Chapter 5 “Vocare Ad Regnum”
The air was still in his mind. As they sped through the terrain on magical streams, nothing else entered his thoughts. The image had been branded into his memory. The cloaked figure carried Aiden away, as the hope of his retribution was lost forever. From the moment of his 8th rising he had experienced nothing but death in the wake of his becoming. They came to an alcove just off of the southwestern shores of Renaultus, a small port town outside of Lion’el Castle. As the magical streams dispersed, they descended upon land. Aiden, stricken with grief could do nothing but lash out on the cloaked figure. Tears streaming down his face, his arms wailing, there was nothing the figure could do but hug and console him. Both his anger and sorrow were intertwined into one emotion.
“Why?!” Aiden continued wailing, “Why?!”
“Mine Prince…” the figure could do nothing but accept the pain.
As Aiden heard the words from the figure, he stopped wailing and stepped back. Why would some stranger call him Prince? Ever since he had fled the castle, everyone but Allen refused him as prince, and tried to kill him. Aiden drew Falkstream and got into a fighting stance.
“Who are you…?” Aiden questioned.
The cloaked figure proceeded to remove their cowl. Aiden was speechless.
“Mine Prince, I am Elana Flaregraze, Commander of the Mage Guards.” Elana flicked her hair and then stopped at a twist, “well…former commander I suppose.”
Aiden approached Elana with caution, “Why…did you-”
“You do know Allen has been in contact with someone?”
Aiden looked confused. After a few seconds, he finally gathered that Phalanx was to deliver a message to this person. Sorrow and rage returned to Aiden as he recalled a lack of Allen’s presence.
“…A mage guard…”
“Yes, mine prince.”
“And you did nothing…?” Aiden’s fist clenched.
“Allen was outnumbered, he was injured…” Aiden’s volume increased to a roaring scream, “YOU DID NOTHING?!”
Elana was taken aback as her eyes sharpened. She could not yield to her emotions and cast back at Aiden. She knew in her heart she had done the right thing. Allen had instructed her without Aiden’s knowledge that if the time came, she would ensure Aiden’s safety above his own. As strong as Elana was, she couldn’t hold all of it in. Her eyes sharpened even further, but her expression grew painful, as one tear emerged from her eyes. Aiden noticed as his posture and thinking took a step back. Elana turned around to shield her emotions and wiped away the one tear.
“I did- …what I had to do.” Elana expressed with severe difficulty.
Aiden didn’t know what to say. Without remorse, he had just blamed Allen’s death on Elana. Elana flicked her fingers in Aiden’s direction as he began to levitate.
“You need some rest.”
She brought him inside the small shack and laid him onto a stack of hay and summoned a blanket onto him. It really was Aiden’s first time witnessing magic. From an Amaranth’s rising, they are trained solely in melee combat until they have chosen their aspect. This ensured that no matter what they chose, they would all hold a firm and solid foundation in combat.
Aiden couldn’t hold onto a good sleep, as terrors of Allen’s death kept flashing before him. He awoke several times during the night. This time, he had heard something very saddening. He snuck out of the hay stack and crept up to the shack’s door. He looked out to see Elana by the campfire, cowl covering her head, sobbing. Tears streaming down her face, she was releasing every bit of emotion she had been keeping inside ever since Allen’s end.
“Allen! I could have helped you!” Elana was screaming to herself.
Aiden could hear just barely. Aiden felt bad for his earlier actions. Though he was being controlled by his emotions as well, no one should ever be blamed for someone’s end. Aiden was not aware of the nature of their relationship but seeing Elana like this, he knew they were very close. He crept back into the bed and tried to get some more sleep. Elana was still by the campfire shedding the last tears the ducts of her eyes could muster.
“You know, I see it Allen.” she was speaking to herself, “…there’s something special about this boy.”
Elana took out a pendant of a silver wing with a sword piercing through it. She had received this from Allen just a few weeks prior to the incident.
“I did what you asked. Aiden is safe. The boy actually summoned a wind storm the likes I’ve never seen. It was as if his aspect was being super powered by something. I’ve seen the wind storms Lotus can produce, Allen. This boy is only 8.” Elana looked up into the sky, “If you’re listening…I will make sure retribution is ours.”
The halls were dark and morbid. It was mute and empty around the whole castle. Garroltis was holding a meeting with the high commanders to ascertain the most recent events. Seated at the head of the table, he was surrounded by Balin Langriss, Viktor Talonhal, Chancellor Friede, and Arbiter Humber. There was victory in the air, and the expressions on their faces were of immense pride. Surprisingly, also among them was Silvia Coldwind. However, her eyes were sharp and blackened around the edges, as if neigh a soul remained. She sat beside Garroltis suspiciously.
Balin was first to rise, “I will get right to the point. Swiftstrike has ended. But we lost Aiden. Someone intervened at the last moment.”
Silvia responded, “It was Flaregraze.”
“How do you know?” Arbiter Humber questioned.
“Langriss, did they ride on the wings of air?”
“I was not able to see clearly, but they moved swiftly, like a Blade.”
Viktor interjected, “That was no Blade. They were definitely riding the air.”
“Before leaving, Flaregraze had told me that she was leaving to take care of something, and that she would not be returning. Furthermore, she was in league with Allen Swiftstrike. He had given her the Silver Wing of Fervor.”
Arbiter Humber stood up, “…the Wing of Fervor….”
Balin rubbed his chin, “Given her magical properties she would be able to activate its powers.”
Silvia continued, “Among the mages, she was the only one who could travel in that form.”
Garroltis sent a smile Silvia’s way as she returned the favor. Then he turned to them and grew angry.
“What is to be done about Aiden?” Garroltis slammed his fist into the table.
“We have no leads; their escape was veiled from us.” Balin answered.
“They now have the means to secure aid from Crueg. They still outnumber us 500 to 1.” Arbiter Humber asserted.
“Who cares? We’ll just crush them all with our new powers!” Viktor yelled.
“You are young yet, Talonhal. What of your new powers against 500 able bodied warriors, fighting for their very existence?” Balin continued, “You know little of battle…”
“I know if I can cut down Allen Swiftstrike, I can handle 500 men!”
Balin interrupted, “That was a concerted effort, Talonhal. And these are not just men. Every one of us would be up against 500 highly trained Crueg warriors. How many Crueg have you fought in battle, Talonhal?”
“…None…” Viktor digressed.
“The Crueg may not possess the all crystal. But what they lack in power, they make up for in numbers and skill. They are mighty warriors. We need to empower our whole army with the all crystal to make it an advantageous war.” Balin finished.
“He is right. As of now, Crueg would be a hindrance to our plans. If any of you are to defeat their numbers and determination, you will need the all crystal on your side even more.” Garroltis asserted, “Chancellor, begin experiments on the augmentation of the all crystal. Powers gained from essences don’t seem to be potent enough. We will need enough to secure a whole battalion of soldiers. We will see how things go from there.”
“And what of Aiden?” Viktor questioned.
“We have failed in that regard, Sir Blade. We have no choice but to meet Crueg in battle.” Balin responded.
Garroltis grinned, “Let my son come…I will end him myself.”
Silvia interjected, “We must be cautious, my love. The Crueg not only possess greater numbers, but they will now have the Flame Master Elana Flaregraze on their side.”
“What of the Flame Master, against my Frost Queen?” Garroltis witted.
Silvia smiled wickedly, as Garroltis stood up from his throne.
“Arbiter Humber, assemble all of the kingdom guard. We are consolidating our forces into one. The Royal Guard. From now, all commanders will report to Balin Langriss, our new High General of the Royal Guard.”
“Mine King, the honor is mine.” Balin kneeled.
Everyone made their exit as they all assembled in the Crystalline Halls. Garroltis sat at his throne as all the kingdom guard gathered in the middle of the court. Grenn was at the forefront of the Blades. He had no idea what was going on but he knew it had something to do with the recent events. He was confident that he had gotten all the Blades on the same page, but then he noticed something odd. Viktor was standing on the raised steppe of the Crystalline Hall along with Balin Langriss.
“What is he doing…?” Grenn thought to himself.
Arbiter Humber stepped forward and took out a scroll as if to announce a royal decree by King Garroltis, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court. Your King Garroltis Elderborn, does hereby decree, all Kingdom Guard shall be disbanded and rejoined into one complete unit known as the Royal Guard.”
Grenn’s eyes sharpened as several other guards from Blades, Mages and Armsmen were baffled by the news.
“In addition to the new Royal Guard unit, all guards will now report to Balin Langriss, the new high general of the Royal Guard. Blade Master Steelburn shall retain command of the Blades, Sorceress Coldwind shall also retain command of the Mages. However, central command lies with Balin Langriss and his new Vice General, Viktor Talonhal.”
The grumbling began. No one knew how to take the news. They were all certainly upset about this, as for thousands of years the guards had had a healthy competition with each other, but now they were one unit, that for all intents and purposes was nowhere near united. Grenn could not understand the sudden promotion of Viktor Talonhal. But they were about to find out.
“Balin Langriss, Viktor Talonhal your new High Generals stand before you as great examples of Amaranth brilliance! It is due to their concerted efforts that the criminal Allen Swiftstrike has met his end.”
The hall was filled with grumbles, and it had now turned into yelling. Grenn was astonished by this news. Viktor was supposed to be investigating the matter for him, but instead he seemingly had been working with Langriss to eliminate Allen Swiftstrike from the equation.
“How could you Talonhal…?” Grenn stepped forward and questioned in front of everyone.
“Blade Master Steelburn, this is not a forum-” Humber interrupted.
“Quiet old man!” Grenn was furious, “He was a mentor to all of us…how could you?”
“Steelburn…it’s quite simple.” Viktor smiled, “…it had to be done.”
“Screw all the high court politics! You were jealous!”
Viktor’s smile was a bit shaken by that statement, “Honestly, jealous of what? Being the almighty Blade Master?”
Grenn drew his sword, “Forget about titles. You were jealous because he was simply a better man…”
Viktor was growing angrier with every breath that Grenn was taking to insult him.
“How dare you…” Viktor drew his sword as well and got ready to receive Grenn.
Grenn lunged forward with a piercing attack as Viktor locked blades with Grenn.
“Enough of this!” Garroltis slammed his fist into his throne.
“Guards!” Arbiter Humber called forth, while most guards were hesitant to intervene, Silvia Coldwind stood up and pointed at her mage guards with a cold stare. A mage guard finally summoned a breath of fire and aimed it at Grenn. Grenn was forced back and began to flee.
“Do not let him escape!” Humber commanded.
The mage guards continued to run after Grenn as they cast fireballs and lightning bolts towards his direction. Grenn’s agility helped him dodge most of the attacks as he made his way out of the castle. The rest of the Blades were just looking down in complete anger but utter confusion. They didn’t know who to obey or what to do anymore.
Arbiter Humber interjected, “In light of these events, Viktor Talonhal will also be named Blade Master in Grenn Steelburn’s stead. Should anyone encounter Grenn Steelburn, strike him down with a cold malice!”
Explosions and sparks could be seen off in the distance as noise continued to persist throughout the castle. The guards exited from the hall as the chaos slowly ceased. Everyone from the Blades, to the Mages, down to the Armsmen were confused. Why was this all happening? So many lives lost, and for what? Many of them were still very much loyal to Allen Swiftstrike and Grenn Steelburn. Many of them were also growing very weary of Viktor Talonhal. Though, they had all agreed to weather the storm until they could figure out what to do. They were sure the other guards were having the same argument among themselves. With the departure of Swiftstrike, Steelburn, and Flaregraze, there was a strong possibility for insurrection amongst the royal guard.
Assembled back in the meeting room Garroltis assumed a furious face. Viktor, Balin and Silvia all took their seats. Chancellor Friede came out of the shadows as he always does and tried to calm Garroltis.
“Stay your anger, Mine King.” Friede suggested.
“You risk a lot by imposing such a thought on me, Friede.” Garroltis grumbled.
“Your guards will follow you yet.” Friede smirked, “…as you know, through scientific means we can procure abilities from the all crystal by extracting essences from those who have received the crystalline blessing. However, with time I believe we can fully integrate Amaranthine into you as the master host.”
“I’m listening Friede.” Garroltis took his seat.
“If we can infuse the Amaranthine Crystal into your body as its ever bearing host, we can essentially implant essences from you into the guards. Along with giving them strength to fight for us, they will be subjugated by the crystal. And as the ever bearing host of the all crystal, they will hold an undying loyalty to you.” Friede explained.
“You are sure of this method?”
“I can’t be too sure, but I need time to do some more research and make sure it is safe.”
“What are you waiting for?” Garroltis stood up.
“As you wish, Mine King.”
Friede immediately left the room to begin his work. Garroltis’ generals all faced the king as all their eyes met at the same time.
“Soon, the royal guard will be superior to anything the Crueg can send our way.”
Garroltis looked out the window at the horizon, “…and finally rule over all.”
The night was dark and the air was streaming against Grenn’s face as he raced against the wind fleeing. His thoughts were jumbled and chaotic. He still could not believe that Allen had ended. More than that, he couldn’t believe what was happening in the Castle. The prince assassinated, Swiftstrike a wanted man, Flaregraze leaving the Mage Guards. He couldn’t make sense of this past chain of events. But he put together whatever puzzle pieces he would work out and continued to run with swift agility toward Crueg Empire.
Aiden had woken up from a horrible sleep, but he tried to swallow it as both he and Elana were facing a similar nightmare. He walked outside to Elana sitting out front in a weird position with her hands flowing in the air. Crystals and sparkling embers swirled around her as if she was summoning something. Aiden didn’t dare to interrupt her.
“It’s all right. I’m just Focus Meditating. Channeling my magical powers.”
“Why do you do it?”
“Well, we mages have a certain will that allows us to cast spells. The more powerful the spell, the more it fatigues us. When we’ve reached our limit we can either drink some potions to give us more strength or submit. But drinking potions only gives us artificial energy, so our spells are less effective. We try to end the fight before that happens; or in the past had the Blades and Arms protect us while we Focus Meditated to regain our will.”
“Sounds like you guys were a liability on the battlefield.”
“Smart kid…” Elana smirked, “we were actually always behind the front lines as support. The Blade Guard and Armsmen were always so effective that we never had to engage in prolonged fights.”
Elana’s smile disappeared, “Aiden, Allen saw something in you that I have yet to fully witness. He knew what he died protecting.”
“I still don’t know either. He told me that there was something special about my Aspect. He actually tried to kill me one night and for some reason I stopped him. But I don’t know how I did it or was even conscious at the time.” Aiden looked at his hands.
Elana quickly threw her fingers across the air and pointed at Aiden, “Crystallus!”
A sharp icicle formed out of thin air and raced towards Aiden. He noticed it almost too slowly and looked up at it, but as soon as the icicle reached his face, his eyes grew vacant and the icicle dissipated. He had averted the attack yet he was still standing there with empty eyes, unconscious as if nothing was happening.
“Aiden?” Elana asked.
As Aiden emerged from his stasis Elana was quick to catch him before he fell.
“Aiden, are you there?”
“Elana….?” Aiden slowly gained consciousness.
“I knew it.”
“What…?” Aiden sat up.
“The all crystal…it somehow infused a part of itself within you. Not only do you have dominion over an aspect as an Amaranth should, it seems as though you have been chosen to be its ever bearer.”
“What does it all mean?” Aiden was utterly confused.
“We are taught from a young age about the all crystal, do you remember these lessons?”
“Yes, a little bit.”
“It is believed that every 500 years, the all crystal chooses to assimilate a part of itself with an Amaranth giving them not only their Aspect – but infusing its will into them. I believe that part of the crystal…is what is keeping you alive. It activates because it sees your death as a threat to its existence.”
“You mean I’m immortal?” Aiden suggested.
“Well, no you could still be incinerated or pulverized. So far it has kept you alive from mundane attacks that are otherwise lethal to someone as young and inexperienced as you.”
“Then-“ Aiden started.
“It is protecting you Aiden.”
Aiden looked down at his hands and began to scan his body. He was overwhelmed by this knowledge. Had the all crystal really chosen him to be its ever bearer?
Elana’s eyes squinted, “…trouble.”
Suddenly a masked vigilante appears from thin air above Elana and Aiden and with a quick slash overhead he attacks them. Elana grabs Aiden quickly and teleports away.
“Your senses are still as good as I remember them, Elana.”
“Who are you?”
The masked man took off his mask and revealed his face. Elana quickly smiled and ran to hug him.
“Grandmaster Uryu!” Elana elated.
“Child, it is good to see you are still alive and well. After receiving word from Allen, I knew something was wrong. Where is he?”
Elana backed off and turned away. Aiden was still confused as he just stood there eyeballing the both of them.
“He was taken.” Elana hesitated, “he has ended.”
Uryu looked down and stroked his beard, “That is quite unfortunate. I’m sorry Elana. I suppose his intention from the beginning was to die protecting this young man. Seeing as he had led you and I here.”
“Aiden Elderborn, sir.” Aiden politely introduced himself.
“I’d prefer it if you just called me Master.” Uryu smirked.
Elana turned around, “What are you talking about?”
“Along with leading me here, Allen also requested that I take in this young man to be my apprentice. After all he has chosen Agility as his aspect?”
“You’re going to train Aiden?” Elana was overwhelmed.
“Allen had requested this of me. And while I was hesitant, he assured me that this young man had potential. If Allen died to protect this young man, I must honor his wish.”
“This is insane!” Elana exclaimed.
Uryu started laughing as he waved Elana off, “Don’t worry about it! I’ll go a little easier on the kid this time around.”
Elana’s palm met her face as she shook her head.
The air around the area smelled of burned ash. The smoke was still very prevalent as Grenn approached the grotto. Dead Blades sprawled all over the field. Patches of land and rock scorched. As if a battle had taken place.
“This is where it took place…” Grenn froze, “…where Allen died.”
Grenn walked over to the center of the field and took a knee. He smelt the ground to assess how long ago the battle had taken place. He then picked up the cloak beside him.
“Hold on…this is Allen’s…”
Grenn scanned the perimeter of dead bodies and around himself.
“I’ve found your cloak old friend…now where are you?”