Land of the Ley-Lines - Aric's Tomb

Running his hand along the dirt wall, Marcus' eyes struggled to adjust to the strange light levels the latent streaks of red Ley-Energy that hung in the air created. A root larger than himself wound it's way through the string of subterranean passages under the Willow Tree of Aric's Tomb. He had heard legends growing up of Aric and Freya meeting their final resting places beneath the great Willows of the Drashikan capital's valley.

Now he slowly and quietly stepped his way through the dirt ridden tunnels beneath at the ripe age of thirteen. Had his father known the three day camping trip he was supposed to be on would end in this, he would be just as terrified of his father as whatever this adventure had to offer.

Yrlia, his mentor and Elven avatar of the Drashikan forests, had given him a task of the utmost importance. A strange energy flow has appeared in the Ley-Lines at the conjunction beneath the tree. It's sapping the energy not only from the Ley-Line, but from the tree and surrounding forest itself.

His eyes saw a dim light in the darkness. No doubt the exit to this long tunnel that appeared to be dug by some kind of animal. Running his leather glove over the surface one more time, he felt like the dirt was clumped together by something the animal secreted. He hoped that whatever it was wasn't around. Even if it was, Yrlia had trained him well in combat in a multitude of ways. Best with a bow, quick with a spell, and slow with a blade. That was what how she had described his combat abilities.

Reaching the end of the tunnel, his eyes adjusted and took a moment to take in what he saw. No longer was his path a series of dark tunnels made by some animal. He had stumbled into what was no doubt the actual temple of Aric's final resting place. Three stories below him lay the floor, with ornate stone carvings of the mythical Valkyrie embedded into the temple that was carved into the rock face adjacent to where he stood.

A great room was dug out for the entry way, and small red orbs giving off pure soft light hanging from the dirt all around. The temple entrance had three stories, each with it's own balcony and a stone door behind it. The third floor balcony was enclosed by a series of bars carved directly into the stone. Marcus' dirt covered face grimaced and he scratched his scruff brown hair. It felt more coarse than he'd like it.

“Ah bloody hell. This isn't gonna be easy. Guess I should've expected as such.”

He wore a simple tunic with chain mail beneath and chain leggings to protect him. It made movement difficult at times, though it did make him feel safer. Leather boots made mobility easier at least. Unsheathing his enchanted wooden sword, it didn't look to be much. However, that was meant to be deceiving. Yrlia had reassured him the wrath of the forest was behind each swing. Thus far, he had only seen it truly in practice.

Willing it to take the shape of a bow, it shifted in his hands and a red string of energy connected from the bottom to the top. It wasn't long before it seemed to be a simple wooden recurve bow. Red faded out and all that was left was a simple white silken bow string.

Retrieving an arrow from the sheath that was now a quiver, he nocked an arrow and aimed it at the ceiling above him. Enchanting it with Ley-Energy, he willed it to create a rope line when it reached it's destination. Pulling back and releasing, it lodged at an angle in the dirt in the ceiling. A hempen rope appeared at the tail of the arrow and fell, creating more rope until it hit the ground.

“Handy trick, I'll give it that.”

Grabbing the rope in one hand and gripping the bow in the other, he jumped from the dirt ledge and fell with all his weight onto the rope. He slid down two stories before he felt the rope jiggle and loosen. Before he knew what was happening, he fell the rest of the way on to his back. The arrow that was lodged in the ceiling fell and lodged itself in the ground right next to where his hand held the rope.

“That... was too much of a close call.”

The sound of dirt shifting without his own movement made him scramble to his feet. Pulling another arrow out of the quiver, he was about to nock it before he saw what had made the noise. A golem made entirely of clumped dirt. It had lumps of coal where eyes and a mouth would be, wearing a neutral expression. Standing not two feet from him, it's torso connected with the dirt beneath, and arms grew out from it's torso leading to the ground.

Tipping it's head to the side, it looked confused. Marcus' heart was beating insanely fast. He didn't know if it was hostile. What it was capable of. What it even was. All he could do was have an arrow at the ready. An awkward moment passed and it tipped it's head back upwards. It's mouth was flat and it's eyes seemed inexpressive. It was either disinterested, or it wasn't a very smart golem.

It turned around and headed towards the stone door on the first floor. Dirt dragged and fell behind it, seeming to move with the being itself. Reaching the stone floor entrance to the temple, it crumbled and fell apart. The pieces of coal that made up the eyes and face bounced on the stone and rolled along as if to keep going itself. Stone shifted and grated, making a terribly loud noise that echoed through the entire entrance chamber. Jumping up and down, the coal made chimes on the stone in front of the door as it opened.

The smell of lilies, algae, and a hint of mold wafted out as air escaped the temple.

“Are they... Beckoning me?”

Marcus had to think for a moment. Was it safe to assume this spirit was there to help him? How could he trust it? It's not like he'd ever really run into something like that before... Something told him no one had ever run in to something like this before. Looking behind him, he saw the dirt held no exit. It was as if the temple was built with no natural way to find it.

Come... Safe... For now...

Whispers in his ear were accompanied with strange crackling noises. It was like someone was trying to talk to him through a poor Ley-Line connection.

“Well, I'd wager that may be why I'm here. Guess I can't let my mistrust stop me now. Besides, I'm doing this for Yrlia.”

Chimes that resembled pleasant musical notes echoed in the chamber at the mention of Yrlia. An overwhelming happy feeling filled him as the energy around completely changed. Marcus loosed the arrow from his bow and placed it back in the quiver. Willing the weapon back to a sword, he sheathed it and followed the pieces of coal that now bounced in time together in front of the door.

Behind the portal was a sight he'd never thought he'd see. An entire amphitheater that must have been the size of the Freyan Academy lay in a subterranean valley below him. The enormity of it all was difficult for him to handle. Was he truly supposed to find this corruption in such a massive place? Chimes and clacking on the floor next to him made him look down at the coal as they started to follow a stone brick path.

Strange noises began to echo through the chamber as Marcus looked up to reveal the floor above him was man made. There must be something on those balconies and his curiosity aimed to find out what. First thing's first – Follow the coal. Low guttural heaves and coughs barely echoed into his hearing. Something was down there. He was probably going to find out what. Though there was hoping that it was not unlike his new golem friend.

A broken stone path led down ten stories on the side of a huge cliff towards the amphitheater. An aqueduct followed above their heads with no water flow to be heard. Moss grew on the walls and massive strands of the great willow's roots dug through the temple above, most notably the massive one making it's way into the center of the amphitheater. Red streaks of light swirled in and out of existence around it. They flashed and fizzed violently as they reached the bottom of the root.

Something at the bottom of that root was tainting the energy. Just seeing it sent a shiver through his spine. The chimes and clacking of coal stopped, and so did Marcus. A breeze blew past him and a sense of confidence swept through him.

You know it well. Within you it resides. Only you can stop it's feeding. Release me Blademaster!

The air fell silent and the smell of blood overwhelmed him. Grabbing onto the dirt to his right and clenching his fist as tight as he could, he tried to calm his mind and remember he isn't a bloodthirsty kind of kid. Whatever was driving this frenzied feeling, it wasn't him. Chimes and clacks started to ring in his ears beneath him. All seven of the coal were positioned in a circle around him and a sense of ease filled him.

His emotions were a roller coaster and he was feeling physically nautious from the extreme changes. Ley-Energy was at work here and he knew it. It didn't make it any easier to deal with. The smell of dirt tickled his nostrils and cleared out the remaining blood smell. At least they were trying to help.

Their chiming began to feel like a melody, and the clacks of their bouncing on the rocks were drowned out by his infatuation with the melody. It was simple and quick, leaving little time for open thought. They were trying to keep him calm. Thankfully it was working.

Regaining his composure was easier with a song keeping him focused. Red bursts of energy flared over the walls of the amphitheater in the distance. Walls began to shake and Marcus nearly lost his footing.

"An earthquake? Or is there something else amiss here?"

Why he felt the need to question the coal he didn't know. Whether it would give him an answer is another story. Their song remained unchanged, and their chimes pulled him ever forward down the long cliff-side stone path. The sound of water rushed overhead and splashed lightly from above. It smelled stale and filled with algae. Wherever this source was it had remained stagnant for a very, very long time.

Small falls of water appeared off the side of the path, reminding Marcus of the full series of aquaducts that stretched down with the path. Looking over the side for a moment, he wanted to see what lay directly below. Moss grew along the side of the dirt below the stone path and stretched down for a good two hundred feet. Oak Trees filled a grove with a white Obelisk stretching above them. He could barely make it out, but something was carved on the side of the cliff in the moss.

Chimes called his attention forward as they entered a tunnel through the dirt off the stone path. Running his hand over the dirt again gave a completely different feel. Compacted magically to hold more of a stone like feel. He wasn't entirely sure if magic was at play, but he couldn't think of any other reason the dirt would feel so dense.

A faint hint of red light illuminated an ornate stone door ahead. The chimes faded and the sound of shifting dirt filled Marcus' ears. It echoed loudly in the small hallway with a fierceness that implied anger. The red orb flickered as they approached and turned purple. Stone shifted as they approached, and the circular door rolled out of the way. A roar the likes of which Marcus had never heard jarred him to his core. He nearly lost his footing and stumbled forward.

Seven dirt golems all swarmed through the door at once. They shifted as they needed to let all seven in at once, filling the entire doorway with dirt. As they passed through, seven lights began to glow all at once. Through the dirt he could see them shift into a humanoid shape to look much like a constellation in the night sky. The dirt formed around it to take the shape of a twelve foot minotaur, an axe bigger than Marcus in it's hand.

Another roar bellowed through the doorway, shaking the entire tunnel around him. Dirt started to crack and crumble in the passage behind. It fell into tiny chips, until part of the top burst open into giant chunks. Dirt forced it's way through, seeking to fill the entire tunnel behind them. Marcus immediately darted for the door. Drawing his sword, he willed it to a bow as he ran.

All he could see was the massive minotaur jumping from whatever platform it was on and falling a short distance before causing the cavern to shake even more. Breathing hard with dirt collapsing behind him, his feet pushed him as fast as he could go. It didn't take long for him to reach the opening. As soon as he made it through, the door slammed shut behind him.

Dirt could be heard settling on the other side. Marcus thought to himself that was far too close of a call. Again. He tried to get a quick view of what the room he was now in held. Standing on a moss covered stone ledge, there was a chamber of aqueducts and wooden scaffolding awaiting him. Three stories below, the minotaur was looking for something.

The golem dispersed itself quickly and the tower of dirt fell on top of a small grassy courtyard below. He could barely make out seven smaller dirt golems splitting up. They were looking for something.

Lost to us. Must find. Destroy. Reclaim. Must be as one again.

Marcus mulled in his head what that could mean. Instead of dwelling on it he decided to look for a way down. To his right a small breach in the stone brick wall led to a dirt tunnel, with wood scaffolding jutting out of the stone above it. The scaffolding appeared to lead up into the stone ceiling, a faint purple light emenating on the wall near the opening. A large aqueduct flowed with water in front of the breach,

Seven meters across, seven meters deep guessed Marcus. Though he was never great at guessing these things. A bridge made of a few wood planks led across the aqueduct to the door on the other side. The aqueduct ran all the way down to the bottom floor. Peering over the edge of the balcony, he saw two other floors beneath him each with their own balconies.

Something strange caught his eye on the balcony below. A piece of coal not unlike those that led him there rested on the stone slab beneath near a pillar. Glowing with a sickening purple energy, it floated in the air. A feeling of fear gripped his chest and his instincts kicked in. This piece of enchanted coal was not friendly.

Stone slabs from the balcony below and from the pillar all broke out of their formation to create a stone golem. It cracked and layers fell off to reveal a carving in the shape of a dragonling. His eyes opened wide and he realized he was in for more than he thought he could handle.

It looked right up at him and roared with such intensity he could feel the stones shaking beneath. Instinct gripped him and he kicked off the stone slab he was standing on. Sure enough, it started to fall exactly where he was. The stone was no longer safe. Turning to his right and running, he started for the breach on the other side of the aqueduct. The sound of stone claws in stone echoed in the chamber behind him. His heart began beating with fear.

Looking back, it had made it's way up onto the stone balcony behind him. A single purple glowing eye of coal made it even more terrifying. It whipped it's tail up over behind it's back, launching a stone slab from behind it into the air. Instincts kicked in again as Marcus nocked an arrow, stopped on one heel and turned, pulled the string, took aim, and released an arrow. All in one fluid motion, he turned and began to run again without even making sure the arrow connected.

He knew it did when an explosion racked the whole room. Stones began to fly every direction, splashing in the water of the aqueduct as he crossed the wooden bridge to the other side. He didn't remember enchanting it at all, though he was thankful it seemed to work out.

As he drew closer to the breach he could make out the dirt tunnel. Something called him there. He knew it would be safer on dirt than on stone. A few large strides and he was in the dark dirt tunnel and running as it curved downward. He heard the cracking of wood and stone scraping on stone in the chamber behind him. Then stone on stone turned to shaking of dirt.

He continued to run with everything his legs could give him. Looking behind him could be his last mistake. The shaking in the tunnel intensified as his feet connected and barely gripped the dirt beneath. Shimmers of light passed by in the corner of his eye as he ran. No doubt each story as it passes. Three stories passed before a roar bellowed and air blasted him face forward into the dirt from behind. Strange high pitched shrieks echoed through the chamber, and he whipped up and around to witness what was going on in the tunnel behind him.

Two dirt golems were wrestling with the stone golem. Two more appeared and pinned the dragonling, each piece of coal in the dirt shining with a pure white light. A dirt golem at the front grabbed onto it's jaw, and the sound of stone cracking could be heard along with a shriek of pain. Stone broke and the dirt golem threw the chunk of stone jaw off to the side. Two golems in the back began systematically tearing each slab of rock off the being.

Each time was met with another odd shriek of what must have been pain. Until finally the golem at the front reached it's dirt arm onto the glowing purple coal eye and the sounds stopped entirely. Stone fell to the floor, inert. As Marcus got to his feet, he watched as the purple coal changed to bright white. It fell to the dirt and began to chime happily. A feeling of glee filled Marcus.

"Ah, this must be what you meant by destroy and reclaim?"

He mused to the coal, receiving a happy synchronous chime as confirmation. These little coal sprites were part of a larger being. Rising to his feet, Marcus made his way to the closest exit. Heading up the incline felt to be the right way to go. Peering out of the tunnel revealed he had made his way to the bottom of the chamber.

A courtyard covered in the dirt left over from the minotaur construct was laid in the center. The coal behind him chimed happily as he stepped through the broken wall out onto the stone. He hoped their presence meant he was safe.

The chamber had a much different view from the bottom. The aqueducts ran down the wall and each dirt tunnel breach above intersected with the slanted walkway towards the bottom. It anchored to the wall above him by about fifteen feet and ran all the way along the wall towards a tower of living quarters carved into the wall. Each balcony was laden with copper furniture that had grown green from years of abandonment.

A banner hung from the top balcony, torn and frayed. Faded red and gold embroidering elegantly looped into the shape of a bull's horned head. Just barely he could make out the figure of a man exiting the home onto the balcony. Chimes faded and the coal spirits became inert. The man on the balcony made his way to the railing and leaned over it, looking directly at Marcus.

"After all these years, this is who she sends? A boy who doesn't even realize what sort of companion he has made?"

Marcus could make out the voice of the man clearly despite the distance between them. Clad in furs, he wore a helmet resembling a bull's skull and horns. Unfortunately that was about all Marcus could make out of the man. Marcus meant to shout back at the man as he made his way over the soft dirt piles that littered the courtyard towards the living quarters. He was interrupted promptly.

"You have not earned words with me boy. You will speak only when I have questions of you, which the only question I have of you will be answered with a blade. Ignorance will earn you no quarter here."

Turning around on the balcony and walking away, he faded quickly out of view. Coal chimed again and a group of dirt golems began to form around Marcus. One turned towards him and glowed white.

Fear not his words. Strength in you, greater than us. The master is ever watchful.

Cocking an eyebrow and smiling awkwardly at the golem, Marcus had to think about that. He didn't feel very reassured. The golems swept themselves forward and pointed the way yet again to a small hole in the stone wall near the entrance to the living quarters.

"You know if I wasn't terrified of this place I'd want to explore it. There seems to be a lot of history here."

Passing through a dirt tunnel, it slanted downwards. The golems shifted into the dirt itself and pieces of coal seemed to dig their way through the sides while glowing white.

Return, you may. Would be delight, company.

There was a hint of sadness to it's words. Marcus wasn't honestly expecting an answer and it caught him off guard. The smell of algae and water filled his nostrils as the dirt started to turn slippery and muddy. Darkness filled the tunnel besides the light shed by the coal sprites. Moving ahead, they fell in line forward to make it easier for him to see.

Sure enough he saw a water line appear through the tunnel as it stretched downward. Light flickered gently while the water shifted, pulling in and out much like a beach.

"Swimming? Ah hell. Never did like goin' into water I didn't know what was in it."

Chimes rang through the tunnel and the coal lights began to flicker and fade. His light was leaving him whether he wanted to go or not. Willing the bow back into a sword and sheathing it, he made sure his belts were both tightened. Chain mail could make it that much more difficult to swim.

Taking a deep breath, he waded into the water with his heart beating rapidly. Ever since hearing of the beasts that washed up off the coast of Rängard he didn't much care for large bodies of water. Swimming down a few yards he found the exit from the dirt tunnel. Again it was bashed open into the side of the stone wall.

Small orbs of coal light floated around him and he felt air fill his lungs like normal.

Breathe, friend.

Marcus tried to take in a deep breath. Confusion racked him as a bubble formed over his mouth and he pulled in a nice deep lung full of air. His heart was beating terribly fast as he tried to ignore his fear of large, and let's not forget dark and murky, bodies of water.

Vibrations in water made him nervous as it felt like something swam by. His heart began beating faster and faster. He was only one step away from panic. That did not bode well. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted something below him moving around. Three small purple orbs were shifting back and forth a few meters below him.

If this thing was anything like the dragon golem, but in water, he needed to leave and fast. Kicking his legs and his arms as fast as he could, he felt sluggish. Swimming was not his strong suit. The small balls of light orbited him as he swam in any direction. One began to float in front of him and circled around as if to get his attention. Marcus stopped in the water and looked below him, heart pounding. The purple orbs were still moving slowly.

A chime sounded muffled through the water and the orb drifted off swiftly below him. Every so often it would stop and swirl in a circle in the water, leaving a small trail of glowing dust. It wasn't long until there was a trail of glowing circles leading him downward to where the white orb stopped.

Though it was below him, it didn't seem disturbed by the three purple orbs, whatever they were. Although now they were gone. Marcus' heart beat swiftly as he tried to calm himself. Not knowing where they were was a problem. He didn't know what they were, or what form they took.

As he tried to grip himself, chimes began filling his ears and the water around him started to swirl as if a current had been created. The water vibrated fiercely with the sound of a massive roar coming from behind him. Just barely in the light Marcus could make out an stone golem made to look like an angler fish.

One orb floated on a stem that jutted out from it's jagged head, while the other two filled the eyes. It opened it's giant craggy maw as if to take him in whole. Marcus' eyes grew wide and his instincts kicked in to override his fear. With everything he had he willed the energy around him to propel him through the water. He felt another energy helping push him forward through the glowing circles.

The angler fish was slow, though hot on his trail and at least five times his size. His heart was pounding as water rushed by. It didn't take him long to reach the glowing orb and see the exit it presented. Yet another dirt tunnel blown into the stone wall.

As he grew closer to the tunnel he could feel the tug of a current pulling him through it. Thrown every which way, he tumbled swiftly and uncontrollably through the tunnel until eventually being thrown to the ground of a natural stone outcropping. Water rushed past him and he felt the ground rumble.

Picking himself up was difficult when he was so heavily disoriented. Still, he managed to make his way to his feet and out of the way of the tunnel before dirt spewed forth and filled the entirety of it, spilling over the boulders and creating a path down to the grass below. Marcus took a moment to take a few deep breaths and catch himself.

"This adventuring stuff is harsh. Yrlia better thank me proper for this."

Taking a good look around, he saw an aqueduct run not ten meters from where he stood and stretched all the way down to a courtyard in front of the amphitheater. Marcus stood on a boulder just outside one of the entrances. He had heard of this kind of architecture in different provinces, though not in Drashiki.

The light smell of lilies and all kinds of wild flowers filled his nostrils. He realized the light that illuminated the entire area came from small orbs placed outside each archway of the amphitheater itself. As for the root that extended into the amphitheater, it was truly a magnificent sight. Though he could only see the top of it over the huge structure, he could easily glimpse the sheer scale of it's size.

No doubt powerful energies were woven through such a mighty tree. Three stories up a well built man with a bull helmet appeared and crossed his arms. Tapping his foot, he appeared to be waiting. Marcus blinked to check his vision and found the man to be gone the moment he did.

The coal that had been helping him was now nowhere to be found. While he knew what he had to do, he wasn't sure he was ready for it. He was just a thirteen year old boy and he knew it. There were too many times where Yrlia had reminded him of how weak he was compared to the rest of the world. That had sunk in long ago.

Still, there was no debating his task. Nor was there turning back at this point. Clearly getting out of this place would be just as much of an adventure as getting in. Thoughts for another time. Preparing himself mentally, he unsheathed his magical wooden sword.

Looking it over, he was bothered by what it truly was. It may have the wrath of the forest behind it, but it's not a particularly sharp blade. For some reason he wished he had tempered steel at his side. No sense wishing for anything at this point. He'll either return victorious or die trying. That was the simplicity of life in the world he was brought into.

"For Yrlia."

His confidence grew as he slogged his way down the mud that spilled over the boulder onto the grass. A mighty horn blew within the amphitheater. Marcus knew that was a signal for him. Leather boots carried him swiftly and faithfully past the tall grass, onto the amphitheater stone floor, and all the way through the common area to the arena. Not once did Marcus think of turning away from the challenge.

As he stepped into the arena, he got an eye full of root with a man leaning on the bottom. Swirls of red Ley-Energy fizzed in and out, sizzling and turning purple as it touched him. The man was twice his size, clad in steel leggings, not even a shirt on his torso, and a bull's skull for a helmet. Taking his hand off the root, the man began to clap slowly.

Stepping lightly on the sand and dust that covered the arena, not even a weed could be seen growing near it. This was hallowed ground.

"And yet here he is. A boy with no clue to his true nature, or the nature of his task. Am I truly to be freed by a pup such as you? Hmph. I thought my last battle would be more... honorable."

Honorable? Marcus wasn't sure if he should be offended or not. He may not know who this man was, but he was pretty sure that his skill with a sword was far greater than Marcus'. There was truth to the man's words. Saying nothing, he shrugged. A smirk turned into a scowl.

"That is all you have to say for yourself? Nothing? A shrug?"

What was Marcus supposed to say? He had no idea exactly why Yrlia wanted him to investigate. Now that he thought about it, even if he finds the corruption, what can he do about it?

"Forgive me, sir. My life since a child has been act first, ask questions later."

The scowl turned to a grin. A bellowing laugh escaped the man as he drew a steel long sword from the sheath at his side.

"Forgive you? There is no forgiveness in combat pup. No mercy for the weak!"

Marcus readied himself for whatever attack the man may throw at him. He bellowed out a mighty roar. Marcus felt heavy and weighed down. The atmosphere around him changed and his eyes felt strained. His mind raced and head started throbbing. A man appeared in his minds eye clad in desert garb. Reaching out a hand from beneath his coverings, he withdrew an ornate short sword with a green blade. The hilt was covered in rubies, while the blade looked like it could cleave the Ley-Lines themselves.

My blade is ever yours, young one. I ask not for control, but for companionship. Will you accept the will of the Blademaster?

Marcus without hesitation reached out for the short sword and gripped the man's hand in his own. The man's eyes were a cold grey, and flared bright red for a moment.

I am glad to make your acquaintence, Marcus. You will come to know me in time. For now, let's make short work of this ill-tempered bull.

Though he couldn't see it through the brown veil over the man's face, he could feel the menacing grin on his face. Snapping back to reality, Marcus dodged to his right and rolled along the floor instinctively. Chimes were now filling the chamber, as the man slashed back and forth at dirt golems that were slamming him left and right with balls of dirt.

"Accursed things! This is my duel!"

The man slashed his way over to the root and grabbed a hold of it. Coal sprites started to melt their golems into the sand below, though it turned into piles of dirt that the sprites had to roll their way out of. The floor here was no escape for them. Before Marcus could tell what was happening, the man released a wave of energy through the floor and the air crackled and fizzed around them.

Chimes turned into strange shrieks as each of the eight coal sprites began to hover in the air. Red streaks of energy swirled around them and injected into the tiny beings. Red energy crackled and fizzed, and Marcus felt his heart sank. They were being corrupted as the others had.

One by one the coal sprites rocked in the air, red and purple energies spewing forth with painful shrieks filling the air around them.

Return, friend. Free us.

Though they were just coal sprites, Marcus couldn't help but feel sad for them. They had led him to his goal, and had even saved his life. Twice. The last coal sprite shivered in the air and turned purple, rolling itself out of the arena quietly.

"Now we can finish our duel! Have at you pup!"

The man charged and slammed his feet on the ground. With one arm forward as if to ram him, he let his sword arm trail behind. Marcus let his instincts kick in and readied his feet to carry him. His sword arm was loose, and his mind focused. As the man was readying himself for a full strength swing, Marcus dove forward and barely made it under the man's sword as it slashed through the air.

Rolling and turning himself around, Marcus swung the wooden sword in the air forward, willing a projection of energy at the bull headed man. Air blasted him and threw him forward. Barreling into the wall of the amphitheater, stone bricks fell and dust blasted upward. Without missing a beat, Marcus charged the man while he was stunned.

With his free hand, he imagined the short sword he had seen in the man's hand in his own. Leading his arm down, he swung at the man's head. Almost as if he had simply willed it to happen, the man's head was sliced clean off the top of his body. Instead of blood, tendrils of purple energy extended out from the wound. A hissing and sizzling sound filled the air as Marcus started to smell burnt flesh.

The body in front of him disintegrated into puffs of purple smoke and evaporated in the air. Ley-Energy swirled in the amphitheater around and he could feel strange powers at play. The tip of the root of the great tree was glowing a faint purple as blue fire slowly began to consume it.

Marcus made his way to the root and touched it with a sigh. As he felt it, a voice echoed through the chamber.

Corruption runs deep, as this man lost sleep, his mind was lost as well. The echo of Aric will taint this land no longer. His murderous reign will be forgotten by time.

Echo of Aric? Murderous reign? Every story Marcus had ever heard about Aric had told tales of his heroism and kindness. A calmness filled him and he closed his eyes.

I'm sorry you must endure this pain, my new friend. We shall endure it together.

Words now filled his mind and his arm began to feel energy traveling through it. Vivid memories assaulted his mind. The deaths of thousands of people. Anger. Hatred. Pain. Marcus watched as children were dismembered by big burly hands. The image of a bull slaughtered for a feast. Memories of a man he did not know filled his mind and physical pain began to fill his entire body.

It hurt to watch. It hurt to take. Yet somehow he endured. Watching women be raped. A history of an entire people subjugated and tossed aside like puppets. Images far too adult for his young mind filled him and showed him the depths of this man's evil. Memories no longer lost to the centuries. Reminders of what people with power can become.

The images faded and the pain subsided, leaving Marcus with nothing but his hand on the root. Red Ley-Energy swirled all around the root while his hand rest inside an intense flow of energy. Looking at his hand, his mind and emotions caught up with him. All of those terrible things made him want to vomit, so he did. Quite uncontrollably.

Quiet filled the amphitheater except for Marcus heaving and crying. A burden had been placed on his mind. A cold reminder of the world he had yet to even truly grow up in. His mind turned to his father and what he might say about all this. Knowing full well he couldn't tell his father made it worse.

Who could he talk to about these things? Who would believe him?

I believe you, and I am always here. The road ahead is long and filled with many struggles. It will be nice to be companion to a kind soul once more. You're a good kid Marcus. You will never walk the road of life alone. I am the Blademaster. Nice to meet you.

Pilgrimage Of The Blademaster

Setting his feet onto the cold stone brick, Marcus cursed his old age. When he was younger this sort of trek would have been nothing to him. Now, he questions whether he truly had the physical acuity to endure the entire pilgrimage he was being commanded to take.

Biting wind blew at his face, lessened only by the cotton scarf he’d wrapped around his head for warmth. His tunic and chain mail were insulated with an elastic material that contoured to his skin. A small crystal glowed red amidst the tiny flakes of snow that amassed so quickly they blotted out the valley beyond the mountain ridge.

Though this was not his first time ascending a mountain ruin, it was his first time doing so at the behest of a voice in his head. A brick path led him winding up and around the cliff face. Small walkways that would normally be slippery were no challenge to the spikes on his boots.

“Why on earth did you do this once, let alone multiple times?!”

An image of a brown man clad in ornate golden royal armor appeared in his minds eye. Followed by a tan woman with eyes that shone with ferocity. Lastly, the image of a brutish pale man smirking. That was Aric.

If you’re going to harness my power, I need to know that you’re capable of handling it. This pilgrimage was designed to test your wits, your endurance, and your tenacity. Strength and brutality may have been Aric’s benefits, but you’re much more well rounded. I like knowing you’re willing to play my game to prove you’re capable of my presence.

Shaking his head, Marcus couldn’t believe it for a second. Marcus had met the Blademaster when he was just thirteen in Aric’s tomb. There’s no way he would keep this pilgrimage until now for no reason.

“I call bullshit. I peaked out my body long ago. I feel like you would’a had me do this rigmarole then unless you needed something on the other end of it. What’s your angle?”

A moment passed in silence as the image of Aric disappeared. Marcus knew he very well could be working towards losing what little bit of control he had over this wretched demon inside his head.

This is what I like about you Marcus. You refuse to play the victim when you have any say in the matter.

A force gripped Marcus’ mind like never before. He knew this supposed partnership would end in possession eventually. He just didn’t know when. Or what to do when it happened. He kept walking the trail the same as he had been without missing a beat. The Blademaster knew how to mimic him perfectly.

But let me make it very clear to you: You don’t have a say in the matter. At all. I play along with you living your life because I’ve had many lives. Why not give you your free will and see what you can do with it?

He felt the otherworldly grip on his mind loosen and he was his own man again. Clenching his fists, he punched the wall next to him and shouted at the top of his lungs.

“I WILL NOT BE YOUR TOY!”

His voice echoed and boomed with magical energy, sending a concussive shock wave that could be heard for miles around.

Are you mad?! You could-

Marcus wouldn’t allow him to finish.

“Start an avalanche? Yeah. They’d never find my body. Which means your royal pawn is no more and where would your agenda be then, eh?”

Moving his feet forward, he heard the rumbling of snow falling above him. An avalanche had indeed been triggered.

What now, boy?

Chuckling to himself, Marcus motioned to the wall next to him and drew a door with his hand. Glowing red, an outline appeared and the rocky cliff side was replaced with a stone door. Turning the handle, Marcus walked nonchalantly inside an open room carved cleanly from the rock inside the mountain. In the middle of the room lay a glowing white quartz to illuminate the freshly formed shelter.

“Wait it out in relative safety. Play nice, boyo. Don’t think I don’t know you have a reason to be here.”

Marcus felt a pang of anger. He had successfully shown the Blademaster they were on a relatively even playing field. For now.

Land of the Ley-Lines - Lessons from a Sellsword

The smell of burning hickory and meat clashed with the clean moisture of the river. An army of invisible crickets and frogs sang an unending quiet song as Marcus sat on a rocky outcropping near a river. A simple looking wooden bow slung behind him resting on stone.

Rustling of leaves betrayed the movement of a rather large man trying desperately to push through the brush. Cursing under his breath, he finally broke through the line of pines and ruffage that lay a handful of meters from the river's edge.

“Bloody fine place you picked to relax. Food's ready ya emo bastard.”

Marcus turned only his head towards Carney. The slow whisper of water flowing made it easier to deal with looking at an enemy who became a friend within a matter of hours.

“Not sure if I'm hungry.”

Carney brushed his hand over his bald head and gave a disapproving snort. Stepping down with ease from the wooded outcropping, he found it hard to get a proper foothold on the loose rocks being nearly eight feet tall. The fact that he was wearing a simple sleeveless tunic and shorts didn't help his trek through the woods, and his sandals are betraying him on uneven ground. Not the sharpest sword in the barracks, but not someone you want to underestimate either.

“Don't give me that crap boyo. Ye haven't eaten since the border skirmish. That was three days ago.”

Carney managed to slowly make his way over to wobble on a stone just behind Marcus.

“Carney, I've got bigger things on my mind. I'm not worried about nourishment. I'm worried about leaving a border completely unde-”

Carney shouted with such force it caused the crickets and frogs to still in fear. Marcus was more shocked at the interruption.

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Land of the Ley-Lines - Tyr's Sanctum

Looking down, all Marcus could do to keep himself from getting dizzy was pretend that what he was looking at was actually an illusion. Somehow he had ended up among the clouds, joined only by birds and light chills from the southern winds. It's howling was barely a whisper among the vast reaches of open sky. Beneath his feet was marbled greenish stone, which was lightly camouflaged as the distant land below him was lush with greenery.

“Right then. I, uh, suppose this is a thing.”

The moss covered door lay behind, with no real outlet off of the small ledge which he now stood. A blur of a bird swept up behind him with amazing speed, blasting him with a fierce wind as it flew past and disappeared. Losing his balance due to vertigo, he tripped and fell forward. Bracing himself for a long fall, he watched as a gust of air appeared quickly beneath him to stop his fall. The wind whistled and hissed as it increased in intensity rapidly, creating a strange smoothness that resembled hard ground.

Running his hand over it, he was awestruck.

“Wow... That's a new one.”

A screech resounded in the distance, and Marcus realized the bird was on it's way back. Before he could react, the bird had appeared and stopped with a massive burst of air that threw Marcus back at the temple door.

“I am not your enemy sharpened one. You may stay your blade.”

Brown feathers refracted light, as if the sun itself would stay it's power for the great beast. His beak moved as if he were chirping, yet he still spoke in as plain of a tongue as any man.

A voice familiar, yet distant filled Marcus' ears. Uncertainty was replaced with a feeling of confusion. Before him was the bird he had known many years ago, as a child. Mordecai was a great roc of the eastern provinces. Many days Marcus had spent riding the great hawk around the Freyan valley searching for hunting prey. He had never heard him speak before now, but perhaps there was no need to before.

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Land of the Ley-Lines - Necromancer's Blade

Blackened sandstone was all that Marcus could see. He was lost inside of the massive metropolis that dwarfed even the renowned Rángard. Streets laced together with crystal lamps lining them to keep things bright and warm during the cold desert nights. To his left was a string of shops, some of them had glass windows that were still dusty from the sand. The signature blacksmith's anvil lay outside the front of one of them. 

On it was a small broadsword with a ruby fitted into the where the blade met the hilt. It didn't appear to be anything fancy. Aside from the ruby it was pretty plain. Still, he had lost his sword in the sands somewhere, so having one will have to do. Grabbing the sword he looked over it a little more closely. "Interesting blade eh? I haven't seen one like that before. Most swords around here are serrated on one side. Lots of bone cutting with those sand Wyrms ya know?"

Mose was still following Marcus, although it's unclear whether that's good or bad. "Aye. I'm not quite sure myself of what it could be, but doesn't look like anything special. Maybe there's a scabbard inside for it. Shall we?" Mose shrugged. "Sure. Why not? I mean, what's the worst that could happen?" Marcus looked at him awkwardly. "I'm not one for superstition, but that just sounds like a right awful thing to say at a time like this."

Mose chuckled and patted Marcus on the back. "What are you worried about? Even if I'm not the only abomination out there, people around here weren't ever the kind to just start swingin'. I mean, worst case scenario a shade devours you in the shadows. But there isn't one in there. I can tell you that for sure."

Picking up a stone, Marcus willed it to shine like a miniature lamp. He threw it inside of the shop anyway, and the movement triggered crystal lights inside. "Huh. I guess you're right." Walking into the small doorway led him into a much larger shop than he had realized. The way things were built made it hard to tell where one building ends and another begins.

"Oooh! I remember this! Hartford's Smithy! He umm... Made me a thing back in the day. I forget what it was. But he did a thing!" Marcus chuckled and browsed through the various swords and daggers. There were even some pretty fancy bows. "Did a thing? Looks like he did a lot of things. Tell me if you see where he hides the sheathes so I can get one." Mose lumbered over behind the counter and started digging.

"Hey! Look at that!" Marcus made his way to the counter, only to find Mose fiddling with the change drawer. "He's still got some money in here! Not much, only like fifteen rupees total in petty change. Looks like his last few days weren't too good. Poor guy." Marcus sighed, and stepped behind the counter and found the door to the back. "Oh. Hey. Ummm I feel like that's a bad idea. Not sure why, but something's telling me bad. Up to you though. Just be prepared for whatever I guess."

Marcus cocked an eyebrow at Mose. "What the hell is wrong with you? Part of your brain missin'?" Mose just laughed and shrugged. Readying the blade in his hand, he gripped the handle on the door and slowly opened. "You know guys, we should totally do this every week. Not like we don't have time." A dusty voice was talking, with a few others mixed in. It almost sounded like a party.

"Ey Boss, when're we gonna get back to the outside?" A few men were standing in the back of the plainly furnished room talking, with three men playing cards at a table near the wall and another door. "I dunno Milo. Not really up to any of us. We gotta wait until someone drains all the sand. That could be years from now." A woman came through the door on the other side, followed by another. They were talking about fashion and what some of the neighbors were up to.

One of them noticed Marcus opening the door, and wave at him goofily. "Hello there! Would you like to come in? We're not doing much right now, but you're welcome to join us!" Everyone in the room looked at Marcus and Mose. One of the men at the table was wearing a tattered robe, which stood out from the rest of them wearing plain clothes. "Moira? Is that you?" Mose grabbed onto Marcus' shoulder and tried to peek into the room.

"Mose?! You're back dear?! Does that mean the sand is gone?" One of the ladies came running over to the door. As Marcus got a closer look, she also was missing some flesh. More undead. "The sand is gone? Well I suppose that's a good thing... But I was hoping we could you know, hang out a bit more?" The man with the robe stood up and looked at the room. "Oh Kim, we've been hangin' out for sands know how long. We'll get more time soon enough. We want to go see the outside world again!"

Kim shrugged, and draped the hood of his robe over his head. "Alright. Fine. You guys go have fun. But I'll be getting in touch with you soon for another hang out night!" Marcus just let his arms fall in disbelief. The Tyrianan scourge was before him. Yet scourge didn't seem like the right label for what was happening. "Umm.. Excuse me, but I'd really love to know what's going on with the city. Can any of you shed light on this? Kim?" 

The robed man looked at him with a scowl. "Yeah, I can tell you. Are you gonna give me my sword back?" Marcus looked at the sword in his hand, and carefully grabbed the blade to hand the hilt to Kim. "If it ain't rightly mine, I won't take it. Here." Kim looked at him with surprise. Like he wasn't expecting Marcus to offer it so freely. "You aren't worried I'll try to kill you with it?" Marcus cocked an eyebrow and shook his head.

"If you're more worried about hang out time with your friends than you are a strange man walking in with a sword, then I'm not really worried about you being too hostile." Marcus's words must have hit Kim harder than he expected. Kim walked over and took the sword, set it on the table, and hugged Marcus. "That means a lot to me man. Really it does. I'm Kim, and I'm a Necromancer. Everyone always hated me because of it so... Thanks for not." Marcus awkwardly patted him on the back.

"Yeah, it's ok... Now, about what's going on with the city?"

Land of the Ley-Lines - Sleeping Treasure in the Sand

"You mean to tell me this is the Tyrianian Empire? No one informed me it was um... expired." Marcus shifted in his chain mail tunic, adjusting his scarf to cover his now sun bleached hair. Heat beat down on the desert lands like a massive boulder had been placed on your shoulders. In front of Marcus stood a man who had just recently been a corpse rotting in the sand. "Well, yes. Actually, this is mainly news to me but I suppose. Expired is the proper word for what is here now."

The short, balding man adjusted his quite broken glasses. His skin had obviously rotted slightly in the sand, but was replaced by the grains of sand that remained. Mose was his name. "Well then. I suppose I'm not going to find many answers here, then will I?" Mose shrugged, looking around. "Well, I can't say for sure. But may not hurt to look around. I can help with that. Not like I have relatives in town or anything." 

Marcus wanted to chuckle, but there was weight behind his words. Signaling forward, Marcus began walking through the sandy streets he found himself in. Taking a good look around, all he could notice was how every building was black and burnt. Yet there were what looked like Aquaduct pillars and grooves all around the street. "So, obviously it wasn't always this desolate. What was this place like?" 

Mose thought for a moment. His sluggish face contorted in deep thought. "Huh. I can't seem to remember." Marcus spotted a small altar with a crystal stand near the entrance to one of the buildings. He stopped for a moment and inspected it. "I've seen this before. Where though? It's a very fuzzy memory." Mose halted and looked back. "Yeah. Not sure. Oh man, looks like my memory is gone too. Ain't that something?"

Marcus looked at him awkwardly a moment. "Are you smiling? What's wrong with you?" Mose shrugged sluggishly. "Iono. I just feel like everything's ok. I feel safe around you. Maybe that's a clue in itself?" Nodding in agreement, Marcus eyed over Mose another time. "Do you know where we could find a library? Some place with information? Where might that be?" Mose thought for a moment.

"Yeah, I'm sorry I got nothing. It's like that whole part of my brain is gone or something. You know?" Marcus shook his head and began walking forward again. "Let's just get moving then. I'm sure I'll find something around here." Mose nodded and began to follow him down the sandy blackened streets.

Land of the Ley Lines - The Borderlands

Standing up, Marcus brushed the sand off his chest. The trek through the desert wasteland of Hoenir was a pandora's box of horrors. If it wasn't blazing heat, it was stinging sands. Roaming beasts lurked beneath your feet ready to strike any unawares travelers at any point. Yet Marcus tread confidently among the chaos and danger.

None dared attack him, and his survival training ensured he kept his body sharp. A conversion crystal came in handy when water was scarce. Yet even despite his known safety, something unnerved him. The landscape wasn't a threat. The local fauna aren't a threat. A dread wyrm had given away it's location within the sands, yet Marcus knew even it could tell exactly what he was. Who he had become.

Continuing his tread through the sands, he noticed something off about the landscape. The sand banks grew more deliberate. Something was forming around him. It's as if the desert itself was seeking to manifest. Marcus didn't like this one bit. Drawing his bow and pulling up his hood, he chanted a spell. Perhaps now was the time to hone his combat magic skills.

Just as he suspected, the mound of sand in front of him grew to nearly twenty times his size. Sand shifted beneath him, but he was ready for it. Jumping slightly, he sent a burst of sound energy straight below him and launched into the air. The dread wyrm emerged from the sand with massive jaws open. A bellowing roar came first from the wyrm, then from something under the sand that burst forth.

No time. Marcus drew an arrow, and while he nocked it he imbued it with wind energy. Releasing the arrow, he sent it flying. Right as the arrow reached it's target, the beasts jaw, it sent a burst of wind energy everywhere. It boomed with such force it slowed Marcus' inevitable descent back to the ground.

Out of nowhere, a large stone fist pommeled Marcus from the side. His barrier took most of the force, but it still sent him flying at a dangerous speed. Thankfully he managed to slam into a sand dune not one hundred meters away. Painfully. Looking up, he assessed his wounds and his target. His body was bruised, at best. Yeah it hurt like hell, but now isn't the time to let it overcome. 

"Wha?" A golem stood before him, slowly making it's way to destroy him. It made a strange noise that resonated with the sand. The sand itself shivered and displaced at the sound. He's trying to make it harder to walk. Marcus got up, and decided fighting on the ground will be difficult. Searching his mind he desperately tried to think of a way to get a good footing. "That's it!"

Nocking an arrow, he imbued it with a massive amount of fire energy. Aiming towards the ground right below the golem's feet, he released and sent a massive streak of fire just above the shifting sands. The heat started to melt the grains into a liquid, and it became a hot sticky mess quickly. Landing at it's target, the arrow exploded with a huge fireball. Leaving behind a small crater of molten glass, the golem was thrown off balance and fell in.

Drawing another arrow, Marcus imbued it with frost energy, and released immediately. The arrow flew true, hitting the molten mess with the golem half submerged. It exploded with frost, freezing everything around it. The golem struggled in the frozen glass, and cracks could be heard. The ground in front of him was still molten, so he decided to nock another arrow and cautiously walk around to the golem.

"What are you? Why do you attack me?" The golem made a strange noise, and stopped moving. The sand started to vibrate again, but this time he could sense something moving beneath it. Keeping his bow ready, he continued to approach the golem. Air swirled in strange ways, with dust devils appearing rapidly and disappearing. 

"Why... do you encroach...?" A voice boomed from the golem. What does it mean? "I did not know I was. Is there something sacred in these sands?" A calm befell the sand, and it ceased to vibrate. A figure emerged from a dune behind the golem. "We are the ones here first. Our lands sacred. Don't want you here. What purpose does it serve?" It looked like a smaller, more human looking figure. 

"I am looking for someone. Someone important. I have been told that the Tyriani-" The sand boomed awake again, and the figure floated the air swiftly approaching Marcus. "You not Tyriani?!"  Marcus readied himself to attack. "No, I am not. Is that good or bad?" The figure came within a few meters, and stopped. It seemed to be considering something. "Your name?" 

Marcus looked at it seriously. Something didn't feel right. "Marcus Wainwright." Sand trembled, and loosened beneath him. It was creating quicksand. Quickly he sent a burst of sound energy in front of him. It sent him flying backwards into the dune. But his feet weren't in the quick sand. Still, he had to act quickly.

Drawing an arrow, he imbued it with wind energy. "This is gonna hurt." Nocking and releasing, the moment the arrow left his hand it burst with energy and flew forward and lightning speed. It created a small sonic boom near Marcus' hand, causing his arm to jolt away quickly and de-socket. He shouted in pain, but the arrow flew true and shattered the floating rock being completely. The sand settled for a moment, then it seemed to feel lighter somehow. It loosened, and he felt himself begin to start falling slowly.

He tried to watch all around him as he managed to keep himself from drowning in sand. Pillars began to emerge from the sand, and after what felt like a good hour of just trying to stay above the sand, he finally hit something solid beneath his feet. The sand began to trickle away slowly around his body. After another half hour of waiting for the sand to keep going down, he noticed buildings were starting to appear around him.

Sand was draining to reveal a lost city made of onyx colored stone. Whatever he killed must have been it's guardian. All he could do was watch as the landscape slowly unfolded around him. Eventually it peeled away to reveal a retaining wall an impossible distance away. He could only see one side of it it would seem. "This must have been an entire civilization buried under the sand. Things like this don't just happen. I need to investigate. There could be information here that would be useful against the emperor."

Land of the Ley-Lines - Rángard

Far to the east of Freya, the city of Rángard lies in ruin. Although many on the main land know only fear when speaking of the vast sea that resides beyond the lands of Dorana, those brave souls who lived in this port knew only kindness from the goddess they named their town after. The emirate only recently recognized this town as the capital of the lands of Vör. Vast amounts of riches were spent to erect Rángard, in exchange for continuing their endeavors to conquer the sea.

Many powerful and rich nobles flocked to this town, eager to be a part of something that had long bred fear throughout the hearts of our people. Exploring the vast seas. As the first port town known throughout Dorana, Rángard quickly became flooded with a bustling population.

Spires were erected with gold and jewels. Vast reservoirs of clean drinking water were magically flowing from the sea to the people via aqueducts that stretched to every part of town. Many advancements in every day comforts were made, and the population of Rángard tried it's very best to help it's people. Monuments to the kind and generous nobles who spurred this bustling town were built of every kind of rare material imaginable. Ivory and marble. Gold and silver. Petrified woods and even stone taken from deep within the caverns of Mount Heimdall.

None were as grand as the coral palace built at the very edge of the land, parallel to the docks and ships that ventured out into sea. An attuned magic ruby was placed at the top of the palace, and was used as a shining light to guide ships back into port when they became lost in the fog. I had seen every corner of Rángard... Houses built of sturdy stone, then magically hardened to defend against raging seas. A people united under the hopes of living in what was once deemed unlivable. 

As you know, dear Marcus, prosperity does come with it's problems. Politics became more important than the what and the how. People were divided by their ideas, rather than their struggles. There is a certain level of understanding when disagreeing with others. Yet the nobles shared no love for those who didn't share their ideals. Soon a divide was created that not even the kindest of hearts could repair.

Crime spread like a plague, and the once rich and powerful nobles practiced self-preservation and showed no love for their fellow people. Only greed. One day, this bustling town stopped dead in it's tracks. None know what happened on that day... I am the only one that does. I was still young, at the not so tender age of twenty five. Long gone were my days of innocence and clean hands.

I have always openly admitted my faults. My days of stealing and misdirection had only just begun. Yet on that day, everything changed. I knew not what had caused it, but a massive wave rose from the seas. Though it was not the first to strike the town, it was certainly the most powerful. Magi from throughout the city did their best to protect everyone, but I was on the outskirts of town, dealing in the black market.

Swallowing me whole, the typhoon dragged me from the pier which I had met an accomplice at to exchange some stolen goods. Although I had enough magic training to protect myself under the water, my accomplice did not. I watched him drown... Had I not been so greedy, I might have saved him from such a terrible fate... Yet the bounty which I had carried was much more important than I had known at the time. 

It was an idol, made entirely of a greenish material that I had never seen before. A rather scary figure of a man holding two swords and bladed armor was carved into the stone, and shone with such intensity that anyone would seek to make the idol their own. I knew not where the noble I stole it from had obtained it, but it was soon made clear to me there was a reason that wave struck when it did...

Rán, the goddess of the sea came to me in the torrent of water. Her figure was strong and bold, created only as a vision from the algae in the water. She spoke to me in plain words, and demanded I return the idol which I had stolen. Fearing for my life, I agreed. As soon as I handed the idol over to her, a massive leviathan appeared from the sea and swam ferociously towards me. It's scales were glowing red, along with it's countless eyes shining through the cloudy water.

It swallowed me whole... I can not recall what happened to me during my time in the leviathan, I know only that I washed up on the shore on the west side of the continent. One of your Freyan scouts found me outside of their lands in unclaimed territory. Your father, Percival actually. He brought me back to the closest scouting outpost on the western border of the country. There were such trees there as I had never seen....

So tall.. So proud. So full of life and mystery. Yours truly is a land of wonders. As he nursed me back to health, he asked me how I came to these lands. I could not tell him the truth... Who would ever believe a man who has been touched by a goddess? Although I did tell him of Rángard, I fed him a false tale of being wrecked at sea and being one of the lucky few to survive. With so many questions, one would think that he didn't believe my story.

Yet in his eyes I saw trust. I saw faith in his fellow man. Something I had not seen since childhood. He told me that news had spread years before that Rángard had become deserted after that encounter. Spinning a tale that was one right out of fanciful legends and kids stories, he regaled of how the town became deserted, though no one knew what happened to it's inhabitants. They simply disappeared, and left behind their legacy. I know for a fact, dear Marcus, that these people could protect themselves from the sea.

Their demise was not met from the harsh unforgiving sea. Their towers remained in tact, and monuments untouched. Somehow, the people seemed to cease to exist. Then he told me of you. His son. He missed you so, but saw his duty to his people as a more important endeavor in his life. He wished he could have been there for you, yet he knew his purpose was expanding the borders of the Freyan empire. His eyes... Were so kind and gentle. Yet there was no doubt in my mind he was a more powerful man than I.

Learning of the years I had lost at sea troubled me. I felt like I no longer knew the world around me. Though I was no one important at the time, I certainly felt like I had greater purpose. My time in Freya is what shaped me to be the leader I am today. I still remember back to that day... The day I witnessed the face of a goddess. And I remember exactly what day it was too... That is why it so shocked me to find that the day I disappeared...

Is the day Marcus Wainwright, the man who will come to conquer the hearts and minds of the entire Doranaian main land, was born. Our king was born on the day that idol was taken by the sea... And though you have come to be a kind and loving king... There is still part of me that fears for my people... For in my travels I have learned exactly what that idol was born of. And exactly what it represents...

The Blademaster has returned...

Land of the Ley-Lines - The Tale of Aric and Freya

The city of Freya was not always a bustling one. The fortified stone walls of the Drashiki Empire's capital city being built around the small farm town didn't take away from it's charm. The people loved the town, and the Emperor Ruarc Grimblade. How he came into the title was questionable, but the love he showed for his people was not. There was not a day that passed where Ruarc did everything he could to help those in need around him. Freya's heritage came from a rather interesting folk tale.

Located in a rather lush valley, Freya was surrounded entirely by prairies of tall grass and various herbivores scouring them. Small creeks flowed throughout the prairie with ponds forming between them. On either side of the valley was one of a pair of Greenweb trees. It was a strange natural phenomenon caused by the ley-lines intersecting at either sides of the valley. One massive tree, about fifty stories in height, with large green arrays of intricate vines that look like webs from the ground. 

Some say these two trees were a brother and sister, who had gotten lost amidst the vast tall grass and found their way to either side of the valley. The boy, Aric, was a stout boy of only twelve.  At a young age he had an appreciation for being hearty and well versed in the sword. When he was only seven his parents abandoned him and his four year old sister while they were hiking their way to the next town. In the morning, they woke up to find no sign of their parents or their belongings. All that was left was a small sack with some basic supplies for survival.

The girl, Freya, was always quite fragile. Though her brother raised her to become strong, she still had trouble finding herself appreciating being a strong woman. Nontheless, the separation from her brother when they got lost and she couldn't find him, had made her realize how independent she had already become. Still, she wanted to see her brother again. They both made their way to either side of the valley, doing what little they could to find a way to each other. 

They both managed to find their way to a massive tree, and climbed as high as they could until they had a clear view of the valley. Though the prairie was too large to see from either side, at least they could see a land mark they could use to try and reunite. Just as they had both decided to make their way to their old uncle's farm near a small creek in the valley, a massive burst of ley-energy erupted from the tree and consumed both of them. It was at that moment that the leaves turned into vines, and the trees grew to their impressive fifty story height. 

The uncle watched from the valley as the trees flashed bright blue and streaks of light erupted in the sky. Later that day, a traveler in peculiar clothing arrived at the man's farm and asked to purchase the land. The farmer agreed, and days later the very first house was built next to the farmer's. That was the day that the city of Freya had begun being built. It has been nearly a hundred and fifty years since this day. And even now, you can still see Aric and Freya watching silently over the valley. Occasionally glowing faintly on warm summer nights.