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Day Two Hundred and Three: The Crystal Blade

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

Well, I would have put this up last night, but I left for work at 6 AM and came back home just before midnight, so that wasn’t really an option. This doesn’t happen often, but there’s a point where the school just grabs you by the scruff of the neck and says, “Your time is ours.” Fortunately, there was booze at the end of the day, and that makes everything better.

Anyway, today I’ll give you two. The first is an object, one of several that I have floating around. Furthermore, it’s a look into the High Fantasy universe that I’ve been slowly cobbling together, but I have no idea what it will become.

Like many high fantasy stories, it’s vaguely medieval, uses a lot of magic, has non-human (but just human enough) species, curses, prophecies and all that good stuff. And, of course, weapons with names and stories. The first one I created was Endiel, a sword. Let’s see what the stories have to say about it:

10: Victory

  • Endiel was wielded by Thalen, a young Wharven adventurer
  • It glows green
  • When wielded, it can slice through marble
  • The blade is made of crystal
  • After Thalen’s death, Endiel was found by a young Toriian female.
  • When the sword is wielded by the proper person, it glows.

150: Betrayed

  • Endiel was wielded by Garus, a warrior in the Army of the Red Rocks.
  • The blade resists staining.
  • The blade is unmarred.
  • The sword can record spoken messages in the crystal blade.
  • After Garus’ death, Endiel waited a long time for a new wielder.

So we have a magic sword that chooses its wielders, and the two we’ve seen so far have died violently. That may be part of the sword’s magic – you get a fantastic weapon, better than any steel sword, but you will inevitably die by violence. And the sword doesn’t care – it doesn’t talk or sing or anything like that.

The first question to pop into my mind was this: in what order do those two stories go? Thalen died destroying an empire, and Garus died trying to save a city. There’s really no way to tell which came first, though I believe that Garus’ story occurred about a thousand years before Thalen’s. Why? I have no idea. Just a feeling. As for the girl who finds it, that’s a whole new adventure right there.

Naturally, then, the question of Endiel’s origin comes up. Here’s what I have in my head: A cave, with some crystal growths coming up out of the floor, out of the walls, in big clusters. Most of them are colorless and pale, but this one was a bright green. So who found it? I imagine a boy, maybe eleven or twelve, early teens in any case. He went exploring the caves alone, which he really shouldn’t have done but did anyway, and found this crystal in one of the side-caverns. He couldn’t remove it, of course, because it’s fairly large and rooted into the earth, but it remained in his mind after that. He would come and see it, stare at it for hours by torchlight, and it wasn’t until he was much older that he finally got to remove it from the cavern.

The crystal inspired the boy to study sorcery as he grew up, and he became a fairly competent wielder of magic. When his king expressed a desire for a new sword, the sorcerer – who was far from being the Royal Magician or anything like that – realized what the crystal had to become. He took it from the cave, fashioned a sword out of it, magicked the hell out of it and named it Endiel, which roughly translates into English as “Will.”

Yes, I’m making a Green Lantern reference. Shut up.

Anyway, he presented it to the king, who loved it, and the sword’s story begins there. The king dies by violence, of course, and the sword passes to its next wielder, then the next, then the next. Between the king and the Toriian girl, I feel like there have been at least ten wielders of Endiel.

What kind of intelligence does the sword have? Like I said, it doesn’t talk, or move of its own volition or turn colors when an enemy is near (though that would be cool. See below.) It doesn’t house the souls of the fallen or of its wielders. All it does is choose who wields it. If the right person takes the sword, it glows green and comes free of wherever it was inevitably stuck. If the wrong person takes is, the sword remains dull and unmovable. It’s similar to Thor’s hammer in Marvel comics that way – only a worthy person may pick it up, much less wield it. And I like to think that the sword modifies its criteria after every wielder. It’s looking to somehow find the best person to possess it, and every time a wielder dies, the sword adjusts what it considers “right.”

Which means Endiel has an ultimate goal in mind. Does it want a wielder who will grow old and die? One who will use it to bring peace? Who knows? I suppose we’ll find out as we go along with it…

Story Ideas:

  • A rainbow sword – it changes color to warn its wielder of various things. But maybe some of those things are entirely pointless…
  • Ektrakhal, the Reaver of Souls – the sword that Praetor Essen used to kill Thalen. That thing has a nasty history to it.
  • The story of the crystal’s discovery, of the making of the sword, the fall of the first wielder.
  • The story of the other wielders we have seen so far – how did they get the sword, and what did they do with it?

Day One Hundred and Fifty: Betrayed

October 18, 2011 7 comments

Garus couldn’t see when he woke up. He thought he might have gone deaf, too, but he could hear the howling of wind, which carried the screams of the wounded and dying to him. He smelled blood and mud and smoke and felt a stabbing pain in his stomach, all of which together convinced him that he was not dead. Or if he was, there was a very unpleasant eternity in store for him.

He tried to lift a hand to wipe his eyes, but his right hand wouldn’t move. So he picked up his left, which still held his sword, and for that he gave a rare thanks to whichever gods had decided not to abandon him at that moment. It did leave him with a poor choice, though – leave himself blind, or let go of Endiel so he could see again. In the end, he pulled the sword close to him, so that it rested against his side. He tried to sit up, but the pain in his stomach made that nearly impossible. His right hand had been burned into a rigid claw, the burns so deep that he couldn’t even feel it anymore. Garus resented the burns. He wasn’t a bad swordsman with his left, but nothing like he was with his right. Slowly, painfully, he levered himself up and got the blood and mud off his face with a hand sore and stiff from clenching the sword hilt.

The field of battle looked worse than he had imagined. The long green grass where he and his men had made their stand was gone, now nothing but a field of churned mud and corpses, all wearing the colors of the Army of The Red Rocks. Long-shafted arrows pinned the ground as far as he could see, and rivulets of rainwater flowed red to a larger stream of blood that slowly seeped into the ground. The bloody mud was mixed with splinters and rags, and he could see hands and faces just barely sticking up above the pooling red rainwater.

He took up the sword again and used it to get himself to his feet. Endiel was brightly, bitterly clean against the mud, and its green crystalline blade seemed to mock the desolation around it. Garus grimaced and tried to sheathe it, but his scabbard was gone. Lost somewhere in the mud, probably. He turned around, but everywhere he looked was the same. Bleak, gray-brown desolation. His eyes started to fill with tears.

The Army of the Red Rocks had been charged with protecting this pass. The mountains were nearly impossible to climb in any season and served as an ideal protection for the city of Deroth behind them. And it should have been easy. The Steward of Deroth had contracted Garus’ band to raise an army to defend the pass, a chokepoint that could have been held by an old woman and her grandmother. Garus had raised an army of a thousand loyal to Deroth to see to it that the forces of the Echuskan Empire would find them a nut too hard to crack.

Not so hard after all, it seemed. He looked behind him. The carnage continued into the pass, and he could smell smoke on the wind. He didn’t need to see it to know that the city of Deroth was dead, or at least dying, and he had failed in his promise. They must have been betrayed. It was the only explanation. He tested his anger and found it flat and dull, and that was how Garus knew he was dying. If he thought he could live, even another day, he would spend that day seeking out the traitor. He would die in that quest. But somehow he knew. He knew that there would be no quest, no search and no vengeance. Not for him.

Garus spotted a glimpse of color in the carnage – a bright blue that somehow remained unstained, and he knew there was only one person it could be. He limped over and cried out loud when he saw what was left of Kal-Atem. His body was slashed and broken, his bright Toriian plumage crushed into the mud. His beak had been hacked off by a sword-stroke and left a gaping maw where once poetry and song had come from. His cloak, though, was unstained. It was a simple enchantment, but just the kind of thing that a performer like him would want. Garus thought of the songs that Kal-Atem would not sing again, and he sank to his knees. For a moment, he wished bitterly that they had never met.

His weeping caused him to cough, which turned into hacking, and moments later he spit out something red and thick. “Oh,” he said. He thought about standing, but what would have come from that? There, by the body of his best friend, was as good a place to die as any. He knew his other comrades were out there somewhere. Probably just as dead as Kal-Atem was, as he would be himself.

Endiel still glowed in his hand, and he hated it for a moment. Still clean, unmarred, as beautiful as the day it was created, no doubt. Not a trace of the violence touched it, and Garus was well aware that no none who had ever wielded it had lived to give it up. He had gained it when he was a boy, when it fell from the hands of the Master Knight who’d wielded it. The sword had glowed when he touched it, and they were bound together from that moment.

From that moment until this one.

He lifted the sword up, and with an effort that sent him to hacking up bloody chunks again, he slammed it into the mud, down to the earth beneath, until only its hilt stuck up above the ground. When he recovered, he reached out and gripped the hilt with a bloodstained hand and took a thick, shaky breath. “I am Garus,” he whispered, and the sword-light shined a little brighter as it heard him. “We were betrayed,” he said. “We were betrayed and Deroth has been taken. The Empire will continue to move until it devours all.” He started to cough again, and it was a long while before he could speak again.

“If you hear this, then Endiel is yours. Take her. Wield her.” He spit again. “It is too late to save us, the Army of the Red Rocks. Kal-Atem. Nuis. Lynala. Yatix.” He felt faint, like he hadn’t slept for a long time, and his grip on the sword felt soft and indistinct. He ground his teeth and tasted blood and took a shuddering breath. “It is to late to save us,” he said.

“Avenge us.”

Garus let go of the sword and its glow winked out. Someone would find it, that much he knew. Not today, not tomorrow. But someday. He just prayed that the hand that wielded it would be strong enough to do what needed to be done.

He lay back, next to the body of Kal-Atem, and watched the gray sheet of clouds drift slowly overhead. The wind whipped across the field faster than the clouds, and Garus wished he could smell something sweeter than death as he went. “Good thing you’re not here, Kal,” he croaked. “You would have hated this ending.” He started to laugh, but the laugh cut off as his chest clenched and stopped his air. His heart followed soon after.

Garus and the army of the Red Rocks lay in the mud as the city of Deroth burned behind the mountains. It would be a long time before someone found the sword. It would be even longer before Garus and his friends were avenged.

Day Ten: Victory

May 31, 2011 1 comment

Thalen skidded backwards, his glowing green sword the only thing between him and a quick death at the hands of Praetor Essen. Even so, he knew death would not be quick. He had humiliated Essen. He had bloodied Essen. He had ruined all that Essen had tried to build and saved countless lives in the process.

“You’ve already lost, Praetor,” he growled, flexing his claws to get a better stance. The marble was softer than most people imagined, and he gained a grip with ease. “Killing me won’t win you your kingdom back.” He stood straight and flicked blood off the blade, which cast an eerie glow over the shadowy throne room. “It won’t bring your daughter back to life -”

“You will never speak of her again!” Essen lunged, Ektrakhal, the Reaver of Souls burning as it slashed. The air itself hummed with each attack, and it was all Thalen could do to get Endiel up to block. When the two struck, thunder rolled through the castle. It was a battle that would be passed down for generations, no matter who won. They had been fighting for only a few minutes, but like all battles, it felt like so much longer. The throne room was decorated by the blood and bodies of Essen’s praetorian guard, soldiers who would have been unbeatable against any other adversary. Thalen’s need was greater than theirs, however. Whether it would be great enough to finally slay Essen was not so certain.

“You lowborn, dogshit BEAST!” Essen pressed forward. “You are not worthy to speak her name-” SLASH. “To remember her-” SLASH. “To hold her in your THOUGHTS!” His blade sang as it tried to find an opening in Thalen’s defense. All it would take is one opening….

Essen surprised him with a kick to the hip. Thalen howled and dropped to one knee, his hip feeling like it had been filled with crushed glass. He lost his grip on Endiel and it sliced into the marble floor before its inner light faded. Out of his hands, it was merely crystal again.

Ektrakhal was at his throat, and Essen grinned madly, tears running down his dark and stony face. His eyes glowed red with the eldritch fires that granted him his power and his immortality. “I should have killed you the first time we met, mongrel,” he growled. Keep talking, Thalen thought. All we need is another mi-

The blade dipped and slid with ease into Thalen’s chest, taking his breath from him as it did. The pain was excruciating – not just the physical agony, but the tearing and rending that began as the ancient blade began to live up to its name. Thalen could feel himself, and the souls of his fathers, drawn into the blade. His claws pistoned out and in and out again, scoring the floor, but to no avail. There was no purchase he could gain against this kind of attack.

“You’re finished, mutt,” Essen whispered. Even at arm’s length, it carried. “When I’m done with you, all your friends will find will be the mindless husk of the Wharven they once knew. Right before you kill them for me.” He twisted the blade. It didn’t speed up the process any, but it added to the pain.

Thalen screamed, and it reverberated through the throne room. By the time it got back to him, however, he had turned it into a choking, rusty laugh, driven by the pain and the foreknowledge of what was to come. Though the very motion drove the blade deeper into his chest, he made himself laugh. He forced it out.

“Why are you laughing,” Praetor Essen asked? He gave the blade another twist. “WHY?”

He couldn’t hear Thalen’s whispered reply. The Wharven had so little breath left as it was, he could barely spare enough for a last word. “Tell me!” Essen howled, lifting Thalen up by the blade. With terribly smooth slowness, Thalen slid down the long, crimson sword’s blade until he was only a breath away from his killer.

“The… Starheart… lives.”

Praetor Essen’s face froze. “No,” he said. “You’re lying.” He twisted the blade one more time, but Thalen didn’t respond. His last breath had wounded far more deeply than his crystal blade ever could have, and now he was done.

Essen dropped the dead Wharven to the floor and pulled his blade out. “Hostehal!” He stalked back to his throne, calling for this secretary. “HOSTEHAL!!”

The room shuddered as an explosion tore through the lower levels of the tower. He ran to his throne for the Crystal Scepter, but, like the Wharven’s sward, the light had gone from it. “No,” he said again, spinning around. Crystalline lights throughout the room were blinking out, their pale energies drifting like smoke through the floor. To the Starheart. In moments, the only thing illuminating the room was the light of explosions from below, shining through the windows. Flashes of red, of indigo, of colors that he’d never heard before, accompanied each subsequent explosion, and great chunks of marble began to crack and fall from the walls and the ceiling. He dodged one that was as big as a horse, and then another that nearly took off his head.

He slid Ektrakhal into the scabbard at his side and ran to the window. A great curtain of energy was rising up the tower, burning away at its impenetrable stone walls with alarming slowness. This was what the Wharven had come up to accomplish. This is how he had won. That Nestari bitch he traveled with must have given her blood to the Starheart, forged the link. He howled and nearly put his fist through the wall, shards of stone spraying across the room. He swept back to his throne, ignoring the ceiling collapsing above him, and took the Crystal Scepter in hand. Maybe he could take it back.

Maybe his blood could override hers.

He reached out and caught a piece of masonry as it fell, not even glancing at it. With all his strength, he squeezed it until it split, cracking like a broken bone. Blood started to drip from his hand, and he let it fall on the scepter. By all rights, that should re-forge the link, give him the power to stop….

The crystal atop the scepter began to glow weakly. A thready, pink glow, tainted by his blood. “Yes!” he yelled, unclenching his fist and smearing his bloody hand against the crystal. “You haven’t won! I can still have my victory!”

The scepter exploded, shooting slivers of crystal into his face and chest. Essen screamed and dropped the scepter, clawing at his eyes. One of them was destroyed, a quivering shard jutting from it. With his other eye, he could see a spirit-form coalesce in the center of the room. It gathered unspeakable energies around it and stood twice as tall as he did. As he watched, he came to recognize her.

Parriel. His daughter.

He held a bloody and broken hand up to the figure, who stood in the center of the room unaffected by the tremors and the ongoing destruction. The ghostly entity glided over to him. “Parriel,” he said. “You live.”

She took his chin in her hand and tilted his head up so as to look at his face. Her smile was sad, rueful. “Yes, father,” she said. “Through the Starheart I live.” She looked around, stood back, and looked back at him. “But you, father….” She put her hands together in front of her, palms nearly touching. A bright and terrible light began to condense there. “You do not.”

The wave of energy that had been consuming the tower burst through the floor, creating vast holes of opalescent nothingness as it rose. Essen’s screams were picked up and echoed, amplified, and then overwhelmed by the building destruction that consumed him. As he died, the Great Spire from which he ruled was utterly devastated, exploding in a rosette of unspeakable energies that was seen for many hundreds of leagues away. Throughout the kingdom, the night sky was bright, and a mad amalgam of hope and terror, freedom and agony tore across the land. Essen’s Unmade soldiers fell as the instrument of their animation was reduced to nothingness.

As the wave passed, silence fell on the Southern Kingdom. Whatever had happened there was too much to speak of. Some wanted to celebrate, to bang drums and finally dance in the streets, but feared that it might be too soon. Others wanted to mourn, to cry and tear their hair, but knew that it was too late. Some paid it no mind – after all, one ruler was much like another, and in the end it didn’t matter. Others laid plans for their own ascendancy.

One, a Toriian child, picked her way over the rubble of the Great Spire, her steps light but well-chosen. The white chunks of stone and marble were still flickering with otherworldly energy, but it avoided her touch. No one called out to her to stay away, to go somewhere safe, and she wouldn’t have listened if they had. She knew nothing about what kind of ruler Essen had been, or what kind of sacrifices had been made to bring him down. All she knew was that something amazing had happened here, and it was of the utmost importance that she find out what it was.

Pieces of masonry rocked as she jumped from one to the other, her long legs and feathered tail giving her balance. As she reached the top of one pile, a stone shifted, revealing the leather-wrapped hilt of a sword. The wrapping looked like it had been done ages ago, by someone who had probably re-wrapped it a few times already. It was dark from where it had been gripped, and showed years of use.

The girl gingerly put her hand to the hilt, as though the sword beyond it might jump up and stab her.

Nothing happened.

She grabbed it then, tugging it out from under a block of stone. As it touched the air, the slender crystalline blade burst into green incandescence, illuminating her and her whole surroundings. She stared into its light, and a grin spread up from the corners of her beaklike mouth.

“Cool,” she said.