Legacies of the Fallen
Legacies of the Fallen
by Jasson Knight
-: No Man's Land :-
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
High above the dark, towering cliffs of volcanic rock, the sky burned as though it had been painted with blood. In the distance, sea birds soared until they were nothing but flecks in the brightening sky and vivid ribbons of lightning danced upon the black clouds boiling on the horizon.
There had been a certain, captivating simplicity to the Queen's idea. The very idea of a glorious, sprawling palace sheltered from the vicious, eternal blizzards by the deep, serene ocean was intriguing. They would be tapped directly into the inexhaustible power of Lavos. With the energies of this almighty being, they would finally ascend to Zeal's proper role as the center of the universe.
The storm was calling to him as it buffeted off the rocks of this condemned and broken shore. It spoke to him in tongues now lost, as though they were releasing what power they had used to bring him to this point.
It was as though Gavesin Ishon's world had turned to ice. Sounds coming in to him faintly, distantly, as though they had to reach him through whatever substance prevented him from moving.
Gloved hands raised high, eyes shut behind identical, insulated masks, heavy robes swirling about them, they called upon their powers of water and wind. In perfect concert, the great ring of Zealian sorcerers pushed and prodded at the angry ocean they floated above.
At first the seas resisted; whitecaps rearing high like outraged white stallions and striking at them with spray that turned instantly to diamond dust. It was not within its nature to obey the whims of man, but the mages were patient and persistent. It churned and roared, swirling as they plunged a massive wall of energy downward until it struck the ocean floor.
The red dawn abruptly changed to violet twilight. The winds increased, violently lashing him with ice and snow only to eerily die as another red dawn rose. Gavesin waited for the dragonfly-like shadow of the Blackbird to arrive, to carry him back to his warm world of books and scrolls high above the clouds. He thought that he should be able to see the floating continents through this strange break in the eternal blizzard that had raged for aeons.
Blood - His blood! - was swiftly cooling on the rocks he laid on; but, it was the ridiculous, languid notion that he had ruined his expensive robes and cloak.
He knew he was going to die. And that infuriated him.
He was the eldest nephew of the Queen! The only one related to her by blood, not through her late husbands! It was becoming apparent to him that those fools were going to let him die like one of the Earthbound ones!
Thunder clapped as they gestured harshly to their right, sending the wall spiraling. Unable to resist any further, the water too began to spin. As the speed increased, a depression formed in the center and began to creep ever deeper.
The Tidal Lords of Zeal reacted instantly, descending little by little as they compelled the water at the boundaries of their huge whirlpool beyond their magical wall.
When he once more regained consciousness, Gavesin felt himself floating, light upon the air like a feather on a breeze. He no longer felt the need to shiver, as though air had warmed considerably. Perhaps he had been found or perhaps hypothermia had finally taken him.
He stared languorously at the gleaming crescent that had appeared above him as it reflected a verdant kaleidoscope interlaced with shades of blacks and gray, shot through with the occasional burst of vivid yellow.
And far beyond that, was the distant shadow of a dragonfly-like form.
13 May, 611AD
Guardia Castle, The Kingdom of Guardia
Leander Nikarah could be a patient man.
In fact, he prided himself on his persistence and fortitude. His former instructors had frequently commented that he was one of the most diligent youths they had ever taught. He had never once lost his temper, nor given up at anything. He had taken every taunt, every slight, and every injury brought down upon him by his peers with the dignity of a veteran soldier being given a sharp dressing down by his commanding officer. Never once, had his patience faltered.
Truth be told, ever since the Commander of the Guardian Knights had appeared on his mother's doorstep eleven years ago to offer His Majesty's condolences for his father's death during the Battle of the Zenan Bridge, he had needed every drop he could muster.
However, nothing can last forever.
It had been a quiet, Spring evening the day Nikarah's patience finally broke. Most of the Knights had been relaxing down in the Knight's Quarters that eve, enjoying a much deserved respite. It had been over a decade since the Mystic Army had been repelled in the Battle of Zenan and over the years the army had fractured into smaller, rebel bands that were easily routed. The week before, the Knights of Guardia had soundly defeated the largest guerrilla unit in a bloody encounter south of the Denodoro Mountains. Since then, the rest of the Mystics had gone quiet. The Knights knew they were planning something, but experience had taught them not to waste valuable energy worrying. Their strength was the reason why Guardia was currently the most powerful nation in the known world.
The General of Guardia's Military Forces, a gentle man by the name of Glenn Ornata, had been playing chess with Aiken Garson, the Commander of the Knights of the Square Table. A promising young knight named Gideon, who had been knighted on the same day as Leander, had been watching them intently; calculating their moves as closely as he did when they were planning for battle while he prepared for his usual patrol of the parapets.
They had sensed something was wrong when Leander Nikarah stalked in. He wandered the hall aimlessly for a time before coming to stand before the fire near the three Knights' table. His eyes were wild and bloodshot, hands quaking, every visible muscle taut as he sucked in a few trembling breaths. He muttered something to himself that went unheard before he began pacing paced like a caged lion, his eyes rolling in an almost bestial fashion to take in the expansive room. The General and his Commander both rose as one, Gideon rising a moment later at their cue, a horrible feeling taking root in the pits of their stomachs.
Nonetheless, before they could take another step, Leander turned on the table next to them like a rabid beast. A veteran soldier's chest had been laid open from navel to sternum before the stroke was reversed to neatly cleave through another soldier's arm that had been raised in self-defense as Leander twisted to redirect his attack. As the soldier reeled and backpedaled, Nikarah swept in and laid his belly open.
As Glenn closed on the berserk Knight, Leander had turned and lashed out in a wild, horizontal stroke that caught Gideon in the neck. Gideon's mail resisted the slash, but the force had been too great. His neck snapped cleanly with a wet crackle and he crumpled to the floor, his face locked in a expression of shock.
Glenn drove in hard, battering the rogue knight away from the fallen men.
Leander's sword shrieked as the metal succumbed to the power of the older swordsman's attack. Even before the sheared off blade had finished its fall, the General had pivoted and ducked under his guard to smash the hilt of the legendary Masamune sword to Leander's skull.
The Knight dropped like a stone, his rampage over as quickly as it had begun.
And so, on the Thirteenth day of May of the Six Hundred-Eleventh year of the Lord and exactly three weeks to the day since he was Knighted, Leander Nikarah was about to be court-martialed and stripped of his titles.
There was little doubt he would be executed.
Part of him wanted to believe that Leander had been under the influence of something insidious, but in retrospect, Glenn - once known simply as "Frog" - painfully came to the realization that he probably should have been expecting it. There had always been something eerily familiar about him, yet he had never been able to put his finger on it.
Within his cell, the young man's posture and carriage was that of a man already dead. His head was bent, his face obscured by a fall of ginger hair sticking out above and below a circlet of soiled bandages. His clothes had been taken from him, leaving only a pair of thin, knee length breeches of dark homespun and a bronze medallion as his only coverings. His breath wafted from his nose and mouth in clouds, yet he wasn't shivering. The round medallion hung motionless in the hollow of his sternum like a yoke of lead. From the gleaming, bronze disk gazed a wizened, benevolent face formed of Oak leaves and surrounded by knotwork and small, raised circles. It had once seemed to be possessed of a primal wisdom to Glenn, yet today the face looked vapid and jaded.
Glenn nodded to the Knight Captain; the door yawned wide, bathing the man within with light from the torches behind them. He lifted his head slowly, piercing both men with baleful, red-rimmed, and bloodshot eyes.
A chill ran down Glenn's spine as the gaze hardened as they fixed on the Knight Captain. The last time he had seen eyes that cold was on a bright, sunny day over twenty years ago. He had been a youth then, a skinny whelp of seventeen who had just watched his best friend die.
No sooner than he remembered that then the eerie feeling solidified. He realized that had his hair been cerulean rather than auburn, Leander could have been a clone of his former nemesis, Magus. His history, his dedication to being the best, his rage and his sorrows, everything eerily matching the wizard's story like a distorted mirror. Dread rose from deep within Glenn's stomach. Was he gazing upon the next Magus?
As though sensing his thoughts, the stubble around Leander's mouth flexed and became darker in places as his lips curled scornfully.
"Leander Nikarah," The Commander began without preamble. Glenn had no idea how he could keep his voice so even. "Your trial will begin in exactly one hour. I have been commanded to enter your statement to the Court. How will you plead?"
"Guilty." Leander stated with a dismissive air, his lack of remorse making him seem ever more like his archenemy.
"Art thou mad?" Glenn bristled, holding back the fine tremor that wanted to run up his spine. He struggled to form the proper words around an accent grown thick with rage. "Hold thine tongue; this tis no jest! Three men died by thine own hands!"
"They had it coming."
The green haired man sputtered, his eyes going wide. His trembling hand reached for his sword, but Commander Garson laid a callused hand on his arm to restrain him. His voice was calm as he regarded the man impassively, "Do you realize that you're expected to be executed? Hung or beheaded, most likely."
His eyes moved from the Knight Captain's to Glenn's own azure eyes. His pale lips twitched into a wan smile, his voice that of a man attempting to explain a difficult concept to a small child, "Everyone dies, Commander. Nothing lives forever."
However, a voice from the past seemed to be whispering to him through the ages from Leander's steady, deep voice. It was the voice of another man, who had been condemned by fate... one who had nearly brought Guardia its knees. "Idiots... nothing can live forever..."