Chapter Two –
Fiore wiped his face as the dust from the fallen tower drifted into his eyes via the warm, soft breeze. Black and blue stones, metal plates and various large chunks of wall lay scattered around the fields and the crumbling ruins of his former prison. The portal, used by the armed humans who tried to prevent his escape, lay on the floor face up, covered by rubble, though quite strangely, it seemed undamaged; not that Fiore could think of any reason he would like to use it. Those men, who tried to kill him, went through it before the tower began to collapse. His attention then turned to Rhaet, the green, flickering spirit who levitated next to him. He thought for a moment. ‘What do I seek?’ It was an interesting question for a human who had just woken up from a two thousand year old slumber. He scoured his memory of the past hour or so and eventually turned to Rhaet and replied to the question;
“I seek answers. Why was I placed in the prison? Who put me there? Is there anyone alive now who I knew back then?”
Rhaet laughed and beckoned Fiore to follow him, “It is funny really; you’ve asked me three questions. If I could give you the three answers there’s no doubt you’ll ask another six! If I answered those, you’d ask another twelve. We’d go on in this cycle until you knew everything there is to know about the universe! You were a rather curious boy back in the day and I expect you’re no different now.” Rhaet paused and turned to face Fiore, who wore a very impatient expression on his face, “Alas, I know not the answers to all your questions, but I can explain where we are now. The ground you stand on is not Earth. We’re not in Carthage. We’re on an artificial planet called Endymia, a planet built by what we expect were the immortal servants of God. These ruins are that of the first human city built here. The nine, the senate of Carthage when we lived there, discovered this Planet through an item created to serve as a gateway between the two planets of Earth and Endymia. We arrived and built this settlement to act as a getaway should our enemies on Earth prove too powerful. We built this settlement with the intent to keep our people safe from danger… We were sadly mistaken in our judgement.”
Fiore listened in silence, taking in everything Rhaet was saying and observing the white ruins around him. They were very much like the houses and buildings he knew of back home. Although the pillars lay fallen and the archways stood crumbled and broken. It appeared quite obvious to him that the Carthaginians had created this city. The Phoenician architecture was limited to naught but a few civilizations of his time and only the Carthaginians were ambitious enough to do this. But what happened to this city? Time, although cruel and unmerciful, could not do the damage that lay before him. This was more likely the outcome of a violent struggle.
“Unfortunately, Fiore, as a spirit I am only able to wander so far from the places I am bound to. With the tower practically destroyed, my presence here will no longer be ‘tolerated’ by the laws of Nature. Before I died, I cast a powerful spell on myself so that when I did, my memory would last forever in a single object. It’s an object that marked my arrival here on this planet. It is in fact merely a seed, imbued with my memory and powers of the Earthen Arcane. Should I have taken it to Earth and grown it, it would look a lot different now than it did back then. I was, of course, restricted in my movements between the two planets and so the Seed remains in my tomb. Obtaining this crystal will release all of my past power of Nature onto you, but in turn, will consume my spirit and I will no longer be able to wander in this realm. You will then remember everything that involved both you and me. You will remember the day you enrolled at our school, to the day we fought for our City.” The spirit of Rhaet flickered in and out of existence as it did within the tower, he sighed and continued, looking very out of breath, “You ask the questions you asked because he who put you in the prison did not want you to know the answers. I do not know who it was, I do not know why. Fortunately for you, however; the other members of the senate also cast spells to allow this information to be passed on should it need to be. Unin was always very good at predicting these kinds of things, it was no surprise he came up with this plan. Follow the path ahead of you; it will lead you to my old hut. My possessions should remain there. Take my old sack, my journal and anything else you see fit. From the hut, continue along the path until you reach my tomb. I will remain there in my spirit form, as well as in other places I am bound to, until you consume my memories. I will try to explain things in further detail when we meet again. But make haste, the Forests are dangerous at night, especially around this time of year, and you only have a few hours before the suns merge.”
As the spirit faded away, Fiore noticed the small orb he had picked up earlier had shrunk and dimmed. No longer was it a green glass orb, it had become no more than a black stone and it would have been indistinguishable from those that lay in the ruins of the tower should he have not known any better.
“The suns are going to merge?” Fiore thought to himself; “How is that going to cause nightfall?”
He wandered forwards towards the opening of the forest, stepping over small pieces of white marble and the occasional fallen statue to get to his destination. Rhaet was right though, although at least one of his questions had been answered, a whole flurry of new ones had taken its place. He remembered that as a small child, he grew worried that if he had too many unanswered questions in his mind, he’d not have enough room in it for anything else. He chuckled slightly, smiling as the memory came to him, and wondered what else he would remember on this journey. Fiore pushed through a large bundle of turquoise ferns and bushes and caught his foot on a strange, abstract looking purple plant. The flower released a cloud of pollen as Fiore freed himself, causing him to choke a little. The path that Rhaet had requested Fiore to follow was now accessible; grass and weeds had grown over it making it difficult to distinguish from the forest on either side but he was able to see where he was going. As he saw the two suns turning red, Fiore took on a faster pace and lost himself in his thoughts.
‘A lot has just happened. I’ve been released from my prison into a new world. I’ve spoken to my dead tutor and now I’m being sent to a tomb to claim the memory of Rhaet as my own. It’s all a bit crazy, but I need to know why I’m here. I need to remember.’ Fiore paused, stopped walking and looked around, ‘This new planet, it feels strange. There must be something in the air which makes me feel like my power is being drained from my body. It’s certainly not like Earth at all.’
* * *
Meanwhile, in the same blue-hued forest, two men were also making their way to a specific point within, though quite a distance from where Fiore was heading.
“Onox! I’m sick of this!” The shorter man, Draken, shouted loudly. His orange eyes ran back and forth over the horizon, as if looking for something interesting to happen, “It’s the same every goddamn year! You bring me out here into the depths of nowhere…-”
“Hold your tongue.” The older, taller man, Onox, snapped, purposefully heightening his voice to boom over Draken’s. “We have been requested by Endymion to do this. He is our King. You may be his heir, but for now you are simply a Doomseeker. This is our job, and you’ll do well to remember it. I wonder when you’ll finally learn your place.”
“My place?” Draken sneered, “Obviously being cooked up in that tower of his has caused him to lose his mind. We’ve never seen anything out of the ordinary here. An idiot could see that nothing’s going to happen!”
“Oh..?” Onox’s voice quietened, but his sarcastic tone remained, “Then what, pray tell, all-knowing Draken, are those in the sky?”
Draken and Onox looked upwards, towards the two suns, several tiny, black-grey objects had just become visible and seemed to be becoming gradually bigger; as they did, they set alight with a faint green flame; they were falling, fast.
“Meteors..? What the hell are meteors doing in our sky?” Draken’s irate tone of voice softened slightly,
“The direction of the flames seems to suggest they’re falling in unison, and should land nearby.” Onox looked at the two suns, “They’ll be merging soon. Magical power will be enhanced, this can’t be a coincidence.”
“Nothing ever is, Onox. But relax; at least something interesting is going to happen.” Draken smirked, and pressed forward, “Let’s go, if you’re right, they should touchdown in just a few hours.”
Onox stared at the sky for a moment, with an anxious look on his face, and then proceeded down the path. “I wonder if he knows what’s happening.”
* * *
Fiore had been walking for half an hour before he reached a small clearing of short, cut grass. It had been made this way, he figured, as the grass was neatly cut and a white marble statue of a robed woman was placed in the centre of this circular area. She was tall for her size, and her eyes had been gemmed at some point, but some greedy traveller had obviously thought it a profitable idea to pluck them out and leave the woman blinded. The woman was holding a bowl of some sort which was engraved with a symbol unknown to him. The bowl held droplets of water, possibly rainwater, and was held out as if the statue were presenting it to him to drink. A plain black slab on the base of the statue read, “Hio, Goddess of the light.”
“Hio…” Fiore thought, “The name sounds vaguely familiar.”
He peered into the bowl and looked at the water within. He was thirsty, but he didn’t know how clean this water was. Back home, he remembered, his mother used to boil the water over fire and letting it cool before allowing him to drink it. This was, of course, to attempt to prevent illness. It hadn’t worked perfectly, but he could only imagine how ill he could have gotten if that had not been done. He was however, extremely thirsty, removed the bowl from the statue and drank it down in a few gulps.
Not giving it a second thought, he carried on walking and continued down a small muddy path, littered with bushes and shrubs on either side. He brushed his forehead. It was warm, the air was humid and he was sweating a little, but he had to press on. He had no idea how long it would take to reach Rhaet’s hut. Suddenly, Fiore stopped. His eyes began to glow a deep green, his bone structure shifted, becoming smaller and cat-like. In a few moments, Fiore had completely turned into a green furred panther. Ones like he remembered back from home. He felt silly now, as he had only just remembered while reminiscing about his times playing in the rainforests of Carthage, but this would have made the last parts of the journey a lot faster and would certainly mean he’d find this hut sooner rather than later. Catapulting himself down the path, Fiore rushed past the various kinds of plant-life which, to him, now seemed to blend together as a long streak of green, blue and purple blur. It was no surprise that soon, Fiore could make out a shadow of a hut in the distance. As he continued running, he wondered, Rhaet had probably lived there at one point, or at least kept it as a personal getaway from the Senate and his duties. He wished he could ask Rhaet why he had a home on a different planet to Earth, though such answers may only come from within Rhaet’s tomb, so he would have to wait until later. Fiore was tired and looking forward to rest inside Rhaet’s hut. He took on a faster pace and made his way forward, not noticing the same circular symbol he saw earlier, in the tower, on a hidden signpost, covered by leaves and vines. Up ahead, he saw the wooden cabin which he assumed, due to the growth of vines and plant life on the walls, had been unused for some time. After shifting back into his human form, he approached the damp, wooden door and cut apart the tangled vines before entering.
He wiped his forehead, unleashing a dozen or two sweat droplets onto the browned, wooden floor. He had been expecting some sort of magic to have concealed a large number of rooms in the tiny, worn down cabin. However he saw that whilst that sort of magic was possible it had not been used here. No, from left to right Fiore saw a small but comfy looking green bed, a limestone fireplace and then in the corner, a desk and chair surrounded by shelves and bookcases, all of which held a surprisingly large amount of books and objects for their size. He closed the door behind him, went straight towards the bed and sat down. He wondered how long it had actually been since he had sat down. He thought about earlier, those two men, who he had killed. They had said that Carthage was destroyed over two thousand years ago. But he did not feel that old, nor did he think living that long was even possible. There was a mirror in on the wall directly opposite him; he had not seen his reflection in a while. He felt somewhat uneasy; what if he had been imprisoned for two thousand years? Would he be an old man? He stood up, nervously made his way to the silver rimmed mirror and looked into his warm, green eyes. He was not an old man; he was exactly how he had remembered himself, though his hair had grown significantly.
“What the hell is going on here?” Fiore muttered to himself.
He made his way over to the desk and sat on the rickety chair in front of it. In front of him lay a mess; books, quills, stones and papers. A pot of ink lay on its side. The ink had long since disappeared however the black-blue stain seemed to suggest something had shocked the writer. One book lay open on the desk though, “Book of the Nazaratti”, was written in glowing ink on the first page. Fiore recognised this immediately as written in the same kind of ink as those in his old school. It was magically encrypted, unreadable to those without the necessary skills to break the enchantment. He turned the first page of the red and black leather-bound book, recited the only decryption spell he knew and waited. Quite coincidentally, the spell did work and the letters of the page shifted from incomprehensible icons and glyphs to real words and letters. Fiore assumed that this was not the only encryption spell on the book, but Rhaet may have left it so he could read it when he got here. He picked it up, opened to the first page and read;
“It was not long into the Era of Creation when our people decided to help the Conscience to create life. We could breed, as all living beings to come. However our children had an abnormally high death rate. Perhaps it was a cruel penalty to pay for our near immortality. Therefore, it was not surprising that we would try to find other ways of creating life. Using the powers bestowed upon us by the Conscience, we attempted to find a way to do this. For years our tribe, The Nazaratti, searched for a substance strong enough to withhold the essence of life. We had tried rock, wood, sand, even clouds and water during the more desperate times. Unfortunately, all attempts failed and only infuriated those in charge of the experiments. It was not until the Great Scholar, and my personal friend, Foxxera, experimented with gravity and through certain events, we managed to do it.
We named them the Shadowarl. We named them that so we could never forget the evil and danger they brought with them. They started as simple, mindless creatures; created through giving gravity mass while infusing it with the elements of light, darkness and mind. They were kept in a room, watched very closely. They stood still, silently, confused as to what they were supposed to do. We too were confused, we had created life but they had no intention of actually living. We soon realised though, that in order for life to truly exist, it needed a purpose. Much like we were destined to create life. There would be no point to living if living was all there was, especially if you were locked up in a room being observed by blue-skinned aliens with a hundred of your ‘friends’. The room was securely locked and guarded all day, everyday. Obviously that was not enough. We do not know how, but the room became contaminated. The Shadowarl became excited, playing with the unknown Nazaratti who had, maybe unwittingly, entered the room. They killed them. Sliced his veins and his arteries, but, what they did next was unpredictable. One of the Shadowarl entered into the dying Nazaratti’s bloodstream through the cuts in his body. The Nazaratti in question died in seconds; he was no longer one of us. The infected bloodstream soon became thick with darkness, the body absorbed and transformed into another Shadowarl, who looked up at his new peers and smirked. The Shadowarl… they had found a way to breed. They had found their purpose and simultaneously, we had found what would prove to be the greatest threat to our tribe and in the future, everything else.”
The door of the hut blew open. A large gust of wind froze the room. The air turned cold and everything went blue. A man, hooded and covered in dark blue robes, walked up to Fiore, who sat in his chair reading the book. The man’s various silver necklaces rattled against each other as step by step, he came closer. Fiore had no idea what was happening. He did not know that there was even a man behind him. The being whose hand was now on Fiore’s shoulder had stopped time. He spoke in a calm, yet cold voice.
“You’ve read enough, Fiore. This book has eluded me for a while now; it’s very interesting that Rhaet, of all people, was keeping it safe. But it’s really not surprising he intended you to read it.” He paused for a second, “How long has Rhaet held this book? I had a number of complex encryptions on this thing. Nevertheless, they shall be replaced now I have it back in my possession. There are some holes that I need to fill up.”
The man raised his left hand, wearing a ring on his aged, pale blue and seemingly rotting index finger, and took the book. “According to the promise I have made, I should really kill you now… but that wouldn’t work in my favour.”
He took the book from Fiore’s hands, turned and walked towards the door. Not before looking back at Fiore, he slammed the door shut and time, once again, flowed like it should do. Fiore sat motionless, holding his hands up as if to continue reading, but the book was no longer there. He was shocked; he didn’t quite know what to think, the book had simply disappeared. No warning, no explosion, no nothing.
“An illusion?” Fiore thought, as he looked around for some trace of the book still being in the same plane of existence, “It’s just gone?”
Fiore looked around the room for Rhaet’s journal and backpack. While he was rummaging through the odd trinkets and gemstones Rhaet had apparently enjoyed collecting, he thought about what he had read.
‘It’s probably fictitious.’ He thought, perhaps half-heartedly; ‘The Shadowarl, The Conscience, an Era of Creation?’
But something inside of him longed to read more. The word Nazaratti called out to him, as if to say, ‘Remember me?’
He finally found Rhaet’s journal underneath some papyrus scrolls and an article on “Elemental Disruption” and a tatty old backpack; which he placed the browned book inside for reading later. He decided to make his way onwards. Just as he opened the door however, a shattering explosion threw Fiore and the majority of loose objects in the room to the floor. Glass smashed and Fiore hit his face on the wooden planks beneath him, cutting himself; another outburst caused some floorboards to rattle loose; then another. After a few moments and a few more explosions, the ordeal stopped, dust particles settled to the floor again and Fiore regained balance, stood up and looked around looking rather dazed. He could see a large cloud of green-black smoke in the near distance, coming from a singular point. The wind was pushing it eastwards, in front of the two suns, which, like Rhaet had said, were merging into one. The two stars, alight in blue, were slowly drifting into each other. The larger super-giant of the two was to engulf the somewhat smaller, whiter one, and as it did, strange purple waves of plasma erupted from where the two merged. These were pulled into the atmosphere of Endymia; causing the sky to turn a dense, foggy purple. His eyes erupted into green fire; his power was rapidly increasing; his hands followed suit;
“This…” Fiore gasped for air; the increase in power was causing him to be in pain, “This is normal here?”
It had only just occurred to Fiore, but this planet, Endymia, was not like Earth in the slightest. In a now blatantly obvious way; the true nature of this planet came to him. Its suns revolved around the planet; meaning either that he was in some kind of twisted alternate reality or the planet itself was much, much larger than the suns. Like Earth, though, it had an aura. Until the suns had started to merge, Endymia’s aura was comparably parasitic to Earth’s. On his home planet; the aura allowed him maximum use of his power whenever he needed it. Here, on the other hand, he was limited significantly; at least he was. Now the suns had started to become one, the sky had turned purple; the limitation on his power had been lifted entirely and because of this phenomenon, he phased out. Unable to control the sudden outburst in energy, he drifted into a dream state, conscious, but unaware of that which was happening around him in the dense, now very misty forest.
* * *
Draken and Onox were standing still. They had arrived at the point where the four, green, fleshy meteors had hit the ground, just moments after the explosions. Both of them were, much like Fiore was, under the effect of the merging suns. They were much more used to it though. Draken stood taller than usual; the extra energy his body was producing had bulked his muscles and caused him to look taller, but only very slightly. His eyes and hands were alight with orange flame, and the dust and smoke that were still in the air burned as it touched the fiery wisps, causing an odd rotting smell filled the area;
“I think it’s safe to say…” Draken coughed and waved his arm to disperse some of the smog, “That these are not normal meteors.”
“No, they’re not. You’re correct.” Onox stated bluntly, his eyes alight with cyan, reflecting on his polished, yellow armour, “They’re alive.”
Draken looked at Onox in disbelief; then stared at the objects. They had fallen the moment the sky changed colour. Before this; they had simply stopped mid-flight; floating motionless about a hundred metres above the ground. They were a dark, mossy green; oval-shaped; wrinkly and with what appeared to be masses of black capillary webs covering the rippled surface. It reminded Draken of a rotting human brain.
“Is there anything you’ve been keeping from me until now, Onox, which I need to know before these things do whatever it is they’re going to do?” Draken stared at Onox. This would not be the first time information had been kept from him if indeed Onox knew something.
Onox paused and looked at Draken before turning away, “These meteors are spacecrafts. They’re holding a life form called Shadowarl within those veins.”
“And you thought it apt, did you, to leave telling me until the last bloody moment?” Draken snapped and nodded towards the large, odd objects, “How do we kill ‘em?”
“They’re relatively fragile creatures, is what I’ve been told. A strong swipe with a sword should split up their body and release the dark energy back into the environment, essentially removing all trace of their existence.” Onox paused, again, and then carried on, “Endymion’s told me that the threat lies not only with the Shadowarl’s innate ability to transform other life forms into their own, but the release of Dark Matter after their death. It affects the surrounding area and an excess of dark elemental energy will cause imbalance.”
“That’s more like it,” Draken had not yet calmed down, “Don’t you think it would’ve been easier if I was told this when we were dispatched?”
“Orders are orders. It’s not my responsibility to inform you.” Onox pointed at one of the smaller meteors. “Put your facemask on and get ready.”
The egg-shaped blob’s surface was expanding, smoothing out into a round sphere. It was expanding and as it did; the two men saw what lay inside of it. The meteor appeared to have a skin, a skin that was becoming translucent, showing black blobs, wriggling and squirming inside what Draken assumed was some kind of alien fluid.
“Are they going to burst?” Draken took a step backwards in discomfort, “I don’t what that stuff all over me…”
“They’ll rip; gas is going to come out.” Onox seemed a lot less nervous than Draken, “Don’t worry; as long as you don’t breathe it in you’ll be fine.”
“I feel strange, Onox.”
“It their power, it’s already infecting the air.” Onox stated, then pointed towards the small opening in the trees, “The sky, during this time of year, is a deep purple. As you can see, here, it looks black.”
“There’s dark magic in the air?” Draken asked, sounding a little confused, and then looked at the biological, fleshy rocks in front of him. All of them, bar the largest, were expanding as the first. Holes began to show as the filmy skin had ruptured, and black spores were released as a jet of air came whizzing out. “They’re plants?”
“No… they’re not.” Onox now sounded just as confused as Draken, “This is unusual.”
“Funny, you tend to know everything, Onox.” Draken pondered for a second, “So what do we do?”
“All we can do is wait; be on your guard, they are incredibly vicious creatures.”
The clearing, created by the impact of the meteors, was no longer covered by dust. As the three meteors opened up, black smog had filled the area; it wasn’t as thick as to prevent Onox and Draken from witnessing that which was to follow, but thick enough to cause them discomfort.
“We need to retreat, Draken.” Onox sounded worried, “This is no normal occurrence for a Shadowarl attack. It’s too organised.”
“We are not leaving, Onox!” Draken shouted, masking his nervousness with eagerness to do battle, “I have waited months for something interesting to happen and I will not run away from a battle once it presents itself to me in this fashion!”
“Hungry…” A dry voice caught the wind. Onox and Draken looked up, startled. .
Through the mist, several dozen black, humanoid figures stood upright and tall. Completely shadowed by the darkness, one of them walked forwards, raised it’s black, scaly arm and beckoned for Onox and Draken to come closer. It’s yellow, piercing eyes glinted as the mist began to disperse and sunlight pierced the forest once more. The Shadowarl revealed it’s grey, snake-like tongue and licked it’s teeth, black as it’s skin, which dripped with purple saliva.
It pounced towards them, arms outright, claws on the show and went to slash Onox whom, with lightning-fast reflexes, brought his sword upwards through the Shadowarl’s shadowy skin. The beast screeched in pain as the sword split it in two; within seconds, the attacking Shadowarl has, much like the mist, dispersed into the air after turning into smoke.
“We are to kill as little as possible!” Onox shouted at Draken, while keeping his eye on the Shadowarl, who still seemed to be emerging from the meteors. “Killing too many will result in catastrophe!”
The pack of Shadowarl stood forwards, and walked slowly, cautiously, towards the two men. One of them stood forward and spoke for the group in a dry, harsh voice; “The death of our brother, temporary as it may be, will be avenged.”
As the last word left the mouth of what was assumed by Draken and Onox to be the pack leader, the entire army leapt forward.
* * *
Fiore came to his senses; confused and flustered. He had no idea how long he had been on the floor for, but as he looked around he figured it was now long after nightfall. The sky was black, and an odd purple-black mist surrounded him. Tiny black orbs floated around trees and plants on either side of the road; he assumed them to be some kind of dark, light absorbing firefly and stood up. He looked at the remains of Rhaet’s cabin. The once small, quaint house was now a smouldering heap of wood and cloth; burning in a faint green flame and unleashing smoke into the atmosphere. Fiore felt remorseful, Rhaet was already dead but there was a lot within his room that must have meant something to him, if not just for the private memories of long-deceased relatives.
“Rhaet, if your spirit can hear me, I am truly sorry. I have yet to become fully adjusted to this new climate.”
Fiore picked Rhaet’s backpack off of the ground and put it on his back. He took a deep breath, shifted into the same green furred panther as earlier in the day and ran forwards. He had been warned that travelling during the night in the forest was dangerous ad had no intention of putting that to the test. ‘Hopefully,’ Fiore thought, ‘the tomb will not be far from here.’
He catapulted himself through the forest. Those which were blue and green plants before were a dark, sickly purple, black and withering. Blurs of dying plants passed his eyes as now, he was able to reach his maximum speed; but not for long. Perhaps ten minutes or so down the road, he heard a rustle in the nearby bushes, seconds later he was dragged to the ground with a crash. He felt a claw dig into his stomach and rip his flesh. He got up; infuriated, shifted into sand to repair his wound and turned back. He stared at what had attacked him. Yellow eyes; glowing in the mist, a shadowy, scaly body with fangs and claws to rival the Scorpix and a strange black glow hugged it’s skin; A Shadowarl.
“Your death is imminent, Mage.” The Shadowarl spoke, dry and cruel, but the monster in front of Fiore did not open it’s mouth.
“Telekinesis?” Fiore whispered, “Dark magic or Mind magic, it doesn’t matter to me. I’ll kill you either way.”
The monster shook it’s head, and opened it’s mouth, revealing it’s purple tongue and fangs, dripping with saliva. “Hungry…”
Fiore raised his hand, much more confident than before with the Scorpix, and faced his dry cold palm at the beast’s face. A few seconds of silence passed, the Shadowarl stood still, confused. Fiore’s hand erupted into flame; he grabbed the Shadowarl’s face, picked it up and threw it towards the nearest tree.
“Die!” The Shadowarl hissed as it came running back towards Fiore, phasing in and out of shadow.
“Not now; not ever.” Fiore stared eye to eye with the monster, lifted both of his arms with palms facing it’s face and shouted; “Vis Iuguolo!”
An explosion of green fire engulfed the Shadowarl – which screamed. Fiore had never smelt burning shadow before, but it was rather pungent, ‘a lot like burning flesh’, he thought, but somewhat spicier.
He watched as the Shadowarl became gas, smoke coming off of it’s body until it had completely diffused into the air. He felt uneasy, the Shadowarl he had just killed had definitely affected the environment; the plants had been dying anyway, but now at a seemingly faster rate. He walked for a little while, thinking about the book he had read in Rhaet’s cabin and how it described how the Shadowarl were created, or so the book led him to believe.
“Who wrote the book?” he thought out loud, “’Foxxera’ was involved in the creation of these things, but the author was too. Perhaps they took it back.”
As Fiore thought more deeply about the book and it’s possible hidden meanings, he found himself looking upwards at what he would consider to be the largest and oldest tree in the universe.
It stood in the middle of a large clearing, separated from the rest of the forest. Its diameter stretched longer than a temple; it stood tall at least three times as high as the others, and it was withering. Dying under the effects of the Shadow Mist; but a soft green radiance was emitted from each of its blue-green leaves, suggesting that there was something, or someone willing it to live. What appeared to be a doorway was
“Rhaet,” Fiore stated, bluntly. “Figures you’d be in a place like this.”
He proceeded to the entrance, which appeared to have been clumsily crafted by a teenage carpenter at the last minute. The tree’s growth had erased the majority of ornate carvings from the thick, mud-coloured bark, but he recognised one.
“The symbol of Nature. Rhaet’s mark.” He stated, once again.
Lit only by one green, flickering flame every few paces, he travelled down a spiral tunnel and into the catacombs of Rhaet’s tomb. It was then that he saw that finding Rhaet, and his memories, was not going to be as easy as first thought. The first chamber of Rhaet’s tomb was home to a battle. Shadowarl had gotten into this tomb and were under attack by a green, fungus-like giant.
“Rhaet’s guardian! I remember..!” Fiore gasped, “Why has he needed to summon that?”
The fungus giant, in multiple mossy shades of green and yellow, attacked the Shadowarl hordes with sweeps of it’s long thorny vine-like arms. As the thorns pierced the Shadowarl’s scaly yet gaseous body, they were destroyed and evaporated into the air.
“That’s why the tree’s dying.” Fiore said. “I’ve got to find Rhaet.”
Fiore ran down towards the second chamber’s door, jumping over altars and artifacts that had been buried, or he supposed, grown around, with Rhaet. Avoiding the Shadowarl which, quite fortunately, were too worried about being crushed by the fungus monster to notice Fiore, he pushed the wooden doors open, entered and closed them behind him.
“At last.” A voice came from the end of the room. “It seems like you’ve taken years to get here.”
Rhaet, as a spirit, stood in front of an altar on which his decaying body rested upon. The green cloak still intact on it’s blackened, rotting skin reminded Fiore of an event at his school. Whilst not exactly the most pleasant of memories, a thief had been stealing from his Masters and they had taken their revenge upon him via an infliction of decay. He had probably only lived a few weeks before his heart stopped beating.
“Rhaet, I have come here as you asked.”
“I thank you, Fiore, for your obedience. You must be confused.” Rhaet beckoned Fiore to follow him as he drifted towards a small wooden table and chairs. “Before I depart, I have a feeling you want to ask me some questions. But, as you can see outside, we don’t particularly have time for idle chat.”
Fiore sat down; Rhaet, even as a ghost, sat as well. Upon the table were a number of intricately carved models. One, an elephant, carrying a man on it’s back; the second was of a panther, striking out as if it were hunting, the third was abstract, a bunch of spheres carved together to form a shape similar to a bunch of grapes; though less dignified in overall shape.
“What are these?” Fiore asked, inquisitively.
“Just a few ornaments I’d made while alive.” Rhaet smirked, “I mean not to be rude, Fiore, I’m sympathetic with your position. However there have been some events taking place which have caused a need for haste.”
“Indeed; creatures created by the original inhabitants of this planet for the sake of experimentation. The process went wrong.”
“The Nazaratti did it, I know, I read the book.”
Rhaet paused; looked at Fiore in a strange way and spoke in bewilderment, “What book? Did you read my journal? I don’t believe I’ve written down the name of the tribe…”
“The Book of the Nazaratti. It was on your desk?”
“I think…” Rhaet paused again, “… Someone is up to their old tricks. Beware of Endymion’s mind games, Fiore. He’s an exceptionally clever being and his power of foresight gives him an advantage over most.”
“I’ll explain the Shadowarl first.” Rhaet cut him off, “The Shadowarl are here in my tomb for a reason. They’re not after my memory but something quite similar. It is one of many of this planet that helps to maintain balance between the elements. I call it the essence. Others have different names for it but that doesn’t matter; if the Shadowarl got control of it… well, they’d have complete power of Nature!”
“So the Shadowarl want to destroy the planet?”
“Not entirely, I suspect that they’ve been led here for a purpose other than simple destruction…” Rhaet trailed off once again.
“I saw changes happen outside.” Fiore was a little reluctant to speak any more, “They’re not planning on destroying anything, well, maybe people. They’re planning on taking over the planet as their own.”
Rhaet looked up. Although Fiore knew he was dead, he could see worry in the spectral eyes of his friend. “If such plans are true, Fiore, then it must be stopped. The Shadowarl are simply rabid animals without any sense of direction but, if they’re being led by a powerful, more intelligent brother or theirs… They won’t stop with Endymia. They’ll consume everything.”
“And what about Endymion?” Fiore asked, anxious to know.
“He was the Nazaratti responsible for imprisoning you.”
Fiore stood up and looked at Rhaet in the eyes. “I think it’s about time I got my memory back. Where can I find it?”
“The object on the table; the elephant.” Rhaet sounded distressed. “Forgive me Fiore for sounding upset but I will soon be departing from this existence. I’ve longed for it for almost as long as you’ve spent sleeping. The idea of it actually happening is quite scary though.”
“I can sympathise,” Fiore reached for the elephant, “But I need this; how does it work?”
“All you have to do is ask for it, Fiore. But, before you go, I have a message I would like you to deliver to Magmos for me.”
“You’ll know soon enough,” Rhaet said, “I want you to tell him that I forgive him. He will understand, and perhaps you will too, someday.”
“It shall be done, Rhaet. I wish you well in the afterlife.”
As Fiore chanted the spell to retrieve his memory, Rhaet began to fade. A small trickle of ghost tears dripped from his face and onto the table beneath him. Fiore looked at his friend as he faded away, and when he did, he spoke.
“Thank-you, very much Rhaet.”
Fiore sat down again, fresh with the memories in his mind, with a scowl on his face. He didn’t remember everything, but he knew enough. He knew now, what he should do. He knew now who had imprisoned him, and he knew now that he wanted revenge.
* * *
“Draken!” Onox shouted, “We need to leave, now!”
The two were surrounded by hordes of Shadowarl, each discharging blobs of purple glow into the air; exploding at a certain altitude and causing a rain of black spores. The Largest of the four meteors had not yet ‘hatched’, but Onox could sense it coming. It was not like the others; it had begun radiating Dark magic a while ago now, but remained frozen in place.
“This is infuriating…” Draken gasped for air, as yet another Shadowarl evaporated after a collision with his sword. “They’re never-ending; easy to kill, but never-ending.”
“We cannot under any circumstance allow many more to be killed.” Onox commanded, “Destroy only those who you need to for escape. These things won’t go away by simply dying.”
“Wait…” A bellowing voice echoed and dragged it’s words, “I haven’t had chance to introduce myself yet.”
The largest of meteors was hatching. It’s skin ruptured like those before it but, unlike the others, only one figure came from within; a Shadowarl, like the rest, but taller; in fact it seemed at least twice as tall as the rest. It was bulkier, muscular and armoured from neck to toe. It’s crimson red and black plated armour glinted in the purple light. It climbed out of it’s egg, and threw itself 6 feet forwards to stand in front of Draken. The ground shook as the heavy armour hit the ground.
“Ah, it’s you, Draken, the traitor.” He grinned, smirked at his own private joke and Draken’s bewildered face; and then turned to face Onox, “Perhaps it is best if you decide…”
“Decide what?” Onox sounded grim. “Who are you?”
The monster grabbed Draken with one hand and threw him into Onox, knocking them both to the floor. He took on a more intimidating tone, speaking faster than before,
“My name is Mek.” He paused, grabbed Onox by the throat and held him to the nearest tree, “One of you, I’m going to let ‘escape’ to warn my friend Endymion about my presence here. The other gets to stay and become lunch. I am starving. Now, make your decision!”
“Draken…” Onox struggled to speak with the cold metal gauntlets around his neck, “Draken should warn Endymion…”
“Yes…” Mek whispered slyly, “Yes… Go tell Endymion, Draken. Tell him that I declare war!”