It all starts now
The subtle hiss of an arrow whispering by his left ear made his stomach sink in anxiety. Another arrow swiftly hissing by him once again forced Xioth into action. Carefully analyzing his surroundings he took a deep breath to calm the nerves and his initial instincts to flee. The nearby thump of a sharp tip of an arrow piercing the ground next to him accelerated his thought process and without a pause, he leapt forward without looking behind him.
“HALT!” someone shouted with a heavy Dravian accent. Xioth swiftly darted seeking shelter from the tress with a zig zagging pattern. His newly stolen hide boots attacked the damp floor of the Plainfieeld Forest. A slight breeze caught his hair as he moved swiftly, making it fly behind him. Xitoh ran as fast as he could searching for a place where he could make his stand.
“Come on, come on there needs to be place around here,” Xioth murmured to himself between labored breaths. The whistle of another arrow exasperated a newfound sense of urgency in his steps. The arrow landed a few feet behind him, Xioths heart leapt to his throat, as the echo of it piercing the ground was far too close for comfort.
The trees around him still standing proudly and strong. The tops scattering and swaying about as if dancing to the sounds of the winds up high. His eyes set on a spot, it was only a short distance away; he found what he was looking for. At that, moment is as if silence surrounded him, the whisper of the wind was gone. The patter of his feet slowed down, he had found an inner peace with the situation.
“You must have known we would be coming?” the soldier yelled at him. “After you killed 3 of our men in Talliue! We are ready for you fool and this will be your last day in Kia!” collecting his breath Xioth glanced to see the rest of the soldiers gathering around him, his back carefully placed against the wall of rocks. The wall was a former structure from the first cycle of time. Ruins like these can be found throughout the old Lancashire Empire and for Xioth it fortuitous that one such place appeared before him.
“You are the fool,” Xioth said with a heavy grin on his face. Heavy laughter echoed through the dense woods. “Why?” the most senior soldier called. “You think we should coward in fear and run away?” this last remark gathered more laughs from the other men.
“No,” Xioth replied, meeting his eyes with a stern stare. “Because you will force your men to attack me in short while. And now I can blame you for their deaths.”
The group of soldiers scoffed at him carefully maneuvering closer to Xioth. The two tallest soldiers made the first move; both fully armored in traditional Dravian armor. They stepped towards him with their claymore swords out. The senior Dravian soldier smiled.
“So I guess this is it then?” Xioth said, breathing deeply while he reached for his sword. Years of self-survival as an orphan in the streets of Vassion forced Xioth to develop his skill as a swordsman. The trait came natural to him as if his instincts were naturally inclined to yield a sword. His movements in battle were fine-tuned by his many years of observation, high from the roofs of the Grand city church, down to the elite Paladin training academy. He spends hours a time mimicking the movements of the Arcanum Paladin Aspirants. He developed a unique form of attack suited to take advantage of his build. Xioth has never been fully tested; his true skills have never been exposed. Today he will need every single one his traits. This encounter will be a graduation of sorts. His legend starts today, It all starts now or it ends now but today his life will change.
The two larger soldiers charged at him first, the rest of the men only a mere heartbeat away, soon they would reach him. Xioth spun into motion, his heart pounding even faster now pumping blood throughout his veins. He dodged between the blows of the initial sword attacks; he grabbed the arm of an attacking soldier and spun him towards himself as to use him as a shield. Simultaneously he drove his sword upward from the lower part of the soldiers back through his heart. The man cried out in agony, falling into the ground as Xioth ducked another sword thrust. He gashed the attacker’s leg, while rolling away to the side. Within the blink of an eye, he lashed that man twice more to finish him off.
The others soldiers cursed, slashing at him, their bulky armors and heavy swords suddenly becoming a nuisance to them as Xioth gracefully and rapidly moved among them. His sword waved about in a graceful dance of sorts as it touched arms, legs, shoulders; sending the dozen or so men staggering back in all directions heavily wounded. Xioth jumped back as the squad of soldiers once again came at him. He climbed to the top of the stonewall and spun into the air tip toing, going towards the other end getting every step closer to the Senior Dravian Soldier.
“Kill him!” The Senior Soldier said. “MAY THE CREATION ELDERS STRIKE YOU ALL! WHAT ARE YOU DOING! KILLLLL HIM!”
Xioth leaped of the wall landing with one knee on the ground in front of the Senior Dravian Soldiers Horse. The horses’ hoofs clicked on the ground surprised by the sudden movements in front of it. Xioth was close to delivering his blow but he had to lurch away as one of the soldiers swung a blow with such force that it would have cut Xioth in half. His sword absorbing the blow flew out of his hands leaving Xioth bare handed.
The soldiers came at him again once again but Xioth danced between them, using the ancient martial art of the Elders of the Creed of the Elements, which used only the hands. It is a less deadly form of attack, more focused on grappling with the enemies and using their weight against them, immobilizing them.
He was focused in his element his natural instincts guiding him on every step. At his pleasure men flipped into the air, two more men attacked him, but Xioth was too quick to limber. It also did not help the men the fact that they did not work together. They were all accustomed to dominate on the battlefield and now against a more nimble opponent their two-handed swords made them sloppy.
Xioth was light on his feet as a claymore sword hissed through the air beside him. Xioth exhaled a deep breath trying to regain his focus and rethink his approach. The men continued to push forward this time with the most senior soldier behind them rapidly approaching, weapon ready. The two men once again swung their oversized swords at Xioth. He swiftly spun away from the attacks, reaching out and snatching a shield from the ground. Xioth leaped at one of the men deflecting his sword with the shield and pushing past him. The other man startled by Xioths offense swung his sword too. Xioth caught the blade on his shield, which cracked by the heavy blow barely holding. Xioth Lashed himself behind the soldier while jumping forward.
The move flipped Xioth up and over the larger man, he grabbed at the soldiers wrist manipulating his movements so that he can leverage his weight as a shield against the oncoming second wave of soldiers. He carefully moved towards his sword while maintaining control of the bewildered soldier. Upon the groups approach Xioth shoved the soldier into the oncoming group forcing them to stumble backward. This slight hesitation from their part gave Xioth the final advantage he needed, holding up his sword, he charged forward in quick methodical motion slashing away to the men who stood in his way. A gust of wind was heard when his final attack started, Dravian soldiers were slayed, dead around him before that gust of wind stopped.
The final breathing soldier was lying dazed on his back. Xioth approached him readjusting his grip on the sword and then drove the weapon down through the soldiers’ breastplate. The sword sank deeply through the man’s chest and into the earth underneath him.
Witnessing the attack the senior Dravian Soldier realized his plan had failed, he started to flee. Xioth dashed across the ground trying to make up the space between them, the senior soldier looked over his shoulder with a cry of bewilderment and horror. Xioth wove through the woods trying to angle out the direction of which his final adversary was heading. The senior soldier realizing his fate turned and cried out as he saw Xioth, then threw up his shield and readied his sword. Xioth reached him with tremendous speed striking the shield twice with such force that it shattered the shield and forced the senior one backward while dropping his sword.
Xioth stepped over the man as he struggled to reach for his sword. He struck the soldiers arm breaking it and then kneeled on top of the soldiers’ chest pinning him to the ground. Finally, Xioth raised his Sword over his head, looking down on the senior soldiers’ eyes.
“Who are you?” the man exhaled, his eyes showing fear and pain.
“The man you should not have followed,”Xioth said as her drove his sword right between the man’s eyes and into the forest grounds below him.
Xioth struggled to his feet, tired he looked for place to rest his sore back. The struggle had taken a toll on his body and he needed to come down from this battle rush. He walked cautiously towards what remained of a wall of the ruins; he placed his sword down on the ground and sat with his back to the wall. He looked towards the tree tops watching as the winds gently waved them from side to side, hearing the noise of his heart as it beat by beat tried to settle itself down. This smell, of death around him always made him uneasy; he preferred the scents of the trees around him of the flowers in the woods.
In the distance, Xioth caught a glimpse of the Senior Soldiers horse. He carefully approached it making sure not to startle the beast. He removed any items that could give way that this horse was a military horse. A split second later Xitoh and the horse were running full speed through a gap in the trees. The woods disappearing behind him. The Village of Bamomble was insight not a long ride away.
Xioth arrived to the village square, his thoughts wandering away as Mannie, the blacksmiths son, stared at him from where he rested.
“Are you well, Xioth?” he called as Xioth came to a stop.
Xioth took a quick glance over his shoulder; he could not shake the feeling that someone or something was tracking him. The glance confirmed to him that no one had followed him but the uneasy feeling still lingered deep within him.
“All is well.” Xioth exclaimed as he struggled to produce a fake smile onto his face. “Have you seen Noreanor?”
Pointing towards the inn, Mannie spun on his heel and went back to work. Xioth once again checked behind him as he made his way over to the inn.
The Village of Bamomble was one of the smallest of the old Empire. The nobles of the village had always maintained an amicable relationship to the common folk. The towns’ folk for the most part knew each other very well and never really threatened one another. The surrounding woods were of great importance to the villagers of Bamomble. They would gather fruit and nuts as well as hunt for deer, boar and rabbits. For the most part, they all lived a simple but very enjoyable life. Even though the village was now part of the Novdravian Empire the military presence was virtually non-existent here due to the low importance of the village both strategically and financially.
There were no more than 10 stone buildings in the village. For the most part the stone buildings were mainly establishments, An inn, a market place, a clothes maker, a couple of book shops and apothecary. The remaining structures were houses for the nobles that lived in the village. The Lords Manor stood prominent, the big red doors opening only when the noble men met or for village meetings. The rest of villagers lived in wooden huts dispersed around the main square.
Xioth pushed through the heavy wooden door of the inn. The Stench of unwashed men, meed and ale crept up Xioths nose as he walked inside. He hated coming into the loud, dark and dingy inn, but unfortunately, Noreanor often found himself inside these walls. Even though Xioth did not like coming into the place, the men that frequented the inn were simple folk who just want to enjoy their mead and ale. The innkeeper was in fact now a very close acquaintance of Xioth.
“Ya arraight there Xioth?” The innkeeper called from behind the shadows of the bar. “Whatcha lot been up too today?”
“I’m well, struggling to survive the day just like the rest of us.” Xioth strode towards the bar as he looked over the faces of the men and women who nursed their jugs of mead and ale. “Is Noreanor here?”
One man caught Xioths eye as he glanced over the establishment. His features standing out from the rest of the bunch. Xioth returned his eyes towards the keep. He shook his head, his eyebrow’s slightly raised in the direction of the newcomer. Newcomers stick out they are hard to ignore, this one in particular.
“Afraid just missed him yea. He skidded away not too long ago. Said ya needed to deal with ya things.”
Xioth turned to leave but the tapping on his shoulder made him pause. Spinning around quickly Xioth stared at the new comer fearlessly in his eyes. How had he moved so quickly? It was not so long ago that he was half way across the room.
“Can I have a word with you? I’ll only take a moment of your time.” The newcomer said in confident and serious tone. Indicating to his table, he glanced at the innkeep and ordered more ale.
“Whatha ya wanna with him? We wants no truble here!” The innkeepers shoulder squared as he narrowed his eyes on the stranger.
The stranger was tall; his lithe figure was dressed in a fine silk maroon tunic. The golden linings of his garments reflected in the dim candlelight lighting of the inn. His garments stood out, he was of wealth more wealth than is usually found in these areas. In fact, most of the surrounding villages have never been places of wealth; villagers for the most part desire a simple life. A philosophy that still lives on despite the old empire being gone for over 50 years. The country villages of the old empire tend not to think about the lands beyond their closest borders. They prefer to live in ignorance of the rapidly growing cities.
“I am nothing but a messenger of Emperor Khuth, I have business in Vasion and have been separated from my caravan. I thankfully stumbled into the village and currently I am in need of a hired companion.” His light green eyes rapidly flicked between the innkeep and Xioth.
His shoulder length silver hair, which brushed the collar of his tunic, was neatly styled with a topknot. His strong jaw and sharp cheekbones gave away his Nupkalian origins. The man’s expensive cut clothes, precise speaking voice and clean face, screamed nobility.
“I have been told your skills are for hire and simply want to bargain a rate for your services,” The man exclaimed “Worst case you enjoy your mead and be gone in peace.”
“Datta sounds fer enough!” the bar keep said. Whatha ya say Xioth?”
Xioth nodded firmly eyeing the stranger. “Shall we?”
The men walked over to the table. Xioth sat down on the hard wooden bench. The coolness of the wood on his behind made him glance over to the fireplace. He took a deep breath with a longing of wanting to sit closer to it. The wooden beams that decorated the ceilings of the inn lit up in shades of amber red as the flames of the fire jovially danced about.
“Whats your name?” Xioth asked affirmatively as the stranger lowered himself to the stool opposite of him.
Pouring mead from a jug, the stranger motioned to Xioth that he drink first. Xioth watched him over the lip of the mug, studying the man’s demeanor. The stranger starred back not wavered by Xioths attempts of intimidation.
“You move well with a sword…..” The stranger said cupping his hands around his jug, he rolled his shoulders trying to find a comfortable position “I am sure that I pose no threat to you.”
Something about his demeanor screamed liar. Xioth was not going to underestimate the man. His instincts were rarely wrong and they have helped him survive. His instincts told him that the man across from him was more skilled in battle than what he led on; he needed to be wary.
“My name is Alokian.” The stranger said as he lifted his mug towards his lips.
“I’m Xioth.” he exclaimed as he checked over his shoulder. He noticed the innkeep monitoring their interaction hoping that things would remain civilized. “Now that we are acquainted with one another, maybe you can tell me the true nature of your visit here.” Xioths directness caught Alokian by surprise, jolting him back to the reality that the man across from him just killed a dozen or so Dravian soldiers.
“Yes, ofcourse,” Alokian muttered as he reached down. Coughing, Alokian took a sheet parchment from his dark brown weathered satchel, which laid on the ground by his feet. Xioth watched him flick out a quill, the feather exotic to this region. Xioth wondered to himself how the stranger had managed to maintain it so pristine on his travels.
“This letter will secure you admittance to the Paladin Academy of Arcanum Teachings in Vasion.” The quill gracefully hovered over the parchment. The ends to the sheet stubbornly curled up, with a longing to reroll. “Our encounter was by chance your skill with a blade is not.” Lowering his eyebrows at the same time as he continued to write, Alokian watched the quill as his hands moved it.
“Where does this ink come from?” Xioth asked with an inquisitive tone, he had noticed that that Alokian had not once dipped the nib of the quill in an inkpot, and yet, black letters took form on the parchment piece of paper. How was this possible?
“There are many mystical things in this world, things we are not all aware but that are there. In time you will get a better understanding.” Alokian waved his hand in a dismissive way.
Xioth understood well what he meant, he thought of him as common brute. He remained calm, he will not allow this man’s offhandedness irritate him.
“I can read and what you are writing does not reflect the truth.” Xioth said as he traced over the words written on the parchment.
Alokians gaze shot up to Xioths and with widening eyes said, “You are of noble birth?” Alokian dragged the parchment closer to him and tried to cover over what he was writing with his free arm. “You are full of surprises Xioth and maybe someday you can tell me your story. But right now what matters is getting you to the Academy.”
“Grateful as I am for your new found desire to sponsor my higher learning, I have learned that in this live everything comes at a price, so I wonder, what is the cost that I will need to bear for this opportunist encounter?”
“I’ve traveled a long way, Xioth.” Alokian turned his head up to stare at him with piercingly, luminous green eyes. “I’ve spent many years researching the history of our worlds” — Alokian turned his burning gaze now towards the innkeeper — “and I discovered that our world is connected by a common thread of destiny. I believe it led me to you and that you will play a role in our world. It is this believe that motivates my actions here today and why I will ignore your discrepancies in the surrounding cities as well as what I just witnessed in the Plainfil Forest.”
“You were there!”
“I was sent to kill you, before I knew what I know now. You have become a bit of nuisance to the nobility of the surrounding area; the crown was forced to act.”
Xioth sat still at the table, unable to move, frozen by the comments. He realized that his hands were shaking. So even without revealing all the secrets sleeping within him, Alokian could induce this deep, visceral fear in everyone he encountered. Xioth knew little of the secrets of this world but he did know that this man sitting in front of him is capable of things he could not even imagine.
Alokian pulled out a seal from his satchel. The Royal Dravian seal was unmistakable and was used only by very high-ranking citizens of the empire. He warmed the wax stick on the candle separating the two men and then proceeded to seal the letter close. He looked it over and handed it to Xioth.
Bewildered by all that had happened Xioth took the letter as innkeep strode from behind his resting place.
“Wiall ya be renting a room far tha night?” the innkeeper inquired.
Alokian glanced past the man, straight at Xioth. His bright green eyes blinked slowly before he shook his head. “No thank you. I must set course to Talliue, my plans have changed.”
Gathering his things, Alokian kept glancing at Xioth, the intensity of the gaze echoed throughout the room setting of a wave of uncomfortable vibes. The few men in the inn felt the disturbance in the air and were now observing the encounter.
“Travel well and travel fast, our paths will cross again soon. Until then take the letter and make haze towards Vasion.” Picking up a scabbard, Alokian placed it around his hips, continuing to stare Xioth down as he tightened it.
Nodding, Xioth tried to break a smile, but the energy of the encountered unnerved him and as much as he tried, he could not find the words to reply.
“Godday sir!” The innkeeper said as Alokian strode by, his long black boots stomping across the stone floor.
As he neared the door, those in the inn went back to their business. Xioth watched the stranger walk away until the door closed behind him hiding his broad shoulders and stiff spine.