Chapter 6: The Beginnings of War

Lightning struck the holy soil of Sol Sanctum, a place of invaluable history and wisdom. For generations, the place served to train and protect the greatest of healers, some even legendary. But that wasn’t all that made the sanctuary an important place for the Godvildian kind.

Aaron and Magellan emerged from the risen soil and dust, at the foot of a stairway that withstood wars and disasters alike. They climbed, pillars on either side, until the summit to reach a dais that seemed to remain afloat without any form of physical support. There, they spotted the first of their many guards stationed at Sol Sanctum, dead.

With rage-fuelled blood pumping through his veins, Aaron struggled to maintain a calm exterior. He dismissed Magellan from his side, who quickly set out to investigate the area. The dwarven warrior returned, enraged just the same, and shook his head in disgust.

“Not one survivor even?” said Aaron. “I didn’t expect them to make such a move.”

“It makes little sense,” said Magellan. “Based on our previous reports, they don’t yet hold the power to face us in war.”

“The Noxun race have never been much for reason,” said Aaron. “Then again, the reports could have just as easily been falsified.”

A little further into the sanctum, they stopped dead in their tracks, several cloaked soldiers ahead of them. They had little to fear, however; after all, the dead could do no harm. Aaron curiously assessed one of the bodies, finding it shredded. Blood and flesh scattered, it appeared as though the invaders had been tortured before death, and severely so.

“Lord Aaron,” called Magellan from a distance. “Look at this.”

It was something shaped along the lines of a crescent moon, seared into the flesh of the enemy. They appeared on all the soldiers, only their location differing from body to body.

“So, he’s returned,” said Aaron. “How long has it been, General?”

“Close to three hundred years maybe, my lord,” said Magellan. “Pardon me for saying so, but many of us had assumed him dead.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone in our realm capable of such a feat,” said Aaron. “That would probably include me also.”

“At least he took care of the mess.”

The two Godvildian soldiers traveled further still, reaching large doors etched with words beyond comprehension. As a child, Aaron was taught it to be the language of the gods. Only the healers at Sol Sanctum understood it.

Magellan stepped forward, hopeful that they would find survivors. He unsheathed a knife tucked inside the cloth around his waist and slit the face of his palm, swiping the blood against the floor. He pulled away and squeezed his fist, dropping more upon the haloed grounds of Sol Sanctum. Magic from the old lore took over; the blood boiled to the point of bubbling and slowly flowed into the words that occupied the door.

A small click later, the doors opened much like anything aged would — noisily and at a slow pace. Magellan searched the dusty darkness from the outside, Aaron merely a step behind, wary that it was forbidden for a warrior to cross the threshold. But they smiled together when the healers appeared, one after the other.

Aaron took charge to meet an old man with a red turban, differently attired from the other modestly dressed men. He knelt and took the man’s hand, pressing it against his forehead. The old healer from Sol Sanctum cleared his throat and blessed the two soldiers that had rescued them all. Aaron remained nervous still, and understandably so. Among all the Healers, the turbaned man reigned supreme, a prophet.

“We predicted the arrival of the light after shadows,” said the old man. “Thank you for your service to Sol Sanctum and all of the Transitional World.”

“Great Healer Vetus, I apologize and take full responsibility for the invasion,” said Aaron. “The soldiers stationed here, they were part of my army.”

“We are all safe, are we not?” said Vetus with a gentle smile. “Let this merely be an opportunity for you to learn and grow from your mistakes.”

“Thank you for your kindness, Great Healer,” said Aaron. “But I must apologize once more; I require that you debrief me about the attack right away.”

“I understand,” said Vetus, clearing his throat. “You’re not too far from the truth if you believe the Noxun behind this attack. But a majority of the force here today were Relictan.”

“Relictan?” repeated Aaron, sounding a little surprised. “That should not have been the case; we signed a treaty of peace with the seven lords that reigns over the Relictan kind.”

Vetus coughed once more, visibly in discomfort. Aaron and Magellan waited patiently while one of Sol Sanctum’s healers rushed away to fetch some water. The Great Healer, Vetus, slowly sipped from the cup, clearing his throat as he did. He returned the cup to his follower, thanked him, and turned his attention to the sky.

His eyes lost colour, turning pale and then a shade of blue. Minutes passed, but the healer remained motionless. In a wait that seemed like an eternity, Aaron sighed in relief when Vetus’ gaze returned to match his own.

“Seven, you said?” asked Vetus with a smile. “I only see six lords.”

“Strange,” thought Aaron. Aloud he said, “Did one of them choose to honour the treaty signed?”

“No,” said Vetus, shaking his head. “All seven of them had allied with the Noxun, but one of them — Noah Oblique — fell in battle today.”

***

Wraith Woods was a strange existence in the World of Transition. While much of the realm thrived with life and energy, the forest stood morbid and without joy. Clouds often kept the sun from the soil, offering little rain in return. The crows cawed, scavenging upon death from trees just as lifeless, while the owls hooted every time Terra Fortress lit from within.

The castle marked the Relictan stronghold and remained free from Godvildian rules, such were the terms of the treaty. But recent actions now ensured that the protection would last no longer. The lords had known of the risks and the eventuality of attracting unwanted attention from some of their strongest enemies. It was only natural of them to fear the Godvildian, a race that had survived a history of gruesome bloodshed since the olden times.

The winds pressed against locked windows, and the lords seated at the round table rested their eyes one after the other upon a chair left unoccupied. Their leader, the Great Lord, settled into comfort, toying with his drink, and visibly annoyed.

“Explain this in terms that I can fully comprehend,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “Why is Noah dead?”

“Reports suggest that he ran into one of the Godvildian recruits, fresh from the other world,” one of them said without a hint of remorse. “Reports from our spies say that his name is Gale.”

“I’ve never heard the name,” said another, feminine in tonality. “I would love to gobble him up entirely for doing so, however!”

“Be careful what you wish for, Jacquelyn,” warned the Great Lord. “Noah was a third-tier wielder and his loss affects us significantly.”

“But it was the Path of Wielders, Caesar,” said Jacquelyn. “How strong can someone new from the other world be?”

“Was anyone else involved during this battle, someone our spies may have missed, perhaps?”

“The reports are good.”

“Then it’s best we investigate this Gale person,” said Caesar with a sigh. He paused, tapping his fingers against the stone-cut table. “What about our raid at Sol Sanctum?”

“Unsuccessful,” said Jacquelyn, shaking her head. “They were annihilated altogether; Aaron and Magellan stand there presently.”

Caesar slipped out of the comfort of his chair and ambled towards the window. He tightened his grip over the brass cup that held his drink, listening to every little thing Wraith Woods had to offer. The sounds, they often soothed him during times of distress.

“We have been asked to deploy a thousand soldiers to the Bridge of Souls,” informed Caesar. “It wouldn’t look good to show weakness at a time like this.”

“These are scenarios we’ve long been wary of,” said Jacquelyn. “They’ll be ready.”

“Before you head out though, I’d like to ask about our forces at Sol Sanctum,” said Caesar. “It simply wasn’t possible for Aaron to have reached there in time.”

Jacquelyn gulped, masking both fear and excitement. Whispers had already spread to the lords, and Caesar may have come to know of the answer first even. But he needed to hear it from her mouth, and she respected that side of him.

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“It was the Shadow of Suntaria,” said Jacquelyn. “His last sighting was close to three hundred years ago, but it appears that he’s back.”

“And he’s coming for us all.”

Caesar turned away, dispersing his lords. The war, it had only just begun.


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