Chapter 7 “A Dance with Wind”
Nothing could be seen for miles. The air was still and the trees remained muted. Allen and Grenn sat with their legs folded facing towards each other, their eyes closed. The breathing and heart beats remained steady and in sync. The wind began to shift all around them in a harmonious dance. A wind that you could feel had a conscience and was aware of its purpose. It circled the two and encapsulated them in a funnel. The velocity of the wind began to increase as the violence of its throws raged until suddenly it dispersed. Grenn let out a gasp and grabbed his chest.
“Enough…I can’t” Grenn said panting.
“That’s fine.” Allen calmly stood up.
“How are you doing this?”
“It took me years to understand the wind and the role it played in my affinity for speed. I had a great mentor by the name of Issa Uryu.” Allen picked a leaf off of a nearby tree, “he was one of the Talal.”
“The Talal?” Grenn says shocked, “According to our lessons the Talal were a gifted race. Born with innate abilities.”
Allen looks up to the sky, “He is the only remaining Talal. How he survived the Cataclysm-he has yet to reveal that to me. But he helped me understand the nature of speed. Carrying an affinity with the winds that propel me. Without the wind-we are simply exerting a brute force speed that is rugged and unrefined. I want to show you something.”
“Of course.” Grenn replied.
Allen unsheathed Lotus, “I want you to do your best to dodge my attacks.”
“This will be fun!”
Allen then slashed the air between him and Grenn forcing the vortex to form a wind flume towards Grenn. Grenn immediately jumps up and dodges the attack. Allen slashes again towards him in the air creating another stream. Grenn pushes off the air and dodges the next attack and he lunges towards the ground. Allen sends another attack towards Grenn’s projected destination. Grenn struggles to come to a full stop and uses his sword to stab into the earth and flips over the attack and lands on his feet.
“Impressive.” Allen remarks.
“Interesting choice of attacks Allen. But I bested them all.” Grenn smirks.
“That last attack-you lost your sword.” Allen quipped.
“It had to be done otherwise-”
Allen interrupted, “Try me.”
“Oh, the great Windstrike is going to show his quality- how exciting…” Grenn sarcastically shouts.
Allen smirks and gets into formation. Grenn picks up his sword from the ground and slashes at the air, “Windstream!”
The stream of air lunges at Allen as he jumps up to dodge it. Grenn sends another attack at him as Allen spins in the air creating a vortex as he changes direction midair.
“What the-?!” Grenn thought to himself.
Grenn sends another attack towards Allen as he spins again in midair and dodges it. Allen begins his descent towards the ground as Grenn attempts to send an attack where he’ll land. In the same fashion as Grenn had, Allen unsheathes his sword but slashes downward to create a bellow of air drafting towards him. Allen them receives the gust of upward wind and glides over the attack and lands at Grenn’s feet with Lotus at his throat.
“What just happened?!”
Allen removes Lotus from Grenn’s throat and sheathes it.
“When you dodged my attacks, you forced yourself to dodge them. Ultimately you ended up at a disadvantage. I used the properties of the air to control my movements. The wind is there to guide you, not oppose you. When you stepped on the air to jump down you were opposing the wind.”
Grenn looked down in dismay having learned a very important lesson about agility.
“Instead of being fast in several straight lines. I created an area…a zone in which I could endlessly traverse using the wind.”
Grenn gazed at Allen with shock and awe. He thought to himself, “This is the true Blade Master, Allen Windstrike. The difference in power between you and I…Allen…is vast.”
“Don’t just stand there Grenn.”
“I…uh…yeah. Sorry” Grenn fumbled.
“We’ll have you moving with the wind in no time.”
Allen and Grenn sat down once again facing each other.
The fire was crackling and roaring as they set up camp just a day’s ride passed Tyranis. They had not encountered a single soul since entering Amar.
“Why do you think it’s so sparse?” Aiden questions.
“It’s difficult to know. But I would wager the King has driven the people of the land to flee.” Uryu answered.
“We already know that a fragment of the Amaranthine resides within Aiden. Garroltis will undoubtedly be a different person. A far more evil one.” Elana explains.
“We’re taught in our lessons that the all crystal upon rejecting a host would take their soul.” Aiden recalls. “But my father is strong. There’s no doubt about it. I doubt the crystal is to blame entirely for his behavior.”
Uryu responds, “If not entirely, it certainly is leading him astray.”
“No matter,” Aiden continues, “he has an army at his doorstep. We will soon see his answer.”
Back at the castle, the walls have been ladened with vines and brush. It has fallen in a state of abandon. Garroltis sits at his throne tapping his finger on the armrest. The same darkness shrouding his face.
“What news from the Eastern Tyranis fen?”
Friede steps forward, “The scouts report they have set up camp. They are moving slow but they rank in the thousands.”
“Thousands? That’s it?” Garroltis replies.
Viktor steps forward with soulless eyes, “I’m sure that is but a diversionary force. The Crueg have hundreds of thousands at their disposal.”
“Our scouts have confirmed the one leading this legion is Aiden himself along with Elana Flaregraze.” Friede adds.
“Their main force then rides on the power of just a few thousand?” Viktor asks.
“No matter.” Garroltis interjects. “The royal guard ranks 2,000. All of whom have been augmented with my essence. We are no longer facing the formidable odds we once faced against the Crueg.”
Friede responds, “Aiden leads them, Mine King. Along with Flaregraze and reportedly a Talal. We must not underestimate them.”
Silvia Coldwind sitting at a corner table sipping wine looks up suddenly, “A Talal? Weren’t they thought extinct after the Cataclysm?”
“Whatever the case may be, he is in their employ. We must be vigilant.” Friede cautions.
“Friede, is he ready?” Garroltis interjects.
“He is mine King.”
Friede motions for a nearby guard. The guard opens the door as a black figure walks out shrouded by his cloak. Viktor and Silvia look on surprised.
“Who is this?” Viktor asks.
“Reveal yourself.” Garroltis commands.
The man removes his cloak and throws it on the ground beside him. Viktor and Silvia gasp suddenly. Silvia falls to her knees in shock.
Humber walks in and inherits the same look, “This…this is…”
“Good of you to join us for this revelation Arbiter.” Garroltis smirks.
“This is blasphemy!” Humber proclaims.
“Mind your tongue Arbiter.” Friede warns.
“I tried to support your little experiments all this time. But this is something else entirely! You’re mad!”
“Mad?” Garroltis raises an eyebrow then nods at the man.
In blinding speed the man lunges at Arbiter Humber and stabs him in the chest, pinning him to the castle wall. The man then walks over to Garroltis and looks at Viktor and Silvia still in shock.
“It can’t be-” Viktor whispers under his breath. Viktor then extends his hand and points at the man, “you’re dead…”
Garroltis laughs, “Well it’s obvious that isn’t the case anymore Viktor!”
Silvia retreats within herself, “What kind of sick magic-”
“Enough,” Garroltis interrupts, “is that the proper welcome we should be extending to our once fallen brother?”
Viktor confirms, “It is you then…”
The man looks straight into Viktor’s eyes.
“Sentius Blackthorn!” Viktor exclaims.
“Very good, Aiden.” Uryu remarks. “Now, I want you to concentrate on the vibrations in the air. The smallest shift could tell you a story.”
Aiden closes his eyes. Uryu raises his sword back as Aiden puts his sword forward to block.
Uryu then moves his sword to the right. Aiden reacts and blocks to his left. Uryu nods at Elana, as she raises a finger and lights a fire on her finger while Uryu points his sword forward. Aiden reacts and blocks to his right.
“You are dead.”
“Damn it.” Aiden responds.
“Concentrate on the frequency and scale of vibration. You must be able to determine the story of each vibration. You felt Elana’s fire but you should have known it not to be my sword.”
“I understand Master.”
“That’s it for now. I want you to meditate and focus on the wind for now. I need to go into town to pick up a few items.” Uryu explains.
Elana raises her hand, “Master Uryu, do you mind?”
“What is it Elana?”
“We’re out of wine.”
Uryu rolls his eyes, “Yes my lady.”
“Thanks!” Elana smiles and waves.
In the nearby town Bellstow, Uryu arrives to ensuing commotion in the market. A group of vandals are harassing the towns folk.
“We’re looking for young man, about 8 summers lived. Traveling with a woman!” one vandal proclaims.
“You ha’no business’re Amari!” a villager cries shout.
“I suggest you cooperate!” another vandal shouts.
“Halt!” the town guards arrive. “What business do the Amari have here? This is Crueg territory!”
“We’re just looking for some of our pals, that’s all.” a vandal says.
Another vandal interjects, “You wouldn’t want to assault the Royal Guard and break armistice would you?”
A town guard questions, “Royal Guard?!”
Uryu remains hidden in an alley listening in on the commotion.
“I’d advise you to step back while we conduct our business!”
Uryu sneaks a peek at the vandals. He confirms with his eyes two Blades and a Mage.
A Blade grabs a villager by the neck, “Are you going to stop us and break armistice?”
Uryu hesitates, “This is not the Blades I remember…something is different about their air.”
The Blade puts his sword to the throat of the villager. A woman runs forward towards the Blade, “Let go of him!”
The other Blade intercepts the woman and grabs her from behind.
“You’re pretty for a Crueg woman. Hey Halfus, might this be that man’s wife?”
“I’m thinking you’re correct Reed.”
The Mage interrupts, “Can we get this over with…”
Halfus responds, “Let’s have a little fun, Astrea.”
Halfus puts a hold on the man and grabs his chin and forces him to look at Reed’s direction.
“She’s quite the catch isn’t she?”
The man struggles, “Stop this!”
Reed begins to grope the woman.
The woman yells, “Unhand me!”
Reed covers her mouth, “Shut up!”
Halfus looks at the man, “I’m afraid my friend has gotten impatient.”
Reed moves on to her breasts. The villagers start to grow restless. One man takes a step forward but Halfus raises his hand and wags his finger.
“Ah ah! I wouldn’t do that.”
“I think she likes it Halfus!” Reed slips his hand down her pants and violates the woman. The woman’s husband begins to tear up and struggle.
A town guard steps forward, “Enough of this!”
Halfus looks at the guard, “So you are going to break armistice and declare war on us?”
The town guard hesitates.
“Look, it’s quite simple. You all tell me if you’ve seen a young man and a woman around these parts. If you haven’t then we’ll leave.” Halfus claims.
A village shouts in the background, “We don’t know anything about a young man or woman!”
“Wrong answer.” Halfus slits the man’s throat and drops his body in front of the town guard.
“Who’s next?” Halfus points his sword at the villagers.
“You can’t do this!” The town guard proclaim.
“I just did.”
Reed proceeds to bend the woman over against a small table and removes her linens.
“Don’t worry love, I’ll make you feel good.”
The woman cries out as Reed presses his hips against her. Suddenly a gust of wind blows Reed off of the woman. Uryu is covering her up and leading her behind the town guard.
“Who the hell are you?!” Reed yells.
Halfus readies his sword, “This is an act of war!”
“I am no Crueg…but it does not matter. You will not live to tell anyone of this.” Uryu responds. “I suggest all of you go to your homes and lock up.”
The town folk all disperse and the town guards retreat to the back while maintaining visual of Uryu and the Royal Guards.
Astrea steps forward, “Well, this just got interesting.”
Halfus lunges forward at Uryu, Uryu parries his attack and knocks him back. Reed comes in from behind and swings his sword horizontally. Uryu jumps up and spin kicks Reed sending him into a pile of crates. Astrea summons a fireball and shoots it at Uryu. He stomps on the ground to create a vacuum around him and thrusts his palm straight into the fireball as it dissipates.
“What the hell?!” Astrea curses.
Halfus jumps at Uryu again and slashes at him. Uryu parries the attack again but this time Halfus follows up with a kick and sends Uryu flying. Uryu gets up and does a hand gesture towards his stomach and breathes in heavily.
“I see…” Uryu says. “So the change…you have been augmented further. That was not a kick I have ever felt from a Blade. You now have Strength?”
Halfus then charges at Uryu with great speed as Uryu parries his sword attack again, but at the moment of clash he gives, making Halfus fall forward from his own momentum. Uryu then spins around in a massive wind vortex and kicks Halfus in the back of the head sending him slamming into the nearby wall.
“Halfus!” Reed exclaims. “Astrea, now!”
Reed jumps up and lunges down at Uryu at full speed. Astrea summons a fire wall and swirls it around Uryu.
“Now you have nowhere to go!” Reeds yells.
Uryu then gets into stance and slams his sword into the ground, “Void!”
The fire dissipates and Reed suddenly loses his acceleration and is free falling. Uryu then jumps onto the hilt of his sword and jumps up at Reed delivering a devastating moonsault kick breaking Reed’s neck. Reed drops to the ground before Astrea.
“Void?! A Talal?!” Astrea yells.
“I’m surprised you knew…” Uryu approaches Astrea.
“Nimbus!” Astrea summons a cloud and mounts it. She begins to ride away.
“I said…you would not live.” Uryu kicks up Reed’s sword and throws it towards Astrea. Astrea deflects the sword. As the sword is deflected a second sword appears from behind it and stabs her in the chest. She falls to the ground. Uryu walks up to her and looks down at her.
“You have not been altered. Yet you let their actions pervade. For this, you will bleed out on this street.”
Astrea gasps for air and reaches out to Uryu. Uryu walks away as her vision slowly dims.
“Clean up these bodies.” Uryu tells the guards.
“Are you… a Talal?” a guard asks.
“Speak of this to no one.” Uryu asks.
“Of course…thank you for your help.”
Back at camp Elana is sitting by the fire while Aiden is still meditating. Uryu arrives with a bag of food and supplies.
“We have to move.” Uryu proclaims.
“They sent royal guard to Bellstow. They are targeting areas around Lion’el.”
Aiden opens his eyes, “Are you alright?”
Uryu smirks, “Nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“You’re kidding right?” Elana raises an eyebrow. “I can tell from a mile away you’ve broken 3 ribs.”
“In any case, we must change our venue.”
“Right.” Elana agrees.
“Where are we going?” Aiden asks.
“I have a cabin out west. We’ll head there for now. It’ll be easier for us to operate out of there. And the folks in Palefoot are neutral.”
“Alright then.” Aiden begins to pack his stuff.
After packing up, Elana kicks dirt to the fire and they walk off into the distance.
“So – how many were there?” Elana asks.
“Two Blades and Mage.”
“You took on 3 by yourself?”
“No, there were town guards too.”
“Very funny.” Elana sighs.
“They were changed. A nefarious intent shrouded their faces.” Uryu explained. “The two Blades held dominion over Strength.”
“That’s impossible!” Elana remarks.
“No it’s not.” Aiden interjects. “That’s exactly what my father was experimenting on, remember the fight with Allen?”
“Yes, but I thought that was only a few people.”
“He must have progressed to the point in which he can infinitely supply the Royal Guard with essences of Amaranthine.” Uryu explained.
“…Infinitely?” Elana looks at Uryu, “So how did you survive then?”
“They relied too heavily on their aspects. They weren’t very cunning.”
“…Right.” Elana lingers in doubt and thinks to herself, “There’s more to the Talal than he is letting us believe.”
“Let us speak no more of this.” Uryu suggests.
A voice off in the distance shouts, “Wait!”
Uryu turns around, “You…”
“I wanted to thank you…for earlier.”
Elana fakes a cough and crosses her arms, “Master Uryu?”
“She was there when I fought off the Royal Guard.”
The woman interjects, “I’m sorry I followed you…”
Elana smirks, “The great Master Uryu was followed.”
Uryu grimaces at Elana.
“My name is Kalyn. Kalyn Starcry.”
Uryu responds, “Miss Starcry, you cannot come with us.”
“I must ha’my vengeance on Amar!”
“…Miss Starcry. Vengeance is the province of the wicked. It is not becoming of a lady.”
“Please…I ha’no’re to go.”
Aiden interjects, “Come.”
Uryu and Elana turn to Aiden in shock.
“The more the merrier.”
“Aiden…” Elana stops herself.
“Master Uryu, please – let’s move.”
Uryu lets out a sigh and continues to walk forward. Aiden beckons Kalyn to follow. Kalyn smiles and follows behind them at a safe distance, curled within herself. Uryu whispers to Aiden, “What are you doing?”
“Aiden…” Uryu scolds.
“How am I any different from my father if I turn away someone in need?”
Uryu looks at Elana who confirms Aiden’s feelings and smiles back at Uryu. Uryu then grins and continues to move forward confidently. Uryu motions for Kalyn to join him.
“Miss Starcry…we are on a very arduous quest. Do you have any special skills we can make use of?”
“I us’ta help my husband Feryl hunt.” Kalyn responded.
“I am sorry for your loss.” Uryu asks.
Kalyn nods and tears up.
Uryu changes the subject, “So you hunted?”
“Yes. We norm hunted the Vasarax and Chrobak for food.”
“Those are pretty large game. What did you use?”
“A long bow.”
Uryu grins, “Looks like we’ll have to make you a bow.”
“What?” Kalyn was baffled.
“If you’re going to fight the Amari with us, you’ll need a weapon.”
Kalyn smiles and nods at Uryu confirming his intentions.
“Our party is now complete.”
Aiden looks at Elana strangely.
“What? I’ve always wanted to say that.” Elana grins.
Elana then extends her hand, “Well we might as well make it official.”
Kalyn smiles and grabs Elana’s forearm.
“We’re going to need to train you how to fight.” Elana suggests.
“Oh…” Kalyn looks down in doubt.
“Don’t worry. It may not look it but we’re trained to fight from an early age. I am a master sorceress but I can hold my own in combat.”
Kalyn looks up at Elana and smiles, “I will do my best!”
Uryu raises his hand, “Now that that’s settled…let’s make haste”
Kalyn bows her head to Uryu, “Cruug’sal amon…”
Uryu nods in response.
“I’m sorry?” Elana asks.
Kalyn responds, “It is ho’we offer gratitude.”
Elana raises her head and eyebrows, “Ah, the old Crueg tongue.”
The group continues to walk.
“After the Great Armistice between Amar and Crueg; we were encouraged to abandon our old ways ‘n adopt the common tongue.” Kalyn explained.
“It must be difficult.”
“Why ar’ya fighting the Amar? You on’em guards.” Kalyn asks.
“It’s a long story…” Elana responds.
Elana attempts to cover all the bases of the story as the group arrives at Uryu’s cabin in Western Crueg, in the forests outside of Palefoot.
“Cruug’sal halaa for your loss, Miss Flaregraze.” Kalyn remarks.
“It’s quite alright. Please call me Elana.”
Uryu interjects, “I’m going to go collect some firewood. It has been quite awhile since I’ve been here. Kalyn why don’t you join me. Maybe we can get a good stave for your bow.”
Kalyn nods, “Yes, sa.”
Uryu taps Aiden on the shoulder, “Prepare the beddings and hay inside. The room is for our two ladies.”
Aiden enters the cabin. The floors were creaky and enveloped in webbing. He walked around to see some of the old equipment Uryu had used. A deprecated wooden shield and a bo staff warped out of shape. Aiden brought some bales of hay inside to set up bedding for night and used some old drapery to cover them up.
The forest is thick and shades the ground like a canopy with holes punched in it letting only a few rays of sun through. Uryu is walking through the brush collecting small pieces of wooden sticks as Kalyn walks alongside him.
Kalyn interrupts, “Please, Kalyn is fine.”
“I want to apologize.”
“What of it?”
“I should have intervened sooner…”
Kalyn cringes, “It’s.. alright.”
“What that man did to you is unforgivable…”
“Cruug’sal amon.” Kalyn nods.
“I got entangled in gauging the enemy.”
“The guards were saying you were a Talal. Hon’stly, I do’no what that is. But what you did to those Amari was incredible.”
“Most don’t know about my people. The destiny of the Talal and Amari people have been forever intertwined.”
“It’s a long story.”
“I’d like to hear it.”
Uryu takes a breath, “Well…let’s make our way back, I’ll give you a small history lesson.”
Kalyn nods. They both pick up the last of the wooden sticks and start walking back.
“My people, the Talal, were a reclusive group. We kept to ourselves most of the time and we shared land with the Amari. At the time the Amari were also a very quiet and passive society. Trade between our two peoples was a constant and there was never any conflict. It was at this time that Asperia and both our people were under the rule of Galeon Crueg.”
Kalyn interrupted, “Sa Galeon Crueg…our first King.”
“Yes. I was advisor to the Talal Chieftain Indio Aru”
“Wait…” Kalyn interjected again, “if you were alive back then that would make you at least…”
“186 summers lived.”
“Cruug’sal halaa…I d’n mean to curse. But you on’ look to be 60 at the least!”
“Our sense of time is stretched. My people are born with innate abilities. Those with the gift of swiftness often age at a slower rate than others. You are correct however, using the Asperian calendar I am around 62 or 63 summers lived physically. Three of your summers equals one to me.”
“Tha’s amazing…” Kalyn’s eyes shot open.
Uryu continued, “Under Galeon Crueg, Chieftain Aru and Amari Lord Sang Elderborn both kept their people relatively peaceful. It wasn’t until Lord Sang was mysteriously assassinated that things started to heat up. Of course neither I nor Chieftain Aru were responsible. He was succeeded by his son Bragg Elderborn. He was a foolhardy Lord. He coveted our gifts the most. Then the Cataclysm happened.”
“The birth of Amaranthine, the all crystal.”
Kalyn drops her firewood, “That thing was born?!”
“Let me clarify. It was made.”
Kalyn picks up all her firewood.
“It is still a mystery to this day how it was made. But the Cataclysm shook half of Asperia and drove a wedge straight through Talali and Amar. The day of – our people had almost entirely been wiped out for reasons unknown. They all fell as if their souls had been taken. Chieftain Aru’s last order for me was to take a small splinter cell and retreat into the foothills. My cohorts and I watched as Bragg Elderborn and a few Amari rode through our city and killed the remaining survivors. The massive upheaval gave rise to Mount Amar and within it the all crystal. Forged from the souls of the Talal and their gifts within. It was when Galeon Crueg arrived with a battalion that Bragg Elderborn demonstrated for the first time – dominion over a worldly power. He single handedly rendered the entire battalion useless. It was at that moment that I knew he had sold his soul to the crystal. Ever since then, on an Amari’s 8th rising – the crystal bestows its gifts. They teach their children that it chooses an ever bearer every 500 years-to divert from the real creation story of the all crystal. But…this time it really has chosen an ever bearer. An heir to the will of the Talal.”
Kalyn interrupts, “Is’at who that boy is?”
Uryu smiles, “That is the question. When Bragg fell ill his son Garroltis took up the mantle and throne. And that is when he went to war with Crueg Empire. He slayed Galeon Crueg and forged an armistice with his son Terran Crueg pledging half of Asperia and an end to the war. No one knows why Garroltis did such a thing. He could have had his way with all of Asperia. But the rumors were at that time that he was also ill. I thought at the time that perhaps the dominion promised by the all crystal needed to be balanced. Garroltis probably knew this and strategically ended the war until he could recover to full power. But that is all speculation.”
Uryu and Kalyn arrive back at the cabin. Aiden is sat in front of a fire that Elana had conjured using dried tinder and a few wooden logs.
“What took you guys so long?” Aiden remarks.
“Yeah, the kid and I caught our dinner and it’s sitting here getting cold.”
“Were having a long discussion?” Aiden interrupts.
“How did you?” Uryu puts the firewood down by the fire.
“The air. It was constant with a few short vibrations here and there but its pace was slow. Then the vibration stopped and there was a large interference. Then it continued forward…”
“I am impressed Aiden…” Uryu claps slowly. “You read that entire scenario simply from the vibrations in the wind…”
“I had a lot of time to sit here and think on it.”
“Well lets get you two some dinner.” Elana interrupts, “Chrobak legs are on the menu.”