THE CIRCLE OF LIGHT
Character: Rayven Astar
Weight: 14 Stone
Hair: Short Brown / Grey
Ethos: Holy Knight
It is said by my people that a great time of suffering shall behalf us where everything we love and hold sacred shall be destroyed into dust and flames, however it is also said that from within this time of suffering we shall learn, that we shall will learn to suffer and that we will find ourselves lost and walking alone in the great footsteps of Thystonius but that from within this suffering a war will be born, a war like no other.
I call to you now my ancestors and promise you with honour that your deaths will be avenged and that the people who destroyed our home will once again feel the justice of our blades, for ten years I have walked this path of suffering and have trained my senses and abilities into little more than an instrument of war and can promise you brothers we shall sing once again, we shall sing once again in the glory of war and shall take back what is rightfully ours, we shall once again take our place within the golden kingdom.
(Rayven Astar – Knight of the Rising Sun)
Many years ago in the ancient lands of Vivane there lived a small and noble house named the (Knights of the Rising Sun) and for many years they lived in peace and prosperity in the lands of Vivane building a natural society on the foundations of religion and military practice and built a small but formidable army including various strongholds that soon started to attract new citizens who were looking for safety and a new life, and over the following years the house slowly began to grow in both size and power and while it did stick firmly to the religious and military values of the old world they managed to build a small and peaceful kingdom.
The great knighthood was born and for many years in the lands of Vivane one of the greatest honours and most difficult challenges in all the lands was to be chosen to be a knight of the rising sun, this was not only a great honour that was only given to a 101 people each year but was also one of the most difficult challenges of most peoples lives seeing many people fail the tests, as after been picked any new student would undergo years of intense combat and military training that was designed to test every aspect of their physical and mental abilities, and while this process of study and training was slow the end result was a virtual super soldier who had undergone years of the most intense training making them both a highly motivated and extremely resourceful warriors.
However perhaps the strongest and most well known symbol of the knighthood was the huge gleaming gold plate armour that they use to wear, each set specifically built for the bloodline of the owner and it was these highly crafted sets of plate mail that became the symbol of the knighthood, and a symbol of honour and bravery that spread across the land, in fact such knights were treated with both pride and honour wherever they went as on seeing one you knew he had trained at the great military academy of the rising flame making him a highly trained and intelligent warrior of great power, each one alone a force to be reckoned with.
(Knight of the Rising Sun)
However their rise to power also put the knighthood in direct conflict with various other factions in the land and it was these knights, these soul protectors out in the wilderness that acted as a guard who protected the lands of Vivane from countless invasions from the South making them the guardians of the lands with a sphere of influence that once reached from the great Danaba River right the way to the Stormhammer Jungles, and for many years these brave knights were both the friends and the protectors of the people of Vivane with many swearing loyalty and friendship towards them.
(The Knight of the Rising Sun were seen as the friends of Vivane and were welcomed openly)
However all of this was about to change as after hundreds of years protecting the lands of Vivane a new star was rising into the sky and that dark star was Thera who planned to control and enslave the lands of Vivane and Barsaive. In the beginning everything was fine with the new nation of Thera and the Knights of the Rising Sun were glad to have a new and seemingly diplomatic nation within the lands and hoped Thera would help protect the people and lands of Vivane, it was some years after that point when the slaving operations began that the knighthood was proved wrong.
It was at this point that relations between the two crumbled seeing the smaller knighthood openly oppose Thera’s slaving operation which eventually lead to war, fighting and winning various battles the outnumbered knights proved their worth in combat but were soon over run by rabble and sheer numbers flooding from Thera and had to resort to hit and run tactics aimed at the trade and slaving operations of the evil giant, and sadly this state of war lasted for countless years until eventually the knights overrun by the vast coffers of Thera had to retreat back and prepare for the coming scourge using plans stolen during the great construction projects.
Not long after this people began sealing themselves away for the coming Scourge and in 5 or 6 specially made strongholds around Vivane the last of the great knights locked themselves away still besieged in a state of war with Thera. From there like we all know time changed everything and the coming Scourge changed the face of our lands forever, some of the knights died out in lonely holds that believed not of their teachings, some holds were breached by the Horrors killing all of the people inside, some however managed to stay alive and keep the traditions of old going forming expertly run kaers that were like virtual knight training camps deep underground, and it was these strongholds that was to become the future of the knighthood, it was in these strongholds that secrets thousands of years old wear passed down.
Many years past and on opening the doors to the world the knighthood found a damaged and Horror infested world but managed to keep safe in their mountain side bunker and all was well with the knighthood seeing them once again begin to explore the lands and start to rebuild their nation, that was until Thera arrived to finish the job they had started hundreds of years ago, and with no mercy or warning they fell upon the knighthood using fire cannon and great ships to slaughter innocent women and children who has just seen the world for the first time, and after fighting a bitter and outnumbered battle the last surviving knights fled to the four winds looking back and seeing their once proud kingdom in flames and under Theran flags.
It is not known how many knights survived or where they are, the only thing that is known is that they are planning their revenge and that the prophecy of their people says a great time of suffering shall befall them but that each knight has been trained in skills that he will need during this time of suffering, and these skills like a jigsaw will once again fit together building an entire war to reclaim their lost homeland and destroy the nation of Thera, for now at least the last of the knights lay in hiding around our world slowly gathering power and planning their revenge, for now at least there are entire suits of gleaming armour sat in dusty store rooms that are waiting to be worn again.
The History of Rayven Astar – Knight of the Rising Sun
My name is Rayven Astar one of the last survivors of the House of the Rising Sun and my people have been at war now for over 700 years and have given everything to protect the lands around us, we were once great knights great protectors of the land that were both feared and respected as loyal and honest fighters of justice and freedom, and while others ran and hid away we stud up against the might of Thera seeing our homes and families destroyed, but we never gave up and now burning in the heart of every knight are the fires of revenge, when we close our eyes we see only war, we see the war we are going to bring to Thera as her wicked head is the first horror of this world that we must kill if we ever want our lands to be free again.
I can remember scattered dreams of my childhood, of running through cold rock tunnels dimly lit by burning touches that flickered across the wet walls of our Kaer, I can remember sneaking into the great chambers at night wishing to catch glimpses of the knights as they trained in the art of combat and warfare, and can remember wishing I was one of them with their epic sets of gleaming gold and silver armour that shimmered like magic in the light My father was a knight and often use to tell me off for mimicking their actions and while I didn’t understand at the time he told me that my time would come and for now I was on the path of growth and would have to wait until my 16th birthday and the ritual of manhood before my path of training began.
The Kaer seemed so large to me in my younger years like it went on forever and can remember many peaceful days of laughter and games as the knights and warriors studied and trained in the various halls around us, each day seemed exciting to me then as I heard the warriors speaking of tactics, battles, weapons, fighting, infiltration, acting and even languages which they studied as part of their training, thinking back it was almost like we were an army underground training for the day that the great doors opened into the world, and for the most part that was a peaceful and happy existence until my sixteenth birthday arrived.
I remember it well it was the morning of my 16th birthday when my mother came and began preparing me for the coming of age ritual that was to be held in the great hall of our Kaer where me and six other boys my age would swear the oath of knighthood and would become men known as squires in the eyes of our Kaer. I can remember feeling nervous as the ritual neared and was soon led into the great hall wearing gold laced robes that reached the floor below, standing in line with the other six boys the entire Kaer watched on in silence as we were passed the great Flamewalk Dagger that had been used to cut every knight during the coming of ages ritual for hundreds of years and was said to be an item that bound us all together as brothers.
Been passed the large razor sharp dagger I can remember its metal feeling heavy and cold but also with a strange warm sensation as I gripped the handle and looking down could see a finely crafted dagger encrusted with fire red rubies that glistened magically in the light and can remember seeing dried bits of blood that were years old from the countless knights before me who had cut their hands with the ancient blade, clenching my teeth I can remember running the cold yet magical dagger across my hand and within seconds felt a sharp stinging pain as blood began trickling to the floor seeing me clench my fist before passing the knife to the next boy in line.
I can remember feeling dizzy as the red blood spilled out of my fingers and looked around only to see serious faces of grand golden knights who stud in line watching the ritual, been told to stand forward all seven boys reached out their bleeding hands and placed them together in a big circle and was told to speak the ancient ritual of our people, a ritual that bonded us together for life as brothers in arms and started our path of manhood, and with that the people cheered and clapped as we stud on stage, it was at that point we began the great Sereph known to our people as the last night of freedom.
The feeling of pride overcome me and can remember drifting to sleep in the early hours of that morning feeling happy that I was now looked upon as a man in the eyes of my Kaer and that from tomorrow my training would begin. It seemed like only moments passed when I was awoken roughly by several large men who dragged me out of bed and onto the floor, quickly lifting me to my feet they marched me out of my house wearing little but my bed cloths, pushing me forward the soldier’s lead me to a chamber we had never seen before in an area that had always be heavily guarded form the children, and it was from that moment my life changed forever.
Been led through a small series of passages we came to a huge carved room that was at least one hundred feet wide and glistened faintly from the light of the torches burning on the wall, dazed and confused still be lead and pushed along by the soldiers I began to look around and instantly noticed the other six boys standing in the middle of the room and can remember feeling sand below my feet and on looking down seeing blood stained sand falling between my toes. Moments later I was pushed into line with other boys and could notice the one directly next to me was shaking and could see a tear running down his face, turning to take a breath I could smell a foul stench in the air and covered my nose to stop myself been sick as looking ahead there was a rotting body on the floor and you could see the exposed and skeletal rib cage, what was perhaps worse was we recognised the boys face as been one of the students from the previous year.
It was at that point a feeling of terror came over me and looking around in a panic began to see other bones on the floor, in one place there was several fingers bones, in another place half a rib cage buried in the blood stained sand, could even see scattered teeth mixed in with the sands below our feet some of which looked to be years old. Suddenly we jumped as we heard a deep booming voice that said “STAND TO ATTENTION” and quickly standing rigid we could see one of the grand knights walking towards us from the darkness, standing just inside the light sent glorious reflections bouncing off his huge golden armour and he said “Your old life has now gone, you have survived the path of growth and for the next two years this will be your home and where you will complete the path of training” at that point he gestured towards the boys body rotting in the corner and simply said “some of you might die” and then he moved back into the darkness.
I remember hearing the boy next to me crying and before having chance to look heard a loud bang as the door swung open shortly followed quickened footsteps and around five figures running into the room that we instantly noticed as last years pupils, boys only a year ago that we had played with in the halls of our Kaer but they seemed different now, they seemed cold and distant like they looked through us without fear or friendship and standing in perfect line they stud silently without saying a word, slowly more grand knights started to appear all clad in epic suits of glimmering golden and silver armour and formed a circle around the great fighting pit where watched silently until the lead figure simple shouted “fight or be killed” and within a second the boys in front of us changed their stance and began heading towards us.
Within seconds they were into us and can remember turning my head and seeing the other boys been viciously attacked and looking up could see one heading straight towards me but had little chance to react. I could remember the boy well from just a year ago, his name was Jius Greenheart a boy who was perhaps half my size and the use to play in our group of friends just the year before, but it was like he didn’t even recognise me, like he had set himself a goal that was beyond me seeing the boy half my size attack me with vicious precision.
Holding my hands out to protect myself it was within a single second that I felt a sharp and strong tug on my arm sending me stumbling forwards, and with some kind of lighting move the boy half my size sent me flying over his hip bringing me crashing down onto the ground. I can remember the wind been slightly knocked out of me but scrambling to get to my feet, jumping up and readying myself I could see the boy Jius stud in front of me arms raised in a fighting stance, feeling the adrenalin rushing through me I felt confused and alert like the world was hazy as the anger swelled inside me and can remember taking several gasps of air before crashing towards the boy who remained still and calm like a statue.
I am still unsure what happened but taking only a few simple steps the boy Jius seemed to position himself in a place that was out of my reach and by simply side stepping me at the last moment followed by a simple push I once again went tumbling into the dirty red sands below. Feeling embarrassed and humiliated I clenched my fist and jumped to my feet swinging out wildly in his direction but he wasn’t there, turning my head for just a split second hoping to see where he had gone all I can remember is seeing a fist flying towards me and hitting me directly in the nose taking me off my feet in one clean punch that sent a shooting pain through my head.
Looking back I think that day laying on the floor with sickly sweet blood rushing down my throat from by broken nose was the first day I had ever really lived, it was the first day that I had ever felt fear for my life and can remember sitting up and seeing the blood pour like a waterfall form my nose soaking my body and the sand below me like a red river. Holding my nose and with tears swelling in my eyes I had little chance to get up as the boy continued attacking me sending punch after punch down on top of me, I can remember thinking my life was going to end and could hear the other boys shouting for help but it seemed the more we screamed or ask for mercy the harder they beat us and can remember my heart pounding in terror as more blows and kicks came towards me, one hitting me so hard it fractured a peace of my tooth leaving me spitting out blood and fragments of me teeth onto the floor.
Suddenly all fell quiet and just as quick as the attack had started it stopped seeing me fall to the floor in an almost blanked daze with blood pouring from my nose and mouth and a head that felt like it had been split open with an axe, dizzy was the feeling, almost sickly as I tried to get to my feet and can remember kneeling their in pain and looking around at the other boys from my year all whom were in similar states as myself. Looking up towards the back of the room I could see the other boys from last year had once again lined up perfectly and stud motionless like statues and can remember they didn’t have a mark on them other than blood red knuckles from beating us into the floor and can remember hearing the same echoing voice shouting “GET UP” as I slowly began dragging myself to my feet and by now could hardly see due to the swelling of my eye.
Hobbling on the stop trying and stop the shooting pain in my rids I stud along with some the other boys however one remained unconscious throughout. Once again stepping forward the grand knight with his huge set of gleaming gold armour and his helm encrusted with perfect white feathers began to speak and said to us“This will be your life for the next two years the taste of blood and pain, the taste of misery and punishment, and from within this misery my brothers you shall find courage you never knew you had, you will find strength you thought not possible just a year ago, you will find discipline as strong as the rock of the Hammer Hills themselves, we shall teach you to dance on air like an unseen force and to attack like the water flows, we shall teach you how to listen to the earth to heal your wounds and when needed how to ignite a fire so bright inside it will set your soul alight, if you survive the next two years you shall be sent to the Rising Flame Academy where you will finish the last two years of your knighthood, good luck brothers” and with that he walked out.
What followed startled me as after been lead hobbling and bleeding through a long passage way it opened out into a huge sleeping area which we had never seen before, we could see various other boys of different ages all sitting at various tables eating and talking between themselves and looking around could see various sleeping areas that seem to have been sectioned into age groups. Sitting us down at a basic wooden table at the back of the room away from the others we were shocked to see the boys who just attacked us been lead over to us carrying boxes and can remember feeling scared and nervous as they approached us.
I remember Jius sitting in front of me and saying very little and can remember eye contact was hard at first, however putting the box on the table in front of me he began pulling out medical supplies to clean my wounds and began showing me the basics of battle first aid and can remember him pulling out several white leaves that were shot through with red and pink veins, crushing them up in a small stone trestle he poured hot water on top from a old iron kettle and offered me the tea to drink, nervous at first I reclaimed but he said “Its Garlans Hand, trust me it will help” looking into his eyes I could see a glimmer of light, could see an image of the boy I knew just a year before and found myself thinking that perhaps I had mistaken this coldness for simple discipline, maybe I had seem mindless anger when in reality it was a form of courage, that this boy in front of me was not different he was just seeing the world though different eyes.
For a good hour he showed me the basics of first aid patching up and cleaning my wounds and slowly sipping the strange tasting drink can remember feeling a light warm sensation and all the pain in my bones and body seem to vanish until I almost didn’t register what the boy in front of me was saying. Packing away the first aid equipment I remember Jius standing up and looking at me, he said “be warned brother this will happen again in two days, and again two days after that learn quick and be ready, learn to defend yourself brother” and with that he walked away and can remember trembling slightly and the thought of another fight and shortly after was led to a small bed chamber along with the other boys which would serve as our home.
Putting what little we had on the table all of us crashed into bed half in pain and half humiliated by the beating we had just taken and can remember laying worrying about what was to come the next day before drifting off to sleep. The next day again started early with the sound of voices and chairs moving outside and looking outside could see a area with several large tables that were been prepared for breakfast and could see pupils walking around in training cloths, however looking down at our blood stained night wear it wasn’t long before we witnessed one of the instructors heading towards our section.
Knocking loudly at the door before walking in the man carried with him seven large parcels and passed one to each of us in order, looking at our wounds and blooded bandages the tall man knelt down on one knee and called us forward. Looking directly at us he smiled and said “these are your uniforms and cloths, one is your training cloths for combat, the other is your cloths for study and it it your job to look after these at all times and to make sure you are in proper dress everyday” slowly standing up and towering above us he said “Your time here will be split into two areas, one day fighting, two days studying, during your day fighting you will train and fight with other boys and will learn the secrets and arts of combat, during your days of study you will learn about the skills and tactics you will need to fight successfully and to stay alive” and with that told us to get ready and head outside to eat breakfast with the other pupils and can remember him saying “Don’t worry boys it does get easier” before he closed the door on his way out.
Getting ready the best we could we went outside to find a large eating area with several huge wooden tables that could fit at least 50 people each and could see basic breads, fruits and even meat on the table and could see at least seventy different pupils walking around and standing in groups, not long after we heard a bell been rang and even more squires began appearing from the sleeping areas and all seemed to form a line around the table where they stud silently. Before long one of the grand knights appeared at the head of the room and can remember his long straight black hair weaving across his golden chest plate as he walked to the front of the tables.
Standing silently he looked over the pupils for a moment who all fell silent and stopped chatting, lowing his head the other pupils followed leaving us looking around in confusion, with a loud and clear voice the knight began to speak and said “We thank you mighty Thystonius for this food you have laid before us as without it we lack the energy to grace your name in combat, let the earth inside this food heal our wounds and the water purify our blood, let the flesh give fuel to our fire inside, this we beg of you mighty Thystonius” and with that lifted his head and shouted “EAT” and we once again heard the bell been rung and the boys rushing towards the table.
Sitting down with a deep hunger in my stomach I can remember grabbing what I could and sitting there looking around as I tuck bites of the pork meat in my hand could see at least 80 students in total some of which seemed several years older than us and could see various bruises and fading black eyes over their bodies but also a sense of discipline and order, the boys almost seemed they had grown happy with this lifestyle of fighting and studying and even smiled through split lips as they ate and spoke to each other some giving the occasional glance our way and sniggered, perhaps they knew what we had to come which left my moth feeling dry as I chewed the bread in my hand.
My entire world from that point changed and for two years was not allowed to leave the training area or even see my family again until my 18th birthday and what followed was some of the most brutal training of my life seeing me and other boys pitched against others twice our size and experience, seeing me placed in rooms with five enemies and been beaten to a pulp, seeing everyday become about combat and learning to survive, each day becoming about order, discipline, routine and learning the skills we needed to defend ourselves, and for two years that was my life fighting one day and studying the next two, only to fight again once our wounds had been healed.
This was my life now and perhaps I didn’t understand then but after that first year so much had changed inside of me, life had become about movement and attack, about the pain and suffering of combat but also the friendships and fears we faced and built together, perhaps I didn’t realise it then but the biggest change was simply the fact I didn’t feel embarrassed to lose any more, didn’t feel nervous or scared to fight but instead felt ready and focussed, felt powerful and charged like some animal who had began seeing the world through different eyes, and it was at that time roughly one year and a day since we entered the training ground that we were once again prepared for a scared ritual of passing known as the Demkardus where one gets chance to see into himself.
I can remember waking that morning to the sound of the breakfast bell been rung early but could tell instantly that something was different as walking out into the main chamber we noticed at least 15 grand knights standing in various suits of gleaming gold and silver armour and noticed many of the older squires hand gathered around them. We were immediately called towards them and the original seven pupils of my year were stud in line as more student hurried out to watch the commotion. Taking several steps forward one of the gleaming knights towered over us and can remember a dry feeling in my mouth as this giant clad in glistening armour towered over us and said “The Demkardus is here, your chance to see yourself and understand how strong you have become” and with that we were told to follow the knights as the squires of the chamber cheered.
Been lead into a room we were told to wait until called where we would enter the room in military file just like instructed for the last year, perhaps fifteen minutes past in total until we heard a voice echoing down the stone corridor and we made our way towards the door at the end. On entering the room our hearts instantly quickened as we were in the same blood stained sand pit we were in just a year ago and before us were eleven scared and whimpering boys who stud with a weak posture and had tears swelling in their eyes. Standing there looking at them I could understand, I could see myself within them, myself just over a year ago standing in the same spot feeling weak and afraid, feeling nervous and scared, feeling ashamed of been beaten and I understood all of that had gone now, all the fears I had felt a year ago seemed so far away and it was like a revelation to me making all the peace’s of training fit into place like a jigsaw puzzle.
Out numbered 7 to 11 I could still see my path of attack and felt no fear, and like water could see how my steps would defeat my enemy and how in just a short time I had become so much stronger and more focused than them, how in such a short time I had learnt to stay calm in the most violent situations and above all else had no more guilt or embarrassment left to give. I swear to the passions that day was a revolution for me like Thystonius himself had reached inside my soul and flicked a switch showing me everything I had become and within a second I was ready.
I will not go into detail about what happened other than to say it did not end well for the new pupils that year and we tuck our chance to feel powerful like others had done to us the year before, and can remember looking around that room at the elder knights who stud silently in there glistening armour and for a strange second felt both strong and proud as I realised they wasn’t watching the new pupils, they were watching us. Soon after the fight we were lead back into the main chamber and the other squires cheered and clapped making me smile at our victory and further understanding we had gained, sometime after the beaten a bruised boys were lead into the back of the room and we were each given a first aid kit and told to treat their wounds.
I remember sitting in front of them as the steaming water turned red with Garlens Hand I again could see more of myself, scared, frightened, alone, beaten, humiliated and ashamed, and again realised these were all the things that were been stripped away from me and that though practice, discipline and training I had become better and more powerful. I remember treating the boys wounds and sliding him a little extra Garlans Hand and telling him to keep it safe as he will need it, but it wasn’t until walking away that I realised I had not questioned myself once whilst treating him, that I knew what to do where as a year before I didn’t even know how to tie a bandage never mind stop bleeding, sow wounds and hand out medicines and was once again reminded of all that had changed.
Perhaps that night was one of the proudest in my life as later that evening whilst the new pupils lay beaten and dazed in bed with strong Garlens Hand running through their system we were invited late that night to undertake the last part of the Demkardus ritual, an act known by our people for hundreds of years as “The First Super” that symbolised our first night of becoming and elder squire which also served as my 17th birthday celebration. Late that night we were approached by one of the guardians who gave us all a new package that contained the tunic of elder squires and was told to prepare for the final part of the ritual.
Been led out into the darkened main hall we were lead towards the knights private chambers and noticed other pupils peeking out of the doors of their sleeping quarters, been led up a long passage we passed various other corridors that we had never seen before but soon came to a dead end with a large statue of a knight at the end. The grand knight leading us knelt before the statue in his gleaming gold armour that held various patterns and writing and then whispered some words that I couldn’t make out and slowly we heard a loud grinding noise as the statue began to mechanically move out of place and heard the spinning of cogs and chains.
Walking down a simple corridor it opened up into a large room that left us all speechless as we instantly noticed around 50 grand knights stud around the edges of the room, and in the centre of the room was a huge highly decorative table that looked hundreds of years old. Looking at the huge table we noticed it had four highly carved dragons as legs that had been gilded with pure gold and held the table up with their talons. Looking on the table we were again shocked as we could see seven blades stuck deep inside the dark wooden surface, it was around that moment one of the boys said “The Alter of the Rising Dragon, I thought it was a myth” and with that we all looked on in wonder at this ancient and exquisite table in front of us.
Hearing a voice speak out we jumped to attention “Step forward squires” and obeying the knights orders we all stepped closer towards the table and was shocked at what was in front of us. Looking closer we noticed the huge expertly carved table that the golden dragons supported was a ancient picture of a huge rising sun set around a carved map of the world we had come to know as Vivane, and set into this table were seven blades struck deep into the wood surrounded by thousands of other holes form many blades before, we could even see dried patches of blood covering the table and noticed droplets of blood on the golden dragons below that was faded with time like it was centuries old.
Standing there speechless the voice form behind a great helm said “This is the Alter of the Rising Dragon, the same table our four fathers used thousands of years ago to start our great order here in the lands of Vivane, and for thousands of years this is where every training knight has pulled his first blade form the table, the Sun Kebath the short sword of our people and a weapon you must carry with you for life, this weapon is often a last resort capable of speed and agility helping you fight in the tightest situations, choose your blade well squires and take it by the blade until the blood from your hand runs down the blade onto the table of our four fathers, once you have done this you can remove the Sun Kebath and it will be yours for life, and yours to guard” with that all fell silent.
I remember looking at the blades all the same well forged and highly crafted short swords that held the rising sun symbol of our house on the hilt along with various carvings and runes matching the great armour of our people, standing forward I reached out towards the closest blade and then stopped for a second, the other squires followed my lead but just for a moment I looked at the blades and wondered which one to pick, so closing my eyes I silently asked the great Thsystonius to guide my hand in this choice of combat and to bring me a blade worthy or war and reaching out tuck hold of the first blade I touched and held it tightly.
Once again I felt a shooting pain across the tips of my fingers as the blade lightly sliced my flesh leaving blood trickling down the blade, opening my eyes was almost difficult but looking down I could see my blood running down the razor sharp blade and felt a tingling sensation as it left my body, however it was as my blood hit the table that I felt a surge of power come over me similar to the one I had felt in the training room where it felt like Thystonius himself had reached inside and touched my soul, standing there dizzily I looked over the blood stained and ancient table and could see thousands of other blade holes from the knights before me all stained a deep and ancient red with blood from there very hands and have to say as my blood mixed with there’s it was like been hit by a wave of power, like been subdued by some ancient magical dream.
Trembling almost I looked down and could see my blood soaking into table along with thousands of other knights and could only close my eyes as the strange magical effect overcome me, closing my eyes was like a great surge of energy or strange magical quickening of the mind that burst out into scattered dreams and visions that to this day I can not fully recall. Jolting back my head and breathing deeply the visions exploded in my mind and can remember hearing faint voices at first muffled in this magical daze slowly followed by a billion glimmering reflections of gold and white that sparkled in the hazy mist of my dream, when suddenly all became clear for just a few seconds.
It was in those brief moments of that magical vision that I suddenly heard the sound of a great army marching followed by a vision of a massive golden army that stretched out far into the distance with rank after rank of gleaming golden knights that carried the banners of my people. I remember looking around for those brief few seconds and seeing that behind the glorious ranks of golden knights were various other soldiers and basic fighters the likes I had never seen before and can remember hearing archaic battle orders been shouted across our lines like this vast and great army were about to march into an epic battle, and with that the vision ended.
Grasping hold of the blades hilt I pulled strong and hard seeing it fly out of the table and into the air and for some unknown reason and in a dazed state I screamed the name Thystonius at the top of my lungs on pulling the blade form the table which by all accounts made several of the knights talk amongst themselves, however I had been successful and completed the ritual of Demkardus and had been granted the Sun Kebath, the blade of our people which was now mine to carry for life, and form there was classed as a full elder squire about to start my second year of training.
The year that followed while still dangerous and intense was much easier that the first year and breaking our time into both combat training and study we learnt various other skills that help us in the art of war and combat, we learnt the art of tactics, etiquette, speaking, religion and the various weapons and forms of combat that could aid us in the future. This was a great time of learning for me seeing my mind stretched as far as my body had been in that first year, seeing me learn things and do things I had never though possible and still each day for two hours we had combat training with various combat and missile weapons, and for brief times in-between study sleep and combat we had chance to miss our families who we had not seen for over a year at this stage.
For the entire year locked within the training quarters of our Kaer our study and combat practice continued until eventually our time had nearly come and us the original seven of my year had grown into the elders who had nearly finished their first two years of training. I can remember the new recruits starting that year and seeing them walking in battered and bruised, can remember giggling to myself quietly thinking of all they had to come as I held my Sun Kebath blade on my hip proud that my training was nearly over. I remember it well, us seven friends, us seven brothers standing in front of a hall of new squires as they cheered and clapped as we completed our training, can remember their faces looking at us like kings, like they were in awe of our accomplishment and looked at us with jealousy and wonder as they knew where we were going, we were going to the academy of war, we were going to the famous Rising Flame Academy where knights of our people had been trained for thousands of years, and we had no idea what to expect at all.
I remember having one week to see my family and for the first time in two years we were again led down the winding tunnels of our Kaer and was marched out into the main living area in a grand procession wearing our elder squire uniforms, people clapped and cheered as we walked out and so many old memories came flooding back seeing the darkened halls I once played as a child, this was my 18th birthday and for one week I got to see my mother and father again both who were proud of me beyond belief and showered me with praise, however things were different now, I was quieter and with every turn or sound was looking for danger like my training and instincts had taken over and with every step I was ready for combat, but it was a time of great joy and can remember running my hands along the same dark and wet walls that I ran along as a child and smiled recalling how I would mimic the knights, it all seemed so long ago now, so different to my new world.
That week passed quickly and before long is was time for the ritual of the rising flame which was and customary send off to all of the potential knights who training at the academy that year, and after a royal send off where the people wished us well and cheered in our names we were lead into the knights chambers with no idea what was about to happen. Walking into the knights chambers we were met by a room filled with perhaps ten knights who all seamed to be gearing up to go somewhere and were loading up back packs and weaponry and we were told to stand quietly until the others arrive and were ready to leave, what others we thought and leave where as we had assumed the academy was in another part of our Kaer that we had not yet seen.
However standing there silently we soon heard the rustling sound of armour coming down the corridor and seeing the door begin to open we stud to attention, but have to say what followed was enough to scare me for the first time in well over a year, as walking through the door marched four fully plated gold knights in their shimmering armour, but with them was also a figure we had never seen before, with them was a huge knight clad in jet black armour with gold decorations, and as he walked in the room can remember feeling a chill run up my spine, and as we looked at the skulls carved into his black armour we gasped, this man was Vimcarnus, he was a shadow knight the great spell casters of our people that are the stuff of legend and children stories, it is said that only one in every thousand knights born has the power to be Vimcarnus and that they practice the dark arts of Nethermancy in a place known only as the Academy of Darkness, but we thought all of that was legend as no one in our Kaer has even see a shadow knight before.
Our jaws dropped open and can remember Amdious my brother next to me was shaking as the high caster marched passed us like we wasn’t even there, and has he slung his cloak over his jet black armour we noticed scroll and map cases hung on his belt along with various runes of protection carved into his armour that we had never seen before, even making eye contact with the man for a second was a scary experience revealing pale skin with withdrawn eyes that seemed to swirl grey in colour like looking into some magical cloud of the soul, his hair was long and grey and waved over his armour as he walked, eye contact with him for even a second was like he looked straight into my soul however guarded by four knights in total the high caster of the Vimcarnus walked straight past us.
I remember my knees shaking a little as he walked past as the Academy of Darkness is a place use to scare children it fairy tales saying the people there have power over life and death itself and that the powerful casters often communicate with the demon world and are the shadow knights of of great army, and until this day we believed them to be extinct. It wasn’t long before we were called into the next room and nervously walking around the corner expecting to see some new corridor we were shocked to see an empty room other than about 14 gold knights and the dark caster himself who seemed to stand silently with his eyes closed taking deep breaths towards the wall.
Looking around the room I could see the floor had a huge circle of bones that had been sunken into the floor around a huge carved sun, and can remember the bones looking ancient and some were from beasts I had never seen before. Looking around the simple room we noticed other dragon and sun carvings on the walls and more bones that seemed to form a second line around the room, it was around that moment a knight came over to us and told us to stand inside the circle, and seeing the knights doing the same we cautiously stepped inside the bone circle. I remember my heart pounding and waiting for what seemed forever, what was going to happen, what was this dark spell caster of legend going to do to us.
(Omorox the dark caster of the Vimcarnus standing at the wall preparing for the spell)
I remember freezing almost solid as he walked into the circle with us seeing the knights bow their heads as he did, walking towards us I trembled silently as he approached and suddenly in a raspy dry voice that in some way seemed unnatural he said “Put these on squires, do not let them go from around your necks they will hide you from the Horrors during our journey” and with that he dropped a small gold pendent in our hands that had been highly carved with the runes and magical protection of our people, and putting these around our necks we waited in silence for several more minutes while the dark caster stud silently facing the wall.
Slowly at first he began mumbling letting out only the odd shake of his shoulders as he spoke, but slowly his pitch began to rise speaking in words we couldn’t even understand, his hands began to weave around in circles seemingly caught in some magical hypnotic like dance with his hands he reached out several times into the air like he was dragging some unseen power into his body breathing in deeply each time. I can still remember hearing the dark and cryptic words he spoke and how he weaved his hand in the air like he was calling for some dark gods power, it was around that moment we all heard a crackling sound like lighting sparking over steel, sand and dust began to fly around the room like we were trapped in a hurricane and we were about to run when one of the knights stepped out in front us and stopped us shouting hold.
It was around that moment a great echoing sound burst out over the room and black mist like energies started to gather around the circle of bones followed by a sound that could only be described as a thousand people screaming when suddenly we just fell through the floor. I remember the distinctly the feeling of falling into darkness like we had just walked off the edge of a cliff at night and have to admit it was one of the strangest experiences of my life, it felt like the air had been dragged from my lungs as I tried to gasp for air in the swirling vortex that seemed to consume us like a beast devouring its pray.
I have no idea how long past and can only remember hitting the ground with a colossal thud and plume of dust that shot up from the floor below, looking around I could see the six other squires also laying on the floor surrounded by knights who were stud in perfect formation and looked like they hadn’t been effected at all. Reaching out to me one of the knights lifted me to my feet saying “Don’t worry boy it something you will learn” and with that stud myself up and almost instantly felt a warm almost burning like sensation on my skin and could smell strong sulphur and brimstone in the air like something was burning.
I remember seeing the shadow knight walking forward accompanied by his four guards all golden knights carrying vicious double handed weapons, dusting ourselves off we followed them and the other knights around a pathway of a natural cave system and after sometime walking could feel the heat getting stronger until we began to see a strange red and orange glow from the passage up ahead that flickered light down the darkened tunnel. Nearing the light and the end of the passage we could feel an intense heat in the air and remember seeing the large shadow knight marching forward like it was nothing but I could almost feel the heat burning my throat, and it all became clear when we finally walked around the corner to what was one of the most astonishing views of my life.
Standing in front of us was a single long stone bridge that stretched out high above an entire river of larva that ran through the base of the gigantic cavern, the heat in that room was almost enough to burn the throat and can remember the warm feeling on my skin like it was yesterday. Looking over the bridge however our jaws dropped as at the other side of the epically long bridge was a huge temple like structure bigger than we had ever seen or even dreamed before, and at either side of the huge white temple was a massive dragon statue at least 200ft tall that had been gilded in gold and shined a thousand different shades from the molten lava running in the cavern floor below.
I can remember walking over the bridge in single file and looking up at the dark rock of the cavern ceiling and seeing it glitter red and gold as the lava surged and glowed beneath and found myself wondering how many squires like myself had walked over the huge bridge. Nearing the great building at the end all seven of us squires were speechless as the two huge dragon statues stretched up higher than we had ever seen in our lives “it was overwhelming” and standing before us were the 101 stairs of the Rising Flame Academy, 101 stairs to symbolise the 101 knights that were once chosen each year before the Scourge, and can remember looking up these white marble stairs that lead off into the temple and seeing two gleaming golden knights at the top carrying massive halberds and seemed to be guarding the ancient entrance.
Making our way slowly up the stairs I remember turning around when we were about half way up and seeing a huge river of lava behind us that ran through the hidden cave system but couldn’t see any other entrances or signs to as where we were. Marching on with little sign of been tired the shadow knight in his huge black armour reached the top of the stairs slinging his cloak over this shoulder as he did, marching strongly towards the two knights at the door they stamped their heels to attention and bowed their heads as he walked by and can remember walking past them myself and seeing the shimmering halberds crested in suns of gold and silver and remember how their armour was so bright we could see our reflection in the huge chest plates as we walked past.
Walking further into the white marble structure that contained ancient carvings upon the walls that showed armies of golden knights clashing with dark forces of the lands, and after walking through several defence like room we tuck perhaps another 40 or so steps and was shocked at what was before us as the entire structure opened out into one massive chamber with marble stair cases leading off nearly as high as we could see, and looking around this vast chamber we could see various different areas where knights were training, eating and talking amongst themselves.
Looking off into the distance we could see two golden knights sparing with each other in a small area and could see the light bouncing off their armour as they twisted and turned avoiding each others blows, to our right was another training ground and we could see at least 80 pupils who wore the same elder squire tunics as us and seemed to be practising martial arts and unarmed fighting skills and were been taught by some kind of grand master at the front. Walking further into the complex following the group of knights we arrived with we estimated at least 2000 knights, maybe more like 4000 or even 5000 people in total all training in this hidden underground academy and in just a brief walk we could see archery ranges, study workshops, rack upon rack of training weapons, there were even horses and a jousting arena among various other things.
Walking further into the complex we past various rooms, some were full of students sat at desks learning about advanced tactics, others were weapon making classes for those who showed an interest in moulding metals, they even had several library’s filled with books on various topics from wild plants and food to the art of war and infiltration, we even walked past an acting arena where people came to entertain, play instruments and learn about the craft of arts and story telling. Before long we came to a large sleeping like area and the knights escorted us to see the sections leader who asked us various questions before setting us up in a large room along with various other squires that we had never even seen before and was told someone would come to show us around.
Not long after we were approached by the captain of the squires in our hall who was a tall and athletic looking man who at this point was several years older than ourselves, standing to attention seemed to impress him and he said “Good, good” and ordered us to follow. Walking around the vast structure we witnessed various rooms, fighting pits, study areas and even bubbling baths of volcanic water where knights cleaned their wounds from training, and as we walked around the captain of the squires began to speak “This will be your home for the next two years and here you will get the chance to become who you are, you will get the chance to pick and learn those subjects that you excel in, and also those that the masters choose for you, this will be your chance to try weapons, to fight knights far more experienced that yourselves and learn the skills we will need for the times ahead of us” and slowly taking us around it seemed the place had everything from alchemy workshops to trick riding arena’s with large horses that towered above us.
Having seen the majority of the place the captain had given us a good tour when he suddenly said I have saved the best till last, and leading us towards a spiral staircase we began our decent which seemed to last forever and can still remember running my hands along the ancient carved walls that spiralled down the staircase and can remember seeing pictures carved into the walls of golden knights fighting dragons, of great golden armies marching towards the sun, and even of weddings and funerals of great knights of old like a story of our people heading down the staircase. I can recall walking for some considerable time but soon began to smell the strong smell of sulphur and fire like we had on the bridge and walking around the corner was shocked to say the least.
Stepping off the last stair we found ourselves is a epic forge area of extreme craftsmanship and could see ancient carvings on the walls better than any we had seen in our life an could also see the river of lava just a short distance away. Standing at the back of the room was a single huge forge that seamed to stream molten lava right from the river, and looking closer could see a huge expertly carved sun around the edges of the furnace and one huge forge in the shape of a dragons talon that stud at least four feet off the ground. Getting closer we noticed countless intricate tools and boiling devices and noticed bars of silver and gold just laying around on the desk along with various plans and documents scrawled out which looked to be armour designed and blue prints.
Finally stopping in front of the forge the captain of the squires said “this is the Flamewalk Forge, this is where your armour will be made each set moulded in the lava of the river and made using your own blood and magic’s, this set of armour is built specifically for you and can only be built after your training is finally complete, it can only be built if your survive the next two years of your life and once you have shown your talents and weaknesses to your masters, this armour will be specially made to keep you alive by both protecting your weak points and excelling your strong ones, each suit of armour totally unique to its owner, this is the way of our people” and with that we stood looking at the huge forge wondering what magical power it and the lava would bestow.
I recall however the return journey up the stairs been an even more curious and strange experience, walking on the first step I noticed a long faded carving of small settlement bearing the flag of our people over one simple hut, thinking little of this I climbed the next cold stone step to see the same settlement that had grown like each step was telling a story of our people. I did not have time to see the entire story as I rushed to keep up with the others but walking up the never ending stairway noticed an entire story of our people winding up the spiral stairs and can remember seeing carvings of settlements, weddings, mountains and even great battles between glorious golden knights and dark enemies that carried viscous weapons, there were even several pictures of knights standing next to dragons as friends, and some where knights fought against the dragons.
Rushing to catch the others I only remembered scattered images but can remember smiling as I ran my fingers along the wall seeing images of castles, battles, training grounds and even grand parades numbering thousands of gleaming knights all expertly carved and gilded into the walls and can remember smiling in excitement thinking what a glorious nation we were. It was however about half way up the stair case that the images of the carvings suddenly began to change and more scenes of war and fighting appeared, scenes of broken castles and flaming villages, scenes of great ships that seem to float in the air which was all strange to me. I remember feeling confused seeing images of our people dying and strongholds of great power been invaded my merciless enemies who cut down our women and children like dogs trying to eradicate our kind.
I remember one picture stopping me in my tracks, the expert carving that had been gold leafed was of a grand and golden knight standing alone on top of a great mountain with his head lowered in shame or pain, looking into the background of the picture there was a great stronghold of some kind built in the side of the mountain and around the base of that stronghold were the bodies of thousands of golden knights with flames still rising up from the buildings and trees surrounding the area. I can remember wondering what army or beast could possibly kill so many of our knights and how have we managed to survive if all of this has happened in our past, yet it was from there that the carvings on the ancient spiral staircase got worse.
Having to miss out two or three stairs at a time as I rushed to keep up with the others I remember seeing pictures of lone knights trapped in vicious landscapes, pictures of knights fighting and at times been killed alone by savage looking beasts, again more ruins and burning buildings of our nation appear around them only a few knights remaining brought to their knees in pain, what was this all about I wondered it seemed our kingdom had befallen some kind of terrible fall from power and the more I climbed the worse the pictures got, pictures of knights been tortured by groups of Theran scum, pictures of knights been chased my packs of wild dogs and hunting parties until only a few seemed to survive wondering in the wilderness.
It was nearing the top of the spiral staircase that the pictures once again began to change and could see lone knights in a variety of scenes, some showed lone knights pointing to maps with various cloaked figures in front of them, others showed knights preforming assassinations with crossbows, brewing strange potions, teaching people to ride and building forces, some pictures even showed lone knight kneeling in front of great dragons and it seemed further up the stairs I climbed each picture showed a lone a brave night using a different skill that had helped him on his journey, like all of these skills put together were leading up to some major event.
It was over the last few stairs that the pictures changed radically and remember seeing a large set of mountains that our people have come to know as the Hammer Hills, and from those mountains poured hundreds of gleaming gold knights, the next picture showed other knights accompanied by various troops creeping through the jungles of Arkhazid, while others sit cloaked in boats making their way up the great Danaba River like they were creeping into an empire. It was within those last pictures that a great army formed from around the lands, knights in brilliant gold armour flocking to the cause from all directions with troops following them that I had never seen before, the final picture was of an horrific yet glorious golden army that was marching towards the sun rise. I touched the wall, was this the army I had seen in my magical vision? Quickly I moved on to catch the others as we finished the tour.
(The Hammer Hills – Part of the great homeland of our people)
I remember feeling anxious and excited that night like a child again and had trouble getting to sleep at first thinking of all the things I’d like to try and drifted off to sleep thinking what would happen when we woke. The next day we were introduced further to some of the other students and masters of the squires and not long after our training began seeing us attend a two hour class where we were given details of what to expect for the next two years and from what it seems we would spend one year getting trained in a variety of subjects where we would be assessed, then in the second year of our training we would focus on certain areas that would best suit our needs and goals, for some this meant becoming expert archers, while others learnt the skills of espionage and infiltration, some even learnt the art of cooking or medical care to feed and maintain the army, the entire place was a hot bed of knowledge and skills allowing us to specialise in whatever subjects we liked.
Think its fair to say we all felt like babies again when compared to these older knights some of which were 3 or 4 times our age and had grey locks hanging over massive sets of armour, however the training soon began and was broken into various part, firstly it was unarmed combat and the various fighting styles, secondly we had shield training, then missile weapons training, and finally close combat and weapons training with each student excelling at his own given area. From there we spent the rest of the time studying and got to try various subjects from strange and confusing sciences to the art of warfare and battle, we got to try acting, singing, etiquette, camouflage, and even speaking different languages where we had to practice Theran the tongue of our ancient enemy which we practised everyday until we all knew the basics of the language.
I can not truly describe how remarkable the academy was as it held so many interesting things that helped indulge our minds and bodies further with education and training and for that first year we did and tried so many remarkable things each learning and excelling at different subjects, and have to admit we all love the hanging fighting pits above the river of lava. These pits had been specially designed to help our understanding of magic and the elements around us, as been directly above fire made the air warm and thick with heat and could see training squires spending hours practising the great air dance where they would move with such a motion they would begin stepping on air and taking several almost magical steps before crashing down and attacking with their weapons.
(Fighting Pits above the lava river of the Rising Flame Academy)
One other benefit of the fire pits was during sparing and training sessions you became so hot that you got use to fighting in almost any conditions, not only that but there was a strange magical skill where one could almost boil his own blood using the magical energy and anger inside, this ability flowed here easily the heat making it easier to learn and understand and before long we could see how warriors used this special magical gift to burn their blood almost sealing and searing wounds in front of the eyes, in fact we were not only learning about combat and skills but were learning about magic’s and new talents we had never heard of before, we even found that if you searched inside deep enough and for a moment listened to the earth and stillness of the rocks then you could even toughen your skin to attacks making it almost like though wood or bark.
Over the that first year we followed the set training pattern that was designed to let us try a broad range of area to see where we excelled or faltered and for an entire year we trained with knights and grand masters who were experts in their chosen fields, and during the evenings we tuck hot volcanic baths and listened to knights telling stories in the entertainment area. This was perhaps one of my favourite parts as the knights would laugh and sing together, they would tell stories and act out scenes from our peoples past, they would teach us about religion and the battles of the old world, this if anything was an area of free speech where the older knights got to teach the younger ones in their own way and their own words, this was refreshing to me after years of intense study and made me feel like one of the knights already, however I still had a long way to go.
Within that first year I found myself excelling in close combat with swords and hammers, and also found and fondness for the large crossbows our people used that sent bolts flying out with a large thud and could kill just about anything in it’s tracks. I also grew a fondness for the acting arena spending many night listening to the stories of old and even got involved with a few of the knights plays and stories that they preformed. That first year was an eye opening experience and before long I was dancing on air in the great fire pits and was getting to the stage that I could make my own blood almost boil using the magic of the world that flowed around us, and if I concentrated hard enough would see swirls of smoking rising from fresh cuts sealing the wound before my very eyes and leaving on the pain of a mild burn in its place, I was becoming more powerful than ever.
Over that first year we witnessed various other student arriving that we had never seen before and learned that they were from different Kaers to ours as by all accounts they were at least three different holds that we knew about but none of us knew the real number only that there were others holds other than our own. It was around that time after our first year of training in the great academy of war that we were called to see the council of masters who had taught us for that year and was told to discuss our likes and dislikes, our weak points and strong ones and then the council would formulate a plan for my next year of training which we all awaited eagerly.
I remember been called into the council chamber all those years ago and seeing the grand master knights sitting behind the large decorative table with lists and training charts in front of them which they seemed to study and mark in various places. Standing to attention in front of them one of them rose to his feet and speaking my name he said “Like you know young brother the great spell casters of the Vimcarnus have foreseen a great time of suffering for our people, they have foreseen a great loss and fall from power, they have seen a battle they say we can not win. Like you also know young brother each knight we train is given a specific set of ancient skills and knowledges because it is said in legend that one day these skills shall peace together once again and like a jigsaw puzzle will form the building block of an entire war as while we might lose the battle the Academy of Darkness foresees it does not mean we will lose the war,” looking directly at me he continued to speak glancing only occasionally at the papers below him.
Glancing at the papers he said “Like you know there are four main paths open to each student and those paths are, the path of the warrior, archer, cavalry man or sword master, once your path is decided you are then given a secret goal and skill set to compliment your training, for example some archers train in the arts of assassination, some of our warriors specialise in rouge skills allowing them to break out of enemy camps and free prisoners, some sword masters learn the arts of disguise and camouflage allowing them to blend in within enemy cities, and if the prophecy is correct then these skills given to you now could perhaps save our entire kingdom” with that he fell silent for a moment and looked into my eyes.
(Cavalry Man of the Rising Sun)
Looking down again at the papers in front of him he said “Your chosen path is that of the warrior, is that still correct?” replying yes sir he once again looked at the papers and said “Good that is the path the grand masters recommended for you, however you do understand the warrior is perhaps one of the most dangerous and most brutal of all the paths, its is the path of most conflict where you often meet your opponent face to face and have to watch the life drain from their eyes, if this is your path then step forward brother” stepping forward the grand masters behind the desk gave me a slight nod as if to salute my bravery and shortly after I was asked inside a private chamber.
Studying my notes further the two grand masters who accompanied me sat me down and began to discuss my skills and progress charts and after a while conferring the high ranking of the two said “So the path of the warrior” smiling as he said that as he was also of the warrior cast “You have picked a fine and honest path one that often leads you to the very front lines of combat, for those hasty and rash it is a deadly choice, for those strong and disciplined its like been a dragon amongst the lambs but it is also a path of much danger a responsibility as others are counting on you, do sou understand that squire?” keeping my eyes forward and not dropping my stance I said “Yes sir” with a clear sharp tone which one again sent him looking down into the records before him.
Looking up at me he said “It says here you have excelled in close combat fighting but are also a responsible shot with missile weapons, and you have excelled in areas of acting and story telling and also have reasonable results it diplomacy can you explain this more?” Pausing for only a second I explained that I found acting much like combat as it required grace of movement and a sharp mind and explained how I had enjoyed speaking with people about stories of religion, battles and tales from the old world that are now long forgotten. With that the pair looked at each other almost at the same time and then said to me “In that case brother your secret path is that of Semcoreos the great path of the wonderer and explorer” with that my mind suddenly started to recoil.
The name Semcoreos instantly rang bells and could remember years ago been taught about a great knight and grand master of our order with the same name who lived many moons before my own four fathers, it was said in legend that countless centuries ago during the birth of our great order our first settlements came under repeated attack by the wild tribes and savages of the lands and it was Semcoreos who brought a stop to this. The story goes that Semcoreos was a warrior of some considerable power but that he also excelled in the skills of story telling, acting and even diplomacy and spent many hours listening to stories of far away lands and lost times, however he was soon to become a hunted outlaw of our people.
Stories of old say that once the attacks began in serious number the grand golden knight Semcoreos simply vanished one night fleeing the besieged town, finding him gone the next day many of the people spat on his name branding him a coward and traitor to the people, many despised his name as over the following months the attacks and raids became worse seeing larger bands of savages turning up trying to steal food money and women. Many months past seeing the new settlements fall under attack countless times by bands of savages numbering from 10 to 500 and our new found settlements were barely clinging onto life and many had already died.
However this was about to get worse as unknown to our a people a great nomadic tribe of savages from the lands in the South that numbered over 2500 strong was heading straight towards them and planned to rub our settlements off the map claiming the lands for themselves, and it was this act that lead into the Great Battle of Danaba where just over 2500 savages accompanied by various smaller groups charged the walls of our new found settlements that at the time were totally besieged and were low on food, water, ammunition and many had already died leaving them vastly out numbered and facing almost certain death at the hands of the Marh’ade savages of the South.
It was late one afternoon that the attack began seeing over 2500 savaged storm the walls of our new settlements using spear and burning arrows that sent fire ripping through the new town like a wave, in only ten minutes of fighting over 100 people had died from flaming arrow fire alone seeing the savages bombard our settlement with crude arrows and weaponry. The battle raged all night seeing the last of the soldiers desperately try to hold the walls and moat areas as hordes of savages ran forward with flaming torches and spears, and all though the night the fires and screams raged followed by the menacing sound of tribal war drums been beaten constantly.
The well documented battle reports suggest all was lost and that women screamed in the streets in terror simply having nowhere to run from the dark skinned savages, entire families laid dead in burning homes, others frantically tried to help the towns guard some getting brought down by terrible burning arrows that pierced trough the entire body, the place was a blood bath and it was just before the dawn that the gates were about to buckle and the last of the guards injured and bleeding were about to give up as the savages smashed their way inside when the guards suddenly spotted a single golden knight riding over the horizon with the great sunrise directly behind him, looking up they could see he carried the great rising sun flag of our people and that behind him he had around 500 heavy cavalry that stormed over the field towards the town.
What followed was the Great Battle of Danaba where just as dawn approached over 500 heavy cavalry lead by the golden knight Semcoreos charged the Marh’ade tribes lines smashing into them with the force of a tidal wave, little else is known about the battle itself other than within several hours over 1800 tribesmen laid dead on the floor with the others fleeing never to return again. The one thing that is known is that little over one hour after the battle the golden knight Semcoreos was found bleeding to death on the ground surrounded by a large circle of over 100 dead tribesmen who had assaulted him in combat and failed. From what the records say the guard leaned over the great knight Semcoreos who vomited and spat blood down his golden chest plate as his life slipped away, and in his last moments he explained that he had travelled to a far away land and using his skills of acting and diplomacy he had rallied support for our new settlement and had come to save us.
(Semcoreos the legend of the battle of Danaba)
Little else is known about the great knights death other than in his final moments he grabbed the guards hand and said “Do you see brothers I came to save you, do you see” and with that his life slipped away on the banks of the great Danaba. I think the two grand masters in front of me could see I was thinking and they remained quiet while my mind recalled the great story of Semcoreos and the battle of Danaba when one of the grand masters finally said “The path of Semcoreos is not an easy one and often requires you to travel miles alone seeking unknown places and people, it requires you to risk your life meeting people who could be friend or foe, who could be waiting to kill you within a second, your job on this path is to rally support for our cause, to discredit our enemies name and turn people against them, your job on this path is to be both a storyteller and a spy, to be both a warrior and a entertainer who promotes our name and discredits our enemies, this is your peace of the jigsaw puzzle, do you understand?” to which I replied yes.
Telling me further information about my path it seemed that my job was to be both a proud soldier and emissary to our people, that if the worst should happen I should rally the support of others and also turn those willing against our enemy Thera by any means possible, that I should strive to rebuild our empire and armies if the time of suffering befell us. I was told that one day so many of our knights would be using their skills against Thera, so many of our knights would be building forces in secret or collecting items that may help us, that one day all of the peace’s would fit into place seeing the destruction of the corrupt Theran government and her armies, it was told to me directly that the Nethermancers of the Vimcarnus have foreseen this at the Academy of Darkness.
My mind again recoiled seeing me think back over two years ago now when I first pulled my short sword from the Alter of the Rising Dragon and how when my blood hit the table I had been given scattered images of a colossal golden army marching in perfect precision and can still remember the deep echoing voices shouting battle commands over the lines, was this the army the dark spell casters of the Vimcarnus refereed to, was this the great army they save seen in their prophecy? I did not know but for now did understand my mission and had correctly chosen the path of the warrior which my own tutors had suggested for me as well and from that point my training specialised.
Over the next year my combat training was mandatory but my education and skills focussed much more on the skills of haggling, diplomacy, story telling, entertaining, setting an impression and even taunting my enemies if needed, my job was to learn about the other races greeting customs and religions, to learn their beliefs and military tactics so I could interact with their society impressing their leaders and even their soldiers if needed. I must admit this was difficult for a warrior to learn but managing to cover the basics on a large number of skills impressed my tutors and made me feel stronger as a person and as a warrior of my people able to spread our legend far and wide, and to gain support either by diplomacy or by force.
I remember as the months went by in the great academy my feelings and thoughts had began to change, my mind and voice had began to be heard and all of a sudden found myself feeling naked as I looked down seeing only a elder squires tunic. I can remember quietly sitting in the story pit when I first arrived here nearly two years ago and been unable to say a word in front of the grand knights and use to love watching them tell stories of our people and of great battles and tactics of history, but now two years later I was brave enough to answer them back and even tell stories in front of them and could feel the mood had changed as while we were elder squires its seemed the knights looked at us in a new way, perhaps because they knew that soon we would be knights, that within just a short time we would be Knights of the Rising Sun just like them.
Thinking back all those years ago to my almost forgotten childhood this would have been a proud and exciting moment for me but think that all seven of us, all of the original seven had changed so much that the excitement of the moment had been replaced simply by a trained and disciplined honour, a great feeling of pride knowing we would at last be looked upon as knights and protectors of our people and yes it was a vast sense of accomplishment knowing that in just a months time after four years of the most intensive military and combat training of our lives we would finally get our new gleaming gold and silver armour and would also get to take part in the final ritual of passing, a great ritual known by our people as the Embras Surie, the birth of the dragon.
It was a time of great honour within my heart and we even heard news from home and for the first time in nearly two years had been allowed to receive personal mail just before our ritual of passing, by all accounts everything was well in the Kaer and as planned they had managed to open the Kaer doors on schedule leading out into a wondrous and new world that was far better than the books had described and that so far there had been no problems whatsoever and that they had built a large settlement outside the Kaer and were slowly beginning to explore the landscape during the day time hours, and have to say it made us even more eager to pass the ritual and get home to see our families and this new world they spoke of in their letters, they said it was beautiful.
It was a time of great activity for us as not only we were still training but were also preparing ourselves for the great ritual, one day we would be practising our lines and vows to the knighthood, another day we were been measured up for armour, the next day we were in the fighting pits practising our skills and talents and the news from home about this new world certainly caused a commotion as by all accounts the forms of transportation were still very risky in the place they called the astral world, this strange spell caster term I do not fully understand but by all accounts foul and evil things lay waiting in darkness of the magical journey so news for many months had been cut off, however this new information about about a new world soon caused some attention as by all accounts two kaers had opened their doors to the world in the two years we had been gone.
I remember the air been unusually cool the night before the great ritual and can remember sitting their on my bed unable to sleep and for some reason all I could think about was years ago and seeing myself walking into that darkened room as a scared young boy, seeing myself bandaging up the pupils the year after, seeing myself pulling the sword from the alter of my ancestors and seeing an entire army of golden knights marching into battle, what did it all mean, on the day we faced the new pupils why did I feel that Thystonius had reached into me like he had flicked on a switch inside my mind, what was this new world and new settlement at home all about and can remember going to sleep that night with many whirling questions in my head, and all along tomorrow was perhaps the biggest day of my entire life.
The morning came quick for us and we began to prepare for the great ritual that had been a time honoured tradition of our people for countless years, this perhaps the greatest ritual in our kingdom was preformed the same each year no matter if it was just one knight or fifty that graduated, and that means once per year every single member of the Rising Flame Academy which is just over 5000 people will assemble outside the huge marble steps of the academy in full battle dress and military file seeing the thousands of knights form huge gleaming gold columns of armour that shimmers a golden and burning red colour from the lava below, even the squires and tutors form massive ranks behind the knights proudly carrying their path banners above their heads.
Once the entire academy is assembled the elder squires who are graduating that year are led out onto the top of the great stairs where they are given a folded pure white tunic with no markings, with the entire academy watching they then walk down the stairs in single file carrying with them all of their training cloths from the entire four year period. Walking past the huge ranks of knights and squires it is forbidden to look the elder squires in the eyes but only to look forward and ignore them as they walk past towards the bridge where they preform the first part of the ritual.
Standing on the bridge each elder squire takes his training and study cloths from the first two years of his training and takes a moment to reflect on them, these are the cloths he bled in for two years of his life, the cloths that he wore everyday with his friends, and once he has remembered his past he says an special offering to the dragon statue on the left hand side of the academy door before throwing his first set of cloths over the left hand side of the bridge into the river of lava below as a offering to the elements and protectors of the academy. The squire then walks to the right side of the bridge and follows the same procedure with his elder squires cloths which he replaces with the simple white robes and nothing more, throwing these over the right side of the bridge into the lava below he again makes an offering to the dragon statue on the right hand side of the stairs.
The elder squires then walk back through the huge ranks of knights who all stand in perfect file waiting for them to arrive, it is within this act that the new knights walk amongst their brothers totally unarmed and stripped of all possessions apart from a simple white robe that symbolises their new life that is about to begin, within this act of walking unarmed they show their brothers they have no hostile intent and that they trust then not to take their lives.
Walking slowly towards the stairs the elder squires reach the bottom of the legendary 101 marble stairs of the Rising Flame Academy where they begin to climb the stairs one by one, with each step whispering the rites of the ancient ritual of our people which is a 101 word prayer with one word for each step of the great academy. Reaching the top the elder squires are lead into a special room simply known as the Demarg Surie or “The Heart of the Dragon” which is where the squires see their armour for the first time, where they collect this specially made item that has been built carved and enchanted especially for them to suit their skills, once dressed in this gleaming expertly made armour with each slightly differing from the next the squires are lead back outside to the top of the stairs where they stand in a gleaming line in front of the entire academy who bow ton one knee in respect and honour of their achievement, even the grand masters themselves do this.
(The great armour of our people comes in all various designs of great craftmenship)
Stud high above the the people of the academy the gleaming knights in their brand new armour shine like golden stars against the background of the dark cavern walls, standing their in front of their people and carrying the weapons of their choice they say one last vow which is their knighthood in front of the entire academy during which the people stayed bowed. Once this final ritual is completed the new Knights of the Rising Sun walk down the 101 steps of the academy where the entire academy cheers and claps in their honour, and for the first time they go to meet their brothers as true knights of the order.
I will remember that day for the rest of my life and will not only remember the pride and emotion I felt during that ritual seeing every single person in the academy bowing before me, but most of all will remember seeing my armour for the first time and can remember walking in the room and seeing various sets of armour hung waiting, glistening like huge magical suits of power I looked at each one with my draw dropped open until half way down the line one set made me stop in my tracks, I knew it was mine from the moment my eyes made contact it was perfect, this huge silver and gold set of plate male glistened with colour and shine and had expert carvings of our people etched into every surface making it by far one of the most decorative that year, and can even recall reaching out and touching the great armour and feeling some kind of instant connection and could only wonder if the river of lava had blessed my armour due to the offerings we made for years.
Stepping out onto the top of those stairs was one of the proudest days of my life seeing the entire academy bowing before me in honour and can remember walking down those stairs feeling like a king amongst my brothers as they cheered and clapped us down every step, standing in line in front of them we stud in our gleaming armour holding savage weapons at our sides along with our short short the Sun Kebath and could see even the grand masters clapped and smiled and came to realise the ritual was not just a great honour for us but for all of those who helped train us and to all the squires still on the path of knighthood, to those squires now we were almost like walking Gods and can even remember seeing at least twenty members of the Vimcarnus with one in each column of knights and even they bowed in their huge sets of bone encrusted armour.
(Ambassador Set’Ki of the Vimcarnus at the ritual of Embras Surie, the birth of the dragon)
The weeks following the ritual were fantastic seeing us greeted and smiled upon wherever we went and for many days were happy and proud walking around the halls in our new armour and full knight status, however soon we felt the call of home and it was at that time that one of the dark casters of the Vimcarnus came to transport us home in the strange super changed bone circle device which we had been taught about during our study. I remember the day well as on getting ready to leave for the first time in two years we once again witnessed the same Nethermancer from before turning up and instantly recognised his withdrawn and pale face and grey cloudy eyes and we bowed our heads as he walked passed, however for a moment he stopped which lead into one of the strangest experiences of my life.
Stopping dead in his tracks as he walked passed us he paused for a moment and remained silent before turning his head briskly towards us, looking at his deep withdrawn eyes and pale white skin made me think he was from another world or something, however the dark figure of the Vimcarnus spoke and said “I remember you from two years ago you are the squires who graduated this year” and standing forward he reached out his slender pale hand towards my brother to shake his hand, stepping to the next person in line he also offered them his hand in congratulations and carried on down the line until it was my turn.
I remember like it was yesterday he looked straight at me through hypnotic grey eyes and reached out his thin and pale hand towards me, looking closer I could see deep purple and almost black veins just about pumping under the pale translucent flesh. Grasping my hand tightly I felt long finger nails sliding down my wrist and could see bracelets made of bone upon his arm, however it was when he tuck me hand that the strangest thing happened as he suddenly jolted with energy as our hands met grasping his grip to the point of hurting.
I remember for several seconds his eyes rolled back into his skull and he seemed to stand virtually still only shuddering slightly as our hands held, suddenly he began to shake more and his eyes started to flicker like some dark power was possessing him, pulling away from him sharply seem to break him from his trance like state where he looked at me directly in the eyes like he was searching for something inside my soul, with that he turned around seemingly confused and shouted “Come” without shaking the rest of the knights hands which perhaps they were glad about, what did this Nethermancer see and why was I the only knight this happened to are questions that plague me to this day as even the others looked confused.
(Young Shadow Knight trains at the Academy of Darkness)
However it was a great time for us all the as we were finally going home as knights to see our family and this new world and settlement we had heard so much about, people gave us a royal send off with letters and items to send back to the new world and cheered as we walked by knowing we had finally completed our journey of knighthood. It was not long after that we were ready to set off and walking over the huge bridge and river of lava myself and 14 other knights in total along with one caster of the Vimcarnus made our way towards the huge bone circle cavern ahead only turning back several times to say goodbye to the place we had called home for two years, and while this was a painful time it was also and exciting one and we couldn’t help but smile knowing we was going home as knights and that our entire Kaer would honour our success with the great feast.
Walking inside the huge bone circle no longer seemed as threatening but still mysterious to me and think these spell caster types dabble in dangerous arts but am assured its safe. Making a large circle around the dark caster he began to weave his magic spell and releasing the air from our lungs and closing our eyes we stood perfectly still and again heard a booming sound followed by the sound of a thousand screams and while the feeling of falling was still there it wasn’t nearly as bad as before once your prepared. I remember smiling and thinking of home when the caster finally cast his dark spell and what seemed like only a second later I appeared in the room of my Kaer that was filled with dust and dissipating magical energies.
I remember opening my eyes and seeing the room in my Kaer and been so happy until “BOOM” we heard some kind of massive explosion, the entire walls of the chamber shuddered like some great beast was attacking from outside, looking confused for a second we again heard another epic boom that sent vibrations through our feet. With a look of confusion on his face the dark caster stepped forward several steps and quickly started weaving some kind of ancient spell where he chanted to himself rubbing the bone bracelet around his wrist and then touching his eyes, suddenly lunging his arms forward we could see sparks of black magic as he pupils dilated like he was looking into a different world, turning his head around he seemed to jump backward in terror and as no sooner a that happened than his eyes changed back to normal and in a frantic voice simply said “THERANS” and instantly turned to the knight on his right and said “Guard the main door” then turning to us he said “Knights, save the people bring them hear now” and with that he turned around and once again started some kind of dark ritual to reactive the bone circle.
Training tuck over and us 15 knights in total began sweeping down the corridors two at a time checking every passage as we did, flowing light water we made our way towards the great doorway of our Kaer and again heard a huge volley of booms that almost knocked us off our feet as we ran towards the doors. I will never forget what we witnessed that day and looking out into our world for the very first time in my life I could see huge mountains in the distance and remember the sun light hurting my eyes. Holding my hand over my eyes until my vision began to adjust I started to see glimpses of an entire settlement with hundreds of our Kaers people laying dead on the floor and huge flames that ripped through the wooden buildings and walls with various huge explosions.
I can remember looking up into the sky for the first time ever in my life and standing their in total shock seeing the ten huge Theran air ships above us that were blasting the settlement and our people to peace’s with fire cannons and flaming arrows. Huge explosions battered the mountain above us sending huge shards of rock crashing down just feet away from us and it seemed like they were trying to bring the entire mountain down on top of us, with that the people had fled the Kaer only to get massacred by the huge convoy of ships all bearing the flags of Thera, this combat was my first ever experience of our world and one that left thousands of people dead.
I heard a voice “Knights, Shields” and several of the knights raised shields above their heads in hope of stopping the arrows and rocks from above, quickly grabbing a shield from the floor I headed forward with shards of rock flying past me and arrows bouncing off the shield above me in great waves. I can remember shouting to the people to get back to the Kaer quickly and seeing us some started to obey seeing them take their chance to run towards the open doors, again we shouted “BACK TO THE KAER, BACK TO THE KAER” and people began running from their hiding places and following our commands, looking back I remember seeing at least 50 people running through the great doors as knight in gleaming armour shot their crossbows towards the ships above.
Turning to my brother beside me I said “Look” pointing down towards the main walls and could see one of our knights trying to drag two other injured knights out of combat, and looking at each other we again surged forward to help our brothers shouting “back to the Kaer” as we did. Running through the village we were jumping over countless dead more than we had first though and could see our own people even women and children laid in peace’s around the settlements, mothers even screamed trying to put their babies out after fire cannon blasts and can remember a lowly old villager running past me and saying “Thank you brave knight, we are sorry they tuck us completely by surprise” and with that he ran on only getting a few more steps before a flaming arrow smashed straight through the back of his skull sending his life plummeting to the floor.
Looking forward we could see the wounded knights in the distance and again tried to reach them when something happened within the flash of an eye, suddenly the air seemed to disappear around us followed by an instant second of heat before a epic explosion from a fire cannon that landed right next to us and sent me flying at least 20ft through the settlement and leaving a delirious ringing in my ears that only helped muffle the sound of further fire cannon blasts and screams on my people. Getting to my knees could feel my armour had stopped much of the damage but my ribs were possibly broken and in pain as I scrabbled to my feet.
I remember it like it was yesterday standing up in a dizzy shell shocked state I turned to see the great door to our Kaer with volley after volley of fire cannon round hitting the rocks above and could see the last few desperate people making a run towards the gate when all of a sudden the entire mountain side just collapsed inwards covering the entire gateway in thousands of tons of rubble and possibly killing everyone inside. My heart screamed for that second as I suddenly realised I was alone in a totally unknown world with huge Theran ships right above me, its suddenly dawned I had no way back and that for all I know every member of my Kaer and family had just been killed, and for that second at least I was terrified and totally alone.
Ducking to my knees I glanced around seeing a landscape totally knew to me and wrapping my cloak over my golden armour decided to keep my head down and back away from the ships who were still firing at the mountain and last of the settlement. I remember my heart pounding like never before as I scrambled away form the ships hoping to get out of sight in the longer grass ahead where I could hide and see what happened in case any more survivors came my way.
Kneeling in the long grass with my cloak tightly around me I watched the huge ships continue to attack the mountain and settlement for at least another fifteen minutes during which time I witnessed no survivors heading out of the settlement. Frantic I began to look around and for a brief second had a small glimmer of hope as far into the distance I could see two golden figures running into the tree line which made me smile knowing there were survivors.
(Amius one of my brothers that trained with me in my year, I am unsure if he survived)
I remember heading around the base of the mountain so the monstrous air ships didn’t see me and was hoping to run towards the woods in the distance where my two brothers had gone, however making my way around the base of the mountain I heard some rocks clattering down from above that landed about 50ft ahead of me, looking up into the higher mountains I could see a golden knight making his way dangerously up the mountain path climbing further up and away from the dreadful airships that lay just around the corner of the mountain. I remember calling out to him that day still with the sound of burning and the occasional fire cannon shot in the background, calling out to him he must have just heard me.
Looking down towards me he waved several times and then screaming at the top of his voice he simply shouted “Learn to suffer brother, Learn to suffer” and lifted his weapon high into the sky before turning and carrying on climbing up the great mountain, that day was over ten years ago now and that was the last day that I ever saw one of my brothers and have spent the last ten years searching everyday for the other survivors or the location of the hidden academy unless Thera found that as well. I remember the day of the battle once the great fire cannons had stop Theran troops began to land around the base of our old Kaer and after that began spreading out in search patterns and seeing no more survivors I had little choice but to run off alone into the unknown wilderness before me.
Heading into the the things I assumed were trees I began silently making may way through the landscape using the little hunting knowledge I had read about in books to survive and was glad at least I was carrying my weapons and kit with me or else I’d have surly died in that hostile environment. I remember walking for many miles terrified at almost every new creature that came near me and several times tried shooting at bees with my crossbow afraid they were some evil beasts buzzing past my ears, in fact even the gusts of wind scared me at that point.
I walked for several days only managing to survive on the little rations I had with me and several small animals that I managed to kill with my crossbow, these small tree critters seem harmless enough and the meat taste a little similar to pork but was hardly enough to feed me after skinning and cooking. It was around the third day that my heart started to pound on seeing a small village just outside the trees, this village had a large stone wall around with intricate carvings on each brick. Cleaning myself up a little I headed cautiously towards the village in hope someone there could help me, or perhaps they were harbouring more knights from the evil Thera.
I remember getting only a few hundred paces away from the village when I dropped to my knees instantly and could see Theran flags in the courtyard of the town shortly followed by Theran soldiers who seemed to be escorting a group of chained slaves. Dropping to the ground instantly my heart filled with questions, surly this was the golden plain the homeland of our people and seeing a Theran town here shocked me to say the least as it seemed Thera must have opened its doors many years before ourselves who only had the original construction documents to work from that were stolen many years before the Scourge arrived, either way I had no choice but to back away quietly and avoid the town altogether.
Walking onwards I remember well that the sun had risen and fallen seven times since I had left the Kaer of my people in rubble and flames and have to admit my rations had run out, my hunters skills over two days had failed to find anything other than leaves on trees and even water seemed sparse leaving me unable to find a river or stream for many miles. It was on that seventh day that my body just began to give in under the strain of walking in this new and vast environment, walking all day on that seventh day my stomach churned in hunger and my lips felt dry and cracked, even with the sun on me I shivered and at times was only managing to stumble a few steps at a time before I finally fell to the floor feeling exhausted.
My body felt weak and my senses were totally lost in this new world and laying there on the floor it wasn’t long before I was drifting in and out of sleep or perhaps even consciousness and can only remember opening my eyes and seeing a face looking down on me like I had never seen before, its face was covered with greenish brown skin and it had two large tusk like fangs sticking out from its bottom jaw, fighting at first I soon dazed off back into my unconscious state. I do not know how long passed but remember the figure giving me fresh water and breaking up small amounts of food and feeding me, and after what must have been a good 8 hours sleep I can remember waking in a lightly forested area and still feeling hungry but now alert.
Reaching for my short sword I found it still attached to my belt and looking around the small makeshift camp noticed the green fanged creature sitting beside a small smouldering fire where he cooked some kind of woodland animal, was this creature an Ork as it seemed to match the pictures I had seen so I tried to communicate with the creature first in human with little luck and then in Dwarf which the creature seemed to understand to a very limited extent. Grunting rough dwarfish words at me we just about managed to swap names, his name by all accounts was Galesh and while little else could be understood he seemed to have a very bad reaction when I mentioned the word Thera but lucky managed to act out a scene trying to portray great air ships attacking us with fire and arrows, for a good while the Ork creature looked confused until is finally seemed to click that we had been attacked by Thera and were enemies of Thera which calmed him greatly.
Sharing with me his simple meal of cooked forest rodent he gestured to to follow him and after gathering my things began to follow the Ork Galesh through the forests sticking to the edges of the forest which I assume was to hide from patrols, for the next four days me and Gelesh walked through the wilderness each night trying to hunt what we could and have to admit his knowledge of the land really helped seeing us catch fresh fish and even collecting berries and vegetables as we walked, communication however was still very hard. If memory serves correct it was on the early afternoon of that firth day that we began following a small winding path into the mountains and before long could see a medium sized nomadic looking camp off into the distance that had been well hidden amongst the rocks and under growth.
Walking down towards the camp my heart was pounding wondering what was to come and after no more than about fifteen steps into the camp there was a explosion of activity and shouts, within seconds there were at least 8 to 10 figures heading towards me with weapons drawn and could see they were large savage looking Orks with crude weapons and basic armour and can imagine me in my gleaming golden armour looked extremely strange or even a target for these poor savages and nomadic people who seemed to have very little indeed. Within seconds the figures fell upon me with spears pointing directly at me and could see more armed Orks flooding out of the tents and heading our way leaving me totally surrounded.
Suddenly the Ork Gelesh jumped in front of me and started speaking in some rough dialect I had never heard before and seemed to begin arguing with the group, exchanging various words I noticed how they fronted each other up and seemed to speak with aggressive and loud posture and could remember reading that Orks often greet each other strongly. Suddenly the conversation became heated as I heard one of the grizzled voices saying “Thera” in rough dwarvern words seeing the entire group erupt in growls a spears getting shoved closer to me, looking on I could see Gelesh arguing and again heard the words “Thera” several more times with spears ever closing.
I was vastly out numbered but with my hand on my short sword decided to be brave so standing up tall and straight I shouted loudly “I AM NOT FROM THERA” making several of the Orks jump back startled but soon pointing their spears back towards me and it almost seemed like they were going to attack when all of a sudden a broken but decent voice in the dwarvern language spoke out and said “If you are not Theran then who are you?” and the group fell quiet as a large massively built Ork stud forward who had thick black hair and vicious looking teeth.
(Large Ork of the tribe who spoke with good Dwarvern)
Telling him my story in brief I could see many of the Orks looked on in confusion and didn’t have a clue what I was saying where a few at least seemed to be hanging on every word. Mentioning the name of my knighthood several times the great Ork in front of me seemed to start thinking and could see thoughts turning in his mind like he was trying to remember something, it was around that second he snapped a quick order to the men with spears gesturing with his arm to back away, and while they only tuck a step back it did give me a little breathing room from the spears at least and they seemed to continue arguing for a second with the large Ork seeming to make the final decision.
Taking a step towards me with his hand resting on his blade the Ork spoke to me again in basic Dwarvern and said “Come, come with me” and gestured me to follow along with at least twenty warriors with spears to my back and sides. Heading towards a large tent the big Ork threw open the leather doorway so the guards with spears could see inside the tent, walking directly inside I could see him kneeling over a small bed made up of bear furs on the floor, after whisper for around 30 seconds he moved out of the way revealing and ancient looking Ork who was laid in the bed.
Looking at this frail figure in the bed I instantly noticed the wrinkles of age and could see how his teeth were worn down and cracked unlike the others, only having a few hairs upon his tanned head even the skin seemed to be dry and dying like he could be moments away form death by old age. Straining to see me at first the old Ork in the bed gestured me to come closer and could see him squinting with his eyes and seemed to jilt his head to the side occasionally like possessed with one of the sicknesses of age, however getting closer his eyes seemed to open wider and light up just for a second, gesturing me to come even closer the large Ork beside me pulled out a crude but vicious looking blade as I neared.
Slowing my pace I knelt down unarmed before the dying old man in bed and could see his eyes confused like he was seeing something he hadn’t seen for a lifetime, running his hands up my chest plate his hand rubbed over the large rising sun on my chest and he suddenly seemed shocked whispering something under his breath, suddenly he tapped me several times on the chest with the flat on his hand speaking several Orkish words to the others surrounding me. The large Ork who had lead me into the tent seemed to ask several questions in a raised voice and again heard Thera mentioned before the ancient bed ridden Ork again began to speak and almost began coughing as he raised his dry dusty voice and again banged on the chest plate of my armour with his frail hand.
The large Ork that lead me in the tent suddenly shouted several words I didn’t understand which made the others gasp and begin nattering, the large Ork looking at me said “Golden Knight” before continuing to listen to the old man in the bed. Listening more the large Ork seemed to cast glances towards me and kept looking at my armour until suddenly the old man repeated the same words three times in a row stamping his first on the bed each time as he did, the large Ork simply looked at me and said “The golden knights, the great enemy of Thera” and seemed to repeat it to the crowd surrounding me who all seemed to back away a little and begin nattering even more as they stared.
The old man only continued to speak for a short time longer before before coughing and pointing towards a small area of boxes in the corner of the tent that seemed to be made of tanned pigs hide, walking over to the boxes one of the Orks searched through and pulled out a large item that seemed to be wrapped in dirty white cloth that had almost turned brown over the years, bringing it over to the old man he struggled with shaking hands and was still coughing as he unwrapped the ancient cloth to unveil the item inside. To my surprise he pulled out and ancient and worn looking gauntlet that still shimmered gold and silver just like my own.
The old man’s eyes seemed to open wider again like he was an old man trying to fight for every last chance to be vital to his tribe, like he once again wanted to effect the world around him with knowledge hundreds of years old. Shaking the golden gauntlet towards the Orks surrounding me the old man began to speak which the large Ork roughly translated, from my understanding the old Ork laying in the bed said “The golden knights of the rising sun, the warriors, the enemies of Thera” and shaking the gauntlet towards the Orks he said “The only people who came to help us when Cara Fard was attacked” and with that every Ork in the room began looking at me.
Several more days passed and the tribe made me comfortable in a small basic tent which they guarded around the clock, however from what it seems even more talking was happening and the entire camp would stare at me any chance they got. It was about that time that the large Ork with the thick black hair approached me and said that they had sent for a scout from another tribe who had news about my people and that he would be here within a few days, this news excited me to say the least but what was to come only plummeted my heart and world further into darkness seeing my hate for Thera grow like a roots deep into my soul.
The two days passed quickly and can remember the scout arriving distinctly as what appeared was more tree than man, this medium sized Ork came wandering out of the trees early that morning and was so highly camouflaged that you probably couldn’t have seen him if you were stud next to him, walking towards us he bowed towards the guards of the village who seemed to great him with firm hand shakes. Before long I was called to the main tent where the scout and large Ork waited for me and tended to the dying old man in the bed, on entering the large basic tent the scout seemed to look at me like I was from a different world and almost seemed shocked at such splendid armour however slowly we began to talk.
The big Ork translated well only missing a few words here and there and by all accounts the scout said there had been two large Theran attacks against two strongholds seeing them both wiped off the map, having checked one himself he found burning corpses wearing a strange golden armour like mine and scouting around only found about 20 sets of tracks leading away from the place but thousands of dead. I have to admit my fist clenched at this moment however the scout continued saying his brothers a little further South have also found a huge Stronghold that Thera attacked and that while he had not seen it himself his brother reported masses of bodies at least 3000 strong and a lot of them were wearing golden plate armour like mine.
I remember to this day that feeling that over tuck me a feeling of hollowness and and pain finding out my people were been exterminated as soon as they opened the Kaer doors and women and children were been killed within just weeks of seeing our world for the first time in their lives, no warning, no mercy, no honour in combat or respect for the old world just ships that can bring mountains down onto our heads. I can remember kneeling there with tears rolling down my cheeks and weeping like a child when a frail and trembling old hand appeared beneath my face and as I looked up could see the old man in the bed had stirred and awoken just for a moment.
Looking down at his shaking old wrist my tears fell from my nose landing upon his arm and rolling across an ancient scar of burnt flesh that had a left a blackened yet fading scar deep in his skin, looking at my tears rolling over the scar the old Ork said something to me and while I could not understand a word of what he said I will never forget how he said it, looking at his frail wrist with my tears running over his scar he just looked at me and let out several heart felt words and could almost see the pain of years ago speaking from behind his eyes, looking down again I once again looked at my tear running over the Theran slave mark burned deep within his skin and began to realise what these people had been through, and for that moment at least we understood each other.
That day was a little over 10 years ago now and since that time I have searched each village and town, each city and farm that I have come across looking for my brothers and asking if anyone knows anything of the golden knighthood but so far am yet to find a single one of my brothers, there are scattered reports of them been seen in Dwarvern city of Throal, other reports suggest Kratas the city of thieves, and just two years ago now a group of five golden knights were spotted riding through villages near the Serpent River before vanishing somewhere into the night.
I do not know what my future holds but do know it my heart everyday that there are a unknown number of knights out there and that each day they are plotting their revenge, now as we speak they lay hidden amongst our towns and cities, they build secret camps deep within the woodlands, they infiltrate Thera herself waiting for the time to strike, and now as we speak entire sets of gleaming gold armour lay hidden and only waiting to be worn once again.
For now my name is Rayven Astar one of the last knights of my holy order and my people have been at war for over 700 years. It is also said by my people that a great time of suffering shall befall us where everything we love shall be destroyed, but from that suffering a war will be born and it will be a war like no other, it is said by my people that one day the great knights will rise up once again and using specially designed skills that have been practised for hundreds of years we shall once again feel the glory of war and take back what it rightfully ours, that once again we will rise up and take back the golden kingdom.