swoop Faith swung it at Nikola, but the head slowed a bit as it caught in the hem of her cloak. As it tore through her cape, Nikola smiled as Faith's red and teary eyes glared at him. Then he lunged forward, quickly taking off the white glove of his right hand and then flung it at Faith.

A resounding smack came from Faith's right arm, which was the one she used to pull the axe out. The axe fell from her hand as she clutched the wound with her other hand. Faith didn't feel the pain at first, but then it started to set in. Before she could react Nikola punched again, but stopped it mid-air and held it an inch or two away from her neck.

"Dead." Nikola nonchalantly said as he kept his arm extended. "You let your emotions get ahead of your brain, and it caused you to be clumsy in your attack. Because of that this supposedly arrogant Vlamaran scholar has beaten you."
Faith tried to quickly pick up her axe, but when she bent down a boot was planted on her back and she got pushed down onto the dirt. A few small rocks were slammed into her stomach and Faith gave a yelp.

"Dead again. I think the Fireswords would like their potential recruits to have some common sense. Even the most greenest of warriors know to never turn their backs on the enemy. Apparently the daughter of the forester who decided to join the most elite military organization in Albeon just because she managed to cripple one Devourment creature didn't know."

Nikola's voice was condescending, as Faith could hear words here and there increase in tone. Faith couldn't see his face, but she could almost imagine him still having that smirk. Faith tried to get up, but she felt the dirt-covered boot firmly pressed on her back. She tried to wiggle out of it, but Nikola quickly adjusted accordingly and quickly.

"This is a cruel world, Faith of Mountainwall, and things don't work out like the heroic ballads. You will not miraculously become a Firesword and save the world just because you're dedicated enough. What was the point of blindly heading to the Capital without any idea of what the situation was and what your objective was?"

"I just thought that the Capital be the best place to go for help. I had to protect my friend in Treeton." Faith hissed as she tried pushing herself back, but to no avail. She heard Nikola sigh.

"What is stopping the Dream Eater from attacking Treeton this very minute? Why not go the your earl's manor and get help there? It would have been much easier for a peasant and requires less time to travel to. Earl Lodether's home is much, much closer to Treeton and your friend." Nikola paused for a second. "Why, Treeton is one of the closest towns to the Lodether manor and would enjoy more protection than your village did. Your friend is already safe, and your actions are wasted."

He gave a soft chuckle that made Faith's spine feel fuzzy. "With your fighting skills being as they are, you should go back and settle down."

Faith stopped resisting and laid still on her stomach. Why did she fight if Treeton was already protected? It wasn't as if King Swordbreaker would do anything active against the Dream Eater and its terrible horde of Devourment. She could go back and take a more active role in watching over Callum. Nikola was probably right; the Fireswords did not need a peasant girl who had absolutely little combat experience.

But something still nagged in Faith's heart. There was a reason she wanted to go to the Capital to meet the king, to join the Fireswords. Faith thought deep and hard on it, ignoring the fact that Nikola's foot was still pinning her down.

Then it came to her.

"I am going to the Capital in order to show the king and the other nobles that they need to stop cowering behind large armies and false reassurances and do something about the Dream Eater. I will show them that a peasant girl such as myself, who survived her village being destroyed and almost being killed by traitors, will not yield to blindly hoping that the problem will go away. I will show them that I am more than willing to go back and face the horrors for those I love. I will fight so that others do not suffer the same fate as I did. That is why I want to go to the Capital and join the Fireswords.

And if they kill me, then so be it. If I die like a dog trying to join the Fireswords, so be it. If everything I do was for naught, then so be it. But at least I will do something about it, not hide and pretend everything will be alright one day."

When Faith finished, she felt Nikola's boot pull back. Turning around, she saw Nikola hold out a hand, not smirking anymore. In fact, he gave a bit of a smile.

"That's what I wanted to hear." Nikola said as he pulled Faith up. "I knew you were the heroic type, but if you want to achieve your goals easier you have to know it yourself. My analysis is never wrong."

"Why are you so keen on helping me?" Faith said as she brushed her back of dirt. "You don't have any reason to do so."

Nikola turned around and walked towards the fork in the road that was seen in the distance, and gave a shake of head, his face going back to his disinterested and analytic expression.

"That's where you are wrong, Faith of Mountainwall. I do have an interest in your goal. You are a survivor of a Devourment attack and managed to incapacitate one with a stick. You want to go to the Capital, join the Fireswords, and do something about it. While others cower, you march forward in the face of death; the possibilities of you dying are high, but your goals have persuaded me to teach you what I know so that you can die gloriously. If you get the Albeonan elite to wake up, the easier my job will be. Anyone who is willing to fight the Dream Eater has my support."

Faith, despite her general dislike of the man in front of her, couldn't help but smiling. To know that her cause was worth it, even to an obnoxious scholar of a foreign land, made her more confident.

"Before I leave, I shall give you tips on how to fight well enough to at least be worth looked at by the Fireswords." Nikola said as the two got closer to the split in the road. A wooden sign with two boards, one showing a crown and another the symbol of a wind cut in half was placed in between the fork. "I may be the farthest thing from a warrior, but I do know the basics of defense and offense, as well as making it all look good."

Nikola then went over to a nearby tree and picked up two long sticks. He took out a small cutting knife and shaved off the rough ends of each. After doing so, he tossed one to Faith and went back on the road. He positioned himself diagonally in front of Faith and turned his back to her.

"While you may be more akin to the axe, it is good to know the basics with two hands. We'll get to clubs later."
Faith watched Nikola's moves closely and copied them. For the most part they were simple strikes and parries, and Faith managed to get them down easily. When it came to the maneuvers, stances, and feints, though, she had a harder time grasping and Nikola helped her with them.

After a while, when Nikola deemed Faith’s quarterstaff and spearing techniques adequate, and he grabbed clubs. These were much easier for Faith to learn, as they were similar to using an axe. Nikola didn't even bother with the swings after he saw Faith's skill, and promptly went to the parries and posturing.

"Now then," Nikola said after they finished practicing with counter parries, "attack me and let's see if you learned anything." He then lifted up his club. "Try and not to hit too hard, especially at the head."

"I'll try to remember." Faith smiled as she replied his gesture with a feint to his left. Nikola jumped to the right while keeping his club steady.

For a the first few seconds the two shifted and tried to flank each other, lunging forward only to quickly step back in hopes of causing the other to lower their guard down. Faith tried hitting his legs, but Nikola was fast at moving in the opposite direction. In turn he tried pushing forward in order to throw her off guard, but Faith shuffled to the side and tried to hit him in the back. Nikola countered by quickly turning around and swinging, causing Faith to fall back. This style of combative dance continued for a while.

Then, as Nikola gave Faith another lunge in hopes of causing her to falter, Faith kicked and pushed his forward leg. Nikola gave a groan as he slipped forward. Faith quickly stepped to the side to let him fall. His cloak took most of the dirt, but she could tell that his usually clean pants became caked in the moist dirt.

Faith went up to the fallen Nikola and pointed her club at him. Nikola faced her as she loomed over, a wince on his face.

“Dead.” She smirked as Nikola got up.

“That wasn’t fair.” He hissed as he brushed his pants off as much dirt as possible. Faith simply gave a laugh.
"You said life wasn't fair. I saw an opportunity of winning and living, and I took it."

"I guess you are right. Well, you did learn something. Just wished you didn't ruin my Raum Linen pants."

Nikola then, after wiping some of the dirt, turned to the sign. Faith followed his gaze and knew that it was time for them to go their way.

"I guess this is where we part." Faith said. Nikola nodded.

"Yes. You should be able to reach the Capital by tomorrow morning if you wake up early enough. And remember, be sure to clearly state you purpose to the guards and who you want to meet." Nikola said as he adjusted his satchel and looked at Faith's path.

"Do you think we will meet again at the Capital later?" Faith asked.

"I do not know. I will most likely be at Low Wind for a while and if you do manage to be initiated into the Fireswords, it'll be likely that you'll be sent to either guard the Palace, which I doubt I will be visiting anytime soon, or you'll be immediately sent off to your first mission. The Fireswords like to have training in field and it helps them weed out those the weak ones."

Nikola then turned around and started walking off towards the opposite direction. He gave a wave. "I wish you luck, Faith of Mountainwall, and hope you manage to persuade the king to do something, as well as join the illustrious Fireswords."

Faith waved back. "Farewell, Nikola Savante of Vlamar. Thanks for the help and safe journeys!”

With that, Nikola walked off and became smaller and smaller. Faith watched him for a bit, and then turned around and walked off along the dirt road leading to the Capital. She felt a bit uneasy; now she was heading to the Capital alone. Even with the help Nikola gave her Faith couldn’t help but feel nervous.

Get your act together,
Faith thought as she adjusted her backpack, you wanted to do this. It’s time to raise your head high and do it proudly.

Despite that, Faith couldn’t help but feel that some sort of complication would occur that test her resolve.
It happened the next morning.
Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
-Joseph Campbell

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Heretic
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Re: The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Heretic » Mon Dec 30, 2013 4:01 pm

-9-
Faith woke up with a start. She didn’t immediately get up from the warm covers of her bedroll, instead lying still and listening to the forest. It wasn’t the morning calls of the birds or the faint rustling of the bushes that Faith listened to. While her eyes were closed Faith tilted her head to hear.

What she heard coming down the road was a rapid succession of thuds in the dirt. As it got closer to the section of the road Faith went off of and into the bushes went she decided to camp for the night, Faith could hear heavy breathing.

She could tell that a horse did the thudding noises. While Albeon had few horses and those only for the very wealthy, she did see a few horses in the fairs at Mountainwall. The heavy breathing most likely came from a rider. Perhaps an important courier relaying a message. Whoever it was, Faith was relieved that it was human.

Then she heard a piercing, ugly screech in the distance. The individual on top of the voice gave a angry shout and gave a yip to his horse. Faith at this rate got up and walked over to where she could see the road. Jumping on top of the naturally-carved boulder that served as her shelter, she was able to see a long stretch of the road.

What she saw was indeed a horse, a quite lanky, dark one that paled in comparison to the Zepanan stallions she have seen at the fairs. Its rider was a reeve, and Faith could tell that he was so by heraldry he had painted on his wooden shield. He wore a leather tunic with pieces of metal attached to various places. He did not wear any battle cap or any sort of headgear, letting his long brown hair fly behind him. On his belt was a short sword sheathed in a slightly dented scabbard, though the scabbard didn't seem to have hindered its ability to put the sword in.

Faith heard the screech again and realized it was coming from the sky. She glanced up to the white morning sky and saw a large humanoid figure waver in the sky, its large, bat-like wings flapping heavily in the air. With squinted eyes Faith could make out yellow, perfectly oval eyes and from its gaping mouth she could not see any teeth. Faith looked at its fingers and saw long, thick nails extending from them. But when she gave it a second glance, a sense of disgust came to her when she realized that the fingers themselves were sharp and curved. The same went with its toes.

The flying monstrosity gave another shriek, its toothless mouth still open, and dived toward the horseman, who was already quite far by the time Faith glanced back. Faith turned back to the diving ghoulish beast and was, for a while, morbidly mesmerized by its flight. The wings pulled back and curved as it dived quickly, similar to a water hawk when it is about to catch a fish.

Faith quickly shook herself off mentally and jumped down of the boulder and back to her small camp. She quickly grabbed her wood axe and a few rocks nearby. She quickly jumped over fallen branches and maneuvered around haphazard clusters of bushes towards the road. When she got there, Faith saw that the monster was already pulling the reeve out of his horse; the horse dashed off as the beast flung its owner onto the hard ground. The reeve crashed to his side and gave a howl, but quickly drew his sword out and swung it at the general direction of the monster. It decided to keep its distance, not wanting to get near the blade.

'Is that a Devourment?" Faith thought nervously as she started jogging towards the scene, hoping to all gods that she could get there in time.

The winged monster slowly backed up and landed. Its back was arched and its long fingered arms hanging in front of it. It then started to walk around the flailing reeve, who shifted his body to face his circling foe; the monster did not seem to pay any heed to his flailing, simply hopping to the side. The reeve's sword did seem to force it to keep its distance.

But before Faith managed to come to the conclusion that the beast was fearful of weapons, it moved back a bit and then suddenly swung one of its arms at the man...

..or more accurately, at the reeve's blade. The palm of its hand was open when it flung it deliberately into the tip of the sword. White blood spilled out of its pitch black hand as the beast then flung its injured hand to the left. The sword flew out of its palm and landed somewhere in a bush. The reeve was pulled a bit when he lost the grip of his sword. He tried to roll to the side, but he gave a painful howl as he tried to move. The fall before seemed to have made it extremely difficult for him to move too quickly.

The beast raised up both of its arms, its fingers curved and arching its back, and then brought them down on the poor reeve. Faith saw the fingers go into the man's chest area, as well as into his ribs. Blood and skin was pulled out the screaming man with ease, and the flesh was placed in its toothless, grinning mouth.

Faith gathered up whatever was left of her now fading courage, dropped all but one of the rocks and aimed it at the beast's head. She quickly threw it and then grabbed another. As she aimed the second one, she saw the first rock hit the beast right in the head. The monster casually turned its head towards Faith, its yellow oval eyes simply looking at her with no change of expression. Even a leer would have been much less scarier. Faith threw the second rock in frantic terror, but that too, when it hit the beast's forehead, did not cause the creature to change expressions.
It then grabbed the writhing and bloody body of the reeve with great ease, as if picking a dandelion, and chucked it at Faith's direction. She quickly went to the side and managed to dodge the flying body, but not without having blood and guts splattered on her already red dress. She could feel the warm liquid slide down the back of her head.

Before she could react, the beast got down on all fours and started speeding towards her. Its emotionless eyes and that horrible toothless grin as it lurched forward almost made Faith freeze in fear.

‘No, don’t freeze now” Faith cursed herself mentally as she saw the beast coming closer. She could hear the groans of the reeve becoming more faint and infrequent. She could tell that he didn’t have long to live, but could not do anything about it.

Faith heard that before they died or were in the face of danger, people would have memories flash before their eyes. Faith saw herself looking at her father kneeling and showing outstretched hands. She then saw the moment when she cut down her first tree, about three or four years ago. Her father helped guide her on that one, but nonetheless it was an important milestone in Faith’s life.

‘This is it.’ Faith thought as she could see the monster slowing down to a predatory crouch, looking straight into her eyes. Faith couldn't hear the man behind her anymore, nor did she care, for she was about to die. As the elongated fingers of the beast curved up as it readies to rip apart its new victim, Faith saw clusters of holes all over its body, especially on its hand, and therefore confirming Faith’s fears: It was a Gasper.

Faith couldn't move. She felt paralyzed from fear despite being able to react perfectly when the bandits attacked two days ago. The eyes were probably what caused her to stand still in fear. Faith couldn't help but gaze into it's expressionless, perfectly oval yellow eyes.

Faith saw more memories come and go as the creature got closer and closer. This time she saw a smaller Callum throw rocks into the secret pond only the two of them knew about. His cheerful green eyes and his scruffy hair with that annoying brown fringe that always seemed to part midway no matter what. She always loved to try and comb it straight down but it never worked. It was one of those silly things that Faith liked about Callum and why she wanted to protect him.

Protect...

Faith suddenly felt her body come back into her control again. Remembering why she risked bandit attacks, cold nights, pompous Vlamaran scholars, and ghoulish flying monsters for, Faith gave a feral scream that made her partially gurgle and raised her axe up and let the axe head cut into one of the hands. As white blood spilled from the beast's palm with the axe embedded in, Faith quickly let go of her weapon and jumped back diagonally as it struck down with its other hand.

The flying Gasper, while powerful, seemed slow. It looked up at Faith and crouched down in its lunging stance again; its knuckles were placed on the dirt. Faith quickly grabbed a rock and threw it just as it pounced. The more jagged side of her natural projectile hit one of the eyes, and Faith could see light yellow liquid coming out. She then quickly dodged to the side to let the Gasper pass. The monster landed nearby Faith, but instead of attacking her clutched its smashed eye and gave a low sucking sound.

Faith quickly grabbed another rock as she got some more distance between her and it, this one with a sharp, knife-like edge. She moved backwards, watching with careful eyes at the movements of the gasper. The gasping noises slowly turned into faint breathing, and it slowly straightened its body a bit more from its slouching, fists on the floor posture it had before.

She took a deep breath and then lunged forward at the gasper's back, her stone weapon raised above her head. Slamming it down on its neck, a low crunch came from where Faith struck. The gasper gave a loud and long moan as it reached its long sharp fingers to the back and tried to reach its attacker, who quickly jumped back and grabbed another rock.

Faith was about to go at it with another lunge when the gasper swung its arms around as it turned around to face her. Faith flinched a bit, caught unaware by its move; luckily Faith was far enough so not to be hit by its strikes, though some of its fingers were too close for any sort of comfort. She could see blood still hanging on its dark skin, and suddenly remembered the most likely dead reeve.

It was a hopeless battle for her, and she knew it. While she did manage to blind one of the gasper’s eyes, Faith struck two blows with rocks that would have definitely killed a human being, and the monster didn’t even blink. The blood loss also didn’t seem to be hampering it, and Faith could see quite a bit of it spilled on the trail. While another rock in the eye might do the trick, Faith wasn’t sure she could get another lucky hit; the gasper was shuffling side to side, bobbing its head so that it’ll be a harder target to hit.

“Damn it all.” Faith cursed as she turned around and ran into the forest. She decided that it would be best to run.

She knew that the gasper could fly, but the forest would provide Faith with cover and make it harder for her foe if it tried to grasp her from above.

Her eyes didn't register it then, but when Faith reached the green embrace of the woods, she suddenly realized what she saw. She quickly turned her head around to see two people running down from the direction where she was walking from. The two men were on opposite sides of the trail, and in their hands held a large net. They charged at the gasper, flung the thick net as it raised its arms up. The men quickly drew swords as the gasper tried to pull the net apart; the interweaving ropes that consisted the net were slowly being torn.

The two men, who wore expensive chain mail armor, wasted no time in stabbing the beast in various places. Even though the gasper showed little indication that it was in pain other than its frantic tearing of the net, the two men continued stabbing. White blood began gushing out from all over its wounds, and the men made sure to create more gashes. One of the men, who wore an Albeonan battle helmet with none of the usual cloth flaps that would hang from the back of the head, started cutting the fingers that were pulling and tearing the individual fibers of the net.
It was then that the beast reeled back and gave a gurgling scream. It tried to push and shove itself into one of the men, who sidestepped and lunged their swords quickly at the beast before moving back again. The gasper’s now frantic movement caused the gasper to become more entangled in the webbing. It gave gasp, and then slowly lowered its head on its chest and died.

The rushing feeling Faith had when fought the monster gradually subsided, and she came to realize that she was out of her hiding spot and onto the open road again. The two men were cleaning their swords with large leaves that had fallen all around, and occasionally glancing at the creature. For a while Faith simply watched them clean and adjust their gear.

She got a clearer view of her saviors. They wore the aforementioned chain mail shirt, had thick travelling trousers, and heavy travelling boots. The man with the battle cap looked middle aged, had a drooping graying brown mustache and drooping eyelids, and long, mangled, and equally graying hair coming down to his shoulder blades. With hair like that, Faith thought, he didn't need a back flap.

The other man looked a bit younger, though his face showed creases in the midst of his dark stubble. This man's hair was much shorter and much more combed in comparison to his companion. His chain mail as well, in comparison to the other man's, was less battered; it did, however, have the white blood of the gasper dripping from the bottom of the shirt. He wore leather gloves of sorts, and his shins were protected by metal guards.
And on their backs were wooden triangular shields with a round piece of metal placed in the center. Underneath it, the symbol of a red sword hilt with a wavy, similarly red blade was painted onto the wooden frame. Faith, seeing this symbol, caused her to stop breathing.

These were Fireswords.




-10-

One of the Fireswords, the one with the mustache and the flapless battle cap, looked up and saw Faith. He said something and the other one looked at her too. Faith felt nervous. Would they kill her for seeing a gasper?

Her fears were relieved when both of them sheathed their swords back into their scabbards. The helmeted man gave a smile and waved at her. The other Firesword gave her a cold and suspicious look, reminding Faith of Nikola.

"You're the one that gave this gasper a tough time, right?" He had a raspy edge in his voice as he spoke.

Faith felt herself at a loss of words. She just came out of the grasp of death, and now a member of the elite order that Faith wanted to join was being cheery.

"I.. erh... uhh..." Faith tried to speak as she saw the other Firesword give a frown, "yes, Mi'lord."

"Oh don't call me lord. I'm only a reeve." He chuckled as he walked towards Faith. She could smell onions and garlic coming from him "My name is Firesword Percifold of Corella."

Corella, from what Faith knew, was near the Zepanan lands. That would explain the garlic smell and standalone mustache with no beard.

"We are Fireswords on our way back to the Capital from a…ah, mission,” He glanced at his younger companion, who was still staring at Faith with almost a leer, “and we stumbled across your predicament.”

Firesword Percifold looked over beyond Fatih’s shoulder and gave a sigh. “It is a pity we could not help that poor fellow. From the looks of his shield lying smashed over there, he was from the Harthberd realm. Earl Harthberd would not be pleased.” He walked past Faith and towards the corpse.

Faith was about to turn to look at him when the other man spoke. “Quite reckless for a peasant to be going around fighting whatever monster catches her fancy. We saw you smash its head with a rock. That thing, if it got you, would have torn you apart like softly broiled chicken.”

“Well, mi’lord,” Faith gave a meek curtsy as he looked at her with a deeper frown, “I had to help the poor reeve from the Harthberd realm that was being attacked by that spawner of Devourment.” Faith saw the man’s eyes grow wide and felt relieved that the Fireswords knew about the Dream Eater, but she knew that she was in hot water now and had to be careful what she would say.

“And, pray, my fair maiden,” it was Firesword Percifold who spoke, “where did you hear about this Devourment?”
Faith turned to look around to look at him. While he didn’t have the same frown and furrowed eyes as the currently unnamed Firesword, he wasn’t smiling either. Faith felt a pit in her stomach. Did she make a mistake?

“Umm… well Firesword Percifold, a traveler told me about it while I was on my way to the Capital. You see, sirs, my village of Mountainwall was destroyed by the Dream Eater and its Devourment.” While she could see Firesword Percifold’s expression become grim, she could also tell from the soft gasp behind her that the Firesword behind her was also caught unaware.

Firesword Percifold glanced over Faith’s head and slowly nodded. Faith, quite uneasy about what that nod was about, glanced at Percifold’s hands, which were crossed and not in any way near the scabbard, and then quickly turned back to the other Firesword. He was staring at the dead gasper, which was to Faith’s astonishment, decomposing already. The man turned his head and glanced back at Faith.

“What were you planning on doing once you reached the Capital..?” He hanged on to the last word, a cue that Faith understood quickly.

“My name is Faith of Mountainwall, mi’lord.” She gave another curtsy. “I was hoping to tell the king what happened and then...” She hesitated, not sure whether to tell these two that she wanted to join. She would have preferred to have done so at the Capital with some higher ranking Firesword, but this was probably the only chance she would have.

“And then?” The other Firesword said flatly. He crossed his arms and shifted his weight from one side to the other.
Firesword Percifold walked passed Faith and stood next to the unnamed Firesword with the short hair. He looked at his friend, who didn’t take his eyes off Faith. It made her nervous and she squirmed a bit, her fingers tugging a bit on the sleeves of her dress and her eyes lowered to the ground.

“Don’t be so abrupt to the girl, Arthold, the girl’s been through a lot.” Firesword Percifold gave a faint smile as if trying to lighten the mood, but Arthold gave him a glare.

“I told you to call me Firejudge Arthold, Firesword Percifold; you may have served my family well, but that does not give you the right to casually mention my name in public.” He chastised Percifold before looking back at Faith.

“Well?”

Faith swallowed hard, her face red with embarrassment and she tried hard not to start shaking. A Firejudge himself was standing before her. They were the elite of the elite, and are said to gain such a title if they slayed a worthy monster; they were also the ones that recruited new Fireswords. Faith couldn’t tell if this was a blessing or a curse. Regardless, Faith was louder when she finally spoke.

“I-I want to join the Fireswords, Mi’lord.”

She quickly looked up to see Firesword Percifold and Firejudge Arthold gave her a surprised look. Percifold’s mouth moved a bit as he tried to find words, while the Firejudge simply reverted his eyes back to a furrow but gave a smirk this time instead of a frown.

“You want to join Albeon’s best? Why should we let a peasant girl who simply flailed a rock at a gasper and couldn’t even kill it in?” Faith was beginning to dislike Arthold more and more, but held her tongue. This might be her only chance at getting into the Fireswords.

“Because, mi’lord, I heard that the Fireswords accept both women and peasants into their ranks if they proved themselves. The Devourment have destroyed my village and all I have left is a friend who I left under the care of the people of Treeton, and I promised myself that I would protect him. I want to give my life to the Fireswords so that I can protect others from the same fate that has befallen us, whether they be the Dream Eater or otherwise.”

Faith quickly kneeled on one knee and bowed her head deeper, having learned that this was a polite way of showing fealty to Albeonan nobility. She also pressed the fingers of her right hand lightly on the ground and bowed even deeper. That indicated that what she desired was extremely important to her, and she would even die for her goal. It was meant to tug on Albeonan honor by showing the dedication, and Faith could hear one of them, most likely the Firejudge, sigh.

“This lass knows more than it seems.” Percifold chuckled. “Perhaps we should consider it, Art… Firejudge Arthold. I wouldn’t mind having a sweet thing like her tag along with us on our dreary journeys.”

“That is something a married noble like you shouldn’t be saying, Firesword Percifold. Just because this girl knows the existence of the Dream Eater and how to grovel at someone’s feet properly does not make her Firesword material. And if she does join, gods forbid, I don’t know if I can keep Firesword Peet from singing romantic ballads to her. We don’t need a damsel in distress in our band. ” Faith felt the urge to up and punch Firejudge Arthold in the face rise.

“With all due respect, Mi’lord,” Faith said as she looked up slightly, seeing his boots, “I can hold up my own weight. I fought a crayfish Devourment, birthed by my own village elder, when it tried to kill my friend. With only a stick I fought off Capital Guards who were actually Tyrannian followers and were ready to kill us," Faith glanced up and saw the two men grimace and look at each. Faith continued, "I learned about the Dream Eater from a man named Nikola Savante of Vlamar. We managed to fend off a group of bandits and I killed my first man at the bridge near Treeton three days ago. We went our separate ways yesterday, and today I have faced that thing and managed to survive longer than that reeve."

Faith looked up at the two men, her confidence increasing as she continued speaking. "I'm not afraid of death, Mi'lord. I have decided on my own to leave the safety of Treeton to tell the king or whatever Earl would listen about what happened. I didn't want to stand blindly while this hell is happening all over. Even when Nikola said that your people were covering up the truth about the Dream Eater, I still went forward. Mi'lord, I am not someone who will easily back down. If you won't recruit me to the Fireswords, I'll simply find another Firejudge who might."

She was breathing heavily when she finished. Her arms were shaking a bit, and she could almost see her breath as the air got colder. Firesword Percifold looked even more dumbfounded than before, and instead of stuttering for words, simply gazed at her. Firejudge Arthold was rubbing his forehead hard and gritting his teeth.

"That Vlamaran told you it all, did he?" He muttered as he opened one blue eye halfway.

"Yes, mi'lord. Do you know him?" Faith asked. She saw Firesword Percifold lose his earlier expression and raise his cheeks as he gave a small smirk.

"Do we know that arrogant son of a bitch? He punched an earl a few years ago when the Yeronian Council was still around when said earl suggested that the Dream Eater was the least of Albeon's problems. He would come every morning to the court and bother the king with plans and theories concerning the monsters. When the Council dissolved as each kingdom fell back to petty arguments, Nikola left the Capital. Can't believe he is still roaming." Percifold jerked a gloved thumb at Arthold. "Firejudge Arthold knew him quite well."

"That Vlamaran rat punched my father." Arthold muttered and then straightened his body up. He walked towards Faith's still kneeling figure and loomed over her. Faith quickly looked down again. He studied her for a while, then turned around and walked a few feet.

"Faith of Mountainwall, how am I to know you won't flee from battle as a Firesword in the same way you fled earlier today?" Those words stung Fatih's pride, and she silently bit her lip. Her long blonde hair kept the Fireswords from seeing her wincing face. "Fireswords work as a team, requiring each other for support. I cannot have one finicky female jeopardize the mission over the sight of blood."

"Aw come on, Firejudge, you saw her get close with that winged gasper with only a rock. I don't think even Gelic sword-sisters would have been that courageous.." Firesword Percifold said but the young Firejudge held up his arm.
"or reckless. I've seen many people fight the Devourment and die worthless deaths. Also I asked Faith of Mountainwall, Firesword Percifold, not you; if I wanted your opinion I would have asked you. Well, Faith of Mountainwall? What says you?" Firejudge Arthold turned around and gazed at Faith.

She was quiet for a bit. Then, after a while of bending there, Faith stood up. Her eyes were a bit red and stuffy and the dirt she gazed upon was a bit damp, but a new sense of fire were in them as well.

"Firejudge Arthold, as I said earlier, I have gone through much trouble in my journey and left someone I love dearly back in Treeton. I could have stayed there as well, but I couldn't stand not being able to do anything about it. While I may have proved myself weak when fleeing the flying beast, I tried my best to save the reeve when I could have easily have ran away into the safety of the forest. If that doesn't prove my worth to you, then nothing will." Faith paused and then added: "If you allow me to become a Firesword, I promise to not to flee or disobey orders. If I do run, may you slay me on the spot."

The sky was cloudy, but the light showing from it indicated that it was still morning. Faith couldn't believe how short a time span the events occurred the in. It felt forever, though, as she and even Firesword Percifold watched intently at Arthold, who was still. He was glancing at the ground on Faith’s feet, the only movement being blinking or shifting his weight to one side or the other.

He then looked up, not at Faith, but at Firesword Percifold.

“Let us quickly retrieve any effects this reeve of Harthberd’s in case the earl had him running some important errand, and then burn the bodies. We do not know if any Devourment lurks in the corpses.” Arthold started issuing commands as he started walking off along the trail. “And Faith of Mountainwall?”

“Yes Mi’lord?” Her heart skipped when the Firejudge called on her. He turned his head to glance.

“I would think you brought more than an axe and your reckless behavior with you on your journey. Quickly gather up your supplies, wherever they may be, and help Firesword Percifold burn the bodies.”

“Y-yes mi’lord.” Faith felt her body become light. She couldn’t believe her ears. “Does this mean I am a Firesword?
"No, this does not mean you are Firesword. You are simply coming with us to the Capital to the King Swordbreaker your report. If you want to join the Fireswords, you will have to prove your worth.." Firejudge Arthold said before he resumed walking.

Faith looked shocked and stared at the man. "But.." She stopped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Firesword Percifold was standing next to her, giving a faint smile; in his free hand he grasped a bundle of small sticks, probably for the fires that would consume the bodies.

"Don't fret, young last. He is usually like that to people."

"But what do I need to prove?" Faith replied aghast as she glowered at the back of Arthold.

"There's more to being a Firesword than simply swinging a weapon at some ugly Orx. I can't reveal more than that sadly. You'll have to experience it yourself." He jerked his head towards the corpses. "You should count yourself lucky that Arthold, or should I say Firejudge Arthold as he prefers his highness to be called, even considered you as a potential. Hundreds of men, much more stronger than you, were refused by him. Now, come on and gather some wood for the fires. We'll need to roast them real good."

As Faith went to the edges of the dirt trail and picked small sticks, she watched Percifold closely, who was kneeling down and carefully placing bundles of tinderwood into the mouths, noses, and the ears of both the dead reeve and the gasper. He gave her a glance before looking down to his work again.

"Even though most gaspers have these tiny holes on their bodies that spawn the cretin known as Devourment, most come out from the obvious places, and if there is one thing the smaller bastards don't like, it's fire. We place burnable objects into their orifices so that it can burn any Devourment inside quickly.” Firesword Percifold explained as he placed more bundles that were sitting next to him on top of the bodies.

Faith, after getting a good amount of wood hugged to her chest, came back to where Firesword Percifold knelt over and dumped it on top of the dead gasper.

“Can they spread their disease?” Faith asked as she watched Percifold sort the wood over the body. The Firesword gave a shrug.

“I do not think so. Many of the survivors of other Devourment attacks haven’t turned into the more gaspers. The Dream Eater seems at random who becomes a gasper. Even so, it is not wise to touch a corpse, as they house more than just a potential chance of becoming another gasper.”

Faith felt a shudder from her body. Who was this enemy that could, at random, choose who would turn into a monster that would kill their loved ones? Now she had doubts about how the Fireswords could be able to fight a foe that resides in their mind. Faith thought that maybe magic might be the answer, but after listening to Nikola, she came to the realization that if it was the Dream Eater would have been defeated within the decade it appeared.
“What is the matter, Faith?” Percifold didn’t use her formal name, and that made Faith feel a little better. At least Percifold accepted her as a potential recruit as a Firesword. She decided to put her trust in him and spoke as they both got up and moved back. The older Firesword lit the piled kindle with his small flint and steel.

“I’m worried, Firesword Percifold. Not scared, but worried.” She didn’t want to make herself sound weak so she added that last part. It wouldn’t do her good if she made Firejudge Percifold doubt her ability as a future Firesword.
“About what?” He replied as the two watched the body burn. A foul stench started to invade Faith’s nostril, and she started to close her nose. Percifold then walked to the edge of the road and gathered wood for the next body. “You’ll get used to the smell.”

Faith quickly followed suit, picking up branches and leaves, and placing it on the body of the reeve before going back to gather more.

“Is it possible to defeat the Dream Eater if it’s not of our realm? From what Nikola told me its Devourment are increasing in number and attacking stronger places. If we don’t stop it soon, what will it do within a few years? Do the kings of Yero have a plan to stop it?”

For a while Firesword Percifold said nothing, simply gathering wood. Faith shuffled her feet as she dropped her bundle on the body, uneasy at the silence. She was used to death by now, but the sight of the reeve of Harthberd’s gutted stomach and chest made her a bit queasy, and didn’t help her already disquieted feeling.

“Well, we are still looking for a way. I know, as I’m sure you do since you were with Nikola, that the Tyrannians have something up their sleeve though it would mean the end of freedom. What it is, the Tyrannian Empire kept secret; even Nikola has been elusive about what they are doing against the Dream Eater. As for everyone else, all they and we can do is stop the Devourment when it comes out, and try to keep order when the effects and devastation of such attacks. As for what will happen if we can’t stop the Dream Eater’s increasing attacks...”

And for the second time Firesword Percifold went silent. Faith was starting to realize the gravity of the situation. Even though she knew some of the dangers and didn’t view her goal as a fairy tale trip, she didn’t think that the Fireswords themselves had little idea on how to deal with the threat. Perhaps that was why Tyrannus was able to appeal to some of the people who knew, like the Capital Guards that attacked Faith and Callum. He at least had a solution.

“I won’t lie, Faith, if a miracle doesn’t happen soon, we’ll either be under Tyrannus’ rule or dead because all the Yeronian nations couldn’t stop their petty wars and feuds. And from what I hear about how Tyrannians treat their subjects, that isn’t a good alternative.”

“But I will say this!” Firesword Percifold stood up and turned to face Faith, his eyes glowing and his mouth giving a grin. “While I live, I will continue to protect Albeon, whether it be from the Dream Eater or King Tyrannus and his pawns. That is what it means to be a Firesword, remember that. We will continue to fight evil with a fiery grin even if hope herself died. For my family I will fight Reuf and all the other gods if I have to. It is this mentality that Firejudge Arthold possibly saw in you, and why he is allowing you to let you prove yourself.”

Faith couldn’t help but give a smile. Percifold, despite his nice and lax behavior, especially to the younger Firejudge, was similar to Faith’s. Even at the face of all odds they will go and fight to protect something dear to them.
The two of them burned the reeve’s body after they piled more wood and tinder on, and said a quick blessing, commending his soul to both the Endless Sea to meet with spirits who will ferry the soul to the lands beyond where gods dwelled, and to the heavenly, almost cloudy afterlife of the All-Maker. Faith quickly gathered all her belongings that she left back near the rock where she canoed the night before.

“He didn’t have much in his belongings,” Firesword Percifold said as both and Faith started to walk quickly in order to catch up with Firejudge Arthold, who was a small dot in the horizon, “but what I did get we shall promptly bring to Earl Harthberd when we reach the Palace.”

Faith nodded and then shifted her pack. Despite the horrors she experienced, a sense of warmth and excitement washed over her. She still had to go through these initiation rites in order to become a fully-fledged Firesword, but at least it was possible.

It was possible.
Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
-Joseph Campbell

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Heretic
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Re: The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Heretic » Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:29 pm

I have decided to post the rest of my story into two posts. It is a pain to edit each time, so I decided to do it all at once. The story is finished by a long shot, but I'm still shocked that I managed 50,000 words. After this, it's time to finish up the first half of the book and then chop it up, send it to some editing 'friends' to chop it up some more, chop chop chop, and then send myself the congratulatory two free hard copies by June 30.

Things to note for edit:
1. Edit long conversations and redundancies.
2. Obviously lots of silly cliches.
3. There has to be a way to make a misogynist character without being a complete and utterly unlikable douche.
4. Better word choices.
5. Characters seem too two dimensional; change it.

I would also like to thank the OZ/O1 community for helping me, across the awkward years being here since 2007-2008, help me learn valuable writing skills, my own writing style, as well as publish your own, extremely entertaining stories which I have not even scratch the surface of.

Without further ado, here is the current state (as of 1/14/14) of my NaNoWriMo.

-11-
The edge of the Capital was amazing to a peasant girl like Faith, who only went out into the outskirts of her secluded village of Mountainwall. Large flat lands rolled across as far as the eye could see, and she could see cottages with large farms dot the land. A large river snaked through the land, and a few boats were floating across them.

“Merchants from various parts of Valentia and Zepana coming to the Capital. Going by the Lud River is much safer and easier to guard than the trails.” Firejudge Arthold motioned as the trio walked passed a small granary. “We trade wheat and wood for wine and metals.”

“I still can’t believe this is not the Capital.” Faith gasped as she watched farmers ploughed the fields with oxen pulling the sharp tool. Some of the farms were even bigger than Mountainwall.

“Aye, the food from the outskirts of the Capital is used to feed the inhabitants of the city and sell the surplus to the Valentians and Zepanans.” Firesword Percifold said and pointed at one of the farms.

“Why can’t they send some of that wheat to Albeonan villages? That would have helped us through the winter.” Faith felt bitter as she looked at the farms, remembering the days when food was scarce in winter.

“Because it is up to the individual earl to provide villages under his realm with emergency supplies from his estate if they are suffering.” Arthold said as he looked out at the river filled with the small boats of the merchants. “Surely you would have known that.”

Faith stopped walking and looked at Arthold. “Wait, earls give us wheat when winter causes us to starve?” Now that was a novel idea.
“Each realm is mostly independent and self-sufficient, but must provide for their subjects under the law of the king with food if needed.” Arthold turned back at her with a confused look. “Surely you know that.”

Faith shook her head. “When winter came, we were on our own. No reeve came by with sacks of wheat.”

“Firesword Percifold, who controls the realm that Mountainwall was under?” Was. That word made Faith wince.

“Earl Lodether.” Faith quickly said.

“Oh good,” Arthold mumbled as the three passed under a hooded bridge, “you aren’t completely oblivious about the world you live in.”

Those words stung Faith hard. She held back tears as she remembered about her predicament prior to the destruction of her home. It isn’t my fault, she thought as she averted her eyes, that I didn’t know. She averted her face to look away from her companions, hoping they didn’t see her tears. The fact that Arthold continued to be so patronizing and condescending to Faith, despite what she’s been through made her upset even more.

“So you are telling me that during these harsh winters when food is short, no reeve comes by with an emergency wagon?” Arthold asked. Faith shook her head.

“No sir,” She could now call him sir instead of mi’lord because she was considered a part, or at least part of, his group. While Albeon was more lax on nobility-commoner relations, with social mobility possible, the titles Albeonans give each other depending on the situation have a complex etiquette to them.

“None of my parents or my neighbors seemed to have brought that sort of topic up even during the days when there was nothing to eat. Why didn’t the towns of Treeton or even Low Wind mention such things to us when a few of their traders and travelers came to visit us during that season?” Faith didn’t blame Callum or the other fishermen, since they went during the spring. Then a thought came to her.

“Come to think of it..” Faith mused as she searched her memory. Firesword Percifold loked at her with a puzzled expression.

“What is it?” He said. Unlike the indifferent Arthold who was still walking in front, Percifold was walking next to her and gave her his attention.

“I recall, a few years ago, a ragged old man came to our village with a cane screaming about free grain. He stayed a while, telling a few curious that the earl was holding back food from us. We thought he was simply mad, and were glad when the district patrol came and took him way.” Faith cocked her head as the mystery thickened. “Why did the district patrol come so quickly when the man came but they rarely do any other time?”

“Why indeed.” Arthold simply said. Around this time Faith could see a large stone tower resting on a distant hill, small wooden roofs surrounding it. Faith couldn’t make it out too much, but she could tell most of these buildings, which didn’t seem to have an ordered pattern to in their settlement, were much, much bigger than the cottages that Mountainwall or Treeton build. The closest she could think of similar to the sizes of those distant buildings was the inn at Treeton.

“We’ll have to figure out what’s going on once we get to the Capital.” Firesword Percifold mused as they continued forward. Faith nodded.

What was going on?


-12-
The Capital made Faith feel small. The buildings, which she guessed were about similar size to the inn at Treeton, where much bigger. Firesword Percifold stated that many of them housed stores on the first level and the actual living quarters were on the second story. What surprised Faith the most was that each building was home to two or three different families, divided by walls in the house. These apartments, as they were called, allowed hundreds of families to dwell relatively close to the stone keep that was called The Palace without the need to use precious farming lands for individual housings.

For a while she stood in awe at the massive cottages, which had paneled roofs instead of thatched like in Treeton. But then she came to realize a horrendous stench invaded her nostrils. The smell of butchered meat, stinking fish, and garbage dropped on the side of the road intermixed. Faith was also pushed by Firejudge Arthold, who told her to keep moving and stop blocking traffic.
"This isn't your idyllic village with only a handful of people. If you stand still you will get hurt. There alot of people in the Capital with many places to be; patience is a luxury in the Capital." He said as Faith increased her pace so that she didn't have to get her back pushed. Firesword Percifold simply chuckled.

And there were many people. Faith started to feel a bit dizzy from how little space there was and the rapid movement of people. Rustic farmers holding the tied corpses of chickens intermingled with women holding baskets and screaming and bartering with merchants who were behind stalls selling all sorts of items on the side of the road. Faith bumped and evaded many a passerby who did not stop to say excuse me or simply mumbled.

The noise, Faith noted as she closed them at times, was extremely loud. The screams of babies, the neighing of mules, the shouts of hawkers, and the general buzz of the city made Faith's ears ring.

"Not used to it, I see!" Firesword Percifold laughed as they turned a corner where there were even more people.

"Hunh?" Faith said loudly. The older Firesword gave a laugh and continued walking.
When the trio managed to come to the tall, stone fortress that was called the Palace, which was surrounded by a large moat and small earthworks, there seemed to be fewer people crowding the area. A semi-circle of guards holding spears and triangular shields showing the emblem of the tree stood guard in front of the wooden bridge connecting the keep with the rest of the city of the Capital.

Arthold and Percifold unslung their shields and showed them to the guards, who looked at them carefully before moving aside. As the three went past, Arthold looked at one of the guards and pointed at Faith.

"She is with us as a potential Firesword recruit." The guard nodded as he watched Faith pass by.
Faith felt nervous as she went on the bridge. Who knows how many potential Tyrannian sympathizers lurked within the ranks of the Capital Guards. Perhaps it was this same reason why Firejudge Arthold didn't mention anything.

"When we get to the Palace," Arthold slowed down his pace so that he was next to Faith, "you will not say anything about Mountainwall until we meet with the King himself."

Faith almost tripped with excitement and fear. She was going straight to the king's ears! But then she suddenly got suspicious.

"Shouldn't I at least, in protocol, speak with the Steward, who would then ask the earl in charge of my realm about who I should direct my...enquiries to and then go through the King’s Chancellor, with the earl’s permission, if I want to speak directly to the king himself?” Faith recalled Nikola’s lessons of Albeonan court bureaucracy.
“Normally yes, we would go through the protocols if you wanted to speak to the king.” Arthold replied as they got closer to the other side of the bridge, which was guarded by more Capital Guards facing their direction. His voice turned into a whisper. “But our little conversation concerning your earl has made me a little wary. Even the most wickedest of earls and reeves know that it is in their best interest to supply their subjects during hardships if they want to keep their trade flowing and their realm guarded by loyal militias. Your earl, if what you say is true, has breached even that most sacred oath.”

“And we have always suspected something astir with Earl Lodether.” Lord Percifold added and then went quiet when the trio came within earshot with the guards.

A man, who had a sword scabbard longer than his other guardsmen’s, stepped forward to meet the group. He looked older, and Faith guessed that he was the captain of this particular group of guards.

“Hail Firejudge.” He gave a thump on his chest with his right hand. Arthold didn’t salute back but Percifold did. Faith curtsied.

“Hail Captain.” Arthold said in reply. “I have come back from patrol and bring with me a potential recruit for my order.”

The guard captain looked at Faith and studied her. Faith felt herself go red in the face. The captain then gave a chuckle.

“I see you felt a bit lonely with all that traveling around and sharing beds with other men during cold nights. Wish the Guards could bring in some pretty ones.” He laughed, causing Faith to feel more embarrassed.

“None of that sort, Captain, and I would be most appreciative if you acted more like a man of your position and less like an adolescent boy in his fantasies. Faith of Mountainwall has shown promise as a Firesword in the field, and it is my duty to make sure that all aspirants to our order are given a chance to test their potential.“

Arthold’s voice, while never nicer and light in tone to begin with, became harsher as he spoke to the captain, who straightened up and lost the smile.

“I’m sorry, Firejudge, I will not act immaturely again. You have permission to pass.” He then turned to the side and walked a few steps back. A few of the closer guards did the same and Arthold walked forward. The other two did the same. Faith averted her eyes down as she walked, not wanting to become the center of attention. Despite this, she felt quite appreciative about Arthold’s defense for her, and decided that maybe, just maybe, Firejudge Arthold wasn’t as mean and hostile as he seemed.

The entrance to the Palace was a large, iron portcullis gate that opened up when the group got near. Around them were tents and wooden stables where the men and the few horses in Albeon dwelt respectively. She could see a column of haystacks with wooden targets on them, some had arrows sticking out. A distance away from that Faith could see men wielding shields and wooden swords with hide covering the edges practicing various sword maneuvers.
Inside the Palace Faith saw a large singular chamber with more tents and stables. It was as if the first level of the stone tower was an indoor field of some sort, though the floor was covered in straw and dirt.

“This way. This is the barracks of the Palace, where our soldiers can defend the horizontal structure from invading forces quickly. While very important against actual warfare, the soldiers here are completely useless against the shadowy nature of Court politics and the assassin’s blade.” Arthold led them across the chamber towards two large doors that had some distance apart from each other. A dozen Guards were stationed on each of the doors, and gave a salute as Arthold passed into the left door.

They came to a curving stairwell rising to the left. Faith guessed that the other door had a similarly symmetrical stairwell. As the three started walking up, Faith couldn’t help but gaze at the countless tapestries and shields with paintings that hung on the curving walls. Legends and myths were etched into their respective surfaces, scenes of terrible monsters facing off with valiant warriors alongside colorful and decorative portraits of romance and valor.

“These not only show the scenes of our ballads,” it was Firesword Percifold who spoke, “but these show our kingdom’s history and the heroics of various individuals. If you join the Fireswords and make a name for yourself, a shield bearing your tale would be mounted here.”

“If you join the Fireswords and do anything worthwhile, that is.” Arthold said before Faith could get any sense of warm feelings about the idea. She quickly stuck her tongue out at his back and Percifold, who was behind her, chuckled.
After a while the trio came to face a door in front of them. Opening it revealed the door from the other side. Coming out of their side Faith saw to her right a hallway leading to another, larger door, a red carpet connecting it to the wall Faith, Arthold, and Percifold were standing next to. More shield paintings adorned the walls.
“To the Great Commons.” Firesword Percifold whispered as they headed towards it. Faith held her breath. This was where the people would go to be directed to various corridors leading to different rooms that housed the earls during the last two seasons.

Arthold opened the door, which had no guards stationed near it, and Faith gasped. Brightly lit from glass panels and torches that dotted all around the circular walls, the Great Commons was huge, probably even taller than the barracks underneath. Four finely carved poles were stationed near the four corners of the room if it was rectangular, supporting the arched ceiling above. A large wooden circular table sat in the middle of the hall, with many chairs with it. In the middle of the table was a large metal brazier, its flames burning softly. There were a dozen or so doors in the walls, but directly across Faith’s group was simply a throne sitting on an elevated stone platform, behind it being decorated with a long red curtain that hung from the top.

Stationed on each of the doors that Faith guessed were the personal quarters of the earls and their families, were two guards posted at each end. They stared at the newcomers, but quickly went back to looking straight ahead. There were no guards surrounding the king’s throne nor near the curtains behind it.

“Let us head directly to the king’s room.” Arthold sounded a bit nervous, his voice a bit faster than usual.

“Where is it?” Faith asked as they walked around the large table and towards the throne.
“Behind this curtain.” Arthold brushed aside the opening and Faith saw a passageway leading to a dead end.

“I don’t see anything.” Faith murmured as she crept in. It was barely lit, with only two burning torches on both sides of the wall. There were no decorations here, no shield paintings showing heroes in battle. All she saw were barren stone walls with a fairly large square indent at the end of the floor and a square opening above.

“Because, Faith of Mountainwall, the king’s room is upstairs.” Arthold halted in front of the depression. He clapped his hands twice.

For a while nothing happened, but then Faith saw a stone slab come down from the opening above float down and place itself on the square indent. Faith gasped at what she just saw and jumped back.

“What is that? Is it magic?” Faith quickly huffed as she gazed at the now even flooring. Both Firesword Percifold and Firejudge Arthold stepped on it.

“It is called a lift, and yes, it is magic. Very expensive magic. It allows the king to and his family to have his own private apartment within the Palace that can be easily defendable without having them cut off from the world.” Arthold beckoned Faith to step on it. Faith tiptoed a bit, uneasy about stepping on this strange thing, but Arthold curtly grabbed her arm and pulled her onto the platform.

“Ach!” Faith yelled as she almost tripped and fell. She stood up and glowered at Arthold. “You didn’t have to pull me!”

“If you hesitate every time you see something new, Faith of Mountainwall, then you would make a poor Firesword.” Arthold glanced at Faith, giving her a smirk.

Faith glowered even more, but then jerked a bit when Arthold clapped his hands and the platform slowly moved up. She felt a bit wheezy feeling her body being lifted up the flying stone platform, and was tempted to sit down. The smirk on Arthold’s face was still there, so Faith decided to keep herself standing in defiance to him. Darkness enveloped them as the platform went into the opening in the ceiling. Faith looked up and could see a faint light in the distance. While it was gradually getting bigger, Faith figured that the apartments of the royal family was quite far up in the tower.

“Firejudge Arthold,” Firesword Percifold’s voice had a hint of worry that Faith didn’t like, similar to when Callum asked Faith if it was okay to do this or that, “while it may already be too late, was it wise to show Faith the king’s secret? If we wanted to meet the king we could have simply retrieved him while she waited in the Great Commons.”

Secret? Faith’s heart skipped a beat when she heard that word. I’m allowed in on a secret?

That both excited and worried Faith. On one hand that meant Arthold trusted her and that she was going to meet the king in his own personal apartment. On the other it meant Arthold also had something in mind. Probably a very dangerous something at that.

“Faith of Mountainwall here promised me her life in return for joining our precious order and possibly dying a horrible death for it, Firesword Percifold, and if she mentions this lift, she will lose an arm. If she mentions how to summon it, I shall test out my sword on her to make sure it is sharp enough.” Firejudge Arthold turned his head to Faith and instead of a smirk, what he gave was almost a serene smile. It made Faith extremely afraid for her life.

“Of course, sir, I will not mention it to a soul!” Faith immediately said, thumping her chest in salute. Arthold actually gave a chuckle, and Faith didn’t know whether to smile or cower in fear at it. He then turned his head back to the slowly scrolling wall and cusped his hands to his back.

“You may call me Firejudge, Firesword Faith.”

“What.” Both Faith and Percifold said in complete astonishment.

“I said,” Arthold said as he turned his torso, “You may call me Firejudge, Firesword Faith.”

Faith was motionless for a long while, completely numb in her body. And while Firesword Percifold was next to the statuesque Arthold, waving his arms excitably and most likely demanding a reason for this, Faith just stood there, equally statuesque.

I’m a Firesword. She thought as her senses started to return and the darkness that lurked both in her minds and in the lift shaft faded. I done it, Callum, I’m a Firesword!

“..she hasn’t even gone through the Twelve Tests of Fire yet!” Firesword Percifold shouted as he stared at his younger superior. “Why did you suddenly decide that she could bypass her Crucible for her title?”

“If you would stop shouting loud enough that the Fireswords guarding the entrance to hear,
Firesword Percifold of Corella, which by the way we are nearing and compose yourself, I will explain myself.” Firejudge Arthold said, still maintain g his posture.

“I apologize, Firejudge Arthold. I am simply confused.” Percifold bowed his head.

“I understand how you feel, and it is completely reasonable for you to be upset about my butchering of sacred traditions, but right now it is urgent we give Faith of Mountainwall Firesword authority and the legal powers that come with it.”

Yes! Faith couldn’t believe her luck and only partially listened to what was being discussed. She was a Firesword!

“But why?” Firesword Percifold asked as the lift was reaching the lip of the floor that consisted of the royal apartment.

“Because she will meet the king and then challenge Earl Lodether to a duel. To the death, if you want to be specific.” Arthold said as he stepped off the platform and was greeted by two Fireswords in a small dome room.
No!

-13-
King Filip Swordbreaker’s personal chambers were more modest than what Faith expected. A small mahogany table, worth more than most of the weapons wielded by the guards stationed in the Palace itself, rested in the middle of his mostly bare room and most likely the most precious possession the king owned, aside from the jagged mace resting under his arm as he sat a chair. The bed was similar to what Faith used to sleep in, thought the hay was stuffed inside a soft bedding cloth and the blanket was much more wooly and decorated with ornate patterns.
Faith almost passed out if it wasn’t Arthold and Percifold’s continuous assault of lecturing to her and making sure she knew the plan to heart. She was initially shocked about Arthold’s mention of a duel to the death and protested against it, but when Arthold threatened to throw her out of the Fireswords and have her miss her chance to address grievances to the king concerning the fate of Mountainwall, Faith stopped and listened to the plan that Arthold made and Percifold later added to. What she was told shocked her to her core, and she didn’t know if King Filip Swordbreaker, ruler of all Albeon, would take her grievance seriously.

The king was a large, gruff man with hairy arms that looked as if they could squeeze a bear to death and a light brown beard that could almost engulf Faith’s upper body. He had faint battle scars etched on his face and on his arms. The clothes he wore reminded Faith more of a woodsman in winter than what the pictures that Faith saw of kings during the fairs at Mountainwall.

“So!” His voice boomed when he finally spoke. Faith jumped up and forced herself to look at her king directly in the eye, as an Albeonan should.

“So!” King Swordbreaker said with such gusto and boom that Faith could feel her body vibrate. “You are the new Firesword Arthold just told me about, and you already have something to complain about.”

Faith’s face burned red as she gave a timid nod as she averted her eyes. “Yes, your Highness.” She suddenly wished there was a place she could hide in her shame and die there. Her king just said that she had something to complain about.

King Swordbreaker laughed, almost causing Faith to step backwards. “Don’t be so ashamed, Firesword Faith! My duty as king is to listen to all my subjects’ woes, and for a pretty lass like you, I’ll gladly listen!”

Faith felt a little better and looked at King Swordbreaker again. “Your highness, I wish to file suit against Earl Lodether of my realm.”

His face became grave as he stared at Faith. His voice became much softer and solemn “You understand, Firesword Faith of the village Mountainwall, that grievances against earls themselves are very heavy matters, even for a Firesword. It could affect the political situation of Albeon, which is already horrendous as it is.”

Faith, despite feeling a bit ashamed of causing more issues for the king, stood firm.

“What is it that you wish to complain against the earl about, Firesword?” The king leaned forward, his brown eyes looking intently into hers. Faith did her best not avert them in fear.

“I, Firesword Faith of the former village of Mountainwall,” The word former made the king’s eyes go wide, “file a grievance to your Majesty against Earl Lodether of the Aislad Realm for his crimes of gross abuse of his powers by not supplying my village with food for the winter in hopes of destroying us gradually for his own personal and evil gains, dabbling in necromancy and consorting dangerously with the Dream Eater, and treason for sending Tyrannian sympathizers under the banner of the Capital to silence any survivors of my village of Mountainwall, which has been destroyed by the Devourment. I wish upon the honor of the Albeonan Kings that you listen to my grievance and act justly upon it.”

Faith waited as the king simply reclined back and placed his hand under his large beard, scratching his chin. For a while neither of them moved, but then King Swordbreaker looked up at her with his solemn eyes.

“Those are very serious accusations, Firesword Faith of the former village of Mountainwall. Do you have any proof?”

“Firejudge Arthold and Firesword Percifold have proof concerning his necromancy, his dealings with the traitorous guards that attacked me and my friend when we escaped, and his disregard for my village, your Majesty, and they will provide you with records clandestinely procured from the earl’s own chambers.” Faith almost died when she saw the king’s brows furrow with anger. “I..I myself bear a scar from the attack of the “Capital Guards”. Faith turned her head to the right and brushed off some of her long blond hair, revealing a faint slash mark near her ear.

She could see in her peripheral vision the king lean forward to gaze at it. He then leaned back and gave a sigh.

“I know of the suspicions concerning Earl Lodether. My nephew, your Firejudge Arthold, has never stopped pestering me about it and even provided me with some proofs concerning the earl’s lacking loyalty, but now I see he has decided to have a Firesword from the Aislad Realm lodge the complaint; a grievance given against your earl is something I must listen to. Tell me, Firesword, when did you become part of the order?”

“Just today, your majesty. He made me one during our lift here to your royal apartments.” Faith was still in shock from suddenly discovering that mean and callous Firejudge Arthold was King Swordbreaker’s nephew when she mentioned that. The large king placed his head into his large, strong hands and groaned.
“That foolish boy and his infernal schemes. I knew he was dedicated to rooting out corruption in Albeon, but to think he would bypass all the rites that permeated the traditions of the Order of the Fireswords just so he could use a very young peasant girl like you pin Earl Lodether into a corner…” The king rubbed his face. “He is starting to remind me of my brother, and that’s not a good thing, Firesword Faith.”

“Yes, Your Majesty” was the only thing she could get out of her mouth. The king looked nothing like Arthold, though perhaps the eyes had the same fire in the two.

“And… oh by Reuf’s beard, I can easily guess what he wants you to do concerning the earl.” King Swordbreaker stood up and looked at Faith with sympathy and remorse. Faith looked at them with eyes that almost winced with sadness.

“To the death, Your Majesty. To the death.”

-14-
When Firesword Faith and King Filip Swordbreaker walked out of the large double door of the king’s chambers, Faith saw Firejudge Arthold, Firesword Percifold, and Queen Layli sitting on cushioned seats around a circular table adorned with a red cloth. Silverware plates filled with various nutty sweets and fruits and jugs of sweet and herb wine lay on top of the table and in the hands of the three. The smell of the food made Faith's mouth water, who hadn't eaten since morning.
Queen Layli was quite beautiful, her soft red hair in a circular bun and her cheeks full in contrast to her small lips. She wore green smock and a loose lighter green vest above that. Her wrists were adorn with golden bracelets that twisted. She smiled at Fatih as she held a honeyed nut of some sort delicately in between her index finger and her thumb. Compared to her bearlike king, Queen Lilya was like a pigeon.

Faith blushed when the queen smiled at her, aware that she still had some dirt and blood on her clothes. Even though the Fireswords, and Albeonans in general, weren't too picky about such things, it still made her a bit embarrassed.

"Finished, my love?" She softly said as she turned to face her husband.

King Filip Swordbreaker nodded as he went over to the table and grabbed a handful of cherries that were in a bowl. Faith quickly followed behind him, looking at her compatriots. Firejudge Arthold stopped eating and bowed his head respectfully to his uncle, and Firesword Percifold was still eating, though he gave a quick nod to the king, who returned the favor. He did not look at the younger Arthold, who was still bowing his head.

“Aye, Lilya, I heard enough. It seems that the Fireswords here supposedly have enough evidence to haul Earl Lodether to a duel with Firesword Faith here." He replied as he munched on the cherries with his usual gusto. Faith timidly went next to Percifold and grasped a few sweet rolls.
Faith took a small bite as she saw Queen Lilya look at her with a frown and lowered eyes. "A duel With the earl? This young lady? Why would that be necessary; can't you just get the chancellor to judge Lodether?"

"Because, Mi'lday," Arthold finally spoke as he slightly rose his head, "if we simply take Earl Lodether to court, he can simply challenge one of the juries to a duel and easily fight his way out of trouble, regardless of evidence. Earls," He turned to face Faith, "have such privileges. Therefore if we have a Firesword, notably one from his realm and they fight him to the death, even if the earl slays the Firesword he will have to face trial no matter what, which Firesword Faith wishes for her Duel Wish.”

"And what is your wish, Firesword Faith, if you should perish?" King Swordbreaker looked at her. Faith blinked a bit and then looked at Arthold’s cold stare, remembering what she was instructed.
‘Why was the king ignoring Arthold, who just said what I wanted?’

“Well, Your Majesty, I wish to have Earl Lodether stand trial for the injustices he has…wrought against my people.” Faith struggled with the big words Firesword Percifold instructed her to say.
The king grabbed another fistful of red cherries and crammed them in his mouth, silent and his eyes gazing at some of the tapestry. Queen Lilya was silently eating her food, as was Firesword Percifold. Arthold, on the other hand, was staring at the back of his uncle, and Faith could see him pulling on the hems of his shirt nervously.

The king then turned to face Arthold, who jerked up straight in his chair. King Swordbreaker eyed his nephew carefully, and then grabbed a sweet roll. Arthold did not move and Faith almost felt that he turned into a statue.

“I would like to see the records that you have…obtained from Earl Lodether’s chambers. I’m curious what type of things is in them.” King Swordbreaker idly said as he looked at another painting.
Firejudge Arthold quickly jumped up and bounded his chest, his mouth very so slightly curved upwards in the ends. “Yes, Your Majesty, I shall promptly get the parchments detailing Lodether’s communications with potential Tyrannian agents and his accounts showing that he did not supply Mountainwall with winter food and created a conspiracy to keep such knowledge away from the natives of that village.”

"Then do so." The king simply said. Arthold bowed and turned to face the door out of the room. "Wait Arthold." The king stepped closer to his nephew. The Firejudge turned around.

Time almost slowed for Faith as she saw the king's large fist smash into Arthold's lightly tanned skin. His whole body did turned to the side as he hit the table and slid down. Queen Lilya jumped up and gasped as she placed her hands to her mouth. Percifold simply continued eating, though he scooted a bit to let Arthold fall. Faith almost fainted seeing the full wrath of her king, who just before seemed so jolly.

"How dare you put a sweet young girl like Faith of Mountainwall in Death's Shadow for your own gain!" Filip Swordbreaker's voice rumbled across the stone walls and floor. Firejudge Arthold slowly stood up clutching his cheek.

"But Your Majesty," Arthold said as he staggered a bit more, "if we are able to get Earl Lodether, who as you yourself suspected might be the ring leader of the opposition against you, to go to trial without the loopholes, we can easily put an end to the conspiracy on your life. If Firesword Faith does manage to kill the earl, all the better!"
Faith couldn't believe her ears. Firejudge Arthold wasn't even expecting her to win the duel against the earl; he just wanted her to get the earl into trouble, even if it meant her death. Sure, she knew that this was his goal, but his indifference to her life was shocking. To think that her real worth wasn't even considered made her bitter and upset. Faith clenched her fists and fought back the tears. She was glad that Arthold got hit and wanted to hit him herself.
"And what about Firesword Faith's skills? She doesn't look like she possess any real combat skills, though from what Percifold told me she managed to handle herself quite well." The king's voice was a bit softer, though his anger could still be heard.

"If she perishes, Your Majesty, then she has perished with the honor of dying for the integrity of Albeon. We have already made her sign the letter to the chancellor for request to the due…” Firejudge Arthold could not finish what he was saying as another fist hammered him down on the table, this time harder.

“YOU FOOL!” If King Filip Swordbreaker’s voice earlier was like a thunderstorm, this was a lightning strike. Faith, Firesword Percifold, and the Queen jumped up when he spoke. One of the shield paintings on the wall fell.

For a while the king stood there heaving hard, his face red and sweaty. Arthold simply laid where he fell, averting his eyes away from his uncle and unto the floor. “Firejudge Arthold of Truefield, a Firesword is made if he or she shows ambition and the will to fight for what they cherish. They face adversary with a snarl and not fear death, for they have come to terms with it. What you just did, with this young girl whose village was destroyed by the Dream Eater, was manipulate her dreams for your own ambitions. You led her to her own death, you fool! You would gladly throw her to the wolves so that your petty honor could be satisfied; You are just like the sniveling cowardly earls and their puppets that you are fighting!”

Those words seem to have stung Firejudge Arthold, as he lowered his head some more. Faith almost thought she saw him bite his lip, but could not really be sure for sure. Firesword Percifold simply sat straight, his head down as well though the king did not notice him. Queen Layli was equally as solem and quiet, but she moved to Faith and placed a hand on her shoulder. Faith blushed despite herself.

“Remember this, Arthold.” Swordbreakers’ voice became much softer and he knelt down to Arthold, “A Firesword follows their dreams and never puts down the dreams of others. That is why we fight the Dream Eater, and that is why I was angry at you. I understand you want to avenge your mother’s honor, but never forget your principles as a Firesword. We will face Earl Lodether for his sins, but we must not fall down to his level. Understand?”

Faith never realized how young the Firejudge commanding her looked. He was always standing straight and giving a cold glaring mask to people, but when she saw him lying there, shaking his head and looking shamefully away, she couldn’t help but feel that he was a bit younger than he seemed.

“Good. Now rise, Arthold, a Firejudge should never make himself look pitiful.” King Swordbreaker helped his nephew up. Without letting go, the king looked at Arthold and said: “Now, after you and Percifold hand me the evidence, I want you to take Firesword Faith here to the Firesword chambers and teach her as much as you can about sword fighting, since it was you who made her do this and it will be your responsibility. You know Lodether’s fighting style, so you should be the one to train her. I’ll try to get the chancellor to set the trial by next week, since the earls will most likely head back to their realms after the Court ends.” That comment was more directed to Faith, who already knew about the custom of earls and some reeves to head to the Capital a few weeks every fall.

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Arthold said, and nodded to both Percifold and Faith. The three of them went towards the door leading out of the king and queen’s personal chambers.

“Firesword Faith.” She heard the king say. Arthold and Percifold looked back, but continued walking. She hoped her superior wasn’t going to become overtly jealous because his uncle called on her. She turned around.

“Yes, your majesty?” She asked, trying her best to act stiff and soldierly.

The king had a smile on his face. “Don’t think too harshly on my nephew. The Earl of your realm has done many unspeakable things, one being that Earl Lodether dishonored Arthold’s mother in front of him when he was young. He used the duel of the jury to bypass it, and Arthold has not rested ever since. He will go to great lengths to see that evil man be brought to justice.”

“But what about Firejudge Arthold’s father? Wouldn’t he be able to challenge the earl to a duel for his wife’s honor?” Faith almost regretted about what she said, as she saw both King Swordbreaker and Queen Layli avert their eyes and shuffle a bit. The queen was picking at the loose sleeves of her dress. They were both quiet for a bit.

Then King Swordbreaker broke the silence after giving a sigh.

“You see, Firesword Faith, Arthold’s mother isn’t Earl Arghur’s wife.”

“He is a bastard child?” Faith was shocked at this revelation and stared at the ground as she pondered the implications. While not as dangerous as the Forsaken Lands nor as chaotic as Leve, being a bastard in nobility, from what she gathered when she was with Nikola, had drawbacks.
“It means Earl Arghur cannot fight Earl Lodether over a maid’s honor.” The words shocked Faith.
“But isn’t an Albeonan supposed protect another from physical or moral harm, no matter what class they may be in? I learned that from my father when I was little.”

The king nodded his head but his face showed sadness. “Yes, that is true, but Earl Lodether is a very powerful man. His realm is deepest in the abundant Great Forest, is in between both the Gelic and Valentian trade outes, and also has access to Scathgar Mountain so he is extremely wealthy from trade. In turn he has many allies who would more than gladly ruin Arghur and possibly harm his family.”

“That’s threatening!” Faith shouted as she felt her anger against all these bickering earls increase. The king nodded again.

“Yes, but there’s nothing he, nor I, can legally do about it. Albeon values the independence of regional rulers over the centralized meddling that Leven kings and queens do, and it has
drawbacks.”

“That is why,” Queen Layli added, “Arthold was so willing to do whatever it meant to get the Earl and bring him to justice. He saw you as a rare opportunity at getting back at Lord Lodether, and while he was very reckless when it came to using you as bait and he should not have done that, it was done to bring justice to the poor maid, his mother.”

Faith nodded her head slowly, starting understand where her superior was coming from. Even though she was still mad about it, she now understood the reason why Firejudge Arthold acted the way he did. She considered asking him about it, but decided against it.

“It is also why I am not as mad as Arthold as I should be. I sympathize with his status does not give him much legal leverage against an earl with such as Lodether does and being a Firesword is his only way to really get to the earl.” The king said and then became silent. Faith took it as a queue for her to leave.

As Faith bowed and turned around, thinking she was dismissed, she heard a cough from the king. She quickly turned back around. She saw the king move towards the wall where a few weapons hung from some wall mounts. He grasped a small battle axe from one of the wall mounts and walked toward Faith.

“Have this, Firesword Faith. I heard you used an ax against a gasper when Arthold and Percifold met you." He said as he handed her the weapon.

It was bigger than Faith's simple woodcutting ax that she got at Treeton, and had a bright, steel color to it. The cheek of the ax blade was inscribed with small runes and the top and bottom ends were curved in, making the ax head look like fan with an indent in it. The wood of the handle Faith could tell was most likely a foreign type of wood, similar to maple or to the Trenneth trees that ocassionally grow in the more darker spots of the Great Forest..

"This enchanted ax was given to me by an old friend of mine, a great wizard who was known for his enchantments. The magical runes make the ax much lighter than it looks, and the handle, already strong from the Bassa wood, is made even more invulnerable. That way you can swing faster and harder without worrying about the ax fracturing. I want you to use it in your battle against the earl."

Faith looked at the weapon with wonder as she held with ax with both her hands. It felt as if she was simply holding a stick. Even though King Swordbreaker said that it wouldn't break, Faith felt it could. She looked up at the king and curtsied low.

"I thank you for this gift from the bottom of my heart." Faith said in a respectful tone. The king gave a chuckle and placed his bear-like hands on her shoulders. Faith kept still, though she felt stiff. It isn't every day that you had the king talking to you and clasping his hands on your shoulders like some jolly old uncle coming by for a visit.

"It is the best I can do as an apology for this awful predicament you are in. While I have no power to change the laws regarding Albeonan trials and duels, I can at the very least give you something that will help you."

“What is the name of this ax, Your Majesty? I heard most royal weapons have one.” Faith asked as she rotated her new weapon around her palms.

“You name it, it’s yours now.” The king said and Faith knew that was that.

She pondered for a bit, examining the ax and seeing light reflecting off its shiny metal head.

She gave a hum.

“I cannot think of one right now, Your Majesty.” Faith said ashamed, hoping it didn’t offend her king.

He didn’t seem to think so, simply giving a nod. “I understand. A name will appear after you have been through obstacles with it. Until then it is simply a fancy ax. Now, I think it’s time you head off back to your group; Arthold can be a pretty irritable boy.”
Faith gave another curtsy and when the king nodded and the queen gave a smile, she left the room, her new ax in hand.
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Heretic
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Re: The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Heretic » Tue Jan 14, 2014 9:43 pm

[Continuation of the previous post]


-15-
“Stop opening yourself to potential stabs!” Firejudge Arthold looked down at Faith, who was sprawled on the ground. Both of them held wooden training weapons with padded coverings on the edges; Firejudge Arthold had a sword while Faith wielded a crude looking ax that had a curved edge similar to the one the king gave her.

Even though Faith was in pain and had a feeling her arms were about to break, she slowly lifted herself up and glared at her commander, clutching her right shoulder as it bled from a scrape she got earlier in the training session.

“I told you a hundred times, Firesword, that real combat is usually either maneuvers and getting your enemy to make a mistake that will open themselves up to an attack, or up close and brutal. Swinging your weapon at a distance like some child pretending to be a soldier will only give your foe a chance to strike. You have to protect your center; your center in turn allows you to protect all your sides. Now, get up and let us try this again.” Arthold raised his sword up to his chest area and waited for Faith.
Faith slowly raised her ax to her chest area as well and bended her body as she shuffled left and right, her eyes filled with determined anger. Her unhurt commander was standing still, not moving while the bruised Faith rushed to his left without facing away from him, hoping that her sudden movement would force him to block with his sword so that she could hit him with her free hand.
Arthold did react to the attack, but instead of simply blocking her attack, he moved to the side so that he was right next to Faith. Before she could react, Arthold quickly slammed her stomach with the elbow facing her. Faith gave a gasp as the force kicked the air out of her lungs. She then realized that she left herself open and tried to jump back, but it was too late.

She saw herself on the ground again after Arthold pushed her with the weight of his shoulders. Her head almost struck the stone floor below if Arthold’s boot didn’t get between. It was still painful, but it was better than the alternative. It annoyed Faith, though, how Arthold always had the boot ready if she fell, as if he knew when and where she would fall. It made it seem that he expected her to fall.
“In the real world, Fireword Faith, people do not give you the courtesy of moving back. They will go in for the kill, going right in front of your face while they do it. People do simply swing sticks around at a distance when they fight, they can and will get dirty.” He smirked as he held out a hand for Faith, who brushed it off and went back to her starting position.

“I know that!” Faith hissed as she swung her ax around in a crisscross motion. “I fought before and Nikola did train me in basic stances and movements before. I know that fighting is not static, Firejudge Arthold.” When she said his name she tried to mimic his condescending voice.

“Then why do you act otherwise?” He gave a smile. Faith withheld lunging at him with all her might right then and there, knowing that he would use that to further humiliate her.

“She does have good posturing and isn’t as reckless as some of the other recruits we’ve seen.”

Firesword Percifold was watching from the sidelines of the bare room that serves as the Fireswords’ personal training room. Even though the floor was usually padded with soft blankets and hay, Arthold seem to have wanted the danger of death still around. He ordered the floor to be stripped bare.
Faith simply raised her axe again and started shuffling around Firejudge Arthold, her eyes on his hands. They followed her direction and he slowly turned to face her. Faith jumped forth and then skidded back in a series of feints. Arthold was reacting, tilting his sword this way and that way, shifting his body to either evade or counter her potential attack.

Faith swung her ax at him. As the Firejudge was about to stab low, Faith turned the axe down to meet his blade. When the curved, lower edge of it met the hilt of the sword, she twisted her handle in her hands. She saw the blade lift up and almost went out of Arthold’s hand.

The wooden blade was pulled from his grasp. Faith saw her chance to grab him in the head and push it onto her more rougher boots, ready to justify that war was dirty and “Firejudge, I’m simply doing what you trained me to do”. She even managed to grab his head and trip him with her front feet before moving it to where she thought he would hopefully land.

Except Arthold grabbed Faith by the arms with one hand and pulled her down with him. Faith, shocked by what just happened, lost her stance and fell forward. The situation itself wasn’t lost to her and she recalled romantic tales of two people accidentally falling over each other and then falling in love.

No! I don’t want to fall in love with this bastard! Faith internally screamed, completely oblivious to the fact that relationships don’t build that way. She closed her eyes as she heard Arthold’s back thud onto the stone wall hard. This is it!

Except instead of falling onto him and causing her to somehow become romantically interested in him, Faith felt a sharp pain in her abdomen and then felt herself sliding to the left. For the umpteenth time today she lost her breath and winced in pain. She clutched her stomach and bit her lip, trying not to yelp in pain. She squinted at where her hated adversary and partner was, and saw him standing up, his wooden padded sword in his hand.

Even though the blade’s tip was also padded and luckily did not cut through her skin, the force of her falling onto the concentrated point caused immense pain. Faith tried to get up, but the hurt kept her on the floor as she saw the boots of Firejudge Arthold come closer to her.

“Your swings were too wide, and while I must admit you did better this time around, you were too slow in getting me. I had time to retrieve my sword mid-fall and positioned it just right to have you fall on it in the short amount of time I had before we fell.”

Faith started to raise herself back up, though her hands still clutched her stomach. “The axe is supposed to be used for wide swings, you arrogant, vain bastard!” Her breathing was heavy as she said those words.

She suddenly regretted it as she saw the Firejudge look at her with a scowl. She could also see Firejudge Percifold look away in her peripheral vision. The room was quiet aside from both the combatants’ breathing.

“So His Majesty told you my little sob story as well as gave you a historically important weapon. I think he and the Queen has taken a liking to you. Perhaps if you ask nicely enough they might consider adopting you. They always wanted a daughter.” Faith could hear sarcasm from his voice. “I guess if that’s the case, we should grab the mat so that your majesty doesn’t have her delicate skin damaged any further.”

Faith didn’t like the way he suddenly started to speak to her and gave a glare of her own; a part of her was ashamed for accidentally betraying the trust of the king even though he didn’t specifically say it was a secret.

“Look, I am sorry for insulting you, Firejudge, and I sympathize with your cause.” Faith saw Arthold smirk.

“Oh, think nothing of it, your majesty. I am here to simply serve the crown. If the king wants me to train his special chosen, then it shall be my duty to do so.”

“I would like it if you stopped that.” Faith hissed as she watched her Firejudge commander continue smiling sarcastically at her.
“Stop what?”
“Stop that! I’m not a member of the Albeonan royalty; I’m a subordinate under your command, Firejudge.”

Arthold continued with his demeanor but his eyes seemed a bit calmer and his smile became lower.
“Arthold, cut that out.” Both of them turned to glance at Percifold, who was walking towards them. “You are here to train Firesword Faith here for the duel, not become vindictive because of some wounds that were accidentally opened.”

“Of course, Firesword Percifold.” Arthold lowered his head and said in a low voice. “The king has given us the special privilege to train her and make sure nothing bad happens to her.”

“You say that,” Faith interjected as she tried to quell her temper, “but why are you so keen on training me so hard?”

“Because my uncle has given me the task of training you so that you can come out of it alive; because it is my fault for putting you in this possession for my own personal greed; because it is my responsibility that you do not mishandle a weapon of legend like it is some toy. Because, Firesword Faith, perhaps I am jealous that you have gotten more attention than I have from my own family, even though I have worked hard for where I was.”

Faith was silent, carefully looking at the man who she always thought was a statue and a callous commander. Percifold was closer this time, now standing near the middle though out of Faith and Arthold’s line of sight.

“Now,” Arthold gave a small laugh as he broke the silence. Faith was starting to realize how many moments of silences she became a part of since the day her village got destroyed, “if you think this is too rough, I can easily get you a cushioned floor; perhaps you would like the weapons to be covered in velvet?”

“Stop it.”

“Oh no, I wouldn’t want to displease my uncle for harming his special pet. He’s right, it is my fault; I should just be a good boy and turn my cheek and follow my father’s footsteps. Who cares about a maid’s honor; that her own bastard son, who won’t even inherit a hair off his father’s gilded nose, saw a respectable Earl ram his manhood into the boy’s mother while she screamed and pleaded for mercy?” Arthold was now very animated, walking around as he narrated. Faith was too angry and dazed to care, but it was a very surreal moment. “And the boy couldn’t do anything about it but watch. Who cares that the earl managed to, despite the compelling evidence at the time, get away with free after defeating a lowly jury with no sword skill. Who cares that the evidence got destroyed and the boy’s father and his estate simply pretend he or his mother didn’t exist. Who ca…”

“Enough.” Firesword Percifold said. He didn’t shout, but his voice, usually relaxed and quite friendly, had a voice of authority that caused both parties to stop and look at him. He was looking at Arthold. “You are acting irrationally and it will do your mother no good if you continue acting like this.”

Arthold looked at his older companion, still breathing heavily but no longer walking back and forth. He looked down at the ground and started to lower arms, which were earlier raised in a way similar to a lecturer. He slowly nodded.

“You are right: I have acted immaturely, having my personal woes get the better of me and causing me to be irrational, and for that, I apologize.” Arthold bowed but Percifold shook his head.

“It’s not me you should be apologizing to. The way you handled Firesword Faith’s training was unnecessarily harsh; while Fireswords do have the toughest training regimes of all Albeon, it seemed to me that you were simply beating her out of spite." Firesword Percifold pulled a cloth that was lightly tied to his belt and handed it to Faith, who took it and wiped her face with it.

"While I may have acted like a child with a temper tantrum, I do not think I treated Firesword Faith too harshly. It is my responsibility to prepare her for the duel, and she has to learn how to use that legendary weapon," he pointed at the enchanted axe that rested on the wall. Faith almost forgot about it, "within a week."

"I understand that, Firejudge Arthold," Percifold responded as he stepped in the training area that had some blood spots on it, "but training would usually mean showing her the way a weapon should be used and helping with stances before doing light sparring. And she is right, axes are meant for wider swings. If you weren't so focused on your own inadequacies, you would know she was right. "
"Alright, I admit that what she said about the axe's function is correct." Arthold glared at Firesword Percifold, who didn't seem to wave. "But she herself said that Nikola Savante taught her the basics. We need to show Firesword Faith the reality of combat and drill it into her, even if it means causing her to hate me even more."

Faith didn't like being in a part of the conversation and not having a say in it. She was ready to tell them that she only learned basic quarterstaff and club techniques and would like to know more about the way an axe would be used in battle. Unfortunately, Percifold was having none of that.

"Again, you are right, but you have behaved badly and if this had continued Firesword Faith might have been too badly injured to fight the earl within a few days. If that happened, Earl Lodether would go back to his estate innocent and where would we be? You would have disappointed your uncle."

Those words, Faith noted, seemed to have affected Arthold. He slowly lowered his shoulders and gave a sigh as he gave another nod. Percifold walked towards to him and placed both hands on the young man’s shoulder, giving a small smile.

“Remember Arthold, I have served your father for over a decade. When I heard about what happened to you and your mother I vowed to avenge the dishonor that had occurred. Not everyone under your father’s service has turned a blind eye.”

Arthold pulled back and cusps his hands behind him as he spoke. “Yes, and for that I am forever grateful.”

“Oh good, going back to the old, mean Arthold of Truefield. Now,” both of the men turned to face Faith, who gave a small gulp, “apologize to her.”

Arthold looked at Faith up and down, appraising her wounds as he picked up his sword.

“While I refuse to apologize for what had to be done, I admit that my training methods were hampered by my inability to separate it from my personal feelings. Therefore, I believe Firesword Faith should take the day off tomorrow so that she may recover from her wounds. I will work on a better, more comprehensive training regime for someone of her martial skill.”

Faith felt angered that he refused to apologized, and without really controlling it, rose up her wooden ax and tossed it as Arthold turned to face her. It was already too late when he realized what was coming at him, and all he could do was close his eyes and lower his head a bit. The wooden axe head hit him on the forehead and Arthold clutched his head as the padded weapon fell. Firesword Percifold stared at Faith with a bewildered face, giving his trademark wide eyes and gape that made his moustache droop.

“What in cursed spirits was that for?” Arthold hissed as he faced the seething Faith.
“That was for beating me around for no reason and then not even apologizing. I joined the Fireswords to avenge my village and protect others, not become the pawn for…” Faith, while angry, was able to think clear enough to refrain herself from insulting Arthold’s goal. She supported that, but really did not like how Arthold treated her. “…internal politics.”

“Again, I admit that I failed in keeping my emotions in check during the training and as Firesword Percifold stated it would have been wise to rehearse you in various axe-based techniques; but this ‘beating’, if you would like to call it that, was necessary to get your mind to understand the feeling of real combat without actually doing so. Now that you feel the pain and quickness of it, I’m hoping you will train with that feeling in mind and the desire to avoid it.”

“Fine, this is part of the Firesword training, but I would like to have been told in advance.” Faith winced as she felt some of the wounds’ pains re-emerging.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Arthold said as he went over to the only table in the room, grabbing a water skin that was laid on top of it, “I’ll have the king’s own doctor to heal your wounds.”

“No thanks, I don’t want to be treated like a princess.” Faith said as Firejudge Arthold took a small sip from the tip of the water skin. He lowered it from his mouth and smiled.

“And that, Firesword Faith, is another reason why I wanted you as a member of this order. You have a very rugged soul.”

Faith, despite her generally dim view of her superior, couldn’t help but stammer. Those words threw her off and she saw him hold out another water skin for her. Firesword Percifold eyed him suspiciously, but Faith slowly took it.

“Uh thanks.” She said in a soft voice as she corked the lid. Even though she didn’t think about it before during the training, she suddenly realized how thirsty she was. She raised her head and the soft container up and drank hungrily.

She saw that Firejudge Arthold was smiling, and she stopped drinking. Firesword Percifold wanted to say something, but Arthold spoke first.

“You may be wondering why I’m smiling, Firesword Faith, and I shall explain why.” His voice was fast and while it made Faith even more suspicious, she couldn’t place her finger on why. “It is because despite what you may think about my view on you based on previous interactions, I am quite happy that you have joined. We now have a full group, though one of the members is more of a hired hand than a real member of the Fireswords.”

“Oh?” Faith coughed as she placed the water skin down. She drank half of the water in almost one gulp.

“Yes. You’ll meet them tomorrow. For now you should go get some rest. Percifold and I must speak about important matters, including the dagger we will give you to fight alongside your axe. Now go, you will need to get as much rest as possible.” He thumped his chest, still smiling, and turned around. Along the way he grabbed Firesword Percifold and turned the shocked man around.

Faith, though a little bit suspicious about why he spoke quickly and allowed her to leave so quickly and informally, felt quite happy that she was accepted into the group. She grabbed her axe and headed out the door. A few guards were standing near the hallway walls, adorned in the expensive chain mail shirts, and holding triangular shields in one hand and a long spear in the other. When they saw Faith some of the guards gaped and stared at her physical injuries and the state of her clothes, but as she passed by they all saluted her with a thump to their chests.

Those gestures made Faith feel a new sense of confidence in her chest. As she walked to her own personal room within the upper levels of the Palace, she started to hum and increase her pace. Even though she still loathed her superior for what he did and it might be a long time before she could even possibly forgive him, the day had its ups and downs.

She got to join the Fireswords even if it was because it allowed her to become a pawn; she had snacks with the king and queen and got an enchanted axe as a present rom them as well, even if it was given to help her in a battle to the death against her own earl; and even though she got beaten up and saw her leader go emotional when she accidentally mentioned his past, she was accepted into the Order of the Fireswords, was going to have a new weapon, and meet the other members of her group. All in all, Faith decided that today was a good day.

Scant moments later, in front of the door that led to her small room, Faith was kneeling over and hurling all over the floor. While she was vomiting the water and the sweet, tarty snacks she had during the day, Faith cursed Firejudge Arthold and swore that she will gut him with her axe tomorrow.

-16-
Faith slowly rose out of her bed and yawned, her body still feeling dirty and her mouth parched despite the fact that the maids gave her a cup of water and a basin to rinse her mouth, as well as fresh clothing. Her body was still numb from the previous day’s training, and Faith wondered why in Reuf’s ugly wart’s name she decided it was a good idea to get out of bed.

Might as well start the day now. She thought as she stretched her arms up and gave a loud yawn. She wore a white smock that went down to her toes, and had to lift it a bit in order to walk without stumbling.

She glanced around the stone walled room through waking eyes. Aside from her comfortable bed that stood on four legs and had two layers of soft bedding and a thick linen blanket, there was a fireplace that was still smoldering, a shuttered window, a few shield paintings depicting men with shields bearing the Firesword symbol fighting various creatures, and a table that had a few of the possessions she brought with her on it.

“Where is my blasted axe?” Faith muttered to herself as she trudged across the room. She found it resting on the foot of the bed and picked it up.

“Alright, time to kill Arthold.” She said half-jokingly as she walked out of the door, axe in hand. There were no guards or servants out and Faith walked through the corridors. A few small windows here and there provided some light to the usually dark rooms, and the torches under them provided extra. Faith could tell that it was a cloudy day by the amount, or lack of, light emitting into the openings. It was also cold.

As Faith considered going back to change into something warmer as well as return her axe before she did something she would later regret, she turned a corner and crashed into something. Looking up she saw a man. He was blonde, brown eyes, had a strong build though not overly masculine like some of the foresters Faith knew back at the village. He wore a tanned leather vest over a green tunic and baggy tan trousers.

He grinned at Faith, who moved back. “I’m terribly sorry!” Faith exclaimed as she tried to hide the battle axe behind her back, though she knew the man most likely already saw.

“No troubles, young lady.” He said as he peered over her shoulder. “Though I do wonder what a girl in the private royal chambers of the Palace in a sleeping gown and holding a battle axe is doing is doing.”

“I’m a Firesword.” Faith said with confidence as she lifted her shoulders up. “I joined yesterday.”
“Oh really?” The man smiled as he walked around her and gazed at her axe. “And what would your name be?”

“Firesword Faith, from Mountainwall.” She said, turned her body around to face him.
“Sadly, I don’t recall a Firesword Faith from Mountainwall, though it would be wonderful to have a flower in the midst of such dirt.” He then grasped her hand. Faith winced and tried to pull it back, but the man kept it in his.

“Umm…” Faith said as she looked at this strange man that gazed into her eyes. His face then changed from a dreamy smile to a frown as he peered at Faith’s bruises and wounds.

“You poor thing, what happened to your lovely, delicate skin?” And before Faith could say anything, he stood up and grasped Faith’s other hand, which was trying to pry his hands off her first one. “Fear not, my fair maiden, I shall bring to justice the ones who have harmed you so.”
Faith stopped trying to pull away and gave him a smirk. “You’ll bring Firejudge Arthold to justice? I would gladly help you if you do so."

The blonde man gave her a dark look and he slowly stopped squeezing her hands in chivalrous passion. "Firejudge Arthold did this to you? How could he do such brutality?"

"Because I wanted her to experience real pain before we send her off with us to missions, Firesword Peet." A voice behind the man echoed through the hallways. He turned around while Faith leaned to the side to look.

Firejudge Arthold and Firesword Percifold were there in their usual regalia of chain armor. Arthold was holding a long, rectangular wooden box as he approached. Firesword Percifold looked at Faith sympathetically, but Faith glowered at him.

“What is the meaning of this?” The blond man who was called Firesword Peet exclaimed as he looked back and forth between the three. “Is she really a Firesword?”

“Yes.” Firejudge Arthold simply said. Firesword Peet looked at the Firejudge with bewilderment, and then with a scowl.

“You made a Firesword out of this battered girl without telling us?”

Arthold nodded as he walked towards Faith and handed her the long wooden box. It felt quite heavy, though lighter than her original woodcutting axe that she got from Treeton. As she looked a t it, Arthold turned to the fuming Firesword Peet.

“I made her a Firesword when we were on our way to the royal apartments via lift. Firesword Percifold and I only met her two days prior.” When Arthold said that Firesword Peet simply gaped at the two before looking at Arthold again.

“What? Why would you do such a thing? And how can you be so cruel to assault a delicate flower like her?” He indicated towards Faith, who was starting to get annoyed by his romantic way of acknowledging her.

Arthold gave Faith a glance and touched his forehead. Faith smiled and continued looking at the box. Arthold then spoke.

“Because Firesword Faith, Firesword Peet, is the key to bringing Earl Lodether to justice. She is from the realm that he controls, which is Aislad, and therefore can challenge him to a duel directly. The king himself has sanctioned it. The Court is ending soon, so that is why I initiated Faith into the Fireswords without going through the Rites.

As for why she is all injured,” Arthold rubbed his forehead again, “it is because it is my responsibility that she does not die in the duel with the earl. We only have around a week so I needed to get the training as compact and as memorable as possible.”

“And she has proven to be able to handle herself under duress.” Firesword Percifold added. “The king even gave her his battle axe, which you see behind her.”

“Which I wanted to ask.” Arthold said as he glanced over at the weapon. Faith turned red a bit. “Why did you bring your axe with you? Aren’t you supposed to be staying in bed?” He eyed her suspiciously.

Faith stammered a bit as she tried to hide the axe behind her back some more. She fidgeted when she noticed that everyone was looking at her.

“Well sirs,” She stammered as she tried to think up an excuse not involving how she wanted to axe Arthold for his practical joke of handing her a water skin and not telling her anything when she drank half of it, “I thought I might go...practice! Yeah, practice.”

Arthold gave her a sly smile as he nodded. “I’m impressed. Despite your injuries you still have the drive to continue. Very well, we shall continue our practices, though at a lighter pace; we’ll also focus more on various offensive and defensive moves with the axe.”

Faith glared at him, and he simply gave her that smile. Percifold nervously looked at both of them, and Firesword Peet was doing the same, though less nervously and more frustrated. Firesword Percifold then went over to Faith, who glanced up at him before going back to her staring match with the Firejudge.

“We got you something in that box.” Percifold said as he tried to diffuse the situation. “Perhaps you should open it if you are ready for more training.”

Faith slowly nodded as she looked at the box that her left hand was clutching. She rested her enchanted battle axe near the right wall of the hallway the Fireswords were in, and used her now free hand to slowly open it.

Inside the box, cushioned on tops of layers of hide, was a dagger. The double-edged blade was quite thin; the guard a short circle separating the blade and the handle, and the brown iron handle grip was covered with possibly sinew. The pommel was a small round bulb with the same dark grey texture as the handle attached to it, but other than that it was nothing special.

Faith, however, marveled at it. She handled blades before, when she was cutting food, but to see this weapon of war made her feel awed. She looked up at Firesword Percifold.

“Is this… is this mine?” She whispered. When she saw the lanky man grin, she smiled back.
Her very own blade.

She gazed at it for the longest time. She then slowly grasped the handle and hefted it. The blade was light, and she figured that most of the weight she felt earlier was from the box itself. She rolled the handle around her palm, examining the blade.

“This will be your secondary weapon. We will teach you how to use it to thrust into the enemy when your axe blocks their weapons.” Arthold stated. “The axe, while versatile, can get caught on things, especially if its ends are curved for disarming. It is best to have a smaller, secondary weapon in your other hand that can be easily used when your main weapon is unavailable.

Faith continued to gaze upon her new weapon, but she heard a rustle next to her. Looking up, she saw Firesword Peet stomp towards Arthold and come face to face with him. Arthold raised an eyebrow, but did not seem too worried when he saw Firesword Peet’s scowling face come closer to his.

“You are disgust me, Firejudge. You beat up a poor young, terrified girl who you are sending to her death, and all you do is casually give her a knife? What in all the hells is wrong with you?”

“I am becoming very bored of repeating myself to everyone. Firesword Faith needs the training necessary to win a duel against a very powerful earl. In return for allowing her to join the Fireswords relatively easily despite her lack of skill or martial intelligence, I will use her to lure Lodether into the trap. What is so wrong with that?”
“But she is a girl!” Firesword Peet’s remark made Arthold smile.
“We Fireswords pride ourselves in being aloof to such things as gender or class. It all means nothing to the greater scheme of things; you should know better. Unless, of course,” Arthold gave a quick glance at Faith, who knew full well what he was about to say and glared at him, “you fancy her.”
Firesword Peet stammered a bit, and then said, “No, it’s not that. It’s just that she seems unready for such an undertaking, especially since you decided to bypass the traditions of our order. I just worried that she might need more training.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell him.” Firesword Percifold bemoaned.

“Oh hush, Percifold.” Arthold raised a hand as a signal for silence and that this conversation better conclude shortly, “we don’t have the time needed to train her like normal. We have to do it fast and hard. I have already prepared a training schedule for her that will maximize her combat effectiveness while minimizing the damage you bemoan about. Now, Faith, are you ready to start?”

Arthold quickly silenced Firesword Peet with a swift wave of his hand, and looked at Faith, who was quite frankly, getting sick and tired of being talked about as if she was some sort of fragile relic that is both the center of attention but never really gets a say.

“Well, I’m sure I can do some of the training, as long as it doesn’t require you stabbing me in the gut repeatedly.” Faith was tempted to say that she was not feeling well and wanted to go back to bed.
“What?” Firesword Peet looked appalled and even more furious at Arthold, who didn’t seem to notice.
“Today will be simple discussions and demonstrations of the axe and its functions, as well as some basics in using the dagger. We won’t go into the sparring until the day after, when most of your wounds should be healed. Now, head back to your room and get your gear on; don’t forget to bring your axe and bring the dagger as well. Firesword Percifold, please escort Firesword Faith to her room and help her in case of… any mishaps.”

“Yes…sir.” Faith growled. She nodded to Percifold, who meekly walked near her. Firesword Peet was just moodily looking at Arthold.

“Oh yes, Firesword Faith, this is Firesword Peet of Truefield; he is a distant cousin of mine and part of the group. Quite the romantic he is.” Faith could see the young blonde man blush.

“I am not a romantic, Arth…Firejudge Arthold; I simply believe that courtly honor and justice are attainable.” Firesword Peet then turned to Faith and bowed. “It is an honor to be able to work alongside you.”

“If she doesn’t die.” Firejudge Arthold nonchalantly said, much to both Faith and Firesword Peet’s dismay. “Now be off with you. We have a short period of time to get you trained for the duel. Make sure nothing bad happens along the way.”

Faith didn’t say anything. Instead, she turned around and headed back towards her room, with Firesword Percifold following next to her. She could hear Firesword Peet arguing with Arthold, but she didn’t pay any heed.

Soon she will get her revenge against Firejudge Arthold.


-17-
There were a few issues when Faith got to her room. One of the biggest issues was that she had no other clothing aside from the dress she got from the Village Elder of Treeton. When she told Firesword Percifold this, he managed to get someone to scrounge around some trousers her size, boots, and a green heavy tunic made out of linen.

She also didn’t have a shield with the Firesword symbol on it. She worried that other people might wonder who she is if she isn’t with Percifold and/or Arthold. Percifold reassured her that a shield was being made for her, and that it should be ready before the duel.

As the two Fireswords hurried off to the training room, Faith asked Firesword Percifold how many people were in their particular Firesword group.

“Including you, the mage, and the hired help, we have six. Every Firesword group has five individuals, but we can have non-Fireswords be support for us. Currently we are on guard duty for the king.”
“Then what were you and Firejudge Arthold doing outside the Capital when I first met you two?” Faith said as they turned a corner, passing a few servants carrying mops and buckets.

“We can still do patrols in the outlying areas of the Capital.” Firesword Percifold moved to the side to let a servant pass by.

Faith remembered what happened yesterday and turned to look at Firesword Percifold. “By the way, did you know anything yesterday concerning Arthold’s behavior shortly before I left?”

He gave a guilty smile as he spoke. “Somewhat and I feel a bit ashamed for not doing anything about it. You see, it is a hazing ritual for most Fireswords to give their new members water after a particularly intensive training session. We will act all chummy with them, trying to get them off guard and confident; we then see if they become careless and drink too much. It’s to test their awareness skills and also a bit of cruel fun on our part. It is quite stupid but it’s how things are.”

The two of them finally reached the door leading the Fireswords’ training room. As Firesword Percifold opened the door and went in, Faith saw that both Firejudge Arthold and Firesword Peetwere there. Firesword Peet did not look all too pleased.

She also discovered that the part of the floor was padded with some sort of woven carpet, probably out of a sort of flax. It covered most of the floor but left the edges open, where stools and tables were lined up. Stepping on it, Faith felt the floor still hard, but most likely better than training on a stone one.

Firejudge Arthold was holding a wooden training axe as he watched Faith step onto the training area. He gave her a frown as she adjusted her belt.

"You are late, Firesword." He said. Faith gave a curtsy.

“My apologies, Firejudge, I didn’t have any clothes other than this smock. Something happened yesterday and my dress that I wore before was unavailable. You can ask Firesword Percifold here.” Faith smiled as she curtsied even lower. It was Arthold’s fault that she became sick yesterday, and she was going to milk it for all its worth as an excuse.

Arthold looked at Firesword Percifold, who gave a nod. “Very well, you will be forgiven this time. But next time I expect you to come prepared. You’re a smart girl, think ahead.”

Faith gave a low frustrated sigh. Firejudge Arthold was an enigma with a side dish of bastardly. He always seemed to be on the verge of being nicer to her, but then always did something that made him look more like a misogynistic villain.

“I will be more careful next time, Firejudge Arthold.” Faith softly said. She was going to get her revenge, but she’ll do it subtly, eating away at Arthold’s sanity bit by bit.

For the first few minutes Arthold talked to Faith about the virtues and drawbacks of the axe. It was powerful, very resilient, and can be used to disarm foes. On the other hand it was quite awkward to wield at first, required more space for swinging, the disarming part can be tricky to use, and it had no thrusting power and therefore virtually useless against chain mail aside from bludgeoning power. That was where the dagger game in, for it was light enough for lighting strikes, could pierce through quite a bit of a chain mail, and was almost a must for anyone using an axe in a way that wasn’t simply swinging it like a barbarian.

Afterwards Arthold, Firesword Percifold, and Faith worked on her axe strikes. Firesword Peet was simply watching from the sidelines.

“Swing your hand to your other side and then twirl up before striking. that way you can have a powerful swing without taking too much space or leaving yourself open.” Firejudge Arthold would say.
“When you duck and push,” Firesword Percifold would add, “be sure to keep your axe blade pointing in front and push it towards their abdomen.”

Faith started to become comfortable with her axe. When they got to defensive moves, her training with Nikola paid off. Even Arthold didn’t dwell on the various parries for too long.

“You are doing very well, Firesword Faith.” Firesword Peet said when the training took a break. Faith was carefully sipping her water this time.

“Thank you, Firesword Peet.” She smiled. Arthold was picking up a small wooden dagger, indicating that they were going to go on to the use of the dagger.

“Have you used a weapon before?” Firesword Peet shifted his weight so that he leaned in closer. He had a cheery smile. Faith wasn’t sure if it was endearing or creepy. Arthold did say that Firesword Peet was a romantic.

“Yes, I fought against the Devourment a few times to save my friend, and some traitorous Capital Guards when we were escaping.” Faith began to feel a bit of a pain in her heart as she remembered Callum.

I wonder what he is up to now, she thought, not realizing how dearly she missed him.

Firesword Peet gave a click from his mouth. “You are a very brave girl, Firesword Faith, and I’m starting to admire you.” His eyes then turned dark as he looked at Arthold’s back. The Firejudge was talking to Percifold, who glanced at the other two and waved. Faith waved back. “That man is incredibly insensitive when it comes to other people. I offer my condolences to you concerning his treatment towards you; I swear to you that if you need any assistance, I, Firesword Peet of Truefield, will gladly oblige.”

Faith gave Firesword Peet another smile. He was probably like her, head filled with ideals for justice but surrounded by cynicism and darkness. She looked back at Arthold.

“Is his father really doing nothing about what happened to his mother?”

“Yes,” Firesword Peet shook his head, “Earl Arghur does not want to go up against Earl Lodether and his allies. It might cause his estate to become disgraced or worse, destroyed."

Faith looked confused. "I understand disgraced, but could Arghur's estate really be destroyed? We are all Albeonans after all."

"That may be, but there are other ways of destroying an earl's estate without openly declaring war. The whisper of a dark secret to the wrong ears, having the merchants go through other routes, and the slip of the coin to palms of ruffians in the shadowy corners of towns is the way war is waged between the earls here. Earl Arghur, though he may be the brother to the king, does not have the popular support Earl Lodether enjoys. And since the king cannot really interfere with the doings of the earls, all King Swordbreaker could possibly do legally try is protect Arghur's family when they come to the Capital."

"That's horrible." Faith whispered, her eyes looking at the ground in contemplation.

"Indeed." Firesword Peet agreed. "Sometimes it is times like these that I wish we had either more power like the Silver Champions of Leve' or that it was more centralized, like the Iron Queen in Zepana. I heard she drinks from the skulls of rebelling Senators."

Faith didn't know too much about the politics of other lands, Albeon being complicated enough. She looked at her axe and wondered what battles it went through. She thumbed the sharp axe head and felt the engravings of the rune. She expected them to be warm or do something to her skin, but they did not of that.

Faith was about to ask Firesword Peet about what he thought they could do concerning the Devourment when she saw him glare with simmering hatred towards the door behind her. She followed his gaze.

Across the room, in front of the opened doors was a regally-dressed man. He was tall, quite lanky, wore his long blonde hair in a ponytail, and his beard was finely combed and reminded Faith of her father’s. His clothes were more fanciful than the king’s himself. A red shirt with a yellow vest that had decorative outlines of vines and flowers sewn into it and white trousers tucked under polished leather boots that had what Faith thought was embedded into them. His belt held a beautiful golden scabbard, the pommel on the golden hilt was a clear, shimmering gem with multiple jagged flat-face sides and had a sharp bottom pointing up. Faith gaped at the wealth this man had.

And then realized he was coolly staring at her. Faith felt a shiver as she had an idea who this man was. Firejudge Arthold moved closer to Faith as he too glared at the man. Firesword Percifold stayed where he was, but his hand was on his sword hilt.

“What brings you here, Earl Lodether?” Arthold confirmed Faith’s fears. Firesword Peet stood up and moved next to Faith, his hand on his sword as well.

The man smiled, his white teeth gleaming. It terrified Faith how human he looked. She was expecting some sinister bald man with ears of a bat and red eyes, not this man who actually looked quite handsome. Despite that, the way he carried himself didn’t seem normal. His eyes also spoke of something off, but Faith couldn’t put her finger at it.

“I am here, Firejudge Arthold, to see who my opponent will be. I just got the message stating that I was to duel to the death by orders of the king yesterday. You can imagine my shock.” Earl Lodether gave a chuckle.

“You don’t seem to act like you were.” Arthold retorted, giving a smirk. Earl Lodether continued to give that creepily serene smile. Arthold’s smirks suddenly became normal and benevolent in Faith’s mind compared to the one that her enemy gave.

“Ah well, there’s not much I can do when royalty cries to their fathers to drag an innocent earl into a silly duel for some ill-conceived notion. When I heard who I was facing, I became even less worried. Ah wait, I forgot you asked your uncle and not your father for help.” Earl Lodether gave another chuckle.

The atmosphere in the room intensified, and Faith swore she saw Firejudge Arthold’s hands squeeze, but she wasn’t really sure. She herself became agitated by the earl’s taunting words and burned his image in her head.

This is my enemy, she thought, kill him.

“Empty words may be a legitimate tactic for a duel,” The Firejudge finally retorted in a calm manner, “but in the end it will be skill that decides the battle.”

“Aye, and you don’t seem like you’ve been keeping up with your swordsmanship, sir. I swore you wore a smaller shirt before.” Firesword Peet snickered. Arthold turned to look at him, but instead of rebuking him in a typical Arthold fashion he gave his distant cousin a smile.

The earl’s smile grew even more but his eyes furrowed. He walked closer to the main group, and everyone, including Firesword Peet, readied themselves, as if for battle. Faith leaned in more, both her hands resting on the butt of her axe’s handle. When Earl Lodether saw this he gave yet another chuckle.

“There’s no need to be paranoid, Firejudge Arthold. It should be me who should be afraid, having guards coming to my chambers at the dead of night and telling me that our beloved king ordered me to fight to the death because of some evidence his bastard nephew… ‘obtained’.” The last word was said with a heavy emphasis. He then looked at Faith.

“Where are you from, girl? They told me I would be fighting a female Firesword from my own realm, but that was it.”

“Mountainwall, my lord.” Faith said respectfully, though she felt loathing inside.
Earl Lodether’s face, for a scant second, grew dark and he almost glowered at her, but he quickly reverted back to his mostly pleasant demeanor. What was that? Did I see his hands quiver for a second? Faith thought as she continued to listen to him speak.

“I see. My condolences to your village and I do hope you do not think badly of me, for I had to be in the Capital concerning war with the Tyrannians and couldn’t be there to help. Surprisingly my mostly incompetent reeves, who are the ones to blame since they deal with the day to day dealings of my realm, haven’t sent me any messages about Mountainwall. How long ago was Mountainwall supposedly destroyed?”

“About a week ago, my lord.” Faith said, angered that he didn’t believe her.

“I see, I see. And do you have any proof that your village was destroyed? This isn’t to offend you or make slight of your situation, but I find it rather odd for Firejudge Arthold to simply accept someone, especially from the lower class, into the most elite military order of Albeon. I even heard that he didn’t even go through the proper initiation rituals when you joined.”

“Anyone can become a Firesword, Earl Lodether; you should know that.” Arthold’s words started to metaphorically drip acid.

“That is true, but that doesn’t change the fact that you just initiated a peasant girl who may be lying. Why would you do such a thing? I expected better from a nephew of the king, even if he is a bastard.” The earl looked from Faith to Arthold to Faith again.

“It is because I saw it in her eyes.” Arthold simply stated, not taking the bait the earl laid out.

“I do not understand.”

“Her eyes, Earl Lodether, have seen more than most of us. Firesword Faith here seems fine from a distance, but her eyes show a girl who had seen village butchered and walked into a cruel world that doesn’t even help her during the winter. I saw this and knew she was meant to be a Firesword.” Faith did not know whether Firejudge Arthold was genuinely saying that or simply bluffing and trying to come up with an excuse to hide the fact that he recruited her on the premise of catching the man they were looking at.

“If that was a subtle insult at me just now, Firejudge, I’m not amused.” The earl gave a frown as he played with his sleeve laces disinterested.

“It was not an insult, Earl, it was simply the truth.”

“What, that you took the word of a girl who might have joined under false pretenses so that you could manipulate her into dragging me down to your level?” He said while still looking at his sleeves.
“I am not lying!” Faith shouted after she could not hold back her rising anger any longer. Everyone looked at her. Firesword Percifold jumped a bit, Firejudge Arthold stared at her with mild surprise, and Firesword Peet was even more wide-eyed. Earl Lodether simply looked at Faith blankly, neither smiling nor frowning.

Faith took a deep breath as she spoke. “I am not lying. My village was destroyed and only two of us barely made it out alive to Treeton. We were attacked by two men who had the armor of the Capital Guards, but they swore allegiance to King Tyrannus and attacked us. We managed to flee them.”
Faith was hoping she could get some sort of reaction from the earl when she mentioned the guards, but he simply looked at her with none whatsoever. She decided that he was simply good at hiding emotions when he suddenly spoke.

“If this duel is because of some ill-conceived notion that I had something to do with the destruction of your village, you are wrong.

“Bah!” Arthold snarled as he moved closer to his foe. “We have evidence...” A hand rose from Earl Lodether and silenced Arthold with a gesture.

“..Of some correspondence I had with various Tyrannian elements. I knew they existed, as did you, but I did not do anything other than simply discuss various things with them. It is my job to provide the king with intelligence concerning the upcoming war against the Tyrannian Empire. If you really dislike that, then you can take it up to the chancellor, for I would gladly debate it with you but that is not enough to justify sending one of us to their deaths.”

Firejudge Arthold was very close to Earl Lodether by then, and both stared at each other with contempt that was only lightly disguised. Faith realized that the earl was a head taller than the Firejudge.

“We have proof that you sent money to a “Carphenous” and some of his friends in your ledgers. The letters relating to that name seem to give us the impression that this Carphenous, which does not sound Albeonan and seems to point that it is an alias, is someone who works in the Palace.”
“And?” The earl started to look bored as his eyes wandered around the room and restlessly shifted his weight from one side of his body to the other.

“And shortly after you sent this Carphenous and his friends the money, three guards sent word that they would leave the Capital for some patrolling near the Sathgar Mountains. That was five days before Faith’s village was destroyed. They have yet returned from a simple patrol.”
“Perhaps they perished along the way.” Earl Lodether replied, his eyes glancing at the table where Faith placed her dagger on before slightly down at Arthold again.

“They were still alive when we ran from them.” Faith added. Earl Lodether gave her another cold stare.

“Then perhaps they are taking their time to come back. A wiser man would have waited until the suspects came back before interrogating them, but then again, you seem to focus more on personal vendettas rather than real justice.” He looked at Arthold before turning around. “But since it is already too late for me to petition against this, I shall accept my predicament and prepare accordingly.”

With that he started walking towards the still opened door.

“Wait!” Faith shouted as she stood up. Earl Lodether turned around, as did Arthold, who had a glare that was more directed at Lodether than at Faith.

“Yes?” The earl replied.

"Why are you so indifferent to Firejudge Arthold's plight? You have disgraced his mother and yet here you talk about true justice." Faith said, her voice wavering as she tried to keep it under control.
Earl Lodether flashed a smile and turned around. "Firesword Faith, you do not understand how the world works. That boy's mother is a maid, a servant. In the Palace she is nothing, and must obey those higher than her."

"That's ridiculous." Faith's voice no longer tried to hide her low and fiery growl as she grasped the handle and lifted it. "Albeon does not judge its people's worth by class or birthright. As the Great Sages said," When she said that the earl gave a roll of his eyes, "'We all bleed red and Death does not differentiate from man or woman, child or elder, beggar or demigod.' Arthold's mother may have been a maid, but that does not mean she can be deprived of the same dignity you would give to yourself."

Earl Lodether interrupted by giving a burst of laughter. He laughed a great deal, even grasping his stomach and reeling over. Angered by this Faith started to walk over to the man and ready to cut him down right then and there, but Firejudge Arthold held out an outstretched hand in front of her.
"Don't," He whispered in a tense and quivering voice in the midst of Lodether's mocking laughter, "while I too want to butcher that son of a bitch myself, he has many allies and we will do the kingdom more bad than good if we don't do this by the book. Train hard for the duel; imagine every practice dummy and every sparring opponent as that man."

Faith decided that her usually annoying superior was right, and went back to her seat. Earl Lodether gradually stopped laughing as he looked at Faith again, though he still had a smile that was like one given to a practical joke.

"Oh Arthold," He giggled, "I see that you have gotten yourself a group of romantics daydreaming about heroics and righting the slightest wrongs."

"That may be, but these soldiers are more stronger than anyone you ever hir-"
"I knew you were mad after I was kind enough to pay attention to your mother, but I didn't think you would be this crazy." Earl Lodether interrupted for the second time, acting as if he did not even hear the Firejudge.

"It is very rude to interrupt a..." Arthold said irritably. Firesword Peet at this point was standing and moving in front of Faith. This blocked her view, and Faith was on the verge of pulling him aside so that she could continue burning Earl Lodether’s image into her retina. She was in no mood for niceties.

“Oh, speaking of your mother, she should be grateful I bedded her. That father of yours paid no attention to her and her eyes told me she wanted it. You should be thanking me, boy.”
Faith’s spine gave a shiver, similar to the time when she was in front of Callum’s house, but this one filled with anger. She looked at the Firejudge of the Sunswords. Arthold did not say anything with that taunt, but simply reached over to the table next to Faith and grabbed a water skin. Still looking at Earl Lodether he took a gulp of the water. He then gurgled a bit.
“What in the fiery blazes of…” Earl Lodether seemed amused, but then it turned to shock when Firejudge Arthold suddenly spat it on the earl’s shirt with frightening accuracy. Phlegm, spit, and water slowly slid down the fancy clothing.

Earl Lodether gave the Firejudge a big snarl as his face turned to red. He was also beginning to shake furiously and his hand reached for the sword that hung on his belt. Faith, still feeling the shiver, calmly rose up and held up her axe without really telling herself to do so. Faith was slightly confused, but brushed it off to focus on the target at hand.

But she wasn’t alone in her actions. All of her fellow Sunsworders reached for their weapons. The group and the earl had a standoff, hands at their hilts or handle in Faith’s case, waiting for the other to make the first move.

“You are making a grave mistake, Firesword.” Earl Lodether softly hissed as he eyed each and one of them carefully, but most especially Arthold and Faith, “I have powerful allies that can easily destroy everything that you hold dear and precious. You strike me down now, and I can send word to have you all hunted down.”

“How can you do that if you are dead?” Faith hissed back, her face give an equally vicious snarl. The earl simply gave her a curt laugh.

“Remember his other charge, Firesword Faith?” Arthold glanced back before going back to glaring at the earl’s hands. “He is suspected of necromancy.”

The earl simply said nothing for a moment, but Faith swore she saw him give another smile. She couldn’t tell since Firesword Peet’s arms were in the way. She could see Arthold smiling, though.
“I see you have nothing to counter against that charge, earl.” Arthold said as he drew his sword out of his scabbard a bit. The earl saw this, and he drew his own a bit.

“There is a war going on in two fronts, Firejudge. We simply cannot protect Albeon from the powerful Tyrannian Empire and the Dream Eater with old traditions and a system that enables everyone to bicker pointlessly. If Albeon is to survive it will need to change. I am the one to bring that change.”

“Too bad it will be foiled by the son of a lowly maid.” Arthold smirked.

“Even if I die, how can this girl, who looks more suited to be a whore than a soldier, change what is already conspired?” The earl’s eyes looked over Faith in a way that made her cringe. Firesword Peet moved in front of her.

“I will cut you down, cretin.” Firesword Peet growled.
“Try it.” The earl replied mockingly. Arthold glanced coldly at Peet, who gave a sigh. He then looked back at the earl.

“We will bring your whole plan to justice and bring justice. You should be more afraid of us, for while we may be few, each of us can take care of himse…” Arthold stopped and then said, “…themselves. Even if your friends sent the Dream Eater itself to come kill us, we shall go down fighting and take as many of you as possible. That is what the Fireswords are about.”

Earl Lodether gave a laugh as he drew out his sword, completely disregarding how his Firesword opponents might react. Faith jerked a bit, but Firesword Peet and the Firejudge did not move. She could not see what Firesword Percifold was doing.

“I am Earl Lodether, the most powerful man in all of Albeon. I will not be afraid of the bastard nephew of the king, his little guard dog of a servant,” that remark was obviously pointed at Percifold, who Faith could not see, “a hired barbarian who does not know when to stay quiet, the heir to the throne who wants to play hero, and a bitch who is playing soldier.” Earl Lodether scanned the room again, his eyes mocking each and every one of them that was there.

Faith was too busy trying to push Firesword Peet aside to hear what Earl Lodether said. Firesword Peet glanced down at her and quickly moved a bit. She nodded to him, who gave a quick smile. Both of them heard the earl give a gasp and looked his way.

Firesword Percifold, who was standing near the earl and simply watching for the most part, was behind him now and had a dagger in front the Lodether’s neck.

“I think that might be too much.” Firejudge Arthold mused, though he didn’t seem too upset about it. In fact, Faith almost thought he sounded amused.

Percifold’s eyes, usually very bright and reminded Faith of a grandparent, were looking straight ahead with cold, piercing eyes. While one hand was near the earl’s neck with the vertical blade very close to the jugular, the other hand grasped the arm wielding the sword and holding it.
“Let go of me, old fool.” Earl Lodether hissed as he looked to the general direction where Firesword Percifold was.

“If you do anything funny, Earl Lodether of Suvvareth, I will gladly cut your throat and end this game here.” His usually cheery and mildly nasally voice was now low, threatening, and very smooth. “Now you will stop interrupting the good Firejudge here and listen well. I may be a lowly bodyguard and servant to Firejudge Percifold’s father and turned a blind eye during that day, but I will gladly die to make amends for my sins. Now, Shut up.”

“Thank you, Firesword Percifold.” Arthold walked up to the earl, even when the sword was still pointing at his direction. He leaned forward to meet with the earl's angry eyes.
"Listen very closely, Earl Lodether. You may not fear us, but in turn the same can be said about us. We do not fear the other nobles you cower behind, nor do we fear their men-at-arms. Fireswords die for Albeon, though we serve it through the king. When word spreads to the other groups about your sins, you will not be able to stop the fire that will rage across Albeon. If she burns because of us, so be it; it is better to have Albeon go into the ashes of history with her principles attached rather than continue to have it linger in corruption.”

“You won-” The earl spat in his face but Arthold interrupted him.

“It’s my turn to interrupt. Now, here is what we shall do. Firesword Percifold will disarm you,” and as if on cue, the older man twisted the earl’s arm. Earl Lodether let out a yelp and dropped his sword, “then we shall release you, but not yet.

You must promise us that you will stay away from the upper levels of the Palace until after the duel if you are victorious. I do not want to see you nor your friends up here and do something that could affect Faith’s ability. I will set up guards to block access to anyone that isn’t either a Firesword or royalty for the duration of the time before the duel. Promise me that, and I will have Firesword Percifold let you go.”

The earl gave a growl but nodded. Arthold backed away and Percifold released him. Earl Lodether brushed himself off and rotated his neck around to ease the stress it was under from having a blade leveled in front of it. He then grabbed his sword and stomped off, but not before glowering at Faith. The door slammed behind him.

For a while the Sunsword group of the Fireswords was quiet, and then Arthold gave a sigh.
“He was so close to my blade.” He said sadly, looking at his short sword.

“He was even closer to mine.” Firesword Percifold replied humorously as he placed his dagger back into his belt.

“Even if I die,” Faith said as the shivering feeling that lurked in her spine slowly died down, “he would still be hauled onto trial for his crimes, so why does he seem so confident.” She looked at the grave faces of her fellow companions.

“He believes his allies will protect him from harm, and there is a possibility that he has something up his sleeve. We’re gambling on the evidence turning the tide against him.” Firejudge Arthold sheathed his blade as well.

“I will not forgive him for speaking to Firesword Faith as such.” Firesword Peet muttered. “I swear upon my life to protect you.”

Faith gave him a funny smile and nodded. “Um, thanks, but I think I can take care of myself. So Firejudge Arthold, do you know when the duel will happen?”

“In two days.”

Faith and Peet gaped at him. They looked at Percifold, who simply nodded.

“Two days? We are supposed to, no offense Faith, to get her combat ready in two days? Against an earl who has a lifetime of training for such a thing?” Firesword Peet ran his hands through his hair and gave a scrunched face.

“Yes.” Firejudge Arthold simply said before going to the table where Faith placed her dagger. “I think we’ll call it a day; you did well in your training despite your wounds, Firesword Faith.” He gave her a smile, a genuinely kind smile, as he walked towards the door. “Now I must go tell the guards and the king my plan.”

Faith glared at him, though with less malice than before. “I don’t trust your smiles.” Arthold laughed as he went through and started closing them behind him.
“Good.”
With that he went out the room, leaving the three Fireswords in the quiet and spacious room.
“So.” Firesword Percifold said as he walked towards the other two.

“So.” Firesword Peet said as he sheathed his sword.

“So.” Firesword Faith said as she fell back onto the seat of her stool.

A silence permeated the room for a while as the three Sunsword Firesworders contemplated what had happened what will happen the next two days.

“I still can’t believe he is forcing me to fight to the death, that bastard.” Faith was the first to speak. Firesword Peet furrowed his brows and nodded.

“He has always acted like a scumbag, even to me, but what he did to you is beyond being mean. I think he has become as heartless and as villainous as the man we are fighting.”

“Well I wouldn’t go that far. I don’t think Arthold pillaged someone’s mother, commit treason, withhold food to a village in need, and possibly dabble in forbidden magical arts.” Faith said as she rolled her dagger around her palms.

Firesword Percifold gave a snort and Firesword Peet looked at her with shock. Faith glanced at both of them and lifted her shoulders. “What?”

“I don’t think pillaged is a nice word for a young lady like yourself to use when discussing that incident.” Firesword Percifold made a nervous smile. Faith turned to Firesword Peet’s wincing face.

“What? I swear all the time in my village.” She lied of course, but she wanted to hide her embarrassment for using a word that was inappropriate in context. It just came to her by chance.
When Firesword Peet continued to maintain his expression of utter disbelief, Faith tried to change the mood by playfully jabbing him in the arm, since he did seem pretty friendly to her. Firesword Percifold gave another snort as Peet looked at where she jabbed him.

“You are a bold one, Firesword Faith.” Percifold chuckled. “I guess you aren’t as afraid of royalty as you were before.”

Faith looked up at him, confused. What did Firesword Peet have to do with royalty? “What do you mean? I simply jabbed at Firesword Peet for looking at me like I was bearer of the plague. I don’t se-“

Then she recalled bits and pieces of the conversation from before, when she was busy trying to get Firesword Peet to move aside.

-the heir to the throne who wants to play the hero. She did recall Earl Lodether mention that slightly. Faith’s eyes slowly grew wide and she slowly turned her head towards the Prince Peet. He gave a rueful smile.

“Oh.” She softly said.

“Now you remember?” Firesword Percifold couldn’t hold his laughter.

“Oh.”

“I’ll admit I’m the Queen’s nephew, but since they haven’t had a child, Arghur’s children are too busy bickering over trivial stuff, and Arthold is a bastard child, I was the best candidate for the succession.”

“Oh.” Faith was in shock and could only look at the man she pushed aside and rebuked when he offered to protect her. Then Firesword Peet jabbed her arm softly.

“Don’t worry, I won’t torture you in my dungeons too badly for the slight.” Then both he and Firesword Perciold laughed.

“Oh…” Faith said one last time before she felt her body fall from the chair and faint from the shock.


-18-
Faith was lying on her bed, Arthold standing next to it. He looked extremely amused, and made no effort to hide it.

“I heard about what happened from Percifold. He would not stop laughing about it, and I must admit it is very silly.”

Faith simply glared at him as he continued.

“While Firesword Peet is a prince and the next king of Albeon, under my command he is simply Firesword Peet and your equal. You don’t have to worry too much about giving him too much formality. In fact, I think he has taken a fancy for you and wouldn’t mind it.”

“Oh hush, Firejudge.” Faith growled as she slowly got up. Firejudge Arthold moved to the side to give her some room. Faith was still wearing the armor she got yesterday, and she felt a bit sore.

“Meet us at the training room. We will start practicing the dagger and how to use it alongside the axe.” Arthold turned to leave the room when Faith spoke.

“I have a question.” She asked as she picked up her axe and her dagger that was lying on the small table. Arthold turned to look at her.

“I’ve been here for quite a while, and I have yet to see another Firesword that wasn’t part of our group. In fact, it feels quite empty aside from the guards and the occasional royalty. Where is everyone else?”.

“All the other groups are out doing missions or garrisoned in other forts. Because we serve the king directly, at a minimum one Firesword group will stay in the royal apartments to act as elite guards. Since you are not fully initiated yet in the king’s eyes, you don’t have to do guard duty yet."
Since Faith was already up and equipped, she followed Arthold from her sparsely furnished room. She was starting to get a hang of the layout of the castle, at least to the training room.

“The day after tomorrow’s the day, isn’t it?” Faith said, more to herself than to Arthold, who nodded.
“Yes. That is why we must practice as much as possible.” Firejudge Arthold replied. The two came to the door leading into the training room.

Arthold opened the door, revealing four individuals in the room. Aside from Peet and Percifold, who were chatting, there were two other men. Both were sitting on the floor, throwing up knucklebones and counting the values of the sides. One of the men, a large and rugged brute with a huge brown beard, shaggy mane, and a girth to match both, snarled at his lankier and high-nosed companion.
“Twelve to four? By all the Drought spirits and their ugly mothers, Sinley, if I find out you used your magic to enchant your knucklebones…”

“If I wanted to enchant something, it would be your face.” The other man known as Sinley said curtly before grabbing his knuckle bones.

As the large, bearded man took his, he looked up to see Arthold and jolted a bit. Sinley quickly looked at his companion before turning his head to gaze upon the solemn-eyed Firejudge who was starting to loom over them.

“Morning, Sinley, Brauld,” Firejudge Arthold said with a hint of mischief.
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Invictus
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Re: The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Invictus » Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:22 pm

I'll just come clean that I actually have read all of what's been posted so far, but never got around to making comments. But stuff on questionable word choices and iffy medievalisms aside, I don't get the impression that there's anything particularly egregious about the story. An assortment of thoughts:
  • I know you set out to write a story where the innocent farmboy's spritely childhood friend is the actual protagonist, but did the farmboy have to drop out of the picture entirely after the first couple of chapters? :P
  • If the supernatural bug-plague in an otherwise rather low-fantasy milieu is supposed to be a holy shit white walkers big deal, it might not be a good idea to stop engaging with it entirely for court politics and knightly combat regimens, even if bringing down the Earl in a duel is the short-term goal so that the kingdom can deal more effectively with the real baddies.
  • Speaking of which, will we get to the point where the supposed influence of the big bad untouchable earl will be shown rather than told?
  • So far, the King and the Fireswords are pretty neat characters though.
  • lol at the wizard launching into basic cosmological exposition for the reader's benefit
  • All in all, the plot has managed to hang together so far.
"This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it's indeed the most brazen expression."
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REBUILD OF COMIX STAGE 1 - Rey Quirino Versus the Dark Heart of the Philippines
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REBUILD OF COMIX STAGE 2 - Advent Rey Returns: REVERGELTUNG
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Re: The Legend of Faith-Part One (Draft Zero)

Post by Heretic » Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:16 am

Thanks for the reply. In response to the points you placed:

1. The part with the innocent farmboy was written that way into the RPGMaker game, and I dunno if we'll change that. Perhaps if we make the switch to Unity sooner than we expected we can edit it to be more fluid and better. I think our rationale for that was to get the action started without the long-ass intros that seem to plague most medievalist fantasies.

2. Good point. The bug-plague does seem dwindled in face of the subplot. I was trying to portray the sense that despite the emerging threat, human shit still goes down like corruption and pity interests; there is no great ancient prophecy to wake the world out of its stupor. This Devourment (which we have renamed the Decay to make it shorter and because there's a similarly-theme metal band named as such) is very recent and unknown. People are still groping with what the hell it is and why it's happening.

3. I'm planning on making Earl Lodether, whose name I changed to the more Anglo-Saxony Hildric, become more personal in terms of dickery for the community of Moutnainwall early on. That way Faith would feel reluctant pleading for help to the conniving douchebag but have to overcome it if she wants to get anywhere. There is no fucking way information like the fact that earls in Albeon have to help their communities could be withheld. Sure, communication and trade might have sucked during the early days of the Medieval Age, but unless Earl Hildric's predecessors had some sort of conspiracy keeping grain away from Mountainwall, it is very contrived and pulls the suspension of disbelief taut. So yeah, I'm thinking of making Earl Hildric more closer to home, like shagging the local village girls, eating all the good food, and later on revealing that he does necromancy and probably also likes to use taxes for more dickery.

4. Thanks!

5. I mentioned earlier that I didn't like long-ass intros in fantasy, but then I go into logn-ass infodumps. The scenes with Nikola are definitely something in need of editing, though I will keep parts that show his personality and the necessary parts of the lore.

6. That's good, I was worried it was getting uber redundant and contrived.

7. When the hell are you gonna post Advent Ray Returns: REVERGELTUNG .
Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
-Joseph Campbell

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