“Lize D. Fotbusen… where have I heard that name before?” Kaidus asked himself.
Sitting down in one of the reading chairs, he flipped the cover.
Underneath was another title page: Exploration Diary – L.D.F.
Kaidus quickly skimmed through the pages, glancing at various words and passages. The words formed what looks to be a continuous string of recorded events. Other than the cover, the small book appeared to be a journal of sort.
‘Why would someone need to conceal this?’ He wondered.
Intrigued, Kaidus turned back to the beginning and started reading.
‘…took two days to scale the mountain. From the information we gathered, it flew in this direction before vanishing…
We found a small magical distortion at the mountain top. It seems to be getting weaker as night approaches…’
His eyes lit up at the contents of the book.
The author was chasing an abnormally large drakall. He/she was staying in a remote village in southern Malpaars when they saw it flying overhead. Along with a friend, they investigated it then gave chase.
The author even noted what the villagers were calling it. ‘Shakara Krauuga’
The name may have changed, but there was no doubt that the person who wrote this journal was witness to something he’d been searching for: a Karuga.
‘Xerit and I both combined our magic, ripping apart the distortion and revealing an entrance into the mountain… The exit vanished behind us. Try as we might, we could not pry it open again. It looks like the only way to proceed is forward…
We took turns illuminating the darkness. The tunnel ran for days, exhausting us of what meager rations we both packed. The smell of rot and death permeates through the tunnel as we ventured forth…
Larant walked into the room with a small tray of leftovers from lunch along with a jug and two cups.
“We just had lunch.” Kaidus stated, seeing the older boy placing it on the table between the chairs.
“It looked like you’ll be here for a while.” Larant answered with a grin.
“Was it that obvious?”
“Your eyes were on fire when I opened the door,” Larant replied. “There’s no need to rush. We have until evening before we set off.” The older boy went toward the walls to look for a book of his own.
Sitting back down to the small journal in front of him, Kaidus continued reading.
‘The tunnel ended, and we came upon a massive opening inside the mountain. Lighting up the opening, a magnificent city stood dazzling beneath us…
We spent the whole day scouring about looking for food and any signs of life, but the whole city is empty…
Long slender creatures about the size of a grown man’s arm. They attacked us on our first night in the ruins, but scattered into the darkness as soon as we invoked light magic. Not as empty as we thought. Xerit and I took turns resting…
Xerit killed one of the creatures today. Too hungry to care, we roasted it and ate it. The thing tasted quite delicious even though it was all lean meat. Maybe we can stay here a little longer and look around before trying to find a way out…
The exit is still sealed. No matter what we do, it doesn’t budge. Xerit has brought up that it even feels as if the entrance is absorbing our magic. I don’t know if it’s just the mountain or something is going on here, but it looks like we will have to make a trek back to the ruins for more food…
Twenty-six days in here, and we’re solely subsiding on these creatures. There is no other source of food and it doesn’t look like there is any other exit. Earth magic also doesn’t work, and the distortion that opened for us to get in here is nowhere to be seen…
Xerit is going mad. Says he hears a voice. I don’t blame him. We’ve been here for at least forty days now. Anyone would…
Xerit is dead. I don’t know what happened to him, but he suddenly tried to kill me. I did the only thing I could…
He wasn’t lying. I am hearing the voice now… a grinding voice.’
The journal abruptly stopped.
The majority of what was recorded involved the exploration of the ruins and the author’s thoughts.
What interested him the most, was the beginning of the journal and the ending. The author’s investigation, the Karuga’s sudden disappearance which led them to the otherworldly discovery, and the voice at the end.
Even the location in the journal coincided with what little information he’d gathered about the sightings in Malpaars. A grin crept onto his face, seeing the hard-recorded truth in his hands.
“Well, what do you think of my library?” A voice asked from the doorway. Lord Varath and Troyle walked into the library.
“You can tell from how focused he is on that book in front of him that he is enthralled.” Troyle grinned.
“This is amazing. You have quite the broad collection in here, my lord.” Kaidus replied, not refuting Troyle’s words.
“Would you like it as Sylvia’s dowry?” A mischievous smile erupted on the lord’s face.
“I believe we have already straightened that out a long time ago?” He replied, undaunted by lord Varath’s words.
The lord chuckled. “Forgive me, I couldn’t help myself. Let me know if you would like to take some with you home to read.”
“I gladly welcome that offer.” He grinned back at the lord.
“What do you have there?” Troyle questioned, sauntering over him.
“Someone’s journal of exploration within the mountains of Southern Malpaars.” He handed the small book to Troyle.
“Malpaar’s Forgotten Subterranean City. Quite the title. Is it interesting?” Troyle handed it back after briefly looking through it.
“Father. Have you heard of the author’s name?” He asked, showing the name to Troyle.
“Lize D. Fotbusen… Fotbusen… I have no idea.”
“You mean Malizur Lize Daran Fotbusen?” Lord Varath queried from a few paces away.
“!!” Life and Death of Malizur Lize Daran Fotbusen. He quickly remembered the book that he read more than a year ago on his first visit to the Ravon Manor. No wonder the name sounded so familiar.
The reasons why and how the book was sealed became slightly more discernable.
‘Malizur Lize must have sealed it to make sure the events in those pages stayed hidden.’ He thought to himself.
Judging from the journal, the events must have happened before she became a renowned mage.
How she escaped from this place in the journal, what happened during that period of her life, or why she didn’t just burn the book instead of sealing its contents, he did not know. Only thing he knew was that Lize D. Fotbusen was a real person at one point in history, and he is now holding something that belonged to her.
‘Looks like the first destination will be-’
“Why do you ask?” Troyle brought him out of his thoughts.
“Ah, nothing. The name sounded familiar but I just couldn’t remember where I heard it from.”
“Did you remember?”
“Yes. It was a name from a book I read last year. It detailed parts of her life and how she became who she is.” He replied and sat back down.
“Was that book Life and Death of Malizur Lize Daran Fotbusen?” Lord Varath questioned.
“That’s the one.”
“I have a copy here somewhere if you want to take a look at it.”
“No, it’s fine.” Kaidus looked to the lord, “Have you read it yourself Lord Varath?” he enquired.
“I have. I found the adventurous lifestyle she led a little perilous for my taste, but it was a different time and era. Perhaps that was why she accomplished such feats as she did.” Lord Varath replied, taking a seat. “Have you read Artroloxsi Velantrius by Hinnegin R. Rucin?”
“I can’t say I have.” Kaidus replied, unable to recall the title.
“I don’t have a copy, but you should read it if you ever get the chance. It’s rare, but the book is a composite detailing the many deeds of various mages throughout the centuries. Some of her accomplishments not recorded in the book Life and Death of Malizur Lize are in there…”
To his surprise, not only did the lord have an extensive collection of books, the lord seems to have read a majority of them. The two spent the afternoon discussing about books.
As evening came, both Larant and Kaidus departed from their families and left for Zorin academy.
“Are you sure he’s your son?” Lord Varath joked as they were seeing the two boys off.
“Of course he is.” Troyle replied with a proud grin.
Headmaster Nylen sat in his room, silently pondering about everything that had occurred in the past two turns.
With the information gathered from the captured Tal’hrus agents, the guild sent an expedition party to locate Tal’hrus’ current base of operations.
Over the decades, many of the same expeditions were carried out, but none were successful in finding anything useful. Usually the bases were abandoned by the time the guild gets there or the expedition party vanishes along the way, costing them valuable manpower and resources while Tal’hrus just shifts to a different base.
Eleven days ago, the expedition party came back with news that were different than usual.
Tal’hrus’ current base in Darsus was in ruin and there were traces suggesting that a battle had transpired. Who or what they were fighting against remained a mystery, and the most troubling aspect of it all was that such a thing has never happened before.
After contacting the Mercenary guild, they denied any involvement in the destruction of the Tal’hrus base.
Not counting the Mercenary guild or their own Mystiks guild, the criminal organizations rampant throughout Darsus could never stand up to the might of Tal’hrus. Other policing forces could barely defend their own territories, so it was no question about their involvement.
Not only did Tal’hrus’ base get destroyed, messages have been coming in from various sources that suspected Tal’hrus agents were disappearing.
No matter how much he thought about it, there was no explanation as to what was happening on Darsus at the moment.
‘What is he planning this time?’
He thought about the person who was pulling the strings. He thought about the man whom he once called friend, and about his greatest regret.
It was too late now. There was no point in dwelling on the past and what could have been. All he can do now, was use whatever remained of his life to try and secure a place for the next generation.
Nylen got up and walked over to his writing desk. It’s only been two years since their last gathering, but it was time to call for another meeting with the three leaders of the Mystiks guild.
They needed to plan their next move and send words to the other continents.
Instead of going to sleep, Kaidus was looking through his notes and tallies, organizing them on the ground.
With only two classes, he’s had plenty of time to comb through the library records.
The sightings were now: 19 in Malpaars, 6 in Horuns, 7 in Unotus, 7 in Kulis, and 2 from Rovtoss.
With the information obtained from the journal earlier, there was no doubt about it. The mountains in southern Malpaars was a definite hotspot for Karuga sightings over the years, and it would be where he begins his search.
Kaidus got off the floor, having made his decisions. With a thought, the notes on the ground filed themselves onto his writing desk. Walking to the bed, he spotted something on the night table by his bedside.
A metallic ring used by Tal’hrus agents, and the last of three he took from Zavon. The other two, he had already dealt with.
This one on the other hand never contacted him. It was either that the agents knew something was up, or that the person on the other side of the ring was already dead.
Kaidus picked up the ring and cupped it in his palm. With a thought, the ring melted in his hand. There was no need for it anymore as it appears that the threats have disappeared for the time being.
Even Hasen has not detected anyone snooping around his family for the past two turns.
His life was at peace again.
All that was left, was to bide his time and allow his body to grow.
-Thirty-five days later-
In the afternoon sun, a unit of eleven men were riding north of Ferrent along the main roads.
“How much longer until we get to the meeting point?” A bearded man in cobalt blue uniform asked the person riding next to him.
“I don’t know. I hear the meeting place is two days ride from Ferrent, so we should be there by evening.” Another man also in blue uniform answered.
“Isn’t Thurllton at least 15 days of riding from Ferrent?” The man questioned.
“It seems they hired a band of mercenaries for this. Lord Varath and the leaders of Thurllton have already come to an agreement, so all that’s left was to finalize it with an official signing.”
“Mercenaries huh? I guess they’re able to, considering the amount of money they’ll be bringing into Thurllton after this.”
“Having second thoughts about venturing this far outside of Ferrent?” A man in his 30’s with fine short red hair rode up beside them. Everyone here knew the man.
“Not a chance. This right here right now is where I belong.” The bearded man gave a hearty laugh. “Ah, you were once a mercenary Troyle, what’s it like?” The bearded man questioned.
“Hmm… I guess if I have to explain, it’s like that feeling when you’re sitting on your chair, and the chair suddenly breaks. A sudden frightened feeling of some kind. Being a mercenary brings you that kind of feeling, except it’s always there when you’re working a dangerous job, and it’s your life on the line not just your butt.” Troyle replied with a grin.
“Sounds like fun. Nothing boring like sitting in comfort behind the walls of Ferrent.” The man chuckled.
“Let me know if you’re ever interested in becoming a mercenary. I still have plenty of contacts.” Troyle replied cheerfully.
“Better not, Lynor. You can’t even handle your wife. I don’t think you’ll be able to handle the mercenary life.” Another man threw in, riding up next to them.
A few of the men around them laughed at the remark.
“My wife is like a vicious Kalligor. What man can handle that?”
More laughter from those around them.
The men traveled for a while longer until they came upon a clearing. It was a resting place for travelers.
“Let the horses graze and let’s have lunch. We’ll set off as soon as we can. I want to get to Zuels before nightfall.” Lord Varath issued to the men.
The signing was to be held in Zuels, a proximity village two days ride north of Ferrent. The original term was to meet halfway for the signing, but with Lord Varath being an important member of Ferrent’s Nobility and traveling that far could provide plenty of opportunities for ‘accidents’ to happen, as previous excursions have proved before, the meeting place was changed.
Lunch was mulse bread, deer jerky, and pickled greens. The men only had water to wash everything down with, as they were on the job and wine would dull the senses.
As if to answer their apprehension, a group of men came out of the forests and charged toward them. The group had chosen to lunch in the middle of the clearing away from the forest for such strategic maneuvers.
“TO ARMS!” Troyle shouted as he and many others spied the group.
The men promptly dropped their meals and gathered up their weapons, forming a wall formation with the lord in the back.
“Leave now if you value your lives!” Troyle shouted at the new group who had stopped a short distance away.
Their assailants outnumbered them, but there was no fear in Troyle’s eyes. The guards were well trained, and it would take more than ordinary bandits to get through them.
“Leave the noble if you value yers.” A man holding a greatsword stepped up and answered.
“I will not ask a second time.” Troyle replied, unsheathing his swords.
On one hand, he held a blade gleaming with a green tint. The sword was long, but not enough to be a longsword. It was slim, but not fragile. It had no guards, but was slightly curved with a plain steel hilt and pommel. In his other hand, was a normal steel sword forged with the same design.
Holding his two swords, he stepped forward. “Four of you with me, the rest stay with the lord.” He ordered.
Four men stepped forth without hesitation to stand beside him.
“Don’t get careless and show no mercy, because they will not.” He cautioned before stepping toward the larger group.
“Looks like it’s time for some good ol’ slaughterin’ boys!” The bandits screamed out with joy as they rushed the five men.
“Disperse them and make sure to not get surrounded. Leave those that pass for the others to handle!” Troyle shouted, and the group moved in unison with him taking the middle.
He charged into the enemies with blinding speed. ‘Rising Talon’. From a low angle approach, he swung his sword from the bottom upward, cutting down a man who was unprepared. Using his left hand, he pushed the dead man away and spun sideways, evading a thrust from beside him while slashing at his attacker’s neck at the same time. Not waiting, he sprinted forward and beheaded a man who was focused on one of the guards with a cross slash, kicking the man into another.
He spun the swords around into a backhand grip.
A man came at him with a downward strike, but he easily blocked the blow with his right sword before slicing into the man’s chest with his other, forcing the blade through bones by pushing the back of the sword with his forearm and elbow.
The sound of people gasping for air and dying resounded about him, and the sound of weapons clashing minimized.
He took a moment to look around.
Most of the bandits were laying on the ground except for three who were too afraid to engage, and a man wearing a cloak standing in the back. The man wore a hood along with a mask covering his mouth and had not moved a muscle to help his friends during the fight.
Six bodies lay bleeding and dying where the lord and the other five were standing.
Around him and the other four guards, were another eight. The guards took a couple scratches here and there, and two of them were bleeding, but none were fatally injured and were all still standing.
“Put them out of their misery.” He told the others while keeping an eye on the four bandits who were still alive.
The guards proceeded to end the lives of the gasping bandits.
“Are you Troyle?” The masked man questioned, walking forward.
Troyle took a defensive stance, ready to engage.
“Two swords, and fights with the Formless Blade Style. I’ve heard many things about you.” The man spoke again.
“Who are you?” Troyle questioned, not letting his guard down.
“A challenger.” The man’s eyes lit up with excitement. Two swords popped out of his cloak and the mystery man charged him.