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.:: Fort Lion's Gate; Rayola ::.

 

 

It was morning.

Probably.

IT was way past midnight, and a few hours before daybreak. But still dark. There a slight tinge of orange in the sky as well.

I walked along the walls of the Famed Fort.

The Lion’s Gate.

 

The Last defence against the Legions of the Blighted emperor. If this place were to fall, The sea of undead beyond shall pour into the Layan Empire. Then, the tides of undeath shall sweep across mortal lands once again, and the continent shall be lost to darkness, and the blighted emperor shall be invincible.

The blighted emperor, I knew very little about him. But I’ve heard stories. From Nirlam, and the others. No-one even remembers what race he was originally, just that they were ancient, and that there were none remaining.

He became a Dreadlord, made stronger by the strength of all those under his curse. One of the strongest beings to ever walk the world, and to weaken him, one must first cull his armies;

The legions of undeath.

Thus began the Eastern war. One of the greatest wars to ever take place in the entire history of the world, Second only to The Great war of the Skies. It has dragged on for eighteen thousand years.

And for good reason too.

It is said that the Blighted emperor takes strength from his creations, the abominations, and thus, the only way to actually stand a chance against him is to kill all of them. Every few hundred years, one or two pops up, and the empire gathers warriors from all over the world for these ‘events’ to hunt them down and push our boundaries further into the blighted lands.

There aren’t many of them left, and those that are, are the strongest of the lot as well.

Such was our opponent.

I took the war request on a whim, but once I actually got here, I’m starting to get cold feet. I can’t die, but I didn’t want to be thrown against such a powerful foe. How can I even get close enough, much lest even kill it, if even the Hero, Nathan Lance, wasn’t stong enough to take it down?

Tales say that the empire itself was united to confront the Undead threat.

The war is expected to last one more millennium according to the oracle, and that only Six of the Great Abominations are left standing. Then shall come, the hero of dusk to end the great war, for the better or worse. The result is still clouded by the mists of possibility, like all other predictions, but the duration always remained the same.

The explorers deny it though. They say that they will end it sooner, that ingenuity shall prevail over brute strength.

I shook my head. I didn’t know anything. NO-ONE knew anything. All information that exists, came from rumours and legends. From fairy tales and scribbles of madmen.

Even the famed oracles are at a loss at what route the world would follow. They can’t see everything. They can only follow the results of actions of what they already know to have happened. 

*To know the future, one must know the past.*

And for someone to follow the fate of a man who outlived dragons and all the things he did during that span of time? Of a person, who has never made an appearance since the beginning of the Legendary plague?

Impossible.

So they knew nothing as well. For they need more than one witness to prove a theory. Two points to draw a line. And only the flow of time from our side of the story exists. Thus, there are too many uncertainties, too many possibilities, for them to actually say what is to happen.

A five year old could make a better prediction in that case.

If not for the unmistakable, imposing presence of a dreadlord’s Aura in the heart of the blighted lands, people would have questioned the existence of the blighted emperor himself.

It was pointless for me to think of all this, for what good will it do me?

But I did it anyways. It was only natural.

I went down the flight of stairs and strode along the tiled road. Mist hung in the air.

There was silence.

Mostly because no-one was awake.

But I never slept, so I walked. The place was HUGE. There was an entire city within the great walls. Large and vast, but still, full to the brim with warriors and mages and people of similar walks of life, all here for a common goal. But for now, the city was asleep. 

I stared at the deserted streets.

There were still the occasional guards who patrols the place in groups of four, torches in hand.

I said hi to them every now and then.

I moved on ahead.

Eventually, through the misty morning, I reached the city centre. There was obelisk erected in the middle, and on it were a few words, Inscribed by the founders of the empire themselves.

“ Beyond this point, lies the blighted lands. Burn your dead, lest they be deprived of their sleep, and arise once again to plague the living.”

Not very optimistic I see. Good advice, but not something you use to encourage someone to feel more secure. But I could understand why. I could see the ‘lives’ of those around me. A weak skill, which I still needed more training with. But in the distance, I could see something else.

vastly different. Dark.

A veil of unnerving corruption, A mist of vile, writhing, grey substance that spread across the horizon. I knew none of the others could see it, but I knew what it was.

*The curse of undeath.*

The thought of fighting the undead was not what broke my confidence, it was the sick grey mist I saw on my way here. If one was to die within that mist, their bodies, along with what remained of their fragmented soul left behind, would be corrupted and twisted, into something else entirely.

It was cruel.

It couldn’t be called anything but pure evil, and I didn’t like it.

Not one bit.

If I could, I would stay the hell away from that place.

But I had to be strong, For my own sake.

I walked forward once again.

As I walked, I noticed a strange sensation near me. A feeling of familiarity. I saw a group of mages in front of me. There were a whole lot of them, Not like the ones that accompanied me here. They weren’t here to fight.

I wonder what they were doing out and about so early?

I saw a very old man, surrounded by a multitude of younger ones.

Ah…they were his students.

A history tour in peace perhaps? What the hell do I know about mages anyways? They’re a crazy bunch. Well… From what I’ve seen so far.

The old man was short, with a slight hunch and walked with irregular steps. He had a brown beard with grey streaks. It was so majestic that dwarves would be proud of him. I would have actually mistook him for one had he been a bit more buff. But then again, he might actually be one. I don't know enough of them to differentiate them from normal folk. I didn't know much of them either ,except that they're shorter, are built like gorillas, have fancy for large beards and beer, and that they like to create all sorts of headache-inducing 'objects'.

Something just felt wrong when I tried to associate dwarves with mages. Is that just me being prejudiced? 

Anyway, putting Dwarves aside, he wore a black tunic with golden rims and a red cloak draped over his left shoulder. The students wore a similar attire, but with a more simpler white tunic, and yellow cloaks. That probably means that they’re part of an official school of magic with uniforms right?

The old man paused before turning towards me. When his eyes actually met mine, what I saw was recognition. He was… Surprised to say the least.

His eyes widened and his face displayed a wide variety of emotions.

First was disbelief, then joy. Followed by confusion, suspicion, and a fair bit of curiosity and sadness.

His students noticed me too. Most of them seemed to recognise me as well. Two girls and a boy ran towards me.

I didn’t recognise any of them.

“Ralli! Where the hell have you been? We heard your hometown was found burnt to the ground! What happened? And what’s with that look? Why do you resemble a painted scarecrow? And why the hell are you walking around with no shoes on?”

Ralli…. The name seemed very familiar.

I stared at the girl who spoke.

It was a tall, young woman.

She had grey skin, short curly cold blue hair which stood out like an icicle under a midsummer roof, large eyelashes, and 'extra-long' pointy ears which were nearly as long as my forearm, adorned with a whole load of silver ear-rings along the entire length of it.

She stood out a bit.

Yea… a bit.

The other girl seemed a bit younger, shorter and more reserved. Had long, straight blonde hair, meek blue eyes, and a pale complexion.

The man, seemed about my age, with chestnut skin, finely toned muscles, sea green eyes and red hair.

Appearances aside,

I was surprised by their familiar attitude.

“… and who might you be?”

I said slowly.

All three of them froze, mid smile.

They stared at my face as if to see if I’m joking.

*You... don’t remember them do you?*

There was deep sadness in her tone. My tone.

Did my previous self know them?

{Did you- no, I- Know them?}

*They used to be your friends.*

{I don't remember.}

*I see*

The voice was choking now.

I stared at their faces.

“ I’m Rayola. I might have known you, but I’m not sure…… I don’t really know who this Ralli is, but the name seems very familiar though.”

There was confusion on their faces.

“You-re not joking?”

The smaller girl asked

“Why should I? It’s not like that would do me any good.”

I stared into her eyes.

She shuddered under my scrutiny.

Odd reaction.

“Leave Jane alone.”

The grey woman’s voice was suddenly heavy and cold.

“We’re sorry, we mistook you for someone else.”

Did I do something wrong?

*Oh, no wait…..*

She grabbed Jane’s hand and dragged her away despite her protests.

The guy shook his head.

“That wasn’t funny, Ralli. I don’t know what happened to you, but you-“

My eyes shifted and met his.

“Um…. I’m not sure what happened. Did I do something wrong?”

He was taken aback. Also seemed a bit angry at my question.

“That’s going too far, Ralli, we were WORRIED. You left for your village one day, claiming it's an emergency, and the next thing we heard about you was that the entire place was razed to the ground!"

The events made sense with respect to my broken memories and the burnt village, but I was still confused. 

What was the 'emergency' he spoke of? Was it really me? 

I knew too little. 

I shook my head and tilted my head.

“But like I told you, I’m not too sure that I know you. And my name isn't Ralli”

His face contorted in silent rage.

After calming himself, he spoke, slowly.

“This is a bit excessive, even by your stupid standards, how could you possibly be ‘NOT SURE’ that you know us?”

“Because I don’t remember.”

He frowned.

I continued

“Because I don’t remember anything prior to the last month.”

His frown deepened as he we stared at each other.

Then slowly, understanding and regret dawned on his face.

“You’re serious.”

I sighed.

“Like I said, what would I possibly gain by lying to you people?”

He was really taken aback.

“Um….”

His eyes flashed a glowing blue for a moment

He staggered.

Shocked Speechless.

I was curious.

He suddenly broke off and ran towards the old man who stood with the other two.

They talked for a few minutes, then the old mage made his way towards me.

He stood in front of me, assessed me for a few moments, and his eyes flashed like the other guy's, though with much more intensity.

Shaking his head, he spoke with a deep voice, but in a low tone.

“Yes, her psyche does have a large part of it… just empty. Nearly half of it to be precise. I’ve never seen this sort of damage before. It’s so precise.”

I assume that it's something about me being in my current state.

He was addressing the man. He shifted, and turned to me.

“What’s your name, young woman?”

“Rayola.”

“Okay, Rayola, would you like to talk for a moment?”

I tilted my head.

“About what?”

He smiled.

“About being my student,

Student of Raphsal, an Archmage of Gilleon Tower.”

I was stunned and I stood there frozen,

 

And felt a deep pain in my heart,

While I listened to the voice inside me weep.

 

"Okay."

I nodded.

We left the students behind and walked.

Eventually, I broke the silence.

“ So, why did you ask me to be your student? Was it because of this… Ralli?”

He sighed.

“I would be lying If I said no, but you also have the talent for it. One far surpassing her, actually.”

I glanced at him.

“But I’m not really a fan of magic.”

Raphsal the mighty archmage of Gilleon tower, nearly choked his way to the grave.

“What?” he croaked.

I laughed.

“Well... Magic might be convenient, but I seem to have this conditional ability that limits my possibilities, and I don’t even know what it is.”

His eyes widened and he nodded with understanding.

“That makes sense. But that too has it’s own potential. You can also use smaller convenient magics that you’ll be sure to find incredibly useful ”

“But I could learn that from any mage school, no?”

He sighed.

“I’m serious about the apprenticeship, girl. It’s not an offer I hand out lightly. Why are you so adamant as to not be one?”

I hesitated.

“Because I’m an adventurer right now.”

I said, flashing my badge.

He raised his eyebrows.

“Oh?”

 

“Do you know how the apprenticeship works?”

I shook my head as to why he would mention that when I said I was an adventurer.

 

“Well you see, girl, we don’t stay in one place like the standard basic mage schools you find in town. I’m a tower mage, which means that I am assigned various missions by the Gilleon tower.

So I have to travel a whole lot, and I take my students with me. Not going to throw them at anything truly dangerous of course, but still, I take them with me, to teach them the life of a mage, to help them grow, Understand the world, Understand our work, What we do, the choices we are forced to make. Teach them the craft, how to live, All of it.”

It did sound a bit tempting.

I liked to travel.

He smiled before continuing

“And that’s where YOU come in, ‘adventurer’, You see, when I go on a rampage, my cute little students might be there all vulnerable to all the big-bad monsters and people out there. So I’ll hire you to keep them out of trouble.”

Something told me that those students weren’t as vulnerable like he said they’d be, but damn, the old guy was persistent.

“I’ll think about it.”

He smiled.

“But you’ll have to wait for me.”

He seemed confused.

“why?”

I laughed.

“Because I am to take part in the war.”

He was taken aback.

“What? You? Why? You’ll die out there!”

I shook my head.

I smiled, tapped my adventurer’s card, and handed it over to him. He squinted as his eyes scanned the card. I followed his finger as he slowly traced my stats.

They stopped abruptly.

I leaned over and peered at the column.

Regeneration; 85

He slowly gazed up at me.

I gave him a bright smile.

He gulped.

“What happened to you, girl?”

I shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

He gave a defeated sigh.

“So it’ll be nice working with you, Rayola. I’m part of the Hero’s battalion as well.”

I stared at him.

“None of the students are going to attend of course but-… What? Why’re you looking at me like that? Why do you think I’m here in the first place? I’m an ARCHMAGE, girl, of course I’m going to be part of anything major going on in these parts!”

Made sense.

“Okay then. I’ll ‘guard’ your students after we come back.”

A smile broke across his face.

“Great! Knew I’d get through to you!”

I smiled as well.

“I’m still getting paid though.”

He froze.

Then broke out in booming laughter.

I swear!

I bet my sword that this guy’s a dwarf!

Wait… no. Not my sword…. I’ll think of something else eventually.

He stopped laughing.

“You’ll get your pay you greedy woman.”

He sighed.

Then we shook,

And then returned,

smiling.

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About the author

Cloudless Night

Bio: Concept Artist, Camouflaged Cloud.

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