Carried by the winds and untethered by the laws of the world, Kaidus soared through the night sky. He had been flying northeast ever since leaving Ferrent, following the mana signature from the metallic ring in his hand.
A few hours later, and he was approaching a proximity village.
These villages serve as a resting point for travelers and merchants moving to and from the Capital, and are a vital place to inquire about information for the road ahead, or to obtain any required resources before making the final journey to Ferrent.
He saw the telltale sign of lanterns and outdoor campfires all along the inner perimeter of the village walls, indicating travelers. It would have taken a day of intense riding or two days of caravan travel, but the village was within his sights in a matter of hours.
Fatigue kicking in and having given up some blood to disguise his cloak, Kaidus willed Zion to lower him onto the ground. In the darkness, he carefully made his way into the village without being noticed by the guards. Unsure of the next time he’ll be resting in a village or town, he headed toward a sizable building that looked to still be doing business at this time of night.
Also doubling as a tavern and diner, the Inn was full of strangers and many people were having a late-night snack as they drank and told stories. Rough looking men and women sat around, minding their own business. Not a single pair of eyes cared for the strangely cloaked young boy who had just entered the building.
“You there. Are there any rooms available?” He asked a woman who was behind the counter—working the bar.
“And who might you be?” She looked around for someone else.
“Why does that matter? I’m asking if you have a room available.” He retorted back.
The woman scrutinized him for a moment. “Aren’t you too young to be out alone at this time of night?” An expected question.
“My entourage and I just pulled in. Do you have a room or not?” He inquired again with a tone of irritation. Opening his cloak, he revealed his finer school clothes underneath as he fished a green fer from his money bag and placed it onto the counter.
“Yes of course my lord. For how many people?” The woman was not stupid. She picked up on the tone and display immediately.
With a fine red cloak, his attitude, how he held himself, and his brazen display of wealth, he gave off an impeccable impression of a young lord.
“Just me. My guards will be camping out tonight with the others.” He replied, not caring about his imaginary companions. “I trust I will be fine in your care?” He asked, giving an imposing stare.
“Y-Yes of course, my lord. Our establishment is one of the most respected in the village. You will never have any problem as long as you are within our walls.” She replied courteously.
It was a plan he concocted as he entered the village. He did not want to be conspicuous, but a normal child wandering around at this time of night was abnormal. Fortunately for him, he had on his finer clothes—as he was supposed to be returning to the academy. With the five green fers in his pocket—250erns—he could play this off as a rich child not wanting to camp with the rabbles and hopefully get a good night’s sleep to restore himself.
The role came to him easily. Being a past noble and now surrounded by pompous lordlings and ladies, there was not an ounce of love for the common folk in his tone.
Without waiting for him to change his mind, the woman scooped up the green fer off the counter and led him upstairs to a nice room. This was only his second time at an inn, but this room was a lot nicer than the one they had stayed in at the Crystal Wayfarer Inn back when they first arrived in Ferrent.
“Would you like something to eat before you retire for the night?” She inquired politely as he strolled into the room.
“I would. Bring me your finest.” A simple reply.
“Yes, my lord.” She gave him a curt bow before heading off to bring him his meal.
“Masssssterrrr.” The cloak hissed.
“I noticed. Wait and see if they do anything. If not, we’ll deal with them tomorrow.” He replied back to Zion.
After pulling out his money, many of the uncaring eyes around the room had turned toward him. Possible bandits masquerading as travelers, thieves scouting their prey, or kidnappers.
Sitting in silence for a while, his food finally arrived.
The night passed and he woke up around midmorning with nothing occurring during the night.
“Good morning, my lord. Did you sleep well?” A man spoke to him as he got downstairs. “Elle told me about you and your arrival late last night. How was your rest?”
“Fair. No complaints here.” He spoke indifferently, trying not to sound too out of character.
“Glad to hear it. Is there anything else we may help you with?”
“For starters, what’s for breakfast? I assume my payment was enough to cover breakfast?”
“Of course. Please sit yourself at a table and I’ll have one of the lads bring it out to you.” The man replied humbly before making a quick series of shouts into the kitchen.
Soon a breakfast of baked mulse bread with a modest bowl of soup and three slices of roasted dronnon meat was before him.
Finished with breakfast, Kaidus went about the small village, purchasing anything he may need for the road ahead: a water skin and a small knife. After some quick shopping and 17erns less in his money bag, he made his way out of the village and northward along the road.
Walking along the main road, he made sure he was a good distance away from the village before stopping. There were people stalking him and he had felt their presences ever since he was still in the village.
His pursuers had also stopped.
“Come out!” He yelled.
“Brave lil one aren’t ya? How’d you know?” A rough looking man popped out of the forest and asked. Four others also came out of hiding and walked onto the main road. He remembered glimpsing their faces last night.
“How I know is none of your concern. Is this all of you?” He replied to the man’s words.
“Hmn?” The man looked at him quizzically.
“There were at least eleven of you in the inn last night watching me. How come there are only five of you here?” He replied with a calm voice. He certainly wanted to be on his way, but this was an exception.
“Hahaha! You all hear that?” Another man laughed. “The boy doesn’t have any idea what’s about to happen to him!”
Kaidus turned to look the man in the eyes. “I know full well what’s happening. You mongrels are the ones who have been attacking and killing travelers.” He replied without a hint of fear in him.
Shopping was not the only thing he was doing earlier. With the uneasy feeling last night, he had asked about the road. It turns out, a group of unknown assailants have been targeting and murdering travelers who traveled in small numbers.
“So that’s what you were doing. It sure was odd to see a lordling doing his own shopping.” The bandit grinned.
“Just hearing about us means nothing. Don’t worry, we won’t kill ya.” Another added.
The man who first spoke as they came out of the forest stepped forth. “You have no one guarding you nor do you have any idea of what is about to happen. Just give us everything you have, and you can be on your way. Otherwise, I don’t know what my friends may do to you.”
Without flinching, Kaidus stared back at the man who seem to be speaking for the group. “Is that the offer you give all your victims?”
“What’s wrong with you kid?! Do you want to die?! Give us your money or you’re dead!” Another man shouted angrily.
“How about I keep my money, and I grind you all into dust and sprinkle your ashes into the wind? Parasites like you all do not deserve to live.”
“Well, forget my offer. You’ve got a fine tongue in yer mouth and I’ll enjoy cutting it off. We weren’t planning on lettin’ ya go anyways.” The leading man smiled. “I wonder how much money a tongue-less highborn bastard like you’ll bring in.” He added, signaling for two of his friends to grab Kaidus.
“Zion. Leave none alive.” Kaidus spoke as the two men stalked forward to grab him.
“YESSS MASSSTERRR!” A voice hissed happily.
The red cape fluttered, and a razor wind blew forth, slicing both men who were approaching him into halves.
“He’s a mage from the Myst-!” One of the bandits managed before Zion severed his head.
“Y-you…!” The leader stared at him in confusion.
Kaidus watched solemnly as Zion tore the two remaining bandits apart.
Within moments, his command had been fulfilled. Five dead cut throats laid on the road.
A bloody tempest flew at Kaidus and was quickly absorbed by the cloak, giving it an even bloodier color.
With a thought, all the body parts burst into flame. As the intense flame died down, nothing but ashes remained of the five men. Kaidus shot forth into the sky, blowing their ashes into the wind.
Having recovered from the blood loss that he gave to Zion, he altered his flight pattern after the 2nd night. The signature had stopped following any road or pathway, and took him over the forests, veering into unknown territories.
Away from populated areas, he hunted for his own food using what he had learned from Adalina. With magic, he easily caught small game, and scavenged for edible plants to supplement his meal—fire and water were not an issue for him. He rested where he could during the day, and soared through the skies at night, moving in the dark, hidden from prying eyes.
After five long days, he reached his destination.
A large fort hidden within the midst of a dense forest. He could almost feel the owner of the mana that was trapped in the metal ring.
In the darkness, Kaidus lowered himself to camp for the night.
Zavon got out of his bed at the break of dawn as he had done every day. The crescendo of birds chirping in the morning had only just begun.
Putting on a robe, he looked back to the bed at the sleeping women whom he had indulged himself in. She was not his wife nor was she his lover. They were nothing more than two adults seeking the warmth and pleasure of one another.
Prying his eyes away from her naked body, Zavon stepped out of the room to go wash himself.
“How many of Alek’s group returned last night?” He asked his adjutant during breakfast.
“Nine, Master. Seven of those in his team were lost in an ambush by a collaboration of the mercenary guilds. Alek reported to have taken down a good portion of the enemy as they made their escape.”
“Did they accomplish what they were sent to do?”
“Yes, master. Two of the 10 heads have been cut off. The guilds will be in disarray for a while as they appoint new leaders.”
“And what of Ladur’s group?”
“They arrived earlier. Doesn’t look like they took any casualties.”
“And their mission?”
“…” Zavon ate silently as he thought about their current state and made future plans.
“Master. If you don’t mind me asking, how much longer must we fortify this fortress?” His adjutant inquired.
“Only until I am sure that Ferrent has yet to catch wind of us.” Zavon replied, bringing another spoonful of hot food to his mouth.
He had already called back three units of his agents. Along with the return of Alek and Ladurs’ groups, they numbered around seventy strong within the headquarters. His scouts around Ferrent had reported nothing about any movements that may signify the Mystiks guild’s knowledge of their operations.
Yet, his little army was not for the Mystiks guild. It was preparations against the unknown voice that had threatened him.
‘This is foolish…’ He thought to himself. It was unlike him to take such precautions against an unknown enemy. He neither knew who was behind the voice, nor when the attack was coming.
“Tell Ladur and his team to rest up. I’ll be sending them out again tomorrow.” He directed his assistant.
Within his study, Zavon was drawing out new plans. New ways that would help the organization prosper and redeem himself in the eyes of the old master. As he wrote down ideas, he started hearing movements along the corridors. Listening carefully, there were shouting and yelling.
*BANG BANG!* within moments, someone was banging on his door. “Master! An attack!” The voice shouted.
Zavon got up and rushed out of his study.
Following the throngs of agents moving towards the front of the fort, upon his arrival, all he could see was a field of blood.
The bodies of his underlings were strewn about in pieces, and amongst the blood and gore, a figure in a bloody cloak floated forward.
‘Flying magic…’ He thought to himself. Amazed at what he was seeing in front of him. Looking closer, two glowing eyes peered at him from inside the hood. “Who are you?!” He questioned, stepping forward carefully. None of his men made a move.
“I have been looking for you.” A familiar voice boomed through. The figure pulled back his hood, revealing the face of a child with dark black hair.
Zavon stopped in his track. The voice was of the man he spoke to before, but in front of him was a child. “Kaidus…” His mouth gave life to the name that echoed in his mind.
“Pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.” The boy replied. This time, in a childish voice.
‘Voice manipulation!’ Zavon’s mind screamed out in distress. His men had been caught while acting on their plans and the perpetrator who caught them was undoubtedly none other than their target. This young boy.
“Exactly who are you? How did you find me?” Zavon questioned the boy. Ferrent was at least 20 days of hard riding away from their hideout. The one time he spoke to the boy was at most 13 days ago. Even if he came right after their conversation, the timeframe did not add up, not to mention finding their hideout hidden within the forest.
A metal ring flew at Zavon and he caught it. Looking at it, the ring was one of his. One of the rings he given to his lieutenants to contact him. ‘Impossible.’ He thought to himself. ‘The connection was destroyed. There’s no way…’ he looked up at the child, only to see a grin on the boy’s face.
“Thank you.” The boy mocked.
“No… it can’t be… KILL HIM!” Zavon quickly ordered as a feeling of apprehension overtook him.
Within seconds, magic of all designs flew at the boy. Lightning cages, fire eruptions, ice fields, water jets, earth traps, spikes, metal blades. Projectiles of all orders of magic flew at the boy, colliding against his position, resulting in an explosion of magic that would have shredded any normal boy.
As the cloud of gas and smoke subsided, a large circular rock stood where all the magic had made their impact. The rock slowly cracked and dissolved, revealing the boy inside without a single scratch.
“Asiran. Ve….” Zavon began mumbling a silent incantation under his breath. Yet as soon as he began, the cloak the child had been wearing dispersed, and a horizontal line of red shot forth at him and those around him. A razor wind.
Zavon quickly modified his incantation and barely defended himself as short screams of pain burst out from those behind him. A fine line of thick red liquid was slashed across his mana barrier, slowly trickling down onto the ground.
Looking around, a few of his subordinates had been severed by the bloody gale while others barely managed to avoid or defend it with magic.
Zavon watched in horror as a tempest began in the midst of the corpses. Blood gushed forth into the air and was sucked into the storm. The tempest slowly tore up the lifeless bodies, throwing them up into the air as its rotation and power increased. As if alive, the storm shredded the bodies of those unable to withstand it, whirling them around and into the air.
Within moments, the hurricane had expanded and accumulated enough strength to cut his fort in half. Screams of agony could be heard as the razor winds took more victims within the fort.
By the time the storm stopped expanding, it was as if night had descended upon them. Red with blood and flesh, the hurricane blotted out the sun, trapping a handful of survivors within.
Zavon looked around and saw the decimation of the group under his care. He counted fourteen survivors. In front of him, the boy stood without batting his glowing eyes. The only thing that changed, was that the boy’s black hair was now shining with a silver glow.
Zavon finally understood a part of the riddle. ‘I am the black winds of carnage.’ The single phrase reverberated in his mind as he stared into the face of death.