May 13, 2000
Long before the emergence of civilization, when gods and man roamed the land as brothers, a mortal of unrivaled power traversed the lands, ever-vigilant of any that dared to desecrate his home. This hero, Celve, was blessed by the gods as their champion. Endowed with the gift of magic, ability given for reasons unknown to him, Celve was the mankind's one hope in the impending showdown between good and evil.
Celve retracted the blade from the gut of his massive foe. Reeling in shock, the barbarian staggered back, weakly shielding his face from the blow to come. With a cry of resolve, Celve took a step back with his left foot, pivoting off of his right foot; Celve raised his sword with such speed and force that the wind parted, as though fleeing from the awesome power propelling the weapon. The massive downward stroke of his blade landed on the right collarbone of his nemesis, passing through flesh and bone with ease, creating the illusion that the barbarian's body was merely water. As the blade of the sword exited just under the barbarian's left armpit, the dying nomad gurgled out his final death throes, stifled only by the blood that surged through his windpipe. Blood flowed freely from the freshly opened wound as Celve's victim drew one final gasp before falling to the ground in two pieces. Kneeling, Celve prayed for the soul of his victim, "May your evil deeds be absolved by the gods and your soul find eternal rest."
"Th-thank you S-sir!" came a panicked voice from behind Celve.
Casting a glance back, Celve said, his face devoid of emotion, "You need to be careful traveling alone... especially at night," he waved his hand casually at the deceased nomad's remains. "You never know what could be lying in wait."
"Sir... I humbly request that I may follow you... at least until we meet up with some other people. It's not safe out here! Not for me!"
Celve sighed; the last thing he wanted was for this bumbling traveler to slow him down. Celve eyed the traveler over; he had obviously been roaming the plains for a while, as the traveler's ragged, brown hair reached nearly down to his shoulders. Nor was he well-built, obviously weakened by extended starvation. He wouldn't make it by himself. After a moment's consideration, Celve obliged, "Fine... you can come along. Just stay behind me and don't get in the way."
The traveler nodded, a smile etched on his trail-worn face.
"Do you have a name?" Celve asked.
The traveler shrugged, "If I do, I haven't been called by it for some time. Just call me," he thought for a moment, searching for a name that he could stand being called by, "how about Belfrey?" Belfrey nodded, "yes... that should do nicely. And who, good sir, are you?"
Celve cringed. He hated that name. "Couldn't you go by something else?"
The traveler shook his head, "Nope, my mind's made up."
Celve sighed; there was no winning, "Very well. My name is Celve."
Belfrey laughed, "And you say MY name is stupid?"
"Hey!" Celve shouted, "Didn't I just save your life back there?"
Belfrey scoffed, "Go ahead and live in the past all you want. What I'm worried about is the future, now are we going to get moving or not?"
Celve grumbled as he looked at the bloodstained ground, I couldn't have rescued a beautiful damsel, no, I got stuck with this...
"Hurry up!" Belfrey shouted, "Just because you saved my life doesn't mean you can hold me up!"
Celve dashed to catch up with his new comrade, as he looked up at his companion, he winced in pain, this was not going to be an enjoyable journey.
As the sun began to peek over the horizon, the two weary travelers, Celve and Belfrey, trod along the well-beaten animal path. "...So anyway, I've just been walking and walking and walking and walking an..."
"QUIET!" Celve shouted in a whisper.
"I'm just saying that I..."
"What's the probl... AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!"
A makeshift dagger darted out from the bushes and lodged itself into Belfrey's thigh. The traveler dropped to his knees as the icy, metallic sensation brought on a wave of nausea. Celve whipped his head around, looking toward the origin of Belfrey's assailant. Drawing his sword, he too, fell prey to an attacker from the opposite side, as a dagger of similar make struck Celve in his left shoulder blade.
Recoiling in pain, he caught his opponent out of the corner of his eye. Turning to face the bandit, Celve vainly attempted to raise his sword, failing to get it above his waist. As he grit his teeth in pain, he dropped his sword and slowly raised his right hand to the sky. As he attempted to focus his concentration on the battle and less on his pain, Celve's right hand began to pulsate a bright blue. As he pointed to his aggressor, a shockwave lanced from Celve's hand and struck the bandit in the head, bursting it into pieces.
The second bandit crept up on the unwary warrior and buried a dagger in Celve's back, drawing crimson ooze from the wound. Celve dropped to his knees in agony and doubled over. Raising his hand to the bandit, he prepared another shockwave. Sneering at his victim, the bandit kicked Celve viciously in the shoulder, driving the dagger further in and causing Celve to lose his concentration.
As he withdrew another dagger from a pouch in his belt, the bandit clasped the weapon with both hands and prepared to finish his victim quickly. Bellowing an inhuman cry, the bandit plunged the dagger downward, aimed on burying it deep within Celve's throat. Mere centimeters away from its mark, the bandit recoiled in pain. As he writhed in agony, Celve began to stand up, his body bathed in flame.
Kneeling before the pain-stricken bandit, Celve placed his hand on the head of his foe, draining the bandit's life force into his own body. Celve's wounds began to close themselves as the bandit began to rapidly age. In a matter of seconds, the bandit was dead.
"This is going to hurt," Celve said with an unwavering voice. Wrapping his fingers around the dagger that had buried itself in his comrade's thigh, Celve yanked the bloodstained dagger from the wound, drawing a whimper from Belfrey. Placing his hand over the blood soaked laceration; the wound began to glow a bright white, instantly sealing the wound shut.
"How did you..." Belfrey stammered.
Shaking his head, Celve prepared an explanation, "A gift," he said, "From my father..."
Belfrey's eyes widened in shock, "Please, go on."
Celve helped his friend to his feet, "Well, I suppose I should start with my first memory..."
"As a baby, I was taken in by a dragon who had found me, abandoned, near a tree in the vale. Out of mercy, it gathered me up and returned to his lair, to raise me as his own. As I matured, we began to grow closer together, so close, in fact, that we could communicate to each other by mere thought. Early in life, he taught me to defend myself, using the sword of a dragon hunter who had grown too ambitious. By the time I saw my tenth year, the nomadic barbarians who occasionally dared to attack my father seldom posed a challenge for the level of training I had attained. Though we seldom strayed from the lair, we had seen our share of battles with other humans, dragon hunters who coveted the scales of their prey as trophies. One day, however, the humans banded together, such that their sheer numbers overwhelmed us.
"As they charged the lair, my father unleashed mystical attacks on the hunters, conjuring furious attacks that seemed to be from the gods themselves. Alas, the humans were persistent; their seemingly endless charge had drained my father of the source of his mystical power, what he called 'mana.' I drew my sword and managed to hold my own, but the amount of hunters was stifling, and eventually overtook me. My father, with his last ounce of energy, rid the lair of dragon hunters, but it was too late. He was dying, and I soon would suffer the same fate. What happened then continues to escape my understanding to this day. A god, watching over the bloodbath, appeared before us. "Though he never spoke a word, my father and I knew what was intended. The god would grant one of us life, at the cost of the other's. Before I could even respond, my father sacrificed himself for me. Upon laying down his life, the god drew both my father and I closer together, and began to transfer my father's life force into my body. On his final breath, my father said to me, 'Son, no matter what happens, fight for justice, for the gods themselves are on your side.' With that, he left this mortal coil. Days later, I regained consciousness, filled with a new sense of strength, a feeling of power. Words cannot fully describe the catharsis that I felt from my father's blessing at the end of his life. From then on, I fought with my father at my side, and with his mystical, god-given abilities, what the gods call 'magic,' coursing through my veins, I feel that I can live up to the blessing he gave me."
The sun had begun to set in the sky, splashing the horizon with warm colors. The two had been walking all day and still had not seen a trace of humanity anywhere. "So that's the story, huh? Rather impressive."
Celve laughed, "I guess so. Well, I told you my story, how about yours?"
"Come on. You had to leave the camp for a reason. Besides, who am I gonna tell?"
"Fine. I left because they made me."
Belfrey sighed, "They made me, they held a vote and when all was said and done, they concluded I was bothering everyone and I asked too many questions."
Celve laughed again, "And they made you leave for that? Come on!"
"Well, that and I..." Belfrey trailed off.
"I burned the camp down, okay?!"
"It was an accident! I swear! I forgot to put out the campfire and it sort of..."
Celve boomed a thunderous laugh; "You can't be serious!"
Belfrey sneered at Celve, not seeing the humor in his situation; "I don't see what's so funny about it."
"I'm sorry it's just that..."
"Just forget it! Forget that I ever said anything!" Belfrey shouted.
"If you insist." Celve shrugged, already moving on.
"Now what do you say that we set up camp here?"
Celve laughed, "Not if you're the one making the fire."
A deafening explosion rocked the woods as a fireball consumed a series of trees, shattering them under the force of the blow. The source of this magical outburst bellowed a hearty laugh and turned his attention to a young wolf cub that had strayed from its den. A sadistic expression appeared on his face as he stared the cub down. Extending his hand toward it, he chanted magical words that reverberated throughout the forest: "frost shards!"
The first of a series of dagger-like icicles lanced forth from his hands, striking the cub in the side and passing through with little effort, killing the cub instantly. The wave of ice blades that followed served little purpose beyond further mangling the dead animal, leaving little more than a mass of unidentifiable rotting flesh where the wolf used to be. "Resign yourselves to the name of Arethos! I, chosen by the gods themselves, am your master!"
Indeed, the gods had chosen him. He had been chosen as the first to posses the immense power of magic. From his conception, the gods deemed him worthy of a power that would lead Medievia out of the dark ages and unite the nomadic tribes into a self-sustaining society. The gods needed a leader that would serve in their absence, one who would allow humanity to thrive without requiring direct divine intervention. That child, that savior, was Arethos. In his early childhood, he had exceeded even the gods' expectations, assisting his fellow man with his divinely granted powers. Only later, during his adolescence, did he discover the true depth of his abilities. The power of the gods was a strength that could not fully be exploited by assisting others.
How can I be expected to lead the weak, he thought, when they demand so much? I am the savior! They should revere me, not patronize me with their insignificant needs. He snapped. He could take no more of his servitude. In a fit of rage, he decimated his camp, engulfing the vicinity with wretched demonic flames. Little remained when his tantrum passed, save that of scorched earth. This, thought Arethos, is the true extent of my power. I, myself, will mold Medievia and all of its occupants to my will. Only then will these blind sheep finally obey my divine command.
A sinister grin appeared on his face as Arethos recounted the tribes whom he had tried to assist, how each had displeased him, and their subsequent annihilation. No more mercy would be granted. The time had come for his revolution.
The morning sun bombarded the dew-soaked plain, ushering in a new day, much to the displeasure of the sleeping travelers. Celve was the first to awake, greeting the morning as he always did, paying homage to the gods whom had spared his life. "Lords of Medievia, bestow upon me the power to fight for justice in the face of adversity. Teach me to do your will without asking for reward, and give me the insight to see your true path."
Adjourning his prayer, Celve awoke his partner who welcomed the day in a slightly different manner. "For the love of the gods let me sleep!!!"
Celve laughed, "Come on, my supplies are made for one, so the faster we get to a nomad camp, the happier I'll be," he took on a grave expression, "And the happier I am, the longer I can tolerate YOU, understand?"
Belfrey stumbled awkwardly to his feet, almost perfectly imitating a drunken mule trying to stand on its hind legs. "Yes, sir."
"Good... I was afraid I'd have to elaborate," said Celve as he pointed to his sword.
Walking toward the rising sun, Celve could not believe what he saw, "Tell me I'm not dreaming!" he shouted, enthusiasm saturating each word.
"Wha?" Belfrey mumbled, dragging his feet just enough to maintain an adequate proximity to his partner. Looking up, he saw smoke billowing into the morning sky, "P-people! I can't believe it!"
"That's just what I wa-" Celve's words were quickly interrupted by being shoved to the ground in his partner's frantic charge toward the nomad camp that awaited him. With a heavy sigh, Celve stood up and began pursuit of his friend toward the salvation that awaited. Drawing closer, however, he saw that the source of the smoke was much larger than he had anticipated. The fire was, in fact, large enough to encompass the entire camp. "Oh gods..." he muttered to himself he redoubled his pace toward the smoldering remnants of the camp. Upon reaching the pillar of flame that enveloped the camp, he surveyed the damage. Charred bodies littered blood-laden campground. Looking at Belfrey, Celve could almost see the aura of fear and shock that exuded from his friend's body.
"You shouldn't have come here." came a voice from behind, "How dare you defile the masterpiece of your savior with your pitiful presence."
Whipping around, he saw a figure hovering roughly a meter above the ground, "Who are you and why have you done this?"
"Insolent child! I am your savior, Arethos! My goals are not for the knowledge of humans, but seeing as how you will die anyway, I see no problem in telling you." Brushing his raven hair from his face, the ghostly pale face beneath was a visage of hate. "Humankind has not fulfilled my expectations, they have failed to follow my god-given rule, and thus, they are not worthy to receive the enlightenment that I have come to offer. If they choose not to be my servants, they will instead be my sheep... and the time for slaughter has come."
Arethos punctuated his sentence with a massive beam of blue light that struck Celve at such velocity that it threatened to break him in half. Blood spouted forth from the massive chest wound as Celve crashed to the ground in pain. As Celve struggled to stand, a frost shard caught him in the back, throwing Celve face-first into the hard-packed dirt. With a sinister laugh, Arethos unleashed a fireball at both travelers, sending the wounded Celve sprawling and rendering the near-catatonic Belfrey unconscious. A second shockwave from Arethos impacted the ground beside Celve, tossing the wounded adventurer into the air. With all of his strength, Celve managed to land on his feet, and retaliated upon the corrupted savior with a shockwave of his own. Celve's hand glowed blue for a short second as he pointed toward his levitating target and unleashed a shockwave followed promptly by a salvo of frost shards. Immediately, Celve realized his reason for receiving his gift. He was to assume the role that Arethos had corrupted. It was Celve who would guide his race into an age of enlightenment, for he had the capacity for justice. Returning his mind to the battle, he saw the damage that he had done to his opponent. Arethos looked more pale than usual, as blood soaked his white clerical robes. "How... do you have the gift?" Arethos stammered.
Celve shot a menacing glare at the fallen savior, "Because you have tainted your gift. You have betrayed the gods! Only a true savior would help his fellow man, rather than you, who abused your ability. You must realize, you are mortal, just as the humans that you are to save!"
"NO!!!" Arethos cried, "The gods chose ME!" With cry of agony, he called forth a tornado of crystals that encircled Celve. The ferocity of the tornado gradually increased until fully consumed the hero. When the dust had settled, Celve had been entirely transformed into a statue of translucent crystal. A look of pure demonic hatred etched itself in Arethos' face. Channeling all of his magical energies, he unleashed a burning, crimson red ray of magic, accompanied by an explosion that rocked the planet. The crystallized body of Celve was scattered into the four winds, leaving only one shard of the statue in the dust.
"Indeed, I am the true savior. Did not I survive where this heretic perished?" Arethos mumbled to himself. "Am I not the gods' champion?"
Before Arethos could react, Belfrey plunged Celve's sword into the back of Arethos' head. The last sound that the fallen savior had made was the blood gurgling from his open mouth. Staring down at his defeated opponent, he could not help but feel an emotional catharsis, as he had fulfilled his departed friend's goal. He had rid the world of a great injustice, and soon would try to do that which neither of the saviors could accomplish in life. Gods willing, he would unite the nomadic tribes under a common goal, and usher in a new age of civilization. He knelt before the remnants of his departed friend, and cried.
"Countless years have passed since the great battle, and in memory of my friend, I have erected this town to honor his sacrifice so that we, the children of the gods, might live better lives. In the center of this town, Karlisna, is a fountain, dedicated to Celve. The crystals that were once his flesh and bone known as Dragon Crystals, in reference to the similar sacrifice made by his father. But that is not what you are wondering, is it? Perhaps your question is pertaining to how I am alive to this very day? Yes? For this question, I truly do not have an answer, these Dragon Crystals contain within them an uncanny power, the likes of which I cannot explain, nor will I ever fully comprehend. Truly, I believe that Celve's spirit lives on within these shattered fragments of his body. Much like their previous owner, Celve, the power that they possess is phenomenal. When harnessed correctly, the spirit sealed within bestows that power unto its owner. It is only my hope that you are as fortunate as I and that the gods guide you to a fragment of the lasting legacy of Medievia's greatest hero."
Editor's note - For the curious, this tale is set before Vryce empowered mortals with magical powers.