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.
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.
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.