By the time he neared Vilute, Biran’s clothes were drenched and he was freezing due to the frigid water. In his haste, he had neglected to obtain something to paddle with, and had committed his own arms and legs for the job. A horrible idea due to a lapse in judgement, he was now exhausted and shaking.
A number of row boats were tethered together outside of the city and his heart sunk at the sheer amount of them. Enough to carry a small force, the enemies could easily outnumber their warriors still within Vilute.
After ascending the steps that led to the waterfront, he approached the opened gates, “What’s this? Did Eril miss someone?” A woman walked out of the city, followed by a handful of others.
Two stunning violet eyes were staring at him. The woman was wearing traveling leathers, and had short purple hair going down to her shoulders. The armor gave her a rough and hardy appearance, but it only made her look more desirable. The men around her were cloaked in grey and black, and they too were also wearing leather armor.
‘NO!’ He immediately froze upon realizing who she is.
Memories sped through his mind of the mage who held her own against the imperial guards. She was the very mage who decimated their twenty-man unit and required the sacrifice of three malgins, just to stall her as he made his escape with the prince. The memories from that day when everything went to shit bound him in place, and he could do naught but stare in fright and anger.
She looked at him, then to the water and smiled a devilish grin. A beautiful grin. “Did you swim all the way here?” She questioned, but his lips refused to answer. “Being stared at is flattering, but know that my beauty is very costly.” She quipped.
‘She has no idea who I am!’ The thought struck him, and Biran quickly attempted to calm down. He had been wearing his armor and helmet at the time of the attack that day, and it was possible she couldn’t recognize him. Tearing his eyes away from her visage, he immediately identified the others. They were people whom he had saved barely a fortnight ago: people who had been chained and were being moved to Garnikul—to be sold as slaves. A piece of his waning sense of righteousness died, as he understood what might possibly have happened. Before he could say a word or move a muscle, one of them stepped forward and whispered something into the woman’s ears.
The beautiful smile curved into a sinister grin, and she scanned him with two predatory eyes filled with hate and a tinge of interest. “So it’s you… the bastard that’s been giving me so much trouble.” She spoke, and her voice carried a sweet yet vile sense of danger in them.
Biran instantly grabbed the sword at his waist and charged her. His arms flickered outward in a blur, aiming to kill the woman with a surprise attack. Instead of slashing open her neck, his sword stopped in midair before even reaching her.
“Such obvious retaliations.” She sneered, holding her hand out as if stopping the sword with an invisible wall. “You see, this is the difference between you all, and we, the chosen of this world.” The woman invoked a spell and Biran was immediately thrown backwards. “I can kill you without even lifting a finger.” With another incantation, the ground beneath Biran rose up and caged him in a wall of spikes. “But killing you after all the trouble you’ve put me through would be no fun.” She smiled and looked to others around her. “Go back and prepare the horses for me. This won’t take long.” The woman commanded, and the group bowed to her before descending the steps into the boats.
“You fuckin bitch! Where is the prince?!” Biran shouted from his cage, knowing full well what she was after.
“You will know soon enough. Asiran. Notis vaain hisaara dao-!” She began chanting another spell.
His body started going numb, and he could feel his strength being drained as paralysis took over. Biran struggled, trying to force his body to cut through the spikes, but his arms and legs refused to move. The sword he was holding slipped from his grasp, making a loud clanking noise as it fell. Unable to even support himself with his legs, the cage slowly receded back into the ground and he followed.
“Sweet dreams, mister knight. Your prince is no more, and you will soon follow.” The vile grin manifested upon her beautiful face once more, along with a laughter that ridiculed him to the core. He tried to open his mouth to shout and refute her words, to deny her declaration, but he could not. With a kick, she squared him in the jaws and everything turned to black.
Feelings eventually returned to him, and Biran slowly regained his awareness. He could tell that he was being pulled, and his feet—which were dragging—were constantly hitting something along the ground. With a throbbing pain in his jaw and still without any strength, he opened his eyes, only to see that the streets were littered with bodies and limbs. To his sides, he saw many mangled and burnt figures protruding from the smoldering rubbles as if they were still trying to crawl out of the ashes. All were undoubtedly people whom he had known. People who had welcomed him and his prince, and some were even those that he himself had saved.
With all the deaths around him, his stomach twisted in agony, knowing that he had assisted in causing such a tragedy by rescuing the group he met earlier.
Biran gritted his teeth as he was dragged past the bodies, reminding him once again of how utterly pathetic and powerless he truly was.
“Biran!” Familiar voices called out to him, and he was suddenly thrown onto the ground. Two men rushed over to him and sat him up. “What happened to you?!” One cried out, seeing his flaccid arms and legs.
Around them was a small group of men. All were fighters who had worked alongside him and the other liberators to help free slaves. Across from them was an enormous group of Vilute’s very own residents: men, women, and children—powerless folks who had been gathered and were sitting together in fear. He quickly noticed that their two groups were both before the entrance to the barracks, and a wall of people surrounded them all. Glancing at the enemies, they easily doubled the number he had in his head from seeing the boats.
“W-where is my son?” He managed to question, looking at the two men.
Besides the princess and her knights who were there at the time he revealed everything, no one else knew about the prince’s true identity.
One of the men lowered his gaze. “We haven’t seen him…”
‘Your prince is no more.’ The despicable woman’s words assaulted him, and an image of the young boy being burnt alive manifested in his mind. He turned to the large group, “Lyal!” And shouted with what little strength he could muster, earning him a kick in the back from their guards. Coughing, he turned to the men again. “Guh-… T-the princess… where is she?” He inquired, taking deep breaths to dull the pain in his back. She was his only hope left, as she should have sent someone to secure the prince.
“The princess is…” One of the two answered, but refused to speak any further.
“Vernera is what? Where is she?!” He exclaimed, fearing the worse.
“SHUT UP!” The man who kicked him before shouted, and did so once more.
“Dead.” Solio’s voice supplemented the two men’s silence, and he turned to see the short round man squeezing through to his side.
The older man pointed to a window on the barrack’s second floor.
Biran looked up to see the severed head of the gveril princess sitting on the windowsill, blood still dripping from it, and her horn bloody and broken. He clenched his teeth, holding in the urge to scream out. ‘Your prince is no more.’ The words told him exactly the sort of people he had been up against. “There are no gods…” The words slowly left his tired mouth as the knowledge that he had truly failed registered in his mind. Any reason for ever returning home to Unotus was gone, and his life was as good as over.
His clothes drenched in blood, Eril smiled. The smoking cloud overhead and falling ashes gave his arena a haunting atmosphere, making it perfect for such a situation.
Pulling his beautiful slim sword out from the man beneath him, “Take them away and bring me the next group.” He instructed, and his men quickly hauled away the bodies that were scattered across the bloody courtyard.
He had already slain the princess before her people, destroying any lingering sense of freedom and hopes they had left. He had tested his strength against her best knights, and none had measured up to him. The city was theirs and all that was left, was to gather anything of value and wait for the city to burn to the ground.
Shortly after, a group of ten men were brought into the barrack’s courtyard. All were presumably warriors.
“Pick a weapon of your choice.” Eril gestured to a large stockpile of weapons behind him. None of the men moved. “This is a fight for your lives. Kill me, and you all shall be freed along with everyone in this city.” He added, and a few of them glanced at each other. “Fail or refuse, and you will join the countless others that have fallen to my blade. There are no other options.”
A man with pale yellow hair, a short beard, and a sunken face was the first to step forward toward the weapons. The others followed, each pulling something out from the pile.
“I cannot use a sword. Might I perhaps be given a bow and some arrows?” A short and round unassuming man spoke, not touching any of the swords, spears, or axes.
Eril smiled at the man’s bluntness. “Give that man a bow and some arrows.” He ordered one of his men as the others surrounded him with their weapons in hand.
“I am Eril. Let us begin this bloodbath.” He announced with a smile.
Biran’s hands shook as anger and fear warred within him. He looked at the person who had introduced himself and knew that the man was dangerous. He had heard the screams earlier, had learned about what happened that morning, and had seen the devastation of Vilute and her people with his own eyes.
The usually brown courtyard which they were standing upon was now dyed a dark color, and he could only guess at how many dozens of people had fallen to cover such a large area. A trail of blood led towards the barracks dining hall, and he could see a number of bodies still being dragged away through the exterior hallways.
He had a vivid idea how everything was going to turn out and had already resigned himself to his fate, but if they wanted him to fight, he would struggle until his last breath.
Glancing to the side, he caught Solio’s eyes and the short man nodded calmly.
Seeing the man still trying and understanding the fear in the others, he willed himself to relax and calm down. “Circle formation!” The part of him that desperately wanted to live shouted, and their group of nine—excluding Solio—began moving in a circular formation as they surrounded the man before them.
Seeing an opening, Solio released his drawn bow and sent an arrow flying in between two men—in the middle of their rotation.
Eril twisted his upper body and leaned back to avoid the projectile. In the instant he did so, the man with pale yellow hair lunged at him along with another from behind, both swinging for his legs and chest. With his sword, he easily caught the axe going for his chest. With a quick step, the sword grazed the leather greaves on his left leg as he deftly moved away. Kicking off sideways, he evaded a downward slash that was trying to cleave his head and spun around, slashing at the third man whose downward momentum had created an opening. Severing the man’s arms, he swiftly darted outside of the trap as blood splattered against him and the man howled in pain.
“Solio!” Someone screamed, and another arrow was already flying straight for his chest as he turned around. With lightning reflex, he deflected the arrow with the flat of his blade.
The group was more coordinated than he had thought, and the archer was nothing to scoff at. Precise and filled with intent to kill, the first arrow had astonished him, but the second was just as surprising and lethal. To be able to shoot in between the gaps of his own allies, the archer would be troublesome.
Instead of charging against Eril, the group quickly surrounded the bleeding man in a protective cluster and watched carefully.
“Impressive defensive formation.” Eril gave a wry smile.
With a sudden charge, he bypassed the others and headed straight for the archer in the back. Sword extended outward, he was on track to pierce the man’s stomach.
*Clang!* something struck his sword, and he saw that the blonde man from before had read his attack and even managed to knock it away from its target.
The man’s sword jerked into an upward thrust aiming for his face, but Eril halted his steps and knocked the sword away with the palm of his left hand. He curved his left hand inward and elbowed the man’s face in two smooth motions, sending the blonde man to the ground.
The archer stepped back in an attempt to get another shot.
With his sword, Eril quickly sliced off the bow’s lower limb, rendering it useless before closing in for the kill.
“UhG-?!” A sudden gust assaulted him from the side and threw him across the courtyard before he could do so. Groaning at the surprise attack, “Who dares to interrupt my fight!?” He shouted, looking around at his mages.
Possibly an illusion due to the agonizing pain in his head and the ringing in his ears, Biran could only stare at what was happening before him as he struggled to get off the ground.
Like a herald of the gods, a figure cloaked in crimson descended from the sky in a burst of light. Scattering the dark clouds overhead and stirring the ashes that were falling, rays of sunlight managed to shine down upon them through the open sky. Looking nothing more than an adolescent boy, the unknown intruder had pale white eyes that appear to glow dimly even in the daylight, and long pitch-black hair that went down to his neck. The boy calmly stared at the man named Eril.
Eril himself watched, as the boy took something from his pocket and threw it over to him. He caught the item. “!!” Linde’s ring. He looked over, and saw that the boy had disappear.
Biran’s eyes widened as the unknown boy suddenly vanished. The man named Eril grunted painfully and was abruptly thrown sideways into the barrack’s walls.
He could not believe what he was seeing. The man who had broken their formation so easily, seen through Solio’s arrows, and had slaughtered dozens of their fighters was taken by surprise and had been thrown like he was nothing.
“You should have heeded my warnings,” the boy snarled toward the man. “Yet instead of doing so, I find you here, playing around like the fool you are.”
*Cough* *Cough* “You… you are he who claims to be death?” Eril calmly questioned as he recovered from the surprise attack and pushed himself up onto his feet. Looking at the boy, he was a head and a half taller, and probably weighed almost twice as much. It was quite remarkable that he was thrown such a distance.
A surge of mana began forming a short distance to his right. “STOP!” Eril commanded, and his men immediately halted. “This one is mine.” Rolling his head to crack the stiffness in his neck, he muttered a quick spell and his sword—which he had dropped when he was thrown—flew over to him.
“You claim to be death, but all I see is a rash boy with no idea about who or what they are up against.” With another incantation, he began infusing mana into his body to strengthen it. “Seeing how neither of us introduced ourselves in our last chat, I shall give you the honor of my name. I am Eril, the Frozen Edge. As you have surmised, I am one of seven masters.”
Holding his sword before him, he brushed the runes and infused mana into the weapon. The runes on both sides of the blade began glowing brightly, and with a quick and practiced motion, he slashed the air.
Along the path of his attack, icicles emerged, bursting outward all the way to the boy’s side. With a satisfied grin, “I don’t know what tricks you have, but do not presume that fighting me will be the same as when you fought Linde.” Gathering his mana, he began invoking a third spell. “FROST FIELD!” He shouted, and the courtyard’s temperature dropped drastically, freezing the blood-soaked ground and covering the area around him in a layer of ice. The slim sword began transforming and disappearing as ice formed over it and more icicles began erupting around him. Lowering his almost transparent sword, Eril fell into a fighting stance.
“There is no honor in giving my name to someone such as yourself.” The boy retorted, his tone all too calm. “And what you see, is nothing but your own ignorance.” The boy stepped forward onto his field, and the ice melted beneath his feet. “… Allow me to show you a real frost field.”
The boy’s black hair started shimmering, and streaks of light began emerging until his pitch-black hair was shining a radiant silver. His eyes were no longer pale gray, but glowing with a bluish hue that threatened to overshadow the brilliance of the full moon. Without a single word, the courtyard instantly froze over as thick layers of ice formed along the walls and ground, moving as if they had minds of their own.
‘Voiceless incantation?!’ Eril’s mind shouted as he shuddered, seeing that his own field was being consumed. He attempted to move and make the first attack, but his feet were frozen and the ice was slowly climbing up his legs.
Biran simply observed as everything slowly began freezing around him. Not moving or even trying to run away, the scene before him stupefied and gripped him tightly in place. An icy embrace would free him of all his failures and would be a fitting end for one such as himself, but such thoughts were as far as they could be from what was really going through his mind.
“There are no gods…” He spoke, looking at the young man standing before them.
The arbitrary code that had been given to him that day, before they sailed for Port Novierre and before they were captured by pirates thundered through his mind.
‘The silver god descends in all his glory, furious and enraged by the wisdom of men.’