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Prologue

Ygma felt the blood on the coin. ‘’It’s bleeding? Are the coins bleeding?’’ he asked himself curiously. ''Another Ethovilian born already-'' he thought, as he inspected the image on the coin closer, Only the right side of the face of a long-forgotten king, the blood was streaming down the eye - ''I wonder if it's a boy or a girl''. Milina, the second moon. lingered above him as he stood near the intersection of one of the many crossroads within the Ethoviel Empire. He looked up at the moon, contemplating the implications. The sudden pain, brief yet stinging, returned at his shoulder. Ygma grunted as he adjusted the strap of the large backpack on his shoulder. No time to linger, he took the road leading to the east. As thunder revealed itself in the sky, Ygma caught a quick glimpse of the fortress of Cymilia, just to have it seconds later be obscured by the rainstorm. The fortress, towering and looming over the few packed houses beneath it, stood before the second moon, forming a silhouette. That is the exact image Ygma could remember from many years ago.

As he ascended from the slope, trailing the road consisting of wet cobblestones, leading to the entrance of the fortress, he observed the farms on both sides of the road. The handful of farmers dropped their farming tools on their fields, they called it a night and retreated to their homes.   Not far from these farmers, a small crowd gathered and sought shelter beneath the thatched roof of the Lizard's Tongue tavern. The tavern's candles were still burning inside. Despite the harsh weather, men and women stood outside, discussing. It did not took a long time before one of them spotted Ygma. The others followed and soon their anxious eyes locked on him. Ygma slowed his pace as he noticed a broad man with a belly assumingly filled with liters of ale, squeezing himself from the motionless crowd, standing on the road just in front of Ygma. He was holding a coin with that shaking hand, like the others. The coins were bleeding. The man, Sam, recognized Ygma. The others had never seen Ygma before. Yet, it took them a few seconds of inspecting Ygma’s attire and the backpack that he is known as one of the World Hermits, a cursed profession.   ‘’Y-Ygma?’’ his voice trembling. The other men and women joined in.   ‘’Please, Ygma. Please, come inside.’’ He nudged his head to the side, towards the tavern. Ygma shook his head slightly, smiling to his old acquaintance.   ‘’I am sorry, Sam. My sudden and unfavorable appearance should’ve already made it clear why I am here. It’s about the vision. How is Maurid? The lad has grown up now, isn’t he?’’ The hermit remained with the same smile, he patted Sam's shoulder before picking up his pace once again and making his way to the gate. Staring terrified ahead, Sam found himself only nodding to that question about his son, who had already joined the Ethovilian army two years ago.   ‘’What kind of curse twisted your mind to think you are allowed to be accepted here, hermit?’’ one of the men called, slightly drunk yet still able to comprehend the ongoing situation. Ygma glanced over his shoulder. The man held the coin up, his fingers were also covered with blood. ‘’It’s not even getting off.’’ He said, trying to remove the blood with the rainwater from his other finger.   ‘’Surely, you can share that vision of yours with us as well.’’ a woman with pleading eyes called amidst the crowd, not holding a coin. Presumably dropped the coin after she realized her fingers were covered with blood.   Ygma inhaled deeply, turned around, and continued his walk. The hermit pocketed the bloody coin and adjusted the strap of the bag, consisting of old tomes and scrolls, on his shoulder. Before entering the fortress, he greeted both guards with a warming and friendly nod, noticing one of them was inspecting his coin before he realized the hermit’s presence, returning a nod with a cold expression revealed on his face.   The fortress of Cymilia consisted of many halls, bedrooms, and a meeting room. The meeting room has a balcony, overlooking the practice yard. As he followed one of the guards in the hall, he glanced over the many banners proudly showing the arms of the Ethoviel Empire. Its symbol is that of a lion, it’s head upwards, to the sun. Holding a sword with it’s left paw and staff with the other. Fire spewing from its mouth aimed at the sun. Ygma stood there for a moment. That longing feeling. Immediately that feeling was followed by an overwhelming sense of pride and honor, admiringly thinking about the achievements and the unthinkable accomplishments the Ethoviel Empire gained. This will be a great chapter in our records, so Ygma thought.   ‘’Hermit?’’ the guard asked, his voice tired and impatient. ‘’Cym does not like to wait…’’. Not even addressing his superior by the title. General Cym is known for having a somewhat poor reputation after many failed attempts to carry out simple tasks, like attacking a bandit camp or retrieving stolen goods for the farmers. It is rumored that he always asked for assistance from another general. Ygma eyed the guard for a moment. Does this man even feel any pride in working for the great Ethoviel Empire? the hermit asked himself curious but followed the guard nonetheless. He is not here to question someone. He is here to fulfill his task. Guards patrolling the fortress frequently peeked the corner or briefly glanced over their shoulders as they watched Ygma.   As the guard led the way with Ygma following him, both men entered the meeting room. The talking died out immediately upon their arrivals. Eyes were gazed at both men, especially at Ygma. He can hear the few nobles whisper. It’s about the coins and his arrival. The women were gathered around a table, near the entrance of the room. The men were gathered among numerous tables. The people in this room were donning the common Ethovilian noble clothes. Upon entering the room, the smell of longing and delicious Ethovilian food made it's way to Ygma's nostrils. It's a shame I have to spoil it now for everyone. Some of the nobles looked over at the general, awaiting an explanation for this unwanted and uninvited guest. It’s not just a normal guest, however, it’s one of the exiled World Hermits.   The Emperor exiled the few remaining World hermits long ago. General Cym cleared his throat, feeling the pressure of piercing eyes stared upon him.. He pushed himself up from his seat, his wife next to him, looking terrified.   The Emperor exiled long ago the few World Hermits that travel ----- spreading their visions about future events that will take place. General Cym cleared his throat, feeling the staring eyes. He pushed himself up from his seat, his wife next to him, looking terrified.   ‘’Ygma.’’ His voice stuttered before he felt the relief as he finally spoke out that name.   Ygma found himself smiling at the general and did so to the other nobles, their expression still unchanged. ‘’Cym, It’s good to see you again after a long time,’’ Ygma replied.   The guard that was leading Ygma to the room, glanced over his shoulder, staring furiously at Ygma. ‘’Know your place, hermit. Address General Cym properly!’’ he said. Got that from you, Ygma thought to himself but did not blurt out.   General Cym gave a dismissive wave, smiling. ‘’It’s alright, it’s alright.’’ The look on his face regains back the original expression he feared. ‘’Y-Ygma, it’s nice to see you back here—in your old hometown—but you do know the…’’   One of the nobles interrupted him by standing up, holding a fork with his fingers covered with blood, assuming he was holding the coin with that hand. ‘’Our Emperor exiled you bunch, are you searching for death itself by visiting the Empire?’’ he blurted out, his eyes carrying anger.   Ygma remembers this man, he probably lost his child to that one plague. Which was another vision that, unfortunately, happened many years ago.   ‘’Hermit, your kind brings despair. Please, turn around and leave this instant.’’ One of the noblewomen cried out in the back.   Ygma still focused his eyes on the general instead. Cym looked at the ones that were talking, now finally regaining confidence as well, he returned his gaze on Ygma.   ‘’Ygma, what are you doing here?’’ he found himself asking, demanding an answer.   Ygma carefully dropped his heavy bag next to him and brought both of his hands to each other, interlocking his fingers in front of his chest like he was praying.   ‘’Unknown forces seek the destruction of the Ethoviel Empire.’’ Ygma said, knowing it’s better to tell the urgent message immediately.   It was quiet for a moment and everyone was motionless, only the guard quickly glared over his shoulder, eyeing the hermit with fierce eyes as he was about to stab him with the halberd he was carrying.   ‘’By Maw’Ra—No…’’ he heard one of the nobles mumbles. A few of the noblewomen started to panic and cry out in the back, others trying to calm them down. The nobleman, who had his child seemingly lost in the plague, stood instantly up, his chair falling behind. He sprinted around the table with a fork holding, trying to strike down Ygma. ‘’Lirl!’’ General Cym shouted. The guard stopped the man by twisting his halberd, blocking the noble path to the hermit.   ‘’Hermit, you are the unknown force! You are the evil itself, you are death!’’ he shouted behind the halberd.   Ygma, feeling guilty for spreading his vision yet finally being relieved to share it with them, refocused his attention back to the general.   ‘’What do you mean ‘seeking destruction’?’’ Cym asked, slowly lowering himself back on the chair, hiding his shaking hands underneath the table.   ‘’The Empire has dealt with internal and external conflicts for many years. You think just another conflict will take out the all great Ethoviel Empire?’’ one of the noblewomen asked with a stuttering voice, trying to calm down another woman next to her.   ‘’It’s truly unfortunate. Me, and the other World Hermits, were exiled many years ago for entering the Empire, for I wanted to share my vision with the Emperor himself. But, my dear friend, Cym. I believe it is up to you to carry this message and bring it to the Emperor himself.’’ Ygma said, forcing a smile on his face. ‘’My vision tells that most of the Emperor’s relative will be slaughtered—the commoners will be massacred and their town plundered—the nobles,’’ he watched the nobles for a brief second, every one of them, ‘’will be stacked on piles of stakes and burned.’’   That was the limit, all the nobles stood up after that last sentence, their eyes carrying anger and at the same time fear. General Cym pushed himself up as well, reaching for his sword at his waist.   ‘’As the Empire will be weakened by her forces. The—‘’ He dropped on the floor as the guard, that used to block the noble with his halberd, jabbing Ygma at the gut with the other side of his weapon. Ygma found himself kneeling on the ground, grunting. The noblemen gathered around the general. As Cym was walking towards the kneeling Ygma, having his sword now unsheathed, he was slightly being pushed on the back by some of the angered noblemen. They wanted to see him dead. No more vision to be heard. No more truth to be told. No more World Hermits to be left wandering Eassaeriel. Two of the noblemen and the guard himself forcefully pushed the old hermit on the floor.   Ygma could only catch a glimpse of what was happening behind as the guard held his head. He watched the panicking noblewomen storm one by one outside the room, screaming.   ‘’Screaming will unfortunately not save us. We are all doomed. This will be another chapter in the records.’’ He found himself muttering.   ‘’Shut up!’’ The guard ordered, tightening the grip on Ygma’s head.   Ygma noticed Cym’s shadow. The Ethovilian sword, known for its sharpness, rested on Ygma's neck before being raised up, ready for the decapitation. ‘’Ygma, dear friend. I will not let you blurt out nonsense any further about the Emperor and his relatives.’’   Ygma’s eyes slowly gazed up, turning away from the shadow. Instead, he looked at the proudly banner of the Empire, hanging above the entrance of the door.   The fire from its mouth will be extinguished. Its weapons will be destroyed. The lion will yield for mercy. I have done my task…


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