A light mist rolled over the city streets mingling with the light of lamp posts causing a rainbow of colors to manifest along the relatively quiet city streets. The night had begun to pass turning to day and the sun had just begun to rise over the horizon. There were those who walked the city streets at all hours of the day but there were relatively few at this time.
So the sight of many Knights marching towards the Cathedral of Tihr caused the few people who were nearby to quickly disappear from the area. There was a certain ferocity and murderous aura to the Knights that caused fear in those who saw them. Even the few guard patrols kept a wide berth choosing not to go anywhere near this particular group of knights. Even they were not necessarily safe from questioning and being accused of heretical crimes against the gods if they were to anger the Knights of Tihr.
The former Paladin Arcurio stood at their head and the Knights who were no longer alive, but just mere puppets followed closely behind him. Through the Paladins eyes, a strange and eerie light glowed from within them peering at the Cathedral which was visible in the distant cityscape, well above the tips of the largest of the cities buildings. It stood tall amidst the sea of wood and stone, majestic and proud much like their lofty and prestigious position high above the common folk. It was truly enormous and beautifully constructed in a grand gothic style with a huge bell tower and wonderfully artistic glass paned windows that emitted a seemingly holy light.
The column of Knights led by the Paladin puppet soon made their way across a large bridge which crossed over the northern arm of the Ander River connecting the Trade District with the upper district known as the Lord’s District. It was here that the Cathedral, government facilities, Lord’s mansions and also the Lord’s Park were all located. The Cathedral was situated right at the entrance of the district so that the common citizens of the city could worship at the temple or seek medical attention there without disturbing the nobles living within the district. The government facilities and Lord’s mansions were further north separated by a large 600 acre park where many of the members of the nobility spent their days in leisure.
At this time of the morning however, not many people were outside and even if they were no one would suspect that the returning Knights were no longer truly alive. As they approached the entrance to the Cathedral, they were greeted by Knights who were guarding outside the entrance. These Knights didn’t suspect a thing greeting the Paladin puppet with respect and deference.
Aleks, who was inhabiting the puppet with his ‘Astral Soul’ ability, gave out a simple command, “Kill.”
The marionettes acted immediately and quickly dispatched the Knights on guard who were caught completely by surprise.
“Go!” The Paladin puppet motioned forward with his command and the marionettes quickly streamed into the Cathedral.
Soon, the screams of hapless victims and the occasional explosion resounded throughout the Cathedral halls. The once mighty Paladin waited silently before unsheathing his blade and entering the Cathedral, painting its hallowed halls red with blood.
Lenia observed her master who was seated in a meditative position while she stood on guard. His eyes were closed, he was somewhere distant. They had already moved away from the warehouse where they had fought with the Knights of Tihr. It was an old abandoned residence somewhere in the slums of the city across the southern river crossing. This was where the poorer denizens of the city lived that had not yet become homeless.
“It’s done. There were easily a couple of thousand people in total within the Cathedral, although most were just injured or recovering citizens. I watched the Cathedral collapse from the explosions through my puppet’s eyes. The puppet should return to us soon with the harvest of soul potential, we just need to wait here for a bit. With this, Tihr’s church will certainly make a move. They underestimated us greatly this time but we can’t become complacent. They will send more powerful individuals after us and we will not be safe within the Republic.”
Lenia pursed her lips, “If what you say is true master, where will we go next?”
Aleks smiled beneath the mask and stood up straight. He eyed Lenia carefully and nodded his head with satisfaction.
“It seems that your consciousness and mind have just about finished developing properly. Come here, let me take a look at you.”
Lenia walked to Aleks’s side without hesitation and stood in front of him with full attention. Aleks approached her, cupping her head in his hands and he turned her head from side to side, numbers and symbols flashed across his retina and mask. Some of it Lenia understood and some of it was a mystery to her.
“Good. Going forward it seems you will be of great help to me. You are still relatively ignorant of the world around you which limits your capabilities but this is something you will gain through experience and with time. You have become more eloquent and less clumsy and your battle capabilities have also improved greatly. All in all, excellent growth and improvement. Despite my many lifetimes, I was never much of a war strategist. In my original life I spent the majority of my life with my nose in a book so to speak and even in the many lives I was reincarnated into, they were mostly terrible experiences. I very rarely lived past my teenage years, I think the oldest I ever made it to was in my early twenties but even in those lifetimes my experiences were few. Worst of all is that as time goes by, many of the memories that I had retained previously seem to be slipping away from me.”
Lenia listened as her master spoke while he checked over her body. While she couldn’t exactly understand everything he was saying, she got the gist of his meaning. He desired for her to be his right arm, to be his commander and lead his future armies into battle. Lenia was created for just such a purpose, but she realized she was still somewhat inadequate because of her lack of experience.
“Done, everything looks good. I have analyzed your status and body condition. Everything seems as it should and I can now rely on you more in the future. I will certainly require your assistance in the many trials to come. It is time for us to leave this place. Once the puppet arrives and I absorb the soul potential housed within it, we need to acquire a horse and carriage as well as some new puppets to aid us in leaving the city. After what we did here, security is going to be tight and it is guaranteed that they will recall some of their powerful beings on the border with the Imperium to ensure order here.”
The destruction of the Cathedral of Tihr sent shockwaves throughout the city. They had already suffered from one bloody night of chaos and rioting which had left an indelible mark upon the people of the city. Now with the destruction of the Cathedral, many felt fear and trepidation and a sense of foreboding for the future to come.
With tensions already high due to conflict with the Imperium, this only put the people of the city more on edge. Due to the events, the city guard seemed woefully inadequate to handle the situation and the Lord’s guard was mobilized to control the situation. The early morning saw the mobilization of the thousand strong Lord’s guard as well as the few thousand city guards which were currently on patrol throughout the city. Martial law was declared and a curfew was put into effect.
None of this concerned Aleks however. He was currently sitting with Lenia within a luxurious carriage pulled by four horses that Lenia had procured for him as soon as the market opened that day. The carriage was being accompanied by a squad of Lord’s guardsmen that Aleks had turned into puppets. Even though the city had mostly been shut down and no one was allowed in or out of the city, there were always exceptions. Those with enough power, wealth, and influence could still move freely.
With an entire squad of Lord’s guardsmen escorting Aleks’s carriage, the city guardsmen at the southern gate of the city quickly allowed the carriage through the gates. They didn’t ask too many questions and only a few words were exchanged between the Lord’s guard officer escorting Aleks and the city guardsmen at the gate. Those who had the authority to be escorted by Lord’s guardsmen were definitely powerful people and hindering anyone with such authority would only cause them to be punished and so they easily let the carriage through.
Both Aleks and Lenia were silent within the carriage. Aleks often drifted in silence in his own world, usually preoccupied by his thoughts and the memories he still retained. Strangely enough, many of the memories from his original lifetime were relatively clear, but those from his many reincarnations were beginning to drift away from him.
Aleks pulled the curtain covering the window of the carriage slightly to the side and watched as the carriage passed through the city gate. Another luxurious carriage was making its way into the city from the outside which immediately caught Aleks’s eye. Any carriage coming into the city at this point must have someone of great importance within.
The carriage also had curtains covering the window hiding the passenger inside but he noticed that the curtain of this carriage was also slightly pulled open allowing the one within to get a glimpse of the outside. At that moment, as his carriage passed the other he noticed a glint from the sun reflecting off the window of the carriage. This blocked his sight for a moment and he almost missed seeing the one looking outwards from within the other carriage.
It was only for a moment, but in his eyes were beautiful golden locks of hair and bright sapphire eyes that seemed to glow with an ephemeral light. Those eyes and that visage, it reminded him greatly of his sister who had died. She had been young then, and so he could only guess how she might have changed as she grew older. If she had lived she would be eighteen, just two years younger than Aleks himself in his current body.
“It can’t be. My sister is dead, but that young lady… she seems so familiar, could it be?”
Aleks could only question himself inwardly. He only had a momentary glimpse, but he couldn’t shake that feeling of familiarity.
“What’s wrong?” Lenia asked, noticing her master’s strange reaction.
“Nothing…. It’s nothing.”
Aleks closed the curtain, but he was somewhat shaken. He leaned back in his seat and tried his best to recall the events that happened when his sister died. He hadn’t had the chance to truly confirm her death because he had lost consciousness after his power exploded forth from his body. At the time, they were also being chased by many soldiers and Brock had to leave quickly with him after he lost consciousness. In the end, he had only assumed based on what he saw that his sister died.
“Could it be that she is still alive? There is no turning back at this point. Not for something which could have been a trick of the mind.”
Aleks shook his head, he couldn’t turn back now. Powerful enemies would soon be coming to this place and he had to leave for his own safety.
“But if she’s still alive…”
No matter how much he wanted to, he couldn’t quite shake her memory from his heart. Perhaps he hadn’t completely and entirely lost his humanity just yet.