“Alme?” One of the sentries atop the wall called out, seeing the familiar black-haired centauress approaching the city. The sentry had in his hands a bow and arrow, though they were not aimed at the approaching girl.
Due to the sighting of a new people arriving upon the shores, the city had gone into high alert. The scars of the past still lingered on the land like a festering wound from all those years ago, and history spoke of the brutality that became the great Blood War. Whether these new people came with good tidings or ill intentions were unknown, but nobody wanted to take the chance.
“Yes, hello!” Alme called out to the guard, excitedly waving her hand. She had travelled across the lands, never staying in one place for too long. Yet it was always enough time for her name to be known, the eccentric young priestess of Tryval.
“Hurry, hurry, open the gates!” The sentry called out, his eyes scanning the surroundings. “Quick, Alme, you must get inside! Outlanders have come, so these lands are no longer safe!”
As he spoke, the gate beneath him began to open, a pair of wary halflings stepping out to help guide Alme inside. She humored them, following along while still talking with the sentry. “Oh, I know! I met them already! They were really nice, and asked me to bring a gift to the city.”
When she said that, she held up a thick, leather-bound book. There was no feeling of magic coming from the book, and it seemed to simply be what it appeared. However, the sentry atop the walls could not help but suspect it. “Quick, take it to the elder council. Whatever it is, they will know what to do.”
Alme put on that same smile, nodding her head as her hair dipped over her face, parted only by the horn jutting out of her forehead. “Okay!” She quickly turned and walked towards the center of the city.
As she passed out of the view of the crowd, her expression seemed to shift. The childlike vigor that she displayed to match her appearance vanished, replaced instead by a simple, sincere smile. Her upturned eyes instead looked straight ahead, and she clutched the book in her arms tightly, as if afraid to lose it.
Finally! She thought to herself in excitement as she galloped towards the city center. Finally she would be able to do something for her people. Something for her father, as his daughter and his priestess. She could prevent a second Blood War from happening, and all that she had to do was make a single report. Just be at the right place, at the right time, and say the right things.
As she arrived at the city center, she saw the older leaders of both races already gathering together. “Halum sent me!” She called out, once more donning her youthful ‘mask’. “I have a gift from the Outlanders!”
Her words immediately caught the attention of everyone nearby, heads sharply turning to stare at her. Seeing the leather book held in her arms like a precious treasure, they seemed confused. Nevertheless, they beckoned her inside.
“Child…” An unfamiliar halfling woman spoke, her posture bent from age. She had to struggle to look up at Alme, causing the centauress to feel guilty and bend her knees, lowering her body to a better height for the old woman. “Did the Outlanders tell you what this gift is?”
The old woman was a known scholar around the area, yet her and Alme had never had a chance to meet. The last time that Alme had visited this area, the woman’s parents wouldn’t have even been born yet. However, Alme simply nodded her head happily. “They didn’t say, but I took a peek while I ran back. It’s a book of tongues, to teach their languages!”
Alme presented the book to the old woman as she said that, letting her examine it herself. There were those with complex emotions upon hearing those words. Some that argued internally why they should be forced to learn the language of an Outlander, and not the other way around.
However, the elder was among the wisest of the leaders. Her face almost lit up when she heard this. After all, it was the first step to communication. “Back in the Blood War, the wall between our people had also been bridged in such a method.” She said as she opened the book. Though the words were unfamiliar to her, the translations for them appeared in her mind. “Surely, it is a quest scroll that has become a book.”
When the woman had confirmed this, her eyes came up to meet Alme’s. “Child, tell me more. You say you met them? Tell me of these Outlanders.”
Far off in the lands of the beastkin, inside the Forest of Dayl, a commotion was stirring. For the first time in untold years, the goddesses had spoken, their voices as one. The village priests heard them first, and then the clerics, and then the leaders. An order passed down from the highest level of power.
End the war.
Three words, just three simple words spoken by all four goddesses. Yet, these three words were more impactful than any single discovery that had been made since the creation of the Ninja Tribes. Not a single soul delayed in their preparations, leaders of the various villages all gathering to discuss their course of action.
There had only been two times when the gods had given an order to the ninjas of the forest. The first was the faceless Ninja of Origin, Dayl, whose power had no explanation save one. He had created the very first ninjas, and ordered them to spread his teachings. And then the second, when the Goddess of Fate ordered the ninjas into the forest to form the first ninja village.
Now, a third order had fallen from on high. And this order carried the weight of not one deity, but four. The goddesses had decreed the end of the war, the only true war that had ever bloodied the hearts of the beastkin. So, the war would end…
Near the Fort of Sorrows stood the castle of the Third Queen of Terraria, within the halls of the great city Dukan. Every guest and traveler who entered or exited the city was required to undergo a compulsory identity check at the gate, a standard procedure in any important city of the realm to weed out criminals.
At least, those who went through the gates were required to do so. In the dead of night, when only the trained eyes of the lycan could scan the distance, a lone figure moved. Dressed in tight-fitting black clothing, he blended in with the darkness. Only his eyes could be seen, a blue haze that moved amidst the grass.
When he neared the walls of Dukan, he froze, his figure lying prone on the ground. His eyes watched the guards upon the gate, seeing their patrols and their paths. At the moment when two guards passed one another, his figure vanished with a quiet burst of air. For the briefest moment, he appeared between the two guards, and vanished again just as quickly.
The guards with their trained senses seemed to detect something, both turning to look at the other with a confused expression. However, neither had been able to feel anything amiss but the briefest burst of wind, so they quickly returned to their duties. Meanwhile, the dark figure silently stepped from roof to roof, barely the faintest sound the only evidence of his presence.
When he reached the gate to the castle itself, he did not pass through it. No, the security would be too tight, even this late at night. He moved instead towards the wall, focusing for a moment as his body began to vanish from the visible spectrum.
This figure couldn’t risk the chance that someone may see him ascend the wall, as it was far larger than those of the outer city, and too many eyes would be trained on it at all times. Yet, with his body concealed as it was, his worries were lessened. He leapt towards the wall, flipping in the air to let his feet rest against it.
Then, as if the wall were smooth ground, he ran up it. His feet carried him straight up towards the first balcony, where he stepped off the wall to right his posture. Now, he was outside of the Queen’s own quarters, where not even her chosen King could enter unannounced. Behind him, the balcony overlooked the city of Dukan and the Fort of Sorrows, a permanent reminder of the bloody war she fought.
The figure brought his hands together in front of himself as he approached the door, forming a flurry of hand seals as his energy invisibly surged in his palms. When he opened the door, there was no sound. The alarm spell set to activate when it opened from the outside did not go off, silenced by what he had done.
When the door closed, the alarm was wiped clean by a hidden force, as if he were ensuring that his ‘meeting’ with the Queen would not be disturbed. He moved to the far door, the only other escape from the room, and pulled two thin sheets of paper from his black vest. His energy filled both of them for a moment, before one was placed on each of the two doors of the room.
His preparations complete, he turned his blue eyes towards the felyn queen. “Your highness.” He spoke for the first time since leaving the forest.
His voice struck like thunder into the mind of the sleeping queen, who shot out of bed in a fright. Never before had her sleep been disturbed so early in the morning, yet her sensitive hearing had not even detected him until he spoke. When she saw the black-clothed man, her voice raised into a scream, as if her very life required her to be as loud as possible.
“They will not hear you.” He said simply, as no sound escaped the room, courtesy of the two thin papers with strange markings. “I come on a mission from the Sisters, hailing from the Forest.”
There were many forests among the continent, yet only one earned the right to be known only as ‘the Forest’ to outsiders. When she realized the man’s identity, her panicked cry stopped. Her face went pale as she looked on with wide eyes. “W-what do you want…”
“It is not what I want.” He said, shaking his head. “It is what they want. The Sisters have sent a decree. Your ancient war ends. Tonight.”
The queen’s heart raced, struggling to process his simple words. “B-but we can’t! We have tried. But they don’t stop!”
“Then you stop.” He said simply. “Pull back every force from the foreigner’s land, and let them be at peace. When the time comes for us to meet again, it will not be at the end of a sword.”
Her eyes were wide as saucers when she heard what was nothing less than an order to retreat from the war. “How could you say that!?” The flames of fury burned inside of her as she stared at him. “Do you know what they have done? To our people, and our ancestors? How do you expect our people to forgive them?!”
In this long and ancient war, both sides had captured prisoners of the other. At first, the beastkin had not thought much of it, until they saw what had become of their captured kin. Their ears and tail severed, they had been mutilated to look closer to these ‘humans’. However, her words did not phase her ‘guest’.
“I was not asking. I was telling you. The Sisters have decreed, the war ends tonight. My blood shall mark the end of this ancient war.” As the man spoke, he raised a pitch black dagger, drawing another scream from the frightened queen.
However, his dagger did not end her life, but his own. Plunged into his own heart, she could see the blood gushing from the wound. His bar of health appeared above his head, and was emptied in merely a moment. And as he fell to the ground, she faintly heard the sound of something shattering within his close, the familiar sound of a quest being completed.
With the ninja dead, the seals he placed to cancel out sound soon lost their power, and the cries of the Queen quickly alerted the guards, who came charging into the room. What they found was a crying and confused monarch, and a dead body that should not have been able to appear in this place.
Yet, this was not the end of the Queen’s nightmare. The next morning, alarms rang throughout the city. Dozens of people had been found dead in their homes. In Dukan, in the Fort of Sorrows, and even further. Reports soon came in through communication crystals.
The Fort of War, the frontlines of the fight between them and the humans, and every Fort in between. People were found massacred in a single night. The victims all shared a single thing in common, a single indispensable class.
They were all Druids. Every single Druid capable of bridging the gap between the two continents had fallen at once. The only outlier was a single victim in every city, a corpse over a month old. The corpse of one of the gate guards, who performed the status inspections. They had been replaced once the order came down, and had marked every Druid that passed through their gates.
And now that those Druids had all perished, they were cut off from the human continent. The only way to cross the sea was once again by ship. And with how many forces they had dispatched for the constant war, they did not have the strength to make that journey. Even now, their strongest fighters were positioned in the Fort of War, now cut off from their homes.
The man was right… The war was over.