The Elemental Swords - Book One: Sunder - Prologue
Howling gale storms ravished the ancient trees, seemingly endless amounts of leaves were being blown into the thick forest. Wood moaned and groaned as they swayed, fighting the relentless winds and providing what little coverage for the lives that lurked in them. Two figures emerged from the forest, and their sacred sanctuary loomed a little ways ahead. A crude small structure riddled with even smaller buildings around it, despite the ruined state it was in, massive walls circled the entire structure as the first means of defense.
The two individuals fought harder against the battering winds as they approached the structure, without the forest’s protection it became more of a challenge. One of the two men struggled more than the other, the older of the two leaned his weight over the younger. He released his palm from applying pressure on his abdomen, his hands were covered in his own dry blood. Despite his circumstances, he soldiered on for the sake of those who depended on him. Tripping and losing his support on the man he leant on, he went toppling on the cold-earthy path just in front of the sanctuary gates.
“Let me catch my breath!” Wheezed the older man, struggling to catch his breath.
He took the silent moment to reflect over everything that happened, everything he had come to know and love was being stripped away from him. Stroking his ring in reverie, he found solace in this possession. Hope. A simple engraving on the simple silver ring, but it was his most precious item that the world could ever provide.
A scuffle of approaching feet grew louder, approaching from inside the walls a friend came to their aid. The old man relaxed for the first time this whole day, his ordeals proved to be almost too much for anyone to bear.
Clattering of armours and marching armies almost overpowered the blowing winds back in the forest. War horns bellowed their commands for the armies, and closer yet were the howls of frost wolves excited by the scent of blood as they tracked their targets. The wolves were as much of predators as were their masters – the Mountain.
The footsteps behind him came to a dead stop, a bewildered woman was surprised with the pandemonium that was approaching. “What’s happening?” She asked.
He struggled to build the strength to speak up, his son noticed the exertion he was putting up.
The son responded. “We need to leave right away. Get our boy.” He said.
The inevitable question was uttered. “Where are the others?”
A brief silence. “Dead.”
A teardrop rolled down her fine skin, and quivering lips wrinkled her once fair pearly features. There never was a right way to react from losing close companions. However, her constitution was firmer than what the older man had credited her with.
“I’ll fetch him right away.” She was resolute, fully aware that now was not the time to mourn. Grievances would have to wait for another apt time.
“I’ll gather the others, we’ll escape by way of the caverns below.” He added. “Meet up with us at the entrances.”
She ran off to do just as her husband instructed her, time was of the essence. The young man knelt over to help lift the fragile father up.
“No son.” He slapped away his son’s arms.
“Stop this, father. There’s no time to argue.”
He stood up on his own, relying on the strength of what is left of his youthhood. The wounds burned as the man tensed his muscles, taxing on the remaining stamina. Despite his condition, the short rest gave him some rejuvenating strength back. But both he and his son knew very well that he would not last long in his current state.
His son argued his motives. “What are you trying to accomplish by staying here? Revenge? Forget it, you have a family that needs you.”
The ring he held firmly in his hand, passed on to him from his master as an eternal reminder. The single word he meditated on. Hope. It took him a long time to begin grasping the meaning, and he thought he learned after the long training with his master. Back then, it was meant that he was to become a glowing beacon of hope for others. Now however, his understanding has been molded into something else, he himself was not to become the beacon of hope. He was to pave the way for others to take on that task.
Flickering torchers danced deep in the dark woods, the howling grew louder as the enemies neared ever closer. They were out of time, unless he were to buy them the precious moments they needed.
“Revenge, no. Hope, yes.” The old man replied. “I can’t change what has happened, but perhaps I can change what happens.”
He unstrapped the sheathed sword from his belt, taking a deep breath as he gripped it tightly in his hands. There was no other way he had decided.
“Go, take this with you. Electum would have done the same.”
He handed his son the sword, a weight seemingly being lifted off his shoulders. The particular weight behind the blade, a weight stemmed from power and responsibility. The son graciously took possession of the sword, and for that moment, all of the rattling commotion and danger dissolved as the passing took place. The old man knew his son grasped the significance of this sword, the perils that loomed over him and the responsibility that was being handed. His own journey may be ending its last chapter, but a new one was being birthed. Even though there was no certainty what that path led to, at least he knew that path clung to hope.
“How will you hold them off?” The son asked worryingly.
He chuckled. His son always looked up to him, keeping an eye out for his well-being. “You forget, I was among the best in their ranks. My bare fists is all I need.”
His son smiled knowing that there was no use in changing his old man’s mind, once he was determined there was no use in swaying his decision. There was no need to argue any further, no need to make regretful memories.
“Then take this, at least show them how you are with the blade.” His son handed him his own simple sword.
There were no more exchange words, each other knowing the other’s feelings and left it at that. The son peeled away and ran into the sanctuary, leading a new generation to safety.
As his son disappeared in the background, the winds intensified. Thunder suddenly crackled, it was as if the earth shook and shuddered from its power. The night sky was bathed in the magnificent glow of dancing lightning. First raindrops began dripping from the dark clouds, obscuring the already difficult to see night.
The man ripped off his torn up shirt and tied it around his abdominal injury, providing some blockage of the bleeding. Anything he can do to buy himself time and ultimately his family’s. He tensed his toned body’s muscles, ripped from the years of hardship that war has taught him. Even though he had experienced many years of hardship, his lifetime has treated him overall gracefully. His silky black hair was lined with few white strands of hair, rather making him appear older, it made him seem like a much fiercer warrior. The body scars only complimented his already battle-hardened facial features.
Soldiers streamed out of the forest into the open area in front of him, and taking the lead of the armies stood his two vowed enemies. They held the stolen weapons proudly, weapons of immense power. Power that would change the tides of the Blood War in favor of whoever wielded them, and now they were in the worst hands imaginable.
The burly large man of the two with a silver leather vest stood ahead of everyone else, he raised his arm signaling the attack of his army. The first front row of soldiers swarmed together, an attempt that many would judge as too excessive for just one old man. But the old man’s enemy was fully aware of his capabilities, and he was not going to risk underestimating him even if just a little.
Raindrops then began pouring heavily, jumping from the drizzles altogether to a straight-on flash flood. The charging soldiers were deterred a little from the difficulty of rushing through the mud puddles that were being formed. The older man did not hesitate even a little, sloshing puddles of muddy water as he charged straight at his enemies too. Some were taken by surprise that they stopped in their tracks stunned for a brief moment. This proved to be a fatal mistake for some. He tackled the first soldier who foolishly left himself open, propelling him backwards by several meters. The man’s sword then flashed through the air, piercing through the next soldier’s armor beside him. The soldier was killed and toppled to the ground as the sword was drawn out of him. In a swift movement, he whipped around and parried a sword strike that was aimed for his exposed backside. They briefly locked blades but he headbutted the unsuspecting soldier. The headbutt was powerful enough that it dented through the soldier’s helm, the soldier slumped to the ground unconsciously. He swung around to parry another cowardly strike aimed for his blind side, this time the force of his swing reflected his enemy’s sword back through his own helm. That man limped to the swamped ground, a little bit of blood dripped out of the helm.
Everyone surrounding him took a step back, reanalyzing their now obviously foolish tactic. They had severely underestimated their enemy, someone who took four of them out in a blink of an eye. Their leader took a step forward, everyone shuffled aside as their prized champion took the fronthold of the battle. His blade whipped out in a fancy flurry, an act that was nothing more than a swordsman flexing his skills.
The vested man lunged at him in a blink of an eye, their swords sparked as they both clashed their swords in a frenzy. Each of them attempting to gain the upper foothold on the soft ground, while trying to parry and land blows.
“What’s wrong? You’re not putting as much of a fight as you were a moment ago.” The man said.
With stamina quickly depleting, his minor injuries magnified as the battle drew on. His goal was not to win the fight, but to stall for as long as he can. The battle was an assured defeat from the start. His eyes widened as he saw his opponent’s sword glow an ember red, heat emanated from it and steam formed mists around the blade.
“No!” In a moment of fight or flight instincts, his impulses urged him to fight harder. But his body slowly grew weaker, his blows were lighter with every parry he met.
In another feeble attempt to knock the weapon away, he crossed blades a final time with an attempt to have the blade on the inside near the neck. At that desperate moment, he sword burned a flame so powerful that it dried the air and ground around him. He was knocked away with one flaming sweep, crashing back down stunned. He lost his grip on the sword that impaled the earth a meter from him, he saw the wedge that the impact made on his sword on the weapons edge. If he had not parried, he would surely be dead.
Over him loomed his menace, the man who had taken everything and whose own ambitions rivaled to none. Oddly enough, there was no trace of content on his face, disturbingly it appeared he was hurt.
“For what it’s worth.” He started. Drawing nearer to the now limp body of the old man, both of them soaked from the downpouring storm. “I respect your convictions. Nothing but determination for you what you believe in. I can’t help but lament such a waste of said conviction, you’re a disgrace to our nation.”
He coughed as he caught his breath. “Good. Any graciousness from you would be a shame for me.”
Without another word, no warning, and anything honorable to be expected in a duel. The man drove his blade through the heart of the defenseless old man. His strength at long last met its rival, having bought as much time he could before stamina got the better of him. In his final breaths he took, there was no regret.
The impaled sword was drawn out from the dead body, his corpse slunk steadily into the ground and in time that corpse would blend in with nature. Lightning rolled over the skies in eloquent beauty as the storm neared its climax. Despite the temperamental storm that taxed the leader and his soldiers, they trudged into the ruins in search of his prize.
There is nowhere else to go, they’re cornered just like prey. He thought to himself.