Chapter 4: An Introduction to the Relicta

Gale scratched his chin in bewilderment. He observed the blizzard struck mountains from afar; Aaron had called it the Road of Elements. His destination however, pointed to the left — a forest with a strange sense of lifelessness. He pulled his sword out, appraising it as best as he could. Carved out of stone, it was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Peculiar.

He wondered what the runic symbols implied, etched with delicate perfection and in a way that glorified the blade’s appearance. His information on the World of Transition was limited at best, and the fact bothered him. Gale estimated that the journey to his next destination would be no easy task, and then there was the matter of Aaron’s warning as well.

If I am to survive, I need to understand everything required to become stronger,” thought Gale. “And I suppose it makes sense to start with my mind.

Gale uncovered through much of his interaction with Aaron that he had lost the ability to lose his calm; it made him wonder if it was a trait common to the Godvildian kind. Not that it bothered him. In a way, it helped him cope with the change.

Lost in thought, his feet moved of their own free will. He walked toward the forest, and straight through — unbeknownst to a distortion that had manifested. It engulfed him whole, allowing him access to a deeper part of the forest. When Gale had finally noticed, he had nothing but trees around him. All that remained was silence, disturbed oddly by the rustling within the bushes alone.

Animals noiselessly passed by his feet, small and without threat to the boy. The entirety of the situation unsettled Gale.

“If I am to extrapolate the information that I do have,” whispered Gale. “I believe that I should be strong enough to handle whatever it is to come here. But that would be too optimistic an assumption.”

He ran Aaron’s wisdom through his head once more, glossing over every little detail. It was a march he refused to cease. Gale had covered a considerable distance when the matter had settled onto the gods — Ehedus, and the Godvildian kind’s worship of him. There was much to learn there.

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“I’m curious to understand if this world follows the mechanics of a game,” wondered Gale. “Aaron did mention that our strength would grow in time with worship.”

He scratched his head, as confused as he ever was. His thoughts had kept him from exhaustion, so much so that he had failed to notice the darkness that now surrounded him. He had reached a part of the forest that did well to keep the sunlight at bay.

In time, whispers caught the attention of his ear. It broke the silence. He remained unwary still of the eyes that peered from the shadows, shifting noisily on purpose and with the intention to scare. From a safe distance, one of the silhouettes saw fit to press its face through the leaves for a better look.

Gale froze when the forest’s proof of life fell into mystery; no longer did the animals crawl. He caught the face as it slipped back into the bushes — flaky, pale, and crumbling at the slightest of twitches. His body readied on reflex with a raised sword, assuming a stance he had neither learned nor experienced. The eyes now focused on him with deadly concentration.

A step echoed through the silence, and then more. Many emerged — all at once — and with predatory ferocity. Gale moved without conscious thought, allowing his sword to take the lead. It guided him through the first wave of attack with footwork that resembled more of a dance. Despite little experience, the boy managed to control the pace of the battle and utilized the time to observe his enemies.

Gale gulped at the sight of skin as pale as the whitest hues of snow, hair only a shade darker, and bodies abnormally tall and skinny. But odder still was their decaying teeth, and eyes — icy-blue, replicating the appearance of death itself.

In an experiment, Gale accelerated toward his nearest challenger, covering ground faster than he could fathom. It took the deathly creature by surprise, and even more so when the boy swung his blade. Gale followed through without mercy, the tip of his sword drawing blood. It was his first, a death for the sake of his survival.

Panic overwhelmed him, his heart louder than it ever was. The sight of a lifeless body, slit by the throat, rattled him. And yet, almost instantly, a gentle warmth had managed to embrace his frenzied mind, granting him freedom from guilt or any other thought that threatened to bother.

I’m certain now,” thought Gale. “An external force is doing its best to keep my mental well-being in check. How convenient.

Gale paused his assessment upon observation that the others had ceased their offensive pursuit. He dragged his feet through the moist soil and hesitantly moved toward them. At first, the creatures trembled, growling in an attempt to ward the boy away. Gale tightened the grip over his sword, uncertain of the situation at hand.

“Are they afraid?” wondered Gale. “Regardless, I need to find a way to escape this.”

Appearance aside, Gale had guessed that his assailants weren’t Godvildian. In stark contrast to both Magellan and Aaron, the creatures in front of him wore feather crowns and skirts that covered no more than their thighs; made of leaves.

“Primitive,” Gale remarked.

He relaxed his stance and turned his back to the enemy, wary still. When certain that they would not follow, the boy resumed his quest within the Path of Wielders. The encounter gave him much to think about, and more so on the matter of his prowess in combat. It was an uptick from his display on earth.

“My body moves on its own during battle, but I do retain much of my spatial and cognitive intelligence despite it,” whispered Gale, mildly confused. “Does this imply that the more I fight, the stronger I become? I certainly haven’t worshiped any god since my arrival here. And yet, I feel stronger than I was before.”

A good minute into his walk, the boy stopped. He shifted uneasily at the sound of something that felt out of place; his instinct screamed to avoid it. Without losing much of his composure, Gale moved in the opposite direction. The sound followed, but from somewhere different this time. He adjusted his course once more.

Am I being shepherded?” thought Gale, sighing aloud. “It could be those dead-looking creatures I encountered previously. I should’ve killed them all.

Gale paused, clearly displeased at the thought. In his short time in Mioverold, it appeared as if his mind had desensitized him to the concept of death or murder. On cue, the warmth returned, eliminating every bit of guilt there was.

Everything he had suspected fell into place when the creatures returned to surround him, spare one opening. Gale resisted the temptation, choosing to wait the situation out instead.

At a distance, the sight of a falling tree piqued his curiosity; the sound resembled what had guided him to his present location. Gale realized quickly that the gap within the creatures’ defences wasn’t for him to exploit. It was in fact an entrance, and a grand one at that.

A figure taller than the creatures that surrounded him emerged from the deepest depths of the forest, clad in armor that meshed hues of black and purple. His helmet covered much of his face, allowing insight into no more than his eyes — cold, just as the creatures that served under him, but unwavering. He slammed his foot against the ground in an announcement that forced everyone onto their knees; it was a demand for respect. And Gale did not oblige.

“Tell me, child,” said the apparent leader, echoing an authoritative voice. “Why do you not kneel?”

“Do I have a good reason to?” asked Gale with a shrug.

“You,” the armored figure slowly said. “Do you think it’s reasonable if I chose to kill you given the situation?”

“Given the situation?” repeated Gale.

“You slaughtered my men without mercy, and our kind does not look kindly upon that.”

Gale took a moment before his next response. His eyes scanned for an opportunity, anything exploitable to stage an escape. He was surrounded, and within the only crack in their defences, stood their leader — determined to claim the mound of victory.

“My name is Gale,” the boy said, hoping the conversation would help him buy some time. “Considering the death sentence, would you mind indulging my desire for some information?”

“At last you speak with respect,” the armored figure said. “I, Lord Noah Oblique, Commander of the 6th Relictan Brigade, shall honour your request.”

“I suppose that implies you’re not of the Godvildian race,” said Gale. “What are you doing in the Path of Wielders?”

“You ask what cannot be answered,” said Noah. “And yes, you’re in the presence of a race well beyond the mediocrity of the Godvildian kind.”

“Based on what I had last asked,” continued Gale, not minding the remark. “How much are you at liberty to reveal?”

“Nothing at all.”

Gale smiled, knowing that it was the answer he had hoped for. Without losing much of his patience, the boy collected his thoughts. To him, the situation resembled no more than a wager.

“Information too important for even a man at death’s door,” remarked Gale, meeting Noah’s eyes without a hint of fear. “Since you were unable to grant me my final wish, it’s only appropriate for a man as honourable as you are to let me be on my way.”

Both Gale and Noah remained unaffected by the silence that ensued, and in a situation that would have rattled most. For a moment, the Relictan Lord considered the boy’s reasonably stated proposal, weighing it against his own desire for vengeance. The peace continued, and amidst it, Gale caught sight of an odd shiver from Noah’s armour.

The air around the Relictan Lord distorted, spurring an aura to life. It engulfed Noah in his entirety, emanating pressure that defied the laws of gravity. Dirt, grass and pebbles alike rose in response to his strength, answering the call of a force that now held both form and shape. It was unlike anything Gale had ever witnessed, the magnificence of an aura that could put wildfire to shame.

“It’s true,” said Noah, breaking the silence. “It would be dishonourable of me to slay you given the fact that I could not grant you your dying wish.”

“I’m glad we’re in agreement,” said Gale, shouting over the bellows of Noah’s aura. “And I admire the show of strength, Lord Noah. But would you be kind enough to stop?”

“I think you’re mistaken, child,” said Noah. “It’s unfortunate that I was assigned a mission on this day. And I understand also that you acted in self-defence. But despite all of that, the Relictan race really couldn’t care less about honour. I am going to kill you now.”


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