The Arkanist
Author: surfingpanda7

Chapter 7
Hope

Kale’s breath caught hard, snagging at his lungs. He could not think, he could not feel; he was numb. He simply sat there, stiff as stone, rooted to the spot like an ancient tree, lifeless. They were all supposed to be dead, lost. How had this man survived? Kale mumbled, trying to speak, but his voice would not articulate. The man who called himself Ekin slid the magnificent blade back into its steel scabbard with a high clink, the light fading. He wrapped his silver plate armor back into its coverings and hid them back into his chest.

“But that was long ago.” He said in a soft breath. “One thousand years long.”

“What have you done for so long?” Said Kale. “How are you not dead? Why have you not returned? Where are the others?”

“That is a very lavish supply of questions.” Said Ekin. “But so too are their answers.”

Ekin closed the wooden chest with a groan and laid his ancient tools upon the flat top. He swept slowly over to the stone table where Kale sat, still astonished. With the long tail of flame between them, the light dancing on their faces like feet of warmth, Ekin delved into conversation.

“After our Order disbanded long ago, we agreed to vanish into the patterns of the world, never to come about again. We would simply watch the years pass, idle and passive. We all journeyed to different locations, far away from our lair in Abelon.

“That day when we departed, I never left my tools of our creation. I couldn’t. I brought my old sword and armor with me to this mountainside, feeling as if nobody would ever find me. We predicted this, the darkening of the land. The mists.”

“How?” Asked Kale.

“Before the Oppressive One crossed into the realm of Runir from the shadow lands beyond, he ruled another realm. This realm was called Erridai, a land full of forests and mountains. It was given to him by his father, Meroa, who is the god of the shadows. Meroa had three children, and gave them each lands to rule under his power. The children of Meroa were all immortal, children of the gods, extremely powerful beings. The lands of Erridai were smaller, compared to the realms that the Oppressive One’s brothers had received. He felt cheated by his father and grew angry. His rage soon caused him to kill both his brothers, sending all three realms to his own. With this hold over the lands, the Oppressive One cast the lands into a thick shadow, darker and heavier than even the one we live in today.

“Meroa soon came to hear about this, and came up from the underworld, where his palace lay. He confronted his son and took away his power, until the Oppressive One murdered even his father, entranced with power. The lands of the west soon fell to his tyrannous rule, falling into decadence. The mists soon covered the entire land and the people all but died out, leaving nothing to rule.

“That is when the Oppressive One discovered Runir, and crossed over the Mountains of Shadow in the west. His power had never been witnessed in thousands of years by the Alduri, and even so by our Order. It was an amazing force, summoning beasts of the ancient world to be reborn and summoning an army far greater than any we could have imagined. His shadow swept fast upon us, and many of our order died, leaving us almost destroyed.

“The clouds began to grow heavier and the skies darkened. There was a constant song of thunder played overhead and volts of light continually lanced across the sky, contorted and vicious. We soon noticed we could do nothing more to aid our dying land, so we disbanded.”

“You abandoned the people of Runir.” Said Kale, aggravated.

“Do not speak on things you do not know.” Said Ekin. “You were not there.” He lowered his voice. “The lands soon dyed and darkness spread until there was no more sunlight. In these mountains I stayed, watching the ways of the world. I could see Vaelon from afar, its beacons of light the only brightness left in the world. I have seen every revolt or rebellion fall short and every attempt to escape the lands failed. We must all wait for the death of us, and bid our time. It is all we have left to do.”

“That is not true.” Said Kale. “We can fight back. We can rebel. We can overthrow the Oppressive One.”

“You speak lies.” Said Ekin. “He is immortal. He is all-powerful. I have seen for a thousand years his ascent. He is growing stronger every year that passes.”

“How have you seen this for a thousand years. Why aren’t you dead? You’re not immortal like him.”

Ekin glanced back at his shrouded tools. “Those.” He said, turning back on Kale. “They have given me life. A Knight of Abelon swears to any oaths, and one of them is immortality. It is given to them with their birth as a knight, the power infused into their bodies the moment they raise their sword. From the time I first raised my ancient blade, I became immortal, never dying. It is both a curse and a gift. The gift, you will never die, you will never leave this world by any natural cause. The curse, you endure the deaths of all you love and care for.”

“What about the others?” Asked Kale, the tail of flame rising as the conversation progressed.

“To that.” Ekin said. “I have little idea. You see, we never told of where we would go or even what we would do. We just separated, knowing one thing: never to come out of hiding. I do not have a direct answer for you, boy, though I can tell you they still lie somewhere out in the darkness of Runir, in the ash and mist. I can promise you that.”

“We could find them.” Proposed Kale. “We could go off in search of them. Reunite the Knights of Abelon and overthrow the Oppressive One.”

“You have a strong heart, but this could never happen." Said Ekin. "He is too strong. He is too powerful. Our forces are but ten strong at most, bidding that the others had not died off. You do not understand that this is folly, what you propose. Every attempt at a revolt has been smothered. Every attempt at escape has failed as well. We are all trapped. Every one of us.”

“Ours can be different.” Said Kale, hopeful. “We would have the Knights. We would have magic. We would have hope.”

“There is little hope left in this world. It lies scattered and divided, kept alive by the minute rebels that hide away in the Mountains of Svaerdon, down south. There is no hope.”

“There is hope if you believe.” Said Kale. “There is hope if we do something about it. Hope does not come by hiding or being idle. It come when you are thrown into a dangerous situation, with all the odds against you. Hope is very rarely found, Ekin. But we can bring it back into this world as it once had when you protected us.”

“You speak of hope like you understand how it is to fight in battle.” Said Ekin. “You speak of hope like you lived through the Oppressive One’s ascent.”

“I speak of hope far greater than you.” Said Kale. “It is because I believe. It is because I want to live in a land of trees and snow and grass. Is that not what you want?”

“My hopes have seeped away many years ago.” Said Ekin. “All of my belief has faded.”

“But it does not have to be that way.” Said Kale.

Ekin remained silent, watching the spitting tail of lurid flame, the light dancing across his shrouded face. Kale leaned back, furious. How could this man be so hard and stiff? His thoughts were soon disturbed, for he discerned a slight footstep along the stone steps outside. The sound grew louder, until finally there was a reverberating thud on the wall. Kale froze.

“What was that?” He said under his breathe, whispering.

Ekin brought his finger to his lips, silencing him and ushered Kale to the back of the room, where the chest lay. “There is a passage that leads up into the paths of the mountains. Take it and hurry.”

There was another loud chink before the door as a greave slammed on the ground. “Go.” Hissed Ekin. “I will follow.”

Kale nodded, his heart beating like a drum in his throat. His head rung with a high vibration, and his legs were growing heavy. What was out there? As he hurried up the stair path to the mountains, Ekin waited for a second, and then quickly grabbed his plate armor and blade, strapping the scabbard to his belt.

Kale wound through the tunnels of stone, alit with nothing. The path was musty and moist with droplets of water tapping on the floor. He heard Ekin clopping up behind him as he shuffled through the tight tunnel until there was a great thunderous crack. The things had broken in. “Hurry!” Whispered Ekin. Kale obeyed, now at a full sprint, running his hands along the wet rock walls. There was an opening up ahead, where Kale could see red, vaporous mist drifting through the black sky. They were almost there.

The opening was growing larger and larger, but so too where the echoing chinks of greaves down below, slowly gaining. Outside, once Kale and Ekin had scrambled out the opening, they stood on the rocky mountainside, a thin film of ash covering the irregular rock. Down below, far away, the city of Vaelon glowed through the impenetrable darkness, the high floating spires like blades of steel slicing into the mists.

Kale turned back on Ekin, to find him clad in his sterling silver plate armor, glowing like a star in the night, gleaming with light. Upon his side, lay his magnificent blade. Kale could not believe his eyes. A real Knight of Abelon, he said to himself. Caza will never believe this.

In his trance, Ekin cried out to him, “Follow me up the mountainside!”
Kale stirred, breaking free of the clouding memories from his past life that swarmed his mind. He followed Ekin up the jagged cliff face, hurrying though the falling ash. The mountains stunk of death and despair, the shifting crimson mists consuming the sheer peaks. The rock was difficult to see in the dark, though Ekin’s armor lit the way like a torch.

As they dashed away up the irregular shelves of rock and stone, the things behind them rushed out of the pathway, growling and snarling like beasts.
“What are those things?” Kale screamed ahead. “Why are they chasing us?”

Ekin did not respond, but quickened pace. The brutes behind would soon be upon them. Ekin turned right until he crouched behind a jagged wall of rock. Kale followed closely. With a subdued scrape, Ekin unsheathed his ancient blade, long and alluring. A brilliant make of great skill and craft. Ekin put his finger to his lips again then slowly crawled out from behind the rock.

Kale watched nervously as he met the four things in combat. In the ruddy light of the mist above, Kale could see massive figures clade in black plates of armor, helms shaped oddly. The metal glinted darkly in the light of Ekin’s tools. The beasts howled in a vicious and feral chorus, the sounds pervading the mountainside.

Ekin stood alone against the four beats, his blade his only weapon. He made the first move, jabbing at the beast to his let, though it was deflected with a gleam of steel. The beats held colossal clubs of steel and great serrated blades of black steel. The Knight of Abelon dueled with the four brutes; steel singing, blades clashing. Ekin was holding up well with his magic sword, though the four beasts were proving a difficult task for the one Knight.
“Kale.” He managed to speak. “The stones! Your powers.”

He was right; there was tone all around Kale, surrounding him like a cage. He could use it, Crush it. He could use his Arkency. Kale laid his hand along the ashy rock beside him, letting the energy seep into his body. The power flowed in his blood, distributing the force through out his body. With the energy infused into his being, he performed the skill of an Arkentite.

With the power of the stone, he used it, a strong surge of energy flowing out of him. He directed his hand at a boulder beside him. He tugged at with his force, his fingers cringing. He had never lifted anything so heavy. He built up the power, his arms beginning to tremble until he Lashed the rock at one of the armored beasts. The boulder collided with the brute vigorously, knocking the creature off its feet so that it lay stunned on the ground. Ekin quickly noticed, lunging toward the fallen figure and drove his sword into its chest.
The beast faded into red mist, rifting up into the veil above.

Ekin then sprung on another, exchanging blows and strikes, their blades crying piercingly. Ekin though proved too fast for the creature. As the beast lugged his heavy club down on Ekin, he danced away from the thunderous strike, slicing at the things calf. The beast seemed unfazed, turning on Ekin and swinging his weapons hazardously. Ekin dodged each strike, meeting them all with his gleaming blade. With one swift flick of the wrist, the beasts massive club rumbled to the ground and Ekin jabbed in a flurry of perfectly executed attacks, twirling and hacking and swinging and blocking with such speed and grace it was like art.

Finally, Ekin struck the butt of his sword against the beast’s helm, then leaped into the air and drove his blade into his head, the shadowy figure disappearing into mist. Kale then hurled another boulder at the third brute, and it howled with angst and rage. Kale shot his hands toward the stumbling figure then swept it into the rock wall. The mountain shelf cracked and broke apart, the boulders tumbling down the sheer cliff face, engulfing the beast.
As the river of rocks rumbled down, thin blade of red mist shot up into the sky joining its fellow brutes. Only one now remained, snarling with spite, its red slits ablaze with a ferocious fire. The beast roared, vibrating the rock floor beneath them. Kale’s power had faded, the energy slowly seeping out of his porous body in swirling licks of deep blue vapor.

Ekin regained his stance, hunched and breathing heavily. The brute threw his massive club at Ekin, though he deflected the object with the flat of his blade, sending the metal into the rock behind him. Ash cascaded like a waterfall down the precipitous shelf of black rock. Ekin yelled, flying toward the beast his glowing blade invisible with the speed of his strikes. He was lithe, strong, powerful, explosive. The beast caught each blow with the flat of his serrated blade, until Ekin’s blade caught, snagging his sword from his grasp.

Ekin stood unarmed, the hulking beast dominating his vision. He did not take his eyes off his foe. He stared into the fiery slits, death looming before him. The beast went to strike down his enemy, though it dropped its weapon to the ground with a clatter. It collapsed down onto its knees, then exploded in a red vapor, the remnant floating up to the sky.

Ekin stared, aghast. Kale then showed himself, terminating his flow of magic he had acquired form a crystal embedded into a boulder that had tumbled down. He stood with Ekin’s blade in his hand, the blade as long as him.

Returning the sword, Ekin said in a gruff tone, “We must leave quickly. More will come I am sure. Once word has reached the ears of those who dwell in Harfir, the Oppressive One will not be idle. Into the labyrinth of the Mountains of Varrin we must go.”

 

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