English corrections by Edward Anthony
The war had been raging for 47 years. The numbers of dead were so great within the first 5 years that official records ceased to be kept…
For years, citizens of the Realm trained themselves and their kin, sharpened their swords, strung their bows and harnessed the powers of magic in their effort against the Dread Lord and his Forsaken Legion.
Through cunning, strategy and guile, King Hazel III was able to prepare his Kingdom Arkadia - the last and strongest bastion of humanity - for the ultimate fight that was yet to come. Countless hours and elite soldiers were spent in the search for the Realm’s mightiest artefacts. The locations of these required seemingly unending days and long nights in the Royal Library, where the king and his litany of druids, magicians and general scoured arcane tomes for vital clues. With these clues, it was in the War Room where the King hatched plots and missions to track down the items he believed would win the war.
The King’s most prized artefact: the Hammer of Life.
King Hazel had two sons, Hart and Hazeli, in whom he saw enormous potential. He trained them in the Ways of The Paladin, granting them access to the Holy Armory, within which lay the most legendary artefacts and the learning and knowledge required to use them.
The vast legions of the Dread Lord laid siege to the Great Castle, flanking the battlements from the South and the East. The armies of Arkadia held these two key positions; one vanguard led by King Hazeli blood heir successor of the Arkadian throne, the other by his younger brother, Hart True the Mighty paladin.
With his immense power for healing and wielding the Hammer of Life, Hart True successfully defeats his foes. Amongst the spoils of war, Hart is able to claim the Corrupted Scepter, at the centre of which lies the Royal Healing Crystal, a terrible weapon that allowed the Dread Lord to transform all living beings into loyal, demonic fiends, dark and determined to do his bidding.
The war has raged for 58 years, and the costs were too many to count.
Facing defeat and damnation, entire countries within the Realm had collapsed and been wiped out. With dwindling numbers and shattered hope, some survivors become desperate and begin to conspire against the Kingdom of Arkadia.
Whilst to many Hart True was a hero and saviour of the Realm, others did not look upon him so kindly. Sharpened tongues and pointed fingers blamed the Royal family of Arkadia for their ruin and misery.
The accusations of guilt and a fear of his immense power lead many in the Realm to no longer see Hart True as a symbol of light, but instead as a terrible being capable of massive destruction. Faced with no other choice, Hart fled into exile, carrying with him the Corrupted Scepter.
Only a hero of such magnitude and purity could be entrusted with a device of such power.
"The Great Battle for Arkadia"
(1 month after the Great Battle)
Venturing into a hostile and broken wilderness, the Paladin travelled towards the North East, setting sights on the highest mountain range in the land. Once there, he sought shelter in a rudimentary hut, near to the Dragon’s Lair, taking refuge from humanity’s greed and vanity.
In order to prevent his weapons from falling into evil hands, Hart True buried the Corrupted Scepter, the Hammer of Life and his brilliant golden armour in the foundations of the hut, safe in the knowledge that no mere man would ever seek them here, nor brave the perils of the Dragon’s mountain.
For ten long years, Hart True remained utterly alone in his exile. Solitude and loss took root in his mind, his only strength coming from his devotion and his faith. His dreams became cold, abstract images or stark, chilling nightmares. Images of war and the constant reminder of his loneliness plague his every waking moment, and sleep brings no comfort or solace.
Hunting and surviving off a harsh land, Hart True prayed every night that his Kingdom stays free from the threat of corruption.
Days become weeks become months become years. Hart True, the Paladin Hermit, no longer had reference for the passing of time beyond the movements of the Sun and his memories of battle.
Whilst out hunting, he encounters a mysterious stranger, the first human contact he has had since entering exile. A terrible blizzard raged against the mountain; Hart’s pure spirit beckoned the traveler inside to share his food, his shelter and his fire. The traveller gazed upon the rickety shack, but fearing that the intensity of the storm was growing, accepted the exiled Paladin’s invitation, and entered.
“-Thank you so much, it’s really rough outside right now! Your hospitality is appreciated, stranger. I haven’t seen storms this vicious before.”
“-It has been many moons since I saw another soul on the mountain. I am tired from a day’s long walk; my mana is depleted. The storm was too severe, I could not cast the necessary fire spells. So I continued to walk!”
Silence filled the room as Hart sought for the right words. It had been many years since he had spoken to another living soul...
“-You are indeed lucky, Traveller. But what brings you to this lonely Mountain? It is rare to see any living thing this far near the peak.”
“-I am on my pilgrimage. I must cross these mountains in search of the Light, and return with my findings to The Institution in two weeks. But pray, what shall I call you, gracious host? And what brings you here to this desolate place? I need not tell you of the
danger of the weather here; not to mention the tales of dragons that live deep in the belly of these mountains…”
After years of living surrounded by the loneliness of the Mountain and the darkness of his past, Hart felt unsure of even how to interpret the word. It seemed to take on a new form and meaning, or maybe it had lost some of its ancient value in the time he had been in exile. But Hart was a Paladin, a servant of the Light. He had been born with the strength of this warrior clan, and had grown to be the greatest Paladin of all time. Hart immediately saw that the traveller was not telling the whole truth. Why would anyone come here of all places, facing potential failure and certain danger, to find the Light? The traveller, Hart realised, was looking for Hart, or his buried weapons. He decided to play along with the travellers tales, and hope to decide whether he was friend or foe before it was too late.
“-My name is Khorr. I used to be a blacksmith before the war came. I have come here to find peace. The Great Battle took everything from me.”
“-The Great Battle? Surely you cannot mean the Great Battle of Arkadia?! That was over a century ago… my grandfather fought in this battle; he was a great magician in his time. But it is impossible! You must be confused with some other conflict….”
“Grandfather?! Over a 100 years ago?!”
- You’re correct. I must have grown confused, living here alone. But I see you are tired, traveller. You must gather your strength before you return to the mountain, and continue to look for this Light that you seek. Please, stay the night by my fire.”
The traveller nodded, thanking his host for his kindness. Both men had the sense that the other was lying to them. How dangerous these lies were, would have to wait till morning...
The next day the weather was calm and quiet once again. Hart’s chest was slightly aching and he had made a profound nightmare that night.
When he woke up, the traveler was already gone. Something inside him told him to check if his hammer, armour and most importantly the Corrupted Scepter were still in place, hidden from all. He rushed outside like a madman, using a few rusty magical spells to make way and clear the heavy pack of snow that covered the chest buried.
It was a long time since Hart’s did not call upon the Light, but It still replied to his call like the old days. He murmured more spells and a ray of light intensified below the ground made of strong ice until it burst and blew up a hole while he lifted the chest off 5 meter of ice. While he cracks open the chest to check if the items are still inside, Hart hears the sound of a cracked branch from a distant tree.
“N O O N E C A N K N O W”
He felt like the voice came from every direction at the same time. The voice was right, no one can know where the artifacts were hidden. He first used his might to pull the Hammer of Life to his right hand: the feeling given by the contact with the hammer was not as he remembered. He felt his senses leaving him for a second before being able to snap out of it. While throwing himself in the air in a burst of light in order to see where the sound came from by looking from above, he then started equipping his armour piece by piece without touching anything with his hands. Each piece of armour magically came to place itself on the right location on his body until the very last piece.
He looked in the direction where he first heard the crack while flying towards it. At first glance, he thought to recognize the traveler he invited to take shelter. But the more he would get closer, the more its humanoid shape would turn into something much bigger and more grotesque.
Had the Corruption re-surfaced on the realm?
Hart’s mind started spinning in a tornado of questions. In such moments he always relied on his inner judgement. Never his judgement had failed him, this was the way of the Paladin.
Once he flew close enough, he was sure of what he was seeing: a creature made of corrupted flesh, a monster similar to the ones he decimated previously during his whole life and especially during the Great Battle. No further hesitations could be made. This was the very thing he had sworn to destroy since birth, he had to cleanse it from the realm. This was the way of the Paladin.
“C L E A N S E”
Hart pulled his hammer up with his right arm and used his left hand to grab one of the small scrolls located on his legplates armour, he unrolled it and then murmured a few words that sounded like a chant. By the time he finished pronouncing the last words, a divine burst of light coming from the sky - similar to a hundred lighthouses aiming at the exact same spot - scorched his target, leaving it seared and blackened. He flew to the cleanse body and realized that it was carrying the clothes of the traveler he hosted previously.
The monster must have had killed the unnamed traveler and walked back on his footprints leading him to his hut. He knew all of the powers of the Legion, if there was one monster so far away from any civilization, towns or villages, many more must be devastating the realm at this exact moment.
Poor pilgrim, how could that happen? Why now? The Corrupted Scepter has been safe with me all this time! Is the realm in danger? What about big brother Hazeli and his Kingdom?
He had to head back to the Arkadia, only with his help Light could be brought back.
Hart True went back to his hut, took all his potions, elixirs, scrolls and pieces of armour before heading back to the chest containing the Corrupted Scepter outside. He took it and sealed it all in the heart of the mountain by using powerful spells.
It was time for him to leave exile, and bring back hope once again.
After a week of traveling south, it was night when Hart True finally reached the first nearby houses/farms. At first look, nothing looked out of place until he saw the deviant shadows casted from the oil lamp of aberrant body structures moving inside one of the buildings, his worst nightmare became a reality: the Corruption had found its roots back in the world. He could distinguish five evil fiends from the three humans even from this distance. A thunderblight would cleanse at least three of these buildings in one strike but would also cause human casualties. Humans must be protected at all costs.
He had to try and save the livings and cleanse the enemy, he had to be smooth, attack quick and think fast. After fighting the Legion for all his life, he knew more on how to cleanse them than how to collect mushrooms and cook. The gold on his armour shined so much it glowed in the dark like a small sun. Stealth was not an option in a Paladin’s mind. He grabbed one of the two books on his waist holster and opened it at the right page without looking at it - still scouting at the scene happening in the house in front of him. The first spell he casted sparked an even shinier gold light emanating from his legplates; giving him enhanced mobility.
Despite the extreme heavy weight of his armor he started running with the zele comparable to a cheetah; cutting a 350 meter distance in a matter of few seconds. After a few more mumbling murmures while running, a light came striking his father’s hammer and started making it glow with a purple fire that looked like smoke. Accumulating acceleration, the Paladin used his mighty strength and speed to smash the concrete wall with his left shoulder, and gave a strike to the closest aberrant. The impact of the hammer on the monster made a crushing noise of broken bones - almost as loud as his previous entrance through the wall - leaving it completely obliterated. Four monsters to cleanse, he leaped towards the two ones that were the closest to the humans in the middle of the room and turned them both to ash in one hit leaving a mix of liquid flesh and bones splattering all over the left side of the room.
The screams of the woman standing in the middle of the room went strident and by the time Hart looked back, she had turned into a Banshee. The strident scream of the Banshee made him collapse and fall on his right knee and caused his ears to bleed. As he used his hands to cover his ears from the extremely high pitch noise, his hammer fell on the ground along with the holy book he was holding. As he gave another glance at the Banshee, he realized that the two men that were standing next to her felt on the ground and were most likely already dead given the proximity they had with the specter. The two others remaining monsters ran toward him with blunt weapons and struck him with full power making him fall on his back. The strong hit taken on his head suppressed the strident scream of the Banshee for a second, enough for him to lunge for his book and cast a consecration spell that cleansed the whole building with a blue fire leaving only him standing.
Making way off the fire, Hart left the building through the main door and realized that the few houses in the village were burning. He found three more beasts rushing at him with barbarous weapons, he quickly scrolled a few pages back on his book and called upon the light, the three foes were evaporated. He could find no more signs of life.
He had to find humans and question them, he needed to know how long he spent in exile from the world - alone in the mountains far from any signs of humanity. How could he possibly have spent over 100 years there? His body did not age a single bit since he left the kingdom but he could feel that his mind was weighting; his thoughts felt a bit heavy and clogged. He had issues remembering his childhood memories, his education.
No, the traveler must have been dellusionary.
Furthermore, Hart’s needed to know what happened to the realm, how could such corruption happen again? Too many questions unanswered and he was all alone. Was alone for too long. Way too long.. He wanted to see a friendly face.
He tried focusing on the situation ahead of him, and departed for the closest town called Nahtuk just a few days of walk from his location, enough time to replenish his mana and full strength. Nahtuk was a place famous for their skilled-born wizards and sorcerers. If that town is taken by the Corruption, he knew it would not be wise for him to pick up a hand-to-hand fight with the beasts.
Road to Nahtuk
(X years after the Great Battle – Unknown Era)
He encounters a few villagers and travellers who turned into ghastly creatures, he cleanses them and finds that the Hammer of Life lost some of its attunement while fighting: he had to conjure the same spell 3 times before the hammer allowed its blessing which almost cost him his life. If he could not rely on his father’s legendary hammer anymore, he knew he could always rely on his Might. His Faith was unshaken, he would cross the 7 seas in order to bring back the Light everywhere on the Realm.
Hart arrives at the gates of the City of Nahtuk, it is infested by demons. He decides to sneak in the city by crossing the river north west during the night. After locating the Templar Tower, Hart finds a way to enter the building in the dark.
7. Shadows of the Realm: Part IV
Revelations at the Magic-City
(X years after the Great Battle – Unknown Era)
The City of Nahtuk was full of wizard beasts, some of their souls seemed to harbor much more power than most of the fiends he had fought before in his life.
The Paladin made a stealth entrance by night into the Magic-City of Nahtuk. In a desperate search for information about the state of the realm, he must make way to the Templar’s Tower located on the edge of the city. Although magic and wizardry reigned supreme in Nahtuk and its region, every major city of the world owned an ancient Templar’s Tower.
Back in the ancient times, these towers had been built in strategic locations across the map in what used to be mainly : desert places. Long after their constructions, as the City of Nahtuk is an example, citizens of the realm travelled to such buildings to seek knowledge, shelter and guidance. Leading to the surroundings of these Towers to be inhabited to the point of creating whole villages and as for Nahtuk, whole mega-cities. Some Templar’s towers were constructed over 800 years ago where the oldest is said to have been built over 1100 years ago by the first Templars.
Similar to religious groups: the Templars have built these immense and indestructible towers over the world in the aim of saving all known human, environmental and magical knowledge of the realm, as well as creating eternal “safe spaces”.
Avoiding the city gates and the guarding sentries, the Paladin found an adequate entrance by following a narrow path through the woods north-west of the city. His powers allowed him many ways of entering the city, but his instinct told him to stay quiet and stealth for as long as possible. He could sense the magic essence/power in the city from the mages and citizens.
Without using any spells, by fear of getting his presence discovered, he uses his grappling hook from a tree to leap above the fortified wall of the city. From that very moment he landed foot inside the magic-city, the Paladin felt a presence laying eyes on him but he could not pinpoint a clear direction. Maybe his senses were playing games with him again… but he could not take the chance and risk it all, he had to hurry to the Templar’s tower and head to the 40-50th floors where the libraries are located.
Carefully making way to the tower, Hart entered it and climbed the stairs. Once upstairs, he found the library he was looking for, and more particularly: the Sacred Libram MXIII. Strangely, although the binding techniques and magic ink used by the priests-librarians would keep it readable for the eternity of time: the encyclopedia seemed to have taken quite a toll from aging. He picked it up from the shelf and went to place it on the table located in the middle of the room. He opened it and started scrolling the pages…
After the Great War, the existing social order completely broke down. All the people cared about was primary needs: food, water and a place to sleep: the rest became futile. Gradually, the societies of the Realm outside of the kingdom of Arkadia succumbed to the seduction of anarchy, chaos and in some places the extreme rise of totalitarianism, like the Realm caught into the coldest of all spells. Fascism and extreme theocracy started to reign supreme. Right after the World lost 70% of its population during the Great War against the evil forces of the Dread Lord and his corrupted army: wars followed, leading to more atrocious massacres… Deprived from food, water and other major resources, chaos settled itself once again in the world of Helra. Peace had lasted only a several years
While reading, Hart feels a hostile presence getting closer to him. He readied himself for an ambush.
Hart makes way to the stairs, readying himself and his spellbooks for the fight that was to unveil. More and more souls were approaching his position and he felt at least two dozen troops with killing intentions already within the four walls of the tower itself, they had passed on the main gate and were already coming up the stairs.
Hart decided to save a little bit of time, trying to get his senses together after realizing he spent a century long hidden in exile without aging even a tiny bit. He tried to find a side exit to avoid the incoming troops heading his way which resulted in the Paladin climbing up more stairs reaching a total of hundreds of floors. He could hear the enemy’s footsteps and what seemed to be screaming orders of the soldiers right down the stairs. Once he reached the top floor on the open air, Hart found that it was the best ground to meet and fight his opponents. He did not want to have to cast any spells and hence destroyed sacred parts if not whole sections of the ancestors’ sacred work ; for his power would obliterate not only his enemy but also all of its surrounding environment. He would wait for them here and take them down. Just as he expected, the upcoming forces were closing up on him and quickly reached the top floor where Hart was standing. About two dozens of the wizards-beasts joined in and they started their offensive after surrounding the Paladin in a circle.
Holding the spellbook in his left hand and his heavy legendary hammer on the right, the Paladin already started mumbling a few words, reciting words from the book. By the time the first monster leaped toward Hart, the Hammer of Life glowed of an incandescent fire which first started glowing with an intense blue aura and quickly turned to red before ultimately showing black edges on the tip of the highest flames. « The eternal Holy Fire ». The first blue light emanating from the hammer grew such an intense aura that it blinded all of his enemies and once, and the Paladin stroke the first target that was leaping blindly his way with two daggers, leaving nothing but a calcined and seared uniform shape which entirely decayed into white ash in only a matter of seconds. With elegance and precision, Hart swung his fery hammer to the enemies surrounding, leaving trays of fire on the metal-concrete that formed the rooftop of the Templar’s Tower on which they stranded on top. He quickly annihilated all of them, and started to make way towards the stairs to exit the tower from where he came from : the only gate leading in and out the building.
Hart looked for resources such as regenerative potions of health and mana he could use while going down to the lower levels, but felt even more souls approaching his vicinity. Now there were many more than before, maybe sixty to eighty of them. He had consumed considerable amounts of energy casting a few powerful spells back on the rooftop and knew he wouldn’t be able to slay all of them. To his advantage, the tower’s narrow floors could only accommodate a very low number of people due to its specific design. His best chance was to make efficient use of the tower’s narrowness to annihilate his foes while reaching down each and every floor until the very first one and ultimately ; exit the building.
The Paladin stuck to his plan, making use of the little space to destroy his enemies one by one and carefully taking care of not causing too much irreparable damages to the Templar’s fine and ancestral work.
Decimating everything on his path, Hart ended up exhausting his powers fighting the talented beasts and got struck by many spells and blows that led him to ooze blood from his many wounds. Seeking for the Light, the Paladin fainted and found only darkness within…
When he opened his eyes, he was still standing laying on the ground just a couple of meters from where he previously fainted. His body felt numb but somehow regained some of its energy, he could feel a sort of vital essence flowing through his veins. He looked left and saw that all the monsters he was previously fighting were laying on the ground. Their body seemed to have been sucked dry like a vacuum swallowing them from their insides. Their skin was pulled on their bones with absolute atrocious grim faces expressions like they saw something absolutely terrific before their death came, and with extreme pain. It seemed like their whole vitality had somehow been absorbed, leaving nothing but dry bodies lacking all signs of life and energy.
He heard a voice calling him and saw a man in a black dress covered in a shroud with a long black cape.
« Paladin ! Wake up !
Paladin ! Can you hear me ? Are you alright, can you move ? We must go now ! »
Hart felt dizzy but understood his situation and tried standing on his two feet. He could barely walk, he followed the mysterious man that had just saved his life all the way up to the rooftop of the tower. Blocking the entrance to the stairs by casting a blowing spell, the shrouded man proceeded to draw a circle on the ground with very complex geometrical forms that took shape within it.
Once he was done drawing, the contours of the circle started glowing out of nowhere. Hart didn’t know if he was hallucinating or not. The mysterious man asked him to step within the center of the glowing circle. After stepping inside, the intensity of the light glowing from the drawn shapes increased considerably almost blinding the paladin. He felt his body dismantling while everything in the surrounding world seemed to flicker until complete whiteness appeared and his mind felt detached from his body. For a second he felt like he could see himself from different angles in the third person. The sensation quickly vanished and he found himself projected to the ground in a completely different location. The mysterious man had just teleported both of them to a new place.
Rend, the Noble Sorcerer
(130 years after the Great Battle – Era of Strife)
“I am Rend, from the Heralt family. This is my family’s mansion.” Said the mysterious man. His gaze was both sharp and deep.
“Heralt family… the Noble Sorcerers?”
“Yes, I have observed you enter Nahtuk and I’ve seen you fighting and I believe you are not less special, I am wrong?”
“ I have been following you since you arrived close to Nahtuk, I could sense something within you that I am somehow very curious about. Who are you? I have saved your life after all, you might as well cut your silence. You owe me that”
“I am Hart… Hart True from the Arkadian royal family.”
“The legendary Paladin? Hart the Mighty, defeater of the dread lord and saviour of humanity?!”
“...” Hart didn’t know what to say.
“It is impossible, that would make you the oldest human being to ever live that long, and you look like a very young person… This cannot be! I have seen you using the powers of Light but why would a Paladin like you want to usurp the identity of such a legendary person?”
“I am not lying, I have no idea what happened to me or the realm while I went into Exile, it feels like I stayed in Exile for a short time, just a few years. This is why I had to reach the Templar’s tower of Nahtuk: to seek information.
I have been in contact with dervish corruption, similar to the fiends I have fought before during the Great War. So I decided to leave Exile and search for information. As a Paladin, it is my duty to heal and protect the realm from such Corruption. So I felt...”
Cutting Hart mid-sentence, Rend says: “... The realm has been corrupted and rotten to its core ever since the Great War, my parents told me stories about you… I need you to prove your identity Paladin.”
Knowing Rend saved his life, Hart carefully unstrapped his artifacts from theirs covers tied up around his waist and showed the Hammer of Life to the sorcerer. With extreme surprise, the sorcerer immediately confirms Hart’s identity. In awe, the sorcerer drops on his knees.
Rend was the most talented sorcerer and wizard of Nahtuk, during his early years at the academy he had shown the highest prowess and skills. At only 8 years old, Rend was able to generate spells only the most trained and talented adults were able to.
Coming from one of the wealthiest families of the realm: the “Heralt” bloodline, Rend had it all it his life. Wealth, power and ambition as well as lands and more. But one thing had always been missing on his heart: a raison d'être. Until this very encounter at least…
Rend’s family - the Noble Heralt clan - earnt massive amounts of wealth over the centuries mainly through the trade of their secret handmade magic potions. Although their products could be found all across the realm, they were manufactured by only one family member who would learn the hard processes of alchemy and secret craft-magic. During a lifetime of labour, the “Concocter of Spells'' would pass on his knowledge to a young chosen Heralt heir who would then take over following the death of his master. The Heralts accumulated such wealth that they were able to support in the war against the Corruption during The Long Dread Era, providing private benevolent military support as well as essential resources. The family members were given a very special education, which taught them extremely various disciplines varying from sciences, litterature, history and philosophy, foreign languages, spell casting, fighting and a lot of time dedicated to arts - mainly acting but in a realistic and impersonating way. Moreover, the Heralts were also taught less noble theories and practices such as how to steal and sneak in various environments, survival, the use of offensive spells, and more. Many legends regarding the Heralts ran around the world. As each and every member of the family was capable of manipulating high-class magic: rumours ran that experiments were made on the babies via the use of strong alchemy and ancient magic to increase its mana potential - the capacity for a human to wield magic was only given to 1 out of 1000 approx. - Other stories in Nahtuk said that their King was in fact a Heralt in disguise, which could be true given their past history and impersonating accomplishment:they had been mentions of them dressed up as homeless in order to retrieve crucial information in enemy territory during a past geo-political war and suspicious sudden assassinations after studying and stealing the face and behaviour of an individual close to their target ID.
“A miracle… You are a miracle and a legend! The gods must have bestowed upon you the mighty task of cleansing our World from its Corruption for centuries and they are using you as their swords.
“I will help you in your mission dear Paladin. I have powers and knowledge that you do not have” says the sorcerer after a moment of silence. His eyes started glistening with content like filled with light and excitement.
His power was led by his insane curiosity about the world and ancient history, Rend wanted to know everything about the world since his earliest days. Thanks to his family’s extreme wealth, similar to Hart and Hazel’s access to Arkadia’s sacred library and armory built by their father the old king, Rend had access to privileged knowledge and sorcery from all 4 corners of the Realm. Greedy for knowledge, the wizard seeked and earned considerable powers through it.
But neither the “Light” nor a “raison d’etre” had blessed him so far, for the Light only listens to the ones It choses and not the reverse opposite.
“Paladin, I will follow you on your mighty quest” says the noble.
Today, after 29 years of living, Rend the Sorcerer had finally found a reason to live and to fight. All his life, he had been waiting for this sign of “light” - for this precise moment.
(130 years after the Great Battle – Era of Strife)
The closer they got to Arkadia, the greater was the level of corruption which greatly worried the Paladin. Rend uses his mysterious magicians spells to raise the monsters cleansed by Hart. They grow an army and continue their way to Arkadia.
In addition to being able to teleport, one of the greatest skills of Rend was his ability to use the fallen enemies’ vital energy and somewhat absorb it for various uses although it used a tremendous amount of mana and required him to rest afterwards. He would often redirect that energy towards healing his and Hart’s wounds from battle, which came very handy, making both of them able to support each other in healing at any given moment - for as long as they had enough mana in reserve. The sorcerer surely knew many secret spells that would seem to be miracles at the eyes of a Paladin who had never seen or heard of such before. Such wizardry was more ancient than the existence of the Templars in the realm of Helra, being long forgotten ; they would seem obscure and pagan in the eyes of a Druid or a priest especially within the Arkadian kingdom. Acquiring such knowledge was forbidden in Arkadia but accepted in Nahtuk and its surrounding region. Hart had never witnessed it before, but he was glad to have found such a skilled partner in his quest. Not only the sorcerer was able to heal, he was also able to redirect the vital essence into fallen bodies.
One day during their trip across the continent, Rend brought back to life an hindered dog that had collapsed on their way. Laying dead in the middle of the road, Rend used some of the vital energy he kept from previous combat – using his mysterious dagger as a vessel and recipient for such magic containment. Before that moment, Hart never really paid attention to Rend’s equipment; the sorcerer’s gestuel seemed different when it came to manoeuvering his dagger comparable to a dance where his movements always seemed to float especially when it came to unsheath it, casting and sheath it back. The dagger’s blade was made of a black metal the paladin had never seen or heard before. Looking at it did not give him any good sensation; it somehow reminded him of his time spent in exile within the Dragon’s Mountains and all these years his mind spent there. The scabbard was embroidered with a thick “dreamweaver-cloth”, like being somewhat “alive”: this special cloth long exhausted in the realm holds magic properties allowing the threads to move around and form different shapes over time. Also known as the “capricious cloth” in some parts of the world, the threads might recede and end up fully disappearing if their support recipient is “not to their liking” or if “they” dislike their owner. The price per millimeter of the thinnest thread is estimated to worth over 200 million to 500 million gold; an amount so high that even the richest states could not dream of even having. Rend’s whole tunic was entirely covered by it. In the inside of his hood could be observed the fascinating constantly moving shapes switching colours and sometimes even materials. The outside was less obvious: the threads also moved but only in a far slower process, imperceptible to the naked eye - it only kept a tonal colour matching the dark black of his long coat.
Advancing towards Arkadia, the duo grew in considerable strength by increasing their numbers and gaining in power. From only two, they quickly grew to over ten thousand soldiers. These « servant soldiers » as Rend seemed to call them, were all listening to the voice and spirit of the sorcerer, who followed the Paladin with devotion and admiration. Without questioning themselves, the Paladin and the sorcerer decimated entire mobs of monsters in villages and sometimes towns. With their combined power, no-one in the Realm could stand in their ways. Like a tornado cleansing everything in their way leaving nothing behind but ash and desolation.
After two months of travel, they reached the sea and headed south to the small continent containing the Paladin’s home, humanity’s greatest bastion : the Great Kingdom of Arkadia.
(130 years after the Great Battle – Era of Strife)
Upon arriving at the gates of what once was the great kingdom of Arkadia, Hart, Rend and their revived army find themselves quickly surrounded by the New Legion. Seeing his kingdom in the hand of corruption turns his soul to pieces, but it is only when he sees one of the biggest monsters carry his family sigil that his heart turns into an erupting volcano of dark agonizing rage.
The paladin closed his eyes upon such an apocalyptic sight and heard Rend’s voice.
“It reeks of corruption my Lord.”
Entering the battlefield, Hart and Rend combined their fighting skills to its utmost perfection, coring each other’s back and slaying everything on their path. Due to the enemy's overwhelming numbers, their salvation army of “revived” loyal souls quickly perished, leaving a vast amount of corpses behind them. At every fatal strike, the duo instantly healed each other: Hart using his powers from the Light through his spellbook and Rend using the vitality of fallen soldiers both allies and enemies. Guided by the Paladin’s might and determination in his crusade, the sorcerer followed him with equal will. Oozing blood from his multiple wounds, Rend understood that this was his last fight. Upon seeing Hart getting striked one too many times, he knew for sure it wouldn’t be long before their combined strength diminished to soon reach defeat against their enemy. He needed to keep the Paladin alive at all costs, this was his task; he hence proceeded to the ultimate sacrifice… He pulled out a black coloured scroll from his dress and started incanting his final spell. As soon as he started incanting: the sky started to cover itself with a dark red glow similar to the colour of blood engulfing the whole battlefield above them and maybe even stretching to the whole continent of Arkadia. The sorcerer used his dagger curled in a mysterious shape to penetrate his heart with it while reciting words from the black scroll he had just unrolled a few minutes before. By the time he finished pronouncing the last words, everything surrounding him except for the Paladin started decaying, including every piece of biological, environmental matter and himself. Using all the vital energy that surrounded him at a 700 meter radius, over 5000 souls were engulfed and projected towards the red sky above their heads, and all of it seemed to be redirected to the Paladin, who suddenly felt bursting of energy.
Inhabited by the mighty gods’ wrath, the Paladin makes his way in the battlefield obliterating every single material and biological entities on his path. Swinging his legendary hammer and casting spells, Hart moves through the battlefield like a godly typhoon, leaving only death and destruction behind him.
Once again, he hears another voice, this time he knew it came from inside his head.
« Cleanse them all, old paladin – mightiest of all ! »
Hart raised the Hammer to the sky and after conjuring his thunderblight spell 6 times in a row, he felt the power within the hammer refusing his call. With rage, he threw the Hammer of Life to the ground, and lifted both his hands to the sky to call upon the Light. A light as dark as the darkest night came striking down the Great Castle and all its surroundings, turning all living things into ash.
One of the only demons who did not die instantly saw and recognized the Hammer of Life now laying on the ground surrounded by a black fire and tries crawling towards it.« Where have you got hold of such a powerful artifact? You are not worthy of the Hammer of Life, this belongs to my family and you will die for having it, or I shall die trying. »
« I am Hart True, The Lightbringer, true successor and protector of the Arkadian artifacts. »
« Hart the Mighty bringing death and corruption to the realm?! With Rend the Necromancer as his companion?! What kind of Paladin would that be? Hart died a long time ago in exile around the same time as my great grandfather Hazel the 4th. »
The Monster reached for the Hammer of Life and conjured a spell from his libram located a few meters away from him - although every pages turned black from the scorch of the thunderblight, the creature was able to throw a mighty spell at Hart, which strike sent him flying a couple of meters back. Blinded with rage, Hart responded by picking up Rend’s sword which was laying next to him and used it to cut his opponent’s throat.
Once the rage calmed down, Hart made a few steps to collect the legendary Hammer off the monster’s claws. While pulling the hammer off his hand, he finds a little crystal inside its palm tied up to a rope: a necklace holding his very own royal family sigil, engraved magically on inside the crystal is written King Hazel the 7th.
(130 years after the Great Battle – Era of Strife)
Hart takes realization of his nefariousness and all the atrocities he commited. Solitude and the contact with the Corrupted Scepter so close to him and for such a long period of time drove him insane. Even him, the mightiest Paladin - lost his head.
Maybe Rend saw in Hart the light that was once glowing inside him or maybe he was blinded by his powers like a religious fanatic denying himself the truth of life... Through madness and with the help of his powerful Necromancer companion, the Forsaken Paladin had brought Corruption back into the realm.
Nothing is more creative... nor destructive... than a brilliant mind with a purpose.
He found a mirror in the old room that once belonged to his mother the Queen and saw himself in tears wearing a fully rotten armour that once was made of the shiniest metal forged by the High-Clerics themselves. The family sigil placed on his chest plate changed into a dark degenerate rune. The ropes that used to hold his two librams and scrolls attached were once made of the finest silk cotton knitted in a royal knot pattern only craftable by Arkadia’s finest tailors : they had turned into heavy - rusty metal chain resembling the ones of prisoners.
The paladin realized he had killed and massacred common men, seeing them distorted as monsters, perceiving the corrupted and nasty intents deep within humanity’s souls. He was now no different from the Dread Lord he had defeated a century ago during the Great War side by side with Hazeli, his big brother. Something hidden inside him had turned him insane to the point he lost his judgement and reason. He was unsure of its origin, maybe it was due to his loneliness during the exile combined with the constant presence of the Corrupted Scepter he had kept with him all these decades… Anyways, the light had helped him cast shadows on the world, he had become the greatest shadow of the realm, bringer of disaster and death.
Upon realization, and with all the sadness of humanity in his spirit, he headed to his father’s beloved Royal Library, and took hold of the Divine Scroll. With the scroll in hand, the forsaken paladin then headed to the Royal Cemetery where his big brother was buried. He stayed there a while, with his eyes dropping water like an infinite fountain of sorrow.
There, in tears standing in front of his brother’s tombstone located right next to his father’s and mother’s, Hart opened up the crystal placed within the Corrupted Scepter he had been carrying all along and used the Hammer of Life along with what’s left of his soul to call upon the Light one final time…
A dark glowing light gradually covered the sky with high intensity and soon reached beyond the edges of the realm. The horizon turned orange, a new dawn was rising...
Leave a comment