The ground quaked. Stalactites broke off from the roof of the cave, crashing down like enormous stone spears. Dust, pebbles and large pieces of rock came avalanching down as a massive crack ran up the towering cliff before them. Fissures spread everywhere, one opening into a deep chasm right below Bloom. She had no time to react. An instant of weightlessness, then her body plummeted like a piece of rock. Her eyes bulged, staring at the landslide below.
The milling boulders looked like a giant grinder, waiting to turn her into meat sauce.
Old but strong fingers hooked around her wrist, halting her descent. She looked up. It was Greyvern.
He was... flying!
No, gliding through the air. Holding her by the arm, he landed on some stable ground next to the cliff and looked back.
Rising dust churned like storm-clouds inside the cavern. An overwhelming sense of danger gushed out from the depths. It bore down on Bloom, raising goosebumps through her body, but from Greyvern’s face, it might as well had been a light breeze. Only the slight rise of his eyebrows spoke of his surprise. The feeling he got from the cavern...
A silhouette exploded out from the dust, springing straight for them like a giant cannonball.
“HOW DARE YOU DESTROY MY FORT!”
The roar bombarded Bloom’s eardrums. A giant shadow covered the sun above them. It raised an equally massive sword, at least bigger than Bloom’s entire body mid-leap, and brought it down on them with a bestial growl.
The sword was slow, but the air around it shimmered like a heat haze from the sheer pressure and heaviness. Greyvern acted fast. He sliced his sword upwards and a huge crescent blade of light smashed against the sword of the giant.
A blinding light ripped the air apart, the shock-wave knocking Bloom off her feet. Greyvern caught her once again. He jumped back from the range of the shock-wave, but their assailant wasn’t that lucky. The force blasted him back and slammed him into the cliff, creating a small crater. He slid down, landing on the ground amid the shower of rubble and stone fragments, and scowled at them.
Bloom forgot to close her mouth. She’d seen all sorts of people since starting the game; Tall, short, fat, muscular, thin; but all of them paled when compared to the man in front of her.
Nearly 3 meters tall, with a wide chest and bulging rock-hard muscles, the man was a giant in the truest sense of the word. A bushy red beard covered his whole face, his black eyes carried a menacing glint as he glowered down at them and… Bloom squinted, double-checking the two short but sharp cones protruding from the man’s forehead.
Are those horns?
Bloom rubbed her eyes and looked again. No, she wasn’t wrong. Or at least, the implanted memory inside her said they were horns.
Do people grow horns these days?
She wasn’t alone in her shock. Surprise and nostalgia painted the face of both Greyvern and the giant man. Looking at them stare at each other for nearly a minute, Bloom raised an eyebrow.
They know each other?
As she took a glance at it, the red name above the giant turned yellow.
Ragnar Von Therusea
“Greyvern!” the giant’s voice rumbled out from the depth of his chest.
Greyvern gave a slight nod. “Ragnar.”
Ragnar planted his sword to the ground. “After these many years, I didn’t expect to meet you like this.”
“I didn’t expect an imperial knight like you to become a bandit leader,” Greyvern answered back.
“Bandit leader?” Ragnar’s eyes widened. He looked around at the burning hideout and took a deep breath. He turned towards Greyvern once again. “You did this. Do you have any idea of the price I paid, the sacrifices I made to build this army? I did it to avenge our home. For the past twenty years, I worked tirelessly, but you came and destroyed everything I built.” His voice quivered. “Why, Greyvern?”
“Yes, answer me! Why did you do it?” Ragnar roared. “Did Vogan send you here? Did he betray me?”
“Vogan?” Greyvern frowned. “The village chief?”
“Who else? If he planned to back out of the deal, he could’ve just informed me. I never liked that thing, anyway.”
“What do you mean? What deal?” A razor-sharp edge entered Greyvern’s voice.
“Of course, I’m talking about the raid—” Ragnar paused midway. Why was Greyvern asking so many questions? Didn’t Vogan tell him anything?
Wait a minute!
Ragnar’s thick eyebrows scrunched up. Something wasn’t right. Why would someone like Greyvern help the chief of some small, remote village? Especially during these times, when even Ragnar was trying to be extra careful.
“Uh…” he scratched his head awkwardly, “Vogan didn’t send you?”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Oh!” Ragnar opened and closed his mouth, not knowing what to say. Though Greyvern destroyed his base, meeting after such a long time, he couldn’t bring himself to be angry.
Besides, there were so many things he wanted to know.
Regaining some calm after a while, he opened his mouth. “How is the princess?”
“The princess?” Greyvern swallowed, trying to remove the bitter taste in his mouth. “She… has passed away!”
“Passed away!” Ragnar’s eyes widened. “How? When?”
“It’s been a long time. Twenty years almost.”
“Twenty years!” Ragnar looked down, rubbing the base of his horns with thick, calloused fingers. “Then the empire’s line has ended!”
“It didn’t end then.” Although Greyvern wasn’t talking to bloom, his voice sent chills down her spine. “It ended by the hands of your men.”
Ragnar narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean by that?”
“Ragnar!” Greyvern’s voice grew louder with each word. “I have come to avenge the heir of the empire. My foster son, Marcus Aurielle Therusea!”
“So it was that team, huh! That’s why they didn’t return.” Ragnar ground his teeth audibly. To think the hope of Therusen ended by his hands. “I have sinned!”
He turned his eyes on Bloom. So weak. Even a wave of his hand would be enough to kill tens of her. But for what she did, he lost to her.
Ragnar bowed to his waist, his massive frame still nearly reaching as high as Bloom’s neck. “Thank you!” he said to her before turning to Greyvern. “I’m ready to pay the price for my sin.”
“Before that. Tell me, what deal do you have with Vogan?” Greyvern asked.
“That…” Ragnar shook his head. “Since he didn’t betray me, I can’t betray him either. That would be dishonourable.”
Ragnar jerked back at the unquestionable note in Greyvern’s voice. He hesitated, looking everywhere but at Greyvern.
“You owe me this, Ragnar,” Greyvern said, his voice much calmer this time.
Ragnar raised his eyes and studied the wrinkled face of his old compatriot.
He has aged.
He took a few long, deep breaths before managing a nod. “All right, I’ll tell you.” He sighed. “It’s a deal about raiding Caramis.”
“What?” Greyvern’s eyes shrunk. He had known Vogan for over ten years. The man wasn’t the best person to be around, but raiding his own village?
“Well, that’s the truth. In exchange for raiding Caramis, he promised us a supply of equipment and funds. He even gave us an advance of 50000 gold.” A pale yellow roll of parchment appeared in Ragnar’s hand. With a flick of his wrist, he sent it flying towards Greyvern, who snatched it from the air and opened it.
The more he studied the parchment, the grimmer Greyvern’s expression became. “This.” He glanced at Ragnar. “Are you sure this is from Vogan?”
“There’s no doubt. I met him personally to complete the deal.”
Greyvern looked at the parchment again. The map of the entire village, the strength of the guards, and so much other crucial information, enough to ensure a smooth invasion. Such detailed intelligence should be impossible without a huge influence. An influence that only the chief of a village can have. And the goal of this raid…
Greyvern’s expression darkened even further at the thought. “So this is the honour you speak of? Creating a bloodbath, massacring a whole village full of innocent people, you have agreed to such a deal?” he asked Ragnar. “What kind of honour is that? Did you forget you were one of the 4 imperial knights of Therusen? Or are you that happy with being a wretched bandit?”
“My honour?” Ragnar gave a self derisive chuckle. “What value would that have if I can’t even destroy that cult!”
Cult? Massacre? What are they talking about? Bloom craned her neck over Greyvern’s shoulder, trying to look at the parchment, but the old man had already rolled it back. She scratched her hair and backed down. Okay! That wasn’t a conversation she should get involved in.
Greyvern stared at the morning sky with a thoughtful frown. The instructions of the deal were chill-inducing. But why try to cause so many deaths? What was the reason? A foreboding feeling reared its head deep in his mind. It couldn’t be! No, it shouldn’t...
But if it is?
“Do you know what Vogan’s goal is?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Ragnar said, shaking his head. “Maybe he has a grudge or something.”
“Do you remember how the empire fell?”
“How could I forget?” Ragnar grimaced. “Those cultists... they woke up those… monsters!”
“Yes, those cultists.” Greyvern nodded. “Tell me, how did they summon the Pri—”
“Damn it, Greyvern! Don’t you name them!” Ragnar’s body shivered for a moment. He didn’t want to remember. They gave him nightmares. And what was the point of asking?
He looked at Greyvern. Damn! Those eyes demanded an answer. Ragnar’s fist tightened into a ball.
“Of course... they sacrificed…” he trailed off, the dots connecting in his head little by little. “You... this deal... you don’t mean it’s their doing?”
Greyvern gazed at the jungle, thoughtful eyes reaching past the dense trees, trying to peer at the village lying beyond. “Caramis... has its secrets,” he said gravely. “Besides, a simple grudge doesn’t warrant this kind of massacre.”
“But...” Ragnar’s eyes darted around as he rubbed away at his horns. “... that’s... no, not possible... but...” He mumbled, pacing around in front of the cracked cliff.
He turned towards Greyvern. “Could you be mistaken? Are there no other possibilities?”
“There are many, but that is the most likely one,”
“Then...” Ragnar grit his teeth, a low growl escaping through them. “Vogan! He must be one of them.”
“I don’t know,” Greyvern said. “But whether he is or not doesn’t matter now.”
I don’t have that much time.
“Ragnar.” He looked back at the giant, fixing him with his stare. “It’s time to pay for what you have done.”
“But…” Ragnar stared at Greyvern’s determined eyes, the words he wanted to say dying in his mouth. He sighed.
He knew Greyvern.
The man had never been one to decide things lightly, but once he did, rules, consequences, orders, nothing could change it. A trait many light element bearers carried. He walked up to Greyvern and laid down his neck.
“Alright, I’m ready!”
“Don’t be foolish!” Greyvern scolded, pointing his sword at Ragnar. “As per our tradition, a knight has the right to and must challenge any verdict not directly from the emperor. So let us have a knight’s duel, Ragnar.”
Ragnar’s eyes widened. Even after all of this, Greyvern was still giving him the honour of a duel? He dipped his head, voice turning heavy with emotion. “Thank you for your consideration, but there’s no need. We can’t duel without a witness.”
“We can,” Greyvern said, tilting his head towards Bloom. “She’d be the one witnessing the battle.”
“Her? But she’s an immortal! Besides,” Ragnar frowned, looking Bloom up and down, “she’s too weak.”
“I have already chosen her.”
Ragnar considered for a moment before nodding. “Very well. I agree.”
Bloom frowned. What the heck? If it was the old man asking her something, she’d have naturally agreed, but deciding things without her consent, were they taking her for granted?
“Miss Bloom?” Greyvern drew her attention. “Will you be the witness of our duel?” he asked.
Bloom pursed her lips. So now you ask me?
The Duel of Fate
The Lost Empire: 1st part (Chain Quest)
Quest difficulty: A
Quest limit: N/A
Witness the duel between Greyvern and Ragnar, two of the four imperial knights of the Therusen empire, by surviving through it.
- Bear witness to the whole duel between Greyvern and Ragnar.
- Survive until the end of the Duel.
Proof against Vogan
Chain quest: The Lost Empire becomes unavailable
Do you wish to accept this quest? YES/NO]
Survive? Bloom tried twisting her head around like an owl. What does that mean?
[It means it’s going to be one hell of a duel. Really, what kind of freak luck do you have?]
It’s gonna be dangerous then.
Bloom glanced at Greyvern. The old man had such an expectant look in his eyes. She drew a long breath before blowing it out.
Not like my first time.