Mioverold smelt of blood several times throughout the course of history, often accompanied by death and decay. War was commonplace; rape and plunder – among the most natural of occurrences. But it was far from meaningless, at least at that point in time. A period of strife and peace before the Great War, people called it – the Era of Unification.
Bloodied, battered, stabbed, but at the peak of his abilities, Zane stood atop a mountain of corpses – fiercely young, and with bodily features that separated him from the crowd. He held a long, thin sword, blinking to regain vision, and with a tired expression on his face. There was nothing left but exhaustion and a desire to cease bloodshed. In front of him stood a pretender, a man who sought to unite the entirety of Mioverold – Ceraunus Antiochus.
“Suntaria is not for you to rule, Young King,” said Zane. “Return to your people and avoid the opportunity of death.”
Ceraunus shook with weakness; he dropped to his knees but held onto his halberd, fortified in thought with an unyielding amount of determination. At the time, his conquest represented a pursuit of freedom and peace.
“I do not detest the Godvildian people, Lord Zane,” pleaded Ceraunus. “Please reconsider your stance. I seek to rule with your guidance; to create a future without weapons, a future without war, where leaders could meet and conclude disagreements with meaningful dialogue.”
“You desire peace, but choose to enforce it through blood,” said Zane. “I would rather maintain our system of election than fall into a monarch. Our people will not bow to a Noxun King.”
“All of this, it is not without reason,” said Ceraunus. “This world is not without its flaws, and I can show you!”
In response, Zane took a gentle step towards Ceraunus Antiochus, bearing in mind his responsibility as the defender of Suntaria. With a whisper, he slipped into an aeter-made armor, forged and nurtured in the form of an aura. He waved sword against air, forcing those of lower tiers into submission. In time, his steps slowed, but with increasing pressure, enough to trouble even the Noxun King.
Despite exhaustion from hours of relentless combat, Zane maintained form, but with a strain that pressed beyond his limitations. For a moment, he turned to reinvigorate his mind – held together by the might of the Godvildian people, by the might of the Kingdom of Suntaria. With a sigh, he returned focus to Ceraunus from atop where he stood. He pointed his sword at the Noxun King, and the army behind him.
“Young King, I believe I have warned you of the consequences of this endeavor,” said Zane, cold in his stare. “Aspect of the Ancients: The Hand of Ehedus!”
Upon command, a gate ripped into existence, from above the invading army. It held onto a strange form of brightness, a light from god’s domain. With vision in place, a few – among those blinded – witnessed the emergence of a door, and later a crack, allowing for an arm to push into Mioverold. It held an ethereal form, with armor of an otherworldly quality. With a clenched fist, the arm tore into space once more, unsheathing a sword of immense proportions. It clouded over the army, fierce in its intention towards destruction.
At the sight, the Noxun King guided his Generals into formation. Ceraunus stole from his men, commanding the aeter to take the form of a divine shield. He watched the sword fall and raised both arms in defense.
With a gulp, Ceraunus faced the offensive might of the Suntarian Lord, but failed within moments of having made contact. His Generals spurred the invading army to add to the shield’s strength, pushed into desperation; their hope flickered at first, but crumbled in its entirety as Zane prevailed. Without mercy, the sword swept through the battlefield, destroying earth, flesh, and blood alike.
Ceraunus stood amongst the survivors, weakened and breathless. He waited as the dust settled, eager to understand the state of his army. His ears honed into hurried footsteps, retreating into the distance. A mild breeze cut through the obscurity, deafeningly silent and with an odd sense of neutrality.
“Half, half my army?” thought Ceraunus, choking as he did. Two men emerged from what remained of the dust, overcome with disbelief and fear. After a little encouragement, they slowly shook their heads. “Six of my Generals as well; this was a mistake.”
The sound of something mechanical distracted the Noxun King from thought; he raised his head to find the Suntarian gates close, fortified by an almost impregnable form of magic. The Godvildian soldiers, they had retreated.
“And yet, you continue to stand in front of me,” said Ceraunus, addressing Zane. “I should not have tried to reason with you.”
Zane coughed blood, depleted of strength and aeter. It was all he could manage, to stand. The invading army stirred with anger but stilled upon command from their king. Ceraunus walked towards Zane, wearing an expression that conveyed both sadness and disappointment.
“You flirt with death, Lord Zane,” said Ceraunus. “Was it worth it, to have bought maybe a few months of relief?”
“It is my duty to protect the people of Suntaria, Young King,” said Zane, barely a whisper. “My death, it is insignificant. The Godvildian people will fight; they would rather perish than lose their freedom under Noxun banners.”
In reaction to the comment, the Noxun King struck Zane, but hesitated, for long enough to have not fatally injured the latter. Ceraunus trembled, torn between his duty as a ruler and a visionary in search of peace. He wondered if it made any sense, to attempt dialogue once more, to move past the massacre of his people.
“You are an invader, King Antiochus,” said Zane, fading out of consciousness. “Your desire for endless peace, it’s a beautiful dream. But dreams aren’t a product of blood and murder. The result today, you have no one to blame but yourself.”
“I do what I must for the sake of my people, for the sake of Mioverold,” said Ceraunus, with a sigh. “For that purpose, I’m willing to make a wager, to agree with your point of view.”
“My King,” stammered a familiar voice. “Lord Zane has proven his combat potential to rank without value. It is a mistake to allow him the mercy of life; not after what he did to our people. This is our greatest opportunity to seek revenge.”
“Is it wrong for Lord Zane to have defended his people, then, General Khan?” asked Ceraunus. “To slay with one’s sword is murder during peace, but heroism during times of war. I must show mercy now, to allow him a chance to ally with us.”
“We have conquered several Godvildian cities on route to Suntaria,” explained Khan. “There is little opportunity for resolution now. I beg of you, King Antiochus; you must kill Zane.”
“If I can forgive Lord Zane for the deaths of my soldiers, then perhaps he can find it in himself to move past my conquest against his people,” said Ceraunus. “It is a risk, General Khan; I am aware of it. I moved towards violence in haste, that was my mistake. Allow me three days without protest; if I fail in persuading him to join us, then I shall step down as king and grant you permission to do as you see fit.”
“I would never,” said General Khan, with a low bow. “It is hard for this old man to go against the wishes of our king.”
“Thank you,” said Ceraunus, smiling as he did. “We are no longer in any condition to attempt siege, not with Suntaria as it is now; announce the status of Zane Morgul as our prisoner, and then sound the horn for retreat. It is time for our soldiers to return home.”
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