Aloquin sat on his throne in Kayintas, watching as some of
his troops awkwardly scrubbed the burned floor and walls, thinking
about how much more amusing it was having the forest nymph do it.
Kentabri was sitting on the floor next to him, whittling out a new
staff from a sturdy tree branch.
scrambled excitedly in through the doorway. Quickly regaining his
composure, the orc straightened up, marched boldly up to
Aloquin’s throne, and dipped into a graceless bow. “I killed
Raven,” he said with a smug grin.
carving knife slipped clumsily across the wood.
perked up. “You did?” he asked, leaning forward in his seat.
nodded fervently and his smile widened.
army began to turn their heads curiously, though continuing to
scrub the floor for fear of the god’s wrath.
Kentabri asked, setting down the knife and staff.
eyes gleamed with pride – pride in his ability to benefit from
things he never did. He was very imaginative for an orc, and began
to weave an incredulous tale of his amazing prowess. Convinced
that he had the wizard’s full attention, Beyati didn’t notice
that at some point in the story Aloquin’s eyes strayed from
looking at him to looking past him, his gaze fixed on the shadowy
figure flanking the entrance. Kentabri caught sight of it too, and
slowly got to his feet.
doesn’t look dead,” Aloquin raised an eyebrow at the orc.
froze in mid-word. His lips quivered with fear and his gray-purple
skin turned a shade lighter, too scared to look behind.
strode confidently into the room, dressed in the green shades of
the forest. Kentabri was quick to notice that he wore a pair of
curved, serrated blades on his belt in place of his trademark
two-handed sword. Beyati dropped to the floor with his hands on
his head. The rest of the troops abandoned their washing rags and
rushed to their leader’s side. Raven drew his weapons in
response, never breaking pace. Aloquin waved his minions away.
the wizard shouted, “Welcome back, we were beginning to worry
tilted his head to the side.
d-dead,” Beyati stuttered, peeking through his fingers,
“You’re dead! I saw you die!!”
frowned in thought, then turned on Beyati. “You harmed
Raven?!” he scowled. A flaming red aura ignited about him and
his eyes flashed a dangerous crimson. Beyati sensed a wave of
paralyzing terror sweep through his being, mounting on the fear he
already felt. Savoring the moment, the Warrior Spirit’s swords
exploded in a metallic storm, tearing the orc apart into an
unrecognizable, bleeding pulp. The Kayintas army groaned at the
thought of having to clean this mess up as well.
Spirit!” Aloquin exclaimed, “Who lives in a castle made of
gods’ bones, which is decorated with gods’ entrails,
surrounded by a moat filled with gods’ blood, which is strewn
with gods’ body parts!”
Warrior Spirit looked over to him.
look… different,” Aloquin snickered, “Where are the clothes
which are made of gods’ skin and sewn with gods’ hair?”
can be arranged,” the Warrior Spirit lifted a bloodstained sword
to the wizard’s throat.
may be older than me, but I am still more powerful,” Aloquin
grinned menacingly. “Now, I know you did not come here for a new
wardrobe,” he smirked, moving the weapon away with the tip of
his finger, “What brings you to my humble abode?”
things,” the Warrior Spirit replied, “Raven is not dead, and I
want him back, alive. Also, I want revenge on the one who
can I help?” Aloquin inquired, trying to hide his anticipation.
He understood that he was not after Raven’s energy after all,
but the energy of the god that had possessed him. And now this god
was standing right beside him, asking for help.
know that you held the life of this forest captive,” the Warrior
Spirit explained, “She is the one who exorcized me. By capturing
Trellia I could both get revenge on her and have the bait to lure
will help you with your revenge if you help me with mine,”
Aloquin smiled diplomatically, attempting to forge an alliance in
which the Warrior Spirit would agree to lend him energy in
exchange for his assistance. Having Trellia back would be a great
can make a choker that blocks her power and keeps her bound to an
area,” he continued, “It can only be removed by a god. I can
give you this choker and a place to keep her if you agree to be my
ally in the war against Dinictis. I don’t question your methods
and you don’t question mine.”
the Warrior Spirit nodded.
Keramis, Lianna, and Lakai walked across the Open Field, carrying
Raven along. Elvina and the raven followed lazily behind. Day and
night they plodded through a sea of rolling grasses speckled with
wildflowers. It was a refreshing change of scenery from the gloomy
North Forest. To Keramis and Lianna, it seemed as if somebody had
turned on the lights. At first they were uncomfortable walking
under the open sun, with no security of the trees and no place to
hide. But they soon began to appreciate the warmth of the sun, the
feel of the cool evening breeze, and the silvery moon shining
among the sparkling stars.
the dawn of the fifth day the group saw the glistening dome of the
Crystal Castle on the horizon. They reached it at midday, no less
awed by the sight of the magnificent crystalline palace towering
before them. As they approached the castle spires, a guard rushed
inside to announce their presence to the Queen. When he returned,
four of the sentries escorted them in through the gem-studded
entire castle was made of pure crystal, with sunlight filtering
through the walls and ceiling in a brilliant rainbow dance. Queen
Dinictis and King Jason sat regally on their incandescent thrones
at the opposite end of the room, and each of the guests took turns
bowing to them reverence – except, of course, for Trellion. The
raven found a comfortable perch in the trees of the castle
am happy to welcome you all to the Crystal Castle!” Dinictis
smiled warmly upon them, her eyes like bright peridots.
have quarters ready for you,” Jason informed the visitors,
“Soft, warm beds and the best food in the land.”
have nothing to fear!” Dinictis said, “No dragons will coil
about you while you sleep and no ogres lie in wait for you to let
your guard down. Stay here in peace.
will be leaving, Lynn?” she asked the dark elf.
need to get back to the East Forest,” Lynn nodded, hoisting
Raven up, “The faeries miss their human friend.”
giggled and settled on Lakai’s shoulder to play with his hair.
they all said their good byes, several guards came up to Lianna and Keramis offering to take them to their rooms. Lynn bowed to
Dinictis and Jason once again before strolling out the door and
back into the Open Field, closely followed by Lakai, Elvina, and
walked westwards across the plain, reaching the treeline of the
East Forest by the sunset of the third day. Though it would be
foolish to enter the North Forest at nightfall, the East Forest
was an inviting place, safe by night and by day. It was a very
magical forest, home to friendly faeries that welcomed all who
believed in peace and joy – those who come with an open mind and
an open heart.
into the forest reminded Lynn of the first time he set foot on its
soil. After he learned the ways of the Acora, he became
disillusioned with life in the North Forest. He wanted to live in
harmony and friendship, but others called him naïve, pointing to
the mangled corpses that littered the woods as evidence of the
harsh reality of the world. Being a trained Acora, he was not
shaken by such influences. He knew that everybody chose how they
viewed their own reality, and as long as people chose to want a
life of harmony and friendship while firmly believing that it
could never be achieved, that is how it would be.
left the North Forest in search of a place where people chose a
different path. That is how he came to the East Forest, where life
existed in what he knew to be the natural state of being. There
was tranquility here and nobody lived in fear. It was good to be
back, Lynn thought as he breathed in the fresh evening air.
and he exchanged parting smiles before going their separate ways.
The dark elf carried Raven to his cozy little cave at the foot of
a hill and laid him down on an herb-filled mattress. Setting a
cauldron over the fire, he tossed healing herbs into the boiling
water within, releasing a sweet incense. Lynn then lay down on the
floor next to his bed and fell asleep to the sound of the
crackling fire, the most restful sleep he had for weeks.
came with Lakai when he went to meet up with his friends. All of
the faery kingdom rejoiced at his return and threw a celebration
in his honor. He was embraced back into the land of bliss and
pampered with the entire bounty of Faeryland.
led the Warrior Spirit to his inner sanctum and took out the
crystal that he used to communicate with Onedia. It began to glow
in his hand as an image of her bedroom took shape within. In a few
minutes she herself walked into the room and sat before her Dark
Mirror, looking beautiful as ever.
Queen of the Forestside Kingdom!” Aloquin greeted her.
hello to you, too, King of Caldora,” Onedia said in melodic
we will be King and Queen of this planet,” Aloquin assured her,
“For everything is going according to plan!”
what a lovely prospect that is,” she mused. Anybody else would
tire of the wizard’s peculiar concept of ‘soon,’ but Onedia
was rather enjoying her present position.
have a new and powerful ally!” Aloquin beamed, moving the
crystal up to the Warrior Spirit who grinned darkly, “He is the
God of War! And he will make our armies invincible!”
God of War?” Onedia smiled at him enchantingly, “Who lives in
a castle made of Sidhe bones, which is decorated with Sidhe ent–?”
the Warrior Spirit cut her off, getting annoyed at everybody
repeating his invocation when he was already present.
it is time for us to move into the final phase of the plan,”
Aloquin continued, “I need you, Onedia, to build an astral
citadel. I want you to construct an etheric stronghold that will
tie Kayintas and the Forestside Castle together so that we and our
people can move freely between the two. But it will serve as more
than just that. Build it with great precision for it will be the
place of the final battle.”
can do that,” Onedia said confidently just before Aloquin faded
from her sight. Shrugging it off, she lay down on her bed and went
into a trance. She projected her consciousness from her body and
flew over the dusky countryside, watching the last rays of
sunlight disappear beyond the horizon. Fertile farmlands and
candle-lit cottages, flowery meadows and hilly pastures flashed by
under her. The outskirts of the Haunted Forest sprawled out in the
long, Onedia was gliding through the mist-swept woods as a
luminous apparition. She sang a haunting faery melody that
resounded through the forest, beckoning her trickster minions to
her side. They crept from under leaves and rocks, emerged from
beneath the waters, slid from the hollows of trees, crawled from
underground caverns, and rose from underfoot to their Mistress’s
she felt that she gathered enough tricksters to build the astral
fortress, she began to slowly drift back to the Forestside Castle.
With Onedia in the lead, they soared over the land in an eerie
procession of ghoulish nightmare creatures. No house they passed
got any sleep that night, for the host cursed all they saw with
turbulent dreams. The swarm poured into Onedia’s bedroom through
the window and she awoke from the sensation of overflowing energy
pressing against her physical body.
the goddess giggled, stretching drowsily, “I need your help, my
pets! Build for me an astral castle of my design!”
tune with her wishes, the tricksters immediately took on the task.
They bustled about, fashioning surrealistic walls, floors,
ceilings, doors, stairs, windows, corridors, dungeons, and rooms.
Slithering around, they weaved elaborate rugs and tapestries with
their delicate fingers, shaped luxurious beds and armchairs at
their slightest whim. They flitted to and fro, interlacing stone
with stone. But this was no ordinary castle, made of cement and
plaster. The building blocks of this palace were the tricksters
themselves. They formed the foundation and substance of the
citadel, binding and being the very bricks that held it together.
The castle was alive, all-seeing and all-hearing. It was a
conscious, thinking, changing entity. Everything in it was an
intricate illusion and every step was a potential trap. Thus was
built the Dark Fortress.
Neicla watched his apprentice Nexus go about her duties as
Guardian. The Guardians and Aelis’ jobs were very much tied. The
Guardians regulated traffic between worlds, leading the dead to
the afterlife in the Land of Truth while protecting the
dimensional gates from those who were not ready for them. The
Aelis recorded everything that happened in the worlds and kept
track of karma, balancing all actions in the universe so that
everyone would reap what they sow.
Nexus was a bright student and learned quickly, Aeli Neicla was
worried about what she may become. She was a fascinating creature,
haunted by memories of the horrors she had to endure as the mortal
Tshushani: of beatings, rape, starvation, ridicule, and torture
– all by men. In fact, she hated men with a passion.
becoming a Guardian, she returned to earth to carry out her
vengeance on all who had abused her in the past. By taking on her
aspect of Nightshade, she killed her male victims by seduction,
draining away their lifeforce through their lust. Nightshade made
it her karmic duty to be protector of all women and enemy to all
men. Her rage ran deep and Aeli Neicla knew she had to deal with
it her own way.
he wished she would show her other aspect, that of the wise and
cleansing Sage, more often. Recently, he devised a strategy that
he hoped would challenge her priorities.
Nexus!” he called to her across the worlds.
Neicla,” she appeared, bowing humbly before him.
have a new job for you, Nexus,” Neicla said matter-of-factly,
“There is a certain soul that has wandered into the Land of
Illusions prematurely. His name is Raven, but he is known as
Trellion in most of Caldora. I want you to stop him from getting
into the Land of Truth while alive.”
any means necessary?” Nexus asked with a mischievous smirk.
Neicla nodded solemnly.
shall be done,” she said, her voice growing faint as she
stirred to the feel of a breeze brushing up against him. He awoke
on the ground, under the drooping, naked branches of a dead
willow. Sitting up, he rose to his feet and proceeded to wander
aimlessly through the landscape.
it vaguely resembled Caldora, it was vacant and lifeless. The
trees were bare, and the sky was clouded with dust. He realized
that this must be the Land of Illusions, a dimension parallel to
physical reality. This was the mirror world in which Dinictis had
trapped Aloquin for centuries. Bending down, he felt at the earth
and saw that it was dry and flaky. Chills ran down his spine as he
understood what all this pointed to. The Earth-Dragon was dying.
Which could only mean one thing – it was pregnant.
some point in an Earth Dragon’s lifespan it would clone itself
from its own genetic material. The embryo would grow inside the
parent dragon, slowly tearing through its innards before ripping
it apart from the inside. Though one such embryo was destroyed by
Jason in the physical world, its corresponding mirror in the Land
of Illusions must have remained and by this time was already in
the final stages of development.
sat down on the decaying ground, trying to comprehend his
predicament. Was he dead? And if so, why hadn’t a Guardian come
to take him to the Land of Truth? It was said that all things are
known in the Land of Truth, and he could think of quite a few
questions he wanted answered.
then, the form of a beautiful woman took shape above him,
suspended effortlessly in thin air. Her lustrous black hair was
pulled back in a ponytail and she wore a translucent, revealing
top of the same fabric as her scarlet skirt, which split off her
curving thighs in free-flowing ribbons. Faint henna designs
decorated her exposed abdomen and golden bracelets adorned her
wrists. She rolled out a parchment.
the Raven,” the woman read, “Born in Nastra, raised in Trellia,
became first rank of the North Forest…”
looked up at her.
back to Nastra,” she went on, “Was called on by Queen Dinictis
as a guide through the North Forest to spy on Aloquin,” she
looked down on him from the text, “And now you’re here.”
watched her roll up the manuscript.
record you got there,” she smiled dryly.
don’t talk much, do you?” Nexus asked rhetorically.
are you?” the half-elf spoke up.
am Nexus,” she introduced herself, “Guardian of the Gate.”
quite,” Nexus clarified, “Some tree dwellers tried dropping a
rock on your head and hit you pretty hard, but it did not kill
it true that in the Land of Truth you have access to any
information?” Raven asked after a long pause.
I must go there.”
doesn’t work that way.”
have to go there!”
not dead yet,” Nexus tried to explain, “Only the dead are
need to go there!” Raven insisted.
the only way you’re getting into the Land of Truth is through
take me there!”
she reeled in outrage.
don’t have much time,” Raven begged, knowing he could be
summoned to his body any moment, “I have to go there now!”
blinked at him blankly; she had never seen anybody this eager to
die. “Alright, I will take you there,” she licked her
nightshade-tainted lips as they spread into an enticing grin,
“But you have to do something for me first...” Nightshade
leisurely made her way over to him, never taking her eyes off his.
Coiling an arm around the half-elf, she passed her palm over his
shoulders and down his chest. She rubbed her lithe, warm body
against his, and whispered softly in his ear, “Lie with me.”
stared at her wide-eyed. A pungent perfume of exotic spices filled
her other hand up his neck, she put her finger to his chin and
turned his face to meet hers. “I know you want to,” Nightshade
purred. She was showering him with the passionate, primal energies
of lust that she used on all the previous men, but this time they
kept being repelled. “What? Don’t you like me?” she cooed
playfully, wrapping a firm leg about his waist and pressing into
him, “I know you like me, you can’t hide anything from me.”
gaped at her speechlessly, fighting his own impulses by calling on
the face of another.
are so many things we can do,” she teased, intensifying the
bombardment. But the energy only bounced back at Nightshade twice
as fast. Puzzled by his peculiar immunity to her advances, she
made a light scan of his mind.
that pesky forest nymph, isn’t it?” Nightshade smirked.
“Forget about her!” she smiled provocatively, gazing up at him
with beguiling dark eyes, “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt
her.” Leaning in on him, she reached down and began unlacing his
stepped away defiantly.
are trying my patience,” Nightshade growled.
me to the Land of Truth,” he managed to say.
is wrong with you?!” Nexus shouted in frustration and
disappeared as suddenly as she came, leaving Raven alone in the
desolate wasteland of the dying dragon.
sat within a leafy glade, one of the few places in Trellia where
the sun shone freely and pastel-colored flowers peeked out from
amidst the verdant grass. She stared vacantly at the greenery,
unable to get Raven out of her mind. What she wouldn’t give to
see him again, to comfort and protect him through all his ordeals.
He has been gone for over twenty days, more than enough time for
him to come out of his coma. But there was no telling when or if
he would return, and her soul grew restless with worry.
heart leapt with joy at the sight of the elven form that parted
the blossoming branches and stepped into the clearing. All
thoughts of doubt fled her mind, chased away by a brimming
happiness, and questioning the validity of his presence never
occurred to her.
she gasped, running up to him and draping herself on his
shoulders, “You’re back! I missed you so much!”
came back for you,” Raven smiled, wrapping his arms around her
and drawing her closer. With an almost dreamlike quality, her
emerald-green eyes met his azure gaze. Aurora felt the undeniable
pull of desire as their lips joined in a long, euphoric kiss. She
sensed his hands glide over her body, contouring her arms, dipping
under her hair and moving up to her face. Then she heard a lock
snap into place at her throat.
pushed him away in panic, but his hand roughly clamped onto her
came back for you,” the Warrior Spirit sneered, vicious fires
burning in his crimson eyes.
stared at him in horror.
Nightshade was too proud to give up after one trial, she had to
admit that it had never taken more than one trial before, let
alone effort. Her mesmerizing aura could disarm any hint of
resistance. But after yet another failed attempt at seduction,
Nexus recognized that something was very different about this
scenario and decided to seek advice.
Neicla,” she appeared before him.
Nexus,” Neicla greeted her, then noticed her downcast eyes,
don’t know!” Nexus burst out in frustration, “I tried! I
really, really did! He just deflected it, all of it!”
is that possible?” Neicla tried to act surprised.
don’t know,” she paced back and forth anxiously, “I don’t
know! This is very unusual, it is unprecedented, I never saw
anything like it before! I just don’t know! Is he gay?
this some kind of joke?” she turned to glare at Neicla, her
hands crossed, “I happen to take my job as Guardian very serio…
No, no he can’t be gay, he was thinking of–”
down, Nexus,” Neicla smiled casually, “Go meditate for a
while, get your thoughts in order. Don’t let a mortal get to
right,” she sighed.
bowed to him and disappeared, leaving to spend some quiet time in
solitude. She materialized on a lonely cloud cluster, and lay back
upon it as it lazily drifted over the land. All things past and
present were known in the Land of Truth, one only had to ask for
the answers to be revealed. It was a storehouse of meticulous Aeli
recordings, updated continuously. Emotions, thoughts, essences,
and ideas could be experienced firsthand.
immersed herself in the soothing tranquility of the ancient
library, for one had to be at peace in order to hear the gentle
whisperings of the ages. Closing her eyes, she let go of all
irritation and anxiety, allowing them to float away with the
wind-chased clouds. Sufficiently infused with serenity, she gazed
up into the pinkish sky and asked to be shown Raven’s life.
flashed rapidly before her eyes, but she absorbed every detail in
its entirety. Sometimes pleasant, though more often so painful
that she had to break off from the firsthand experience and look
on as an observer. She lived through her own share of horrors, and
suffering them all over again did not lessen their impact. But
none of this resolved her original dilemma of why and how Trellion
could resist her allure.
more she thought about it, the more information passed through
her. Nexus found herself remembering the forest nymph that Raven
called to mind during their encounters. Figuring it to be
relevant, she meditated on his relationship with Aurora. She saw
how he always came to her for support, how she always reassured
him, and how an intense bond had developed between them.
deeper and deeper into the connection, she noticed something
extremely odd. At its very foundation, she felt a force more
powerful than any she had ever experienced. Not domineering, or
oppressive, or controlling, or lustful, or anything else she had
previously associated with power. This was much stronger than
that. It was nurturing and unconditional, healing and
revitalizing, comforting and caring, warm and fuzzy.
saw that single link branch out into a beautiful web of light that
knit the universe together, interconnecting every part with every
other part. The new energy engulfed her completely, flooding her
with a profound sense of harmony and… love? She tried to fight
it, but the thoughts and feelings would not go away.
sat on the arid ground of the crumbling Earth Dragon,
contemplating his situation. Being left alone in a collapsing
world was not conductive to optimistic thought. He pondered about
Aloquin’s plans and what they could possibly entail. What were
his motives? Did he want to kill Dinictis? Did he want to destroy
Caldor by transferring this living embryo into the physical world?
He felt ill as he envisioned the world he loved falling apart
before his eyes, all its inhabitants being plunged into Lossi’s
vast ocean or thrust into outer space. Why was it taking Aloquin
so long? Was he waiting for something?
appeared next to him, her transparent garb billowing in the wind
like shimmering scarlet haze over the golden form of her spirit
body. Her eyes shone with pure light.
fell to his knees, “Please take me to the Land of Truth or my
world will die!” he pleaded with Sage in desperation.
looked on him impassively. “You have shown yourself worthy of
entering the Land of Truth,” Nexus said after a few moments. She
lifted her hand and passed it through Trellion, dissipating him
into a sparkling green mist. Raven sensed himself being drawn into
and merging with the Guardian, and then feeling propelled through
a network of twisting tunnels that wound across the Overworld.
Nexus released him into a radiant jungle in the Land of Truth and
materialized by Aeli Neicla, too shocked by what she had done to
utter a greeting.
did you do?” Neicla leaned forward in his seat.
Nexus stammered, “I-”
did you let him in?” Neicla asked.
don’t know,” she looked down, perplexed.
didn’t you kill him?”
couldn’t! He wouldn’t give in to lust!” she protested.
couldn’t, or you wouldn’t?” Neicla demanded.
I… I don’t know!” Nexus broke down crying, “I failed!”
didn’t fail!” Neicla laughed, “You have passed your final
test! You proved you have a capacity for compassion. You tapped
into the most powerful energy in the universe. You discovered
Nexus looked up at him.
force that binds the universe together – love,” Neicla smiled.
are no longer my apprentice, but a full-fledged Guardian!” he
reclined back in his seat, “You’ve shown yourself to be
flexible by being open to new ideas. The universe is not static,
Nexus, you know that. It is always changing, always evolving. And
that is what is happening to you now. You are going through a
transformation into a wiser, more advanced being. Many of your old
beliefs are breaking down because you have no use for them
anymore. Leave them in the past and make room for the new. Soon
you will know a larger world.”
sat meditating in his chamber in Kayintas. He was always
meditating when there was nothing else to be done, adding more of
his power to secure the psychic veil he had draped over all of the
North Forest. Of course, this became easier now that he could draw
on the Warrior Spirit’s power as well.
while ago Onedia had contacted him to inform that the Dark
Fortress was complete, and now he waited for her to open a portal
inside. It did not take too long before he felt a swirling current
of energy nearby. Slowly coming out of the meditation, he rose to
his feet and stepped through the dimensional doorway.
blurred, then became clear again as Aloquin found himself in room
of white marble. The domed ceiling was supported by ivory-white
columns, about which wound flowers carved of precious stones.
Gorgeous tapestries adorned the walls, depicting relaxing scenes
of courtly life. A fountain bubbled from a statue of a mermaid
riding on ocean waves. It was hard to tell whether the room was
lit by moonlight or radiated it, but it made the whites shine with
a magical loveliness. There was a pervading scent of rose in the
air and a faint choir of voices chanted a delicate melody. At the
center of it all was Onedia herself, resting comfortably on a
lavish couch piled with decorative pillows. Beautiful as always,
she was dressed in a shimmering white gown and the braids in her
hair were laced with multi-colored ribbons.
do you like it?” she asked, smiling invitingly.
scanned the room again, cringing. “Too…” he tried to find
the right word, “Happy. We want to scare them, not pamper
amused laughter rang like silver bells. “It could be anything
you wish, my lord,” with a wave of her hand reality rearranged
itself into a hall carved out of the blackest obsidian. The rough
walls reached upwards like jagged cliffs towards a ceiling either
too high or too dark to see. Fearsome gargoyles with glowing red
eyes were perched on the outcroppings and screeching bats
fluttered to and fro at unfathomable heights. Though the room had
no windows, some innate light kept things visible, if only to
allow the eerie play of light and shadow against the misshapen
much better!” Aloquin clapped in glee, “Very nice work! I’m
sure we can shape the castle into something even more terrifying
before the time comes!”
smiled back cryptically.
in the crystalline halls of the Crystal Castle, Keramis sat in the
treetops of the palace gardens, sharpening his faery metal
daggers. Though faeries detested iron, they had developed a far
superior metal. It looked like silver, but was much sturdier,
sharper, and balanced. It was also a lot lighter than iron,
maneuverable by the frailest of races with ease.
metal was very responsive to magic, both in sensing and absorbing
it. Incidentally, Keramis has developed a charm of his own for the
knives. If the blood of another got on the blades then any damage
done to the wielder would instantly backfire on the attacker as
well. However, since Keramis did not make a good punching bag, he
used this strategy only as a last resort. He did not have a high
opinion of magic anyway, feeling it should compliment but never
substitute for proficient melee skills. In fact, the charm had
come about by accident during his younger years.
teen years were not very pleasant. It was a time of confusion,
when Lynn left the North Forest and much of the top ranks have
died off. There was chaos in the hierarchy and many were
contending to fill the vacancies, which included intimidating and
eliminating the competition.
being a mere elf, and a small one even by elven standards, had
made Keramis the object of much taunting by the bigger, stronger
races such as the orcs, half-weres, and gnolls. Kranti and his
thugs have been some of the more violent persecutors. They
insisted that he would never amount to anything and backed up the
claim by regularly beating him to an inch of his life – not
killing him only because they found his torture an exceptionally
particularly bad day, Keramis sat in the Trellian treetops,
sharpening his daggers just as he did now. He was brooding over
his life and how much he wanted his enemies to feel his pain. As
his anger piled up, the energy reached a climax so powerful that
it imprinted the daggers with a highly concentrated spell.
Keramis was picked on constantly. Many of his friends abandoned
him, and a good deal of his own cave belittled him. Ever the
optimist, the elf never gave up hope. Their relentless ridicule
only proved to him that it was they who were afraid. The North
Forest hierarchy boasted a significant amount of elven high ranks,
a prime example being Lynn himself.
much training in the discipline of speed over strength, the
earning of a faery favor, and a tournament, he proved them all
wrong by securing the place of fifth rank. It did not take him
long to win the respect of the North Forest by both his skill and
did not think about the old days very often. He had left them far
behind, always focusing on the present and looking forward to the
future. But Karaci’s death had revived some of his deep-rooted
feelings of helplessness and self-hatred. It took him a while to
make himself understand that stepping between him and Kranti was
Karaci’s own decision, and Karaci would want him to honor it as
such instead of using it as an excuse to feel sorry for being
believed that a sure way to provoke Keramis was by prodding at
emotional wounds from his past. But the elf knew himself to be
stronger than that, and made it a point to never fall for such
petty teasing again.
heard Jason tramping through the bushes below, “Hail King Jason!
How are you today?”
looked about, startled. “Very well,” he said, then looked up,
sheathed his daggers and jumped down from the tree, landing
lightly on the ground.
was actually looking for you,” the King confessed.
Keramis asked, curious.
wanted to ask you something,” Jason told him, “Can you – Can
you possibly… Can you train me?”
fighting?” Keramis blinked.
weapons,” Jason added, “In fighting with weapons – swords,
axes, daggers – dagger would be nice–”
thing, your highness,” Keramis smiled merrily, “Right now?”
Sure! Why not,” the King returned the smile.
elf handed Jason one of his daggers and hopped back, “Before we
get to offence and defense, you need to learn balance and
knew he was in the land where souls spend time between lives. This
was a place far lovelier than mortal eyes could ever comprehend,
and he marveled at its breathtaking beauty. Nothing in the Land of
Truth knew death or decay, it was an eternal paradise where life
existed without end.
strolled through the lush, blooming jungle. Colors were so much
more vivid in the Overworld; they shone with an innate brilliance.
The landscape was comparable to a painting inlaid with jewels –
ruby flowers blossomed among emerald foliage that grew on branches
made of tiger’s eye, dew drops gathered on the leaves like
glistening diamonds, sapphire hummingbirds and dazzling parrots
flitted from tree to tree under the amethyst sky.
the brightly colored birds, Raven noticed a dark spot. It was a
raven, and it was circling down towards him. Settling on the
grass, it changed into the radiant form of his old friend Gaisa.
She smiled at him amiably, but he took a step away.
come all this way to see you and this is the reception I get?”
she snickered, walking towards him, “Relax! Tricksters have no
power in the Land of Truth. I am real!”
stared at her uneasily, looking for any flaws that would denote an
illusion. “But,” he looked away, “Everything that trickster
said is true. If it wasn’t for me then–”
I would have never known my best friend,” Gaisa hugged him,
“Tricksters may distort the truth, but they can not change it.
Their imperfect deceptions give away their falsities.” She
looked up at him, “Here we know that everything happens for a
reason, even if we don’t understand what it is while we are
alive. Everybody is responsible for their own destiny.”
tell me why you died,” Raven demanded.
you could have stopped Kranti,” she explained, “But you would
have never done it without incentive, you’re too much of a
sweetheart,” she giggled, “I loved the North Forest and I
couldn’t bear to see it under Kranti’s rule, that is why I
chose to die.”
is that what the Overworld does – play with people’s lives?”
Raven was unconvinced.
shook her head. “The experience has made you strong, and you
gave strength to others,” she hugged him again and he clung back
tightly. Surrendering to overpowering emotions, he cried quietly
into her shoulder.
all right now,” she assured him, gently stroking his hair,
“Know that we never die. We come back again and again, see each
other over the course of many lifetimes. Bodies may break,
deteriorate, and perish, but the spirit is everlasting. My time
with you in this lifetime has ended, and my spirit must move on to
the next life.”
lifted his head. “You have Aurora now, and I am very happy for
you both!” she wiped away his tears, “I will not remain as a
gloomy reminder of your past, nor will I get in the way of your
future,” she paused, then told him solemnly, “You will not see
your raven again.”
nodded reluctantly. “I will never forget you,” he took her
of the good times,” Gaisa laughed, stepping back, “I don’t
want to be remembered as a flaming corpse!”
took a last, long look into her eyes.
at peace,” she smiled, her hand slipping from his grasp. “I
have known you before, I will know you again, our bond is
eternal…” her voice trailed off to a whisper as she dissolved
away. Raven stared into the spot where Gaisa had stood for a long
time, searing the moment into his memory. “Until we meet
again,” he said under his breath.
himself to look around, he saw three ethereal beings swathed in
luminous white robes hovering in the air, watching him.
to the Land of Truth, Trellion,” one of them said, “I am Aeli
am Aeli Shnavi-dae,” said another.
am Aeli Nisea,” said the third.
are a visitor here,” Neicla explained, “So we have blocked
your ability to access our information networks. However, you may
ask each of us one question.”
thousand questions rushed to his mind at the thought of being able
to know anything in the entire universe. What is the meaning of
existence? What was his purpose in the world? Was there life
anywhere else in the cosmos? After some reflection, he settled on
three of the most important.
is Aloquin planning to establish his rule in Caldora?” he asked
the life of the Chaos Dragon and the life of the Order Dragon are
tied to Caldor,” Neicla answered, “The Chaos Dragon is angry.
His world is dying and he could die with it. He wants to kill the
Order Dragon by making her take his place.
Chaos Dragon has many powerful friends who are willing to help him
destroy the Order Dragon,” he continued, “The Mistress of
Illusions has built a great astral castle for him–” Neicla
felt Raven’s unfamiliarity with who he was referring to,
“Onedia, Queen of the Forestside Kingdom has built a great
astral castle for him in which he has opened an inter-dimensional
gateway. The Chaos Dragon will wait for Caldor’s embryo to fully
mature, and then lure the Order Dragon into the portal.”
fell silent and Raven understood that he should ask the next
question. “How is Aurora?” he faced Shnavi-dae.
Life of the Forest has been captured by Yuga-shii and taken to the
Chaos Dragon,” she replied.
hesitated, not knowing if asking who Yuga-shii was counted as
another question. Sensing his uncertainty, the Aelis clarified.
Tempest of Blood,” Neicla translated the name.
God of War,” Nisea echoed.
Warrior Spirit has captured the Life of the Forest and keeps her
imprisoned in the Chaos Dragon’s astral castle,” Shnavi-dae
felt faint and swayed as he nearly lost strength in his legs, but
the Aelis only smiled back peacefully. Trying to stay calm, he
pondered over how to phrase his next question. Did he care more
about who his father was, or why he left? Deciding that he could
question his father as to why he left after he knew who he was,
Raven turned to Nisea and asked, “Who is my father?”
Lynn is your father,” she told him.
gawked at her in shock, not sure whether to feel outraged or
thrilled. But before he could make up his mind, he felt a pulling
sensation tug at his feet. Looking down, Raven saw a whirlpool
form in the ground, extending into the earth in the shape of a
must go back now,” Nisea said, but her voice seemed far away as
he spun through the passageway of swirling energy into oblivion.
fell through a womb-like darkness between the worlds, though it
felt more like gentle drifting on the unseen current of astral
winds. The stillness of the experience was broken by the muffled
sounds of a heartbeat as he gradually began to sink back into his
own body. His senses were revived: he heard the crackling of the
fire, smelled the fragrance of boiling herbs, and felt the grassy
bed on which he lay.
opened his eyes. He felt refreshed, as if awakening from a
wonderful dream. His vision strained to focus in the dim firelight
and he saw Lynn gazing down at him. The Acora handed him a cup
filled with a curative herbal infusion.
must be hungry,” Lynn whispered and went to get some fruit.
rose feebly from the bed, becoming aware that this body was much
heavier than his spirit form. He gulped down a mouthful of the
tea, never taking his eyes off the Acora.
brought him an apple and some cherries. Raven stared at him
one,” Lynn said cheerfully, “You’ve been in a coma for forty
two days, don’t tell me you’re not hungry.”
of Raven wanted to rave at him furiously, another part was simply
happy to have found his father, but both were equally starving.
Raven reluctantly took the apple.
smiled cordially, watching his son devour the food. “I’m not
such a bad guy once you get to know me,” he muttered.
looked up from his meal.
have always watched you,” Lynn told him, “I experienced your
pain and reveled in your triumphs. I have watched you earn a title
for yourself and take your rightful place in the North
did you leave?”
did I leave?” Lynn sighed, “Believe me when I say it was
nothing personal. I love your mother very much. I wanted nothing
more than to have a child, to live with Shalaya as a happy family.
However, this was not about what I wanted.
an Acora I had a responsibility not just to myself but to all of
Caldora,” the dark elf explained, “And an Acora is not allowed
to have personal contacts, because an Acora is not supposed to be
biased. I was forced to leave your mother. It is true that I told
her not to have you – because I feared this very moment.
I knew she would have you anyway,” he continued, “She loved me
too much, she loved you too much. No matter how hard her mind
tried to protest, it is her heart and her love that formed you.
You were born of love and you are always loved.
told her to make you look as little like me as possible,” Lynn
chuckled, “So that even though you are half dark elf, one fourth
elf, and one fourth human, you resemble your half-elf mother more
than me. You still have my eyes, and have inherited many of my
nodded soberly, taking another bite out of the apple.
I had admitted to having a son the day I was proclaimed Acora, it
would have been scandalous,” Lynn said, “The people would lose
respect for their prophet, and Dinictis couldn’t have that. She
told me that I had to win their trust first, and I have been
trying hard to do just that for all these years just so I can be
with you two again.
can’t change the past, Raven,” Lynn smiled at him weakly,
“But now that I have earned the loyalty of the people, I promise
you that after this war is over, things will be different. Both
between you and me, and between Shalaya and me.
then, can we still be friends?” he stretched out a hand.
is an honor to have you for a father,” Raven said softly, taking
the Acora’s hand and bowing low.
formalities!” Lynn laughed, patting him lightly on the back.