A chorus of terror filled with irrepressible fear and silence resounded through the plaza. Listening to the muffled cries and silent prayers around him, Kaidus slowly reeled his fury under control as his mask of calm restructured itself. Keeping his focus on the mana that he had extended outward, he cleared his mind once again. ‘Massssterrr… There Issss No Need For You To Bother With The Likessss Of Themmm…’ The wind spirit hissed with a hint of discontent as it returned. Without answering Zion’s selfish whim, Kaidus stepped out of the smoke with his eyes locked onto a man standing a distance away.
Wearing fine clothes of gray and red, the unknown man was clutching an item to his chest and mana swarmed about him like a hungry beast. Lying on the ground before the intruder, was the mage whom Zion had dispatched moments ago.
‘Ba-bump’ A single thought along with a single heartbeat, and the crude darkness came rushing back. Out in the open now, he could see that the devastating spell and ruthless execution would have eradicated everyone within the area, had he not contained the blast. Kaidus took a step forward and the abundance of mana around the mage suddenly vanished into the man’s hand. Once again, he could feel the ring in his pocket bursting with mana.
“Tal’hrus…” the name spilled out of his mouth like poison. Mana surged into his fist as tranquility and order quickly collapsed to give way for savagery and wrath.
The slave market of Garnikul as suspected, was indeed a Tal’hrus operation. The fact became overwhelmingly clear and his body swiftly complied with his inner thoughts.
In a streak of light, he reemerged behind the man. Without a word, he shattered the mage’s mana barrier and plunged his right hand into the man’s back. A sizzling sound and the smell of burnt flesh slowly permeated through the air as bones disintegrated and flesh melted. His arm burst through the man’s chest to grasp at what the mage had been clutching, and he quickly drew back as the air crackled and the mage fell to the ground. Ravenous flames immediately rupture forth from the hole in the man’s chest, eager to consume and erase the writhing body.
His fist still infused with the flames of rage, Kaidus opened them to reveal a familiar glowing ring that was quickly fading in his palm. The third of Eril’s five mindless puppets. With a thought, the power along his arm receded and he lowered his hand to the sound of complete silence.
The indomitable fear from before had completely overtaken the plaza. All eyes were now fixated onto him, and the terrified audience–too afraid to make a single sound–watched in complete stillness. Drowning out the horrified gazes with unwavering purpose, he stowed the ring in his pocket and once again, began walking in the direction of the half dead man on one of the battered auction stages.
-Earlier that afternoon-
Expelling waves of mana into the air with each step he took, Kaidus quietly made his way toward the western side of Garnikul. Having caught wind of an irregularity while enjoying lunch, he was following traces of magic that his own mana had picked up on.
Like many other thriving towns, the narrow roads were rife with people pushing and shoving their way around. Greetings and conversations could be overheard here and there, while the booming voices of merchants trying to push their wares echoed through the air alongside the shouts of young children playing in the streets. With the multitude of sounds colliding in conflicting harmony along with a rustic lifestyle that seem to have remained unchanged throughout the years, the town gave off an impression of peacefulness. Yet just like Maverus, there was an unnaturally oppressive atmosphere that denoted otherwise.
As he broke away from the midtown residences and neared the more luxurious part of Garnikul, a curious group of men carrying weapons quickly ran past–as if pursuing something or someone. Stepping aside to let them by, the thought of following was quickly rejected and refocused toward the magic he had been tracking.
The trail eventually led to a large plaza near the far side of town, conglomerating at a market square that was bustling with wealthy looking men and women.
Pushing his way through the horde, it became clear as to why they were there.
Various stages were set up with large crowds before each of them. Behind the elevated platforms he could see a number of cages in the back, each holding a multitude of frightened looking people.
Kaidus’ stomach twisted in disgust as his eyes fells upon one of the cages in front of him. Within, a terrified aleithian boy was clutching tightly onto his mother. A young gveril boy with chains around his arms and legs, there many others in the same situation.
He had spotted many slaves while on the move, had heard from the King and many people on the road that Garnikul was a slave town, yet only now did he truly realize the scale of such words. Over a hundred of them, numerous men, women, and children of all races locked up and being pulled out for sale like livestock.
He hurried forward, but stopped as a group of frightened young woman surfaced in his thoughts. His recklessness had already left the girls without a home and although he himself had been the one to meddle with their affairs, the responsibility of looking after them had fallen to Vick.
“Six hundred and twenty erns to his lordship with the white collar in the back!”
A man shouted joyfully, breaking him out of his thoughts and Kaidus turned to his left, toward a different stage. Upon it, a young man no older than himself was standing mindlessly with an iron collar around his neck. Metal chains dangled from the boy’s wrists to his ankle, and two despondent eyes clearly displayed that the boy had already given up. As they pulled him away, the boy did not resist.
“And now… onto the next one! Bring her up!” The auctioneer shouted and a gveril woman, one looking to be in her mid-twenties was forced up onto the stage by two men. The single horn upon the woman’s forehead look to have been painfully sawn off, and her metallic right arm was hanging oddly to the side. As she slowly limped toward the front of the stage, one of the men flicked his spear and slapped her metal arm, garnering a pained groan from her and prompting the woman to quicken her pace.
“No!! Bring her back! Release her!!” A scream came from behind the three, and a gveril man looking to be around the woman’s age was shouting angrily. The man’s arms were chained around the bars of the iron cage behind him and while his words were demanding and vigorous, his eyes were in turmoil. A guard quickly stepped toward him and smashed a fist into the man’s stomach, dropping him to the ground.
The sight filled him with abhorrence and Kaidus’ legs shook with eagerness to intervene, yet he did not move.
“Do not let her timid beauty fool you.” The auctioneer began with a smile. “A member of the Eastern Sulrick tribe, she and a few of her tribesmen were apprehended thirteen days ago near the border town of Lizzau. They were captured after killing three of the King’s soldiers. This pretty face herself delivering one of the killing blows.”
Whispers erupted throughout the audience at the shocking information.
“Fear not, my lords and ladies. As you can see,” the auctioneer stepped beside the woman and placed his palm on the right side of her face before patting her cheeks. “She has already submitted. Her rebellious spirit is no more, and the fight in her… nothing but a memory.” A smile appeared on the man’s face and he slid his hand down her neck, then into her blouse as she grimaced without retaliating. Having proven his words, the man removed his hand and backed off a few steps as the disgraced woman lowered her head in shame and resignation.
“Like I said, there is nothing to fear. For insurance we have already taken the liberty of breaking her right arm, so you all need not worry about her strength. The arm will certainly heal, but I’m sure it is a minor problem for fine folks such as yourselves. Not to mention, bed slaves do not need their arms.” The man gave a wide grin.
The words seem to have achieved a favorable reaction from the crowd and the host quickly stomped the stage for their attention. “Now, let’s start at… oh, I don’t know… how about we start the bidding at two hundred erns?”
“We were just protecting ourselves! Don- Gawah!” Behind the stage, a grunt of pain came through as a guard slammed the butt of his spear into the gveril man’s side, silencing the man once more.
“I’ll take her for three hundred.” Someone spoke from amidst the crowd of people.
“Four!” Another voice shouted.
“Massara!!” The gveril man hollered and pulled himself up. The guard’s spear came down at him again but, “THWOCK!” bringing up his left leg, the man used his shin to block the attack that was aimed for his stomach. Jerking his body toward the surprised guard, the gveril man kicked the guard down. “Arraaahh!!” Shouting painfully, he forcefully pulled himself away from the iron cage. His shoulders popped out of their sockets and his arms made gruesome noises as the metal cuffs around his left wrists dug into his hand, shaving off a layer of flesh. “AaarrgggH!!!” With an unyielding scream, he tore away from the chains, paying for the freedom with his arms. “Haaa. Haah… I’m coming Massar- !? *Haaak* *COUGH!*” The tip of a spear had pierced through the man’s neck from behind, halting his steps.
“Why?! Ultalr!?!” The voices of the other gverils who were chained to the cage alongside the man went into an uproar. “Aaaaahhh!!” Four of them started pulling to escape their chains in the same fashion. Spears entered flesh and in the blink of an eye, four more bodies were pinned helplessly against the side of the iron cage. Grunting painfully, they struggled in vain as their lifeblood slowly seeped out.
“Stop it!! You’re killing them all!!” Soul crushing screams came from the others, and on the stage, the gveril woman was shouting in anguish. One of her two guards stepped forward to give her a silencing blow.
His mind went blank and before he had thought his actions through, Kaidus was standing on the wooden stage with his back against the crowd. The guard who was about to strike the defenseless woman was now on the floor coughing, and his own xeberite sword had been drawn.
Seeing what had occurred, “W-who are you?! Just what do you think you are doing?!” The auctioneer reproached cautiously, pulling out a short slavers whip from underneath his loose jacket and pointing it menacingly. Around them, the other guards were hastily drawing their weapons.
“I am sorry…” Kaidus whispered, apologizing to the woman behind him as his sword arm trembled with bitterness. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed his grip on the sword to steel himself for what needed to be done. Blinded by the distraction of possible Tal’hrus agents and the unnecessary hesitation of burdening himself and others, he had been too naive. The grounds upon which he stood was a place of suffering. It was a place where living beings became less than human. Where the weak and poor were destined to become nothing more than property.
‘For those who require strength and justice.’ He reminded himself.
If his actions could provide them with a chance for freedom, then there was no need to think about it.
“D-do you know where you are? What you are doing?!” The nervous man repeated, his eyes fixated onto the slim sword that was glowing softly in the sunlight. “Lord R-Roln will have you hanged for this transgression!” The man added, shaking the whip warily.
The others quickly dragged away the guard on the ground and surrounded the stage.
“I do.” Kaidus replied in a low voice, clinging desperately onto the fragile illusion of control he still had left. ‘Masssssterrrr…’ As if in agreement with his subconscious thoughts to massacre everyone before him, Zion’s voice hissed zealously in his mind as recent memories resurfaced: images of a desolated city atop the water and the fate of its inhabitants. Visions of his own judgement and the lives he had taken in return. The situation was vastly different, yet the solution was looking to be the same. “So be it.” He quietly told himself and sheathed his sword. “Expect no mercy should you engage me.” Kaidus warned and closed his eyes.
“Take care of him before Lord Roln returns!” The auctioneer shouted, stepping back through the guards as six of them swiftly stalked forward, swinging their spears down.
His eyes jerked open, and a wave of death surged outward, freezing the attackers momentarily. With the opening, his xeberite sword flashed through the air in a horizontal arc and cries of agony erupted alongside streams of bright red liquid. Lunging a step forward, Kaidus twirled the sword into a backhand grip and with a single stroke, freed two men of their pain. The other four fell to the ground and agonizingly crawled away while holding onto their open stomachs.
“S-stop him! Kill him now!” A startled voice shouted loudly, yet none of the men dared to follow the order.
Shooting a silencing glare at the auctioneer, he stepped forward and the formation of guards scattered before him.
“W-what are you doing? Don’t touch them! Don’t touch my brother!” A young gveril man who was locked in the cage cried out along with a handful of others.
Ignoring them, Kaidus passed the one who had been speared through the neck and lowered himself to the four who were still chained to the cage. ‘They’re still alive.’ Whether it be due to their unwillingness to lie down and die like animals or the ferocious vitality of being a gveril, the men were still stubbornly clinging onto their lives.
He quickly focused his mind in preparation for healing magic.
A murderous presence exploded from behind and power surged toward him.
Instead of unleashing his magic, Kaidus spun around and slashed at the air with his sword. A powerful shock coursed through the weapon, numbing his fingertips as he brought the weapon down and plunged it into the ground. Something else vibrated through the air and he lunged to his left side, barely deflecting a broken spearhead before it could impale one of the chained prisoners. Twisting his body around, three more spears were already flying at him.
‘No.’ quickly suppressing Zion before it could do anything, ‘Second form, Thoa.’
Instead of evading, he dove toward the spears.
Slicing upward, the first strike connected against the spear in front, rebounding it into the air. Like lightning, his sword curved back along his first attack and Kaidus smashed the flat of the blade against the second spear, slamming it to the ground. Unable to make contact with the final thrust, he twisted his body to the side and grabbed the spear with his free hand as it tore through his cloak. Lowering his body to balance himself with the force of the spin, he drove the spear into the ground to break the dizzying momentum.
Surprised and frightened voices came from the crowd and Kaidus looked up to see the audience and guards parting.
“I guess I should applaud you.” A deep and steadfast voice shattered the confusion, revealing a confidently dressed man who seem to be in his late thirties. His brown hair slicked back, the man was wearing a dark tunic with a pair of dark blue pants to match. Golden stitches ran down the tunic in simple lines, but plastered on his left shoulder, was a peculiar pattern that stood out prominently against the dark outfit. Upon closer inspection, it was a stitching of a familiar red hand.
“No wonder my men are so worked up. Any of them would already be dead in your shoes.” The man continued, scowling at the six bodies on the stage before turning back to Kaidus. “You took my lightning magic head on, using your sword to draw it into yourself and the ground. You even defended against my surprise attack with deft movements. And that last defense you did there… I daresay, none of these dredges could possibly be a match for you.”
Instead of reciprocating the praises, Kaidus stood in silence, carefully watching the man’s blithe movements.
“You must be quite the swordsman with such laudable judgement and abilities… which leads me to a simple inquiry: Why? What purpose could you have in interfering with my men and their work?” The lord questioned.
“You are a mage…” Kaidus replied, glancing at the pattern on the man’s shoulder before scanning the grounds for others. From the precision and speed of the spells, the man was no ordinary mage. The lightning magic was a means to immobilize him but because of how he had dealt with it, the man had quickly followed with other attacks. As the second served to draw his attention and reveal his condition, the final three spears had been aimed to finish him off. It was quite the calculated sequence of attacks and all three had been invoked one after the other in rapid successions.
“Guilty as charged.” The man retorted with a snicker at the obvious statement. “I am Roln Aervas Vienact, High Lord of Garnikul. My friends and colleagues call me Rav. You may call me Lord Roln.” He added, giving a curt bow. “And you are?”
“I do not share pleasantries with those who try to kill me.”
“Hahaha. I guess that is only fair, but…” Roln’s eyes narrowed and his mouth curved into an amused grin, “why stop at trying?” Quickly reciting an incantation under his breath, his demeanor warped as a thirst for blood filled the atmosphere. The spell was swiftly invoked, and dozens of spears belonging to the guards swelled upward into the air amongst the awe of the spectators. “Now answer me before I lose my patience.”
Motionless, Kaidus calmly stared at the red pattern on the man’s shoulder. “…”
“I fear you are mistaken about something, boy. For what you have done, you are already my property. In admiration of your skills I have deigned to show some courtesy, but know that I have no qualms with putting you down.”
“I fear it is you who has misread the situation.” Kaidus curtly replied.
“Is that so?” Roln quickly turned around to face the audience. “Let all who are present witness my judgement!” He shouted loudly, “For his unruly conduct and the murder of my men, I, Lord Roln Aervas Veinact, as per my duty, for the betterment and security of Garnikul, sentence this vagrant to death!” There was a favorable uproar from the people. Turning back to Kaidus, “I am an impatient man. Speak now, and I might allow you to beg for your life.” Roln slowly raised his right hand into the air.
“If this flock is your charge… if this is how you run this town, then there is naught to answer for.”
“You have been found guilty of upsetting the order within this town. I will hereby execute you myself.”
At Roln’s words, the crowd went wild with anticipation. With a forward gesture of his hand, the dozens of spears rained down at Kaidus.
‘Zion.’ A wall of wind surged forth, smashing into the spears and repelling them out of the air. Their excitement cut short, those on the ground scattered in panic as the weapons fell.
“Magic!?” A surprised Roln voiced out loud, frantically looking around the area for the caster. Yet feeling no other disturbances, his eyes quickly fell back onto the young man before him. Roln opened his mouth in curiosity. “It can’t be… you’re the-”
“I am.” Kaidus interrupted and reached forth with his left hand to grasp at the air. The whole of the auction platform around the gveril woman lurched upward, creaking and breaking into dozens of wooden boards. He closed his fist and they closed in on Roln.
“Kuh-!” With desperate haste, his mana erupted around him into a frenzied shield and Roln threw himself to the side, barely escaping the clutches of the wooden bindings. “Vernin stone formation!” He bellowed and hastily began another incantation as two dozen of his guards tentatively gathered before him in a loose formation.
Kaidus raised his hand over his head. By his will, the wooden boards imploded further into thousands of fragments and conformed into a large fist in the air. In one swift motion he slammed his left hand downward and the large imitation followed, gaining speed as it fell against the mass of guards.
From behind the wall formation, a torrent of mana burst outward and four wind blades coursed through the air, cutting into the wooden fist. Slicing the attack into a number of smaller pieces, the wind blades twisted and flew straight for Kaidus.
“?!” Roln looked on in confusion as the winds vanished in midair and the large fist quickly reformed, crashing toward them once more. ‘What is this?!’ His head screamed at the unknown forces. Following up on the previous incantation, he quickly began a follow up spell. “Graaah!!!” The sound of bodies being squashed and bones breaking came from before him, but he pushed the incantation onward. “… Etanss! Zivaroths!” The final command, and mana ripped through his body as magic manifested around him, complying with his will.
Hundreds of transparent wind blades emerged from Roln’s body, slashing outward and gouging into the wall of flesh in front him, growing stronger as they expanded.
Those at the back of the wall formation screamed as their body was ripped to shreds, while the few who were not injured and could still move abandoned the formation completely.
Growing rapidly, the winds twisted and sucked up the dead while tearing apart the large wooden fist.
Seeing the incident suddenly escalate from an open execution to a full on battle, the audience screamed and stumbled over one another as they attempted to escape the incoming doom.
On his order, Zion swiftly snatched the gveril woman who was grieving between them and quickly brought her back to the cages. ‘Master…’ It pleaded as it surged back to coil itself around him. Watching the growing storm and the panic of those still trapped and caged, Kaidus brought his left hand up to level with his chest. “… You WILL control yourself.” He spoke sternly with an uncompromising tone toward the spirit. “I Obeyyyy.” It hastily replied with excitement. With a thought, a deep gash formed along his palm. Focusing his mind, he linked his boundless mana with Zion and the spirit eagerly took in the blood that was spilling out.
‘Hahaaaaahaaaaahah!!!’ With an elated laughter, the wind spirit began taking form as the blood suffused through its body. Brimming with power, Zion flushed outward in a torrent of red and quickly covered its master, manifesting as a protective cloak.
In the midst of the red twister and not paying attention to his surroundings, “You think you can fight me?! Witness the true power of a mage!” Roln shouted loudly, already drunk with his own magic. “This is my domain! In here, few are my equal!!” With a self-assured howl, his bloody cyclone intensified as he fed it more mana.
“Do not kill him… not yet.” Kaidus instructed, finally freeing the impatient spirit.
Unable to flee from the plaza, those who have heard of the old tales saw for themselves, the truth of their turbulent reality. The world had become one of blood and in the midst of the confusion, the young man had finally revealed his true form: a Demon.
–Cold eyes, carrying frozen death. Hair of deep silver, more radiant than moon glow. Body of pure evil, a darkness that dims even the golden sun. Awful and terrifying, is its presence on the fields of blood upon which it visits. Like a wraith shrouded in death and decay, it stands alone and absolute.–
As if summoning death, the demon stood without worry or wane. A red cloak that had materialized out of thin air to cover the demon billowed smoothly and steadily in the raging storm, while gales that swept in his direction slowed and parted to meticulously and carefully avoid him.