A deep voice filled with an immeasurable sense of disappointment echoed into his ears, followed by a set of heavy footsteps. “Just what have your instructors been doing for this past year?”
Barely comprehending those words, he could do naught, but clutch onto his side with both hands as he gasped painfully on the ground.
“To think that someone like you carries my blood… what an embarrassment. Get up.” The voice commanded, anger and reproach wholly palpable within their grating tone.
“Guh- ungh!” He painfully clenched his teeth as a sharp pain lashed at him from where he had been kicked.
“What are you waiting for? Get up!” The voice loudly demanded, and the hall rumbled as a fierce wind stormed out around them.
Unable to hide his pain, he fearfully looked upward at the man who had once been a man of compassion and righteousness. “F-father please… it- it hurts.” He begged, trying his utmost to appeal for mercy.
“Pain, is but the death of weakness.” Unmoved, his father stepped closer, “Now… stand up and pick up your sword.”
The impact that had sent him tumbling agonized him from within even more, and his mind blurred, incapable of recalling when he had lost the weapon. “I… I can’t.” He cried out as his body refused to stand.
“Unsightly mutt- get up!”
The wind crackled in the air at his father’s words and his right shoulder was instantly licked with pain, “Auk-KAAAhhhh!” A feverish burning rushed from his shoulder down to the center of his back and he painfully arched his whole body. The throbbing in his side completely forgotten, his arms reflexively fought to rub the stinging welt that had whipped him across his back.
“Whether you desire it or not, you are now the heir.” His father’s voice grinded harshly as if the words had been begrudgingly forced out. “And as my heir… as a man who carries the blood of the An’Daralites, this weakness within you WILL be expunged.”
Rolling on the hard floor in helpless tears and agony, all that he could glimpse from the once gentle man, were two silver eyes filled with desperation and fear glaring angrily down at him.
“Now, GET UP!”
Eyes jerking open at the command, Kaidus quickly sat himself upright as the frozen vision vividly seared itself into the depths of his mind.
A dream. One, of a father slowly being consumed by grief and an oblivious son.
“Haaa…” Taking a deep breath, he slowly took notice that his small tent was aglow with an otherworldly hue.
Looking to his right, illuminated by a silver glow, he easily spotted the two young phraes sleeping peacefully within their makeshift nest of fur. Zirus on the other hand, had moved from its spot near the twins to nestle beside his pillow.
Bringing both hands up to his face, he calmly brushed back his silver hair and the glow around him slowly vanished, returning to that of night.
Taking another moment to absorb the silence around him, he quietly stood up and made his way out of the tent.
It was still dark as expected. In the night sky, the new moon had selfishly gone into hiding again, shrouding the world in shadows.
Catching the handful of torches marking where the night patrols were stationed, he also heard the odds bouts of coughing and cries of children waking in the night. Yet beyond those, the camp was mostly silent and bereft of form.
With a quick glance at the dozen or so tents and crude shelters around him, he swiftly dispersed a wave of mana outward, then quietly walked toward the burnt out firepits at the center.
Taking a seat atop one of the many log stools, instead of rousing a flame, he silently stared into the darkness.
‘Pain, is but the death of weakness.’ The words reforged themselves within the darkness and he found himself grinning at the memory.
Though it was from a different life, he could still smell the overpowering scent of cainsberry incense wafting through the air and the touch of the cold stone floor where he had spent most of his time crying.
That day, in an attempt to stir and awaken the potential within his blood, he, a mere child at the time, had been mercilessly beaten.
“Haaa…” Exhaling softly, he released the fist he had subconsciously clenched and dismissed the superfluous memory, willing it to return to the past where it belonged as he had done countless other times before.
Shaking his hand to recover from the stinging within them, he quickly resumed his infatuation with the darkness and the silence around him while he waited.
Eventually, a presence hesitantly emerged from the tent situated beside his own, prompting his attention.
“Couldn’t sleep?” He questioned, taking the initiative.
“Yea…” Delayed by a surprised pause, Vick’s voice answered from the darkness as light steps slowly made their way over to him.
“Something wrong?” He inquired as Vick drew closer.
“You know… I had a long chat with Captain Biran earlier.”
Hearing the oddly respectful tone within the mercenary’s voice while mentioning Biran, “Was that where you went?” He quickly queried with interest.
“I figured I should at least apologize for my rudeness and how I’ve been conducting myself toward him.” Vick answered, voice trailing quietly behind him.
“I see. You two worked out your differences then?”
“Not entirely, but somewhat. I guess you can say that we came to something of an understanding.” Vick succinctly voiced, stopping a few good paces away from him. “Though a little too uptight and proper, he’s… tolerable.” Vick added without taking further steps or making any indication of sitting down
“Yea… I think so too.” Vick quietly agreed, as if saying it for himself.
Feeling Vick’s eyes keenly staring down at him whilst standing stock silent, “Surely you didn’t come out here just to tell me that you made peace with Biran. What’s really on your mind?” He probed, inviting the uneasiness that the mercenary was harboring.
“Kaidus. You know, I-…” Vick paused and swallowed as if his nerves had gotten the best of him before continuing, “I’ve had a lot of time to think. And…” There was a sense of stoicism in his voice now. A hardened and resolute tone, one vastly different from Vick’s usual, “My apologies for such an unsightly display last time. It will not happen again.”
He curiously looked up.
“Everyone is privy to their own secrets. You obviously have your own reasons, for what you’ve done. Whether you wish to share more or not, I will not pry any further. Sorry for my insolence, and I hope that you will continue to count on me.”
Taken aback by the sincerity in Vick’s voice, he smiled. “There is nothing to apologize for, but I will thank you for your understanding. As for the latter, of course. If not you, who else am I going to count on?”
With a visible sigh of relief, “Talaras’ tits, this is unbecoming of me.” Vick grumbled before quickly relaxing his posture and reverting back to that of his usual self, “Now then. Moving on… you do remember that we had a deal, right?”
Mildly amazed at how quickly Vick’s behavior changed, “What deal?”
“What deal, he asks.” Vick tersely repeated, “You were supposed to let me know that you are okay every day through the ring.”
“Yes, that. What happened?”
“I thought you weren’t going to pry?” He swiftly quipped back.
“Uk- Fu… fine. I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.” With dissatisfaction in his voice, Vick turned, “I’m going back to sleep. See you tomorrow.”
“Vick. I was sleeping.” He calmly yielded, stopping the mercenary in his tracks.
“Sleeping?” Vick questioned, looking back at him.
“For nine days?”
“Of course I did. I am supposed to look after you.” Vick retorted.
“I’m a deep sleeper.”
“Oh, shove it.” Snapping back sharply, Vick returned an exhausted wave and trudged away.
With an amused smile, he listened as the silence of night reclaimed its rightful place before quickly willing an invisible barrier around himself.
Closing his eyes, the mana within his body boiled as he opened his mind.
‘What have you found?’ He questioned, linking his thoughts with the wind.
And, ‘Death.’ It solemnly whispered back.
11th Ward. Zorin Academy.
“Then… I shall position myself to advocate for why.” Master Hamin pointedly stated, looking around at his colleagues.
Within the room, excluding Master Juvol, Master Zara, and Master Drilm, their group of remaining academy masters had reconvened for an early morning meeting.
Seeing them all nod their heads, “Well then, why should we discard such notions and stories?” He questioned, in regards to certain stories they had all been discussing.
“Because first and foremost, we are scholars.” Master Zaele reasoned, “And secondly, such unfounded superstitions have no place in today’s society. For the civilized world to have ever considered slaughtering infants a humane and merciful act, what a disgrace to our species as a whole.”
“And yet. Regardless of that, the belief has persisted to this day. Surely there is merit in being vigilant.” Master Hamin replied, reinforcing caution.
“A belief, mainly held by the uncultured and uneducated. Propagated by those who still believe in existences such as bog-lurkers, misten raives, and every ill-conceived apparition known to men.” Master Zaele swiftly contested.
“I understand…” Master Hamin voiced, calmly looking to his younger colleague, “But we were both there that night the grandmaster lost his arm. You, Niron, and myself.” Hamin narrowed his eyes and looked down at his hands, “Personally… just how many times have you all been overwhelmed by the sheer pressure of a child unleashing their strength?”
A deathly silence immediately incapacitated the room.
It was unfathomable that a child could awaken at such an age, and even more of an impossibility for them to be capable of subduing the city’s greatest mage. Yet… it was the truth.
“Then what do you want to do, Hamin?” Master Borus spoke up from his seat, “We have kept this knowledge all these years and done nothing. What good will it do for us now to acknowledge such beliefs?”
“Nothing is the answer to both your questions.” Master Hamin stiltedly replied, “We continue to do nothing, but at the same time, we don’t dismiss them either. If the grandmaster’s notes and the information we have obtained from the Mystiks guild are not simply coincidences, then like the old man once said, ‘Open your eyes and watch. Uncover your ears and listen. The truth. Whether tangible or not, will always reveal itself.’ We need simply observe and wait for that truth.”
From his seat by the window, “I understand that this is all very exciting, but I must admit, it all sounds a little too fantastical.” Master Gorzon interjected, “I can believe the reports from the Mystiks guild, but a demon? The God of War?”
“That’s where I’m leaning.” Master Zaele added, “The child is extremely gifted. That is the truth. Why attempt to tie him to this nonsense? We should be glad that such a mage was born in this-”
“Because he is unnatural.” Master Hamin assertively stated, cutting Zaele off.
“I must agree with Hamin on this.” Master Keral who had been silently listening, finally joined in, “Whether we believe it or not, the grandmaster spent the last of his days seeking these answers. Disregarding his efforts would not do us any favors. As for the stories from the outlands, perhaps it would be best to keep them in mind even if you don’t believe them.”
“Hmmm…” Master Zaele quieted himself and fell into his seat as if drowning in deep thoughts.
“I understand it sounds ridiculous if you think about it, but now is not the time to be discarding what little clues we have.” Master Hamin added.
“Very well.” Master Borus voiced with understanding while Master Zaele and Master Gorzon both nodded.
“Then… forgive me for my isolation and leaving everything to you all, but how is it going with Lady Rhasula? Has there been any words?” Master Keral questioned.
“We got a letter from Niron last evening. It stated that they were a day’s ride from the town of Heriron at the time of writing, and he estimates that if the lady does not get distracted as she is prone to, they will arrive either on the 22nd, or the 23rd.” Master Hamin recounted.
“What of the Rites of Transference then?”
“Everything has been prepared. Master Drilm should be making a final check of the required items for the ritual today.” Master Gorzon answered.
“So it’s really happening…” Master Keral gave a somber sigh, then looked up at his colleagues, “Forgive me for sequestering myself and leaving everything to you all.”
“Everyone had their own task to perform. Without you, we wouldn’t eve-“
The door to the room swung open before Master Borus could finish his words.
Appearing exhausted and still wearing her same master’s robe from the last time they had seen her, Master Juvol bolted into the room.
With unsteady steps, she was clutching onto a small leather-bound tome in her arms like it was a precious artifact. Quickly setting the tome onto the table, “My apologies for being late even though I called for this meeting.” Master Juvol quickly apologized, then, “Where- where are Drilm and Zara?” She questioned, seeing that they were missing two people.
“Master Zara is visiting Lord Kalzorr’s manor to inquire further about what we have been given. Master Drilm is overseeing the final preparations for the Rites of Transference that is to be held in a few days times.” After addressing the question, Master Hamin calmly stood up, “Did you manage to find something in your search?
“Yes…” Master Juvol shakenly confirmed. “That name which was stated in Drend’s report. Silvaeze… I thought I had seen something similar somewhere before, and I was right.” Placing her hand atop the tome, “This… is one of the oldest books we have in the Locked Library. It easily precedes the founding of the Verakanya Dynasty, and probably came into existence not long after the Zanaen Echo itself.”
“T-the Zanaen Echo?” Master Zaele voiced in disbelief.
“Lord Aulson, the person who had been in charge of the Locked Library before me believes its contents might even predate that of the Echo.” Master Juvol replied and carefully opened the tome, revealing pages upon pages of indecipherable texts.
Sifting through the pages, she stopped on a certain one and quickly scanned through the passages, “As some of you may know, my studies were in researching and reconstructing languages of the Eramaen era. It was the reason why Lord Aulson brought me into Zorin as his assistant in the first place.” She quickly explained before placing her finger on a line of text, “Here, from what I have gathered after cross referencing various other sources these past few days, this here, is a passage that originated from that of the Oro’Phateains, a nomadic and powerful warrior tribe in the time of the Kinnacatus rule within ancient Horuns. That means, it would roughly put this passage in the Eramaen time cycle of Eramaeos 71, to somewhere in the estimated year of Eramaeos 146 to 152. Which, if I am correct, would be almost three decades before the Zanaen Echo that brought about our current time cycle.”
Having spoken anxiously, she quickly paused and caught her breath before pulling out a sheet of paper from within her master’s robe, “I have tried my best to simplify and make sense of this passage, so please, have a listen.” Clearing her throat,
“It howls, and the sky falls.
Faltering and failing, the eighth man trembles as midnight breaks.
The desolate moon screams forth,
Wandering in seamless gloom and lightless pyres,
The heralds of unending silence beware.
The Silver Death,
The hair on the back of her arms were already standing up as she finished, and she carefully placed the paper onto the table.
“What… what does any of that mean?” Master Borus questioned, leaning ponderously forth on his seat.
“This whole book is filled with children’s tales and rhymes, but this passage… it alone bears this dark tone.” Master Juvol replied, “If- if I were to guess, I would say that this was a warning.”
“Master Juvol, you said something about a name in Lord Drend’s report?” Master Zaele acutely pointed out.
“Yes…” Master Juvol reaffirmed, “Took me two days to comb through the lower archives, but I am certain of it. Silvaeze, IS the Silver Death as mentioned in this passage. It is not simply a name, but a title, bestowed onto one of death.” She quickly added, “The word may sound different, but it is undeniable.
Zanaeos 487, the Sindarin reformation during Emperor Calstavea’s rule. During that peace, King Taleas of Tashuam slaughtered all who would oppose him and instated a bastard as his heir. He would later be named Talinvae, the Tyrant of Black Blood.
Zanaeos 113, the Lord of Elkunshire, Anraes Ludrith, overthrew his liege King Renharnt, the Fifth, and massacred every single man carrying the Renharnt bloodline. He was named Vaetur Anraes, or the Merciless Anraes.
Zanaeos 519, King Phinneas-“
“King Phinneas Rosingurd, the Third. Waged a particularly bloody war against his neighboring kingdoms for over a decade, ending only after having been struck down by his own son. I believe he was called the Ovaes Nasin Rosingurd, The Dread King of Rosingurd.” Master Keral quickly hijacked.
“Indeed.” Master Juvol nodded, “I thought it was familiar when I first saw it, but I didn’t think it would coincide so well with my assumptions.”
“Then… what could have possibly transpired for one to attain such a title as the Silver Death?” Master Borus wondered loudly.
“Wait.” Master Zaele quickly stood up, halting the upswelling tension within the room, “How can such a thing be possible? This is a child we’re talking about. Or am I mistaken here?”
“It would be impossible… unless there is truth to what we have been discussing.” Master Keral spoke, his voice shrinking to a whisper as all eyes fell toward him. “It would explain why the grandmaster was so adamant about keeping us from his research. And now… I’m certain that Lord Kalzorr also knows more about what is going on, than what he has delivered onto us.”
“Ahem!” Master Gorzon stood up and stride over to where Master Juvol had placed the book and her transcript. Picking up the piece of paper, with a swift incantation, the paper burst into flames and he flicked it to the ground.
“Though the grandmaster has passed, we are all still bound by our vows of secrecy. As such, we will do as Hamin said. We will wait and see what happens.”
Eyeing the other masters within the room, none disputed his words. Instead, they all quietly nodded.