Erik watched as four dark elves sat Alan down, glancing back he also saw the port city shrink in the distance as their ship sailed along Druvia’s coast.
“To you, it has been thousands of years but…To me?” Erik sighed, not recognising a single bit of the world around him. “It has only been the few weeks since I’ve returned.” He turned back to face Alan, the hero laying tied up with enchanted rope and chains. “I can see it in your eyes, human, immortality hasn’t been kind to you has it?”
Alan smiled weakly, “Just get it over with, monster.”
Erik raised a brow at his words but did not respond, instead he turned to Thea stepping out of the ship’s interior, a small house of a metal building laying in the middle of the ship’s deck. “I told the captain to keep his crew below deck, we won’t be interrupted and neither will your xilfir be seen if they want to rest from holding onto invisibility.” Thea said, Nerick and Shizuka followed exiting to the main deck right after.
Ivara was snoring audibly while lying around Nerick’s neck, asleep.
“Good,” Erik said, “Xilfir, rest your mana.” He then stated in elven.
In the hundreds they numbered, dark elves stepping out of the shadows and filling the ship’s deck. Weary from holding onto their stealth magic for so long, but not showing a single sign of it. Some lay about to rest, whether sitting down in groups or looking over the ship’s railing. Others remained attentive, sticking to the ship’s walls and corners while watching the horizon or passing landscape.
“Makaela,” Erik called out, the dark elf appearing beside him right then.
“Yes? Master?~” She asked with a warm smile, a stark change Erik noted.
(“She’s adjusting to the situation…At least she’s not acting awkward anymore.”) He mused, “What do you know of this…Assassin’s Pact?” he then asked.
Makaela clapped her hands, another Dark elf appearing before them, kneeling. She gestured at the man, “This is Kyrenic, my information officer.”
“It is my pleasure to meet you, Dragon.” Kyrenic said, not daring to raise his head.
“Go on then.” Erik said, “What do you know of the Pact.”
Kyrenic nodded, “The assassin’s pact is a coalition of four Sinbeni groups, one Druvian and one Demonic. These groups they call Bodies, each one having a head, a singular leader. The six bodies being; Shadow, Death, Blood and Beast who are Sinbeni based. Soul who are Druvian based and Hell who are demon based. Little is known of each, not even the true names of their leaders, we only know the code names by which they go.”
“And those would be?” Erik urged him to go on.
“Umbra, the head of shadow. Dread, the head of death. Lust, the head of hell. Vein, the head of blood. Hunter, the head of beast. And lastly Ether, the head of Soul.” Kyrenic listed them.
Erik’s eyes briefly widened, “Ether?…What is known about this Ether?” he asked with slight agitation in his tone.
“Ether is Xilfir.” Kyrenic responded.
“It couldn’t be…after so long?” Erik mused, glancing then at Alan.
Who was chuckling weakly, “Oh it is, Ether Xilfir, The Dark Elf Queen. She still lives, unfortunately.” Alan explained with disdain in his tone.
“Dark Elf Queen?” Makaela repeated in confusion.
Erik sighed, “The first born xilfir, the one I put in charge of…” his gaze darkened, “If she’s still alive, and has turned against me…”
“The first? Queen Etheria?” Makaela asked once more, her own eyes widening. “Impossible…”
“Look over here girlie, I’m immortal. Nothing is impossible.” Alan said bitterly.
Erik grimaced, (“Could she still…No, no they couldn’t have survived this long either. But if…”) he glanced about at the dreadblades, at Makaela, Thea and Nerick. “Thea, how long till we reach Sinroz?”
“Uh, the ship isn’t exactly as fast as by wyvern mind you…the captain said it’ll take about 2 months.” Thea explained.
“Two months?” Erik repeated, (“I could fly from that spit of land to this side of Druvia within a week…”) he inwardly sighed. (“It gives us precious time though…”) he glanced around at everyone again, “In my current state, I cannot fight Etheria without casting polymorph magic at the cost of my own life as I did with Azruxan…Makaela and Thea alongside me, together we might stand a chance but…Nobody here could fight her alone, not her.” He explained harshly.
“What’s so special about her? The first xilfir queen? Please, I’ve heard of the Queen of Thieves Makaela, I’ve heard of Alan the immortal and even you, Erikathyr the destroyer. But Etheria? Who the hell is tha-” Shizuka asked snidely, before Thea jabbed her in the arm. “Ow!”
“Language.” Thea stated.
Erik said nothing, he couldn’t blame the girl from not knowing. If anything he pitied her, because he knew exactly how powerful Etheria was. (“I created her after all…”) he thought, (“It’s been thousands of years…who knows what she’s capable of now.”)
He glanced down at his own hands, (“Weak.”) he thought in annoyance, “I’m too weak.” He then said. Causing everyone to look at him. “This body, your experience, if Etheria is our enemy, if perchance the other five are on similar standing to her. We are all too weak.”
Everyone fell silent at his words, were they heading to their doom?
“Makaela, Thea, Nerick. We begin your training tomorrow.” Erik then said, causing confusion to befall each of them. “We have two months, maybe less. We’re not wasting a single moment. Other than sleep, sustenance and reprieve of excess. Each of you will train underneath my guidance from here on.”
Nerick paled slightly at his words, but Thea smirked with resolve and Makaela smiled coldly, the both of them looking forward to it.
“Make no mistake, you might die before we even reach our destination.” Erik warned.
“I watched a Devil clash with a Drake. I doubt anything else can surprise me further…” Nerick said, his shoulders slumping down in surrender.
“Whatever you send my way, I’m ready.” Thea said, resolute in her words and gaze.
Erik’s eyes befell Makaela, who was staring off at the passing land longingly. “And you?” he asked her.
“My master you might not be, my god you never were. But my will shall not fade. I fight for this world, I fight for my people and my own survival. Your path is what I choose to follow, I’ll do as you say, as I always have.” Makaela said, turning to meet his gaze.
“Good, and I will spare not a drop of my magical knowledge then.” He responded with a grin, “First, rest. It’s been a long day,” he said while glancing up at the darkening sky, “I’m sure you’re all tired from that wyvern ride.”
“Now that you mention it…” Nerick said, yawning while covering his widening mouth.
“There’s sleeping quarters inside, the crew will stay below deck so you can tell your men to make use of the beds too, Makaela.” Thea pointed out, gesturing at the metal door.
Makaela nodded, “Thank you, we shall. Theaviss.”
Erik smiled at this, they were finally getting along. (“Not intervening then was a good choice, they’re bonding.”) “Go rest then, I have…some business to attend to.” He said, glancing back at the still tied up Alan with cold eyes.
Alan briefly met them, but his gaze dropped back to the ground right after. A depressed appearance befalling him.
“Erik…” Thea whispered out as the rest moved to the door behind her.
Erik sighed, (“I won’t hurt him, I don’t need to.”) he said through their mental bond, (“All I need is to look at him, to see how miserable he is. Whatever this human has been through…I don’t know if I could replicate.”)
Thea nodded, (“Still, I want you to remember. He fought who you were, not who you are now. You said yourself, you’ve made mistakes. He was only fighting to stop you from making them.”)
(“I wonder about that…”) Erik thought while gazing at Alan, (“A-About whether I have yet changed that is.”) he quickly corrected himself, not wanting to worry her further. Instead, he actually wondered about Alan’s true motives.
(“You saved Druvia and its people, would your past self have done that?”) Thea then asked.
(“No…I would’ve crushed the demonic presence alongside the city.”) Erik said, his eyes narrowing. (“Pitiful isn’t it? I call myself Dragon, yet I lack resolve.”) He then mused with cold amusement.
(“I don’t think so, isn’t acceptance part of learning?”) Thea pointed out.
“Lecturing me now?” Erik then asked, glancing back at her with a raised brow. A brief smile coming over his face, before he turned back to staring coldly at Alan.
Thea said no more, turning away she also retreated back inside with the rest. Nerick, Shizuka and several xilfir having stepped inside already.
Makaela though stayed by Erik’s side, she had seen his eyes at the mention of Etheria, she was dying to ask but knew it wasn’t the time. Not yet, anyway. Instead she waited and watched, also interested in what the two ancients had to say to one another.
Erik stared at Alan for a long time, he felt the emotions twisting and turning within him, so much more forceful than they should have been. (“Human body, Human mind, Human heart.”) Erik mused, humans having a much more varying amount of emotional stress than dragons or drakes.
Hate, anger, confusion, curiosity and guilt. That is what Erik felt as he gazed at Alan, separating and studying each feeling within himself, grasping how humans felt through what he currently did. How differently they felt, how much more they felt, and how impossible it seemed to change how he felt.
Finally, he approached the immortal. “I need to know.” He said plainly, “Why did grim bring you back?” crouching before the man to look him in the face.
Alan sighed, “I’m not avoiding this conversation, am I?”
“I’d say you’ve been avoiding it for over a thousand years.” Erik pointed out.
“Right,” Alan chuckled weakly, he looked up to meet Erik’s eyes. His own narrowing, guilt making up his entire expression. Unable to keep the eye contact in fear of breaking down, Alan glanced away. “Grim…God of death, reaper of souls, keeper of time. I sold both our souls to it, being the only ancient spell I had learned.”
“From who? Findri?” Erik asked.
“No…No Findri would never teach me such magic…” Alan shook his head, ”I learned it from the Bishop at the time. Your power back then, I couldn’t match it otherwise…they said.”
“Get to the point.” said Erik coldly.
Alan smiled grimly at his impatience. (“Some things never change…”) Alan thought in defeat, “Grim probably wants out of you what he wanted out of me. Control, it wants control over this world’s timeline as it used to have in ancient times. The direction of time existence is taking, Grim dislikes it and as such, with the two toys my foolish self put into its hands…It decided to do something about it.”
“When were you returned to life and how did Faeterra change?” Erik then asked.
Alan remembered the time, taking a long breath to prepare himself for the memories to resurface, memories he had closed up deep inside. “I was resurrected after the Dragon Wars were over, during a time when humanity, dwarven kind and elven kind were bonding beyond the norm. Having survived catastrophe after catastrophe that were clans of Dragons fighting one another…Druvia became a single empire. Humans, Elves and Dwarves becoming one people.
But…the landscape was beyond recognition. The dragons left behind completely different a world. Whole mountains gone, new ones raised. Kingdoms turned to ruins, fields turned to forest, forests turned to hills, and more.
It took over a hundred years to rebuild everything, any magical knowledge of ancient times lost with the rubble and deaths of many scholars…it made it all the more difficult. I remember runic platforms to teleport from one continent to another, I remember dwarven machines of war capable of standing against giants, I remember elven kingdoms beyond dreams…
I remember a time when being a human Knight, actually meant something.”
“Indeed, this world has changed beyond even my own recognition. Other than my kin’s Lairs, I can’t tell mountain from forest.” Erik mused, “Tell me then, after my fall…What happened with the xilfir? What did Etheria do?”
Alan shook his head, “I don’t know. I wasn’t alive at the time. But whatever she did, it divided the xilfir race. It brought the dark elves to enslavement.”
“Hmm,” Erik hummed in thought, anxiety clear on his expression as he could only ponder.
“What…What is Etheria to you?” Alan then asked.
“I’m asking the questions here.” Erik then responded harshly.
“She’s special, somehow, I know. I met her, twice. She’s no common xilfir.” Alan added, a weak smile forming on his face.
“She is, but that is beside the point.” (“If you knew…Oh hero, if you knew what I had in store for this world…”) Erik sighed, clenching his fists at the thought of what greater a mistake he was going to commit if Alan and his comrades hadn’t stopped him.
“I’m guessing I don’t want to know huh?” Alan said with a light chuckle, seeing the regret wash over Erik’s expression. The drake having trouble hiding his emotions in this human vessel.
Silence fell between them, naught but the sound of crashing waves, machinery turning beneath, blowing winds and xilfir whispering far off from them. Like this they remained for several long moments, a world’s hero, a world’s villain, standing before each other after the turn of an age.
“Relics.” Erik then said, “That is what we are, this world alien to the both of us. We’re relics of the past.”
Alan chuckled weakly, “That we are.” he agreed, followed by more silence.
“Why do you drown yourself, human?” Erik then asked, changing to the most prominent question in his mind, but received no response. “You stopped me. Yes at the cost of your own life but, your comrades were alive, they must have lived their lives afterwards. So why?”
Erik felt his rage resurface as he stared at Alan’s sorry state, yet the source of this anger was different from before. He stared at the immortal for several moments, waiting for an answer he did not get.
“You’re pitiful. You, immortal, slayer of myself. I thought you humans cowards before, I thought you flamboyant fools who would do anything to survive before. That is why you even won that battle…” Erik explained, reminiscing on their clash. “I did not expect you to sacrifice yourself.” Clenching his fists in anger as he watched Alan’s shoulders only drop.
“But now? As I look at you? I see nothing of the wilful warrior that defeated me. Where has he gone?” Erik rose to stand above Alan, “Where is my slayer? Because all I see before me now, brings me suspicion of history.”
Erik suddenly grabbed Alan by the hair, raising the tied up and chained hero to face him. Erik’s eyes glowed fiercely, a bright glimmering gold as he spoke in draconic. Anger clear in his tone, “There is no reason for you to be this miserable…Unless…What did you do?”
Alan’s eyes were closed as he stood before the drake, not responding, not a word coming out of his mouth.
Which only angered Erik further.
“What did y-” He was about to ask once more.
“I…” Alan began, his eyes opening wide to face Erik’s fury. Tears, tears ran down the hero’s eyes. “I lied.” He whispered.
“Lied?...” Erik asked, his anger merging with the confusion that now filled him.
“There’s no point keeping this to myself anymore is there?...” Alan chuckled, a hollow chuckle empty of any emotion. “I’ll tell you…”
Erik let go of his hair, allowing him to fall to his knees. “Lied? You died when I did, so whatever you did, it occurred before.”
Slowly, Alan nodded.
And slowly, he began to explain. “When you appeared, Erikathyr the destroyer…” sadness making up his expression as he told his story. “The world had been at peace for an entire age, thousands of years of peace…You…Your appearance shook Faeterra to its very core. The fifth age had begun...Fear, sorrow and despair filled my life as I grew up. Your shadow, your name, your existence looming over every step I took. The fear that you’d appear, the sorrow that you’d kill everyone I’ve ever know…The despair when it happened. ”
Brief hatred flashed through Alan’s eyes, but the sorrow quickly replaced it. “You destroyed my life. You ended what I was. My name, Alan, meant nothing if nobody knew it.”
“You were in my path?” Erik then asked, his anger clearing.
“A small village, nothing but a stepping stone in your path. I was eleven at the time, stepped out of the village to aid my father with hunting…The earth shook, the sky rumbled and we rushed back to find nothing but ash.” Alan explained, his saddened eyes turning to horror as he continued. “My father tried to raise me for the next year, camping out in the forest while we tread opposite of where you walked. We passed only through ruins, the sight of charred corpses left behind, homes destroyed under your footprints. The sight of it all…The memory of what he saw back home, that I did not, haunted him…It drove my father mad.”
Alan shook his head as he gritted his teeth, “My father, killed himself from the madness. I was left alone, far from civilization. I had to survive on my own. For three years I did, gather food and secure water, I took care of myself for so long but…My life was bleak, survival was all I could think of while nature was all that surrounded me. My body grew strong, fighting for survival, hunted by everything around me I learned to fend it off...”
His expression then eased, “Then…she appeared before me. Findri, the ice dragon. Large like a mountain, encased in blue ice so beautiful it shamed the ocean. The sun would gleam through her scales, shining light on me as if it came from the gods themselves. Findri took me in. Findri fed me, trained me, took care of me. Findri gave me a name. Alandru, she called me. Her champion she made me. Her chosen.”
Alan kneeled lower, pressing his head into the deck’s floor. “She showed me how to wield a sword, she taught me between right and wrong…She then returned me to my people with one task. Findri told me to stop you, because no dragon could. She said a dragon could not lay a fang or claw upon another, else the world would end. So only another being could, and I was the one she chose.”
Alan’s tears streamed out now, his forehead reddening as he pressed his head down more forcefully. “I joined the Knight’s Order. I made comrades and prepared humanity to fend off your attacks. They treated me like a saviour, better than their kings and princes, better than their very gods.”
He chuckled horridly, “Their worship blinded me, their words made me a fool. And when the time came for me to face you…I broke my promise to Findri.”
“You defeated me, but that is not what Findri wanted…was it?” Erik’s eyes widened in understanding, as Alan’s wet and reddening gaze rose to meet his.
“I wasn’t told to kill you.” Alan shook his head, guilt filling his eyes.” I was told to stop you. Findri trained me to defend against you, but I grew lazy and weak among my people. Finri taught me how to speak to you, how to understand you. But I was foolish, I wanted the glory I had to retain. I wanted my people to continue to worship me like a god!”
Alan took a deep breath through his nostrils, his expression a mess as he spoke. “I betrayed her, I chose my own greed over Findri. I did this…I ruined this world! I started the Dragon Wars! I gave the Devils their opportunity!”
“And what have you gained from it!?” Erik suddenly bellowed, the entire ship shuddering under the force of his voice. His gaze shining brighter than the moon above as he stared into Alan’s tearful eyes. Rage filled him like it had before at the docks, this man, this puny human was the reason for all of this.
Yet Erik couldn’t stop from blaming himself anyway.
He sighed, slowly restraining his anger. “Fools. The both of us.” He mumbled, closing his eyes whilst grinding his teeth. “I guess, at least, neither of us are solely at fault. We mustn’t stare at the past, else we’ll never see the future. What happened has happened, I recognise my mistakes as do you. Others might not forgive you as my elders do not forgive me for my own mistakes. But, If you prove yourself worth your life, Alandru...”
Alan’s eyes narrowed at his words, “Prove myself?” his gaze faltering.
“We both are bound to, even I must prove myself, if anything to myself. Else, what is the point in existence if not to believe in one self?” Erik asked, opening his eyes as their golden glow dimmed. “Rest, as will I. We have a long journey ahead, and I still have many questions I require answered. You, remain my best source…Who knows. One day, we might even forgive each other.”
Erik turned away, leaving Alan a tearful mess. Alan tried to make himself comfortable albeit the ropes and chains, but couldn’t for the life of him. “Uhm…could I be unchained at least?” he asked as Erik walked away.
“I said one day, that day is not today.” Erik responded simply, “Today? Enjoy your chains, Hero.” He said whilst continuing to walk off. Leaving Alan behind to his own devices, Erik moved to the ship’s front.
He watched the waves wash around them below, the ship sailing faster than any wooden galleon he remembered from his time. Even the wind was against them, yet the construct cared not for things such as the wind. “Dwarven arrogance never changes…” Erik sighed, “Not a care for their surroundings, they build and create, thinking themselves gods of their own world. They weaponize anything in their path, and if it cannot be weaponized by them, they destroy it.”
He was speaking to Makaela who stood behind him, she stared at his back as he leaned over the ship’s railing. Silent.
“Did you know? Half the wars on FaeTerra were caused by dwarves. Yet the first was unlike the others. Hell and Heaven wrecking havoc upon this world as they squabbled. We dragons were little less than insects in their way. True devils, nothing like the foolish Azruxan. And angels…the gods’ children. I only know stories of the first age. I wasn’t there, I was born on the third age.” Erik explained.
“The horrors of those stories do not compare to the horrors I myself witnessed during the third age. Elves and dwarves clashing, magic and machine bringing destruction to anything and everything. Humans in their early days, fearing and cowering within their caves. We dragons only watched, we did nothing, but watch.” He grimaced, remembering his time as a youngling, “At the same time the Orcs and Giants fought in the north and south. Winter turned hell. Then over and beneath the seas…The ancient people of the Merfolk, fighting our cousins, the sea serpents.”
He sighed, “For ten thousand years that age lasted. Ten thousand years of conflict. Ten thousand years of war. I was born in the midst of its climax. The third age’s last four hundred years, the Fae years they were called. Since we did nothing but watch the bloodshed. The Fae rose to stop it in our stead. They only made it bloodier.” He chuckled coldly, “If we knew that wars were started from the actions of the few…We would’ve intervened, I’d like to think we would have.”
Makaela listened in silence, she observed him, trying to understand what he felt. She reached out towards him, he felt so close, yet his mind was so far. She couldn’t understand him, she knew she had no hope to.
“I did not realise at the time, whether it was through others’ actions as well…But my own actions brought more chaos to this world. I won’t let that happen again. Faeterra has seen enough bloodshed, races coming and going during the First Age, The unknown of the Dark Age that followed…The world war of the Third Age. I yearn for the tranquillity of the Fourth Age, my foolishness brought that to an end and began the Fifth Age. The Fifth Age…The Destroyer’s Age the elves called it. My Age.”
Erik leaned away from the railing, “Makaela, I need you to swear something to me.”
Her eyes widened at his request, “Anything…”
Erik glanced back at her, “In the future I might have doubts, of my path, of my people.” His blue eyes gleaming gold met hers, “When and where I will meet Etheria, watch me, and if I ever falter. Put me back on track.”
“Falter?” Makaela repeated in confusion.
Erik turned around fully and walked past her, stopping a few steps behind her he whispered, “Makaela, swear to me. Swear beyond doubt. Do what I cannot. Please, kill Etheria for me.”
“What is she to you?” Makaela found herself asking, but Erik did not do what she thought he would. Instead of scoffing at her like he had at Alan over that same question, instead of avoiding it.
“She’s…” Erik answered.